Feb 292020
 


Harris&Ewing National Emergency War Garden Commission display, Wash. DC 1918

 

China Reports Catastrophic Data: PMIs Crash To Record Lows (ZH)
New York Scrambles To Replace US Government’s Faulty Coronavirus Test Kits (R.)
US Sanctions on Iran Helped Coronavirus Spread Undetected (NI)
Chinese Lab That First Shared Virus Genome Closed For ‘Rectification’ (SCMP)
Australia Defied WHO On Coronavirus (SMH)
Israeli Scientists Claim To Be Weeks Away From Coronavirus Vaccine (NYPost)
A Big Coronavirus Mystery: What About The Children? (Harvard)
China Will Meet US Trade Deal Ag Demands, But May Invoke Force Majeure (SCMP)
China’s Consumers Will Not Rescue Economy When Outbreak Is Over (SCMP)
Southeast Asian Supply Chains Feel The Squeeze From Covid-19 (SCMP)
No More Kid Gloves (K.)
Barr Is Wrong On FISA Reforms (Turley)
The Public Doesn’t Really Decide The Nominee (Turley)
The Only Questions That Should Matter In The Assange Extradition Battle (SMH)
Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day Four (Craig Murray)

 

Numbers are rising very fast in South Korea, Iran and Italy. Total cases were up 841, 621, 901, 1,190, 1,314 in the past few days. Today: 1,950.

Major batch of new cases expected today from South Korea due to intensified testing.

 

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

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

 

• South Korea 813 new cases, total 3.150, 16 deaths, one case of reinfection
• Italy 896 (yesterday 653) cases, 21 deaths
• Iran 593 (yesterday 245) cases, 26 deaths
• Japan 241 (+705 Diamond Princess)
• China 427 new cases and 47 new deaths, total 2,835
• UK 20 cases, first death is Diamond Princess’s 6th death
• Germany 60 cases
• US 66 cases
• France cases 57 from 38 yesterday
• First case: Israel (3 cases), Mexico, Iceland, Azerbaijan, Wales, Belarus, Estonia

 

Trump names Pence, Kudlow, Mnuchin, aka an economic team, to face the crisis. China tries something similar by talking about what happens when the outbreak is over.

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer (Note: mortality rate down to 7%)

 

 

 

 

Xi’s biggest worry.

China Reports Catastrophic Data: PMIs Crash To Record Lows (ZH)

[..] it turns out that Nomura’s dire forecast was optimistic, because moments ago China’s National Statistics Bureau reported the latest, February PMIs and they were absolutely catastrophic: Manufacturing PMI crashed to 35.7 in Feb, far below the 45.0 consensus estimate, and sharply down from 50.0 in January. A record low. Non-Manufacturing PMI plummets to 28.9, also far below the 50.5 consensus, estimate, and down nearly 50% from the 54.1 in Jan. This too was a record low. Putting these numbers in context, they are far, far worse than the prints for both series reported during the financial crisis, when the mfg PMI dropped to “only” 38.8, while the non-manufacturing PMI never even contracted.

What is even more ominous is that while China’s non-mfg PMI has traditionally been stronger, in February not only did it collapse into deep contraction, but it plunged to 5 points below where the manufacturing sector currently finds itself, a catastrophic 20-handle. This means that China’s service industries, long seen as the guiding light to China’s successful transition away from a manufacturing-led economy, is now devastated. Commenting on the unprecedented number, Bloomberg’s China economist Tom Orlik said that “the first credible gauge of how China’s economy is fairing under virus lock down – the official PMI – is pointing to a brutal drop into contraction.” Well, no: anyone who read our recent series analyzing “high-frequency”, real-time Chinese data already was already aware of the catastrophic collapse in China’s economy.

Read more …

Because the testing issue was’t confusing enough yet.

New York Scrambles To Replace US Government’s Faulty Coronavirus Test Kits (R.)

New York health officials are trying to get their own coronavirus testing kits up and running after getting stuck with faulty tests from the federal government that they said left them unable to diagnose people quickly in the nation’s most populous city. New York state’s Department of Health filed an emergency application on Friday with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be allowed to use a testing kit for the new coronavirus it has developed in-state, according to an official involved in the process. “Upon FDA approval, which we believe is imminent, New York State’s public health laboratory, the Wadsworth Center, can immediately begin testing,” Jonah Bruno, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Health, wrote in an email.

Public health officials say the ability to test locally and get results within hours will be critical to a rapid response to the fast-spreading virus that originated in China, causing a sometimes fatal respiratory illness, and has spread to 46 countries. The weeks-long struggle to expand local testing has been criticized as an early misstep in the response by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to the outbreak. Three weeks ago, the FDA gave the green light for state and local labs to start using a testing kit developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But most labs that received the kits complained they had faulty components and produced inconclusive results, which the CDC later acknowledged.

[..] The CDC kits were meant to work by comparing a sample swabbed from a patient’s nose or mouth against three distinctive stretches of the virus’ genetic material, which are in small tubes labeled N1, N2 and N3. Most labs only had issues with the kit’s third component, N3. After reviewing their data, the FDA and CDC told labs this week that the tests would work fine if they only looked for the N1 and N2 bits of the virus, ignoring the faulty N3 component. But in New York, both the state lab and the New York City lab said that in their kits the N1 component was also flawed, and that the workaround proposed by the CDC and FDA was of no use.

Read more …

US sanctions kept Iran from buying the same faulty test kits that New York is using?!

US Sanctions on Iran Helped Coronavirus Spread Undetected (NI)

The Trump administration is partially reversing course on economic sanctions that have slowed down Iran from importing coronavirus test kits as the country faces down the most deadly COVID-19 outbreak outside of East Asia. Iranian authorities have confirmed 388 cases of the new coronavirus disease as of Friday afternoon. U.S. sanctions, the Iranian government’s record of dishonesty, and the elusive nature of the virus itself have made it difficult to understand the true extent of the epidemic. The U.S. Treasury announced on Thursday morning that it was lifting some terrorism-related sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, which re-opens a channel for humanitarian trade that had been closed since September 2019. The announcement does not lift the restrictions on humanitarian trade with other Iranian banks under terrorism-related sanctions.

Iran’s healthcare sector has blamed the banking sanctions for a lack of testing equipment to diagnose COVID-19. Thirty-four people have reportedly died from the virus in Iran, suggesting a large number of undiagnosed cases of COVID-19, which scientists believe has a two percent mortality rate. In fact, independent researchers estimate that eighteen thousand Iranians may have been infected already. “Several international companies are ready to ship the coronavirus diagnosis kit to Iran, but we cannot pay them,” said Ramin Fallah, vice president of the Iranian Union of Importers of Medical Equipment, in a Monday interview with Iranian media. “They also insist that the money should only be sent through banks. Although there are ways to get around [sanctions], it is time-consuming.”

[..] Iranian authorities have not inspired confidence in their current ability to deal with the outbreak transparently, either. [..] Officials have downplayed the extent of the outbreak even as the virus spreads within the government itself. Member of Parliament Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani claimed on Monday that fifty people had died in his home district of Qom alone, but Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi denied accusations of a coverup. On Tuesday, Harirchi announced that he had contracted COVID-19. Another lawmaker, Mahmoud Sadeghi, tested positive for the virus the same day. But President Hassan Rouhani continued to claim that the viral panic was worse than the virus itself, denouncing “foreign propaganda,” refusing to quarantine cities, and promising a return to normalcy.

By Wednesday, the tone in the Rouhani administration turned to panic as cabinet member Ma’soumeh Ebtekar was diagnosed with COVID-19 and retired Amb. Hadi Khosrowshahi suddenly died of the disease. The government proceeded to ban Chinese nationals from entering the country, canceled flights to India, halted religious pilgrimage groups, and canceled Friday prayers in major cities. Presidential advisor Hesameddin Ashena called for “taking the situation seriously” and “not politicizing the issue.”

Read more …

The Party was not amused.

Chinese Lab That First Shared Virus Genome Closed For ‘Rectification’ (SCMP)

The Shanghai laboratory where researchers published the world’s first genome sequence of the deadly coronavirus that causes Covid-19 has been shut down. The laboratory at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre was ordered to close for “rectification” on January 12, a day after Professor Zhang Yongzhen’s team published the genome sequence on open platforms. It closed temporarily the following day. The release of the data helped researchers develop test kits for the virus. “The centre was not given any specific reasons why the laboratory was closed for rectification. [We have submitted] four reports [asking for permission] to reopen but we have not received any replies,” a source with the centre said, requesting anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

“The closure has greatly affected the scientists and their research when they should be racing against the clock to find the means to help put the novel coronavirus outbreak under control,” the source said. The laboratory is a Level 3 biosafety facility, the second-highest level, and passed an annual inspection by the China National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment on January 5. It also obtained the required credentials to conduct research on the coronavirus on January 24. It was not clear whether the closure was related to the publishing of the sequencing data before the authorities. China’s National Health Commission announced hours after the release by Zhang’s team that it would share the genome sequence with the World Health Organisation. It later emerged that the information had been sent through the officially designated Wuhan Institute of Virology.

[..] Zhang’s team isolated and finished the genome sequence of the then-unknown virus on January 5, two days before China’s official announcement that mysterious pneumonia cases in Wuhan were caused by a hitherto unknown coronavirus.
The Shanghai centre reported its discovery to the National Health Commission on the same day and recommended “relevant prevention and control measures” be taken in public places, because the patient from whom the sample was collected had suffered very severe symptoms and the virus resembled a group previously found in bats. The team made the finding public on January 11 after it saw that the authorities had taken no obvious action to warn the public about the coronavirus.

The findings by Zhang’s team were published in the scientific journal Nature on February 3. The research said the virus sample was collected from a patient who showed symptoms of fever, dizziness and coughing and was admitted to a Wuhan hospital on December 26. The Shanghai centre has a long-term cooperation relationship with Wuhan Central Hospital. The patient was identified as a 41-year-old male vendor who worked at the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market in Wuhan, which was believed to be a key link of infections at the early stage of the outbreak. The lab’s closure not only affected Zhang’s research but also studies by other scientists since it is an open facility, according to another researcher with knowledge of the matter.

Read more …

“Australia’s group of state and federal medical officers, convening daily, usually by phone hook-up, is the peak point of the pure medical advice, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC). No politicians sit in on their meetings.

Australia Defied WHO On Coronavirus (SMH)

Countries have shut down some of the institutions they hold dearest. Japan has closed all schools. Saudi Arabia has halted pilgrimages to Mecca. And the Chinese government has postponed indefinitely its two big annual political assemblies. Australia’s group of state and federal medical officers, convening daily, usually by phone hook-up, is the peak point of the pure medical advice, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC). No politicians sit in on their meetings.

[..] The medical officers’ “pandemic” call was a big moment. For a start, they were way ahead of the UN body that is supposedly the lead global agency on international health emergencies, the Geneva-based World Health Organisation. Why were the Australians ahead of the world? For a very simple reason. They don’t trust the WHO. The information from multiple international sources is that the WHO is under intense pressure from the Chinese government, and succumbing to it. The Australian Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, told the NSC that it was medically inexplicable that the WHO hadn’t already declared a global pandemic. It’s politics, in other words.

That’s why Australia had earlier forged ahead of the WHO in declaring the China travel ban, on February 1. It was, again, on the unanimous advice of the AHPPC. The travel ban was decided immediately after the US made the same call. Beijing instantly lashed both the US and Australia on that occasion – the Chinese Communist Party’s official mouthpiece, People’s Daily, calling it “racist”. But, of course, that decision now looks very wise, more so with each passing day. The WHO followed suit 10 days later. When Morrison announced the China travel ban four weeks ago, there were about 7000 infections disclosed by Beijing. By Thursday this week that number had ballooned to 78,000. The number of countries announcing travel bans has grown proportionately, and mostly they have acted too late.

In any case, the political manipulation of the WHO is nothing novel. It was slow to declare HIV-AIDS to be a pandemic in the 1980s because of intense political pressure. Then it was pressure from the US. Now it’s from China. Either way, the politics trumps the medical advice. So this week the AHPPC didn’t hesitate to act ahead of the Geneva-based outfit. And when the medical officers’ advice went to federal health minister, Greg Hunt, and to Morrison, they didn’t hesitate, either. Morrison convened a three-hour meeting of the National Security Committee of cabinet on Thursday morning. They discussed the unfolding evidence, reviewed the state of medical preparations, and made three key decisions.

[..] The Australian system for dealing with communicable diseases is less prone to politics. Morrison hid from the bushfires; he had no such option on the coronavirus. The Chief Medical Officer, Murphy, does not need the government’s permission to invoke the Biosecurity Act. He informed Health Minister Greg Hunt on January 20 that he was triggering the act, automatically setting in train a pre-ordained process of monitoring and advice. Hunt encouraged Murphy and the AHPPC to give the government the full, frank and unvarnished medical advice without any view to politics. And so far, Morrison and his NSC have respected the medical advice.

Read more …

One of multiple “hopeful” vaccine stories yesterday.

I said yesterday: “Note: they’re ‘adapting’ a vaccine (against an avian virus), not developing a new one”, and “Note 3: I’m not sure it’s the antibodies that do the harm nor that it’s the virus that uses them. The problem I think is a “cytokine storm”, in which the immune system causes the overproduction of immune cells (and their activating compounds – called cytokines), which then attack the host body.”

Israeli Scientists Claim To Be Weeks Away From Coronavirus Vaccine (NYPost)

Israeli researchers scrambling to develop a coronavirus vaccine say it could be ready in just three weeks – and available for use within 90 days, according to reports. The scientists at the Galilee Research Institute, known as MIGAL, are adapting its vaccine against the avian coronavirus infectious bronchitis virus, or IBV, to work for the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19, the Jerusalem Post reported. “Congratulations to MIGAL on this exciting breakthrough. I am confident that there will be further rapid progress, enabling us to provide a needed response to the grave global COVID-19 threat,” said Ofir Akunis, Israel’s minister of science and technology.

The independent research institute, which specializes in the fields of biotechnology, environmental sciences and agriculture, says on its website that its team “includes 80 PhDs and a total of 260 researchers distributed into 53 labs that are managed by seasoned senior group leaders.” Its vaccine for IBV, a bronchial illness that affects poultry, has already been proven in preclinical trials conducted at Israel’s Veterinary Institute, according to the news outlet. “Our basic concept was to develop the technology and not specifically a vaccine for this kind or that kind of virus,” said Dr. Chen Katz, MIGAL’s biotech group chief.

“The scientific framework for the vaccine is based on a new protein expression vector, which forms and secretes a chimeric soluble protein that delivers the viral antigen into mucosal tissues by self-activated endocytosis, causing the body to form antibodies against the virus,” he added.

Read more …

Children and caretakers.

A Big Coronavirus Mystery: What About The Children? (Harvard)

GAZETTE: You’ve been quoted you as saying you expect between 40 percent and 70 percent of humanity to be infected with this virus within a year. Is that still the case?

LIPSITCH: It is, but an important qualifier is that I expect 40 to 70 percent of adults to be infected. We just don’t understand whether children are getting infected at low rates or just not showing very strong symptoms. So I don’t want to make assumptions about children until we know more. That number also assumes that we don’t put in place effective, long-term countermeasures, like social distancing for months at a time which, I think, is a fair assumption. It may be that a few places like China can sustain it, but even China is beginning to let up.

GAZETTE: You mentioned children having been hit only lightly by this. What about other parts of the population? What do we know about the impact of this from a demographic standpoint?

LIPSITCH: It’s definitely the case that the older you are, the more at risk of getting infected you are and, if you get symptomatic infection, the more at risk of dying you are. Men also seem to be overrepresented among those getting severe illness. The reasons why are a really important research question. One thing that also needs to be looked at is the impact on health-care workers because they are at high risk of getting infected, and I would like to know whether they’re at higher risk of getting severe infection. Some of the anecdotal cases of young physicians dying make me wonder whether they’re exposed to a higher dose and that’s making them sicker.

[..] GAZETTE: What’s the most important unanswered question to your mind?

LIPSITCH: One of the most important unanswered questions is what role do children play in transmission? The go-to intervention in flu pandemic planning is closing schools, and that may be very effective or it may be totally ineffective. It’s a costly and disruptive thing to do, especially in the United States, because many people rely on school breakfast and lunch for nutrition. So we really need evidence that closing schools would help. We need detailed studies in households of children who are exposed to an infected person. We need to find out if the children get infected, if they shed virus, and if that virus is infectious.

Read more …

Michael Pettis tweets: “I understand that Chinese agriculture will be badly affected by Covid-19, and so I am not surprised that China will go ahead with planned agricultural imports. In fact I suspect they’ll actually increase them.”

China Will Meet US Trade Deal Ag Demands, But May Invoke Force Majeure (SCMP)

China will “definitely” honour its agricultural purchase commitments as part of its phase one trade deal signed with the United States in January, despite the coronavirus epidemic, a former senior Chinese government official said on Friday. Wei Jianguo, a former deputy minister responsible for foreign trade at the Ministry of Commerce, told a press conference organised by the government in Beijing that China was fully committed to the deal. However, the coronavirus outbreak that followed the signing of the deal in Washington may mean China has to invoke a force majeure clause in the trade deal with regard other planned purchases, “if some parts fail to happen”, Wei said, adding that Beijing will redouble its efforts to implement the deal “once the coronavirus epidemic is over”.


“China is fully able to complete the agreed amount of agricultural product imports [from the US],” Wei said, without mentioning purchases of non-agricultural products, such as manufactured goods and energy. Wei’s comments mark the first on-the-record confirmation from Beijing insiders that China has no plan to walk away from the trade deal because of the coronavirus epidemic, which has caused huge damage to its economy. It is also the latest suggestion, however, that China may look to a clause in the deal which states that both parties will enter consultations if “a natural disaster or other unforeseeable event outside the control of the parties delays a party from timely complying with its obligations”.

Read more …

How to sneakily invoke the idea that it’ll all soon be over.

China’s Consumers Will Not Rescue Economy When Outbreak Is Over (SCMP)

Around a third of Chinese consumers will not increase spending once the outbreak of coronavirus has been brought under control, a private survey has shown, challenging Beijing’s hope that consumer expenditure will quickly rebound to cover losses suffered amid the epidemic. China has repeatedly said that the impact of the coronavirus, which has infected over 78,000 people and killed over 2,700 in China alone, will be short-lived and that it is still on track to achieve its economic development goals in 2020. However, according to the online survey conducted by Rong360.com, a Beijing-based firm providing financial and credit information and products, 31.4 per cent of respondents said they would not increase consumer spending.


More importantly, nearly two thirds, or 64.4 per cent, said they would be more “restrained” in spending in the long term, while another 12.6 per cent said they would cut spending, with only 11 per cent saying they would increase expenditure. The remaining 12 per cent said they would keep their lifestyle unchanged. Spending on travel, pets, gifts and accessories would be among the first items to be cut, with around 30 per cent of the 1,000 respondents to the survey, which was conducted between February 11-17, saying they would reduce travel and entertainment. For short-term spending, 68.6 per cent of respondents said they would increase expenditure after the epidemic, especially on entertainment, cosmetics, catering, movies, massages, fitness and sportswear.

Read more …

And soon, so will Europe and America.

Southeast Asian Supply Chains Feel The Squeeze From Covid-19 (SCMP)

As countries brace themselves for the full economic impact of the virus, one country has its eye on the future. Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said the country had a two-pronged line of attack for dealing with the virus: a US$4.7 billion war chest to help companies and individuals through the economic storm, and a plan to ensure the city state would be first out of the gate towards full recovery. The plan involved having Singapore businesses re-examine their labour and material supply chains to “make sure that we’re never held to ransom by a single source or a single market”, Chan said at a meeting with business leaders on Wednesday. Singapore learned a similar lesson in 2007, when the construction sector – then reliant on Indonesia for 90 per cent of its sand – nearly came to a standstill after Indonesia banned sand exports to the republic.

With a new train line and the two integrated resorts in the works, the government released its national stockpile of sand to the market and bore 75 per cent of the price hike of sand for public projects. Since then, the government has made it mandatory for the sector to diversify its sources of sand. Chan said at the business meeting that the Singapore government wanted to delve deeper and examine where the suppliers of Singapore businesses got their raw material from. “We’re not just talking about the first layer of the supply chain, we’re even going into the second, third layer to look at where the components form that supply chain in order for us to have a really resilient supply chain for our respective businesses,” said Chan.

“If the supply chain breaks, even if it’s the smallest part, it disrupts the entire supply chain.” What is unclear is how much countries really can diversify their sourcing, given that China is the top supplier of intermediate goods for many countries. China’s size, broad-based supply chain, and infrastructure provisions made it an “unmissable market for most”, said Wiranto. Half of Vietnam’s imports come from China, Korea and Japan; almost half of Korea’s come from China, Japan and the United States; while over 20 per cent of Malaysia’s imports are from China. Raw materials aside, there is also a fear that the rapid spread of the coronavirus outside China will affect other supply chains. “Businesses might be looking at alternatives from Vietnam, but as the virus becomes more global over recent days, even supply chains which they thought are safe from interruptions could be disrupted,” said Song, the CIMB economist.

Read more …

Turkey’s actions threaten Greece. For now, neither NATO or the EU have taken Ankara’s side, but…

No More Kid Gloves (K.)

Facts on the ground change rapidly. Turkey’s President has been trapped in a huge quagmire exclusively of his own making. His embroiling Turkey in adventures abroad has turned into a boomerang. For the first time, his handling of the situation is openly questioned in Ankara itself. He seems to have no exit strategy. With his barefaced move to send crowds of migrants and refugees to the border with Greece, Erdogan has handed us a great diplomatic gift. Europeans finally understand that they have to deal with an unpredictable unreasonableness. But they are still groping for a response. Like the United States, they are afraid to “lose” Turkey, which, in turn, plays the usual haggling game with Moscow, Washington and Brussels, only this time with a strong dose of desperation.

How about Greece? The government is doing the right thing. It reminds Europe where its responsibilities lie and also shows that it will no longer be “business as usual.” National, and not political, reasons necessitate a different approach in dealing with the problem. When you face open blackmail and the open, undisguised use of the migration/refugee issue as a means to an end, you can no longer handle it with kid gloves. Some will take exception to this and recommend patience. The drama of the refugees is unspeakable, but no country should bear the burden alone. Especially a country bruised by a great crisis and which bears no responsibility for what has happened in Syria. Northern Europeans should grasp the gravity of the situation and stop facing the issue from the coziness of their sofas.

One last thing: this crisis is at its very beginning and could transmute into something else. Erdogan under pressure, including pressure from nationalists, can become even more unpredictable. A national consensus is imperative! It makes no sense to debate who is responsible for which things. The situation is critical.

Read more …

And Trump is right.

Barr Is Wrong On FISA Reforms (Turley)

Attorney General Bill Barr appears on a collision course with President Donald Trump over reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court. Civil libertarians like Sen Rand Paul (R., Tenn.) are pushing for reforms in light of the abuses uncovered from the Russian investigation. Despite my respect and friendship for Barr, he is wrong in my view and the President should push forward with the reforms. When President Trump declared “Now is our chance to fix it,” he is absolutely correct. Sen. Paul has indicated that the President is onboard with reforms, tweeing “Good talk with @realdonaldTrump yesterday and I’m pleased he is urging FISA reform NOW – and not a reauthorization of the current Patriot Act.”

I have long respected Sen. Paul’s fight for such reforms and I have been a long critic of FISA since I first went into that “court” as a young intern with the National Security Agency in the Reagan Administration. Such legislative reforms are even more pressing given the FISA court’s baffling decision to appoint a defender of the abusive use of the court as its “reformer.” Paul is pushing for limits on how the court can be used against Americans. They include modest limitations that would still allow robust surveillance, including mandatory and random audits of FISA applications by the Inspector General, ending the Call Detail Records program, mandatory disclosure of exculpatory evidence in FISA applications, and appointing amici in all “sensitive investigative matters” with access to all FISA court documents.

This includes dealing directly and honestly with the status of the controversial records program under Section 215, that gathers metadata on domestic text messages and phone calls. I am leery of efforts to again kick this can down the road with temporary extensions of existing authority. The FISA court was designed to circumvent the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of probable cause of a crime — using the term but making it little more than probable cause to suspect someone is working for a foreign power. That is why applications for surveillance are uniformly approved. The court has little real basis to deny such applications.

Read more …

Superdelegates revisited.

The Public Doesn’t Really Decide The Nominee (Turley)

As we have been discussing, establishment figures in the Democratic party and the media have been preparing to block any nomination of Bernie Sanders, including using the “superdelegates” to hand the nomination to another candidate. The New York Times reported Thursday that the Democratic establishment was preparing for open warfare over blocking Sanders, even if it shatters the unity of the party. If Sanders does not receive the necessary votes, they intend to take away the nomination even if he has the most votes in the first round. The key again are the superdelegates who are not elected in the primaries but given votes as elected officials. On MSNBC, former Obama adviser Anton J. Gunn was particularly blunt. He declared “The party decides its nominee. The public doesn’t really decide the nominee.”

In 2016, many of us objected to the concerted effect of the Democratic establishment and the Democratic National Committee to rig the primary for Hillary Clinton. Later it was revealed that the Clintons have largely taken over the DNC by taking over its debt and the DNC openly harassed and hampered Sanders at every stage. Despite this effort, Sanders came close to beating Clinton, who has never forgiven him for contesting a primary that she literally bought and paid for with the DNC. The simmering rage was still evident in Clinton’s attack on Sanders and suggestion that she might not support him if he were the nominee (a suggestion that she later took back). Well the supers are back and Sanders may again find that it is the party elite, not the voters, who determine who will be the next nominee.

The irony is that the elite hardly has an inspiring record. In 2016, every poll showed that voters did not want an establishment figure so the establishment rigged the process for the ultimate establishment figure. Clinton lost to the most unpopular Republican candidate in history. I remain convinced that Sanders could have won that election, a position recently suggested by Michael Bloomberg. Yet, the same people that gave us the Clinton nomination will be working their magic again at the Democratic Convention. What is fascinating is that the establishment would prefer to risk the election by alienating the huge young following of Sanders rather than allow Sanders to be the nominee. If they give the nomination to another establishment figures like Biden or a billionaire like Bloomberg, the establishment would enrage millions of Sanders followers who could well stay home in 2020.

