Apr 142021
 


Edgar Degas Leaving the paddock1866
Stolen from Gardner Museum March 18 1990, the single largest art theft in the world. Never recovered

 

Nearly A Quarter Of Registered Covid Deaths Are Not Caused By The Virus (DM)
More Brands Are Putting Money And Clout Behind Covid-19 Vaccine Ads (F.)
Big Pharma Uses Big Tobacco’s Strategy To Defeat Ivermectin (DR)
How Bill Gates Impeded Global Access to Covid Vaccines (TNR)
Russia Accuses US, NATO Of Moving Troops To Its Border (AA)
Biden Urges Russia To De-Escalate Ukraine Tensions In Call With Putin (G.)
Russia Warns US Warships To Stay Far Away From Crimea “For Their Own Good” (ZH)
Biden To Withdraw US Troops From Afghanistan By September 11 (G.)
Joe Biden Is Proceeding With Donald Trump’s Biggest Arms Deal (HuffPo)
The Absentee Vote Logic of the New York Times (RCI)
CNN Staffer Admits Network’s Focus Was To ‘Get Trump Out Of Office’ (Fox)
Crackdown On Cryptocurrencies May Be Coming, Warns Kraken CEO (RT)
Republican Antitrust Bill Would Block All Big Tech Acquisitions (TC)
Mexico’s War on Obesity Sends Junk-Food & Sugary-Drink Giants Scrambling (WS)
Airborne Plastic Pollution ‘Spiralling Around The Globe’ (G.)

 

 

 

 

The indoctrination is so deep that educated people think they’re being objective.
– Noam Chomsky

 

 

We will never ever know the real numbers.

But 50% of under 25s having antibodies doesn’t seem to point to lockdowns as the main “success” factor.

Nearly A Quarter Of Registered Covid Deaths Are Not Caused By The Virus (DM)

Nearly a quarter of registered Covid-19 deaths are now people who are not being killed by the virus, new official figures show as Boris Johnson comes under renewed pressure from Tory backbenchers to end the third lockdown sooner than planned. The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals that 23 per cent of coronavirus deaths which are registered are now people who have died ‘with’ the disease rather than ‘from’ an infection. This means that the person who has died will have tested positive for Covid-19 at some point, but that the disease was not recorded as the victim’s primary cause of death on their death certificate. Even though just 23 deaths were announced yesterday, the Prime Minister is continuing to resist calls from his own party to lift all coronavirus curbs ahead of schedule as he warned that cases will rise in the coming weeks as people meet with friends and family in pubs and parks.

Outdoor hospitality and non-essential retail reopened on Monday under the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown. Thousands of people rushed to high streets to splurge their cash on drinks, haircuts and clothes as economists predict a mini-boom fuelled by pent-up demand. However, in his downcast interview with Sky News, Mr Johnson even appeared to dismiss the efficacy of the vaccines his government has been busily rolling out this winter, as he claimed the shutdown – not jabs – had reduced the number of cases, hospitalisations and deaths. ‘It is very, very important for everybody to understand that the reduction in these numbers – in hospitalisations and in deaths and in infections – has not been achieved by the vaccination programme,’ he said.

‘People don’t, I think, appreciate that it’s the lockdown that has been overwhelmingly important in delivering this improvement in the pandemic and in the figures that we’re seeing. So yes of course the vaccination programme has helped, but the bulk of the work in reducing the disease has been done by the lockdown.’ Conservative backbenchers led by Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the Covid Research Group of Tory MPs, have mounted a campaign to get the country opened up sooner than planned.

Boris

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A giant PR campaign for Pfizer, that’s all it is, paid for by the state.

More Brands Are Putting Money And Clout Behind Covid-19 Vaccine Ads (F.)

As the Covid-19 vaccine becomes more widely available, well known companies ranging from tech giants to beer brands are rolling out public service announcements to encourage people to get their shot. This past week, The Boston Beer Company debuted a new Sam Adams campaign promoting the vaccine featuring the brand’s “Cousin From Boston” character. The ad—created by the advertising agency Goodby, Silverstein and Partners—shows the “Cousin” getting vaccinated by a real healthcare worker at Fenway Park’s mega site. But right before getting his jab, he passes out from his fear of needles and dreams of the day he can once again meet up with friends at a bar. (Sam Adams is also offering $7 toward a celebratory beer to the first 10,000 people to share proof of vaccination with the hashtag #ShotForSam on social media.)

According to GS&P cofounder Jeff Goodby—the legendary creative behind the iconic “Got Milk” campaign and countless Super Bowl ads—humor is a good way to reach younger audiences, especially after a year as emotionally draining as 2020. “You know what humor did for me is it puts this in perspective,’ Goodby says. “It’s just an inoculation. We’ve had a million of them in our lifetime, and this one is actually for the good of the community around you as well as for yourself and I think we tried to get that across. And it leads to a certain liberation and togetherness. And beer of course, is central to togetherness. One of the great things about getting inoculated is you can drink beer with people.” While Sam Adams went with humor, it wasn’t without first testing the ad to make sure it would be well-received, despite the serious nature of the topic, says Boston Beer Company CMO Lesya Lysyj.

Before introducing the “Cousin” last year, Sam Adams had been taking a more serious tone, even before the pandemic began. “We felt like it was important to show him showing it since he’s so relatable,” Lysyj says. “And if that guy can do it, anybody can do it . . . We did feel like you could put yourself in the shoes of this guy.” Sam Adams isn’t alone in its messaging. In fact The Ad Council—a nonprofit with a long history of collaborating with marketers to create PSAs for a variety of causes—has raised more than $50 million to fund Covid-19 PSAs and other related initiatives with a goal of appealing to a wide audience. To promote mask-wearing, it teamed up with Warner Media and the CDC in February for “Mask Up America,” a PSA featuring characters—from Harry Potter to the Joker to hobbits from Lord of the Rings—all wearing face masks in iconic scenes.

And in March, it released a vaccine PSA featuring former Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George Bush. Heidi Arthur, the Ad Council’s chief campaign officer, says the Covid-19 vaccine effort is the most complicated initiative undertaken by the organization, which also led polio vaccine efforts in the 1950s. “The amount of change can happen so quickly as the medical community learns more about the efficacy of vaccines and making sure that all of our messages and the content we’re creating is really where the science is because it can get very confusing for people with the flip of a switch,” she says.

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It’s about your money, not your health.

Big Pharma Uses Big Tobacco’s Strategy To Defeat Ivermectin (DR)

The Marlboro Man, as Dr. Mukherjee wrote in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Emperor of All Maladies, was the most successful smoking icon by 1955. Dr. Mukherjee describes how the Tobacco Industry fought back by twisting science against the public, first by arguing that an association does not prove cause and effect, and later by offering to perform the studies. The tobacco scientists argued that lung cancer was caused by genetics: if you were born with cancer genes, you developed cancer, and if you weren’t, you didn’t get it. Cigarettes might be associated with cancer, but they argued that more studies were needed if one were to actually “prove a causal link” between cigarettes and cancer. The actual cause of lung cancer, the tobacco scientists concluded, was faulty genetics and not cigarettes.

To assist with these studies, the generous Big Tobacco even offered to fund the research by founding the Tobacco Industry Research Committee. The TIRC is described further in The Emperor of All Maladies, a book I strongly recommend everyone read. The author writes how this ingenious strategy kept the tobacco companies in business and record-breaking profits for the next 50 years despite causing many millions of lung cancer deaths. Blurring or confusing the facts as a tactic proved remarkably effective. But by far, the craftiest ruse was for the Tobacco Industry to pretend to embrace the research and set up their own studies. Because by controlling the study design, they could control the outcome. The same strategy is now used against the public in this pandemic.

Their first victim was Hydroxychloroquine, which proved easy to discredit given that Donald Trump sounded unhinged in his praise for the drug. Later studies seemed to reinforce the belief that HCQ was ineffective; however when academic misconduct was found, it threatened to expose the effort. Big Pharma successfully distanced itself when the fraudulent articles were retracted and blamed on lone scientists acting by themselves. Dr. Tess Lawrie is a highly-respected and independent research consultant to the World Health Organization and NHS. Her work is routinely relied upon in the formation of International Practice Guidelines. She has found HCQ to have an effect against the coronavirus. Most tellingly, when Dr. Tess Lawrie performed her independent review of the data on Ivermectin, she removed the Fonseca study, which purported to show no benefit against COVID with Ivermectin use.

Dr. Lawrie explained, “They (The Fonseca Group) didn’t find that much of a difference between Ivermectin and the control arm. But the control arm received HCQ. So basically, there’s a comparison between two fairly active treatments.” Dr. Lawrie explained that there were many reasons to consider HCQ active against the virus. Thus, two patient groups were compared in Fonseca, both of which received effective drugs against COVID-19, and this was not considered a valid controlled trial of Ivermectin. Therefore the study was eliminated from the meta-analysis.

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Stay away from Bill.

How Bill Gates Impeded Global Access to Covid Vaccines (TNR)

In April [2020], Bill Gates launched a bold bid to manage the world’s scientific response to the pandemic. Gates’s Covid-19 ACT-Accelerator expressed a status quo vision for organizing the research, development, manufacture, and distribution of treatments and vaccines. Like other Gates-funded institutions in the public health arena, the Accelerator was a public-private partnership based on charity and industry enticements. Crucially, and in contrast to the C-TAP, the Accelerator enshrined Gates’s long-standing commitment to respecting exclusive intellectual property claims. Its implicit arguments—that intellectual property rights won’t present problems for meeting global demand or ensuring equitable access, and that they must be protected, even during a pandemic—carried the enormous weight of Gates’s reputation as a wise, beneficent, and prophetic leader.


How he’s developed and wielded this influence over two decades is one of the more consequential and underappreciated shapers of the failed global response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Entering year two, this response has been defined by a zero-sum vaccination battle that has left much of the world on the losing side. Gates’s marquee Covid-19 initiative started relatively small. Two days before the WHO declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced something called the Therapeutics Accelerator, a joint initiative with Mastercard and the charity group the Wellcome Trust to identify and develop potential treatments for the novel coronavirus. Doubling as a social branding exercise for a giant of global finance, the Accelerator reflected Gates’s familiar formula of corporate philanthropy, which he has applied to everything from malaria to malnutrition.

In retrospect, it was a strong indicator that Gates’s dedication to monopoly medicine would survive the pandemic, even before he and his foundation’s officers began to say so publicly. This was confirmed when a bigger version of the Accelerator was unveiled the following month at the WHO. The Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator, or ACT-Accelerator, was Gates’s bid to organize the development and distribution of everything from therapeutics to testing. The biggest and most consequential arm, COVAX, proposed to subsidize vaccine deals with poor countries through donations by, and sales to, richer ones. The goal was always limited: It aimed to provide vaccines for up to 20 percent of the population in low-to-middle-income countries. After that, governments would largely have to compete on the global market like everyone else. It was a partial demand-side solution to what the movement coalescing around a call for a “people’s vaccine” warned would be a dual crisis of supply and access, with intellectual property at the center of both.

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“Over 40,000 people and 15,000 units of military equipment and weapons will be deployed on Russia’s western border in the near future..”

“In the spring of this year, the joint armed forces of NATO began the largest exercise in the last 30 years, Defender Europe 2021..”

Russia Accuses US, NATO Of Moving Troops To Its Border (AA)

The US is moving its troops to Russia’s borders, a top Russian official said on Tuesday. Over 40,000 people and 15,000 units of military equipment and weapons will be deployed on Russia’s western border in the near future, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu said in a video conference with other military chiefs in the northern city of Severodvinsk. “In Poland and the Baltic states, US forces are being reinforced … the intensity of aerial reconnaissance has been doubled compared to last year, and the intensity of naval reconnaissance has increased by one-and-a-half times,” he said.


The minister accused the US and its allies of carrying out active military activities “with a clear anti-Russian orientation,” including up to 40 major military training events in Europe every year. “In the spring of this year, the joint armed forces of NATO began the largest exercise in the last 30 years, Defender Europe 2021,” he said. According to Shoygu, Russia redeployed two army and three airborne units to its western border “to counter the threat.”

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This is propaganda theater. It’s very obviously NATO that’s escalating tensions.

Biden Urges Russia To De-Escalate Ukraine Tensions In Call With Putin (G.)

In a phone call with Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden has called on Russia to de-escalate tensions with Ukraine and proposed a summit between the two leaders amid growing concern over a Russian military buildup on Ukraine’s border. The president emphasized the United States’s unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and expressed concern about Russia’s military buildup, the White House said. “President Biden reaffirmed his goal of building a stable and predictable relationship with Russia consistent with US interests, and proposed a summit meeting in a third country in the coming months to discuss the full range of issues facing the United States and Russia.” Biden expressed concern about Russia’s military buildup in the Crimea region of Ukraine and on Ukraine’s border, the White House said in a statement.


It said Biden also made clear that the United States will act “firmly” to defend its national interests in response to Russia’s actions, such as cyber intrusions and election interference. Biden also proposed holding a summit with Putin in a third country in coming months. The phone call came hours after Nato’s secretary general called on Russia to halt its military buildup around Ukraine, describing it as “unjustified, unexplained and deeply concerning”. Flanked by Ukraine’s foreign minister at a press conference on Tuesday morning, Nato’s Jens Stoltenberg said Russia had moved thousands of combat troops to Ukraine’s borders in “the largest massing of Russian troops since the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014”.

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“The trend in the behavior of the Ukrainian side creates the risk of a resumption of full-scale military action.”

Russia Warns US Warships To Stay Far Away From Crimea “For Their Own Good” (ZH)

At a moment the United States appears poised to send its warships near Ukraine as a strong ‘deterrent message’ against Russian forces built up near the east Ukrainian border, Russia on Tuesday warned that US vessels better stay away from Crimea “for their own good”. A Kremlin statement further called the new US deployment into the Black Sea a serious “provocation” which serves no other purpose but to test Russia’s “strength” and “nerves”. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov issued the Tuesday warning as follows: “There is absolutely nothing for American ships to be doing near our shores, this is purely a provocative action. Provocative in the direct sense of the word: they are testing our strength, playing on our nerves. They will not succeed.”

“We warn the United States that it will be better for them to stay far away from Crimea and our Black Sea coast. It will be for their own good,” he added. It was late last week that Turkey’s foreign ministry confirmed that it’s granted permission for US warships to use the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits to enter the Black Sea. The Pentagon has downplayed the deployment by keeping mostly mum about it, only saying that it’s “routine” for US warships to patrol the Black Sea. The Kremlin has warned that it’s Kiev’s own actions and initial troop build-up in and near Donbass that is risking “broader war” in the region. Days ago Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “The trend in the behavior of the Ukrainian side creates the risk of a resumption of full-scale military action.”

Russia’s newest warning that US ships better not come near Crimea likely also have in mind Joe Biden’s first words addressing the long-simmering Ukraine crisis issued early in his presidency. He said in a February 26 statement that the US “will never” recognize Russia’s claims over Crimea: The United States does not and will never recognize Russia’s purported annexation of the peninsula, and we will stand with Ukraine against Russia’s aggressive acts. We will continue to work to hold Russia accountable for its abuses and aggression in Ukraine.

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Trump wanted to do it but got obstructed by the Pentagon. So Biden can get all the glory. On 9/11, no less. Oh boy.

“The president has judged that a conditions based approach, which has been the approach of the past two decades, is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever.”

No, seriously, that’s not about Trump, it’s about Biden. Don’t try to make this up at home, they have professionals to do it for you.

Biden To Withdraw US Troops From Afghanistan By September 11 (G.)

Joe Biden will withdraw all the remaining US troops from Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the al-Qaida terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, a senior administration official has confirmed. The president is expected to make a formal announcement on Wednesday. There are currently about 2,500 US troops in the country, serving alongside 7,000 other foreign troops as part of a Nato coalition. Most, if not all, Nato allies are likely to withdraw in coordination with the US. “We will remain in lockstep with them as we undergo this operation. We went in together, adjusted together and now we will prepare to leave together,” a US official said. The drawdown of US troops will begin by 1 May, the withdrawal deadline the Trump administration agreed with the Taliban last year, and will be completed by the 9/11 anniversary.

“We went to Afghanistan to deliver justice to those who attacked us on September 11th and to disrupt terrorists seeking to use Afghanistan as a safe haven to attack,” a senior administration official said. “We believe we achieved that objective some years ago. We judge the threat against the homeland now emanating from Afghanistan to be at a level that we can address it, without a persistent military footprint in the country and without remaining at war with the Taliban.” The only remaining US military presence after September 11 this year will be security for the US embassy, a task normally carried out by marines. The Biden administration has said it will negotiate with the Afghan government over the precise security arrangements for the diplomatic mission in Kabul.

About 800,000 US soldiers and other military personnel have served at least once in Afghanistan since the US invasion in 2001, launched in the wake of the September 11 attacks. More than 2,300 have been killed, and 20,000 wounded. The US military orthodoxy until recently has been that any withdrawal from Afghanistan would have to be “conditions based”, meaning it was dependent on the security situation and the threat posed by the Taliban to the democratic and social gains of the past 20 years. The senior US official briefing reporters on the decision said: “The president has judged that a conditions based approach, which has been the approach of the past two decades, is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever.”

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“$23.4 billion in sophisticated weaponry”, but only after commitments to human rights.

Joe Biden Is Proceeding With Donald Trump’s Biggest Arms Deal (HuffPo)

President Joe Biden is advancing controversial Trump-era plans to transfer $23.4 billion in sophisticated weaponry to the United Arab Emirates, a State Department spokesperson told HuffPost on Tuesday – despite concerns from influential lawmakers and progressive activists, as well as the Biden administration’s promise to review the package. The news came amid an ongoing lawsuit by a nonprofit group called the New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs, which echoed criticism of the deal as potentially destabilizing for the Middle East. “While we will not comment on ongoing litigation, we can confirm that that the Administration intends to move forward with these proposed defense sales to the UAE, even as we continue reviewing details and consulting with Emirati officials to ensure we have developed mutual understandings with respect to Emirati obligations before, during, and after delivery,” the spokesperson said.

Last December, nearly all Senate Democrats voted to try and block the sale, citing President Donald Trump’s rushed attempt to push it through and the UAE’s alarming violations of human rights at home and around the region. Biden put the deal – which would give the UAE the F-35 fighter jet, armed drones and associated bombs and missiles — under review shortly after becoming president. The administration has since been vague about that process. The transfers are incredibly complex and will take years to complete, so it was clear that they were not occurring yet. In January, an official told the Wall Street Journal that the UAE sales “were not frozen while they are being examined” – in contrast to Trump-era arms deals for Saudi Arabia, a UAE ally which has also faced growing criticism in Washington.

Still, many observers believed there was an effective pause on the deal and that at some point the administration would offer a public explanation of how it would handle the agreement. Democratic lawmakers and activists, who opposed to the deal because of the UAE’s aggressive activities across the Middle East, wanted to ensure the Biden administration was serious about the review, to the extent of possibly shrinking the package to pressure the Emiratis to respect human rights standards. U.S. officials will continue raising rights and geopolitical concerns with the Emiratis, the State Department spokesperson told HuffPost. “The estimated delivery dates on these sales, if implemented, are scheduled for after 2025 or later. Thus, we anticipate a robust and sustained dialogue with the UAE to [ensure] any defense transfers meet our mutual strategic objectives to build a stronger, interoperable, and more capable security partnership,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.

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“..what of the Times’s cautions over decades that the most common sort of election fraud involves absentee voting?”

The Absentee Vote Logic of the New York Times (RCI)

To pass a law limiting the use of absentee ballots, as Georgia recently did, is no longer to choose a side in a legitimate debate over how to balance ballot integrity and ease of voting. Instead, to express concern about the risk of election fraud is seen as being engaged in a different sort of fraud — an illegitimate effort to disenfranchise the poor and minorities. The New York Times has aggressively insisted the last several months that worries over absentee and mail-in ballots, in particular, are dishonest violations of voting rights. Times staff opinion editor Spencer Bokat-Lindell wrote late in October that “[t]he effort to discredit and discourage mail-in voting” was the “culmination of a decades-long disinformation campaign by the Republican Party and others to suppress votes, especially those cast by Black and Latino Americans.”

Spencer Bokat-Lindell: Times opinion editor: Efforts to discredit mail voting are aimed at suppressing votes, “especially those cast by Black and Latino Americans.” Then what of the Times’s cautions over decades that the most common sort of election fraud involves absentee voting? But what of the Times itself, which for over two decades has warned readers that the most common sort of election fraud involves absentee voting? As recently as September, Times reporters Stephanie Saul and Reid Epstein quoted Richard Hasen, who teaches election law at the University of California, Irvine, saying that “[e]lection fraud in the United States is very rare, but the most common type of such fraud in the United States involves absentee ballots.”

In 2018 operatives working for the Republican candidate for North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District seat, falsified absentee ballots. Times reporters Alan Blinder and Michael Wines told readers that the state’s long history of election fraud was “under a spotlight.” They quoted lawyer Bill Gilkeson saying that “absentee ballots” were “where the fraud really happens.” In 2019 Blinder wrote, “The Ninth District controversy ranks among the highest-profile examples of modern election fraud,” one that “underscores how absentee ballots remain susceptible to abuse.”

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What comes below fake news on the scale?

CNN Staffer Admits Network’s Focus Was To ‘Get Trump Out Of Office’ (Fox)

A staffer for CNN spoke candidly to an undercover journalist about the political motivations the network had during the 2020 presidential election, boasting the left-leaning outlet helped defeat former President Donald Trump and even calling his own employer “propaganda.” In the first installment of what’s billed as a three-part #ExposeCNN campaign from the right-wing guerilla news outlet Project Veritas, network technical director Charles Chester shed light on how the network wanted to remove its nemesis from the White House and help now-President Biden. “Look at what we did, we got Trump out,” Chester said in a celebratory tone. “I am 100% going to say it. And I 100% believe it that if it wasn’t for CNN, I don’t know that Trump would have got voted out.”

While similar videos are sometimes deceptively edited and taken out of context, many comments made by Chester throughout the video are longer clips that feature him speaking in clear, complete sentences. In a series of sitdowns with an undercover journalist over the past month, Chester — who bragged he was “one step down” from a director — claimed CNN was “creating a story” that questioned Trump’s health that “we didn’t know anything about,” calling it “propaganda” to help remove Trump from office. “Trump was, I don’t know, like shaking his hand or whatever… we brought in like so many medical people to like all tell a story that, like, it was all speculation that he was like neurologically damaged, that he was losing it, he’s unfit to, you know, whatever,” Chester said. “We were creating a story that we didn’t know anything about.”

While Chester claimed CNN wanted to help remove Trump from office, he also said the network wanted to promote the health and fitness of Biden. “We would always show shots of him jogging… him in his aviator shades and like you paint him as a young geriatric,” Chester said of Biden, before dismissing concerns that he wouldn’t make it a full term because he’s a fan of Vice President Kamala Harris. “I think we got him through this term,” Chester said “He’s not going to f—–g die, but I’m OK with that. [Harris] probably could be like a b—-h in like a board meeting and you’d hate her as a boss, but she’s f—–g real and better than what we got regardless.”

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“It would certainly send a message that the government sees this as a superior alternative to their own currency.”

Crackdown On Cryptocurrencies May Be Coming, Warns Kraken CEO (RT)

Governments around the world could start clamping down on the use of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, according to Jesse Powell, the chief executive of the Kraken exchange. “I think there could be some crackdown,” the CEO told CNBC, adding that regulatory uncertainty around crypto isn’t going away anytime soon. Powell’s words follow a recent anti-money laundering rule proposed by the US government that would require people who hold their cryptocurrencies in a private digital wallet to undergo identity checks if they make transactions of $3,000 or more. “Something like that could really hurt crypto and kind of kill the original use case, which was to just make financial services accessible to everyone,” Powell said.


He expressed hopes that “the US and international regulators don’t take too much of a narrow view on this,” noting that “Some other countries, China especially, are taking crypto very seriously and taking a very long-term view.” The chief executive said he feels the US is more “shortsighted” than other nations and is “susceptible” to the pressures of incumbent legacy businesses – in other words, the banks – that “stand to lose from crypto becoming a big deal.” “I also think it might be too late,” Powell added. “Maybe the genie’s out of the bottle and just trying to ban it at this point would make it more attractive. It would certainly send a message that the government sees this as a superior alternative to their own currency.

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The CIA will stop it. Big Tech=Big Intel.

Republican Antitrust Bill Would Block All Big Tech Acquisitions (TC)

There are about to be a lot of antitrust bills taking aim at Big Tech, and here’s one more. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) rolled out a new bill this week that would take some severe measures to rein in Big Tech’s power, blocking mergers and acquisitions outright. The “Trust-Busting for the Twenty-First Century Act” would ban any acquisitions by companies with a market cap of more than $100 billion, including vertical mergers. The bill also proposes changes that would dramatically heighten the financial pain for companies caught engaging in anti-competitive behavior, forcing any company that loses an antirust suit to forfeit profits made through those business practices.

At its core, Hawley’s legislation would snip some of the red tape around antitrust enforcement by amending the Sherman Act, which made monopolies illegal, and the Clayton Act, which expanded the scope of illegal anti-competitive behavior. The idea is to make it easier for the FTC and other regulators to deem a company’s behavior anti-competitive — a key criticism of the outdated antitrust rules that haven’t kept pace with the realities of the tech industry. The bill isn’t likely to get too far in a Democratic Senate, but it’s not insignificant. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who chairs the Senate’s antitrust subcommittee, proposed legislation earlier this year that would also create barriers for dominant companies with a habit of scooping up their competitors. Klobuchar’s own ideas for curtailing Big Tech’s power similarly focus on reforming the antitrust laws that have shaped U.S. business for more than a century.

The Republican bill may have some overlap with Democratic proposals, but it still hits some familiar notes from the Trump era of hyperpartisan Big Tech criticism. Hawley slams “woke mega-corporations” in Silicon Valley for exercising too much power over the information and products that Americans consume. While Democrats naturally don’t share that critique, Hawley’s bill makes it clear that antitrust reform targeting Big Tech is one policy area where both political parties could align on the ends, even if they don’t see eye to eye on the why.

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“In Mexico City, the local government has proposed a law that would ban the sale, delivery and distribution of packaged foods with a high caloric and energy content and sugary drinks to children..”

Mexico’s War on Obesity Sends Junk-Food & Sugary-Drink Giants Scrambling (WS)

Since Mexico’s government has passed one of the strictest food labeling laws on the planet in October last year, all soft drinks cans and bottles, bags of chips and other processed food packages must bear black octagonal labels warning of “EXCESS SUGAR”, “EXCESS CALORIES”, “EXCESS SODIUM” or “EXCESS TRANS FATS” — all in big bold letters that are impossible to miss. Many states have also introduced legislation making it much more difficult for retailers to sell junk food and sugary drinks to children. Evidence from other countries suggests that warning labels can be effective. Chile started requiring them in 2016. It also limited cartoon food packaging, prevented schools from selling unhealthy foods, restricted TV adverts, and banned promotional toys.

Over the next two years, sugary drink sales in Chile plunged by 23%. According to one study, the labels reduced the likelihood of people choosing sugary breakfast cereals by 11% and sugary juices by almost 24%. A nightmare for the companies affected. The prospect of something similar transpiring in Mexico, a country almost seven times larger than Chile and that consumes more processed food than any other country in Latin America, unnerved global food and beverage companies. The United States, EU, Canada and Switzerland, home to some of the world’s biggest food companies, tried to derail the new legislation. But to no avail. The arrival of Covid-19, which has proven to be particularly lethal to people with three comorbidities — obesity, diabetes, and hypertension — has strengthened the government’s case and resolve.

Over a dozen of Mexico’s 36 state governments have banned or are in the process of banning the sales of soft drinks and junk food to children. In Mexico City, the local government has proposed a law that would ban the sale, delivery and distribution of packaged foods with a high caloric and energy content and sugary drinks to children. The law will also ban the presence of soft drink vending machines in schools. Mexico’s Senate also recently passed a law that will compel educational authorities to prohibit the sale of foods with low nutritional value and high caloric content in the vicinity of school facilities while promoting the establishment of healthy food outlets. There are also moves afoot to restrict the advertising of foods high in fat, salt, sugar and saturated fats on children’s television channels.

These moves have raised concerns that the government is overstepping its bounds. The business lobby group Coparmex said that banning the sale of junk food and sugary drinks to minors represents a frontal attack on commercial freedom and freedom of choice. It will also have serious economic consequences for businesses in the retail sector. But those consequences are dwarfed by the economic and health impact of widespread obesity. This is particularly true in the time of Covid when the risk of death from the virus is about 10 times higher in countries where more than half of the population is overweight, according to a report released in March by the World Obesity Federation.

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Either our bodies find a way to incorporate plastics, or we’re doomed.

Airborne Plastic Pollution ‘Spiralling Around The Globe’ (G.)

