Jul 042019
 


Pablo Picasso Still life 1936

 

Trump Says US Should Start Manipulating The Dollar (AP)
China Says Existing US Tariffs Must Be Removed For A Trade Deal (R.)
China and Britain Wage War Of Words Over Hong Kong (AFP)
Moody’s: UK Faces Economic Meltdown After No Deal Brexit (Ind.)
UK Swaps May for Johnson, But No Change in Brexit Stalemate – Steve Keen (Sp.)
Brainwashing Under Freedom (Cook)
George Osborne ‘Aiming For New Role As Head Of IMF (G.)
US New-Vehicle Sales Fall to 1999 Levels (WS)
Boeing Offers $100 Million To Help 737 MAX Crash Families (BBC)
US Refusal To Give F-35s To Turkey Would Be ‘Robbery’ – Erdogan (R.)
The EU Has A New Batch Of Unelected Leaders (Ryan)
As Families Flee Paris, Fingers Point At Airbnb (AFP)

 

 

Reserve curreny status is not a free for all. But if you insist on learning that the hard way…

Trump Says US Should Start Manipulating The Dollar (AP)

President Donald Trump on Wednesday accused China and Europe of playing a “big currency manipulation game.” He said the United States should match that effort, a move that directly contradicts official U.S. policy not to manipulate the dollar’s value to gain trade advantages. In a tweet, the president said if America doesn’t act, the country will continue “being the dummies who sit back and politely watch as other countries continue to play their games — as they have for so many years.” Trump’s own Treasury Department in May found that no country meets the criteria of being labeled a currency manipulator, although the report did put China and eight other countries on a watch list.


A country manipulates its currency when it drives down the value to make its exports cheaper and foreign imports more expensive. As a candidate in 2016, Trump repeatedly charged that China was manipulating its currency and as president he would immediately label China as a currency manipulator. However, after taking office, Trump’s Treasury Department has issued five reports on the subject, required by law every six months. In each report it said no country met the criteria to be labeled a currency manipulator. Trump’s tweet seemed to have no impact in currency markets, a situation that would likely change if Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin began threatening to use currency manipulation to drive down the dollar’s value.

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Feels like they’re far away from a deal.

China Says Existing US Tariffs Must Be Removed For A Trade Deal (R.)

Existing U.S. tariffs will have to be removed if there is to be a trade deal between Beijing and Washington, China’s commerce ministry said on Thursday. The leaders of the two countries agreed last weekend to relaunch trade talks that had stalled in May after U.S. officials accused China of pulling back from commitments made in the text of a pact negotiators had said was nearly finished. Trade teams from both countries are in contact, commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng told a regular media briefing.


To get talks restarted, U.S. President Donald Trump had agreed not to put tariffs on about $300 billion in additional Chinese imports and ease curbs on Chinese tech giant Huawei. The United States now has tariffs of 25% on $250 billion of Chinese goods, ranging from furniture to semiconductors. China welcomes the U.S. decision not to slap new tariffs on its goods, Gao said, when asked how long the trade truce can last.

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Britain has only a small shrill voice left.

China and Britain Wage War Of Words Over Hong Kong (AFP)

London summoned Beijing’s ambassador for a dressing down Wednesday in a rapidly escalating diplomatic feud over protests in Hong Kong as China told Britain to keep its “hands off” the city and “show respect”. The demonstrations sweeping the former British colony have also revived tensions inherent in the two sides’ historic agreement on the global financial hub’s handover to Chinese rule 22 years ago. Hong Kong enjoys broad freedoms and rights not seen in mainland China under a doctrine known as “one country, two systems”. But fears and frustrations over Beijing’s gradual tightening of those liberties has spilled over into mass demonstrations against a now-stalled draft law on extradition from Hong Kong to China.

On Monday, groups of mostly young, hardline protesters stormed and ransacked Hong Kong’s legislature, daubing it with graffiti such as “HK is not China”. British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt — one of two candidates to become Britain’s next prime minister — on Wednesday took the global lead in condemning China’s handling of its “special administrative region”. Hunt called on Beijing not to use the protests as a “pretext for repressions” and warned of “serious consequences” if China breaches the commitments it made to London decades ago under the terms of the handover. His comments provoked a cascade of condemnations from China that began with its foreign ministry in Beijing and continued with its embassy in London.

“He seems to be fantasising in the faded glory of British colonialism and in the bad habit of gesticulating while looking down on other countries’ affairs,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular briefing in Beijing. “I need to re-emphasise that Hong Kong has now returned to its motherland.”

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Boris will simply deny it.

Moody’s: UK Faces Economic Meltdown After No Deal Brexit (Ind.)

Crashing out of the EU would propel Britain into a recession, a top global credit rating agency has predicted, adding its voice to similarly stark warnings from economists. Even Jeremy Hunt – who says that as prime minister he would take the UK out of the EU without a deal if necessary – has admitted that doing so could cause almost as much economic damage as the 2008 financial crisis, which led to a severe recession and put 2.7 million people out of work. “We believe that, without an agreement, the UK economy would likely enter a recession,” says the latest yearly analysis of Britain’s creditworthiness by Moody’s, one of the world’s three biggest providers of government and company credit scores to investors.

“The British pound, which has already weakened since the Brexit vote, would come under renewed pressure. Inflation would rise temporarily … squeezing real wages over the first two to three years following Brexit. This in turn would weigh on consumer spending and depress growth.” The UK government itself, Moody’s noted, estimated in November that leaving the EU without an agreement would reduce GDP by between 6.3 and 10.7 per cent over the course of 15 years. The risks of such an abrupt departure have risen in recent months, not least because both men in the running to replace Theresa May insist they are ready to go through with it on 31 October.

At the same time, the global economy is sputtering, sapped by tensions stemming from Donald Trump’s trade war, mainly with China but also threatening Europe and Mexico. In a sign of things to come, weaker demand from abroad was a key driver behind an unexpectedly sharp contraction in UK manufacturing in June.

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“..what he is saying is going to be saving of money of something like $5 billion will actually reduce the UK’s GDP by $5 billion. So to begin with, it is a stupid idea.”

UK Swaps May for Johnson, But No Change in Brexit Stalemate – Steve Keen (Sp.)

Boris Johnson has said that the existing system has led to “inevitable waste” as funds were simply “shoved out of the door”, calling to abolish or merge several government departments such as Justice, Business, Transport, International Trade, Work and Pensions, and Brexit in order to save 8 billion pounds if he is elected prime minister. In your view, what does Mr Johnson mean by these two terms “inevitable waste” and “shoved out of the door”?

Steve Keen: What he means is that he doesn’t understand bureaucracy nor does he doesn’t understand macroeconomics. Because the first thing he is saying is we have to save money. This is the attitude that individuals have that if they spend less than they earn then they can save money and that gives them a buffer for the future. But at the national level what you spend becomes somebody else’s income. And if the government tries to save money, what it does is spend less money, and by spending less money, GDP falls by initially precisely as much as the government stops spending. So what he is saying is going to be saving of money of something like $5 billion will actually reduce the UK’s GDP by $5 billion. So to begin with, it is a stupid idea.

Secondly, when these ideas about rearranging bureaucracies are imposed from the top, the political top – I have had personal experience of watching this happen – it doesn’t save money, it causes utter confusion inside the bureaucracy. Normally what happens is that any fall in saving, it’s courtesy of things being done less well in the future. And I think that’s certainly going to be the case where he was talking about handing across some elements of foreign affairs to the Home Office or things like that when the Home Office is notorious because its basic role is to be rude to foreigners, which is hardly the sort of thing one wants in foreign affairs. But of course, that is what Boris himself was accused of when he was Foreign Affairs Minister.

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“The plot to keep Corbyn out of power.”

Brainwashing Under Freedom (Cook)

Even the best designed systems have flaws, especially when the maintenance of the system’s image as benevolent is considered vitally important. It wasn’t that Corbyn’s election had shown Britain’s political system was representative and accountable. It was simply evidence that corporate power had made itself vulnerable to a potential accident by preferring to work out of sight, in the shadows, to maintain the illusion of democracy. Corbyn was that accident. Corbyn’s success also wasn’t evidence that the power structure he challenged had weakened. The system was still in place and it still had a chokehold on the political and media establishments that exist to uphold its interests.

Which is why it has been mobilising these forces endlessly to damage Corbyn and avert the risk of a further, even more disastrous “accident”, such as his becoming prime minister. Listing the ways the state-corporate media have sought to undermine Corbyn would sound preposterous to anyone not deeply immersed in these media-constructed narratives. But almost all of us have been exposed to this kind of “brainwashing under freedom” since birth. The initial attacks on Corbyn were for being poorly dressed, sexist, unstatesmanlike, a national security threat, a Communist spy – relentless, unsubstantiated smears the like of which no other party leader had ever faced.

But over time the allegations became even more outrageously propagandistic as the campaign to undermine him not only failed but backfired – not least, because Labour membership rocketed under Corbyn to make the party the largest in Europe. As the establishment’s need to keep him away from power has grown more urgent and desperate so has the nature of the attacks.

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Unfortunately, he would fit right in.

George Osborne ‘Aiming For New Role As Head Of IMF (G.)

George Osborne is considering putting his name forward to replace Christine Lagarde as the head of the International Monetary Fund, according to reports, a move that would see him become the first Briton to lead the Washington-based body. The former chancellor – and current Evening Standard editor – has told allies he would be well suited to succeed Lagarde, the Financial Times reported, after she was picked to lead the European Central Bank this week. Such a development would mark a dramatic return to a major public role for Osborne three years after he was unceremoniously sacked as chancellor in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, facing a barrage of criticism over a botched campaign to have the UK remain in the EU.

It would also mark the first time in the 75-year history of the IMF that a Briton has led the global body, which acts as the lender of last resort to nations in financial distress. In the unwritten rules surrounding the formation of the Bretton Woods institution, a European has always held the top job, while an American has led the World Bank – its twin institution, which aims to encourage financial stability, international trade and sustainable economic growth. Osborne could face stiff competition from other highly qualified candidates at a time when Britain’s place in the world has been coloured by internal disputes over leaving the EU, clouding the UK’s international reputation.

Other contenders may include Mark Carney, the Bank of England governor, who was installed by Osborne. Although Canadian by birth, he holds Irish and UK citizenship. Carney is due to leave Threadneedle Street early next year.

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Wolf Richter thinks this is bad. I do not.

US New-Vehicle Sales Fall to 1999 Levels (WS)

Ford waited until today to report its second-quarter new-vehicle deliveries in the US. So now we know what happened to total US auto sales in the second quarter and in the first half this year, and it wasn’t pretty. New-vehicle deliveries, fleet and retail combined, fell 1.5% in Q2 compared to Q2 last year, to 4.5 million vehicles; and in the first half fell by 2.4% to 8.4 million vehicles. This puts new vehicle sales on track to fall below 17 million units for the year. This would be the worst level since 2014. According to my own estimates, new vehicle sales in 2019 will decline to 16.95 million units, roughly on par with 1999, in a horribly mature market, whose two-decade stagnation was interrupted by the excitement of a collapse and recovery back to stagnation levels:

Ford, like GM, stopped reporting monthly vehicle sales, and now only reports on a quarterly basis. In the second quarter, reported this morning, sales fell 4.1% to 650,336 units. This put Ford into third place, behind GM and Toyota. Carmageddon: This is the big shift where Americans refuse to buy new “cars” and instead are buying new pickups, SUVs, compact SUVs, and vans. And they have far higher price tags and profit margins than cars. Ford’s car sales plunged another 21.4% to just 110,195 units in Q2, continuing their multi-year collapse.

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As they refuse to talk to the families. The height of cynicism. Note: just one 737MAX costs more than $100 million.

Boeing Offers $100 Million To Help 737 MAX Crash Families (BBC)

Boeing is giving $100m to help families affected by the two crashes of the company’s 737 Max planes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. The payment, stretching over several years, is independent of lawsuits filed in the wake of the disasters, which together killed 346 people. The money will support education and living expenses for families and community programmes, Boeing said. Lawyers for victims’ families dismissed the move. [..] Boeing said in a statement on Wednesday that the “funds will support education, hardship and living expenses for impacted families, community programs, and economic development in impacted communities. Boeing will partner with local governments and non-profit organizations to address these needs. This initial investment will be made over multiple years.”

Dennis Muilenburg, the chairman and chief executive, added: “We at Boeing are sorry for the tragic loss of lives in both of these accidents and these lives lost will continue to weigh heavily on our hearts and on our minds for years to come. “The families and loved ones of those on board have our deepest sympathies, and we hope this initial outreach can help bring them comfort,” he said. Nomi Husain, a Texas-based lawyer representing some of the families of victims of ET 302, said Boeing’s payment “doesn’t come anywhere close to compensating the families for what has been taken from them”.

He told the BBC’s transport correspondent Tom Burridge that “some of our clients are not interested in financial compensation at this point” and that Boeing “put profit over safety to get their number-one selling plane to market” – a claim the planemaker strongly denies. Mr Husain has so far filed seven cases on behalf of families, with some of those lawsuits seeking damages of $276m. He estimated that about 50 lawsuits had so far been filed by victims’ families.

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Beware of Erdogan.

US Refusal To Give F-35s To Turkey Would Be ‘Robbery’ – Erdogan (R.)

A refusal by the United States to hand over to Turkey the F-35 fighters jets which it has bought would be “robbery”, media reports on Thursday cited President Tayyip Erdogan as saying in a dispute over Ankara’s purchase of Russian air defences. US officials have told Reuters the Trump administration still plans to impose sanctions on Turkey and remove it from the F-35 programme if its NATO ally acquires the Russian S-400 missile defence system. “If you have a customer and that customer is making payments like clockwork, how can you not give that customer their goods? The name of that would be robbery,” Hurriyet newspaper quoted Erdogan as telling reporters during a visit to China.


He said that Turkey had so far paid 1.4 billion dollars for the F-35s and that four jets had been handed over, with Turkish pilots going to the United States for training. “We have made an agreement to buy 116 F-35s. We are not just a market, we are also joint producers. We produce some of the parts in Turkey,” he added. After meeting US President Donald Trump last weekend in Japan on the sidelines of a G20 summit, Erdogan said Ankara would be spared damaging US sanctions once Russia’s S-400 air defence system started arriving in Turkey in the coming days. If the United States removes Turkey from the F-35 program, and imposes sanctions on the NATO ally, it would be one of the most significant ruptures in recent history in the relationship between the two nations.

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“How many Europeans, if you told them something happened at the European Commission Security Council, would actually be able to tell you right off the bat, that this council does not exist? Not many.”

The EU Has A New Batch Of Unelected Leaders (Ryan)

For a brief period on Tuesday evening, there was speculation online of impending doom as US VP Mike Pence canceled plans for an “urgent meeting.” When Twitter reports said the “European Commission Security Council” was also called for an “emergency meeting,” it started to sound serious. Maybe the world really was ending. However, the European Commission Security Council does not actually exist – and people were getting worked up over nothing. For a solid five minutes, I too was convinced that it must be a real body I had never heard of. This is the EU we’re talking about – one could be forgiven for confusion. EU leaders, much like their American counterparts, spend quite a lot of their time pontificating to the rest of the world about democracy – but where is the democracy in the process by which these new faces of the EU were selected?

There is none, of course. No votes were cast, no debates were held, no elections took place. It would be no exaggeration to suggest that the vast majority of Europeans hadn’t even the foggiest notion that these switches were going to happen. When you have no say in something, it’s impossible to feel connected to it. So, who are the anointed ones? German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen will head the European Commission. An ally of Angela Merkel, she is a major proponent of an EU super-army. Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell Fontelles will run the EU’s foreign policy. Christine Lagarde will move from the IMF to head the European Central Bank. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel will replace Tusk as European Council president – and no one elected any of them.

In March, French President Emmanuel Macron proposed the creation of a “European Agency for the Protection of Democracies,” a “common border force,” a “European asylum office,” and a “European Council for Internal Security.” If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail – and if all you have is unelected neoliberal bureaucrats, the solution to every problem looks like a new mega-agency or supranational body answerable to no one. The brief furore over the fake ‘European Commission Security Council’ was the perfect demonstration of how bloated and disconnected the EU really is from the citizens it is supposed to serve. How many Europeans, if you told them something happened at the European Commission Security Council, would actually be able to tell you right off the bat, that this council does not exist? Not many.