Read more …

Two claims: A) that Assange’s work is not political, and B) that nothing in the law applies even if it were.

The Only Questions That Should Matter In The Assange Extradition Battle (SMH)

Murray’s account contains some astonishing observations. On day one, he says, the US prosecutor, James Lewis QC, explicitly addressed his opening remarks “not to the court but to the media”. This is unprecedented. In this address, says Murray, Lewis explicitly denied that the espionage charges against Assange also threatened mainstream media like The Guardian and The New York Times. Later under questioning from the magistrate, Murray says, Lewis changed his mind and admitted that yes, they would be affected, but this part of his remarks was not offered to the media (who might well find such assertions alarming).


On day two, Assange’s defence, Edward Fitzgerald QC, said the prosecution must prove three things: that Assange had helped Manning decode a hash key necessary to hack classified material, that Assange had solicited the material from Manning and that he had knowingly put lives at risk. There is, said Fitzgerald, no evidence on any of these counts, some of which were disproved in Manning’s court-martial. And the prosecution has admitted it cannot prove harm. But even that is not the point. No one should be arguing the substantive case here. For now, the questions are; is this a political crime? Should Assange receive a fair trial? Does anyone believe he’ll get one in Trump’s America? And do we really think, given his poor health, he would survive prison there? The answers have to be yes, yes, no and, resoundingly, no.

Read more …

The hearing resumes only in March?!

“During Lewis’s presentation, he was interrupted by Judge Baraitser precisely once. During Fitzgerald’s reply, Baraitser interjected seventeen times.”

Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day Four (Craig Murray)

Yesterday the prosecution continued its argument that the provision in the 2007 UK/US Extradition Treaty that bars extradition for political offences is a dead letter, and that Julian Assange’s objectives are not political in any event. James Lewis QC for the prosecution spoke for about an hour, and Edward Fitzgerald QC replied for the defence for about the same time. During Lewis’s presentation, he was interrupted by Judge Baraitser precisely once. During Fitzgerald’s reply, Baraitser interjected seventeen times. In the transcript, those interruptions will not look unreasonable: “Could you clarify that for me Mr Fitzgerald…” “So how do you cope with Mr Lewis’s point that…” “But surely that’s a circular argument… “But it’s not incorporated, is it?…”


All these and the other dozen interruptions were designed to appear to show the judge attempting to clarify the defence’s argument in a spirit of intellectual testing. But if you heard the tone of Baraitser’s voice, saw her body language and facial expressions, it was anything but. The false picture a transcript might give is exacerbated by the courtly Fitzgerald’s continually replying to each obvious harassment with “Thank you Madam, that is very helpful”, which again if you were there, plainly meant the opposite. But what a transcript will helpfully nevertheless show was the bully pulpit of Baraitser’s tactic in interrupting Fitzgerald again and again and again, belittling his points and very deliberately indeed preventing him from getting into the flow of his argument. The contrast in every way with her treatment of Lewis could not be more pronounced.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Dec 182019
 
 December 18, 2019  Posted by at 10:09 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


NPC Skating night, Washington DC 1919

 

White House Counsel Didn’t Take Lead On Trump Letter To Pelosi (Hill)
Donald Trump’s Letter To Nancy Pelosi (ZH)
Pelosi Calls Trump Impeachment Letter ‘Ridiculous’ And ‘Really Sick’ (Hill)
The Bee Explains: Impeachment (Babylon Bee)
FISA Court Slams FBI, Says Worried About ‘Other Warrants’ (ZH)
McConnell Wants Quick Impeachment Dismissal Vote: ‘We’ve Heard Enough’ (WE)
Lisa Page Responds To ‘Vile’ Trump Attacks (Hill) /span>
Latvian Government Flagged ‘Suspicious’ Hunter Biden Payments In 2016 (Solomon)
House Approves $1.4 Trillion Spending Deal To Avert Shutdown (R.)
Germany’s Spiegel Brushes Off Browder’s Complaint About Magnitsky Story (RT)
Newsweek Trusts Bellingcat More Than Reuters – Journalist Who Quit (RT)
UK Goverment Plans To Ban Boycotting Israel (MPN)

 

 

On the day the House is supposed to hold its impeachment vote, it’s inevitable much of the news is about just that, especially after a 6-page letter from Trump to Pelosi was published on Tuesday. First, the involvement of White House counsel leads to some confusion.

White House Counsel Didn’t Take Lead On Trump Letter To Pelosi (Hill)

White House lawyers did not take the lead on President Trump’s scathing letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday in which he accused Democrats of “interfering in America’s elections” with their impeachment efforts, according to multiple reports. The New York Times reported that the process for the letter was led by Eric Ueland, the director of the Office of Legislative Affairs, who was joined by policy adviser Stephen Miller and Michael Williams, an adviser to acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.


White House counsel Pat Cipollone wasn’t involved in drafting the letter, the Times reported, while Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs tweeted Tuesday night that Cipollone was “aware” of the letter “from beginning.” An official told CNN that the White House counsel’s office had reviewed the letter but didn’t take the lead on it. ABC News’s Katherine Faulders also tweeted that the counsel’s office put forth edits to the missive, while ABC’s Jonathan Karl reported that White House lawyers were largely cut out of the process.

Read more …

The letter itself: I picked a part where Trump talks about all the calls for impeachment from day one of his presidency, way before the reason the Dems give for the impeachment, the call with Zelensky, ever took place. But do read the whole thing, please.

Donald Trump’s Letter To Nancy Pelosi (ZH)

Dear Madam Speaker: I write to express my strongest and most powerful protest against the partisan impeachment crusade being pursued by the Democrats in the House of Representatives. This impeachment represents an unprecedented and unconstitutional abuse of power by Democrat Lawmakers, unequaled in nearly two and a half centuries of American legislative history. The Articles of Impeachment introduced by the House Judiciary Committee are not recognizable under any standard of Constitutional theory, interpretation, or jurisprudence. They include no crimes, no misdemeanors, and no offenses whatsoever. You have cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!

[..] Speaker Pelosi, you admitted just last week at a public forum that your party’s impeachment effort has been going on for “two and a half years,” long before you ever heard about a phone call with Ukraine. Nineteen minutes after I took the oath of office, the Washington Post published a story headlined, “The Campaign to Impeach President Trump Has Begun.” Less than three months after my inauguration, Representative Maxine Waters stated, “I’m going to fight every day until he’s impeached.” House Democrats introduced the first impeachment resolution against me within months of my inauguration, for what will be regarded as one of our country’s best decisions, the firing of James Comey (see Inspector General Reports)—who the world now knows is one of the dirtiest cops our Nation has ever seen.

A ranting and raving Congresswoman, Rashida Tlaib, declared just hours after she was sworn into office, “We’re gonna go in there and we’re gonna impeach the motherf’***r.” Representative Al Green said in May, -I’m concerned that if we don’t impeach this president, he will get re-elected.” Again, you and your allies said, and did, all of these things long before you ever heard of President Zelensky or anything related to Ukraine. As you know very well, this impeachment drive has nothing to do with Ukraine, or the totally appropriate conversation I had with its new president. It only has to do with your attempt to undo the election of 2016 and steal the election of 2020!

Congressman Adam Schiff cheated and lied all the way up to the present day, even going so far as to fraudulently make up, out of thin air, my conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine and read this fantasy language to Congress as though it were said by me. His shameless lies and deceptions, dating all the way back to the Russia Hoax, is one of the main reasons we are here today.

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Really sick? Why would she say something like that? To imitate Trump?

Pelosi Calls Trump Impeachment Letter ‘Ridiculous’ And ‘Really Sick’ (Hill)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday derided President Trump’s scathing letter urging her to halt the impeachment proceedings as “ridiculous” and “really sick.” Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill that she had not gotten the opportunity to read the full letter, which accused Democrats of waging an “unconstitutional abuse of power” by moving forward with an impeachment vote over Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. “I’ve seen the essence of it, though, and it’s really sick,” Pelosi said as she walked through the halls of Congress. The Democratic-controlled House is prepared to vote on Wednesday on two articles of impeachment charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Nearly every Democratic lawmaker is expected to vote in favor of the impeachment articles, which are based on an inquiry largely focused on allegations that Trump urged the Ukrainian president to open politically beneficial investigations.


In anticipation of the vote, Trump sent a six-page letter to Pelosi imploring her and her Democratic colleagues to “immediately cease this impeachment fantasy.” The expansive letter attempts to turn the tables on Democrats, accusing the party’s lawmakers of engaging in the type of conduct they have alleged of Trump. Echoing language he’s used before, Trump called Democrats’ efforts “nothing more than an illegal, partisan attempted coup.” “You are not just after me, as President, you are after the entire Republican Party,” Trump wrote. “You are the ones interfering in America’s election. You are the ones subverting America’s Democracy. You are the ones Obstructing Justice,” he added. “You are the ones bringing pain and suffering to our Republic for your own selfish personal, political, and partisan gain.”

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Good stuff from the Bee: “Democrats don’t get the big prize, but they each get a complimentary copy of Impeachment: The Board Game.”

The Bee Explains: Impeachment (Babylon Bee)

What is impeachment? It’s the official, constitutional method for screaming at the sky because Trump is president.

Why is Trump being impeached? Trump has committed some very serious offenses, from not being a Democrat to being a Republican. He also won the 2016 election, which rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors. He also restored the celebration of Christmas after eight years of winter with no Christmas under Obama. This drove Dems up a wall so they drummed up some charges against him.

Why didn’t Democrats include any criminal offenses in the articles of impeachment? There were just so many of them, it was hard to pick one. So, instead of laying out actually impeachable offenses, the Democrats summarized it all with two main articles of impeachment: 1.) Trump is president. 2.) TRUMP IS PRESIDENT.

What does it take to remove the president from office? Faith, trust, and pixie dust.

Will Trump be removed from office? Lol.

If we believe in ourselves and try hard, and Trump is removed, Hillary Clinton becomes president, right? Actually, Mike Pence would become president, basically making the United States into a Handmaid’s Tale-style dystopia.

What happens if Trump is impeached in the House but acquitted in the Senate? Democrats don’t get the big prize, but they each get a complimentary copy of Impeachment: The Board Game.

Once the House votes to officially impeach President Trump, what happens next? Trump wins the 2020 election.

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They feel (ab)used.

FISA Court Slams FBI, Says Worried About ‘Other Warrants’ (ZH)

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court slammed the FBI on Tuesday in a rare public statement over the agency’s handling of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page’s warrant application and subsequent renewals, according to the Wall Street Journal. “In order to appreciate the seriousness of that misconduct and its implications, it is useful to understand certain procedural and substantive requirements that apply to the government’s conduct of electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes,” reads the statement.


The punchline: “The FBI’s handling of the Carter Page applications, as portrayed in the OIG report, was antithetical to the hieghtned duty of candor” required by federal investigators, adding “The frequency with which representations made by FBI personnel turned out to be unsupported or contradicted by information in their possession, and with which they withheld information detrimental to their case, calls into question whether information contained in other FBI applications is reliable,” wrote the court, which called the recent watchdog report from the DOJ’s Inspector General “troubling.” The court ordered the government, by January 10, 2020, to explain what steps it’s was taking to prevent such lapses in the future.

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Stop the circus? But the GOP can call a hundred witnesses.

McConnell Wants Quick Impeachment Dismissal Vote: ‘We’ve Heard Enough’ (WE)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he believes the Senate should vote quickly to dismiss two impeachment charges against President Trump and avoid “an embarrassing scene” in the chamber. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, told Fox News Radio he did not support “a show trial” and believes the Senate “ought to vote and move on” after Democrats present their case and the president’s lawyers respond. The Senate will have to make a decision after hearing the opening arguments from both sides, he said.


“Have we learned enough after listening to all of this to go on and vote on the two very weak articles of impeachment?” McConnell said. “Or do we have a show trial in which both sides try to embarrass the other and put on an embarrassing scene, frankly, for the American people? Obviously, I think we’ve heard enough.” The Senate is poised to take up two impeachment articles in January. Democrats want to subpoena several current and former Trump administration officials, but McConnell rejected their proposal. Democrats oppose GOP witness proposals.

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Lisa Page as the victim feels strange. Her anti-Trump mails are public. So, yeah, go on Maddow.

Lisa Page Responds To ‘Vile’ Trump Attacks (Hill) /span>

Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page spoke out late Tuesday about how she has been treated, including by President Trump, since her texts with former agent Peter Strzok became public, saying she realized that “being quiet isn’t making this go away.” Page spoke with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow about a week after the Justice Department’s inspector general released the findings of its probe into the bureau’s handling of its investigation into Trump campaign associates in 2016. The long-awaited report sharply criticized the FBI over its handling of applications to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser, but undercut a GOP talking point in finding that the probe was not motivated by political bias.


Page called the inspector general’s findings “two years too late.” “It won’t make a difference and it’s two years too late,” she said on MSNBC. “[Investigators] realized what I’ve known from the beginning which is that my personal views had no impact on the course of either investigation” “Two days later, you see Lindsey Graham in the Senate spend 40 minutes reading text messages again,” she added. “These are three years old. They’ve been described as immaterial ultimately by the inspector general and yet we’re still talking about them.”

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Ukraine is often labeled one of the three most corrupt nations in the world. Do realize what it takes to reach that spot.

Latvian Government Flagged ‘Suspicious’ Hunter Biden Payments In 2016 (Solomon)

As the U.S. presidential race began roaring to life in 2016, authorities in the former Soviet republic of Latvia flagged a series of “ suspicious” financial transactions to Hunter Biden and other colleagues at a Ukrainian natural gas company and sought Kiev’s help investigating, according to documents and interviews. The Feb. 18, 2016 alert to Ukraine came from the Latvian prosecutorial agency responsible for investigating money laundering, and it specifically questioned whether Vice President Joe Biden’s younger son and three other officials at Burisma Holdings were the potential beneficiaries of suspect funds.

“The Office for Prevention of Laundering of Proceeds Derived from Criminal Activity … is currently investigating suspicious activity of Burisma Holdings Limited,” the Latvian agency also known as the FIU wrote Ukraine’s financial authorities. The memo was released to me by the Ukrainian General Prosecutor’s Office and confirmed by the Latvian embassy to the United States. Latvian authorities said they did not get any incriminating information back from Ukraine to warrant further investigation and did not take additional action in 2016. But the memo adds to the mounting evidence that there was ongoing investigative activity surrounding Burisma Holdings and Hunter Biden’s compensation as a board member in the weeks just before Joe Biden forced the firing of the Ukraine prosecutor overseeing the Burisma investigation in spring 2016.

The Latvian law enforcement memo identified a series of loan payments totaling about $16.6 million that were routed from companies in Beliz and the United Kingdom to Burisma through Ukraine’s PrivatBank between 2012 and 2015. The flagged funds were “partially transferred” to Hunter Biden, a board member at Burisma since May 2014, and three other officials working for the Ukrainian natural gas company, the Latvian memo said. Arturs Saburovs, the Third Secretary at the Latvian embassy in Washington, confirmed his country flagged the transactions in February 2016 after seeing public reports that Burisma was under investigation in Ukraine and that Hunter Biden served on the company’s board. He said Latvia did not receive any evidence back from Ukraine to further its investigation.

[..] On Feb. 2, 2016, the Ukraine prosecutor general’s office secured a court order to re-seize the assets of Burisma Holdings founder Mykola Zlochevsky. Officers went to the home, placed seizure notices and took items from the home that included a luxury car, officials said. About two weeks later, the Latvian suspicious financial transactions memo was transmitted to Ukrainian authorities. And then in late February, according to U.S. documents recently released under the Freedom of Information Act, Burisma’s American representatives pressed the U.S. State Department to try to help end the corruption allegations against the company. By mid-March 2016, State’s top official for Ukraine policy publicly called for Shokin’s ouster, and less than three weeks later Joe Biden managed to force Ukraine’s president to fire Shokin by threatening to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees.

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“Trump’s “Space Force,” the first new branch of the U.S. military to be created in more than 60 years.”

House Approves $1.4 Trillion Spending Deal To Avert Shutdown (R.)

The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a $1.4 trillion spending package to avert a partial government shutdown that also would raise the U.S. tobacco purchasing age to 21 and permanently repeal several of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) taxes. The spending package now heads to the Senate, where lawmakers aim to approve it before current government funding runs out on Saturday, avoiding the type of messy budget battle that resulted in a record 35-day interruption of government services late last year and early this year. The legislation, worked out between leading lawmakers and the Trump administration, denies President Donald Trump the full $5 billion he requested to help build his signature wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, keeping funding static at $1.37 billion for border barriers.


White House spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway said Trump is nevertheless expected to sign the $1.4 trillion bill this week. “He’s very happy with what he’s learned the final contents are expected to be,” Conway told reporters at the White House. The crackdown on youth smoking, by changing the minimum age for cigarettes, vaping devices and other tobacco purchases to 21 from the current 18, would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration six months to develop regulations. The agency would then have three years to work with states on implementing the change. The largest expenditure in the bill is for the Department of Defense, which would get a total of $738 billion for this year, $22 billion more than last year. As part of that defense package, the Senate on Tuesday authorized the creation of Trump’s “Space Force,” the first new branch of the U.S. military to be created in more than 60 years.

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So much hangs on the Magnitsky narrative, you’re not supposed to criticize it.

Germany’s Spiegel Brushes Off Browder’s Complaint About Magnitsky Story (RT)

British investor Bill Browder has lashed out at Der Spiegel weekly by accusing it of distorting the story of the death of his auditor Sergey Magnitsky. The outlet maintains it is Browder who has some questions to answer. Der Spiegel published an investigative bombshell last month, detailing various flaws in the story about Magnitsky’s death that Browder – a US-born investor who became Russian President Vladimir Putin’s self-proclaimed “enemy number one” – used to convince Western governments to impose sanctions against Russian officials over supposedly endemic human rights violations. In his narrative, Browder portrayed the late auditor as a courageous whistleblower, who was heinously and deliberately killed by the Russian authorities in a bid to silence him.

Following a rigorous analysis of a trove of documents linked to the auditor’s death in 2009, including some materials published by Browder’s own people, Der Spiegel’s Benjamin Bidder concluded that significant parts of this story were not actually true. Magnitsky has never been a whistleblower, and he was not a victim of murder, although he did suffer “terrible injustice,” the reporter concluded. He went on to say that Western governments, including those in Washington, Ottawa and London, apparently fell for a “convenient” narrative perpetuated by the man he described as a “fraudster.” What followed was a swift – and angry – reaction from the investor, who made a name for himself in the West through spreading this story and relentlessly lobbying for sanctions against Russia.

Der Spiegel has confirmed that the apparently infuriated investor “has now gone public with his complaints about the Spiegel story in the form of a letter to the news magazine’s editor-in-chief.” Browder did not stop at that and promptly filed a complaint with the German Press Council – a monitoring organization formed by major German publishers and journalistic associations.[..] Yet, Der Spiegel, one of Germany’s major news media outlets, is refusing to be intimidated. In a lengthy piece dealing with the incident, it brushed off the investor’s complaints as having “no basis.”

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Bellingcat: February 2020, MH17.

Newsweek Trusts Bellingcat More Than Reuters – Journalist Who Quit (RT)

Blind trust in controversial ‘citizen investigation’ outlet Bellingcat prompted Newsweek editors to drop a report on the latest OPCW leaks, the author of the piece who resigned from the magazine after the incident told RT. Tareq Haddad announced his resignation from Newsweek last week, accusing the magazine of “suppressing” his attempt to report on a leaked email casting doubts on the results of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) investigation into an April 2018 chemical attack in Douma, Syria, which allegedly killed dozens of civilians. The OPCW sent a fact-finding mission to the site, which pinned the blame for the attack on Damascus.

While witnesses who later spoke in the Hague said the White Helmets’ video of the attack was staged. Haddad also issued a scathing rebuke to the Newsweek – and Western journalism in general – by accusing it of siding with the American warmongers to promote the US wars and obscure the truth. Now he also revealed to RT that it was the editorial board’s quite peculiar pick of trustworthy sources that gave a rise to the whole issue in the first place. Haddad first approached his editors with an OPCW leaks story pitch, citing an opinion piece by Peter Hitchens in The Mail on Sunday. “The fact that another British journalist has published it in a reputable publication, I thought, was more than enough for Newsweek to be able to do that,” he told RT.

The editors simply discarded this idea by calling Hitchens – a man Haddad describes as an “accomplished journalist [working] for more than 12 years” – not trustworthy enough. Instead, they referred him to a Bellingcat article supposedly debunking the whole leak story.

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“..an executive order signed by President Trump that reclassifies Judaism as a race and nationality as opposed to a religion..”

I don’t think you can “Declare” a new race by executive order, just because it’s politically convenient. You leave that to science.

UK Goverment Plans To Ban Boycotting Israel (MPN)

Following the results of the recent UK election, the victorious Conservative party has now declared their intention to make it illegal for public institutions in the country to support non-violent boycotts of the state of Israel in any capacity. On Sunday, the UK Special Envoy for post-Holocaust matters, Lord Eric Pickles, gave a speech in Jerusalem at the International Institute for Strategic Dialogue conference, where he made the Conservatives’ motives clear. Pickles, whose speech garnered “rapturous applause” from conference attendees, stated that the public sector would soon be banned from associating in any way with the Boycott Divest Sanctions (BDS) movement, which uses non-violent means to pressure Israel to follow international law with regards to its military occupation of Palestine and blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The coming ban, as described by Pickles, is set to prohibit government bodies and organizations from supporting BDS in any fashion, which would also prevent them from employing or working with anyone who supports boycotting the Israeli state. Pickles went on to say the reason for the ban is that BDS itself is anti-Semitic (despite BDS having numerous Jewish supporters), stating: “BDS is anti-Semitic, and should be treated as such. Anti-Semitism is an attack on the British way of life and British identity. Without our Jewish citizens, we would be a lesser nation.” Notably, Pickles is also the parliamentary chairman of the U.K. pro-Israel lobby group, Conservative Friends of Israel.

Pickles also made it clear that he conflates Judaism with Zionism, a move that was recently made law in the United States through an executive order signed by President Trump that reclassifies Judaism as a race and nationality as opposed to a religion. Regarding his personal support for Israel, Pickles did not mention Judaism at all, instead championing Zionism and Israel’s ability to “defend its borders.” He referred to himself as “an unapologetic, unreformed Zionist,” before adding that “Israel exists because it can defend its borders, and its people. It is the only place in this region in which governments are elected. It is a civilized, decent place and I’m very proud it exists.” Pickles has previously called Israel a “bastion of democracy.” Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, a long-time activist for Palestinian rights, had been targeted by a massive and relentless smear campaign in the UK, Israel and U.S. media as anti-Semitic for his criticisms of Israel’s government. Pickles’ speech alluded to this effort by asserting that the recent election was essentially a national referendum on anti-Semitism.

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Dec 162019
 
 December 16, 2019  Posted by at 10:48 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »


Dorothea Lange Water supply in squatter camp near Calipatria CA 1937

 

An Apology to Carter Page (Jonathan Turley)
James Comey Admits He Was Wrong for Defending FBI’s FISA Process (ET)
‘You Need Rehabilitation’: Nunes Letter Dismantles Schiff (ZH)
Schiff Wants Witnesses, Documents Introduced In Senate Impeachment Trial (CNN)
Schumer Wants Mulvaney, Bolton, Others To Testify In Impeachment Trial (R.)
Is A Trap Being Set For Trump In The Senate Trial? (MacKinnon)
Democrats Can Read Minds (Attkisson)
Eric Holder Reveals Deep State Running Scared – Kevin Shipp (USAW)
Former Spy Details Israel’s Main Motive Behind Recruiting Epstein (Webb)
China Must Buy Crazy Amount Of Farm Goods To Meet Phase One Deal Demand (CNBC)
China Races To Destroy Records On Uighur Muslim Detention Camps (AP)
Boeing Nears Decision On Cutting Or Even Halting 737 MAX Production (CNBC)

 

 

Long overdue.

An Apology to Carter Page (Jonathan Turley)

After he was acquitted in a major fraud trial, former Labor Secretary Ray Donovan asked, “Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?” The trial was ruinous for Donovan, personally and financially, and the question was a fair one. Donovan, however, at least received a trial. Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page has never been given a fair hearing, let alone a trial, to clear his name. As the two political parties spin the results of a report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, one matter remains unaddressed. Someone needs to apologize to Page.

I do not know Page and have had only one conversation with him that I can recall. Indeed, my only impression of him was shaped by the image, repeated in endless media segments, of a shady character who was at worst a Russian spy and at best a Russian stooge. Page became the face and focus for the justification of the Russia collusion investigation. His manifest guilt and sinister work in Moscow had to be accepted in order to combat those questioning the allegations of Trump campaign collusion with the Russians. In other words, his guilt had to be indisputable in order for the Russia collusion investigation to be, so to speak, unimpeachable.

Ultimately, special counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of collusion or conspiracy by Trump associates or the campaign with those Russians intervening in the election. However, Horowitz found that the FBI never had any real evidence against Page before beginning its investigation, codenamed Operation Crossfire Hurricane. Soon after the investigation was opened, it became clear that Page had been wrongly accused and was, in fact, working for the CIA, not the Russians. Page himself later said he was working with the CIA, yet the media not only dismissed his claim but was very openly dismissive while portraying him as a bumbling fool.

Read more …

Comey feels sure he’ll get away with it. After all, he’s already left the FBI. But John Durham is still digging.

