Jun 132019
 


Caravaggio The Denial of St. Peter 1610

 

UK Government Signs Julian Assange’s Extradition Papers (SBS)
ABC Raids A Wake-Up Call To Journalists Who Left Assange Swinging (SMH)
The Thought Police Are Coming (Chris Hedges)
A Recession Shock Could Wipe 30% Off US Stocks – Oxford Economics (MW)
The Fed Can’t Save Us –John Rubino (USAW)
1/3 of Americans Need A “Side Hustle” To Make Ends Meet (SHTF)
Trump Says Foreign ‘Dirt’ Not Election Interference (ZH)
John Bolton’s Long Goodbye (Kiriakou)
UK Labour Loses Vote To Prevent Future Tory PM Forcing Through No Deal (Ind.)
Leaked Cabinet Note: UK Not Ready For No-Deal Brexit On October 31 (Ind.)
Macron Wants EU Ties With Moscow Independent of NATO & US (RT)
Australia Approves Vast Coal Mine Near Great Barrier Reef (AFP)
You May Be Eating A Credit Card’s Worth Of Plastic Each Week (R.)
Troubling Levels Of Glyphosate In Foods Marketed To Children (RT)

 

 

Does the UK still operate under the rule of law? Does any western nation?

UK Government Signs Julian Assange’s Extradition Papers (SBS)

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today that he has signed Julian Assange’s extradition order. “The final decision is now with the courts,” Mr Javid said. It is unclear whether the WikiLeaks founder will be sent to Sweden or the US. It was earlier reported that the US had formally submitted an extradition request to the UK for the WikiLeaks founder. Mr Assange faces an 18-count indictment that accuses him of soliciting and publishing classified information and of conspiring with former Army private Chelsea Manning to crack a Defense Department computer password. That indictment, which includes Espionage Act charges, was issued by the Justice Department last month and is pending in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.


The extradition request had been expected ever since US authorities first announced a criminal case against Mr Assange. [..] The United States will detail all the charges against Mr Assange when it seeks his extradition in a London court on Friday, the editor of the whistleblowers’ website said on Tuesday. “The American authorities, the Department of Justice, will present the evidence in support of their extradition demand,” Kristinn Hrafnsson told reporters. The US Justice Department confirmed on Tuesday that it had submitted a formal extradition request. The 47-year-old Australian is not expected to attend Friday’s hearing but could take part from prison via video link, although it will be largely procedural. The “first real confrontation of arguments” in court will not be for several weeks or months, Mr Hrafnsson said.

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“Assange, the outsider, did much more than that, he laid the path for the future of journalism, where journalists would be expected to produce primary source documents, wherever possible, and horror of all horrors, share them with the public.”

ABC Raids A Wake-Up Call To Journalists Who Left Assange Swinging (SMH)

The federal police raid on the ABC last week produced an unexpected benefit. Journalists are being forced to decide: whose side are they on. And where do they stand on fundamental issues of disclosure and the public’s right to know? When the executive producer of Australia’s most highly regarded current affairs program Four Corners retweeted that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was “Putin’s bitch” – a tweet she later removed – it said much about the state of journalism in Australia. The re-post, echoing a view held by many Australian journalists, followed a Four Corners interview with Hillary Clinton in which she was given full rein to attack Assange. Clinton was angry that WikiLeaks had revealed through a series of leaked Democratic Party emails that the party executive had given her help to defeat her main rival Senator Bernie Sanders for the party’s nomination – and helped the campaign of Donald Trump.

While the former presidential candidate was challenged on emails relating to her controversial involvement with the Clinton Foundation, never once was it pointed out that the Democratic Party emails revealed how she had been an active beneficiary of deeply unethical behaviour inside the party. What state have we reached where Assange, a journalist, facing his next extradition hearing in London on Friday, should be so reviled? It is dangerous territory for journalism. The insults thrown by Trump that journalists were the enemy of the American people might have been self-serving, but clearly the old notion that journalists mainly represent ordinary people against the powerful is in many cases something of the past. Just as the political parties have shifted to the right, so too have many journalists.

What so enrages the journalists’ “club” is the challenge from those who question their power, journalists like Assange. His revelations threatened them. But Assange, the outsider, did much more than that, he laid the path for the future of journalism, where journalists would be expected to produce primary source documents, wherever possible, and horror of all horrors, share them with the public. The internet made this possible, but for those who were holding out against the inevitable rise of this new form of communications, it posed a huge threat to the old order. Assange was not interested in off-the-record briefings from government insiders. He wanted to show the original documents to practise what he called Scientific Journalism.

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Very strong from Chris Hedges. A talk Tuesday, June 11, at an event held in London in support of Julian Assange.

The Thought Police Are Coming (Chris Hedges)

Ask the Iraqi parents of Sabiha Hamed Salih, aged 15, and Ashwaq Hamed Salih, aged 16, who were killed by shrapnel in Baghdad on July 31, 2004, what they think of Julian Assange. Ask the man and his two young daughters who saw their wife and mother shot to death and were themselves wounded in a car fired upon by U.S. Marines in Fallujah on July 22, 2005, what they think of Julian Assange. Ask the parents of Huda Haleem, an 18-year-old girl, and Raghad Muhamad Haleem, a 5-year-old boy, shot dead by U.S. soldiers on June 2, 2006, in Iraq’s Diyala province what they think of Julian Assange. Ask the parents of the 15-year-old boy choked with a wire and then shot to death by U.S. Marines in Ramadi on Aug. 10, 2006, what they think of Julian Assange.

Ask the relatives of Ahmed Salam Mohammad, who was shot dead on Nov. 27, 2006, when U.S. troops attacked a wedding party near Mosul, an attack that also left four wounded, what they think of Julian Assange. Ask the families of the over one dozen people shot to death with .50-caliber machine guns by bantering U.S. Apache helicopter crews in east Baghdad in July 2007—the crew members can be heard laughing at the “dead bastards” and saying “light ’em up” and “keep shooting, keep shooting”—a massacre that included two journalists for Reuters—Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh—what they think of Julian Assange. Ask the then 10-year-old Sajad Mutashar and his 5-year-old sister, Doaha, both wounded, whose 43-year-old father, Saleh, was shot to death from the air as he attempted to assist one of the wounded men in the Baghdad street what they think of Julian Assange.

There is nothing like the boot of the oppressor on your neck to give you moral clarity. None of these war crimes, and hundreds more reported to the U.S. military but never investigated, would have been made public without Julian, Chelsea Manning and WikiLeaks. That is the role of journalists—to give a voice to those who without us would have no voice, to hold the powerful to account, to give the forgotten and the demonized justice, to speak the truth. We have watched over the last decade as freedom of the press and legal protection for those who expose government abuses and lies have been obliterated by wholesale government surveillance and the criminalizing of the leaking and, with Julian’s persecution, publication of these secrets. The press has been largely emasculated in the United States. The repeated use of the Espionage Act, especially under the Obama administration, to charge and sentence whistleblowers has shut down our ability to shine a light into the inner workings of power and empire.

Governmental officials with a conscience, knowing all of their communications are monitored, captured and stored by intelligence agencies, are too frightened to reach out to reporters. The last line of defense lies with those with the skills that allow them to burrow into the records of the security and surveillance state and with the courage to make them public, such as Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Jeremy Hammond, now serving a 10-year prison term in the United States for hacking into the Texas-based private security firm Strategic Forecasting Inc., or Stratfor. The price of resistance is high not only for them, but for those such as Julian willing to publish this information. As Sarah Harrison has pointed out: “This is our data, our information, our history. We must fight to own it.”

Even if Julian were odious, which he is not, even if he carried out a sexual offense, which he did not, even if he was a poor houseguest—a bizarre term for a man trapped in a small room for nearly seven years under house arrest—which he was not, it would make no difference. Julian is not being persecuted for his vices. He is being persecuted for his virtues.

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Make it an even 60%.

A Recession Shock Could Wipe 30% Off US Stocks – Oxford Economics (MW)

[..] they’ve got a couple of grim worst-case scenarios. One envisages the U.S. economy slowing sharply from the third quarter of this year, then falling into recession as corporate profits, hitting business and investor sentiment. The fallout from this could trigger a 30% drop in the S&P 500 in the third quarter. Within a year the U.S. would be in recession, with the Fed cutting interest rates aggressively to “stave off the worst of the shock,” says the economic forecasters. The other downbeat scenario pictures bleak fallout from a trade-war escalation.


The U.S. slaps a 25% tariff on China and Mexico imports, and a 10% blanket tariff on Europe goods, and 25% on non-North American cars. Based on those assumptions, U.S. stocks could be 15% lower by late 2019, the firm says. But let’s leave things on a happy note. Under yet one more scenario they predict further stimulus from China, de-escalation in trade tensions supportive policy from central banks and much improved investor sentiment across the globe. All that good news could mean a boost in the high single digit percentage ballpark by the first quarter of 2020.

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The Fed is not trying to save “us”.

The Fed Can’t Save Us –John Rubino (USAW)

“The next recession is overdue because this is the longest expansion on record. . . . We loaded up car buyers with sub-prime loans. Students now have $1.5 trillion of student debt. Credit card debt is at record levels. Government debt is at record levels. Corporate debt is at record levels. . . . All of these guys have borrowed more money than they ever have in history. So, the idea we are going to convince people to borrow a lot more money by lowering interest rates is at best problematic and at worst insane. We are headed that way because they have no other tools. So, when things slow down, they are going to start cutting again and printing money and buying up assets with that money. We’ll see if it works again. It shouldn’t have worked the last time. . . . We are in a range of unexplored numbers. . . . How much further can this go? Is there a limit out there? We are going to find out in the next recession.”


Rubino is not impressed with the Federal Reserve’s latest promise to slash interest rates and print money to save a teetering economy. Rubino contends, “The markets ought to be terrified by this, but in the U.S. because the rates are not yet zero, the market is not yet terrified. We are not far from 0%. . . . The Fed can’t save us. We’re at the point now where we would be at a 1930’s style depression or a Weimar Germany hyperinflation or something new and equally bad. We have taken on insane amounts of debt, more than any society in history has ever tried to take on. So, we just don’t know what is going to happen. If the central banks cannot stop the next recession, we will find out what happens when this much debt goes bad. . . . The Fed’s biggest fear is that things will spin out of control, and they won’t have the tools to stop it.”

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Is all income tax “theft”?

1/3 of Americans Need A “Side Hustle” To Make Ends Meet (SHTF)

Imagine a world in which you could keep every single penny that the fruits of your own labor produced. That would be a world without income taxation making it much easier for the average American to get by. Instead, we live in a world where nothing goes untaxed. About 1/3 of Americans say that their expenses are so high that after the theft of the federal government from their paychecks, they need a “side hustle” to make ends meet. According to Bankrate, side hustlers make $1,122 per month on average from their part-time work — up from $686 last year. But if Americans were given the right to no longer be stolen from, and got to keep their own money, most wouldn’t need a side hustle or part-time work to get by.


Nearly half, 45%, of U.S. workers earn additional income outside of their primary career, a recent Bankrate survey found. This includes 48% of millennials. The percentage of Gen Xers and baby boomers with a side hustle is slightly lower, coming in at 39% and 28%, respectively. “A lot of people are working side hustles because even though the economy is strong, wages are stagnant,” Amanda Dixon, an analyst at Bankrate, told MarketWatch. “For a lot of Americans, expenses are rising, but there are no raises at work.” And heaven forbid the government stops raiding our income. That won’t be a suggestion the lapdog media will toss around either. However, if humans own themselves, they have the right to the fruits of their labor regardless of the edicts of the political elitists.

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Not Tyler’s best headline. Why use the word ‘dirt’? ‘Info’ will do.

Trump Says Foreign ‘Dirt’ Not Election Interference (ZH)

President Trump told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos in an Oval Office interview that he might not call the FBI if foreign governments offered damaging information against his rivals in the upcoming 2020 election. While initially suggesting it would be absurd to call the FBI instead of taking the information, Trump said “I think maybe you do both,” adding “I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening.” “If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent’ — oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”

Trump also pushed back on the notion that opposition research provided by a foreign government would be considered election interference – saying “It’s not an interference, they have information — I think I’d take it,” adding “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI — if I thought there was something wrong.” President Trump lamented the attention on his son, Donald Trump Jr., for his role in the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016. Stephanopoulos asked whether Trump Jr. should have taken the Russians’ offer for “dirt” on then-candidate Hillary Clinton to the FBI. “Somebody comes up and says, ‘hey, I have information on your opponent,’ do you call the FBI?” Trump responded.

“I’ll tell you what, I’ve seen a lot of things over my life. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life. You don’t call the FBI. You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you do,” Trump continued. “Oh, give me a break – life doesn’t work that way.” -ABC News When Stephanopoulos pointed out that FBI Director Christopher Wray said that a candidate should call the FBI in regards to foreign-sourced oppo-research, Trump said: “The FBI director is wrong, because frankly it doesn’t happen like that in life,” adding “Now maybe it will start happening, maybe today you’d think differently.” Trump then claimed that “if you go talk honestly to Congressmen, they all do it, they always have,” adding “That’s the way it is, it’s called oppo-research.”

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“My people think there could have been a violation. I view it differently.”

John Bolton’s Long Goodbye (Kiriakou)

[Bolton] said in a Wall Street Journal podcast that he believes five countries are spreading “lies about dysfunction in the Trump administration.” Those countries are North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Russia, and China. That’s laughable. What Bolton is saying is that there is a vast and incredibly well-coordinated international conspiracy that includes some of the most important countries in the world, the main purpose of which is to embarrass him. That sounds perfectly rational, right? Of course, a more rational person might conclude that Bolton has done a terrible job, that the people around him have done a terrible job, that he has aired his disagreements with Trump in the media, and that the President is angry about it. That’s the more likely scenario.

Here’s what my friends are saying. Trump is concerned, like any president is near the end of his term, about his legacy. He said during the campaign that he wanted to be the president who pulled the country out of its two longest wars. He wanted to declare victory and bring the troops back from Afghanistan and Iraq. He hasn’t done that, largely at the insistence of Bolton. Here we are three years later and we’re still stuck in both of those countries. Second, my friends say that Trump wants to end U.S. involvement in the Yemen war, but that Bolton has been insistent that the only way to guarantee the closeness of the U.S. relationships with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is to keep providing those countries with weapons, aerial refueling planes, and intelligence support.

Third, the mainstream media has accused Bolton of being the reason behind the failure of Trump’s second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Bolton towed a hard line, so much so that the North Korean media called him a “war monger” and a “human defect” once the summit ended. This week Trump told reporters gathered on the White House south lawn that Kim had “kept his word” on nuclear and missile testing. This was a direct contradiction of Bolton, who had said just hours earlier that the North Koreans had reneged on their commitments to the U.S. Trump said simply, “My people think there could have been a violation. I view it differently.”

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All it takes is 11 votes. Out of 607.

UK Labour Loses Vote To Prevent Future Tory PM Forcing Through No Deal (Ind.)

Opposition MPs have lost a critical vote on a bid to prevent a future Conservative prime minister from forcing through a no-deal Brexit. Labour introduced a motion paving the way for parliament to block a chaotic Brexit by seizing control of the Commons timetable on 25 June. But MPs rejected the cross-party effort by 309 votes to 298, in a blow to hopes of preventing a Brexiteer prime minister from taking the UK out of the EU without a deal in October. Eight Labour MPs voted against the cross-party motion and a further 13 did not vote. Ten Conservative backbenchers rebelled to back the motion. Jeremy Corbyn could be heard admonishing Tory MPs when the result was called, saying: “You won’t be cheering in September.”


The move came after several Tory leadership hopefuls refused to rule out suspending parliament to prevent MPs from blocking a no-deal Brexit in September. Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary, and Esther McVey, the ex-work and pensions secretary, have both said parliament could be prorogued to ensure the UK leaves by the 31 October deadline. Sir Keir Starmer, shadow Brexit secretary, said: “This is a disappointing, narrow defeat. “But this is just the start, not the end of our efforts to block no deal. Labour stands ready to use whatever mechanism it can to protect jobs, the economy and communities from the disastrous consequences of a no-deal Brexit.

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All they did was bicker for 3 years. Of course they’re not ready.

Leaked Cabinet Note: UK Not Ready For No-Deal Brexit On October 31 (Ind.)

It will take “six to eight months” to build up supplies of medicines for a no-deal Brexit, a leaked cabinet note says – undermining Boris Johnson’s threat to crash out of the EU on 31 October. The warning says the pharmaceutical industry needs that period of help from the government “to ensure adequate arrangements are in place to build stockpiles of medicines”. It also says that it would take “at least 4-5 months” to make traders ready for the new border checks that might be required, including incentives to register for fresh schemes. The note was revealed by The Financial Times as Mr Johnson – the overwhelming favourite to succeed Theresa May – launched his campaign on a pledge to leave the EU on 31 October “deal or no deal”.


It states that, while government departments had delivered around 85 per cent of their “core no-deal plans”, many of those provided only “a minimum viable level of capability”. Prepared for a cabinet discussion on 21 May, it was never circulated because Ms May was concentrating at the time on her doomed attempt to force through her withdrawal agreement. After that attempt collapsed, the prime minister announced her plans to resign – throwing the country into the uncertainty of the Tory leadership race. Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, seized on the note, saying: “This lays bare the utter cynicism of Boris Johnson and his ilk. “They are prepared to talk up crashing out of the EU to further their chances in the Tory leadership contest, despite government documents showing this would lead to shortages of medicines and chaos at our borders.”

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Europe must distance itself from NATO. A tall order. Trump just sent another 1,000 US troops to Poland from Germany.

Macron Wants EU Ties With Moscow Independent of NATO & US (RT)

Europe should think outside NATO dictates and restore relations with Russia, French President Emmanuel Macron stressed, calling for a “strategic debate” with Moscow over mutual areas of concern. “Europe… must build new rules of trust and security with Russia, and should not only agree with NATO,” Macron said in an interview with the Swiss television channel RTS. “It needs to build [relations] only between Europe and Russia.” While noting that disagreements between Moscow and Brussels do exist, in particular over Ukraine, Macron insisted that Russia’s role in world affairs cannot be underestimated.


Europe, the French president stressed, needs Moscow to solve major security issues, as Russia’s highly successful anti-terrorist campaign in Syria has shown. “We need to have a strategic debate, so this week I will have another, long and intense conversation with Vladimir Putin, as the president of France and the G7,” Macron stressed. “There is disagreement among us, but we work together.” “It would not be good to leave Russia to China,” he added, reminding that Europe should “never forget the price [the Soviet Union] paid” in World War II to free the continent from Nazi Germany.

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A lost people. A lost country. Nothing there.

Australia Approves Vast Coal Mine Near Great Barrier Reef (AFP)

Australia approved Thursday the construction of a controversial coal mine near the Great Barrier Reef, paving the way for a dramatic and unfashionable increase in coal exports. Queensland’s government said it had accepted a groundwater management plan for the Indian-owned Adani Carmichael mine — the last major legal hurdle before construction can begin. The project, fiercely debated for almost a decade, comes as investors and even energy companies are moving away from fossil fuels amid concern about the climate. Opponents warn it will create a new generation of coal exports — which will be burned in India and China — contributing to further degrade the planet.


The vast open cut mine is slated to produce up to 60 million tonnes of coal a year, boosting Australia’s already vast exports by around 20 percent. Coupled with the construction of a railway link, it could open up a swathe of Queensland to further exploitation and new mining projects. “If all the coal in the Galilee Basin is burnt it would produce 705 million tonnes of climate pollution each year, which is more than 1.3 times Australia’s annual pollution from all sources, including cars, industry, energy and agriculture,” said the Australian Conservation Foundation.


The Adani coal mine has been under fierce debate – and protest – for almost a decade (AFP Photo/PETER PARKS)

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“In the United States, 94.4 percent of tap water samples contained plastic fibers..” And bottled water is 20x worse.

You May Be Eating A Credit Card’s Worth Of Plastic Each Week (R.)

Plastic pollution is so widespread in the environment that you may be ingesting five grams a week, the equivalent of eating a credit card, a study commissioned by the environmental charity WWF International said on Wednesday. The study by Australia’s University of Newcastle said the largest source of plastic ingestion was drinking water, but another major source was shellfish, which tended to be eaten whole so the plastic in their digestive system was consumed too. “Since 2000, the world has produced as much plastic as all the preceding years combined, a third of which is leaked into nature,” the report said.


The average person could be consuming 1,769 particles of plastic every week from water alone, it said. The amount of plastic pollution varies by location, but nowhere is untouched, said the report, which was based on the conclusions of 52 other studies. In the United States, 94.4 percent of tap water samples contained plastic fibers, with an average of 9.6 fibers per liter. European water was less polluted, with fibers showing up in only 72.2 percent of water samples, and only 3.8 fibers per liter.

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We don’t give a damn about what happened to our kids. That’s just a pose.

Troubling Levels Of Glyphosate In Foods Marketed To Children (RT)

The Environmental Working Group has released findings of research showing “troubling levels of glyphosate, the cancer-causing ingredient in the herbicide Roundup” in food products including children’s breakfast cereals. The Washington, DC-based advocacy group said in a statement released June 12 that the chemical, was detected “in all 21 oat-based cereal and snack products sampled in a new round of testing.” Furthermore, all of the products but four were found to contain levels higher than EWG’s safety threshold for child consumption, which is 160 parts per billion (ppb). The products “Cheerios” and “Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch” were found with the highest glyphosate levels with 729 ppb and 833 ppb respectively.


The findings follow two previous research studies conducted with independent labs conducted last year. Monsanto, the maker of Roundup, was acquired by the German agro-chemical giant Bayer in 2018. “The glyphosate levels in this report are far below the strict limits established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect human health,” a Bayer spokesman told RT when contacted for comment. “Even at the highest level reported by the EWG (833 ppb), an adult would have to eat 158 pounds of the oat-based food every day for the rest of their life to reach the strict limits set by the EPA.”

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Jun 112019
 


James Ensor Baths at Ostend 1890

 

1 in 4 Americans Skip Medical Treatment Because They Worry About the Cost (M.)
House Committee To See Mueller Evidence (AP)
Was Mueller The Wrong Man To Investigate Trump? (G.)
Big US Defense Merger Touts Tech, But Trump Has Questions (AFP)
Google Earned $4.7 Billion From News Organizations In 2018 (RT)
Kim Dotcom Fights U.S. Extradition in New Zealand Court (AP)
We Have Nothing to Lose but Our Debts – Varoufakis (Jacobin)
China’s Rare Earth Monopoly Is Diminishing (ZH)
The Problem With Billionaires Fighting Climate Change (G.)
Canada Bans Capture And Breeding Of Dolphins, Whales (AFP)
Forest Twice Size Of UK Destroyed In Decade For Big Consumer Brands (G.)
The Permafrost Thawing Nightmare (CP)
Honey Bee Colonies Across Europe Plunge 16% (ZH)
Americans’ Extinction Denial Syndrome (CP)

 

 

Yeah, well, what do they know?

“48% of Americans said they believe the quality of the U.S. health care system is “the best or among the best in the world.”

1 in 4 Americans Skip Medical Treatment Because They Worry About the Cost (M.)

One in four Americans chose not to receive treatment for a health issue over the last year due to its high cost, according to a new survey released by Gallup and West Health, a health care nonprofit. Not only that, but 45% of Americans worry a major health issue could send them into bankruptcy and 19% have delayed purchasing medicine due to its cost. The findings, released Tuesday, display the personal and financial impacts caused by the rising cost of health care in the United States. Tens of millions of Americans are borrowing money to afford health care and cutting out other household expenses. And Americans share a concern over the rising cost of health care and how it will impact their finances and the U.S. economy.


Indeed, Americans borrowed around $88 billion to pay for health care over the last year, the study found. About 12% of Americans borrowed money for health care, and 23% cut back on household spendings to afford it. Health care spending in the U.S. rose to $3.5 trillion in 2017 — a 3.9% jump from 2016. In 2017, the U.S. spent more than $10,700 on health care per person. The U.S.’s health spending per capita far exceeds those of other countries, according to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Forty-eight percent of Americans said they believe the quality of the U.S. health care system is “the best or among the best in the world.” But when asked about the quality of care compared to costs, 31% said it was “worst of among the worst in the world.”

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It will never stop.

House Committee To See Mueller Evidence (AP)

The House judiciary committee expects to receive the first files of underlying evidence from Robert Mueller’s report soon, after a sudden shift by the justice department as Democrats weigh impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. It is unclear if the deal, announced moments before the start of a judiciary committee hearing with Watergate star witness John Dean, will ultimately be enough for Democrats, who have called for the full, unredacted report and underlying documentation from the special counsel’s work. However, it signalled the first real breakthrough in the standoff over the report and came at the start of a week of increased activity by the House in the Trump-Russia investigation.

The Republican senator for New York, Jerrold Nadler, , the chairman of the committee, said the justice department will provide some of Mueller’s “most important files” and all members of the committee will be able to view them. He said the files will include those used to assess whether Trump obstructed justice. In response to the agreement, Nadler said the panel will not vote to hold the attorney general, William Barr, in criminal contempt, for now. But the House will still vote on a resolution on Tuesday that would empower the committee to file a civil lawsuit for the materials, if Democrats decide to do so.

[..] Dean, a White House counsel under Richard Nixon who helped bring down his presidency, testified on Monday that Mueller had provided Congress with a “road map” for investigating Trump. He said he saw parallels between Mueller’s findings regarding Trump and those of congressional investigators looking into Nixon’s administration decades ago. He pointed to the way the presidents used their pardon power in an attempt to influence witness testimony, and their efforts to seize control of the investigation and direct the efforts of prosecutors.

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He was because he didn’t deliver Trump’s head on a plate.

Was Mueller The Wrong Man To Investigate Trump? (G.)

In so many ways, Robert Mueller was the right man for the job. The former special counsel was fast, precise, ran a tight ship and, working in a hyper-partisan environment under the full glare of history, Mueller managed to investigate and document a historic attack on the United States while retaining the public trust. But one week after Mueller first spoke out about his investigation of Russian election tampering and the Donald Trump campaign, concern has sharpened that in one big way – potentially the biggest way – Mueller was exactly the wrong man for the job.

For when the pursuit of justice took Mueller into unprecedented terrain – as the special counsel’s investigation came under sustained public attack by the president and the attorney general, William Barr – Mueller failed, his critics say, both to stand up for his investigation and to get the word out to the American people about what he had found. “To my mind, this is a Shakespearean-level tragedy,” said Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor who was part of the team that convicted the Gambino family boss John Gotti. “It is the tragedy of the principled person, who is constrained by principle, being opposed by the completely unprincipled – Barr, and the president, and their lackeys.

