Sep 062019
 


Claude Monet Éretrat sunset 1882-3

 

The Trade War Is Smart Geopolitics (NR)
China’s Growth Is Slowing, but not Because of the Trade War (PIIE)
The Ugly Truth About The Trade War (Alt-M)
Fed QE Unwind Continues Via Sharp Drop In MBS (WS)
Trump Administration Backs Privatizing Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac (MW)
Is Armed Conflict Possible in Today’s Europe? (Spiegel)
Boris Johnson: I’d Rather Be Dead In a Ditch Than Delay Brexit (BBC)
Hong Kong Braces For More Protests As Merkel Calls For Peaceful Solution (R.)
The Pentagon Wants More Control Over the News. What Could Go Wrong? (Taibbi)
Germany Announces Plan to Ban Glyphosate (CD)
Targeting the Tongass National Forest for Amazon-like Destruction (CP)
They Want Him Dead As A Warning (Maurizi)

 

 

A bunch of views on the trade war. I’d say take your pick. Something for everyone.

The Trade War Is Smart Geopolitics (NR)

Why is our industrial supply chain located inside of an adversary? Why does our military readiness therefore depend on that adversary? Why are American companies allowed to transfer critical technologies to China in exchange for short-term market access? Why can Tesla build self-driving cars in Shanghai? Why can Google run an AI lab in Beijing after canceling an AI contract with the Pentagon? The free traders have an answer: because the market wills it. But of course, markets have no reason to prefer one global power over another, and there’s no market rule barring a surveillance state from winning the competition. In that competition, our ideological commitment to free trade is nearly as great a handicap as the Soviet Union’s commitment to central planning was during the Cold War.

Free trade with China means allowing its distortions into our market. Refusing to allow our government to “pick winners” by rejecting industrial-policy support to key sectors means that Beijing will pick winners for us. Depending on Ricardian comparative advantage to organize supply chains means, in effect, that we will watch helplessly as American innovations are transformed into growth-boosting industries elsewhere, as firms reap efficiency gains by locating their engineering and management operations next to their manufacturing. Inevitably, the innovation will depart too. A recent survey of 369 manufacturers found that American firms are moving their R&D operations to China not just to take advantage of lower costs, but to be in close proximity to their supply chains.

Some 50 percent of foreign R&D centers in China are now run by American companies, helping China achieve first place in market share for manufacturing R&D. If we remain neutral as to where supply chains are located, “we innovate, they build” will become “they innovate, they build.” China’s rise may be inevitable. But given the danger represented by that rise, America can choose to minimize its risk. It can reduce opportunities for China to erode the long-term competitive advantage of American firms through forced technology transfer and R&D migration, and reduce our dependence on Chinese manufacturing for crucial industrial and military supply chains. In a word: decoupling.

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China’s problem is the dollar. It’s not dependent on the US for its GDP, but that is a problem in itself. If exports to the US were larger, it would receive more dollars.

China’s Growth Is Slowing, but not Because of the Trade War (PIIE)

First, as is well known, US taxpayers, not Chinese consumers and companies, are bearing the burden of Trump’s tariffs. The president acknowledged as much when he postponed new tariffs on goods (such as toys and consumer electronics) likely to be purchased during the US holiday shopping season. US tariffs on imports from China will likely subtract about half a percentage point from US GDP growth in 2019.

But second, China’s growth began to slow long before the trade war started (see figure). The pace of growth has moderated from the double-digit pace of 2010 to only 6.2 percent in the most recent quarter. As for the assertion that the trade war has accelerated China’s economic decline, the facts show the opposite. As shown in the figure, the pace of the slowdown has moderated since the initial imposition of tariffs by the United States in July 2018. Most of the slowdown is the result of President Xi Jinping’s ill-advised policy choice of allocating credit and other resources to less efficient state firms rather than private firms. Moreover, since 2017, China has reduced the growth of credit overall in order to reduce financial risk at a time of growing corporate indebtedness, a trend that also contributes to slowing growth throughout the economy.

Third, properly measured, China’s dependence on exports to the United States is not as large as some, including President Trump, may think. China’s exports to the United States before tariffs were imposed ran at $500 billion annually, or 4 percent of its $12.25 trillion GDP, which in theory is a significant number. In fact, the percentage is far less. The potential impact of US tariffs on China’s growth needs to be adjusted to measure only value added by China. GDP is measured in value-added terms; US imports from China are measured in gross sales. The value-added share in US imports from China is about one-half, so the direct contribution to China’s GDP from its sales to the United States is approximately $250 billion or only 2 percent of China’s GDP.

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Brandon Smith doesn’t appear to fully agree with PIIE.

The Ugly Truth About The Trade War (Alt-M)

The US only comprises around 18% of Chinese exports. While this is a nice piece of the pie, it’s hardly enough leverage to bring down China’s economy. China would suffer profit losses in certain sectors as well as a recession, but not the kind of crisis that some in the alternative media are predicting. Around 40% of China’s GDP is generated domestically, and 80% of its GDP growth comes from private consumption. For quite some time I have warned that China was shifting its economic model from an export based system to a more self reliant domestic based system, and that this might be an indication of a coming economic war with the US. As it turns out, this is exactly what has happened. Since 2010, China’s domestic market has grown dramatically, indicating that China has no intention of relying on the US consumer as an economic pillar.

The US consumer is almost tapped out. While retail sales in certain areas remain steady and this has been used by the mainstream media and the Fed to promote the idea that the economy is still “going strong”, this is not the big picture. The reality is that US consumption is driven by historic levels of debt. Household debt is now FAR above levels last seen after the last financial crisis, with total debt at $1.2 trillion higher today than its last peak in 2008. The downturn in retail is more obvious in the steady closings of thousands of outlets in 2019 alone. This year has seen a 29% increase in store closings compared to 2018, even though 2018 saw a considerable spike in store shutdowns. Around 12,000 stores are slated to close this year.

So the question is, with the US consumer stretched thin by debt and US retail on the verge of a recessionary plunge, why would China feel threatened by the loss of the American consumer market? They are losing it already by attrition. The truth is they aren’t threatened, which is why, as I predicted last year, the trade war continues unabated despite the fact that so many people argued that China would “quickly fold” to Trump’s demands. I realize this is not what many people want to hear, but it is foolish to get caught up in a farcical mob mentality and ignore the fundamentals in the trade war. If you think that the US is going to “win” based on leverage, you are sorely mistaken. The US is in no better shape economically than China; in many ways we are much worse off.

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Close down the place before it can do even more harm.

Fed QE Unwind Continues Via Sharp Drop In MBS (WS)

In August, the Fed shed Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) at a rate that exceeded its self-imposed “cap” of $20 billion for the fourth month in a row, but added some Treasury securities, with a new emphasis on short-term Treasury bills. Total assets on the Fed’s balance sheet fell by $20 billion, to $3.76 trillion, as of the balance sheet for the week ended September 4, released this afternoon. This brought the balance sheet to the lowest level since September 2013. So far this year, the Fed has shed $314 billion in assets. Since the beginning of the “balance sheet normalization” process, the Fed has shed $700 billion. Since peak-QE in January 2015, it has shed $738 billion:

During the month of August, $70 billion in Treasury securities in the Fed’s portfolio matured and were redeemed by the US Treasury Department. The Fed replaced all those with new Treasury securities. This replacement would have kept its holdings level. Per its new plan to replace its MBS securities with Treasury securities – more on that in a moment – it added about $15 billion in Treasury securities, bringing the total to $2.095 trillion. This was the first monthly increase since the end of 2017, bringing its Treasury holdings back to the level of last July, and just above the September 2013 level:

As part of its new regime to shorten the overall maturity of its holdings, the Fed’s holdings now include $3 billion in Treasury bills (maturing in one year or less), up from zero a few months ago. After “Operation Twist,” which was layered between QE-2 and “QE Infinity,” the Fed had not held any Treasury bills. About four months ago, it started dabbling in them again, but in August it got serious. These T-bills replaced some of the MBS that ran off its balance sheet.

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Trump giveth and the Fed taketh away. End the Fed AND Fannie and Freddie.

Trump Administration Backs Privatizing Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac (MW)

The Trump administration said it would support returning mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to private hands, a development that could keep the companies at the center of the housing market for decades to come. The principles announced Thursday represent a major reversal from what leaders of both parties over the past decade promised — to abolish the companies, which guarantee roughly half the U.S. mortgage market. The approach, which doesn’t require approval by Congress, would mark an important win for investors who have been betting politicians wouldn’t follow through on those promises. Treasury officials said they would aim to privatize the government-controlled firms without making it tougher and more expensive for people to get mortgages.


They generally avoided making specific policy recommendations on how to accomplish these goals in a report released Thursday. They said they would work with federal regulators to flesh out the details on how to put Fannie and Freddie on a sounder financial footing as well as to curtail the firms’ roles in housing finance. The process could take years to implement and won’t affect existing mortgages. “Our view is that the government footprint has become too big,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in an interview ahead of Thursday’s report. ”There are people in Washington who are happy to leave this the way it is for another 10 or 20 years, and that’s not us. We feel an obligation to try to fix this.”

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“The direction of European history would seem to have changed – shifting away from convergence and back to delineation.”

Is Armed Conflict Possible in Today’s Europe? (Spiegel)

“The war changed everything.” This statement by the late British historian Tony Judt contains the kernel of modern-day Europe. It was the war that made possible an extended period of peace. Things had to get extremely bad before they could get good again. For the last 75 years, there has been peace on the Continent, with just a few exceptions. Now, this Europe finds itself in crisis. It is no longer the Europe where national thinking is slowly dwindling. It is no longer the Europe that is growing together step by step. It is no longer the Europe in which all countries seem to be committed to democracy forever. The direction of European history would seem to have changed – shifting away from convergence and back to delineation.


What does that mean for the most important of all questions, the question of war or peace? At the moment, it doesn’t look at all as though the long period of peace is going to come to an end. There is no reason for alarm. But if the direction of European history is changing, we should take a close look at what that could mean. Not in the immediate future, but in the long term. History is a snail that persistently crawls along its path. Exactly 80 years ago, the war that changed everything began — on Sept. 1, 1939, with Adolf Hitler’s Germany invading neighboring Poland. Almost six years later, more than 60 million people around the world were dead as a result of the violence, huge portions of the Continent were destroyed, millions of Europeans had been forced from their homes and millions more were plunged into poverty. A state of shock reigned.

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When will he quit?

Boris Johnson: I’d Rather Be Dead In a Ditch Than Delay Brexit (BBC)

Boris Johnson has said he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than ask the EU to delay Brexit beyond 31 October. But the PM declined to say if he would resign if a postponement – which he has repeatedly ruled out – had to happen. Mr Johnson has said he would be prepared to leave the EU without a deal, but Labour says stopping a no-deal Brexit is its priority. The prime minister’s younger brother, Jo Johnson, announced earlier that he was standing down as a minister and MP. Speaking in West Yorkshire, Boris Johnson said Jo Johnson, who backed Remain in the 2016 referendum, was a “fantastic guy” but they had had “differences” over the EU.

Announcing his resignation earlier in the day, the MP for Orpington, south-east London, said he had been “torn between family loyalty and the national interest”. During his speech at a police training centre in Wakefield, the prime minister reiterated his call for an election, which he wants to take place on 15 October. He argued it was “the only way to get this thing [Brexit] moving”. “We either go forward with our plan to get a deal, take the country out on 31 October which we can or else somebody else should be allowed to see if they can keep us in beyond 31 October,” Mr Johnson said.

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Mutti? You here?

Hong Kong Braces For More Protests As Merkel Calls For Peaceful Solution (R.)

Hong Kong is bracing for more demonstrations this weekend, with protesters threatening to disrupt transport links to the airport, after embattled leader Carrie Lam’s withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill failed to appease some activists. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel raised Hong Kong with Chinese premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Friday, saying a peaceful solution is needed. “I stressed that the rights and freedoms for (Hong Kong) citizens have to be granted,” said Merkel. “In the current situation violence must be prevented. Only dialogue helps. There are signs that Hong Kong’s chief executive will invite such a dialogue. I hope that materializes and that demonstrators have the chance to participate within the frame of citizens’ rights,” she said during a visit to Beijing.


Li told a news conference with Merkel: “The Chinese government unswervingly safeguards ‘one country, two systems’ and ‘Hong Kong people govern Hong Kong people’”. He said Beijing supported the Hong Kong government “to end the violence and chaos in accordance with the law, to return to order, which is to safeguard Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability”. Protesters plan to block traffic to the city’s international airport on Saturday, a week after thousands of demonstrators disrupted transport links, sparking some of the worst violence since the unrest escalated three months ago. Many protesters have pledged to fight on despite a withdrawal of the extradition bill, saying the concession is too little, too late.

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The Pentagon will protect you from “large-scale, automated disinformation attacks” by publishing “large-scale, automated disinformation attacks..”

The Pentagon Wants More Control Over the News. What Could Go Wrong? (Taibbi)

If there’s a worse idea than the Pentagon becoming Editor-in-Chief of America, I can’t remember it. But we’re getting there: From Bloomberg over Labor Day weekend: “Fake news and social media posts are such a threat to U.S. security that the Defense Department is launching a project to repel “large-scale, automated disinformation attacks,” as the top Republican in Congress blocks efforts to protect the integrity of elections.” One of the Pentagon’s most secretive agencies, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is developing “custom software that can unearth fakes hidden among more than 500,000 stories, photos, video and audio clips.”

Once upon a time, when progressives still reflexively distrusted the military, DARPA was a liberal punchline, known for helping invent the Internet but also for developing lunatic privacy-invading projects like LifeLog, a program to “gather in a single place just about everything an individual says, sees, or does.” DARPA now is developing a semantic analysis program called “SemaFor” and an image analysis program called “MediFor,” ostensibly designed to prevent the use of fake images or text. The idea would be to develop these technologies to help private Internet providers sift through content. It’s the latest in a string of stories about new methods of control over information flow that should, but for some reason do not, horrify every working journalist.

From the Senate dragging Internet providers to the Hill to demand strategies against the sowing of “discord,” to tales of hundreds of Facebook sites zapped for “coordinated inauthentic behavior” following advice by government-connected groups like the Atlantic Council, it’s been clear the future of the information landscape is going to involve elaborate new forms of algorithmic regulation. Stories about the need for such technologies are always couched as responses to the “fake news” problem. Unfortunately, “fake news” is a poorly-defined, amorphous concept that the public has been trained to fear without really understanding.

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Why wait 4 years?

Germany Announces Plan to Ban Glyphosate (CD)

The German government announced Wednesday it had agreed on a plan to phase out the use of glyphosate—the key chemical in the weedkiller Roundup—with a total ban set to begin by the end of 2023. “Way to go, Germany!” tweeted the U.S.-based advocacy group Organic Consumers Association. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet agreed to the plan Wednesday. The proposal, reported Bloomberg, also says that the “government intends to oppose any request for the E.U. to renew the license to produce the weedkiller, according to a release by the environment ministry.” The European Commission, the E.U.’s rules and regulations body, in 2017 renewed the license for glyphosate in the bloc through the end of 2022.


Germany’s environment Minister, Svenja Schulze, framed the new move as necessary to protect biodiversity, and said that “a world without insects is not worth living in”. “What harms insects also harms people,” Schulze said at a press conference. “What we need is more humming and buzzing.” Glyphosate is no longer exclusive to Monsanto’s Roundup, as it “is now off-patent and marketed worldwide by dozens of other chemical groups including Dow Agrosciences and Germany’s BASF,” as Reuters noted. That’s despite the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer’s 2015 designation of glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen,” increasing concerns over its health effects, and mounting legal woes for Bayer, which acquired Monsanto last year, as multiple juries have found Roundup to have been a factor in plaintiffs’ cancers.

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Stop calling them conservatives.

Targeting the Tongass National Forest for Amazon-like Destruction (CP)

Alaskan politicians, the governor, Mike Dunleavy, and the two senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, all Republican, convinced Trump to dismantle federal protections of the Tongass National Forest. The Trump administration ordered the Forest Service to approve this process of destruction. In March 16, 2019, the Forest Service designed a 15-year logging project in the Prince of Wales Island that included the opening of 164 miles of new roads in 67 square miles of land and the clearcutting of up to 23,000 acres of old-growth trees – trees several centuries old.

Environmental organizations like Earthjustice, Sierra Club, Alaska Wilderness League, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Alaska Rainforest Defenders, National Audubon Society, Natural Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Center for Biological Diversity sued the Forest Service and the US Department of Agriculture for violating the National Environmental Policy Act and other environmental laws. They pointed out that such massive timber sale from the projected clearcutting of old growth trees was “wasteful, destructive, and a giveaway” to a timber industry contributing less than 1 percent to the economy of Alaska.

In addition, clearcutting 23,000 acres of ancient trees would harm the Alexander Archipelago wolf, flying squirrels, and birds like Goshawk. Why this violent attack on a forest these environmental organizations call the crown jewel of America? The Alaskan politicians, like Bolsonaro of Brazil, have a distorted and selfish vision: satisfy the landowners in Brazil and the timber barons in Alaska. Do these politicians, including Trump, ever think about the real bad effects, ecological and social, of their actions? They must have heard of the inferno in the Brazilian Amazon and its potentially horrific consequences on the planet. They cannot really assume or believe that adding quite a bit more carbon to the atmosphere from logging Tongass would be a good thing for America or the world? Or could they?

The only reasonable explanation of the murky world of Trump and the Republican politicians (of Alaska and the rest of the country) is that they reject science. Certainly, the Evangelicals do. These Christian Republicans support Trump. They make no secret they expect Jesus to rise up, thus signaling the end of life on Earth. This delusion gets scary as high officials of the Trump administration are its fervent believers.

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Long-time Assange confidant Stefania Maurizi talks to Roger Waters.

They Want Him Dead As A Warning (Maurizi)

He is one of the legends of rock famous for his progressive battles. At seventy-six, the Pink Floyd co-founder, Roger Waters, has not given up at all and does not hesitate to call his country, Great Britain, “disgusting” for its treatment of Julian Assange. Last Monday, Waters sang his great classic, “Wish You Were Here” in front of the UK Home Office in London in support of Assange, while the Australian journalist, John Pilger, explained the serious risk the WikiLeaks founder runs of being extradited to the US, and Assange’s brother, Gabriel, described an emotional meeting with Julian Assange. Roger Waters is currently in Venice to present his film “US + Them”. Repubblica interviewed him.


What made you go very public about Julian Assange’s situation? “Clearly, there has been a really powerful and international smear campaign, really since the Collateral Murder video. I have been watching it developing. Assange is the pet hate of Western governments, particularly the government of the United States, because he published evidence that shows the United States to have committed heinous war crimes, crimes against humanity in a big way. This smear campaign against him is all about getting him extradited to the US. They want him dead as a warning: they want to persuade any young person who might be thinking about the work of Julian Assange, or any whistleblower or any investigative journalist, that to pursue the path of truth-telling is extremely bad for your health. The message is: if you tell the truth, we will kill you, watch! The same with Chelsea Manning”.

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Withdrawing the extradition bill is no longer enough:

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 282019
 


Salvador Dali Cadaques 1923

 

US Yield Inversion Deepens, Stokes Recession Fears (R.)
Ex-NY Fed Chief Bill Dudley Urges Jay Powell To Prevent Trump Re-Election (ZH)
Comey Confidant: Expect Andrew McCabe to be Indicted Any Day (GP)
Hong Kong Ponders Emergency Legislation Likened To Martial Law (HKFP)
Hong Kong Protesters Say They Have Nothing To Lose (R.)
Business Group Warns On China’s Corporate ‘Social Credit’ Plan (R.)
Chinese Government To Launch Cryptocurrency (F.)
Prince Andrew ‘Knows What He’s Done’, Should ‘Come Clean’ – Giuffre (Ind.)
Up to 30 Jeffrey Epstein Accusers To Speak Out At New York Court Hearing (G.)
Purdue Pharma Offers $10-$12 Billion To Settle Opioid Claims (NBC)
Near-Total Ban On Sending Wild Elephants To Zoos Agreed (AFP)
Boris Johnson, GMOs and Glyphosate (CP)

 

 

Treasuries safe haven.

US Yield Inversion Deepens, Stokes Recession Fears (R.)

The U.S. yield curve inversion deepened on Tuesday to levels not seen since 2007, rekindling fears of a looming recession that spurred a sell-off on Wall Street and stoked even more safe-haven demand for government bonds. The intense interest in Treasuries supported demand for $40 billion worth of two-year government debt for sale, part of this week’s $113 billion fixed-rate Treasury supply. The yield curve often inverts prior to a U.S. recession. “As the curve inverts further, it has inspired more long-end buying,” said Mike Lorizio, head of Treasuries trading at Manulife Asset Management in Boston.


The Treasury Department sold its latest two-year, fixed-rate note supply at a yield of 1.516%, which was the lowest at an auction of this maturity since September 2017. The Treasury will sell $41 billion of five-year notes on Wednesday, followed by a $32 billion auction of seven-year debt on Thursday. It will also offer $18 billion in floating-rate notes on Wednesday. On the open market, 10-year Treasury yields were 1.488%, down 5.60 basis points on the day. They reached a three-year low of 1.443% on Monday. The yields on two-year notes were 1.531%, down 2.00 basis points. On Monday, they declined to 1.449%, the lowest since September 2017.

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Curious op-ed by Dudley, good comment from Tyler.

“Trump now has documentary evidence that, by extension, the Fed also had the ability to ensure his re-election..”

Ex-NY Fed Chief Bill Dudley Urges Jay Powell To Prevent Trump Re-Election (ZH)

[..] while Dudley refers to the Fed as apolitical, underscoring that further in the next paragraph where he says that “I understand and support Fed officials’ desire to remain apolitical”, he immediately refutes himself by admitting that the Fed has never been apolitical and in fact, it is the US central bank that, through its actions chooses who the US president is, to wit: Central bank officials face a choice: enable the Trump administration to continue down a disastrous path of trade war escalation, or send a clear signal that if the administration does so, the president, not the Fed, will bear the risks — including the risk of losing the next election. And the punchline: “There’s even an argument that the election itself falls within the Fed’s purview.”

