Sep 242019
 
 September 24, 2019  Posted by at 9:12 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  19 Responses »


Paul Gauguin Clovis Gauguin asleep 1884

 

Why Repo Is Such a Big Deal, and Its $400 Billion Bailout So Unnerving (Fort.)
Interest Rate Business Model is Dead (Welt)
Discord At The Top Is Bad For The ECB (MW)
Boris Johnson Refuses To Rule Out Suspending Parliament Again (G.)
UK Labour Party Remains Split Over EU (CNBC)
The Odor of Desperation (Kunstler)
Why Is The Media Circling The Wagons To Protect Hunter Biden? (NYPost Ed.)
Democrats Were First To Enlist Ukraine In US Elections (Solomon)
Democrats Announce Tighter Criteria For Fifth Presidential Debate (R.)
Google Wins Landmark Right-To-Be-Forgotten Case In Europe (BBC)
US Government Moves To Block Alleged Drone Whistleblower’s Defense (SProof)

 

 

2 things:

1) the UK Supreme Court ruling on prorogation will come too late to include here.

2) I’m sorry that Greta Thunberg made me feel queasy yesterday. I know she means well, but it all came out very strangely in her speech. Could hardly bear to watch it. Who’s pushing her? To Davos first, and now the UN?

 

 

“..any counter-party in need of cash, and only holding collateral like Treasuries, agreed to pay the much higher going repo rates. That’s supply and demand..”

Why Repo Is Such a Big Deal, and Its $400 Billion Bailout So Unnerving (Fort.)

Repos (short for repurchase agreements) are short-term borrowing transactions, often made overnight. Think of them as trades of cash for some kind of collateral. In a repo transaction, the borrower will sell certain securities in their possession with the agreement to buy them back the next day. If the transaction is not rolled over, then the trade has to be settled the following day, with the borrower repurchasing the collateral from the lender for slightly more than it had previously sold it for, compensating the lender with interest for taking on the risk. Large corporations and banks typically hold vast quantities of highly liquid financial assets, and so they like using these markets as a means of quick and easy financing.

In fact, there are more than $1 trillion worth of overnight repo transactions collateralized with US government debt occurring every day. Banks frequently go to these markets to fund the loans they issue, and to finance the trades they execute. That’s when it’s working smoothly. The repo market seized up last week, with median repurchase rates skyrocketing from their usual band of 2.00-2.25% to 2.46% on Monday, and 5.25% on Tuesday. Keep in mind, that’s the median rate. Some repo rates were as high as 9%, more than quadruple the Federal Reserve’s own target rate, which usually puts a cap on how high Treasury repo rates could climb.

An unlucky confluence of events, including an exceptionally large demand for cash from U.S. companies that needed to pay their corporate tax bills, sucked a lot of the available cash out of the financial markets. What happened last week was any counter-party in need of cash, and only holding collateral like Treasuries, agreed to pay the much higher going repo rates. That’s supply and demand, plain and simple, and it mirrors what happened in certain repo markets in 2007 before the housing crash and the Great Recession that followed.

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This is from an article by Anne Kunz and Holger Zschäpitz for Die Welt. Mish ran a Google translate which he corrected later.

I must say, the impression is too strong that Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank are in trouble only because of Draghi. That is simply not true.

And banks are not the main victims of low rates, savers and pensioners are.

Interest Rate Business Model is Dead (Welt)

The cash cow bank lending model is dead, buried by the European Central Bank (ECB). The coup de grace came at the recent meeting. As ECB President Mario Draghi squeezed the negative interest rate for banks even deeper. The ECB will restart its bond purchase program in November. This time, without a time limit. Thus, the monetary authorities have permanently chained the long-term interest rate at a low level and cut the profit opportunities of the financial sector to a level that isn’t sustainable. For a long time, institutions have made good money from the difference between long-term and short-term interest rates.That time is now over.

In 2016, Commerzbank employed more than 50,000 people. CEO Martin Zielke wants to close one-fifth of the 1,000 branches and even wants to part with an important source of income including his Polish subsidiary MBank. The workforce should be reduced to around 38,000 by the end of 2020. The sale of Mbank is a desperate attempt at salvation. In terms of stock market value, Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank are now loosely hanged even by more regionally active institutions from Norway and Sweden. [That is a direct translation that reads wrong but I do not know how to fix it]. Even the once proud Landesbanken is a restructuring case. This is a dangerous development.

“With the allowance, the ECB has relieved the German banks in the short term by around 500 million euros. At the same time, banks will be burdened considerably by the continuation of the low interest rates for an indefinite period, “says Peter Barkow, financial expert at Barkow Consulting. “Especially the German banks are very much dependent on income from the long-term investment of customer deposits at higher interest rates, called maturity transformation. This strategy only works very limited, “warns the expert. [The allowance refers to the ECB not charging banks a portion of the negative interest on excess reserves]

However, the corresponding earnings impact on the banks will only be delayed. “Many German banks have to find new sources of income in the medium term. In the short term, a further reduction in costs will probably be necessary, “says Barkow. For more than a hundred years, banks lived on long-term lending or investing in securities their clients entrusted to them in the short term. Historically, banks made money out of time. If time no longer has a price, because there is no more interest, nothing can be earned. Ten-year Bunds yielded around 1.5 percentage points more than two-year issues in historical terms. Currently, the difference is just under 0.2 percentage points.

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Depends on Lagarde.

Discord At The Top Is Bad For The ECB (MW)

The ECB on September 12 launched a new round of monetary easing, arguing that the decline of inflation expectations in the eurozone, triggered by the current economic slowdown, is throwing further doubt on its ability to reach its official target of “below but close to 2%”. The central bank not only resumed its asset purchases while lowering its key interest rate to minus 0.5%: It also, for the first time, declined to set a date for the end of the program, indicating only that it would be phased out once inflation is “robustly” back on the 2% track. The decision came after a heated debate on the governing council, which includes the 19 central bankers from the monetary union’s member countries and the ECB’s six-strong executive board. Even traditional doves, such as the council’s two French members, argued against the resumption of the bond-buying program.