“The principled are chained, and the unprincipled romp free. And in a debate over reality, the unprincipled will always win, because they will just lie, and they will make reality whatever they want it to be.” Congressional Democrats convened hearings on the Mueller report on Monday, and the judiciary committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, has said he would call Mueller to testify about the 11 instances of potentially criminal obstruction of justice committed by Donald Trump and his campaign that the Mueller report documents. But Mueller has refused, and has said he will continue to refuse, in discussions of his findings, to go beyond the language in his report, which declines to weigh evidence against the president while leaving open the possibility that crimes were committed.

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Unholiness.

Big US Defense Merger Touts Tech, But Trump Has Questions (AFP)

Executives from United Technologies and Raytheon said Monday their merger would benefit the Pentagon and other customers but the proposed deal garnered immediate skepticism from President Donald Trump. The two companies, which unveiled a “merger of equals” on Sunday, said combining would boost development of faster weapons systems, connected aircraft and other envelope-pushing products, while saving the Pentagon and other customers money. But Trump, who has shown more willingness than past US presidents to haggle with defense contractors and interject himself into the private sector in general, emerged as a potential question mark, telling CNBC Monday that he was “concerned” by the merger.


“When I hear they’re merging, does that take away more competition? It becomes one big fat beautiful company,” he told CNBC. “But I have to negotiate, meaning the United States has to buy things, and does that make it less competitive? Because it’s already non-competitive.” Moments after Trump’s comments, United Technologies Chief Executive Gregory Hayes said on CNBC that the two companies currently have almost no overlap and that their combination would not dent competition. [..] The UTC merger with Raytheon would transform the two companies into a single conglomerate with varied but well-established brands, each in the top tier of its specialty. The two companies together would have about $74 billion in 2019 sales, according to the announcement.

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Do no evil.

Google Earned $4.7 Billion From News Organizations In 2018 (RT)

An explosive new report details how Google earned a whopping $4.7 billion in ad revenue from news organizations online in 2018, while the entire US news industry made a combined $5.1 billion from digital advertising.
The study, by the News Media Alliance, reveals the extent to which the tech giant profits from the work of web journalists and digital news organizations by monetizing Google search and Google News. According to the study, some 40 percent of clicks on Google’s trending queries are news-related, all of which are monetized. “They make money off this arrangement,” said President and CEO of the News Media Alliance David Chavern who argues that journalists and content creators deserve a cut of that money, “and there needs to be a better outcome for news publishers.”

Google does not pay for the content but generates web traffic clicks, and thus revenue, by sharing headlines and news summaries from various outlets verbatim. Furthermore, the $4.7 billion figure is a conservative estimate as the analysis didn’t factor in the personal user data collected by Alphabet, Google’s parent company, which can be further monetized. Details from the report generated a very mixed reception among journalists and media workers who particularly drew attention to the revenues built up by Google while news outlets increasingly lay off staff. What also seemed unjust is that the snippet Google shows “is all anyone cares about,” and readers don’t bother actually clicking into the full story. “Google should license/pay for this,” one commenter suggested.

People do realize though that the relationship between the tech company and news media is more complicated, saying that when Google “makes money on news it’s by serving ads ON publishers’ sites.” According to the newly-launched Save Journalism Project some 2,400 journalists have been laid off in the US so far in 2019 while 32,000 have lost their jobs in the last 10 years. They estimate 63 percent of digital ad revenue is controlled by Google and Facebook, the remainder falling under the auspices of Amazon, Twitter and Microsoft, among others.

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New Zealand’s under intense pressure to break its own laws.

Kim Dotcom Fights U.S. Extradition in New Zealand Court (AP)

Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom and three of his former colleagues on Monday took their fight against being extradited to the U.S. to New Zealand’s top court. The Supreme Court began hearing arguments in the seven-year-old case after Dotcom and the others lost several previous court rulings. But even if the men lose their latest appeal, they have legal options which could keep their case alive in the New Zealand court system and delay any extradition for several more years. U.S. authorities in 2012 shut down Dotcom’s file-sharing website Megaupload and filed charges of conspiracy, racketeering and money laundering. If found guilty, the men could face decades in prison.

Megaupload was once one of the internet’s most popular sites. U.S. prosecutors say it raked in at least $175 million, mainly from people using it to illegally download songs, television shows and movies. Ira Rothken, one of Dotcom’s lawyers, said in an interview that if anyone did something illegal in relation to Megaupload, it was the users. “This case is all about trying to hold Megaupload and Kim Dotcom and the others responsible for the acts of users,” Rothken said. “And we’re saying you can’t do that. You can’t do that in the United States and you can’t do that in New Zealand.” The Supreme Court has scheduled five days to hear the appeal. After that, it could take them several months to issue their decision.

Should the Supreme Court uphold the earlier court rulings and find the men are eligible for extradition, then New Zealand’s Justice Minister Andrew Little would need to make the final decision on whether the extraditions should proceed. And Little’s decision could also be appealed in the courts.

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Greece has snap elections on July 7. It won’t be pretty.

We Have Nothing to Lose but Our Debts – Varoufakis (Jacobin)

Amid the bad results for the Left in the European elections, the Greek outcome was particularly poignant. In the last such contest in 2014, Syriza rode the revolt against austerity to become the largest single party, in its final step toward national office. Five years later, in last month’s election, it finished ten points behind the right-wing New Democracy. And where once Syriza promised to spark change throughout the EU, it is now the best student of the neoliberal dogma “There Is No Alternative.” After four years of slashed pensions, sell-offs of state assets, and even a right-wing turn on foreign policy, Syriza is now also set to lose office.

Indeed, not only did Alexis Tsipras’s party enforce an even harsher austerity than its predecessors ever dreamt of, but as snap general elections loom, it is set to become an exhausted opposition to a sharply reactionary New Democracy government. Polls for the July 7 vote suggest the conservatives have a massive lead, and could even secure an absolute majority in parliament. The hollowing out of Syriza’s base is the expression of disappointment and despair. But there are also signs that some of its voters are turning to left-wing alternatives. Former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis’s MeRA25 party achieved a particularly creditable result in the European contest, less than four hundred votes from electing a member of the European Parliament.

As Greece heads to a fresh general election, MeRA25 hopes to elect its first members of parliament, offering a platform for its call to replace austerity with Europe-wide investment. Jacobin’s David Broder spoke to Varoufakis about the effect of Syriza’s defeat on the wider European left, the prospects of a realignment of EU politics, and MeRA25’s own plans for a “political revolution” in Greece.

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Still substantial.

China’s Rare Earth Monopoly Is Diminishing (ZH)

Some while ago, precious rare earths important in the production of microchips, electronics and electric motors were almost exclusively sourced in China. However, as Statista’s Katharina Buchholz points out, in recent years, several nations have picked up production again while new players entered the market, diversifying it at least to some degree. Yet, China was still responsible for more than two thirds of global production, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. But as many countries are wary of depending on China, especially when it comes to technology products, countries with rare earth deposits are likely to exploit them further.

China also has the largest know deposits of rare earths, but Brazil, Vietnam and Russia also have a lot of (largely) untapped potential in the sector. The United States, together with Australia, emerged as a major producer of rare earths after 2010. The country, which has produced rare earths before for military uses, got back into the market as rare earths were getting more important as a part of the implementation of crucial technologies.

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The problem here is calling Bloomberg a benevolent billionaire.

The Problem With Billionaires Fighting Climate Change (G.)

Before the financial crisis, the top 1% held a collective $15bn in cash. Today they’ve got almost $304bn. And while the yachts and frequent flying habits of the wealthy are a pox on the planet, so is the fact that they now have more money than ever to throw into world-wrecking investments, buying off politicians and lobbying for their pet causes – namely, to let them keep doing more of the same. For every Michael Bloomberg there are dozens of Koch Brothers and Rebekah Mercers, who’ve poured tens of millions of dollars into spreading climate denial and blocking de-carbonization efforts at the local, state and national level. None of them should have as much money as they do.

The climate crisis isn’t going to be solved with the benevolence of a couple of billionaires, and their outsized control over our politics and economy stands in contradiction to our hopes for a liveable future. With rightwing populism on the rise around the world, having elites like Bloomberg as the public face of the climate fight is also risky politics. We don’t need their money to fund the Green New Deal – the US has more than enough for that – but we should take it anyway, with a far more progressive tax system than the one we’ve got. If that sounds radical, it’s worth remembering that the top marginal tax rate during the time hailed as capitalism’s Golden Age floated somewhere north of 90% in the US.

After it’d already fallen, Ronald Reagan’s administration collapsed it to 50% when he took office, and it would dip to just 28% by the time he left. The many billions that have been lost as a result are resources that have been captured out of democratic control, emboldening a handful of oligarchs to run roughshod over people and planet alike.

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100 years too late at least.

Canada Bans Capture And Breeding Of Dolphins, Whales (AFP)

Canada’s parliament on Monday approved a bill banning the capture and breeding of cetaceans such as whales and dolphins in a move hailed by animal rights activists. The bill, first proposed in 2015 and now awaiting symbolic royal approval, will not apply retroactively, meaning captive marine mammals can stay confined. And it will contain exceptions for marine mammals who require rehabilitation following an injury, or in other cases authorized by authorities. “This is such an important law because it bans breeding, making sure the whales and dolphins currently kept in tiny tanks in Canada are the last generation to suffer,” Melissa Matlow, campaign director for World Animal Protection Canada, said in a statement.


“We hope other countries will now follow Canada’s lead and that travel companies will also realize the declining acceptance for these types of attractions.” “Canada is now one of 11 leading countries that have taken a progressive stand against the keeping and breeding of whales, dolphins and porpoises for entertainment,” with Costa Rica and Chile among the others, said Nina Devries, the spokeswoman for the animal rights group. A backlash has been growing in recent years against theme parks that showcase whales and dolphins.

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“Meat consumption is set to rise by 76%… Soya production is also predicted to soar by almost 45% and palm oil by nearly 60%..”

Forest Twice Size Of UK Destroyed In Decade For Big Consumer Brands (G.)

An area twice the size of the UK has been destroyed for products such as palm oil and soy over the last decade, according to analysis by Greenpeace International. In 2010, members of the Consumer Goods Forum, including some of the world’s biggest consumer brands, pledged to eliminate deforestation by 2020, through the sustainable sourcing of four commodities most linked to forest destruction: soya, palm oil, paper and pulp, and cattle. But analysis by Greenpeace International suggests that by the start of 2020, an estimated 50m hectares (123m acres) of forest are likely to have been destroyed in the growing demand for and consumption of agricultural products, in the 10 years since those promises were made.

Its report, Countdown to Extinction, said that since 2010, the area planted with soya in Brazil has increased by 45% and palm oil production in Indonesia has risen by 75%. The environmental group accused major brands of failing to meet their commitments and warned that the current situation was “bleak”, advising them to evolve in order to “prevent climate and ecological breakdown”. Deforestation releases greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change and destroy important habitat, threatening species with extinction. Greenpeace says it wrote to more than 50 traders, retailers, producers and consumer companies early in 2019 asking them to demonstrate progress towards deforestation by disclosing their commodity suppliers.

Only a handful replied and all of those that did disclose the requested information source products from traders or producers involved in forest destruction, they said. None of the 50 demonstrated “meaningful” action to end deforestation, the campaigners said, based on assessing their policies and publicly available supply chain information. [..] About 80% of global deforestation is caused by agricultural production [..] Agricultural consumption, and therefore production, is forecast to rise globally. Meat consumption is set to rise by 76% according to some estimates. Soya production is also predicted to soar by almost 45% and palm oil by nearly 60%, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

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Speeding up. Methane.

The Permafrost Thawing Nightmare (CP)

Permafrost covers 25% of the Northern Hemisphere. It is the world’s largest icebox, and its landmass is 4.5xs larger than Antarctica, 6.5xs larger than the United States. It is stuffed full of carbon locked in frozen ground accumulated over eons, which, by way of contrast, makes coal power plant emissions look bush-league. Most notably, permafrost has an image of permanence and slow/gradual change, “the sloth of the north.” But, that slothful image is now out-of-date. Global warming has changed the equation. Nowadays, permafrost disintegration is officially hot news.

Scientists that have long studied the gradual thawing of permafrost are now experiencing a dramatic switch from their former “eyes wide shut” viewpoint, i.e., refusing to see something that’s in plain view because of preconceived notions. That slothful image of yesteryear has been shattered via numerous studies, as for example: Merritt Turetsky, Canadian Research Chair in Integrative Ecology, University of Guelph, “Rapid Permafrost Thaw Unrecognized Threat to Landscape, Global Warming Researcher Warns,” Nature d/d May 1, 2019. Gradual permafrost thaw is now passé: “Turetsky and an international team of researchers are looking at something very different: Rapid collapse of permafrost that can transform the landscape in mere months through subsidence, flooding and landslides,” Ibid.

Based upon observations as recorded by the Turetsky research team, a climate crisis has already set in. It is here now: “We work in areas where permafrost contains a lot of ice, and our field sites are being destroyed by abrupt collapse of this ice, not gradually over decades, but very quickly over months to years,” said Turetsky. According to team member Miriam Jones, a U.S. Geological Survey research geologist: “This abrupt thaw is changing forested ecosystems… resulting in a wholesale transformation of the landscape that not only impacts carbon feedbacks to climate but is also altering wildlife habitat and damaging infrastructure.” “It’s happening faster than anyone predicted,” Turetsky.

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“Portugal, Northern Ireland, Italy, and England had the most significant colony collapses of more than 25%..”

Honey Bee Colonies Across Europe Plunge 16% (ZH)

The total number of honey bee colonies across Europe plunged 16% over the winter 2017–18, according to COLOSS (Prevention of honey bee COlony LOSSes), an international, non-profit organization based in Switzerland, tasked with the goals of protecting honey bees. Allison Gray, the lead researcher on the study, sent a COLOSS questionnaire to 25,363 beekeepers in 36 countries: 33 in Europe, plus Algeria, Israel, and Mexico. [..] Gray and her team determined that Portugal, Northern Ireland, Italy, and England had the most significant colony collapses of more than 25%. The authors noted that smaller bee farms experienced higher loss rates than large-scale ones.

“The overall loss rate in winter 2017/18 was highest in Portugal (32.8%), a new country to the survey. Other countries with high losses (above 25%) were Slovenia, Northern Ireland, England, Wales, Italy, and Spain, countries mostly in Western Europe,” wrote Gray. [..] The colony collapse of honey bees is a complex issue, wrote Gray, and are frequently caused by volatile weather or natural disasters rather than climate. And there is no solution at the moment. She noted that future investigations should be conducted into the impact of pesticides, and herbicides on honey bees.


Not too long ago, we reported that honey bees exposed to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, lose critical bacterial in their guts and are more susceptible to infection and death from harmful bacteria. It showed how glyphosate is possibly contributing to a rapid decline of honey bees around the world, otherwise known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind the queen.

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“What are Americans thinking? Are they even thinking?”

Americans’ Extinction Denial Syndrome (CP)

When I go into a Lowe’s or Home Depot store to buy plumbing or electrical supplies, I’m assaulted as soon as I go in the door by the smell of lawn chemicals. Plastic jugs of Roundup are stacked six feet high right near the entrance of these stores for easy grabbing by shoppers heading for the garden supply area. At Costco, I found myself in line at the checkout counter behind a man who had a huge bag of grass seed that the label on the bag promised was already treated with “fertilizer and weed killer for a perfect lawn.”The weed killer, I discovered on checking further, is of course Roundup.

Most of Europe has banned Roundup because of both a determination that is carcinogenic and because its widespread use has been linked to the decimation of the world’s bees, essential for the pollination of some 90 percent of all plants and of 30 percent of food crops, and Monsanto/Bayer has so far lost three major lawsuits levying a total of over $2.4 billion in punitive damages against the company for cancers found caused by their glyphosate herbicide. Yet despite all this, the American public wants its pristine green lawns, unblemished by dandelions and other transgressors like violets, buttercups and wild strawberries. Glyphosate cancer risk and bee die-offs be damned!

Mentioning this bizarre attitude to the woman at HealthGuard, she replied, “I know. It’s crazy. People actually tell me they’re stocking up on Roundup because they say, ‘I’m sure the government is going to ban it eventually, but it really works, so I want to have it to use.’” This is a bit like the people who insist on buying incandescent light bulbs and stocking up on them for fear they’ll eventually disappear, even as LED lighting keeps getting better and cheaper, and uses a fraction of the electricity required by incandescent light bulbs. In our house, switching to LEDs has reduced our electrical bill by nearly two-thirds, lighting being the main share of our home’s electrical use.

What are Americans thinking? Are they even thinking?

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There is a snow leopard in this photo. Click for larger picture.

 

 

 

 

May 312019
 
 May 31, 2019  Posted by at 9:01 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


 

Julian Assange Shows Psychological Torture Symptoms – UN Expert (G.)
Julian Assange Must Never Be Extradited (Matt Taibbi)
The Unrelenting State (Craig Murray)
Trump Announces Tariffs On Mexico Until ‘Immigration Problem Remedied’ (G.)
Futures, Peso Tumble As Trump Unleashes Tariffs On Mexico (ZH)
GOP Senator Grassley Blasts Trump Over Mexico Tariff Threat (Hill)
Russiagate Is #1 Threat To US National Security – Stephen Cohen (RT)
Malaysia PM Wants Evidence To Show Russia Shot Down MH17 (FMT)
Boeing Admits It ‘Fell Short’ On Safety Alert For 737 (BBC)
Yield-Curve Spaghetti (WS)
Ted Cruz, AOC Agree To Ban Former Congress Members From Becoming Lobbyists (G.)

 

 

Time is ticking away.

Julian Assange Shows Psychological Torture Symptoms – UN Expert (G.)

Julian Assange is showing all the symptoms associated with prolonged exposure to psychological torture and should not be extradited to the US, according to a senior UN expert who visited him in prison. Nils Melzer, UN’s special rapporteur on torture, is expected to make his appeal to the UK government on Friday. It comes after Assange, the co-founder of WikiLeaks, was said by his lawyers to be too ill to appear by video link for the latest court hearing of the case on Thursday. Assange has been moved to the health ward of Belmarsh prison, London, where he has been serving a 50-week sentence for skipping bail while fighting extradition to the US.

He is accused of violating the Espionage Act by publishing secret documents containing the names of confidential US military and diplomatic sources. After meeting Assange earlier this month in the company of medical experts who examined him, Melzer will say on Friday that he fears the Australian’s human rights could be seriously violated if he is extradited to the US and will condemn what he describes as the “deliberate and concerted abuse inflicted for years” on him. “Physically there were ailments but that side of things are being addressed by the prison health service and there was nothing urgent or dangerous in that way,” Melzer said.

“What was worrying was the psychological side and his constant anxiety. It was perceptible that he had a sense of being under threat from everyone. He understood what my function was but it’s more that he was extremely agitated and busy with his own thoughts. It was difficult to have a very structured conversation with him.” [..] The lawyer [..] said that his office had been approached by Assange’s lawyers in December. But he said that he was initially reluctant to do so, admitting he was affected by what he called the “prejudice” around the case.However, he began looking into the case again in March and, earlier this week, wrote letters to the foreign ministers of the US, the UK and Sweden.

“In the course of the past nine years, Mr Assange has been exposed to persistent, progressively severe abuse ranging from systematic judicial persecution and arbitrary confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy, to his oppressive isolation, harassment and surveillance inside the embassy, and from deliberate collective ridicule, insults and humiliation, to open instigation of violence and even repeated calls for his assassination,” Melzer will say on Friday. He added the UK authorities had contacted his Geneva office to indicate that the British government would be issuing a point-by-point rebuttal of the assertions made in his letter. [..] “In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution I have never seen a group of democratic states ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonise and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law.”

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I doubt Orwell ever knew how right he was.

Julian Assange Must Never Be Extradited (Matt Taibbi)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange today sits in the Belmarsh High Security prison in southeast London. Not just for his sake but for everyone’s, we now have to hope he’s never moved from there to America. The United States filed charges against Assange early last month. The case seemed to have been designed to assuage fears that speech freedoms or the press were being targeted. That specific offense was “computer hacking conspiracy” from back in 2010. The “crime” was absurdly thin, a claim that Assange agreed (but failed, apparently) to try to help Chelsea Manning develop an administrative password that could have helped her conceal identity as she downloaded secrets. One typewritten phrase, “No luck so far,” was the damning piece of evidence.

The troubling parts of that case lurked in the rest of the indictment, which seemed to sell normal journalistic activity as part of the offense. The government complained that Assange “took measures to conceal Manning as the source of the disclosure.” Prosecutors likewise said, “Assange encouraged Manning to provide information and records from departments and agencies of the United States.” The indictment stressed Assange/Manning were seeking “national defense information” that could be “used to the injury of the United States.” The indictment likewise noted that the pair had been guilty of transmitting such information to “any person not entitled to receive it.” It was these passages that made me nervous a month and a half ago, because they seemed to speak to a larger ambition.

Use of phrases like “national defense information” given to persons “not entitled to receive it” gave off a strong whiff of Britain’s Official Secrets Acts, America’s Defense Secrets Act of 1911 (which prohibited “national defense” information going to “those not entitled to receive it”) and our Espionage Act of 1917, which retained many of the same concepts. All of these laws were written in a way that plainly contradicted basic free speech protections. The Espionage Act was revised in 1950 by the McCarran Internal Security Act, sponsored by Nevada Senator Pat McGarran (who incidentally was said to be the inspiration for the corrupt “Senator Pat Geary” character in The Godfather). The change potentially removed a requirement that the person obtaining classified information had to have intent to harm the country.

There was a way to read the new law that criminalized what the Columbia Law Review back in 1973 (during the Pentagon Papers controversy) called the “mere retention” of classified material. This provision buried in subsection 793 of the Espionage Law has, since passage, been a ticking time bomb for journalism. The law seems clearly to permit the government to prosecute anyone who simply obtains or receives “national defense” information. This would place not only sources who steal and deliver such information at risk of prosecution, but also the journalists who receive and publish it. If the government ever decided to start using this tool to successfully prosecute reporters and publishers, we’d pretty quickly have no reporters and publishers.

I’m not exaggerating when I say virtually every reporter who’s ever done national security reporting has at some time or another looked at, or been told, or actually received copies of, “national defense” information they were technically “not entitled to receive.

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Britain employs torture. What do its own laws say about that?

The Unrelenting State (Craig Murray)

We are seriously worried about the condition of Julian Assange. He was too unwell to appear in court yesterday, and his Swedish lawyer, Per Samuelson, found him in a state where he was unable to conduct a conversation and give instructions. There are very definite physical symptoms, particularly rapid weight loss, and we are not satisfied that genuine and sufficient diagnostic efforts are being made to determine the underlying cause. Julian had been held for the last year in poor, highly confining and increasingly oppressive conditions in the Ecuadorean Embassy and his health was already deteriorating alarmingly before his expulsion and arrest.

A number of conditions, including dental abcesses, can have very serious consequences if long term untreated, and the continual refusal by the British government and latterly the Ecuadoreans to permit him access to adequate healthcare while a political asylee was a callous denial of basic human rights. I confess to feeling an amount of personal relief after his arrest that at least he would now get proper medical treatment. However there now seems to be no intention to provide that and indeed since he has been in Belmarsh his health problems have accelerated. I witnessed enough of the British state’s complicity in torture to know that this may be more than just the consequence of unintended neglect. That the most lucid man I know is now not capable of having a rational conversation is extremely alarming.

There is no rational reason that Assange needs to be kept in a high security facility for terrorists and violent offenders. We are seeing the motive behind his unprecedented lengthy imprisonment for jumping police bail when he entered political asylum. As a convicted prisoner, Assange can be kept in a worse regime than if he were merely on remand for his extradition proceedings. In particular, his access to his lawyers is extremely restricted and for a man facing major legal proceedings in the UK, USA and Sweden it is impossible, even were he healthy, for his lawyers to have sufficient time with him adequately to prepare his cases while he is under the restrictions placed on a convict. Of course we know from the fact that, within three hours of being dragged from the Ecuadorean Embassy, he was already convicted and sentenced to a lengthy prison term, that the state has no intention that his lawyers should be able to prepare.

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It’s like hammering in a nail with a pair of scissors.

Trump Announces Tariffs On Mexico Until ‘Immigration Problem Remedied’ (G.)

In a surprise announcement that could compromise a major trade deal, Donald Trump announced on Thursday that he is slapping a 5% tariff on all Mexican imports to pressure the country to do more to crack down on the surge of Central American migrants trying to cross the border. He said the percentage would gradually increase “until the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied”. Trump made the announcement by tweet after telling reporters earlier Thursday that he was planning “a major statement” that would be his “biggest” so far on the border. “On June 10th, the United States will impose a 5% Tariff on all goods coming into our Country from Mexico, until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP. The Tariff will gradually increase until the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied,” he wrote, “at which time the Tariffs will be removed.”


Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, responded with a two-page letter to Trump on Thursday night. “The Statue of Liberty is not an empty symbol,” he said. “With all due respect, even though you have the right to say it, ‘make America great again’ is a fallacy because, until the end of times, and beyond national borders, universal justice and fraternity should prevail,” he wrote. Amlo, as the president is commonly called, offered his US counterpart history lessons on past periods of cordial US-Mexico relations. He also included details of his plans to develop Central America to stop migration and warned: “I don’t lack courage, I’m not a coward nor timid, rather, I act on principles.”

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“The only way the S&P 500 doesn’t sink massively today is if Trump rows back on this.”

Futures, Peso Tumble As Trump Unleashes Tariffs On Mexico (ZH)

Update 2: some borderline apocalyptic observations from Bloomberg markets live managing editor, Mark Cudmore who writes the following: “This Mexico tariff news is far worse than even the initial market reaction makes it out to be. The timing is almost immediate. Chaos for both companies and bureaucrats. No time for anyone to prepare or make contingencies. The only way the S&P 500 doesn’t sink massively today is if Trump rows back on this. The U.S. imported almost $350b worth of goods from Mexico in 2018. What makes it even worse again, if possible, is that so many traders were hoping Trump would soon take a more conciliatory trade zone because U.S. stocks have weakened. This is a black swan event for markets and people aren’t even registering. Maybe traders are all hoping there’s some mistake or that this won’t be implemented.”


Update 1: it’s going from bad to worse, with the White House warning that it will hike Mexico tariffs to 25% by October 1, if the border crisis persists, as Trump is activating a scorched earth approach whereby he will “punish” any offshore nation that he believes is transgressing, by imposing tariffs. Meanwhile, moments after Trump’s shock tweet, the Mexican deputy foreign minister Seade said that if President’s threat to impose tariffs is carried out, “it would be disastrous”, and Mexico would “respond strongly”, adding that “we will not remain with out arms folded” before the tariff deadline “to see if it is serious.”

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“Trade policy and border security are separate issues.”

GOP Senator Grassley Blasts Trump Over Mexico Tariff Threat (Hill)

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) condemned President Trump’s new tariffs on Mexico late Thursday, calling the move a “misuse” of presidential tariff authority and cautioning the levies could derail passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). “Trade policy and border security are separate issues. This is a misuse of presidential tariff authority and counter to congressional intent,” Grassley said in a statement. The lawmaker cautioned that following through on Trump’s tariff threat “would seriously jeopardize passage of USMCA,” a revision of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).