Translation: “there is even an argument”, Dudley says tongue-in-cheek, that the Fed should crush the economy (arguably by hiking or not cutting rates) and start the next recession, thereby preventing Trump from getting re-elected. And while we appreciate Dudley’s de facto confirmation of what we have said for years, namely that the Fed is not only a political entity, one which picks the US president as the former NY Fed president admitted, but that the Fed is an even more powerful entity than the top US executive (an entity which as Bernanke’s former advisor once said: “people would be stunned to know the extent to which the Fed is privately owned”). One hopes that finally a discussion can take place, whether in Congress or elsewhere, if such an entity should exist.


As for Dudley’s “modest proposal”, we look forward to Trump’s response, because if there is one thing the US president needed in writing, it was just such an op-ed, one written from a former Fed member to the current Fed chair, recommending what amounts to mutiny against Trump should Trump proceed with his current course of action. Because if things don’t work out, well Trump now has documentary evidence that, by extension, the Fed also had the ability to ensure his re-election, and if things seem like they are headed off course on the way to November 2020, we will sit back and enjoy as the war between Trump and the Fed goes nuclear.

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What’s taking so long?

Comey Confidant: Expect Andrew McCabe to be Indicted Any Day (GP)

Comey confidant Benjamin Wittes said in a Lawfare blog post on Tuesday that he expects former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to be indicted any day now. Benjamin Wittes is a ‘resistance’ lawyer and James Comey’s friend who runs the Lawfare Group. Wittes wrote in a blog post Tuesday that he was “shocked” to find out federal prosecutors were in the final stages of deciding whether to indict McCabe on charges he lied to federal investigators, referring to the New York Times bombshell released Monday. The potential indictment of McCabe stems from the Inspector General’s findings that the FBI official lied to federal investigators.

McCabe was criminally referred to the US Attorneys office for prosecution in the Spring of 2018 and they are finally getting around to (maybe) indicting him. The process has been dragged out because of internal deliberations and the case is taking so long that the term expired for the grand jury evidence. One of the lead prosecutors on the case has since left the DOJ out of frustration, according to the NYT. The New York Times reported that McCabe’s lawyers met with DAG Jeffrey Rosen, who is involved in the decision whether to prosecute the former FBI official.

In two meetings last week, Mr. McCabe’s lawyers met with the deputy attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen, who is expected to be involved in the decision about whether to prosecute, and for more than an hour with the United States attorney for the District of Columbia, Jessie K. Liu, according to a person familiar with the meetings. The person would not detail the discussions, but defense lawyers typically meet with top law enforcement officials to try to persuade them not to indict their client if they failed to get line prosecutors to drop the case. Mr. Wittes says these meetings only take place when an indictment is imminent.

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Hong Kong’s commerce minister is a bad liar.

Hong Kong Ponders Emergency Legislation Likened To Martial Law (HKFP)

Hong Kong’s commerce minister has said the city’s trade status may not be affected if the government uses emergency legislation, though democrat James To has said that such measures would be akin to martial law. The Emergency Regulations Ordinance (ERO) would grant the city’s leader and her council of advisors the power to “make regulations on occasions of emergency or public danger.” The plan was first reported by pro-government newspaper Sing Tao Daily, with Chief Executive Carrie Lam saying on Tuesday that she would consider using all laws in Hong Kong. The law was last used during the 1967 riots.

Asked if the government would consider using the ERO, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau said the government will act in accordance with the “One Country, Two Systems” principle and existing laws. “I believe most people hope that violence in Hong Kong will stop, and that things return to peace and order,” he said on Tuesday when meeting reporters. “Internationally, every place and government would use different means to do their work well, if they face a situation like in Hong Kong.” Asked if using the ERO would harm Hong Kong’s trade status, Yau said: “I don’t see that. From a trade perspective, without a stable and peaceful environment, any economic activity would be affected.”

Democratic Party lawmaker James To, appearing on a Commercial Radio programme on Wednesday, said the ERO was a “colonial suppressive law” that had unlimited power. “It is the same as announcing martial law,” he said. “It would be a disproportionate use of power.” He said the Hong Kong police can handle the situation, and the government should respond to protesters’ demands to move forward.

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“If we don’t succeed now, our freedom of speech, our human rights, all will be gone.”

Hong Kong Protesters Say They Have Nothing To Lose (R.)

Exasperated with the government’s unflinching attitude to escalating civil unrest, Jason Tse quit his job in Australia and jumped on a plane to join what he believes is a do-or-die fight for Hong Kong’s future. The Chinese territory is grappling with its biggest crisis since its handover to Beijing 22 years ago as many residents fret over what they see as China’s tightening grip over the city and a relentless march toward mainland control. The battle for Hong Kong’s soul has pitted protesters against the former British colony’s political masters in Beijing, with broad swathes of the Asian financial center determined to defend the territory’s freedoms at any cost.

Faced with a stick and no carrot – chief executive Carrie Lam reiterated on Tuesday protesters’ demands were unacceptable – the pro-democracy movement has intensified despite Beijing deploying paramilitary troops near the border in recent weeks. “This is a now or never moment and it is the reason why I came back,” Tse, 32, said, adding that since joining the protests last month he had been a peaceful participant in rallies and an activist on the Telegram social media app. “If we don’t succeed now, our freedom of speech, our human rights, all will be gone. We need to persist.”

Since the city returned to Chinese rule in 1997, critics say Beijing has reneged on a commitment to maintain Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms under a “one country, two systems” formula. Opposition to Beijing that had dwindled after 2014, when authorities faced down a pro-democracy movement that occupied streets for 79 days, has come back to haunt authorities who are now grappling with an escalating cycle of violence. “We have to keep fighting. Our worst fear is the Chinese government,” said a 40-year-old teacher who declined to be identified for fear of repercussions. “For us, it’s a life or death situation.”

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“Companies “cannot decide between legal and illegal anymore. You have to decide where you want to be on the good and bad scale..”

Business Group Warns On China’s Corporate ‘Social Credit’ Plan (R.)

The rollout of China’s controversial corporate “social credit system” is well under way and accelerating, a European business lobby in the country said on Wednesday, warning that foreign governments need to wake up to the plan’s potential risks. Beijing has been developing a globally unprecedented plan to give companies and individual people “social credit” scores, a goal that has drawn international concerns that it could heighten to Orwellian levels the already strict control that the ruling Communist Party has over society and the economy. In a roadmap plan released in 2014, China said it would by 2020 create the system to reward or punish individuals and corporations using technology to record various measures of financial credit, personal behavior and corporate misdeeds.


Some experts say that the system remains nascent and could help tackle social problems like fraud or food security, while reducing government discretion in regulating companies. But one of the authors of a new European Union Chamber of Commerce in China report on the system’s implications for companies said that it could become a “surgical instrument” for compelling companies to meet China’s political aims. “It is a very, very potent instrument of regulating, controlling and steering companies in a targeted way,” Bjoern Conrad, chief executive officer of Sinolytics, a consulting firm that helped draft the report, told reporters. Companies “cannot decide between legal and illegal anymore. You have to decide where you want to be on the good and bad scale,” Conrad said.

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Who would accept it?

Chinese Government To Launch Cryptocurrency (F.)

China’s central bank will launch a state-backed cryptocurrency and issue it to seven institutions in the coming months, according to a former employee of one of the institutions who is now an independent researcher. Paul Schulte, who worked as global head of financial strategy for China Construction Bank until 2012, says the largest bank in the world, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the second largest bank in the world, his former employer, the Bank of China, the Agricultural Bank of China; two of China’s largest financial technology companies, Alibaba and Tencent; and Union Pay, an association of Chinese banks, will receive the cryptocurrency.

A separate source, who’s involved in the development of the cryptocurrency, dubbed DC/EP (Digital Currency/Electronic Payments), confirmed that the seven institutions would be receiving the new asset when it launches, adding that an eighth institution could also be among the first tier of recipients. The source declined to provide the name of the additional company. Speaking under terms of anonymity, the source, who previously worked for the Chinese government, confirmed that the technology behind the cryptocurrency has been ready since last year and that the cryptocurrency could launch as soon as November 11, China’s busiest shopping day, known as Singles Day.

At the time of launch, the recipient institutions will then be responsible for dispersing the cryptocurrency to 1.3 billion Chinese citizens and others doing business in the renminbi, China’s fiat currency, according to the source. The source added that the central bank hopes the currency will eventually be made available to spenders in the United States and elsewhere through relationships with correspondent banks in the West. “That’s the plan, but that won’t happen right away,” the source said.

[..] What sets China’s DC/EP apart from libra and Carney’s “synthetic hegemonic currency” (SHC), according to Shulte, is that while libra is little more than early-stage computer code and the SHC doesn’t appear to have gone much further than Carney’s mind, the Chinese cryptocurrency is ready to launch. “China is barreling forward on reforms and rolling out the cryptocurrency,” says Schulte, who now runs an eponymous bank research firm. “It will be the first central bank to do so.”

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It’s time to hear Andrew and Ghislaine under oath. It’s also time for Bill Barr to recuse himself.

Prince Andrew ‘Knows What He’s Done’, Should ‘Come Clean’ – Giuffre (Ind.)

A woman who claims she was forced to have sex with the Duke of York when she was 17-years-old has dismissed his repeated denials and said she hopes “he comes clean about it”. Prince Andrew “knows exactly what he’s done”, Virginia Roberts Giuffre said outside a New York court where a succession of women said the disgraced paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused them at a young age. Many lamented that his jailhouse suicide earlier this month had deprived them of the opportunity to obtain justice. It later emerged that he signed a will just two days before his death, placing all his property, worth more than £469m, into a trust, making it harder for victims to claim. Ms Giuffre has previously alleged in court papers filed in Florida, that she had sex with Prince Andrew “three times”.


She said she took part in ”one orgy” in London and one on “his private island in the Caribbean”. Prince Andrew has repeatedly and strenuously denied the claim that he had sex with Ms Giuffre, who at 17 would have been under the age of consent in Florida. [..] Ms Giuffre has alleged that she 15 when was recruited to perform sex acts on Epstein when she was working at Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. Speaking outside court on she said: “It’s not how Jeffrey died, it’s how he lived.” She added: “I won’t stop fighting – I will never be silenced until these people are brought to justice.” Other women were invited to speak both inside and outside the court.

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The judge still can’t believe what happened.

Up to 30 Jeffrey Epstein Accusers To Speak Out At New York Court Hearing (G.)

Up to 30 women are expected to take a judge up on his invitation to speak at a hearing after Jeffrey Epstein killed himself while facing sex trafficking charges. The hearing on Tuesday morning was scheduled last week by US district judge Richard Berman, who presided over the case prosecutors brought against Epstein after the 66-year-old convicted criminal was arrested on 6 July after he arrived at a New Jersey airport from Paris. A New York coroner has formally classified Epstein’s death as a suicide. He died on 10 August. Epstein, long accused of abusing teen girls, was faced with sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy counts. Berman on Tuesday morning in the New York courtroom addressed Epstein’s death prior to victim testimony.


“The news on August 10 2019 that Jeffrey Epstein had been found dead in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the MCC, was certainly shocking,” Berman said. “Most of you, and myself for that matter, were anticipating that the next steps in this case would be defense motion practice – including motion to dismiss – followed by a trial on the merits before a jury if the motions were not successful, through which the accusers and the accused would come face-to-face allowing everyone to get their day in court.” He continued: “Mr. Epstein’s death obviously means that a trial in which he is a defendant cannot take place. It is a rather stunning turn of events.”

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For 400,000 American lives.

Purdue Pharma Offers $10-$12 Billion To Settle Opioid Claims (NBC)

Purdue Pharma and its owners, the Sackler family, are offering to settle more than 2,000 lawsuits against the company for $10 billion to $12 billion. The potential deal was part of confidential conversations and discussed by Purdue’s lawyers at a meeting in Cleveland last Tuesday, Aug. 20, according to two people familiar with the mediation. Brought by states, cities and counties, the lawsuits — some of which have been combined into one massive case — allege the company and the Sackler family are responsible for starting and sustaining the opioid crisis. At least 10 state attorneys general and the plaintiffs’ attorneys gathered in Cleveland, where David Sackler represented the Sackler family, according to two people familiar with the meeting. David Sackler, who was a board member of the company, has recently been the de facto family spokesperson.


The lawsuits that Purdue and the Sacklers are seeking to settle allege that their company’s sales practices were deceptive and at least partly responsible for the opioid crisis, which claimed more than 400,000 lives from 1999 to 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some of the lawsuits also allege that after 2007 the Sackler family drained the company of money to enrich themselves. “The Sackler family built a multibillion-dollar drug empire based on addiction,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in May when his state joined others in suing the Sackler family and their company. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey was the first to name family members in her suit in January.

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Some things are just too obvious.

Near-Total Ban On Sending Wild Elephants To Zoos Agreed (AFP)

The regulator of global wildlife trade decided Tuesday to impose a near-total ban on sending African elephants captured from the wild to zoos, in a decision hailed by conservationists as “momentous”. Following a heated debate at a meeting of parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Geneva, the member countries approved a proposed text after a revision by the European Union included some exceptions to the ban. The decision met with strong opposition from Zimbabwe in particular, which along with Botswana is the main provider of wild African elephants to zoos outside of the continent and tried in vain to block the vote.

But with 87 in favour, 29 against and 25 abstaining, the vote for the amended text secured the two-thirds majority needed to pass. “This is a momentous CITES decision for Africa’s elephants,” said Audrey Delsink, the wildlife director at Humane Society International (HSI)’s Africa division. The vote in plenary altered slightly a decision taken at the start of the 12-day conference — set to wrap up Wednesday — prohibiting the transfer of all African elephants caught in the wild to so-called captive facilities. The decision only impacts African elephants. Asian elephants already enjoy more protection against international trade.

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With an in-depth look at the dangers for humans.

Boris Johnson, GMOs and Glyphosate (CP)

In his first speech to parliament as British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said: “Let’s start now to liberate the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules and let’s develop the blight-resistant crops that will feed the world.” Johnson reads from a well-rehearsed script. The ‘GM will feed the world mantra’ is pure industry spin. There is already enough food being produced to feed the global population yet around 830 million are classed as hungry. Feeding the world effectively, sustainably and equitably involves addressing the in-built injustices of the global food system.

The never-ending push to force GM on the public under the guise of saving humanity is a diversion that leaves intact the root causes of world hunger and undernutrition: neoliberal deregulation and privatisation policies, unfair WTO rules, poverty, land rights issues, World Bank/IMF geopolitical lending strategies and the transformation of food secure regions into food deficit ones, etc. Even in regions where productivity in agriculture lags behind or concerns exist about climate change, numerous high-level reports have recommended that (non-GMO) agroecological practices should be encouraged to enhance biodiversity and deal with food and climate crises.

However, pro-Brexiteer Conservative politicians talk of the essential need for Britain and the world to adopt GM is little more than an attempt to justify a post-Brexit trade deal with Washington that will effectively incorporate the UK into the US’s regulatory food regime. The type of ‘liberation’ Johnson really means is the UK adopting unassessed GM crops and food and a gutting of food safety and environmental standards.

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Aug 232019
 


Odilon Redon Breton harbor 1879

 

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

 

 

Futility in action.

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

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

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


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

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What is it now, 20 years? Good lord.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Another FBI Failure Involving The Clintons Surfaces (Solomon)

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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Have a nice flight home Boris.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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But of course they fight over this too.

Wildlife Meeting Backs More Protection For Giraffes (AFP)

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

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


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

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Time to boycott Brazil.

Bolsonaro Burns Down The Amazon (G.)

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


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

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It’s the farmers who want Roundup. Crazies.

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

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

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


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

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The Amazon is burning.

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 032019
 


Happy birthday Julian

 

 

Response to Open Letter of 1 July 2019 (Nils Melzer)
France And Germany Eye Lagarde For ECB and Von Der Leyen For EC President (R.)
The Inconvenient Truth About Ursula Von Der Leyen (Pol.eu)
Trump To Nominate Judy Shelton, Christopher Waller To The Fed (CNBC)
The Death of the Liberal Idea (Dmitry Orlov)
Stagecraft (Kunstler)
Families Of 737 MAX Crash Victims Say Boeing Has Not Contacted Them (BI)
Chinese Border Guards Put Secret Surveillance App On Tourists’ Phones
Italian Judge Rules Sea Watch Captain Carried Out Duty To Protect Lives (EN)
Austria Becomes First EU Country To Ban Glyphosate (RT)
Cockroach ‘Superbugs’ Evolve To Resist Pesticides In One Generation (RT)
Deep-Sea Mining To Turn Oceans Into ‘New Industrial Frontier’ (G.)
The Seabed Should Be Off-Limits To Mining Companies (Chris Packham)

 

 

Julian first on his birthday. Here’s Nils Melzer’s response to the 200+ academics who didn’t like how he described the -empty- rape allegations against Assange. These are the last few paragraphs. A man of great integrity.

Response to Open Letter of 1 July 2019 (Nils Melzer)

Beyond questions of law, you also take issue with my tone, which you deem to be “insensitive to victims”. Please let me assure you that, in two decades of work with victims of war and violence, sometimes under very difficult and dangerous circumstances, I have seen and suffered too much myself to be intellectually or emotionally capable of “mocking” potential victims. The countless testimonies I have collected in prisons, camps and villages throughout the world have marked me deeply, and some of them keep haunting me to this day. Whatever misunderstandings may have resulted from my article, they certainly do not warrant accusing me of “insensitivity to victims” or even a “profound lack of understanding that does a disservice to the mandate”.

Though the tone of my critique may be harsh, it does not aim at the women, but at the gross arbitrariness of the “rape” narrative, which has been wrongly imposed by zealous officials not only on Assange, but also on the two concerned women themselves, and on the general public. The State not only ignored the women’s own experience and interpretation of events, but also consistently declined to take the necessary measures which would have allowed advancing this matter beyond the stage of preliminary investigation, where it has been so conveniently left to simmer for almost a decade. As is well documented, both the two women and Assange fully cooperated with the police and the prosecution from the outset, he was questioned both in Sweden (2010) and in London (2016), and the only reason he refused to be extradited to Sweden was that Sweden declined to guarantee against further extradition to the United States, where I am convinced he would be exposed to serious violations of his human rights.


More generally, I fully share your concerns that sexual allegations against powerful men are often dismissed as attention-seeking or part of a conspiracy to bring them down. I would point out, however, that Assange is not a powerful man shielded by impunity, but an isolated and frail political prisoner persecuted for exposing war crimes and corruption. So, while we all work to safeguard the rights of victims of sexual abuse, let us not blindly dismiss well-founded doubts as to the veracity and / or appropriateness of rape allegations, where there are indications of duress or documented third party interests influencing the process. This holds particularly true in a highly politicized case which, in all involved jurisdictions, is plagued with a pervasive mix of grave and persistent due process violations, concerted public mobbing, humiliation and intimidation, and counterfactual accusations of hacking, spying and even causing death and injury.

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Right. The EU nominates two women. One is accused of gross incompetence, the other was convicted of negligence in a case of misuse of public funds, but never sentenced, no criminal record. Highly doubtful she would be seen as “fit and proper” for a commercal bank job. The entire nomination process reminds us about Groucho Marx’ famous line “Those are my principles; if you don’t like them, I have others”. So we get: “Who needs a Spitzenkandidat when you can have a Homecoming Queen?”

France And Germany Eye Lagarde For ECB and Von Der Leyen For EC President (R.)

German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen may end up as European Commission President while IMF head Christine Lagarde may become new president of the European Central Bank following an agreement between France and Germany, said sources. One diplomatic source with knowledge of the matter said French President Emmanuel Macron had proposed to his German counterpart Angela Merkel that Lagarde should get the top ECB job. The source added that Merkel was “very positive” on the idea of Lagarde heading the ECB.

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“Von der Leyen is our weakest minister. That’s apparently enough to become Commission president..”

“..accusations that von der Leyen’s office circumvented public procurement rules in granting contracts worth millions of euros..”

The Inconvenient Truth About Ursula Von Der Leyen (Pol.eu)

A polyglot Brussels native who reared seven children and earned a medical degree on the side before storming to the top of German politics. News that this Wunderfrau — aka German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen — could become the Commission’s next president left European capitals abuzz on Tuesday. “Finally some good news” was the general tenor. Who needs a Spitzenkandidat when you can have a Homecoming Queen? At first glance, the affable 60-year-old minister with a camera-ready smile looks to be a perfect fit, with the requisite experience, political pedigree and personality to handle the EU’s toughest job. And yet a nagging question remains: Is she too good to be true?

In the German capital, the answer is clear. “Von der Leyen is our weakest minister. That’s apparently enough to become Commission president,” former European Parliament President Martin Schulz seethed in a tweet Tuesday evening. Though Schulz is a Social Democrat, his analysis of the minister’s record is shared by many of von der Leyen’s fellow Christian Democrats, though most are reluctant to criticize her publicly. Instead, they point to the state of the German military. “The Bundeswehr’s condition is catastrophic,” Rupert Scholz, who served as defense minister under Helmut Kohl, wrote last week before von der Leyen was nominated to the EU’s top post. “The entire defense capability of the Federal Republic is suffering, which is totally irresponsible.”


[..] In addition to problems surrounding the German military’s readiness, von der Leyen’s ministry also faces an investigation into suspected wrongdoing surrounding its use of outside consultants, including Accenture and McKinsey. The Bundestag, the German parliament, is currently holding hearings into the affair, including accusations that von der Leyen’s office circumvented public procurement rules in granting contracts worth millions of euros to the firms. Those hearings have taken a dramatic turn in recent days as testimony from key witnesses appeared to confirm suspicions of systematic corruption at the ministry.

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On our way to zero percent interest rates. Damn savings and pensions.

