Oct 072020
 
 October 7, 2020  Posted by at 9:14 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  22 Responses »


Leonardo da Vinci Head of a Woman 1475-80

 

President Trump Reauthorizes Declassification of all Documents (sundance)
There are Trillions at Stake (sundance)
Declassified CIA Docs Show Alleged Clinton Plan To Link Trump To Russia (DC)
Spy Chief Releases Docs On Claim Hillary Clinton Cooked Up Russia Scandal (NYP)
CIA Director Gina Haspel and the British Role in the Anti-Trump Plot (Farrell)
Grand Jury Indicts St. Louis Couple Who Defended Home Amid Demonstrations (JTN)
Jay Powell Wants More Help From Congress: Low Risk Of ‘Overdoing It’ (CNBC)
Unfavorable Views of China Reach Historic Highs in Many Countries (Pew)
Court To Rule On UK Freedom Of Information Bids From Overseas (G.)
The Unprecedented And Illegal Campaign To Eliminate Julian Assange (Glass)
Top US Food Bank Warns Of Nationwide “Meal Shortages” In Next 12 Months (ZH)
Media Criticizes Trump For Downplaying Virus Threat By Not Dying (BBee)

 

 

Trump disavows

 

 

Trump declassification

 

 

Lawyer “sundance” explains that we’ve been here before, and nothing happened. We’re still where we were in May 2019.

Interesting that he includes Julian Assange. I did say a few weeks ago that Assange may need the right-wing press. And they need him.

President Trump Reauthorizes Declassification of all Documents (sundance)

President Donald Trump has transmitted an epic tweet-storm seemingly targeted toward all officials within the executive branch; and the intelligence apparatus writ large:

One important note of caution: there is a big difference between “authorized” and “ordered”. On May 23rd, 2019, President Trump authorized AG Bill Barr to declassify all documents and despite much optimism nothing happened {Go DEEP}. However, President Trump references that lack of inaction in the next series of tweets:

Presumably “people” who “acted very slowly” would pertain to AG Bill Barr, FBI Director Chris Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel, State Dept Secretary Mike Pompeo and former ODNI Dan Coats. President Trump asks those agencies now to “Act!!!” President Trump also expressed the same frustration many of us feel about how these agencies and institutions have operated only to protect their own interests. He even re-tweeted the meme of Bill Barr to drive home the point. [..] Whether anything comes of this latest, seemingly stronger, emphasis and request from President trump is an unknown. However, again, this is an authorization for release of documents and not a direct order.


There are likely legal reasons for this approach, and no doubt there are advisors around the office of the president who would want him to take a more cautious approach. Several people are pointing toward an announcement of a press conference by the DOJ tomorrow and attempting to connect the tweet-storm to the presser. However, my gut tells me they are two distinctly different topics; but we can keep our fingers crossed. We will know if the two events are connected less than 12 hours from now. Interestingly, albeit likely unrelated, the specific participants in the presser hold offices that are directly connected to the previous 2019 indictment of Julian Assange.

Read more …

Also “sundance”, with an excellent review of how Washington operates.

There are Trillions at Stake (sundance)

With 30-days left before the election perhaps it’s worthwhile remembering what all of this opposition is about… Something 99% of American voters do not quite understand. Congress doesn’t actually write legislation. The last item of legislation written by congress was sometime around the mid 1990’s. Modern legislation is sub-contracted to a segment of DC operations known as K-Street. That’s where the lobbyists reside. Lobbyists write the laws; congress sells the laws; lobbyists then pay congress lucrative commissions for passing their laws. That’s the modern legislative business in DC. When we talk about paying-off politicians in third-world countries we call it bribery. However, when we undertake the same process in the U.S. we call it “lobbying”.

CTH often describes the system with the phrase: “There are Trillions at Stake.” The process of creating legislation is behind that phrase. DC politics is not quite based on the ideas that frame most voter’s reference points. With people taking notice of DC politics for the first time; and with people not as familiar with the purpose of DC politics; perhaps it is valuable to provide clarity. Most people think when they vote for a federal politician -a House or Senate representative- they are voting for a person who will go to Washington DC and write or enact legislation. This is the old-fashioned “schoolhouse rock” perspective based on decades past. There is not a single person in congress writing legislation or laws.

In modern politics not a single member of the House of Representatives or Senator writes a law, or puts pen to paper to write out a legislative construct. This simply doesn’t happen. Over the past several decades a system of constructing legislation has taken over Washington DC that more resembles a business operation than a legislative body. Outside groups, often called “special interest groups”, are entities that represent their interests in legislative constructs. These groups are often representing foreign governments, Wall Street multinational corporations, banks, financial groups or businesses; or smaller groups of people with a similar connection who come together and form a larger group under an umbrella of interest specific to their affiliation.

Sometimes the groups are social interest groups; activists, climate groups, environmental interests etc. The social interest groups are usually non-profit constructs who depend on the expenditures of government to sustain their cause or need. The for-profit groups (mostly business) have a purpose in Washington DC to shape policy, legislation and laws favorable to their interests. They have fully staffed offices just like any business would – only their ‘business‘ is getting legislation for their unique interests. These groups are filled with highly-paid lawyers who represent the interests of the entity and actually write laws and legislation briefs. In the modern era this is actually the origination of the laws that we eventually see passed by congress. Within the walls of these buildings within Washington DC is where the ‘sausage’ is actually made. Again, no elected official is usually part of this law origination process.

Read more …

I’ve read many comments on the declassification, and I find all the references to Russia disconcerting. Why not leave Russia out, and then look at what happened? Russia is not the story.

Declassified CIA Docs Show Alleged Clinton Plan To Link Trump To Russia (DC)

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe on Tuesday declassified portions of two documents that show the CIA picked up intelligence regarding Hillary Clinton’s alleged approval of a campaign to link Donald Trump to Russia’s hacking efforts. Ratcliffe declassified notes taken in 2016 by then-CIA Director John Brennan during a meeting with President Obama and his national security advisers regarding Russia’s election meddling efforts. The intelligence chief also declassified sections of a Counterintelligence Operation Lead (CIOL) memo that the CIA sent on Sept. 7, 2016 to then-FBI Director James Comey and Peter Strzok, the top counterintelligence investigator on Crossfire Hurricane. “Per FBI verbal request, CIA provided the below examples of information the CROSSFIRE HURRICANE fusion cell has gleaned to date,” reads an unredacted portion of the CIOL.

The memo referred to information related to “US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s approval of a plan concerning US presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering US elections as a means of distracting the public from her use of a private email server.” Brennan has testified that he created a so-called “fusion cell” in July 2016 that consisted of officials from the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency to investigate Russia’s election interference. The CIA documents, obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation, were cited last week in a letter that Ratcliffe sent to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham. That letter said that U.S. intelligence “gained insight” in late July 2016 into “Russian intelligence analysis” that asserted that Clinton had approved a plan to link Trump to Russia’s hacking efforts in order to distract from her use of a private email server.

The documents released Tuesday do not provide much clarification about the underlying CIA intelligence. They do confirm that the CIA obtained the intelligence Ratcliffe referred to in his letter. Republicans asserted that the documents raise questions about whether Clinton personally approved the dissemination of a false allegation linking Trump to Russia. Clinton campaign advisers publicly accused Donald Trump of aiding Russia’s hacking efforts following the July 22, 2016 release of DNC emails through WikiLeaks. A report from the special counsel’s office released last year said there was no evidence that Trump or members of his campaign conspired with Russia to hack and release Democrats’ emails. According to Brennan’s undated notes, he told President Obama that the intelligence community had picked up evidence that Russians had learned that Clinton personally approved a plan on July 28, 2016 to link Trump to Russia’s hacking of the Democrat National Committee.

Brennan’s notes refer to intelligence related to Clinton’s approval “of a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisors to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by Russian security services.” Brennan appeared on CNN shortly after Ratcliffe declassified the documents, but denied that they showed any wrongdoing on Clinton’s part. He said during the briefing for Obama, he provided examples of “the type of access that the U.S. intelligence community to Russian information and what the Russians were talking about and alleging.” “If in fact what the Russians were alleging, that Hillary was trying to highlight the reported connections between Trump and the Russians — and that’s a big ‘if’ — there is nothing at all illegal about that.”

Read more …

The docs do seem to move us forward at least a bit.

Spy Chief Releases Docs On Claim Hillary Clinton Cooked Up Russia Scandal (NYP)

National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe on Tuesday declassified documents that claim Hillary Clinton ordered “a campaign plan to stir up a scandal” by linking President Trump to Russia in 2016 — and that then-President Barack Obama knew about her possible role. Ratcliffe provided to Fox News an undated set of notes from then-CIA director John Brennan about a briefing for Obama that touched on the allegation, and an investigative referral from the CIA to the FBI describing the claim. “Today, at the direction of President Trump, I declassified additional documents relevant to ongoing Congressional oversight and investigative activities,” Ratcliffe told Fox News Tuesday.

Most of the unredacted content in the documents was released by Ratcliffe last week, though minor new details cast doubt on former FBI Director James Comey’s declaration last week that he could not recall the claim, which Clinton allies deny as baseless potential Russian disinformation. The newly released notes from Brennan, who now is a fiery anti-Trump commentator, indicate that Brennan briefed Obama on “alleged approval by Hillary Clinton on July 28 of a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisors to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by Russian security services.” Ratcliffe’s initial disclosure said that, according to Brennan’s notes, Clinton allegedly approved the scheme on July 26.

The minor inaccuracy shortens the window of time between Clinton’s alleged approval of the plot and the FBI opening its investigation of possible Trump-Russia collusion on July 31, 2016. A previously undisclosed annotation in Brennan’s notes appears to attribute to Obama an interest in “any evidence of collaboration between Trump campaign + Russia.” The initials “JC” also are on the briefing notes, implying that that then-FBI Director James Comey attended the meeting where Brennan discussed the theory with Obama.

[..] The investigative referral from the CIA to the FBI, meanwhile, contains the previously disclosed passage noting an allegation about “Clinton’s approval of a plan concerning US Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering US elections as a means of distracting the public from her use of a private mail server.” The actual referral is mostly redacted, but additionally states that the document was sent “per FBI verbal request.” It was addressed to Comey, but to the attention of then-FBI Deputy Assistant Director of Counterintelligence Peter Strzok, who notoriously traded anti-Trump text message on work phones with his mistress FBI lawyer Lisa Page. In his initial disclosure last week, Ratcliffe said the claim against Clinton was unproven and could be an “exaggeration or fabrication.”

Read more …

The same Gina Haspel is now apparently hampering efforts to declassify documents. Who foisted her on Trump? And what role did she play in the Assange case while she ran the CIA in London?