Microplastic pollution is now “spiralling around the globe”, according to a study of airborne plastic particles. The researchers said human pollution has led to a global plastic cycle, akin to natural processes such as the carbon cycle, with plastic moving through the atmosphere, oceans and land. The result is the “plastification” of the planet, said one scientist. The analysis calls plastic pollution one of the most pressing environmental issues of the 21st century. It indicates that the billions of tonnes of plastic discarded into the oceans and land and being broken down into tiny pieces are being thrown back into the air by road traffic and winds over seas and farmland. People are already known to breathe, drink and eat microplastics and the other research suggests levels of pollution will continue to rise rapidly.

The scientists said this “raises questions on the impact of accumulating plastics in the atmosphere on human health. The inhalation of particles can be irritating to lung tissue and lead to serious diseases.” Prof Natalie Mahowald, at Cornell University in the US and part of the research team, said: “What we’re seeing right now is the accumulation of mismanaged plastics just going up. Some people think it’s going to increase by tenfold [per decade]. “But maybe we could solve this before it becomes a huge problem, if we manage our plastics better, before they accumulate in the environment and swirl around everywhere.” She said clearing up ocean plastic could help reduce the amount that gets thrown back up into the atmosphere, and that more biodegradable plastics could be part of the solution.

The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examined airborne microplastics, which have been far less studied than plastic in oceans and rivers. The team had more than 300 samples of airborne microplastics from 11 sites across the western US, the best dataset available globally. These were the basis for atmospheric modelling that estimated the contribution from different sources, the first such study to do so. Virtually none of the airborne microplastics came directly from plastic being discarded in cities and towns, the scientists found, but were the result of road traffic and winds across oceans and farmland whipping up plastic particles already in the environment. “We thought population centres would be a much better source, obviously, but it just didn’t work out that way,” Mahowald said. “Resuspension [of microplastics] makes the most sense with this set of data.”

[..] Microplastic pollution has been detected across the planet, from the summit of Mount Everest to the deepest oceans. The revelation in December of small plastic particles in human placentas was described by scientists as “a matter of great concern”.

Read more …

 

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Mick Jagger’s take on Covid. Easy Sleazy. With Dave Grohl.

 

 

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Mar 182021
 
 March 18, 2021  Posted by at 9:01 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  57 Responses »


John William Waterhouse Hylas and the Nymphs 1896

 

Russian Ambassador To US Summoned Back To Moscow For Consultations (RT)
Biden: Putin Is A Killer (Ind.)
Biden Talks Cuomo, Putin, Migrants, Vaccine (ABC)
Joe Biden’s ‘Putin Is A Killer’ Claim A ‘Tantrum Of Powerlessness’ – MP (RT)
Past Covid Infections Don’t Confer Strong Enough Immunity (F.)
Why Vaccine Safety Experts Put The Brakes On AstraZeneca’s Vaccine (ScienceM)
Blanket ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ Orders Imposed On English Care Homes (G.)
Will Adam Schiff Be California’s Next Top Cop? (G.)
A Big Win Against Anti-Tax Zealotry (DP)
Ohio AG Sues Biden Administration Over Pandemic Bill (Hill)
Fed Expects Growth Surge, Inflation Jump In 2021 But No Rate Hike (R.)
It Is Time To Remove The Debt Barrier To Economic Growth (Hudson/PCR)
Bitcoin Bros Rediscovering Our Monetary Past (AIER)
Woman Who Thought Being A Princess Was Too Hard, To Run For President (BBee)

 

 

 

 

This is a carefully planned attack by Warmongers “R” Us.

Russian Ambassador To US Summoned Back To Moscow For Consultations (RT)

Russia’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, has been recalled to Moscow for in-person discussions on the country’s ongoing relations with Washington and Joe Biden’s administration, the Foreign Ministry has said.
In a statement announcing the envoy’s recall on Wednesday night, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the ambassador was needed in Moscow for “consultations to analyze what to do and where to head in the context of the relations with the US.” Representatives of the Foreign Ministry and other relevant agencies will participate in the discussions with Antonov about US relations going forward, she added.With the Biden team in power for almost two months, it was a good time to analyze “where it succeeds and where it fails,” she added.


For us, it’s important to determine possible ways of straightening out Russian-American relations, which remain in harsh conditions after being effectively led into a dead end by Washington in recent years. Moscow is “interested in avoiding the irreversible degradation” of its ties with Washington, Zakharova said, expressing the hope that Biden’s officials also understood the risks of such a scenario. The news of the ambassador’s recall came hours after the US Department of Commerce on Wednesday announced the expansion of Washington’s sanctions on exports to Russia. The fresh restrictions were imposed over Moscow’s alleged involvement in the poisoning of opposition figure Alexey Navalny – an allegation that Kremlin officials have repeatedly denied. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said Moscow was “calm” about the new sanctions, as such measures had already been taken many times before. However, he pointed out that such moves by Washington reduced the chances of a “normalization of relations” between the parties.

Read more …

Bide plays some wise guy strongman role for which he is not suited.

Biden: Putin Is A Killer (Ind.)

US President Joe Biden said he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “killer” when asked by ABC News host George Stephanopoulos. His question follows a federal investigation into Russian-linked cyber attacks and an intelligence report linking the Kremlin to election-related online interference that promoted Donald Trump and right-wing conspiracy theories in an attempt to discredit Mr Biden. Asked whether he believes Mr Putin is a “killer” in a pre-taped interview that aired on Wednesday, the president responded: “I do.” “The price he’s going to pay, you’ll see shortly,” he said. Mr Biden recalled meeting Mr Putin, during which he reportedly told him that he doesn’t “have a soul”: “I wasn’t being a wise guy.”

“He looked back at me and said, ‘We understand each other’,” Mr Biden said. A report released on Tuesday from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence assessed that Russia sought to interfere with the 2020 presidential election with an expansive social media and online influence campaign similar to an operation from 2016. The newly declassified report also said that a network of Ukraine-linked individuals connected to Russian intelligence relied on “prominent US persons and media conduits to launder their narratives” alleging “corrupt ties” among members of Mr Biden’s family with Ukraine.


That 2020 misinformation campaign was aimed at “denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the US,” according to the report. Mr Biden said he had warned his Russian counterpart about a potential response from the US during a call in January. “He will pay a price,” Mr Biden said. “We had a long talk … and the conversation started off, I said, ‘I know you and you know me. If I establish this occurred, then be prepared.’”

Read more …

Biden has no idea what the vaccine does.

Biden Talks Cuomo, Putin, Migrants, Vaccine (ABC)

President Joe Biden sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos for a wide-ranging interview Tuesday in which he said his message to migrants was to not come to the border and that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo should resign if allegations he committed sexual harassment are confirmed. Biden also told Stephanopoulos that he agreed Russian President Vladimir Putin was a “killer” and would “pay a price” for interfering in U.S. elections. And he said it would be “tough” to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by May 1, a deadline set out in a deal former President Donald Trump’s administration made with the Taliban.


Biden told Stephanopoulos he was surprised that COVID-19 vaccinations were still so politicized. “How do you get the politics out of this vaccine talk?” Stephanopoulos asked. “I honest to God thought we had it out,” Biden said. “I honest to God thought that, once we guaranteed we had enough vaccine for everybody, things would start to calm down. Well, they have calmed down a great deal. But I don’t quite understand – you know – I just don’t understand this sort of macho thing about, ‘I’m not gonna get the vaccine. I have a right as an American, my freedom to not do it.’ Well, why don’t you be a patriot? Protect other people.” Biden said getting vaccinated himself has let him to show Americans doing so is safe – and has changed his life “because I can hug my grandkids now.” “They come over to the house,” the president said. “I can see them. I’m able to be with them.”

Read more …

“Even former president Donald Trump, he claimed, “despite the decisions that were being made on sanctions, maintained rhetoric appropriate to the level of head of state.”

Joe Biden’s ‘Putin Is A Killer’ Claim A ‘Tantrum Of Powerlessness’ – MP (RT)

Explosive comments made by US President Joe Biden, in which he suggested his Russian counterpart is “a killer,” have ignited a diplomatic row, as Moscow’s chief parliamentarian said the remarks constitute an attack on the country. In a statement posted to Telegram, the speaker of the State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, said that “Biden has insulted the citizens of our country with his statement” about Vladimir Putin. “This is a tantrum that comes from powerlessness. Putin is our president, attacking him is an attack on our country,” he added. Volodin contrasted the tone of the criticism to that of previous US presidents, who, despite often overseeing tense relations with Russia, and the USSR before it, maintained mutual respect.


Even former president Donald Trump, he claimed, “despite the decisions that were being made on sanctions, maintained rhetoric appropriate to the level of head of state.” However, he argued, “Biden’s statement today is beyond common sense. This is no way for the leader of a country that claims to be a bearer of democratic principles and morality to behave.“ The American president made the remarks in an interview on Wednesday with the ABC news channel. He was asked by chief anchor George Stephanopoulos whether he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin was “a killer.”“Mmm-hmm, I do,” Biden replied. Biden said he had warned Putin earlier this year that he would take action if evidence was found of Russian interference in the 2020 US election. “He will pay a price,” Biden said.

Read more …

How to sell a “vaccine”.

Past Covid Infections Don’t Confer Strong Enough Immunity (F.)

Most people who catch Covid-19 are unlikely to get sick from the disease again, but reinfection is more common than previously thought and older people face an especially high risk, according to a study Wednesday that researchers cast as proof that vaccines are the best form of protection against the coronavirus — even for people who have already been infected. The study, published in the Lancet medical journal, looked at millions of people who took PCR coronavirus tests through Denmark’s nationwide mass-testing initiative last year. Just 0.65% of those who tested positive for the virus during Denmark’s spring surge showed a positive result during the country’s second wave in the fall, suggesting a protection rate against reinfection of 80.5% according to a team of researchers from Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen.

Among people 65 and over, the protection rate was just 47.1%. Both are higher reinfections rate than other studies have found, a commentary published by Lancet noted.The study’s authors say elderly people could face a higher risk of reinfection from the coronavirus because their immune systems are less effective, a dire problem because the elderly are most vulnerable to severe illness and death from Covid-19.The researchers said this study shows vaccines are important for those who have already contracted the coronavirus, especially if they’re elderly, because “natural protection cannot be relied on.” The coronavirus vaccines that have been authorized so far vary in efficacy, but most appear to offer more protection than natural immunity.


“These data are all confirmation, if it were needed, that for SARS-CoV-2 the hope of protective immunity through natural infections might not be within our reach, and a global vaccination programme with high efficacy vaccines is the enduring solution,” the Lancet said in a commentary released alongside the study.

Read more …

How not to sell a vaccine.

Why Vaccine Safety Experts Put The Brakes On AstraZeneca’s Vaccine (ScienceM)

The decision this week by more than 20 European countries to temporarily stop using AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine has opened a rift between vaccine safety experts, who say the cases of serious clotting and bleeding that triggered the pause are alarming and unusual, and public health officials concerned that the immunization pause on a continent in the grip of the pandemic’s third wave could take a heavy toll. “The harm caused by depriving people of access to a vaccine will likely vastly outweigh even the worst case scenario if any link to the clotting disorders is eventually found,” University of Leeds virologist Stephen Griffin told the United Kingdom’s Science Media Centre. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the World Health Organization have recommended that countries continue immunizations while they investigate the reports.

Scientists don’t know whether the vaccine causes the syndrome, and if so, what the mechanism is. “Everyone’s scratching their heads: Is this a real signal?” says Robert Brodsky, a hematologist at Johns Hopkins University. But vaccine safety officials say they did not take the decision lightly, and that symptoms seen in at least 13 patients, all between ages 20 and 50 and previously healthy, in at least five countries are more frequent than would be expected by chance. The patients, at least seven of whom have died, suffer from widespread blood clots, low platelet counts, and internal bleeding—not typical strokes or blood clots. “It’s a very special picture” of symptoms, says Steinar Madsen, medical director of the Norwegian Medicines Agency. “Our leading hematologist said he had never seen anything quite like it.”

A somewhat similar blood disorder, called immune thrombocytopenia (ITP), has been seen in at least 36 people in the United States who had received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines against COVID-19, The New York Times recently reported. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating these cases, but also said the syndrome did not appear to be more common in vaccinated people, and immunizations in the United States have continued. But Madsen says the cases seen in Europe in recent weeks are distinct from ITP, which lacks the widespread blood clots seen in the European patients. The United Kingdom, which has administered the AstraZeneca vaccine to more than 10 million people, has so far not reported similar clusters of unusual clotting or bleeding disorders.

In Europe, a 49-year-old intensive care nurse in Austria was one of the first cases. She died last week from what officials called “clotting disorders” that culminated in internal bleeding. (A colleague at the same hospital who received the vaccine developed lung embolisms, but was expected to recover.) A similar constellation of symptoms has been identified in four patients in Norway, two of whom have died, Madsen says.

Read more …

Imagine living in one and then reading this.

Blanket ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ Orders Imposed On English Care Homes (G.)

Blanket orders not to resuscitate some care home residents at the start of the Covid pandemic have been identified in a report by England’s care regulator. A report published by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found disturbing variations in people’s experiences of do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation (DNACPR) decisions during the pandemic. Best practice is for proper discussions to be held with the person involved and/or their relatives. While examples of good practice were identified, some people were not properly involved in decisions or were unaware that such an important decision about their care had been made. Poor record-keeping, and a lack of oversight and scrutiny of the decisions being made, was identified.

The report, Protect, respect, connect – decisions about living and dying well during Covid-19, calls for a ministerial oversight group – working with partners in health and social care, local government and the voluntary sector – to take responsibility for delivering improvements in this area. The report surveyed a range of individuals and organisations, including care providers and members of the public, and identified: • Serious concerns about breaches of some individuals’ human rights • Significant increase in DNACPRs put in place in care homes at the beginning of the pandemic, from 16,876 to 26,555 • 119 adult social care providers felt they had been subjected to blanket DNACPR decisions since the start of the pandemic • A GP sent DNACPR letters to care homes asking them to put blanket DNACPRs in place • In one care home a blanket DNACPR was applied to everyone over 80 with dementia.


Healthcare professionals emphasise that resuscitation is both invasive and traumatic with only a 15-20% survival rate when performed in hospitals and a 5-10% success rate when performed outside hospitals. However, concerns have been raised about both blanket DNACPR orders being put in place and such instructions being recorded on patients’ records without discussion or informed consent being given.

Read more …

“..his record as state senator and congressman, authoring legislation to increase the criminalization and incarceration of Black and brown Californians..”

“Here in California, we know him as someone who was, in many ways, one of the chief architects of mass incarceration..”

He sounds just like Kamala.

Will Adam Schiff Be California’s Next Top Cop? (G.)

As the lead prosecutor in Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial, Adam Schiff, the representative from southern California, became a household name, an icon of the anti-Trump resistance, and a rising star in the Democratic party. A year on, the congressman looks increasingly well positioned to be appointed as California’s next attorney general. But in Schiff’s home district, criminal justice and immigrant rights advocates say that his record as state senator and congressman, authoring legislation to increase the criminalization and incarceration of Black and brown Californians, should disqualify him from holding the position. “There’s this real disconnect,” said Jody Armour, a University of Southern California law professor who studies the intersection of race and legal decision making.

“The country knows Schiff as sort of an icon. Here in California, we know him as someone who was, in many ways, one of the chief architects of mass incarceration.” Schiff has reportedly been lobbying governor Gavin Newsom for the attorney general spot that will open up if the US Senate confirms Xavier Becerra as the Health and Human Services secretary later this week. House speaker Nancy Pelosi has given her blessings, and reportedly even a personal endorsement. Schiff, 60, began his career at a US district court in California, first as a law clerk and eventually as an assistant US attorney, rising to prominence for prosecuting the case against a former FBI agent convicted of spying for the Soviet Union.


He was elected to the California state senate in 1996, and four years later moved to the US House of Representatives. There, he served as the chair of the powerful Intelligence Committee, becoming one of Pelosi’s closest confidants. As the lead impeachment manager pursuing Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, Schiff’s fiery speeches gained him lavish praise from liberals, begrudging recognition from conservatives and $41m in campaign funds last election cycle. Schiff’s star power, his powerful allies in the Democratic party and fundraising prowess have set him up as a top contender for attorney general.

Read more …

“The language, slipped into the legislation at the last minute by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, is designed to prevent federal money from subsidizing new tax cuts..”

Q: what’s the difference between Anti-Tax Zealotry and Anti-Vax Zealotry?

A Big Win Against Anti-Tax Zealotry (DP)

The American Rescue Plan’s $1.9 trillion of spending represents a significant and long overdue break with the budget-cutting, deficit-obsessed austerity ideology that has held sway since the Reagan Era. But that’s not all it does. A provision tucked into the final bill also aims to halt the anti-tax movement that has drained state and local coffers of resources to fund infrastructure, public education, and other basic social services. The language, slipped into the legislation at the last minute by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, is designed to prevent federal money from subsidizing new tax cuts at a moment when some Republican-led states have been considering them.

“Money from COVID relief needs to go to helping every day Americans get through the pandemic, not paying for tax cuts for the rich,” Schumer said in a statement to The Daily Poster. “The American Rescue Plan explicitly prohibits states from using emergency COVID relief dollars to fund frivolous tax cuts. Governors should use this money to maintain public health and social assistance programs to fight the pandemic, and keep millions of other essential employees on the job and working for our communities.” The provision, coupled with Biden’s upcoming plan to raise taxes on the wealthy, represents the first significant effort to explicitly combat the anti-tax movement that has dominated American politics for the last half century.


Such efforts suggest Democrats have learned a valuable lesson since their 2009 economic stimulus bill about the importance of prioritizing public aid for local and state governments — and keeping that aid from being waylaid by Republicans’ anti-tax zealotry.

Read more …

Washington wants more power.

Ohio AG Sues Biden Administration Over Pandemic Bill (Hill)

Ohio’s attorney general filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration on Wednesday over a provision of the recently signed pandemic relief bill. In a complaint filed in federal district court in Ohio, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) challenged a provision in the legislation that forbids state and local government from using pandemic aid to offset tax cuts. “Ohio seeks to enjoin federal officials from enforcing the unconstitutional Tax Mandate, and seeks declaratory relief establishing that the State of Ohio, under the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, retains the freedom to manage its own tax policy,” the lawsuit reads. The lawsuit was filed against Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and the Treasury Department. Neither the White House nor the Treasury Department immediately responded when asked for comment.

President Biden signed the bill last week, authorizing aid including direct payments for individuals and $195.3 billion for states and Washington, D.C. — including about $5.5 billion for Ohio, according to the lawsuit. The aid is largely distributed based on each state’s number of unemployed workers. Yost argues in his lawsuit that Congress violated constitutional restraints in seeking to control how states set their tax policies. “By accepting that money, the State must sacrifice its sovereign authority to set tax policy as it sees fit, because changes to tax policy that reduce revenues violate the Tax Mandate,” the lawsuit reads. “Such violations could be used to force the State to return funding received through the Act.” [..] Carl Davis, the research director for the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, said that the rhetoric from the conservative attorneys general has been overblown.


“There’s a lot of potential very positive uses for this money that states and localities could find in this moment,” Davis told The Hill. “It’s not intended to be a way to help states to go ahead and cut taxes, particularly for folks at the top, which is really what we’re talking about in a lot of these states that are objecting most loudly to the provision.” “So I think if a state believes that its budget is so strong, and it can afford to actually cut taxes and it’s not going to be doing those kinds of investments, dealing with the economic situation of the hardship we’re seeing right now, it would forego an equivalent amount of aid,” he added. Daniel Hemel, a tax law professor at the University of Chicago law school, agrees that the rhetoric from the attorneys general has been overblown but says that the tax provision in the relief bill is not “Congress’s best work.”

Read more …

Stop talking about markets, there’s only the Fed.

Fed Expects Growth Surge, Inflation Jump In 2021 But No Rate Hike (R.)

The U.S. economy is heading for its strongest growth in nearly 40 years, the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday, and central bank policymakers are pledging to keep their foot on the gas despite an expected surge of inflation. “Strong data are ahead of us,” a confident Fed Chair Jerome Powell said after a two-day policy meeting, ticking off the list of forces Fed officials expect will produce 6.5% GDP growth this year – from massive federal fiscal stimulus to optimism around the success of coronavirus vaccines.“The (stimulus) checks are going out … COVID cases are coming down. Vaccination is moving quickly,” Powell said, marking a moment in which a body of top U.S. economic officials expect growth in the United States to rival that of China this year, not to mention surging quickly beyond that of Europe and Japan.


Fed officials, in fact, expect economic growth to remain above trend for at least two years to come, at 3.3% in 2022 and 2.2% in 2023, compared to estimated long-term potential growth of just 1.8%. While inflation is expected to jump to 2.4% this year, above the central bank’s 2% target, Powell said that is viewed as a temporary surge that will not change the Fed’s pledge to keep its benchmark overnight interest rate near zero as part of an effort to ensure the economic wounds from the pandemic are fully healed. [..] in overlooking the expected jump in inflation this year without a policy response, the Fed held true to its new framework and a pledge not to overreact at the first hint of rising prices, a reaction that has in the past been felt to nip off periods of growth before workers felt the full benefits.

Read more …

Michael Hudson and Paul Craig Roberts.

It Is Time To Remove The Debt Barrier To Economic Growth (Hudson/PCR)

Out of habit, American economists worry about federal debt. But federal debt can be redeemed by the Federal Reserve printing the money with which to retire the bonds. The debt problem rests with individuals, companies, and state and local governments. They have no printing press. We have explained that the indebtedness of the population means there is little discretionary income with which to drive the economy. The offshoring of middle class jobs lowered incomes, and after paying debt service—mortgage interest, car payments, credit card interest, student loan debt—Americans’ pockets are empty. This situation has been worsened by Covid lockdowns. In the US the federal government has sent out a few Covid payments to help keep people’s heads above water as they face expenses without income.

The financial press refers to these Covid checks as “fiscal stimulus,” but there is no stimulus. The Covid checks do not come close to replacing the missing wages, salaries and business profits from lockdowns. Corporations have indebted themselves and impaired their capitalization by borrowing money with which to repurchase their stock. This has built up their debt in the face of stagnant or declining consumer discretionary income. We propose to deal with the debt crisis by forgiving debts as was done in ancient times. Our basic premise is that debts that cannot be paid won’t be. Widespread foreclosures and evictions would further worsen the distribution of income and wealth and further contrain the ability of the economy to grow. Writing debt down to levels that can be serviced would clear the decks tor a real recovery.

Income that would be siphoned off in debt service would instead be available to purchase new goods and services. A few economists muttered that we were overlooking the “moral hazzard” of absolving people of their debts. But leaving the economy stagnated in debt is also a moral hazzard. Policymakers did not endorse our proposal, but, in effect, policymakers adopted our policy. However, instead of forgiving the debt itself, they forgave payment of the debt service. Individuals and businesses who cannot pay their landlords or lenders cannot be evicted or foreclosed until June. This doesn’t hurt the lenders or banks, because the loans are not in default, and their balance sheet is not impaired. The banks add the unpaid payments to their assets, and their balance sheets remain sound.

When June arrives, the prohibition against eviction and foreclosure will have to be extended as the accrued debt service cannot be paid. Extending the moratorium on foreclosures and evictions will just build up arrears. Is the implication a perpetual moratorium? The question is: If policymakers are willing to forgive debt service, why not just forgive the debt. The latter is neater and clears the decks for an economic renewal.

Read more …

Solid discussion. Welcome.

Bitcoin Bros Rediscovering Our Monetary Past (AIER)

All eyes on bitcoin, it seems, as the price hits new all-time-highs, its proponents celebrate, and the economists who have long pronounced it dead and useless scratch their head in confusion (any “bubble” pronouncements as of late?)“The discomforting reality for the early idealists,” wrote Izabella Kaminska, a long-time critic of cryptocurrencies, before the price explosion in recent months, “is that 12 years on, the bitcoin ecosystem has more in common with the incumbent one it was hoping to displace than that original utopian vision.” She’s more right than she knows. In one sense, we should probably celebrate this as it means that bitcoin is approaching the monetary commodity dream it always harbored: it is running into some eternal troubles common to all monetary systems.

Even better, we should take the opportunity to teach some monetary history, as those in the crypto world have never been particularly well-versed in our monetary past. The audience they cater to is even less informed and so the “bitcoin heroes” – Saifedean Ammous, Robert Breedlove etc – are celebrated for their wisdom, no matter how rudimentary or inaccurate. It’s easy to discard an entire field of centuries-long academic inquiries, especially if you’ve never been exposed to it, or only investigated a caricature. Some humility is recommended since, as Denis Patrick O’Brien writes in his collection of scholarly articles The Development of Monetary Economics, “Monetary economics has attracted some of the very best people to have written about economic problems.”

In contrast to Bitcoin’s money supply mechanism, set in stone since its origin, many of bitcoin’s rivals – “alt-coins” or “sh**coins” – want to set their own monetary policy, laid down arcane rules in fancy white papers that only the insiders have the discretion to change. This dispute over rules and discretion about who runs the printing press is about three centuries old if not more, and was thoroughly investigated by the likes of Adam Smith, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Tooke, Horsley Palmer, Walter Bagehot, John Clapham and others. Some of the seemingly novel features of many cryptocurrency innovations are not so novel, and quickly run into precisely the problems that plagued past economies; these were promptly examined and argued over by monetary economists long since dead and forgotten.

When Bitcoin was small and insignificant, the dollar-cost of sending value across the network was minuscule. For the first few years of the cryptocurrency’s existence, this was among the best reasons to use it: you could send any amount, to anyone in the world, much cheaper and much faster than the legacy banking system of the 2000s. That was roughly correct. Legacy systems were slow and expensive, and doing international banking only 15-20 years ago caused headaches to plenty more people than money launderers.

The Internet, effective competition, and the rise of fintechs changed all that – but the most vocal bitcoiners remained in the past that the legacy system had long left behind, thinking that their magnificent invention still trumped the system against which bitcoin was created. For most uses it doesn’t: unless you’re living under authoritarian regimes or are trying to do business in the legal grey (two very important, yet comparatively small, market segments), using bitcoin for its initial transactional purposes isn’t that great.

Read more …

“Experts say that Markle may be the most qualified presidential candidate to ever run for office since she is a Democrat woman of color and has a ton of useful experience as a princess.”

Woman Who Thought Being A Princess Was Too Hard, To Run For President (BBee)

The former Duchess of Sussex, who left the royal family after realizing how hard it was to be a princess, is now eyeing a presidential run. According to sources, Meghan Markle is networking with Democratic leaders for a possible shot at becoming America’s first female president. “Being a princess was, like, the absolute worst,” said Markle to some trusted political consultants. “There were so many things to do, and so many annoying obligations I had to fulfill. I think being President of the United States will be much easier. Let’s do that instead!” Experts say that Markle may be the most qualified presidential candidate to ever run for office since she is a Democrat woman of color and has a ton of useful experience as a princess.


“Meghan Markle may be the one to finally save America and get all those migrant kids out of cages,” said local Meghan Markle enthusiast Camy Fumbertook. “Obama was a letdown, and Biden was a letdown, but I think Markle will be totally different due to her womanness and person-of-colorness.” In a statement, Biden announced support of Markle’s future run. “Don’t worry, sweetie,” he said as he descended his basement stairs for another nap. “The presidency is way easier than being a princess.”

Read more …

 

 

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International trash-talk:

5. You are a potato with the face of a guinea pig (French)
4. Your brain is like two walnuts in a bag (Arabic)
3. My foot is in your butt’s destiny (Urdu)
2. You’re the son of a gender-neutral dog (Bengali)
1. Your gran masturbates standing up (German)

 

 

You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.


Lá fhéile pádraig

Seamus Heaney

 

 

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Mar 152021
 


Pablo Picasso Femme 1930

 

Welcome To The ‘Upside-Down’ (WhatsHerFace)
Vigilant over Vigils (Murray)
New UK Anti-Protest Bill Raises Profound Concern And Alarm (G.)
College Students Celebrate Spring Break Despite COVID-19 Pandemic (ABC)
Russia Offers Europe Win-Win Vaccine Solution (SCF)
Netherlands, Ireland Join Others In Suspending Use of AstraZeneca Vaccine (F.)
What’s The Plan In Europe – Blame UK & AstraZeneca? (Blain)
The New New Deal Has Already Arrived. Thank the Covid Panic. (Mises)
Government Ethics Professor Played Key Role in Nursing Home Death Coverup (SM)
EU Deal Cements China’s Advantage In Media War (Pol.eu)
By Targeting House Prices, New Zealand Shows The Way (Sharma)
India To Propose Cryptocurrency Ban, Penalising Miners, Traders (R.)

 

 

 

 

Word.

Welcome To The ‘Upside-Down’ (WhatsHerFace)

Good evening, and welcome to the upside-down.

Where what you see, can never be,
and what you know, just isn’t so.
Where bad is good and wrong is right.
Where truth went down without a fight.

