Jan 272021
 


Gustave Courbet Sunset on Lake Geneva 1876

 

Bill Gates Advised Oxford to Ditch Open Source COVID Vaccine (MPN)
FBI Knew DOJ Was Preparing To Fire Comey Long Before Trump Ordered It (JTN)
Washington Will Remain Militarized Until At Least March (Greenwald)
Biden is Already Breaking Promises (Lawrence)
Legal Counteroffensive Against Big Tech Crackdown On Conservative Dissent (JTN)
Meet the Censored: Status Coup (Taibbi)
US Billionaires ‘Have Received $1.1tn Windfall In Covid Pandemic’ (G.)
Ted Cruz Attempts To Impose Term Limits On Members Of Congress (JTN)
Judge Bars President Joe Biden From Enforcing 100-Day Deportation Ban (AP)
Migrants Increasing At “Concerning Rate” On Southern Border – CBP Agent (ZH)
Ghislaine Maxwell Asks To Throw Out Case Over Epstein Plea Deal (G.)
UK Sells Arms To Nearly 80% Of Countries Under Restrictions (G.)
Humans Are Estimated To Eat A Credit Card Worth Of Plastic Every Week (USPIRG)

 

 

 

 

Tulsi Brennan Schiff

 

 

“As a result, the planet’s poor will have to wait until at least 2024 to be immunized.”

Bill Gates Advised Oxford to Ditch Open Source COVID Vaccine (MPN)

Europe is reeling from the shock news that biotech giant AstraZeneca will not be delivering anything like the number of vaccines it promised. The company informed European Union officials that they will only be supplying 31 million doses to 27 E.U. countries, rather than the 80 million they had promised would arrive by the end of March. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conti predicted that the news would reap “enormous damage” on the continent that has already sustained over 32 million confirmed cases and 703,000 deaths due to COVID-19. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine had been hailed last year as a miracle in the global fight against the coronavirus primarily because the research team at Oxford University had promised to share the rights to its product with any and all drugmakers, meaning that poorer countries could produce and inoculate their citizens at cost price ($3-$4 per shot — a fraction of the price of those from Pfizer or Moderna).

Last year, economist and drug patent reform advocate Dean Baker told MintPress that, “The Oxford vaccine is even more striking, since the point was to pay researchers, but not to rely on patent monopolies to generate large profits. We ended up with a cheaper, better vaccine…It would be great if we could take away some lessons from the experience of vaccine development in this crisis and get away from the antiquated patent monopoly mechanism for financing research.” However, behind the scenes, the Oxford team reneged on their promise, signing an exclusive deal with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, who made no commitment to selling the lifesaving vaccine at a low price. Even less well-known is that the decision was taken at the behest of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

“We went to Oxford and said, ‘Hey, you’re doing brilliant work,’” Gates said, “But…you really need to team up.” The 65-year-old tech tycoon is a strong proponent of patents and spends much of his time shaping global health policy. James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International, a nonprofit that works to expand access to medical technology, said that “Gates has staked out this outsized role in the vaccine world…He has an ideological belief that the intellectual property system is a wonderful mechanism that is necessary for innovation and prosperity.” The decision to put profit before people is likely to have a devastating impact on the Global South. Poor countries are not in a position to inoculate their entire populations, especially as the world’s wealthiest nations hoard the large majority of the available vaccines while refusing to support moves by companies in the Global South to produce them for themselves.

As a result, the planet’s poor will have to wait until at least 2024 to be immunized. This latest news is unlikely to do anything but set that clock further back. Unable to secure a profit in immunizing Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans, Western multinationals have turned their back on those regions, prioritizing those who can pay the most. As a result, those in the Global South have turned to Russia and China for help. While Western media have dismissed these efforts as “vaccine diplomacy” and a “charm offensive,” while casting doubt on the Sputnik V vaccine’s efficacy, global opinion studies show the Russian offering is actually the most trusted option.

Read more …

Special Counsel.

FBI Knew DOJ Was Preparing To Fire Comey Long Before Trump Ordered It (JTN)

Newly declassified FBI memos provide startling new details that undercut the frenzied 2017 effort to investigate Donald Trump for obstruction, revealing the FBI knew Director James Comey’s firing had been conceived by Justice Department leadership long before the president pulled the trigger during a key moment in the Russia probe. The memos written in May 2017 by Acting Director Andrew McCabe and a lieutenant also provide contemporaneous proof for some of the more jaw-dropping lore of the now-discredited Russia collusion scandal. For instance, the memos directly state that then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein offered to wear a wire to secretly record Trump in the Oval Office and that Rosenstein also wanted to seek Comey’s advice — after his termination — on a possible Russia special counsel. The bureau nixed both ideas, the memos show.

The documents — declassified by Trump during his final 24 hours in office — also provide a tantalizing list of names the Trump administration considered for FBI director, including former Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman, ex-director and eventual Russia Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and retired Gen. John Kelly. Eventually, Trump settled on former prosecutor Chris Wray for the job. But the memos’ most explosive revelations chronicle the decision by McCabe in his early days on the job to open a formal investigation of Trump on the grounds that Comey’s firing may have been an act of obstruction of justice designed to thwart the Russia probe. The notes show McCabe informed Rosenstein during a May 16, 2017 meeting — one of their first after Comey was fired and McCabe became acting director — that he had opened the obstruction probe.

“I explained that the purpose of the investigation was to investigate allegations of possible collusion between the President and the Russian government, possible obstruction of justice related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey and possible conspiracy to obstruct justice,” McCabe wrote in typewritten notes of the meeting. One of McCabe’s lieutenants who also attended the meeting, then-bureau attorney Lisa Page, took her own notes, observing that Rosenstein’s expressed outrage over Comey’s firing seemed odd since Rosenstein had revealed to FBI officials he and then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had been contemplating it since January 2017. “This was a strange comment,” Page wrote, “because it was my understanding that the DAG had previously indicated that he and AG Sessions had been discussing firing Director Comey since January, but given the nature of the conversation there was no room for follow-up.”

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“The option to use active duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations.”

Washington Will Remain Militarized Until At Least March (Greenwald)

Washington, DC has been continuously militarized beginning the week leading up to Joe Biden’s inauguration, when 20,000 National Guard troops were deployed onto the streets of the nation’s capital. The original justification was that this show of massive force was necessary to secure the inauguration in light of the January 6 riot at the Capitol. But with the inauguration over and done, those troops remain and are not going anywhere any time soon. Working with federal law enforcement agencies, the National Guard Bureau announced on Monday that between 5,000 and 7,000 troops will remain in Washington until at least mid-March. The rationale for this extraordinary, sustained domestic military presence has shifted several times, typically from anonymous U.S. law enforcement officials.

The original justification — the need to secure the inaugural festivities — is obviously no longer operative. So the new claim became that the impeachment trial of former President Trump that will take place in the Senate in February necessitated military reinforcements. On Sunday, Politico quoted “four people familiar with the matter” to claim that “Trump’s upcoming Senate impeachment trial poses a security concern that federal law enforcement officials told lawmakers last week requires as many as 5,000 National Guard troops to remain in Washington through mid-March.” The next day, AP, citing “a U.S. official,” said the ongoing troop deployment was needed due to “ominous chatter about killing legislators or attacking them outside of the U.S. Capitol.”

But the anonymous official acknowledged that “the threats that law enforcement agents are tracking vary in specificity and credibility.” Even National Guard troops complained that they “have so far been given no official justifications, threat reports or any explanation for the extended mission — nor have they seen any violence thus far.” It is hard to overstate what an extreme state of affairs it is to have a sustained military presence in American streets. Prior deployments have been rare, and usually were approved for a limited period and/or in order to quell a very specific, ongoing uprising — to ensure the peaceful segregation of public schools in the South, to respond to the unrest in Detroit and Chicago in the 1960s, or to quell the 1991 Los Angeles riots that erupted after the Rodney King trial.

Deploying National Guard or military troops for domestic law enforcement purposes is so dangerous that laws in place from the country’s founding strictly limit its use. It is meant only as a last resort, when concrete, specific threats are so overwhelming that they cannot be quelled by regular law enforcement absent military reinforcements. Deploying active military troops is an even graver step than putting National Guard soldiers on the streets, but they both present dangers. As Trump’s Defense Secretary said in response to calls from some over the summer to deploy troops in response to the Black Lives Matter and Antifa protests: “The option to use active duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations.”

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“We want you to endorse our commitment to aggression, to unlawful interventions, to ‘regime change’ ops, to merciless sanctions, and altogether to the empire. But you must make it look nice. Make it look thoughtful and complicated and considered.”

Biden is Already Breaking Promises (Lawrence)

[..] let’s draw the old lesson. You can have democracy at home or empire abroad, but you can’t have both. We will continue to suffer the latter under Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Those drawn into thinking the Biden regime would conduct America’s affairs abroad decently and humanely and in principled fashion will now discover they have been savagely sucker-punched. Those who understood from the outset that Biden’s people would go nowhere near the essential, determining questions of exceptionalism, universalism, and our consequent dedication to empire will be repelled but not surprised as the policy framework is revealed. In this case, the moment of truth came even before Biden’s inauguration.

His saccharine inauguration speech last Wednesday, with its Hallmark-card calls for unity, was quite secondary to the confirmation hearings the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held the previous day. In a matter of hours, Biden’s key national security people — Antony Blinken as secretary of state, Avril Haines as director of national intelligence, and Lloyd Austin as defense secretary — gave us a remarkably fulsome idea of what we are in for these next four years.Haines and Austin, neither of whose records are to be admired, are at bottom functionaries who were nominated and swiftly confirmed because they do what they are told and do not think too much—always a career-advancer in Washington. It is instead Blinken, who is said to enjoy some kind of “mind-meld” with Biden, that we must consider carefully. (Such a meld must be odd terrain.)

Blinken’s Senate testimony last Tuesday sprawled over four hours. It is best to scrutinize his remarks while seated in a chair with sturdy armrests, ideally to calm one’s nerves with a pot of chamomile tea. Seen or read as a whole, those four hours gave us an extraordinary display of how empire works and how it prolongs itself. One by one, Blinken’s senatorial interlocutors told him in so many words, “Son, this is what you need to say if you want our confirmation. We want you to endorse our commitment to aggression, to unlawful interventions, to ‘regime change’ ops, to merciless sanctions, and altogether to the empire. But you must make it look nice. Make it look thoughtful and complicated and considered.”

[..] Among Blinken’s many rather sad-to-witness “Yes sirs,” two standout: his finely chiseled endorsement of Pompeo’s reckless assassination a year ago of Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s revered military commander (“Taking him out was the right thing to do”), and his approval of the Trump administration’s decision to send lethal arms to the manically corrupt regime in Kiev (“Senator, I support providing that lethal defensive assistance to Ukraine,” when the Obama administration, from which he comes, did not.)

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”.. their job, under state law, is to act as a steward for shareholders. That is their legal obligation. They are not to act as an extra-governmental arm of one party of another.”

Legal Counteroffensive Against Big Tech Crackdown On Conservative Dissent (JTN)

Paxton said the tech firms also open themselves up to challenges under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which offers broad legal immunities for social media networks that claim they are neutral platforms rather than media companies making editorial decisions. “These companies put themselves out as neutral platforms,” Paxton said. “If in reality, they’re not doing that, one, they don’t deserve the protection of federal law, special protection that no other company has. And two, they may need to be looked at under consumer protection laws, because they’re presenting consumers with a choice that says, ‘We are a platform that allows any speech,’ when in reality, they are controlling what speech is being put out there.”

Justin Danhof, general counsel for the National Center for Public Policy Research, faults conservatives themselves for long trying to brush aside the threat of social media viewpoint bias and censorship with hopeful assurances that “the free market will solve this.” “They said, ‘Just create a new platform,'” recalled Danhof. “‘If you don’t like censorship occurring on Facebook and Twitter against conservatives — which has been happening for a decade — create a new platform.’ So Parler did. But then [Big Tech] disappeared Parler.” Facebook and Twitter have both long denied any viewpoint bias against conservatives in their content moderation practices. Danhof compared what tech firms are doing in the United States to how these companies are acting in China.

“Apple — of course — deletes many apps from its app store, largely news apps, at the behest of the Chinese Communist Party,” Danhof said, alluding to deleted apps that pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong were using to communicate and to get news and information. “So clearly, in China, Apple is operating as an extra-governmental arm of the Chinese Communist Party — acting at the behest of the communists to do what they want,” Danhof said. “Well, we have folks like Nancy Pelosi and AOC, Kamala Harris in the United States calling on Twitter and Facebook and others to ban President Trump. And to take down Parler. And what are they doing? They’re honoring those requests.”

Twitter’s permanent ban of President Trump led to a dramatic loss of share value for the company. Danhof argues that the company’s political decision has hurt its investors, thus exposing the company to civil action by shareholders for breach of fiduciary duty. “Lawsuits should abound from shareholders,” Danhof said. “Because boards of directors and management — their job, under state law, is to act as a steward for shareholders. That is their legal obligation. They are not to act as an extra-governmental arm of one party of another.”

Read more …

Live streamers.

Meet the Censored: Status Coup (Taibbi)

On January 6th, Jon Farina, photographer and videographer for Jordan Chariton’s Status Coup outlet, captured horrifying images. At the Capitol, a pro-Trump mob tried to burst into the building, and a police officer who attempted to intercede was caught in a door. He cried out in pain, but the crowd was indifferent, chanting, “Heave, ho!” as they tried to break in. Farina, in the middle of the physical mayhem as photojournalists often are, caught the scene up close while 30,000 people watched the live feed. Farina’s footage rocketed around the world, and major press outlets celebrated his work as an example of hard-hitting reporting. CNN did a laudatory story about the freelance photojournalist, with Pamela Brown asking Farina to “bring us inside the mayhem.”

Other outlets like USA Today quoted his recollections of that day, and the likes of Steven Colbert on CBS, as well as ABC News, NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, the Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, the New York Post, the Daily Mail, and others used it as fodder for outraged coverage of the riot: For a week or so, Status Coup was feted for service on the front lines of responsible journalism. Nearly two weeks later, on January 18th, another Farina live stream was shut down by YouTube, thanks to policies that will make it very difficult for non-corporate media going forward to do live reporting. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that if the incident from the 18th happened earlier, we may never have gotten the Capitol pictures.

On the 18th, Farina was in Richmond, Virginia, where a significant rally of pro-gun protesters was expected. There had been widespread reports warning of unrest. CBS relayed FBI fears of “credible threats of violence,” while the Washington Post said officials were “on edge” ahead of the Martin Luther King Day protest, gearing up for a full-scale assault: Members of the National Guard are on standby. Plywood covers the windows of the State Capitol. Tall metal barricades surround Capitol Square, with police vehicles idling on pathways just inside locked pedestrian gates. Downtown streets will be closed; signs warning against carrying guns have gone up around the city. “The violent, lawless insurrection and assault on democracy and its institutions that unfolded last week in Washington, D.C., will not be tolerated in the city of Richmond,” Mayor Levar Stoney warned on Thursday.

The threats may have been credible, but when Farina began live-streaming to an audience of 6,000, the event turned out to be peaceful and unremarkable, though not without interest from a news perspective. “Frankly, there might have been more press than protesters,” Status Coup’s Chariton said later. “And while it was live, it was pretty informative. Jon talked to 4-5 people, and they pretty much all made it clear that they weren’t Trump supporters, that they didn’t support what happened in the Capitol. They were pretty relaxed compared to the propaganda ahead of time.” Despite the seeming unremarkableness of the event, it shut down abruptly mid-feed. Chariton assumed something happened on Farina’s end. “Then I got an email from YouTube, telling me we’d violated their ‘Firearms Policy.’ I wasn’t aware they had a firearms policy.”

Read more …

And that’s just the 660 richest.

US Billionaires ‘Have Received $1.1tn Windfall In Covid Pandemic’ (G.)

The richest 660 people in the US have collected a $1.1tn (£800bn) “windfall of wealth” since the coronavirus pandemic began, according to a report by a US progressive thinktank, the Institute for Policy Studies. The report found that the collective wealth of America’s 660 billionaires has risen by 39% since the World Health Organization declared that Covid-19 was a pandemic virus in March 2020. The billionaires combined wealth has increased from just under $3tn on 18 March 2020 to $4.1tn, according to Forbes magazine data. The report noted that there had also been “46 newly minted billionaires since the beginning of the pandemic”, when there were 614.

Chuck Collins, the director of the Institute for Policy Studies’ Program on Inequality and co-author of the Billionaire Bonanza 2020 report, said: “Billionaires are reaping unseemly windfalls of wealth during the pandemic. They benefit from having their competitors shut down or controlling technologies and services we are all dependent on in this unprecedented time. We should tax these windfall gains to pay for recovery.” Collins said the gains the billions have made since the crisis began could “pay for all the relief for working families contained in the $1.9tn coronavirus relief package proposed by President Biden, while leaving the nation’s richest households no worse off than they were before Covid-19 hit”.

Frank Clemente, the executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness, said: “While we can all rejoice that our nation’s response to the terrible pandemic is now in steadier and more caring hands, we can only lament that America’s billionaires are not making a meaningful contribution to that national effort, even as their wealth continues to soar. “The Covid crisis is crushing people of colour and low-income workers while billionaires who are nearly all white have seen fortunes skyrocket. This is why we need the fair-share taxes programme Joe Biden ran on, won on and is now ready to pursue.”

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Fat chance.

Ted Cruz Attempts To Impose Term Limits On Members Of Congress (JTN)

Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz on Tuesday reintroduced an amendment that would put term limits on members of Congress, saying the rise in “political careerism” is not what the country’s founders intended. “Today my colleagues and I reintroduced a constitutional amendment to impose #TermLimits on Members of Congress,” the Texas lawmaker tweeted. “The amendment would limit U.S. senators to two six-year terms and members of the U.S. House of Representatives to three two-year terms.” Cruz gained the support of fellow Republican Sens. Mike Braun and Todd Young of Indiana, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania for the proposed constitutional amendment.


This marks the third time Cruz has introduced legislation to impose term limits on Congress, having also done so in 2017 and 2019. His previous attempts never made it to the Senate floor. “Every year, Congress spends billions of dollars on giveaways for the well-connected: Washington insiders get taxpayer money and members of Congress get re-elected, all while the system fails the American people,” Cruz said in a statement. “The rise of political careerism in today’s Congress is a sharp departure from what the Founders intended for our federal governing bodies. I have long called for this solution for the brokenness of Washington, D.C., and I will continue fighting to hold career politicians accountable.”

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Immigration remains a touchy issue.

Judge Bars President Joe Biden From Enforcing 100-Day Deportation Ban (AP)

A federal judge on Tuesday barred the U.S. government from enforcing a 100-day deportation moratorium that is a key immigration priority of President Joe Biden. U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton issued a temporary restraining order sought by Texas, which sued on Friday against a Department of Homeland Security memo that instructed immigration agencies to pause most deportations. Tipton said the Biden administration had failed “to provide any concrete, reasonable justification for a 100-day pause on deportations.” Tipton’s order is an early blow to the Biden administration, which has proposed far-reaching changes sought by immigration advocates, including a plan to legalize an estimated 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

Biden promised during his campaign to pause most deportations for 100 days. The order represents a victory for Texas’ Republican leaders, who often sued to stop programs enacted by Biden’s Democratic predecessor, President Barack Obama. It also showed that just as Democratic-led states and immigration groups fought former President Donald Trump over immigration in court, often successfully, so too will Republicans with Biden in office. David Pekoske, the acting Homeland Security secretary, signed a memo on Biden’s first day directing immigration authorities to focus on national security and public safety threats as well as anyone apprehended entering the U.S. illegally after Nov. 1. That was a reversal from Trump administration policy that made anyone in the U.S. illegally a priority for deportation.

The 100-day moratorium went into effect Friday and applied to almost anyone who entered the U.S. without authorization before November. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argued that the moratorium violated federal law as well as an agreement Texas signed with the Department of Homeland Security late in the Trump administration. That agreement required Homeland Security to consult with Texas and other states before taking any action to “reduce, redirect, reprioritize, relax, or in any way modify immigration enforcement.”

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Touchy.

Migrants Increasing At “Concerning Rate” On Southern Border – CBP Agent (ZH)

As caravans build up in Honduras, migrants are increasing at a “concerning rate” at the United States southern border, according to Matthew Hudak, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) chief patrol agent of the Laredo sector in Texas. He warns that immigration is just a piece of the threat coupled with the pandemic health risk and other crimes along the border. “Like everybody, we’re tracking the formation of these caravans in Central America,” said Hudak. The Laredo Sector is one of nine CBP sectors along the southern border. It contains about 135 miles of the international border with Mexico. On Jan. 8, CBP Acting Commissioner Mark A. Morgan issued a statement on potential migrant caravans: “Do not waste your time and money, and do not risk your safety and health.”

According to Hudak, the Laredo Sector hasn’t seen a reduction of migrants in response to the statement. It has made over 30,000 arrests in this fiscal year, a 50 percent increase over the same period last year. Hudak added that similar trends are identified by other sectors on the southern border. The U.S. government fiscal year starts on Oct. 1. Hudak called the 50 percent increase “a pretty concerning rate.” He told The Epoch Times that some portions of the caravan of 9,000 migrants will make their way to the southern border. Part of the group was stopped in Guatemala on Jan. 16. Depending on the pace and the means with which these migrants travel, the arrival time at the U.S.-Mexico border may be between a few days and a few weeks. As of Jan. 21, he hasn’t yet seen a dramatic increase of migrants indicative of caravans arriving at the southern border.

Hudak said that human smuggling is usually achieved with systems shared with drug and firearm smuggling, and the fees migrants are charged feed larger criminal organizations. Therefore, he sees a more significant threat: “We may be talking about one piece of it, which is immigration, but it’s part of a much larger criminal enterprise.”

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And the jury was too white.

Ghislaine Maxwell Asks To Throw Out Case Over Epstein Plea Deal (G.)

Lawyers for Ghislaine Maxwell complained on Monday that the pool of grand jurors who indicted her was not diverse enough, according to new court documents. “The fact that Ms Maxwell herself is neither Black nor Hispanic does not deprive of her of standing to raise this challenge,” the attorneys wrote in court papers, arguing that the US constitution “entitles every defendant to object to a [pool] that is not designed to represent a fair cross section of the community, whether or not the systematically excluded groups are groups to which he himself belongs”. Maxwell’s purported concerns about diversity stem from the geographical circumstances surrounding her indictment.

Maxwell is facing charges in the southern district of New York’s Manhattan division relating to her alleged involvement in her late friend Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking of minor girls. However, she was indicted by a grand jury in the SDNY’s White Plains division before her 2 July arrest, as Covid-19 had limited grand jury proceedings in Manhattan. White Plains grand jurors hail from counties outside of New York City. Maxwell’s attorneys said they were therefore “drawn from a community in which Black and Hispanic residents are significantly underrepresented by comparison. “The sixth amendment guarantees a criminal defendant a grand jury selected from a fair cross-section of the community.

“Ms Maxwell’s right under the sixth amendment to a grand jury drawn from a fair cross-section of the community applies to the grand jury that indicted her. “Here, the use of a White Plains jury resulted in the systematic underrepresentation of Black and Hispanic persons from the jury selection process, in violation of Ms Maxwell’s sixth amendment right.” Maxwell’s lawyers also argued that prosecutors could have waited to convene a grand jury in Manhattan, claiming that one such panel met “as early as” 25 June. “There appears to have been no reason, other than a publicity-driven desire to arrest Ms Maxwell on the anniversary of the Epstein indictment, why the government could not have waited until that time,” they said.

Maxwell’s attorneys made the claims as part of their push to dismiss her case. Among 12 arguments attacking the indictment, they said a non-prosecution deal Epstein reached with the federal government in 2008 should shield Maxwell too. The agreement sought to protect Epstein and those around him, but Maxwell was not identified by name in a document signed when Epstein agreed to plead guilty to state charges in Florida that forced him to register as a sex offender. Lawyers for Epstein planned to argue that the deal protected him against sex-trafficking charges in New York City.

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Insane.

UK Sells Arms To Nearly 80% Of Countries Under Restrictions (G.)

British ministers and officials have approved the sale of arms to nearly four-fifths of countries subject to arms embargos, trade sanctions or other restrictions over the past five years, according to analysis. The UK has exported military hardware to 58 countries of the 73 listed as subject to restrictions by the Department for International Trade (DIT), including sniper rifles to Pakistan, assault rifles to Kenya and naval equipment to China. The exports are legal but researchers with the group that compiled the report, Action on Armed Violence, said they represented “a systemic failure to consider the human rights record of states before exporting weapons to them”.

Countries covered by sanctions range from a handful where all arms sales are banned to a larger group covered by transit controls, where a special licence is required, for political, security or human rights reasons. Five countries listed by the trade department as key export markets for British arms makers: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, also feature on the Foreign Office’s latest list of 30 “human rights priority countries”, although not all are subject to sanctions. The report’s author, Murray Jones, of Action on Armed Violence, said his research – which reviewed UK export records between January 2015 and June 2020 – “demonstrates the frailty of the UK’s commitment to human rights abroad”.

Licences have been granted to export aircraft parts, riot shields and hundreds of sniper rifles to Pakistan, including 630 in 2016 and a further 20 in 2019, despite the Foreign Office warning in November of “increased pressure on civic space and freedom of expression” in the country, including threats to minorities. The sale of 3,000 assault rifles to Kenya for £9.45m was authorised in 2017, although security forces in the African country were accused by Amnesty International the year before of carrying out “enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and torture with impunity, killing at least 122 people”.

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Even more insane.

Humans Are Estimated To Eat A Credit Card Worth Of Plastic Every Week (USPIRG)

For years, we have known that the harmful effects of plastic are found everywhere in our natural environment. We’ve seen images of birds and sea turtles choking and entangling themselves to death on plastic waste. But beyond its impact on wildlife, microplastics are now concealed in the air we breathe, water we drink, and food we eat; humans are estimated to eat a credit card worth of plastic every week. We also know that plastic isn’t just harmful as physical waste; plastic products often contain harmful chemicals. A recent report compiled a summary of international research on endocrine-disrupting chemicals used to make plastic — including 144 chemicals/chemical groups known to be hazardous to human health — intended to give plastics attributes like antimicrobial properties, colorants, flame retardants, solvents, UV-stabilizers, and plasticizers.

The aforementioned report focuses on a specific kind of health effect seen in plastics and the chemicals they can leach, called endocrine or hormone disruption. Our hormones play crucial roles in many of our bodily systems and are vital to our reproductive development and growth. This means children are especially susceptible to the health risks of harmful chemicals found in plastic. The chemicals found in plastic products can linger in our environment even after the plastic has been cleaned up. A recent study found that when scientists introduced and then removed plastic from an aquatic environment, sea urchins still developed abnormal skeletons and nervous systems because of the chemicals left behind. To make matters worse, plastics have the unique ability to bind together chemicals that are otherwise more diluted in the environment, meaning they become carriers of all sorts of concentrated toxins.

Hazardous chemicals can be found in single-use plastic food wrapping and containers, which have direct contact with the food we eat and may introduce these chemicals into our bodies. One familiar example is BPA, which is well known due to “BPA-free” marketing and the European Union listing BPA as a substance of high concern. Exposure to BPA can affect brain development and behavior. BPA has also been linked to hormone disruption, reproductive problems in men and women and other harmful health impacts. There is a solution. Many of the most common single-use plastics polluting our environment contain toxic chemicals that harm human health. By banning unnecessary single-use materials — like plastic film used in plastic bags and polystyrene used in Styrofoam packaging — we could prevent a lot of these chemicals from seeping into the environment.

To reduce our risk of exposure to these toxic chemicals and maintain a cleaner environment, we must start by calling on our legislators to ban unnecessary single-use plastic and transition to non-toxic, reusable alternatives. Nothing we use for a few minutes should persist in our environments and threaten our health for generations.