CIA Director Gina Haspel and the British Role in the Anti-Trump Plot (Farrell)

We have raised and discussed serious matters of fact and questions about the role of CIA Director Gina Haspel in the Anti-Trump conspiracy. It appears Haspel (while serving as London Chief of Station from 2014 to early 2017) was an active, knowledgeable party to the efforts to target candidate Trump with an FBI-instigated foreign counterintelligence operation. That seditious conspiracy carried forward to a more sophisticated and aggressive plan to carry out a soft coup against President Donald J. Trump. Looking back on news reporting concerning Haspel, we turn (with caution) to a Washington Post article from July 2019 by Shane Harris, titled: “The quiet director: How Gina Haspel manages the CIA’s volatile relationship with Trump”.

We are supposed to believe that Haspel and her office did not cooperate with the reporter for the article. Harris disclaims Haspel involvement by writing: “This report is based on interviews with 26 current and former officials who have worked with Haspel in the United States, particularly when she served in senior management roles at headquarters, and in London, where Haspel served two tours as the CIA’s top representative — chief of station — a plum post that is usually the steppingstone to the agency’s highest ranks.” No Washington Post article in the last decade has contained such a scrupulous sourcing statement. Of course, Haspel had nothing to do with the article. Remember that, won’t you?

Haspel, twice-over Chief of Station in London, had close connections with the British intelligence and security services. Given the nature of the “special relationship” between the two countries, that is hardly surprising. Harris’s interviews of British intelligence officers take things a step further, however: “… what she lacked in after-hours sociability she made up for with deep professional ties to the upper echelon of the British security establishment. ‘She had access to anyone in our service,’ the former British intelligence official said.” Harris goes on to explain: “Haspel has become the CIA’s linchpin to the Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, its most important foreign partner. Her British colleagues say that she knows them so well — warts and all — that they call her the ‘honorary U.K. desk officer.'”

In the next paragraph, Harris notes breathlessly: “… Trump has accused the United Kingdom of conspiring with American intelligence to spy on his presidential campaign.” President Trump certainly has made that claim, and one believes for very good reasons that seem to compound weekly. Reasons that make the “intelligence community” and 95% of “official Washington” extremely nervous. It is the sort of statement that presidential aides and counsels look nervous about, wring their hands and respectfully, earnestly plead: “But Mr. President, you just can’t say that sort of thing!” Truth be damned.

Read more …

Hard to see how this is not political.

Grand Jury Indicts St. Louis Couple Who Defended Home Amid Demonstrations (JTN)

St. Louis couple Mark and Patricia McCloskey, have been indicted by a Grand Jury seated by St. Louis Circuit Prosecutor Kim Gardner’s office, in connection with them defending their home this summer amid Black Lives Matter protests. Al Watkins, an attorney for the couple, confirmed to the Associated Press the indictments against Mark McCloskey, 63, and Patricia McCloskey, 61. Joel Schwartz, a McCloskey attorney, told Just the News on Tuesday night that the indictment is called a “suppressed” indictment and that he’s unaware of what it states. “I am told by sources that this is a suppressed indictment, which makes no sense to me. We had a hearing this morning in court. The hearing was cancelled. Then I was contacted by sources, who learned my clients were indicted. I reached out to the Circuit Attorney’s office. I have yet to received a response,” said Joel Schwartz to Just the News.


Schwartz represents the couple in the criminal case, and Watkins represents the couple in a related civil case. Gardner, a Democrat, charged the McCloskeys with “flourishing” a weapon in connection with the June 28 incident in which social justice protesters entered the couple’s private, gated community during a demonstration and marched past their home. The McCloskeys have said they each went outside with a gun because they feared for the safety of themselves and their home. Missouri GOP Gov. Mike Parson said in July that he was prepared to exercise his pardon powers if prosecutors bring criminal charges in the case. As previously reported by Just the News, Gardner’s campaigns have received tens of thousands of dollars from a political action committee financed by billionaire political philanthropist George Soros.

Read more …

He’s going to bankrupt untold numbers of Americans.

Jay Powell Wants More Help From Congress: Low Risk Of ‘Overdoing It’ (CNBC)

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell called Tuesday for continued aggressive fiscal and monetary stimulus for an economic recovery that he said still has “a long way to go.” Noting progress made in job creation, goods consumption and business formation, among other areas, Powell said that now would be the wrong time for policymakers to take their foot off the gas. Doing so, he said, could “lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses” and thwart a rebound that thus far has progressed more quickly than expected. “By contrast, the risks of overdoing it seem, for now, to be smaller,” Powell added in remarks to the National Association for Business Economics.

“Even if policy actions ultimately prove to be greater than needed, they will not go to waste. The recovery will be stronger and move faster if monetary policy and fiscal policy continue to work side by side to provide support to the economy until it is clearly out of the woods.” The remarks come amid conflicting signs for an economy trying to shake off the unprecedented impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. While 11.4 million jobs lost during the associated economic shutdown have been recovered, nearly half of displaced workers remain sidelined. GDP is expected to show a sharp rebound from the 31% second-quarter plunge and housing has been a strong point as well.

However, Powell cautioned that backing off now with fiscal and monetary help runs the risk of losing momentum and bringing about an added downturn that would look not like the government-induced one that began in February, but rather a more traditional downturn that would be harder to recover from and worsen the U.S. wealth gap. That would be one where “weakness feeds on weakness,” he said. “The recovery will be stronger and move faster if monetary policy and fiscal policy continue to work side by side to provide support to the economy until it is clearly out of the woods,” Powell added.

Read more …

Don’t worry, they hate Trump more.

Unfavorable Views of China Reach Historic Highs in Many Countries (Pew)

Views of China have grown more negative in recent years across many advanced economies, and unfavorable opinion has soared over the past year, a new 14-country Pew Research Center survey shows. Today, a majority in each of the surveyed countries has an unfavorable opinion of China. And in Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United States, South Korea, Spain and Canada, negative views have reached their highest points since the Center began polling on this topic more than a decade ago. Negative views of China increased most in Australia, where 81% now say see the country unfavorably, up 24 percentage points since last year. In the UK, around three-quarters now see the country in a negative light – up 19 points.

And, in the U.S., negative views of China have increased nearly 20 percentage points since President Donald Trump took office, rising 13 points since just last year. The rise in unfavorable views comes amid widespread criticism over how China has handled the coronavirus pandemic. Across the 14 nations surveyed, a median of 61% say China has done a bad job dealing with the outbreak. This is many more than say the same of the way the COVID-19 pandemic was handled by their own country or by international organizations like the World Health Organization or the European Union. Only the U.S. receives more negative evaluations from the surveyed publics, with a median of 84% saying the U.S. has handled the coronavirus outbreak poorly.

Read more …

“5 year search for the truth by @SMaurizi continually blocked by UK/US govt.”

Hard to swallow the irony of the Guardian printing this.

Court To Rule On UK Freedom Of Information Bids From Overseas (G.)

The rights of those living abroad to submit freedom of information requests are to be tested in court after more than a dozen cases – including one relating to Julian Assange’s extradition – were blocked. A combined hearing involving the Home Office, Metropolitan police, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and 13 separate cases is to be held at an information tribunal in London. At issue is whether applicants overseas are entitled to a response when submitting freedom of information requests to UK government departments and agencies. It is not clear who triggered the “stay” imposed on the 13 requests. The ICO has declined to comment. No date has been set for the case.

The Cabinet Office, which has responsibility for FOI policy, says it complies with ICO guidance, which states: “Anyone can make a freedom of information request – they do not have to be UK citizens, or resident in the UK.” The tribunal, however, has told parties in the suspended cases that it has “decided to deal with the territorial scope” of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. All of the stayed FOI requests are from applicants not resident in Britain. The hearing will also examine whether there is a requirement that those who make FOI requests have a connection to the UK. “The main principle behind freedom of information legislation,” the ICO has said, “is that people have a right to know about the activities of public authorities, unless there is a good reason for them not to.”

One of the blocked cases is an appeal by the Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi, who works for daily newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano and writes about WikiLeaks. She has been pursuing information about how the Crown Prosecution Service dealt with its Swedish counterpart during initial attempts to extradite Assange to Sweden. Her work has been covered by the Guardian. Maurizi has also studied at Imperial College in London. Barristers Jennifer Robinson, who represents Assange, and Estelle Dehon, who specialises in freedom of information, are representing Maurizi. They have asked the tribunal to lift the stay and allow their appeals for the release of further information to proceed. They argue that Maurizi has worked on UK publications and has carried out investigations relating to the UK and UK citizens. She has also taken several other cases to information tribunal hearings.

Read more …

Let’s declassify the docs behind this.

The Unprecedented And Illegal Campaign To Eliminate Julian Assange (Glass)

Over the 17 days of Julian Assange’s extradition hearing in London, prosecutors succeeded in proving both crimes and conspiracy. The culprit, however, was not Assange. Instead, the lawbreakers and conspirators turned out to be the British and American governments. Witness after witness detailed illegal measures to violate Assange’s right to a fair trial, destroy his health, assassinate his character, and imprison him in solitary confinement for the rest of his life. Courtroom evidence exposed illegality on an unprecedented scale by America’s and Britain’s intelligence, military, police, and judicial agencies to eliminate Assange. The governments had the edge, like the white man of whom Malcolm X wrote, “He’s a professional gambler; he has all the cards and the odds stacked on his side, and he has always dealt to our people from the bottom of the deck.”

The deck was clearly stacked. Assange’s antagonists were marking the cards as early as February 2008, when the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Center set out, in its words, to “damage or destroy this center of gravity” that was WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks, from the time Assange and his friends created it in 2006, was attracting sources around the world to entrust them, securely and anonymously, with documents exposing state crimes. The audience for the documents was not a foreign intelligence service, but the public. In the governments’ view, the public needed protection from knowledge of what they were doing behind closed doors and in the skies of Afghanistan and Iraq. To plug the leaks, the governments had to stop Assange. The Pentagon, the CIA, the National Security Agency, and the State Department soon followed the Counterintelligence Center’s lead by establishing their own anti-Assange task forces and enlisting the aid of Britain, Sweden, and Ecuador.

What a ride it’s been. The first recorded “black op” against Assange occurred on September 27, 2010, when a suitcase containing three laptops, hard drives, and clothing vanished from the aircraft carrying him from Sweden to Germany. Efforts to retrieve his belongings, which included privileged communications with his legal counsel, elicited vague excuses from the airline that it knew nothing. The fate of the purloined items became public knowledge in 2013 when information from his laptops appeared in prosecution briefs against U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning. In 2011, FBI agents went to Iceland to employ an 18-year-old informant, Sigurdur “Siggi” Thordarson, to spy on WikiLeaks. When Iceland’s authorities discovered the FBI’s illegal activities, it deported the FBI agents. Thodarson, whom the FBI had paid $5,000 and flown around the world, later confessed to stealing money from WikiLeaks and was convicted for sexually abusing underage boys.

Tulsi for Julian

Read more …

And not just in the US.

