Aug 292019
 
 August 29, 2019  Posted by at 9:42 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Odilon Redon Two trees 1875

 

Boris Johnson Sparks Outrage After Forcing Suspension Of Parliament (AFP)
1.2 Million Britons Sign Petition To Stop Proroguing Of Parliament (G.)
The Queen’s Active Role in the Right Wing Coup (Craig Murray)
London Homeowners Are Panic Selling Homes Ahead Of Brexit Deadline (ZH)
The High Price of Dollar Safety (Coppola)
Mnuchin Says US Seriously Considering Ultra-Long Bonds (R.)
FBI Studies Two Broken Cameras Outside Cell Where Epstein Died (R.)
Hong Kong Police Ban Mass Protest Over Safety Fears (AFP)
Chinese Troop Movement Into Hong Kong Prompts Unease (G.)
Fear Stalks Cathay Staff After Hong Kong Protest Sackings (AFP)
New Lip-Reading CCTV Will Have People Fall Silent In Public (ZH)
All 4 Carter Page FISA Warrants Were Illegally Obtained – Joe diGenova (WE)
The G-7 Blues (Kunstler)

 

 

Courts.

Boris Johnson Sparks Outrage After Forcing Suspension Of Parliament (AFP)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sparked fury among pro-Europeans and MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit by forcing the suspension of parliament weeks before Britain’s EU departure date. The pound slid on the surprise news Wednesday, which opponents branded a “coup” and a “declaration of war” but Johnson claimed was necessary to allow him to pursue a “bold and ambitious” new domestic agenda. It came a day after opposition parties vowed to seek legislative changes to prevent a no-deal Brexit. Queen Elizabeth II approved the request to end what has been the longest session of parliament in nearly 400 years in the second week of September and reopen it on October 14 — just over two weeks before Brexit.

Thousands of people protested in London, Manchester, Edinburgh and other cities, while an online petition decrying the decision had garnered more than 1.1 million signatures by early Thursday. At the biggest rally, crowds gathered near parliament in London chanting “stop the coup” and waving EU flags. “Parliament will have the opportunity to debate the government’s overall programme, and approach to Brexit,” Johnson, who leads the Conservative party, vowed in a letter to MPs. However, his decision incensed lawmakers vehemently against Britain leaving the EU without a deal on October 31.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, denounced the move as “a smash-and-grab against democracy” and reiterated he may call a no-confidence vote in Johnson’s government, which commands a majority of just one seat. Former chancellor Philip Hammond also pledged to keep fighting against no deal. “It would be a constitutional outrage if parliament were prevented from holding the government to account at a time of national crisis,” he said. US President Donald Trump weighed into the row by praising Johnson as “great” and claiming it would be “very hard” for Corbyn to topple him in a no-confidence vote. The Labour leader shot back, tweeting Johnson was “a compliant Prime Minister who will hand Britain’s public services and protections over to US corporations in a free trade deal”.

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Bit late perhaps?

1.2 Million Britons Sign Petition To Stop Proroguing Of Parliament (G.)

A petition calling on the government not to prorogue parliament has already been signed by more than 1.2 million people. It was launched on Tuesday by Mark Johnston, a pro-EU campaigner from Reigate in Surrey, a day before Boris Johnson announced his request to suspend parliament. The text of the petition reads: “Parliament must not be prorogued or dissolved unless and until the article 50 period has been sufficiently extended or the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU has been cancelled.” By early afternoon on Wednesday it had already attracted more than 100,000 signatories, passing the threshold to be considered for a debate in parliament.[..] It is the fastest-growing parliamentary petition since more than 6 million people signed a statement calling for article 50 to be revoked earlier this year.

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Craig Murray is Scottish.

The Queen’s Active Role in the Right Wing Coup (Craig Murray)

Our obsequious media is actively perpetuating the myth than the monarch can do no wrong, and is apolitical. In fact the monarchy has been active and absolutely central to the seizure of power from the Westminster parliament in a right wing coup. Yesterday’s collaboration at Balmoral between the Queen and Jacob Rees Mogg is only the latest phase. The monarch appoints the UK Prime Minister. The convention is that this must be the person who can command the support of the majority in the House of Commons. That does not necessarily have to be from a single party, it can be via a coalition or pact with other parties, but the essential point, established since Hanoverian times, is that the individual must have a majority in the Commons.

The very appointment of Boris Johnson by Elizabeth Saxe Coburg Gotha was a constitutional outrage. Johnson may have been selected by Conservative Party members, but that is not the qualification to be PM. Johnson very plainly did not command a majority in the House of Commons, proven by the fact that still at no stage has he demonstrated that he does. Johnson’s flagship policy was always No Deal Brexit. Contrary to the monarchist propaganda spewed out across the entire MSM, not only is it untrue that the Queen had “no constitutional choice” but to appoint Johnson, the Queen had a clear constitutional duty not to appoint a Prime Minister whose flagship policy had already been specifically voted down time and again by the House of Commons.

The Queen has now doubled down on this original outrage by proroguing the Westminster parliament in conspiracy with old Etonians Rees Mogg and Johnson, specifically so that the House of Commons cannot vote down Johnson. The monarchy will always be an extremely useful institution in promoting the political aims of the upper classes, not least because of the ludicrous media promulgation of its infallibility. When you have former Prime Minister John Major, senior Tories like Philip Hammond and Michael Heseltine, and the Speaker of the House of Commons himself all talking of “consitutional outrage”, it is plainly preposterous to insist that the monarchy cannot, by definition, have done anything wrong.

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How much panic will we see in the next 2 months? How much protest, violence?

London Homeowners Are Panic Selling Homes Ahead Of Brexit Deadline (ZH)

The pound sterling has lost nearly 10% of its value in the last 120 days, as a no-deal Brexit has become more likely. The Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 Index, also called the FTSE 100 Index, has fallen into a bear market in the same period. Fear is spreading across the United Kingdom, also affecting the real estate market. Nested, a London-based “data-driven” real estate firm, is reporting 29% of London homeowners are slashing their asking prices ahead of Brexit’s Oct. 31 deadline, reported Property Reporter. The new report shows over £2 billion ($2.43 billion) of price cuts have so far occurred in the London Metropolitan Region ahead of the deadline.


About 11% of the listings in London (12,078) have seen at least £37,800 ($46,166) cut from the initial list price. Top areas of where the most substantial price discounts are being observed are in Westminster Kensington & Chelsea, Wandsworth, Camden, and Tower Hamlets. Another 18% of homes listed in the London area have seen price drops of at least 10% ahead of the Oct. 31 deadline. Jamie Salisbury, a property expert at Nested, said: “Amid this endless uncertainty and gloom there are great opportunities out there for buyers if they’re bold enough to seize them. This is particularly true for homeowners who are trading up, presenting an opportunity to buy a new home that might otherwise have been out of reach.”

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Everyone wants dollars and dollar-denominated “safe assets”.

The High Price of Dollar Safety (Coppola)

The world is saving like crazy. Corporations are building up cash mountains that they can’t or won’t invest in expanding their businesses. Individuals are building up pensions and precautionary savings. Governments, especially in developing countries, are building up FX reserves. The “savings glut,” as former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke dubbed it, shows no signs of dissipating. It is sloshing around the world looking for a productive home. But there isn’t one – or at least, not one that offers the safety that fearful investors desperately crave. That, fundamentally, is what is driving down the returns on assets.

It is also the primary cause of the wide US trade deficit. The President likes to think that the reason for the US’s persistent trade deficits is unfair trade practices and currency manipulation. And for some countries, these are undoubtedly contributing factors. But the biggest reason by far is the global dominance of the dollar, and above all, the pre-eminence of dollar-denominated financial assets as the world’s preferred savings vehicles. The world loves to save in dollar-denominated “safe assets” – not only the dollar itself, but also US Treasuries, mortgage-backed securities, dollar-denominated debt issued by other governments in good standing, and dollar-denominated blue-chip corporate debt.

When global demand for these assets rises and/or their supply falls, dollars become relatively scarcer internationally, both because foreigners increase their holdings of dollars and because they buy or borrow more dollars to buy other dollar-denominated safe assets. This drives up the dollar exchange rate against all other currencies. It also depresses yields, both on dollar-denominated safe assets and on all other financial assets. Thus the strong dollar and negative yields are both primarily caused by the world’s dollar saving habit, not by its trade practices. And the dollar safety quest intensifies as political tensions rise.

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Everyone wnats bonds? So give them what they want.

Mnuchin Says US Seriously Considering Ultra-Long Bonds (R.)

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday the possibility of issuing ultra-long U.S. bonds is “under very serious consideration” by the Trump administration, Bloomberg News reported. “If the conditions are right, then I would anticipate we’ll take advantage of long-term borrowing and execute on that,” Mnuchin told Bloomberg in an interview. Mnuchin said his renewed interest in 50- or 100-year bonds was unrelated to the drop in yields on shorter-term U.S. debt, Bloomberg reported.


Currently, the 30-year bond is the longest-dated U.S. Treasury bond. Earlier this month, the Treasury Department asked for feedback from market participants about the possibility of selling ultra-long bonds. The department posed a similar inquiry in 2017. U.S. Treasury debt yields fell on Wednesday, with 30-year yields setting all-time lows, as fears about a recession and U.S.-China trade tensions stoked unrelenting demand for low-risk government debt.

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FBI. Very reassuring.

FBI Studies Two Broken Cameras Outside Cell Where Epstein Died (R.)

Two cameras that malfunctioned outside the jail cell where financier Jeffrey Epstein died as he awaited trial on sex-trafficking charges have been sent to an FBI crime lab for examination, a law enforcement source told Reuters. Epstein’s lawyers Reid Weingarten and Martin Weinberg told U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan on Tuesday they had doubts about the New York City chief medical examiner’s conclusion that their client killed himself. The two cameras were within view of the Manhattan jail cell where he was found dead on Aug. 10. A source earlier told Reuters two jail guards failed to follow a procedure overnight to make separate checks on all prisoners every 30 minutes.


He had been taken off suicide watch prior to his death. The cameras were sent to Quantico, Virginia, site of a major FBI crime lab where agents and forensic scientists analyze evidence. The Washington Post reported on Monday that at least one camera in the hallway outside Epstein’s cell had footage that was unusable. The newspaper said there was other usable footage captured in the area.

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That’ll stop them.

Hong Kong Police Ban Mass Protest Over Safety Fears (AFP)

Hong Kong police have banned a mass pro-democracy rally from going ahead on Saturday over public safety concerns, organisers said, after last weekend saw some of the worst violence in three months of political unrest in the financial hub. In a letter to the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) on Thursday, police said they feared some participants would commit “violent and destructive acts”. Protesters have not only carried out “arson and large scale road blockades but also used petrol bombs, steel balls, bricks, long spears, metal poles, as well as various self-made weapons to destroy public property on a large scale, damage social order and cause injury to others,” the letter said of previous protests.


The rare move comes after officers deployed water cannon and fired a warning gunshot to fend off radical protesters on Sunday night, after a sanctioned rally turned ugly. Saturday’s rally was set to mark five years since Beijing rejected political reforms in Hong Kong, a decision which sparked the 79-day Umbrella Movement. The CHRF, responsible for the largest rallies the city has seen in decades, said they would appeal the decision. “You can see the police’s course of action is intensifying, and you can see (Hong Kong leader) Carrie Lam has in fact no intention to let Hong Kong return to peace, but is trying to incite the anger of more citizens through tough measures,” the group’s leader Jimmy Sham told reporters.

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“.. the use of troops in Hong Kong will be the end of Hong Kong..”

Chinese Troop Movement Into Hong Kong Prompts Unease (G.)

Chinese military vehicles have been seen moving across the border into Hong Kong, in what the military said were regular troop movements, as fears rose that the city could see a Beijing-led crackdown after months of political unrest. Following witness reports of the movements in the early hours of Thursday, state-run news agency Xinhua released a report that the Hong Kong Garrison of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was making a scheduled rotation and that it was an “annual normal routine”. The images published by Xinhua showed armoured carriers and trucks carrying troops at the border, and a naval vessel arriving in Hong Kong. In the previous two rotations – in 2017 and 2018 – state media reports noted that the number of troops and equipment had not changed.


This year the report does not include that detail. It is estimated there are between 8,000 and 10,000 troops in the garrison, on either side of the border. The movements come before a major anti-government demonstration planned for Saturday, as Hong Kong nears its third month of mass protests. On Thursday, the organiser of the demonstration, Civil Human Rights Front, received notice that police had banned the event. Hong Kong lawmaker Dennis Kwok of the Civic party called the troop movements political posturing. “I believe this is a deliberate posture on the part of the PLA to tell or warn the Hong Kong people that it may be deployed,” Kwok told public broadcaster RTHK. “As I said time and again, the use of troops in Hong Kong will be the end of Hong Kong, and I would warn against any such move on the part of the central people’s government.”

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Pretty crazy story.

Fear Stalks Cathay Staff After Hong Kong Protest Sackings (AFP)

A fortnight ago Cathay Pacific said it “wouldn’t dream” of muzzling the views of its 27,000 Hong Kong staff, but after the dismissal of several pro-democracy supporters among its workforce under Chinese pressure, employees say this is exactly what has happened. Hong Kong, a financial centre that was once a byword for stability and prosperity, has been plunged into an unprecedented crisis by anti-government protests, framed by fears over growing Chinese influence. The chaos put airline Cathay in a bind over whether to allow its staff to take part in — or voice support for — the massive demonstrations, or risk losing its China-facing business.

In mid-August, the carrier’s position seemed unequivocal and in line with the city’s culture of free speech. “We employ 27,000 different staff in Hong Kong… we have virtually every opinion on every issue amongst our staff,” Chairman John Slosar told reporters. “We certainly wouldn’t dream of telling them what they have to think about something.” But the company’s tune soon changed as a move by China’s aviation regulator to bar staff supporting protests from working on flights to the mainland or through Chinese airspace began to bite. Four Cathay staff were fired — including two pilots.

A fifth, Rebecca Sy, a union organiser and cabin crew for Cathay Dragon, a regional arm, says she was dropped from a Chinese flight rota and then dismissed a day later without explanation. “It’s now like feeding a wolf… how many people do they have to fire to feel content?” Sy told AFP on Wednesday at a protest against Cathay’s about-turn. Crew fear a witch-hunt is underway for anyone who has expressed support for the protests, which started in June but show no sign of abating. “We’re being monitored. It’s obvious,” a staff member from the Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union told AFP, requesting anonymity. “I’m really afraid of the system of ratting people out.”

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Lessons from Hong Kong: lasers, umbrellas etc.

New Lip-Reading CCTV Will Have People Fall Silent In Public (ZH)

While UK citizens are no strangers to having their every move in public captured by the country’s extensive network of CCTV cameras, new lip-reading technology will leave people “cupping their hands over their mouths” just to old a conversation in the street, according to the government’s surveillance watchdog, Tony Porter. “Among the new technologies Mr Porter expressed concern about were lip-syncing programs that can decipher what people are saying at distance as well as gait-analysis software, which can identify an individual just by the manner of their walk.” -The Telegraph. “The capability to run lip-sync technology to determine what people are saying would have a very suppressive effect. It would change the nature of our society,” Porter told the Evening Standard.

“People wouldn’t feel they could have a conversation outside. We increasingly see the football manager cupping his hand over his mouth to give instructions for fear of being exposed.” “Just extrapolate that by millions and what it would mean if people knew there was a capability of walking down the town and your lips moving could be picked up and extrapolated into a conversation,” he added. Porter’s comments follow the launch of an official investigation into the use of facial recognition technology by the Metropolitan Police by Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham – who says her office is “deeply concerned” about the software.

“Earlier this month, the civil liberties group Big Brother Watch also warned it had uncovered an “epidemic” of facial recognition technology being used around shopping centres, museums and conference venues in the UK. The pressure group said it had found that millions of people were now having their facial features unknowingly scanned and stored in data bases. Mr Porter conceded that such technologies could become an important tool for law enforcement. However, he added: “It’s important to protect a free and open society and at the moment we are at risk of ceding that to the impact of technology.”

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From the Washington Examiner, next to an Elizabeth Warren campaign ad. Oh irony.

All 4 Carter Page FISA Warrants Were Illegally Obtained – Joe diGenova (WE)

The Justice Department inspector general has determined all four Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against onetime Trump campaign aide Carter Page were illegally obtained, attorney Joe diGenova said this week. In an investigation that began last year, Inspector General Michael Horowitz examined the Justice Department’s and FBI’s compliance with legal requirements as well as policies and procedures in applications filed with the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court related to Page as part of a larger counterintelligence inquiry into President Trump’s campaign. Back in May, diGenova, a former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said the three FISA warrant extensions against Page were illegally obtained, adding “the only question now is whether or not the first FISA was illegally obtained.”


Now diGenova says Horowitz made the same determination about the warrant that started it all. “I can report categorically that the inspector general has found that all four FISA warrants were illegal. They were based on false information supplied to the FISA Court. And Michael Horowitz has concluded that all four FISA warrants were illegal,” he told WMAL on Monday. The announcement comes days after The Hill’s John Solomon reported Horowitz had completed his investigation and, after a declassification period, could be released sometime between mid-September to early October.

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“The movements were exquisitely tuned, along with the money flows that circulated freely, like blood carrying oxygen to each organ. All of that is coming to an end.”

The G-7 Blues (Kunstler)

Europe is near the end of its North Sea oil bonanza and there’s nothing in the on-deck circle for them. Germany tried to prove that they could run the country on “renewables” and that experiment has flopped. They have no idea what they’re going to do to keep the game going in their patch of nations. They must be freaking out in their charming capital cities. The next economic bust is going to amount to the crack-up of the oil age, and the “global economy” that emerged in its late stage. It was all about moving fantastic quantities of things around the planet. The movements were exquisitely tuned, along with the money flows that circulated freely, like blood carrying oxygen to each organ. All of that is coming to an end.

The nations of the world must be feeling desperate, despite the appearance of good manners at meetings like the G-7. What’s at stake for everybody in the dark background is the ability to maintain high standards of living only recently attained. And the fear behind that is not knowing just how far backward these high standards of living may have to slide. A lot of people still alive in China must remember a daily existence on par with the 12th century. In the USA, where democracy is mostly represented by low-order thinking skills, the memory of life before electricity and running water is long gone. We’ve been living in Futurama since the end of the last world war. That war, by the way, is not entirely forgotten in Europe, despite all the charm currently on display and the tourists swarming with their selfie sticks.