As soon as the decision was announced, the fiercest opponents to the package went public with their frustration. German central bank President Jens Weidmann told the newspaper Bild that the package was “unnecessary.” The day before, the same newspaper had accused Draghi, dubbed “Count Draghila,” of “sucking dry” the accounts of German savers. Austrian central bank head Robert Holzmann told Bloomberg the package “may have been a mistake.” And Klaas Knot, the Dutch central bank chief, added that the package was “disproportionate.” The loose monetary policies initiated by ECB President Mario Draghi in the summer of 2012, less than a year after he took office, were always reluctantly accepted by eurozone central’s most hawkish members, even when they occasionally voted for some of the measures — such as the first round of bond-buying, back in 2014.

But it is the first time that the relative confidentiality of the governing council’s deliberations has turned into such a public airing of dirty monetary laundry.

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“..Johnson also categorically ruled out any sort of deal with Nigel Farage’s Brexit party..”

Boris Johnson Refuses To Rule Out Suspending Parliament Again (G.)

Boris Johnson has refused to rule out suspending parliament again if the supreme court rules on Tuesday that he abused his powers as prime minister in doing so earlier this month. The British prime minister, who is in New York for a UN summit, also indicated he would not feel obliged to resign if the justices rule he misled the Queen in his reasons for suspending parliament. Asked if he felt a verdict going against him would make his position untenable, Johnson said: “No. I think the reasons for wanting a Queen’s speech are extremely good.” Speaking to reporters, Johnson also categorically ruled out any sort of deal with Nigel Farage’s Brexit party in the likely imminent election, saying the Conservatives would contest every seat.


The supreme court judgment, which could have a huge impact not just on Johnson’s future but also the wider ability of the courts to take a view in political decisions made by government, is due to be announced at 10.30am, following last week’s hearing. The panel of 11 judges were tasked with hearing appeals from two separate legal challenges to Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament – the technical term for gaps in parliamentary sessions which do not involve dissolution before an election – for five weeks from 9 September.

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Corbyn’s attempts to not lose the Leave voters divide the party. Damned if you do…

UK Labour Party Remains Split Over EU (CNBC)

Britain’s main opposition party has narrowly voted to maintain a neutral stance on the country’s most divisive topic, Brexit, after chaotic scenes at the party’s conference Monday evening prompted fresh criticism from both internal party activists and senior political opponents. Much of the party’s ordinary membership are in favor of the U.K.’s continued membership in the European Union, but Labour chief Jeremy Corbyn has long remained publicly ambivalent on the subject in a bid to hold his party and its supporters together ahead of an expected national election. But those efforts were severely tested as the party’s ruling body put forward a series of proposals on Brexit, many of which had been crafted by dozens of the local Labour constituencies over the course of several days.


Corbyn’s team had insisted that the party remain agnostic for now on whether the U.K. should leave or remain in Europe, and demanded that a final decision be made at another future meeting; at an undetermined time and after a putative election victory. [..] Those Labour activists and party officials who are concerned about those departing voters, and who also advocate remaining in the EU, had put forward a separate proposal Monday. It would have forced the party to adopt a clear policy in favor of continued EU membership, but it was marginally defeated in a vote of raised hands that even the meeting’s chairwoman acknowledged had been hard to judge with total certainty.

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And every second headline says impeachment again. Am I the only one getting tired of that?

The Odor of Desperation (Kunstler)

The swamp abides. The latest news media dumpster fire over President Trump’s phone conversation with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is a three-way ruse. Ruse 1: deflect attention from the main issue, which is Joe Biden’s trolling for payoffs on his missions to foreign lands as vice-president, first Ukraine, where son Hunter was gifted a board of director’s chair and $50K-a-month salary with Ukrainian gas company Burisma, and then a $1.5 billion “private equity investment” to Hunter Biden’s wealth management fund from the state-owned Bank of China. Ruse 2: to deflect attention from the damage soon to be inflicted on the Deep State by the forthcoming DOJ Inspector General’s report on FISA court abuses. Ruse 3. To set in motion yet another obstruction of justice trap for Mr. Trump on the basis of false charges.

This comes at the instigation of Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who was formerly senior legal counsel to John Carlin head of the National Security Division of the Department of Justice, deeply implicated in the FISA court matters of 2016 under investigation by federal prosecutor John Durham. Mr. Atkinson cited a complaint by an unnamed whistleblower who claims to have heard from a source that the President offered a quid pro quo to Ukrainian President Zelensky for reopening the Burisma case. The “whistleblower” may be Mr. Atkinson himself. Of course, gaffe-prone Joe Biden spilled the beans on video earlier this year, when he bragged about shaking down Ukraine’s then-president Petro Poroshenko over a billion-dollar loan guarantee unless he fired the prosecutor investigating Burisma, which he did. Is there any ambiguity here?

The coordination between the news media and the Deep State is impressively blatant in this new gambit, with former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe (dismissed for cause in 2018), in his new position as a CNN “contributor” (while awaiting prosecution) teeing up a new “Trump collusion” narrative with The New York Times, WashPost, and NBC marching in step. In this new age of disinformation, narratives are the political weapon of choice in the campaign to harass and disable the winner of the 2016 election. The big play of RussiaGate failed, the play of “racism” is failing, so UkraineGate is next up.

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“Imagine the son was Eric Trump, and the politician Donald Trump. Would the media be dismissing it as nothing worth looking at, a “debunked” issue?”