Top US Food Bank Warns Of Nationwide “Meal Shortages” In Next 12 Months (ZH)

The virus pandemic and resulting recession, crushing millions of households, has produced a new era of hunger nationwide. After seven months of the coronavirus chaos, triggering widespread unemployment and the collapse of small businesses, millions of Americans are going hungry for the first time in their lives ahead of the holiday season. Tens of millions of Americans have turned to their local food banks as food insecurity spirals out of control. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey from late August, about 10% of adults, 22.3 million, reported they didn’t have enough to eat or lacked food. This figure is up from 18 million in early March.

Now, Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks, serving more than 46 million people, is warning it may experience a massive food shortage within the next twelve months, reported WaPo. Feeding America said it could face a deficit of “10 billion pound shortfall between now and June of 2021 – the equivalent of 8 billion meals.” In July, the nonprofit organization “estimated the total need for charitable food over the next year would be an unprecedented 17 billion pounds, more than three times the food bank network’s last annual distribution of 5 billion pounds.”

Rising food insecurity comes as the economy faces a tidal wave of long-term unemployment as millions of people who lost jobs early in the pandemic and remain out of work, unable to find a job, as job losses increasingly become permanent. At the moment, nearly 4 million jobs have vanished forever. Two problems are developed: rising long-term unemployment and permanent job losses, the combination of the two create deep economic scarring and immense financial pain for households. The Salvation Army recently launched its annual holiday fundraising campaign early this year, for the first time in 130 years, in a bid to “rescue Christmas” to support those households financially ruined by the economic downturn.

Read more …

Brilliant Babylon Bee.

Media Criticizes Trump For Downplaying Virus Threat By Not Dying (BBee)

President Donald Trump is once again under fire from the media for recklessly downplaying the danger of COVID by refusing to die. As the president begins to show signs of recovery, many worry that this sends the wrong message about the seriousness of the global pandemic. “Every hour that he lives is another hour that the severity of this virus is undermined!” said reporter Sara Grace Major for CNN. “Why won’t he just DIE and show the American people how deadly this virus truly is?” “Mr. President, are you sure you don’t need to lie down indefinitely or go on a ventilator?” asked another distraught journalist. “Maybe even say goodbye to your loved ones?!”


“Honestly, I feel terrific. Tremendous, really. I was never afraid of this virus before, but now I am even more not afraid. It’s sad, really. I was told this virus would be one tough cookie,“ Trump said to the press. “In fact, I’ve never felt better.” “His defiance is going to get people killed. Dying like he’s supposed to would be the most patriotic thing he could do,” complained CNN correspondent Adam Pelot. “If he lives, how will the people be able to trust science?” At publishing time, members of the press had begun pulling their own hair out as they watched the “incredibly strong and healthy” president go for a jog around the White House grounds.

Read more …

 

 

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“I hated school because I liked to daydream and the system tried to stop me from that.”
– Nassim Nicholas Taleb

 

 

 

 

Marshall McLuhan

 

 

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Apr 072020
 


Edward Hopper Office in a Small City 1953

 

PM’s Move To ICU Shows He’s Likely To Have Severe COVID19 (G.)
To Use Ventilators You Need Sedatives. The US Is Running Out Of Both (Vox)
UK Testing Chief Admits None Of 3.5 Million Antibody Kits Work (Ind.)
Spain To Extend Coronavirus Testing To People Without Symptoms (RT)
Dem Lawmaker Says Trump Saved Her Life By Recommending Hydroxychloroquine (NW)
Untested COVID19 Treatment Trump Talks Up Can Have Fatal Side Effect (IC)
Doctors Embrace Drug Touted By Trump Without Hard Evidence It Works (R.)
Trump, 3M Deal Allows N95 Face Masks To Be Exported To Canada (G.)
CDC Director Says Death Toll Will Be ‘Much Lower’ Than Projected (ABC)
Missouri GOP Senator Sets Up Potential Clash With Own Party (Pol.)
Almost a Third of Young Americans Have Lost Their Jobs So Far (Vice)
Nobody Asks Why Our Economy Is So Rigged, Brittle and Exploitive (CHS)
US Army Temporarily Stops Sending New Recruits To Basic Training (JTN)
Turkey Sets Strict Measures As Cases Soar (BBC)
Wall Street Wins – Again (Nomi Prins)
Money Minus Value, No Limit (Kunstler)
State Dep’t Refuses To Back Hillary Clinton Attempt To Avoid Deposition (JTN)
OPCW Report Set To Blame Syria Chemical Attacks On Assad (G.)

 

 

• US records 1,150 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours: Johns Hopkins tracker

• Reported US coronavirus cases via @ryanstruyk @CNN:

5 weeks ago: 91 cases
4 weeks ago: 678 cases
3 weeks ago: 4,459 cases
2 weeks ago: 42,663 cases
1 week ago: 160,698 cases
Right now: 367,650 cases

• Reported US coronavirus deaths via @ryanstruyk @CNN:

Feb. 6: 0
Mar. 6: 17
April 6: 10,908

 

 

Cases 1,359,010 (+ 76,627 from yesterday’s 1,282,383)

Deaths 75,900 (+ 5,717 from yesterday’s 70,183)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close- Note: US had over 30,000 new cases in 24 hours.

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 21% !

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Info.live:

 

 

 

 

“The British people were shocked” when they heard Boris went to the ICU, says a BBC Breakfast presenter. Well, of course, because you’ve all been lying about his condition the whole time, you and the government. The next thing they talk about now is how competent the medical staff is, as are the politicians taking over from the PM. La la land.

Boris is in real danger. Andrew Cuomo last week said that in New York only 20% of patients survive a ventilator. Numbers in Europe appear a bit better. But the reason Boris will be put on one is very likely that his own immune system has started to attack him in a cytokine storm. This would typically happen after the 7-10-day period since he got infected.

At the same time, because there is no vaccine, the immune system is the only thing that can save a patient’s life. There are various machines that can take over various’ organs’ functions, and there are medications that may help some, but in the end it’s the immune system.

Here’s wondering if Boris has taken any chloroquine, and if so, at what stage.

 

This is a good overview of -potential- proceedings.

PM’s Move To ICU Shows He’s Likely To Have Severe COVID19 (G.)

Boris Johnson’s move to the intensive care unit (ICU) of St Thomas’ hospital signals that he has severe Covid-19. Oxygen was available through a mask on the ward he was admitted to on Sunday, but the move to intensive care on Monday strongly suggests that was not enough to help him with the breathing problems caused by the viral pneumonia that the virus triggers. Most people in intensive care, according to the World Health Organization, require ventilation. Around 15% of people with Covid-19 become seriously ill and need oxygen therapy in hospital. A further 5% are moved into intensive care, so that their breathing can be taken over by mechanical ventilation. Some will also need support for other organs.

Anyone who is put on a ventilator will need to be sedated, although they are not unconscious. A tube must be inserted into the patient’s windpipe, so that air and oxygen from the machine can be blown into the lungs. That takes the strain off the lungs while they recover. [..] Ventilation is vital in most severe Covid-19 cases, which is why there has been a huge effort to obtain more machines and even encourage engineering businesses to switch production lines to make them. In the severest cases, patients are put on an ECMO machine (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), which can support both the heart and lungs where somebody is in a life-threatening condition. Johnson’s admission to intensive care comes shortly after the 10th day of the illness, which has been identified as a real danger point.

During the first week, most people’s immune systems rally and manage to fight off the virus. Those who do not recover and continue to struggle for breath and have a fever often need help around the middle of the second week. In that second week, the immune system can sometimes go into overdrive. In its attempt to fight the virus, it creates what is called a cytokine storm, in which the immune system attacks the body’s own organs. The heart, the liver and kidneys are most likely to be affected and all of them can need to be supported by machines that can take over their function. The latest report into patients admitted into critical care so far from the intensive care national audit and research centre (IANARC), showed 2,621 admissions up to 3 April, most of whom are still there. The mean age was 60 and 73% of them were men. More than 35% of them were overweight, with a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 30, and 37% were obese.

Derek Hill, professor of medical imaging at University College London, said: “It seems clear that the prime minister went to hospital because he had difficulty breathing. It seems he was initially put on oxygen, and was conscious. “But as often happens with Covid-19, his condition has now deteriorated so he has been admitted to intensive care. “We understand the PM is on a type of breathing support called Continuous positive airway pressure (Cpap), which is commonly used in treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea. Experience in Italy and other European countries has shown that Cpap can be effective in Covid-19 patients, at least initially. Many Covid-19 patients progress to invasive ventilation. Invasive ventilation involves a tube being put down the patient’s airway.”

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Insult and injury. Entire industries will be forced back from China to the US and Europe.

To Use Ventilators You Need Sedatives. The US Is Running Out Of Both (Vox)

New York City may be the first city in the country to run out of ventilators, other cities are expected to follow. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy recently tweeted, “Ventilators are our #1 need right now. I won’t stop fighting to get us the equipment we need to save every life we can.” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards predicted that his state would run out of ventilators by April 6. But to save a Covid-19 patient’s life with a ventilator, you also need an ample supply of medications, both to be able to use the machine and to prevent agonizing pain. Experts say there’s a worrisome shortage of those, too — one that’s only expected to grow worse. “The minute you talk about ventilators you need to talk about medications,” says Esther Choo, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health & Science University.

Choo says hospitals are already running out of medications like fentanyl, versed, propofol, and even neuromuscular blockades, what she calls “everyday bread and butter medications,” the drugs needed to induce and maintain sedation while on a ventilator. “Ventilators can’t really be used without these medications.” In severe cases of Covid-19, the patient’s’ own immune system can cause their lungs to fill with fluid. At this point, ventilators are a critical tool for keeping people alive. Medical staff insert a tube deep into the lungs in a process called intubation, in order to deliver more oxygen from a ventilator than the patient can inhale on their own.

“You can imagine if I tried to shove a plastic tube down your throat, it’s a very human reflex not to let someone do that,” Choo says. “So we place people in deep sedation.” After the tube is placed in the trachea, patients have to stay sedated — in the case of some Covid-19 patients, that can last for several weeks. [..] It’s alarming that hospitals are already experiencing shortages of these drugs, knowing what’s coming. Although President Trump has invoked the wartime Defense Production Act to start producing the additional 40,000 ventilators New York alone has requested, these won’t help stem the crisis for long without the drugs needed to use them — to say nothing of the freewheeling chaos of inter-state bidding wars for scarce supplies.

https://twitter.com/ColumbiaBugle/status/1247335654423322625

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Meanwhile in Borisland (Q: how much did you pay for those things?):

UK Testing Chief Admits None Of 3.5 Million Antibody Kits Work (Ind.)

The UK government’s new testing chief has admitted that none of the 3.5 million antibody tests ordered from China are fit for widespread use. Professor John Newton, who was appointed by health secretary Matt Hancock to oversee testing, reportedly said the tests were only able to identify immunity in people who had been severely sick with coronavirus. The tests did not pass the evaluation stage, and he was quoted by The Times as saying they were “not good enough to be worth rolling out in very large scale”. Prof Newton, director of public health improvement for Public Health England (PHE) said three “mega labs” for testing NHS staff was his top priority and did not expect university and commercial labs to be able to help.


