Oct 252019
 
 October 25, 2019  Posted by at 9:37 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  20 Responses »


Ivan Shishkin The wilds 1881

 

Justice Dept. To Launch Criminal Investigation Into Its Own Russia Probe (Hill)
Trump Cancels All Admins’ NYT, WaPo Subscriptions (ZH)
EU Set To Put Brexit Delay On Hold After Johnson’s Ultimatum (G.)
Russian Gun Activist Maria Butina To Touch Down In Moscow Saturday (RT)
Despite Ultra-Low Mortgage Rates, New House Prices At Multi-Year Low (WS)
Vladimir Putin, Syria’s Pacifier-in-Chief (Escobar)
WikiLeaks Releases New Docs Questioning Syria Chemical Attack Narrative (ZH)
Indonesia’s Report On Lion Air 737 MAX Crash Faults Design, Certification (R.)
South Korea Grounds Nine Boeing 737 NG Planes With Cracks (R.)
Can The US Beat China In A “Trade War”? (Vltchek)
Johannesburg Shuts Down Computers City-Wide After Bitcoin Ransomware Attack (CCN)

 

 

It’s a probe of the Mueller probe. The MSM will do what they can to ridicule it, saying it’s for political reasosns only. But the Mueller probe wasn’t? At least they haven’t dared attack Durham yet, or his reputation.

Justice Dept. To Launch Criminal Investigation Into Its Own Russia Probe (Hill)

The Justice Department has reportedly opened a criminal investigation into its own Russia probe The New York Times reports. The newspaper reports that after former special counsel Robert Mueller closed the official investigation months ago, a new criminal inquiry will proceed to find out how the investigation of Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election and Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia “all began.” Attorney General William Barr has closely reviewed how the department handled the Russia investigation.

But shifting the administrative review to a criminal inquiry would allow the prosecutor presiding over the inquiry, John H. Durham, to subpoena for witness testimony and documents, people familiar with the matter told the Times. It would also enable Durham, a U.S. attorney appointed by Barr to lead the inquiry, to put together a grand jury and to file charges. When defined as an administrative review, Durham could only voluntarily interview witnesses and investigate government documents, according to the Times.

Read more …

Yes, this made me laugh.

Trump Cancels All Admins’ NYT, WaPo Subscriptions (ZH)

In what we are sure will be “hair-on-fire” screamed about as ‘tyrannical-book-burning’, President Trump has reportedly planning to instruct federal agencies to not renew their subscriptions to the New York Times and the Washington Post. As The Wall Street Journal reports, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in an email Thursday: “Not renewing subscriptions across all federal agencies will be a significant cost saving – hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars will be saved.” The decision comes days after the president cancelled the White House’s print subscriptions to the Post and the Times after expressing frustration with their coverage.


“We don’t even want it in the White House anymore,” Mr. Trump said of the Times during an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity that aired Monday night. “We’re going to probably terminate that and the Washington Post. They’re fake.” Additionally, The Journal reports that a White House official confirmed that print editions of the Times and the Post weren’t among the newspapers delivered to the White House on Thursday. And while liberals use “fact checkers” to force advertisers to boycott “right wing” websites/newspapers, President Trump’s response is even cleaner: “your subscription has been terminated.”

Read more …

Corbyn insists Boris must take No-Deal off the table.

EU Set To Put Brexit Delay On Hold After Johnson’s Ultimatum (G.)

The EU’s plan to offer the UK an extension until 31 January on Friday is expected to be put on hold after Boris Johnson threatened to pull the Brexit deal if Jeremy Corbyn rejects a general election. Sources said the dramatic developments in Westminster needed to be fully understood and the choreography in Brussels could change. Donald Tusk, the European council chairman, had been expected to announce on Friday morning, following a meeting with ambassadors, that the EU27 had accepted the delay requested in a letter reluctantly sent by Johnson last Saturday. But senior EU sources said the developments in London had left the situation in flux. An announcement is expected on Monday or Tuesday.