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Schools close, stores disappear, etc etc. Welcome to Disneyland.

As Families Flee Paris, Fingers Point At Airbnb (AFP)

The bells will ring for the last time this week at Vaugirard elementary school in central Paris, the latest school in the city to close as spiralling property prices drive families out of the capital. Just 51 students were enrolled this year at Vaugirard, a stark illustration of the steady decline in numbers at many schools in central Paris which some parents and teachers blame on the surge of home-renting giant Airbnb. “The centre of Paris is basically becoming a vast Airbnb hotel, and there are fewer and fewer residents,” Jean-Jacques Renard, vice president of the FCPE parents’ association, told AFP.

Real estate prices in Paris and most Western capitals have soared in recent years, making it harder for middle-class couples to find family-sized apartments in a city already known for its cramped living conditions. While record low interest rates and a shortage of housing have fuelled the boom, fingers are increasingly being pointed at Airbnb. Its popularity has encouraged thousands of property owners to turn Paris flats or commercial spaces into short-term rentals that are far more profitable than traditional leases. The number of Paris lodgings that are not permanently occupied jumped by nearly 30,000 in the five years to 2017, “likely due to the development of short-term rentals,” according to a report by the Paris Urbanism Institute last year.

[..] With 65,000 listings for a population of 2.2 million in the 20 districts that fall within the city’s limits, compared with 50,000 for the 8.5 million people spread across New York’s five boroughs, Paris is Airbnb’s single biggest market. By contrast with Berlin, where many Airbnb offerings are for a room in an apartment, nearly 90 percent of the Paris listings are for an entire home, according to the Paris Urbanism Institute. City officials accuse Airbnb of effectively siphoning thousands of apartments off the market. “We don’t have a problem with vacation rentals, but we do when we lose an apartment that’s turned into an Airbnb rental,” said Maxime Cochard, an advisor to Ian Brossat, the deputy mayor in charge of housing.

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Jun 152019
 


Arnold Böcklin Mermaids at play 1886

 

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

 

 

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

Freeing Julian Assange: Part Two (Suzie Dawson)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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More Russiagate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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From Skripal to Iran.

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

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


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

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And it works!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Virtual wealth in a virtual reality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Really?

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

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


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

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

Meanwhile, over on Planet Japan (Simon Black)

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

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

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

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Jun 142019
 


Henri Matisse Woman with a hat 1905

 

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

 

 

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

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

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


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

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Another hearing today.

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

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

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

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

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

The Hitlerization of Jeremy Corbyn – Among Others (Hopkins)

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

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

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

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Thanks to the Fed.

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

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

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

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Velocity of money and inflation.

The Fed Is Pushing On A String (Roberts)

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

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

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Time to start defaulting?

The State of the Canadian Debt Slaves (WS)

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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And what about all the others?

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

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


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

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All governments blow housing bubbles.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

School’s Purpose is Indoctrination (Carbone)

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


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

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But who ever measures sulfur oxides?

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

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

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

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Jun 102019
 
 June 10, 2019  Posted by at 9:54 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Georges Seurat Bathers at Asnières 1884

 

Stupidity, Evil and the Decline of the US (Doug Casey)
The Great Depression: A Real Estate Boom Gone Bust (Vague)
Game Over (Sven Henrich)
ECB Floats Rate Cut Trial Balloon (ZH)
Boris Johnson Pledges Major Tax Cut For Wealthy (Ind.)
Boris Johnson Is ‘Poisoning Our Politics’ – Tory Leadership Rival (Ind.)
Mike Pompeo Tells Jewish Leaders He Would ‘Push Back’ Against Corbyn (G.)
Tulsi Gabbard Pushes No War Agenda – And The Media Is Out To Get Her (SCF)
One Million March In Hong Kong To Protest China Extradition Bill (R.)
Hong Kong Plunged Into Political Crisis (R.)
Boeing 737 Max Seen as ‘Airplane Non Grata’ by Wary Travelers (BBG)
Boeing Used To Getting Its Way, Grip On Congress Is Legendary (Ralph Nader)
Chris Hedges Talks To UN Special Rapporteur About Assange (RT)

 

 

“To the Romans, virtues were things like fortitude, nobility and courage. Those virtues are true to the root of the word. When people think of virtues today they think of faith, hope, charity—which are not related to the word’s root meaning. ”

Stupidity, Evil and the Decline of the US (Doug Casey)

Regrettably, the US is no longer the land of the free and the home of the brave. It’s become the land of whipped and whimpering dogs that roll over on their backs and wet themselves when confronted with authority. Now, why are Americans this way? Let me give you two reasons—though there are many more. First, there’s a simple absence of virtue. Let’s look at the word virtue. It comes from the Latin vir, which means manly, even heroic. To the Romans, virtues were things like fortitude, nobility and courage. Those virtues are true to the root of the word. When people think of virtues today they think of faith, hope, charity—which are not related to the word’s root meaning. These may pass as virtues in a religious sense.

But, outside a Sunday school, they’re actually vices. This deserves a discussion, because I know it will shock many. But I’ll save that for another time. An absence of virtues and the presence of subtle vices is insinuated throughout society. Worse, overt vices like avarice and especially envy are encouraged. Envy, in particular will become a big vice in the years to come. It’s similar to jealousy, but worse. Jealousy says “You have something I want; I’ll try to take it from you”. Envy says “You have something I want. If I can’t take it from you, I’ll destroy it, and hurt you if I can.” Jealousy and envy seem to motivate most Democratic Party presidential candidates. No wonder America is in rapid decline.

A second reason is unsound philosophy. The reigning philosophy in the US used to be based on individualism and personal freedom. It’s now statism and collectivism. But most people don’t think about philosophy—or even have a consistent worldview. More than ever, they do what seems like a good idea at the time. The average American has problems. But his rulers are something else again. Most of the people running the US are either knaves or fools. How do we know if we are dealing with a knave or a fool? In other words, are you dealing with somebody who is evil or just stupid? To give a recent, but classic, example, are you dealing with a Dick Cheney or a George W. Bush? Do you prefer the knavish Obama, or the knavish Biden? The foolish Trump, or the foolish Pence. Not much of a real choice anywhere…

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Excerpt from A Brief History of Doom by Richard Vague.

The Great Depression: A Real Estate Boom Gone Bust (Vague)

Contrary to the explanation found in many histories of the Great Depression, that calamity was a massive real estate boom gone bust. Residential construction more than tripled, and the housing boom was every bit as large as in the Great Recession on a per capita basis. In Manhattan more skyscrapers were built in the late 1920s than during any other comparable span in its history, and the skylines of most major U.S. cities are still testimony to the excesses of that era: “The Great Depression brought a level of misery rarely seen in American history. … [and] was a massive residential and commercial real estate crisis. The financial records of the 1920s, which have largely been overlooked, indelibly show this. During the 1920s, annual housing and commercial real estate construction almost tripled — and nearly all of it was financed by debt.

“This explosion in residential and commercial construction lending, aug≠mented by lending for utilities and stock purchases, created the euphoria of the Roaring Twenties, the jazz age of robust spending and celebration. Com≠panies used the new money from loans to expand and employ more people. “The acceleration in construction resulted in such extensive overbuilding that by the final years of the decade, before the stock market crash, thousands of newly erected office buildings, houses, and apartments sat empty. Office vacancy rates rose, and residential mortgage foreclosures nearly doubled in the final years of the decade.’ As in other cases, this crisis was inevitable be≠fore it was obvious. The only question, and the only area where the president and the Federal Reserve could still have a discretionary impact, was the length and severity of that correction. …

“The iconic structures of American skylines form the silhouette of the Great Depression: New York’s Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, and RCA Building; Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, Wrigley Building, and Tribune Tower; Philadelphia’s PSFS Building; Los Angeles’s City Hall; Dallas’s Cotton Exchange Building; Detroit’s Fischer Building; and Houston’s Gulf Building. These are enduring architectural feats of the 1920s, vestiges of the real estate eruption that came before the fall. Many were speculative projects, unsupported by actual real estate demand; begun toward the end of the 1920s, when loans were still available; and finished after the crash, when lenders had little choice but to make funds available to complete construction or else see their entire loan go bad. None was financially successful for its original investors. They remained partly or largely empty for a decade or more after completion, as would hundreds of others.”

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“Everything every central banker has uttered last year was completely wrong. ”

Game Over (Sven Henrich)

Game over. The grand central bank experiment of the last 10 years has ended in utter and complete failure. The games of cheap money and constant intervention that have brought you record global debt to the tune of $250 trillion and record wealth inequality are about to embark on a new round of peddling blue meth again. Australia has already cut, so has India. The ECB is talking about it, markets are already pricing in multiple Fed cuts. The new global rate cutting cycle begins anew before the last one ever ended. Brace yourselves as no one, absolutely no one, can know how this will turn out. Absolutely staggering. We are witnessing a historic unraveling here. Everything every central banker has uttered last year was completely wrong.


Every projection they made over the last 10 years has been wrong. No wonder Jay Powell wants to toss the dot plot. It’s a public record of failure. Why place confidence in people who are staring at the ruins of the policies they unleashed on the world and are about to unleash again? All the distortions of 10 years of cheap money, debt, wealth inequality, zombie companies, negative debt, TINA, you name it, will all be further exacerbated by hapless and scared central bankers whose only solution to failure is to embark on the same cheap money train again. All under the banner to “extend the business cycle” at all costs. Never asking whether they should nor considering the consequences. But since they are not elected by the people and face zero consequences for failure they don’t have to consider the collateral damage they inflict.

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Take away their powers or else.

ECB Floats Rate Cut Trial Balloon (ZH)

Last week’s non-committal ECB announcement caught markets by surprise, with the Euro jumping despite Mario Draghi’s best attempts to signal further easing even as he hinted at growing “downside risks”, prompting speculation that the ECB may have lost the last shreds of its credibility and leading Rabobank to publish a piece titled “Whatever It Takes” > “Whatever”.” Not used to being spurred by markets, Mario Draghi refused to take such aggression against his legacy quietly – especially as the former Goldman partner is set to retire shortly – and on Sunday, the European Central Bank used its traditional trial balloon conduit, Reuters, which reported that ECB policymakers “are open to cutting the ECB’s policy rate again” if economic growth weakens in the rest of the year and a strong euro hurts a bloc already bearing the brunt of a global trade war, clearly hoping that this jawboning would be sufficient to slam the euro (it wasn’t with the EURUSD basically unchanged from its Friday close).

As a reminder, last Thursday the ECB said that its interest rates would stay “at their present levels” until mid-2020 but President Mario Draghi added rate setters had started a discussion about a possible cut or fresh bond purchases to stimulate inflation. This conflicting message failed to convince some investors, who saw it as too tenuous a commitment to more stimulus, sending the euro rallying to a nearly 3 month high of $1.1347 against the U.S. dollar. So in an attempt to convince the skeptics, Reuters cited its traditionally anonymous “two sources” familiar with the ECB’s policy discussions, who said a rate cut was firmly in play if the bloc’s economy was to stagnate again after expanding by 0.4% in the first quarter of the year.

“If inflation and growth slow, then a rate cut is warranted,” said one of the sources, who requested anonymity because the ECB’s deliberations are confidential. The problem is that no matter what Draghi says, or “floats”, the market is concerned that the ECB is approaching the end of its credible ammo: with the ECB’s deposit rate already negative 40 bps and Germany’s yield hitting all time low. In this context, countering the euro’s strength, rather than lowering already rock-bottom borrowing costs, would be the main reason for a further cut to that deposit rate, one of the sources said.

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Because the Tory members, and they’re wealthy, decide who is the next PM.

Boris Johnson Pledges Major Tax Cut For Wealthy (Ind.)

Boris Johnson has pledged to cut income tax for three million higher earners, in a move that would cost £9.6bn a year. The current frontrunner in the Tory leadership contest said he would raise the threshold for the 40p tax band from £50,000 to £80,000 if he becomes prime minister. The move would be paid for through money currently set aside for no-deal Brexit planning and by rises in National Insurance. Mr Johnson said: “We should be raising thresholds of income tax – so that we help the huge numbers that have been captured in the higher rate by fiscal drag.” But the announcement sparked immediate criticism, including from senior Conservatives.


Nicky Morgan, the chair of the Commons Treasury committee, said: “The question for Boris is why is this a priority when you could be obviously lifting more people out of paying income tax – the lower rate taxpayers – or you could be give people receiving child benefit an extra £15 a week.” And Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, said: “If you want to badge yourself as a One Nation Conservative, you focus on tax cuts and investment in infrastructure to help the lowest paid and the people in most difficulty in all parts of this country. That’s not what he’s doing.”

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Can it be more severely poisoned yet?

Boris Johnson Is ‘Poisoning Our Politics’ – Tory Leadership Rival (Ind.)

Conservative leadership contender Rory Stewart has launched a furious broadside at rival Boris Johnson, accusing the former foreign secretary of not being honest about his Brexit plans and challenging him to rule out suspending parliament to force no deal through. Speaking to The Independent, Mr Stewart said the leadership front-runner was trying to “out-Farage Farage” with an undeliverable plan to renegotiate Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement which was designed to usher in no-deal Brexit but would instead trigger a disastrous general election. And he blasted Johnson’s “swaggering machismo” over Brexit, which he said risked poisoning the UK’s relations with Europe.

The verbal assault came ahead of the formal launch of the contest to replace Ms May at No 10, with the official line-up of candidates to be confirmed after nominations close on Monday. Previously-fancied Michael Gove found his campaign mired in controversy over his admission of past cocaine use, with the environment secretary forced to fend off allegations of hypocrisy and deny having lied on security forms when entering parliament and travelling to the US. He dismissed as “foolish” suggestions that he might be barred from going to the US as prime minister.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson – who picked up backing from cabinet ministers Chris Grayling and Alun Cairns and former Tory deputy chair James Cleverly – broke his campaign silence with a Sunday Times interview in which he said he would withhold Britain’s £39 billion Brexit divorce bill until Brussels agreed better terms for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The threat brought an immediate response from France, where a source close to President Emmanuel Macron said it would be regarded as “a failure of international commitments equivalent to a sovereign debt default” – something that could send the UK’s credit rating tumbling.

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Guess they couldn’t get him with sex smears.

Mike Pompeo Tells Jewish Leaders He Would ‘Push Back’ Against Corbyn (G.)

Labour has accused Donald Trump’s top official, Mike Pompeo, of trying to stop Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister, after he was caught on tape telling Jewish leaders that he would “push back” against the party’s leadership. In a recording leaked to the Washington Post, the US secretary of state was asked what he would do if Corbyn were to be elected as prime minister, after sustained criticism over Labour’s handling of accusations of antisemitism within the party. The questioner said: “Would you be willing to work with us to take on actions if life becomes very difficult for Jews in the UK?” In response, Pompeo appeared to suggest that he would seek to intervene in the debate before Corbyn had a chance to become prime minister.

“It could be that Mr Corbyn manages to run the gauntlet and get elected,” he said on the recording. “It’s possible. You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back. We will do our level best. It’s too risky and too important and too hard once it’s already happened.” A Labour spokesman said: “President Trump and his officials’ attempts to decide who will be Britain’s next prime minister are an entirely unacceptable interference in the UK’s democracy.” He added that the party was “fully committed to the support, defence and celebration of the Jewish community and is implacably opposed to antisemitism in any form”.

Pompeo’s comments emerged after Trump turned down Corbyn’s request for a meeting during his state visit to the UK last week, saying the leader was “somewhat of a negative force”. Corbyn joined protests outside Trump’s press conference with Theresa May, where he pledged to oppose the US president’s drive for greater access for US health companies to NHS contracts. The comments come at a time when Corbyn’s team are nervous about the latest attempts to oust him from within the party over the issues of antisemitism and Brexit, after several senior figures came out in support of a second referendum.

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No sex smears for Tulsi either, but Russia might do.