Why Is The Media Circling The Wagons To Protect Hunter Biden? (NYPost Ed.)

A foreign natural gas company brings a top US politician’s son onto its board, even though he has no relevant expertise, for $50,000 a month. The politician travels to that country and demands the removal of a prosecutor who’s investigating the company. That prosecutor then gets axed, and the investigation shut down. Imagine the son was Eric Trump, and the politician Donald Trump. Would the media be dismissing it as nothing worth looking at, a “debunked” issue? Yes, Ukraine’s chief prosecutor declared in May that he’d seen no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe or Hunter Biden. Of course not: Again, the investigation got closed years ago.

Yet Yuriy Lutsenko also basically told Bloomberg News he didn’t want to see any such evidence: “I do not want Ukraine to again be the subject of US presidential elections.” And Volodymyr Zelensky took over as Ukraine’s new president after that Lutsenko interview — having won on a vow to end Ukraine’s endemic corruption. Was it really so strange that President Trump pushed the reformer to reopen the probe? No, Trump hasn’t bathed himself in glory with his ham-handed pressure on Ukraine. Then again, Joe Biden’s boasts about getting that prosecutor axed also look clumsy. Then there’s Lutsenko’s claim that the Obama administration handed him a “do not prosecute” list in mid-2016, even as it was pushing Ukraine for dirt on Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager.

That evidence eventually helped send Manafort to prison. What might come of a full-on Hunter Biden probe?

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“..the pressure began at least as early as January 2016, when the Obama White House unexpectedly invited Ukraine’s top prosecutors to Washington..”

“..What wasn’t known at the time, Shokin told me recently, was that Ukrainian prosecutors were preparing a request to interview Hunter Biden about his activities and the monies he was receiving from Ukraine.”

Democrats Were First To Enlist Ukraine In US Elections (Solomon)

Earlier this month, during a bipartisan meeting in Kiev, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) delivered a pointed message to Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky. While choosing his words carefully, Murphy made clear — by his own account — that Ukraine currently enjoyed bipartisan support for its U.S. aid but that could be jeopardized if the new president acquiesced to requests by President Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to investigate past corruption allegations involving Americans, including former Vice President Joe Biden’s family. Murphy boasted after the meeting that he told the new Ukrainian leader that U.S. aid was his country’s “most important asset” and it would be viewed as election-meddling and “disastrous for long-term U.S.-Ukraine relations” to bend to the wishes of Trump and Giuliani.

“I told Zelensky that he should not insert himself or his government into American politics. I cautioned him that complying with the demands of the President’s campaign representatives to investigate a political rival of the President would gravely damage the U.S.-Ukraine relationship. There are few things that Republicans and Democrats agree on in Washington these days, and support for Ukraine is one of them,” Murphy told me today, confirming what he told Ukraine’s leader. The implied message did not require an interpreter for Zelensky to understand: Investigate the Ukraine dealings of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, and you jeopardize Democrats’ support for future U.S. aid to Kiev.

The Murphy anecdote is a powerful reminder that, since at least 2016, Democrats repeatedly have exerted pressure on Ukraine, a key U.S. ally for buffering Russia, to meddle in U.S. politics and elections. [..] As I have reported, the pressure began at least as early as January 2016, when the Obama White House unexpectedly invited Ukraine’s top prosecutors to Washington to discuss fighting corruption in the country. The meeting, promised as training, turned out to be more of a pretext for the Obama administration to pressure Ukraine’s prosecutors to drop an investigation into the Burisma Holdings gas company that employed Hunter Biden and to look for new evidence in a then-dormant criminal case against eventual Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, a GOP lobbyist.

[..] Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in crucial U.S. aid to Kiev if Poroshenko did not fire the country’s chief prosecutor. Ukraine would have been bankrupted without the aid, so Poroshenko obliged on March 29, 2016, and fired Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin.At the time, Biden was aware that Shokin’s office was investigating Burisma, the firm employing Hunter Biden, after a December 2015 New York Times article. What wasn’t known at the time, Shokin told me recently, was that Ukrainian prosecutors were preparing a request to interview Hunter Biden about his activities and the monies he was receiving from Ukraine. If such an interview became public during the middle of the 2016 election, it could have had enormous negative implications for Democrats.

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Tulsi Gabbard is on the verge of making the October debate. They don’t want a repeat in November.

Democrats Announce Tighter Criteria For Fifth Presidential Debate (R.)

The Democratic National Committee on Monday announced new criteria for the fifth presidential debate in November, requiring candidates to meet one of two polling requirements and have 165,000 unique donors. Candidates must either receive 3 percent or more support in four national or early state polls or 5 percent or more support in two polls of the states that hold early presidential nominating contests: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Nevada. They must show a minimum of 600 unique donors per state in at least 20 U.S. states, territories or the District of Columbia, the DNC said.


The new requirements promise to further cull the large Democratic field of 19 candidates seeking to challenge Republican President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election. Former Vice President Joe Biden has led most opinion polls so far, followed by U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. The sprawling field has made it difficult for lesser-known candidates to register in the minds of Democratic voters, with several polling at 1 percent or less nationally. [..] Criteria for the September and October debates required donations from at least 130,000 people and support of at least 2% in four DNC-approved polls.

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Local bans on global networks?!

Google Wins Landmark Right-To-Be-Forgotten Case In Europe (BBC)

Europe’s top court has ruled that Google does not have to apply the right to be forgotten globally. It means that firm only needs to remove references to articles and other material from its search results in Europe – and not elsewhere – after receiving an appropriate request. The ruling stems from a dispute between Google and a French privacy regulator. In 2015, CNIL ordered the firm to globally remove links to pages containing damaging or false information about a person. The following year, Google introduced a geoblocking feature that prevents European users from being able to see delisted links. But it resisted censoring search results for people in other parts of the world.