Where you might just say, every day is opposite day.

Can I offer you a mask or an anal swab?
Rape is the law, if its for a good cause.
Oh no, it isn’t mandatory, that would be cruel,
but you have no choice, that’s our only rule.

Before you enter I must tell you about the world’s deadliest disease.
It can take you out with a single sneeze.
It’s a clever bugger too, it can’t take out a violent mob
it only thrives in those with jobs.

But luckily, we have the only cure,
it won’t stop it from spreading but that’s all we know for sure.
So “What does it do?”, you may ask.
No one knows, so please be sure to double mask.

“It’s super safe” the doctor said.
Even if you end up dead,
because the antidote can’t kill you since
it’s the leading cause of coincidence.

Now roll up your sleeve and let’s go,
I’ll take you through the backwards show.
Where doctors kill and science shills
for our lord and saviour, a man named Bill.

To your left you will find our grand display
of courageous men with nothing to say.
They don’t provide, or lead, or slay.
They smile, nod, and let you have your way.

To your right you’ll see our exhibition of empathy.
Where the rich stay home,
and through their phone,
demand that old folks die alone.

Follow along the yellow dotted line,
to our memorial of dissent, our evil shrine.
The thought criminals and sense seekers and those who disrupt,
the ones who tried to turn us right side up.

They did not shrink to double think,
so all of them died from “suicide”.

Thank you very much for visiting THE UPSIDE DOWN!
Now please return to the circus with the rest of the clowns.

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“.. all public manifestations of political dissent will be intimidated by massive police presence, and that the cost of that massive intimidatory presence will in itself be reason to ban the demonstration. Which would be delightfully Kafkaesque were it only a joke.”

Vigilant over Vigils (Murray)

In one sense, I am delighted that the heavy-handed police action at the vigil for Sarah Everard has brought about public revulsion at the attack on free speech and the right of assembly, just as Priti Patel prepares to bring in the dreadful policing bill which represents the biggest single threat to freedom of assembly in the UK for 200 years. Its foundational principle is that the right of freedom of assembly is subordinate to the right to drive a SUV anywhere and any time you please, without having to detour around people taking part in democratic expression. It has a subsidiary principle that all public manifestations of political dissent will be intimidated by massive police presence, and that the cost of that massive intimidatory presence will in itself be reason to ban the demonstration. Which would be delightfully Kafkaesque were it only a joke.

The excuse for breaking up the Everard vigil was of course Covid. In all but the most extreme circumstances, where public health management conflicts with the most fundamental of human rights, then human rights should avail. The Patel legislation is not a response to Covid, it is a response to Extinction Rebellion. I remain wholly supportive of ER; the need to jolt people out of their complacency and inaction over climate change is a massive political priority, and I certainly hope Extinction Rebellion will be back with a bang in the summer. But I am afraid to say it could not escape my notice that the protest over the Everard vigil was in stark contrast to the lack of protest at the police breaking up the Assange vigil in Piccadilly Circus, which was much smaller and less intrusive and much better social distanced. Unfortunately the police arrested 92 year old Eric who is not a young and pretty woman, so it got no media coverage.


The sad truth is of course that among those vying to be seen in both mainstream and social media to express outrage at the police disruption of the Everard vigil, are many fierce proponents of cancel culture. The outrage over which speech is limited is highly selective. That free speech also extends to Julian Assange or Piers Corbyn is not intuitive to the mainstream media at present. There seems to be a real danger that British society is losing all notion of the idea that free speech is for everybody, not just those you agree with or who are deemed respectable by the media and political class.

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Fully insane.

New UK Anti-Protest Bill Raises Profound Concern And Alarm (G.)

More than 150 organisations have warned ministers that a new law handing police tougher powers to crack down on protesters would be “an attack on some of the most fundamental rights of citizens” as Labour vowed to oppose it and officers’ handling of a vigil for Sarah Everard continued to draw criticism. The groups, including human rights charities, unions and faith communities, said on Sunday the wide-ranging legislation would have a hugely detrimental effect on civil liberties, and called for the government to “fundamentally rethink its approach”. In a letter to the home secretary, Priti Patel, and the justice secretary, Robert Buckland, seen by the Guardian, they claim the 307-page police, crime and sentencing bill – being debated on Monday and Tuesday before a vote – is being rushed through parliament before people have “been able to fully understand its profound implications”.


Some of the new police powers are draconian, they said, cautioning that the new law would also increase penalties for those breaching police conditions on protests and the ease with which they can be found to have done so. They said it raised “profound concern and alarm” and would also threaten access to the countryside and criminalise Gypsy and Traveller communities, adding that the legislation is being “driven through at a time and in a way where those who will be subject to its provisions are least able to respond”.

Read more …

Normal spring.

College Students Celebrate Spring Break Despite COVID-19 Pandemic (ABC)

College students are continuing to flock to beaches to celebrate spring break despite the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although universities around the country either scaled back the traditional holiday week or canceled it altogether, the Sunshine State saw an influx of traveling students over the weekend. On Friday night, two Miami Beach Police officers dispersed a large crowd using pepper balls after two officers were injured, the police department tweeted. Authorities reported instances of bottles being thrown at police and a woman riding on top of a car. At one point, a crowd of more than 200 people, some of which were smoking marijuana and drinking from open containers, were blocking traffic, The Associated Press reported, citing police reports.


Thirty additional arrests were made Saturday night, police said. Earlier this month, Miami Beach City Manager Raul Aguila warned spring breakers to stay out of town, and a message to the cellphones of tourists warning them to “Vacation Responsibly.” “If you want to party without restrictions, then go somewhere else. Go to Vegas,” Aguila said during a virtual city meeting. On Saturday, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer advised the community to enjoy the weather while maintaining COVID-19 safety guidelines. In Texas, Galveston was also a hot spot for spring breakers, where thousands of people flocked to the beach to soak in the warm weather, ABC Corpus Christi affiliate KIII reported. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a plan to lift mask mandates and allow businesses to operate at 100% capacity on March 2.

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“The inordinate delay by the EU authorities is at odds with the proven scientific success of Sputnik V and growing demand worldwide.”

Russia Offers Europe Win-Win Vaccine Solution (SCF)

Three vaccines have been approved so far by the EU: those of Oxford-AstraZeneca (Anglo-Swedish); Pfizer-BioNTech (American-German); and Moderna (American). A fourth vaccine from Johnson & Johnson gained approval this week, but it may take weeks before it reaches arms. And there are other problems. Several EU nations have halted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine following a number of blood-clot (thrombosis) deaths among people who were injected. It is not clear if the deaths were a direct result of the jab. In the meantime, administering the vaccine has been reportedly suspended in Austria, Denmark and Italy. Non-EU nations Iceland and Norway have also put the brake on the AstraZeneca treatment.

This can only compound the EU’s already sluggish rollout program. First, it hits public confidence in taking up the vaccine even if it is cleared of side-effect risks. That will in turn place a burden on the supplies of the other three approved vaccines. The longer the delay in vaccinating the European population the greater the danger of new variants emerging, and hence the longer the delay in returning societies to pre-pandemic normalcy. Populations are becoming restive over protracted lockdowns. Economies and livelihoods have been wrecked by the pandemic. Millions of jobs have been lost. The OECD this week urged the EU to speed up vaccination coverage in order to salvage recovery as soon as possible. This is the context in which EU official reluctance to deploy Russia’s Sputnik V must be seen.

The European Medicines Agency – the regulator for vaccines – has still not approved the Russian shot even though the requisite data for application for use had been submitted two months ago by the Russian developer of the vaccine. The inordinate delay by the EU authorities is at odds with the proven scientific success of Sputnik V and growing demand worldwide. Public statements by EU officials expressing a cynical view of the Russian jab point to a deplorable politicization of the pandemic. (Ironically, they accuse Russia of politicizing it.) Instead of embracing Russian offers of its vaccine – offered in the spirit of partnership and prudent medical strategy to eradicate the virus – EU politicians, such as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her predecessor Donald Tusk, have been gratuitously invoking a Cold War politics of competition and adversity.

There are snide accusations that Russia is using “vaccine soft power” to cause division within the EU and more generally promote the image of the Kremlin around the world. This Russophobia and Cold War mindset is reprehensible. It is putting politics above public health and safety based on irrational prejudice. With nearly 900,000 deaths so far, continental Europe accounts for almost a third of the world’s total from Covid-19 over the past year. Europe’s toll compares with the United States’ figure of 530,000 deaths. Russia, the largest country in continental Europe, has a vital interest in eradicating the pandemic. Russia’s death toll stands at around 88,000.

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Science upside down. “Just because it’s reported following a vaccination doesn’t mean that it’s because of the vaccination. It could be completely unrelated.”

Or it could not. Note that this “logic” is used only for vaccines.

Netherlands, Ireland Join Others In Suspending Use of AstraZeneca Vaccine (F.)

AstraZeneca on Sunday insisted that is Covid-19 vaccine was safe citing a review of safety data from inoculated people which found no evidence of increased risk of blood clots, as the Netherlands and Ireland became the latest countries who have suspended the use of the vaccine following reports of possible side effects including blood clots. The Netherlands announced on Sunday that the use of the AstraZeneca jab will be suspended at least till March 29 as a precaution after reports of unexpected possible side effects in Denmark and Norway. While no cases of blood clotting were reported in the Netherlands there was no proof yet of a direct link between the vaccine and blood clots, Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said, “we can’t allow any doubts about the vaccine.”

Ireland also temporarily suspended the use of the shots following the reports from Norway noting the move was a precaution as no direct link had been established between the vaccine and the adverse events. Insisting its vaccine is safe, AstraZeneca said it had reviewed safety data of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the European Union and the U.K. and found no evidence of an “increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis or thrombocytopenia, in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country,” Reuters reported. Apart from the Netherlands and Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Thailand have also temporarily suspended rollout of the vaccine while Austria has stopped using a particular batch of the shots.


30 million. That’s the number of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that the U.S. government has purchased, the New York Times reported. However, the vaccine is yet to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is still undergoing phase-three clinical trials. Although the World Health Organization has said it is investigating the reports of blood clots its Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said: “it remains unclear if the vaccine is causing the blood clots.” She then added, “The adverse events which are reported after vaccination have to be seen in the context of events which occur naturally in the population. Just because it’s reported following a vaccination doesn’t mean that it’s because of the vaccination. It could be completely unrelated.”

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“..milk the teats of Brussels tax-free salaries and ensure the Germans didn’t cotton on the fact they were paying for much of it.”

What’s The Plan In Europe – Blame UK & AstraZeneca? (Blain)

What is going on in Europe? The political and economic options are limited, the outcomes predictable, and none of them are good. But don’t worry – Europe can always blame the UK and AstraZeneca. On the back of news of collapsing trade between Europe and the UK due to Brexit, I wish I could work out what’s going through the collective mindset of the European Commission and the European Central Bank regarding how they now intend to turn Europe into a major growth economy of economies, create jobs and wealth, foster social cohesion, and become a third force for moderation in geopolitics. What’s the plan I wonder… do they care to share it?

To give Europe some credit, it’s done remarkably well holding together these last 12 years, creating an increasingly connected European state without the tedious need of anyone actually voting for it. Political and Economic compromises have been made, but the whole thing has muddled through rather well – give or take suboptimal growth being hamstrung by the construct of the Euro. Since 2012, when Europe’s central bank finally cottoned on to the crisis then enveloping European bond markets, the ECB has have had but one policy: keep Interest Rates at zero and below, and wait, hope, and pray for recovery and inflation to discount down the debt. They are still waiting. As far as I can work out…. that’s about the sum of the economic side of the plan. Hope is never a strategy, and monetary mismanagement without some fiscal common sense to back it up looks an unlikely route to success.


On the political side of the equation, for years the EC bumbled along as a rest home for “shunky retreads”. (I just love that description by the Australian Ambassador of the qualities required to become one of Europe’s unelected leaders.) Its’ main purpose was to ensure everyone got a fair chance to milk the teats of Brussels tax-free salaries and ensure the Germans didn’t cotton on the fact they were paying for much of it.

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“..the Trump administration already approved $4 trillion in new spending for covid-19 stimulus and relief bills..”

The New New Deal Has Already Arrived. Thank the Covid Panic. (Mises)

We’ve entered a new era of politics and government in America, and the Left is pretty happy about it. This week, for example, The Guardian announced “Biden’s $1.9tn Covid relief bill marks an end to four decades of Reaganism.” From this point of view, “Reaganism” is code for extreme free-market libertarian public policy. Or as some call it: “neoliberalism.” The idea that this sort of Reaganism took over the country contradicts reality, of course. By virtually every metric—from tax revenues and federal spending per capita, and in to the size of the regulatory state—the size of the American state has expanded relentlessly for more than 40 years.

But in many respects the headline is correct. The new Covid relief bill signals that whatever restraint on public spending existed before 2020 is now all but gone. And the bill represents the beginning of a new era: an era that can be likened to the New Deal. This has long been part of the plan according to social democrats and progressives. After all, there’s been a lot of talk from the Left for years about the need for a “new new deal.” Whether it centered on environmentalism or on health care, everyone in these circles agrees on one thing: we needed a new surge in the size and scope of the government sector.

And now it’s happened. We’re in a new era when an ongoing crisis justifies any number of drastic new measures enacted by governments. To question this, the media and the pundits insist, constitutes “denying science” or “wanting grandma to die.” The only question now is how long this new era of enbridled government expansion will last. Moreover, just as the New Deal turned an ordinary downturn into a decade-long depression—and did nothing to “end” the Depression—this new new deal will only ensure that any real recovery is years away. The most visible aspect of this all are the immense increases in government spending that have occurred over the past year.

While it’s true the Biden administration is signing off on an immense $1.9 trillion “relief” package, the fact is the Trump administration already approved $4 trillion in new spending for covid-19 stimulus and relief bills. The Biden addition will be on top of that. To put this into perspective, keep in mind that during most of the Obama years, total federal outlays ranged from $3.5 to $3.9 trillion. Trump pushed those numbers up even further, topping $4.4 trillion in the 2019 fiscal year. In the 2020 fiscal year (which ended in September) outlays skyrocketed to 6.5 trillion. This doesn’t even capture all of Trump’s stimulus spending. Some of it will count under the 2021 fiscal year, and we still have a long way to go.

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“The aide who rewrote the report with the intention to mislead the public..”

Government Ethics Professor Played Key Role in Nursing Home Death Coverup (SM)

Last spring, the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered nursing homes to admit patients who had recently been treated for Covid-19. This led to a spike in Covid deaths inside nursing homes, which are filled with elderly people in the highest risk category for serious Covid-19 cases. When the State Health Department issued a report on the nursing home deaths, one of Cuomo’s aides rewrote it to remove the total count of 9,250 deaths related to the policy. The reasoning was that the death count outpaced New Jersey’s— with the second highest nursing home death rate in the county— by almost 3,000. The aide who rewrote the report with the intention to mislead the public worked as a Professor of Government Ethics at NYU’s law school, before joining the Cuomo administration in “ethics and law enforcement matters.” There’s government ethics for you.

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Asymmetrical warfare.

EU Deal Cements China’s Advantage In Media War (Pol.eu)

Despite growing concerns about Chinese disinformation and propaganda in Europe, the EU’s trade deal with Beijing makes no attempt to rectify the stark differences in access rights between European and Chinese investors when it comes to media and news operations. Texts of the EU’s investment deal with China were published on Friday and the documents show Beijing has used the opportunity to set in stone draconian restrictions on foreign investment in news media and the entertainment industry, even specifying that foreign programs cannot be shown between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. without special approval and that only Chinese cartoons can be shown between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.

While European leaders often insist that the deal should achieve “reciprocity” with China, the European Commission conspicuously failed to introduce this logic in the all-important news and information sector. The texts of the accord struck in December show that European investors are boxed out of Chinese media while Chinese investors are largely free to buy up news services, broadcasters, cinemas and film-making ventures in the EU. In terms of soft power, this means the tables are firmly tilted in favor of China, allowing Beijing to seek further inroads into the business of what Chinese President Xi Jinping calls telling “China’s stories well.” This agenda of winning hearts and minds through “good news” stories about China has become a hot topic during the coronavirus pandemic, when China has been widely accused of covering up the origins of the virus, downplaying the foreign assistance it has received and playing up the aid it has given.


The biggest party grouping in the European Parliament, the center-right European People’s Party, identified that openness to Chinese takeovers of European media as a leading source of concern in its first-ever China paper this week. According to the EPP report, China has invested almost €3 billion in European media firms over the last 10 years. “We therefore encourage the Commission to develop an EU-wide regulatory system to prevent media companies either funded or controlled by governments to acquire European media companies,” it said. When asked about the imbalance, the European Commission said the EU-China deal simply enshrined the status quo that the parties had agreed to under World Trade Organization rules. However, the agreement will give China an additional way to enforce these commitments via a bespoke state-to-state dispute settlement, to which other WTO members don’t have access.

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But the banking system depends on those high prices.

By Targeting House Prices, New Zealand Shows The Way (Sharma)

Those Kiwi revolutionaries are at it again. In 1989, New Zealand’s central bank was the first to commit to a specific target for consumer price inflation, then the biggest threat to the world economy. Unions and businesses howled, saying the move would kill growth and jobs. One property developer called for a rope on which to hang central bank chief Donald Brash.  Brash, a former fruit farmer who had seen his uncle’s life savings destroyed by inflation, held firm. By signalling the bank’s seriousness, the target helped to lower the public’s self-fulfilling expectation of endless price rises. Over two years, inflation fell from 8 to 2 per cent. The unpopular idea caught on. Soon, most central banks had adopted targets and this helped tame the global scourge of runaway prices for food, fuel and other consumer staples. 

Today, a new scourge — asset price inflation — looms. And New Zealand has launched another counterattack. While consumer prices have been held in check by globalisation and automation, easy money pouring out of central banks has been driving up the price of assets from stocks to bonds and housing. As homes are generally not counted as consumer goods, even sharp price spikes carry relatively little weight in central bank deliberations.  Home prices have risen steadily in the pandemic, and in 12 months through to the end of January were up 19 per cent in New Zealand. The price of a typical Auckland home soared past $720,000, embarrassing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.  A global political celebrity, the liberal Ardern was elected on a promise of affordable housing.


Fed up, her government has ordered the central bank to add stabilising home prices to its remit, starting March 1. It is novel and healthy for a politician to recognise the unintended consequences of easy money.  If this idea catches on, it could lead to greater financial and social stability worldwide. Decades of loose central bank policy have done less to generate growth in the real economy than in the financial markets — and those gains benefit mainly the rich. This is widening wealth inequality, pushing homes beyond reach for the middle class, and not only in New Zealand. Of 502 international cities tracked by Numbeo, a research firm, prices are “unaffordable” (more than three times median family income) in more than 90 per cent. In recent years, the tiny minority of affordable cities has been shrinking toward zero.

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Odd move.

India To Propose Cryptocurrency Ban, Penalising Miners, Traders (R.)

India will propose a law banning cryptocurrencies, fining anyone trading in the country or even holding such digital assets, a senior government official told Reuters in a potential blow to millions of investors piling into the red-hot asset class. The bill, one of the world’s strictest policies against cryptocurrencies, would criminalise possession, issuance, mining, trading and transferring crypto-assets, said the official, who has direct knowledge of the plan. The measure is in line with a January government agenda that called for banning private virtual currencies such as bitcoin while building a framework for an official digital currency. But recent government comments had raised investors’ hopes that the authorities might go easier on the booming market.

Instead, the bill would give holders of cryptocurrencies up to six months to liquidate, after which penalties will be levied, said the official, who asked not to be named as the contents of the bill are not public. Officials are confident of getting the bill enacted into law as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government holds a comfortable majority in parliament. If the ban becomes law, India would be the first major economy to make holding cryptocurrency illegal. Even China, which has banned mining and trading, does not penalise possession. [..] In India, despite government threats of a ban, transaction volumes are swelling and 8 million investors now hold 100 billion rupees ($1.4 billion) in crypto-investments, according to industry estimates. No official data is available.


“The money is multiplying rapidly every month and you don’t want to be sitting on the sidelines,” said Sumnesh Salodkar, a crypto-investor. “Even though people are panicking due to the potential ban, greed is driving these choices.”

Read more …

 

 

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Mar 072021
 
 March 7, 2021  Posted by at 10:14 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  29 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh Red Vineyards at Arles 1888

 

American Rescue Plan Could Set Stage for $4 Trillion of Debt (CRFB)
Yellen Coddles Up to Powell on Rising Long-Term Yields (WS)
Italy’s Government Is Outsourcing Its Economic Strategy To McKinsey (Jac.)
US Covid Cases Continue To Decline After Brief Plateau (JTN)
Connecticut Lifting All Covid-19 Capacity Restrictions On Businesses (F.)
The Nightingale Alternative (Gillian Dymond)
Trump Sends Legal Notice To GOP To Stop Using His Name (Pol.)
Congressmen Demand Twitter’s Internal Docs Regarding Trump Censorship (JTN)
Is China Hacking Random Servers To Put Itself Into A Bad Light? (MoA)
Bitcoin Could Soon Run Head First Into US Money Laundering Laws (ZH)
The Dark Side Of “Eating Lower On The Food Chain” (Turchin)
Mobile Devices Alter Children’s Minds, Change How They Perceive The World (JTN)

 

 

 

 

Jack Posobiec: Trump sent $1800 stimulus out, Biden sent $1400 but if you look closely you may start to notice the media being slightly biased about this story.

Kevin Gosztola: Jobless benefits were $600/week for 4 months in the COVID-19 relief that passed under Trump in March 2020. Biden and Senate Democrats are cutting jobless benefits for citizens in crisis to $300/week for same period—half of what passed in GOP-controlled Senate.

 

 

 

 

Already, people will get $1,400 checks, while the rescue will cost them some $5,700 each.

American Rescue Plan Could Set Stage for $4 Trillion of Debt (CRFB)

The American Rescue Plan Act is estimated to cost over $1.9 trillion through 2031, but the ultimate price tag could be twice as high if some of the policies in the bill are extended beyond their current expiration dates. The bill includes several extensions of tax credits that supporters have previously proposed on a permanent basis and several temporary economic relief measures that are slated to end before the economy has fully recovered. If the tax credits were made permanent and these relief measures were extended for the duration of the crisis, it would raise the total cost of the bill to $3.8 trillion through 2031, or $4.1 trillion with interest.

Several measures in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act that provide temporary relief are likely to be extended past their expiration dates. Most significantly, expanded unemployment benefits would expire at the end of August (though that may soon be changed to September), after which all unemployed workers would lose the benefit supplement and many would lose benefits entirely. In addition, a 15 percent increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits would end in September, after which benefits would immediately snap back to their previous level. Other smaller relief efforts also end abruptly. Extensions of these policies are likely in our view. While the actual cost would depend on the length and nature of those extensions, we believe a reasonable extension and phase-out scenario could cost roughly $300 billion.

More substantially, the American Rescue Plan Act includes one- or two-year versions of several longstanding policy priorities of President Biden’s or Congressional Democrats’. It includes over $100 billion for a one-year expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which increases the credit from $2,000 to $3,000 (or $3,600 for children under age 6) and makes it fully refundable. The bill also includes a $15 billion, one-year expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for childless workers that many have been seeking for years, and an $8 billion expansion of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC), which closely matches President Biden’s campaign proposal to increase the maximum credit from $2,100 to $8,000 and from covering 35 percent of expenses to 50 percent of expenses. Finally, the legislation includes a $35 billion, 2-year increase in Affordable Care Act premium subsidies that closely matches a similar proposal in President Biden’s campaign plan and $10 billion in small Medicaid expansions that last five years.

Making the expanded CTC permanent would cost an additional $1.1 trillion, assuming the expiring provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which boosted the credit from $1,000 to $2,000 and eliminated the dependent exemption, are eventually extended or the policy is modified after 2026. Relative to current law, we estimate this would cost more like $1.5 trillion. Meanwhile, making the EITC and CDCTC extensions permanent would cost over $200 billion, and making the health care provisions permanent would cost about $250 billion. Altogether, we estimate these potential extensions would cost $1.9 trillion before interest, boosting the overall cost of the bill to $4.1 trillion when interest is included.

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“The Wall Street crybabies are clamoring for this because massive highly leveraged bets on Treasury securities are producing massive losses.”

Yellen Coddles Up to Powell on Rising Long-Term Yields (WS)

It seems to be a rare sight that a Treasury Secretary and a Fed Chair color-coordinate their comments about rising long-term yields. On Friday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in an interview on PBS NewsHour echoed what Fed Chair Jerome Powell had said on Thursday in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. When Yellen was asked about the rising long-term yields that the crybabies on Wall Street are getting so nervous about, Yellen said in her quiet manner: “Long term interest rates have gone up some, but mainly I think because market participants are seeing a stronger recovery, as we have success with getting people vaccinated and a strong fiscal package that’s going to get people back to work.” “Rising interest rates don’t concern you?” she was then asked.


“I think they’re a sign that the economy is getting back on track, and market participants see that, and they expect a stronger economy,” Yellen said. “And instead of inflation lingering below levels that are desirable for years on end, they’re beginning to see inflation get back to a normal range of around 2%.” And inflation may rise more than that, but it’s going to be transitory, she said. So on Friday, the Treasury 10-year yield rose to 1.57%, still ludicrously low, given the outlook on inflation, and given the Fed’s insistence that it will let inflation run over 2% – as measured by “core PCE,” the inflation measure that nearly always produces the lowest inflation readings in the US. But that 1.57% was nevertheless the highest since February 14, 2020:

The spread between the Treasury 2-year yield (0.14%) and the 10-year yield (1.57%) widened to 1.43 percentage points. By this measure, the yield curve is the steepest since November 2015:

This rise in the 10-year yield has set off clamoring among the crybabies on Wall Street for the Fed to do something to bring them down. They have already outlined the remedies, including prominently another “Operation Twist,” where the Fed sells Treasury securities with short maturities and buys Treasury securities with long maturities. This concentrated buying of long-dated Treasuries would raise their prices and thereby push down their yields. The Wall Street crybabies are clamoring for this because massive highly leveraged bets on Treasury securities are producing massive losses.

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This must be crossing some line.

Italy’s Government Is Outsourcing Its Economic Strategy To McKinsey (Jac.)

Upon its formation last month, Mario Draghi’s new government was heralded by almost all Italian and international media as a rescue operation. Where the former European Central Bank (ECB) chief Draghi had “saved the euro” in the 2010s, most outlets gushed over “Super Mario” and his plan to “save Italy” by splashing a mooted €209 billion in European recovery fund cash while “reforming” its lackluster economy. The kind of “reforms” this meant went unmentioned — and after all, this government bears no relation to voter decisions, or the coalitions that ran in the last general election. But for the fourth time since the 1990s, a president called on a technocrat from the world of finance and banking to form a cabinet, halfway through a parliament. Eight of Draghi’s twenty-three ministers are unelected technocrats, in a so-called government of experts.

If these figures are not party-political, they have similar backgrounds and instincts. Economy minister Daniele Franco is a former Bank of Italy official who drafted the famous 2011 ECB letter instructing the government to implement privatizations and cut back collective bargaining. Former Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao — today innovation and digital transition minister — is a former partner at private consultants McKinsey & Company. Now, it has been revealed that McKinsey is going to be tasked with writing Italy’s economic plan for the coming period, to be submitted for review by the European Commission at the end of next month. Notorious for its role in the Enron scandal as well as the 2008 financial crisis — as it promoted the boundless securitization of mortgage assets — and the botched vaccine rollout in France, the firm is now being called on to shape the Draghi government’s “reform” agenda.

La Repubblica, the country’s leading center-left daily, gushed over the move. “Faced with a race against time,” Draghi’s government “has assumed the position of a private corporation faced with a new business opportunity that isn’t part of its core activities.” While this same paper reported on March 1 that the need for “hurry” meant Draghi himself would write the recovery plan, together with finance minister Franco, this has now been outsourced. The suggestion that this is a purely “technical” collaboration — that McKinsey’s choices will not be political — is patently absurd, not least given that this claim is also widely made for Draghi’s “technical” government itself. For decades, the imposition of neoliberal recipes in Italy has been advanced through this same procedure, with the agenda advanced by privatizers couched in the dogma of “unavoidable choices.”

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And still nobody knows why?!

US Covid Cases Continue To Decline After Brief Plateau (JTN)

Daily new COVID-19 cases in the United States have continued declining after a brief plateau following a sharp drop from the beginning of the year. Cases have declined steeply since early January, baffling scientists who are struggling to explain the unexpected drop in COVID activity, particularly after weeks of dire warnings from health officials about the potential for a post-holiday spike. That decline leveled out in late February, with daily average case numbers appearing to be on a slightly upward trajectory at one point, leading experts to warn that positive test results could be preparing to explode again.


