Oct 092019
 


Vilhelm Hammershoi Woman Seen from the Back 1888

 

White House Says It Will Refuse To Cooperate With Impeachment Inquiry (R.)
Oh My God, They Killed CNY! You Bastards (Every)
Powell Says The Fed Will Start Expanding Its Balance Sheet ‘Soon’ (CNBC)
Trade Wars Lose US Its Competitiveness Top Spot – WEF (AFP)
Boris Johnson Facing No-Deal Brexit Cabinet Rebellion (R.)
EU May Offer To Extend Deadline For Brexit Deal To June (G.)
Brexit Is A Necessary Crisis, Reveals Britain’s True Place In The World (G.)
Time To Reassess CrowdStrike’s Credibility (Kelly)
Jeffrey Epstein Accuser Expands Lawsuit Against Estate, Alleged Enablers (R.)
Refugee Explosion “Greater” Than 2015 To Hit Europe – German Minister (ZH)

 

 

Tried hard to find a nonpartial view, but that just gets harder all the time.

White House Says It Will Refuse To Cooperate With Impeachment Inquiry (R.)

The White House said on Tuesday it would refuse to cooperate with an “illegitimate, unconstitutional” congressional impeachment inquiry, setting Republican President Donald Trump on a collision course with the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives. Hours after the administration abruptly blocked a key witness in the Ukraine scandal from testifying to congressional panels, White House lawyer Pat Cipollone criticized the decision by lawmakers to proceed with an impeachment inquiry without a full House vote. “You have designed and implemented your inquiry in a manner that violates fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due process,” he said, adding House Democrats had left Trump “no choice.”


“To fulfill his duties to the American people, the Constitution, the Executive Branch and all future occupants of the Office of the Presidency, President Trump and his administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances,” he said. [..] White House lawyer Cipollone described the probe as “a naked political strategy” that violated Trump’s due process rights and was designed to reverse the 2016 presidential election and influence the November 2020 election. “Your transparent rush to judgment, lack of democratically accountable authorization, and violation of basic rights in the current proceedings make clear the illegitimate, partisan purpose” of the inquiry, he said.

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Brilliant both from Michael Every of Rabobank and the South Park crew.

“Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts. We too love money more than freedom and democracy.”

Oh My God, They Killed CNY! You Bastards (Every)

”The upcoming ‘Top Gun 2’ stars Tom Cruise, still trying to look like he did in the 1980s, but no longer able to do all his own stunts: which is just like US foreign policy “ [..] the most honest commentary on where we now stand under globalisation comes not from the eschatological of intellectuals or politicians telling us democracy is under threat and free trade is great, not spotting Marxist and populist criticism that the two are linked; instead it comes from the scatology of ‘South Park’.[..] the most honest commentary on where we now stand under globalisation comes not from the eschatological of intellectuals or politicians telling us democracy is under threat and free trade is great, not spotting Marxist and populist criticism that the two are linked; instead it comes from the scatology of ‘South Park’


So is the US flailing or retreating like the Romans? No. It is focusing on its mighty financial weapons and physically fighting where it can achieve what matters most…if one is not thinking about Iran, but China. As Trump underlined: “WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN.” Where does it benefit most fighting, globally? Three guesses… The greatest likelihood is still that if Trump gets past his latest tipping point then at some (tipping) point soon markets are going to cry “Oh my God, they killed CNY!” as the Chinese currency collapses.

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As Big As Japan.

Powell Says The Fed Will Start Expanding Its Balance Sheet ‘Soon’ (CNBC)

The Federal Reserve will soon start growing its balance sheet again, a response in part to the jolt to overnight lending markets in September, Chairman Jerome Powell said Tuesday. How the Fed will go about expanding the securities it holds will be explained in the coming days, though Treasury bill purchases will be involved, the central bank chief said during a speech in Denver, though Powell stressed the approach shouldn’t be confused with the quantitative easing done during and after the financial crisis. “This is not QE. In no sense is this QE,” he said in a question and answer session after the speech.


On monetary policy more broadly, Powell stuck to his recent script: He and his fellow policymakers view the economy as being strong but susceptible to shocks, particularly from a global slowdown, trade and geopolitics like a potentially messy Brexit. He said the Fed stands committed to supporting the recovery but is data dependent and not on a preset course of cutting rates. The Fed has reduced its benchmark rate twice in 2019 and is expected to approve a third cut late this month.

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Because remember, children: you can never grow fast enough. Just ask the Fed.

Trade Wars Lose US Its Competitiveness Top Spot – WEF (AFP)

The United States fell to second place behind Singapore in the World Economic Forum’s flagship Global Competitiveness Report, with the slippage linked in part to President Donald Trump’s trade wars. The Forum, organisers of the glitzy annual gathering of business and political elite in Davos, have released an annual competitiveness report since 1979 that assesses which economies are well placed to see productivity and long-term growth. While the report noted that the US “remains an innovation powerhouse” and the world’s second most competitive economy, some trouble signs have emerged, the Forum said.


