Mar 032020
 


Ben Shahn Quick lunch stand in Plain City, Ohio 1938

 

Italy Has Exported Cases Of Coronavirus To 24 Countries – WHO (TMZNaija)
China Manufacturing Collapse Confirmed By Private Sector Factory Survey (SCMP)
China Reports Surprising Rail Freight Growth In February (SCMP)
A Modern Jubilee As A Cure To Financial Ills Of Coronavirus (Steve Keen)
This Ain’t No Fooling’ Around (Kunstler)
Tucker Carlson On Dems’ Biden Push: ‘They’re Pushing A Defective Product’ (Fox)
What Could Divide The Democrats More Than Conspiring To Stop Bernie? (Tracey)
Ukraine Court Throws Wrench Into Joe Biden’s 2020 Election Plans (Solomon)
Hillary Clinton Ordered To Give Sworn Deposition On Email Server, Benghazi (ZH)
Erdogan’s Use Of Refugees To Pressure EU Is ‘Unacceptable’ – Merkel (RT)
Greece Seeks To Fortify Borders Amid Erdogan Threats (K.)
UN Says Greece Has No Right To Stop Accepting Asylum Requests (K.)
The Armoured Glass Box is an Instrument of Torture (Craig Murray)

 

 

Is COVID19 topping out in China? It’s possible, but they want it too much, and they’ve played loose with the numbers a lot. Strangest thing is perhaps that despite a cavernous drop in manufacturing PMI, a rise in freight train cargo is reported for February.

Most interesting these days, I find, are Italy, South Korea, Iran, which are in their exponential rise phases, and other countries (US?) that may soon follow suit. As I said yesterday: “Italy: only 10 days ago, on Feb 22, when S. Korea cases jumped to 156(!) [now 5,186], Italy first became a thing with 30 cases and 2 deaths. 2,000 cases now, 52 deaths and a 2.5% death rate.”

That Italy has exported the virus to as many as 24 countries also gives me pause for thought. So for now I’ll keep the usual numbers and graphs coming.

But in the run-up to Stupid Tuesday I can also finally pay some attention to the Dems, now that the DNC power grab has become so blatantly obvious.

 

Cases 91,317 (+ 2,069 from yesterday’s 89,248, when gain was 1,616)

Deaths 3,120 (+ 62 from yesterday’s 3,058)

 

• Hubei 114 new cases, 31 new deaths – Total 67,217 cases, 2,834 deaths.
• South Korea 851 new cases, total 5,186, 34 deaths
• Italy 346 new cases, total 2,048, 52 deaths
• Iran 523 new cases, total 1,501, 66 deaths
• France 191 (from 130 yesterday), 3 deaths
• US 103 cases, 6 deaths

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer (Note: mortality rate at 6%):

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

This article is a few days old, but I like the idea. Original title was “Italy Has Exported 24 Cases Of Coronavirus To 14 Countries”, but time won’t stand still.

A list I picked up on Twitter of countries linking infections to Italy: China, Holland, Denmark, Nigeria, US (GA, NH, MA), Iceland, UK, Croatia, Israel, Romania, Spain, Austria, Algeria, Brazil, Finland, Switzerland, Macedonia, Greece, Estonia, Sweden, France, Germany, Lithuania, San Marino.

Italy Has Exported Cases Of Coronavirus To 24 Countries – WHO (TMZNaija)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that Italy has exported 24 cases of coronavirus to 14 countries. The global health body also revealed that 97 cases have been exported from Iran to 11 countries. In his opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – on Friday, 28 February 2020, WHO’s Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stated that in the past 24 hours, China reported 329 cases – the lowest in more than a month. Ghebreyesus who reeled out figures regarding the spread of the virus said that as of 6am Geneva time this morning, China reported a total of 78,959 cases of COVID-19 to WHO, including 2791 deaths. “Outside China, there are now 4351 cases in 49 countries and 67 deaths.

“Since yesterday, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Netherlands, and Nigeria have all reported their first cases. All these cases have links to Italy,” Ghebreyesus told newsmen. The Director-General also said that the continued increase in the number of cases, and the number of affected countries over the last few days, are clearly of concern. He, however, noted that WHO’s epidemiologists have been monitoring these developments continuously, and have now increased its assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of the impact of COVID-19 to very high at a global level.


“What we see at the moment are linked epidemics of COVID-19 in several countries, but most cases can still be traced to known contacts or clusters of cases. We do not see evidence as yet that the virus is spreading freely in communities. “As long as that’s the case, we still have a chance of containing this virus, if robust action is taken to detect cases early, isolate and care for patients and trace contacts. “As I said yesterday, there are different scenarios in different countries and different scenarios within the same country,” Ghebreyesus said.. According to him, the key to containing this virus is to break the chains of transmission. Meanwhile, according to BBC, not less than 210 people has died from coronavirus disease in Iran.

Read more …

An index of smaller companies than the Beijing one covers.

China Manufacturing Collapse Confirmed By Private Sector Factory Survey (SCMP)

A collapse in China’s manufacturing sector in February was confirmed on Monday, with a new survey of privately-owned producers emphasising the economic damage caused by the coronavirus epidemic. The Caixin/Markit manufacturing purchasing managers’ Index (PMI), a gauge of sentiment among the country’s smaller factory operators, plunged to 40.3 in February from 51.1 in January. The weak data will reinforce expectations that China could report negative growth in the first quarter of 2020 for the first time since the Cultural Revolution in the late-1960s and early-1970s. It will also renew calls for Beijing to take more aggressive steps to support the economy.


The survey was well below market expectations for a drop to 46.0 and marks the lowest reading since the survey began in April 2004. It was weaker than 40.9 in November 2008 amid the global financial crisis. The Caixin index follows Saturday’s release of the official manufacturing PMI, which crashed to a record low of 35.7 in February, below the previous trough of 38.8 reached in November 2008 at the start of the global financial crisis, the National Bureau of Statistics said. The survey for the official gauge covers more larger and state-owned firms, while the Caixin survey covers smaller firms. A reading below 50 means activity in the manufacturing sector is contracting. The further below 50 the index falls, the larger the contraction.

Read more …

Was this coordinated with Xi?

China Reports Surprising Rail Freight Growth In February (SCMP)

China’s official railway operator has said that rail freight rose in February, despite the coronavirus outbreak forcing large parts of the country into lockdown, and the official purchasing managers’ indices for manufacturing and services tumbling to all-time lows. China Railway, the state-owned railway operator, said in a statement on Sunday that total railway freight amounted to 310 million tonnes in February, a rise of 4.5 per cent from a year earlier, just a day after the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced that China’s factory and service sector activity sunk into deep contraction.


The supplier delivery time sub-index in China’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI), which measures logistics efficiency by railway, road and air for factories, dropped to 32.1 in February, a sign that raw material supplies to the manufacturing sector were at record lows last month, the NBS said. China Railway, meanwhile, said that China loaded 171,000 railway cars per day on average last month, a daily increase of 4,945 from a year earlier. Container freight on railways surged 39.5 per cent to 26.61 million tonnes, it added, in an surprisingly stable account of China’s rail freight network. In the January-February period, China’s freight cargo rose by 0.6 per cent to 670 million tonnes, an all-time high, according to China Railway.

Read more …

Steve’s elaborate write-up of things to do.

A Modern Jubilee As A Cure To Financial Ills Of Coronavirus (Steve Keen)

Extraordinary measures are needed now to stop the health effects of the Coronavirus triggering a financial crisis that could in turn make the Coronavirus worse. All of these actions can be undertaken by Central Banks and financial regulators, once they have been given permission by governments. Two of these measures are already being undertaken by some Central Banks:

• A per capita payment to all citizens so that renters can pay the rent, mortgagors can service their mortgages, and workers, whether unemployed or not, can buy food and other critical goods. This can be financed as Quantitative Easing was financed, without recourse to the Treasury, or taxation (Hong Kong has already done this);

• Normal bankruptcy rules for companies and especially banks should be suspended, to allow them to continue operating despite falling into negative equity if revenues fall sharply and share prices plunge; and

• Central Banks should buy shares directly to support share prices, rather than simply buying bonds under Quantitative Easing, to prevent a stock market collapse undermining both business and banks (Japan’s Central Bank is already doing this, though for other reasons).

Argument – There is no doubting now that the Coronavirus is a pandemic. This is the first one we have experienced since the “Spanish Flu”, which lasted from January 1918 till December 1920. Other recent serious diseases have had much lower levels of transmissibility. This is the first disease to compare to the Spanish Flu in terms of both transmissibility and virulence. Europe was embroiled in World War I at the outbreak of the Spanish Flu. Its health and population impacts were huge: estimates of the death toll vary between 40 and 100 million in a global population of 1.8 to 1.9 billion.

Here I want to focus on its financial effects. They were mild, because the great financial crisis of the 20th century, the Great Depression, lay ten years in the future. Disruptions to life were extreme, but disruptions to the economy were relatively small, and it was a war economy anyway for much of the world. This meant there was guaranteed employment and wages for military personnel, rationing for the general public, and other wartime measures. All these things limited the financial contagion from the medical contagion. Crucially, private debt was a mere 55% of US GDP when the flu outbreak began. The private sector was relatively robust.

Read more …

“Is there anything you can think of over at the Wal Mart or the Walgreens that isn’t made in China?”

This Ain’t No Fooling’ Around (Kunstler)

Is there anything you can think of over at the Wal Mart or the Walgreens that isn’t made in China? I mean, everything from a dustpan to a lint brush? I can’t say for sure, because I’m not over in China, but the place is apparently not open for business these days. One must surmise that a lot of activities in the USA may not be open for business much longer, either. The action in my local supermarket yesterday had an undercurrent of stealth desperation; no overt panic buying, no fighting in the aisles, but an edge of suspense. Personally, I cleaned out an entire product-line of cat food, loaded up on cooking oil, rice, dry beans, and evaporated milk — and I wasn’t the only one checking out with the sixteen-roll bindle of toilet paper.

Obviously, many products were still there on the shelves to get (minus that cat food). Is the time perhaps at hand when a lot of stuff won’t be? Just sayin’. The message is getting out — though not from US authorities yet — that everybody may soon be spending a lot of time home alone. That’s exactly what has happened in China and a region of northern Italy. France banned events with more than 5,000 people (why that number, exactly?). Japan has canceled school for the time being — duration unknown for now. So a USA lockdown is not merely hypothetical. These, then, are two fundamental conditions the world faces for a while: nobody moves and nothing gets produced.


Are we taking this thing too seriously (some might ask)? I don’t pretend to know the answer, except, again, to point to China and think that they can’t possibly just be fooling around with all those zombified cities and shuttered factories. The next question might be: will the global economy return at some point to “normal” operating conditions, that is, the fabulously complex network of supply lines, markets, and payment arrangements as they worked up until January 2020? I am for sure not sure about that. Once a gigantic and fantastically precise mechanism breaks, I doubt it comes back together neatly and quickly. In the physical universe, the power of emergence is like the cue ball on a billiard table, and it appears that all the rest of the colored balls will be bouncing off the bumpers and sinking into pockets for while… and eventually the global table will look a lot different.

Read more …

Stupid Tuesday.

Tucker Carlson On Democrats: ‘They’re Pushing A Defective Product’ (Fox)

Tucker Carlson mocked those pushing and supporting former Vice President Joe Biden Monday, in particular those who think he’s the candidate to stop the nomination of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. “And tonight, they have found their war horse, a hero they imagine will carry them forth to victory against the wild-haired infidel from Vermont. It is this candidate whom you should know is literally now the youngest man in the Democratic race,” Carlson said on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” “This is the man they believe has the competence, the intensity, the intellect to repel the seething horde of Sanders-ites. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Joe Biden.” Carlson played a montage of clips showing Biden fumble on the campaign. The host then chastised those pushing Biden to continue running, calling it “cruel.”

“Running Joe Biden for president is like making your dog wear a dress,” Carlson deadpanned. “It may make for an amusing Instagram post, but it’s wrong. You can see the confusion in the dog’s eyes.” The host ripped former Democratic presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, among others, for endorsing Biden who he referred to as a “defective product.” “Today, both Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar endorsed Biden. So did former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Beto O’Rourke,” Carlson said. “These are party people doing the bidding of their corporate masters. There’s nothing warm or sentimental about it. They’re pushing a defective product on consumers and they know it. They’re selling lawn darts.”


Carlson believes the threat from Sanders is about “institutional control.” “The Biden campaign isn’t about ideas, much less ideals. The Democratic establishment’s only concern is institutional control,” Carlson said. “That’s where all of their power comes from. From holding together and running things. If the Democratic coalition breaks down, they are by definition powerless.” “They have nothing. And the real threat of Bernie Sanders is the threat he poses to the party. He could split it in half and break it forever,” Carlson added. “That cannot happen. Joe Biden is their last chance. That’s why they’re backing him.”

Read more …

If they fail to stop his candidacy, what other tricks are up their sleeves?

What Could Divide The Democrats More Than Conspiring To Stop Bernie? (Tracey)

Perhaps the intense wave of establishment Democratic party consolidation around Joe Biden over the past 48 hours isn’t a concerted conspiracy — no smoke-filled rooms, no corrupt deals, no villainous blackmail schemes. But the Democratic party establishment (which we’re often told does not exist) is clearly making every effort to give the appearance of something conspiratorial going on. Take yesterday, for instance. Pete Buttigieg meets for breakfast with 95-year-old Jimmy Carter (?), ensures the visit is well-publicized, then heads home to South Bend and pulls the rug out from under his campaign. Wait, what? Is this the same Pete Buttigieg whose aides just a few days earlier released an elaborate memo detailing his surefire path to a formidable delegate acquisition?


Yet suddenly his Super Tuesday plans are scrapped, and the thousands of early votes already cast for him in California and elsewhere are effectively nullified. We’re all supposed to pretend this is normal behavior? Because it seems a bit sociopathic. I personally would never have voted for Pete. Nor would I have voted for Amy Klobuchar, who pulled the same 11th-hour dropout stunt today. But part of me still finds it disgraceful that these candidates would gut-punch their staff, volunteers, supporters, and voters in such a manner — hours before a major national election they’d been working toward for a full year — after both candidates gave every indication that they were going to actively contest. Instead of patting themselves on the back, shouldn’t Amy and Pete be begging for forgiveness, especially from those who already voted for them in Super Tuesday states — as it turns out, on false pretenses?

Beto 9 months ago:

Read more …

John Solomon is back again.

Ukraine Court Throws Wrench Into Joe Biden’s 2020 Election Plans (Solomon)

A Ukrainian court has ordered an investigation into whether Joe Biden violated any laws when he forced the March 2016 firing of the country’s chief prosecutor. The ruling could revive scrutiny of Hunter Biden’s lucrative relationship with an energy firm in that corruption-plagued country just as the former vice president’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination is surging after a lackluster start. Former Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, who has long alleged he was fired because he would not stop investigating the Burisma Holdings firm that employed Hunter Biden, secured the ruling last month. Ukrainian officials confirmed the State Bureau of Investigation has since complied and initiated the probe.

