Mar 292020
 


Dorothea Lange Kern County, California 1938

 

Trump Backs Off Threat Of Coronavirus Quarantine For NYC Area (NYP)
Florida Coronavirus Cases Are Growing Fast. Here’s What That Means. (TBT)
Rhode Island Door Knocks in Search of Fleeing New Yorkers (AP)
700 N.J. Police Officers Have Tested Positive For Coronavirus (NJ.com)
More Than 500 Members Of The NYPD Have Coronavirus (NYP)
Italy PM Adopts New Measures To Help Coronavirus-Hit Economy (R.)
Home Confinement In France Extended To April 15 (SA)
UK Coronavirus Death Toll Under 20,000 Would Be ‘Good Result’ – Health Chief (R.)
UK To Turn Birmingham Airport Into Mortuary (BBC)
UK Broadband Providers To Lift Data Caps During COVID-19 Lockdown (G.)
“There’s No Gold” – COMEX Report (ZH)
Biden Consolidates Support, But Trails Badly In Enthusiasm (ABC)

 

 

Lost an hour overnight because Europe finally went to Daylight Saving Time. That one hour extra/less between the two sides of the ocean always throws me off-rhythm. The missing hour also shows up in the numbers, but we’ll make that up tomorrow.

Since the US is now the world no. 1, it’s inevitable that much of the news switches there as well. I AM unpleasantly surprised to see the numbers of police officers infected, and I would like to know how that happens. Trump’s notion of a NYC lockdown seemed to make sense, but “wiser” voices prevailed. As NYC has turned into not just the American, but the global center.

 

 

Cases 672,086 (+ 63,819 from yesterday’s 613,829)

Deaths 31,737 (+ 3,508 from yesterday’s 28,229)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 18% –

 

 

From SCMP: (Note, SCMP numbers have done a little sprint, their US deaths are even higher than Worldometer now)

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info:

 

 

 

 

Did Trump get talked out of it by the likes of Cuomo? As NYC is turning into the global epicenter? Cuomo keeps calling for equipment, but refuses to ponder measures that could make that less important.

Trump Backs Off Threat Of Coronavirus Quarantine For NYC Area (NYP)

President Donald Trump on Saturday night backed off a daylong threat to lock down NYC and the tri-state area — a proposal that had thrown three governors for a loop. “A quarantine will not be necessary,” Trump wrote in a series of tweets Saturday night, reasoning that a travel advisory would suffice. “On the recommendation of the White House CoronaVirus Task Force, and upon consultation with the Governor’s (sic) of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, I have asked the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] to issue a strong Travel Advisory, to be administered by the Governors, in consultation with the Federal Government,” Trump tweeted.


Trump had told reporters outside the White House earlier Saturday that he was considering a regional lockdown to stop the spread of the disease, to the dismay of the tri-state’s governors. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he and Trump spoke just a day before, on Friday, and the idea wasn’t brought up. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he wouldn’t even know how such a lockdown would be instituted. “I don’t know how that could be legally enforceable and from a medical point of view don’t know what you would be accomplishing, but I can tell you I don’t even like the sound of it,” he told reporters Saturday.. He appeared on CNN later, where he likened the concept to starting a “Civil War,” and called it “preposterous.”

Read more …

Still photos of full beaches.

Florida Coronavirus Cases Are Growing Fast. Here’s What That Means. (TBT)

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Florida is doubling every three days, putting the state on a trajectory to see tens of thousands of infections in the coming weeks, a Tampa Bay Times analysis shows. No rigorous model has been calculated for Florida to predict the disease’s spread in detail. Those usually take months to create. But at this point, experts say the math is simple. The number of cases is already past the point of easy containment and infections are growing faster and faster, at what statisticians call an exponential rate. Without dramatic steps, they worry that the epidemic will balloon across Florida and place an unprecedented strain on hospitals and health clinics.


Thomas Hladish, a University of Florida research scientist who specializes in disease modeling and has been advising the state on the outbreak, said that while epidemiologists might disagree on the nuances of their projections, they all agree on the main point. “We do understand the math and the models well enough to say with great confidence that Florida is going to have a huge public health crisis,” Hladish said. “And we are just at the beginning of it right now.” By 11 a.m. Saturday, Florida had reported more than 3,700 cases — an increase of nearly 1,000 in 24 hours. Florida remains one of the few states with a large outbreak not to issue a statewide order to keep residents at home. Several counties across the state, including Hillsborough and Pinellas, issued “safer at home” orders in the last week.

Some public health experts say it will take the more extreme step of shutting down the state to halt the disease’s rapid spread in Florida. Nine hundred Florida healthcare workers had signed a petition by Friday asking for the same thing. The effects of the intervention wouldn’t be apparent right away. The same is true for the smaller steps that have already been taken in Florida, like social distancing or closing restaurants and fitness studios. “We are not going to see the benefits for a few weeks, which is frustrating to everyone,” said Dr. Mary Jo Trepka, an infectious disease epidemiologist and professor at Florida International University.

Read more …

If not the craziest thing around, a solid contender.

Rhode Island Door Knocks in Search of Fleeing New Yorkers (AP)

The Rhode Island National Guard started going door to door on Saturday in coastal areas to inform any New Yorkers who may have come to the state that they must self-quarantine for 14 days while Gov. Gina Raimondo expanded the mandatory self-quarantine to anyone visiting the state. Raimondo also ordered residents to stay at home, with exceptions for getting food, medicines or going to the doctor, and ordered nonessential retail businesses to close Monday until April 13 to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. She also directed realtors and hotel operators to include new requirements that any out-of-state residents must quarantine for 14 days in their purchase agreements.

State Police set up a checkpoint on I-95 in Hope Valley on Friday where drivers with New York license plates must stop and provide contact information and were told to self-quarantine for two weeks, WPRI.com reported. If New Yorkers don’t comply, they face fines and jail time, Raimondo said, adding that that’s not the goal. “I want to be crystal clear about this: If you’re coming to Rhode Island from New York you are ordered into quarantine. The reason for that is because more than half of the cases of coronavirus in America are in New York,” Raimondo said, adding that it’s not meant to be discriminatory.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the order “reactionary” and unconstitutional, saying he’d sue Rhode Island if the policy isn’t rescinded but believed they could “work it out.” “I understand the goal … but there’s a point of absurdity, and I think what Rhode Island did is at that point of absurdity,” said Cuomo, a Democrat. “We have to keep the ideas and the policies we implement positive rather than reactionary and emotional.”

Read more …

Insane. How did this happen?

700 N.J. Police Officers Have Tested Positive For Coronavirus (NJ.com)

About 700 New Jersey police officers have tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said Saturday. “There’s more than 700 police officers quarantined at home, and there’s about the same … number that have tested positive from all 21 counties,” Col. Patrick Callahan, acting superintendent of the State Police, said in Trenton during the state’s daily coronavirus press briefing. that amount is far higher than previously known. Newark, Jersey City, NJ Transit, the Port Authority, Fanwood, Hazlet and the State Police have all reported cases. Two officers that were in “serious condition” are now stable, Callahan said. None have died. Testing sites in Bergen and Holmdel were only testing symptomatic first responders Saturday, Gov. Phil Murphy previously said.


There are about 36,000 full-time officers in the state, according to recent State Police data, and experts said the public should not be concerned about a looming officer shortage. “If you have the right officers and you have the right supervisors … we are good,” said Maria Haberfeld, a police science professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Crime has also dropped in the state, officials have said, which could help departments cope with any short-staffing, according to Jon Shane, a retired Newark police captain who teaches at John Jay. [..] New Jersey has at least 11,124 known cases of the virus overall, including at least 140 known deaths, officials announced Saturday.

Read more …

Seriously, how? Are they infecting each other? Like at the stations?

More Than 500 Members Of The NYPD Have Coronavirus (NYP)

Nearly 200 more NYPD cops tested positive for the coronavirus in less than a day — causing the number of infected department members to soar above 550, officials said Friday. According to a spokesman for the NYPD, 486 uniformed officers and 71 civilian employees have now contracted COVID-19. Late Thursday, 294 cops and 57 civilians were positive. Friday’s figures — the largest daily increase in confirmed cases on the force — come a day after the NYPD lost its first employee to the coronavirus, Dennis Dickson, 62, a civilian cleaner at police HQ, and Deputy Commissioner John Miller was hospitalized in critical condition with severe COVID-19 symptoms.


The potentially deadly virus has been sweeping through the department over the past week, leaving the NYPD without at least 11 percent of its patrol officers, who called out sick. About 375 more cops called out sick Friday. According to the NYPD, 4,111 officers were out ill — nearly four times the average number of cops out sick.

Read more …

Italy is finally free to do what it wants financially, the EU is silent.

Italy PM Adopts New Measures To Help Coronavirus-Hit Economy (R.)

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Saturday he had approved a new package of measures to help those worst hit by the coronavirus emergency, including supplying shopping vouchers and food packages. Conte said in a news conference that €4.3 billion ($4.79 billion) would be made immediately available to mayors to deal with theirs citizens’ needs and another 400 million would be provided in a special fund for “people who don’t have the money to do their shopping.” Italy, the country that has suffered most deaths from the coronavirus epidemic, already approved a 25 billion euro stimulus package earlier this month and has promised another one of at least the same size in April.


Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri, speaking at the same news conference, criticized the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, for appearing to dismiss the need for issuance of common debt by European Union countries. “The commission president’s words were a mistake and I regret that she made them,” he said, adding that Europe would need “a great Marshall Plan” to relaunch its economy after the coronavirus emergency is over.

Read more …

What an unsympathetic term.

Home Confinement In France Extended To April 15 (SA)

The Covid-19 home confinement period will be extended for “at least two weeks” beyond the initial two-week period, the French prime minister has announced this afternoon. The obligation to stay at home, with limited exceptions, started at noon on Tuesday March 17 and was scheduled to last until Tuesday March 31 at least and until further notice. Now Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has confirmed it will definitely be extended and will not end before Wednesday April 15. “It is clear that we are only at the beginning of the wave of this epidemic,” he said specifying that the same rules, such as needing a form to go out of the house, will continue to apply.


He said the period could be extended further again if the health situation makes it necessary. On Tuesday, the official scientific committee advising the government said an extension to the confinement period was essential and pleaded for a period of six full weeks from its implementation i.e. until Tuesday April 28. A new extension could be decided “if and only if the health situation requires it,” said Mr Philippe. “Those who do not respect the rules of confinement are few in number and will be severely punished, because the health of everyone is at stake, especially the most fragile among us,” the prime minister added while praising citizens “for their civic-mindedness, patience and solidarity” during this period.

Read more …

Prepare to die. Just don’t dare blame Boris.

UK Coronavirus Death Toll Under 20,000 Would Be ‘Good Result’ – Health Chief (R.)

The United Kingdom will do well if it manages to keep the coronavirus death toll below 20,000, a senior health official said on Saturday after the deadliest day so far of the outbreak saw the number of fatalities rise to more than 1,000. Stephen Powis, the medical director of National Health Service England, warned the public against complacency and said everyone had to play their part in hindering the spread of the virus. The number of confirmed cases stood at 17,089 on Saturday morning. The death toll rose by 260 in a day to 1,019, the seventh highest toll in the world behind Italy, Spain, China, Iran, France and the United States.


When asked if Britain was on the same trajectory as Italy, where the death toll has passed 9,000, Powis said that if the public adhered to the nationwide lockdown the total toll could be kept below 20,000. “If it is less than 20,000… that would be a good result though every death is a tragedy, but we should not be complacent about that,” he said at a news conference in Downing Street. Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the first leader of a major power to announce a positive test result for coronavirus on Friday. He is self-isolating in Downing Street but still leading the UK response to the crisis.

Read more …

1,500 bodies? How small is that airport?

UK To Turn Birmingham Airport Into Mortuary (BBC)

Work to turn part of Birmingham Airport into a mortuary able to store at least 1,500 bodies has begun. Bosses previously said discussions were under way, but West Midlands Police confirmed the project had started. An airport spokesperson said it was working to provide land and a hangar for the temporary morgue. Police said there was “scope to expand” the starting capacity of 1,500, as the region prepared for a predicted rise in coronavirus deaths. The force said regional mortuaries may close as staff were transferred to the new facility, which could eventually accommodate all deaths across the West Midlands. This would include those unrelated to coronavirus, it said.


The force said it would do everything possible to accommodate religious requirements and that it was “vital” to give people “the utmost dignity and respect” at all times. Senior coroner for Birmingham, Louise Hunt, said: “We understand that it is a very difficult time for everyone and we will do all that we can to make sure bereaved families understand what is happening to their loved ones and to release them for funeral as soon as we can.” Assistant Chief Constable Vanessa Jardine said public sector agencies and their partners were working together “to better deal with this challenge… at a critical time of need”.

Read more …

It’s essential that Boris talk to you.

UK Broadband Providers To Lift Data Caps During COVID-19 Lockdown (G.)

All data allowance caps on current fixed broadband services will be removed in a deal struck by the government and telecommunications companies to help vulnerable people stay connected through the pandemic. It is among a range of immediately effective measures agreed by major internet service and mobile providers including BT/EE, Openreach, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk, O2, Vodafone, Three, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear, and KCOM. The companies have pledged that anyone who is struggling to pay their bill due to the pandemic will be treated fairly and appropriately supported, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said.

The firms have also agreed to offer generous new mobile and landline packages to ensure people are connected and the most vulnerable continue to be supported. These could put users in line for packages featuring data boosts at low prices and free calls from their landline or mobile. Vulnerable customers or those who are self-isolating, who are faced with priority repairs to fixed broadband and landlines which cannot be carried out, should be given alternative methods of communication wherever possible, the companies said.

The digital secretary, Oliver Dowden, said: “It’s fantastic to see mobile and broadband providers pulling together to do their bit for the national effort by helping customers, particularly the most vulnerable, who may be struggling with bills at this difficult time. It is essential that people stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives. This package helps people to stay connected whilst they stay home.” Watchdog Ofcom’s chief executive, Melanie Dawes, said: “We recognise providers are dealing with unprecedented challenges at the moment. So we welcome them stepping up to protect vulnerable customers, at a time when keeping in touch with our friends and families has never been more important.”

Read more …

Tik tok.

“There’s No Gold” – COMEX Report (ZH)

While the demand for gold has been soaring as a safe haven asset amid the multiple global crises we are currently facing, forced paper gold liquidation (as leveraged funds scramble to cover margin calls) and unprecedented logistical disruptions created a frantic hunt for actual bars of gold. Specifically, as Bloomberg details, at the center of it all are a small band of traders who for years had cashed in on what had always been a sure-fire bet: shorting gold futures in New York against being long physical gold in London. Usually, they’d ride the trade out till the end of the contract when they’d have a couple of options to get out without marking much, if any, loss. The real price.. for real gold? Nearer $1,800. If you can get it.

“There’s no gold,” says Josh Strauss, partner at money manager Pekin Hardy Strauss in Chicago (and a bullion fan). “There’s no gold. There’s roughly a 10% premium to purchase physical gold for delivery. Usually it’s like 2%. I can buy a one ounce American Eagle for $1,800,” said Josh Strauss. “$1,800!” “The case for gold is simple,” says Strauss. “You want to own gold in times of financial dislocation and or inflation. And that’s been the case since time immemorial. And gold behaves well in those cases. In those cases stocks behave poorly. It’s a great portfolio hedge. Gold does poorly when you’ve got strong economic growth and low inflation. Tell me when that’s going to happen. Gold held its value during 2008 and after all that money printing it tripled over the next three years.”

And in case you doubted this, the cost of an American Eagle one ounce coin at the US Mint is now $2,175…

Read more …

Really bad theater.

Biden Consolidates Support, But Trails Badly In Enthusiasm (ABC)

Former Vice President Joe Biden has emerged as Democrats’ top choice for the presidential nomination in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, but with only bare majority support within his party and a massive enthusiasm gap in a November matchup against President Donald Trump. Indeed, strong enthusiasm for Biden among his supporters – at just 24% – is the lowest on record for a Democratic presidential candidate in 20 years of ABC/Post polls. More than twice as many of Trump’s supporters are highly enthusiastic about supporting him, 53%. Trump’s still-strong rating on the economy is another challenge for Biden. So is this: Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who prefer Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for the nomination, 15% say they’d back Trump over Biden in the fall.

In the nomination contest, 51% of leaned Democrats now prefer Biden vs. 42% for Sanders. That’s a vast 34-point gain for Biden since mid-February, with other candidates having left the race and endorsed him. Sanders gained 10%age points. Yet even as he’s advanced in his party, Biden’s slipped against Trump in a November matchup. The two are locked into essentially a dead heat among registered voters, 49-47%, Biden-Trump, after a slight Biden lead, 52-45%, in February. Biden does better vs. Trump among all adults (Democrats are less apt to be registered), 50-44%. That’s a slight lead, but it was more solidly significant in February, 52-44%.


Perhaps the Democrats’ biggest risk is under the surface, in Trump’s big advantage in backers who are “very” enthusiastic about supporting him. Strong enthusiasm for a candidate can help boost turnout on Election Day, a must-have particularly for Democrats, who rely more on motivating less-frequent voters to come to the polls. While trailing Trump by 29 points in high-level enthusiasm, Biden makes up some of the difference with those who are “somewhat” enthusiastic. But he still trails Trump by 12 points in the combined measure, 74 vs. 86%.

Read more …

 

It must be possible to run a joint like the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. These are no longer the times when ads pay for all you read, your donations have become an integral part of it. It has become a two-way street; and isn’t that liberating, when you think about it?

Thanks everyone for your wonderful and generous donations over the past few days. The rest of you: don’t be strangers.

 

 

 

 


Jennifer Baer

 

 

Support us in virustime. Help the Automatic Earth survive. It’s good for you.

 

Mar 152020
 


Dorothea Lange One nation indivisible. San Francisco 1942

 

New York Will Be The Next Italy (M.)
America Has No Real Public Health System – Coronavirus Has A Clear Run (Reich)
Hoboken Mayor Imposes Mandatory Nightly Curfew (NBC)
Coronavirus: Why It’s So Deadly In Italy (M.)
France, Spain Implement Massive and Dramatic Quarantine Restrictions (Slate)
UK Doctor: ‘We Don’t Have The Masks, Goggles – Or The Staff’ (G.)
China Could Have Cut 95% Of Cases If It Acted On Whistleblower Warning (HKFP)
Japanese Man Tests Positive For Coronavirus, Again (NHK)
Anti-Inflammatories May Aggravate COVID-19, France Advises (G.)
Google Says It Is Developing A Nationwide Coronavirus Website (R.)
Fed May Announce Commercial Paper Facilities Sunday – BofA (R.)
American Airlines To Cut Nearly All Long-Haul International Flights (R.)
Virgin Atlantic Boss Seeks £7.5 Billion UK Airline Bailout (R.)
‘Euroleaks’: Varoufakis Leaks Recordings Of Secretive Eurogroup Talks (RT)

 

 

France, Spain increase their lockdown measures, but France and Germany still exist on holding their municipal elections. Must be more important than virus response. More important than the survival of small firms too.