And the firm challenged a 100,000 euro fine that CNIL had tried to impose. Google had argued that the obligation could be abused by authoritarian governments trying to cover up human rights abuses were it to be applied outside of Europe. The tech firm had been supported by Microsoft, Wikipedia’s owner the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the UK freedom of expression campaign group Article 19, among others. ECJ adviser Maciej Szpunar had also concluded that the right to be forgotten be limited to Europe in a non-binding recommendation to the court earlier this year.

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An all-out attack on the Espionage Act.

US Government Moves To Block Alleged Drone Whistleblower’s Defense (SProof)

The United States government has moved to block Daniel Hale, a former U.S. Air Force language analyst, from presenting any evidence that he had “good motives” when he allegedly disclosed documents to a reporter that exposed a targeted assassination program involving armed drones. Yet, while the U.S. government hopes to ensure Hale cannot put on a whistleblower defense during his trial, Hale’s defense attorneys have directly challenged the constitutionality of the Espionage Act, arguing it violates the First Amendment. They also assert that the government is selectively and vindictively prosecuting Hale for his alleged act of dissent.

Hale was indicted on five counts on May 9. Three of the charges allege he violated the Espionage Act. One charge alleges he disclosed “communications intelligence” without authorization. The fifth charge alleges he stole “government property.” In October 2015, The Intercept published a “cache of secret documents detailing the inner workings of the U.S. military’s assassination program in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia.” The media organization said the documents were provided by a whistleblower and offered “unprecedented glimpse into [President Barack] Obama’s drone wars.” They were called “The Drone Papers.” These are the documents that the government accuses Hale of disclosing without proper authorization to the public.

[..] There were only three prosecutions under the Espionage Act for the first 75 years that were “premised” on “leaks.” However, since 2009, there have been 18 prosecutions of media sources, according to Hale’s attorneys. President Barack Obama’s administration set the record for more leak prosecutions under the Espionage Act than all previous U.S. presidents combined, and the Obama Justice Department’s novel interpretations of the Espionage Act set the stage for President Donald Trump to launch a prosecution against Hale, as well as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is the first journalist to be charged with violating this particular law.

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Sep 222019
 
 September 22, 2019  Posted by at 9:42 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Salvador Dali The tartan el son 1919

 

Only You Can Change The World, Money Can’t (Sudden Debt)
New Revelations Deepen Scandal Over Trump Whistleblower Complaint (CNN)
Trump Defers WikiLeaks Question as DOJ Seeks Assange Extradition (WT)
1 In 4 Luxury NYC Apartments Remain Unsold Over The Past 5 Years (ZH)
Thomas Cook Travel Firm In Talks With UK Gov, Investors Over Rescue Deal (AFP)
Mining Industry Seeks To Polish Tarnished Reputation (AFP)
Tactical Voting By Remain Supporters Could End Boris Johnson’s Reign (Ind.)
Google Creates World’s Most Powerful Computer, NASA ‘Accidentally Reveals’ (RT)
UN Welcomes Huthi Offer To Halt Attacks On Saudi Arabia (AFP)
Hong Kong Protesters Optimistic On US Rights Legislation (AFP)
Global Leaders Pledge To Hope Climate Catastrophe Sorts Itself Out (NT)

 

 

Today Julian Assange’s prison term ends. But he will be kept behind bars, not as a prisoner but as a person awaiting extradition. And you are protesting climate change?!

 

 

Haven’t heard from Sudden Debt in quite some time.

“In the words of Super Mario: whatever it takes (as long as it involves a hammer)”

Only You Can Change The World, Money Can’t (Sudden Debt)

In today’s brave new world Time Value Of Money, the bedrock of financial sanity, is out the window. It’s as if the arrow of time is running backwards, the Second Law of Thermodynamics involving Entropy (aka there’s no such thing as a free lunch) is inoperable, that Perpetual Motion machines actually exist. If negative rates were operative in agriculture, you would always reap less than you sowed. I could go on, but you get my drift. It worries me that no one is screaming bloody murder about it, that Bloomberg, Reuters, WSJ, the FT, all take it more or less in stride. It just aint’t natural. I mean it literally, it goes against natural law – unless the Universe has started shrinking. Which, as far as I know, it hasn’t.


Apart from their unnatural state, negative rates resemble something I loudly warned about well before the CMO, CDO, CDS, etc crisis blew up in 2007-08. Namely, that if you take a pile of dogshit (subprime loans) and cut it into pieces (securitize and tranche it), then little piece A is magically transmuted into gold, B becomes silver, C is copper and so on, until only the tail end bit is still poop! Ahuh…that didn’t work out great, did it? Likewise, if an economy cannot be productive and competitive with 2% interest rates, throwing free money at it won’t change a damn thing. MONEY is not the issue! But, central bankers seem to be like handymen who only carry hammers. Economy won’t grow? Hammer it with money. Still doesn’t grow? Hammer harder!! In the words of Super Mario: whatever it takes (as long as it involves a hammer).

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The whole thing is only hearsay.

New Revelations Deepen Scandal Over Trump Whistleblower Complaint (CNN)

The Washington Post on Wednesday said the complaint referenced a “promise” Trump allegedly made to the unidentified leader. CNN has not confirmed that aspect of the controversy. The whistleblower didn’t have direct knowledge of the communications, an official briefed on the matter told CNN. Instead, the whistleblower’s concerns came in part from learning information that was not obtained during the course of their work, and those details have played a role in the administration’s determination that the complaint didn’t fit the reporting requirements under the intelligence whistleblower law, the official said.


It is hard to know the potential exposure faced by the President. But given the sensitivity of the issue, the complaint is likely to have come from an official familiar with the scope of presidential power. And it was signed off as “urgent and credible” by the inspector general — a Trump appointee — who thought Congress should know in line with whistleblowing laws.

