Apr 182019
 


Pablo Picasso Maison 1931

 

Mueller Report Out Today, Much Could Be Redacted (AFP)
New York Times Accidentally Unravels UK’s Official Skripal Narrative (Sp.)
Assange UK Legal Battle To Take 2 Years, Chances of Winning Are Good (Helmer)
Reasons To Question China’s Blockbuster Economic Data (ZH)
Half of England Is Owned By Less Than 1% Of The Population (G.)
Greece To Send Note Verbale To Germany Over War Reparations (K.)
EU Threatens $12 Billion In Tariffs Over US Boeing Subsidies (AFP)
More Airlines Collapse: Jet Airways India, Alitalia, WOW Air (WS)
The Public Banking Revolution Is Upon Us (Ellen Brown)
EU Threatens to Legalize Human Harm From Pesticides (CP)
New Zealand’s Environment Is In Serious Trouble (G.)

 

 

It’ll be so much fun to see America divide further.

Mueller Report Out Today, Much Could Be Redacted (AFP)

The final report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation on Thursday could leave much of the public unsatisfied because it could be heavily redacted, stripped of significant evidence and testimony that the investigators gathered. Attorney General Bill Barr made clear he will edit out large parts of Mueller’s 400-page final report on his investigation of President Donald Trump and Russian election meddling. Removed elements will include information from US intelligence used in the probe, information on ongoing investigations, and information on targets of Mueller’s team that never gelled and, if made public, could unfairly hurt them.


Crucially, Barr says the law prevents him from revealing materials from the two grand juries that the special counsel convened for his investigation. Redaction – blacking out words and blocks of text with real or digital ink, or leaving pages completely blank – is the way bureaucrats and courts prevent the public from learning about classified information and secret testimony or evidence, or just embarrassing information. Many court filings in the Mueller probe came with pages heavily blacked out, with prosecutors not wanting to tip their hands on ongoing parts of the sprawling Russia probe or expose sources. But some worry Barr’s redactions could have political aims.

Read more …

Haspel showed Trump pics of sick kids and dead ducks. But neither existed.

New York Times Accidentally Unravels UK’s Official Skripal Narrative (Sp.)

Elements of the official narrative also bizarrely and frequently vanish without warning or explanation — a key example being the Skripals giving bread to three local boys to feed to ducks in Salisbury’s Avon Playground at approximately 1:45pm on 4th March. The incident was initially widely reported in the media, with The Daily Mail claiming the children — one of whom apparently ate some of the bread given to them by the Skripals — had been “rushed to hospital for blood tests amid fears they’d been poisoned”, although the children were entirely unharmed, and discharged from hospital having been given “the all-clear”. “To try to kill Skripal is one thing, but now it seems children may have been caught up in it. It shows whoever did this didn’t care who they killed or maimed,” a spokesperson for Public Health England told the Sunday Mirror.

Strikingly, this episode would soon completely disappear from media coverage of the Salisbury incident, while never appearing in any officially sanctioned narrative — although it’s easy to understand why. According to the Metropolitan Police’s timeline, after leaving the Avon Playground the Skripals went on to the Bishops Mill Pub in Salisbury town centre, before arriving at Zizzi restaurant at around 14:20pm. They left at around 15:35pm, and emergency services received the first report they’d been found unconscious at around 16:15pm. British authorities determine Sergei and Yulia were poisoned by Novichok spread around their home — in particular the front door handle — at some point before 13:30pm, when Sergei’s car was seen on Devizes Road heading towards the town centre.

The pair were apparently so infected by the nerve agent, and the substance so dangerous, Zizzi was forced to close for eight months due to high levels of contamination, and the table the pair dined at had to be destroyed. The Mill pub, which they headed to immediately after their exploits in Avon Playground was likewise subject to extensive decontamination and only declared safe for reopening in August, although it remains shut even today. The bench the Skripals were found lying on was also destroyed. In spite of this, the children given bread by the Skripals and the ducks they fed were completely unharmed by novichok.

Read more …

John Helmer is the longest serving foreign correspondent covering Russia. His analysis is detailed. There are more voices who sound cautiously optimistic. But looking at the Skripal story, don’t let’s forget how the UK operates. We’re going to find out if there still is a functioning justice system.

Assange UK Legal Battle To Take 2 Years, Chances of Winning Are Good (Helmer)

The case for and against Julian Assange will keep him in the UK for at least eighteen months, probably two years, possibly three, according to leading London lawyers. The UK will have a new government by then; the US too. In the interval, Assange’s lawyers are preparing to prove the US indictment for conspiracy to commit computer hacking will be superseded by espionage charges. That, they will argue, requires the Westminster Magistrates’ Court to throw the US extradition application out. In addition, their evidence for American political motivation in the prosecution of Assange, and of US violations of the UK and European standards for a fair trial in an independent and impartial court, will be presented. The Chief Magistrate, Emma Arbuthnot, is likely to preside. The hearing is unlikely to start before December of this year.

The more UK and US Government officials take sides in public against Assange and support the allegations in the indictment, the stronger his case will be in court. The announcement by public letter to the Home Secretary last week that seventy-one members of the British parliament oppose Assange’s extradition to the US cuts even more of the ground from under UK prosecutors and the lawyers who will appear in court for the US. Reversing their campaign to block the Swedish extradition warrant between 2010 and 2012, Assange’s lawyers are also mobilizing to have the Swedish prosecutors return to London with a new warrant, so that this can stretch out the legal wrangling in London for long enough to reach a new British election. If won by Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party forms a new government, Assange may benefit from a decision to move Assange’s prosecution to the UK courts, and then to release him.

“The anger for and against this man is extraordinary”, explains a leading London lawyer on extradition cases. “You need very technical lawyering now, and Assange will have to pay for it. But in parallel there will be the PR campaign amplifying the political issue, principally for the Labour Party. The Assange case will stand for every British voter’s idea of what [President Donald] Trump and the Americans are doing to the world. [Chief Magistrate Emma] Arbuthnot is not afraid to make decisions that would be unpopular. But as independent as she is, the pressure on her will be huge not to rule against the US.”

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That is one ominous graph. 6.4% growth, with electricity use down by 1%.

Reasons To Question China’s Blockbuster Economic Data (ZH)

Last, but not least, was the latest energy consumption data, which while not highlighted in yesterday’s report, was certainly a concern because in a quarter in which industrial production reportedly soared higher, we also saw the first contraction in total energy consumption, which shrank by 1%. That this took place when China’s economy allegedly grew by 6.4% certainly puts the veracity of China’s data under the microscope yet again. So whether China’s data was real or not, and there is enough historical precedent to lean toward the latter, the question is what this means for Beijing’s future policy. Here, as SocGen notes, “together with a stronger fiscal impulse and more positive economic data – whether they last or not, it is only logical for the PBoC to pause headline easing for now.”


Additionally, the sharp upward trend in credit growth also does suggests that the economy may not need as much liquidity easing in the future, which in turn will likely cause the rebound in China’s credit impulse to fizzle in the coming months. Echoing this take, Deutsche Bank’s Jim Reid wrote that “the downside to the numbers will be a more hawkish PBOC” and indeed, on Wednsday the PBOC injected much less liquidity into the market than was expected. In short: while China has clearly benefited from the trillions in new credit injected into the system, the question is how long will this impulse last, how sustainable is the resultant reflationary ripple, and what happens when the “sugar high” from China’s stimulus once again fizzles, especially if a US-China trade deal is still to be finalized.

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Medieval.

Half of England Is Owned By Less Than 1% Of The Population (G.)

Half of England is owned by less than 1% of its population, according to new data shared with the Guardian that seeks to penetrate the secrecy that has traditionally surrounded land ownership. The findings, described as “astonishingly unequal”, suggest that about 25,000 landowners – typically members of the aristocracy and corporations – have control of half of the country. The figures show that if the land were distributed evenly across the entire population, each person would have almost an acre – an area roughly the size of Parliament Square in central London. Major owners include the Duke of Buccleuch, the Queen, several large grouse moor estates, and the entrepreneur James Dyson.


While land has long been concentrated in the hands of a small number of owners, precise information about property ownership has been notoriously hard to access. But a combination of the development of digital maps and data as well as pressure from campaigners has made it possible to assemble the shocking statistics. Jon Trickett, Labour MP and shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, hailed the significance of the findings and called for a full debate on the issue, adding: “The dramatic concentration of land ownership is an inescapable reminder that ours is a country for the few and not the many. “It’s simply not right that aristocrats, whose families have owned the same areas of land for centuries, and large corporations exercise more influence over local neighbourhoods – in both urban and rural areas – than the people who live there.

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Definition of note verbale : a diplomatic note that is more formal than an aide-mémoire and less formal than a note, is drafted in the third person, and is never signed.

Greece To Send Note Verbale To Germany Over War Reparations (K.)

Greece will soon send a so-called note verbale to Germany, repeating a long-held demand for war reparations for the crimes committed by Nazi Germany in World War II, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told parliament on Wednesday, during a debate on a relevant report presented by a House committee. “The Greek government intends to address a note verbale to the Federal Republic of Germany, in which it will repeat its inalienable claims arising from the Nazi invasion and occupation, as well as the war crimes of Nazi Germany,” he told lawmakers and asked them to back the move.


According to the committee report, which has estimated the cost of occupation at up to 300 billion euros, the claims will include: war reparations for the material destruction and the dismantling of the country’s productive capabilities, compensation for victims and the relatives of the victims of war crimes, the repayment of the occupation loan and the return of stolen archaeological treasures. “The demand for German war reparations is a historical and moral debt for us. It will help us build a better future in our relations with Germany. Today, therefore, we have a duty to give our two peoples the opportunity to close this chapter,” Tsipras said.

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“..on the trail of a similar demand by the US for $11 billion in compensation for EU subsidies towards Airbus..”

EU Threatens $12 Billion In Tariffs Over US Boeing Subsidies (AFP)

The EU on Wednesday unveiled a wide-ranging list of US-made goods, from beeswax to car parts, subject to tariffs in retaliation for subsidies to Boeing as a transatlantic trade war risked re-erupting. “European companies must be able to compete on fair and equal terms… We must continue to defend a level-playing field for our industry,” said EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom in a statement. Europe’s $12 billion claim against Boeing comes on the trail of a similar demand by the US for $11 billion in compensation for EU subsidies towards Airbus. The ultimate amount to be won by both sides will be determined by the World Trade Organization, with the finals sums likely to be far below the tit-for-tat demands by the EU and US.


The Boeing-Airbus trade row has rumbled on for 14 years with the EU and US mutually accusing each other at the WTO of doling out illegal state aid since the 1990s to their respective aeronautical champions. Malmstrom insisted that the EU wanted to close the tit-for-tat battle amicably. “While we need to be ready with countermeasures in case there is no other way out, I still believe that dialogue is what should prevail between important partners such as the EU and the US,” she said.

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“Jet Airways presently has 217 aircraft of various models on order from Boeing..”

More Airlines Collapse: Jet Airways India, Alitalia, WOW Air (WS)

Today, another major airline collapsed. Jet Airways, India’s largest private airline, announced “with immediate effect” that it was “compelled to cancel all its international and domestic flights.” It suspended operations on a “temporary” basis. It said: “Since no emergency funding from the lenders or any other source is forthcoming, the airline will not be able to pay for fuel or other critical services to keep the operations going.” Last year, Jet Airways “suddenly” discovered serious financial issues, which led to a highly dramatic rescue effort by the main creditors (chiefly state-owned State Bank of India and private-sector ICICI Bank) and minority shareholder Etihad under the new Sashakt legislation introduced by the Indian government to deal with the chronic “sudden liquidity problems” of the giant Indian economy.

Etihad injected $35 million into the ailing Indian airline, and the State Bank of India and ICICI Bank provided $218 million emergency line of credit to meet immediate liquidity needs, such as paying salaries and keep alarmed lessors from immediately repossessing aircraft. Apparently Jet Airways burned these fresh funds in no time, as the company’s financial situation was spinning out of control. Cabin crews, pilots and office staff went on strike over unpaid salaries. Suppliers of goods and services started cutting off deliveries “until debts are repaid at least in part.” Dutch authorities seized a Jet Airways Boeing 777-300ER at Schiphol Airport on April 12 following a court ruling over unpaid handling fees.

Unpaid lessors scrambled to get their aircraft back: According to India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in the April 8-14 week alone, 22 of the company’s leased 737-800’s were deregistered and handed back to lessors. Between leased aircraft being repossessed and others being grounded for financial issues, Jet Airways’ operational fleet has gone from 124 planes in February to just 14. This presented a major problem, as the DGCA requires a bare minimum of 20 aircraft for an airline to operate internationally. This led to a wave of flight cancellations while Jet Airways tried to work out a “temporary” agreement with the DGCA over international licensing. In short, the company was falling apart.

Jet Airways presently has 217 aircraft of various models on order from Boeing. How many are going to be paid for and will be delivered remains an interesting question and raises even more questions about the feasibility of the maxi-orders placed by many other Asian airlines with vulnerable financials.

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A state bank may be a nice idea, but as long as you need the Fed’s permission, what are the odds?

The Public Banking Revolution Is Upon Us (Ellen Brown)

[..] when now-Sen. Hueso filed SB 528 earlier this year, he went straight for setting up a state bank. The details could be worked out during the two to three years it would take to get a master account from the Federal Reserve, by a commission drawn from in-house staff that had access to the data and understood the issues. [..] Banks now create most of our money supply and need to be made public utilities, following the stellar precedent of the Bank of North Dakota, which makes below-market loans for local communities and businesses while turning a profit for the state. The Bank of North Dakota was founded in 1919 in response to a farmers’ revolt against out-of-state banks that were foreclosing unfairly on their farms.


Since then it has evolved into a $7.4 billion bank that is reported to be even more profitable than JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, although its mandate is not actually to make a profit but simply to serve the interests of local North Dakota communities. Along with hundreds of public banks worldwide, it has demonstrated what can be done by cutting out private shareholders and middlemen and mobilizing public revenues to serve the public interest. The time is right politically to adopt that model. The newly elected California governor, Gavin Newsom, has expressed strong interest both in a state-owned bank and in the IBank approach. In Los Angeles, the City Council brought a measure for a city-owned bank that won 44% of the vote in November, and City Council President Herb Wesson has stated that the measure will be brought again. Where there is the political will, policymakers generally find a way.

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Monsanto fighting back. The EU needs to listen to its people.

EU Threatens to Legalize Human Harm From Pesticides (CP)

Current EU regulations forbid human exposure to pesticides that are classified as mutagenic, carcinogenic, reprotoxic (toxic for reproduction), persistent or capable of disrupting endocrine systems. By virtue of these and other protective measures EU regulations are considered the gold standard in public protection. However, experts who are closely linked to industry (or are part of anti-regulation pressure groups) have taken control of the EU’s new Science Advice Mechanism (SAM). These experts have contributed to a report commissioned to reevaluate the EU’s authorisation of pesticides. The report, called “EU authorisation processes of Plant Protection Products”, and published in late 2018, recommends dramatically weakening the EU regulatory system.

Especially notable is the adoption of many ideas previously proposed by the chemical industry. For example, the EU currently deems the acceptable level of public exposure to mutagenic pesticides (those that damage DNA) to be zero. The new report recommends scrapping this standard of protection. The history of the new SAM report is that it was requested by EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis. Its purpose was to determine how to act in cases of so-called ‘diverging views’; that is, when media and public interest groups get involved. The request follows a series of major controversies over EU regulatory decision-making. One such controversy was over the herbicide Glyphosate.

A “European Citizens Initiative” delivered more than a million signatures to the EU Commission asking for a ban on Glyphosate. Several cities banned Glyphosate. Even a dairy company banned the use of Glyphosate by their farmers. With this pressure from all over Europe, the EU Commission had difficulty reaching a decision since many EU member states (Bulgaria, Denmark, Czech Republic, Estonia, Ireland, Spain, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Finland and the U.K) opposed a ban. Ultimately, a very unusual 5-years extension for glyphosate was agreed but soon the discussion will start again.

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“New Zealand is now considered one of the most invaded countries in the world..” , “New Zealand is losing species and ecosystems faster than nearly any other country..”

New Zealand’s Environment Is In Serious Trouble (G.)

A report on the state of New Zealand’s environment has painted a bleak picture of catastrophic biodiversity loss, polluted waterways and the destructive rise of the dairy industry and urban sprawl. Environment Aotearoa is the first major environmental report in four years, and was compiled using data from Statistics New Zealand and the environment ministry. It presents a sobering summary of a country that is starkly different from the pristine landscape promoted in the “Pure New Zealand” marketing campaign that lures millions of tourists every year. It found New Zealand is now considered one of the most invaded countries in the world, with 75 animal and plant species having gone extinct since human settlement.

The once-vibrant bird life has fared particularly badly, with 90% of seabirds and 80% of shorebirds threatened with or at risk of extinction. Almost two-thirds of New Zealand’s rare ecosystems are under threat of collapse, and over the last 15 years the extinction risk worsened for 86 species, compared with the conservation status of just 26 species improving in the past 10 years. The scale of what is being lost is impossible to accurately gauge, as only about 20% of New Zealand’s species have been identified and recorded. Kevin Hague from the conservation group Forest and Bird said the report was chilling reading and captured the devastating affects of “decades of procrastination and denial”.

“New Zealand is losing species and ecosystems faster than nearly any other country,” he said. “Four thousand of our native species are in trouble … from rampant dairy conversions to destructive seabed trawling – [we] are irreversibly harming our natural world.”

Read more …

Mar 272019
 
 March 27, 2019  Posted by at 10:31 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso Mandolin and guitar 1924

 

The EU’s Censorious Copyright Directive Will Create Two Internets (CapX)
All New UK Cars To Have Speed Limiters By 2022 Under EU Plans (G.)
Brexit Extension Could Be Until 31 March 2020 (G.)
Brexiters Demand May Exit Date To Back Deal (G.)
EU Cannot Betray ‘Increasing Majority’ Who Want To Cancel Brexit – Tusk (G.)
McConnell Backs Push For Investigation Of Russia Probe Missteps (R.)
Mueller Report Details To Be Issued In ‘Weeks, Not Months’ (R.)
Ecuador Ambassador Tells Assange to ‘Shut up’ and Accept Spying (GP)
Boeing 737 MAX Software Fix: Easy To Upload, Harder To Approve (R.)
US Jury To Determine Liability, Damages In Roundup Cancer Trial (R.)
Widespread Losses Of Pollinating Insects Revealed Across Britain (G.)

 

 

Behemoth overreach. It’s like they’re trying to tell the British that leaving is a really good idea.

Sure, there are things that can be improved, but Brussels wants to do BIG.

The EU’s Censorious Copyright Directive Will Create Two Internets (CapX)

The European Parliament’s approval of the Copyright Directive today is the end of the internet as we know it. This new regulation creates substantial new controls on what we can share online which threaten freedom of expression, undermine creativity, and cement the dominance of technology giants. The Copyright Directive will create two internets. The first, a heavily censored version for European users, including filters to prevent you from uploading content. The second, a free internet where creativity is encouraged, for everyone else. The directive represents everything that’s wrong with the EU’s policymaking process. It was written at a substantial distance from Europeans, heavily influenced by lobbyists and national compromises.


There is a serious lack of accountability. The opposition to the directive was substantial, but it didn’t seem to matter. Over 200 intellectual property academics have warned that the directive serves “narrow sectional interests”. Even substantial parts of the European music industry have raised concerns about the scheme. The Change.org petition opposing the directive has reached over 5.1 million signatories, the most in the website’s history. Last weekend – while some Brits were marching to stay in the EU – thousands of Europeans took to the street in Save the Internet marches.

Read more …

More overreach.

“Safety campaigners described the move as one of the biggest leaps forward in 50 years and said it could save 25,000 lives by 2037..”

Oh yeah? How many lives could be saved by designing your infrastructure to make cars unnecessary?

All New UK Cars To Have Speed Limiters By 2022 Under EU Plans (G.)

All new cars sold in the UK and Europe are to be fitted with devices to automatically stop drivers from exceeding the speed limit under sweeping changes to vehicle safety rules provisionally agreed by the EU. Although Britain may no longer be part of the EU when the rules come into effect, the UK regulator, the Vehicle Certification Agency, has said it will mirror safety standards for vehicles in the UK. The speed limiter is one of a range of safety features to be made mandatory from 2022, along with automated emergency braking, electronic data recorders and improved visibility built into lorries for drivers to see vulnerable cyclists and pedestrians around the vehicle.


Safety campaigners described the move as one of the biggest leaps forward in 50 years and said it could save 25,000 lives by 2037. The package of measures needs to be ratified by the European parliament, which is likely by September. The speed limiter device, called intelligent speed assistance, or ISA, uses GPS data and sign recognition cameras to detect speed limits where the car is travelling, and then will sound a warning and automatically slow down the vehicle if it is exceeding the limit. However, drivers will be able to override the device simply by pushing hard on the accelerator, reassuring some motoring groups that have argued that in certain situations – such as when trying to swiftly overtake a vehicle in front – speeding up could be safer.

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A long extension appears to be the only way forward.

Brexit Extension Could Be Until 31 March 2020 (G.)

The EU has pencilled in April Fools’ Day 2020 as a leading option for Britain’s first day outside the bloc, should the UK government ask Brussels for a lengthy extension of article 50 in three weeks’ time, it can be revealed. The date was to be offered at the leaders’ summit last week if Theresa May had followed through on her promise to request a short extension in the event of passing her Brexit deal, and a longer one should it be rejected again by the House of Commons. Such was the disapproval of her cabinet, the prime minister only sought a short delay until 30 June in her formal letter. She was subsequently given an unconditional extension until 12 April, or a longer one to 22 May in the unlikely event of the withdrawal agreement being ratified this week.


Without having received a request from Downing Street for a prolonged extension, the EU’s leaders instead left open the offer of a lengthy delay should there be a new political process or event before 12 April, such as a general election or second referendum, but they did not stipulate its potential length. A one-year extension, ending on 31 March 2020, was, however, written into internal EU papers before the summit as an offer that could be made to May should she formally seek a longer extension, sources said. It will likely remain an option if May comes back to Brussels having failed to ratify her deal. Such a UK departure date would ensure the British government would not have any opportunity to meddle in the EU’s long-term plans, including its budget, sources suggested.

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The same deal they fought so hard against.

Brexiters Demand May Exit Date To Back Deal (G.)

Theresa May is under intense pressure to set out a timetable for her departure from Downing Street to seal the support of Brexit hardliners for her twice-rejected deal. The prime minister will address Conservative MPs at a meeting of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers on Wednesday as the House of Commons prepares to vote on alternatives to her Brexit deal. There are renewed signs that leavers are reluctantly preparing to back her in a third meaningful vote rather than risk seeing Brexit slip away altogether. MPs will hold a series of “indicative votes” on alternative Brexit options on Wednesday after three ministers resigned to back a motion to seize control of the parliamentary timetable from the government.