He said: “We are not relying on lots of people coming forward to help us to achieve what’s required and we shouldn’t get too distracted by that. “There’s a big, big ask at the moment which is quite specific [on testing NHS staff]. So a lot of these companies who are offering their capacity may not be directly related to that ask and therefore they might not be as helpful at the moment.” Mr Hancock has also acknowledged that early analysis of the tests showed “some of them have not performed well”. He added, speaking on Thursday, that: “We’re hopeful that they [the tests] will improve and that the later tests that we’ve got our hands on will be able to be reliable enough for people to use them with confidence.”

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Does that mean everyone without symptoms? Every country needs to focus on this, but nobody does. They failed to secure the kits.

Spain To Extend Coronavirus Testing To People Without Symptoms (RT)

Hopes are growing that lockdown measures in Spain may be relaxed after figures suggested the country has “passed the peak” as tentative optimism moves across Europe. Spain will extend coronavirus testing to people showing no symptoms as new infection rates slow in the country, the country’s foreign minister announced. On Sunday, 647 deaths were reported over 24 hours – half the rate recorded during the previous week. Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez told TV station Antena 3:”We are preparing ourselves for de-escalation, for which it is important to know who is contaminated to be able to gradually lift Spanish citizens’ lockdown.” He added that Spanish companies were manufacturing 240,000 test kits a week and were still ramping up capacity.


Gonzalez’s colleague, Health Minister Salvador Illa said that Spain wanted to strengthen the coronavirus contagion slowdown as the country entered its fourth week of confinement. Elsewhere, Italy recorded its lowest daily death toll for over two weeks, as 525 people succumbed to the virus on Sunday. Germany recorded its lowest number of deaths in a week with 92 dying yesterday. Berlin announced plans to end the lockdown on April 19. France’s mortality rate also slowed for the second day running. Austria’s government revealed that it plans to start reopening shops from next week as a further indication of a tentative wave of optimism beginning to move across Europe.

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The war on chloroquine is on.

Dem Lawmaker Says Trump Saved Her Life By Recommending Hydroxychloroquine (NW)

Michigan Democratic State Representative Karen Whitsett told Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Monday that the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine stopped her coronavirus symptoms “within a couple hours.” Whitsett represents parts of Detroit, a city that has been labeled a coronavirus “hot spot.” Recent data indicated 5,032 positive cases in Detroit with 196 deaths attributable to the virus reported in the city. Used primarily to treat malaria, hydroxychloroquine has been praised by President Donald Trump as a potential therapeutic for the virus. Sunday, Trump suggested taking the drug to prevent contracting the virus. “I’m not looking at it one way or the other,” Trump said, “but we want to get out of this. If it does work, it would be a shame if we didn’t do it early. But we have some very good signs.”


While the FDA has not yet approved hydroxychloroquine for treatment of the coronavirus, Whitsett claims it worked for her. “I really want to say that you have to give this an opportunity,” Whitsett said Monday. “For me, it saved my life.” Whitsett did not receive hydroxychloroquine until the day of her coronavirus test. She was able to have her husband pick up the medication after her symptoms reached a critical phase. Hospitals in her area were full. “I honestly believed that once I got into something like that, I may not actually come out and that was my biggest fear,” Whitsett said. “And I knew that this medication would possibly save me.” Whitsett credited Trump’s mention of hydroxychloroquine during news briefings for giving her the idea of trying the drug. “If President Trump had not talked about this, it would not be something that’s accessible for anyone to get, not right now,” Whitsett said.

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Et tu, the Intercept? Chloroquine is not “untested”, just not officially as a COVID19 treatment. That’s a different thing. It’s precisely used less for malaria these days because after decades of use, the parasite that causes is suspected to have developed immunity. Plenty testing for side-effects etc. in those decades.

And do you really need to follow the New York Times in suggesting Trump touts the drug only for his own profit? Is nothing safe from the drive for clickbait and paper sales?

Untested COVID19 Treatment Trump Talks Up Can Have Fatal Side Effect (IC)

An experimental treatment for Covid-19 championed by President Donald Trump — in which patients are given doses of hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria and lupus, along with the antibiotic azithromycin — raises the risk for some patients of dangerous irregular heartbeats that could be fatal, cardiologists warn in new guidance published by the American College of Cardiology. According to the lead author of the paper, Dr. Eric Stecker, an associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, any patients treated with the combination therapy should be monitored for ventricular arrhythmia, the irregular beating of the heart’s lower chambers, which can lead to cardiac arrest.

“We don’t know the magnitude of the risk,” Stecker said in an interview on Sunday, but both drugs can raise the odds of irregular heartbeats for some patients, and the risk is greater when they are taken together. The president has repeatedly dismissed warnings from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, that the drugs might not be as safe or effective for people infected with the new coronavirus as they are for other illnesses. On Saturday, at a White House briefing on the global pandemic, Trump urged Americans to try hydroxychloroquine and suggested that people infected with the virus had nothing to lose by taking it, as long as their doctors agree.

[..] “One of the problems with knowing very little about the Trump family’s finances,” the New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie wrote, “is when the president gets fixated on something like hydroxychloroquine, we don’t know if it reflects his obsession with quick fixes and miracle cures or if he’s trying to juice an investment.” The New York Times reported on Monday that Trump does have “a small personal financial interest in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine.” In a financial disclosure released last year, the president listed among his assets three family trusts that invested in a Dodge & Cox mutual fund, which had shares of Sanofi as its largest holding.

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Because there’s no time to collect the evidence, and there’s nothing else that works. The reported numbers of doctors who take it themselves might give you a hint about its dangers.

Doctors Embrace Drug Touted By Trump Without Hard Evidence It Works (R.)

The decades-old drug that President Donald Trump has persistently promoted as a potential weapon against COVID-19 has within a matter of weeks become a standard of care in areas of the United States hit hard by the pandemic — though doctors prescribing it have no idea whether it works. Doctors and pharmacists from more than half a dozen large healthcare systems in New York, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, Washington and California told Reuters they are routinely using hydroxychloroquine on patients hospitalized with COVID-19. At the same time, several said they have seen no evidence that the drug, used for years to treat malaria and autoimmune disorders, has any effect on the virus.

Use of hydroxychloroquine has soared as the United States has quickly become the epicenter of the pandemic. More than 355,000 people in the United States have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and more than 10,000 have died. The federal government estimates that as many as 240,000 people in the country may die from the disease before the outbreak is over. Facing those numbers, and in the absence of any known effective treatments, doctors on the frontlines said they began using hydroxychloroquine and the related chloroquine on patients who are deteriorating based on a few small studies suggesting a possible benefit. Some said they had come under pressure from patients to use the therapies widely touted by Trump and other supporters.

“I may take it,” Trump said on Saturday, referring to hydroxychloroquine, though he has twice tested negative for coronavirus, according to the White House. “We’re just hearing really positive stories, and we’re continuing to collect the data.” Potential side effects of hydroxychloroquine include vision loss and heart problems. But doctors interviewed by Reuters say they are comfortable prescribing the drug for a short course of several days for coronavirus patients because the risks are relatively low and the therapies are inexpensive and generally available.

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3M will move much of its operations back to the US.

Trump, 3M Deal Allows N95 Face Masks To Be Exported To Canada (G.)

The Trump administration has agreed a deal with the US manufacturer 3M to import more than 166 million respirators from China over the next three months and allow 3M to continue exporting its US-made respirators. The agreement breaks a deadlock which resulted in Washington stopping nearly three million of the specialized masks from being exported to Ontario, stirring fears that Canada’s most populous province would run out of supplies for medical staff battling coronavirus by the end of the week. Donald Trump, who had lambasted 3M over the weekend, had warm words for the company on Tuesday, following the agreement, and its chairman and CEO, Mike Roman offered praise for the president.


“I want to thank President Trump and the administration for their leadership and collaboration,” Roman said in a written statement. “These imports will supplement the 35 million N95 respirators we currently produce per month in the United States.” Under the plan, 3M will import 166.5 million respirators (masks which form a seal over the mouth and nose and offer much greater protection than surgical masks) from its factories in China, over the coming three months. Meanwhile, the 3M statement said: “The plan will also enable 3M to continue sending US produced respirators to Canada and Latin America, where 3M is the primary source of supply.”

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I would fire him on the spot. Is he just seeking attention? Redfield was quite prominent when the US started its nightmare, but he’s pretty much gone now.

CDC Director Says Death Toll Will Be ‘Much Lower’ Than Projected (ABC)

One of the nation’s top public health officials suggested Monday that because Americans are taking social distancing recommendations “to heart,” the death toll from the novel coronavirus will be “much, much, much lower” than models have projected. “If we just social distance, we will see this virus and this outbreak basically decline, decline, decline. And I think that’s what you’re seeing,” said Robert Redfield, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control. “I think you’re going to see the numbers are, in fact, going to be much less than what would have been predicted by the models,” he said. Redfield’s remarks on Monday to AM 1030 KVOI Radio in Tucson, Arizona, struck a rosier tone than some other recent predictions.

On Monday morning, for example, the U.S. Surgeon General equated the coming week’s fallout to the attacks on Pearl Harbor. But officials on the White House task force have said they believe that even with a tough week ahead, the numbers in some places suggest that social distancing is working and could provide a reprieve eventually. National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Disease Director Anthony Fauci said he was very interested in data in New York that the number of admissions to intensive care and intubations in the last three days had started to level off. “We just got to realize that this is an indication despite all the suffering and the death that has occurred that what we have been doing has been working,” he told reporters.

At the same time, Dr. John Brownstein, a Harvard epidemiologist and ABC News contributor, said that Redfield’s comments could mislead Americans into feeling a sense that the disease’s spread is under control. “Projections and models across the board are accounting for a reduction in mobility because of social distancing, so it’s way too soon to declare any kind of victory,” he said. “This is not a moment for people to relax because they feel the models are wrong.”

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But he’s still focusing on businesses, not people.

Missouri GOP Senator Sets Up Potential Clash With Own Party (Pol.)

Most Senate Republicans are taking a cautious approach to the next step of Congress’ coronavirus response. Not Josh Hawley. The freshman Missouri GOP senator is pitching far-reaching proposals, including the federal government directly financing businesses to keep millions of workers on their payrolls — part of what he calls a “survival then surge” strategy in the face of a sputtering economy and dozens of state stay-at-home orders. It’s not exactly GOP orthodoxy to push for even greater intervention in the economy after providing new unemployment benefits, direct cash payments and more than a quarter trillion dollars in loans and grants to small businesses.