Suggestions that the Labour leader could reject Johnson’s demand for a general election on 12 December provoking the prime minister to pull his deal set alarm bells ringing. Sources said the French government wanted to see the outcome of the vote on a general election before making a decision, but that the other 26 member states were ready to grant the three-month extension. The final offer could differ from the extension requested in the Benn act by specifying that the UK could leave on 15 November if the deal was ratified in the UK and European parliament. Before Johnson’s ultimatum to the Labour leader, the EU looked set to offer a three-month extension, which could be cut short at the point at which the Brexit deal was ratified.

It remains the most likely outcome. “We don’t want to be dragged into British politics and this is what was requested,” said one senior EU diplomat. “They can leave earlier if they ratify the deal. To echo your prime minister, we just want Brexit done.”

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Bless her. Casualty of Russophobia.

Russian Gun Activist Maria Butina To Touch Down In Moscow Saturday (RT)

Maria Butina is finally coming back home, after spending over a year behind bars in a bizarre case of anti-Russian hysteria that saw the gun rights activist libeled in the media and locked up as “unregistered foreign agent.” She is expected to leave a federal prison in Tallahassee, Florida and would be transferred from to a migrant center in Miami on Friday, Russian ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov confirmed, saying The same day Butina would board the plane to Moscow and is set to touch down in the Russian capital on Saturday morning.


Butina was sentenced by a US federal judge for 18 months in April after pleading guilty to conspiring to act as a foreign agent without registration, Antonov said that he hopes Butina’s belated homecoming would “put an end to the most difficult period in her life,” and wished the 30-year-old reunite with her family and loved ones as soon as possible after her ordeal is over.

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A broken market. The Fed broke it.

Despite Ultra-Low Mortgage Rates, New House Prices At Multi-Year Low (WS)

The median price of new single-family houses in September fell 8.8% from a year ago to $299,400 – down 12.8% from the peak in November and December 2017 and back where the median price had first been in November 2014, according to the Commerce Department this morning: “Median price” means half of the houses sold for more, and half sold for less. The decline in the median price does not include incentives that are thrown in by homebuilders to close deals, such as free granite counter tops.

This median-price data – produced jointly by the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development – is “volatile” on a month-to-month basis. To show the longer-term trend, I added the 12-month moving average, which eliminates the monthly ups and downs. The September data point, being the average of the past 12 months, lags months behind of today’s market, but it allows for longer-term trends to become clearer. The lag of the 12-month moving average (red line) shows up in how, on the way up, median prices were mostly above the red line, and now on the way down, median prices are mostly below it:

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Let’s see what develops. Bit early to draw grand conclusions.

Vladimir Putin, Syria’s Pacifier-in-Chief (Escobar)

Russia-Turkey deal establishes ‘safe zone’ along Turkish border and there will be joint Russia-Turkey military patrols The negotiations in Sochi were long – over six hours – tense and tough. Two leaders in a room with their interpreters and several senior Turkish ministers close by if advice was needed. The stakes were immense: a road map to pacify northeast Syria, finally. The press conference afterwards was somewhat awkward – riffing on generalities. But there’s no question that in the end Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan managed the near impossible.

The Russia-Turkey deal establishes a safe zone along the Syrian-Turkish border – something Erdogan had been gunning for since 2014. There will be joint Russia-Turkey military patrols. The Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units), part of the rebranded, US-aligned Syrian Democratic Forces, will need to retreat and even disband, especially in the stretch between Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn, and they will have to abandon their much-cherished urban areas such as Kobane and Manbij. The Syrian Arab Army will be back in the whole northeast. And Syrian territorial integrity – a Putin imperative – will be preserved.

This is a Syria-Russia-Turkey win-win-win – and, inevitably, the end of a separatist-controlled Syrian Kurdistan. Significantly, Erdogan’s spokesman Fahrettin Altun stressed Syria’s “territorial integrity” and “political unity.” That kind of rhetoric from Ankara was unheard of until quite recently. Putin immediately called Syrian President Bashar al Assad to detail the key points of the memorandum of understanding. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov once again stressed Putin’s main goal – Syrian territorial integrity – and the very hard work ahead to form a Syrian Constitutional Committee for the legal path towards a still-elusive political settlement.