Leavers fear this could lead to what May has a called a “slow Brexit” – a lengthy delay to the article 50 process, leading to a closer future relationship with the EU. Options for MPs to consider may include revocation of article 50, a second referendum, leaving with no deal and backing a Norway-style deal that would include single market membership and a customs arrangement. Boris Johnson appeared to pave the way for a climbdown over May’s deal on Tuesday night. Asked at a Telegraph event whether he would vote for it, the leading Brexiter said: “I am not there yet.” He described it as a “terrible deal, something which I bitterly opposed for a long time”. However, he said he needed “to see that the second phase of the negotiations will be different from the first” and highlighted the “appreciable risk” that not voting for the deal could lead to no Brexit.

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“In a pantomime moment, Farage turned to those sat behind him to ask whether they really wanted him to return as an MEP.”

EU Cannot Betray ‘Increasing Majority’ Who Want To Cancel Brexit – Tusk (G.)

Donald Tusk has issued a rallying call to the “increasing majority” of British people who want to cancel Brexit and stay in the European Union. In a stirring intervention, the European council president hailed those who marched on the streets of London and the millions who are petitioning the government to revoke article 50. Speaking to the European parliament, Tusk reprimanded those who voiced concerns about a potential lengthy extension to article 50 in the event of the Commons rejecting the withdrawal agreement again this week.

Tusk said: “Let me make one personal remark to the members of this parliament. Before the European council, I said that we should be open to a long extension if the UK wishes to rethink its Brexit strategy, which would of course mean the UK’s participation in the European parliament elections. And then there were voices saying that this would be harmful or inconvenient to some of you. “Let me be clear: such thinking is unacceptable. You cannot betray the 6 million people who signed the petition to revoke article 50, the 1 million people who marched for a people’s vote, or the increasing majority of people who want to remain in the European Union”

To heckling from Ukip MEPs, Tusk went on: “They may feel that they are not sufficiently represented by the UK Parliament, but they must feel that they are represented by you in this chamber. Because they are Europeans.” The former Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, responded to Tusk by describing him as “deluded” and claiming that a second referendum would deliver a larger majority for leave. Initial suggestions that 1 million people marched last weekend in favour of remaining in the EU have been questioned in recent days. In a pantomime moment, Farage turned to those sat behind him to ask whether they really wanted him to return as an MEP. He ended his speech to the parliament by appealing to the EU’s leaders to “get the British out”.

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2nd Special Counsel.

McConnell Backs Push For Investigation Of Russia Probe Missteps (R.)

The top Republican in the U.S. Senate said on Tuesday he supported a push by a Republican colleague for an inquiry into potential law enforcement missteps in a probe of possible collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. “I think Senator (Lindsey) Graham has raised a legitimate question,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters. “I think it’s not inappropriate for the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, with jurisdiction over the Justice Department, to investigate possible misbehaviors.”


Graham, who heads the panel, said on Monday he wanted to see a special counsel appointed to look into the origins of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant for former Trump adviser Carter Page. The warrant was based in part on information in a dossier on Trump compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who co-founded a private intelligence firm. Graham said he would use the panel’s subpoena power if necessary, whether or not a special counsel is appointed, to look into the matter.

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Barr’s on his way to becoming America’s new punchbag.

Mueller Report Details To Be Issued In ‘Weeks, Not Months’ (R.)

U.S. Attorney General William Barr plans to issue a public version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election within “weeks, not months,” a Justice Department official said on Tuesday. Barr released his own summary of the report’s central findings on Sunday, but said he needed more time to review the report to determine how much of it could be made public. He relayed his plans to release a public version of the report in the coming weeks to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham during a phone call this week, the official said.


The official said there is no plan to share an advanced copy of the report with the White House. Some portions of Mueller’s confidential report contain materials that arose during secret grand jury proceedings. Federal rules generally prohibit the government from releasing that information to the public. The report also contains information about ongoing criminal investigations that Mueller referred to other U.S. attorneys offices. Barr has not yet revealed a precise date for when the final public version might be ready.

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Cassandra Fairbanks’s intensely sad story.

Ecuador Ambassador Tells Assange to ‘Shut up’ and Accept Spying (GP)

It was meant to be a routine visit by a journalist to another journalist. Instead, I found myself locked in a cold, surveilled room for over an hour by Ecuadorian officials, as a furious argument raged between the country’s ambassador and Julian Assange on Monday. The room was inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where 2019 Nobel Peace Prize nominee Julian Assange currently lives under the ostensible protection of political asylum. Yet the WikiLeaks publisher was barred from entering the room, where he was supposed to join me for a pre-approved meeting, because he refused to submit to a full-body search and continuous surveillance. In the fireworks that followed, Assange accused the ambassador of being an agent of the United States government.


The crackdown on visitors was felt before I even entered the embassy. It’s the third time I’ve visited in the past year, and each time the atmosphere seems progressively worse. Just like my previous visit, since new rules for visitors were enacted, I couldn’t take my phone into the meeting without giving the Ecuadorian officials a swathe of data. If you want to take it in with you, they request its brand, model, serial number, IMEI number, and telephone number. I was also advised that Ecuador could not be trusted to hold my phone while I met with Assange, so I left it behind and walked to the embassy phoneless, several minutes early to make sure I was on time.

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This is not going to be easy.

Boeing 737 MAX Software Fix: Easy To Upload, Harder To Approve (R.)

Boeing engineers armed with laptops and thumb drives will be able to upload a crucial software fix for the 737 MAX anti-stall system in about an hour. That’s the easy part. Before Boeing’s workhorse of the future can resume flying, the upgrade must first be approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and then by wary regulators around the globe who have grounded it in the wake of two deadly crashes.R egulators in China, Europe and Canada have signaled they will not rubber stamp an FAA decision to allow the planes back into the air but conduct their own reviews. With the FAA under pressure for its role in certifying the newest 737, and other regulators challenging its leadership of the airline safety system, Boeing’s money-spinning jet could remain parked for months.


“We are guessing this thing’s not going to be put to bed until the July or August time frame,” said Charlie Smith, chief investment officer at Fort Smith Capital Group, which holds shares in Boeing. The world’s largest planemaker has been working on the upgrade for its MCAS stall-prevention system since October’s Lion Air crash, when pilots are believed to have lost a tug of war with software that repeatedly pushed the nose down. Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell told the U.S. Senate Tuesday in written testimony that the agency will agree to allow the 737 MAX to return to service “only when the FAA’s analysis of the facts and technical data indicate that it is appropriate.”

Read more …

“The case is only the second of more than 11,200 Roundup lawsuits to go to trial in the United States..”

US Jury To Determine Liability, Damages In Roundup Cancer Trial (R.)

A lawyer for a man who said his cancer was caused by Bayer AG’s glyphosate-based weed killer Roundup on Tuesday urged U.S. jurors to “send a message” to the company by holding it liable and awarding millions in damages. The case is only the second of more than 11,200 Roundup lawsuits to go to trial in the United States as litigation setbacks and a prior jury verdict against the company have sent Bayer shares plunging. “A responsible company would test its product. A responsible company would tell their customers if they knew it causes cancer,” Aimee Wagstaff, a lawyer for plaintiff Edwin Hardeman, said during closing arguments on Tuesday. She called conduct by Bayer’s Monsanto unit reckless and offensive.


Bayer, which bought Roundup maker Monsanto in a $63 billion deal last year, denies the allegations, saying decades of studies by independent scientists have shown glyphosate and Roundup to be safe for human use. In Hardeman’s case, the jury on March 19 found Roundup to have been a “substantial factor” in causing his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. That verdict followed a first phase of the trial that focused exclusively on science. The decision allowed the trial to proceed to a second phase in which the same jury will decide if Bayer is liable. In the second phase lawyers for Hardeman were able to present previously excluded internal documents allegedly showing the company’s efforts to influence scientists and regulators about the popular product’s safety.

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These findings have become our new normal: “the insects have been lost from a quarter of the places they were found in 1980.”

Widespread Losses Of Pollinating Insects Revealed Across Britain (G.)

A widespread loss of pollinating insects in recent decades has been revealed by the first national survey in Britain, which scientists say “highlights a fundamental deterioration” in nature. The analysis of 353 wild bee and hoverfly species found the insects have been lost from a quarter of the places they were found in 1980. A third of the species now occupy smaller ranges, with just one in 10 expanding their extent, and the average number of species found in a square kilometre fell by 11. A small group of 22 bee species known to be important in pollinating crops such as oilseed rape saw a rise in range, potentially due to farmers increasingly planting wild flowers around fields. However, the scientists found “severe” declines in other bee species from 2007, coinciding with the introduction of a widely used neonicotinoid insecticide, which has since been banned.


Researchers have become increasingly concerned about dramatic drops in populations of insects, which underpin much of nature. Some warned in February that these falls threaten a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, while studies from Germany and Puerto Rico have shown plunging numbers in the last 25 to 35 years. The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, is based on more than 700,000 sightings made by volunteers across Britain from 1980 to 2013. These are used to map the range of each species of bee and hoverfly over time. The data did not allow the assessment of numbers of insects, but some researchers think populations have fallen faster than range.

Read more …

Mar 222019
 


Margaret Bourke-White Coney Island 1952

 

EU Leaders Decide UK’s Fate Behind Closed Doors, Leave May Waiting (Ind.)
May’s Appeal Falls Flat As EU Seizes Control Of Brexit Date (G.)
Five Percent? EU Leaders Doubt May’s Brexit Vote Chances (R.)
Cabinet Ministers Believe Risk Of No-Deal Brexit Now ‘Very Real’ (G.)
Brexit: Hundreds Of Gagging Orders Taken Out By UK Government (Sky)
‘Survivability’ Of The EU Is A Serious Question: Stephen Roach (CNBC)
Indonesian Airline Garuda Cancels Order For 49 Boeing 737 Max 8 Jets (G.)
Australia Home Builders Start Laying Off Workers (ABC.au)
Top Oil Firms Spend Millions Lobbying To Block Climate Change Policies (G.)
How The Car Industry Hid The Truth About Diesel Emissions (G.)
US Cold Warriors Escalate Toward Actual War With Russia (Stephen Cohen)
Los Angeles Bans Monsanto’s Roundup (RT)

 

 

April 12 is the new March 29..

“I hope we can all agree that we are at the moment of decision,” Theresa May said at a press conference in the early hours of the morning.”

Meanwhile, there’s talk about April snap elections. More likely than a 2nd referendum.

EU Leaders Decide UK’s Fate Behind Closed Doors, Leave May Waiting (Ind.)

Theresa May was left waiting while European leaders decided the future of Brexit behind closed doors. The prime minister had hoped to be handed an extension of the Article 50 period until 30 June before making a statement from Brussels in the early evening. Instead, the 27 presidents and prime ministers were locked in talks long into the night after they tore up draft proposals and produced a complicated conditional plan. Diplomats in the room painted a disorientating picture of discussions, with proposals for shorter and longer deadlines made by different countries. EU leaders ultimately agreed that the UK could have an unconditional extension until 12 April, and a further extension until 22 May if MPs approved the withdrawal agreement next week.

The so-called “flextension” would also give the UK the option of a longer delay if needed, but only on the condition of deciding to join in European Parliament elections before April 12. One EU official said: “March 29th is over. As of tonight, April 12th is the new March 29th.” Speaking after the agreement was struck, European Council president Donald Tusk said Ms May “accepts the extension scenarios”. He added: “Frankly speaking I was really sad before our meeting – now I am much more optimistic.” European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker added: “This closes and completes the full package. There’s no more we can give. We’re hopeful that the agreement will be adopted by the House of Commons.” “I hope we can all agree that we are at the moment of decision,” Theresa May said at a press conference in the early hours of the morning.

Read more …

The rope to hang herself with.

May’s Appeal Falls Flat As EU Seizes Control Of Brexit Date (G.)

The EU has handed Theresa May two weeks’ grace to devise an alternative Brexit plan if her deal falls next week after the prime minister failed to convince the bloc that she was capable of avoiding a no-deal Brexit. After a marathon late-night session of talks, the EU’s leaders ripped up May’s proposals and a new Brexit timeline was pushed on the prime minister to avoid the cliff-edge deadline of 29 March – next Friday. Under the deal agreed by May, Britain will now stay a member state until 12 April if the withdrawal agreement is rejected by MPs at the third time of asking. The government will be able to seek a longer extension during that period if it can both “indicate a way forward” and agree to hold European elections.

In the unlikely event that May does win the support of the Commons when the Brexit deal goes to MPs again on Tuesday, the UK will stay a member state until 22 May to allow necessary withdrawal legislation to be passed. “The 12 April is the new 29 March,” an EU official said. Donald Tusk, the European council president, told reporters in a late-night press conference that he had several meetings through the evening to secure May’s agreement. He said: “What this means in practice is that, until that date, all options will remain open, and the cliff-edge date will be delayed. The UK government will still have a choice of a deal, no-deal, a long extension or revoking article 50.” Asked how long an extension could be on offer, the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, said: “Until the very end.”

[..] As their talks wound on, the EU moved towards the “flextension” delay. It was then put to May by Tusk shortly after 11pm Brussels time after eight hours of talks, with and without the prime minister. “What this model is designed for is to make it clear that no deal is not the EU’s choice, it is the UK’s choice,” a diplomatic source said. “The prime minister is braced for a long extension, but doesn’t want to take responsibility for it,” the source said. The EU had initially looked at solely offering an extension up until 22 May, the day before European elections would be held, on the condition May’s deal passed next week. But it was a lack of confidence in the prime minister following her latest performance in front of the leaders that forced the EU’s member states to act to shore up against a no-deal Brexit and allow the British parliament time to take control.

Read more …

May spoke for quite a long time, and had nothing new to say. She actually thinks she can win just because everyone’s too scared of a no-deal Brexit.

Five Percent? EU Leaders Doubt May’s Brexit Vote Chances (R.)

After British Prime Minister Theresa May reassured them she could win a crunch vote in parliament next week to ensure an orderly Brexit, EU leaders were left even more doubtful of her chances. Following more than an hour of explanations that with days left until Britain might crash out she could win over lawmakers who have twice rejected her EU withdrawal deal, May left the summit room on Thursday and the other 27 leaders conferred — finding a consensus that they were even less convinced than before, officials familiar with their discussions told Reuters.

French President Emmanuel Macron told the room that before coming to Brussels he had thought May had only a 10 percent chance of winning the vote. After listening to the prime minister, he said, he had cut his estimate — to five percent. To general assent, one person present said, summit chair Donald Tusk shot back that Macron was being “very optimistic”. After hours of discussion, the leaders agreed to delay Brexit beyond the deadline of next Friday — but possibly only to April 12 or into May, trying to shift responsibility for any chaotic no-deal outcome back to London from Brussels.

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They should simply all resign.

Cabinet Ministers Believe Risk Of No-Deal Brexit Now ‘Very Real’ (G.)

Cabinet ministers believe there is now a real risk of a no-deal Brexit, with sources close to them describing the mood in government as depressing and No 10 as “run by lunatics”. Senior members of the cabinet from both sides of the Brexit argument are understood to think the chances of the UK leaving without a deal have substantially increased after the prime minister set herself against a longer extension to article 50. One aide to a cabinet minister said No 10 was in “full-on bunker mode” and the prime minister’s speech from Downing Street showed “they have all taken leave of their senses”. Another soft Brexit cabinet source described the mood as “depressing” and said of no deal: “The risk is now very real.”

On the other side, one leave-supporting cabinet minister believes May has no intention of resigning if her deal fails to pass next Tuesday and that she would prefer to switch to a position of supporting no deal rather than allow a longer extension to article 50. They point to the fact that 63% of Conservative MPs opposed a delay to Brexit and opinion polls suggesting a shift in public opinion towards no deal. In this scenario, the prime minister could attempt another meaningful vote next Thursday in a high-stakes gamble that would challenge MPs to back her deal or face no deal at the last minute. On Thursday, Liz Truss, a Treasury minister who sits in cabinet, told the Sun that she did not believe the “plague of locusts stuff” around leaving without a deal, adding: “I believe No Deal is better than a long extension.”

Read more …

What secret activities are taking place? What role does the secret service play in them?

Brexit: Hundreds Of Gagging Orders Taken Out By UK Government (Sky)

Sky News can reveal that the government has taken out hundreds of gagging orders as part of its preparations for a no-deal Brexit. The orders, formerly known as non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), are legally binding contracts to stop confidential conversations being talked about in public. They are typically used to maintain secrecy around corporate deals or to protect intellectual property. However, we have discovered that the use of these NDAs has become prevalent across great swathes of the UK government. Using freedom of information requests, Sky News asked departments to reveal how many NDAs each had taken out as part of their preparations for Brexit. All responded, although not all of them actually answered the question.

The Department for Transport (DfT) told us it had 79 separate NDAs by the end of February. Of these, we understand that around 50 had been signed in the preceding three months, at an average of around four per week. Although the names of those involved have obviously not been made public, we understand that the DfT’s gagging orders involve hauliers, public transport companies, infrastructure operators and petrol retailers. Some told us they felt frustrated that a government “obsession with secrecy” had hindered constructive debate and exchange of information. [..] The Home Office refused to answer the question, saying that it would be too burdensome to research the answer. However, Sky News has since confirmed that the Home Office has taken out at least 100 gagging orders, simply in relation to ports. It is unclear how many gagging orders it has in relation to the rest of its work.

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Toxic cocktail.

‘Survivability’ Of The EU Is A Serious Question: Stephen Roach (CNBC)

As U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May presses on to take Britain out of the European Union, one leading economist raised questions about the viability of the single political and economic bloc. “You have to wonder about the future of the European Union itself … this is an imperfect union and the survivability of it is, I think, a serious question,” Stephen Roach, a senior fellow at Yale University, told CNBC’s Sri Jegarajah on Friday. Even before Brexit came about, the EU faced multiple challenges over the last decade, said Roach, who’s a former chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia. Those challenges include a sovereign debt crisis in Greece and a standoff with Italian leaders over the country’s spending plans.

And with the U.K. — one of the largest European economies — planning to leave the bloc, it remains to be seen whether the EU has the ability to withstand more pressure coming from member states while still reeling from the shocks of the global financial crisis, said Roach. [..] “The idea that one-size-fits-all has been rejected repeatedly over the last 10 years,” he said. “In the early days there was some convergence of economic cycles, but then the asymmetric shocks in (2008 and 2009) have continued to ripple through the landscape and really challenge the idea that this is a cohesive economic zone that can be guided by one central bank,” he added.

[..] Even though the circumstances surrounding Brexit are still uncertain and pose a major risk within Europe, Roach said the event itself wouldn’t be enough to derail the global economy. What Brexit does accomplish, however, is to add to the “toxic cocktail” that threatens to hit growth, the economist said. “The downward growth pressure is in China, the weakness in Japan, the deceleration in the United States. In conjunction with uncertainties and potential shock coming out of Brexit, it’s certainly a potentially toxic cocktail for the global economy,” Roach said.

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More will follow. And we’ll see airlines and Boeing being sued for gross negligence and other crimes.

Indonesian Airline Garuda Cancels Order For 49 Boeing 737 Max 8 Jets (G.)

Indonesia’s national carrier Garuda has cancelled a multibillion-dollar order for 49 Boeing 737 Max 8 jets after two fatal crashes involving the plane, the company said, blaming passengers’ loss of trust in the aircraft. In what is thought to be the first formal cancellation for the model, Garuda spokesman Ikhsan Rosan said: “We have sent a letter to Boeing requesting that the order be cancelled. “The reason is that Garuda passengers in Indonesia have lost trust and no longer have the confidence” in the plane, he said, adding that the airline was awaiting a response from Boeing. As Boeing continued to work on a fix for the planes grounded by airlines across the world, reports on Friday suggested that the manufacturer would make it compulsory for airlines buying the aircraft to have one of two optional safety features installed.

The equipment alerts pilots of faulty information from key sensors. It will now be included on every 737 Max as part of changes that Boeing is rushing to complete on the jets by early next week, according to two people familiar with the changes. Airlines can decide whether to pay for upgrades to a standard plane, a common practice in the industry which enables manufacturers to charge extra. Garuda had already received one of the 737 MAX 8 planes, part of a 50-plane order worth $4.9bn at list prices when it was announced in 2014. Garuda is also talking to Boeing about whether or not to return the plane it has received, the spokesman told AFP.

[..] This month, Indonesia’s Lion Air said was postponing taking delivery of four new Boeing 737 Max 8 jets after an Ethiopian Airlines plane of the same model crashed minutes into a flight to Nairobi, killing all 157 people on board. That came after a Lion Air jet of the same model crashed in Indonesia in October, killing all 189 people on board.

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When recessions slowly creep up on you. They still can’t believe it: “the highest low point on record”.

Australia Home Builders Start Laying Off Workers (ABC.au)

Since building its first house in 1957, Zuccala Homes has seen its fair share of highs and lows in Melbourne’s residential construction market. With housing well and truly in a downturn, director Greg Zuccala said this was one of the worst he had seen. “Builders are just battening down the hatches and looking after their costs,” Mr Zuccala told ABC’s The Business. Melbourne house prices have fallen 9.6 per cent since their 2017 peak, and that is having big implications for home builders. “We do a bit of business with some investors, but mostly our bread and butter is owner occupiers.” That huge fall in demand for new home builds meant Mr Zuccala had to find savings.

To do that, he was forced to lay off four workers. “We’ve had to adjust things there to meet the market,” he said. “I think a lot of building companies at the moment find themselves in the same situation.” Residential construction is a $105 billion business in Australia and, as Australia’s fourth biggest sector, it accounts for 8 per cent of GDP. [..] But it is not all doom and gloom. While there is no denying Australia is in the midst of a downturn, and that is hurting the construction sector, the numbers are still good in a historical context. Nationally, new home building peaked in 2016 with about 230,000 new dwellings. “We see it bottoming out to about 175,000 over the next few years,” Mr Garrett forecast. “It’s worth emphasising, that 175,000 as a low point would still be the highest ever low point for new home building on record.”

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Best part of it is they receive that money in subsidies. Put at $5 trillion a year by one report.

Top Oil Firms Spend Millions Lobbying To Block Climate Change Policies (G.)

The largest five stock market listed oil and gas companies spend nearly $200m (£153m) a year lobbying to delay, control or block policies to tackle climate change, according to a new report. Chevron, BP and ExxonMobil were the main companies leading the field in direct lobbying to push against a climate policy to tackle global warming, the report said. Increasingly they are using social media to successfully push their agenda to weaken and oppose any meaningful legislation to tackle global warming. In the run-up to the US midterm elections last year $2m was spent on targeted Facebook and Instagram ads by global oil giants and their industry bodies, promoting the benefits of increased fossil fuel production, according to the report published on Friday by InfluenceMap.