“I support nearly every one of President Trump’s immigration policies, but this is not one of them,” he added. Trump announced he would impose the tariffs to pressure Mexico to stop the flow of migrants into the U.S. via the southern border. [..] Grassley had previously threatened to derail Trump’s central trade achievement over continued steel and aluminum tariffs. Last week, Trump hinted that he had reached a deal to drop those tariffs, paving the way for the USMCA in the Senate.

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“This is the worst scandal in American history. It’s the worst, at least, since the Civil War.”

Russiagate Is #1 Threat To US National Security – Stephen Cohen (RT)

The systemwide US Russophobia that reached its nadir with Russiagate has created a “catastrophe” for both domestic politics and foreign relations that threatens the future of the American system, professor Stephen Cohen tells RT. War with Russia could easily break out if the US insists on pursuing the policy of “demonization” that birthed Russiagate instead of returning to detente and cooperation, New York University professor emeritus of Russian history Stephen Cohen argues on Chris Hedges’ On Contact. While NATO deliberately antagonized post-Soviet Russia by expanding up to its borders, the US deployed missile defense systems along those borders after scrapping an arms treaty, leaving President Vladimir Putin devoid of “illusions” about the goodwill of the West – but armed with “nuclear missiles that can evade and elude any missile defense system.”


Cohen believes the conspiracy theory – which remains front-page news in US media despite being thoroughly discredited, both by independent investigators and last month by special counsel Robert Mueller’s report – is the work of the CIA and its former director, John Brennan, who are dead set against any kind of cooperation with Russia. Attorney General William Barr, who is investigating the FBI over how the 2016 counterintelligence probe began, should take a look at Brennan and his agency, Cohen says. “If our intelligence services are off the reservation to the point that they can first try to destroy a presidential candidate and then a president…we need to know it,” Cohen says. “This is the worst scandal in American history. It’s the worst, at least, since the Civil War.” And the damage wrought by this “catastrophe” hasn’t stopped at the US border.

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“We don’t know why we are excluded from the examination but from the very beginning, we see too much politics in it.”

Malaysia PM Wants Evidence To Show Russia Shot Down MH17 (FMT)

The Malaysian government wants strong evidence to show that Russia is responsible for the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 tragedy in 2014, said Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad today. He said Malaysia accepted the investigation report of Holland but only up to the point where the plane was brought down by a missile made by Russia. Mahathir said while the government agreed that the plane was brought down by a Russian missile, it cannot be certain that the missile was launched by Russia. “They are accusing Russia but where is the evidence? We know the missile that brought down the plane is a Russian-type missile, but it could also be made in Ukraine. “You need strong evidence to show it was fired by the Russians.

“It could be by the rebels in Ukraine; it could be Ukrainian government because they too have the same missile,” he said during a dialogue and media conference with the Japanese Foreign Correspondents Club (FCCJ) here today. Mahathir said people of Russia are military people and they would know that MH17 is a passenger plane. “I don’t think a very highly disciplined party is responsible for launching the missile,” he said. The prime minister said Malaysia should also be involved in examining the black box as the plane belongs to Malaysia and there were Malaysian passengers. “We may not have the expertise but we can buy the expertise. For some reason, Malaysia was not allowed to check the black box to see what happened.

“We don’t know why we are excluded from the examination but from the very beginning, we see too much politics in it. “The idea was not to find out how this happened but seems to be concentrated on trying to pin it on the Russians. This is not a neutral kind of examination,” said Mahathir. “Had a neutral party examined and made the conclusion, Malaysia is willing to accept the findings but here we have parties with political interests in the matter,” he added.

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Why is the CEO still in office?

Boeing Admits It ‘Fell Short’ On Safety Alert For 737 (BBC)

Boeing has admitted it “fell short” when it failed to implement a safety alert system on the 737 Max. The aircraft was grounded globally in March after two crashes within months. Boeing boss Dennis Muilenburg said a mistake had been made in the software for a cockpit warning light called an “angle-of-attack (AOA) disagree alert”. He said: “We clearly fell short and the implementation of this angle-of-attack disagree alert was a mistake, right, we did not implement it properly.” In an interview with Norah O’Donnell of CBS News he said Boeing was now fixing the problem.


The alert could have notified pilots and maintenance crews that there was a problem early in the flight. One flight safety expert said if there had been an AOA disagree alert on board the Ethiopian airlines flight it “would have been the very first clue” for the pilots that something was wrong. Chris Brady, a pilot and author of The Boeing 737 Technical Guide said: “I’m fairly confident that the Ethiopian Airlines flight probably would not have crashed if they had had the AOA disagree alert” on the aircraft.

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“This is getting pretty nutty, when you think about it.”

Yield-Curve Spaghetti (WS)

On Thursday, the US Treasury yield curve sagged further in the middle, producing an ever more beautiful middle-age sag, so to speak, that first started taking shape late last year. The chart shows the yield curves on seven dates. Each line represents the yields from the 1-month yield on the left to the 30-year yield on the right, on that date. The steep green line coming up from the bottom represents the yields on December 14, 2016, when the Fed got serious about rate hikes — the steep slope, with short-term yields a lot lower than long-term yields, is what a yield curve in normal-ish times is supposed to look like. The beautifully sagging red line represents the yields today, May 30. The entire portion of the yield curve from the 3-year yield through the 10-year yield has now dropped by over 1 percentage point since the peak on November 8, 2018.

Some more standouts: The 3-year yield inched down to 2.00%, the lowest since January 2, 2018, forming the low point of the middle-age sag. On Nov 8, it was at 3.05%. The 10-year yield dipped to 2.22%, lowest since Sep 18, 2017, and below 1-year and shorter maturities; but it remains above the 2-year yield and in this cycle has not inverted with the 2-year yield yet. The 1-month yield ticked up to 2.37%, from 2.35% yesterday, which had been the bottom of its range, and as is to be expected, right in the middle of the Fed’s target range for the federal funds rate (2.25% -2.50%). The 6-month yield had been anchored since late October at round 2.5%, with only slight variations. It now too has dropped out of this range and hit 2.38% over the past two days but ticked up to 2.40% today. The 30-year yield dropped to 2.65%, the lowest since Nov 7, 2016. This is getting pretty nutty, when you think about it.

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AOC should be focusing all her energy on Assange.

Ted Cruz, AOC Agree To Ban Former Congress Members From Becoming Lobbyists (G.)

A conversation on Twitter has led to an unlikely collaboration between the Republican senator Ted Cruz and the Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to pass legislation targeting lobbying by former members of Congress. The two lawmakers tweeted support of placing restrictions or a potential lifetime ban on former Congress members becoming lobbyists. The conversation began when Ocasio-Cortez tweeted a study from Public Citizen that found 60% of former Congress members had taken jobs influencing federal policy. “If you are a member of Congress and leave, you shouldn’t be allowed to turn right around and leverage your service for a lobbyist check,” she wrote.


Cruz retweeted Ocasio-Cortez, suggesting bipartisan legislation to fight the Washington political “swamp”. The Republican House representative Chip Roy tweeted that he would help Ocasio-Cortez spearhead the effort. She agreed to create a bipartisan team in the House while Cruz forms one in the Senate to write a ban. [..] Previous efforts to prevent lobbying from former congresspeople have been put forth but not passed, including a 2017 bill co-sponsored by the Republican senator Cory Gardner and the Democratic senators Michael Bennet and Al Franken. Also in 2017, Senator Jon Tester of Montana introduced legislation that would ban lawmakers from lobbying their former colleagues until five years after leaving office, but it failed to gain traction.

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May 022019
 


Bugatti Atlantic Coupé 1935

 

Julian Assange Legal Team Begin ‘Big Fight’ Over Extradition (G.)
US May Have To Stop Borrowing Later This Year – Treasury (R.)
From 2024, All US Debt Issuance Will Be Used To Pay For Interest On Debt (ZH)
Fed Sees No Strong Case For Hiking Or Cutting Rates (R.)
Venezuela and Binary Choice (Murray)
Nellie Ohr’s ‘Hi Honey’ Emails On Russia Collusion Should Alarm Us All (Hill)
Barr Cancels Second Day Of Testimony, Escalating Battle With US Congress (R.)
WSJ: Dems Vilifying Barr For ‘Acting Like A Real Attorney General’ (Hill)
737 Max Sensor Had Been Flagged Over 200 Times To FAA (CNN)
US Environment Agency Says Glyphosate Is Not A Carcinogen (R.)

 

 

Straight from the horse’s foul-smelling mouth, the Guardian. First judge called Assange a narcissist. This one says he cost taxpayers £16m. Judges in Britain are apparently not required to be objective. Here’s praying he’ll receive better treatment today.

Julian Assange Legal Team Begin ‘Big Fight’ Over Extradition (G.)

A struggle over the US request for Julian Assange’s extradition will open in court on Thursday morning, a day after the WikiLeaks founder was jailed for just under a year for breaching bail conditions to avoid being extradited to Sweden. Wednesday’s sentence was decried as an “outrage” by Kristinn Hrafnsson, the editor-in-chief of the whistleblowing website, who said the hearing at Westminster magistrates court to oppose Assange’s extradition would be the start of the “big fight” – a process he said would be “a question of life and death for Mr Assange”. A judge largely rejected the mitigating factors put forward by lawyers for Assange – who took refuge in Ecuador’s embassy to London in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations, which he has denied – and told the 47-year-old it was difficult to envisage a more serious example of the offence.

“You remained there for nearly seven years, exploiting your privileged position to flout the law and advertise internationally your disdain for the law of this country,” said Judge Deborah Taylor, as she sentenced him at Southwark crown court. “Your actions undoubtedly affected the progress of the Swedish proceedings. Even though you did cooperate initially, it was not for you to decide the nature or extent of your cooperation with the investigations. They could not be effectively progressed, and were discontinued, not least because you remained in the embassy.” Assange, who was arrested last month when Ecuador revoked his political asylum and invited Metropolitan police officers inside the country’s Knightsbridge diplomatic premises, had written a letter in which he expressed regret for his actions but claimed he had been left with no choice.

“I apologise unreservedly to those who consider that I have disrespected them by the way I have pursued my case. This is not what I wanted or intended,” he said in the letter read out by his lawyer, Mark Summers QC. “I found myself struggling with terrifying circumstances for which neither I nor those from whom I sought advice could work out any remedy. I did what I thought at the time was the best and perhaps the only thing that could be done – which I hoped might lead to a legal resolution being reached between Ecuador and Sweden that would protect me from the worst of my fears.”

Assange, wearing a black blazer and shorn of the beard worn when police carried him out of the embassy last month, was told by the judge that his continued residence there had cost £16m of taxpayers’ money “in ensuring that when you did leave, you were brought to justice”. “It is essential to the rule of law that nobody is above or beyond the reach of the law,” said the judge, who said Assange’s written apology was the first recognition that he regretted his actions.

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Don’t they say that all the time about twice a year?

US May Have To Stop Borrowing Later This Year – Treasury (R.)

The U.S. government will have to stop borrowing money between July and December if Washington doesn’t agree to raise a legal restriction on public debt, the Treasury Department said on Wednesday. Hitting that so-called “debt ceiling” could trigger a U.S. default on its debt and an immediate recession, a risk that has become a regular facet of U.S. politics over the last decade. The current debt limit was set in March. Treasury has been able to continue borrowing from investors by using accounting measures such as limiting government payments to public sector retirement funds.


“Treasury expects that the extraordinary measures will be exhausted sometime in the second half of 2019,” Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary Brian Smith said in a statement announcing the department’s quarterly debt issuance plans. Wall Street also sees Treasury exhausting its borrowing authority in the third or fourth quarter, according to the minutes of a meeting of a Treasury advisory committee of financiers. The debt ceiling is already affecting how the government funds itself. Issuance of Treasury bills – short-term debt – is expected to gradually decline over the second quarter due to debt ceiling constraints, Smith said.

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“..while we don’t know yet what the next reserve currency – either fiat, hard or digital – after the US dollar will be, we urge readers to own a whole lot of it.”

From 2024, All US Debt Issuance Will Be Used To Pay For Interest On Debt (ZH)

As part of today’s Treasury Presentation to the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee, there is a chart showing the Office Of Debt Management’s forecast for annual US debt issuance, broken down between its three component uses of funds: Primary Deficit, Net Interest Expense, and “Other.” That chart is troubling because while in 2019 and 2020 surging US interest expense is roughly matched by the other deficit components in the US budget, these gradually taper off by 2024, and in fact in 2025 become a source of budget surplus (we won’t be holding our breath). But what is the real red flag is that starting in 2024, when the primary deficit drops to zero according to the latest projections, all US debt issuance will be used to fund the US net interest expense, which depending on the prevailing interest rate between now and then will be anywhere between $700 billion and $1.2 trillion or more.

In short: in the stylized cycle of the US “Minsky Moment”, the US will enter the penultimate, Ponzi Finance, phase – the one in which all the new debt issuance is used to fund only interest on the debt – some time around in 2024. From that point on, every incremental increase in interest rates, which will eventually happen simply due to rising inflation expectations, will merely accelerate the ponzi process, whereby even more debt is sold just to fund the rising interest on the debt, requiring even more debt issuance, and so on, until finally the “Minsky Moment” arrives. At that point, while we don’t know yet what the next reserve currency – either fiat, hard or digital – after the US dollar will be, we urge readers to own a whole lot of it.

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Get rid of the Fed or you will have no economy left. You already don’t have markets anymore, because the Fed became the market, and with the markets the economy will vanish too.

Fed Sees No Strong Case For Hiking Or Cutting Rates (R.)

The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday held interest rates steady and signaled little appetite to adjust them any time soon, taking heart in continued job gains and economic growth and the likelihood that weak inflation will edge higher. “We think our policy stance is appropriate at the moment; we don’t see a strong case for moving it in either direction,” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said in a press conference following the end of the central bank’s latest two-day policy meeting. Overall, he said, “I see us on a good path for this year.” Fed policymakers said ongoing economic growth, a strong labor market and an eventual rise in inflation were still “the most likely outcomes” as the U.S. expansion nears its 10-year mark.


“The labor market remains strong … economic activity rose at a solid rate” in recent weeks, the Fed said in a policy statement a day after President Donald Trump called on it to cut rates by a full percentage point and take other steps to stimulate the economy. The policy statement, and particularly Powell’s insistence the Fed saw no compelling reason to consider a rate cut in response to weak inflation, prompted a modest selloff in stock markets and pushed bond yields higher. The S&P 500 index fell 0.75 percent, its largest daily decline since mid-March. Interest rate futures also reversed direction, signaling a lower degree of confidence the next Fed move would be a rate cut, exactly the point Powell was driving at in a “stay-the-course” message, said analysts at Cornerstone Macro.

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“Juan Guaido has been groomed for 15 years as a long-term CIA project.”

Venezuela and Binary Choice (Murray)

When a CIA-backed military coup is attempted by a long term CIA puppet, roared on by John Bolton and backed with the offer of Blackwater mercenaries, in the country with the world’s largest oil reserves, I have no difficulty whatsoever in knowing which side I am on. Juan Guaido has been groomed for 15 years as a long-term CIA project. His coup attempt yesterday, which so far appears to have stalled, was the culmination of these efforts to return Venezuela’s oil reserves to US hegemony.

It is strange how the urgent installation of liberal democracy by force correlates so often with oil reserves not aligned to the USA, as in Libya, Iraq or Venezuela, while countries with massive oil reserves which permit US military domination and align with the West and Israel can be as undemocratic as they wish, eg Saudi Arabia. Venezuela is an imperfect democracy but it is far, far more of a democracy than Saudi Arabia and with a much better human rights record. The hypocrisy of Western media and politicians is breathtaking.

Hypocrisy and irony are soulmates, and there are multiple levels of irony in seeing the “liberal” commentators who were cheering on an undisguised military coup, then complaining loudly that people are being injured or killed now their side is losing. Yesterday the MSM had no difficulty in calling the attempted coup what anybody with eyes and ears could see it plainly was, an attempted military coup. Today, miraculously, the MSM line is no coup attempt happened at all, it was just a spontaneous unarmed protest, and it is the evil government of Venezuela which attempts to portray it as a coup. BBC Breakfast this morning had the headline “President Maduro has accused the opposition of mounting a coup attempt”… Yet there is no doubt at all that, as a matter of plain fact, that is what happened.

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We’re going to have a civil war. But it won’t be civil.

Nellie Ohr’s ‘Hi Honey’ Emails On Russia Collusion Should Alarm Us All (Hill)

First came the text messages between FBI lovebirds Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, which gave us a painful glimpse at potential political bias inside America’s most famous crime-fighting bureau. Now, a series of “Hi Honey” emails from Nellie Ohr to her high-ranking federal prosecutor husband and his colleagues raise the prospect that Hillary Clinton-funded opposition research was being funneled into the Justice Department during the 2016 election through a back-door marital channel. It’s a tale that raises questions of both conflict of interest and possible false testimony.

Ohr has admitted to Congress that, during the 2016 presidential election, she worked for Fusion GPS — the firm hired by Democratic nominee Clinton and the Democratic National Committee to perform political opposition research — on a project specifically trying to connect Donald Trump and his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, to Russian organized crime. Now, 339 pages of emails from her private account to Department of Justice (DOJ) email accounts, have been released under a Freedom of Information Act request by the conservative legal group Judicial Watch. And they are raising concerns among Republicans in Congress, who filed a criminal referral with the Justice Department on Wednesday night.

They clearly show that Ohr sent reams of open-source intelligence to her husband, Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, and on some occasions to at least three DOJ prosecutors: Lisa Holtyn, Ivana Nizich and Joseph Wheatley. The contents tracked corruption developments in Russia and Ukraine, including intelligence affecting Russian figures she told Congress she had tried to connect to Trump or Manafort. “Hi Honey, if you ever get a moment you might find the penultimate article interesting — especially the summary in the final paragraph,” Nellie Ohr emailed her husband on July 6, 2016, in one typical communication. The article and paragraph she flagged suggested that Trump was a Putin stooge: “If Putin wanted to concoct the ideal candidate to service his purposes, his laboratory creation would look like Donald Trump.” Nellie Ohr bolded that key sentence for apparent emphasis.

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Still don’t get why they insist on lawyers asking their questions for them.

Barr Cancels Second Day Of Testimony, Escalating Battle With US Congress (R.)

Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday canceled plans to testify before the House of Representatives about his handling of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, further inflaming tensions between U.S. President Donald Trump and Democrats in Congress. Barr was due to face the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, but pulled out after the two sides were unable to agree on the format for the hearing. “It’s simply part of the administration’s complete stonewalling of Congress,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler told reporters. Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said Nadler’s proposal to have committee lawyers question Barr was “unprecedented and unnecessary,” saying questions should come from lawmakers.


The Justice Department also said on Wednesday it would not comply with a Nadler-issued subpoena seeking an unredacted version of Mueller’s report and underlying investigative files from the probe. Earlier on Wednesday, Barr spent more than four hours before the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee where he fended off Democratic criticism of his decision to clear Trump of criminal obstruction of justice and faulted Special Counsel Robert Mueller for not reaching a conclusion of his own on the issue.

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The Wall Street Journal takes a very strong stand.

WSJ: Dems Vilifying Barr For ‘Acting Like A Real Attorney General’ (Hill)

The Wall Street Journal editorial board on Wednesday excoriated Democrats for making Attorney General William Barr out to be a “villain,” defending Barr as merely “acting like a real Attorney General.” “Washington pile-ons are never pretty, but this week’s political setup of Attorney General William Barr is disreputable even by Beltway standards,” the board wrote in an op-ed published just hours after Barr testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The editorial, which was shared by President Trump on Twitter, slammed Democrats’ criticism of Barr’s handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference and possible obstruction of justice by Trump.


The board also took issue with Mueller, saying that the letter he wrote to Barr expressing concerns with how the attorney general summarized his investigation amounted to “posterior covering.” “Democrats leapt on the letter as proof that Mr. Barr was somehow covering for Donald Trump when he has covered up nothing,” the board wrote, arguing that Barr’s four-page memo adequately summarized the chief findings of Mueller’s investigation. The board wrote that the “trashing of Barr shows how frustrated and angry Democrats continue to be that the special counsel came up empty in his Russia collusion probe.”

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“Single sources of data are considered acceptable in such cases by our industry..” As I explained when this came out, you need three sources. One is crazy, two is too dangerous.

737 Max Sensor Had Been Flagged Over 200 Times To FAA (CNN)

The device linked to the Boeing 737 Max software that has been scrutinized after two deadly crashes was previously flagged in more than 200 incident reports submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration, but Boeing did not flight test a scenario in which it malfunctioned, CNN has learned. The angle-of-attack (AOA) sensor, as it’s known, sends data to a 737 Max software system that pushes the nose of the aircraft down if it senses an imminent stall. That software, triggered by erroneous data from AOA sensors, is believed to have played a role in crashes of Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines jets. Former Boeing engineers and aviation analysts interviewed by CNN have criticized Boeing’s original software design for relying on data from a single AOA sensor, claiming that those devices are vulnerable to defects.

FAA data analyzed by CNN supports that assessment. The FAA has received at least 216 reports of AOA sensors failing or having to be repaired, replaced or adjusted since 2004, according to data from the FAA’s Service Difficulty Reporting website. [..] In one 2011 case, the flight crew on a Boeing 737-800 reported that the “angle of attack and airspeed failed” and declared an emergency. An AOA sensor was then replaced. The FAA also issued two directives for various Boeing aircraft models before the 737 MAX was released, indicating that Boeing was aware of the potential for the sensors to cause problems in its planes. A 2013 directive mandated inspections of certain AOA sensors to prevent possible problems that included “obstacles after takeoff, or reduced controllability of the airplane.”

Another FAA directive published in 2016 warned that AOA sensors on Boeing MD-90-30 airplanes needed to be modified and tested to address “the unsafe condition on these products.” While those directives did not involve the 737 Max, Peter Goelz, a former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and a CNN aviation analyst, said AOA sensors fundamentally work the same on different aircraft models. “This is a fairly simple external device that can get damaged on a regular basis,” Goelz said. “That’s important because Boeing made the decision to rely on them as single sources for streams of data.”

In a statement to CNN, a Boeing spokesperson said the 737 Max and its stall-prevention system, called MCAS, were certified in accordance with all FAA requirements, and that Boeing’s analysis for the plane determined that in the event of erroneous inputs from an AOA sensor, pilots would be able to maintain control of the plane by following established procedures. “Single sources of data are considered acceptable in such cases by our industry,” the Boeing spokesperson said.

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Unbelievable. Might as well end the EPA too. There is only one way to deal with GMO and the poisons that keep them alive: precautionary principle.

US Environment Agency Says Glyphosate Is Not A Carcinogen (R.)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on Tuesday that glyphosate, a chemical in many popular weed killers, is not a carcinogen, contradicting decisions by U.S. juries that found it caused cancer in people. The EPA’s announcement reaffirms its earlier findings about the safety of glyphosate, the key ingredient in Bayer’s Roundup. The company faces thousands of lawsuits from Roundup users who allege it caused their cancer. “EPA continues to find that there are no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label and that glyphosate is not a carcinogen,” the agency said in a statement.


Farmers spray glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in U.S. agriculture, on fields of soybeans and other crops. Roundup is also used on lawns, golf courses and elsewhere. The EPA did previously find ecological risks from the chemical and has proposed new measures to protect the environment from glyphosate use by farmers and to reduce the problem of weeds becoming resistant to it. Bayer said it was pleased the EPA and other regulators who have assessed the science on glyphosate for more than 40 years continue to conclude it is not carcinogenic. “Bayer firmly believes that the science supports the safety of glyphosate-based herbicides,” it said in a statement. The company has repeatedly denied allegations that glyphosate and Roundup cause cancer.

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Apr 132019
 
 April 13, 2019  Posted by at 9:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso Standing nude 1928

 

The Assange Arrest Is a Warning From History (John Pilger)
The 7 Years Of Lies About Assange Won’t Stop Now (Cook)
UK MPs Want Assange Extradited To Sweden (G.)
Labour Urges PM To Block Julian Assange Extradition To US (G.)
Assange’s ‘Conspiracy’ to Expose War Crimes Has Already Been Punished (Fair)
Cascading Cat Litter (Jim Kunstler)
Is Julian Assange Another Pentagon Papers case? (Alan Dershowitz)
Facebook Removes Page of Rafael Correa on Same Day as Assange’s Arrest (MU)
Second Brexit Referendum Vote ‘Very Likely’ – Philip Hammond (Ind.)
What Went Wrong With Pensions And Why The Whole World Must Be Worried (Rubino)
Italy’s Fiscal Health Is Once Again In Serious Decline (DQ)
Uber Discloses 3-Yr $10-Billion Loss from Operations (WS)

 

 

“Imagine Tony Blair dragged from his multi-million pound Georgian home in Connaught Square, London, in handcuffs [..] Blair’s “paramount crime” is the deaths of a million Iraqis.”

The Assange Arrest Is a Warning From History (John Pilger)

The glimpse of Julian Assange being dragged from the Ecuadorean embassy in London is an emblem of the times. Might against right. Muscle against the law. Indecency against courage. Six policemen manhandled a sick journalist, his eyes wincing against his first natural light in almost seven years. That this outrage happened in the heart of London, in the land of Magna Carta, ought to shame and anger all who fear for “democratic” societies. Assange is a political refugee protected by international law, the recipient of asylum under a strict covenant to which Britain is a signatory. The United Nations made this clear in the legal ruling of its Working Party on Arbitrary Detention.

But to hell with that. Let the thugs go in. Directed by the quasi fascists in Trump’s Washington, in league with Ecuador’s Lenin Moreno, a Latin American Judas and liar seeking to disguise his rancid regime, the British elite abandoned its last imperial myth: that of fairness and justice. Imagine Tony Blair dragged from his multi-million pound Georgian home in Connaught Square, London, in handcuffs, for onward dispatch to the dock in The Hague. By the standard of Nuremberg, Blair’s “paramount crime” is the deaths of a million Iraqis. Assange’s crime is journalism: holding the rapacious to account, exposing their lies and empowering people all over the world with truth.

The shocking arrest of Assange carries a warning for all who, as Oscar Wilde wrote, “sew the seeds of discontent [without which] there would be no advance towards civilisation”. The warning is explicit towards journalists. What happened to the founder and editor of WikiLeaks can happen to you on a newspaper, you in a TV studio, you on radio, you running a podcast. Assange’s principal media tormentor, the Guardian, a collaborator with the secret state, displayed its nervousness this week with an editorial that scaled new weasel heights. The Guardian has exploited the work of Assange and WikiLeaks in what its previous editor called “the greatest scoop of the last 30 years”. The paper creamed off WikiLeaks’ revelations and claimed the accolades and riches that came with them.