Trump To Nominate Judy Shelton, Christopher Waller To The Fed (CNBC)

President Donald Trump intends to nominate Christopher Waller, executive vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, and Judy Shelton, an economic adviser to the president during his 2016 campaign, to the Federal Reserve’s board. The announcements, in a pair of tweets late Tuesday, come after Trump’s earlier nominees, Stephen Moore and Herman Cain, both withdrew from consideration. Moore, a conservative pundit, dropped out of consideration in May, citing public scrutiny of his professional and personal lives. Cain, the businessman and former GOP presidential candidate, dropped out of contention for the Fed in late April. Shelton was earlier speculated to be a pick for the Federal Reserve board.


Shelton has previously said that if appointed, she would lower interest rates to 0% in one to two years, echoing calls from Trump to lower rates. Waller has worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis since 2009, and previously was a chair of economics at the University of Notre Dame and a chair in macroeconomics and monetary theory at the University of Kentucky. He has written about the dangers of an inverted yield curve, in which short-term Treasury yields outpace long-term yields. The 3-month bond yield topped 10-year yields in May, the widest yield curve inversion since the financial crisis. Some economists and investors believe the curve sends a warning about economic growth. Both nominees will need Senate confirmation.

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Interpreting Putin’s words.

The Death of the Liberal Idea (Dmitry Orlov)

The migrant crisis is a perfect example of how liberalism has outlived its usefulness. Liberalism offers two ways forward, both of which are fatal to it. One approach is distinctly illiberal: halt the influx of migrants by any means necessary; insist that the migrants already in the country either conform to a strict set of requirements, including demonstrated competency in the nation’s language, detailed knowledge of its laws and administrative systems, strict obedience to its laws and demonstrated preference and respect for the customs and culture of the native population—or be not so much deported as expelled. The other approach is liberal at first: allow the influx to continue, do not hinder the formation of foreign ghettos and enclaves which native citizens and officials dare not enter, and eventually surrender to Sharia law or other forms of foreign dictate—guaranteeing the eventual death of the liberal idea along with much of the native population.

Thus, the choice is between killing the liberal idea but saving the native population or letting the liberal idea die willy-nilly, taking the native population along with it. It offers no solution at all. “We all live in a world based on traditional Biblical values,” quoth Putin. “We don’t have to demonstrate them every day… but must have them in our hearts and our souls. In this way, traditional values are more stable and more important to millions of people than this liberal idea which, in my view, is ceasing to exist.” This is true not just of the believers—be they Christian, Moslem or Jewish—but of the atheists as well. To put it in terms that may shock and astound some of you, you don’t have to believe in God (although it helps if you do—to avoid cognitive dissonance) but if you aspire to any sort of social adequacy in a traditional society you have no choice but to sincerely think and act as if God exists, and that He is the God of the Bible—be He Yahweh, Elohim, Jesus and the Holy Trinity or Allah (that’s the Arabic word for “God”).


Putin capped off his argument by ever so gently and politely putting the boot in. He said that he has no clue about any of this “transformer-trans… whatever” stuff. How many genders are there? He has lost count. Not that he is against letting consenting adult members of various minority sexual groups do whatever they want among themselves—“Let everyone be happy!”—but they have no right to dictate to the rest. Specifically, Russian law makes homosexual propaganda among those who are under age illegal. Hollywood’s pro-LGBT mavens must be displeased: their choice is either to redact LGBT propaganda from the script, or to redact it from the finished film prior to its release in Russia (and China).

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Fun with Bob.

Stagecraft (Kunstler)

I can think of a few 90-mph sliders I’d like to pitch to Mr. Mueller, some of them already floated in the press: like, why did you allow the GI cell phones of Peter Strzok and Lisa Page to be destroyed shortly after you were informed about their unprofessional and compromising text exchanges, for which they were fired off your “team?” When did you learn that international men-of-mystery Stefan Halper and Josef Mifsud, whose operations spurred your prosecutions, were not Russian agents but rather in the employ of US and British government intel agencies? Your deputy, Andrew Weissmann, was informed by Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr in the summer of 2016, months before your appointment, that the predicating documents for your inquiry, known as the Steele Dossier, amounted to a Clinton campaign oppo research digest — when did he happen to tell you that?

You devoted nearly 20 pages of your report to the Trump Tower meeting between the president’s son, Donald, Jr., and two Russians, lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin. Why did you omit to mention that both Russians were in the employ of Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS company, candidate Clinton’s oppo research contractor, and met with Mr. Simpson both before and after the Trump Tower meeting? How did it happen that you hired attorney Jeannie Rhee for your team, knowing that she had previously worked as a lawyer for the Clinton Foundation? Under what legal standard did you pronounce Mr. Trump to be “not exonerated” in the obstruction of justice matter, considering you told the Attorney General, Mr. Barr, that it was not based on findings by the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel concerning presidential immunity from indictment?


[..] It’s just possible that Robert Mueller will not be reading chapter and verse from his sacred report, like an old-school Episcopal priest, but rather pleading the Fifth Amendment to avert his own potential prosecution.

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Lawyers tell them not to, in case they’d say something stupid. But bordering on criminal behavior.

Families Of 737 MAX Crash Victims Say Boeing Has Not Contacted Them (BI)

Families of those killed in two fatal crashes involving Boeing 737 Max planes say they have not received any contact from Boeing since the disasters, with no apology or offer of support from the manufacturer. The parents of a woman killed on one of the flights told Business Insider they had received “no condolences” and “no direct communication” from Boeing despite numerous public apologies by the plane maker and said Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg “talks to other people but not us, the victims’ families.” Nadia Milleron and Michael Stumo lost their 24-year-old daughter, Samya Stumo, when the Boeing 737 Max 8 jet operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed in March, killing all 157 people on board.

It was the second crash of a 737 Max plane in five months after a Max 8 operated by the Indonesian carrier Lion Air crashed in the Java Sea in October, killing all 189 people on board. Investigations into both crashes have centered on a software issue that Boeing has since been working to fix, with all its Max aircraft grounded around the world in the meantime. Other attorneys representing more than 50 families of those killed in the crashes told Business Insider their clients’ experience was the same. The Chicago-based aviation attorney Joe Power, the Los-Angeles based attorney Brian Kabateck, and the Miami-based attorney Steve Marks said Boeing had not reached out to their clients.


Marks said that this response was not “unusual” from manufacturers after a crash, but he described Boeing’s reaction as “worse” than a typical response. He said Boeing “came out really quickly after the second tragedy, and said: ‘We own it, it’s our problem.'” But then, he said, the company “has since backed those comments off, in many different ways, which I think has only inflamed the situation, as far as the families are concerned.” Mike Danko, an aviation attorney who is not representing any families in the 737 Max crashes, told Business Insider that Boeing’s action in this case were “not unusual” and that manufacturers typically did not apologize or offer support after fatal plane crashes, but he noted its public apologies.

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Not surprising.

Chinese Border Guards Put Secret Surveillance App On Tourists’ Phones

Chinese border police are secretly installing surveillance apps on the phones of visitors and downloading personal information as part of the government’s intensive scrutiny of the remote Xinjiang region, the Guardian can reveal. The Chinese government has curbed freedoms in the province for the local Muslim population, installing facial recognition cameras on streets and in mosques and reportedly forcing residents to download software that searches their phones. An investigation by the Guardian and international partners has found that travellers are being targeted when they attempt to enter the region from neighbouring Kyrgyzstan.


Border guards are taking their phones and secretly installing an app that extracts emails, texts and contacts, as well as information about the handset itself. Tourists say they have not been warned by authorities in advance or told about what the software is looking for, or that their information is being taken.

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Maritime law. Don’t play with it.

Italian Judge Rules Sea Watch Captain Carried Out Duty To Protect Lives (EN)

An Italian judge ruled on Tuesday that the German captain of a rescue charity ship had not broken the law when she forced a naval blockade at the weekend, saying she had been carrying out her duty to protect human life. Carola Rackete, a 31-year-old German national, disobeyed Italian military orders and entered the port of Lampedusa on Saturday to bring some 41 African migrants to land in the Dutch-flagged Sea-Watch boat. She was immediately detained and placed under house arrest, but in a blow for Italy’s hardline interior minister, Matteo Salvini, Judge Alessandra Vella ruled that Rackete had been carrying out her duty and had not committed any act of violence.


Rackete still faces possible charges of helping illegal immigration, but Vella ordered her immediate release. Salvini said in a statement he had hoped for a tougher response from the Italian justice system and promised to expel Rackete as soon as possible. Rackete appeared before the Agrigento court on Monday and apologised for hitting the patrol boat, saying it had been an accident and explaining that her sole concern was the well-being of the migrants who had been at sea for more than two weeks.

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Question is: can they, or does EU law prevail?

Austria Becomes First EU Country To Ban Glyphosate (RT)

Austria has voted to ban glyphosate, the main ingredient in Bayer-Monsanto’s notorious Roundup weedkiller, becoming the first EU country to outlaw the chemical and creating a PR disaster for the troubled German company. “The scientific evidence of the plant poison’s carcinogenic effect is increasing. It is our responsibility to ban this poison from our environment,” Social Democratic Party leader Pamela Rendi-Wagner said in a statement on Tuesday. The resolution passed with the cooperation of her party, the right-wing Freedom Party and the liberal Neos Party, and remains only to be signed by President Alexander van der Bellen, a former Green Party leader, unless the upper house of Parliament objects.

“We want to be a role model for other countries in the EU and the world,” said Erwin Preiner, another Social Democrat MP who worked on the ban. Austria has embraced organic farming more than any other European country – nearly a quarter of its farmland is organic – and is thus not a major market for glyphosate-based herbicides, using only a few hundred tons per year. While a ban will have minimal direct impact on Bayer’s sales, the optics of the German company’s next-door neighbor nation exiling its flagship herbicide are likely to cause a few headaches at Bayer HQ.


Austria’s ministry for sustainability and tourism claims a total ban on glyphosate violates EU law, as the chemical is cleared for sale and use across the EU until 2022, but the bill’s backers have pointed to other examples of individual countries banning specific chemicals as proof of their right to legislate against the herbicide. France banned Roundup Pro 360, one type of Monsanto’s popular glyphosate weedkiller, earlier this year, and President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to phase out the use of glyphosate entirely within three years. “National bans on glyphosate-based plant protection products or restrictions on their use would be possible,” the European Commission declared in 2016, confirming that “the EU states do not have to hide behind the European Commission” in deciding whether or not to ban a particular formulation of an herbicide.

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“..cockroaches who survived treatment with one insecticide developed immunity not just to that chemical, but to other chemicals they hadn’t even been exposed to – increasing their resistance “four- to six-fold in just one generation..”

Cockroach ‘Superbugs’ Evolve To Resist Pesticides In One Generation (RT)

Cockroaches will soon be impossible to kill with standard pesticides, as they can develop cross-resistance to poisons they’ve never encountered within a single generation, an ominous new study has found.
German cockroaches – the small, quick-scurrying type whose traces can be found in 85 percent of US urban homes – are rapidly becoming impervious to pesticide chemicals, developing cross-resistance to a variety of insecticides within a single generation, a study published in Scientific Reports has demonstrated. And even the researchers who conducted the experiment are creeped out by the evolutionary capabilities of the ubiquitous six-legged pests. “We didn’t have a clue that something like that could happen this fast,” Michael Scharf, chair of the Entomology Department at Purdue University and co-author of the study, said in a statement last week.


“Cockroaches developing resistance to multiple classes of insecticides at once will make controlling these pests almost impossible with chemicals alone.” One experiment in which 10 percent of cockroaches started off resistant to a particular pesticide actually saw populations grow over the six months during which the researchers sprayed, a disconcerting result in itself. But it was the multi-chemical experimental groups that really caused a stir – cockroaches who survived treatment with one insecticide developed immunity not just to that chemical, but to other chemicals they hadn’t even been exposed to – increasing their resistance “four- to six-fold in just one generation,” Scharf marveled.

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N’importe quoi: “The industry has said deep-sea mining is essential to extract the materials needed for a transition to a green economy..”

Deep-Sea Mining To Turn Oceans Into ‘New Industrial Frontier’ (G.)

The world’s oceans are facing a “new industrial frontier” from a fledgling deep-sea mining industry as companies line up to extract metals and minerals from some of the most important ecosystems on the planet, a report has found. The study by Greenpeace revealed that although no mining had started on the ocean floor, 29 exploration licences had been issued covering an area five times bigger than the UK. Environmentalists said the proposed mining would threaten not only crucial ecosystems but the global fight against climate breakdown.

Louisa Casson, an ocean campaigner at Greenpeace, said: “The health of our oceans is closely linked to our own survival. Unless we act now to protect them, deep-sea mining could have devastating consequences for marine life and humankind.” The licences, issued by a United Nations body, the International Seabed Authority, have been granted to a handful of countries that sponsor private companies. They cover vast areas of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, totalling 1.3m sq km (500,000 sq miles). If the mining goes ahead, large machines will be lowered on to the seabed to excavate cobalt and other rare metals.


Campaigners said that, as well as destroying little understood regions of the ocean floor, the operations would deepen the climate emergency by disrupting carbon stores in seafloor sediments, reducing the ocean’s ability to store it. The industry has said deep-sea mining is essential to extract the materials needed for a transition to a green economy by supplying raw materials for key technologies including batteries, computers and phones. Its advocates say deep-sea mining is less harmful to the environment and workers than most existing mineral and mining operations.

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“They want to send gigantic bulldozers, decked out with rotating grinders and mammoth drills straight out of Robot Wars, into the deepest parts of the ocean, disturbing the home of unique creatures and churning up vital stores of carbon. ”

The Seabed Should Be Off-Limits To Mining Companies (Chris Packham)

When I was filming Blue Planet Live, I was struck by just how much of the ocean has been altered by humans. From industrial fisheries ensnaring ocean giants in kilometres-long lines, to finding our trash at some of the deepest parts of the ocean: it’s clear that however vast the seas are, we are causing profound harm. Yet at this point in history, when the oceans are facing more pressures than ever before, a secretive new industry is seeking to move into the deep sea, the largest ecosystem on the planet, to start mining for metals and minerals.

They want to send gigantic bulldozers, decked out with rotating grinders and mammoth drills straight out of Robot Wars, into the deepest parts of the ocean, disturbing the home of unique creatures and churning up vital stores of carbon. This is quite clearly an awful idea. As someone fascinated by weird and wonderful wildlife, the deep sea is a dream come true. Stoplight loosejaws, bearded sea-devils and vampire squid are just a few of the fantastically named creatures that make the deep ocean their home. On practically every mission down to the deep, scientists discover new species.


We know more about the surface of Mars and the moon than about the bottom of the ocean. Mining the deep sea sounds just as ludicrous as mining the moon. Far too often, industry has plundered the natural world before science has explored and understood its importance. Parts of the deep sea have already been ravaged by destructive fisheries. These ecosystems stand practically no chance of recovery if mining is allowed to start. Researchers who returned 30 years later to one mining test site on the Pacific sea floor could still see the wounds on the seabed – and warned of irreversible loss of some ecosystem functions.


A deep-sea blackdevil. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

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Jun 132019
 


Caravaggio The Denial of St. Peter 1610

 

UK Government Signs Julian Assange’s Extradition Papers (SBS)
ABC Raids A Wake-Up Call To Journalists Who Left Assange Swinging (SMH)
The Thought Police Are Coming (Chris Hedges)
A Recession Shock Could Wipe 30% Off US Stocks – Oxford Economics (MW)
The Fed Can’t Save Us –John Rubino (USAW)
1/3 of Americans Need A “Side Hustle” To Make Ends Meet (SHTF)
Trump Says Foreign ‘Dirt’ Not Election Interference (ZH)
John Bolton’s Long Goodbye (Kiriakou)
UK Labour Loses Vote To Prevent Future Tory PM Forcing Through No Deal (Ind.)
Leaked Cabinet Note: UK Not Ready For No-Deal Brexit On October 31 (Ind.)
Macron Wants EU Ties With Moscow Independent of NATO & US (RT)
Australia Approves Vast Coal Mine Near Great Barrier Reef (AFP)
You May Be Eating A Credit Card’s Worth Of Plastic Each Week (R.)
Troubling Levels Of Glyphosate In Foods Marketed To Children (RT)

 

 

Does the UK still operate under the rule of law? Does any western nation?

UK Government Signs Julian Assange’s Extradition Papers (SBS)

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today that he has signed Julian Assange’s extradition order. “The final decision is now with the courts,” Mr Javid said. It is unclear whether the WikiLeaks founder will be sent to Sweden or the US. It was earlier reported that the US had formally submitted an extradition request to the UK for the WikiLeaks founder. Mr Assange faces an 18-count indictment that accuses him of soliciting and publishing classified information and of conspiring with former Army private Chelsea Manning to crack a Defense Department computer password. That indictment, which includes Espionage Act charges, was issued by the Justice Department last month and is pending in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.


The extradition request had been expected ever since US authorities first announced a criminal case against Mr Assange. [..] The United States will detail all the charges against Mr Assange when it seeks his extradition in a London court on Friday, the editor of the whistleblowers’ website said on Tuesday. “The American authorities, the Department of Justice, will present the evidence in support of their extradition demand,” Kristinn Hrafnsson told reporters. The US Justice Department confirmed on Tuesday that it had submitted a formal extradition request. The 47-year-old Australian is not expected to attend Friday’s hearing but could take part from prison via video link, although it will be largely procedural. The “first real confrontation of arguments” in court will not be for several weeks or months, Mr Hrafnsson said.

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“Assange, the outsider, did much more than that, he laid the path for the future of journalism, where journalists would be expected to produce primary source documents, wherever possible, and horror of all horrors, share them with the public.”

ABC Raids A Wake-Up Call To Journalists Who Left Assange Swinging (SMH)

The federal police raid on the ABC last week produced an unexpected benefit. Journalists are being forced to decide: whose side are they on. And where do they stand on fundamental issues of disclosure and the public’s right to know? When the executive producer of Australia’s most highly regarded current affairs program Four Corners retweeted that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was “Putin’s bitch” – a tweet she later removed – it said much about the state of journalism in Australia. The re-post, echoing a view held by many Australian journalists, followed a Four Corners interview with Hillary Clinton in which she was given full rein to attack Assange. Clinton was angry that WikiLeaks had revealed through a series of leaked Democratic Party emails that the party executive had given her help to defeat her main rival Senator Bernie Sanders for the party’s nomination – and helped the campaign of Donald Trump.

While the former presidential candidate was challenged on emails relating to her controversial involvement with the Clinton Foundation, never once was it pointed out that the Democratic Party emails revealed how she had been an active beneficiary of deeply unethical behaviour inside the party. What state have we reached where Assange, a journalist, facing his next extradition hearing in London on Friday, should be so reviled? It is dangerous territory for journalism. The insults thrown by Trump that journalists were the enemy of the American people might have been self-serving, but clearly the old notion that journalists mainly represent ordinary people against the powerful is in many cases something of the past. Just as the political parties have shifted to the right, so too have many journalists.

What so enrages the journalists’ “club” is the challenge from those who question their power, journalists like Assange. His revelations threatened them. But Assange, the outsider, did much more than that, he laid the path for the future of journalism, where journalists would be expected to produce primary source documents, wherever possible, and horror of all horrors, share them with the public. The internet made this possible, but for those who were holding out against the inevitable rise of this new form of communications, it posed a huge threat to the old order. Assange was not interested in off-the-record briefings from government insiders. He wanted to show the original documents to practise what he called Scientific Journalism.

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Very strong from Chris Hedges. A talk Tuesday, June 11, at an event held in London in support of Julian Assange.

The Thought Police Are Coming (Chris Hedges)

Ask the Iraqi parents of Sabiha Hamed Salih, aged 15, and Ashwaq Hamed Salih, aged 16, who were killed by shrapnel in Baghdad on July 31, 2004, what they think of Julian Assange. Ask the man and his two young daughters who saw their wife and mother shot to death and were themselves wounded in a car fired upon by U.S. Marines in Fallujah on July 22, 2005, what they think of Julian Assange. Ask the parents of Huda Haleem, an 18-year-old girl, and Raghad Muhamad Haleem, a 5-year-old boy, shot dead by U.S. soldiers on June 2, 2006, in Iraq’s Diyala province what they think of Julian Assange. Ask the parents of the 15-year-old boy choked with a wire and then shot to death by U.S. Marines in Ramadi on Aug. 10, 2006, what they think of Julian Assange.

Ask the relatives of Ahmed Salam Mohammad, who was shot dead on Nov. 27, 2006, when U.S. troops attacked a wedding party near Mosul, an attack that also left four wounded, what they think of Julian Assange. Ask the families of the over one dozen people shot to death with .50-caliber machine guns by bantering U.S. Apache helicopter crews in east Baghdad in July 2007—the crew members can be heard laughing at the “dead bastards” and saying “light ’em up” and “keep shooting, keep shooting”—a massacre that included two journalists for Reuters—Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh—what they think of Julian Assange. Ask the then 10-year-old Sajad Mutashar and his 5-year-old sister, Doaha, both wounded, whose 43-year-old father, Saleh, was shot to death from the air as he attempted to assist one of the wounded men in the Baghdad street what they think of Julian Assange.

There is nothing like the boot of the oppressor on your neck to give you moral clarity. None of these war crimes, and hundreds more reported to the U.S. military but never investigated, would have been made public without Julian, Chelsea Manning and WikiLeaks. That is the role of journalists—to give a voice to those who without us would have no voice, to hold the powerful to account, to give the forgotten and the demonized justice, to speak the truth. We have watched over the last decade as freedom of the press and legal protection for those who expose government abuses and lies have been obliterated by wholesale government surveillance and the criminalizing of the leaking and, with Julian’s persecution, publication of these secrets. The press has been largely emasculated in the United States. The repeated use of the Espionage Act, especially under the Obama administration, to charge and sentence whistleblowers has shut down our ability to shine a light into the inner workings of power and empire.

Governmental officials with a conscience, knowing all of their communications are monitored, captured and stored by intelligence agencies, are too frightened to reach out to reporters. The last line of defense lies with those with the skills that allow them to burrow into the records of the security and surveillance state and with the courage to make them public, such as Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Jeremy Hammond, now serving a 10-year prison term in the United States for hacking into the Texas-based private security firm Strategic Forecasting Inc., or Stratfor. The price of resistance is high not only for them, but for those such as Julian willing to publish this information. As Sarah Harrison has pointed out: “This is our data, our information, our history. We must fight to own it.”