Separately, BP donated $13m to a campaign, also supported by Chevron, that successfully stopped a carbon tax in Washington state – $1m of which was spent on social media ads, the research shows. Edward Collins, the report’s author, analysed corporate spending on lobbying, briefing and advertising, and assessed what proportion was dedicated to climate issues. He said: “Oil majors’ climate branding sounds increasingly hollow and their credibility is on the line. They publicly support climate action while lobbying against binding policy. They advocate low-carbon solutions but such investments are dwarfed by spending on expanding their fossil fuel business.”

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The ‘Dieselgate’ scandal was suppressed for years – while we should have been driving electric cars.

For Christ sake, ‘we’ shouldn’t have been driving any cars.

How The Car Industry Hid The Truth About Diesel Emissions (G.)

John German had not been looking to make a splash when he commissioned an examination of pollution from diesel cars back in 2013. The exam compared what came out of their exhausts, during the lab tests that were required by law, with emissions on the road under real driving conditions. German and his colleagues at the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) in the US just wanted to tie up the last loose ends in a big report, and thought the research would give them something positive to say about diesel. They might even be able to offer tips to Europe from the US’s experience in getting the dirty fuel to run a little cleaner.

But that was not how it turned out. They chose a Volkswagen Jetta as their first test subject, and a VW Passat next. Regulators in California agreed to do the routine certification test for them, and the council hired researchers from West Virginia University to then drive the same cars through cities, along highways and into the mountains, using equipment that tests emissions straight from the cars’ exhausts.

It was clear right away that something was off. At first, German wondered if the cars might be malfunctioning, and he asked if a dashboard light had come on. That didn’t really make sense, though – the cars had just passed the California regulators’ test. His partners thought there might be a problem with their equipment, and they recalibrated it again and again. But the results didn’t change. Nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution from the Jetta’s tailpipe was 15 times the allowed limit, shooting up to 35 times under some conditions; the Passat varied between five and 20 times the limit. German had been around the auto industry all his life, so he had a pretty good idea what was going on. This had to be a “defeat device” – a deliberate effort to evade the rules.

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“Words, as Russians say, are also deeds.”

US Cold Warriors Escalate Toward Actual War With Russia (Stephen Cohen)

[..] the preceding Cold War was driven by an intense ideological conflict between Soviet Communism and Western capitalism. Where is the ideological threat today, considering that post–Soviet Russia is also a capitalist country? In a perhaps unprecedented nearly 10,000-word manifesto from March 14 in the front news pages of (again) the Post, Robert Kagan provided the answer: “Today, authoritarianism has emerged as the greatest challenge facing the liberal democratic world—a profound ideological, as well as strategic, challenge.” That is, “authoritarianism” has replaced Soviet Communism in our times, with Russia again in the forefront.

The substance of Kagan’s “authoritarianism” as “an ideological force” is thin, barely enough for a short opinion article, often inconsistent and rarely empirical. It amounts to a batch of “strongman” leaders (prominently Putin, of course), despite their very different kinds of societies, political cultures, states, and histories, and despite their different nationalisms and ruling styles. Still, credit Kagan’s ambition to be the undisputed ideologist of the new American Cold War, though less the Post for taking the voluminous result so seriously. The forty-year Cold War often flirted with hot war, and that, too, seems to be on the agenda. Words, as Russians say, are also deeds. They have consequences, especially when uttered by people of standing in influential outlets.

[..] Histories of the forty-year US-Soviet Cold War tell us that both sides came to understand their mutual responsibility for the conflict, a recognition that created political space for the constant peace-keeping negotiations, including nuclear arms control agreements, often known as détente. But as I also chronicle in the book, today’s American Cold Warriors blame only Russia, specifically “Putin’s Russia,” leaving no room or incentive for rethinking any US policy toward post–Soviet Russia since 1991.

Still more, as I have also long pointed out, Moscow closely follows what is said and written in the United States about US-Russian relations. Here too words have consequences. On March 14, Russia’s National Security Council, headed by President Putin, officially raised its perception of American intentions toward Russia from “military dangers” (opasnosti) to direct “military threats” (ugrozy). In short, the Kremlin is preparing for war, however defensive its intention.

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Miami and LA. Who’s next?!

Los Angeles Bans Monsanto’s Roundup (RT)

Los Angeles county authorities have banned all use of notorious weed killer glyphosate – the herbicide better known by its Monsanto/Bayer trade name, Roundup – after a second court ruling linking it to a man’s cancer. “I am asking county departments to stop the use of this herbicide until public health and environmental professionals can determine if it’s safe for further use in L.A. County and explore alternative methods for vegetation management,” Kathryn Barger of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors said. The motion follows of a San Francisco court’s ruling that Roundup was a “substantial factor” in 70-year-old Edwin Hardeman’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which he developed after using the herbicide on his Sonoma property for decades.

The verdict was the second such unfavorable ruling for Germany’s Bayer, which was fortunate enough to acquire Monsanto just last year. With legal responsibility no longer falling on Americans’ shoulders, a California court awarded plaintiff Dewayne Johnson $289 million last August, ruling the popular herbicide also caused his non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The payout was later reduced to $78 million, but it opened the floodgates for upwards of 9,300 similar lawsuits against Bayer. While the supervisory board motion doesn’t mention the recent court verdicts, it does cite “a growing body of scientific study” suggesting glyphosate’s carcinogenicity and asks the Department of Public Works to look into possible alternatives and deliver a report with recommendations within 30 days.

Read more …

Mar 202019
 
 March 20, 2019  Posted by at 9:27 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Salvador Dali Birth of liquid desires 1932

 

Monsanto’s Roundup Substantial Factor In Man’s Cancer, Jury Finds (G.)
Miami Bans The Use Of Glyphosate In A Step To Improve Water Quality (NoC)
Off-Duty Pilot Saved Doomed 737 From Nosedive Day Before Deadly Crash (ZH)
Most People Want Higher Taxes On Rich To Support Poor – OECD (G.)
Shifting Hopes As Republicans, Democrats Wait For Mueller (AP)
Schiff: Real Question Is If Trump Is Under Influence Of A Foreign Power (NBC)
Mueller Suspected Cohen May Have Been Acting As Foreign Agent In 2017 (G.)
EU’s Barnier: UK Can’t Delay Brexit Without Clear Plan Of Action (Ind.)
Theresa May Asks Eu For Brexit Delay With Cabinet In Deadlock (G.)
Theresa May Will Not Ask EU For Long Brexit Extension (BBC)
Tory MPs Vow To Quit Party If Boris Johnson Becomes Leader (G.)
Chinese Companies Default On Their Debts At An ‘Unprecedented’ Level (CNBC)
Foreigners Buy Up Athens Real Estate For Short-Term Rentals (K.)

 

 

Underlying lesson: stop poisoning your food and the soil it grows in.

But don’t count out Monsanto’s legal department.

Monsanto’s Roundup Substantial Factor In Man’s Cancer, Jury Finds (G.)

A federal jury in San Francisco found Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide was a substantial factor in causing the cancer of a California man, in a landmark verdict that could affect hundreds of other cases. Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa was the first person to challenge Monsanto’s Roundup in a federal trial and alleged that his exposure to Roundup caused him to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), a cancer that affects the immune system. In the next phase of the case, the jury will weigh liability and damages, and Hardeman’s lawyers will present arguments about Monsanto’s influence on government regulators and cancer research.

During the trial, the 70-year-old Santa Rosa man testified that he had sprayed the herbicide for nearly three decades and at one time got it on his skin before he was diagnosed with cancer. He used the chemical to control weeds and poison oak on his properties, starting in 1986. Hardeman’s case is considered a “bellwether” trial for hundreds of other plaintiffs in the US with similar claims, which means the verdict could affect future litigation and other cancer patients and families. Monsanto, now owned by the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, is facing more than 9,000 similar lawsuits across the US.

The unanimous ruling on Tuesday follows a historic verdict last August in which a California jury in state court ruled that Roundup caused the terminal cancer of Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper. That jury said Monsanto failed to warn Johnson of Roundup’s health hazards and “acted with malice or oppression”, awarding Johnson $289m in damages. Hardeman’s trial has been more limited in scope. While Johnson’s attorneys argued that Monsanto had “bullied” scientists and fought to suppress negative studies about its product, the federal judge barred Hardeman’s lawyers from discussing Monsanto’s alleged influence on research and regulations during the hearings.

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2 weeks old, but highly relevant.

Miami Bans The Use Of Glyphosate In A Step To Improve Water Quality (NoC)

Miami, Florida voted unanimously to ban the use of glyphosate by city departments and contractors. The controversial herbicide is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s – now Bayer after an acquisition took place over a year ago – popular weed-killer, Roundup. But concerns surrounding the safety and proliferation of glyphosate continue to grow and the city of Miami took it upon themselves to effectively enact the resolution right after passage, The Miami Times reported. Miami Commissioner Ken Russell started the investigation into the city’s use of glyphosate after officials believed the runoff from the herbicide “might have contributed to the recent blue-green algae bloom and red tide that impacted the state last year,” EcoWatch reported.

“Water quality issues are so important to the city of Miami, and we can be one of the worst polluters as a municipality,” Russell told The Miami New Times. “We ask for residents to make a change in their habits and that they be conscious of what they put in their gardens, but when I realized the totality of what the city uses at any given time, we had to change our habits.” Miami Director of Resiliency and Public Works Alan Dodd determined that Miami was responsible for using 4,800 gallons of glyphosate a year on the streets and sidewalks to kill weeds. While Dodd stopped the use of the herbicide, Russell took it a step further and sponsored a city-wide ban on glyphosate to make sure it was no longer used by any departments.

According to Waterkeeper: “herbicides and fertilizers are often applied in excess to lawns and landscapes and can be lost to the environment in stormwater runoff and can degrade the water quality of streams, rivers, canals, lakes, and coastal waters. They can also contribute to the creation of harmful algal blooms and the destruction of critically important habitats like sea grass beds and coral reefs.”

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One of the big selling points for the 737MAX was that airlines didn’t have to spend a fortune to re-train their pilots. Even though the MCAS system that caused the crashes was brand new.

Off-Duty Pilot Saved Doomed 737 From Nosedive Day Before Deadly Crash (ZH)

An off-duty pilot hitching a ride in the cockpit jumpseat of a doomed 737 Max 8 last October reportedly saved the plane just one day before it crashed off the coast of Indonesia while being operated by a different crew, killing 189 onboard. According to Bloomberg, the ‘dead-head’ pilot on the earlier flight from Bali to Jakarta was able to explain to the crew how to disable a malfunctioning flight-control system by cutting power to a motor driving the nose of the plane down. The previously undisclosed detail supports the suggestion that a lack of training is may be at least partially to blame in the March 10 crash of another 727 Max 8.

“The previously undisclosed detail on the earlier Lion Air flight represents a new clue in the mystery of how some 737 Max pilots faced with the malfunction have been able to avert disaster while the others lost control of their planes and crashed. The presence of a third pilot in the cockpit wasn’t contained in Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee’s Nov. 28 report on the crash and hasn’t previously been reported.” -Bloomberg As we noted last week, several pilots had repeatedly warned federal authorities of the Max 8’s shortcomings, with one pilot describing the plane’s flight manual as “inadequate and almost criminally insufficient.”

“The fact that this airplane requires such jury-rigging to fly is a red flag. Now we know the systems employed are error-prone — even if the pilots aren’t sure what those systems are, what redundancies are in place and failure modes. I am left to wonder: what else don’t I know?” wrote the captain. “After the Lion Air crash, two U.S. pilots’ unions said the potential risks of the system, known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, hadn’t been sufficiently spelled out in their manuals or training. None of the documentation for the Max aircraft included an explanation, the union leaders said.” -Bloomberg

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Curious coming from the OECD.

Most People Want Higher Taxes On Rich To Support Poor – OECD (G.)

A majority of people living in developed countries want their government to increase taxes on the rich in order to help the poorest in society, according to a major global study. In all 21 countries included in the OECD study, more than half of those polled said they were in favour when asked: “Should the government tax the rich more than they currently do in order to support the poor?” The OECD said the survey of 22,000 people was “deeply troubling” and revealed that nearly 60% of respondents do not think they are getting their “fair share” back for the taxes they pay.

Only one in five people thought that they would easily be able to access state benefits in the event of a crisis, with many raising concerns about healthcare. Almost six in 10 said their government ignored their views and concerns. “This is a wake-up call for policy makers,” Ángel Gurría, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development secretary-general, said. “Too many people feel they cannot count fully on their government when they need help. “A better understanding of the factors driving this perception and why people feel they are struggling is essential to making social protection more effective and efficient. We must restore trust and confidence in government and promote equality of opportunity.”

The survey comes as politicians and campaigners across the world call for higher taxes on the super-rich to fund essential services for the poor. Several of the Democratic candidates for US president in the 2020 election, including Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have proposed new taxes on the super-rich to address inequality. The gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protesters in France have also demanded the wealthy shoulder a larger share of the tax burden. Almost 80% of people in Portugal and Greece said they wanted their governments to impose higher taxes on the wealthy. In the US more than half of those surveyed supported extra taxes on the wealthy. The OECD did not set an income level for what constituents wealthy.

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The end of one probe will give birth to many others.

Shifting Hopes As Republicans, Democrats Wait For Mueller (AP)

It’s a witch hunt, a vendetta, the worst presidential harassment in history. That’s what President Donald Trump has shouted for two years about the special counsel’s Russia probe. Now, barring an eleventh-hour surprise, Trump and his allies are starting to see it as something potentially very different: a political opportunity. With Robert Mueller’s findings expected any day, the president has grown increasingly confident the report will produce what he insisted all along — no clear evidence of a conspiracy between Russia and his 2016 campaign. And Trump and his advisers are considering how to weaponize those possible findings for the 2020 race, according to current and former White House officials and presidential confidants who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

A change is underway as well among congressional Democrats, who have long believed the report would offer damning evidence against the president. The Democrats are busy building new avenues for evidence to come out, opening a broad array of investigations of Trump’s White House and businesses that go far beyond Mueller’s focus on Russian interference to help Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton. It’s a striking role reversal. No one knows exactly what Mueller will say, but Trump, his allies and members of Congress are trying to map out the post-probe political dynamics.

[..] If the report proves anticlimactic, says former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a strong Trump ally, “there would no longer be any justification for what the House Dems want to do. They have their report, they had the guy they wanted writing it, and he had the full power of the federal government behind him and they still didn’t get the president. “Trump can say: Here is the report. I didn’t fire Mueller, I didn’t interfere with him. If you want to keep investigating me, it just shows that it is purely partisan.”

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What then is the real question about Adam Schiff?

Schiff: Real Question Is If Trump Is Under Influence Of A Foreign Power (NBC)

Nearly two years into his investigation, special counsel Robert Mueller has not accused any member of the Trump campaign of conspiring with the 2016 election interference effort — and it’s not clear whether he will. But legal experts, along with the congressman leading the House Russia investigation, tell NBC News that the most important question investigators must answer is one that may never have been suitable for the criminal courts: Whether President Trump or anyone around him is under the influence of a foreign government. “It’s more important to know what Trump is NOW than to know what he did in 2016,” said Martin Lederman, professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and former deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel during the Obama administration.

“It’s more important to know whether he has been compromised as president than whether his conduct during the campaign constituted a crime.” Whether Mueller will answer that question in the absence of criminal charges is unclear. But in an interview with NBC News, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said he is steering his investigation in a new direction to focus on it — and he will demand any relevant evidence compiled by the FBI or Mueller’s team. The California Democrat also expressed concern that Mueller hasn’t fully investigated Trump’s possible financial history with Russia. “From what we can see either publicly or otherwise, it’s very much an open question whether this is something the special counsel has looked at,” Schiff told NBC News.

Schiff said the public testimony from former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen that in 2016 Trump stood to earn hundreds of millions of dollars from a secret Moscow real estate project is a staggering conflict of interest that must be fully explored. “I certainly agree that the counterintelligence investigation may be more important than the criminal investigation because it goes to a present threat to our national security — whether the president and anybody around him are compromised by a foreign power,” Schiff said. “That’s not necessarily an issue that can be covered in indictments.”

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Sore losers all around.

Mueller Suspected Cohen May Have Been Acting As Foreign Agent In 2017 (G.)

Robert Mueller persuaded a judge within weeks of being made special counsel in 2017 that Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s legal fixer, may have been secretly working for a foreign government. Legal filings unsealed on Tuesday said investigators working for Mueller were granted access to Cohen’s personal email account on 18 July 2017 on the basis that he may have broken several laws, including those on unregistered foreign agents. Cohen’s suspected efforts were not detailed in the documents. Cohen, one of Trump’s closest advisers for a decade, was known to have been paid in 2017 for consulting work by a state-controlled South Korean aviation company and a bank in Kazakhstan.

The filings said Mueller’s investigators were looking in Cohen’s Gmail account for records on any “funds or benefits” he received from foreign governments or companies, as well as any files revealing efforts by Cohen to work on their behalf. The court documents were released by a federal judge in New York, where Cohen pleaded guilty last year to campaign finance and personal financial crimes. They were originally filed by investigators in April last year to obtain additional search warrants. It was not previously known that Cohen was suspected of crimes relating to representing foreigners without registering with US authorities, and no such charges were brought against him. Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison and is due to be jailed in May.

The filings released on Tuesday ran to hundreds of pages. More than 19 pages, apparently relating to the campaign finance scheme, were entirely blacked out, indicating that it remains under investigation. Cohen directly implicated Trump in the scheme, which involved hush-money payments to women who alleged during the 2016 campaign that they had affairs with Trump. Some legal analysts have said Trump could be vulnerable to prosecution for the scheme once he leaves office. He denies breaking any laws.

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9 days and it gets serious.

EU’s Barnier: UK Can’t Delay Brexit Without Clear Plan Of Action (Ind.)

The EU has said Britain cannot delay Brexit without a clear plan for what happens next, indicating only an election, a new referendum or major compromise on Theresa May’s red lines will suffice. In an ultimatum, Michel Barnier said there would need to be a “new event or new political process” to secure an extension to the Article 50 negotiating period. Brussels’ intervention represents yet another blow for the prime minister, who planned to ask for a delay at this week’s European Council meeting as part of a drive to finally push through her twice-defeated Brexit deal. She is already having to grapple with the new obstacle thrown in front of her by Commons speaker John Bercow who has tried to block her from putting the deal in front of MPs for a third time.

Any move to secure a long delay to Brexit is likely to infuriate Leave-backing Tory MPs and could even lead to cabinet resignations. A meeting of her top ministers on Tuesday ended with Brexiteer ministers making grave warnings about the collapse of their party if it fails to deliver Britain’s departure. Theresa May is set to write to European Council president Donald Tusk, laying out her proposal to delay Brexit beyond March 29 – something that requires the approval of all 27 remaining member states at the summit on Thursday. The Independent understands that one approach being considered is to ask for a lengthy extension to the Article 50 period, with the option of an early break if Ms May can get her deal through parliament.

But Mr Barnier poured cold water on the idea, telling a reporter who asked him about it: “You said both short and long – well, it’s either one or the other, isn’t it?” He added: “My feeling is … a longer extension needs to be linked to something new. There needs to be a new event or a new political process.” Mr Barnier told a news conference in Brussels: “It is our duty to ask whether this extension would be useful because an extension will be something which would extend uncertainty, and uncertainty costs.” He again warned that the UK would need to propose “something new” to justify a lengthy extension. A “new event” can only really mean giving the British public a Final Say referendum or an election, while a new process is likely to refer to a push to rewrite Ms May’s strategy to include a closer relationship with the EU, possibly a permanent customs union.

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What I liked about this when I read it yesterday was May refusing to say how long an extension she was asking for.

Theresa May Asks Eu For Brexit Delay With Cabinet In Deadlock (G.)

Theresa May will be forced to write to EU leaders on Wednesday and beg them to delay Brexit, with her cabinet deadlocked over the best way out of what Downing Street now concedes is a “crisis”. The government had maintained until the last possible moment that Brexit could go ahead as planned on 29 March or after a brief “technical extension”. But after the Speaker, John Bercow, ruled the prime minister could not put her deal to parliament unchanged for a third “meaningful vote,” her spokesman conceded it was now too late to leave with a deal.

He said May would write to the European council president, Donald Tusk, to ask for an extension to article 50, before EU leaders meet in Brussels on Thursday. He declined to say how long a delay she would request, or for what purpose, simply insisting: “You’re going to have to wait for that letter to be published.” Asked whether May agreed with the solicitor general, Robert Buckland, who described the situation after Bercow’s ruling on Monday as a “constitutional crisis”, her spokesman said: “If you were to look back at the speech the prime minister gave, just before meaningful vote two, she said that if MPs did not support meaningful vote two we would be in a crisis. Events yesterday tell you that that situation has come to pass.”

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It doesn’t matter what she asks for, but what they are willing to give.

Theresa May Will Not Ask EU For Long Brexit Extension (BBC)

Theresa May will not be asking the EU for a long delay when she formally requests that Brexit is postponed. Number 10 said the PM shared the public’s “frustration” at Parliament’s “failure to take a decision”. EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said the EU will not grant a delay without a “concrete plan” from the UK about what they would do with it. Under current law, the UK will leave the EU – with or without a deal – in nine days. BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith said the delay would not be beyond the end of June. Any delay will have to be agreed by all 27 EU member states and Mrs May is heading to Brussels on Thursday to discuss the matter with fellow leaders.

Explaining that Mrs May “won’t be asking for a long extension” when she writes to the EU, Number 10 said: “There is a case for giving Parliament a bit more time to agree a way forward, but the people of this country have been waiting nearly three years now. “They are fed up with Parliament’s failure to take a decision and the PM shares their frustration.” It comes after MPs rejected the withdrawal deal Mrs May has negotiated with the EU for a second time last week by 149 votes. They also voted in favour of ruling out leaving the EU without a deal, and in favour of extending the Brexit process.

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All these people love the sound of their own voices.

Tory MPs Vow To Quit Party If Boris Johnson Becomes Leader (G.)

Conservative MPs are orchestrating against a potential leadership campaign by Boris Johnson, with several talking of resigning the whip if he were to become party leader. With Tories convinced that Theresa May’s days in No 10 are numbered, MPs are feverishly discussing who will seek to replace her, how organised the teams are and whether a general election would be necessary. Johnson is the current favourite of Brexit-backing Tory activists, who will pick the leader out of a final two candidates. However, the former London mayor would first have to clear the hurdle of convincing Conservative MPs to put him on the final list of two.