With not a penny going to Julian Assange or to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie. The book’s authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, turned on their source, abused him and disclosed the secret password Assange had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing leaked US embassy cables. With Assange now trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy, Harding joined the police outside and gloated on his blog that “Scotland Yard may get the last laugh”. The Guardian has since published a series of falsehoods about Assange, not least a discredited claim that a group of Russians and Trump’s man, Paul Manafort, had visited Assange in the embassy. The meetings never happened; it was fake.

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We just get more. But it’s what NOT being said that reveals more.

The 7 Years Of Lies About Assange Won’t Stop Now (Cook)

For seven years, from the moment Julian Assange first sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, they have been telling us we were wrong, that we were paranoid conspiracy theorists. We were told there was no real threat of Assange’s extradition to the United States, that it was all in our fevered imaginations. For seven years, we have had to listen to a chorus of journalists, politicians and “experts” telling us that Assange was nothing more than a fugitive from justice, and that the British and Swedish legal systems could be relied on to handle his case in full accordance with the law. Barely a “mainstream” voice was raised in his defence in all that time.

From the moment he sought asylum, Assange was cast as an outlaw. His work as the founder of Wikileaks – a digital platform that for the first time in history gave ordinary people a glimpse into the darkest recesses of the most secure vaults in the deepest of Deep States – was erased from the record. Assange was reduced from one of the few towering figures of our time – a man who will have a central place in history books, if we as a species live long enough to write those books – to nothing more than a sex pest, and a scruffy bail-skipper. The political and media class crafted a narrative of half-truths about the sex charges Assange was under investigation for in Sweden.

They overlooked the fact that Assange had been allowed to leave Sweden by the original investigator, who dropped the inquiry, only for it to be revived by another investigator with a well-documented political agenda. They failed to mention that Assange was always willing to be questioned by Swedish prosecutors in London, as had occurred in dozens of other cases involving extradition proceedings to Sweden. It was almost as if Swedish officials did not want to test the evidence they claimed to have in their possession. [..] It was a freedom of information request by an ally of Assange, not a media outlet, that unearthed documents showing that Swedish investigators had, in fact, wanted to drop the case against Assange back in 2013. The UK, however, insisted that they carry on with the charade so that Assange could remain locked up. A British official emailed the Swedes: “Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!”

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There’s some confusion here. Some say because Sweden dropped charges, the US is now first in line. Others deny this.

UK MPs Want Assange Extradited To Sweden (G.)

Political pressure is mounting on Sajid Javid to prioritise action that would allow Julian Assange to be extradited to Sweden, amid concerns that US charges relating to Wikileaks’ activities risked overshadowing longstanding allegations of rape. More than 70 MPs and peers have written to Javid and the shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, urging them to focus attention on the earlier Swedish investigations that Assange would face should the case be resumed at the alleged victim’s request.


In a letter coordinated by Labour’s Stella Creasy and Jess Phillips and seen by the Guardian, the MPs declare: “We do not presume guilt, of course, but we believe due process should be followed and the [Swedish] complainant should see justice be done.” They call on Javid and Abbott to “champion action” to ensure that extradition is a possibility should Swedish authorities choose to pursue it. Assange first entered the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 in order to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations, which he has always denied. While the statute of limitations on one of the allegations has expired, the other will not be reached until August 2020.

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May did it before in 2012, but I understand laws have changed since. Labour better make sure that block counts.

Labour Urges PM To Block Julian Assange Extradition To US (G.)

The shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, has urged Theresa May to block the extradition of Julian Assange to the US in the same way she intervened in the case of the computer hacker Gary McKinnon. In 2012, as home secretary, May halted McKinnon’s extradition on human rights grounds after doctors warned he was at risk of suicide if sent to face trial in the US. Abbott said similar grounds should be used to block Assange’s extradition. On Thursday, the Wikileaks founder was arrested on behalf of the US authorities, who have charged him with involvement in a computer hacking conspiracy.

The 47-year-old faces up to 12 months in a British prison after he was found guilty of breaching his bail conditions. The US charge could attract a maximum jail sentence of five years, according to the US Department of Justice. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday, Abbott said: “If you remember the Gary McKinnon case, the Americans insisted on extraditing him. He had done this massive computer hack, but his real crime was to have embarrassed the American military and security service. “In the end the then home secretary, Theresa May, blocked his extradition on what she said were human rights grounds. We think there may be human rights grounds in relation to Assange.”

Abbott described the allegations facing Assange from two women in Sweden as “serious”, but said charges were never brought. She said: “If the Swedish government wants to come forward with those charges I believe that Assange should face the criminal justice system.” But she added: “It is not the rape charges, serious as they are, it is about WikiLeaks and all of that embarrassing information about the activities of the American military and security services that was made public. “He is at the very least a whistleblower and much of the information that he brought into the public domain, it could be argued, was very much in the public interest.”

[..] “It is this whistleblowing into illegal wars, mass murder, murder of civilians and corruption on a grand scale, that has put Julian Assange in the crosshairs of the US administration. “It is for this reason that they have once more issued an extradition warrant against Mr Assange.” In response, the home secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “Why is it whenever someone has a track record of undermining the UK and our allies and the values we stand for, you can almost guarantee that the leadership of the party opposite will support those who intend to do us harm? You can always guarantee that from the party opposite.”

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“The point of journalism is to expose horrific crimes like this so that the powerful people who order them pay legal consequences, not the ones who expose them.”

Assange’s ‘Conspiracy’ to Expose War Crimes Has Already Been Punished (Fair)

In 2010, the Guardian, like the New York Times and a few other corporate newspapers, briefly partnered with WikiLeaks to publish the contents of thousands of confidential US diplomatic cables, known as Cablegate. That year, WikiLeaks released other confidential US government information as well: the Afghanistan War Logs, the Iraq War Logs, the infamous “Collateral Murder” video. The material exposed atrocities perpetrated by the US military, as well as other disgraceful acts—like US diplomats strategizing on how to undermine elected governments out of favor with Washington, spying on official US allies and bullying poor countries into paying wildly exorbitant prices for life-saving drugs.

One US soldier involved in the “collateral murder” airstrike that Manning and Assange exposed, Ethan McCord, was threatened and reprimanded by a superior officer for requesting psychiatric help after the atrocity. (“Get the sand out of your vagina,” he was reportedly told.) McCord had tended to wounded children during the massacre. He was soon expelled from the military, apparently now “unsuited” for it. The point of journalism is to expose horrific crimes like this so that the powerful people who order them pay legal consequences, not the ones who expose them. Presumably that is why “press freedom” is considered important, and why it’s guaranteed by the First Amendment.

The law should have protected Manning from punishment, the same way it protects somebody who uses violence in justifiable self-defense or in defense of others. In Manning’s case, that was especially true, because she exposed grave crimes while stationed in Iraq, as the US perpetrated an even higher-level crime—a war of aggression based on a fraudulent pretext. If the law should have protected Manning, who was at the very heart of the “conspiracy” to expose gruesome crimes, then it obviously should protect Assange, and any of the outlets that worked with him.

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“I’d like to see The New York Times’s front page headline on that story: Russian Colluder Wins Nobel Prize, Put on Trial in Federal Court.”

Cascading Cat Litter (Jim Kunstler)

And so now Julian Assange of Wikileaks has been dragged out of his sanctuary in the London embassy of Ecuador for failing to clean his cat’s litter box. Have you ever cleaned a litter box? The way we always did it was to spread some newspaper — say, The New York Times — on the floor, transfer the used cat litter onto it, wrap it into a compact package, and put it in the trash. It was interesting to scan the Comments section of The Times’s stories about the Assange arrest: Times readers uniformly presented themselves as a lynch mob out for Mr. Assange’s blood. So much for the spirit of liberalism and The Old Gray Lady who had published The Pentagon Papers purloined by Daniel Ellsberg lo so many years ago.

Reading between the lines in that once-venerable newspaper — by which I mean gleaning their slant on the news — one surmises that The Times has actually come out against freedom of the press, a curious attitude, but consistent with the neo-Jacobin zeitgeist in “blue” America these days. Anyway, how could anyone expect Mr. Assange to clean his cat’s litter box when he was unable to go outside his sanctuary to buy a fresh bag of litter, and was denied newspapers this past year, as well as any other contact with the outside world? US government prosecutors had better tread lightly in bringing Mr. Assange to the sort of justice demanded by readers of The New York Times — which is to say: lock him up in some SuperMax solitary hellhole and throw away the key. The show trial of Julian Assange on US soil, when it comes to pass, may end up being the straw that stirs America’s Mickey Finn as a legitimate republic.

The bloodthirsty hysteria among New York Times readers is a symptom of the mass confusion sown by agencies of the US government itself when its own agents ventured to meddle in the national election of 2016 and then blame it on “the Russians.” As you will learn in the months ahead, it was The Times itself, and other corporate news organizations, who colluded with officers of the FBI, the Department of Justice, the CIA, and the Obama White House to concoct a phony narrative about Mr. Trump being in cahoots with Vladimir Putin, thus depriving Hillary Clinton of her “turn” in the White House; and then to join those agencies, and the grotesquely dishonest two-year investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in a cover-your-ass operation to hide their nefarious and criminal acts.

In the meantime, Mr. Assange may receive a Nobel Prize as a symbol of a lone conscience standing up against the despotic deceits of the world’s deep states. Wouldn’t that gum up the works nicely? I’d like to see The New York Times’s front page headline on that story: Russian Colluder Wins Nobel Prize, Put on Trial in Federal Court. By then, the United States of America will be so completely gaslighted that it will pulsate in the darkness like a death star about to explode.

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Michael Malice on Twitter: “Let’s be clear: Julian Assange is not a journalist.
He uncovered and released information that the political establishment and government wanted to stay hidden.
Does that sound like the work of a journalist?”

Is Julian Assange Another Pentagon Papers case? (Alan Dershowitz)

Before WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gained asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012, he and his British legal team asked me to fly to London to provide legal advice about United States law relating to espionage and press freedom. I cannot disclose what advice I gave them, but I can say that I believed then, and still believe now, that there is no constitutional difference between WikiLeaks and the New York Times. If the New York Times, in 1971, could lawfully publish the Pentagon Papers knowing they included classified documents stolen by Rand Corporation military analyst Daniel Ellsberg from our federal government, then indeed WikiLeaks was entitled, under the First Amendment, to publish classified material that Assange knew was stolen by former United States Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning from our federal government.

So if prosecutors were to charge Assange with espionage or any other crime for merely publishing the Manning material, this would be another Pentagon Papers case with the same likely outcome. Many people have misunderstood the actual Supreme Court ruling in 1971. It did not say that the newspapers planning to publish the Pentagon Papers could not be prosecuted if they published classified material. It only said that they could not be restrained, or stopped in advance, from publishing them. Well, they did publish, and they were not prosecuted.

[..] the problem with the current effort is that, while it might be legally strong, it seems on the face of the indictment to be factually weak. It alleges that “Assange encouraged Manning to provide information and records” from federal government agencies, that “Manning provided Assange with part of a password,” and that “Assange requested more information.” It goes on to say that Assange was “trying to crack the password” but had “no luck so far.” Not the strongest set of facts here!

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Nice going, Zuck.

Facebook Removes Page of Rafael Correa on Same Day as Assange’s Arrest (MU)

Facebook has unpublished the page of Ecuador’s former president, Rafael Correa, the social media giant confirmed on Thursday, claiming that the popular leftist leader violated the company’s security policies.[..] In March, WikiLeaks published a tranche of documents dubbed the INA Papers linking President Lenin Moreno to the INA Investment Corporation, an offshore shell company used by Moreno to procure furniture, property, and various luxury items. The account number for the offshore account allegedly used by the president to launder money was shared across Ecuadorean social networks by netizens of all political stripes, including by Correa – who had about 1.5 million followers and whose Facebook page enjoyed more interactions and attention than that of President Moreno himself.


[..] The removal of Correa’s page for violating Facebook’s “community standards” is an unprecedented move, and the former statesman is the most high-profile public political figure to ever be removed from the social platform–placing the economist and icon of Latin American “socialism of the 21st century” in the same unlikely category as right-wing conspiracy theorist and broadcaster Alex Jones.

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What would that solve?

Second Brexit Referendum Vote ‘Very Likely’ – Philip Hammond (Ind.)

A second referendum on Brexit is “very likely” to be put before parliament, Philip Hammond has said. Speaking in Washington on Friday, the chancellor said a fresh public vote was a “proposition that could and, on all the evidence, is very likely to be put to parliament at some stage”. However, he also said about six months would be needed to hold a referendum, and that there would not be enough time before Britain is due to leave the EU on the new deadline of 31 October. Mr Hammond also stressed that the government was still opposed to a second referendum, although he said other Labour demands – such as a customs union with the EU – were up for debate.


“The government’s position has not changed,” he said. “The government is opposed to a confirmatory referendum and therefore we would not be supporting it.” The idea of a new referendum was among several Brexit alternatives to Theresa May’s deal that were put to lawmakers in the last month – but which all fell short of a majority in parliament. The prime minister has so far failed to get her own party behind the Brexit divorce deal she agreed with other European Union leaders last year. She was forced to ask the bloc for a delay and to start talks with Labour about how to break the impasse in parliament.

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It says a lot about the human attention span that this doesn’t receive a lot more scrutiny.

This is where Fed policies will be found to have hurt people most.

What Went Wrong With Pensions And Why The Whole World Must Be Worried (Rubino)

As baby boomer teachers, police and firefighters retire, the required pension payouts are soaring. Combine this with inadequate contributions, and the liabilities of major U.S. public pensions are up 64% since 2007 while assets are up only 30%. This math is simple enough for even a politician or fund trustee to grasp, but because there’s no immediate penalty for underfunding a pension system, it has become normal practice in a long list of places. Another, related problem is also mathematical, but it’s harder to manage in a boom-and-bust world: When pension plans suffer a big loss, as they tend to do in bear markets, the next few years’ returns have to go towards making up that loss before plan assets can start growing again. The following chart, from a recent Wall Street Journal article, shows pension fund assets falling behind in the past two bear markets and having increasing trouble catching up with steadily-growing liabilities.

In some cases this puts funds permanently behind the curve and can only be fixed with massive infusions of taxpayer cash or draconian benefit cuts, neither of which are feasible in a system that punishes hard choices. The next chart shows how much more the worst offenders would have to contribute to their plans to get by with honest future return assumptions. For Illinois, Kentucky and New Jersey this will never happen.

What does all this mean? A few things: In the next bear market the pension funds that are already wildly underfunded will fall into a financial black hole from which they’ll never be able to escape. Those states and cities – many of which are issuing bonds to cover their day-to-day expenses – will be exposed as junk credits (as Chicago was recently) and will have to either pay way up to borrow or enact some combination of tax increases (politically almost impossible) or pension benefit cuts (legally impossible in many places) which will cause chaos without fixing the underlying problem. The weakest cities and the states in which they reside will be forced to default on some of their obligations, stiffing suppliers, creditors, and/or employees.


This will throw the municipal bond market into chaos as investors, worried that the next Chicago is lurking in their portfolios, dump the whole muni sector. Faced with a cascade failure of a crucial part of the fixed income universe, the federal government will react the way it did when the mortgage market imploded in 2008, with a massive taxpayer funded bailout. At which point there’s a good chance of the crisis spreading from pensions to currencies, as the world finally realizes that the bailouts are just beginning, with US states and cities soon to be followed by student loans, emerging markets, and European failed states.

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Drip. Drip.

Italy’s Fiscal Health Is Once Again In Serious Decline (DQ)

On Wednesday, Italy’s coalition government slashed its growth forecast for the Italian economy in 2019 to 0.2% – the weakest forecast in the Eurozone – from a previous forecast of 1%. Italy is already in a technical recession after chalking up two straight quarters of negative GDP growth in the second half of 2018. The government’s budget for this year was based on the assumption that the economy would expand by 1% this year. Now, it seems the economy may not grow at all; it could even shrink. One direct result of this is that Italy’s current account deficit for 2019 will be substantially higher than the 2.04% of GDP Italy’s government pledged to stick to late last year. And that can mean only thing: another standoff between Rome and Brussels over the direction of fiscal policy is in the offing.

Italy already boasts the largest public debt pile in Europe in nominal terms, clocking in at €2.14 trillion, as well as the second largest in relative terms after Greece’s twice bailed out economy. Rome just forecast that public debt would hit a new record high of 132.6% of GDP this year. That record is unlikely to last very long given Italy’s stagnating economy and the government’s determination to cut taxes, reduce the retirement age and introduce a citizens’ basic income.

The biggest problem with Italy’s economy is that many of its problems are chronic and deep seated. Many of them date back to the adoption of the euro, in 2000, or in the case of Rome’s massive addiction to public debt, to the 1980s. As the OECD points out, real GDP in Italy is still well below its pre-crisis peak. Italy is also the only OECD country where incomes (as measured by GDP per capita) are no higher than in 2000. By contrast, in France, Spain, the UK and Germany they have risen during the same period by 13%, 17%, 21% and 23 respectively.

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Now imagine this WITHOUT interest rates at record lows. What was once a market has now turned into a slot machine.

Uber Discloses 3-Yr $10-Billion Loss from Operations (WS)

Uber Technologies’ IPO filing was made public today. The 330-page or so S-1 filing disclosed all kinds of goodies, including detailed but still unaudited pro-forma financial statements as of December 31, 2018, huge losses from operations, big tax benefits, large gains from the sale of some operations, stagnating rideshare revenues, and an enormous list of chilling “Risk Factors” that go beyond the usual CYA. The filing, however, didn’t disclose the share price, the IPO valuation, and how much money the IPO will raise for Uber. On Tuesday, “people familiar with the matter” had told Reuters that Uber plans to raise $10 billion in the IPO. Most of the IPO shares would be sold by the company to raise funds, and a smaller amount would be sold by investors cashing out, the sources said.


The filing did not confirm this and instead left blanks or used placeholder amounts. But if true, $10 billion in shares sold would make this IPO one of the biggest tech IPOs. And the rumored $90 billion to $100 billion valuation would make it the biggest since Alibaba’s $169 billion IPO. Uber will need every dime it raises in the IPO going forward because it’s got a little cash-burn situation in its operations that persists going forward, as it admitted in its “Risk Factors,” and it will need to raise more money, and if it cannot raise more money, it might not make it. Uber is upfront about this. The company has already raised – and mostly burned through – over $20 billion so far in its 10 years of existence. This includes $15 billion in equity funding and over $6 billion in debt.

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Apr 122019
 


Jean-Francois Millet Harvesters Resting1850-53

 

Chelsea and Julian are in Jail. History Trembles. (Craig Murray)
Julian Assange Branded ‘Narcissist’ By Judge As He Faces US Extradition (Ind.)
They Will Punish Assange For Their Sins (Turley)
Assange ‘Direct Participant In Russian Efforts To Undermine West’ (Hill)
Tulsi Gabbard: Assange Arrest Is A Threat To Journalists (Hill)
Grave Threats To Press Freedoms (Greenwald, Lee)
5 Years (G.)
‘Rude, Ungrateful And Meddling’: Why Ecuador Turned On Assange (G.)
‘Swedish Software Developer’ Linked To Wikileaks Arrested In Ecuador (RT)
Yet Another Conspiracy Theory Died Today (ZH)
Democrats Call AG Barr’s ‘Spying’ Claim Conspiracy Theory (RT)
Shadow Banking Is Now A $52 Trillion Industry (CNBC)
May Hopes For Final Shot At Forcing Withdrawal Deal Through Parliament (Ind.)
UK Government ‘Halts No-Deal Planning’ After Committing £4 Billion (Ind.)
IMF Says Brexit Delay Means Businesses Face More Uncertainty (G.)

 

 

Former UK diplomat Craig Murray is quite upbeat.

Chelsea and Julian are in Jail. History Trembles. (Craig Murray)

If a Russian opposition politician were dragged out by armed police, and within three hours had been convicted on a political charge by a patently biased judge with no jury, with a lengthy jail sentence to follow, can you imagine the Western media reaction to that kind of kangaroo court? Yet that is exactly what just happened in London. District Judge Michael Snow is a disgrace to the bench who deserves to be infamous well beyond his death. He displayed the most plain and open prejudice against Assange in the 15 minutes it took for him to hear the case and declare Assange guilty, in a fashion which makes the dictators’ courts I had witnessed, in Babangida’s Nigeria or Karimov’s Uzbekistan, look fair and reasonable, in comparison to the gross charade of justice conducted by Michael Snow.

One key fact gave away Snow’s enormous prejudice. Julian Assange said nothing during the whole brief proceedings, other than to say “Not guilty” twice, and to ask a one sentence question about why the charges were changed midway through this sham “trial”. Yet Judge Michael Snow condemned Assange as “narcissistic”. There was nothing that happened in Snow’s brief court hearing that could conceivably have given rise to that opinion. It was plainly something he brought with him into the courtroom, and had read or heard in the mainstream media or picked up in his club. It was in short the very definition of prejudice, and “Judge” Michael Snow and his summary judgement is a total disgrace.

We wrapped up the final Wikileaks and legal team meeting at 21.45 tonight and thereafter Kristian Hrafnsson and I had dinner together. The whole team, including Julian, is energised rather than downhearted. At last there is no more hiding for the pretend liberals behind ludicrous Swedish allegations or bail jumping allegations, and the true motive – revenge for the Chelsea Manning revelations – is now completely in the open.

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Deport this clown.

Julian Assange Branded ‘Narcissist’ By Judge As He Faces US Extradition (Ind.)

Julian Assange has been branded a “narcissist” by a judge as he faces both a UK prison sentence and being extradited to the US. The Metropolitan Police said the Australian hacker was initially detained at the Ecuadorian embassy for failing to surrender to court. He had been summoned in 2012 over an alleged rape in Sweden, where authorities are now considering reopening their investigation into those allegations.After arriving at a London police station on Thursday morning, the 47-year-old was additionally arrested on behalf of the US under an extradition warrant.


Mr Assange was taken to Westminster Magistrates’ Court and found guilty of breaching bail hours later. He faces a jail sentence of up to a year. He denied the offence, with lawyers arguing that he had a “reasonable excuse” could not expect a fair trial in the UK as its purpose was to “secure his delivery” to the US. District Judge Michael Snow described the defence as “laughable”, adding: “Mr Assange’s behaviour is that of a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interests. He hasn’t come close to establishing ‘reasonable excuse’.” He remanded Mr Assange in custody ahead of a future sentencing hearing at Southwark Crown Court.

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“Assange will be convicted of the felony of causing embarrassment in the first degree.”

They Will Punish Assange For Their Sins (Turley)

The key to prosecuting Assange has always been to punish him without again embarrassing the powerful figures made mockeries by his disclosures. That means to keep him from discussing how the U.S. government launched an unprecedented surveillance program that scooped up the emails and communications of citizens without a warrant or probable cause. He cannot discuss how Democratic and Republican members either were complicit or incompetent in their oversight. He cannot discuss how the public was lied to about the program. A glimpse of that artificial scope was seen within minutes of the arrest. CNN brought on its national security analyst, James Clapper, former director of national intelligence.

CNN never mentioned that Clapper was accused of perjury in denying the existence of the National Security Agency surveillance program and was personally implicated in the scandal that WikiLeaks triggered. Clapper was asked directly before Congress, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper responded, “No, sir. … Not wittingly.” Later, Clapper said his testimony was “the least untruthful” statement he could make. That would still make it a lie, of course, but this is Washington and people like Clapper are untouchable. In the view of the establishment, Assange is the problem. So on CNN, Clapper was allowed to explain (without any hint of self-awareness or contradiction) that Assange has “caused us all kinds of grief in the intelligence community.”

Indeed, few people seriously believe that the government is aggrieved about password protection. The grief was the disclosure of an abusive surveillance program and a long record of lies to the American people. Assange will be convicted of the felony of causing embarrassment in the first degree. Notably, no one went to jail or was fired for the surveillance programs. Those in charge of failed congressional oversight were reelected. Clapper was never charged with perjury. Even figures shown to have lied in the Clinton emails, like former CNN commentator Donna Brazile (who lied about giving Clinton’s campaign questions in advance of the presidential debates), are now back on television. Assange, however, could well do time.

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Mark Warner conspired with James Comey to keep Assange from talking to the DOJ, as John Solomon revealed last June in How Comey Intervened To Kill Wikileaks’ Immunity Deal. Assange offered to prove there was no link to Russia in the DNC emails case. Now he remains silenced, and Warner can continue to make these crazy claims.

Assange ‘Direct Participant In Russian Efforts To Undermine West’ (Hill)

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) blasted Julian Assange on Thursday after the WikiLeaks founder was arrested in London, casting him as an ally in Russia’s efforts to influence politics in the U.S. and Europe. “Julian Assange has long professed high ideals and moral superiority. Unfortunately, whatever his intentions when he started WikiLeaks, what he’s really become is a direct participant in Russian efforts to undermine the West and a dedicated accomplice in efforts to undermine American security,” Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. “It is my hope that the British courts will quickly transfer him to U.S. custody so he can finally get the justice he deserves,” Warner said, while praising the Ecuadorian government for withdrawing Assange’s asylum.


[..] Manning’s document dump contained approximately 90,000 Afghanistan War–related reports, 400,000 Iraq War–related reports, 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs and 250,000 State Department cables between January and May 2010, many of which were labeled classified, according to Assange’s indictment.

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Now, Mark Warner represents the same party as Tulsi Gabbard does. And Hillary. If I were Tulsi, that would make me very uncomfortable.

Gabbard: Assange Arrest Is A Threat To Journalists (Hill)

Democratic presidential hopeful Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) condemned the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Thursday, calling the arrest a threat to journalists. “The arrest of #JulianAssange is meant to send a message to all Americans and journalists: be quiet, behave, toe the line. Or you will pay the price,” Gabbard tweeted. The Democrat’s remark came hours after police in London arrested Assange, citing charges he is facing in the U.S. Assange is accused of conspiring to hack into computers in connection with WikiLeaks’s release of classified documents from former Army private and intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.


The indictment filed under seal last year in Virginia and released Thursday alleges that Assange helped Manning crack a password stored on a Defense Department computer, which was connected to a government system that stored classified information. U.S. intelligence officials and lawmakers have also voiced concerns about WikiLeaks’s actions during the 2016 election, when they published troves of hacked emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee and 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The U.S. has said that Russian hackers were behind stealing the emails. However, Assange has dismissed criticisms surrounding his actions, arguing he acted like other journalists would have by seeking to leak classified documents viewed as in the public interest.

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It’s all old hack. Pun intended.

Grave Threats To Press Freedoms (Greenwald, Lee)

The first crucial fact about the indictment is that its key allegation – that Assange did not merely receive classified documents from Chelsea Manning but tried to help her crack a password in order to cover her tracks – is not new. It was long known by the Obama DOJ and was explicitly part of Manning’s trial, yet the Obama DOJ – not exactly renowned for being stalwart guardians of press freedoms – concluded it could not and should not prosecute Assange because indicting him would pose serious threats to press freedom. In sum, today’s indictment contains no new evidence or facts about Assange’s actions; all of it has been known for years.