The Pecherskyi District Court of Kyiv ruled last month that Shokin’s lawyers had provided sufficient evidence to warrant a probe and “obliged the authorized officials of the State Bureau of Investigation” to accept the ex-prosecutor’s complaint and “start pre-trial investigation of the reported data,” according to an official English translation of the ruling provided by Shokin’s attorney. The ruling does not mention Biden by name, but court filings by Shokin’s lawyers that led to the decision show that the former prosecutor had alleged “the commission of a criminal offense against him by Joseph Biden, a citizen of the United States of America, in Ukraine and abroad: interference in the activities of a law enforcement officer.”


[..] Joe Biden and his defenders have denied any wrongdoing, saying the vice president sought Shokin’s firing because the prosecutor was ineffective in fighting corruption. His supporters have also claimed that the Burisma investigation was dormant at the time Shokin was fired and therefore not a high priority. But evidence has emerged in recent weeks that the probe into Burisma, in fact, was heating up when Shokin was fired in spring 2016. The prosecutor’s office had secured a ruling re-seizing assets of Burisma’s owner in early February 2016, and the Latvian government acknowledges it sent a warning to Ukraine officials that same month flagging several Burisma transactions, including payments to Hunter Biden, as “suspicious.”

Read more …

“..the Justice Department inexplicably still takes the position that the court should close discovery and rule on dispositive motions. The Court is especially troubled by this.”

Hillary Clinton Ordered To Give Sworn Deposition On Email Server, Benghazi (ZH)

Hillary Clinton has been ordered to give a sworn deposition to Judicial Watch regarding her emails and documents related to the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya while she was Secretary of State. The ruling is in response to the conservative legal group’s lawsuit, “Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State” – specifically regarding “talking points or updates on the Benghazi attack.” “Judicial Watch famously uncovered in 2014 that the “talking points” that provided the basis for Susan Rice’s false statements were created by the Obama White House. This Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit led directly to the disclosure of the Clinton email system in 2015.” -Judicial Watch

Discovery in the case began in December, 2018, when Judge Royce C. Lamberth allowed Judicial Watch to explore whether Clinton’s use of a private email server was intended to circumvent the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). JW also sought to determine: “whether the State Department’s intent to settle this case in late 2014 and early 2015 amounted to bad faith; and whether the State Department has adequately searched for records responsive to Judicial Watch’s request.” “The court also authorized discovery into whether the Benghazi controversy motivated the cover-up of Clinton’s email. The court ruled that the Clinton email system was “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency.” The State and Justice Departments continued to defend Clinton’s and the agency’s email conduct.” -Judicial Watch

On Monday, Judge Lamberth overruled Clinton and the State Department’s objections to limited additional discovery, writing “Discovery up until this point has brought to light a noteworthy amount of relevant information, but Judicial Watch requests an additional round of discovery, and understandably so. With each passing round of discovery, the Court is left with more questions than answers.” Lamberth also said that he is troubled by the fact that both Clinton and the State Department want discovery to end.

“[T]here is still more to learn. Even though many important questions remain unanswered, the Justice Department inexplicably still takes the position that the court should close discovery and rule on dispositive motions. The Court is especially troubled by this. To argue that the Court now has enough information to determine whether State conducted an adequate search is preposterous, especially when considering State’s deficient representations regarding the existence of additional Clinton emails. Instead, the Court will authorize a new round of discovery “-Judge Lamberth

Read more …

Erdogan told Bulgarian PM he doesn’t want to talk to Greek PM, and won’t send any refugees to Bulgaria (a few km away from Greek-Turkish border)

Erdogan’s Use Of Refugees To Pressure EU Is ‘Unacceptable’ – Merkel (RT)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called Turkey’s decision to release thousands of migrants toward the EU “unacceptable,” and accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of pressuring the EU “on the back of the refugees.”Turkey allowed thousands of migrants to leave its territory over the weekend, accusing EU leaders of failing to back its plans for a Turkish-controlled ‘safe zone’ inside Syrian territory. With Turkish forces engaged in open warfare with the Syrian government in Idlib, Erdogan opened the floodgates to Europe, in a move seemingly designed to put pressure on his NATO allies to back his Syrian offensive.

“I understand that Turkey is facing a very big challenge regarding Idlib,” Merkel told reporters on Tuesday. “Still, for me it’s unacceptable that he – President Erdogan and his government – are not expressing this dissatisfaction in a dialogue with us as the European Union, but rather on the back of the refugees. For me, that’s not the way to go forward.”


Already, Greek authorities have struggled to hold back the human wave that has crashed upon its border with Turkey. “This is an invasion,” Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis told Skai TV on Monday, as police fired tear gas at migrants attempting to storm the border fence, and as the Greek coast guard tried to stop dinghies full of refugees from landing on the country’s southern islands. Though criticized for her “open door” migration policy during the 2015 migrant crisis, Merkel has since attempted to reduce the influx. However, despite promising Erdogan additional aid in January in exchange for holding more than 3 million migrants on Turkish soil, Merkel refused to support her Turkish counterpart’s military operation in northern Syria, prompting Erdogan to follow through last weekend on his long-standing threat to release the migrants into Europe.

Read more …

Stories about Greek guards killing refugee(s) are fake news, says Athens, spread by Erdogan.

Greece Seeks To Fortify Borders Amid Erdogan Threats (K.)

As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Monday that soon the number of refugees crossing into Europe “will reach millions” unless the European Union takes responsibility for the crisis, Greece continued efforts to fortify its borders and diplomatic initiatives to tackle what it calls an “asymmetrical threat.” On the diplomatic front, the government’s initiatives have led to a planned visit on Tuesday to the Greek-Turkish border in Evros by the presidents of the European Commission, Council and Parliament – Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel and David Sassoli – accompanied by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Even though Athens believes the visits send a powerful message, it is expecting practical support from its partners, stressing that Greece’s borders with Turkey are also European.


On Sunday, Greece announced emergency measures to tackle the crisis, including a further tightening of border controls to the maximum level, a temporary one-month suspension of asylum applications and the immediate return of undocumented migrants to their country of origin. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the number of refugees and migrants at the Greek border is estimated at around 13,000 people and tensions are rising as they try to push through. Tensions were also running high on the islands following the arrival over the weekend of around 1,000 refugees and migrants, with locals trying to prevent one smuggling boat from docking. A child died when one vessel capsized.

Read more …

Yeah, you’re really helping.

UN Says Greece Has No Right To Stop Accepting Asylum Requests (K.)

The United Nation’s refugee agency said on Monday that Greece had no right to stop accepting asylum applications as Athens struggled with a sudden increase of arrivals at its border of Middle East refugees and migrants from Turkey. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Sunday his country would not be accepting any new asylum requests for a month after two days of clashes between border police and thousands of people seeking to enter the EU from Turkey. “It is important that the authorities refrain from any measures that might increase the suffering of vulnerable people,” UNHCR said in a statement.


“All states have a right to control their borders and manage irregular movements, but at the same time should refrain from the use of excessive or disproportionate force and maintain systems for handling asylum requests in an orderly manner.” The UN agency said neither international nor EU law provided “any legal basis for the suspension of the reception of asylum applications.” Its statement came as the EU scrambled to help Greece police the frontier and sought to put pressure on Turkey to go back to preventing refugees and migrants stranded on its territory from seeking to reach Europe.

Read more …

“I am as confident as a psychiatrist can ever be that, if extradition to the United States were to become imminent, Mr Assange would find a way of suiciding.”

The Armoured Glass Box is an Instrument of Torture (Craig Murray)

The defence was impeded by their inability to communicate confidentially with their client during proceedings. In the next stage of trial, where witnesses were being examined, timely communication was essential. Furthermore they could only talk with him through the slit in the glass within the hearing of the private company security officers who were guarding him (it was clarified they were Serco, not Group 4 as Baraitser had said the previous day), and in the presence of microphones. Baraitser became ill-tempered at this point and spoke with a real edge to her voice. “Who are those people behind you in the back row?” she asked Summers sarcastically – a question to which she very well knew the answer. Summers replied that they were part of the defence legal team.


Baraitser said that Assange could contact them if he had a point to pass on. Summers replied that there was an aisle and a low wall between the glass box and their position, and all Assange could see over the wall was the top of the back of their heads. Baraitser said she had seen Assange call out. Summers said yelling across the courtroom was neither confidential nor satisfactory. This is the photo taken illegally (not by me) of Assange in the court. If you look carefully, you can see there is a passageway and a low wooden wall between him and the back row of lawyers. You can see one of the two Serco prison officers guarding him inside the box. Baraitser said Assange could pass notes, and she had witnessed notes being passed by him. Summers replied that the court officers had now banned the passing of notes.

Baraitser said they could take this up with Serco, it was a matter for the prison authorities. Summers asserted that, contrary to Baraitser’s statement the previous day, she did indeed have jurisdiction on the matter of releasing Assange from the dock. Baraitser intervened to say that she now accepted that. Summers then said that he had produced a number of authorities to show that Baraitser had also been wrong to say that to be in custody could only mean to be in the dock. You could be in custody anywhere within the precincts of the court, or indeed outside. Baraitser became very annoyed by this and stated she had only said that delivery to the custody of the court must equal delivery to the dock. To which Summers replied memorably, now very cross “Well, that’s wrong too, and has been wrong these last eight years.”


I have been wondering why it is so essential to the British government to keep Assange in that box, unable to hear proceedings or instruct his lawyers in reaction to evidence, even when counsel for the US Government stated they had no objection to Assange sitting in the well of the court. The answer lies in the psychiatric assessment of Assange given to the court by the extremely distinguished Professor Michael Kopelman [..] : “Mr Assange shows virtually all the risk factors which researchers from Oxford have described in prisoners who either suicide or make lethal attempts. … I am as confident as a psychiatrist can ever be that, if extradition to the United States were to become imminent, Mr Assange would find a way of suiciding.”

Read more …

 

Automatic Earth commenter/contributor Dr. John Day telling Tulsi Gabbard yesterday at a townhall in Austin, Texas that the US needs to purchase 6 billion doses of chloroquine phosphate to treat everybody (assuming a high infection rate, eventually).

 

 

 

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Mar 022020
 


John Vachon Big Four Cafe, Cairo, Illinois 1940

 

China Leaves Asymptomatic Patients off Coronavirus Infection Tally (Caixin)
Epidemic Won’t Spark Financial Crisis In China (Global Times)
CDC Retesting Patient After Testing Negative, Being Released (KSAT)
CDC Testing Limits May Have Delayed Coronavirus Response (HP)
US Agency Investigating Production Of Faulty Coronavirus Test Kits (R.)
Murder Probe Sought For South Korea Sect At Center Of Coronavirus Outbreak (R.)
China Gives Relief to Shield Trillions of Yuan in Bad Debt (BBG)
Australia Warns It Can’t Stop The Spread Of Coronavirus From Overseas (R.)
Indonesia Confirms First Cases, Linked To Japanese Citizen In Malaysia (SCMP)
Japan’s Factory Activity Shrinks At Fastest Pace Since 2016 (R.)
Buttigieg Drops Out Of Democratic Race Two Days Before Super Tuesday (R.)
Klobuchar Cancels Campaign Rally After Protests (Hill)
Tulsi Gabbard Urges Trump: Don’t Drag Us Into War With Russia (ZH)
Assange Enters The Kangaroo Court (MStar)
EU Accepts Greek Demand For Emergency Foreign Affairs Council (K.)

 

 

 

Cases 89,248 (+ 1,616 from yesterday’s 87,632)

Deaths 3,058 (+ 64 from yesterday’s 2,994)

 

Everyone just dances on. China pretends it’s fine, and the Global Times assures us there will be no financial crisis. As the US CDC is found painfully wanting on multiple fronts. As Super Tuesday draws near, Trump will be criticized heavily for the US response to COVID19, especially now the first US deaths are on the tally. But though he certainly stumbles his way awkwardly through, the CDC would be what it is no matter which party is in charge.

And while western governments, along with China, have no strong desire to perform the best testing they can, because it can only make them look worse, “newly infected” countries like Nigeria (190 million) and Indonesia (260 million), don’t have the desire, and not the means either. This will keep official infection numbers low(er), but does that mean we can all go visit without any worries?

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer (Note: mortality rate fell to 6%):

 

 

A more complete pic of COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

“If you don’t have symptoms, it’s not an illness,” he said. “There’s no need to announce it.”

And at the same time, the first lung transplant:

Twitter: “Oh gosh – first lung transplant done for a #COVID19 patient. Hope only a fraction of the 20% severe cases ever need this. Though there is currently 50% 28-day mortality if someone enters ICU (based on China data). But what % or total infected will need ICU? Unclear.”

China Leaves Asymptomatic Patients off Coronavirus Infection Tally (Caixin)

China’s decision to exclude individuals who carry the new coronavirus but show no symptoms from the country’s public tally of infections has drawn debate over whether this approach obscures the scope of the epidemic, with a document received by Caixin showing a significant proportion of one province’s cases show no symptoms. Since early February, the National Health Commission (NHC) has concluded that “asymptomatic infected individuals” can infect others and demanded local authorities to report those cases. However, the commission has also decided not to include these people in its statistics for “confirmed cases” or indeed to release data on asymptomatic cases.

On Feb. 25, in Northeast China’s Heilongjiang province there were 104 asymptomatic infected individuals, according to a Feb. 26 Heilongjiang Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention document obtained by Caixin. That same day the province said it had 480 “confirmed cases,” a tally which did not include the 104 asymptomatic cases. In its Jan. 28 virus prevention and control plan, the NHC demanded the prompt detection and reporting of those with light or no symptoms. According to a document obtained by Caixin, the Heilongjiang CDC confirmed its first asymptomatic individual on Feb. 1 and asked the NHC for permission to leave the case off its public list of confirmed cases.

[..] two days after the fourth edition of the NHC’s Covid-19 guidelines released on Feb. 7 said asymptomatic cases should be reported separately and excluded from the confirmed case tally, Heilongjiang removed 13 asymptomatic infected individuals from its tally of “confirmed cases.” However, multiple studies from both Chinese and overseas researchers have been published, suggesting that individuals infected with Covid-19 can be contagious even if they do not feel ill.

In earlier guidelines, asymptomatic individuals were supposed to be observed and treated at home. But by the fifth edition of the NHC guidlines released Feb. 21, they had to undergo a 14-day quarantine as well as test negative in two separate nucleic acid tests before being released. Health authorities have also developed criteria to determine whether an asymptomatic individual is the source of infection in any given cluster. Nevertheless, at a Feb. 14 press conference, NHC deputy director Zeng Yixin said that the country would only publicize “suspected” and “confirmed cases.” “If you don’t have symptoms, it’s not an illness,” he said. “There’s no need to announce it.”

Read more …

The Party speaks. It’s not feeling well.