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 122021
 


Alfred Wertheimer Elvis 1956

 

New Covid “Super Strain” is a Game-Changer for Schools and More (Parramore)
WHO Warns Of ‘Highly Problematic’ New Covid-19 Variants (F.)
An Epidemic of COVID Positive Tests (John Hunt)
Lockdown ‘Ineffective’ Against Spread Of Covid-19, May Even Increase Risk (RT)
French Government “Shocked” at Twitter Banning of Trump (SN)
Twitter Has Suspended More Than 70,000 Accounts Since Friday (ZH)
The Big Tech Backfire (Miller)
We Need a New Media System (Taibbi)
Insurrection Versus Insurrection (Kunstler)
The Rise and Fall of the ‘Steele Dossier’ (Maté)
Assange Is Still In Prison. And America’s Principles Are Still At Stake. (NBC)
50 Countries Commit To Protection Of 30% of Earth’s Land and Oceans (G.)
Economic Failures of the IPCC Process (Steve Keen)
Dutch Officials Seize Ham Sandwiches From British Drivers (G.)
‘Let’s All Remain Peaceful,’ Says Trump In Clear Incitement To Violence (BBee)

 

 

The B.1.1.7 COVID variant is starting to look as scary as the social media giant censorship.

 

 

A call on the US to close its borders to the UK. At present, dozens of flights arrive from London every day.

“I’ve never seen an epi curve like this. The B.1.1.7 variant is spreading like wildfire in the UK and Ireland. If it spreads here, it will make an already-bad situation even worse.”

 

 

Lynn Parramore taks to Phillip Alvelda, a former NASA & DARPA technologist.

New Covid “Super Strain” is a Game-Changer for Schools and More (Parramore)

LP: New, fast-spreading “super strains” are raising a lot of concerns, such as more infection among young people. You’ve been studying the U.K. variant, which has shown up in the United States. What do we need to know?

PA: We saw the U.K. strain coming for some time. All of a sudden there began to be dramatic upticks in infection rates, even without material changes in individual behavior en masse or the abatement measures enacted and observed. England has not been the most Johnny-on-the-spot responder to the coronavirus, and there has been a lot of confusion about what abatement measures should be observed, in which areas, etc. Of the developed nations, the U.S. and the U.K. have struggled the most as societies to communicate, plan and observe reasonable measures that other countries have more successfully applied. The U.K. variant, which has now spread across Europe and into several U.S. states, has what appear to be a couple of important mutations in the spike protein, which allows the virus to attach to the receptors in the lungs. Apparently, the new variant is stickier – better at binding to the receptors. That means that it takes less of the virus to get you sick, or the same viral load gets you sicker.

A big change is that the U.K. variant appears be somewhere between 40 and 70% more infectious. For a person who has this variant, they’re likely to infect 40% to 70% more people. If you think about what we have done to reduce the effectiveness of transmission, getting people to wear masks has been a successful campaign. But some masks are better at protecting people than others. A well-fitted N95 and KN95 masks will filter 95% of the virus particles from coming into your lungs, but there are also terrible masks that don’t protect people much at all. If you average mask-wearing over the population, it seems that the mask mandates reduce the infectiousness of the virus by about 40 to 50%. To put the U.K. variant in perspective, with its faster spread, we are effectively put back to where we once were without masks — even when we’re now wearing masks!

LP: The idea of young people under 20 getting infected at high rates is alarming, though there have been conflicting reports as to why those numbers are higher, such as behavior patterns. What’s your take?

PA: There is no doubt that the U.K. strain is infecting more young people than any prior variants. I think the conflicting reports may have more to do with where that variant is prevalent and where it is not. It would not be true to say that all of the hospitals in the U.K. are being overrun by younger patients. But in those regions where the new variant is prevalent, the hospitalization and case data now show that more than ever before, young people are having almost as many cases and hospitalizations as the older people. That is a substantial change. With older variants, symptoms were usually not bad enough to even bring the kids in to test — and we know there were a lot of asymptomatic carriers that were never tested or acknowledged.

With the new variant, symptoms are bad enough that kids need the testing and they’re being hospitalized. It’s probably premature to speculate on the lethality. There is some hope, for example, that the U.K. variant could be more infectious but less lethal. But we just don’t know. It’s likely going to be weeks before the case trend that is now beginning to translate into the hospitalization trend will translate into the mortality trend. Unfortunately, given what we’ve seen in the past from the virus, it’s our expectation that if the case data is showing more young people infected, and the hospitalization data is showing more of them hospitalized, in a matter of weeks we will see more deaths.

Read more …

They’re talking again about “immunity” provided by vaccines. But have we seen any proof of that?

WHO Warns Of ‘Highly Problematic’ New Covid-19 Variants (F.)

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday issued a dire warning about the new variants of Covid-19 that are emerging across the globe, noting that because those variants can be more contagious, the surge in cases they’re likely to cause could further stress hospitals and health workers already stretched to the brink. During a press briefing Monday, Ghebreyesus said that more contagious variants of the coronavirus “can drive a surge of cases and hospitalizations, which is highly problematic for health workers and hospitals already close to the breaking point.” The added strain on hospitals puts other essential health services at risk, he added, meaning that critical surgeries or procedures may become more difficult because hospital resources are more limited.

While these variants have been found to be more contagious, experts say they don’t appear to cause more severe sickness or increase the risk of death. Dr. Tom Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned last week that the U.S. is “close to a worst-case scenario” because of the rapid spread of a new, highly contagious strain of Covid-19. New variants of Covid-19 have been found in the United Kingdom, the United States (where 63 cases have been detected), Canada, South Africa, and Nigeria, among other countries, the CDC says. Japan’s health authorities announced over the weekend that they had detected a new variant of the virus in four travelers from Brazil, Reuters reported.

Scientists are keeping track of new mutations as they emerge and studying how they will impact the effectiveness of vaccines. “I’m quite optimistic that even with these mutations, immunity is not going to suddenly fail on us,” Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, told the healthcare publication STAT. “It might be gradually eroded, but it’s not going to fail on us, at least in the short term.” A recent study from the University of Texas and pharma giant Pfizer found that Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is still effective in protecting against new variants of the virus.

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Excellent analysis: “The more it is used wrongly, the more misinformation ensues.”

An Epidemic of COVID Positive Tests (John Hunt)

How does this same 95% sensitive/95% specific test work in this screening setting? The good news is that this test will likely identify the 5 people out of every 1000 with Relevant Infectious COVID! Yay! The bad news is that, out of every 1000 people, it will also falsely label 50 people as COVID-positive who don’t have Relevant Infectious COVID. Out of 55 people with positive tests in each group of 1000 people, 5 actually have the disease. 50 of the tests are false positives. With a Positive Predictive Value of only 9%, one could say that’s a pretty lousy test. It’s far lousier if you test only people with no symptoms (such as screening a school, jobsite, or college), in whom the up-front likelihood of having Relevant Infectious COVID Disease is substantially lower.

The very same test that is pretty good when testing people who are actually ill or at risk is lousy when screening people who aren’t. In the first scenario (with symptoms), the test is being used correctly for diagnosis. In the second scenario (no symptoms), the test is being used wrongly for screening. A diagnostic test is used to diagnose a patient the doctor thinks has a reasonable chance of having the disease (having symptoms like fever, cough, a snotty nose, and shortness of breath during a viral season). A screening test is used to check for the presence of a disease in a person without symptoms and no heightened risk of having the disease.

A screening test may be appropriate to use when it has very high specificity (99% or more), when the prevalence of the disease in the population is pretty high, and when there is something we can do about the disease if we identify it. However, if the prevalence of a disease is low (as is the case for Relevant Infectious COVID) and the test isn’t adequately specific (as is the case with PCR and rapid antigen tests for the COVID virus), then using such a test as a screening measure in healthy people is forcing the test to be lousy. The more it is used wrongly, the more misinformation ensues. Our health authorities are recommending more testing of asymptomatic people. In other words, they are encouraging the wrong and lousy application of these tests.

Read more …

“The proportion of COVID-19 deaths that occurred in nursing homes was often higher” under tough restrictions “rather than under less restrictive measures.”

Lockdown ‘Ineffective’ Against Spread Of Covid-19, May Even Increase Risk (RT)

A Stanford University study claims mandatory stay-at-home orders and business closures have “no clear, significant beneficial effect” on Covid-19 case growth and may even lead to more frequent infections in nursing homes. Researchers at Stanford University in California aimed to assess how tough lockdowns influence the growth in infections as compared to less restrictive measures. They used data from England, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, and the US, collected during the initial stages of the pandemic in the spring 2020. They compared the data from Sweden and South Korea, two countries that did not introduce tough lockdowns at that time, with that from the other eight countries.

They found that introducing any restrictive non-pharmaceutical interventions’ (NPIs) such as reduced working hours, working from home and social distancing helped curb the rise of infections in nine out of 10 study countries, except for Spain, where the effect was “non-significant.” However, when they compared epidemic spreads in places that implemented less restrictive measures with those opting for a full-blown lockdown they found “no clear, significant beneficial effect” of the latter on the number of cases in any country. The research goes on to suggest that empirical data from the later wave of infections shows that restrictive measures fail to protect vulnerable populations. “The proportion of COVID-19 deaths that occurred in nursing homes was often higher” under tough restrictions “rather than under less restrictive measures.”

It also says that there’s evidence suggesting that “sometimes under more restrictive measures, infections may be more frequent in settings where vulnerable populations reside relative to the general population.” The research admits that lockdowns in early 2020 were justified because the disease was spreading rapidly and overwhelming health systems, and scientists or medics did not know what the mortality data of the virus was. However, it points at the potential harmful health effects of tough restrictions, such as hunger, health services becoming unavailable for non-Covid diseases, domestic abuse and mental health issues, and the effects of these on the economy mean that the benefits of the tough restrictions might be overrated and need to be studied carefully.

Read more …

“..social media giants shouldn’t have the power to decide who has the right to free speech…”

French Government “Shocked” at Twitter Banning of Trump (SN)

The French government has echoed Angela Merkel’s sentiment in saying it is “shocked” at Twitter’s banning of President Trump, asserting that Big Tech is a threat to democracy. Junior Minister for European Union Affairs Clement Beaune said the decision to silence Trump proved the need for Big Tech platforms to be tightly regulated. “This should be decided by citizens, not by a CEO,” he told Bloomberg TV on Monday. “There needs to be public regulation of big online platforms.” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire also said that “the digital oligarchy” was “one of the threats” to democracy and should be reigned in by the state. As we highlighted earlier, the German government also warned that Big Tech’s deplatforming of Trump set a very dangerous precedent.

Communicating via a spokesman, Chancellor Angela Merkel called the move “problematic,” adding that social media giants shouldn’t have the power to decide who has the right to free speech.

“This fundamental right can be intervened in, but according to the law and within the framework defined by legislators — not according to a decision by the management of social media platforms,” said the statement. While Republicans were completely toothless in their efforts to control Big Tech during Trump’s administration, Poland could be set to pass a law that would fine social media companies $2.2 million a pop for censoring lawful free speech. “In the event of removal or blockage, a complaint can be sent to the platform, which will have 24 hours to consider it. Within 48 hours of the decision, the user will be able to file a petition to the court for the return of access. The court will consider complaints within seven days of receipt and the entire process is to be electronic,” reported Poland In.

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Anyone setting up a better alternative will be crushed.

Twitter Has Suspended More Than 70,000 Accounts Since Friday (ZH)

In a Monday night blog post, Twitter lays out all the latest details of a historic purge that started with the suspension of president Trump and has escalated into the ban of tens of thousands of conservative voices, or as Twitter puts it, “steps taken to protect the conversation on our service from attempts to incite violence, organize attacks, and share deliberately misleading information about the election outcome.” Odd how none of those considerations emerged during the summer when US cities were literally burning as a result of countless violent protests and frequent riots, but we digress. In any case, In twitter’s own delightfully ironic words, “It’s important to be transparent about all of this work as the US Presidential Inauguration on January 20, 2021, approaches.” Which is a probably a good idea in the aftermath of the biggest censorship purge in twitter history, one which sent Twitter stock tumbling. So this is what how twitter justifies “the purge”:


We’ve been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm. Given the violent events in Washington, DC, and increased risk of harm, we began permanently suspending thousands of accounts that were primarily dedicated to sharing QAnon content on Friday afternoon. And with tens of thousands of accounts suspended (most of them permanently), banned, or merely disappeared, it will hardly be a surprise that according to Tiwtter, “more than 70,000 accounts have been suspended”. What is the justification? “These accounts were engaged in sharing harmful QAnon-associated content at scale and were primarily dedicated to the propagation of this conspiracy theory across the service.”

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“Sunlight has always been the best disinfectant as a way of fighting radicalization.”

The Big Tech Backfire (Miller)

Some are excusing Big Tech’s foray into massive censorship by arguing that these are private companies and can choose who they provide service to. Anyone who has a problem with their behavior, they reason, should just create their own platforms. But that is exactly what Parler did, and it was subsequently crushed. Unfortunately, because Big Tech companies have grown so large and monopolistic, the only real way to have a viable competitor is to create an entirely new internet. Amazon’s hypocritical justification for banning Parler shows that these companies will do basically anything in order to destroy the competition. Amazon claimed that Parler is responsible for the content that it allowed users to publish, which is the exact same argument made by people who wish to remove Section 230 protections for social media companies.

Amazon thus introduced a moral and legal standard for a potential competitor that it would resist tooth and nail if applied to itself. The company notably used Section 230 as a defense in a recent court case to try to avoid liability for selling defective products. It’s worth noting that many conservatives do not believe that social-media companies should do away with all content moderation. The problem is that platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and now Amazon, do not enforce their policies equally. After suspending Trump, Twitter was still hosting virulent anti-Semites, Chinese Communist party propaganda, vaccine conspiracists and antifa glorification accounts like the New York Times. If these companies only enforce policies against accounts with certain political leanings, it will radicalize a base of the population even more.

The people who are targeted online by Twitter and Facebook’s increasingly wide nets will simply find deeper and darker holes to communicate. Sunlight has always been the best disinfectant as a way of fighting radicalization. Deleting the account of someone with a radical opinion does not stop that person from holding that opinion; in fact, it may cause them to dig in even deeper in retaliation. Meanwhile, people who are unfairly targeted by social media platforms may start to sympathize with the radicals.

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“Drifting apart into two separate tribes, with a separate set of facts and separate realities, with nothing in common except our hostility towards each other and mistrust for the few national institutions that we all still share.”

We Need a New Media System (Taibbi)

The moment a group of people stormed the Capitol building last Wednesday, news companies began the process of sorting and commoditizing information that long ago became standard in American media. Media firms work backward. They first ask, “How does our target demographic want to understand what’s just unfolded?” Then they pick both the words and the facts they want to emphasize. It’s why Fox News uses the term, “Pro-Trump protesters,” while New York and The Atlantic use “Insurrectionists.” It’s why conservative media today is stressing how Apple, Google, and Amazon shut down the “Free Speech” platform Parler over the weekend, while mainstream outlets are emphasizing a new round of potentially armed protests reportedly planned for January 19th or 20th.

What happened last Wednesday was the apotheosis of the Hate Inc. era, when this audience-first model became the primary means of communicating facts to the population. For a hundred reasons dating back to the mid-eighties, from the advent of the Internet to the development of the 24-hour news cycle to the end of the Fairness Doctrine and the Fox-led discovery that news can be sold as character-driven, episodic TV in the manner of soap operas, the concept of a “Just the facts” newscast designed to be consumed by everyone died out. News companies now clean world events like whalers, using every part of the animal, funneling different facts to different consumers based upon calculations about what will bring back the biggest engagement kick.

The Migrant Caravan? Fox slices off comments from a Homeland Security official describing most of the border-crossers as single adults coming for “economic reasons.” The New York Times counters by running a story about how the caravan was deployed as a political issue by a Trump White House staring at poor results in midterm elections. Repeat this info-sifting process a few billion times and this is how we became, as none other than Mitch McConnell put it last week, a country: “Drifting apart into two separate tribes, with a separate set of facts and separate realities, with nothing in common except our hostility towards each other and mistrust for the few national institutions that we all still share.”

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Jim holds on to the last straws.

Insurrection Versus Insurrection (Kunstler)

Mr. Trump is still president, and you’ve probably noticed he has been president for four years to date, which ought to suggest that he holds a great deal of accumulated information about the seditionists who have been playing games with him through all those years. So, two questions might be: how much of that information describes criminal acts by his adversaries — most recently, a deeply suspicious national election based on hackable vote-tabulation computers — and what’s within the president’s power to do something about it? I guess we’ll find out. Or, to state it a little differently, it is impossible that the president does not have barge-loads of information about the people who strove mightily to take him down for four years.

At least two pillars of the Intel Community — the CIA and the FBI — have been actively and visibly working to undermine and gaslight him, but you can be sure that the president knows where the gas has been coming from, and these agencies are not the only sources of dark information in this world. Also consider that not all the employees at these agencies are on the side of sedition. By its work this weekend, starring Jack Dorsey (Twitter), Zuck (Facebook), Tim Cook (Apple), and Jeff Bezos (Amazon and The WashPo), you know exactly what you would be getting with The Resistance taking power in the White House and Congress: unvarnished tyranny. No free speech for you!

They will not permit opposing voices to be heard, especially about the janky election that elevated America’s booby-prize, Joe Biden, to the highest office in the land. Now there’s a charismatic, charming, dynamic, in-charge guy! He’s already doing such a swell job “healing America.” For instance, his declaration Tuesday to give $30-billion to businesses run by “black, brown, and Native American entrepreneurs” (WashPo). Uh, white folks need not apply? Since when are federal disbursements explicitly race-based? What and who, exactly, comprise the committee set up to operate Joe Biden, the hypothetical, holographic President?

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If anything calls for a Special Counsel, it’s Russiagate. But with the Dems back in power, the chances are zero.

The Rise and Fall of the ‘Steele Dossier’ (Maté)

On January 10, 2017, BuzzFeed News published the “Steele dossier,” the collection of DNC-funded reports alleging a high-level conspiracy between Trump and Moscow. The catalyst had come four days earlier, when then–FBI Director Jim Comey personally briefed Trump on the dossier’s existence. Their meeting was then promptly leaked to the media, giving BuzzFeed the news hook to publish the Steele material in full. Despite its outlandish assertions and partisan provenance, Steele’s work product somehow became a road map for Democratic leaders, media outlets, and, most egregiously, intelligence officials carrying out the Russia investigation.

According to Steele, Trump and the Kremlin engaged in a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation.” Russia had, Steele alleged, been “cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump for at least five years,” dating back to the time when Trump was merely the host of The Apprentice. Russia, Steele claimed, handed Trump “a regular flow of intelligence,” including on “political rivals.” The conspiracy supposedly escalated during the 2016 campaign, when then–Trump lawyer Michael Cohen slipped into Prague for “secret discussions with Kremlin representatives and associated operators/hackers.”

This purported plot was not just based on mutual nefarious interests but, worse, outright coercion. To keep their asset in line, Steele alleged, the Russians had videotaped Trump hiring and watching prostitutes “perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show,” in a Moscow Ritz-Carlton hotel room. This “kompromat” meant that the leader of the free world was not only a traitor but also a blackmail victim of his Kremlin handlers. If the Steele dossier’s far-fetched claims were not enough reason to dismiss it with ridicule, another obvious marker should have set off alarms. Reading the Steele dossier chronologically, a glaring pattern emerges: Steele has no advance knowledge of anything that later proved to be true, and, just as tellingly, many of his most explosive claims appear only after some approximate prediction has come out in public form.

Despite his supposed high-level sources inside the Kremlin, it was only after Wikileaks published the DNC e-mails in July 2016 that Steele first mentioned them. When Steele made the headline-consuming claim that “the TRUMP team had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue” in exchange for Russian help, he did so only after a meaningless Ukraine-related platform change at the RNC was reported (and mischaracterized) in The Washington Post. When Steele claimed that former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was offered up to a 19 percent stake in the state-owned Russian oil company Rosneft if he could get Trump to lift Western sanctions, it was only after the media had reported Page’s visit to Moscow.

In short, far from having access to high-level intelligence, Steele and his “sources” only had access to news outlets and their own imaginations.

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Support that comes way too late.

Assange Is Still In Prison. And America’s Principles Are Still At Stake. (NBC)

The Justice Department’s case against Assange raised serious press freedom concerns from the outset. This is partly because so much of the indictment is devoted to describing activity that journalists engage in routinely — like cultivating government sources, communicating with them confidentially, protecting their identities and publishing classified secrets. In defending the indictment, Justice Department spokespeople have insisted that the case does not implicate press freedom because Assange himself is not a journalist and because WikiLeaks, which Assange founded, is not a media organization. But this defense misses the point. The point is that Assange is being prosecuted for activities that national security journalists engage in every day — and that they need to engage in if they are to serve as a meaningful check on government power.

Of particular concern are three counts in the indictment that charge Assange with having violated the Espionage Act merely by publishing classified information. As the Justice Department knows, publishing government secrets is an important part of what American news organizations do. The Washington Post disclosed classified information when it revealed the CIA’s network of black sites. The New York Times disclosed classified information when it exposed the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program. The truth is that there is no way that American news organizations could report responsibly about war, foreign relations or national security without sometimes disclosing classified information. Max Frankel of The New York Times famously made this point in an affidavit filed 50 years ago in the Pentagon Papers case, and the point is even more true today.

The ruling issued in London on Monday by Judge Vanessa Baraitser will forestall the Justice Department, at least for now, from pursuing Assange’s prosecution in U.S. courts. This is a significant thing. While the indictment certainly has a chilling effect on national security journalism, a successful prosecution of Assange under the Espionage Act would be even more oppressive — indeed, it would likely compel U.S. news organizations to radically curtail some of the most important work they do. The problem with Baraitser’s ruling, from the perspective of press freedom, is that it rejected the extradition request only because of concerns relating to Assange’s mental health and the conditions in which he would be imprisoned were he handed over to the United States. This aspect of Baraitser’s ruling appears to be well supported by the evidence, but, significantly, its protection does not extend beyond Assange.

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Really? The UK goverment will protect the planet? And Prince Charles makes a cameo? Fool me once, shame on you.

50 Countries Commit To Protection Of 30% of Earth’s Land and Oceans (G.)

A coalition of 50 countries has committed to protect almost a third of the planet by 2030 to halt the destruction of the natural world and slow extinctions of wildlife. The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People, which includes the UK and countries from six continents, made the pledge to protect at least 30% of the planet’s land and oceans before the One Planet summit in Paris on Monday, hosted by the French president, Emmanuel Macron.
Scientists have said human activities are driving the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth, and agricultural production, mining and pollution are threatening the healthy functioning of life-sustaining ecosystems crucial to human civilisation.

In the announcement, the HAC said protecting at least 30% of the planet for nature by the end of the decade was crucial to preventing mass extinctions of plants and animals, and ensuring the natural production of clean air and water. The commitment is likely to be the headline target of the “Paris agreement for nature” that will be negotiated at Cop15 in Kunming, China later this year. The HAC said it hoped early commitments from countries such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Nigeria, Pakistan and Canada would ensure it formed the basis of the UN agreement. The UK environment minister Zac Goldsmith said: “We know there is no pathway to tackling climate change that does not involve a massive increase in our efforts to protect and restore nature.

“So as co-host of the next Climate Cop, the UK is absolutely committed to leading the global fight against biodiversity loss and we are proud to act as co-chair of the High Ambition Coalition. “We have an enormous opportunity at this year’s biodiversity conference in China to forge an agreement to protect at least 30% of the world’s land and ocean by 2030. I am hopeful our joint ambition will curb the global decline of the natural environment, so vital to the survival of our planet.”

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A feature not a bug?!

Economic Failures of the IPCC Process (Steve Keen)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the premier international body collating the scientific assessment of climate change, and proposals for mitigation. A joint creation of the United Nations agencies the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), it brings together scientists from myriad disciplines to assess and summarize the current research on climate change, collating knowledge that is then used to inform governments and politicians. The scientists work on a volunteer basis. The IPCC relies upon its member governments and “Observers Organizations” to nominate its volunteer authors. This means that, subject to their willingness to volunteer, the most prestigious individuals specialising in climate change in each discipline become the authors of the relevant IPCC chapter for their discipline.


They then undertake a review of the peer-reviewed literature in their field (and some non-peer-reviewed work, such as government reports) to distil the current state of knowledge about climate change in their discipline. A laborious review process is also followed, so the draft reports of the volunteer experts is reviewed by other experts in each field, to ensure conformity of the report with the discipline’s current perception of climate change. The emphasis upon producing reports which reflect the consensus within a discipline has resulted in numerous charges that the IPCC’s warnings are inherently too conservative. But the main weaknesses with the IPCC’s methodology are firstly that, in economics, it exclusively selects Neoclassical economists, and secondly, because there is no built-in review of one discipline’s findings by another, the conclusions of these Neoclassical economists about the dangers of climate change are reviewed only by other Neoclassical economists. The economic sections of IPCC reports are therefore unchallenged by other disciplines who also contribute to the IPCC’s reports.

Given the extent to which economists dominate the formation of most government policies in almost all fields, and not just strictly economic policy, the otherwise acceptable process by which the IPCC collates human knowledge on climate change has critically weakened, rather than strengthened, human society’s response to climate change. This is because, commencing with “Nobel Laureate” William Nordhaus, the economists who specialise on climate change have falsely trivialized the dangers that climate change poses to human civilization. In his 2018 Nobel Prize lecture, William Nordhaus described a trajectory that would lead to global temperatures peaking at 4°C above pre-industrial levels in 2145 as “optimal” because, according to his calculations, the damages from climate change over time, plus the abatement costs over time, are minimised on this trajectory.


He estimated the discounted cost of the economic damages from unabated climate change — which would see temperatures approach 6°C above pre-industrial levels by 2150 — at $24 trillion, whereas the 4°C trajectory had damages of about $15 trillion and abatement costs of about $3 trillion. Trajectories with lower peak temperatures had higher abatement costs that overwhelmed the benefits. In a subsequent paper, Nordhaus claimed that even a 6°C increase would only reduce global income by only 7.9%, compared to what it would be in the complete absence of global warming.

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“Welcome to Brexit, sir, I’m sorry.”

Dutch Officials Seize Ham Sandwiches From British Drivers (G.)

Dutch TV news has aired footage of customs officers confiscating ham sandwiches from drivers arriving by ferry from the UK under post-Brexit rules banning personal imports of meat and dairy products into the EU. Officials wearing high-visibility jackets are shown explaining to startled car and lorry drivers at the Hook of Holland ferry terminal that since Brexit, “you are no longer allowed to bring certain foods to Europe, like meat, fruit, vegetables, fish, that kind of stuff.” To a bemused driver with several sandwiches wrapped in tin foil who asked if he could maybe surrender the meat and keep just the bread, one customs officer replied: “No, everything will be confiscated. Welcome to Brexit, sir, I’m sorry.”

The ban came into force on New Year’s Day as the Brexit transition period came to an end, with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) saying travellers should “use, consume, or dispose of” prohibited items at or before the border. “From 1 January 2021 you will not be able to bring POAO (products of an animal origin) such as those containing meat or dairy (eg a ham and cheese sandwich) into the EU,” the Defra guidance for commercial drivers states. The European commission says the ban is necessary because meat and dairy products can contain pathogens causing animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth or swine fever and “continue to present a real threat to animal health throughout the union”.

Dutch customs also posted a photograph of foodstuffs ranging from breakfast cereals to oranges that officials had confiscated in the ferry terminal, adding: “Since 1 January, you can’t just bring more food from the UK.” The customs service added: “So prepare yourself if you travel to the Netherlands from the UK and spread the word. This is how we prevent food waste and together ensure that the controls are speeded up.”

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“Let’s all remain peaceful,” he said, which clearly meant, “Go burn down the Capitol Building.”

‘Let’s All Remain Peaceful,’ Says Trump In Clear Incitement To Violence (BBee)

A review of Trump’s statements last week made it clear that he was inciting violence, as he very clearly told people to “remain peaceful” and not carry out any violence. The dangerous cult leader encouraged his followers to protest at the Capitol, but to remain peaceful, which is an obvious instance of inciting violence, according to leading language experts and journalists. “Let’s all remain peaceful,” he said, which clearly meant, “Go burn down the Capitol Building.” “No violence!” added the deranged lunatic, which, according to the New York Times, was a dog whistle for “Minions, attack!” “Go home,” he added, which meant, “Keep pressing the attack! We will not be defeated! Blow stuff up!” At publishing time, Trump had said, “I’ve always encouraged peaceful protesting,” which meant he wanted his followers to go ransack an Arby’s.

