Jan 032020
 
 January 3, 2020  Posted by at 11:15 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  14 Responses »


Alfred Palmer New B-25 bomber at Kansas City plant of North American Aviation 1942

 

America Just Took Out The World’s No. 1 Bad Guy (CNBC)
US Strike That Killed Iranian Commander Starkly Divides US Lawmakers (CNN)
Erdogan Questions Europe As 250,000 Flee Idlib (ZH)
US Dollar as Global Reserve Currency vs Euro, Yen, Renminbi, & Others (WS)
China Cuts US Dollar Weighting In Key Index To Boost Fortunes Of Yuan (SCMP)
China’s Central Bank Frees Up $115 Billion To Support Growth (SCMP)
What the Fed Did to Calm Year-End Hissy-Fit of its Crybaby Cronies (WS)
Greece, Israel, Cyprus: Turkey’s Libya Troops Bill Dangerous Escalation (R.)
Leaders Of Greece, Israel, Cyprus Ink Deal For Pipeline (K.)
The Terrifying Rise of the Zombie State Narrative (Craig Murray)

 

 

Inevitably, the killing of Qassim Soleimani in Baghdad leads to the confirmation of US party lines’ divide. While the GOP stands behind the decision, the Dems have a hard time reconciling their own contradictions. They are a war party, if you look past Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie Sanders, but they can’t be seen to agree with Trump. So the likes of Schumer and Pelosi say that while Soleimani won’t be mourned by any American since he was a really terrible person, Trump should have asked for their permission.

The logic being that this could lead to WWIII, a theme that’s all over the internet, so much it makes one think independent thought is under threat. Be that as it may, the president needs permission to declare war, not to hit an individual. Moreover, since they agree killing the man might have been a good idea, they surely realize that he was in a spot where they could get at him, for a limited amount of time, so asking for permission would heve risked losing the opportunity. Weak.

The following two tweets are worth citing:

Nicole Alexander Fisher: “Pelosi voted for Trump’s NDAA which stripped a provison that would have prevented unauthorized war with Iran. She sided with Trump and warhawks on this, as did 188 other Democrats. 41 Dems like AOC, Ilhan Omar, Tulsi Gabbard, Ro Khanna, and Joe Kennedy voted no.”

Soleimani fought ISIS, Al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda etc., along with the US.

Sara Abdallah: “The “no. 1 bad guy” who led the counter-terrorism campaigns that defeated ISIS and Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon; the “no. 1 bad guy” who prevented a jihadist takeover of the Middle East.”

I’m still wondering how CNBC became the no. 1 warmonger for the MSM. This is some headline. As for the Dems and GOP, one would be inclined to say: pick your side. But if you look just a little bit closer, you see there is only one side.

 

America Just Took Out The World’s No. 1 Bad Guy (CNBC)

So, just who is this top Iranian general the U.S. just eliminated? For many of us who watch and analyze news out of the Middle East daily, he was the world’s number one bad guy. Qassim Soleimani has been in control of Iran’s Quds Force for more than 20 years. His current greatest hits include helping Bashar al Assad slaughter hundreds of thousands of his own people in the Syrian civil war, stoking the Houthis in Yemen’s civil war, and overseeing the killing of hundreds of Iraqi protesters recently demonstrating against Iranian influence in their country. But most importantly for Americans, Soleimani was behind the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers during the Iraq War. Last year, the U.S. State Department put the number of Americans killed by Iranian proxies in Iraq at 608 since 2003.


The killing of Soleimani doesn’t have the emotional power of the takedown of Osama bin Laden, and he wasn’t even as well-known to Americans as ISIS founder Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. But in many ways, taking him out means much more in terms of saving current lives. Remember that bin Laden and al Baghdadi were mostly out of business and in hiding at the time of their deaths. Solemani was busier than ever, directing mayhem all over the Middle East and beyond. For example, these last few days have made it clear to the whole world just how much Iran controlled just about all of Iraq and Iraq’s Shia population. It appears Solemeini not only felt justified in being the likely mastermind behind Tuesday’s attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, he also was comfortable enough to travel to Iraq personally to oversee it. But this time, he got too comfortable.

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No, it doesn’t.

US Strike That Killed Iranian Commander Starkly Divides US Lawmakers (CNN)

The US airstrike that killed Iran Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani generated starkly different reactions along party lines Thursday night, with Republicans heaping praise on President Donald Trump and Democrats expressing concerns about the legality and consequences of the attack. The Pentagon confirmed in a statement that Trump had ordered the strike, saying Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.”

[..] Some key members of Congress — such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat who is a member of the congressional Gang of Eight leaders, who are briefed on classified matters — had not been made aware of the attack ahead of time. It’s not clear how many other lawmakers had advance notice of the strike. The Pentagon added that “this strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans” and the US “will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”

[..] Democrats pushed back on Republican sentiments about the attack, stressing the potential consequences and lambasting the decision to carry out the strike without congressional authorization. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut emphasized that Soleimani “was an enemy of the United States” in a tweet before stating, “The question is this – as reports suggest, did America just assassinate, without any congressional authorization, the second most powerful person in Iran, knowingly setting off a potential massive regional war?” In a more explicit statement, Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico said, “President Trump is bringing our nation to the brink of an illegal war with Iran without any congressional approval as required under the Constitution of the United States.”

[..] On the campaign trail, Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden said “no American will mourn” Soleimani but that the strike that killed him is a “hugely escalatory move.” “President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox, and he owes the American people an explanation of the strategy and plan to keep safe our troops and embassy personnel, our people and our interests, both here at home and abroad, and our partners throughout the region and beyond,” Biden said in a statement. “I’m not privy to the intelligence and much remains unknown, but Iran will surely respond. We could be on the brink of a major conflict across the Middle East. I hope the Administration has thought through the second- and third-order consequences of the path they have chosen.”

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This situation is not likely to improve after the assassination:

Erdogan Questions Europe As 250,000 Flee Idlib (ZH)

As Russian and Syrian jets have dramatically stepped up their bombardment of jihadist-held Idlib over the past three weeks, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has again warned a massive wave of refugees is headed into Turkey, but that his country is without help and thus is seeking to prevent the new influx. “Right now, 200,000 to 250,000 migrants are moving toward our borders,” Erdogan said while addressing a conference in Ankara. “We are trying to prevent them with some measures, but it’s not easy. It’s difficult, they are humans too.” This after the UN on Monday said that of Idlib province’s some 3 million civilian population, up to 284,000 are currently on the move.


International reports commonly put the current numbers of Syrian refugees hosted by Turkey at about 3.7 million, which Erdogan has of late constantly reminded Europe of as he seeks support for foreign military intervention in places like northeast Syria and now even Libya. During his latest comments, Erdogan actually put the number of refugees across all provinces of Turkey at a whopping 5 million — which would be larger than many small countries. Crucially, during his speech on Thursday, he alluded to his prior threats to “open the gates” and allow refugees to flood into Europe, starting with Greece and other Mediterranean nations:

“Although they [the West] have more resources than we do, why don’t they accept them, why don’t they open the gates?” Erdogan asked. While also slamming Arab League member states for not acting, he answered his own question with, “We are Turkey. Alone this gives us a power and superiority that nobody has.” In late December, Erdogan reiterated prior provocative threats underscoring that “Turkey cannot handle a fresh wave of migrants from Syria, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday, warning that European countries will feel the impact of such an influx if violence in Syria’s northwest is not stopped,” as Reuters summarized of the statement.

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Remarkably stable, really.

US Dollar as Global Reserve Currency vs Euro, Yen, Renminbi, & Others (WS)

The US economy and financial system – including being able to maintain and fund the gargantuan trade deficits and fiscal deficits – has become reliant on the dollar being the dominant global reserve currency. And the IMF just released its next installment on how this status has been changing. Total foreign exchange reserves in all currencies combined declined 0.6% in the third quarter from the second quarter to $11.66 trillion, according to the IMF’s quarterly COFER data. US-dollar-denominated exchange reserves – such as Treasury securities, US corporate bonds, etc. held by foreign central banks – ticked down 0.4% to $6.51 trillion. But holdings denominated in other currencies fell faster, and the share of dollar-denominated reserves edged up to 61.8% of total exchange reserves.


The US dollar’s share of total global reserve currencies declines when central banks other than the Fed proportionately reduce their dollar-denominated assets and add assets denominated in other foreign currencies. Over the long term, the recent moves in the dollar’s share are relatively small. There have been huge moves from 1977 through 1991, when the dollar’s share plunged from 85% to 46%, and then huge moves as the share rose again to 70% by 2000:

In October 2016, the IMF included the Chinese renminbi in the currency basket of the Special Drawing Rights (SDR), and the renminbi became officially a global reserve currency. But since then, progress of the currency has been exceedingly slow, and there are no signs the RMB would dethrone the US dollar anytime soon.The creation of the euro came with a lot of hopeful rhetoric that it would reach parity with the US dollar in every way, including as global trade currency, global financing currency, and global reserve currency. [..] During the initial phase of the conversion of European currencies to the euro, the euro’s share of global reserve currencies rose and the dollar’s share fell from 71.5% in 2001 to 66.5% in 2002.

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Wait, so China is desperate for dollars, and then decides dollars are becoming less important? Yeah, we’ll all believe it.

China Cuts US Dollar Weighting In Key Index To Boost Fortunes Of Yuan (SCMP)

China’s decision to cut the weighting of the US dollar in a basket of foreign currencies used to determine the strength of the yuan will help Beijing’s long-term efforts to weaken the international dominance of the American currency, economists said. The China Foreign Exchange Trade System (CFETS), a unit of the Chinese central bank, trimmed the weighting of the US dollar on Wednesday to 21.59 per cent from 22.40 per cent in a key yuan exchange index to make it “more representative” of current trade conditions. The new version of the index will be based on 2018 trade data, rather than data from 2015, when the CFETS was first established. The move, which comes amid heightened trade tensions between China and the United States, will help Beijing’s long-term efforts to create an alternative international payments system, economists said.


“The yuan hopes to become a reserve currency, to prevent the situation where the US dollar dominates the global financial system – or the so-called hegemony of the US dollar. This is a longer-term goal … and an inevitable trend,” said Shen Jianguan, vice-president and chief economist at JD Digits, although he added that the adjustment also reflected changes to China’s trading environment. His remarks were echoed by Lu Zhengwei, chief economist at China Industrial Bank, who said the cut would give the yuan marginally more independence against the US dollar. “The yuan should live its own way – now there is too much shadow from other [currencies] hanging over it,” he said.

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The amount is symbolic.

China’s Central Bank Frees Up $115 Billion To Support Growth (SCMP)

China’s central bank has announced a move to unleash 800 billion yuan (US$115 billion) from the banking system to support the economy, sending a pro-growth message on the first day of 2020. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) will reduce the deposit reserve ratio in financial institutions by 0.5 percentage points from January 6, mainly to offer sufficient funding to the real economy, according to a notice published on the bank’s website. The announcement on Wednesday came after growth continued to weaken while China and the United States prepared to sign an interim trade deal in mid-January. The central bank said this round of funding was partially to offset cash withdrawals before the Lunar New Year, and would not change its stance on monetary policy.


From Monday, the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) for big banks will be lowered to 12.5 per cent, while the ratio for medium and small banks will be reduced to 10.5 per cent and 7 per cent respectively. In 2019, the central bank cut the RRR rate three times. “The RRR cut will help boost investor confidence and support the economy, which is gradually steadying,” said Wen Bin, an economist at Minsheng Bank in Beijing, who also expects another cut in China’s new loan prime rate this month. After 18 months of the trade war between China and the United States, the Chinese economy, the world’s second largest, is facing external and domestic headwinds, with growth slowing to 6 per cent in the third quarter, the lowest since 1992. By value of goods, China’s export growth fell 0.3 per cent between January and November 2019, while import growth was down 4.5 per cent for the same period.

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End the Fed. They lost control a decade ago.

What the Fed Did to Calm Year-End Hissy-Fit of its Crybaby Cronies (WS)

The big fear was that the repo market would blow out again at the end of 2019, as banks would be window-dressing their balance sheets by building up reserves to certain levels. In the process, they would refuse to lend to the repo market. And borrowing pressure on the other side – such as hedge funds or mortgage REITs that borrow cheaply in the repo market to fund long-term bets – would drive up repo rates. At the end of 2018, repo rates blew out, but quickly settled down without the Fed’s involvement. In September 2019, repo rates blew out again. At this point, the rattled Fed started dousing the market with hundreds of billions of dollars to calm the repo market and prevent another year-end blowout.


To do this, the Fed engaged in repo operations and also began purchasing short-term Treasury bills. This calmed the repo market, and at the end of December, repo rates didn’t blow out. But on January 1, the Fed did a huge $64 billion reverse repo, the opposite of a repo, thus draining overnight $64 billion in liquidity from the market. This astounding spike in reverse repo balances showed up on its balance sheet for the week ended January 1, released today:

In a reverse repo, the Fed sells securities and takes in cash, under an agreement to buy back those securities at a fixed price on a set date. A reverse repo drains liquidity from the market. When the reverse repo unwinds on the maturity date, as the Fed buys back those securities, it adds liquidity to the market. Reverse repos are liabilities on the Fed balance sheet. In a normal repo, the Fed buys Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities (MBS) guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or Ginnie Mae, under agreements to repurchase them at a fixed price on a specific date, such as the next day or in a longer period. This adds liquidity to the market for the duration of the repo.


When the repo matures and unwinds, the liquidity gets drained. But a new repo can roll this over. Repos are assets on the Fed’s balance sheet. Total repos on the Fed’s balance sheet on January 1 rose to $256 billion, up $48 billion from a month earlier (as of Dec 4 balance sheet):

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Erdogan is not sitting pretty.

Greece, Israel, Cyprus: Turkey’s Libya Troops Bill Dangerous Escalation (R.)

Turkey’s bill allowing troop deployment in Libya marks a dangerous escalation in the North African country’s civil war and severely threatens stability in the region, a joint statement by Greece, Israel and Cyprus said late on Thursday. “This decision constitutes a gross violation of the UNSC resolution…imposing an arms embargo in Libya and seriously undermines the international community’s efforts to find a peaceful, political solution to the Libyan conflict,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said in the statement.


Turkish parliament overwhelmingly approved a bill that allows troops to be deployed in Libya, in a move that paves the way for further military cooperation between Ankara and Tripoli but is unlikely to put boots on the ground immediately. Turkey’s move comes after Ankara and the internationally recognized government of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj signed two separate agreements in November: one on security and military cooperation and another on maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean, infuriating Greece, Israel, Egypt and Cyprus.

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The exact same countries want to cut a pipeline straight through an area claimed by Turkey. Think there’s a connection?

Leaders Of Greece, Israel, Cyprus Ink Deal For Pipeline (K.)

The intergovernmental agreement signed on Thursday by Greece, Israel and Cyprus for the construction of the EastMed pipeline sent out multiple diplomatic messages. The first of these relates to the endurance of the trilateral cooperation itself. In the 10 years since its inception, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and the prime ministers of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, confirmed that the relationship between the three countries is not circumstantial. Skepticism concerning the situation in Jerusalem after three consecutive national elections which will have been held by March is reasonable. However, it will be very difficult for any Israeli government to roll back years of planning.

The second message concerns Turkey, as the pipeline will link Israel’s reserves with Cyprus, then Crete and mainland Greece through an area that Ankara says belongs to Turkey, according to the pact it signed with Libya’s Tripoli-based government. The EastMed agreement is essentially a legal act stemming from international law as it expresses the will of three sovereign and elected governments (in contrast to that in Tripoli) to deepen their cooperation. At the same time it is a message of cooperation which leaves the door open for Ankara to take part if it decides so. However, signs Thursday were not encouraging as a pair of Turkish F-16s fighter jets made six overflights over Oinousses and the nearby island of Panagia, while the presence of the Turkish fleet around Cyprus remains emphatic.

Moreover, the Turkish Parliament decided on Thursday to approve the deployment of troops to Libya, if deemed necessary. A Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman said any project that ignores the rights of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots in the region will fail, while Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said the pipeline is an obstacle to efforts for a solution to the Cyprus problem. The third message is to countries such as Italy and Egypt. With the signing of the deal, Athens, Nicosia and Jerusalem showed they were not willing to wait for the perfect conditions to prevail before moving ahead.

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“..the western powers are now busily attacking the Iraqi Shia majority government they themselves installed, for the crime of being a Shia majority government.”

The Terrifying Rise of the Zombie State Narrative (Craig Murray)

The ruling Establishment has learnt a profound lesson from the debacle over Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction. The lesson they have learnt is not that it is wrong to attack and destroy an entire country on the basis of lies. They have not learnt that lesson despite the fact the western powers are now busily attacking the Iraqi Shia majority government they themselves installed, for the crime of being a Shia majority government. No, the lesson they have learnt is never to admit they lied, never to admit they were wrong. They see the ghost-like waxen visage of Tony Blair wandering around, stinking rich but less popular than an Epstein birthday party, and realise that being widely recognised as a lying mass murderer is not a good career choice.

[..] The security services outlet Bellingcat would publish some photos of big missiles planted in the sand. The Washington Post, Guardian, New York Times, BBC and CNN would republish and amplify these pictures and copy and paste the official statements from government spokesmen. Robert Fisk would get to the scene and interview a few eye witnesses who saw the missiles being planted, and he would be derided as a senile old has-been. Seymour Hersh and Peter Hitchens would interview whistleblowers and be shunned by their colleagues and left off the airwaves. Bloggers like myself would be derided as mad conspiracy theorists or paid Russian agents if we cast any doubt on the Bellingcat “evidence”.