In France, over half of COVID19 patients in intensive care are under 60. Holland has 40-50 patients in intensive care, over half of whom are under 50. Some are children. The family of a 16-year old boy on life support in IC pleads with people to take the disease seriously.

Politicians of all colors invent the wheel as they go along, mostly as ignorant as the media whose ignorant news stories they base their decisions on. The model is simple: do the same as others do, so you can blame them when things go awry.

Belgium shut all its stores and bars, Holland did not yet, so Belgians go drinking in cramped Dutch bars en masse. The EU says it has few powers in this, thus ensuring it can’t be blamed.

The US is set for the worst disaster of all, it has to enforce travel restrictions very rapidly or else, ground domestic flights, close down highways, the works. And get hospitals working for ten times as many patients as they’re designed for. Good luck.

The calls for a UBI will grow louder at both sides of the Atlantic, and the power bastions will reject them with equal vehemence and bail out zombie companies instead. Our political systems work only in good times.

 

Cases 157,477 (+ 11,150 from yesterday’s 146,327)

Deaths 5,845 (+ 402 from yesterday’s 5,443)

 

The numbers in this graph are terrifying. 3,500 new cases in Italy in 24 hours.

From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)

 

 

This set of graphs from Worldometer has turned almost straight north:

From Worldometer (NOTE: mortality rate is back up to 7%!)

 

 

From SCMP: (Note: the SCMP graph was useful when China was the focal point; they are falling behind now)

 

 

From COVID2019.app: (New format lacks new cases and deaths)

 

 

 

 

“Close everything but grocery stores, banks, and pharmacies. Convert schools into food distribution centers. Bring in the National Guard to provide essential services like food and augment police and emergency services. Issue checks to all New Yorkers for the length of the quarantine for at least $500 per person per month.”

New York Will Be The Next Italy (M.)

Analysis strongly suggests that the NYC metro area has 5–10 days to quarantine the city or face dramatically overwhelmed hospitals, extremely high death rates, and a ruined economy. The outlook for NYC and COVID-19 is bleak. The policy response is far too slow and too weak to meet the needs of the moment.

The Analysis – The NYC region has approximately 400 cases reported as of Friday Mar 13. That number is obviously an underestimate. After accounting for undercounting of asymptomatic cases and failing to detect cases due to under testing, we estimate that between 1,281 and 2,280 people are infected as of yesterday.

Using an SIR Epidemiology Model (described in greater detail in my previous Medium post), we can use the Low and High estimates for infections on 3/13 to project #COVID19 growth through March. Then using those projections for infections, we can use a conservative 10% severity rate to get the number of people who are infected on that day that will require hospitalization (severe & critical cases).

The NYC region has between 1,200 and 3,000 open hospital beds. This analysis suggests that enough people will become infected by March 23 and March 25 that NYC’s hospitals will be fully at capacity approximately 7 days later. (Infected people who will become severely ill do not immediately need medical care upon being infected. There is approximately a 5–7 day incubation period. After which, most severe cases present to the hospital within 2–3 days.)

The Obvious Choice – NYC must implement more severe social distancing measures and potentially fully shut down no later than a week from now in order to avoid overwhelming its hospital system. Think about the choices here: The Status Quo: The governor and the mayor continue to allow the virus to spread at schools, subways, restaurants, cafes, and workplaces. This is the exact same approach Italy took at the beginning of its outbreak. Seriously take a look at this article from two and a half weeks ago when Italy only had 160 cases (vs NYC’s 500+).

“Strict emergency measures were put in place over the weekend, including a ban on public events in at least 10 municipalities, after a spike in confirmed cases in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto. Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza announced severe restrictions in the affected regions, which included the closure of public buildings, limited transport, and the surveillance and quarantine of individuals who may have been exposed to the virus. “We are asking basically that everyone who has come from areas stricken by the epidemic to remain under a mandatory house stay,” Speranza said at a Saturday press conference.” — CNN, Feb 24 2020

Sound familiar? It’s the exact same thing New York is trying now. It won’t work here either. After that fails here too, we will wind up with the Italian situation. Overflowing hospitals. Demand at two, three, five times the capacity of the hospitals’ ability to deliver care. What’s worse is that their capacity will decline as cases overflow. Their doctors and nurses will be exposed and have to be quarantined, reducing an already strained workforce. Soon after, chaos in the hospitals will lead to fear in the whole city. You will see reports of people dying in their apartments because there isn’t capacity for them in hospitals. This fear alone will shut down the city. The economy will be ruined and tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of New Yorkers will die this year. This could all start at the beginning of April, if we don’t act within the next 5–10 days.

The Better Alternative: Shut down the city this week. Close everything but grocery stores, banks, and pharmacies. Convert schools into food distribution centers. Bring in the National Guard to provide essential services like food and augment police and emergency services. Issue checks to all New Yorkers for the length of the quarantine for at least $500 per person per month. Limit travel outside of the region. Slow the growth of the virus to a crawl immediately.

Read more …

“In America, the word ‘public’ means a sum total of individual needs, not the common good..”

Robert Reich has drowned himself for 3 years in repetitious and utterly boring Orange Man Bad rhetoric, but this is worth a read.

America Has No Real Public Health System – Coronavirus Has A Clear Run (Reich)

As the coronavirus outbreak in the US follows the same grim exponential growth path first displayed in Wuhan, China, before herculean measures were put in place to slow its spread there, America is waking up to the fact that it has almost no public capacity to deal with it. Instead of a public health system, we have a private for-profit system for individuals lucky enough to afford it and a rickety social insurance system for people fortunate enough to have a full-time job. At their best, both systems respond to the needs of individuals rather than the needs of the public as a whole. In America, the word “public” – as in public health, public education or public welfare – means a sum total of individual needs, not the common good.

Contrast this with America’s financial system. The Federal Reserve concerns itself with the health of financial markets as a whole. Late last week the Fed made $1.5tn available to banks, at the slightest hint of difficulties making trades. No one batted an eye. When it comes to the health of the nation as a whole, money like this isn’t available. And there are no institutions analogous to the Fed with responsibility for overseeing and managing the public’s health – able to whip out a giant checkbook at a moment’s notice to prevent human, rather than financial, devastation. Even if a test for the Covid-19 virus had been developed and approved in time, no institutions are in place to administer it to tens of millions of Americans free of charge. Local and state health departments are already bare bones, having lost nearly a quarter of their workforce since 2008, according to the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

Healthcare in America is delivered mainly by private for-profit corporations which, unlike financial institutions, are not required to maintain reserve capacity. As a result, the nation’s supply of ventilators isn’t nearly large enough to care for projected numbers of critically ill coronavirus victims unable to breathe for themselves. Its 45,000 intensive care unit beds fall woefully short of the 2.9 million likely to be needed. The Fed can close banks to quarantine financial crises but the US can’t close workplaces because the nation’s social insurance system depends on people going to work. Almost 30% of American workers have no paid sick leave from their employers, including 70% of low-income workers earning less than $10.49 an hour.

Vast numbers of self-employed workers cannot afford sick leave. Friday’s deal between House Democrats and the White House won’t have much effect because it exempts large employers and offers waivers to smaller ones. Most jobless Americans don’t qualify for unemployment insurance because they haven’t worked long enough in a steady job and the ad-hoc deal doesn’t alter this. Meanwhile, more than 30 million Americans have no health insurance.

Read more …

Each on and for his own.

Hoboken Mayor Imposes Mandatory Nightly Curfew (NBC)

Days after Hoboken officials announced the city’s first positive case of COVID-19, the mayor declared a mandatory nightly curfew in the latest attempt to stop the spread of the virus. Mayor Bhalla detailed the curfew in a city blogpost late Saturday night, outlining the details of a nightly curfew that will run from 10 p.m. and end at 5 a.m. each night. The curfew is scheduled to begin Monday evening. All Hoboken residents will be required to remain indoors during the curfew hours except for emergencies and required work, the mayor said.


“As I am writing this message on a Saturday evening, I received a call from our Police Chief Kenneth Ferrante notifying me of a bar fight in downtown Hoboken, with at least one person falling in and out of consciousness, and our police having to wait for over 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive, because our EMS is inundated with service calls,” the mayor said in an online statement. “This is unfortunately a contributing factor why we cannot continue bar operations which can trigger calls for service that are delayed in part because of this public health crisis.” In addition to nightly curfews, restaurants and bars within city limits will only be allowed to offer takeout and delivery options, the mayor said. Food and drink establishments will not be allowed to seat diners during the mandated curfew.

Read more …

Sort of nice, but not satisfying for me. The tweet below says why: testing “methods” are very different. South Korea tests everyone, Italy only tests suspected cases.

Coronavirus: Why It’s So Deadly In Italy (M.)

Many people have already pointed out that Italy has an older population than South Korea. The higher Italian CFR might therefore reflect a higher likelihood that an old person becomes infected with the coronavirus simply because there are more old people among the Italian population. We can easily check the plausibility of this argument by comparing the age structure of the coronavirus cases with the age structure of the total population for both countries. The population data are from the United Nations’ World Population Prospect 2019.


In South Korea, the age structure of the coronavirus cases is remarkably similar to the age structure of the population, in particular for the older age groups. The 20–29-year-olds are still hugely overrepresented among the confirmed cases relative to their population share, but their surplus is balanced by the underrepresentation of cases among the 0–9- and 10–19-year-olds. These three youngest age groups face a very low risk of dying from COVID-19. The South Korean CFR is hence not depressed or exaggerated by an under- or overrepresentation of older Koreans among the confirmed cases.

The same is not true for Italy: The share of confirmed cases at age 70–79 exceeds the population share of this age group by more than a factor of two. Among those aged 80 and more, the case share is almost three times as high as the population share. By contrast, young people and hence low-fatality-risk people are visibly underrepresented among the confirmed cases.

Hence, the question remains why the age distribution of cases is shaped so differently in Italy compared to South Korea. It has also been pointed out that the testing procedures for coronavirus in the countries are very different — Italy has predominantly been testing people with symptoms of a coronavirus infection, while South Korea has been testing basically everyone since the outbreak had become apparent. Consequently, South Korea has detected more asymptomatic, but positive cases of coronavirus than Italy, in particular among young people.

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The continent locks down. People expect this to last 2 weeks or so. What happens if that becomes 4 months?

France, Spain Implement Massive and Dramatic Quarantine Restrictions (Slate)

More European nations have joined Italy in enacting dramatic measures meant to keep their citizens in their homes for all but the most necessary of circumstances in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. On Saturday, Spain ordered all of its citizens to stay in their homes unless they absolutely have to leave to go to work, buy food, seek medical care, or help out elderly or otherwise vulnerable people in need of assistance. All bars, restaurants, and schools were ordered to close. France also ordered all restaurants, bars, cafes, movie theaters, and other “non-indispensable businesses” to close starting at midnight. Grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, and gas stations are some of the only exceptions.

Both countries had seen an uptick in cases in recent days. Spain saw 2,000 new cases on Saturday alone, bringing its total up to more than 5,700. The number of cases in France has recently doubled and the country now has around 4,500 confirmed cases. Italy, the country with the most cases after China, has been operating under these restrictions in a full quarantine since Monday. More than 21,000 people have contracted the virus there, and more than 1,440 people have died from it.

Some non-European countries have taken similar measures. Starting Sunday, all restaurants, cafes, calls, hotels, movie theaters, gyms, and schools in Israel will be closed. Israel, which has less than 200 cases, also banned any foreign visitors from entering the country and gatherings of more than 10 people. Iran, which follows Italy as the third hardest-hit, has closed all schools, universities, sporting events, cafes, restaurants, museums, and movie theaters. And like Italy, it cracked down on travel within the country.

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Health care for profit doesn’t appear to be the best idea out there. In a nutshell: Systems need redundancy.

UK Doctor: ‘We Don’t Have The Masks, Goggles – Or The Staff’ (G.)

NHS staff are asking the same questions as everyone else about coronavirus. How deadly is it? How do we protect ourselves? Are the government’s tactics right? And how will the health service cope when – and it is when – it leaves large numbers of people seriously ill, many fighting for their lives? These questions are even more pressing for us because within two weeks we will be part of the frontline against a threat that we’ve never seen the like of before. I’m worried that our hospital’s beds are already 98% full. We are full of “social patients” – people medically fit to go but who can’t be discharged because there isn’t a place in a care home for them, or the care package to allow them to go home hasn’t been sorted.

So where are all the people needing life-or-death care from Covid-19 going to go? We’re barely two weeks from being in the same situation as Italy, with huge numbers of people needing to be in hospital. Yet we don’t have enough protective equipment like masks and goggles. And the NHS is under-staffed. We have to haggle with management about a minuscule pay rise for doctors willing to work extra shifts and expose themselves to danger. We don’t have enough isolation rooms or ventilators, which will be vital. Intensive care units will be the NHS’s most precious resource, but ours are close to full most of the time. We’re told of plans to increase ICU capacity. Yet you need a specially trained nurse for each ICU bed. Where will the extra staff come from?

Too few beds, staff and equipment; I’m worried that the NHS is completely ill-equipped to handle Covid-19. When Boris Johnson talks about our wonderful NHS and how well-prepared it is, that’s bullshit. He either doesn’t have a clue or is trying to falsely reassure people. The NHS has been hit hard before, by underfunding, terrorist attacks and tough winters. But usually crises are stretched over a period of time. With coronavirus it will all come at once.

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Just as Xi starts boasting about the approach, these guys try to spoil the party. Do a study like this for Italy too. And the US.

China Could Have Cut 95% Of Cases If It Acted On Whistleblower Warning (HKFP)

China could have prevented 95 per cent of coronavirus infections if its measures to contain the outbreak had begun three weeks earlier, research from the University of Southampton suggests. However, China only took vigorous action in late January – weeks after police silenced a doctor for trying to raise the alarm. First detected in Hubei, more than 146,000 people globally have now been infected with Covid-19, whilst over 5,500 have died from the SARS-like disease. The study published this week by population mapping group WorldPop measured the effectiveness of nonpharmaceutical interventions. The researchers examined how China isolated ill persons, quarantined exposed individuals, conducted contract tracing, restricted travel, closed schools and workplaces, and cancelled mass gatherings.

The analysis – which has yet to be peer-reviewed – found that early case detection and contact reduction were effective in controlling the virus and combined measures can reduce transmission. They can also delay the timing and reduce the size of the epidemic’s peak, and thus buy time for healthcare preparations and drugs research. The simulations drew on human movement and illness data to model how combined interventions might affect the spread of Covid-19. Coronavirus cases could have been reduced by 66 per cent if the measures were taken a week earlier, the study suggested, or by 86 per cent if action began two weeks earlier. If action was taken three weeks later, then the situation could have worsened 18-fold.

Most efforts to tackle the outbreak took place in late January, weeks after Wuhan ophthalmologist Dr Li Wenliang tried to warn about the mystery disease on December 30. He was among eight people who were punished by police on January 1 for spreading “rumours” about the virus. The Public Security Bureau made Li sign a letter stating that he had made “false comments” and had “severely disturbed the social order.” He died last month of the disease, aged 34, prompting widespread outrage in China.

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Reinfection, false negative?

Japanese Man Tests Positive For Coronavirus, Again (NHK)

Officials in western Japan’s Mie Prefecture say a man who was a passenger on a cruise ship that was hit by the coronavirus has again tested positive after recovering from infection. The man, who is in his 70s, first tested positive for the virus on February 14 while he was onboard the Diamond Princess, which was under quarantine off Yokohama. He left a medical facility in Tokyo on March 2 after he was confirmed negative. He returned to his home in Mie by public transportation. But he started to feel sick and developed a fever of 39 degrees Celsius on Thursday. He went to hospital on Friday, and on Saturday was confirmed to be infected again. He is now receiving treatment at a hospital in the prefecture. Prefectural officials plan to trace his recent activities and carry out checks of people who have had close contact with him.

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Something for our medical commentariat.

Anti-Inflammatories May Aggravate Covid-19, France Advises (G.)

French authorities have warned that widely used over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs may worsen the coronavirus. The country’s health minister, Olivier Véran, who is a qualified doctor and neurologist, tweeted on Saturday: “The taking of anti-inflammatories [ibuprofen, cortisone … ] could be a factor in aggravating the infection. In case of fever, take paracetamol. If you are already taking anti-inflammatory drugs, ask your doctor’s advice.” Health officials point out that anti-inflammatory drugs are known to be a risk for those with infectious illnesses because they tend to diminish the response of the body’s immune system.


The health ministry added that patients should choose paracetamol because “it will reduce the fever without counterattacking the inflammation”. French patients have been forced to consult pharmacies since mid-January if they want to buy popular painkillers, including ibuprofen, paracetamol and aspirin, to be reminded of the risks. Jean-Louis Montastruc, the head of pharmacology at Toulouse hospital, told RTL radio: “Anti-inflammatory drugs increase the risk of complications when there is a fever or infection.”

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We really need their greedy fingers in that too.

Google Says It Is Developing A Nationwide Coronavirus Website (R.)

Alphabet’s Google said on Saturday that it was working with the U.S. government to develop a nationwide website that would help Americans with questions about coronavirus symptoms, risk factors and testing. “We are fully aligned and continue to work with the U.S. government to contain the spread of COVID-19, inform citizens, and protect the health of our communities,” Google said in a statement on Twitter. President Donald Trump had thanked Google on Friday for developing a website that he said would help people determine whether they needed a coronavirus test, saying that 1,700 engineers were working on it.


That prompted the search and advertising giant to respond that, in fact, a life sciences division, Verily, was in the early stages of developing a tool to help triage Americans who may need testing for the coronavirus and that it would be tested in the Bay Area and expanded over time. Alphabet’s shares closed up more than 9% after the Friday announcement by the president. Pressure has been rising on U.S. officials to increase and improve testing for the fast-spreading virus, which has reached almost every U.S. state, closed schools and forced the cancellation of thousands of sporting events, conferences and concerts amid efforts to stop its spread by keeping Americans out of big crowds.

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But bloated corpses contain toxic and smelly gases.

Fed May Announce Commercial Paper Facilities Sunday – BofA (R.)

The Federal Reserve may announce measures on Sunday night aimed at bolstering liquidity in the commercial paper market, used by companies for short-term loans, analysts at Bank of America wrote. The bank’s analysts said they believe the Fed will announce a Commercial Paper Funding Facility, an operation previously used in 2008 in which the Fed buys commercial paper from issuers directly, and a Commercial Paper Dealer Purchase Facility in which the Fed would buy commercial paper from dealers directly. The measures, if taken, would be aimed at buffering the market ahead of potentially large outflows from money market funds in coming days, analysts at the bank wrote.