James Comey Admits He Was Wrong for Defending FBI’s FISA Process (ET)

Former FBI Director James Comey admitted fault following last week’s Justice Department Inspector General’s report that detailed at least 17 serious errors during the launch of the agency’s investigation into Trump’s campaign. Comey had previously defended the FBI’s use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) courts during the investigation, but Inspector General Michael Horowitz found that the FBI’s investigative team made errors and omissions when applying for a warrant to surveil Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide. Horowitz, in a Senate hearing, criticized the “entire chain of command” at the FBI and Justice Department for their failures in handling the warrant. Comey was in charge of the FBI when the investigation was launched.

“He’s right, I was wrong,” Comey told “Fox News Sunday” about how the FBI used the FISA system, adding that “I was overconfident as director in our procedures.” Horowitz said the FBI’s investigation into Russian election interference and alleged connections to the Trump campaign was properly initiated, but he said there is a “low threshold” for that to happen. In the report, the inspector general said there was no documentary or testimonial evidence implying that the investigation was started due to political bias. However, when he was prodded about the bias claim during the Senate hearing, Horowitz didn’t rule it out. During a line of questioning, Horowitz replied to Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), “I think it’s fair for people to sit there and look at all of these 17 events and wonder how it could be purely incompetence.” He also said that he “agrees completely” with the assertion that someone at the FBI needs to be fired. The “culture” also needs to be “changed” at the FBI, he told senators.

[..] A number of FBI officials directly involved in preparing and signing the FISA warrants have all either left or been fired from the bureau, including Comey, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, and Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok. Comey told the news outlet that Steele’s work was “not a huge part of the presentation to the court,” but he noted that “it was the one that convinced the lawyers” to move forward on the warrant. The former FBI chief claimed the Bureau didn’t intentionally commit wrongdoing, but he said there was “real sloppiness” at the FBI. “I was responsible for this,” he said. In 2018, Comey told MSNBC that the FISA process is “incredibly rigorous” and criticized Republicans of the Page FISA warrant for trying to interject politics into the process. And after the IG report was released on Dec. 6, Comey said the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s campaign “was just good people trying to protect America.”

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The most vilified Nunes was fully “rehabilitated” by Horowitz. He now calls for an intervention on Schiff. He should call for his resignation.

‘You Need Rehabilitation’: Nunes Letter Dismantles Schiff (ZH)

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) has written perhaps the most brutal ‘I told ya so’ letter in recent memory to Adam Schiff, his Democratic rival and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. After last week’s Inspector General report on FBI FISA abuse revealed Schiff was peddling lies to the American public in a February, 2018 ‘counter-memo’ to Nunes’s now-proven claims, Schiff passed the buck – telling Fox News host Chris Wallace on Sunday that he was ‘unaware’ of certain things uncovered by the IG – while failing to admit he’s been dead wrong on an ongoing basis about a number of things. Nunes isn’t letting this go.

In a Sunday letter, he reminded Schiff that “The IG’s findings of pervasive, major abuses by the FBI dramatically contradict the assertions of your memo released on February 24, 2018, in which you claimed, “FBI and DOJ officials did not ‘abuse’ the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process, omit material information, or subvert this vital tool to spy on the Trump Campaign.” Schiff is in clear “need of rehabilitiation,” continues Nunes, adding “I hope this letter will serve as the first step in that vital process.” “Outlining every false claim from your memo would require an extremely long letter,” Nunes continues, who then lists several key claims made by Schiff which ‘the IG report has exposed as false.’

[..] Nunes then calls out Schiff for defending Steele, who peddled his discredited, Clinton-funded dossier to the media six weeks before the 2016 US election. “As you know, your misguided validation of the FISA warrant was part of a years-long pattern in which you touted Christopher Steele’s credentials and reliability,” writes Nunes. “For example, during this committee’s March 20, 2017 open hearing, you claimed Steele “is reportedly held in high regard by U.S. Intelligence.” and proceeded to read into the congressional record numerous conspiracy theories proffered by Steele, all of which are false.”

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Who is Schiff to call for witnesses in the Senate? That‘s not his theater. Schiff must resign, like Comey if the latter still could. Schiff now says his endless former claims of “damning evidence” were made before certain facts had come to light.

That means he’s been making it up. That means he’s been lying all along. That means his claims were entirely false. He’s way past his best by date. But he should certainly be called to testify in the Senate. Under oath, which he never was in the House.

Schiff Wants Witnesses, Documents Introduced In Senate Impeachment Trial (CNN)

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff on Sunday said he would like for some witnesses to be called during the expected Senate impeachment trial against President Donald Trump and for withheld administration documents to be introduced as evidence. “I think there are any number of witnesses that should be called in the Senate trial, and many witnesses the American people would like to hear from that the administration has refused to make available,” Schiff told ABC’s “This Week.” “And perhaps of equal and if not greater importance are the thousands and thousands of documents that the administration refuses to turn over. I would hope that every senator of both parties would like to see the documentary evidence.”

The California Democrat’s remarks come ahead of an expected House floor vote this week after the House Judiciary Committee on Friday approved articles of impeachment against the President. The full House vote will set up the Senate trial, for which senators are now gearing up Schiff, who has been mentioned as a possible House impeachment manager, said the potential witnesses he has in mind are ones who have refused to talk to House impeachment investigators: Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, former national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The layout of the Senate trial is still under deliberation and leaders have been clear that no final decisions about strategy or structure have been made, but in interviews over the last several days, GOP senators say they are beginning to see the benefit of keeping the process short, leaving out witnesses and instead, simply laying out the facts with a presentation from House managers and the White House. “I would urge Mitch McConnell to start negotiating with Chuck Schumer to make sure that those senators have a full record,” Schiff said. “So far Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer have not started discussions about the outlines of the rules that will govern a trial.”

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The Dems refused for the GOP to call its witnesses in the House. But now is different?

Schumer Wants Mulvaney, Bolton, Others To Testify In Impeachment Trial (R.)

U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer proposed in a letter released on Sunday that at least four witnesses including acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton be subpoenaed to testify in the expected impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. In the letter to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Schumer proposed that Mulvaney and Bolton be subpoenaed for the trial expected in January along with a Mulvaney adviser, Robert Blair, and a budget official, Michael Duffey.


[..] Schumer said the witnesses he proposed had “direct knowledge of Administration decisions” related to the charges. He said he would be open to additional witnesses, and proposed subpoenas be issued for some documents from the administration. A spokesman for McConnell said: “Leader McConnell has made it clear he plans to meet with Leader Schumer to discuss the contours of a trial soon. That timeline has not changed.” McConnell has raised the prospect of conducting a short trial without calling any witnesses.

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“He is not part of the club. He is not one of us. He can’t be controlled.”

Is A Trap Being Set For Trump In The Senate Trial? (MacKinnon)

In a speech to the American Enterprise Institute in October, former governor and U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley put her finger on the greater issue, saying in part, “President Trump is a disruptor. That makes some people very happy, and it makes some people very mad. … When I was in the administration, I served alongside colleagues who believed the best thing to do for America was to undermine and obstruct the president. Some wrote about it anonymously in The New York Times. Others just did it. They sincerely believed they were doing the right thing. I sincerely believed they weren’t. … No policy disagreement with him … justifies undermining the lawful authority that is vested in his office by the Constitution.”

What’s at stake, Haley said, “is not President Trump’s policies. What’s at stake is the Constitution.” She is correct, but does all of this go beyond Trump being a disruptor? As we have witnessed, Trump is being opposed, called out and undermined through leaks by multiple anonymous and named sources from the “deep state,” his own National Security Council, former White House staff, former and current Pentagon, State Department and diplomatic officials, members of Congress and their staffs, and basically every other agency within the federal government. There appears to be a common thread that runs through all of this opposition and stated hatred: “He is not part of the club. He is not one of us. He can’t be controlled.”

The unrelenting opposition to Trump is not based on the fictional quid pro quo with Ukraine’s president but rather a desperate need by the entrenched establishment from both political parties to maintain the status quo of their all-powerful club — aka part of the “swamp” Trump sought to drain. For Trump to be convicted in a Senate trial, 20 Republican senators would have to join forces with the 47 Democrats. We should not worry about those who openly dislike Trump, such as Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Susan Collins (R-Maine) or Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska); we should worry about those in the purple states, who face tough reelection fights in 2020, and those who have continually criticized and demeaned the president in private.

Read more …

Stating the very very obvious: it’s all been about opinion and interpretation. Not a ground for impeachment.

Democrats Can Read Minds (Attkisson)

Democrats say, what Trump held out as leverage — a quid pro quo — was U.S. taxpayer-funded military aid to Ukraine. They say people died while Ukraine waited for this critical aid, and that it was released only when Trump realized he was in trouble and under investigation. And finally, they say Trump held up a White House meeting with the Ukrainian president until he would commit to announcing an investigation into Biden, in a very public interview with CNN. It’s bribery. Treason. Impeachable. The issue I have is that to prove their points, Democrats require us to believe they can read minds. President Trump said nothing about a quid pro quo during the phone call in question. He didn’t threaten to hold up aid or a White House meeting. But Democrats say that’s exactly what he meant.

President Trump didn’t make any expressions of demands in the call. But Democrats say that’s what he meant. President Trump didn’t mention the 2020 election or political dirt on the call. He spoke of getting to the bottom of any 2016 foreign election interference under the Obama administration, as Democrats and Republicans have pressed him to do. On the call, Trump spoke of his desire for Ukraine to investigate corruption and whether the Bidens may be connected to any of it. This, said Trump, particularly concerned Joe Biden’s public admission that he demanded a Ukrainian prosecutor be fired and threatened to hold up U.S. taxpayer-funded aid unless it happened within hours. (Biden says the prosecutor wasn’t working hard enough to investigate corruption; Biden’s critics say there was a conflict of interest because the prosecutor was investigating the energy company where Biden’s son was paid to sit on the board.)

But Democrats say something different than what was said was actually in President Trump’s mind: He was secretly attempting to impact the 2020 campaign. Trump didn’t mention 2020 but, Democrats say, he meant 2020 in his own mind. Trump didn’t allude to political dirt but, they say, that’s exactly what Trump was thinking about. Some of the Democrats’ witnesses stated that Trump likely wanted Ukraine’s president to publicly announce a corruption investigation to hold his feet to the fire because the Ukrainians have a habit of committing to one thing but doing another. But Democrats insist Trump had something else in his mind: Trump wanted the public announcement to embarrass and use against Biden in the 2020 campaign. The president of Ukraine has publicly stated, and put in writing, that he felt no pressure from President Trump. But Democrats say the opposite is true. After all, they can read minds.

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“The mainstream media will never come back from this because finally, through shows like this and others, the real information is coming out as to what the mainstream media has done.”

Eric Holder Reveals Deep State Running Scared – Kevin Shipp (USAW)

Former CIA officer and counter-intelligence expert Kevin Shipp says that former Obama Administration Attorney General (AG) Eric Holder gave a big Deep State panic signal when he wrote in an Op-Ed last week in the Washington Post trashing current AG William Barr and his top prosecutor John Durham. Shipp explains:

“This is very significant. We all remember that Holder was Obama’s right hand man. Eric Holder was Barack Obama’s enforcer. The fact that Holder comes out this quickly after the Inspector General (IG) Horowitz Report comes out . . . and makes this veiled threat against Durham’s reputation. The fact that Eric Holder came out and made this statement is a clear indication to me they are running scared. We have to understand it was Eric Holder that Barack Obama used to target the heads of corporations that spoke out publicly about Barack Obama. We know Holder was held in ‘Contempt of Congress.’ He spied on AP reporters, ran guns to drug cartels and blacked out the information. He spied on over a hundred journalists, and on and on we go. . . . They (Deep State) are convinced there are going to be indictments.

Secondly, there is AG Barr’s outrage over (IG) Horowitz’s report and what it did not do. He made statements that there was spying and actions by government officials that need to be criminally looked into. Barr’s outrage over this shows me that there are going to be indictments, and that he is taking this seriously. Again, when Holder comes out and puts out this bombshell in the Washington Post, which is another indication that indictments are coming. John Brennan, former Obama Administration CIA Director, is going to be at the top of the list.” Shipp thinks this will be a big nail in the coffin of the MSM. Shipp says, “The mainstream media will never come back from this because finally, through shows like this and others, the real information is coming out as to what the mainstream media has done. At the top of that list is the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC. . . .

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Whitney is back.

Former Spy Details Israel’s Main Motive Behind Recruiting Epstein (Webb)

Ben-Menashe revealed his understanding of why Epstein was eventually shepherded into acting as a professional sexual blackmailer on behalf of Israeli military intelligence. Per Ben-Menashe, there were concerns among Israeli intelligence figures that, following the Reagan Era, a new president would push for Israel to make peace with the Palestinians, something those officials sought to avoid by any means necessary. Thus, Ben-Menashe argues, when Bill Clinton’s candidacy in the 1992 U.S. Presidential election became clear, efforts were made to target him via sexual blackmail and Jeffrey Epstein was chosen for that purpose. Bill Clinton was eventually blackmailed by the state of Israel and his administration was also targeted by Israeli espionage as part of the “Mega” spy scandal.


Epstein’s involvement in the Clinton administration and his visits to the White House date back to Clinton’s first year in office. In addition, MintPress also asked Ben-Menashe if he was aware of Ghislaine Maxwell being directly involved with her father’s intelligence-related activities prior to his death in 1991. Ben-Menashe noted that Ghislaine accompanied her father so frequently, including on a now-infamous 1989 party on Maxwell’s yacht where Donald Trump and several key figures in the PROMIS software scandal were in attendance, that she was involved in his intelligence-related activities to some extent. However, he stopped short of saying how involved she was or what she has specifically been involved in prior to her father’s death.

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Too many soybeans?! Can China buy US produce with something else than dollars?

China Must Buy Crazy Amount Of Farm Goods To Meet Phase One Deal Demand (CNBC)

China ramping up agricultural purchases to the level that the U.S. is demanding would be a problem and Beijing would probably only do it if the market situation warranted it, analysts said. Their comments pour skepticism on the farm purchases that are part of the phase one trade deal recently announced by both countries. Calling it a “crazy amount” of agricultural buying with “market distorting powers” on a global scale, Deborah Elms, executive director of the Asian Trade Centre, said: “The ramping up of scale at that speed is going to be problematic.” She told CNBC: “I would be willing to take a bet … that we will be back at this table in relatively short order even if we get a deal, because the ability of the Chinese to actually match those purchases is going to be limited.”

U.S. and Chinese officials announced on Friday that both countries finally reached an agreement after a contentious 18-month trade war. But as part of the deal, U.S. President Donald Trump insisted that China buy more U.S. crops, saying that Beijing will purchase $50 billion worth of agriculture goods “pretty soon.” For his part, he vowed not to pursue a new round of tariffs originally set for the previous Sunday. But Elms warned that the Chinese has been “very cautious” in saying that they would buy according to market conditions and World Trade Organization restrictions. “In other words, there’s a giant red flag that says: ‘even if we promise this … be careful because if the market doesn’t support the purchases at that level, then we may not reach that target,’” she told CNBC on Monday.

That skepticism was echoed by other analysts, who also pointed out that there are limits to the amount of farm goods that China can consume. “Some of this deal rhetoric is really more about politics than reality,” said Mark Jolley, global strategist at CCB International Securities. “There’s been some people who’ve been saying the only way they would be able to meet that commitment is if they start stockpiling food — it’s going be in excess of probably what they need to buy,” he told CNBC. “It’s pretty difficult to see how they can increase the imports beyond the natural levels they have been taking.”

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A German Muslim football player for UK’s Arsenal, Mesut Özil, spoke out in defence of the Uighurs a few days ago. A livebroad cast of a game in China was cancelled. His team turned on him, afraid to lose business in China.

China Races To Destroy Records On Uighur Muslim Detention Camps (AP)

A Chinese local government is deleting data and destroying documents after classified papers were leaked offering information on its mass detention camps for Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities, according to four people in contact with government employees there. They claimed regional officials in Xinjiang province are also tightening controls on information and have held high-level meetings following the leaks. Top officials deliberated how to respond in meetings at the Chinese Communist Party’s regional headquarters in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, some of the people said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of fears of retribution against themselves, family members and the government workers.


The meetings began days after The New York Times published last month a cache of internal speeches on Xinjiang by top leaders including Xi Jinping, China’s president. They continued after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists worked with news organisations to publish secret guidelines for operating detention centres and instructions on how to use technology to target people. The Chinese government has long struggled with its 11 million Uighurs, an ethnic Turkic minority native to Xinjiang, a far west province. In recent years, it has detained one million or more Uighurs and other minorities in the camps. Xinjiang officials and the Chinese foreign ministry have not directly denied the authenticity of the documents, though Urumqi Communist Party chief Xu Hairong called reports on the leaks “malicious smears and distortions”.

Read more …

Does anyone at all understand what this involves anymore? One more crash and those who decide to let the plane fly will be accused of manslaughter or worse.

Boeing Nears Decision On Cutting Or Even Halting 737 MAX Production (CNBC)

Boeing could disclose as early as Monday a decision on whether further cut or suspend production of the 737 Max amid continued uncertainty about the beleaguered plane’s return to service, The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday The company has repeatedly warned investors that it could cut output of the planes again or temporarily shut down its production line altogether if the flight ban drags on longer than it expected. Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg has said that suspending production could be “more efficient” than lowering output again.

Boeing, whose board is holding a regularly scheduled meeting in Chicago on Sunday and Monday, cut 737 Max production in April by 20% from 52 aircraft a month to 42 a month in the wake of a second fatal crash of the best-selling plane within five months. Regulators around the world responded to those crashes by grounding the aircraft. Boeing last week acknowledged that regulators aren’t likely to recertify the planes by the end of the year, as the Chicago-based manufacturer had previously forecast. A further cut or a suspension of production would further weigh on Boeing, which is facing a rising bill from the Max’s grounding. The company took a nearly $5 billion after-tax charge in the second quarter to compensate airlines hit by the flight ban.

Boeing’s shifted outlook came after the Federal Aviation Administration publicly admonished Boeing over concerns that the company “continues to pursue a return-to-service schedule that is not realistic due to delays that have accumulated for a variety of reasons,” the agency said in an email to lawmakers on Thursday. “More concerning, the Administrator wants to directly address the perception that some of Boeing’s public statements have been designed to force FAA into taking quicker action.”

Read more …

 

 

 

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Dec 102019
 
 December 10, 2019  Posted by at 9:48 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  17 Responses »


John Vachon Hull-Rust-Mahoning pit, largest open pit iron mine in the world, Hibbing, Minnesota Aug 1941

 

FBI’s Trump-Russia Inquiry Wasn’t Biased Against President – IG (G.)
Barr: FBI Launched An Intrusive Investigation’ Of A Presidential Campaign (SAC)
IG Report Lays Out Compelling Evidence FBI Misled FISA Court (Solomon)
The War of the Narratives (Kunstler)
The Great American Shakedown (Chris Hedges)
Why Tulsi Gabbard Should Not Skip The Next Debate (Mercier)
Bannon: Hillary Will Run In 2020 To ‘Save Dems From Michael Bloomberg’ (ZH)
Ex-Boeing Employee Who Warned About 737 Problems To Testify At Hearing (R.)
Ukraine, Russia Agree On Full Ceasefire In East Ukraine Before 2019-End (R.)
Ghislaine Maxwell Planning TV Tell-All About Epstein Scandal (NYPost)

 

 

It has become inevitable in America that completely different conclusions are drawn based on the same facts. Here’s the Guardian for the “left”…

FBI’s Trump-Russia Inquiry Wasn’t Biased Against President – IG (G.)

An FBI investigation into the Donald Trump election campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia was justified and not motivated by political bias against him, a government watchdog has concluded. A report by the justice department’s inspector general demolished three years of claims by the president that he was the victim of a “deep state” conspiracy and that the investigation was based on a dossier compiled by an ex-British intelligence operative, Christopher Steele. “The report issued today by the inspector general debunks the conspiracy theories about the Mueller report and the Russia investigation that President Trump and Republicans in Congress have pushed for years,” Jerrold Nadler, the chair of the House judiciary committee, and Carolyn Maloney, the chair of the House oversight committee, said in a joint statement.

“Those discredited conspiracy theories were attempts to deflect from the president’s serious and ongoing misconduct, first urging Russia and now extorting Ukraine into interfering with our elections to benefit himself personally and politically.” But the inspector general Michael Horowitz’s report did pinpoint “serious performance failures” in the monitoring of a Trump aide, which the president’s allies seized on in an attempt to claim vindication. Horowitz identified 17 “significant inaccuracies or omissions” in applications for a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance or Fisa court to monitor the communications of the former Trump adviser Carter Page and subsequent warrant renewals.

The errors resulted in “applications that made it appear that the information supporting probable cause was stronger than was actually the case”, the report said, although the FBI had a legal “authorized purpose” to ask for court approval. The attorney general, William Barr, rejected Horowitz’s conclusion that there was sufficient evidence to open the investigation. “The inspector general’s report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a US presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken,” Barr said.

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…and Sara Carter for the right:

Barr: FBI Launched An Intrusive Investigation’ Of A Presidential Campaign (SAC)

Department of Justice Attorney General William Barr responded Monday to the release of the DOJ Inspector General’s report stating that the FBI ‘launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken.” Barr blasted the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane team that led the investigation into President Donald Trump’s campaign and the evidence uncovered by Inspector General Michael Horowitz that the bureau agents withheld exculpatory information from the secret court, failed to adequately vet the information supplied by former British spy Christopher Steele and moved forward to spy on the Trump campaign knowing they misled the FISA court.

“The Inspector General’s report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken,” said Barr. “It is also clear that, from its inception, the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory. Nevertheless, the investigation and surveillance was pushed forward for the duration of the campaign and deep into President Trump’s administration.” “In the rush to obtain and maintain FISA surveillance of Trump campaign associates, FBI officials misled the FISA court, omitted critical exculpatory facts from their filings, and suppressed or ignored information negating the reliability of their principal source,” Barr said.

“The Inspector General found the explanations given for these actions unsatisfactory. While most of the misconduct identified by the Inspector General was committed in 2016 and 2017 by a small group of now-former FBI officials, the malfeasance and misfeasance detailed in the Inspector General’s report reflects a clear abuse of the FISA process.”

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And then there’s John Solomon:

IG Report Lays Out Compelling Evidence FBI Misled FISA Court (Solomon)

The Justice Department inspector general’s report into the Russia collusion investigation lays out incontrovertible evidence that the FBI misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court through false information and omissions, according to sources familiar with its findings. The evidence that the judges were misled is so sweeping that it could provide grounds, if Attorney General William Barr chooses, to withdraw the FBI’s application for the surveillance warrants that began in October 2016 to target ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, the sources added. Such a move, while mostly legally symbolic since the probe is long since closed, would still amount to a resounding rebuke to an FBI probe that the bureau, Democrats and their media allies relentlessly defended.

[..] “The evidence of false statements, false information, deception through omission is going to raise an important debate about FISA,” one source told me. The report is expected to conclude the FBI’s decision to open a counterintelligence probe of the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia in 2016 was adequately predicated but that its subsequent reliance on the so-called Steele dossier and execution of FISA warrants to assist the probe were problematic. That reliance became even more troubling in early 2017 when the FBI conducted an interview with one of Christopher Steele’s sources that raised further concerns about the reliability of a dossier that was funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

One question, the sources said, is whether FBI officials with access to the facts failed to adequately divulge issues in the case to those officials who signed the warrant, which was approved Oct 21, 2016 and renewed three times in 2017. Inspector General Michael Horowitz is slated to release the report midday Monday after briefing certain congressional oversight committees.

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“The New York Times is the Resistance’s obverse measuring device for divining reality..”

The War of the Narratives (Kunstler)

Jim Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Stzrok, Lisa Page, Michael Atkinson — all either discharged or moved onto other thickets in the reeking wetland of Washington DC. Anyway, the coup ranged far beyond the bounds of Mr. Horowitz’s scope on FISA abuse. Among those many others, the IG was not authorized to interrogate former CIA chief John Brennan, the Lone Ranger of RussiaGate, or James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence, Mr. Brennan’s faithful Tonto in the scam. Mr. Horowitz’s report will be necessarily incomplete. At most, it might provide a preview of the comprehensive legal review being carried out by the attorney general, Mr. Barr, and his deputy, the Connecticut federal prosecutor, John Durham.

I suspect that Mr. Barr has instructed Mr. Horowitz to be careful with his conclusions, since any further attempts to obfuscate the facts and excuse official misconduct on squishy grounds such as intent will tend to worsen the already gross institutional damage done to federal law enforcement. One character who has not been heard from lo these many months is former deputy attorney general Bruce Ohr, who was not fired, but transferred to some harmless backwater of the Justice Department to answer agency parking violations, or something equally harmless. I suspect Mr. Ohr may have played a decisive role in the IG inquiry, and possibly flipped on his colleagues, since Mr. Ohr was in the uniquely uncomfortable position of having a wife, Nellie Ohr, in the direct employ of Fusion GPS, Hillary Clinton’s oppo research contractor. Mr. Ohr additionally consorted with Fusion’s front man, Mr. Steele, after Steele was officially fired as a paid FBI source. Mr. Ohr will surely play a role on the Durham side of things.

[..] The New York Times is the Resistance’s obverse measuring device for divining reality — whatever they report is likely to be the opposite of the facts. So, naturally, the Monday morning edition is playing-up the supposedly nefarious doings of Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine. In fact, Mr. Giuliani has managed to depose (and record on video) two Ukrainian chief prosecutors, Viktor Shokin and Yuriy Lutsenko who are deeply familiar with the machinations around the inquiries into Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian gas company that put coke-head Hunter Biden on its board of directors while dad Joe Biden was directing on-the-ground US policy there — and bribed the Ukraine government to back off its investigations.

The essence of this colossal radioactive hairball of an historic scandal pulsates in the malicious prosecution of General Michael Flynn. Weeks ago, his new attorney, Sidney Powell, filed requests for DOJ documents containing exculpatory information in the case. The prosecutors, put in by Robert Mueller, stalled on the request, so Ms. Powell asked for an official pause until the Horowitz report is issued, possibly containing information pertinent to the general’s case. Be alert to developments on that front.