Wikipedia would ruthlessly expunge any alternative narrative as being from unreliable sources. The Integrity Initiative, 77th Brigade, GCHQ and their US equivalents would be pumping out the “Iraqi WMD found” narrative all over social media. Mad Ben Nimmo of the Atlantic Council would be banning dissenting accounts all over the place in his role as Facebook Witchfinder-General.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Dec 262019
 


Lorenzo Monaco (Piero di Giovanni) Nativity 1406-10

 

House Democrats Mull Second Impeachment (ZH)
The Greatest Cover Up Of The Biggest Scandal (ZH)
Hunter Biden Owns Massive Home In Swanky Hollywood Hills (NYP)
Bloomberg And Steyer Hit $200 Million Mark In Combined Ad Spending (Pol.)
France’s ‘Unsustainable’ Pension System May Well Be Sustainable (F24)
Erdogan Says Turkey To Send Troops To Libya (R.)
Turkey Warns It May Evict US Forces From Military Bases (ZH)
Cattle Have Stopped Breeding, Koalas Die Of Thirst (SMH)
‘Merry Crisis!’: Sydney Mural Mocks PM’s Hawaiian Holiday (SBS)
How Ads Created A Global Junk Food Generation (G.)
The Soul Will Find a Way (Gray)

 

 

Will it be accepted?

House Democrats Mull Second Impeachment (ZH)

House Democrats may conduct a second impeachment of President Trump, according to lawyers for the Judiciary Committee. In a Monday court filing reported by Politico, House Counsel Douglas Letter argued that they still need testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn, which may uncover new, impeachable evidence that Trump attempted to obstruct the Russiagate investigation (of a crime he didn’t commit). “If McGahn’s testimony produces new evidence supporting the conclusion that President Trump committed impeachable offenses that are not covered by the Articles approved by the House, the Committee will proceed accordingly — including, if necessary, by considering whether to recommend new articles of impeachment,” reads Letter’s filing.

The Democrats also argue that “McGahn’s testimony is critical both to a Senate trial and to the Committee’s ongoing impeachment investigations to determine whether additional Presidential misconduct warrants further action by the Committee,” adding that McGahn’s testimony may also be relevant to future legislation which may stem from the details of Trump’s conduct. And while DOJ lawyers acknowledged in a Monday brief that the legal fight over McGahn isn’t moot, the fact that the House Judiciary Committee moved forward with impeachment on a completely different matter removes the urgency to resolve their case. “The reasons for refraining are even more compelling now that what the Committee asserted — whether rightly or wrongly — as the primary justification for its decision to sue no longer exists,” wrote lawyers for the DOJ.

The agency also argues that the Mueller impeachment investigation is over, when House lawyers and lawmakers have described it as ongoing and active, according to the report. McGahn’s participation in House impeachment proceedings was blocked by the White House, which claimed “absolute immunity” for advisers. President Trump chimed in over Twitter following the Monday court filing, quoting “Fox and Friends” host Brian Kilmeade, who said “now all of a sudden they are saying maybe we’ll go back and visit the Mueller probe, which is absolutely unbelievable, and shows they don’t care about the American public’s tone deafness…”

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Is Barr conning Turmp? I guess we can’t rule it out.

The Greatest Cover Up Of The Biggest Scandal (ZH)

[Joe diGenova] talks about former NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers, who is allegedly cooperating with Barr and Durham. What makes the Rogers issue interesting is that he was the original whistle-blower. He is not treated as such, because the media hates Trump and anyone associated with him, but Rogers was the guy who blew the whistle on the spying to the Trump people. The great puzzle thus far has been the lack of prosecutions, despite ample evidence. The FBI agents are all guilty of crimes that have been detailed in public documents and the IG reports. There is now proof that Comey perjured himself many times. Just from a public relations perspective alone, rounding up these guys and charging them with corruption seems like a no-brainer.

Almost a year into his tenure and Barr has charged no one with a crime. One obvious explanation is that Barr is running a long con on Trump and the rest of the country, on behalf of the inner party. Robert Mueller was supposed to use his investigation to hoover up all the data so it could not be made public, in addition to harassing the Trump White House. His incompetence meant Barr took over the job and is now hoovering up all the information on the various parties. That way, everyone has an excuse for not doing anything about plot. One bit of evidence in support of this is the handling of the James Wolfe issue. He was the Senate staffer caught leaking classified information to one of the prostitutes hired by the Washington Post.

Big media hires good looking young women to sleep with flunkies like Wolf in order to get access to information. Wolf was caught and charged, but instead of getting a couple years in jail, he got two months. He will come out and land into a six-figure job as a reward for being a good soldier. An alternative explanation is that what started as a straight forward political corruption case bumped into a long pattern of behavior. In the course of investigating that pattern, the trail went much further back than the 2016 election. If there is evidence of abuse going back to 2012, maybe it goes back further. It was the Bush people, after all, who pushed for the creation of secret courts and secret warrants. Maybe Dick Cheney was listening to your phone calls after all.

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A massive home in the hills for just $2.5 million?!

Hunter Biden Owns Massive Home In Swanky Hollywood Hills (NYP)

Recovering crack addict Hunter Biden owns a home in one of the swankiest neighborhoods in America, it was revealed Monday. The son of former Vice President Joe Biden shares a ZIP code in the Hollywood Hills with celebrities such as Ben Affleck, Christina Aguilera and Halle Berry, according to documents filed in Hunter’s Arkansas paternity case. The three-bedroom, three-bathroom mid-century home is valued at $2.5 million. It sits at the end of a private gated drive and includes a pool. Biden, 49, is currently expecting his fifth child with 32-year-old wife Melissa Cohen Biden. The property was sold on June 19, records show, but it’s unclear how much Biden paid for it.


One day after the sale, a former Washington, DC, stripper filed a petition for paternity and child support against Biden in Arkansas’ Independence County Circuit Court. Lunden Alexis Roberts, 28, says she gave birth to Biden’s kid, “Baby Doe,” in August 2018. [..] Hunter tied the knot with Melissa, a South African beauty, on May 28. They live in Los Angeles, according to a New Yorker profile of Biden, which said he moved there in 2018, in order to “completely disappear”. Hunter’s disappearing act could be difficult at the Hollywood Hills home — where nearly every room has walls of floor-to-ceiling glass windows.

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Is the presidency for sale? Why not, everything else is.

Bloomberg And Steyer Hit $200 Million Mark In Combined Ad Spending (Pol.)

They entered the race late, but the two billionaires seeking the Democratic nomination are making up for lost time. Together, Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg have poured nearly $200 million into television and digital advertising alone, with the former New York mayor spending an unprecedented $120 million in the roughly three weeks since he joined the presidential race. That’s more than double the combined ad spending of every single non-billionaire candidate in the Democratic field this entire year. “We’ve never seen spending like this in a presidential race,” said Jim McLaughlin, a Republican political strategist who worked as a consultant for Bloomberg’s mayoral bids in New York. “He has a limitless budget.” The question isn’t whether anyone else will come close to matching Bloomberg or Steyer’s ad spending.

Rather, it’s whether all that spending is making any difference. At present, the two remain mired in single digits in the polls. Steyer isn’t spending at the same stratospheric levels as Bloomberg, yet with $83 million in ad buys so far, he’s still far outpacing everyone other than his fellow billionaire. The next highest spender on ads is Pete Buttigieg at $19 million. Unlike Bloomberg, who is attempting to jumpstart his campaign on Super Tuesday March 3, Steyer is largely focused on the four early voting states. He has spent nearly $37 million in Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada and New Hampshire — much of it on digital ads. Since joining the race in July, he’s more than doubled the combined ad spending of Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in the early states.

[..] “We’re running out of ways to describe [the ad expenditures] at this point,” said Nick Stapleton, vice president of analytics at Ad Analytics, a television ad tracking firm. “It’s pretty difficult to make a comparison…You’re looking at one-third of Obama’s 2012 total [ad] spend through the general [election] in one month.”

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Don’t ever use pension and sustainable in the same sentence. Not if you value your credibility.

France’s ‘Unsustainable’ Pension System May Well Be Sustainable (F24)

Three weeks into a crippling transport strike that has wreaked havoc on Christmas holiday plans, the French government is struggling to persuade a sceptical public – and increasingly critical experts – that its controversial pension overhaul is as vital as it claims. Workers at rail and public transport companies have downed tools in protest at the plan to meld France’s 42 pension schemes into a single points-based one, which would see some public employees lose their right to early retirement – and likely result in benefit cuts for millions. The government has come under fire in particular over a “pivot age” of 64 for a full pension, which will effectively force millions to work beyond the official retirement age of 62.

Ministers insist the new system will be more transparent and fairer, in particular for women and low earners, and is critical to plugging a deficit they claim can only widen further. But after weeks of travel misery, which has dampened the start of the festive season, polls suggest that a majority of the French remain unconvinced by their arguments. According to an Odoxa survey released on Dec. 19, 66% continue to support the strike, while 57% blame the government for the standoff. At just under 14% of economic output, French spending on public pensions is among the highest in the world, a key component of a costly but cherished welfare state.

The government – along with many media outlets – routinely brandishes a study warning that the system will run a deficit of more than 17 billion euros ($18.74 billion), or 0.7% of GDP, by 2025 if nothing is done. However, the dire forecast is just one of several scenarios elaborated by the Conseil d’orientation des retraites (COR), an independent pension advisory committee, whose other projections paint a rosier picture. In another of COR’s forecasts, the deficit run by the pension system would actually shrink to 0.2% of GDP by 2030, or 5 billion euros – less than a third of the amount splashed out to appease Yellow Vest protesters earlier this year.

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Erdogan plays uniquely to the domestic crowd. Knowing that makes him make much more sense.

Erdogan Says Turkey To Send Troops To Libya (R.)

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that Turkey will send troops to Libya now that the north African country requested it, and he will present deployment legislation to the Turkish parliament in January. Erdogan visited Tunisia on Wednesday to discuss cooperation for a possible ceasefire in neighbouring Libya. In a speech Thursday, he said Turkey and Tunisia agreed to support Libya’s internationally recognised government of Fayez al-Serraj.

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He says big things to get on TV, and he can always walk them back and claim he won.

Turkey Warns It May Evict US Forces From Military Bases (ZH)

Despite mounting political and diplomatic pressure by the US and its NATO allies, Turkey has again balked at US attempts of intimidation and dug into its refusal to abandon a new Russian missile defense, saying it won’t bow to the threat of crippling US sanctions or trade the S-400s for an American system. “They said they would not sell Patriots unless we get rid of the S-400s. It is out of question for us to accept such a precondition,” said Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, late on Tuesday after a cabinet meeting, quoted by Bloomberg.

“An irrational anti-Turkish sentiment has prevailed in the Congress and it is not good for Turkish-American relations,” Kalin added, noting that Congress “should know that such language of threat would push Turkey exactly toward places that they don’t want it turn to.” Namely, right into the hands of Vladimir Putin, who is on even better terms with Erdogan than Trump, despite Turkey taking down a Russian fighter jet over its territory several years back. Separately, as the WSJ reported this morning, Erdogan once again warned that he would evict U.S. forces from two military bases in his country if Washington imposes new sanctions on his government, creating a bitter quandary for NATO as it seeks to cope with Ankara’s deepening ties to Russia.

In a television interview this month, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said if the U.S. punishes Turkey for its purchase of a Russian air-defense system, then, “if necessary, we may close Incirlik and Kureci,” installations where the U.S. keeps approximately 50 B61 nuclear weapons, and operates critical radar. Erdogan’s declaration elicited an anxious reaction from U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who said it raised questions about Turkey’s dedication to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization: “They have that inherent right to house or to not house NATO bases or foreign troops,” Esper said. “But again, I think this becomes an alliance matter, your commitment to the alliance, if indeed they are serious about what they are saying.” “It feels like watching a car crash in slow motion,” a Western diplomat in Turkey told the WSJ.

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Gundi Rhoades is a veterinarian, scientist, mother, beef cattle farmer and member of Veterinarians for Climate Action.

Cattle Have Stopped Breeding, Koalas Die Of Thirst (SMH)

Bulls cannot breed at Inverell. They are becoming infertile from their testicles overheating. Mares are not falling pregnant, and through the heat, piglets and calves are aborting. My work as a veterinarian has changed so much. While I would normally test bulls for fertility, or herds of cattle for pregnancy, I no longer do, because the livestock has been sold. A client’s stud stock in Inverell has reduced from 2000 breeders to zero. I once assisted farmers who have spent their lives developing breeding programs, with historic bloodlines that go back 80 years. These stud farmers are now left with a handful of breeders that they can’t bear to part with, spending thousands keeping them fed, and going broke doing it. Cattle that sold for thousands are now in the sale yards at $70 a head. Those classed as too skinny for sale are costing the farmer $130 to be destroyed.

They are all gone and it was all for nothing. The paddocks are bare, the dams dry, the grass crispy and brown. The whole region has been completely destocked and is devoid of life. For 22 years, I have been the vet in this once-thriving town in northern NSW, which, as climate change continues to fuel extreme heat, drought and bushfires, has become hell on Earth. Here, we are seeing extreme weather events like never before. The other day we had about eight centimetres of rain in 20 minutes. These downpours are like rain bombs. They are so ferocious that a farmer lost all of his fences, and all it did was silt up the dam so he had to use a machine to excavate the mud. Most farmers in my district have not a blade of grass remaining on their properties. Topsoil has been blown away by the terrible, strong winds this spring and summer.

We have experienced the hottest days that I can remember, and right now I can’t even open any windows because my eyes sting and lungs hurt from bushfire smoke. For days, I have watched as the bushland around us went up like a tinderbox. I just waited for the next day when my clinic would be flooded with evacuated dogs, cats, goats and horses in desperate need of water and food. The impact of the drought on wildlife is devastating to watch, too. Members of the public are bringing us koalas, sugar gliders, possums, galahs, cockatoos and kangaroos on a daily basis. The koalas affect me the most. To see these gorgeous, iconic animals dying from thirst is too hard to bear. We save some, but we lose just as many. The whole town is devastated. My business has halved. But with no horses to breed, no cattle to test and care for, what am I going to do?

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I still can’t take Oz politics serious.

‘Merry Crisis!’: Sydney Mural Mocks PM’s Hawaiian Holiday (SBS)

A mural of Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Hawaiian garb with flames rising all around him has appeared on an inner-Sydney wall. Artist Scott Marsh on Tuesday posted a photo of the Chippendale artwork – with Mr Morrison saying “Merry Crisis!” via a speech bubble – on Instagram. Mr Morrison is depicted in the mural wearing an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt, orange lei and Santa Claus hat while holding a cocktail. In the background, red and black flames rise high. It follows the prime minister’s decision last weekend to cut an overseas family holiday in the US state short to respond to the bushfire crisis. “Heading out to Hawaii when the country is literally on fire is probably not a really great move in terms of leadership. I think public sentiment around that is all pretty unified,” Mr Marsh told AAP on Tuesday.

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How to fight overpopulation.

How Ads Created A Global Junk Food Generation (G.)

Nepalese schoolgirl Prasiddhika Shrestha is holding up a video camera at her aunt’s house, filming her cousins as they devour crisps, corn puffs, soda and dalmoth, a traditional lentil-based snack. “What is it that you like eating most?” she asks them. “Lay’s chips and Coke,” says Diwani, who drinks between one and two litres of soft drink every day. Rihana includes a pack of Kurkure corn puffs in her daily diet. Prasiddhika is among 100 schoolchildren in seven countries asked by researchers from University College London to film themselves and the food they eat for a study about the exposure of children to unhealthy diets.

Kiran Dahal, a Nepalese schoolboy, is filming in his school’s canteen, where children are scrambling over each other to buy junk food at lunchtime. “I bought two [corn puffs], a packet of dalmoth, pakoda [fried snack], chewing gum and a packet of instant noodles,” he says, showing them to the camera one by one. Pupils Laxmi and Nima eat six packs of instant noodles between them each day. “We see Coke on TV during races and football matches. We also see instant noodles on advertisements,” they say. An unhealthy diet is a major cause of “non-communicable diseases” such as heart diseases, cancer, diabetes and strokes.

Such diseases accounted for 66% of deaths in Nepal in 2017. A report this year by the UN’s children agency, Unicef, found that 43% of Nepalese children are either stunted or overweight. “The situation regarding junk food is very worrisome in Nepal,” says Atul Upadhyay of the global health organisation Helen Keller International, who is featured in UCL’s Nepal film study, produced in collaboration with the Kathmandu-based centre for research on environment, health and population activities. “Children are eating more unhealthy food than they are eating healthy food.”

Professor Sarah Hawkes, director of UCL’s centre for gender and global health, and the lead researcher behind the project, says the footage collected by children in Nepal was similar to those filmed in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tunisia, Vietnam and the UK. “All children we worked with shared the common experience of pervasive, powerful and, it seems, often unregulated advertising and promotion,” she says. “The children’s footage vividly communicates that, once they step outside schools, they, and their parents, have very little control over what they see and experience, what is on their local high street, or what is going into the food they purchase there.”

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Can’t beat James Brown for Christmas. Good story.

The Soul Will Find a Way (Gray)

It’s hard to bury James Brown. At any moment in a day you’ll hear his voice, his name, a beat or a song. A Brown phrase crystallizes a situation like when it’s time to leave a room – “it’s too funky in here” or when it’s time to go to work or party–“you gotta get on the good foot,” or when hearing someone being deceitful or stupid– “talking loud and saying nothing.” The substance that fed Brown’s music won’t decompose. For the sake of discussion, let’s call it soul power. Soul power is a connection to the people and their experiences: good, bad and ugly. It means hearing what you feel and feeling what you hear. It’s in the call and response like a preacher to the congregation.