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 102021
 
 January 10, 2021  Posted by at 10:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  51 Responses »


Salvator Rosa Lucrezia as poetry c.1641

 

An Unlikely Nation Is Kicking This Pandemic. Guess Which. Then Why. (TS)
Covid-19 Forces Swedish Hospitals To Delay ‘Necessary Surgery’ (Local)
Rapid Covid Testing Across England Will Help Identify Symptomless Carriers (G.)
Assange Saga – Real Journalism Is Criminally Insane (Escobar)
The American Empire Has Fallen, Though Washington May Not Know It Yet (Malic)
Parler Kicked Off Amazon Servers And Apple Store (JTN)
Elon Musk Blames Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg For Capitol Riot (Ob.)
Big Short’s Michael Burry: Tesla Will Collapse Like The Housing Bubble (BI)
Bee-Killing Pesticide Banned By EU Can Be Used In England (G.)

 

 

What strikes me more than anything today is the amount of negativity everywhere I look, the antagonism and self-righteousness, which culminate in handing Big Tech the power to determine our own personal liberty. Not a Constitution, or even a law, not a judge or a court, but large corporations.

The problem with that is you’re not going to get it back. Be very careful what you wish for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glenn Greenwald, like Julian Assange, has warned against the increasing power of Big Tech for a long time.

Greenwald Tucker

 

 

 

 

India and ivermectin.

An Unlikely Nation Is Kicking This Pandemic. Guess Which. Then Why. (TS)

Ten months into its battle with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, India is on track to become an unexpected warrior in the fight against this global pandemic. Although the densely populated nation has four times the population of the U.S., India has less than half the U.S. COVID deaths. And India isn’t just beating the poorly performing U.S. In all, 98 nations have higher death rates than India. It may be tempting to attribute this startling news to imperfect data from a developing country. But doctors in India, Indian press reports, and even the Wall Street Journal have taken note of a sea change in COVID there. “In September, India was reporting almost 100,000 COVID-19 cases a day, with many predicting it would soon pass the U.S. in overall cases,” the WSJ wrote on Dec. 30. “Instead, its infections dropped and are now at one-fourth that level.”

Dr. Anil K. Chaurasia, a physician in Lucknow, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, watched this trend unfold. Starting about mid-September, “a clear decline in COVID cases and fatalities in India was noticeable,” he told me in a text message. The “steep decline in cases and fatalities is still continuing.” Like a lot of western reporting, the WSJ article held fast to an accepted COVID theme. The Indian miracle was due to masks, it asserted, since they are worn by 88 to 95 percent of a population “bombarded” with public-service reminders. The article cited German research that showed masks work. Fair enough. However, many factors are likely at play in India, including its painful yet supported national shutdown and individual state efforts at contact tracing and testing. But a pivotal role in any illness is surely the availability of treatments to resolve illness before crisis.

Late last March, as the U.S. argued over the merits of Trump-endorsed hydroxychloroquine and studies failed in late-stage patients, India decided to recommend the drug in its national guidelines. HCQ “should be used as early in the disease course as possible…and should be avoided in patients with severe disease,” the directives wisely state. As a precaution, authorities suggested an EKG to monitor for a rare heart arrhythmia that several COVID studies have since shown to be minimal. But a crucial turn for India may have come in August when the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh recommended use of another drug: Ivermectin, which is coming on fast as a leading COVID treatment — without the baggage of at-turns effective but vilified hydroxychloroquine.

This was no small move. Were it a country, U.P.’s more than 230 million citizens would rank it fifth worldwide. As India’s largest state, its embrace of ivermectin may have changed the treatment landscape across India. “This authentication of ivermectin revived the faith of people,” Dr. Chaurasia told me, “and net result was a massive inclination to take these drugs” — both ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine. By the end of 2020, Uttar Pradesh — which distributed free ivermectin for home care — had the second-lowest fatality rate in India at 0.26 per 100,000 residents in December. Only the state of Bihar, with 128 million residents, was lower, and it, too, recommends ivermectin.

But Uttar Pradesh did more than treat 300,000 mild cases at home through 2020; it also opted to use ivermectin to prevent infection. It seems a young health officer’s COVID response teams had taken the drug and remained well – something prophylaxis studies support. U.P. then had contacts of COVID patients take it, with similar success. “Recognizing the sense of urgency,” Amit Mohan Prasad, a U.P. health official, wrote in a Dec. 30 article, “we decided to go ahead.”

Read more …

Spare a thought for the doctors making these decisions.

Covid-19 Forces Swedish Hospitals To Delay ‘Necessary Surgery’ (Local)

Hospitals across Sweden are now postponing urgent operations to make room for coronavirus patients, a survey by Sweden’s state broadcaster SR has found. Every one of the country’s 21 regional healthcare authorities reported being in a “strained” or “very strained” situation, with the regions of Jönköping and Uppsala telling SR that they were having to postpone urgent operations on cancer or heart patients. “It may actually be cancer surgery that has to wait for a bit right now,” Uppsala’s health and medical care director, Mikael Köhler, told the broadcaster. “We need to do everything we can to prevent harm that could have been avoided, and, in the long run, deaths. We really shouldn’t end up in that kind of situation, but we are starting to get close to it.”


Jönköping, like Uppsala, said that it was delaying urgent cancer surgery and heart operations, with the region’s medical director Mats Bojestig telling SR that it plans to trigger the crisis clause agreed with unions which will allow it to increase health personnel’s working hours. “This feels absolutely necessary if we’re going to be able to carry out more operations than before, because otherwise we think local residents are going to harmed,” he said. Uppsala has already triggered the crisis clause. In Skåne, urgent operations have had to be moved between hospitals, delaying procedures.

Read more …

We should have had this discussion at least 9 months ago. Choose between various rapid tests, and get it going.

Rapid Covid Testing Across England Will Help Identify Symptomless Carriers (G.)

Rapid testing to find symptomless carriers of Covid-19 is to be launched in England this week. The aim of the programme is to identify some of the tens of thousands of infected people who are unwittingly spreading the virus across the country. The dramatic escalation of the programme – which uses detectors known as lateral flow devices – comes as Covid death rates have continued to soar and hospitals have reported alarming numbers of patients needing intensive care. On Saturday it was revealed a further 1,035 Covid deaths had occurred in the UK, bringing the nation’s total to 80,868. In addition, the daily number of those testing positive increased by 59,937.

Under the new, expanded testing scheme, local authorities will be encouraged to identify more positive cases of Covid and ensure those who are infected isolate. The use of lateral flow devices, which can confirm if a person is infected in under 30 minutes, will allow quick detection of infected individuals at test centres. Lateral-flow devices are accurate at pinpointing infected individuals but have been criticised for generating large numbers of false negatives. Nevertheless, many experts have welcomed the expansion of the testing programme, which 131 local authorities have already agreed to implement. Professor Adam Finn, of Bristol University, described the expanded programme as a vitally important measure. “Added to the measures already in place, this provides an important new tool to help to reduce the rapid rise in cases that is paralysing in our country,” he added.

Professor Lawrence Young of Warwick Medical School agreed. “This is good news. Testing individuals during the current lockdown will help to restrict the spread of infection as long as we ensure folk who test positive appropriately isolate and their contacts are traced and also isolate.” Other scientists were more cautious. “Here, In Liverpool, a trial using lateral flow tests had a good uptake: 25% of the population were tested and 900 cases identified,” said Tom Wingfield, of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. “However, an interim report later showed this testing missed 60% of cases and provided no clear evidence the strategy led to a reduction of cases.

Read more …

“The real power in the Assange case is Lady Emma Arbuthnot, forced out of a visible role because of very compromising, direct ties she and her husband Lord Arbuthnot maintain with British intelligence and military..”

Assange Saga – Real Journalism Is Criminally Insane (Escobar)

The invaluable Craig Murray, from inside Westminster Magistrates Court No. 1 in London, meticulously presented the full contours of the insanity this Wednesday. Read it in conjunction with the positively terrifying judgment delivered on Monday in the United States government case against Julian Assange. The defining issue, for all those who practice real journalism all across the world, is that the judgment affirms, conclusively, that any journalist can be prosecuted under the US Espionage Act. Since a 1961 amendment, the Espionage Act carries universal jurisdiction. The great John Pilger memorably describes “judge” Vanessa Baraitser as “that Gothic woman”. She is in fact an obscure public servant, not a jurist. Her judgment walks and talks like it was written by a mediocre rookie hack. Or, better yet, entirely lifted from the US Department of Justice indictment.

Julian Assange was – at the last minute – discharged on theoretically humanitarian grounds. So the case had, in effect, ended. Not really. Two days later, he was sent back to Belmarsh, a squalid maximum security prison rife with Covid-19. So the case is ongoing. WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnnson correctly noted, “It is unjust and unfair and illogical when you consider her ruling of two days ago about Julian’s health in large part because he is in Belmarsh prison (…) To send him back there doesn’t make any sense.” It does when one considers the real role of Baraitser – at a loss to juggle between the imperatives of the imperial agenda and the necessity of saving the face of British justice.

Baraitser is a mere, lowly foot soldier punching way above her weight. The real power in the Assange case is Lady Emma Arbuthnot, forced out of a visible role because of very compromising, direct ties she and her husband Lord Arbuthnot maintain with British intelligence and military, first revealed by – who else – WikiLeaks. It was Arbuthnot who picked up obscure Baraitser – who dutifully follows her road map. In court, as Murray has detailed in a series of searing reports, Baraitser essentially covers her incompetence with glaring vindictiveness. Baraitser discharged Julian Assange, according to her own reasoning, because she was not convinced the appalling American gulag would prevent him from committing suicide.

But the key issue is that before reaching this conclusion, she agreed and reinforced virtually every point of the US indictment. So at this point, on Monday, the “Gothic woman” was performing a contortion to save the US from the profound global embarrassment of prosecuting a de facto journalist and publisher for revealing imperial war crimes, not United States government secrets. Two days later, the full picture became crystal clear. There was nothing “humanitarian” about that judgment. Political dissent was equaled with mental illness. Julian Assange was branded as criminally insane. Once again, practicing journalism was criminalized.

Read more …

“..exploding the myths that maintained US hegemony, both at home and abroad.”

The American Empire Has Fallen, Though Washington May Not Know It Yet (Malic)

[..] here’s Ishan Tharoor, a columnist for the notoriously pro-establishment Washington Post, declaring on Thursday that for “many abroad,” the vision of the US as a shining city on a hill with global moral influence and authority “has already died a thousand deaths.” For some of these people, Tharoor argued, this narrative was “always an illusion to obscure the Washington-engineered coups and client military regimes.” Indeed. Democrats and their neocon allies have spent the past four years blaming Trump’s ‘America First’ policy, lamenting that he was acting unilaterally, antagonizing “allies” and creating a “leadership vacuum” in the world. Those are the talking points of the incoming administration as well.

Except they’ve clearly forgotten the events of January 2020, when Trump ordered the drone assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. There were no protests from US “allies” – or should we say vassals? Instead, they fell in line with amazing alacrity. Trump actually embraced the American Empire, he simply dispensed with the polite fictions it had used to dress up as something else over the years. Ironically, it was the mobilization of the entire US political establishment to get rid of Trump – starting with ‘Russiagate’ and the impeachment circus over the phone call to Ukraine, with nationwide riots about “racial justice” and the politically weaponized coronavirus lockdowns along the way – that did the lion’s share of exploding the myths that maintained US hegemony, both at home and abroad.

Remember the ‘Deep State’ that was supposedly a Trumpian conspiracy theory? Yet its existence was confirmed in the impeachment hearings, a former CIA director openly praised it, and the eventual revelations of a FBI plot to frame General Flynn removed any vestiges of doubt. The mainstream media’s war on Trump, later joined by social media platforms – censorship of the legitimate and accurate Hunter Biden laptop story just before the election being just the most egregious example – also played out for the world to see. In the end, they banned Trump from every social media platform while he was still in office, even as he said he would leave peacefully.

Read more …

Parler was at no. 1 in the AppStore.

Parler Kicked Off Amazon Servers And Apple Store (JTN)

Parler’s chief executive said Saturday night that the social media app was suspended from Apple’s store and will be thrown off Amazon’s servers in a standoff over censoring content. CEO John Matze said Parler would not bend to Apple’s demands for increased surveillance and moderation of content and was exploring “many options.” He said the decision by Amazon could result in a weeklong interruption of it service. “Sunday (tomorrow) at midnight Amazon will be shutting off all of our servers in an attempt to completely remove free speech off the internet. There is the possibility Parler will be unavailable on the internet for up to a week as we rebuild from scratch,” he said.

“This was a coordinated attack by the tech giants to kill competition in the marketplace. We were too successful too fast. You can expect the war on competition and free speech to continue, but don’t count us out,” Matze added. The dual announcements came a day after Google kicked Parler out of its App Store. “Apple will be banning Parler until we give up free speech, institute broad and invasive policies like Twitter and Facebook and we become a surveillance platform by pursuing guilt of those who use Parler before innocence,” Matze said in a statement posted on the platform. “They claim it is due to violence on the platform. The community disagrees as we hit number 1 on their store today.”

Matze accused Apple of a double standard by allowing Twitter to have its users post offensive content while shutting down Parler. ”The same day ‘Hang Mike Pence,’ a disgusting violent suggestion, was trending nationally on Twitter. Displaying the horrible double standard Apple and their big tech pack apply to the community,” he said. “Apple, a software monopoly, provides no alternatives to installing apps on your phone other then their store. We do not own our phones, Apple simply rents them to us.

Read more …

“The shocking rampage on Wednesday was the culmination of years of political and ideological polarization fueled by social media platforms, primarily Facebook.”

Elon Musk Blames Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg For Capitol Riot (Ob.)

In times of social crises in America, big tech billionaires are often amongst the first to speak up—though how they do so varies. Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, unlike many of his peers, didn’t directly speak about the riot that erupted in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday afternoon. But the second-richest man in the world did make it clear that he was watching the news and indeed had a strong opinion about the surreal events that transpired at the U.S. Capitol. Late Wednesday night, after police had cleared protestors from the Capital ground to allow Congress to resume vote counting and certifying election results, Musk tweeted a meme showing bricks lining up like dominoes.


The smallest front brick was labeled “a website to rate women on campus”—a reference to the early version of Facebook—and the largest tile in the back was superimposed with a tweet by The New York Times Magazine correspondent Mark Leibovich that read: “The Capitol seems to be under the control of a man in a viking hat.” His message was clear: The shocking rampage on Wednesday was the culmination of years of political and ideological polarization fueled by social media platforms, primarily Facebook. “This is called the domino effect,” Musk tweeted alongside the meme. It’s not the first time the Tesla CEO openly expressed his dislike for Facebook. In February, he called Facebook “lame” in a tweet and urged people to delete their accounts. Three months later, he tweeted “Facebook sucks” after the company’s artificial intelligence lead criticized his lack of knowledge about A.I.

Read more …

“Tesla’s stock price jumped 8% that day alone, adding $60 billion to its market capitalization – equivalent to “1 GM, 2 Hersheys, 3 Etsys, 4 Dominos, 10 Vornados..”

Big Short’s Michael Burry: Tesla Will Collapse Like The Housing Bubble (BI)

Michael Burry, the investor whose billion-dollar bet against the US housing market was immortalized in Michael Lewis’ book “The Big Short,” predicted that Tesla stock would suffer a similar downfall. “Well, my last Big Short got bigger and bigger and BIGGER too,” Burry tweeted on Thursday. Tesla’s stock price jumped 8% that day alone, adding $60 billion to its market capitalization – equivalent to “1 GM, 2 Hersheys, 3 Etsys, 4 Dominos, 10 Vornados,” he continued. “Enjoy it while it lasts,” the Scion Asset Management founder and boss added. Burry disclosed in December that he was shorting Tesla, and he called for CEO Elon Musk to capitalize on his electric-vehicle company’s “current ridiculous price” by issuing shares.


“Sell that #TeslaSouffle,” he added. Tesla stock skyrocketed about 740% in 2020 and has climbed 16% already this year, granting the automaker a bigger market cap than Facebook and making Musk the richest man in the world. [..] Burry was almost universally dismissed when he predicted that the housing bubble would burst and began snapping up credit-default swaps on subprime-mortgage bonds in May 2005. He weathered immense pressure from investors to return their money. A wave of mortgage defaults eventually tanked the housing market in 2007, and Burry personally raked in $100 million and made $750 million in profits for his investors.

Read more …

Tears and fears.

Bee-Killing Pesticide Banned By EU Can Be Used In England (G.)

A pesticide believed to kill bees has been authorised for use in England despite an EU-wide ban two years ago and an explicit government pledge to keep the restrictions. Following lobbying from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and British Sugar, a product containing the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam was sanctioned for emergency use on sugar beet seeds this year because of the threat posed by a virus. Conservationists have described the decision as regressive and called for safeguards to prevent the pollution of rivers with rainwater containing the chemical at a time when British insects are in serious decline.

The decision by 11 countries to allow emergency use of the product comes amid a growing awareness of the harmful role played by refined sugar in the development of long-term health problems. Matt Shardlow, the chief executive of the invertebrate conservation group Buglife, said it was an “environmentally regressive” decision that would destroy wildflowers and add to an “onslaught” on insects. “In addition, no action is proposed to prevent the pollution of rivers with insecticides applied to sugar beet,” he said. “Nothing has changed scientifically since the decision to ban neonics from use on sugar beet in 2018. They are still going to harm the environment.”

Michael Sly, the chairman of the NFU sugar board, said he was relieved the application had been granted and that the sector was working to find long-term solutions to virus yellows disease. “Any treatment will be used in a limited and controlled way on sugar beet, a non-flowering crop, and only when the scientific threshold has been independently judged to have been met,” he said. “Virus yellows disease is having an unprecedented impact on Britain’s sugar beet crop, with some growers experiencing yield losses of up to 80%, and this authorisation is desperately needed to fight this disease. It will be crucial in ensuring that Britain’s sugar beet growers continue to have viable farm businesses.”

Read more …

 

 

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Nov 112020
 


Hokusai VIews of Mount Fuji: Ejiri in Suruga Province 1831

 

Does Lockdown Prevent COVID Deaths? (Rushworth MD)
Brennan et al Spooked Over Suggestion Trump May ‘Declassify Everything’ (RT)
Why Is The Supreme Court Involved In Pennsylvania? (Reeves)
49% In New Poll Say Biden Is Legitimate Winner Of Election; 34% SayTrump (JTN)
Mathematical Evidence The Election Was Stolen (Lt. Col. James Zumwalt)
Biden Camp is Already Working With Foreign Leaders, Like Flynn Did (Greenwald)
Biden Team Considers Legal Action To Force Formal Transition Of Power (NYP)
AI Software Verified Mail-In Ballots in Key Swing States (Whitney Webb)
Fox Joins MSM, Forcing Millions Of Americans To The Media Fringes (Bridge)
Biden Aide Signals Push For Greater Censorship On The Internet (Turley)
EU Seizes on Vienna Attack to Enact Long-Desired Ban on Encryption (MPN)
Zoom Lied To Users About End-to-End Encryption For Years – FTC (ArsT)
EU Goes After Amazon For Breaching European Antitrust Rules (RT)
Why Do Some People Get Hay Fever And What Can They Do About It? (SMH)

 

 

 

 

Headline:

Trump’s voter fraud lawsuits are not about contradicting the will of all the people — just the Black ones
Donald Trump is blaming his loss on Black workers—the same people who risked their very lives to count votes in the middle of a pandemic.

The Philadelphia Inquirer

 

 

 

 

Very large study, interpreted.: .. no correlation whatsoever between severity of lockdown and number of covid deaths. [..] there was no correlation between mass testing and covid deaths either, for that matter. Basically, nothing that various world governments have done to combat covid seems to have had any effect whatsoever on the number of deaths.

Does Lockdown Prevent COVID Deaths? (Rushworth MD)

The study chose to limit itself to looking at the 50 countries with the most recorded cases of covid-19 as of the 1st of April 2020. My interpretation is that they chose the top 50 most affected countries, rather than looking at all 195 countries, due to resource constraints. Data was gathered up to the 1st of May 2020. All information gathered was in the form of publicly available facts and figures. Data gathered included information about covid, income level, gross domestic product, income disparity, longevity, BMI (Body Mass Index), smoking, population density, and a bunch of other things that the researchers thought might be interesting to look at. The authors received no outside funding and reported no conflicts of interest.

There are a few problems here that become apparent straight away. First of all, as mentioned, all the data in this study is observational, so no conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. Second, May was relatively early in the pandemic, and it’s now November, so we’re missing about half a year’s worth of covid data. On the other hand, the pandemic had already peaked in much of the world by May 1st, and lockdown measures had at that point been in place for months in most countries, so it should be possible to get a pretty good idea about what effect lockdown has in terms of decreasing covid deaths, even using only the data available up to May 1st.

Third, the analysis builds on publicly available data, often provided by different governments themselves, with widely varying levels of trustworthiness, and with different ways of classifying things. As an example, data from Sweden is infinitely more reliable than data from China. And while certain countries have used quite inclusive criteria when deciding whether someone has died of covid or not, other countries have been much more strict. The countries with stricter definitions will tend to have lower covid death rates than the countries with more generous definitions. This lack of homogeneity in how things are defined can make it harder to see real patterns.

Fourth, the reseachers who put this study together gathered an enormous amount of data, pretty much everything they could think of under the sun that might in some way correlate with covid statistics. That means that this study amounts to “data trawling”, in other words, going through every relationship imaginable without any a priori hypothesis in order to see which relationships end up being statistically significant. When you do this, you’re supposed to set stricter limits than you normally would for what you consider to be statistically significant results. They didn’t do this.

[..] The factors that most strongly predicted the number of people who died of covid in a country were rate of obesity, average age, and level of income disparity. Each percentage point increase in the rate of obesity resulted in a 12% increase in covid deaths. Each additional average year of age in the population increased covid deaths by 10% . On the opposite end of the spectrum, each point in the direction of greater equality on the gini-coefficient (a scale used to determine how evenly resources are distributed across a population) resulted in a 12% decrease in covid deaths. All these results were statistically significant.

Another factor that had an effect that was significant, but more weakly so, was smoking. Each percentage point increase in the number of smokers in a population was correlated with a 3% decrease in covid deaths. Ok, let’s get to the most important thing, which the authors seem to have tried to hide, because they make so little mention of it. Lockdown and covid deaths. The authors found no correlation whatsoever between severity of lockdown and number of covid deaths. And they didn’t find any correlation between border closures and covid deaths either. And there was no correlation between mass testing and covid deaths either, for that matter. Basically, nothing that various world governments have done to combat covid seems to have had any effect whatsoever on the number of deaths.

Read more …

Well, yeah, that could expose him.

Brennan et al Spooked Over Suggestion Trump May ‘Declassify Everything’ (RT)

Former CIA director John Brennan took to CNN to speculate wildly on how Trump would dump the US’ most precious military secrets out of spite. Mainstream outlets and social media alike piled on the declassification rumors. Brennan took to CNN’s airwaves on Monday to denounce Trump for firing Defense Secretary Mark Esper, claiming the axe came down over Esper’s “rebuff[ing] Trump’s efforts to politicize the US military.” But the mind-reading went on considerably further as Brennan, aided and abetted by host Chris Cuomo, wondered aloud “who knows what else he has refused to do” – like expose the nation’s deepest, darkest secrets.

If Esper had “been pushed aside because he was not listening to Donald Trump, who knows what his successor is going to do if Donald Trump does give some type of order that really is counter to what I think our national security interests need to be?” Brennan wondered aloud. He cited no proof of his initial statement about the reason for Esper’s firing, or any evidence to back up Trump’s supposed inclination toward spilling all of the national security beans pre-Inauguration Day, but Cuomo didn’t seem to care. Brennan was concerned even as the pundit reminded him that Trump only had 70 days to leave the White House without leaving a smoking crater in his wake. “You can do a lot of damage in 70 days,” he hinted darkly, questioning whether the president was “going to carry out these vendettas against these other individuals.”

“It’s clear Donald Trump Is trying to exercise the power because he can, and he’s going to settle scores, but i’m very concerned about what he might do…” the spook-turned-Resistance stalwart mused, veering into projection territory with a suggestion that the president was “just very unpredictable. Right now he’s like a cornered cat” or “tiger” and was going to “lash out.”

Read more …

Because a court decided to (among other things) extend the time ballots could come in. And only the legilsature has that power.

Why Is The Supreme Court Involved In Pennsylvania? (Reeves)

Last Friday evening, in the midst of the media frenzy over the Presidential election, Justice Alito issued a short, page-and-a-half order to all Pennsylvania county boards of election. The order directs the county boards, in counting ballots, to separate any and all ballots received by mail after November 3 at 8:00 pm from those received before that time. Most legal commentators minimized the significance of Alito’s order, declaring it to be no big deal. In fact, though, the order is part of a major lawsuit currently pending before the Supreme Court, the outcome of which could have serious consequences for election law across the country regardless of whether it practically impacts the results of the Presidential election.

[..] The lawsuit, Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Kathy Boockvar, et al., presents the question of whether, under the United States Constitution and federal law, state courts can overturn the express enactments of state legislatures regarding the time, place, and manner of holding Presidential elections. The Constitution vests the state legislatures with the authority to do this and mentions nothing about state courts. The federal Congress, in turn, is vested with the authority to pass a law mandating that all states hold the voting for President on the same day throughout the country. For a major part of our country’s history, Congress declined to exercise this power. As difficult as it is to believe in this day and age, there was a time when different states held their elections for President on different days. But Congress eventually streamlined the election process by passing legislation mandating that the Presidential election be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November.

But while Congress, pursuant to its Constitutional authority, has mandated the date on which the Presidential election must take place, the individual state legislatures are still vested with a large amount of discretion to decide the place and manner of the elections. For example, while Congress has set the date on which the election is to take place, it has said nothing about the closing time by which all votes must be cast on that date. Should the polls close at 5:00 pm? 8:00 pm? This is a prudential matter left to the resolution of the individual state legislatures. Even more critically—should mail-in voting be allowed? If it is, how should it be done? Do mail-in ballots need to be received by election day itself, or is it sufficient for them to arrive later, so long as they are post-marked the day of the election? Again, this is a matter of prudential judgment left to each state legislature. But in any event, the Constitution vests resolution of these matters with the state legislatures—not with the judiciary.

Read more …

But we have other polls that show you completely different results. One from Reuters put Trump at just 3%. And yet another poll says 70% of Americans think election was not “free and fair”.

49% In New Poll Say Biden Is Legitimate Winner Of Election; 34% SayTrump (JTN)

More than a third of registered voters believe Donald Trump legitimately won the presidential election, according to a new Just the News Daily Poll with Scott Rasmussen. Less than half of all respondents — 49% — believe Joe Biden legitimately won the race, while 34% said they believe Trump won the election, and 16% said they are not sure who really won. Of Republican respondents, 77% said they think Trump is the legitimate winner, while just 12% of Republicans believe Biden is the legitimate winner. About a quarter of independent voters also said they believe Trump won. Among Democrats, 87% think that Biden is the winner. Rasmussen noted that the survey was conducted from Thursday night until Saturday early afternoon. “During the time of this survey, no television network or other news source had formally called the race for Biden,” he said. The survey was comprised of 1,200 registered voters and conducted by Scott Rasmussen from Nov. 5-7, 2020.

Read more …

I don’t find this terribly strong.

Mathematical Evidence The Election Was Stolen (Lt. Col. James Zumwalt)

In Wisconsin, late into the night of Nov. 3/early morning hours of Nov. 4, President Donald Trump enjoyed a comfortable lead. Milwaukee was to report in with results by 1 a.m. on the 4th; 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. passed without the results. Finally, at 3:30 a.m., the vote tally arrived. All incoming votes went to Democrat Joe Biden; none to Trump. In 1995, not even Saddam proved that brazen. Something highly unusual happened that morning at several voting centers, not only in Wisconsin, but in Michigan and Pennsylvania as well. In Wisconsin, 140,000 mail-in ballots were found ; in Michigan another 200,000; and in Pennsylvania, 1,000,000 – all for Biden.

