May 172019
 
 May 17, 2019  Posted by at 9:47 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Carl Bloch The transfiguration c1865

 

Chelsea Manning Jailed Again For Refusing To Testify Against WikiLeaks (RT)
The Revelations of WikiLeaks: No. 3—The Most Extensive Classified Leak Ever
The Liberal Embrace of War (Matt Taibbi)
UK-US Row Over Iran Intel Unleashes Storm Of Behind The Scenes Infighting (ZH)
FBI-CIA Dispute Erupts Over Whether Comey Or Brennan Pushed Steele Dossier (ZH)
A World Aching For Peace & Stability Can No Longer Afford NATO (Wight)
Brexit Talks About To Fail As May’s Premiership Fades (R.)
How Much Was Pilot Error A Factor In The Boeing 737 MAX Crashes? (ST)
Boeing Faces a Possible Legal Nightmare With Airlines for 737 MAX (TPG)
US Must Break Up Facebook ‘Monopoly’ (FT Op-Ed)
Huawei’s Chip Maker Says It Has Long Been Preparing For US Ban Scenario (R.)
Greek Austerity Policy ‘Proven To Be Right,’ Says Merkel (K.)
Tower Of London Saved From Prophesy As First Ravens In 30 Years Hatch (Tel.)

 

 

“I would rather starve to death than to change my opinion in this regard.”

They have 60 days from Assange’s arrest to make her talk.

Chelsea Manning Jailed Again For Refusing To Testify Against WikiLeaks (RT)

A federal judge has ordered Chelsea Manning to be jailed again for refusing to testify in a grand jury probe of Julian Assange, threatening the whistleblower with fines if the defiance continues. Manning says she would rather die. “I would rather starve to death than to change my opinion in this regard. And when I say that, I mean that quite literally,” Manning said during a hearing at a federal courthouse in Virginia on Thursday. The US Army intelligence specialist has already spent seven years behind bars for handing over classified military and diplomatic files to WikiLeaks in 2010, and another 62 days in jail until last week for refusing to testify before another grand jury.

This time, Manning faces a fine of $500 a day if she continues to refuse cooperation after 30 days in jail. The fine will go up to $1,000 a day after two months. “I have never heard of jailing a witness for this long,” former FBI agent and whistleblower Colleen Rowley told RT. If the grand jury term goes on for 18 months, the fines could exceed half a million dollars, she added, calling it “draconian.” Rowley added that the jailing of Manning is either illegal retaliation by the Trump administration, “or the case against Julian Assange is just that weak that they absolutely need Chelsea Manning’s testimony in order to firm up these specious charges.”

[..] The new grand jury subpoena appears to be related to the US prosecution of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, who was arrested last month and is currently awaiting his extradition hearing in the UK. Assange is officially accused of conspiring with Manning to hack into Pentagon computers, while acknowledging the hack never actually happened. “I’ve read the indictment and the affidavit that came with the indictment” against Assange, Manning said on Thursday, “and the case doesn’t make sense, it seems kind of bananas.” If there is already an indictment against Assange, what’s the purpose of another grand jury, Manning asked reporters.

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Where are they now? “WikiLeaks partnered with The New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Al Jazeera and Le Monde ..”

The Revelations of WikiLeaks: No. 3—The Most Extensive Classified Leak Ever

For WikiLeaks, 2010 was an exceptionally eventful year. In April the transparency organization released “Collateral Murder,” the video of U.S. Army helicopters as they shot more than a dozen Iraqis in Baghdad. That proved a worldwide shock and put the 4-year-old publisher on the global media map. “Afghan War Diaries,” a cache of 75,000 documents, followed in July. Three months later, on Oct. 22, 2010, WikiLeaks released an even more explosive trove: 391,831 documents and videos it named “Iraq War Logs.” This superseded “Afghan War Diaries” as by far the most extensive leak of classified material in U.S. history. It shone a stark light on the U.S.–led coalition’s conduct in Iraq after its 2003 invasion, when the nation had erupted into a violent sectarian war.

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, said the Logs “constituted the most comprehensive and detailed account of any war ever to have entered the public record.” The source for the “Iraq War Logs” was once again Chelsea Manning, who by then was in a military prison awaiting trial on charges connected to “Collateral Murder” that wound up including 22 counts of theft, assisting the publication of classified intelligence and aiding the enemy. With the publication of the “Iraq War Logs,” WikiLeaks disgorged an unprecedented profusion of documents, military reports and videos. The Logs cover the six-year period from Jan. 1, 2004, (a matter of months after the 2003 invasion) to Dec. 31, 2009.

WikiLeaks partnered with The New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Al Jazeera and Le Monde to disseminate the Iraq Logs. Taken together, the Logs portray Iraq under allied occupation as the scene of lawless mayhem and violence. Codes of conduct were routinely ignored, shootings were often indiscriminate and torture of detainees was regularly treated as acceptable practice. Innocent civilians were under constant threat of U.S.-led coalition gunfire and arrest, interrogation, and mistreatment by allied military units and the Iraqi army and police.

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Americans who want peace have nobody left to talk to.

The Liberal Embrace of War (Matt Taibbi)

The United States has just suspended flights to Venezuela. Per the New York Times: “CARACAS — The United States banned all air transport with Venezuela on Wednesday over security concerns, further isolating the troubled South American nation…” A disinterested historian — Herodotus raised from the dead — would see this as just the latest volley in a siege tale. America has been trying for ages to topple the regime of President Nicholas Maduro, after trying for years to do the same to his predecessor, Hugo Chavez. The new play in the Trump era involves recognizing Juan Guaidó as president and starving and sanctioning the country. Maduro, encircled, has been resisting.

The American commercial news landscape, in schism on domestic issues, is in lockstep here. Every article is seen from one angle: Venezuelans under the heel of a dictator who caused the crisis, with the only hope a “humanitarian” intervention by the United States. There is no other perspective. Media watchdog FAIR just released results of a study of three months of American opinion pieces. Out of 76 editorials in the New York Times, Washington Post, the “big three Sunday morning talk shows” or PBS News Hour, zero came out against the removal of Maduro. They wrote: “Corporate news coverage of Venezuela can only be described as a full-scale marketing campaign for regime change.”

Allowable opinion on Venezuela ranges from support for military invasion to the extreme pacifist end of the spectrum, as expressed in a February op-ed by Dr. Francisco Rodriguez and Jeffrey Sachs called “An Urgent Call for Compromise in Venezuela”: “We strongly urge… a peaceful and negotiated transition of power rather than a winner-take-all game of chicken…” So we should either remove Maduro by force, or he should leave peaceably, via negotiation. These are the options. After the disaster of Vietnam eons ago, American thought leaders became convinced we “lost” in Indochina because of — get this — bad PR. The real lesson in Vietnam should have been that people would pay any price to overthrow a hated occupying force. American think-tankers and analysts however somehow became convinced (and amazingly still are) that the problem was Walter Cronkite and the networks giving up on the war effort.

[..] Earlier this month, onetime fierce Iraq war opponent Rachel Maddow went on TV to embrace John Bolton in a diatribe about how the poor National Security Adviser has been thwarted by Trump in efforts to topple Maduro. “Regardless of what you thought about John Bolton before this, his career, his track record,” Maddow said. “Just think about John Bolton as a human being.” The telecast was surreal. It was like watching Dick Cheney sing “Give Peace a Chance.”

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We already knew that. It’s called pattern recognition: “No – there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria..”

UK-US Row Over Iran Intel Unleashes Storm Of Behind The Scenes Infighting (ZH)

A new report in Britain’s The Times says the UK’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) is standing by its senior officer in the US-led coalition in Iraq and Syria, who earlier this week publicly contracted the Pentagon and US administration by appearing to dismiss US intelligence claims over the heightened Iran threat. The awkward public exchange unfolded between the US military and its closest allied military coalition force during a Pentagon press conference on Tuesday wherein a top British commander in charge of anti-ISIS coalition forces rebuked White House claims on the heightened Iran threat.

“No – there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” British Army Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika, a deputy head of the US-led coalition, asserted confidently in a video link briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon in response to a CNN question. Essentially this meant the powerful number two commander of “Operation Inherent Resolve” Combined Joint Task Force was questioning the entire basis on which the “imminent threats” and “high level of alert” shift in mission readiness decision was made. But now Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office is said to be fuming over the handling of the situation. The public disagreement, quickly picked up in world headlines, and further weakening the White House’s stance on the “Iran threat”, has unleashed a storm of controversy among allies behind the scenes.

The Times report includes the following bombshell details: “Officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are understood to be angry at the MoD’s handling of the situation. The row raises questions about the extent of intelligence that the US has shared with Britain about the alleged threat from Iran. Israeli media reported that the warnings were passed on by Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. The US State Department has ordered non-emergency employees to leave Iraq.”

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US intelligence agencies fighting over a fake document.

FBI-CIA Dispute Erupts Over Whether Comey Or Brennan Pushed Steele Dossier (ZH)

A dispute has erupted over whether former FBI Director James Comey or his CIA counterpart, John Brennan, promoted the unverified Steele dossier as the Obama-era intelligence community targeted the Trump campaign. According to Fox News, an email chain exists which indicates that Comey told bureau subordinates that Brennan insisted on the dossier’s inclusion in the intelligence community assessment (ICA) on Russian interference. Also interesting is that the dossier was referred to as “crown material” in the emails – a possible reference to the fact that Steele is a former British spy. In a statement to Fox, however, a former CIA official “put the blame squarely on Comey.”


“Former Director Brennan, along with former [Director of National Intelligence] James Clapper, are the ones who opposed James Comey’s recommendation that the Steele Dossier be included in the intelligence report,” said the official. “They opposed this because the dossier was in no way used to develop the ICA,” the official continued. “The intelligence analysts didn’t include it when they were doing their work because it wasn’t corroborated intelligence, therefore it wasn’t used and it wasn’t included. Brennan and Clapper prevented it from being added into the official assessment. James Comey then decided on his own to brief Trump about the document.”

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Start with ending Russophobia, and take it from there.

A World Aching For Peace & Stability Can No Longer Afford NATO (Wight)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg calling for an end to the fighting in Libya is like an arsonist calling for the house he’s just burned to the ground to stop emitting smoke. For this reason it can only be an excess of black humor or wilful amnesia on the part of Mr Stoltenberg that explains his perverse call for this particular conflict to end in this particular country, eight years after it received a prolonged visit from a Western military alliance over which he currently presides. Along with recent NATO exercises in Estonia, involving 9,000 troops operating just 15km from Russia’s border, Jens Stoltenberg’s call for a peaceful resolution to the ongoing crisis in Libya suggests that the pride of place above the entrance to NATO headquarters in Brussels should be inscribed in bold letters with the Orwellian mantra of ‘War is peace. Freedom is slavery’.

Because ever since the demise of the Soviet Union, NATO has been engaged in a perennial quest for meaning and relevance, which means to say for opportunities to unleash its democracy missiles and drop its democracy bombs. It is a quest that has and continues to involve ideologues in the media, neocon think tanks, and governments going out of their way to convince people across Europe and the US that without NATO manning the ramparts of Western civilization, the barbarians located to the North, South, East and West of them will come and destroy everything they hold dear.

Stripped of obfuscation, what we have here is a tawdry and base exercise in scaremongering; its aim to inculcate the belief that Russia, Iran, China, North Korea, Venezuela (you can take your pick) is their enemy and a threat to their security. Thus it is that the extent to which people living in the West refuse to internalise the propaganda of their own ruling class and its functionaries is determined by their ability to see the world as it truly is, rather than continue to exist in the darkened room of Western exceptionalism.

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Tories see big losses in the polls. Boris to the rescue. But pushing through Brexit at this point is going to get real ugly.

Brexit Talks About To Fail As May’s Premiership Fades (R.)

Nearly three years after the United Kingdom unexpectedly voted in a referendum to leave the EU, it is still unclear how, when or if it will ever indeed quit the European club it joined in 1973. Brexit talks between May’s Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party are about to close without an agreement, the BBC said, hours after May agreed on Thursday to set out a timetable for her departure in early June. “If the talks are not going anywhere, from my point of view that leads to only one conclusion,” Hilary Benn, the chairman of parliament’s Brexit committee, told BBC radio. “There are only two ways out of the Brexit crisis that we’ve got: either parliament agrees a deal or we go back to the British people and ask them to make the choice.”


After the Brexit deal that May struck with Brussels was defeated a third time by parliament, she announced on April 2 that she would open talks with Labour. But the two parties have failed to agree on major issues such as the opposition party’s demand for a post-Brexit customs union. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran socialist who voted against membership of the EU in 1975, has said that May refused to budge on key demands. May’s hands have been tied, knowing that to make concessions to Labour would lead to fury in her divided party. Labour has feared that any compromises on issues such as workers’ rights would be torn up by May’s successor. The two party leaders will now move to a second phase, aimed at agreeing on a process for parliamentary votes designed to find a consensus, the BBC said.

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Boeing blames the pilots. Easy because they’re dead.

How Much Was Pilot Error A Factor In The Boeing 737 MAX Crashes? (ST)

In his opening statement Wednesday at the House Aviation subcommittee hearing on the 737 MAX in Washington, D.C., the lead Republican congressman blamed errors by the Indonesian and Ethiopian pilots for the two deadly MAX crashes in those countries. “Pilots trained in the United States would have successfully been able to handle” the emergencies on both jets, said Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri, ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He added that preliminary reports about the accident “compound my concerns about quality training standards in other countries.” Graves was repeating the main points in a report written by two pilots at a major U.S. airline that pointed to pilot error as “the most consequential factor” in both crashes.

Their report was commissioned and paid for by institutional investors with large holdings in Boeing stock. That case for pilot error as the major cause of the crashes seems close to a surrogate for what Boeing has only hinted at, and may be a key part of the manufacturer’s legal defense in liability lawsuits. Yet two flight-simulator sessions replicating the conditions on the doomed flights contradict Graves’ contention that better trained pilots would have escaped disaster. And some Western-trained pilots criticize the report as based on unverified assumptions and minimizing the intense stress Boeing’s runaway flight-control system imposed on the two flight crews.

“I’m disappointed with those who sit in their lofty chairs of judgment and say this wouldn’t have happened to U.S. pilots,” said a veteran captain with a major U.S. airline, who asked not to be named to avoid involving his employer. The flight crew on the March 10 Ethiopian flight faced a barrage of alerts in the flight that lasted just 6 minutes. Those alerts included a “stick shaker” that noisily vibrated the pilot’s yoke throughout the flight, warning the plane was in danger of a stall, which it wasn’t; repeated loud “DON’T SINK” warnings that the jet was too close to the ground; a “clacker” making a very loud clicking sound to signal the jet was going too fast; and multiple warning lights telling the crew the speed, altitude and other readings on their instruments were unreliable.

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Don’t forget: Boeing faces Ralph Nader. And his entire network.

Boeing Faces a Possible Legal Nightmare With Airlines for 737 MAX (TPG)

Boeing could be on the hook for enough to bankrupt a small country — but it the Chicago-based company were found not to bear any responsibility for the issues with the 737 MAX, then it could have to pay nothing, though whoever is found to be at fault would still be liable, of course. If Boeing were found liable, then the court would have to decide the appropriate award Boeing would have to pay out to the airlines — enough to compensate the plaintiff for the damage to its business from lost fares, sunk costs in the defective aircraft, etc.


If, in the least likely but most sensational possibility, Boeing officials are found to have actively covered up a problem with the aircraft in what amounts to a crime, then the plaintiffs would probably be awarded not just compensatory damages but punitive damages — typically three times the amount of the compensatory damages. None of this, however, addresses the likely wrongful-death lawsuits from the families of the passengers who perished in the 737 MAX crashes. In those cases, the airlines and Boeing will probably be sitting on the same side of the courtroom — as co-defendants. But Dedmon stressed that, as the 737 MAX crisis is still unfolding, it’s still hard to speculate where things will go, in the courtroom or outside it. “It’s the tip of the spear,” he said.

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But CIA wants it just the way it is.

US Must Break Up Facebook ‘Monopoly’ (FT Op-Ed)

Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg recently called for the US government to be more proactive in regulating social media. His former dorm mate Chris Hughes went a step further last week. Mr Hughes wants to break up the social network he co-founded. The controversies surrounding Facebook point to a broader need for a new competition law. At a time when governments in Europe are already moving against Big Tech’s excesses, the US should take the chance to reform its own outdated rules. In his article, Mr Hughes excoriates Mr Zuckerberg for chasing profits over user security.

The Facebook co-founder is alarmed by Mr Zuckerberg’s ability to decide what millions of people read via the network. Mr Hughes goes on to criticise the US government for its relative inaction, emphasising that fining Facebook or instituting new privacy rules is insufficient. In calling for the company to be broken up, Mr Hughes rejects the school of competition law dominant in the US since the 1980s. This views pricing as the only metric for assessing competition. Such a narrow focus collapses when applied to Facebook and other Big Tech firms, which provide services for “free” in return for taking users’ data, rather than their cash.

Facebook epitomises the dangers of data oligopolies, with its plan to tie WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram into a single encrypted messaging system. With control of three major platforms, it can use metadata such as contacts or external pages to provide useful data to advertisers and to train algorithms. New competitors without access to these data reservoirs will inevitably struggle to compete. In the past, Big Tech firms have simply acquired them and folded them into their business or copied their ideas at scale. The data rich get data richer, even though there is no apparent cost to consumers under current competition law.

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“HiSilicon has been secretly developing back-up products for years..”

Huawei’s Chip Maker Says It Has Long Been Preparing For US Ban Scenario (R.)

Huawei Technologies’ chip arm HiSilicon said on Friday it has long been prepared for the “extreme scenario” that it could be banned from purchasing U.S. chips and technology, and is able to ensure steady supply of most products. HiSilicon, which mainly designs chips for Huawei equipment, made the comments in a letter to staff attributed to President He Tingbo dated “the small hours of May 17”, shortly after the United States officially banned Huawei from buying U.S. technology without special approval. The ban has thrown into disarray prospects for sales at some of the largest tech companies and drew a sharp rebuke from Beijing, further ratcheting up tensions over trade.


Huawei confirmed authenticity of the letter seen by Reuters and published by Chinese media on Friday. HiSilicon has been secretly developing back-up products for years in anticipation of the unlikely scenario that Huawei may one day be unable to obtain advanced chips and technology from the United States, He said in the letter. HiSilicon’s efforts have ensured a steady supply and “strategic safety” of most products, He said, adding that Huawei will aim to be technologically self-sufficient. He described HiSilicon’s efforts as a “long march in the history of technology” that would now pay off with the United State’s “crazy decision” that brought this “extreme and dark moment”.

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The currency union is more important than the people. Some mutti. Some union.

Greek Austerity Policy ‘Proven To Be Right,’ Says Merkel (K.)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended austerity policy in Greece and other debt-hit countries in the eurozone, however acknowledging that the people had to shoulder a “considerable” burden. “What counts is that the currency union and the euro were maintained,” Merkel said in an interview with Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung. Merkel, who is in her fourth and final term in office, said that reforms in Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain “have proven to be right, even if I don’t dispute that the burden for the population was considerable.” Speaking about Europe’s refugee crisis, Merkel said that the problem requires greater burden-sharing among EU members as well as efforts to tackle the roots of the problem.

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Pheww…. Saved by the bell.

Tower Of London Saved From Prophesy As First Ravens In 30 Years Hatch (Tel.)

The Tower of London will be protected from a prophesied demise for years to come, after the first ravens in 30 years were born inside its walls. At least six ravens have been kept at the fortress since the days of King Charles II, who feared the Tower and the kingdom would fall if they were ever allowed to leave. Ruination loomed large last year as the number of legal raven breeders continued to shrink across the UK, making it harder for the ancient quota to be honoured. A new aviary was eventually installed inside the London landmark, into which two breeding ravens – Huginn and Muninn – were brought at the end of last year.


Few expected the couple to be settled in time for the 2019 mating season, but, not without some sense of occasion, new life began emerging on April 23 – St George’s Day. All four chicks have now hatched, the first to do so at the Tower since 1989. They join seven other ravens in addition to the breeding couple and shore up the Tower’s safety for the foreseeable future. Chris Skaife, ravenmaster at the Tower of London, said: “My suspicions were first piqued that we might have a chance of baby chicks when the parents built a huge nest suddenly overnight and then almost immediately the female bird started to sit on it, then on the April 23 I noticed the birds going to the nest with food.”

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May 102019
 


James McNeill Whistler Symphony in White, No. 3 1867

 

US Hikes Tariffs On Chinese Goods, China Says To Strike Back (R.)
Historic Lawsuit Could “Wreak Havoc” On The Leveraged Loan Market (ZH)
The Real Muellergate Scandal (Craig Murray)
From Russiagate to Gunboat Diplomacy (Jacobin)
FBI’s Steele Story Falls Apart (Solomon)
Roger Stone Wins Right To Receive Unredacted Parts of Mueller Report (SC)
Chelsea Manning Released After 2 Months, Might Be Back In Jail In 6 Days (RT)
The Law Being Used to Prosecute Julian Assange Is Broken (Ekeland)
Swedish Prosecutor To Give Decision On Assange Rape Inquiry (G.)
The Revelations of WikiLeaks: No. 2 (Vos)
Facebook Co-Founder Calls For Breakup Of The Company (ZH)
UK Tories Could Come Sixth In European Elections (G.)
America, You Are Fired! (Dmitry Orlov)
Chernobyl Has Become A Refuge For Wildlife 33 Years Later (Conv.)
Ireland Second Country To Declare Climate, Biodiversity Emergency (RTE)

 

 

Keep talking!