The place was a charnel house for centuries and the Euro folk will do about anything to suppress conflict. Lately, it looks like they’re willing to give up on Western Civilization itself to keep the peace. Lord knows what Mr. Trump’s strategy is with these so-called “trade talks.” He has explicitly enough pushed for the re-industrialization of America, and that implies — among other things — decoupling from the China’s torrential merchandise supply lines, cutting off its revenues. Closing off China’s access to US markets itself might be enough to finally blow up China’s deeply fraudulent banking system. Maybe the aim is to just disable China, derail it from its seeming aim of becoming the next world hegemon. Does Mr. Trump think he can do that without blowing up the rest of the world’s financial arrangements?

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Aug 232019
 


Odilon Redon Breton harbor 1879

 

Seeking Clarity From Fed’s Powell? Good Luck With That (R.)
Japan’s July Core Inflation Hovers At Two-Year Low, Adds Pressure On BOJ (R.)
Bernie Sanders Reveals $16.3 Trillion Green New Deal (R.)
Another FBI Failure Involving The Clintons Surfaces (Solomon)
Boeing Jumps On Reuters Report Of Record 737 Production Target (ZH)
Macron Says UK Can Still Revoke Article 50 And Cancel Brexit (Ind.)
US Teachers Are Again Opening Up Their Wallets To Buy School Supplies (EPI)
Wildlife Meeting Backs More Protection For Giraffes (AFP)
Bolsonaro Burns Down The Amazon (G.)
French Mayors Ban Glyphosate Weedkiller, Defying Government (R.)

 

 

Futility in action.

Seeking Clarity From Fed’s Powell? Good Luck With That (R.)

When Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell speaks in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Friday, traders will comb through his remarks for clues on whether the U.S. central bank will deliver more rate cuts this year. They may be disappointed. For all his reputation as the most plain-spoken person to run the U.S. central bank in decades, if not ever, Powell may be reluctant in his remarks to fellow central bankers at this year’s Kansas City Fed economic symposium to say much about where rates will go. The reason: he may not actually know, and does not want to get locked in.

Fellow Fed policymakers, even those who supported July’s rate cut, are signaling reluctance to do more, with Philadelphia Fed chief Patrick Harker calling for a wait-and-see approach and Dallas Fed chief Robert Kaplan saying he is “open minded” but would “like to avoid having to take further action.” Since the Fed cut rates in July, the U.S. economic picture has darkened. New threats by President Donald Trump to impose additional tariffs on China, and then a decision to defer some of those new taxes until December, are boosting already heightened uncertainty for businesses. U.S. factory activity is on the decline.


Globally, dozens of central banks are cutting rates and some economies look poised to fall into recession. Finally, in a signal that investors are increasingly worried about a U.S. recession, yields on 2-year Treasuries sank below those 10-year debt on Thursday in yet another “yield curve inversion.” At the same time, labor markets remain strong and consumers continue to spend at stores and online. Part of the reason the yield curve inverted is because the U.S. economy remains so much stronger than much of Europe: investors would rather have “safe” U.S. Treasuries, even with their dropping yields, than say, German bonds with a negative yield.

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What is it now, 20 years? Good lord.

Japan’s July Core Inflation Hovers At Two-Year Low, Adds Pressure On BOJ (R.)

Japan’s core consumer inflation wallowed at a two-year low in July, increasing pressure for the central bank to acknowledge price momentum was slowing and expand its radical stimulus program. With the global economy hit by the Sino-U.S. tariff war and a pick-up in demand in the second half of the year uncertain, attention has turned to global central banks to gauge their readiness for further stimulus. Indeed, expectations that the BOJ will ease further have grown, a recent Reuters poll showed, after the central bank at its last policy meeting committed to expanding stimulus if a global slowdown prolongs and threatens to derail Japan’s economic recovery.

The core consumer price index, which includes oil products but excludes fresh food prices, rose 0.6% in July year-on-year, matching economists’ median estimate. The reading for July matched the previous month’s gain, which was the slowest pace since July 2017 when the index climbed 0.5%. The so-called core-core CPI, which excludes the effects of volatile food and energy costs, was also up 0.6% in July from a year earlier. It is closely watched by the BOJ to gauge how much the economy’s strength has translated into price gains. But the data indicates the central bank remains well behind in its efforts to achieve its 2% inflation target as an eight-month long export slump on the back of the U.S.-China trade war and slowing global demand take a toll on the world’s third-largest economy.


“It’s just a matter of time before the BOJ acknowledges that the momentum of a higher inflation rate is being lost,” said Masaaki Kanno, chief economist at Sony Financial Holdings.

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Looks like it’s only a switch from one source to another. Blind. Useless.

Bernie Sanders Reveals $16.3 Trillion Green New Deal (R.)

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders on Thursday unveiled a $16.3 trillion climate change strategy on a tour of northern California that included meeting families displaced by deadly wildfires and a rally in the state capital Sacramento. The plan would “launch a decade of the Green New Deal”, a 10-year federal “mobilization” that would factor climate change into every policy action from immigration to foreign policy while promising to create 20 million jobs in the process. The U.S. would generate 100% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030 and achieve “full decarbonization” by 2050, according to the plan.

“We are going to invest massively in wind, solar and other sustainable energies,” Sanders told a cheering crowd that had braved near triple digit temperatures to see him in a downtown Sacramento park. Addressing about 5,000 people inside and outside the park, Sanders accused fossil fuel companies of being willing to destroy the planet for short-term profits. “We cannot turn our backs on this crisis,” Sanders said. “We have got to lead the entire world in a new energy direction.” His plan outlines dozens of policies to aggressively move the United States off fossil fuels in the electricity, transportation and building sectors.


It aims to restore U.S. leadership and financial aid under the Paris Climate Agreement and spend trillions of dollars to assist fossil fuel workers and vulnerable minority communities in the transition to a green economy. It bans the practice of fracking to extract natural gas and oil, the import and export of fossil fuels and sets a moratorium on nuclear power plant license renewals. Sanders’ plan comes a day after Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, who made climate change the centerpiece of his campaign, dropped out of the race for the Democratic party’s nomination to try to unseat Republican Donald Trump as president in 2020.

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Starting to think the breakthrough needed will come from a source other than Bill Barr.

Another FBI Failure Involving The Clintons Surfaces (Solomon)

As I previously wrote, then-FBI Director Comey’s original draft findings in the Clinton case concluded her transmission of classified emails through an unsecure server was “grossly negligent,” the legal standard supporting a felony charge under the Espionage Act. But the findings were edited and the term changed to “extremely careless,” and Comey chose on his own to announce on July 5, 2016, that he would not seek criminal charges, a decision that the DOJ’s IG concluded had wrongly usurped prosecutors’ authority to make charging decisions. In addition, as I have written, FBI general counsel James Baker believed — almost until the last minute before Comey’s announcement — that Clinton should, in fact, face criminal prosecution, but he was talked out of it.

And in a passage that often gets overlooked by reporters and pundits alike, IG Horowitz concluded in his final report about the Clinton email caper that the anti-Trump biases that FBI agent Strzok and bureau lawyer Lisa Page expressed in text messages may have affected their decision-making to focus more urgently on the now disproven Trump-Russia collusion allegations rather than to finish work on the former secretary of state’s email problems, an investigation code-named Midyear. “In assessing the decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over following up on the Midyear-related investigative lead … we were particularly concerned about text messages sent by Strzok and Page that potentially indicated or created the appearance that investigative decisions they made were impacted by bias or improper considerations,” the Justice’s watchdog wrote.


So the FBI’s chief lawyer originally thought Clinton should be indicted, and the bureau wrote a draft supporting the felony standard, but then walked back its decision. And agents focused more on unsubstantiated Trump collusion than Clinton emails in what the IG feared might be a sign of bias. And now we learn the FBI willfully chose to ignore highly classified evidence in the Clinton email case and has stonewalled Congress for a year on whether it intends to reexamine that evidence. It’s exactly that sort of behavior that leaves many Americans wondering whether there are two systems of justice inside the FBI — one for the Clintons, and one for the rest of the country.

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It’s not just the FAA, regulators everywhere must clear the 737 MAX. Some of them will be very reluctant.

Boeing Jumps On Reuters Report Of Record 737 Production Target (ZH)

The Dow has managed to levitate into the red following a Reuters report that sent the stock of Dow heavyweight Boeing higher, according to which Boeing told suppliers it will resume production of its best-selling 737 jets at a rate of 52 aircraft per month in February 2020, then stepping up to a record 57 jets monthly in June. There is, of course a catch: the aerospace giant will only be able to boost production if the FAA clear the plane. To wit, Boeing told more than 100 suppliers during at least one Web meeting July 30 that the new schedule depended upon regulators approving the 737 MAX to fly again commercially in the fourth quarter. Of course, since the entire report is contingent on the firm getting a greenlight, it is nothing more than a trial balloon, and also an attempt by Boeing to make the FAA responsible for the future wellbeing of Boeing shareholders.


As Reuters notes, one of the sources “expressed skepticism over the timing given the intense scrutiny from regulators that grounded the 737 MAX after deadly crashes killed nearly 350 people in Ethiopia and Indonesia in the span of five months.” More to the point, there is no guarantee when regulators will clear the 737 MAX to fly again, and Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg told analysts last month that Boeing would consider further 737 output cuts or potentially suspending production if the grounding dragged on. In other words, Boeing production could be a record in Q2 2020… or it could be zero.

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Have a nice flight home Boris.

“..a trade deal with the United States. “Even if it were a strategic choice it would be at the cost of a historic vassalisation of the British state,” Mr Macron said.”

Macron Says UK Can Still Revoke Article 50 And Cancel Brexit (Ind.)

Emmanuel Macron has insisted Article 50 can still be revoked “up to the last second”, as he warned Boris Johnson a no-deal Brexit would be Britain’s fault. As the two leaders prepared to hold their first face-to-face meeting in Paris, Mr Macron once again dismissed the prime minister’s repeated demands to reopen the withdrawal agreement as “not an option”. In highly-critical remarks on the eve of talks, the French president also said the UK would be the “main victim” of a hard Brexit, as he warned the cost would not be offset by a trade deal with the United States. “Even if it were a strategic choice it would be at the cost of a historic vassalisation of the British state,” Mr Macron said. “I don’t think that is what Boris Johnson wants.”


Rejecting accusations the bloc would be at fault for a no-deal Brexit, he continued: “It will be the responsibility of the British government, always. “Firstly it was the British people that decided Brexit, and the British government has the possibility up to the last second to revoke Article 50.” The frank comments from Mr Macron could overshadow Mr Johnson’s first meeting in Paris as prime minister, as the pair meet for a working lunch to discuss the current state of Britain’s exit from the EU.

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How sad is this? The new normal in the UK too. Don’t know about other countries.

US Teachers Are Again Opening Up Their Wallets To Buy School Supplies (EPI)

It’s the beginning of the school year, a time of eager anticipation and hopeful expectations. Amid the excitement, parents are engaged in practical tasks, including opening their wallets to stock their children’s backpacks with school supplies. Teachers, too, are gearing up to go back to their classrooms by opening their wallets to buy classroom supplies. An overwhelming majority of them—more than nine out of 10—will not be reimbursed for what they spend on supplies over the school year, according to survey data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

The nation’s K–12 public school teachers shell out, on average, $459 on school supplies for which they are not reimbursed (adjusted for inflation to 2018 dollars), according to the NCES 2011–2012 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS). This figure does not include the dollars teachers spend but are reimbursed for by their school districts. The $459-per-teacher average is for all teachers, including the small (4.9%) share who do not spend any of their own money on school supplies.


Unlike the data from the more recent 2015–2016 survey (now called National Teacher and Principal Survey or NTPS), the 2011–2012 SASS microdata provide state-by-state information, allowing us to see how much teachers spend on supplies by state. The map below shows the inflation-adjusted state-by-state spending. We know that the figures in the map are not an atypical high driven by the Great Recession because the 2011–2012 spending levels are lower than spending levels in the 2015–2016 NTPS data. The figure after the map shows that teachers’ unreimbursed school supply spending has actually increased overall since the recovery.

Read more …

But of course they fight over this too.

Wildlife Meeting Backs More Protection For Giraffes (AFP)

Wildlife-supporting countries on Thursday backed regulating international trade in giraffes in a bid to offer more protection to the gentle giants, feared to be facing a “silent extinction”. The vote in Geneva by parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) recognises for the first time that international trade is part of the threat facing giraffes. The decision, which passed with 106 votes in favour to 21 votes opposed and seven abstaining, took place in committee and still needs a stamp of approval by the full CITES conference before it wraps up on August 28.

The African giraffe population as a whole has shrunk by an estimated 40 percent over the past three decades, to just under 100,000 animals, according to the best figures available to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). And yet Thursday’s vote, which implies listing all giraffes under CITES Appendix II and thus requiring tracking and regulation of all trade in the species, was highly controversial. The proposal to list the giraffe came from a range of countries in western, central and eastern Africa, where giraffe populations have been particularly hard hit. Chad’s representative argued that “illegal cross-border trade (poses) a significant threat to the survival of giraffes.”


But they met harsh resistance from southern African countries where the populations have traditionally been better protected and are healthier. Countries, including South Africa, Botswana and Tanzania, maintained there was little evidence that international trade is contributing to the decline of the giraffe. And they argued that imposing international regulations was unfair to countries that have strived to protect their giraffes. “Such a decision fails to recognise our conservation achievements,” the Tanzanian representative said.

Read more …

Time to boycott Brazil.

Bolsonaro Burns Down The Amazon (G.)

The Amazon is the centre of the world. Right now, as our planet experiences climate collapse, there is nowhere more important. If we don’t grasp this, there is no way to meet that challenge. For 500 years, this has been a place of ruins. First with the European invasion, which brought a particularly destructive form of civilisation, the death of hundreds of thousands of indigenous men and women and the extinction of dozens of peoples. More recently, with the clearance of vast swaths of the forest and all life within it. Right now, in 2019, we are witnessing the beginning of a new, disastrous chapter. The area of trees being cleared has surged this year. In July, the deforestation rate was an area the size of Manhattan every day, a Greater London every three weeks.


This month, fires are incinerating the Amazon at a record rate, almost certainly part of a scorched-earth strategy to clear territory. Why is this happening now? Because of a change in power. A predatory form of politics called Bolsonarism has assumed nearly total, and totalitarian, power in Brazil. President Jair Bolsonaro’s chief project is to create more ruins in the Amazon forest, methodically and swiftly. This is why, for the first time since Brazil became a democracy again, it effectively has a minister against the environment. For more than 30 years no environment minister has enjoyed the same autonomy as Ricardo Salles. He is a gofer for agribusiness, which is responsible for the majority of the deaths in the fields and forests, and Brazil’s greatest destructive force. The landowners lobby has always been part of Brazil’s government, formally or not. But today, this has reached a new level. They are not just in the government, they are the government.

Read more …

It’s the farmers who want Roundup. Crazies.

French Mayors Ban Glyphosate Weedkiller, Defying Government (R.)

Some 20 French mayors have banned glyphosate from their municipalities, defying the government, which is now taking legal action to impose national legislation which allows the controversial weedkiller’s continued use for now. In 2017, President Emmanuel Macron had pledged to ban glyphosate in France within three years, rejecting a European Union decision to extend its use for five years after heated debate over whether glyphosate, developed by Bayer-owned Monsanto, can cause cancer. But Macron has since said that a blanket ban is not possible within that time frame.

Bayer says regulators and extensive research have found glyphosate to be safe. On Thursday, the administrative tribunal of Rennes, western France, heard the mayor of Langouet, Brittany, who has banned the use of pesticides in his town within 150 meters of people’s homes and workplaces. Mayor Daniel Cueff told the court – which is set to rule next week – the ban was aimed at protecting residents from molecules considered a health risk. About 300 people attended the hearing and nearly 100,000 have signed a petition to support Cueff’s ban. A lawyer for the French state argued that is not in a mayor’s powers to ban phytosanitary products, which are regulated by the agriculture ministry.


The ministry declined to comment, but Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said in January France will phase out 80% of its glyphosate usage by 2021. Farmers’ unions opposed the ban, saying there are no viable alternatives for the chemical and that a transition to organic farming is too costly. Allowing the mayor to override the state over glyphosate “would be the return of the local barons and the reign of the lords over their serfs,” Cedric Henry, head of Brittany farmers union FDSEA-35 said in a statement.

Read more …

 

The Amazon is burning.

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 152019
 


Felix Vallotton Verdun 1917

 

It’s been a few days since I did anything but my news aggregator, and that’s not so strange, since so much of it ‘encircled’ Jeffrey Epstein. Now that he’s supposedly died, though we have no proof of that, from an ‘apparent suicide’, there are other topics as well that we can turn to.

But let’s start with Epstein just for good measure. We still don’t have an autopsy report, though New York City Chief Medical Examiner Barbara Sampson apparently performed one on Epstein on Sunday, which private pathologist Michael Baden “observed on behalf of Epstein’s representatives”.

Q: Which representatives? Q2: Why Baden, who investigated JFK’s death, and Michael Brown’s? The guy’s 85! So yes, he has experience, but also ostensibly experience with presenting the facts as certain people want them presented.

So there’s no autopsy report, for whatever reason, but details have been leaked to the WaPO. Epstein hade multiple broken bones in his neck, and the focus is on the hyoid bone, which breaks much more easily in strangulation than it does in self-imposed hanging. “The hyoid bone is a U-shaped mobile bone situated in the anterior portion of the neck at the level of the C3 vertebra, in the angle between the mandible and the thyroid cartilage..”

And then today we read that an Epstein representative has claimed his remains. Again, what representative? We don’t even know it was Epstein’s body, though between his death and today that could have been established, through DNA for instance. But we’re going to be stuck with that one autopsy, -because the body will be gone- which may or may not be convincing and/or conclusive. Who knows?

And AG Bill Barr can talk all he wants about seeking justice for the victims, but he should know that at this point it’s all about transparency. Tell people what you know when you know it. Because if you don’t, that’s going to turn against you. But perhaps he thinks doing so may turn against him even more.

Or maybe he’s just another tool protecting DC elites, on both sides of the aisle. There’s this story out there that nobody is able to locate Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s enabling madam, though the Daily Mail came up the other day with a property north of Boston, but there’s a few things missing there.