“We believe it imperative the Fed roll out these facilities on Sunday night given the looming expected prime (money market fund) outflows and necessity of their ability to sell (commercial paper) in order to raise cash,” the report said. “If the Fed waits too long the (money market fund) outflow pressure could mount and the risk of a large scale (money market fund) run could increase.” Liquidity – or the ability for buyers and sellers to easily transact – has dried up in the commercial paper market in recent weeks as the coronavirus has roiled credit markets and hit the price of commercial paper. Expectations of a rush of new issuance has also driven prices lower.

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“..the changes will result in the airline parking nearly its entire widebody fleet..”

American Airlines To Cut Nearly All Long-Haul International Flights (R.)

American Airlines on Saturday said it will implement a phased suspension of nearly all long-haul international flights starting March 16, amid reduced demand and travel restrictions due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. Between March 16 and May 6, American will reduce its international capacity by 75% on a year-over-year basis, it said in a statement, adding the changes will result in the airline parking nearly its entire widebody fleet. The airline also anticipates its domestic capacity in April will be reduced by 20% on a year-over-year basis. Domestic capacity for the month of May will be reduced by 30%, the company added.

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First you bloat your company beyond proportions, then you demand your recently bloated shape is saved from normalizing.

Save people, not companies.

Virgin Atlantic Boss Seeks £7.5 Billion UK Airline Bailout (R.)

Virgin Atlantic’s chairman Peter Norris will write to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday saying the country’s airline industry needs emergency government support worth 7.5 billion pounds ($9.20 billion) or risks the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, Sky News reported on Saturday. The letter would ask the British government to provide airlines with a credit facility to help them through a potentially prolonged period of slumping revenue amid the coronavirus pandemic, Sky News said, citing sources.

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Snowing under in the virus.

‘Euroleaks’: Varoufakis Leaks Recordings Of Secretive Eurogroup Talks (RT)

The former finance minister of Greece, Yanis Varoufakis, has released a cache of audio files, secretly recorded in 2015 during the bailout talks with the Eurogroup – a powerful group of eurozone’s finance chiefs.
The recordings and their transcripts were released by Varoufakis on the website of his ‘pan-European’ DiEM25 party on Saturday. The files –dubbed ‘Euroleaks’– were recorded between February and July 2015, when cash-strapped Athens was entangled in painful talks with its creditors. In 2015, Varoufakis was the chief negotiator for then-ruling Syriza party, dealing with the Eurogroup and those behind it – the so-called ‘troika.’ It comprises the three main lenders of the eurozone nations – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF.

While the Eurogroup is de-jure an informal group, it is actually a powerful decision-making institute that lacks accountability and transparency – and does not keep any records. The main goal in releasing the recordings is to shed light on its secretive activities, Varoufakis said in a video announcing the Euroleaks. The lenders took a tough, ‘take it or leave it’ stance on Greece, effectively presenting it with an ultimatum. At the same time, they blamed Greek negotiators for stalled talks – and no records were available to prove them wrong.

“You will hear the [then-]president of the Eurogroup [Jeroen Dijsselbloem] and other ministers warn me that if I dare table written proposals within the Eurogroup meetings, that would be the end of the negotiations,” Varoufakis said. “At the very same time they were leaking to the press that I was arriving at Eurogroup meetings without any proposals.” Apart from bringing into the limelight the “intransparent action by an unelected group of politicians who influence all our lives,” the leaks also serve another purpose. The putting in the public domain of the secret recordings is aimed at fighting attempts by the incumbent Greek government to “weaponize fake news,” produced by the Eurogroup back in 2015 to justify new austerity measures for the country, Varoufakis said.

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If you read us, please support us. Help the Automatic Earth survive.

 

Feb 152020
 


Harris & Ewing Gettysburg 50th reunion: Grand Army of the Republic and the United Confederate Veterans 1913

 

Massive Medical Response As China Death Toll Reaches 1,526 (SCMP)
Beijing To Quarantine All Arrivals As Economic Life Struggles To Pick Up (R.)
Xi Puts On Brave Face, Vows To Deliver Economic Goals Amid Coronavirus (SCMP)
Egypt Confirms Coronavirus Case, The First In Africa (AlJ)
Chinese Medical Staff Pay ‘Too High A Price’ In Battle To Curb Virus (SCMP)
Wandering Ship Becomes ‘Best Cruise Ever (R.)
Sidney Powell: One Atrocity After The Other In Michael Flynn Case (SAC)
Barr Assigns Outside Prosecutor To Review Case Against Flynn (ZH)
DOJ Drops Investigation Of Former FBI Deputy Andrew McCabe (UPI)
Roger Stone Asks For New Trial (Hill)
Carville Slams Sanders For ‘Hack’ Slam: ‘At Least I’m Not A Communist’ (Hill)
United Airlines Pulls Boeing 737 MAX From Schedule Until September 4 (R.)
Impure Thoughts (Kunstler)
US Soldiers in Deathly Scuffle With Syrian Civilians (Whitney Webb)
Varoufakis Submits Recordings Of Eurogroup Talks To Greek Parliament (K.)
Multibillion Mystery Of The Great British Gold Sale (Conway)

 

 

And we’re off to the races again. With the renewed attention for the FBI and DOJ shenanigans in the cases past and present of Roger Stone, Michael Flynn and even Andrew McCabe, it’s easy to get too many articles for an effective aggregator.

 

• Cases 67,102, up 2,661 from yesterday. 11,053 – 18% of cases listed as severe.

• Deaths 1,526, up 143 from yesterday

First death in Europe, a Chinese tourist in France. Close the borders!

• 2,420 new cases (total 54,406) and 139 new deaths in Hubei province

• Chinese experts expect surge in confirmed cases inn coming days.

• 4 more cases in Japan, 3 more cases in Hong Kong

• Infected passengers and crew aboard ‘the Diamond Princess’ climbs to 218

• Lockdown in Beijing

• 217 medical teams sent to provinces, including 25,033 medical professionals to Hubei, in addition to 181 teams of army doctors in Wuhan and 36 army medical teams across Hubei

 

 

 

 

They’re even sanitizing coins and bank notes with UV light.

Massive Medical Response As China Death Toll Reaches 1,526 (SCMP)

China reported 2,641 new confirmed cases and 849 new severe cases on Saturday. A total of 143 more people have died, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 1,526. There are 2,277 suspected new cases. The total number of confirmed cases across the country stands at 66,492, of which 11,053 – 18 per cent – are severe. In Hubei province – epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak – 2,420 new confirmed cases were reported with 1,923 of those in provincial capital Wuhan. The city also accounted for 107 of the 139 new deaths reported in Hubei on Saturday. National Health Commission deputy director Wang Hesheng said nine medical shelters had been opened to accommodate patients with mild symptoms, as well as people with suspected infections.

It was Wang’s first press conference since his arrival in Wuhan – provincial capital of Hubei where the novel coronavirus emerged – about a week ago. Wang and Chen Yixin, secretary general of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, the Communist Party’s top law enforcement body, were sent to Wuhan in response to public uproar about the death of ophthalmologist Li Wenliang, widely regarded as a whistle-blower about the new virus. Wang said China had sent 217 medical teams across provinces, including a total of 25,033 medical professionals to Hubei. These were in addition to the 181 teams of army doctors in Wuhan and a further 36 military medical teams in other cities in the province.


[..] Fan Yifei, vice-governor of the People’s Bank of China, said money supply in the country would be ensured, with 4 billion yuan (US$572 million) in new bank notes already allocated to Hubei before the Spring Festival holiday. Fan said the central bank would temporarily store bank notes from major government institutes or state enterprises in warehouses to prevent the disease spreading through the handling of cash. Banks have also been told to sanitise notes before giving them to enterprises. Fan said cash from hospitals and wet markets were being stored and bank notes and coins sanitised with UV light before they were released back into circulation.

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Imagine this in Paris, London, New York.

Beijing To Quarantine All Arrivals As Economic Life Struggles To Pick Up (R.)

The Chinese capital Beijing on Friday imposed a 14-day self-quarantine on people returning to the city from holidays to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, and threatened to punish those who failed to comply. It was not immediately clear how the restriction, relayed by the official Beijing Daily newspaper, would be enforced, or whether it would apply to non-residents of Beijing or foreigners arriving from abroad. [..] Wuhan, the city of 11 million people where the outbreak began, has the most acute problem. With all public transport, taxis and ride-hailing services shut down in the city, volunteer drivers are responding to requests on ad hoc messaging groups to ferry medical staff and others in vital jobs to and from work, risking their own health.


Others work round the clock to find accommodation for medical workers in hotels that have volunteered rooms. Many of the drivers keep their identities secret to avoid objections from family and friends. “Everyone in our group has such a strong sense of mission,” said 53-year-old Chen Hui, who runs one of the ad hoc ride services. [..] “From now on, all those who have returned to Beijing should stay at home or submit to group observation for 14 days after arriving,” read the notice from Beijing’s virus prevention working group cited by the Beijing Daily. “Those who refuse to accept home or centralised observation and other prevention and control measures will be held accountable under law.”

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He’s starting to acknowledge he can’t do both. How to save face?

Xi Puts On Brave Face, Vows To Deliver Economic Goals Amid Coronavirus (SCMP)

Shrouded in utmost secrecy, the Politburo Standing Committee is the inner circle of China’s power structure. The seven-member body, which is the core of the 25 member Politburo cabinet with general secretary Xi Jinping as its head, rarely publishes meeting schedules or agendas before or even after meetings. The details of only four standing committee meetings have been published in the two and half years since Xi consolidated his power in late 2017, even though the group is believed to have met on a weekly basis. Two of the meetings were to listen to work reports from China’s government, parliament and the top court, one was a discussion about a grand plan to build an entirely new city in Xiongan, Hebei province, and the fourth concerned a low-quality vaccine scandal.

This all changed last month with the outbreak of the coronavirus, which causes the disease now officially known as Covid-19. The conclusions of three standing committee meetings in three consecutive weeks have since been published, an attempt to make it clear that China’s leadership, in particular Xi himself, has a strong message to send to the country’s ruling apparatus and the general public. During Wednesday’s meeting, Xi said control of the coronavirus had entered a critical stage despite “positive developments” in containing the outbreak, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. However, Xi emphasised that the outbreak of coronavirus should not stop China from achieving its social and economic goals, while also continuing the country’s long-term rise.


“This year is the last year to complete the goal of building up a comprehensively well-off society” said Xi, with all levels of the government expected to ensure economic stability and social harmony to achieve set goals despite the coronavirus. The meeting came just a day after Xi told his Indonesian counterpart, Joko Widodo, that China “has the capability, confidence and certainty to score an outright victory over the epidemic”. “We must see that the long-term sound fundamentals of our economy haven’t changed. The impact of the outbreak will only be short-term and [China] won’t be intimidated by the current problems and difficulties,” Xi said according to Xinhua.

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Africa is an ideal breeding ground for a virus like this. But who’s going to do the testing, and with what? A hospital in Cairo may do it, but what about the Congo for instance? There are at least a millionn Chinese working in Africa. Come to think of it, what will COVID19 mean for Belt and Road?

Egypt Confirms Coronavirus Case, The First In Africa (AlJ)

Egypt has confirmed its first case of a deadly coronavirus that emerged in central China at the end of last year and has since spread to more than two dozen countries around the world. Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Mugahed said in a statement on Friday that the affected person was a “foreigner” who did not show any serious symptoms. Officials were able to confirm the case through a follow-up programme implemented by the government for travellers arriving from countries where the virus has spread. The ministry statement said the person was hospitalised and in isolation. It did not specify the person’s nationality or their point of entry. The development made Egypt the first country in the African continent to report a confirmed case, and the second in the Middle East region, after the United Arab Emirates late last month diagnosed its first cases.

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China must ask for mass assistance.

Chinese Medical Staff Pay ‘Too High A Price’ In Battle To Curb Virus (SCMP)

More than a thousand health care workers have been infected with Covid-19, many of whom contracted the virus that causes the disease in the early weeks of the outbreak when there was a shortage of protective equipment and the authorities said there had been few cases of human-to-human transmission. One specialist warned that frontline medical workers were paying “too high a price” in the battle to contain the disease and warned that the high number of infected health care staff increased the risk of cross-infection in hospitals. On Friday the government said a total 1,716 health care workers had been infected with the disease. The number is far higher than that recorded during the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic, although there have been 12 times more confirmed cases of Covid-19.

[..] Cai Haodong, a communicable diseases specialist from Beijing’s Ditan Hospital, said the absolute number of health care worker infections was far higher than during the Sars epidemic because there were many patients who had not initially shown any symptoms. “The enemy (coronavirus) is in the dark. The awareness of doctors of non-communicable disease was not strong. They may have lowered their guard when the patient did not show any symptoms.” Health care workers were also forced to go to the frontline without proper protective clothing and masks, she added. “The doctors in Wuhan don’t have sufficient protective gear and they are forced to go to the frontline. The price is just too high,” she said.


The large number of health care worker infections increases the risks of cross-infection in hospitals. “When doctors are infected, they may infect patients and cause cross-infections. That is why the United States requires doctors to have influenza vaccines so that they won’t pass it on to patients,” Cao said.

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How much did the industry pay for this commercial?

“We had free internet and free wine. We had three-course meals. There was so much choice..”

Wandering Ship Becomes ‘Best Cruise Ever (R.)

After nearly two weeks cast away in search of a port that would take them, passengers aboard the MS Westerdam cruise ship spoke of an ordeal that was anything but harrowing. “Everyone says ‘poor you’. But there was no poor you. We had free internet and free wine. We had three-course meals. There was so much choice,” said Zahra Jennings, a retired staff nurse from Britain. How was it? “Lovely,” she said. The 1,544 passengers and 802 crew had never expected a port stop in Hong Kong to metastasize into full-blown fear that some of the ship’s passengers carried the novel coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, China, late last year and has killed more than 1,500 people.

Turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand, it was Cambodia that finally let the lost ship dock – and it was discovered there that none of the passengers was infected. The only complaint aboard? “They ran out of hash browns a couple of days ago, and tomato sauce,” said Robert Sayers, a 60-year-old chemical company employee from New Zealand. “But that was it. It was fine, really.” Cruise ships around Asia face widespread fears they may be spreading the virus since it was found aboard the Diamond Princess that is now at anchor in Yokohama and where 218 of the passengers have been diagnosed with the virus.

Vietnam turned back two ships on Friday. It was Valentine’s Day when the first passengers disembarked from the Westerdam. The prime minister, Hun Sen, flew in from the capital, shaking hands with passengers and handing out roses. Government officials draped “Welcome to Cambodia” banners on buses. All passengers were given free visas. Hun Sen, an authoritarian ruler condemned by Western countries for human rights abuses said: “Our current disease around the world is fear and discrimination,” he said. “If Cambodia didn’t allow this ship to dock, where should these 2,000 passengers go?”


Holland America sent letters to all passengers saying it would reimburse the cost of the cruise, give them another free 14-day cruise, and charter them flights home. The company, it said, would do its best to match the class of flight they had originally booked. The cruise had been scheduled to end in Shanghai on Saturday. In Shanghai it was 14 Celsius, overcast and raining. In Sihanoukville, it was 27C and sunny.

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He was led to believe that he wasn’t being investigated, so he didn’t need a lawyer, and now we’re off to the races.

Sidney Powell: One Atrocity After The Other In Michael Flynn Case (SAC)

Sidney Powell, the attorney for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn told Sean Hannity on Friday that there has been “one atrocity after another” in the proceedings. “So not only was [Michael Flynn] not warned of his rights, he didn’t even know that he was being investigated,” Powell told host Sean Hannity. “In fact, he was led to believe that he wasn’t being investigated.” Powell added that Michael Flynn’s case was the first instance she had heard of in which a defendant accused of making false statements to the FBI was not warned of his rights or informed that he was under investigation. “They say they can’t find [it], he can’t produce it [the 302 form],” she said of Michael Flynn prosecutor Brandon Van Grack. who she claimed has a separate conflict of interest in the case. “There is one atrocity after the other in this case.”

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Would this have happened if Powell hadn’t taken over? I don’t believe it for a second.

Barr Assigns Outside Prosecutor To Review Case Against Flynn (ZH)

A week of two-tiered legal shenanigans was capped off on Friday with a New York Times report that Attorney General William Barr has assigned an outside prosecutor to scrutinize the government’s case against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, which the Times suggested was “highly unusual and could trigger more accusations of political interference by top Justice Department officials into the work of career prosecutors.” Notably, the FBI excluded crucial information from a ‘302’ form documenting an interview with Flynn in January, 2017. While Flynn eventually pleaded guilty to misleading agents over his contacts with the former Russian ambassador regarding the Trump administration’s efforts to oppose a UN resolution related to Israel, the original draft of Flynn’s 203 reveals that agents thought he was being honest with them – evidence which Flynn’s prior attorneys never pursued.

His new attorney, Sidney Powell, took over Flynn’s defense in June 2019 – while Flynn withdrew his guilty plea in January, accusing the government of “bad faith, vindictiveness, and breach of the plea agreement.” In addition to a review of the Flynn case, Barr has hired a handful of outside prosecutors to broadly review several other politically sensitive national-security cases in the US attorney’s office in Washington, according to the Times sources. Of particular interest will be cases overseen by now-unemployed former US attorney for DC, Jessie Liu, which includes actions against Stone, Flynn, the Awan brothers, James Wolfe and others. Notably, Wolfe was only sentenced to leaking a classified FISA warrant application to journalist and side-piece Ali Watkins of the New York Times – while prosecutors out of Liu’s office threw the book at former Trump adviser Roger Stone – recommending 7-9 years in prison for process crimes.


[..] New York Times: “The moves amounted to imposing a secondary layer of monitoring and control over what career prosecutors have been doing in the Washington office. They are part of a broader turmoil in that office coinciding with Mr. Barr’s recent installation of a close aide, Timothy Shea, as interim United States attorney in the District of Columbia, after Mr. Barr maneuvered out the Senate-confirmed former top prosecutor in the office, Jessie K. Liu. Mr. Flynn’s case was first brought by the special counsel’s office, who agreed to a plea deal on a charge of lying to investigators in exchange for his cooperation, before the Washington office took over the case when the special counsel shut down after concluding its investigation into Russia’s election interference”.

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But that’s not the end of the line for McCabe, says Jason Chaffetz. Stay tuned.