Epidemic Won’t Spark Financial Crisis In China (Global Times)

China is not facing a financial system crisis, despite mounting pressure from the coronavirus epidemic on the economy and global stock market routs, but further macro stabilizing measures, including more liquidity injections, might be necessary, analysts said on Sunday. Ominous signals have begun to suggest that the epidemic might have hit the Chinese economy harder than some had expected, which in turn has fueled speculation that China might face a financial crisis. On Saturday, official data showed that China’s manufacturing sector may have experienced a sharp downturn in February worse than during the global financial crisis in 2008.

The official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) dropped to 35.7 in February, the lowest level on record, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The non-manufacturing PMI plunged to 29.6, deep in contraction territory. The downbeat data followed hefty losses in the Chinese A-share market on Friday amid a worldwide stock market rout due to concerns over the coronavirus epidemic. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index plummeted 3.71 percent on Friday to drop below the psychologically important level of 3,000. The index lost 4.87 percent for the week. Although the Chinese stock market fared better than Wall Street, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 12 percent last week, concerns over a potential downtrend in the A-share market or even a broader financial crisis grew.

“Suggestions that China is facing risk of a financial crisis are just absurd,” Dong Dengxin, director of the Finance and Securities Institute at the Wuhan University of Science and Technology, told the Global Times on Sunday. “If anything, China’s A-share market is facing an upward trajectory given the fact that it has been at its historic lows and that the economic fundamentals have not changed.” [..] In light of moves by China’ s central bank to inject liquidity and local governments to support businesses, some argue the potential risks of a spike in non-performing loans among local governments could cause a financial crisis.

But Dong said that China’s government debt level remains significantly lower than those of developed countries and banks are among the world’s biggest and most regulated. “Everything is very much under control,” he said. China’s A-share market might be at the start of a bull run, according to Yang Delong, chief economist at Shenzhen-based First Seafront Fund. “US stocks have reached its top, whereas the A-share market is bottoming out. Therefore I think the A-share market will increase by 20 percent this year,” he wrote in a note sent to the Global Times on Sunday.

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The CDC is being exposed as a pretty incompetent entiry.

CDC Retesting Patient After Testing Negative, Being Released (KSAT)

A patient released from isolation in San Antonio on Saturday is being retested for the coronavirus at a local health facility, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Officials say the patient met the criteria for release after testing negative for the virus twice. Both of the tests were administered more than 24 hours apart. However, the patient later returned to isolation after a pending lab test came up positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the CDC. The patient was isolated when they were treated at the local medical facility for several weeks after returning from Wuhan, China, on a State Department chartered flight, the CDC says. Out of caution, the CDC says the individual was brought back into isolation at a local medical facility and is getting retested.


The patient did have contact with others while outside of isolation, and health officials are working to trace others that may have been exposed. Metro Health is working to track where the patient went, who they interacted with, the time frames they spent outside of the quarantined facility and who may have been exposed, officials say.“This is an unfolding situation with many unknowns. CDC is making decisions on a case-by-case basis using the best available science at the time. CDC’s priority is to protect both patients and communities,” said the CDC in part, in a press release. Several Texas officials are speaking out after the CDC’s announcement that a patient was released into San Antonio with possible coronavirus exposure. Mayor Ron Nirenberg says it’s unacceptable that CDC officials released the patient and allowed the public exposure.

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You could be minutes from death, but if you didn’t visit China or French kiss with someone who did, no tests for you.

CDC Testing Limits May Have Delayed Coronavirus Response (HP)

Genetic sequencing of two cases of the novel coronavirus in Washington suggests the disease had been circulating in the state for six weeks — but went undetected because of strict testing restrictions set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a scientist who compared the genetic fingerprints. The study of the coronavirus contracted by a high school student in Snohomish County north of Seattle links the illness to the very first COVID-19 case in the nation, a man who tested positive Jan. 19 after returning to his home in Snohomish county from China. He has since recovered, but the illness was passed on, undetected, via community transmission for “the past six weeks,” noted Trevor Bedford, an associate professor at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington.

He attributed the lack of earlier detection of an “already substantial outbreak” to the CDC’s “narrow case definition requiring direct travel to China” (or contact with someone known to be ill with coronavirus) before people could be tested. [..] Besides restrictions until recently on when it could be used, the test created by the CDC in early February initially only worked predictably in a handful of labs. Early detection is critical so that people can begin treatment and be isolated before passing on the virus to someone else. As of Friday, fewer than 500 people had been tested in the U.S., according to the CDC, compared with countries like South Korea, where 65,000 have been tested.

[..] Dr. Jeff Duchin, public health officer for Seattle and King County, complained about the testing system Saturday when addressing the first coronavirus death in the nation in Kirkland, Washington. “Testing capacity is so limited,” he said at a press conference. The state public health lab only began testing for COVID-19 on Friday, but officials hope soon to be able to also rely on commercial and university labs. “If we had the ability to test earlier, I’m sure we would have identified patients earlier,” said Duchin. [..] To ease the testing logjam, the FDA announced Saturday that labs and hospitals across the nation will now be able to conduct the test for COVID-19 and won’t have to wait for results from the CDC.

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You can always export them to Africa.

US Agency Investigating Production Of Faulty Coronavirus Test Kits (R.)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed on Sunday that it is investigating a manufacturing defect in some initial coronavirus test kits that prompted some states to seek emergency approval to use their own test kits. On Saturday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state would immediately begin using its own test kit developed in-state after asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday for permission to do so. The FDA said on Saturday it would allow some laboratories to immediately use tests they have developed and validated to achieve more rapid testing capacity for the coronavirus. On Sunday, New York confirmed its first case of coronavirus.


FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement on Sunday that “upon learning about the test issue from CDC (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), FDA worked with CDC to determine that problems with certain test components were due to a manufacturing issue. We worked hand in hand with CDC to resolve the issues with manufacturing.” Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday the United States has 75,000 test kits on hand “and over the next week that will expand radically.” He said over 3,600 people in the United States have been tested to date. Hahn added that the “FDA has confidence in the design and current manufacturing of the test that already have and are continuing to be distributed. These tests have passed extensive quality control procedures.”

Read more …

Also for Chinese government, western governments? They also hid facts.

As for Seoul, they tested only a few 1000 of the 317,320 Shincheonji members and “trainees”..

Murder Probe Sought For South Korea Sect At Center Of Coronavirus Outbreak (R.)

The government of Seoul asked for a murder investigation into leaders of a Christian sect at the center of the country’s deadly coronavirus outbreak, saying the church was liable for its refusal to cooperate with efforts to stop the disease. A large majority of the more than 4,000 confirmed cases of the South Korean outbreak, the largest outside China and still growing, have been linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a secretive movement that reveres founder Lee Man-hee. Park Won-soon, mayor of Seoul, said if Lee and other leaders of the church had cooperated, effective preventive measures could have saved those who later died of the virus. “The situation is this serious and urgent, but where are the leaders of the Shincheonji, including Lee Man-hee, the chief director of this crisis?” Park said in a post on his Facebook page late on Sunday.


Seoul’s city government said in a separate statement that it had filed a criminal complaint with the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, asking for an investigation of Lee and 12 others on charges of murder and disease control act violations. The prosecutors’ office said it had received the complaint and was reviewing it. Health authorities said the vast majority of the 3,000 cases confirmed in Daegu, another Korean city, were linked to a branch of the church there, where a person who had tested positive in February attended services twice. [..] Health authorities said they have obtained a list of 317,320 Shincheonji members and “trainees”, but have been told by some local governments that it was not exhaustive.

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When money is your only answer to all questions.

China Gives Relief to Shield Trillions of Yuan in Bad Debt (BBG)

China’s financial regulators will allow the nation’s lenders to delay recognizing bad loans from smaller businesses reeling from the deadly coronavirus outbreak, giving temporary reprieve to trillions of yuan of debt. Qualified small- and medium-sized businesses nationwide with principal or interest due between Jan. 25 and June 30 can apply for a delay to the end of the second quarter, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory said in a joint statement with the central bank on Sunday. In Hubei province, the center of the outbreak, the waiver applies to all companies, including large firms, according to the statement. Chinese banks are taking extraordinary steps to avoid recognizing bad loans, seeking to protect themselves and cash-strapped borrowers from the economic fallout of the epidemic, as Bloomberg News reported last week.


Regulators told lenders not to downgrade loans with missed payments or report delinquencies to the country’s centralized credit-scoring system before the end of June, according to the statement. The push by banks and regulators to ease the wave of debt going bad is part of a broader effort by President Xi Jinping’s government to shore up the Chinese economy, which some forecasters predict may suffer a rare quarter-on-quarter contraction to start 2020. Gross domestic product may shrink by 2.5% in the first quarter, Nomura Holdings Inc. economists led by Lu Ting said in a report on Saturday, after the country’s manufacturing sector reported record-low activity in February. In addition to pumping billions of yuan into the banking system to make it easier for lenders to extend credit, authorities have cut interest rates, reduced taxes and pledged to adopt more “proactive” fiscal policies.

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It’s a choice, a trade-off. Close the borders OR get infected.

Australia Warns It Can’t Stop The Spread Of Coronavirus From Overseas (R.)

Australia’s chief medical officer said on Monday it was no longer possible to completely prevent people with the coronavirus from entering the country, citing concerns about outbreaks in Japan and South Korea. Australia, one of the first countries to put restrictions on its borders in a bid to limit the spread of the virus, confirmed its first death from the disease on Sunday. “It is no longer possible to absolutely prevent new cases coming in,” Brendan Murphy, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, told reporters in Canberra. “We have got concerns about Japan and South Korea. They are working hard to control their outbreaks but we are still concerned that people in those countries and other high risk countries may present with an infection.”


The chief medical officer’s comments came as Australian officials confirmed the country’s 30th case of coronavirus, a 40-year old man who arrived in Australia’s second most populated city, Melbourne from Iran. He later travelled to Tasmania. Meanwhile, Australia named the 78-year old man who became the country’s first person to die from coronavirus as James Kwan. He was a passenger on the Diamond Princess ship that was held off Japan’s coast for weeks. Kwan and his wife, who also has the virus, were transferred back to Australia for treatment. Australia barred entry from Feb. 1 to any foreigners who had travelled through China in the two weeks prior to arriving in Australia. It extended that ban to Iran on Sunday. Both bans are in force until at least March 7. Australian citizens and permanent residents are exempted.

Read more …

That country of 260 million with a very sparse health care system. That has neither the desire nor the means to count its victims.

Indonesia Confirms First Cases, Linked To Japanese Citizen In Malaysia (SCMP)

Two Indonesians have tested positive for the coronavirus after being in contact with an infected Japanese national, Indonesian President Joko Widodo revealed on Monday, marking the first confirmed cases in the world’s fourth most populous country. The two had been hospitalised in Jakarta, Widodo told reporters at the presidential palace in the capital. The president said a 64-year-old woman and her 31-year-old daughter had tested positive after being in contact with a Japanese national who lived in Malaysia and was found to have the virus after returning from a trip to Indonesia. Widodo said an Indonesian medical team had traced the movements of the Japanese visitor before uncovering the cases.


“After checks, they were in a sick state. This morning I got a report that the mother and the daughter tested positive for coronavirus,” said Widodo, who said they were being treated at Jakarta’s Sulianti Saroso infectious diseases hospital. Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto told reporters the Japanese visitor was a friend of the two women’s family and had visited their house. He said authorities were checking who else the Japanese visitor may have come into contact with. The confirmation of the first cases of coronavirus came after authorities had defended their screening processes, with some medical experts raising concerns of a lack of vigilance and a risk of undetected cases in the Southeast Asian country of more than 260 million people.

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Who could have predicted that?

Japan’s Factory Activity Shrinks At Fastest Pace Since 2016 (R.)

Japan’s factory activity was hit by its sharpest contraction in nearly four years in February, raising a red flag over manufacturing in the world’s third-largest economy as the impact from the coronavirus outbreak spreads. The manufacturing slowdown offers the clearest evidence yet of the epidemic’s damaging effects on global growth and businesses and is likely to ramp up pressure on Japanese policymakers to boost growth. The au Jibun Bank Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) slipped to a seasonally-adjusted 47.8 from a final 48.8 in the previous month. The February reading was its lowest since May 2016.


The index stayed below the 50.0 threshold that separates contraction from expansion for a 10th month, marking the longest stretch since a 16-month run to June 2009 during the global financial crisis. “Near-term prospects for Japan’s industrial sector appear very bleak,” said Joe Hayes, economist at IHS Markit, which compiles the survey. “Weakness was driven by the demand-side in a broad-based fashion. Consumer, intermediate and capital goods producers recorded faster declines in demand and overall order books fell at the sharpest rate in over seven years.” The pressure on the world’s third-largest economy has built rapidly during the past weeks as the virus outbreak is dealing a sharp blow to China’s economy, Asia’s biggest.

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Good DNC boy. All against Bernie.

Buttigieg Drops Out Of Democratic Race Two Days Before Super Tuesday (R.)

Pete Buttigieg dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination on Sunday, saying he no longer saw a chance of winning, the day after fellow moderate Joe Biden won a big victory in South Carolina. The move shook up the Democratic contest to pick a candidate to take on Republican President Donald Trump in November’s election and came two days before the 14-state Super Tuesday nominating contests that will offer the biggest electoral prize so far. Buttigieg, a 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who gained early momentum after he narrowly won the Iowa caucuses last month and finished a close second in New Hampshire, had sought to unite Democrats, independents and moderate Republican voters.


But he finished a distant third in Nevada and fourth in South Carolina. “Today is a moment of truth … the truth is that the path has narrowed to a close for our candidacy if not for our cause,” Buttigieg told supporters in South Bend on Sunday night. “Our goal has always been to unify Americans to help defeat Donald Trump and to win the era for our values.” [..] An adviser told Reuters that Buttigieg was dropping out to avoid helping the odds of front-runner Bernie Sanders, a senator from Vermont and self-described democratic socialist. “Pete was not going to play the role of spoiler,” said the adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Could he have went through Super Tuesday and beyond? Sure. But this was not a vanity exercise.”

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Klobuchar out today? Place your bets. She has zero chance, but can take away votes from Sleepy Joe. They’ll keep Warren in, so she can dig into Bernie’s support.

And as all the TV clowns talk about Bernie’s support among black voters, check this:

“Klobuchar was the lead attorney in the county at the time of his initial trial, and she later denied a request for him to attend his mother’s funeral after he was imprisoned.”

Klobuchar Cancels Campaign Rally After Protests (Hill)

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) canceled a campaign rally in St. Louis Park, Minn., on Sunday after protesters reportedly affiliated with Black Lives Matter and other civil rights groups took the stage at her event for over an hour. In a statement obtained by The New York Times, Klobuchar’s campaign said the senator offered to meet with demonstrators in exchange for them exiting the stage and allowing her rally to proceed, adding that the protesters initially agreed to such terms before reportedly backing out and refusing to leave the stage.