But Hawley argued in a telephone interview Monday that the economic severity in the country is “much bigger and much more severe than many other people anticipated,” and Congress needs to act accordingly. “We seem to be on a roller coaster that is currently plunging down,” Hawley said. “I personally do not want to ride that roller coaster and find where the bottom is. And I don’t think American workers should be forced to.” Hawley is one of the first Republicans to push a major add-on to Congress’ already extraordinary relief effort, and he’s fighting an uphill battle with his guarded colleagues. But the early maneuvering is a hint of the debate to come in what was once a budget-slashing party that must now weigh just how big to go in the face of a terrifying crisis.

After preaching a go-slow approach early last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has acknowledged a fourth bill will be needed, likely concentrating on health care. And action is almost certain to be necessary in the coming weeks in other areas: The bill’s signature $377 billion Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses is expected to run out of funding well before its June 30 end date, aides tracking the program say. Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen forecast potential 13 percent unemployment; Hawley fears 20 percent or worse. [..] Hawley’s proposal would provide businesses with refundable payroll tax rebates that reimburse 80 percent of payroll costs and give a rehiring bonus for businesses for the duration of the crisis. He says that will prevent unemployment offices from being overwhelmed, keep Americans from going into debt and give families a sense of confidence that a job is waiting for them when the crisis is over.

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Included for the headline. People should know that.

Almost a Third of Young Americans Have Lost Their Jobs So Far (Vice)

An Axios-Harris survey conducted through March 30 showed that 31 percent of respondents ages 18 to 34 had either been laid off or put on temporary leave because of the outbreak, compared with 22 percent of those 35 to 49 and 15 percent of those 50 to 64. John Gerzema, CEO of the Harris Poll, said it was important to note that the latest survey data do not factor in the doubling of U.S. jobless claims to over 6.6 million in the past week. That number “would suggest further pain and dislocation to 18-34 year olds,” he said. But the economic fears of many young people, even ones with uncomplicated medical histories, are increasingly counterbalanced by health worries as they grow more aware of the risks of COVID-19.


After hearing for months that it threatens primarily seniors and people with chronic diseases, they are now seeing how it imperils their own age group, with consequences such as lung failure. “It’s natural that as we learn more, it’ll become clear that there are substantial costs for young people, even if the risks are, in fact, much greater for the elderly,” said Jeffrey Clemens, a health and labor economist at the University of California-San Diego. “Whether people want to work depends in part on other qualities of the job, one of which is whether it comes with serious health, physical or other risks.”

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I think the answer is the Fed. Only the most crooked survive.

Nobody Asks Why Our Economy Is So Rigged, Brittle and Exploitive (CHS)

What’s remarkable about the lockdown isn’t the hue and cry about the economic damage–it’s the absence of any critical curiosity as to how our economy became so fragile that only the wealthiest contingent can survive a few weeks on savings or rainy-day funds. A healthy, resilient economy would be able to survive a few weeks of lockdown without a multi-trillion dollar bailout of every racket in the land. A society that wasn’t threadbare financially and socially would be able to function and accept individual sacrifices for the common good.

Rather than being organized to serve the common good, our economy and social order is little more than overlapping rackets: rigged “markets” operated by quasi-monopolies to enrich the few at the expense of the many; brittle bureaucracies bound by thousands of pages of mindless “compliance” and exploitive neofeudal structures in which debt-serfs are paid just enough to service their debt but not enough to afford skyrocketing costs for housing, healthcare, higher education, childcare, junk fees and taxes. While everyone is busy screaming about the damage done by the lockdown, nobody’s asking why costs are so high that few can survive a few weeks on their own means.

Nobody dares look at the soaring costs imposed by cartels and monopolies (including government and government-funded rackets such as healthcare and higher education) because it might shine a light on the money-trough they’re feeding from. (Crush every racket but mine…)

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But Russia!

US Army Temporarily Stops Sending New Recruits To Basic Training (JTN)

The Army has temporarily stopped sending new recruits to basic training, the U.S. military service announced Monday. The hiatus is an effort to help contain the spread of the coronavirus and is effective immediately. The measure will remain in place for two weeks. “This tactical pause will allow commands to ensure appropriate safety measures are in place and are operating effectively at training installations,” the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) wrote in a release to Just the News. The pause will protect the current and future force, the organization’s leader said in a statement. “One of TRADOC’s main focuses is to develop leaders by accessing, training and educating soldiers,” said Gen. Paul E. Funk, II, who leads the command.


“We have to do so responsibly, and we’ve already begun protecting those currently in our ranks with social-distanced-enabled training, reduced movement of our soldiers and trainees, and increased screening of those moving across our commands.” Soldiers now in the training pipeline will finish their schools and upon graduation proceed to their next assignment, the Army said. Under new guidelines, the graduates will be medically screened before shipping out, then travel aboard sterilized buses while maintaining spaced-apart intervals. “The decision to pause the shipment of trainees to BCT [Basic Combat Training] for two weeks will allow leaders to focus on setting conditions so movement can be conducted in a safer manner in the future,” Funk said.

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One of the countries I singled out recently. Turkey’s soccer league continued playing to crowds until 10 days ago IIRC.

Turkey Sets Strict Measures As Cases Soar (BBC)

Turkish authorities have imposed new measures to limit the spread of coronavirus, as the number of infections continues to rise sharply. The country has reported 30,217 confirmed cases and 649 deaths. Face masks are mandatory on public transport, in markets and other communal spaces, and 31 cities are now closed to all but essential traffic. Turkey now has the ninth-highest number of cases worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Some 1.3 million people have fallen ill globally and more than 70,000 have died. On Twitter, Turkey’s Health Minister Dr Fahrettin Koca urged people to “stay at home”, saying the virus “draws its power from contact”.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has asked people to practice social distancing and stay “three paces” from one another. Schools are closed, many international and domestic flights are suspended, and mass prayers and public gatherings have been banned. But critics – including doctors and opposition politicians – say more needs to be done. The government still has not imposed a full lockdown like those in place in European countries. Data suggests Turkey now has the fastest rising number of confirmed cases in the world. Mr Erdogan imposed a nationwide confinement order on Friday, for those under 20 years old and anyone over 65 or with a chronic medical condition.

[..] “When we counted there were about 1.1 million people using public transport on a work day, and we’ve seen a lot of private cars on the streets,” key opposition figure and Mayor of Istanbul Ekrem Imamoglu told the BBC. Asked if it was crazy how many people continue to move around, he replied: “It is, absolutely.”

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Time for a revolution.

Wall Street Wins – Again (Nomi Prins)

As in 2008, the most beneficial policies and funding will be heading for Wall Street banks and behemoth corporations. Far less will be going directly to American workers through tangible grants, cheaper loans, or any form of debt forgiveness. Even the six months of student-loan payment relief (only for federal loans, not private ones) just pushes those payments down the road. The historic $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package is heavily corporate-focused. For starters, a quarter of it, $500 billion, goes to large corporations. At least $454 billion of that will back funding for up to $4.5 trillion in corporate loans from the Fed and the remainder will be for direct Treasury loans to big companies. Who gets what will be largely Treasury Secretary Mnuchin’s choice. And mind you, we may never know the details since President Trump is committed to making this selection process as non-transparent as possible.

There’s an additional $50 billion that’s to be dedicated to the airline industry, $25 billion of which will be in direct grants to airlines that don’t place employees on involuntary furlough or discontinue flight service at airports through September. Right after the bill passed, the airline industry announced that more workforce cuts are ahead (once it gets the money). Another $17 billion is meant for “businesses critical to maintaining national security,” one of which could eventually be White House darling Boeing. There’s also a corporate tax credit worth about $290 billion to corporations that keep people on their payrolls and can prove losses of 50% of their pre-coronavirus revenue. More than $370 billion of that congressional relief package will go into Small Business Administration loans meant to cover existing loans and operating and payroll costs as well.

Yet receiving such loans will involve a byzantine process for desperate small outfits. Meanwhile, the big banks will get a cut for administering them. About $150 billion is pegged for the healthcare industry, including $100 billion in grants to hospitals working on the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis and other funds to jumpstart the production of desperately needed (and long overdue) medical products for doctors, nurses, and pandemic patients. Another $27 billion is being allocated for vaccines and stockpiles of medical supplies. An extra $150 billion will go to cities and states to prop up budgets already over-stretched and in trouble. Those on unemployment benefits will get an increase of $600 per week for four months in a $260 billion unemployment expansion.

Ultimately, however, the relief promised will not cover the basic needs of the majority of bereft Americans. With Main Street’s economy sinking right now, it won’t arrive fast enough either.

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The overwhelming need for crazy theories…

Money Minus Value, No Limit (Kunstler)

[..] an interesting debate rages internationally as to whether the Covid-19 virus was some kind of engineered event designed to bring about various political outcomes. One thread declares that the Democratic Party, its media handmaidens, and a helpful Chinese leadership used the virus to blow up the US economy and finally, after several botched attempts, get rid of the vexing Mr. Trump. It’s a tidy story, but I don’t buy it, for the simple reason that the entire global economy has blown up, including China’s, so you can file that meme in the Wile E. Coyote folder. A gloss on that one is the idea that NIAID director Anthony Fauci and other medical experts are wicked conspirators bent on destroying American morale by overstating the threat of Covid-19.

This includes the phrase that the novel corona virus is “just another seasonal flu,” and so ordering people to stay away from work and business was unnecessary. Again, you’d have to ask yourself why medical experts and other plausibly intelligent people in so many other countries would do exactly the same thing. They can’t all be orcs. Then there’s the one that has Bill Gates so worked up about climate change that he’s using his foundation’s deep resources to reduce the world’s population by sowing maximum disorder onto the scene with Covid-19 hysteria. This one casts Mr. Gates as something like a villain from a James Bond movie, deep in his Seattle mega-fortress petting a Persian cat as millions perish. Sounds like another case of Americans confusing movies with real life.

Another story has a shadowy gang of “globalists” using the disorder spawned by the virus to impose a centralized global uber-government run by international financiers. First of all, that one smacks of the hoary conspiracy theory that Bilderberger bankers (Jews especially) are scheming to take over the world – yet these supposedly hyper-clever “puppet-masters” are proving that they can’t even run the banks and their own financial ops, which are now crashing down around their ears along with everybody else’s. Thirdly, if there is trend anywhere in this collapse scenario, it is for the devolution of power downward, away from floundering centralized power structures and institutions. As they flounder, the faith of their subject peoples ebbs away and the trust horizon shrinks so that the people are no longer willing to depend on distant authorities for anything.

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Judicial Watch FOIA.

State Dep’t Refuses To Back Hillary Clinton Attempt To Avoid Deposition (JTN)

The State Department on Monday rejected Hillary Clinton’s effort to avoid depositions for herself and her former chief of staff in a lawsuit brought by the government watchdog organization Judicial Watch. The former Secretary of State and her former top aide Cheryl Mills are seeking a writ of mandamus to avoid a judge’s order requiring their testimony in an open records case involving Clinton’s use of a private email server for government business. “The government did not seek and thus does not support the extraordinary relief of mandamus due to the unique circumstances of this case,” reads the State Department’s response signed by multiple members of the Justice Department.