Even if Julian were odious, which he is not, even if he carried out a sexual offense, which he did not, even if he was a poor houseguest—a bizarre term for a man trapped in a small room for nearly seven years under house arrest—which he was not, it would make no difference. Julian is not being persecuted for his vices. He is being persecuted for his virtues.

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Make it an even 60%.

A Recession Shock Could Wipe 30% Off US Stocks – Oxford Economics (MW)

[..] they’ve got a couple of grim worst-case scenarios. One envisages the U.S. economy slowing sharply from the third quarter of this year, then falling into recession as corporate profits, hitting business and investor sentiment. The fallout from this could trigger a 30% drop in the S&P 500 in the third quarter. Within a year the U.S. would be in recession, with the Fed cutting interest rates aggressively to “stave off the worst of the shock,” says the economic forecasters. The other downbeat scenario pictures bleak fallout from a trade-war escalation.


The U.S. slaps a 25% tariff on China and Mexico imports, and a 10% blanket tariff on Europe goods, and 25% on non-North American cars. Based on those assumptions, U.S. stocks could be 15% lower by late 2019, the firm says. But let’s leave things on a happy note. Under yet one more scenario they predict further stimulus from China, de-escalation in trade tensions supportive policy from central banks and much improved investor sentiment across the globe. All that good news could mean a boost in the high single digit percentage ballpark by the first quarter of 2020.

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The Fed is not trying to save “us”.

The Fed Can’t Save Us –John Rubino (USAW)

“The next recession is overdue because this is the longest expansion on record. . . . We loaded up car buyers with sub-prime loans. Students now have $1.5 trillion of student debt. Credit card debt is at record levels. Government debt is at record levels. Corporate debt is at record levels. . . . All of these guys have borrowed more money than they ever have in history. So, the idea we are going to convince people to borrow a lot more money by lowering interest rates is at best problematic and at worst insane. We are headed that way because they have no other tools. So, when things slow down, they are going to start cutting again and printing money and buying up assets with that money. We’ll see if it works again. It shouldn’t have worked the last time. . . . We are in a range of unexplored numbers. . . . How much further can this go? Is there a limit out there? We are going to find out in the next recession.”


Rubino is not impressed with the Federal Reserve’s latest promise to slash interest rates and print money to save a teetering economy. Rubino contends, “The markets ought to be terrified by this, but in the U.S. because the rates are not yet zero, the market is not yet terrified. We are not far from 0%. . . . The Fed can’t save us. We’re at the point now where we would be at a 1930’s style depression or a Weimar Germany hyperinflation or something new and equally bad. We have taken on insane amounts of debt, more than any society in history has ever tried to take on. So, we just don’t know what is going to happen. If the central banks cannot stop the next recession, we will find out what happens when this much debt goes bad. . . . The Fed’s biggest fear is that things will spin out of control, and they won’t have the tools to stop it.”

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Is all income tax “theft”?

1/3 of Americans Need A “Side Hustle” To Make Ends Meet (SHTF)

Imagine a world in which you could keep every single penny that the fruits of your own labor produced. That would be a world without income taxation making it much easier for the average American to get by. Instead, we live in a world where nothing goes untaxed. About 1/3 of Americans say that their expenses are so high that after the theft of the federal government from their paychecks, they need a “side hustle” to make ends meet. According to Bankrate, side hustlers make $1,122 per month on average from their part-time work — up from $686 last year. But if Americans were given the right to no longer be stolen from, and got to keep their own money, most wouldn’t need a side hustle or part-time work to get by.


Nearly half, 45%, of U.S. workers earn additional income outside of their primary career, a recent Bankrate survey found. This includes 48% of millennials. The percentage of Gen Xers and baby boomers with a side hustle is slightly lower, coming in at 39% and 28%, respectively. “A lot of people are working side hustles because even though the economy is strong, wages are stagnant,” Amanda Dixon, an analyst at Bankrate, told MarketWatch. “For a lot of Americans, expenses are rising, but there are no raises at work.” And heaven forbid the government stops raiding our income. That won’t be a suggestion the lapdog media will toss around either. However, if humans own themselves, they have the right to the fruits of their labor regardless of the edicts of the political elitists.

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Not Tyler’s best headline. Why use the word ‘dirt’? ‘Info’ will do.

Trump Says Foreign ‘Dirt’ Not Election Interference (ZH)

President Trump told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos in an Oval Office interview that he might not call the FBI if foreign governments offered damaging information against his rivals in the upcoming 2020 election. While initially suggesting it would be absurd to call the FBI instead of taking the information, Trump said “I think maybe you do both,” adding “I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening.” “If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent’ — oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”

Trump also pushed back on the notion that opposition research provided by a foreign government would be considered election interference – saying “It’s not an interference, they have information — I think I’d take it,” adding “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI — if I thought there was something wrong.” President Trump lamented the attention on his son, Donald Trump Jr., for his role in the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016. Stephanopoulos asked whether Trump Jr. should have taken the Russians’ offer for “dirt” on then-candidate Hillary Clinton to the FBI. “Somebody comes up and says, ‘hey, I have information on your opponent,’ do you call the FBI?” Trump responded.

“I’ll tell you what, I’ve seen a lot of things over my life. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life. You don’t call the FBI. You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you do,” Trump continued. “Oh, give me a break – life doesn’t work that way.” -ABC News When Stephanopoulos pointed out that FBI Director Christopher Wray said that a candidate should call the FBI in regards to foreign-sourced oppo-research, Trump said: “The FBI director is wrong, because frankly it doesn’t happen like that in life,” adding “Now maybe it will start happening, maybe today you’d think differently.” Trump then claimed that “if you go talk honestly to Congressmen, they all do it, they always have,” adding “That’s the way it is, it’s called oppo-research.”

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“My people think there could have been a violation. I view it differently.”

John Bolton’s Long Goodbye (Kiriakou)

[Bolton] said in a Wall Street Journal podcast that he believes five countries are spreading “lies about dysfunction in the Trump administration.” Those countries are North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Russia, and China. That’s laughable. What Bolton is saying is that there is a vast and incredibly well-coordinated international conspiracy that includes some of the most important countries in the world, the main purpose of which is to embarrass him. That sounds perfectly rational, right? Of course, a more rational person might conclude that Bolton has done a terrible job, that the people around him have done a terrible job, that he has aired his disagreements with Trump in the media, and that the President is angry about it. That’s the more likely scenario.

Here’s what my friends are saying. Trump is concerned, like any president is near the end of his term, about his legacy. He said during the campaign that he wanted to be the president who pulled the country out of its two longest wars. He wanted to declare victory and bring the troops back from Afghanistan and Iraq. He hasn’t done that, largely at the insistence of Bolton. Here we are three years later and we’re still stuck in both of those countries. Second, my friends say that Trump wants to end U.S. involvement in the Yemen war, but that Bolton has been insistent that the only way to guarantee the closeness of the U.S. relationships with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is to keep providing those countries with weapons, aerial refueling planes, and intelligence support.

Third, the mainstream media has accused Bolton of being the reason behind the failure of Trump’s second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Bolton towed a hard line, so much so that the North Korean media called him a “war monger” and a “human defect” once the summit ended. This week Trump told reporters gathered on the White House south lawn that Kim had “kept his word” on nuclear and missile testing. This was a direct contradiction of Bolton, who had said just hours earlier that the North Koreans had reneged on their commitments to the U.S. Trump said simply, “My people think there could have been a violation. I view it differently.”

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All it takes is 11 votes. Out of 607.

UK Labour Loses Vote To Prevent Future Tory PM Forcing Through No Deal (Ind.)

Opposition MPs have lost a critical vote on a bid to prevent a future Conservative prime minister from forcing through a no-deal Brexit. Labour introduced a motion paving the way for parliament to block a chaotic Brexit by seizing control of the Commons timetable on 25 June. But MPs rejected the cross-party effort by 309 votes to 298, in a blow to hopes of preventing a Brexiteer prime minister from taking the UK out of the EU without a deal in October. Eight Labour MPs voted against the cross-party motion and a further 13 did not vote. Ten Conservative backbenchers rebelled to back the motion. Jeremy Corbyn could be heard admonishing Tory MPs when the result was called, saying: “You won’t be cheering in September.”


The move came after several Tory leadership hopefuls refused to rule out suspending parliament to prevent MPs from blocking a no-deal Brexit in September. Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary, and Esther McVey, the ex-work and pensions secretary, have both said parliament could be prorogued to ensure the UK leaves by the 31 October deadline. Sir Keir Starmer, shadow Brexit secretary, said: “This is a disappointing, narrow defeat. “But this is just the start, not the end of our efforts to block no deal. Labour stands ready to use whatever mechanism it can to protect jobs, the economy and communities from the disastrous consequences of a no-deal Brexit.

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All they did was bicker for 3 years. Of course they’re not ready.

Leaked Cabinet Note: UK Not Ready For No-Deal Brexit On October 31 (Ind.)

It will take “six to eight months” to build up supplies of medicines for a no-deal Brexit, a leaked cabinet note says – undermining Boris Johnson’s threat to crash out of the EU on 31 October. The warning says the pharmaceutical industry needs that period of help from the government “to ensure adequate arrangements are in place to build stockpiles of medicines”. It also says that it would take “at least 4-5 months” to make traders ready for the new border checks that might be required, including incentives to register for fresh schemes. The note was revealed by The Financial Times as Mr Johnson – the overwhelming favourite to succeed Theresa May – launched his campaign on a pledge to leave the EU on 31 October “deal or no deal”.


It states that, while government departments had delivered around 85 per cent of their “core no-deal plans”, many of those provided only “a minimum viable level of capability”. Prepared for a cabinet discussion on 21 May, it was never circulated because Ms May was concentrating at the time on her doomed attempt to force through her withdrawal agreement. After that attempt collapsed, the prime minister announced her plans to resign – throwing the country into the uncertainty of the Tory leadership race. Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, seized on the note, saying: “This lays bare the utter cynicism of Boris Johnson and his ilk. “They are prepared to talk up crashing out of the EU to further their chances in the Tory leadership contest, despite government documents showing this would lead to shortages of medicines and chaos at our borders.”

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Europe must distance itself from NATO. A tall order. Trump just sent another 1,000 US troops to Poland from Germany.

Macron Wants EU Ties With Moscow Independent of NATO & US (RT)

Europe should think outside NATO dictates and restore relations with Russia, French President Emmanuel Macron stressed, calling for a “strategic debate” with Moscow over mutual areas of concern. “Europe… must build new rules of trust and security with Russia, and should not only agree with NATO,” Macron said in an interview with the Swiss television channel RTS. “It needs to build [relations] only between Europe and Russia.” While noting that disagreements between Moscow and Brussels do exist, in particular over Ukraine, Macron insisted that Russia’s role in world affairs cannot be underestimated.


Europe, the French president stressed, needs Moscow to solve major security issues, as Russia’s highly successful anti-terrorist campaign in Syria has shown. “We need to have a strategic debate, so this week I will have another, long and intense conversation with Vladimir Putin, as the president of France and the G7,” Macron stressed. “There is disagreement among us, but we work together.” “It would not be good to leave Russia to China,” he added, reminding that Europe should “never forget the price [the Soviet Union] paid” in World War II to free the continent from Nazi Germany.

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A lost people. A lost country. Nothing there.

Australia Approves Vast Coal Mine Near Great Barrier Reef (AFP)

Australia approved Thursday the construction of a controversial coal mine near the Great Barrier Reef, paving the way for a dramatic and unfashionable increase in coal exports. Queensland’s government said it had accepted a groundwater management plan for the Indian-owned Adani Carmichael mine — the last major legal hurdle before construction can begin. The project, fiercely debated for almost a decade, comes as investors and even energy companies are moving away from fossil fuels amid concern about the climate. Opponents warn it will create a new generation of coal exports — which will be burned in India and China — contributing to further degrade the planet.


The vast open cut mine is slated to produce up to 60 million tonnes of coal a year, boosting Australia’s already vast exports by around 20 percent. Coupled with the construction of a railway link, it could open up a swathe of Queensland to further exploitation and new mining projects. “If all the coal in the Galilee Basin is burnt it would produce 705 million tonnes of climate pollution each year, which is more than 1.3 times Australia’s annual pollution from all sources, including cars, industry, energy and agriculture,” said the Australian Conservation Foundation.


The Adani coal mine has been under fierce debate – and protest – for almost a decade (AFP Photo/PETER PARKS)

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“In the United States, 94.4 percent of tap water samples contained plastic fibers..” And bottled water is 20x worse.

You May Be Eating A Credit Card’s Worth Of Plastic Each Week (R.)

Plastic pollution is so widespread in the environment that you may be ingesting five grams a week, the equivalent of eating a credit card, a study commissioned by the environmental charity WWF International said on Wednesday. The study by Australia’s University of Newcastle said the largest source of plastic ingestion was drinking water, but another major source was shellfish, which tended to be eaten whole so the plastic in their digestive system was consumed too. “Since 2000, the world has produced as much plastic as all the preceding years combined, a third of which is leaked into nature,” the report said.


The average person could be consuming 1,769 particles of plastic every week from water alone, it said. The amount of plastic pollution varies by location, but nowhere is untouched, said the report, which was based on the conclusions of 52 other studies. In the United States, 94.4 percent of tap water samples contained plastic fibers, with an average of 9.6 fibers per liter. European water was less polluted, with fibers showing up in only 72.2 percent of water samples, and only 3.8 fibers per liter.

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We don’t give a damn about what happened to our kids. That’s just a pose.

Troubling Levels Of Glyphosate In Foods Marketed To Children (RT)

The Environmental Working Group has released findings of research showing “troubling levels of glyphosate, the cancer-causing ingredient in the herbicide Roundup” in food products including children’s breakfast cereals. The Washington, DC-based advocacy group said in a statement released June 12 that the chemical, was detected “in all 21 oat-based cereal and snack products sampled in a new round of testing.” Furthermore, all of the products but four were found to contain levels higher than EWG’s safety threshold for child consumption, which is 160 parts per billion (ppb). The products “Cheerios” and “Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch” were found with the highest glyphosate levels with 729 ppb and 833 ppb respectively.


The findings follow two previous research studies conducted with independent labs conducted last year. Monsanto, the maker of Roundup, was acquired by the German agro-chemical giant Bayer in 2018. “The glyphosate levels in this report are far below the strict limits established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect human health,” a Bayer spokesman told RT when contacted for comment. “Even at the highest level reported by the EWG (833 ppb), an adult would have to eat 158 pounds of the oat-based food every day for the rest of their life to reach the strict limits set by the EPA.”

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May 262019
 


 

Pence To West Point Grads: You Will Fight On a Battlefield for America (Taer)
Global Elites Started The Russia Nonsense (Farnan)
Indictment of Julian Assange is a Clear and Present Danger to Journalism (EFF)
The US Media Is in the Crosshairs of the New Assange Indictment (Lawfare)
The World: What is Really Happening (Murray)
Europeans Vote, With EU Future In Balance (R.)
Who Gets To Choose The UK’s Next Prime Minister? (BBC)
Elon Musk Confronts The “Bear Case” (VF)
You Will Probably Never Want To Eat GMO Food Again (Snyder)
Glyphosate Exposure Linked to Fatty Liver Disease in Humans (BP)

 

 

He’s ordering the body bags as we speak. And you thought Trump was crazy.

Pence To West Point Grads: You Will Fight On a Battlefield for America (Taer)

Vice President Mike Pence told the graduating class of the West Point Military Academy on Saturday that the world is “a dangerous place” and they should expect to see combat. “Men and women of West Point, no matter where you’re deployed, you will be the vanguard of freedom, and you know that the “soldier does not bear the sword in vain.” The work you do has never been more important. America will always seek peace, but peace comes through strength. And you are now that strength. It is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life. You will lead soldiers in combat. It will happen.


Some of you will join the fight against radical Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of you will join the fight on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific, where North Korea continues to threaten the peace, and an increasingly militarized China challenges our presence in the region. Some of you will join the fight in Europe, where an aggressive Russia seeks to redraw international boundaries by force. And some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere. And when that day comes, I know you will move to the sound of the guns and do your duty, and you will fight, and you will win. The American people expect nothing less.”

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We’re going to hear a lot about this.

Global Elites Started The Russia Nonsense (Farnan)

Attorney General William Barr has turned the attention of the Russia probe to its origin: who started this and why? The answer, as in all the best crime dramas, is probably hiding in plain sight. On July 13, 2016, British academic Dr. Andrew Foxall penned an op-ed in the New York Times, “Why Putin Loves Brexit.” He blamed Russia for the previous month’s Brexit vote, adding in a little noted aside: The United States is so concerned over Moscow’s determination to exploit European disunity that in January, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, began a review of Russia’s clandestine funding of European parties. Bingo! The Obama administration was spying on conservative European political parties.

Which means, almost necessarily under the Five Eyes Agreement, foreign agents were returning the favor and spying on the Trump campaign. On August 11, 2018, I wrote: The British aristocracy has a condescending view of the hoi polloi who voted for Brexit, regarding them as easily manipulated Pygmalion-like by smarter people. They assumed Vladimir Putin was somehow playing Professor Henry Higgins to the flower girls who voted to reject the EU, because that’s how they see the world. Among the Cambridge class, this simple prejudice renders Russian collusion a first principle with no need for supporting evidence…. Without supporting evidence to prove their fantastical worldview, the global elite set out to manufacture some.

First up was Christopher Steele, who hasn’t set foot in Russia since 2009. He wears as a badge the claim that Putin hates him which, if true, means he has no real Russian sources. Maybe because of that, Steele’s farcical dossier on Trump was not enough for the FBI to open an investigation, and these international men of mystery needed something more. They invited George Papadopoulos to London, used a Maltese asset disguised as a Russian agent – Joseph Mifsud – to feed him a whopper about Hillary Clinton’s emails, then claimed he repeated the lie to Andrew Downer, an Australian diplomat with ties to the Clinton Foundation. That was the final straw that caused lovestruck counterintelligence specialist Peter Strzok to open an FBI investigation into the Trump campaign ..

[..] the FBI delegated the inspection of the computer servers to CrowdStrike, an insider paid by the DNC. James Comey testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee in January 2017 that CrowdStrike was “a highly respected private company.” What he failed to mention was that a month before his testimony, CrowdStrike had been caught falsely blaming Russia for a hack into a Ukrainian artillery computer app. In other words, at the same time this “highly respected private company” was blaming the Russians for stealing the Clinton campaign’s emails, it was fabricating a different Russian hack to serve Ukrainian misinformation.

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“The press stands in place of the public in holding the government accountable..”

This is the essence. And it’s not what the press has been doing. Other than WikiLeaks, that is.

Indictment of Julian Assange is a Clear and Present Danger to Journalism (EFF)

The century-old tradition that the Espionage Act not be used against journalistic activities has now been broken. Seventeen new charges were filed yesterday against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. These new charges make clear that he is being prosecuted for basic journalistic tasks, including being openly available to receive leaked information, expressing interest in publishing information regarding certain otherwise secret operations of government, and then disseminating newsworthy information to the public. The government has now dropped the charade that this prosecution is only about hacking or helping in hacking. Regardless of whether Assange himself is labeled a “journalist,” the indictment targets routine journalistic practices.

But the indictment is also a challenge to fundamental principles of freedom of speech. As the Supreme Court has explained, every person has the right to disseminate truthful information pertaining to matters of public interest, even if that information was obtained by someone else illegally. The indictment purports to evade this protection by repeatedly alleging that Assange simply “encouraged” his sources to provide information to him. This places a fundamental free speech right on uncertain and ambiguous footing. Make no mistake, this not just about Assange or Wikileaks—this is a threat to all journalism, and the public interest. The press stands in place of the public in holding the government accountable, and the Assange charges threaten that critical role.

The charges threaten reporters who communicate with and knowingly obtain information of public interest from sources and whistleblowers, or publish that information, by sending a clear signal that they can be charged with spying simply for doing their jobs.

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As if the US media doesn’t self-censor enough yet.

The US Media Is in the Crosshairs of the New Assange Indictment (Lawfare)

As Susan Hennessey said, “[I]t will be very difficult to craft an Espionage Act case against him that won’t adversely impact true journalists.” I don’t think this is an accident. I think the government’s indictment has the U.S. news media squarely in its sights. The first sentence of the indictment reads: “To obtain information to release on the WikiLeaks website, ASSANGE encouraged sources to (i) circumvent legal safeguards on information; (ii) provide that protected information to WikiLeaks for public dissemination; and (iii) continue the pattern of illegally procuring and providing protected information to WikiLeaks for distribution to the public.”

This is exactly what national security reporters and their news publications often ask government officials or contractors to do. Anytime a reporter asks to receive information knowing it is classified, that person encourages sources to circumvent legal safeguards on information. The news organizations’ encouragement is underscored by the mechanisms they provide for sources to convey information securely and anonymously. (The New York Times’s menu includes SecureDrop, an “encrypted submission system set up by The Times [that] uses the Tor anonymity software to protect [the] identity, location and the information” of the person who sends it.) Like WikiLeaks, these reporters and organizations encourage the sources to provide the “protected information” for public dissemination. And also like WikiLeaks, they often encourage the sources to engage in a “pattern of illegally procuring and providing protected information.”

There are other similarities. The government thought it significant that the WikiLeaks website states: “WikiLeaks accepts classified, censored, or otherwise restricted material of political, diplomatic, or ethical significance” (emphasis in indictment). This sounds very much like the public interest standard that U.S. editors use to decide when and how to publish classified information. Former Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie once told me, “‘Highly classified’ doesn’t mean anything to me …. The question is, is it important for the American public to know that its government is acting in its name in this particular way?” Or as the Times’s former executive editor once said, “As journalists in a robust democracy, our responsibility is to publish information of interest to the public, and that includes publishing secrets when we find them.”