[..] For all the cliffhangers in Sochi, there was not a peep about an absolutely key element: who’s in control of Syria’s oilfields, especially after President Trump’s now-notorious tweet stating, “the US has secured the oil.” No one knows which oil. If he meant Syrian oil, that would be against international law. Not to mention Washington has no mandate – from the UN or anyone else – to occupy Syrian territory.

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Just as the US donates millions more to the White Helmets. OPCW should be dismantled.

WikiLeaks Releases New Docs Questioning Syria Chemical Attack Narrative (ZH)

A whistleblower with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), responsible for conducting an independent investigation into the alleged chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma on April 7, 2018, has presented WikiLeaks with a body of evidence suggesting the chemical weapons watchdog agency manipulated and suppressed evidence. A prior official OPCW report of the investigation issued last March found “reasonable grounds” for believing a toxic chemical was used against civilians, likely chlorine. Long prior to any independent investigators reaching the site, however, Washington had launched major tomahawk airstrikes against Damascus in retribution for “Assad gassing his own people”.

]WikiLeaks published documents based on evidence presented by the internal OPCW whistleblower to an expert review panel on Wednesday. “The panel was presented with evidence that casts doubt on the integrity of the OPCW,” WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnsson wrote. An official WikiLeaks press release said as follows: “Kristinn Hrafnsson took part in the panel to review the testimony and documents from the OPCW whistleblower. He says: “The panel was presented with evidence that casts doubt on the integrity of the OPCW. Although the whistleblower was not ready to step forward and/or present documents to the public, WikiLeaks believes it is now of utmost interest for the public to see everything that was collected by the Fact Finding Mission on Douma and all scientific reports written in relation to the investigation.”

“Based on the whistleblower’s extensive presentation, including internal emails, text exchanges and suppressed draft reports, we are unanimous in expressing our alarm over unacceptable practices in the investigation of the alleged chemical attack in Douma,” the experts pointed out.

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An aditional report comes out today from a US transportation board. Boeing’s reply: we’re updating the software…

Indonesia’s Report On Lion Air 737 MAX Crash Faults Design, Certification (R.)

Indonesia has called for better Boeing cockpit systems and oversight by US regulators after design flaws helped bring down a Lion Air 737 MAX jet – a crash that was compounded by errors from ground staff and crew. In its final report into the crash of the jet on Oct 29, 2018 that killed all 189 people on board, Indonesia made recommendations to Boeing, Lion Air, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other agencies. A copy was seen by Reuters and it is due to be released publicly later on Friday.


Less than five months after the Lion Air accident, an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX crashed, leading to a global grounding of the model and a growing crisis for the world’s biggest planemaker, which has just ousted the top executive of its commercial airplanes division. In the report, Indonesian regulators criticised the design of the anti-stall system known as MCAS, which automatically pushed the plane’s nose down, leaving pilots fighting for control. During the flight, the control column was in such disarray that it required 103 pounds of strength to counter the automated system. “The design and certification of the MCAS did not adequately consider the likelihood of loss of control of the aircraft,” the report said.

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It’s company wide.

South Korea Grounds Nine Boeing 737 NG Planes With Cracks (R.)

South Korea’s transport ministry on Friday said nine Boeing 737 NG planes in the country had been grounded after checks found structural cracks requiring repairs. The suspension follows an order from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration earlier this month for aircraft operators to inspect older Boeing 737 NGs for structural cracks. Boeing on Oct. 11 said inspections of 810 of the planes globally had led to 38 requiring repair. South Korea said it found nine planes with cracks among 42 planes examined. Among the nine grounded planes are five operated by Korean Air Lines, according to the transport ministry.

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It is possible to sing the praises of China too much.

Can The US Beat China In A “Trade War”? (Vltchek)

There are now many new systems, in numerous corners of the world. These systems, some Communist, others socialist or even populist, are ready to defend their citizens, and to use the natural resources to feed the people, and to educate, house and cure them. No matter how popular these systems are at home, the West finds ways to demonize them, using its well-established propaganda machinery. First, to smear them and then, if they resist, to directly liquidate them. As before, during the colonial era, no competition has been permitted. Disobedience is punishable by death.