“There are no two ways (about) it. It is important to ensure the countries are being open to trade,” said Saadia Zahidi, a Forum managing director, when asked to comment on the impact of the tariffs imposed by the Trump administration. She noted the lack of “hard data” on the impact of US tariffs imposed on several of its main economic partners, as the set of products impacted remains limited compared to overall trade. But, she said, “the sentiment” surrounding investing in the US “has been going down,” she told reporters in Geneva. “That will end up impacting long-term investment; that will end up impacting how decision makers are thinking; that will end up impacting the view of non-American business leaders (of) the United States. So it does matter in the long-term,” she added.

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The EU likes this.

Boris Johnson Facing No-Deal Brexit Cabinet Rebellion (R.)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing a new rebellion from his cabinet over concerns of a no-deal Brexit, with a group of cabinet ministers poised to resign, The Times newspaper reported on Wednesday. Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan, British Minister for Northern Ireland Julian Smith, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, Health Minister Matt Hancock and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox are all on a “resignation watch list”, according to The Times report An unnamed cabinet minister cited by the newspaper said that a “very large number” of Conservative members of parliament will quit if it comes to a no-deal Brexit.


The Times said that ministers had warned Johnson in a cabinet meeting about the “grave” risk of the return of direct rule in Northern Ireland and raised concerns about Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s most senior adviser. “Cabinet will set the strategy, not unelected officials. If this is an attempt to do that then it will fail”, the report quoted another cabinet minister as saying. The report comes as the European Union accused Britain of playing a “stupid blame game” over Brexit after a Downing Street source told Reuters a deal was essentially impossible because German Chancellor Angela Merkel had made unacceptable demands.

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“What’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game,” Tusk wrote in a tweet directed at the prime minister.”

EU May Offer To Extend Deadline For Brexit Deal To June (G.)

The European Union is poised to extend Brexit talks into as late as next summer after the European council and commission presidents dismissed Boris Johnson’s strategy as a “blame game”. A “range of dates” will now be in play at the meeting of European leaders next week but sources suggested the natural cut-off date would be June. With an extension of the UK’s EU membership now looking inevitable, other diplomatic sources suggested an unlikely outlier for an end date could even be ahead of a possible general election so as to force the Commons into accepting a deal. “But politicians like to keep things off their plates for as long as possible and so pushing it longer seems more realistic,” a senior EU diplomat said.

The negotiations over a deal are said to be effectively dead in Brussels after Downing Street’s extraordinary claims over the substance of a phone call between the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the UK prime minister. Merkel was said by an unnamed UK source to have told Johnson that Northern Ireland had to stay in the EU’s customs union. The official claimed that as a consequence a deal looked “essentially impossible, not just now but ever”. Tusk, the European council president, gave an insight into the frustration at the anonymous briefings over the Merkel call, the alleged content of which described by senior politicians in Berlin as “improbable”. The chancellor’s spokesman declined to comment on “confidential conversations”.

“What’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game,” Tusk wrote in a tweet directed at the prime minister. “At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people. You don’t want a deal, you don’t want an extension, you don’t want to revoke. Quo vadis? [Where are you going?]” [..] In Berlin Detlef Seif, the point person on Brexit for Merkel’s party, the CDU, rejected the account given by Downing Street of the call between the two leaders. He said: “In my mind it is completely improbable that the phone call between Merkel and Johnson took place in the way it has been reported in the British media. “It would run counter to all the principles the German government has followed for the last three years, namely that the negotiations are led by the European commission.

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“It brings to light, in stunning clarity, Brexiters’ deluded political understanding of the UK’s place in the world.”

“..without it we will remain stuck in the delusional, revivalist politics of a banana monarchy.”

Brexit Is A Necessary Crisis, Reveals Britain’s True Place In The World (G.)

Today much of the capital in Britain is not British and not linked to the Conservative party – where for most of the 20th century things looked very different. Once, great capitalists with national, imperial and global interests sat in the Commons and the Lords as Liberals or Conservatives. Between the wars, the Conservatives emerged as the one party of capital, led by great British manufacturers such as Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain. The Commons and the Lords were soon fuller than ever of Tory businessmen, from the owner of Meccano toys to that of Lyons Corner Houses.

After the second world war, such captains of industry avoided the Commons, but the Conservative party was without question the party of capital and property, one which stood against the party of organised labour. Furthermore, the Tories represented an increasingly national capitalism, protected by import controls, and closely tied to an interventionist and technocratic state that wanted to increase exports of British designed and made goods. A company like Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) saw itself, and indeed was, a national champion. British industry, public and private, was a national enterprise.