Yet cases appear to be dropping again, according to several data sources. The COVID Tracking Project indicates that daily average case numbers began slowly decreasing again around Feb. 27 and have continued on that downward trend over the past week. Likewise, the data website Worldometers also identifies average daily case numbers beginning a new decline at right around the same day. According to COVID Tracking, COVID-19 hospitalizations have continued on a seemingly unabated downward trajectory since early January, on Friday reaching levels not seen since late October.

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Not all restrictions.

Connecticut Lifting All Covid-19 Capacity Restrictions On Businesses (F.)

Connecticut will lift all capacity limits on certain businesses including restaurants, gyms, offices and houses of worship starting March 19, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Thursday, going further than most other Democratic-led states to roll back Covid-19 restrictions even as public health officials advise governors not to do so. Restaurants, retail businesses, libraries, personal services, indoor recreation facilities, gyms, fitness centers, museums, aquariums, zoos, offices and houses of worship will all have their capacity limits repealed. Social distancing protocols will still be in place and face masks will be required, and there will be some restrictions: theaters will remain restricted to 50% capacity, restaurants are limited to eight people per table and must close at 11 p.m. and bars that only serve beverages will still be closed entirely.


The state’s mask mandate will remain in effect. Gathering limits on social and recreational gatherings will also be increased March 19 to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors at a private residence, or 100 people indoors and 200 outdoors at a commercial venue. On April 2, the state will open outdoor amusement parks, open indoor stadiums at 10% capacity and increase occupancy at outdoor event venues to 50% capacity or up to 10,000 people. Connecticut will be one of only a few Democratic-led states to have such relaxed capacity restrictions: Virginia does not have capacity restrictions at restaurants or places of worship but does at gyms, Wisconsin’s capacity limit order has expired and Kansas’ restrictions are determined by county, with many having few or no limits.

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“..depriving us all of autonomy and of the comforting, real-world support of friends and family, and robbing the less fortunate among us of health, of livelihoods, and, in the worst cases, of life itself.”

The Nightingale Alternative (Gillian Dymond)

It is a year now since I last took a train: a short return trip, from Leamington Spa to Oxford. On the journey out, I was lucky enough to find a seat in which, for some forty minutes, I shared the air with my fellow travellers. At Oxford station I rubbed shoulders with a multiplicity of strangers as I joined the throng surging towards the exit and proceeding slowly through the congested barriers, then made my way along busy streets, brushing against other human beings on the narrow pavements. At the Ashmolean I met a friend, and together we mingled freely with the rest of the visitors at the well-frequented Rembrandt exhibition, then chatted at length over a late lunch in the museum café, where the tables – disdaining any hint of anti-social distancing – were full to capacity.

Later, after a walk through Christchurch Meadow and along the river, exchanging smiles and occasionally the odd word with those I passed along the way, I spent some time browsing the shelves of Blackwell’s in daring proximity with other booklovers before deciding on a purchase and braving the jostle of the station platform to board a packed train back to Leamington. It was a very ordinary day – a day passed without fear as I came into contact with numerous unknown people, some of whom, no doubt, were suffering from the common cold or harbouring incipient or suppressed symptoms of influenza or even of Covid-19 (which, as we now know, had already been on the loose for several, possibly many, months at that time). Not for a moment did this disturb me.

Like all those in good health and unafflicted by obsessive-compulsive disorder, I judged the hasard of stepping out boldly into the microbial soup which surrounds and permeates our existence to be a risk worth taking in exchange for the spontaneous social interaction without which human beings cannot thrive. I never guessed that this could be the last time I would be free to enjoy a day of such unexceptionable pleasures. True, rumblings of the pandemic had been growing over the previous weeks, but memories of previous damp squibs – SARS, bird flu, swine flu – which the worst-case speculations of computer-modellers had repeatedly failed to ignite encouraged me to hope that present reports from China and Italy, too, would soon fade into a penumbra of failed sensationalism.

[..] And the lockdowns, distancing and masking began. For close on a year now official statistics and figures spun out by a team of approved government experts into webs of cautionary speculation have justified rule by decree, depriving us all of autonomy and of the comforting, real-world support of friends and family, and robbing the less fortunate among us of health, of livelihoods, and, in the worst cases, of life itself. To anyone with the most rudimentary understanding of economic interdependence, the consequences of this decision to quarantine the whole nation were obvious from the start, and were uncannily favourable to the objectives of Agendas 21 and 2030, as handed down from the UN, via national administrations, to local governments throughout the world: but the people of the UK, it seemed, were convinced by the official “narrative”, thousands of them assembling on their doorsteps each Thursday evening to shake their fists at The Virus, and demonstrate solidarity with the NHS.

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Ha ha!

“As one of President Trump’s MOST LOYAL supporters, I think that YOU, deserve the great honor of adding your name to the Official Trump ‘Thank You’ Card.”

Trump Sends Legal Notice To GOP To Stop Using His Name (Pol.)

Lawyers for former President DONALD TRUMP sent out cease-and-desist letters Friday to the three largest fundraising entities for the Republican Party — the RNC, NRCC and NRSC — for using his name and likeness on fundraising emails and merchandise, a Trump adviser tells Playbook. We reported yesterday that Trump was furious that his name has been bandied about by organizations that help Republicans who voted to impeach him — without his permission. Trump, who made his fortune in licensing, has always been sensitive to how his name has been used to fundraise and support members, even while in office.

On Friday, the RNC sent out two emails asking supporters to donate as a way to add their name to a “thank you” card for Trump. “President Trump will ALWAYS stand up for the American People, and I just thought of the perfect way for you to show that you support him!” the email states. “As one of President Trump’s MOST LOYAL supporters, I think that YOU, deserve the great honor of adding your name to the Official Trump ‘Thank You’ Card.” A follow-up email was sent hours later to “President Trump’s TOP supporters” warning of a deadline of 10 hours to get their names on the card.

None of the committees returned a request for comment. But privately GOP campaign types say it’s impossible not to use Trump’s name, as his policies are so popular with the base. If Trump really wants to help flip Congress, they argue he should be more generous. His team, however, sees this differently. “President Trump remains committed to the Republican Party and electing America First conservatives, but that doesn’t give anyone – friend or foe – permission to use his likeness without explicit approval,” said a Trump adviser.

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They’ll refuse.

Congressmen Demand Twitter’s Internal Docs Regarding Trump Censorship (JTN)

Two Republican representatives are renewing a demand that Twitter hand over internal documents regarding its decisions to censor and moderate content on its platforms, accusing the tech company of harboring significant bias against a large part of its user base. Reps. Jim Jordan and Ken Buck claimed in a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey this week that Twitter itself has played “a leading role in silencing and censoring political speech of conservative Americans.” The letter repeats a request that Jordan lodged last summer with which Twitter reportedly did not comply.


“In recent months, Twitter throttled the dissemination of a mainstream newspaper article critical of then-candidate Joe Biden’s son,” they wrote in the letter, “and later took the unprecedented step of de-platforming the sitting President of the United States. If Twitter can do this to the President of the United States, it can do it to any American for any reason.” The politicians demanded that Twitter hand over “an accounting of all content moderation decisions made by Twitter over the past year for users located within the United States, including which Twitter rule or policy the user allegedly violated and the content of the moderated tweet,” as well as “all documents and communications” related to its decision to censor several of then-President Donald Trump’s tweets last year.

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“Why would a state sponsored hacking campaign, especially from China, actually want that? Why would China want to attract more negative news about its country?”

Is China Hacking Random Servers To Put Itself Into A Bad Light? (MoA)

In January 2021, through its Network Security Monitoring service, Volexity detected anomalous activity from two of its customers’ Microsoft Exchange servers. Volexity identified a large amount of data being sent to IP addresses it believed were not tied to legitimate users. A closer inspection of the IIS logs from the Exchange servers revealed rather alarming results. … Through its analysis of system memory, Volexity determined the attacker was exploiting a zero-day server-side request forgery (SSRF) vulnerability in Microsoft Exchange (CVE-2021-26855). The attacker was using the vulnerability to steal the full contents of several user mailboxes. This vulnerability is remotely exploitable and does not require authentication of any kind, nor does it require any special knowledge or access to a target environment. The attacker only needs to know the server running Exchange and the account from which they want to extract e-mail.

The hackers used four different zero-day security holes in Exchange Server products. A zero-day security hole is one that was previously unknown and has never been used before. To find new zero-day security holes is difficult and expensive. But after they are found and made operational they are often easy to use. Whoever did this hack has invested quite some effort. Besides extracting emails the hackers also installed backdoors that give them remote access to the hacked Exchange systems. On March 2 Microsoft released patches for the four security holes. In its release it accused China of being behind the hack:

“Today, we’re sharing information about a state-sponsored threat actor identified by the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) that we are calling Hafnium. Hafnium operates from China, and this is the first time we’re discussing its activity. It is a highly skilled and sophisticated actor. Historically, Hafnium primarily targets entities in the United States for the purpose of exfiltrating information from a number of industry sectors, including infectious disease researchers, law firms, higher education institutions, defense contractors, policy think tanks and NGOs. While Hafnium is based in China, it conducts its operations primarily from leased virtual private servers (VPS) in the United States.”

[..] The attribution Microsoft makes is in light of the above quite weak. The direct attacks came from rented virtual private servers within the U.S. These were, says Microsoft, operated through machines in China. But how does Microsoft know who has actually control over those machines in China? Could they not be hacked too? Couldn’t the real actors sit anywhere on this planet and access them through the Internet? Microsoft also says that its attribution is “based on observed victimology, tactics and procedures”. The victims are described as “infectious disease researchers, law firms, higher education institutions, defense contractors, policy think tanks and NGOs”.

For a state sponsored campaign, especially one that burns four expensive zero-days, that victimology is unusually wide. It practically guaranteed that the attack would be detected fairly soon. “Tactics and procedures” are something that is even harder to attribute than the code used in the attack. Microsoft details some of these: “HAFNIUM has previously compromised victims by exploiting vulnerabilities in internet-facing servers, and has used legitimate open-source frameworks, like Covenant, for command and control. Once they’ve gained access to a victim network, HAFNIUM typically exfiltrates data to file sharing sites like MEGA.

This hack used legitimate open source tools that are widely available and are also used by many cybercrime organizations and secret services. What then are the specific ‘tactics and procedures’ which attribute this to China? Microsoft won’t say. There is also a fact that the hackers have gone into overdrive as soon as Microsoft released the patches. They now infect any system they can find. That surely will result in an extreme amount of international publicity. Why would a state sponsored hacking campaign, especially from China, actually want that? Why would China want to attract more negative news about its country? Could there be some other country that has an interest in pushing public accusations against China by linking it to massive global hacking campaign?

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Governments and central banks want control.

Bitcoin Could Soon Run Head First Into US Money Laundering Laws (ZH)

Among the challenges in regulating bitcoin will be the Biden administration’s handling of recent anti-money laundering laws put into place by the Trump administration pertaining to bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. The rules, implemented at the last-minute by the Trump administration, seek requirements for financial services firms to report identities of cryptocurrency holders, according to Bloomberg. The point of the rules is to stop attempts to use crypto as a means of transferring money illicitly. Lobbying against the regulations are “heavyweights from both K Street and Wall Street”, according to Bloomberg, including Fidelity and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce has said the rule would have “unintended long-term consequences” on the virtual currency industry.

Also lobbying against the rule have been “Republican lawmakers, including former Representative Cynthia Lummis, who is now a Wyoming senator; Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton and Democratic Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii”. The rules were implemented by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network or FinCEN, after President Trump lost the 2020 election. The move drew criticism and even the threat of lawsuits from pro-crypto trade groups. The rule would require filings to the Treasury every time a customer moves at least $10,000 worth of virtual currency into a wallet not hosted at an exchange. These are similar to the reports that banks already send under existing AML laws when customers take out $10,000 or more in cash.

The regulation would also require banks and exchanges to keep records of customers who send $3,000 or more of virtual currencies to someone else’s unhosted wallet. Obviously, such regulation would maim one of bitcoin’s biggest “assets”: the ability to transfer money anonymously and “outside the system”. Should Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen move forward with the rules, crypto services could wind up becoming more expensive – and some cryptocurrencies could even disappear altogether.

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Nice take.

The Dark Side Of “Eating Lower On The Food Chain” (Turchin)

Nine years ago I made one of the most consequential decisions of my life—I switched to the so-called Paleo Diet (“paleo” is a bit misleading, as I explain in the post). Had I not done so, I would certainly have contributed to the rising obesity statistics for the United States. Within six months of switching to Paleo diet I lost 20 pounds before equilibrating at my current weight. But weight is actually the least important thing. Much more important was a dramatic improvement of my general health I experienced in the months since switching. I feel better today than ten years ago, despite being (obviously enough) ten years older. The major change was eating much higher on the food chain. The only way to get protein on a purely plant-based diet is to eat grains and pulses, which means wheat and beans.

But those are precisely the foods elimination of which resulted in my health improvement. I sometimes unknowingly consume small amounts of wheat, when a restaurant chef uses flour for the sauce (despite explicit entreaties not do so). The next day I know that I had been poisoned. The other thing is that it’s not just protein deficiency. Your body doesn’t need that much protein. The biggest problem with purely plant diet is that you don’t get enough healthful fat. Instead you end up poisoning yourself with seed oils. This is why I watch with increasing alarm the current trend to “cancel” meat. Last year the town of Cambridge, home of one of two best universities in UK, banned meat. So Cambridge is now off my list of places to go to (fortunately, I visited it years ago, when it was still safe for carnivores).

I am very worried that the veganism tide will continue spreading, leaving us carnivores on reservations (or even driving people following Paleo diet to extinction). Somebody is sure to immediately accuse me that I don’t care about the environment. Au contraire. Some of the most depressing environments that I’ve seen are giant agricultural fields (e.g. driving through Iowa).

Compare it to what they looked like before:

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“..children who frequently use mobile devices are more likely to process stimuli on a “local” level, for example they “process the details” of an image first rather than the overall image itself.”

Mobile Devices Alter Children’s Minds, Change How They Perceive The World (JTN)

Researchers in Hungary this week announced the findings of studies into what effects digital devices have on young minds, concluding that the increased usage of such technology has changed how younger individuals interact with the world around them. In a press release, scientists at Eötvös Loránd University said that children of the “Alpha Generation,” or those born after 2010, “typically grow up with mobile devices in their hands” which “seems to change how they perceive the world.” Summarizing their findings, the Hungarian researchers claim that children who frequently use mobile devices are more likely to process stimuli on a “local” level, for example they “process the details” of an image first rather than the overall image itself.


The results “show that the type of experiences children meet matters much,” the release said, “because at this age the brain is very plastic, so such massive early exposure may have a significant long-term effect.” “The atypical attentional style in mobile user children is not necessarily bad,” one of the scholars commented, “but different for sure, and we cannot ignore this – for example in pedagogy.

Read more …

 

 

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Feb 142021
 
 February 14, 2021  Posted by at 10:22 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Edward Hopper Christmas card 1928

 

Only Seven GOP Senators Vote To Convict Trump (F.)
Trump’s Philly Lawyers Are Facing A Backlash At Home (Inq.)
Statement on Senate Impeachment Acquittal of Trump (Nader/Fein)
Newsom Recall Effort Has Enough Signatures To Trigger Special Election (JTN)
How To Understand The Rage Economy (IC)
Cuomo Didn’t Protect Seniors. But it Was the Media That Covered it Up (NW)
Patent For Secret Bat Cages At Wuhan Lab (DM)
India Finally Bans Cryptocurrencies (BTCPeers)
State Clears First Three Foreign Military Sales Of Biden Administration
Why Russia Is Driving The West Crazy (Escobar)
Opening the CIA’s Can of Worms (Edward Curtin)

 

 

 

 

As I said to friends earlier: A circus in which even the clowns are not funny. The Dems never really tried to win. When they all agreed on witnesses, the Dems reneged as soon as it was clear that Pelosi would be called.

Only Seven GOP Senators Vote To Convict Trump (F.)

The U.S. Senate on Saturday voted to acquit former President Donald Trump on charges of inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, with just 7 Senate Republicans siding with Democrats in voting to convict him. Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) voted with all Democrats to convict Trump on one article of impeachment. The article alleges the ex-president “engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States.” The result comes after a particularly tumultuous final day of an already chaotic trial in which senators voted to approve debates on calling witnesses, only to backtrack and swiftly conclude the proceedings hours later.

Trump’s acquittal was widely seen as a foregone conclusion, cemented further by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s announcement to Republican colleagues on Saturday that he would vote to let off the ex-president he has publicly condemned. “Whatever you came to Washington to do… This is almost certainly how you will be remembered by history,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the lead impeachment manager, had told senators before the vote. Trump became the first president to be impeached twice last month when the House passed the article of impeachment 232-197, with a historic 10 House Republicans breaking with their party and voting to impeach.

[..] Trump is not out of the woods yet, as he is facing legal scrutiny from prosecutors in several states. Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance is probing his finances and business practices, while prosecutors in Georgia have reportedly opened a criminal investigation into his call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which he urged Georgia election officials to “find” votes for him.

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Mostly peaceful.

“Michael van der Veen hired 24-hour private security for his family after vandals smashed windows & spray-painted “TRAITOR” on the driveway of his..home Friday night. He told reporters Saturday he received more than 100 death threats.”

Trump’s Philly Lawyers Are Facing A Backlash At Home (Inq.)

If Donald Trump’s team of Philadelphia lawyers thought they’d get a reputational bump from defending a former president on the biggest stage of their careers, it hasn’t turned out that way. They won his acquittal Saturday at his second impeachment trial. But the backlash could end up following them for years. Members of the team described the five-day trial as a trying experience, from infighting between attorneys and second-guessing by Republican advisers in Washington, to derision hurled their way online and at their homes and offices. Michael van der Veen hired 24-hour private security for his family after vandals smashed windows and spray-painted “TRAITOR” on the driveway of his suburban Philadelphia home Friday night. He told reporters Saturday he received more than 100 death threats.

And they acknowledged being caught off guard by the level of rancor from Trump’s critics and supporters alike — even given the country’s fiercely divided politics and how other lawyers in his orbit have fared. “I’ve been representing controversial clients for 30 years, and I’ve never experienced this type of vitriol,” said William J. Brennan, another local member of the team whose past clients include priests accused of sexual abuse and judges facing corruption charges. “We had no political agenda here. We are not partisan warriors. We are criminal defense lawyers who represented a client.” Bruce L. Castor Jr., the former Montgomery County commissioner and district attorney, entered the week as the nominal leader of Trump’s team — a high-profile job that had some back home wondering if it could bolster a future run for statewide office.

Instead, his rocky, rambling opening performance Tuesday drew his client’s ire and turned him into an internet punchline. Conservative TV hosts, like Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, called him “terrible.” Sean Hannity responded: “You’re way too charitable.” Everything from his verbose delivery to his pin-striped suit became targets for social media mockery. Some used his performance to question the aptness of the term Philadelphia lawyer — a phrase inspired by Colonial-era attorney Andrew Hamilton that has long characterized an exceptionally shrewd attorney. Van der Veen — the head of Castor’s law firm, who took over the defense presentation Friday after Castor was sidelined — fared little better.

He delivered a more combative, incendiary performance, attacking Democrats for “hypocrisy” and what he described as “constitutional cancel culture.” His style was reportedly more to his client’s liking. But his testy, hectoring demeanor at the lectern turned him into a target, too. On Saturday, a small group of protesters gathered outside his Center City law firm. They left “VAN DER VEEN = LIAR” scrawled in chalk on the street. On Facebook, the firm’s page turned into a toxic stew of invective. “Michael van der Veen is ranting on my television screen — the new shame of Philadelphia,” one commenter wrote, as another added: “This entire firm should be shut down and every single one of you should lose your license.”

 

 

MVDV: “What happened at the Capitol on January 6 is absolutely horrific. But what happened at the Capitol during this trial was not too far away from that.”

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Pelosi didn’t want to be called, so no-one was?!

Tweet: “The Democrats went for cover when they found out that the Defense was going to call DC Mayor and Pelosi to testify. What are they hiding?”

Statement on Senate Impeachment Acquittal of Trump (Nader/Fein)

Donald J. Trump has once again circumvented justice, but not because of a want of facts or law. His life preserver was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to refrain from calling critical witnesses possessing “smoking gun” incriminating evidence at Mr. Trump’s second impeachment trial. Her plan to abandon an Ace of Spades for a Two of Clubs to prove Mr. Trump’s guilt was upset by Republican freshman Congresswoman Jamie Herrera Butler (Wash.) who gave the Democrats an opportunity to subpoenas witnesses to testify under oath to fortify the video evidence introduced during the House Managers’ case in chief.

Ms. Butler’s disclosing a conversation with House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) proving President Trump’s endorsement of his mob’s resort to lethal force and violence to unconstitutionally prevent a peaceful transfer of presidential power precipitated a surprise 55-45 Senate vote this morning, including several Republicans, to entertain live witnesses. Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin (Maryland) appeared on NPR shortly before the Senate reconvened from a recess at 12:30 pm. The Senator declared that the impeachment trial would be continued for two weeks; and, that the only issue remaining for resolution between the prosecution and defense (then in private negotiations) was whether five witnesses for each side would be named or left open for later identification in a Senate witness resolution.

Mr. Cardin was clueless of the Democratic capitulation, snaring defeat from the jaws of victory. The House Managers and Mr. Trump’s defense team agreed to a stipulation to admit into the record a mere written statement by Congresswoman Butler, not delivered in person under oath or via a deposition. Not a single witness would be called.

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Schwarzenegger redux.

Newsom Recall Effort Has Enough Signatures To Trigger Special Election (JTN)

The growing effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom has reportedly secured enough signatures to trigger a special election, potentially setting up the first gubernatorial recall in that state in nearly two decades. Organizers have obtained 1.5 million signatures, more than enough to mandate a special election, Fox News reported on Saturday. The number was allegedly hit earlier this week. The state secretary will have to process the signatures first to ensure they are valid.


Newsom has faced extended criticism for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic—particularly his shutdown orders, which have at times been among the strictest in the nation—as well as a disastrous PR blunder last year when he was spotted mask-less and at a crowded dinner table in an indoor restaurant. The last California recall election took place in 2003; in that instance, Arnold Schwarzenegger successfully won the election after voters recalled Democratic Gov. Gray Davis.

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“..the fragmentation of the American public into a multitude of angry factions, radicalized in different ways online and holding completely different baseline perceptions of reality.”

How To Understand The Rage Economy (IC)

The attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 underlined a disturbing phenomenon that has become undeniable at this point: the fragmentation of the American public into a multitude of angry factions, radicalized in different ways online and holding completely different baseline perceptions of reality. The problem of deliberate misinformation undermining democracy has received lots of attention, but in many ways, the power of fantastic lies to grab people’s allegiance is also a byproduct of a deeper problem: extreme polarization driven by news media monetizing anger in order to survive.

This phenomenon is at the core of what media ecologist and author Andrey Mir in a new book calls “postjournalism.” Mir’s book, titled “Postjournalism and the Death of Newspapers,” is a sweeping look at how the news media evolved and shaped the world over hundreds of years, from newsletters for traders published in medieval Venice, Italy, to modern print newspapers, television, and finally the internet. For pretty much everyone, the news media is the major force that shapes how they perceive the world outside their direct experience. During an era when the main technology for producing and disseminating information changes, the world changes as well. For better or worse, we are living through one of those eras now.

The collective psychological impact of new technologies like social media has been written about in a wave of books over the past few years. Equally significant has been the underlying economic shift that has gradually transformed even traditional media outlets into something wholly different. Journalism traditionally relied on an advertising-based revenue model, and that economy also subtly incentivized a particular lens through which the world was depicted: an upbeat-as-possible, unifying worldview that made advertisers happy and promoted the needs of consumerism, even as it often overlooked or suppressed stories that fell outside its parameters.

When advertisers suddenly flocked to social media, the traditional economic model that underpinned the media and allowed even smaller papers to afford luxuries like foreign correspondents suddenly collapsed. Today established news outlets not only struggle to find advertisers after Facebook and Google swallowed up the market, but they must also compete with a seemingly infinite number of other websites, companies, and even individuals committing “acts of journalism” or just putting out entertainment, thus forcing them to battle for a finite slice of an attention economy that they cannot possibly corner.

The loss of the old advertising paradigm simply killed many local news outlets, which have shuttered at an incredible rate over the past decade. The surviving large organizations have sought desperately for a new model to support themselves. A lucky few have been able to rely on the patronage of philanthropists supporting journalism as a pure social good. But many others have been forced to do something not seen since the era of mass-produced penny tabloids: relying primarily on readers to support them through subscription and membership fees. As Mir argues, this change in the economic structure of the news media has quietly transformed what journalism itself is about, turning it from a theoretically neutral means of “manufacturing consent” into a political cause that people are rallied into supporting, usually by inciting them to some form of outrage.

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“It would prove a death sentence for thousands of seniors.”

Cuomo Didn’t Protect Seniors. But it Was the Media That Covered it Up (NW)

Things are not looking good for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. After receiving an Emmy “in recognition of his leadership” and writing a bestselling book called American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic, the toll Cuomo’s leadership has taken is finally emerging. On Thursday, the New York Post broke the story that Melissa DeRosa, one of the governor’s top aides, apologized to Democratic lawmakers for fudging the number of nursing home deaths from COVID for fear of being investigated.

Such an investigation was long overdue. One of the biggest scandals of the pandemic has been the number of nursing home deaths in New York City, many of them possibly linked to a March 25 directive from the Cuomo administration forcing nursing homes to take in people even if they had tested positive for COVID-19. It would prove a death sentence for thousands of seniors. And to fend off an investigation, the Cuomo administration underestimated the number of nursing home deaths by 40%. The true number was 15,000, not 9,056.

But this isn’t just a government scandal. It’s a media scandal. For while the Cuomo administration was sentencing seniors to death, the media was busy fawning over Cuomo in a series of softball interviews, many of them conducted by his own brother. Cuomo has been a television mainstay throughout the crisis, particularly on CNN where his brother, Chris Cuomo, is a host. But it wasn’t just his brother who fawned. A June interview with CNN’s Chris Cilizza provided Cuomo an opportunity to tout his performance while criticizing that of then-president Donald Trump and Republican governors who had not gone along with economy-crushing lockdowns. Cilizza was more than happy to assist.

“We tested both theories,” Cuomo told Cilizza. “We have the evidence. It’s numbers. It’s irrefutable. Why don’t we pause and recognize the undeniable reality of the situation?” “On the numbers, it’s hard to disagree,” Cilizza dutifully wrote. “On April 9, New York had almost 10,000 coronavirus cases in a single day, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University. On Friday, it had just 673 cases statewide.” There would be no follow-up article when New York would hit over 14,000 cases in January. No review of what went wrong in Cuomo’s “undeniable reality.” No comparison to states that found a different “undeniable reality of the situation” and have objectively handled the COVID crisis better.

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What does the WHO hold back?

Patent For Secret Bat Cages At Wuhan Lab (DM)

The Chinese laboratory at the centre of suspicion over the origins of the coronavirus pandemic was awarded a patent for cages to hold live bats for testing just months before the virus started spreading. The revelation comes after the World Health Organisation last week backed Beijing’s line, saying that a leak from the institute was ‘highly unlikely’, while giving credence to theories that the virus had entered the country via frozen meat. The team included Peter Daszak, a British-born zoologist whose organisation EcoHealth Alliance has studied bat-borne viruses with Wuhan lab scientists for 15 years, and who has categorically denied that researchers keep the mammals for testing.

However, The Mail on Sunday has established that the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) filed an application in June 2018 to patent ‘bat rearing cages’ which would be ‘capable of healthy growth and breeding under artificial conditions’. The patent, which has been seen by this newspaper, was granted in January 2019 – 11 months before Beijing reported that the first cases of the virus in the city had broken out just a few miles from the institute. A separate patent, filed by the institute on October 16, 2020, relates to the ‘artificial breeding method of wild bat’. The patent discusses cross- species transmission of SARS- CoV from bat to humans and other animals, saying: ‘Bats infected with the virus naturally or artificially have no obvious clinical symptoms, and the mechanism is unknown’.

It explicitly states that the method is for breeding bats for scientific experiments: ‘The invention aims to provide an artificial breeding method of wild bat predators, which aims at overcoming the defects in the prior art, and the wild bat predators are artificially domesticated, bred and passaged to establish an artificial breeding group, thereby providing a brand-new model experimental animal for scientific research.’ Responding to a question over whether researchers were keeping live bats, Mr Daszak tweeted in April last year: ‘The researchers don’t keep the bats, nor do they kill them. ‘All bats are released back to their cave site after sampling. It’s a conservation measure and is much safer in terms of disease spread than killing them or trying to keep them in a lab.’

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6 months to liquidate your assets.