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Stolen material? Would you like to rephrase that? Or do you actually think whistleblowers are just thieves?

Trump Defers WikiLeaks Question as DOJ Seeks Assange Extradition (WT)

President Trump declined to comment on his administration’s prosecution of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange when asked Friday by a reporter from Mr. Assange’s native Australia. Mr. Trump was pressed about the federal government’s criminal case against Mr. Assange while meeting at the White House with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. “You praised WikiLeaks continuously during the election campaign. Is it right the United States is prosecuting its Australian founder, Julian Assange?” asked Brett Mason, a correspondent for Australia’s SBS News.


“Well, you know, that’s a question I haven’t heard in a long time. I’ll leave that to you to determine,” Mr. Trump replied. Mr. Trump referenced WikiLeaks more than 100 times while campaigning for the White House in 2016, regularly lauding the website for publishing stolen material damaging to his opponent in the race, former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

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Bubble.

1 In 4 Luxury NYC Apartments Remain Unsold Over The Past 5 Years (ZH)

Across the US, but especially in coastal cities like New York and San Francisco, the ultraluxury property market increasingly looks like a buyers’ market. Ever since the market for condos peaked three years ago, it has been rapidly cooling off across the most popular urban markets. We’ve been documenting this trend for a few years now, and according to a new report by the website StreetEasy that was cited by the New York Times this week, there are now more than 16,200 condo units across 682 new buildings completed in New York City that have appeared since 2013, and 25% remain unsold, roughly 4,050, most of them in luxury buildings.


The biggest difference between the the last recession and the conditions in today’s market are that projects aren’t stalling out today, perhaps due to the overabundance of cheap credit that has made virtually every unprofitable company into a “corporate zombie” which can continue existing largely thanks to record low interest rates. “I think we’re being really conservative,” said Grant Long, StreetEasy’s senior economist, noting that the study looked specifically at ground-up new construction that has begun to close contracts. Sales in buildings converted to condos, a relatively small segment, were not counted, because they are harder to reliably track. And there are thousands more units in under-construction buildings that have not begun closings but suffer from the same market dynamics.”

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Isn’t tourism growing like nuts?

Thomas Cook Travel Firm In Talks With UK Gov, Investors Over Rescue Deal (AFP)

Iconic British travel firm Thomas Cook has failed to find further private investment to stave off collapse and is now relying on an unlikely government bailout, a source close the matter told AFP on Saturday (Sep 21). The operator said on Friday that it needed £200 million (US$250 million) – in addition to the £900 million rescue deal secured last month – or else face administration. That scenario could potentially trigger Britain’s largest repatriation since World War II, with more than 150,000 of the company’s British customers overseas on holiday. A source close to the negotiations told AFP that the company had failed to find the £200 million from private investors and would collapse unless the government intervened.


But ministers are unlikely to step in due to worries about the pioneering operator’s longer-term viability, the Times reported on Saturday, leaving it on the brink of collapse and stranding its British holiday makers abroad. “We will know by tomorrow if agreement is reached,” the source told AFP. Two years ago, the collapse of Monarch Airlines prompted the British government to take emergency action to return 110,000 stranded passengers, costing taxpayers some £60 million on hiring planes. The government at the time described it as Britain’s “biggest-ever peacetime repatriation”. Thousands of workers could also lose their jobs, with the 178-year-old company employing about 22,000 staff worldwide, including 9,000 in Britain.

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Don’t let them. Nothing kills more people and planet than mining.

Mining Industry Seeks To Polish Tarnished Reputation (AFP)

The global mining industry is increasingly showing a commitment towards greater respect for human rights and the environment, but is accused of wanting to improve its reputation without seeking real progress. Wildcat miners, including children, are risking their lives daily to unearth metals and minerals they sell to mining companies. In return, they earn a subsistence wage but not the working rights of a legal and salaried mining group employee. “While industry initiatives on certain minerals and metals are helpful, companies are still responsible for undertaking comprehensive human rights due diligence across all minerals and metals in their supply chains,” Eniko Horvath, senior researcher at the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC), told AFP.

In June, dozens of illegal miners died when part of a copper mine collapsed in southeastern DR Congo. The mine was in the Kolwezi area operated by Kamoto Copper Company, a subsidiary of the Swiss giant Glencore. Meanwhile at the start of the year, a dam collapse at a mine operated by Brazilian group Vale unleashed a tsunami of mud that killed more than 200 people while around 100 more went missing. China, also the scene of fatal mining accidents, has additionally been in the spotlight for its dumping of toxic waste in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, as Beijing drives global production of rare earth elements used in key technologies such as smartphones. Faced with rising criticism, the mining industry says it wants to adopt standards of good governance.

The London Metal Exchange, the global centre for trading in industrial metals, recently adopted new ethical standards to ensure better traceability of raw materials, especially those most at risk such as cobalt used heavily in high-end technology. “As metals play an increasingly important role in society with increased focus on ethical supply chains, the LME’s role and responsibility is vital,” the exchange’s incoming and first female chair Gay Huey Evans said on her appointment.

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What a mess.

Tactical Voting By Remain Supporters Could End Boris Johnson’s Reign (Ind.)

Tactical voting could cost the Conservatives up to 60 seats at a snap general election and eject Boris Johnson from No 10, new polling has found. Almost half of Labour supporters and an even higher proportion of Greens say they are ready to switch to the Liberal Democrats if it would help defeat the party committed to Brexit in their constituency. More than a third of Lib Dem backers would make the opposite journey at the ballot box – potentially delivering 60 seats and a mortal blow to Mr Johnson’s hopes of winning a majority. The poll, for the People’s Vote campaign, comes after it unveiled plans for the biggest vote-swapping drive in history, to support the best-placed candidate in more than 100 battleground seats.