US Hikes Tariffs On Chinese Goods, China Says To Strike Back (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariff increase to 25% on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods took effect on Friday, and Beijing said it would strike back, ratcheting up tensions as the two sides pursue last-ditch talks to try salvaging a trade deal. China’s Commerce Ministry said it “deeply regrets” the U.S. decision, adding that it would take necessary countermeasures, without elaborating. The hike comes in the midst of two days of talks between top U.S. and Chinese negotiators to try to rescue a faltering deal aimed at ending a 10-month trade war between the world’s two largest economies. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin talked for 90 minutes on Thursday and were expected to resume talks on Friday.


The Commerce Ministry said that negotiations were continuing, and that it “hopes the United States can meet China halfway, make joint efforts, and resolve the issue through cooperation and consultation”. With no action from the Trump administration to reverse the increase as negotiations moved into a second day, U.S. Customs and Border Protection imposed the new 25% duty on affected U.S.-bound cargoes leaving China after 12:01 a.m. EDT (0401 GMT) on Friday. Goods in the more than 5,700 affected product categories that left Chinese ports and airports before midnight will be subject to the original 10% duty rate, a CBP spokeswoman said.

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Don’t worry, Fed to the rescue.

Historic Lawsuit Could “Wreak Havoc” On The Leveraged Loan Market (ZH)

Ask any banker (or analyst) what the difference is between a junk bond and a loan, and you’ll most likely get a blank start in response: starting with the size of the loan market, which is now virtually identical to that of the high yield bond market, continuing through the standardization of loan terms, the growth of secondary trading, and all the way through to “protections” granted to loan investors, which in an age of exclusively covenant-lite issuance, no longer exist, and one can argue that at least superficially, a loan is effectively the same as a junk bond. And yet, there is one critical difference between the two: junk bonds are securities, while loans aren’t. That difference, however, may not be true for much longer.

As Bloomberg reports, a group suing JPMorgan Chase and other banks over a loan that went sour four years ago is alleging the underwriters engaged in securities fraud. If successful, the article contends correctly, the lawsuit will “radically transform the $1.2 trillion leveraged lending market” because should the plaintiff ultimately prevail in arguing that loans are de facto securities, it would dramatically alter how American companies raise debt, according to two industry groups that filed a brief supporting the defendants’ argument last week. “There are absolutely enormous market consequences if a court determines that leveraged loans are securities,” J. Paul Forrester, a partner at Mayer Brown told Bloomberg. “Leveraged loans and lenders would be potentially subject to the same offering and disclosure requirements as securities and would face the same regulatory oversight and enforcement consequences.”

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Well, whaddaya know, there are people who agree with me… The VIPS, Assange, it’s all I’ve been talking about. I said Mueller is a coward and a liar, Murray calls him deeply corrupt. Same difference.

The Real Muellergate Scandal (Craig Murray)

Robert Mueller is either a fool, or deeply corrupt. I do not think he is a fool. I did not comment instantly on the Mueller Report as I was so shocked by it, I have been waiting to see if any other facts come to light in justification. Nothing has. I limit myself here to that area of which I have personal knowledge – the leak of DNC and Podesta emails to Wikileaks. On the wider question of the corrupt Russian 1% having business dealings with the corrupt Western 1%, all I have to say is that if you believe that is limited in the USA by party political boundaries, you are a fool. On the DNC leak, Mueller started with the prejudice that it was “the Russians” and he deliberately and systematically excluded from evidence anything that contradicted that view.

Mueller, as a matter of determined policy, omitted key steps which any honest investigator would undertake. He did not commission any forensic examination of the DNC servers. He did not interview Bill Binney. He did not interview Julian Assange. His failure to do any of those obvious things renders his report worthless. There has never been, by any US law enforcement or security service body, a forensic examination of the DNC servers, despite the fact that the claim those servers were hacked is the very heart of the entire investigation. Instead, the security services simply accepted the “evidence” provided by the DNC’s own IT security consultants, Crowdstrike, a company which is politically aligned to the Clintons.

That is precisely the equivalent of the police receiving a phone call saying: “Hello? My husband has just been murdered. He had a knife in his back with the initials of the Russian man who lives next door engraved on it in Cyrillic script. I have employed a private detective who will send you photos of the body and the knife. No, you don’t need to see either of them.” There is no honest policeman in the world who would agree to that proposition, and neither would Mueller were he remotely an honest man.

[..] Mueller’s failure to examine the servers or take Binney’s evidence pales into insignificance compared to his attack on Julian Assange. Based on no conclusive evidence, Mueller accuses Assange of receiving the emails from Russia. Most crucially, he did not give Assange any opportunity to answer his accusations. For somebody with Mueller’s background in law enforcement, declaring somebody in effect guilty, without giving them any opportunity to tell their side of the story, is plain evidence of malice. Inexplicably, for example, the Mueller Report quotes a media report of Assange stating he had “physical proof” the material did not come from Russia, but Mueller simply dismisses this without having made any attempt at all to ask Assange himself.

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Where would US media be without Russia?

From Russiagate to Gunboat Diplomacy (Jacobin)

One of the things Russiagate skeptics found unsettling about the frenzy over supposed “collusion” was that it made war more likely. Not only did the now-debunked conspiracy theories and resulting political climate push officials into a more aggressive posture toward Russia, but once the Kremlin was returned to its status as the foreign policy elite’s Big Bad, it was easy to imagine a situation where the threat of a Russian bogeyman could be used to justify any number of unrelated foreign adventures. This appears to be exactly what’s happening with Venezuela right now. First there was Fareed Zakaria, who two months ago tried to goad Trump into attacking Venezuela by pointing to Russia’s support for Maduro.

“Putin’s efforts seem designed to taunt the United States,” he said (it might also have something to do with the billions of dollars Russia sank into the country), making reference to the Monroe Doctrine. He asked if Washington would “allow Moscow to make a mockery of another American red line,” warning that “if Washington does not back its words with deeds” the country could become another Syria. Zakaria concluded: “will Venezuela finally be the moment when Trump finally ends his appeasement?” More recently, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo charged that Russia had “invaded” Venezuela before claiming the Kremlin had dissuaded Maduro from fleeing the country at the last moment, something Pompeo has provided no evidence for but much of the media has treated as fact since.

National Security Advisor John Bolton has said that “this is our hemisphere” and “not where the Russians ought to be interfering.” Democratic Sen. Doug Jones echoed this sentiment on CNN, praising the Trump administration for saying “all options are on the table” to deal with Venezuela, something he suggested may have to be acted on “if there is some more intervention [by] Russia.” The national press, taking a break from warning about Trump being a dangerous authoritarian, has been demanding to know why he hasn’t been more aggressive toward the country over this. Particularly shameless was Florida Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, who went on Tucker Carlson’s show to peddle half-baked innuendo as brazen as anything claimed in the lead up to the Iraq War. If Maduro’s government survived, he claimed, it would be “a green light, an open door for the Russians and for the Chinese and for others to increase their activity against our national security interest right here in our hemisphere.”

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John Solomon digs on. “She quoted Steele as saying, “Payments to those recruited are made out of the Russian Consulate in Miami..” [..] “It is important to note that there is no Russian consulate in Miami.”

FBI’s Steele Story Falls Apart (Solomon)

The FBI’s sworn story to a federal court about its asset, Christopher Steele, is fraying faster than a $5 souvenir T-shirt bought at a tourist trap. Newly unearthed memos show a high-ranking government official who met with Steele in October 2016 determined some of the Donald Trump dirt that Steele was simultaneously digging up for the FBI and for Hillary Clinton’s campaign was inaccurate, and likely leaked to the media. The concerns were flagged in a typed memo and in handwritten notes taken by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec on Oct. 11, 2016. Her observations were recorded exactly 10 days before the FBI used Steele and his infamous dossier to justify securing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and the campaign’s contacts with Russia in search of a now debunked collusion theory.

It is important to note that the FBI swore on Oct. 21, 2016, to the FISA judges that Steele’s “reporting has been corroborated and used in criminal proceedings” and the FBI has determined him to be “reliable” and was “unaware of any derogatory information pertaining” to their informant, who simultaneously worked for Fusion GPS, the firm paid by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Clinton campaign to find Russian dirt on Trump. That’s a pretty remarkable declaration in Footnote 5 on Page 15 of the FISA application, since Kavalec apparently needed just a single encounter with Steele at State to find one of his key claims about Trump-Russia collusion was blatantly false.

In her typed summary, Kavalec wrote that Steele told her the Russians had constructed a “technical/human operation run out of Moscow targeting the election” that recruited emigres in the United States to “do hacking and recruiting.” She quoted Steele as saying, “Payments to those recruited are made out of the Russian Consulate in Miami,” according to a copy of her summary memo obtained under open records litigation by the conservative group Citizens United. Kavalec bluntly debunked that assertion in a bracketed comment: “It is important to note that there is no Russian consulate in Miami.”

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What if the relevant sections did get redacted?

Roger Stone Wins Right To Receive Unredacted Parts of Mueller Report (SC)

A federal judge in Washington ordered the Department of Justice to turn over any unredacted sections of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian activities during the 2016 presidential campaign that relate to Roger Stone. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson gave the prosecutors until Monday to “submit unredacted versions of those portions of the report that relate to defendant Stone and/or ‘the dissemination of hacked materials.” Judge Jackson would review the material in private to see if it is relevant to the case and to decide whether Stone and his defense team will have access to the material.

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Is this a game?

Chelsea Manning Released After 2 Months, Might Be Back In Jail In 6 Days (RT)

Whistleblower Chelsea Manning has been released from a Virginia prison where she spent the last 62 days for refusing to testify on her 2010 leak of classified military files before a grand jury. Manning was released from William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria, Virginia, on Thursday after the term of the grand jury before which she was supposed to testify expired, her legal team said in a statement reported by the Sparrow Project. However, the WikiLeaks whistleblower and activist might soon be locked up again and has already been served with another subpoena, requesting that she testifies before a different set of jurors. “Unfortunately, even prior to her release, Chelsea was served with another subpoena.


This means she is expected to appear before a different grand jury, on Thursday, May 16, 2019, just one week from her release today,” her lawyers said. Despite having spent over two months behind bars, Manning has no intention to cave in to the demand and make herself available to a secret grand jury’s questioning, according to the statement. “Chelsea will continue to refuse to answer questions, and will use every available legal defense to prove to District Judge Trenga that she has just cause for her refusal to give testimony.” Manning insists that she already gave an “exhaustive testimony” on all the matters concerning her disclosure of military documents at a 2013 court martial. In an 8-page declaration filed to the Virginia court on May 6, Manning accused the US government of using the “corrupt and abusive tool” of grand jury to “harass and disrupt political opponents and activists.”

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Taking us back to Aaron Schwartz.

The Law Being Used to Prosecute Julian Assange Is Broken (Ekeland)

[..] the UK courts will evaluate the US’s request to send Assange to Virginia to stand trial in federal court for a single felony charge of conspiracy to commit unauthorized access to a government computer, a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). After Assange’s arrest, many reached out to ask me about the CFAA. For years, I’ve represented hackers in federal criminal cases nationally involving the CFAA, including Lauri Love, whom the US unsuccessfully tried to extradite from the UK. The US indicted Love in three separate federal courts in New York, New Jersey, and Virginia, for hacking of a number of government sites including NASA, the FBI, the United States Sentencing Commission, and the Bureau of Prisons.

This was part of #OpLastResort, in protest of the CFAA prosecution and death of computer science pioneer Aaron Swartz, whose suicide in 2013 was widely viewed as resulting from a draconian CFAA prosecution. Whether intended or not, the CFAA makes it easy for a prosecutor to bring felony computer crime charges even when there’s little or no harm. [..] The core problem with the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is that it doesn’t clearly define one of the central things it prohibits: unauthorized access to a computer. The courts across the country aren’t any help on this front, issuing conflicting decisions both with other jurisdictions and often within their own. Under the CFAA, what is a felony in one jurisdiction is legal in another.

This lack of definitional clarity allows prosecutors to charge felonies even when the harms are minimal, questionable, or just political views that DOJ doesn’t like. This is a serious problem, given that much political speech and protest these days is done with computers. And DOJ has previously used the CFAA in a politically charged prosecution. In 2011, DOJ charged the politically outspoken Aaron Swartz under the CFAA for going into an open server closet at MIT, a mecca of modern American hacking, and downloading academic articles—many of which were publicly funded—for public distribution. Even though the extent of any harm was questionable—this was a mere copying of articles—DOJ charged him with felony unauthorized access to a computer, unauthorized damage to a protected computer, felony aiding and abetting of both, and wire fraud.

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All Swedes need to be deeply ashamed. Is it too much to ask of you to let your voices be heard? All I hear is silence.

Swedish Prosecutor To Give Decision On Assange Rape Inquiry (G.)

Sweden’s state prosecutor will announce on Monday whether she will reopen a preliminary investigation into a rape allegation against Julian Assange. The WikiLeaks founder is in prison in Britain after he was arrested last month after seven years holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The US wants to extradite him in a case relating to WikiLeaks’ massive release of sensitive military and diplomatic documents. Sweden’s legal tussle with the Australian Assange has dragged on for nearly a decade after he was accused by two Swedish women of sexual assault and rape in 2010.


The statute of limitations ran out on the sexual assault allegations in 2015 and the prosecutor dropped the investigation into the rape allegation in 2017 because Assange was in the Ecuadorian embassy, where he had taken refuge to avoid extradition. The prosecutor said at the time the investigation could be reopened if the situation changed. After Assange’s arrest last month, the lawyer representing the woman who accused Assange of rape asked for the investigation to be reopened. “At [a] press conference, the prosecutor will announce her decision, which will formally be made immediately before the press conference,” the Swedish prosecution authority said in a statement.

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Elizabeth Lea Vos is compiling a history of all WikiLeaks files.

The Revelations of WikiLeaks: No. 2 (Vos)

Three months after it published the “Collateral Murder” video, WikiLeaks on July 25, 2010 released a cache of secret U.S. documents on the war in Afghanistan. It revealed the suppression of civilian casualty figures, the existence of an elite U.S.-led death squad and the covert role of Pakistan in the conflict, among other revelations. The publication of the Afghan War Diaries helped set the U.S. government on a collision course with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that ultimately led to his arrest last month. The war diaries were leaked by then-Army-intelligence-analyst Chelsea Manning, who had legal access to the logs via her Top Secret clearance.

Manning only approached WikiLeaks, after studying the organization, following unsuccessful attempts to leak the files to The New York Times and The Washington Post. A major controversy surrounding the Diaries’ release were allegations that operational details were made public to the Taliban’s battlefield advantage and that U.S. coalition informants’ lives were put at risk by publishing their names. Despite a widely-held belief that WikiLeaks carelessly publishes un-redacted documents, only 75,000 from a total of more than 92,201 internal U.S. military files related to the Afghan War (between 2004 and 2010) were ultimately published.

WikiLeaks explained that it held back so many documents because Manning had insisted on it: “We have delayed the release of some 15,000 reports from the total archive as part of a harm minimization process demanded by our source.” Manning testified at her 2013 court-martial that the files were not “very sensitive” and did not report active military operations.

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Facebook: We’re Not A Monopoly, We’re “A Successful American Company”

Chris Hughes, Zuck’s former roommate, said in a NYT op-ed that Facebook should be split up. The reaction: no, we’re just successful, but we do need new laws, and Zuck himself has some great ideas for that.

Facebook Co-Founder Calls For Breakup Of The Company (ZH)

[..] would-be rivals can’t raise the money to take on Facebook. Nobody would finance them knowing that if they get too powerful, Facebook will run them out of business. Hughes doesn’t blame Zuckerberg for this; after all, he’s simply demonstrating the “virtuous hustle of a talented entrepreneur.” But this is exactly why the government should feel obligated to step in and “break up Facebook’s monopoly and regulate the company to make it more accountable to the American people.” Specifically, Hughes believes the FTC should work with the DoJ to undo the Instagram and Whatsapp acquisitions. There is some precedent for this, he says.

How would a breakup work? Facebook would have a brief period to spin off the Instagram and WhatsApp businesses, and the three would become distinct companies, most likely publicly traded. Facebook shareholders would initially hold stock in the new companies, although Mark and other executives would probably be required to divest their management shares. Until recently, WhatsApp and Instagram were administered as independent platforms inside the parent company, so that should make the process easier. But time is of the essence: Facebook is working quickly to integrate the three, which would make it harder for the F.T.C. to split them up. For what it’s worth, Hughes acknowledges his complicity in creating Facebook, and the fact that he didn’t speak out – or even question the company’s monopoly power – until after Cambridge Analytica.

But that’s the past: Already, support for breaking up big-tech monopolies is gaining traction among Democrats and Republicans alike. The fact that Hughes has decided to criticized his former co-founder (and one-time college buddy) in such a public forum might seem galling to some: After all, Hughes was transformed into a millionaire 500 times over largely because he had the good fortune of being assigned to the same dorm room as Zuckerberg at Harvard. But regardless, now that Hughes has broken the seal, will he inspire more of Facebook’s co-founders and former top employees speak out. It’s worth noting that in March, Chris Cox, one of Zuckerberg’s top deputies and a longtime FB executive, left the company. Cox’s decision to leave was reportedly due to ‘disagreement’s’ that were alluded to in a blog post.

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Torn between multiple lovers. The UK governed by a fringe party.

UK Tories Could Come Sixth In European Elections (G.)

Conservative officials fear the party could come sixth in the European elections, with their support plummeting to single digits. Candidates running in the election said the party was “almost in denial” that the poll was happening and continued to insist they would not need to take up their seats in the European parliament, despite fading prospects for a cross-party deal with Labour that would enable Brexit to happen before 2 July. The fears of a dismal performance have been stoked by the fact that the party plans to spend no money on candidate campaigning, will not publish a manifesto and is refusing to hold a launch.


One MEP said candidates were funding their campaigns out of their own pockets, unlike previous years when there was a central pot of funding available. They have been told they are allowed to have their own regional manifestos, but many are not bothering, and there will be no central party manifesto. “The thinking is that if we make no effort then we will have an excuse for having done so badly. But it is seriously embarrassing,” said one MEP. Another Conservative source said internal data showed the party could do worse than the Brexit party, Labour, the Lib Dems, Change UK and even potentially the Greens, with support at less than 10%. That would translate to only a handful of seats, down from the current 22.

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Nuclear is set to make a come back, because it is the only option to maintain our complex societies. He may have a point there. The ultimate desperation.

America, You Are Fired! (Dmitry Orlov)

Some ironies are just too precious to pass by. The 2016 US presidential elections gave us Donald Trump, a reality TV star whose famous tag line from his show “The Apprentice” was “You are fired!” Focus on this tag line; it is all that is important to this story. Some Trump Derangement Disorder sufferers might disagree. This is because they are laboring under certain misapprehensions: that the US is a democracy; or that it matters who is president. It isn’t and it doesn’t. By this point, the choice of president matters as much as the choice of conductor for the band that plays aboard a ship as it vanishes beneath the waves. I have made these points continuously since before Trump got into office. Whether or not you think that Trump was actually elected, he did get in somehow, and there are reasons to believe that this had something to do with his wonderfully refreshing “You are fired!” tag line.

[..] Financially ruinous and generally nonsensical schemes such as tar sands, shale oil and industrial-scale photovoltaics, wind generation and electric cars will only accelerate the process of sorting nations into energy haves and energy have-nots, with the have-nots wiping themselves out sooner rather than later. Leaving aside various fictional and notional schemes (nuclear fusion, space mirrors, etc.) and focusing just on the technologies that already exist, there is only one way to maintain industrial civilization, and that is nuclear, based on Uranium 235 (which is scarce) and Plutonium 239 produced from Uranium 238 (of which there is enough to last for thousands of years) using fast neutron reactors. If you don’t like this choice, then your other choice is to go completely agrarian, with significantly reduced population densities and no urban centers of any size.

And if you do like this choice, then you have few alternatives other than to go with the world’s main purveyor of nuclear technology (VVER-series light water reactors, BN-series fast neutron breeder reactors and closed nuclear fuel cycle technology) which happens to be Russia’s state-owned conglomerate Rosatom. It owns over a third of the world nuclear energy market and has a portfolio of international projects stretching far into the future that includes as much as 80% of the reactors that are going to be built. The US hasn’t been able to complete a nuclear reactor in decades, the Europeans managed to get just one new reactor on line (in China) while Japan’s nuclear program has been in disarray ever since Fukushima and Toshiba’s financially disastrous acquisition of Westinghouse. The only other contenders are South Korea and China. Again, if you don’t like nuclear—for whatever reason—then you can always just buy yourself some pasture and some hayfields and start breeding donkeys.

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Nuclear anyone?

Chernobyl Has Become A Refuge For Wildlife 33 Years Later (Conv.)

About 30 researchers from the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Belgium, Norway, Spain and Ukraine presented the latest results of our work. These studies included work on big mammals, nesting birds, amphibians, fish, bumblebees, earthworms, bacteria and leaf litter decomposition. These studies showed that at present the area hosts great biodiversity. In addition, they confirmed the general lack of big negative effects of current radiation levels on the animal and plant populations living in Chernobyl. All the studied groups maintain stable and viable populations inside the exclusion zone. These studies showed that at present the area hosts great biodiversity.