“The campaign offered a meeting with the senator if they would leave the stage after being on the stage for more than an hour,” a spokesperson for the Klobuchar campaign told the Times. “After initially agreeing, the group backed out, and we are now canceling the event.” The campaign did not immediately return a request for further comment from The Hill. Klobuchar has faced calls to suspend her campaign from Black Lives Matter and NAACP activists over her role in the criminal prosecution of Myon Burrell, an African American man who was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison while still a teenager. Klobuchar was the lead attorney in the county at the time of his initial trial, and she later denied a request for him to attend his mother’s funeral after he was imprisoned.

Burrell’s case has become a point of criticism for Klobuchar’s campaign, as many including the victim’s father believe he may have been wrongfully convicted. “What I need people to understand is this isn’t about partisanship and this isn’t about politics,” said Leslie Redmond, president of the Minneapolis NAACP, in January. “This is about justice. … This isn’t just a situation that happened to the Central Park Five alone. This is a situation that happens all around America. This is a situation that happens right here in Minnesota.” “Young people, young adults were given life sentences to rot away in prison,” he added at the time. “This benefits no one. However, it does benefit politicians who use the criminal justice system to benefit their political careers. Enough is enough.”

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But Tulsi is still running.

Tulsi Gabbard Urges Trump: Don’t Drag Us Into War With Russia (ZH)

Tulsi Gabbard has once again gone on the offensive, skewering Washington mainstream foreign policy and the Trump administration’s refusal to stand up to “dictator” Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Trump reportedly told Erdogan in a phone call last week as the Idlib crisis escalates, now in an open state of war between the Turkish and Syrian armies, and with Russia supporting the latter, that the US “reaffirmed” its support for Turkey in Idlib. Ankara is now demanding greater support from NATO as well, after Russian jets were widely believed behind last Thursday’s massive air strike which killed 33 Turkish soldiers.


Congresswoman and Democratic presidential hopeful Gabbard attacked this stance in a weekend video statement, urging Trump instead to make clear that “the United States will not be dragged into a war with Russia by the aggressive Islamist expansionist dictator of Turkey via NATO.” She also slammed the mainstream media’s efforts to renew holding up al-Qaeda terrorists on the ground in Idlib as mere “rebels” and “freedom fighters” — saying it’s a disgrace to men and women in uniform who signed up to fight terrorists in the wake of 9/11. “Turkey’s been supporting ISIS and al-Qaeda terrorists from behind the scenes for years,” she pointed out. “Turkey’s Erdogan wants to create an Islamist caliphate in Syria, reestablish the Islamist Ottoman Empire, and is working with al-Qaeda and other terrorists to achieve his goal.” “He wants to be the caliph,” she added, explaining further he’s not a “friend” of America, but remains one of the most dangerous dictators in the world.

https://twitter.com/TulsiGabbard/status/1233740452182024193

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A kangaroo court in a banana republic.

Assange Enters The Kangaroo Court (MStar)

The most visually striking aspect of the Woolwich courtroom is where Assange sits — in a box covered by bullet-proof glass. This obviously unnecessary “security” measure was aimed at portraying Assange as a dangerous, violent terrorist who must be restrained at all times. Not only was the bullet-proof box dehumanising and degrading, it also made it impossible for Assange to participate in his own defence — a basic principle of due process. Assange could barely even hear the proceedings, let alone communicate with his legal team. Any communications that did occur in the box were not confidential since he was flanked at all times by at least one security guard. On Wednesday, Assange finally had enough. He stood up and began to address the judge, requesting he be permitted to properly communicate with his own lawyers.

The judge cut him off and sent the court into recess rather than allow him to speak. When the court reconvened, Assange’s lawyer formally requested Assange be permitted to sit with his legal team — a position that astonishingly was supported by the lawyer for the prosecution, who apparently found the whole set-up so gross as to discredit the entire proceeding. Yet still, the judge would not relent and Assange remained caged like an animal. However the abuse in the courtroom pales in comparison to the abuse behind closed doors in Belmarsh prison. The night after the trial opened, prison authorities relentlessly harassed Assange. He was shuffled from room to room all night, stripped naked and handcuffed multiple times throughout the ordeal. His legal papers were also confiscated.

When the defence lawyers complained the following day in court, the judge shrugged her shoulders and said that she had no authority over the prison administration who subjected him to such humiliation. The years of suffering Assange has endured while being persecuted by the US, British and other governments is evident simply from his physical appearance. Assange was clearly exhausted in the courtroom, sometimes slumped over. Even before being subjected to nearly a year of HMP Belmarsh, Assange had to deal with the psychological torment of nearly seven years’ confinement in the Ecuadorian Embassy. At the same time it is clear he still has the will to fight and has not compromised his principles an inch. The trial resumes in May, and will likely be followed by an extensive series of appeals.

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The pace the EU moves at. As Greece’s borders are being overrun. Erdogan is to visit Putin on Thursday.

Greece swears it won’t let the “migrants” enter, which Erdogan has selected for women and children (photo-ops) and militant youth (severity).

EU Accepts Greek Demand For Emergency Foreign Affairs Council (K.)

Josep Borrell Fontelles, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has convened an extraordinary Foreign Council for next week on developments in Syria and the ensuing migration emergency, at the request of Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias. Dendias had formally requested an extraordinary meeting Saturday. In his statement, Borrell says that the EU-Turkey agreement on repatriation of refugees needs to be upheld and confirms EU supports Greece and Bulgaria in addressing the migration issue. Borrell’s statement:


“The ongoing renewed fighting in and around Idlib represents a serious threat to international peace and security. It is causing an untold human suffering among the population, and having a grave impact on the region and beyond. The European Union needs to redouble efforts to address this terrible human crisis with all the means at its disposal. I am therefore calling for an extraordinary meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council next week to discuss the unfolding situation, in particular at the request of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece. Over the past days, I have been in contact with key actors. I have called for an immediate de-escalation and for a lasting ceasefire, deplored the loss of lives, and offered EU support to mitigate the consequences of the crisis. There is only a political solution to this crisis.

Read more …

 

 

 

If you read us, please support us. It’s the only way the Automatic Earth can survive. Donate on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Mar 012020
 


Arthur Rothstein Accident on US 40 between Hagerstown and Cumberland, Maryland 1936

 

 

 

HK Coronavirus Outbreak Not At Peak: Gabriel Leung (RTHK)
Indonesia’s Frontline Hospital Defends Policies To Tackle Coronavirus (R.)
Don’t Test, Don’t Tell! (Ben Hunt)
Markets Expected To Fall Further As Coronavirus Hits China’s Economy (G.)
China Pollution Clear Amid Coronavirus Slowdown (BBC)
Bernie Sanders Looks To Blow Away Rivals On Super Tuesday (G.)
US and Taliban Ink Afghanistan Peace Agreement (RT)
‘Get Out Of The Way, Let Us Deal With Assad’, Erdogan Says He Told Putin (RT)
Threat Of Russia-Turkey-NATO Hot War A Godsend For US Foreign Policy (RT)
Greece Vetoes NATO Communique Intended to Support Turkey in Syria (GR)
Turkey Minister: 76,358 Migrants Headed To Border With Greece (K.)

 

Cases 85,683 (+ 1,950 from yesterday’s 83,733)

Deaths 2,933 (+ 73 from yesterday’s 2,860)

 

• First cases: Armenia, Ireland, Luxembourg

• First deaths: US, Australia, Thailand

• China 79,824 cases, 593 new, total deaths 2,870, 41,625 recovered, 2 more doctors die
– new Hubei cases rise, 565 in the provincial capital Wuhan

• South Korea 3,736, 1023 new cases, but :
– estimates of 4,200 infections among Shincheonji church members
– that’s 80% of those tested, there are 210,000 church members, some of whom visited Wuhan

• Italy 1,178 (up 31%!), 29 deaths

• Iran 593, 43 deaths
– Twitter: “The country is imploding – law and order to disappear in the next days.”

• Japan 241 cases, 2 deaths

Singapore 102 cases
France 100
Hong Kong 95, 2 deaths
US 71, 1 death
Thailand 42 cases, 1 death
Bahrain 38
UK 23
Switzerland 18
Norway 15
Iraq 13
Lebanon 7
Holland 7
Pakistan 4
Mexico 4

59 countries affected

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

I added a third counter, from COVID2019.app, a project where 70 people -and counting- work together

 

 

 

 

Leung is behind some of the most dire predictions. But not for his homebase HK.

HK Coronavirus Outbreak Not At Peak: Gabriel Leung (RTHK)

The Dean of the University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Medicine, Professor Gabriel Leung, on Sunday warned that the coronavirus outbreak in Hong Kong had not yet reached its peak, saying it was too early to tell when it would be over and people should not let their guard down against the respiratory disease. As of Saturday, Hong Kong had reported 95 confirmed cases of the virus, known as Covid-19, and two deaths. But speaking after a radio programme, Professor Leung said the overall decline in new cases on the mainland did show that the first wave of the outbreak there was largely under control, except in Hubei province, where the disease appears to have originated.

On Sunday, the mainland reported 573 new Covid-19 infections, up from the 427 on Saturday and the highest for a week, although much lower than earlier in the month. The mainland’s National Health Commission also reported 35 deaths, fewer than the 47 on Saturday, which took the death toll to 2,870. All but one of Sunday’s deaths – and all but three of its new cases – were in Hubei. The total number of cases on the mainland is now approaching 80,000. Professor Leung said the rest of the world was now only seeing the beginning of the outbreak and this would make containing the spread of the virus in Hong Kong more difficult. However, he said Hong Kong had actually been doing well at virus control.

“The rest of the world actually views Hong Kong, along with Singapore, as the gold standard in epidemic control,” he said. “If you look at these two places, we have very similar absolute numbers of confirmed cases, yet we have a population that is one third bigger then Singapore, so – on a per capita basis – we’re not doing too badly.”


Corona timeline develops in very similar ways in various locations

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Over 260 million people, 141 tests. It’s almost like the US.

Indonesia’s Frontline Hospital Defends Policies To Tackle Coronavirus (R.)

Indonesia has the resources to cope with a coronavirus outbreak, the director of its leading infectious diseases hospital said, defending detection procedures in the Southeast Asian nation of more than 260 million, where no cases have been reported. The world’s fourth most populous nation has tested 141 suspected cases, a small figure for its population, sparking concern among some medical professionals of a lack of vigilance and a risk of undetected cases. Neighboring Malaysia has reportedly run about 1,000 tests, and Britain more than 10,000. “We can’t doubt our skills and the facts we gather,” said Muhammad Syahril, director of the Sulianti Saroso hospital in Jakarta, the capital, when asked why Indonesia had detected no cases.

“If we don’t have cases, we don’t have cases,” he said in an interview at the hospital on Friday. “Why would we cover it up?” [..] The hospital was ready to tackle any outbreak, armed with experience gained in handling disease such as the 2003-2004 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), he said. A health ministry official previously told Reuters that some hospitals, particularly in eastern Indonesia, had smaller capacity to handle virus cases. But even in Jakarta not all best practices appear to be followed and a recent visit to another hospital revealed some nurses without masks, despite attending to a patient with fever.

Fuelling concern about Indonesia’s vulnerability, four infections were confirmed in travelers who had spent time there, including a Japanese national living in Malaysia and one returning to New Zealand from Iran via the resort island of Bali. Indonesian physician Shela Putri Sundawa worries that screening could miss potential carriers without symptoms. “When people have travel or contact history, but they only have issues with coughing or minor fever, they’ll just be monitored,” she said, calling for tighter surveillance. Tests were run when doctors determined that symptoms pointed “to that direction”, Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto saidlast week. “Imagine if everybody who had a cough or flu was checked, then millions would be checked,” he said, adding that it was “a blessing from the Almighty” that no cases had been found.

Read more …

Now repeat this in dozens of other countries.

Don’t Test, Don’t Tell! (Ben Hunt)

Patient comes in from another hospital on Wednesday, Feb. 19 – this is one week ago – already intubated and on a ventilator, and the doctors at UC Davis – who have treated other COVID-19 cases – IMMEDIATELY suspect COVID-19. But the CDC refuses to test for COVID-19. Why? Because it didn’t fit their “criteria” for testing. They didn’t know for sure that the patient was in mainland China within the past 14 days, and they didn’t know for sure that the patient was in close contact with another confirmed case, so BY DEFINITION this patient can’t possibly have COVID-19. No test for you! This is “Don’t Test, Don’t Tell” and it is the single most incompetent, corrupt public health policy of my lifetime. And it’s happening all over the country.

[..] the update: 83 people are in self-quarantine at home, where they are supposed to “check their temperature” daily. Don’t have a thermometer? Not to worry! The Nassau County Health Commission will provide one for you! Who are the 83 in self-quarantine? Why, they’re everyone that Homeland Security says should be in self-quarantine, based on “current guidelines” of someone who was in mainland China within the past 14 days. Has it been 15 days since your mainland China visit? Have you been to Northern Italy in past 14 days? Have you been to Iran in past 14 days? Have you been to South Korea in past 14 days? Well, no self-quarantine for you! You’re fine!

And here’s the kicker. Not only is there ZERO tracking or monitoring of anyone who has been swimming in the coronavirus stew of South Korea, Northern Italy and Iran, but let’s say that you have in fact been to one of those areas recently and now you’re feeling sick. You go to the doctor and you tell her the whole story. Both of you suspect it might be COVID-19. You’re trying to do the right thing here. You call the county health authority. You call the state health authority. You call the CDC. And then you learn the awful truth of Don’t Test, Don’t Tell. It’s not that testing is not available…It’s that testing is not ALLOWED. [..] here’s the other quote from the UC Davis email that I’d like you to pay close attention to:

“When the patient arrived [Wednesday], the patient had already been intubated, was on a ventilator, and given droplet protection orders because of an undiagnosed and suspected viral condition. … On Sunday, the CDC ordered COVID-19 testing of the patient and the patient was put on airborne precautions and strict contact precautions.” Translation: for four days, every healthcare professional treating this patient at UC Davis was exposed to airborne transmission of COVID-19. And so was every healthcare professional at the hospital before UC Davis. Because the CDC refused to test this patient for COVID-19 in a timely manner, the doctors and nurses and technicians caring for this patient were put at risk.

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But!: “The most horrible week for the Dow since the GFC in 2008 is hardly visible on the long-term chart.”

Imagine what would need to happen to make it visible.

Markets Expected To Fall Further As Coronavirus Hits China’s Economy (G.)

It is likely the fresh data, which measures the economic impact of Beijing’s efforts to clamp down on the virus, will further spook investors who sent global markets tumbling 11% last week in the worst seven-day period for stocks since the 2008 financial crash. With factories forced to remain closed after the traditional lunar new year holiday shutdown, China’s official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), a widely watched measure of economic activity, fell further in February than at any time in the last 12 years, China’s National Bureau of Statistics said. The bureau found a significant collapse in domestic and export orders and a contraction of the country’s burgeoning service sector.