“Tactical voting could damage Johnson’s prospects fatally, meaning Labour could make net gains from the Tories,” said pollster Peter Kellner, the former YouGov president. Anti-Brexit voters in the key 100-plus seats are being promised clear, independent advice on which candidate to back, in order to maximise the chances of electing a pro-EU MP. In its first 20 endorsements, People’s Vote recommended they back the Lib Dem candidate in nine seats and the Labour candidate in the other 11 seats. Now, in the YouGov poll, 35 per cent of Lib Dem and 42 per cent of Green voters are ready to switch to Jeremy Corbyn’s party if they “thought that the only parties with a realistic chance of winning in your constituency were the Conservatives or Labour”.

In Conservative-Lib Dem contests, half of Labour supporters and a similar share of Green supporters said they would lend support to the Lib Dems, with hardly any voting Conservative. Mr Kellner added: “These figures suggest that tactical voting on this scale could cost the Conservatives up to 60 seats. “Labour would be the beneficiaries in around 50 and the Lib Dems up to 10.”

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“…and then publication vanishes..”

Google Creates World’s Most Powerful Computer, NASA ‘Accidentally Reveals’ (RT)

Google’s new quantum computer reportedly spends mere minutes on the tasks the world’s top supercomputers would need several millennia to perform. The media found out about this after NASA “accidentally” shared the firm’s research. The software engineers at Google have built the world’s most powerful computer, the Financial Times and Fortune magazine reported on Friday, citing the company’s now-removed research paper. The paper is said to have been posted on a website hosted by NASA, which partners with Google, but later quietly taken down, without explanation.


Google and NASA have refused to comment on the matter. A source within the IT giant, however, told Fortune that NASA had “accidentally” published the paper before its team could verify its findings. In the research, Google reportedly claimed that it takes their new quantum processor just around 200 seconds to make calculations that existing supercomputers would require around 10,000 years to perform. They also said the processor requires mere 30 seconds to complete a task the Google Cloud server would need 50 trillion hours to do.

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But would about arms sales?

UN Welcomes Huthi Offer To Halt Attacks On Saudi Arabia (AFP)

The United Nations envoy for Yemen welcomed Saturday an offer from the country’s Huthi rebels to halt all attacks on Saudi Arabia, saying it could bring an end to years of bloody conflict. Implementation of the initiative by the Huthis “in good faith could send a powerful message of the will to end the war,” Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths said. The Iran-backed Huthis, which control the capital Sanaa and other parts of Yemen, have been fighting against a Saudi-led coalition which supports the country’s internationally recognized government in a devastating five-year war. Griffiths hailed “the desire for a political solution to end the conflict” in a statement issued from UN headquarters in New York.


On Friday, the Huthis proposed halting attacks on Saudi Arabia as part of a peace initiative. Saudi Arabia gave a cautious response, with minister of state for foreign affairs Adel al-Jubeir saying on Saturday, “We judge other parties by their deeds, actions and not by their words, so we will see (whether) they actually do this or not.” Griffiths stressed “the importance of taking advantage of this opportunity and moving forward with all necessary steps to reduce violence, military escalation and unhelpful rhetoric.” [..] Yemen’s conflict has killed tens of thousands of people — most of them civilians — and driven millions more to the brink of famine in what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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But no civil rights for Assange. Got it.

Hong Kong Protesters Optimistic On US Rights Legislation (AFP)

Prominent Hong Kong protesters expressed optimism Saturday that US legislators will pass by year’s end a bill aimed at defending civil rights in the global financial hub roiled by pro-democracy demonstrations and accusations of police abuse. The activists testified on Tuesday at a congressional hearing that examined the legislation. The bill, which enjoys wide support in Congress, would end Hong Kong’s special trading status with the United States unless the State Department certifies annually that city authorities are respecting human rights and rule of law. “We are optimistic that the bill can pass within this year,” Joshua Wong, one of the most recognizable faces in the leaderless protest movement, told AFP in an interview.


Millions have taken to the streets of Hong Kong, initially against a now-dropped bid by its leaders to allow extraditions to the authoritarian Chinese mainland. The months-long movement has expanded into a broader pro-democracy push in the semi-autonomous territory where activists say freedoms are being eroded by Beijing. They also accuse police of brutality. Wong, 22, said there is “new bipartisan consensus” in Congress towards China and Hong Kong. More than 50 US lawmakers are co-sponsors of the bill, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, he said.

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“Canada’s first black Prime Minister..”

Global Leaders Pledge To Hope Climate Catastrophe Sorts Itself Out (NT)

In response to huge climate protests around the world, leaders from all nations have announced plans to hope it all sorts itself out. The plans have been agreed by 156 out of 195 countries, and will be implemented immediately. “I am pleased to be on television,” announced President Macron of France, before adding “to announce an agreement amongst leaders from around the globe to hope this whole climate thing sorts itself out. “All countries have pledged to begin hoping it all sorts itself out with immediate effect. So I’m sure we will see some real results in the coming months and years.” Other leaders were quick to agree.


“I hereby promise to really hope the climate catastrophe sorts itself out,” pledged British ‘Prime’ Minister Boris Johnson before going on to do anything but hope that the climate catastrophe sorts itself out. Canada’s first black Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed he had signed up to the plans. “Irie, irie. ‘Ear me know. Me am pledge to hope climate catastrophe sort itself out. Rastafari! Jah!” Finally, President Trump clarified his thoughts on the matter. “Everyone like President. Radical Democrat CNN Hillary Fake News WEATHER,” he tweeted. It is currently anticipated that the climate catastrophe could render large portions of the planet uninhabitable within a generation.