Supposedly the party of science, Democrats have lambasted Republicans for failing to heed it. Perhaps, then, the science of math provides the best explanation to understand what happened in these three states. A statistical analysis, laying out the chances of such one-sided Biden ballot dumps occurring, leads to but one conclusion: undeniable mathematical evidence the election was stolen. Analysts say statistically it is impossible for those states to have flipped to Biden the way they did. It is a virtual statistical impossibility – the odds being 0.00000189% or 1 in almost 53 million. In a national election demonstrating a close split in popular vote between two presidential candidates, how could so many last minute pro-Biden votes materialize wiping out Trump’s lead?

[..] Any hope of Trump retaining the Oval Office rests on irrefutable proof of voting fraud. Keeping in mind we live in an era where first impression news stories have proven inaccurate, some Trump confidants are saying evidence of massive voter fraud is being assembled, arrests of several players in the voting scam will follow and the proof will be damning. Allegedly, this evidence involves fraudulent use of ballots identified as part of a sting operation. The Trump administration supposedly had all legal ballots secretly imprinted with invisible watermarks in unbreakable code. A scan so far of 14 million ballots in five states reflect an 80% failure rate – all Biden votes.

Read more …

Did he talk to the Russian ambassador?

Biden Camp is Already Working With Foreign Leaders, Like Flynn Did (Greenwald)

Two weeks after Donald Trump won the 2016 election, the President-elect named Gen. Michael Flynn to be his National Security Advisor in both the transition and the new administration. Flynn, who had previously served as President Obama’s Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and then campaigned for Trump, quickly got to work in his new position by reaching out to his counterparts in foreign governments, as is customary for national security transition team officials. One of the calls Flynn made, in late December, was to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, after the Obama administration has imposed a series of sanctions on Moscow in response to pressure to punish the Russians for interference in the 2016 election, including the expulsion of diplomats.

Gen. Flynn — fearful of an excessively retaliatory response from Moscow that could provoke what he saw as unnecessary confrontation, particularly given the growing anti-Russian sentiment in the U.S. — sought to persuade the Russians that there was no need for them to retaliate because the new administration, which was only three weeks away from taking over, would reset its relations with Moscow and try to forge a more constructive engagement.

[..] It is customary for post-election transition officials to work with their counterparts in foreign governments to lay the groundwork for relations with the new administration. As The Washington Post said about Flynn’s call: “it would not be uncommon for incoming administrations to interface with foreign governments with whom they will soon have to work.” Despite its normalcy, Flynn’s call, which was recorded by the National Security Agency that had been targeting Russian officials, prompted the FBI — under the leadership of then-Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe — to decide to criminally investigate Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak.

[..] Any doubts about how customary it is for such calls to be made by transition officials were unintentionally obliterated on Monday night by former Obama national security official Ben Rhodes, who is almost certain to occupy a high-level national security position in a Biden administration. Speaking on MSNBC — of course — Rhodes, while amicably chatting with former Bush/Cheney Communications Director turned-beloved-liberal-MSNBC-host Nicolle Wallace, admitted in passing that “foreign leaders are already having phone calls with Joe Biden talking about the agenda they’re going to pursue January 20,” all to ensure “as seamless transition as possible,” adding: “the center of political gravity in this country and the world is shifting to Joe Biden.”

Cruz McCabe Logan Act

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Trying to make it a fait accompli, so the backlash will be huge if courts start throwing out ballots.

Biden Team Considers Legal Action To Force Formal Transition Of Power (NYP)

Joe Biden’s team is considering legal action over the ongoing refusal to grant the president-elect a formal transition into the White House, according to reports. Amid President Trump’s declining to concede the election, the federal agency needed to green-light his transition has also held back from declaring him the victor — a move usually made within 24 hours. The delay by the General Services Administration (GSA) freezes the Biden team out of access to $6.3 million in federal funding, classified information and security clearances or background checks for potential cabinet nominees, Axios noted. It also prevents access to the State Department, which facilitates calls between foreign leaders, Fox News said.

“There’s a number of levers on the table and all options are certainly available,” a Biden transition official told reporters. Legal action is “certainly a possibility,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, according to the Associated Press. “It’s a changing situation and certainly rather fluid,” added the official, according to Axios. Trump is not expected to formally concede but is likely to vacate the White House at the end of his term, several people around him told the AP. A GSA spokesperson told the wire service late Monday that an “ascertainment” on the winner of the election had not yet been made.

The formal presidential transition doesn’t begin until the administrator of the federal General Services Administration ascertains the “apparent successful candidate” in the general election. Neither the Presidential Transition Act nor federal regulations specify how that determination should be made. That decision green lights the entire federal government’s moves toward preparing for a handover of power. In 2000, the GSA determination was delayed until after the Florida recount fight was settled on Dec. 13. At the time, the administrator relied on an assessment from one of the drafters of the 1963 Presidential Transition Act that “in a close contest, the Administrator simply would not make the decision.”

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This is even crazier that letting software systems count votes.

AI Software Verified Mail-In Ballots in Key Swing States (Whitney Webb)

Though accusations of election fraud in the 2020 US presidential election have been swirling across social media and some news outlets for much of the past week, few have examined the role of a little known Silicon Valley company whose artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm was used to accept or reject ballots in highly contested states such as Nevada. That company, Parascript, has long-standing cozy ties to defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin and tech giants including Microsoft, in addition to being a contractor to the US Postal Service. In addition, its founder, Stepan Pachikov, better known for cofounding the app Evernote in 2007, is a long-standing and 2020 donor to Democratic presidential candidates.

Parascript’s AI software was used during this election in at least eight states for matching signatures on ballot envelopes with those in government databases in order to “ease the workload of staff enforcing voter signature rules” resulting from the influx of mail-in ballots. Reuters, which reported on the use of the technology, asked the company to provide a list of counties and states using its software for the 2020 election. Parascript, however, declined to supply the list, replying, instead, that their clients “included 20 of the top 100 counties by registered voters.”

Despite not receiving the official list from Parascript, Reuters was able to compile its own partial list, which revealed that several counties in Florida, Colorado, Washington, and Utah, among others, utilized the AI software to determine the validity of ballots. Reuters also reported that Clark County, Nevada, which is one of the hotspots of litigation between the Trump and Biden campaigns and fraud allegations, was one that used the software. Reuters was able to determine how the software was used in some counties, with many counties allowing the software to approve anywhere from 20 to 75 percent of mail-in ballots as acceptable. For several counties included in the Reuters list,staff reviewed 1 percent or less of the AI software’s acceptances. Figures were not available for Clark County, Nevada.

Prior to the election, concerns were raised regarding the efficacy of AI signature-verification software for use on mail-in ballots. For instance, Kyle Wiggers, a journalist who covers AI for Venture Beat, noted that the accuracy of such systems is believed to vary between 74 and 96 percent. However, he also stated that “we don’t have benchmarks from the systems that are in use to verify signatures on these mail-in ballots. We basically have to go by what the manufacturers of the systems are telling us, which is that the systems are accurate.”

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“It signals a massive migration away from the so-called ‘legacy media’ that was complicit in dragging Trump through the mud for four years over the fake news of Russiagate and impeachment.”

Fox Joins MSM, Forcing Millions Of Americans To The Media Fringes (Bridge)

Once upon a time, Fox provided the Republican Party solitary shelter from a storm of media attacks, which ramped up considerably with the election of Donald Trump, a Washington outsider loathed by the establishment. Eventually, however, for reasons known only to Rupert Murdoch, the channel began to abandon its core audience. Last year, for example, Fox viewers got their first whiff of change when the 89-year-old media mogul brought on board none other than Donna Brazile, a former CNN commentator as well as a former Democratic National Committee chair. Then there’s Chris Wallace, the Fox News anchor who served as moderator during the first debate between Trump and Biden. Critics say Wallace was so harsh with the US president that it appeared as though Trump was debating against two people instead of one.

It wasn’t until Election Day, however, when many Fox viewers got blindsided by the painful realization that the channel they had followed for years had finally betrayed them – and at the worst possible time. That much became apparent when Fox, even before ‘fake news’ CNN, jumped the gun and called the swing state of Arizona for Biden with just 73 percent of the state’s votes having been tallied. The Trump administration seemed justified in calling that move “voter suppression” – a rusty knife in the back. Many Republicans probably turned the car around when they heard that dubious news. The straw that broke the Fox back, however, came on Thursday, when anchor Bret Baier told viewers, “We have not seen the hard evidence,” after Trump remarked during a White House press conference that the election process had been rampant with “fraud and corruption.”

Baier could have at least acknowledged that some of the more questionable incidents – such as Republican ballot observers being turned away as the votes were being counted, and the names of the dearly departed appearing on the ballots – deserved some scrutiny. Now Fox will have to suffer with the ramification of its political volte-face, which, judging by the comments on Twitter, has thousands of erstwhile viewers running for the fire exits. But is there a safe alternative media universe to escape to? It should disturb many people, not least in the world of media, that Trump got 71 million votes in the 2020 showdown against his rival. That number represents not only millions of jaded American voters, exasperated by the apparent botching of the most consequential US election in modern times. It signals a massive migration away from the so-called ‘legacy media’ that was complicit in dragging Trump through the mud for four years over the fake news of Russiagate and impeachment.

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Twitter silencing news stories is not enough.

Biden Aide Signals Push For Greater Censorship On The Internet (Turley)

We have been discussing the calls from top Democrats for increased private censorship on social media and the Internet. President-elect Joe Biden has himself called for such censorship, including blocking President Donald Trump’s criticism of mail-in voting. Now, shortly after the election, one of Biden’s top aides is ramping up calls for a crackdown on Facebook for allowing Facebook users to read views that he considers misleading — users who signed up to hear from these individuals. Bill Russo, a deputy communications director on Biden’s campaign press team, tweeted late Monday that Facebook “is shredding the fabric of our democracy” by allowing such views to be shared freely.

Russo tweeted that “If you thought disinformation on Facebook was a problem during our election, just wait until you see how it is shredding the fabric of our democracy in the days after.” Russo objected to the fact that, unlike Twitter, Facebook did not move against statements that he and the campaign viewed as “misleading.” He concluded. “We pleaded with Facebook for over a year to be serious about these problems. They have not. Our democracy is on the line. We need answers.” For those of us in the free speech community, these threats are chilling. We saw incredible abuses before the election in Twitter barring access to a true story in the New York Post about Hunter Biden and his alleged global influence peddling scheme. Notably, no one in the Biden camp (including Biden himself) thought that it was a threat to our democracy to have Twitter block the story (while later admitting that it was a mistake).

I have previously objected to such regulation of speech. What is most disturbing is how liberals have embraced censorship and even declared that “China was right” on Internet controls. Many Democrats have fallen back on the false narrative that the First Amendment does not regulate private companies so this is not an attack on free speech. Free speech is a human right that is not solely based or exclusively defined by the First Amendment. Censorship by Internet companies is a “Little Brother” threat long discussed by free speech advocates. Some may willingly embrace corporate speech controls but it is still a denial of free speech.

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Dangerous. Trying to use pedophilea to clamp down on an entire society. Do these people not understand this, or is something else going on?

EU Seizes on Vienna Attack to Enact Long-Desired Ban on Encryption (MPN)

The European Union is rushing through new legislation to get rid of end to end digital encryption. This would mean the end of privacy for users of popular messaging apps like WhatsApp and Signal. A European Council draft resolution on encryption quietly published on Friday afternoon lays out the EU’s Orwellian position in detail. “The European Union fully supports the development, implementation and use of strong encryption,” it states, “Encryption is a necessary means of protecting fundamental rights and the digital security of governments, industry and society.” Yet in the very next sentence it insists that “At the same time, the European Union needs to ensure the ability of competent authorities” to “exercise their lawful powers, both online and offline.”

These “competent authorities” (a phrase occurring throughout the document) refer to law enforcement agencies and judicial authorities. “Protecting the privacy and security of communications through encryption and at the same time upholding the possibility for competent authorities in the area of security and criminal justice to lawfully access relevant data for legitimate, clearly defined purposes infighting serious and/or organized crimes and terrorism, including in the digital world, are extremely important,” it concludes. Thus, the EU’s position is that its citizens should be able to hide their data from criminals, but not from the government or its various spying agencies.

The official justification for these new laws, Austrian public service broadcaster Österreichischer Rundfunk reports, is the Vienna terrorist attack of November 2, which left five people dead and 23 injured. However, it notes, the EU has long dreamed of pushing through legislation which lets it surveil its population. In June, for instance, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johannson gave a speech outlining what must be done to win the fight against child trafficking and abuse. “We must also deal with encryption. Military grade encryption that’s easy to use but impossible to break makes paedophiles invisible and hides evidence of their crimes from police,” she insisted. “It’s our obligation to protect children. We must do what is necessary,” she added.

Civil rights group the Electronic Freedom Foundation is not impressed by the various arguments put forward by the EU in order to justify the end of end to end encryption, calling it a “drastically invasive step.” “We are in the first stages of a long anti-encryption march by the upper echelons of the EU, headed directly toward Europeans’ digital front-doors. It’s the same direction as the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States have been moving for some time. If Europe wants to keep its status as a jurisdiction that treasures privacy, it will need to fight for it,” they wrote last month.

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The EU needn’t worry.

Zoom Lied To Users About End-to-End Encryption For Years – FTC (ArsT)

Zoom has agreed to upgrade its security practices in a tentative settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, which alleges that Zoom lied to users for years by claiming it offered end-to-end encryption. “[S]ince at least 2016, Zoom misled users by touting that it offered ‘end-to-end, 256-bit encryption’ to secure users’ communications, when in fact it provided a lower level of security,” the FTC said today in the announcement of its complaint against Zoom and the tentative settlement. Despite promising end-to-end encryption, the FTC said that “Zoom maintained the cryptographic keys that could allow Zoom to access the content of its customers’ meetings, and secured its Zoom Meetings, in part, with a lower level of encryption than promised.”

The FTC complaint says that Zoom claimed it offers end-to-end encryption in its June 2016 and July 2017 HIPAA compliance guides, which were intended for health-care industry users of the video conferencing service. Zoom also claimed it offered end-to-end encryption in a January 2019 white paper, in an April 2017 blog post, and in direct responses to inquiries from customers and potential customers, the complaint said. “In fact, Zoom did not provide end-to-end encryption for any Zoom Meeting that was conducted outside of Zoom’s ‘Connecter’ product (which are hosted on a customer’s own servers), because Zoom’s servers—including some located in China—maintain the cryptographic keys that would allow Zoom to access the content of its customers’ Zoom Meetings,” the FTC complaint said.

The FTC announcement said that Zoom also “misled some users who wanted to store recorded meetings on the company’s cloud storage by falsely claiming that those meetings were encrypted immediately after the meeting ended. Instead, some recordings allegedly were stored unencrypted for up to 60 days on Zoom’s servers before being transferred to its secure cloud storage.”

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Second try.

EU Goes After Amazon For Breaching European Antitrust Rules (RT)

The European Commission (EC) announced a second formal investigation into online retailer Amazon on Tuesday, accusing the firm of breaching European antitrust rules by using independent sellers’ data for its own benefit. The EC said that Amazon was using the data of third-party sellers, such as order numbers, revenues and numbers of visitors, to inform its strategic business decisions, like reducing the price of products. The e-commerce giant plays a dual role – both selling products itself, and acting as a platform for independent (and sometimes rival) sellers. “Data on the activity of third-party sellers should not be used to the benefit of Amazon when it acts as a competitor to these sellers,” said EU’s competition chief Margrethe Vestager.


Amazon disagreed with the Commission’s assertions, saying it “will continue to make every effort to ensure it has an accurate understanding of the facts.” It also said that represents less than one percent of the global retail market. “No company cares more about small businesses or has done more to support them over the past two decades than Amazon,” it said. In July 2019, the EC, the executive arm of the European Union, launched a probe into Amazon due to concerns over anti-competitive behavior. This time, the antitrust investigation will look at how the company chooses which sellers offer products via Amazon Prime, its paid-for premium service. It will investigate the possible preferential treatment of Amazon’s own retail business and those that use its logistics and delivery services (known as “fulfilment by Amazon” sellers) over other sellers.

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Article in Sydney Morning Herald, September 25 2019 about hay fever says: “This article was originally published in 2018 and has since been updated.”

How is it possible it’s talking about COVID19 in Sep 2019 at the latest? Didn’t we not know about it till December? What did I miss?

Why Do Some People Get Hay Fever And What Can They Do About It? (SMH)

In any other year, an errant sniff or explosive sneeze might be met with an offer of a tissue or a polite “bless you” – but the deadly COVID-19 pandemic has made us extremely cautious, for good reason. Thankfully, Melburnians dreading a tough hay fever season behind masks can breathe a (stifled) sigh of relief. Good late summer and autumn rains were followed by a dry winter, leaving the soils of western Victoria’s grazing lands more parched than last year. This is likely to keep pollen-producing grasses to a minimum – and itchy, running noses to just a drip.

[..] … and does it relate to COVID-19? While there are some similar symptoms: a cough, runny nose, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing (the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention released a Venn diagram that neatly illustrates the symptoms of both), there is no evidence of a link between the two. But Professor Katelaris says there is plenty of evidence to show that when the nasal lining is inflamed, it is easier to catch any virus. So those suffering from allergies should try to keep symptoms in check: seek medical advice on treatments, avoid touching your eyes and nose at all times and head straight for the nearest COVID-19 testing station if you experience allergic symptoms for the first time.

Professor Douglass says if it’s just hay fever, it’s highly unlikely you’ll experience the fevers, sore throats and general aches and pains associated with COVID-19. “[They] are more typical of a respiratory infection than hay fever … sneezing, an itchy throat and eyes are more typical of allergic symptoms,” she says.

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Veritas Hopkins

 

 

 

 

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Oct 082020
 


Rene Magritte Memory 1944

 

Pence Responds to Charlottesville Very Fine People Hoax at VP Debate (Pollak)
Trump: All US Troops Should Be Withdrawn From Afghanistan By Christmas (JTN)
Mike Flynn Seeks To Remove Judge Overseeing Case, Alleging Bias (JTN)
“A Means Of Distracting The Public” (Turley)
Despite MSM And Establishment Bias Against Trump, He’ll Still Win (Feierstein)
Trump Orders Russiagate Documents Declassified (Ray McGovern)
Is Warren Buffett the Wallet Behind Black Lives Matter? (Tablet)
The Constitutional Reckoning of State Lockdown Orders (AIER)
Golden Dawn Leader And Ex-MPs Found Guilty In Landmark Trial (G.)
Why Did Golden Dawn’s Neo-Nazi Leaders Get Away With It For So Long? (G.)
Reporters Claim Facebook is Censoring Information on Julian Assange Case (MPN)
Movie-Going Could ‘Become Extinct’ Warns Director (BBC)

 

 

Didn’t see the VP debate, but did see the reactions, tons of them. Pretty sure nobody really listened, and nobody learned a thing. Because those reactions are as split along party lines as the whole country is. Dems think Kamala did great, Reps think Pence demolished her.

All perfectly exemplified by the “very fine people” hoax. Both Biden and Kamala brought it up again. There is no clearer illustration of America’s divide than them being able to use a long deconstructed line again and again. Their supporters simply haven’t seen or read how ludicrous the whole thing is. Because their media won’t tell them. This happens on both sides, obviously.

Another example is the very strange play around fracking, where both Biden and Harris have in the past said they would ban it, and now say they won’t. Apparently this is because of the battle for Pennsylvania. Opportunism.

 

 

Banning fracking

 

 

 

 

“Joe Biden will be a president who brings our country together ..”

There are people who believe that? Wow. Trump brings the people together, in that everyone focuses on him. But Biden?

Pence Responds to Charlottesville Very Fine People Hoax at VP Debate (Pollak)

At long last, the Charlottesville “very fine people” hoax has been deflated on the national stage. At the vice presidential debate at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) attempted to repeat the false claim that President Trump failed to condemn white supremacists on the debate stage, and the false claim that Trump called neo-Nazis in the 2017 Charlottesville riots “very fine people.” Harris said: “Last week, the President of the United States took a debate stage in front of 70 million Americans and refused to condemn white supremacists [sic].” She then proceeded to twist Trump’s words in which told the Proud Boys — whom Joe Biden had brought up — to “stand down and stand by,” using terms similar to those moderator Chris Wallace had used in his question prompt.

Harris then recited the infamous hoax, among other hoaxes: “He called Mexicans “rapists” and “criminals” [sic]. He instituted, as his first act, a “Muslim ban” [sic]. He — on the issue of Charlottesville, where people were peacefully protesting [sic] the need for racial justice, where a young woman* was killed, and on the other side, there were neo-Nazis, carrying tiki torches, shouting racial epithets, antisemitic slurs, and Donald Trump, when asked about it, said: “There were fine people on both sides.” This is who we have as the President of the United States — and America, you deserve better. Joe Biden will be a president who brings our country together and recognizes the beauty in our diversity, and the fact that we have so much more in common than what separates us.”

Wednesday night’s moderator, Susan Page of USA Today, gave Pence a chance to reply. He said: “You know, I think this is one of the things that makes people dislike the media so much in this country, Susan, is that you selectively edit — just like Senator Harris did — the comments that President Trump and I and others on our side of the aisle make. I mean — Senator Harris conveniently omitted, after the president made comments about people on either side of the debate over monuments, he condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists, and has done so repeatedly. You’re concerned that he “doesn’t condemn neo-Nazis”? President Trump has Jewish grandchildren! His daughter and son-in-law are Jewish. This is a president who respects and cherishes all of the American people.” Pence was correct. Trump said the neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville should be “condemned totally.”

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Let’s go!

Trump: All US Troops Should Be Withdrawn From Afghanistan By Christmas (JTN)

President Trump on Wednesday tweeted that the United States should withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan by Christmas. “We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!” the president tweeted. Reuters reported that earlier on Wednesday, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said that the U.S. presently has fewer than 5,000 troops in Afghanistan and will decrease the level to 2,500 by early 2021. Foreign forces are slated to depart from Afghanistan by May of next year in connection with an agreement struck between America and the Taliban, if a ceasefire between the Taliban and the Afghanistan government sticks, Military Times reports.

“war made the state, and the state made war”
– Charles Tilly

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The judge was quoting Rachel Maddow?!

Mike Flynn Seeks To Remove Judge Overseeing Case, Alleging Bias (JTN)

In a dramatic escalation of a long-running feud, lawyers for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday filed a motion to disqualify U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan from considering the request to dismiss their client’s case, arguing the jurist has demonstrated “contempt and disdain for the defense.” The filing by attorneys Sidney Powell and Jesse Binnall came after the defense and judge clashed several times at a hearing last week. It also follows Flynn, retire Army lieutenant general, having tried to get an appeals court to issue a writ of mandamus forcing Sullivan to immediately dismiss the case. The defense won an initial ruling by a three-judge panel before it was reversed by the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals after Sullivan appealed.


In the new motion, the defense lawyers argued that Sullivan met the standard for dismissal or recusal because he created the appearance of bias “when he actively litigated against General Flynn” in the appeals court. “He has since far exceeded it – rising to the level of demonstrating actual bias,” the lawyers wrote, citing Sullivan’s comments during last week’s hearing. “The court’s contempt and disdain for the defense was palpable throughout the hearing on September 29, 2020, including when defense counsel made an oral motion for his immediate disqualification, which he refused to allow even to be fully stated for the record.”

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“When asked about this referral involving a candidate for the presidency, then-FBI Director James Comey insisted that it “didn’t ring a bell.”

“A Means Of Distracting The Public” (Turley)

My interest in this story is not simply the serious underlying allegation but the lack of coverage by major networks or media outlets. This was clearly released at this time for political purposes, but that does not make it a non-story. We have often discussed concerns over the active effort by many in the media to downplay stories that would either help President Donald Trump or hurt the Democrats in the upcoming elections. This would seem such a case. Whether this is true or a complete fabrication, it should be major news. In the meantime, the responses from Clinton allies have not addressed the substance of the document before simply dismissed any inquiries. Brennan’s handwritten notes would seem extremely serious on their face. It certainly indicates that Brennan considered the issue sufficiently serious to brief the President of the United States on July 28th.

The notes state “We’re getting additional insight into Russian activities from [REDACTED]. . . CITE [summarizing] alleged approved by Hillary Clinton 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.” There is also a notation reading “Any evidence of collaboration between Trump campaign + Russia” and margin references to “JC,” “Denis,” and “Susan.” If Brennan thought this was serious enough to brief the President, shouldn’t the media consider this sufficiently serious to investigate and report? This release further supports a newly-declassified document with the Senate Judiciary Committee revealing that, in September 2016, U.S. intelligence officials forwarded an investigative referral on Hillary Clinton purportedly approving “a plan concerning U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering U.S. elections” in order to distract the public from her email scandal.

When asked about this referral involving a candidate for the presidency, then-FBI Director James Comey insisted that it “didn’t ring a bell.” Once again, my initial interest is in the utter blackout on the story. This would seem a major story regardless of the ultimate findings. If these notes have been fabricated or misrepresented, it would show a breathtaking effort to lie to the voters before the election. If these notes are genuine, it would indicate that the FBI was aware of an effort by the Democratic presidential candidate to tag Trump with a Russian collusion scandal. We know that Clinton’s campaign funded the Steele dossier and that Steele shopped the dossier with the media to try to generate coverage to influence the election.

Throughout the campaign, and for many weeks after, the Clinton campaign denied any involvement in the creation of the dossier that was later used to secure a secret surveillance warrant against Trump associates during the Obama administration. Journalists later discovered that the Clinton campaign hid the payments to Fusion as a “legal fees” among the $5.6 million paid to the law firm. New York Times reporter Ken Vogel at the time said that Clinton lawyer Marc Elias had “vigorously” denied involvement in the anti-Trump dossier. When Vogel tried to report the story, he said, Elias “pushed back vigorously, saying ‘You (or your sources) are wrong.’”

Times reporter Maggie Haberman likewise wrote: “Folks involved in funding this lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year.” Even when Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta was questioned by Congress on the matter, he denied any contractual agreement with Fusion GPS. Sitting beside him was Elias, who helped devise contract. Later, confronted with the evidence, Clinton and her campaign finally admitted that the dossier was a campaign-funded document that was pushed by Steele and others to the media.

Ron Paul: The Democrats have been caught

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“Biden scoffed and rambled non-sequiturs that had nothing to do with the questions asked, and the impudent ‘debate moderator’ Chris Wallace let Biden slide.”

Despite MSM And Establishment Bias Against Trump, He’ll Still Win (Feierstein)

A dark week has seen the MSM turn a blind eye to Democrat failings and exaggerate the extent and severity of Donald Trump’s illness. But I remain convinced that he will have the last laugh on November 3 when he is re-elected. As the battle for the White House intensifies, major storylines emerged over the last week that should have a major role in deciding the outcome of the election, but simply aren’t being given serious coverage by the MSM. The first came in the form of Joe Biden, a presidential ghost candidate who appeared on a debate stage refusing to answer any substantive policy questions. Instead of calling him out on this, the media ran cover for him by refusing to ask any probative questions.

Secondly, as Biden was proclaiming himself ‘the Democratic Party’, Congress was disclosing that a $3.5-million payment was made from the widow of Moscow’s ex-mayor for the benefit of his son Hunter Biden. More information also came to light regarding Hunter Biden’s employment by Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma. And thirdly, previously unseen documents were declassified that allegedly show Hillary Clinton was behind the Russiagate scandal, and that people in the US cannot trust the FBI. This is all dark, very dark. Not even Hollywood or Fellini could write a script like this. During the most contentious presidential debate in a hundred years, Biden refused to answer whether he or his administration would set objectives to end the US Senate filibuster, stack the Supreme Court, add four senators to the US Senate or end the Electoral College.

He even refused to identify his picks for the Supreme Court of the United States. Biden scoffed and rambled non-sequiturs that had nothing to do with the questions asked, and the impudent ‘debate moderator’ Chris Wallace let Biden slide. The US Senate released documents showing that Hunter Biden received a $3.5-million wire-transfer from Elena Baturina, the widow of Moscow’s ex-mayor Yury Luzhkov, who was fired for corruption. When confronted about this, Biden stumbled, repeating a lie: “That’s a lie…It has been debunked.”