Similar surveys expected next month covering Japan and South Korea, both seriously affected by the coronavirus outbreak, could prolong the rout on global stock markets, analysts said. The outbreak has already disrupted supplies to factories in Europe, where companies have struggled to access vital components sourced from east Asia. Investors expect to find out in the next few days whether the outbreak is accelerating in the US, the world’s biggest economy, and how far central banks and governments are prepared to go to deal with an epidemic. “Right now the market is saying that this is unbounded. We don’t know what the limits are and we don’t know where it’s going to peak,” said Graham Tanaka, the chief investment officer at New York-based Tanaka Capital. Stock markets globally lost about $5tn of value last week, as measured by the MSCI all-country index.

Last weekend China’s president, Xi Jinping, told local officials that low-risk areas should “resume full production and normal life”. The government reported that larger factories reached 85.6% of their capacity by the middle of last week. Analysts at ING said: “This isn’t as positive as it sounds. Even if China‘s factory production can recover in March, it will still face the risk of a low level of export orders. This is because the supply chain will continue to be broken, this time in South Korea, Japan, Europe, and the US, where Covid-19 has begun to spread.” Unofficial reports show that factories outside Hubei province, where the virus started, could be working at no more than 75% of their capacity and many nearer 25% to 50% while millions of workers remain trapped in their home province, unable to travel back to their place of work.

Read more …

Silver linings are everywhere.

China Pollution Clear Amid Coronavirus Slowdown (BBC)

Satellite images have shown a dramatic decline in pollution levels over China, which is “at least partly” due to an economic slowdown prompted by the coronavirus, US space agency Nasa says. Nasa maps show falling levels of nitrogen dioxide this year. It comes amid record declines in China’s factory activity as manufacturers stop work in a bid to contain coronavirus. [..] Nasa scientists said the reduction in levels of nitrogen dioxide – a noxious gas emitted by motor vehicles and industrial facilities – was first apparent near the source of the outbreak in Wuhan city but then spread across the country.

Nasa compared the first two months of 2019 with the same period this year. The space agency noted that the decline in air pollution levels coincided with restriction imposed on transportation and business activities, and as millions of people went into quarantine. “This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event,” Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement. She added that she had observed a decline in nitrogen dioxide levels during the economic recession in 2008, but said that decrease was more gradual. Nasa noted that China’s Lunar New Year celebrations in late January and early February have been linked to decreases in pollution levels in the past. But it said they normally increase once the celebrations are over.

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Oh ye of little faith in the DNC.

Bernie Sanders Looks To Blow Away Rivals On Super Tuesday (G.)

Bernie Sanders doesn’t do things by half measures. As he vies to become the 46th president of the United States he is looking to shatter no fewer than three historic records. President Sanders would be the first Jewish incumbent of the most powerful office on Earth. Aged 79 on inauguration day, he would become the oldest president in US history having unseated the current record-holder, Donald Trump, 73. Most striking of all, he would be the first American commander-in-chief describing himself as a “democratic socialist”. Judging by recent attacks from his detractors – Democratic ones, not Trump supporters – that is the political equivalent of carrying the coronavirus.

“I’ll tell you what it adds up to,” said Pete Buttigieg, his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, at this week’s TV debate ahead of Saturday’s primary in South Carolina. Buttigieg referenced Sanders’ “radical” policies of universal tax-funded healthcare, debt-free college tuition and a Green New Deal to tackle the climate crisis, then said: “It adds up to four more years of Donald Trump.” On Tuesday Sanders has the chance to take his political insurgency and wipe it across the nation. In the 2020 cycle, Super Tuesday is even more super-charged than usual, providing him with an opportunity to take his already impressive lead over Buttigieg and six other Democratic rivals and virtually blast them out of the water.

In Iowa he finished a splinter-thin second to Buttigieg. In New Hampshire he won. In Nevada he sealed his frontrunner status with a slam-dunk victory. Now Super Tuesday promises to project him to all-but invincible heights. Fourteen states go to the polls on 3 March, between them commanding two-thirds of the 1991 delegates he needs to win outright.

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At least it sounds good.

If only because John Bolton said on Twitter:

Signing this agreement with Taliban is an unacceptable risk to America’s civilian population. This is an Obama-style deal. Legitimizing Taliban sends the wrong signal to ISIS and al Qaeda terrorists, and to America’s enemies generally.”

US and Taliban Ink Afghanistan Peace Agreement (RT)

Washington and the Taliban movement have signed a deal that lays out conditions for the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan. The agreement was signed by US peace envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and one of the Taliban’s senior leaders, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in Qatar’s capital Doha on Saturday. The deal will see Washington and its allies withdrawing their troops from five bases in Afghanistan within the next 135 days. The remaining American soldiers will leave the country in 14 months if the Taliban fulfills its commitments. The document lays the groundwork for future negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, aimed at bringing a lasting peace to the country.


The US has agreed to facilitate the talks and lift sanctions from Taliban members by August, provided the negotiations commence as planned. Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada called on all of his fighters to honor and abide by the agreement. The US and Afghan governments said earlier that the peace agreement will include guarantees that Afghan territory will not be used by terrorist groups to target the US and its allies. Also, Washington and Kabul agreed on a prisoner exchange with the Taliban by March 10, vowing to release up to 5,000 and 1,000 people respectively. Calling the deal “a decisive step toward real peace in Afghanistan,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke about the victories against Al-Qaeda, the group behind the 9/11 attacks. “Al-Qaeda today is a shadow of its former self. We have decimated its leadership, and now we have the Taliban agreeing that Al-Qaeda must never again find safe haven in Afghanistan,” he said.

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Seeing 33 of his troops killed didn’t bring home Putin’s message to Erdogan. Whose claims are for domestic purposes only, until someone dares him.

‘Get Out Of The Way, Let Us Deal With Assad’, Erdogan Says He Told Putin (RT)

As tensions in Idlib province reach the boiling point, Turkey has asked Russia to let it fight the Syrian government face-to-face, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan revealed. Erdogan asked Putin “to get out of the way” and let the Turkish troops deal with Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Turkish leader told his AK Party on Saturday. Erdogan was explaining to lawmakers his government’s handling of the escalation in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, where Turkish and Syrian troops have engaged in several clashes over the past weeks. The hostilities have all but ruined Turkey’s 2018 agreement with Russia on de-escalating the violence in the area, which remains the last major stronghold of anti-government forces in Syria.

Describing his phone conversation with Putin, Erdogan said if Russia’s interest in Syria was to keep a military presence there, Turkey, a NATO member, does not object to it. I asked Mr Putin: What’s your business there? If you establish a base, do so but get out of our way and leave us face to face with the regime. Moscow intervened in the Syrian conflict in 2015 to help Damascus fight against jihadist groups. Moscow said helping the Syrian government prevented future attacks launched by this would-be entity against other nations, including Russia. Erdogan said Ankara now considers Syrian government troops a legitimate target for its attacks, claiming Damascus lost over 2,100 soldiers in Idlib.

It was not immediately clear if the casualty number only represents Syrian troops killed directly by the Turkish military or includes those killed by Turkish-backed armed groups. Erdogan added that “seven warehouses with chemicals” were also destroyed in Syria, but did not offer any details or evidence regarding whether Syria still had chemical weapons in its possession. The Turkish leader said fighting against the Syrian government is necessary to prevent a humanitarian disaster in Idlib, which would cause a new influx of refugees into Turkey across the border. Part of the Turkish response to the situation was opening the border with Europe to asylum-seekers. Erdogan said the EU failed to support Turkey, which already hosts over 3,6 million refugees from Syria and faces as many as 4 million new arrivals now.

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Does NATO Article 5 apply to members invading the sovereign soil of other nations?

Threat Of Russia-Turkey-NATO Hot War A Godsend For US Foreign Policy (RT)

Turkey is calling for NATO’s protection after 33 of its soldiers were killed in an apparent Syrian airstrike in Idlib, allegedly while fighting in terrorist ranks. In the regional chaos that ensues, only one player stands to gain.
Speculation over what’s to come next has seen #article 5 trending on Twitter in the hours following the attacks, after Omer Celik, spokesman for Turkey’s ruling AKP party, indicated to reporters in Ankara that he was looking at requesting formal NATO protection against Damascus and, by proxy, the Russian air force. “We call on NATO to [start] consultations. This is not [an attack] on Turkey only, it is an attack on the international community. A common reaction is needed. The attack was also against NATO,” Celik told Turkish media.

Article 5 of the NATO treaty says an attack on one member is an attack on them all. The US State Department also condemned the attack, stating that it stands by its “NATO ally Turkey.” It further stated that it continues to “call for an immediate end to this despicable offensive by the Assad regime, Russia and Iranian-backed forces.” Never one to let us down, the US envoy to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchinson also told journalists that “everything is on the table.” However, it is unclear if NATO has the stamina to back Turkey in any meaningful way in a war against a Syrian government which is backed by Russian air power. It is also unclear if Article 5 extends to NATO allies when they have effectively invaded a foreign entity. In fact, even if no corporate media entity would willingly admit it, the nation defending itself in this specific set of facts is Syria – not Turkey.

That being said, Ankara has found a way to ensure that European nations do not flat-out ignore the situation. Just recently, Turkey reportedly opened up the Idlib border to allow an influx of Syrian refugees to flee to Europe, which will surely magnify regional tensions to a significant extent. Moscow has responded to the situation by highlighting Ankara’s relationship with the various jihadist entities in Syria. According to Russia’s Defense Ministry, the airstrike was carried out when the Syrian Army was repelling an offensive by Syria’s official al-Qaeda offshoot, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, inside the Idlib “de-escalation zone.” Of course, anyone who has been paying attention to the war in Syria can appreciate that Ankara’s material and financial support for terrorist groups in Syria, including and especially Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), has long been documented.

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Erdogan buys Russian anti-rocket systems, then asks NATO for support with air defense.

Greece Vetoes NATO Communique Intended to Support Turkey in Syria (GR)

Greece blocked the issuance of a joint communique from NATO on Friday night, intended to support Turkey in its war inside Syrian territory. According to Greece’s Kathimerini daily, which quotes Greek Foreign Ministry officials, Athens decided to block the joint NATO declaration because several of its members denied Greece’s demand to add a paragraph, which would have mentioned the issue of refugee and migrant influx from Turkey to Greece. According to this report, the USA, the UK, France, and Germany disagreed with Greece’s demand.


Meanwhile, Turkey asked NATO for additional support, particularly in its air defense in Syria. Most of the members of the North Atlantic alliance see this situation as an opportunity to bring Turkey closer to its allies in the West, pausing Ankara’s flirt with Russia. This was the reason why most of NATO’s ”big” players did not want to anger Turkey, by adding a clause that would mention immigration, particularly at a time when Ankara declares its inability to deal with approximately 4 million refugees and migrants currently in its territory.

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Greece has sent in the army to hold of some 13,000 migrants at the border. Either the EU acts now, or people are going to be killed.

Turkey Minister: 76,358 Migrants Headed To Border With Greece (K.)

Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu claims, in a Twitter post, that 76,358 migrants had passed through the border city of Edirne by Sunday morning on their way to the border crossing with Greece. “As of 09.55 hours, the number of immigrants leaving our country via Edirne is 76 thousand 358,” said Soylu, according to the Demiroren News Agency. Turkey has opened its borders for migrants to cross into the EU and has aided them by providing buses to Edirne.

Read more …

 

 

 

If you read us, please support us. It’s the only way the Automatic Earth can survive. Donate on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Feb 202020
 


NPC Newsstand with Out-of-Town Papers, Washington DC 1925

 

2 Diamond Princess Passengers Die, Countries Rush To Evacuate Citizens (RT)
Two Coronavirus Patients From Diamond Princess Cruise Ship In Japan Die (SCMP)
New Coronavirus Spreads More Like Flu Than SARS (R.)
First Batch Of Diamond Princess Passengers Arrive In Hong Kong (R.)
Cruise Passengers Relieved To Be Ashore But Stranded In Cambodia (G.)
South Korea Reports 31 New Cases Of Coronavirus (SCMP)
Virus-Hit China Limps Back To Work (R.)
Trump ‘Offered Julian Assange A Pardon If He Denied Russia Link To Hack’ (G.)
Did Trump Offer Assange A Pardon? (ZH)
German Politicians And Professionals Demand Release Of Julian Assange (WSWS)
Roger Stone To Be Sentenced By Judge He Antagonized (R.)
Greece Labels Erdogan A Liar (K.)
Bolton Says His Impeachment Testimony Would Not Have Changed Outcome (NBC)
Russia Becomes A Safe Haven In An Increasingly Turbulent World (BNE)

 

 

Cases 75,757 (+ 560 from yesterday’s 75,197).

Number seems low because China used their accounting again (h/t ZH):

 

China’s National Health Commission may report – as soon as this evening – the first official drop in new cases since the pandemic started. Why does this matter? Because that is now the catalyst everyone is waiting for to pounce and declare that the epidemic is effectively over, even if of course isn’t.


But since for China it is no longer an option to not have people go to work, the Chinese Communist Party will take its chances with another major breakout in coronavirus, or rather pneumonia, which is how all the thousands of new “mystery” deaths will be tagged by the friendly Chinese coroner, who will be instructed to never use the word coronavirus again and instead attributed covid-19 fatalities to far more mundane causes such as pneumonia, and ordinary flu.

 

Deaths 2,130 (+ 120 from yesterday)

• First death among Diamond Princess passengers, first cases in Iran

 

 

I’ll go use these numbers from Worldometer as well:

 

 

 

 

“..as the number of those infected soared to over 620 people, Japanese authorities allowed some 600 passengers to leave the ship on Wednesday ..”

2 Diamond Princess Passengers Die, Countries Rush To Evacuate Citizens (RT)

An elderly couple aboard Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan, where over 620 cases of coronavirus were confirmed, has succumbed to the illness. The fatalities come as Tokyo allows hundreds of passengers to return home. Both passengers were in their 80s, according to public broadcaster NHK, and are the first on board the ship to die of the virus, which has spread to more than 75,000 people and killed over 2,100 worldwide since last December. So far, the majority of fatalities have involved elderly patients with preexisting conditions. The ship was initially quarantined on February 3 with around 3,700 people aboard, and has since turned into the largest disease hotspot outside China.

After more than two weeks in isolation, as the number of those infected soared to over 620 people, Japanese authorities allowed some 600 passengers to leave the ship on Wednesday and board flights back home, with several hundred more expected to disembark the following day. So far, the US has evacuated some 328 American citizens from the vessel on two chartered flights, 14 of whom were confirmed to carry the virus just as they were heading to the airport. They were isolated from the others on board the plane and remain in quarantine in the US.

Over 150 Australian passengers were allowed to return home – where they face another two-week observation period – while several Hong Kongers also disembarked. Canada, Britain and Indonesia are slated to carry out similar evacuations for citizens aboard the ill-fated cruise liner in the coming days. More than 130 Indian crew members will be the last to depart the ship, forced to endure another two weeks on board before facing yet another 14-day quarantine at home.

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“Americans flown back will have to complete another 14 days quarantine, as will returning Hong Kong residents. Disembarked Japanese passengers, however, face no such restrictions..”