In addition, they confirmed the general lack of big negative effects of current radiation levels on the animal and plant populations living in Chernobyl. All the studied groups maintain stable and viable populations inside the exclusion zone. A clear example of the diversity of wildlife in the area is given by the TREE project (TRansfer-Exposure-Effects, led by Nick Beresford of the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology). As part of this project, motion detection cameras were installed for several years in different areas of the exclusion zone. The photos recorded by these cameras reveal the presence of abundant fauna at all levels of radiation. These cameras recorded the first observation of brown bears and European bison inside the Ukrainian side of the zone, as well as the increase in the number of wolves and Przewalski horses.

Our own work with the amphibians of Chernobyl has also detected abundant populations across the exclusion zone, even on the more contaminated areas. Furthermore, we have also found signs that could represent adaptive responses to life with radiation. For instance, frogs within the exclusion zone are darker than frogs living outside it, which is a possible defence against radiation. Studies have also detected some negative effects of radiation at an individual level. For example, some insects seem to have a shorter lifespan and are more affected by parasites in areas of high radiation. Some birds also have higher levels of albinism, as well as physiological and genetic alterations when living in highly contaminated localities. But these effects don’t seem to affect the maintenance of wildlife population in the area.


European bison (Bison bonasus), boreal lynx (Lynx lynx), moose (Alces alces) and brown bear (Ursus arctos) in Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (Ukraine). Proyecto TREE/Sergey Gaschack

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Wondering what practical measures they have in mind. Renewables?

Ireland Second Country To Declare Climate, Biodiversity Emergency (RTE)

Ireland has become only the second country in the world to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency. The development came after a Fianna Fáil amendment to the Oireachtas report on Climate Action was accepted by both the Government and Opposition parties without a vote. Chair of the Climate Action Committee, Fine Gael’s Hildegarde Naughton, welcomed the outcome as “an important statement” but added “now we need action.” She said Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton would speedily return to the Dáil with new proposals, and she looked forward to working “with all parties and none” to scrutinise them.


Green Party leader Eamon Ryan also welcomed the development, but warned that “declaring an emergency means absolutely nothing unless there is action to back it up. That means the Government having to do things they don’t want to do”. Deputy Bríd Smith, of Solidarity/People Before Profit, said she was “delighted” with the declaration, but added it will be “interesting to see” if the Government will support her Climate Emergency Measures Bill next month, which seeks to to limit oil and gas exploration.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

May 072019
 


Peter Paul Rubens Daniel in the lions’ den c1615

 

Zero Hedge ran an article about omissions from the Mueller report and/or investigation. It’s instructive, but there is more. First, some bits from that article:

Major Mueller Report Omissions Suggest Incompetence Or A Coverup

Robert Mueller’s 448-page “Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election” contains at least two major omissions which suggest that the special counsel and his entire team of world-class Democrat attorneys are either utterly incompetent, or purposefully concealing major crimes committed against the Trump campaign and the American people.

First, according to The Federalist’s Margot Cleveland (a former law clerk of nearly 25 years and instructor at the college of business at the University of Notre Dame) – the Mueller report fails to consider whether the dossier authored by former MI6 spy Christopher Steele was Russian disinformation, and Steele was not charged with lying to the FBI.

“The Steele dossier, which consisted of a series of memorandum authored by the former MI6 spy, detailed intel purportedly provided by a variety of Vladimir Putin-connected sources. For instance, Steele identified Source A as “a senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure” who “confided that the Kremlin had been feeding Trump and his team valuable intelligence on his opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.”


Other supposed sources identified in the dossier included: Source B, identified as “a former top-level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin”; Source C, a “Senior Russian Financial Officer”; and Source G, “a Senior Kremlin Official.” -The Federalist

As Cleveland posits: “Given Mueller’s conclusion that no one connected to the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to interfere with the election, one of those two scenarios must be true—either Russia fed Steele disinformation or Steele lied to the FBI about his Russian sources.”

Mueller identified only two principal ways Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election: “First, a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Second, a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working on the Clinton Campaign and then released stolen documents.”


Surely, a plot by Kremlin-connected individuals to feed a known FBI source—Steele had helped the FBI uncover an international soccer bribery scandal—false claims that the Trump campaign was colluding with Russia would qualify as a “principal way” in which Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

[..] the only lawmaker to even mention this possibility has been Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who raised the issue with Attorney General William Barr last week: “My question,” said Grassley, “Mueller spent over two years and 30 million dollars investigating Russia interference in the election. In order for a full accounting of Russia interference attempts, shouldn’t the special counsel have considered whether the Steele dossier was part of a Russian disinformation and interfere campaign?” [..] Barr said that he has assembled a DOJ team to examine Mueller’s investigation, findings, and whether the spying conducted by the FBI against the Trump campaign in 2016 was improper.

 

Mueller’s second major oversight – which we have touched on repeatedly – is the special counsel’s portrayal of Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud as a Russian agent – when available evidence suggests he may have been a Western agent.

Weeks after returning from Moscow, Mifsud – a self-described Clinton Foundation member – ‘seeded’ the rumor that Russia had ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos on April 26, 2016, according to the Mueller report.

As Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) noted on Fox News on Sunday, “how is it that we spend 30-plus-million dollars on this, as taxpayers and they can’t even tell us who Joseph Mifsud is?” “…this is important, because, in the Mueller dossier, they use a fake news story to describe Mifsud. In one of those stories, they cherry- pick it,” Nunes added.

[..] As conservative commentator and former US Secret Service agent Dan Bongino notes of Mifsud, “either we have a Russian asset who’s infiltrated the highest echelons of friendly Intelligence Services, or we have a friendly who was setting up George Papadopoulos.”

 

This poses questions about Mueller, Mifsud and Steele and many other people and organizations involved, but the central question remains unaddressed: did Russia truly meddle and interfere in the 2016 election?

We don’t know, we have only Mueller’s word for that, and he’s ostensibly based it on reports from US intelligence, which has very obvious reasons to smear Russia. That Mifsud is presented as a Russian agent, with all the doubts about that which we have seen presented, doesn’t help this point.

That Steele hadn’t visited Russia since 1993 when he complied his dossier is not helpful either. His information could have originated with “the Russians”, or with US intelligence, and he would never have been the wiser. That is, even IF he was a straight shooter. What are the odss of that?

And of course the strongest doubts about Russian meddling and interference, along with offers of evidence to underline and reinforce these doubts, have been offered by Julian Assange and the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) group.

But as I’ve repeatedly said before, after Mueller had to let go of the “Russia collusion with the Trump campaign” accusation, he was free to let the “Russian meddling aided and abetted by Julian Assange” narrative stand, beacuse he didn’t have to provide proof for that, as long as he didn’t communicate with either the Russians (easy), the VIPS (whom he stonewalled) or Assange (who’s been completely silenced).

 

So we have -at least- 4 major omissions in the Mueller investigation and report:

1) the Mueller report failed to consider whether the dossier authored by former MI6 spy Christopher Steele was Russian disinformation (and Steele was not charged with lying to the FBI).

2) Mueller’s portrayal of Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud as a Russian agent – when available evidence suggests he may have been a Western agent.

3) Mueller declined to talk to the VIPS, who offered evidence that the DNC servers were not hacked but content was copied onto a disk at the server’s location

4) Mueller refused to hear Julian Assange, who offered evidence that it was not the Russians that had provided WikiLeaks with the emails.

 

Mueller was supposedly trying to find the truth about Trump’s ties to Russia/Putin, and he refused to see and hear evidence from two organizations, WikiLeaks and the VIPS, which he absolutely certainly knew could potentially have provided things he did not know. Why did he do that? There’s only one possible answer: he didn’t want to know.

Why not? Because he feared he would have had to abandon the “Russian meddling and interference” narrative as well. If, as both WikiLeaks and the VIPS insisted, the emails didn’t come from “the Russians”, all that would have been left is an opaque story about “Russians” buying $100,000 in Facebook ads. And that, too, is awfully shaky.

That’s an amount Jared Kushner acknowledged he spent every few hours on such ads during the – multi-billion-dollar – campaign. Moreover, many of these ads were allegedly posted AFTER the elections. And we don’t even know it was Russians who purchased the ads, that’s just another story coming from US intelligence.

It is not so hard, guys. “Omissions” or “oversight” is one way to put it, but there are others. Assange could have cleared himself of any claims of involvement in meddling and perhaps proven Guccifer 2.0 was not “Russian”. His discussions with the DOJ, preparations for which were in an advanced stage of development, were killed in 2017 by then-FBI head James Comey and Rep. Mark Warner.

Mueller never wanted the truth, he wanted to preserve a narrative. The VIPS, too, threatened that narrative by offering physical evidence that nobody hacked the emails. Mueller never reached out. Mueller, the former FBI chief, who must know who these men and women are. Here’s a list, in case you were wondering:

 

Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
• William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)
• Bogdan Dzakovic, former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security (ret.) (associate VIPS)
• Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)
• Mike Gravel, former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence Service; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator
• James George Jatras, former U.S. diplomat and former foreign policy adviser to Senate leadership (Associate VIPS)
• Larry Johnson, former CIA Intelligence Officer & former State Department Counter-Terrorism Official, (ret.)
• Michael S. Kearns, Captain, USAF (ret.); ex-Master SERE Instructor for Strategic Reconnaissance Operations (NSA/DIA) and Special Mission Units (JSOC)
• John Kiriakou, former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former Senior Investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
• Karen Kwiatkowski, former Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.), at Office of Secretary of Defense watching the manufacture of lies on Iraq, 2001-2003
• Clement J. Laniewski, LTC, U.S. Army (ret.)
• Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.)
• Edward Loomis, NSA Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)
• David MacMichael, former Senior Estimates Officer, National Intelligence Council (ret.)
• Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA presidential briefer (ret.)
• Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East & CIA political analyst (ret.)
• Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)
• Peter Van Buren,U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (ret.) (associate VIPS)
• Robert Wing, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (former) (associate VIPS)
• Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former U.S. Diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War

 

And then you lead a Special Counsel investigation, you spend 2 years and $30 million, you get offered evidence in what you’re investigating, and you just ignore these people?

And there are still people who want to believe that Robert Swan Mueller III is a straight shooter? They must not want to know the truth, either, then.

Here’s wondering if Bill Barr does, who’s going to investigate the Mueller investigation. Does he want the truth, or is he just the next in line to push the narrative?

Is there anyone in power left in America who has any courage at all to expose this B-rated theater?

Tulsi Gabbard has been reviled for talking to Assad. Why not talk to Assange as well, Tulsi? How about Rand Paul? We know he wanted to talk to Assange last year. Anyone?

 

 

 

 

Apr 252019
 
 April 25, 2019  Posted by at 12:43 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


M. C. Escher Relativity Lattice 1953

 

From Twitter:

Remember Spying on Trump was called “Crossfire Hurricane”? Well now it’s renamed to “Crossfire Boomerang”. BOOM. Karma!

 

 

From the moment the Special Counsel investigation into Trump-Russia collusion began, we’ve been presented with a portrait of Robert Swan Mueller III as a man of unassailable character, a straight shooter, as impartial as can be. But Mueller was director of the FBI for 12 years (2001-2013), he was the king of the spies.

Does anyone really have the idea that the people who work in US intelligence are the country’s straightest shooters? Not everybody does. For instance, not Mike Pompeo, who bluntly stated: We lied, we cheated, we stole; It’s – it was like – we had entire training courses. It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment.”

So why should we believe Mueller is a man of such unassailable character when he rose to one of the very top ranks in intelligence? It doesn’t make much sense, except of course it’s what politics and media – and intelligence- want us to believe. It may not make sense, but boy, does it work.

And then at some point obviously you have to wonder why Mueller got the Special Counsel job on May 27 2017. Because of that unassailable character, we were told at the time. But if that doesn’t apply to Pompeo, why would it be true of Mueller? And why Mueller while there were strong links to US intelligence that would obviously have to be probed by the counsel (but were not).

That brings us straight to the next question: The main issue, post-report, is not whether Trump tried to stop the Mueller probe. The main issue instead is why it was instigated to begin with. Yes, US intelligence. CIA. And then there’s yet another question: When did Mueller know there was no collusion? Not just 1 or 2 weeks before presenting his report, that’s for sure.

So when? 6 months ago? A year? Did he ever really think there was collusion? If so, based on what? The almost entrirely discredited Steele dossier? Did he have faith in that? The Mifsud-Papadoloulos-Downer connection ‘engineered’ by CIA asset Stephen Halper? Did he have faith in that? Or was the whole thing goal-seeeked from the start?

It appears very silly to assume that Mueller did not start his job with an agenda, because of the heavy involvement of his former employees and colleagues and his best friend James Comey, whose firing by Trump was one of the main reasons to start the investigation. Sounds like a very hard one to sell, but the media did a great job. Everybody bought into it.

And then the whole thing collapsed. Yes, collapsed. Because this was never about finding the truth, it was always about digging for dirt. On Trump. Think Mueller wasn’t aware of that? I own a bridge….

 

Mueller was forced to find Trump and his team not guilty on conspiracy or collusion -and obstruction. This is because he would have had to prove this, and couldn’t. But he’s left the accusations against the Russian government and Julian Assange stand. Not because he has evidence for that, but because he doesn’t have to prove them.

Nobody believes a word any Russian says anymore, thanks to the MSM and US intelligence campaign against them. As for Assange, it’s obvious what Robert Mueller has done. He’s completely ignored the one person who could have helped him find the truth -just not the dirt-. and let him rot in hell. Here’s wishing for that same hell to befall Mueller and all of his family.

There is zero chance that Mueller didn’t know his buddy and successor James Comey prevented Assange from talking with the DOJ in 2017. Neither wanted Assange’s evidence to become public, because that would have killed the Russia narrative as well as the WikiLeaks one. And then what?

Let’s make one thing clear. All that proof of Russian hacking and Russian Facebook ads? It doesn’t exist. The entire story is fictional. How do we know? Because the only source that says it is true is US intelligence. And they can not be believed. As Mueller’s investigation once again shows.

Mueller and Barr, like all of Washington -it’s a bipartisan effort-, want the narrative to remain alive that the Russians hacked and meddled in the US elections in favor of Trump, and that Julian Assange was in cahoots with them. None of which Mueller has any evidence for. And Mueller at all have no problem sacrificing Assange and Chelsea Manning while they’re at it.

Assange is not the only expert source who is silenced. The Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity -VIPS- also can’t get their voice heard. People who ran US intelligence for decades are being silenced by those who succeeded them. As if they don’t exist. As if their expertise is worthless.

The evidence they offer simply doesn’t rhyme with the official narrative promoted by their successors and the CIA and FBI. Remember: Mueller only dropped in his report what he would have had to provide evidence for. The rest is still there, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.

 

One VIPS member is Larry Johnson, “former CIA Intelligence Officer & former State Department Counter-Terrorism Official, (ret.)”. Trump referenced him the other day on Twitter:

“Former CIA analyst Larry Johnson accuses United Kingdom Intelligence of helping Obama Administration Spy on the 2016 Trump Presidential Campaign.” @OANN WOW! It is now just a question of time before the truth comes out, and when it does, it will be a beauty!

And sure enough, the Guardian today described Johnson as a “conservative conspiracy theorist”. This stuff is predictable. But at least we know that while Mueller et al ignore the VIPS, Trump knows at least something about them. A few excerpts of a letter they sent to Trump last week (which he hasn’t seen, undoubtedly):

 

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President. SUBJECT: The Fly in the Mueller Ointment

[..] the Mueller report left unscathed the central-but-unproven allegation that the Russian government hacked into the DNC and Podesta emails, gave them to WikiLeaks to publish, and helped you win the election. The thrust will be the same; namely, even if there is a lack of evidence that you colluded with Russian President Vladimir Putin, you have him to thank for becoming president.

Mueller has accepted that central-but-unproven allegation as gospel truth [..] Following the odd example of his erstwhile colleague, former FBI Director James Comey, Mueller apparently has relied for forensics on a discredited, DNC-hired firm named CrowdStrike, whose credibility is on a par with “pee-tape dossier” compiler Christopher Steele. Like Steele, CrowdStrike was hired and paid by the DNC.

[..] In Barr’s words: “The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks.

Based on these activities, the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian military officers for conspiring to hack into computers in the United States for purposes of influencing the election.” We are eager to see if Mueller’s report contains more persuasive forensic evidence than that which VIPS has already debunked.

“But They Were Indicted! “Circular reasoning is not likely to work for very long, even with a U.S. populace used to being brainwashed by the media. Many Americans had mistakenly assumed that Mueller’s indictment of Russians — whether they be posting on FaceBook or acting like intelligence officers — was proof of guilt. But, as lawyers regularly point out, “one can easily indict a ham sandwich” — easier still these days, if it comes with Russian dressing.

 

The VIPS mention a few times they can’t get heard. They sent Barr a letter 5 weeks ago, and never got an answer. Here they say: “.. specialists will have a field day, IF — and it is a capital “IF” — by some miracle, word of VIPS’ forensic findings gets into the media this time around.”

 

The evidence-impoverished, misleadingly labeled “Intelligence Community Assessment” of January 6, 2017 had one saving grace. The authors noted: “The nature of cyberspace makes attribution of cyber operations difficult but not impossible. Every kind of cyber operation — malicious or not — leaves a trail.” Forensic investigators can follow a trail of metadata and other technical properties. VIPS has done that.

If, as we strongly suspect, Mueller is relying for forensics solely on CrowdStrike, the discredited firm hired by the DNC in the spring of 2016, he is acting more in the mold of Inspector Clouseau than the crackerjack investigator he is reputed to be. It simply does not suffice for Mueller’s former colleague James Comey to tell Congress that CrowdStrike is a “high-class entity.” It is nothing of the sort [..] Comey needs to explain why he kept the FBI away from the DNC computers after they were said to have been “hacked.”


And former National Intelligence Director James Clapper needs to explain his claim last November that “the forensic evidence was overwhelming about what the Russians had done.” What forensic evidence? From CrowdStrike? We at VIPS, in contrast, are finding more and more forensic evidence that the DNC emails were leaked, not hacked by the Russians or anyone else — and that “Guccifer 2.0” is an out-and-out fraud. Yes, we can prove that from forensics too.

 

No Russian hacking. No Guccifer 2.0. But Mueller mentions both a lot.

Again, if Mueller’s incomplete investigation is allowed to assume the status of Holy Writ, most Americans will continue to believe that — whether you colluded the Russians or not — Putin came through for you big time. In short, absent President Putin’s help, you would not be president.

Far too many Americans will still believe this because of the mainstream-media fodder — half-cooked by intelligence leaks — that they have been fed for two and a half years. The media have been playing the central role in the effort of the MICIMATT (the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think-Tank) complex to stymie any improvement in relations with Russia.

We in VIPS have repeatedly demonstrated that the core charges of Russian interference in the 2016 election are built on a house of cards. But, despite our record of accuracy on this issue — not to mention our pre-Iraq-war warnings about the fraudulent intelligence served up by our former colleagues — we have gotten no play in mainstream media.

Most of us have chalked up decades in the intelligence business and many have extensive academic and government experience focusing on Russia. We consider the issue of “Russian interference” of overriding significance not only because the allegation is mischievously bogus and easily disproven. More important, it has brought tension with nuclear-armed Russia to the kind of dangerous fever pitch not seen since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, when the Russian provocation was real — authentic, not synthetic.

 

[..] We recall that you were apprised of that Memorandum’s key findings because you ordered then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo to talk to William Binney, one of our two former NSA Technical Directors and one of the principal authors of that Memorandum. On October 24, 2017, Pompeo began an hour-long meeting with Binney by explaining the genesis of the odd invitation to CIA Headquarters: “You are here because the president told me that if I really wanted to know about Russian hacking I needed to talk to you.”

[..] Binney, a plain-spoken, widely respected scientist, began by telling Pompeo that his (CIA) people were lying to him about Russian hacking and that he (Binney) could prove it. [..] As we told Attorney General Barr five weeks ago, we consider Mueller’s findings fundamentally flawed on the forensics side and ipso facto incomplete. We also criticized Mueller for failing to interview willing witnesses with direct knowledge, like WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange.

You may be unaware that in March 2017 lawyers for Assange and the Justice Department (acting on behalf of the CIA) reportedly were very close to an agreement under which Assange would agree to discuss “technical evidence ruling out certain parties” in the leak of the DNC emails and agree to redact some classified CIA information, in exchange for limited immunity. According to the investigative reporter John Solomon of The Hill, Sen. Mark Warner, (D-VA) vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, learned of the incipient deal and told then-FBI Director Comey, who ordered an abrupt “stand down” and an end to the discussions with Assange.

Why did Comey and Warner put the kibosh on receiving “technical evidence ruling out certain parties” [read Russia]? We won’t insult you with the obvious answer.

Assange is now in prison, to the delight of so many — including Mrs. Clinton who has said Assange must now “answer for what he has done.” But is it too late to follow up somehow on Assange’s offer? Might he or his associates be still willing to provide “technical evidence” showing, at least, who was not the culprit?

 

VIPS can’t get their voices heard. Everyone ignores them. These are highly experienced veterans of US intelligence, whose successors, and politics, and media, simply act as if they don’t exist. And while it’s curious to see how they go out of their way NOT to create the impression that Mueller makes his “mistakes” on purpose, the gist is just that.