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Chris Hedges sums up how “The liberal class and the Democratic Party leadership [..] have squandered their credibility”.

The Great American Shakedown (Chris Hedges)

The liberal class and the Democratic Party leadership have failed, even after their defeat in the 2016 presidential election, to understand that they, along with the traditional Republican elites, have squandered their credibility. No one believes them. And no one should. They squandered their credibility by promising that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would, as claimed by President Bill Clinton, create 200,000 new, well-paying jobs per year; instead, several million jobs were lost. They squandered it by allowing corporations to move production overseas and hire foreign workers at daily wages that did not equal what a U.S. unionized worker made in an hour, a situation that obliterated the bargaining power of the American working class.

They squandered it by allowing corporations to use the threat of “offshoring” production to destroy unions, suppress wages, extract draconian concessions and push millions of workers into the temp and gig economies, where there are no benefits or job security and pay is 60% or less of what a full-time employee in the regular economy receives. They squandered it by forcing working men and women to take two or three jobs to support a family, jacking up household debt to $13.95 trillion. They squandered it by redirecting wealth upward, so that during the Clinton administration alone 45 percent of all income growth went to the wealthiest 1%. They squandered it by wiping out small farmers in Mexico, driving some 3 million of them off their lands and forcing many to migrate in desperation to the United States, a human tide that saw the U.S. right wing and President Trump direct mounting rage toward immigrants.

They squandered it by turning our great cities into urban wastelands. They squandered it by slashing welfare and social service programs. They squandered it by supporting endless, futile wars that have an overall price tag of between $5 trillion and $7 trillion. They squandered it by setting up a surveillance system to spy on every American and then lying about it. They squandered it by catering to the big banks and gutting financial regulations, precipitating the 2008 economic meltdown. They squandered it by looting the U.S. Treasury to bail out banks and financial firms guilty of massive financial crimes, ordering the Federal Reserve to hand over an estimated $29 trillion to the global financiers responsible for the crash.


Mr. Fish / Truthdig

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Tulsi has not explained why she won’t be in the debate.

Why Tulsi Gabbard Should Not Skip The Next Debate (Mercier)

On the morning of December 9th, Americans woke up to devastating and shocking news that was the Afghanistan papers. Generals and leaders from the highest echelons of the American military apparatus — the Blob — admitting confusion, defeat, and carelessness in an effort that cost the American people trillions of dollars and countless lives. That night, the only candidate running for President to end these wars and bring our troops home, Tulsi Gabbard, announced that she would not be attending the December democratic debate, whether or not she met the threshold, and provided no explanation (other than the fact that she would instead spend that time in New Hampshire and South Carolina).

Congresswoman Gabbard is only one qualifying poll away from making the important debate and has crossed the 200,000 donor threshold as well. Just last week, the once self-proclaimed “top-tier” candidate Kamala Harris dropped out after a sharp decline in polling and fundraising that started with Tulsi’s blistering public attack of her record during the July debate. Since then, Tulsi has seen her poll numbers remain fairly steady around 2–4%, but has seen some strong polling performances in places like Iowa and New Hampshire. Another presidential debate is arguably one of the best ways to reach a large number of people and to generate media coverage. She should not sit on the sidelines.


Tulsi Gabbard is not Joe Biden now or Trump in 2016. Stepping away to protest unfair rules or bias against her would not make an impact at her polling level. She should utilize every chance in these critical days before the Iowa caucuses to put her ideas in front of the American people. While much of the attacks come to her from the Democratic party, she is, in fact, one of the most progressive candidates on the stage. She should’ve made it a mission to expand her base by talking about her landmark ‘single-payer-plus’ healthcare plan, climate change, education, and other issues of importance at the next debate. Two months before the first votes are cast, she is still virtually unknown by most Americans and has not been able to prove her policy chops on issues outside that of foreign policy.

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It appears very likely Hillary will jump in. But not because of Bloomberg.

Bannon: Hillary Will Run In 2020 To ‘Save Dems From Michael Bloomberg’ (ZH)

Steve Bannon thinks that Hillary Clinton is waiting for just the right moment to enter the 2020 race and “save the Democratic Party” from billionaire Michael Bloomberg. According to Bannon, Clinton’s recent interview with Howard Stern – under the guise of promoting her book – signals that she’s absolutely running. “Hillary Clinton is waiting for her shot to come in and say, ‘I’m going to save the Democratic Party,’ that Michael Bloomberg is a liberal or moderate Republican. He’s not a Democrat,” Bannon told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.” The former Trump strategist added that he doesn’t think any of the current Democratic candidates are strong enough to beat Trump, and that Clinton is “waiting in the wings” to take him on again. That said, if Hillary is going to run, she better do so quickly as filing deadlines to be included on Super Tuesday primary ballots in several key states are rapidly approaching or have passed.

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Along with FAA staff who met his warnings -4 months before the first crash -“with indifference”.

Ex-Boeing Employee Who Warned About 737 Problems To Testify At Hearing (R.)

A former Boeing employee who warned of problems with 737 production will testify on Wednesday at a U.S. House hearing on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) review of the grounded 737 MAX. The aircraft has been grounded since March after two fatal crashes in five months killed 346 people. Federal officials say the FAA is not expected to authorize the plane to fly until January at the earliest. Former Boeing employee Edward Pierson, who had worked as a senior operations manager in the flight test and evaluation unit, will testify before the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Pierson’s concerns were referenced at an Oct. 30 hearing – though he had not been named previously.

“All my internal warning bells are going off and for the first time in my life, I’m sorry to say that I’m hesitant about putting my family on a Boeing airplane,” Pierson wrote to Boeing management before the first crash, according to an email obtained by the committee. Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe said on Monday that “although Mr. Pierson did not provide specific information or detail about any particular defect or quality issue, Boeing took his concerns about 737 production disruption seriously.” He added that after Pierson retired and raised the issue again “those concerns received renewed scrutiny at the highest levels of the company.”

Johndroe added “the suggestion by Mr. Pierson of a link between his concerns and the recent MAX accidents is completely unfounded.” Eric Havian, a lawyer for Pierson, said in a statement that Boeing refused to act on his client’s warnings, which came four months before the first crash, and that Pierson was speaking out “to ensure that Boeing can no longer place profits above safety.” He also said Pierson raised concerns with the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board and was met with “indifference.”

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Zelensky is under a lot of pressure from the Ukraine right. But he did it. Next up, Putin wants him to change the Ukraine constitution to give the Donbass special status.

Ukraine, Russia Agree On Full Ceasefire In East Ukraine Before 2019-End (R.)

The leaders of Russia and Ukraine agreed on Tuesday to exchange all remaining prisoners from the conflict in east Ukraine by the end of the year, but left thorny questions about the region’s status for future talks. Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in their first face-to-face meeting, took part in nine hours of talks in Paris, brokered by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The conflict in eastern Ukraine that broke out in 2014 has killed more than 13,000 people, left a large swathe of Ukraine de facto controlled by Moscow-backed separatists and aggravated the deepest east-west rift since the Cold War.

The body language between Putin and Zelenskiy, a comedian-turned-politician elected earlier this year on a promise to resolve the conflict, was chilly. There was no public handshake, and they avoided eye contact. But the talks did deliver specific commitments. A final communique set out the prisoner exchange and a renewed commitment to implement an existing ceasefire agreement in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region that has never fully taken hold as well as enhanced powers for international ceasefire monitors.

The sides also said they had agreed, over the next four months, to work toward local elections in Donbass, a major stumbling block up to now. There were no details though on how the votes would be conducted, and Macron acknowledged there were still disagreements on the subject. “We have made progress on disengagement, prisoner exchanges, ceasefire and a political evolution,” Macron said at a news conference at which Zelenskiy and Putin sat separated by Merkel and Macron.

Read more …

No idea if this is true.

Ghislaine Maxwell Planning TV Tell-All About Epstein Scandal (NYPost)

Accused madam Ghislaine Maxwell is the latest in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal planning a major TV interview — in part to defend her disgraced pal Prince Andrew, according to a report Monday. The British media heiress, who has been repeatedly accused of procuring young girls for her pedophile ex, may already be in talks with a major US network, according to The Sun. A TV special would follow the Duke of York’s own disastrous BBC sit-down about his close ties to Epstein, as well as the tearful accusations key accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre made in an hourlong special for the same UK broadcaster.


“Ghislaine is in hiding and knows the only way to stop being hunted is to speak on her own terms,” a source told the paper. “She will do a sit-down interview with a big US network and defend the duke. Apparently, she’ll say Virginia Giuffre is lying and Andrew never had sex with her,” the source told the UK paper. Maxwell, 57, is understood to be at the heart of the FBI’s ongoing probe into Epstein’s sex-trafficking ring since his death in August. She has not been seen in public since he was arrested on federal charges in July.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Dec 052019
 
 December 5, 2019  Posted by at 9:38 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Arthur Rothstein Interior of migratory fruit worker’s tent, Yakima, Washington Jul 1936

 

The Market Will Need The Fed Again In 2020 (Axios)
The Repo Market Is Broken And Fed Injections Are Not A Lasting Solution (MW)
Is Something Broken? Quants Running “Scared” As Nothing Makes Sense (ZH)
Legal Experts Called By Democrats Say Trump’s Actions Are Impeachable (R.)
Gaetz Grills Impeachment Witnesses Over Democratic Donations (Fox)
Judiciary Committee Member: Unfair, Politically Biased Ordeal (USAT)
The 10 Most Important Revelations From The Russia Probe FISA Report (Solomon)
Illinois’ Unfunded Pension Liability Rises To $137.3 Billion (R.)
China Set To Make History With Record Number Of Bond Defaults In 2019 (ZH)
France Braces For Biggest Strikes Of Macron’s Presidency (G.)
Uber Faces £1,500,000,000 Bill For Unpaid VAT (Metro)
Julian Assange in Videoconference: The Spanish Case Takes a Turn (IPD)

 

 

The Fed will never be able to get out. That was clear the moment they stepped in.

The Market Will Need The Fed Again In 2020 (Axios)

The No.1 risk to the stock market continuing its outperformance next year is not President Trump or consistently weak U.S. economic data or even China, senior analysts at John Hancock Investment Management say, but whether or not the Fed continues to stimulate the economy through what they call “not QE.” What it means: Fed chair Jerome Powell has insisted the central bank’s bond buying program — initiated after rates in the systemically important repo market spiked to five times their normal level in September — is not quantitative easing. But “it walks and talks” like QE, analysts say, and has injected close to $1 trillion of liquidity into the repo market and added more than $260 billion to the Fed’s balance sheet.

The intrigue: The new “not QE” program was “like a fourth rate cut this year,” John Hancock co-chief investment strategist Matthew Miskin said during a media briefing Tuesday in New York. And it has given a boost to the stock market. The big picture: “The equity market has benefited from a super aggressive Fed,” Ethan Harris, head of global economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told Axios during a separate event Tuesday at BAML headquarters. “I mean the Fed basically anesthetized the markets to the trade war escalation this summer.”

Because the Fed was able to mask the economy’s pain from the market, a strong sell-off may be needed to motivate the Trump administration to secure what Harris calls a “skinny” trade deal with China and avert the Dec. 15 tariffs that will hit billions of dollars worth of consumer goods. The converse is also true, Miskin argued. “If things turn more sour because we’re not getting a trade deal or the tariffs go on Dec. 15, the stress underpinning … the market will re-emerge and the Fed’s definitely going to have to be there,” he told Axios.

Read more …

End the Fed.

The Repo Market Is Broken And Fed Injections Are Not A Lasting Solution (MW)

The Federal Reserve’s ongoing efforts to shore up the short-term “repo” lending markets have begun to rattle some market experts. The New York Federal Reserve has spent hundreds of billions of dollars to keep credit flowing through short term money markets since mid-September when a shortage of liquidity caused a spike in overnight borrowing rates. But as the Fed’s interventions have entered a third month, concerns about the market’s dependence on its daily doses of liquidity have grown. “The big picture answer is that the repo market is broken,” said James Bianco, founder of Bianco Research in Chicago, in an interview with MarketWatch. “They are essentially medicating the market into submission,” he said. “But this is not a long-term solution.”

This chart shows the more than $320 billion of total repo market support from the Fed since Sept. 17, when for the central bank began pumping in daily liquidity after overnight lending rates jumped to almost 10% from nearly 2%. Initially, the central bank rolled out roughly $75 billion in daily lending facilities to arm Wall Street’s core set of primary dealers with low-cost overnight loans to keep the roughly $1 trillion daily U.S. Treasury repo market running. The facilities allow banks to snap up loans by pledging safe-haven U.S. Treasurys or agency mortgage-backed securities with the New York Fed, but crucially without the typical risk-based pricing that lenders regularly charge when funding each other.

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“..the answer is yes: the market is broken, and you can thank central banks for that.”

Is Something Broken? Quants Running “Scared” As Nothing Makes Sense (ZH)

It was a year where the S&P put the mini bear market of December 2018 in the dust, and after a dramatic reversal which saw most central banks flip from hawkish to dovish throughout the year…

… the MSCI World index is just shy of its January 2018 highs, and the S&P has returned an impressive 24% (despite the jittery start to December), and stands at all time record highs, despite, paradoxically, a year of record equity fund outflow. On paper, this should have been a great year for investors after a dismal 2018. In reality, however, 2019 has been just as painful for not just for hedge funds, which have substantially underperformed the S&P again and in October saw a record 8 consecutive months of outflows, the most since the financial crisis…

… but especially for quants, which after a relatively solid year, suffered the September quant crash that destroyed most of their YTD gains, and have generally been unable to find their bearings in a year in which nothing seemed to work. It’s also Georg Elsaesser, a Frankfurt-based fund manager at Invesco, is trying to calm down his newbie quant clients as choppy stock moves make life difficult for anyone trading factors, which wire up all those systematic portfolios on Wall Street. “Some of them are kind of scared,” Elsaesser told Bloomberg. “They’re asking the questions: Is something going wrong? Is something broken?” Well actually, the answer is yes: the market is broken, and you can thank central banks for that.

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All three are Democrat donors who have a deep dislike of Trump. They couldn’t hide that, didn’t even try, instead went on RussiaRussia rants.

But this was supposed to be about the Constitution, not about their opinions. Turley was the only one who stuck to what was on the table.

Legal Experts Called By Democrats Say Trump’s Actions Are Impeachable (R.)

The hearing on Wednesday was the committee’s first to examine whether Trump’s actions qualify as “high crimes and misdemeanors” punishable by impeachment under the U.S. Constitution. Three law professors chosen by the Democrats made clear during the lengthy session that they believed Trump’s actions constituted impeachable offenses. “If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable,” said University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt. But George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, who was invited by the Republicans, said he did not see clear evidence of illegal conduct. He said the inquiry was moving too quickly and lacked testimony from people with direct knowledge of the relevant events.

“One can oppose President Trump’s policies or actions but still conclude that the current legal case for impeachment is not just woefully inadequate, but in some respects, dangerous, as the basis for the impeachment of an American president,” said Turley, who added that he did not vote for Trump. [..] Republicans focused their questions on Turley, who largely backed up their view that Democrats had not made the case for impeachment – although he did say that leveraging U.S. military aid to investigate a political opponent “if proven, can be an impeachable offense.” Democrats sought to buttress their case by focusing their questions on the other three experts – Gerhardt, Harvard University law professor Noah Feldman and Stanford University law professor Pam Karlan – who said impeachment was justified.

Karlan drew a sharp response from Republicans for a remark about how Trump did not enjoy the unlimited power of a king. “While the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron,” she said. White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham on Twitter called Karlan “classless,” and first lady Melania Trump said Karlan should be “ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering” for mentioning her 13-year-old son.

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Matt Taibbi: “We laughed at this logic when George W. Bush used it to justify his Mideast wars: “We will fight them over there so we do not have to face them in the United States of America.”

Michael Tracey: “This woman was ostensibly called to testify about the legal and Constitutional questions around impeachment and instead ends up going on a bizarre Cold Warrior rant implying that Russia plans to invade the United States”

Gaetz Grills Impeachment Witnesses Over Democratic Donations (Fox)

Turning to the professors, he asked UNC-Chapel Hill Professor Michael Gerhardt to confirm that he donated to President Barack Obama. “My family did, yes,” Gerhardt responded. Shifting his attention to Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman, Gaetz noted the educator has written several articles that portray Trump in a negative light. “Mar-a-Lago ad belongs in impeachment file,” Gaetz said, repeating the title of an April 2017 piece Feldman wrote for Bloomberg Opinion. Gaetz further pressed Feldman, asking him: “Do you believe you’re outside of the political mainstream on the question of impeachment?” Responding to Gaetz, Feldman said impeachment is warranted whenever a president abuses their power for personal gain or when they “corrupt the democratic process.”

The professor added he was an “impeachment skeptic” until the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky. After the exchange, Gaetz turned to Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan and challenged her on reported four-figure donations to Clinton, Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. “Why so much more for Hillary than the other two?” he added, smiling. The Florida lawmaker went on to criticize Karlan for a remark she made while answering an earlier question by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas. Karlan had told Jackson Lee that there is a difference between what Trump can do as president and the powers of a medieval king. “The Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility, so while the president can name his son ‘Barron’, he can’t make him a baron.”

Gaetz fumed at the remark, saying it does not lend “credibility” to her argument. “When you invoke the president’s son’s name here, when you try to make a little joke out of referencing Barron Trump… it makes you look mean, it makes you look like you are attacking someone’s family: the minor child of the president of the United States.”

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Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., serves on the House Judiciary Committee.

Judiciary Committee Member: Unfair, Politically Biased Ordeal (USAT)

By now we have all heard the news that President Donald Trump’s counsel will not be participating in the House Judiciary Committee’s first impeachment hearing Wednesday. As a member of the committee, I believe President Trump has made the right decision. In their obsession and rush to impeach the president by the end of the year, Democrats have rigged the process from the start. I wouldn’t blame anyone, let alone the president, for being skeptical about this unfair process. Closed door secret meetings, selectively leaked details, refusing to allow Republican witnesses, and releasing the Schiff report and witness list right before the hearing all indicate an unfair, politically biased ordeal.


With little to no information provided by Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, right now it appears anything goes. The president was provided little notice and no indication of who would be the witnesses or if there would be additional hearings. This leaves more questions than answers as we head into the next phase of an already tainted process. House Democrats do not seem to grasp that they cannot legitimize such an illegitimate process halfway through. This process has been unfair for the president and the Republicans from the start, with Democrats ignoring the historical precedents outlined in the Clinton and Nixon impeachments. When it comes to Trump, Democrats have created a whole new set of rules. For them, the end justifies the means, no matter how devoid of due process and fairness those means are.

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I don’t have space for all 10, but Solomon is a must read.

The 10 Most Important Revelations From The Russia Probe FISA Report (Solomon)

Derogatory information about informant Christopher Steele The FBI stated to the court in a footnote that it was unaware of any derogatory information about the former MI6 agent it was using as “confidential human source 1” in the Russia case. This claim could face a withering analysis in the report. Congressional sources have reported to me that during a recent unclassified meeting they were told the British government flagged concerns about Steele and his reliance on “sub-sources” of intelligence as early as 2015. Bruce Ohr testified he told FBI and DOJ officials early on that he suspected Steele’s intelligence was mostly raw and needed vetting, that Steele was working with Hillary Clinton’s campaign in some capacity and appeared desperate to defeat Trump in the 2016 election.

And documents show State Department official Kathleen Kavalec alerted the FBI eight days before the first FISA warrant was obtained that Steele may have been peddling a now-debunked rumor that Trump and Vladimir Putin were secretly communicating through a Russian bank’s computer server. Most experts I talked with say each of these revelations might constitute derogatory information that should be disclosed to the court. On a related note, Horowitz just released a separate report that concluded the FBI is doing a poor job of vetting informants like Steele, suggesting there was a culture of withholding derogatory information from informants’ reliability and credibility validation reports.

News leaks as evidence One of Horowitz’s earlier investigative reports that recommended fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for possible prosecution put an uncomfortable spotlight on the bureau’s culture of news leaks. Since then, a handful of other cases unrelated to Russia have raised additional questions about whether the FBI uses news leaks to create or cite evidence in courts. One key to watch in the Horowitz report is the analysis of whether it was appropriate for the FBI to use a Yahoo News article as validating evidence to support Steele’s dossier. We now know from testimony and court filings that Steele, his dossier and Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson played a role in that Yahoo News story.

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It’s not just the Fed, but they haven’t exactly helped.

Illinois’ Unfunded Pension Liability Rises To $137.3 Billion (R.)

Illinois’ growing unfunded pension liability, which increased by $3.8 billion to $137.3 billion at the end of fiscal 2019, underscores the need for state action to boost funding or cut costs, analysts said on Wednesday. The increase was fueled by actuarially insufficient state contributions and lower-than-expected investment returns, according to a new state legislative report. Illinois has the lowest credit ratings among U.S. states at a notch or two above the junk level due to its huge unfunded pension liability and chronic structural budget deficit.


Eric Kim, a Fitch Ratings analyst, said growth in the unfunded liability is expected to continue as long as contributions lag actuarial requirements and pension benefits are protected under the Illinois Constitution. “For us, what this all speaks to is the state addressing fundamental structural budget challenges,” he said. Earlier this year, Governor J.B. Pritzker created pension task forces, including one to explore asset sales to boost pension funding. Laurence Msall, president of Chicago-based government finance watchdog the Civic Federation, said the state has not effectively attacked core pension problems, including unsustainable costs. “At best Illinois is running in place, while trying to avoid sliding downhill,” he said.

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A normal market phenomenon?

China Set To Make History With Record Number Of Bond Defaults In 2019 (ZH)

While China is bracing for what may be a historic D-Day event on December 9, when the “unprecedented” default of state-owned, commodity-trading conglomerate Tewoo with $38 billion in assets may take place, it has already been a banner year for Chinese bankruptcies. According to Bloomberg data, China is set to hit another dismal milestone in 2019 when a record amount of onshore bonds are set to default, confirming that something is indeed cracking in China’s financial system and “testing the government’s ability to keep financial markets stable as the economy slows and companies struggle to cope with unprecedented levels of debt.”

After a brief lull in the third quarter, a burst of at least 15 new defaults since the start of November have sent the year’s total to 120.4 billion yuan ($17.1 billion), and set to eclipse the 121.9 billion yuan annual record in 2018. The good news is that this number still represents a tiny fraction of China’s $4.4 trillion onshore corporate bond market; the bad news is that the rapidly rising number is approaching a tipping point that could unleash a default cascade, and in the process fueling concerns of potential contagion as investors struggle to gauge which companies have Beijing’s support. As Bloomberg notes, policy makers have been walking a tightrope as they try to roll back the implicit guarantees that have long distorted Chinese debt markets, without dragging down an economy already weakened by the trade war and tepid global growth.

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The French know how to strike.

France Braces For Biggest Strikes Of Macron’s Presidency (G.)

Emmanuel Macron is braced for the biggest strikes of his presidency as French rail workers, air-traffic controllers, teachers and public sector staff take to the streets on Thursday against proposed changes to the pension system. French rail transport is expected to almost completely grind to a halt with 82% of drivers on strike and at least 90% of regional trains cancelled, amid fears that the transport disruption could continue for days. In Paris, 11 out of 16 metro lines will shut completely, with commuters scrambling to hire bikes and scooters. Many schools will close and even some police unions have even warned of “symbolic” closures of certain police stations. Shops along the route of a march in Paris have been advised to close in case of violence on the edges of the demonstration. About half of the scheduled Eurostar trains between Paris and London have been cancelled.


The standoff is a crucial test for the centrist French president, whose planned overhaul of the pensions system was a key election promise. The government argues that unifying the pensions system – and getting rid of the 42 “special” regimes for sectors ranging from rail and energy workers to lawyers and Paris Opera staff – is crucial to keep the system financially viable as the French population ages. But unions say introducing a “universal” system for all will mean millions of workers in both the public and private sectors must work beyond the legal retirement age of 62 or face a severe drop in the value of their pensions. The row cuts to the heart of Macron’s presidential project and his promise to deliver the biggest transformation of the French social model and welfare system since the postwar era.

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Does Uber have more lawyers than drivers?

Uber Faces £1,500,000,000 Bill For Unpaid VAT (Metro)

Car-sharing giant Uber is a step closer to being liable for an estimated £1.5 billion in unpaid UK tax. Campaigners have won an important legal step that could pave the way for the taxman to come knocking on the beleaguered firm’s door. The move is on top of another legal challenge to stop Uber operating in London. Uber has long-argued that it is a platform that brings drivers and riders together, rather than a transport business. This means that it falls to individual drivers to pay VAT on any rides instead of the company itself. But as the threshold for VAT is only for individuals earning more than £85,000 a year, none of the drivers need to charge it. Campaigners from the Good Law Project calculates this has cost the public £1.5 billion in lost revenue so far.


The law team initially attempted to take Uber to court to force them to disclose their tax affairs but the case looked like being too expensive. Instead, they challenged HM Revenues and Customs and demanded the taxman assess Uber for VAT liabilities. HMRC objected, saying its dealings with Uber were commercially sensitive and it should not have to disclose whether or not it is investigating. Today the Court of Appeal rejected HMRC’s arguments and Mrs Justice Lieven said HMRC now had to disclose whether or not they had made an assessment over Uber’s payment of VAT. The case for the Good Law Project is being led by anti-Brexit campaigner Jolyon Maugham QC who said: ‘The more time passes without an assessment being raised the more VAT is lost – forever.’

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Again, Assange -with his aides- is the only person who has abided by the law. All other parties involved have not. That should have a huge bearing on the case.

Julian Assange in Videoconference: The Spanish Case Takes a Turn (IPD)

The UK Central Authority has had a change of heart. On December 20, Assange is set to be transferred from his current maximum-security abode, Belmarsh, to Westminster Magistrates Court to answer questions that will be posed by De la Mata. To date, the evidence on Morales and the conduct of his organisation is bulking and burgeoning. It is said that the company refurbished the security equipment of the London Ecuadorean embassy in 2017, during which Morales installed surveillance cameras equipped with microphone facilities. While Ecuadorean embassy officials sought to reassure Assange that no recordings of his private conversations with journalists or legal officials were taking place, the opposite proved true.