Two Coronavirus Patients From Diamond Princess Cruise Ship In Japan Die (SCMP)

Two passengers from a coronavirus-hit cruise ship moored near Tokyo have died, public broadcaster NHK said on Thursday, as a second group of passengers began disembarking after two-weeks quarantined on-board. More than 620 of the passengers on the Diamond Princess liner have been infected on the ship, which has been quarantined since February 3, initially with about 3,700 people on board. NHK, citing a government source, said the passengers were a man and woman in their 80s. Both had underlying conditions and had been taken off the ship on February 11 and 12 before being treated in hospital, NHK said. The rapid spread of the disease – Japan has well over half of the known cases outside China – has sparked criticism of authorities just months before Tokyo is due to host the Summer Olympics.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato on Thursday defended Japan’s response in parliament, telling lawmakers that officials have taken expert advice and responded to issues on a daily basis. In a move to reassure the public, the health ministry also issued a statement in both English and Japanese that said all passengers had been required to stay in their cabins since February 5 to contain the virus. [..] About 500 passengers were set to disembark on Thursday while another 100 people were to leave for chartered flights home, a health ministry official said. An initial batch of passengers who had tested negative and shown no symptoms left the vessel on Wednesday.

Those who have shared a room with people testing positive were required to remain in quarantine, as were crew. The ministry could not confirm how many people remained on board, or when disembarkation would be complete. More than 150 Australian passengers arrived home after a predawn departure from Tokyo’s Haneda airport. They face another 14-day quarantine. Some Hong Kong passengers also went home, while Canadians were due to leave on a charter flight in the early hours of Friday, Tokyo time, a Canadian government spokeswoman said. An evacuation flight was also being arranged for British nationals to leave Tokyo on Friday.

Earlier in the week, the United States evacuated more than 300 nationals on two chartered flights. A State Department official said there were still about 45 US citizens on board the cruise ship as of Thursday. Americans flown back will have to complete another 14 days quarantine, as will returning Hong Kong residents. Disembarked Japanese passengers, however, face no such restrictions, a decision that has sparked concern.

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Transmissibility.

New Coronavirus Spreads More Like Flu Than SARS (R.)

Scientists in China who studied nose and throat swabs from 18 patients infected with the new coronavirus say it behaves much more like influenza than other closely related viruses, suggesting it may spread even more easily than previously believed. In at least in one case, the virus was present even though the patient had no symptoms, confirming concerns that asymptomatic patients could also spread the disease. Although preliminary, the findings published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, offer new evidence that this novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 2,000 people mostly in China, is not like its closely-related coronavirus cousins.

“If confirmed, this is very important,” said Dr. Gregory Poland, a virologist and vaccine researcher with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who was not involved with the study. Unlike Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which causes infections deep in the lower respiratory tract that can result in pneumonia, COVID-19 appears to inhabit both the upper and lower respiratory tracts. That would make it not only capable of causing severe pneumonia, but of spreading easily like flu or the common cold. Researchers in Guangdong province monitored the amount of coronavirus in the 18 patients. One of them, who had moderate levels of the virus in their nose and throat, never had any disease symptoms.

Among the 17 symptomatic patients, the team found levels of the virus increased soon after symptoms first appeared, with higher amounts of virus present in the nose than in the throats, a pattern more similar to influenza than SARS. The level of virus in the asymptomatic patient was similar to what was present in patients with symptoms, such as fever. “What this says is clearly this virus can be shed out of the upper respiratory tract and that people are shedding it asymptomatically,” Poland said. [..] “This virus is clearly much more capable of spreading between humans than any other novel coronavirus we’ve ever seen. This is more akin to the spread of flu,” said Andersen, who was not involved with the study.

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Yet another new name for the virus is spreading: SARS-CoV-2.

First Batch Of Diamond Princess Passengers Arrive In Hong Kong (R.)

More than 100 Hong Kong residents who were quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise in Japan for over two weeks landed on Thursday morning in the Asian financial hub, where they will face a further 14 days of quarantine. Arriving on a chartered Cathay Pacific aircraft, the 106 passengers were part of a first batch of at least two government arranged flights to bring back hundreds of remaining citizens. Authorities said 55 of the 364 Hong Kong residents on the ship were infected with the coronavirus. They will remain in Japan along with 33 other citizens who have been in close contact with them.


The British-flagged Diamond Princess arrived in Yokohama, near Tokyo, on Feb 3. with about 3,700 people onboard after the virus was diagnosed in a man who disembarked last month in Hong Kong. Over 600 passengers have tested positive for the virus, SARS-CoV-2, so far. Passengers began disembarking on Wednesday from the ship, which is operated by Carnival Corp. The process will be finished by Friday, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said. Passengers arriving in Hong Kong are being taken straight into quarantine at a new public housing estate in the city’s New Territories region.

Read more …

The Westerdam had 2,257 people, 1,455 passengers and 802 crew aboard. There are now 255 passengers and 747 crew. 1,200 potentially infected people have spread all over the globe. Countries are now “scrambling” to find them.

Cruise Passengers Relieved To Be Ashore But Stranded In Cambodia (G.)

The MS Westerdam arrived in Cambodia on 13 February, after repeatedly being denied entry to other ports. But the thrill of the moment, has now evaporated for those still facing a logistical nightmare. Travel options – already limited by the number of airlines serving Cambodia – have been narrowed by a growing list of countries denying entry to passengers from the ship. “We showed up in a city unexpected and there’s only so many flights a night and we have a lot of people we’re trying to funnel through that system and we’re putting a lot of stress on that system,” said Orlando Ashford, president of the Holland America Line, which operates the Westerdam. “It’s a math problem: how many people do you have? How many seats do you have?”

Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan are among those refusing to allow passengers in, making flying to Europe and the Americas difficult. Some airlines, such as Emirates, make a stop in Bangkok before proceeding to hubs such as Dubai, further limiting available flights. Still, Ashford expressed hope that remaining passengers would be on their way home “in a couple of days”. The Westerdam, with 2,257 passengers and crew aboard, began letting passengers off on Friday as they found flights home. But that was stopped once news broke that an 83-year-old American woman who had been on the ship and subsequently traveled to Malaysia was found to be carrying the virus. Some 255 passengers and 747 crew members were held on the ship while further testing was conducted.

Cambodia’s ministry of health said on Wednesday that all the tests came back negative and that all passengers were reported to be healthy and fever-free. After that, remaining passengers were allowed off the ship. Tony Martin-Vegue, whose wife, Christina Kerby, remains in Phnom Penh, began immediately preparing for her return home to California’s Bay Area once she got off the ship. Now he’s not sure when that might happen. “It’s kind of limbo right now,” he said. “I’m worried about how she’s going to get home.”

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Yesterday 20, now 31. 90 people at a temple service show symptoms.

South Korea Reports 31 New Cases Of Coronavirus (SCMP)

The mayor of a South Korean city at the centre of a new coronavirus outbreak told residents to stay indoors on Thursday as a surge in confirmed cases linked to a local church raised the prospect of wider transmission. Malls, restaurants and streets in Daegu, the country’s fourth largest city with a population of 2.5 million, were largely empty in scenes that local social media users likened to a disaster movie. “We are in an unprecedented crisis,” Daegu Mayor Kwon Young-jin said at a briefing in the city, about 240km (miles) southwest of the capital Seoul, as he warned of likely further cases. Korea’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 31 new cases of the virus on Thursday, following 20 a day earlier, taking the total across the country to 82.


Of that national tally, 49 patients are from Daegu or nearby and have been traced to an infected person who attended a local church, a scenario that KCDC described as a “super-spreading event”. Kwon cautioned that at least 90 more of the around 1,000 other people who attended services at the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony were also showing symptoms. [..] The cases previously reported in South Korea had mostly involved people who had travelled individually to China or come in contact with somebody who had. Daegu authorities ordered the shutdown of all kindergartens, while schools considered postponing the beginning of the spring semester scheduled for early March The Defence Ministry banned troops stationed in Daegu from leaving their barracks and receiving guests.

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Breaking the -supply- chains.

Virus-Hit China Limps Back To Work (R.)

The Chinese manufacturing engine that powers much of the world economy is struggling to restart after an extended Lunar New Year break, hindered by travel and quarantine restrictions imposed to curb the coronavirus epidemic and still in place in many parts of the country. Case in point: in the southern China manufacturing hub of Dongguan, a factory that makes vaporizers and other products had just half of its workforce of 40 last week and was struggling to function without key personnel. “The quality inspectors, they’re all out,” said Renaud Anjoran, who runs the factory. “One is stuck in Hubei, the other is in an area with no transportation open.” Anjoran said other Dongguan manufacturers were also scrambling with half their normal staff levels, with some having even less than that.

The problems are exacerbating pain inflicted by loss of business from the U.S.-China trade war and present huge logistical challenges as companies, many dependent on migrant workers, grapple with a myriad of restrictions that differ by province, city and local district. Apple on Monday rescinded a quarterly sales target made just weeks ago, saying the ramp up of factories in China was slower than anticipated. Hyundai and Nissan have had to suspend some production – not just in China but also at home – for lack of parts. Some smaller firms, particularly in Southeast Asia and reliant on supplies from China, are having to make tough decisions. Taiwan’s Sica New Materials abruptly shut its factory in Thailand at the end of January, laying off about 350 workers.

“They couldn’t produce because raw materials weren’t being sent from China,” said Pairote Panthakarn from the government’s welfare and labor protection office in Kanchanaburi province, where the factory is located. Sica New Materials did not respond to a request for comment. Sinoproud Cambodia Garments, whose customers include fashion retailer Zara’s parent Inditex, told Reuters it may scale back production as stocks of fabric were getting low. “We hope we get the product in March and if we don’t get the product in March, we might just have to cut back and put the workers on half pay,” said general manager Tu Ailan. Nearly half of 109 U.S. companies responding to a poll by Shanghai’s American Chamber of Commerce said plant shutdowns have already had an impact on their supply chains, while almost all of the remainder expect an impact within the next month.

Read more …

WikiLeaks says on Twitter that there’s much more where this came from.

Julian Assange has always said Russia was not behind the leaked mails, and said they were not hacked, but leaked.. But that was not convenient. And now he’s locked up.

In early 2017, Assange negotiated with Congressmembers (?!) about providing proof Russia was not involved. James Comey shut that down.

Mollie Hemingway on Twitter: “Not only have the media not had a proper reckoning for their deceitful years-long push of the dangerous and false Russia collusion conspiracy theory, THEY ARE STILL DOING IT AS LATE AS TODAY. This propaganda is dangerous to domestic and national security and must stop.”

Trump ‘Offered Julian Assange A Pardon If He Denied Russia Link To Hack’ (G.)

Donald Trump offered Julian Assange a pardon if he would say Russia was not involved in leaking Democratic party emails, a court in London has been told. The extraordinary claim was made at Westminster magistrates court before the opening next week of Assange’s legal battle to block attempts to extradite him to the US, where he faces charges for publishing hacked documents. The allegation was denied by the former Republican congressman named by the Assange legal team as a key witness. Assange’s lawyers alleged that during a visit to London in August 2017, congressman Dana Rohrabacher told the WikiLeaks founder that “on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange … said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC [Democratic National Committee] leaks.”


A few hours later, however, Rohrabacher denied the claim, saying he had made the proposal on his own initiative, and that the White House had not endorsed it. “At no time did I talk to President Trump about Julian Assange,” the former congressman wrote on his personal blog. “Likewise, I was not directed by Trump or anyone else connected with him to meet with Julian Assange. I was on my own fact finding mission at personal expense to find out information I thought was important to our country. “At no time did I offer Julian Assange anything from the president because I had not spoken with the president about this issue at all. However, when speaking with Julian Assange, I told him that if he could provide me information and evidence about who actually gave him the DNC emails, I would then call on President Trump to pardon him,” Rohrabacher added. “At no time did I offer a deal made by the president, nor did I say I was representing the president.”

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Zero Hedge appears to be confused here when they say According to Assange’s lawyer, Rohrabacher, it was him that informed Gen. Kelly..”

It wasn’t Assange’s lawyer, it was Rohrabacher (they are not the same person) who “said it was him that informed Gen. Kelly that “Assange would provide information about the purloined DNC emails in exchange for a pardon..” It should read: “According to Assange’s lawyer, Rohrabacher said it was him that informed Gen. Kelly..”

So their headline “Assange’s Lawyer Flip-Flops – Admits He Offered Russia Exoneration Quid Pro Quo, White House Ignored” doesn’t seem to make sense.

Did Trump Offer Assange A Pardon? (ZH)

Update: The story appears to have changed dramatically. According to Assange’s lawyer, Rohrabacher said it was him that informed Gen. Kelly that “Assange would provide information about the purloined DNC emails in exchange for a pardon,” but never heard back from the White House. It was Assange’s lawyer (not Assange) that offered a quid prod quo to expose the truth that Russia did not hack the DNC emails (none of which has been proven) in exchange for a pardon… but The White House never responded. [..] Attorneys for Julian Assange told a London court on Wednesday that they will provide evidence that the Trump administration offered to pardon the WikiLeaks founder if he was willing to say that Russia had nothing to do with leaks of Democratic Party emails, according to Bloomberg.

During the preliminary extradition hearing, Assange’s lawyers said that former GOP congressman Dana Rohrahbacher offered the deal in 2017, one year after WikiLeaks published emails which were damaging to then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. At the time, the FBI’s ‘Russiagate’ investigation was in full swing as the agency tried in vein to prove that Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 US election.

“At a preliminary hearing Wednesday, Assange’s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald asked the court to allow more witness statements during the extradition hearing that will start next week. The new information includes a witness statement by Jen Robinson, another of Assange’s lawyers, that deals with the alleged offer made by then U.S. Representative. Dana Rohrabacher, he told the court. The witness statement will address “Mr. Rohrabacher going to see Mr. Assange, and saying on instructions of the president, offering pardon or some other way out if Mr. Assange played ball and said the Russians had nothing to do with” the leaks, Fitzgerald said.” -Bloomberg

Read more …

Where were they the past few years?

German Politicians And Professionals Demand Release Of Julian Assange (WSWS)

German-speaking politicians, cultural workers and journalists have published a joint appeal, “Release Julian Assange from prison,” which supports the demand “for the immediate release of Julian Assange, on medical grounds as well on the basis of the rule of law.” The 130 initial signatories have now been joined by 22,000 other supporters. The appeal expresses “great concern for the life of the journalist and founder of Wikileaks” and quotes the findings of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, saying, Assange showed “all the symptoms typical of victims of prolonged psychological torture.” The appeal also refers to the open letter from more than 60 medical doctors, who demand “Assange be transferred to a university hospital, as his state of health is now considered life-threatening.”


“It is obvious that Julian Assange cannot recuperate under the current conditions of detention, nor can he prepare for his extradition proceedings, which are scheduled to begin on February 24, 2020,” the appeal says. “Both constitute serious violations of fundamental principles of human rights and the rule of law, making a fair trial impossible and exposing Julian Assange to considerable suffering and health risks.” The appeal goes on to say, “We remind the German media that Assange is one of their own and that the defence of press freedom is a fundamental tenet of democracy. Notwithstanding the allegations levelled against Assange, we urge the United Kingdom, on the human rights and medical grounds outlined above, to release Julian Assange from custody immediately so that he can recover under expert medical supervision and exercise his fundamental rights without hindrance. We also call on the German Government to make representations to the British Government to this effect.”