First, she apparently is not on the premises, and second, she would have to be very confident of being “protected”, to be in the US at this point. For one thing, she might want to be somewhere that doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the US. But still, US intelligence can locate you or me in a matter of minutes if not seconds if they so desire, and Maxwell’s essentially been unaccounted for for years?

Epstein had industrial capacity paper and even carpet shredders, first on his Caribbean island, which were then shipped to Manhattan. Every single day Maxwell is not “found” gives her more time to shred whatever she wants (and what other people may went shredded too).

And this is not something that started when Epstein was arrested on July 6 at Teterboro Airport either. Though that is still the big mystery: why was he apprehended there and then? After ten years, or even 30 years if you will of abusing underage girls? Why there and then? Who gave the order? Who had that power? Who wanted him jailed, after he’d been protected all that time? After the 13-month sweetheart deal that saw him abuse girls even while he was serving his sentence?

But look, we don’t even know if the body autopsied was Epstein. They may be lying about that too.

It’s like we’re replaying JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald all over again and Jack Ruby got access to Epstein’s cell and that’s the official story so stop asking questions.

 

 

 

 

Aug 102019
 


Pablo Picasso Man with ice cream cone 1938

 

My first thought after reading about Jeffrey Epstein’s so-called suicide is: let it go, watch a movie instead, or go out to dinner. But a suicide of someone under suicide watch is just too much. And then I understand NBC -oh wait, and Reuters too- said he wasn’t even on suicide watch anymore. A guy who allegedly tried to kill himself two weeks ago. But of course. Why should he be?

The FBI has announced an investigation, and so has Bill Barr’s DOJ. Problem is, there are so many people with strong connections to both FBI and DOJ that these investigations are as likely to bury the truth as they are to reveal it. Because this ceased being about Epstein the very moment he was apprehended at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey July 6.

It became about Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Alan Dershowitz, Ehud Barak, and god knows who else. It wasn’t about Jeffrey Epstein anymore, it was about his ‘friends’. It was also about Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter and heiress of media tycoon and Mossad asset Robert Maxwell, another ‘victim’ of an apparent suicide two decades ago.

Ghislaine who still walks around free, who hasn’t been charged with a thing, after having been credibly and repeatedly accused of procuring at least dozens of underage girls for Epstein and his friends.

It’s pretty safe to say that in the highest, re: richest, circles of our societies, this is what goes on. A lot. Presidents, prime ministers, corporate tycoons, they were/are in Epstein’s black book, and it makes no difference whether they succeed in making that book disappear. We just got another glance at their world.

Sociopaths and psychopaths are the shit that floats to the top of our societies. Because that’s where they can do most damage. Because that’s where they find the power their distorted minds crave more than anything.

Jeffrey Epstein to my knowledge never ordered bombing campaigns that killed 1000s of people in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan. But some of the people he hung out with, and provided young girls and boys for, did.

We can only hope that Bill Barr and Donald Trump are going to be serious about finding out everything about Epstein’s world. I understand that the warrant on his Manhattan mansion stands, and now that he’s gone, there’s no-one left to fight it, so everything on the premises is fair game, whoever is mentioned in all the files, videos, books etc.

But I can’t say I’m very hopeful. For instance, it appears overly obvious that Prince Andrew plays a very dark role in the whole Epstein play, but what are the odds he’ll be arrested for it? I would venture that the odds MI6 murdered Epstein are much higher. But that’s just me, and I’m not a betting man.

 

Epstein was arrested at Teterboro on July 6. I wrote the piece linked below on July 19, three weeks ago to the day. His first ‘suicide attempt’ was two weeks ago. When he ‘killed himself’ today he was allegedly no longer on suicide watch.

What did George W. Bush say again about ‘fool me twice’? “I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee that says, ‘Fool me once, shame on … shame on you. Fool me… You can’t get fooled again!'”

And wait a minute, who’s going to get all of Epstein’s money? Here’s me on July 19:

 

How Long is Jeffrey Epstein For This World?

There are three main threats to Jeffrey Epstein’s life (or four, if you include his victims).

No. 1 is his fellow inmates in the Manhattan MCC. He’ll be in very strict isolation, because inmates and pedophilia is a very explosive combination. So isolation, but that’s never 100%. And Judge Berman yesterday ordered him in jail until his trial(s), instead of in his $77 million Manhattan mansion not far from that same prison, so he’ll be there a while; that trial could take a very long time to happen, even years. All the more chance for an inmate to make an easy $1000 by offing him.

The no. 2 threat is Epstein himself. Berman’s decision means he’s very unlikely to ever get out again. Chances of him being declared innocent are as close to zero as as anything Kelvin. So why would he want to continue to live? Perhaps his lawyers try and tell him he’s always got a shot, and there’s always a next court date, but he doesn’t strike me as fully delusional. I could be wrong, sure, about much of all this, but I don’t think so.

The no. 3 threat is, obviously, the people he might “sing” about. And that’s an litany of the world’s who’s who. No doubt the FBI may already have their IDs and photos and what-not, but why chance it when you can take down the -potential- crown witness?

 

[..] …Fox, also from July 18, because it targets Prince Andrew. Is MI6 going to be able to muffle away the obviously very strong and long-term connection between Epstein and Andrew? I’m thinking they’d probably have to get those 2,000 pages re-sealed. Or, you know, burned down. Nuked. To summarize my thoughts on this, and the reason I started writing this, I can’t see Epstein living much longer. There are too many people who would rather see him dead, including perhaps himself. And there are very few people who want him to get into lengthy talks with prosecutors who are actually looking for the truth.

Now of course we must wonder if any prosecutor wants that truth. Alex Acosta left his US government job because “Epstein is intelligence” was not enough to let him keep his job. And if we can believe some of the stories about the CIA, the State Dept and Mossad being linked to Epstein (and we got worse than that), it looks like he’s just got to go. Unless someone, or some party involved, has a reason to protect him against all odds. If only to handicap some other people.

 

 

 

 

Aug 082019
 


Edward Hopper Ground swell 1939

 

The US government has to come up with very very strong legislation for social media, and it has to do that very soon. Because if it doesn’t, it risks those same social media inciting a civil war (that’s no hyperbole, that is real) on American soil.

And beyond as well, but as Donald Trump said about European efforts to curtail Twitter, Facebook et al’s activities, they’re American companies and hence America’s responsibility. Well, cool, but that means you have to do your job, and you ain’t doing it. Those EU efforts by the way were all about financial issues, tax paying etc., not inciting civil wars or being undemocratic. In short, Brussels doesn’t get it yet either.

Now, the Automatic Earth was kicked off Facebook years ago and never received an explanation for why an account with 1000s of followers was just choked in the bud, so I can’t be expected to celebrate its great achievements for mankind. We still have a Twitter account, but how much longer after I post this essay? There’s no telling, and that is the heart of the entire issue. If I, or you, say anything that anyone at these companies don’t like, they can ban us.

Facebook and Twitter continue to operate on the notion that they are private companies who are entitled to ban anyone they don’t like. In the case of Facebook, that covers half the world population. It’s like running the UN as a private enterprise. And it’s not even the owners or the board, they don’t have time to check who they like or not. Instead, they have hired 10s of 1000s of young -because cheap- kids to do the (shadow-) banning for them.

The companies are all based in Silicon Valley, i.e. California, i.e. NOT Trump territory, and the cheap young kids hired to decide what people can and cannot say on their so-called private platforms reflect that territory and its ideas. But Washington can no longer tolerate that. It must act now. The question is: will it?

 

Why wouldn’t it? Because Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et al have become the US Intelligence’s dream tools to spy on their own people as well as those abroad. The CIA couldn’t even ever have dreamt of a platform that encompasses 3.5 billion people. But Mark Zuckerberg handed it to them on a platter. My idea is Trump would love to go against them, because they go against him and his voters, but US Intelligence, CIA, FBI, may be holding him back from it. Bad, bad idea.

Picked up Charles Nenner on his war cycles at Greg Hunter’s USA Watchdog site, and I wasn’t terribly convinced at first sight, but that was before I read about Mitch McConnell being threatened at his own house.

 

Civil War Cycle Heating up in America

“Years ago when we talked about my war cycles, I said I am more worried about internal social war in the United States than outside wars. I think there is a bigger chance in the United States than in Europe. They say it’s Trump’s fault . . . . I say it’s the other way around. If the Democrats would just get things organized and people would not get that angry. . . . The media will always take the other side, so they will never solve it. I think it is the Democrats whose fault it is that all these killings are there and not the Republicans. . . .


So, there is a cycle of social unrest in the United States, which is 60 years old. So, you go back to what happened in the 1960’s. It could explode, and I think it is going to explode, and there is going to be a major problem. . . . I don’t know how bad it is going to be, but based on cycles, it has to be worse than the 1960’s. Each cycle always is worse. . . . WWII was worse than WWI, so every cycle becomes worse than the first cycle. . . . I don’t feel comfortable living in the United States anymore because people are so aggressive on everything.

Nenner also talks in that piece about how he visited Putin, who is interested in the war cycles idea, so maybe I should read up on those war cycles.

But that Mitch McConnell story interferes and disperses into the whole tale. There apparently were groups of people outside his home, caught on video, who were calling for him to be violently attacked. And when his campaign posted a video of these people on Twitter, the campaign’s account was shut down.

 

“Just Stab The Motherfu*ker”: Twitter Suspends McConnell Campaign For Posting Video Of Violent Threats

“I just want him to have a stroke, that is all,” the woman added. “One of those heart attacks where they can’t breathe, and they’re holding their chest and they fall backwards” “He’s in there nursing his broken arm. He should have broken his raggedy, wrinkled-ass neck,” she said at one point in the video. “Everybody needs to show up wherever this ho is at and make him just regret his fucking life, period,” she added. At one point in the protest, a male protester commenting on McConnell’s recent injury said that he may have been the victim of a “voodoo doll” curse. -Daily Caller


Kevin Golden, McConnell’s 2020 campaign manager noted that “Twitter will allow the words of ‘Massacre Mitch’ to trend nationally on their platform, but locks our account for posting actual threats against us.” Golden says that they appealed to Twitter, which stood by their decision, saying that the account will remain locked until they delete the video. Daily Wire reporter Ryan Saavedra was similarly locked out of his Twitter account for posting the video. “Twitter asked me yesterday to delete this tweet,” Saavedra recounted in a massive tweetstorm. “It showed a person allegedly calling for violence against Mitch McConnell. The person appears to be a BLM activist who has met with Elizabeth Warren.”

And I know, people are going to react to this saying: Oh, it’s Daily Caller, Mitch McConnell, Ryan Saveedra, it’s right wing, but that is so far beyond the point it disqualifies you from any conversation at all. Mitch McConnell, aka MoscowMitch or MassacreMitch, is very far removed from being my favorite person on the planet, but he’s the Senate Majority Leader, and as such an important part of the American political system.

If you don’t like that, there’s a mechanism to express that: the ballot box. Calling for him to be physically attacked right outside the place where he and his family live is not done. Unless perhaps you want the same to happen to you at your residence. But you don’t, do you?

This has nothing to do with left vs right anymore. This is about people who have convinced themselves they are so right in their ideas that anything at all is justified to get their views and their points across, including violence. Well, there’s the seeds of your civil war then.

Now, note that this started well over 3 years ago with the invention out of thin air of Russiagate. Now that that ‘theory’ has been debunked, where are the inventors, i.e. losers, going to hide? Apparently in front of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home.

And what’s next? Right-wing protesters setting up camp outside Mark Zuckerberg’s home, or Adam Schiff’s, Jerry Nadler’s, Elijah Cummings’? We may not be that far removed from that happening. And if it does, Facebook and Twitter will be crucial in organizing it.

Which is why Trump and AG Bill Barr must come up with very strong rules, very soon, defining what social media are allowed to do and what not. And barring Mitch McConnell’s campaign from posting direct threats to the man uttered mere feet away from where he lives doesn’t seem to be the way forward.

The Age of -corporate- Innocence that Zuck and @jack keep trying to hide behind while counting their billions has long gone. They have become bigger political players than the New York Times, CNN and Jeff Bezos. Stop them now or you risk the 2020 elections leading to outright warfare. Mr. Trump, sir, this is your responsibility more than anyone else’s. You have no choice. But you do have the power.

Not many Americans, far as I can see, take the threat of a civil war seriously, including you, Mr. Trump. But you really should. Take on the social media, and you’re halfway there to preventing it.

 

 

 

 

Jul 312019
 


Gustav Klimt Field of poppies 1907

 

Judge Dismisses DNC Suit Against Trump Campaign, Russia, WikiLeaks (Pol.)
Trump Wants To Rein In Intelligence Agencies (R.)
Trump’s Tax Returns Required Under New California Election Law (LAT)
FAA Hopes Global Regulators Simultaneously Approve Boeing 737 MAX (R.)
China Probes Small Bank Shareholdings As Risk Worries Persist (R.)
China Gathers Forces On Hong Kong Border Amid Unrest (ZH)
German Prosecutors Charge Ex-VW Boss With Fraud (AFP)
Jeremy Corbyn’s Finest Hour? (Varoufakis)
Mess With Good Friday And We’ll Block UK Trade Deal, US Politicians Warn (G.)
Dominic Cummings: Tories Do Not Care About Poor People Or NHS (G.)
Toxic History Of Monsanto In The UK (OffG)
Xenophobia About Russians Is Never Condemned In Western Media (Ryan)

 

 

Judge said DNC “claims entirely divorced from the facts”.

Judge Dismisses DNC Suit Against Trump Campaign, Russia, WikiLeaks (Pol.)

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit the Democratic National Committee filed against the Trump campaign, the Russian government, WikiLeaks and various Trump campaign officials over alleged involvement in the hacking of Democratic Party email accounts during the 2016 presidential race. U.S. District Judge John Koeltl rejected the central theory of the racketeering suit: that the Trump campaign, campaign aides and Trump allies abetted the theft of the emails by encouraging WikiLeaks to publish the messages and by urging they be released when they would be of maximum political benefit to then-candidate Donald Trump. Koeltl said such actions were protected by the First Amendment when taken by people not involved in the actual hacking.

“Even if the documents had been provided directly to the Campaign [and] the Campaign defendants … they could have published the documents themselves without liability because they did not participate in the theft and the documents are of public concern,” the judge wrote in an 81-page opinion. “The DNC cannot hold these defendants liable for aiding and abetting publication when they would have been entitled to publish the stolen documents themselves without liability.” The judge said the DNC’s suit did not allege that anyone beyond the Russian Federation took part in the hacking of the Democratic Party computer systems or email accounts. And he concluded that WikiLeaks could not legitimately be sued as a recipient of that information because what it released was of genuine public interest.

“The DNC’s published internal communications allowed the American electorate to look behind the curtain of one of the two major political parties in the United States during a presidential election,” Koeltl wrote. “This type of information is plainly of the type entitled to the strongest protection that the First Amendment offers.” Koeltl, a Manhattan-based appointee of President Bill Clinton, also rejected the DNC’s contention that fundraising-related records amount to trade secrets that get special protection under the law. “The DNC’s interest in keeping ‘donor lists’ and ‘fundraising strategies’ secret is dwarfed by the newsworthiness of the documents as a whole,” the judge wrote. “If WikiLeaks could be held liable for publishing documents concerning the DNC’s political financial and voter-engagement strategies simply because the DNC labels them ‘secret’ and trade secrets, then so could any newspaper or other media outlet.”

Read more …

They turned on him.

Trump Wants To Rein In Intelligence Agencies (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended his choice for the next U.S. spy chief as someone who could “rein in” intelligence agencies that “have run amok,” fueling concerns Trump seeks assessments that support his own views. Trump’s choice of Republican Representative John Ratcliffe of Texas as the next director of national intelligence, has been greeted with scant enthusiasm by his fellow Republicans and charges by former intelligence officials and Democrats that he is unqualified and will frame intelligence to suit the president.


Ratcliffe, a member of the House Intelligence Committee for six months, would replace Dan Coats, whose judgments on Iran, North Korea and Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections clashed with Trump’s views, earning the president’s disdain. Returning to the White House from an appearance in Virginia, Trump on Tuesday said Ratcliffe “is going to do an incredible job, if he gets approved” by the Senate. “I think we need somebody like that in there,” he continued. “We need somebody strong that can rein it in. Because, as I think you’ve all learned, the intelligence agencies have run amok. They have run amok.” Trump denied he had a “conflict” with Coats, saying he was “a friend of mine” and a “terrific person.” But, he added, “Dan made statements and they were a little confused.”

Read more …

Overreach.

Trump’s Tax Returns Required Under New California Election Law (LAT)

President Trump will be ineligible for California’s primary ballot next year unless he discloses his tax returns under a state law that immediately took effect Tuesday, an unprecedented mandate that is almost certain to spark a high-profile court fight and might encourage other states to adopt their own unconventional rules for presidential candidates. The law, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on his final day to take action and passed on a strict party-line vote in the Legislature, requires all presidential candidates to submit five years of income tax filings. They must do so by late November in order to secure a spot on California’s presidential primary ballot in March. State elections officials will post the financial documents online, although certain private information must first be redacted.

“As one of the largest economies in the world and home to one in nine Americans eligible to vote, California has a special responsibility to require this information of presidential and gubernatorial candidates,” Newsom said in a statement that accompanied his signature on the bill approved by the Legislature earlier this month. “These are extraordinary times and states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards, and to restore public confidence. The disclosure required by this bill will shed light on conflicts of interest, self-dealing, or influence from domestic and foreign business interest.”

Trump, who is not singled out by the law but is clearly its inspiration, is likely to fight back. “The Constitution is clear on the qualifications for someone to serve as president and states cannot add additional requirements on their own,” said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the president’s reelection campaign. “The bill also violates the 1st Amendment right of association, since California can’t tell political parties which candidates their members can or cannot vote for in a primary election.”

Read more …

That potato is darn hot.

FAA Hopes Global Regulators Simultaneously Approve Boeing 737 MAX (R.)

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration hopes civil aviation authorities around the world will decide at about the same time to allow the Boeing 737 MAX to resume flying, the agency told Congress on Tuesday in a letter seen by Reuters. The FAA and other regulators grounded the plane in March after two fatal crashes in five months killed 346 people. Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell said in letters to Senators Susan Collins and Jack Reed that the agency “hopes to achieve near simultaneous approval from the major civil aviation authorities around the world” but added that every regulator will make its own determination. “We are working with our colleagues from the European Union, Canada and Brazil to address their concerns,” he wrote.