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“..the OPCW was manipulated by the NATO powers to produce a highly biased report that omits the findings of its own engineers.”

The World: What is Really Happening (Murray)

[..] the OPCW Fact Finding Mission reflected in their final report none of the findings of their own sub-group of university based engineers from two European universities, but instead produced something that is very close to the amateur propaganda “analysis” put out by Bellingcat. The implications of this fraud are mind-blowing. The genuine experts’ findings were completely suppressed until they were leaked last week. And still then, this leak – which has the most profound ramifications – has in itself been almost completely suppressed by the mainstream media, except for those marginalised outliers who still manage to get a platform, Robert Fisk and Peter Hitchens (a tiny platform in the case of Fisk).


Consider what this tells us. A fake chemical attack incident was used to justify military aggression against Syria by the USA, UK and France. The entire western mainstream media promoted the anti-Syrian and anti-Russian narrative to justify that attack. The supposedly neutral international watchdog, the OPCW, was manipulated by the NATO powers to produce a highly biased report that omits the findings of its own engineers. Which can only call into doubt the neutrality and reliability of the OPCW in its findings on the Skripals too. There has been virtually no media reporting of the scandalous cover-up. This really does tell you a very great deal more about how the Western world works than the vicissitudes of the ludicrously over-promoted Theresa May and her tears of self pity.

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Fragmentation is the key word. But the big power blocks will remain, courtesy of the EU structure. Salvini’s Lega may become the largest single party in Europe, but the real power lies in those blocks.

Europeans Vote, With EU Future In Balance (R.)

Europeans vote on Sunday in an election expected to further dent traditional pro-EU parties and bolster the nationalist fringe in the European Parliament, putting a potential brake on collective action in economic and foreign policy. Polls opened at 7 a.m. (0400 GMT) in the east of the bloc and will finally close at 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) in Italy. Seven states have already voted, with 21 joining in on Sunday in what is the world’s biggest democratic exercise after India. Right-wing populists top opinion polls in two of the big four member states – Italy and supposedly exiting Britain – and could also win in a third, France, rattling a pro-Union campaign championed by centrist President Emmanuel Macron.

However, exit polls in some countries that have already voted have given pro-EU parties some comfort. The Dutch Labour party, all but written off, looks to have finished first, helped by the visibility of having the EU socialists’ lead candidate, current EU deputy chief executive Frans Timmermans. In the Netherlands pro-Union parties scored 70%, up three points on the last European Parliament vote in 2014, and left the upstart anti-immigration party of Thierry Baudet fourth on 11%. The Dutch also turned out in bigger numbers, albeit at just 41%, reinforcing hopes in Brussels of reversing a 40-year trend of declining turnout that critics cite as a “democratic deficit” that undermines the legitimacy of European Union lawmaking.

An exit poll after Friday’s vote in deeply pro-EU Ireland pointed to an expected “Green Wave”. Across the bloc, concerns about climate change and the environment may bolster the pro-EU Greens group and could mean tighter regulations for industry and for the terms the EU may set for partners seeking trade accords. Britain also voted on Thursday and a new party focused on getting out of the EU was forecast by pre-vote opinion polls to come top, but there has been no exit poll data. Attention there has focused on the resignation of Prime Minister Theresa May. Results will be out late on Sunday, when all countries have voted.

[..] Matteo Salvini’s League in Italy may pip the Christian Democrats of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the bloc’s power broker, to become the biggest single party in the 751-seat chamber. Right-wing ruling parties in Poland and Hungary, defying Brussels over curbs to judicial and media independence, will also return eurosceptic lawmakers on Sunday.

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Grandma does.

Who Gets To Choose The UK’s Next Prime Minister? (BBC)

With Theresa May finally on her way out of Downing Street, a Tory leadership contest that has been bubbling under for months is now starting. It’s a two-stage process. The first sees votes among Conservative MPs designed to whittle the contenders down to just two front-runners. The second stage sees the party’s grassroots members choose between them in a postal ballot. In other words, it is members of the public – those who pay £25 a year to join the Conservative Party – who get the final say on who the next prime minister is. There will not be a general election because the party is already in power. So, who are its members and what do they think on key issues, not least of course Brexit?

We don’t know exactly how many Conservative Party members there are because – unlike the UK’s other parties – the Conservatives don’t regularly release the figures. The last time they did so was back in March 2018, when they put the figure at 124,000. That’s larger than some of the more pessimistic guesstimates, but way down on the peak of nearly three million that the party boasted in the early 1950s. Membership plunged after that before levelling off at around one million in the 1970s and 1980s, since when it has been dropping almost inexorably. One thing we can be sure of, however, is that the Tories have far fewer members than the Labour Party. Even if we assume that Labour’s membership has fallen from the late 2017 peak of more than 550,000, it still has a huge advantage over the Conservatives when it comes to campaigning on the ground.


[..] What Tory members haven’t cooled on, however, is Brexit. Indeed, since we started tracking them in 2015, they’ve hardened their position. It is clear that they are not supporters of the deal negotiated by their outgoing leader. In fact, it is now the case that fully two-thirds of them back a no-deal Brexit – an outcome supported by only a quarter of voters as a whole. Nor are they in the least bit keen on the idea of letting the public have another say on the UK’s EU membership. Some 84% of them oppose the idea of a new referendum on the issue. In short, the grassroots aren’t simply sceptical on Europe; they can’t wait to leave, whatever that might take. This, then, is the Conservative Party electorate. And those MPs hoping to succeed Mrs May will need to pitch their promises accordingly.

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Bubble. Tesla is brought to you by the Fed.

Elon Musk Confronts The “Bear Case” (VF)

Don’t say “death spiral,” but Tesla has unquestionably entered a perilous new era. Last September, a month after Elon Musk’s notorious “funding secured” tweet, I wrote a New York Times opinion piece about the fact that the real problem at Tesla, Musk’s electric-car company, was not necessarily Musk’s irresponsible, and perhaps illegal, behavior as C.E.O. Rather, it was the Tesla balance sheet, which was larded with $11 billion in debt, some $1.7 billion of which needed to be paid off before November 2019. Debt isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But when a company doesn’t have the operating earnings to service that debt, a single dollar of debt can be too much. And then it becomes more like a Ponzi scheme, which, to be honest, Tesla is increasingly resembling.


Can Tesla convince investors to give it enough new capital to pay off the maturing debt before the world concludes that the company doesn’t have the resources to meet its obligations as they become due? That, of course, is the textbook definition of a bankrupt company. When I last wrote about Tesla, the company’s stock was trading at $300 per share, giving Tesla a market capitalization of around $51 billion. Nowadays, Tesla’s stock is trading around $190 per share and the company is valued at around $34 billion. That’s a loss of a cool $17 billion for equity investors, in eight months. In November, Tesla repaid $230 million of convertible debt with some of its cash pile instead of converting the debt to equity because its stock price was well below the conversion price. In March, Tesla paid off another $920 million in convertible notes in cash, again because its stock price was below the conversion price.

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..eating a corn chip produced from Bt corn might transform our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories, possibly for the rest of our lives.”

You Will Probably Never Want To Eat GMO Food Again (Snyder)

In recent years, researchers have been pushing the boundaries of biology in order to come up with new “plant-based” alternatives to existing food products. Essentially, “synthetic biology” is being used “to create life forms from scratch”… Impossible’s “bleeding” veggie burger, shrimp made of algae, and vegan cheeses that melt are all making their way into restaurants and on to supermarket shelves, offering consumers a new generation of plant-based proteins that look, act, and taste far more like the real thing than ever before. What consumers may not realize, however, is that many of these new foods are made using synthetic biology, an emerging science that applies principles of genetic engineering to create life forms from scratch.

[..] “GM corn and cotton are engineered to produce their own built-in pesticide in every cell. When bugs bite the plant, the poison splits open their stomach and kills them. Biotech companies claim that the pesticide, called Bt — produced from soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis’ has a history of safe use, since organic farmers and others use Bt bacteria spray for natural insect control. Genetic engineers insert Bt genes into corn and cotton, so the plants do the killing.” The Bt-toxin produced in GM plants, however, is thousands of times more concentrated than natural Bt spray, is designed to be more toxic, has properties of an allergen, and unlike the spray, cannot be washed off the plant.” Do you think that it is actually safe to eat such “food”?

Sadly, the health consequences from eating GMO food may not just be temporary. In fact, one study found that the effects of eating genetically-modified food could last for a lot longer that anyone had anticipated… “The only published human feeding study revealed what may be the most dangerous problem from GM foods. The gene inserted into GM soy transfers into the DNA of bacteria living inside our intestines and continues to function. This means that long after we stop eating GMOs, we may still have potentially harmful GM proteins produced continuously inside of us. Put more plainly, eating a corn chip produced from Bt corn might transform our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories, possibly for the rest of our lives.”

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Without the precautionary principle, it’s certain that we will poison our children and not realize it until it’s too late.

Glyphosate Exposure Linked to Fatty Liver Disease in Humans (BP)

Glyphosate weed killers may be contributing to the growing worldwide epidemic f non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition that causes swelling of the liver, and can eventually lead to cirrhosis, cancer, or liver failure. Researchers at the University of California (UC) San Diego found that higher levels of glyphosate detected in urine corresponded significantly with individuals that have also been diagnosed with NAFLD. Advocates are urging lawmakers at every level to respond to the accumulating science on the danger of glyphosate herbicides, ban their use, and adopt policy changes that put into place organic land management practices.


“There have been a handful of studies, all of which we cited in our paper, where animals either were or weren’t fed Roundup or glyphosate directly, and they all point to the same thing: the development of liver pathology,” said Paul J. Mills, PhD, professor and chief in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine in a press release. [..] With glyphosate still the most popular herbicide used in the U.S., exposure to the chemical is alarmingly widespread. “The increasing levels [of glyphosate] in people’s urine very much correlates to the consumption of Roundup [glyphosate] treated crops into our diet,” said Dr. Mills. He cautions that the results need further follow up, and there may be other pesticides in the environment leading to similar disease outcomes. “There are so many synthetic chemicals we are regularly exposed to,” Dr. Miller notes. “We measured just one.”

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Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment, until it’s a memory.
– Dr. Seuss

 

 

 

 

May 022019
 


Bugatti Atlantic Coupé 1935

 

Julian Assange Legal Team Begin ‘Big Fight’ Over Extradition (G.)
US May Have To Stop Borrowing Later This Year – Treasury (R.)
From 2024, All US Debt Issuance Will Be Used To Pay For Interest On Debt (ZH)
Fed Sees No Strong Case For Hiking Or Cutting Rates (R.)
Venezuela and Binary Choice (Murray)
Nellie Ohr’s ‘Hi Honey’ Emails On Russia Collusion Should Alarm Us All (Hill)
Barr Cancels Second Day Of Testimony, Escalating Battle With US Congress (R.)
WSJ: Dems Vilifying Barr For ‘Acting Like A Real Attorney General’ (Hill)
737 Max Sensor Had Been Flagged Over 200 Times To FAA (CNN)
US Environment Agency Says Glyphosate Is Not A Carcinogen (R.)

 

 

Straight from the horse’s foul-smelling mouth, the Guardian. First judge called Assange a narcissist. This one says he cost taxpayers £16m. Judges in Britain are apparently not required to be objective. Here’s praying he’ll receive better treatment today.

Julian Assange Legal Team Begin ‘Big Fight’ Over Extradition (G.)

A struggle over the US request for Julian Assange’s extradition will open in court on Thursday morning, a day after the WikiLeaks founder was jailed for just under a year for breaching bail conditions to avoid being extradited to Sweden. Wednesday’s sentence was decried as an “outrage” by Kristinn Hrafnsson, the editor-in-chief of the whistleblowing website, who said the hearing at Westminster magistrates court to oppose Assange’s extradition would be the start of the “big fight” – a process he said would be “a question of life and death for Mr Assange”. A judge largely rejected the mitigating factors put forward by lawyers for Assange – who took refuge in Ecuador’s embassy to London in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations, which he has denied – and told the 47-year-old it was difficult to envisage a more serious example of the offence.

“You remained there for nearly seven years, exploiting your privileged position to flout the law and advertise internationally your disdain for the law of this country,” said Judge Deborah Taylor, as she sentenced him at Southwark crown court. “Your actions undoubtedly affected the progress of the Swedish proceedings. Even though you did cooperate initially, it was not for you to decide the nature or extent of your cooperation with the investigations. They could not be effectively progressed, and were discontinued, not least because you remained in the embassy.” Assange, who was arrested last month when Ecuador revoked his political asylum and invited Metropolitan police officers inside the country’s Knightsbridge diplomatic premises, had written a letter in which he expressed regret for his actions but claimed he had been left with no choice.

“I apologise unreservedly to those who consider that I have disrespected them by the way I have pursued my case. This is not what I wanted or intended,” he said in the letter read out by his lawyer, Mark Summers QC. “I found myself struggling with terrifying circumstances for which neither I nor those from whom I sought advice could work out any remedy. I did what I thought at the time was the best and perhaps the only thing that could be done – which I hoped might lead to a legal resolution being reached between Ecuador and Sweden that would protect me from the worst of my fears.”

Assange, wearing a black blazer and shorn of the beard worn when police carried him out of the embassy last month, was told by the judge that his continued residence there had cost £16m of taxpayers’ money “in ensuring that when you did leave, you were brought to justice”. “It is essential to the rule of law that nobody is above or beyond the reach of the law,” said the judge, who said Assange’s written apology was the first recognition that he regretted his actions.

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Don’t they say that all the time about twice a year?

US May Have To Stop Borrowing Later This Year – Treasury (R.)

The U.S. government will have to stop borrowing money between July and December if Washington doesn’t agree to raise a legal restriction on public debt, the Treasury Department said on Wednesday. Hitting that so-called “debt ceiling” could trigger a U.S. default on its debt and an immediate recession, a risk that has become a regular facet of U.S. politics over the last decade. The current debt limit was set in March. Treasury has been able to continue borrowing from investors by using accounting measures such as limiting government payments to public sector retirement funds.


“Treasury expects that the extraordinary measures will be exhausted sometime in the second half of 2019,” Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary Brian Smith said in a statement announcing the department’s quarterly debt issuance plans. Wall Street also sees Treasury exhausting its borrowing authority in the third or fourth quarter, according to the minutes of a meeting of a Treasury advisory committee of financiers. The debt ceiling is already affecting how the government funds itself. Issuance of Treasury bills – short-term debt – is expected to gradually decline over the second quarter due to debt ceiling constraints, Smith said.

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“..while we don’t know yet what the next reserve currency – either fiat, hard or digital – after the US dollar will be, we urge readers to own a whole lot of it.”

From 2024, All US Debt Issuance Will Be Used To Pay For Interest On Debt (ZH)

As part of today’s Treasury Presentation to the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee, there is a chart showing the Office Of Debt Management’s forecast for annual US debt issuance, broken down between its three component uses of funds: Primary Deficit, Net Interest Expense, and “Other.” That chart is troubling because while in 2019 and 2020 surging US interest expense is roughly matched by the other deficit components in the US budget, these gradually taper off by 2024, and in fact in 2025 become a source of budget surplus (we won’t be holding our breath). But what is the real red flag is that starting in 2024, when the primary deficit drops to zero according to the latest projections, all US debt issuance will be used to fund the US net interest expense, which depending on the prevailing interest rate between now and then will be anywhere between $700 billion and $1.2 trillion or more.

In short: in the stylized cycle of the US “Minsky Moment”, the US will enter the penultimate, Ponzi Finance, phase – the one in which all the new debt issuance is used to fund only interest on the debt – some time around in 2024. From that point on, every incremental increase in interest rates, which will eventually happen simply due to rising inflation expectations, will merely accelerate the ponzi process, whereby even more debt is sold just to fund the rising interest on the debt, requiring even more debt issuance, and so on, until finally the “Minsky Moment” arrives. At that point, while we don’t know yet what the next reserve currency – either fiat, hard or digital – after the US dollar will be, we urge readers to own a whole lot of it.

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Get rid of the Fed or you will have no economy left. You already don’t have markets anymore, because the Fed became the market, and with the markets the economy will vanish too.

Fed Sees No Strong Case For Hiking Or Cutting Rates (R.)

The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday held interest rates steady and signaled little appetite to adjust them any time soon, taking heart in continued job gains and economic growth and the likelihood that weak inflation will edge higher. “We think our policy stance is appropriate at the moment; we don’t see a strong case for moving it in either direction,” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said in a press conference following the end of the central bank’s latest two-day policy meeting. Overall, he said, “I see us on a good path for this year.” Fed policymakers said ongoing economic growth, a strong labor market and an eventual rise in inflation were still “the most likely outcomes” as the U.S. expansion nears its 10-year mark.


“The labor market remains strong … economic activity rose at a solid rate” in recent weeks, the Fed said in a policy statement a day after President Donald Trump called on it to cut rates by a full percentage point and take other steps to stimulate the economy. The policy statement, and particularly Powell’s insistence the Fed saw no compelling reason to consider a rate cut in response to weak inflation, prompted a modest selloff in stock markets and pushed bond yields higher. The S&P 500 index fell 0.75 percent, its largest daily decline since mid-March. Interest rate futures also reversed direction, signaling a lower degree of confidence the next Fed move would be a rate cut, exactly the point Powell was driving at in a “stay-the-course” message, said analysts at Cornerstone Macro.

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“Juan Guaido has been groomed for 15 years as a long-term CIA project.”

Venezuela and Binary Choice (Murray)

When a CIA-backed military coup is attempted by a long term CIA puppet, roared on by John Bolton and backed with the offer of Blackwater mercenaries, in the country with the world’s largest oil reserves, I have no difficulty whatsoever in knowing which side I am on. Juan Guaido has been groomed for 15 years as a long-term CIA project. His coup attempt yesterday, which so far appears to have stalled, was the culmination of these efforts to return Venezuela’s oil reserves to US hegemony.

It is strange how the urgent installation of liberal democracy by force correlates so often with oil reserves not aligned to the USA, as in Libya, Iraq or Venezuela, while countries with massive oil reserves which permit US military domination and align with the West and Israel can be as undemocratic as they wish, eg Saudi Arabia. Venezuela is an imperfect democracy but it is far, far more of a democracy than Saudi Arabia and with a much better human rights record. The hypocrisy of Western media and politicians is breathtaking.

Hypocrisy and irony are soulmates, and there are multiple levels of irony in seeing the “liberal” commentators who were cheering on an undisguised military coup, then complaining loudly that people are being injured or killed now their side is losing. Yesterday the MSM had no difficulty in calling the attempted coup what anybody with eyes and ears could see it plainly was, an attempted military coup. Today, miraculously, the MSM line is no coup attempt happened at all, it was just a spontaneous unarmed protest, and it is the evil government of Venezuela which attempts to portray it as a coup. BBC Breakfast this morning had the headline “President Maduro has accused the opposition of mounting a coup attempt”… Yet there is no doubt at all that, as a matter of plain fact, that is what happened.

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We’re going to have a civil war. But it won’t be civil.

Nellie Ohr’s ‘Hi Honey’ Emails On Russia Collusion Should Alarm Us All (Hill)

First came the text messages between FBI lovebirds Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, which gave us a painful glimpse at potential political bias inside America’s most famous crime-fighting bureau. Now, a series of “Hi Honey” emails from Nellie Ohr to her high-ranking federal prosecutor husband and his colleagues raise the prospect that Hillary Clinton-funded opposition research was being funneled into the Justice Department during the 2016 election through a back-door marital channel. It’s a tale that raises questions of both conflict of interest and possible false testimony.

Ohr has admitted to Congress that, during the 2016 presidential election, she worked for Fusion GPS — the firm hired by Democratic nominee Clinton and the Democratic National Committee to perform political opposition research — on a project specifically trying to connect Donald Trump and his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, to Russian organized crime. Now, 339 pages of emails from her private account to Department of Justice (DOJ) email accounts, have been released under a Freedom of Information Act request by the conservative legal group Judicial Watch. And they are raising concerns among Republicans in Congress, who filed a criminal referral with the Justice Department on Wednesday night.

They clearly show that Ohr sent reams of open-source intelligence to her husband, Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, and on some occasions to at least three DOJ prosecutors: Lisa Holtyn, Ivana Nizich and Joseph Wheatley. The contents tracked corruption developments in Russia and Ukraine, including intelligence affecting Russian figures she told Congress she had tried to connect to Trump or Manafort. “Hi Honey, if you ever get a moment you might find the penultimate article interesting — especially the summary in the final paragraph,” Nellie Ohr emailed her husband on July 6, 2016, in one typical communication. The article and paragraph she flagged suggested that Trump was a Putin stooge: “If Putin wanted to concoct the ideal candidate to service his purposes, his laboratory creation would look like Donald Trump.” Nellie Ohr bolded that key sentence for apparent emphasis.

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Still don’t get why they insist on lawyers asking their questions for them.

Barr Cancels Second Day Of Testimony, Escalating Battle With US Congress (R.)

Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday canceled plans to testify before the House of Representatives about his handling of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, further inflaming tensions between U.S. President Donald Trump and Democrats in Congress. Barr was due to face the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, but pulled out after the two sides were unable to agree on the format for the hearing. “It’s simply part of the administration’s complete stonewalling of Congress,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler told reporters. Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said Nadler’s proposal to have committee lawyers question Barr was “unprecedented and unnecessary,” saying questions should come from lawmakers.


The Justice Department also said on Wednesday it would not comply with a Nadler-issued subpoena seeking an unredacted version of Mueller’s report and underlying investigative files from the probe. Earlier on Wednesday, Barr spent more than four hours before the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee where he fended off Democratic criticism of his decision to clear Trump of criminal obstruction of justice and faulted Special Counsel Robert Mueller for not reaching a conclusion of his own on the issue.

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The Wall Street Journal takes a very strong stand.