India Finally Bans Cryptocurrencies (BTCPeers)

India has become the second country to outrightly ban Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. This is coming after the Central Bank of Nigeria instructed all financial institutions in the country to block the accounts of all individuals and entities linked to cryptocurrency transactions. There has been a lot of drama surrounding India’s cryptocurrency stance. In 2018, the Reserve Bank of India issued a ban on all cryptocurrency transactions. The ban was lifted by the country’s Supreme Court in March 2020. In December 2020, government officials hinted that they were considering taxing Bitcoin transactions by up to 18%. Barely a month later and there were rumors that the country was mulling over banning all private cryptocurrencies.


Apparently, officials were serious about banning cryptocurrencies. Citing an unnamed senior finance ministry official, BloombergQuint disclosed the government’s move. However, according to the official, the ban would not be imposed overnight, as in the case of Nigeria. Instead, investors would be given three to six months to liquidate their investments. As per the report, India’s Parliament will proceed to introduce a law that bans the usage of cryptocurrencies in all forms, including restricting trading via foreign exchanges. On the flip side of India’s ban is Kenya, an East-African country that has proposed to make Bitcoin its base currency.

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BAU

State Clears First Three Foreign Military Sales Of Biden Administration

The Biden administration has approved three Foreign Military Sales requests for Jordan, Chile and a NATO agency, with a combined potential price tag of more than $200 million.] The approvals mark the first FMS cases moved since President Joe Biden took office. The last FMS cases approved by the State Department came in late December; the Biden team has since announced a pause and review of a number of weapon sales approved by the Trump administration, most notably on weapons purchased by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The three approvals were announced on the website of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. DSCA announcements mean that the State Department has decided the potential FMS cases meet its standards, but this does not guarantee the sales will happen in their announced forms.

If the U.S. Congress does not object, the foreign customer begins to negotiate on price and quantity, both of which can change during the final negotiations. Jordan was approved for an F-16 Air Combat Training Center and related equipment, with an estimated cost of $60 million. That package would include “mission trainers, combat tactics trainers, instructor/operator stations, tactical environment simulators, brief/debrief stations, scenario generation stations, database generation stations, mission observation centers, and other training center equipment and support,” per the DSCA notice. The center would “enhance” Jordan’s pilot training for their fleet of F-16s, the oldest of which entered service in 1997. Work will primarily be done at Lockheed Martin’s Rotary & Mission Systems center in Orlando, Fla.

Chile was approved to purchase up to 16 Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) Block IIIA missiles, along with support equipment and contractor assistance, with an estimate price tag of $85 million. The anti-air weapons are slated to be used aboard two recently transferred former Adelaide-class frigates to the Chilean Navy. Work would be preformed by Raytheon Missiles and Defense in Tucson, Ariz. The NATO alliance’s Communications and Information Agency to buy 517 AN/PRC-158 Manpack UHF SATCOM radio systems, worth an estimated $65 million. Also included in the package would be “crypto fill devices, man-portable ancillaries, vehicular ancillaries, deployed Headquarter ancillaries, power support, and operator and maintenance training,” per the DSCA notice.

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“The main problem we all face is the lack of normalcy in relations between Russia and the European Union – the two largest players in the Eurasian space. It is an unhealthy situation, which does not benefit anyone.”

Why Russia Is Driving The West Crazy (Escobar)

Future historians may register it as the day when usually unflappable Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov decided he had had enough: “We are getting used to the fact that the European Union is trying to impose unilateral restrictions, illegitimate restrictions and we proceed from the assumption at this stage that the European Union is an unreliable partner”. Josep Borrell, the EU foreign policy chief, on an official visit to Moscow, had to take it on the chin. Lavrov, always the perfect gentleman, added, “I hope that the strategic review that will take place soon will focus on the key interests of the European Union and that these talks will help to make our contacts more constructive.” He was referring to the EU summit of heads of state and government at the European Council next month, where they will discuss Russia.

Lavrov harbors no illusions the “unreliable partners” will behave like adults. Yet something immensely intriguing can be found in Lavrov’s opening remarks in his meeting with Borrell: “The main problem we all face is the lack of normalcy in relations between Russia and the European Union – the two largest players in the Eurasian space. It is an unhealthy situation, which does not benefit anyone.” The two largest players in the Eurasian space. Let that sink in. We’ll be back to it in a moment. As it stands, the EU seems irretrievably addicted to worsening the “unhealthy situation”. European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen memorably botched the Brussels vaccine game. Essentially, she sent Borrell to Moscow to ask for licensing rights for European firms to produce the Sputnik V vaccine – which will soon be approved by the EU.

And yet Eurocrats prefer to dabble in hysteria, promoting the antics of NATO asset and convicted fraudster Navalny – the Russian Guaido. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, under the cover of “strategic deterrence”, the head of the US STRATCOM, Admiral Charles Richard, casually let it slip that “there is a real possibility that a regional crisis with Russia or China could escalate quickly to a conflict involving nuclear weapons, if they perceived a conventional loss would threaten the regime or state.” So the blame for the next – and final – war is already apportioned to the “destabilizing” behavior of Russia and China. It’s assumed they will be “losing” – and then, in a fit of rage, will go nuclear. The Pentagon will be no more than a victim; after all, claims Mr. STRATCOM, we are not “stuck in the Cold War”.

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RFK, Jr.

Opening the CIA’s Can of Worms (Edward Curtin)

With the rise of alternate media and a wide array of dissenting voices on the internet, the establishment felt threatened and went on the defensive. It, therefore, should come as no surprise that those same elite corporate media are now leading the charge for increased censorship and the denial of free speech to those they deem dangerous, whether that involves wars, rigged elections, foreign coups, COVID-19, vaccinations, or the lies of the corporate media themselves. Having already banned critics from writing in their pages and or talking on their screens, these media giants want to make the quieting of dissenting voices complete. Just the other day The New York Times had this headline: “Robert Kennedy Jr. Barred From Instagram Over False Virus Claims.” Notice the lack of the word alleged before “false virus claims.” This is guilt by headline.

It is a perfect piece of propaganda posing as reporting, since it accuses Kennedy, a brilliant and honorable man, of falsity and stupidity, thus justifying Instagram’s ban, and it is an inducement to further censorship of Mr. Kennedy by Facebook, Instagram’s parent company. That ban should follow soon, as the Times’ reporter Jennifer Jett hopes, since she accusingly writes that RFK, Jr. “makes many of the same baseless claims to more than 300,000 followers” at Facebook. Jett made sure her report also went to msn.com and The Boston Globe. This is one example of the censorship underway with much, much more to follow. What was once done under the cover of omission is now done openly and brazenly, cheered on by those who, in an act of bad faith, claim to be upholders of the First Amendment and the importance of free debate in a democracy.

We are quickly slipping into an unreal totalitarian social order. Which brings me to the recent work of Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi, both of whom have strongly and rightly decried this censorship. As I understand their arguments, they go like this. First, the corporate media have today divided up the territory and speak only to their own audiences in echo chambers: liberal to liberals (read: the “allegedly” liberal Democratic Party), such as The New York Times, NBC, etc., and conservative to conservatives (read” the “allegedly” conservative Donald Trump), such as Fox News, Breitbart, etc. They have abandoned old school journalism that, despite its shortcomings, involved objectivity and the reporting of disparate facts and perspectives, but within limits.

Since the digitization of news, their new business models are geared to these separate audiences since they are highly lucrative choices. It’s business-driven since electronic media have replaced paper as advertising revenues have shifted and people’s ability to focus on complicated issues has diminished drastically. Old school journalism is suffering as a result and thus writers such as Greenwald and Taibbi and Chris Hedges have taken their work to the internet to escape such restrictive categories and the accompanying censorship.

Secondly, the great call for censorship is not something the Silicon Valley companies want because they want more people using their media since it means more money for them, but they are being pressured to do it by the traditional old school media, such as The New York Times, who now employ “tattletales and censors,” people who are power-hungry jerks, to sniff out dissenting voices that they can recommend should be banned. Greenwald says, They do it in part for power: to ensure nobody but they can control the flow of information. They do it partly for ideology and out of hubris: the belief that their worldview is so indisputably right that all dissent is inherently dangerous ‘disinformation.’”

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Feb 112021
 
 February 11, 2021  Posted by at 10:02 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  41 Responses »


Ansel Adams Evening at McDonald Lake, Glacier National Park 1942

 

AstraZeneca Says Vaccine Against New Covid Variant May Take 6-9 Months (G.)
CDC: Fully Vaccinated People Don’t Need To Quarantine If Exposed To Covid (NBC)
Deaths of Elderly Who Recovered From COVID, but Died After Vaccine (Attkisson)
Dershowitz Destroys Democrats’ Impeachment In Under 2 Minutes (WND)
Dershowitz: Trump Defense Must Avoid ‘Trap’ Of Debating Election Fraud (JTN)
‘Feel Our Pain,’ Politicians Demand (Tracey)
The Disarticulation of Pandemic War Propaganda (MPN)
New US Military Base in Northeast Syria Latest of Biden’s Warlike Moves (MPN)
Facebook New Algorithm Will ‘Reduce Political Content’ On News Feeds (JTN)
Former Republican Officials In Talks To Form Anti-Trump Third Party (R.)
Will Corporation-Owned Smart Cities Come To Nevada? (AN)
Yellen Eyes Innovation To Battle Misuse Of Cryptocurrencies (R.)
Assange Prosecution Will Continue Under Biden (Gosztola)
In Mail-In Impeachment Vote, Senate Convicts Trump 8275 To 3 (BBee)

 

 

 

 

COVID numbers in the UK and US crashed at the exact same moment. How is that possible?

 

 

“About Thatcher’s death: Let’s privatise her funeral. Put it out on competitive tender and accept the cheapest bid. That’s what she would have wanted.”
– Ken Loach

 

 

What are your plans until 2022? Forget them.

AstraZeneca Says Vaccine Against New Covid Variant May Take 6-9 Months (G.)

AstraZeneca has said that it could take between six and nine months to produce Covid-19 vaccines that are effective against new variants of the coronavirus. The company’s vaccine, developed jointly with scientists at the University of Oxford, remains effective on at least one variant of the virus first discovered in Kent, England, but preliminary findings in a small-scale trial prompted South Africa to limit its use while it ascertains its efficacy. However, a six-month turnaround for an updated vaccine would represent a vast improvement over traditional vaccine development timelines. The vaccine is particularly important for poorer countries, because the company – unlike some of its rivals such as Pfizer – has pledged to sell it at cost price.


The vaccine also does not require very low temperatures during transport, making it cheaper to deliver. Announcing its financial results for 2020 on Thursday, AstraZeneca said: “In collaboration with the University of Oxford, AstraZeneca is focused on adapting C19VAZ to new disease strains if required and hopes to reduce the time needed to reach production at scale to between six to nine months, by utilising existing clinical data and optimising its established supply chain.” AstraZeneca will not incorporate revenues from the vaccine into its financial results, but it said that 2020 performance in its main profit-making business remained strong.

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Pfizer says they don’t know if their vaccine protects you from infections, or those around you. But the CDC now knows better? Or is this true only when wearing 3 masks?

CDC: Fully Vaccinated People Don’t Need To Quarantine If Exposed To Covid (NBC)

People who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 do not need to quarantine if they are exposed to the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday in updated guidance on its website. Quarantine is typically recommended for healthy people who have been exposed to the virus. During quarantine, people are asked to isolate from others for one to two weeks to see whether they develop symptoms of Covid-19. By not exposing others, quarantining can help stop the spread of the disease. In the updated guidance, the CDC said such quarantining is not necessary for fully vaccinated people within three months of having received their last doses as long as they do not develop any symptoms.

“Fully vaccinated” means that at least two weeks have passed since a person has received the second dose of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a single-dose vaccine. Other recommendations remain in place for fully vaccinated people. They include wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. The guidance says the risk that fully vaccinated people could spread the coronavirus, to others is “still uncertain.” However, “vaccination has been demonstrated to prevent symptomatic Covid-19; symptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission is thought to have a greater role in transmission than purely asymptomatic transmission,” according to the CDC.

The CDC already recommends that people who have had Covid-19 and recovered do not need to quarantine for 90 days after the illness, if newly exposed to someone who is infected; the new guidance for vaccinated people aligns with the earlier recommendations. The guidance “makes sense,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital, although he said he was curious about what evidence the CDC was using. Early data from AstraZeneca and Moderna’s Phase 3 clinical trials have suggested that vaccines may slow transmission of the virus, although more work is needed to confirm the findings.

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2 days after 14 infections among fully vaccinated in pensioners’ home in Germany.

Deaths of Elderly Who Recovered From COVID, but Died After Vaccine (Attkisson)

Two small clusters of deaths after COVID-19 vaccination have been reported among nursing homes in Kentucky and Arkansas. In Kentucky, four seniors died the same day of their vaccination on Dec. 30, 2020. Three of the four who passed away reportedly already had had coronavirus prior to getting vaccinated. In Arkansas, four seniors died at a long term care facility about a week after their vaccination. All tested positive for COVID-19 after vaccination. The deaths are reported in a federal database called VAERS, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. Deaths after vaccination don’t necessarily mean the vaccine is to blame. Of those receiving coronavirus vaccines, many are elderly and frail, or already suffering from serious illnesses. That makes it difficult to know whether there’s a connection.

According to VAERS reports, the Kentucky deaths occurred on Dec. 30 after vaccinations with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. An ill 88-year-old woman who was “14 + days post covid” was given the Pfizer-BioNTech shot while she was “unresponsive in [her] room.” She died within an hour and a half (914961-1). An 88-year-old who was “15 days post covid” got the shot, was monitored for 15 minutes afterward, and passed away within 90 minutes (914994-1). A third report says an 88-year-old woman who was “14 + days post covid” vomited four minutes after receiving her shot, became short of breath, and passed away that night (915562-1). And an 85-year-old woman vaccinated at 5 p.m. was “found unresponsive” less than two hours later and died shortly after (915682-1). In response to questions about the Kentucky cluster, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said its experts noted “no pattern … among the [Kentucky] cases that would indicate a concern for the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Scientists differ on whether people who have had coronavirus, like the Kentucky patients, should receive the COVID-19 vaccination at all. The CDC insists it’s safe for people who have recovered from COVID-19 to get vaccinated and that there’s no minimum interval recommended between infection and vaccination. “Vaccination should be offered to persons regardless of history of prior symptomatic or asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 [the virus that causes COVID-19] infection,” it states. But other scientists say vaccinating people who are already considered immune after a natural COVID-19 infection wastes valuable doses of vaccines when there are shortages. And neither Pfizer’s nor Moderna’s studies showed any benefit to vaccinating previously infected patients.

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“No. 1 they have no jurisdiction. No.2 it’s a bill of attainder, No. 3 they’re impeaching him for constitutionally protected speech..”

Dershowitz Destroys Democrats’ Impeachment In Under 2 Minutes (WND)

Famed Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz was on President Trump’ defense team during the first impeachment trial one year ago. And while he’s not a member of the team this time, he’s offering a quick, two-minute argument he says should close the case. “You don’t have to listen to me. Listen to James Madison, who’s the father of the Constitution,” Dershowitz said on “The Charlie Kirk Show” podcast. “He said that impeachment is only for somebody who’s still sitting in office. He said it quite clearly in the Federalist Papers,” Dershowitz said of Madison. “There’s no way around that.” The Harvard professor insisted the text of the Constitution is clear as well.

“It says impeachment is for purposes of removing a president. Once a president is removed you can also vote to disqualify him but disqualification doesn’t stand alone as a remedy,” he said. “If it did, then the Congress would have a roving commission to go through the entire United States and decide who to impeach and who not to impeach, and who to prevent from running for office,” said Dershowitz. “Say the Republicans come up with a young vibrant candidate to run against Biden four years from now. All the Democrats would have to do is impeach him, even though he’s never held office, and just disqualify him from running for office. Or find someone … who had a smaller officer earlier, and they can impeach him,” Dershowitz said.

“That’s not what the Framers had in mind. What the Framers had in mind is not allowing the Senate to put people on trial. That’s called a bill of attainder and a bill of attainder is specifically prohibited by the Constitution.” Dershowitz said there are “so many things wrong with this impeachment.” “No. 1 they have no jurisdiction. No.2 it’s a bill of attainder, No. 3 they’re impeaching him for constitutionally protected speech,” he said. Dershowitz said the impeachment itself “is doing a tremendous amount of damage to our Constitution.”

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“This is not the forum in which any evidence of election fraud is going to be seriously considered,” Kline said. “They have no interest in it…”

Dershowitz: Trump Defense Must Avoid ‘Trap’ Of Debating Election Fraud (JTN)

Key legal allies of former President Trump say his defense team must avoid the “trap” of debating election fraud during his Senate impeachment trial. House impeachment managers Tuesday cited Trump statements challenging the integrity of the 2020 election in arguing that the former president engaged in a “months-long effort to incite” an “insurrection” which culminated on Jan. 6, when a pro-Trump mob forced its way past police lines into the U.S. Capitol. House Democrats’ move to frame Trump’s electoral fraud claims as incitement in their impeachment narrative created an opening for Trump’s defense to, in effect, put the 2020 election itself on trial before a nationwide viewing audience, as many of his supporters have urged.

Some Trump allies say his electoral fraud case has never received a full public airing due to legal challenges being tossed out on grounds of standing, timeliness and other technical issues rather than on merit. But former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who helped lead the successful defense that gained Trump’s acquittal in the 2020 impeachment trial, said this move would be “a terrible mistake” for Trump. “It’s a trap that the Democrats are trying to set for the Trump lawyers,” Dershowitz told Just the News in an interview Wednesday. “It’s a trap to have them talk about electoral fraud, because if they do, they’ll lose [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell and other senators.” The “absolute trap,” Dershowitz said, “was being set by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who is leading the Democrats’ impeachment case. Raskin studied law under Dershowitz, who called his former student “a smart guy.”

[..] Attorney Phill Kline, a Trump supporter and director of the Amistad Project of the Thomas More Society, has litigated many cases involving claims of electoral fraud during the 2020 election. He told Just the News that while he thinks a national conversation about electoral fraud should continue, he doesn’t believe that the impeachment forum is ideal. “This is not the forum in which any evidence of election fraud is going to be seriously considered,” Kline said. “They have no interest in it. They refuse to acknowledge clear facts. And so it’s the wrong audience and the wrong time.” Kline said the Trump defense team should focus on the former president’s First Amendment right to speak openly and raise questions about election fraud. “They have been trying to criminalize thought for some time now,” Kline said. “This is just the fruit of their belief that if you do not think as they do, you’re a threat to the nation.”

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It’s become quite theatrical.

‘Feel Our Pain,’ Politicians Demand (Tracey)

Congress is increasingly not a place where the average member partakes in what’s generally understood as legislative activity, but rather engages in a variety of elaborate self-promotional exercises. The diminishment in the power of average House Members (as opposed to Party leaders who run their respective caucuses like fiefdoms) has been amply documented. One consequence of this trend is that “comms” has become far more of an all-consuming focus for a certain type of Member, particularly those who are most adept at social media. One “comms” strategy that appears highly effective at the moment in generating outsized public attention is extreme, heavily-personalized emotional exuberance.

With the “trauma” of the MAGA goofball mob intrusion still apparently dominating their psyches, members of Congress have taken it as a solemn duty to claim “space” for the “sharing” of their “lived experience” relating to this event. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a true pioneer in importing the rhetoric of therapeutic trauma jargon, already the lingua franca of an ascendant activism-minded cultural and media cohort, into the mainstream of the Democratic Party. At her direction, it will only become more ubiquitous. And given that such rhetoric deliberately inverts the normal epistemology of contested political claims — it’s deemed incumbent on the listener not to critically evaluate the veracity of such claims, but instead uncritically believe them — the new mode of public argument she’s popularizing is likely to prove highly effective, as it inherently forecloses the prospect of any argument at all.

Per this framework, arguments are replaced with subjective assertions that must be presumptively accepted, lest one be guilty of “minimizing” or “belittling” the elected official’s experiences and thus compounding their trauma. Jamie Raskin, the Democrats’ lead impeachment manager, took a page from this playbook during the opening presentation of Donald Trump’s trial Monday, breaking down in tears at one point as he wove a narrative about the terror of January 6 with his own personal turmoil. Raskin’s son died on December 31, and the pain he felt from that experience was integrated seamlessly with the pain that he posited all members of Congress must have felt during the goofball riot.

Of course, everyone who’s not a psychopath would sympathize with Raskin for having lost a son to suicide. But to invoke this tragedy in the context of an impeachment trial has an obvious political intent. The intent was to heighten the emotional resonance of the prosecution’s case for convicting Trump, as according to Raskin, he feared that his daughter might also face untimely death because she happened to be in the Capitol with him on January 6. The more intense the “pain” that can be conveyed to the juror-senators, the more likely they are to vote to convict Trump — or so the calculation seemingly goes.

Fellow impeachment manager David Cicilline charged that every single member of Congress nearly avoided being slaughtered in a mass execution-style attack that day — “They could have killed all of us,” he said — although no real evidence has ever been presented to substantiate this dramatic theory, which seems only to be professed by partisan Democrats. A number of basic facts stemming from the Capitol intrusion which could provide clarity are still mysteriously absent from the public record, such as whether any of the rioters brandished or discharged firearms. You’d think this would be helpful information to know before proclaiming, as Cicilline did, that what occurred was an “armed insurrection.” It would be a very curious “armed insurrection” for no firearms to have been deployed over the course of the “insurrection.”

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“The study Fauci funded at the WIV in 2014 was done so in contravention to the [Obama] moratorium then in effect.”

The Disarticulation of Pandemic War Propaganda (MPN)

A now-deleted fact sheet published by the U.S. State Department on January 15, 2021, claimed that for over a year, “the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has systematically prevented a transparent and thorough investigation of the COVID-19 pandemic’s origin.” The official release of that fact sheet focuses on the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV); a controversial research lab in the Hubei province of China which has been the target of well-earned suspicions over its work on bat-borne zoonotic diseases like SARS-CoV-2, better known as the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Missing from the State Department’s missive is the intimate bond that this particular laboratory has to American scientific institutions and to a tight-knit group of individuals with direct links to the U.S. intelligence apparatus and the biodefense establishment. National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci’s funding of gain-of-function (GoF) research in 2014 at the Chinese lab is just one example. The highly polarizing GoF studies, which entail turbo-charging a pathogen’s virulence through the “generation of viruses with properties that do not exist in nature” present considerable biosafety hazards, which led the Obama administration to issue a federal moratorium on GoF research. The study Fauci funded at the WIV in 2014 was done so in contravention to the moratorium then in effect.

Deeper and more disturbing ties to outfits like USAID-funded Ecohealth Alliance have been covered by independent journalists like Same Husseini and others, revealing the WIV’s close relationship to people like David R. Franz – former commander of Fort Detrick, the pre-eminent biowarfare and biodefense facility in the U.S. and the source of the anthrax spores used in the infamous 2001 anthrax attacks. In July 2020, this author carried out an investigation into the nexus between the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), USAID and zoonotic disease research in Asia.

Recently, some of these facts have seeped into mainstream news outlets as the “lab-leak” hypothesis, which suggests that the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen escaped from a laboratory in China. Careful to avoid drawing attention to links between American scientific institutions and their Chinese counterparts, a narrative is gathering momentum as the idea of a ‘cover-up’ by Chinese authorities is promulgated on prime time television news magazine shows like “60 Minutes,” which ran an expose the promoted the idea that China is “weaponizing” the pandemic. The narrative is not new and has been lingering in the background since the pandemic was declared.

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“this new center [is being built] with the aim of observing Russian forces..”

New US Military Base in Northeast Syria Latest of Biden’s Warlike Moves (MPN)

The U.S.-government funded outlet Voice of America has confirmed rumors that a new military base is being built in northeastern Syria. A convoy of 40 troop carriers and other vehicles arrived and began setting up shop in the city of Hasakah near the Turkish and Iraqi borders over the weekend. “The U.S. flag is now raised over a building,” said journalist Jindar Berekat, a native of the city, “it is not clear how many American soldiers will be stationed at this location, but their armored military vehicles are here and it looks like they are still constructing parts of it.”

“Many here believe that the building of a U.S. base inside Hasakah could be a response to the growing Russian presence in the city,” a local reporter told Voice of America, “this new center [is being built] with the aim of observing Russian forces in Hasakah.” Russian military units have been present in Syria since 2015, intervening on behalf of the government of Bashar al-Assad. The two foreign superpowers have come close to armed confrontation in Syria many times, including in 2017, when President Trump ordered the bombing of a Russian airbase near the Lebanese border. Already, the American presence has prevented the Russian military from carrying out patrols in northeastern Syria.

While the United States has presented its role in Syria as a counter terrorism operation, Assad’s government has accused it of plundering its resources, “condemn[ing] in the strongest terms the agreement signed between al-Qasd militia (SDF) and an American oil company to steal Syria’s oil under the sponsorship and support of the American administration.” Around 500 American troops have been guarding the country’s oilfields for months, and last summer, Senator Lindsay Graham confirmed that the U.S. had indeed signed a deal with the SDF to “modernize” the country’s oil industry. Damascus considers the agreement “null and void.”

The new base at Hasakah is the latest in a string of actions that suggest the United States wishes to bolster or expand its presence in the war-torn country. Last month, American forces reinforced another base along the M4 highway, which runs from the city of Aleppo through the north of the country and towards the Iraqi border in the east. At the same time, its ally Israel was conducting a series of major airstrikes across the east of the country, reportedly targeting Iranian or pro-Iranian forces.

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Only the good stuff?!

Facebook New Algorithm Will ‘Reduce Political Content’ On News Feeds (JTN)

Facebook announced on Wednesday the social media platform will in the coming weeks start limiting the amount of political content viewers see on their news feeds. The company is aware that “people don’t want political content to take over their News Feed,” Product Management Director Aastha Gupta wrote in a blog post on the site. The change will begin with Facebook temporarily reduce the distribution of political content in News Feed for a small percentage of people in Canada, Brazil and Indonesia this week. Gupta said the process will begin in the U.S. in the coming weeks.


The initial rollout will allow the company to explore different methods of ranking political content prior to its deciding on a permanent solution. Facebook has in recent months and years attempted to reducing political content, include no new political ads in the final week of the 2020 presidential campaign. However, the company and other social media giants have meanwhile faced growing scrutiny of what third-party content they choose to censure or block. “Our goal is to preserve the ability for people to find and interact with political content on Facebook, while respecting each person’s appetite for it at the top of their News Feed,” Gupta said.

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They’ve lost their party. Might as well start another one.

Former Republican Officials In Talks To Form Anti-Trump Third Party (R.)

Dozens of former Republican officials, who view the party as unwilling to stand up to former President Donald Trump and his attempts to undermine U.S. democracy, are in talks to form a center-right breakaway party, four people involved in the discussions told Reuters. The early stage discussions include former elected Republicans, former officials in the Republican administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Trump, ex-Republican ambassadors and Republican strategists, the people involved say. More than 120 of them held a Zoom call last Friday to discuss the breakaway group, which would run on a platform of “principled conservatism,” including adherence to the Constitution and the rule of law – ideas those involved say have been trashed by Trump.

The plan would be to run candidates in some races but also to endorse center-right candidates in others, be they Republicans, independents or Democrats, the people say. Evan McMullin, who was chief policy director for the House Republican Conference and ran as an independent in the 2016 presidential election, told Reuters that he co-hosted the Zoom call with former officials concerned about Trump’s grip on Republicans and the nativist turn the party has taken. [..] Call participants said they were particularly dismayed by the fact that more than half of the Republicans in Congress – eight senators and 139 House representatives – voted to block certification of Biden’s election victory just hours after the Capitol siege.

Most Republican senators have also indicated they will not support the conviction of Trump in this week’s Senate impeachment trial. “Large portions of the Republican Party are radicalizing and threatening American democracy,” McMullin told Reuters. “The party needs to recommit to truth, reason and founding ideals or there clearly needs to be something new.”

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Why is the idea of surrendering control of parts of the US to Facebook, Google etc. not shot down on sight?

Will Corporation-Owned Smart Cities Come To Nevada? (AN)

With plans reportedly still moving forward for Blockchains, LLC, to break ground on a Tom Wiscombe Architecture and Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects (EYRC)-designed smart city in Nevada in 2022, Governor Steve Sisolak is looking to give it, and similar developments across the state, the power to form their own governments. According to documents acquired by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Sisolak has floated a draft proposal to create “Innovation Zones” across the state in a bid to draw technology companies, and giving them the power to set up their own governments. In exchange for this autonomy, the Nevada state government would forgo the tax abatement or incentive packages typically used to encourage big businesses to relocate.

Sisolak first mentioned the idea during his January 19 State of the State address but later confirmed that a draft bill was in the works on February 4 via Twitter. According to the text reviewed by the Las Vegas Review-Journal (subject to change before a final bill is submitted), such an “alternative form of local government” is needed to entice big tech companies, and that over time, the administration of those zones would gradually take over governmental duties from their respective counties. Each zone would be overseen by a three-person board of supervisors, with the company behind the development having the majority of the say in who gets appointed.