It can be in one person singing their story alone, like when Otis Redding sings “Sitting on the dock of the bay.” It’s putting the blue note in a plea, a wail, a moan, a holler or a shout. It’s about the process of life with all its messiness. Now, this is not about who has or doesn’t have soul. It’s about where Brown got his supply. I believe, there is something cosmically black about South Carolina. My belief arises from the fact that the vast majority of African slaves brought to the United States for life on the plantation disembarked on Sullivan’s Island– the “black Ellis Island”–just off the coast of Charleston.

Brown picked up from the vibes the Africans brought off the slave ships and taken out into the fields. He inherited what they sang about and how they sang it. Plantation slaves subversively sang “Jackass rared, Jackass pitch. Throwed ole Marsa in de ditch,” while Brown sang “you can’t tell me how to be the boy when you know I’m grown.” The Roma or black Gypsies also settled among and intermixed with the Africans in the low country region of South Carolina. Thus a context for Brown’s constantly being on the road with his itinerant band of musicians, all decked out in their ornate costumes, living free-wheeling lives.

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Dec 232019
 


Mathew Brady Three captured Confederate soldiers, Gettysburg, PA 1863

 

ECB’s Knot Says Low Rate Policy Risks Becoming Counterproductive (R.)
Doomsday Debt Machine: Impeach Congress, Too! (Stockman)
Nancy Pelosi: The Woman Who Stood Up To Trump (G.)
Adam Schiff Has ‘No Sympathy’ For FBI Victim Carter Page (ZH)
SmoCo Sneaks Home Amid The Ashes Of His Government (MB)
Why Public College Should Be Free (Covert)
London Will Never Give Independence – We Must Take It (Craig Murray)
West Africa Renames CFA Franc But Keeps It Pegged To Euro (R.)
Erdogan Says Turkey Can’t Handle New Migrant Wave From Syria, Warns Europe (R.)

 

 

Central banker who makes an excellent case against central bank interference in interest rates. But he doesn’t even get it himself, so how can a petty journalist? The idea that somehow magically conditions will (re-)appear that favor raising rates is as faulty as it is dumb. There is no way back. They’ve entered a black hole, they’ve crossed the event horizon.

ECB’s Knot Says Low Rate Policy Risks Becoming Counterproductive (R.)

Interest rates in the euro zone could remain historically low for years, but the European Central Bank’s (ECB) ultra-loose monetary policy risks becoming counterproductive, ECB governing council member Klaas Knot said in an interview published on Monday. “I do not have a crystal ball, but I cannot rule out that the current low interest rate environment could last another five years”, Knot told Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant. “This worries me, because temporarily low interest rates are something quite different from persistently low interest rates.” The Dutch central bank president said the current low rates lead to excessive risk taking among investors, while younger generations on the other hand might feel forced to keep increasing their savings.


“From a macro-economic perspective that would be undesirable,” Knot said. “And it is also an example of how our low interest rate policy may eventually shoot itself in the foot. If people start saving more in response to the low interest rates, this will add further downward pressure on inflation.” Knot is a frequent critic of the ECB’s ultra-easy monetary policy, and slammed the bank’s new stimulus measures earlier this year as disproportionate. The Dutchman has repeatedly said he is looking forward to the strategic review of ECB policy, promised by its new President Christine Lagarde, and has called for the bank to adopt a more flexible inflation target. “The balance between positive and negative effects of the low interest rates is shifting in the wrong direction”, he told the paper.

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High crimes.

Doomsday Debt Machine: Impeach Congress, Too! (Stockman)

If bringing one’s country to fiscal ruin were an impeachable offense, you’d have to impeach the entire city of Washington. On December 16 the gross Federal debt breached a new level to $23.1 trillion, while the net debt after $401 billion of cash weighed in at $22.71 trillion. The latter monstrous figure is notable because on June 30, 2019 it stood at $21.76 trillion. So what has happened in the last 167 days is a $948 billion increase in the Uncle Sam’s net debt, which amounts to a gain of $5.7 billion per day – including, as we like to say, weekends, holidays and snow days.

Worse still, not a single dollar of that gain got absorbed in government trust funds. The Treasury float held by the public actually rose by $953 billion. So why in the world do the knuckleheads on bubblevision not understand where the spiking rates and ructions in the repo market came from? The law of supply and demand is still operative, and the US Treasury is literally flooding the bond pits with new supply. Even at the bottom of the Great Recession, Uncle Sam did not drain $5.7 billion per day from the bond market.


But nary a soul down in the Imperial City has noticed this borrowing eruption at the tippy-top of the business cycle, which now teeters on borrowed time at a record 127 months of age. Instead, this very day the Congress is busily engaged in what is a fair approximation of abolishing the election process at the heart of American democracy. We will address today’s hideous impeachment Gong Show below. But here we note that every talking head showing up on the screen today is claiming that the market can keep on bubbling higher because the pending impeachment of the nation’s 45th president is a great big nothingburger. Au contraire!

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It’s not easy to even imagine, but there are people who see Pelosi as a hero. That they need to quote Leon Panetta to make that case should say enough. Still, after, Russiagate, Mueller, Ukrainegate, Pelosi refusing to send article to the Senate, this is just deaf, dumb and blind.

Nancy Pelosi: The Woman Who Stood Up To Trump (G.)

In December 2018, weeks after the Democrats’ conquest of the House, the soon-to-be speaker arrived for a White House meeting with Donald Trump. The subject was a government shutdown but the subtext was a showdown between the most powerful woman in American politics and the president of the United States. In the extraordinary, televised exchange that followed, Trump sought to undermine Nancy Pelosi, whom he repeatedly addressed as “Nancy”, by reminding his audience in the Oval Office – and those watching at home – that she had yet to secure the 218 votes needed to reclaim the speakership and was “in a situation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now”. Her response was sharp and sure. “Mr President, please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting.”

It was the first test of a new power dynamic in Washington and when it ended, there was little disagreement over who had won. Pelosi emerged from the White House wearing a now-famous burnt-orange coat, sunglasses and the triumphant smile of a woman who has never forgotten the advice imparted to her by the late Louisiana congresswoman Lindy Boggs: “Darlin’, know thy power and use it.” That 15-minute Oval Office meeting marked the beginning of a struggle between Pelosi and Trump that culminated last week in the president’s impeachment by the House of Representatives for “high crimes and misdemeanors”. Pelosi, dressed in funeral black, banged down her speaker’s gavel to finalize the vote, binding together their legacies for all time.

It was not how Pelosi, who once said Trump was “not worth” impeaching, had hoped to end a year that began with her historic, second ascension to the speakership. Pelosi, the first – and only – woman ever to serve as Speaker of the House, would rather be remembered for legislative accomplishments – the Affordable Care Act above all – than for impeachment. But Trump, Pelosi said, left her “no choice”. She quoted Thomas Paine: “The times have found us.” In the wake of Trump’s impeachment, however, Democrats believe there was perhaps no leader better suited to the times. “She is, thank God, the exact right person in the right place at the right time,” said Leon Panetta, a former defense secretary and CIA director and a California native who’s known Pelosi for decades.

“I’m not sure anybody else would have had the experience or capability to be able to do what she has done.” “Donald Trump really has met his match with Nancy,” Panetta added. Her grace under fire as speaker has earned comparisons to Sam Rayburn, the country’s longest-serving speaker, who died in 1961. One Democrat called her an “as good or better” legislative leader than Lyndon Johnson, who was a Senate majority leader before he was president. And when the question is asked whether a female presidential candidate can beat Trump in 2020, the Democrats point to Pelosi, who “does it every single day”.

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It’s OK for the FBI to break the law 6 ways from Sunday because Schiff doesn’t like the guy they spied on. And it’s not even 2020 yet.

Adam Schiff Has ‘No Sympathy’ For FBI Victim Carter Page (ZH)

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) says it’s hard to feel sympathetic for former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, despite the fact that he was spied on by the FBI after the agency fabricated evidence to obtain a surveillance warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. After the FISA court denied their request, FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith fabricated evidence to exclude the fact that Page was a CIA source, with “positive assessment,” despite the fact that the CIA informed Clinesmith of Page’s prior work for the agency. Schiff, however, has no love for Page despite DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz finding 16 significant ‘errors’ in the FBI’s FISA applications used to surveil Page.


“I have to say, you know, Carter Page came before our Committee and for hours of his testimony, denied things that we knew were true, later had to admit them during his testimony,” Schiff told PBS News’ Margaret Hoover. “It’s hard to be sympathetic to someone who isn’t honest with you when he comes and testifies under oath. It’s also hard to be sympathetic when you have someone who has admitted to being an adviser to the Kremlin.” Hoover countered, noting “But then was also informing the CIA,” to which Schiff replies “Yes, yes.” “Which we didn’t know about,” replied Hoover. “Who was both targeted by the KGB but also talking to the United States and its agencies and that should have been included, made clear, and it wasn’t, according to the inspector general,” Schiff responded.

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When is the last time Australia had an actual politician? How is the entire country not a province for US and UK bankers to loot?

SmoCo Sneaks Home Amid The Ashes Of His Government (MB)

There are moments in politics when everything that has come before is crystalised in a moment. Malcolm Turnbull branded himself a phony when he leapt into bed with the Coalition’s right wing. Tony Abbott captured himself when he recommended Prince Phillip be offered an Australian knighthood. Before him, John Howard made himself a political legend when he threw children overboard. Julia Gillard did it in her act of backstabbing. Kevin Rudd did it when he dumped climate change mitigation for Big Australia. Paul Keating branded himself forever with the “recession we had to have”. So on and so forth. These are moments when the truth about a leader’s character is revealed for all to see and branded that way forever more.

For Keating it was arrogance. For Howard it was opportunism. For Rudd it was narcissism. For Gillard it was illegitimacy. For Abbott it was archaic ineptitute. For Turnbull it was hollowness. That moment arrived last week for Scott Morrison. He will henceforth be remembered as SmoCo, the guy that fled to Hawaii – sand, sun and Mai Tais – as his nation burned to the ground. No doubt his minders will kid themselves that he can spin his way out of it. That the marketing guru will find a new angle to shift the blame elsewhere. They are wrong. The Morrsion Government is now covered in ash and forever will be. Over Christmas tables across the nation for the next week, SmoCo will be a combined laughing stock and object of incredulous anger.

SmoCo of the “quiet Australians” has become instead the incredible vanishing PM. In truth, it’s not all SmoCo’s fault. His party is really to blame. It has made destructive climate politics the centre of its value system for thirty years. It has unilaterally blockaded global action. It has embraced and defended carbon interests. It has ruined the debate with pseudo-science. It has trashed energy policy and twisted mitigation policy to such an extent that Australia now faces combined environmental and energy calamity. From day one, it has divided and conquered instead of uniting and acting.

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Another one of those discussions that cannot be avoided or ignored. Still, Sanders and Warren haven’t found the solution yet.

Why Public College Should Be Free (Covert)

Nearly all of the Democratic presidential candidates have plans to reduce the exorbitant cost of college. But there’s an emerging rift: On one side, candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have proposed making public college free for all; on the other, candidates like Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar want to make it free for only a slice of the population. The latter worry that by providing free college to everyone who wants it—including, in Buttigieg’s words, “the children of millionaires and billionaires”—too many resources will be squandered on the rich. In reality, we already subsidize college for kids from wealthy families, and those further down the income scale would benefit the most if public institutions were free.

In 2017, the most recent year for which we have data, all of the tuition and fees charged by public colleges came to $75.8 billion. That’s less than what the federal government spends to subsidize the cost of college. In the same year, the government disbursed about $160 billion in the form of student loans, grants, and tax breaks to help make higher education less of a burden on American families. Certainly the students who take advantage of those federal funds use them to go to a variety of higher education institutions, not just public colleges. But it would be more efficient to simply eliminate public college tuition than to spend all that money propping up institutions through a maze of grants and tax breaks.

Right now, the government’s money flows largely to well-off students. After student loans, the biggest chunk of student aid is delivered through the tax code; excluding loans, it makes up more than half of all aid. In 2012 the federal government gave $34 billion in tax breaks, a billion more than it spent on Pell Grants for those in financial need. And most of that money is going to the wealthiest families. In 2013, for example, families that made $100,000 or more a year captured more than half of the tuition and fees deduction as well as the exemption for dependent students.

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Murray is a proud Scot.

London Will Never Give Independence – We Must Take It (Craig Murray)

Yesterday the Scottish Government published “Scotland’s Right to Choose“, its long heralded paper on the path to a new Independence referendum. It is a document riven by a basic intellectual flaw. It sets out in detail, and with helpful annexes, that Scotland is a historic nation with the absolute and inalienable right of self-determination, and that sovereignty lies not in the Westminster parliament but with the Scottish people. It then contradicts all of this truth by affirming, at length, in detail, and entirely without reservation, that Scotland can only hold a legitimate Independence referendum if the Westminster Parliament devolves the power to do so under Section 30. Both propositions cannot be true. Scotland cannot be a nation with the right of self-determination, and at the same time require the permission of somebody else to exercise that self-determination.


I was trying to find the right words to discuss the document. One possibility was “schizophrenic”. The first half appears to be written by somebody with a fundamental belief in Scottish Independence, and contains this passage: “The United Kingdom is best understood as a voluntary association of nations, in keeping with the principles of democracy and self determination. For the place of Scotland in the United Kingdom to be based on the people of Scotland’s consent, Scotland must be able to choose whether and when it should make a decision about its future. The decision whether the time is right for the people who live in Scotland again to make a choice about their constitutional future is for the Scottish Parliament, as the democratic voice of Scotland, to make.”

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Colonialism takes many forms.

West Africa Renames CFA Franc But Keeps It Pegged To Euro (R.)

West Africa’s monetary union has agreed with France to rename its CFA franc the Eco and cut some of the financial links with Paris that have underpinned the region’s common currency since its creation soon World War Two. Under the deal, the Eco will remain pegged to the euro but the African countries in the bloc won’t have to keep 50% of their reserves in the French Treasury and there will no longer be a French representative on the currency union’s board. Critics of the CFA have long seen it as a relic from colonial times while proponents of the currency say it has provided financial stability in a sometimes turbulent region.

“This is a historic day for West Africa,” Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara said during a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in the country’s main city Abidjan. In 2017, Macron highlighted the stabilizing benefits of the CFA but said it was up to African governments to determine the future of the currency. “Yes, it’s the end of certain relics of the past. Yes it’s progress … I do not want influence through guardianship, I do not want influence through intrusion. That’s not the century that’s being built today,” said Macron. The CFA is used in 14 African countries with a combined population of about 150 million and $235 billion of gross domestic product.

However, the changes will only affect the West African form of the currency used by Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo – all former French colonies except Guinea Bissau. The six countries using the Central African CFA are Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, – all former French colonies with the exception of Equatorial Guinea. The CFA’s value relative to the French franc remained unchanged from 1948 through to 1994 when it was devalued by 50% to boost exports from the region.

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Another attack on Assad, under a different guise. We eagerly await comment from Bellingcat and the White Helmets. And what’s that smell?

Erdogan Says Turkey Can’t Handle New Refugee Wave From Syria, Warns Europe (R.)

Turkey cannot handle a fresh wave of migrants from Syria, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday, warning that European countries will feel the impact of such an influx if violence in Syria’s northwest is not stopped. Turkey currently hosts some 3.7 million Syrian refugees, the largest refugee population in the world, and fears another wave from the Idlib region, where up to 3 million Syrians live in the last significant rebel-held swathe of territory. Syrian and Russian forces have intensified their bombardment of targets in Idlib, which Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has vowed to recapture, prompting a wave of refugees toward Turkey.

Speaking at an awards ceremony in Istanbul on Sunday night, Erdogan said more than 80,000 people were currently on the move from Idlib to Turkey. “If the violence toward the people of Idlib does not stop, this number will increase even more. In that case, Turkey will not carry such a migrant burden on its own,” Erdogan said. “The negative impact of the pressure we will be subjected to will be something that all European nations, especially Greece, will also feel,” he said, adding that a repeat of the 2015 migrant crisis would become inevitable. He also said Turkey was doing everything possible to stop Russian bombardments in Idlib, adding that a Turkish delegation would go to Moscow to discuss Syria on Monday.

[..] Turkey is seeking international support for plans to settle 1 million Syrians in part of northeast Syria that its forces and their Syrian rebel allies seized from the Kurdish YPG militia in a cross-border incursion in October. Ankara has received little public backing for the proposal and has repeatedly slammed its allies for not supporting its plans. Turkey’s offensive was also met with condemnation from allies, including the United States and European countries. “We call on European countries to use their energy to stop the massacre in Idlib, rather than trying to corner Turkey for the legitimate steps it took in Syria,” Erdogan said on Sunday, referring to the three military operations Turkey has carried out in Syria.

After a global refugee forum in Geneva last week, the United Nations refugee agency said states pledged more than $3 billion to support refugees and around 50,000 resettlement places. But, Erdogan, who attended the forum, said on Sunday that sum was not enough. U.N agencies say hundreds of people have been killed in Idlib this year after attacks on residential areas. Russia and the Syrian army, which is loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, both deny allegations of indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas and say they are fighting al Qaeda-inspired Islamist militants.

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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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Oct 152019
 
 October 15, 2019  Posted by at 7:29 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Rembrandt van Rijn Self portrait with tousled hair 1629

 

If you ask me, this is brilliant, but I know you’re not asking me. Still, what I’m reading today is genius. That is, Donald Trump and his people have found a way to communicate with Vladimir Putin and his people while the entire crew that’s listening in to his talks with foreign leaders were doing something else, whatever that may be.