An unconvinced Assange sought to counter such measures with his own methods. He spoke to guests in the women’s bathroom. He deployed a “squelch box” designed to emit sounds of disruption. These were treated as the measures of a crank rather than those of justifiable concern. The stance taken by Ecuador has not shifted, despite claims by Morales that any recordings of Assange were done at the behest of the Ecuadorean secret service. Instead, Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno has used the unconvincing argument that Assange, not Ecuador, posed the espionage threat. “It is unfortunate that, from our territory and with the permission of authorities of the previous government, facilities have been provided within the Ecuadorean embassy in London to interfere in the processes of other states.” The embassy, he argued, had been converted into a makeshift “centre for spying.”

German broadcasters NDR and WDR have also viewed documents discussing a boastful Morales keen to praise his employees for playing “in the first league…We are now working for the dark side.” The dark side, it transpires, were those “American friends,” members of the “US Secret Service” that Morales was more than happy to feed samples to. NDR has added its name to those filing charges against UC Global for allegations that its own journalists were spied upon in visiting the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

The allegations have the potential to furnish a case Assange’s lawyers are hoping to make: that attaining a fair trial in the United States should he be extradited to face 18 charges mostly relating to espionage would be nigh impossible. The link between UC Global, the US intelligence services, and the breach of attorney-client privilege, is the sort of heady mix bound to sabotage any quaint notions of due process. The publisher is well and truly damned.

Read more …

 

Simon Kuestenmacher: Map shows that #lightning follows shipping lanes: As it turns out particles in ship exhaust increase the likelihood and intensity of thunderstorms. Really cool fact that I had never considered! Source: https://buff.ly/2B0tcOV

 

 

 

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May 112019
 


Pierre-Auguste Renoir Riding in the Bois de Boulogne (Madame Henriette Darras or The Ride) 1873

 

Labour Without Energy Is A Corpse; Capital Without Energy Is A Sculpture (Keen)
Traditional Economics Has Absolutely Screwed Us (Tyee)
House Dems To Bundle Numerous Contempt Citations For Trump Advisers (R.)
House Democrat Subpoenas Six Years Of Trump Tax Returns (AP)
FISA Applications Were Illegally Obtained – DiGenova (PJ)
William Barr vs. Eric Holder: A Tale of Two Attorneys General (McConnell)
Fugees Founder, Banker Charged In 1MDB, Obama Campaign Scandal (RT)
Crisis? What Crisis? (Jim Kunstler)
Manning Could Delay US Superseding Indictment Against Assange (Sp.)
Dutch Court Blocks Extradition Of Man To ‘Inhumane’ UK Prisons (G.)
Varoufakis On Eurozone: ‘We Created A Monster’ (Exp.)
70 Migrants Dead After Boat Capsizes Trying To Reach Europe From Libya (G.)
Nearly All Countries Agree To Stem Flow Of Plastic Waste Into Poor Nations (G.)

 

 

First saw this a few days ago, and it slipped from my radar. Now, Steve Keen announced that he got a grant for his work with Tim Garrett and Matheus Grasselli on “developing models of production in which energy plays [a role] in production (and, necessarily, in climate degradation)”. Yes, you read that right: in 2019, economists need to begin the study the role of energy in an economic system, because it’s always been ignored. What a crazy field that is.

Labour Without Energy Is A Corpse; Capital Without Energy Is A Sculpture (Keen)

With the simple insight that “labour without energy is a corpse, and capital without energy is a sculpture”, I realised why economists have failed to properly incorporate the role of energy in production for so long. All previous attempts had treated energy as a third “factor of production”, on an equal footing with Labour and Capital. But that treatment is simply unrealistic. Adding energy on its own to a production process is like letting off a bomb in a factory: it will produce mayhem, not output. Equally, both Labour and Capital are “sterile”, to use the old Physiocratic term: without energy, they can’t produce anything.


Figure 1: The incorrect way to show energy as a factor of production

The correct way to incorporate energy into economic models of production, therefore, is to see energy as an input to both Labour and Capital (in vastly different forms, of course), which enable them to perform useful work. By the Second Law of Thermodynamics, this useful work necessarily results in disorder (waste energy, mainly in the form of waste matter, including CO2). Also by the Second Law, entropy increases globally, even though it can be reduced locally by the application of energy; so the increase in disorder in the waste from production necessarily exceeds the reduction in disorder manifest in output itself (raw materials turned into finished products).


Figure 2: The correct way: Energy as an input to labour and capital, output as necessarily generating waste

This useful work is what we call GDP, though we currently erroneously measure this as the inflation-adjusted sum of all monetary output—which means we add the cost of traffic accidents to GDP. Instead, the true measure of GDP is the sum of all the useful things we produce and consume: in transportation, that is moving a mass from one location to another in a given time, and traffic accidents (and congestion) subtract from it.

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Palm oil or orangutans? For economists, an easy choice.

Traditional Economics Has Absolutely Screwed Us (Tyee)

Capitalism is killing the planet. That is the gist of an exhaustive United Nations report on the bleak state of the world’s biodiversity. One million species face extinction in what has been aptly called a global murder-suicide, driven by a race to commodify ecosystems and externalize the costs of their destruction. If you were looking for a perky read to start your week, this report was not it. However, the collective efforts of 350 leading experts from 51 countries have resulted in the definitive wake-up call for those still doubting the dire consequences of business-as-usual on our one and only planet. A Noah’s ark of iconic species seems bound for oblivion due to our growing collective consumption and population.

Will your children be able to enjoy a world with wild elephants, orcas, or blue whales? Sixty per cent of primate species are threatened with extinction. The taste of a tuna sandwich may soon be consigned to lore. All of this has been happening in plain view but only recently has this become economically relevant by cutting into the bottom line. Up to $577 billion in global crop production is at risk due to collapsing populations of pollinating insects. One-third of commercial fish stocks are in steep decline with another 60 per cent being fully exploited, leaving only seven per cent of the world’s fisheries under safe management. This is exacerbated by regulatory failure where landings may be 50 per cent higher than reported, and illegal fishing accounts for up to one-third of the global catch.

Expanding agriculture is one of the main drivers of exploding extinction rates. Between 1980 and 2000, about 100 million hectares of tropical forests — roughly the area of France and Germany combined — were converted for grazing, monoculture plantations like palm oil, or short-term subsistence farming. Desperate humans and multinational companies both encroach on remaining rainforests, seeing only as far as the next growing season or financial quarter. Why does economics prioritize palm oil over orangutans? Because palm plantations are profitable, producing almost five times the oil yield per hectare of sunflowers, coconut or soybeans. Consumers too unintentionally contribute to this destruction, driving a market for a ubiquitous ingredient found in everything from lipstick to ice cream.

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McGahn, Barr, Mueller, Mnuchin, are these all the same?

House Dems To Bundle Numerous Contempt Citations For Trump Advisers (R.)

U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said lawmakers may bundle numerous contempt citations from different committees into a single resolution that the full House of Representatives could then vote on. “There obviously are going to have to be, perhaps from our committee and certainly from other committees, other contempt citations to enforce subpoenas,” Nadler told reporters. Asked about bundling citations together, the New York Democrat replied: “It’s a great idea. In fact, I suggested it … It just makes sense, to spend as little floor time as possible, to group them together.”


A consolidated contempt vote is among options Democrats are considering in response to Trump’s stonewalling of congressional investigations into his presidency and business investments. Another option is reviving Congress’s “inherent” contempt authority. Some Democrats say that would allow lawmakers to fine uncooperative officials up to $25,000 per day. Some Democrats are also calling for impeachment proceedings against recalcitrant Trump Cabinet members. Nadler said Congress faces “the unprecedented situation in which the administration is essentially stonewalling all subpoenas – we’ve never had this before in American history, so far as I know.”

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They lost two years on the Russia collusion story. Doesn’t look so smart now, does it?

House Democrat Subpoenas Six Years Of Trump Tax Returns (AP)

A top House Democrat on Friday issued subpoenas for six years of Donald Trump’s tax returns, giving the treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, and the IRS commissioner, Charles Rettig, a deadline of next Friday to deliver them. Richard Neal, the chairman of the House ways and means committee, issued the subpoenas days after Mnuchin refused to comply with demands to turn over Trump’s returns. Mnuchin told the panel he wouldn’t provide Trump’s tax records because the panel’s request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose”, as supreme court precedent requires.

Neal reminded the two Trump appointees in a Friday letter that federal law states that the IRS “shall furnish” the tax returns of any individual upon the request of the chairmen of Congress’s tax-writing committees, and that ways and means “has never been denied” a request. The White House and the Democratic-controlled House are waging a multi-front battle over investigations into Trump, with the administration refusing to comply with subpoenas for the unredacted Mueller report and documents related to testimony by the former White House counsel Donald McGahn. If Mnuchin and Rettig refuse to comply with the subpoenas, Neal is likely to file a lawsuit in federal court.

He indicated earlier this week that he was leaning toward filing a court case immediately but changed course after meeting with lawyers for the House. Neal originally demanded access to Trump’s tax returns in early April. He maintains that the committee is looking into the effectiveness of mandatory IRS audits of tax returns of all sitting presidents, a way to justify his claim that the panel has a potential legislative purpose. Democrats are confident in their legal justification and say Trump is stalling in an attempt to punt the issue past the 2020 election. In rejecting Neal’s request earlier this week, Mnuchin said he relied on the advice of the justice department. He concluded that the treasury department was “not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information”. Mnuchin has also said that Neal’s request would potentially weaponize private tax returns for political purposes.

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I don’t think John Solomon is done yet.

As for the Papadopoulos $10,000 story, how is that an “explosive revelation”? Have known that for a long time.

FISA Applications Were Illegally Obtained – DiGenova (PJ)

Washington attorney Joe diGenova claimed in an interview last night that the Department of Justice inspector general has determined that “the final three FISA extensions were illegally obtained,” and the first one is still being investigated. For the past year, DOJ IG Michael Horowitz has been investigating the FBI’s 2016 surveillance activities and his report is expected later this month or in early June. Washington power couple Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing appeared on Lou Dobbs’ Fox Business Network show Thursday night to talk about the latest turns in the “SpyGate” saga. “The only question now is whether or not the first FISA was illegally obtained,” diGenova said.

He told Dobbs that the latest revelations in investigative reporter John Solomon’s piece at The Hill, have prompted further investigation from Horowitz’s team. On Thursday, Solomon reported that newly unearthed memos show that a high-ranking government official from the Obama State Department met with former British spy Christopher Steele in October of 2016, and figured out pretty quickly that his dossier was a political hit job intended to slime Donald Trump on behalf of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. [..] DiGenova said the inspector general was unaware of the memos, which were obtained last week through open-records litigation by the conservative group Citizens United. “The Bureau hid those memos from Horowitz. As a result of that, they are doing some additional work on the first FISA,” diGenova explained, adding: “It may be that all four FISAs will have been obtained illegally.”

[..] DiGenova and Toensing shared another explosive revelation on Sebastian Gorka’s Salem Radio talk show “America First” on Thursday. According to Toensing, the FBI tried to frame former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos by having an informant give him $10,000 in cash during a trip to Israel in the summer of 2017. An individual allegedly talked the then-29-year-old into traveling to Israel to make a deal, and invited him to his hotel room. “And there on the bed is $10,000 in cash in a suitcase,” she continued. Papadopoulos took the money and gave it to his lawyer, who has it still. Toensing said when Papadopoulos returned to the United States, he was greeted by FBI agents at Dulles Airport and they started searching through everything that he had “the second he landed.”

She added, “in fact, they already had his baggage from the plane. He couldn’t believe they had his baggage.” “It was a set up!” exclaimed Gorka. “It was a complete set up,” agreed Toensing. DiGenova explained that the Feds already knew that he hadn’t declared that he had $10,000 and were expecting to find the undeclared cash so they could arrest him and “put the thumbscrews on and make him squeal,” as Gorka put it. Worst of all, according to Toensing, “one of the FBI agents said to him, ‘this is what happens when you work for Donald Trump.’”

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Good read. To a large extent, the Democrats made their own bed. Very far from a black and white story.

William Barr vs. Eric Holder: A Tale of Two Attorneys General (McConnell)

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has declared it a “constitutional crisis” that Attorney General William Barr refuses to divulge the small parts of the Mueller report that contain grand-jury material. By a straight party-line vote, the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Barr in contempt of Congress. What did Pelosi think when Barr’s predecessor, Eric Holder, refused to divulge documents to a congressional committee and was held in contempt? “Ridiculous!” she said. What did Holder and Obama say? That the House subpoena was a violation of “separation of powers.” To partisans, the difference between the cases is obvious. Barr is defending Trump; Holder was Obama’s self-proclaimed “wing man.”

That is enough for many journalists and most politicians. The rest of us might want to know: What is the legal or constitutional difference between Holder’s refusal to provide documents and Barr’s? Here is the background of the Holder contempt. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE), a unit of Holder’s Department of Justice (DOJ), conducted an operation called “Fast & Furious,” intended to track illegal gun sales. In fact it put hundreds of weapons in the hands of Mexican criminal gangs, leading to the death of an American officer. On February 2, 2011, after news of the operation emerged, Holder’s assistant attorney general sent a letter to Congress declaring that the Obama administration had no knowledge of the operation. This letter was false, as Holder later admitted.

A congressional committee wanted to know why it had been misled. BATFE employees leaked to Congress that the department was still suppressing the truth about the operation and retaliating against whistleblowers. The committee wanted to dig into that. It demanded DOJ documents “relating to actions the Department took to silence or retaliate against Fast and Furious whistleblowers,” so that it could determine “what the Department knew about Fast and Furious, including when and how it discovered its February 4 letter was false, and the Department’s efforts to conceal that information from Congress and the public.”

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“..funnelled [over $21 million] personally and through straw donors to President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, then lied about it to the Federal Elections Commission in 2015.”

Fugees Founder, Banker Charged In 1MDB, Obama Campaign Scandal (RT)

A founding member of the Fugees is accused of conspiracy to funnel illegal campaign contributions to Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign and lying about it, in a spinoff of the 1MDB corruption scandal. The indictment against Prakazrel “Pras” Michel, 46, was unsealed on Friday, the government says he received over $21 million from Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho (also known as “Jho Low”) and funnelled it personally and through straw donors to President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, then lied about it to the Federal Elections Commission in 2015. Michel was charged with conspiracy to defraud US government, falsifying records, and making a false statement. He appeared before a federal judge in Washington, DC on Friday and pleaded not guilty.


Mr. Michel is extremely disappointed that so many years after the fact the government would bring charges related to 2012 campaign contributions,” said his attorney Barry Pollack. “Mr. Michel is innocent of these charges and looks forward to having the case heard by a jury.” Michel is best known as one of the founding members of the Fugees, an award-winning group that set music charts on fire with ‘Killing me softly’ in 1996 and launched the solo careers of Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill. Low, 37, was also charged in the case, adding to the existing indictments against the Malaysian businessman already wanted for conspiring to launder billions of dollars and violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

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“..he rode on the back of that fraud for two years, as if touring a political landfill on a donkey, leaving the public to stew in anxious hallucinations.”

Crisis? What Crisis? (Jim Kunstler)

Information emerged over the weeks since the Mueller Report’s release that Mr. Mueller and his team knew unequivocally that the Special Counsel’s mission and the FBI operations that preceded it were based on concocted political bullshit supplied by Mrs. Clinton and her network of flunkies and fixers, ranging throughout the permanent DC bureacuracy (a.k.a. the Swamp), to outposts in foreign intel services and the political kitty-litter box known as Ukraine. Mr. Mueller must have suspected this from the outset, but knew for sure by the summer of 2017, and omitted to advise the American public that he had uncovered a fraud. Rather, he rode on the back of that fraud for two years, as if touring a political landfill on a donkey, leaving the public to stew in anxious hallucinations.


What else did Mr. Mueller do, or omit to do? He never engaged US government forensic computer analysts to examine the DNC servers at the heart of RussiaGate story. Rather, he allowed the conclusions to stand of a company called CrowdStrike, hired by the DNC itself to supposedly investigate the theft of emails, especially those of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Mr. Mueller never bothered to interview the one person who might have known exactly who supplied the purloined emails to Wikileaks, namely Julian Assange. Mr. Mueller also did not bother to interview several dozen retired Intel Community computer experts, led by William Binney, former Technical Director of the NSA, who determined that the hack was accomplished by direct download by an insider onto a flash drive.

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This is about what the US wants to add to the Assange charge once he’s been extradited.

Manning Could Delay US Superseding Indictment Against Assange (Sp.)

According to Manning’s legal team, her release was triggered by the expiration of the term of the grand jury that had demanded her testimony. She will be back in court on May 16, trying to convince a new grand jury of what she failed to prove to the last one: that she cannot be forced to cooperate, as she fundamentally disagrees with the concept of a grand jury, which she says use activists’ testimonies against them. “This will go on until they get what they want or she continues to stay in jail,” Joe Lauria, editor-in-chief of Consortium News, told Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear Friday. “She’s in a position where she could delay or slow down what the Justice Department wants to do in terms of a superseding indictment against Assange.

Nobody believes that they are going to want to just put him in jail for five years… this initial indictment is a placeholder, and they have a deadline of June 12 to give to British court the charges; the decision has to be made in the UK,” Lauria said. However, there is a way around that, Lauria told hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou, called the Doctrine of Specialty, which, according to reference website USLegal.com, is “a principle of international law that is included in most extradition treaties, whereby a person who is extradited to a country to stand trial for certain criminal offenses may be tried only for those offenses and not for any other pre-extradition offenses.” “Once the asylum state extradites an individual to the requesting state under the terms of an extradition treaty, that person can be prosecuted only for crimes specified in the extradition request,” the website notes.

“This doctrine allows a nation to require the requesting nation to limit prosecution to declared offenses.” “In other words, Assange could come to the US based on this very silly charge that he tried to help Chelsea Manning hack into a computer — when she had top secret clearance and total access anyway — clearly he was trying to just help her hide her identity. But, he could come to the US and they could start adding charges there. I suspect that might happen if she doesn’t testify — which she will not do, obviously; she’s made that abundantly clear.” “They clearly need something from her, or they wouldn’t be throwing her back in jail, effectively, because she refuses to testify,” Lauria said. “But she’s not going to say a damn thing; she’s not going to cooperate, at incredible personal expense to herself, and that just goes to show what a person of principle she is.”

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Curious but still..

Dutch Court Blocks Extradition Of Man To ‘Inhumane’ UK Prisons (G.)

Judges in the Netherlands have refused to send a suspected drug smuggler back to the UK because of concerns that conditions in British jails are inhumane. An initial application to extradite the unnamed man, who had been on the run for two years, was refused this week due to the reported state of HMP Liverpool where he would probably be sent.The court of Amsterdam heard how inspectors had found “some of the most disturbing prison conditions we have ever seen” and “conditions which have no place in an advanced nation in the 21st century”, in reference to report on the state of prisons in the UK published last July.


A surprise inspection of HMP Liverpool in September 2017 found it was infested with rats and that inmates lived in squalid conditions, afraid of being attacked because of increasing violence. Similar conditions were found in HMP Birmingham and HMP Bedford. The Dutch judges said on Wednesday they were concerned the man, who was wanted in relation to cocaine and heroin smuggling on Merseyside, was at “real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment” if returned. The man had been made the subject of a European arrest warrant at Liverpool magistrates court in July 2017. His lawyer argued that the extradition should be refused based on the prison inspectors’ reports.

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“.. If you start with a monetary union, you make sure there will not be a democratic political union.”

Varoufakis On Eurozone: ‘We Created A Monster’ (Exp.)

Former Greek financial minister Yanis Varoufakis branded the eurozone “a monster” for allegedly taking away financial oversight from European Union member states. Mr Varoufakis, an outspoken opponent of the European monetary union, claimed the creation of the common currency led to an “undemocratic political union”. Recounting his first meeting with other eurozone Finance Ministers in 2015, Mr Varoufakis said: “When I was in the Eurogroup, Wolfgang Schauble was very clear. The first time he spoke, in my presence, he said –spectacularly and very honestly – ’democracy cannot be allowed to change economic policies.’


Mr Varoufakis continued: “We’ve created a monster. We’ve created a monetary union that has a central bank without a state behind it because the European Central Bank (ECB) doesn’t have a corresponding state. Before the euro, you had the Treasury, the ministry of finance and you had the central banks – correspondence. “The ECB is a gigantic central bank with no state behind it and you’ve got 19 states without a central bank. This is not the way to create a monetary union which is consistent with the political union.” He added: “The fallacy in 1992 with Helmut Kohl and Francois Mitterrand, is that they believed you start with a monetary union and then you move towards a democratic political union. “No. If you start with a monetary union, you make sure there will not be a democratic political union.”

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Not sure the biggest EU monster is a finance one.

70 Migrants Dead After Boat Capsizes Trying To Reach Europe From Libya (G.)

As many as 70 people trying to reach Europe from Libya have drowned after their vessel capsized in the deadliest such incident in the Mediterranean since January. According to survivors, at least 16 of whom were rescued, the boat left Zuwara in Libya, where renewed warfare between rival factions has gripped the capital, Tripoli, in the past five weeks. The vessel capsized 40 miles off the coast of Sfax, south of Tunis, as it headed towards Italy. The survivors reported that a Tunisian fishing boat came to their rescue and transferred them to a Tunisian coastguard vessel.


The incident came as overall number of people reaching Europe has decreased, whilethe journey has become increasingly dangerous. So far this year, 17,000 migrants and refugees have entered Europe via the sea, about 30% fewer than in the same period last year, according to the International Organization for Migration. The IOM said 443 people have reportedly died on Mediterranean crossings since 1 January, compared with 620 in the same period in 2018. The Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) thinktank said that one person died for every eight people who left Libya from January to April, based on analysis of figures from the Italian interior ministry.

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There’ll always be a dictator somewhere who invites a few million dollars. There’s only one solution: stop producing the stuff. 2 trillion drinks containers were sold in 2018. Cut it out.

Nearly All Countries Agree To Stem Flow Of Plastic Waste Into Poor Nations (G.)

Almost all the world’s countries have agreed on a deal aimed at restricting shipments of hard-to-recycle plastic waste to poorer countries, the United Nations announced on Friday. Exporting countries – including the US – now will have to obtain consent from countries receiving contaminated, mixed or unrecyclable plastic waste. Currently, the US and other countries can send lower-quality plastic waste to private entities in developing countries without getting approval from their governments. Since China stopped accepting recycling from the US, activists say they have observed plastic waste piling up in developing countries. The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (Gaia), a backer of the deal, says it found villages in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia that had “turned into dumpsites over the course of a year”.


“We were finding that there was waste from the US that was just piled up in villages throughout these countries that had once been primarily agricultural communities,” said Claire Arkin, a spokeswoman for Gaia. The legally binding framework emerged at the end of a two-week meeting of UN-backed conventions on plastic waste and toxic, hazardous chemicals that threaten the planet’s seas and creatures. The pact comes in an amendment to the Basel convention. The US is not a party to that convention so it did not have a vote, but attendees at the meeting said the country argued against the change, saying officials didn’t understand the repercussions it would have on the plastic waste trade.

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May 092019
 


James Ensor The frightful musicians 1891

 

How Julian Assange Changed Journalism (Stefania Maurizi)
Pamela Anderson’s Assange Blanket Conceals The Truth Of His Detention (G.)
China Backtracked On Nearly All Aspects Of US Trade Deal (R.)
Trump Blames Bolton For Embroiling Him In Potential Venezuelan Quagmire (Week)
Trump Predicts Dem Investigation Will Drive Him To 2020 Win (Hill)
Steele’s Stunning Pre-FISA Confession (Solomon)
Democrats Vote To Hold Attorney General Barr In Contempt Of Congress (G.)
Democrats Showing Contempt By Holding William Barr In Contempt (Turley)
Democrats Know Mueller Can’t Discuss His Report (Schoen)
James Comey Is In Trouble And He Knows It (Hill)
Time to Start Worrying About Global Corporate Debt – Bank of England (DQ)
Greek Bonds Yield Less Than Treasurys – As Irrational As In 2007 (Ashoka Mody)
The Fight to Save Wild Salmon- Have We Reached The End Of Wild? (G.)
Only A Third Of World’s Great Rivers Remain Free Flowing (G.)
Proposal To Spend 25% Of EU Budget On Climate Change (BBC)

 

 

The entire media left Assange to rot in hell. This is from a longer interview with Maurizi. It captures the essence.

How Julian Assange Changed Journalism (Stefania Maurizi)

For me it has been really shocking to witness how Julian Assange has declined in the last nine years. I have been able to see changes in Julian’s health and psychology. It was so sad, and no one could do anything. I could report on it and expose it but the other media and public opinion did absolutely nothing to make the government understand how terrible his treatment was. And all this is happening not in Russia, not in North Korea, this is happening in London, in the heart of Europe. I now realize how little we can do in our democracy.


If you look at what has happened to high-profile whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, and an important publisher like Assange, who had the courage to publish these important revelations, what did your democracy do to save them, to treat them in a human way? Chelsea Manning was put in prison for seven years, where she tried to commit suicide twice. Now she is back in prison. Edward Snowden was forced to leave the U.S. Julian Assange has spent nine years in detainment and no one did anything. We were reporting, we were denouncing, we were exposing how seriously his health was declining. Nothing happened.

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A great example of how it’s done. I stumbled upon this in the Guardian, “Ask Hadley” by one Hadley Freemen. Yes the kind of thing men won’t read, it’s directed at women. Who in this way get told what to think of Assange. The rape smear against him from MI6 et al has been more successful than anything else in turning especially women against him. This is how. It’s vile and it’s very dirty. And this Hadley person has no qualms about throwing another woman, Pamela Anderson, under the bus to do it. Because, you know, of her reputation.