The other key fact being widely misreported is that the indictment accuses Assange of trying to help Manning obtain access to document databases to which she had no valid access: i.e., hacking rather than journalism. But the indictment alleges no such thing. Rather, it simply accuses Assange of trying to help Manning log into the Defense Department’s computers using a different user name so that she could maintain her anonymity while downloading documents in the public interest and then furnish them to WikiLeaks to publish.

In other words, the indictment seeks to criminalize what journalists are not only permitted but ethically required to do: take steps to help their sources maintain their anonymity. As long-time Assange lawyer Barry Pollack put it: “the factual allegations…boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identity of that source. Journalists around the world should be deeply troubled by these unprecedented criminal charges.” That’s why the indictment poses such a grave threat to press freedom. It characterizes as a felony many actions that journalists are not just permitted but required to take in order to conduct sensitive reporting in the digital age.

[..] The Obama DOJ tried for years to find evidence to justify a claim that Assange did more than act as a journalist – that he, for instance, illegally worked with Manning to steal the documents – but found nothing to justify that accusation and thus never indicted Assange (as noted, the Obama DOJ since at least 2011 was well aware of the core allegation of today’s indictment – that Assange tried to help Manning circumvent a password wall so she could use a different user name – because that was all part of Manning’s charges).

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The Guardian says Assange can get max 5 years. I don’t believe that for a moment.

5 Years (G.)

Can Assange appeal against an extradition decision?Yes, and there are many levels of appeal he can pass through before a final decision is made. In fact, this is exactly what happened to the request from Sweden. Assange challenged the decision to extradite him to Sweden all the way up to the supreme court, the highest court of appeal for civil cases in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. He can appeal against a judge’s decision to refer an approved extradition request back to the hme secretary and he can also appeal against a decision by the home secretary himself to execute that approved order. To give an idea of timescale, Assange presented himself to the Metropolitan police on the Swedish extradition request on 7 December 2010 and the supreme court hearing was held on 1 and 2 February 2012.

Can Julian Assange be charged with additional offences once he has been extradited to the United States? Normal practice is that anyone extradited can only be prosecuted in the country that sought them for the offences specified on the extradition indictment. That restriction is known as the rule of specialty. There are two possible but difficult-to-use exemptions. The first is that if it could be argued new information had come to light since his extradition, extra charges could conceivably be brought. “That almost never happens,” says Nick Vamos, the former head of extradition at the Crown Prosecution Service who is a partner at the London law firm Peters and Peters. “American prosecutors would also have to seek the consent of the UK to bring in further charges.”

The second exemption covers what happens after someone has been extradited, convicted and then chooses to remain in the country. Essentially the extraditing country has to allow the prisoner time to run away after they have served their sentence. “After a short period, however, usually two months,” Vamos explained, “anyone who remained in the same country would be deemed to be treated like a local citizen and could be charged for other offences”. Neither conditions are likely to be met in Assange’s case. “The US has only put one charge on the indictment and it carries the maximum term of five years in prison. Assange has the opportunity to assent to it. It’s relatively light sentence by US standards.”

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The Guardian must have a smear piece on Assange of course. This time they apparently could not locate Luke Harding, so they sent his stupid twin Dan Collyns. The two were responsible for the bombshell fake news piece on Manafort visiting Assange.

‘Rude, Ungrateful And Meddling’: Why Ecuador Turned On Assange (G.)

Ecuador’s decision to allow police to arrest Julian Assange inside its embassy on Thursday followed a fraught and acrimonious period in which relations between the government in Quito and the WikiLeaks founder became increasingly hostile. In a presentation before Ecuador’s parliament on Thursday, the foreign minister, José Valencia, set out nine reasons why Assange’s asylum had been withdrawn. The list ranged from meddling in Ecuador’s relations with other countries to having to “put up with his rudeness” for nearly seven years. Valencia said Ecuador had been left with little choice but to end Assange’s stay in its London embassy following his “innumerable acts of interference in the politics of other states” which put at risk the country’s relations with them.

His second point focused on Assange’s behaviour, which stretched from riding a skateboard and playing football inside the small embassy building to mistreating and threatening embassy staff and even coming to blows with security workers. Valencia said the whistleblower and his lawyers had made “insulting threats” against the country, accusing its officials of being pressured by other countries. He said Assange “permanently accused [embassy] staff of spying on and filming him” on behalf of the United States and instead of thanking Ecuador for nearly seven years of asylum he and his entourage launched “an avalanche of criticisms” against the Quito government. He referred also to the guest’s “hygienic” problems including one that was “very unpleasant” and “attributed to a digestive problem”.

But Assange’s deteriorating health was also major concern, the minister said, as he could not be properly treated in the embassy building. He added the fact the UK would not consider granting him safe conduct meant Ecuador faced the prospect of him staying “indefinitely in the diplomatic headquarters”. The minister went on to say Ecuador could not extend asylum to a person fleeing justice and there was no extradition request for Assange when Ecuador ended his asylum. The UK had offered sufficient guarantees of due process to Assange, Valencia added, and that he would not be extradited to a country where he could face torture or the death penalty.

Finally, there were “multiple inconsistencies” in how Assange had been granted Ecuadorean citizenship and his stay had proved very costly, the minister said. Ecuador had spent more $5.8m on its guest’s security between 2012 and 2018 and nearly $400,000 on his medical costs, food and laundry, he added. Ecuador’s president, Lenín Moreno, had made little secret of his desire to evict Assange from the embassy building in Knightsbridge, west London, where he had lived since June 2012. Moreno has variously described Assange as a “hacker”, an “inherited problem” and a “stone in the shoe”.

In a video address on Thursday, he accused Assange of breaching the “generous” asylum conditions offered by Ecuador and of meddling in the internal affairs of other states. Moreno claimed Assange had installed forbidden electronic equipment in the embassy, had mistreated guards and “accessed the security files of our embassy without permission”. The final straw came “two days ago”, Moreno suggested, when WikiLeaks directly “threatened the government of Ecuador”. On Tuesday Assange’s legal team gave a press conference in which they accused Quito of illegally spying on him.

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2 for the price of one.

‘Swedish Software Developer’ Linked To Wikileaks Arrested In Ecuador (RT)

Ecuador’s Interior Minister has confirmed that a person who is alleged to have links to WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange has been arrested as he attempted to take a flight to Japan. She also spoke of two ‘Russian hackers.’ Ecuador’s Interior Minister María Paula Romo said Thursday that a man was taken into custody in one of the airports as he was about to board a plane to Japan. There is little official information about his identity or the reasons for his arrest, with Romo telling a local radio station the individual was arrested on Thursday afternoon for the purposes of investigation. Shortly after Assange’s own arrest in London earlier that day, Romo hinted that the Ecuadorian government is about to unleash a crackdown on Assange’s supposed web of connections on the Ecuadorian soil.

She claimed that a “key” member of WikiLeaks, who is also “close to Julian Assange,” has been a resident of Ecuador for several years and has engaged in malicious activity to undermine the government. “We have sufficient evidence that he has been collaborating with destabilization attempts against the government, ” Romo said. The minister claimed that the individual used to accompany Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Rafael Correa government, Ricardo Patiño, on trips overseas. “Along with Ricardo Patiño he has traveled twice last year to Peru and also to Spain,” she said, adding that the two also took a trip to Venezuela in February this year one day apart.

While the Interior Ministry did not reveal the identity of Assange’s supposed helper, an anonymous official told AP that the arrested man was a Swedish software developer by the name of Ola Bini, a resident of Ecuador’s capital Quito. Bini appears to run a Twitter account under his own name, which is filled with reposts of news developments surrounding Assange around the time of the publisher’s arrest. Bini also retweeted the news about Romo announcing that a person who is “part of WikiLeaks” is living in Ecuador. He called “very worrisome” her remark that the information on the individual and the “two Russian hackers” might be soon handed over to prosecution. That was the accounts last tweet before going silent for 14 hours at the time of writing.

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Yeah, the story of Assange working for Trump is pretty much done. But they’ll just make him Putin’s puppet and keep smearing.

Yet Another Conspiracy Theory Died Today (ZH)

It bears repeating, given the nearly past three years of ‘Russiagate’ collusion hysteria which focused heavily and uncritically on the role of WikiLeaks in both Hillary’s defeat and the rise of Trump, and centrally the “Russian connection” supposedly tying it all together: there seems yet more daily and weekly evidence demonstrating how absurd the claims were and are. With Thursday’s dramatic UK arrest of WikiLeaks founder and leader Julian Assange, revealed to be based largely on a US extradition request, which we’ve all now learned has been pursued for the past two years by the Trump Department of Justice, another conspiracy theory bites the dust.


Journalist Aaron Maté points out “over the last 2 years, just as Maddow et al were feverishly speculating that Trump and Assange secretly conspired, Trump’s DOJ was secretly trying to extradite Assange.” So much of it continues to unravel. Maté continues: “The conspiracy theory never slowed even after Roger Stone’s indictment revealed that a) Trump camp had no advance knowledge of WL releases b) they tried to find out from Stone, who also had no advance knowledge. Maté adds that further “Stone had no such knowledge because he had no actual contact to WikiLeaks.”

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She doth protest too much?!

Democrats Call AG Barr’s ‘Spying’ Claim Conspiracy Theory (RT)

The very same congressional Democrats who maintain ‘Russiagate’ was real are denouncing Attorney General William Barr’s claim there was improper surveillance of the Trump campaign as a conspiracy theory. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) demanded of Barr to retract his statement, made earlier on Wednesday, that “spying did occur” during the 2016 presidential campaign. Barr “must retract his statement immediately or produce specific evidence to back it up. Perpetuating conspiracy theories is beneath the office of the Attorney General,” Schumer tweeted. House Democrats were also pushing the “conspiracy theory” talking point on Wednesday, with Judiciary Committee chair Jerry Nadler (D-New York) contrasting it to what he said was fact of Russiagate, and Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff (D-California) calling it “another destructive blow to our democratic institutions.”


Though he was supposed to testify about the Department of Justice’s 2020 budget, Barr found himself answering questions about the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which he said showed no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Unwilling to give up the conspiracy theory they’ve pushed for almost three years, Democrats are demanding Barr release the full, unredacted Mueller report. “I don’t trust Barr, I trust Mueller,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) told AP. “He is acting as an employee of the president,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland). “I believe the Attorney General believes he needs to protect the president of the United States.”

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Haven’t heard from DBRS in a while.

Shadow Banking Is Now A $52 Trillion Industry (CNBC)

Nonbank lending, an industry that played a central role in the financial crisis, has been expanding rapidly and is still posing risks should credit conditions deteriorate. Often called “shadow banking” — a term the industry does not embrace — these institutions helped fuel the crisis by providing lending to underqualified borrowers and by financing some of the exotic investment instruments that collapsed when subprime mortgages fell apart. The companies face less regulation than traditional banks and thus have been associated with higher levels of risk. In the years since the crisis, global shadow banks have seen their assets grow to $52 trillion, a 75% jump from the level in 2010, the year after the crisis ended.


The asset level is through 2017, according to bond ratings agency DBRS, citing data from the Financial Stability Board. The U.S. still makes up the biggest part of the sector with 29% or $15 trillion in assets, though its share of the global pie has fallen. China has seen particularly strong growth, with its $8 trillion in assets good for 16% of the total share. Within shadow banking, the biggest growth area has been “collective investment vehicles,” a term that encompasses many bond funds, hedge funds, money markets and mixed funds. The group has seen its assets explode by 130% to $36.7 trillion. It poses particular danger because of its volatility and susceptibility to “runs” and is part of the “significant risks” DBRS sees from the industry.

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Groundhog.

May Hopes For Final Shot At Forcing Withdrawal Deal Through Parliament (Ind.)

Theresa May has paved the way for a final shot at pushing a Brexit deal through the House of Commons ahead of European elections in May. The prime minister and her aides repeatedly highlighted that the country could avoid the ignominy of electing British MEPs to the European parliament if the Commons passes a deal in the coming weeks.= It would also mean Britain would not need the full extension of the Article 50 negotiating period until 31 October offered by European leaders last night – a proposal that saw Tory Brexiteers demand Ms May resign on Thursday. No 10 said talks with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour to find a compromise that might enjoy a Commons majority would not continue “for the sake of it”, in a sign they are not progressing.


Officials underlined the PM’s desire to bring a series of options before MPs for voting – including her original withdrawal deal – if talks with Mr Corbyn collapse. Having to take part in European elections on 23 May would be a humiliation for the prime minister, with her spokesman refusing to even say on Thursday that she would campaign. In a Commons statement following Wednesday’s EU summit, Ms May insisted it is still possible Britain could avoid voting in the elections if MPs pass a deal before then. She added: “The choices we face are stark and the timetable is clear. I believe we must now press on at pace with our efforts to reach a consensus on a deal that is in the national interest.”

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6,000 people were working on it.

UK Government ‘Halts No-Deal Planning’ After Committing £4 Billion (Ind.)

The government has halted all emergency planning for a no-deal Brexit despite committing £4bn to preparations, according to reports. A leaked email reportedly sent to all civil servants in an unnamed “front line Brexit department” said no-deal operational planning had been suspended with “immediate effect”. The decision was made by cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill, according to the email seen by Sky News. Downing Street said departments were taking “sensible decisions” about the timing of their no-deal preparations following the agreement by EU leaders to extend the Article 50 withdrawal process to 31 October. However the move is likely to infuriate Tory Brexiteers already angry at the latest delay to Britain’s departure from the EU.


The government has committed a staggering £4bn to no-deal preparations, but some MPs believe the six-month extension shows Theresa May was never prepared to countenance leaving without a deal. Former Brexit minister Steve Baker, who is now deputy chairman of the pro-Brexit European Research Group, accused the government of acting out of “sheer spite”. “Officials have worked exceptionally hard to deliver our preparedness and deserve better,” he tweeted. According to Sky, the email said: “In common with the rest of government, we have stood down our no-deal operational planning with immediate effect.

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“..some smaller businesses “won’t survive” the delay because they had ploughed resources into planning for a spring Brexit.”

IMF Says Brexit Delay Means Businesses Face More Uncertainty (G.)

The decision to extend the UK’s Brexit deadline will mean another six months of uncertainty for business, the head of the International Monetary Fund has warned. Christine Lagarde, the IMF’s managing director, said that while she welcomed the fact that Britain would not leave the EU without a deal on Friday, nothing had been resolved. The decision gave more time for discussions between the political parties and for companies to prepare for all options, Lagarde said. “On the other hand, it is obvious it is continued uncertainty. And it does not resolve, other than by postponing what would have been a terrible outcome.”


The IMF said earlier this week that leaving the EU without a deal risked pushing the UK into a two-year recession. UK business leaders have warned the government against wasting the Brexit extension, sounding the alarm that another deadlock in six months’ time would inflict renewed damage on the UK economy. Stephen Phipson, the chief executive of the manufacturing lobby group Make UK, said some smaller businesses “won’t survive” the delay because they had ploughed resources into planning for a spring Brexit. Businesses lower down the manufacturing supply chain have been forced to borrow money to pay for stockpiling. The extra burden of financing their lending for another six months could push some companies under, he said.

Read more …

Jan 012018
 


Happy New Year Bill Watterson

 

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US Dollar Refuses to Die as Top Global Reserve Currency (WS)
The Rise And Fall Of The Eurodollar (ZH)
Behind Korea, Iran & Russia Tensions: The Lurking Financial War (Crooke)
Polanyi Best Explains Trump, Brexit And The Failure Of Neoliberalism (Prime)
UK Government Relies On Rising Household Debt To Hit Targets – Labour (G.)
‘Desperate Times’ For Overcrowded British Hospitals (PA)
China’s Growth Engine Stutters As Factories Slow Down (G.)
Greece Dismisses Turkey’s Threats Over Asylum Row (GR)
Greece: Turkish Soldiers Won’t Be Extradited Regardless Of Asylum Process (K.)
UK ‘Faces Build-Up Of Plastic Waste’ (BBC)

 

 

The graphs seem to say it all: the demise of the dollar (and petrodollar, eurodollar -dollars held outside US-) has been greatly exaggerated.

US Dollar Refuses to Die as Top Global Reserve Currency (WS)

Over the decades, there have been a number of efforts to deflate the dollar’s hegemony as a global reserve currency, which it has maintained since World War II. Some of these efforts – such as the creation of the euro – have made a visible dent into the dollar’s status. Other efforts have essentially passed unnoticed. Now there’s a new contender: the Chinese yuan. On December 31, the IMF released its report on the Currency Composition of Official Foreign Exchange Reserves (COFER) for Q3 2017. So how has the US dollar fared as the top world reserve currency, now that the Chinese yuan has also been anointed as one, and that the euro has emerged from its debt crisis? First things, first. The IMF doesn’t really disclose all that much. The COFER data for the individual countries – the level of their reserve currencies and how they allocate them – is “strictly confidential,” it says.

So what we get to look at is the global allocation by currency. Total global foreign exchange reserves rose to $11.3 billion in Q3 2017, within the range of the past three years, between $10.7 trillion (Q4 2016) and $11.8 trillion (Q3, 2014). But something is happening to “allocated reserves.” Not all central banks disclose to the IMF how their foreign exchange reserves are allocated. In Q3 2017, 14.6% of the reserves hadn’t been allocated. But this number is plunging. In Q3 2014, just three years ago, it was still 41.2%. This means that more and more central banks report to the IMF their allocation of foreign exchange reserves, and the COFER is getting broader.

So of the 85.4% of the officially “allocated” reserve currencies in Q3 2017: • US dollar: 63.5% share, down from 64.6% in Q3 2014. • Euro: 20% share, down from 22.6% in Q3 2014. • Yen: 4.5% share, up from 3.6% in Q3 2014. • Pound Sterling: 4.5% share, up from 3.75% in Q3 2014. The Australian and Canadian dollars had a share of 1.8% and 2.0% respectively. • The Chinese yuan – that thin red sliver in the chart below – had a share of 1.1%, up from 1.08% in the prior three quarters, and up from zero before then. • The Swiss franc, the hair-fine black line in the chart below, has a share of 0.2%. • And a number of “other” currencies have a combined share of 2.4%.

The Chinese yuan made its entry after IMF boss Christine Lagarde and the IMF staff declared in mid-November 2015 that they were gung-ho about adding it to the IMF’s currency basket, the Special Drawing Rights (SDR), which is an important step toward becoming a major global reserve currency. At the end of November 2015, it was approved by the board. And it took effect in October 2016. Sure enough, in Q4 2016, the Chinese yuan started showing up in the COFER data as a global reserve currency with a share of 1.08%. But rather than soaring, it didn’t move at all over the first two quarters in 2017. And in Q3, it ticked up to a still minuscule 1.1%. Central banks do not appear to be overeager to hold this currency in large amounts. The chart below shows the changes since Q3 2014. The black line at the top is the US dollar – its hegemony unbroken.

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Russia experienced dollar shortages with oil prices still at $95 a barrel. It can’t do without dollars. Maybe sometime in the future, but that may well be a long time away.

The Rise And Fall Of The Eurodollar (ZH)

Gromen, who largely sat out this segment, offers a few thoughts toward the end that add to the picture of weakness defining the contemporary eurodollar system. Looking back to the summer of 2014, Gromen posits that the largest oil exporters were able to maintain current account surpluses because they’d already started settling an increasing percentage of their oil sales in dollars.

“It’s interesting, Jeff and Mark (this is Luke of course) when you look back to September – and we put this in our slide deck (which we can touch on later) – but if you look back at the actual timing of events it’s kind of interesting. And it’s, to me it hints to motive. So I’d love to get your thought on it, Jeff or Mark, of – if you go back to August of 2014, actually back even to May of ‘14, you had the Holy Grail gas and energy deal signed between China and Russia. It was rumored that that deal was going to be done in non-dollars, but no proof of that. It was later proven to be the case. In August of 2014, Putin announced that they wanted to start moving away from the dollar in oil trade, because the dollar’s monopoly in the global energy trade was damaging their economy.

And, what’s kind of interesting – and we wrote about this at the time – at this point oil is still $100 a barrel. And then, all of a sudden, by late September, with oil still $96 a barrel, $95 a barrel, Russia’s having dollar shortages. Russia was still – and they weren’t the only ones – Venezuela, Ecuador, a couple of others – you have three major oil exporters that are running still current account surpluses in the low- to mid-single digits at this point, starting to run into dollar shortages. And it was, I think, an underappreciated point at the time that, basically, if you’re an oil exporter you’re only selling in dollars, you’re running a current account surplus.

And so, if you’re only selling in dollars, in theory, there’s only two explanations for that, for those dollar shortages that began to pop up well before the price of oil crashed. Which was (#1) Russia and other places got dramatically more corrupt in the three months versus the three months before. Or they were starting to sell energy at an accelerating rate in non-dollar terms. And, as a result, you were seeing – where you were getting $100 before, now you were getting whatever, $90, $80, whatever the mix was. And at that point, then you started to see some of the devaluations etc. I guess I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.”

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Alastair Crooke also looks at the dollar demise.

Behind Korea, Iran & Russia Tensions: The Lurking Financial War (Crooke)

What have the tensions between the US and North Korea, Iran and Russia in common? Answer: It is that they are components to a wider financial war. Russia and Iran (together with China) happen to be the three key players shaping a huge (almost half the global population) alternative currency zone. The North Korean issue is important as it potentially may precipitate the US – depending on events – towards a more aggressive policy toward China (whether out of anger at Chinese hesitations over Korea, or as part and parcel of the US Administration’s desire to clip China’s trading wings). The US has embarked on a project to restore America’s economic primacy through suppressing its main trade competitors (through quasi-protectionism), and in the military context to ensure America’s continued political dominance.

The US ‘America First’ National Security Strategy made it plain: China and Russia are America’s ‘revisionist’ adversaries, and the US must and intends to win in this competition. The sub-text is that potential main rivals must be reminded of their ‘place’ in the global order. This part is clear and quite explicit, but what is left unsaid is that America is staking all on the dollar’s global, reserve currency status being maintained, for without it, President Trump’s aims are unlikely to be delivered. The dollar status is crucial – precisely because of what has occurred in the wake of the Great Financial crisis – the explosion of further debt. But here is a paradox: how is it that a Presidential Candidate who promised less military belligerence, less foreign intervention, and no western cultural-identity imposition, has, in the space of one year, become, as President, a hawk in respect to Korea and Iran.

What changed in his thinking? The course being pursued by both states was well-known, and has offered no sudden surprise (though North Korea’s progress may have proved quantitatively more rapid than, perhaps, US Intelligence was expecting: i.e. instead of 2020 – 2021, North Korea may have achieved its weapons objective in 2018 – some two years or so earlier that estimated)? But essentially Korea’s desire to be accepted as a nuclear weapon state is nothing new. It is ‘the Federal debt’, and a pending ‘debt ceiling’ that is crucial. There is little doubt that the US military is not what it used to be, and the Republican Party possesses a wing that is quite fundamentalist about limiting debt (Freedom Caucus). A serious military crisis is possibly the only way Trump is likely to get a huge ramp-up of military expenditure past Congress’ fiscal hawks.

President Trump – the Tax Bill saga tells us — is going to be a big spender as part of MAGA (Make America Great Again). The increase in proposed US defence spending alone, more or less equates to the whole annual Russian defence spending. US Federal debt is already above $20 Trillion, and accelerating fast: the borrowing requirement is ballooning and interest payments to service this additional borrowing, normally would be expected to rise. But Trump is also explicitly a low interest rate, expanding balance-sheet, sort of guy. So, how does one finance a truly ballooning budget deficit, whilst keeping interest rates low, or at zero? Well a fear-driven rush by foreigners into ‘risk free’ US Treasuries (i.e. military crisis again), historically serves to keep rates low – and dollars plentiful — as ‘overseas dollars’ return ‘home’ to Wall Street.

Read more …

No sure why economists et al have such a hard time understanding why limitless liberalization must by definition backfire.

Polanyi Best Explains Trump, Brexit And The Failure Of Neoliberalism (Prime)

It’s good to see the latest (21 December) New York Review of Books give space to a review – by Robert Kuttner of American Prospect– of a biography of “Karl Polanyi: a Life on the Left” by Gareth Dale. For as we have been arguing for a long time, it was Polanyi who better than any other historian/analyst got to the heart of the contradictions of free market globalised liberalism, and saw that it was such economic liberalism, pushed too far, that is likely to lead to authoritarian, or even fascist, outcomes. As Kuttner puts it, “Global capitalism has escaped the bounds of the postwar mixed economy that had reconciled dynamism with security through the regulation of finance, the empowerment of labor, a welfare state, and elements of public ownership”.

The outcome is extreme inequality and instability. However, as Kuttner reminds, “We have been here before. During the period between the two world wars, free-market liberals governing Britain, France, and the US tried to restore the pre–World War I laissez-faire system. They resurrected the gold standard and put war debts and reparations ahead of economic recovery. It was an era of free trade and rampant speculation, with no controls on private capital. The result was a decade of economic insecurity ending in depression, a weakening of parliamentary democracy, and fascist backlash. Right up until the German election of July 1932, when the Nazis became the largest party in the Reichstag, the pre-Hitler governing coalition was practicing the economic austerity commended by Germany’s creditors.”

It was these extremist policies of free market liberalism that Polanyi dissected in his most famous work, “The Great Transformation”, published in 1944. The worst consequences were in Germany and other continental European states, but declining imperial Britain was still the heart of ultra-liberal ideology. I am currently reading David Kynaston’s rambling History of the Bank of England, which sets out the disgraceful pressure that Governor Montagu Norman and the City of London put on elected governments to return to the Gold Standard (at the pre-war rate) and impose harsh austerity, with terrible economic consequences. [..] “[T]he simple proposition that all factors of production must have free markets implies in practice that the whole of society must be subordinated to the needs of the market system.” We see Polanyi’s key insight – in the essays and in the later book – as encapsulated in these passages:

“The real nature of the dangers thus become apparent which are inseparable from the market-utopia. For the sake of society the market mechanism must be restricted. But this cannot be done without grave peril to economic life and therefore to society as a whole. We are caught up on the horns of a dilemma: – either to continue on the paths of a utopia bound for destruction, or to halt on this path and risk the throwing out of gear of this marvellous but extremely artificial system.” “A self-regulating market-system is a utopia. No society could stand its devastating effects once it got really going. Hardly had laissez-faire started when the State and voluntary organizations intervened to protect society through factory laws, Trade Union and Church action from the mechanism of the market.”

Read more …

All western countries do. It’s why interest rates are so low.

UK Government Relies On Rising Household Debt To Hit Targets – Labour (G.)