One minister said she would leave the party if Johnson and his supporters, such as Jacob Rees-Mogg, took over the Conservatives. Another minister said he knew of five or six Conservatives who were openly saying they were so opposed to a Johnson premiership that they could not stay in the party run by him and a group of “Brexit ultras”. Anna Soubry, the former Tory minister who quit to join the new Independent Group, said she believed “people will leave” if Johnson were to become prime minister. [..] Backers of Johnson believe MPs could swing behind him if they believe an election is not far away, because he is already a household name to put up against Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn.

“Who outside Westminster has heard of Dominic Raab?” asked one Brexit supporting MP who wants Johnson to deliver May a message that she must stand down soon regardless of whether her Brexit deal passes. “Boris still has the star quality that we would need with the electorate to beat Corbyn if there is going to be an election soon. And there is going to be an election in 2019 if you look at parliament.”

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Something’s brewing.

Chinese Companies Default On Their Debts At An ‘Unprecedented’ Level (CNBC)

An economic slowdown and extremely tight credit conditions pushed corporate debt to a record high in China last year, according to experts. Defaults for Chinese corporate bonds — issued in both U.S. dollars and the Chinese yuan — soared last year, according to numbers from two banks. Japanese bank Nomura’s estimates, provided to CNBC, were even higher, putting the size of defaults in onshore bonds — or yuan-denominated bonds — at 159.6 billion yuan ($23.8 billion) last year. That number is roughly four times more than its 2017 estimate. Offshore corporate dollar bonds, or U.S. dollar-denominated debt issued by Chinese companies, followed the same trend.

Nomura said the amount of such debt rose to $7 billion in 2018, from none the year before. “China witnessed an unprecedented wave of corporate bond defaults last year, in a fresh sign of wobbles hitting financial markets as slowdown deepens,” said DBS analysts in the report. According to DBS, the energy sector bailed on 46.4 billion yuan of payments in 2018 — making up almost 40 percent of all defaults in yuan-denominated debt. Consumer companies were the next worst hit, according to the bank’s report. “The default wave is extending into 2019 … Given the reduced risk appetite and huge maturing volume, the outlook is poor,” DBS said, adding that there are 3.5 trillion yuan in corporate bonds due this year.

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I got back to Athens a few days ago, and this is the talk of the town. Greeks being evicted from their apartments because some Chinese ‘investor’ is Airbnb-ing entire buildings. Soon there’ll be hardly any Greeks left in the city core, and it’ll turn into Disneyland.

Foreigners Buy Up Athens Real Estate For Short-Term Rentals (K.)

The Greek property market appears to have emerged from its decade-long hibernation: Bank of Greece figures showed that 1.35 billion euros flowed into the country last year for property purchases (mainly houses) by foreign investors. That figure constitutes a 172 percent annual increase, after an 86.5 percent rise in 2017, when inflows had amounted to 500 million euros. House prices increased 1.5 percent in 2018 compared to 2017, when there had been a 1 percent yearly decline. Realty professionals say that investments by foreign individuals and medium-sized investors in the local housing market peaked in 2018, with a focus on flats in the center of Athens, apartments in the southern suburbs of Attica and luxury holiday homes.

This huge rise was fed by the prospects for the utilization of apartments through short-term leasing platforms such as Airbnb, Booking and HomeAway, by the appeal of the Golden Visa program, which grants five-year residence permits to foreign nationals who invest at least 250,000 euros in Greek realty, and by the continued increase in tourism, which has raised demand for holiday homes. Data from the land registry of Athens concerning the first eight months of 2018 showed a 60 percent annual increase in transactions.

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Mar 122019
 
 March 12, 2019  Posted by at 10:35 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Robert Rauschenberg Buffalo II 1964

 

Theresa May Claims ‘Legally Binding’ Changes To Brexit Deal (Ind.)
Legal Uncertainty Hangs Over Brexit Vote (EUO)
May Tries To Claim Victory – But The EU Has Conceded Next To Nothing (G.)
Britain Must Leave EU By May 23 Or Hold Own EU Vote (R.)
Former Australian PM Calls Brexit Trade Plan ‘Utter Bollocks’ (G.)
Mueller Probe Already Financed Through September: Officials (R.)
Marco Rubio Accuses CNN Of ‘Russian Collusion’ (RT)
Manafort To Jail – Not About Justice; Not About Russia (Ron Paul)
News Corp’s Australian Arm Calls For Google Breakup (R.)
Facebook Removes Warren Ads Calling For Facebook Breakup (Pol.)
Facebook Bans Zero Hedge (ZH)
Biden on the Relaunch Pad: He’s Worse Than You Thought (CP)
Ides and Tides (Jim Kunstler)
Synthetic Chemicals Use Doubled In 20 Years, Will Double Again In Next 10 (G.)

 

 

Trying to patch together an idea of what was decided. It all appears vacuous. May assures Britain that the EU can’t make the backstop permanent, but 1) it can, and 2) it never wanted to, provided Ireland is taken care of properly. I can’t get rid of the notion that the UK can’t get rid of the notion that Ireland is a second-class country.

Biggest ‘gain’ for May: the UK can unilaterally declare that it believes it can unilaterally halt the backstop.

Today will be all lawyers trying to translate the hollow terms into legalese, but I haven’t found anything that could convince anyone anything has changed since two days ago. Maybe she’ll swing a handful votes, but she lost by 203 last time around.

 

WSJ: “The EU offered a new legal instrument that would allow the U.K. to seek independent arbitration if it believed the EU was not negotiating a new trade agreement in good faith. If the U.K. claim were upheld and the EU continued to drag its feet, the U.K. could be freed from the customs arrangement. The EU also offered a legally binding pledge to work quickly on a future trade agreement to ensure that the backstop is temporary. The two sides also agreed that the U.K. would set out its own interpretation of the deal, which would state that the U.K. believes it has the option to bring the customs union arrangement to an end.”

Jeremy Corbyn on Twitter: “The Prime Minister’s negotiations have failed. Last night’s agreement with the European Commission does not contain anything approaching the changes Theresa May promised Parliament, and whipped her MPs to vote for.”

Green Party’s Molly Scott Cato on Twitter: “I’ve never before seen a prime minister deliberately try to mislead her own Parliament. There have been no legally binding changes to the withdrawal agreement. This is action worthy of an autocratic leader from a banana republic not the leader of a democratic country.”

Theresa May Claims ‘Legally Binding’ Changes To Brexit Deal (Ind.)

Theresa May claims to have secured significant changes to her Brexit deal in a last-minute dash to Europe just hours before she must put her plan to a critical vote in parliament. In a late night statement on Monday in Strasbourg she argued the new-look deal meant Britain could not be trapped in the “Irish backstop” so hated by Eurosceptic Tories and her DUP allies, but major doubts remain over whether it is enough to win their backing on Tuesday. The prime minister’s deputy David Lidington warned that if her deal is rejected for a second time by MPs it will “plunge the country into a political crisis”. European leaders warned there would be no “third chance”, but Conservative Brexiteers insisted there are still “very worrying features” to the agreement, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said “MPs must reject this deal tomorrow”.

The announcement came after another dramatic day in Westminster on Monday, which began with talk of Ms May potentially delaying Tuesday’s vote on her deal after a seemingly fruitless weekend of talks. But speaking an hour before midnight, she said: “MPs were clear that legal changes were needed to the backstop. Today we have secured legal changes. “Now is the time to come together, to back this improved Brexit deal, and to deliver on the instruction of the British people.” The backstop is an arrangement in the existing withdrawal agreement that comes into play if the EU and UK fail to agree future trading arrangements by the end of 2020, thus keeping the Irish border open, but also locking the UK into a customs union with the EU on a potentially indefinite basis.

[..] In a commons statement Mr Lidington revealed that the UK had secured two new documents, a “joint legally binding instrument on the withdrawal agreement” and a “joint statement to supplement the political declaration” on future relations. There is also a third element – a unilateral declaration from the UK setting out what actions it would take if it felt the backstop is being abused by the EU. Mr Lidington said the new legal “instrument” confirmed that the EU could not try to trap the UK in the backstop indefinitely, because commitments they had made to not do so were now legally binding.

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It often takes going through several articles to get a rounded picture.

Legal Uncertainty Hangs Over Brexit Vote (EUO)

Uncertainty continued to hang over Tuesday night’s (12 March) big vote on Brexit in the UK parliament, as British MPs tried to make sense of last-minute tweaks to the exit deal. The opposition Labour party indicated it would vote against the accord. “This evening’s agreement with the European Commission does not contain anything approaching the changes [British prime minister] Theresa May promised parliament and whipped her MPs to vote for,” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Monday. “It sounds again that nothing has changed,” his shadow Brexit minister, Keir Starmer said. Two MPs from May’s ruling Conservative party said the same. “Seems UK is still permanently locked into the EU, but can ‘argue’ it can leave. The catch? EU decides if we can leave,” Adam Afriyie said.

“We’re being played,” Sam Gyimah, a former Tory minister said. Nigel Farage, the EU-phobic British MEP for the UK Independence Party, was the most outspoken. “Nothing has changed. Reject. Reject. Reject,” he said. Meanwhile, the so-called Independent Group of ex-Labour and ex-Tory MPs said Brexit ought to be delayed in order to hold a second referendum. Dominic Grieve, Britain’s former attorney general, echoed their position. “The proper thing to do is to put it back to the public in a people’s vote, in a second referendum,” he said on Monday. Afriyie’s comment on being “locked into the EU” referred to the so-called ‘backstop’ – the previous deal that the UK would remain in the EU customs union until it found a mutually acceptable way to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The backstop prompted a historic majority of 230 MPs to reject the withdrawal deal in January, raising the prospect of a no-deal Brexit on 29 March. But EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and British prime minister Theresa May agreed three new documents at a meeting in Strasbourg, France, late on Monday designed to assuage those fears. The first one said the UK could start a dispute in an arbitration court to quit the backstop if the EU did not want to let it out. The second one said the EU and UK would try to find alternative arrangements to the backstop by the end of 2020. The third one was a unilateral British declaration in which the UK said it could quit the backstop if the talks on alternative arrangements broke down.

Both May and Juncker were emphatic in saying that the tweaks gave the UK the “legally binding” guarantees it needed to avoid being locked in to EU customs rules. “It [the backstop] would never be a trap, if either side were to act in bad faith, there is a legal way for either side to exit,” Juncker said.

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Jonathan Freedland is a bit of a douche, I avoid him mostly. But he makes some points here.

May Tries To Claim Victory – But The EU Has Conceded Next To Nothing (G.)

Think of what the ERG and the Democratic Unionists object to about the key stumbling block: the Northern Irish backstop, the insurance policy designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. They don’t like the fact that it has no time limit, that it could, theoretically, go on forever. And yet the best that May’s new motion laid before parliament could say is that the new legally binding joint instrument “reduces the risk that the UK could be held in the Northern Ireland backstop indefinitely”. “Reduces the risk” is not the same as “eliminates the risk” – and it’s that that many of those Brexiters wanted to hear. (Put aside the fact that it was always an unrealistic demand: you could say the same about the entire case for Brexit.)

A second demand of the Brexiters, one bizarrely endorsed in January by May herself and a majority of the Commons, was that the backstop be replaced by “alternative arrangements.” Gamely, May tried to pretend that she’d won an EU concession on that too, and that those alternative arrangements will be in place by December 2020. As indeed they will – if they exist by then. But for now, the technological wizardry so great that it would render the backstop redundant does not exist. And so this was another hollow victory.

Finally, the Brexit crowd wanted the UK to have the unilateral right to exit the backstop whenever it liked. May did indeed get something unilateral – the right to issue her own unilateral declaration, in which she could freely state that “it is the position of the United Kingdom that there would be nothing to prevent the UK instigating measures that would ultimately dis-apply the backstop.” This is rather like my son winning the right to declare that it is his position that he should get more pocket money. It doesn’t mean I’ve agreed to give him more pocket money. The clue is in the word “unilateral.” The EU is not bound by this UK declaration and has, in fact, conceded nothing.

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Anyone checked what the bookmakers say on the date? UK elections for the EU Parliament would be hilarious.

Britain Must Leave EU By May 23 Or Hold Own EU Vote (R.)

Britain must leave the European Union by the time EU voters elect a new European Parliament on May 23-26 or will have to elect its own EU lawmakers, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Monday. Writing to EU summit chair Donald Tusk after agreeing a deal to break Brexit deadlock with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Juncker wrote: “The United Kingdom’s withdrawal should be complete before the European elections that will take place between May 23-26 this year.” “If the United Kingdom has not left the European Union by then, it will be legally required to hold these elections.”

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Seems obvious.

Former Australian PM Calls Brexit Trade Plan ‘Utter Bollocks’ (G.)

The claims that British trade with the Commonwealth can make up for leaving the EU is “the nuttiest of the many nutty arguments” advanced by Brexit supporters and “utter bollocks”, the former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd has said. In a lacerating piece for the Guardian, Rudd dismissed the claims by some Brexit supporters that the UK could strike deals with his country, New Zealand, Canada and India to soften the blow and said the UK risked undermining western values by leaving the EU in a weaker position when it left.

“I’m struck, as the British parliament moves towards the endgame on Brexit, with the number of times Australia, Canada, New Zealand and India have been advanced by the Brexiteers in the public debate as magical alternatives to Britain’s current trade and investment relationship with the European Union,” he wrote. “This is the nuttiest of the many nutty arguments that have emerged from the Land of Hope and Glory set now masquerading as the authentic standard-bearers of British patriotism. It’s utter bollocks.” Of the prospect of a free trade deal with Delhi, he writes: “As for India, good luck!”

[..] he cast serious doubt on suggestions the UK could quickly come to a free trade agreement (FTA) with India, pointing out that talks he began with the nation on behalf of Australia a decade ago are still going on. “A substantive India-UK FTA is the ultimate mirage constructed by the Brexiteers. It’s as credible as the ad they plastered on the side of that big red bus about the £350m Britain was allegedly paying to Brussels each week. Not.”

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Have a nice summer.

Mueller Probe Already Financed Through September: Officials (R.)

Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the team he assembled to investigate U.S. President Donald Trump and his associates have been funded through the end of September 2019, three U.S. officials said on Monday, an indication that the probe has funding to keep it going for months if need be. The operations and funding of Mueller’s office were not addressed in the budget requests for the next government fiscal year issued by the White House and Justice Department on Monday because Mueller’s office is financed by the U.S. Treasury under special regulations issued by the Justice Department, the officials said. “The Special Counsel is funded by the Independent Counsel appropriation, a permanent indefinite appropriation established in the Department’s 1988 Appropriations Act,” a Justice Department spokesman said.

There has been increased speculation in recent weeks that Mueller’s team is close to winding up its work and is likely to deliver a report summarizing its findings to Attorney General William Barr any day or week now. Mueller’s office has not commented on the news reports suggesting an imminent release. Representatives of key congressional committees involved in Trump-related investigations say they have received no guidance from Mueller’s office regarding his investigation’s progress or future plans. The probe, which began in May 2017, is examining whether there were any links or coordination between the Russian government led by Vladimir Putin and the 2016 presidential campaign of Trump, according to an order signed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

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Little Marco lost so bigly in 2016, why’s he still around? Court jester? Or is he going for McCain’s place as warmonger in chief?

Marco Rubio Accuses CNN Of ‘Russian Collusion’ (RT)

Senator Marco Rubio, the most outspoken cheerleader of US regime change in Venezuela, lashed out at several major outlets for not using his preferred terminology, going so far as to accuse CNN of ‘Russian collusion.’ “In order to undermine the constitutional basis for [Juan Guaido’s] interim Presidency [sic], Putin’s Russia repeatedly describes him as the ‘self-proclaimed’ president of Venezuela. And so does CNN,” Rubio (R-Florida) tweeted on Wednesday, adding, “Russian collusion?” It was the latest in a string of tweets by the senator whom President Donald Trump is, for some unknown reason, allowing to drive US foreign policy on Latin America.

On Tuesday, Rubio targeted the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal for their coverage of Guaido, this time objecting to their use of the term “opposition leader.” Rubio’s badgering of the media came shortly after State Department spokesman Robert Palladino tried to do the same thing with diplomatic correspondents in Foggy Bottom. Referring to Guaido as anything other than “interim president” was feeding “the narrative of a dictator who has usurped the position of the presidency and led Venezuela into the humanitarian, political, and economic crisis that exists today,” Palladino argued.

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CNN and Manafort, both. And neither.

Manafort To Jail – Not About Justice; Not About Russia (Ron Paul)

Former Trump campaign official Paul Manafort has been sentenced to nearly four years in prison for acting as an unregistered agent for Ukraine. But looking at the media coverage of the case one would never know that “taking down” Manafort was not all about Russia collusion. Reporting…or propaganda?

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Have they asked the CIA? Has Elizabeth Warren?

News Corp’s Australian Arm Calls For Google Breakup (R.)

The Australian arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp called for an enforced break-up of Alphabet Inc’s Google, acknowledging the measure would involve global coordination but calling it necessary to preserve advertising and the news media. The demand, published on Tuesday as part of a government inquiry, goes beyond the recommendations of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) which crossed swords with Google by requesting a new regulatory body to oversee global tech operators. In an 80-page submission largely centered on Google, News Corp Australia said the U.S. company had created an “ecosystem” where it could control the results of people’s internet searches and then charge advertisers based on how many people viewed their advertisements.

Efforts to curtail Google’s market dominance around the world had failed because of the search engine operator’s record of “avoiding and undermining regulatory initiatives and ignoring private contractual arrangements”. When Google had agreed to change its methods in response to investigation or new regulations in other countries, it often soon replaced the conduct with new methods which had the same effect: directing traffic and sales to its own sites and hurting competition. Calling Google’s behavior “anti-competitive”, News Corp accused the Mountain View, California-based internet company of damaging publishers’ ability to generate revenue and ultimately the sustainability of the news industry.

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And restores them again. But what nincompoop did that? Does (s)he still have a job today?

Facebook Removes Warren Ads Calling For Facebook Breakup (Pol.)

Facebook removed several ads placed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign that called for the breakup of Facebook and other tech giants. But the social network later reversed course after POLITICO reported on the takedown, with the company saying it wanted to allow for “robust debate.” The ads, which had identical images and text, touted Warren’s recently announced plan to unwind “anti-competitive” tech mergers, including Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram. “Three companies have vast power over our economy and our democracy. Facebook, Amazon, and Google,” read the ads, which Warren’s campaign had placed Friday. “We all use them. But in their rise to power, they’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field in their favor.”

A message on the three ads said: “This ad was taken down because it goes against Facebook’s advertising policies.” A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the ads had been taken down but said the company is in the process of restoring them. “We removed the ads because they violated our policies against use of our corporate logo,” the spokesperson said. “In the interest of allowing robust debate, we are restoring the ads.” Warren swiped at Facebook over the removal, citing it as evidence the company has grown too powerful. “Curious why I think FB has too much power? Let’s start with their ability to shut down a debate over whether FB has too much power,” she tweeted. “Thanks for restoring my posts. But I want a social media marketplace that isn’t dominated by a single censor.”

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How long’s it been, 3-4 years?!, that Facebook blocked the Automatic Earth account? Still waiting for an explanation.

Facebook Bans Zero Hedge (ZH)

Over the weekend, we were surprised to learn that some readers were prevented by Facebook when attempting to share Zero Hedge articles. Subsequently it emerged that virtually every attempt to share or merely mention an article, including in private messages, would be actively blocked by the world’s largest social network, with the explanation that “the link you tried to visit goes against our community standards.” We were especially surprised by this action as neither prior to this seemingly arbitrary act of censorship, nor since, were we contacted by Facebook with an explanation of what “community standard” had been violated or what particular filter or article had triggered the blanket rejection of all Zero Hedge content.

To be sure, as a for-profit enterprise with its own unique set of corporate “ethics”, Facebook has every right to impose whatever filters it desires on the media shared on its platform. It is entirely possible that one or more posts was flagged by Facebook’s “triggered” readers who merely alerted a censorship algo which blocked all content. Alternatively, it is just as possible that Facebook simply decided to no longer allow its users to share our content in retaliation for our extensive coverage of what some have dubbed the platform’s “many problems”, including chronic privacy violations, mass abandonment by younger users, its gross and ongoing misrepresentation of fake users, ironically – in retrospect – its systematic censorship and back door government cooperation (those are just links from the past few weeks).

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The Democrats are killing their chances if they go with the old crowd. But then, they are controlled by that crowd.

Biden on the Relaunch Pad: He’s Worse Than You Thought (CP)

When the New York Times front-paged its latest anti-left polemic masquerading as a news article, the March 9 piece declared: “Should former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. enter the race, as his top advisers vow he soon will, he would have the best immediate shot at the moderate mantle.” On the verge of relaunching, Joe Biden is poised to come to the rescue of the corporate political establishment — at a time when, in the words of the Times, “the sharp left turn in the Democratic Party and the rise of progressive presidential candidates are unnerving moderate Democrats.” After 36 years in the Senate and eight as vice president, Biden is by far the most seasoned servant of corporate power with a prayer of becoming the next president.

When Biden read this paragraph in a recent Politico article, his ears must have been burning: “Early support from deep-pocketed financial executives could give Democrats seeking to break out of the pack an important fundraising boost. But any association with bankers also opens presidential hopefuls to sharp attacks from an ascendant left.” The direct prey of Biden’s five-decade “association with bankers” include millions of current and former college students now struggling under avalanches of debt; they can thank Biden for his prodigious services to the lending industry. Andrew Cockburn identifies an array of victims in his devastating profile of Biden in the March issue of Harper’s magazine. For instance:

• “Biden was long a willing foot soldier in the campaign to emasculate laws allowing debtors relief from loans they cannot repay. As far back as 1978, he helped negotiate a deal rolling back bankruptcy protections for graduates with federal student loans, and in 1984 worked to do the same for borrowers with loans for vocational schools.” • “Even when the ostensible objective lay elsewhere, such as drug-related crime, Biden did not forget his banker friends. Thus the 1990 Crime Control Act, with Biden as chief sponsor, further limited debtors’ ability to take advantage of bankruptcy protections.” • Biden worked diligently to strengthen the hand of credit-card firms against consumers. At the same time, “the credit card giant MBNA was Biden’s largest contributor for much of his Senate career, while also employing his son Hunter as an executive and, later, as a well-remunerated consultant.”

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“..you miserable, morbidly obese, tattooed gorks watching this out on the Midwestern buzzard flats should have thought twice before dropping out of community college to drive a forklift in the Sysco frozen food warehouse..”