Collins will chair a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing Wednesday that will feature four senior FAA officials, including Ali Bahrami, who oversees aviation safety. Boeing Co Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg told analysts last week he was confident the MAX would be back in service as early as October after a certification flight in “the September time frame.” Ryan Air Chief Executive Michael O’Leary said Monday that he had been told that flight would be delayed until October. Boeing on Tuesday reiterated Muilenburg’s recent comments. Elwell said in his letter the FAA “will lift the 737 MAX grounding order only when it is safe to do so.”

Read more …

Shareholders buy each other’s stock with borrowed money and then use it as collateral to borrow more money..

China Probes Small Bank Shareholdings As Risk Worries Persist (R.)

China is sharpening its scrutiny of small banks’ shareholders amid fears that loans from the lenders to big investors could prove a weak point in the country’s financial system, jolted by the state’s weekend rescue of one lender and recent takeover of another. While nominally small, China’s numerous small city commercial banks risk having outsized significance because of their close ties to the rest of the banking system as well as with bigger shareholders, many of whom are giant companies. Earlier this month, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) asked banks and some other financial firms for details of any investor building up stakes of 5% or more without required regulatory approvals.

The regulator also asked the firms if they had disclosed all business transactions with their main owners, according to a regulatory notice seen by Reuters. Regulators have also conducted spot checks at some smaller banks in the last two months to probe possible misuse of capital linked to shareholders and transferring of ownership interests, said four people with direct knowledge of the matter. The scrutiny comes amid concerns that some debt-heavy Chinese private enterprises have amassed substantial stakes in smaller banks without regulatory approval and are using the lenders for their personal borrowings.

“There may be many shareholders using small Chinese banks as ATM machines, but I don’t think we have enough understanding of bank ownership to know,” said Andrew Collier, managing director of Hong Kong-based Orient Capital Research. “Certainly if there are under-capitalized corporates as majority shareholders of the less well-funded smaller banks you could have a bank run,” he said, adding the regulators have so far done a good job of rescuing ailing financial firms.

Read more …

Blame outsiders: “..this is the creation of the U.S.”

China Gathers Forces On Hong Kong Border Amid Unrest (ZH)

Massive anti-Beijing protests which have gripped Hong Kong over the past month, and have become increasingly violent as both an overwhelmed local police force and counter-protesters have hit back with force, are threatening to escalate on a larger geopolitical scale after the White House weighed in this week. With China fast losing patience, there are new reports of a significant build-up of Chinese security forces on Hong Kong’s border, as Bloomberg reports: “The White House is monitoring what a senior administration official called a congregation of Chinese forces on Hong Kong’s border.”

From nearly the start of the protests which began over a proposed extradition bill (which would see Hong Kong citizens under legal accusation potentially extradited to the mainland) interpreted as major Chinese overreach inside historically semi-autonomous Hong Kong, officials in Beijing have suggested an “external plot” afoot, more recently alleging the hidden hand of the United States. The latest charge made Tuesday by mainland government officials is that the still escalating Hong Kong unrest is the “creation of the US” — something which the Trump admin official speaking under anonymity to Bloomberg firmly denied.

On Monday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a press interview that “protest is appropriate” and that “we hope the Chinese will do the right thing” regarding respecting Hong Kong’s historic “one country, two systems” status. This was enough to elicit a quick response alleging US meddling out of Beijing on Tuesday. It’s clear that Mr. Pompeo has put himself in the wrong position and still regards himself as the head of the CIA,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a news briefing. “He might think that violent activities in Hong Kong are reasonable because after all, this is the creation of the U.S.”

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Here’s thinking fraud is a serious offence in Germany.

German Prosecutors Charge Ex-VW Boss With Fraud (AFP)

German prosecutors said Monday they had charged former Volkswagen chief executive Martin Winterkorn and four other managers over “dieselgate”, bringing the cheating scandal back into the headlines just as VW battles to move on from the affair. Prosecutors in Brunswick, near VW’s Wolfsburg HQ in northern Germany, said they had charged Winterkorn and four other managers. Among the accusations against the former chief executive were “a particularly serious case of fraud”, “infraction of the law against unfair competition” and “breach of trust”. Winterkorn was CEO during a period when VW fitted 11 million diesel-powered vehicles worldwide with so-called “defeat devices” – software that made them appear less polluting in the lab than in real driving conditions.


Such allegations have hit other German manufacturers since, with Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler confirming Sunday it was facing a regulatory probe, reportedly over 60,000 vehicles. At the helm from 2007 to 2015, Winterkorn, a trained engineer, had a reputation as a detail-obsessed executive who was familiar with “every screw” of each VW model. The group admitted to the fraud in September 2015, beginning a drawn-out process of fact-finding and legal action that has so far seen it pay out $33 billion in fines, compensation and buyback schemes, much of it in the United States.

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Wishful thinking?!

Jeremy Corbyn’s Finest Hour? (Varoufakis)

Since the 2016 referendum, a civil war-like atmosphere has made it increasingly impossible for Leavers and Remainers to hold a civilized conversation. Corbyn valiantly tried to keep Labour’s Leavers and Remainers together by seeking an honorable compromise: The UK would formally leave the EU, to respect the referendum’s outcome, while remaining in as many of the bloc’s structures as possible – including a customs union. Instead of applauding Corbyn for this tricky balancing act, his opponents within the Labour Party, together with a liberal establishment unprincipled enough to deliver all Leavers to Nigel Farage and Johnson, attacked him with extraordinary viciousness. But that was then and this is now.

With Johnson as prime minister, and his strategy crystal clear, Corbyn’s task is to expose the truth about Johnson’s no-deal Brexit – namely, that it means a Trump-deal Brexit – and put forward Labour’s plan to end the interminable Brexit ordeal immediately. Corbyn must first show voters that a Johnson government will turn the UK into a vassal state of a Trumpian US and of the multinationals eager to usurp the country’s cherished institutions (especially the National Health Service). Johnson will bind the UK to a global alliance of populist/nationalist regimes and destroy Britain’s chances to lead Europe and the world with a Green New Deal that overhauls a failed UK business model based on low taxes, low wages, low investment, zero-hour contracts, and unregulated finance.

Corbyn’s second task is to offer an alternative for ending the humiliation of the ongoing negotiations. That means committing to revoke Article 50 to allow a Labour government time to implement a green-investment, anti-austerity policy agenda in tune with the party’s progressive internationalism, while simultaneously organizing a Citizens’ Deliberative Assembly to formulate the question(s) to be put to voters in a second Brexit referendum. A general election fought over these two unequivocal alternatives, Johnson’s and Corbyn’s, would empower the UK’s people, at last, to determine their country’s future.

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Boris wants to ditch the backstop, and that automatically messes with Good Friday.

Mess With Good Friday And We’ll Block UK Trade Deal, US Politicians Warn (G.)

Any future US-UK trade deal would almost certainly be blocked by the US Congress if Brexit affects the Irish border and jeopardises peace in Northern Ireland, congressional leaders and diplomats have warned. Boris Johnson has presented a trade deal with the US as a way of offsetting the economic costs of leaving the EU, and Donald Trump promised the two countries could strike “a very substantial trade agreement” that would increase trade “four or five times”. Trump, however, would not be able to push an agreement through a hostile Congress, where there would be strong bipartisan opposition to any UK trade deal in the event of a threat to the 1998 Good Friday agreement, and to the open border between the two Irelands.


Johnson’s rise to power, and his demand for the EU to drop the backstop, which is intended to safeguard the open border after Brexit, has galvanised determination in Congress to make a stand in defence of the landmark accord, to which the US is guarantor. “The American dimension to the Good Friday agreement is indispensable,” said Richard Neal, who is co-chair of the 54-strong Friends of Ireland caucus in Congress, and also chairs the powerful House ways and means committee, with the power to hold up a trade deal indefinitely. “We oversee all trade agreements as part of our tax jurisdiction,” Neal, a Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, said in a phone interview. He pointed out that such a complex trade deal could take four or five years, even without the Northern Ireland issue.

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He said it as an observer, it’s not what he wants.

Dominic Cummings: Tories Do Not Care About Poor People Or NHS (G.)

Voters are right to think Tory MPs largely do not care about poorer people or the NHS, according to Dominic Cummings in comments that have emerged from two years ago. Boris Johnson’s new senior adviser and a key architect of Brexit gave his damning view on Conservative MPs at a conference in 2017, where he said: “People think, and by the way I think most people are right: ‘The Tory party is run by people who basically don’t care about people like me.’ “That is what most people in the country have thought about the Tory party for decades. I know a lot of Tory MPs and I am sad to say the public is basically correct. Tory MPs largely do not care about these poorer people. They don’t care about the NHS. And the public has kind of cottoned on to that.”


Cummings is now integral to Johnson’s administration, which has a majority of just two and is relying on Conservative and DUP MPs to back his Brexit strategy of taking the UK out of the EU by 31 October – unless he suspends parliament to achieve a no-deal exit. Ian Lavery, the chair of the Labour party, said it was a “staggering admission from the prime minister’s right-hand man”. “As Dominic Cummings says himself, the Conservatives don’t care about anything apart from looking after their rich friends – whether that means selling off our NHS to American corporations in pursuit of a Trump trade deal, or giving tax cuts to big businesses while cutting public services. We need a general election and a Labour government to protect our health service from the likes of Boris Johnson,” Lavery said.

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Shattering.

Toxic History Of Monsanto In The UK (OffG)

A special report in the Observer newspaper in the UK on 23 June 2019 asked the question: Why is life expectancy faltering? The piece noted that for the first time in 100 years, Britons are dying earlier. The UK now has the worst health trends in Western Europe. Aside from the figures for the elderly and the deprived, there has also been a worrying change in infant mortality rates. Since 2014, the rate has increased every year: the figure for 2017 is significantly higher than the one in 2014. To explain this increase in infant mortality, certain experts blame it on ‘austerity’, fewer midwives, an overstrained ambulance service, general deterioration of hospitals, greater poverty among pregnant women and cuts that mean there are fewer health visitors for patients in need.

While all these explanations may be valid, according to environmental campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason, there is something the mainstream narrative is avoiding. She says: “We are being poisoned by weedkiller and other pesticides in our food and weedkiller sprayed indiscriminately on our communities. The media remain silent.” Mason begins by offering a brief history of Monsanto in the UK. In 1949, that company set up a chemical factory in Newport, Wales, where it manufactured PCBs until 1977 and a number of other dangerous chemicals. Monsanto was eventually found to be dumping toxic waste in the River Severn, public waterways and sewerage. It then paid a contractor which illegally dumped thousands of tons of cancer-causing chemicals, including PCBs, dioxins and Agent Orange derivatives, at two quarries in Wales – Brofiscin (80,000 tonnes) and Maendy (42,000 tonnes) – between 1965 and 1972.

Monsanto stopped making PCBs in Anniston US in 1971 because of various scandals. However, the British government agreed to ramp up production at the Monsanto plant in Newport. In 2003, when toxic effluent from the quarry started leaking into people’s streams in Grosfaen, just outside Cardiff, the Environment Agency – a government agency concerned with flooding and pollution – was hired to clean up the site in 2005. Mason notes that the agency repeatedly failed to hold Monsanto accountable for its role in the pollution (a role that Monsanto denied from the outset) and consistently downplayed the dangers of the chemicals themselves. In a report prepared for the agency and the local authority in 2005 but never made public, the sites contain at least 67 toxic chemicals. Seven PCBs have been identified, along with vinyl chlorides and naphthalene. The unlined quarry is still leaking, the report says:

“Pollution of water has been occurring since the 1970s, the waste and groundwater has been shown to contain significant quantities of poisonous, noxious and polluting material, pollution of… waters will continue to occur.” Apart from these events in Wales, Mason outlines the overall toxic nature of Monsanto in the UK. For instance, she discusses the shockingly high levels of weedkiller in packaged cereals. Samples of four oat-based breakfast cereals marketed for children in the UK were recently sent to the Health Research Institute, Fairfield, Iowa, an accredited laboratory for glyphosate testing. Dr Fagan, the director of the centre, says of the results: “These results are consistently concerning. The levels consumed in a single daily helping of any one of these cereals, even the one with the lowest level of contamination, is sufficient to put the person’s glyphosate levels above the levels that cause fatty liver disease in rats (and likely in people).”

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“A list of 10 “ground rules” for befuddled Westerners seeking to unravel the enigma that is Russia..”

Xenophobia About Russians Is Never Condemned In Western Media (Ryan)

Pretending to ‘understand’ Russia has become quite the lucrative business for Western media professionals in recent years – and “leading” Russia expert extraordinaire Keir Giles is the latest to believe he has cracked the code. Generous Giles has published a list of 10 “ground rules” for befuddled Westerners seeking to unravel the enigma that is Russia – but before we delve into the finer details, let’s add some important context. This Russia whisperer is a “senior consulting fellow” at Chatham House – a British think tank receiving funding from the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO), the UK Ministry of Defence, the British Army and the US embassy, as well as an impressive array of arms manufacturers.


Very often, those posing as ‘experts’ on Russia pepper their analysis with outright xenophobia. Yet, this problematic and bigoted language is rarely noticed by their admiring peers because, as I have written before, “the Russians” are an exception to current cultural rules around political correctness. Xenophobia, when it is about Russians, is never condemned in Western media and ‘think tank’ circles. Rather, it has become an essential component of any celebrated ‘analysis’ of the country and its actions. Recall a recent New York Times article which claimed corruption is in the Russian “DNA” and sharing is “not the Russian way.” Before that, there was James Clapper, former US Director of National Intelligence, telling NBC that Russians are “genetically driven” to lie and cheat. Now, enter Giles.

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Jul 242019
 
 July 24, 2019  Posted by at 9:04 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Marie-Thérèse Walter 1937

 

Mueller In Last-Minute Request For Aide To Be With Him During Testimony (NBC)
Questions for Mueller (Aaron Maté)
Robert Mueller, The ‘Magician Of Omission’ On Russia (Solomon)
Mueller Deputy Andrew Weissmann’s Offer To An Oligarch Could Hurt DOJ (Solomon)
The Clown Is Crowned As The Country Burns In Hell (G.)
Deutsche Bank’s Problem Derivatives Cloud Recovery (R.)
Deutsche Bank Flagged Epstein’s Overseas Transactions To US Watchdog (CNBC)
Berkeley First US City To Ban Natural Gas (G.)
Libra Scams Are Already Popping Up On Facebook (F.)
Big Tech Faces Broad US Justice Department Antitrust Probe (R.)
MH17 Evidence Tampering Revealed by Malaysia (John Helmer)
Ralph Nader Says Boeing 737 Max Should Never Fly Again (CNBC)

 

 

From what I understand Zebley will be sworn in for the Intelligence Committe part, the last part, but not the Judiciary Committee, the first 3 hours. Hints at them knowing at least some of what’s going to be asked.

Mueller In Last-Minute Request For Aide To Be With Him During Testimony (NBC)

One of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s longtime aides will appear alongside him during his highly-anticipated testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, a spokesperson said Tuesday, but is not expected to be sworn in. Mueller’s team made a last-minute request that Aaron Zebley be sworn in and testify with him during his scheduled hearings before Congress on Wednesday, a congressional source familiar with the request told NBC News. Mueller is slated to testify on his report into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the country’s influence on President Donald Trump for three hours before the House Judiciary Committee, take a break, then appear for at least two additional hours before the House Intelligence Committee.

For the first hearing, Zebley will sit alongside Mueller as his counsel, according to the Judiciary Committee spokesperson. The committee, however, is not updating its guidance to include Zebley as a witness. This means that Zebley will not be sworn in. Mueller can confer with him as he is questioned by the panel, according to committee rules, but cannot answer questions. The ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, said Tuesday that GOP members had “not gotten assurances from the House Democrats on the committee that he [Zebley] will not speak.”

“He’s not supposed to speak in that role to anyone on the committee or asked questions. And we’re asking, and, frankly, that that be confirmed before the hearing. So we don’t have to waste time with it tomorrow,” Collins said. Jim Popkin, Mueller’s spokesperson, disputed the idea that Zebley’s presence at the hearings amounted to an 11th-hour addition. “Aaron Zebley was the Deputy Special Counsel and had day-to-day oversight of the investigations conducted by the Office,” Popkin said in a statement Tuesday. “He will accompany Special Counsel Mueller to the Wednesday hearings, as was discussed with the committees more than a week ago.”

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Mueller’s people asked Barr for guidance on what he can talk about. Wonder how many times they will refer to that guidance when not answering questions. Sort of like taking the fifth.

Questions for Mueller (Aaron Maté)

”For two years, Democrats have waited on Robert Mueller to deliver a death blow to the Trump presidency,” The New York Times observed on July 20. “On Wednesday, in back-to-back hearings with the former special counsel, that wish could face its final make-or-break moment.” The very fact that Democrats had to subpoena Mueller in order to create this final moment should in fact be the final reminder of what a mistake it was for Democrats to have waited on him. If Mueller had incriminating information yet to share, or had been stymied from doing his work, or if Attorney General William Barr had somehow misrepresented his findings, then it stands to reason that Mueller would be welcoming the opportunity to appear before Congress, not resisting it.


The reality is that Mueller’s investigation did not indict anyone on the Trump campaign for collusion with Russia, or even for anything related to the 2016 election. Mueller’s report found no evidence of a Trump-Russia conspiracy, and even undermined the case for it. That said, there are unresolved matters that Mueller’s testimony could help clarify. Mueller claimed to have established that the Russian government conducted “a sweeping and systematic” interference campaign in order to elect Trump, yet the contents of his report don’t support that allegation. The Mueller report repeatedly excludes countervailing information in order to suggest, misleadingly, that the Trump campaign had suspect “links” and “ties” to people connected with Russia. And Mueller and other intelligence officials involved in the Russia probe made questionable investigative decisions that are worthy of scrutiny.

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Horowitz has to finish his report first before Durham can do anything. Today’s hearings are far from the last thing on the topic.