John McDonnell has accused the government of relying on millions of British families going further into debt in order to meet Treasury targets. The shadow chancellor said families were set to borrow £445bn by the end of the parliament. He also highlighted official figures showing the ratio between household debt and income had reached a five-year high, with forecasts suggesting it will hit 150% by 2022. That means families will have amassed debts worth a year and a half’s income – which Labour warned could result in people falling into financial difficulties. McDonnell is planning for the Labour party to focus heavily on the question of household debt as part of its new year strategy. “The alarming increase in household debt at a time when wages are not keeping up with prices is creating the perfect storm for our economy,” McDonnell told the Guardian.

“There needs to be more done to protect working households from extortionate rates of interest, and also ensure that their earnings are not being squeezed just so Philip Hammond can pretend to meet his own targets, which he has so far failed to meet.” The Labour frontbencher said his party had already promised to cap interest on insecure lending, but would be unveiling a string of further interventions in 2018 about how to protect households from burgeoning debt. He has described the situation as a “personal debt crisis” with levels of unsecured borrowing predicted to hit a record of £19,000 per household by the end of this parliament. Analysis from Labour shows unsecured debt is on course to exceed £15,000 per household next year and could go on to exceed £19,000 per household by 2022 if it follows the current trajectory.

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They had an excellent health care service. Those days are gone. The poor have become expendable.

‘Desperate Times’ For Overcrowded British Hospitals (PA)

Pressures on the NHS have “escalated rapidly” over the festive period, with hospitals experiencing significant bed shortages, a leading doctor has warned. Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine (SAM), said many hospitals reported more than 99% capacity in the week before Christmas. He said services are being placed under significant strain as they enter the new year and called for non-urgent operations to be postponed until at least the end of January. Doctors have described corridors overflowing with patients and used social media in a bid to find extra staff to cope with demand. Portsmouth hospitals NHS trust, in Hampshire, tweeted on Sunday: “The hospital is extremely busy at the moment and we are asking any medical or nursing staff available for a shift tonight or tomorrow to make contact.”

Epsom and St Helier University hospitals trust, in London, also appealed for staff to work on New Year’s Eve “due to sickness and high volumes of patients”. Dr Richard Fawcett, from the Royal Stoke University hospital, wrote on Saturday that it had run out corridor space in A&E after ambulances were diverted from County hospital, Stafford. NHS England said hospitals were “generally coping”, with overall bed occupancy levels down from 95% in the lead-up to Christmas to about 93%. Scriven said: “Since the bank holiday, things have escalated rapidly and we are on the cusp of a major issue at least as bad as last year when it was described by the Red Cross as a humanitarian crisis. “There is an awful lot of respiratory illness causing a lot of severe symptoms in the old and young and 10- to 12-hour delays in emergency departments are now not uncommon – along with patients being placed on inappropriate wards.”

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Good story for 2018.

China’s Growth Engine Stutters As Factories Slow Down (G.)

Growth in China’s manufacturing sector slowed in December as a punishing crackdown on air pollution and a cooling property market start to weigh on the world’s second-largest economy. The data supports the view that the Chinese economy is beginning to gradually lose steam after growing by a forecast-beating 6.9% in the first nine months of the year. However, signs of a sharper slowdown – a major fear among global investors – have yet to materialise. The official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) released on Sunday dipped to 51.6 in December, down from 51.8 in November and in line with forecasts from economists in a Reuters poll. The 50-point level divides growth from contraction on a monthly basis. The figures showed that China’s full-year 2017 economic growth would be at about 6.9% and 6.5% for 2018, according to the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing, which compiles the data.

Boosted by hefty government infrastructure spending, a resilient property market and unexpected strength in exports, China’s manufacturing and industrial firms have driven solid economic growth this year, with their strong appetite for raw materials boosting global commodity prices. However, a slowdown has started to take hold in the last few months due to a wide-ranging combination of government measures, from a crackdown on smog in some heavily industrialised provinces to continued curbs on the housing market, which are weighing on property investment. Chinese steelmakers in 28 cities have been ordered to curb output between mid-November and mid-March, while a campaign to promote cleaner energy by converting coal to natural gas has also hampered manufacturing activity in some cities, leading to shortages and price rises.

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Any politician seen as giving in to Turkish strong-arming faces a huge problem at home. Long history and all that.

Greece Dismisses Turkey’s Threats Over Asylum Row (GR)

Greece dismissed Turkish angry threats on Sunday over its decision to grant asylum to a soldier who Ankara accuses of involvement in the abortive coup against President Tayyip Erdogan in July 2016. Turkey said on Saturday the decision by a Greek asylum board undermined relations between the two countries. The soldier was one of eight who fled after the July 15 coup attempt. It also accused Athens of harbouring “coup plotters”, a charge Greece denies. Turkey also threatened that the incident would affect bilateral relations over a host of issues from ethnically split Cyprus to sovereignty over airspace. The asylum board rejected the applications by the other seven soldiers, and the Greek government has appealed the decision to grant the soldier asylum and sought its annulment.

The government announcement that it will appeal the decision has caused a minor political storm, with opposition parties accusing the PM of hypocrisy and of bowing to Turkish threats. the row began when the government added to its appeal release that the country’s judiciary is independent. “Our faith in democratic principles and practices is not a weakness, but a source of strength,” the Greek foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday. “Democracies do not threaten, or can be threatened,” the foreign ministry said. “On the contrary, they work responsibly and methodically to promote understanding and entrench stability and good neighbourly relations. Greece will continue this path and hopes its neighbours will do the same.” The eight soldiers had flown by helicopter to Greece in the early hours of July 16, 2016, as the attempted coup against Erdogan crumbled. They have denied any involvement in the attempt.

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Erdogan is not going to like this one.

Greece: Turkish Soldiers Won’t Be Extradited Regardless Of Asylum Process (K.)

Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos has said the eight Turkish soldiers wanted by Ankara in connection with a failed coup attempt in 2016 “will not be extradited regardless of the outcome of their asylum applications.” In a message posted on social media late Sunday, Tzanakopoulos said the asylum claims submitted by the soldiers concerns their granting of refugee status. “This is a completely different from their non-extradition,” he said. Turkey said on Saturday the decision by a Greek asylum board to grant asylum to one of the eight soldiers undermined relations between the two countries. It also accused Athens of harboring “coup plotters.”

On Sunday, Tzanakopoulos said it was up to the Greek justice system to decide if the suspect in question is entitled to refugee protection, “in light of the enormous political significance of the issue which directly impacts on relations with the neighboring country.” “The political position of the Greek government is nevertheless clear,” Tzanakopoulos said. “Those suspected of being involved in Turkey’s coup are not welcome.”

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It’s not as if this is a British issue. Just refuse to use all the packaging etc.

UK ‘Faces Build-Up Of Plastic Waste’ (BBC)

The UK’s recycling industry says it doesn’t know how to cope with a Chinese ban on imports of plastic waste. Britain has been shipping up to 500,000 tonnes of plastic for recycling in China every year, but now the trade has been stopped. At the moment the UK cannot deal with much of that waste, says the UK Recycling Association. Its chief executive, Simon Ellin, told the BBC he had no idea how the problem would be solved in the short term. “It’s a huge blow for us… a game-changer for our industry,” he said. “We’ve relied on China so long for our waste… 55% of paper, 25% plus of plastics. “We simply don’t have the markets in the UK. It’s going to mean big changes in our industry.”

China has introduced the ban from this month on “foreign garbage” as part of a move to upgrade its industries. Other Asian nations will take some of the plastic, but there will still be a lot left. Environment Secretary Michael Gove has admitted that he was slow to spot the problem coming. The UK organisation Recoup, which recycles plastics, said the imports ban would lead to stock-piling of plastic waste and a move towards incineration and landfill. Peter Fleming, from the Local Government Association, told the BBC: “Clearly there’s a part to play for incineration but not all parts of the country have incinerators.

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Jan 272017
 
 January 27, 2017  Posted by at 10:11 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Kathimerini Trump and Evolution Jan 25 2017

Theresa May: US and UK Will No Longer Invade Foreign Countries (Ind.)
Donald Trump’s Plan For China Relations Is To Be Unpredictable (G.)
Wave Of US State Department Personnel Resign, Are Fired (ZH)
How America Could Collapse (Nation)
Outrage Dilution (Adams)
How America Lost Its Identity – Megalomania & Small-Mindedness (Spiegel)
Obama Bequeaths A More Dangerous World (Parry)
China’s Shadow Banking Crusade Risks Bond Market Crash (R.)
China’s Army of Global Homebuyers Is Suddenly Short on Cash (BBG)
Lurching Towards the New Paradigm (Art+M)
Greece Creditors Demand Legislation Of Reforms For 2018-19 (Kath.)
Greek Supreme Court Rules Against Extraditing Eight Turkish Soldiers (WSJ)
EU Looks To Camps In Africa To Cut Immigration (R.)
Europe’s Crackdown On African Immigration Is Hitting Vulnerable Refugees (G.)
EU’s Mishandled Millions Not Reaching Refugees (DW)

 

 

If it could only be true. Between this from Theresa May, and the disappearance of Victoria Nuland, not such a bad day. But I find it hard to go through all the ‘serious’ press who report on things like the US spelling Theresa without the ‘h’. Is that worth paying a journalist for? That’s the best you got? Then again, I did like the person on twitter pointing out that Teresa May is the name of a pornstar, and wondering who Trump thought he was going to meet.

Theresa May: US and UK Will No Longer Invade Foreign Countries (Ind.)

Britain and the US will never again invade sovereign foreign countries “in an attempt to make the world in their own image,” Theresa May told Republican policymakers in Philadelphia. The Prime Minister vowed never to repeat the “failed policies of the past” in reference to Western military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, breaking from the “liberal intervention” principle established by Tony Blair. Referencing the “special relationship” between the UK and US, Ms May also stressed the importance of cooperation between the two countries to meet their “obligations of leadership” and “stand up for our interests”. “It is in our interests – those of Britain and America together – to stand strong together to defend our values, our interests and the very ideas in which we believe,” she said.

“This cannot mean a return to the failed policies of the past. The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over.” However she called for “strong, smart and hard-headed” actions to stand up for Western principles, adding: “Nor can we afford to stand idly by when the threat is real and when it is in our own interests to intervene.” She also pledged support to Mr Trump in the continued fight against the “new enemies of the west and our values”. Ms May said it was a “priority” to push back on “Iran’s aggressive efforts” to increase its “arc of influence from Tehran through to the Mediterranean”. However, she defended the nuclear deal brokered by Barack Obama despite threats from Mr Trump that he would rip up the agreement, saying it had been successful in neutralising a potential threat. [..] “With President Putin, my advice is to engage but beware.”

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What’s that worth if you announce it, though?

Donald Trump’s Plan For China Relations Is To Be Unpredictable (G.)

Donald Trump’s game plan for relations with China is to use unpredictability as a means of wrong-footing the country’s Communist party leaders and extracting economic concessions, a prominent adviser has said. Since his election, Trump and his team have repeatedly discombobulated the Chinese government with a series of interventions on sensitive issues such as the South China Sea, US relations with Taiwan and China’s alleged manipulation of its currency, the yuan. Those moves have unsettled and angered Beijing, which had expected Trump to tone down his anti-China rhetoric after his victory. In an interview with China’s state-run broadcaster, Michael Pillsbury, a former Pentagon official and longtime China scholar, suggested Trump’s decision to repeatedly tweak Beijing’s nose was part of a calculated strategy.

The US president believed the Chinese were “the best negotiators in the whole world, so to get an advantage he wants to be unpredictable in the eyes of the Chinese government,” Pillsbury told CGTN, an international mouthpiece for the Chinese government that was formerly called CCTV. “I think he has succeeded in this, don’t you?” Pillsbury, a fluent Mandarin speaker who is known for his contacts within China’s People’s Liberation Army and has been advising Trump’s team, said the president had outlined this strategy in his most recent book, Great Again: How To Fix Our Crippled America. In it Trump writes: “The element of surprise wins battles. So I don’t tell the other side what I’m doing, I don’t warn them, and I don’t let them fit me comfortably into a predictable pattern … I like being unpredictable. It keeps them off balance.”

In a chapter on foreign policy, Trump accuses his predecessors of “rolling over” for Beijing and hints it will be one of the main targets of his strategy. “There are people who wish I wouldn’t refer to China as our enemy. But that’s exactly what they are,” Trump writes. China specialists on both sides of the Pacific fear relations between Beijing and Washington could deteriorate rapidly under Trump, increasing the risks of a potentially calamitous great power conflict. However, Pillsbury, who has written a book about a supposed Chinese plot to become the world’s preeminent military, political and economic power by 2049, claimed ties could warm. “I say the road to making America great again runs through Beijing,” he told CGTN, calling for greater Chinese investment in the US.

“It can be win-win. I think it will be win-win,” Pillsbury said, using one of the favourite phrases of Chinese diplomats. Another China scholar who is understood to have offered advice to Trump’s team also said this week that he believed an improved relationship was on the cards. “I don’t quite understand why people seem to be operating under the assumption that the relationship with China was good and now all of a sudden it is going to change to be less good,” Daniel Blumenthal, the director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute told the Guardian.

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Bit confusing who left of their own accord and who got a pink slip. Been a thorough clean-up. Getting rid of Victoria Nuland is worth just about any price.

Wave Of US State Department Personnel Resign, Are Fired (ZH)

Update: according to a CNN report – so as always take with lots of salt – the story has shifted materially, because according to two senior administration officials, it wasn’t a resignation by the State Department officials, but more of a termination: “the Trump administration told four top State Department management officials that their services were no longer needed as part of an effort to “clean house” at Foggy Bottom.”

Patrick Kennedy, who served for nine years as the undersecretary for management, Assistant Secretaries for Administration and Consular Affairs Michele Bond and Joyce Anne Barr, and Ambassador Gentry Smith, director of the Office for Foreign Missions, were sent letters by the White House that their service was no longer required, the sources told CNN. All four, career officers serving in positions appointed by the President, submitted letters of resignation per tradition at the beginning of a new administration. The letters from the White House said that their resignations were accepted and they were thanked for their service.

The White House usually asks career officials in such positions to stay on for a few months until their successors are confirmed. “Any implication that that these four people quit is wrong,” one senior State Department official said. “These people are loyal to the secretary, the President and to the State Department. There is just not any attempt here to dis the President. People are not quitting and running away in disgust. This is the White House cleaning house.” Mark Toner, the State Department’s acting spokesman, said in a statement that “These positions are political appointments, and require the President to nominate and the Senate to confirm them in these roles. They are not career appointments but of limited term.”

A second official echoed that the move appeared to be an effort by the new administration to “clean house” among the State Department’s top leadership. “The department will not collapse,” the second official said. “Everyone has good deputies. It’s a huge institutional loss, but the department has excellent subordinates and the career people will step up. They will take up the responsibility.” Victoria Nuland, the State Department’s assistant secretary for Europe, was also not asked to stay on. The following org charts breaks out the unfilled appointee positions, in blue, while the red crosses show the resignations.

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America has killed its resilience and redundancy, its back-up system. All western nations have. Best argument for protectionism: produce your own essentials.

How America Could Collapse (Nation)

A few months ago, a friend in the entertainment industry told me of a new business model in Hollywood: hoarding videotapes. Apparently, the earthquake in Japan knocked offline a Sony factory that makes certain types of tape. That factory was also in the tsunami zone, so now there’s a serious tape shortage threatening the television industry. The NBA scrambled to get enough tape to broadcast the NBA finals; one executive told the Hollywood Reporter, “It’s like a bank run.” In the last few years, economists have spent a lot of time and energy thinking about bank runs. A bank run happens when depositors think a bank is weak and scramble to get their money out before it collapses. “Tight coupling” of financial institutions, like when banks are overly dependent on each other, can create a cascading series of problems for the system itself.

We saw this with Lehman Brothers when it went bankrupt. Its AAA-rated debt instruments lost value unexpectedly; that caused money market funds that held those presumably safe bonds to suddenly lose value. A shadow bank run was the result, as investors rushed to withdraw from the money market funds. Worryingly, there’s been very little consideration of how systemic collapses can happen in another, perhaps more dangerous realm—the industrial supply system that keeps us in everything from medicine to food to cars to, yes, videotape. In 2004, for instance, England closed one single factory, which caused the United States to lose half of its flu vaccine supply. Barry Lynn of the New America Foundation has been studying industrial supply shocks since 1999, when he noticed that global computer chip production was concentrated in Taiwan.

After a severe earthquake in that country, the global computer industry nearly shut down, crashing the stocks of large computer makers. This level of concentration of the production of key components in a globalized economy is a new phenomenon. Lynn’s work points to the highly dangerous side of globalization, the flip side of a hyper-efficient global supply chain. When one link in that chain is broken, there is no fallback. Lynn has continued to study industrial supply shocks and says, “What I have found most interesting recently is the apparent role supply chain shocks played in triggering a synchronized slowdown of industrial economies in April—production down (in USA, China, Europe, Southeast Asia), jobs down, demand down, GDP numbers down—due almost entirely to the loss of a single factory that makes microcontroller chips for cars.”

[..] There’s a good amount of grumbling about the state of American infrastructure—collapsing bridges, high-speed rail, etc. But American infrastructure is not just about public goods, it’s about how the corporations that enforce, inform and organize economic activity are themselves organized. Are they doing productive research? Are they spreading knowledge and know-how to people who will use it responsibly? Are they creating prosperity or extracting wealth using raw power? And most importantly, are they contributing to the robustness of our society, such that we can survive and thrive in the normal course of emergencies? The answer to all of these questions right now is “no.” And while this may not be hitting the elite segments of the economy right now, there will be no escape from a flu pandemic or significant food shortage. The re-engineering of our global supply chain needs to happen—and it will happen, either through good leadership or through collapse.

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As much as people may dislike Scott Adams, he has a story to tell that many do not understand but should.

Outrage Dilution (Adams)

I’m having a fun time watching President Trump flood the news cycle with so many stories and outrages that no one can keep up. Here’s how the math of persuasion works in this situation: 1 outrage out of 3 headlines in a week: Bad Persuasion. 25 outrages out of 25 headlines in a week: Excellent Persuasion. At the moment there are so many outrages, executive orders, protests, and controversies that none of them can get enough oxygen in our brains. I can’t obsess about problem X because the rest of the alphabet is coming at me at the same time. When you encounter a situation that is working great except for one identifiable problem, you can focus on the problem and try to fix it. But if you have a dozen complaints at the same time, none of them looks special. The whole situation just looks confusing, and you don’t know where to start. So you wait and see what happens.

Humans need contrast in order to make solid decisions that turn into action. Trump removed all of your contrast by providing multiple outrages of similar energy. You’re probably seeing the best persuasion you will ever see from a new president. Instead of dribbling out one headline at a time, so the vultures and critics can focus their fire, Trump has flooded the playing field. You don’t know where to aim your outrage. He’s creating so many opportunities for disagreement that it’s mentally exhausting. Literally. He’s wearing down the critics, replacing their specific complaints with entire encyclopedias of complaints. And when Trump has created a hundred reasons to complain, do you know what impression will be left with the public? He sure got a lot done. Even if you don’t like it. In only a few days, Trump has made us question what-the-hell every other president was doing during their first weeks in office. Were they even trying?

For a fun party trick, ask your most liberal friends if they think the Federal government should have a say in whether a woman gets an abortion or not. When they say the Federal government should stay out of that decision, inform them that President Trump shares their opinion. He doesn’t want the Federal government to be in the business of making health care choices for women. He prefers leaving that decision to the woman, her doctor, and state laws.

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Not bad at all from Der Spiegel.

How America Lost Its Identity – Megalomania & Small-Mindedness (Spiegel)

On a frigid January evening one year ago, I was standing in a line of around 1,000 people in Burlington, Vermont, to see Donald Trump. I reported my very first story on the United States in 1991 and had been living in the country since 2013. I thought I knew the country well. But on that evening in January, I realized that I had been mistaken. Burlington lay under a blanket of snow and next to me in line stood Mary and Tim Loyer, both wrapped in dark-blue parkas. Mary was unemployed and her son Tim had a job at a bar. Both told me they were Bernie Sanders supporters. Tim said he was particularly bothered by the power held by large companies, that the division of wealth was unfair and that people like him no longer had opportunities to improve their lives. It was the anthem of the working class.

When asked what he found attractive about Trump, Tim said: “Bernie and Trump are the only politicians who say what they’re thinking and do what they say,” as his mother Mary nodded along. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, is corrupt, he said. In an election pitting Trump against Clinton, Tim said he would not vote for Clinton. Again, Mary nodded. At the entrance, security personnel patted us down and asked if we were planning on voting for Trump. Only those who said yes were allowed to proceed. When Trump began speaking, a demonstrator stood up and yelled that Trump was a racist. The candidate paused, shook his fist and demanded that security throw the protester out. “Keep his coat. Confiscate his coat,” Trump said from the stage. It was 21 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 degrees Celsius) outside.

Trump snarled as his fans jumped to their feet hooting and jeering. One was reminded of a lynch mob. I learned three things on that evening in Burlington: In the fatherland of capitalism, anger with the elite is so vast that even leftists would rather vote for a narcissist billionaire than a veteran of the political establishment. In a country that values freedom of opinion higher than almost any other country in the world, there were now attitude tests prior to admission to political rallies. And many Americans, who are otherwise so polite, lose all restraint when confronted by those who think differently. Everything that I associated with America seemed no longer to apply on that evening in Burlington. What had happened to this once-proud country?

I found answers to this question on a journey through American society – to places like Vermont, Maryland, Rhode Island and Virginia. Those are just a few of the places I have visited in the last four years – places where those symptoms could be seen that together add up to the huge crisis that has gripped America. This self-confident country that has spent decades exporting its values with imperialist hubris has lost its identity. Democratic capitalism no longer works well enough to keep together a country of 325 million people and to guarantee domestic peace. The United States is not alone in having been struck by this identity crisis: It has also hit the United Kingdom, France, Germany and other countries. But America, where capitalism flourishes to a greater degree than anywhere else, has been hit the hardest of all.

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Not Robert Parry’s strongest effort, he seems to want to stick to two contradictory stories at the same time: is Obama a closet neocon or is he a coward?

Obama Bequeaths A More Dangerous World (Parry)

[..] perhaps Obama’s most dangerous legacy is the New Cold War with Russia, which began in earnest when Washington’s neocons struck back against Moscow for its cooperation with Obama in getting Syria to surrender its chemical weapons (which short-circuited neocon hopes to bomb the Syrian military) and in persuading Iran to accept tight limits on its nuclear program (another obstacle to a neocon bombing plan). In both cases, the neocons were bent on “regime change,” or at least a destructive bombing operation in line with Israeli and Saudi hostility toward Syria and Iran. But the biggest challenge to these schemes was the positive relationship that had developed between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin. So, that relationship had to be shattered and the wedge that the neocons found handy was Ukraine.

By September 2013, Carl Gershman, the neocon president of the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy, had identified Ukraine as “the biggest prize” and a steppingstone toward the ultimate goal of ousting Putin. By late fall 2013 and winter 2014, neocons inside the U.S. government, including Sen. John McCain and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, were actively agitating for a “regime change” in Ukraine, a putsch against elected President Viktor Yanukovych that was carried out on Feb. 22, 2014. This operation on Russia’s border provoked an immediate reaction from the Kremlin, which then supported ethnic-Russian Ukrainians who had voted heavily for Yanukovych and who objected to the coup regime in Kiev. The neocon-dominated U.S. mainstream media, of course, portrayed the Ukrainian conflict as a simple case of “Russian aggression,” and Obama fell in line with this propaganda narrative.

After his relationship with Putin had deteriorated over the ensuring two-plus years, Obama chose to escalate the New Cold War in his final weeks in office by having U.S. intelligence agencies leak unsubstantiated claims that Putin interfered in the U.S. presidential election by hacking and publicizing Democratic emails that helped Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. The CIA also put in play salacious rumors about the Kremlin blackmailing Trump over a supposed video of him cavorting with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel. And, according to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. counterintelligence agents investigated communications between retired Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security advisor, and Russian officials. In the New McCarthyism that now surrounds the New Cold War, any conversation with Russians apparently puts an American under suspicion for treason.

The anti-Russian frenzy also pulled in The New York Times, The Washington Post and virtually the entire mainstream media, which now treat any dissent from the official U.S. narratives condemning Moscow as prima facie evidence that you are part of a Russian propaganda apparatus. Even some “progressive” publications have joined this stampede because they so despise Trump that they will tout any accusation to damage his presidency.

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Scary insane: “..WMPs jumped 42% year-on-year to 26 trillion yuan ($3.8 trillion) at the end of June, doubling in just two years.”

China’s Shadow Banking Crusade Risks Bond Market Crash (R.)

China’s campaign to cut high debt levels in its economy is aiming this year to shrink the $3 trillion shadow banking sector, which could drain a critical source of income for the country’s banks and of funding for its fragile bond market. Shadow banking, a term for financial agents that perform bank-like activity but are not regulated as banks, has boomed in China, the world’s second-largest economy, as a way of circumventing government’s tight controls on lending. It has been a key driver of the breakneck growth in debt in the economy, which UBS says rose to 277% of GDP from 254% in 2016, and is now a target as Beijing tries to reduce that figure before it destabilizes the economy.

But with banks’ shadow banking business accounting for about a fifth of total outstanding loans, analysts fear that the unintended consequences of government efforts could trigger the fate it seeks to avoid. “We see a policy-induced drastic deleveraging in shadow banking as a policy miscalculation that could trigger unexpected tail risks for the banking sector,” said Liao Qiang, credit analyst at S&P Global Ratings. Investors’ concerns stem from new rules this month that put lenders’ wealth management products (WMPs), the biggest component of shadow banking, under the scrutiny of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) for the first time and into its calculations on prudence, capital adequacy and loan growth guidelines.

According to the latest official data, WMPs jumped 42% year-on-year to 26 trillion yuan ($3.8 trillion) at the end of June, doubling in just two years. WMPs are typically kept off banks’ balance sheets, making it difficult for regulators to assess the stability of a banking sector reliant upon them for growth. And just as in the global financial crisis of 2008, banks’ interconnectedness amplifies the risks. Banks are increasingly buying into each other’s WMPs, such that interbank WMPs hit 4 trillion yuan in June, a doubling from two years ago.

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Wonder how this connects to the shadow banks.

China’s Army of Global Homebuyers Is Suddenly Short on Cash (BBG)

China’s escalating crackdown on capital outflows is sending shudders through property markets around the world. In London, Chinese citizens who clamored to purchase flats at the city’s tallest apartment tower three months ago are now struggling to transfer their down payments. In Silicon Valley, Keller Williams Realty says inquiries from China have slumped since the start of the year. And in Sydney, developers are facing “big problems” as Chinese buyers pull back, according to consultancy firm Basis Point. “Everything changed’’ as it became more difficult to send money offshore, said Coco Tan, a broker associate at Keller Williams in Cupertino, California. Less than a month after China announced fresh curbs on overseas payments, anecdotal reports from realtors, homeowners and developers suggest the restrictions are already weighing on the world’s biggest real estate buying spree.