No, Joe, it happened – as did Hunter’s employment by Burisma holdings, one of Ukraine’s most controversial corporations. Hunter, with no experience in the energy sector, was paid nearly one million dollars by Burisma. Why? Was it buying influence from the Obama administration’s vice president who was charged with distributing a billion dollars in aid to Ukraine? A vice president who boasted on national TV about threatening to withhold that billion dollars if the prosecutor investigating Biden’s son and Burisma was not fired. This is real banana republic stuff.

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“54 years after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the CIA and FBI demanded more time to decide what secrets to keep hiding – and a chastened President Trump bowed to their power.”

Trump Orders Russiagate Documents Declassified (Ray McGovern)

Home alone yesterday evening, and apparently emboldened by the steroids he is now taking, President Donald Trump sent out a storm of Tweets that included a unprecedentedly bold challenge to the FBI and CIA to stop their foot dragging and declassify documents related to Russiagate and Hillary Clinton. It was probably his plummeting poll numbers as much as the steroids that accounted for his rhetorical forcefulness, but Trump has now openly thrown down the gauntlet to the National Security State. Yes, he is the president, but he is not likely to prevail. What the president-elect didn’t know on Jan. 3, 2017, when Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer publicly warned that the intelligence community “has six ways to Sunday” to thwart a president, he does know now.

Trump understands that taking on the FBI and CIA is inherently risky. His public upbraiding and instructions to them on Twitter should be seen as a sign of desperation. Trump is likely to come across as impulsive and impotent in the weeks remaining before the election because — if past is precedent — the security agencies will probably double-down on slow-walking his declassification demands. The stakes are high for senior officials of the FBI, CIA and Justice Department. Remember: they fully expected Hillary Clinton to win in 2016; they took liberties with the law to make sure she did; and, when she didn’t, they had to hustle to hide their tracks.

[..] On Oct. 21, 2017, Trump tweeted that in accordance with a law passed by Congress, “I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened.” Six days later, came a headline in The Washington Post: “JFK files: The promise of revelations derailed by CIA, FBI.” Trump’s decision to delay release of 30,000 of the potentially most sensitive files for another six months frustrated historians. The issue was supposed to be revisited in 180 days, but nothing further was heard of it. Thus, 54 years after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the CIA and FBI demanded more time to decide what secrets to keep hiding – and a chastened President Trump bowed to their power.

It will take more than a presidential Tweet to get recalcitrant players like FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA Director Gina Haspel, and the powerful institutions they lead, to comply. Wray has been a major stumbling block and will remain inclined to give priority to protecting his former colleagues. Haspel, who reportedly was directly involved in the off-shore Russiagate operations from her perch as CIA chief of station, London, has her own derriere, as well as those of her fellow workers, to protect. Trump could have already fired both for slow-walking release of evidence. He could also fire them now, of course, but it is doubtful that, even on steroids, he would have the temerity to do so.

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The article says it’s Buffett’s son. Plus a lot of large companies.

Is Warren Buffett the Wallet Behind Black Lives Matter? (Tablet)

In July of 2013, the seeds of the most powerful protest movement of the modern era were planted. In a restless climate of nationwide demonstrations touched off by the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an activist named Alicia Garza uttered the phrase “Black lives matter.” A few months later, in October 2013, Garza took a job with an organization called the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and the nonprofit immediately saw a dramatic increase in its funding from organizations tied to some of the wealthiest people in the world—people with names like Buffett, Soros, and Rockefeller.

This spring, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, the movement became a global interest: Some 1.1 million individual donations worth an estimated $33 million flowed into its coffers. Large corporations, especially in Silicon Valley and retail, have been quick to follow suit, with brands like Square, Ubisoft, Google, Spanx, Tom’s Shoes, Lululemon, Nike, and Anastasia Beauty all making six- and seven-figure organizational pledges.

The received wisdom, echoing the official mythology around Black Lives Matter Global Network Inc.—co-founded by Garza along with fellow activists Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors—is that BLM is a grassroots movement that rose up organically out of the widespread rage sparked by viral videos of Black American men killed by police officers. According to this account, the political priorities of activists in Brooklyn screaming at cops and calling to defund the police have been fused with those of suburban moms in Peloton T-shirts, hand-painting signs with their kids using the BLM hashtags of large multinational conglomerates—an unusual union of protesters and the corporate boardroom spurred on by nothing more than everyone’s shared outrage over racism.

There is, however, another version of events, in which the heartfelt dedication to racial justice is only the forward-facing side of a more complicated movement. Behind the street level activism and emotional outpouring is a calculated machinery built by establishment money and power that has seized on racial politics, in which some of the biggest capitalists in the world are financially backing a group of self-described “trained Marxists”—a label that Cullors enthusiastically applies to herself and the group’s other co-founders.

These bedfellows, whose stories and fortunes are never publicly presented as related, are in reality intertwined under the umbrella of a fiscal sponsor named the International Development Exchange. A modestly endowed West Coast nonprofit with origins in the Peace Corps—which for decades supported local farmers, shepherds, and agricultural workers across the Global South—IDEX has, in the past six years, been transformed into two distinct new things: the infrastructure back end to the Black Lives Matter organization in the United States and also, at the very same time, an investment fund vehicle driven by recruited MBAs and finance experts seeking to leverage decades of on-the-ground grantee relationships for novel forms of potentially problematic lending instruments . And it did so with help from the family of one of the most famous American billionaires in history—the Oracle of Omaha himself.

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“This unilateral and unauthorized exercise of power without legislative oversight was what the court deemed unconstitutional.”

The Constitutional Reckoning of State Lockdown Orders (AIER)

On October 3rd NPR reported that the Michigan Supreme Court struck down Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s state of emergency and the powers it granted. NPR writes: “In a 4-3 majority opinion, the state’s high court said she did not have that authority. “We conclude that the Governor lacked the authority to declare a ‘state of emergency’ or a ‘state of disaster’ under the EMA after April 30, 2020, on the basis of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, we conclude that the EPGA is in violation of the Constitution of our state because it purports to delegate to the executive branch the legislative powers of state government– including its plenary police powers– and to allow the exercise of such powers indefinitely,” wrote Justice Stephen J. Markman on behalf of the majority.”

Governor Whitmer has been one of the more heavy-handed executive figures during the pandemic. One of her policies went as far as to ban the selling of gardening supplies in stores that were still permitted to stay open. More importantly, however, this court ruling was not the first of its kind but the third in a series of legal victories against lockdown orders. The first was a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling that declared parts of Governor Tony Evers’ stay at home order unconstitutional and the second was by a federal court that struck down Governor Tom Wolf’s policies in Pennsylvania. There is no doubt that the governors across the country have gone off the constitutional deep end in response to Covid-19, exercising powers that are not only unprecedented but unproven.

These cases, notably in Michigan and Wisconsin, all share some important legal themes that may suggest the beginning of a constitutional reckoning for governors across America. Back in March, Governor Whitmer declared a state of emergency in response to the pandemic, much like many others across the country. Unlike many other governors, hers was particularly strict and arbitrary. The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, an organization that represented a number of healthcare firms in a suit against the state write: “One of the affected medical practices, Grand Health Partners, operates in the Grand Rapids area. It performs endoscopies and other elective surgeries, many of which were deemed nonessential by executive order. Due to the shutdown, many of their patients were not able to receive treatment and have suffered because of it.”

This is one of the many unintended consequences that come with policies such as stay at home orders and deeming certain businesses “nonessential.” Interestingly, this had little to do with the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling. Such claims would be justified under the equal protection clause guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. However, the court decided to take a different route. The court ruled that the governor lacked the very authority to continue her state of emergency. The Michigan legislature authorized the governor to declare a state of emergency in March but only until April 30. Governor Whitmer decided to invoke the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act (EPGA) of 1945 as well as the Emergency Management Act of 1976 to grant herself virtually unlimited power. This unilateral and unauthorized exercise of power without legislative oversight was what the court deemed unconstitutional.

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Good day for Greece. Because it took five years, many had doubted it would happen.

Golden Dawn Leader And Ex-MPs Found Guilty In Landmark Trial (G.)

A Greek court has delivered an overwhelming conviction against Golden Dawn, finding the neo-fascist party guilty of operating a criminal gang that brutally targeted opponents under the guise of being a political group. At the end of a trial launched more than five years ago, the three-member tribunal headed by presiding judge Maria Lepenioti, announced that seven of Golden Dawn’s leaders were culpable of directing the deadly organisation. Others were found guilty of the lesser charge of participating in the criminal gang. The judgement was met with jubilation by thousands who had gathered around the heavily guarded court complex ahead of the verdict chanting “Nazis belong to prison.” Many broke into spontaneous applause as news of the decision reached the street.

“This is a very good day for the anti-fascist movement globally,” said Petros Constantinou, a prominent anti-racist activist. “The decision will send a very important message to the far right in Europe. A conviction today is vital if we are to end the fascist threat. The evidence against them is overwhelming.” The hearing has been the biggest trial of neo-fascists since the prosecution of the Nazis at Nuremberg after the second world war. Two thousand police officers, many brought in as backup from the countryside amid fears of violent clashes between the protestors and far right supporters, surrounded the area as helicopters and drones flew overhead. The leftist former prime minister Alexis Tsipras, who was in the crowd, said after years of sowing hate, poisoning Greek society and orchestrating murderous attacks, Golden Dawn fanatics would finally face justice.

“They are not innocent. We all know that,” he wrote on social media ahead of the three-member tribunal’s decision. “On Wednesday we ought to be there to shout it loud and clear. We owe it to the history of this country, we owe it to democracy, we owe it to our children.” The long-awaited verdict ends one of the longest court hearings in modern times. Golden Dawn’s entire leadership, including former MPs, were among 68 defendants accused of murder, weapons possession and operating a criminal gang while also masquerading as a political group. Those charged with directing the criminal organisation face sentences of up to 15 years in prison. If found guilty of additional crimes, the jail terms handed down by the criminal court are likely to be longer although justice officials said it may take several days of legal proceedings before they are formally announced.

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Countries with far-right regimes in their past always see remnants left over once that regime is toppled.

Why Did Golden Dawn’s Neo-Nazi Leaders Get Away With It For So Long? (G.)

In the end, the leader of a party whose supporters threatened “civil war” and to turn the skins of immigrants into lampshades could not even bring himself to face judgment in person. Nikolaos Michaloliakos, like other senior members of Golden Dawn, was absent from court in Athens yesterday as a judge read out a series of damning verdicts on the neo-Nazi party he leads. Golden Dawn, which shot to prominence amid Europe’s economic crisis a decade ago, and is responsible for a years-long campaign of violence and intimidation against immigrants, LGBTQ communities and political opponents, was found to be a criminal organisation.

Seven of the party’s former MPs, including Michaloliakos, have been found guilty of directing the organisation, while a range of members are guilty of crimes including murder, attempted murder and possession of weapons. Some now face sentences of up to 15 years in prison. It is the culmination of a lengthy court process that some campaigners have called the largest trial of Nazis since Nuremberg, triggered by the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, an anti-fascist Greek rapper, in 2013 – at a time when the party was Greece’s third-largest political force. The trial, which lasted more than five years, has already effectively stopped Golden Dawn from operating. The verdict now offers Greece the chance to close a painful chapter in its recent history.

Born of the fascist milieu surrounding the far-right military dictatorship that ruled Greece between 1967 and 1974, Golden Dawn was given its greatest opportunity by the global financial crash of 2008. As Greece struggled from a profound economic slump, and public anger grew at the remedy insisted on by the European Union – austerity – the party attracted unprecedented support. It chose familiar targets to blame for Greece’s predicament: immigrants and refugees, out-of-touch politicians and a global banking elite. But this far-right rhetoric was backed up by a paramilitary-style organisation that operated in parallel to the political party, and a cult-like devotion to Nazi beliefs. As Golden Dawn grew, assault squads of uniformed members, sometimes armed, sought to take over neighbourhoods in Greek towns and cities by attacking and intimidating parts of the local population. Much of the violence was carried out openly – yet for years it went unpunished.

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“I have never seen anything on this scale before. 90% of my traffic has just been cut off by what seems to be a general algorithm command of some kind to downplay Assange..”

Reporters Claim Facebook is Censoring Information on Julian Assange Case (MPN)

Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan and longtime confidant of Julian Assange, has been fastidiously reporting on the Australian publisher’s extradition hearing to the United States. Yet few people have been reading it. This, according to Murray, is because of a deliberate decision by online media giants to downplay or suppress discussion of the case. On his blog, Murray wrote that he usually receives around 50 percent of his readers from Twitter and 40 percent from Facebook links, but that has dropped to 3 percent and 9 percent, respectively during the hearing. While the February hearings sent around 200,000 readers to his site daily, now that figure is only 3,000.


To be plain that is very much less than my normal daily traffic from them just in ordinary times. It is the insidious nature of this censorship that is especially sinister – people believe they have successfully shared my articles on Twitter and Facebook, while those corporations hide from them that in fact it went into nobody’s timeline,” he added. Asked about the situation by former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges, Murray explained that Anybody who is at all radical or takes any view of anything that is outwith the official establishment view gets used to occasional shadow banning, but I have never seen anything on this scale before.”“90% of my traffic has just been cut off by what seems to be a general algorithm command of some kind to downplay Assange,” he added. “I think it is as simple as that.”

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Theater owners say they can survive IF they are provided new movies to show.

Movie-Going Could ‘Become Extinct’ Warns Director (BBC)

Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins has said that movie-going is facing a real threat of extinction. Her new superhero movie has been delayed three times during the coronavirus pandemic. Jenkins is among dozens of top Hollywood directors appealing to the US government to provide a financial lifeline to cinemas. Her warning comes as cinemas in the UK are also struggling with a recent spate of delayed film releases. “If we shut this down, this will not be a reversible process,” she said in an interview with Reuters news agency. “We could lose movie theatre-going forever.” Cinemas across the world are struggling financially with tough Covid-19 social restrictions limiting customers, along with a lack of blockbuster movies to attract them.


In the US, the National Association of Theatre Owners said 69% of small and mid-sized cinema companies could be forced to file for bankruptcy or shut down permanently. America is the world’s biggest movie market in terms of box office revenues, with China catching up rapidly. Jenkins said widespread closures would lead Hollywood studios to stop investing in films for cinemas, and turn to online streaming instead. “It could be the kind of thing that happened to the music industry,” she added. “Where you could crumble the entire industry by making it something that can’t be profitable.”

Read more …

 

 

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“Modernity: we created youth without heroism, age without wisdom, and life without grandeur.”
– Nassim Taleb

 

 

 

 

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Aug 092020
 


Albert Kahn Paris, Autochrome Lumière color photo 1914

 

COVID19 Pandemic To ‘Bring Socialism To US’, Transform The World – Taleb (RT)
What’s In Trump’s Coronavirus Executive Orders (R.)
Russia COVID19 Vaccine Registration Expected August 12 (RT)
SARS-CoV-2 Fatality Risk In A Nationwide Seroepidemiological Study (Medrxiv)
Chuck Schumer Says Schools Must Reopen Or Economy Suffers (RT)
Trump Aides Exploring Executive Actions To Curb Voting By Mail (Pol.)
No Payment, No Problem: Bizarre New World of Consumer Debt (WS)
Social Media Imposing Modern-Day ‘Hays Code’ On Political Speech (RCP)
Twitter Reportedly Joins Growing List Of Potential TikTok Suitors (ZH)
US To Cut Troop Levels In Afghanistan To ‘Less Than 5,000’ – Esper (R.)
Oil Giants Cut Production By 1 Million bpd Amid Massive Writedowns (R.)
Zelensky Says Ukraine Staying Out Of US Internal Politics, Elections (R.)
George W. Bush Laid the Groundwork for Today’s Immigration Nightmare (MPN)
West’s Favorite Hong Kong ‘Freedom Writer’ Is American In Yellowface (GZ)
Solidarity with the Germans (Varoufakis)

 

 

Weekend, so lower numbers. US new deaths were below 1,000 (976), so I lost that grpah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hedge funds dollar

 

 

Who would have thought that the first socialist president of the United States would be Donald Trump?

COVID19 Pandemic To ‘Bring Socialism To US’, Transform The World – Taleb (RT)

In a remarkable twist, the raging coronavirus pandemic has forced even countries like the US to adopt “socialist” welfare programs, acclaimed author and risk analyst Nassim Taleb has told RT. While people spend days worrying about global wars, our biggest threats have always been the pandemics, the author of ‘The Black Swan’ and ‘Skin in the Game’ told RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze on her show SophieCo. Visionaries. The advent of the novel coronavirus will tremendously change societies in many ways, making them better ready for future crises, he said. “So the world will be different, wiser. But, hopefully, it will be good for peace, because people will understand tomorrow that the enemy is not some person with weapons. The enemy is that thing you don’t see: a tiny little germ you can have on top of a pencil,” the writer added.

What I think is going to happen is a transformation of economic structures to accommodate potential pandemics. Even if they never happen again, people will be prepared for them. He cited the boom of teleworking, Zoom conference calls, and online shopping as examples of people adapting to the new reality. According to Taleb, globalization would become more “guarded,” rather than disappear entirely. “The physical movement of population… would be reduced, and business travel will not be as active as we saw in the past,” he said. One of the most remarkable changes the pandemic has brought, the writer noted, was how some governments have been “extremely helpful” to citizens trapped in quarantines and lockdowns.

This touched the US as well, where a $2 trillion stimulus package was adopted in May, the largest in the nation’s history. Who would have thought that the first socialist president of the United States would be Donald Trump? He gave people universal basic income for a few months, and they took possession of companies. If that’s not socialism, I don’t know what is. So, the individuals got a protective net that they didn’t have before. “Mark my words, if you want a headline done – ‘Who would have expected the Covid to run both domestic and foreign policy?’, ‘Covid to bring socialism to countries like the United States,’” Taleb said.

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Yeah. No. Everyone may get this wrong or confused, but from what I can see he signed just one executive order (on payroll tax), the other three are memoranda. Details on that:

The hierarchy is: Proclamations, executive orders, presidential memoranda, presidential notices, and presidential determinations. Notices and determinations are usually required by Congress on specific issues. Authority: Under an executive order signed by President John F. Kennedy, an executive order must cite the authority the president has to issue it. That could be the constitution, or a specific statute. Presidential memoranda have no such requirement.

What’s In Trump’s Coronavirus Executive Orders (R.)

After failing to reach a deal with the U.S. Congress for a fresh round of coronavirus pandemic relief, President Donald Trump signed a series of executive orders aimed at pumping up America’s pandemic-hit economy. The orders are likely to face some legal challenges. Trump’s order cuts enhanced federal unemployment benefits – a lifeline for the tens of millions of Americans thrown out of work during the pandemic – from $600 to $400 per week. Democrats had been lobbying to extend the original $600 a week enhanced benefits, which expired on July 31. Trump proposes taking most of the money from the coffers of the Federal Emergency Management Agency – $44 billion, according to the order – with 25% of the money coming from states.

It’s not clear how Trump will convince state governments, whose revenues have been hard hit by the crisis, to pony up their proposed share. Trump called the reduced payments “generous.” Trump’s first order waives the payroll tax that funds Social Security in a bid to inject extra money directly into salaried employees’ pockets. Trump has been pushing the idea for a while but it has found little support in Congress from Democrats or his fellow Republicans. The executive order says the cut comes into effect on Sept. 1, but Trump said it “most likely” would be retroactive to Aug. 1 and translate into “bigger paychecks for working families.”

Trump’s order protecting homeowners and renters from evictions is unlikely to face a challenge from Democrats; indeed, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week encouraged the move. But it isn’t clear how it will be executed. The order directs authorities to provide “temporary financial assistance” to renters and homeowners “struggling to meet their monthly rental or mortgage obligations.” Even Trump seemed a little hazy on the order’s ultimate effects, saying “we don’t want people being evicted and the act that I am signing will solve that problem – largely, hopefully, completely.” Trump said that interest on student loan payments – frozen since March – would be suspended until the end of the year.

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“Americans were surprised when they heard Sputnik’s beeping, it’s the same with this vaccine. Russia will have got there first..”

Russia COVID19 Vaccine Registration Expected August 12 (RT)

Moscow’s Gamelei Center could register the world’s first coronavirus vaccine on August 12, Russia’s deputy health minister has revealed. Oleg Gridnev says medical workers and the elderly will be given priority for immunization. The senior minister at the department, Mikhail Murashko, announced last week that a nationwide mass vaccination program is planned to begin in October. Murashko added that all expenses will be covered by the government. “The registration of the vaccine developed at the Gamelei Center will take place on August 12,” Gridnev told journalists in Ufa on Friday morning, as cited by RIA Novosti. “Now the last stage, the third, is underway. This is the testing part and is extremely important. We have to understand that the vaccine itself must be safe.”

The Health Ministry, in an official statement, clarified that “the documents required for registration of the vaccine developed by the Gamelei Center, including data from clinical trials, are under examination. The issue of its registration will be decided upon the results of the examination.” Clinical trials of the formula began at Moscow’s Sechenov University on June 18. In a study involving 38 volunteers, it passed safety protocols. It was observed that all those who took part developed immunity to the infection. The speed with which Russia has managed to research and approve a formula has raised some eyebrows in the West, but Vadim Tarasov, a top scientist at Sechenov, said the country had a head start as it has spent the last 20 years developing skills in this field and trying to understand how viruses transmit.

The haste is fairly easy to grasp when you consider the effect Covid-19 has had on the world’s largest country. With more than 870,000 cases, it is among the four countries worst affected by the epidemic, along with the US, Brazil, and India. Russia’s 14,725 fatalities is the 11th highest in the world, although when measured per capita, the death rate ranks 47th, below Germany, but above Austria. The technology behind the Russian vaccine is based on adenovirus, the common cold. Created artificially, the vaccine proteins replicate those of Covid-19, triggering “an immune response similar to that caused by the coronavirus itself,” Tarasov said. In other words, immunization is similar to having survived the virus, but without its life-threatening risks.

Kirill Dmitriev, the head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, which has bankrolled the research, last week compared the vaccine discovery process to the Space Race. “Americans were surprised when they heard Sputnik’s beeping, it’s the same with this vaccine. Russia will have got there first,” he told US TV.

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Much deadlier in men. Much deadlier than the seasonal flu.

SARS-CoV-2 Fatality Risk In A Nationwide Seroepidemiological Study (Medrxiv)

The magnitude of the infection fatality risk (IFR) of SARS-CoV-2 remains under debate. Because the IFR is the number of deaths divided by the number of infected, serological studies are needed to identify asymptomatic and mild cases. Also, because ascertainment of deaths attributable to COVID-19 is often incomplete, the calculation of the IFR needs to be complemented with data on excess mortality. We used data from a nation-wide seroepidemiological study and two sources of mortality information -deaths among laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases and excess deaths- to estimate the range of IFR, both overall and by age and sex, in Spain.


The overall IFR ranged between 1.1% and 1.4% in men and 0.58% to 0.77% in women. The IFR increased sharply after age 50, ranging between 11.6% and 16.4% in men ≥80 years and between 4.6% and 6.5% in women ≥80 years. Our IFR estimates for SARS-CoV-2 are substantially greater than IFR estimators for seasonal influenza, justifying the implementation of special public health measures.

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Not the first time that the Dems cry murder over something Trump says, only to make it look like they invented it mere weeks later.

Chuck Schumer Says Schools Must Reopen Or Economy Suffers (RT)

Republicans and Democrats failed to reach a compromise on a Covid-19 economic relief bill, but one comment from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) about schools needing to reopen has some seeing hypocrisy on the left. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Schumer addressed the press after failed negotiations with Republicans on a potential relief bill. While many of their complaints about Republicans refusing to continue robust unemployment and other government programs was to be expected, one comment from Schumer went viral as it didn’t seem to match the outrage shown to President Donald Trump when he mentioned the same thing. “If you don’t open up the schools, you’re going to hurt the economy significantly,” Schumer said, “because lots of people can’t go to work.”

The president has floated the idea of fully reopening most schools in the fall despite the coronavirus pandemic, but he has found pushback with liberal critics each and every time. Schumer’s admission that not reopening schools will hurt the economy, which the president has argued, was seen as a surprising “moment of clarity” by critics on social media who latched onto the comment. The disagreement on reopening schools comes down to federal funding. Schumer and Pelosi have argued the only way to safely let kids back into the in-person education system is through major federal funding. Trump has argued that schools in hotspots for the coronavirus should be taking precautions when reopening, but the failure to add federal funding into a Covid-19 economic package has the left and right at a standstill on the issue.

Already a heated debate, it is only bound to get more heated as the country draws nearer to the dates schools would normally open their doors again. Experts have argued since schooling is a childcare issue, keeping them closed affects not only children and employees of the education system, but also parents who cannot return to work. “Because children and parents are dying from that trauma, too. They’re dying because they can’t do what they’re doing. Mothers can’t go to work because all of a sudden they have to stay home and watch their child, and fathers,” the president told CBS News last month when asked why he considered not reopening schools a “terrible decision.”

Pelosi has argued the president is “messing” with childrens’ health and risking another outbreak of the virus with his support for reopening schools. “Going back to school presents the biggest risk for the spread of the coronavirus,” she told CNN. “If there are CDC guidelines, they should be requirements.”

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Oh, we’re going to have so much fun over the nest three months. And then there may be another three months needed to count the votes. Solid entertainment into Spring 2021. And Pelosi as President.

Trump Aides Exploring Executive Actions To Curb Voting By Mail (Pol.)

Just because Trump’s claims of rampant mail-in voting fraud aren’t supported by evidence doesn’t mean election experts aren’t concerned about problems holding a presidential election during a pandemic. It’s unknown whether the United States Postal Service can handle a surge of mail-in ballots in a timely fashion, and other officials have cautioned about long lines and a shortage of workers at in-person polling stations, which have been limited during the coronavirus outbreak. Some have predicted the crush of remote voting could mean a final winner in the presidential race between Trump and Democrat Joe Biden won’t be known for days or even weeks.

Democrats are pushing for $25 billion for USPS in the next coronavirus recovery bill to help address those concerns, but it remains a source of disagreement with Republicans. There have already been some some notable delays in down-ballot elections during the pandemic, including one New York race this summer. Six weeks after a Democratic primary for a U.S. House seat, all of the ballots have yet to be counted. “This is a rare case where the president is not overstating the case,” argued Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a conservative group that has sued in North Carolina and Pennsylvania over the accuracy of voting rolls. “Frankly he’s understating the problem that I think we are going to face on Election Day. The system is going to break.”

The Trump campaign is holding events touting its legal actions on voting rules. And privately, the White House is debating possible further action, according to two people familiar with the situation. The White House declined to comment on whether Trump would be signing an executive order on the issue. “All Americans deserve an election system that is secure and President Trump is highlighting that Democrats’ plan for universal mail-in voting would lead to fraud,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews. “While Democrats continue to call for a radical overhaul of our nation’s voting system, President Trump will continue to work to ensure the security and integrity of our elections.”

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It’s just like a biblical jubilee.

No Payment, No Problem: Bizarre New World of Consumer Debt (WS)

The New York Fed released a doozie of a household credit report. It summarized what individual lenders have been reporting about their own practices: If you can’t make the payments on your mortgage, auto loan, credit card debt, or student loan, just ask for a deferral or forbearance, and you won’t have to make the payments, and the loan won’t count as delinquent if it wasn’t delinquent before. And even if it was delinquent before, you can “cure” a delinquency by getting the loan deferred and modified. No payment, no problem. Student loan borrowers were automatically rolled into forbearance under the CARES Act, and even though many students had stopped making payments, delinquency rates plunged because the Department of Education had decided to report as “current” all those loans that are in forbearance, even if they were delinquent. Yup, according to New York Fed data, the delinquency rate of student loan borrowers, though many had stopped making payments, plunged from 10.75% in Q1, to 6.97% in Q2, the lowest since 2007:

Student loan forbearance is available until September 30, and interest is waived until then, instead of being added to the loan. In a blog post, the New York Fed said that 88% of the student-loan borrowers, including private-loan borrowers and Federal Family Education Loan borrowers, had a “scheduled payment of $0,” meaning that at least 88% of the student loans were in some form of forbearance. Until September 30. And then what? And because delinquencies in student loans, auto loans, credit card debt, and mortgages are being “cured” by putting the loans in deferral programs and modifying the delinquent loans, they become “current” loans even though no catch-up payments have been made.