It should be noted that the governor’s proposal only extends to companies doing “innovative” work; relating to blockchains, healthcare, robotics, renewable energy research, biometrics, autonomous vehicles, and similar cutting-edge research. Any company applying to set up an Innovation Zone through the Governor’s Office of Economic Development would need to own and be intent on developing at least 50,000 acres not already part of a city or town, $250 million on hand, and a plan to invest at least $1 billion in the area over the next 10 years.


Tom Wiscombe Architecture and EYRC revealed their design for the Blockchains city in 2018, and now the project’s developer may get the power to form its own government there. (Courtesy EYRC Architects and Tom Wiscombe Architecture)

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No. What Yellen eyes is control.

Yellen Eyes Innovation To Battle Misuse Of Cryptocurrencies (R.)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Wednesday warned about an “explosion of risk” from digital markets, including the misuse of cryptocurrencies, but said new financial technologies could also help fight crime and reduce inequality. In remarks to a financial sector innovation roundtable, Yellen said such technologies could be used to stem the flow of dark money from organized crime and fight back against hackers, but also to reduce digital gaps in the United States. She said passage of the Anti-Money Laundering Act in December would allow the Treasury Department to rework a framework for combating illicit finance that has been largely unchanged since the 1970s.


“The update couldn’t have come at a better time,” Yellen told policymakers, regulators and private sector experts. “We’re living amidst an explosion of risk related to fraud, money laundering, terrorist financing, and data privacy.” The COVID-19 pandemic had triggered more – and more sophisticated – cyberattacks aimed at hospitals, schools, banks, and the government itself, she said. Cryptocurrencies and virtual assets offered promise, but they had also been used to launder the profits of online drug traffickers and to finance terrorism. Innovation in the sector could help address these problems while giving millions of people access to the financial system, she said.

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“..the Biden Justice Department is effectively signaling his administration is not all that serious about press freedom..”

Assange Prosecution Will Continue Under Biden (Gosztola)

The Justice Department under President Joe Biden plans to continue the case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that was launched under President Donald Trump. “We continue to seek his extradition,” Justice Department spokesperson Marc Raimondi told Reuters, days before February 12, the deadline for the United States government to submit its “grounds for appeal.” The statement represents a departure from President Barack Obama’s administration, which declined to prosecute Assange. Justice Department officials were reportedly concerned about the threat it would pose to press freedom.

On January 4, British district judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected the U.S. government’s extradition request and concluded Assange’s mental condition was “such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America.” She accepted that Assange would likely be imprisoned at a supermax prison in the U.S. under special administrative measures (SAMs) and would find a way to commit suicide. “I am satisfied that, in these harsh conditions, Mr. Assange’s mental health would deteriorate causing him to commit suicide with the ‘single minded determination’ of his autism spectrum disorder.” However, the Biden Justice Department plans to contest the judge’s conclusion that Assange should not be extradited because he would likely commit suicide.

[..] During Biden’s first foreign policy speech on February 4, he proclaimed, “We believe a free press isn’t an adversary; rather, it’s essential. A free press is essential to the health of a democracy.” However, in Trump’s last year in office, he signed a counterintelligence strategy document that lumped in “leaktivists” and “public disclosure organizations,” like WikiLeaks, with Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and terrorist groups, which U.S. security agencies view as “significant threats.” That strategy document, which covers 2020-2022, sharply conflicts with Biden’s assertion that the U.S. government believes the free press is not an adversary. Indeed, it shows U.S. security agencies believe they should monitor, neutralize, and even target dissident media organizations that may employ practices pioneered by WikiLeaks.

While the tone of the new administration may sound more polite toward elite journalists, by refusing to abandon this dangerous political case, the Biden Justice Department is effectively signaling his administration is not all that serious about press freedom and what officials have to say are empty platitudes that should not pacify people aware of what is at stake if Assange is brought to the U.S. and put on trial.

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“The Senate then moved on to other business, passing universal healthcare by a margin of 320,000 to 4.”

In Mail-In Impeachment Vote, Senate Convicts Trump 8275 To 3 (BBee)

In a historic move, the U.S. Senate decided to switch to voting by mail for Trump’s second impeachment trial. After all the votes were counted by an intern in a back room with no cameras, the Senate ruled to convict President Trump of incitement to violence by a vote of 8275 to 3. “Our holy democracy has spoken,” said Senator Chuck Schumer. “Do not ask any questions or you are a blasphemer against the sacred sacredness of our vote. Everyone can go home now!” A couple of troublemaking Senators attempted to overthrow the Constitution by bringing up the point that there are only 100 Senators, making it impossible to arrive at a tally of 8275 to 3, but they were quickly removed from the Senate Chambers and condemned for “attempting to suppress the votes of people of color.” The Senate then moved on to other business, passing universal healthcare by a margin of 320,000 to 4.

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Aug 142020
 


Marlon Brando screentest 1951

 

US Obesity Epidemic Threatens Effectiveness of Any COVID Vaccine (KHN)
Israeli Hospital Trials Fast Saliva Test for COVID-19 (R.)
The Pandemic and Medicare for All (TMI)
NYC Is Dead Forever. Here’s Why (Altucher)
What Kamala Harris Really Thinks of WikiLeaks (Lauria)
Some Questions About Kamala Harris’ Eligibility (NW)
China’s Banks At Risk As $500 Billion In Non-Performing Loans Revealed (SCMP)
China’s Debt Collectors Flourish As Consumers Flounder (R.)
US Seizes $2 Million From Terror-Linked Cryptocurrency Accounts (CNBC)
United Arab Emirates Sells Out Palestine For Israel (EI)
Experts Debunk Claims of GMO Crops Success (OffG)
Ford Is Slashing 10,000 Jobs, 6 Factories In Europe (ZH)
7 Million Jobs At Risk, European Airlines Could See “Further Declines” (ZH)
Volume of Greek Air Traffic Plunged 74.3% in 2020 (GR)

 

 

I was reading a piece by law professor John Eastman yesterday, before the entire left stumbled over each other to condemn it. I was thinking in my innocence that it’s interesting to know if questions over who’s a “natural born citizen” in America have ever truly been settled by politics or courts.

But I’m naive, and it’s attack time. They will defend Kamala Harris with all they got, with the entire MSM serving as their bullhorns. Which means Trump and his people have no choice but to go after her with all they got. Still, remembering the Obama birther fiasco, do they really want to die on this hill? Can’t we just leave it to the court system and legal experts? Or simply answer Eastman’s questions?

It’s all among signs of things to come between here and Nov. 3. Bill Barr yesterday promised that a first news flash from the Durham investigation into Russiagate origins will come out today, and that all of it will before Nov. 3. US elections are really just entertainment. Opium for the masses. Clickbaits, drama, anger, scandal. And I always thought it should be about people.

 

 

Not much movement in the numbers. We’re stuck in a broken record, with no progress anywhere. Not good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are 328 million Americans. 74 million of them are children. That leaves 254 million adults, of which 107 million are obese, or 42%. 42.4% have a BMI over 30. 9% are morbidly obese.

From this point of view, COVID is hardly the worst threat to either the people or the health care system. Or, to put it another way, it’s the people themselves that are the threat to the health care system.

Again, take high fructose corn syrup out of the diet, and you solve a huge chunk of that problem. Ban stuff that kills people, or make it much harder to get.

US Obesity Epidemic Threatens Effectiveness of Any COVID Vaccine (KHN)

For a world crippled by the coronavirus, salvation hinges on a vaccine. But in the United States, where at least 4.6 million people have been infected and nearly 155,000 have died, the promise of that vaccine is hampered by a vexing epidemic that long preceded COVID-19: obesity. Scientists know that vaccines engineered to protect the public from influenza, hepatitis B, tetanus and rabies can be less effective in obese adults than in the general population, leaving them more vulnerable to infection and illness. There is little reason to believe, obesity researchers say, that COVID-19 vaccines will be any different. “Will we have a COVID vaccine next year tailored to the obese? No way,” said Raz Shaikh, an associate professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

“Will it still work in the obese? Our prediction is no.” More than 107 million American adults are obese, and their ability to return safely to work, care for their families and resume daily life could be curtailed if the coronavirus vaccine delivers weak immunity for them. In March, still early in the global pandemic, a little-noticed study from China found that heavier Chinese patients afflicted with COVID-19 were more likely to die than leaner ones, suggesting a perilous future awaited the U.S., whose population is among the heaviest in the world. And then that future arrived.

As intensive care units in New York, New Jersey and elsewhere filled with patients, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that obese people with a body mass index of 40 or more — known as morbid obesity or about 100 pounds overweight — were among the groups at highest risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19. About 9% of American adults are in that category. As weeks passed and a clearer picture of who was being hospitalized came into focus, federal health officials expanded their warning to include people with a body mass index of 30 or more. That vastly expanded the ranks of those considered vulnerable to the most severe cases of infection, to 42.4% of American adults.

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More rapid testing. Good. Bring it. Test yourself everyday at breakfast.

Israeli Hospital Trials Fast Saliva Test for COVID-19 (R.)

A newly developed saliva test aims to determine in less than a second whether or not you are infected with the novel coronavirus, Israel’s largest medical center said Thursday. Patients rinse their mouth with a saline wash and spit into a vial. This is then examined by a small spectral device that, in simple terms, shines light on the specimen and analyzes the reaction to see if it is consistent with COVID-19. With machine learning it gets more accurate over time. Eli Schwartz of the Center for Geographic Medicine and Tropical Diseases at Sheba Medical Center, who is leading the trial, said it was easier to use than PCR swabs commonly used to detect COVID-19.


“So far we have very promising results in this new method which will be much more convenient and much cheaper,” he said. The center said in an initial clinical trial involving hundreds of patients, the new artificial intelligence-based device identified evidence of the virus in the body at a 95% success rate. Amos Panet, an expert in molecular virology at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, said he would like to see more data and comparisons with existing tests before making a final judgment. The amount of virus present in saliva increases as patients get sicker, he said, and a big challenge is to detect in “people who are borderline.” “It will be a game changer only if we see validation of this technology against the current technology,” he said.

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Would M4A benefit the obese and hence diabetic? A long time ago, someone said: we’re raising a generation of blind amputees. How would a health care system deal with that?

The Pandemic and Medicare for All (TMI)

When the novel coronavirus first arrived in the United States, it spurred on remarkable message discipline among America’s political class. The consensus that emerged on both sides of the aisle dictated that no matter what happened, Americans ought to be glad they do not live in a country with socialized medicine. At the final Democratic presidential debate on March 15, former Vice President Biden pointed to COVID numbers in Italy as evidence that not only was Medicare for all not a solution to the crisis, but it would put the country at greater risk. “With all due respect for Medicare for all, you have a single-payer system in Italy,” the former vice president said. “It doesn’t work there. It has nothing to do with Medicare for all. That would not solve the problem at all.”

Weeks later, in early April, Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden echoed the sentiment in a Twitter spat with a Medicare for All supporter. “You might want to check out the death rate in France before you think the form of health system is the answer here,” she tweeted. Not long after, the Washington Post ran an op-ed by former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen declaring the COVID-19 pandemic was “an indictment of socialized medicine.” “If you think today’s pandemic bolsters the case for socialized medicine, then ask yourself a simple question: If you came down with a serious case of COVID-19, would you rather be in an Italian hospital or an American one?” the piece opens, before lauding Biden’s debate answer.

Such arguments were never fair — the pandemic was only just starting in the United States, while COVID-19 had indeed rampaged across Europe, there were contributing factors like years of austerity and a lack of supply chain redundancy in the modern globalized economy. But now, just a few months later, these arguments completely and utterly fail. New infections are still surging in the U.S. while countries with national health care programs have long since gotten a handle on the virus. On Tuesday, the U.S. reported more new COVID cases in a single day than Italy, France, and the U.K. reported last month combined, and roughly 45 percent of their total deaths.

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Nice account from James Altucher. is he just getting old, or is New York really beyond salvation?

NYC Is Dead Forever. Here’s Why (Altucher)

People say, “NYC has been through worse” or “NYC has always come back.” No and no. First, when has NYC been through worse? Even in the 1970s, and through the 80s, when NYC was going bankrupt, and even when it was the crime capital of the US or close to it, it was still the capital of the business world (meaning: it was the primary place young people would go to build wealth and find opportunity), it was culturally on top of its game – home to artists, theater, media, advertising, publishing, and it was probably the food capital of the US. NYC has never been locked down for five months. Not in any pandemic, war, financial crisis, never. In the middle of the polio epidemic, when little kids (including my mother) were going paralyzed or dying (my mother ended up with a bad leg), NYC didn’t go through this.

This is not to say what should have been done or should not have been done. That part is over. Now we have to deal with what IS. In early March, many people (not me), left NYC when they felt it would provide safety from the virus and they no longer needed to go to work and all the restaurants were closed. People figured, “I’ll get out for a month or two and then come back.” They are all still gone. And then in June, during rioting and looting a second wave of NYC-ers (this time me) left. I have kids. Nothing was wrong with the protests but I was a little nervous when I saw videos of rioters after curfew trying to break into my building. Many people left temporarily but there were also people leaving permanently. Friends of mine moved to Nashville, Miami, Austin, Denver, Salt Lake City, Austin, Dallas, etc.

Now a third wave of people are leaving. But they might be too late. Prices are down 30-50% on both rentals and sales no matter what real estate people tell you. And rentals soaring in the second and third-tier cities. I’m temporarily, although maybe permanently, in South Florida now. I also got my place sight unseen. Robyn was looking at listings around Miami and then she saw an area we had never been to before. We found three houses we liked. She called the real estate agent. Place #1. Just rented that morning 50% higher than the asking price. Place #2. Also rented (New Yorkers – “they came from New York for three hours, saw the place, got it, went back to pack.”). Place #3. “Available.” “We’ll take it!” The first time we physically saw it was when we flew down and moved in. “This is temporary, right?” I confirmed with Robyn. But…I don’t know. I’m starting to like the sun a little bit. I mean, when it’s behind the shades. And when I am in air conditioning.

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All US politics is united against Julian Assange.

What Kamala Harris Really Thinks of WikiLeaks (Lauria)

During a September 2017 U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee debate on an intelligence bill a line was inserted that said WikiLeaks “resembles a non-state hostile intelligence service” and that the U.S. “should treat it as such.” “This language would help investigators secure the authorization needed to surveil those U.S. citizens thought to be associated with WikiLeaks,” a McClatchy report quoted a government lawyer as saying. “You need to show that someone is an agent of a foreign power,” said the lawyer, Robert Deitz, who held senior legal positions at the Pentagon, the CIA and the National Security Agency. “It’s possible that Assange has colleagues in this country that they need to focus on,” McClatchy quoted Deitz as saying, “noting that such action can only be done under court order.”

The non-state hostile agency phrase was directly lifted from a scurrilous speech by Mike Pompeo in his first address as CIA director. The language survived the committee and made it into the bill voted on by the full Senate. But before it did two senators raised objections to it. One was Ron Wyden of Oregon. The other was Sen. Kamala Harris of California, the presumptive Democratic vice presidential candidate in November’s election. According to the McClatchy report, “Harris declared that she is ‘no supporter of WikiLeaks,’ which she said had done ‘considerable harm’ to the United States. But the clause on the group is ‘dangerous’ because it ‘fails to draw a bright line between WikiLeaks and legitimate news organizations that play a vital role in our democracy,’ according to her remarks for the record.”

Harris left no doubt that she is an enemy of WikiLeaks, as is her running mate, Joe Biden, who agreed it was more like a high-tech terrorist organization that Daniel Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers. Harris made clear she cared only about establishment media (which almost universally undergirds aggressive U.S. foreign policy) and was worried about it getting caught up in a WikiLeaks dragnet. She said she wants a “bright line” between publications such as The New York Times and WikiLeaks. Except, there can be no such legal line drawn as both establishment papers, like the Times, and WikiLeaks have done the exact same thing: possessed and published classified material.

Because there is no legal distinction, the Obama administration, which desperately wanted to indict WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, backed away citing its “New York Times problem.” The Trump administration had no such qualms and had Assange arrested in April 2019 and indicted on conspiracy to commit computer intrusion and 17 counts of the Espionage Act. The only bright line that can be drawn is political: a decision by the Department of Justice to not prosecute big media but to prosecute WikiLeaks for the same “crime”, which conflicts with First Amendment press freedoms. This is what Harris was calling for: Protect the state-managed corporate media but go after a serious publication that dares to reveal crimes of the U.S. government, which Harris wants to protect. In other words, for the same activity, the Times is afforded First Amendment protections, but WikiLeaks is not.

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There are questions one can’t ask.

Some Questions About Kamala Harris’ Eligibility (NW)

The fact that Senator Kamala Harris has just been named the vice presidential running mate for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has some questioning her eligibility for the position. The 12th Amendment provides that “no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.” And Article II of the Constitution specifies that “[n]o person except a natural born citizen…shall be eligible to the office of President.” Her father was (and is) a Jamaican national, her mother was from India, and neither was a naturalized U.S. citizen at the time of Harris’ birth in 1964. That, according to these commentators, makes her not a “natural born citizen”—and therefore ineligible for the office of the president and, hence, ineligible for the office of the vice president.

“Nonsense,” runs the counter-commentary. Indeed, PolitiFact rated the claim of ineligibility as “Pants on Fire” false, Snopes rated it simply “False,” and from the other side of the political spectrum, Conservative Daily News likewise rated it “False.” All three (and numerous others) simply assert that Harris is eligible because she was born in Oakland—and is therefore a natural-born citizen from location of birth. The 14th Amendment says so, they all claim, and the Supreme Court so held in the 1898 case of U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark. But those claims are erroneous, at least as the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment was originally understood—an error to which even my good friend, renowned UCLA School of Law professor Eugene Volokh, has fallen prey.

The language of Article II is that one must be a natural-born citizen. The original Constitution did not define citizenship, but the 14th Amendment does—and it provides that “all persons born…in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens.” Those who claim that birth alone is sufficient overlook the second phrase. The person must also be “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States, and that meant subject to the complete jurisdiction, not merely a partial jurisdiction such as that which applies to anyone temporarily sojourning in the United States (whether lawfully or unlawfully). Such was the view of those who authored the 14th Amendment’s Citizenship Clause; of the Supreme Court of the United States in the 1872 Slaughter-House Cases and the 1884 case of Elk v. Wilkins; of Thomas Cooley, the leading constitutional treatise writer of the day; and of the State Department, which, in the 1880s, issued directives to U.S. embassies to that effect.

The Supreme Court’s subsequent decision in Wong Kim Ark is not to the contrary. At issue there was a child born to Chinese immigrants who had become lawful, permanent residents in the United States—”domiciled” was the legally significant word used by the Court. But that was the extent of the Court’s holding (as opposed to broader language that was dicta, and therefore not binding). Indeed, the Supreme Court has never held that anyone born on U.S. soil, no matter the circumstances of the parents, is automatically a U.S. citizen.

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I’ve said it often before: none of this means much without also tallying shadow banks’ numbers.

China’s Banks At Risk As $500 Billion In Non-Performing Loans Revealed (SCMP)

China’s top banking regulatory official said on Thursday that the country’s banks have to deal with 3.4 trillion yuan (US$489.5 billion) worth of non-performing loans in 2020 – flagging a big risk for the banking system in the world’s second-largest economy. The total marks a hefty increase from 2.3 trillion yuan in 2019, and the value of bad loans could be even higher in 2021. Guo Shuqing, chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, said in an interview with the official Xinhua News Agency that the increase in non-performing loans (NPLs) – loans in default or close to default – will put huge pressure on the country’s banks, especially small and regional ones.

“As many loans are rolled over [in 2020], some problems will only emerge next year,” Guo was quoted by Xinhua as saying, adding that a rebound in bad loans is “inevitable” since the coronavirus shock has adversely affected so many companies. The warning by Guo, who is also the Communist Party secretary at the People’s Bank of China, came at a time when many of the country’s small banks are facing a moment of reckoning after years of undisciplined balance sheet expansion, as well as instances of fraud and corruption. Meanwhile, Guo said, Chinese banks have improved their loan structure – with more lending going toward manufacturing, infrastructure, technology and small businesses.

Guo added that Chinese banks are now being told to enhance their support of small businesses. In addition, he said he will encourage banks to invest more in corporate bonds. According to official statistics from Guo’s agency, the NPL ratio in China was among the lowest in the world. The ratio for Chinese commercial banks rose 0.03 percentage points in the second quarter to 1.94 per cent at the end of June. But hidden bad loans, if exposed, could easily wipe out bank profits and erode capital bases. In the first half of this year, the combined profits of Chinese banks dropped for the first time in more than a decade – falling 9.4 per cent to 1 trillion yuan in the first half of the year, government data shows.

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So, question is: who are the shadow banks’ debt collectors? Vinnie the Kneecapper and his friends?

China’s Debt Collectors Flourish As Consumers Flounder (R.)

It’s not a good sign for any economy when debt collectors are booming and in China right now, the industry is on a hiring spree. Whole Scene Asset Management, a debt recovery firm based in the southern province of Hunan, plans to double staff numbers to 400 people this year as it expands into new cities. “Debt collection companies have been mushrooming,” said company founder Zhang Haiyan. “And with bad loans growing this year, everyone is adding new hands.” Rival Bricsman is also hiring – hoping to boost headcount of around 1,000 by 400-500 this year after landing a deal to collect delinquent consumer loans for China Minsheng Bank (600016.SS), people with knowledge of the matter said, declining to identified as they were not authorised to talk to media.

Bricsman, which is based in the eastern province of Jiangsu and counts other large banks amongst its clients, did not respond to a request for comment. As increasing numbers of consumers struggle with lost income in an economy battered by the coronavirus and U.S-China tensions, a burgeoning wave of non-performing loans is sparking concern among lenders – both at specialist consumer financing firms and traditional banks – and even among debt collectors. China is the midst of “an unfolding debt crisis”, says Joe Zhang, a business consultant and until last month vice chairman at the country’s largest debt collector YX Asset Recovery. The delinquency rate for consumer debt is climbing and collecting on those loans has become much harder, he added, estimating that at some weaker non-bank consumer lenders, soured loans may account for 30% to 50% of their portfolios.

[..] Chinese consumer debt has ballooned over the past five years, fuelled in part as banks scrambled to issue credit cards, with outstanding debt for bank-issued cards doubling to 17.6 trillion yuan ($2.5 trillion). Internet-based consumer financing, which is only lightly regulated, has also grown – by a dizzying 400 times to nearly 8 trillion yuan since 2014, according to the Guanghua School of Management. And Chinese household debt – including mortgages and unsecured consumer loans – has swollen to levels equivalent to nearly 60% of GDP, up from 18% in 2008, the peak of the global financial crisis.

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300 anonymous accounts?!

US Seizes $2 Million From 300 Terror-Linked Cryptocurrency Accounts (CNBC)

The Justice Department said it dismantled an elaborate cyber campaign used by overseas terror organizations to finance their operations and seized $2 million from more than 300 cryptocurrency accounts in what it described as the largest-ever seizure of its kind. The Justice Department said three overseas terrorist groups — al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing; al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS — used cryptocurrencies and social media to raise funds for their terror campaigns. “It should not surprise anyone that our enemies use modern technology, social media platforms and cryptocurrency to facilitate their evil and violent agendas,” Attorney General William Barr said in a release.


“As announced today, we will seize the funds and the instrumentalities that provide a lifeline for their operations whenever possible,” he added. “Terrorist networks have adapted to technology, conducting complex financial transactions in the digital world, including through cryptocurrencies. IRS-CI special agents in the DC cybercrimes unit work diligently to unravel these financial networks,” Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said in a release. In one of the cases, the U.S. secretly took over websites that were operated by al-Qassam Brigades and monitored those who thought they had opened up their cyber wallets to the terror group but instead donated money to an account controlled by the U.S. government, according to court documents unsealed Thursday in the District of Columbia.

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Successfully dividing the Arab world’s support for Palestinians.

United Arab Emirates Sells Out Palestine For Israel (EI)

The United Arab Emirates and Israel have agreed to full normalization of relations, bringing their decades-long clandestine dealings proudly into the open. The so-called “Abraham Accords” sealing the deal were brokered by US officials. The deal is named for “the father of all three great faiths,” David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, told reporters at the Oval Office on Thursday. Religious and cultural tolerance is often used by Arab states and Israel to mask their efforts to normalize ties. Painting conflict in the region as stemming from a lack of understanding among religions is also a way to obscure its true origin: Israel’s violent dispossession of Palestinians and ongoing military occupation and steady ethnic cleansing of their land.

In exchange for normalization, Israel agreed to suspend plans to annex large swaths of the occupied West Bank “and focus its efforts now on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world,” according to the joint statement. However, this is spin. In reality, it was the United States that put Israel’s annexation plans on ice weeks ago. In fact, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed his commitment to annexation shortly after the announcement of the agreement. The UAE is merely using the American-imposed freeze as an opportunity to bring its secret ties with Israel dating back to the 1990s into the open. These secret relations have included military and intelligence cooperation and even joint military exercises.

[..] Relations between Israel and Gulf States including Saudi Arabia and the UAE are founded on a mutual enmity towards Iran. Liquidating Palestinian rights and bypassing the Palestinian issue is seen as key to building up this anti-Iran alliance under American oversight. Annexation, moreover, would only be a formal rubber stamp for what Israel has been doing on the ground for decades: stealing land, forcibly displacing Palestinians and building colonies in flagrant breach of international law. This violent colonization has never ceased and will not stop as a result of this agreement.

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India is Monsanto’s wet dream.

Experts Debunk Claims of GMO Crops Success (OffG)

On 6 July 2020, an article extolling the benefits of genetically modified (GM) crops appeared on the BloombergQuint website based on an interview with Dr Ramesh Chand, a member of the key Indian Government think tank Niti Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India) . On 17 July, another piece that placed a positive spin on GM crops and gene-editing technology (Feeding 10 Billion People will Require Genetically Modified Food) appeared on the same site. According to Prof Andrew Paul Gutierrez, Dr Hans R Herren and Dr Peter E Kenmore, internationally renowned agricultural researchers, the pieces reported “sweeping unsupported claims” about the benefits of and need for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and related technologies in agriculture in India.

The three academics felt that “a responsible and factual response” was required and have written a letter – containing what could be described as the definitive analysis of Bt cotton in India – to Dr Ramesh Chand, Dr Rajiv Kumar (Niti Aayog Vice Chancellor) and Dr Amitabh Kant (Niti Aayog CEO). Chand is reported as saying that there is no credible study to show any adverse impact of growing Bt cotton in the last 18 years in the country (India’s only officially approved GM crop). This is simply not the case. Moreover, Gutierrez et al argue that all of the credible evidence shows any meagre increases in cotton yield after the introduction of Bt cotton in 2002 were largely due to increases in fertiliser use. Before proceeding, it is pertinent to address the claim that ‘feeding 10 billion people will require genetically modified food’.

If we take the case of India and its 1.3 billion-plus population, it has achieved self-sufficiency in food grains and has ensured that, in theory at least, there is enough food available to feed its entire population. It is the world’s largest producer of milk, pulses and millets and the second-largest producer of rice, wheat, sugarcane, groundnuts, vegetables and fruit. However, food security for many Indians remains a distant dream. Hunger and malnutrition remain prevalent. But that is not because farmers don’t produce enough food. These problems result from other factors, including inadequate food distribution, social and economic policies, inequality and poverty. It is a case of ‘scarcity’ amid abundance (reflecting the situation globally). India even continues to export food while millions remain hungry. Productivity is not the issue.

And while proponents say GM will boost productivity and help secure cultivators a better income, this too ignores crucial political and economic contexts; with bumper harvests, Indian farmers still find themselves in financial distress. India’s farmers are not experiencing hardship due to low productivity. They are reeling from the effects of neoliberal policies and years of neglect. It’s for good reason that the calorie and essential nutrient intake of the rural poor has drastically fallen. Yet the pro-GMO lobby has wasted no time in wrenching these issues from their political contexts to use the notions of ‘helping farmers’ and ‘feeding the world’ as lynchpins of its promotional strategy.

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Everything travel related is getting hammered. There is no telling when it all will be back, or if it ever will. Bailing out the firms involved seems an awful waste of money. You do that for firms that have a future, not those that have a past.

Ford Is Slashing 10,000 Jobs, 6 Factories In Europe (ZH)

The auto industry continues to grapple with one of the worst recessions ever for the notoriously capital intensive sector. Ford, which feels like it has been in the midst of a yearslong “restructuring” that has never fully panned out or ended (and has involved numerous CEOs), continues to make major changes to its global personnel to try and find the right mix for its business going forward. This means that 10,000 positions are now being cut across Europe, the automaker disclosed yesterday. Ford is also going to be reducing the number of its plants in Europe to 17 from 23, the company revealed in a JP Morgan conference presentation on Wednesday.