Since the 1970s things have changed radically. Today there is no such thing as British national capitalism. London is a place where world capitalism does business – no longer one where British capitalism does the world’s business. Everywhere in the UK there are foreign-owned enterprises, many of them nationalised industries, building nuclear reactors and running train services from overseas. When the car industry speaks, it is not as British industry but as foreign enterprise in the UK. The same is true of many of the major manufacturing sectors – from civil aircraft to electrical engineering – and of infrastructure. Whatever the interests of foreign capital, they are not expressed through a national political party. Most of these foreign-owned businesses, not surprisingly, are hostile to Brexit.

[..] Brexit is a necessary crisis, and has provided a long overdue audit of British realities. It exposes the nature of the economy, the new relations of capitalism to politics and the weakness of the state. It brings to light, in stunning clarity, Brexiters’ deluded political understanding of the UK’s place in the world. From a new understanding, a new politics of national improvement might come; without it we will remain stuck in the delusional, revivalist politics of a banana monarchy.

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High time. But is asking questions about CrowdStrike impeachable?

Time To Reassess CrowdStrike’s Credibility (Kelly)

Days before the Senate voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh last year, a former FBI assistant director appeared on MSNBC to suggest the Supreme Court nominee had a major credibility problem. “This is not…an investigation about the sexual allegations, I think it really has moved toward credibility,” Shawn Henry, an NBC News analyst, told Nicolle Wallace on October 1, 2018. “At this point now, there are very clear allegations, and subsequent to the judge’s testimony, people have come out who appear to be credible who…appear to be contradicting his testimony sworn before the United States Senate.” Henry, clearly reciting Democratic talking points to imply Kavanaugh perjured himself before the Senate Judiciary Committee during his September showdown with Christine Blasey Ford, also referred to Ford as a “victim” and claimed that the FBI’s investigation into Kavanaugh’s testimony had “fallen short.”

Henry was presented to viewers as the channel’s “national security analyst,” but there was one title the network overlooked: Shawn Henry is a top executive for CrowdStrike, the cybersecurity firm hired by the Democratic National Committee to investigate the infamous hack of its email system in early 2016. Perhaps not coincidentally, the firm determined that the Russians were behind the intrusion. CrowdStrike’s June 2016 assessment remains the sole source of evidence to supply the pretext of the government’s Russian election interference claim; later, it would help bolster the Trump-Russia collusion fable. [..] Henry, the president of CrowdStrike’s Washington operation, is a regular contributor to both MSNBC and NBC News programs. (His affiliation with CrowdStrike, however, is never mentioned.)

Although he hasn’t worked for the FBI since 2012, Henry often weighs in as an FBI “expert,” opining on a variety of political issues from government shutdowns to the Kavanaugh debacle. Curiously, his views always come down on the side opposite of Donald Trump and the Republican Party. In March 2017, Henry—who worked for Robert Mueller’s FBI during Barack Obama’s first term—participated in a post-inauguration forum to discuss the implications of Russia’s “hacking” the 2016 presidential election. The panel also featured former Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta and Marc Elias, the general partner at Perkins Coie, a politically-influential law firm based in D.C.. It was a symbolic trio. Perkins Coie hired CrowdStrike in the spring of 2016 on behalf of the DNC.

Instead of going directly to the FBI or other law enforcement agency about the breach, Democratic party leaders, working through Perkins Coie, retained CrowdStrike to find the culprits. Very cozy. But that wasn’t Perkins Coie’s only involvement in the Russia-hacked-the-election plotline. The law firm also hired Fusion GPS—who in turn hired British political operative Christopher Steele to author his infamous dossier—on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC around the same time Perkins retained CrowdStrike. According to disclosure reports, the DNC paid Perkins Coie $7.2 million during the 2016 election cycle: The PAC also paid CrowdStrike more than $400,000 during the same time period. (The DNC has paid CrowdStrike nearly $80,000 so far this year.)

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#I’mWithHer.

Jeffrey Epstein Accuser Expands Lawsuit Against Estate, Alleged Enablers (R.)

A New York woman who said Jeffrey Epstein began grooming her for sex when she was 14 and later raped her expanded her lawsuit against his estate, naming several women who allegedly enabled the financier’s abuses and seeking to block the estate from shielding his assets from victims. In her amended complaint filed on Tuesday, Jennifer Araoz accused four women by name who once worked with Epstein of misconduct, and added more than 20 corporate defendants associated with the late financier. Araoz, 32, wants “justice not just against Mr. Epstein’s estate, but the network of enablers that surrounded him, and the network of corporate interests that surrounded him,” her lawyer Daniel Kaiser told reporters on a conference call.

“Every penny of his estate should be available to satisfy the claims of victims,” he added. Epstein, 66, died by hanging himself in his Manhattan jail cell on Aug. 10, two days after signing a will and putting his estimated $577 million estate into a trust. Kaiser said it would be obvious to any judge that this was a fraudulent effort to keep his money away from victims. The four women include Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s longtime confidante; Lesley Groff, a former secretary; Cimberly Espinosa, a former executive assistant; and Rosalyn Fontanilla, a former maid who died in October 2016. All but Fontanilla are named as defendants.