Tulsi Gabbard Pushes No War Agenda – And The Media Is Out To Get Her (SCF)

Tulsi Gabbard could well be the only genuine antiwar candidate that might truly be electable in the past fifty years, and that is why the war party is out to get her. Two weeks ago, the Daily Beast displayed a headline: “Tulsi Gabbard’s Campaign Is Being Boosted by Putin Apologists.” The article also had a sub-headline: “The Hawaii congresswoman is quickly becoming the top candidate for Democrats who think the Russian leader is misunderstood.” The obvious smear job was picked by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, television’s best known Hillary Clinton clone, who brought it up in an interview with Gabbard shortly thereafter. He asked whether Gabbard was “softer” on Putin than were some of the other candidates.


Gabbard answered: “It’s unfortunate that you’re citing that article, George, because it’s a whole lot of fake news.” Politico the reported the exchange and wrote: “’Fake news’ is a favorite phrase of President Donald Trump…,” putting the ball back in Tulsi’s court rather than criticizing Stephanopoulos’s pointless question. Soon thereafter CNN produced its own version of Tulsi the Russophile, observing that Gabbard was using a Trump expression to “attack the credibility of negative coverage.” Tulsi responded “Stephanopoulos shamelessly implied that because I oppose going to war with Russia, I’m not a loyal American, but a Putin puppet. It just shows what absurd lengths warmongers in the media will go, to try to destroy the reputation of anyone who dares oppose their warmongering.”

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Impressive crowds.

One Million March In Hong Kong To Protest China Extradition Bill (R.)

Organizers said the turnout outstripped a demonstration in 2003 when 500,000 hit the streets to challenge government plans for tighter national security laws. Those laws were later shelved and a key government official forced to resign. Sunday’s outpouring was already raising the pressure on the administration of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and her official backers in Beijing. “She has to withdraw the bill and resign,” veteran Democratic Party lawmaker James To told crowds outside the city’s parliament and government headquarters on Sunday night. “The whole of Hong Kong is against her.” After To spoke, thousands were still arriving, having started the march five hours earlier, filling four lanes of a major thoroughfare.


Some sat in a nearby park singing “Hallelujah” while police increased their numbers around the area. Lam had yet to comment on the rally. The demonstration capped weeks of growing outrage in the business, diplomatic and legal communities, which fear corrosion of Hong Kong’s legal autonomy and the difficulty of ensuring basic judicial protections in mainland China. The protest descended into violence in the early hours of Monday as several hundred protesters clashed with a similar number of police outside the city’s parliament. Protesters charged police lines to try to force their way into the Legislative Council building, and police charged back, using pepper spray, after warning the protesters. The standoff ended in the early hours of Monday.

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What say you, Xi?

Hong Kong Plunged Into Political Crisis (R.)

Riot police surrounded Hong Kong’s parliament early on Monday after what had been a peaceful million-strong protest against an extradition bill descended into running clashes between police and protesters. Several hundred riot police armed with batons, shields, tear gas guns and pepper spray sealed off the Legislative Council as a similar number of protesters charged their lines shortly after midnight, Reuters witnesses said. Police used batons and fired pepper spray at protesters, who still managed to close off part of a nearby road. Several people on both sides appeared to be injured, and ambulances were called. Metal barriers were left twisted and torn in the clashes.


The Legislative Council is where debates will start on Wednesday to pass a new government bill that will allow suspects wanted in mainland China to be sent across the border for trial. Earlier on Sunday, hundreds of thousands had jammed Hong Kong’s streets to protest the bill in the biggest demonstration in years. Many said they feared it put the city’s vaunted legal independence at risk. The rallies — and the violence — plunge the global financial hub into a fresh political crisis, with marchers and opposition leaders demanding the bill be shelved and that the city’s Beijing-backed Chief Executive Carrie Lam resign. After seven hours of marching, organisers estimated 1,030,000 people took part, far outstripping a demonstration in 2003 when half that number hit the streets to successfully challenge government plans for tighter national security laws.

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“Travelers aren’t merely scared of the 737 Max, they’re terrified of it..”

Boeing 737 Max Seen as ‘Airplane Non Grata’ by Wary Travelers (BBG)

U.S. airlines have their work cut out for them in trying to coax frightened travelers back onto Boeing Co.’s 737 Max once a worldwide grounding ends. At least 20% of U.S. travelers say they will definitely avoid the plane in the first six months after flights resume, according to a study led by consultant Henry Harteveldt. More than 40% said they’d be willing to take pricier or less convenient flights to stay off the Max. A separate UBS Group AG survey found that 70% would hesitate today to book a flight on Boeing’s best-selling jet. “Travelers aren’t merely scared of the 737 Max, they’re terrified of it,” Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research Group, said in the report, which was released Tuesday.


“The 737 Max is, for now, an ‘airplane non grata’ — a plane passengers do not want to fly.” The surveys underscore the challenge looming for Boeing as it seeks to regain public trust after two deadly crashes and a global flying ban that’s nearing the three-month mark. Boeing is finalizing a software fix for a flight-control system malfunction linked to the accidents, as well as proposed new pilot training. Regulators in the U.S. and other countries say there’s no timeline for when the plane will resume flights. Only 14% of U.S. passengers would definitely fly on a 737 Max within six months of its return, according to the online study for Atmosphere of 2,000 U.S. airline passengers from April 27 to May 1.

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They have to fire the CEO and many others. Nader is not going away.

Boeing Used To Getting Its Way, Grip On Congress Is Legendary (Ralph Nader)

The Boeing-driven FAA is rushing to unground the notorious prone-to-stall Boeing 737 MAX (that killed 346 innocents in two crashes) before several official investigations are completed. Troubling revelations might keep these planes grounded worldwide. The FAA has a clearly established pro-Boeing bias and will likely allow Boeing to unground the 737 MAX. We must demand that the two top FAA officials resign or recuse themselves from taking any more steps that might endanger the flying public. The two Boeing-indentured men are Acting FAA Administrator Daniel Elwell and Associate FAA Administrator for Aviation Safety Ali Bahrami. Immediately after the crashes, Elwell resisted grounding and echoed Boeing claims that the Boeing 737 MAX was a safe plane despite the deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

Ali Bahrami is known for aggressively pushing the FAA through 2018 to further abdicate its regulatory duties by delegating more safety inspections to Boeing. Bahrami’s actions benefit Boeing and are supported by the company’s toadies in the Congress. Elwell and Bahrami have both acquired much experience by going through the well-known revolving door between the industry and the FAA. They are likely to leave the FAA once again for lucrative positions in the aerospace lobbying or business world. With such prospects, they do not have much ‘skin in the game’ for their pending decision.

[..] Boeing has about 5,000 orders for the 737 MAX. It has delivered less than 400 to the world’s airlines. From its CEO, Dennis Muilenburg to its swarms of Washington lobbyists, law firms, and public relations outfits, Boeing is used to getting its way. Its grip on Congress – where 300 members take campaign cash from Boeing – is legendary. Boeing pays little in federal and Washington state taxes. It fumbles contracts with NASA and the Department of Defense but remains the federal government’s big vendor for lack of competitive alternatives in a highly concentrated industry.

[..] Time is not on the side of the 737 MAX 8. A comprehensive review of the 737 MAX’s problems is a non-starter for Boeing. Boeing’s flawed software and instructions that have kept pilots and airlines in the dark have already been exposed. New whistleblowers and more revelations will emerge. More time may also result in the Justice Department’s operating grand jury issuing some indictments.

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One of Melzer’s many interviews. Where is the UN suppoort for him?

Chris Hedges Talks To UN Special Rapporteur About Assange (RT)

Chris Hedges discusses with UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer the conditions of Julian Assange’s detention, his psychological and physical health as well as the judicial proceedings against the WikiLeaks founder.

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May 202019
 


Rembrandt van Rijn Diana Bathing with her Nymphs with Actaeon and Callisto 1634

 

China Forced Tech Transfer Problem Is Growing – EU Business Group (R.)
US Ban Won’t Derail Huawei’s European 5G Rollout (AT)
Google Starts To Cut Ties With Huawei (AFP)
Huawei Stockpiles 12 Months Of Parts Ahead Of US Ban (Nikkei)
US Prosecutors To ‘Help Themselves’ To Julian Assange’s Possessions (PA)
Swedish Prosecutors Ask To Detain Assange Over Rape Investigation (Ind.)
Skripal Poisoning Suspects Received Mystery Phone Call Following Attack (G.)
Rich White Men Rule America. How Much Longer Will We Tolerate That For? (G.)
Theresa May Prepares ‘Bold’ Last-Ditch Offer To MPs On Brexit Bill (G.)
Corbyn Defends Labour’s Bid For Both Leavers And Remainers (G.)
NHS England Loses 6,000 Mental Health Nurses In 10 Years (G.)

 

 

Europe’s politicians are slow to take this up.

China Forced Tech Transfer Problem Is Growing – EU Business Group (R.)

Cases of European firms forced to transfer technology in China are increasing despite Beijing saying the problem does not exist, a European business lobby said, adding that its outlook on the country’s regulatory environment is “bleak”. China’s trading partners have long complained that their companies are often compelled to hand over prized technology in exchange for access to the world’s second-largest economy. Demands by the United States that China address the problem are central to the two countries’ ongoing trade war, which has seen both sides pile tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s goods. The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China said on Monday that results from its annual survey showed 20% of members reported being compelled to transfer technology for market access, up from 10% two years ago.

Nearly a quarter of those who reported such transfers said the practice was currently ongoing, while another 39% said the transfers had occurred less than two years ago. “Unfortunately, our members have reported that compelled technology transfers not only persist, but that they happen at double the rate of two years ago,” European Chamber Vice President Charlotte Roule said at a news briefing on the survey. “It might be due to a number of reasons… Either way, it is unacceptable that this practice continues in a market as mature and innovative as China,” Roule said. In certain “cutting edge” industries the incidence of reported transfers was higher, such as 30% in chemicals and petroleum, 28% in medical devices, and 27% in pharmaceuticals, she added.

China’s top Communist Party newspaper, the People’s Daily, said on Saturday that Washington’s complaints on the issue were “fabricated from thin air”. Amid the escalating U.S.-China trade war, Beijing has put pressure on the EU to stand with it against U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade policies, though the world’s largest trade bloc has largely rebuffed those efforts. The EU has also become increasingly frustrated by what it sees as the slow pace of economic opening in China, even after years of granting China almost unfettered access to EU markets for trade and investment. However, European officials say publicly that they do not support the use of tariffs as a solution.

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“So intertwined were the activities of Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia in European telecom infrastructure that it is impossible to ban the sale of parts to one of them without affecting the others..”

US Ban Won’t Derail Huawei’s European 5G Rollout (AT)

Two high-ranking European government officials told Asia Times in background discussions that a US ban on sales of electronic components to Huawei Technologies wouldn’t stop the Chinese telecom firm from rolling out 5G mobile networks in Europe. Europe doesn’t really have a choice in the matter, the officials emphasized in background briefings, because the United States doesn’t offer a competing product, and Huawei’s competitors – Ericsson and Nokia – don’t have the capacity or the knowledge to replace the Chinese giant. The two Scandinavian firms don’t offer serious competition to Huawei, but rather work in close cooperation with the much larger Chinese firm.


Huawei’s research and development budget is roughly double that of Ericsson and Nokia combined, according to public sources. So intertwined were the activities of Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia in European telecom infrastructure that it is impossible to ban the sale of parts to one of them without affecting the others, an official explained. The official, who oversees telecom policy for one of the Group of 10 economies, doubted that Washington’s action would have much impact. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters Thursday that they would not ban the Chinese firm, adding that policies were in place to safeguard their security. French President Macron told a technology conference Friday that France’s “perspective is not to block Huawei or any other company. France and Europe are pragmatic and realistic.” Macron stressed that France would balance security with access to good technology.

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What technology will Google use?

Google Starts To Cut Ties With Huawei (AFP)

US internet giant Google, whose Android mobile operating system powers most of the world’s smartphones, said Sunday it was beginning to cut ties with China’s Huawei, which Washington considers a national security threat. In the midst of a trade war with Beijing, President Donald Trump has barred US companies from engaging in telecommunications trade with foreign companies said to threaten American national security. The measure targets Huawei, a Chinese telecoms giant in Washington’s sights that is listed by the Commerce Department among firms with which American companies can only engage in trade after obtaining the green light from the authorities.


The ban includes technology sharing. “We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications,” a Google spokesperson told AFP. The move could have dramatic implications since Google, like all tech companies, must collaborate with smartphone makers to ensure its systems are compatible with their devices. Google will have to halt business activities with Huawei that involve transfer of hardware, software and technical services that are not publicly available — meaning Huawei will only be able to use the open source version of Android, a source close to the matter told AFP. Huawei will no longer have access to Google’s proprietary apps and services, such as the Gmail email service.

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“How do the Chinese think they can win a trade war
when Xi isn’t even on Twitter.

Huawei Stockpiles 12 Months Of Parts Ahead Of US Ban (Nikkei)

Huawei Technologies told global suppliers six months ago it wanted to build up a year of crucial components to prepare for trade war uncertainties, even as it moved to secure new sources and become more self reliant, sources familiar with the plans told the Nikkei Asian Review. Meanwhile, concerns are mounting in Huawei’s Asian tech supply chain about collateral damage from the U.S. government’s move to potentially block American and even foreign companies from doing business with the world’s leading telecom equipment maker, whose global procurement totals around $67 billion a year. Shares in companies whose fortunes depend in part on Huawei business sold off Thursday.

The reaction followed a statement Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Commerce that it was placing the company on a export control list. The listing, once in effect, means that all of Huawei’s American suppliers will require U.S. government approval to sell to the Chinese company. The lack of detail in the statement creates uncertainty for Asian manufacturers. Many important Huawei suppliers in the region including Sony and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. — the world’s largest contract chipmaker — have held internal meetings to assess the implications, multiple sources told Nikkei.

Multiple sources said that Huawei’s preparations for a worst-case scenario – a U.S. ban on business with key suppliers – started more than six months ago and were not limited to chips but spanned a wide range of electronics, including passive components and optical parts. For some components that are subject to higher risks of export controls, Huawei has stockpiled six months’ to more than a year’s worth of supply, while holding at least three months’ worth of less crucial ones, the sources said.

The world’s second-largest smartphone vendor also started at the beginning of this year to certify more suppliers of chips, optical components, camera-related technologies and other parts in places outside the U.S., people familiar with the matter said. “Previously, Huawei would only use the world’s top one or two suppliers for electronic components, but this year it assigned the team to extend the reach to three to four suppliers for each component,” said a source with direct knowledge of the plan. “The most important goal is to avoid the worst case that Huawei’s products in smartphone, servers, and telecom equipment could not be delivered because of a U.S. ban or other trade war uncertainties.”

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WikiLeaks: “Ecuador to hand over Assange’s entire legal defence to the United States.”

Laws are now meaningless.

US Prosecutors To ‘Help Themselves’ To Julian Assange’s Possessions (PA)

Julian Assange’s belongings from his time living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London will be handed over to US prosecutors on Monday, according to WikiLeaks. Ecuadorian officials are travelling to London to allow US prosecutors to “help themselves” to items including legal papers, medical records and electronic equipment, it was claimed. WikiLeaks said UN officials and Assange’s lawyers were being stopped from being present. Lawyers said it was an illegal seizure of property, which has been requested by the US authorities. The material is said to include two of Assange’s manuscripts.

Assange was dragged out of the embassy last month and is serving a 50-week prison sentence for bail violations. He faces an extradition request from the US next month. Kristinn Hrafnsson, the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, said: “On Monday, Ecuador will perform a puppet show at the embassy of Ecuador in London for their masters in Washington, just in time to expand their extradition case before the UK deadline on 14 June. The Trump administration is inducing its allies to behave like it’s the wild west.”

Baltasar Garzón, the international legal coordinator for the defence of Assange and WikiLeaks, said: “It is extremely worrying that Ecuador has proceeded with the search and seizure of property, documents, information and other material belonging to the defence of Julian Assange, which Ecuador arbitrarily confiscated, so that these can be handed over to the the agent of political persecution against him, the United States. “It is an unprecedented attack on the rights of the defence, freedom of expression and access to information exposing massive human rights abuses and corruption. We call on international protection institutions to intervene to put a stop to this persecution.”

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And if laws are meaningless, lies become the truth.