Pamela Anderson’s Assange Blanket Conceals The Truth Of His Detention (G.)

Anderson made a long comment to the handily assembled press ranks outside the jail after her visit. She talked about how horrifically unjust it was that Assange was “really cut off from everybody”, to which you can only answer: “Well then, he should be delighted, given he chose to do exactly that for the past seven years when he holed himself up in the Ecuadorean embassy.” Anderson continued: “He does not deserve to be in a supermax prison. He has never committed a violent act. He is an innocent person.”


‘Nothing makes a woman look more credible than writing “Cromwell” on a blanket and then standing outside a prison.’ Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

And again, Ms Anderson, one must beg to remind you that, while that may all be true, no one knows that for certain because – and apologies for bringing up this inconvenient truth yet again – he avoided extradition to Sweden to answer to crimes he is accused of by hiding out in an embassy in Knightsbridge for seven flipping years. You remember that, right? You visited him there. That place where your warrior for truth would – according to Ecuador’s UK ambassador, Jaime Marchán – leave half-eaten meals in the sink. As Andrew O’Hagan explained way back in 2014 when describing what it was like spending time with Assange: “If you asked him to do the dishes, he would say he was trying to free economic slaves in China and had no time to wash up.”


Anderson added: “He is a good man, he is an incredible person. I love him.” She clearly rather fancies herself and Assange as the 21st century’s Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller (as opposed to what they actually are, which is a real-life Harley Quinn and Joker from Batman: The Animated Series). Still, good for you, Pamela! Love is a wondrous thing. This column sincerely hopes you have many happy years of washing his dishes ahead of you. Anyway, just in case Anderson’s word salad was not sufficiently persuasive, she also wore a blanket emblazoned with writing that included the words “free speech”, “gagged” and “Cromwell”. Because, honestly, nothing makes a woman look more credible than writing “Cromwell” on a blanket and then standing outside a prison. Anderson is just the latest in a long and not especially noble line of people who have decided that the best way to express themselves is by writing words on their clothing.

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“The talks were so bad that the real surprise is that it took Trump until Sunday to blow up,” the source said.”

China Backtracked On Nearly All Aspects Of US Trade Deal (R.)

The diplomatic cable from Beijing arrived in Washington late on Friday night, with systematic edits to a nearly 150-page draft trade agreement that would blow up months of negotiations between the world’s two largest economies, according to three U.S. government sources and three private sector sources briefed on the talks. The document was riddled with reversals by China that undermined core U.S. demands, the sources told Reuters. In each of the seven chapters of the draft trade deal, China had deleted its commitments to change laws to resolve core complaints that caused the United States to launch a trade war: theft of U.S. intellectual property and trade secrets; forced technology transfers; competition policy; access to financial services; and currency manipulation.

U.S. President Donald Trump responded in a tweet on Sunday vowing to raise tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods from 10 to 25 percent on Friday – timed to land in the middle of a scheduled visit by China’s Vice Premier Liu He to Washington to continue trade talks. The stripping of binding legal language from the draft struck directly at the highest priority of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer – who views changes to Chinese laws as essential to verifying compliance after years of what U.S. officials have called empty reform promises. Lighthizer has pushed hard for an enforcement regime more like those used for punitive economic sanctions – such as those imposed on North Korea or Iran – than a typical trade deal.


“This undermines the core architecture of the deal,” said a Washington-based source with knowledge of the talks. [..] Liu last week told Lighthizer and Mnuchin that they needed to trust China to fulfil its pledges through administrative and regulatory changes, two of the sources said. Both Mnuchin and Lighthizer considered that unacceptable, given China’s history of failing to fulfil reform pledges. One private-sector source briefed on the talks said the last round of negotiations had gone very poorly because “China got greedy”. “China reneged on a dozen things, if not more … The talks were so bad that the real surprise is that it took Trump until Sunday to blow up,” the source said.

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If we could get rid of Bolton and Pompeo this way, great! For now though, Trump doesn’t want to start wars, but he won’t fire the warmongers either.

Trump Blames Bolton For Embroiling Him In Potential Venezuelan Quagmire (Week)

President Trump is having second thoughts about “his administration’s aggressive strategy in Venezuela,” complaining to aides and advisers that “he was misled about how easy it would be to replace the socialist strongman,” President Nicolas Maduro, with opposition leader Juan Guadió, The Washington Post reports. “The president’s dissatisfaction has crystallized around National Security Adviser John Bolton and what Trump has groused is an interventionist stance at odds with his view that the United States should stay out of foreign quagmires.”


Officially, U.S. policy in Venezuela is the same, and last week’s failed effort to oust Maduro has “effectively shelved serious discussion of a heavy U.S. military response,” and “Trump is now not inclined to order any sort of military intervention in Venezuela,” the Post reports, citing current and former officials and outside advisers. Instead, the U.S. is settling in to wait out Maduro on the expectation he will fall on his own, with the help of U.S. sanctions. Russian President Vladimir Putin “is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela other than he’d like to see something positive happen for Venezuela,” Trump said last week, after a 90-minute phone call with Putin. “And I feel the same way. We want to get some humanitarian aid.” U.S. officials say Russia is deeply involved in backing Maduro.

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A constitutional crisis?

Trump Predicts Dem Investigation Will Drive Him To 2020 Win (Hill)

President Trump, speaking at a rally hours after the White House invoked executive privilege to block the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s full report, predicted congressional Democrats’ investigations would propel him to a reelection victory in 2020. Trump did not directly address his administration’s decision to defy a subpoena from House Democrats, a move that raised the specter of a constitutional crisis, but he said the party’s desire to probe his administration, campaign and businesses would backfire politically. “They want to do investigations instead of investments,” the president told a crowd of supporters at an outdoor amphitheater just steps from the Gulf of Mexico. “I think it drives us on to victory in 2020.”


Trump said Democrats’ focus on investigations is a “disgrace” and that they should instead work with him on infrastructure, lowering drug prices and improving veterans’ health care. [..] Trump mentioned Barr only in passing during the Wednesday rally but did not address the proceedings. “Now the Democrats — we have a great attorney general — now the Democrats are saying, ‘We want more.’ You know, it was going to be like, ‘We want the Mueller report.’ Now they say, ‘Mueller report? No, we want to start all over again.’”

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This will go far. This is very damning.

Steele’s Stunning Pre-FISA Confession (Solomon)

If ever there were an admission that taints the FBI’s secret warrant to surveil Donald Trump’s campaign, it sat buried for more than 2 1/2 years in the files of a high-ranking State Department official. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec’s written account of her Oct. 11, 2016, meeting with FBI informant Christopher Steele shows the Hillary Clinton campaign-funded British intelligence operative admitted that his research was political and facing an Election Day deadline. And that confession occurred 10 days before the FBI used Steele’s now-discredited dossier to justify securing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and the campaign’s ties to Russia.

Steele’s client “is keen to see this information come to light prior to November 8,” the date of the 2016 election, Kavalec wrote in a typed summary of her meeting with Steele and Tatyana Duran, a colleague from Steele’s Orbis Security firm. The memos were unearthed a few days ago through open-records litigation by the conservative group Citizens United. Kavalec’s notes do not appear to have been provided to the House Intelligence Committee during its Russia probe, according to former Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). “They tried to hide a lot of documents from us during our investigation, and it usually turns out there’s a reason for it,” Nunes told me. Senate and House Judiciary investigators told me they did not know about them, even though they investigated Steele’s behavior in 2017-18.


One member of Congress transmitted the memos this week to the Department of Justice’s inspector general, fearing its investigation of FISA abuses may not have had access to them. Nonetheless, the FBI is doing its best to keep much of Kavalec’s information secret by retroactively claiming it is classified, even though it was originally marked unclassified in 2016. The apparent effort to hide Kavalec’s notes from her contact with Steele has persisted for some time. State officials acknowledged a year ago they received a copy of the Steele dossier in July 2016, and got a more detailed briefing in October 2016 and referred the information to the FBI.

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From what I can see, this is quite weak. Jonathan Turley explains why in the next article: “..the contempt action against Barr is long on action and short on contempt ..”

Democrats Vote To Hold Attorney General Barr In Contempt Of Congress (G.)

House Democrats voted on Wednesday to hold the US attorney general, William Barr, in contempt of Congress, citing his failure to hand over the full, unredacted version of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The decision came on a day of escalating tensions between Congress and the White House. Earlier on Wednesday, the White House invoked executive privilege to block the House judiciary committee’s request for the full Mueller report and underlying evidence. Later in the day, the House intelligence committee chair, Adam Schiff, subpoenaed Barr for “documents and materials related Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, including all counterintelligence and foreign intelligence materials produced during the Special Counsel’s investigation, the full unredacted report, and the underlying evidence”.


According to a statement from Schiff’s office, the justice department must produce the documents by 15 May. The Senate intelligence committee, meanwhile, has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr, two people familiar with the matter told the Associated Press. The panel is calling in the president’s son to answer questions about his 2017 testimony to the panel as part of its investigation into Russian election interference. It is the first known subpoena of a member of Donald Trump‘s immediate family, and a new sign that the Senate panel is continuing with its own Russia investigation even after the release of Mueller’s report on the same subject.

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Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and represented the House of Representatives in its successful challenge to executive actions under the Affordable Care Act..

Democrats Showing Contempt By Holding William Barr In Contempt (Turley)

The House Judiciary Committee is voting to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress and to secure a vote of the entire House of Representatives in order to send the matter to federal court. The problem is that the contempt action against Barr is long on action and short on contempt. Indeed, with a superficial charge, the House could seriously undermine its credibility in the ongoing conflicts with the White House. Congress is right on a number of complaints against the White House, including possible cases of contempt, but this is not one of them. As someone who has represented the House of Representatives, my concern is that this one violates a legal version of the Hippocratic oath to “first do no harm.”


This could do great harm, not to Barr, but to the House. It is the weakest possible case to bring against the administration, and likely to be an example of a bad case making bad law for the House. House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler laid out the case for contempt. He raised three often repeated complaints against Barr in that he failed to release an unredacted report by special counsel Robert Mueller, allegedly lied twice to Congress, and refused to appear before the committee. Yet, notably, the only claim the committee seeks to put before a federal court is the redaction of the report. That seems rather curious since, if Barr lied or refused a subpoena as House leaders claim, it normally would be an easy case of contempt. The reason for this move is that House Democrats know both claims would not withstand even a cursory judicial review.

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David Schoen is a civil rights and criminal defense lawyer.

Democrats Know Mueller Can’t Discuss His Report (Schoen)

When Mueller accepted his appointment as special counsel, he did so fully aware of the federal regulations governing his office. The regulations make it absolutely clear that the special counsel is prohibited from discussing his report publicly. Leading members of Congress now demanding that Mueller testify know he is barred from doing so. The current special counsel regulations were passed while they were members of Congress. In 1978, Congress passed the Ethics in Government Act. It created a process for appointing special prosecutors. This is a different position from special counsels like Mueller. Under the 1978 law, Congress could mandate the appointment of a special prosecutor. Congress could remove the special prosecutor, and the special prosecutor was required to report to Congress. The executive and legislative branches were both a direct part of the process.


However, the law on special prosecutors expired and it was not renewed. In 1999, the special counsel regulations under which Mueller was appointed became law and remain in effect today. These regulations were written and heavily promoted by President Bill Clinton’s administration. They changed the 1978 law in several important ways. Under the current regulations, the special counsel does not report to Congress. Congress cannot require the appointment or removal of a special counsel. These powers and duties lie exclusively with the attorney general. Section 600.9 of the special counsel regulations backed by the Clinton administration places very limited requirements on the attorney general in regard to what he needs to provide to Congress, and he has already exceeded these requirements.

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“A strategy of insulting the executioner right before he swings his ax is an odd one but, then, Comey has a long record of odd decisions and questionable judgment.”

James Comey Is In Trouble And He Knows It (Hill)

James Comey’s planet is getting noticeably warmer. Attorney General William Barr’s emissions are the suspected cause. Barr has made plain that he intends to examine carefully how and why Comey, as FBI director, decided that the bureau should investigate two presidential campaigns and if, in so doing, any rules or laws were broken. In light of this, the fired former FBI director apparently has decided that photos of him on Twitter standing amid tall trees and in the middle of empty country roads, acting all metaphysical, is no longer a sufficient strategy. No, Comey has realized, probably too late, that he has to try to counter, more directly, the narrative being set by the unsparing attorney general whose words in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week landed in the Trump-opposition world like holy water on Linda Blair. Shrieking heads haven’t stopped spinning since.


And so we’ve seen Comey get real busy lately. First he penned a curious op-ed in The New York Times. Then a Times reporter, with whom Comey has cooperated in the past, wrote a news article exposing an early, controversial investigative technique against the Trump campaign in an attempt to get out front and excuse it. Next, Comey is scheduled to be encouraged on a friendly cable news “town hall.” In the op-ed, Comey trotted out his now-familiar St. James schtick, freely pronouncing on the morality of others. He sees himself as a kind of Pontiff-of-the-Potomac working his beads, but comes across more like an unraveling Captain Queeg working his ball bearings. Comey adjudged the president as “amoral.” He declared the attorney general to be “formidable” but “lacking inner strength” unlike — the inference is clear — Comey himself. A strategy of insulting the executioner right before he swings his ax is an odd one but, then, Comey has a long record of odd decisions and questionable judgment.

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[From 2008 to 2016] “the number of Chinese companies issuing bonds soared from just 68 to a peak of 1,451..”

Time to Start Worrying About Global Corporate Debt – Bank of England (DQ)

By 2016, emerging market corporations were issuing ten times more money ($711 billion) than before, much of it in hard foreign currencies (mainly euros, dollars and yen) that will prove much harder to pay back if their local currency slides, as is happening in Turkey and Argentina right now. Although bond issuance by emerging market companies declined by 29% in 2017 and remained around the same level in 2018, it is still approximately 7.5 times higher than the pre-crisis level. Much of the increase has been driven by China as it transitioned from a negligible level of issuance of corporate debt prior to the 2008 crisis to a record issuance amount of $590 billion in 2016.


During that time the number of Chinese companies issuing bonds soared from just 68 to a peak of 1,451 and the total amount of corporate debt in China exploded from $4 trillion to almost $17 trillion, according to BIS data. By late 2018 it had reached $19.7 trillion. “There has been a persistent buildup of private debt to record levels in China,” Cunliffe said. Much of this increase took place in the direct aftermath of the financial crisis. The largest increases have been in the corporate sector, mainly in state-owned enterprises. At last count, China’s corporate debt-to-GDP ratio was 153%, enough to earn it seventh place on WOLF STREET’s leaderboard of countries with the most monstrous corporate debt pileups (as a proportion of GDP), 18 places above the US. This chart compares the rise of non-financial corporate debt in China and the US:

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“Why would investors expect the euro to appreciate? [..] such a scenario is highly implausible.”

Greek Bonds Yield Less Than Treasurys – As Irrational As In 2007 (Ashoka Mody)

Yields on five-year Greek government bonds are lower than those of U.S. Treasurys — and have been this way for the past month. Yes, on 3- and 5-year bonds, Greece, with its rating deep in junk territory, pays investors less than the double-A-plus-rated U.S. government does. Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and French government bonds — also lower-rated than the U.S. — offer lower, indeed considerably lower, yields than the U.S. government does, even for 10-year maturities. Even if we stipulate that Greece’s government is, in fact, as creditworthy as the U.S. government, why would investors accept a lower yield on the Greek bond? And why are they willing to accept the even lower yields on the bonds of other eurozone governments?

One possible reason is that they expect the euro to appreciate. Despite the low eurozone bond yields, investors may expect eventually to boost their returns by selling the expensive euros and buying cheaper dollars and other currencies. Indeed, there is some basis for such a strategy. As of late April, the consensus among analysts was that the euro will appreciate significantly over the next couple of years, and more modestly thereafter; forward markets (where buyers and sellers settle the price of a future transaction in advance) support this consensus view.


But if expectations of an appreciating euro solve the low-bond-yield puzzle, they raise another, deeper puzzle. Why would investors expect the euro to appreciate? [..] such a scenario is highly implausible. Current growth forecasts point worryingly in the opposite direction. The IMF projects world economic growth to slow more markedly than it already did a year ago. Crucially, of all major economies, those in the eurozone appear to be decelerating particularly quickly.

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Fish farms kill.

Have We Reached The End Of Wild? (G.)

In salmon’s case, we have interrupted one of the most dramatic cycles of nature, the wild fish’s journey from the rivers where they spawn to the oceans where they grow and back again. The result is that fish have died, species that eat them have died, communities that depend on them have faded, the food supply has been polluted and a lot of tax dollars have been wasted. [..] In an inspired gambit, Artifishal takes a swerve into the metaphyscial, framing the salmon emergency as a question about the human soul, about what it needs – about what we need – to survive.


The contention of the film-makers is that while it may be human nature to seek dominion and control over the rest of nature, the very thing we need to survive is precisely that which defies our control, that thing which, when we seek to subjugate it, instead either slips through our nets, or is caught and dies. If we drive the wild to extinction, the film suggests, we will bring our own that much closer. “I really hope the film leaves the viewer with this disquieting question, which is, have we reached the end of wild?” said Murphy in a phone conversation near the end of a tour to promote the movie, which debuted at the Tribeca film festival after a tour of screenings in Patagonia stores. “At the outset we kept wondering if we would find a bad guy. And we didn’t. In fact, I kept feeling that the force of antagonism was us – we’re the bad guy. Because humans just are always looking out for themselves.”

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More damage from renewables. There’s no free lunch. The sooner we get that straight, the better.

Only A Third Of World’s Great Rivers Remain Free Flowing (G.)

Only a third of the world’s great rivers remain free flowing, due to the impact of dams that are drastically reducing the benefits healthy rivers provide people and nature, according to a global analysis. Billions of people rely on rivers for water, food and irrigation, but from the Danube to the Yangtze most large rivers are fragmented and degraded. Untouched rivers are largely confined to remote places such as the Arctic and Amazonia. The assessment, the first to tackle the subject on a worldwide level, examined 12m kilometres of rivers and found that just 90 of the 246 rivers more than 1,000km (621 miles) long flowed without interruption.


The scientists, whose research, published in the journal Nature, was led by Günther Grill, at McGill University in Canada, were particularly concerned to discover that only a quarter of long rivers that once flowed freely to the sea, rather than to an inland lake or other river, still had such a course. Separate research in Britain, which included the effects of smaller infrastructure such as weirs, fords and culverts, suggests that 97% of the nation’s river network has been interrupted by human-built structures. Thriving wildlife in rivers is crucial to keeping water clean but freshwater habitats were found to be the hardest hit of all the ecosystems, with wildlife populations having plunged by an average of 83% since 1970 due to dams, overuse of water and pollution.

Great rivers that flow freely are now rare in populated areas. Heavily fragmented rivers include the Danube, Nile, and Euphrates, the Paraná and Missouri in the Americas, the Yangtze and Brahmaputra in Asia, and the Darling in Australia. The Congo and Amazon were found to be among the least affected. The biggest impact comes from physical barriers created by dams, but reservoirs also seriously affect the natural seasonal flow of rivers. “It can be really freaky sometimes, when the electricity is produced one hour on, one hour off, and the river goes up and down by a metre, which is very stressful to the ecosystems downstream,” said Grill. The study estimates that there are about 60,000 large dams worldwide and 3,700 in planning or construction, in addition to millions of smaller dams.

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A cheap way to get young votes. Don’t fall for it. Thes countries fail even their Paris commitments.

Proposal To Spend 25% Of EU Budget On Climate Change (BBC)

Eight European countries have called for an ambitious strategy to tackle climate change – and to spend a quarter of the entire EU budget on fighting it. The joint statement says the EU should have net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 “at the latest”. It was signed by France, Belgium, Denmark, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden. The group says their plan can “go hand in hand with prosperity” and “set an example for other countries to follow.” The position paper comes ahead of a major summit of European leaders in the Romanian city of Sibiu, beginning on Thursday, which will discuss the future of Europe and the EU’s strategy for the next five years. But not everyone is on board – there are 28 countries in the EU, and several of those absent from the joint position statement are significant players – including Germany.


The position of the eight countries is that climate change has “profound implications for the future of humanity” and that its impacts are already apparent – citing “the heat waves and scorching fires of last summer”. [..] “The EU budget currently under negotiation will be an important tool in this respect: at least 25% of the spending should go to projects aimed at fighting against climate change,” the paper said. Annual EU budgets have spending limits set by what is known as the multiannual financial framework (MFF). The current one allowed the EU to spend more than €900bn between 2014-2020. The eight-nation group is eyeing the next framework, which is set to cover 2021-2027. [..] At the moment, EU countries are required to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20% from their 1990 levels by 2020, with the aim of raising that to a 40% reduction by 2030. But many are set to miss these targets – some by a wide margin.

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Apr 272019
 


Vincent van Gogh Pietà (after Delacroix) 1889

 

The Big Mystery In The GDP Report – Where Did The Inventories Come From? (MW)
China Finds Dollar Hegemony Is A Tough Nut To Crack (WS)
Nearly 102 Million Americans Do Not Have A Job Right Now (Snyder)
Trump Makes Post-Mueller Vow To Release “Devastating” FISA Docs (ZH)
Blowback Is a Harsh Mistress (Kunstler)
Marina Butina Sentenced To 18 Months In Prison (ZH)
Labour Party In ‘Complete Meltdown’ Over Final Say (Ind.)
London Extinction Rebellion Mural is a Banksy (G.)
Greeks The Most Stressed People Worldwide – Gallup (K.)
Brazil Governed By ‘Lunatics’ And US ‘Lackeys’ – Lula (G.)

 

 

Industrial production and imports are both down. But inventories rise.

The Big Mystery In The GDP Report – Where Did The Inventories Come From? (MW)

It is a case that would make Sherlock Holmes proud. Growth in the first quarter smashed expectations, fueled in part by strong inventory building. According to the government, $32 billion of goods were added to inventories this quarter, or $128 billion annualized. This stockpiling of goods boosted first-quarter GDP growth by about 70 basis points and helped propel growth to a 3.2% annual rate, well above forecasts. The problem is that it is not at all obvious where these inventories came from. Goods have to come from somewhere, either produced by domestic firms or imported from abroad. The mystery is that both production and imports fell in the first three months of the year, according to government data.

“You can’t stockpile what you do not import or do not produce,” said Robert Brusca, chief economist at FAO Economics. The Fed reported last week that industrial output slipped at a 0.3% annual rate in the first quarter. And the government’s GDP report estimates that imports fell 3.7% in the first three months of the year. The one other explanation — that consumption fell sharply enough to leave businesses with unexpected unsold goods — also doesn’t fit the evidence, Brusca said. Consumption did not fall faster than industrial production or imports to generate any surplus, he said. To be sure, spending on consumer durable goods fell 5.3%, the biggest drop in 10 years. Business spending on equipment was also weak. “Any way you slice it, this GDP report…is an apparent mess,” he said.

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Nobody will want the yuan as long as Beijing decides what it’s worth.

China Finds Dollar Hegemony Is A Tough Nut To Crack (WS)

In terms of global reserve currency, the renminbi (RMB) has a share of only 1.9%, in fifth place, and barely ahead of the Canadian dollar, but miles behind the US dollar (61.7%) and the euro (20.7%). Over the past two years, the RMB has made only microscopic headway as a reserve currency. And as an international payments currency, the RMB has failed similarly to crack the co-hegemony of the dollar and the euro. “With more than 1,900 financial institutions now using the RMB for payments with China and Hong Kong, the internationalization of RMB carries great strategic significance” for banks and financial institutions, gushes SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), which tracks the progress of the RMB as payment currency.


But in March 2019, the RMB had a minuscule share of merely 1.22% for international cross-border payments by value (cross-border payments from one Eurozone country to another Eurozone country are excluded). This minuscule share put the RMB in 8th position, just behind the Swiss franc:

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Civilian labor force participation rate lingers around 63%.

Nearly 102 Million Americans Do Not Have A Job Right Now (Snyder)

At this moment, we are told that only 6.2 million Americans are officially “unemployed”, and that sounds really, really good. But that is only half the story. What the mainstream media rarely mentions is the fact that the number of Americans categorized as “not in the labor force” has absolutely exploded since the last recession. Right now, that number is sitting at 95.577 million. When you add 6.2 million “officially unemployed” Americans to 95.577 million Americans that are categorized as “not in the labor force”, you get a grand total of almost 102 million Americans that do not have a job right now. If that sounds terrible to you, that is because it is terrible.

Yes, the U.S. population has been growing over the last decade, and that is part of the reason why the number of Americans “not in the labor force” has been growing. But overall, the truth is that the level of unemployment in this country is not that much different than it was during the last recession. John Williams of shadowstats.com tracks what the real employment figure would be if honest numbers were being used, and according to him the real rate of unemployment in the United States at the moment is 21.2 percent.

Just before the last recession, the civilian labor force participation rate was sitting at about 66 percent, and that was pretty good. But then the recession hit, and the civilian labor force participation rate fell below 63 percent, and it stayed between 62 percent and 63 percent for an extended period of time. So where are we today? At this moment, we are sitting at just 63.0 percent. Does that look like a recovery to you? Of course not.

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“I’m glad I waited because i thought that maybe they would obstruct if I did it early..”

Trump Makes Post-Mueller Vow To Release “Devastating” FISA Docs (ZH)

President Trump on Thursday renewed his vow to declassify a wide swath of “devastating” documents related to the Russia probe “and much more” – adding that he’s glad he waited until the Mueller investigation was complete. In a Thursday night phone interview on Fox News, host Sean Hannity asked “will you declassify the FISA applications, gang of 8 material, those 302s – what we call on this program ‘the bucket of five’?” To which Trump replied: “Yes, everything is going to be declassified – and more, much more than what you just mentioned. It will all be declassified, and I’m glad I waited because i thought that maybe they would obstruct if I did it early – and I think I was right. So I’m glad I waited, and now the Attorney General can take a look – a very strong look at whatever it is, but it will be declassified and more than what you just mentioned.”