What this adds up to is not just that Mueller has come up with nothing in his $20-30-50 million investigation, but that he has purposely left things in his report that he has no evidence for but also doesn’t have to prove, because those he accuses cannot defend themselves. Note also that Mueller has never indicted Assange, he has only smeared him.

Mueller doesn’t just have nothing, he has less than nothing. What is left of his “findings” once the collusion and obstruction elements are gone, are things that either he himself (his team) or US intelligence has concocted out of thin air. And have you seen even one ‘journalist’ who has questioned these fantasies?

I see only ‘reporters’ more than willing to heap their own fiction on top of the report’s. They’ll grudgingly accept there’s no collusion only to run away with what can still be construed as obstruction, but not a single one questions the Russian hacking or emails or Facebook ads anymore or Assange’s involvement, though Mueller offers zero proof for any of these things. Ditto for Guccifer 2.0.

The GRU (Main Directorate of the General Staff of Russian Armed Forces, formerly the Main Intelligence Directorate) is a very advanced operation. When they hack something they leave no traces. US intelligence is just as capable of leaving GRU “traces” as the GRU itself is of NOT leaving them. The CIA is not smarter than the GRU. That’s what we’re looking at here.

How many Americans do you think there are who think this is the way to conduct investigations ostensibly aimed at truth-finding? You know, if only they knew?!

The only thing perceived as reality in America today is a bunch of fantasies designed to hide the truth. What truth there is, is left to rot in hell. What a place -and time- to live.

 

 

 

 

Apr 112019
 
 April 11, 2019  Posted by at 7:08 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Salvador Dali Hallucination. Six Images of Lenin on a Grand Piano 1931

 

47 years ago in American Pie, Don McLean talked about The Day The Music Died. Or of course the music didn’t really die, but at the same time it did. “The three mean I admired most, the father, son and the holy ghost, they caught the last train for the coast, the day the music died.”

Back then you could still have claimed the country merely lost its innocence. And you could have said the same in 1861 or 1914 or 1941. Today, not to take anything away from music, or the song, something much bigger died. America itself died, not just its music or innocence. America didn’t just lose its innocence, it pled guilty.

No doubt most of you would proclaim that’s a gross exaggeration, and an insane hyperbole, but you would all be wrong, sorry. There’s no way back this time.

America, the United States, with all its initial prejudice and lethal screw-ups, was founded as a place where people could direct their own lives without having to fear any other party, let alone a government, that would stand in their way while they did it. And a big part of not having to fear one’s government is not having to fear that government purposely lying to its citizens. The Founding Fathers, for all their faults, got that right. And today erases all of that in one fell swoop.

That is what died today. Or, you know, it may have died much earlier, and a thousand times before as well, but with the arrest in London of Julian Assange, an Australian citizen wanted by the US Deep State, a myriad of strands connecting, and connected to a bloated dying corpse came together. And now we know there is no salvation possible. Today made it all terminal. America is no more. Or it is no longer what they tell you it stands for, whichever comes first.

And it’s not just America, mind you. ‘The UK is a serious country’, PM Theresa May said today when addressing Brexit. No it’s not, Theresa, it’s a banana republic hopelessly stuck in a spaghetti western and it no longer knows the rule of law. It sells people to the highest bidder in a meat market, be they Windrush, refugees from her Majesty’s wars in Libya, or just white and poor English, or Julian Assange.

The UK is a parody on a country, it’s a sordid piece of third rate slapstick. It kills people while trying to maintain the image of being a serious country. You know, whatever that is?! The British judge Assange faced today was bleeding mocking him, the arguably greatest journalist of this century and millennium. A serious country?

 

Julian Assange Branded ‘Narcissist’ By Judge As He Faces US Extradition

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


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

 

And where was opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn when this all went on? Haven’t seen him, other then in the afternoon when he was ‘discussing’ Brexit details with May in Parliament on day 1021 since the Brexit referendum, while he should have been out in the street denouncing May and protecting Assange at the loudest voice there is.

Screw you, Jeremy, you’re a pathetic loser. No matter what else you do, there are times when you have to stand up and be counted. You were nowhere to be seen, you coward. Screw you again. And all of your family. A curse on y’all. You had a chance to be counted, and you whimped out so enormously only an elephant could whimp out more. Today was your day, and you were a no-show, again.

But don‘t you mind me, I’m not British and I’m not one of those ass-hat followers of you. I’m just someone calling you a coward. So, you know, your campaign team can keep polling and intervene as soon as they see too many ass-hats become concerned about Assange. Until then, who cares, it’s all in the numbers. It’s not as if you have any principles anyway. If you can screw up Brexit there’s no reason why you couldn’t screw up Assange’s situation as well.

 

As for the Donald, man, it’s just 6 days ago that I issued a well-meant warning to you, to tell you that those who are after Assange are the same people who are after you.

And now you’ve given those very people a huge stage to execute their anti-Assange and thereby their anti-Trump messages from. Mr. Trump, you’re helping Brennan and Clapper and Comey and their ilk persecute the only person who could ever stand up to them. And who did that better than you ever did. Because he’s so much smarter.

And where are all the media? Where are all the other governments? Where is the European Union? Where is Australia? Yes, Ecuador took away Assange’s citizenship too today, like that’s a piece of candy or something. Asylum, citizenship, they can be bought and sold whenever a bell tolls.

Why do we have international law anyway if nobody abides by any of it? You can’t just grant someone asylum, and then a citizenship, and then rescind it when you like on a rainy morning when your medication runs out or they’re on to you for blatant fraud, Lenin Moreno. Do that and all international law becomes null and void. Hereby.

 

Pardon me, I’ve just been, like hopefully many people are, so sad and angry and despondent today, all day. The entire world watched the music die today, and never realized it, and a man much smarter and braver and real than any of us is out there paying for our sins, and we have no media left to tell us an honest story about it, and George Orwell is laughing somewhere out there.

And I am still stupid enough to think that we can do better.

 

 

 

Mar 252019
 
 March 25, 2019  Posted by at 10:19 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Margaret Gillies Charles Dickens 1844

 

We Should All Be Celebrating The Collapse Of Hillary’s Big Lie (NYPost)
Rendition Plane, Increased Police Presence Raise Fears for Assange (Vos)
Russian Military Officials Arrive In Venezuela (G.)
‘Time’s up, Theresa’, Sun Newspaper Tells May (R.)
Tory MPs Threatened With General Election If They Defy Theresa May (Ind.)
Brexiters Pile On Pressure As May’s Deal Drifts Away (G.)
The European Union Has Bigger Problems To Deal With Than Brexit (G.)
Global Stocks Tumble As Bond Markets Sound US Recession Warning (R.)
Man Stole $122m From Facebook And Google By Sending Them Random Bills (BB)
Boeing To Brief Pilots, Regulators On Return Of 737 Max To Service (R.)
Erdogan Moots Renaming Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia A Mosque (AFP)
Despite Lawsuits, Bayer Boss Calls Monsanto Takeover ‘A Good Idea’ (AFP)

 

 

So many opinions on Mueller report. Picked this one because it’s still claiming that “Yes, Russians tried to tip a presidential election..”

That “info” comes from the same US intelligence agencies that have been fully discredited now.

We Should All Be Celebrating The Collapse Of Hillary’s Big Lie (NYPost)

Stick a fork in impeachment. It’s dead. Victory doesn’t get any sweeter for the winners. Or more important for our country. The results of the probe by special counsel Robert Mueller are a tremendous vindication for President Trump and the many millions of Americans who never doubted his innocence. The findings prove, once and for all time, that he won the 2016 election fair and square. Let me repeat the point: It is now a fact beyond any doubt whatsoever that Donald Trump is the legitimate 45th president of the United States. “Hail to the Chief,” this time with feeling. The great news of that settled truth is not limited to Republicans and Trump supporters. Every American can take comfort in this historic reaffirmation of our nation as exceptional, as the shining city on the hill for all mankind.

Think of it this way: Yes, Russians tried to tip a presidential election, especially through hacking into e-mail systems. They even tried to help Trump. Yet Mueller, after conducting the most exhaustive test ever of election integrity, reached this stunning conclusion: “The Special Counsel did not find that any US person or Trump campaign official or associate conspired or knowingly coordinated” with Russians “despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.” No American — not a single one — took the Russian bait. And that includes every member of the Trump campaign. That is a fact worthy of celebration, for it shows our democracy is strong and our institutions uncompromised.

Other implications of the report’s findings are also enormous. We now know that Hillary Clinton and her supporters misled the country in claiming that the White House was stolen from her. She started the Russia, Russia, Russia hoax and her claims, aided by the Obama White House and magnified by a thoroughly partisan media, set in motion a wild-goose chase. [..] Perhaps there would have been a trade deal with China by now. Perhaps North Korea would have scuttled its nukes if it knew Trump wasn’t going anywhere for at least four years. Those are just some of the actual and potential consequences Clinton set in motion with her false claims.

In a better world, or if she were a better person, she would apologize and publicly acknowledge Trump’s legitimacy. I won’t hold my breath. But until she does, she should be shunned in public life. She has no credibility to speak on any issue or endorse any candidate. She has put the nation through hell all because she lost an election she should have won. Let’s remember, too, that her campaign actually did work with Russians, through FusionGPS and British agent Christopher Steele, to create a fictional scenario about Trump being compromised. Which brings us to today’s Democrats. They bought into Clinton’s Big Lie and built a House of Cards on smoke and mirrors. The collapse is total.

Read more …

Assange should be set free now there’s no collusion. Mueller is still a coward.

Rendition Plane, Increased Police Presence Raise Fears for Assange (Vos)

In four days, it will be a full year since WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange was severed from contact with the outside world by the government of Ecuador. Concern for Assange was heightened as the anniversary approaches after a U.S. Department of Justice jet previously used for the rendition of an accused Russian hacker landed in London on Tuesday and remained there for days, only to return to the U.S. on Saturday. The flight reportedly departed from Manassas, Virginia. WikiLeaks stated via Twitter regarding the flight: “Note that the Edward Snowden DoJ grab team plane N977GA also departed from Manassas, Virginia.”

WikiLeaks tweeted regarding the flight: “What is US Department of Justice jet ‘N996GA’ doing in London? The jet arrived on Tuesday from DC and was last noted rendering alleged Russian hacker Yevgeniy Nikulin to the US last year from the Czech Republic, causing a diplomatic incident with Russia.” Assange’s Twitter account, run by members of his legal team, also tweeted: “Note that the Edward Snowden DoJ grab team plane N977GA also departed from Manassas, Virginia.” In response to the news, Christine Assange said on social media: “This is of urgent and real concern! Under cover of the 24/7 media frenzy on the NZ Mosque shootings. Is the US planning to snatch my son Julian from the London Ecuador Embassy they have been trying to force him from, for a CIA rendition flight?”

While the jet remained in London, WikiLeaks quoted Assange’s lawyers describing an increase of plainclothes British police officers on the ground surrounding Ecuador’s London embassy: “A build up of plain clothes ear-piece wearing operatives around the Ecuador embassy in London in the last two days has been sighted by Julian Assange’s lawyers. There are normally 2-4 plainclothes British operatives present. The reason for the increase is not publicly known.”

Read more …

Russiagate, the sequel.

Russian Military Officials Arrive In Venezuela (G.)

Russian military officials have arrived in Venezuela to discuss equipment maintenance and training, and strategy, an official in Caracas has said. The statement came after a Russian-flagged cargo plane and an airliner were spotted at Maiquetia airport outside Caracas guarded by a contingent of Venezuelan national guardsmen. A Venezuelan official said the aircraft arrived this weekend as part of ongoing military cooperation between the two allies. Flightradar24, a flight-tracking site, showed the flight path on Saturday of what it listed as a Russian air force plane, apparently headed to Caracas while flying across the Caribbean.

Javier Mayorca, a Venezuelan journalist, tweeted that a Russian cargo plane with military equipment also arrived in Caracas on Saturday. He said around 100 Russian soldiers led by General Vasily Tonkoshkurov, head of the mobilisation directorate of Russia’s armed forces, disembarked along with about 35 tons of equipment. A picture of a Russian-flagged aircraft posted on social media showed men in uniform clustered around it on the tarmac.

Read more …

Wonder about the role of the media in the US? Try this one on too.

‘Time’s up, Theresa’, Sun Newspaper Tells May (R.)

Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun newspaper said in a front page editorial that Prime Minister Theresa May must on Monday announce she will stand down as soon as her Brexit deal is approved and the United Kingdom has left the European Union. “Time’s up, Theresa,” the newspaper said on its front page. The newspaper said her one chance of getting the deal approved by parliament was to name a date for her departure.

Read more …

Cut it out! You’re offending your entire nation.

Tory MPs Threatened With General Election If They Defy Theresa May (Ind.)

Cabinet ministers are openly at war over solving the Brexit crisis, after MPs were threatened with a general election if they try to force through an alternative to Theresa May’s deal. As claims of a plot to topple the prime minister were denied by potential replacements, a bid by the Commons to seize control this week was dramatically torpedoed by the Brexit secretary. Stephen Barclay vowed that any softer exit plan that crossed Tory red lines would be rejected, warning MPs tempted to vote for it that “the risk of a general election increases”. Extraordinarily, just moments earlier, the chancellor Philip Hammond had urged MPs of all parties to “get themselves together in a room” to find a solution, admitting Ms May’s deal is all but dead.

Mr Hammond also gave a big boost to the campaign for a fresh Brexit referendum – a day after up to a million people packed London in support – describing it as “a perfectly coherent proposition” that “deserves to be considered”. Meanwhile, a parade of Brexiteer Tories drove to the door of Chequers, the prime minister’s country retreat, some to urge her to set a timetable for quitting. However, as both the mooted candidates to take over as caretaker – David Lidington and Michael Gove – rushed out denials of interest, no cabinet coup appeared imminent. Despairing Tories feared the prime minister would not listen to pleas that the only way to save her deal is to fall on her sword immediately afterwards. Others believe it would fail to make the difference anyway.

Read more …

Hope they all dance together naked around Stonehenge at night. Not that I have to see them do it.

Brexiters Pile On Pressure As May’s Deal Drifts Away (G.)

Theresa May’s prospects of getting her Brexit deal through parliament this week dramatically receded on Sunday night after a high-stakes summit with Boris Johnson and other leading hard-Brexiters at her country retreat broke up without agreement. Tory rebels present said that the prime minister repeated “all the same lines” about her deal and that nothing new emerged during the three-hour meeting, at which Jacob Rees-Mogg, Iain Duncan Smith and Dominic Raab were also present. One source said May was told by some of those present, including Rees-Mogg, that to get her Brexit deal through she needed to spell out when she was quitting No 10 so that another prime minister could lead the next phase of EU trade negotiations. But the prime minister did not respond to the suggestion.

The talks took place amid reports of an imminent coup to remove the prime minister – claims which were forcefully denied by Michael Gove, David Lidington and Philip Hammond. But before a critical cabinet meeting on Monday morning, May remained in a perilous position, with no breakthrough and Downing Street only able to tell reporters that she had discussed “whether there is sufficient support” to hold a meaningful vote this week. A front-page editorial in Monday’s Sun urges May to quit, with the headline “Time’s Up, Theresa”, saying she should announce that she will stand down as soon as her Brexit deal is approved and the UK leaves the EU. MPs are due to vote on Monday night on whether to take control of the parliamentary agenda and hold a series of indicative votes on alternative options, including a customs union and a second referendum.

Read more …

Lagging industries.

The European Union Has Bigger Problems To Deal With Than Brexit (G.)

As the clock has ticked down towards Brexit, the state of the UK has attracted even more attention than normal. Every scrap of official data and every survey of business opinion have been pored over by leavers and remainers alike. Much less attention, understandably enough, has been paid to what is happening in the rest of the European Union, where the recent news has been poor. The frustration of the leaders of the other 27 EU countries towards Theresa May is that Europe has plenty of issues that need addressing, with Brexit not even the most serious of them. The EU’s biggest problem is that its economic model has aged alongside its population. Europe has plenty of world-class companies but, unlike the United States, none of them were set up in the past 25 years. In Europe’s golden age, Volkswagen was a rival to Ford, and Siemens could go toe to toe with General Electric.

But there is no European Google, Facebook or Amazon and in the emerging technologies of the fourth Industrial Revolution, such as artificial intelligence, Europe is nowhere. China is making faster progress than Europe in the development of machine learning and has companies that pose a threat to the giants of Silicon Valley. That’s why China rather than Europe is the main target for Donald Trump’s tariff war. When plans for the euro were being drawn up 30 years ago, the assumption was that the single currency would make the single market work more efficiently and so generate faster growth. It hasn’t happened. The performance of the eurozone countries has got worse not better, but so much political capital has been invested in the monetary union project that there is an unwillingness to accept as much.

Read more …

Wait. US or EU?

Global Stocks Tumble As Bond Markets Sound US Recession Warning (R.)

Investors ditched shares on Monday and fled to the safety of bonds as risk assets fell out of favor on growing fears of a U.S. recession, sending global yields plunging. The gloomy mood was expected to spread across Europe and U.S. markets, Spreadbetters showed, with London’s FTSE futures off 0.3 percent and E-minis for the S&P 500 skidding 0.5 percent. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 1.5 percent to a one-week trough in a broad equities sell-off in the region. Japan’s Nikkei hit a five week low after diving 3.1 percent for its largest one-day percentage fall since late December. South Korea’s Kospi index declined 1.7 percent while Australian shares faltered 1.1 percent. Chinese shares was also in the red with the blue-chip CSI 300 index down 1.4 percent.

Concerns about the health of the world economy heightened last week after cautious remarks by the U.S. Federal Reserve sent 10-year treasury yields to the lowest since early 2018. U.S. 10-year treasury yields were last 1.9 basis points below three-month rates after yields inverted for the first time since 2007 on Friday. Historically, an inverted yield curve – where long-term rates fall below short-term – has signaled an upcoming recession. “The bond market price action is an enormous blaring siren to anyone trying to be optimistic on stocks,” JPMorgan analysts said in a note to clients. “Growth, and bonds/yield curves, will be the only thing stocks should be focused on going forward and it’s very hard to envision any type of rally until economic confidence stabilizes and bonds reverse,” it added.

Read more …

“He’s agreed to forfeit about $50m. It’s not clear what’s happened to the other $73m..”

Man Stole $122m From Facebook And Google By Sending Them Random Bills (BB)

Last week, Evaldas Rimasauskas of Lithuania plead guilty to US wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering charges, admitting that he had stolen $99m from Facebook and $23m from Google between 2013 and 2015. Rimasauskas’s grift was pretty bold. He merely sent Google and Facebook invoices for items they hadn’t purchased and that he hadn’t provided, which the companies paid anyway. The invoices were accompanied by “forged invoices, contracts, and letters that falsely appeared to have been executed and signed by executives and agents of the Victim Companies, and which bore false corporate stamps embossed with the Victim Companies’ names, to be submitted to banks in support of the large volume of funds that were fraudulently transmitted via wire transfer.”

He also spoofed emails that appeared to come from corporate execs. Apparently, no one checked first to see if these corresponded to invoices/POs that had been issued within the companies. Rimasauskas was pretending to be the giant Taiwanese hardware manufacturer Quanta Computer Inc, and had registered a company in Latvia with the same name. He’s agreed to forfeit about $50m. It’s not clear what’s happened to the other $73m, but Rimasauskas was a prolific and baroque money-launderer who squirreled cash away in Cyprus, Lithuania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Latvia. Google has said that “We detected this fraud and promptly alerted the authorities. We recouped the funds and we’re pleased this matter is resolved.”

Read more …

A billion dollar party?!

Boeing To Brief Pilots, Regulators On Return Of 737 Max To Service (R.)

Boeing Co said it invited more than 200 global airline pilots, technical leaders and regulators for an information session on Wednesday as it looks to return the 737 MAX to commercial service. The meeting is a sign that Boeing’s planned software patch is nearing completion, though it will still need regulatory approval. Over the weekend, Ethiopian Airlines executives had questioned whether Boeing had told pilots enough about “aggressive” software that pushes the plane’s nose down, a focus of investigation into a deadly crash in Ethiopia this month that led to the global grounding of 737 MAX jets. The informational session in Renton, Washington on Wednesday is part of a plan to reach all current and many future 737 MAX operators and their home regulators to discuss software and training updates to the jet, Boeing said in a statement.

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World no. 1 symbol of secularism and peace between religions. Kemal Ataturk himself made it that.

Erdogan Moots Renaming Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia A Mosque (AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday mooted the possibility of renaming Istanbul’s Hagia Sofia museum as a mosque, in comments during a television interview. Asked whether the entrance fee to the city landmark might be waived, he said: “It’s not impossible… but we would not do it under the name ‘museum’ but ‘Hagia Sophia mosque’.” He added: “Tourists come and go at the Blue Mosque. Do they pay anything? … Well, we will do the same with the Hagia Sofia.” Erdogan, who is a former mayor of Istanbul, is campaigning for votes for his Justice and Development Party (AKP) ahead of municipal elections on March 31.

The former church and mosque, now a museum, often sparks tensions between Christians and Muslims over Islamic activities held there including the reading of verses from the Koran or collective prayers. Its secular status allows believers of all faiths to meditate, reflect or simply enjoy its astonishing architecture. But calls for it to serve again as a mosque have caused anger among Christians and raised tensions between historic foes Turkey and Greece, both NATO members. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras visited the Hagia Sophia in February. “You can feel the burden of history here,” he told AFP. Greece has repeatedly expressed concern over efforts to change the museum’s status.