Ides and Tides (Jim Kunstler)

What you really had to love was Mr. Powell’s explanation for the record number of car owners in default on their monthly payments: “…not everybody is sharing in this widespread prosperity we have.” Errrgghh Errrgghh Errrgghh. Sound of klaxon wailing. What he meant to say was, hedge-funders, private equity hustlers, and C-suite personnel are making out just fine as the asset-stripping of flyover America proceeds, and you miserable, morbidly obese, tattooed gorks watching this out on the Midwestern buzzard flats should have thought twice before dropping out of community college to drive a forklift in the Sysco frozen food warehouse (where, by the way, you are probably stealing half the oven-ready chicken nuggets in inventory).

Interlocutor Scott Pelley asked the oracle about “those half-a-million people who have given up looking for jobs.” Did he pull that number out of his shorts? The total number out of the workforce is more like 95 million, and when you subtract retirees, people still in school, and the disabled, the figure is more like 7.5 million. There was some blather over the “opioid epidemic,” the upshot of which was learn to code, young man. Personally, I was about as impressed as I was ten years ago when past oracle Ben Bernanke confidently explained to congress that the disturbances in Mortgage-land were “contained.”

David Leonhardt of The New York Times had a real howler in his Monday column on the state of the economy: “Americans are saving more and spending less partly because the rich now take home so much of the economy’s income — and the rich don’t spend as large a share of their income as the poor and middle class.” Suggestion to Mr. Leonhardt: Learn to code.

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Our chances of survival drop by the minute.

It’s Daly-Townsend’s take on the 2nd law of Thermodynamics: “No organism can survive in a medium of its own waste. “

The reason is that an organism’s waste is toxic to that organism.

If they don’t teach that in schools, why bother to attend?

Synthetic Chemicals Use Doubled In 20 Years, Will Double Again In Next 10 (G.)

Sales of synthetic chemicals will double over the next 12 years with alarming implications for health and the environment, according to a global study that highlights government failures to rein in the industry behind plastics, pesticides and cosmetics. The second Global Chemicals Outlook, which was released in Nairobi on Monday, said the world will not meet international commitments to reduce chemical hazards and halt pollution by 2020. In fact, the study by the United Nations Environment Programme found that the industry has never been more dominant nor has humanity’s dependence on chemicals ever been as great.

“When you consider existing pollution, plus the projected growth of the industry, the trends are a cause for significant concern,” said Achim Halpaap, who led the 400 scientists involved in the study. He said the fastest growth was in construction materials, electronics, textiles and lead batteries. More and more additives are also being used to make plastics smoother or more durable. Depending on the chemical and degree of exposure, the risks can include cancer, chronic kidney disease and congenital anomalies. The World Health Organization estimated that the burden of disease was 1.6 million lives in 2016. Halpaap said this was likely to be an underestimate.

In addition to the human health dangers, he said chemicals also affect pollinators and coral reefs. Global chemical production has almost doubled since 2000 and is now – if the pharmaceutical business is taken into account – the world’s second largest industry, the report noted. This is expected to continue for at least the next decade owing to massive increases in the expanding economies of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. By 2030, the industry is projected to almost double again from 2017 levels to hit $6.6tn (£5tn) in sales; China is forecast to account for 49.9% of the world market.

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Feb 122019
 
 February 12, 2019  Posted by at 11:20 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Vincent van Gogh On the outskirts of Paris 1887

 

Global Insect Decline May See ‘Plague Of Pests’ (BBC)
Complex, Dynamic Environmental Destabilisation (BBC)
Politicians Are Complicit In The Killing Of Our Insects (G.)
Should We Really Not Worry About The Fed’s Balance Sheet? (Roberts)
Party Leaders Reach Deal To Avoid Fresh US Government Shutdown (AP)
Warren’s Foreign Policy Shows She’s Missing Why Trump Was Elected (G.)
Mistaken Futures (Kunstler)
May To Ask MPs For Further Fortnight’s Grace In Brexit Talks (G.)
Europeans Must Get Rid Of The Failing EU One Way Or Another (MW)
“Insane” Deutsche Bank Drowning Under Soaring Funding Costs (ZH)
Nearly A Fifth Of The EU’s Budget Goes On Livestock Farming (G.)
China Has No Use For Democracy. It Needs A Strong Leader Like Xi (SCMP)
History’s 10 Most Culturally Significant Dick Pic Scandals (Taibbi)

 

 

Roaches in a nuclear winter.

Global Insect Decline May See ‘Plague Of Pests’ (BBC)

A scientific review of insect numbers suggests that 40% of species are undergoing “dramatic rates of decline” around the world. The study says that bees, ants and beetles are disappearing eight times faster than mammals, birds or reptiles. But researchers say that some species, such as houseflies and cockroaches, are likely to boom. The general insect decline is being caused by intensive agriculture, pesticides and climate change. Insects make up the majority of creatures that live on land, and provide key benefits to many other species, including humans. They provide food for birds, bats and small mammals; they pollinate around 75% of the crops in the world; they replenish soils and keep pest numbers in check.

Many other studies in recent years have shown that individual species of insects, such as bees, have suffered huge declines, particularly in developed economies. But this new paper takes a broader look. Published in the journal Biological Conservation, it reviews 73 existing studies from around the world published over the past 13 years. The researchers found that declines in almost all regions may lead to the extinction of 40% of insects over the next few decades. One-third of insect species are classed as Endangered. “The main factor is the loss of habitat, due to agricultural practices, urbanisation and deforestation,” lead author Dr Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, from the University of Sydney, told BBC News.

“Second is the increasing use of fertilisers and pesticides in agriculture worldwide and contamination with chemical pollutants of all kinds. Thirdly, we have biological factors, such as invasive species and pathogens; and fourthly, we have climate change, particularly in tropical areas where it is known to have a big impact.” [..] “Fast-breeding pest insects will probably thrive because of the warmer conditions, because many of their natural enemies, which breed more slowly, will disappear,” said Prof Dave Goulson from the University of Sussex who was not involved in the review. “It’s quite plausible that we might end up with plagues of small numbers of pest insects, but we will lose all the wonderful ones that we want, like bees and hoverflies and butterflies and dung beetles that do a great job of disposing of animal waste.” Prof Goulson said that some tough, adaptable, generalist species – like houseflies and cockroaches – seem to be able to live comfortably in a human-made environment and have evolved resistance to pesticides.

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Nobody listened so far; why would they now?

Complex, Dynamic Environmental Destabilisation (BBC)

• Topsoil is being lost 10 to 40 times faster than it is being replenished by natural processes • Since the mid-20th Century, 30% of the world’s arable land has become unproductive due to erosion • 95% of the Earth’s land areas could become degraded by 2050 • Since 2005, the number of floods has increased by a factor of 15, extreme temperature events by a factor of 20, and wildfires sevenfold • Vertebrate populations have fallen by an average of 60% since the 1970s, and insect numbers – vital for pollination – have declined even faster in some countries.

Scientists warn of a potentially deadly combination of factors. These include climate change, mass loss of species, topsoil erosion, forest felling and acidifying oceans. The report from the centre-left Institute for Public Policy Research says these factors are “driving a complex, dynamic process of environmental destabilisation that has reached critical levels. “This destabilisation is occurring at speeds unprecedented in human history and, in some cases, over billions of years.” The UK is described as one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. Some 2.2 million tonnes of UK topsoil is eroded annually, and over 17% of arable land shows signs of erosion. Nearly 85% of fertile peat topsoil in East Anglia has been lost since 1850, with the remainder at risk of being lost over next 30–60 years. The IIPR says many scientists believe we have entered a new era of rapid environmental change.

The report warns: “We define this as the ‘age of environmental breakdown’ to better highlight the severity of the scale, pace and implications of environmental destabilisation resulting from aggregate human activity.” Simon Lewis, Professor of Global Change Science at University College London, told BBC News: “IPPR are right to say that environmental change is happening ever-faster and threatens to destabilise society. “Future problems with food supplies could cause price spikes that drive civil unrest, while increases in levels of migration can strain societies. “Both together could overload political institutions and global networks of trade. “This century will be marked by rapid social and environmental change – that is certain. What is less clear is if societies can make wise political choices to avoid disaster in the future.”

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Written of course by a politician. Who thinks politicians can turn this around. Because they can do anything.

Politicians Are Complicit In The Killing Of Our Insects (G.)

Most of us spend more time swatting away or avoiding wasps and moths than we do contemplating their importance to the web of life. But it is no exaggeration to say that the horrifying decline in the number of these creatures – the most widespread on Earth – is a barometer for the whole planet. The new global scientific review into the perilous condition of our insects reports that more than 40% of insect species are threatened with extinction while the mass of insects is declining by 2.5% a year. This catastrophic decline is a direct cause of the existential threat to other animals, insects being at the bottom of the chain and the primary food source. Since 1970, 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles have been wiped out.

The review identifies a key driver towards this mass extinction: habitat loss and conversion to intensive agriculture with its associated use of pesticides. Given this is a manmade disaster, surely we are capable of tackling and reversing it? As a member of the European parliament’s agriculture committee, I regularly debate the use of pesticides in farming with my colleagues. I have lost count of the number of times I have begun meetings with what feels like a sermon on the Armageddon taking place in our countryside. I am always greeted with patient, patronising smiles from many of my fellow MEPs, before they go on to ignore the warnings and refuse to limit the use of pesticides in our fields.

Some of the members of this committee are themselves farmers who have grown increasingly dependent on powerful and toxic pesticides. But others have taken the agribusiness shilling and believe that their role in policymaking is simply to support the corporations that sell these poisons. And this is the nub of the issue. What might accurately be dubbed insectageddon is being driven by the agrichemicals industry. This situation is compounded by compliant politicians and policymakers who fall prey to lobbying pressure and then refuse to implement science-driven policy to protect wildlife.

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What we should do is end the Fed. And replace it with markets.

Should We Really Not Worry About The Fed’s Balance Sheet? (Roberts)

Bill Dudley, who is now a senior research scholar at Princeton University’s Center for Economic Policy Studies and previously served as president of the New York Fed and was vice-chairman of the Federal Open Market Committee, recently penned an interesting piece from Bloomberg stating: “Financial types have long had a preoccupation: What will the Federal Reserve do with all the fixed income securities it purchased to help the U.S. economy recover from the last recession? The Fed’s efforts to shrink its holdings have been blamed for various ills, including December’s stock-market swoon. And any new nuance of policy — such as last week’s statement on “balance sheet normalization” — is seen as a really big deal. I’m amazed and baffled by this. It gets much more attention than it deserves.”

[..] In his opening paragraph, Bill attempts to dismiss the linkage between the balance sheet and the financial markets. “Yes, it’s true that stock prices declined at a time when the Fed was allowing its holdings of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities to run off at a rate of up to $50 billion a month. But the balance sheet contraction had been underway for more than a year, without any modifications or mid-course corrections. Thus, this should have been fully discounted.” While this is a true statement, what Bill forgot to mention was that Global Central banks had stepped in to flood the system with liquidity. As you can see in the chart below, while the Fed had stopped expanding their balance sheet, everyone else went into over-drive.

The chart below shows the ECB’s balance sheet and trajectory. Yes, they are slowing “QE” but it is still growing currently.

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Far from over.

Party Leaders Reach Deal To Avoid Fresh US Government Shutdown (AP)

Democratic and Republican leaders announced late Monday that they had reached a deal to avoid a government shutdown when funding under a stopgap agreement expires at midnight on Friday. The proposal would require the signature of Donald Trump to avert a new shutdown. The agreement would allocate far less money for Trump’s border wall than the White House’s $5.7bn wish list, settling for a figure of nearly $1.4bn, according to congressional aides. The funding measure is through the fiscal year, which ends 30 September. The agreement means 55 miles of new fencing — constructed through existing designs such as metal slats instead of a concrete wall — but far less than the 215 miles the White House demanded in December. The fencing would be built in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

At a rally in El Paso, Texas, on Monday Trump said he had been informed about the committee’s progress. “Just so you know, we’re building the wall anyway”, he added. Negotiators have been trying to reach a deal to fund nine government departments that partially closed for 35 days in December and January. Trump and congressional Democrats agreed on 25 January to temporarily fund the departments and negotiate a funding solution by 8 February. Talks most recently broke down on Sunday, reportedly over a disagreement about the maximum number of undocumented immigrants who might be detained at any one time.

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Warren is irrelevant.

Warren’s Foreign Policy Shows She’s Missing Why Trump Was Elected (G.)

The United States, Warren says, has embarked on “a series of seemingly endless wars, engaging in conflicts with mistaken or uncertain objectives and no obvious path to completion”. It’s fine rhetoric but the obvious path to completion is merely to end the wars. And yet the Bush White House couldn’t or didn’t want to. And Obama vacillated and expanded to the point where bombing and killing was being pursued in almost a dozen countries when he left office. And as for Trump? He’s done little and he’s been publicly admonished by his own secretary of defense when he decided he wanted to end just one of those conflicts.

But “the United States”? Really? Other than Afghanistan after 9/11 – and that’s all – “the United States” didn’t embark on these wars. The national security community did. The government. Overtly, covertly, with high hopes or unwarranted self-confidence, they got their way. Who is the real culprit then? It isn’t Warren’s “elites”, the corporation, or Trump. It is Washington and its ability, indeed even its self-appointed duty, to stand in the way of anything that it sees as not in its interest.

She may not think it, but Warren is merely genuflecting before this deep state, declaring her allegiance to a “muscular military” and calling for “strong yet pragmatic security policies”. She of course offers a laundry list of things that must be preserved or strengthened that’s non-military – from technological superiority to diplomacy to strong alliances. And she decries the military and civilian policymakers who “seem [in]capable of defining success”. But in her innocence as to why we are stuck in seemingly endless wars she also seems oblivious to the fact that she is already capitulating to the very forces that ensure that we can’t change anything.

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Will the Green New Deal Make America Great Again?

Mistaken Futures (Kunstler)

The self-proclaimed socialists are actually seeing the world through a rear-view mirror. What they are really talking about is divvying up the previously-accumulated wealth, soon to be bygone. Entropy is having its wicked way with that wealth, first by transmogrifying it into ever more abstract forms, and then by dissipating it as waste all over the planet. In short, the next time socialism is enlisted as a tool for redistributing wealth, we will make the unhappy discovery that most of that wealth is gone. The process will be uncomfortably sharp and disorientating. The West especially will not know what hit it as it emergently self-reorganizes back into something that resembles the old-time feudalism.

We have a new kind of mass squalor in America: a great many people who have nothing to do, no means of support, and the flimsiest notions of purpose in life. The socialists have no answers for them. They will not be “retrained” in some imagined federal crusade to turn meth freaks into code-writers for Google. Something the analysts are calling “recession” is ploughing across the landscape like one of those darkly majestic dust-storms of the 1930s, only this time we won’t be able to re-fight anything like World War Two to get all the machines running again in the aftermath. Nor, of course, will the Make America Great Again fantasy work out for those waiting in the squalid ruins of the post-industrial rust-belt or the strip-mall wastelands of the Sunbelt.

Most of the beliefs and attitudes of the present day will be overturned with the demise of the industrial orgy, like the idea that humanity follows an unerring arc of progress, that men and women are interchangeable and can do exactly the same work, that society should not be hierarchical, that technology will rescue us, and that we can organize some political work-arounds to avoid the pain of universal contraction. There are no coherent ideas in the political arena just now. Our prospects are really too alarming. So, jump on-board the socialism ship and see if it makes you feel better to sail to the end of the earth. But mind the gap at the very edge. It’s a doozie.

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And 2 more weeks after that etc. till the clock runs out.

May To Ask MPs For Further Fortnight’s Grace In Brexit Talks (G.)

Theresa May hopes to convince the House of Commons on Tuesday to give her another fortnight’s grace to keep pushing for changes to the Irish backstop – despite the insistence of Michel Barnier that it is Britain that must compromise. With 45 days to go until Britain is due by law to leave the EU, with or without a deal, the prime minister will address MPs about progress in the Brexit talks, No 10 announced on Monday. She is unlikely to signal any shift towards a closer future relationship with the EU, after writing to Jeremy Corbyn to underline her continued objections to a customs union, and instead she will focus on the backstop.

“We are absolutely clear on this: we’re not considering Jeremy Corbyn’s customs proposals, we’re not considering any proposals to remain in the customs union. We must have our own, independent trade policy,” May’s spokesman said on Monday. May will stress her continued focus on the backstop, but the EU’s chief negotiator insisted on Monday there was no question of Brussels giving in to Downing Street’s demands. “We’re waiting for clarity and movement from the United Kingdom,” Barnier told reporters after talks in Luxembourg with the country’s prime minister, Xavier Bettel.

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The EU has the exact same flaws as its member states, but in the latter the losers can get voted out.

Europeans Must Get Rid Of The Failing EU One Way Or Another (MW)

Populism is sweeping Europe, because the European Union and its constituent governments have become as unresponsive as the 18th century aristocracies those replaced.The EU antecedent, the European Economic Community (1957) was created to prevent another World War by integrating the continent’s iron and steel industries and then its broader continental markets for goods, services, capital and labor. The process created a politically unaccountable bureaucracy, whose broad policy directions are set by consensus among the national heads of government and cabinet ministers. However, Brussels enjoys wide administrative discretion in supervising the customs union, agricultural and fisheries management, and national subsidies, anticompetitive practices, and other behavior that could undermine the “single market.”

Through a succession of treaties and agreements, national leaders “pooled sovereignty” to empower the European Commission to issue edicts that member states must directly obey or conform national laws and regulations in areas such as social policy and human rights, consumer protection and product standards, transportation, and immigration. European Court rulings have direct application in national courts, and 19 of the 28 states have ceded monetary policy to the European Central Bank by adopting the euro. To win votes, mainstream national politicians have endemically statist impulses, and hue to globalist views regarding the virtues of freer trade and more open immigration, regulatory responses to environmental challenges like climate change rather than mitigation, and impelling cultural diversity as opposed to preserving local cultures.

In Europe, national leaders have empowered the commission to impose the pain and constraints on private freedoms that such globalist policies require. Then they can point to Brussels to alibi they are just advancing a stronger European Union.

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Deutsche is a wager gone horribly wrong.

“Insane” Deutsche Bank Drowning Under Soaring Funding Costs (ZH)

Following years of dismal performance, uncovered attempts at market manipulation and fraudulent activities, and painful corporate reorganizations which its latest earnings report showed have “cut deeply into the muscle”, Deutsche Bank is a shadow of its former self, with its stock price trading just shy of all time lows. But an even bigger problem for Germany’s biggest lender is that it is now forced to pay the highest financing rates on the euro debt market for a leading international bank this year according to the FT, and also the highest rates among large banks to raise debt this year according to Bloomberg, in a further sign of the German lender’s uphill struggle to turn its operations around and reduce its funding costs.

As the FT first reported, followed promptly by Bloomberg, the bank raised eyebrows last week when it sold a total of €3.6BN in euro-denominated debt, paying 180 bps over the benchmarks for a two-year bond, a steep rate for short-term funding. Deutsche Bank also paid 230 bps over benchmarks for a senior seven-year bond that can absorb losses in a crisis. By comparison, French banking giant BNP Paribas SA last month offered 50 bps less for equally-ranked notes that mature one year later. More embarrassing, Deutsche Bank paid a higher rate than Spanish lender CaixaBank, which recently raised five-year bonds at 225bp.

In a latest note to clients, Corinna Dröse, a Frankfurt-based bond analyst at DZ Bank, said: “The high spreads reflect [Deutsche’s] high idiosyncratic risk, which is rooted in the lender’s chronic weakness in earnings.” “Deutsche has to pay significantly higher risk premiums than almost all other large European banks . . . [the] high spreads express severe doubts, mainly triggered by its poor revenue,” said Michael Hünseler, head of credit portfolio management at Assenagon. Intimately linked with the bank’s deteriorating fortunes – and stock price – investors are increasingly demanding that Deutsche Bank pay higher rates of return than even some of Europe’s “most troubled banks” as the firm grapples with a prolonged decline in revenue.

Finance chief James von Moltke said last year that the bank was caught in a “vicious circle” of declining revenue, sticky expenses, a lowered credit rating and rising funding costs. While the firm cut expenses, revenue and the price of funding remain a concern. “A key priority for us now is lowering our funding costs and improving our credit ratings,” von Moltke said during a call with fixed-income investors last week. “We must not compromise on the strength of our capital, funding, or liquidity, but we have to prove that we can generate long-term, sustainable profitability.”

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It’s not about eating meat, it’s about industrial farming. All these scientists telling people what to eat are useless.

Nearly A Fifth Of The EU’s Budget Goes On Livestock Farming (G.)

Nearly a fifth of the EU’s total budget – more than £24bn of taxpayer money – goes to support livestock farming across Europe, according to new research by Greenpeace. At a time when scientists are calling for significant reductions in meat consumption, the report’s authors say taxpayers’ money should be redirected away from grain-fed, industrial animal farming. Last month, the Eat-Lancet Commission of scientists called for a new plant-focused diet to help avoid dangerous levels of climate change and the destruction of wildlife. Such a diet would require cutting red meat consumption in Europe by 77%.

Public Health England’s dietary guidelines recommend that meat and dairy, including non-animal-based protein alternatives such as beans and pulses, should make up no more than our 20% of dietary intake. Yet, Europeans eat more than twice as much meat as national dietary authorities recommend, as well as twice the global average. “Adopting diets lower in meat and dairy would not only tackle health problems but would also reduce the pressure on land, freeing up more space for nature,” said the Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero. [..] Researchers calculated that 125 million hectares (308 million acres) of land in Europe is used to graze livestock or produce feed – this includes more than 60% of arable land that could otherwise be used to grow food directly for human consumption.

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China has no idea what democracy is. But it has a ruling class just like our countries.

China Has No Use For Democracy. It Needs A Strong Leader Like Xi (SCMP)

Throughout my life, I have had the opportunity to meet nearly every Chinese leader since the 1930s (with the exception of Mao Zedong), including Chiang Kai-shek, Wang Jingwei and more contemporary figures such as Hu Jintao, Jiang Zemin and Xi. As individuals, they frequently came off as kind, caring and intelligent. From afar, as I watched them govern, I would view them in a different light, as dictators. This is the reality of leadership in China. Previously, emperors in China were said to rule because of their “Mandate of Heaven”. When Mao seized power, it was clear that he had won his position through revolution. Yet the selection of Xi, like the selection of his predecessors since Mao’s death in 1976, is cloaked in secrecy.

Even those in the US who question whether, and to what degree, Russian interference influenced the 2016 election will concede that, based on US law, Trump is a legally elected president. These results are publicly available, and have been analysed repeatedly by the media, politicians and the American public. But China lacks such luxuries. Its citizens have no official records to turn to for an explanation of why and how Xi was chosen. [..] Under Xi’s leadership, China has adopted a more aggressive stance internationally, imprisoned thousands of party members on corruption charges and removed constitutional limitations on presidential term limits. Amid these developments, the question of how Xi was chosen again comes to mind. The short answer is, we can only guess.