Robert Mueller, The ‘Magician Of Omission’ On Russia (Solomon)

While most of the political world focused its attention elsewhere, special prosecutor John Durham’s team quietly reached out this summer to a lawyer representing European academic Joseph Mifsud, one of the earliest and most mysterious figures in the now closed Russia-collusion case. An investigator told Swiss attorney Stephan Roh that Durham’s team wanted to interview Mifsud, or at the very least review a recorded deposition the professor gave in summer 2018 about his role in the drama involving Donald Trump, Russia and the 2016 election. The contact, confirmed by multiple sources and contemporaneous email, sent an unmistakable message:


Durham, the U.S. attorney handpicked by Attorney General William Barr to determine whether the FBI committed abuses during the Russia investigation, is taking a second look at one of the noteworthy figures and the conclusions of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report. The evidence I reviewed suggests Mueller’s handiwork may be exposed for glaring omissions that, when brought to public light, leave key questions unanswered, especially about how the FBI’s unprecedented probe of the Trump campaign started. Durham is focused on determining whether any government or private figures who came in contact with the Trump campaign in 2016 “were engaged in improper surveillance,” a U.S. official told me when asked about the Mifsud overture.

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Is someone going to question Weismann at some point?

Mueller Deputy Andrew Weissmann’s Offer To An Oligarch Could Hurt DOJ (Solomon)

At the time, pressure was building inside the DOJ and the FBI to find smoking-gun evidence against Trump in the Russia case because the Steele dossier — upon which the early surveillance warrants were based — was turning out to be an uncorroborated mess. (“There’s no big there there,” lead FBI agent Pete Strzok texted a few days before Weissmann’s overture.) Likewise, key evidence that the DOJ used to indict Firtash on corruption charges in 2014 was falling apart. Two central witnesses were in the process of recanting testimony, and a document the FBI portrayed as bribery evidence inside Firtash’s company was exposed as a hypothetical slide from an American consultant’s PowerPoint presentation, according to court records I reviewed.

In other words, the DOJ faced potential embarrassment in two high-profile cases when Weissmann made an unsolicited approach on June 4, 2017, that surprised even Firtash’s U.S. legal team. To some, the offer smacked of being desperately premature. Mueller was appointed just two weeks earlier, did not even have a full staff selected, and was still getting up to speed on the details of the investigation. So why rush to make a deal when the prosecution team still was being selected, some wondered. Second, Weissmann’s approach was audaciously aggressive, even for a prosecutor with his reputation.

According to a defense memo recounting Weissmann’s contacts, the prosecutor claimed the Mueller team could “resolve the Firtash case” in Chicago and neither the DOJ nor the Chicago U.S. Attorney’s Office “could interfere with or prevent a solution,” including withdrawing all charges. “The complete dropping of the proceedings … was doubtless on the table,” according to the defense memo.

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“So we beat on, against the sun, borne back ceaselessly into hell.”

The Clown Is Crowned As The Country Burns In Hell (G.)

Well, here we are then. Someone who could easily be rejected as a Guess Who character for looking too ridiculous is now to lead the country. A man whose DNA profile is the exact same as a Bernard Manning joke. A man who mentioned the 20 hustings he had taken part in, approximately 30 seconds after Conservative party chairman Brandon Lewis talked of the 16 hustings held. With 8,000 members of the Johnson family watching on – and Jeremy Hunt, looking for all the world like a sub who’s never gonna get off the bench and knows it – Boris Johnson was announced as the new leader of the Conservative party, and, in short order, the new prime minister. Elected by a staggering 0.2% of the nation, we can’t say it isn’t the will of the people.

It’s quite extraordinary, isn’t it, when the new leader of the country opens his inaugural speech with: “There may be people here who wonder quite what they have done!” – having to address the fact that many people in the room are coming to terms with the fact they’ve got shit on their shoe. “Do you look daunted?!” he boomed, “You don’t look remotely daunted to me!” Which was met with a Spectoresque wall of silence, a number of faces as white as Elizabeth I’s, and a solitary cry of: “No!”.

[..] I don’t really know what to say myself. I don’t understand how a man can lie his way about bananas and condoms to high office. I don’t understand how a man whose entire prep for anything seems to consist of drawing a cock and balls – but in Latin! – on a sheet of paper, ends up in high office. I don’t understand how a man can be recorded offering to facilitate the assault of a journalist and reach high office. I don’t understand how a man can be fired twice for cavalierly making stuff up and reach high office. I don’t understand how a man whose entire personality is a job-lot sold off from a closing down joke shop can reach high office. A racist, an inveterate liar, a man who makes Machiavelli look misunderstood and Pinocchio button-nosed. It’s 33C outside in London. You can’t tell whether people are crying or sweating. We can’t do anything until we get a say – which, this time, we did not. So we beat on, against the sun, borne back ceaselessly into hell.

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There will not be a recovery. The only thing they can so is prolong the agony.

Deutsche Bank’s Problem Derivatives Cloud Recovery (R.)

Deutsche Bank’s turnaround strategy rests in large part on shedding 288 billion euros of unwanted assets. Three bank insiders said it will take years, tying up capital that could have generated income of 500 million euros ($557 million) a year. The opportunity cost of holding the assets, which has not been previously reported, underscores the challenges facing Chief Executive Christian Sewing as he attempts to turn around the bank and restore confidence among investors who have seen the value of their shares decline by 75% in the past four years. Sewing said earlier this month that Deutsche, Germany’s largest lender, would set up a bad bank to house the assets, which include equity, credit and interest-rate derivatives.


The bank said it wants to offload most of its derivatives by 2020. Executives managing the book can either sell positions or allow them to gradually wind down over time, depending on which is more profitable. The bank is planning an auction of its short-dated equity derivatives book, having already received “significant expressions of interest,” the sources familiar with the matter said. However, its long-dated interest rate and credit derivatives are expected to be much harder to offload, the sources said. Deutsche Bank has held on-and-off talks with potential buyers of some of those assets over the past two years, three people said. The sales did not happen because the prices offered would have resulted in hundreds of millions of euros in losses for the bank, they said.

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What, laundering as well?

Deutsche Bank Flagged Epstein’s Overseas Transactions To US Watchdog (CNBC)

Deutsche Bank notified U.S. financial watchdogs about suspicious transactions by accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein — a customer of the bank — according to a new report Tuesday. The transactions, which involved Epstein moving money out of the United States, were flagged after Deutsche Bank discovered them while looking for indications that the wealthy financier was using his money for sex trafficking, The New York Times reported. Epstein had been a client of Deutsche Bank’s private banking division since at least 2013, five years after he pleaded guilty to prostitution-related charges involving a teenage girl filed by Florida state prosecutors, the Times noted.


That guilty plea led to Epstein — a former friend of Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton — being required to register as a sex offender. According to the new article, an anti-money laundering compliance officer in Deutsche Bank’s office in New York and Florida raised concerns about the bank’s relationship with Epstein in 2015 and 2016. Those officers also reportedly put together a suspicious activity report on potentially illegal activity in an Epstein account at the time, which had moved money outside of the U.S. The Times said it was not clear if that report was ever filed with the financial crimes division of the U.S. Treasury Department. But the latest suspicious transactions were reported this year, according to the article.

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But but.

Berkeley First US City To Ban Natural Gas (G.)

Berkeley this week became the first city in the United States to ban natural, fossil gas hook-ups in new buildings. The landmark ordinance was passed into law on Tuesday, after being approved unanimously by the city council the previous week amid resounding public support. Although Berkeley may be pushing the vanguard, the city is hardly alone. Governments across the US and Europe are looking at strategies to phase out gas. In California alone, dozens of cities and counties are considering eliminating fossil fuel hook-ups to power stoves and heat homes in new buildings, while California state agencies pencil out new rules and regulations that would slash emissions. Natural gas, it seems, has become the new climate crisis frontline. Berkeley’s ordinance, which goes into effect on 1 January, will ban gas hook-ups in new multi-family construction, with some allowances for first-floor retail and certain types of large structures.


The reasons behind the decision are multifold. Energy use in buildings accounts for about 25% of greenhouse gas emissions in California. If the state is to meet its goal of 100% zero-carbon energy by 2045, the gas will have to go. For decades, gas was considered among the preferred energy sources for buildings and embraced as a bridge from dirtier fossil fuels to a green energy future. “There’s been a lingering perception that burning gas was cleaner than electricity, which might have been true 20 years ago when electricity came from burning coal,” said Pierre Delforge, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council . “When we look at electrification policies, we need to think about what the grid will look like in 10 or 20 years, not what it looked like yesterday.”

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Not the Onion.

Libra Scams Are Already Popping Up On Facebook (F.)

As Facebook faces skepticism from regulators that it can handle launching its cryptocurrency Libra, a raft of fake accounts and scams purporting to sell Libra have cropped up on its own platform, according to the Washington Post. At least a dozen fake pages and websites on Facebook and Instagram claim to be associated with Facebook’s Libra, which has yet to be officially launched. One video offered a discount on Libra coins that have been distributed to early investors. Another linked to a realistic-looking fake website called “buylibracoins.com.” The website remains online. The scams even spread to YouTube and Twitter, according to the Washington Post. Facebook says Libra will allow people to send money to each other without a traditional middleman, such as a bank.


A digital wallet, called Calibra, will also be available as a stand-alone app on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. A Facebook spokesperson told Forbes that it “removes ads and Pages that violate our policies when we become aware of them, and we are constantly working to improve detection of scams on our platforms.” Key Background: In 2018, Facebook banned advertisements involving cryptocurrency or initial coin offerings to combat the proliferation of scams and bogus ICOs cropping up as the price of Bitcoin soared. Over the last few months, Facebook has been softening the ban in the run up to the announcement of Libra—and it appears scammers are taking advantage. Libra scams may not help Facebook convince lawmakers and regulators that it can protect user privacy and prevent the digital currency from being used in criminal activity.

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I’ll believe it when I see it. Because Big Tech=CIA.

Big Tech Faces Broad US Justice Department Antitrust Probe (R.)

The U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday it was opening a broad investigation of major digital technology firms into whether they engage in anticompetitive practices, the strongest sign the Trump administration is stepping up its scrutiny of Big Tech. The review will look into “whether and how market-leading online platforms have achieved market power and are engaging in practices that have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers,” the Justice Department said in a statement. The Justice Department did not identify specific companies but said the review would consider concerns raised about “search, social media, and some retail services online” — an apparent reference to Alphabet Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Facebook Inc, and potentially Apple Inc.


[..] The announcement comes a day before the Federal Trade Commission is set to announce a $5 billion penalty to Facebook for failing to properly protect user privacy. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, said the Justice Department “must now be bold and fearless in stopping Big Tech’s misuse of its monopolistic power. Too long absent and apathetic, enforcers now must prevent privacy abuse, anticompetitive tactics, innovation roadblocks, and other hallmarks of excessive market power.” In June, Reuters reported the Trump administration was gearing up to investigate whether Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Alphabet’s Google misuse their massive market power, setting up what could be an unprecedented, wide-ranging probe of some of the world’s largest companies.

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The FBI tried to steal the black boxes, but Malaysian secret service had already ‘smuggled’ agents into the Donbass ahead of other countries. Oh, and literally everybody has been caught lying. What a story this is becoming,

MH17 Evidence Tampering Revealed by Malaysia (John Helmer)

A new documentary from Max van der Werff, the leading independent investigator of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 disaster, has revealed breakthrough evidence of tampering and forging of prosecution materials; suppression of Ukrainian Air Force radar tapes; and lying by the Dutch, Ukrainian, US and Australian governments. An attempt by agents of the FBI to take possession of the black boxes of the downed aircraft is also revealed by a Malaysian National Security Council official for the first time. The sources of the breakthrough are Malaysian — Prime Minister of Malaysia Mohamad Mahathir; Colonel Mohamad Sakri, the officer in charge of the MH17 investigation for the Prime Minister’s Department and Malaysia’s National Security Council following the crash on July 17, 2014; and a forensic analysis by Malaysia’s OG IT Forensic Services of Ukrainian Secret Service (SBU) telephone tapes which Dutch prosecutors have announced as genuine.

The 298 casualties of MH17 included 192 Dutch; 44 Malaysians; 27 Australians; 15 Indonesians. The nationality counts vary because the airline manifest does not identify dual nationals of Australia, the UK, and the US. The new film throws the full weight of the Malaysian Government, one of the five members of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), against the published findings and the recent indictment of Russian suspects reported by the Dutch officials in charge of the JIT; in addition to Malaysia and The Netherlands, the members of the JIT are Australia, Ukraine and Belgium. Malaysia’s exclusion from the JIT at the outset, and Belgium’s inclusion (4 Belgian nationals were listed on the MH17 passenger manifest), have never been explained.


The film reveals the Malaysian Government’s evidence for judging the JIT’s witness testimony, photographs, video clips, and telephone tapes to have been manipulated by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), and to be inadmissible in a criminal prosecution in a Malaysian or other national or international court. For the first time also, the Malaysian Government reveals how it got in the way of attempts the US was organizing during the first week after the crash to launch a NATO military attack on eastern Ukraine. The cover story for that was to rescue the plane, passenger bodies, and evidence of what had caused the crash. In fact, the operation was aimed at defeating the separatist movements in the Donbass, and to move against Russian-held Crimea. The new film reveals that a secret Malaysian military operation took custody of the MH17 black boxes on July 22, preventing the US and Ukraine from seizing them. The Malaysian operation, revealed in the film by the Malaysian Army colonel who led it, eliminated the evidence for the camouflage story, reinforcing the German Government’s opposition to the armed attack, and forcing the Dutch to call off the invasion on July 27.

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Not the first time he’s said it, but this time it’s directly to the FAA.

Ralph Nader Says Boeing 737 Max Should Never Fly Again (CNBC)

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader on Tuesday urged the Federal Aviation Administration to permanently ground Boeing’s 737 Max jet. “The plane cannot be refixed,” said Nader, whose grandniece was killed in a March crash of a 737 Max jet in Ethiopia. “It has to be recalled” and permanently taken out of service, he said. Regulators worldwide ordered airlines to ground their 737 Max planes in mid-March after the crash in Ethiopia and one in Indonesia that occurred within five months of one another, killing a total of 346 people. Since then, Boeing has been preparing to get the Max back in the air. Airlines have canceled thousands of flights due to the grounding and are planning to do so until at least November, a move that Boeing said it took a $4.9 billion charge for in its second quarter.


But the planemaker needs to “take their losses” on the jet, Nader said in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.” Crash investigators have pointed to an issue with the jets’ software, for which Boeing said it has developed a fix, as the cause behind the two fatal crashes. But once a software upgrade is submitted to the FAA, it will likely take at least another month before the planes are back in operation. On the software fix, Nader said it shouldn’t be trusted since executives are “stuck in their bad decision” and are “ignoring preventable aerodynamic design.” “It’s a new plane; they can’t say it’s just a little bit changed,” he said. “It needs full certification.”

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Jul 172019
 
 July 17, 2019  Posted by at 9:20 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Piet Mondriaan Place de la Concorde 1938-43

 

FBI Spreadsheet Puts A Stake Through The Heart Of Steele’s Dossier (Solomon)
Sic Transit Gloria Mueller (Ray McGovern)
House Floor In Chaos Over Pelosi Speech On Trump Tweets (RC)
House Condemns Trump Over ‘Racist Comments’ Tweeted At Congresswomen (R.)
Republican Support For Trump Rises After Racially Charged Tweets (R.)
Pentagon To Review If It Exposed Americans To Weaponised Ticks (G.)
Bitcoin Tumbles As US Senators Grill Facebook On Crypto Plans (R.)
Twitter CEO Maxes Out Donations To Tulsi Gabbard (RT)
Everything’s Fine Until Suddenly it Isn’t: How a Leveraged Loan Blows Up (WS)
Boris Johnson’s New Plan To Sideline Parliament, Guarantee No Deal Brexit (ZH)
Labour Peers Tell Corbyn: You Have Failed Test Of Leadership (G.)
Berlin Buys 670 Flats From Private Owner (G.)
Freeing Julian Assange: Part Three (Suzie Dawson)

 

 

“.. the spreadsheet found upward of 90 percent of the dossier’s claims to be either wrong, nonverifiable or open-source intelligence found with a Google search..”

FBI Spreadsheet Puts A Stake Through The Heart Of Steele’s Dossier (Solomon)

Over months of work, FBI agents painstakingly researched every claim Steele made about Trump’s possible collusion with Russia, and assembled their findings into a spreadsheet-like document. The over-under isn’t flattering to Steele. Multiple sources familiar with the FBI spreadsheet tell me the vast majority of Steele’s claims were deemed to be wrong, or could not be corroborated even with the most awesome tools available to the U.S. intelligence community. One source estimated the spreadsheet found upward of 90 percent of the dossier’s claims to be either wrong, nonverifiable or open-source intelligence found with a Google search. In other words, it was mostly useless.


“The spreadsheet was a sea of blanks, meaning most claims couldn’t be corroborated, and those things that were found in classified intelligence suggested Steele’s intelligence was partly or totally inaccurate on several claims,” one source told me. The FBI’s final assessment was driven by many findings contained in classified footnotes at the bottom of the spreadsheet. But it was also informed by an agent’s interview, in early 2017, with a Russian that Steele claimed was one of his main providers of intelligence, according to my sources.

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“..the new facts — emerging, oddly, from the U.S. District Court, pose such a fundamental challenge to Mueller’s findings that no one should be surprised if Mueller’s testimony is postponed again.”

Sic Transit Gloria Mueller (Ray McGovern)

As the truth seeps out, there will be plenty of crow to go around. To avoid eating it, the Democrats on the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, the stenographers who pass for journalists at the Times and Post, and the “Mueller team” will need all the time they can muster to come up with imaginative responses to two recent bombshell revelations from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Perhaps the most damning of the two came last Monday, when it was disclosed that, on July 1, Judge Dabney Friedrich ordered Mueller to stop pretending he had proof that the Russian government was behind the Internet Research Agency’s supposed attempt to interfere via social media in the 2016 election.

While the corporate media so far has largely ignored Judge Friedrich’s order, it may well have been enough to cause very cold feet for those attached to the strained Facebook fable. (The IRA social-media “interference” has always been ludicrous on its face, as journalist Gareth Porter established.) Ten days is not a lot of time to conjure up ways to confront and explain Judge Friedrich’s injection of some unwelcome reality. Since the Democrats, the media, and Mueller himself all have strong incentive to “make the worst case appear the better” (one of the twin charges against Socrates), they need time to regroup and circle the wagons. The more so, since Mueller’s other twin charge — Russian hacking of the DNC — also has been shown, in a separate Court case, to be bereft of credible evidence.