WSJ: Dems Vilifying Barr For ‘Acting Like A Real Attorney General’ (Hill)

The Wall Street Journal editorial board on Wednesday excoriated Democrats for making Attorney General William Barr out to be a “villain,” defending Barr as merely “acting like a real Attorney General.” “Washington pile-ons are never pretty, but this week’s political setup of Attorney General William Barr is disreputable even by Beltway standards,” the board wrote in an op-ed published just hours after Barr testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The editorial, which was shared by President Trump on Twitter, slammed Democrats’ criticism of Barr’s handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference and possible obstruction of justice by Trump.


The board also took issue with Mueller, saying that the letter he wrote to Barr expressing concerns with how the attorney general summarized his investigation amounted to “posterior covering.” “Democrats leapt on the letter as proof that Mr. Barr was somehow covering for Donald Trump when he has covered up nothing,” the board wrote, arguing that Barr’s four-page memo adequately summarized the chief findings of Mueller’s investigation. The board wrote that the “trashing of Barr shows how frustrated and angry Democrats continue to be that the special counsel came up empty in his Russia collusion probe.”

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“Single sources of data are considered acceptable in such cases by our industry..” As I explained when this came out, you need three sources. One is crazy, two is too dangerous.

737 Max Sensor Had Been Flagged Over 200 Times To FAA (CNN)

The device linked to the Boeing 737 Max software that has been scrutinized after two deadly crashes was previously flagged in more than 200 incident reports submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration, but Boeing did not flight test a scenario in which it malfunctioned, CNN has learned. The angle-of-attack (AOA) sensor, as it’s known, sends data to a 737 Max software system that pushes the nose of the aircraft down if it senses an imminent stall. That software, triggered by erroneous data from AOA sensors, is believed to have played a role in crashes of Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines jets. Former Boeing engineers and aviation analysts interviewed by CNN have criticized Boeing’s original software design for relying on data from a single AOA sensor, claiming that those devices are vulnerable to defects.

FAA data analyzed by CNN supports that assessment. The FAA has received at least 216 reports of AOA sensors failing or having to be repaired, replaced or adjusted since 2004, according to data from the FAA’s Service Difficulty Reporting website. [..] In one 2011 case, the flight crew on a Boeing 737-800 reported that the “angle of attack and airspeed failed” and declared an emergency. An AOA sensor was then replaced. The FAA also issued two directives for various Boeing aircraft models before the 737 MAX was released, indicating that Boeing was aware of the potential for the sensors to cause problems in its planes. A 2013 directive mandated inspections of certain AOA sensors to prevent possible problems that included “obstacles after takeoff, or reduced controllability of the airplane.”

Another FAA directive published in 2016 warned that AOA sensors on Boeing MD-90-30 airplanes needed to be modified and tested to address “the unsafe condition on these products.” While those directives did not involve the 737 Max, Peter Goelz, a former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and a CNN aviation analyst, said AOA sensors fundamentally work the same on different aircraft models. “This is a fairly simple external device that can get damaged on a regular basis,” Goelz said. “That’s important because Boeing made the decision to rely on them as single sources for streams of data.”

In a statement to CNN, a Boeing spokesperson said the 737 Max and its stall-prevention system, called MCAS, were certified in accordance with all FAA requirements, and that Boeing’s analysis for the plane determined that in the event of erroneous inputs from an AOA sensor, pilots would be able to maintain control of the plane by following established procedures. “Single sources of data are considered acceptable in such cases by our industry,” the Boeing spokesperson said.

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Unbelievable. Might as well end the EPA too. There is only one way to deal with GMO and the poisons that keep them alive: precautionary principle.

US Environment Agency Says Glyphosate Is Not A Carcinogen (R.)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on Tuesday that glyphosate, a chemical in many popular weed killers, is not a carcinogen, contradicting decisions by U.S. juries that found it caused cancer in people. The EPA’s announcement reaffirms its earlier findings about the safety of glyphosate, the key ingredient in Bayer’s Roundup. The company faces thousands of lawsuits from Roundup users who allege it caused their cancer. “EPA continues to find that there are no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label and that glyphosate is not a carcinogen,” the agency said in a statement.


Farmers spray glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in U.S. agriculture, on fields of soybeans and other crops. Roundup is also used on lawns, golf courses and elsewhere. The EPA did previously find ecological risks from the chemical and has proposed new measures to protect the environment from glyphosate use by farmers and to reduce the problem of weeds becoming resistant to it. Bayer said it was pleased the EPA and other regulators who have assessed the science on glyphosate for more than 40 years continue to conclude it is not carcinogenic. “Bayer firmly believes that the science supports the safety of glyphosate-based herbicides,” it said in a statement. The company has repeatedly denied allegations that glyphosate and Roundup cause cancer.

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Mar 302019
 


René Magritte The muscles of the sky 1927

 

May Hopes To Hold Fourth Vote On Brexit Deal (Ind.)
May Ready To Trigger Election Within 10 Days (Ind.)
EU Gives Britain 11 Days To Come Up With New Brexit Plan (G.)
The Democrats Are Self-Destructing (PCR)
Wokester’s Nightmare (Kunstler)
Barr Says Mueller Report Will Be Released In Mid-April ‘If Not Sooner’ (AP)
On Russiagate and Our Refusal to Face Why Trump Won (Taibbi)
US Readying Sanctions On Russia Over Nerve-Agent Attack In Britain (R.)
Southwest To Keep Boeing 737 MAX Off Schedules Through May (R.)
TUI Sticks With Boeing, Sees 737 Maxs Flying By Mid-July (R.)
Human Population Explosion Squeezes Out Wildlife On African Savannah (Ind.)
The Places in America that Use the Most (and Least) Pesticides (PO)

 

 

Get me Bill Murray on the phone.

May Hopes To Hold Fourth Vote On Brexit Deal (Ind.)

Theresa May hopes to bring her Brexit deal back to parliament again next week after it was rejected for a third time by MPs – and appears poised to trigger a general election if parliament fails to agree a way forward. Despite the embattled prime minister’s dramatic promise on Wednesday that she would hand over the keys to 10 Downing Street if her Tory colleagues backed the withdrawal agreement, parliament voted against it on Friday, by 344 to 286. The Commons vote was held on the day when Britain was meant to be leaving the European Union, as Parliament Square outside overflowed with raucous pro-Brexit protesters.

A string of leave-supporting Conservative backbenchers who had twice rejected the deal, including Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, switched sides to support the agreement. But with Labour unwilling to shift its position, and the Democratic Unionist party’s 10 MPs implacably opposed, it was not enough to secure a majority for May. The result was a sense of stunned disbelief in Westminster. Asked what could happen next, one government source said: “Last one out, turn off the lights.” Immediately after the defeat was announced, May told MPs: “The implications of the house’s decision are grave. The legal default now is that the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on 12 April. In just 14 days’ time.”

Under the deal agreed by EU leaders in Brussels last week, if May had passed her withdrawal agreement this week, Brexit would have been delayed until 22 May. Now, she will have to return to Brussels for an emergency European council summit on 10 April. The EU27 expect her to ask for a longer delay – requiring Britain to participate in the European elections in May – or accept a no-deal Brexit two days later. However, her aides hope the 22 May date could still be in play if her deal is accepted next week.

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So what’s she waiting for?

May Ready To Trigger Election Within 10 Days (Ind.)

Britain is veering towards a new general election after MPs voted down Theresa May’s Brexit deal for a third time on Friday. She strongly hinted after the defeat that she will take the country to the polls if parliament does not pass a deal respecting the 2016 referendum result in the next 10 days. Ministers told The Independent a new election was a clear possibility featuring in the prime minister’s thinking, with her likely to have one final attempt to push her deal through next week. As thousands of pro-Brexit protesters shouted outside parliament, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Scottish nationalists, who form the third biggest group in the House of Commons, also called for an election.


It comes as MPs will once again take control of the chamber’s schedule on Monday to hold indicative votes to see if a soft-Brexit compromise can achieve a majority. [..] Asked whether an election was now becoming a clear possibility, one cabinet source told The Independent without hesitation: “Yes. Absolutely. No question.” There had been speculation that the vote itself was set up for 29 March to make a show of Mr Corbyn’s party voting against Brexit ahead of a pending election campaign. One cabinet minister later said: “We would throw at them the question of ‘what did your MP do on exit day?’ “This is going to be difficult for a lot of individual Labour MPs in Leave areas.”

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10 days, 11 days, they’re intent on entertaining us every single day.

EU Gives Britain 11 Days To Come Up With New Brexit Plan (G.)

The EU has given the British government 11 days to come up with a fresh Brexit plan to avoid crashing out of the bloc at 11pm on 12 April. In the immediate aftermath of the crushing rejection of the prime minister’s deal, the European council president, Donald Tusk, called an emergency leaders’ summit. Should the UK seek a lengthy extension, leaders will debate any request at an extraordinary meeting on 10 April. EU capitals would require a clear justification at least two days earlier from Downing Street on the reason for a lengthy delay to allow officials to prepare. “We expect the UK to indicate a way forward before then, well in time for the European council to consider,” an official said.


EU heads of state and government expressed their alarm at the continued impasse in Westminster following the third defeat of May’s deal. The Irish taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, said: “It is up to the UK to indicate how it plans to proceed in order to avoid a no-deal scenario. The European council has agreed unanimously that the withdrawal agreement will not be reopened.” However, he added: “I believe we must be open to a long extension should the UK decide to fundamentally reconsider its approach … I believe that will result in a generous and understanding response from the 27.”

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Haven’t heard from Paul Craig Roberts in a while. Is that just me?

The Democrats Are Self-Destructing (PCR)

I know Democrats are disappointed not to have Trump’s head presented to them by Mueller on a silver platter. But surely not even Democrats are stupid enough to believe the Russiagate conspiracy tale. It was all cooked up by the military/security complex to prevent Trump from normalizing relations with Russia, thereby removing the enemy that justifies the $1,000 billion annual budget. Before writing such nonsense as Hartmann has written, he should have read Barr’s summary of the report. Barr quotes Mueller directly from the report: “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” Again from Mueller’s report: “The evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference.”


Other Democrats who cannot cope with their disappointment claim that although cleared of election theft collusion Trump was not cleared of obstruction of justice. This is nonsensical even for Democrats. As Trump committed no crime, what evidence did he obstruct? The evidence of his innocence? Just as murder requires a body, obstruction requires a crime to obstruct. But facts are boring to Democrats. They were certain that all the lies that they and the media whores told would find their way into Mueller’s report. Mueller’s staff was Democrat to the core, and Mueller used every dirty trick in the book in his effort to get something on Trump. It simply couldn’t be done. Democrats will never get over it, just as they never have got over Iran-Contra. Hartmann couldn’t write about the “Russiagate coverup” without dragging in Ronald Reagan and the “Iran-Contra coverup.”

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“It’s also very likely that Robert Mueller learned that the Steele Dossier was a fraud in the summer of 2017, if not shortly after his appointment in May of that year..”

Wokester’s Nightmare (Kunstler)

All of a sudden, a whole lot of people who have been punking the public-at-large will have to answer for their behavior. Despite the fog of misdirection blowing out of The New York Times, The WashPo, CNN, and MSNBC, it’s become obvious that the RussiaGate hoax was kicked off by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and a cabal of Obama appointees in several executive agencies. The evidence is public, fully documented, and overwhelming that the so-called Steele Dossier was the sole animating instrument in both the 2016 pre-election effort to incriminate the Golden Golem of Greatness, and the Mueller Investigation launched post-election to cover-up those same political misdeeds of the Clinton campaign, the FBI, the Department of Justice, the CIA, NSA, and State Department.


It’s also very likely that Robert Mueller learned that the Steele Dossier was a fraud in the summer of 2017, if not shortly after his appointment in May of that year, and yet he dragged out his investigation for almost two years in order to defame and antagonize Mr. Trump — and deflect attention from the ugly truth of the matter. It is certain Mr. Mueller knew that the Steele Dossier was purchased by Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS political “research” company, which was simultaneously in the paid employ of Mrs. Clinton and the Russian political lobbying agency Prevezon (as reported by Sean Davis in The Federalist). If the FBI brass did not bring that to Mr. Mueller’s attention right away, then either their incompetence is epic or they are criminally liable for concealing the hoax.

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Mueller’s doing the redacting with Barr.

Barr Says Mueller Report Will Be Released In Mid-April ‘If Not Sooner’ (AP)

Congress should expect to receive a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation by mid-April, Attorney General William Barr said Friday. In a letter to the chairmen of the House and Senate judiciary committees, Barr said he shares a desire for Congress and the public to be able to read Mueller’s findings, which are included in the nearly 400-page report Mueller submitted last week. Barr said he does not plan to share the report with the White House before making it public. He said that while President Donald Trump would have the right to assert executive privilege over certain parts of the report, “he has stated publicly that he intends to defer to me and, accordingly, there are no plans to submit the report to the White House for a privilege review.”

Mueller officially concluded his investigation when he submitted the report last Friday. Two days later, Barr sent a four-page letter to Congress that detailed Mueller’s “principal conclusions.” Mueller’s report did not find that the Trump campaign coordinated or conspired with Russia, Barr wrote, and did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice. Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided on their own that Mueller’s evidence was insufficient to establish that the president committed obstruction.

Barr said he is preparing to redact multiple categories of information from the report. Those include grand jury material; information that would compromise sensitive sources and methods; information that could affect ongoing investigations, including those referred by Mueller’s office to other Justice Department offices; and information that could infringe on the personal privacy and reputation of “peripheral third parties.” “Our progress is such that I anticipate we will be in a position to release the report by mid-April, if not sooner,” he said.

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Getting a bit tired of all the regurgitating and gloating, but this look back is nice.

On Russiagate and Our Refusal to Face Why Trump Won (Taibbi)

Nate Silver, the ex-baseball stats guru and renowned “National Oracle™” (as Gizmodo cheekily called him), laughed at Trump’s chances[1]. His site, FiveThirtyEight, ran a story called “Why Donald Trump Isn’t a Real Candidate, In One Chart.” The piece said Trump was more likely to “play in the NBA finals” or cameo in another Home Alone movie than win the nomination. Dana Milbank in the Washington Post: “I’m so certain Trump won’t win the nomination that I’ll eat my words if he does. Literally.” Milbank ended up actually doing this, for which he deserves a lot of credit. “Donald Trump is going to lose because he is crazy,” was the take of Jonathan Chait, who would soon be writing Trump might have been recruited by the KGB in 1987.

It isn’t just that wizards of prognostication were wrong. The bigger issue was why they were so confident. A common take was the political establishment just wouldn’t allow it. Former “The Note” writer Mark Halperin used to talk about having his finger on the pulse of the “Gang of 500,” which he described as “campaign consultants, strategists, pollsters, pundits and journalists who make up the modern-day political establishment.” The subtext of Halperin’s pieces was that the Gang of 500 decided elections. It’s hard to understand how it never occurred to Halperin or anyone else that people might be grossed out by the concept of 500 self-appointed guardians of democracy deciding the presidency for 300 million people.

In this case, just by saying out loud the idea that the people who mattered would never let Trump win, probably helped Trump win. It validated his talk about “elites.” Nate Cohn of The New York Times wrote Trump had “just about no shot of winning the nomination no matter how well he is doing in the early polls.” He prefaced this by saying it is “the party elites who traditionally decide nomination contests.” When Trump defied these predictions and sealed up the Republican nomination, he immediately became subject to a new legend, about how he was destined to be the biggest landslide loser in history of general elections: bigger than Alf Landon or even George McGovern, whose very name in America is synonymous with “loser.”

Here are some takes on Trump’s campaign after he sealed up the nomination: David Brooks: Trump will be the “biggest loser” in American politics. The Week: “Trump is poised to lose the biggest landslide in modern American history.” George Will: “Donald Trump may find a place in history – by losing just that badly.” I belong on this infamous list myself. In one of the worst mistakes of my career, I ended up changing my mind about “free-falling” Trump’s chances, spending the stretch run predicting doom for Republicans. I read too many polls and ignored what I was seeing, i.e. that even the post-Access Hollywood Trump was still packing stadiums.

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I swear I thought it was an April Fools prank.

US Readying Sanctions On Russia Over Nerve-Agent Attack In Britain (R.)

The White House has received a package of new sanctions to be imposed on Russia in retaliation for the 2018 nerve-agent attack on a Russian double agent in Britain, Bloomberg reported on Friday. Officials at the U.S. Treasury and State Departments have vetted the sanctions and are awaiting approval from the White House to issue them, Bloomberg said, citing people familiar with the matter. Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, were found unconscious on a bench in the southern English city of Salisbury in March 2018 after a liquid form of the Novichok type of nerve agent was applied to the front door of Skripal’s home.


Both Skripal and his daughter survived. Russia has denied any involvement in the attack. Asked about Friday’s report, a Trump administration official noted that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in a phone call in February that the United States was determined to hold Russia accountable for the attack through sanctions.

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Don’t think they’ll make it.

Southwest To Keep Boeing 737 MAX Off Schedules Through May (R.)

Southwest Airlines Co said on Friday it was pulling its Boeing Co 737 MAX jets from flight schedules through May, extending its earlier timeline from April 20, according to a company memorandum seen by Reuters. “This will impact the lines in May, but, now that the decision has been made, we can construct our schedule without those flights well in advance in hopes to minimize the daily disruptions,” the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association and the company said in the joint memorandum. Boeing’s top-selling 737 MAX jetliner has been grounded in the wake of two deadly crashes involving that model in five months, one in Indonesia last October and another on March 10 in Ethiopia.

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Europe’s no 1 tour operator. Note how nice Boeing and them are to each other:“..he was “very certain” of receiving some compensation from Boeing, probably next year.|”

TUI Sticks With Boeing, Sees 737 Maxs Flying By Mid-July (R.)

TUI remains committed to its Boeing 737 MAX orders despite two fatal crashes that have led to the grounding of the plane worldwide and caused the Anglo-German tour operator to issue a profit warning on Friday. TUI said its profit would fall by at least 200 million euros ($225 million) this year due to the cost of substituting planes, loss of business and lower fuel efficiency – further evidence of the financial impact of the two deadly accidents after warnings from North American airlines. The holiday firm’s shares fell to an all-time low.

Global airlines and travel groups have had to make contingency plans after 737 MAX planes were taken out of service following an Ethiopian Airlines disaster on March 10 that killed 157 people, five months after a Lion Air crash in Indonesia that killed 189. Boeing is planning a software fix to address an issue that can arise when the MAX’s anti-stall system, MCAS, repeatedly pushes the plane’s nose down. The MCAS system is at the center of safety investigations into the two crashes. Based on feedback from Boeing and EU regulator EASA, the planes should be flying again in July, TUI’s Chief Executive Friedrich Joussen told analysts on a call.

CEO Joussen said: “We are saving $1 million per year per aircraft in fuel, but – and here comes the but – safety first.” TUI has little scope to cancel flights, as some airlines are doing, because the flights feed its hotel and cruise business. It is leasing planes complete with crews to replace those due to have been flown by 737 MAXs at the cost of $1 million each per month, executives said, adding they had seen some tightening of the so-called wet-leasing market. Bookings were down by 10 percent in major markets since the Ethiopian crash, Joussen said, adding he was “very certain” of receiving some compensation from Boeing, probably next year.

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“.. a 400 per cent increase in human population over the last decade, while more than three quarters of the populations of some of the larger species of migrating animals like wildebeest, zebra and gazelle have been wiped out..”

Human Population Explosion Squeezes Out Wildlife On African Savannah (Ind.)

Encroachment by people into one of Africa’s most celebrated ecosystems is “squeezing the wildlife in its core”, by damaging habitation and disrupting the migration routes of animals, a major international study has concluded. Boundary areas of the Serengeti-Mara region in East Africa have seen a 400 per cent increase in human population over the last decade, while more than three quarters of the populations of some of the larger species of migrating animals like wildebeest, zebra and gazelle have been wiped out, scientists revealed after examining 40 years of data. Despite being one of the most protected ecosystems on Earth, the influx of people and livestock around both the Serengeti and Masai Mara has had a detrimental impact on plants, wild animals and soils.


This has occurred in two main ways, the study found. Firstly, the protected areas’ or “buffer zones” where more livestock including cattle are being reared, are leaving less and lower quality grasses for wildebeest, zebra and gazelle to graze. Secondly, the presence of people and farm animals has also reduced the frequency of natural fires, which in turn impacts the variety of vegetation, altering grazing opportunities for wildlife in the core protected areas. Publishing their findings in the journal Science, the authors said the impacts were cascading down the food chain. Animals were forced to eat less palatable herbs and therefore the beneficial interactions between plants and microorganisms that enable the ecosystem to flourish were being altered.


Zebra, gazelle and wildebeest populations have fallen as human populations have risen on the edges of protected areas (Getty)

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h/t Tyler

The Places in America that Use the Most (and Least) Pesticides (PO)

We decided to analyze data to uncover which states in the United States had the most and least exposure to pesticides, herbicides and other agricultural chemicals, with a particular focus on glyphosate, the active ingredient that is in the news right now. We looked at data from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to see which compounds were most popular and which locations had the highest usage levels of these chemicals. By a significant margin, the most popular herbicide in the United States is glyphosate, which is four times more popular than the second most popular chemical. Not surprisingly, large agricultural states like California, Washington, and Illinois use the most pesticides.

However, some states that use a lot of these chemicals see very little glyphosate usage, while others nearly exclusively use the compound. In California for example, only 6 percent of pesticide usage is glyphosate, while in Montana, 52 percent of such usage is from glyphosate. [..] By a significant margin, glyphosate is the most popular pesticide used in American agriculture. Over 130 million kilograms were used in 2016, which was approximately four times more than the second-place pesticide, Atrazine. In total, just over 544 million kilograms of pesticides were used in the U.S. in 2016, and 24 percent of that was glyphosate. It’s hard to overestimate just how pervasive Roundup and glyphosate are this country.