Last September 17th, Trump vowed to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions, as well as specific pages from the FBI’s FISA surveillance warrant application on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, and interviews with the DOJ’s Bruce Ohr. nFour days later, however, Trump said over Twitter that the Justice Department – then headed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions (while the Russia investigation was headed up by Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein) – told him that it might have a negative impact on the Russia probe, and that key US allies had asked him not to release the documents.

“I met with the DOJ concerning the declassification of various UNREDACTED documents,” Trump tweeted. “They agreed to release them but stated that so doing may have a perceived negative impact on the Russia probe. Also, key Allies’ called to ask not to release. Therefore, the Inspector General has been asked to review these documents on an expedited basis. I believe he will move quickly on this (and hopefully other things which he is looking at). In the end I can always declassify if it proves necessary. Speed is very important to me – and everyone!”


That key ally turns out to have been the UK, according to the New York Times., which reported last September that their concern was over material which “includes direct references to conversations between American law enforcement officials and Christopher Steele,” the former MI6 agent who compiled the infamous “Steele Dossier.” We now know, of course, that Steele had extensive contact with Bruce and Nellie Ohr in 2016, while Bruce was the #4 official at the Obama DOJ, and Nellie was working for Fusion GPS – the opposition research firm hired by Hillary Clinton and the DNC to produce the infamous Steele Dossier.

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“Mr. Mueller himself may well be subject to prosecution for destroying evidence and, yes, obstruction of justice…”

Blowback Is a Harsh Mistress (Kunstler)

The Thinking Class behind the bad faith Resistance is about to be beaten within an inch of its place in history with an ugly-stick of reality as The Narrative finally comes to be fairly adjudicated. The Mueller Report was much more than just disappointing; it was a comically inept performance insofar as it managed to overlook the only incidence of collusion that actually took place: namely, the disinfo operation sponsored by the Hillary Clinton campaign in concert with the highest officials of the FBI, the Department of Justice, State Department personnel, the various Intel agencies, and the Obama White house for the purpose of interfering in the 2016 election.


It will turn out that the Mueller Investigation was just an extension of that felonious op, and Mr. Mueller himself may well be subject to prosecution for destroying evidence and, yes, obstruction of justice. John F. Kennedy once observed that “life is unfair.” It is unfair, perhaps, that a TV Reality Show huckster, clown, and rank outsider beat a highly credentialed veteran of the political establishment and that he flaunts his lack of decorum in the Oval Office. But it happens that he was on the side of the truth in the RussiaGate farrago and that happens to place him in a position of advantage going forward.

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The empire destroying lives to uphold a narrative. It no longer matters what these crazies say, and they know it. The public swallows anything thrown at them. Collusion, Assange, Butina, these are all fictional stories, but today they dictate the headlines and dominate the airwaves. Butina is accused of “Ambitious conspiracy”. When she was 22.

Marina Butina Sentenced To 18 Months In Prison (ZH)

Accused Russian spy Marina Butina has been sentenced to 18 months in prison on Friday after pleading guilty to acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government, the Hill reports. Butina, who was arrested in 2018, pled guilty to the charges in late. 2018. She will only serve nine months, as the judge knocked nine months off her sentence for time served. Prosecutors had recommended that she serve an additional 18 months, while her lawyers had asked for no prison time and her immediate deportation. Butina wasn’t mentioned in the Mueller report. Before her sentencing hearing on Friday, Butina pleaded with the judge for leniency, RT reports.


“My parents discovered my arrest on the morning news they watch in their rural house in a Siberian village,” she told the court. “I love them dearly, but I harmed them morally and financially. They are suffering from all of that. I destroyed my own life as well. I came to the United States not under any orders, but with hope, and now nothing remains but penitence.” Butina arrived in the US on a student visa in 2016 and became active in pro-gun circles. During the investigation into Russian interference that followed Trump’s electoral triumph, she was accused of working with the Russian government to infiltrate the Republican Party and National Rifle Association. Moscow and President Putin have denied any connection with her.

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Corbyn still clings to his dreams of an independent left-wing Britain. But matters haven’t stood still for the past 3 years.

Labour Party In ‘Complete Meltdown’ Over Final Say (Ind.)

Jeremy Corbyn is under growing pressure over his party’s position on a second Brexit referendum after a leaked draft of a campaign leaflet included no mention of a Final Say vote. The Labour leader faced an angry backlash over the flyer, with MPs saying it had triggered “complete meltdown” in the party and left pro-EU MPs “utterly furious”. As the row deepened, 75 MPs and 14 MEPs wrote to Labour’s governing body to demand that “a clear commitment” to another referendum be included in the party’s manifesto for next month’s European parliament elections. Mr Corbyn’s top team is split on whether Labour should support a second referendum. Several senior shadow cabinet ministers want the party to support a public vote on any Brexit deal passed by parliament, but Mr Corbyn’s inner circle say he only supports a referendum on the government’s deal or to avoid a no-deal outcome.


Other shadow ministers oppose another public poll entirely. In their letter to the National Executive Committee (NEC), the MPs and MEPs said Labour had “a clear opportunity to win these elections” if it fully supports a Final Say vote. They wrote: “These elections are about the kind of Europe we want to live in, and we can’t make a convincing case in them without being clear about Brexit. Labour has already, rightly, backed a confirmatory public vote. The overwhelming majority of our members and voters support this, and it is the democratically established policy of the party. “Our members need to feel supported on doorsteps by a clear manifesto that marks us out as the only viable alternative to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

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First, you just have a wall. The next day, you have a wall worth a million dollars.

London Extinction Rebellion Mural is a Banksy (G.)

A Banksy collector and expert believes a mural that appeared at Extinction Rebellion’s Marble Arch base overnight is an authentic piece by the Bristolian street artist. John Brandler, who owns a dozen pieces by Banksy is convinced the artwork – which features the slogan “From this moment despair ends and tactics begin” next to a young girl sitting on the ground holding an Extinction Rebellion logo – is an original because of its execution and theme. The art dealer and gallerist said: “I’m convinced about the one in London for two reasons: it’s a topic that he would support, and it’s a continuation of the Port Talbot piece that appeared in December 2018.

“The name in the corner is not important, the signature is the work. And this is a Banksy. It’s a wonderful statement and a beautiful piece.” The work appeared at the site which had been occupied by climate activists since protests began in the capital almost two weeks ago. A spokesperson for Westminster council confirmed the work was being investigated but had not been authenticated yet. “We’re aware of the possible Banksy which appeared in Marble Arch overnight. Our officers are looking into this,” he said. Banksy has not confirmed whether the painting is legitimate, and his press team did not respond to a request for comment.

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Gallup does really bad surveys.

Greeks The Most Stressed People Worldwide – Gallup (K.)

Greeks are the most stressed people in the world, according to the results of the Gallup 2019 Global Emotions report conducted on a sample of 150,000 people in 140 countries. According to the poll, which was conducted last year, 59 percent of Greeks said they “experienced a lot of stress yesterday,” putting Greece at the top of the chart for the third consecutive year. After Greece on the list are the Philippines, Tanzania and Albania. The same poll asked respondents about their negative experiences and participants from Chad, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Iran polled the highest. The survey also polled anger levels with Armenians topping the chart, followd by Iraqis, Iranians and Palestinians. The five countries recording the most positive experiences are Paraguay, Panama, Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador.

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“Does anyone really think the US is going to favour Brazil?” Lula asked. “Americans think of themselves first, second, third, fourth, fifth – and if there’s any time left over they think about Americans.”

Brazil Governed By ‘Lunatics’ And US ‘Lackeys’ – Lula (G.)

Brazil is being governed by “a bunch of lunatics” and United States “lackeys” who have shattered its international reputation, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has claimed in his first interview since being jailed one year ago. Lula, Brazil’s president from 2003 and 2011, surrendered himself to police last April after being convicted on corruption charges he disputes. The 73-year-old leftist had been forbidden from giving face-to-face interviews until Friday, when two Brazilian journalists were allowed to visit him at his prison in southern Brazil following a lengthy legal battle.

Lula told them Brazil needed to undergo period of “self-reflection” after what he described as the “crazy” fake news and hate-filled election of far-right populist Jair Bolsonaro last year. “What we can’t have is this country being run governed by a bunch of lunatics. The country doesn’t deserve this and above all the people do not deserve this.” “Brazil is adrift – so far he doesn’t know what to do,” he added of Bolsonaro, who took office in January and has suffered a turbulent opening act in power. Lula said he profoundly regretted “the disaster that is taking place in this country” and criticised Brazil’s dramatic tack towards Washington under Bolsonaro.


“I’ve never seen a [Brazilian] president salute the American flag. I’ve never seen a president go around saying, ‘I love the United States, I love it!’” Lula said of Bolsonaro, who paints himself as a “tropical Trump” and last month travelled to the United States to tout his close relations with the US president. “You should love your mother, you should love your country. What’s all this about loving the United States? “Does anyone really think the US is going to favour Brazil?” Lula asked. “Americans think of themselves first, second, third, fourth, fifth – and if there’s any time left over they think about Americans. And these Brazilian lackeys go around thinking the Americans will do anything for us.”

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Aug 282018
 
 August 28, 2018  Posted by at 9:38 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  17 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh Cypresses in starry night (reed pen) 1889

 

Meadows: FBI/DOJ Leaked To Press, Used Articles To Obtain FISA Warrants (ZH)
Lanny Davis Admits Being Source For CNN Trump Tower “Bombshell” (ZH)
Trump Announces US-Mexico Trade Deal, Setting Stage For Nafta Overhaul (G.)
Iran Says It Has Full Control Of Gulf And US Navy Does Not Belong There (R.)
Theresa May Says A No-Deal Brexit ‘Wouldn’t Be The End Of The World’ (G.)
Out In Left Field (Kunstler)
Skripals – When the BBC Hide the Truth (Craig Murray)
‘Criminal’ Roger Waters Blacklisted By Ukraine Over Russian Interviews (RT)
Greece Needs €4.7 Billion In Additional Tax Revenues To Reach Targets (K.)
Children Attempting Suicide At Greek Refugee Camp (BBC)
The Impending End Of Most Life On Earth (G.)

 

 

2nd special counsel, where are you?

Meadows: FBI/DOJ Leaked To Press, Used Articles To Obtain FISA Warrants (ZH)

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) dropped a late-night bombshell on Monday suggesting there’s evidence that the FBI and DOJ rigged their own FISA spy warrants by leaking information to the press, then using the resultant articles to obtain court authorization to surveil targets. “We’ve learned NEW information suggesting our suspicions are true: FBI/DOJ have previously leaked info to the press, and then used those same press stories as a separate source to justify FISA’s,” tweeted Meadows. Until now, we’ve known that the creator of the so-called Steele Dossier, former UK spy Christopher Steele, leaked information directly to Yahoo! News journalist Michael Isikoff – whose article became a supporting piece of evidence in the FBI’s FISA warrant application and subsequent renewals for Trump adviser Carter Page.

So while we’ve known that Steele seeded Isikoff with information from his dubious dossier, and that the FBI then used both Steele’s dossier and Isikoff’s Steele-inspired article to game the FISA system, Rep. Mark Meadows now says that the FBI/DOJ directly leaked information to the press, which they then used for the same type of FISA scheme. Strong evidence was discovered in January suggesting that former FBI employee Lisa Page leaked privileged information to Devlin Barrett, formerly of the Wall Street Journal and now with the Washington Post. Whether any of Barrett’s reporting was subsequently used to obtain a FISA warrant is unknown.

Meanwhile, Rep. Meadows’s Monday night tweet comes hours before twice-demoted DOJ employee Bruce Ohr is set to give closed-door testimony to the House Oversight Committee. Ohr was caught lying about his involvement with opposition research firm Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson – who employed Steele. Ohr’s CIA-linked wife, Nellie, was also employed by Fusion as part of the firm’s anti-Trump efforts, and had ongoing communications with the ex-UK spy, Christopher Steele as well.

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Cohen’s lawyer is the best thing that happened to Trump in ages.

Lanny Davis Admits Being Source For CNN Trump Tower “Bombshell” (ZH)

On July 26th, CNN unleashed a “bombshell” report that Michael Cohen was claiming that candidate Trump knew in advance about the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting. Dropping this line in the middle of their story: “Contacted by CNN, one of Cohen’s attorneys, Lanny Davis, declined to comment.”Then, last week, amid the deafening euphoria of the ‘anti-Trump’-ers, Davis told Anderson Cooper: “I think the reporting of the story got mixed up in the course of a criminal investigation. We were not the source of the story.” Davis increasingly backed away from the story in recent days, telling the Washington Post that he is not certain if the claim is accurate, and that he could not independently corroborate it. Destroying CNN’s “bombshell” story, crushing the hopes of millions of ‘not my president’-ers.

As Buzzfeed notes, after Davis publicly backtracked from the claims, the New York Post and the Washington Post outed him as their confirming source and published apologies from Davis But, of course, CNN was giving up such a great story so easily (whether it’s true or fake news), and followed up anxiously by none other than Brian Stelter who gushed over Twitter in the face of Davis’ refutation of their entire story that: ” Re: CNN’s July 27 story about Cohen claiming that Trump knew in advance about the Trump Tower meeting: “We stand by our story, and are confident in our reporting of it.”” All of which brings up to date, safe in the knowledge that despite Davis’ denial that CNN’s story ever occurred, CNN has “a source” that confirmed it and that’s good enough for them.

BUT… Now, after all that pre-amble, double-talk, and utterly bullshit fake news reporting, Lanny Davis – who we perhaps need to remind readers once again is an extremely well-paid f**king lawyer and communications expert – has told Buzzfeed that he was the anonymous source in a July CNN story. Tonight, Davis told BuzzFeed News that he regrets both his role as an anonymous source and his subsequent denial of his own involvement. Davis told BuzzFeed News that he did, in fact, speak anonymously to CNN for its story, which cited “sources with knowledge” — meaning more than one person. “I made a mistake,” Davis said. Regarding his comments about a month later to Cooper, he added, “I did not mean to be cute.”

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Canada on hold.

Trump Announces US-Mexico Trade Deal, Setting Stage For Nafta Overhaul (G.)

Donald Trump has said he will strike a new trade deal with Mexico while ripping up the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) and threatening a trade war with Canada. “I’ll be terminating the existing deal and going into this deal,” the US president told reporters in the Oval Office on Monday. “We’ll be starting negotiating with Canada relatively soon. They want to negotiate very badly.” He added: “One way or the other, we have a deal with Canada. It’ll either be a tariff on cars or it will be a negotiated deal. Frankly, a tariff on cars is a much easier way to go but perhaps the other would be much better for Canada.”

Trump also said it might be possible to make a deal involving all three countries, like the 24-year-old Nafta pact, but that separate bilateral agreements are also a possibility. However, any trade deal would have to first be approved by Congress, and time is running out. Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto will soon leave office and there is no guarantee his successor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, will agree to the same terms. Nafta reduced most trade barriers between the US, Mexico and Canada. But Trump and other critics say it encouraged US manufacturers to move south of the border to exploit low-wage Mexican labour.

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They have a point.

Iran Says It Has Full Control Of Gulf And US Navy Does Not Belong There (R.)

Iran has full control of the Gulf, and the U.S. Navy does not belong there, the head of the navy of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, General Alireza Tangsiri, said on Monday, according to the Tasnim news agency. The remarks come at a time when Tehran has suggested that it could take military action in the Gulf to block oil exports of other regional countries in retaliation for U.S. sanctions intended to halt its oil sales. Washington maintains a fleet in the Gulf which protects oil shipping routes. Tangsiri said Iran had full control of both the Gulf itself and the Strait of Hormuz that leads into it. Closing off the strait would be the most direct way of blocking shipping.

“We can ensure the security of the Persian Gulf and there is no need for the presence of aliens like the U.S. and the countries whose home is not in here,” he said in the quote, which appeared in English translation on Tasnim. Tension between Iran and the United States has escalated since President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers in May and reimposed sanctions.

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Just the end of her.

Theresa May Says A No-Deal Brexit ‘Wouldn’t Be The End Of The World’ (G.)

Theresa May claimed that a no-deal Brexit “wouldn’t be the end of the world” as she sought to downplay a controversial warning made by Philip Hammond last week that it would cost £80bn in extra borrowing and inhibit long-term economic growth. The prime minister conceded that crashing out of the European Union without a deal “wouldn’t be a walk in the park” but went on to argue that the UK could make an economic success of the unprecedented situation if it proved impossible to negotiate a satisfactory divorce. Her comments were designed to distance herself from pessimistic Treasury forecasts highlighted by the chancellor at the end of last week, predictions that incensed the Tory right and led to renewed calls from hard Brexiters for Hammond’s dismissal.

Speaking to reporters as she began a three-day trip to Africa, May cited and endorsed remarks about the Brexit situation made last week by Roberto Azevêdo, the director general of the World Trade Organisation, to justify a gentle rebuke of the chancellor. The prime minister said: “Look at what the director general of the World Trade Organisation has said. He has said about the no-deal situation that it will not be a walk in the park, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world. “What the government is doing is putting in place the preparation such that if we are in that situation, we can make a success of it, just as we can make a success of a good deal.”

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Huber. Remember the name.

Out In Left Field (Kunstler)

With Russian “meddling” stalled in the dead letter office, The New York Times has apparently re-branded itself Floozie Central in its quixotic campaign to unseat the Golden Golem of Greatness by all means necessary. The Stormy Daniels affair, and its slime-trail of payoffs, is the slender thread that the Resistance hopes to hang Donald Trump on. The great legal minds of cable TV have been very busy trying to suss out which part of the $130,000 non-disclosure payoff might apply as a campaign financing violation. If Rudy Giuliani still had his wits about him, of course, he would claim that the money was just Ms. Daniel’s going rate for an overnight frolic amongst her legendary twin peaks, that is, a sex worker’s simple transaction fee.

Where does it say in the constitution that a president may not consort with tramps and hussies? It was hilarious to discover that Mr. Trump’s erstwhile personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, picked DC Swamp attorney and Clinton insider, Lanny Davis, to represent him in negotiations with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. It must be like the old days in the locker room of the Burning Tree Golf Club for Lanny and Bob. They go back at least to the days when the Clintons fended off accusations of issuing pardons to special friends for a $450,000 payoff on Bubba’s last day in office, January 19, 2001. And there must have been a reunion around 2010 on the Uranium One matter, in which a tidy $145-million from Russian Oligarch Central landed in the Clinton Foundation coffers after Madam Secretary Hillary signed onto a go-ahead with the U-1 deal.

Meanwhile, way out in Left Field — Salt Lake City, actually —a forgotten lone ranger named John W. Huber is ostensibly toiling away on a roster of allegations so far ignored by the Mueller team, namely the politicization of the FBI and the Department of Justice, and the actions taken deviously by senior employees there against Mr. Trump during and after the 2016 election. Mr. Huber was tapped to carry out this assignment by Attorney General Jeff Sessions late in 2017.

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BBC Newsnight correspondent Mark Urban met with Skripal multiple times in 2017.

Skripals – When the BBC Hide the Truth (Craig Murray)

On 8 July 2018 a lady named Kirsty Eccles asked what, in its enormous ramifications, historians may one day see as the most important Freedom of Information request ever made. The rest of this post requires extremely close and careful reading, and some thought, for you to understand that claim. “Dear British Broadcasting Corporation, 1: Why did BBC Newsnight correspondent Mark Urban keep secret from the licence payers that he had been having meetings with Sergei Skripal only last summer. 2: When did the BBC know this? 3: Please provide me with copies of all correspondence between yourselves and Mark Urban on the subject of Sergei Skripal. Yours faithfully, Kirsty Eccles

The ramifications of this little request are enormous as they cut right to the heart of the ramping up of the new Cold War, of the BBC’s propaganda collusion with the security services to that end, and of the concoction of fraudulent evidence in the Steele “dirty dossier”. This also of course casts a strong light on more plausible motives for an attack on the Skripals. Which is why the BBC point blank refused to answer Kirsty’s request, stating that it was subject to the Freedom of Information exemption for “Journalism”.

“The information you have requested is excluded from the Act because it is held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art or literature.’ The BBC is therefore not obliged to provide this information to you. Part VI of Schedule 1 to FOIA provides that information held by the BBC and the other public service broadcasters is only covered by the Act if it is held for ‘purposes other than those of journalism, art or literature”. The BBC is not required to supply information held for the purposes of creating the BBC’s output or information that supports and is closely associated with these creative activities.”

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Fun.

‘Criminal’ Roger Waters Blacklisted By Ukraine Over Russian Interviews (RT)

Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters has found himself blacklisted by being added to the Ukrainian database of national enemies, after statements to Russian media about Crimea and the conflict in Ukraine. Waters, 74, is wrapping up his US+Them European tour with concerts in St. Petersburg and Moscow this week and spoke with several Russian outlets about both music and his political activism. The rock musician has been an outspoken champion of the Palestinian cause and a critic of Western-backed rebels in Syria. On Monday, however, his name appeared in the “purgatory” database of Mirotvorets (Peacemaker), maintained by people connected with Ukraine’s security and intelligence services and listing alleged enemies of the state.

The site says “criminal” Waters is responsible of “anti-Ukrainian propaganda, attacks on the territorial integrity of Ukraine [and] participation in attempts to legalize the Russian annexation of Crimea.” As proof, the site lists links to two interviews Waters gave to Russian media outlets RIA and Izvestiya, and quotes specifically a statement about the city of Sevastopol being Russian and important to Russians. Waters called “laughable” the idea of blaming Russia for the conflict in Ukraine and said the blame rests with Victoria Nuland, the senior State Department official for Europe and Eurasia during the Obama administration. [..] Waters also expressed concern about the US leadership, which he said does not seem to recognize any agreements and does whatever it wants. Such a policy will eventually get everyone killed, the rock star told Izvestiya, in an interview published Monday.

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Already grossly overtaxed.

Greece Needs €4.7 Billion In Additional Tax Revenues To Reach Targets (K.)

The Greek government will have to collect additional tax revenues of 4.7 billion euros in the first post-bailout period of enhanced supervision (2018-2022) by its creditors, in order to achieve the agreed primary surpluses and record surpluses. These revenues are not expected to come only from economic growth but also from the imposition of new taxes, notably the trimming of the tax reduction from a current level of 1,900 euros to 1,250 euros – a change that will affect 6 million salaried employees and pensioners.

In 2018, direct taxes are projected to generate 17.4 billion euros, slightly less than the 17.7 billion of 2017. The reduction is entirely attributable to the fact that high tax rates result in an ever-increasing reduction of declared incomes. As for indirect taxes, they are expected to drop to 35.2 billion euros this year compared with 35.4 billion in 2017, while no significant change is expected for 2019, despite the projected economic growth. For 2020, tax revenues are expected to rise further when the government is seen reducing the tax-free threshold. It is indicative that revenues from direct taxes are seen rising to 18.40 billion euros that year, versus 17.43 billion in 2019.

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“..her family spend all day queuing for food at the camp and all night ready to run..”

Children Attempting Suicide At Greek Refugee Camp (BBC)

At Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, there is deadly violence, overcrowding, appalling sanitary conditions and now a charity says children as young as 10 are attempting suicide. The Victoria Derbyshire programme has been given rare access inside. “We are always ready to escape, 24 hours a day we have our children ready,” says Sara Khan, originally from Afghanistan. “The violence means our little ones don’t get to sleep.” Sara explains that her family spend all day queuing for food at the camp and all night ready to run – in fear of the fights that break out constantly. Conditions are so appalling that charities have actually left in protest.

The place smells of raw sewage, and there are around 70 people per toilet, according to medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). Some people live in mobile cabins, but rammed in-between them all are tents and tarpaulin sheets – homes for those who cannot obtain any official living space. The camp is also now sprawling into surrounding countryside. One tent houses 17 people – four families under one canvas. MSF says there are currently more than 8,000 people crammed into Moria camp, which was supposed to house 3,000. [..] The camp opened in 2015 and was initially designed as a transit post for people to stay for a matter of days – but some have been here for years.

It is controlled by the Greek government, and the overcrowding is because Greece is enforcing the EU’s “containment” policy, keeping people on the island rather than transferring them to the Greek mainland. It is part of the EU-Turkey deal which aims to return thousands of refugees to Turkey, and it has been in force since March 2016. From then to July 2018, according to EU figures, 71,645 new refugees arrived in Greece by sea and only 2,224 have been returned to Turkey. George Matthaiou, a Greek government press representative on Moria, concedes conditions are terrible, but blames the EU rather than Greece. “We don’t have the money. You know the situation of Greece, economically,” he says. “I want to help but I can do nothing, because the European Union closed the borders.”

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“I’m not going to write anymore because there’s nothing more that can be said..”

The Impending End Of Most Life On Earth (G.)

We’re doomed,” says Mayer Hillman with such a beaming smile that it takes a moment for the words to sink in. “The outcome is death, and it’s the end of most life on the planet because we’re so dependent on the burning of fossil fuels. There are no means of reversing the process which is melting the polar ice caps. And very few appear to be prepared to say so.” Hillman, an 86-year-old social scientist and senior fellow emeritus of the Policy Studies Institute, does say so. His bleak forecast of the consequence of runaway climate change, he says without fanfare, is his “last will and testament”. His last intervention in public life. “I’m not going to write anymore because there’s nothing more that can be said,” he says when I first hear him speak to a stunned audience at the University of East Anglia late last year.

From Malthus to the Millennium Bug, apocalyptic thinking has a poor track record. But when it issues from Hillman, it may be worth paying attention. Over nearly 60 years, his research has used factual data to challenge policymakers’ conventional wisdom. In 1972, he criticised out-of-town shopping centres more than 20 years before the government changed planning rules to stop their spread. In 1980, he recommended halting the closure of branch line railways – only now are some closed lines reopening. In 1984, he proposed energy ratings for houses – finally adopted as government policy in 2007. And, more than 40 years ago, he presciently challenged society’s pursuit of economic growth.