[..] The Hagia Sophia was first built as a church in the sixth century under the Christian Byzantine Empire as the centrepiece of its capital Constantinople, today’s Istanbul. Almost immediately after the conquest of Constantinople by the Muslim Ottomans in 1453, it was converted into a mosque before becoming a secular museum in a key reform of the new post-Ottoman Turkish authorities under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in the 1930s. Ataturk was the founder of the Turkish republic.

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“Bayer has made one of takeovers w/greatest cap destruction in econ history. Once biggest comp in Germany, Bayer has lost €33.6bn in mkt cap since final takeover of Monsanto. W/ €59.3bn now #6 in Germany, valued ONLY 1.2* book.”

Despite Lawsuits, Bayer Boss Calls Monsanto Takeover ‘A Good Idea’ (AFP)

The boss of German chemicals giant Bayer insisted Sunday its multi-billion dollar takeover of Monsanto was a “good idea”, despite huge legal costs piling up over its Roundup weedkiller. “The Monsanto acquisition was and is a good idea,” Werner Baumann told newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, when asked if he would have changed his mind about buying the US group if he could. Bayer bought Monsanto for $63 billion but the deal has turned out to be plagued with other massive costs. Just two months after the acquisition was completed, Monsanto lost a case to a school groundskeeper suffering from terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, who had sued the company over the glyphosate weedkillers Roundup and Ranger Pro.

Monsanto was initially ordered to pay $289 million to Johnson, before the damages were reduced to $78.5 million. Bayer has filed an appeal. The company suffered a new set back this month as a US jury ruled that Roundup was a “substantial factor” in another case brought by an amateur gardener who was suffering from cancer. It now faces a total of 11,200 US cases over Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate, a herbicide key to Monsanto’s business model that has come in for intense scrutiny around the world. Werner insisted the acquisition of Monsanto was carried out after careful due diligence.

Bayer has also pointed to findings from regulators around the world, especially in advanced economies like the US, Europe and Canada, and reams of scientific studies as proof of the safety of its product. “Regulatory authorities around the world consider glyphosate-based herbicides as safe when used as directed,” the group has argued, highlighting “800 rigorous studies” of glyphosate’s effects. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer found in 2015 that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic,” although the European Food Safety Authority and the European Chemicals Agency have not issued similar judgments. Since the Monsanto takeover was completed, Bayer’s stock has shed almost 40% of its value.

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Mar 242019
 
 March 24, 2019  Posted by at 10:29 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Edward Hopper New York movie 1938

 

Mueller – The Name That Ended All Mainstream Media Credibility (RT)
The Accountability That Must Follow Mueller’s Report (Solomon)
Russiagate Is WMD Times A Million (Matt Taibbi)
As Tory MPs Plot May’s Downfall, Her Last Allies Battle For Her Survival (G.)
Pro-Remain MPs Draw Up Plans To Vote On Revoking Article 50 (O.)
‘One Million’ Protesters Join Historic March For Second Referendum (Ind.)
The Countries with the Most Monstrous Corporate Debt Pileups (WS)
UK Fracking Plan ‘Will Release Same CO2 As 300 Million New Cars’ (O.)
Greek Homes In Airbnb Fever (AFP)
Hunt For Bogus Asthma Cure Threatens Pangolins (O.)

 

 

I could gloat and congratulate myself for having resisted the anti-Trump Russiagate mania for 2-3 years. But I’m occupied by wondering where this will go from here. Same with Brexit: what will all this folly lead to?

Mueller – The Name That Ended All Mainstream Media Credibility (RT)

Important pundits and news networks have served up an impressive display of denials, evasions and on-air strokes after learning that Robert Mueller has ended his probe without issuing a single collusion-related indictment. The Special Counsel delivered his final report to Attorney General William Barr for review on Friday, with the Justice Department confirming that there will be no further indictments related to the probe. The news dealt a devastating blow to the sensational prophesies of journalists, analysts and entire news networks, who for nearly two years reported ad nauseam that President Donald Trump and his inner circle were just days away from being carted off to prison for conspiring with the Kremlin to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Some journalists and television anchors took to Twitter and the airwaves on Friday night to acknowledge that the media severely misreported Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, as well as what Mueller’s probe was likely to find. “How could they let Trump off the hook?” an inconsolable Chris Matthews asked NBC reporter Ken Dilanian during a segment on MSNBC’s ‘Hardball’. Dilanian tried to comfort the MSNBC host with some of his signature punditry. “My only conclusion is that the president transmitted to Mueller that he would take the Fifth. He would never talk to him and therefore, Mueller decided it wasn’t worth the subpoena fight,” he expertly mused. Actually, there were several journalists who conjured up a reason why Mueller didn’t throw the book at Trump, even though the president is clearly a Putin puppet.

“It’s certainly possible that Trump may emerge from this better than many anticipated. However! Consensus has been that Mueller would follow DOJ rules and not indict a sitting president. I.e. it’s also possible his report could be very bad for Trump, despite ‘no more indictments,'” concluded Mark Follman, national affairs editor at Mother Jones, who presumably, and very sadly, was not being facetious. Revered news organizations were quick to artfully modify their expectations regarding Mueller’s findings. “What is collusion and why is Robert Mueller unlikely to mention it in his report on Trump and Russia?” a Newsweek headline asked following Friday’s announcement. Three months earlier, Newsweek had meticulously documented all the terrible “collusion” committed by Donald Trump and his inner circle.

The denials, evasions and bizarre hot takes are made even more poignant by the fact that just days ago, there was still serious talk about Trump’s entire family being hauled off to prison. “You can’t blame MSNBC viewers for being confused. They largely kept dissenters from their Trump/Russia spy tale off the air for 2 years. As recently as 2 weeks ago, they had @JohnBrennan strongly suggesting Mueller would indict Trump family members on collusion as his last act,” journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted. While the Mueller report has yet to be released to the public, the lack of indictments makes it clear that whatever was found, nothing came close to the vast criminal conspiracy alleged by virtually the entire American media establishment.

“You have been lied to for 2 years by the MSM. No Russian collusion by Trump or anyone else. Who lied? Head of the CIA, NSA,FBI,DOJ, every pundit every anchor. All lies,” wrote conservative activist Chuck Woolery. Kim Dotcom was more blunt, but said it all: “Mueller – The name that ended all mainstream media credibility.”

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John Solomon start out saying Trump’s lawyers have been right in their approach to Mueller.

The Accountability That Must Follow Mueller’s Report (Solomon)

Now, Mueller’s investigations leave one major mission unfinished: meting out justice to the intelligence, congressional, FBI and DOJ officials who appear to have used a political dirty trick to falsely weave an unproven narrative of Russia collusion. Unverified political opposition research never should be treated as actionable intelligence or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) evidence, as it was in this case. Just hours before Mueller’s report arrived, new evidence emerged of just how egregious the FBI acted in the early days of the Russia probe.

Fox News’s brilliant reporter Catherine Herridge obtained new text messages Friday showing Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and his chief lawyer, Lisa Page, were discussing credibility issues and “bias” about a key human source whose work was to support the FISA warrant used to first spy on the Trump campaign in October 2016. Those credibility issues likely were hidden from the judges who approved the warrant of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page (no relation to Lisa Page). As I have reported, the FBI also possesses emails showing concerns with the evidence it was going to use to support the FISA warrant.

Likewise the bureau didn’t disclose to the court that: • the “Steele dossier” that was the main FISA evidence was paid for with funds from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic Party; • Christopher Steele, the dossier’s author, had told a senior DOJ official he was desperate to defeat Trump; • most of the dossier was not verified before it was used as evidence of alleged Trump-Russia collusion; and • agents collected statements from key defendants such as Papadopoulos and Carter Page during interactions with an FBI informant that strongly suggested their innocence. Such omissions are so glaring as to constitute defrauding a federal court. And each and every participant to those omissions needs to be brought to justice.

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Prediction: the media are going to dig in.

Russiagate Is WMD Times A Million (Matt Taibbi)

Nobody wants to hear this, but news that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is headed home without issuing new charges is a death-blow for the reputation of the American news media. As has long been rumored, the former FBI chief’s independent probe will result in multiple indictments and convictions, but no “presidency-wrecking” conspiracy charges, or anything that would meet the layman’s definition of “collusion” with Russia. With the caveat that even this news might somehow turn out to be botched, the key detail in the many stories about the end of the Mueller investigation was best expressed by the New York Times: “A senior Justice Department official said that Mr. Mueller would not recommend new indictments.”

The Times tried to soften the emotional blow for the millions of Americans trained in these years to place hopes for the overturn of the Trump presidency in Mueller. Nobody even pretended it was supposed to be a fact-finding mission, instead of an act of faith. The Special Prosecutor literally became a religious figure during the last few years, with votive candles sold in his image and Saturday Night Live cast members singing “All I Want for Christmas is You” to him featuring the rhymey line: “Mueller please come through, because the only option is a coup.” The Times story today tried to preserve Santa Mueller’s reputation, noting Trump’s Attorney General William Barr’s reaction was an “endorsement” of the fineness of Mueller’s work:

“In an apparent endorsement of an investigation that Mr. Trump has relentlessly attacked as a “witch hunt,” Mr. Barr said Justice Department officials never had to intervene to keep Mr. Mueller from taking an inappropriate or unwarranted step.” Mueller, in other words, never stepped out of the bounds of his job description. But could the same be said for the news media?

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They should all go. Call elections, call off Brexit for now. This has become a threat to the UK itself.

As Tory MPs Plot May’s Downfall, Her Last Allies Battle For Her Survival (G.)

Tory insiders described the party’s atmosphere as “end of days”. May was in her Chequers retreat on Sunday, talking tactics to colleagues. She faces resignations from both wings of her cabinet should her Brexit deal be voted down this week, as expected. One of her team said they expected Brexit to come down to a “blunt choice between no deal or a customs union [with the EU]”. Pro-Remain ministers will not tolerate any endorsement of a no-deal Brexit. But some pro-Brexit ministers have said that May could not carry on in No 10 unless she backed a no-deal Brexit. “It is being said that the only way she could stay on as prime minister is if she backed no-deal,” said a cabinet source. “That is where the party is – anything else would cause a huge division.”

While accepting that May faces a terminal loss of support, some senior ministers are also warning that toppling her now would unleash a general election and a leadership fight that would be “toxic” for the Tories. “It is much better that one person is held responsible for all this mess,” said one senior minister.“If you get shot of her this week, you can almost guarantee an election and a whole set of problems.” There is no clear plan of what would happen should May stand down. Some assume that her de facto deputy, David Lidington, would take over. However, seen as a pro-Remain minister, he would also face serious challenges from Tory MPs if he attempted to engineer a soft Brexit. One minister said: “The idea that everyone would step back and allow David Lidington to deliver a soft Brexit is absurd.”

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A national government anyone?

Pro-Remain MPs Draw Up Plans To Vote On Revoking Article 50 (O.)

Pro-Remain MPs are drawing up plans for a vote on revoking article 50 as an emergency measure to stop Britain crashing out of the EU, after an online petition to cancel Brexit became the most popular ever. By Saturday night more than 4.6 million people had signed the petition on the parliament website, which states: “A People’s Vote may not happen – so vote now”. Public discussion about halting Brexit was considered politically toxic until just days ago. But that shifted last week as the prospect of crashing out drew closer and the number of petition signatures rose dramatically. A cross-party group of parliamentarians is now examining the possibility of cancelling the Brexit process, following concerns that Theresa May could end up backing Tory MPs who favour a no-deal departure if her own withdrawal agreement is rejected again.

They are planning to table an amendment to Brexit legislation closer to the day of Britain’s scheduled departure from the EU. The European court of justice ruled late last year that Britain could unilaterally revoke article 50, although not just to buy time. Writing on theguardian.com, the Tory MP Phillip Lee said that the people had to be given an opportunity to reconsider Brexit and that one way of allowing this to happen would be to revoke article 50. “Mrs May should ensure that the UK has the time and the space to do this in a properly considered way – either by seeking a long extension of article 50, or by taking back control and revoking it altogether.”

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One time is not enough. They should be there again today, and tomorrow. Will they?

‘One Million’ Protesters Join Historic March For Second Referendum (Ind.)

An estimated 1 million people staged one of the biggest marches in British history to demand a second referendum on Brexit and for the public to have the Final Say on the gathering crisis. The streets of central London were clogged with protesters from across the country, urging politicians – faced with the country potentially crashing out of the EU in just three weeks’ time – to hand the decision back to the people. Aerial cameras captured the spectacular scenes of the vast throng winding its way to outside the Houses of Parliament to hear passionate speeches from MPs of all parties.

Perhaps the most dramatic picture was the unfurling of an enormous banner with the pre-referendum words of David Davis, the Brexit-supporting Tory MP: “If a democracy cannot change, it ceases to be a democracy.” Among the speakers were Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, who called out to Theresa May, saying: “Have a look out of the window prime minister. Open your curtains. Switch on your TV. Here are the people.” Some in the crowd cried out “Where’s Jeremy Corbyn?” – the Labour leader, who was later revealed to be campaigning for his party ahead of local elections in Lancashire. Michael Heseltine, the Conservative grandee, used his speech to express “contempt” for Brexiteers “wrapped in a Union Jack” who invoke Winston Churchill for their cause.

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Wolf Richter and an insane amount of graphs. Pretty scary.

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

US corporate debt, excluding debt by banks – so “nonfinancial” corporate debt – has surged in recent years by all measures and to such an extent that it was featured prominently in the Fed’s Financial Stability Report, in terms of what might trigger the next financial crisis. The Fed is counting total nonfinancial business debts, which include the debts of businesses that are not incorporated. It found about $17 trillion in debts.

A narrower measure is nonfinancial corporate debt, which amounts to $15 trillion. This is up a breath-taking 40% from the prior peak in 2008. The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) uses this measure to compare how corporate debt stacks up in different countries. One of its measures is corporate debt denominated in local currency; and in order to determine the relative size of this debt, the BIS expresses it as a percent of nominal local-currency GDP. So Chinese debt in yuan as a percent of Chinese GDP in yuan. By this measure, the US nonfinancial corporate debt-to-GDP ratio has ballooned to the highest ever: a stunning whopping 73.9% of GDP:

The BIS also converts local-currency debt to dollars, so that the total debts can be compared from one country to another. And the US corporate debt of $15 trillion pales compared to China’s corporate debt of $19.7 trillion. But that is down from the $21.1 trillion in Q1 2018, at which point Chinese authorities got serious about deleveraging the corporate sector. The monstrous pileup of corporate debt in China happened in just 12 years:

China’s economy, while growing much faster than the US economy, is still quite a bit smaller than the US economy, when measured by GDP in US dollars. And so among the larger economies, China’s corporate-debt-to-GDP ratio is unrivaled (though there are some small economies with special tax laws that blow right past China for other reasons, and we’ll get to those in a moment). The data for China goes back only to 2006. Note the effects of China’s efforts to deleverage its corporate sector, with corporate debt-to-GDP ratio now down to 152.9%. But China is only in 7th Place by debt-to-GDP!

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But the profits!

UK Fracking Plan ‘Will Release Same CO2 As 300 Million New Cars’ (O.)

The government’s fracking proposals would release the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as almost 300 million new cars, fatally undermining ministers’ obligation to tackle the escalating climate crisis, according to new research. Analysis by the Labour party shows that the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere if the government’s plans go ahead would be the same as the lifetime emissions of 286 million cars – or 29 new coal-fired power plants. The findings come as ministers’ efforts to kickstart their fracking proposals face growing resistance, with defeat in the courts, fierce local objections and opposition from Labour and Tory councils alike.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was in Lancashire on Saturday to join the anti-fracking campaign in the region, said a future Labour government would ban fracking “once and for all”. “The Conservatives’ fracking plans will damage our environment and fly in the face of community opposition,” he said. “There is a clear alternative to fracking. Clean, renewable energy is the future of our economy and will create more than 400,000 jobs as part of Labour’s green industrial revolution.” Concerns about drilling flared in the run-up to Christmas when energy company Cuadrilla was forced to pause operations near Blackpool three times after drilling caused small earthquakes that breached government safety limits.

Several local authorities – including London, Manchester, Leeds, Wakefield, Hull and York – have expressed opposition to fracking. There is also opposition from many Tories. In Westminster, almost two dozen Tory MPs are reported to be against fracking and willing to “destroy the government’s majority” if it tries to weaken planning laws.

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I’m seeing it happen around me here in Athens. I’m staying in Koukaki. Very destructive.

Greek Homes In Airbnb Fever (AFP)

For Dimitra Dionysopoulou, who lives in the shadow of the Acropolis, there is no mistaking the signs of the Airbnb takeover in her neighbourhood. “Renovation noise, debris disposal bins on every street, and rolling luggage,” said the 50-year-old Athenian mother. Dionysopoulou has lived her entire life in the middle-class district of Koukaki, now in the midst of a home-sharing frenzy. In 2016, it was named Airbnb’s fifth fastest growing neighbourhood globally with an 800-percent jump in activity. Its selling point? Walking distance from one of the world’s most visited archaeological sites, as well as the state-of-the-art Acropolis museum. Hundreds of apartments in Koukaki’s ageing concrete buildings are now on offer.

Rents have doubled and entire families of tenants have been pushed out by cash-hungry owners, said Dionysopoulou. “Three families I know have already left, and we are currently trying to find a home for a fourth,” she told AFP. [..] Dionysopoulou is not alone in feeling that the Airbnb phenomenon, as in other major cities, has run amok. Greek authorities this year belatedly introduced registration and tax rules for Airbnb homeowners. According to Angelos Skiadas, head of Greece’s tenant association, the home-sharing craze has even spread to far-off Athens suburbs with no tourist interest. “Homeowners think this is a cure-all that will solve their problems for life. Many use Airbnb as a threat (to raise the rent),” he said.

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More of my friends leave every single day.

Hunt For Bogus Asthma Cure Threatens Pangolins (O.)

One of nature’s most remarkable creatures, the pangolin, is being driven to extinction as hunting and trafficking have soared in recent years. Studies have discovered that hundreds of thousands of these distinctive, scaly animals are now being killed every year to satisfy markets in Asia, making it the most trafficked and poached mammal on Earth. The pangolin is hunted for its meat – and also for its scales, which are believed to have important medicinal properties as cures for poor circulation, skin complaints and asthma. Last January, authorities in Hong Kong seized 8.3 tonnes of pangolin scales in a shipment from Nigeria bound for Vietnam.

It was one of the largest confiscation of the animal’s scales ever made and its weight suggests that around 13,800 animals died to make up the consignment. In addition, in February, Malaysian customs officers seized 1,800 boxes that contained 30 tonnes of frozen pangolins and pangolin parts. Ironically, the confiscation was made only a few days before World Pangolin Day was held on 16 February this year. “We simply do not know if pangolins can withstand this level of hunting,” said Daniel Ingram of University College London. “The problem is compounded by the fact we do not have reliable pangolin population estimates.” Ingram is lead author of a paper on pangolin trafficking that has just been published in the journal Global Ecology and Conservation.

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Mar 152019
 


 

 

49 Dead In New Zealand Mosque Shootings (AFP)
Australian, New Zealand Students Kick Off Global Climate Change Strike (R.)
UK MPs Back Brexit Delay As Votes Lay Bare Cabinet Divisions (G.)
Tusk Pushes EU27 Leaders To Be Open To Long Brexit Delay (G.)
8 Top Ministers Refuse To Back Theresa May’s Article 50 Extension (Ind.)
Brexit Has Finally Broken The British Political System (Ind.)
The Most Splendid Housing Bubbles in Canada Deflate (WS)
House Votes 420-0 For Mueller Report To Be Made Public (AP)
FBI, DOJ Bias and Intent Prevented Trump Defensive Briefing (Sara Carter)
Boeing To Pause 737 Max Deliveries After Groundings, Crashes (MW)
Ice Ages Triggered By Massive Collisions At Earth’s Equator (Ind.)
Rural America Is Ready For Some Sort Of A New Deal, Preferably Green (G.)

 

 

In late March 2012 Nicole and I were in Christchurch on a lecture tour. It was 13 months after the Feb 2011 earthquake. The devastation was still pretty much complete. The resilience of the people was something to behold.

The entire city center was cordoned off. Strange to see it is again today; the entire city is under lockdown.

Today, all of the world press waits with baited breath for the BIG WORD to come out: and finally the PM calls it a ‘terrorist’ attack. As if that alters anything at all. Like all the ‘world leaders’ saying their hearts and prayers are with the victims. Then again, if they don’t make these asinine comments, they come under fire for not making asinine comments.

If I were New Zealand’s government, and Australia’s, I’d say this is not the time for the countries’ white populations to speak. Let the Maori do the talking instead. It’s their land.

49 Dead In New Zealand Mosque Shootings (AFP)

Attacks on two Christchurch mosques left at least 49 dead Friday, with one gunman — identified as an Australian extremist — apparently livestreaming the assault that triggered the lockdown of the New Zealand city. In what appeared to be the worst attack against Muslims in a western country, witnesses spoke of victims being shot at close range, with women and children believed to be among those killed. “It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, saying it marked “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.