Swedish Prosecutors Ask To Detain Assange Over Rape Investigation (Ind.)

Swedish prosecutors have filed a request for the detention of Julian Assange over a rape allegation. The warrant, if granted, would be the first step in a process to have the Wikileaks founder extradited from the UK, where he is serving a 50-week sentence for breach of bail conditions. Sweden reopened an investigation into the rape allegation, first made in 2010, earlier this month. The probe was shelved in 2017 because Assange was holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he took refuge in 2012 to avoid extradition. The 47-year-old was arrested after police stormed the embassy in April following Ecuador’s withdrawal of asylum. The US subsequently requested his extradition to face charges in relation to the leak of government secrets. Swedish prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson said she would issue a European Arrest Warrant for Assange if a court granted her request for his detention “on probable cause suspected for rape”.

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The leaked OPCW files show the Douma gas attack to be a false flag. That raises very serious questions about the Skripal case at the same time, because of the OPCW’s involvement. So Britain brings out the Guardian’s Luke Harding to divert attention. Harding and the Guardian still never retracted the fake Assange-Manafort article.

Skripal Poisoning Suspects Received Mystery Phone Call Following Attack (G.)

The Russian men suspected of poisoning Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury received a phone call after returning to London on the day of the alleged attack, raising the possibility that a backup team played a role in the operation. One theory being considered by investigators is whether the call, which has not been disclosed before, was a signal to tip them off that the operation had been a success. Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism unit said the inquiry into the poisoning was ongoing and detectives would not be drawn on any specifics. But it is understood that investigators are sifting other pieces of evidence which suggest that the suspects – Anatoliy Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin – may not have been acting alone.


Chepiga and Mishkin flew from Moscow to London on Friday 2 March last year, using the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. The pair travelled to Salisbury the following day and returned to the city again on Sunday 4 March. Detectives say they applied the lethal nerve agent novichok to the door handle of Skripal’s home and caught the train back to London. The Guardian has been told they then returned to their hotel in Bow, east London. It was there they received an unexplained phone call, a source said. Shortly after the call, they travelled to Heathrow airport for a 10.30pm flight back to Moscow. “One theory is that the two waited to hear whether the attack had been a success, and the phone call was the signal to say it had been,” said a source. “It could have been the confirmation that led them to head for the airport.”

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“A Constitution written by slaveholders is being interpreted by a tiny room full of elites who have been given no meaningful popular approval…”

Rich White Men Rule America. How Much Longer Will We Tolerate That For? (G.)

White men have never made up the majority of the United States population, and yet from the country’s beginnings they have made up most of its political decision-makers. The Constitution itself is an outrageously undemocratic document. People today are bound by a set of procedural rules that were made without the input of women, African Americans, or native people. The Framers quite deliberately constructed a system that would prevent what they called “tyranny of the majority” but what is more accurately called “popular democracy.” That set of rules has been very effective at keeping the American populace from exercising power. James Madison was explicit about the function of the United States Senate—it was “to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.”

Indeed, that’s precisely what it does. As Jamelle Bouie points out, the Senate has “an affluent membership composed mostly of white men, who are about 30% of the population but hold 71 of the seats” out of 100. Though popular opinion may overwhelmingly favor universal healthcare and more progressive taxation, these policies are said to be “politically impossible” because the millionaires who populate Congress do not favor them. [..] The supreme court is the highest branch of government, in that it can overturn the decisions of the other two branches. It consists of just nine people, all of whom went to Harvard or Yale, and two-thirds of whom are men. Ian Samuel has pointed out the remarkable fact that, thanks to the way the senate is structured, the senators who voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the court received represent 38 million fewer people than the senators who voted against him.

The implications here are extreme. It simply doesn’t matter where the people of the United States stand on union dues, campaign finance reform, or abortion. What matters is the opinion of nine elites, in many cases appointed by presidents who did not win the popular vote. A Constitution written by slaveholders is being interpreted by a tiny room full of elites who have been given no meaningful popular approval. When you step back and look at the situation objectively, it’s utterly farcical to call the United States government democratic.

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Sure. Waste some more time. What difference does it make anymore?

Theresa May Prepares ‘Bold’ Last-Ditch Offer To MPs On Brexit Bill (G.)

Theresa May will ask her cabinet to sign off a package of Brexit concessions this week, as she gears up for one last bid to win over MPs and salvage something concrete from her troubled premiership. With the Conservatives on course for a drubbing in Thursday’s European elections, the prime minister hopes the results will focus the minds of her own MPs and persuade them to support the long-awaited withdrawal agreement bill (WAB). Despite the collapse of cross-party talks with Labour, ministers hope some of the measures discussed can still be bolted on to the bill, as part of what May has called a “new, bold offer to MPs across the House of Commons”.


The Brexit secretary, Steve Barclay, told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “We’ve been in talks with the Labour party, we’ve been exploring issues around workers’ rights, environmental standards, what commitments can be given to parliament in terms of the next phase of negotiations.” The development secretary, Rory Stewart, told the BBC the two sides in the talks had been “half an inch apart”, and added “the issue of trading with Europe” to the list of areas where MPs should expect to see movement. Proposals are expected to include separate legislation to ensure parliament is given a vote on whether to adopt any improvements to workers’ rights introduced by the EU27 in future – though that would fall short of Jeremy Corbyn’s call for changes to be automatically adopted.

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He makes SOME sense, but is that enough?

Corbyn Defends Labour’s Bid For Both Leavers And Remainers (G.)

Jeremy Corbyn has given a robust defence of Labour’s decision to try to appeal to both leavers and remainers in this Thursday’s European elections. With an Observer poll suggesting Labour could be squeezed into third position behind Nigel Farage’s Brexit party and the pro-remain Liberal Democrats, Corbyn said he still wanted to bring the two sides of the Brexit divide together. “Labour supporters voted both leave and remain, and every other party in this European election is appealing to either one side or the other, defining everybody on 2016. We’re not. We’re defining people as hopefully supporters of us – but also, people who have common problems, however they voted.


“The levels of poverty in remain and leave areas are very similar; the levels of child poverty. I think we have to be responsible about this, and appeal to people across those views.” Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr, the Labour leader added: “If I may say so, it’s yourself and the British media that are obsessed with defining everybody about how they voted three years ago.” He also rejected the Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips’scall for Labour to decide whether it is a party that backs Brexit, or opposes it. “She’s not right, because she fought the last general election, just like I did, on a manifesto that said we would respect the result of the referendum.” However, Corbyn appeared to soften his stance on a second referendum, saying Labour would try to win a majority for its Brexit plan, “and if we can get that through parliament, the proposal we’ve put, then I think it would be reasonable to have a public vote to decide on that in the future”.

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As dementia spreads like wildfire.

NHS England Loses 6,000 Mental Health Nurses In 10 Years (G.)

The number of mental health nurses in England has slumped by more than a tenth over the past decade, new figures have revealed. This is despite commitments from both Theresa May and her predecessor, David Cameron, to boost resources for mental health services, which many medical professionals say are now in crisis. The total mental health nursing workforce has decreased by 10.6% since 2009, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). While numbers of mental health nurses have grown in some areas, such as community care, they have fallen elsewhere. Numbers are down by a quarter (25.9%) in acute care and inpatient care – where the number of mental health nurses has fallen by more than 6,000 over the decade.


Donna Kinnair, appointed as RCN chief executive and general secretary last month, will use a speech to the group’s annual congress on Monday to call on ministers to address England’s 40,000 nursing vacancies, and point out the new figures on the reduction in specialist mental health nurses. “Thousands of experienced professionals have been lost in recent years as the investment failed to match the rhetoric,” she will say. “The shortage of beds, too, leaves vulnerable people often sent hundreds of miles from home and their loved ones for the care they need. As a country and a health service, we are letting down people who must be able to rely on us most. We must draw a line under this and allocate serious resources to mental health care, including the right number of staff.”

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Happy birthday brother Malcolm.

 

 

 

 

May 192019
 


Caravaggio The calling of St. Matthew 1599-1600

 

E-Commerce Crushes Mall Retailers One by One (WS)
Democrats Run Out Of Stunts To Pull From Impeachment Playbook (Turley)
Salvini and Le Pen Rally To Unite European Nationalists In Milan (EN)
Nigel Farage Faces Investigation By EU Parliament Over Undeclared Gifts (Ind.)
UK Tories Will Split If Boris Johnson Becomes Leader, Warn MPs (Ind.)
Labour Panics As Remain Voters Switch To Liberal Democrats (G.)
Boeing Acknowledges Flaw In 737 MAX Simulator Software (AFP)
France’s ‘Yellow Vests’ Mark Six Months Of Protests (AFP)
Four More Chinese Cities Warned Over Pace Of Home Price Growth (R.)
You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep—And It’s Killing You (Wired)

 

 

Changing the look and feel of our towns and cities beyond recognition.

E-Commerce Crushes Mall Retailers One by One (WS)

E-commerce sales in the first quarter soared 12.4% from a year ago to $127.3 billion (not seasonally adjusted), the Commerce Department reported on Friday. Last year, e-commerce sales blew through the $500-billion level for the first time ($513.6 billion). For 2019, e-commerce is on track to hit $575 billion, an increase of $61 billion. Over the past five years, e-commerce sales have doubled. On a seasonally adjusted basis, e-commerce sales in Q1 hit an all-time high of $137.7 billion. E-commerce includes sales by the online operations of brick-and-mortar retailers. The top ones have huge and thriving online operations: Walmart, Home Depot, BestBuy, and Macy’s in that order are the fourth through seventh largest e-commerce sites in the US, behind Amazon, eBay, and Apple. So this is the business Macy’s brick-and-mortar stores are in:

But none of the major retailers, with one exception, disclose just how much of their own booming e-commerce sales have eaten into their brick-and-mortar sales. Macy’s, for example, just reported a decline in net sales in Q1 compared to a year ago, but “double-digit growth in our digital business” – the only thing Macy’s said about its e-commerce sales. With overall revenues declining and e-commerce sales booming, its brick-and-mortar operations must have been beset by plunging sales. But Macy’s keeps this data secret.

[..] People say that e-commerce accounts for only a small portion of total retail sales (10.2% in Q1) and therefore doesn’t matter. But this is misleading because e-commerce has not yet made major inroads into sales at gasoline stations, auto dealers, and grocery and beverage stores that together account for 52% of all brick-and-mortar sales. With those taken out of the tally, e-commerce now amounts to 23.6% of the remaining 48% of retail sales.

The stores that are directly targeted by e-commerce are the classic mall stores: Department stores (Sears Holdings, Bon-Ton Stores); book stores (see Borders, B. Dalton, Waldenbooks); video stores (Blockbuster); music stores (Tower Records); hardware and hobby (Orchard Supply Hardware); toy stores (Toys ‘R’ Us); jewelry and accessory stores (Claire Stores); sporting goods stores (Sports Authority); electronics and appliance stores (Circuit City, CompUSA); clothing and clothing accessory stores (Limited Stores, Pacific Sunwear, Aeropostale); and shoe stores (Payless Shoe Source).

So yes, e-commerce is only 10.2% of total retail sales. But it has already killed entire retailer categories, such as video stores, and is killing others while it is leaving other retailer categories essentially unscathed, such as gas stations, auto dealers, and grocery stores – though that may change in the future.

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The chasm is a mile wide. And impeachment is even further away than that.

Democrats Run Out Of Stunts To Pull From Impeachment Playbook (Turley)

Democrats had called for Mueller to appear before them on Wednesday. Mueller did not show, despite Barr showing a willingness to have him testify. Instead, the committee called for a hearing with constitutional experts to discuss the executive privilege claims raised by the White House. I was one of those experts, and the hearing did not exactly turn out as the Democrats planned. They have insisted that President Trump had already waived privilege to undisclosed evidence shown to Mueller. The committee witnesses, however, agreed that there is no such waiver. Worse, the witnesses agreed that Barr could not release the “full and unredacted report” to Congress including any grand jury, or Rule 6(e), evidence. That is in direct contradiction to weeks of demands for the unredacted report along with a subpoena that demanded disclosure of the entire report.

The committee maintained that “neither Rule 6(e) nor any applicable privilege barred disclosure of these materials to Congress.” Yet, the expert witnesses it called on have now testified that is not true. As I noted to the committee, the subpoena, which is the very basis for the earlier contempt vote, was demanding an unlawful act from Barr, and the committee then held him in contempt for not committing that unlawful act. The key to setting up someone for contempt of Congress is to draft a subpoena that he might actually be able to legally fulfill. Notably, despite all of the punditry and cable news coverage of it, the contempt citation has not yet been submitted to the full House for a vote, let alone to a court for review. That is probably not because the contempt case is too strong.

[..] One reason for the waning audience is that Democrats are stepping on their own lines. The week that their witnesses were contradicting the position of the House Judiciary Committee and the staff was marketing Mueller CDs, Democrats held a closed door party caucus. In it, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly told Democratic members she has no intention of moving on impeachment. Imitating disgruntled Democratic voters, Pelosi said, “Some of our folks are a little bit ‘Why are we not impeaching the president?” She then added, “They get a little down.”

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Guy Verhofstadt, Brexit co-ordinator for the European Parliament: “What links Strache, Le Pen, Salvini & Farage? They are all far-right, they all do Russia’s bidding & they all want to destroy the EU. They say they are patriots, I say they are traitors to traditional European values & freedoms.”

Collusion all over again. Blame someone else, never yourself.

The right has no choice but to unite, the EU parliament contains blocks of parties from at least 7 nations that are required to get seats. But what do these people really agree on?

Salvini and Le Pen Rally To Unite European Nationalists In Milan (EN)

Nationalist parties from across Europe held a rally on Saturday in Milan promising to reshape the continent through next week’s EU parliamentary election. Headlining the event was Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and Marine Le Pen of France’s National Rally (RN). The two populists are eager for their Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group to become the third largest party in Brussels. “There are no extremists, racists or fascists in this square,” Salvini said. “Here you won’t find the far-right, but the politics of good sense. The extremists are those who have governed Europe for the past 20 years.” Thousands of flag-waving supporters of Salvini’s League party packed a rain-soaked central Milan square to see far-right and anti-immigrant leaders from 11 European Union countries present a common front in their battle to pull back power from Brussels.


“This is a historic moment,” said RN leader Marine Le Pen, “we say no to this immigration which has submerged our nations, putting our people at risk,” she said, playing up an issue that has helped fuel support for nationalist groups. Hundreds of opponents gathered on the sidelines, their boos, jeers and whistles sometimes drowning out the speakers. “Fascists leave Milan,” they chanted as Salvini took the stage. The ENF also includes Austria’s Freedom Party, Belgium’s Vlaams Belang and the Netherlands’ Party for Freedom, whose head Geert Wilders was present in Milan. But despite their shared dislike of immigration and the EU, Europe’s populists remain divided on many key issues on the continent, including budgetary discipline, migrant distribution and relations with Moscow.

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He hides £450,000. They can fine him £8,800. Nuff said.

Nigel Farage Faces Investigation By EU Parliament Over Undeclared Gifts (Ind.)

Nigel Farage is facing an investigation by European parliament authorities over claims that he failed to declare nearly half a million pounds in gifts from an insurance tycoon under investigation by the National Crime Agency. It was claimed this week that the Brexit Party leader has been given as much as £450,000 in kind by Arron Banks, including a chauffeur-driven car, rent and bills on a £4.4m Chelsea home, and lavish trips to the United States to meet with right-wing politicians. But none of the gifts, detailed in invoices seen by Channel 4 News, were declared on Mr Farage’s register of interests with the European parliament, which is designed to prevent MEPs from keeping their conflicts of interests secret. In a letter seen by The Independent, one of the European parliament’s quaestors – MEPs responsible for the body’s financial and administrative matters – calls on the parliament’s presidency to “investigate these apparent contraventions as a matter of urgency”.

The push for an inquiry comes days before British voters are set to go to the polls for the European parliament elections, with Mr Farage’s Brexit Party thought to be heading for a runaway victory with an anti-EU, anti-establishment message. “As you will be aware, the code of conduct for members of the European parliament with respect to financial interests and conflicts of interest, in particular Article 6(1) of the implementing measures, makes it clear that members shall disclose their attendance at events organised by third parties where the reimbursement of their travel, accommodation or subsistence expenses, or the direct payments of such expenses, is covered by a third party,” Catherine Bearder, the quaestor who is also a Liberal Democrat MEP, said in the letter to Antonio Tajani, president of the European parliament.