Still, about 32 million people are claiming unemployment insurance. A much smaller employment shock during the Financial Crisis caused the percentage of delinquent loan balances to soar, and the percentage of “current” loan balances to plunge, to bottom out at 88% in Q4 2009. Not this time. As the percentage of delinquent loan balances fell, the percentage of “current” loan balances jumped to 96.4%, a record high in the New York Fed’s data going back to 2003. Yup, crazy world. Ally Financial reported in its 10-Q filing with the SEC for the second quarter that about 21% of its auto-loan customers were enrolled in its deferral program where they don’t have to make payments for 120 days. “The vast majority of our loan deferrals for customers in the program are scheduled to expire by the end of August 2020,” it said. And then what?

Lenders like these types of programs because they can kick the can of delinquencies down the road, and instead they have “performing loans” for which they can accrue interest which makes their investors happy, even though the customers don’t make any interest or principal payments. Bank regulators normally get nervous about deferral programs. But it appears that bank regulators have been told the shelter at home until further notice. Across all lenders, about 5.9% of the $1.34 trillion in auto loans – so close to $80 billion – are in forbearance, according to the New York Fed. And as a result, borrowers who cannot make the payment, don’t have to make it, and their loans are still deemed “current,” and the percentage of auto loans that are newly delinquent dropped to 6.29%, a record low in the data – while during the last crisis, the delinquent balances were above 10% for nearly two years:

Read more …

Yes, they’re censoring TV networks now. Scary. So is this: when Elon Musk tweeted in March that “kids are essentially immune,” Twitter clarified that his tweet did not violate its COVID-19 rules.

Social Media Imposing Modern-Day ‘Hays Code’ On Political Speech (RCP)

Social media companies continued to assert their power over the political sphere this week, with Twitter temporarily suspending the Trump campaign’s ability to post until it removed a clip of a Fox News interview with the president regarding COVID-19. When the Democratic National Committee reposted the video to debunk it, Twitter similarly banned the DNC from tweeting until it too deleted the footage. With Twitter seemingly unbothered by the implications of suspending a presidential campaign’s account just 12 weeks before the election, what might the future hold as control of our public squares is increasingly centralized?

Twitch became the first social media platform to formally suspend a presidential candidate’s account this past June when it deleted two of President Trump’s campaign rally videos for violations of its “hateful conduct” rules. In doing so, it emphasized the divide between physical and virtual campaigning. At an in-person rally a candidate can present the policy proposals he or she believes supporters want. Virtual rallies, however, are policed by an army of moderators enforcing ever-changing acceptable speech policies, forcing politicians to self-censor or risk deletion from the online world that increasingly shapes elections.

In the case of this week’s ban, the story is all the more remarkable because the video in question was actually a cable TV interview with the nation’s leader, meaning that social platforms were in effect banning a major news organization’s reporting. As news is increasingly consumed through social media, the upshot is that the online platform’s acceptable speech rules are being applied to traditional news outlets. Additionally, rather than link the video to an outside fact check, Facebook simply deleted it as “a violation of our policies around harmful COVID misinformation” while Twitter forced the campaign to delete the post as a “violation of the Twitter Rules on COVID-19 misinformation.” Both companies cited as the offending statement Trump’s claim that children have “much stronger immune systems” than adults and thus “they don’t have a problem” when infected.

While oversimplifying, Trump’s claims are not that far removed from those of CDC Director Robert Redfield and infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, who have cited the pathogen’s significantly reduced severity in children in their calls to safely reopen schools this fall. While more measured than the “immunity” claimed by Trump, the gist of his statement — that COVID-19’s impact on children appears to be less severe than its effect on older Americans — aligns with the public statements of his medical advisers. Moreover, when Elon Musk tweeted in March that “kids are essentially immune,” Twitter clarified that his tweet did not violate its COVID-19 rules. To this date, Musk’s tweet carries no warnings or fact-checking statements from Twitter refuting it or adding additional context to his claims.

In many ways, social media platforms have become modern-day incarnations of the Hays Code that governed Hollywood from the 1930s to 1960s, establishing “morality” standards and enforcing them with an army of censors. By shaping popular culture through its control of movies, the Hays Code ensured that generations of Americans were presented an idealized world of benevolent public institutions, including police and politicians whose good works were spotlighted and any wrongdoing was punished. Moreover, as an extrajudicial speech regulation, studios could modify the rules and exempt content at will, much as social platforms do today.

Read more …

And the censoring power will only get more centralized, unless politics calls a halt to it. But then there’s always the strong links to intelligence services.

Twitter Reportedly Joins Growing List Of Potential TikTok Suitors (ZH)

The ideological battle over the fate of TikTok is provoking fist fights in the Oval Office, and a scramble among the country’s biggest tech firms to see if they might be able to come up with a workable pitch that would allow them to win approval to buy the US operations (along with New Zealand, Australia and Canada, and possibly more) of the popular Chinese-owned social media platform – the only real obstacle to a deal at a time when corporate credit is essentially free. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the app, which the Trump Administration is threatening to shut down in the US over fears of a “national security threat” (Chinese law forces all Chinese companies to cooperate with state security forces, provoking fears that ByteDance, TikTok’s owner, might be compelled to set up a pipeline of Americans’ private information straight to Beijing), has become perhaps the biggest political football at a time of intense strain in the bilateral relationship.

But amid the chaos and the geopolitical posturing of the leaders of the world’s two largest economies, America’s tech giants apparently see an opportunity, however unlikely, to circumvent opposition to further tech-industry mergers and seal what very well might be the last major merger in the industry for quite some time. And with the world headed into a period of protracted slowdown, companies might as well take advantage of the free money, and lock in that future EPS growth while they can. Since anti-trust scrutiny is such a hot issue in the world of big tech right now, it seems every company that has reportedly engaged in “talks” about the prospects for a deal has a reason for why it might assuage regulators and lawmakers and convince both Congress and the White House to agree to the deal.

Being the smallest of the three major companies rumored to be potential suitors, Twitter obviously has the best case from a purely anti-trust standpoint (although it seems reporters keep coming up with excuses for why Microsoft or Facebook could still make it work). Plus, Twitter’s comparatively tiny $29 billion market cap means it would likely need help from outside investors – a great opportunity for Sequoia and the other big VC firms who backed ByteDance who reportedly were in talks about a deal to bring TikTok into the US under their purview. The deal would have valued TikTok at $50 billion, according to unconfirmed reports.

Read more …

How awful! Let’s do something!

US To Cut Troop Levels In Afghanistan To ‘Less Than 5,000’ – Esper (R.)

The United States plans to cut its troop levels in Afghanistan to “a number less than 5,000” by the end of November, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in an interview broadcast on Saturday, adding detail to drawdown plans U.S. President Donald Trump announced earlier this week. The United States currently has about 8,600 troops in Afghanistan. Trump said in an interview released Monday by Axios that the United States planned to lower that number to about 4,000.

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Hey! You’re not driving enough! Want to collapse the economy or something?

Oil Giants Cut Production By 1 Million bpd Amid Massive Writedowns (R.)

The world’s five largest oil companies collectively cut the value of their assets by nearly $50 billion in the second quarter, and slashed production rates as the coronavirus pandemic caused a drastic fall in fuel prices and demand. The dramatic reductions in asset valuations and decline in output show the depth of the pain in the second quarter. Fuel demand at one point was down by more than 30% worldwide, and still remains below pre-pandemic levels. Several executives said they took massive writedowns because they expect demand to remain impaired for several more quarters as people travel less and use less fuel due to the ongoing global pandemic that has killed more than 700,000 people.


Of those five companies, only Exxon Mobil did not book sizeable impairments. But an ongoing re-evaluation of its plans could lead to a “significant portion” of its assets being impaired, it reported, and signal the elimination of 20% or 4.4 billion barrels of its oil and gas reserves. By contrast, BP took a $17 billion hit. It said it plans to re-center its spending in coming years around renewables and less on oil and natural gas. Weak demand means oil producers must revisit business plans, said Lee Maginniss, managing director at consultants Alarez & Marsal. He said the goal should be to pump only what generates cash in excess of overhead costs. “It’s low-cost production mode through the end of 2021 for sure, and to 2022 to the extent there are new development plans being contemplated,” Maginniss said.

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Isn’t he also interfering by NOT investigating Burisma, Hunter and the clip where Joe Biden brags about blackmailing Poroshenko into firing a prosecutor?

Zelensky Says Ukraine Staying Out Of US Internal Politics, Elections (R.)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday that it was a matter of Ukraine’s national security to stay out of U.S. internal politics, particularly its election. “#Ukraine did not and will not allow itself to interfere in the elections and thus harm our trusting and sincere partnership with the #USA,” he wrote on Twitter late on Saturday. Zelenskiy, 42, was a comic actor when he won a landslide election last year. But the first year of his presidency was overshadowed by Ukraine’s unwitting involvement in events that led to the impeachment of Republican U.S. President Donald Trump. Trump had unsuccessfully pressed Ukraine to launch an investigation into his Democratic rival in the 2020 presidential race, former Vice President Joe Biden.


“Never, under any circumstances, it’s acceptable to meddle in another country’s sovereign elections,” Zelenskiy wrote. Zelenskiy appealed to Ukrainian politicians to avoid any actions that could be linked to U.S. elections, nor allow themselves to try to solve any of their personal, political or business problems that way. “Ukraine’s reputation is worth much more than the reputation of any of our politicians,” the president said.

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“It is perhaps the most American of issues, and it should be one that unites us..”

Hard to read that with a straight face, let alone for him to say it.

George W. Bush Laid the Groundwork for Today’s Immigration Nightmare (MPN)

George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, has announced he is releasing a new book called “Out of Many, One” which will celebrate America’s diversity and immigrant populations. “Our immigrant heritage has enriched America’s history. It continues to shape our society. Each generation of Americans — of immigrants — brings a renewal to our national character and adds vitality to our culture. Newcomers have a special way of appreciating the opportunities of America, and when they seize those opportunities, our whole nation benefits,” the former president said. The book, scheduled for release in March 2021 will feature 43 images of immigrants, painted by Bush himself [..]

“While I recognize that immigration can be an emotional issue, I reject the premise that it is a partisan issue. It is perhaps the most American of issues, and it should be one that unites us,” he said in a press release. “My hope is that this book will help focus our collective attention on the positive impacts that immigrants are making on our country.” With immigration becoming an increasingly hot partisan issue, the move celebrating the practice is the latest in a series of actions that Bush has taken to distance himself from the current Republican president. Both Bush and his father claimed they did not vote for Trump in 2016, leading to delight from many Democrats. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, for example, yearned for a by-gone age, admitting to wishing Bush were still president, even though at the time she described him as a “total failure” in every aspect of governing.

[..] Bush bragged about greatly increasing the U.S.’ detention capacity for immigrants, using drones to patrol the area, and building 700 hundred miles of fencing and wall, which served as a stepping stone to Trump’s border plans. The increasingly militarized border mirrored the increasingly hostile rhetoric towards immigrants that dominated the Republican Party today. Bush is no stranger to covering controversial topics in his art. In 2017, he released a similar bestselling book called “Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors.” In it, he painted dozens of fallen American servicemen, all of whom died fighting in wars he started under false pretenses and has expressed no remorse for doing so. Neither Bush nor the great number of outlets who praised the book appeared at all interested in Middle Eastern victims of his policy.

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A Trojan horse in the 2020’s.

West’s Favorite Hong Kong ‘Freedom Writer’ Is American In Yellowface (GZ)

An American man with ties to Amnesty International and key Hong Kong separatist figures has been posing online as a Hong Kong native named Kong Tsung-gan. Routinely cited as a grassroots activist and writer by major media organizations and published in English-language media, the fictitious character Kong appears to have been concocted to disseminate anti-China propaganda behind the cover of yellowface. Through Kong Tsung-gan’s prolific digital presence and uninterrogated reputation in mainstream Western media, he disseminates a constant stream of content hyping up the Hong Kong “freedom struggle” while clamoring for the US to turn up the heat on China.


Whispers about Kong’s true identity have been circulating on social media among Hong Kong residents, and was even mentioned in a brief account last December by The Standard. The Grayzone spoke to several locals outraged by a deceptive stunt they considered not only unethical, but racist. They said they have kept their views to themselves due to the atmosphere of intimidation looming over the city, where self-styled “freedom fighters” harass and target seemingly anyone who speaks out publicly against them.

The Twitter user Kong Tsung-gan (@KongTsungGan) first appeared in March 2015. Kong Tsung-gan’s earliest tweets featured commentary about Tibet and the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement. At some point, Kong changed his Twitter avatar to a black-and-white headshot of an unknown Asian person. A search of the Wayback Machine internet archive shows that this photo remained up until sometime in late 2019. Later, Kong changed his Twitter avatar to an image depicting Liu Xia, the wife of the late Nobel Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo. Liu Xiaobo was a right-wing ideologue who celebrated the US wars on Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and was rewarded with the 2014 Democracy Award by the National Endowment for Democracy – the favorite meddling machine of the US government.


[..] At around the time he created his Twitter account, Kong Tsung-gan published his first Medium post. He has since filled his Medium feed with protest timelines, lists of recommended human rights books and journalism (including a link to the questionable China “expert” Adrian Zenz), and “first-hand accounts” of his protest experiences on the ground. In one account, Kong Tsung-gan claimed he attended a Band 1 government school, implying he was a native Hong Kong resident. Kong’s work has been amplified by Joshua Wong, the Hong Kong protest poster-boy who has enjoyed photo-ops with neoconservative Republican senators like Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton.

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Rich eat poor everywhere.

Solidarity with the Germans (Varoufakis)

A recent study has confirmed that half of Germany’s population owns just 1.5% of the country’s wealth, while the top 0.1% own 20%. And inequality is getting worse. During the last two decades, the real disposable income of the poorest 50% has been falling while that of the top 1% has been rising fast, along with house and share prices. It is against this background of high and rising inequality that the mood of the German public must be understood, in particular popular resistance to the idea of a eurozone fiscal union. German workers, who are increasingly struggling to make ends meet, understandably refuse to endorse the idea of huge amounts of money being constantly channeled to citizens of other countries. The fact that Germany is getting richer overall is irrelevant to them.

From experience, they know that any money sent to Italy or Greece will probably come from them, not the top 0.1% – not to mention that it will probably end up in the pockets of vile Greek oligarchs, or of private German companies that have purchased Greek assets for next to nothing. As a result, the European Union’s recently agreed €750 billion ($880 billion) pandemic recovery fund, dubbed Next Generation EU, threatens to deepen divisions across Europe, rather than being the unifying balm of many commentators’ dreams. Setting aside the scheme’s macroeconomic insignificance, it is important to take a fresh look at it from the perspective of a typical German worker languishing among the bottom 50% of the country’s wealth distribution.

Her government, a typical German worker is told, will be liable for €100 billion of new debt that the EU will use to help foreigners recover from the pandemic’s economic fallout. “Italians will receive €80 billion from Europe’s Recovery Fund,” she hears. “Spaniards will collect €78 billion, and even the Greeks will pocket €23 billion.” And what will she get? Less than nothing. Because her government is already in fiscal consolidation mode, trying to return its budget to a small surplus by 2021, she can expect only stagnant wages and more austerity for her local hospitals, schools, roads, and other infrastructure.1 While she may well feel compassion to the Italians and Spaniards, who lost so many people to COVID-19, she will never accept repeating this exercise in debt mutualization on behalf of southern or East Europeans. The solidarity of German workers, toward whom no one shows any solidarity, has its limits – as it should.

Read more …

 

 

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Jun 072020
 


Banksy June 2020

 

 

Coronavirus Shows Global Consequences Of China’s Local Censorship (SCMP)
More Than 140 Zuckerberg-Funded Scientists Want Facebook To Censor Trump (G.)
Cuba Sets Example With Successful Program To Contain Coronavirus (G.)
Brazil Govt Yanks Virus Death Toll As Data Befuddles Experts (AP)
China Would Make A Coronavirus Vaccine A ‘Global Public Good’ (R.)
FBI Pledge Allegiance to Black Lives Matter, Antifa (CTH)
Banksy: “It’s Not Their Problem, It’s Mine” (PA)
Walmart CEO Pledges $100 Million To Address Systemic Racism (Hill)
For Millennials And Women, The Jobs Report Was Catastrophic (ZH)
‘Never Say Never’ On ECB Buying Shares: Governing Council Member (R.)
Elmer Fudd Will Not Have A Gun In ‘Looney Tunes’ Reboot (Hill)
Mexico To Sit Out Extension Of OPEC+ Oil Output Cuts (R.)
DOJ, 50 State AGs Inn Push To Breakup Google’s Ad-Tech Dominance (ZH)
Judge In Epstein Grand Jury Case Has Ties To People Involved (Julie K. Brown)

 

 

The entire world increasingly retreats into echo chambers deeply buried in trenches, goaded onwards by mass value signaling and gaslighting. It is scary.

 

 

Total global cases surpassed 7,000,000.


Total global deaths surpassed 400,000.

 

 

Worldometer puts global new cases for June 5 at + 128,039.

My count from about 6 am EDT to 6 am EDT is+ 132,816 cases.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 22,836
• Brazil + 30,488
• Russia + 8,984
• India + 10,086
• Pakistan + 4,960
• Chile + 5,246

 

 

Cases 7,004,814 (+ 132,816 from yesterday’s 6,871,728)

Deaths 402,665 (+ 4,002 from yesterday’s 398,663)

 

 

Note: Italy, Spain, France stripped out. They combine for 90,000 deaths.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Interesting: other than in purely moral terms, to what degree does censorship hinder the world in finding a response to disasters like pandemics?

Coronavirus Shows Global Consequences Of China’s Local Censorship (SCMP)

China has the world’s highest number of internet users at over 854 million in 2019 according to the country’s Cyberspace Administration. However, its online world is confined within the so-called “Great Firewall”, and everything from criticism of the government to pornography is censored. Technology companies that run China’s social media platforms employ thousands of content moderators as censors and develop algorithms to prevent anything sensitive from being published or to quickly remove it, while foreign websites and social media platforms such Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are blocked.

[..] About 19 posts per 1,000 were removed – almost 700 from 37,226 – when China’s Centres for Disease Control published a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine on January 29 that indicated officials knew of human-to-human transmission of Covid-19 earlier than admitted. The authorities had previously claimed there was no evidence of human-to-human spread of the disease “so that’s why this was the top grievance”, Fu said. “There were a lot of people complaining and reacting to that paper.” News of the coronavirus became public on December 30, 2019, after screenshots from doctors’ chat groups warning about an unknown respiratory illness spread online. But police reprimanded some of the doctors who tried to raise the alarm, including Li Wenliang who later died from the disease, prompting a huge outpouring of public grief and anger.

Li’s death on February 7 prompted another spike in censorship with three posts per 1,000 – 117 out of 40,232 – relating to the topic being censored that day. Again, Fu said, what seemed like a low number was explained by the huge amount of posts and the fact that many would not have been detected by Weiboscope because they did not mention Li’s name to avoid the censors. Independent journalists have also been targeted, and two citizen journalists Chen Qiushi and Fang Bin are still missing after they disappeared in February after reporting from Wuhan, the city at the centre of the initial Covid-19 outbreak in China.

Research published in the journal Nature last month estimated that if strong intervention had been taken against Covid-19 in China a week earlier, cases could have been “dramatically reduced” by 66 per cent. Acting three weeks earlier, at the start of January, would have reduced the number of cases by 95 per cent, according to the paper by scientists from China, the United States and Britain. “Early warnings allow governments to take early action,” Fu said. “We find evidence that social media posts including early warnings to the public were censored especially in the early stage of the pandemic.”

Read more …

Would they like their own work censored as well? Or just the people they don’t agree with?

More Than 140 Zuckerberg-Funded Scientists Want Facebook To Censor Trump (G.)

More than 140 scientists funded by Mark Zuckerberg have said Facebook should not be letting Donald Trump use the social media platform to “spread both misinformation and incendiary statements”. The researchers, who include more than 60 professors at leading US research institutions and one Nobel laureate, sent the Facebook CEO a letter on Saturday asking him to “consider stricter policies on misinformation and incendiary language that harms people”, especially during the current turmoil over racial injustice. The letter calls the spread of “deliberate misinformation and divisive language” contrary to the researchers’ goals of using technology to prevent and eradicate disease, improve childhood education and reform the criminal justice system.

Their mission “is antithetical to some of the stances that Facebook has been taking, so we’re encouraging them to be more on the side of truth and on the right side of history, as we’ve said in the letter”, said Debora Marks of Harvard Medical School, one of three professors who organized it. The others are Martin Kampmann of the University of California, San Francisco, and Jason Shepherd of the University of Utah. All have grants from a Chan Zuckerberg Initiative program working to prevent, cure and treat neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. They said the letter had more than 160 signatories. Shepherd said about 10% were employees of foundations run by Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.


The letter objects specifically to Zuckerberg’s decision not to act on a post by Trump that stated “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. The letter’s authors called the post “a clear statement of inciting violence”.

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“..tens of thousands of family doctors, nurses and medical students to “actively screen” all homes on the island for cases of Covid-19 – every single day.”

Cuba Sets Example With Successful Program To Contain Coronavirus (G.)

The World Health Organization has identified Latin America as the new centre for coronavirus pandemic, but over the last two months, cases in Cuba have fallen. Cubans are now 24 times less likely to catch the virus than Dominicans, 27 times less likely to catch it than Mexicans, and more than 70 times less likely to be infected than Brazilians. Desperate for tourist revenue, Cuba closed its border later than most other countries in the region. But ever since the communist-ruled island shut out the outside world in late March, it has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the virus. The state has commanded tens of thousands of family doctors, nurses and medical students to “actively screen” all homes on the island for cases of Covid-19 – every single day.


That means that from Monday to Sunday, Dr Caballero and her medical students must walk for miles, monitoring the 328 families on her beat. “There’s no other country in the hemisphere that does anything approaching this,” said William Leogrande, professor of government at American University in Washington DC. “The whole organization of their healthcare system is to be in close touch with the population, identify health problems as they emerge, and deal with them immediately. “We know scientifically that quick identification of cases, contact tracing and quarantine are the only way to contain the virus in the absence of a vaccine – and because it begins with prevention, the Cuban health system is perfectly suited to carry out that containment strategy.”

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Johns Hopkins depended on those numbers. Don’t know about Worldometer.

Brazil Govt Yanks Virus Death Toll As Data Befuddles Experts (AP)

Brazil’s government has stopped publishing a running total of coronavirus deaths and infections in an extraordinary move that critics call an attempt to hide the true toll of the disease in Latin America’s largest nation. The Saturday move came after months of criticism from experts saying Brazil’s statistics are woefully deficient, and in some cases manipulated, so it may never be possible to gain a real understanding of the depth of the pandemic in the country. Brazil’s last official numbers showed it had recorded over 34,000 deaths related to the coronavirus, the third-highest number in the world, just ahead of Italy. It reported nearly 615,000 infections, putting it at the second-highest, behind the United States. Brazil, with about 210 million people, is the globe’s seventh most populous nation.

On Friday, the federal Health Ministry took down a website that had showed daily, weekly and monthly figures on infections and deaths in Brazilian states. On Saturday, the site returned but the total numbers of infections for states and the nation were no longer there. The site now shows only the numbers for the previous 24 hours. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tweeted Saturday that disease totals are “not representative” of the country’s current situation. A Bolsonaro ally contended to the newspaper O Globo that at least some states providing figures to the Health Ministry had sent falsified data, implying that they were exaggerating the toll. Carlos Wizard, a businessman expected to assume a high-level post in the Health Ministry, said the federal government would be conducting a review intended to determine a “more accurate” toll.


[..] A council of state health secretaries said it would fight the changes by Bolsonaro, who has dismissed the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic and tried to thwart attempts to impose quarantines, curfews and social distancing, arguing those steps are causing more damage to the economy than the pandemic. “The authoritarian, insensitive, inhumane and unethical attempt to make the COVID-19 deaths invisible will not prosper,” the health secretaries council said Saturday.

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US Senator Scott says they’ll do the opposite, even hinder western attempts at a vaccine.

China Would Make A Coronavirus Vaccine A ‘Global Public Good’ (R.)

China will increase international cooperation if it succeeds in developing a novel coronavirus vaccine, the science and technology minister said on Sunday. China would make a vaccine a “global public good” when it is ready, the minister, Wang Zhigang, told a news conference in Beijing.

[..] China is expending great efforts in the global scramble to develop a vaccine for the new coronaries epidemic that began in its central city of Wuhan, with Chinese researchers conducting five separate clinical trials on humans, or half of all such trials globally, according to the data compiled by the World Health Organization. President Xi Jinping vowed last month at the World Heath Assembly, the WHO’s governing body, that vaccines China’s develops will become a “global public good” once they are ready for use, and it will be China’s contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries.


Developing “a vaccine is still the fundamental strategy in our effort to overcome the new coronavirus,” Science and Technology Minister Wang Zhigang told a news conference in Beijing. But vaccine development is very difficult and takes time, he said, when asked how China would initially prioritise shots by country when a vaccine is found. “The rigour of vaccine development has been compared by some scientists to a dance involving precise steps and rehearsals,” Wang said.

Read more …

How right wing America views the issue. They feel betrayed by the FBI because of Comey, McCabe, Strzok, Lisa Page, Russiagate and the impeachment fiasco.

FBI Pledge Allegiance to Black Lives Matter, Antifa (CTH)

In a display of public unity with ‘The Movement’ writ large, FBI officials took a knee to declare their woke allegiance with the protesting mobs. With that visible display we now have a better understanding of the motives behind a history of FBI failures. Setting aside the optic that some members of the FBI looking more like ‘meal-team-6’, there was always a suspicion the FBI were more concerned about political correctness than actually doing the work of a federal investigative agency. Historically the FBI has failed miserably to stop domestic terror threats; and when the investigative failures are researched there’s usually a prior connection between the attackers and the FBI.

The father of the Orlando Pulse nightclub terrorist, Omar Mateen, was a guy named Seddique Mateen (you might remember seeing him at the Hillary Clinton rally). After Omar killed 49 people it was discovered that Seddique had been an FBI informant for over eleven years (2005 to 2016). Similarly, after the Parkland school shooting, it was discovered the FBI was fully aware of Nikolas Cruz, yet again they had taken no action. The exact same scenario had played out several years earlier when the FBI was warned about the Tsarnaev brothers before the Boston Marathon Bombing 2013 and yet they did nothing to stop it.


The FBI is now a political agency with police powers within the federal government. The activity of Lisa Page, Peter Strzok, James Comey, Andrew McCabe and a host of very familiar names has shown just how important politics is within the institution. Indeed, as we saw in the ridiculous Hillary Clinton investigation, politics was the prism for every decision; and protecting their ideological tribe was the biggest concern within the agency. Understanding the sensitivity behind the FBI to the Muslim community; a sensitivity almost identical to the expressed position of the democrat party apparatus; it should not come as a big surprise to see FBI agents ignoring terror threats and simultaneously taking a knee to show their allegiance with Black Lives Matter.

Read more …

The headline the Guardian used for this PA Media piece is “Banksy Supports Black Lives Matter With Latest Artwork”. But he doesn’t, or we don’t know if he does, not from his words. He supports black people, not some movement.

Banksy: “It’s Not Their Problem, It’s Mine” (PA)

Banksy has shown his support for the Black Lives Matter movement, saying “people of colour are being failed by the system”. The graffiti artist wrote in an Instagram post: “At first I thought I should just shut up and listen to black people about this issue. But why would I do that? It’s not their problem, it’s mine. “People of colour are being failed by the system. The white system. Like a broken pipe flooding the apartment of the people living downstairs. The faulty system is making their life a misery, but it’s not their job to fix it. They can’t, no one will let them in the apartment upstairs. “This is a white problem. And if white people don’t fix it, someone will have to come upstairs and kick the door in.”

Read more …

Walmart supports black people. What a joke that is.

A single Tweet says it all: “Walmart is the largest private employer of Black people in the US, is viciously anti-union, and pays poverty wages..”