Araoz accused the defendants of conspiring to identify and procure a steady stream of underage girls for Epstein to sexually abuse. The defendants “participated with and assisted Epstein in maintaining and protecting his sex trafficking ring, ensuring that approximately three girls a day were made available to him for his sexual pleasure,” the amended complaint said.

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It’s already started.

Refugee Explosion “Greater” Than 2015 To Hit Europe – German Minister (ZH)

The German government is warning that a number of indicators suggest Europe could be on the brink of witnessing a new refugee crisis explode on its borders. Germany’s Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said early this week that refugees and migrants are set to flood Europe on a scale even bigger that the peak of the 2015 crisis. “We must do more to help our European partners with controls on the EU external borders. We have left them alone for too long,” he told Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper after returning from a visit to Greece and Turkey, where he inspected the renewed refugee crisis first hand. “If we do not do that we will once again face a refugee wave like in 2015 or maybe even greater,” Seehofer warned ominously.

Seehofer further said that if the EU doesn’t unite to find “strength to solve this problem problem” it faces total “loss of control” if and when the next major crisis hits. At the height of the crisis three years ago, which was driven by the vastly destabilizing wars in Syria and Libya, and by the turmoil left in the wake of the Islamic State caliphate in western Iraq, there were near weekly mass drownings and accidents involving migrants attempting to traverse the Mediterranean, as well as fires and unrest at makeshift refugee camps in France and Greece. It further created turmoil in the domestic politics of multiple EU countries, with a number of right-wing populist figures and parties coming to power on anti-illegal immigration platforms.

And now, with Turkey on the brink of a major military incursion into northeast Syria, the Middle East is about to witness a major new conflagration resulting in potentially millions of new refugees being pushed out of the Turkey-Syria border region. Coupled with that, Turkey’s President Erdogan recently threatened to release one million refugees on Europe if he can’t have his so-called ‘safe zone’ which is to reach some 30km deep (19 miles) inside Syrian territory. He threatened early last month: “We will be forced to open the gates. We cannot be forced to handle the burden alone,” while demanding that European countries give political support to the controversial plan that would end in annexing UN member Syria’s sovereign territory.

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Jun 182019
 


Winslow Homer Camping in the Adirondacks (Wood engraving) 1874

 

China Warns US Against Opening Mideast ‘Pandora’s Box’ (CNA)
UN Officials: US Planning A ‘Tactical Assault’ In Iran (JPost)
The Coming Show Trial of Julian Assange (Chris Hedges)
Assange Judge Refuses To Recuse Herself Despite Evidence Of Bias (Can.)
Julian Assange and the Scales of Justice (CP)
FBI Never Saw CrowdStrike Unredacted or Final Report (McGovern)
Deep State Players Lash Out At Trump (Noble)
Swelling US Corporate Debt Raises Risk Of Global Financial Meltdown (Nikkei)
Who Bought the $1 Trillion of New US Government Debt Over The Past Year? (WS)
How Japan Turned Against Its ‘Bazooka’-Wielding Central Bank Chief (R.)
Boeing’s 737 MAX Name Change (F.)
Investors Demand Higher Premiums For Risky Australian Mortgage Bonds (R.)
Fiscal Money Can Make or Break the Euro (Varoufakis)

 

 

That is a better term than just about everyone realizes.

China Warns US Against Opening Mideast ‘Pandora’s Box’ (CNA)

China on Tuesday (Jun 18) warned against opening a “Pandora’s box” in the Middle East after the United States announced the deployment of 1,000 additional troops to the region amid escalating tensions with Iran. Foreign Minister Wang Yi also urged Tehran to not abandon the nuclear agreement “so easily” after Iran said it would exceed its uranium stockpile limit if world powers fail to fulfil their commitments under the agreement in 10 days. Fears of a confrontation between Iran and the United States have mounted since last Thursday when two tankers were attacked. The United States has blamed Iran, more than a year after President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal.


Iran has denied having any role in the attacks. The Chinese government’s top diplomat, Wang told reporters at a briefing that China was “of course, very concerned” about the situation in the Gulf, and called on all sides to ease tension and not head towards a clash. “We call on all sides to remain rational and exercise restraint, and not take any escalatory actions that irritate regional tensions, and not open a Pandora’s box,” Wang said. “In particular, the US side should alter its extreme pressure methods. Any unilateral behaviour has no basis in international law,” Wang said, warning that it could create “an even greater crisis”.

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I have my questions about this Jerusalem Post article, but they did publish it.