“I can see no reference to any of the reported travel or accommodation subsidies related to Mr Farage’s US tour on any of his declarations of financial interests on the parliament’s website.” She noted that Mr Banks was “currently under investigation by the National Crime Agency over the source of his funding for the Brexit campaign”. [..] Under European parliament rules, Mr Farage could be fined up to around €10,000 (£8,800) through withholding of his subsistence allowance if he is found to have broken the rules. [..] Last year, in a separate run-in with expenses rules, Mr Farage had his MEP salary docked by more than £35,000 to recoup misspent EU funds intended for the staffing of his office.

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Not a much loved man. For good reason if you ask me.

UK Tories Will Split If Boris Johnson Becomes Leader, Warn MPs (Ind.)

Electing Boris Johnson leader on a no-deal Brexit ticket would risk a permanent split in the Conservative Party, a former minister has warned. The former foreign secretary has established himself as firm favourite to succeed Theresa May as prime minister in a contest many in Westminster expect to be triggered within weeks. It comes as the prime minister prepares to deliver a speech on Brexit this week, in what a government source billed as a “bold offer” to MPs in a last-ditch attempt to build support for her beleaguered Brexit bill in the Commons. A poll conducted shortly after he confirmed he would stand on Thursday put him on 39 per cent support among party members, well ahead of his nearest rival Dominic Raab on 13 per cent.

But he must first win his way through an MPs’ vote onto the shortlist of two presented to the membership in the country. Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt is currently thought to be leading in the race to sign up MP supporters, with Mr Johnson, Mr Raab and Michael Gove grouped together some way behind, and a wide range of other potential candidates yet to make real inroads. But Phillip Lee, who quit Ms May’s government last year over her EU withdrawal policy, told The Independent that Mr Johnson would risk the Conservatives’ hold on power and the future of the party if he took it down a no-deal route.

It would be a “sweet irony” if the Brexit figurehead found himself forced to deliver a Final Say referendum because there was no majority in parliament for no deal, he said. “I don’t think it is necessarily a personality who splits the party, I think the policy might,” said Mr Lee, who now chairs the Right to Vote group of Tory advocates of a referendum. “I don’t think a no-deal Brexit leaves the party intact. If that becomes the policy of the winning candidate, expect interesting times to follow.”

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More panic. Everybody panics now. Like they couldn’t have seen this coming.

Labour Panics As Remain Voters Switch To Liberal Democrats (G.)

Senior Labour figures were engaged in a desperate battle to shore up the party’s support on Saturday night, amid warnings that its stance on Brexit was helping to “detoxify the Lib Dems”. With just days left before the European elections at which Nigel Farage’s Brexit party is expected to triumph, shadow cabinet ministers are among those concerned that Labour’s ambiguous position on Brexit has helped revive the Lib Dems. It comes as new polling seen by the Observer suggests Vince Cable’s party is running in first place in London and could even beat Labour overall.

One senior party figure warned: “If the consequence of Labour’s Brexit position and this European election is to essentially detoxify the Lib Dems, then that’s a real problem.” Clive Lewis, a shadow Treasury minister, said “lifelong Labour voters” would not back the party this week due to its Brexit stance. He added: “It feels like we’ve given [the Lib Dems] the political equivalent of resuscitation.”

The fears came as it emerged that: • London mayor Sadiq Khan has pledged that he will campaign for Remain “day and night” in any second referendum, as he urged voters, in an article for the Observer, to back Labour to stop a Farage victory. • Theresa May is planning to make one last “bold offer” to MPs in a desperate attempt to secure support for her Brexit deal, including changes demanded by Labour, Democratic Unionist and Tory MPs and a new round of indicative votes. • Labour MPs revealed they were already drawing up attempts to stop a no-deal Brexit should a hardline Brexiter replace May as prime minister, with some suggesting that revoking Brexit had to be a fall-back option.

An Opinium poll for the Observer found that the Liberal Democrats have narrowly overtaken Labour as the favourite party of remain voters, with 29% of the group now backing Cable’s party and 28% backing Labour.

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Not the plane, the simulator. Nobody has one, and won’t before Christmas. But they intend to fly the planes by August.

Boeing Acknowledges Flaw In 737 MAX Simulator Software (AFP)

Boeing acknowledged Saturday it had to correct flaws in its 737 MAX flight simulator software used to train pilots, after two deadly crashes involving the aircraft that killed 346 people. “Boeing has made corrections to the 737 MAX simulator software and has provided additional information to device operators to ensure that the simulator experience is representative across different flight conditions,” it said in a statement. The company did not indicate when it first became aware of the problem, and whether it informed regulators. Its statement marked the first time Boeing acknowledged there was a design flaw in software linked to the 737 MAX, whose MCAS anti-stall software has been blamed in large part for the Ethiopian Airlines tragedy.

According to Boeing, the flight simulator software was incapable of reproducing certain flight conditions similar to those at the time of the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March or the Lion Air crash in October. The company said the latest “changes will improve the simulation of force loads on the manual trim wheel,” a rarely used manual wheel to control the plane’s angle. “Boeing is working closely with the device manufacturers and regulators on these changes and improvements, and to ensure that customer training is not disrupted,” it added. Southwest Airlines, a major 737 MAX customer with 34 of the aircraft in its fleet, told AFP it expected to receive the first simulator “late this year.”

American Airlines, which has 24 of the aircraft, said it had ordered a 737 MAX simulator that will be delivered and put into operation in December. Only Air Canada has a MAX simulator, industry sources told AFP. Currently, there is only one flight simulator specific to the 737 MAX in the United States, and it is owned by Boeing, according to FAA documentation. US airlines train their pilots flying the MAX on a simulator built for the 737 NG, the version preceding the 737 MAX in the 737 aircraft family. [..] US airlines have targeted August as the date they expect to resume flying on the 737 MAX.

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Every single week the press cites the government saying numbers are down. Not credible. And Macron still suffers from foot in mouth disease: “democracy is not played out on Saturday afternoons “

Democracy plays out everywhere and all the time.

France’s ‘Yellow Vests’ Mark Six Months Of Protests (AFP)

“Yellow vest” protesters turned out across France Saturday to mark six months of rallies against President Emmanuel Macron’s policies, but with their numbers dwindling, according to a government tally. A day after Macron appeared to draw a line under the movement, yellow jacket activists – named after the fluorescent vests they wear – marched in Paris and several other cities for the 27th consecutive week. The count from the interior ministry – routinely dismissed by yellow jackets – put the numbers across France at 15,500, of whom 1,600 marched in Paris. That was down again from last week’s count of 18,600, suggesting a steady decline. The yellow jackets’ own tally put the nationwide total at 41,000.


The numbers were nevertheless certainly down from the massive turn-out at the beginning of the movement, when nearly 300,000 people protested across the country on November 17 in what became one of the biggest challenges to Macron’s government. But many of those who turned out on Saturday were determined to keep going. “When I hear Macron say that he has done his bit, I can’t agree, and that motivates me even more,” said Virginie, an executive secretary marching in the southern city of Montpellier. On Friday, Macron said he felt he had answered the questions raised by the movement and that there was no more to be done politically. Those who had other ideas about how the country should be governed should run for office themselves, he said. “But democracy is not played out on Saturday afternoons,” he added.

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Free market: “..a fine line between preserving stability and hurting market sentiment..”

Four More Chinese Cities Warned Over Pace Of Home Price Growth (R.)

China’s housing regulator has urged four more cities to prevent their residential property markets from overheating in the latest sign that authorities are not about to relax their grip on the real estate business in order to spur the economy. The cities of Suzhou, Foshan, Dalian and Nanning have been told by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development to stabilize land and housing prices as well as market expectations, the official Xinhua news agency reported late on Saturday. Six other cities were warned by the ministry last month to monitor the growth of home prices in their markets, after some cities, including, Foshan quietly started to relax some curbs since December to spur demand.


China’s home property market is a key plank of the economy, influencing tens of related sectors such as construction and financial services. The sector has held up well despite a slowdown in growth in the world’s second-biggest economy, with policymakers walking a fine line between preserving stability and hurting market sentiment. Renewed tensions between China and the United States over trade have also added pressure on Chinese policymakers to keep the domestic economy on a stable footing, while continuing to fend off risks such as housing bubbles. Average new home prices in China’s 70 major cities rose 0.6% in April, unchanged from the pace of growth in March, according to a monthly official survey.

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No coffee.

You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep—And It’s Killing You (Wired)

According to neuroscientist Matthew Walker, I’m doing serious damage to my health—and life—by not sleeping enough. “The decimation of sleep throughout industrialized nations is having a catastrophic impact on our health, our wellness, even the safety and education of our children. It’s a silent sleep loss epidemic. It’s fast becoming one of the greatest challenges we face in the 21st century,” Walker, an expert in sleep at UC Berkeley and author of the best-selling book Why We Sleep, told a rapt TED audience on Thursday.

[..] He ran down all the ways in which sleep deprivation hurts people: it makes you dumber, more forgetful, unable to learn new things, more vulnerable to dementia, more likely to die of a heart attack, less able to fend off sickness with a strong immune system, more likely to get cancer, and it makes your body literally hurt more. Lack of sleep distorts your genes, and increases your risk of death generally, he said. It disrupts the creation of sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone, and leads to premature aging. Apparently, men who only sleep five hours a night have markedly smaller testicles than men who sleep more than seven.

“Sleep loss will leak down into every nook and cranny of your physiology,” he said. “Sleep, unfortunately, is not an optional lifestyle luxury. Sleep is a nonnegotiable biological necessity. It is your life support system.” [..] Everyone is obsessed with sleep. And they know they’re not getting enough—hence the growing demand for sleeping pills, the emergence of sleep tracking devices (Walker wears an Oura Ring to track his), smart beds, Alexa integrations to put you to sleep, and mindfulness sleep apps. Arianna Huffington famously left journalism to found a company devoted to sleep and wellness.

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May 052019
 


Giovanni Bellini The transfiguration c1490

 

Pelosi: Trump Could Contest 2020 Election Results – Be Prepared (Carter)
Joe Biden Says He ‘Doesn’t Have Time’ To Lay Out His Healthcare Plan (Ind.)
Trump Criticizes Social Media Bans Of Right-Wing Extremists (PA)
Trump Fires Off Tweetstorm on Social Media Censorship of Conservatives (GP)
Orwellian Cloud Hovers Over Russiagate (McGovern)
Fed To Give Banks A $36 Billion Taxpayer-Funded Subsidy (Middleton)
May Urges Corbyn To Agree A Brexit Deal (R.)
Anger Grows At May-Corbyn Bid To Stitch Up Brexit Deal (G.)
Austerity, Not ‘Failure’ Of Brexit, Behind Tories’ Election Wipeout (G.)
American Farmers Go Bankrupt (ZH)
US Trucking Skids into Downturn after Phenomenal Boom (WS)
Urban Greening Can Save Species, Cool Warming Cities, Make Us Happy (Conv.)

 

 

The Democrats, as personified by Pelosi, Schumer, Hillary, Biden etc., have no identity other than being against everything Trump. There are people in the party who do have ideas and an identity, like Tulsi Gabbard, AOC, and I’m not saying they’re all great ideas, but at least they have some. But they’re being sidelined.

And it’s of course funny to see Pelosi “pre-accusing” Trump of doing what she has done for 2+ years now. Accuse your opponent of what you yourself have done. Classic.

Pelosi: Trump Could Contest 2020 Election Results – Be Prepared (Carter)

In a New York Times interview on Saturday, Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal), shared her concerned that President Trump would not voluntarily step down unless Democrats win by a “big” enough margin in 2020. The Democratic Speaker of the House of Representative, expressed her concern over a possible scenario where Trump would not accept the election results if he were to lose re-election by a slim margin, the NY Times reported. “We have to inoculate against that, we have to be prepared for that,” Pelosi told the newspaper Wednesday.


“If we win by four seats, by a thousand votes each, he’s not going to respect the election,” said Ms. Pelosi, recalling her thinking in the run-up to the 2018 elections. “He would poison the public mind. He would challenge each of the races; he would say you can’t seat these people,” she added. “We had to win. Imagine if we hadn’t won — oh, don’t even imagine. So, as we go forward, we have to have the same approach.” In recent weeks Ms. Pelosi has told associates that she does not automatically trust the president to respect the results of any election short of an overwhelming defeat.

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Biden literally has nothing at all. Other than scolding Trump.

Joe Biden Says He ‘Doesn’t Have Time’ To Lay Out His Healthcare Plan (Ind.)

As Joe Biden storms through Iowa and prepares for his first visit as a presidential candidate in South Carolina, the Democratic front-runner has said he doesn’t “have the time” to lay out the details of his healthcare plan. “I don’t have time; I don’t want to keep you standing any longer,” Mr Biden said recently in Iowa City, declining to lay out his vision for America’s healthcare future to the assembled crowd, according to POLITICO. Likewise Mr Biden has been less than exhaustive when it comes to his other plans, be it foreign policy, or how to tackle climate change. The approach — one in which the former vice president has focused on the values needed in an American president, instead of on specifics of policy — stands in contrast to some of his stiffest competition from fellow Democrats hoping to shake up Democratic politics as we know it.


For months now, his closest competitor in the polls, Bernie Sanders, has been plugging his universal healthcare plan on the campaign trail, which he has dubbed Medicare for All. It’s a policy the Vermont senator has introduced repeatedly in Congress, and ran on in 2016, too. But Mr Sanders isn’t alone in pushing policy in the race. Elizabeth Warren has become known for doing so, offering up plans on issues ranging from healthcare – increase consumer subsidies, force insurers to accept tougher rules, and make insurance cheaper in the US — to improving accountability for private companies in charge of military housing.

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Two different takes on the same topic. First, the Press Association, which labels Paul Joseph Watson and James Woods as “Right-Wing Extremists”. A bit much, perhaps? Other labels I see flash by are far-right, alt-right, extremist conservatives. Isn’t it the labeling itself that is extremist?

Trump Criticizes Social Media Bans Of Right-Wing Extremists (PA)

US president Donald Trump has criticised social media companies after Facebook banned a number of extremist figures and has declared he was “monitoring and watching, closely!!” Mr Trump, who tweeted and retweeted complaints on Friday and Saturday, said he would “monitor the censorship of AMERICAN CITIZENS on social media platforms”. He has previously claimed social media companies are biased against conservatives, something the companies have rejected as untrue. His comments came after Facebook this week banned Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones and other extremists, saying they violated its ban on “dangerous individuals”.


The company also removed right-wing personalities Paul Nehlen, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson and Laura Loomer, along with Mr Jones’s site, Infowars, which often posts conspiracy theories. The latest bans apply to Facebook’s main service and to Instagram, and extend to fan pages and other related accounts. Facebook’s move signalled new effort by the social media giant to remove people and groups promoting objectionable material such as hate, racism and anti-Semitism. The company said it has “always banned” people or groups that proclaim a violent or hateful mission or are engaged in acts of hate or violence, regardless of political ideology. On Twitter, Mr Trump cited a number of individuals he said were being unfairly treated by social media companies, including Mr Watson and actor James Woods. He insisted it was “getting worse and worse for Conservatives on social media!”

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But here’s how Cristina Laila at Gateway Pundit, the site known for Cassandra Fairbanks’ reporting on Julian Assange, phrases the issue. Whole different vocabulary.

Still, there’s a much bigger issue here. As I wrote in the comments the other day: What Facebook and Google are doing is very dangerous for the fabric of society. They’re turning us into China. It’s equal to saying: you cannot have a car, or gas, or a phone, a home. Because you grow a beard, or you have a crappy old car, or whatever.

Or it’s like saying you cannot drive on a certain road, maybe that’s a better example. At some point infrastructure must be available to everyone. You can’t say: this is private, go build your own road, or put up your own telephone poles, because your skin is black and we don’t like that around here.

“Facebook is a private company” is dead before you hit the water (for the same reason as AT&T). Problem is, no politician wants to burn their hands on the issue, which they don’t understand to begin with, until it’s too late. It’s much easier to say: look over there, those guys don’t do anything either.”