Naturally, the Western system has not been built on excellence, hard work and creativity, only. It was constructed on fear, oppression and brutal force. For centuries, it has clearly been a monopoly. Only the toughest countries, like Russia, China, Iran, North Korea or Cuba, have managed to survive, defending they own cultures, and advancing their philosophies. To the West, China has proved to be an extremely tough adversary. With its political, economic, and social system, it has managed to construct a forward-looking, optimistic and extraordinarily productive society. Its scientific research is now second to none. Its culture is thriving. Together with its closest ally, Russia, China excels in many essential fields.

That is precisely what irks, even horrifies the West. For decades and centuries, Europe and the United States have not been ready to tolerate any major country, which would set up its own set of rules and goals. China refuses to accept the diktat from abroad. It now appears to be self-sufficient, ideologically, politically, economically and intellectually. Where it is not fully self-sufficient, it can rely on its friends and allies. Those allies are, increasingly, located outside the Western sphere.

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“The group is demanding 4 Bitcoin..”

Johannesburg Shuts Down Computers City-Wide After Bitcoin Ransomware Attack (CCN)

Hackers have breached the computer network of South Africa’s commercial capital Johannesburg in an attempt to ransom the city for Bitcoin. Consequently, the city has shut down its website and suspended all e-services as a ‘precautionary measure’. At the time of writing the city’s website was still inaccessible. Per The Times, the group behind the cyber-attack is an outfit known as Shadow Kill Hackers. The group is demanding 4 Bitcoin – nearly $30,000 at the current Bitcoin price – by the close of business on October 28. In their ransom note received by several employees of the city, Shadow Kill Hackers claimed to have obtained valuable and confidential data from the city:


“All your servers and data have been hacked. We have dozens of back doors inside your city. We have control of everything in your city. We also compromised all passwords and sensitive data such as finance and personal population information.” Failure to pay the Bitcoin ransom, the hackers have warned, will see the sensitive data released publicly. Some of the e-services that will be affected by the shutdown include online billing services. Internet-based customer care services have also been suspended. An investigation into the Bitcoin ransomware attack has already been launched and is expected to take 24 hours.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 172019
 


Salvador Dali Mme. Reese 1931

 

The circus will be coming to town a week later, but not to worry, the show will go on longer and there will be many added attractions, including a full troop of 800-pound gorillas and an entire herd of 8000-pound elephants in the room. And once the balancing acts, the clowns and the ferocious beasts pack up and move on, America might find itself without a Democratic Party, or at least one it would recognize.

The circus is the testimony of Robert Mueller before the House Judiciary (extended to 3 hours) and Intelligence Committees (2 hours). The Democrats will aim to use Mueller’s words to finally achieve their long desired impeachment of Donald Trump. But is there anyone who’s not a US Democrat who thinks that is realistic? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn’t seem to think so.

In order for the Dems to get their wish, Mueller would have to say a lot of things that are not in his report. It all appears to hang on the interpretation of his assessment that a sitting president cannot be prosecuted, which the Dems take to mean that there actually was a crime that could -or should- be prosecuted.

It’s not clear why the hearing was delayed from July 17 to 24, but don’t be surprised if it has to do with US District Judge Dabney Friedrich’s decision that Mueller must stop talking in public about a case that is in front of her, because his words might prejudice a jury. That is the case that Mueller brought in February 2018 against Internet Research Agency, Concord Management, their owner Yevgeniy Prigozhin (aka Putin’s cook), and 12 of his employees.

Mueller thought he could get away with presenting a case against them because they would not show up, but Prigozhin did hire a major law firm. Ironically, Friedrich has reportedly also decided that the lawyers cannot talk about the case to their own client(s). She hasn’t thrown out the case or anything, she’s simply told everyone including Mueller to stop discussing it in public.

 

So it’s quite possible that once the House Democrats figured this out (the decision stems from May 28 but was unsealed only on July 1), they had to change strategy. Mueller has been barred from saying a single word about it, including in the House.

In his report, Mueller tried to establish a link between the Russian firms and the Kremlin, but never proved any such link. They are accused of meddling in the 2016 election through emails and social media posts, an accusation that looks shakier by the day.