In a slide called “Ford Euope: Road to Sustainable Profitability”, the company also disclosed it would be discontinuing underperforming vehicles, like its C-MAX and Grand C-Max. The company also plans on “leveraging” its relationship with VW. The company says it is on track to deliver on its 2020-2021 CO2 targets without credits or penalties and 13 new electic vehicles will be on sale by the end of 2020, up from just 5. This news comes days after it was announced that Ford would be replacing its CEO on relatively short notice. Ford said days ago it had tapped Jim Farley to replace a relatively still-newly appointed Jim Hackett as CEO. Hackett replaced former CEO Mark Fields and, for the most part, has failed to inspire confidence during his tenure at Ford.

Ford is currently in the middle of an $11 billion restructuring that is supposed to help to accelerate its development of new vehicles, including hybrids and EVs. Hackett had only just started with Ford back in 2017 and has said he will retire effective October. General Motors is following with a C-suite shakeup of its own, as its CFO leaves after just two years to work at a fintech startup. The company announced earlier this week that John Stapleton, GM North America chief financial officer, has been named its acting global chief financial officer, effective Aug. 15, after the resignation of the company’s current CFO, Dhivya Suryadevara.

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Isn’t that what we wanted? Less flying, less pollution?

7 Million Jobs At Risk, European Airlines Could See “Further Declines” (ZH)

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) published a new report Thursday that warns the virus-induced downturn will continue to pressure air passenger numbers, employment and economies across Europe. IATA said passenger flights are expected to decline by 60% in 2020, resulting in millions of job losses in the aviation and tourism industries. IATA issued a similar warning of what has been announced by airlines, of which, complete recovery in passenger demand might not be seen until 2024. “The near-term outlook for recovery in Europe remains highly uncertain with respect to the second wave of the pandemic and the broader global economic impact it could have. Passenger demand in Europe is expected to recover gradually and will not reach 2019 levels until 2024. -IATA

IATA’s job loss estimate was increased by 17% from its June report, from 6 million to 7 million, mostly because the highly anticipated V-shaped recovery has failed to materialize. “It is desperately worrying to see a further decline in prospects for air travel this year, and the knock-on impact for employment and prosperity. said Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe. Schvartzman said, “It shows once again the terrible effect that is being felt by families across Europe as border restrictions and quarantine continue. It is vital that governments and industry work together to create a harmonized plan for reopening borders.”

If another wave of the virus were to hit Europe, justifying nationwide lockdowns, it could intensify the recession. Though the German tabloid newspaper Bild has said: “There will be no second hard lockdown in Europe because that would lead to a monster recession that would not be accepted by the population.”

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20% of Greek GDP is tourism. So are at least 20% of jobs.

Volume of Greek Air Traffic Plunged 74.3% in 2020 (GR)

A report came out on Thursday confirming the worst fears of Greek economic experts, stating that the country had seen a drop of 74.3% in the number of passengers who had traveled through their airports so far this year. This amounts to only 9 million air travelers who had used airports in the country so far in 2020, a staggering drop of almost three-quarters of its business. The number of international visitors coming into Greek airports this year so far amounts to 1,126,429, a stunning decrease from last year’s banner tourism season, which saw a total of 4,096,657 international arrivals. Although very disappointing, the numbers did not come as a shock to any in the sector, due to the punishing effects of travel bans imposed on many nations because of the coronavirus pandemic.


According to Greek media reports, the Civil Aviation Authority, or CAA, reported the precipitous drop in business in the first seven months of this year relative to the numbers seen in 2019. For the month of July 2020 alone, the high season for summertime travel to the country, passenger traffic at Greek airports had decreased 72.6%. During the month of July, a total of only 2,722,854 million passengers came through Greece’s airports; in that same period, there was a precipitous drop of 72.5% in the number of foreign arrivals. This means that there were fewer passengers overall in the first seven months of 2020 than there had been in the month of July only in 2019.

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Dec 172019
 


Dorothea Lange “Men on ‘Skid Row’, Modesto, California” 1937

 

Boeing Crisis Escalates As Planemaker Halts 737 Production (R.)
Judge Denies Flynn’s Requests for Exculpatory Information, Case Dismissal (ET)
What Everyone is Missing About the Afghanistan Papers (TMU)
Chinese Crypto Scammers Helped Inspire Recent Bitcoin Market Carnage (ZH)
College Enrollment Skids 8th Year in a Row, But Student Loans Skyrocket (WS)
Erdogan Threatens To Recognise Killings Of Native Americans As Genocide (Ind.)
Kudlow: US-China Deal ‘Absolutely’ Done, US Exports To China Will Double (R.)
Sacklers Took $11 Billion Out Of Purdue Pharma As Opioid Crisis Worsened (AP)
Assange Extradition Fight Could Turn On Reports He Was Spied On For CIA (G.)
Doctors Ask Government To Evacuate Assange To An Australian Hospital (SMH)

 

 

Almost no Russia/Ukrainegate today! Just a little Michael Flynn.

We’ll havt to do with Boeing, which suspended its production of … what exactly. Below is a Reuters article which I picked up late yesterday. Ita talks about 737 production being suspended, not just 737 MAX. At that same URL, a different headline and article today, which says:

Boeing’s 737 Crisis Deepens As Production Stops For First Time In Two Decades
Boeing Co said on Monday it would suspend production of its best-selling 737 MAX jetliner in January, its biggest assembly-line halt in more than 20 years, as fallout from two fatal crashes of the now-grounded aircraft drags into 2020.

Not sure what this means. Did they cut only MAX, or all models? Or was MAX the only model they were still producing? There is one other model: “Boeing said it will continue P8 production of the military version of the 737.”

Boeing Crisis Escalates As Planemaker Halts 737 Production (R.)

Boeing Co is temporarily halting 737 production in January for the first time in more than 20 years as the grounding of the planemaker’s best-selling MAX after two fatal crashes looks set to last well into 2020. Boeing, which builds the 737 south of Seattle, said it will not lay off any employees during the production freeze, though the move could have repercussions across its global supply chain and the U.S. economy. The decision, made by Boeing’s board after a two-day meeting in Chicago, follows news last week that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would not approve the plane’s return to service before 2020.


[..] Until now Boeing has continued to produce 737 MAX jets at a rate of 42 per month and purchase parts from suppliers at a rate of up to 52 units per month, even though deliveries are frozen until regulators approve the aircraft to fly commercially again. Halting production will ease a severe squeeze on cash tied up in roughly 375 undelivered planes, but only at the risk of causing industrial problems when Boeing tries to return to normal, industry sources said. Supply chains are already under strain due to record demand and abrupt changes in factory speed can cause snags. In 1997, Boeing announced a hit of $2.6 billion including hundreds of millions to deal with factory inefficiencies after it was forced to suspend output of its 737 and 747 lines due to supply chain problems. Boeing said it will continue P8 production of the military version of the 737.

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A judge refusing access to evidence for the lawyer of an accused is always suspicious. And will be overruled by a next court. Flynn said he didn’t discuss -or didn’t recall it because he talked with so many people at the time- Obama’s expulsion of Russian diplomats in late December 2016, with Kislyak. He did tell him Russia should lay low until Trump became president. It was his job at the time to talk to people. The judge says the FBI had “sufficient and appropriate basis” to interview Flynn because the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign. But that is the same basis that Horowitz has called into serious question.

Judge Denies Flynn’s Requests for Exculpatory Information, Case Dismissal (ET)

A federal judge has denied requests by Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to prompt the government to give him information he deems exculpatory and to dismiss the case against him. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan sided with the government in arguing that Flynn was already given all the information to which he was entitled. The judge also dismissed Flynn’s allegations of government misconduct, noting that Flynn already pleaded guilty to his crime and failed to raise his objections earlier when some of the issues he now complains about were brought to his attention. “The sworn statements of Mr. Flynn and his former counsel belie his new claims of innocence and his new assertions that he was pressured into pleading guilty,” Sullivan said in his Dec. 16 opinion.

Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, pleaded guilty on Nov. 30, 2017, to one count of lying to the FBI. He’s been expected to receive a light sentence, including no prison time, after extensively cooperating with the government on multiple investigations. In June, he fired his lawyers and hired former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell, who has since accused the government of misconduct, particularly of withholding exculpatory information or providing it late. Powell has argued that Flynn’s previous lawyers had a conflict of interest because they testified in a related case against Flynn’s former business partner. Flynn had previously told the court he would keep the lawyers despite the conflict, but Powell said prosecutors should have asked the judge to dismiss the lawyers anyway.

Sullivan disagreed, saying Flynn failed to show a precedent that the prosecutors had that obligation. Powell also said the government had no proper reason to investigate Flynn in the first place and that it had set up an “ambush interview” with the intention of making Flynn say something it could allege was false. Sullivan disagreed again and said that previously, with the advice of his former lawyers, Flynn never “challenged the conditions of his FBI interview.”

The prosecutors argued that the FBI had a “sufficient and appropriate basis” for the interview because Flynn days earlier told members of the Trump campaign, including soon-to-be Vice President Mike Pence, that he didn’t discuss with the Russian ambassador the expulsion of Russian diplomats in late December 2016 by then-President Barack Obama. Flynn later admitted in his statement of offense that he asked, via Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak, for Russia to only respond to the sanctions in a reciprocal manner and not escalate the situation. The FBI was at the time investigating whether Trump campaign aides coordinated with Russian 2016 election meddling.

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Where is the outrage? h/t Tyler

What Everyone is Missing About the Afghanistan Papers (TMU)

If you need more proof that lawmakers in the U.S. couldn’t care less about America’s woeful commitment to human rights abroad—or even care about the public who vote them into office—look no further than the recent Afghanistan papers and the reaction to the publications from Congress. According to the Washington Post, the outlet had obtained 2,000 pages of notes from interviews with more than 400 generals, diplomats, and other officials directly involved in the war. The documents showed that U.S. officials were lying about the progress being made in Afghanistan, lacked a basic understanding of Afghanistan, were hiding unmistakable evidence that the war had become unwinnable, and wasted close to $1 trillion in the process.

Barely a few hours following the Post’s publication, Congress rewarded the Pentagon for its stellar efforts with a $22 billion budget increase. How can we as a society justify this? One stand-out statistic—among the many concerning ones—is the fact that before the U.S. invasion the Taliban had almost completely put to bed Afghanistan’s illicit opium trade. Since the U.S. invasion, combined with $9 billion in U.S. funding for anti-opium programs, the Taliban is not only stronger than it ever was but sits cemented in a country that now supplies 80 percent of the world’s opium. I can’t help but think this was done on purpose.

Still, it would be worth re-thinking our outrage over the Afghanistan papers and determining what exactly it is we are outraged about. Are we simply angry because top U.S. officials lied to us about the fact they weren’t winning the war, making it a less worthwhile venture? If the U.S. were winning the war, spending $1 trillion in the process, killing record numbers of civilians, ramping up night raids to terrorize local populations, committing war crimes left right and center, would that suddenly make it all okay? As long as the war is being won, right? The truth is, like most wars the U.S. finds itself prosecuting; this was yet another war based entirely on lies and misconceptions—right from the outset.

As Marjorie Cohn, professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and president of the National Lawyers Guild famously said: “The UN Charter is a treaty ratified by the United States and thus part of U.S. law. Under the charter, a country can use armed force against another country only in self-defense or when the Security Council approves. Neither of those conditions was met before the United States invaded Afghanistan. The Taliban did not attack us on 9/11. Nineteen men—15 from Saudi Arabia—did, and there was no imminent threat that Afghanistan would attack the U.S. or another UN member country. The council did not authorize the United States or any other country to use military force against Afghanistan. The U.S. war in Afghanistan is illegal.” If that was the case in 2001, how this war has continued for close to another two decades begins to beggar belief.

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Below $7,000.

Chinese Crypto Scammers Helped Inspire Recent Bitcoin Market Carnage (ZH)

If you’re hoping to make money shorting bitcoin this holiday season, you might be in luck: Analysts say the price of a bitcoin is set to fall even further as the perpetrators of a massive Chinese crypto scheme dump their ill-gotten gains. Several of the participants in the $2 billion PlusToken scheme are dumping crypto from anonymous accounts. The sales are believed to be the reason fro bitcoin’s 50% drop since its peak in late June, which was around the time that some of the perpetrators of PlusToken were arrested in China. Unfortunately, Chinese authorities didn’t manage to nab them all, and a team of analysts at the blockchain consultancy Chainalysis are warning that the fallout isn’t over yet, according to Bloomberg.

“The largest cryptocurrency is likely to remain under pressure as perpetrators of the estimated more than $2 billion PlusToken scandal dump coins to cash out, the New York-based firm said Monday in the wake of a five-month investigation that continues to track the tokens as they filter through various blockchain ledgers. Bitcoin has tumbled almost 50% from its 2019 peak in late June, when Chinese authorities arrested multiple suspects in the pyramid scheme that promised returns as high as 600% and guaranteed that investors would be rewarded for inviting new members. Since that time, market observers have often pointed to possible sales tied to PlusToken suspects not in custody as one of many reasons for price declines.”

According to Chainalysis, PlusToken conspirators have already sold 25,000 bitcoins, and it’s believed another 20,000 (worth nearly $142 million at current prices). The coins are spread across some 8,700 anonymous bitcoin wallets.

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Fewer students, more debt. Number of male students plummets much faster than female. Does this look healthy to you?

College Enrollment Skids 8th Year in a Row, But Student Loans Skyrocket (WS)

With college costs blowing through the roof, with “luxury student housing” and not so luxury “student housing” having become asset classes – including, of course, CMBS, now in rough waters – for global investors, with textbook publishers gouging students to the nth degree, and with the monetary value of higher education questioned in more and more corners, the inevitable happened once again: College enrollment dropped for the eighth year in a row. The post-secondary student headcount – undergraduate and graduate students combined – in the fall semester of 2019 fell 1.3% from the fall semester last year, or by over 231,000 students to 17.97 million students, according to the Student Clearing House today. In the fall of 2011, the peak year, 20.14 million students had been enrolled. Since then, enrollment has dropped by 10.8%, or by 2.17 million students:

This is based on enrollment data submitted to the Student Clearing House by the schools. It does not include international students, which account for just under 5% of total student enrollment in the US. Duplicate headcounts – one student enrolled in two institutions – are removed from the data to eliminate double-counting. The 10.8% decline in enrollment since 2011 comes even as student loan balances have surged 74% over the same period, from $940 billion to $1.64 trillion:

[..] Women by far outnumbered men in total enrollment in the fall semester of 2019 with 10.63 million women enrolled and just 7.61 million men, meaning that overall there are now 40% more women in college than men: • At public four-year schools, there were 30% more women (4.51 million) than men (3.48 million) • At private non-profit four-year schools, there were 50% more women (2.32 million) than men (1.54 million) • At private for-profit four-year schools, there were more than twice as many woman (508,000) than men (241,000). • At public two-year schools, there were 38% more women (3.11 million) than men (2.26 million). Over the past three years, enrollment has declined for both men and women, but faster for men (-5.2%) than for women (-1.4%). Since 2011, enrollment has declined by 13% for men and by 9.4% for women.

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Estimates vary, but it appears that Europe’s total population in 1500 was some 60 million. North America’s was 50 million.

Erdogan Threatens To Recognise Killings Of Native Americans As Genocide (Ind.)

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to recognise the killing of Native Americans at the hand of European settlers in a tit-for-tat attack on Washington’s decision to rebuke Ankara for the Armenian genocide. The US Senate voted in favour of recognising the genocide last week, a move initially stalled by Republicans at the urging of Donald Trump – who had been due to meet with the Turkish leader at the time. However, with the bill now passed, Mr Erdogan has threatened to respond by recognising US killings of Native Americans – saying the deaths of millions of indigenous people at the hands of European settlers should also be viewed as a genocide.

Speaking on the pro-government A Haber news channel, he said: “We should oppose [the US] by reciprocating such decisions in parliament. And that is what we will do. “Can we speak about America without mentioning [Native Americans]? It is a shameful moment in US history” Around 1.5 million ethnic Armenians were killed by modern-day Turkey’s predecessor, the Ottoman Empire, in the early 20th century. But Turkey denies the killings amounted to genocide, instead marking up the deaths of Armenians and Turks as the consequences of the ongoing war. It claims a lower death toll of hundreds of thousands. While the ramifications of the US legislation are largely symbolic, its timing and the targeting of a sore spot for the Turkish state have been seen by many as a direct challenge to the Middle Eastern country’s foreign policy.

A University College London team estimates that 55 million indigenous people died following the conquest of the Americas that began at the end of the 15th century. The majority of these deaths are believed to have been caused by disease – with indigenous people unable to build immunities to diseases that had never previously crossed over the Atlantic to the Americas. War, slavery and displacement also contributed to the decline of indigenous populations.

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Yes, Larry. Of course, Larry.

Kudlow: US-China Deal ‘Absolutely’ Done, US Exports To China Will Double (R.)

The so-called Phase One trade deal between Washington and Beijing has been “absolutely completed,” a top White House adviser said on Monday, adding that U.S. exports to China will double under the agreement. “They’re … going to double our exports to China,” National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told Fox News Channel. Under the trade agreement announced last week, Washington will reduce some tariffs on Chinese imports in exchange for Chinese purchases of agricultural, manufactured and energy products increasing by about $200 billion over the next two years.


While U.S. officials have touted the deal, Chinese officials have been more cautious, emphasizing that the trade dispute has not been completely settled. “Make no mistake about it: the deal is done, the deal is completed,” Kudlow later told reporters at the White House. “The deal is absolutely completed.” Asked if officials still planned to sign the deal the first week of January, Kudlow said: “That’s the hope.” Translations were still being worked out but he did not expect any changes to the final Phase One agreement, he added.

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“The Sacklers pocketed billions of dollars from Purdue while thousands of people died from their addictive drugs. This is the very definition of ill-gotten gains..”

“The company says the family may back out if lawsuits against family members are allowed to proceed.”

Put them in jail pending trial.

Sacklers Took $11 Billion Out Of Purdue Pharma As Opioid Crisis Worsened (AP)

The wealthy owners of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma started taking far more money out of the company after it was fined for misleading marketing of the powerful prescription painkiller. A court filing made by the company Monday evening shows Purdue made payments totaling $10.7 billion from 2008 through 2017 for the benefit of members of the Sackler family who own the company. That includes taxes and other payments. Family members received $4.1 billion in cash over that period. By contrast, distributions for the benefit of family members from 1995 through 2007 totaled $1.3 billion. The total amount family members received from the company was made public in an October filing, but the new report offers new details on when the money was distributed.

“Today’s report confirms what we revealed in our lawsuit: The Sacklers pocketed billions of dollars from Purdue while thousands of people died from their addictive drugs. This is the very definition of ill-gotten gains,” Massachusetts’ Maura Healey, the first attorney general to sue Sackler family members, said in a statement. The Sacklers’ wealth has received intense scrutiny from Healey and 23 other states’ attorneys general, who are objecting to a plan to settle about 2,700 lawsuits against Purdue over the toll of opioids, including those filed by nearly every state.

The objecting attorneys general say that the settlement does not do enough to hold the family accountable for an opioid crisis linked to more than 400,000 deaths in the U.S. since 2000. The settlement calls for the family to contribute at least $3 billion in cash over time and give up control of the company. In all, the plan could be worth up to $12 billion over time. But the offer comes with a major catch: The company says the family may back out if lawsuits against family members are allowed to proceed. They are all on hold for now as the company’s settlement efforts play out in bankruptcy court.

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The Guardian reporting on Assange. Forever tainted.

Assange Extradition Fight Could Turn On Reports He Was Spied On For CIA (G.)

Julian Assange’s fight against extradition to the US could last years, and his argument could hinge on reports he has been illegally spied upon and his sensitive information given to the CIA. Meanwhile, more than 100 doctors from across the world have written to the Australian government, urging it to act and “protect the life of its citizen”, in a letter to be delivered to the foreign affairs minister on Tuesday, amid warnings Assange’s health continues to deteriorate. A judicial investigation by the Audiencia Nacional in Spain, the country’s national court, is acting on allegations that while Assange held asylum inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, the Wikileaks founder was spied on, listened to and had his computer data scraped and that this information was sold to US intelligence agencies.

Speaking to the International Law Association in Sydney, Guy Goodwin-Gill, a professor of law at the University of New South Wales who has provided advice on asylum issues to the Assange legal team, said Assange’s fight against extradition would be a long contest and that allegations he was being spied on would likely form part of legal arguments he could not receive a fair trial in the US. Assange is currently being held in London’s Belmarsh prison, ahead of an extradition hearing that will begin in February. A US grand jury has indicted him on 18 charges – 17 of which fall under the Espionage Act – around conspiracy to receive, obtaining and disclosing classified diplomatic and military documents.

[..] medical doctors have banded together to urge authorities to halt any extradition plans, as well as urgently release him for medical care outside of the prison. “That we, as doctors, feel ethically compelled to hold governments to account on medical grounds speaks volumes about the gravity of the medical, ethical and human rights travesties that are taking place,” their letter, seen by the Guardian, states. “It is an extremely serious matter for an Australian citizen’s survival to be endangered by a foreign government obstructing his human right to health. It is an even more serious matter for that citizen’s own government to refuse to intervene, against historical precedent and numerous converging lines of medical advice.”

A group of Australian MPs from across party lines have gathered to discuss what can be done for Assange, with hopes of meeting with him in Belmarsh ahead of his extradition hearing.

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You’ve had many years to do this. Where were you?

Doctors Ask Government To Evacuate Assange To An Australian Hospital (SMH)

A group of doctors has asked Foreign Minister Marise Payne to evacuate Julian Assange to an Australian hospital amid claims the WikiLeaks founder’s health is rapidly deteriorating and that he “might die” in a London prison. Detailing allegations of “psychological torture” inflicted on Assange during efforts to extradite the 48-year-old to the United States, 100 medical doctors have urged Senator Payne and Prime Minister Scott Morrison to intervene. “It is an extremely serious matter for an Australian citizen’s survival to be endangered by a foreign government obstructing his human right to health,” the doctors say in a letter.

“It is an even more serious matter for that citizen’s own government to refuse to intervene, against historical precedent and numerous converging lines of medical advice. “Should Mr Assange die in a British prison, people will want to know what you, minister, did to prevent his death.” While the Australian government is highly unlikely to ask the UK government for permission to bring Assange home, there are concerns within some members of the Coalition about the asserted deterioration of his health in the months since he has been imprisoned in Belmarsh Prison on the outskirts of London. Doctors have said Assange is suffering from depression, dental issues and a serious shoulder ailment.

[..] “The term psychological torture is not a synonym for mere hardship, suffering or distress,” they said. “Psychological torture involves extreme mental, emotional and physical harm, which over time causes severe damage and disintegration of a number of critical psychological functions, involving emotions, cognitions, identity and interpersonal functioning.” They warned the physical effects of psychological torture caused susceptibility to a range of illnesses and diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. “The potentially fatal medical consequences of prolonged psychological torture are inherently unpredictable, and could strike at any time. Accordingly, no doctor, no matter how senior, can offer any legitimate assurances regarding Julian Assange’s survival or medical stability while he continues to be held in Belmarsh Prison.”

Read more …

 

 

 

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Nov 152019
 


Pablo Picasso Coffee maker 1943

 

Pelosi Adds A New Element – Bribery – (CNN)
‘Evidence Of Bribery’: Pelosi Comments On Impeachment Hearing
US Envoy Sondland Did Not Link Biden Probe To Aid: Ukraine Minister (R.)
Adam Schiff Will Be Called as Witness in Senate Impeachment Trial: Graham (ET)
Fox Prime Time Stars Tell Trump Impeachment Hearings Disaster For Dems (CNN)
Will China Disrupt The Monetary System With A Cryptocurrency? (Lacalle)
Public Figures: Antisemitism Means We Can’t Vote For Labour Under Corbyn (G.)
Trump V-Day Moscow Visit Right Thing To Do Even In Election Season – Putin (RT)
Jeffrey Epstein: Fund Proposed To Compensate Financier’s Victims (G.)
Ukraine Ex-Minister Says Bellingcat Infiltrated By… Kremlin Agents? (RT)
Even Nobel Prize Winners Get Things Catastrophically Wrong (Steve Keen)

 

 

I saw yesterday that she had used the word “Bribery” and kept wondering why she all of a sudden switched to it. CNN of all places gives the answer: it’s right there in the Constitution, while Quid Pro Quo is not. Her legal team must have been frantically deliberating. And free beers for the genius who found this.

And today we’re back to closed door sessions? Huh?

Pelosi Adds A New Element – Bribery – (CNN)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi argued on Thursday that President Donald Trump’s actions in the Ukraine scandal constitute “bribery” and that Trump has admitted to it himself. She’s the latest and most high-profile Democrat to use that word when describing Trump’s conduct on the July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which Trump has called “perfect.” “What the President has admitted to and says it’s perfect, I’ve said it’s perfectly wrong. It’s bribery,” Pelosi said at her weekly news conference.

Why is it bribery?
“The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into the elections. That’s bribery,” she said.

What does the Constitution say?
Getting technical, bribery is just an example of “high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” But it’s one of only two specific examples the Constitution lays out.

Article II, Section 4:
“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, BRIBERY, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

[..] Coming up Friday
Public hearing #2 — Marie Yovanovitch, former US ambassador to Ukraine.
Private hearing — The committee will also take closed-door testimony from David Holmes, the State Department employee who overheard Trump’s call with Sondland on July 26.
Private hearing — The committee will work Saturday to depose OMB official Mark Sandy behind closed doors. He’s the first official offering testimony from the agency, which was responsible for releasing the security aid for Ukraine.

Read more …

Pelosi also thinks Americans don’t know what quid pro quo means.

‘Evidence Of Bribery’: Pelosi Comments On Impeachment Hearing

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that the testimony presented by two career U.S. diplomats at the first House impeachment hearing a day earlier had presented evidence of bribery committed by President Donald Trump. “The devastating testimony corroborated evidence of bribery uncovered in the inquiry and that the president abused power and violated his oath by threatening to withhold military aid and a White House meeting in exchange for an investigation into a political rival,” Pelosi told reporters. Pelosi’s comments come amid a Democratic shift in the language used to describe Trump’s actions with regard to Ukraine that lie at the heart of the current impeachment inquiry.


Lawmakers had called the president’s moves a “quid pro quo,” but have recently appeared to shift to a focus on more widely used terms that Democrats believe may resonate more deeply with voters. Asked to further elaborate on her statement regarding bribery, Pelosi said, “Well, you know we’re talking Latin around here — e pluribus unum, from anyone, quid pro quo, bribery, and that is in the Constitution, attached to the impeachment proceeding.” “The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into the elections — that’s bribery,” she said. Pelosi continued to assert that Democrats still have not made a decision about whether to pursue articles of impeachment against the president.

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So that’s the ennd of that one?

US Envoy Sondland Did Not Link Biden Probe To Aid: Ukraine Minister (R.)

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said on Thursday that U.S. ambassador Gordon Sondland did not explicitly link military aid to Kiev with opening an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Interfax Ukraine reported. Trump and his allies are accused by Democrat opponents of freezing nearly $400 million in security aid to Ukraine to pressure President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open investigations into Biden, Trump’s main rival for the 2020 presidential race. “Ambassador Sondland did not tell us, and certainly did not tell me, about a connection between the assistance and the investigations. You should ask him,” Prystaiko said about Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. Prystaiko’s comments came a day after William Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, testified in the first televised hearing of the impeachment inquiry.

Read more …

Obviously, they will call/subpoena Joe and Hunter Biden, Adam Schiff and The Whistleblower

Adam Schiff Will Be Called as Witness in Senate Impeachment Trial: Graham (ET)

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) will be called as a witness in a Senate impeachment trial if the House votes to impeach President Donald Trump. During an appearance on Fox News’ “Hannity” on Nov. 13, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he’d call Schiff to testify. Graham also said he wouldn’t let the impeachment trial be based on hearsay alone. A trial also wouldn’t be held if the whistleblower doesn’t testify, he said. “Let’s say they get 218 votes. Here’s what I promise the country. We’re not going to try the president of the United States based on hearsay. So any resolution setting up a trial in the Senate, I’m going to make sure that hearsay cannot be the basis of an impeachment allegation,” Graham told host Sean Hannity.


“If you invoke the hearsay rule, what would be left? “A trial in the Senate, to me, should not legitimize what’s going on in the House. No American is denied the right to call witnesses on their behalf, except for Donald Trump. No American is accused of wrongdoing anonymously, except Donald Trump. What they’re doing in the House is a danger to the presidency itself. “So any trial in the Senate needs to make sure that you can’t impeach a president based on hearsay, because that’s a danger to the presidency itself. And secondly, any trial in the Senate must expose the whistleblower so the president can confront his accuser. I will not accept a trial in the Senate until I know who the whistleblower is.”

Read more …

When one propagada tool fact-checks another.