“From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned,” she said, adding that in addition to the dead another 20 people were seriously injured. The gunman at one mosque was an Australian-born citizen, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in Sydney, describing him as “an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist”. It was not immediately clear how many attackers were involved, but Ardern said three men had been taken into custody. Two IEDs (improvised explosive devices) were also found and neutralised by the military, police said.

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There are more positive things happening down under as well. And I say that despite the fact that I think this is not a smart thing at all. These kids just get rounded up by politicians and businesses seeking to make money and power from green initiatives. While claiming we can all get rich(er) from changing to renewables. Nonsense. Ask these kids how much GDP they are willing to sacrifice, and take it from there.

Australian, New Zealand Students Kick Off Global Climate Change Strike (R.)

“Climate change is worse than Voldemort,” read a handmade sign carried by one student in Wellington, referring to the evil wizard in the hugely popular Harry Potter books and films. “The oceans are rising, so are we,” read another in Sydney. Student protests in capitals and cities from Wellington to Melbourne and Sydney drew tens of thousands of people, with more demonstrations planned later in the day in Asia, Europe and the United States. The worldwide student strike movement started in August 2018, when 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg began protesting outside her parliament on school days. She has since been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

“If we don’t do something, it’ll be our lives affected, not the 60-year-old politicians,” said Sydney student Callum Frith, 15, who was wearing his school uniform. “We need action.” Elsewhere in Asia, about 60 students protested at government house in the Thai capital of Bangkok, holding cardboard signs to campaign against plastic. Thailand is one of the world’s top marine plastic polluters. “As youths who will inherit the land, we gather here to demand that the government work with us to solve these problems,” said 17-year-old Thiti Usanakul, of student-led group Grin Green International. The group was later invited to meet officials at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in two weeks.

[..] New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has pledged NZ$100 million ($68 million) to cut greenhouse gas emissions, supports the strikes, saying teenagers should not wait for voting age to use their voices. That contrasts with politicians in Australia and Britain who have rebuked them for cutting class. “For action on issues that they think is important, they should do that after school or on weekends,” Dan Tehan, Australia’s education minister, told reporters ahead of protests in Melbourne.

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Nothing tells you more about the current state of Britain than the way this is reported in the UK press. The MPs CAN’T vote for a delay, they can only vote to give May PERMISSION to ASK all 27 EU nations for a delay. So there’s nothing like “..MPs voted 413 to 202 to push back Brexit to at least 30 June.” They voted to allow May to politely ask for that.

UK MPs Back Brexit Delay As Votes Lay Bare Cabinet Divisions (G.)

Brexit is set to be delayed by at least three months, after parliament opted overwhelmingly to request an extension to article 50 on another day of divisive votes that exposed the split in Theresa May’s fractured cabinet. The prime minister is now expected to bring her twice-defeated Brexit deal back to parliament on Tuesday, after she narrowly retained control of the next steps of the process. The votes, the last in a series of vital parliamentary decisions on Brexit over several days, mean that Britain’s departure from the EU should not now take place before 30 June and gave the prime minister a window to resuscitate her plan.

But May’s cabinet splintered yet again and eight cabinet ministers, including the Brexit secretary, Steve Barclay, and leader of the house, Andrea Leadsom, voted against the government’s motion extending article 50, preferring to keep the threat of no deal in place. In total, more than half of Tory MPs voted against the motion. Barclay wound up the debate for the government, saying: “It is time for this house to act in the national interest, it’s time to put forward an extension that is realistic” – before trooping through the no lobby to reject that argument. Government sources insisted he was not intending to resign, despite his unprecedented action.

The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, said: “This evening the Brexit secretary voted against his government’s own motion on Brexit, which earlier in the day he had defended in the House of Commons. That’s the equivalent of the chancellor voting against his own budget. This is a government that has completely lost control.” Labour’s divisions over Brexit were also clearly on display, however. The party whipped its MPs to abstain on an amendment calling for a second referendum – but 24 Labour MPs defied the whips to vote for it; and 17 rebelled to vote against, including several frontbenchers.

[..] If the deal does not pass on Tuesday, May would be likely to set out her request for a longer extension before the European council summit on Thursday. Downing Street said the blame for delay lay with parliament and was against the prime minister’s will. “The prime minister absolutely wanted and strived for the UK to be leaving the EU on 29 March. Everything she has done since entered office was intended to deliver that,” the spokesman said. “Now we have to confront the difficult decision that decisions taken by parliament have left us in.”

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So, 21 months. I said 1-2 years earlier. And $40-50 billion. Because: “When Theresa May comes asking us for an extension, our response will be: ‘For what? To what end?”

Tusk Pushes EU27 Leaders To Be Open To Long Brexit Delay (G.)

Donald Tusk is pushing the European Union’s leaders to consider a long Brexit delay to allow the UK to rethink its goals in the negotiations as the Commons voted in favour of seeking an extension of article 50. In an apparent shift in the EU’s red lines, the European council president suggested even before MPs had voted that a lengthy extension beyond 29 March could be granted simply to give Westminster time to recalibrate. Officials have until now insisted that only calling a general election or second referendum could justify delaying Brexit beyond more than a few months. “During my consultations ahead of [the EU leaders’ summit next week], I will appeal to the EU27 to be open to a long extension if the UK finds it necessary to rethink its Brexit strategy and build consensus around it,” Tusk tweeted.

However, a European commission spokesman expressed the concerns in Brussels over the impact of a long extension after MPs voted 413 to 202 to push back Brexit to at least 30 June. “A request for an extension of article 50 requires the unanimous agreement of all 27 member states,” the spokesman said. “It will be for the European councilto consider such a request, giving priority to the need to ensure the functioning of the EU institutions and taking into account the reasons for and duration of a possible extension.” Reacting to the vote, the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, made clear his frustration. “What’s the point of whining on for months on end while we have been going around in circles for two years?” he said. “When Theresa May comes asking us for an extension, our response will be: ‘For what? To what end?”

However, delays of between a few weeks to as long as 21 months have been mooted in recent weeks, with the Irish deputy prime minister, Simon Coveney, being the latest on Thursday to suggest that a lengthy delay could be helpful despite the complications. “If you have a long extension of article 50, that opens up the debate in a much broader way to the overall approach that the United Kingdom takes to Brexit. That may facilitate a fundamental rethink, it may not, we just don’t know,” Coveney said. “If you have a long extension of, say 21 months to the end of 2020 – whatever the period would be – then Britain has a legal entitlement to have representation in the European parliament.”

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And still she’s there. Bad advisors.

8 Top Ministers Refuse To Back Theresa May’s Article 50 Extension (Ind.)

The unity of Theresa May’s cabinet has publicly crumbled after eight of her most senior ministers refused to back her plan to delay Brexit by three months. Those who failed to support it included the prime minister’s Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay, who was joined by 187 other Conservative MPs and frontbenchers in voting against her approach. None of the ministers opposing Ms May’s ultimately successful move to delay Brexit will be sacked, because she allowed a “free vote” on the issue in the face of a mass rebellion. It followed a rowdy cabinet meeting in the morning where tempers frayed over a separate rebellion the night before in which remainer cabinet ministers refused to vote with the government on a motion ruling out a no-deal Brexit.

As a result of Thursday night’s votes, however, the path is cleared for Ms May to put her twice-rejected Brexit deal to a third vote of MPs, and if it is passed she will request a Brexit delay until 30 June to push through necessary legislation. Discussions between Conservative ministers and the party’s Northern Irish DUP allies in government continued as Ms May hunts for a majority for her agreement. After losing on previous occasions in the Commons, the prime minister was forced to let MPs vote on extending Article 50 on Thursday. The motion put in front of the house said she would go to the European Council at the end of next week and ask for a short delay to the end of June if MPs backed her deal, and a longer one if they did not.

But with Conservative ranks full of MPs who baulk at the idea of delaying the UK’s departure at all, and the prospect of having to sack dozens of minsters, she allowed a free vote. As well as Mr Barclay, top ministers who voted against her approach included defence secretary Gavin Williamson, trade secretary Liam Fox, commons leader Andrea Leadsom, Treasury secretary Liz Truss, transport secretary Chris Grayling and development secretary Penny Mordaunt. Welsh secretary Alun Cairns abstained. A further 27 junior ministers and 11 whips also voted against the approach Ms May is taking, including the outspoken Conservative deputy chairman James Cleverly and other Brexit ministers Kwasi Kwarteng and Chris Heaton-Harris. Three other whips, including chief Julian Smith, declined to vote.

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It’s been broken for a long time. Their venue belongs in the middle ages, and so does their behavior. It’s become a freak show.

Brexit Has Finally Broken The British Political System (Ind.)

The British political system has existed, in a relatively similar form, for hundreds of years. Periodically, an issue will arise which causes a shock to the system, reform follows and then life returns to normal. Even the parliamentary buildings are a throwback to an earlier era, failing to have even enough seats for all 650 MPs now elected to the chamber. It is a parliamentary system which prides itself on its ability to be bomb-proof, immune to the temporary ebb and flows of popularism, providing strong and stable majority governments for generations. No longer. The old certainties feel far less permanent in the wake of Brexit.

The spectacle of the House of Commons has become a regular fixture on our television sets, with the commons becoming the scene of passionate speeches and rousing argument. As the physical structure of the Houses of Parliament are repaired and saved from the ravages of old age, how can the political system it houses be saved? Has Brexit exposed cracks in the system, which signal its demise? In the immediate future, the House of Commons is focused on finding some consensus on what to do next. Undoubtedly, Theresa May will try and use this as an opportunity to give her Withdrawal Bill a third chance, and with the threat of no Brexit at all becoming more of a realistic possibility, she might even drag the legislation across the line.

Whether she will get that chance largely lies with the Commons speaker, John Bercow; he may refuse to allow identical legislation to be reintroduced again, depending on his interpretation of the rules. While numerous amendments have been introduced by members on both sides of the House, covering all options from a no deal to a second referendum, it is still so hard to see which of these solutions, if any, will gather majority support.

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My old stomping grounds of Montréal finally gets its due too.

The Most Splendid Housing Bubbles in Canada Deflate (WS)

Canadian housing markets are in a category of their own. No housing market in the US – no matter how crazy Housing Bubble 1 was, which began to implode in 2006, or how crazy Housing Bubble 2 is or was – can hold a candle to the most splendid housing bubbles in Canada. Instead of a Financial Crisis and a mortgage crisis and Housing Bust 1, the bubbliest Canadian markets only had a little-bitty dip, and within months were back on track to what would be an 18-year housing boom that is now coming undone.

I converted the index data of price changes into “percent change from January 2002.” So this tracks the same data, but is denominated in “%-change,” and the chart looks the same. I did this for Vancouver and the San Francisco Bay Area, which allows me to put both indices on the same %-change scale on the same chart. Vancouver house prices soared 316% since January 2002 through the peak (July 2018); San Francisco Bay Area house prices soared 121% through the peak (November 2018). And what we get is a chart that shows how the majestically splendid housing bubble in Vancouver (black) totally crushes, annihilates, and ridicules the crazy insane mind-blowing house price increases in San Francisco (red):

Staying on the same scale to show how housing markets in Canada vary, with less bubbly markets showing more white space, we move on to Toronto. House prices fell 0.2% in February and are down 4.0% from the peak in July 2017. Mild as it seems, it was the steepest 19-month decline since May 2009. From January 2002 through the peak in August 2017, the index skyrocketed 218%. That’s huge. It means house prices more than tripled. But it’s not even in the same ballpark as Vancouver, where house prices more than quadrupled. So in the chart below, there is a little more white space above the index. Note the utterly nutty spike from January 2016 through July 2018, peaking with a 40% year-over-year gain. I converted this Toronto index to “percent-change since January 2002” and compared it to the crazy insane mind-blowing housing bubble in the San Francisco Bay Area. And Toronto just blows away the Bay Area for another holy-cow moment:

In Montreal, home prices ticked up to a new record in February, the only city in the 11-city index to see a month-to-month gain and a new record. The index is now up 158% from January 2002, and even this gain, which seems rather lousy compared to Vancouver’s 316% gain, beats San Francisco’s gain (121%) by a big margin. But the white space is beginning to get ample:

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Sensitive info excluded. So Mueller can run with his empty Guccifer 2.0 and Julian Assange accusations. Who’s going to call him on that crap? No-one.

House Votes 420-0 For Mueller Report To Be Made Public (AP)

The House has unanimously voted for a resolution calling for any final report in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation to be made public. The symbolic action designed to pressure the attorney general, William Barr, to release as much information as possible when the inquiry ends. The Democratic-backed resolution, which passed 420-0, comes as Mueller appears to be nearing an end to his investigation. Lawmakers in both parties have maintained there will have to be some sort of public discussion when the report is done – and privately hope that a report shows conclusions that are favorable to their own side.

The resolution is unlikely to be passed in the Senate, where the Democratic Leader, Chuck Schumer, tried to bring it up hours after House passage. He was rebuffed when the Senate judiciary committee chairman, Lindsey Graham, objected. But the House vote shows that lawmakers from both parties are eager to view Mueller’s findings after almost two years of speculation about what they might reveal. Though Mueller’s office has said nothing publicly about the timing of a report, several prosecutors detailed to Mueller’s team have left in recent months, suggesting that the investigation is winding down. The nonbinding House resolution calls for the public release of any report Mueller provides to Barr, with an exception for classified material.

The resolution also calls for the full report to be released to Congress. “This resolution is critical because of the many questions and criticisms of the investigation raised by the president and his administration,” said the House judiciary committee chairman, Jerrold Nadler. Donald Trump has repeatedly called the inquiry a “hoax” and a “witch-hunt”. [..] The top Republican on the House judiciary panel, Georgia congressman Doug Collins, voted for the resolution but said it was unnecessary. Collins also had a warning for Democrats: “What happens when it comes back and none of this is true, the president did not do anything wrong? Then the meltdown will occur.”

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Sara’s article, which concerns Loretta Lynch’s -still not public- testimony confirms a few things: 1) FBI et al thought and hoped Trump was bound to lose to Hillary, and 2) they never supplied a defensive briefing to Trump, though it is a core task of the FBI to warn candidates of potential foreign involvement.

FBI, DOJ Bias and Intent Prevented Trump Defensive Briefing (Sara Carter)

President Donald Trump’s campaign was never given a defensive briefing by the FBI, despite mounting concerns that Russians were allegedly trying to penetrate the campaign during the 2016 presidential election. In testimony provided by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, along with others, it is the key finding that won’t bode well for the FBI and DOJ. [..] The defensive briefing, after all, is a procedure that is often given to presidential candidates, elected officials and even U.S. businesses that have either been unwittingly approached by foreign actors attempting to gain trust and befriend those in position of influence.

The briefing allows the government to protect the candidates, specifically if there is substantial information or knowledge to suggest that someone has targeted an unwitting American for information. If the FBI or intelligence agencies suspect foreign adversaries may be trying to penetrate a presidential campaign, as those FBI and DOJ sources suggested in testimony to lawmakers, it would then be required to warn those affected. [..] In the case of Trump, the FBI gave only a general counterintelligence briefing but did not provide information to the campaign that the FBI believed there were specific counterintelligence threats. For example, the FBI’s concern over campaign advisors George Papadopolous, Carter Page and then concerns over former national security advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.

“It is an essential task of the FBI and the intelligence community to give a defensive briefing to a presidential candidate when a foreign adversary is attempting to penetrate or make contact with someone in the campaign,” said a former senior intelligence official. “If the FBI and DOJ were so concerned about Carter Page and (George) Papadopolous why didn’t they brief Trump when he became a candidate? The fact that they didn’t is very revealing. If they gave defensive briefing to the Clinton campaign then I think we have the answer.”

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They keep on making them though, at a rate of 52 a month. The grounding could last 3-4-5 months. Where’s the parking space?

Boeing To Pause 737 Max Deliveries After Groundings, Crashes (MW)

Boeing said late Thursday it has paused deliveries of the 737 Max planes. The aircraft has been grounded worldwide after one of its models was in two deadly crashes in less than five months. Boeing said it will continue to make the 737 Max planes and the delivery halt does not impact its production rate of 52 aircraft a month. Shares of Boeing fell less than 0.1% in the extended session after ending the regular trading day down 1%. U.S. aviation authorities were the last to ground the plane on Wednesday. Wall Street had feared a delivery halt for the commercial jets, although some analysts had said that was likely factored in the share price. Boeing stock has lost 11% this week, and is up 13% in the past 12 months, compared with gains around 2% for the S&P 500 index and 4% for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Boeing is a Dow component.

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That appears to be just what we need: “..rocks sucking massive volumes of CO2 from the atmosphere.”

Ice Ages Triggered By Massive Collisions At Earth’s Equator (Ind.)

Enormous seismic events that took place at the equator are responsible for the plummeting global temperatures that have marked each of Earth’s ice ages, according to a new study. As the plates of the planet’s crust smashed into each other, they left vast areas of oceanic rock exposed. Scientists think the high temperatures of the tropics triggered a chemical reaction that led to these rocks sucking massive volumes of CO2 from the atmosphere. Just as the rising CO2 from human industry is causing global temperatures to rise, removing it has had the opposite effect, bringing temperatures down and triggering ice ages.

Over the course of Earth’s history, the planet has experienced three enormous ice ages – in which glaciers and frozen regions extend far beyond the polar caps – each lasting several million years. The most recent ice age began 35 million years ago and is still technically on-going, marked by the spread of ice sheets across Greenland and Antarctica. At the point where two plates collide, they create mountain ranges containing “sutures” – clear fault lines containing newly exposed rock. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology realised the emergence of sutures over the course of millennia coincided with the onset of each major ice age.

They also found that while some sutures, such as the one located in the Himalayas, had over time moved away from the equator, each one had its origins in the tropics. “We found that every time there was a peak in the suture zone in the tropics, there was a glaciation event,” said Dr Oliver Jagoutz, a geologist at MIT who led the study. “So every time you get, say, 10,000km of sutures in the tropics, you get an ice age.” While the reaction of substances like calcium and magnesium in the rocks with CO2 was the starting point for global cooling, it has also had a role in ending each ice age.

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The Midwest may not seem the ideal breeding ground for a Green New Deal, but perhaps looks deceive.

Rural America Is Ready For Some Sort Of A New Deal, Preferably Green (G.)

Rural America needs a new deal, or at least a better deal, and if it’s green all the better. Farm loan delinquencies are rising to levels not seen since the Farm Debt Crisis of the 1980s, from which the rural midwest never really recovered. Nearly a third of Iowa farmers growing corn and soybeans caught up in a trade war with China are said to be under extreme stress, according to Iowa State University. They’re the younger ones. Rural communities are draining young people. Two-thirds of Iowa’s 99 counties are losing population and prospects as manufacturing jobs leach out of the midwest. The Information Age jobs are not in those county seat towns of 5,000 people — they’re in Minneapolis or Des Moines.

Meanwhile, we’re losing our precious topsoil and polluting our rivers – killing the Gulf of Mexico in the process – as we chase ever-higher corn yields in a vain bid to cut a profit on thin commodity markets. Iowa is losing soil four to five times faster than it can be regrown – already yields and crop quality are declining because of it, which ultimately leads to higher food prices with less nutrition. The midwest would welcome a new deal, and this is where it must start. The Great Plains from Iowa down through Kansas and Texas lead the world in wind energy production. Yet the wind energy production tax credit is set to wane and expire over the next five years.

Those wind turbine royalties are increasingly important in western Kansas where you can barely raise a corn crop even with irrigation because of soil degradation and warmer nights wrought by climate change. Wind energy technicians who keep the blades whirring are paid good union wages and are welcome residents in tiny Iowa villages. They could ply their trade in West Virginia as well. Yet they are fought at every turn. Astroturf groups spring up to clamor against new wind farm developments, citing phony “science” of human and fowl health threats, and funded by unknown interests. They have been able to slow or block development of new production and transmission capacity while new oil pipelines are laid near sacred Native ground and under the Missouri river without a problem.

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 March 11, 2019  Posted by at 10:06 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Jean Metzinger Soldier playing chess 1915

 

Brexit Talks ‘Deadlocked’, Says Downing Street (G.)
Brexit Fallout On UK Finance Intensifies (R.)
How Central Bankers Blew Up The Global Economy (ABC.au)
What Fed Chair Powell Said On 60 Minutes (ZH)
China’s GDP Growth Could Be Half Of Reported Number – Pettis (SCMP)
Brookings Says China Overstated Size Of Its Economy By 12% (ZH)
Deutsche Bank Begins Talks Over Merger With Rival Commerzbank (G.)
Leaked Documents Reveal DOJ Protected Steele After FBI Shunning (KK)
How US Government and Media Spread Pro-War Propaganda (Greenwald)
US “Gets Its Ass Handed To It” In World War III Simulations (ZH)
Why The Shale Boom Left California Behind (Rapier)
Elderly Americans Are Dying Without Getting To Read Mueller’s Report (NW)

 

 

Crunch time starts tomorrow. The backstop is the big issue. EU cannot ‘budge’, because it would mean leaving Ireland out in the cold. It’s called the Irish backstop for a reason.

Brexit Talks ‘Deadlocked’, Says Downing Street (G.)