The overall impression of Trump’s order to redeploy an entire 50 US soldiers within Syria is that he opened the floodgates to mayhem and genocide, but perhaps that picture is not entirely accurate. Perhaps Trump did not act on some whiff of the moment instinct. Perhaps he’s not as shallow and stupid as the press makes him out to be. I know, big challenge and all, but let’s look at what actually happened.

Me, I’m sure Trump talked to Putin before he withdrew the 49 or 50 troops , just to make sure all-out disaster wouldn’t ensue. This is from Newsweek, not exactly a pro-Trump outlet:

US Cedes Syrian City To Russia In Battlefield ‘Handover’ As Turkey Tries To Take It

The U.S. was scheduled as of Monday to officially withdraw from Manbij within 24-hours, leaving the mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces behind as two rival factions—the Syrian government, backed by Russia and Iran, and the Turkey-backed Syrian insurgents opposed to it—sought to seize control of the strategic location. A senior Pentagon official told Newsweek that U.S. personnel, “having been in the area for longer, has been assisting the Russian forces to navigate through previously unsafe areas quickly.”


“It is essentially a handover,” the official said. “However, it’s a quick out, not something that will include walk-throughs, etc., everything is about making out with as much as possible of our things while destroying any sensitive equipment that cannot be moved.” Contacted by Newsweek on Monday, no reply was returned from the Pentagon before publication. Faced with a potentially imminent clash with Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies, the Syrian Democratic Forces have chosen to realign themselves with the central government and its Russian backer, a partnership that would soon be put to the test.

I don’t claim to know how the two presidents manage to communicate in the face of all the scrutiny (re: Trump’s call with Ukraine president Zelensky), but communicate they did. Or we would never have arrived at the outcome we have. Trump, I’m convinced, did not leave the Kurds to die at the hand of Erdogan. He got Putin involved. And yes, that means Russia strengthening its position in Syria.

But it also means Trump being able to fulfill his campaign promise to withdraw US troops from “endless wars”. And Russia may well be the best bet to prevent further mayhem and bloodshed in the region. See, Syria, as I’ve said a million times by now, is Russia’s only stronghold in the Middle East, and they will therefore never let go of it. Not a chance.

That is the reason why the insane US policy of regime change in Iraq, Libya, etc., was never going to work in Syria. Syria = Russia. Not because Putin is a big admirer of Assad, but because without Syria Russia is gone from the Middle East. So, zero chance. A bit more from the BBC:

Russia Vows To Prevent Turkey-Syria Clashes

Russia has said it will not allow clashes between Turkish and Syrian forces, as Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria continues. “This would simply be unacceptable… and therefore we will not allow it, of course,” said Moscow’s special envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev. The withdrawal of US troops from the region, announced last week, gave Turkey a “green light”, critics say. Russia is a key military ally of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Russia’s defence ministry said its forces, which have been deployed in Syria since 2015, were patrolling along the “line of contact” between Syrian and Turkish forces.


During a visit to the United Arab Emirates, Mr Lavrentyev described Turkey’s offensive as “unacceptable”. He said that under previous agreements Turkey can only go 5-10km (3-6 miles) into Syria – far less than the 30km “safe zone” Ankara is proposing – and that Turkey has no right to permanently deploy its troops in the country. Syria is in contact with Turkey to avoid a conflict, he said. Mr Lavrentyev also confirmed that Russia had helped to broker a deal between Kurds and Damascus that saw Kurdish-led forces cede territory to Syrian government troops in return for military support.

All the talk about Erdogan genociding the Kurds is, well, greatly exaggerated. His hands are tied. By Trump, who has warned him with a threat of obliterating his economy, and far more by Putin who simply states some things are not acceptable.

The outcome of all this is going to be that Turkey will have its safe zone on the Syrian border, just smaller than Erdogan wants. The Kurds will have their territory just behind that safe zone. Millions of Syrian refugees will be able to resettle in these two territories. It is a pretty genius solution to the whole issue. US troops, gone, Russia and Assad keeping the peace, no 3.6 million refugees coming to Europe.

And you were saying Trump is an idiot who leaves the Kurds to be slaughtered? You see, I’m never sure about anything, but I’m having to doubt that judgment. That’s not what I’m seeing.

But, you know, I am big time wondering what channels Trump and Putin have found to talk to each other. It’s not phone calls, given how the Zelensky call led to an alleged impeachment inquiry, but how have they managed to do it? Shouldn’t be all that hard, perhaps, just a friend talking to a friend under the radar. But still.

 

 

 

 

Oct 142019
 
 October 14, 2019  Posted by at 5:36 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »


Salvador Dali Self portrait (Figueres) 1921

 

 

An article from long term Automatic Earth contributor Alexander Aston, who feels very strongly about the topic.

Personally, I have many more questions left. It’s easy to say Trump abandoned the Kurds, and everybody says just that, but because they all do I ask myself if that is really what happened. It’s an ugly situation alright, but would it have been prefereable if US soldiers had stayed in Syria indefinitely?

I’m looking at France, UK, Germany, Holland, refusing to repatriate ‘their’ ISIS citizens, leaving the US -and the Kurds- to take care of them, of the conundrum, and of the consequences. There’s no question that leaving it up to Erdogan is a bad idea, but Putin has already taken over command.

Everyone but Capitol Hill agrees it’s a good idea to get the US out of Endless Wars, but they haven’t been doing anything about it for many years. And when Trump does, there are no intricate discussions, there’s only black or white and then there’s Orange Man Bad.

Should Trump have gone the Obama route and bombed the heebeejeebees out of the country? You know, rather than let Turkey do it, knowing full well that Putin would stop it anyway?

But this is Alexander’s piece, not mine, and I love him.

 

 

Alexander Aston:

“If we do not do the impossible, we shall be faced with the unthinkable.”
– Murray Bookchin

 

Like the best of his generation, my American grandfather was a die-hard antifascist. He was shot down twice over Europe and spent the last nine months as a prisoner of war. The old man was highly decorated, earning a distinguished flying cross with three oak leaf clusters, four air medals, a silver star and a purple heart. However, the only memento of the war he ever showed me as a child was the tin mug that he ate from while in prison camp.

One of the few times that I saw him cry in my life was asking him about his experiences. He said to me, “son, I don’t know what was under those bombs I dropped; I’m going to die not knowing how many people I’ve killed.” He taught me more about sacrifice and responsibility with those words and the look in his eyes than I could express in a thousand pages. He showed me more about integrity and grit with a simple tin cup than all the honours and decorations in the world.

My grandfather was not perfect, but he was a good man. If you were wrong he would fight with you all day long, and if you were right he’d stand back to back with you until the very end. He was shot down the first time over Yugoslavia having been assigned to the mission as a replacement bombardier for another crew. After making it back to Allied lines with the aid of partisans he went back to work fighting fascism with his old crew, with whom he had promised to see out the war. It was his fourth tour of duty when he was shot down the second time.

He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross when their B-24 was strafed by a BF-109, killing one of the waist gunners and severely wounding the other as well as jamming the bomb bay doors open. Unstrapping his parachute so he could make his way to the back of the plane, he stabilised the surviving gunner, manned the 50 cal. and managed to shoot down the fighter as it came in for another sweep. The old man was fearless his whole life; he even testified against the mob after being hung by his ankles over the side of a high rise in Baltimore decades later.

 

These are lessons that he taught me which I will try to embody and to live up to my entire life: always keep your word, defend those weaker than yourself, and never stop fighting for what is right no matter the opponent, no matter the odds. He would have turned ninety-seven this last Friday, and I know that if he were here to see what has been done to the Syrian Kurds, his shame and anger would be boundless. He’s not here to speak up, so I will because that is what he taught me.

The Syrian Kurds and their allies in the SDF have sacrificed life and limb to stop the spread of Daesh. They confronted head on one of the most virulent and horrific ideologies in history, of an organisation bent on genocide, enslavement and unimaginable cruelty. The Kurds managed to do this at the same time that they set up a multi-ethnic, religiously tolerant, confederated democracy with equal political representation of women. It is not a perfect system, but it’s a hell of an accomplishment given the circumstances and a damn sight better than anything else going on in the Middle East.

Whether you are on the left or the right, we should all feel shame over the betrayal and dishonour shown to those that have fought Daesh. The Kurds dismantled their defensive position at the request of the US in the expectation that the Americans would maintain the security mechanism in good faith. The United States has actively impeded attempts by the SDF to come to a rapprochement with the Syrian State.

Now, these people that fought and died fighting Islamofascism are being massacred by the Turkish army and its FSA proxies, which are largely comprised of jihadists from Daesh and Al-Nusra. All of this violence is at the behest of Erdogan and the AKP, an authoritarian ethno-nationalist party which has systematically destroyed the secular democratic institutions and economy of Turkey, not to mention that it materially aided and abetted the rise of the Islamic State.

Many people, on both the left and the right, are currently justifying the current campaign of ethnic cleansing by the Turkish state. Often this justification is couched as some sort of anti-imperialist position. It is rather simplistic and naive to think that creating a sudden power vacuum and allowing the Kurds to be destroyed is going to end American imperialism or even improve the country’s foreign policy. Rather, this decision ensures further entanglement into an endless conflict in the Middle East. The announced deployment of US troops to Saudi Arabia this week shows that there is no real intention to leave the region.

 

 

Furthermore, as a NATO member, the US supplies and maintains the vast majority of Turkey’s military hardware. Allowing Erdogan to destroy one of the few secular and stable regions in the area and reviving the Jihadi caliphate is hardly dismantling America’s imperial model. It is simply allowing the same folks to continue making money off the collective suffering of decent people everywhere.

Likewise, replacing the US with other imperialisms will only set the stage for further conflict, particularly in a region on which the global energy system is dependent. While the Americans are undeniably in Syria for their own imperial ambitions, the Kurds worked in good faith with the US out of a very reasonable desire to survive and secure their own freedom. Defending them from ethnic cleansing now is not an imperial act but basic human solidarity.

The other absurd argument bandied about is that this ethnic cleansing campaign is somehow the fault of the Syrian Kurds because they failed to side with Assad. This view is ignorant of the historical relationship between the Assad regime and the Kurds, who were systematically dispossessed and excluded from participation within Syrian society. The Syrian army abandoned Kurdish areas before the YPG and YPJ stepped into the power vacuum.

They were left to their own devices fighting Daesh for quite some time before the Americans began to support them tentatively. The destruction of their communities is not warranted because, caught between the SAA’s indifference and Turkey’s antagonism, they made a pragmatic alliance with the US, a government that was not directly oppressing them. Should they have allowed themselves to be slaughtered by Daesh in a quest for ideological purity?

The US repeatedly attempted to build its coalition with Turkey and its preferred network of jihadist rebels. The truth is that the Kurds were the most resilient, tenacious and effective forces fighting the Islamic State. The Pentagon backed them once it was clear that they were the only ones “getting the job done.” It should also be noted that this chain of events is distinct from the cynical roles played by the State Department and CIA in arming the jihadists (though this does reveal the many internal contradictions and competing power blocs within the US).

 

The reality of the situation is immensely complex with a lot of grey areas. Nonetheless, if the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria is wiped off the map, we will all live to regret it. The United States inadvertently created Daesh with its invasion of Iraq and the prisons in which it housed Baathists and Jihadists together. The catastrophe that is the contemporary Middle East is fundamentally a result of the United States’ imperial hubris and horrific foreign policy, but, as the Americans like to say, “you break it, you buy it.”

After five hard years of putting that genie back in the bottle, another strategic blunder threatens us with a resurgence of the Caliphate. Yes, the United States should leave the Middle East, but it should do so responsibly. If this lunacy is not stopped then it is only a matter of time before there are more waves of terror attacks in Europe.

The Syrian Kurds have borne the brunt of the fight against Islamofascism and made a sincere attempt at setting up a libertarian society in the heart of the Middle East. A no fly zone needs to be put in place immediately; without American F-16’s bombing their positions the SDF is perfectly capable of fighting the Turkish military in a ground war. Arms embargoes on Turkey and targeted sanctions on the leadership of the AKP, making it increasingly difficult for Turkey to carry out its ethnic cleansing campaign.

Furthermore, European countries should repatriate and try to imprison their nationals who were radicalised in their own countries before absconding to fight with Daesh in Syria instead of leaving the SDF to take care of them with their limited resources. Essentially, it is time to take some responsibility.

 

 

The American president is probably too incompetent and too narcissistic to understand what he has done. He has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and materially supported the resurgence of the Islamic State. It is the greatest historical blunder in US foreign policy since Iraq. Appeasing Erdogan will only encourage him to be more aggressive. We must boycott, divest and sanction Turkey before we find ourselves in an even more expanded conflict. Those who are willing and able to engage in non-violent direct actions outside of Northern Syria to disrupt the Turkish agenda, must do so!

In the course of writing roughly a thousand Islamic State affiliated prisoners, at least, have been freed by Turkey and its proxies. In a last ditch effort to avoid annihilation, the SDF has made a bargain with the Syrian Arab Army, with luck it will prevent the worst atrocities at present from continuing. Perhaps this will expand the conflict on international scale not yet seen. Nonetheless, the Assad regime is brutal, authoritarian and ideologically defined by a strain of Arab ethno-nationalist chauvinism.

Undoubtedly, the people of eastern Syria have given up a great deal of freedom and autonomy to avoid destruction. As the regime solidifies its control, arrests, disappearances and torturing of the political opposition are all but assured. Hopefully there is enough resilience and conviction amongst the Syrian population that they might be able to peacefully depose their leader once the war has truly ended.

What is undeniable is the American strategic position and geopolitical clout has been fundamentally shaken by its abandonment of the Kurds. I welcome the end of American empire, but make no mistake, this is not an intelligent, strategic withdrawal and deconstruction of that institution. This is a chaotic and ill-conceived implosion of the American system that will only bring suffering to her people and the rest of us.

Nonetheless, dignity demands that we try to keep our word, stand up for what is right and defend the Syrian Kurds to the best of our abilities. If we will not shoulder the burden and share in the sacrifice of those that fight for us then we do not deserve the honour of so much as a tin cup in the prisons we will have erected for ourselves.

 

Bijî Berxdewana Rojava!

 

 

Just a thought from Beau of the Fifth Column

 

 

Alexander Aston is a doctoral candidate in archaeology at the University of Oxford and is on the board of directors with the Centre for Cognitive Archaeology at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. He has prior degrees in philosophy and history. His work lays at the intersection of Cognitive Archaeology, Deep History and Natural Philosophy, examining the relationship between ecology, material culture and social cognition. Alexander grew up between Zimbabwe, Greece and the United States.

Oct 082019
 


Paul Gauguin Breton woman and goose by the water 1888

 

Trump Appears to Reverse Syria Decision (USNews)
Trump Vows To OBLITERATE Turkish Economy If It Does ‘Anything Off Limits’ (RT)
Joe, Hunter Biden Could Be Forced To Testify In Senate Impeachment Trial (WT)
A Hard Rain (Jim Kunstler)
US Federal Deficit Estimated At $984 Billion, Highest In Seven Years (Hill)
US Blacklists China Organisations Over Xinjiang ‘Uighur Abuse’ (BBC)
Court Rejects Latest Request To Force PM To Ask For Brexit Extension (G.)
Irish Border Is A Matter Of Life And Death, Not Technology (Fintan O’Toole)
Convicted Pedophile Gary Glitter To Earn Big From ‘Joker’ Movie (CNBC)
Twitter, Facebook Could Face Billions In Fines After Ireland Probes (CNBC)
Ecuadorians Revolt Against Moreno’s IMF-Imposed Neoliberal Policies (GZ)
Russian, US Visitors Targets For Spanish Firm That Spied On Assange (El Pais)

 

 

Less war? Condemnation on all sides of all aisles.

Trump Appears to Reverse Syria Decision (USNews)

A senior administration official on an organized call with reporters appeared to contradict President Donald Trump about Syria policy late Monday, refuting interpretations of his statements from earlier in the day that prompted broad outrage from supporters and opponents alike. The U.S. is not removing its forces from Syria in the face of a Turkish incursion, said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Rather, the president ordered roughly 50 special operations troops in northern Syria to relocate to a different part of the country after he learned that Turkey has planned an offensive against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria. The official said that offensive had not yet begun.

The latest assertion, however, appears to conflict with a flurry of tweets the president issued Monday, further explaining a White House statement late Sunday that first announced the withdrawal, but offered few details. “It is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” Trump wrote in one tweet. The idea of the U.S. withdrawing any of its roughly 1,000 troops still in Syria – even just from the front lines where they operate with Kurdish allies – prompted widespread outrage on Capitol Hill, including from some of the president’s staunchest allies like Sen. Lindsay Graham and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. They feared that the decision amounted to abandoning the Kurds, who have been instrumental in defeating the Islamic State group, but which Turkey has labeled as terrorists and vowed to attack.

Read more …

Pleasing Erdogan is never a good idea.

Trump Vows To OBLITERATE Turkish Economy If It Does ‘Anything Off Limits’ (RT)

In a fairly blunt warning to the NATO ally, US President Donald Trump vowed to “obliterate” the Turkish economy if he thinks it’s stepped out of line in Syria. He then told Ankara to “watch over” ISIS fighters in the US’ absence. “If Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!)” the president threatened via tweet on Monday – an odd turn of phrase for what otherwise seemed like a dire warning to a supposed ally. Trump called for Turkey to join “Europe and others” in “watch[ing] over the captured ISIS [Islamic State] fighters and families” just hours after announcing the US would finally pull out of northern Syria on Monday.