Walmart CEO Pledges $100 Million To Address Systemic Racism (Hill)

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon is pledging to donate $100 million over five years to create a new center on racial equity following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died as a result of an arrest by Minneapolis police. In an email to employees Friday, McMillon condemned racial violence and said the company plans to make changes to fight for greater racial equity inside and outside of Walmart. “The global health crisis has tested all of us in recent months, and the racial violence in the U.S.— in particular, the murder of George Floyd — is tragic, painful and unacceptable,” McMillon wrote in the email. The Walmart CEO laid out several initiatives the company will undertake, including making the recruitment, development and support of African Americans inside the company “even more of a priority.”


The company will also invest in improving fairness, equity and justice in society broadly. “We will find the natural overlaps between Walmart’s core business and society’s larger needs that perpetuate racism and discrimination,” McMillon wrote. “Specifically, we’re going to focus the power of Walmart on our nation’s financial, healthcare, education and criminal justice systems.” McMillon said the center focused on racial equity “will seek to advance economic opportunity and healthier living, including issues surrounding the social determinants of health, strengthening workforce development and related educational systems, and support criminal justice reform with an emphasis on examining barriers to opportunity faced by those exiting the system.”

Read more …

Trump is so eager to praise the headline numbers that he forgets they are nonsense, and misses the opportunity to tell people to try harder.

For Millennials And Women, The Jobs Report Was Catastrophic (ZH)

There were clear problems with Friday’s “incredible” – as Trump put it – jobs report. First and foremost the BLS’ own admission there was a “survey error” which may have reduced the real unemployment rate by up to 3% as survey-takers mistakenly counted about 4.9 million temporarily laid-off people as employed, then moving through some very aggressive statistical assumption revisions to boost the “birth/death” model, the curious case of millions of “jobs” resurrected temporarily thanks to the PPP program: as recruitment firm LaSalle Network head Tom Gimbel said, today’s jobs report may offer a “false ray of light” because almost all job gains stemmed from furloughed employees kept on the books due to PPP loans (he said he was seeing real weakness in new hiring).


But even if one accepts the report at its face, if one digs beneath the glossy veneer, the details are anything but “incredible” as described by the president. Start with Trump’s “incredible” V-shaped rebound: after the 2.5mm new jobs added, total US employment is basically where it was at the depth of the financial crisis, while 21 million workers find themselves unemployed – this number was 6 million just two months ago. Putting that number in context, with roughly 133 million employed workers, there are a record 102 million Americans who are not in the labor force, of whom 92.7 million don’t even want a job.

Among those who were lucky enough to remain in the work force, millions were shifted from full to part-time.

[..] And here is the catalyst for the next round of social discontent: women unemployment is now far higher than that of men after being roughly the same before covid: how long before accusation of rampant employer sexism are the next big thing?

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Dangerous because clueless. Trying to revive the past, because that’s what got him his job.

‘Never Say Never’ On ECB Buying Shares: Governing Council Member (R.)

“Never say never” on the European Central Bank one day buying shares rather than government or corporate bonds, but it has not discussed the idea yet, ECB Governing Council member Robert Holzmann said in comments published on Sunday. The ECB on Thursday announced a bigger-than-expected expansion of its stimulus package to prop up an economy plunged by the coronavirus pandemic into its worst recession since World War Two. Holzmann took over as head of the Austrian National Bank just last year but has already been outspoken on various issues, calling for the ECB to lower its often-undershot inflation target and warning against negative rates. He also says he initially suggested that Thursday’s decision be put off.


“Never say never. If the need is there, this discussion will definitely have to take place. But currently that discussion does not exist,” Holzmann told newspaper Die Presse when asked if the ECB could start buying shares. On lowering the inflation target from just under 2%, Holzmann said he could still change his stance in a discussion that the ECB has pushed back because of the pandemic. “If it is difficult to get from 1.5% to 1.9%, then in a time of low inflation expectations one can also set oneself a different target, although I myself have not yet formed a final opinion here,” Holzmann said. “The fundamental discussion on ECB strategy has been postponed because of the crisis and should be taken up again as of the summer,” he added.

Read more …

How to make guns magically disappear.

Elmer Fudd Will Not Have A Gun In ‘Looney Tunes’ Reboot (Hill)

In a new series based on the beloved “Looney Tunes” cartoons, the classic character Elmer Fudd will no longer carry a gun. The new series “Looney Tunes Cartoons,” which premiered last week on the streaming service HBO Max, will feature the cartoon’s characteristic violence – using sticks of dynamite, booby traps and the iconic anvils and bank safes dropped onto characters, The New York Times reported last week. However, Peter Browngardt, the series executive producer and showrunner, told the outlet, “We’re not doing guns.” “But we can do cartoony violence — TNT, the Acme stuff. All that was kind of grandfathered in,” Browngardt told the outlet.


Elmer Fudd is regularly foiled trying to hunt Bugs Bunny on the show. In the new series, the character will carry a scythe. However, comics artist Johnny Ryan, who worked on the show, noted to the Times that he believes “We’re going through this wave of anti-bullying, everybody needs to be friends, everybody needs to get along.” “‘Looney Tunes’ is pretty much the antithesis of that,” he said. “It’s two characters in conflict, sometimes getting pretty violent.”

https://twitter.com/aaronjmate/status/1269487929463898112

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OPEC+ meets COVID19. That was nnever going to be smooth.

Mexico To Sit Out Extension Of OPEC+ Oil Output Cuts (R.)

Mexico will not join other top oil producers in extending through July output cuts aimed at propping up the price of crude, Energy Minister Rocio Nahle said on Saturday. Made up of OPEC members and allies led by Russia, the group known as OPEC+ agreed in April to cut oil supply by 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd) in May and June to support prices. Under that deal, Mexico pledged to reduce its crude output by 100,000 bpd in May and June, after resisting pressure from other oil producers to make cuts of 400,000 bpd. The cuts had been due to taper to 7.7 million bpd from July to December, but on Saturday, OPEC+ agreed to extend the production cuts until the end of July.


Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has vowed to ramp up the country’s crude oil production, said on Friday that Mexico was not in a position to make additional cuts on top of what it had agreed in April. His energy minister Rocio Nahle confirmed Mexico would not participate in the fresh cuts agreed on Saturday. “There are other countries that extended their cuts to July, in this case we said no, we’ll stick to the agreement that we signed in April,” she told reporters in the eastern state of Veracruz. “There’s no problem.”

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They’re going to frustrate the CIA? I’ll believe it when I see it.

DOJ, 50 State AGs Inn Push To Breakup Google’s Ad-Tech Dominance (ZH)

In what would be a monumental move — and we might ad good for independent media breaking the shackles of the mainstream’s ongoing attempts to police content and punish dissent — Google’s total dominance over online advertising could soon come to an end. CNBC revealed Friday that no less than 50 sate attorneys general have been investigating Google’s business practices as part of a months long probe alongside a parallel DOJ effort, and momentum is gaining toward a looming major antitrust lawsuit against the internet giant. Leading the probe among the states is Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who did not comment in Friday’s CNBC report.

Google, however, did respond, with a Google spokesperson rebutting with, “The facts are clear, our digital advertising products compete across a crowded industry with hundreds of rivals and technologies, and have helped lower costs for advertisers and consumers.” President Trump has lately put big tech in the spotlight over allegations of targeted censorship of conservative content, lately signing an executive order which seeks to reduce liability protections of major internet companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Google. Independent and alternative voices have also long complained of being demonetized or unfairly targeted for analysis and commentary falling outside of accepted ‘groupthink’.


It remains that the bulk of Google’s some $161 billion in revenue comes via ad sales, with a far smaller amount coming through products the tech giant and its parent company Alphabet Inc. are traditionally known for: software and technology. CNBC summarizes what’s at stake as follows: “Critics have said that Google bundles its ad tools so that rivals can’t afford to match its offerings and that its operation of search results, YouTube, Gmail and other services to hinder ad competition. They also say that Google owns all sides of the “auction exchange” through which ads are sold and bought, giving it an unfair advantage.” But a key legal obstacle the courts would have to consider is the fact that Google’s ad group doesn’t function as a stand alone business, but is made up of Google Ads, Google Marketing Platform, and Google Ad Manager.

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Julie K. Brown at the Miami herald is back. Worse than any fantasy, or book, or movie.

Judge In Epstein Grand Jury Case Has Ties To People Involved (Julie K. Brown)

The Palm Beach judge who has thus far refused to release grand jury records in the Jeffrey Epstein case has both professional and family ties to three of the politicians who have a stake in keeping those records secret, the Miami Herald has learned. Krista Marx, the Palm Beach chief judge who also heads a panel that polices judicial conduct, has potential conflicts of interest involving three prominent players embroiled in the Epstein sex-trafficking saga: State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who has been sued by the Palm Beach Post to release the grand jury records; Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, whose department’s favored treatment of Epstein while he was in the Palm Beach County jail is part of an ongoing state criminal investigation; and ex-State Attorney Barry Krischer, part of the same investigation in connection with his decision not to prosecute Epstein on child-sex charges.

Special prosecutors appointed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis went to court in January to unseal records of Krischer’s secret 2006 state grand jury presentment in the case. Prosecutors wanted to examine whether Krischer’s office told the panel the full scope of Epstein’s crimes, or whether state prosecutors kept key evidence from the grand jury. The grand jury returned a minor charge of solicitation of prostitution against Epstein, who later managed to negotiate a lenient plea deal, resulting in him serving 13 months in the Palm Beach County Jail, much of at his lavish office in West Palm Beach, thanks to generous work-release provisions.

Last year, following a series of stories in the Miami Herald detailing the machinations behind Epstein’s plea deal, DeSantis ordered a state criminal probe focusing on Krischer’s decision not to prosecute and on Bradshaw’s role in helping Epstein maintain an opulent lifestyle — including having sex with women — while subject to sheriff’s custody on sex charges. But Marx in January rejected the criminal prosecutors’ effort to unseal the grand jury records, calling it a “fishing expedition.’’ Then on Wednesday, she rebuffed a similar request by attorneys representing the Post, who sued Aronberg, and the county clerk, Sharon Bock, for release of the records.

Marx was dismissive of the Post’s lawsuit against Aronberg, who has denied he has custody of the grand jury records; and Bock, who has custody of the records but won’t release them without a court order. Marx, however, did not disclose from the bench that Krischer was her former boss, that her daughter works for Aronberg as an assistant state attorney and that her son works for Bradshaw as a sheriff’s deputy. Marx’s husband, Palm Beach County Judge Joe Marx, has a disclosure on his county web page stating he would recuse himself from any cases that involve his two stepchildren. Krista Marx’s county web page does not have such a disclosure.

Read more …

 

 

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Mar 192019
 


Leonardo da Vinci First anatomical studies c1515

 

 

Sometimes we find ourselves merely pondering, not so much solving big problems. Is there playing out, in the world at large, or at least the world of men, something akin to the Kondratieff cycle in economics, a larger cycle, a force, a tide, an energy, that we mostly ignore, but which drives our ‘affairs’? Dr. D. thinks there may well be. But if so, what happens to free will?

Dr. D.:

 

 

Dr. D.: I seem to have taken a dark and grumpy turn lately.  Probably the winter, but as I get older, I find the present state of the world more and more frustrating.

I fear with the present madness it’s just de rigor to 1) label people as something they’re not, even the OPPOSITE of what they are, 2) furiously fight that strawman and 3) not care.  I have no explanation for it, but there are times and tides in the affairs of men (as Shakespeare would say) which flood you out and cost a fortune.  …Or something like that.

And it’s certainly flooding in Europe right now, as darkness falls as the shutters of censorship and totalitarianism are bolted up everywhere, every bit as clear and methodical as was done in 1935, even with a call for a shiny new army.  …To use on no one, of course, because we all know broke nations fund and create armies for no ill intent whatsoever.  But these things happen regularly.

“If…any person had told me that there would have been such [chaos] as [now] exists, I would have thought them a bedlamite, a fit subject for a madhouse.”
– George Washington, 1786 (after a fiat money blowoff in the states)

My belief is that these things happen from forces outside ourselves and are sadly predictable, as “the lesson of history is that no one learns anything from history.”  There may be the “Fourth Turning” of generations, but a 4th-of-4 turning is some 200 years, the next cycle, the next fractal up, and things crack quite a bit wider. 

As this follows exactly the weather, earthquake, and volcanic cycles, it suggests far more its external origin, the way birds grow senselessly restless and flock in fall, or animals are agitated and predict earthquakes.  In this case, my guess is the human nervous system is very sensitive to the fluctuations in the sun, or possibly further, the wing of the galaxy we fly through like sand ripples 240 years apart.  What else could it be to affect men, weather, and volcanoes all at once?

 

But I suspect the additional energy flooding into all men gives them a very hard time, hyping them up, and those who don’t know how to shed and direct the energy appropriately — which is most of us — become manic and unthinking, and to some extent collectively go mad.  As events on the ground direct them, so it can be channeled into grandeur, like the industrial revolution, or into a suicidal bloodbath like Jacobin France.

We appear to desire the latter right now, where the most astonishing, easily falsifiable accusations are made, and followed through just as thoughtlessly by the mob.  They attack and hang one man one day, then the next his accuser comes under scrutiny and is hanged in turn, yet no one makes a call to sense and order, but rather to more ghosts, more bogymen, and more panic that chases them in turn like the devil of Sir Thomas More. …Thankfully merely murder-by-reputation so far, but it would be shocking indeed if that lasted long.

I also believe men know this, and far from stopping it, prefer to make fortunes by going with the tide and pushing it along, tirelessly undermining nations they can short, and then supporting the kings rising on the wheel of fortune and hitching to their star until in the next cycle they will be undermined in turn. 

Unfortunately, it is Europe and America’s time down on the wheel, and they are doing everything they can — spending trillions, directing Facebook and the Guardian, buying ministers and judges, undermining every pillar of our society, economic, social, moral — in their quest to drive us down, and therefore buy us up cheap in “Disaster Capitalism.”  And being in the lowering tide, we don’t need any additional help.

 

However, with such sturm und drang, there’s just shouting man to man everywhere, sheer bedlam, and otherwise good people get caught up in it, accusing you, accusing me, and exhausting and ruining themselves at a time we most need to pull together, make forgiveness, and apply what limited forces we have to the task of saving ourselves and our values.

So what do we do? Well if indeed we are each being over-energized and overloaded as it seems, we need to calm and ground ourselves in deeper principles that are unchanging — a thing far easier said than done. 

However, if we can see that all of us are in the same dilemma, we are all ill-at-ease, and it’s not the other guy, it’s ourselves too that is short tempered, short-sighted, jumping to conclusions — in a word: short — then we can go through the day and this time better, and address it better, redress it better, and make more accurate, more practical and productive responses than if we didn’t know where our new trouble and new agitation is coming from.

Because history shows these things happen, and we’re in it now and it’s clearly happening to us. Perceiving all this years ago, I took myself to a humble place and planted trees, as the Stoics at the fall of Rome retreated to walled gardens and enjoyed what life they could, and although it’s a hard life and everyone’s answer is different, these things pass and all men have troubles and die even in the best of times.

So while I find it as frustrating as anyone, to be outrageously accused, to not be heard day after day, I try to keep perspective as well.  It may not be a help to them, but it’s a help to me at least, so I can possibly answer the call to help someday, should any someday come.

But I don’t think so.  Like Robespierre or Washington, I expect it to vent its madness on me and on us all with little restraint instead.  My job is to weather it as I can and wait for better springs to come, which they will, but decades from now.
 

 

“There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”
– Julius Caesar Act 4 Scene 3

 

 

Oct 142018
 


René Magritte The song of love 1948

 

Companies Buying Their Own Shares Could Fuel The Next Market Rally (CNBC)
Market Crash? Another ‘Red Card’ For The Economy (Lacalle)
4 Lessons From Iceland On Dealing With A Financial Crisis (WEF)
‘Crazy’ That Current Account Deficits Are ‘A Sin:’ Singapore Deputy PM (CNBC)
Draghi to Rome: Don’t Expect An ECB Rescue If Budget Talks Fail (CNBC)
Canada ‘Concerned’ About Khashoggi But Will Sell Arms To Saudis – Trudeau (RT)
David Davis Calls For Cabinet Rebellion Over Brexit Plan (BBC)
Brexit Negotiators Poised To Miss Deal Deadline As UK Hardliners Rebel (ZH)
Internet Censorship Just Took An Unprecedented Leap Forward (CJ)
Professor Exposes Rigged Markets One Academic Paper At A Time (ZH)
Hammer Time (Jim Kunstler)
Who The Hell Cares What Old People Think About Climate Change? (Ol.)
What’s Another Way to Say ‘We’re F-cked’? (Goodell)
‘Not Everything Was Looted’: British Museum To Fight Critics (G.)

 

 

“.. in the last 12 months, the companies in the S&P 500 have purchased $646 billion of their own stock, 29 percent more than the previous 12 months..”

“..at least $350 billion of buybacks that have been planned for the year and are just waiting to be put to work.”

Companies Buying Their Own Shares Could Fuel The Next Market Rally (CNBC)

With stocks down significantly, corporate buybacks could help stabilize the market. Buybacks have been one of the big stories supporting the market this year. DataTrek estimates that in the last 12 months, the companies in the S&P 500 have purchased $646 billion of their own stock, 29 percent more than the previous 12 months. And there’s plenty of “dry powder” left. One firm estimates at least $350 billion of buybacks that have been planned for the year and are just waiting to be put to work. And no, it is not just Apple that is buying its own stock. More than 300 large-cap companies have active buyback programs.

Unfortunately, some traders are resurrecting an old chestnut to help explain the current market weakness. They say we are entering a “blackout” period, when corporations cannot buy their stock because they are about to report quarterly earnings. It’s a neat explanation, except there’s not a lot to it. “Buybacks do occur during blackout periods,” Ben Silverman at InsiderScore told me. “Buyback volume does often decline in the first month of the quarter due to some buyback blackouts,” but companies can, and do, continue to buy back stock, he told me. Another trader (who declined to be identified) confirmed Silverman’s point. Corporate buybacks decline in the month before earnings, but only marginally. He estimated the decline is 30 percent or less.

Read more …

“..disproportionate valuations…”

$20 trillion worth of them.

Market Crash? Another ‘Red Card’ For The Economy (Lacalle)

The first thing we must understand is that we are not facing a panic created by a black swan, that is, an unexpected event, but by three factors that few could deny were evident: 1) Excessive valuations after $20 trillion of monetary expansion inflated most financial assets. 2) Bond yields rising as the US 10-year reaches 3.2%. 3) The evidence of the Yuan devaluation, which is on its way to surpass 7 Yuan per US dollar. 4) Global growth estimates trimmed for the sixth time in as many months. Therefore, the US rate hikes – announced repeatedly and incessantly for years – are not the cause, nor the alleged trade war. These are just symptoms, excuses to disguise a much more worrying illness.

What we are experiencing is the evidence of the saturation of excesses built around central banks’ loose policies and the famous “bubble of everything”. And therein lies the problem. After twenty trillion dollars of reckless monetary expansion, risk assets, from the safest to the most volatile, from the most liquid to the unquoted, have skyrocketed with disproportionate valuations.

The cracks in the building always appear first with currencies. Countries that have become accustomed to the idea that “this time is different” and that debt does not matter, started to multiply their indebtedness in foreign currency. Debt in dollars from emerging countries soared to 41% of their total debt. In the first three months of 2018, global debt rose 11% to a record of 247 trillion dollars (according to the IIF), and that of emerging markets soared by 2.5 trillion to an all-time high of 58.5 trillion. . When the lowest risk bond, the United States 10-year, went to 3.1%, the synchronized growth and complacent veil lifted, and many assets showed how risky they truly are.

Markets woke up to a reality that we had decided to ignore. That rates do rise. And if the safest bond gives a return of 3.2% … Am I willing to buy bonds from much riskier countries with negligible spreads? Add to that “sobriety” effect, another one. The inevitable devaluation of the yuan , which soared to almost 7 against the dollar. Am I willing to buy emerging markets and commodities when China exports its imbalances sending disinflationary pressure to the rest of the world?

Read more …

Iceland took it serious. No-one else did.

4 Lessons From Iceland On Dealing With A Financial Crisis (WEF)

Days after the collapse of 97% of its banking industry, Icelandic authorities designed a comprehensive policy of accountability, based on two overlapping objectives: establishing the truth and punishing those responsible. An independent truth commission was mandated to document the causes of the meltdown, and the newly established Office of the Special Prosecutor was tasked to thoroughly investigate and prosecute those responsible for any crimes committed in the run up to the crisis. Both mechanisms have been remarkably successful.

Published in 2010, the truth commission’s 2,200-page report not only documented the manifold failings of the financial system in Iceland but also offered specific recommendations to protect state institutions from a future crisis. The report instantly became a bestseller, with copies sold in supermarkets. It was a popular gift – parents even gave it to their children to help them avoid making the same mistakes. The Office of the Special Prosecutor successfully prosecuted 40 bank executives. This is remarkable, especially given the small population of the island and the comparative experience of other European countries affected by the recession, such as Ireland, Cyprus, or the UK (table below).

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Not many people see is that way.

‘Crazy’ That Current Account Deficits Are ‘A Sin:’ Singapore Deputy PM (CNBC)

For decades, developing countries have relied on outside investments to boost their growth despite trade imbalances. But running a current account deficit has come to be regarded as “a sin,” according to Singapore’s deputy prime minister. Such a development is just “crazy,” Tharman Shanmugaratnam told CNBC on Friday during the annual meeting of the Institute of International Finance on the Indonesian island of Bali. Shanmugaratnam was referring to the widely held outlook that nations should seek to avoid current account deficits — which indicate they’re operating on borrowed means because the value of incoming goods, services and investments exceeds the amount leaving the country.

“How did the Singapores and Koreas of the world grow?” he said. “We grew by running current account deficits at an early stage of development so we could invest ahead for growth while our savings were being built up.” Singapore was able to rely on financing through foreign direct investments and long-term investors during its early years of growth, as the international financial system at that time had capital flowing to developing economies, Shanmugaratnam said. “Today, it’s a sin to run a current account deficit and that’s crazy,” said the minister, who is also the chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the country’s central bank and financial regulator. “I mean, it’s bad in economics, it’s bad in policy sense, and the whole world is going to suffer.”

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But Draghi’s still an Italian.

Draghi to Rome: Don’t Expect An ECB Rescue If Budget Talks Fail (CNBC)

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi is sending a warning to Rome ahead of its formal budget submission: Don’t expect the ECB to save the day. In a Saturday press conference at the IMF and World Bank meetings in Bali, Indonesia, Draghi said he was confident that a budget agreement would be reached and urged all parties to “calm down with the tone.” He also voiced relief that there has not been evidence of a wider spillover effect in European bond markets, even as Italian yields hit multi-year highs. “Everything that happened today is local to Italy.”

When asked whether an eventual realization of contagion or a further rise in Italian yields would force the ECB to scrap tightening plans by year end, Draghi told CNBC: “I don’t want to speculate on this. I just don’t want to conceive such a hypothesis. I’m confident that the authorities — and by the way all parties, not only Italy — all parties will in the end find a compromise solution, an agreement.” He went on to suggest that the situation had been “dramatized,” and that was “not the first time there are deviations from established rules in Europe.” But investors are worried that the Italian government may seize on that precedent and take a gamble that running foul of EU budget rules won’t incur serious penalties, and that, if things do turn worse for Italian financial markets, they”ll be able to lean on the ECB for support. Draghi, for his part, told CNBC that would not be a possibility.

Read more …

“..Saudi Arabia expelled the Canadian envoy. It then froze trade talks, cut academic ties, and suspended flights to Canada.”

But arms sales trump everything.

Canada ‘Concerned’ About Khashoggi But Will Sell Arms To Saudis – Trudeau (RT)

Ottawa will keep its $15bn arms deal with Riyadh despite concerns over Saudi involvement in the disappearance of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the diplomatic row over human rights, Prime Minister Trudeau said. “We respected that contract,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Friday, adding that his cabinet has put forward measures to make the arms sales more transparent. “We are making sure Canadians’ expectations and laws are always being followed,” he said. The contract was signed in 2014 by the previous conservative government, and has since been upheld by Trudeau. The specifics of the sales were originally not disclosed by the parties.

According to documents obtained by CBC News last month, a Canadian company is to ship 742 LAV-6 light armored vehicles to Riyadh. The same outlet revealed in March that hundreds of the LAV-6s will be outfitted as “heavy assault” and “anti-tank” types. [..] Human rights campaigners and journalists have criticized Canada’s approach to Saudi Arabia as inconsistent. They point out that the government doesn’t mince words when attacking the kingdom’s human rights record, but at the same time never waivers in its willingness to ship military hardware to Riyadh. Media reports have also strongly suggested that the Saudis might be using Canadian-made LAVs against civilians in Yemen.

[..] Canada stuck to the arms deal even after becoming embroiled in a diplomatic spat with Riyadh in August. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland called on the kingdom to release two high-profile dissidents. In response, Saudi Arabia expelled the Canadian envoy. It then froze trade talks, cut academic ties, and suspended flights to Canada.

Read more …

She won’t have a cabinet left soon.

David Davis Calls For Cabinet Rebellion Over Brexit Plan (BBC)

Cabinet ministers should “exert their collective authority” and rebel against Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal, ex-Brexit Secretary David Davis has said. The PM has suggested a temporary customs arrangement for the whole UK to remain in the customs union while the Irish border issue is resolved. Brexiteers suspect this could turn into a permanent situation, restricting the freedom to strike trade deals. Writing in the Sunday Times, Mr Davis said the plan was unacceptable. “This is one of the most fundamental decisions that government has taken in modern times,” he added.

The issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic Ireland is one of the last remaining obstacles to achieving a divorce deal with Brussels, with wrangling continuing over the nature of a “backstop” to keep the frontier open if a wider UK-EU trade arrangement cannot resolve it. The EU’s version, which would see just Northern Ireland remain aligned with Brussels’ rules, has been called unacceptable by Mrs May and the DUP. Mr Davis said the government’s negotiating strategy had “fundamental flaws”, arising from the “unwise decision in December to accept the EU’s language on dealing with the Northern Ireland border”.

On Saturday evening, German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung reported a deal had already been reached between Mrs May and the EU, and would be announced on Monday. But a No 10 source told the BBC the report was “100%, categorically untrue” and negotiations were ongoing. The paper said it had seen a leaked memo from EU negotiators to EU ambassadors stating: “Deal made.”

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Too many people want too many too different things.

Brexit Negotiators Poised To Miss Deal Deadline As UK Hardliners Rebel (ZH)

[..] early Sunday in London, the Brexiteer hardliners published an open letter signed by 63 Conservative MPs, including David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the chairman of the European Research Group of Eurosceptic backbenchers and former Brexit minister Steve Baker, the former Brexit minister. At the same time, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, a pro-leave MP, published an editorial in the Sunday Telegraph demanding that any possibility that the UK could remain in a “temporary customs arrangement” after the Brexit transition period ends in December 2020 be stricken from the final agreement – because leaving open the possibility would be tantamount to ignoring the political will of the 17.4 million Britons who voted for Brexit.

Meanwhile, Davis demanded in an editorial in the Sunday Times that Cabinet ministers should “exert their collective authority” and rebel against Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal. All of this is happening amid even more conflicting reports, citing sources from the EU and sources from No. 10 Downing Street, affirming and denying that a deal had been reached. Underscoring the hostility to a deal, the leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party said Sunday that she would prefer a “no deal” Brexit to a “backstop” transition agreement that would require any borders between Northern Ireland and the UK, arguing that this would amount to the “annexation” of Northern Ireland by the EU, per CNBC.

Read more …

The Atlantic Council got going. Social media have become too big a threat to the narrative.

Internet Censorship Just Took An Unprecedented Leap Forward (CJ)

While most indie media was focused on debating the way people talk about Kanye West and the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an unprecedented escalation in internet censorship took place which threatens everything we all care about. It received frighteningly little attention. After a massive purge of hundreds of politically oriented pages and personal accounts for “inauthentic behavior”, Facebook rightly received a fair amount of criticism for the nebulous and hotly disputed basis for that action. What received relatively little attention was the far more ominous step which was taken next: within hours of being purged from Facebook, multiple anti-establishment alternative media sites had their accounts completely removed from Twitter as well.