Downing Street has described the Brexit talks in Brussels as “deadlocked” after negotiations over the weekend failed to find a breakthrough on the Irish backstop. Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker, the European commission president, spoke on the telephone on Sunday evening, but plans for the prime minister to visit the Belgian capital to sign off on any compromise are on hold. The EU refuses to budge on the British proposal for what it believes is an attempt to build a unilateral exit mechanism into the Irish backstop, the arrangement that would keep the UK in a customs union to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, is unlikely without such a concession to revise his legal opinion, given before the last vote on May’s deal, that the backstop could be in force “indefinitely”. The prime minister pledged in parliament to put her deal to the Commons on Tuesday but she is being urged by senior Conservative MPs to pull the vote if she fails to secure significant concessions from Brussels. Leading Tories have warned Downing Street it could face a second huge defeat similar to the historic 230-vote loss in January if the government goes ahead. They have advised May instead to replace the vote with a motion setting out the sort of Brexit deal that would be acceptable to Tory MPs, in the hope that this would trigger concessions from the EU.

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All they have left is finance. Austerity ate the rest.

Brexit Fallout On UK Finance Intensifies (R.)

More than 275 financial firms are moving a combined $1.2 trillion in assets and funds and thousands of staff from Britain to the European Union in readiness for Brexit at a cost of up to $4 billion, a report from a think tank said on Monday. UK lawmakers are due to vote on Tuesday on an EU divorce settlement. But with less than three weeks to go before Brexit day on March 29, it is still unclear whether the deal will be approved, whether departure from the EU will be delayed, or whether it will happen without agreement. The report by the New Financial think tank, one of the most detailed yet on the impact of Brexit on financial services, said Dublin alone accounted for 100 relocations, ahead of Luxembourg with 60, Paris 41, Frankfurt 40, and Amsterdam 32.

The independent think tank said half of the affected asset management firms, such as Goldman Sachs Investment Management, Morgan Stanley Investment Management and Vanguard, had chosen Dublin, with Luxembourg the next port of call, attracting firms like Schroders, JP Morgan Wealth Management and Aviva Investors. Nearly 90 percent of all firms moving to Frankfurt are banks, while two-thirds of those going to Amsterdam are trading platforms or brokers. Paris is carving out a niche for markets and trading operations of banks and attracting a broad spread of firms.

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This still needs to be explained, apparently.

How Central Bankers Blew Up The Global Economy (ABC.au)

We humans are a social lot. We just love being part of a pack, a member of a team. We crave acceptance, to the point where isolation or banishment ranks among the worst forms of punishment. Even when it comes to the dodgy art of forecasting, everyone seems to cluster around a central position, which kind of defeats the point of forecasting. And so, in July two years ago, when the groundswell of opinion began to shift — that the Reserve Bank would be raising interest rates — arguing otherwise was a fairly lonely position. As time went on, almost everyone shifted position as we dug in here, here and here.

To be fair, most of the highly paid, well-heeled professional market economists were being egged on by the authorities, and particularly the Reserve Bank, which was spinning the line that the next rate move was up. In the past fortnight, however, the pack suddenly has turned on its tail as fears about the global economy and a sudden slowdown in our own growth forced a rethink. The switch to a rate cut has turned into a stampede. Put aside all the complex formula. Forget the high-level macro-economic analysis. There’s a very simple reason the Reserve Bank couldn’t and can’t raise interest rates. There’s too much debt. Australian households are among the world’s most indebted when compared with their income.

And we’ve spent most of it on real estate. What these two graphs show is how the Reserve Bank, effectively, snookered itself. Back in 2012, when debt and housing prices already were elevated, it fired up the east coast housing market, and construction, to take up the employment slack as the mining boom unwound. But it created a monster. As housing went on a tear, the short-term sugar hit turned toxic. Employment took off. But housing became unaffordable to almost everyone under 35. And our household debt levels reached for the stars. The end result? It couldn’t cut rates if it needed. That would add heat to a dangerously inflated housing bubble. And it could never raise rates, because that would kill household spending.

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3 Stooges.

Nomi Prins: “Number of times the word “bubble” appeared in the 60 Minutes interview with Fed. Chair Jerome Powell. Zero.”

A central bank can have benefits, but not when it only serves the rich. If we don’t get rid of Fed and ECB, there’ll be very steep prices to pay.

Note: there’s a video at the link, but it started itself so I threw it out.

What Fed Chair Powell Said On 60 Minutes (ZH)

A decade after Ben Bernanke appeared on “60 Minutes”, vowing that the Fed could easily crush inflation, as it could “raise interest rates in 15 minutes”, of course with the occasional “pause” along the way should the S&P dip by 20% or so, current Fed Chairman Jerome Powell will follow in his footsteps on Sunday night, when surrounded by former Fed Chairs Bernanke and Yellen, he will try to reach beyond the Fed’s traditional audience of markets, journalists and lawmakers to counter the attacks from President Trump, even after the Fed’s paused on raising interest rates, said Sarah Binder, a professor of political science at George Washington University, quoted by MarketWatch.

“He wants to counter the president’s message that policy is all wrong,” Binder said. Binder said she was struck by the still photo of the “60 Minutes” interview that shows Powell alongside his two predecessors Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke. “This puts a human face on the central bank. It says, ‘we’re the Fed and we’re here to help,’” Binder said. Bernanke also faced criticism when he went on “60 Minutes” in March 2009. The Fed was facing concerted attacks by lawmakers and populist “End the Fed” groups, who considering the record wealth divide in the US created by the central bank, were spot on.

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I’m going with Xiang Songzuo: “..China’s GDP growth for 2018 could be 1.67 per cent or even negative..”

China’s GDP Growth Could Be Half Of Reported Number – Pettis (SCMP)

If China’s bad debts were written down, its economic growth rate would be half the recorded number, a US economist at a prominent Chinese university has warned. In a speech in Shanghai this week, Michael Pettis, professor of finance at Peking University, warned that China’s debt is closely linked to the government’s perceived overstatement of its GDP. The government is accused of perpetuating the existence of “zombie companies”, by granting loss-making companies loans. Banks in turn treat these companies as creditworthy, whereas in reality they should be written off as bad debt, Pettis said. “If you believe there is bad debt that has not been sufficiently written down, you must believe that China’s GDP is overstated, relative to what it would be in any other country. That must be true,” Pettis said.

“If we are able to calculate GDP correctly, it would probably be half of the recorded number.” Pettis is not alone seeing troubles with China’s official growth number. In December, Xiang Songzuo, an outspoken professor from the Renmin University of China, who previously served as chief economist for Agricultural Bank of China, cited unidentified internal reports as saying that said China’s GDP growth for 2018 could be 1.67 per cent or even negative, a far cry from the official figures. Furthermore, a group of four economists published a paper this week arguing that China might have overstated its annual growth rate by 2 percentage points on average from 2008 to 2016. China’s official statistics agency said the country’s economic growth rate was 6.6 per cent in 2018.

The Chinese government said it would try to achieve an economic growth rate between 6.0 to 6.5 per cent in 2019, a moderate slowdown from previous years, but nevertheless a much faster rate compared with other major economies. Pettis is a renowned expert on China’s economy. For decades, he has been commenting on financial affairs in China and was among the early observers of the imbalances in the Chinese economy. He said in his speech on Wednesday that China’s growth will significantly decelerate as the country’s debt level rises.

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Brookings is many years late.

Brookings Says China Overstated Size Of Its Economy By 12% (ZH)

Since China managed to weather the fallout from the financial crisis without registering much of a slowdown in its “official” GDP figures, playing “guess the real growth rate” has become one of the most popular parlor games among the professional economist set. Whereas the stakes are much higher for academics on the mainland (one of whom was censored and threatened by government thugs after speculating that GDP growth on the mainland might be closer to 2%), researchers at American think tanks have freely offered estimates ranging from 2% to 4% (which, admittedly, would still put China well ahead of the US).

But as investors and economists once again cast a wary eye toward China as signs of flagging growth are once again threatening to sink the whole world into a recession, a team of researchers from the Brookings Institute has published a carefully researched paper detailing the exact mechanism by which authorities in Beijing inflate the country’s GDP figures, while estimating that China’s economy is roughly 12% smaller than the official figures would suggest. Brookings published the paper on Thursday, just two days after Party leaders at the annual National Party Congress lowered their economic growth forecast to between 6% and 6.5% of GDP.

Though the paper focused on the period between 2008 and 2016, it’s the latest evidence that China’s economic slowdown has been more severe than believed, and that the growth rate from last year – China’s worst since the early 1990s – might, in reality, be just under 6% (compared with 6.6%). According to Brookings, much of the manipulation in Chinese official government statistics takes place at the local level. In what the FT described as “a legacy of Maoist state planning”, authorities in Beijing hand down growth targets to local officials, who use it to goalseek the official statistics they hand back. “China’s national accounts are based on data collected by local governments. However, since local governments are rewarded for meeting growth and investment targets, they have an incentive to skew local statistics. China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) adjusts the data provided by local governments to calculate GDP at the national level,” the study’s authors said.

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Two staggering drunks lean on each other so they can make it to the bar and continue drinking.

Deutsche Bank Begins Talks Over Merger With Rival Commerzbank (G.)

Deutsche Bank has begun tentative merger talks with rival Commerzbank, which would create Europe’s second biggest bank behind HSBC and fend off unwanted potential bidders such as French giant BNP Paribas. Reports in Germany’s Welt am Sonntag suggest that the banks have come under political pressure to consider a merger and avert a foreign takeover of Commerzbank, much the smaller partner in any deal. Deutsche is regarded as a bank of global importance, but has been plagued by three years of losses, boardroom battles, money laundering issues and its role as the biggest lender to the Trump business empire.

Despite Germany’s industrial dominance in Europe, it has only one bank in the continent’s top 20, and Berlin is understood to be keen to create a larger national champion. The combination of the two banks mean that Deutsche, currently fifth biggest, and Commerzbank, currently 23rd, will become Europe’s second biggest bank and only marginally behind HSBC. Deutsche Bank’s chief executive Christian Sewing was seen to be the main opponent of a merger, but investor pressure – Deutsche’ shares are trading at around €7.68 compared with €32 five years ago – is understood to have forced his hand. The talks are believed to be at a very early stage – “unofficial contacts in a very small group” according to Welt am Sonntag – but are likely to be welcomed by major shareholders.

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This is getting too stupid. But who’s going to investigate the DOJ and FBI?

Leaked Documents Reveal DOJ Protected Steele After FBI Shunning (KK)

Steele was cut off by the FBI for revealing his relationship with the Bureau to the media – but Ohr continued to pass information from Steele to his colleagues, regularly spoke to him via email and phone, and met up with him face-to-face on several occasions. Information watchdog Judicial Watch has released 339-pages of US Department of Justice records, revealing former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr remained in regular contact with ex-MI6 operative Christopher Steele after Steele’s status as a paid confidential informant was terminated by the FBI in November 2016.

“These smoking gun documents show Christopher Steele, a Hillary Clinton operative and anti-Trump foreign national, secretly worked hand-in-glove with the Justice Department on its illicit targeting of President Trump. These documents leave no doubt that for more than a year after the FBI fired Christopher Steele for leaking, and for some 10 months after Donald Trump was sworn in as president, Bruce Ohr continued to act as a go-between for Steele with the FBI and Justice Department. The anti-Trump Russia investigation, now run by Robert Mueller, has been thoroughly compromised by this insider corruption,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

Whether an accurate appraisal or not, it’s clear from the assorted communications Ohr was determined to ensure Steele retained access to the Bureau, and this contact remained hidden from public view – for instance, when acting Attorney General Sally Yates was fired by Trump January 2017, Steele feared Ohr would be fired too, and texted him to express his “sympathy and support”. “If you end up out, I really need another contact point/number who is briefed. We can’t allow our guy to be forced to go back home. It would be disastrous all round, though his position right now looks stable. A million thanks,” Steele wrote. In response, Ohr assured the Orbis chief he could “certainly” give him an FBI contact “if it becomes necessary”.

On 6 March that year, Senator Chuck Grassley wrote to then-FBI Director James Comey, seeking clarity on the nature of Steele’s relationship with the FBI. The next day, Steele texted Ohr to say he was “very concerned” by the letter, and its “possible implications for our operations and sources…We need some reassurance…Really fundamental issues at stake here”. Days later, with Comey scheduled to testify before Congress, Steele told Ohr he was “a bit apprehensive” and hoped “important firewalls will hold”. On 24 March, Ohr and Steele discussed their “response” to the testimony, as he understood “an approach from the Senate Intelligence Committee” to Orbis was imminent.

On 26 October, Steele said he’s “very concerned” about documents the FBI intended to turn over to Congress about his work and “relationship with them”. “Can we have a word tomorrow please? Just seen a story in the media about the Bureau handing over docs to Congress…Peoples live may be engangered [sic],” he despaired.

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Same as it ever was.

How US Government and Media Spread Pro-War Propaganda (Greenwald)

[..] on February 23, when the narrative shifted radically in favor of those U.S. officials who want regime change operations in Venezuela. That’s because images were broadcast all over the world of trucks carrying humanitarian aid burning in Colombia on the Venezuela border. U.S. officials who have been agitating for a regime change war in Venezuela – Marco Rubio, John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, the head of USAid Mark Green – used Twitter to spread classic Fake News: they vehemently stated that the trucks were set on fire, on purpose, by President Nicolas Maduro’s forces. [..] on Saturday night, the New York Times published a detailed video and accompanying article proving that this entire story was a lie.

The humanitarian trucks were not set on fire by Maduro’s forces. They were set on fire by anti-Maduro protesters who threw a molotov cocktail that hit one of the trucks. And the NYT’s video traces how the lie spread: from U.S. officials who baselessly announced that Maduro burned them to media outlets that mindlessly repeated the lie. [..] While the NYT’s article and video are perfectly good and necessary journalism, the credit they are implicitly claiming for themselves for exposing this lie is totally undeserved. That’s because independent journalists – the kind who question rather than mindlessly repeat government claims and are therefore mocked and marginalized and kept off mainstream television – used exactly this same evidence on the day of the incident to debunk the lies being told by Rubio, Pompeo, Bolton and CNN.

On February 24, the day the lie spread, Max Blumenthal wrote from Venezuela, on the independent reporting Grayzone site, that “the claim was absurd on its face,” noting that he “personally witnessed tear gas canisters hit every kind of vehicle imaginable in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, and I have never seen a fire like the one that erupted on the Santander bridge.” He compiled substantial evidence strongly suggesting that the trucks were set ablaze by anti-Maduro protesters, including Bloomberg video showing them using Molotov cocktails, to express serious doubts about the mainstream narrative. On Twitter, in response to Marco Rubio’s lie, he wrote: “I did not see any Venezuelan government forces set fire to US aid trucks on the Colombian side of the border. And neither did you. Actually, the evidence so far is pointing in the other direction.”

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Is this going to have the neocons clamor for war today, before everyone understands it?

US “Gets Its Ass Handed To It” In World War III Simulations (ZH)

In simulated World War III scenarios, the U.S. continues to lose against Russia and China, two top war planners warned last week. “In our games, when we fight Russia and China, blue gets its ass handed to it” RAND analyst David Ochmanek said Thursday. RAND’s wargames show how US Armed Forces – colored blue on wargame maps – experience the most substantial losses in one scenario after another and still can’t thwart Russia or China – which predictably is red – from accomplishing their objectives: annihilating Western forces. “We lose a lot of people. We lose a lot of equipment. We usually fail to achieve our objective of preventing aggression by the adversary,” he warned.

In the next military conflict, which some believe may come as soon as the mid-2020s, all five battlefield domains: land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace, will be heavily contested, suggesting the U.S. could have a difficult time in achieving superiority as it has in prior conflicts. The simulated war games showed, the “red” aggressor force often destroys U.S. F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters on the runway, sends several Naval fleets to the depths, destroys US military bases, and through electronic warfare, takes control of critical military communication systems. In short, a gruesome, if simulated, annihilation of some of the most modern of US forces. “In every case I know of,” said Robert Work, a former deputy secretary of defense with years of wargaming experience, “the F-35 rules the sky when it’s in the sky, but it gets killed on the ground in large numbers.”

So, as Russia and China develop fifth-generation fighters and hypersonic missiles, “things that rely on sophisticated base infrastructures like runways and fuel tanks are going to have a hard time,” Ochmanek said. “Things that sail on the surface of the sea are going to have a hard time.” “That’s why the 2020 budget coming out next week retires the carrier USS Truman decades early and cuts two amphibious landing ships, as we’ve reported. It’s also why the Marine Corps is buying the jump-jet version of the F-35, which can take off and land from tiny, ad hoc airstrips, but how well they can maintain a high-tech aircraft in low-tech surroundings is an open question,” said Breaking Defense.

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Love Robert, but talking about shale is interesting only when you include industry debt.

Why The Shale Boom Left California Behind (Rapier)

Many people are unaware about California’s importance in the U.S. oil industry. In fact, 100 years ago California was the top oil producer in the U.S., responsible at one point for nearly 40% of U.S. oil production. California oil production rose throughout most of the 20th century, briefly eclipsing one million barrels per day in the early 1980s. Oil production began to decline there after peaking in 1985. The same pattern took place in many other states, and in fact was the case for the entire U.S., where oil production peaked in 1970, and then declined over the next 35 years. But the shale boom changed the trajectory of U.S. oil production.

Oil production that had fallen for decades reversed direction and began to surge about a decade ago. Almost every state with shale oil resources saw a similar surge in production. Since 2010, U.S. oil production has increased by 131%, with huge gains in oil production in the following states (among others): • North Dakota – up 634% • Colorado – up 508% • New Mexico – up 377% •Texas – up 330% • Oklahoma – up 238%. In fact, only three major oil-producing states have seen a decline in oil production since 2010: California, Louisiana, and Alaska. One of the graphics I created for my presentation shows the stark contrast between oil production in Texas and California as the shale boom unfolded.

During the 1980s and 1990s, oil production in Texas was declining faster than it was in California. Had that trajectory been maintained, Texas oil production may have fallen below California’s in about 2010. Instead, the shale boom has added nearly four million BPD of oil production in Texas. Millions of barrels were added in other states as well, and California began to slide down the ranks of leading oil producers. Just a few years ago California was still in 2nd place, but now it has slipped to 6th, behind Texas, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Alaska.

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“.. And They’re Hot Happy About It”. Not the Onion, but Newsweek.

Elderly Americans Are Dying Without Getting To Read Mueller’s Report (NW)

As special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is reportedly coming to an end, elderly and sick Americans are trying to hold on to their lives so they can read the highly-anticipated report that has been nearly two years in the making. World War II veteran Mitchell Tendler—a man who survived numerous historic milestones, including the Korean War, Vietnam, Watergate and President BIll Clinton’s impeachment—fell sick on Dec. 29, at 93 years old, reported NPR. “I got a call at 11 o’clock. My mom said, ‘Well, Dad’s not feeling well—he really can’t stand,'” Tendler’s son, Walter, recalled. “Within a couple of hours they called 911 and got him into the ER because it wasn’t getting any better.”

Tendler survived two implantable defibrillators throughout his life. But while on his third, he started to fade. After he was provided painkillers by doctors, Tendler voiced his final thoughts. “It just was quiet for a little while,” Walter Tendler told the news outlet, “and then he just sits up in bed halfway and looks at me and he goes, ‘S***, I’m not going to see the Mueller report, am I?’ And that was really the last coherent thing that he said.” Richard Armstrong, a 94-year-old currently in hospice care in New Jersey, related to Tendler’s sentiments. “I know exactly how he feels. I feel the same way. I’ve been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer,” Armstrong told NPR.

“I was hoping to live to see the outcome of what I think it should be—justice. I’ll be surprised and disappointed if it isn’t.” After seeing Tendler’s words—shared on Twitter by Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution—Kristina Makansi, who lives in Arizona, thought about her mother who passed away at the age of 94 in January. “When I saw that tweet about the Mueller report and the old man on his deathbed, I thought, Oh my gosh, that’s the kind of thing that my mother would say,” she said. “I think she really wanted to see that justice was done… and that the investigation was allowed to proceed without any shenanigans and obstruction.”

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Feb 222019
 


Salvador Dali The ghost of Vermeer of Delft which can be used as a table 1934

 

US Housing Market In Freefall As New Buyers Can’t Afford A Home (ZH)
Canadians Continue To Plunder Equity From Their Homes (ZH)
Bursting Of Australia’s Housing Bubble Could Topple The Government (ZH)
EU Expects May to Request Three-Month Delay to Brexit (BBG)
Theresa May Warned Dozens Of Tories Could Rebel Over No-Deal Brexit (BBC)
Record Surplus Gives UK Pre-Brexit Boost (G.)
Anti-Semitism Is Cover For A Much Deeper Divide In UK Labour Party (Cook)
Macron Calls Anti-Zionism A Form Of Antisemitism (Ind.)
Philadelphia Sues Seven Big Banks For Bond Collusion (RT)
FBI Lawyer Reveals Infiltration In Trump Campaign (ET)
Judge Imposes Sweeping Gag Order On Roger Stone (MW)
Hungary Takes ‘Hundreds Of Venezuelan Refugees With Hungarian Ancestry’ (Ind.)
Julian Assange Gets A New Australian Passport (SMH)
US Cities Burn Recyclables After China Bans Imports (G.)
World Food Supply Under ‘Severe Threat’ From Loss Of Biodiversity (G.)