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Why, why and why?

History’s 10 Most Culturally Significant Dick Pic Scandals (Taibbi)

The AMI-Jeff Bezos scandal is set up to dominate headlines for a while. Who knows where it will lead? In the third world, an oligarch-president proxy war playing out in public like this usually presages a coup. If this were Thailand or Uruguay, bookies would already have odds on a Bezos-Mark-Zuckerberg-Sundar-Pichai junta being in power by May. This scandal will at least drag us through unprecedented legal and ethical conundrums. Can the president use the surveillance powers of the state to go after political enemies? Can a billionaire intelligence contractor and administrator of one of earth’s largest private data collections — including the so-called “Secret Region” cloud — fight back using his own surveillance trove through a newspaper he owns?

This story could blur the lines between public and private power to the point of meaninglessness. America could very well find its fate decided by a series of pre-dawn phone calls, after which we’d wake up to find Trump flying to Switzerland, Amazon lieutenants in the Joint Chiefs office and the presidency replaced by an executive board. At the center of all of this: a dick pic. Nothing could be more American than the fate of our democracy now hanging (!) on what Enquirer editor Dylan Howard euphemistically describes as a “below-the-belt selfie.”

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Jan 312019
 


René Magritte The key to the fields 1936

 

Dovish Fed Sparks Stock-Market Rally And Tanks The US Dollar (MW)
Will The EU To Cave On May’s Brexit At The Very Last Minute? (ZH)
China Manufacturing Contracted For The Second-Straight Month In January (CNBC)
Macron Has Declared War On The French People – Yellow Vest Activist (RT)
UK Consumer Borrowing Slowed Sharply In December, Says Bank of England (Ind.)
British Car Production Slumps To Five-Year Low (G.)
US Refiner CITGO Caught In Venezuela Political Upheaval (R.)
Russia Vows To Defend Its Venezuelan Oil Assets (RT)
US Regime Change Laboratory Created Venezuela’s Coup Leader
Facebook Reports Record Profit, Stock Surges 12% After Earnings (MW)
Mueller: Evidence Against Russian Firm Used In Disinformation Campaign (CNBC)
Mueller Claims Evidence Shared Leaked To ‘Discredit Investigation’ (RT)
Mueller Says Russians Are Altering Evidence From Investigation (Ind.)
Acropolis Museum Director: British Museum Not Owner Of Parthenon Marbles (K.)

 

 

Powel’s Fed started off promising, but now concedes that it doesn’t want functioning markets. Too risky for the rich.

Dovish Fed Sparks Stock-Market Rally And Tanks The US Dollar (MW)

The Federal Reserve and its chairman, Jerome Powell, changed their tune Wednesday, striking a surprisingly dovish tone that sparked a stock-market rally, tanked the U.S. dollar and roiled other financial markets. The Fed hinted that it may be at the end of its rate-hike cycle and further surprised investors by issuing a separate statement regarding its balance sheet, indicating that its efforts to reduce the $4 trillion asset portfolio could end sooner than expected. The tone was seen as an about-face from the Fed’s hawkishly received December meeting when it delivered its fourth rate increase of 2018. “This is one of the most dovish turnarounds by a Fed chair that I have ever seen in my 30-year career,” said Tom di Galoma, managing director at Seaport Global Holdings.

And the initial reaction across markets appeared in keeping with the perceived shift. The message delivered by the Fed “just couldn’t be much better for both bonds and equities and for the credit markets that track Treasurys,” said Mark Grant, chief global strategist at B. Riley FBR, in a note. [..] Not everyone was popping the champagne. Some economists feared the Fed had eroded its credibility, caving in to market pressure. “Talk about a Fed put,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, in a note, referring to the idea that central bank policy makers have grown increasingly sensitive over the years to stock-market declines and stand ready to intervene in an effort to provide calm.

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Someone in Britain appears to be spreading rumors about Brussels willing to give in. Is that just so May will still be PM at the end of March? Are the Brits going to risk that based on rumors alone?

Will The EU To Cave On May’s Brexit At The Very Last Minute? (ZH)

After a series of embarrassing Parliamentary defeats (and still more embarrassing triumphs over a series of no-confidence votes), Theresa May is we imagine reveling in what was a rare win for on Tuesday: MPs backed an amendment that calls for removing the backstop from her Withdrawal agreement and replacing it with a commitment to find something better after the prime minister vowed to ask the EU to reopen negotiations (something she has reportedly been trying to persuade the block to do behind the scenes for weeks now with little apparent success).

Now that she’s won what her cabinet believes is enough support for a modified version of the deal, having finally corralled a majority for something resembling her current deal, the hard work truly begins: Convincing the EU to reopen negotiations on the withdrawal agreement, something officials have publicly insisted will not happen (though there have been whispers that they have been slowly coming around to the idea). In a speech on Wednesday, European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker blasted the vote as irresponsible and once again insisted that removing the backstop from the agreement is out of the question. “This is not a game,” he said, according to Bloomberg.

If there’s anything new to take away from the developments of the past two days, it can be found in a Bloomberg report published Wednesday afternoon that effectively confirmed what many have long suspected: That there won’t be any movement on the deal – either from the EU or, likely, the UK, until the last possible minute. According to BBG, EU diplomats have pointed to a last-minute summit set for March 21 and March 22 – just a week before Brexit Day – as the likely time when a deal may finally be struck.

“The European Union is prepared to take Brexit down to a last-minute, high-stakes summit rather than cave into U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s demands over the next few weeks, diplomats said. Although May is getting ready to head back to Brussels to reopen the Brexit deal that she negotiated over the past 18 months, the EU isn’t planning to give her any concessions before she returns for a vote in the British Parliament on Feb. 14, according to the diplomats. Behind closed doors, European officials are sticking to their well-coordinated public line that they won’t rework the deal.”

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And that’s official numbers.

China Manufacturing Contracted For The Second-Straight Month In January (CNBC)

China said on Thursday its manufacturing activity contracted for the second-straight month in January — another sign that the world’s second-largest economy is slowing down amid domestic headwinds and the ongoing trade dispute with the U.S. The official manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for January was 49.5, according to the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics. That’s higher than the 49.3 expected by analysts in a Reuters poll, and the 49.4 reported in the previous month when China’s manufacturing PMI fell into contraction territory for the first time since July 2016. The PMI — a widely-watched indicator — is a survey of businesses in a specific industry about the operating environment.

A reading above 50 signals expansion in the sector from the previous month, while one below 50 represents contraction. Meanwhile, China’s services PMI for January came in at 54.7 — better than the 53.8 reported in the previous month, according to official data. The services sector accounts for more than half of the Chinese economy and has helped cushion the impact of a slowing manufacturing industry. Despite the better-than-expected PMI numbers, some economists said the statistics — particularly the manufacturing data — still point to a weakening Chinese economy.

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See my article last night: Flash-Balls, Pitchforks And A Backstop

Macron Has Declared War On The French People – Yellow Vest Activist (RT)

The French government won’t stop the Yellow Vests by force, but only by doing what the people demand, according to prominent protester Jerome Rodrigues, who may remain blind in one eye after being injured by the police. “The president [Emmanuel Macron] declared war on us and our injuries are battle wounds. The traumatic weapons are equipped with collimators [optical sights] – such equipment is used on the battlefield, at war,” Rodrigues told RT. “I never thought that such a thing could happen in France,” he added, describing what the country has been going through in recent months as “dark times.” The activist, who calls himself “a hyper pacifist,” was broadcasting live on Facebook from a rally in Paris last weekend when a police officer fired at him from an LBD 40 non-lethal gun.

A projectile hit him in the eye, leading to hospitalization and a medically induced coma. The man said “there are no guarantees that the injured eye will be able to see again.” Now we understand that by going to a rally we put ourselves at risk of becoming victims of the government. It happened to me, but could’ve well happened to anyone,” Rodrigues said. The French authorities are employing violence to scare the people off the streets, but “we won’t retreat,” he said. Rodrigues promised to resume protesting after he gets better, saying that his family fully supported him in this decision.

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The hurt is only starting.

UK Consumer Borrowing Slowed Sharply In December, Says Bank of England (Ind.)

UK consumer borrowing slowed sharply in December, adding to the impression of weakening confidence among households ahead of Brexit. The Bank of England reported that the annual growth of unsecured lending in the month fell to 6.6 per cent, down from 7.2 per cent in November. This was the weakest figure since December 2014. Credit card lending growth slowed to 7.1 per cent, down from 7.9 per cent the previous month. Surveys have shown consumer confidence to be at a 5 year low due, in part, to concerns over Brexit.

The Bank of England’s credit conditions survey showed last week showed that demand over the next three months for such unsecured lending is expected by lenders to be the weakest since the survey began in 2007. Household spending accounts for around 60 per cent of the UK economy, and any weakening of the appetite for consumers to spend will be negative for overall GDP growth. The UK economy grew by 0.6 per cent in the third quarter of 2018 but GDP growth is likely to have fallen sharply in the final three months of the year as business investment and household spending fell.

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Good! Fewer cars!

British Car Production Slumps To Five-Year Low (G.)

British car production dropped to a five-year low in 2018, as manufacturers warned that fears of a no-deal Brexit have prompted a slump in new investment. UK car factories produced 1.52m vehicles last year, 9.1% fewer than 2017, according to figures published on Thursday by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the UK auto industry lobby group. Production for the British market fell by 16.3%. Investment into British car manufacturing almost halved during the year to £588.6m, a fall which the SMMT blamed on Brexit uncertainty.

Publicly announced investments were lower than in any year since 2012, the first year comparable data was collected. “Investment is effectively stalled,” said Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive. “Industry is waiting to see what happens. Business is sitting on its hands in terms of investment.” The global automotive industry is already struggling with multiple challenges. Car sales in China fell in 2018 for the first time since the 1990s, while demand for diesel vehicles in Europe has been rocked by the regulatory backlash to Volkswagen’s emissions-cheating scandal.

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CITGO is a Venezuelan refiner.

US Refiner CITGO Caught In Venezuela Political Upheaval (R.)

Citgo Petroleum Corp, the eighth largest U.S. refiner and Venezuela’s top foreign asset, is in the middle of a tug-of-war as the Trump administration tries to use the company as leverage to topple Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Following the U.S. decision to impose sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry this week, both sides have engaged in aggressive moves for control of Citgo, which has roots in the United States dating back 100 years, but has been owned by Venezuela’s state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela, or PVDSA, for three decades.

[..] As Guaido this week worked with Washington to wrest control of the company, Venezuela responded by ordering dozens of Citgo’s expatriate staff in the United States to return to Caracas by the end of February, people familiar with the matter said. Earlier in the week, Citgo sent a team of executives to Washington amid efforts by Guaido and the U.S. government to appoint a new board of directors for Citgo, the people said. PDVSA also has said it would pursue legal efforts to block a Citgo takeover. White House national security adviser John Bolton on Wednesday tweeted photos confirming the meeting with Citgo executives. “The United States is continuing to work to make sure that the economic benefits of Venezuela’s resources are not pilfered by Maduro and his cronies,” he wrote.

[..] The Houston-based company has accumulated cash and credit lines in recent months as dividends payments to Caracas have been blocked by U.S. sanctions imposed in 2017. [..] Citgo has been struggling to refinance a revolving line of credit, a task that must be completed by July

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Putin: So far, so soft.

Russia Vows To Defend Its Venezuelan Oil Assets (RT)

Russia will defend its interests in Venezuela within the international law using “all mechanisms available to us,” Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, told Russian media on Tuesday. Russia has kept close ties with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and has extended loans to Venezuela, including oil firm Rosneft lending money to Venezuela’s state-held firm PDVSA. Rosneft has extended $6 billion of loans to PDVSA, which needs to be fully redeemed in crude oil supplies by the end of this year. According to S&P Global Platts, as of November 2018, Venezuela had $3.1 billion outstanding loan to repay to Rosneft. The Russian company also has five joint upstream projects with PDVSA in Venezuela.

However, the US Treasury slapped another round of sweeping sanctions against PDVSA on Monday, in order to “help prevent further diverting of Venezuela’s assets by Maduro and preserve these assets for the people of Venezuela.” The US backed last week Juan Guaido, the chairman of the National Assembly, as the legitimate president of Venezuela, after Guaido declared himself interim president. “The path to sanctions relief for PdVSA is through the expeditious transfer of control to the Interim President or a subsequent, democratically elected government,” Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin said. The Kremlin considers the sanctions against PDVSA as “illegal”, a sign of “unfair competition” and an attempt to interfere with Venezuela’s internal affairs, Peskov said on Tuesday. Russia is assessing the potential consequences of the sanctions on PDVSA for Moscow, Peskov added.

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Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal paint the picture.

US Regime Change Laboratory Created Venezuela’s Coup Leader

Before the fateful day of January 22, fewer than one in five Venezuelans had heard of Juan Guaidó. Only a few months ago, the 35-year-old was an obscure character in a politically marginal far-right group closely associated with gruesome acts of street violence. Even in his own party, Guaidó had been a mid-level figure in the opposition-dominated National Assembly, which is now held under contempt according to Venezuela’s constitution. But after a single phone call from from US Vice President Mike Pence, Guaidó proclaimed himself president of Venezuela. Anointed as the leader of his country by Washington, a previously unknown political bottom-dweller was vaulted onto the international stage as the US-selected leader of the nation with the world’s largest oil reserves.

Echoing the Washington consensus, the New York Times editorial board hailed Guaidó as a “credible rival” to Maduro with a “refreshing style and vision of taking the country forward.” The Bloomberg News editorial board applauded him for seeking “restoration of democracy” and the Wall Street Journal declared him “a new democratic leader.” Meanwhile, Canada, numerous European nations, Israel, and the bloc of right-wing Latin American governments known as the Lima Group recognized Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. While Guaidó seemed to have materialized out of nowhere, he was, in fact, the product of more than a decade of assiduous grooming by the US government’s elite regime change factories.

Alongside a cadre of right-wing student activists, Guaidó was cultivated to undermine Venezuela’s socialist-oriented government, destabilize the country, and one day seize power. Though he has been a minor figure in Venezuelan politics, he had spent years quietly demonstrating his worthiness in Washington’s halls of power.

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Amid reports that at least 50% of its accounts are fake.

Facebook Reports Record Profit, Stock Surges 12% After Earnings (MW)

After weeks of controversy, Facebook Inc. reported record profits — about $1 billion more than any previous quarter — as the company beat Wall Street expectations for fourth-quarter earnings and revenue late Wednesday, sending shares soaring. Record profits, a growing user base and healthy top line suggest that Facebook’s base of advertisers is continuing to pour dollars into the social networking giant’s swath of apps and services that now attract 2.7 billion people a month around the world. The strong results cap weeks of negative news cycles that has evidently left Facebook relatively unscathed.“Facebook has had so much bad news — even this week,” Forrester analyst Brigitte Majewski said over the phone, referring to another scandal that surfaced this week.

“But you can’t deny the numbers. They’ve had an increase in daily active users, and growth in all regions.” The company reported $6.88 billion in net income for the fourth quarter, which amounts to $2.38 a share, up from $1.44 a share in the year-ago period. Analysts’ average estimates for fourth-quarter profits called for $2.18 a share, according to FactSet. Overall, Facebook logged sales of $16.91 billion, up from $12.97 billion in the year-ago period, beating Wall Street expectations for sales of $16.39 billion, according to FactSet. Facebook’s main source of revenue is ads, which brought in 93% of revenue, up from 89% in the year-earlier period.

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A few versions of the same thing, first CNBC and RT, different for obvious reasons, then Independent, who report what most others completely missed (NY Post is an exception), which is that Mueller claims the evidence was altered.

Mueller: Evidence Against Russian Firm Used In Disinformation Campaign (CNBC)

Special counsel Robert Mueller claimed Wednesday that evidence in one of his criminal cases related to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign was recently used in an online disinformation campaign, apparently to discredit Mueller’s investigations. Mueller made that allegation in a court filing in his criminal case pending against Concord Management and Consulting, a Russian company owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the oligarch who is known as “Putin’s chef.” The special counsel charged Concord Management last year with funding a multimillion-dollar social media disinformation campaign to bolster the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

Mueller’s filing Wednesday objects to Concord’s request that the special counsel be compelled to disclose documents he has deemed “sensitive” to the defendant and its employees as it prepares for trial.Concord wants to be able to send that information to Russia for review by company officers and employees. But Mueller said in his filing that doing so “unreasonably risks the national security interests of the United States.” The special counsel said that Concord should not be given such sensitive material because of alleged misuse in October by an unknown party of “non-sensitive” materials already in Concord’s possession as a result of the normal discovery process that litigants use to share information during a court case.

Mueller said that “sensitive” materials identifies individuals and entities that have not been criminally charged, but whom “the government believes are continuing to engage in operations that interfere with lawful U.S. government functions like those activities charged in the indictment.” [..] The special counsel said that, “On October 22, 2018, the newly created Twitter account @HackingRedstone published the following tweet: ‘We’ve got access to the Special Counsel Mueller’s probe database as we hacked Russian server with info from the Russian troll case Concord LLC v. Mueller. You can view all the files Mueller had about the IRA and Russian collusion. Enjoy the reading!'”

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What Mueller really wants is to stop Concord from fighting his probe. He never expected them to come to court. He thought they were just more anonymous Russians he could accuse of anything he wanted without being called on it.

Mueller Claims Evidence Shared Leaked To ‘Discredit Investigation’ (RT)

In an apparent bid to shield his case against alleged Russian trolls from legal challenge, special counsel Robert Mueller claimed some evidence previously provided was hacked and published to discredit his probe. On Wednesday, Mueller filed a motion to oppose discovery in case against Concord Management and Consulting LLC, which he indicted last February on charges of running the Internet Research Agency, also known as the “St. Petersburg troll factory.” “Sensitive” evidence in the case cannot be turned over to Concord’s lawyers, because that would make it accessible to their clients in Russia – and back in October, Mueller claimed, someone claimed to have hacked Concord’s computers and posted evidence previously handed over online “as part of a disinformation campaign aimed (apparently) at discrediting ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the US political system.”

It was that claim that got the attention of the media and the ‘Russiagate’ crowd. What Mueller actually alleges is less headline-worthy and far more tenuous. Namely, on October 22 last year, a Twitter account @HackingRedstone claimed to have gained “access to the Special Counsel Mueller’s probe database as we hacked Russian server with info from the Russian troll case Concord LLC v. Mueller,” offering “all the files Mueller had about the IRA and Russian collusion.” According to a footnote in the filing, Mueller’s team was informed of this by an unnamed reporter. However, the Twitter account referenced comes up as suspended, and aside from that notice there are no entries for it in the Internet Archive, making Mueller’s claim impossible to independently verify.

The webpage allegedly linked in the tweet is said to have contained “file folders with names and folder structures that are unique to the names and structures of materials… produced by the government in discovery.” Of the 300,000 files on the site, “over 1,000” matched the hashtag values of documents provided by Mueller to Concord, the filing said. Mueller argued these must have been obtained from Concord, because the FBI “found no evidence” that US government servers fell victim to any hack involving the files. Somewhat confusingly, the filing argued that many other file names used a reference to the Relativity database, which the US government “has not used” to store materials related to this case. Concord’s lawyers have informed the court that the company’s computers have not been hacked, but Mueller’s filing accused them of lying, saying that the webpage contained “actual discovery materials from this case.”

[..] To wit, Mueller is making an assertion based on a tweet and a webpage – that currently do not exist – to argue that it should not disclose further “sensitive” evidence to defendants in a Russiagate case.

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How did the majority of news outlets miss that Mueller claims the info was altered? They didn’t read it?

Mueller Says Russians Are Altering Evidence From Investigation (Ind.)

Russians have obtained evidence from special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into Moscow’s interference in US politics and altered it in a bid to discredit the probe, federal prosecutors have claimed. The files were shared with attorneys working for Concord Management and Consulting, a Russian company that allegedly funded hacking operations by Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA), they said in a court filing. The sharing evidence and documents between prosecutors and defence lawyer as part of routine discovery is common legal practice. But the files shared by Mr Mueller’s investigation were later uploaded and disseminated on Twitter in October.

However, the files shared online, “appear to have been altered and disseminated as part of a disinformation campaign aimed (apparently) at discrediting ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the US political system,” the court filing states. A team had reviewed files to determine that roughly 1,000 files linked to by that account out of 300,000 available matched non-public evidence provided. “The fact that the file folder names and folder structure on the webpage significantly match the non-public names and file structure of the materials produced in discovery, and the fact that over 1,000 files on the webpage match those produced in discovery, establish that the person(s) who created the webpage had access to at least some of the non-sensitive discovery produced by the government in this case,“ the filing states.

Concord Management was among 13 Russian entities or people to be charged in connection with Mr Mueller’s investigation last February. Mr Mueller’s team has charged dozens of Russian individuals or entities for attempting to influence the 2016 presidential election, primarily through hacking Democratic Party email systems. The most recent filing argued that attorneys for Concord should not be given access to “sensitive” evidence gathered for the case. It said: “The person who created the webpage used their knowledge of the non-sensitive discovery to make it appear as though the irrelevant files contained on the webpage were the sum total evidence of ‘IRA and Russian collusion’ gathered by law enforcement in this matter in an apparent effort to discredit the investigation.”

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Amal Clooney told Greece in 2015 to take Britain to an international court. They didn’t.

The marbles stem from 2,500 years ago. Their splendor is unmatched, at least until the Romans, and the Middle Ages. They were stolen by Britain when the Ottomans had invaded Greece.

Acropolis Museum Director: British Museum Not Owner Of Parthenon Marbles (K.)

The British Museum is not the legal owner of the Parthenon Marbles and therefore the long-running dispute with Greece over their fate could only be resolved with their unconditional repatriation and not with a lending plan, the director of the Acropolis Museum, Dimitrios Pandermalis, reportedly told German public radio on Wednesday. “The full return of the Parthenon Marbles is the only solution. Everything that is inextricably linked to the monument must be reunited,” he was quoted as telling Deutschlandfunk, adding that the sculptures exhibited in London form an integral part of the monument. He also said his museum would gladly offer something to the British Museum in exchange for the marbles’ return, without going into details.

Pantermalis was responding to Hartwig Fischer, the director of the British Museum, who dismissed the possibility of returning them to Greece, arguing that their exhibition in London is in “a context of world cultures.” “The Trustees of the British Museum feel the obligation to preserve the collection in its entirety, so that things that are part of this collection remain part of this collection,” he was quoted as telling Greek daily Ta Nea in an interview published on January 26. Asked if that is the reason why the Museum will not permanently return the Sculptures, he replied: “Yes”. In another part of the same interview he said they are “in the fiduciary ownership of the Trustees of the Museum.”