UN Officials: US Planning A ‘Tactical Assault’ In Iran (JPost)

Is the US going to attack Iran soon? Diplomatic sources at the UN headquarters in New York revealed to Maariv that they are assessing the United States’ plans to carry out a tactical assault on Iran in response to the tanker attack in the Persian Gulf on Thursday. According to the officials, since Friday, the White House has been holding incessant discussions involving senior military commanders, Pentagon representatives and advisers to President Donald Trump. The military action under consideration would be an aerial bombardment of an Iranian facility linked to its nuclear program, the officials further claimed. “The bombing will be massive but will be limited to a specific target,” said a Western diplomat.


The decision to carry out military action against Iran was discussed in the White House before the latest report that Iran might increase the level of uranium enrichment. The officials also noted that the United States plans to reinforce its military presence in the Middle East, and in the coming days will also send additional soldiers to the area. The sources added that President Trump himself was not enthusiastic about a military move against Iran, but lost his patience on the matter and would grant Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is pushing for action, what he wants.

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“We know what will be done to Assange. It has been done to thousands of those we kidnapped and then detained in black sites around the world.”

The Coming Show Trial of Julian Assange (Chris Hedges)

On Friday morning I was in a small courtroom at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London. Julian Assange, held in Belmarsh Prison and dressed in a pale-blue prison shirt, appeared on a video screen directly in front of me. Assange, his gray hair and beard neatly trimmed, slipped on heavy, dark-frame glasses at the start of the proceedings. He listened intently as Ben Brandon, the prosecutor, seated at a narrow wooden table, listed the crimes he allegedly had committed and called for his extradition to the United States to face charges that could result in a sentence of 175 years. The charges include the release of unredacted classified material that posed a “grave” threat to “human intelligence sources” and “the largest compromises of confidential information in the history of the United States.” After the prosecutor’s presentation, Assange’s attorney, Mark Summers, seated at the same table, called the charges “an outrageous and full-frontal assault on journalistic rights.”

The publication of classified documents is not a crime in the United States, but if Assange is extradited and convicted it will become one. Assange is not an American citizen. WikiLeaks, which he founded and publishes, is not a U.S.-based publication. The message the U.S. government is sending is clear: No matter who or where you are, if you expose the inner workings of empire you will be hunted down, kidnapped and brought to the United States to be tried as a spy. The extradition and trial of Assange will mean the end of public investigations by the press into the crimes of the ruling elites. It will cement into place a frightening corporate tyranny. Publications such as The New York Times and The Guardian, which devoted pages to the WikiLeaks revelations and later amplified and legitimized Washington’s carefully orchestrated character assassination of Assange, are no less panicked. This is the gravest assault on press freedom in my lifetime.

[..] We know what will be done to Assange. It has been done to thousands of those we kidnapped and then detained in black sites around the world. Sadistic and scientific techniques of torture will be used in an attempt to make him a zombie. Assange, in declining health, was transferred two weeks ago to the hospital wing of the prison. Because he was medically unable to participate when the hearing was initially to be held, May 30, the proceeding was reset. Friday’s hearing, in which he appeared frail and spoke hesitantly, although lucidly, set the timetable for his extradition trial, scheduled to take place at the end of February. All totalitarian states seek to break their political prisoners to render them compliant. This process will define Assange’s existence over the next few months.

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“her husband had been exposed by WikiLeaks”

Assange Judge Refuses To Recuse Herself Despite Evidence Of Bias (Can.)

UN Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer told US journalist Chris Hedges that Lady Arbuthnot “has a strong conflict of interest” and that “her husband had been exposed by WikiLeaks”. Hedges adds that Assange’s lawyers have asked the judge “to recuse herself”, but that “she has refused”. However, Lady Arbuthnot was forced to recuse herself in August 2018 after an investigation by the Observer into her husband’s business dealings with Uber. The judge ruled in favour of Uber but stepped down from the case when it was shown that SC Strategy’s client the QIA had taken a stake in Uber.


And there are other precedents. For example, retired high court judge Lady Butler-Sloss was forced to resign as chair of the panel tasked with examining allegations of child abuse within institutions. This was after she admitted to a family conflict of interest (Sir Michael Havers, her brother, was attorney-general during the period when most of the alleged abuse occurred). Given the evidence relating to her family background, it may be time for Lady Arbuthnot to recuse herself once more, and for the extradition proceedings to be halted.

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Did the US overplay its hand?: “Each of Assange’s possible defences are strengthened by the 17 counts of espionage”

Julian Assange and the Scales of Justice (CP)

Massimo Moratti, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe, is certain that the Wikileaks publisher will suffer grave mistreatment if extradited to the United States. “The British government must not accede to the US extradition request for Julian Assange as he faces a real risk of serious human right violations if sent there.” This will further add substance to the potential breach of Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention, a point reiterated by Agnes Callamard, Special rapporteur on extra-judicial executions. Ecuador, she argues, permitted Assange to be expelled and arrested by the UK, taking him a step closer to extradition to the US which would expose him to “serious human rights violations.” The UK had “arbitrary [sic] detained Mr Assange possibly endangering his life for the last 7 years.”