So, should Facebook be able to throw people out that haven’t been accused of anything criminal?

Trump Fires Off Tweetstorm on Social Media Censorship of Conservatives (GP)

The tech tyrants at Facebook went into overdrive this week and banned Milo Yiannopoulos, Laura Loomer, Paul Joseph Watson and Alex Jones — without any explanation, the conservative journalists were labeled “dangerous” by Facebook. President Trump fired off a tweetstorm Friday evening on the social media censorship of conservatives and named James Woods and Paul Joseph Watson. “I am continuing to monitor the censorship of AMERICAN CITIZENS on social media platforms. This is the United States of America — and we have what’s known as FREEDOM OF SPEECH! We are monitoring and watching, closely!!” Trump tweeted. “We’re looking into it,” Trump said as he defended his friends Diamond and Silk.

“So surprised to see Conservative thinkers like James Woods banned from Twitter, and Paul Watson banned from Facebook!” Trump said linking to a Breitbart article on Twitter’s silencing of James Woods. Paul Joseph Watson works for Infowars and has been employed by Alex Jones for several years. On Thursday Paul Joseph Watson was banned from Facebook for being associated with Infowars and Alex Jones. Paul Joseph Watson has NEVER broken Facebook rules… But he associates with Alex Jones. Facebook is now banning anyone who is linked to Infowars or has shared too many stories from the conservative Infowars page. But it’s even worse… It is now a violation of Facebook policy to speak positively ANYWHERE about people they don’t like.

Twitter also banned conservative actor James Woods last weekend for paraphrasing American essayist, poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, for “abusive behavior.” James Woods tweeted, “If you try to kill the King, you better not miss.” #HangThemAll – similar to a quote from an essay Emerson wrote on Plato:“When you strike at a king, you must kill him.”

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If Americans were interested in the truth, they’d insist on their politicians and media and intelligence talking to the VIPS and Julian Assange. The fact that they haven’t, tells you all you need to know.

Orwellian Cloud Hovers Over Russiagate (McGovern)

George Orwell would have been in stitches Wednesday watching Attorney General William Barr and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee spar on Russia-gate. The hearing had the hallmarks of the intentionally or naively blind leading the blind with political shamelessness. From time to time the discussion turned to the absence of a legal “predicate” to investigate President Donald Trump for colluding with Russia. That is, of course, important; and we can expect to hear a lot more about that in coming months. More important: what remains unacknowledged is the absence of an evidence-based major premise that should have been in place to anchor the rhetoric and accusations about Russia-gate over the past three years. With a lack of evidence sufficient to support a major premise, any syllogism falls of its own weight.


The major premise that Russia hacked into the Democratic National Committee and gave WikiLeaks highly embarrassing emails cannot bear close scrutiny. Yes, former CIA Director John Brennan has told Congress he does not “do evidence.” In the same odd vein, Brennan’s former FBI counterpart James Comey chose not to “do evidence” when he failed to seize and inspect the DNC computers that a contractor-of-ill-repute working for the DNC claimed were hacked by Russia. Call us old fashioned, but we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) still “do evidence” — and, in the case at hand, forensic investigation. For those who “can handle the truth,” the two former NSA technical directors in VIPS can readily explain how the DNC emails were not hacked — by Russia or anyone else — but rather were copied and leaked by someone with physical access to the DNC computers.

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The Fed is a socialist organization.

Fed To Give Banks A $36 Billion Taxpayer-Funded Subsidy (Middleton)

Before 2009, the Fed did not pay interest on banks’ excess reserves held at the Fed. This practice was introduced as a taxpayer-funded subsidy to the banks during the crisis (taxpayer-funded because the Fed turns over any profit at the end of the year to the Treasury). After beginning this practice, the Fed’s chief trader, Simon Potter, realized it could be used to raise interest rates without expelling excess reserves from the Fed, by sucking liquidity out of the short-term markets. In fall 2015, it began raising the interest rate on excess reserves, with the anticipated effect. At a current rate of about $36 billion a year, this is a cost to the Treasury that is indefensible. This amount is about half the budget for food stamps, for example, which politicians want to cut. There is no provision for these funds ever to be paid back. It is welfare for the bankers.

If the banks had been required to take excess reserves back onto their books it would have required financial disclosure of their quality, which is probably toxic for many. However, with the Financial Accounting Standards Board recently promulgating Financial Accounting Statements 56 and, previously, 157, the “extend and pretend” statement, it would seem they feel less and less need for financial disclosure of any kind. FAS 56 states that the government does not have to disclose what it spends taxpayers’ money on because of national security concerns.

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Lose big and do a deal. It would be voted down.

May Urges Corbyn To Agree A Brexit Deal (R.)

British Prime Minister Theresa May has stepped up calls on Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to agree a cross-party deal to leave the European Union, following poor results for both parties in local elections on Thursday. May’s Conservatives lost more than a thousand seats on English local councils that were up for re-election, and Labour – which would typically aim to gain hundreds of seats in a mid-term vote – instead lost 81. Both parties have been locked in talks for the past few weeks to try to broker a Brexit deal that can get a majority in Parliament, after May’s minority government suffered three heavy defeats on her preferred deal earlier this year.

Senior Conservatives said on Saturday there was an increased need for compromise after the local election results, and the leader of the Scottish branch of the Conservative Party said a deal with Labour could be done within days. May added her voice to these calls in an essay published in a Sunday newspaper. “To the Leader of the Opposition I say this: Let’s listen to what the voters said in the local elections and put our differences aside for a moment. Let’s do a deal,” she wrote in the Mail on Sunday. The Sunday Times reported that the Conservatives would offer new concessions to Labour when talks restart on Tuesday, including a temporary customs union with the European Union, which would last until a national election due in June 2022.

“At that point Labour could use their manifesto to argue for a softer Brexit if they wanted to and a new Conservative prime minister could argue for a harder Brexit,” a source cited by the Sunday Times said.

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There is no solution. the sooner everyone understands that the better. Even a national government is now out of the question.

Anger Grows At May-Corbyn Bid To Stitch Up Brexit Deal (G.)

Last-ditch efforts by Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn to strike a compromise on Brexit looked doomed on Saturday as the party leaders faced mounting revolts from their own MPs and activists. Following Thursday’s local elections, in which both the Conservatives and Labour were punished severely by voters for failing to break the political deadlock, May and Corbyn have insisted their parties must now urgently agree a way forward in cross-party talks which will resume on Tuesday. On Saturday the prime minister reiterated her appeal, saying: “We have to find a way to break the deadlock. I believe the results of the local elections give fresh urgency to this.”

But opposition MPs and Tory Brexiters warned any deal the leadership teams stitch up behind the scenes would face inevitable defeat in parliament and cause more acrimony in the parties. The Observer can reveal that 104 opposition MPs, mainly from Labour but also SNP, Change UK, Green and Plaid Cymru, have written to May and Corbyn insisting they will not back a “Westminster stitch-up” unless there is a firm guarantee that any deal is then put to a confirmatory referendum. The MPs say: “The very worst thing we could do at this time is a Westminster stitch-up whether over the PM’s deal or another deal. This risks alienating both those who voted leave in 2016 and those who voted remain.”

They say that, “whatever the deal” is, it must be the subject of another referendum so voters can have the “final say”. Separately, senior Tory MPs insisted that any deal struck with Labour that involved anything close to a customs union – Corbyn’s central demand in the talks – would be rejected by more than 100 of the party’s MPs, who would see it as a betrayal of May’s promises on Brexit.

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No, both.

Austerity, Not ‘Failure’ Of Brexit, Behind Tories’ Election Wipeout (G.)

In my book Mr Osborne’s Economic Experiment (2015), I pointed out that the “age of austerity” experienced during the post-1945 Attlee government was unavoidable as a debilitated UK adapted from a wartime economy to peacetime. Resources were strictly limited, and production had to be channelled away from armaments towards the normal needs of the population. Spending power was restricted because goods and food were in short supply. The austerity policy imposed by the Cameron-Osborne administration in 2010-15 – in coalition, let us not forget, with the Lib Dems – was a policy choice. George Osborne, in particular, seized the opportunity of the financial crisis of 2007-09 to cut back on public spending, or at least restrain its rate of growth.


The most obvious victims were local authorities and the electors they serve. Cuts varying between 30% and 40% were imposed on central government grants to local authorities, and the consequences were cumulative. Hardly a day goes by without sad reports of the impact the cuts are having on public services, one of the most recent being the way teachers in overstretched state schools are having to dip into their own pockets to provide textbooks. There are countless other examples. We were told by Theresa May and Philip Hammond, the chancellor, that austerity was coming to an end. But there is precious little sign of it. Which brings us back – I know you have been waiting for it – to the way that Brexit would compound the deleterious effects of austerity, a conclusion reached by every forecast I have examined.

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Big Ag wants it all. But YOU can still go look for a farmers’ market.

American Farmers Go Bankrupt (ZH)

The collapse of multi-generational family farms has sent bankruptcies in the Midwest to ten-year highs. “Bankruptcies in three regions covering major farm states last year rose to the highest level in at least 10 years. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, had double the bankruptcies in 2018 compared with 2008. In the Eighth Circuit, which includes states from North Dakota to Arkansas, bankruptcies swelled 96%. The 10th Circuit, which covers Kansas and other states, last year had 59% more bankruptcies than a decade earlier,” reported WSJ. Steffes Group, a top auction firm in the upper Midwest, has seen auction activity rise 40% in 2019. “Up until now, there wasn’t a lot of motivation to exit farming,” said auctioneer Scott Steffes. “Now, what I’m hearing from folks is, ‘It’s no longer fun to farm.’”

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There are far too many trucks anyway.

US Trucking Skids into Downturn after Phenomenal Boom (WS)

Orders for Class-8 trucks – the heavy trucks that haul consumer goods, equipment, commodities, and supplies across the US to feed the goods-based economy – plunged 52% in April compared to April last year, to 16,400 orders, according to FTR Transportation Intelligence on Friday. It was the lowest April since 2016 when the industry cycled through its last transportation recession. This comes after orders had already plunged 67% year-over-year in March, 58% in February and January, and 43% in December. The collapse in orders is on the scale of the last transportation recession in 2015 and 2016. The chart shows the percent change of orders for each month compared to a year earlier:

The industry is very cyclical with big swings in both directions. Trucking companies get exuberant when capacity tightens and freight rates shoot up as they did in late 2017 and 2018, and they’re inclined to order when business is booming, but it takes a while to get these trucks built, and order backlogs at truck manufacturers piled up to reach close a year at the peak in 2018. Fear of not getting the equipment when they need it can cause industry-wide bouts of over-ordering at the peak of the cycle, which was summer 2018. But as capacity rises, and the cyclical freight business backs off from its blistering growth phase and ticks down a little as it has been since late 2018, trucking companies adjust by reducing their orders, and when push comes to shove, if they can still do it, by cancelling their orders. And that’s what is happening here.

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I think perhaps everyone intuitively understands how to re-design cities. Cars must go first.

Urban Greening Can Save Species, Cool Warming Cities, Make Us Happy (Conv.)

The current climate and ecological crisis demands a radical redesign of how we live and organise our societies. Yet these urgent changes, though complex, are far from impossible. Some of them are simple, beautiful, and beneficial to all. By greening our cities with street trees, urban parks, and community and rooftop gardens, we can keep ourselves cool amid rising temperatures, reverse the steady erosion of the rich tapestry of life on Earth, and foster happiness and social connection in the process. It is widely known that greenery in urban spaces helps improve city microclimates.

Thanks to heat generated by traffic and industrial activity, as well as the spread of heat-trapping concrete buildings that have steadily replaced plant life, urban air temperature is often higher than in rural environments. Hotter cities compel urban denizens to opt for air conditioners in order to stay cool, which further strains energy demands and worsens the urban heat island effect. Plants can help cool cities through the water that evaporates from their leaves when exposed to the sun’s rays, and by shading surfaces that otherwise might have absorbed heat. Research has found that on a sunny day, a single healthy tree can have the cooling power of more than ten air-conditioning units.

Plants also help keep harmful pollutants such as microscopic particulate matter at bay through a complex process known as dry deposition, whereby particles penetrate and become trapped in the wax or cuticles of leaves. Although banning or at least restricting vehicle use in city centres is crucial, mass greening can further reduce pollution and keep cities cool in the increasingly scorching summers that lie ahead.

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Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon
– Susan Ertz

 

 

Apr 282019
 


Giovanni Bellini Pietà c1460

 

So Where is the Swedish Warrant? (Craig Murray)
Assange’s Legal Team Files Lawsuit Against Ecuador Over Extortion (Sp.)
Putin ‘Outraged’ At Maria Butina Sentencing (BBC)
Obama White House Engaged Ukraine In Russia Collusion Narrative (Solomon)
Majority Of British Now Think Brexit Referendum Was A Bad Idea (G.)
Labour To Decide On Brexit Public Vote On Tuesday, Says Corbyn (G.)
Corbyn Launches Bid To Declare A National Climate Emergency (G.)
UK Fracking Tsar Quits After Six Months, Blames Eco Activists (G.)
Ecuador To Appeal Amazon Oil Exploration Ruling (AFP)
Guaido Makes New Appeal To Venezuela Army Ahead Of Mayday Protests (AFP)
Spanish Socialists Run For Re-Election Sunday On “Green New Deal De España”
Leftwing Activists Join Gilets Jaunes For Peaceful Paris Protest (G.)

 

 

I’ve said it before: the Swedish people are far too silent on this.

So Where is the Swedish Warrant? (Craig Murray)

If the Swedish allegations against Julian Assange were genuine and not simply a ruse to arrest him for extradition to the United States, where is the arrest warrant now from Sweden and what are the charges? Only the more minor allegation has passed the statute of limitations deadline. The major allegation, equivalent to rape, is still well within limits. Sweden has had seven years to complete the investigation and prepare the case. It is over two years since they interviewed Julian Assange in the Ecuadorean Embassy. They have had years and years to collect all the evidence and prepare the charges. So where, Swedish prosecutors, are your charges? Where is your arrest warrant?

Julian Assange has never been charged with anything in Sweden. He was merely “wanted for questioning”, a fact the MSM repeatedly failed to make clear. It is now undeniably plain that there was never the slightest intention of charging him with anything in Sweden. All those Blairite MPs who seek to dodge the glaring issue of freedom of the media to publish whistleblower material revealing government crimes, by hiding behind trumped-up sexual allegations, are left looking pretty stupid. What is the point of demanding Assange be extradited to Sweden when there is no extradition request from Sweden? What is the point in demanding he face justice in Sweden when there are no charges? Where are the charges from Sweden?

The answer to that is silence. Sweden was always a fit-up designed to get Assange to the USA. And now they don’t need it, so Sweden has quietly gone away. All the false left who were taken in by the security services playing upon a feminist mantra should take a very hard look at themselves.

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Embassy staff stole and gave away Assange documents. The story will be that these were just individuals, not a Lenin Moreno policy.

Assange’s Legal Team Files Lawsuit Against Ecuador Over Extortion (Sp.)

Assange had been residing at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for nearly seven years before his asylum was revoked on 11 April, followed by his arrest and further extradition to the Westminster Magistrate’s Court. Julian Assange’s lawyers have filed a lawsuit against a group of Spaniards, members of staff at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, as well as Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry over extortion, AFP reported, citing Assange’s defence team. Earlier, Spanish media reported that the group of Spaniards had got hold of Assange’s videos and personal documents, which they threatened to publish unless paid $3.3 million by the WikiLeaks team. The lawsuit was reportedly brought forward in Spain. The source also noted that an investigation into the matter was ongoing, adding that Assange was allegedly spied on in the embassy.

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How does that judge sleep at night?

What the Butina case shows us in technicolor is that the US has kangaroo justice in kangaroo courts.