DOJ Drops Investigation Of Former FBI Deputy Andrew McCabe (UPI)

The Justice Department has dropped its investigation into former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe over accusations he leaked information to news media, his attorneys said Friday. A letter to McCabe’s lawyers said the Justice Department declined to pursue criminal charges. “Based on the totality of the circumstances and all of the information known to the government at this time, we consider the matter closed,” said the letter, signed by J.P. Cooney and Molly Gaston of the Fraud & Public Corruption Section of the Justice Department. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe from the FBI in March 2018 after the Justice Department’s inspector general determined he’d authorized FBI officials to reveal sensitive information to media about an investigation related to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.


The IG report accused McCabe of subsequently misleading investigators about his role in the matter. McCabe had stepped down from his role as deputy director of the FBI months earlier. McCabe’s lawyers, Michael Bromwich and David Schertler, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Washington, D.C., notified them the case was closed.

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How can the request be refused? Hard to see.

Roger Stone Asks For New Trial (Hill)

Attorneys for Roger Stone on Friday requested a new trial, a day after saying they were looking into potential bias by a juror who voted to convict the longtime Trump associate of lying to Congress and witness tampering. The request also comes after President Trump accused the juror of harboring “significant bias” following reports that her social media activity contained posts that were critical of Trump. “Now it looks like the fore person in the jury, in the Roger Stone case, had significant bias. Add that to everything else, and this is not looking good for the “Justice” Department. @foxandfriends @FoxNews,” Trump tweeted Thursday.

Stone’s attorneys would not reveal the contents of the motion, which was filed under seal to protect sensitive information, saying only that an un-redacted version will be submitted later for public filing. However, a day earlier they indicated they were looking into the newly surfaced social media activity of jury foreperson Tomeka Hart. “Mr. Stone and his defense team are diligently reviewing the newly reported information to determine any appropriate next steps,” said attorney Grant Smith, who did not refer to the juror by name. Hart’s role as the jury foreperson became publicly known Wednesday when she confirmed to CNN that she had written a Facebook post defending the prosecutors in Stone’s case.


The four-person prosecution team quit Tuesday after their recommended sentence of seven to nine years in prison was overruled by top Justice Department officials, sparking questions about whether the White House had put undue political pressure on the department to seek a lighter sentence for Trump’s longtime associate. Stone, a 67-year-old right-wing provocateur, was found guilty in November of lying to Congress and witness tampering related to his efforts to provide the Trump campaign inside information about WikiLeaks in 2016. [..] It was unclear if the request for a new trial — Stone’s second attempt after the first was denied — would delay his scheduled Feb. 20 sentencing.

Read more …

Carville is THE symbol of the demise of the Democratic Party in the past 30 years. He’s a sleaze like Roger Stone, only he’s free.

Carville Slams Sanders For ‘Hack’ Slam: ‘At Least I’m Not A Communist’ (Hill)

James Carville fired back at Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for calling him “a political hack,” calling the self-described democratic socialist “a communist.” The back and forth follows a week in which Carville has repeatedly sounded the alarm about a potential Sanders match-up against President Trump in November, calling the scenario “the end of days” for the Democratic Party while referring to Sanders supporters as “a cult.” Sanders returned fire on Wednesday night during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, arguing that “political hack” Carville represents the establishment his campaign is running against.

“James, in all due respect, is a political hack,” Sanders said. “We are taking on Trump, the Republican establishment, Carville and the Democratic establishment. But at the end of the day, the grassroots movement that we are putting together — of young people, of working people, of people of color — want real change.” Carville, who worked as a campaign strategist for former President Clinton, escalated the feud Thursday on Snapchat with former CNN reporter Peter Hamby. “Last night on CNN, Bernie Sanders called me a political hack,” Carville said. “That’s exactly who the f— I am! I am a political hack! I am not an ideologue. I am not a purist. He thinks it’s a pejorative. I kind of like it! At least I’m not a communist.”


Trump also recently referred to Sanders as a communist. “I think he’s a communist. I mean, you know, look, I think of communism when I think of Bernie,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity before the Super Bowl. Sanders dismissed Trump’s comment a week later in an interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” “Obviously I am not a communist,” Sanders said, adding that maybe Trump “doesn’t know the difference.”

Read more …

Does anyone think the 737 MAX will fly again this year? How about ever?

United Airlines Pulls Boeing 737 MAX From Schedule Until September 4 (R.)

United Airlines said on Friday it is extending the cancellation of Boeing 737 MAX flights until Sept. 4, a fresh delay that comes as sources told Reuters that the timing of a key certification flight may not happen until at least April. U.S. airlines that operate Boeing’s737 MAX, which was grounded worldwide last March after two fatal crashes, had last pulled the jet from their flight schedules until early June. On Thursday, Southwest Airlines extended its MAX cancellations until Aug. 10.

Read more …

“..it is a peculiar feature of our times that a lot of things have an appearance that doesn’t sync with reality..”

Impure Thoughts (Kunstler)

..companies doing business need a revenue stream to service their revolving debts. They have to make stuff, and move stuff, and get paid for it. What happens when there is no revenue stream? The workings of this hyper-complex financial system depend utterly on the velocity of these revenue streams. They can’t just… stop! Everybody who follows these things understands that China’s banking system is 1) a hot mess of confabulated public and private lending relationships, 2) completely opaque as regards the true workings of its operations, and 3) shot through with fraud, swindling, and Ponzis. Did China’s ruling party just put its banking system in an induced coma while Corona virus plays out? How can that possibly not affect the rest of global finance, which is plenty janky, too?

The USA gets everything from car parts to pharmaceuticals from China. How long will it take for the manufacturing lock-down to show up in American daily life? What if it continues for some months going forward? You can easily draw your own conclusions. Here’s another interesting angle on that: Corona virus might give President Donald Trump an easy out from being the bag-holder for a stock market crash and banking train wreck. The signal weakness of Mr. Trump’s term-in-office was his taking ownership of a magical mystery stock market that climbs ever-higher day after day, defying all known rules of physics as applied to money.


This longest “expansion” in US history (if that’s what it was, and I’m not so sure about it) seems to have hit a speed bump last September when something broke in the short-term “re-po” lending markets, at which time (and ever since), Jay Powell’s Federal Reserve began jamming hundreds of billions of dollars into them to smash down zooming interest rates and prevent a heart attack in the system. That creation of “liquidity” — money from thin air — appears to have stabilized the situation. But then, it is a peculiar feature of our times that a lot of things have an appearance that doesn’t sync with reality.

Read more …

Time to go before things get out of hand.

US Soldiers in Deathly Scuffle With Syrian Civilians (Whitney Webb)

As resistance to U.S. troop presence in both Iraq and Syria gains steam, a rare scuffle between Syrian civilians and U.S. forces broke out on Wednesday resulting in the death of one Syrian, believed to be a civilian, and the wounding of another. A U.S. soldier was also reportedly injured in the scuffle. The event is likely to escalate tensions, particularly in the Northeastern region where the incident took place, as Syria, Iraq and Iran have pushed for an end to the U.S. troop presence in the region following the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.

The clash between U.S. forces and Syrian locals took place near the town of Qamishli where the U.S. forces were conducting a patrol that, for reasons that are still unclear, entered into territory controlled by the Syrian government instead of territory occupied by the U.S. and its regional proxy, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). At a Syrian military checkpoint, the U.S. patrol was met by Syrian civilians of a nearby village who gathered at the checkpoint and began throwing rocks at the U.S. convoy. Then, one Syrian took a U.S. flag off of one of the military vehicles. Reports from activists on the ground and Syrian media then claim that U.S. troops opened fire using live ammunition and fired smoke bombs at the angry residents, killing one and wounding another.


A U.S. soldier was said to have received a superficial wound, though the nature of the wound was not specified. After the scuffle, the protests grew larger, preventing more U.S. troops from arriving at the scene. In one video of the protests, a local was seen ripping a U.S. flag as he approached an American soldier. The obstruction of the road prevented the U.S. patrol from advancing and two military vehicles had to be towed after becoming stuck in the grass after an apparent attempt to circumvent the roadblock created by the Syrian military checkpoint and supportive Syrian civilians.

Read more …

After the Greek House speaker refused to accept the recordings, Varoufakis -through DiEM25- said this:

“No one has the right to keep a sovereign Parliament, nor citizens, in the dark. This is why by the end of February we will release all recordings, so that all European citizens finally get to see the hypocrisy of the Establishment and the despicable way in which governments behave, in their name, behind closed doors.”

Varoufakis Submits Recordings Of Eurogroup Talks To Greek Parliament (K.)

The head of Mera25 party and former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis on Friday submitted to Parliament an envelope allegedly containing his secret audio recordings from the Eurogroup meetings while he was negotiating for Greece’s SYRIZA-led government in the first half of 2015. Varoufakis said he expected House speaker Kostas Tasoulas to forward the content to Greek lawmakers. Tasoulas, however, said he had no intention of sharing the recordings. “Parliament will not shoulder [Varoufakis’] responsibilities,” he said. The exchange took place during a debate on labor issues.


Tasoulas’ reaction was welcomed by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. In a statement, Mera25 said that Tasoulas’ refusal to accept the transcripts “confirms that Eurogroup’s wall of intransparency suited and still suits many people, while truth and transparency terrifies [them].” “All European citizens have a right to directly access the statements, the dialogues and the decisions that shape their future,” it said. Eurogroup rules do not explicitly prohibit participants from recording talks as long as the contents are kept confidential.

Read more …

Intruiging. But no answer.

Multibillion Mystery Of The Great British Gold Sale (Conway)

Every so often you encounter a chart that takes your breath away. This week I saw just such a graph and I’m still struggling to get my head round it. It depicts something which on the face of it sounds mundane — exports of gold from the UK — and it looks like a hockey stick. You’ve probably seen a hockey-stick chart before. There’s the one Al Gore put up on the big screen in An Inconvenient Truth showing temperatures hovering at about the same level for century after century before shooting up in recent decades. Or the one of GDP going back to the dark ages: for most of history we subsisted on meagre earnings until the industrial revolution came along and catapulted GDP into the stratosphere.

The one this week has much the same shape. Not much of anything for month after month from 1998 when it begins until October 2019. Sure, there were occasional months when the amount of gold leaving British hands would hit a few hundred million pounds. Once or twice it ticks over a billion. But nothing like what occurs in November and December last year: in those months it skyrockets at a rate that doesn’t make any sense. Until then, the monthly average of gold exports was £126 million. Then in November they leapt to £4 billion. In December they doubled to £8 billion. [..] Britain does not mine any significant quantity of gold yet we are the world’s hub for the trade in physical bullion.

This is something of an accident of history, in much the same way as we are also the world’s centre for the trade in fine wine, despite the fact that we produce very little of the stuff ourselves. Yet gold bullion is so valuable that every time it changes hands it massively distorts the trade figures. Consider: Britain has not achieved a goods trade surplus, which is where we export more goods than we import, in any single month since comparable records began more than two decades ago. Yet in December that astonishing leap in gold exports meant that the headline figures published this week showed Britain achieving its first goods trade surplus in modern times. That this was almost entirely down to a mysterious movement of gold bars was seemingly lost on Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, who promptly issued a press release hailing a “record-breaking year for UK exports”.

[..] why did gold exports soar at the end of last year? Was it down to Brexit, with traders switching out of gold in the run-up to Brexit day? Was it to do with the election? Was it central banks repatriating gold or investment banks shifting their portfolios from UK-domiciled funds to EU ones? We still don’t know. I have spoken to statisticians, to gold analysts and economists, to traders and industry experts. None of them have the foggiest idea what is going on. One analyst took a look at the chart and spluttered a four-letter word. “That’s crazy,” he said. “Must be a mistake.” Another person pointed to the fact that Poland flew back about £4 billion worth of gold from the UK last year, before remembering that this happened before December and, oh, these kinds of things don’t count as official exports anyway.


The most plausible explanation I’ve heard is that this was simply an accounting change: one of London’s leading gold custodians, an American investment bank, shifted some of the gold from one column of its accounts to another. The gold didn’t leave the country; someone simply fiddled with a spreadsheet. Even so, that raises further questions: is that bank in trouble? Why do it now? Who ordered it: the bank holding the gold or the gold’s owners? If the latter, then who owns so much gold that they could single-handedly distort this country’s trade figures and surface in Britain’s national accounts?

Read more …

 

Valentine’s.

 

 

 

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Jul 122019
 


Johannes Vermeer The astronomer c1668

 

 

Alex Acosta is gone. That would appear to be good thing, because even if he claims he did the best he could in the 2008 Jeffrey Epstein plea deal, given the number of accusations and the seriousness of the alleged crimes, that deal seems to have had anything but the best interests of the victims in mind. That he agreed as part of the deal to not notify the victims was not only illegal, it was a total affront. It ‘sealed’ the deal, so to speak.

Saying “I was told to back off because he was intelligence” doesn’t make all that alright, it merely makes Acosta, if it were true, a salesman choosing his own career over the wellbeing of underage girls. But that’s still a bit of a side issue, at least in today’s frame, because it happened 11-12 years ago, and a lot more accusations are on the table now.

As I said earlier today, if they release Epstein on bail now, there will be riots. That’s how serious even America takes sex trafficking of underage children, provided their media tell them about it. They didn’t for many years in this case. So first giant kudos to Vicky Ward, Julie K. Brown, Miami Herald and Mike Cernovich and others. No matter what the MSM do, there are still a few voices left out there.

 

But there was something else I’ve been thinking about. I’ve read more on Epstein the past few days than I would advise anyone to do, learned a lot, but I keep having this question in my head: why did he fly back to the US from Paris on July 6? It might have appeared to be an ‘innocent’ trip, if you think anything about the man could still be labeled ‘innocent’, but something happened three days before the trip.

That is, a New York federal appeals court ordered the unsealing of up to 2,000 pages of judicial documents pertaining to Epstein and his ‘environment’. These pages do not address what led Acosta to let him off crazily easily in 2008, they’re from a 2015 case brought by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who accuses Epstein, his alleged partner-in-sex-crime Ghislaine Maxwell, Alan Dershowitz and Prince Andrew.

But please allow me to take a step back. Here’s Julie K. Brown on July 3:

A New York federal appeals court on Wednesday ordered the unsealing of up to 2,000 pages of judicial documents that are expected to show evidence relating to whether New York financier Jeffrey Epstein and his partner, Ghislaine Maxwell, were recruiting underage girls and young women as part of an international sex trafficking operation.


The decision comes two days after the Miami Herald urged the court to issue a ruling in the civil case in the wake of last week’s Justice Department announcement in the federal criminal case that it would not void Epstein’s controversial 2008 non-prosecution agreement.

And then we move over to Courthouse News:

[..] In a partial dissent, U.S. Circuit Judge Rosemary Pooler argued that all of the files should have been handled by the trial judge. “On that score, it is worth clarifying here the breadth of the court’s unsealing order: it unseals nearly 2000 pages of material,” Pooler emphasized. “The task of identifying and making specific redactions in such a substantial volume is perilous; the consequences of even a seemingly minor error may be grave and are irrevocable.”


Boies said that he and his client Giuffre are readying for a protracted process. “It’s a very important step toward making the information that the court has available to the public,” he said. “It’s only a first step.”

That’s a big one in what I’m saying: it could take along time for the 2,000 pages to be made public after they were unsealed. What does that mean?

Here’s Julie K. Brown once more:

The New York case, filed in 2015, was brought by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who claims that she was trafficked by Epstein and Maxwell to wealthy and powerful politicians, lawyers, academics and government leaders when she was underage. Giuffre sued Maxwell for defamation after Maxwell publicly denounced her as a liar.


The case was settled in Giuffre’s favor in 2017, several sources have told the Herald. Nearly all the documents filed in connection with the case, however, were sealed [..] The Herald, as part of a November investigation called “Perversion of Justice,” went to court to unseal all the records in January. A lower court ruled against the newspaper, and the appeals court heard arguments by the Herald, Cernovich and Dershowitz in March.

This is all very recent stuff, not the 12-year old case for which Epstein settled in 2008. That doesn’t seem to bode well for him.

In its decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that a lower district court erred when it issued a blanket sealing of the case, which essentially allowed all the parties to file everything under wraps.“The District Court failed to review the documents individually and produce ‘specific, on-the-record findings that sealing is necessary to preserve higher values.’ Instead, the District Court made generalized statements about the record as a whole. This … was legal error,’’ said Judge Jose A. Cabranes, writing for the three-member panel.


The court, in a 2-1 decision, said the portion of the case involving summary judgment materials (167 documents, 2,000 pages) should be unsealed forthwith, except for minor redactions. The balance of the case history — involving perhaps thousands of additional pages — will be reviewed by the lower court. In her dissent, Judge Rosemary Pooler concurred with unsealing the documents, but disagreed with how they should be reviewed.

But now we get to the crux. Between the lines, there’s this ‘threat’ that reviewing and redacting the 2,000 pages could take a very long time. And since Epstein has ace lawyers, it might even take years.

Realizing that, I started asking myself: why did Epstein fly his private plane -back- from Paris to NJ Teterboro airport, where he was arrested, on July 6. While 3 days prior, a New York federal appeals court ordered the unsealing of up to 2,000 pages of judicial documents “that are expected to show evidence relating to whether New York financier Jeffrey Epstein and his partner, Ghislaine Maxwell, were recruiting underage girls and young women as part of an international sex trafficking operation.”

I’m still asking myself. Didn’t he know he’d be arrested? Seems a bit far-fetched. The man pays tons of money to have connections everywhere. He’s a registered sex-offender (though only level-1, not -3, thanks to Acosta). He’s a wounded animal. Presumably he did know. The court order 3 days earlier to unseal the 2,000 pages would have been a big red flashing sign, and there’s no way he didn’t know about it.

So why fly back? Did his lawyers enter into some deal to redact the pages in a way they could control? That would sound very much like what happened in the 2008 plea deal. Did they agree beforehand on what Epstein would face conviction wise? There was a report that, through his legal team, he offered to name names if he could get off with a 5-year prison term. What do you call that kind of thing, reverse blackmail?

 

The SDNY, which ordered Epstein’s July 6 arrest, must have found something new to build a case on, it can’t be the pre-2008 stuff, that wouldn’t be legal. Did they find this new evidence in the 2,000 pages? Not entirely impossible, I would venture. What’s also an option is that they talked to people involved in the investigation prompted by Virginia Roberts Giuffre’s allegations vs Epstein and Maxwell, before the docs were sealed.

You’re an ADA, you seek out a detective or your own predecessor, and you say: what do you remember was in there? I can totally see that.

So I remain with two questions: why did Epstein return to the US from an alleged multi-week stay in Paris mere days after a federal appeals court ordered 2,000 pages unsealed that can only possibly be damaging to him (or some of his rich and powerful friends), or they wouldn’t have been sealed.