No, the incomplete, redacted, second-hand “forensics” draft that former FBI Director James Comey decided to settle for from the Democratic National Committee-hired CrowdStrike firm does not qualify as credible evidence. Both new developments are likely to pose a strong challenge to Mueller. On the forensics, Mueller decided to settle for what his former colleague Comey decided to settle for from CrowdStrike, which was hired by the DNC despite it’s deeply flawed reputation and well known bias against Russia. In fact, the new facts — emerging, oddly, from the U.S. District Court, pose such a fundamental challenge to Mueller’s findings that no one should be surprised if Mueller’s testimony is postponed again.

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Good read on a pretty nutty spectacle.

House Floor In Chaos Over Pelosi Speech On Trump Tweets (RC)

Amid debate over whether to condemn tweets by President Donald Trump as racist on Tuesday, the House descended into parliamentary chaos, with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, who was presiding, abruptly dropping the gavel and saying, “I abandon the chair.” It was an extraordinary moment on an extraordinary day, as the House considered a resolution condemning Trump’s tweets from the weekend that told four freshman Democrats from the House to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Before Cleaver’s action, House debate had come to an abrupt halt when Georgia Republican Doug Collins took a rare procedural step to “take down” comments by Speaker Nancy Pelosi characterizing Trump’s tweets as racist.


“Every member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us to condemn the president’s racist tweets,” said Pelosi, speaking on the House floor. Collins interjected unsuccessfully, but once Pelosi was finished speaking, made Pelosi an offer. “I was just going to give the gentle speaker of the House, if she would like to rephrase that comment?” he asked. Pelosi responded that she cleared her remarks with the parliamentarian before she read them on the floor. “I ask that her words be taken down,” Collins said as Pelosi walked away from the rostrum to a spattering of applause. “I make a point of order that the gentlewoman’s words are unparliamentary and request they be taken down.” Collins set off a more than hour-long review and debate over Pelosi’s comments before a decision could be rendered.

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Virtue signalling 101. As if the divide isn’t wide enough yet.

House Condemns Trump Over ‘Racist Comments’ Tweeted At Congresswomen (R.)

The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to condemn President Donald Trump for “racist comments” against four minority Democratic congresswomen, a symbolic measure aimed at shaming Trump and his fellow Republicans who stood by him. The 240-187 vote, which split mainly along party lines, was the culmination of three days of outrage sparked by a Trump tweetstorm that diverted attention from other business in Washington but had little impact on the president’s overall approval rating, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll. Trump is seeking re-election next year. Trump had told the group of congresswomen on Sunday to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” [..]


“These comments from the White House are disgraceful and disgusting and these comments are racist,” Pelosi said. “Every single member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us in condemning the president’s racist tweets.” Pelosi’s comments put the House into a two-hour limbo after Republicans argued she went too far in her comments and broke debate rules. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy criticized Democrats for remarks that upset the “order and decency” of the chamber, saying: “Today is the day that historians will write about.”

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Not surprising. The trenches have been dug.

Republican Support For Trump Rises After Racially Charged Tweets (R.)

Support for U.S. President Donald Trump increased slightly among Republicans after he lashed out on Twitter over the weekend in a racially charged attack on four minority Democratic congresswomen, a Reuters/Ipsos public opinion poll shows. The national survey, conducted on Monday and Tuesday after Trump told the lawmakers they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” showed his net approval among members of his Republican Party rose by 5 percentage points to 72%, compared with a similar poll that ran last week.


Trump, who is seeking re-election next year, has lost support, however, with Democrats and independents since the Sunday tweetstorm. Among independents, about three out of 10 said they approved of Trump, down from four out of 10 a week ago. His net approval – the percentage who approve minus the percentage who disapprove – dropped by 2 points among Democrats in the poll. Trump’s overall approval remained unchanged over the past week. According to the poll, 41% of the U.S. public said they approved of his performance in office, while 55% disapproved.

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Craziest topic in a long time. Lyme comes from an army lab.

Pentagon To Review If It Exposed Americans To Weaponised Ticks (G.)

The US House of Representatives has called for an investigation into whether the spread of Lyme disease had its roots in a Pentagon experiment in weaponising ticks. The House approved an amendment proposed by a Republican congressman from New Jersey, Chris Smith, instructing the defence department’s inspector general to conduct a review of whether the US “experimented with ticks and other insects regarding use as a biological weapon between the years of 1950 and 1975”. The review would have to assess the scope of the experiment and “whether any ticks or insects used in such experiment were released outside of any laboratory by accident or experiment design”.


The amendment was approved by a voice vote in the House and added to a defence spending bill, but the bill still has to be reconciled with a Senate version. Smith said the amendment was inspired by “a number of books and articles suggesting that significant research had been done at US government facilities including Fort Detrick, Maryland, and Plum Island, New York, to turn ticks and other insects into bioweapons”. A new book published in May by a Stanford University science writer and former Lyme sufferer, Kris Newby, has raised questions about the origins of the disease, which affects 400,000 Americans each year. Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons, cites the Swiss-born discoverer of the Lyme pathogen, Willy Burgdorfer, as saying that the Lyme epidemic was a military experiment that had gone wrong.

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“..a U.S. senator said Facebook was “delusional” to believe people will trust it with their money.”

Bitcoin Tumbles As US Senators Grill Facebook On Crypto Plans (R.)

The cryptocurrency market took a beating on Tuesday with bitcoin losing over 10% in value after U.S. lawmakers grilled Facebook on its cryptocurrency plans, as political and regulatory scrutiny of digital coins intensifies. The social media giant is fighting to get Washington onside after it shocked regulators and lawmakers with its announcement on June 18 that it was hoping to launch its own digital coin called Libra in 2020. David Marcus, the company’s top executive overseeing the planned Libra project, answered questions from the Senate Banking Committee. During the hearing, a U.S. senator said Facebook was “delusional” to believe people will trust it with their money.


Facebook’s Libra plan, which is seen as a major step for wider adaptation of virtual currencies, has helped stoke this year’s rally in bitcoin, ethereum and other digital coins. “Libra is essentially slammed in the Senate,” said Lennon Sweeting, head trader at Coinsquare Capital Markets Ltd. “It’s just headline-driven volatility.” Digital currencies will likely recover with bitcoin returning to a $11,000-$12,000 trading range, Sweeting said. At 2:56 p.m. (1856 GMT), bitcoin fell 11.69% to $9,582.12 on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange. It fell below $10,000 for the first time in two weeks.

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And the next moment Jack’s twisted head erased Julian Assange’s Unity4J support.

Twitter CEO Maxes Out Donations To Tulsi Gabbard (RT)

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has donated thousands of dollars to anti-war Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard – and Twitter users and mainstream media journalists are (rather ironically) up in arms about it. Dorsey gave the maximum donation of $5,600 to Gabbard’s campaign a day after her appearance during the first Democratic presidential campaign in June, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings, reported on by BuzzFeed. Of all the Democrat contenders for the 2020 nomination, the Hawaii congresswoman has been a favorite punching bag for US journalists, who have accused her of being “pro-Russia” due to her anti-intervention foreign policy stances. She has also been consistently targeted for meeting Syrian President Bashar Assad during a 2017 trip to the war-torn country, with the media deriding her as an “Assad apologist” ever since.


BuzzFeed’s own story on Dorsey’s donations even smacks of disbelief, claiming that Gabbard is “probably best known for her visit to Syrian dictator” Assad, despite the fact that she is obviously well-known for other things, like being a high-profile congresswoman and Iraq war veteran. Later, BuzzFeed notes that Dorsey also scandalously “faved a bunch of tweets” from and about Gabbard. Needless to say, Dorsey’s own conspiracy machine – also known as Twitter – kicked into high gear, with people accusing him of being a Russian-bot-loving Assad apologist whose donations are “disappointing.”

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”And there are $1.3 trillion of them.”

Everything’s Fine Until Suddenly it Isn’t: How a Leveraged Loan Blows Up (WS)

Golden Gate Capital – the private equity firm now infamous for asset-stripping its portfolio company Payless ShoeSource into bankruptcy and liquidation – strikes again with another of its portfolio companies, Clover Technologies, whose $693-million leveraged loan has suddenly gone to heck. Slices of that leveraged loan are traded like securities. But because leveraged loans are loans, not securities, the SEC doesn’t regulate them. No one regulates them, though the Fed wrings its hands about them periodically. And there are $1.3 trillion of them.

The market for them is very illiquid, even during good times, and before Clover disclosed some issues on July 9, the loan still traded at 97 cents on the dollar, according to Bloomberg. This was the day investors, such as leveraged loan mutual funds and institutional investors that held these slices, suddenly woke up with the foul odor of debt restructuring and bankruptcy in the air. Within just a few days, the price of the loan plunged 35% to 62.625 cents on the dollar. The loan was “covenant-lite,” giving fewer protections to investors and allowing the company and its owners to get away with all kinds of things. This included the absence of certain disclosure requirements.


Not that we feel sorry for investors that suddenly got whacked: They knew that leverage loans are risky, that they’re issued by junk-rated over-leveraged companies with iffy cash-flows, often to fund their own leveraged buyout by a PE firm, and to fund special dividends back to the PE firm. Both factors apply to Clover’s leveraged loan. Investors don’t care. They’re chasing yield no matter what the risks, in a world where yield has been repressed by central-bank policies.

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Cheap tricks is what you need?!

Boris Johnson’s New Plan To Sideline Parliament, Guarantee No Deal Brexit (ZH)

The British pound tumbled to its weakest level in more than two years on Tuesday as fears of a ‘no deal’ Brexit continued to weigh on GBP, which has been steadily sinking during the Tory leadership contest that many expect will send Boris Johnson, a committed Brexiteer, to No. 10 Downing Street. And on Tuesday, Johnson – who said last night that he wouldn’t accept any time limits (both he and his rival Jeremy Hunt ruled out such a measure), unilateral escape hatches or any other kind of elaborate device to make the Irish Backstop more palatable – gave investors one more reason to worry: Sky News reports, citing anonymous sources from within Johnson’s campaign, that the candidate could delay a customary speech by the Queen that marks the beginning of the Parliamentary session – this would render MPs unavailable on Oct. 31, the day the UK is set to leave the EU.

Though Johnson’s rival Jeremy Hunt has said he’s open to another brief delay, Johnson’s position is that on Halloween, Brexit will finally mean Brexit. There have been some negotiations to work out an alternative to Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, but thanks to the inevitability of dealing with the hated Irish Backstop – which conservatives argue would effectively allow Europe to annex Northern Ireland – talks have once again been fraught. As Sky explains (for our American readers), Parliament is typically out of session for between one and two weeks ahead of the Queen’s speech – meaning MPs would in effect be unavailable to stop a no-deal Brexit immediately before October 31.

Johnson’s campaign confirmed that the delay is one option being explored, but insisted that no final decision had yet been made. But others pointed out that this move would scupper the chances of a last-minute deal, since Parliament wouldn’t be there to approve it. With an orderly Brexit is looking less likely by the day – even as some remainer Tories join the struggle to thwart their own future leader. And for anybody trying to discern what might happen next, well, BBG has put together yet another complicated Brexit flow chart.

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The Labour Blairites prefer Boris over Corbyn.

Labour Peers Tell Corbyn: You Have Failed Test Of Leadership (G.)

More than sixty Labour peers have taken out an advertisement accusing Jeremy Corbyn of having “failed the test of leadership” over his handling of antisemitism complaints within the party. The peers, including more than a dozen former ministers such as Peter Hain, Beverley Hughes and John Reid, have addressed the advert in the Guardian to Corbyn directly, saying: “The Labour party welcomes everyone* irrespective of race, creed, age, gender identity, or sexual orientation. (*except, it seems, Jews). This is your legacy, Mr Corbyn.”

Representing about a third of Labour’s members in the House of Lords, the signatories told Corbyn the party was “no longer a safe place for all members” and claimed that thousands have resigned their membership “because of the toxic culture you have allowed to divide our movement”. The advert has been taken out amid a backlash within the party about the leadership’s response to a BBC Panorama documentary that aired last week, in which eight former staff members accused the Labour of failing to tackle complaints about antisemitism properly and allowing Corbyn’s office to get involved in disputes.

Labour strongly denied any interference by the leader’s office, complained to the BBC and said the claims were made by “disaffected former officials including those who have always opposed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, worked to actively undermine it, and have both personal and political axes to grind”. In the advert, the 64 Labour peers state that Corbyn has not opened his eyes, taken responsibility or told the whole truth when it came to acknowledging the scale of complaints about antisemitism afflicting the party. “We are not asking if you are an antisemite. We are saying you are accountable as leader for allowing antisemitism to grow in our party and presiding over the most shaming period in Labour’s history,” they said.

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Government and central bank blow housing bubble, city must come to the rescue.

Berlin Buys 670 Flats From Private Owner (G.)

The state of Berlin has bought back 670 apartments on the historic Karl-Marx-Allee from a private owner after decades of property privatisation in the German capital. A 1950s prestige project for socialist East Germany, the grand boulevard that stretches from the city centre to Friedrichshain in the east has been the frontline of a months-long fight over gentrification and rising property prices. The struggle erupted last November when the property management firm Predac announced its intention to offload 700 apartments on the road to Berlin’s largest property company, Deutsche Wohnen. Fearing rent increases, tenants organised protest marches and hung banners from their apartments, eventually pushing the city senate to block the sale.


After months of legal wrangling, the senate confirmed on Monday that three blocs containing more than 670 apartments would instead be purchased by the state-owned housing provider Gewobag. While the price of the sale was not confirmed by either side, the move to renationalise the buildings on Karl-Marx-Allee is likely to come at a steep cost, with estimates ranging between €90m-€100m (£80m-£90m). Berlin’s mayor said the move was indicative of a wider strategy to reacquire housing stock sold to private investors in the 1990s, following rapid rises in rental costs in the city in recent years. “Berliners should be able to continue to afford living in the city,” said Michael Müller. “That is why it was and continues to be our intention to buy up apartments wherever we can, so that Berlin can regain control of its property market.”

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10,000 words on how to be an activist.

Freeing Julian Assange: Part Three (Suzie Dawson)

The movement to free Julian has already been a long battle but is likely to continue for many years to come. The movement to free Nelson Mandela was eight years to fruition, but some thirteen years of prior groundwork before that. Mandela was in prison for over a quarter century before being celebrated as a Nobel laureate or ascending to the Presidency of South Africa. These emancipation struggles are intergenerational. Nor are they guaranteed victories. There are no easy wins – they are hard. They are meaningful. And that’s why each win is so precious. Sometimes the same battle has to be won over and over again. At every stage, we individually and collectively have been, are and will be opposed by monied, institutional powers vastly greater than ourselves. To outmanoeuvre them takes great savvy.


It takes staunch, unmoving, determined activists willing to sacrifice the comforts of a conventional existence in service to greater principles. To be an activist like that, takes 50% natural talent and personal efficacy and 50% skill learned through experience, modelling and nurturing by other activists. I’m very lucky to have had both, and in this article I will attempt to pass on as much as I can of what I have learned, just as others did for me. In my nearly eight years of activism, I have traversed a rocky road fraught with peril and packed full of hard-learned lessons. I’ve gone from green, idealistic and largely oblivious, to jaded, seasoned and discerning. To varying extents, every other activist is somewhere along that path as well. Some are far, far more advanced than myself. (Julian would be a great example of this.)

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Apollo 11 U.S. Customs form after first moon landing

 

 

 

 

Jun 202019
 


Pablo Picasso The artist and his model 1933

 

The Odds Of A Recession In The Next Year (Colombo)
$12 Trillion Of Negative-Yielding Bonds Are A Distress Signal (Qz)
There’s Not Much The Fed Can Do To Address A Liquidity Crisis – DDMB (FuW)
The Omnipresent Surveillance State (Whitehead)
China: The Perfect High-Tech Totalitarian State (Bergman)
Iran Says Has Shot Down US Drone Over Its Territory (AFP)
‘Credible Evidence’ Saudi Crown Prince Liable For Khashoggi Murder (Pol.eu)
Trump Plan To Sell Arms To Saudis Faces Senate Vote (R.)
FBI Was Warned Early And Often That Manafort File Might Be Fake (Hill)
US Beekeepers Lost 40% Of Honeybee Colonies Over Past Year (G.)
Himalayan Glaciers Melting Twice As Fast As Last Century (AFP)

 

 

“..bubbles are forming in global debt, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, emerging markets, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, European real estate, the art market, U.S. stocks, U.S. household wealth, corporate debt, leveraged loans, U.S. student loans, U.S. auto loans, tech startups, shale energy, global skyscraper construction, U.S. commercial real estate, the U.S. restaurant industry, U.S. healthcare, and U.S. housing once again.”

The Odds Of A Recession In The Next Year (Colombo)

According to the New York Fed’s recession probability model, there is a 30% probability of a U.S. recession in the next 12 months. The last time that recession odds were the same as they are now was in July 2007, which was just five months before the Great Recession officially started in December 2007. July 2007 was also notable because that is when Bear Stearns’ two subprime hedge funds lost nearly all of their value, which ultimately contributed to the investment bank’s demise and the sharp escalation of the U.S. financial crisis.

Many bullishly-biased commentators are trying to downplay the warning currently being given by the New York Fed’s recession probability model, essentially saying “So? There is only a 30% chance of a recession in the next year, which means that there is a 70% chance that there won’t be a recession in the next year!” The reality is that, as valuable as this model is, it has greatly underestimated the probability of recessions since the mid-1980s. For example, this model only gave a 33% probability of a recession in July 1990, which is when the early 1990s recession started. It only gave a 21% probability of a recession in March 2001, which is when the early-2000s recession started. It also only gave a 39% probability of a recession in December 2007, which is when the Great Recession started.


[..] The New York Fed’s model is based on the Treasury yield curve, which is based on U.S. interest rates. The early-1980s recessions were anomalous because they occurred as a result of Fed Chair Paul Volcker’s unusually aggressive interest rate hikes that were meant to “break the back of inflation.” I have found that only considering New York Fed recession probability model data after 1985, and normalizing that data so that the highest reading during that time period is set to 100%, gives more accurate estimates of recession probabilities in the past three decades. For example, this methodology warned that there was an 85% chance of a recession in December 2007, when the Great Recession officially started (the standard model only gave a 39% probability). This methodology is warning that there is a 64% chance of a recession in the next 12 months, which is quite alarming.