Putin ‘Outraged’ At Maria Butina Sentencing (BBC)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has hit out at a US court’s sentencing of agent Maria Butina, dubbing it “an outrage” and a “travesty of justice”. Butina was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Friday after trying to infiltrate US political groups in an effort to sway American policies in favour of Moscow. The 30-year-old had pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as a foreign agent. But the Russian president said the sentence was an attempt to save face. In his first public remarks since the sentencing, Mr Putin on Saturday said it was “not clear what she was convicted of or what crime she committed”. “I think it’s a prime example of ‘saving face.’ They arrested her and put the girl in jail. But there was nothing on her, so in order not to look totally stupid they… fixed her up with an 18-month sentence to show that she was guilty of something,” he told reporters in Beijing.


Speaking to the court on Friday, Butina said: “I destroyed my own life.” The Russian gun rights activist had been in custody since her arrest in July. While initially pleading not guilty, she reversed her position after reaching a deal with prosecutors and admitted to a single count of conspiracy in December. The judge noted on Friday that Butina had provided “substantial assistance” to law enforcement. But despite Butina’s plea for leniency, the sentencing fully complied with the government’s recommendation. “This was no simple misunderstanding by a overeager foreign student,” Judge Chutkan said. The 18-month sentence includes the nine months Butina has already served. She will face immediate deportation after her sentence is complete. At the end of the sentencing, Judge Chutkan said she wished Butina “the best of luck.”

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Oh boy… Wonder what Horowitz will have on this.

Obama White House Engaged Ukraine In Russia Collusion Narrative (Solomon)

As Donald Trump began his meteoric rise to the presidency, the Obama White House summoned Ukrainian authorities to Washington to coordinate ongoing anti-corruption efforts inside Russia’s most critical neighbor. The January 2016 gathering, confirmed by multiple participants and contemporaneous memos, brought some of Ukraine’s top corruption prosecutors and investigators face to face with members of former President Obama’s National Security Council (NSC), FBI, State Department and Department of Justice (DOJ). The agenda suggested the purpose was training and coordination. But Ukrainian participants said it didn’t take long — during the meetings and afterward — to realize the Americans’ objectives included two politically hot investigations: one that touched Vice President Joe Biden’s family and one that involved a lobbying firm linked closely to then-candidate Trump.

[..] The other case raised at the January 2016 meeting, Telizhenko said, involved Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company under investigation in Ukraine for improper foreign transfers of money. At the time, Burisma allegedly was paying then-Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter as both a board member and a consultant. More than $3 million flowed from Ukraine to an American firm tied to Hunter Biden in 2014-15, bank records show. According to Telizhenko, U.S. officials told the Ukrainians they would prefer that Kiev drop the Burisma probe and allow the FBI to take it over. The Ukrainians did not agree. But then Joe Biden pressured Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to fire Ukraine’s chief prosecutor in March 2016, as I previously reported. The Burisma case was transferred to NABU, then shut down. [..] Ukraine is riddled with corruption, Russian meddling and intense political conflicts, so one must carefully consider any Ukrainian accounts.

But Telizhenko’s claim that the DOJ reopened its Manafort probe as the 2016 election ramped up is supported by the DOJ’s own documents, including communications involving Associate Attorney General Bruce Ohr, his wife, Nellie, and ex-British spy Christopher Steele. [..] Previously, Politico reported that the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington assisted Clinton’s campaign through a DNC contractor. The Ukrainian Embassy acknowledges it got requests for assistance from the DNC staffer to find dirt on Manafort but denies it provided any improper assistance. Now we have more concrete evidence that the larger Ukrainian government also was being pressed by the Obama administration to help build the Russia collusion narrative. And that onion is only beginning to be peeled. But what is already confirmed by Ukrainians looks a lot more like assertive collusion with a foreign power than anything detailed in the Mueller report.

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What they think today is irrelevant.

Majority Of British Now Think Brexit Referendum Was A Bad Idea (G.)

More than half the public – 55% – now think it would have been better never to have held the EU referendum given the difficulties of reaching an agreement on Brexit, according to the latest Opinium/Observer poll. Strikingly, more Conservative voters (49%) now think the referendum was a bad idea than believe it was the right thing to have done (43%). Among Labour supporters, 72% believe it would have been better never to have staged the vote, while 18% say it was worthwhile. The Conservatives are down 3 percentage points on 26% compared with a fortnight ago and continue to trail Labour (also down 3pts on 33%) by seven percentage points. Nigel Farage’s newly formed Brexit party, meanwhile, has established itself in a clear third place on 17%, having been included in the national poll for the first time.

The Liberal Democrats are down 2 points on 6%, the SNP unchanged on 5%, Ukip down 7 on 4%, the Greens unchanged on 4%, Change.UK (also included for the first time) is on 4% and Plaid Cymru is unchanged on 1%. When voters were asked how they intended to vote in the European elections, the news was even better for the Brexit party. Support for Nigel Farage’s new party and Labour stands level at 28% – double that for the Conservatives, on 14%. The pro-remain Liberal Democrats and ChangeUK parties both stand on 7%, while the Greens are on 6%, the SNP 5%, Ukip 3% and Plaid Cymru 1%. If a second referendum were held between the options of leaving the EU on the prime minister’s deal or remaining in the EU, 46% say they would vote to remain (unchanged on a fortnight ago) while 34% would vote to leave (down 4%).

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Jeremy pushes the blame away from himself.

Labour To Decide On Brexit Public Vote On Tuesday, Says Corbyn (G.)

Labour’s ruling body will decide on Tuesday whether the party will campaign for a public vote on any Brexit deal, Jeremy Corbyn has said on the campaign trail in leave-voting Peterborough. Almost 90 Labour MPs and MEPs, including a number of frontbenchers, wrote to the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to demand that its European election manifesto include a “clear commitment to a confirmatory public vote on any Brexit deal”. However, Corbyn declined to guarantee the commitment. He stressed that he was not a dictator and that the matter would be for the NEC to decide.


“The national executive will decide on Tuesday what will be in the European election manifesto, and we will reflect the decisions made [at] last year’s Labour party conference, which were for a customs union, market access and rights protection within – with – the European Union,” he said. “We would prefer to have a general election, but failing that, if we get that agreement, we are prepared to consider putting it to a confirmatory vote. That is a decision the national executive of the party will make. “It’s important that the party, which is a democratic party structure, makes those decisions. Sadly – or perhaps it’s a good thing – I’m not a dictator of the Labour party.”

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Jeremy rides the popularity waves of Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg. That’s what the timing tells you.

Corbyn Launches Bid To Declare A National Climate Emergency (G.)

Labour will this week force a vote in parliament to declare a national environmental and climate change emergency as confidential documents show the government has spent only a fraction of a £100m fund allocated in 2015 to support clean air projects. Jeremy Corbyn’s party will demand on Wednesday that the country wakes up to the threat and acts with urgency to avoid more than 1.5°C of warming, which will require global emissions to fall by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching “net zero” before 2050. The move will place Conservative MPs under pressure to back the plan, or explain why they refuse to do so, now fears over the combined problems of air pollution and climate change have risen to the top of the political agenda.

On Saturday night Corbyn said the recent wave of protests were “a massive and necessary wake-up call” that demanded “rapid and dramatic action, which only concerted government action and a green industrial revolution can deliver.” He said that if parliament backed the move and became the first national legislature to declare a climate emergency it would “trigger a wave of action from governments around the world”. [..] The motion will call for new targets on the mass rollout of renewable and low carbon energy and transport, proper funding of environmental protection, reversing species decline and developing plans to move towards a zero waste economy.

The plan comes as confidential minutes of a government advisory group obtained by the Observer show how all but a small proportion of a £100m pot allocated to Highways England to combat air pollution “on and near our roads” in 2015 has not been spent, despite a 2020 deadline. Minutes of a meeting of the Highways England designated funds advisory group from last December and marked “Sensitivity – Official”, reveal concerns at the highest level that the money may not be spent within the defined timetable. Highways England is the government company charged with operating, maintaining and improving England’s motorways and major A roads. The minutes state that a “key risk remains of fully investing all remaining air quality designated funding by the end of March 2020. By the end of October 2018 just £2.82m had been invested.”

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This woman is a certified nut. Good riddance.

UK Fracking Tsar Quits After Six Months, Blames Eco Activists (G.)

The government’s fracking tsar has quit the post after just six months, claiming policy relating to the controversial process means there is “no purpose” to her job. Natascha Engel told the business secretary, Greg Clark, that developing the industry would be “an impossible task” despite its “enormous potential”. In her resignation letter, she said environmental activists had been “highly successful” in encouraging the government to curb fracking. Engel, a former Labour MP, wrote the letter following two weeks of protests by the Extinction Rebellion group, which brought parts of London to a standstill with demands to cut emissions to zero by 2025.


She wrote: “A perfectly viable and exciting new industry that could help meet our carbon reduction targets, make us energy secure and provide jobs in parts of the country that really need them is in danger of withering on the vine – not for any technical or safety reasons, but because of a political decision.” Engel complained that a traffic light system that halts fracking when a tremor with a magnitude of 0.5 is recorded “amounts to a de facto ban”. “The UK could be on the cusp of an energy revolution the like of which we have not seen since the discovery of North Sea oil and gas,” she wrote.

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The Inter-American Court of Human Rights the judge based his decision on, also spoke out very strongly for Assange. Politicians ignore it at will.

Ecuador To Appeal Amazon Oil Exploration Ruling (AFP)

The Ecuadoran government announced Saturday it will appeal a ruling won by the country’s Waorani indigenous tribe that blocks oil companies’ entry onto ancestral Amazonian lands for exploration activities. The Ministry of Energy and Non-renewable Natural Resources said in a statement it “will appeal the decision, given that although documents and videos were presented and compliance with all standards was demonstrated, these were not taken into account.” After two weeks of deliberations, a criminal court in Puyo, central Ecuador, on Friday accepted a Waorani bid for court protection in Pastaza province to stop an oil bidding process after the government moved to open up around 180,000 hectares for exploration.


The lands are protected under Ecuador’s constitution that establishes the “inalienable, unseizable and indivisible” rights of indigenous people “to maintain possession of their ancestral lands and obtain their free adjudication.” Crucially, however, the wealth in the subsoil is owned by the state. The constitution also enshrines the need for prior consultation on any plans to exploit the underground resources, given the probable environmental and cultural impacts on tribal communities. The state reached an agreement with the Waorani over oil exploration in 2012, but the tribe’s leaders said they were duped. The judges ordered the government to conduct a new consultation, applying standards set by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights..

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Huh, what? He’s still there? Cute to see what side the impartial AFP is on.

Guaido Makes New Appeal To Venezuela Army Ahead Of Mayday Protests (AFP)

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido used his latest mass rally on Saturday to reiterate an appeal to the army to end its support for Nicolas Maduro’s regime, and announced massive Mayday protests to oust the embattled president. Guaido told supporters at the rally in Caracas that the support of the army was “fundamental” to oust Maduro, “but time is passing and the wait cannot be eternal.” He reminded military leaders they have “a historic opportunity resting on their shoulders.” Despite support from more than 50 states who recognize him as interim president, US-backed Guaido has been unable to affect Maduro’s grip on the military, which continues to keep him in power, along with allies China and Russia.


Guaido will aim to keep up the street pressure on the regime with a huge Mayday protest on Wednesday that he said would be “the largest in the country’s history.” At his rally on Saturday, he held a swearing-in ceremony for “freedom commandos” — volunteers he has put in charge of organizing ongoing protests against the government. The government has also called for mass pro-Maduro demonstrations to be held as part of its annual Mayday parade. [..] Leftist firebrand Maduro has presided over a crumbling economy in which inflation is projected to soar to a mind-boggling 10 million percent this year, with millions of Venezuelans having fled in the face of a shortage of basic goods. Washington has hit Venezuela with a raft of sanctions aimed at cutting off financial support for Maduro and his top officials. An oil embargo comes into effect on Sunday.

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Wasn’t Podemos shut down by social media earlier this week? Oh, right, their WhatsApp channel.

Spanish Socialists Run For Re-Election Sunday On “Green New Deal De España”

The idea of a Green New Deal first sprouted in the U.S. — which is only fair, since we did the first New Deal, after all. Depending on the results of this weekend’s elections, though, Spain might be the first country to actually put one into place. The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, or PSOE, took over at the national level last summer following a corruption scandal that hobbled longtime Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his right-wing Popular Party, the PP. PSOE struck a tenuous bargain with the country’s regional nationalist parties, allowing party leader Pedro Sánchez to become prime minister. That agreement fell apart over budget negotiations earlier this spring, forcing Sánchez to call for a snap election that will take place on Sunday. PSOE is ahead in the polls and could potentially form a government with the left populist party Podemos, formed in 2014 out of Spain’s Occupy Wall Street-esque 15-M movement.


Should PSOE remain in power, Spain — Europe’s fifth-largest economy — could become a testing ground for rolling out a Green New Deal nationwide. Sánchez came out in support of the U.S. Green New Deal — sometimes translated as “El New Deal Verde” or “El Green New Deal de España” — in January and has campaigned on it throughout the election. Teresa Ribera, Spain’s minister for ecological transition, told me by phone earlier this month that a Green New Deal “accepts that we are in an emergency moment where we need to transform,” calling it an “opportunity to update our economy and our industry.” She sees it, too, as an opportunity to draw vital connections between income and wealth inequality and the degradation of the environment, “transforming that into a positive agenda.”

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“Organisers see the Paris demonstration as a dry run for Wednesday’s May Day rally, which will bring together several unions from different sectors…”

The gilets jaunes must be careful not to be co-opted as just another party political movement.

Leftwing Activists Join Gilets Jaunes For Peaceful Paris Protest (G.)

Thousands of trade unionists and activists from leftwing parties marched with gilet jaune (yellow vest) protesters through Paris on Saturday to present a united front against French President Emmanuel Macron’s latest reforms package. The demonstration, which passed off peacefully, came before the main gilets jaunes march in the eastern city of Strasbourg, where protesters clashed with police trying to enforce a ban in parts of the city centre. Veterans of the protests, which have been running for six months, led off the Paris march, which was organised by the militant CGT union. Many senior figures from the radical left marched with them, including Jean-Luc Melenchon, the leader of France Unbowed and one of Macron’s most vocal critics.


Welcoming this show of unity, Melenchon told BFM TV: “It’s the first time that there has been a call of this kind, that’s to say union organisations, associations and political movements.” It was a government plan to increase diesel prices and raise taxes on pensions last November that initially sparked the protests in rural France, which quickly ballooned into a full-scale anti-government rebellion. But in the early months of the movement, its leading figures resisted attempts by parties on the far left and the far right to hijack their cause for their own ends, as they saw it. [..] Organisers see the Paris demonstration as a dry run for Wednesday’s May Day rally, which will bring together several unions from different sectors.

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Apr 242019
 


Giovanni Bellini Pietà 1474

 

Bipolar Markets in the “New Mediocre” (Roubini)
Fed Key Interest Rate Keeps Climbing, That Could Become A Problem (CNBC)
Cut the Price and They Will Come: US New Home Prices At Dec. 2014 Level (WS)
Chinese Banks Are Running Out Of Dollars (ZH)
Hillary Outlines “Roadmap” To Trump Impeachment (ZH)
The Conspiracy Against Trump (Giraldi)
Theresa May Accuses Labour Of Dragging Its Heels In Brexit Talks (Ind.)
Labour Says Theresa May Unwilling To Offer Key Brexit Concessions (G.)
UK MPs Campaign To Have Donald Trump’s State Visit Cancelled (G.)
The Revelations of WikiLeaks: No. 1 (CN)

 

 

Who will be the first in the world of finance to understand what’s going on AND be honest about it? It won’t be Roubini. Nothing has anything to do with recession or trade risks anymore. It’s the Fed and the Fed only. And there are no investors as long as the Fed monopolizes what were once markets. These so-called investors are in reality a bunch of rich socialists waiting for a central bank to hand them money. They’ll also be the first to warn about the dangers of socialism.

Bipolar Markets in the “New Mediocre” (Roubini)

Financial markets tend to undergo manic-depressive cycles, and this has been especially true in recent years. During risk-ons, investors – driven by “animal spirits” – produce bull markets, frothiness, and sometimes outright bubbles; eventually, however, they overreact to some negative shock by becoming too pessimistic, shedding risk, and forcing a correction or bear market. Whereas prices of US and global equities rose sharply throughout 2017, markets began to wobble in 2018, and became fully depressed in the last quarter of the year. This risk-off reflected concerns about a global recession, Sino-American trade tensions, and the Federal Reserve’s signals that it would continue to raise interest rates and pursue quantitative tightening.