Second question: why is this playing out when it is, as in today? Who ordered this? Was it Trump? He appears to be one of the few people in the rich New York/Florida scene who doesn’t have much to fear from Epstein and his potential blackmail schemes. I base that on the -pretty well documented- fact that Trump threw Epstein out of Mar-a-Lago on 2011. He wouldn’t have done that if Epstein had anything on him. I wouldn’t rule out Epstein chasing Ivanka back then either.

 

One more item: the most amusing thing about Epstein is that not a single source/person can say how he made his money. That’s a topic for a next essay, but there’s this: 20 years after -ostensibly-, leaving Bear Stearns Epstein turns up as a director for one of their SIV’s.The vehicle was called Liquid Funding Ltd, and Epstein is listed as a director and chairman. The entire vehicle went stone dead, as did Bear. But Jeffrey did not.

Bear’s 10-K: At November 30, 2002, the total assets of this entity (Liquid Funding, Ltd.) approximated $900 million. The Company’s maximum exposure to loss as a result of its investment in this entity is approximately $5.0 million. Epstein’s Financial Trust Co. had a $121 million investment in hedge fund firm DB Zwirn & Co., which shut down in 2008, and was also a major investor in Bear Stearns’s High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Enhanced Leverage Fund

 

Epstein could have opted to stay in France, or fly to his Virgin Islands estate. Or anywhere really. But he chose to fly to Teterboro to be arrested. Why?

 

 

 

 

Jun 112019
 


While filming “The African Queen” everyone fell sick from drinking the water except for Humphrey Bogart and John Huston, who drank whiskey

 

 

Luke Harding is a former journalist for the Guardian. I say former because while he is still writing for the paper, he lost his one remaining shred of credibility last November with an article about Paul Manafort visiting Julian Assange multiple times in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, which soon was discredited as badly as an article can be, but has still not been retracted or corrected by the paper.

If you get caught in that kind of nonsense, you’re surely not a journalist. Of course that was just one in an endless list of blubber that Harding produced about the likes of Assange and Trump. And Putin of course. And now he’s back with more. About Putin.

Somewhere in this new article by Luke Harding and Jason Burke for the venerable publication, they say that Russia only became interested in Africa in 2014. And obviously you know you can stop reading right there. Russia’s been interested in Africa for decades. Because it’s laden with resources. Because everybody else is there to get to those resources.

But Harding manages to write up a piece that makes Russia’s interest terribly suspicious and menacing. Because, you know, Skripal. The Russians did it. He’s basing this on docs he claims to have seen, but doesn’t provide, given to him by an “investigative unit” based in London and funded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Putin’s worst domestic enemy.

 

Leaked Documents Reveal Russian Effort To Exert Influence In Africa

Russia is seeking to bolster its presence in at least 13 countries across Africa by building relations with existing rulers, striking military deals, and grooming a new generation of “leaders” and undercover “agents”, leaked documents reveal.

There are 54 countries in Africa today. Russia SEEKS to bolster its presence in 13. Scary! At the same time, how many countries do you think France has a presence in? Or UK, Italy, US? How about China? And now that we’re on the subject, what do you think they’re all taking out of Africa, leaving the people behind with nothing?

And Russia is supposed to be the threat? You ever heard about Belgian King Leopold and the Congo, and the millions of deaths he caused? 60 years ago there were still African children paraded out in ”human zoos” in Belgium. But Russia is the threat?! How about a history lesson or two?

The mission to increase Russian influence on the continent is being led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman based in St Petersburg who is a close ally of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. One aim is to “strong-arm” the US and the former colonial powers the UK and France out of the region. Another is to see off “pro-western” uprisings, the documents say.


In 2018 the US special counsel Robert Mueller indicted Prigozhin, who is known as “Putin’s chef” because of his Kremlin catering contracts. According to Mueller, his troll factory ran an extensive social media campaign in 2016 to help elect Donald Trump.

Prigozhin is a caterer who runs a troll factory. Not saying this is impossible, but it’s certainly poorly written.

The Wagner group – a private military contractor linked to Prigozhin – has supplied mercenaries to fight in Ukraine and Syria. The documents show the scale of Prigozhin-linked recent operations in Africa, and Moscow’s ambition to turn the region into a strategic hub.

What operations? Catering operations?

Multiple firms linked to the oligarch, including Wagner, are known by employees as the “Company”. Its activities are coordinated with senior officials inside Russia’s foreign and defence ministries, the documents suggest.

And we have a picture of the beast. Not scary enough? We’ll get one where he eats babies.

 


Yevgeny Prigozhin in Vladivostok in 2016. Photograph: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Putin showed little interest in Africa in the 2000s. But western sanctions imposed in 2014 over the annexation of Crimea have driven Moscow to seek new geopolitical friends and business opportunities.

Oh yeah, sure, Russia only started looking at Africa in 2014. See, stop reading right there…

Russia has a military presence and peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic. CAR is described as “strategically important” and a “buffer zone between the Muslim north and Christian south”. It allows Moscow to expand “across the continent”, and Russian companies to strike lucrative mineral deals, the documents say.


On 24 May the Kremlin announced it was dispatching a team of army specialists to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press spokesman, they will service Russian-made military equipment. So far Moscow has signed military cooperation deals with about 20 African states.

The west, France, UK, US, has literally raped the Congo, richer than any other place on earth in resources, for many many decades. And now that Russia starts looking, the west gets a dumb fcuk like Harding to write up a scare story about it.

Five days later the Kremlin said it would host the first ever Russia-Africa summit in October in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Putin and Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, will chair the event. About 50 African leaders are due to attend. The aim is to foster political, economic and cultural cooperation.

The leaked documents were obtained by the Dossier Center, an investigative unit based in London. The centre is funded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian businessman and exiled Kremlin critic.

Prigozhin has been approached for comment. He has previously denied any links to the troll factory and has said of Wagner that it does not exist. Putin has previously said that entities linked to Prigozhin do not constitute the Russian state.

A map from December 2018 seen by the Guardian shows the level of cooperation between the “Company” and African governments, country by country. Symbols indicate military, political and economic ties, police training, media and humanitarian projects, and “rivalry with France”. Five is the highest level; one is the lowest.

The closest relations are with CAR, Sudan and Madagascar – all put at five. Libya, Zimbabwe and South Africa are listed as four, according to the map, with South Sudan at three, and DRC, Chad and Zambia at two.

Other documents cite Uganda, Equatorial Guinea and Mali as “countries where we plan to work”. Libya and Ethiopia are flagged as nations “where cooperation is possible”. The Kremlin has recently stepped up its ground operation in Libya. Last November the Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar travelled to Moscow and met the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu. Prigozhin was spotted at the talks. Egypt is described as “traditionally supportive”.

 


 

We don’t get to hear where Khodorkovsky got the docs from or how reliable they are, and we don’t get to see any of them. We have to believe Luke Harding on his blue eyes. But even then, is there anything shocking here for the non-Skripal crowd? Or is Harding just once more doing the MI6’s job for them?

The graphic gives an overview of “Company” activities and achievements. It claims credit in CAR for getting of rid of politicians who are “orientated to France”, including national assembly representatives and the foreign minister. This appears to be Charles-Armel Doubane, sacked in December. It has “strengthened” the army and set up newspapers and a radio station. Russia is an “83% friend”, it says.

In Madagascar the new president, Andry Rajoelina, won election with “the Company’s support”, the map says. Russia “produced and distributed the island’s biggest newspaper, with 2 million copies a month”, it adds. Rajoelina denies receiving assistance.

Another key territory is Sudan. Last year Russian specialists drew up a programme of political and economic reform, designed to keep President Omar al-Bashir in power. It included a plan to smear anti-government protesters, apparently copy-pasted from tactics used at home against the anti-Putin opposition. (One memo mistakenly says “Russia” instead of “Sudan”.)

One ploy was to use fake news and videos to portray demonstrators in Khartoum and other Sudanese cities as “anti-Islam”, “pro-Israel” and “pro-LGBT”. The government was told to increase the price of newsprint – to make it harder for critics to get their message out – and to discover “foreigners” at anti-government rallies.

I love it when people like Harding use the term “fake news”. Because he’s the very person who’s been caught producing just that, in the Manafort-visits-Assange article mentioned above. That was 100% fake.

Now, don’t get me wrong please. Of course Russia tries to play out factions and parties and countries against one another. Like all others do. They may do it in Sudan, in Comoros, examples Harding makes claims about, and elsewhere:

[..] Other suggestions in the documents include trans-African road and rail-building schemes. A railway could be built linking Dakar in Senegal with Port Sudan in Sudan, along the “old hajj [pilgrimage] route”. A separate 2,300-mile (3,700km) toll road was proposed connecting Port Sudan with Douala in Cameroon. Neither has so far happened.


A plan to revive “pan-African consciousness” appears closely modelled on the idea of Russkiy Mir, or Russian world. The concept has become fashionable under Putin and signifies Russian power and culture extended beyond current borders.

Have you ever seen purer baloney? Russia trying to get Africa to unite because that would look like some ancient idea of turning the whole world Russian? Maybe Stalin has such ideas, but he was Soviet, not Russian, and Putin, who is Russian, doesn’t have it, as you can grasp from his military expenditures. All Putin wants is to keep Russia safe from American and NATO invasions.

One working paper is titled “African world”. It calls for a developing “African self-identity”. It recommends collecting a database of Africans living in the US and Europe, which might be used to groom “future leaders” and “agents of influence”. The eventual goal is a “loyal chain of representatives across African territory”, the March 2018 paper says.

That little paragraph says it all. There’s not one little letter in there that poses any threat to anyone.

More immediate practical measures include setting up Russian-controlled non-governmental organisations in African states and organising local meetings. It is unclear how many Prigozhin initiatives have actually gone forward. There is evidence that media projects mentioned in the documents are now up and running – albeit with marginal impact. They include a website, Africa Daily Voice, with its HQ in Morocco, and a French-language news service, Afrique Panorama, based in Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo. Russian operatives also offer thoughts on global politics. One policy paper, titled “Russian influence in Africa”, says Moscow needs to find “reliable partners among African states” and should establish military bases.

And there the whole story has fizzled out into emptiness. Yeah, it says with some vague thing about military bases, but do you know how many western military bases there are in Africa? Tons. So there’s nothing left, zero, from the original threatening tone Harding started off with, but it doesn’t matter, because who’s going to read the whole thing anyway?

Main thing is, the tone, the narrative, have been established once more. Putin is a big threat, re: Skripal and eating babies, and so are Trump and Assange. And they all work together to bring down your safety and quality of life. No, your own government doesn’t do that!

 

 

 

 

Jan 302019
 


Pablo Picasso Bathers and dog 1922

 

French Police Weapons Under Scrutiny After Gilets Jaunes Injuries (G.)
May Regains Control Of Brexit, But Has No Idea What To Do With It (Ind.)
UK MPs Vote To Renegotiate Irish Backstop (G.)
There Will Be No Renegotiation Of Irish Backstop, Says EU (G.)
British Parliament Rules Out Hard Brexit (MW)
UK Demands Brexit Deal Change, EU Says: ‘Non’ (R.)
Theresa May’s Victory: A Pyrrhic Success Built On Fantasy (G.)
Venezuela Supreme Court Freezes Guaidó’s Bank Accounts, Imposes Travel Ban (G.)
Apple Reports First Decline In Revenues And Profits In Over A Decade (G.)
How Hard China’s Slowdown Could Hit Global Economic Growth (MW)
China Fast Tracks New Foreign Investment Law As US Talks Loom (R.)
US, China Face Deep Trade, IP Differences In High-Level Talks (R.)
Scientists Demand Military Sonar Ban To End Mass Whale Strandings (Ind.)

 

 

This may seem an odd choice to open a Debt Rattle with, but it’s really not. The Guardian reporting that French police weapons are under scrutiny is a perfect example of how western media refuse to report on what is happening in France. This is not about a choice of weapons, but about instructing police to inflict brutality on their own people. A high-profile Yellow Vest ‘member’ lost an eye, and that’s bad, but he’s number 17 to which this happens that we know of, an equal amount of people have died, scores have lost limbs, and there’s a whole range of other serious injuries.

Where are the detailed reports on all that? There are plenty videos out there of crazy police brutality, but the MSM leaves them alone. And here I’m wondering what happened to the police we saw just weeks ago coming together with protesters. What are the instructions that brought on this move into unparalleled violence, and who issued them? What we do see about Macron is his demands for Maduro to step down. Somone needs to demand he does just that himself.

Like Britain with its fantasy Brexit soap opera, France finds itself in a very deep democracy crisis. The media ignoring that doesn’t make a difference anymore. You can bet the French see it all on social media.

French Police Weapons Under Scrutiny After Gilets Jaunes Injuries (G.)

The French government is under growing pressure to review police use of explosive weapons against civilians after serious injuries were reported during gilets jaunes street demonstrations, including people alleged to have lost eyes and to have had their hands and feet mutilated. France’s legal advisory body, the council of state, will on Wednesday examine an urgent request by the French Human Rights League and the CGT trade union to ban police from using a form of rubber-bullet launcher in which ball-shaped projectiles are shot out of specialised handheld launchers. France’s rights ombudsman has long warned they are dangerous and carry “disproportionate risk”.

Lawyers have also petitioned the government to ban so-called “sting-ball” grenades, which contain 25g of TNT high-explosive. France is the only European country where crowd-control police use such powerful grenades, which deliver an explosion of small rubber balls that creates a stinging effect as well as launching an additional load of teargas. The grenades create a deafening effect that has been likened to the sound of an aircraft taking off. France’s centrist president, Emmanuel Macron, is facing renewed calls to ban such weapons after Jérôme Rodrigues, a high-profile member of the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) demonstrators was hit in the eye on Saturday in Paris. He is said by his lawyer to have been disabled for life.

Rights groups say Rodrigues’s case is the tip of the iceberg. Lawyers estimate that as many as 17 people have lost an eye because of the police’s use of such weapons since the start of the street demonstrations, while at least three have lost their hands and others have been left with their face or limbs mutilated. Injuries have happened at demonstrations in Paris and other cities, including Bordeaux and Nantes.

Read more …

May ‘wins’ permission to change her own Brexit deal. Which she repeatedly said cannot be changed.

Apologies if some of the following articles appear to repeat, I wanted a few different points of view. Not that any of them put their fingers where it hurts: a deep deep crisis.

May Regains Control Of Brexit, But Has No Idea What To Do With It (Ind.)

What to say, at the end of another “historic” day in the Greatest S***show on Earth? We reach again into the “it’s like…” cupboard but this time it’s completely bare. There are no more bald men and no combs to come to our service. There are no boulders and no hills. There are no deckchairs, no Titanic, no piss ups and no breweries. There are no turds and no polish. Even the glitter has all run out. There is now only the thing itself, reaching beyond all similitude. Brexit: The Eternal Crapness. The Unsurpassable Embarrassment. There is no spice worth adding to the events themselves. No salt can augment the terrifying umami of such base inadequacy.

So here’s what happened. The House of Commons voted to rule out “no deal.” But it also voted against both the practical solutions put on the table to make it happen. It voted to send Theresa May back to Brussels to re-open negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement. At the precise moment it did so, the European Commission released a statement saying it cannot be re-opened. Theresa May was victorious, in her own way. But she was victorious in the defeat of her own deal. A small bit of background might be useful. In November, after two years of boldly claiming “no deal is better than a bad deal”, Theresa May finally achieved a deal, which everyone instantly agreed was bad.

Theresa May, on several occasions, has agreed it is bad. At that point, she stood outside 10 Downing Street and said that, actually, it turns out, a bad deal was better than no deal. And, more to the point, that this was “the only deal.” Over the last two months, she has stood at the despatch box of the House of Commons and declared that her deal is “the only deal”, that it “cannot be renegotiated” upwards of a hundred times, spread over more than twenty hours. She has said it is “the only deal”, and that it “cannot be renegotiated”, because the European Union have said the same themselves, with the same regularity, and the same consistency. Now, she has decided it can be renegotiated after all, which it can’t.

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It’s no longer Theresa May’s delusion, all MPs are now accomplices. And that certainly includes Jeremy Corbyn. How can you vote for something you know doesn’t exist? Or just sit there while others do it?

UK MPs Vote To Renegotiate Irish Backstop (G.)

Theresa May was handed a two-week deadline to resuscitate her Brexit deal last night after she caved to Tory Eurosceptics and pledged to go back to Brussels to demand changes to the Irish backstop. With just 59 days to go until exit day, MPs narrowly passed a government-backed amendment, tabled by the senior Tory Graham Brady, promising to replace the Irish backstop with unspecified “alternative arrangements”. But within minutes of the Commons result the European council president, Donald Tusk, announced that the EU was not prepared to reopen the deal. “The withdrawal agreement is, and remains, the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union,” a spokesman for Tusk said.

“The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement, and the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation.” Leo Varadkar, the Irish taoiseach, said the EU needed to “hold our nerve”. On a dramatic day in Westminster the House of Commons also served notice that it would not support the government if it pursued a no-deal Brexit, undermining what May regards as one of her key bargaining chips in the days ahead. However, May said: “It is now clear that there is a route that can secure a substantial and sustainable majority in this house for leaving the EU, with a deal.” She repeatedly stressed protections for workers’ rights, as well as mooting changes to the backstop in the hope of winning over Labour MPs, and promised to keep “battling for Britain”

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This has been obvious for a long time.

There Will Be No Renegotiation Of Irish Backstop, Says EU (G.)

Theresa May immediately hit a brick wall in Brussels after being backed by MPs to reopen the withdrawal agreement, as Donald Tusk, with the backing of Emmanuel Macron, said the EU would not renegotiate. Within minutes of the Commons backing the prime minister’s plan to replace the Irish backstop, a spokesman for the European council’s president insisted Tusk would not permit any changes to the deal already agreed with Downing Street. Tusk, the EU’s most senior official, instead urged the prime minister to explain her next steps, claiming the agreement negotiated over the last 20 months “remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union”.

The spokesman added: “The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement, and the withdrawal agreement is not open for re-negotiation.” In an apparent sign that the EU now fears that the impasse in the Brexit talks is unlikely to be broken within the coming weeks, Tusk’s spokesman said Brussels was open to a delay to Brexit beyond 29 March. An amendment backed by the Labour MP Yvette Cooper ordering the government to ask for an extension was defeated on Tuesday evening but the Commons is set to vote again in mid-February. “Should there be a UK reasoned request for an extension, the EU27 would stand ready to consider it and decide by unanimity”, the spokesman said. “The EU27 will adopt this decision, taking into account the reasons for and duration of a possible extension, as well as the need to ensure the functioning of the EU institutions.”

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Ironically, they may not have the power to rule it out. If May doesn’t ask for an Article 50 extension soon enough, a Hard Brexit will just happen.