Fischer also said that the removal of the marbles from Greece in the 19th century could be seen as “a creative act.” The sculptures are the work of great Athenian sculptor Phidias who added them to the Parthenon in the fifth century BC. In the early 19th century, men working for the 7th Earl of Elgin dismantled a large part of the frieze and shipped the sculptures back to London.

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Jan 302019
 
 January 30, 2019  Posted by at 7:58 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Jan van Eyck Madonna and Child at the Fountain 1439 (height: 7.4“, 19 cm)

 

It’s educational and even somewhat entertaining to observe the role of the western press in the ongoing erosion and demise of democracy in Europe. But while it’s entertaining, it also means their readers and viewers don’t get informed on what is actually happening. The media paints a picture that pleases the political world. And it it doesn’t please politicians to lift a veil here and there, too bad for the public.

The Shakespearian comedy that was performed last night in the UK House of Commons is a lovely case in point. Basically, MPs voted whether or not to allow PM Theresa May to change the Brexit deal she had told them about a hundred times couldn’t possibly be changed. Brexit has turned full-blown Groucho by now: “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.”

It was exactly two weeks ago last night that lawmakers voted by a historic 432 to 202 count to reject May’s Brexit deal. And now they voted to a) let her change it and b) go talk to the EU about changing it though Brussels has said as often as May herself that it cannot be changed. Remember: the UK is set to leave the EU 59 days from now, and counting.

It’s like in a game of chess that has long turned into a stalemate or threefold repetition situation: you stop playing. No such luck in British politics. The only way the parliament could find ‘unity’ (in a narrow vote) was to agree to ditch the Irish backstop that is an integral part of why the EU accepted May’s deal to begin with.

There are/are even serious voices saying Ireland should leave the EU along with the UK, to make it easier for the latter to do what the former absolutely doesn’t want. That’s also part of the kind of mindset in which this plays out. Brexit has turned into a complete delusion, in which bickering and blame-games have been more important than practical solutions, for all sides.

A hard Brexit is used as some ultimate deterrent, and 59 days before the big moment it may actually turn into the disaster some Project Fear or another has been talking about for over 2.5 years. If that time has been used the way it should have, adapting deals, agreements, contracts, laws, all might have been fine(r).

What the role of May’s opposition in all this consists of is ever more confusing. It certainly never was to profile itself or come up with original ideas. In the process, Jeremy Corbyn appears to have hurt his reputation as much, if not more, than May. Quite the achievement. And now May says Corbyn “has no plan for Brexit”, but she does: only, it was voted down in the largest defeat in modern parliamentary history.

And then all of a sudden, as everyone is busy doing something else, Britain finds itself in a huge crisis of democracy.

 

Over Two Thirds Of UK Public Don’t Feel Represented By Political Parties

More than two thirds of the British public feel they are not represented by the main political parties, according to a new report on the divisions caused by Brexit. Research by campaign group Hope Not Hate found that the disconnect had increased from 60% to 67% over the last six months as Theresa May negotiated the EU withdrawal agreement.

The poll of nearly 33,000 people and results from focus groups also revealed that many felt they were being left in the dark or were “overwhelmingly bored” by the process. It has also seen an increase in the proportion of the public feeling pessimistic about the future – with very few believing that Brexit will address the frustrations and inequalities that lay behind the vote to leave the EU in 2016.

More people also believe that Brexit is feeding prejudice and division and taking the UK “backwards”, up from 57% in July 2018 to 62% last month. Just 20% of people said they could trust the government to deliver a “good Brexit”. Almost as many Leavers (66%) as Remainers (75%) said they do not trust the government to deliver a Brexit that works for them.

None of the options being considered by parliament have consensus support across the UK, according to the report, and 42% of people think that it would be sensible to delay leaving the EU by a few months so we can agree a better deal with the EU or hold a Final Say vote.

Perhaps that is the topic that should have been discussed yesterday in the House of Commons. But the MPS far preferred to regurgitate long discredited useless stalemate ‘moves’. That’s how much they all care for their own voters. They go from one election to the next, and why would they care about the time in between, what could possibly happen to them?

Well, for one thing, pitchforks could happen. Which methinks is a clean poetic link to another European country that finds itself in deep crisis and distress but refuses to recognize it. France.

 

The interwebs are full of video’s and photos of police brutality perpetrated during the by now 11 Saturdays the Yellow Vests have protested president Macron and their people’s overall situations. It didn’t start out with all that violence, and sure, part of it may have been in response to protests, but what’s gone on in the last few Saturdays is something else.

And the media once again are silent, or mostly. Macron gets more coverage for telling Venezuela’s Maduro to resign than for his own regime’s cruelty towards its own people. But the French people do watch those videos, social media trump traditional ones in these cases, so there’s something good about them after all.

And the Yellow Vests, though the people don’t like the violence, still very much have their sympathy. Seeing Macron’s police beating them up the way they have will only increase the resolve. People losing their eyes, their hands, hundreds if not thousands with less severe but still serious injuries, it’s all being added to Macron’s tally.

 

French Police Weapons Under Scrutiny After Gilets Jaunes Injuries

The French government is under growing pressure to review police use of explosive weapons against civilians after serious injuries were reported during gilets jaunes street demonstrations, including people alleged to have lost eyes and to have had their hands and feet mutilated.

France’s legal advisory body, the council of state, will on Wednesday examine an urgent request by the French Human Rights League and the CGT trade union to ban police from using a form of rubber-bullet launcher in which ball-shaped projectiles are shot out of specialised handheld launchers. France’s rights ombudsman has long warned they are dangerous and carry “disproportionate risk”.

Lawyers have also petitioned the government to ban so-called “sting-ball” grenades, which contain 25g of TNT high-explosive. France is the only European country where crowd-control police use such powerful grenades, which deliver an explosion of small rubber balls that creates a stinging effect as well as launching an additional load of teargas.

The grenades create a deafening effect that has been likened to the sound of an aircraft taking off. France’s centrist president, Emmanuel Macron, is facing renewed calls to ban such weapons after Jérôme Rodrigues, a high-profile member of the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) demonstrators was hit in the eye on Saturday in Paris. He is said by his lawyer to have been disabled for life.

Rights groups say Rodrigues’s case is the tip of the iceberg. Lawyers estimate that as many as 17 people have lost an eye because of the police’s use of such weapons since the start of the street demonstrations, while at least three have lost their hands and others have been left with their face or limbs mutilated. Injuries have happened at demonstrations in Paris and other cities, including Bordeaux and Nantes.

The whole thing is utterly insane, but the craziest thing may well be the European Court of Human Rights rejecting a temporary ban on flash-balls last month. Go ahead, Emmanuel, we won’t tell a soul! Flash-balls being an improved -and ‘home-grown’- form of rubber bullets, which in turn have been ‘improved’ upon.

 

French ‘Flash-Ball’ Row Over Riot-Gun Injuries

Appalling injuries caused by French police riot guns during the yellow-vest protests have triggered anger and calls for the weapon to be banned. The LBD launchers known by protesters as “flash-balls” have left 40 people severely wounded, reports say. France’s human rights chief has called for the weapon’s use to be halted, but the government insists it is deployed only under very strict conditions.

Since the “gilets-jaunes” protests began in November, 3,000 people have been injured or even maimed and thousands more arrested. The LBD40 is described as a non-lethal weapon which in fact replaced the old “flash-ball” in France. But the old name is still widely used. It shoots 40mm (1.6in) rubber or foam pellets at a speed of up to 100m per second and is not meant to break the skin. However, some of the accounts of people hit by flash-balls have been shocking.

Volunteer firefighter Olivier Béziade, 47, was shot in the temple by a riot gun during a protest on 12 January in Bordeaux. Video at the time caught him running from police and then collapsing in the street, his face covered in blood. He was taken to hospital, treated for a brain haemorrhage and left in an artificial coma, from which he emerged on Friday. He was one of five seriously wounded on that day alone.

Many of those wounded have been young. One teenager called Lilian Lepage was hit in the face in Strasbourg on Saturday and suffered a broken jaw. His mother said he had been shopping in the city centre when a policeman fired at him. Two schoolboys were badly wounded by flash-ball pellets in separate protests last month. Campaigners say a dozen people have lost an eye ..

A lawyer for some of the victims, Étienne Noël, said many had been maimed. He said police did not have sufficient training in use of the riot guns and many victims had been hit in the head. Earlier this week police made clear the riot gun would be used only where security forces faced violence or if they had no other means of defence. Only the torso and upper or lower limbs could be targeted.

Interior Minister Laurent Nuñez told the French Senate on Thursday that the use of force by police was always proportionate and under very strict and controlled conditions. “If the police hadn’t used these means of defence perhaps some of them would have been lynched,” he said. The European Court of Human Rights rejected a temporary ban on flash-balls last month, in a case brought by several people who said they had been hit by flash-balls.

There is also a grenade version of the flash-ball, named the sting-ball. Throw it into a crowd and everyone around gets hit by rubber balls at high speed.

But of course it’s not the weapons that cause the injuries and deaths, it’s the people deploying them. And the people deploying these people. The instructions to use excessive violence because the government feels threatened by its own citizens. And after that the pitchforks and guillotines, real or not. Yanis Varoufakis was right a few weeks ago, Macron is a spent force.

Only a blind fool would use these things against his own people. Or a dictator with absolute power, but Macron doesn’t have that.. By the way, when is Brussels going to condemn Macron for his use of violence?

And this is all before the European elections, and Merkel’s goodbye that will throw Germany into chaos, and and and. Europe, we never knew ya.

 

 

Jan 302019
 
 January 30, 2019  Posted by at 10:25 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso Bathers and dog 1922

 

French Police Weapons Under Scrutiny After Gilets Jaunes Injuries (G.)
May Regains Control Of Brexit, But Has No Idea What To Do With It (Ind.)
UK MPs Vote To Renegotiate Irish Backstop (G.)
There Will Be No Renegotiation Of Irish Backstop, Says EU (G.)
British Parliament Rules Out Hard Brexit (MW)
UK Demands Brexit Deal Change, EU Says: ‘Non’ (R.)
Theresa May’s Victory: A Pyrrhic Success Built On Fantasy (G.)
Venezuela Supreme Court Freezes Guaidó’s Bank Accounts, Imposes Travel Ban (G.)
Apple Reports First Decline In Revenues And Profits In Over A Decade (G.)
How Hard China’s Slowdown Could Hit Global Economic Growth (MW)
China Fast Tracks New Foreign Investment Law As US Talks Loom (R.)
US, China Face Deep Trade, IP Differences In High-Level Talks (R.)
Scientists Demand Military Sonar Ban To End Mass Whale Strandings (Ind.)

 

 

This may seem an odd choice to open a Debt Rattle with, but it’s really not. The Guardian reporting that French police weapons are under scrutiny is a perfect example of how western media refuse to report on what is happening in France. This is not about a choice of weapons, but about instructing police to inflict brutality on their own people. A high-profile Yellow Vest ‘member’ lost an eye, and that’s bad, but he’s number 17 to which this happens that we know of, an equal amount of people have died, scores have lost limbs, and there’s a whole range of other serious injuries.

Where are the detailed reports on all that? There are plenty videos out there of crazy police brutality, but the MSM leaves them alone. And here I’m wondering what happened to the police we saw just weeks ago coming together with protesters. What are the instructions that brought on this move into unparalleled violence, and who issued them? What we do see about Macron is his demands for Maduro to step down. Somone needs to demand he does just that himself.

Like Britain with its fantasy Brexit soap opera, France finds itself in a very deep democracy crisis. The media ignoring that doesn’t make a difference anymore. You can bet the French see it all on social media.

French Police Weapons Under Scrutiny After Gilets Jaunes Injuries (G.)

The French government is under growing pressure to review police use of explosive weapons against civilians after serious injuries were reported during gilets jaunes street demonstrations, including people alleged to have lost eyes and to have had their hands and feet mutilated. France’s legal advisory body, the council of state, will on Wednesday examine an urgent request by the French Human Rights League and the CGT trade union to ban police from using a form of rubber-bullet launcher in which ball-shaped projectiles are shot out of specialised handheld launchers. France’s rights ombudsman has long warned they are dangerous and carry “disproportionate risk”.

Lawyers have also petitioned the government to ban so-called “sting-ball” grenades, which contain 25g of TNT high-explosive. France is the only European country where crowd-control police use such powerful grenades, which deliver an explosion of small rubber balls that creates a stinging effect as well as launching an additional load of teargas. The grenades create a deafening effect that has been likened to the sound of an aircraft taking off. France’s centrist president, Emmanuel Macron, is facing renewed calls to ban such weapons after Jérôme Rodrigues, a high-profile member of the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) demonstrators was hit in the eye on Saturday in Paris. He is said by his lawyer to have been disabled for life.

Rights groups say Rodrigues’s case is the tip of the iceberg. Lawyers estimate that as many as 17 people have lost an eye because of the police’s use of such weapons since the start of the street demonstrations, while at least three have lost their hands and others have been left with their face or limbs mutilated. Injuries have happened at demonstrations in Paris and other cities, including Bordeaux and Nantes.

Read more …

May ‘wins’ permission to change her own Brexit deal. Which she repeatedly said cannot be changed.

Apologies if some of the following articles appear to repeat, I wanted a few different points of view. Not that any of them put their fingers where it hurts: a deep deep crisis.

May Regains Control Of Brexit, But Has No Idea What To Do With It (Ind.)

What to say, at the end of another “historic” day in the Greatest S***show on Earth? We reach again into the “it’s like…” cupboard but this time it’s completely bare. There are no more bald men and no combs to come to our service. There are no boulders and no hills. There are no deckchairs, no Titanic, no piss ups and no breweries. There are no turds and no polish. Even the glitter has all run out. There is now only the thing itself, reaching beyond all similitude. Brexit: The Eternal Crapness. The Unsurpassable Embarrassment. There is no spice worth adding to the events themselves. No salt can augment the terrifying umami of such base inadequacy.

So here’s what happened. The House of Commons voted to rule out “no deal.” But it also voted against both the practical solutions put on the table to make it happen. It voted to send Theresa May back to Brussels to re-open negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement. At the precise moment it did so, the European Commission released a statement saying it cannot be re-opened. Theresa May was victorious, in her own way. But she was victorious in the defeat of her own deal. A small bit of background might be useful. In November, after two years of boldly claiming “no deal is better than a bad deal”, Theresa May finally achieved a deal, which everyone instantly agreed was bad.

Theresa May, on several occasions, has agreed it is bad. At that point, she stood outside 10 Downing Street and said that, actually, it turns out, a bad deal was better than no deal. And, more to the point, that this was “the only deal.” Over the last two months, she has stood at the despatch box of the House of Commons and declared that her deal is “the only deal”, that it “cannot be renegotiated” upwards of a hundred times, spread over more than twenty hours. She has said it is “the only deal”, and that it “cannot be renegotiated”, because the European Union have said the same themselves, with the same regularity, and the same consistency. Now, she has decided it can be renegotiated after all, which it can’t.

Read more …

It’s no longer Theresa May’s delusion, all MPs are now accomplices. And that certainly includes Jeremy Corbyn. How can you vote for something you know doesn’t exist? Or just sit there while others do it?

UK MPs Vote To Renegotiate Irish Backstop (G.)

Theresa May was handed a two-week deadline to resuscitate her Brexit deal last night after she caved to Tory Eurosceptics and pledged to go back to Brussels to demand changes to the Irish backstop. With just 59 days to go until exit day, MPs narrowly passed a government-backed amendment, tabled by the senior Tory Graham Brady, promising to replace the Irish backstop with unspecified “alternative arrangements”. But within minutes of the Commons result the European council president, Donald Tusk, announced that the EU was not prepared to reopen the deal. “The withdrawal agreement is, and remains, the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union,” a spokesman for Tusk said.

“The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement, and the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation.” Leo Varadkar, the Irish taoiseach, said the EU needed to “hold our nerve”. On a dramatic day in Westminster the House of Commons also served notice that it would not support the government if it pursued a no-deal Brexit, undermining what May regards as one of her key bargaining chips in the days ahead. However, May said: “It is now clear that there is a route that can secure a substantial and sustainable majority in this house for leaving the EU, with a deal.” She repeatedly stressed protections for workers’ rights, as well as mooting changes to the backstop in the hope of winning over Labour MPs, and promised to keep “battling for Britain”

Read more …

This has been obvious for a long time.

There Will Be No Renegotiation Of Irish Backstop, Says EU (G.)

Theresa May immediately hit a brick wall in Brussels after being backed by MPs to reopen the withdrawal agreement, as Donald Tusk, with the backing of Emmanuel Macron, said the EU would not renegotiate. Within minutes of the Commons backing the prime minister’s plan to replace the Irish backstop, a spokesman for the European council’s president insisted Tusk would not permit any changes to the deal already agreed with Downing Street. Tusk, the EU’s most senior official, instead urged the prime minister to explain her next steps, claiming the agreement negotiated over the last 20 months “remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union”.

The spokesman added: “The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement, and the withdrawal agreement is not open for re-negotiation.” In an apparent sign that the EU now fears that the impasse in the Brexit talks is unlikely to be broken within the coming weeks, Tusk’s spokesman said Brussels was open to a delay to Brexit beyond 29 March. An amendment backed by the Labour MP Yvette Cooper ordering the government to ask for an extension was defeated on Tuesday evening but the Commons is set to vote again in mid-February. “Should there be a UK reasoned request for an extension, the EU27 would stand ready to consider it and decide by unanimity”, the spokesman said. “The EU27 will adopt this decision, taking into account the reasons for and duration of a possible extension, as well as the need to ensure the functioning of the EU institutions.”

Read more …

Ironically, they may not have the power to rule it out. If May doesn’t ask for an Article 50 extension soon enough, a Hard Brexit will just happen.

British Parliament Rules Out Hard Brexit (MW)

The British Parliament on Tuesday passed an amendment to rule out a no-deal or hard Brexit, as well as an amendment to replace the Irish backstop proposal with an ‘alternative arrangement’. The outcome of the parliamentary vote is not legally binding for the government. The no-deal amendment passing indicates that a no-deal Brexit scenario continues to be the least likely, supporting market expectations. Prime Minister Theresa May said she would take this mandate to obtain legally binding changes in the EU withdrawal agreement. Parliament voted on a total of seven amendments on Tuesday, which included a proposal extend the Brexit timeline and to postpone the Brexit date if no deal was found until late February. The British pound plummeted against both the U.S. dollar and the euro after the latter amendment got rejected.

Read more …

Blatant nonsense and a lie: “There is limited appetite for such a change in the EU and negotiating it will not be easy,” said May..

UK Demands Brexit Deal Change, EU Says: ‘Non’ (R.)

Less than two months before the United Kingdom is due by law to leave the EU, investors and allies are trying to gauge where the Brexit crisis will ultimately end up with a disorderly Brexit, a delay to Brexit, or no Brexit at all. Two weeks after voting down May’s Brexit deal by the biggest margin in modern British history, parliament demanded she return to Brussels to replace the so-called Irish backstop, an insurance policy that aims to prevent the reintroduction of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. “There is limited appetite for such a change in the EU and negotiating it will not be easy,” May told lawmakers who voted 317 votes to 301 to support the plan, which had the backing of influential Conservative lawmaker Graham Brady.

“I agree that we should not leave without a deal. However, simply opposing no deal is not enough to stop it,” said May, an initial opponent of Brexit who won the top job in the chaos following the 2016 referendum. May said she would seek “legally binding changes” to the divorce deal which she clinched in November with the EU after two years of tortuous negotiations. In essence, May will try to clinch a last-minute deal by using the implicit threat of a no-deal Brexit from the other 27 members of the EU whose economy is, combined, about six times the size of the United Kingdom’s. The response from European capitals was blunt.

Read more …

Nobody has the guts to tell the empress about her wardrobe.

Theresa May’s Victory: A Pyrrhic Success Built On Fantasy (G.)

Theresa May won a rare triumph on Tuesday night in the Commons. She came back from the greatest parliamentary loss by a government to secure, miraculously, a majority to refresh her wilted withdrawal agreement. Mrs May has had to vote against her own defeated deal to do so. She has had to offer MPs another chance to judge her government in a fortnight’s time. She has had to offer assurances that workers’ rights would be respected and that going forward she would take MPs of all opinions into her confidence. These are undoubtedly moves in the right direction.

However, it is difficult to see how the prime minister will deliver on her parliamentary success. Much more likely, her victory will turn out to be a pyrrhic one. Mrs May put party before country to be on the winning side of the parliamentary vote. She did so by hitching a lift on a Brexiter flight of fantasy, telling MPs she can achieve a “significant and legally binding change to the withdrawal agreement” which would provide “alternative arrangements” to the Irish backstop. The danger is that Mrs May has raised expectations that cannot be met. The backstop is an insurance mechanism in the exit treaty – designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland – which angered Brexiters who say it potentially traps the UK in a customs union with the EU.

Earlier this month Mrs May told MPs: “The simple truth is that the EU was not prepared to agree to [changes in the withdrawal agreement] and rejecting the backstop … means no deal.” What was impossible before is now apparently just difficult. The prime minister effectively told MPs she could renegotiate the backstop element of her Brexit deal and replace it with a free-trade agreement with as-yet-unknown technology to avoid customs checks on the Irish border. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, was quick to say the withdrawal agreement would not be reopened, a put down that will be hard to live down.

Read more …

Now it’s the CIA vs the Supreme Court. We’re waiting for Putin.

Venezuela Supreme Court Freezes Guaidó’s Bank Accounts, Imposes Travel Ban (G.)

Venezuela’s supreme court has imposed a travel ban and financial restrictions on self-declared interim president Juan Guaidó, including freezing his bank accounts. On Tuesday, the political crisis deepened as the country’s attorney general ordered an investigation into the opposition leader, who last week declared himself interim president in a rare challenge to the incumbent, Nicolás Maduro. Tarek Saab, a Maduro loyalist, announced that Juan Guaidó – who has received the backing of the US and other regional powers including Brazil and Colombia – would be investigated over his supposed role in “serious crimes that threaten the constitutional order”.

Hours earlier the US tightened the screws on Maduro by announcing sweeping sanctions against the country’s state-owned oil company PDVSA in what experts said was an attempt to economically asphyxiate his regime. A series of anti-Maduro demonstrations are due to take place on Wednesday in Caracas, the capital, and across the country. Speaking to Russian news agency RIA on Wednesday morning, Maduro said he was ready for talks with the opposition, with the participation of international mediators. “I am ready to sit at the negotiation table with the opposition for us to talk for the benefit of Venezuela, for the sake of peace and its future,” he said. Maduro said the US sanctions were one of US national security adviser John Bolton’s “craziest” ideas and that he would emerge the victor in the standoff.

Read more …

So stocks soar 6%. Obviously.

Apple Reports First Decline In Revenues And Profits In Over A Decade (G.)