“One aspect of the district court’s rulings, although not central to the pending petition, is of particular concern to the government: assertions that the government acted in bad faith in litigating this FOIA request are wholly without basis,” the Department’s response says. U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth in early March granted the request to depose Clinton about why she utilized a private email server, her grasp of “State’s records management obligations,” and any information she has about materials pertaining to the 2012 Benghazi attack.

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Can you report on the OPCW without citing the multiple whistleblowers from within its own organization? If you’re the Guardian, you can. You just call it a “supposed whistleblower controversy” and blame it all on RussiaRussia and conspiracy theories:

“… the supposed whistleblower controversy at the OPCW last year, which the organisation comprehensively rejected with an official inquiry. Even though the criticism was found to be baseless it does not stop the conspiracy theorists.”

There was nothing “supposed” about the people who came forward to prove the attacks had been staged.

The OPCW, like the WHO, has turned into a political instrument. As of course the Guardian has.

OPCW Report Set To Blame Syria Chemical Attacks On Assad (G.)

The UN’s chemical weapons watchdog is expected to release its first report explicitly blaming Bashar al-Assad for sarin and chlorine gas attacks on civilians in Syria as efforts to establish accountability for the use of chemical agents in the nine-year-old conflict gain momentum. Observers anticipate that public and classified versions of a report by a new unit at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will be published on Wednesday, close to the anniversaries of a major chlorine attack on the then rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma that killed at least 85 people in 2018 as well as a deadly sarin attack on Khan Sheikhun in 2017 which killed at least 89. The report is believed to focus on 2017 attacks on the village of al-Lataminah.


The investigation is the outcome of new powers granted to the OPCW by a 2018 UN resolution specifically calling for the watchdog to “put in place arrangements to identify the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic by identifying and reporting on all information potentially relevant to the origin of those chemical weapons”. Previously, OPCW fact-finding missions did not have the mandate to apportion blame in chemical weapons attacks. The resulting newly created investigation and identification team (IIT) at the OPCW was designed as a work-around to counter Russia, Syria’s closest political ally. Moscow has repeatedly used international forums – and its veto as a permanent member of the UN security council – to block independent investigations into chemical weapons attacks allegedly launched by the Assad regime.

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A bit of relief in Italy:

 

 

 

While Greece appears to be doing very well compared to Holland, Belgium, Portugal.

 

 

 

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Nov 232019
 
 November 23, 2019  Posted by at 2:14 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  15 Responses »


Salvador Dali Back the girl 1926

 

It wouldn’t be the first time we ask ourselves what American journalism has come to, but that question sure appears relevant today. There are again new accusations floating around about Trump. And of course we are all weary by now, after the Russiagate bomb and the Ukraine fizzle, but okay, let’s take a look.

There is a newfangled poetically named “ethics watchdog” named American Oversight, which has received some documents after a FOIA request. And everybody’s talking about it! So it must be real interesting, right? The word bombshell comes to mind. Or at least, the minds of much of the press. There’s the BBC:

The US State Department has released records relating to the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine. Documents were released to the ethics watchdog American Oversight after a freedom of information request. The records show repeated contacts between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mr Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. US ties with Ukraine are at the centre of an impeachment investigation against Mr Trump.

The president is accused of withholding aid to Ukraine that had been approved by Congress to pressure the country into investigating his political rival Joe Biden. Mr Giuliani has been accused of trying to discredit former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch while running a shadow US foreign policy on Ukraine. There have been questions over what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo knew.

The records show Mr Pompeo and Mr Giuliani repeatedly spoke to one another – although the topics of those conversations remain unknown. Emails among the documents suggest the pair spoke on the phone on 27 and 29 March.

And the Guardian:

Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was in contact with secretary of state Mike Pompeo in the months before the US ambassador to Ukraine was abruptly recalled, according to a cache of documents released on Friday. The state department released the documents to the group American Oversight in response to a freedom of information lawsuit. They show that Pompeo talked with Giuliani on 26 March and 29 March.


Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, said the documents reveal a clear paper trail from Giuliani to Trump to Pompeo in order to enable the smear campaign against the now ousted envoy in Kyiv, Marie Yovanovitch. “We can see why Mike Pompeo has refused to release this information to Congress. It reveals a clear paper trail from Rudy Giuliani to the Oval Office to secretary Pompeo to facilitate Giuliani’s smear campaign against a US ambassador,” he said.

As well as NBC:

The allegations of a pressure campaign by Trump to get the Ukrainians to announce investigations into a conspiracy theory about the 2016 presidential election and the Bidens are central to the impeachment inquiry into whether Trump abused the power of his office for personal political gain.

The documents released Friday appear to confirm that Pompeo and Giuliani spoke on the phone on March 26, and that another call was scheduled between the two men for March 29 and that it took place. One email appears to show Trump’s former personal assistant, Madeleine Westerhout, helping to connect Giuliani to Pompeo after there was trouble establishing a connection.

The documents do not say what Giuliani and Pompeo discussed. The March 29 call was scheduled for 20 minutes but lasted just four minutes, according to the documents, and the March 26 call was also just minutes long, the emails show.

When I first saw this all this morning I thought: let it go, and I’m thinking just that again right now. Look, Pompeo and Giuliani talking to each other for just minutes (and to their boss!) is hardly a crime. Unless they talk about committing crimes, but you don’t even know what was discussed! That a group which calls itself nonpartisan connects these calls to Giuliani’s alleged smear campaign against Yovanovich is a bit more puzzling.

Because a president doesn’t need any reason to fire an ambassador. He gets the permission to do that the moment he’s first elected and then inaugurated. He doesn’t have to explain. Getting Giuliani in there doesn’t look like Trump’s best moment, but it’s inconsequential from a legal point of view.

Another allegation that’s being repeated is that Giuliani et al were looking to dig up dirt against Joe Biden and his family, with an eye to the 2020 election. But, again, is that so? Wasn’t perhaps finding out what the most corrupt company in the world’s third-most corrupt country, which receives billions in US aid, was up to in 2016, or today for that matter, the real intention?

Why should we believe it was about 2020, and not 2016? Are there perhaps American interests who don’t want Burisma investigated? And are they perhaps behind the accusation that links that investigation to 2020, so there won’t be an investigation? Shouldn’t we all want to find out what went on?

 

Another story connected to this is that Minority House Leader David Nunes in Vienna met with Victor Shokin, the former Ukraine prosecutor who was fired mere hours after Joe Biden demanded he be. Moon of Alabama asked earlier today on Twitter if anyone has ever seen evidence that Shokin was corrupt, as Biden and others have claimed. I come up empty on that one. Here’s NBC on Nunes’s trip:

The attorney for an indicted associate of President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer says his client is willing to tell Congress that Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California, met with Ukraine’s former top prosecutor about investigating the activities of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

An impeachment inquiry is being conducted over allegations Trump held up aid to Ukraine to encourage its leaders to launch an investigation into Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who worked as an energy executive in that country. As vice president, Joe Biden joined a chorus of global pressure for Ukraine to fire then-state prosecutor Victor Shokin.

Trump and Nunes, his chief defender as a ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee that has taken a lead role in the impeachment inquiry, say Joe Biden wanted Shokin out to protect his son when Hunter Biden’s employer, Burisma, was under suspicion. Shokin himself claims he was fired at the behest of the former vice president to ease pressure on Burisma and Hunter Biden.

Joseph A. Bondy, an attorney for Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, confirmed that his client was willing to testify before Congress that Nunes met with Shokin. “I can confirm that Victor Shokin told Lev Parnas that he had met with Nunes in Vienna in late 2018, and that Derek Harvey informed that they were investigating the activities of Joe and Hunter Biden related to Burisma,” Bondy told NBC News. Derek Harvey is Nunes’ investigator.

There are a lot of people out there who don’t like Devin Nunes. Which is fine. But claiming that he committed a crime or something in that vein just by talking, with his investigator, to Shokin about Burisma, that’s a whole other thing.

This entire topic appears to be founded on an idea that many people have convinced themselves and others of, that the Trump administration doesn’t have the right to investigate what happened in the past, because it might affect the future. It would seem they DO have that right, though.

It would also seem that they couldn’t rely on existing diplomatic staff in Ukraine and Europe to investigate Burisma. Schiff’s impeachment witnesses made that abundantly clear. So if they do investigate on their own, are they breaking laws, or are they merely breaking a protocol that suits some people just fine?

American Oversight has promised much more: “The evidence is only going to get worse for the administration as its stonewall strategy collapses in the face of court orders..”. Alright, fine, let’s see it. But it had better be better than this. You have to come with facts. Certainly after two failed investigations.

“Giuliani talked to Pompeo” may be a fact, but if you have no idea what they talked about, it’s a useless fact, that at most you can use to whip up more empty frenzy. And we know, it’s clickbait, and it sells papers and TV ads, but really, what are we watching, what has American journalism come to? What happened to finding evidence first, and reporting on it after?

 

 

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Jul 182016
 
 July 18, 2016  Posted by at 8:54 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Arthur Rothstein General store and railroad crossing, Atlanta, Ohio 1938

Ireland Hits Brexit Alarm in Biggest Foreign Crisis in 50 Years (BBG)
Yuan Declines to 2010 Low as Property Prices Slow, Dollar Rises (BBG)
Goodbye Lenin, Hello Bernanke (ABC.au)
Stocks and Bonds Are on a Collision Course (DR)
Bubbles in Bond Land (David Stockman)
Chinese Cities’ Expansion Plans Could House 3.4 Billion People (BBG)
Slowing China Home Price Rises Add To Doubts About Economy (R.)
Under-35s Could Be The First Generation To Earn Less Than Their Parents (DM)
Boom to Bust (Salt)
Justice Department ‘Uses Aged Computer System To Frustrate FOIA Requests’ (G.)
MH-17: Russia Convicted By Propaganda (PCR)
Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All (New Yorker)
Six Wealthiest Countries Host Less Than 9% Of World’s Refugees (G.)
20 Migrants Dead, 366 Saved From Boats In Mediterranean (NW)

 

 

Huh? Didn’t Ireland grow 26% just last week?

Ireland Hits Brexit Alarm in Biggest Foreign Crisis in 50 Years (BBG)

The prime minister is under pressure, economists are slashing growth forecasts and companies are warning of Brexit’s dire consequences. London? No, Dublin. The intertwining of trade and finance means no other country is feeling the fallout from the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union more than Ireland. In the year the Irish marked the centenary of their uprising against British rule, the country remains at the mercy of the unfolding drama in its closest neighbor. “It’s the most serious, difficult issue facing the country for 50 years,” said John Bruton, 69, who was Irish prime minister between 1994 and 1997 and later served as the EU’s ambassador to the U.S.