The reason why a two-thirds chance of a recession in the next year is so alarming is because the next recession is not likely to be a garden-variety recession or a mere ebb of the business cycle, as I explained two weeks ago. Not only has global debt increased by $70 trillion since 2008, but scores of dangerous new bubbles have inflated in the past decade thanks to ultra-low interest rates and quantitative easing programs. These bubbles are forming in global debt, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, emerging markets, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, European real estate, the art market, U.S. stocks, U.S. household wealth, corporate debt, leveraged loans, U.S. student loans, U.S. auto loans, tech startups, shale energy, global skyscraper construction, U.S. commercial real estate, the U.S. restaurant industry, U.S. healthcare, and U.S. housing once again. I believe that the coming recession is likely to be caused by (and will contribute to) the bursting of those bubbles.

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Crazy experiments.

$12 Trillion Of Negative-Yielding Bonds Are A Distress Signal (Qz)

If reading financial markets is usually as inscrutable as reading tea leaves, bond investors have decided now is the time to send a message in big, bold letters. They want central banks to know they are concerned. Concerned about the strength of the global economy. Concerned about the US-China trade war. Concerned about geopolitics, particularly in the Middle East. Concerned about persistently low inflation. Investors are rushing to get their hands on the safest assets available, such as government bonds. So much so, that the amount of bonds with negative yields—meaning investors know they will get back less than what they paid if they hold the debt to maturity—has ballooned. Investors are anticipating a global shift in monetary policy towards lower interest rates, and loosening of financial conditions.


Meanwhile, the expectation of more stimulus has helped push stock markets close to record highs. Almost $12 trillion of investment grade corporate and government bonds have negative yields, predominately in Europe and Japan, according to Barclays data, the Financial Times reports. That’s the largest amount since the middle of 2016 when the UK voted to leave the European Union and the Bank of England restarted its bond-buying program, known as quantitative easing (QE), in response. Today, half of all European government bonds have a negative yield, with the total amount outstanding at €4.4 trillion ($5 trillion), compared to €3.3 trillion at the end of January, according to data from Tradeweb. At the end of May, 20% of European investment-grade corporate debt had negative yields.

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“..why do you insist on using this antiquated broken method? One of the staffers raised his hand and said if we didn’t use it, then the models would not work.”

There’s Not Much The Fed Can Do To Address A Liquidity Crisis – DDMB (FuW)

Ms. DiMartino Booth, why is the Federal Reserve bad for America?
Because of its intellectual dishonesty. The Fed noticed around 2009 that if they had had a more reliable and realistic inflation gauge on which to set policy, they would have seen the crisis coming. But despite that recognition, they chose to do nothing about it.

Are there more realistic inflation gauges?
Several Federal Reserve Districts have come up with alternative gauges. The underlying inflation gauge from the New York Fed for example also includes asset price inflation. And it runs about one percentage point higher than what the Fed measure is – they prefer the core Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index, the core PCE.

What would monetary policy look like with a more realistic inflation gauge?
Monetary policy would be much different. The Fed would not have been able to maintain a monetary policy as easy as it has done over the last couple of years. Central bankers are hiding behind the core PCE being at 1,6%. They’re saying that this gives them cover to not normalize interest rates. But even the core Consumer Price Index has been north of 2% for 14 months.

What does this mean for current monetary policy?
Former Fed Chair Janet Yellen lead the slowest rate hiking campaign in the history of the Fed. Had she been using a more realistic inflation gauge, she would not have left current Chair Jay Powell with having to play catch-up. He wasn’t able to normalize interest rates, nor to run down the balance sheet as much as he would have been able to otherwise – and had Ben Bernanke not insisted on the 2% inflation target.

What is the reason behind the inflation target of 2%?
Alan Greenspan and Paul Volcker said that the best inflation rate as far as households and businesses are concerned is 0%. There is nothing that is damaging to a household about inflation being non-existent. As Greenspan and Volcker both pointed out: If you have 2% inflation steadily for 50 years, the value of the dollar in your wallet is diminished. Inflation is corrosive as a factor of time.

What about the risk of falling into deflation?
A deflation in wages, as we saw during the Great Depression, is the worst-case scenario. But Japan has served as a modern-day reminder that households are not going to be injured by very very low levels of inflation. In a disinflationary environment with a decent level of growth, you’re not running that risk. You’re still going to have job creation and economic growth. But you’re not going to have the pressure of rising prices on households. Housing makes up 33% of the average US household budget, and housing inflation has gone through the roof in recent years. Not that it’s captured correctly in the metric that the Fed uses.

So, why is the Fed aiming for 2%?
When Stanley Fisher was vice chair, he asked the same question during his first Federal Reserve meeting. He said, why do you insist on using this antiquated broken method? One of the staffers raised his hand and said if we didn’t use it, then the models would not work.

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“Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”

—George Orwell

The Omnipresent Surveillance State (Whitehead)

We are increasingly ruled by multi-corporations wedded to the police state. What many fail to realize is that the government is not operating alone. It cannot. The government requires an accomplice. Thus, the increasingly complex security needs of the massive federal government, especially in the areas of defense, surveillance and data management, have been met within the corporate sector, which has shown itself to be a powerful ally that both depends on and feeds the growth of governmental overreach.

In fact, Big Tech wedded to Big Government has become Big Brother, and we are now ruled by the Corporate Elite whose tentacles have spread worldwide. For example, USA Today reports that five years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the homeland security business was booming to such an extent that it eclipsed mature enterprises like movie-making and the music industry in annual revenue. This security spending to private corporations such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft and others is forecast to exceed $1 trillion in the near future.

The government now has at its disposal technological arsenals so sophisticated and invasive as to render any constitutional protections null and void. Spearheaded by the NSA, which has shown itself to care little to nothing for constitutional limits or privacy, the “security/industrial complex”—a marriage of government, military and corporate interests aimed at keeping Americans under constant surveillance—has come to dominate the government and our lives. At three times the size of the CIA, constituting one third of the intelligence budget and with its own global spy network to boot, the NSA has a long history of spying on Americans, whether or not it has always had the authorization to do so.

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All states tend towards the same model.

China: The Perfect High-Tech Totalitarian State (Bergman)

In China, censorship, now largely automated, has reached “unprecedented levels of accuracy, aided by machine learning and voice and image recognition”, according to a recent Reuters report. It quotes Chinese censors as commenting: “We sometimes say that the artificial intelligence is a scalpel, and a human is a machete… When I first began this kind of work four years ago there was opportunity to remove the images of Tiananmen, but now the artificial intelligence is very accurate”. China’s severe censorship runs parallel to its severe suppression of religious freedom.

The President of the Religious Freedom Institute, Thomas F. Farr, at a November 2018 hearing at the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, described China’s religious suppression as “the most systematic and brutal attempt to control Chinese religious communities since the Cultural Revolution”. As in other Communist regimes, such as that of the former Soviet Union, the Communist ideology does not tolerate any competing narratives. “Religion is a source of authority, and an object of fidelity, that is greater than the state,” Farr wrote. “This characteristic of religion has always been anathema to history’s totalitarian despots, such as Stalin, Hitler, and Mao…”

The brutal religious and cultural oppression of Tibetans in China has been ongoing for nearly 70 years, but China has not only sought to destroy the Tibetan religion. Christianity, for instance, was seen from the beginning as a threat to the People’s Republic of China when it was established in 1949. “This was especially true at the height of the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), when places of worship were demolished, closed, or reappropriated and religious practices were banned”, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Some Christian clerics have been imprisoned for nearly 30 years. In recent years, oppression of Christians in China has apparently surged. Since the late 1990s, the Chinese regime has also targeted the Falun Gong.

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Why did it fly there?

Iran Says Has Shot Down US Drone Over Its Territory (AFP)

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said Thursday it had shot down a US “spy drone” over its territory after it violated Iranian airspace, according to Iranian state television. “The US-made Global Hawk surveillance drone was brought down by its Air Force” in the country’s southern coastal province of Hormozgan, the Revolutionary Guard added, according to the English-language Press TV. State television did not provide pictures of the drone. The incident comes at a time of heightened tensions between Iran and the United States. The US has accused Iran of being behind a series of operations against oil tankers in highly sensitive Gulf waters.


Tehran has denied involvement and instead suggested Washington could be the author of the attacks, using the operation to justify force against Iran. Hormozgan borders the Strait of Hormuz, where the tanker attacks took place. The relationship between Tehran and Washington has been particularly strained since the US last year quit the multilateral 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran. [..] Tehran’s top security official said Wednesday there was no reason to worry about a conflict breaking out. “There will be no war (between Iran and the US) since there is no reason for a war,” said rear admiral Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, quoted by the official news agency IRNA.

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UN special rapporteurs are not taken serious.

‘Credible Evidence’ Saudi Crown Prince Liable For Khashoggi Murder (Pol.eu)

There is “credible evidence” that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and other high-level officials are liable for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a United Nations expert said in a report released Wednesday. The 101-page report by Agnès Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, calls on the U.N. secretary-general to initiate a follow-up criminal investigation into the killing of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October. “There is credible evidence warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi Officials’ individual liability, including the Crown Prince’s,” Callamard wrote.


Riyadh maintains that Khashoggi’s death was caused by a “rogue” operation, but Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and de facto ruler, has long been suspected of ordering the journalist’s murder. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency reached the same conclusion in November. “No conclusion is made as to guilt,” Callamard wrote in her report, referring to bin Salman — also known as MBS — and high-level government officials such as former top advisor Saud al-Qahtani. “The only conclusion made is that there is credible evidence meriting further investigation, by a proper authority, as to whether the threshold of criminal responsibility has been met.”

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Will the GOP turn against MBS?

Trump Plan To Sell Arms To Saudis Faces Senate Vote (R.)

The U.S. Senate will vote on Thursday on legislation seeking to block President Donald Trump’s plan to complete $8 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, lawmakers said, making clear they want a harder line against what they see as human rights abuses by the two countries. Trump declared an emergency tied to threats from Iran in order to go ahead with the military sales in defiance of congressional objections. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced an agreement on Wednesday to hold the vote, after a group of lawmakers, including some of Trump’s fellow Republicans, last month filed 22 separate resolutions of disapproval objecting to the deals.


Backers of the resolutions said they thought the measures had a good chance of passing both the Senate and House, but acknowledged the difficulty of garnering the two-thirds support to override an expected veto from Trump. Bipartisan support for the action was a rare rebuke of the president by his fellow Republicans, who generally have provided overwhelming support for Trump’s policies. There has been increasing frustration with Saudi Arabia in Congress for months, over the devastating human toll of the air campaign in Yemen it is waging with the UAE. Many senators also want Saudi Arabia held accountable for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey.

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What a mess this is becoming.

FBI Was Warned Early And Often That Manafort File Might Be Fake (Hill)

When the final chapter of the Russia collusion caper is written, it is likely two seminal documents the FBI used to justify investigating Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign will turn out to be bunk. And the behavior of FBI agents and federal prosecutors who promoted that faulty evidence may disturb us more than we now know. The first, the Christopher Steele dossier, has received enormous attention. And the more scrutiny it receives, the more its truthfulness wanes. Its credibility has declined so much that many now openly question how the FBI used it to support a surveillance warrant against the Trump campaign in October 2016.

At its best, the Steele dossier is an “unverified and salacious” political research memo funded by Trump’s Democratic rivals. At worst, it may be Russian disinformation worthy of the “garbage” label given it by esteemed reporter Bob Woodward. The second document, known as the “black cash ledger,” remarkably has escaped the same scrutiny, even though its emergence in Ukraine in the summer of 2016 forced Paul Manafort to resign as Trump’s campaign chairman and eventually face U.S. indictment. In search warrant affidavits, the FBI portrayed the ledger as one reason it resurrected a criminal case against Manafort that was dropped in 2014 and needed search warrants in 2017 for bank records to prove he worked for the Russian-backed Party of Regions in Ukraine.

There’s just one problem: The FBI’s public reliance on the ledger came months after the feds were warned repeatedly that the document couldn’t be trusted and likely was a fake, according to documents and more than a dozen interviews with knowledgeable sources. For example, Ukraine’s top anticorruption prosecutor, Nazar Kholodnytsky, told me he warned the U.S. State Department’s law enforcement liaison and multiple FBI agents in late summer 2016 that Ukrainian authorities who recovered the ledger believed it likely was a fraud. “It was not to be considered a document of Manafort. It was not authenticated. And at that time it should not be used in any way to bring accusations against anybody,” Kholodnytsky said, recalling what he told FBI agents.

Likewise, Manafort’s Ukrainian business partner Konstantin Kilimnik, a regular informer for the State Department, told the U.S. government almost immediately after The New York Times wrote about the ledger in August 2016 that the document probably was fake. Manafort “could not have possibly taken large amounts of cash across three borders. It was always a different arrangement — payments were in wire transfers to his companies, which is not a violation,” Kilimnik wrote in an email to a senior U.S. official on Aug. 22, 2016. He added: “I have some questions about this black cash stuff, because those published records do not make sense. The timeframe doesn’t match anything related to payments made to Manafort. … It does not match my records. All fees Manafort got were wires, not cash.”

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Monsanto.

US Beekeepers Lost 40% Of Honeybee Colonies Over Past Year (G.)

Beekeepers across the US lost four in 10 of their honeybee colonies over the past year, as the worst winter on record for tracked bee populations raised fresh concerns over the plight of the crucial pollinators. Over the past winter, 37% of honeybee colonies were lost to beekeepers, the worst winter decline recorded in the 13-year history of a nationwide survey aimed at charting bees’ fortunes. Overall, 40% of colonies died off over the entire year to April, which is above the 38% average since the survey began. Researchers said the numbers were concerning given the intensive efforts to stem the loss of honeybees, which pollinate an estimated $15bn in US crops each year, enabling the farming of foods including apples, melons, cherries, almonds and blueberries.

Alarm over honeybee numbers has grown since 2006, when a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder became widely known. This problem, in which the majority of worker bees abandon the colony, has since receded but beekeepers are now faced with more general die-offs linked to disease, pesticide use and habitat loss. “It’s disconcerting that we’re still seeing elevated losses after over a decade of survey and quite intense work to try to understand and reduce colony loss,” said Geoffrey Williams, assistant professor of entomology at Auburn University. “We don’t seem to be making particularly great progress to reduce overall losses.”

[..] Native wild bee species, such as the American bumblebee, are also thought to be in sharp decline. The troubles faced by bees are part of a broader trend of stunning drops in insect abundance around the world, although the exact contours of this crisis are obscured by a lack of data in many places.

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Water for 2 billion people?!

Himalayan Glaciers Melting Twice As Fast As Last Century (AFP)

Himalayan glaciers are melting twice as fast now as they were before the turn of the century, according to a new study that relied on recently declassified Cold War-era satellite imagery. The study, which appeared in Science Advances on Wednesday, is the latest indication that climate change is eating the Himalayan glaciers, threatening water supplies for hundreds of millions of people downstream across South Asia. “This is the clearest picture yet of how fast Himalayan glaciers are melting over this time interval, and why,” said lead author Joshua Maurer, a doctoral candidate at Columbia University in New York.


Scientists combed 40 years of satellite observations spanning 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) across India, China, Nepal and Bhutan, and found that the glaciers have been losing the equivalent of a foot-and-a-half (45 centimeters) of ice each year since 2000. Many of the 20th-century observations came from recently declassified US spy satellite imagery. The figure is double the amount of melting that took place from 1975 to 2000.

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Jun 122019
 
 June 12, 2019  Posted by at 9:31 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Three apples 1924

 

Who Will Pay For The News? (R.)
The FBI Tragedy: Elites Above The Law (Hanson)
Sometimes Things Turn (Kunstler)
Jon Stewart Assails Congress For Ignoring 9/11 First Responders Fund (R.)
The Countries with the Most Monstrous Corporate Debt Pileups (WS)
China’s Loans To Other Countries Are Causing ‘Hidden’ Debt (CNBC)
Protests Against China Extradition Bill Paralyse Hong Kong (AFP)
Hong Kong Puts Off Debate On Extradition Bill Amid Mammoth Protests (NBC)
UK Accused Of ‘Silently Eroding’ EU Pesticide Rules In Brexit Laws (G.)
Outgoing UK Diplomat Slams ‘Chaotic Politics’ And Brexit ‘Shambles’ (Pol.)
Leaked Documents Reveal Russian Effort To Exert Influence In Africa (G.)
From Bears To Hippos: The Expert Guide To Surviving Killer Beasts (G.)

 

 

We wonder.

Who Will Pay For The News? (R.)

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism said in its annual Digital News Report that most people would not pay for online news and that there had been only a small increase in the proportion of people willing to do so in the last six years. Even among those who do pay, there is “subscription fatigue” – many are tired of being asked to pay for so many different subscriptions. Many will opt for films or music rather than pay for news. So some media companies will fail. “There is no sign that the majority of people are about to pay for online news, although many recognize that information on the internet is often overwhelming and confusing,” said Nic Newman, a senior research associate at the Reuters Institute.


“Some of the biggest brands have already shown they are able to attract a large number of paying subscribers, but the road ahead will be more challenging for other publishers,” he added. While many news organizations add paywalls and some see increases in digital subscriptions, there has been little change in the proportion of people paying for online news, apart from the “Trump bump” rise in the United States in 2016/2017. In the United States, those paying for news online were likely to have a university degree and be wealthy: The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post did well on digital. Still, almost 40 percent of new digital subscriptions at the New York Times are for crosswords and cooking, the Reuters Institute said, citing an article by Vox.

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Excellent. Don’t miss.

The FBI Tragedy: Elites Above The Law (Hanson)

One of the media and beltway orthodoxies we constantly hear is that just a few bad apples under James Comey at the FBI explain why so many FBI elites have been fired, resigned, reassigned, demoted, or retired — or just left for unexplained reasons. The list is long and includes director James Comey himself, deputy director Andrew McCabe, counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, attorney Lisa Page, chief of staff James Rybicki, general counsel James Baker, assistant director for public affairs Mike Kortan, Comey’s special assistant Josh Campbell, executive assistant director James Turgal, assistant director for office of congressional affairs Greg Bower, executive assistant director Michael Steinbach, and executive assistant director John Giacalone. In short, in about every growing scandal of the past two years — FISA, illegal leaking, spying on a presidential candidate, lying under oath, obstructing justice — someone in the FBI is involved.