Apple reported its first decline in revenues and profits in over a decade on Tuesday. Weak iPhone sales and a downturn in China reduced the tech company’s revenue by 4.5% to $84.3bn in the three months ending 29 December compared with the same period last year. Profits fell slightly to $19.97bn. Revenues from China were $13.17bn during the quarter, a drop of nearly $5bn from a year ago. The results came three weeks after Apple shocked investors with its first profits warning since 2002. It has been a trying month for Apple. On 3 January Apple cut its sales forecasts for the key end of year period citing the “magnitude” of the economic slowdown in China.

It was the first profits warning Apple has made since it launched the iPhone, a product that propelled the company into the top tier of tech companies and briefly made it the most valuable company in history. That warning wiped $55bn (£44bn) off the company’s value, led to its shares being briefly suspended and rattled investors worldwide as analysts began to worry about how other companies might be hit by China’s slowing growth. Apple’s share price has since recovered but remains $266bn less than the record-breaking $1tn the company was valued at in August, the first company ever to be valued that high. [..] Apple’s share price rose over 6% in after hours trading following the release of its latest financials. The numbers were broadly in line with analysts’ expectations and iPhone revenues were higher than expected.

Read more …

So when are governments and markets demand China come clean on its actual numbers?

How Hard China’s Slowdown Could Hit Global Economic Growth (MW)

The slowdown in global growth bears strong resemblance to a 2015-16 episode that was driven in large part by softness in China. This time around, China’s problems could prove even more damaging, warned economists at Oxford Economics. “The Chinese slowdown could have serious negative consequences for world growth if it intensifies. Our model simulations suggest that world growth could slow to a decade low of 2.3% in 2019 if Chinese growth slows sharply and could drop below 2% in the event of a combined slowdown in China and the U.S.,” wrote Adam Slater and John Payne in a Tuesday note (see chart).

The warning comes as investors attempt to parse the drag China’s woes could have on earnings for U.S. corporations as earnings season moves into full swing. Shares of Caterpillar slumped Monday after it blamed weak demand from China in part for sales that badly missed Wall Street expectations. Caterpillar was the latest of a growing number of industrial companies who have said sales are softening in China. [..] the economists noted three ways China’s problems can weigh on global growth:

• Weaker domestic demand growth in China cuts imports of final goods (consumer and investment goods) from the rest of the world (ROW).
• Weaker Chinese export growth reduces demand for imports of intermediates and raw materials from ROW, a significant channel given the relatively high import content of Chinese exports.
• Weaker Chinese demand pushes down prices of key global commodities like iron ore and copper, inflicting terms of trade losses on exporters of these products (mostly emerging markets).

“All these channels seem to be operating,” the economists wrote, noting that China’s import volumes fell sharply in late 2018, with some of the biggest falls suffered by the country’s key Asian partners and component suppliers such as Singapore, Korea, Thailand and Taiwan. China-sensitive commodities are also beginning to feel pressure, they noted, with an index they use to track prices off 11% year-over-year in January after being up 16% year-over-year as recently as May. And the effects of the U.S.-China trade dispute are becoming visible, with China’s goods imports from the U.S. down 30% year-over-year in December; Chinese exports to the U.S., which had been holding up, are also starting to slip, they said.

Read more …

Sounds almost hopeful…

China Fast Tracks New Foreign Investment Law As US Talks Loom (R.)

China’s parliament will vote in March on a new foreign investment law that will ban forced technology transfer and illegal government “interference” in foreign business practices, the official Xinhua News agency reported in Wednesday. The time-table suggests the law will probably be formally approved then by the largely rubber-stamp legislature, accelerating a process that usually would take a year or more as Beijing rushes to meet Washington’s demands in order to de-escalate their trade war. The full annual session of parliament, which opens on March 5, only tends to pass select landmark legislation, with other laws being passed by its standing committee.

Parliament is unlikely to reject the law as its delegates are chosen for their loyalty to the ruling Communist Party and its agenda. The Trump administration has accused Beijing of intellectual property (IP) theft and forced IP transfers, demanding change and threatening further tariffs since trade tension flared between two countries last year. China has repeatedly rebutted such accusations. The two sides will hold two days of talks in Washington starting on Wednesday in the highest-level discussions since U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed a 90-day truce in their trade war in December.

Read more …

… but reality is different. The tariffs deadline is March 2.

US, China Face Deep Trade, IP Differences In High-Level Talks (R.)

The United States and China launch a critical round of trade talks on Wednesday amid deep differences over Washington’s demands for structural economic reforms from Beijing that will make it difficult to reach a deal before a March 2 U.S. tariff hike. The two sides will meet next door to the White House in the highest-level talks since U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed a 90-day truce in their trade war in December. People familiar with the talks and trade experts watching them say that, so far, there has been little indication that Chinese officials are willing to address core U.S. demands to protect American intellectual property rights and end policies that Washington says force U.S. companies to transfer technology to Chinese firms.

The U.S. complaints, along with accusations of Chinese cyber theft of U.S. trade secrets and a systematic campaign to acquire U.S. technology firms, were used by the Trump administration to justify punitive U.S. tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports. Trump has threatened to raise tariffs on $200 billion of goods to 25 percent from 10 percent on March 2 if an agreement cannot be reached. He has also threatened new tariffs on the remainder of Chinese goods shipped to the United States. “Clearly on the structural concerns, on forced technology transfer, there remains a significant gap if not a wide chasm between the two sides,” a person familiar with the talks told Reuters.

Read more …

This should be an easy choice. Instead, it’s simply not going to happen.

Scientists Demand Military Sonar Ban To End Mass Whale Strandings (Ind.)

Scientists have called for a wide-scale ban on the use of sonar to protect whale populations after a study highlighted a link between the military sound pulses and mass strandings in which dozens of the mammals have died. Marine biologists have long warned that the creatures’ senses could be damaged by sonar, with the unfamiliar noises coming from vessels confusing the animals. Experts said the mammals often attempt to swim away from the sound source, leading them to become disorientated. For deep-diving marine life such as the beaked whale, which was the focus of the study, sonar can lead the animals to ascend too rapidly, causing decompression sickness. This in turn has contributed to an increase in the number of whales dying in mass stranding events.

Researchers at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria focused exclusively on beaked whales in the seas surrounding the Canary Islands. They found that a sonar ban introduced there in 2004 had been effective in reducing whale strandings and called for more sites to be established to prevent further deaths, including in the Mediterranean, where beaked whales are listed as vulnerable. “Animals may respond to stressful situations by exhibiting the ‘flight or fight response’ with increased heart and metabolic rates, often accompanied by fast movement away from the perceived stressor,” wrote the authors of the report, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society journal. “We recommend a moratorium on mid-frequency active sonar in those regions where atypical mass stranding events continue.”

Read more …

Jan 262019
 
 January 26, 2019  Posted by at 11:07 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Giuseppe Arcimboldo Four elements – Water 1566

 

Roger Stone’s Indictment Proves No Contacts With Assange – WikiLeaks (RT)
Roger Stone Indictment Packed With Details That May Make Trump Sweat (G.)
Congress Clears Stopgap Bill To End Shutdown, Trump Sends Warning (ZH)
Elliott Abrams, Prominent DC Neocon, Named Special Envoy For Venezuela (Pol.)
In the Deep Mid-Winter (Kunstler)
EU Elections In May Could Oust Those ‘Who Really Believe In Europe’ (CNBC)
Protests in France and Venezuela – Spot the Difference (Clark)
China Can No Longer Rely On Real Estate For Growth, Infrastructure Next (CNBC)
China’s Slowing Economy Makes It Harder For Companies To Pay Debts (CNBC)
UK Justice System In ‘Crisis’ As Only 8% Of Crimes Prosecuted (Ind.)

 

 

Glenn Greenwald says the FBI didn’t tell CNN about the raid, they figured it out due to intense grand jury activity. Be that as it may, Stone was never a flight risk that warranted a very early morning raid by dozens of heavily armed agents. Certainly not if he was going to walk free within hours regardless.

What strikes me is that it’s all still based on Mueller’s indictment of anonymous Russians, and of Assange, none of whom can defend themselves; he can say what he wants and will never be taken to task. Key person in this is Guccifer 2, portrayed as a Russian asset, something that’s been discredited as much as the Russians and Assange indictment was by Aaron Maté and Adam Carter.

And there is zero proof of Stone’s contacts with WikiLeaks, that is all just wishful thinking. Also on his part, true, but how many times does WikiLeaks have to deny unproven accusations?

Roger Stone’s Indictment Proves No Contacts With Assange – WikiLeaks (RT)

The indictment of Roger Stone, former adviser to Donald Trump, who was arrested by the FBI, has revealed more evidence that Trump’s campaign had no “back channel” with WikiLeaks, the whistleblower organization said. Stone was arrested early on Friday at his home during a massive FBI raid in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. While the arrest came as a part of US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged collusion between Donald Trump and Russia, Stone stands accused of a bunch of process crimes. He faces one count of obstruction of proceedings, one count of witness tampering, and five counts of false statements. Stone has pleaded not guilty and was released on $250,000 bail later on Friday.

The indictment has shed more light on the lack of any link between WikiLeaks and Trump’s associates, the whistleblower website said in a tweet, dismissing the earlier claims as “braggadocio.” WikiLeaks, and Julian Assange himself, have repeatedly denied having any connection to Stone. During Trump’s elections campaign, Stone repeatedly boasted about having links to WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange, yet later backtracked on such statements. He claimed instead that it was actually a sort of “back channel,” facilitated by New York radio host and comedian Randy Credico (named “Person 2” in the indictment). Credico has firmly denied the claim.

The indictment shows a text message from Credico, dating back to December 2017, where he urges Stone to be “honest” with the FBI, stating that “there was no back channel.” Stone, in his turn, replied “I’m not talking to the FBI and if your smart you won’t either.” Stone apparently lived by his own advice and refused to testify about WikiLeaks and the whole ‘Russiagate’ affair, invoking the Fifth Amendment constitutional protection against self-incrimination last December.

Read more …

A view from the other side.

Roger Stone Indictment Packed With Details That May Make Trump Sweat (G.)

The criminal indictment of Roger Stone is packed with the kind of colourful details one might expect from the flamboyant rogue, who has been dealing in dirty tricks for more than 40 years. Between threatening an associate’s therapy dog and quoting his political hero Richard Nixon, the indictment also described Stone urging a witness to “do a Frank Pentangeli” – the mobster who lied to Congress in The Godfather Part II. But it is the dry prose of Robert Mueller’s 12th paragraph that is most likely to have Donald Trump sweating on Friday, after his government’s FBI agents arrested his longtime friend and adviser in a dramatic pre-dawn raid in Florida with guns drawn.

It states that after WikiLeaks had begun releasing hacked Democratic emails, “a senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information [WikiLeaks] had regarding the Clinton campaign”. This direction was given to the senior Trump campaign official after 22 July 2016 – more than a month after it was reported that it was Russian government hackers who had broken into the Democratic National Committee’s computer systems. Several questions naturally follow: who was the senior campaign official? Who gave the order? And could it have been candidate Trump himself?

Mueller’s primary task as special counsel was to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” on the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election campaign. Since then, Trump has repeatedly said there was “no collusion”. His loyalists have worked to raise the bar in the public’s mind, so that anything short of Mueller finding a secret deal with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, will clear Trump of wrongdoing. But running through Mueller’s indictment of Stone and his charges against Russian hackers last July is the makings of a case that there was, in fact, coordination.

In short, Mueller said on Friday, Trump, or his most senior aides, ordered a trusted associate to bring them into the loop on the fruits of what they knew to be a Russian government hack of American victims – and on the schedule for its publication. Trump’s team could then shape their campaign tactics around this calendar. And last July, Mueller hinted at evidence of coordination in the other direction. His indictment of the Russian hackers said they attempted “for the first time” to break into email accounts used by Clinton’s personal office “after hours” on 27 July 2016. That day, at an event in Florida, Trump urged Russia to search for the approximately 30,000 emails that Clinton was found to have deleted from her private server on the grounds that they were not related to government work.

Read more …

Everyone on CNN drools.

Congress Clears Stopgap Bill To End Shutdown, Trump Sends Warning (ZH)

Update 7 (1942ET): As expected Congress easily advanced the three-week funding bill, and is is now headed to Trump’s desk where he is expected to sign it later Friday. However, President Trump had the last word before he signs the bill, lashing out at those who claim he folded:

Read more …

Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Iran-Contra, 2002 Venezuela coup, hands dripping with blood, this guys is worse than Bolton. Founding member of the Project for a New American Century.

Elliott Abrams, Prominent DC Neocon, Named Special Envoy For Venezuela (Pol.)

Elliott Abrams, a controversial neoconservative figure who was entangled in the Iran-Contra affair, has been named as a Trump administration special envoy overseeing policy toward Venezuela, which has been rocked by a leadership crisis. Abrams’ appointment, announced Friday by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is something of a surprise — President Donald Trump nixed his 2017 bid to be deputy secretary of State after learning that Abrams had criticized him. [..] Abrams, who served in the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, is a well-known and somewhat controversial figure in U.S. foreign policy circles.

He has often expressed hawkish views and is fiercely pro-Israel, but he also has written and spoken eloquently about the need to support human rights around the world. Abrams was deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration and was instrumental in Middle East policy at the time, including supporting the U.S. invasion of Iraq. There were also allegations that he supported a military coup attempt in Venezuela in 2002, damaging the U.S. relationship with the government there after the plot ultimately failed. Abrams held multiple positions at the State Department under President Ronald Reagan, including assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

He was one of the Reagan administration’s fiercest advocates of armed support for Nicaraguan rebels and thus becae caught up in the Iran-Contra scandal. In 1991, he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress about secret efforts to aid the rebels. President George H.W. Bush pardoned him the next year. Abrams is one of very few people who were critical of Trump during the 2016 campaign and yet have been allowed to join the Republican administration. Another, James Jeffrey, is a special envoy dealing with Syria policy. Pompeo on Friday spoke warmly of Abrams, saying he “will be a true asset to our mission to help the Venezuelan people fully restore democracy and prosperity to their country.”

Read more …

“The fight over the new order struggling to be born will be even harsher and deadlier. But we may not be as confused about what’s at stake.”

In the Deep Mid-Winter (Kunstler)

The Democratic Party should have been tossed into the rubber room two years ago, but it’s still out there shrieking in its straight-jacket of bad faith. Kamala, Liz, and Kirsten will mud-wrestle for dominance, but so far, the only cards they can show are the race-and-gender jokers in the deck. Meanwhile, the government shutdown standoff may not be the “winner” move that Nancy Pelosi thought it would be. Why do you suppose she thought that the voters would only blame the Golden Golem of Greatness? She could be gone as Speaker when we’re back in shirtsleeve weather.

Also in the background: the likely shocking reversal of the long, dreary, RussiaGate affair as about twenty-odd former officials of the FBI, Department of Justice, CIA, State Department, and other dark corners of the Deep State answer charges of sedition in federal court. Many of them are connected, one way or another, to Hillary Clinton, who may be targeted herself. Robert Mueller is also liable to be smacked with a malicious prosecution charge in the matter of General Michael Flynn when he withdraws his guilty plea in March. A significant moment will be when Dean Baquet is fired as editor of The New York Times, after years of running the “newspaper of record” as an exercise in nonstop PMS.

Financial crack-up and RussiaGate reversal will leave both major parties gasping in the mud as the tide goes out. And just in time for the Yellow Vest movement to cross the ocean and bring out the street mobs to slug it out on the National Mall in lovely weather. Finally, a protest you can believe in! By June, it will be clear that the old order is being swept away. The fight over the new order struggling to be born will be even harsher and deadlier. But we may not be as confused about what’s at stake.

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As I said two weeks ago in Europe is Burning.

EU Elections In May Could Oust Those ‘Who Really Believe In Europe’ (CNBC)

There are concerns at the heart of Brussels that upcoming elections could radically change the make-up of the EU. Amid a wave of anti-EU sentiment across many of the 28 member states, it’s expected that the upcoming elections in May — which elects representatives to the European Parliament — will see support for parties that have railed against the institution. “We might be the last (European) Commission that really is made up of people, who really believe in Europe,” Cecilia Malmstrom, the European commissioner for trade, said at a panel at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Thursday. “Yes, I am very worried,” Malmstrom added. The European Parliament, once formed, has a say on who will be the next president of the Commission and what their team will look like. Thus, the next Commission will be a reflection of what happens in the election.

[..] Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who is also the leader of the anti-immigration party Lega, has been looking for support to form a Euroskeptic alliance. Salvini traveled to Poland earlier this month to speak with the Polish prime minister about joining forces ahead of the vote. In October, Salvini met French far-right leader, Marine Le Pen, saying the EU elections would signal “a common sense of revolution” across the member states. “For the very first time we are going to see real political elections … For the first time it is not just a repeat of the political balances in Europe,” Enzo Milanesi, Italy’s foreign affairs minister, said at the same panel in Davos. Milanesi, who declares himself as an independent, added that the election “could change the face of things.”

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As Varoufakis said, Macron is a spent force.

Protests in France and Venezuela – Spot the Difference (Clark)

The ‘Yellow Vest’ anti-government protests in France have received limited coverage in Western media and what coverage there has been has been quite hostile to the protestors. In Venezuela though it’s a very different story. Here the street demonstrations are a major news event, despite the country being thousands of miles away. Furthermore, the coverage is very sympathetic to the protestors and extremely hostile to the government. Why are angry street protestors in France bad, but in Venezuela very good? The answer has to do with the stances and international alliances of the respective governments. It’s inaccurate to call President Emmanuel Macron of France the President of the rich. He is, as his predecessor Francois Hollande admitted on French television, the President of the very rich.

Macron is an unashamed globalist, committed to carrying out neoliberal reforms at home, and following a ‘liberal interventionist’ ie imperalist foreign policy abroad, which means keeping French forces —illegally- in Syria. No wonder the elites are mad about the boy. The toppling of Macron, in a French Revolution 2.0, would be a huge blow to the most powerful people in the world. It cannot be allowed to happen. The French authorities have responded to the street protests with force; one activist was even sentenced to prison for six months — but this has largely been ignored by Western ‘liberals’ who would be so quick to denounce similar actions in other countries, whose government they don’t approve of. Instead, the message is ‘law and order must be maintained’.

[..] It’s a crowded field, but the prize for the biggest hypocrite of all goes to Emmanuel Macron. The man who has been clamping down on legitimate street protests at home, and whose approval rating slumped to just 21% earlier this month, published a tweet in which he praised ‘ the courage of the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who are marching for their liberty”. For the Yellow Vests protestors, and indeed for anyone else who genuinely supports liberty, that really is one sick joke.

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Does Beijing have the space for a new Deal?

China Can No Longer Rely On Real Estate For Growth, Infrastructure Next (CNBC)

Chinese authorities face an ever-growing list of challenges — be it an ongoing trade fight with the U.S. or headwinds in domestic demand — and it appears they don’t have many tools left to spur the economy amid a slowdown. The real estate market in China has traditionally played a major role in it’s economic development, household wealth and public sentiment and was used by Beijing to stimulate growth during previous downturns, including one just three years ago. But along with a Chinese penchant for investing in houses, persistent expectations of government support sent prices and the household debt burden soaring. That’s created a delicate situation, one which analysts expect Beijing will not touch this time around, except to keep prices steady.


Moody’s

Junheng Li, founder of China-focused equity research firm JL Warren Capital, estimates 61 percent of Chinese urban households live in homes less than 10 years old. She also notes there are many older units that are still in good condition. “(Some) simple math shows that continuously building new homes to stimulate investments and meanwhile create the false impression of wealth effect coming with home price appreciation is about to hit the wall,” she said in a January report. “Chinese policy makers are fully aware and highly alert not to send the wrong signal to the home buyers that home prices will continue to hike.” As Beijing tries to shift its economy to one that’s driven by consumption, the worry is that consumers will not have the means, or the enthusiasm, to spend. Already, retail sales growth has slowed significantly amid uncertainty about U.S.-China trade tensions and the impact on economic growth.

Economists at Moody’s Analytics pointed out in December that Chinese disposable income has grown at an average annual rate of 10 percent for the last six years, while household debt — of which the majority is tied to housing — has grown at an average rate of 20 percent a year. In the past year, the average rate of household debt growth climbed to 26 percent, the report said.

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Don’t forget local governments and their debts to shadow banks.

China’s Slowing Economy Makes It Harder For Companies To Pay Debts (CNBC)

Even as Beijing pushes out new measures to stimulate its economy, China’s growth slowdown will make it harder for the country’s companies to pay their debts this year, ratings agencies say. The Chinese government on Monday announced official GDP figures for last year that showed the world’s second-largest economy expanded at its slowest pace in nearly three decades. And while an annual growth rate of 6.6 percent is a figure most countries could only dream of, it marked a continued slide for Asia’s largest economy. Slower growth can mean weaker profitability for indebted companies and increased risk for those holding their bonds.

“The economic chill in China is spreading, threatening to weaken profitability across nearly all sectors in corporate China,” S&P Global Ratings said in a report Monday. S&P added that it “believes debt-servicing capabilities will decline as demand cools and profit margins contract,” while Beijing’s ongoing efforts to reduce debt levels in the country may pause — or even reverse. “While policymakers have intentionally steered the country toward a lower and more sustainable growth path, the broadness of the decline in recent months is raising concerns,” the report said, adding that S&P expects corporate default rates to “rise modestly” this year.

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Austerity Theresa May style. Who do you think rules that country if crime is not prosecuted?

UK Justice System In ‘Crisis’ As Only 8% Of Crimes Prosecuted (Ind.)

Tens of thousands more crimes are not being prosecuted amid warnings of a worsening “crisis” in Britain’s criminal justice system. Almost 92 per cent of offences do not result in perpetrators being charged or summonsed in England and Wales, with the number of offences taken to court dropping by almost 30,000 in a year. Lawyers, police officers and victim support workers interviewed by The Independent blamed a perfect storm of police cuts, rising crime, rows over disclosure, falling confidence and the backlash to a series of collapsed rape cases. Figures published by the Home Office show in the year ending September 2018 only 8.2 per cent of 5 million recorded crimes were prosecuted, down from 9.5 per cent the previous year.

The proportion of offences charged fell across all categories – from violence to drugs, robbery, weapons possession and theft. The lowest figures were for sexual offences (4 per cent), with only 1.9 per cent of recorded rapes prosecuted – down from 2.4 per cent the previous year. Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s shadow solicitor general, said the statistics made “very worrying reading”. “This is, sadly, no surprise given the swingeing government cuts to both police and Crown Prosecution Service budgets,” he added. “The government has to step up to the plate and provide the resources needed to properly support victims and ensure that no stone is left unturned in bringing people to justice.”

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