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Mar 202019
 


Salvador Dali Birth of liquid desires 1932

 

Monsanto’s Roundup Substantial Factor In Man’s Cancer, Jury Finds (G.)
Miami Bans The Use Of Glyphosate In A Step To Improve Water Quality (NoC)
Off-Duty Pilot Saved Doomed 737 From Nosedive Day Before Deadly Crash (ZH)
Most People Want Higher Taxes On Rich To Support Poor – OECD (G.)
Shifting Hopes As Republicans, Democrats Wait For Mueller (AP)
Schiff: Real Question Is If Trump Is Under Influence Of A Foreign Power (NBC)
Mueller Suspected Cohen May Have Been Acting As Foreign Agent In 2017 (G.)
EU’s Barnier: UK Can’t Delay Brexit Without Clear Plan Of Action (Ind.)
Theresa May Asks Eu For Brexit Delay With Cabinet In Deadlock (G.)
Theresa May Will Not Ask EU For Long Brexit Extension (BBC)
Tory MPs Vow To Quit Party If Boris Johnson Becomes Leader (G.)
Chinese Companies Default On Their Debts At An ‘Unprecedented’ Level (CNBC)
Foreigners Buy Up Athens Real Estate For Short-Term Rentals (K.)

 

 

Underlying lesson: stop poisoning your food and the soil it grows in.

But don’t count out Monsanto’s legal department.

Monsanto’s Roundup Substantial Factor In Man’s Cancer, Jury Finds (G.)

A federal jury in San Francisco found Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide was a substantial factor in causing the cancer of a California man, in a landmark verdict that could affect hundreds of other cases. Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa was the first person to challenge Monsanto’s Roundup in a federal trial and alleged that his exposure to Roundup caused him to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), a cancer that affects the immune system. In the next phase of the case, the jury will weigh liability and damages, and Hardeman’s lawyers will present arguments about Monsanto’s influence on government regulators and cancer research.

During the trial, the 70-year-old Santa Rosa man testified that he had sprayed the herbicide for nearly three decades and at one time got it on his skin before he was diagnosed with cancer. He used the chemical to control weeds and poison oak on his properties, starting in 1986. Hardeman’s case is considered a “bellwether” trial for hundreds of other plaintiffs in the US with similar claims, which means the verdict could affect future litigation and other cancer patients and families. Monsanto, now owned by the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, is facing more than 9,000 similar lawsuits across the US.

The unanimous ruling on Tuesday follows a historic verdict last August in which a California jury in state court ruled that Roundup caused the terminal cancer of Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper. That jury said Monsanto failed to warn Johnson of Roundup’s health hazards and “acted with malice or oppression”, awarding Johnson $289m in damages. Hardeman’s trial has been more limited in scope. While Johnson’s attorneys argued that Monsanto had “bullied” scientists and fought to suppress negative studies about its product, the federal judge barred Hardeman’s lawyers from discussing Monsanto’s alleged influence on research and regulations during the hearings.

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2 weeks old, but highly relevant.

Miami Bans The Use Of Glyphosate In A Step To Improve Water Quality (NoC)

Miami, Florida voted unanimously to ban the use of glyphosate by city departments and contractors. The controversial herbicide is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s – now Bayer after an acquisition took place over a year ago – popular weed-killer, Roundup. But concerns surrounding the safety and proliferation of glyphosate continue to grow and the city of Miami took it upon themselves to effectively enact the resolution right after passage, The Miami Times reported. Miami Commissioner Ken Russell started the investigation into the city’s use of glyphosate after officials believed the runoff from the herbicide “might have contributed to the recent blue-green algae bloom and red tide that impacted the state last year,” EcoWatch reported.

“Water quality issues are so important to the city of Miami, and we can be one of the worst polluters as a municipality,” Russell told The Miami New Times. “We ask for residents to make a change in their habits and that they be conscious of what they put in their gardens, but when I realized the totality of what the city uses at any given time, we had to change our habits.” Miami Director of Resiliency and Public Works Alan Dodd determined that Miami was responsible for using 4,800 gallons of glyphosate a year on the streets and sidewalks to kill weeds. While Dodd stopped the use of the herbicide, Russell took it a step further and sponsored a city-wide ban on glyphosate to make sure it was no longer used by any departments.

According to Waterkeeper: “herbicides and fertilizers are often applied in excess to lawns and landscapes and can be lost to the environment in stormwater runoff and can degrade the water quality of streams, rivers, canals, lakes, and coastal waters. They can also contribute to the creation of harmful algal blooms and the destruction of critically important habitats like sea grass beds and coral reefs.”

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One of the big selling points for the 737MAX was that airlines didn’t have to spend a fortune to re-train their pilots. Even though the MCAS system that caused the crashes was brand new.

Off-Duty Pilot Saved Doomed 737 From Nosedive Day Before Deadly Crash (ZH)

An off-duty pilot hitching a ride in the cockpit jumpseat of a doomed 737 Max 8 last October reportedly saved the plane just one day before it crashed off the coast of Indonesia while being operated by a different crew, killing 189 onboard. According to Bloomberg, the ‘dead-head’ pilot on the earlier flight from Bali to Jakarta was able to explain to the crew how to disable a malfunctioning flight-control system by cutting power to a motor driving the nose of the plane down. The previously undisclosed detail supports the suggestion that a lack of training is may be at least partially to blame in the March 10 crash of another 727 Max 8.

“The previously undisclosed detail on the earlier Lion Air flight represents a new clue in the mystery of how some 737 Max pilots faced with the malfunction have been able to avert disaster while the others lost control of their planes and crashed. The presence of a third pilot in the cockpit wasn’t contained in Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee’s Nov. 28 report on the crash and hasn’t previously been reported.” -Bloomberg As we noted last week, several pilots had repeatedly warned federal authorities of the Max 8’s shortcomings, with one pilot describing the plane’s flight manual as “inadequate and almost criminally insufficient.”

“The fact that this airplane requires such jury-rigging to fly is a red flag. Now we know the systems employed are error-prone — even if the pilots aren’t sure what those systems are, what redundancies are in place and failure modes. I am left to wonder: what else don’t I know?” wrote the captain. “After the Lion Air crash, two U.S. pilots’ unions said the potential risks of the system, known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, hadn’t been sufficiently spelled out in their manuals or training. None of the documentation for the Max aircraft included an explanation, the union leaders said.” -Bloomberg

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Curious coming from the OECD.

Most People Want Higher Taxes On Rich To Support Poor – OECD (G.)

A majority of people living in developed countries want their government to increase taxes on the rich in order to help the poorest in society, according to a major global study. In all 21 countries included in the OECD study, more than half of those polled said they were in favour when asked: “Should the government tax the rich more than they currently do in order to support the poor?” The OECD said the survey of 22,000 people was “deeply troubling” and revealed that nearly 60% of respondents do not think they are getting their “fair share” back for the taxes they pay.

Only one in five people thought that they would easily be able to access state benefits in the event of a crisis, with many raising concerns about healthcare. Almost six in 10 said their government ignored their views and concerns. “This is a wake-up call for policy makers,” Ángel Gurría, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development secretary-general, said. “Too many people feel they cannot count fully on their government when they need help. “A better understanding of the factors driving this perception and why people feel they are struggling is essential to making social protection more effective and efficient. We must restore trust and confidence in government and promote equality of opportunity.”

The survey comes as politicians and campaigners across the world call for higher taxes on the super-rich to fund essential services for the poor. Several of the Democratic candidates for US president in the 2020 election, including Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have proposed new taxes on the super-rich to address inequality. The gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protesters in France have also demanded the wealthy shoulder a larger share of the tax burden. Almost 80% of people in Portugal and Greece said they wanted their governments to impose higher taxes on the wealthy. In the US more than half of those surveyed supported extra taxes on the wealthy. The OECD did not set an income level for what constituents wealthy.

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The end of one probe will give birth to many others.

Shifting Hopes As Republicans, Democrats Wait For Mueller (AP)

It’s a witch hunt, a vendetta, the worst presidential harassment in history. That’s what President Donald Trump has shouted for two years about the special counsel’s Russia probe. Now, barring an eleventh-hour surprise, Trump and his allies are starting to see it as something potentially very different: a political opportunity. With Robert Mueller’s findings expected any day, the president has grown increasingly confident the report will produce what he insisted all along — no clear evidence of a conspiracy between Russia and his 2016 campaign. And Trump and his advisers are considering how to weaponize those possible findings for the 2020 race, according to current and former White House officials and presidential confidants who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

A change is underway as well among congressional Democrats, who have long believed the report would offer damning evidence against the president. The Democrats are busy building new avenues for evidence to come out, opening a broad array of investigations of Trump’s White House and businesses that go far beyond Mueller’s focus on Russian interference to help Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton. It’s a striking role reversal. No one knows exactly what Mueller will say, but Trump, his allies and members of Congress are trying to map out the post-probe political dynamics.

[..] If the report proves anticlimactic, says former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a strong Trump ally, “there would no longer be any justification for what the House Dems want to do. They have their report, they had the guy they wanted writing it, and he had the full power of the federal government behind him and they still didn’t get the president. “Trump can say: Here is the report. I didn’t fire Mueller, I didn’t interfere with him. If you want to keep investigating me, it just shows that it is purely partisan.”

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What then is the real question about Adam Schiff?

Schiff: Real Question Is If Trump Is Under Influence Of A Foreign Power (NBC)

Nearly two years into his investigation, special counsel Robert Mueller has not accused any member of the Trump campaign of conspiring with the 2016 election interference effort — and it’s not clear whether he will. But legal experts, along with the congressman leading the House Russia investigation, tell NBC News that the most important question investigators must answer is one that may never have been suitable for the criminal courts: Whether President Trump or anyone around him is under the influence of a foreign government. “It’s more important to know what Trump is NOW than to know what he did in 2016,” said Martin Lederman, professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and former deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel during the Obama administration.

“It’s more important to know whether he has been compromised as president than whether his conduct during the campaign constituted a crime.” Whether Mueller will answer that question in the absence of criminal charges is unclear. But in an interview with NBC News, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said he is steering his investigation in a new direction to focus on it — and he will demand any relevant evidence compiled by the FBI or Mueller’s team. The California Democrat also expressed concern that Mueller hasn’t fully investigated Trump’s possible financial history with Russia. “From what we can see either publicly or otherwise, it’s very much an open question whether this is something the special counsel has looked at,” Schiff told NBC News.

Schiff said the public testimony from former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen that in 2016 Trump stood to earn hundreds of millions of dollars from a secret Moscow real estate project is a staggering conflict of interest that must be fully explored. “I certainly agree that the counterintelligence investigation may be more important than the criminal investigation because it goes to a present threat to our national security — whether the president and anybody around him are compromised by a foreign power,” Schiff said. “That’s not necessarily an issue that can be covered in indictments.”

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Sore losers all around.

Mueller Suspected Cohen May Have Been Acting As Foreign Agent In 2017 (G.)

Robert Mueller persuaded a judge within weeks of being made special counsel in 2017 that Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s legal fixer, may have been secretly working for a foreign government. Legal filings unsealed on Tuesday said investigators working for Mueller were granted access to Cohen’s personal email account on 18 July 2017 on the basis that he may have broken several laws, including those on unregistered foreign agents. Cohen’s suspected efforts were not detailed in the documents. Cohen, one of Trump’s closest advisers for a decade, was known to have been paid in 2017 for consulting work by a state-controlled South Korean aviation company and a bank in Kazakhstan.

The filings said Mueller’s investigators were looking in Cohen’s Gmail account for records on any “funds or benefits” he received from foreign governments or companies, as well as any files revealing efforts by Cohen to work on their behalf. The court documents were released by a federal judge in New York, where Cohen pleaded guilty last year to campaign finance and personal financial crimes. They were originally filed by investigators in April last year to obtain additional search warrants. It was not previously known that Cohen was suspected of crimes relating to representing foreigners without registering with US authorities, and no such charges were brought against him. Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison and is due to be jailed in May.

The filings released on Tuesday ran to hundreds of pages. More than 19 pages, apparently relating to the campaign finance scheme, were entirely blacked out, indicating that it remains under investigation. Cohen directly implicated Trump in the scheme, which involved hush-money payments to women who alleged during the 2016 campaign that they had affairs with Trump. Some legal analysts have said Trump could be vulnerable to prosecution for the scheme once he leaves office. He denies breaking any laws.

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9 days and it gets serious.

EU’s Barnier: UK Can’t Delay Brexit Without Clear Plan Of Action (Ind.)

The EU has said Britain cannot delay Brexit without a clear plan for what happens next, indicating only an election, a new referendum or major compromise on Theresa May’s red lines will suffice. In an ultimatum, Michel Barnier said there would need to be a “new event or new political process” to secure an extension to the Article 50 negotiating period. Brussels’ intervention represents yet another blow for the prime minister, who planned to ask for a delay at this week’s European Council meeting as part of a drive to finally push through her twice-defeated Brexit deal. She is already having to grapple with the new obstacle thrown in front of her by Commons speaker John Bercow who has tried to block her from putting the deal in front of MPs for a third time.

Any move to secure a long delay to Brexit is likely to infuriate Leave-backing Tory MPs and could even lead to cabinet resignations. A meeting of her top ministers on Tuesday ended with Brexiteer ministers making grave warnings about the collapse of their party if it fails to deliver Britain’s departure. Theresa May is set to write to European Council president Donald Tusk, laying out her proposal to delay Brexit beyond March 29 – something that requires the approval of all 27 remaining member states at the summit on Thursday. The Independent understands that one approach being considered is to ask for a lengthy extension to the Article 50 period, with the option of an early break if Ms May can get her deal through parliament.

But Mr Barnier poured cold water on the idea, telling a reporter who asked him about it: “You said both short and long – well, it’s either one or the other, isn’t it?” He added: “My feeling is … a longer extension needs to be linked to something new. There needs to be a new event or a new political process.” Mr Barnier told a news conference in Brussels: “It is our duty to ask whether this extension would be useful because an extension will be something which would extend uncertainty, and uncertainty costs.” He again warned that the UK would need to propose “something new” to justify a lengthy extension. A “new event” can only really mean giving the British public a Final Say referendum or an election, while a new process is likely to refer to a push to rewrite Ms May’s strategy to include a closer relationship with the EU, possibly a permanent customs union.

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What I liked about this when I read it yesterday was May refusing to say how long an extension she was asking for.

Theresa May Asks Eu For Brexit Delay With Cabinet In Deadlock (G.)

Theresa May will be forced to write to EU leaders on Wednesday and beg them to delay Brexit, with her cabinet deadlocked over the best way out of what Downing Street now concedes is a “crisis”. The government had maintained until the last possible moment that Brexit could go ahead as planned on 29 March or after a brief “technical extension”. But after the Speaker, John Bercow, ruled the prime minister could not put her deal to parliament unchanged for a third “meaningful vote,” her spokesman conceded it was now too late to leave with a deal.

He said May would write to the European council president, Donald Tusk, to ask for an extension to article 50, before EU leaders meet in Brussels on Thursday. He declined to say how long a delay she would request, or for what purpose, simply insisting: “You’re going to have to wait for that letter to be published.” Asked whether May agreed with the solicitor general, Robert Buckland, who described the situation after Bercow’s ruling on Monday as a “constitutional crisis”, her spokesman said: “If you were to look back at the speech the prime minister gave, just before meaningful vote two, she said that if MPs did not support meaningful vote two we would be in a crisis. Events yesterday tell you that that situation has come to pass.”

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It doesn’t matter what she asks for, but what they are willing to give.

Theresa May Will Not Ask EU For Long Brexit Extension (BBC)

Theresa May will not be asking the EU for a long delay when she formally requests that Brexit is postponed. Number 10 said the PM shared the public’s “frustration” at Parliament’s “failure to take a decision”. EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said the EU will not grant a delay without a “concrete plan” from the UK about what they would do with it. Under current law, the UK will leave the EU – with or without a deal – in nine days. BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith said the delay would not be beyond the end of June. Any delay will have to be agreed by all 27 EU member states and Mrs May is heading to Brussels on Thursday to discuss the matter with fellow leaders.

Explaining that Mrs May “won’t be asking for a long extension” when she writes to the EU, Number 10 said: “There is a case for giving Parliament a bit more time to agree a way forward, but the people of this country have been waiting nearly three years now. “They are fed up with Parliament’s failure to take a decision and the PM shares their frustration.” It comes after MPs rejected the withdrawal deal Mrs May has negotiated with the EU for a second time last week by 149 votes. They also voted in favour of ruling out leaving the EU without a deal, and in favour of extending the Brexit process.

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All these people love the sound of their own voices.

Tory MPs Vow To Quit Party If Boris Johnson Becomes Leader (G.)

Conservative MPs are orchestrating against a potential leadership campaign by Boris Johnson, with several talking of resigning the whip if he were to become party leader. With Tories convinced that Theresa May’s days in No 10 are numbered, MPs are feverishly discussing who will seek to replace her, how organised the teams are and whether a general election would be necessary. Johnson is the current favourite of Brexit-backing Tory activists, who will pick the leader out of a final two candidates. However, the former London mayor would first have to clear the hurdle of convincing Conservative MPs to put him on the final list of two.

One minister said she would leave the party if Johnson and his supporters, such as Jacob Rees-Mogg, took over the Conservatives. Another minister said he knew of five or six Conservatives who were openly saying they were so opposed to a Johnson premiership that they could not stay in the party run by him and a group of “Brexit ultras”. Anna Soubry, the former Tory minister who quit to join the new Independent Group, said she believed “people will leave” if Johnson were to become prime minister. [..] Backers of Johnson believe MPs could swing behind him if they believe an election is not far away, because he is already a household name to put up against Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn.

“Who outside Westminster has heard of Dominic Raab?” asked one Brexit supporting MP who wants Johnson to deliver May a message that she must stand down soon regardless of whether her Brexit deal passes. “Boris still has the star quality that we would need with the electorate to beat Corbyn if there is going to be an election soon. And there is going to be an election in 2019 if you look at parliament.”

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Something’s brewing.

Chinese Companies Default On Their Debts At An ‘Unprecedented’ Level (CNBC)

An economic slowdown and extremely tight credit conditions pushed corporate debt to a record high in China last year, according to experts. Defaults for Chinese corporate bonds — issued in both U.S. dollars and the Chinese yuan — soared last year, according to numbers from two banks. Japanese bank Nomura’s estimates, provided to CNBC, were even higher, putting the size of defaults in onshore bonds — or yuan-denominated bonds — at 159.6 billion yuan ($23.8 billion) last year. That number is roughly four times more than its 2017 estimate. Offshore corporate dollar bonds, or U.S. dollar-denominated debt issued by Chinese companies, followed the same trend.

Nomura said the amount of such debt rose to $7 billion in 2018, from none the year before. “China witnessed an unprecedented wave of corporate bond defaults last year, in a fresh sign of wobbles hitting financial markets as slowdown deepens,” said DBS analysts in the report. According to DBS, the energy sector bailed on 46.4 billion yuan of payments in 2018 — making up almost 40 percent of all defaults in yuan-denominated debt. Consumer companies were the next worst hit, according to the bank’s report. “The default wave is extending into 2019 … Given the reduced risk appetite and huge maturing volume, the outlook is poor,” DBS said, adding that there are 3.5 trillion yuan in corporate bonds due this year.

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I got back to Athens a few days ago, and this is the talk of the town. Greeks being evicted from their apartments because some Chinese ‘investor’ is Airbnb-ing entire buildings. Soon there’ll be hardly any Greeks left in the city core, and it’ll turn into Disneyland.

Foreigners Buy Up Athens Real Estate For Short-Term Rentals (K.)

The Greek property market appears to have emerged from its decade-long hibernation: Bank of Greece figures showed that 1.35 billion euros flowed into the country last year for property purchases (mainly houses) by foreign investors. That figure constitutes a 172 percent annual increase, after an 86.5 percent rise in 2017, when inflows had amounted to 500 million euros. House prices increased 1.5 percent in 2018 compared to 2017, when there had been a 1 percent yearly decline. Realty professionals say that investments by foreign individuals and medium-sized investors in the local housing market peaked in 2018, with a focus on flats in the center of Athens, apartments in the southern suburbs of Attica and luxury holiday homes.

This huge rise was fed by the prospects for the utilization of apartments through short-term leasing platforms such as Airbnb, Booking and HomeAway, by the appeal of the Golden Visa program, which grants five-year residence permits to foreign nationals who invest at least 250,000 euros in Greek realty, and by the continued increase in tourism, which has raised demand for holiday homes. Data from the land registry of Athens concerning the first eight months of 2018 showed a 60 percent annual increase in transactions.

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Mar 102019
 


Arthur Rothstein Girl at Gee’s bend 1937

 

Bruce Ohr’s Testimony Contradicts Rosenstein And Simpson (Sara Carter)
Three-Quarters Of New Voters Would Back Remain In Second Brexit Referendum (G.)
Last-Ditch Brexit Negotiations Descend Into Open Hostility (Ind.)
Theresa May Warned Another Brutal Brexit Defeat In Commons Inevitable (Sky)
May Staggers On Amid Predictions Of Her Political Demise (AFP)
Belgium Tells Companies To Halt Exports To UK After March 29 (Ind.)
Joe Biden Tops 2020 Iowa Democratic Presidential Poll Ahead Of Sanders (AP)
Tulsi Gabbard Takes a Strong Stand For WikiLeaks (CF)
Elizabeth Warren Defends Her Big Tech Breakup Proposal (AT)
EU Plan To Rein In Facebook And Google Will Do Exactly The Opposite (G.)
Italian PM Sets Conditions Over Rail Link To Defuse Crisis (R.)
How America’s Food Giants Swallowed The Family Farms (G.)
Is The World’s Most Popular Weedkiller Carcinogenic? (G.)

 

 

The US went to Daylight Saving Time 3 weeks ahead of Europe. Caught me by surprise.

Do I need to call for a 2nd Special Counsel again? What a friggin mess.

Bruce Ohr’s Testimony Contradicts Rosenstein And Simpson (Sara Carter)

1. Glenn Simpson suggests in his testimony to the Senate that he never spoke to anyone at the FBI about Christopher Steele, the former British spy he hired to investigate the Trump campaign during the election. However, Ohr suggest otherwise telling former Rep.Trey Gowdy under questioning “As I recall, and this is after checking with my notes, Mr. Simpson and I spoke in August of 2016. I met with him, and he provided some information on possible intermediaries between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.”