With that part of his report out of the way, what is left for him to talk about? He himself already gave up on the whole collusion narrative, which would appear to leave only obstruction. Well, there’s the Steele dossier, but with John Solomon blowing another gaping hole in it yesterday, that may not be the wisest topic to discuss on the House floor. By now, only the very faithful still believe in the dossier.

The Republicans surely don’t, and they also happen to be House members, and get to ask questions of Mueller on the 24th. The spectacle last night where Nancy Pelosi insisted on calling Trump a racist was nutty (you don’t do that in the House), but the Mueller hearings promise to be much much more nuts still.

 

In the background a second investigation is playing out: DOJ IG Michael Horowitz has been probing if DOJ or FBI officials abused their powers to spy on the Trump campaign. His report has been delayed, if reports are correct, because Christopher Steele at the very last minute agreed to testify. Those talks apparently were long and detailed. Wonder what he had to say.

And there’s a third probe too: AG Barr has tasked John Durham, the US attorney for Connecticut, to follow up on the Horowitz report and look at whether officials at the CIA, the NSA, and/or foreign intelligence agencies (think MI6), violated protocols or statutes.

That case is about whether the FISA court was misled to secure a warrant to put Trump campaign aide Carter Page under surveillance. It can also take a new look at the text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, messages that Trump tweeted about on Saturday: “This is one of the most horrible abuses of all. Those texts between gaga lovers would have told the whole story. Illegal deletion by Mueller. They gave us “the insurance policy.”

The deletion reportedly may have been accidental. But it does set the tone. The door is wide open for the Republicans to go after Mueller. And he knows it, always has. He never wanted the hearings, he said it was all in his report. But the Dems wanted more, they want Mueller to say Trump is guilty of obstruction (of a probe that perhaps should never have taken place).

Personally, I wonder whether a Republican congressman/woman will have the guts to ask Mueller why he refused to talk to Julian Assange, the most obvious person for him to talk to in the whole wide world. But since the GOP hates Assange as much as the Dems, I don’t have high hopes of that happening.

What they certainly will ask is when he knew his probe wasn’t going anywhere. And if that was perhaps as much as a whole year before he presented his report. The Dems will tear into Mueller looking for obstruction. Like: if Trump were not the president, would you sue him? Problem with that is none of this would have happened if Trump were just a citizen.

But I lean towards Ray McGovern’s take, who says that the circus may not come to town on July 24 either. Because there’s no there there (something Peter Strzok himself said about the Steele dossier), and because the Dems know this is their last shot at glory. And the GOP doesn’t mind another week or so of preparation.

Since the Democrats, the media, and Mueller himself all have strong incentive to “make the worst case appear the better” (one of the twin charges against Socrates), they need time to regroup and circle the wagons. The more so, since Mueller’s other twin charge — Russian hacking of the DNC — also has been shown, in a separate Court case, to be bereft of credible evidence. No, the incomplete, redacted, second-hand “forensics” draft that former FBI Director James Comey decided to settle for from the Democratic National Committee-hired CrowdStrike firm does not qualify as credible evidence.


Both new developments are likely to pose a strong challenge to Mueller. On the forensics, Mueller decided to settle for what his former colleague Comey decided to settle for from CrowdStrike, which was hired by the DNC despite it’s deeply flawed reputation and well known bias against Russia. In fact, the new facts — emerging, oddly, from the U.S. District Court, pose such a fundamental challenge to Mueller’s findings that no one should be surprised if Mueller’s testimony is postponed again.

And I was serious when I said before that once the Mueller hearings are done, “America might find itself without a Democratic Party, or at least one it would recognize”. Because if and when the Mueller circus fails to provide the impeachment dream (try elections!), where are they going to go, what else is there to do?

They’ve been clamoring for impeachment for collusion (big fail), for obstruction (Mueller wouldn’t have it) and now racism, but that is merely based on interpretation of tweets. Nancy Pelosi wrote about ‘women of color’, not Donald Trump.

America needs a strong Democratic party, and it certainly doesn’t have one right now. The Dems should be calling for an end to regime change wars, that is a popular theme among their voters. But they don’t, because guess where their money comes from. They are in a very deep identity crisis, and Trump just has to pick them off one by one. They should look at themselves, not at him. Do these people ever do strategy?