The announcement triggered howls of fury from hawks in Congress and the media, as well as sudden experts in Middle Eastern politics who cried that leaving Syria would abandon the Kurds to be torn apart by Turkey. The Pentagon “does not endorse a Turkish operation in Northern Syria,” a Pentagon statement issued on Monday clarified, stating “the US Armed Forces will not support, or be involved in any such operation.” While Turkey considers the Kurdish YPG militia an extension of the banned terrorist group PKK, the US has been arming and protecting the Kurds for years – and, as Trump pointed out in his earlier announcement, paying them “massive amounts of money and equipment.”

Read more …

Ukraine as Pandora’s box.

Joe, Hunter Biden Could Be Forced To Testify In Senate Impeachment Trial (WT)

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter could be forced to testify if the Senate ends up holding an impeachment trial of President Trump, say congressional aides who questioned whether Democrats have thought through the full implications of their impeachment drive. Not only could Mr. Biden be forced to be in D.C. at a critical moment in the presidential campaign, but so could many of his chief rivals — the half-dozen senators also vying for Democrats’ presidential nomination, impeachment experts said.


For that matter, if the House chooses to impeach Mr. Trump on charges stemming from the special counsel’s Russia investigation, aides said it could open the door to witnesses such as fired FBI Agent Peter Strzok or even major figures from the Obama administration. Mr. Trump could even be present for the entire spectacle. Experts said the Senate would have a hard time refusing him if he demanded to confront the witnesses against him.

Read more …

A lifelong liberal has had his fill.

A Hard Rain (Jim Kunstler)

A lot of readers (some of them former readers now) have been angrily twanging me by email for writing about the three-year Resistance effort to un-do the 2016 election. I did not vote for Mr. Trump (or Mrs. Clinton) but I resent the coup mounted to overthrow him. I object to the bad faith and dishonesty of the Resistance. I object to the criminal misconduct among the federal bureaucracy, and the mendacity of its partners in the news media, and the hysteria they continue to generate — at the expense of other matters that concern our future. The political disorder spooling out is the political expression of the long emergency that the nation faces as it finally encounters the limits to growth we were warned about decades ago.

The techno-industrial phase of history is ending, and we are left only with inadequate fantasies for coming to terms with it and moving forward. The dynamic relationship between affordable energy supplies and the operations of money roils at the core of this predicament. They are undoing each other and the result will be a contraction of human activity. The big question we refuse to face is how to cope with contraction. Beyond the ongoing orchestrated coup stands a reality-optional political Left consumed by serial hysterias, uninterested in truth, steeped in social despotism, and apparently willing to do anything to gain power. We should be very concerned with what they intend to do with that power.


As they attempt to redistribute wealth, they will make the unhappy discovery that the wealth itself is subject to the wholesale contraction underway. The overvalued “assets” representing “money” hoarded by the “wealthy” will turn out to be figments of a runaway debt crisis. We have already debased the operations of banking, and the tokens that banks issue — currencies and securities — levitate over an abyss. We already have plenty of evidence for what the Left will do to the principle of political liberty. Their shibboleths of “diversity” and “inclusion” really mean shutting down free speech and telling everybody how to think. They are less interested in “social justice” than in plain coercion, the pleasure they take in pushing people around. What’s worse is that they want to use government as the instrument for enforcing their will.

Read more …

Who’s counting anymore? The US will end up with only the rich and the desolate.

US Federal Deficit Estimated At $984 Billion, Highest In Seven Years (Hill)

The federal budget deficit for 2019 is estimated at $984 billion, a hefty 4.7 percent of GDP and the highest since 2012, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said on Monday. The difference between federal spending and revenue has only ever exceeded $1 trillion four times, in the period immediately following the global financial crisis. The deficit, which has grown every year since 2015, is $205 billion higher than it was in 2018, a jump of 26 percent. The CBO has warned that the nation’s debt is on an unsustainable path. Higher levels of debt increase borrowing costs, make it harder for the government to battle economic downturns and increase the share of future spending devoted to paying off interest costs.


Since President Trump took office, the GOP has passed a massive tax cut package that reduced revenue, while Democrats and Republicans have agreed to increase spending year after year. Budget watchers note that the main drivers of the deficit, however, come from automatic spending programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. “Democrats and Republicans must be held responsible for the outrageous deficit reported today by the CBO,” said Jason Pye, vice president of legislative affairs at the conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks. “This unsustainable situation is only going to get worse,” he added.

Read more …

Always fun to see the US accuse others of its own signature practices.

US Blacklists China Organisations Over Xinjiang ‘Uighur Abuse’ (BBC)

The US has blacklisted 28 Chinese organisations for their alleged involvement in abuses against ethnic Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang province. The organisations are now on the so-called Entity List, which bars them from buying products from US companies without approval from Washington. The 28 targets include both government agencies and technology companies specialising in surveillance equipment. It is not the first time the US has put Chinese groups under a trade ban. In May, the Trump administration added telecommunications giant Huawei to the Entity List because of security fears over its products.


A Commerce Department filing said the organisations are “implicated in human rights violations and abuses”. Rights groups say Beijing is severely persecuting the mostly Muslim Uighurs in detention camps. China calls these “vocational training centres” to combat extremism. The Commerce Department said in its decision on Monday that these 28 entities are implicated in “China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups.” Xinjiang province’s Public Security Bureau is on the list, along with 19 other smaller government agencies.

Read more …

But ties him down in the process. The Court also has the power to write the extension request for the PM.

Court Rejects Latest Request To Force PM To Ask For Brexit Extension (G.)

Anti-Brexit campaigners have failed in an attempt to force Boris Johnson to ask for an extension to article 50 if he is unable to get a Brexit deal through parliament. Lord Pentland, sitting in the court of session in Edinburgh, rejected their request for a court order instructing the prime minister to seek an extension if he cannot get a deal passed by the Commons this month. Pentland said he had to take at face value pledges made by the UK government on Friday that Johnson would write the letter seeking an extension on 19 October as required under the so-called Benn act. Pentland said those assurances were unequivocal.


“I approach matters on the basis that it would be destructive of one of the core principles of constitutional propriety and of the mutual trust that is the bedrock of the relationship between the court and the crown for the prime minister or the government to renege on what they have assured the court that the prime minister intends to do,” the judge ruled. [..] Anti-Brexit campaigners are expected to appeal against the decision on Tuesday, when they will ask another Scottish court to write the article 50 extension letter if Johnson fails to do so. The campaigners – Dale Vince, a green energy entrepreneur, Jolyon Maugham QC, an anti-Brexit campaigner, and Joanna Cherry QC, a Scottish National party MP – want the inner house of the court of session to use its unique nobile officium powers to act on Johnson’s behalf. Those powers allow the court of session to take action in a situation where a remedy is needed, but this case is seen as highly unusual.

Read more …

“Essentially a technical discussion of the exact nature of future customs checks.”

Irish Border Is A Matter Of Life And Death, Not Technology (Fintan O’Toole)

Spaff some money on some geeks.” According to Chris Cook’s excellent account of Theresa May’s Brexit negotiations with Brussels, that was the instruction issued to the civil service by May’s enforcer Fiona Hill in late 2016. It had finally dawned on the British government that it had committed itself to two incompatible things. One was that under no circumstances would there be a return to a hard border between the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The other was that all of the UK was going to leave the EU’s customs union. May faced exactly the same problem that her successor Boris Johnson is struggling with: you can do one or other of these things but you cannot do both. If Northern Ireland leaves the customs union, there will be border controls.

And so May tried to do what Johnson is still proposing: throw money at nerds and hope that they can somehow transform a political problem into a technical issue. The old (superbly condescending) joke was that whenever the Irish question was about to be solved, the Irish would change the question. But the British government has been trying to solve the riddle of Brexit’s Irish question not just by changing the question, but by changing the entire conceptual framework. It has to be removed from a discourse of history and geography and memory and translated into the languages of technology and managerialism. That is how Johnson sought to define the problem in his speech to the Tory party conference last week: “Essentially a technical discussion of the exact nature of future customs checks.”


Previously, of course, he suggested that crossing the Irish border was similar to going from one borough of London to another, and that any problem it creates could be solved with the same technology used to operate the city’s congestion charge. This is a way of minimising and dismissing an inconvenient truth. But it also goes to the heart of the complete failure of Johnson’s proposals for a replacement of the backstop designed to keep the border invisible. Everybody in Ireland, north and south, knows that there are many technical questions thrown up by Brexit. But nobody – not even Johnson’s DUP allies – really believes that what Brexit does to John Bull’s Other Island is a matter for a “technical discussion”. In Ireland, it’s about lives – and deaths.

Read more …

Every single sports stadium in the US has played Rock and Roll Part 2 all the time for decades. He should be filthy rich already.

Convicted Pedophile Gary Glitter To Earn Big From ‘Joker’ Movie (CNBC)

The contentious inclusion of a song by convicted pedophile Gary Glitter in “Joker” has sparked a wave of criticism from moviegoers, with many concerned the disgraced former glam rock singer will be entitled to lucrative music royalties. The R-rated comic book movie smashed box office records over the weekend, with Warner Bros. hauling in $93.5 million in the U.S. alone. That marked the highest debut for a film released in October in cinematic history. “Joker” also garnered $140.5 million internationally, bringing the film’s total ticket sales to $234 million, Warner Bros. said Sunday. But, despite the film’s opening weekend success, the makers of the movie have stoked controversy for featuring Glitter’s 1972 hit “Rock and Roll Part 2” in a lengthy scene.


The song plays for approximately two minutes as Joaquin Phoenix, who has received rave reviews for his portrayal of the eponymous villain, dances down a long flight of steps outside his Gotham City apartment. Glitter, whose real name is Paul Gadd, is reportedly expected to receive a lump sum for allowing the recording to be used in “Joker.” He is also thought to be in line for music royalties depending on the success of movie theater ticket sales, DVD sales and film soundtrack sales. The 75-year-old was jailed for a total of 16 years in 2015 for attempted rape, four counts of indecent assault and one count of having sex with a girl under 13. All six offenses were committed in the 1970s and 1980s. He was first jailed in 1999 when he admitted to possessing images of child abuse.

Read more …

Let’s see it first.

Twitter, Facebook Could Face Billions In Fines After Ireland Probes (CNBC)

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission has concluded investigations into Facebook’s WhatsApp and Twitter over possible breaches of EU data privacy rules, a spokesperson for the agency revealed to CNBC Monday. The investigations will now move into the decision-making phase, according to Graham Doyle, head of communications for Ireland’s DPC. During this next phase, Ireland’s chief data regulator, Helen Dixon, will issue draft decisions, which are expected to come toward the end of the year. These would mark Ireland’s first decisions related to U.S. multinational companies since Europe’s privacy law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect on May 2018.


In her draft decisions, Dixon will determine the penalty, if any, that either company faces for breaching data privacy rules. Companies can be fined up to 4% of global annual revenues for breaching Europe’s data privacy law called GDPR. For Facebook, that could mean a fine of more than $2 billion based on its fiscal year 2018 revenue. Because many big tech companies have their EU headquarters in Ireland, the Irish DPC supervises the firms under GDPR. Ireland’s DPC has opened more than a dozen investigations into big tech companies including Facebook, Apple, Google and Twitter.

Read more …

Delivers Assange, gets loan, turns against his people, declares state of emerrgency, flees the capital and moves it elsewhere.

Ecuadorians Revolt Against Moreno’s IMF-Imposed Neoliberal Policies (GZ)

“Se acabó la zanganería” — “The zanganería is over.” With these words, uttered on October 4, Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno proclaimed the end of a 40-year policy of fuel and petrol subsidies, which had traditionally benefited his country’s working-class population. [..] The decision to cut the government’s decades-old fuel subsidies was just one element in a package of neoliberal economic reforms presented by the Moreno government on October 1. The program was part of a bid to satisfy the demands of the IMF. This October, the reform package set off an explosion of mass protests across the nation. Moreno claimed the drastic new economic measures were necessary to reduce “wasteful” public spending and balance the government’s budget.


The most controversial measure of all has been the elimination of the petrol subsidies that had been in place since the 1970s. This removal led to a staggering 123 percent rise in the price of diesel, with similar increases in the price of other fuels. The package also introduced a 20 percent decrease in the salary of public employees, and initiated plans to privatize pensions and removed workplace security and job security safeguards. When he announced the wildly unpopular austerity package, President Lenin Moreno sensed that large protests against his government were inevitable. So he declared a national “state of emergency,” and immediately deployed both the police and the military against protesters in the capital of Quito and other areas around the country.

Read more …

The lawlessness is staggering.

“Employees of UCE Global took apart and photographed the cellphones of North American journalists who visited the founder of WikiLeaks..”

Russian, US Visitors Targets For Spanish Firm That Spied On Assange (El Pais)

David Morales, the director and owner of Undercover Global S. L., the Spanish defense and security company in charge of protecting the Ecuadorian embassy in London during Julian Assange’s long stay there, called on his team to catalogue “the Russian and American citizens” who visited the cyberactivist as a maximum priority, according to testimonies and documents to which EL PAÍS has had access. The company allegedly spied on the WikiLeaks founder for the US intelligence services, and in the wake of revelations published by this newspaper is being investigated by the Spanish High Court, the Audiencia Nacional. Morales gave written instructions to his employees in London for them to give advance warning of the priority targets from both countries.

All of the information collected about these and other visitors was sent to an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) server in Jerez de la Frontera, the headquarters of UCE Global S. L., in southern Spain. This kind of “big brother” was the place were all of the information collected was stored in an orderly fashion, including files from cellphones, profiles by nationality (Russians, North Americans, Germans, etc.), professions, and documents from attorneys, diplomats, journalists, doctors, and so on. Employees who worked for UCE Global S. L. have told this newspaper that the CIA had access to this server, and that Morales did not want to reveal the identity of “his American friends” when there were technical problems and there was a request for contact with the client.


The IP numbers registered come from the US and one of them corresponds to a company that provides security services for the FBI. A study of the reports that were created over a period of years by this company reveals that international current affairs and events surrounding the cyberactivist defined and modified the objectives of the company and its “North American clients.” [..] The monitoring of the dozens of people who visited Assange during the seven years he was in the embassy was comprehensive. But in the case of the priority targets – North Americans, Russians, attorneys and journalists – it was intensified as much as possible. Employees of UCE Global took apart and photographed the cellphones of North American journalists who visited the founder of WikiLeaks, according to testimony and graphic documents to which EL PAÍS has had access.

Read more …

 

How the top tax rate for highest incomes has changed in the US.

 

 

 

 

Oct 072019
 
 October 7, 2019  Posted by at 9:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  23 Responses »


Print your own Assange mask

 

The ‘Whistleblower’ Probably Isn’t (Taibbi)
DNC Colluded With Ukraine To Boost Hillary By Harming Trump – Report (DWire)
Bob Woodward: GOP Senators ‘Choking’ On Trump-Ukraine Scandal (WE)
In Last Minute Call, Erdogan Agrees To Meet Trump Over Syria ‘Safe Zone’ (ZH)
Arise, Commissioner Farage! (Pol.eu)
Brexit Border Talk Stirs Up Bad Memories In Northern Ireland (G.)
An Actual Conspiracy Kept Jeffrey Epstein’s Accomplices out of Prison
Chinese Farmers Raise Mutant Pigs The Size Of Polar Bears (ZH)
Lula’s Prosecutors Request His Release From Prison. He Refuses. (Greenwald)

 

 

Not even close.

The ‘Whistleblower’ Probably Isn’t (Taibbi)

Start with the initial headline, in the story the Washington Post “broke” on September 18th: “TRUMP’S COMMUNICATIONS WITH FOREIGN LEADER ARE PART OF WHISTLEBLOWER COMPLAINT THAT SPURRED STANDOFF BETWEEN SPY CHIEF AND CONGRESS, FORMER OFFICIALS SAY”. The unnamed person at the center of this story sure didn’t sound like a whistleblower. Our intelligence community wouldn’t wipe its ass with a real whistleblower. Americans who’ve blown the whistle over serious offenses by the federal government either spend the rest of their lives overseas, like Edward Snowden, end up in jail, like Chelsea Manning, get arrested and ruined financially, like former NSA official Thomas Drake, have their homes raided by FBI like disabled NSA vet William Binney, or get charged with espionage like ex-CIA exposer-of-torture John Kiriakou.


It’s an insult to all of these people, and the suffering they’ve weathered, to frame the ballcarrier in the Beltway’s latest partisan power contest as a whistleblower. I’ve met a lot of whistleblowers, in both the public and private sector. Many end up broke, living in hotels, defamed, (often) divorced, and lucky if they have any kind of job. One I knew got turned down for a waitressing job because her previous employer wouldn’t vouch for her. She had little kids. The common thread in whistleblower stories is loneliness. Typically the employer has direct control over their ability to pursue another job in their profession. Many end up reviled as traitors, thieves, and liars. They often discover after going public that their loved ones have a limited appetite for sharing the ignominy. In virtually all cases, they end up having to start over, both personally and professionally.

Read more …

When will the MSM start publishing about the “DNC-UKRAINE SCANDAL”? The Director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine was convicted in Ukraine for interfering in the U.S. presidential election in 2016…

DNC Colluded With Ukraine To Boost Hillary By Harming Trump – Report (DWire)

The Blaze has released an audio recording that they recently obtained that appears to show Artem Sytnyk, Director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, admitting that he tried to boost the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton by sabotaging then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign. The connection between the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Ukrainian government was veteran Democratic operative Alexandra Chalupa, “who had worked in the White House Office of Public Liaison during the Clinton administration” and then “went on to work as a staffer, then as a consultant, for Democratic National Committee,” Politico reported.