But since this past January, markets have rallied, so much so that some senior asset managers now foresee a market “melt-up” (the opposite of a meltdown), with equities continuing to rise sharply above their current elevated levels. One could argue that this latest risk-on cycle will continue for the rest of the year. For starters, growth is stabilizing in China, owing to another round of macroeconomic stimulus there, easing fears of a hard landing. And the United States and China may soon reach a deal to prevent the ongoing trade war from escalating further.

At the same time, US and global growth are expected to strengthen somewhat in the second half of the year, and the disruption of a “hard Brexit” has been averted, with the European Union extending the deadline for the United Kingdom’s departure to October 31, 2019. As for the eurozone’s prospects, much will depend on Germany, where growth could rebound as global headwinds fade. Moreover, central banks, particularly the Fed, have become super-dovish again, and this appears to have reversed the tightening of financial conditions that produced the risk-off in late 2018.

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They are well on their way towards blowing up the entire US economy. Just like their counterparts in Japan, Europe, China. Will Russia be the last one standing?

Fed Key Interest Rate Keeps Climbing, That Could Become A Problem (CNBC)

The Federal Reserve’s benchmark interest rate has inched up to its highest level in 11 years even though the central bank has sent a clear message that it is done tightening policy indefinitely. In recent days, the effective fed funds rate, which targets the overnight level that banks charge each other for loans, has moved up to 2.44%. That’s the highest since March 2008 and is just 6 basis points from the top of the target range and the closest to the top since December, when the Fed last raised rates. For now, the move is looked on as not being especially problematic given that there is still room between the current level and the top of the 2.25% to 2.5% range in which the rate is supposed to trade.


But moves toward the upper end of the band have prompted action before, and the trend likely will be a topic of discussion at next week’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting. When the Fed first began raising rates in December 2015, it succeeded in keeping the funds rate around the midpoint of the target range. But that has changed over the past year. “At 6 basis points from the top of the range, you’re still within the target. The question becomes whether they think technical pressure is driving this,” said Lou Crandall, chief economist at Wrightson ICAP and formerly of the New York Fed. “The only concern is whether you’ll have to make a technical adjustment in the future from preventing it from going higher.”

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Fed to the rescue! Actually, as long as banks write new loans, the Fed can and will hold back.

Cut the Price and They Will Come: US New Home Prices At Dec. 2014 Level (WS)

Home builders, the ultimate pros in the housing market, have figured out something after the malaise in the second half last year: Cut prices and buyers will come. The median selling price of new houses dropped 9.7% in March from March last year to $302,700, the Commerce Department reported this morning. This took the price back to about where it had first been in December 2014 ($301,500):

Homebuilders are motivated to move their speculative inventory. They’re making deals at lower prices, and they’re building homes at lower price points. And buyers responded. House sales at the lower end gained market share while houses at the higher end lost market share. Houses that were sold below $200,000 made up 16% of the mix in March, up from 11% in March 2018. Houses that were sold at prices of $400,000 or higher in March made up 29% of the mix, down from 32% in March 2018. This shift in the market, and the price cuts by homebuilders, has pushed the median new house price down 11.8% from the peak in December 2017. The year-over-year price drops starting in November last year were the sharpest such drops since Housing Bust 1:

The new-house sales data, produced jointly by the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is volatile. It is revised in the following months, often quite drastically. But after a while, the trends become clear. For the long-term view: The median price of new houses ballooned by about 55% from the range in 2011 and 2012 to the peak in December 2017 ($343,300). This peak had exceeded by 31% the crazy peak of Housing Bubble 1 in March 2007. When it comes to price, the sky is not the limit:

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Give ’em a swap line.

Chinese Banks Are Running Out Of Dollars (ZH)

Following the biggest quarterly credit injection in Chinese history, it is safe to say that China’s banks are flush with yuan loans. However, when it comes to dollar-denominated assets, it’s a different story entirely. As the WSJ points out, in the past few years, a funding problem has emerged for China’s biggest commercial banks, one which is largely outside of Beijing’s control: they’re running low on US dollars so critical to fund operations both domestically and abroad. As shown in the chart below, the combined dollar liabilities at China’s four biggest commercial banks exceeded their dollar assets at the end of 2018, a sharp reversal from just a few years ago.

Back in 2013, the four together had around $125 billion more dollar assets than liabilities, but now they owe more dollars to creditors and customers than are owed to them. The reversal is the result of just one bank: Bank of China, which for many years held more net assets in dollars than any other Chinese lender, ended 2018 owing $72 billion more in dollar liabilities than it booked in dollar assets. The other “top 3” lenders finished the year with more dollar assets than liabilities, even though their net dollar surplus has shrunk substantially in the past five years.

And yet, as everything else with China, there is more than meets the eye: as the WSJ reports looking at Bank of China’s annual report, the bank’s asset-liability imbalance is more than addressed by dollar funding that doesn’t sit on its balance sheet. Instruments like currency swaps and forwards are accounted for elsewhere. This is reminiscent of the shady operations discussed recently involving Turkey’s FX reserves, where the central bank has been borrowing dollar assets from local banks via off balance sheet swaps, which it then used to prop up and boost the lira at a time of aggressive selling of the local currency. It is safe to assume that the PBOC has been engaging in a similar operation.

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Hmmm. Hillary says: “You don’t put impeachment on the table as the only item on the table and say you’re going to get there no matter what.

But as I said yesterday, that is precisely what Nadler appears to do: “I do think, if proven – which hasn’t been proven yet – if proven, some of this would be impeachable, yes,” Nadler said..”

At best awfully close.

Hillary Outlines “Roadmap” To Trump Impeachment (ZH)

Just hours after Nancy Pelosi attempted to mend the gaping division between the realists and the extremists in her party, failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton decided to pile into the impeachment debate with her own take on the Mueller Report. “Well, I think what Nancy means, and I agree with what she means, is that it shouldn’t be a preordained conclusion, it shouldn’t be what you do for partisan, political purposes almost outside the framework of the Constitution,” she said during an appearance at the Time 100 Summit in New York. “You don’t put impeachment on the table as the only item on the table and say you’re going to get there no matter what, which is what happened in ’99. Instead, you say we are going to proceed with the seriousness that this demands.”

Dripping with irony, Clinton – whose husband was impeached by the House of Representatives in 1998 for perjury and obstruction of justice (only to be acquitted the following year by the Senate), and allegedly used her position to gain personal wealth through pay-to-play peddling of her and her husband’s influence – discuss the roadmap to President Trump’s impeachment and said he should have been indicted. “I have a kind of weird personal history about impeachment,” Clinton said to laughter from the audience. But, “not what you’re thinking,” she added, referring to her time as a staff attorney serving on the impeachment inquiry for former President Richard Nixon two decades earlier in 1974.

“I was one of the young lawyers who actually drafted the memo about what is a high crime and misdemeanor, and it was truly meant by our founders to describe actions that undermine the integrity of our government that placed the personal or political interest in a president over the interest of the nation,” she said.

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It makes no difference where you stand on the issue(s), this is what you will have to deal with going forward. First off, the Horowitz report next month: “he intends to make criminal referrals as a result of his investigation.”

The Conspiracy Against Trump (Giraldi)

Whether the Mueller report is definitive very much depends on the people they chose to interview and the questions they chose to ask, which is something that will no doubt be discussed for the next year if not longer. Beyond declaring that the Trump team did not collude with Russia, it cast little light on the possible Deep State role in attempting to vilify Trump and his associates. The investigation of that aspect of the 2016 campaign and the possible prosecutions of former senior government officials that might be a consequence of the investigation will likely be entertaining conspiracy theorists well into 2020. Since Russiagate has already been used and discarded the new inquiry might well be dubbed Trumpgate.

The media has scarcely reported how Michael Horowitz, the Inspector General of the Department of Justice (DOJ), has been looking into the activities of the principal promoters of the Russiagate fraud. Horowitz, whose report is expected in about a month, has already revealed that he intends to make criminal referrals as a result of his investigation. While the report will only cover malfeasance in the Department of Justice, which includes the FBI, the names of intelligence officers involved will no doubt also surface. It is expected that there will be charges leading to many prosecutions and one can hope for jail time for those individuals who corruptly betrayed their oath to the United States Constitution to pursue a political vendetta.

A review of what is already known about the plot against Trump is revealing and no doubt much more will be learned if and when investigators go through emails and phone records. The first phase of the illegal investigation of the Trump associates involved initiating wiretaps without any probable cause. This eventually involved six government intelligence and law enforcement agencies that formed a de facto task force headed by the CIA’s Director John Brennan. Also reportedly involved were the FBI’s James Comey, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Department of Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson, and Admiral Michael Rogers who headed the National Security Agency.

Brennan was the key to the operation because the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court refused to approve several requests by the FBI to initiate taps on Trump associates and Trump Tower as there was no probable cause to do so but the British and other European intelligence services were legally able to intercept communications linked to American sources. Brennan was able to use his connections with those foreign intelligence agencies, primarily the British GCHQ, to make it look like the concerns about Trump were coming from friendly and allied countries and therefore had to be responded to as part of routine intelligence sharing. As a result, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Gen. Michael Flynn were all wiretapped. And likely there were others. This all happened during the primaries and after Trump became the GOP nominee.

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I don’t see any common ground here that could lead to a solution. The country’s split right down the middle.

Theresa May Accuses Labour Of Dragging Its Heels In Brexit Talks (Ind.)

Theresa May has accused Labour of dragging its heels in the bid to find a cross-party compromise to deliver Brexit, even before the talks resumed after Easter. “The discussions with Labour have been serious but had also been difficult in some areas, such as in relation to the timetable for the negotiations,” the prime minister told her cabinet. No 10 fears Jeremy Corbyn does not share Ms May’s desire to avoid next month’s European parliament elections – which would require an agreement within days. The criticism is striking because it is the first time the government has turned on Labour since approaching the opposition three weeks ago.


Until now, it has been Mr Corbyn’s party that has blamed the prime minister for the lack of progress, accusing her of refusing to shift on her red lines – in particular, membership of a customs union. The cabinet discussion took place even before the talks resumed on Tuesday afternoon – but after a failure to hold any meaningful negotiations last week. Ms May’s spokesman told journalists: “The PM said the discussions with Labour had been serious, but had also been difficult in some areas, such as in relation to the timetable for the negotiations. “The PM said that the government’s position was that progress needed to be made urgently as it was vital to deliver on the result of the referendum and for the UK to leave the European Union as soon as possible.”

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They knew that before agreeing to the talks.

Labour Says Theresa May Unwilling To Offer Key Brexit Concessions (G.)

Labour has accused Theresa May of failing to offer any substantive changes to her Brexit deal in cross-party talks, as Downing Street’s hopes of a breakthrough in time to avoid taking part in European parliamentary elections waned. Brexit talks resumed on Tuesday between a team of ministers and shadow ministers. But Labour sources said the government team again appeared unwilling to countenance changes to the political declaration, which sets out the UK’s future relationship with the EU. Instead, ministers offered alternative ways of giving reassurance about the issues Labour has raised, such as on environmental standards and workers’ rights, including through redrafting the withdrawal act implementation bill (WAB) and tweaking separate planned government bills.


Downing Street continues to insist that it hopes to secure parliamentary ratification of a Brexit deal in time to avoid the UK having to participate in next month’s European parliament elections. The government has been considering tabling the WAB as a way of breaking the Brexit deadlock, but Labour has rejected the idea. “There’s a sequence; you have got to start with a different deal,” said a source. After the talks, Jeremy Corbyn blamed the government’s refusal to compromise on central issues such as membership of a customs union for the failure to make significant progress. “We’ll continue putting our case but quite honestly there’s got to be change in the government’s approach. They cannot keep on just regurgitating what has already been emphatically rejected three times by parliament, there’s got to be a change,” Corbyn said.

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They should get Theresa May and Boris Johnson cancelled. Hypocrites.

UK MPs Campaign To Have Donald Trump’s State Visit Cancelled (G.)

Theresa May has been criticised for allowing Donald Trump to make a state visit in June for D-day commemorations, with MPs orchestrating a campaign to stop the US president addressing parliament. Labour said it “beggars belief” that the government is offering the red-carpet treatment to Trump given his attacks on British and American values. Backbenchers began gathering signatures for a petition aiming to force the cancellation of the trip. The three-day trip starting on 3 June was confirmed by Buckingham Palace and the White House on Tuesday. The initial invitation was extended soon after Trump took office but a planned state visit in 2018, with all its pomp and ceremony, was downgraded to an official visit amid security concerns.


This time, Trump is likely to dine with the Queen, attend discussions with May in Downing Street and join an event in Portsmouth to mark the D-day landings. No 10 said the D-day event would be “one of the greatest British military spectacles in recent history” and would include a flypast of 26 types of RAF aircraft and at least 11 Royal Navy ships in the Solent. May said the visit would emphasise that the UK and US “have a deep and enduring partnership that is rooted in our common history and shared interests”. “We do more together than any two nations in the world and we are both safer and more prosperous because of our cooperation,” May said. “The state visit is an opportunity to strengthen our already close relationship in areas such as trade, investment, security and defence, and to discuss how we can build on these ties in the years ahead.”

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Promises to be a good series. But who will pay attention?

The Revelations of WikiLeaks: No. 1 (CN)

WikiLeaks was founded in 2006, but it was the April 5, 2010, publication of “Collateral Murder” that made the whistleblower-publisher a world-wide phenomenon, attracting admirers and enemies. WikiLeaks wrote of the film: “The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-sight, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers. Two young children involved in the rescue were also seriously wounded.” WikiLeaks noted that Reuters had unsuccessfully attempted to gain access to the video through the Freedom of Information Act in the years after the strike. The day after the release of the footage, The New York Times described WikiLeaks as a once-fringe website that had moved into the big time.

“The site has become a thorn in the side of authorities in the United States and abroad,” it said. “With the Iraq attack video, the clearinghouse for sensitive documents is edging closer toward a form of investigative journalism and to advocacy.” Before 2010 WikiLeaks received a few high-profile journalism awards. But in the years since the publication of the video, it has received a slew of honors, including The Sam Adams Award for Integrity. On April 16, WikiLeaks announced a fresh award for its founder, Julian Assange, even as he remains isolated in a London prison. “Collateral Murder” was one of the most prominent releases sourced from then-Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who served seven years in a military prison as a result.

Manning, who had access to the video, having a Top Secret clearance, first offered the video to The New York Times and The Washington Post, which both turned her down. Manning then turned to WikiLeaks. Manning described the events that led up to her decision to submit the footage to the press in leaked audio of her testimony during her 2013 court-martial. She said Reuters’ inability to get the footage via a freedom-of-information request contributed to her decision to leak it. “The most alarming aspect of the video for me, was the seemingly delight of bloodlust they [the pilots] appeared to have. They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging with, and seemed to not value human life in referring to them as ‘dead bastards,’ and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers.”

Marjorie Cohn, a legal analyst, is one of those who has described the contents of the footage as evidence of U.S. war crimes. As such she argues that Manning was legally obligated to expose such information. In a 2013 column for Truthout, she cites the Geneva Conventions, the Army Field Manual and the Uniform Code of Military Justice as all setting forth the duty of a service member to disobey unlawful orders. None of the pilots, military officials nor policy-makers have ever been charged or otherwise held responsible for the events shown in the video.

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Apr 142019
 


Edward Hopper The Sheridan Theatre 1937

 

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

 

 

Independence from what? Reality?

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

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

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

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

The Most Splendid Housing Bubbles in Canada Deflate (WS)

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


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

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

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European elections in Britain do seem surreal.

UK Tories Face European Elections Drubbing (Ind.)

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


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

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

Corbyn Told To Promise Final Say Referendum (Ind.)

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


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

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Party before country.

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

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

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

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

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Another excellent essay from Jonathan Cook.

UK Media, MPs Unveil Latest Assange Deception (Cook)

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

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

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

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

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First amendment anyone?

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Expect it to be used against Assange.

Anonymous Attacks Continue Against Ecuadorian Government Websites (Cassandra)

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

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


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

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