On May 31, Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on torture, concluded after visiting Assange in detention that the publisher’s isolation and repeated belittling constituted “progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which can only be described as psychological torture.” The issue of Assange’s failing health is critical. An important feature of his legal team’s argument is the role played by the UK authorities in ensuring his decline in physical and mental terms. The argument in rebuttal, disingenuous as it was, never deviated: you will get treatment as long as you step out of the Ecuadorean embassy.

There is also another dimension which the distracted Javid failed to articulate: the sheer political character of the offences Assange is being accused of. Espionage is a political offence par excellence, and the UK-US extradition treaty, for all its faults, retains under Article 4 the prohibition against extraditing someone accused of political offences, including espionage, sedition, and treason. As John T. Nelson notes in Just Security, “Each of Assange’s possible defences are strengthened by the 17 counts of espionage”.

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They never finished the report.

FBI Never Saw CrowdStrike Unredacted or Final Report (McGovern)

CrowdStrike, the controversial cybersecurity firm that the Democratic National Committee chose over the FBI in 2016 to examine its compromised computer servers, never produced an un-redacted or final forensic report for the government because the FBI never required it to, the Justice Department has admitted. The revelation came in a court filing by the government in the pre-trial phase of Roger Stone, a long-time Republican operative who had an unofficial role in the campaign of candidate Donald Trump. Stone has been charged with misleading Congress, obstructing justice and intimidating a witness. The filing was in response to a motion by Stone’s lawyers asking for “unredacted reports” from CrowdStrike in an effort to get the government to prove that Russia hacked the DNC server.

“The government … does not possess the information the defandant seeks,” the filing says. In his motion, Stone’s lawyers said he had only been given three redacted drafts. In a startling footnote in the government’s response, the DOJ admits the drafts are all that exist. “Although the reports produced to the defendant are marked ‘draft,’ counsel for the DNC and DCCC informed the government that they are the last version of the report produced,” the footnote says. In other words CrowdStrike, upon which the FBI relied to conclude that Russia hacked the DNC, never completed a final report and only turned over three redacted drafts to the government. These drafts were “voluntarily” given to the FBI by DNC lawyers, the filing says.

“No redacted information concerned the attribution of the attack to Russian actors,” the filing quotes DNC lawyers as saying. In Stone’s motion his lawyers argued: “If the Russian state did not hack the DNC, DCCC, or [Clinton campaign chairman John] Podesta’s servers, then Roger Stone was prosecuted for obstructing a congressional investigation into an unproven Russian state hacking conspiracy … The issue of whether or not the DNC was hacked is central to the Defendant’s defense.” The DOJ responded: “The government does not need to prove at the defendant’s trial that the Russians hacked the DNC in order to prove the defendant made false statements, tampered with a witness, and obstructed justice into a congressional investigation regarding election interference.”

At a time of high tension in the 2016 presidential campaign, when the late Sen. John McCain and others were calling Russian “hacking” an “act of war,” the FBI settled for three redacted “draft reports” from CrowdStrike rather than investigate the alleged hacking itself, the court document shows. Then FBI Director James Comey admitted in congressional testimony that he chose not to take control of the DNC’s “hacked” computers, and did not dispatch FBI computer experts to inspect them, but has had trouble explaining why. In his testimony, he conceded that “best practices” would have dictated that forensic experts gain physical access to the computers. Nevertheless, the FBI decided to rely on forensics performed by a firm being paid for by the DNC.

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Hmmm: “For a campaign to hire a law firm, an American law firm who then turns around and hires an American research company that then contracts out with a foreign individual, that is not illegal.”

Deep State Players Lash Out At Trump (Noble)

When ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Trump whether his son, Donald Trump Jr., should have contacted the FBI after being invited in 2016 to meet with a Russian national who allegedly offered dirt on Hillary Clinton, the president answered, “Give me a break – life doesn’t work that way.” The ensuing exchange led Stephanopoulos to ask the president: “Your campaign this time around, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on opponents, should they accept it or should they call the FBI?” Trump responded that, perhaps, the person in question should do both; look at the information being offered and notify the FBI. Stephanopoulos suggested this amounts to foreign interference in an American election, to which Trump responded: “It’s not an interference [sic]. They have information – I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI – if I thought there was something wrong.”

The wailing and gnashing of teeth that followed this interview prompted the anti-Trump cable networks to bring in two men who were embroiled in the Russia collusion hoax. One of these men, Andrew McCabe, was fired from the FBI and is fortunate not to have yet been charged with multiple counts of lying to federal investigators. The other is hysterical Trump critic Brennan, who is almost certainly a subject of the ongoing Department of Justice investigation into the genesis of the Russia collusion conspiracy theory. McCabe feigned horror at the idea that the president would be open to receiving information on a potential election opponent from a foreign source.