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Sep 092019
 
 September 9, 2019  Posted by at 9:48 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Portrait of Maya 1939

 

 

To everyone used to receiving Automatic Earth posts in their email, I’m sorry but since Saturday they’re suddenly bouncing again en masse. This makes me very tired by now, but I’ll look for a solution. I suspect there may be a connection between this and Google accusing me of violating their rules, without telling me what rules I’m supposed to have violated.

 

 

 

Brexit Heading For Dramatic Supreme Court Showdown (Ind.)
Boris Johnson ‘Sabotage’ Letter To EU ‘Would Break Law’ (G>)
Johnson Has Reneged On Good Friday Agreement Vows, Says EU (G.)
EU’s Ex-Legal Chief Says Johnson’s Plan To ‘Shut Down EU’ Will Fail (Ind.)
China’s Exports To US Fell 16% In August As Trump Escalates Trade War (CNBC)
Air China Denies Plans To Take Over Cathay Pacific (R.)
Nearly All British Airways Flights Canceled As Pilots Go On Strike (CNN)
States Expected To Target Google In New Antitrust Probe (AP)
Yanis Varoufakis’ Close-Up (K.)
Australia Launches Emergency Relocation Of Fish (G.)

 

 

Really, what is not to like about the Brexit comedy? it’s the British doing what they do best. Parliament will vote for a law that forces Boris to send a letter to Brussels asking for an extension to Article 50, and he plans to send a second letter saying he doesn’t want that extension.

Anyway, Supreme Court it always would be. But can that court tell parliamentarians or a prime minster what to do, or are they above the court in legal standing, as a lower court suggested last week? Too late to get a constitution now. But not too late to make this much more chaotic still.

There is even a plan for the UK to shut down the EU.

Brexit Heading For Dramatic Supreme Court Showdown (Ind.)

The battle for Brexit is heading for a nailbiting showdown in the Supreme Court in late October – when the deadline for crashing out of the EU will be just days away – after Boris Johnson’s new strategy was revealed. Ministers plan to manufacture a legal fight to avoid directly breaking the law when compelled to ask for a further Article 50 extension, while also sidestepping the requirement to comply with it. The “plan B” paves the way for an unprecedented constitutional crisis after parliament’s deadline for seeking a Brexit delay passes on 19 October – with the threat of the prime minister being jailed for contempt of court. With the deadline for crashing out on 31 October, it will be a race against time to force Mr Johnson to Brussels before Halloween, or to bring him down in a vote of no confidence and send a replacement.

Labour condemned the strategy as behaving like “every tinpot dictator on the planet throughout history” – demanding that Mr Johnson obey the “duty” imposed by parliament. No10 is also reported to be considering sending a letter to the EU requesting a Brexit extension, in order to meet the conditions passed by MPs last week, but then immediately sending another saying the government does not actually want a delay. Legal experts, including former attorney general Lord Falconer, warned that this would still breach the law. If Mr Johnson disregards some or all of the bill’s requirements – which is set to receive royal assent on Monday – this could lead to an emergency judicial review in the courts by MPs.

The unprecedented case would start in the High Court and the expectation is that it would very quickly move to the Supreme Court, almost certainly before 31 October. And it triggered an extraordinary warning from the justice secretary, Robert Buckland, to obey “the rule of law”, as he denied he was poised to follow Amber Rudd by resigning.

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“..he risked the resignation of the justice secretary, the attorney general, and other members of his cabinet…”

Boris Johnson ‘Sabotage’ Letter To EU ‘Would Break Law’ (G>)

A former supreme court justice has said Boris Johnson would be in contempt of court if he applied for article 50 extension while simultaneously trying to get the EU to reject it. Reports in the Daily Telegraph suggested that the prime minister has drawn up plans to “sabotage” parliament’s efforts to force through a Brexit extension to prevent the UK leaving the bloc without a deal. He is said to be considering sending an accompanying letter to the EU alongside the request to extend article 50, which would say the government does not want any delay to Brexit. Lord Sumption, a former supreme court justice, said it would not be legal for the prime minister to ask for an extension while rubbishing the request at the same time.


He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The bill or the act as its about to become says that he’s got to apply for an extension. Not only has he got to send the letter, he’s got to apply for an extension. And to send the letter and then try and neutralise it seems to me to be plainly a breach of the act.” A Downing Street source said: “We intend to sabotage any extension. The ‘surrender bill’ only kicks in if an extension is offered. Once people realise our plans, there is a good chance we won’t be offered a delay. Even if we are, we intend to sabotage that too.” Sumption said he had read the bill and there was not “the slightest obscurity” about what the government was obliged to do. [..] Sumption said Johnson would not only be in contempt of court if he failed to do what the bill states, he risked the resignation of the justice secretary, the attorney general, and other members of his cabinet.

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“This avoidance of the hard border, it is not just a desire, it is not just about preferences, it is legal obligation.”

Johnson Has Reneged On Good Friday Agreement Vows, Says EU (G.)

European officials have accused Boris Johnson of reneging on pledges to uphold the Good Friday agreement, ahead of the prime minister’s first meeting with his Irish counterpart. Johnson will meet the Irish taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, in Dublin on Monday at a tumultuous moment in the Brexit process, with only 52 days until the UK’s departure. Talks are set to be tense as fears grow in Dublin and Brussels that the British prime minister is backsliding on promises to protect the tightly knit economic and social links on the island of Ireland. “The commitment to all aspects and all the provisions of the letter and spirit of the Good Friday agreement recently seems to be taken more lightly than before,” a senior diplomat from a continental member state told the Guardian.

“This avoidance of the hard border, it is not just a desire, it is not just about preferences, it is legal obligation.” A senior official working for the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, told diplomats this week that the UK had reneged on commitments to protect north-south co-operation on the island of Ireland, a key pillar of the Good Friday agreement. Alarm bells were set off by Johnson’s recent letter to the European council president, Donald Tusk, which declared his government could not endorse a commitment made by Theresa May in a December 2017 EU-UK joint report. The Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, fuelled concerns that the government was seeking to back out of past commitments, when he tweeted that the government was “committed to no infrastructure on the NI border”.