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He’ll either get a new court case or be pardoned.

Roger Stone To Be Sentenced By Judge He Antagonized (R.)

Since his January 2019 arrest, President Donald Trump’s longtime adviser Roger Stone has repeatedly tested the patience of the federal judge who presided over his trial. On Thursday, that judge will tell the self-described “dirty trickster” how long he will serve in prison. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson is scheduled to sentence Stone, a veteran Republican operative whose friendship with Trump dates back decades, after a 12-member jury in November found him guilty on all seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering. The judge on Tuesday rejected Stone’s bid to delay the sentencing.

The high-profile case has taken on additional importance since Trump last week blasted the federal prosecutors who won Stone’s conviction as “corrupt” after they recommended to the judge a prison sentence of seven to nine years. Attorney General William Barr, appointed last year by Trump as the top U.S. law enforcement official, swiftly intervened and the Justice Department withdrew the recommendation as “excessive,” with all four prosecutors then quitting the case. The Republican president thanked Barr for “taking charge” of the Stone matter, though Barr rebuked Trump for tweeting about the case. Congressional Democrats have accused Trump and Barr of politicizing the U.S. criminal justice system and threatening the rule of law.

Stone has repeatedly pushed the boundaries set by Jackson since his arrest in a dramatic pre-dawn FBI raid on his Florida home. Stone violated the judge’s orders not to talk about the case or post on social media, and she accused him of “middle school” behavior. At one point, Stone posted an image of Jackson on Instagram with what looked like the crosshairs of a gun over her head. “His antics are definitely an aggravating factor, and he can expect a longer sentence than he otherwise would have received,” said Mark Allenbaugh, a co-founder of Sentencing Stats, LLC who previously worked for the U.S. Sentencing Commission that sets federal sentencing guidelines.

[..] Stone, 67, was convicted of lying under oath to U.S. lawmakers about his outreach to WikiLeaks – the website that disclosed many hacked Democratic emails ahead of the 2016 election that proved embarrassing to Trump’s Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton – to protect Trump from looking bad. Mueller’s investigation concluded the emails were hacked by Russia. Stone sought to cast doubt on Moscow’s role.

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Erdogan has a wild plan to destroy the Treaty of Lausanne, and now out of nowhere tells his party that Greece has agreed with that plan. It didn’t and never will.

Greece Labels Erdogan A Liar (K.)

Greece vehemently dismissed the claim by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that it has accepted the status quo Turkey wants in the Eastern Mediterranean, saying that not only it has not done so, but it has, along with the international community, condemned Turkey’s illegal moves in the region. “As we have repeatedly stressed, illegal actions produce no legal effect,” said Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexandros Gennimatas, who denounced “moves that continue to undermine regional peace and security, creating, among other things, pretexts for the violation of the arms embargo in Libya and for the attempt to usurp the sovereign rights of countries in the region.” ”Unfortunately, in this, too, Turkey continues to be a minority of one,” he said.


Erdogan said earlier Wednesday that Ankara’s resolute stance has led “the rest of the countries in the region, but mainly Greece,” to accept the status quo that Turkey wants in the Eastern Mediterranean. He also stressed that Europeans have no jurisdiction in the region. Moreover, he announced that Turkey has purchased its third offshore drilling ship which will arrive in Turkey next month and begin drilling in 2020, without specifying the location. Speaking to the ruling AKP’s parliamentary group, he stressed that the new drilling rig could reach a depth of 11,400 meters. Meanwhile, the third day on Wednesday of contacts in Athens between Greek and Turkish delegations on confidence building measures coincided with 39 airspace violations over the Aegean Sea by Turkish fighter jets.

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“Per the audio obtained, Bolton says the House committed “malpractice” and “made a mess” of the impeachment inquiry, calling it “grossly partisan.”

Bolton Says His Impeachment Testimony Would Not Have Changed Outcome (NBC)

Former national security adviser John Bolton said Wednesday he was surprised that Senate Republicans rejected his offer to testify in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. But he said that even if he had testified, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the trial because of how House Democrats handled their investigation. “I think the House committed impeachment malpractice,” Bolton said at an event at Vanderbilt University with Susan Rice, who was national security adviser during the administration of former President Barack Obama. “The process drove Republicans who might have voted for impeachment away” because “it was so partisan,” he said. But, he added, “my testimony would have made no difference to the ultimate outcome.”

All but one Senate Republican voted to acquit Trump of abusing the power of his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate a political opponent. Rice challenged Bolton repeatedly over his decision not to testify in the House or publicly discuss what he knows about the president’s Ukraine pressure campaign, particularly as officials who worked for him on the National Security Council have done so and have since endured Trump’s wrath. [..] Bolton noted that he offered to testify in the Senate trial and that the House didn’t subpoena him after Democrats learned that he would seek a court ruling because the White House had told him not to testify. He wouldn’t speculate about testifying before the House now if he is subpoenaed, because, he said, his lawyer has advised him not to take a position during a national security review by the White House of his book on his time as national security adviser.

Bolton also tried to deflect growing criticism that he isn’t speaking out because he’s simply out to sell his book about his 17 months in the Trump White House. He said he couldn’t speak out now because his book — “The Room Where it Happened”— is still undergoing a prepublication national security review and he believes Trump would have his administration sue him if he discussed its contents before that’s complete. “I’m not out here flacking for it,” he said. “I believe I wrote a book that does not contain any classified information. The staff reviewing it says it does.

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The benefits of sanctions.

Russia Becomes A Safe Haven In An Increasingly Turbulent World (BNE)

A year ago the main concern of international investors looking at Russia was uncertainty due to its geopolitical showdown with the West. A year on and global economic uncertainty is the main worry, not geopolitics. Russia is now seen by an increasing number of investors as a safe haven in an increasingly turbulent and unpredictable world. “Russia has seen a sharp change from the dominating attitudes from just a year ago: global uncertainty, not geopolitics, now seems the key risk factor. Russia is now seen as a “safe haven,” helped by reserves and sound macroeconomic policies. Low valuations are overtaking high dividend payments in importance and the new Russian government with Putin’s spending initiatives have been taken positively,” BSC Global Markets chief economist Vladimir Tikhomirov said in a note.

The majority of investors are already overweight Russian equities: 59% of dedicated funds are overweight, 33% are even weight and the remainder underweight. Russian President Vladimir Putin has spent the last few years constructing a “fiscal fortress” of record high gross international reserves (GIR) that have now surpassed the pre-crisis peak and are approaching $600bn. At the same time, the budget has been overhauled and the break-even price of oil for the budget to balance has tumbled from $115 in the boom years to around $40 now – well below the average oil prices of the last few years. Under Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, when he ran the tax office, the tax take grew by 20% despite the tax burden only rising by 2pp. And both external and public debt are now covered dollar for dollar with cash.

In short, Russia has probably the best macro fundamentals of any major country in the world. All this has not been lost on bond investors, who have piled into the market and now own about a third of all the Russian Ministry of Finance ruble-denominated OFZ treasury bills – the ministry’s main source of financing the budget. But last year the increasingly good story spilled over into the equity markets. Russia’s dollar-denominated Russia Trading System (RTS) index returned just under 50%, making it on of the top three performing equity markets in the world. This year got off to a very strong start with the market up 10% in the first two weeks, but the coronavirus epidemic in China took the wind out of its sails and the market is currently flat YTD, with the notable exception of the utilities sector, which is up a whopping 16% YTD.

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I have nothing against Warren. But politics sold in the same way as American Idol, and therefore ultimately in the same way as detergent, is very creepy.

 

 

 

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Jan 242020
 


John Vachon Window in home of unemployed steelworker, Ambridge, PA 1941

 

Chinese Hospitals In Chaos As Lockdown Spreads To Affect 33m People (G.)
Four ‘Generations’ Of Spread Seen With Virus In China (STAT)
Cases of China’s Viral Pneumonia Surge Exponentially (ET)
Wuhan Virus Will Shape China’s Smart City Vision (R.)
Doomsday Clock Moves Within 100 Seconds Of Midnight (NPR)
The House Impeachment Case Vs The Law of Attempts (Turley)
Fed’s Repos Drop to Oct Level, T-Bills Surge, But MBS Fall (WS)
Turkey Demands Greece “Demilitarize” 16 Aegean Islands (ZH)
Assange May Not Get First Amendment Protection (AAP)
Go to Gaza and Cry ‘Never Again’ (Haaretz)
America’s Radioactive Secret (Rolling Stone)

 

 

Today is the first day of the Lunar New Year. 450 million Chinese plan to travel to see family. 41 million are now under lockdown. 850 cases of “coronavirus” have been confirmed. 26 people have died, the elderly and vulnerable. But there are many reports of actual numbers being much higher.

Only 23.8% of Chinese doctors have a bachelor degree or higher. There are 60,000 licensed general practitioners in a country of 1.3 billion people.

Meanwhile, the Chinese “eat everything on four legs except for the table”.

“..the race to build a new 1,000-bed hospital in just six days began on Thursday night..”

Chinese Hospitals In Chaos As Lockdown Spreads To Affect 33m People (G.)

Hospitals in the Chinese city of Wuhan have been thrown into chaos and the movement of about 33 million people has been restricted by an unprecedented and indefinite lockdown imposed to halt the spread of the deadly new coronavirus. At least ten cities in central Hubei province have been shut down in an effort to stop the virus, which by Friday had killed 26 people across China and affected more than 800. The World Health Organisation described the outbreak as an emergency for China, but stopped short of declaring it to be a public health emergency of international concern.

In the city of Wuhan, where most cases have occurred, the race to build a new 1,000-bed hospital in just six days began on Thursday night. Diggers and bulldozers beginning work on the site of a holiday complex once intended for local workers, according to Chinese media. The hospital, which is due to open next week, is similar to those established in Beijing in 2003, when the city faced a Sars outbreak that killed almost 800 people and reached nearly 30 countries. During that crisis, 7,000 workers in Beijing built the Xiaotangshan hospital in its northern suburbs in just a week. Within two months, it treated one-seventh of all the country’s Sars patients, the Changjiang Daily said.

“It created a miracle in the history of medical science,” the paper added. It said the new Wuhan hospital “is to solve the shortage of existing medical resources”. People who sought treatment in Wuhan this week told the Guardian they had been turned away from hospitals, which have been inundated with patients. Facilities are reportedly running out of beds and diagnostic kits for patients who present with fever-like symptoms. [..] A series of additional measures were announced on Friday to prevent the spread of the virus, including a call from The People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist party’s main newspaper, for people who have recently been to Wuhan to isolate themselves at home, even if they don’t have symptoms. The cities of Wuhan, Ezhou, Huanggang, Chibi, Qianjiang, Zhijiang, Jingmen and Xiantao have all been placed under lockdown.

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It’s advanced up to a point where it can no longer be ignored. That’s China for you.

Four ‘Generations’ Of Spread Seen With Virus In China (STAT)

Emerging data on the new virus circulating in China adds to evidence there is sustained human-to-human transmission in the city of Wuhan, and that a single case was able to ignite a chain of other infections. The World Health Organization reported Thursday that there have been at least four generations of spread of the new virus, provisionally called 2019-nCoV, meaning a person who contracted the virus from a non-human source — presumably an animal — has infected a person, who infected another person, who then infected another person. It’s not clear from a WHO statement whether transmission petered out after that point, or whether further generations of cases from those chains are still to come.

The WHO said the current estimate of the reproductive rate of the virus — the number of people, on average, that each infected person infects — is between 1.4 and 2.5. To stop an outbreak, the reproduction number has to be brought below one. “That gives me no comfort at all that anything that’s happening right now is going to bring this under control any time soon,” Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, said of the data the WHO released. “And I think that as long as the virus is circulating in China as it appears to be, the rest of the world is going to be constantly pinged with it, as a result of people traveling to and from China in the near future,” he said.

To date, nine other countries, including the United States, have diagnosed cases of this new illness in tourists who traveled to Wuhan or residents who returned from there. Dr. Allison McGeer, who has firsthand experience with outbreaks caused by coronaviruses — the family to which 2019-nCoV belongs — also expressed concern about prospects for containing the outbreak. McGeer, a researcher at the Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, noted that the city’s SARS outbreak took off when fourth-generation cases were infected in the city’s hospitals. McGeer contracted SARS during that outbreak.

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No place in the hospital.

Cases of China’s Viral Pneumonia Surge Exponentially (ET)

It started with a light cough. He burped constantly, and complained of shortness of breath. Family members thought it was no big deal. The doctor said he seemed to have heart problems and suggested him to stay in the hospital. He appeared healthy except for a minor infection in one lung area. Two weeks later, he was dead, with both lungs infected and organ failure. His doctors at the Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital determined the cause of death as “unknown pneumonia.” It was days before Chinese health authorities identified the cause of the new viral pneumonia as 2019-nCoV, a coronavirus that first emerged in December in the commercial city of Wuhan, his home city.

As of press time, the virus has since sickened more than 540 people across China and around the world, with confirmed cases in South Korea, Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United States. Much remains unclear about the virus that has sparked fear around the world and cast a cloud over the upcoming Lunar New Year festivities, a major traditional holiday when millions of Chinese travel to their hometowns or go on vacations abroad. Experts say the mass movement of people could accelerate the disease’s spread. The virus has already spread across the country to 17 provinces and regions.

To the man’s family, his death is far from the end of their sorrows. Among his relatives, five have fallen ill: one is under emergency rescue at a Wuhan hospital; his niece and nephew-in-law also have lung infections but doctors turned them away, saying there’s no space for them at the hospital; two others are also experiencing pneumonia-like symptoms. Buying one dose of medicine means waiting for hours in line. His sister, currently in Norway, told The Epoch Times that she was being “silenced” by Chinese authorities and not allowed to post anything about his death. The man is not listed on the authorities’ official death toll, because he did not show any signs of fever, his sister said. She has requested anonymity for fear of reprisal.

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Never let a good crisis go to waste. Surveillance is good for you!

Wuhan Virus Will Shape China’s Smart City Vision (R.)

An epidemic will shape China’s vision of intelligent cities. The metropolis of Wuhan, with a population of 11 million, is under unprecedented quarantine as a deadly virus, believed to have originated there, spreads around the world ahead of the Lunar New Year when hundreds of millions of Chinese travel. Big investments in healthcare, artificial intelligence, and even surveillance could help curb future pandemics and cushion some institutional weaknesses. [..] The future may be less grim: President Xi Jinping has pushed to upgrade the country’s rickety healthcare system, enlisting technology giants including $474 billion Tencent and insurance group Ping An.