Chalupa was working directly with the Ukrainian embassy in the United States to raise concerns about Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and, according to Politico, she indicated that the Embassy was working “directly with reporters researching Trump, Manafort and Russia to point them in the right directions.” The Ukrainian embassy political officer who worked at the embassy at the time, Andrii Telizhenko, stated that the Ukrainians “were coordinating an investigation with the Hillary team on Paul Manafort with Alexandra Chalupa” and that “the embassy worked very closely with” Chalupa. The Blaze highlighted an email from WikiLeaks from Chalupa to Louise Miranda at the DNC:


“Hey, a lot coming down the pipe. I spoke to a delegation of 68 investigative journalists from Ukraine last night at the Library of Congress, the Open World Society forum. They put me on the program to speak specifically about Paul Manafort. I invited Michael Isikoff, who I’ve been working with for the past few weeks, and connected him to the Ukrainians. More offline tomorrow, since there was a big Trump component you and Lauren need to be aware of that will hit in the next few weeks. Something I’m working on that you should be aware of.” The Blaze then reported that Sytnyk, who eventually “was tried and convicted in Ukraine for interfering in the U.S. presidential election in 2016,” released a “black ledger” on Manafort during the 2016 presidential election that eventually led to Manafort’s downfall.

Read more …

Republicans drowning in donations.

Bob Woodward: GOP Senators ‘Choking’ On Trump-Ukraine Scandal (WE)

Veteran journalist Bob Woodward said Republican senators are “choking” on President Trump’s Ukraine scandal. At his second appearance in Spokane, Washington, in as many days, the famed Watergate sleuth discussed the precarious situation GOP lawmakers find themselves in as Trump faces controversy for encouraging foreign countries to investigate Joe Biden, a political rival, and his son Hunter. “I know Republican senators, and they are choking on this,” Woodward said on Friday, according to the Spokesman-Review. “Whether they say that’s too much, I don’t know.” Some Republicans in the upper chamber have begun to break ranks after Trump openly encouraged Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens on Thursday.

Among those who have vented publicly are Maine Sen. Susan Collins, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, as well as Texas Rep. Will Hurd in the House. Trump, who claims his overtures were about corruption and not crippling a political opponent in the 2020 election, repeatedly castigated Romney on Saturday, even calling for his impeachment. In a discussion with college students on Thursday, Woodward said the situation for Trump is getting “more serious each day” and predicted that impeachment in the House “is almost certainly going to happen to Trump.” He added, “But then there’s a trial in the Senate.”


On Friday, Woodward acknowledged that Trump encouraging foreign countries to investigate the Biden family is “probably not criminal,” but he nonetheless referred to the controversy as being wide in scope. Speaking of the House impeachment inquiry, Woodward said, “They’re looking through a keyhole, and it’s a panorama.” Woodward also noted how some Republicans in the Senate are seeing an advantage from the Democrats’ impeachment venture. He mentioned that Sen. Lindsey Graham, a former Trump critic who has become one of his most vociferous defenders, is seeing an influx of donations. Woodward said the South Carolina Republican told him he “couldn’t count the money fast enough.”

Read more …

Erdogan blames the US for not establishing the safe zone.

In Last Minute Call, Erdogan Agrees To Meet Trump Over Syria ‘Safe Zone’ (ZH)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan again threatened this weekend to initiate a military incursion into northeast Syria, where US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are based (and bolstered locally by small American bases), saying an offensive “both on land and air” would come “as soon as today or tomorrow.” Like many threats of an “imminent” invasion, it appears this proverbial can will be kicked further down the road, as presidents Trump and Erdogan held a “last minute” phone call on Sunday, where it appears the two leaders came to some level of an understanding. They discussed Turkey’s proposed “safe zone” east of the Euphrates in Syria — which Erdogan has long urged a resistant Washington to cooperate militarily on — and though exact details of the exchange weren’t published, they agreed to meet in Washington next month upon Trump’s invitation.

“Erdogan expressed Turkey’s unease with U.S. military and security bureaucracies not doing what is required by the agreement between the two countries, the presidency said, adding that the two men agreed to meet,” Reuters reported of the call. As we reported previously, Turkey’s military is reportedly on high alert, ready to carry out the Turkish president’s orders on short notice, after a longtime military build-up along the border. “We will carry out this operation both on land and air as soon as today or tomorrow,” Erdogan said on Saturday. “We gave all warnings to our interlocutors regarding the east of Euphrates and we have acted with sufficient patience,” the Turkish president added.


He further slammed the prospect of cooperating with the US on a US-Turkey administered safe zone “a fairytale” given Washington’s recalcitrance regarding Syria’s Kurds, the ethnic group’s militias of which Turkey considers “terrorists”. The Kurdish dominated and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has vowed it will treat any invading Turkish soldiers as an act of war. In a statement the SDF said it would “not hesitate to turn any unprovoked (Turkish) attack into an all-out war” to defend its region in northeast Syria, according to Reuters.

Read more …

Given what Dominic Cummings thinks of Farage, hard to see him taking up a job with much publicity.

Arise, Commissioner Farage! (Pol.eu)

London may not be planning to nominate a commissioner to Brussels but if it does, some say there’s only one option: Nigel Farage. Conservative MP Steve Baker told the Telegraph’s Chopper Brexit Podcast that the Brexit Party member of the European Parliament would be the obvious choice to be the U.K.’s European commissioner, if Brexit is delayed and the country is able to nominate one. “I think we should appoint somebody with about twenty years experience … we should appoint somebody who’s incredibly well-known throughout the institutions, somebody who can be absolutely relied upon at all times to support our exit from the European Union,” he said.


“And therefore I unashamedly back Nigel Farage to be our next European commissioner in the event, in the unfortunate event, should it transpire, though I think it unlikely, that we have to remain in.” Baker, who leads the pro-Brexit European Research Group of MPs in the U.K. parliament, said the idea would be “inspired by the film Armageddon,” referring to a 1998 science fiction movie. There is a scene where “they’re trying to save the world, and so what they do is they land on the asteroid, and they put a nuclear weapon in the heart of the asteroid, and Nigel Farage is that nuclear weapon,” Baker said. “I’ve reason to think he might say that he would accept such an offer,” Baker added, while noting that “my sympathy for Nigel Farage, which has not always been at very high levels, has dramatically increased the more that I am demonized.”

Read more …

A traumatized people. Too easily forgotten.

Brexit Border Talk Stirs Up Bad Memories In Northern Ireland (G.)

Remnants of Hurricane Lorenzo unleashed wind and rain from the Atlantic across the area, a rural pocket of County Fermanagh that marks Northern Ireland’s border with the Republic. “Stay back, stay high, stay dry,” advised the authorities, and residents duly hunkered down. Lorenzo passed without major damage. [..] Around Gortmullan, businesses and ordinary people were left wondering if – and where – to seek cover, a dilemma dating from the 2016 referendum result that now thrummed with urgency. “We’re setting up new companies on both sides of the border,” said Liam McCaffrey, CEO of Quinn Industrial Holdings, which supplies building materials.

Customs checks would be bad enough, but Johnson’s apparent plan to give the Stormont assembly a veto over trading arrangements verged on surreal, said McCaffrey. Power sharing in Northern Ireland collapsed in January 2017 and shows little sign of reviving. “The future of how we trade is to be decided every four years by an assembly that hasn’t sat in three years? Bizarre.” Such was the challenge of Storm Boris. Perhaps it was hot air, a plan destined for oblivion to be superseded by who knows what. Or perhaps it was a blast of what is to come in a no-deal crash-out, or a deal negotiated in the next few weeks or after a general election. The uncertainty was head spinning.


[..] The 310-mile border, drawn in 1922 during the partition of Ireland, bristled with military patrols and fortifications during the Troubles. The 1998 Good Friday agreement and the EU’s single market rendered it invisible, helping to seal the peace. [..] A complex web connects the economies on both sides of the border. Trade in goods is worth about £5.2bn. About a third of Northern Ireland’s goods and services exports are sold to the Republic, while about a quarter of its imports come from the south. Downing Street says electronic paperwork and a “very small number” of physical inspections at traders’ premises would limit disruption. Farmers and business leaders dispute that. Some warn of disaster. Diageo, which makes Guinness and Baileys, estimates a hard border could cost it £1.3m, based on an estimate of an hour’s delay for each of the 18,000 beer trucks that traverse the border each year. Smaller businesses with tight margins could face ruin.

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How could this ever happen? “The parties anticipate that this agreement will not be made part of any public record. If the United States receives a Freedom of Information Act request or any compulsory process commanding the disclosure of the agreement, it will provide notice to Epstein before making that disclosure.”

An Actual Conspiracy Kept Jeffrey Epstein’s Accomplices out of Prison (MJ)

But not limited to: It was just a four-word phrase, a bit of plain contractual verbiage, but even now, more than a decade later, Spencer Kuvin has a hard time expressing just how bizarre it was. “It’s incredibly odd language,” said Kuvin, an attorney in Florida. “I’ve never seen it before in a non-prosecution agreement.” Kuvin and I were talking about the infamous and inexplicable 2007 plea deal offered by then–US Attorney Alexander Acosta, last seen slinking out of the Labor Department’s back door. Kuvin had represented three of Epstein’s victims at the time of the agreement, and Kuvin is still exercised about the deal, in particular its brief immunity clause that continues to protect Epstein’s co-conspirators.

According to a ruling by US District Judge Kenneth Marra in February 2019, “from between about 1999 and 2007, Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused more than 30 minor girls…at his mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, and elsewhere in the United States and overseas.” The ruling goes on to describe a child sex ring: “In addition to his own sexual abuse of the victims, Epstein directed other persons to abuse the girls sexually. Epstein used paid employees to find and bring minor girls to him. Epstein worked in concert with others to obtain minors not only for his own sexual gratification, but also for the sexual gratification of others.”

But back in 2007, Epstein was charged only with procuring an underage girl for prostitution, having struck an unbelievable sweetheart deal with Acosta. Epstein served 13 months in a Palm Beach County jail, of which six days a week were spent on work release in his high-rise office, a limo chauffeuring him to and from jail. He was also required to register as a sex offender. The deal on its face is incredibly favorable to Epstein. If you look closer, things get even better for him:


“The United States also agrees that it will not institute any criminal charges against any potential co-conspirators of Epstein, including but not limited to Sarah Kellen, Adriana Ross, Lesley Groff, or Nadia Marcinkova.” The four women named had allegedly helped recruit underage girls for Epstein at his direction. But that four-word phrase “but not limited to” gave a free pass to anybody who would have helped Epstein acquire or traffic underage girls for sex. How could the government agree to immunize “any potential co-conspirators” of an alleged serial child rapist? The question is at the center of so many conspiracy theories surrounding Epstein’s life and death.

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Me when I see this, I’m thinking Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell.

Chinese Farmers Raise Mutant Pigs The Size Of Polar Bears (ZH)

Amid one of the worst food crises in recent memory, Chinese farmers are reportedly trying to breed larger pigs as the African swine fever – less affectionately known as ‘pig ebola’ – has destroyed over 100 million pigs, between one-third and a half of China’s supply of pigs by various estimates, causing pork prices to explode to levels never seen before. As Beijing scrambles to make up for the lost domestic supply with imports, even desperately waiving tariffs on American pork products in what China’s politicians tried to sell to their population (and Washington) as a “gesture of goodwill”, farmers in southern China have raised a pig that’s as heavy as a polar bear.

Once slaughtered, these giant mutant pigs can fetch a, well, giant price on the market. Here’s more from Bloomberg: “The 500 kilogram, or 1,102 pound, animal is part of a herd that’s being bred to become giant swine. At slaughter, some of the pigs can sell for more than 10,000 yuan ($1,399), over three times higher than the average monthly disposable income in Nanning, the capital of Guangxi province where Pang Cong, the farm’s owner, lives.” Soaring pork prices have encouraged small and large farms to experiment with DIY genetic experimentation, in the name of raising pigs that are about 40% heavier than the ‘normal’ weight of 125 kilos.

“High pork prices in the northeastern province of Jilin is prompting farmers to raise pigs to reach an average weight of 175 kilograms to 200 kilograms, higher than the normal weight of 125 kilograms. They want to raise them “as big as possible,” said Zhao Hailin, a hog farmer in the region.”

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The entire case is falling to bits.

Lula’s Prosecutors Request His Release From Prison. He Refuses. (Greenwald)

The same Brazilian prosecutors who for years exhibited a single-minded fixation on jailing former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva are now seeking his release from prison, requesting that a court allow him to serve the remainder of his 11-year sentence for corruption at home. But Lula — who believes the request is motivated by fear that prosecutorial and judicial improprieties in his case, which were revealed by The Intercept, will lead to the nullification of his conviction — is opposing these efforts, insisting that he will not leave prison until he receives full exoneration. In seeking his release, Lula’s prosecutors are almost certainly not motivated by humanitarian concerns. Quite the contrary: Those prosecutors have often displayed a near-pathological hatred for the two-term former president.

Last month, The Intercept, jointly with its reporting partner UOL, published previously secret Telegram messages in which the Operation Car Wash prosecutors responsible for prosecuting Lula cruelly mocked the tragic death of his 7-year-old grandson from meningitis earlier this year, as well as the 2017 death of his wife of 43 years from a stroke at the age of 66. One of the prosecutors who participated publicly apologized, but none of the others have. Far more likely is that the prosecutors are motivated by desperation to salvage their legacy after a series of defeats suffered by their once-untouchable, widely revered Car Wash investigation, ever since The Intercept, on June 9, began publishing reports based on a massive archive of secret chats between the prosecutors and Sergio Moro, the judge who oversaw most of the convictions, including Lula’s, and who now serves as President Jair Bolsonaro’s Minister of Justice and Public Security.


The prosecutors’ cynical gambit, it appears, is that the country’s Supreme Court — which two weeks ago nullified one of Moro’s anti-corruption convictions for the first time on the ground that he violated core rights of defendants — will feel less pressure to nullify Moro’s guilty verdict in Lula’s case if the ex-president is comfortably at home in São Paulo (albeit under house arrest) rather than lingering in a Curitiba prison. But this strategy ran into a massive roadblock when Lula demanded that he not be released from prison unless and until he is fully exonerated.

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Aug 072019
 
 August 7, 2019  Posted by at 9:15 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Portrait of Dora with bun 1937

 

The Future Of Britain Is In The Hands Of Unelected Svengali Cummings (Oborne)
No-Deal Brexiteers Are Winning Because They Want It More (Sky)
UK Too Desperate To Secure US Trade Deal – Larry Summers (G.)
Brexit: Michael Gove Accuses ‘Wrong And Sad’ EU Of Intransigence (G.)
Met Police Examine Vladimir Putin’s Role In Salisbury Attack (G.)
China State Banks Seen Supporting Yuan In Forwards Market (R.)
Forget China, The Fed Has A Much Bigger Problem On Its Hands (ZH)
Papua New Guinea Asks China To Refinance Its National Debt (G.)
Chinese Port Plans Put Pacific Back In Play (R.)
Pentagon Set to Prevent “Unacceptable” Turkish Invasion Of Northern Syria (ZH)
The Mainstream Media Wants the Mifsud Story to Just Go Away (ET)
Epstein’s Mysterious Manhattan Apartment Building On East 66th Street (BI)

 

 

Conservative journalist/editor Peter Oborne says the exact same thing I said a few days ago in A Tale of Two Cummings. Boris Johnson is just a figurehead.

Nigel Farage is complaining that the Tories want him and his Brexit party to step aside, but that’s Cummings and his polls that show Farage is too unpopular.

The Future Of Britain Is In The Hands Of Unelected Svengali Cummings (Oborne)

Cummings is no longer in the shadows, operating behind the scenes — this Svengali is out in the open. Indeed, he seems to relish being seen in public, striding ostentatiously into Downing Street every morning. Now, we are all familiar with his shaven head, scruffy T-shirts, crumpled appearance and contemptuous and appraising eyes, his newspapers and bundles of documents carried in a Vote Leave bag. According to some papers, and many ministers and civil servants I have spoken to recently, this is the man who is truly running Britain. It’s Cummings who oversees the No 10 grid which controls the timing of announcements and public events. It’s in this capacity that he dispatches the PM up and down Britain, photographed in hospitals, sharing selfies with nurses, and on construction sites wearing a hard hat.


It is also Cummings, not Johnson, who determines political strategy — hence the huge public spending announcements on health, extra police and other issues. Indeed, it looks very much as if Johnson has become the public face of Cummings. And this, I am afraid, is profoundly disturbing. No one ever voted for Cummings, he has little experience of life outside politicking yet he has been given unprecedented power at a moment of immense crisis in the national fortunes. Within hours of Johnson becoming Tory leader two weeks ago, newly anointed special adviser Cummings called ‘his’ staff together in the magnificent Downing Street first-floor state room. He told them that he plans to deliver Brexit ‘by any means necessary’.

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Quoting Michael Jordan: “Some people want it to happen. Some wish it to happen. Others make it happen.”

No-Deal Brexiteers Are Winning Because They Want It More (Sky)

Consider this: we now have a prime minister and a government, buttressed by a not inconsiderable rump of the Conservative party, who have made it clear that there is not a convention they are not willing to break, an institution they are not willing to smash, a precedent they are not willing to burn, in the pursuit of their goal. The PM and his coterie have said that they would prorogue parliament because it might stand in their way; that they are willing to schedule an election far in excess of the usual time limits because it would ensure our exit on the 31 October. In so doing they would therefore go against yet more precedent in pursuing a highly tendentious policy during an election period (where normally a caretaker administration would do little of controversy).