British Parliament Rules Out Hard Brexit (MW)

The British Parliament on Tuesday passed an amendment to rule out a no-deal or hard Brexit, as well as an amendment to replace the Irish backstop proposal with an ‘alternative arrangement’. The outcome of the parliamentary vote is not legally binding for the government. The no-deal amendment passing indicates that a no-deal Brexit scenario continues to be the least likely, supporting market expectations. Prime Minister Theresa May said she would take this mandate to obtain legally binding changes in the EU withdrawal agreement. Parliament voted on a total of seven amendments on Tuesday, which included a proposal extend the Brexit timeline and to postpone the Brexit date if no deal was found until late February. The British pound plummeted against both the U.S. dollar and the euro after the latter amendment got rejected.

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Blatant nonsense and a lie: “There is limited appetite for such a change in the EU and negotiating it will not be easy,” said May..

UK Demands Brexit Deal Change, EU Says: ‘Non’ (R.)

Less than two months before the United Kingdom is due by law to leave the EU, investors and allies are trying to gauge where the Brexit crisis will ultimately end up with a disorderly Brexit, a delay to Brexit, or no Brexit at all. Two weeks after voting down May’s Brexit deal by the biggest margin in modern British history, parliament demanded she return to Brussels to replace the so-called Irish backstop, an insurance policy that aims to prevent the reintroduction of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. “There is limited appetite for such a change in the EU and negotiating it will not be easy,” May told lawmakers who voted 317 votes to 301 to support the plan, which had the backing of influential Conservative lawmaker Graham Brady.

“I agree that we should not leave without a deal. However, simply opposing no deal is not enough to stop it,” said May, an initial opponent of Brexit who won the top job in the chaos following the 2016 referendum. May said she would seek “legally binding changes” to the divorce deal which she clinched in November with the EU after two years of tortuous negotiations. In essence, May will try to clinch a last-minute deal by using the implicit threat of a no-deal Brexit from the other 27 members of the EU whose economy is, combined, about six times the size of the United Kingdom’s. The response from European capitals was blunt.

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Nobody has the guts to tell the empress about her wardrobe.

Theresa May’s Victory: A Pyrrhic Success Built On Fantasy (G.)

Theresa May won a rare triumph on Tuesday night in the Commons. She came back from the greatest parliamentary loss by a government to secure, miraculously, a majority to refresh her wilted withdrawal agreement. Mrs May has had to vote against her own defeated deal to do so. She has had to offer MPs another chance to judge her government in a fortnight’s time. She has had to offer assurances that workers’ rights would be respected and that going forward she would take MPs of all opinions into her confidence. These are undoubtedly moves in the right direction.

However, it is difficult to see how the prime minister will deliver on her parliamentary success. Much more likely, her victory will turn out to be a pyrrhic one. Mrs May put party before country to be on the winning side of the parliamentary vote. She did so by hitching a lift on a Brexiter flight of fantasy, telling MPs she can achieve a “significant and legally binding change to the withdrawal agreement” which would provide “alternative arrangements” to the Irish backstop. The danger is that Mrs May has raised expectations that cannot be met. The backstop is an insurance mechanism in the exit treaty – designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland – which angered Brexiters who say it potentially traps the UK in a customs union with the EU.

Earlier this month Mrs May told MPs: “The simple truth is that the EU was not prepared to agree to [changes in the withdrawal agreement] and rejecting the backstop … means no deal.” What was impossible before is now apparently just difficult. The prime minister effectively told MPs she could renegotiate the backstop element of her Brexit deal and replace it with a free-trade agreement with as-yet-unknown technology to avoid customs checks on the Irish border. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, was quick to say the withdrawal agreement would not be reopened, a put down that will be hard to live down.

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Now it’s the CIA vs the Supreme Court. We’re waiting for Putin.

Venezuela Supreme Court Freezes Guaidó’s Bank Accounts, Imposes Travel Ban (G.)

Venezuela’s supreme court has imposed a travel ban and financial restrictions on self-declared interim president Juan Guaidó, including freezing his bank accounts. On Tuesday, the political crisis deepened as the country’s attorney general ordered an investigation into the opposition leader, who last week declared himself interim president in a rare challenge to the incumbent, Nicolás Maduro. Tarek Saab, a Maduro loyalist, announced that Juan Guaidó – who has received the backing of the US and other regional powers including Brazil and Colombia – would be investigated over his supposed role in “serious crimes that threaten the constitutional order”.

Hours earlier the US tightened the screws on Maduro by announcing sweeping sanctions against the country’s state-owned oil company PDVSA in what experts said was an attempt to economically asphyxiate his regime. A series of anti-Maduro demonstrations are due to take place on Wednesday in Caracas, the capital, and across the country. Speaking to Russian news agency RIA on Wednesday morning, Maduro said he was ready for talks with the opposition, with the participation of international mediators. “I am ready to sit at the negotiation table with the opposition for us to talk for the benefit of Venezuela, for the sake of peace and its future,” he said. Maduro said the US sanctions were one of US national security adviser John Bolton’s “craziest” ideas and that he would emerge the victor in the standoff.

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So stocks soar 6%. Obviously.

Apple Reports First Decline In Revenues And Profits In Over A Decade (G.)

Apple reported its first decline in revenues and profits in over a decade on Tuesday. Weak iPhone sales and a downturn in China reduced the tech company’s revenue by 4.5% to $84.3bn in the three months ending 29 December compared with the same period last year. Profits fell slightly to $19.97bn. Revenues from China were $13.17bn during the quarter, a drop of nearly $5bn from a year ago. The results came three weeks after Apple shocked investors with its first profits warning since 2002. It has been a trying month for Apple. On 3 January Apple cut its sales forecasts for the key end of year period citing the “magnitude” of the economic slowdown in China.

It was the first profits warning Apple has made since it launched the iPhone, a product that propelled the company into the top tier of tech companies and briefly made it the most valuable company in history. That warning wiped $55bn (£44bn) off the company’s value, led to its shares being briefly suspended and rattled investors worldwide as analysts began to worry about how other companies might be hit by China’s slowing growth. Apple’s share price has since recovered but remains $266bn less than the record-breaking $1tn the company was valued at in August, the first company ever to be valued that high. [..] Apple’s share price rose over 6% in after hours trading following the release of its latest financials. The numbers were broadly in line with analysts’ expectations and iPhone revenues were higher than expected.

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So when are governments and markets demand China come clean on its actual numbers?

How Hard China’s Slowdown Could Hit Global Economic Growth (MW)

The slowdown in global growth bears strong resemblance to a 2015-16 episode that was driven in large part by softness in China. This time around, China’s problems could prove even more damaging, warned economists at Oxford Economics. “The Chinese slowdown could have serious negative consequences for world growth if it intensifies. Our model simulations suggest that world growth could slow to a decade low of 2.3% in 2019 if Chinese growth slows sharply and could drop below 2% in the event of a combined slowdown in China and the U.S.,” wrote Adam Slater and John Payne in a Tuesday note (see chart).

The warning comes as investors attempt to parse the drag China’s woes could have on earnings for U.S. corporations as earnings season moves into full swing. Shares of Caterpillar slumped Monday after it blamed weak demand from China in part for sales that badly missed Wall Street expectations. Caterpillar was the latest of a growing number of industrial companies who have said sales are softening in China. [..] the economists noted three ways China’s problems can weigh on global growth:

• Weaker domestic demand growth in China cuts imports of final goods (consumer and investment goods) from the rest of the world (ROW).
• Weaker Chinese export growth reduces demand for imports of intermediates and raw materials from ROW, a significant channel given the relatively high import content of Chinese exports.
• Weaker Chinese demand pushes down prices of key global commodities like iron ore and copper, inflicting terms of trade losses on exporters of these products (mostly emerging markets).

“All these channels seem to be operating,” the economists wrote, noting that China’s import volumes fell sharply in late 2018, with some of the biggest falls suffered by the country’s key Asian partners and component suppliers such as Singapore, Korea, Thailand and Taiwan. China-sensitive commodities are also beginning to feel pressure, they noted, with an index they use to track prices off 11% year-over-year in January after being up 16% year-over-year as recently as May. And the effects of the U.S.-China trade dispute are becoming visible, with China’s goods imports from the U.S. down 30% year-over-year in December; Chinese exports to the U.S., which had been holding up, are also starting to slip, they said.

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Sounds almost hopeful…

China Fast Tracks New Foreign Investment Law As US Talks Loom (R.)

China’s parliament will vote in March on a new foreign investment law that will ban forced technology transfer and illegal government “interference” in foreign business practices, the official Xinhua News agency reported in Wednesday. The time-table suggests the law will probably be formally approved then by the largely rubber-stamp legislature, accelerating a process that usually would take a year or more as Beijing rushes to meet Washington’s demands in order to de-escalate their trade war. The full annual session of parliament, which opens on March 5, only tends to pass select landmark legislation, with other laws being passed by its standing committee.

Parliament is unlikely to reject the law as its delegates are chosen for their loyalty to the ruling Communist Party and its agenda. The Trump administration has accused Beijing of intellectual property (IP) theft and forced IP transfers, demanding change and threatening further tariffs since trade tension flared between two countries last year. China has repeatedly rebutted such accusations. The two sides will hold two days of talks in Washington starting on Wednesday in the highest-level discussions since U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed a 90-day truce in their trade war in December.

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… but reality is different. The tariffs deadline is March 2.

US, China Face Deep Trade, IP Differences In High-Level Talks (R.)

The United States and China launch a critical round of trade talks on Wednesday amid deep differences over Washington’s demands for structural economic reforms from Beijing that will make it difficult to reach a deal before a March 2 U.S. tariff hike. The two sides will meet next door to the White House in the highest-level talks since U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed a 90-day truce in their trade war in December. People familiar with the talks and trade experts watching them say that, so far, there has been little indication that Chinese officials are willing to address core U.S. demands to protect American intellectual property rights and end policies that Washington says force U.S. companies to transfer technology to Chinese firms.

The U.S. complaints, along with accusations of Chinese cyber theft of U.S. trade secrets and a systematic campaign to acquire U.S. technology firms, were used by the Trump administration to justify punitive U.S. tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports. Trump has threatened to raise tariffs on $200 billion of goods to 25 percent from 10 percent on March 2 if an agreement cannot be reached. He has also threatened new tariffs on the remainder of Chinese goods shipped to the United States. “Clearly on the structural concerns, on forced technology transfer, there remains a significant gap if not a wide chasm between the two sides,” a person familiar with the talks told Reuters.

Read more …

This should be an easy choice. Instead, it’s simply not going to happen.

Scientists Demand Military Sonar Ban To End Mass Whale Strandings (Ind.)

Scientists have called for a wide-scale ban on the use of sonar to protect whale populations after a study highlighted a link between the military sound pulses and mass strandings in which dozens of the mammals have died. Marine biologists have long warned that the creatures’ senses could be damaged by sonar, with the unfamiliar noises coming from vessels confusing the animals. Experts said the mammals often attempt to swim away from the sound source, leading them to become disorientated. For deep-diving marine life such as the beaked whale, which was the focus of the study, sonar can lead the animals to ascend too rapidly, causing decompression sickness. This in turn has contributed to an increase in the number of whales dying in mass stranding events.

Researchers at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria focused exclusively on beaked whales in the seas surrounding the Canary Islands. They found that a sonar ban introduced there in 2004 had been effective in reducing whale strandings and called for more sites to be established to prevent further deaths, including in the Mediterranean, where beaked whales are listed as vulnerable. “Animals may respond to stressful situations by exhibiting the ‘flight or fight response’ with increased heart and metabolic rates, often accompanied by fast movement away from the perceived stressor,” wrote the authors of the report, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society journal. “We recommend a moratorium on mid-frequency active sonar in those regions where atypical mass stranding events continue.”

Read more …

Dec 022018
 
 December 2, 2018  Posted by at 10:53 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Claude Monet Camille Sitting on the Beach at Trouville 1870-71

 

US Markets To Close On Wednesday In Honor Of George H.W. Bush
US, China Agree To Trade War Ceasefire, More Talks (AFP)
Putin Refuses To Release Ukrainian Sailors And Ships (G.)
Putin Briefs Trump Over Ukraine As EU Leaders Up Pressure (AFP)
Mattis Says Russia Tried To ‘Muck Around’ US Vote, Again (AFP)
Mueller’s RussiaGate Probe: Conflicts and Special Interests (Adam Carter)
Trump To Notify Congress In ‘Near Future’ He Will Terminate NAFTA (R.)
Property Investors Can’t Expand As Lending Rules Toughen Up (NewsCorp)
France Is Deeply Fractured. Gilets Jaunes Are Just A Symptom (Guilluy)
Theresa May Faces Fresh Battle Over Publishing Brexit Legal Advice (BBC)
How Greece’s Financial Crisis Led To A Baby Bust (WaPo)

 

 

No, no, no, what a missed opportunity! They should have shut down the military instead for a day, or the CIA. And preferably longer than one day. But Bush had nothing to do with the markets.

US Markets To Close On Wednesday In Honor Of George H.W. Bush

Major U.S. markets will be closed on Wednesday in honor of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush. The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq will both close on Wednesday in observance of the National Day of Mourning after Bush’s death Saturday at the age of 94. Both the NYSE and Nasdaq will also observe a moment of silence at 9:20 a.m. ET on Monday. U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday ordered the federal government to close on Wednesday out of respect for Bush. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is scheduled to testify on Wednesday on the economic outlook before the congressional Joint Economic Committee. A spokesman for the committee did not immediately respond to questions on Saturday about whether the hearing would be rescheduled.

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How predictable would you like it?

US, China Agree To Trade War Ceasefire, More Talks (AFP)

US President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping agreed Saturday to suspend any new tariffs in the escalating trade war between the world’s two largest economies, even if huge existing duties will remain in place. Following more than two hours of dinner talks between the two leaders, the White House said an increase of tariffs from 10 to 25 percent due to kick in on January 1 would now be put on hold, providing room for intense negotiations. The agreement, hashed out over steak in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, lowers the temperature in a conflict that has spooked world markets. The two leaders, who were in Buenos Aires for a summit of the G20 countries, called it “a highly successful meeting,” the White House said.

“The principal agreement has effectively prevented further expansion of economic friction between the two countries and has opened up new space for win-win cooperation,” said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Under the agreement, Trump is shelving a plan to raise existing tariffs of 10 percent to 25 percent from the start of next year. However, the truce is only partial. Some $50 billion worth of Chinese imports already face 25 percent tariffs while the 10 percent tariffs, which target a massive $200 billion in goods, will also remain in effect. Meanwhile, China has targeted $110 billion worth of US imports for tariffs. If there is any further retaliation, Trump has warned, he will slap punitive duties on the remaining $267 billion in Chinese goods coming to the United States.

And Saturday’s truce also contained an ultimatum. The White House made clear that the 10 percent tariffs would still leap up to 25 percent if China doesn’t meet US demands in 90 days. These include China stopping a host of trade barriers, intellectual property theft and other actions that Washington say make fair trade impossible. Tough negotiations lie ahead, but Trump was upbeat. “This was an amazing and productive meeting with unlimited possibilities for both the United States and China. It is my great honor to be working with President Xi,” he said in a statement.

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From Twitter: “Martial Law prohibits the diffusion of military movements in #Ukraine therefore won’t post the Armed Forces movements but I can safely say that #Odessa is being heavily prepared for war.”

Look, “sailors and ships?” They were armed navy vessels with soldiers, not fishing boats with civilians.

Putin Refuses To Release Ukrainian Sailors And Ships (G.)

Vladimir Putin has said it is “too early” to return Ukrainian sailors and naval vessels seized by Russia in the Sea of Azov, accusing the Ukrainian government of provoking an incident as a distraction from domestic problems. Putin was speaking to reporters after the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, where Donald Trump cancelled a meeting with the Russian leader because of Moscow’s refusal to release the 24 Ukrainians. The Russian president said it was necessary to detain the captives while a legal case was put together to demonstrate that the three Ukrainian naval vessels violated Russia’s territorial waters. He said the ships’ logs would show that their attempt to cross the Kerch strait from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov – enclosed by Russia, the Crimean peninsula and mainland Ukraine – was a deliberate provocation.

Asked if he might consider exchanging the captive sailors for Russians in Ukrainian detention, Putin said: “We are not considering a swap and Ukraine did not raise this issue, and it’s too early to talk about that. They are still being investigated. “We need to establish the fact that this was a provocation by the Ukrainian government and we need to put all these things on paper,” he added, arguing that the incident was part of a wider pattern of Ukrainian provocation. “The current Ukrainian leadership is not interested in resolving this at all,” Putin said. “As long as they stay in power, war will continue. Why? Because when you have provocations, such hostilities like what just happened in the Black Sea … you can always use war to justify your economic failures.”

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Putin has finally put his foot down. Has he taken too long? if he’d done it earlier, would Ukraine try such stunts?

Putin Briefs Trump Over Ukraine As EU Leaders Up Pressure (AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday he briefed his US counterpart Donald Trump on the Ukraine crisis as he came under pressure over Moscow’s robust foreign policy at the G20 summit in Argentina. Putin said he explained Moscow’s position to Trump when the leaders met briefly at a summit dinner Friday. “We spoke standing up. I replied to his questions about the incident in the Black Sea,” Putin told reporters at the end of the summit. Putin strode into the summit under a cloud, having drawn outrage from Europe over last week’s incident in which his navy detained three Ukrainian ships and 24 sailors – causing Trump to abruptly cancel their scheduled meeting. Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko kept up the pressure from Kiev, saying Putin had refused to take his calls since the crisis started.

[..] Away from the summit, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Moscow had shown “brazen contempt” for a deal “that allowed both Russian and Ukrainian ships free passage.” Putin – who has praised his navy for defending Russian territory – “provided exhaustive explanations on this incident in the Black Sea, explaining everything in detail, in exactly the same manner as yesterday during his meeting with the French president,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Interfax. Far from offering comforting words, Putin said at a post-summit press conference he saw no end in sight to the four-year conflict in eastern Ukraine “as long as the current Ukrainian authorities remain in power.” “The current Ukrainian authorities have no interest in resolving the conflict, especially by peaceful means,” he said.

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Oh, let’s see the evidence or shut up. And stop mucking around in Russia and Ukraine while you’re at it.

Mattis Says Russia Tried To ‘Muck Around’ US Vote, Again (AFP)

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Saturday that Russia tried to meddle in the US midterm elections last month – just as it did in the 2016 vote that brought President Donald Trump to power. The already strained ties between Washington and Moscow have “no doubt” worsened over Russian’s continued attempts to interfere in the US voting process, Mattis said at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California. Russian President Vladimir Putin “tried again to muck around in our elections this last month, and we are seeing a continued effort along those lines,” the Pentagon chief said. Putin has “continued efforts to try to subvert democratic processes that must be defended,” Mattis said, stressing he was unsure whether there were growing threats from Russia.