While no one expects Chinese demand to disappear anytime soon, the clampdown is deterring first-time buyers who lack offshore assets and the expertise to skirt tighter capital controls. “If it’s too difficult, I’m out,’’ said Mr. Zheng, 66, a retired civil servant in Shanghai who declined to give his first name to avoid attracting regulatory scrutiny. He may abandon a 2.4 million yuan ($348,903) home purchase in western Melbourne, even after shelling out a 300,000 yuan deposit last August. He’s due to make another big payment next month. The change spooking Zheng and his compatriots came in a statement from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on Dec. 31, hours before the reset of Chinese citizens’ annual foreign currency quotas.

Among other requirements, SAFE said all buyers of foreign exchange must now sign a pledge that they won’t use their $50,000 quotas for offshore property investment. Violators will be added to a government watch list, denied access to foreign currency for three years and subjected to money-laundering investigations, SAFE said. “A lot of clients are worried and have started hesitating,’’ said Wang Ning, vice president of the international department at Fang Holdings, China’s most popular property website.

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A pity this ends in a political rant, the first part is interesting.

Lurching Towards the New Paradigm (Art+M)

The world heaved under the sudden weight of its own nervous system. Lit up and lashed to the planet in only a few decades, we lost our bearings in the paradox of connectivity: minute detail of every moment yet removed from any tangible presence, our animal bandwidth compressed to sound and vision, crowded and alone. We got connected and it’s terrifying. Direct confrontation with The Other. Massive social relativism. A fractal collage of affinity networks and sub genres and Things That Seem Really Different. Nature red in tooth and claw, in full glorious monstrosity. And now it’s like “oh shit you mean we’re responsible for all of this??” The Web is a planetary architecture that compresses and distributes information. There’s only so much bandwidth and the Web is just one modality of acting in the world.

The network compresses physical experience from 5 senses to mostly one. The lo-fidelity of text invites us to project our fears and insecurities on vagaries stripped of all the social cues we use to interrogate communication. No tone of voice, no body language, no skin flush or eye contact or simple touch. We get complete vision at the expense of physical connection. We casually act like monsters when online, say terrible things, things we would never say to someone’s face. We’d see their hurt, feel their anger. Yet, such is the new asymmetry of power that dateless trolls can destroy lives from the safety of their parents’ basement. It turns out social media is pretty sociopathic. But this couch is pretty comfortable and many of us in the developed world enjoy tremendous security, all things being equal.

Our relentless sapien modeling no longer frets about saber toothed beasts rumbling in the brush to devour us, but abstracts those same spirits, those hopes and fears, into the characters and dramatic occurrences that enchant our fickle minds. So we sat on the couch and projected ourselves into the astral theater of television. The Gods we looked to for hope and guidance, for rules and consequences, those gods became priests, then politicians, and then celebrities. The Stars of the Silver Screen. Then we broke open the screen, tore apart the TV and unbundled its business entanglements and made it so we could all walk onto the soundstage and stand beneath those glowing lights, big smile, ready to share ourselves with the masses. On the way to Godhead we are tempted by Stardom.

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The longer this takes, and there’s no end in sight, the more I’ll be thinking of the Treaty of Versailles. It won’t lead to a new Hitler, but the risk of destabilizing the entire region is very real. Destroying a country is always a bad idea, destroying a member of your own union is much worse. And entirelu unnecessary too.

Greece Creditors Demand Legislation Of Reforms For 2018-19 (Kath.)

Eurozone finance ministers turned the heat up on Athens on Thursday, demanding that it legislates measures now for the period after 2018, when the country’s bailout ends, dashing the government’s hopes of a swift conclusion to the second review of its third bailout. The Eurogroup in Brussels, which the government hoped would pave the way for the return to Athens of the representatives of the country’s quartet of creditors to continue talks, was held just two days after the emphatic refusal by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to enact any further measures now. Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said the demands by the IMF went “well beyond the European framework of democracy.”

“It’s not correct to ask a country in a program to legislate two to three years beforehand what it will do in 2019,” he said after the Eurogroup. Moreover, what is worrisome for the leftist-led government is that Greece appears to have lost the support of the European Commission, which aligned itself with the demands made by the IMF and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble for Athens to legislate measures now for the period after 2018. However, Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said that completing the review is “in everybody’s interest,” adding that Greece’s creditors remain committed to continuing talks, and that eurozone finance ministers want to expedite procedures that will allow creditor representatives to return to Athens “as quick as possible.” The good news, he said, was that the Greek economy is recovering fiscally, and that state revenues were higher than expected.

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The only possible decision. Time for the EU to stand up for Greece. Yeah, right.

Greek Supreme Court Rules Against Extraditing Eight Turkish Soldiers (WSJ)

Greece’s Supreme Court rejected an extradition request for eight Turkish military officers who fled to Greece after a failed coup, a decision that Turkey warned would hurt the countries’ relations. The court ruled that the servicemen wouldn’t get a fair trial in Turkey and that their extradition could put their lives at risk while exposing them to torture or degrading treatment. The decision is final and cannot be appealed. “We protest this judgment which prevents these individuals who actively participated in the coup attempt which targeted the democratic order in Turkey, killed 248 members of our security forces and civilians, wounded 2193 of our citizens and attempted against the life of our President, to be brought before the independent Turkish judiciary,” Turkey’s foreign ministry said in a written statement in English.

The Turkish statement accused Greece of sheltering “putschists” and said it that in light of a decision “taken for political motives,” Turkey will evaluate bilateral ties, including cooperation against terrorism. The eight officers, with ranks up to the level of major, flew by helicopter to the northern Greek city of Alexandroupolis the day after the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey. The Turkish government requested the rapid extradition of the men, whom it has described as “traitors,” to face charges of trying to overthrow the democratic constitution. The eight men deny the charges. They say they were unaware of the coup attempt until it was under way and fled to Greece to escape violent reprisals against soldiers after the coup failed. Greek intellectuals and activists, including prominent author Apostolos Doxiadis, campaigned forcefully against the men’s extradition in recent weeks, turning the men’s plight into a high-profile political issue.

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Like Trump’s ‘safe places’. In other words, rebuild what you destroyed. Not going to happen. They’ll just throw billions at it and hope it disappears. It won’t. But then they can say they tried the best they could.

EU Looks To Camps In Africa To Cut Immigration (R.)

EU interior ministers will consider plans on Thursday to finance camps in Africa where the UN refugee agency and aid groups would process migrants to prevent them trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. The sea crossing from Libya to Italy, operated by people smugglers, is now the main route for migrants seeking better lives in wealthy Europe, but the EU wants to shut it down and admit only refugees. More than 4,500 people are known to have drowned last year alone trying to make the crossing. The European Union has deployed a naval mission in the Mediterranean and is training the Libyan coastguard to cut the numbers attempting the journey. Now it also wants to return migrants plucked from the sea to where they came from. “The idea is to send them to a safe place, without bringing them into Europe,” German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters as he arrived for the talks in the Maltese capital Valletta.

“The people taken up by the smugglers need to be saved and brought to a safe place, but then from this safe place outside Europe we would bring into Europe only those who require protection,” he said. The camps in Libya or its neighbors would be run by the UN refugee agency UNHCR or the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which would screen the migrants and help return those not eligible for asylum to their home countries. Most of those taking the Libya-Italy route are regarded as economic migrants with no chance of winning asylum in the EU. Since the influx of more than a million people in 2015, many of them fleeing the Syrian conflict, the EU has tightened border controls, making it increasingly hard for migrants and asylum seekers alike to enter the 28-nation bloc.

It is also offering money and assistance to countries along the migration routes in the hope that fewer people will seek to leave their homes or will be stopped on the way before they embark for Europe. The idea of financing camps in Africa enjoys wide political backing in the EU, but poses legal and security challenges. Libya sank into chaos following the 2011 overthrow of veteran ruler Muammar Gaddafi, and the new UN-backed government in Tripoli exercises no control over its territory. Such lawlessness means returning people to Libya would likely violate international law, which prohibits sending people back to a place where their lives could be in danger. That is why the EU needs the UNHCR and IOM to create sites there that could be deemed as meeting international humanitarian standards. It is an effort to replicate parts of existing agreements the EU has with Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, which host several million Syrian refugees in camps on their soil.

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“The German magazine Der Spiegel revealed a warning from the European commission that “under no circumstances” should the public learn what was said during talks held in March last year.”

Europe’s Crackdown On African Immigration Is Hitting Vulnerable Refugees (G.)

Documents cited in the Guardian on Monday showing that the UK government downplayed the risk of human rights abuses in Eritrea in an attempt to reduce asylum-seeker numbers are the latest indication of Britain’s determination to reduce African immigration. But this is a Europe-wide initiative, co-ordinated in Brussels. With French, German, Dutch and Italian elections later this year, there is intense pressure across the European Union to cut the flows of refugees and migrants across the Mediterranean. European plans to deal with the question have been veiled in secrecy, since they involve close cooperation with some of Africa’s most notorious dictatorships.

The German magazine Der Spiegel revealed a warning from the European commission that “under no circumstances” should the public learn what was said during talks held in March last year. A member of staff working for Federica Mogherini, the EU high representative for foreign affairs, warned of the risk to Europe’s reputation. Plans are being formulated under arrangements agreed between the EU and African leaders in Malta in November 2015. These called for close cooperation between European security services and those of African states. Among those around the table at Valletta were representatives of repressive regimes in Sudan (whose president, Omar al-Bashir, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes) and Eritrea, which has been accused of crimes against humanity.

Read more …

Everybody accuses the other. Meanwhile, it’s going to be very cold again in Greece this weekend.

EU’s Mishandled Millions Not Reaching Refugees (DW)

On January 18, Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, arrived on the Greek island of Lesbos. The reason for his visit was simple, if disheartening: a wave of bitterly cold weather had blanketed much of Greece in snow, and with it the country’s refugee camps. In the world’s richest continent, images emerged of refugees – many of them children, elderly or disabled -battling sub-zero temperatures with little more protection than tents and blankets. A few days earlier Ioannis Mouzalas, the country’s Minister for Migration, had stated, “No refugee or migrant is in the cold.” Avramopoulos called on authorities and NGOs to do more. Pointedly he noted that Greece was the single biggest recipient of EU Home Affairs funding, with €1 billion ($1.1 billion) made available over two years in financial support.

So where has the money gone? And why has the country proven unable to provide rudimentary living conditions for many of the roughly 50,000 refugees? The fact is that the €1 billion figure touted by Avramopoulos conflates a number of funds many of which have not yet been spent. Nevertheless the funds that have already been awarded to the government or NGOs remain substantial. Since the start of 2015, the Greek government, according to data from the European Commission and the Greek Ministry of Development, has absorbed 179 million euros of emergency funds from the Directorate General of Home Affairs (DG HOME). This is in addition to €60 million from the €509 million of long-term funding allocated to Greece for the period 2014-2020.

Meanwhile the UNHCR, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have received €175 million from DG HOME’s emergency funds. An additional €186 million of emergency funding has also been contracted to a number of major NGO’s for humanitarian assistance in Greece from the Directorate General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) for projects starting in 2016. An additional €500 million has been earmarked for this fund until 2018.

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Jan 142017
 
 January 14, 2017  Posted by at 9:53 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  


Arnold Genthe 17th century Iglesia el Carmen, Antigua, Guatemala 1915

Investors Are Bracing For A Massive Stock-Market Selloff (MW)
Trump Suggests He May Drop Russia Sanctions If Moscow ‘Is Helpful’ (G.)
Tucker Carlson and Glenn Greenwald Discuss Deep State War Vs. Trump (ZPN)
As VW Settles, Probes Open Into Fiat, Renault Emissions Test Cheating (BBG)
Senior VW Managers Warned Not To Travel To US (R.)
Tulsi (Midweek)
Generate Your Own Personalized Insulting Trump Tweets (TG)
Deutsche Bank Rejects Claims of ‘Economic Terror’ in Turkey (BBG)
Greek Supreme Court Rules Against Extradition of Turkish Officers (GR)
UNCHR Calls On Greece To Fix ‘Dire’ Situation For Migrants (Kath.)
Refugees, Migrants Dying Of Cold, ‘Dire’ Situation In Greece (R.)
Woman Dies From Superbug Resistant To All Available Antibiotics In US (CBS)

 

 

Trump volatility, sort of like an aftertaste of the Trump effect.

Investors Are Bracing For A Massive Stock-Market Selloff (MW)

If options traders are correct, stocks are in for a wild ride in February. Demand for one-month call options tied to the CBOE Volatility Index, a popular gauge of stock-market volatility, has spiked in the past week, a sign that some are bracing for a sharp downturn following the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump. In that time, investors have purchased 250,000 VIX call options with a strike price at 21, and another 100,000 with the strike at 22, according to Brian Bier, head of sales and trading at Macro Risk Advisors, an options brokerage. The options cost roughly 49 cents per contract, Bier said. By comparison, the CBOE Volatility Index was at 11.16 in midday trading on Friday as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were on track to record modest daily gains. It would take a massive selloff to make these options profitable, Bier said.

Call options represent bets that the level or price of a given asset or index will rise during a given time—in this case, the period between Friday and Feb. 15, when these options expire. Investors frequently use VIX futures and options as a hedge against volatility. That way, if stocks tank, they can offset some of those losses with the profits from their options trades. “Even in the current low volatility environment, we’ve seen a lot of people still looking at the VIX as a hedge,” Bier said. Since the beginning of the year, stock-market volatility has been relatively subdued despite increasing uncertainty surrounding the future direction of fiscal and monetary policy in the U.S. The Daily Shot, a popular market newsletter, illustrates this divergence in the chart below.

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The right thing to say.

Trump Suggests He May Drop Russia Sanctions If Moscow ‘Is Helpful’ (G.)

Donald Trump has suggested he might drop sanctions against Russia and that the communist party rulers in Beijing needed to show good faith on currency and trade practices before he committed to a “One China” policy on Taiwan. In fresh signs that the US president-elect is prepared to reshape longstanding Washington foreign policy, he told the Wall Street Journal that he would keep sanctions against Russia in place “at least for a period of time”. But he added: “If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?” Trump’s policy towards Russia is the subject of intense interest in Washington amid a Senate inquiry into allegations that the Kremlin ordered a hacking operation against the Democratic party to help the billionaire politician win the November election.

Trump – who has praised Vladimir Putin for being “very smart” – said he was willing to meet the Russian president in the months after he moves into the White House following his January 20 inauguration. “I understand that they would like to meet, and that’s absolutely fine with me,” he said. Controversy also surrounds the Trump administrations’s attitude towards China, with soon-to-be secretary of state Rex Tillerson warning Beijing this week that China would “not be allowed access” to its artificial islands in the South China Sea. Asked if he supported the “One China” policy on Taiwan that has underpinned US relations with Beijing for decades, Trump said: “Everything is under negotiation including ‘One China’,” the Journal reported.

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Who could have predicted a year ago that the Democrats would fall in love with the CIA, and Tucker and Glenn Greenwald would become friends?

Tucker Carlson and Glenn Greenwald Discuss Deep State War Vs. Trump (ZPN)

Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who is not a fan of President-elect Trump, appeared on Tucker Carlson tonight to discuss the dangerous ongoing effort among powerful anti-Trump factions within the US Government’s “Deep State,” who have collaborated with members of the Democratic Party and the traditionally liberal media to inflict maximum damage on the incoming President. Recall Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s ominous “six ways from Sunday” comment from 10 days ago. Greenwald, an accomplished litigator, journalist, and author, does a masterful job illustrating the players, motives, and potential fallout from this dangerous effort within the US Government’s intelligence apparatus. Greenwald goes deep, discussing how Trump’s election ruined the plan for regime change in Syria, specifically mentioning, among other things, that the deep state was waiting for Obama to leave office before executing their plan:

“The number one foreign policy priority of the CIA over the last four to five years has been the proxy war they’re waging in Syria to remove Bashar Al Assad – and Hillary Clinton was quite critical of Obama for constraining them. She wanted to escalate that war to unleash the CIA, to impose a no-fly zone in Syria to confront Russia, whereas Trump took the exact opposite position. He said we have no business in Syria trying to change the government, we ought to let the Russia and Assad go free and killing ISIS and Al Quaeda and whoever else they want to kill. He [Trump] was a threat to the CIA’s primary institutional priority of regime change in Syria.

Beyond that, Clinton wanted a much more confrontational and belligerent posture towards Moscow, which the CIA has been acrimonious with for decades, whereas Trump wanted better relations. They viewed Trump as a threat to their institutional pre-eminence to their ability to get their agenda imposed on Washington. What you’re seeing is actually quite dangerous. There really is at this point obvious open warefare between this un-elected, but very powerful faction that resides in Washington and sees Presidents come and go – on the one hand, and the person that the American democracy elected to be elected on the other. There’s clearly extreme conflict and subversion taking place.”

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[Fiat] CEO Sergio Marchionne called the allegations “unadulterated hogwash.”

I said when this broke in late 2015 that it was unpossible that VW’s competitors would not have known. Nobody had succeeded in making ‘clean’ engines’. Then VW claims it has. So the others go out, buy a VW car and take it completely apart, including software. They knew. Simple as that. And some will have used that knowledge.

As VW Settles, Probes Open Into Fiat, Renault Emissions Test Cheating (BBG)

Pressure weighing on the global auto industry for more than a year finally appeared to ease on Wednesday as Volkswagen agreed to $4.3 billion in fines for cheating on emissions tests, largely putting the scandal to rest. Less than a day later, the outlook darkened again as Renault and Fiat Chrysler were hit with similar allegations of violating clean-air regulations. Paris prosecutors, who raided Renault a year ago in an initial emissions investigation, opened a probe into the automaker on Thursday. About the same time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accused Fiat Chrysler of installing software in 104,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Ram 1500 pickups that allowed them to exceed pollution limits on the road. The Justice Department also is investigating Fiat Chrysler over its diesel emissions, according to people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reported Friday.

Both companies denied using software like Volkswagen’s, which was designed to lower emissions to legal limits when it senses the car is being tested and then easing pollution controls on the road to improve performance. Nonetheless, the prospect of a fight with authorities sent shares of the two automakers tumbling. Fiat fell 16% on Thursday before clawing back some of those losses today after CEO Sergio Marchionne called the allegations “unadulterated hogwash.” Renault lost as much as 6% in Paris trading Friday morning, its sharpest drop since June, after word of the probe filtered out. The shares finished the day down 3.2%.

[..] “There will be many more probes,” said Matthias Holweg, a management professor at Oxford University’s Said Business School. “The scope for manipulation is very present for every car company.” Renault, whose biggest shareholder is the French government with a 20% stake, says it hasn’t received any official notification about the latest developments in the probe, which French prosecutors announced in a brief statement on Friday. The company insists its vehicles comply with French and European Union legislation and aren’t equipped with software to cheat on emissions.

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There must be a lot of data on them then.

Senior VW Managers Warned Not To Travel To US (R.)

Senior Volkswagen managers have been warned not to travel to the United States, legal and company sources told Reuters, after six current and former managers were indicted for their role in the German carmaker’s diesel test-cheating scheme. One of the six charged, Oliver Schmidt, was arrested at Miami International Airport on Saturday as he was about to fly home from holiday in Cuba. Schmidt, who is caught up in the “Dieselgate” investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, was ordered to be charged and held without bail on Thursday pending trial. Under the constitution, German citizens can be extradited only to other European Union countries or to an international court.

But leaving Germany at all could pose a risk of being extradited to the United States from a third country. “Several Volkswagen managers have been advised not to travel to the United States,” one legal adviser to Volkswagen said on condition of anonymity because the matter is confidential. A second legal adviser said this also applied to managers who had not yet been charged with any offense in the United States. “One doesn’t need to test the limits,” the adviser said. Schmidt was among those who had been warned by lawyers working for the company not to travel to the United States, one of the legal sources said.

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I’m still hoping she takes a job with Trump. If only as an antidote to all the hysteria emanating from Washington.

Tulsi (Midweek)

Tulsi Gabbard has had a banner year. She resigned as vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, broke ranks with her colleagues in Hawaii’s congressional delegation by throwing her support to Bernie Sanders rather than Hillary Clinton, drew the largest applause at the Hawaii Democratic Party Convention, and entered the national spotlight by putting Sanders’ name in nomination at the Democratic National Convention in August. But Gabbard wasn’t done. Following Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in the last half-century’s most vile campaign, she was invited to Trump Tower to meet with the president-elect. Worse in the eyes of some of the bluest of blue Democrats, she accepted the invitation. Gabbard offers no apologies, starting with the Trump meeting.

“He invited me to talk about Syria,” she says. “I’ve been focused on Syria for a long time. It’s a counterproductive regime-change war. “We had an hour-long, very substantive discussion about Syria and the Middle East. On some things we seemed to agree, on others we didn’t. I think the issue provides an opportunity for bipartisanship.” Nor does Gabbard have second thoughts about her support for Sanders. “I don’t make decisions based on political expediency,” she insists. “I supported him because of his positions on the issues, particularly on foreign policy. He opposed destructive regime-change wars, like Iraq and Syria. He called for Wall Street reform, reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act. I thought he was right on trade, opposing the Pacific Partnership that, like NAFTA, undermines our sovereignty.”

Nor to those who feel that, as a woman, she should have been supporting Clinton: “I’m offended that I must think with my gender regarding the candidacy of Hillary Clinton for president. I’m interested in the issues.” For Gabbard, a major in the Hawaii National Guard and veteran of two deployments to the Middle East, “issues of war and peace can’t be dealt with like other issues. I’ve seen firsthand the cost of war, the deaths of fellow soldiers — the billions of dollars spent on regime-change wars that could have been used for our own domestic needs. “That’s why I supported Bernie Sanders. That’s why I took the meeting with Trump. I wanted to share my views on these subjects, to get to him before the neoconservative voices get behind another regime-change war.”

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Some things in life are inevitable.

Generate Your Own Personalized Insulting Trump Tweets (TG)

Have Trump insult your friends!

Read more …

The Turkish lira is getting hammered. Erdogan needs scapegoats.

Deutsche Bank Rejects Claims of ‘Economic Terror’ in Turkey (BBG)

Deutsche Bank’s Turkish unit rejected claims by a pro-government newspaper that it’s plotting to undermine the economy, and said it’s “unacceptable” for the lender’s name to be associated with terrorism. The daily Yeni Safak on Thursday reported that Deutsche Bank and other German institutions were attempting “economic terror” against Turkey by recalling loans to companies before their their due dates. It didn’t identify the debtors or the other German institutions. “Claims in the story about calling loans before their maturity and conducting operations in coordination with other institutions are totally groundless,” the lender’s Istanbul-based business said in an e-mailed statement Friday. Deutsche Bank hadn’t been approached for comment before the publication of the article, it said.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his aides often invoke a conspiracy against Turkey by outside powers when the lira declines, saying other nations are jealous of the country’s economic growth under his leadership. On Thursday, Erdogan accused Turkey’s enemies of speculating in the lira and called on Turks to “thwart these games” by selling their holdings in other currencies. Deutsche Bank, which has been in Turkey since 1987, employs 143 people at its Turkish unit, which posted net income of 72.5 million lira ($19.2 million) at the end of 2015, according to its annual report. It’s not the first time that Deutsche Bank has attracted the fury of the Turkish press. In January 2014, the German lender denied local reports that it deliberately drove down shares of a Turkish state-run lender that had been implicated in a corruption scandal.

Deutsche Bank said most of the shares it processed in that episode were owned by its clients, and it wasn’t trading sufficient volumes to affect the company’s share price. More recently, the Frankfurt-based institution figured in a different way in government rhetoric. At the height of the bank’s share slide and capital concerns last September, Yigit Bulut, a chief adviser to Erdogan, said Turkey should consider buying Deutsche Bank. “Some very good companies in the EU are going to fall into trouble and we need to be ready to buy a controlling stake in them,” Bulut wrote on Twitter. “Wouldn’t you be happy to make Germany’s biggest bank into a Turkish Bank!!”

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How to make friends with Erdogan. Politicians can still overrule this, but that’s a slippery slope.

Greek Supreme Court Rules Against Extradition of Turkish Officers (GR)

Supreme Court prosecutor Nikos Pantelis on Friday suggested that the remaining four Turkish army officers who sought asylum in Greece should not be extradited to Turkey. The four Turkish military men are part of a group of eight who fled to Greece after the July 15 failed coup attempt in the neighboring country and request asylum. Earlier in the week, the Supreme Court also ruled against the extradition of the other four. Nikos Pantelis cited the risk of torture and the prospect of an unfair trial in Turkey as the key reasons behind his recommendation that Greek authorities refuse Ankara’s extradition request. Earlier this week, in two separate sessions at the Supreme Court, two other prosecutors also opposed extradition for the other four men, citing the same concerns.

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Question: what is the UNCHR doing to help? Who got paid to winterize the camps but didn’t deliver?

UNCHR Calls On Greece To Fix ‘Dire’ Situation For Migrants (Kath.)

Governments along the Western Balkan route into the European Union must do more to help migrants and refugees who are dying in the cold winter weather rather than just violently push them back from the border, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Friday, adding that the “situation in Greece is dire.” “Children are particularly prone to respiratory illnesses at a time like this,” said UNICEF spokesperson Sarah Crowe at a UN briefing in Geneva, while the UNHCR called for the transfer of some 1,000 people, including children, who are living outdoors in tents with no heating on the island of Samos to shelters on the Greek mainland.

Meanwhile, locals on the island of Lesvos are reportedly dismayed by the presence of the Lesvos, a navy vessel which has become a temporary shelter for just 40 asylum seekers. In a letter to Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas, the island’s mayor, Spyros Galinos, called for the transfer of a sizable number of asylum seekers from camps on Lesvos in order to “finally decongest the island.” Galinos accused Mouzalas of transforming the port into a reception center and slammed what he described as the minister’s failed policies which have had “tragic consequences for the island.” Despite the presence of the vessel, migrants at the Moria camp are refusing to move there as they prefer to remain close to the nearby Asylum Service to get information and updates on their applications.

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The deaths of 5-6 human beings have been, let’s say, underreported so far. Wonder why.

Refugees, Migrants Dying Of Cold, ‘Dire’ Situation In Greece (R.)

Refugees and migrants are dying in Europe’s cold snap and governments must do more to help them rather than pushing them back from borders and subjecting them to violence, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said on Friday. “Children are particularly prone to respiratory illnesses at a time like this. It’s about saving lives, not about red tape and keeping to bureaucratic arrangements,” Sarah Crowe, a spokeswoman for the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF told a U.N. briefing in Geneva. “The dire situation right now is Greece.” UNHCR spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly cited five deaths so far from cold and said about 1,000 people including children were in unheated tents and dormitories on the Greek island of Samos, calling for them to be transferred to shelter on the mainland.