At the same time, however, he dismissed the idea that the Hillary Clinton campaign had done anything wrong in 2016 when it paid for Russian-sourced and unverified information to use against Trump. When asked by CNN’s Chris Cuomo about a possible analogy between the two situations, the former FBI official said: “There’s no equivalence between those two examples … For a campaign to hire a law firm, an American law firm who then turns around and hires an American research company that then contracts out with a foreign individual, that is not illegal.”

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Credit is cyclical.

Swelling US Corporate Debt Raises Risk Of Global Financial Meltdown (Nikkei)

Surging U.S. business debt, already at historic levels, is posing a potentially huge risk for the global financial system and the world economy, raising concerns among market players and policymakers. Experts are growing increasingly uneasy about both the quality and quantity of debt in the U.S. corporate sector as the amount of loans to borrowers with lower credit ratings and already high levels of debt is increasing. A newly created index shows corporate debt levels are now even higher than before the dot-com bubble or the global financial crisis triggered by the 2008 collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers.

Some experts warn that the ticking debt bomb in the U.S. corporate sector could eventually explode, triggering a new global financial meltdown. In a speech delivered on May 20, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell sounded the alarm about rising levels of business debt, although he dismissed comparisons between the current situation and the conditions in U.S. mortgage markets before the financial crisis. Views about the risks from rising corporate borrowing “range from ‘This is a return to the subprime-mortgage crisis’ to ‘Nothing to worry about here,'” Powell said. “At the moment, the truth is likely somewhere in the middle.”

One important concept for understanding the implications of corporate America’s borrowing binge for the financial system and the world economy is the credit cycle — the cyclical expansion and contraction of access to credit over time. Many policymakers and market players are beginning to fear that the U.S. corporate credit cycle is approaching its peak and will soon enter a phase of contraction.

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“.. Investors, mostly US institutional and individual investors but also some foreign investors, have gone nuts over it..”

Who Bought the $1 Trillion of New US Government Debt Over The Past Year? (WS)

The US gross national debt soared by $960 billion over the 12-month period through April. Over the same period, all foreign investors combined increased their holdings by $253 billion. This leaves $707 billion that someone else must have bought. Who? Nope, not the Fed. It shed $271 billion in Treasury securities over the 12 months as part of its QE unwind, bringing its holdings down to $2.12 trillion by the end of April. US government entities piled on $102 billion in Treasury securities over the 12 months, bringing their total to $5.83 trillion. This “debt held internally” is held by government pension and disability funds, the Social Security Trust Fund, etc., that have invested their beneficiaries’ money in Treasury securities, rather than stocks or other instruments.

This “debt held internally” is owed the beneficiaries of those funds and is a real debt of the US government. To summarize: Over the 12 months, foreign investors added $253 billion; the Fed got rid of $271 billion; and US government funds acquired $102 billion. All three combined, accounted for a net increase of Treasury holdings of $84 billion. But the total gross national debt soared by $960 billion over the same period. Someone must have bought the remaining $876 billion. But who? The only one left… American institutions and individuals added $876 billion of Treasuries to their holdings, bringing them to $7.64 trillion.


US banks held nearly $500 billion of them, according to the FDIC. Other US institutional holders include pension funds, mutual funds, hedge funds, corporations such as Apple, and others. Individuals also hold a portion of these Treasury securities, either indirectly via bond funds or pension funds, or directly via their brokers or at Treasury. All combined, American institutions and individuals held 34.7% of the US gross national debt. Ironically, there is no shortage of demand for this debt – despite the charade of the debt-ceiling-default threat hanging over it. On the contrary. Investors, mostly US institutional and individual investors but also some foreign investors, have gone nuts over it, bidding up prices and thereby pushing down yields, with the 10-year yield today settling at 2.09%.

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Kuroda’s as clueless and delusional as Draghi and Powell.

How Japan Turned Against Its ‘Bazooka’-Wielding Central Bank Chief (R.)

Convincing skeptics on the board to embrace negative rates wasn’t easy, according to previously unreported accounts of the events on that fateful night. The policy had been studied for years in Japan but shunned as too controversial. On the brown-carpeted eighth floor of the BOJ building, bank bureaucrats visited the offices of swing voters on the board to make the case. A dashboard on the eighth floor lights up in red to show whenever a board member has visitors. That night, the lights stayed on “for hours and hours for some of them,” one person said. “You could see there was heavy lobbying going on.”

The shift to negative rates carried by a narrow 5-4 vote. Almost immediately, it was clear within the BOJ that the move was a mistake. It crushed long-term interest rates, didn’t weaken the yen as hoped and angered commercial bankers, who felt blindsided by a policy that crimped their profits. In retrospect, the move marked the death knell of “Kuroda-nomics,” as the governor’s plan for reflating the Japanese economy became known. In the most detailed account of these efforts, reported here, BOJ technocrats went to work tip-toeing back Kuroda’s radical program.