A unit of the latter has partnered with local governments in Shenzhen and Chongqing to develop an algorithm it claims can predict the transmission of influenza and other infectious diseases with 90%-plus accuracy. Elsewhere, the likes of $50 billion video-surveillance specialist, Hikvision, are helping Beijing develop high-tech, digitally-connected urban areas. More than 500 so-called smart cities are already being built across China, according to government figures, equipped with sensors, cameras, and other gadgets that can crunch data on everything from traffic and pollution, to public health and security.

That market could top 103 billion yuan ($15 billion) in revenue by 2023, according to research commissioned by facial-recognition startup Megvii. Until now the push has focused on automating political surveillance, including ugly applications in restive ethnic minority regions like Xinjiang, with little regard to human rights or privacy concerns. But there’s a potential public good if the tech can be re-deployed to detect unusual numbers of feverish people in train stations, for example, while simultaneously cross-referencing healthcare history, travel records and weather patterns. After Wuhan, the pressure to deliver health security, not just political security, will be higher.

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Meat for sale in China (without the bats used for soup):



Doesn’t feel like that for me.

Doomsday Clock Moves Within 100 Seconds Of Midnight (NPR)

In 1953, months after the U.S. tested its first hydrogen bomb and as the Soviet Union was about to do the same, the Doomsday Clock was also set within two minutes of midnight. The minute hand was moved back gradually as nuclear arms control agreements reduced the threat of global catastrophe. By the time the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended in 1991, the clock was set at an unprecedented 17 minutes to midnight. It has moved closer ever since. “What you’re hearing,” said former California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who appeared at the event as the Bulletin’s new executive chairman, “is really the voices of the prophets of doom. Speaking of danger and destruction is never very easy — if you speak the truth, people will not want to listen, because it’s too awful and it makes you sound like a crackpot.”

The clock’s minute hand was moved forward after the August 2019 collapse of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the U.S. and Russia. The demise of the pact frees both nations to deploy land-based missiles over ranges that leave little time for a response. There were also growing signs in 2019 that the Trump administration was aiming to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, which allows the U.S. and Russia to observe one another’s military installations through closely monitored overflights. And Iran increased its stockpile of low-enriched uranium and added new and improved centrifuges last year in the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawing from a multination nuclear pact with Iran that was forged during the Obama administration.

“I have to admit [that] we set the clock in November,” said George Washington University research professor Sharon Squassoni. “This was before recent military actions by the U.S. and Iran, Iran’s statement or threat that it might leave the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and North Korea’s abandonment of talks with the United States.” A growing number of disasters linked to global climate change resulting from the continued consumption of fossil fuels was another factor cited for moving the clock even closer to midnight. “We’re in it, it’s dire, but we’re not there yet,” said Brown. “We can still pull back from the brink, but we have to do what we’re not doing. Whatever we’ve done to date, it is totally inadequate.”

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Close to thought crime.

The House Impeachment Case Vs The Law of Attempts (Turley)

With the start of the impeachment trial, the Senate (and the country) will soon be faced with what the late Yale professor Arthur Leff described as one of the law’s most “lovely, knotty problems.” Leff was speaking of what is loosely called “the law of attempts,” a category of crimes where someone is accused of contemplating, but not actually carrying out, an unlawful act. The Trump trial could be the first time the Senate considers charges that amount to allegedly conceiving, but then abandoning, an abuse of power. While it is certainly true that there was a temporary act of “nonfeasance” in withholding the aid to Ukraine, it was ultimately released over two weeks before the deadline under federal law.

The Trump administration will argue that there was no quid pro quo between the president of the United States and the president of Ukraine; that the military aid to Kyiv, though authorized by Congress, was never withheld; and that the White House always intended to release the aid by the end of September. (It was released on Sept. 11, two days after a whistleblower complaint about the alleged bargain sparked congressional inquiries and, according to critics, was the reason that Trump decided to release the aid.) The question for the Senate is whether an attempt to cut the deal qualifies as a high crime or misdemeanor. The law of attempts has long been debated, and has often favored defendants in securing lesser punishments or outright acquittals.

When, in 1879, an Alaska man sent an order for 100 gallons of whiskey from California, he was charged with illegally attempting to “introduce spirituous liquors” into Alaska. A court dismissed the charge, writing, “There are a class of acts which may be fairly said to be done in pursuance of or in combination with an intent to commit a crime, but are not, in a legal sense, a part of it, and therefore do not, with such intent, constitute an indictable attempt.” That helps explain why such attempted crimes are generally punished less severely. The California Penal Code Section 664 stipulates, for example, that most attempted offenses are punishable, at most, at a level half that for a completed offense. Of course, the Senate cannot “half-remove” a president. But one of the more knotty problems facing the Senate is whether a president can be saved by what Leff called the “luck” of an alleged plan that never actually played out.

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Can be restarted in a heartbeat. By killing the markets, the Fed has made itself a prisoner.

Fed’s Repos Drop to Oct Level, T-Bills Surge, But MBS Fall (WS)

The Fed had doused the market with $410 billion in liquidity between September and January 1 through its repo operations and its T-bill purchases. Market hype had expected this blistering pace of money-printing to continue, but wait… While T-bill purchases continue, the repos on the Fed’s balance sheet are getting unwound, its mortgage-backed securities (MBS) continue to fall, and total assets on its balance sheet fell to the lowest level since mid-December. Under these repurchase agreements, the Fed offers to buy Treasury securities, MBS, and agency securities from counterparties with an agreement to sell those securities back to the counterparties at a set price on a specific date, such as the next day (overnight repos) or in 14 days or some other period (term repos).

When a repurchase agreement matures, the Fed takes back the money it had handed out and returns the securities to the counterparties. This zeros out that particular repo on the Fed’s balance sheet. When the Fed buys securities under a repurchase agreement, the amount it pays adds liquidity to the market. When that repo unwinds, and the Fed gets its cash back and returns the securities, it drains this liquidity from the market. Every day, old repos unwind. And every day, the Fed offers new repos. This is a constant in-and-out. The balance changes every day, but it has been on an uneven decline since the peak on January 1.

The total amount of repos on the Fed’s weekly balance sheet as of January 22, released this afternoon, has now fallen by $70 billion from the peak on January 1 ($256 billion), to $186 billion. This is below where it had first been on October 16. The $43-billion drop in repos over the past seven days was largely due to a 32-day $50-billion repo, dating from December 16, that unwound on January 17. It was not replaced by another 30-day repo, and there are no more 30-day repos on the Fed’s repo schedule or balance sheet.

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Erdogan wants to redo the 1923 Lausanne Treaty. He has little to lose, and much to gain domestically. But he has Putin against him.

Turkey Demands Greece “Demilitarize” 16 Aegean Islands (ZH)

At a moment tensions are soaring over Turkey’s expansive East Mediterranean claims, and after starting early last summer it began sending oil and gas exploration and drilling ships off Cyprus’ coast, Ankara is demanding that Greece “demilitarize” its islands in the Aegean Sea, reports Bloomberg. The demand from Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, who formally requested Greece move to withdraw armed forces and weaponry from 16 Aegean islands near Turkey on Wednesday, is rich given it’s Turkey that’s been provocatively sending warships and military jets to accompany illegal gas drilling in the area, something lately condemned by the EU.

“Greece, arming 16 out of 23 islands with non-military status, in violation of agreements in the Aegean sea, should act in accordance with international law,” said Defense Minister Akar, cited in state-run Anadolu Agency. “We expect Greece to act in line with international law and the agreements it has signed,” he added. Though becoming increasingly internationally isolated over the drilling issue in EU-member Cyrpus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Turkey has remained unmoved and at times is positively boastful about it.

Not shying away from admitting Turkish maritime claims now stretch from Cypriot waters all the way to Libya (based on a controversial recent maritime boundary ‘deal’ signed with the Tripoli Government of National Accord), Akar further had this to say according to state media: In addition to the fight against terrorism, Turkey’s activities are ongoing in the Aegean, Eastern Mediterranean, off Cyprus, and Libya, Akar said, adding that they are carried out in accordance with international law and the territorial integrity of the countries. Turkey is a guarantor country for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and is committed to fulfilling its responsibilities, he said.

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Let’s see a few countries apply this to Americans.

Assange May Not Get First Amendment Protection (AAP)

Julian Assange faces the prospect of being denied press protections under US law if he goes to trial there, WikiLeaks says, citing evidence submitted for his London extradition case. The 48-year-old WikiLeaks founder is set to face trial in the UK next month to determine whether he should be extradited to the US, where he has been charged with 17 counts of spying and one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. The charges related to allegations Assange tried to help former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning protect her digital identity as she accessed classified Pentagon files on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. WikiLeaks helped publish thousands of those files, including some that revealed US war crimes in both countries.

His case is widely viewed as a litmus test for the protection of journalists’ sources. WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnsson says a new affidavit provided by US government lawyers this week for Assange’s upcoming extradition trial states that foreign nationals, like Assange, are not entitled to press protections under the US Constitution’s First Amendment. Mr Hrafnsson revealed the development outside Assange’s case management hearing at London’s Westminster Magistrates Court on Thursday. “On the one hand they have decided that they can go after journalists wherever they are residing in the world, they have universal jurisdiction, and demand extradition like they are doing by trying to get an Australian national from the UK for publishing that took place outside US borders,” he told AAP.

“But then at the same time they are not granting any foreign journalist the protection of the First Amendment. “That’s extremely serious. That’s of grave concern to all journalists. “We are seeing this incremental approach, a darkness flowing over journalism from that country, and it’s about time that journalists really united in resisting this.” Assange appeared by video link from prison at Thursday’s hearing, and did not speak except to say his name and birthdate for the court. Judge Vanessa Baraitser reluctantly agreed to split his trial into two segments with the first week to begin on February 24 and the final three weeks to be held from May 18.

Her ruling came after prosecutors flagged timetabling issues and the defence pleaded for more time to deal with an ever-expanding pile of evidence coming from the US. Mr Hrafnsson says the delay may give Assange and his legal team more time to review mounting evidence, as they have only been permitted four hours together since his arrest on April 11. But he admitted it would also further extend Assange’s time behind bars. “A maximum security prison for a non-violent person like Julian, who is a free man basically, who is on remand, is outrageous,” Mr Hrafnsson told AAP. “It’s totally unacceptable.”

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Commemorations vs political games.

Go to Gaza and Cry ‘Never Again’ (Haaretz)

It’s very important to remember the past; no less important is to be cognizant of the present without shutting one’s eyes. The dozens of statesmen who arrived in Israel yesterday may remember the past, but they’re blurring the present. In their silence, in their disregard of reality while lining up unconditionally alongside Israel, they not only betray their roles, they also betray the memory of the past in the name of which they came here. To be the guests of Israel without mentioning its crimes; to commemorate the Holocaust while ignoring its lessons; to visit Jerusalem without traveling to the Gaza ghetto on International Holocaust Remembrance Day – one can barely think of any greater hypocrisy.

It’s good that kings, presidents and other notables came here in honor of this remembrance day. It’s deplorable that they’re ignoring what the victims of the Holocaust are inflicting on another nation. The city of Yerevan will never witness such an impressive gathering to commemorate the Armenian holocaust. World leaders will never come to Kigali to mark the genocide that happened in Rwanda. The Holocaust was indeed the greatest crime ever against humanity, but it was not the only one. But Jews and the state of Israel know well how to sanctify its memory as well as using it for their own purposes.

On this International Holocaust Remembrance Day, world leaders are the guests of an Israeli prime minister who, on the eve of their visit, called for sanctions – believe it or not – on the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which is a legacy of the courts that were set up to judge the crimes of World War II. On this Remembrance Day, world leaders are coming to a prime minister who is trying to incite them against the court in The Hague. It’s hard to think of a more galling use of the Holocaust, it’s hard to conceive of a bigger betrayal of its memory than the attempt to undermine the court in The Hague only because it wishes to fulfill its role and investigate Jerusalem. The guests will hold their silence on this issue as well. Some of them may be persuaded that the problem is in The Hague, not in Jerusalem. Sanctions on the court instead of on the occupying state.

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“Ten or 15 years down the road, if I get sick, I want to be able to prove this.”

America’s Radioactive Secret (Rolling Stone)

In 2014, a muscular, middle-aged Ohio man named Peter took a job trucking waste for the oil-and-gas industry. The hours were long — he was out the door by 3 a.m. every morning and not home until well after dark — but the steady $16-an-hour pay was appealing, says Peter, who asked to use a pseudonym. “This is a poverty area,” he says of his home in the state’s rural southeast corner. “Throw a little money at us and by God we’ll jump and take it.” In a squat rig fitted with a 5,000-gallon tank, Peter crisscrosses the expanse of farms and woods near the Ohio/West Virginia/Pennsylvania border, the heart of a region that produces close to one-third of America’s natural gas.

He hauls a salty substance called “brine,” a naturally occurring waste product that gushes out of America’s oil-and-gas wells to the tune of nearly 1 trillion gallons a year, enough to flood Manhattan, almost shin-high, every single day. At most wells, far more brine is produced than oil or gas, as much as 10 times more. It collects in tanks, and like an oil-and-gas garbage man, Peter picks it up and hauls it off to treatment plants or injection wells, where it’s disposed of by being shot back into the earth. One day in 2017, Peter pulled up to an injection well in Cambridge, Ohio. A worker walked around his truck with a hand-held radiation detector, he says, and told him he was carrying one of the “hottest loads” he’d ever seen. It was the first time Peter had heard any mention of the brine being radioactive.

The Earth’s crust is in fact peppered with radioactive elements that concentrate deep underground in oil-and-gas-bearing layers. This radioactivity is often pulled to the surface when oil and gas is extracted — carried largely in the brine. In the popular imagination, radioactivity conjures images of nuclear meltdowns, but radiation is emitted from many common natural substances, usually presenting a fairly minor risk. Many industry representatives like to say the radioactivity in brine is so insignificant as to be on par with what would be found in a banana or a granite countertop, so when Peter demanded his supervisor tell him what he was being exposed to, his concerns were brushed off; the liquid in his truck was no more radioactive than “any room of your home,” he was told. But Peter wasn’t so sure. “A lot of guys are coming up with cancer, or sores and skin lesions that take months to heal,” he says. Peter experiences regular headaches and nausea, numbness in his fingertips and face, and “joint pain like fire.”

He says he wasn’t given any safety instructions on radioactivity, and while he is required to wear steel-toe boots, safety glasses, a hard hat, and clothes with a flash-resistant coating, he isn’t required to wear a respirator or a dosimeter to measure his radioactivity exposure — and the rest of the uniform hardly offers protection from brine. “It’s all over your hands, and inside your boots, and on the cuticles of your toes, and any cuts you have — you’re soaked,” he says. So Peter started quietly taking samples of the brine he hauled, filling up old antifreeze containers or soda bottles. Eventually, he packed a shed in his backyard with more than 40 samples. He worried about further contamination but says, for him, “the damage is already done.” He wanted answers. “I cover my ass,” he says. “Ten or 15 years down the road, if I get sick, I want to be able to prove this.”

Read more …

 

From Suzie Dawson:

 

 

 

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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.”

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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.