Hundreds of others had been moved to better accommodation on the islands of Lesbos and Chios in the past few days. In Serbia, about 80% of the 7,300 refugees, asylum seekers and migrants are staying in heated government shelters, but 1,200 men were sleeping rough in informal sites in Belgrade. The bodies of two Iraqi men and a young Somali woman were found close to the Turkish border in Bulgaria and two Somali teenagers were hospitalized with frostbite after five days in a forest, Pouilly said. The body of a young Pakistani man was found along the same border in late December. A 20-year-old Afghan man died after crossing the Evros River on the Greece-Turkey land border at night when temperatures were below -10 degrees Celsius.

The body of a young Pakistani man was found on the Turkish side of the border with Bulgaria. “Given the harsh winter conditions, we are particularly concerned by reports that authorities in all countries along the Western Balkans route continue to push back refugees and migrants from inside their territory to neighboring countries,” Pouilly said. Some refugees and migrants said police subjected them to violence and many said their phones were confiscated or destroyed, preventing them from calling for help, she said. “Some even reported items of clothing being confiscated thus further exposing them to the harsh winter conditions,” she said. “These practices are simply unacceptable and must be stopped.”

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“This is not some future, fantasized armageddon threat..”

Woman Dies From Superbug Resistant To All Available Antibiotics In US (CBS)

A Nevada woman has died from an infection resistant to all available antibiotics in the United States, public health officials report. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the woman’s condition was deemed incurable after being tested against 26 different antibiotics. Though this isn’t the first case of pan-resistant bacteria in the U.S., at this time it is still uncommon. Still, experts note that antibiotic resistance is a growing health concern globally and call the newly reported case “a wake up call.” “This is the latest reminder that yes, antibiotic resistance is real,” Dr. James Johnson, a professor specializing in infectious diseases at the University of Minnesota Medical School, told CBS News. “This is not some future, fantasized armageddon threat that maybe will happen after our lifetime. This is now, it’s real, and it’s here.”

According to the report, the woman from Washoe County was in her 70s and had recently returned to America after an extended trip to India. She had been hospitalized there several times before being admitted to an acute care hospital in Nevada in mid-August. Doctors discovered the woman was infected with carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), which is a family of germs that CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden has called “nightmare bacteria” due to the danger it poses for spreading antibiotic resistance. The woman had a specific type of CRE, called Klebsiella pneumoniae, which can lead to a number of illnesses, including pneumonia, blood stream infections, and meningitis. In early September, she developed septic shock and died. The authors of the report highlight the need for doctors and hospitals to ask incoming patients about recent travel and if they have been hospitalized elsewhere.

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Jan 132017
 
 January 13, 2017  Posted by at 10:28 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Edgar Degas Dancers in Blue 1895

Assange Agrees To Extradition If US Releases Chelsea Manning (AFP)
China Posts Worst Export Fall Since 2009 As Fears Of US Trade War Loom (R.)
Fiat Chrysler Shares Plunge 13% After EPA Cheat Software Accusation (CNBC)
Wages For Lowest-Paid UK Men Have Been Stagnant For Two Decades (Ind.)
Abolish Central Banks And Slay The Zombies (Planet Ponzi)
WHO Warns Of Outbreak Of Virulent New ‘Economic Reality’ Virus (Steve Keen)
The Utter Stupidity Of The New Cold War (SCF)
Obama’s “Farewell To Arms” As War Presidency Ends (SCF)
Massive Security Preparations Under Way For Inauguration (Fox)
Germany’s Schaeuble Urges ECB To Start Unwinding Stimulus This Year (CNBC)
Germany To Return New Asylum Seekers To Greece From March (AFP)
Greece’s Healthcare System: Train Wreck In Slow Motion (Occupy)
Weitergeleiteter Spendenaufruf für Griechenland (Das Gelbe Forum)

 

 

What does it say about us if our best and brightest feel compelled to sacrifice themselves? Where is this going to leave us? Where would we be without Assange, Snowden and Manning? Certainly not in a better place.

Assange Agrees To Extradition If US Releases Chelsea Manning (AFP)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will agree to be extradited to the United States if President Barack Obama grants clemency to the former US soldier Chelsea Manning, jailed for leaking documents, the company said on Thursday. “If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ (US Department of Justice) case,” WikiLeaks wrote on Twitter. Assange has been living in the Ecuadoran embassy in London since June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations. The Australian former computer hacker said he fears Stockholm will in turn extradite him to the US, where he angered Washington over WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of US military and diplomatic documents leaked by former US soldier Manning.

Manning is currently serving a 35-year sentence in solitary confinement for handing over the 700,000 sensitive documents from the US State Department. Supporters of the transgender soldier are putting their hopes in a pardon by Obama before he leaves office later this month, although the White House has said the president will not be granting her clemency. Manning has already made two suicide attempts and currently has an appeal pending before a military court. Washington has maintained the threat of prosecuting Assange over the 2010 leak, though no charges have been filed. WikiLeaks’ post on Twitter was accompanied by a letter addressed to US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in which Assange’s lawyer Barry Pollack argues there is no legitimate basis for continuing the investigation into the WikiLeaks founder.

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“The trend of anti-globalization is becoming increasingly evident, and China is the biggest victim of this trend..”

China Posts Worst Export Fall Since 2009 As Fears Of US Trade War Loom (R.)

China’s massive export engine sputtered for the second year in a row in 2016, with shipments falling in the face of persistently weak global demand and officials voicing fears of a trade war with the United States that is clouding the outlook for 2017. In one week, China’s leaders will see if President-elect Donald Trump makes good on a campaign pledge to brand Beijing a currency manipulator on his first day in office, and starts to follow up on a threat to slap high tariffs on Chinese goods. Even if the Trump administration takes no concrete action immediately, analysts say the specter of deteriorating U.S.-China trade and political ties is likely to weigh on the confidence of exporters and investors worldwide.

The world’s largest trading nation posted gloomy data on Friday, with 2016 exports falling 7.7% and imports down 5.5%. The export drop was the second annual decline in a row and the worst since the depths of the global crisis in 2009. It will be tough for foreign trade to improve this year, especially if the inauguration of Trump and other major political changes limit the growth of China’s exports due to greater protectionist measures, the country’s customs agency said on Friday. “The trend of anti-globalization is becoming increasingly evident, and China is the biggest victim of this trend,” customs spokesman Huang Songping told reporters. “We will pay close attention to foreign trade policy after Trump is inaugurated president,” Huang said.

China’s trade surplus with the United States was $366 billion in 2015, according to U.S. customs data, which Trump could seize on in a bid to bring Beijing to the negotiating table to press for concessions, economists at Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a recent research note. A sustained trade surplus of more than $20 billion against the United States is one of three criteria used by the U.S. Treasury to designate another country as a currency manipulator. China is likely to point out that its own data showed the surplus fell to $250.79 billion in 2016 from $260.91 billion in 2015, but that may get short shrift in Washington. “Our worry is that Trump’s stance towards China’s trade could bring about long-term structural weakness in China’s exports,” economists at ANZ said in a note.

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And now for the rest…

Fiat Chrysler Shares Plunge 13% After EPA Cheat Software Accusation (CNBC)

Shares of Fiat Chrysler fell Thursday after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accused the automaker of using software that allowed excess diesel emissions in about 104,000 vehicles. The U.S.-listed shares of Fiat Chrysler plunged as much as 19% Thursday after Reuters first reported the news. The automaker’s stock was briefly halted after the EPA made the announcement. The stock later recovered some of those losses and ended the day about 10% lower. The agency alleged Fiat Chrysler violated the Clean Air Act by installing and failing to disclose “engine management software in light-duty model year 2014, 2015 and 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3.0 liter diesel engines sold in the United States.”

The undisclosed software results increased nitrogen oxide emissions from the vehicles, the EPA said. The Justice Department is reportedly working with the EPA on this issue. The company could be liable for civil penalties and injunctive relief for the alleged violations, the EPA said. It said it is also investigating whether the auxiliary emission control devices constitute “defeat devices,” which are illegal. On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement he was deeply troubled by the evidence the EPA presented. “My office was proud to take a leading role in the multi-state investigation of Volkswagen that uncovered flagrant abuses of New York’s environmental laws and, in the case of VW, a culture of corruption that enabled blatantly illegal conduct to persist over many years,” he said.

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Huge move towards part-time work.

Wages For Lowest-Paid UK Men Have Been Stagnant For Two Decades (Ind.)

Pay for the poorest fifth of men has been flat for twenty years, according to a new report for the Institute for Fiscal Studies. At the same time the proportion of this low-paid group working part time, rather than full time, has shot up from 10% to 25% over the same period. The research helps explain what has become something of an inequality puzzle in the UK, in which official headline gauges have shown flat-lining income inequality since the early 1990s and yet there is simultaneously a widespread impression that inequality has been rising strongly.

The IFS research shows that average inflation-adjusted annualised weekly pay growth for the lowest fifth of the male income distribution was zero or less between 1994-95 and 2014-15, while for men further up the income distribution real weekly pay has grown. And while part-time work among the lowest paid men has ballooned, rates have not changed for better paid men. This all means that among working men wage inequality has increased over the past two decades. “The rise in household earnings inequality has been the product of a complex set of interactions between trends in hours and wages for men and women, but it is largely due to a rise in male earnings inequality,” said the IFS report.

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Mitch with the obvious.

Abolish Central Banks And Slay The Zombies (Planet Ponzi)

Have the [BOE]-enabled grotesque bubbles in the bond, stock and property markets or the eight years of “temporary emergency measures” and zero-interest-rate policies created infrastructure investment? Job creation? Savings? No, no and no. It has killed savers, students and seniors while generating record bonuses for chief executives. While earnings may have peaked almost 18 months ago, stock prices keep bubbling and wealth inequality continues to surge to record highs — along with homelessness and underemployment. Will Carney blame Brexit, Putin or Trump for the upcoming problems? Why not? Certainly, extreme valuations enabled by the Bank recklessly allowing debt, credit and leverage to skyrocket out of this universe had nothing to do with the coming collapse — nothing to see here, look away.

It is not only the UK but also global central bank policies that have broken our financial system beyond repair. The world’s oldest bank, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, founded in 1472, is now an insolvent zombie bank thanks to the handiwork of JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank and Nomura. They sold Monte billions of dollars of derivative trades it did not understand. These predictably exploded, leaving the bank bust. JPMorgan, Deutsche and Nomura made a fortune — and Monte’s shareholders and depositors, and EU taxpayers, will get slammed with the massive bailout tab. The new normal is apparently a world of financial fraud where the only rules which apply are too big to fail, bail or jail and too connected to prosecute —steal all you can, while you can, with impunity.

After the financial crisis, I wrote extensively exposing the toxic “culture of fraud” at Deutsche, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, RBS, Lloyds and Barclays. So what was done? Can you guess the number of staff at these banks jailed for the numerous frauds committed during the Great Financial Crises? Zero. That’s not capitalism! Capitalism doesn’t have zero accountability or zero transparency. This is ethically, financially and socially wrong. Much of it is also, in my opinion, illegal and should be punished by long jail terms. No need for new regulation — we need to enforce existing rules rather than repeatedly turning a blind eye.

Market manipulation by central banks has destroyed price discovery in every asset class and market. This has crushed the basic concept of capitalism. Central banks now pick winners and losers rather than letting free markets decide. The Swiss National Bank holds $140 billion in stocks, including shares in Apple, Google and Amazon. Valuations, growth projections and normal business cycles are all unnecessary. The central banking bubble factory forces investors to chase yields resulting in zombie corporations and zombie banks that inhibit growth, infrastructure spending and the creation of productive assets.

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‘The WHO therefore recommends complete avoidance of “Reality” as the only effective strategy for those wishing to remain as Mainstream Economists’.

WHO Warns Of Outbreak Of Virulent New ‘Economic Reality’ Virus (Steve Keen)

The WHO today warned of a virulent new virus affecting vulnerable groups in the Mid-West and Eastern USA. The outbreak, which began in the Mid-West’s extensive Great Lakes ‘Freshwater’ river system, has recently jumped the ‘Saltwater’ barrier, meaning that the entire population of its target species – ‘Mainstream’ economists – is now at risk. Speaking on behalf of the WHO, Dr Cahuc explained that the virus works by turning off the one genetic marker that distinguishes this species from the rest of its genus, the Human Race. This is the so-called ‘Milton’ gene (Friedman 1953), which goes dormant in other Humans as they pass through puberty. Its inactivity reduces their imaginative capacity, making it impossible for them to continue believing in such endearing infantile fantasies as the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. While regrettable, this drop in imagination is necessary to prepare Humans for the adult phase of their existence.

‘Professor Milton Friedman found a way to re-activate this gene during PhD training, using his “as if” gene splicing technique’, Dr Zylberberg elaborated. ‘This enabled a wonderful outpouring of imaginative beliefs by Mainstream Economists, which gave birth to concepts like NAIRU, Money Neutrality, Rational Expectations, and eventually even DSGE models. This wealth of imagination was regarded by Mainstream Economists as a more than sufficient compensation for returning to the child-like phase of the Human species.’ The Milton gene conferred other advantages on Mainstream Economists, which have been highly important to their success in competition against their rival species, the Heterodox Economists. ‘Being endowed with a child-like nature, the arguments of Mainstream Economists were treated with the low level of critical evaluation that adult humans normally reserve for conversations with their infant stage’, said Dr Cahuc.

‘This made their policy recommendations much more likely to be adopted, instead of the more complicated proposals put forward by their niche rivals’, he said. The new virus – named ‘Reality’ – de-activates the Milton gene once more. ‘Consequently’, Dr Cahuc warned, ‘the very beliefs that define this unique species are at risk. Unless we are very careful, it may become extinct!’. Unfortunately, there is as yet no known cure to this virus. ‘The WHO therefore recommends complete avoidance of “Reality” as the only effective strategy for those wishing to remain as Mainstream Economists’, Dr Cahuc concluded. However, this strategy is made extremely difficult by one cunning characteristic of the Reality virus: after an initial phase of disorientation and distress, its sufferers begin to experience pleasure, and actually want to pass the virus on to others. ‘Its transmission mechanism is a particularly insidious aspect of this disease’, Dr Cahuc lamented.

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Amen.

The Utter Stupidity Of The New Cold War (SCF)

It seems so strange, twenty-seven years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, to be living through a new Cold War with (as it happens, capitalist) Russia. The Russian president is attacked by the U.S. political class and media as they never attacked Soviet leaders; he is personally vilified as a corrupt, venal dictator, who arrests or assassinates political opponents and dissident journalists, and is hell-bent on the restoration of the USSR. (The latter claim rests largely on Vladimir Putin’s comment that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a “catastrophe” and “tragedy” – which in many respects it was. The press chooses to ignore his comment that “Anyone who does not miss the Soviet Union has no heart, while anyone who wants to restore it has no brain.” It conflicts with the simple talking-point that Putin misses the imperial Russia of the tsars if not the commissars and, burning with resentment over the west’s triumph in the Cold War, plans to exact revenge through wars of aggression and territorial expansion.)

The U.S. media following its State Department script depicts Russia as an expansionist power. That it can do so, so successfully, such that even rather progressive people—such as those appalled by Trump’s victory who feel inclined to blame it on an external force—believe it, is testimony to the lingering power and utility of the Cold War mindset. The military brass keep reminding us: We are up against an existential threat! One wants to say that this — obviously — makes no sense! Russia is twice the size of the U.S. with half its population. Its foreign bases can be counted on two hands. The U.S. has 800 or so bases abroad. Russia’s military budget is 14% of the U.S. figure. It does not claim to be the exceptional nation appointed by God to preserve “security” on its terms anywhere on the globe.

Since the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the U.S. has waged war (sometimes creating new client-states) in Bosnia (1994-5), Serbia (1999), Afghanistan (2001- ), Iraq (2003- ), Libya (2011), and Syria (2014- ), while raining down drone strikes from Pakistan to Yemen to North Africa. These wars-based-on-lies have produced hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, millions of refugees, and general ongoing catastrophe throughout the “Greater Middle East.” There is no understating their evil. The U.S. heads an expanding military alliance formed in 1949 to confront the Soviet Union and global communism in general. Its raison d’être has been dead for many years. Yet it has expanded from 16 to 28 members since 1999, and new members Estonia and Latvia share borders with Russia. (Imagine the Warsaw Pact expanding to include Mexico. But no, the Warsaw Pact of the USSR and six European allies was dissolved 26 years ago in the idealistic expectation that NATO would follow in a new era of cooperation and peace.)

And this NATO alliance, in theory designed to defend the North Atlantic, was only first deployed after the long (and peaceful) first Cold War, in what had been neutral Yugoslavia (never a member of either the Warsaw Pact nor NATO), Afghanistan (over 3000 miles from the North Atlantic), and the North African country of Libya. Last summer NATO held its most massive military drills since the collapse of the Soviet Union, involving 31,000 troops in Poland, rehearsing war with Russia. (The German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier actually criticized this exercise as “warmongering.”)

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it’s time to let this sink in. Tearful goodbyes or not.

Obama’s “Farewell To Arms” As War Presidency Ends (SCF)

Eight straight years of warmongering come to an end as US President Barack Obama bows out with his «farewell to the nation» speech this week, as fawning American media dubbed his valediction. In reality, Obama’s outgoing address should have been billed as a «farewell to arms» made by arguably one of the most belligerent presidents to ever have occupied the White House. Only in exceptionally delusional America could such a pernicious paradox be presented as something honorable and sentimental. Obama, the 44th US president, may have been the first black president and winner of a Nobel peace prize during his first year in office in 2009. But apart from those dubious accolades – championed by supposedly liberal Hollywood celebrities and media pundits – his actual record in office is one of blood-soaked disgrace.

Instead of ending American overseas wars as he had promised back in 2008, Obama expanded on his predecessor George W Bush’s criminal foreign interventions. At least seven countries – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia – have been routinely bombed under Obama’s watch as the US Commander-in-Chief. That’s one repugnant record. Last year alone, the US military reportedly dropped over 26,000 bombs around the world killing countless thousands of people, the exact number buried under official secrecy and American mainstream media indifference. At that rate, American anti-war campaigner Medea Benjamin estimates that US forces deployed three bombs every hour of every day for the whole of 2016. This death from the skies included Obama’s personal ordering of drone assassinations during his weekly Terror Tuesday briefings from Pentagon chiefs, the use of which increased 10-fold under his command, killing thousands of innocent civilians as «collateral damage».

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Could be quite the party.

Massive Security Preparations Under Way For Inauguration (Fox)

The stage is set for President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration – not just the traditional swearing-in platform on Capitol Hill, but a massive security presence amid protest plans to “shut down” the nation’s capital. Most crowd estimates for the Jan. 20 festivities are far short of the record-setting 1.8 million visitors for President Obama’s historic 2009 inauguration. But the throngs of spectators and protesters alike are enough to create transit, security and hospitality challenges. “Security is my greatest concern,” Missouri GOP Sen. Roy Blunt, chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, recently said. “No question that on inaugural day, this would be the most appealing target in the world.” He suggested the city could have as many as 750,000 demonstrators alone.

More than three-dozen law enforcement agencies are working together on security and safety plans in anticipation, including the Capitol Police, FBI, Secret Service and National Guard. Roughly 7,500 Guardsmen from across the country will come to Washington, along with about 3,000 police officers from various states, with the Secret Service taking the lead on security. Essentially everybody involved already is rehearsing for the big weekend, which kicks off next Friday morning with the swearings-in on the Capitol’s West Front, followed by official events including the traditional parade on Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House and the inaugural balls. The Joint Task Force – National Capital Region – 58th Presidential Inauguration has held several “table top” sessions in which agencies plot strategy over a large-scale, three-dimensional map.

“It’s a rehearsal, but in the military we call it a drill,” Navy Cmdr. Jonathan Blyth, the group’s spokesman, told FoxNews.com on Wednesday. “We’ve been preparing for this since the last inauguration. We’re focused to protecting and honoring a new commander in chief.” The task force and its Capitol Hill counterpart are holding a “dress rehearsal” this weekend for the swearings-in, the Presidential Review of troops and the parade along the roughly 2.5-mile stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue. Several protest groups planning large-scale demonstrations have permits in place and have already held organizational meetings, among them the collaborative DisruptJ20. “We’re planning a series of massive, direct actions that will shut down the inauguration ceremonies and any related celebrations,” the group says. “We’re also planning to paralyze the city.”

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“Schaeuble and other German lawmakers have warned the ECB risks fuelling support for eurosceptic parties..” No, it’s Schaeuble who fuels that support.

Germany’s Schaeuble Urges ECB To Start Unwinding Stimulus This Year (CNBC)

The ECB should start unwinding its ultra-loose monetary policy this year, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in an interview to be published on Friday, adding that it would not be easy. “The ECB will have the tough task of getting out of the ultra-expansionary monetary policy,” Schaeuble told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. “It would presumably be right if the ECB dared to exit this year”. Schaeuble added it was “possible and necessary” for the next government to lower taxes after Germany’s general election in September. He said forecasts that inflation could reach 3% in Germany this year would exacerbate concerns about current low interest rates. While admitting he was no fan of the ECB’s monetary policy, he added, “The ECB has a mandate for the eurozone, and it carries it out well.”

Schaeuble said the core issue was that a number of eurozone countries had not been able to boost competitiveness as required. “The problem is the weakness of the other countries, not Germany’s strength,” he said. The conservative minister said it would take a great effort to convince German citizens that the common currency provided more employment, social and business benefits than risks and negative consequences. To help Germany make the argument, he said it was essential that Italy and other countries stuck to the agreed rules. Schaeuble’s deputy Jens Spahn told Reuters last week that a “prudent start to the exit” of the ECB’s expansive monetary policy was desirable. The ECB aims for inflation of just under 2%, but it has undershot its target for years. To fight off deflation, the central bank has cut interest rates to zero and launched a massive but controversial bond-buying programme. Schaeuble and other German lawmakers have warned the ECB risks fuelling support for eurosceptic parties if it does not change course soon.

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There are new lows to be achieved out there. But go ahead, this too will make the EU crumble.

Germany To Return New Asylum Seekers To Greece From March (AFP)

Germany will begin returning asylum seekers to Greece from mid-March, an interior ministry spokesman told AFP on Thursday, essentially lifting a five-year suspension on such transfers because of poor conditions there. Under the EU’s so-called Dublin rules, would-be refugees must file for asylum in the first member-state of the bloc they enter, often the Mediterranean nations of Greece and Italy. If asylum seekers have travelled on to other EU nations, they are to be returned to their first port of call. But that requirement had been halted for Greece, which together with Italy has been the main point of entry for the more than one million immigrants who have entered the bloc since 2015 fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

A German interior ministry spokesman told AFP that Germany would reinstate the Dublin rule in two months’ time and return newly arrived asylum seekers to their first EU port of call. “In line with the recommendation from the European Commission, Germany believes that such transfers will be possible from March 15th,” said the spokesman, Tobias Plate. The EU recommended on December 8th that member states resume sending asylum seekers back to Greece from March next year, after such transfers were halted since 2011. Athens has criticized the EU’s assessment, with Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas saying the current legal framework was “unable to respond to the historic migration flows and leaves the burden to the member states that migrants first arrive in”.

German refugee relief group Pro Asyl has also raised concerns, warning that the measure would put the asylum system in Greece, a country still recovering from a deep debt and economic crisis, under further pressure. Photos of refugees living in tents amid heavy snowfall in Greece caused outrage recently, and the European Commission on Monday called such conditions “untenable”.

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This is just too sad.

Greece’s Healthcare System: Train Wreck In Slow Motion (Occupy)

In 2014, the Greek health department cut off its cancer screening prevention program, despite a number of warnings issued by professionals both within the country and abroad that such an action would lead to an explosion in otherwise preventable cases turning serious. According to a statement by Evgenia Thanou, general manager for Doctors of the World, “There are people with tumors who can’t afford the cost of chemotherapy, which costs €2,500 for a single dose. As a result there are people who have died because they have not been able to get the correct treatment from the point of diagnosis.” The rationale was that the budget cutbacks, in the range of 55%, would only take place on a short term basis, just long enough to allow for the country to recuperate from recently imposed austerity measures.

Charges for outpatient visits were also increased by 50% per visit, and almost 200 medicines were de-stocked by pharmacies. A further consequence was the artificial drug shortage, caused by companies like Novo Nordisk, which halted insulin shipments to Greece unless the retail prices were raised in a supposed effort to curb hoarding and black market export by professionals. Almost three years later, this policy is still in effect. The result was the gradual closure of 850 medical clinics, both in the capital Athens as well as in the countryside. Ten thousand beds have been shut down across the country, and 30,000 healthcare professionals removed from frontline positions. Those who remained saw their wages cut by at least 50%.

Among 11 hospitals that have shut down, three are psychiatric while the rest include rural clinics in remote parts of the country, leaving locals without access to a professional in the event of an emergency. The crisis led to the creation of numerous volunteer healthcare organizations in 2015, but their contributions couldn’t put a dent in the number of patients unable to afford any healthcare options. That same year saw the mass migration of thousands of recently graduated or established Greek healthcare professionals across Europe, with almost 4,000 headed for Germany and the Nordic countries seeking steadier employment in a more welcoming professional environment. The results of the brain drain haven’t yet been entirely felt, but experts agree the long-term effects could cripple the country’s prospects for decades to come.

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Taking my Automatic Earth for Athens fund directly to Germany.

Weitergeleiteter Spendenaufruf für Griechenland (Das Gelbe Forum)

Raul Ilargi Meijer von The Automatic Earth ist wieder in Athen und versucht, die schwierigen Bedingungen zu erleichtern, die in Griechenland bestehen. Die Aufmerksamkeit der Medien und der Welt ist abgelenkt, obwohl sich selbst diese Bedingungen zunehmend verschlechtern. Akute Probleme ziehen kollektive Aufmerksamkeit an, chronische aber leider nicht. Griechenland steckt tief in volkswirtschaftlicher Depression mit ausgewachsenem Liquiditätsengpass, Kapitalkontrollen, Massenarbeitslosigkeit, fehlender medizinischer Versorgung, Hungerepidemien und vielen anderen Schwierigkeiten.

Die von außen bereitgestellten Resourcen fließen zum größten Teil durch offizielle Kanäle, aber die Körperschaften, die mit der Auslieferung der Hilfen beauftragt sind, sind oft zu groß um zu erkennen, wo die wahren Bedürfnisse liegen, um dann rechtzeitig darauf zu reagieren, oder um die Mittel effektiv und effizient einzusetzen. Einfach gesagt neigen große Organisationen dazu, bürokratisch zu sein, und einen großen administrativen Wasserkopf zu haben, der viele Resourcen intern verschlingt. Als Außenseiter fehlen ihnen auch oft die kulturellen Verbindungen, welche notwendig sind um informelle Brücken zu bauen und Hilfmittelverteilung zu lenken. Die Regeln, welche die intitutionalisierte Hilfsindustrie befolgen muß, zum Beispiel die Bedingung für Hungernde, sich auszuweisen, bevor man berechtig ist, Lebensmittel zu erhalten, kann zu großen Hindernissen führen.

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