 

 

Meanwhile in the real world that central bankers don’t want you to see:

US Housing Market In Freefall As New Buyers Can’t Afford A Home (ZH)

[..] with consensus expecting a tiny rebounding in January following December’s sharp drop, the deterioration in the US home market continued, and January existing home unexpectedly dropped 1.2% (exp. +0.2%), to 4.94 million, missing expectations of a rebound to 5.00 million. After December’s revision higher to 5.00 million, the January SAAR of 4.94 million was the first sub-5MM print since 2015, while the parallel pending home sales series confirms even more weakness is in store. Needless to say, it is very troubling that Americans are unable to afford home purchases with the 30% mortgage at just 4.5%, and suggests that even if inflation picks up, the Fed may have no choice but to keep rates flat to avoid a housing market crash.

As usual, NAR chief economist Larry Yun was optimistic, saying that he does not expect the numbers to decline further going forward. “Existing home sales in January were weak compared to historical norms; however, they are likely to have reached a cyclical low. Moderating home prices combined with gains in household income will boost housing affordability, bringing more buyers to the market in the coming months.” One wonders what “gains in household income” he is talking about. Meanwhile, properties are failing to sell as the slowdown spreads: Properties remained on the market for an average of 49 days in January, up from 46 days in December and 42 days a year ago. Thirty-eight percent of homes sold in January were on the market for less than a month.

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“Vancouver [..] saw home sales fall about 40% in January from the same month a year earlier.”

Canadians Continue To Plunder Equity From Their Homes (ZH)

Canadians are accelerating the rate at which they borrow cash against their homes, despite the fact that the real estate market is slumping in the country. This exposes the country’s financial system to obvious vulnerabilities, according to rating company DBRS and Bloomberg. Home equity lines of credit in Canada reached a record $184.5 billion (USD) as of October 31, which equates to 11.3% of total household credit. This is the highest share since mid 2015, according to a report released last Thursday. Canadians are drawing on their home’s equity to fund everything from home renovations to car purchases. And they’re doing it so quickly that borrowing has grown faster than mortgages since 2017.

Analyst Robert Colangelo, who published the report on Thursday, commented: “The flexibility of Helocs could increase financial system vulnerabilities. In the event of a correction, borrowers could find themselves with a debt load that exceeds the value of their home, which is often referred to as negative equity.” Obviously, home equity lines of credit can decrease visibility for lenders to identify credit problems as consumers use the equity in their homes to consolidate high interest loans and unsecured debt into one lump sum at a lower rate. Out of all of the Canadian banks, Toronto Dominion bank has the largest exposure to Helocs at about 39%, followed by Royal Bank of Canada which has 18% exposure. Other large banks are averaging 11% exposure, according to the report.

And the timing for Helocs to grow couldn’t be worse. Toronto’s real estate market continues to feel pain. Sales of new homes in the city fell to the lowest in almost 2 decades in 2018 and a glut of unsold condominiums continue to pile up, according to a Building Industry and Land Development Association report released February 1. Vancouver, still feeling the deflationary effects of a foreign real estate bubble popping, saw home sales fall about 40% in January from the same month a year earlier.

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People aged 65-74: A$566,000 wealthier in 2015-16 than the same age group was 12 years earlier. People aged 25-34: A$38,000.

That could topple a lot more than only a government.

Bursting Of Australia’s Housing Bubble Could Topple The Government (ZH)

In one of the world’s most developed economies, soaring costs for housing and education are rapidly widening the wealth-distribution gap between the younger and older generations amid the backdrop of one of the longest economic expansions in the country’s history. As younger workers grapple with the notion that they may never be able to afford a home, a backlash is stirring in the political arena, as younger voters embrace progressive (some would say “socialist”) politicians. No, we’re not talking about the US. We’re talking about Australia. After six years of tumultuous Liberal rule, the Labour Party is hoping to wrest back control of the government during elections later this year.

And it sees tackling this intergenerational divide as the best way to do it. And combating the country’s increasingly unaffordable housing bubble is a key plank of its proposals. The party has pledged to curb tax breaks for property investors that helped drive up home prices (alongside an influx of foreign capital). Labor leader Bill Shorten has promised to scrap tax refunds worth A$5 billion ($3.6 billion) a year for share investors. The benefits are already being seen in the polls, where Labour is seeing a slight advantage. After 27 years of uninterrupted economic growth, Australians are struggling with the fact that the wealthy have enjoyed the bulk of the economic benefits.

While Australia has avoided recession for 27 years, the spoils have not been shared evenly as older people capture a greater share of the nation’s wealth. According to the Grattan Institute, households headed by people aged 65-74 were on average A$566,000 wealthier in 2015-16 than the same age group was 12 years earlier. That far outstrips growth in other bands and compares with just A$38,000 for the 25-34 age group. [..] While Sydney’s median house price is still more than A$900,000 [..] prices have already fallen 12% since their mid-2017 peak.

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Doesn’t she want to run down the clock?

EU Expects May to Request Three-Month Delay to Brexit (BBG)

The European Union expects U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May to be forced to request a three-month delay to Brexit, two EU officials said. Discussions between the two sides suggest May will ask for an extension to the two-year negotiating period if the British Parliament backs the Brexit deal but it isn’t signed off until an EU summit on March 21-22. That is emerging as the EU’s current plan. The EU sees this as a “technical extension” to give British Parliament time to pass necessary legislation related to its departure from the bloc. Anything longer than three months would put the U.K. under pressure to take part in European elections on May 23-26, something that both sides are keen to avoid.

May is racing against the clock to change a controversial part of her deal, known as the “backstop,” in a way that would be acceptable to both the U.K. Parliament and the EU. However, with just five weeks to go until the U.K.’s scheduled departure from the EU and talks at an impasse, ministers and lawmakers in her own party are threatening to vote against her next week to give Parliament control of the process. The prime minister has repeatedly spoken out against a delay, saying she wants to take the U.K. out of the EU as scheduled at the end of March. She’s never completely ruled it out, however. Any postponement would have to be requested by the U.K. and accepted by all the remaining 27 EU governments.

EU officials say the three-month extension would happen under their most optimistic scenario. The risk remains that the U.K. could leave the bloc March 29 without a deal. Alternatively, May could be forced to contemplate a longer delay if she can’t get backing for the agreement, according to one official.

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Chances that Parliament will vote her deal through are slim.

Theresa May Warned Dozens Of Tories Could Rebel Over No-Deal Brexit (BBC)

Dozens of normally loyal Conservative MPs could rebel against the government in a bid to prevent a “no-deal” Brexit, Downing Street has been warned. Leaders of the Brexit Delivery Group of both Leavers and Remainers say MPs may back alternatives if Mrs May’s reworked deal cannot command a Commons majority. Co-chairman Andrew Percy told the BBC more than 30 may try to block no deal. The government says “productive” talks in Brussels aimed at addressing MPs’ concerns continue “urgently”. The UK remains on course to leave the European Union on 29 March. But the government has repeatedly refused to rule out the possibility of the UK leaving without a formal deal, in the event that Mrs May cannot get MPs to approve the deal she negotiated with Brussels in time.

Many MPs fear that scenario would be damaging to business and cause chaos at ports. However, Brexiteers in the European Research Group (ERG) of Conservative MPs insist the “no-deal” option must be preserved as negotiating leverage in Brussels. Mr Percy told the BBC members of his group were becoming “tired” of the ERG’s refusal to back the prime minister. In a letter to government whips, he and co-chairman Simon Hart write: “Not only does this risk damaging the national interest, but also… we are putting in jeopardy the very thing many colleagues have spent decades campaigning for; our exit from the European Union.”

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The wonders of strip-mining social programs.

Record Surplus Gives UK Pre-Brexit Boost (G.)

Britain has recorded the biggest-ever monthly surplus in public finances since the early 1990s, putting the government on a strong footing in the run-up to Brexit, now less than 40 days away. In a rare piece of positive economic news for Philip Hammond as he prepares for his spring statement next month, income from taxes outstripped public spending by £14.9bn, the biggest January surplus since records began in 1993. Although January is typically a surplus month for the exchequer because of seasonal trends in the payment of taxes, the Office for National Statistics said last month’s surplus was £5.5bn larger than a year ago. Income and capital gains tax receipts increased by 14%, twice the average growth rate earlier in the year.

Combined, the income from self-assessed income taxes and capital gains tax receipts was £21.4bn, the highest in January since comparable records began in 2000. The data comes after several disappointing months for the chancellor, as borrowing came in worse than forecast. Government borrowing for the first 10 months of the financial year has, however, fallen almost by half, as tax receipts have been much stronger than expected. The exchequer has borrowed about £21.2bn this year so far, £18.5bn lower than at the same point a year ago, and the lowest since the 10 months to January 2001. The latest update means the government could be on track to reduce the deficit – the gap between spending and tax income – close to its target of £25.5bn set by the Office for Budget Responsibility, which is 39% less than in 2017-18.

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Who in the party will defend Corbyn?

Anti-Semitism Is Cover For A Much Deeper Divide In UK Labour Party (Cook)

The announcement by seven MPs from the UK Labour Party on Monday that they were breaking away and creating a new parliamentary faction marked the biggest internal upheaval in a British political party in nearly 40 years, when the SDP split from Labour. On Wednesday, they were joined by an eighth Labour MP, Joan Ryan, and three Conservative MPs. There are predictions more will follow. With the UK teetering on the brink of crashing out of the European Union with no deal on Brexit, the founders of the so-called Independent Group made reference to their opposition to Brexit. The chief concern cited for the split by the eight Labour MPs, though, was a supposed “anti-semitism crisis” in the party.

The breakaway faction seemingly agrees that anti-semitism has become so endemic in the party since Jeremy Corbyn became leader more than three years ago that they were left with no choice but to quit. Corbyn, it should be noted, is the first leader of a major British party to explicitly prioritise the rights of Palestinians over Israel’s continuing belligerent occupation of the Palestinian territories. Luciana Berger, a Jewish MP who has highlighted what she sees as an anti-semitism problem under Corbyn, led the charge, stating at the Independent Group’s launch that she had reached “the sickening conclusion” that Labour was “institutionally racist”. She and her allies claim she has been hounded out of the party by “anti-semitic bullying”.

[..] The timing of the defections was strange, occurring shortly after the Labour leadership revealed the findings of an investigation into complaints of anti-semitism in the party. These were the very complaints that MPs such as Berger have been citing as proof of the party’s “institutional racism”. And yet, the report decisively undercut their claims – not only of endemic anti-semitism in Labour, but of any significant problem at all. That echoed an earlier report by the Commons home affairs committee, which found there was “no reliable, empirical evidence” that Labour had more of an anti-semitism problem than any other British political party. Nonetheless, the facts seem to be playing little or no part in influencing the anti-semitism narrative. This latest report was thus almost entirely ignored by Corbyn’s opponents and by the mainstream media.

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Macron gambles that he can silence the Yellow Vests with antisemitism smear.

Macron Calls Anti-Zionism A Form Of Antisemitism (Ind.)

Emmanuel Macron has declared anti-Zionism a form of antisemitism as he ramps up France’s crackdown on racism against Jewish people. Speaking at the 34th annual dinner of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France, Mr Macron said a surge in antisemitic attacks in his country had not been seen since World War Two. He promised a new law to tackle hate speech on the internet and said France would adopt the definition of antisemitism set by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). The IHRA definition does not use the phrase “anti-Zionism” but does say denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination “e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour,” is antisemitic.

Some critics of Israel, its occupation of territory internationally recognised as Palestinian, and its isolation of the Gaza Strip, say they risk being unfairly branded antisemitic, although the IHRA definition says: “criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country” is not. Mr Macron’s words were well received from the World Jewish Congress which said: “This is just the beginning of a long road ahead. Adopting this definition of anti-Semitism must be followed by concrete steps to encode into law and ensure that this is enforced.”

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Stop suing the banks. Sue their execs instead.

Philadelphia Sues Seven Big Banks For Bond Collusion (RT)

The city of Philadelphia is suing Bank of America and six other major banks for conspiring to manipulate the rates of municipal bonds, illegally making millions of dollars while depriving the city of funds for public services. Pennsylvania’s largest city, with over 1.5 million residents, filed the complaint late on Wednesday in the federal court in Manhattan. The city accuses Bank of America, Barclays, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Royal Bank of Canada and Wells Fargo of colluding to manipulate rates of variable-rate demand obligations (VRDO), of which Philadelphia has issued over $1.6 billion-worth. The fees the banks collected, in violation of federal antitrust laws, have deprived Philadelphia and other jurisdictions of critical funding for public services, the lawsuit claims.

According to the court documents, the banks are already being criminally investigated by the Department of Justice’s antitrust division, while the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has contacted four of the defendants with questions about their conduct. The lawsuit claims that phone and email records will show that the banks agreed not to compete with each other for VRDO remarketing services between February 2008 and June 2016, resulting in artificially high rates and banks collecting fees “for doing, essentially, nothing.”

Similar lawsuits are already being litigated in Massachusetts, California, Illinois and New York, accusing major banks of conspiring to “robo-reset” the rates of state VRDOs without any considerations for the local markets or investor demand, violating the requirement to market and price the bonds at the lowest possible interest rates. Plaintiffs in those four lawsuits are seeking to recover over $1 billion in fees, ranging from $100 million in Massachusetts and $349 million in Illinois to $719 million in California, while the New York numbers have not been made available yet.

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Some things are impossible to properly summarize in a few lines. Read the whole thing at Epoch Times.

And again: the US needs a Special Counsel for this. The FBI cannot be a state within the state.

FBI Lawyer Reveals Infiltration In Trump Campaign (ET)

A key player in the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of Donald Trump and his 2016 presidential campaign was Trisha Anderson, who, at the time, was the No. 2 lawyer at the agency’s Office of General Counsel. Despite having no specific experience in counterintelligence before coming to the FBI, Anderson was, in some manner, involved in virtually all of the significant events of the investigation. Anderson told members of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees in August last year during closed-door testimony that she was one of only about 10 people who had known about the Trump–Russia investigation prior to its official opening.

A transcript of Anderson’s testimony, which was reviewed for this article, reveals that she had read all of the FBI’s FD302 forms detailing information that the author of the Steele dossier, former British spy Christopher Steele, had provided to high-ranking Department of Justice (DOJ) official Bruce Ohr. Anderson also told lawmakers that she personally signed off on the original application for a warrant to spy on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page without having read it. The FBI relied heavily on the unverified information in the Steele dossier—which was paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee—to obtain the FISA warrant.

Anderson also was part of a small group of FBI personnel who got to read then-FBI Director James Comey’s memos about conversations he had with President Donald Trump. Besides the investigation into Trump, Anderson also was involved in the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton for sending classified information using a private server. Anderson’s testimony reveals that she received the original referral from the inspectors general for both the State Department and Intelligence Community on Clinton after hundreds of classified emails had been found on her server. Her testimony also raises questions as to whether then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch had a conflict of interest.

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Get the impressions Stone’s getting bored sitting at home.

Judge Imposes Sweeping Gag Order On Roger Stone (MW)

A judge imposed a sweeping gag order on Roger Stone, the former political adviser to President Donald Trump, after he created an Instagram post of the judge presiding over his criminal case next to an image that appeared to show the crosshairs of a gun. Stone told the judge at a hearing Thursday he made an “egregious error.” The new gag order prevents Stone from making any public comments on the case or investigation other than to solicit funds for his legal defense. If Stone violates the new gag order, his bond will be revoked and he’ll be detained. “There will not be a third chance,” District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said.

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I had no idea.

Hungary Takes ‘Hundreds Of Venezuelan Refugees With Hungarian Ancestry’ (Ind.)

Hungary has accepted around 300 refugees from crisis-hit Venezuela, according to media reports from the country – surprising observers of its usually anti-immigration government. The refugees, who are thought to have Hungarian ancestry, are understood to have been welcomed into the country with the tacit support of the Orban administration and the help of the Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta. The news has come as a surprise in the conservative central European state, given the anti-immigration stances and refugee crackdowns of premier Viktor Orban.

“We are speaking about Hungarians and we do not consider Hungarians migrants,” Mr Orban’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, told a press conference in response to the report. Confirming that the programme began in April 2018, he added: “They, like any other Hungarian, have a right to return home.” A controversial law passed by the Orban government last year restricted the activities of NGOs and charities that provide assistance to migrants. The law was de facto targeted at those groups helping people arriving by land from the Middle East and Africa. The Hungarian opposition seized on the latest developments, claiming the government was acting hypocritically.

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He got it back in October apparently, so no big immediate change.

And Center Alliance Senator Patrick having asked for the passport only so Julian can give himself up to the UK police doesn’t help either.

Julian Assange Gets A New Australian Passport (SMH)

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade official confirmed in a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday that Mr Assange’s 2018 application for a new passport had been accepted. Consular and Crisis Management Division first assistant secretary Andrew Todd said, “Mr Assange does have an Australian passport”. [..] The department is understood to have issued Mr Assange with his new passport in October. A DFAT official at an estimate’s hearing in October said Mr Assange’s passport application had “not been rejected”. But absolute confirmation that he has actually received a new passport did not come until Thursday’s heading. DFAT officials told the estimates hearing they had no knowledge of legal proceedings against Mr Assange in the United States.

Documents show Mr Assange’s UK-based lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, applied for a new passport on his behalf in mid-2018. DFAT replied that it was of the belief that Mr Assange’s entitlement to a passport may be affected by ongoing legal proceedings in the United Kingdom. “Specifically, we understand you may be the subject of an arrest warrant in connection with a ‘serious foreign offence’ within the meaning of section 13 of the Australian Passports Act 2005,” DFAT replied. “In order to progress your application, we require confirmation that section 13 is not enlivened by your circumstances. To this end, we ask that you provide us with confirmation that section 13 no longer applies to you. Until this time, your passport application will remain on hold.”

Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick, who has pursued Mr Assange’s right to a passport in recent estimates hearings, said that, given Mr Assange’s failing health, the best thing would be for him to leave the Ecuador embassy and face the British justice system over breaching his bail conditions. After that, he should return to Australia, Senator Patrick said.

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“Nearly four in 10 children in the city have asthma, while the rate of ovarian cancer is 64% higher than the rest of Pennsylvania and lung cancer rates are 24% higher..”

US Cities Burn Recyclables After China Bans Imports (G.)

The conscientious citizens of Philadelphia continue to put their pizza boxes, plastic bottles, yoghurt containers and other items into recycling bins. But in the past three months, half of these recyclables have been loaded on to trucks, taken to a hulking incineration facility and burned, according to the city’s government. It’s a situation being replicated across the US as cities struggle to adapt to a recent ban by China on the import of items intended for reuse. The loss of this overseas dumping ground means that plastics, paper and glass set aside for recycling by Americans is being stuffed into domestic landfills or is simply burned in vast volumes. This new reality risks an increase of plumes of toxic pollution that threaten the largely black and Latino communities who live near heavy industry and dumping sites in the US.

About 200 tons of recycling material is sent to the huge Covanta incinerator in Chester City, Pennsylvania, just outside Philadelphia, every day since China’s import ban came into practice last year, the company says. [..] Some experts worry that burning plastic recycling will create a new fog of dioxins that will worsen an already alarming health situation in Chester. Nearly four in 10 children in the city have asthma, while the rate of ovarian cancer is 64% higher than the rest of Pennsylvania and lung cancer rates are 24% higher, according to state health statistics. The dilemma with what to do with items earmarked for recycling is playing out across the US. The country generates more than 250m tons of waste a year, according to the EPA, with about a third of this recycled and composted.

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Monoculture ‘R’ Us. You add it all up, the soil is poisoned, the food is poisoned, vertebrates are disappearing, insects are going gone, and how much longer for the human species?

World Food Supply Under ‘Severe Threat’ From Loss Of Biodiversity (G.)

The world’s capacity to produce food is being undermined by humanity’s failure to protect biodiversity, according to the first UN study of the plants, animals and micro-organisms that help to put meals on our plates. The stark warning was issued by the Food and Agriculture Organisation after scientists found evidence the natural support systems that underpin the human diet are deteriorating around the world as farms, cities and factories gobble up land and pump out chemicals. Over the last two decades, approximately 20% of the earth’s vegetated surface has become less productive, said the report, launched on Friday. It noted a “debilitating” loss of soil biodiversity, forests, grasslands, coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds and genetic diversity in crop and livestock species. In the oceans, a third of fishing areas are being overharvested.

Many species that are indirectly involved in food production, such as birds that eat crop pests and mangrove trees that help to purify water, are less abundant than in the past, noted the study, which collated global data, academic papers and reports by the governments of 91 countries. It found 63% of plants, 11% of birds, and 5% of fish and fungi were in decline. Pollinators, which provide essential services to three-quarters of the world’s crops, are under threat. As well as the well-documented decline of bees and other insects, the report noted that 17% of vertebrate pollinators, such as bats and birds, were threatened with extinction. Once lost, the species that are critical to our food systems cannot be recovered, it said. “This places the future of our food and the environment under severe threat.”

“The foundations of our food systems are being undermined,” wrote Graziano da Silva, the director general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, in an introduction to the study. “Parts of the global report make sombre reading. It is deeply concerning that in so many production systems in so many countries, biodiversity for food and agriculture and the ecosystem services it provides are reported to be in decline.” Agriculture was often to blame, he said, due to land-use changes and unsustainable management practices, such as over-exploitation of the soil and a reliance on pesticides, herbicides and other agro-chemicals. Most countries said the main driver for biodiversity loss was land conversion, as forests were cut down for farm fields, and meadows covered in concrete for cities, factories and roads. Other causes include overexploitation of water supplies, pollution, over-harvesting, the spread of invasive species and climate change.

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