2. In another instance, Simpson’s testimony also contradicts notes taken by Ohr after a meeting they had in December, 2016. Unverified allegations were decimated among the media that the Trump campaign had a computer server that was linked to a Russian bank in Moscow: Alpha Bank. Simpson suggested to the Senate that he knew very little about the Trump -Alpha Bank server story and couldn’t provide information. But Bruce Ohr’s own handwritten notes state that when he met with Simpson in December 2016, Simpson was concerned over the Alpha Bank story in the New York Times. “The New York Times story on Oct. 31 downplaying the connection between Alfa servers and the Trump campaign was incorrect. There was communication and it wasn’t spam,” stated Ohr’s notes. This suggests that Simpson was well aware of the story, which was believed by congressional investigators to have started from his research firm.

3. Ohr testified to lawmakers that Simpson provided information to federal officials that was false regarding Cleta Mitchell, a well-known Republican campaign finance lawyer, and information regarding the National Rifle Association. Sean Davis, with the Federalist pointed this out in a tweet today.

4. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would not answer questions to lawmakers during testimony about when he learned that Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, was working for Fusion GPS. Just check this out from Rep. Matt Gaetz’s interview with Judge Jeanine on Fox News. “Rod Rosenstein won’t tell us when he first learned that Nellie Ohr was working for Fusion GPS,” said Gaetz, in August, 2018. “So I want to know from Bruce Ohr, when did he tell his colleagues at the Department of Justice that in violation of law that required him to disclose his wife’s occupation his sources of income. He did not do that. So when did all of the other people at the Department of Justice find this out because Rod Rosenstein, I’ve asked him twice in open hearing and he will not give an answer. I think there’s a real smoking gun there.”

However, in Ohr’s testimony he says he told the FBI about his wife’s role at Fusion GPS but only divulged his role to one person at the DOJ: Rosenstein. At the time, Rosenstein was overseeing the Trump-Russia probe, and had taken the information from Ohr and gave it to the FBI. Just read The Hill’s John Solomon full story here for the full background on Ohr’s testimony. I highlighted an important date below: remember Rosenstein wouldn’t answer lawmakers questions as to when he knew about Nellie Ohr. It also appears he failed to tell lawmakers about the information he delivered to the FBI.

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You go tell them they don’t count.

Three-Quarters Of New Voters Would Back Remain In Second Brexit Referendum (G.)

Some 87% of people who were too young to cast a ballot in the 2016 Brexit referendum but have since reached voting age would “definitely” take part if a second public vote were called, according to a new poll. And of the estimated 2 million new young voters, 74% would back remain. The survey, carried out by BMG on behalf of the anti-Brexit youth groups Our Future, Our Choice and For Our Future’s Sake, suggests the youth vote would be crucial in any second remain campaign and could significantly boost its chances of overturning the 2016 leave result.

The survey polled two groups: those who were too young to vote in 2016 and those who were eligible to vote but chose not to. Some 72% of those too young to vote in the original referendum feel it would be unfair if Britain left the EU without them having been able to vote on the issue. Only 3% of this demographic believe Britain’s standing in the world has increased since the referendum in June 2016. Further figures from the survey reveal that only 4% of this age group have had contact with their local MPs regarding Brexit. The proportion of young voters who would be angry if Britain left the EU without a public vote significantly outweighs those who would be happy – 55% to 9%.

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I was just watching Brexiteer David Davis saying the UK must be able to cut the Irish backstop when it wants, not wait for the other side to agree. But that would mean Ireland having no say at all in the matter.

Last-Ditch Brexit Negotiations Descend Into Open Hostility (Ind.)

Last-ditch negotiations in the Brexit process have descended into open hostility as one senior minister accused the EU of playing “games” with just three days to go until MPs vote on Theresa May‘s plans. After an extraordinary exchange between the Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay, and the EU’s chief negotiator on social media, the Commons leader Andrea Leadsom said she was was “deeply disappointed with what we’re hearing coming out of the EU”. “I do have to ask myself what games they are playing here,” the cabinet minister told Reuters after Mr Barclay accused Michel Barnier of trying to “rerun old arguments” as hopes of a Brexit breakthrough began to fade before Tuesday.

It comes as Westminster prepares for another week of political turmoil, with MPs gearing up to vote on the prime minister’s deal for a second time. Unless Ms May manages to secure last-minute concessions from Brussels over the weekend and into Monday, it appears she will suffer yet another heavy defeat in the House of Commons, throwing the Brexit process into further uncertainty. Ms Leadsom said she was still hopeful of a breakthrough, but added it would depend on the EU “coming to the table and taking seriously the [UK’s proposals]”. During a speech on Friday, Ms May pleaded with EU leaders to give ground in the negotiations as she told them: “Let’s get it done”. But hours later Mr Barnier indicated on his Twitter account that if the UK did not like the deal on the table, it could accept an alternative already rejected outright by the prime minister in the negotiating process.

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Will she last the week then?

Theresa May Warned Another Brutal Brexit Defeat In Commons Inevitable (Sky)

Theresa May has been warned another brutal Commons defeat over her Brexit deal is “inevitable” without late changes to the Northern Ireland backstop. The prime minister is preparing for a huge week in Westminster, with the withdrawal agreement she struck with Brussels set to go before parliament yet again. She has been trying to secure legally binding changes to the unpopular backstop to convince MPs that the UK cannot be tied indefinitely to EU rules against its wishes, which she hopes would be enough to get the deal through. But the likelihood of that happening appears remote as the clock continues to tick down, and further doubt has been cast over her chances by sceptical Brexiteers who she has been trying to win over.

Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the pro-Brexit Tory European Research Group, and DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds have described the situation as “grim”. In a joint article for The Sunday Telegraph, the pair said: “An unchanged withdrawal agreement will be defeated firmly by a sizeable proportion of Conservatives and the DUP if it is again presented to the Commons.” They predict that a “three-figure majority” will reject the deal in its current state, with it having already been voted down by 230 MPs back in January. It had been speculated that Mrs May could try to secure a third meaningful vote if she loses by less than 50 on Tuesday, but a loss as predicted by Mr Baker and Mr Dodds would make that prospect unlikely.

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“the living embodiment of a closed door”

May Staggers On Amid Predictions Of Her Political Demise (AFP)

Whether her Brexit deal passes parliament or not this week, British Prime Minister Theresa May’s days are numbered, experts have said. The Conservative leader has in the past won praise for her determination and ability to survive what has often felt like one long political crisis since the 2016 EU referendum. But her approach to the Brexit endgame, seeking changes to the deal she herself negotiated with under three weeks to go until exit day, has prompted frustration and anger on all sides. Pro-European ministers are in revolt over the risk of a “no deal” exit, while Brexit hardliners are livid that her promise of a decisive divorce appears to be receding.

At the same time, criticism of May’s legacy from six years as interior minister is growing following a surge in knife crime and an ongoing row over the treatment of migrants. “At first she appeared to be a unifier, but she turned out to have too little courage, imagination or skill to lead the Brexit negotiations,” said an editorial in the Conservative-backing Spectator magazine. It reluctantly urged MPs to back May’s divorce deal on Tuesday, but only so that Britain could “turn the page on this unhappy chapter of our political history”.

[..] in the last election, she struggled to engage with voters and was dubbed the “Maybot” after churning out the same answers and speeches over and over again. Critics complain of similar difficulties in communicating during the Brexit talks, and even her own ministers are reportedly unsure what she will do if her deal is voted down. Matthew Parris, an anti-Brexit former Conservative MP who now writes for The Times, said he once thought May was a merely an “unremarkable” politician dealing with a tough situation. But he said her inability to engage with colleagues had exacerbated divisions over Brexit, describing her as “the living embodiment of the closed door”.

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Too much hassle.

Belgium Tells Companies To Halt Exports To UK After March 29 (Ind.)

Belgium’s customs authority is advising companies that export to the UK to halt shipments after Brexit day to avoid customs chaos in the event of a no-deal scenario. Kristian Vanderwaeren, chief executive of Belgian customs, called for a “Brexitpauze” after 29 March and said firms should do as much of their exporting as they can before new controls have to come in. “Who are we as customs to give the business world instructions? But we are still asking the SMEs and all other parties to wait. Do the necessary export to your customers before 29 March,” he told Belgian business newspaper De Tijd. Mr Vanderwaeren said larger industries “such as pharmaceutical companies and car manufacturers” had been “storing stock in the UK for months” to avoid having to get parts through after Brexit but that the vast majority of businesses were not well prepared with just weeks to go.

Belgium’s main port of Zeebrugge is expected to have to deal with around a million additional import declarations and 4.5 million extra export declarations once the UK leaves the single market and customs union. The warning follows chaos and hours of delays at Calais and the Eurostar terminal in Paris after French customs officers carried out a trial of the sort of checks they would have to impose under a no-deal Brexit. The customs chief also warned that many small businesses that dealt with the UK were simply not prepared to export and that it would be better for them to pause operations. “Our customs authority has written letters to some 20,000 companies that trade with the UK telling them they have to apply for an EORI number, which is necessary to be able to import and export,” Mr Vanderwaeren told the newspaper.

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New Iowa poll from CNN/DMR:
Biden – 27%
Sanders – 25%
Warren – 9%
Harris – 7%
O’Rourke – 5%
Booker – 3%
Klobuchar – 3%

Shout out to Michael Tracey on Twitter: “Biden running could be useful in the sense that it’ll keep the 2020 debate grounded in some semblance of historical perspective. Re-examining his decades-long record will necessitate this. Otherwise, the candidates would all pretend that the USA’s problems began on Jan. 20, 2017.”

Joe Biden Tops 2020 Iowa Democratic Presidential Poll Ahead Of Sanders (AP)

The former US vice-president Joe Biden has topped a poll of Iowa voters on Saturday that also showed Senator Bernie Sanders gaining momentum against him in the number two spot. Biden, who has not announced whether he is running in the 2020 election, is the first choice for president of likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers with 27% in the Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll. Sanders, 77, got 25%. “If I’m Joe Biden sitting on the fence and I see this poll, this might make me want to jump in,” J Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co, which conducted the poll, told the Des Moines Register. The newspaper’s Iowa poll has a long track record of relative accuracy in the state that kicks off the presidential nominating process. In this cycle, Iowa will hold the first contest in the Democratic race in February 2020.

[..] It was the Register’s first Iowa poll since candidates began jumping into the race at the beginning of the year. The poll also surveyed support of likely Iowa caucus-goers on issues that have dominated the early discussion and drawn support from most of the Democratic presidential contenders. The Green New Deal, a proposal by Democrats in Congress to tackle climate change, was supported in full by 65% of the Democratic voters, partially by 26%, with 4% against. The deal would fund government programs on clean energy and make buildings energy efficient while helping to address poverty.

Support was also measured for Medicare-for-all, a plan first proposed by Sanders in 2017, to replace the current mix of private and government-financed healthcare coverage with a universal coverage plan funded solely by the government. It was supported by 49% of the likely caucus-goers, partially by 35%, with 11% against.

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Gabbard isn’t even in that poll at all. Nice she speaks out, and nice the right wing is with her, but this is not about WikiLeaks going from a news organization (Obama Admin’s designation) to a hostile intelligence agency (Trump Admin’s designation). Because Assange has been locked up since 2012, no matter designation Obama gave him. That’s what counts.

Tulsi Gabbard Takes a Strong Stand For WikiLeaks (CF)

Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, who has already taken a lot of heat from her party for being outspoken against senseless war and regime change, has released a strong statement in support of WikiLeaks. Gabbard, who is also a veteran, took to Twitter to talk about the dangers of designating the award-winning news organization a “hostile intelligence agency.” “If the government can change the designation Wikileaks from being a news organization (Obama Admin’s designation of Wikileaks) to a hostile intelligence agency (Trump Admin’s designation), then any entity – online and offline – is in danger of being designated a ‘hostile intelligence service’ if they carry out investigative reporting that the US government or a particular administration considers to be hostile to itself,” Gabbard wrote in a series of tweets on Saturday.

“This will have a chilling effect on investigative reporting of powerful government agencies or officials, including the president, intel agencies, etc. This is a serious breach of our constitutional freedoms and every American – Democrat, Republican or Independent – must stand up against it.” During his presidential campaign, President Donald Trump repeatedly expressed support for WikiLeaks, even saying that he “loves” the publisher, yet his administration has dramatically ramped up efforts to extradite the website’s founder Julian Assange to face charges in the US.

Whistleblower and WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning is currently sitting in jail after refusing to testify before a secret grand jury regarding WikiLeaks’ 2010 publication of the war logs. Manning was granted immunity for the testimony, but refused to participate in the political persecution of the news organization as she has a deeply held opposition to secret grand juries. Gabbard is famous for taking a stand when others won’t, even resigning from the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 election — as she supported Senator Bernie Sanders and was no longer impartial. She has faced backlash from both the right and the left for her principled belief in avoiding war whenever possible.

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Warren needs a profile or people will forget about her.

Elizabeth Warren Defends Her Big Tech Breakup Proposal (AT)

“Today, we have companies like Amazon: they have a platform. I buy a coffee maker and use it all the time, but Amazon also sucks out an incredible amount of info about every buyer and every seller. Then, Amazon makes the decision to have a competing coffee machine and drive out the business in that space,” she explained. “They have this incredible advantage from the information they get from their platform and the fact they can also manipulate the platform, putting themselves on page 1 and put the competitor on page 16 where no one ever goes… My view is break those things apart, and we’ll have a more robust market in America.”

Warren touched on many topics over the course of her hour-long conversation with Giridharadas, but her support of free markets and capitalism—in particular how those ideas need to be instituted fairly within industries like tech—came up again and again. The senator had multiple, varied analogies at the ready to help. If baseball is your language, Warren likened Big Tech’s current situation to the conflict of interest that might exist if one individual was, say, both umpire and team owner. If you prefer American history, she sees the power and influence of Google, Amazon, et al. as analogous to the railroads of the 1800s.

“The railroads of the Teddy Roosevelt era were the big monopoly of the 1800s—the railroads were where you had to be if you had a steel mill, wheat, or corn, you had to get your goods to the railroad,” Warren said. “What happened? Railroads figured out they could price differently depending on your desperation or whether they had a competitor in the field. They’d start their own steel company and then give discount rates to move that along and sell at a cheaper price, but they’d raise prices for competitors. “In that sense, what’s new is old,” she continued. “When someone gets market dominance, they destroy competition. The world that gave them birth, to get the opportunity to go and grow and do something, [the company] has grown big enough to destroy everything around it.”

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Still waiting for those new laws.

EU Plan To Rein In Facebook And Google Will Do Exactly The Opposite (G.)

The growth of the internet and user-generated content in the past 15 years has been underpinned by speed and ease of use. The foundations for this are commonly referred to as “safe harbour” provisions in copyright law. This means that organisations that allow users to upload content to their websites – Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook et al – are not liable for copyright infringement of their users, but are required to speedily remove content after the fact, if a copyright makes a complaint. Now, through article 13 of its new copyright directive, the EU is curtailing these safe harbour provisions, and thereby challenging the very basis of a free and open internet.

Imagine that you upload content to a video-sharing website and then have to wait for days for it to appear after it is vetted. That could be the future of the internet in the EU. The EU’s actions appear to be targeted at reducing the immense power of the likes of Facebook and Google. There is no question that their power needs to be reduced – but copyright law is not the correct approach. Blindly removing copyrighted content uploaded by users will snag legitimate fair-uses and inevitably result in a chilling effect on criticism, debate and commentary – so ultimately this threatens democracy and society at a time when it is especially vulnerable.

[..] the EU’s proposed copyright law amendments are ill-advised. It creates barriers to entry for newcomers to challenge incumbents, and only serves to strengthen the already powerful. Google and Facebook have the economic wherewithal to oversee all the content uploaded to their platforms. While it might increase costs for them, the vastly greater effect is on financially weaker competitors and any new, disruptive entrants on the horizon. New businesses will be hindered, forced to exist without the freedom that Google and Facebook once enjoyed to become the giants they are today. Instead of tackling the power of the internet giants, the new law will further secure their dominance. Two aspects of the EU law stand out. First, the notable exception from this law is for “non-profit encyclopedias” – which is essentially code for “Wikipedia”. Wikipedia should recognise the exception for what it is – a clever way to buy its silence.

And Wikipedia should rise above it and simply not accept it. Today, the site is a manifestation of a free and open internet. Wikipedia, if true to its ideals, should go dark in protest. Second, the EU seems to have recognised that innovation can be hindered and competition thwarted with article 13. As a result, there seems to be exceptions designed for small and young companies. To avail of this exception, companies must be less than three years old. But what about companies that take longer to grow? If the EU really wants to curtail the tech giants, they should go by market capitalisation, revenue and funds raised: say for example, a company that is valued at $1bn, has $50m in revenue, or has raised cumulatively at least $200m. These numbers could be anything, but at least a calibrated and targeted approach should be used – not arbitrary timings.

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My theory is Salvini wants the rail line, but he can’t keep himself from pissing off Macron.

Italian PM Sets Conditions Over Rail Link To Defuse Crisis (R.)

The multibillion-euro TAV link (Treno Alta Velocita) is backed by Matteo Salvini’s League party but strongly opposed by its coalition partner, 5-Star Movement, which argues that Italy’s share of the funding would be better spent upgrading existing roads and bridges. Tensions between the two sides had escalated ahead of a Monday deadline for the company overseeing the project, TELT, to launch tenders to carry out works on it, threatening to bring down the government. But Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a post on Facebook he had asked TELT to halt the finalization of tenders for the rail link because his government had committed to “totally re-discussing” the project.

Conte published a response from TELT, which said it would call for expressions of interest from potential contractors for the French portion of the rail link on Monday, effectively launching the tender process, in order to avoid losing European Union funding. However, it said it would not proceed with the definition of contracts without the consent of both the Italian and French governments. Sources close to the matter said it normally takes six months between the launch of tenders and the next phase, when contract specifications are detailed.

The TAV is a joint venture between the Italian and French states to link the cities of Turin and Lyon with a 58-km (36-mile) tunnel through the Alps on which work has already begun. The EU has pledged to fund up to 40 percent of the costs of the TAV, Italy up to 35 percent and France up to 25 percent. Italy’s transport minister, a 5-Star official, puts the total price tag at more than 20 billion euros ($22.6 billion). His French counterpart, Elisabeth Borne, said on Friday the European Commission had let it be known it was willing to increase its share to 50 percent, leaving France and Italy to finance 25 percent each.

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The US is already a socialist country, it’s just that their version is socialism for the rich. Huge amounts of subsidies are paid out to kill off small business. It’s exactly what the Soviet Union and China did.

How America’s Food Giants Swallowed The Family Farms (G.)

Tim Gibbons of Missouri Rural Crisis Center, a support group for family farmers set up during the 1980s farm crisis, says the cycle of economic shocks has blended with government policies to create a “monopolisation of the livestock industry, where a few multinational corporations control a vast majority of the livestock”. Gibbons explains: “They are vertically integrated, from animal genetics to grocery store. What they charge isn’t based upon what it costs to produce, and it’s not based on supply and demand, because they know what they need to make a profit. What they have done, through government support and taxpayer support, is to intentionally overproduce so that the price stays low, sometimes below the cost of production. That kicks their competition out of the market. Then they become the only player in town.

“Over time, it has extracted wealth and power from communities. We can see how that has impacted rural main streets. You can see the boarded-up storefronts. You can see the lack of economic opportunity.” Gibbons says that corporations game the system by obtaining low-interest, federally guaranteed loans to build Cafos that then overproduce. But they know the government will buy up the surplus to stabilise prices. “The system has been set up for the benefit of the factory farm corporations and their shareholders at the expense of family farmers, the real people, our environment, our food system,” he adds.

“The thing that is really pervasive about it is that they control the rules of the game because they control the democratic process. It’s a blueprint. We’re paying for our own demise. “It would be a different argument if it was just based upon inevitability or based on competition. But it’s not based upon competition: it’s based upon squelching competition.”

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Monsanto has succeeded in putting science upside down. If you can’t prove 100% that Roundup causes cancer, they argue they should be able to spray 6.1 billion kilos of it over your food. That is of course utter insanity. They must prove it is NOT carcinogenic, and until then it should not be allowed in the open.

Is The World’s Most Popular Weedkiller Carcinogenic? (G.)

An estimated 6.1 billion kilos of glyphosate-based weedkillers were sprayed across gardens and fields worldwide between 2005 and 2014 (the most recent point at which data has been collected). That is more than any other herbicide, so understanding the true impact on human health is vital. [..] There is no question that the glyphosate debate has become highly politicised in recent years. Despite the limited evidence linking glyphosate to health risks, a European Citizens Initiative petition against its use in agriculture still garnered 1.3 million signatures, with the European Union’s 2017 decision to license it for another five years sparking mass protests across the continent.

In addition to cancer, environmental activists have claimed links between herbicide exposure and everything from coeliac disease to autism, while on the other side of the fence, regulatory agencies blame an ongoing anti-GM agenda for driving public sentiment against this small molecule. If glyphosate is banned, campaigners will have struck another severe blow against GM crop production. “My personal perception is that glyphosate has become a symbol for the use of chemicals in agriculture and the way we produce food in Europe,” says Dr Bernhard Url, executive director of Efsa. “When science meets values, things become complicated. So when politicians are confronted with the opinion of Efsa that glyphosate is safe, they say, ‘No, I don’t want to hear that glyphosate is not carcinogenic because it doesn’t fit into my world view.

“I want a world without agrochemicals and if you, Efsa, tell us that glyphosate is safe to be used, you must be corrupt.’” A 2016 study which found a 1,000% rise in the levels of glyphosate in our urine in the past two decades – suggesting that increasing amounts of glyphosate is passing through our diet – provoked further outrage. Except it isn’t really clear whether that has any consequences at all for our health. An Efsa letter, published in the journal Nature, pointed out that glyphosate residues found in Italian pasta or German beer would only exceed known risk thresholds if someone were to consume their entire body weight’s worth of those products in a single day.

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