Fox Prime Time Stars Tell Trump Impeachment Hearings Disaster For Dems (CNN)

I wanted to know what President Trump was hearing about day one of the televised impeachment hearings. So I decided to mute all my other TVs and just watch Fox News on Wednesday night. I heard White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham say that “today was a joke.” I heard Donald Trump Jr. say “it’s insanity.” I heard Jeff Sessions ask, “Where’s the beef?” Here’s how I would sum up everything I heard from Fox’s prime time hosts: Wednesday’s hearing was a bust. It was all just hearsay. It was a “disaster” for the Democrats and a “great day” for the Republicans. Impeachment is “stupid.” Impeachment is “fake.” There’s nothing impeachable here. There’s no reason to hold hearings. This inquiry needs to stop right now.

The message was one-sided and overwhelming. Every host and practically every guest said the Republican tribe is winning and the Democrat tribe is losing. I’m sure the president loved watching every minute of it. That’s one of the reasons why this right-wing rhetoric matters so much – because it is reassuring and emboldening Trump. I decided to write it all down because of something that CNN’s Oliver Darcy wrote earlier in the day. “Don’t expect viewers, listeners, and readers of right-wing media to walk away from Wednesday’s impeachment hearings with a different opinion of President Trump’s behavior,” Darcy said. “In fact, it’s possible they might be more convinced than ever that Trump did nothing wrong. Why? Because right-wing media has largely – and unsurprisingly – focused on the moments in the hearing favorable to its preferred narrative.”

On the OTHER cable news channels, 8 p.m. host Tucker Carlson said, “it was like Christmas and New Year’s and the Super Bowl all put together.” Carlson seemed reluctant to cover Wednesday’s news, calling the hearings “stupid” and the importance of the impeachment inquiry “questionable.” Grisham called it a “joke” while others made jokes — Christian Whiton said witnesses Bill Taylor and George Kent, both veteran public servants with impressive resumes, “looked like people who sat by themselves at recess.” mIt didn’t end there. The witnesses were insulted all evening long. And Grisham said foreign service officials who are resisting Trump’s policies should resign.

Later in the hour, Carlson mocked news outlets for taking this once-in-a-generation impeachment inquiry seriously. “The media went completely bonkers today,” he said, while the on-screen graphic alleged a “MEDIA MELTDOWN.” He agreed with his guest Larry O’Connor, who said America doesn’t have a free press because the press is made up of “political activists.”

Read more …

5 days old but relevant because of Lacalle’s claim that China has only 0.25% worth of its money supply in gold. China also has a dire thirst for dollars. What’s going to back that crypto?

Will China Disrupt The Monetary System With A Cryptocurrency? (Lacalle)

A state-owned cryptocurrency is, in itself, a contradiction in terms. The main reason why citizens want to use cryptocurrencies or gold is precisely to avoid the government or central bank monopoly of money. For a currency to be a world reserve of value, widespread means of exchange and unit of measure, there are many things that need to happen, but the first pillar of a world reserve currency is stability and transparency. China cannot disrupt the global monetary system and dethrone the US dollar when it has one of the world’s tightest capital control systems, a lack of separation of powers and weak transparency in its own financial system. The U.S. dollar is the most traded currency in the world, and growing according to the Bank of International Settlement. The Yuan is 4% of the currency trade.


This is because the financial balance of the US is the strongest, legal and investor security is one of the strongest in the world, and the currency and capital markets are open and transparent. Unfortunately for China, the idea of a gold-backed cryptocurrency starts from the wrong premise. China’s own currency, the Yuan, is not backed by either global use nor gold. At all. China’s total gold reserves are less than 0.25% of its money supply. Many say that we do not know the real extent of China’s gold reserves. However, this goes back to my previous point. What confidence is the world going to have on a currency where the real level of gold reserves is simply a guess? Furthermore, why would any serious government under-report its gold reserves if it wants to be a safe haven, reserve status currency? It makes no sense.

Read more …

The smear has worked wonders.

Public Figures: Antisemitism Means We Can’t Vote For Labour Under Corbyn (G.)

The authors John Le Carré and William Boyd are among a string of public figures declaring they refuse to vote Labour because of its association with antisemitism. In a letter to the Guardian, they said: “To ignore it because Brexit looms larger is to declare that anti-Jewish prejudice is a price worth paying for a Labour government.” Both Le Carré, whose real name is David Cornwell, and Boyd have previously expressed strongly anti-Brexit views. They joined others including Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia who has previously been sympathetic to Labour, the actor Simon Callow , and the historians Antony Beevor, Tom Holland and Dan Snow. Trevor Phillips, a former Labour politician and ex-chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), and Fiyaz Mughal, the founder of the Tell Mama group fighting Islamophobia, also said they could not vote Labour.

The letter said: “The coming election is momentous for every voter, but for British Jews it contains a particular anguish: the prospect of a prime minister steeped in association with antisemitism. Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Labour has come under formal investigation by the EHRC for institutional racism against Jews. Two Jewish MPs have been bullied out of the party. Mr Corbyn has a long record of embracing antisemites as comrades. “We listen to our Jewish friends and see how their pain has been relegated as an issue, pushed aside by arguments about Britain’s European future. For those who insist that Labour are the only alternative to Boris Johnson’s hard Brexit, now, it seems, is not the time for Jewish anxiety.

“But antisemitism is central to a wider debate about the kind of country we want to be. To ignore it because Brexit looms larger is to declare that anti-Jewish prejudice is a price worth paying for a Labour government. Which other community’s concerns are disposable in this way? Who would be next? “Opposition to racism cannot include surrender in the fight against antisemitism. Yet that is what it would mean to back Labour and endorse Mr Corbyn for Downing Street.”

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Of course it is. 20 million dead. Never forget. Show respect. Without those 20 million lives lost we would all be goose-stepping.

Trump V-Day Moscow Visit Right Thing To Do Even In Election Season – Putin (RT)

As Russia prepares to celebrate the May 2020 anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, President Vladimir Putin said that a visit from Donald Trump would be “the right thing to do,” even during an election campaign. Trump’s re-election campaign will be in full swing next May, when Russia marks the 75th anniversary of the Soviet and allied victory over the Nazi Germany. While the US president’s opponents will likely still be hammering him on his “friendliness” with Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader told reporters on Thursday that a visit from Trump would be fitting. Even as part of the election campaign, that [visit] would be the right thing to do. But it is not for us to decide. The American president will make this decision.


However, Putin added that at the moment, no formal meeting with Trump is on the agenda. While Soviet Russia and the United States shared the burden of defeating Nazism, cooperation with Moscow is anathema to Washington seven decades later. Trump’s announcement last week that he “would love to go” to the commemoration was met with howls of derision from Democrats and to a media still clinging to the fictional idea of “Russian collusion.” Though Trump noted that the celebration falls “right in the middle of campaign season,” he said “it’s a very big deal, celebrating the end of the war.”

Read more …

“..the estate should start by committing ALL of Epstein’s assets to the compensation fund.”

Jeffrey Epstein: Fund Proposed To Compensate Financier’s Victims (G.)

The executors of the estate of Jeffrey Epstein said on Thursday they had asked a judge to approve the creation of a proposed fund to compensate women the financier was accused of having sexually abused. The executors, Darren Indyke and Richard Kahn, said in a statement that the fund would create a “voluntary, confidential, non-adversarial alternative to litigation”. Epstein, 66, died by hanging himself in his Manhattan jail cell on 10 August, two days after signing a will and putting his estimated $577m estate into a trust. He had been arrested in July on federal sex trafficking charges, to which he pleaded not guilty. His estate is facing about a dozen lawsuits from women who say Epstein sexually abused them, many while they were underage.

The proposed compensation fund, which must be approved by a US Virgin Islands court, would be overseen by administrators including Jordana Feldman and Kenneth Feinberg, who have worked on compensation funds for victims affected by 9/11. Women who choose not to take part in the program would still be allowed to pursue their claims against the estate in court, according to Thursday’s statement. It was not immediately clear how much money would be available for the victim compensation fund. The attorney Roberta Kaplan, who represents one of the women suing the estate, expressed skepticism of the plan.

“Given that this latest fund was launched without our input or consent, we will keep an open mind because we are supportive of attempts to fairly compensate these survivors, but both the estate and the new administrators have a lot to prove,” she said in a press release. Another lawyer, Brad Edwards, said the estate should start by committing all of Epstein’s assets to the compensation fund. “If the estate is placing all estate assets into the claims program for victims, then it is a step in the right direction,” said Edwards, who represents multiple alleged victims. “In the meantime, we intend to get the filed cases to trial quickly. Either way, justice for our clients, without delay, is our goal.“

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Wonder what that MH17 “trial” is going to look like next year.

Ukraine Ex-Minister Says Bellingcat Infiltrated By… Kremlin Agents? (RT)

A website obsessed with blaming Russia for everything – using Google Earth to support its airtight theories – has been infiltrated by Russian agents, according to a Ukrainian MP and former minister. But does it even make sense? Our strange saga begins with a very level-headed Facebook post penned by Ukraine’s former minister of veteran affairs and current member of parliament, Iryna Friz, who expressed deep displeasure with a recent Bellingcat ‘investigation’ revealing that Ukraine’s Ministry of Veterans Affairs had ties to far-right figures (oh no, who could have guessed?). In her post, Friz accused Bellingcat of regurgitating an “exclusively Russian narrative” that there are “fascists in Ukraine.” This can mean only one thing, according to the Ukrainian lawmaker.


“There are all signs that people from the Russian FSB have infiltrated [Bellingcat]. I otherwise cannot explain for myself the fact that they coordinate their work with Russian outlet the Insider, which is controlled by Lubyanka,” she wrote, referring to the Moscow headquarters of Russia’s Federal Security Service. Friz even went so far as to suggest that Bellingcat should probe staff with “Russian names.” In an open letter responding to the damning allegations, Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins politely pointed out that it employs no Russians – only two Ukrainian-Americans. Higgins further contested the notion that reports of Ukraine’s dangerous far-right were manufactured by the Kremlin, citing a 2018 report from the US State Department and an investigation by US-backed Freedom House.

Read more …

Steve is still chasing Nordhaus. Don’t think I’ve seen a reply from the man.

“..we know that most of Europe north of Berlin, and of America north of New York, would be under a kilometre of ice. To argue that this would cut GDP by just 3.6% is simply absurd.”

Even Nobel Prize Winners Get Things Catastrophically Wrong (Steve Keen)

William Nordhaus was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economics for “integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis”. This implies that he worked out what global heating means for our economy, given what climate scientists say will happen to our planet. But Nordhaus’s predictions of what global heating will cost the earth are dangerously at odds with the science. In his Nobel Prize lecture, Nordhaus described a 4°C increase in global average temperature as “optimal” — that is, the point at which the costs and benefits of mitigating climate change are balanced. In a subsequent academic paper based on this lecture, he stated that “damages are estimated to be 2 percent of output at a 3°C global warming and 8 percent of output with 6°C warming”.

This is a trivial level of damage, equivalent for the 6°C warming case to a fall in the rate of economic growth over the next century of less than 0.1% per year. Nordhaus’s conclusions are based in part on the simple but wayward assumption that the weak relationship between temperature and GDP within the US today can be used to assume how future global temperature rises will affect the economy. For example, the coldest state in the US is North Dakota, with an average temperature of 4.9°C and a high GDP per head – US$67,000 in 2018. Slightly warmer states such as New York (9.0°C, US$73,000) tend to have higher GDPs, while the hottest state – Florida, at 22.1°C – has a lower GDP (US$43,000). This implies that past a certain point, higher temperatures reduce GDP, but the relationship is very weak: huge changes in temperature result in relatively small changes in income.

If it were true that this weak relationship could be applied to global temperature change, then global warming would indeed be nothing to worry about. However, the relationship between temperature and GDP within one country today tells you absolutely nothing about how the world will change if global temperatures rise by 10°C. This can be hard to grasp, since we’re talking about the truly unknown – humanity has never experienced global temperatures that high. But we can assess how unrealistic Nordhaus’s work is because it predicts exactly the same damages for a fall in global temperature as it does for a rise. It predicts, for example, that both a 4°C rise and a 4°C fall in temperature would reduce global GDP by 3.6%.

The average global temperature during the last Ice Age was 4°C cooler than today. There’s no way we can accurately predict what GDP would be in such a cool world today, but we know that most of Europe north of Berlin, and of America north of New York, would be under a kilometre of ice. To argue that this would cut GDP by just 3.6% is simply absurd.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Oct 122019
 
 October 12, 2019  Posted by at 9:19 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Balthus Girl at the window 1955

 

US Delays China Tariff Increase As Trump Claims ‘Substantial’ Deal (G.)
Boris Johnson’s Major U-Turn Sets Up 48 Hours To Clinch Brexit Deal (G.)
Turkey Attacks US Special Forces In Syria (NW)
US Lawmakers Press Again For Stronger Trump Action On Turkey (R.)
In Memoriam: Reality (Kunstler)
Boeing Board Strips CEO Of Chairman Title Amid 737 MAX Crisis (R.)
Facebook’s Libra Currency Abandoned By Major Financial Companies (R.)
US SEC Halts Telegram’s $1.7 Billion Digital Token Offering (R.)
Rising Used Car Prices Help Push Poor Americans Over The Edge (R.)
Saudi Naval Blockade Sparks Fresh Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen (MPN)
Human, Organ Trafficking Booming in Yemen as War Enters its Fifth Year (MPN)
Julian Assange To Remain Locked Up In UK Prison (RT)

 

 

Not much of a deal, but lots of talk, from what I understand. Still, 1.3 billion Chinese need food.

US Delays China Tariff Increase As Trump Claims ‘Substantial’ Deal (G.)

Donald Trump announced a “very substantial phase one deal” to solve the long-running trade dispute with China. After a two-day meeting in Washington between US and Chinese officials on Friday Trump announced a delay on plans to raise tariffs on $250bn worth of goods to 30% on 15 October. A further 15% tariff on almost all remaining Chinese imports including laptops, smartphone, footwear and clothing is still set to be imposed on 15 December unless a deal can be reached with Beijing. Trump said progress had been made on allegations of currency manipulation, intellectual property theft and other issues.


China also agreed to increase its purchases of US agricultural goods and further open up its market to foreign financial services companies. The deal has not been written yet and may take weeks to finalize. Speaking in the White House Trump said: “I think we have a lot of good faith right now.” He said the agreement was bigger than a trade deal. “There was a lot of friction between the US and China and now it’s a lovefest,” said Trump. Earlier Trump had tweeted there were “warmer feelings” in US-China trade talks. The news helped boost stock prices with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing up 319 points and the S&P 500 snapping a three-week losing streak.

Read more …

Will Northern Ireland remain in the customs union forever?

Boris Johnson’s Major U-Turn Sets Up 48 Hours To Clinch Brexit Deal (G.)

Boris Johnson has signalled that he will make a last-ditch U-turn on his plans for the Irish border, setting up 48 hours of intense negotiations that will make or break a Brexit deal. On a day of rapid movement in talks, EU sources said the prime minister had conceded that there could not be a customs border on the island of Ireland – a critical step away from his previous position. That came after European ambassadors prompted tentative hope of a deal by giving the green light for what some diplomats described as a “tunnel” discussion in which a small team of negotiators meet for intensive talks to find a break-through moment.


The Democratic Unionist party and European Research Group (ERG), a group of rightwing Conservatives, later issued statements promising flexibility, keeping hope alive that Johnson could find support for a new offer in the House of Commons. But amid ongoing scepticism that a deal could be forced through in the short time left and with Angela Merkel due to hold talks with Emmanuel Macron on Sunday night, the prime minister faces a frantic race to push through his fresh proposals with Brussels or at home. “The UK has accepted that there is not a deal that involves a border on the island of Ireland – that is a big break from what they were saying,” one EU source said. “Now the key is for them to lay out how their new position over the weekend.”

Read more …

Tweet: “Coalition official tells me after Turkish bombing near US base Mashtenour hill: “They know we are there, we told them our position. There’s no other target in the area. They’re trying to drive us out. If Turkey can get us to leave so they can siege Kobane, it’s all over.”

Turkey Attacks US Special Forces In Syria (NW)

A contingent of U.S. Special Forces was caught up in Turkish shelling against U.S.-backed Kurdish positions in northern Syria, days after President Donald Trump told his Turkish counterpart he would withdraw U.S. troops from certain positions in the area. A senior Pentagon official said shelling by the Turkish forces was so heavy that the U.S. personnel considered firing back in self-defense. Newsweek has learned through both an Iraqi Kurdish intelligence official and the senior Pentagon official that Special Forces operating on Mashtenour hill in the majority-Kurdish city of Kobani fell under artillery fire from Turkish forces conducting their so-called “Operation Peace Spring” against Kurdish fighters backed by the U.S. but considered terrorist organizations by Turkey. No injuries have been reported.


Instead of returning fire, the Special Forces withdrew once the shelling had ceased. Newsweek previously reported Wednesday that the current rules of engagement for U.S. forces continue to be centered around self-defense and that no order has been issued by the Pentagon for a complete withdrawal from Syria. The Pentagon official said that Turkish forces should be aware of U.S. positions “down to the grid.” The official could not specify the exact number of personnel present, but indicated they were “small numbers below company level,” so somewhere between 15 and 100 troops. Newsweek has reached out to the Pentagon for comment on the situation.

Read more …

This will build.

US Lawmakers Press Again For Stronger Trump Action On Turkey (R.)

U.S. lawmakers introduced more legislation on Friday seeking to slap stiff sanctions on Turkey over its offensive against Kurdish fighters in Syria, underscoring unhappiness from both Democrats and President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress over his Syria policy. Representatives Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, and Mike McCaul, the committee’s ranking Republican, introduced a bill that would sanction Turkish officials involved in the Syria operation and banks involved with Turkey’s defense sector until Turkey ends military operations in Syria. It also would stop arms from going to Turkish forces in Syria, and require the administration to impose existing sanctions on Turkey for its purchase of a Russian S-400 missile-defense system.


On Sunday, Trump abruptly shifted policy and said he was withdrawing U.S. forces from northeastern Syria, clearing the way for Turkey to launch an assault across the border. Turkey began the offensive quickly, pounding Kurdish militias, who had spent many months fighting alongside U.S. forces against Islamic State militants. Earlier, Engel and McCaul had introduced a resolution expressing strong support for Kurdish forces in Syria and recognizing their contribution to the fight against Islamic State. It also called on Turkey to immediately stop military action in northeast Syria and called on the United States to stand with Syrian Kurdish communities affected by violence.

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“The nation has been too preoccupied with political mud-wrestling to notice that the US debt has gone hockey-stick parabolic..”

In Memoriam: Reality (Kunstler)

The Golden Golem of Greatness shifted into mad bull overdrive for last night’s Minneapolis fan rally, cussing and bellowing at the picadors of the Left who have been sticking lances in his neck for three years. Decorum is not Mr. Trump’s strong suit, but then the bull is not sent into the ring to negotiate politely for his life. The narrative of the bullring is certain death. The bull must do what he can within his nature to dispute it. It’s in Mr. Trump’s nature to act the part of a reality TV star, and, of course, it is the nature of reality TV shows to be unreal. That is perhaps the ruling paradox of life in the USA these days.

Saturated in unreality, the spectators (also called “voters”) flounder through a relentless barrage of narratives aimed at confounding them, with the unreal expectation that they can make sense of unreal things. In a place like Minneapolis of an October evening, you can go see the Joker movie or take in the President’s rally — and come away with the same sense of hyper-unreality. We’re no longer the nation we pretend to be and we don’t know it. Jokers are wild and the joke’s on us. So it goes in these dangerous autumn days of The Fourth Turning. Something’s got to give, and all indications are it will happen where few are looking at the moment: the sideshow of money and banking.


When things start slip-sliding away over in that alternative universe, Mr. Trump will be propelled into the role he was cast for in 2016: bag-holder for economic collapse. The global slowdown of productive activity and commerce is undermining a vast network of dubious financial obligations ruled by an overgrowth of loans that will never be paid back. Unlike New York real estate moguls, the whole world can’t just go into bankruptcy court and apply for a fresh start. The “workout” is brutal and produces epoch-defining trauma. The nation has been too preoccupied with political mud-wrestling to notice that the US debt has gone hockey-stick parabolic, racking up $814 billion just since August. Math majors may see that’s close to a trillion dollars, or 4 percent of the total $22,837 trillion, just in a few months.

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“..to strengthen the company’s governance and safety management processes,” the company said.”

Boeing Board Strips CEO Of Chairman Title Amid 737 MAX Crisis (R.)

Boeing Co’s board has stripped chief executive Dennis Muilenburg of his chairmanship title, in an unexpected strategy shift announced by the U.S. planemaker on Friday only hours after a global aviation panel criticized development of the troubled 737 MAX. Separating the roles, which will enable Muilenburg to have “maximum focus” on steering daily operations, was the latest step the board has taken in recent weeks to improve executive oversight of its engineering ranks and industrial operations. Lead Director David Calhoun, a senior managing director at Blackstone Group, will takeover as non-executive chairman, Boeing said in its announcement, which came late on Friday afternoon without warning.


It added that the board had “full confidence” in Muilenburg, who will retain the top job and remain on the board. The decision came as Boeing struggles to get its best-selling 737 MAX back into service following a worldwide safety ban in March triggered by two crashes that killed a total of 346 people in Ethiopia and Indonesia. It also comes some six months after Muilenburg survived a shareholder motion to split his chairman and CEO roles, part of the intense pressure he has faced during the worst crisis of his four years at the helm of the world’s largest planemaker. “This decision is the latest of several actions by the board of directors and Boeing senior leadership to strengthen the company’s governance and safety management processes,” the company said.

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I said last week that Paypal wouldn’t be the only one.

Facebook’s Libra Currency Abandoned By Major Financial Companies (R.)

Facebook Inc’s ambitious efforts to establish a global digital currency called Libra suffered severe setbacks on Friday, as major payment companies including Mastercard and Visa Inc quit the group behind the project. The two companies announced they would leave the association Friday afternoon, as did EBay Inc, Stripe Inc. and Latin American payments company Mercado Pago. They join PayPal Holdings Inc which exited the group a week ago, as global regulators continue to air concerns about the project. The latest exodus leaves the Libra Association without any remaining major payments companies as members, meaning it can no longer count on a global player to help consumers turn their currency into Libra and facilitate transactions.


The remaining association members, including Lyft and Vodafone, consist mainly of venture capital, telecommunications, blockchain and technology companies, as well as nonprofit groups. “Visa has decided not to join the Libra Association at this time,” the company said in a statement. “We will continue to evaluate and our ultimate decision will be determined by a number of factors, including the Association’s ability to fully satisfy all requisite regulatory expectations.” Facebook’s head of the project, former PayPal executive David Marcus, cautioned on Twitter against “reading the fate of Libra into this update,” although he acknowledged “it’s not great news in the short term.”

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Libra, Grams, who’s next?

US SEC Halts Telegram’s $1.7 Billion Digital Token Offering (R.)

U.S. authorities said on Friday they have halted a $1.7 billion unregistered digital token offering by the messaging service Telegram Group Inc and its TON Issuer subsidiary. The Securities and Exchange Commission said it had received a temporary restraining order against the two offshore entities, which the regulator said had failed to register to sell 2.9 billion digital tokens called “Grams” to initial investors globally, including 1 billion to U.S. buyers. The move marks the latest effort by the agency to crack down on the fledgling cryptocurrency industry.


The SEC has taken the position that initial coin offerings are securities offerings and therefore subject to SEC offering rules, which require firms to file registration and disclosure documents. “Our emergency action today is intended to prevent Telegram from flooding the U.S. markets with digital tokens that we allege were unlawfully sold,” Stephanie Avakian, co-director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, said in a statement.

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You’re going to wish your cities weren’t designed to make cars a necessity.

Rising Used Car Prices Help Push Poor Americans Over The Edge (R.)

For America’s working poor, an often essential ingredient for getting and keeping a job – having a car – has rarely been more costly, and millions of people are finding it impossible to keep up with payments despite prolonged economic growth and low unemployment. More than 7 million Americans are already 90 or more days behind on their car loans, according to the New York Federal Reserve, and serious delinquency rates among borrowers with the lowest credit scores have by far seen the fastest acceleration. The seeds of the problem are buried deep in the financial crisis, when in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, automakers slashed production.


A decade later, that has made a relative rarity of used 10-year-old vehicles that are typically more affordable for low-wage earners. According to data provided to Reuters by industry consultant and car shopping website Edmunds, the average price of that vintage of vehicle is $8,657, still nearly 75% higher than in 2010 despite some softening in prices over the last year. The average new car, in contrast, has seen a price rise of 25% in that same time period. “This is pinching people at the worst point possible,” said Ivan Drury, Edmunds’ senior manager of industry analysis. “If you need basic A to B transportation, you have to get an older car that needs more repairs and has more wear-and-tear issues.”

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War crimes.

Saudi Naval Blockade Sparks Fresh Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen (MPN)

Recent political developments have offered a glimmer of hope to some that the end of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen may be near. But a new report by the United Nations Development Programme shows that a recent tightening of the Saudi-led Coalition’s blockade against the country, and the fuel shortages it has sparked, not only are exacerbating Yemen’s humanitarian crisis but also are slated to make Yemen the world’s poorest country by 2022. In the nursery at the Maternity and Childhood Hospital in Amran, doctors and families alike fear that fuel shortages will lead to power cuts, plunging the ward into darkness and rendering its life-saving machines inoperable.

One mother in the ward diligently watches a heater placed near her infant, knowing that it the electricity-powered medical device stops, her child will die. Dr. Hadi Al-Hamzi, the director-general of the hospital, said that 30 infants could die if their incubators stop for just two hours. He added, “We have a severe shortage of generator fuel, and we have no prospect of getting more in the coming days.” Mohammed Mujahed, the director of Amran Governorate’s Health Office, warned that intensive care for pregnant mothers and nurseries in the province could be stopped in a matter of hours if no generator fuel is secured.


The Saudi-led Coalition has stepped up its seizure and detention of ships carrying food and fuel into Yemen and the effects of those seizures are already being felt by ordinary people. Thousands of Yemenis already facing acute food shortages could die, as stocks of stored food dwindle and cannot be replenished. Sultana Begum, a representative of the Norwegian Refugee Council humanitarian organization, told Reuters that “fuel shortages in Yemen exacerbate the already dire humanitarian situation in the country and lead to unacceptable levels of suffering.”

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“..nearly 4 million Yemenis are currently stranded abroad..”

Human, Organ Trafficking Booming in Yemen as War Enters its Fifth Year (MPN)

In addition to poverty and the absence of law enforcement, there are other reasons why human trafficking flourishes in Yemen, perhaps the most prominent being the blockade levied against the country by the Saudi Coalition since 2015. Before the war, Yemenis would regularly leave the country to seek better health care, employment opportunities and safety abroad — including, somewhat ironically, in neighboring Saudi Arabia. Now — with seaports, airports, highways and especially the once-bustling Sana`a International Airport effectively shuttered by the Saudi Coalition — Yemenis are no longer able to flee the violence in their country or travel to neighboring wealthy Gulf countries for stints of work to earn some cash, leaving many with few options but to resort to selling their organs out of desperation to make ends meet.


The blockade has also left a large number of Yemenis stranded abroad, including some students and others who have managed to find a way out in hopes of receiving medical treatment. It is estimated, according to data provided by the Sana`a International Airport Media Center, that nearly 4 million Yemenis are currently stranded abroad. Many of the stranded are left in a state of legal limbo, unable to secure citizenship in neighboring countries and therefore unable to work, leaving them with no way to earn money short of begging on the street or agreeing to sell their organs. The Yemen Organisation for Combating Human Trafficking told MintPress that many Yemenis who fled when the war broke out are now stuck abroad and that the organization has recorded as many as 300 cases of Yemenis stranded abroad selling their kidneys out of desperation.

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Emmy B on Twitter: “At Westminster Magistrates Court today we saw Julian #Assange via video link. We saw his further physical deterioration. He only said his name and DOB responding at the request of the Magistrate and remained speechless and motionless to the end. Hearing did not last more than 10’”

Julian Assange To Remain Locked Up In UK Prison (RT)

WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange has been ordered to stay in a British prison ahead of a hearing on his possible extradition to the United States, despite reaching the end of his custody period. Assange was due to be released on September 22 after serving a sentence for breaching bail conditions by seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012. The 48-year-old was told at a court hearing last month that he would be kept in Belmarsh prison because of “substantial grounds” for believing he would abscond. At a brief hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Friday, deputy senior district judge Tan Ikram said that Assange would remain in custody “for the same reasons as before.”


Assange spoke only to confirm his name and age before he was remanded in prison. He is due to appear in court in person at his next hearing on October 21. “I very much hope we can make some progress on this case,” Judge Ikram told him at the end of the five-minute hearing, Reuters reports. In the US, Assange is charged with possession and dissemination of classified information. If found guilty, he could receive up to 175 years in prison. The activist has long feared that the US would attempt to extradite him after WikiLeaks published the leaked ‘Collateral Murder’ video, which shows the US military attacking journalists and civilians in Iraq in July 2007.

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Autumn pedestrian crossing in Yekaterinburg, Russia.