[..] In 1971, 80% of British seven- and eight-year-old children went to school on their own; today it’s virtually unthinkable that a seven-year-old would walk to school without an adult. As Hillman has pointed out, we’ve removed children from danger rather than removing danger from children – and filled roads with polluting cars on school runs. He calculated that escorting children took 900m adult hours in 1990, costing the economy £20bn each year. It will be even more expensive today.

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Feb 032018
 
 February 3, 2018  Posted by at 11:08 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »


Frank Larson Times Square, New York 1954

 

FISA Memo Released: Here’s What It Says (ZH)
Dow Plummets 666 Points, Capping Worst Week In 2 Years (CNBC)
Did The Market Just Get “Woke?” (Roberts)
Over $100 Billion Wiped Off Global Cryptocurrency Market In 24 Hours (CNBC)
Bitcoin Ban Expands Across Credit Cards as Big US Banks Recoil (BBG)
Sotu Klaatu Barada Nikto (Jim Kunstler)
UK Interest Rates Will Rise At The End Of February (G.)
Green Brexit Is Impossible To Guarantee, EU Is Warned (G.)
German Carmakers Have Lost All Moral Standing (Spiegel)
How YouTube’s Algorithm Distorts Truth (G.)
Blockchain To Track Congo’s Cobalt From Mine To Mobile (R.)
Congo Gripped By Fear As Thousands Flee ‘Bone-Chilling’ Violence (G.)
WikiLeaks Has Published Leaks On Trump Admin And Russia, Seeking More (CJ)
‘Ultra-Processed’ Products Now Half Of All UK Family Food Purchases (G.)

 

 

The differences in interpretation across the aisle are far more stunning than the memo itself is.

FISA Memo Released: Here’s What It Says (ZH)

Update: The just released FISA memo accuses senior officials at the DOJ of inappropriately using biased opposition research into then-candidate Trump to obtain surveillance warrants on transition team members as part of the federal investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia. According to the document, information from the the so-called Steele dossier was “essential” to the acquisition of surveillance warrants on Trump campaign aide Carter Page. It claims that then-deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe told the committee in December that without the information from the Steele dossier, no surveillance warrant for Page would have been sought. The memo alleges that the political origins of the dossier — paid for by Hillary Clinton and the DNC — were not disclosed to the clandestine court that signed off on the warrant request.

The document claims that although the FBI had “clear evidence” that the author of the dossier, former British spy Christopher Steele, was biased against Trump, it did not convey that to the surveillance court when making its warrant applications. Steele told then-associate deputy attorney general Bruce Ohr that he was “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president,” the memo says. House conservatives have touted the memo’s revelations as “worse than Watergate” and hinted that it could prove the undoing of the federal investigation into Trump’s campaign. Meanwhile, Democrats on the panel say that it is a cherry-picked set of inaccurate accusations designed to kneecap special counsel Robert Mueller. They have drafted their own counter-memo to rebut the Republican-drafted document, but the majority voted against immediately making that document public earlier this week.

The memo is based on a slate of highly-classified materials provided to the committee by the Justice Department itself, in a closed-door deal brokered by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Naturally, the DOJ has claimed that the release of the memo is an abrogation of the terms of that deal, an assertion spokesmen for both Ryan and Nunes have rejected. Meanwhile, the underlying evidence remains classified, a state of affairs that Democrats and some national security analysts say makes it impossible to independently verify the memo’s conclusions. As The Hill reported earlier, ahead of the document’s release, Paul Ryan privately urged House Republicans not to overplay the document — and not to tie it to the Mueller investigation.

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10 years ago, a drop of 777 was the biggest news on the planet. Today, 666 gets poo-poohed into nothingness.

Dow Plummets 666 Points, Capping Worst Week In 2 Years (CNBC)

U.S. stocks fell sharply on Friday after a stronger-than-expected jobs report sent interest rates higher. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 665.75 points to close at 25,520.96, capping off the index’s sixth-largest points decline ever. The 30-stock index also fell below 26,000. Friday also marked the first time since June 2016 that the Dow fell at least 500 points. The S&P 500 fell 2.1% and finished at 2,762.13, with energy as the worst-performing sector. The Nasdaq composite plunged 1.96% to 7,240.95 as a decline in Apple and Alphabet offset a strong gain in Amazon shares. The Dow posted its worst day since June 2016. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq had their biggest one-day fall since September 2016 and August 2017, respectively.

“The key for the market today is rising interest rates,” said Mike Baele, managing director at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. “The old adage is: ‘Bull markets don’t die of old age, they are killed by higher interest rates.’ That looms large.” The U.S. economy added 200,000 jobs in January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Economists polled by Reuters expected growth of 180,000. Wages, meanwhile, rose 2.9% on an annualized basis. The report sent interest rates higher. The benchmark 10-year yield rose to 2.85% on the back of the report, hitting a four-year high. Investors have been jittery about the recent rise in interest rates, worrying they may be rising too fast. On Friday, the 30-year yield rose its highest level since March.

Bank stocks fell as the yield curve widened. The SPDR S&P Bank exchange-traded fund, which tracks bank stocks, dropped 1.2%. Banks typically benefit from higher interest rates. This has been a volatile week for U.S. stocks. The Cboe Volatility index, widely considered the best fear gauge in the market, rose from 11.08 this week to 17.31.

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That graph is stunning.

Did The Market Just Get “Woke?” (Roberts)

Since the beginning of this year, we have been warning of the potential for a correction. Of course, such warnings seemed pointless as the nearly “parabolic” rise in the markets seemed unstoppable. But all of a sudden, something seems to have changed as the market stumbled this past week and has been unable to regain its footing.

So, what “woke” the markets? Was it the sudden realization that Central Banks globally are reducing Q.E. programs? Or, that economic growth may be weaker than expected given recent numbers? Or, something else? Whatever, the excuse turns out to be, the real culprit is seen in the chart below.

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By now, there are some really big losers out there.

Over $100 Billion Wiped Off Global Cryptocurrency Market In 24 Hours (CNBC)

Over $100 billion was wiped off the global cryptocurrency market in 24 hours on Friday amid concerns over tighter regulation and worries that the bitcoin price was manipulated on a major exchange. The total market capitalization or value of all cryptocurrencies in circulation stood at $405 billion Friday morning New York time, according to data from CoinMarketCap.com, which takes into account the prices of digital coins across a number of key exchanges. This was a fall of $112.6 billion in value from a day before. Cryptocurrencies have seen a major sell-off this week. Bitcoin fell below $9,000 on Thursday and briefly dropped below $8,000 Friday morning, according to CoinDesk’s bitcoin price index, which tracks prices from four major cryptocurrency exchanges.

Other major coins including ethereum and ripple were down 12% and 13%, respectively, compared to a day ago as of 9:58 a.m., ET, Friday. The cryptocurrency world has been plagued by a spate of negative news. India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the country wants to “eliminate” the use of digital currencies in criminal activities, signaling tighter regulation in the country. The New York Times reported Wednesday that an increasing number of digital currency investors are worried the price of bitcoin and other digital currencies have been inflated by cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex, which is included in CoinDesk’s price index. Bloomberg reported Tuesday that in December, the U.S. Commodity Futures and Trading Commission subpoenaed Bitfinex and a cryptocurrency company called Tether, which is run by many of the same executives.

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What, they figured there was no more profit in there?

Bitcoin Ban Expands Across Credit Cards as Big US Banks Recoil (BBG)

A growing number of big U.S. credit-card issuers are deciding they don’t want to finance a falling knife. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup said they’re halting purchases of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies on their credit cards. JPMorgan, enacting the ban Saturday, doesn’t want the credit risk associated with the transactions, company spokeswoman Mary Jane Rogers said. Bank of America started declining credit card transactions with known crypto exchanges on Friday. The policy applies to all personal and business credit cards, according to a memo. It doesn’t affect debit cards, said company spokeswoman Betty Riess.

And late Friday, Citigroup said it too will halt purchases of cryptocurrencies on its credit cards. “We will continue to review our policy as this market evolves,” company spokeswoman Jennifer Bombardier said. Allowing purchases of cryptocurrencies can create big headaches for lenders, which can be left on the hook if a borrower bets wrong and can’t repay. There’s also the risk that thieves will abuse cards that were purloined or based on stolen identities, turning them into crypto hoards. Banks also are required by regulators to monitor customer transactions for signs of money laundering – which isn’t as easy once dollars are converted into digital coins.

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From before the memo release. As I said, it’s the interpretation more than the memo itself.

Sotu Klaatu Barada Nikto (Jim Kunstler)

The situation certainly puts the nation in a quandary. An uncouth and ridiculous President called forth to battle a vicious, dishonest, bureaucracy and in particular its gigantic, out-of-control “security” apparatus, which appears to have been hijacked by politically interested parties — namely, the minions of Hillary Clinton. You have been reminded here before that history is the supreme prankster. In Fourth Turning terms, the poor old disintegrating USA pined for a “gray champion” and all it got was this booby prize: a Manhattan real estate schmikler with a mean streak. Well, that’s how things roll in a long emergency. And this might only be the beginning of it. In any case, it appears that the FBI, in the hallowed words of Ricky Ricardo, has got some ‘splainin’ to do.

Recall, it was not so long ago that the FBI was run by a cross-dressing maniac addicted to blackmail, so let’s not act as if the agency was something that the Lord Yahweh brought into being on the fifth day of creation, after the lobsters and the cockateels. Granted, J. Edgar Hoover was a hard act to follow, but we are now, evidently, living in an age of even lower men (and women, to be fair). CNN reminded viewers relentlessly last night that The Memo was sure to be a disappointment, a “nothingburger,” for a nation that expects a righteous half-pound beef patty with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and special sauce on a sesame bun. Personally, I expect something more like a three-day-old dead carp in a plain brown wrapper. Maybe “the Resistance” will try to make gefilte fish out of it, which is a burger of sorts: chopped meat, anyway.

Meanwhile, we await the report of DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who has been rooting around in the same burger den as the House and Senate committees, questioning the same cast of characters. The DOJ report is liable to be more damaging than The Memo. The whole nasty gumball of suspicion and innuendo seems destined to climax in a constitutional crisis. Ludicrous as it seems — like some rogue army out of the stupid Star Wars epic — the “Resistance” bethinks itself the nation’s savior. In the best American tradition, they’ll burn the joint down in order to save it.

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Another little Brexit surprise.

UK Interest Rates Will Rise At The End Of February (G.)

There’s going to be an interest rate rise on 28 February. In just a few weeks you are going to see about 0.25% added to mortgage and savings rates. But you won’t see a press release from the Bank of England that the base rate has gone up. Instead, for the first time in years, banks are going to be scrambling to offer savers better rates – and the losers will be anyone taking out a new mortgage. So what’s happening? On 28 February an extraordinary financial measure, put in place in the days after the Brexit vote, will end. It was called the Term Funding Scheme and was designed to make sure that the 0.25% rate cut in the wake of the shock referendum result in 2016, did actually feed through the financial system (while keeping them profitable). Under the scheme, banks and building societies were able to borrow money from the Bank of England almost for free.

They did so with gusto. They have so far taken £106bn under the scheme, equal to around £3,500 for every working person in the country. Lloyds took £18bn, RBS £14bn, Barclays £10bn, Nationwide £9.5bn and Santander £8bn. Nearly everyone rushed to grab their share: from the tiny Holmesdale building society – which took £4m – through to the Nottingham building society (£395m) and Virgin Money (£4.2bn). Specialist lender Aldermore, which does a lot of buy-to-let mortgages, has drawn £1.4bn from the scheme over a period during which its total net lending has been £1.5bn. It underlines just how important the cash has been. With all this money gushing out of the Bank of England, it has meant that no one has really had to bother chasing savers for their money. So savings rates, already massively depressed by the 2012 Funding for Lending Scheme, were hit further.

But the corner will be turned on 28 February. On that date, the banks and building societies will have to start repaying that £106bn. They’ll have a few years to do it, so maybe I’m being a little dramatic suggesting rates will rise overnight. But let’s say I wouldn’t, right now, lock myself into Lloyds’ one-year bond paying 0.4% or NatWest’s two-year bond paying 0.85%. The banks are going to have to offer much better rates than that to bring the money in. Some of the big banks may pooh-pooh this. Yes, £18bn sounds like a lot for Lloyds, but then it has an £800bn balance sheet, so it’s hardly fatal. But when rivals start offering as much as 3% to get you to move money, banks won’t have a choice but to raise rates. According to Paul Richards, chairman of Insignis Cash Solutions: “It’s likely we will see a 0.25%-0.5% increase in longer-term savings rates over the next 12 months and potentially up to 1% over the next 24-36 months, which could leave a one-year term account getting close to the 3% level.”

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Why should the EU feel ‘warned’ about what may happen when the UK is no longer part of the EU?

Green Brexit Is Impossible To Guarantee, EU Is Warned (G.)

The European Conservative and Reformist group which represents Conservative MEPs has has said Brexit will make it “impossible” to guarantee that current environmental standards can be maintained in Britain or the EU. A leaked document seen by the Guardian also calls for “the closest possible working relationship” between the EU and UK after Brexit, and for a “no regression clause” in future British trade deals. This would “limit any negative effects from deregulation,” says the paper, which was submitted to the European parliament’s Brexit environment steering group. Some Conservative MEPs claimed not to have seen the report that was submitted. The parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, told the Guardian: “Suggestions that the UK might seek to lower environmental standards after Brexit are alarming and contradict the commitments made by prime minister May in her Florence speech.”

They also showed why a future deal “must contain precise and detailed safeguards, with robust sanctions, to ensure the maintenance of high standards and a level playing field,” he said. The EU’s environmental laws are among its most popular, with polls showing that over 80% of Britons support the same levels of protection – or higher – after Brexit. During the referendum campaign, key government ministers said EU laws such as the birds and habitats directive were “spirit-crushing” and would be scrapped. But Theresa May has sought to defuse fears of conservation backsliding by trying to make the environment a selling point of leaving the bloc. “Let me be very clear,” May said in a speech last month. “Brexit will not mean a lowering of environmental standards.” “We will use the opportunity Brexit provides to strengthen and enhance our environmental protections – not to weaken them.”

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Still haven’t seen one word about prosecuting the people behind all this. Incredible.

German Carmakers Have Lost All Moral Standing (Spiegel)

Starting in 2007, BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen and Bosch maintained a joint lobby organization that was disguised as a research institute. The European Research Association for the Environment and Health in the Transportation Sector (EUGT) purported to dedicate itself to the “environmental-medical effects of road traffic.” But the staff in leadership posts alone shows that the institute was in no way interested in independent research. EUGT head Michael Spallek, for example, had previously spent years employed as a leading company doctor at VW. He retained his VW email address, even after his move to EUGT. The results of the institute’s research were accordingly one-sided. The efficacy of low emission zones in cities that place restrictions on driving cars with high emissions?

There’s no proof, according to one essay the lobby group managed to place in a trade publication for respiratory medicine. Nighttime noise pollution from cars? It’s no problem, as long as it’s continuous. Do diesel emissions cause cancer? Can’t be proven. A short time later, former VW manager and EUGT head Spallek approved the tests with the monkeys. “We have finished our discussions with the company lawyers,” Spallek wrote in an email dating June 14, 2013. The lawyers had given the green light for the study to be carried out, but with one restriction: Non-human primates were to be used instead of human volunteers. Several VW executives at the time were copied in the message, including Stuart Johnson, the head of the company’s Engineering and Environmental Office in the United States.

But it doesn’t appear as though any critical questions were asked. The aim of the experiment with the monkeys had been to deliver definitive proof of how clean “German diesel” really is. The case files compiled by attorney Melkersen illustrate the zeal with which VW’s people organized the test. Nothing was left to chance when engineer James Liang began his journey with a bright-red VW Beetle from California to New Mexico at the beginning of October 2014. The engineer from company headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, was already under pressure, even at that point. The U.S. environmental authorities had expressed their doubts about the emissions values of the allegedly squeaky-clean car. VW Chairman Martin Winterkorn had been breathing down his staff’s necks, too. The new diesel models needed to provide the company with a breakthrough in the important U.S. market. As such, anything that might possibly preserve diesel’s environmentally friendly façade had priority.

Which is where the monkeys came in. As of Oct. 2, all final preparations had been made for the test. The VW man moved assiduously around the red Beetle, which had been placed on a chassis dynamometer. The experiment would be led by Jacob McDonald, an athletic young biologist who had quickly risen in his career at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute (LRRI). McDonald found it strange that an engineer from Volkswagen would be present for the test. “It’s the first time that I’ve experienced that,” he would later say. And what he really couldn’t grasp was why the VW people wanted to transmit the entire test data in real-time to their research center in California. Engineer Liang had even brought along a transmission device especially for the task.

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YouTube has the lowest common denominator down to a T. So let kids see videos of kids beating up kids. They’re sure to keep watching.

How YouTube’s Algorithm Distorts Truth (G.)

There are 1.5 billion YouTube users in the world, which is more than the number of households that own televisions. What they watch is shaped by this algorithm, which skims and ranks billions of videos to identify 20 “up next” clips that are both relevant to a previous video and most likely, statistically speaking, to keep a person hooked on their screen. Company insiders tell me the algorithm is the single most important engine of YouTube’s growth. In one of the few public explanations of how the formula works – an academic paper that sketches the algorithm’s deep neural networks, crunching a vast pool of data about videos and the people who watch them – YouTube engineers describe it as one of the “largest scale and most sophisticated industrial recommendation systems in existence”.

Lately, it has also become one of the most controversial. The algorithm has been found to be promoting conspiracy theories about the Las Vegas mass shooting and incentivising, through recommendations, a thriving subculture that targets children with disturbing content such as cartoons in which the British children’s character Peppa Pig eats her father or drinks bleach. Lewd and violent videos have been algorithmically served up to toddlers watching YouTube Kids, a dedicated app for children. One YouTube creator who was banned from making advertising revenues from his strange videos – which featured his children receiving flu shots, removing earwax, and crying over dead pets – told a reporter he had only been responding to the demands of Google’s algorithm. “That’s what got us out there and popular,” he said. “We learned to fuel it and do whatever it took to please the algorithm.”

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How to make rape, murder and pillage more efficiently. And what does Amnesty say? ‘We’re not against it’.

Blockchain To Track Congo’s Cobalt From Mine To Mobile (R.)

Blockchain is to be used for the first time to try to track cobalt’s journey from artisanal mines in Democratic Republic of Congo through to products used in smartphones and electric cars. Sources close to a pilot scheme expected to be launched this year say the aim is eventually to give manufacturers a way of ensuring the cobalt in lithium-ion batteries for products such as iPhones and Teslas has not been mined by children. Tracking cobalt presents many challenges as scores of informal mine sites would have to be monitored, all players in the supply chain would need to buy into the scheme, and accurate, electronic data would need to be transmitted from remote areas – all in a vast country plagued by lawlessness.

But companies are under growing pressure from consumers and investors to show the cobalt they use has come through supply chains free of rights abuses, just as they have for minerals used in electronics such as tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold. Businesses in China, the main destination for Congolese cobalt from artisanal mines, have set up a Responsible Cobalt Initiative, which has been joined by tech giants such as Apple and Samsung, to address child labor. The problem they face is that there are few sure-fire ways of tracing cobalt from the informal mines that produce up to a fifth of the cobalt from Congo, the world’s biggest producer. “The demand to make cobalt more sustainable is going to continue growing, meaning there is a will to find a solution and blockchain will be part of that,” said a source with the project.

[..] Sheila Warren, head of blockchain policy at the World Economic Forum, said it was an open question how well it could work in Congo given the prevalence of conflict, lawlessness and an opaque legal system. “We are prototyping, iterating, testing, scaling,” said Warren, who is working with experts to see how blockchain can improve mineral supply chains. “The technology is not the hard part.” Amnesty International, which detailed the extent of child labor in cobalt mining in Congo in a 2016 report, said it was looking at blockchain, especially with a view to tracing payments to middlemen. “You have to be wary of technological solutions to problems that are also political and economic, but blockchain may help. We’re not against it,” said Amnesty researcher Mark Dummett.

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It is our governments who are behind this. And our media who don’t tell us about that. How anyone can protest when the Congo is labeled a shithole is beyond me. That takes a very large object up one’s behind.

Congo Gripped By Fear As Thousands Flee ‘Bone-Chilling’ Violence (G.)

The UN refugee agency has become the latest aid organisation to voice its alarm over rising violence in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo that has forced thousands of people to flee their homes. Amid a worsening humanitarian crisis, almost 7,000 people have crossed to neighbouring Burundi and 1,200 into Tanzania in the past week, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “Refugees we have spoken to say they fled forced recruitment, direct violence and other abuses by armed groups. Others say they fled in anticipation of military operations and out of fear,” said spokesperson Babar Baloch. Earlier this week, the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation described “alarming food insecurity” in the country, sparked by an extension of conflict into areas previously considered stable, such as the provinces of Kasai and Tanganyika.

Last month, Jean-Philippe Chauzy, DRC’s chief of mission for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), said the humanitarian crisis in DRC was at “breaking point” amid a massive escalation of inter-ethnic conflict and widespread insecurity. The number of people coping with extreme hunger has risen by 2 million over the past six months, reaching 7.7 million – about 10% of the population. More than 4 million children under the age of five are at risk of acute malnutrition, said the agencies. “The humanitarian situation in the DRC is at breaking point, as is our capacity to respond to extremely limited funding,” said Chauzy. “The stories that Congolese who have been forced from their homes are telling are bone-chilling. They have been through so much already – torture, rape and murder of their loved ones. We cannot stand idly by as they suffer in silence.”

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Without WikiLeaks, we’d be stumbling even more in the dark. We don’t do nearly enough to protect them. We let whoever claim that Assange is some Russian agent, and we owe him a lot more respect than that.

WikiLeaks Has Published Leaks On Trump Admin And Russia, Seeking More (CJ)

Democrats believe that Assange is a Trump-supporting Kremlin asset while Trump supporters believe Assange is a based MAGA hat-wearing ally to their cause, the former because they were told to believe that by CNN and the Washington Post and the latter because they’ve seen him championed by Fox’s Sean Hannity and the elaborate 4chan hoax “QAnon”. Neither could be further from the truth. Today Assange responded to a call for transparency on Trump “tax returns, corporate records, campaign emails, and other documents relevant to Donald Trump’s Russia/WikiLeaks connections” from toxic neocon David Frum with the words “Go for it” and a link to WikiLeaks’ leak submission service. This is not the first time WikiLeaks has solicited documents on the Trump administration, and it won’t be the last.

Since long before the election and continuing through to the present, WikiLeaks has been harshly criticizing the president’s refusal to release his tax returns and publicly asking for leakers to submit them. They are on record trying to persuade Donald Trump Jr to do the same in a conversation that has been spuriously criticized but which when examined impartially is plainly just a leak publishing outlet soliciting a potential source. More importantly, WikiLeaks has already published Trump administration leaks. Its Vault 7 and Vault 8 leak drops exposing the CIA’s scary surveillance and hacking tools are comparable to NSA leaks from Edward Snowden against the Obama administration, and much like the Obama administration’s vindictive backlash against Snowden we are seeing similar retaliation from the Trump administration for the CIA leaks.

Trump’s CIA Director has pledged to shut down WikiLeaks as “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,” and his Attorney General has statedthat Assange’s arrest is a priority, which Trump himself has said he would permit. Mike Pompeo’s increasingly vitriolic and threatening rhetoric about WikiLeaks is reminiscent of Joe Biden’s labeling Assange a “hi-tech terrorist” eight years ago. WikiLeaks in reality is not a friend of Republicans anymore than it’s a friend of Democrats, because WikiLeaks is and always will be first and foremost an enemy of corrupt power. The liberals who used to love Assange when he was dropping leaks about the Bush administration now hate him, and the conservatives who used to attack him as an enemy now celebrate him as a hero. This dynamic will necessarily switch again when more leaks drop and conservatives see clearly that Assange’s principles are not for sale.

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An epic tale for future historians. When we found how to feed ourselves, all of us, with good food, we decided not to do that. There’s some deeper meaning there, we don’t have the ability to do this right. We may be smart, but only superficially. And moreover, if we did get it right, we’d end up with 30-40 billion people here. So we poison ourselves.

‘Ultra-Processed’ Products Now Half Of All UK Family Food Purchases (G.)

Half of all the food bought by families in the UK is now “ultra-processed”, made in a factory with industrial ingredients and additives invented by food technologists and bearing little resemblance to the fruit, vegetables, meat or fish used to cook a fresh meal at home. Research by global nutrition experts reveals the scale of our food evolution, from farm-fresh to factory-manufactured. “Real food” has been replaced by salty snacks and sugary cereals, industrially-made bread and desserts, ready-meals and reconstituted meats alongside sweetened soft drinks. The study of 19 European countries is published this month in a special issue of the journal Public Health Nutrition. It shows that UK families buy more ultra-processed food than any others in Europe, amounting to 50.7% of the diet.

Germany comes second, on 46.2% and then Ireland on 45.9%. While the figures are not directly comparable, extracted from national surveys carried out differently and from different years, the trend is clear. The UK data they analysed came from the Living Costs and Food Survey 2008, the latest available. They categorised foods into four groups. More than a quarter of food (28.6%) was unprocessed or minimally so, 10.4% was processed cooking ingredients such as vegetable oil and 10.2% was ordinarily processed, such as cheese or cured meat. Ultra-processed food amounts to more than all the other groups combined.

Professor Carlos Monteiro from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, who led the research team, told the Guardian of his deep concern about the links between ultra-processed food with obesity and poor health. Ultra-processed foods may look attractive and are designed with sweet or salty tastes that make us want more. But there is nothing nutritious about them, Monteiro said. “Take breakfast cereals. If you take Froot Loops, for instance, more than 50% is sugar,” he told the Guardian. “[But] there is no fruit … “Ultra-processed foods are essentially new creations of the food industry with very low cost ingredients in a very attractive product.”

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