And now, we have news that the prime minister would squat in Number 10 after he loses a confidence vote in the House of Commons. He is even willing to do so, apparently, if the Commons coalesces around an alternative prime minister, despite the fact the Cabinet Manual (the closest we have to a constitution) makes it clear that this is quite unacceptable and that it would risk the neutrality of the Queen. All of this would be constitutional vandalism. Brexit then, “whatever the cost”, as Dominic Cummings has said. It is a nihilistic vision of politics and indeed, a most unusual one for self-described “Conservatives” but it is, relentless and clear-sighted. Indeed, its recklessness has imbued this administration with a strange purpose and energy.

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Larry craves attention.

UK Too Desperate To Secure US Trade Deal – Larry Summers (G.)

The former US treasury secretary Larry Summers has said he does not believe that a “desperate” UK would manage to secure a post-Brexit trade deal with Washington, as Dominic Raab, the new foreign secretary, heads to the US to scope out the potential for such an agreement. Summers, who was a senior official under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, said the UK was in a weak position when it came to negotiating with trade partners. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday: “Britain has no leverage, Britain is desperate … it needs an agreement very soon. When you have a desperate partner, that’s when you strike the hardest bargain.”


Despite warm words from Donald Trump about a trade deal, Summers said: “We have economic conflict with China and, even on top of that, the deterioration of the pound is going to further complicate the negotiating picture. “We will see it as giving Britain an artificial comparative advantage and make us think about the need to retaliate against Britain, not to welcome Britain with new trade agreements.” Even if the two countries could come to an agreement, Summers said, the UK was in a weak negotiating position. “Britain has much less to give than Europe as a whole did, therefore less reason for the United States to make concessions,” he said. “You make more concessions dealing with a wealthy man than you do dealing with a poor man.”

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The UK says the EU doesn’t want to talk, and vice versa. The demand to take the backstop out is a perfect dealbreaker. It can only lead to a no-deal Brexit. Re: Cummings.

Brexit: Michael Gove Accuses ‘Wrong And Sad’ EU Of Intransigence (G.)

Michael Gove has accused the European Union of intransigence over Brexit talks, calling it “wrong and sad”, as divisions between the UK and Brussels became further entrenched with the government seemingly intent on a no-deal departure. Gove, who is in charge of no-deal preparations, reiterated Boris Johnson’s position that the only route to progress would be the EU starting again with withdrawal negotiations, something Brussels has repeatedly and consistently ruled out. Adding to the impression of Johnson’s hardening position, newly released government read-outs of the prime minister’s phone calls with a series of EU leaders over recent days showed he delivered the same uncompromising message to them.

While the Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, insisted on Tuesday that a no-deal departure was not inevitable, both he and the country’s finance minister, Paschal Donohoe, warned of a significant and long-term change to relations between the countries if it did happen. Downing Street has increasingly pushed the message that Brexit will happen on 31 October under any circumstances – even intimating that No 10 believes the mandate of the 2016 Brexit referendum would overrule even a blocking vote in parliament.

There is increasing worry among some MPs that Johnson could try to force through a no-deal Brexit against the will of the Commons, with his de facto chief of staff, Dominic Cummings, reportedly threatening No 10 staff with the sack if they dissent. The government’s official position is still that it is seeking a formalised departure, albeit only if Brussels ditches the Irish backstop border insurance policy and reopens the withdrawal agreement.

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And of course Britain is anxious to keep the Skripal narrative going. In reality, all it would take is to present the man.

Met Police Examine Vladimir Putin’s Role In Salisbury Attack (G.)

Scotland Yard has examined the role of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in the novichok nerve agent attack in Salisbury, it has been revealed. Putin is assessed by UK intelligence agencies as having been “likely” to have approved of the attack in March 2018 on Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military officer, and his daughter, both of whom were left seriously ill but survived. Dawn Sturgess later died after coming across a discarded perfume bottle used by two Russian intelligence agents to carry the military grade nerve agent. Two Russian agents have been charged over the attack, and Britain wants them extradited and has issued a European arrest warrant (EAW) and Interpol red notice for their detention.


The Metropolitan police assistant commissioner Neil Basu, the head of UK counter-terrorism policing, said the investigation into the attack was continuing. Basu said the issues involved in bringing charges over the attack were complex. “You’d have to prove he [Putin] was directly involved,” he said. “In order to get an EAW, you have to have a case capable of being charged in this country. We haven’t got a case capable of being charged. “We’re police officers, so we have to go for evidence. There has been a huge amount of speculation about who is responsible, who gave the orders, all based on people’s expert knowledge of Russia. I have to go with evidence.”

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“The movement in forward points may reflect a tightening in USD (dollar) liquidity..”

China State Banks Seen Supporting Yuan In Forwards Market (R.)

China’s state banks have been active in the onshore yuan forwards market this week, using swaps to tighten dollar supply and support the Chinese currency, four sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. The spot value of the yuan has fallen sharply this week against the dollar as tensions between China and the United States escalated and prompted fears that their trade war could shift into a currency war. The sources said banks had conducted significant amounts of buy-sell swaps in the onshore market on Tuesday. Buy-sell swaps help to reduce the supply of dollars that the market can access to short-sell the yuan. “Yesterday big banks were all selling one-year onshore forward swaps, then in the afternoon the spot dollar-yuan fell,” said a trader at a foreign bank in Shanghai.


One state bank also was seen active in offshore forward swaps, two traders at foreign banks with knowledge of the matter said. On Wednesday, one-year onshore dollar-yuan forwards were at 175 points, down from 321 points on Monday, according to Refinitiv data. One-year offshore dollar-yuan forwards were at 459 points, down from 640 points on Monday. “The movement in forward points may reflect a tightening in USD (dollar) liquidity when some market participants need to buy spot dollars and sell them back in forwards. Meanwhile, the spot and outright moves were also partly due to a stabilization in RMB (yuan) sentiment on Tuesday,” said Frances Cheung, head of macro strategy for Asia at Westpac in Singapore.

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Liquidity.

Forget China, The Fed Has A Much Bigger Problem On Its Hands (ZH)

The Fed may have launched its first easing cycle since 2007 and liquidity-sapping quantitative tightening may finally be over, but Powell may have a much bigger problem on his hands – one which has nothing to do with China, and everything to do with a dramatic drain of liquidity in the market over the next two months.

We first hinted at this last week when we noted that as part of the recently completed debt ceiling deal, instead of taking its time in replenishing the cash balance (green line in the chart below), the US Treasury will scramble to rebuild its cash balance up to $350 billion, from today’s level of $133 billion (gray line), a process which as we said last Wednesday will “significantly tighten up liquidity in the banking system and potentially result in turmoil in funding and money markets as the world is flooded with an issuance of T-Bills” as the Treasury seeks to fill the $217 billion cash hole, which will lead to a substantial liquidity withdrawal from the broader financial system as shown in the following Nordea chart.

The problem, in a nutshell, is that traditionally such a rapid liquidity withdrawal leads to weaker risk appetite, a far stronger USD and lower treasury yields, while widening the LIBOR/OIS spread and further depressing the already negative EURUSD cross-currency basis. While we cautioned about all this last week (even before the FOMC announcement), it appears that our appreciation of just how severe this problem may be for the Fed and capital markets was overly optimistic, because according to a new analysis by Bank of America’s Mark Cabana, the Fed may have no choice but to resume Quantitative Easing and start expanding its balance sheet again – potentially as early as 4Q – in order to ease funding pressures expected during the coming wave of Treasury supply.

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Debt denominated in dollars by any chance?

Papua New Guinea Asks China To Refinance Its National Debt (G.)

Papua New Guinea has asked China to refinance its entire government debt in a blow to Australia’s attempts to counter China’s influence in the region. The request marks a “significant shift” in regional politics and PNG’s allegiances, according to Pacific experts. Australia has traditionally been the largest aid donor and most important ally of PNG, but in recent years ties between China and PNG have strengthened. PNG’s prime minister, James Marape, visited Australia two weeks ago at the invitation of his counterpart, Scott Morrison, in his first international visit since becoming the Pacific nation’s leader at the end of May.

In a speech during his visit, Marape said he wanted PNG to move away from an “aid-donor” relationship with Australia within 10 years, and step up alongside its neighbour as a leader in the Pacific region. However, on Tuesday, after a meeting with Xue Bing, the Chinese ambassador in Port Moresby, Marape requested that China refinance its debts of A$11.8bn (27bn kina, or US$7.95bn). PNG’s debt sits at around 32.8% of its GDP. “[The prime minister] requested the ambassador to inform Beijing on a bid to assist the government of PNG refinance its existing country’s K27bn debt,” said Marape’s office in a statement seen by the Guardian.

“He suggested that both the Bank of PNG and [China’s] People’s Bank will take the lead with the department of treasury in ensuring that consultations are under way,” the statement continued. “It suggest a significant shift in the relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea and Papua New Guinea and China,” says Matthew Clarke, professor of international development at Deakin University. “In the past Australia would have been the natural country to turn to for this sort of refinancing, but now we see China’s place in the region shift and it becomes potentially a much more dominant player in the donor relationship.”

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“The United States, and allies including Japan, Australia and New Zealand, are actively expanding their diplomatic postings in the Pacific to counter China’s influence..”

Chinese Port Plans Put Pacific Back In Play (R.)

Early in the morning, before sunrise, low tide on the Samoan island of Savai’i reveals the remnants of an old American airstrip, washed away by decades of erosion, cyclones and tsunamis. The World War II site in Asau, which also hosts a 1960s-era concrete wharf in its well-protected natural harbor, is being considered for a new port to be developed by China, according to the Samoan government and the area’s highest ranking chief, Masoe Serota Tufaga. The proposed construction of a facility that could be turned into a military asset in hostile times has worried the United States and its regional allies, which have dominated international influence in the vast waters of the South Pacific since 1945.

Sitting at his coconut and cocoa plantation on the hills above the port site, Tufaga told Reuters he would abide by any government deal for a Chinese-developed port even though he was concerned about Beijing’s growing influence. “The government and China came here to look at it – they offered it,” said 71-year-old Tufaga, who has the final say over land-use agreements affecting Asau. “If China wants to operate this, it’s too hard for us to say to the government, no, we can not allow China here. The people are looking for some jobs. “That’s right – it’s money. It’s money.”

The United States, and allies including Japan, Australia and New Zealand, are actively expanding their diplomatic postings in the Pacific to counter China’s influence, and warning island nations that Beijing-funded projects needed to make financial sense. China is using “predatory economics” to destabilize the Indo-Pacific and the United States is working with its partners to address the region’s pressing security needs, U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper said in Sydney on Sunday.

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Erdogan bluff. I hope.

Pentagon Set to Prevent “Unacceptable” Turkish Invasion Of Northern Syria (ZH)

Turkey has for days been poised to unilaterally invade northern Syria over US objections, which Ankara officials say is to establish a 32 kilometer (20 mile) zone inside the war torn country, giving Turkey complete control of a region where the Syrian Kurdish YPG operates (People’s Protection Units). Turkey has long considered the US-backed group, which forms the core of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), to be a terrorist extension of the outlawed PKK. The Pentagon has condemned the impending Turkish unilateral move, with US Defense Secretary Mark Esper telling reporters early Tuesday that it would be unacceptable and thwarted by Washington, though it’s unclear how far the Pentagon would be willing to go.

“What we’re going to do is prevent unilateral incursions that would upset, again, these mutual interests that the United States, Turkey and the SDF share with regard to northern Syria,” Esper said. Crucially, according to ABC News, US officials “have made clear that an invasion is an extremely risky venture that could threaten the safety of U.S. forces working with the SDF…”. On Sunday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his forces would launch an operation in Syria east of the Euphrates River at an unspecified start date, and noted that the US and Russia had been notified. In ongoing negotiations this summer the US and Turkey have clashed over just such a “safe zone,” given Turkey wants the area completely clear of Kurdish armed groups, which the Pentagon simultaneously backs.

Turkish defense officials have lately threatened their “patience is limited” as the army builds up its forces along the border. The Foreign Ministry on Friday warned, “We won’t let this process be dragged out. If our expectations aren’t met, we are fully capable of taking whatever measures [are needed] to ensure our national security.”

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If Mifsud is an FBI asset, there are zero Russians left in the story.

The Mainstream Media Wants the Mifsud Story to Just Go Away (ET)

John Solomon of The Hill is reporting that an audiotape containing professor Joseph Mifsud’s deposition has been given to both U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigators and to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I can report absolutely that the Durham investigators have now obtained an audiotape deposition of Joseph Mifsud, where he describes his work, why he targeted George Papadopoulos, who directed him to do that, what directions he was given, and why he set that entire process of introducing Papadopoulos to Russia in motion in March of 2016, which is really the flashpoint the starting point of this whole Russia collusion narrative,” Solomon told Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

“I can also confirm that the Senate Judiciary Committee has also obtained the same deposition,” he said. Mifsud, who I have written about extensively in previous columns, is the key that turns the lock to the lid of this Pandora’s box that we refer to as “Spygate.” So I’m wondering why Solomon appears to be the only mainstream reporter pursuing this Mifsud story. I suspect it’s because many DNC Media outlets, after having fallen deeply and passionately in love with the Trump-Russia collusion hoax, are reluctant to call attention to something that would be the final nail in its coffin. The last thing the mainstream media wants right now would be for Mifsud to go on the record with both Durham’s investigative team and with Congress to say he was working for the FBI and was only pretending to be a Russian agent.

If Mifsud was an FBI asset sent to entrap Papadopoulos, then there are no real Russian agents anywhere in this entire Trump-Russia collusion story. Ponder what that means for a minute. You can’t save the Russian collusion narrative, if you can’t find any real Russians anywhere in the story. The FBI under James Comey will then be seen as having engaged in an operation to entrap people, and “Russian agents” turn out to be fakes working for the FBI and who were making fake offers of Russian help to the Trump campaign.

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But nobody knew a thing.

Epstein’s Mysterious Manhattan Apartment Building On East 66th Street (BI)

Before his extended stay in New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center began in July, disgraced sex offender Jeffrey Epstein dwelled in some of the city’s most exclusive real estate, laying his head in a palatial Upper East Side townhouse and conducting his mysterious business out of a landmarked mansion on Madison Avenue. But it hasn’t been all private islands and 7,000-acre ranches for the half-billionaire. For decades Epstein has run some of his operations quietly out of a squat Second Avenue residential building owned by his brother, Mark Epstein, and frequently visited by the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. According to property records and court filings, Jeffrey Epstein has long housed girlfriends, associates, employees, and businesses in a handful of units at 301 East 66th St.

There are 200 units at the address, and the majority of them are owned on paper by his brother’s development firm, Ossa Properties. While Ossa nominally owns the units connected to Jeffrey Epstein, the aforementioned records and filings show that Epstein effectively controls them. The postwar white-brick high-rise sits atop a nail salon, a coffee shop, and an Italian restaurant along a traffic-choked stretch of Second Avenue. Topped by a green canopy, the front door opens to a doorman guarding a hallway that leads to a light-filled lobby decorated with two couches and an armchair. Though the building shares a ZIP code with Epstein’s townhouse, its share of the neighborhood east of Park Avenue is less upscale, catering more to families and young professionals than foreign heads of state.

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Mar 282019
 
 March 28, 2019  Posted by at 9:45 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Self portrait 1907

 

UK MPs Vote Down All Alternative Brexit Options (G.)
Speaker Issues Fresh Warning Over Third Vote On May’s Brexit Deal (G.)
May Vows To Resign Before Next Phase Of Brexit If Deal Is Passed (G.)
DUP Vows To Block May’s Brexit Deal After She Offers To Resign (Ind.)
Turkey Is Unraveling Fast (Colombo)
Erdogan’s Big Turkish Ambitions Could Come Tumbling Down (BBC)
MEPs Approved Controversial ‘Meme Ban’ EU Copyright Law By Accident (Ind.)
Rachel Maddow Sheds 500,000 Viewers In Post-Mueller Slump (RT)
Deutsche Bank Seeking a “Guarantee of Existence” with Monster-Merger? (WS)
‘Why Not Give Israel North & South Carolina?’ Syrian Envoy Asks US At UN (RT)
‘Leave Syria First’: Moscow Reacts To Trump’s Demand To Leave Venezuela (RT)
Monsanto Ordered To Pay $80 Million In Damages To Cancer Victim (G.)
‘Doomsday Vault’ Town Warming Quicker Than Any Other On Earth (Ind.)

 

 

They can’t agree on anything. But they will keep trying, until they find something that can be accepted, by a narrow margin. And that narrow margin will be used to push through Brexit, which was voted for by narrow margin. A recipe for disaster. This can only end well if they put it off and talk first.

UK MPs Vote Down All Alternative Brexit Options (G.)

A first attempt by MPs to find a consensus route forward for Brexit has ended in deadlock and confusion after the Commons rejected every option put forward, albeit with a near-even split on the idea of joining a customs union. Oliver Letwin, the veteran Conservative MP who led the process which allowed backbenchers to seize control of the order paper to hold a series of indicative votes, said the results were “disappointing” but he hoped a new round of votes would be held on Monday. The Speaker, John Bercow, said he would allow this to take place, prompting shouts of protests from many MPs. The Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, said the results strengthened the government’s view that Theresa May’s Brexit deal was the best and only way forward.


On the lack of a majority for any of the eight alternatives put to the vote on Wednesday, he said: “It demonstrates that there is not easy option here, that there is no easy way forward.” Groups of MPs had suggested 15 ideas, of which eight were selected by Bercow for votes. The closest result was a commitment for the government to negotiate a “permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union with the EU” in any Brexit deal. Put forward by the pro-EU Tory veteran Ken Clarke and others, it was voted down by 272 votes to 264. The only other relatively close vote was on a plan drawn up by the Labour MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson, and tabled by the former foreign secretary Margaret Beckett, to require a referendum to confirm any Brexit deal. This was lost by 268 votes to 295.