Three years on, there is a broad consensus that Japan’s experiment in shock-and-awe monetary policy has failed. An intense debate is under way within the BOJ over why Kuroda’s assumptions about how he could fundamentally change the trajectory of the economy proved wrong and what the bank’s next steps should be. The picture that emerges is of a central bank under pressure and at a moment of reckoning.

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Yeah, that will work…

Boeing’s 737 MAX Name Change (F.)

Boeing doesn’t have any immediate plans to rename its embattled 737 MAX aircraft despite CFO Greg Smith saying he was open to the idea earlier Monday. In an interview with Bloomberg at the Paris airshow, Smith said, “We’re committed to doing what we need to do to restore it. If that means changing the brand to restore it, then we’ll address that.” After the interview, the company told Reuters it isn’t currently working on a name change at the moment. “Our immediate focus is the safe return of the Max to service and re-earning the trust of airlines and the traveling public. We remain open minded to all input from customers and other stakeholders, but have no plans at this time to change the name of the 737 MAX,” said Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman.


The idea for a name change comes from President Donald Trump, who weighed in on Boeing’s myriad safety and public relations issues in March. “What do I know about branding, maybe nothing (but I did become President!), but if I were Boeing, I would FIX the Boeing 737 MAX, add some additional great features, & REBRAND the plane with a new name,” he tweeted. All 737s are still grounded: All 371 Boeing 737 MAX planes were grounded worldwide in March following two deadly crashes that claimed 346 lives. Investigators are focusing on design flaws in a component of the plane’s automated flight controls called the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system, or MCAS. Boeing said last month that it has completed the software update necessary to address the aircraft’s safety issues, but the Federal Aviation Administration still has to approve the change.

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Not a good sign.

Investors Demand Higher Premiums For Risky Australian Mortgage Bonds (R.)

Investors in Australian mortgage bonds are demanding higher premiums to buy the riskiest tranches of new debt, as a slowing economy stokes concerns a property downturn could get worse and increase home loan defaults. High-yield investors are receiving up to 40 basis points more than they were last year to buy the lower-rated and unrated portions, according to an analysis of recent deals by large lenders including AMP, National Australia Bank and Members Equity Bank. That marks an important shift from a near decade-long run of relatively stable spreads for the lower-rated residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS), as the previously red-hot property prices have turned sharply lower, particularly in the major Sydney and Melbourne markets.


“When you are looking at those lower unrated tranches, they are deteriorating as one would expect at the late stage of the [property] cycle,” said George Boubouras, chief investment officer at Atlas Capital. “We see them as a leading indicator of risk, and they have been getting riskier.” Home prices in Australia’s heavily populated eastern states have fallen rapidly since late-2017 due to souring economic conditions, pushing problem home loans to their highest level since the aftermath of the global financial crisis, according to Standard & Poor’s.

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Varoufakis explains the difference between his plans and those of Salvini. Not the easiest topic, but interesting.

Fiscal Money Can Make or Break the Euro (Varoufakis)

It’s a curious feeling to watch your plan being deployed to do the opposite of what you intended. And that’s the feeling I’ve had since learning that Italy’s government is planning a variant of the fiscal money that I proposed for Greece in 2015. My idea was to establish a tax-backed digital payment system to create fiscal space in eurozone countries that needed it, like Greece and Italy. The Italian plan, by contrast, would use a parallel payment system to break up the eurozone. Under my proposal, each tax file number, belonging to individuals or firms, would be automatically provided with a Treasury Account (TA) and a PIN number with which to transfer funds from one TA to another, or back to the state.

One way TAs would be credited was by paying arrears into them. Taxpayers owed money by the state could opt for part or all of those arrears to be paid into their TA immediately, instead of waiting for months to be paid normally. That way, multiple arrears could be eliminated at once, thus liberating liquidity across the economy. For example, suppose Company A is owed €1 million ($1.1 million) by the state, while owing €30,000 to an employee and another €500,000 to Company B. Suppose also that the employee and Company B owe, respectively, €10,000 and €200,000 in taxes to the state. If the €1 million is credited by the state to Company A’s TA, and Company A pays the employee and Company B via the system, the latter will be able to settle their tax arrears. At least €740,000 in arrears will have been eliminated in one fell swoop.

Individuals or firms could also acquire TA credits by purchasing them directly, via web-banking, from the state. The state would make it worth their while by offering buyers significant tax discounts (a €1 credit purchased today could extinguish taxes of, say, €1.10 a year from now). In essence, a new dis-intermediated (middlemen-free) public debt market would emerge, allowing the state to borrow small, medium, and large sums from the private sector in exchange for tax discounts. When I first discussed the idea, staunch defenders of the status quo immediately challenged the legality of the proposed system, arguing that it violated the treaties establishing the euro as the sole legal tender. Expert advice that I had received, however, indicated that the system passed legal muster. A eurozone member state’s treasury has the authority to issue debt instruments at will, and to accept them in lieu of taxes.

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