We are told, however, that the FBI’s culture and institutions are exempt from the widespread wrongdoing at the top. Such caution is a fine and fitting thing, given the FBI’s more than a century of public service. Nonetheless, many of those caught up in the controversies over the Russian-collusion hoax were not recent career appointees. Rather, many came up through the ranks of the FBI. And that raises the question, for example, of where exactly Peter Strzok (22 years in the FBI) learned that he had a right to interfere in a U.S. election to damage a candidate that he opposed. And why would an Andrew McCabe (over 21 years in the FBI) think he had the duty to formulate an “insurance policy” to take out a presidential candidate? Or why would he even consider overseeing an FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s improper use of emails when his wife had been a recent recipient of Clinton-related PAC money?

And why would McCabe contemplate leaking confidential FBI information to the press or even dream of setting up some sort of operation to remove a sitting president under the 25th Amendment? And how did someone like the old FBI vet Peter Strozk ever end up at the center of the entire mess — opening up the snooping on the Trump campaign while hiding that fact and while briefing the candidate on Russian interference in the election, interviewing Michael Flynn, preening as a top FBI investigator for Robert Mueller’s dream team, right-hand man of “Andy” McCabe, convincing Comey to change the wording of his writ in the Clinton-email-scandal investigation, softball coddling of Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills, instrumental in the Papadopoulos investigation con — all the while conducting an affair with fellow FBI investigator and attorney Lisa Page and bragging about his assurance that the supposedly odious Trump would be prevented from being elected.

[..] Think what Mueller’s precedent of not-not-guilty would do to the American criminal-justice system, as zealous prosecutors might fish for just enough dirt on a suspect to ruin his reputation, but not find enough for an indictment, thereby exonerating their own prosecutorial failure by defaming a “guilty until proven innocent” suspect.

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“Then somebody splattered John F. Kennedy’s brains all over Dealey Plaza in Dallas, and everything changed again.”

Sometimes Things Turn (Kunstler)

A February night in 1924, in a Manhattan concert hall owned by the Aeolian piano company… the wailing, warped, and flatted clarinet glissando that opens George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue announced the 20th century’s self-recognition that something new was up in the world, and especially in the USA. The composer tried to represent the stupendous energy of the maturing industrial culture in a symphonic cacophony with a core of the deepest tenderness — capturing all the wonder and grace of the moment. For America, everything was on the move. Love and power were in the air. The idea that this was the American century stuck. The 1920s were a kind of hormonal rush of wonders and amazements.

Radio, movies, airplanes, giant industries, electric power in farm houses, the dizzying rush of progress that welled up into a dangerous wave that broke over the world in economic depression, and then war in 1939 — by which time George Gershwin was gone at 38. America performed splendidly in World War Two, rescuing Europe and Asia from manifest evil. The nation found itself the fully mature leader of the free world, with daunting responsibilities in the Atomic Age, filled with confidence, but tinged with an understandable paranoia in the nervous peace of the 1950s. This was the time of my childhood, along with my fellow travelers, the Baby Boomers. What a time to come into this world!

For a while, the USA luxuriated in power and stability. I sang the Davy Crockett theme song from the Disney TV show, and wore a coonskin hat, and lived in a home where dad left for work in a business suit, and all was well in the world. To me and my childhood friends, the mindboggling horrors of the recent war were reduced to comic books and plastic soldiers in the sandbox. Everything else in America seemed to work as advertised. We built a lot of stuff and saw the USA in our Chevrolet. President Ike bossed around Britain’s PM Anthony Eden. The Yankees bossed around the major leagues. Hardly anyone knew what the Federal Reserve did, or even what it was. Elvis was in the Army, babysitting the defeated Germans. Then somebody splattered John F. Kennedy’s brains all over Dealey Plaza in Dallas, and everything changed again.

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They just didn’t show up.

Jon Stewart Assails Congress For Ignoring 9/11 First Responders Fund (R.)

Jon Stewart, the popular former host of the late-night comedy program The Daily Show, criticized members of Congress for not attending a hearing on Tuesday on renewing funding for a program that provides health care to first responders who were sickened responding to the Sept. 11 attacks. “Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak and no one,” Stewart said, pointing to a mostly empty dais. “Shameful, it’s an embarrassment to the country and a stain on this institution. You should be ashamed of yourselves for those who aren’t here but you won’t be because accountability doesn’t appear to be something that occurs in this chamber.”


Stewart was testifying before the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties about a renewal of the 9/11 first responders health care fund. Most of the panel’s 14 members were not in attendance. “Where are they? It would be one thing if their callous indifference and rank hypocrisy was benign, but it’s not,” Stewart said. “Their indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity, time, one thing they’re running out of.” The fund, originally approved for five years in 2010, provides medical treatment for emergency responders sickened by toxic dust inhaled at the World Trade Center site in New York in the days following the attack.

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China may be the worst, but Wolf Richter has a long list of graphs, and just about every country has a much worse corporate debt to GDP ratio than the US has.

The Countries with the Most Monstrous Corporate Debt Pileups (WS)

US “nonfinancial” corporate debt – this excludes debt by banks and by businesses that are not incorporated – rose to a record $15.2 trillion in the fourth quarter, according to data released by the Bank for International Settlements last week. To show how much of a burden this debt is, how it compares to other countries, and to eliminate the effects of inflation, the BIS also expresses this debt as a percent of nominal GDP. Given the growth of GDP in Q4, the ratio of corporate debt to GDP, at 74.4%, was unchanged from the upwardly revised Q3, and was down a tad from the record in Q2 of 74.9%. The prior record of US corporate debt had been set in Q4 2008, at $10.7 trillion. Corporate debt is high enough to be featured in the Fed’s Financial Stability Report at the top of the list of factors that might trigger the next financial crisis.


To compare the burden of debt levels from country to country, the BIS uses a country’s corporate debt as percent of nominal local-currency GDP. By this measure, and compared to all the debt sinners out there, the US is nevertheless only in a lowly 24th place.[..] China, a smaller economy than the US economy, has by far more nonfinancial corporate debt: In US dollar terms, corporate debt in China hit a record of $21.1 trillion in Q1 2018, by far the most of any country. But since then, Chinese companies have been deleveraging under the orders from the central government. Deleveraging takes many forms in China, including defaults, state-mandated loan-to-equity swaps by Chinese state-owned banks, and bailouts by the central government, which includes the PBOC. In Q4, 2018, China’s nonfinancial corporate debt (red line) was $19.8 trillion, with efforts to deleverage in Q4 having taken a backseat to efforts to boost the economy:

Among the major economies, China’s corporate-debt-to-GDP ratio is in a realm of its own. But there are some small economies with special tax laws and corporate tax-haven status that US, European, or Chinese corporations find attractive – and they have even higher corporate-debt-to-GDP ratios than China (we’ll get to those in a moment). China’s efforts to deleverage its corporate sector, and the growth in its official GDP, have been reducing the corporate debt-to-GDP ratio from a peak of a blistering 162.6% in Q1 2016 to 151.6% in Q4 2018, still about twice the US ratio. In this chart and all charts below, the US debt-to-GDP ratio is added as a red line for comparative purposes:

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Belt and Road. Exporting overcapacity and overindebtedness. See the graphs above.

China’s Loans To Other Countries Are Causing ‘Hidden’ Debt (CNBC)

China’s lending to other countries, often shrouded in secrecy, is thought to be higher than the amounts that are officially tracked, resulting in much “hidden debt.” That growing debt problem could spark a worse-than-expected slowdown, among other problems, experts warn. The lack of transparency would also affect investors who are considering bonds issued by those countries, or organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which are helping those countries with their debts, according to Carmen Reinhart, a professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Speaking at the Nomura Investment Forum in Singapore late last month, she said: “China’s rise as a global creditor has also meant that there are a lot of hidden debts. That is, countries that had borrowed from China but this borrowing is not reported by the IMF, by the World Bank. ” “So there is a tendency to think these countries had lower debt levels than what they actually have,” she concluded. That would hinder the IMF or the World Bank in doing their work on debt sustainability analysis, she said. That effort includes analyzing countries’ debt burdens, and coming up with recommendations for a borrowing strategy that limits the risk of debt distress.

“From the vantage point of surveillance, this means that the IMF, if they’re doing debt sustainability for example for Pakistan, unless they know how much Pakistan owes China, they are doing that sustainability exercise blindfolded, ” Reinhart said. For investors, the limited information they have hinders them in making investment decisions about bonds issued by those countries if they don’t know how much is actually owed to China already, she added. That could lead to them underestimating the risk of lending money to those countries through bonds.

[..] China has been criticized for saddling many countries with debt through its Belt and Road Initiative — a mammoth infrastructure investment plan to build rail, road, sea and other routes stretching from China to Central Asia, Africa and Europe. Chinese financial institutions have provided more than $440 billion in funding for Belt and Road projects, People’s Bank of China Governor Yi Gang said during a talk at the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing early last month.

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Going for the financial district.

Protests Against China Extradition Bill Paralyse Hong Kong (AFP)

Tens of thousands of protesters paralysed central Hong Kong on Wednesday, blocking major roads in a defiant show of strength against government plans to allow extraditions to China. Black-clad demonstrators, most of them young people and students, surrounded government offices, bringing traffic to a standstill as they called on authorities to scrap the Beijing-backed plan. Rows of riot police were far outnumbered by protesters — many of whom wore face masks, helmets or goggles — just hours ahead of a scheduled debate in the city’s legislature. By late morning, with crowds continuing to swell, officials in the Legislative Council (Legco) said they would delay the second reading of the bill “to a later date”.

In scenes echoing the Occupy movement in 2014 that shut down swathes of the city for months, people flooded major roads and junctions in the heart of the city, dragging barricades onto highways and tying them together. Others plucked loose bricks from pavements. Some protesters deliberately stopped their cars in the middle of one key artery and jumped out, blocking the road, RTHK reported. Police used water cannons and pepper spray on protesters outside the Legco building and held up signs warning demonstrators they were prepared to use force.

Organisers of a gigantic march on Sunday said more than a million people turned out to voice their objections to the proposed law, which would allow Hong Kong to send suspects to other jurisdictions around the world — including China. But the record numbers have failed to sway pro-Beijing chief executive Carrie Lam, who has rejected calls to withdraw the bill. Many opponents are fearful the law would entangle people in the mainland’s opaque courts, leaving them vulnerable to a justice system seen as acting at the behest of the Chinese Communist Party. More than 100 Hong Kong businesses said they would close Wednesday in a sign of solidarity with the protesters, and the city’s major student unions announced they would boycott classes to attend the rallies.

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“Backers say the proposed extradition law is needed to stop Hong Kong from becoming a haven for fugitives….”

Hong Kong Puts Off Debate On Extradition Bill Amid Mammoth Protests (NBC)

Hong Kong’s legislature put off a debate on a bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China after thousands of demonstrators dressed in black swarmed the area surrounding the central government complex on Wednesday. As demonstrators used police barriers, street signs and trash barrels to block off Harcourt Road, the government said that the session would be “changed to a later time to be determined” by the head of the Legislative Council, which is controlled by a pro-Beijing majority. The rally came three days after as many as 1 million people took to the streets.


Protesters had mixed reactions to news of the postponement, but remained steadfast to their cause standing under umbrellas and continuing to block potential traffic. “I would describe it as a small victory,” said Ramon Yuen, a member of a local district council representing the Democratic Party. “There are many possibilities … but we want the government to withdraw the amendment,” Yuen said. “No decision has been made to do that, and we do not see any good gestures that they will listen to Hong Kong people’s voices.” Cyrus Lee, 28, who was taking part in the demonstrations, echoed Yuen’s sentiment, telling NBC News he “can’t tell if it is a good sign or not because you don’t know what they will do next.”

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“The EU provides up to 80% of the UK’s environmental laws..”

The BIG Brexit issue: the country is completely unprepared to stand on its own.

UK Accused Of ‘Silently Eroding’ EU Pesticide Rules In Brexit Laws (G.)

The UK has been accused of “silently eroding” key environmental and human health protections in the Brexit-inspired rush to convert thousands of pages of European Union pesticide policy into British law. Despite government claims the process would be little more than a technical exercise, analysis by the University of Sussex’s UK Trade Policy Observatory (UKTPO) has uncovered significant departures from EU regulations, including the removal of a blanket ban on hormone-disrupting chemicals, which are known to cause adverse health effects such as cancer, birth defects and immune disorders. The UK legislation removes the EU system of checks and balances to give a handful of ministers the power to create, amend and revoke pesticide legislation.

It also appears to weaken the existing “precautionary principle” approach, which requires scientific evidence from an independent body that a pesticide is safe to use. Instead, UK ministers are given the option to obtain and consider such evidence at their own discretion. The changes could lead to the widespread use in the UK of harmful and carcinogenic pesticides, the researchers warn. But because the laws are being drawn up so quickly and at such a high volume, there has been little scrutiny of the process, said Emily Lydgate, a UKTPO fellow and senior lecturer at the university. “The creation of over 10,000 pages of new legislation, which effectively convert EU law into UK rulebooks, is one of the most intensive and significant efforts that the government has made to prepare for Brexit,” she said.

The EU provides up to 80% of the UK’s environmental laws, which include regulations on pesticides, landfills, recycling and climate heating. Under the new regulations, however, power to make, amend and revoke pesticide legislation will be devolved to each of the national territories and consolidated to a secretary of state in England, relevant ministers in Scotland and Wales, and the competent authority in Northern Ireland.

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Any -positive- reputation the UK still had is gone.

Outgoing UK Diplomat Slams ‘Chaotic Politics’ And Brexit ‘Shambles’ (Pol.)

The outgoing British high commissioner to Singapore has warned that the Asian city-state’s leaders are “baffled by the U.K.’s chaotic politics” and that Brexit is doing lasting damage to the U.K.’s reputation. In a devastating assessment of the damage Brexit is doing to the U.K.’s global reputation, Scott Wightman, one of the country’s most senior diplomats, said major investors told him the balance of future investment in Europe “will inevitably be weighted more towards Germany and France,” with post-referendum political risk now their “principle consideration.” His comments also cast doubt on the U.K.’s Global Britain strategy aimed at averting the economic damage of Brexit by using the country’s network of influence and trade links around the world.

In a confidential Foreign and Commonwealth Office diplomatic telegram, seen by POLITICO, Wightman, who has been in the job since 2015 but posted his last tweet as British high commissioner on Tuesday, said the Singapore-U.K. Partnership for the Future, an initiative to improve ties that was launched by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in January, was being used in the “classic manner of the illusionist.” “Like posts across the network and departments in the U.K., we’re performing minor miracles for U.K. interests faced with the utter political shambles of Brexit,” he said. Singaporean ministers are “mystified as to how our political leaders allowed things to get to this pass,” he added.

[..] Wightman also likened the damage to Britain’s reputation in the last three years to the battle known as the Fall of Singapore in 1942. He said the battle showed the “complacency and arrogance of colonial leadership.” “It transformed their view of British imperialism,” he added. “Things were never the same again. The last three years have done the same for Singaporeans’ view of contemporary Britain. The nation they admired for stability, common sense, tolerance and realism grounded in fact, they see beset by division, obsessed with ideology, careless of the truth, its leaders apparently determined to keep on digging. “I fear many around the world share their view,” he said.

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Luke Harding’s BS.

Leaked Documents Reveal Russian Effort To Exert Influence In Africa (G.)

Russia is seeking to bolster its presence in at least 13 countries across Africa by building relations with existing rulers, striking military deals, and grooming a new generation of “leaders” and undercover “agents”, leaked documents reveal. The mission to increase Russian influence on the continent is being led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman based in St Petersburg who is a close ally of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. One aim is to “strong-arm” the US and the former colonial powers the UK and France out of the region. Another is to see off “pro-western” uprisings, the documents say.

In 2018 the US special counsel Robert Mueller indicted Prigozhin, who is known as “Putin’s chef” because of his Kremlin catering contracts. According to Mueller, his troll factory ran an extensive social media campaign in 2016 to help elect Donald Trump. The Wagner group – a private military contractor linked to Prigozhin – has supplied mercenaries to fight in Ukraine and Syria. The documents show the scale of Prigozhin-linked recent operations in Africa, and Moscow’s ambition to turn the region into a strategic hub. Multiple firms linked to the oligarch, including Wagner, are known by employees as the “Company”. Its activities are coordinated with senior officials inside Russia’s foreign and defence ministries, the documents suggest. Putin showed little interest in Africa in the 2000s.

But western sanctions imposed in 2014 over the annexation of Crimea have driven Moscow to seek new geopolitical friends and business opportunities. Russia has a military presence and peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic. CAR is described as “strategically important” and a “buffer zone between the Muslim north and Christian south”. It allows Moscow to expand “across the continent”, and Russian companies to strike lucrative mineral deals, the documents say.

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How stupid can one get?

“Former soldier and explorer Levison Wood runs through how to endure or avoid confrontation with some of nature’s most dangerous animals.”

I’ll make sure to avoid Levison Wood.

From Bears To Hippos: The Expert Guide To Surviving Killer Beasts (G.)

When Andi Bauer, a German student hiking in Romania, was attacked by a bear, his girlfriend Lara Booth yelled “punch it in the eye!” (Lara is British, obviously). He did, the bear stopped attacking and Andi was helicoptered to hospital where rods were screwed into his broken leg. He survived, but was punching back the right thing to do? “If you’re being mauled by a bear, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, to escape and survive,” says Levison Wood. A former soldier, explorer and writer (his book for kids, Incredible Journeys, is published this week), Wood once had an encounter in a car park in Yosemite when a bear smashed into the adjacent empty car to get food. “We woke up and made a lot of noise, as bears do try to avoid humans. But each animal is different; you’ve got to know your stuff.” Here’s his guide to fighting off some of nature’s most-feared beasts.


[..] Wood knows some stuff about crocodiles, having avoided them while walking the length of the Nile. And that is his advice: avoid them. [..] When Wood was chased by a hippo, he scrambled up a hill. “They’re not good with hills, thankfully.” [..] “Most of the animals we’ve spoken about are critically endangered. While the fear is bred into us, remember that they’re the ones that are endangered, we generally come off better than they do.” Yes, Bauer is OK. But what about the poor bear wandering the Carpathian mountains with a sore head?

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