“We’ll do whatever is necessary to defend them.” Mattis spoke as President Donald Trump suddenly scrapped a planned meeting with Putin at the G20 summit of world leaders in Buenos Aires, Argentina, citing a Russian military intervention in Ukraine. Ahead of last month’s vote, Twitter and Facebook shut down thousands of Russian-controlled accounts, while 14 people from Russia’s notorious troll farm, the Internet Research Agency, were indicted. And US law enforcement agencies warned that “Americans should be aware that foreign actors – and Russia in particular – continue to try to influence public sentiment and voter perceptions through actions intended to sow discord.”

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Robert Mueller comes with a long history. That’s why he was picked.

Mueller’s RussiaGate Probe: Conflicts and Special Interests (Adam Carter)

Robert Mueller was the director of the FBI between 2001 and 2013, spanning both Bush and Obama administrations. He was appointed as special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 United States general election on May 17, 2017. Since his appointment, Mueller has been promoted as a champion of justice and a pursuer of truth by the mainstream press. He has been hailed as incorruptible by some and “America’s straightest arrow” by others. However, history shows us that Mueller investigating anything may, inherently, come with disadvantages when it comes to the pursuit of truth. According to whistleblowers, under Mueller’s leadership, crimes and scandals involving both government officials and the private-sector were ignored or covered-up by the FBI, and there are questions about further cover-ups before he became the agency director.

In July 2017, FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley wrote an article titled “No, Robert Mueller And James Comey Aren’t Heroes” in which the author details the not-so-perfect history of both Mueller and Comey, suggesting that those lionizing the pair may be suffering from amnesia. Rowley explains that Mueller and Comey presided over post-9/11 cover-ups, secret abuses against the Constitution, enabled Bush/Cheney fabrications used as the pretext for waging war and demonstrated incompetence. The article also references Mueller’s attempts to mislead everyone following 9/11 and Rowley’s efforts to challenge Mueller on his silence about what he knew.

Going further, Rowley covers Mueller’s bungled Amerithrax investigation that targeted an innocent man, violations of privacy, infiltration of non-violent anti-war groups and also references Mueller’s history before being director of the FBI: “Long before he became FBI Director, serious questions existed about Mueller’s role as Acting U.S. Attorney in Boston in effectively enabling decades of corruption and covering up of the FBI’s illicit deals with mobster Whitey Bulger and other “top echelon” informants who committed numerous murders and crimes. When the truth was finally uncovered through intrepid investigative reporting and persistent, honest judges, U.S. taxpayers footed a $100 million court award to the four men framed for murders committed by (the FBI operated) Bulger gang.”

Earlier this year, Republican congressman Louie Gohmert also highlighted various issues in a report titled “Robert Mueller Unmasked” that opened with a bold assertion: “Robert Mueller has a long and sordid history of illicitly targeting innocent people that is a stain upon the legacy of American jurisprudence. He lacks the judgment and credibility to lead the prosecution of anyone.”

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This will easily lead into January and the Democratic Congress. Let the courts decide.

Trump To Notify Congress In ‘Near Future’ He Will Terminate NAFTA (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday he will give formal notice to the U.S. Congress in the near future to terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), giving six months for lawmakers to approve a new trade deal signed on Friday. “I will be formally terminating NAFTA shortly,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on his way home from Argentina. “Just so you understand, when I do that – if for any reason we’re unable to make a deal because of Congress then Congress will have a choice” of the new deal or returning to trade rules from before 1994 when NAFTA took effect, he said. Trump told reporters the trade rules before NAFTA “work very well.” NAFTA allows any country to formally withdraw with six months notice.

Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto signed a new trade agreement on Friday known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Trump’s decision to set in motion a possible end to largely free trade in North America comes amid some skepticism from Democrats about the new trade deal. The U.S. landscape will shift significantly in January when Democrats take control of the House of Representatives, after winning mid-term elections in November. Presumptive incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi described the deal as a “work in progress” that lacks worker and environment protections.

“This is not something where we have a piece of paper we can say yes or no to,” she said at a news conference on Friday, noting that Mexico had yet to pass a law on wages and working conditions. Other Democrats, backed by unions that oppose the pact, have called for stronger enforcement provisions for new labor and environmental standards, arguing that USMCA’s state-to-state dispute settlement mechanism is too weak. A 2016 congressional research report said there is a debate over whether a president can withdraw from a trade deal without the consent of Congress, and there is no historical precedent for the unilateral withdrawal from an free trade deal by a president that had been approved by Congress. The issue could ultimately be decided by the U.S. courts.

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From Australia, for the entire western world.

Property Investors Can’t Expand As Lending Rules Toughen Up (NewsCorp)

Property investors wanting to expand their holdings are finding doors slamming in their faces as new lending restrictions bite hard. Harsher income tests, tighter rules for interest-only loans, tax changes and tougher assessments of rents and repayments have put the brakes on, and lending specialists believe more squeezing is likely. Almost one-third of the nation’s 2.1 million residential real estate investors own more than one property, according to Australian Taxation Office data, and many see it as their ticket to retirement wealth instead of the struggling share market. However, expanding beyond one investment property has become much tougher this year amid factors including:

• Investors’ ability to repay is now being based on interest rates between 7.25 and 8 per cent, rather than the 4 per cent many are currently charged. • Lenders only count 70 per cent of a property’s rental income. • Interest-only loans, popular among investors, are harder to come by and harder to continue, resulting is higher repayments when they switch to principal-and-interest. The result is that potential investment loans are assessed as unaffordable even if the investor has no problems paying it back.

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Yet another analysis of how the left abandoned its voters. Meanwhile, gilets jaunes are now active in Belgium and Holland. If they can organize well enough, they’re here to stay for a while.

France Is Deeply Fractured. Gilets Jaunes Are Just A Symptom (Guilluy)

From the 1980s onwards, it was clear there was a price to be paid for western societies adapting to a new economic model and that price was sacrificing the European and American working class. No one thought the fallout would hit the bedrock of the lower-middle class, too. It’s obvious now, however, that the new model not only weakened the fringes of the proletariat but society as a whole. The paradox is this is not a result of the failure of the globalised economic model but of its success. In recent decades, the French economy, like the European and US economies, has continued to create wealth. We are thus, on average, richer. The problem is at the same time unemployment, insecurity and poverty have also increased.

The central question, therefore, is not whether a globalised economy is efficient, but what to do with this model when it fails to create and nurture a coherent society? In France, as in all western countries, we have gone in a few decades from a system that economically, politically and culturally integrates the majority into an unequal society that, by creating ever more wealth, benefits only the already wealthy. The change is not down to a conspiracy, a wish to cast aside the poor, but to a model where employment is increasingly polarised. This comes with a new social geography: employment and wealth have become more and more concentrated in the big cities. The deindustrialised regions, rural areas, small and medium-size towns are less and less dynamic.

But it is in these places – in “peripheral France” (one could also talk of peripheral America or peripheral Britain) – that many working-class people live. Thus, for the first time, “workers” no longer live in areas where employment is created, giving rise to a social and cultural shock. It is in this France périphérique that the gilets jaunes movement was born. It is also in these peripheral regions that the western populist wave has its source. Peripheral America brought Trump to the White House. Peripheral Italy – mezzogiorno, rural areas and small northern industrial towns – is the source of its populist wave. This protest is carried out by the classes who, in days gone by, were once the key reference point for a political and intellectual world that has forgotten them.

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May digging her hole ever deeper. As if people have no right to know what’s coming.

Theresa May Faces Fresh Battle Over Publishing Brexit Legal Advice (BBC)

Opposition parties plan to join forces in a bid to force the government to publish the full legal advice it received ahead of the Brexit agreement. “All parties” would press for contempt of Parliament proceedings if MPs are not shown the advice, Labour’s Brexit spokesman Sir Keir Starmer has said. Theresa May has promised MPs only a summary of the legal position. Some MPs believe the advice given suggests the Northern Ireland “backstop” would continue indefinitely. [..] on Monday Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, who wrote the advice, will offer only a limited summary of the legal advice given to government, during a statement to Parliament.

Ministers insist it is a long-standing convention that legal advice to the cabinet is kept confidential, and that government would otherwise be unable to function. The prime minister’s refusal to release the full advice prompted Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party – which has propped up Mrs May’s government since the general election in 2017 – to accuse her of having “something to hide”. Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir wrote in the Sunday Telegraph: “If the full legal advice is not forthcoming, we will have no alternative but to start proceedings for contempt of Parliament – and we will work with all parties to take this forward. “The full legal implications of this deal clearly need to be known and debated in full by our Parliament.”

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Austerity truly is death by a thousand cuts.

How Greece’s Financial Crisis Led To A Baby Bust (WaPo)

During the country’s deep and prolonged crash, which began in late 2009 and worsened in 2011 and beyond, an already-low birthrate ticked down further, as happened throughout the troubled economies of Southern Europe. Greece was also hit by a second factor, with half a million people fleeing the country, many of them young potential parents. Although Greece has been on the front lines of the migrant wave from the Middle East and North Africa, the majority of new arrivals have moved on to other parts of Europe, and the newcomers don’t make up for the losses. As a result, the country’s recession has helped produce postwar Greece’s smallest generation — a group of young children who are now reaching elementary age, some arriving at schools wearing secondhand shoes and backpacks, and who are only at the earliest stages of grasping the daunting era they’ve been born into.

“The kids don’t know we used to be better off,” said Sotiria Papigioti, the mother of a first- and a second-grader at Kalpaki. “But when they ask for things, I tell them, ‘We’re not in the position to afford this.’ ” Greece’s fertility rate, of about 1.35 births per woman, is among the lowest in Europe, and well below the rate of 2.1 needed for a stable population, not accounting for immigration. The fertility rate in Greece had been on the upswing before the crisis, hitting 1.5 births per woman in 2008. That progress has since been erased, and the birthrate has plummeted back toward the depths seen in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Some countries, in the aftermath of economic crises, have seen a quick recovery in their fertility rates. But that is unlikely to happen in Greece, said Byron Kotzamanis, a demographer at the University of Thessaly, because even before the crisis the average woman in Greece wasn’t having children until age 31. Some women who postponed pregnancy during the recession have lost out on their chance entirely. As a result, Kotzamanis said, the recession has permanently reduced the size of the newest Greek generation — and has reduced the pool of parents in years to come. “We’ll have fewer and fewer births in Greece over the next decades,” Kotzamanis said.

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Jul 112018
 
 July 11, 2018  Posted by at 5:23 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Marc Riboud Forbidden City under the snow, Beijing 1957

 

Okay, well, Trump did it again. Antagonizing allies. This time it was Germany that took the main hit, over the fact that it pays Russia billions of dollars for oil and gas while relying on the US for its defense … against Russia. And yes, that is a strange situation. But it’s by no means the only angle to the story. There are many more.

For one thing, The US has by far the largest military industry. So it makes a lot of money off the billions already spent by NATO partners on weaponry. Of course Raytheon, Boeing et al would like to see them spend more. But once they would have done that, they would clamor for even more after.

At some point one must ask how much should really be spent. How much is enough, how much is necessary. The military-industrial complex (MIC) has every reason to make the threat posed by ‘enemies’ as big as they possibly can. So knowing that, we must take media reports on this threat with tons of salt.

And that is not easy. Because the MIC has great influence in politics and the media. But we can turn to some numbers. According to GlobalFirePower, the US in 2018 will spend $647 billion on its military, while Russia is to spend a full $600 billion less, at $47 billion. And the US Senate has already voted in a $82 billion boost recently.

There are other numbers out there that suggest Russia spends $60 billion, but even then. If Moscow spends just 10% of the US, and much less than that once all NATO members’ expenditure is included, how much of a threat can Russia realistically be to NATO?

 

Sure, I’ve said it before, Russia makes weapons to defend itself, while America makes them to make money, which makes the latter much less efficient, but it should be glaringly obvious that the Russia threat is being blown out of all proportions.

Problem with that is that European nations for some reason love playing the threat card as much as America does. After all, Britain, France and Germany have major weapons manufacturers, too. So they’re all stuck. The Baltic nations clamor for more US protection, so does Sweden, Merkel re-focused on Putin just days ago, the game must go on.

Another way to look at this is to note that UD GDP in 2017 according to the IMF was $19.3 trillion, while Russia’s was $1.5 trillion. NATO members Germany France, Britain, Italy and France all have substantially higher GDP than Russia as well. European Union GDP was $17.3 trillion in 2017.

If this economically weak Russia were really such a threat to NATO, they would be using their funds so much better and smarter than anyone else, we’d all better start waving white flags right now. And seek their help, because that sort of efficiency, in both economics and defense, would seem to be exactly what we need in our debt-ridden nations.

 

The solution to the problems Trump indicated this morning is not for Germany et al to spend more on NATO and their military in general, but for the US to spend less. Much less. Because the Russian threat is a hoax that serves the interests of the MIC, the politicians and the media.

And because America has much better purposes to spend its money on. And because we would all be a lot safer if this absurd theater were closed. To reiterate: developments in weapons technology, for instance hypersonic rocket systems make most other weapons systems obsolete. Which is obviously a big threat to the MIC.

Russia attacking NATO makes as much sense as NATO attacking Russia: none whatsoever. Unwinnable. Russia attacking Germany and other European countries, which buy its oil and gas, makes no sense because it would then lose those revenues. From that point of view, European dependence on Russian energy is even a peacemaker, because it benefits both sides.

Can any of the Russiagate things be true? Of course, Russia has ‘bad’ elements seeking to influence matters abroad. Just like the US does, and France, Britain, Germany, finish the list and color the pictures. How about the UK poisoning stories? That’s a really wild one. Russia had no reason to poison a long-lost double spy they themselves let go free years ago, not at a time when a successful World Cup beckoned.

342 diplomats expelled and risking the honored tradition of exchanging spies and double agents from time to time. Not in Moscow’s interest at all. Britain, though, had, and has, much to gain from the case. As long as its people, and its allies, remain gullible enough to swallow the poisoned narrative. Clue: both poisonings, if they are real, occurred mere miles from Porton Down, Britain’s main chemical weapons lab.

And c’mon, if Putin wants his country strong and independent, the last thing he would do is to risk his oil and gas contracts with Europe. They’re simply too important, economically and politically. Trump may want some of that action for the US, understandably, but for now US LNG can’t compete with Russian pipelines. Simple as that.

Let’s hope Trump and Putin can talk sense in 5 days. There’s a lot hanging on it. Let’s hope Trump gets his head out of NATO’s and the US and EU Deep State’s asses in time. There’s no America First or Make America Great Again to be found in those dark places. It’s time to clear the air and talk. America should always talk to Russia.

Funny thing is, the more sanctions are declared on Russia, the stronger it becomes, because it has to learn and adapt to self-sufficiency. Want to weaken Russia? Make it depend on your trade with it, as opposed to cut off that trade. Well, too late now, they won’t trust another western voice anymore for many years. And we’re too weak to fight them. Not that we should want to anyway.

We’re all captive to people who want us to believe we’re still stuck in the last century, because that is their over-luxurious meal ticket. But it’s all imaginary, it’s an entirely made-up narrative. NATO is a con game.

 

 

Jun 172018
 


George Grosz Apocalyptic landscape 1936

 

Is Merkel’s Reign Nearing A Frustrated End? (G.)
Merkel Wants to Hold Urgent Summit With EU States on Migration Issues (Sp.)
Italy Bars Two More Refugee Ships From Ports (G.)
Spain Rescues More Than 900 Boat Migrants, Finds Four Bodies (R.)
First Migrants From Aquarius Rescue Ship Arrive At Spanish Port (Sky)
Spain Says France To Take In Aquarius Ship Migrants (AFP)
Trump Keeps His Promises On Trade (AFP)
China Tariffs On US Soybeans Could Cost Iowa Farmers Up To $624 Million (DMR)
Mattis: Putin Is Trying To “Undermine America’s Moral Authority” (CJ)
Consumers Stubbornly Cling to Cash (DQ)
May To Unveil £20 Billion A Year Boost To NHS Spending (G.)
Greece, FYROM To Sign Name Change Accord Sunday (K.)

 

 

This morning Merkel’s coalition partner, Horst Seehofer, said ‘I can not work with this woman anymore’. Looks like game could be over.

Is Merkel’s Reign Nearing A Frustrated End? (G.)

For nearly 14 years as Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel has defined and personified Europe’s middle ground: pragmatic, consensual, mercantilist, petit-bourgeois, above all stable. It is little wonder the leader of Mitteleuropa’s major economic power has dominated the political centre for so long. But what if Merkel falls? Can the centre hold? These are increasingly urgent questions as the once unassailable “Mutti” struggles to hold together a fractious coalition. The immediate issue, which is likely to come to a head on Monday, is a furious row over EU immigration policy. But other problems are piling up, with unpredictable consequences for Europe’s future cohesion.

Merkel’s political obituary has been written many times, but now the final draft is nearing completion. She is under fire from the hard-right, anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), which stormed into the Bundestag last autumn. She has problems with the failing, unpopular Social Democrats on her left, on whom she depends for support. More seriously, though, Merkel is being challenged from within by her interior minister, Horst Seehofer, former chairman of Bavaria’s rightwing CSU, which is allied to Merkel’s Christian Democrats. In sum, Seehofer is demanding Germany no longer admit migrants who have first entered the EU via other member states – which is nearly all of them.

In Merkel’s view, such a bar would be illegal and would wreck her efforts – ongoing since the 2015 Syrian refugee crisis, when Germany accepted 1 million migrants – to create a balanced, EU-wide policy of voluntary migrant quotas. She says Seehofer should wait for this month’s EU summit to come up with a joint plan. The problem with that approach is twofold. Seehofer’s CSU, which faces a critical electoral clash with the AfD in October, complains that the EU has been trying and failing to agree this for years. Another objection, as her critics see it, is that most Germans, recalling her 2015 “open door” policy, do not trust Merkel on this issue. Polls indicate 65% back tighter border controls.

Last week’s row between France and Italy, sparked by Rome’s decision to refuse entry to a ship, the Aquarius, carrying 629 migrants rescued off Libya, showed how improbable is the prospect of agreement at the Brussels summit. Italy’s new populist leadership, in common with an emerging axis of nationalist-minded governments in Austria, Hungary and Poland, believes it has a mandate to halt the migrant flow. Meanwhile, so-called “frontline states” such as Greece, Spain and Italy accuse “destination states” such as Germany, France and the UK of failing to accept a fair share of migrants. Divisions have been exacerbated by the failure, so far, of a key Merkel-backed initiative, the multibillion-euro EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, to reduce migration by addressing “root causes” in places such as Nigeria, Eritrea and Somalia.