Exporters have warned the plummeting pound will erode earnings and economic growth, just as a recovery had taken hold after the 2010 international bailout that followed the banking meltdown. Irish shares have declined, not least because the U.K. is the top destination for the country’s exports after the U.S. and the biggest for its services. Meantime, Prime Minister Enda Kenny is fending off demands by Northern Irish nationalists for a reunification poll as he comes to terms with the loss of a key EU ally and plotters from his own party try to topple him. Then there’s the future of the U.K.’s only land border with the EU. “The consequences are mind-boggling,” said Eoin Fahy, chief economist at Kleinwort Benson Investors in the Irish capital.

Britain and Ireland joined the European Economic Community in 1973. Ireland was drawn in part to escape what one politician called “our gate-lodge attitude towards England.” More than four decades later, the two countries remain woven together economically as well as culturally and linguistically. Ireland uses the euro, yet does about $45 billion of trade with the U.K. About 380,000 Irish citizens living in Britain were eligible to vote in the Brexit referendum. Britain also chipped in for Ireland’s bailout six years ago, despite not being part of the euro region. When Theresa May took over as British prime minister last Wednesday, Kenny was among three leaders she spoke to, along with Germany’s Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande of France.

Read more …

Bloomberg should simply say: “The yuan fell, and we have no idea why”.

Yuan Declines to 2010 Low as Property Prices Slow, Dollar Rises (BBG)

China’s yuan fell to the weakest level since 2010, pulled down by cooling property prices, a dollar rebounding on haven demand and a weaker central bank fixing. New home prices rose in fewer cities in June compared with a month earlier, according to official data released Monday, blunting optimism prompted by last week’s figures showing forecast-beating economic growth. The monetary authority weakened the yuan’s daily fixing to the lowest since 2010 after the dollar strengthened Friday following a coup attempt in Turkey.

The greenback was supported on Monday also as China said it would hold military exercises in the South China Sea. “The dollar strengthened as orders to buy the currency jumped, pressuring the yuan and the rest of Asian currencies lower,” said Andy Ji, a Singapore-based foreign-exchange strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia. “There’s news that China will hold military exercises in the South China Sea later this month,” which could spur some haven-demand for the greenback.

Read more …

Lookalike contest.

Goodbye Lenin, Hello Bernanke (ABC.au)

Maybe it’s just me, but have you noticed the striking similarity between Vladimir Lenin and Ben Bernanke lately? Superficially, there’s the obvious physical resemblance; whippet build, glabrous pate, facial hair and a penchant for stylish, if somewhat conservative, garb. More significantly, both appear to harbour the same ideological distrust of free markets or, at the very least, a burning desire to control them as much as possible. Separated by almost a century, both men have made it a lifelong ambition to impose state control over the economy. And it has to be said, while Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov Lenin achieved significant success in spreading the word from Russia through developing nations, he and his successors never quite got across the line when it came to the so-called free world.

Maybe it was his reputation as a firebrand, an over-reliance on bloody revolution by force and the frightening prospect – for the ruling elite at least – that wealth would be redistributed to the poor. Enter Ben Bernanke. In the space of a mere eight years, the former Federal Reserve chief has managed to achieve what Vladimir could barely conceive. He’s convinced the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Japan and Europe to embark on a revolutionary journey to completely subvert free market instincts. Unlike his Russian predecessor, Ben has opted for the calm, congenial exterior of Central Banker from Central Casting, complete with a mogadon monotone designed to lull his audience into a state of torpor.

He’s also wisely decided to modify the wealth distribution bit. As western governments have raided the kitty, plunging themselves into an ocean of debt, much of the proceeds have flowed directly into asset markets – stocks, bonds and property – which has helped maintain the flow of wealth towards the wealthy. Brilliant! Last week, Ben was in Japan. And that got twitchy fingered traders across the globe all hot under the collar. Ben, after all, is the man who pioneered the implementation of “unorthodox monetary policy”.

Read more …

“Bond markets are signaling something very nasty coming down the road at us — an all-encompassing, worldwide deflation.”

Stocks and Bonds Are on a Collision Course (DR)

One of the following is correct: A) The stock market is lying. B) The bond market is lying. They both can’t be true. Consider: The stock market has sprung to record highs this week. Shocking, given the world was coming to an end after Brexit. But it’s true. Both the S&P and the Dow eclipsed previous records this week. What does that normally indicate? A rollicking economy in high gear, stability, investor belief in the future. Maybe some “healthy” inflation into the bargain. Now consider: Bonds are also trading at record highs. Meaning yields are at historic lows (prices and yields move in opposite directions – the higher the price, the lower the yield, and vice versa). Yields on 10-year Treasuries plunged to all-time lows this month. Same with 30-year Treasuries.

That would normally signal an economy on the brink of ruin and investors panicking into government bonds. It also means deflation of the hide-the-women-and-children variety. TheTelegraph: “Bond markets are signaling something very nasty coming down the road at us — an all-encompassing, worldwide deflation.” Two completely different narratives. One wrong, one right. Someone’s in for a nasty shock – and probably soon. Says analyst William Koldus, founder of The Contrarian: The tug of war between inflationary and deflationary assets is likely to be resolved in 2016. Either U.S. stock prices, which have been an outlier to the upside, are wrong, and a significant correction awaits stock investors, or U.S. bond prices, and global sovereign bond yields, which have priced in a significant deflationary head wind, are wrong, and safe-haven bondholders are set for losses.

Who’s the jury to believe? Generally, the bond market. As Neil Irwin of The New York Times explains, “Savvy economic analysts have always known the bond market is the place to look for a real sense of where the economy is going, or at least where the smart money thinks it is going.” Here he dumps more rain on the parade: “And right now, if the bond market is correctly predicting the economic path ahead, we should all be terrified.”

Read more …

“Surely, BOJ Governor Kuroda will go down in history as the stupidest central banker of all-time.”

Bubbles in Bond Land (David Stockman)

Last year Japan lost another 272,000 of its population as it marches steadily toward its destiny as the world’s first bankrupt old age colony. At the same time, the return on Japan’s 40-year bond during the last six months has been an astonishing 48%. That’s right! We aren’t talking Tesla, the biotech index or the FANGs. To the contrary, like the rest of the Japanese Government Bond (JGB) yield curve, this bond has no yield and no prospect of repayment. But that doesn’t matter because it’s not really a sovereign bond, anyway. It has actually morphed into a risk free gambling chip. Leveraged front-runners are scooping up whatever odds and sots of JGBs that remain on the market and are selling them to the Bank of Japan (BOJ) at higher, and higher and higher prices.

At the same time, these punters face virtually no risk. That’s because the BOJ already owns 426 trillion yen of JGBs, which is nearly half of the bonds outstanding. And it is buying up the rest at a rate of 80 trillion yen per year under current policy, while giving every indication of sharply stepping up its purchase rate as it segues to outright helicopter money. It can therefore be well and truly said that the BOJ is the ultimate roach motel. Virtually every scrap of Japan’s gargantuan public debt will go marching into its vaults never to return, and at “whatever it takes” bond prices to meet the BOJ’s lunatic purchase quotas. Surely, BOJ Governor Kuroda will go down in history as the stupidest central banker of all-time.

But in the interim the man is contributing — along with Draghi, Yellen and the rest of the central bankers guild — to absolute mayhem in the global fixed income market. That’s because these fools have succeeded in unleashing a pincer movement among market participants that is flat-out suicidal. That is, the leveraged fast money gamblers are chasing prices ever higher as sovereign bonds become increasingly scarce. At the same time, desperate bond fund managers, who will lose their jobs for just sitting on cash, are chasing yields rapidly lower on any bond that still has a positive current return. This is the reason the 30-year U.S. treasury bond has produced a 22% return during the last six months. To say the least, that’s not shabby at all considering that its current yield is just 2.25%.

Read more …

Want to see a real housing crisis?

Chinese Cities’ Expansion Plans Could House 3.4 Billion People (BBG)

New areas planned by China’s small cities could accommodate 3.4 billion people by 2030 – or almost half the world’s current population – a target that even Chinese state media calls problematic. A report by the National Development & Reform Commission, China’s central planning agency, found that small- and medium-sized cities were planning more than 3,500 new areas that could accommodate more than twice the country’s current population of 1.4 billion. The entire world has a population of 7.4 billion, according to U.S. Census estimates. The findings were detailed in an analysis by the official Xinhua News Agency, which criticized the planned new areas as unworkable: “Who’s going to live in them? That’s a problem,” the piece said.

The expansion comes amid urbanization calls by President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang as China prepares for another 100 million people to move from the countryside to urban metropolises by the end of the decade. People tend favor bigger markets with more opportunities and fewer than 1-in-10 migrant workers moved to small cities last year, according to an NDRC report published in April. Even without the new areas, China already has more housing than it needs and “ghost cities” have proliferated. China has been building more than 10 million new units annually for the past five years, outstripping an estimated of demand of less than 8 million, according to an analysis by Bloomberg Intelligence Economists Tom Orlik and Fielding Chen.

Read more …

Look, Reuters, there comes a point where things like “..a construction-led rebound in the economy may not be sustainable..” become meaningless. We reached that point quite a while ago.

Slowing China Home Price Rises Add To Doubts About Economy (R.)

Home price rises in China slowed in June for a second straight month, adding to fears that a construction-led rebound in the economy may not be sustainable. The property market is a key driver of the world’s second-largest economy and a robust recovery in home prices and sales gave a stronger-than-expected boost to activity in the first half of the year. But slowing price growth in smaller cities and cooling property investment show the bounce may already be fading, raising the risk of weaker economic growth in coming months. Home prices in China’s 70 major cities rose 7.3% in June from a year earlier, an official survey showed on Monday, accelerating from a 6.9% rise in May.

To be sure, some of the biggest cities showed eye-popping gains on a yearly basis, with prices in the southern boomtown of Shenzhen up 46.7% and Shanghai up 27.7%. Gains on a monthly basis continued to slow, however, as cities tightened policies amid fears of a housing price bubble. The monthly rise slowed slightly to 0.8% in June, easing from 0.9% in May, according to a Reuters calculation based on data issued by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). “We continue to expect the property rebound to subside and property investment growth to fall in the second half of the year,” economists at Nomura said in a note, predicting sales would stabilize and a large glut of unsold homes would keep pressure on prices in some areas.

Read more …

Stupidest term in a long time: “generational pay progress”.

Under-35s Could Be The First Generation To Earn Less Than Their Parents (DM)

Millennials could become the first generation to earn less than their predecessors, analysis by a think-tank has found. The Research Foundation found that under-35s have been hit hardest by the recent pay squeeze and earned £8,000 less during their 20s than a typical person in the previous generation – known as generation X. The finding comes just days after new Prime Minister Theresa May warned of a ‘growing divide between a more prosperous older generation and a struggling younger generation’. The report, which comes as the thank-tank launches its Intergenerational Commission, warns that a post-Brexit downturn could depress millennials’ wages further.