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But everything hangs on that vote.

Speaker Issues Fresh Warning Over Third Vote On May’s Brexit Deal (G.)

Theresa May’s hopes of putting her Brexit deal to a third meaningful vote have hit another obstacle after John Bercow said parliamentary procedures could not be used to present it unchanged, even as more senior Eurosceptics seem to be getting behind the agreement. Amid speculation the prime minister is making a private pact to set a date to stand down when the deal goes through, more than 20 Conservative Eurosceptics have publicly suggested they will change their minds because they do not want a softer Brexit. Even if this many MPs in the European Research Group (ERG) switched, the vote would be extremely tight, but there was mounting speculation the government could table it on Thursday or Friday. This plan, however, could be scuppered after the Speaker told ministers he stood by his ruling that the twice-defeated motion could not be put to MPs again without significant change.


Bercow said he had instructed officials to block any attempts to put forward the same or similar plan using procedural rule changes, for example, by using a vote by MPs to instruct the Commons to overlook the rule behind his block. “I understand that the government may be thinking of bringing meaningful vote three before the house either tomorrow or even on Friday, if the house opts to sit that day,” Bercow told the Commons before the start of a debate on indicative votes on Brexit. “Therefore, in order that there should be no misunderstanding, I wish to make clear that I do expect the government to meet the test of change. They should not seek to circumvent my ruling by means of tabling either a notwithstanding motion or a tabling motion.

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Is it too late to say she’s too late?

May Vows To Resign Before Next Phase Of Brexit If Deal Is Passed (G.)

Theresa May has played her final desperate card to tame the Brexit rebels in her warring party, by promising to sacrifice her premiership if they back her twice-rejected Brexit deal. The beleaguered prime minister, whose authority has been shattered by the double rejection of her deal and the humiliation of a delay to Brexit day, made the offer to Tory backbenchers at a packed meeting in parliament. It came as MPs held backbench-led “indicative votes” on eight alternative Brexit options, including no deal, a referendum, a customs union and a Norway-style deal – none of which secured a majority.


May told her party’s backbench 1922 Committee: “I have heard very clearly the mood of the parliamentary party. I know there is a desire for a new approach – and new leadership – in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations, and I won’t stand in the way of that.” She added: “I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party.” [..] The prime minister had hoped to remain in No 10 after exit day, and build a legacy that extended beyond the humiliations of the Brexit talks to domestic policy. But if the withdrawal agreement is passed and Britain leaves the EU in eight weeks’ time, she could now be gone before the summer – after just three years in the top job.

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The fringe group she needed after her terrible election outcome now keeps her from pushing through her deal. Poetic justice?

DUP Vows To Block May’s Brexit Deal After She Offers To Resign (Ind.)

Theresa May’s plan to secure Tory MPs’ backing for her Brexit deal by promising to resign has been blown apart after her DUP partners in government vowed to block it in a new vote. Ms May announced she will resign within weeks if Tory rebels desperate to see the back of her, allow the Brexit deal she struck with Brussels to pass through the House of Commons. The move did see Boris Johnson and other rebels finally fall into line, but within hours the boost was wiped out when DUP leader Arlene Foster branded the prime minister’s Brexit plan an “unacceptable threat” to the UK’s integrity.


With the success of Ms May’s final gambit now heavily in doubt, MPs held a series of votes to determine if any compromise can be found to break the parliamentary deadlock – but none of the eight options tested gained a majority. Earlier in the day cabinet ministers went on the airwaves to show support after Ms May’s pledge and to urge MPs to get behind her Brexit deal, but several will now ramp up preparations for a leadership contest with the PM looking fatally weakened. Several Conservatives told The Independent that with her Brexit plan on its last legs and parliament having so far failed to find an alternative, a new election now appears a very real possibility.

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Erdogan is in full scale war with financial markets, even going up against JP Morgan. The classic failure of fighting against the shorts, which is like fighting windmills. But he thinks he has a right to be god in his own country.

Turkey Is Unraveling Fast (Colombo)

This week, Turkey further roiled markets by preventing foreign banks from accessing the liras they need to close out their swap positions. That’s made it almost impossible for bankers to short the lira or exit carry trades, and forced the overnight lira rate up to about 1,000 percent from 23 percent.

Turkey’s shocking intervention this week – which sought to punish speculators who were betting against the lira – is more confirmation that the country’s financial and economic situation is spiraling out of control. The primary reason for this turmoil is the bursting of Turkey’s 15 year old credit bubble. To summarize, a credit bubble formed in Turkey starting in the early-2000s, which led to an artificial economic boom. Private sector credit grew from roughly 15% of GDP in 2003 to 70% of GDP in 2016. Surging interest rates are now bursting the credit bubble and putting an end to the artificial economic boom.


Unfortunately, Turkey’s situation is only going to get worse – a 15 year-old credit bubble doesn’t resolve in a mere six months. This week’s currency intervention will only serve to scare away foreign investors, which will contribute to the downward spiral. Turkey is just one of many emerging economies that have experienced credit bubbles in the past decade due to the stimulative actions of global central banks. Bubbles – including the one in Turkey – have caused global debt to explode by $150 trillion in 15 years and $70 trillion in 10 years. Even if you do not invest directly in Turkey, you are still likely exposed to contagion risk – welcome to the downside of globalization.

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Yup. Biggest airport in the world.

Erdogan’s Big Turkish Ambitions Could Come Tumbling Down (BBC)

The crater is the size of a football pitch, dug 50 metres (165ft) deep into the earth. Mounds of rock line the surface. The only life here is the seagulls drinking from pools of stagnant water. It was supposed to be the site of Istanbul’s gleaming new development: a grandiose mix of apartments, malls and spas in the district of Fikirtepe. The promotional video from 2010 showed a symbol of Turkey’s newfound wealth. The houses of at least 15,000 people were demolished to make way for it. Many paid deposits to buy into the project. But as financial problems hit, investors pulled out – and most of the planned buildings never materialised. All that’s left is a gaping hole of bankrupt companies and broken promises.

It is symptomatic of a wider economic slump that poses the gravest threat to Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his 16 years in power. Polls before this weekend’s local elections suggest his governing AK Party could lose control of the capital, Ankara – and perhaps even Istanbul. Over the past 16 years, Mr Erdogan has championed construction as the engine of Turkey’s growth. His so-called “mega projects” – from airports to bridges to tunnels – have transformed the country’s infrastructure. And high-rise housing developments have changed city skylines, often to the horror of architects. Construction moguls close to the president have won state tenders through political support. The industry is mired in claims of corruption and cronyism.

But with inflation now at 20% and the Turkish lira having plunged by around a third, the cost of importing raw materials and servicing foreign loans has soared – and construction companies are failing. Pana Yapi, the conglomerate running the Fikirtepe project, told the BBC “the whole country is going through an economic crisis”, arguing that it too is a victim. Cranes suspended in mid-air and half-built skyscrapers that now dot Istanbul are a sign of that crisis. Turkey entered recession last year, shrinking 3% in the final quarter. Many fear there is worse to come. “Turkey is heavily dependent on foreign-denominated debt and when that’s harder to service, that’s when you see the problems we’re in”, said Can Selcuki, general manager at Istanbul Economics Research.

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The EU will split itself off the global internet because representatives didn’t understand procedures, and can’t correct their mistakes.

MEPs Approved Controversial ‘Meme Ban’ EU Copyright Law By Accident (Ind.)

The most controversial “meme ban” part of new EU copyright law was voted through by MEPs by mistake, it has emerged. This week, the European Parliament voted to pass the new copyright regulations, which critics claim could fundamentally alter how the internet works. And one vote on those specifics of those rules appears to have been decided on the basis of MEPs who approved them by accident. During deliberations on the new regulations, MEPs were offered the chance to specifically debate the two most controversial pieces of the law: Article 11, which would stop search engines from showing snippets of text from other websites, and the renamed Article 13, which requires that tech companies ensure their users are not violating copyright and has been accused of leading to a “meme ban”.

The MEPs turned down an amendment that would have allowed them to specifically reject those parts of the law, by a very thin margin, in advance of the main vote. But now some of those politicians say they mistakenly voted the wrong way – and enough of them that it would have swung the vote. That amendment was rejected by just five votes. But at least ten MEPs said they had accidentally cast their vote the wrong way, and if they had voted it would have fallen the other way. Video taken during the vote shows the confusion among the politicians as they attempt to quickly vote on the amendments, which could have fundamentally changed the regulations that were eventually passed.

The voting records have now been fixed to show that a number of MEPs had cast the wrong votes, and registers the names of those who had intended to approve the amendment. But despte the fact that the voting records now show the corrected results, the original ones will still stand. There is no way for those MEPs to change the official vote, even though the records can be corrected.

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How is it possible she was ever the no. 1 show?

Rachel Maddow Sheds 500,000 Viewers In Post-Mueller Slump (RT)

After putting all its eggs in the Russiagate conspiracy-theory ‘basket’ only to be let down by the contents (or lack thereof) of the Mueller report, MSNBC – and its top attraction, Rachel Maddow – are hemorrhaging viewers.
Russian-collusion high priestess Rachel Maddow’s nightly news show has slipped from number one in cable news to number six since Special Counsel Robert Mueller turned in his report on Friday, hemorrhaging half a million viewers in the space of a week. An MSNBC insider spilled the beans to the Daily Beast, assuring them that no one at the network was panicking.

“It was obviously a big couple of nights for Fox,” they said. MSNBC’s second-top-rated program, ‘The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,’ was also down half a million pairs of eyes. #Resistance media reactions to Mueller’s “no more indictments” recommendation have varied wildly, from desperate pleas to “wait and see” what’s in the full report to claims that Mueller himself was compromised, or asking the wrong questions, all along. Maddow herself seems to have chosen the “denial” route:

“Can we expect President Trump and the Trump White House to finally accept the underlying factual record that Russia did in fact attack us?” she asked on Monday, interpreting the report summary of Attorney General William Barr, which found no evidence to suggest Russian collusion, as proof that the Russian menace was even more menacing than previously believed.

Maddow’s privileged status as Queen of the Russiagaters has largely insulated her from the standard journalistic responsibilities of telling the truth, fact-checking, and otherwise maintaining a reality-based narrative, but the Beast cited “many producers” at MSNBC who had noticeably backed away from other fiery preachers of the Russiagate gospel, like Malcolm “Russia has been plotting to invade the US for 20 years! Also memes are cruise missiles” Nance.

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It’s the German government trying to create a situation in which the EU/ECB catches Deutsche’s fall.

Deutsche Bank Seeking a “Guarantee of Existence” with Monster-Merger? (WS)

The chief executive of eternally troubled Too-Big-To-Fail Deutsche Bank, Christian Sewing, believes the time is ripe for a merger with its national rival, Commerzbank, combing Germany’s two biggest, most dangerous lenders. So, too does his counterpart at Commerzbank, as does US private equity firm Cerberus, which owns 3% of Deutsche Bank and 5% of Commerzbank. Germany’s Finance Minister and card-carrying social democrat Olaf Scholz is also firmly on board. Indeed, many say that he’s the one leading the charge despite the tens of thousands of job losses a merger between the two banks is guaranteed to produce. Scholz’s deputy, Joerg Kukies, has courted controversy for his previous role as co-chief executive of Goldman Sachs, which is reportedly advising Commerzbank on the proposed $28 billion tie-up.

But Kukies insists there are no conflicts of interest, which is a relief. For some time now, the German government has been exploring ways to lever a merger between the top two banks to add scale and slash expenses. As things currently stand, Deutsche Bank shows little sign of halting, let alone reversing, the “vicious cycle of declining revenues, sticky expenses, lowered ratings and rising funding costs” that the group’s CFO James von Motke says has been plaguing it. Whether lumping it together with a bank that has already been bailed out once in “a merger of weakquals,” as London-based brokerage Olivetree calls it, will help right the ship is highly debatable.

But right now, the big concern is that time is fast running out for one of Europe’s biggest and most hyper-connected lenders. Unless something drastic is done soon, the next downturn could prove fatal for an already gravely weakened Deutsche Bank whose stock has been in a death-spiral since 2007, having lost over 90% of its value, and whose price-to-book ratio — the equation often used to reflect the value that market participants attach to a company’s equity — is currently below 0.25%. Normally, when a company’s P/B ratio falls below 1, it means the market is either undervaluing it and thus it could be good value, or the company is in trouble. When the ratio slumps as low as 0.22%, as is the case with Deutsche Bank, it’s far more likely to be the latter than the former.

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The Arab world can’t let this go.

‘Why Not Give Israel North & South Carolina?’ Syrian Envoy Asks US At UN (RT)

Syria’s UN ambassador has suggested the US hand “a couple” of its own states over to Israel instead of flaunting international law and selling others’ land for favors with the Israeli lobby, like it did with the Golan Heights.
Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar Jaafari offered a stark rebuke to the US-backed Israeli claim to the occupied Golan Heights at the UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday. Jaafari said the Trump administration does the bidding of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the UN to curry favor with the powerful Israeli lobby in the US. In a remark that elicited a chuckle and a head-shake from his Israeli counterpart, Jaafari suggested that Washington bargain away land that is actually its to give.


Trump’s decision to back the Israeli claim to the Golan Heights comes just ahead of the Israeli general elections on April, 6 and has been widely considered as an electoral boost for Netanyahu, who is facing charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust at home. “Don’t be misguided by thinking that one day this land will be yours due to hypocrisy or due to being a pawn in the electoral game where you bring each other support, so the Israeli can succeed in their elections and the Americans can also get support from Israeli lobbying groups in the US,” Jaafari said. The Golan Heights, seized by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day war and formally annexed in 1981, will ultimately “come back” to Syria, the Syrian diplomat said.

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“Trump upped the ante by warning Russia that “all options are open..”

‘Leave Syria First’: Moscow Reacts To Trump’s Demand To Leave Venezuela (RT)

The Trump administration should make good on its own promise to pull troops out of Syria before telling others where they should or shouldn’t be, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in reply to Washington’s threat over Venezuela. “Before they have their say in the lawful interests of other nations, I would advise the US administration to fulfill the promises that it had given to the international community,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, referring to US President Donald Trump’s pledge to get American troops out of Syria. The US is behaving like a “cowboy in the Louvre,” undermining international order with its “chaotic moves and unpredictable behavior,” Zakharova said.


The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed on Wednesday that two of its military planes arrived in Venezuela as part of a 2001 military cooperation deal that does not require further approval by the Venezuelan National Assembly, which has been taken over by the opposition and the self-proclaimed ‘interim president’ Juan Guaido. The planes carrying up to 100 Russian military specialists and cargo landed outside Caracas on Saturday, prompting wild guesses in the media. Washington was incensed over the arrival of the Russian troops and denounced it as “unnecessary provocation.” Trump upped the ante by warning Russia that “all options are open” when it comes to kicking Russia out.

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They’ll just keep on appealing.

Monsanto Ordered To Pay $80 Million In Damages To Cancer Victim (G.)

A federal jury ruled that Monsanto was liable for a California man’s cancer and ordered the Roundup manufacturer to pay $80m in damages. The ruling on Wednesday, which holds the company responsible for the cancer risks of its popular weedkiller, is the first of its kind in US federal court and a major blow to Monsanto and its parent company, Bayer. A spokesperson said Bayer would appeal. In a verdict during an earlier phase of the trial, the jury in San Francisco unanimously ruled that the herbicide was a “substantial factor” in causing the cancer of Edwin Hardeman. Hardeman, a 70-year-old Santa Rosa man, was the first person to challenge Monsanto’s herbicide in a federal trial, alleging that his exposure to the glyphosate weedkiller caused him to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), a cancer that affects the immune system.


The case has attracted international attention and raised new questions about the potential health hazards of Roundup. It also challenged the conduct of Monsanto, now owned by the German pharmaceutical company Bayer. The corporation is facing more than 9,000 similar lawsuits across the US that allege Roundup has caused cancer. The jury ruled that Roundup’s design was “defective”, that the product lacked sufficient cancer warnings, and that Monsanto was negligent in its failure to warn Hardeman of the NHL risk. The jurors ordered the company to pay Hardeman $75m in punitive damages, $200,000 for past economic losses and $5.6m in non-economic losses.

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Another win for Monsanto.

‘Doomsday Vault’ Town Warming Quicker Than Any Other On Earth (Ind.)

The world’s northernmost settlement and home to what is known as the “Doomsday vault” – the subterranean Svalbard global seed vault which stores specimens of almost all the world’s seeds – is now believed to be the fastest-warming location on Earth, according to a new report. Longyearbyen, on the Norwegian island of Svalbard, had an average temperature in Svalbard was -7.8C in 1900 but since then, it has risen by 3.7C – more than three times the global average rise of about 1°C. Not only has it become significantly warmer, but wetter too, spelling trouble for the Doomsday vault as the seeds’ preservation depends on stable temperatures and bone-dry conditions.


“Svalbard is the ultimate failsafe for biodiversity of crops,” Marie Haga, the executive director of the Crop Trust told CNN. The vault was opened in 2008. Its construction was funded by the Norwegian government and built in partnership with the country’s Crop Trust and is now a secure storage unit for around a million seed samples, representing over 13,000 years of agricultural history. [..] Set deep within a mountain in a geologically inert area, there is a very low risk of earthquakes or volcanoes and similarly, Norway’s political system is also “very stable”, Ms Haga said. The seeds are stored at -18C. But the increasing likelihood of wet weather has already seen major upheaval at the site. Following heavy rainfall in October 2016, the entrance to the seed vault became half-flooded and ended up freezing into huge blocks of ice.

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