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And this is of course far too late. This summit should have been held 3 years ago. And it should be a UN summit, not some talks with Greece and Italy. Give Africa a voice. And Central America. Stop inviting xenophobia.

Merkel Wants to Hold Urgent Summit With EU States on Migration Issues (Sp.)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to hold an urgent summit dedicated to the migration crisis and to discuss this issue with a group of the EU member states, local media reported. The Bild newspaper reported Saturday citing own sources in the leadership of several EU countries that Merkel would like to discuss migration-related issues with leadership of Austria, Greece, and Italy. According to the media outlet, a final decision about the date of the summit has not been made yet, however it could take place later in the month. Earlier, Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, called for reforms of EU asylum rules, proposing that the EU set up centers to process asylum claims in migrants’ countries of origin. France’s President Emanuel Macron also stressed the need to modify current migration rules and criticizing the European Union for not sharing the burden with Rome over the migrant crisis.

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This comes at a bad time given Merkel’s problems.

Italy Bars Two More Refugee Ships From Ports (G.)

Italy’s interior minister has sparked a new migration crisis in the Mediterranean by barring two rescue boats from bringing refugees to shore, a week after the Auarius was prevented from docking. “Two other ships with the flag of Netherlands, Lifeline and Seefuchs, have arrived off the coast of Libya, waiting for their load of human beings abandoned by the smugglers,” Matteo Salvini, the leader of the anti-immigrant party the League, wrote on his Facebook page. “These gentlemen know that Italy no longer wants to be complicit in the business of illegal immigration, and therefore will have to look for other ports [not Italian] where to go.”

Italy’s closure of its ports to the migrant rescue ship Aquarius, which was carrying 620 people, triggered warnings from aid agencies of a deadly summer at sea for people trying to cross the Mediterranean. Axel Steier, the co-founder of Mission Lifeline which operates the Lifeline ship, said his crew had rescued more than 100 migrants off Libya on Friday in an operation with a US warship, and transferred them to a Turkish merchant vessel. He said his ship was too small to make the journey from Libya to Italian ports and that he always transferred migrants to other ships, but insisted those craft should have the right to land in Italy.

“I am sure there is an obligation for Italy to take them because its closest safe harbour is Lampedusa. We hand over migrants to Europe because of the Geneva convention,” he said. Vessels chartered by an assortment of European NGOs have plied the waters off Libya for three years, rescuing migrants from leaking boats and transporting them to Sicily.

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Greece, Italy and now Spain.

Spain Rescues More Than 900 Boat Migrants, Finds Four Bodies (R.)

Spain’s coast guard rescued 933 migrants and found four dead bodies in the Mediterranean Friday and Saturday, as the country prepared for the arrival of a charity rescue ship that was denied a port by Italy and Malta. The number of people fleeing poverty and conflict by boat to Spain doubled last year and is likely to rise again in 2018, according to the EU border agency, potentially pushing migration up the national political agenda. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has already made migrant-friendly moves in his first two weeks in the job, offering to take in the rescue ship Aquarius with 629 people on board and pledging free healthcare to undocumented migrants. The coast guard said on Twitter it had rescued 507 people from 59 small dinghies in the Gibraltar strait, where it also found the four bodies.

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Kudos to Sanchez. But what comes next?

First Migrants From Aquarius Rescue Ship Arrive At Spanish Port (Sky)

The first boat of the Aquarius convoy carrying 630 people, who have become the focus of a pan-European disagreement over migration, has docked in Valencia. The Italian coast guard vessel Dattilo arrived in the Spanish port just before 7am local time on Sunday, and will be followed by the Aquarius and another Italian navy ship, the Orione. The migrants were rescued a week ago off the coast of Libya and have been at sea ever since after the Italian government refused to allow the vessel they were aboard to dock in Italy. Among those rescued are seven children aged under five, 32 children aged between five and 15 years, 61 young people aged from 15 to 17 and 80 women, seven of whom are pregnant.

They were rescued in several different operations last weekend after Italian coastguard vessels reported a group of small rubber dinghies off the coast of Libya. The Aquarius, a charity rescue vessel operated by French charities SOS Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), picked up more than a hundred people in a complex night-time rescue before being asked by the Italian authorities to take on board hundreds more people they had recovered. However the Italian interior minister, Matteo Salvini, then refused to allow the Aquarius to dock at Italian ports, fulfilling an election pledge to stop the arrival of migrants from Africa. Malta also refused to allow them to dock there, arguing that the Italians had assumed responsibility for the rescue operations.

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More kudos for Sanchez. France is moving.

Spain Says France To Take In Aquarius Ship Migrants (AFP)

Madrid said Saturday it had accepted an offer from France to take in migrants from the Aquarius rescue ship, currently en route to Spain with more than 600 people on board. “The French government will work together with the Spanish government to handle the arrival of the migrants” scheduled for Sunday, Spain’s deputy prime minister Carmen Calvo said in a statement. “France will accept migrants who express the wish to go there” once they have been processed in Valencia, the statement said. The vessel is at the heart of a major migration row between European Union member states.

Chartered by a French aid group, the vessel rescued 629 migrants including many children and pregnant women off Libya’s cost last weekend. Italy’s new populist government and Malta refused to let it dock in their ports, accusing each other of failing to meet their humanitarian and EU commitments. Spain eventually stepped in and agreed to receive the refugees. France – who had angered Rome by branding it irresponsible over the vessel rejection – offered Thursday to welcome Aquarius migrants who “meet the criteria for asylum”.

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Still negotiating.

Trump Keeps His Promises On Trade (AFP)

By inflicting tariffs on the steel and aluminum of his allies, and then on tens of billions of dollars in goods from China, US President Donald Trump has quickly moved to fulfill the tough campaign pledges he made on trade. During his first year in office, Trump and his top economic aides made repeated threats and warned that preliminary investigations were launched into whether certain imports were being unjustly subsidized. But no concrete steps were taken. That all changed in March, when the “America First” president went on the offensive. “What happened for a period of time is the president was constrained by different members” of his administration, said Edward Alden, a specialist on US economic competitiveness at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“But the president has become increasingly confident in his own judgment on these issues… He is willing to do radical things he promised during his campaign and for many years before that.” In its latest move, the White House on Friday announced stiff 25 percent tariffs on Chinese imports, sparking immediate retaliation from Beijing. The move, which Trump justified as payback for the theft of American intellectual property and technology, reignited a trade spat between the world’s two largest economies, spooking markets and worrying business leaders.

It came on top of the tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum that went into effect in late March – measures that prompted Beijing to slap punitive duties on 128 US goods, including pork, wine and certain pipes. Since June 1, steel and aluminum imports from the European Union, Canada and Mexico have been hit with tariffs of 25 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Trump has seemingly opted to go with his gut, sometimes over the protestations of his closest aides.

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Since there is no glut of soybeans globally, this looks improbable.

China Tariffs On US Soybeans Could Cost Iowa Farmers Up To $624 Million (DMR)

Perhaps Iowa farmers’ biggest fear is becoming a harsh reality: The escalating U.S.-China trade dispute erupted Friday, with each country vowing to levy 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion in goods. U.S. and Iowa agriculture is caught in the crossfire, with farmers selling $14 billion in soybeans to China last year, its top export market. Soybeans are among hundreds of U.S. products China has singled out for tariffs. The U.S. has an equally long list that includes taxing X-ray machines and other Chinese goods. Iowa farmers could lose up to $624 million, depending on how long the tariffs are in place and the speed producers can find new markets for their soybeans, said Chad Hart, an Iowa State University economist.

U.S. soybean prices have fallen about 12 percent since March, when the U.S.-China trade dispute began. “Any tariff or tax put in place will have a significant impact, not only to the U.S. soybean market but to Iowa’s, because we’re such a large producer,” Hart said Friday. Iowa is the nation’s second-largest soybean grower, producing 562 million bushels last year worth $5.2 billion. “It will slow down the market. Even with the tariffs in place, we will ship a lot of soybeans to China,” Hart said. “It just won’t be nearly the amount we did before. “It’s likely to still be our largest market even with these tariffs in place.”

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Word.

Mattis: Putin Is Trying To “Undermine America’s Moral Authority” (CJ)

At a graduation ceremony for the US Naval War College (barf), US Secretary of Defense James Mattis asserted that Russian President Vladimir Putin “aims to diminish the appeal of the western democratic model and attempts to undermine America’s moral authority,” and that “his actions are designed not to challenge our arms at this point but to undercut and compromise our belief in our ideals.” This would be the same James Mattis who’s been overseeing the war crimes committed by America’s armed forces during their illegal occupation of Syria.

This would be the same United States of America that was born of the genocide of indigenous tribes and the labor of African slaves, which slaughtered millions in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq, Libya and Syria for no legitimate reason, which is partnered with Ukrainian Nazis, jihadist factions in Syria and Iranian terror cultists, which supports 73 percent of the world’s dictators, which interferes constantly in the electoral processes of other countries as a matter of policy, which stages coups around the world, which has encircled the globe with military bases, whose FBI still targets black civil rights activists for persecution to this very day, which routinely enters into undeclared wars of aggression against noncompliant governments to advance plutocratic interests, which remains the only country ever to use nuclear weapons on human beings after doing so completely needlessly in Japan, and which is functionally a corporatist oligarchy with no meaningful “democratic model” in place at all.

A casual glance at facts and history makes it instantly clear that the United States has no “moral authority” of any kind whatsoever, and is arguably the hub of the most pernicious and dangerous force ever assembled in human history. But the establishment Russia narrative really is that cartoonishly ridiculous: you really do have to believe that the US government is 100 percent pure good and the Russian government is 100 percent pure evil to prevent the whole narrative from falling to pieces. If you accept the idea that the exchange is anything close to 50/50, with Russia giving back more or less what it’s getting and simply protecting its own interests from the interests of geopolitical rivals, it no longer makes any sense to view Putin as a leader who poses a unique threat to the world. If you accept the idea that the west is actually being far more aggressive and antagonistic toward Russia than Russia is being toward the west, it gets even more laughable.

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“Currency in Circulation vs. GDP is increasing on all continents..”

Consumers Stubbornly Cling to Cash (DQ)

The last month has been an unhappy time for daydreamers of a cashless nirvana. Following weeks of disruptive tech failures, payment outages, and escalating cyber fraud scams, much of it taking place in Britain, consumers have been reminded of one of the great benefits of physical cash: it is accepted just about everywhere and does not suddenly fail on you. The findings of a new study by UK-based online payments company Paysafe, partly owned by US private equity giant Blackstone, confirm that consumers on both sides of the Atlantic continue to cling to physical lucre. For its Lost in Transaction report, Paysafe surveyed over 5,000 consumers in the UK, Canada, the US, Germany, and Austria on their payment habits.

One of its main findings is that 87% of consumers used cash to make purchases in the last month, while 83% visited ATMs, and 41% are not interested in even hearing about cash alternatives. “Despite the apparent benefits of low-friction payment technologies, these findings suggest many consumers aren’t ready to lose visibility of the payment process,” says Paysafe Group Chief Marketing Officer Oscar Nieboer. “It’s clear that the benefits are not unilaterally agreed upon, with cultural and infrastructure trends at play, and it may be some time before adoption is widespread.” Although consumers continue to cling to cash, they appear to be carrying less of it: 49% overall in the survey and 55% of U.S. respondents said they carry less cash now than they did a year ago.

The average American consumer carries $42 today — that’s $8 less than in 2017. In the UK the average amount carried in 2017 was £33; that has now fallen to £21. But that does not mean that the amount of cash in circulation is dwindling. On the contrary, according to this year’s G4S cash report, the world average ratio of currency vs GDP continues to rise, reaching 9.6% in 2018. “Currency in Circulation vs. GDP is increasing on all continents, indicating a consistent, growing demand for cash across the world,” says the report. South America has by far the highest cash dependency relative to its GDP, with an average ratio of over 16%.

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First you kill it, then it needs to be revived. How much of the £20 billion goes to repairing the damage already done?

May To Unveil £20 Billion A Year Boost To NHS Spending (G.)

Taxpayers are to be asked to help fund a £20bn a year injection of extra cash into the National Health Service by 2023-24 that will pay for thousands more doctors and nurses, while cutting cancer deaths and improving mental health services, Theresa May will say today. The announcement, before the NHS’s 70th birthday next month, will represent the biggest funding boost since Gordon Brown imposed a one percentage point rise in National Insurance to pay for more NHS spending in his 2002 budget, in the face of Tory claims that Labour was slapping a “tax on ordinary families”.

Government sources said the increases, which would be paid for in part by a “Brexit dividend”, would amount to around £600m a week extra for the NHS in cash terms within six years. Health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt said last night that the government wanted to “show the world what a cutting-edge 21st-century healthcare system can look like”. He added: “This long-term plan and historic funding boost is a fitting birthday present for our most loved institution. Like no other organisation could ever hope to be, the NHS is there for every family at the best and worst of times, from the wonder of birth to the devastation of death, living and breathing those very British values of decency, fairness and compassion.

He said the extra cash “recognises the superhuman efforts made by staff over the last few years to maintain services in the face of rapidly growing demand. But it also presents a big opportunity for the NHS to write an entirely new chapter in its history”. Details of how the public will be required to pay through tax rises, and the proportion of the funding increases they will pay for, will not be spelled out until the budget, because of ongoing arguments involving the chancellor Philip Hammond, Hunt, and No 10.

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70% of Greeks is against the deal, protests are everywhere. But he pushed it through. In Foreign Policy, someone suggested giving him a Nobal Peace Prize for it. But, but, democracy…

Greece, FYROM To Sign Name Change Accord Sunday (K.)

Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) are set to sign a historic accord to modify the latter’s name after Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament Saturday. The accord is to be signed in the Prespes region, a lake district which borders Greece, FYROM and Albania, by the two countries’ foreign ministers Sunday. Tsipras and his FYROM counterpart Zoran Zaev will both attend the ceremony, along with UN mediator Matthew Nimetz and other European officials – including the European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Commissioner Johannes Hahn.

Following the ceremony, members of the two delegations will hold a working lunch in the town of Otesevo, in FYROM. Security at the event is expected to be ultra-tight. A protest against the deal will be held in the nearby village of Pisoderi. On Saturday, after more than two days of vehement debate in Parliament, Greece’s SYRIZA-led government survived a no-confidence vote brought against it by the main opposition New Democracy party, but with one less MP. The motion garnered 127 votes with 153 against. The junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL) backed the government despite its opposition to the name deal with FYROM that Tsipras announced last week, bar one MP, Dimitris Kammenos, who backed the motion. He was subsequently expelled from the party, reducing the government’s majority to 153.

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Jun 152018
 
 June 15, 2018  Posted by at 12:42 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  15 Responses »


Edward John Poynter Erato, Muse of Poetry 1870

 

This is something I’ve commented on many times. Like two months ago, when I wrote:

“As for Donald Trump, as much as we would like to engage in constructive criticism of the man and his government, we find we no longer can. The anti-Trump echo-chamber has turned so deafening that any intelligent debate about his policies is being drowned out amid the never ending flow of fake news and half truths and innuendo and empty smears that US media continue to spout. With a brief lull when the bombs fell on Syria.

Thank you, New York Times, WaPo, CNN, MSNBC. Thank you for killing the entire discussion, thank you for killing off journalism. There is a lot to say about Trump, much of it critical, but we can no longer open our mouths. Because we don’t want to be in the same camp as you. Life in the echo chamber has given us vertigo. We had to get out.”

Jim Kunstler thanked me for saying that. He very much feels the same way. Nothing has changed. They’re still at it, and we still can’t get a word in edgewise. I was thinking earlier today that the best the MSM can do to promote its own case is to praise Trump from time to time. Because that is the only way they could attract some ears and eyes from outside their echo chamber.

They won’t do it. Being negative about the US president makes them too much money. It leaves us with a situation in which the one half of America that reads and hears New York Times, WaPo, CNN, MSNBC has become fully isolated from the other half. Yes, this is risky. But this, too, will be blamed on Trump.

Meanwhile, border policies where children are forcefully separated form their parents need criticism and condemnation from all of the nation. But there is nobody left who can reach the entire nation. A year and a half of 24/7 unproven allegations about collusion with Russia has seen to that.

Therefore, when the Intercept wrote about a Human Rights Watch report last month in Obama’s Deportation Policy Was Even Worse Than We Thought , the MSM don’t cover it, because it doesn’t fit the narrative. But when Trump uses the same ICE machinery to scare potential immigrants away, it’s suddenly considered newsworthy.

Oh, and France uses the exact same scare tactics, going as far as ripping children’s soles from their shoes. We should all condemn these atrocities, and make them stop. But it’s not going to happen if you guys insist on making it an anti-Trump thing, because half the country won’t listen to any more of that.

Journalism and news media must be a force to unite a nation, not one that divides it simply because there’s -more- profit in that.

The neverending Trump innuendo reached another new high in the North Korea meeting, with the ‘media’ competing with each other to find yet another terrible mistake or intentional screw-up by the man who is President of all Americans (like it or not). A feeding frenzy on nothingburgers.

Trump was accused of hob-nobbing with dictators. Excuse me, but all US presidents have done that. He wasn’t being tough enough, he was giving far too much away with nothing in return. Well, that’s not how South Koreans see it, and this concerns them a whole lot more than a bunch of ‘reporters’ covering the beltway.

Truth is, Trump did a good job, everything went well, he put Kim Jong-un in a position where the latter will have to deliver on denuclearization, or face the -international- consequences. It is quite the achievement, but if you wake up every single morning looking for more bad things to say about someone, yes, chances are you miss the good things.

You’re also probably missing the Saudi, US-supported, attacks on Hodeidah, the port city that is Yemen’s last lifeline to the world, and the only chance millions of people have of escaping a famine not seen since the Middle Ages.

That is the kind of thing that should be on your front pages, and opening your news shows, not that North Korea happens to have a border with Russia nudge nudge wink wink, and Trump saluted some Korean general.

America needs real news and real journalism, and it needs it badly. Instead it has an increasingly divisive set of well-paid propagandists who break the country ever further apart. The OIG report that came out yesterday confirms this more and better than anything.

When the country’s own ‘intelligence’ conspires to influence the political process, while the media report on outside influence only, then yes, you have a problem. As I was writing earlier today, you have to wonder how many people will still be working at the FBI by the end of the year.

Something else I’ve said before: the only hope of survival the MSM have in the age of the interwebs is to be brutally honest and open. Real news and real journalism. Because simply spouting opinions is something they will be trumped on by the many many millions of people with social media accounts who already do that every day, anonymously, and for free.

The old media don’t stand a chance against that army. The only thing that can save them is the truth.