The Intergenerational Commission report states that while some of the pay squeeze is down to millennials entering the job market as the recession hit, it also found generational pay progress had actually stopped before the 2007/08 financial crash. If the future pay of millennials follows the path of generation X, that would reduce their lifetime earnings to around £825,000 – making them the first ever generation to earn less than their predecessors over the course of their working lives. The comparable figure for Generation X is around £832,000. Even if their wages followed a more optimistic path and improved rapidly like their baby boomer parents, their lifetime earnings would be around £890,000. This would be just 7% more than generation X and a third of the size of the pay progress that generation X are set to enjoy over the baby boomers.

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“Boomers got the Pill, free love, free education and easy jobs. Gen X got AIDS, HECS and the GFC.”

Boom to Bust (Salt)

I feel sorry for Generation X, those of you born between 1965 and 1983 and who are now straddling the load-bearing years of the late 30s and 40s. There is no escaping the big responsibilities at this time in the life cycle. At this very moment, Xers are raising families and paying taxes and working flat out… and yet nary a peep from this lot does anyone hear. It’s all about the baby boomers, and if it’s not about the baby boomers and their interminable retirement woes then it’s all about their gifted Generation-Y children. Are we paying you enough, Gen Y? Is anyone being mean to you? Can I get you a pillow? You do realise that I am a Generation Xer, trapped inside a baby boomer body. The reason I feel sorry for the Xers is that they’re always in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Xers are the pissed-off generation. They are heartily sick of baby boomers and their cultural chest-beating. Yes, boomers, we know it was you who saved humanity from the Vietnam War. Yes, we know you discovered free love in the 1960s. No one had thought of sex prior to that, had they? This is what I mean about being pissed off. Baby boomers got the Pill and free love when they were coming of age. But what did older Xers get when they passed through their teens and 20s? The 1980s. Out went the concept of free love; in came the mortal threat of HIV-AIDS. Kind of puts a dampener on the sex thing, don’t you think?

Boomers got fee-free university education courtesy of Gough Whitlam. When did most Xers go to uni? Oh, that’d be after 1989, when we decided fee-free tertiary education was unsustainable and in came HECS. When did many Xers enter the workforce? Oh, that’d be in the early 1990s, when unemployment peaked at nearly 12 per cent. And then they worked for baby boomer managers, biding their time, pacing, scheming, forever waiting for the boomers to let go of the reins. And when was it that baby boomer management let go of the reins? Oh, that’d be around the time of the global financial crisis. “Here you go Xers, it’s your turn now. We’re off on a Rhine River cruise. Make sure you pay your taxes. Bye.”

Read more …

If the Department of Justice won’t obey the law, what do you get?

Justice Department ‘Uses Aged Computer System To Frustrate FOIA Requests’ (G.)

A new lawsuit alleges that the US Department of Justice (DoJ) intentionally conducts inadequate searches of its records using a decades-old computer system when queried by citizens looking for records that should be available to the public. Freedom of Information Act (Foia) researcher Ryan Shapiro alleges “failure by design” in the DoJ’s protocols for responding to public requests. The Foia law states that agencies must “make reasonable efforts to search for the records in electronic form or format”. In an effort to demonstrate that the DoJ does not comply with this provision, Shapiro requested records of his own requests and ran up against the same roadblocks that stymied his progress in previous inquiries.

A judge ruled in January that the FBI had acted in a manner “fundamentally at odds with the statute”. Now, armed with that ruling, Shapiro hopes to change policy across the entire department. Shapiro filed his suit on the 50th anniversary of Foia’s passage this month. Foia requests to the FBI are processed by searching the Automated Case Support system (ACS), a software program that celebrates its 21st birthday this year. Not only are the records indexed by ACS allegedly inadequate, Shapiro told the Guardian, but the FBI refuses to search the full text of those records as a matter of policy. When few or no records are returned, Shapiro said, the FBI effectively responds “sorry, we tried” without making use of the much more sophisticated search tools at the disposal of internal requestors.

“The FBI’s assertion is akin to suggesting that a search of a limited and arbitrarily produced card catalogue at a vast library is as likely to locate book pages containing a specified search term as a full text search of database containing digitized versions of all the books in that library,” Shapiro said.

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Will be a big story again when Holland produces its ‘objective’ report. Which has lost all credibility way before publication.

MH-17: Russia Convicted By Propaganda (PCR)

Today is the second anniversary of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, and we still do not know the explanation. Washington and its European vassal politicians and media instantly politicized the event: The Russians did it. End of story. After 15 months of heavy anti-Russian propaganda had imprinted the message on peoples’ minds, the Dutch Safety Board issued its inconclusive report. By then, it was irrelevant what the report said. Everyone already knew that “the Russians did it.” I remember when pre-trial media accusations resulted in dismissed cases. Anyone declared guilty prior to presentation of evidence and conviction was considered to have been convicted in advance and unable to receive a fair trail. Such cases were dismissed by judges.

Washington’s story never made any sense. Neither Russia nor the separatists in the Donetsk region had any reason to shoot down a Malaysian airliner. In contrast Washington had enormous incentives as Washington’s propaganda machine could place the blame on Russia and use the incident to compel European governments to accept Washington’s sanctions placed on Russia. It worked for Washington. Washington successfully used the incident to wreck Europe’s political and economic relationships with Russia. Four months into the anti-Russian propaganda campaign, a website called Bellingcat, claiming to be an open source site for citizen journalists, but which could be a MI-5, MI-6, or CIA front, issued a report that the Buk missile was fired by a Russian unit, the 53rd Buk Brigade, based in the Russian city of Kursk.

This allegation exposed the propaganda for what it is. Whereas it is possible that separatists unfamiliar with the Buk weapon system could accidentally shoot down a civilian airliner, it is not possible for a Russian military unit to make such a mistake. Moreover, it is unclear why separatists or the Ukrainian government would have any reason to use Buk missiles in their conflict. The separatists have no air force. The Ukrainians attack the separatists at ground level with ground attack aircraft and helicopters, not with high altitude bombing. The Buk missile is a high altitude missile. The only way the separatists could have acquired Buk missiles is by overrunning and capturing Ukrainian positions that for unfathomed reasons had deployed Buk missiles.

It seems to me that if a Buk missile was present in the conflict area, it was moved there for a reason unrelated to the conflict. A European air traffic controller said that MH-17 and the airliner carrying Russian President Vladimir Putin were initially on the same course. Possibly Washington and its vassal in Kiev thought MH-17 was Putin’s plane and destroyed the Malaysian flight by mistake.

Read more …

Brought to you by the Clinton Foundation: “I put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All (New Yorker)

Last June, as dusk fell outside Tony Schwartz’s sprawling house, on a leafy back road in Riverdale, New York, he pulled out his laptop and caught up with the day’s big news: Donald J. Trump had declared his candidacy for President. As Schwartz watched a video of the speech, he began to feel personally implicated. Trump, facing a crowd that had gathered in the lobby of Trump Tower, on Fifth Avenue, laid out his qualifications, saying, “We need a leader that wrote ‘The Art of the Deal.’ ” If that was so, Schwartz thought, then he, not Trump, should be running. Schwartz dashed off a tweet: “Many thanks Donald Trump for suggesting I run for President, based on the fact that I wrote ‘The Art of the Deal.’ ”

Schwartz had ghostwritten Trump’s 1987 breakthrough memoir, earning a joint byline on the cover, half of the book’s five-hundred-thousand-dollar advance, and half of the royalties. The book was a phenomenal success, spending forty-eight weeks on the Times best-seller list, thirteen of them at No. 1. More than a million copies have been bought, generating several million dollars in royalties. The book expanded Trump’s renown far beyond New York City, making him an emblem of the successful tycoon. Edward Kosner, the former editor and publisher of New York, where Schwartz worked as a writer at the time, says, “Tony created Trump. He’s Dr. Frankenstein.”

Starting in late 1985, Schwartz spent eighteen months with Trump—camping out in his office, joining him on his helicopter, tagging along at meetings, and spending weekends with him at his Manhattan apartment and his Florida estate. During that period, Schwartz felt, he had got to know him better than almost anyone else outside the Trump family. Until Schwartz posted the tweet, though, he had not spoken publicly about Trump for decades. It had never been his ambition to be a ghostwriter, and he had been glad to move on. But, as he watched a replay of the new candidate holding forth for forty-five minutes, he noticed something strange: over the decades, Trump appeared to have convinced himself that he had written the book. Schwartz recalls thinking, “If he could lie about that on Day One—when it was so easily refuted—he is likely to lie about anything.”

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While being responsible for 91% of them fleeing in the first place.

Six Wealthiest Countries Host Less Than 9% Of World’s Refugees (G.)

The six wealthiest countries in the world, which between them account for almost 60% of the global economy, host less than 9% of the world’s refugees, while poorer countries shoulder most of the burden, Oxfam has said. According to a report released by the charity on Monday, the US, China, Japan, Germany, France and the UK, which together make up 56.6% of global GDP, between them host just 2.1 million refugees: 8.9% of the world’s total. Of these 2.1 million people, roughly a third are hosted by Germany (736,740), while the remaining 1.4 million are split between the other five countries. The UK hosts 168,937 refugees, a figure Oxfam GB chief executive, Mark Goldring, has called shameful.

In contrast, more than half of the world’s refugees – almost 12 million people – live in Jordan, Turkey, Palestine, Pakistan, Lebanon and South Africa, despite the fact these places make up less than 2% of the world’s economy. Oxfam is calling on governments to host more refugees and to do more to help poorer countries which provide shelter to the majority of the world’s refugees. “This is one of the greatest challenges of our time yet poorer countries, and poorer people, are left to shoulder the responsibility,” said Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam GB. “It is a complex crisis that requires a coordinated, global response with the richest countries doing their fair share by welcoming more refugees and doing more to help and protect them wherever they are.

“Now more than ever, the UK needs to show that it is an open, tolerant society that is prepared to play its part in solving this crisis. It is shameful that as one of the richest economies the UK has provided shelter for less than 1% of refugees.”

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Look away.

20 Migrants Dead, 366 Saved From Boats In Mediterranean (NW)

Rescuers saved 366 migrants from rickety boats trying to cross the Mediterranean to Italy but at least 20 people were reported to have drowned, Italian police said on Saturday. The survivors, who were rescued in four separate operations, were crammed onto three rubber dinghies and a wooden fishing boat. They were all taken to the Sicilian port of Augusta, where they were questioned on Friday evening by the Italian police unit Interforce, which combats illegal immigration.

The Norwegian ship Siem Pilot went to the aid of one dinghy that sank in the Sicilian Channel, but many migrants were already in the sea when it arrived, Antonio Panzanaro, an Interforce official, told Reuters. One corpse was recovered but survivors said that at least 20 people had drowned before the ship arrived, he said. There were 82 women and 25 children among the 366 people rescued, he said. The survivors were mainly from Nigeria, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Bangladesh. Seven people were arrested from the four boats, including their drivers, on suspicion of people-trafficking, he said.

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