As of this writing I am aware of three large alternative media outlets which were expelled from both platforms at almost the same time: Anti-Media, the Free Thought Project, and Police the Police, all of whom had millions of followers on Facebook. Both the Editor-in-Chief of Anti-Media and its Chief Creative Officer were also banned by Twitter, and are being kept from having any new accounts on that site as well.

“I unfortunately always felt the day would come when alternative media would be scrubbed from major social media sites,” Anti-Media’s Chief Creative Officer S.M. Gibson said in a statement to me. “Because of that I prepared by having backup accounts years ago. The fact that those accounts, as well as 3 accounts from individuals associated with Anti-Media were banned without warning and without any reason offered by either platform makes me believe this purge was certainly orchestrated by someone. Who that is I have no idea, but this attack on information was much more concise and methodical in silencing truth than most realize or is being reported.”

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Interesting man.

Professor Exposes Rigged Markets One Academic Paper At A Time (ZH)

Finance professor John Griffin, along with his doctoral student companion, Amin Shams, were the two academics that drew market-moving conclusions about bitcoin last year, while the digital currency was trading around $20,000. After sifting through 2 terabytes of trading data, they alleged that bitcoin was being manipulated by someone using the cryptocurrency Tether to purchase it. Tether remains a relatively little-known crypto, which is pegged to one US dollar. Part of its appeal is that it can “stand in” for dollars when necessary, according to Bloomberg. Griffin and Shams authored a paper in June, with the results of their findings ultimately catalyzing many digital assets to move lower, despite the fact that the CEO of Tether publicly denied that its currency was used to prop up bitcoin.

Griffin works at the University of Texas at Austin, and has become quite an unpopular figure on Wall Street for similar work he has done in the past on ratings companies, the VIX and investment banks. In most of his findings, he claims that these well-known financial instruments and players are, in one way or another, rigged. And the professor seems to enjoy exposing precisely that: rigged, manipulated markets and shady players. “I not only want to understand the world, but make it better,” he told Bloomberg. Griffin’s work has become popular reading within the DOJ and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, according to Bloomberg.

These regulators – many of them low on resources, time and staff – welcome any additional help they can get (the SEC’s budget has forced it into a hiring freeze and the CFTC budget was cut by Congress in March of this year). John Reed Stark, a former attorney in the SEC’s enforcement division, stated: “It’s incredibly helpful to have an expert of Griffin’s caliber.”

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“..the threat to order might be so great that an unprecedented “emergency” has to be declared, with soldiers in the streets of Washington..”

Hammer Time (Jim Kunstler)

If I were President, I’d declare Oct 12 Greater Fool Day. (Nobody likes Christopher Columbus anymore, that genocidal monster of dead white male privilege.) The futures are zooming as I write, a last roundup for suckers at the OD corral, begging the question: who will show up on Monday. Nobody, I predict. And then what? The great false front of the financial markets resumes falling over into the November election. The rubble from all that buries whatever is left of the automobile business and the housing market. The smoldering aftermath will be described as the start of a long-overdue recession — but it will actually be something a lot worse, with no end in sight.

The Democratic Party might not be nimble enough to capitalize on the sudden disappearance of capital. Their only hope to date has been to capture the vote of every female in America, to otherwise augment their constituency of inflamed and aggrieved victims of unsubstantiated injustices. It’s been fun playing those cards, and the Party might not even know how to play a different game at this point. Democratic politicians may also be among the one-percenters who watch their net worth go up in a vapor in a market collapse, leaving them too numb to act. The last time something like this happened, in the fall of 2008, candidate Barack Obama barely knew what to say about the fall of Lehman Brothers and the ensuing cascade of misery — though unbeknownst to the voters, he was already a hostage of Wall Street.

Complicating matters this time will be the chaos unleashed in politics and governing when the long-running “Russia collusion” melodrama boomerangs into a raft of indictments against the cast of characters in the Intel Community and Department of Justice AND the Democratic National Committee, and perhaps even including the Party’s last standard bearer, HRC, for ginning up the Russia Collusion matter in the first place as an exercise in sedition. The wheels of the law turn slowly, but they’ll turn even while financial markets tumble. And the threat to order might be so great that an unprecedented “emergency” has to be declared, with soldiers in the streets of Washington, as was sadly the case in 1861, the first time the country turned itself upside down.

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Good angle.

Who The Hell Cares What Old People Think About Climate Change? (Ol.)

The loudest and most powerful voices when it comes to the future of the planet — the ones with their hands on the levers of power — have a strong tactical advantage: they will be dead before the shit really hits the fan. This fact curiously goes unspoken, for the most part. Popular arguments tend to be framed around a rosy vision preserving the planet for future generations, which gives our boomer aristocracy the most effective cover story imaginable. They don’t need to care about that, as nice as it sounds. Why would they? It’s all completely hypothetical to them. You may as well be talking about climate patterns in Narnia. Make no mistake: older generations living in the developed world are part of history’s most under-appreciated death cult.

This isn’t abstract psychoanalysis. There is a brutal calculus going on in the minds of everyone from your skeptic uncle to the bankrollers of squillion dollar think tanks whenever they think or talk about climate change. They know that they will never have to really answer for their opinions on this matter, because they’ll be six feet under (and loving it!) when the world’s arable land is rendered infertile and its coastal cities flooded by rising oceans. In some dark and venal corner of their minds, they’re thinking about that fact all the damn time. Despite the frightening predictions of the new IPCC report, they’ve still got plenty of wiggle room to keep denying until they’re dead – which will be sooner rather than later. With any luck they’ll even avoid being held accountable in any concrete way, which for the conservative commentariat is an even worse fate than the Mad Max hellworld towards which we are hurtling.

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One scary dude.

What’s Another Way to Say ‘We’re F-cked’? (Goodell)

[..] a scientist named Richard Alley in a Skype discussion with students at Bard College, as well as with Eban Goodstein, director of the Graduate Programs in Sustainability at Bard. It would be just another nerdy Skype chat except Alley is talking frankly about something that few scientists have the courage to say in public: As bad as you think climate change might be in the coming decades, reality could be far worse. Within the lifetime of the students he’s talking with, Alley says, there’s some risk — small but not as small as you might hope — that the seas could rise as much as 15-to-20 feet.

[..] Richard Alley is not a fringe character in the world of climate change. In fact, he is widely viewed as one of the greatest climate scientists of our time. If there is anyone who understands the full complexity of the risks we face from climate change, it’s Alley. And far from being alarmist, Alley is known for his careful, rigorous science. He has spent most of his adult life deconstructing past Earth climates from the information in ice cores and rocks and ocean sediments. And what he has learned about the past, he has used to better understand the future. For a scientist of Alley’s stature to say that he can’t rule out 15 or 20 feet of sea-level rise in the coming decades is mind-blowing.

And it is one of the clearest statements I’ve ever heard of just how much trouble we are in on our rapidly warming planet (and I’ve heard a lot — I wrote a book about sea-level rise). To judge how radical this is, compare Alley’s numbers to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was released on Monday. That report basically argued that if we don’t get to zero carbon emissions by 2050, we have very little chance of avoiding 1.5 Celsius of warming, the threshold that would allow us to maintain a stable climate. The report projected that with 2 Celsius of warming, which is the target of the Paris Climate Agreement, the range of sea level rise we might see by the end of the century is between about one and three feet.

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Sure. But start giving back what was. Problem is, so much of it WAS looted that the museum would become a pretty empty place.

‘Not Everything Was Looted’: British Museum To Fight Critics (G.)

The British Museum is launching an initiative intended to counter the perception that its collections derive only from looted treasures. The monthly Collected Histories talks, which begin on Friday, will provide information on how certain artefacts entered the collection, with the museum saying it will offer a more nuanced take on these stories than is available elsewhere. The museum has long faced criticism for displaying – and refusing to return – looted treasures, including the Parthenon Marbles, Rosetta Stone, and the Gweagal shield.

Earlier this year, the art historian Alice Procter’s Uncomfortable Art Tours around London institutions, including the British Museum, made headlines for their attempts to expose the role of colonialism, with those on the tour given “Display It Like You Stole It” badges. Dr Sushma Jansari, the curator of the Asian ethnographic and South Asia collections at the British Museum, said she had devised Collected Histories in response to Procter’s tours. “There are a lot of partial histories and they tend to focus on the colonial aspect of the collecting so you have a bunch of people who tend to be quite angry and upset,” she said. “We’re trying to reset the balance a little bit. A lot of our collections are not from a colonial context; not everything here was acquired by Europeans by looting.”

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Sep 122018
 


Vincent van Gogh Mountainous Landscape Behind Saint-Rémy 1888

 

US Federal Deficit Soars 32% To $895 Billion (Hill)
The Fed’s Lost Opportunity to Return to Normal (Rickards)
China ‘National Team’ Bought Billions In Stocks in Q2 – Goldman (CNBC)
Putin Bashes Protectionism, ‘Sanctions, Bans And Political Bias’ (CNBC)
Skripal Poisoning Suspects Are Civilians, Not Criminals, Says Putin (G.)
UK Police Prepares For Disorder At Ports If UK Crashes Out Of EU (Ind.)
Barnier Confronts Raab Over Discovery Of Brexit No-Deal Letters To EU27 (G.)
Europe Is Voting On Controversial Internet Copyright Law (CNBC)
Americans Need Social Media Guided by the US Constitution (Krieger)
Internet Industry Group Backs ‘National’ Data Privacy Approach (R.)
Armageddon Rides In The Balance (PCR)
Tsipras Warns “Europe Has No Future If It Doesn’t Admit Mistakes” (KTG)
Monsanto-Bayer Merger Hurts Farmers and Consumers (CP)
‘Monster’ Hurricane Florence To Pummel US Southeast For Days (R.)

 

 

Steady as she goes.

US Federal Deficit Soars 32% To $895 Billion (Hill)

The federal deficit hit $895 billion in the first 11 months of fiscal 2018, an increase of $222 billion, or 32 percent, over the same period the previous year, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The nonpartisan CBO reported that the central drivers of the increasing deficit were the Republican tax law and the bipartisan agreement to increase spending. As a result, revenue only rose 1 percent, failing to keep up with a 7 percent surge in spending, it added. Revenue from individual and payroll taxes was up some $105 billion, or 4 percent, while corporate taxes fell $71 billion, or 30 percent.

The August statistics were somewhat inflated, however, due to a timing shift for certain payments, putting the deficit measure through August slightly out of sync with the previous year, the CBO noted. Had it not been for the timing shift, the deficit would have increased $154 billion instead of $222 billion. Earlier analysis from CBO projected that deficits would near $1 trillion in 2019 and surpass that amount the following year.

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With 10 years of such market manipulation that there is no market left, what exactly is normal?

The Fed’s Lost Opportunity to Return to Normal (Rickards)

Current Fed policy will push the U.S. economy to the brink of recession, possibly by later this year. When that happens, the Fed will have to reverse course and ease monetary policy. Meanwhile, the economic cheerleaders recite recent GDP figures and the stimulative effects of the Trump tax cuts. There’s one problem with the happy talk about 3–4% growth. We’ve seen this movie before. In 2009, almost every economic forecaster and commentator was talking about “green shoots.” In 2010, then-Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner forecast the “recovery summer.” In 2017, the global monetary elites were praising the arrival (at last) of “synchronized global growth.”

None of this wishful thinking panned out. The green shoots turned brown, the recovery summer never came and the synchronized global growth was over almost as soon as it began. Strong quarters have been followed by much weaker quarters within six months on six separate occasions in the past nine years. There’s no reason to believe this time will be any different. This expansion has been extraordinarily long — over 30% longer than average — indicating that a recession should be expected sooner rather than later. Into this mix of weak growth comes the Federal Reserve, which is tightening monetary policy, reducing the base money supply and supporting a strong dollar. All of these policies are associated with slower growth ahead and a high probability of recession.

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Plunge protection. Imitating ECB.

China ‘National Team’ Bought Billions In Stocks in Q2 – Goldman (CNBC)

As the mainland Chinese stock market dropped in the second quarter, groups with government ties bought shares, according to a Goldman Sachs analysis. The “national team” of entities related to or influenced by the state was formed in 2015 to help support stocks during that summer’s market turmoil. The Shanghai composite crashed more than 40 percent that year, and has struggled to recover since. The index’s losses accelerated in June, when it fell 20 percent from a recent high, or into a bear market. Beijing’s efforts to reduce the economy’s reliance on debt has led to tighter financial conditions, while rising U.S.-China trade tensions have added to pressure on growth. In all, the Shanghai composite lost 10 percent in the second quarter.

During that time, the national team bought an estimated net 116 billion yuan — or nearly $17 billion — worth of local stocks known as A shares, Goldman Sachs’ Chief China Equity Strategist Kinger Lau said in a Friday report.The second-quarter purchases account for about 0.2 percent of market capitalization and follow sales of 71 billion yuan in the first quarter, Lau said. Overall, his team estimated the national team holds 1.5 trillion yuan worth of A shares, or about 2.9 percent of the listed market capitalization. The findings are based on analysis of required quarterly disclosures of the top 10 shareholders in A share companies.


Source: Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research

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Trump unites China and Russia.

Putin Bashes Protectionism, ‘Sanctions, Bans And Political Bias’ (CNBC)

President Vladimir Putin appeared to take another thinly veiled swipe at Trump’s economic policies on Wednesday, a day after Russia and China vowed to stand together to fight protectionism. “The world and global economy are coming up against new forms of protectionism today with different kinds of barriers which are increasing,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told a plenary session at the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok, Russia. “Basic principles of trade — competition and mutual economic benefit — are depreciated and unfortunately undermined, they’re becoming hostages of ideological and fleeting political situations, in that we see a serious challenge for all of the global economy, especially for the dynamically-growing Asia-Pacific and its leadership,” he added.

Putin’s comments come as China and Russia appeared united on Tuesday after the leaders of both countries pledged to stand together to fight protectionism. The comments were seen as a thinly veiled attack on U.S. President Donald Trump who has implemented a massive package of tariffs on Chinese imports and threatened further sanctions on Moscow. [..] Putin said Wednesday that Russia and its eastern economic partners should work to keep trade free of barriers. “We’re convinced that in order for our region to continue to achieve high growth rates, and to remain a key participant in the global economy and trade, it should retain the spirit of economic freedom, to be the space of business initiative without sanctions, bans and political bias ,” Putin told delegates.

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With a whole series of CCTV images. Because Russian secret agents on murder missions are too stupid to avoid their photos being taken. There is even one where they take time to ‘pose’ by looking into a shop window with a camera, taken AFTER the ‘attack’.

Skripal Poisoning Suspects Are Civilians, Not Criminals, Says Putin (G.)

The two men accused by the UK of carrying out a nerve agent attack in Salisbury have been identified and are civilians, not criminals, Vladimir Putin has said. “We know who they are, we have found them,” Putin said at an economic forum in the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok, adding that the two men – named by the UK as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov – might soon make appearances in the media to protest their innocence. “These are civilians,” Putin said in remarks reported by Russian news agencies. “There is nothing criminal here.” British officials have said the men were agents of Russian military intelligence dispatched to kill Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy who had given information to British intelligence. He was imprisoned in Russia before being released in a spy swap in 2010.

Putin’s remarks appeared to be a denial that the men worked for Russia’s military intelligence service the Main Directorate, commonly called the GRU. British officials this month charged the two men in absentia with the attempted murder with novichok of Sergei Skripal, his daughter, Yulia, and a police officer who investigated the scene. Scotland Yard released CCTV images of the two suspects at Salisbury train station on the day of the attack. [..] Putin called on the two men to appear in the media to protest their innocence, saying he “wanted to address them directly”. The Russian’s president’s words marked a departure from his country’s earlier position, which was to disregard the evidence released by Scotland Yard as a fabrication.

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And the military too. And this is just what you’re allowed to know.

UK Police Prepares For Disorder At Ports If UK Crashes Out Of EU (Ind.)

Police are preparing for disorder at British ports in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick has revealed. The head of Scotland Yard said her force was also bracing for the loss of key European data systems that are “very important” for keeping London safe. She said that the police were conducting careful, calm and sober contingency planning for eventualities, particularly relating to ports in Kent as well as in other parts of the UK. “Is there going to be protests, is there going to be disorder?” she asked, while addressing delegates at the Police Superintendents’ Association conference in Leicester. “At the moment in planning terms it’s a long-way off because there are so many uncertainties that could happen.”

Her comments came after a leaked document prepared by the National Police Coordination Centre revealed the “real possibility” of police calling on the military to help with civil disorder caused by a no-deal Brexit. It warned of traffic queues at ports and said concerns around medical supplies could “feed civil disorder”, while a rise in the price of goods could also lead to “widespread protest” and trigger crimes such as theft. Ms Dick raised additional concerns over the potential loss of access to EU systems including the European Arrest Warrant, Europol and databases containing information on criminals and terrorists entering the UK. “At any one time in my custody suites I will have 35, 40 per cent foreign nationals, over half EU citizens and a huge chunk would have travelled through Europe,” she explained.

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The UK still thinks they can make separate deals. It doesn’t understand the EU.

Barnier Confronts Raab Over Discovery Of Brexit No-Deal Letters To EU27 (G.)

Dominic Raab has been reprimanded by Michel Barnier after the EU’s chief negotiator discovered the British government had written to the 27 other member states asking for side negotiations on transport in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The Brexit secretary was confronted by Barnier during their most recent meeting in Brussels over correspondence sent in recent days to EU capitals by the Department for Transport. The letters had asked the member states to prepare to engage with the British government in side deals on aviation and haulage, to allow key trade flows to continue in the event of the UK and the EU failing to come to an agreement on leaving the union by 29 March 2019.

The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, had ordered the letters to be sent despite being told less than two weeks ago by the European commission’s most senior trade official, Violeta Bulc, that without a deal this autumn, there would be no other agreements made to protect the UK economy. Barnier is said to have reiterated that message to Raab, telling the cabinet minister: “If there is no deal, there is no trust.” The bruising exchange came on the same day that Theresa May told cabinet members the UK should remain “the EU’s closest ally” after Brexit, amid a growing belief in Downing Street that progress was gradually being made in the long-running divorce talks.

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A few of them may understand the issues, but the majority sure don’t.

Europe Is Voting On Controversial Internet Copyright Law (CNBC)

European parliamentarians are set to vote on a controversial copyright law that some critics believe could stop people from sharing memes and articles online. Lawmakers in Strasbourg, France, will cast their votes on the European Union’s new copyright directive on Wednesday. The result of that vote could determine whether large tech companies including Facebook, Twitter and Google are forced to use filtering systems that block copyrighted content. Two particular parts of the directive have attracted the most criticism from pro-internet freedom activists. One is Article 13. This section calls on internet giants to take “appropriate and proportionate” measures to prevent user-generated content that infringes a rightsholder’s copyright.

This part of the law has come under heavy criticism over concerns that tech giants could end up using automated content filtering systems. The law states that “effective content recognition systems” should be put in place by digital companies to prevent copyrighted materials from being distributed on their platforms. Campaigners have scrutinized this part of the legislation over concerns that it could amount to censorship, and argue that the use of copyright-protected material by way of commentary or parody should be permitted under the doctrine of “fair use.” Particular attention has been paid to the status of “memes,” which often rely on copyright protected images or pieces of video, and whether they could be censored as a result.

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Echoing a point I’ve been making.

Americans Need Social Media Guided by the US Constitution (Krieger)

This past Friday, Alex Jones was de-platformed from the last couple of third party tools he had been using to publicly communicate his message after Twitter and Apple permanently banned him and his website Infowars. This means an American citizen with a very large audience who played a meaningful role in the 2016 election, has been banned from all of the most widely used products of communication of our age: Twitter, Facebook, Google’s YouTube and Apple’s iTunes. You can point out he still has his radio show and website, and this is unquestionably true, but when it comes to the everyday tools most people interact with to receive information and communicate in 2018, Alex Jones has been thrown down the memory hole. Not because he was convicted of a crime or broke any laws, but because corporate executives decided he crossed an arbitrary line of their own creation.

It’s not against the law to be crazy or say crazy things in this country. It’s also not against the law to say hateful things. It’s pretty obvious the main reason Alex Jones was deleted from public discourse by Silicon Valley executives relates to his impact and popularity. [..] unabashed bigots like David Duke and Louis Farrakhan continue to have active presences across social media, and rightly so. The difference is neither David Duke nor Louis Farrakhan played a major role in the election of Donald Trump, whereas Alex Jones did. Jones and Infowars were having an outsized impact on the U.S. political discourse in a manner tech giant executives found threatening and offensive, so they collectively found excuses to silence him.

When the outrage mob consisting of politicians, corporate media outlets like CNN, and even his own employees, complained to Twitter’s Jack Dorsey on the issue of Alex Jones, he couldn’t hold the line on free speech because his company’s own policies are junk. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube should have a clear policy when it comes to speech, and it should be this: If it isn’t breaking the law – in other words, if it’s protected speech under the First Amendment – it stays up. Period. When you have corporate rules against “hate speech,” you’re relying on a concept that doesn’t really have any sort of legal standing when it comes to free speech in this country. There is no “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment of the U.S Constitution.

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They want to regulate themselves. Don’t let them.

Internet Industry Group Backs ‘National’ Data Privacy Approach (R.)

A group representing major internet companies including Facebook, Amazon.com and Alphabet said on Tuesday it backed modernizing U.S. data privacy rules but wants a national approach that would preempt California’s new regulations that take effect in 2020. The Internet Association, a group representing more than 40 major internet and technology firms including Netflix, Microsoft and Twitter, said “internet companies support an economy-wide, national approach to regulation that protects the privacy of all Americans.” The group said it backed principles that would ensure consumers should have “meaningful controls over how personal information they provide” is used and should be able to know who it is being shared with.

Consumers should also be able to seek deletion of data or request corrections or take personal information to another company that provides similar services and have reasonable access to the personal information they provide, it said. The group also told policymakers they should give companies flexibility in notifying individuals, set a “performance standard” on privacy and data security protections that avoids a prescriptive approach and set national data breach notification rules. Michael Beckerman, president and chief executive officer of the Internet Association, said in an interview the proposals were “very forward looking and very aggressive” and would push to ensure the new rules apply “economy wide.” He said the group “would be very active working with both the administration and Congress on putting pen to paper.”

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Leftwing and intelligence.

Armageddon Rides In The Balance (PCR)

For some time I have pointed out the paradox of the American liberal/progressive/left being allied with the CIA, FBI, military/security complex and deep state. Now leftist Ann Garrison has noticed the paradox of this alliance. She concludes that the left has lost its mind. Indeed, it has. Out of its hatred of Trump the left has united with the forces of evil and war that are leading to conflict with Russia. The left’s hatred of Trump shows that the American left has totally seperated from the interests of the working class, which elected Trump. The American left has abandoned the working class for the group victimizations and hatreds of Identity Politics. As Hillary put it, the working class comprises the “Trump deplorables.” The Democratic Party, like the Republicans, represents the ruling oligarchy.

I have explained that the leftwing lost its bearings when the Soviet Union collapsed and socialism gave way to neoliberal privatizations. The moral fury of the leftwing movement had to go somewhere, and it found its home in Identity Politics in which the white heterosexual male takes the place of the capitalist, and his victim groups—blacks, women, homosexuals, illegal immigrants—take the place of the working class. The consequences of the leftwing’s alliance with warmongers and liars is the leftwing’s loss of veracity. The left has endorsed a CIA orchestration—“Russiagate”—for which there is no known evidence, but which the left supports as proven truth. The purpose of “Russiagate” is to prevent President Trump from normalizing relations with Russia.

In these times when so many Americans are hard pressed, normal relations could adversely impact the budget and power of the military/security complex by reducing the “Russian threat.” If there is no real Russian threat, only an orchestrated perceived one, the question arises: why does the military/security complex have a taxpayer-supported annual budget of $1,000 billion dollars? The presstitutes have kept the truth from emerging that the “Russiagate” investigation has found no sign of a Trump/Putin plot to steal the 2016 presidential election from Hillary. Indeed, it has been proven beyond all questioning that the Hillary emails were not hacked but were downloaded on a thumb drive. This proof collapses the entire premise of “Russiagate.” Nevertheless, the hoax continues.

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He might as well be talking about himself.

Tsipras Warns “Europe Has No Future If It Doesn’t Admit Mistakes” (KTG)

Europe will have no future if the bloc does not admit mistakes in handling the financial and the migration crisis, Prime Minister warned the European Parliament on Tuesday. Alexis Tsipras said Europe could face an existential crisis over nationalism unless the bloc admits mistakes and its failure to handle a fiscal crisis and the deal with an influx of migrants effectively. The Greek Prime Minister said economic austerity pushed by European governments has fostered fear, racism and the emergence of the far right.“ The economic austerity pursued by European governments had fostered fear, racism and the emergence of the far right, he told lawmakers in the European parliament.

“The EU’s failure to give democratic and effective responses to modern challenges will lead irrevocably to the triumph of chauvinism and will rekindle nationalistic rivalry,” he said. “It will turn it into a fragmented continent, a continent without cohesion, without an international role, and without a future,” he said. Tsipras also criticised Europe’s handling of security and said this could have helped bolster support for far right parties. Several European countries including France and Belgium have seen attacks by Islamist militants in recent years. “The issue at stake is existential for Europe,” said Tsipras. “The handling so far of the financial crisis, the refugee crisis and a security crisis, has exposed huge deficiencies and contradictions.”

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“93% of farmers expressed concern that the merger will harm independent farmers and farming communities.”

Monsanto-Bayer Merger Hurts Farmers and Consumers (CP)

The U.S. Department of Justice issued a stern warning in its lawsuit against the conditionally-approved mega-merger between Bayer and Monsanto in June. The anti-competitive price effects of the merger would, according to the DOJ, “likely result in hundreds of millions of dollars per year in harm, raising costs to farmers and consumers.” The Justice Department warned that the combining of Bayer and Monsanto would reduce competition for vegetable seeds, likely driving up prices. Further, farmers might see prices for GMO cotton, canola, corn and soybean seeds increase, as well as price increases for herbicide and seed treatments. After imposing some limited divestments on Monsanto, the DOJ approved this merger, enabling Monsanto to hide its controversial name brand while giving Bayer anti-competitive control over seeds, pesticides, farmers and consumers worldwide.

But the harm to consumers and farmers will still exist. The DOJ is on the brink of essentially authorizing a monopoly. This is bad news for nearly everyone on the planet except Bayer and Monsanto executives and shareholders. Aside from a combined Bayer-Monsanto, only three other seed companies will be in the market manufacture and sell these products. Farmers overwhelmingly object to the merger. 93% of farmers expressed concern that the merger will harm independent farmers and farming communities. Farmers’ top three concerns were that Bayer/Monsanto “would use its dominance in one product to push sales of other products;” “control data about farm practices;” and that the merger will create “increased pressure for chemically dependent farming.”

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Meanwhile, super typhoon Mangkhut is heading straight for Hong Kong.

‘Monster’ Hurricane Florence To Pummel US Southeast For Days (R.)

Hurricane Florence, on track to become the first Category 4 storm to make a direct hit on North Carolina in six decades, howled closer to shore on Tuesday, threatening to unleash deadly pounding surf, days of torrential rain and severe flooding. Fierce winds and massive waves are expected to lash the coasts of North and South Carolina and Virginia even before Florence makes landfall by early Friday, bringing a storm surge as much as 13 feet (4 meters), the National Hurricane Center in Miami warned. Catastrophic floods could follow if the storm stalls inland, it said. Although Florence was still days from arrival, authorities took extraordinary measures to move people out of harm’s way. More than 1 million residents have been ordered to evacuate from the coastline of the three states, while university campuses, schools and factories were being shuttered.

The U.S. Coast Guard closed ports in Wilmington and Morehead City, North Carolina and Hampton Roads, Virginia to inbound vessels greater than 500 tons and was requiring vessels of that size to leave if they did not have permission to be in the ports. Packing maximum sustained winds of 140 miles per hour (225 km per hour), the storm ranked as a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale and was expected to grow stronger and larger over the next few days, the NHC said. “This storm is a monster,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said. “Even if you’ve ridden out storms before, this one is different. Don’t bet your life on riding out a monster.” He cited forecasts showing Florence was likely to stall over North Carolina, “bringing days and days of rain.”


Graph: weather.com

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