Such comments were seen in Brussels as “meaningless” words that marked a significant dilution of the promise to uphold an open border. The May government pledged to protect “north-south cooperation” on the island of Ireland in the 2017 joint report, widely seen in Brussels as a landmark in Brexit talks.

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Something tells me Dominic Cummings will have more before this is over.

EU’s Ex-Legal Chief Says Johnson’s Plan To ‘Shut Down EU’ Will Fail (Ind.)

Brussels’ former top law officer has rubbished Boris Johnson’s extraordinary plan to sabotage the EU and make it ‘no longer legal’, arguing it makes no sense. Downing Street has threatened to render the bloc no longer “legally constituted”, paralysing its decision making, to force EU leaders to cave in to the UK’s demands. But Jean-Claude Piris, formerly the director-general of the EU Council’s legal service, said the idea – refusing to appoint a new commissioner – would fail to shut down the EU, as No 10 hoped. “The Commission can continue to work and decide legally,” Mr Piris wrote on Twitter, citing a precedent dating back to 1999. Instead, he said: “The UK will be brought to the EUCJ [the European Court of Justice] for violation of its obligation.”


Richard Corbett, the leader of Labour’s bloc of Euro-MPs, echoed the criticism, tweeting: “Nonsense idea that Johnson could paralyse EU to force it to expel UK. “If he refuses to nominate a Commissioner, the UK would be in breach of the treaty – that being so, EU Commission not at fault and can operate legally.” In a dramatic escalation of its battle with Brussels, No 10 believes it can put the EU in breach of its own legal duty for all 28 member states to be represented on its executive branch. The UK would be “disrupting” Brussels life to such a degree that member states will then make it clear they will refuse to grant an Article 50 extension – even if asked for – it hopes. A source told The Independent: “We will turn the pressure onto the EU to show how difficult it will be for them if the UK is still hanging around.”

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That’s a lot.

China’s Exports To US Fell 16% In August As Trump Escalates Trade War (CNBC)

China’s exports unexpectedly fell in August as shipments to the United States slowed sharply, pointing to further weakness in the world’s second-largest economy and underlining a pressing need for more stimulus as the Sino-U.S. trade war escalates. Beijing is widely expected to announce more support measures in coming weeks to avert the risk of a sharper economic slowdown as the United States ratchets up trade pressure, including the first cuts in some key lending rates in four years. On Friday, the central bank cut banks’ reserve requirements for a seventh time since early 2018 to free up more funds for lending, days after a cabinet meeting signalled that more policy loosening may be imminent.


August exports fell 1% from a year earlier, the biggest fall since June, when it fell 1.3%, customs data showed on Sunday. Analysts had expected a 2.0% rise in a Reuters poll after July’s 3.3% gain. That’s despite analyst expectations that a falling yuan would offset some cost pressure and looming tariffs may have prompted some Chinese exporters to bring forward or “front-load” U.S.-bound shipments into August, a trend seen earlier in the trade dispute. China let its currency slide past the key 7 per dollar level in August for the first time since the global financial crisis, and Washington labelled it a currency manipulator.

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“..the biggest corporate casualty of anti-government protests after China demanded it suspend staff involved in, or who support, demonstrations..”

Air China Denies Plans To Take Over Cathay Pacific (R.)

Air China has no plans to take over Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways, an independent director of the state-owned Chinese carrier told the South China Morning Post newspaper. “Based on what I know, I wouldn’t think that is anywhere on the agenda, no way,” Air China non-executive director Stanley Hui told the newspaper when asked if the carrier, a 30% shareholder, might seek to buy Cathay outright. The Hong Kong airline has become the biggest corporate casualty of anti-government protests after China demanded it suspend staff involved in, or who support, demonstrations that have plunged the former British colony into a political crisis.


Cathay Chairman John Slosar last week announced plans to step down in November, less than three weeks after CEO Rupert Hogg left amid mounting regulatory scrutiny. Air China is Cathay’s second-largest shareholder, behind manager Swire Pacific with a 45% stake. Long-time Swire executive Patrick Healy was last week appointed as Slosar’s replacement.

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No flights tomorrow either. Big airline.

Nearly All British Airways Flights Canceled As Pilots Go On Strike (CNN)

British Airways says it was forced to cancel “nearly 100 per cent” of flights for Monday and Tuesday after the British pilots union went ahead with a strike. The strike was called for by the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) amid a heated dispute over pay with the airline. BALPA said Sunday on Twitter that it put forward a proposal to the carrier’s management Wednesday, but had yet to receive a reply. British Airways said in a statement posted Monday it remains “ready and willing to return to talks with BALPA.”


The airline said it was forced to cancel so many flights because “with no detail from BALPA on which pilots would strike, we had no way of predicting how many would come to work or which aircraft they are qualified to fly.” Customers who had flights booked for Monday and Tuesday will likely “not be able to travel as planned,” British Airways said. The airline also advised customers not to go to the airport. Members of the pilots union voted 93% in favor of a strike in July. BALPA said last week that it would be willing to call it off if British Airways returned to the negotiating table. According to its website, BALPA represents more than 10,000 pilots in the United Kingdom — more than 85% of all commercial pilots who fly there.

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And Facebook in a different probe. But Google is CIA.

States Expected To Target Google In New Antitrust Probe (AP)

A group of states led by Texas is expected to announce an investigation into Google on Monday to examine whether the Silicon Valley tech giant has gotten too big and effective at stomping or acquiring rivals. The probe is the latest blow against big tech companies as antitrust investigations ramp up in the U.S. and around the world. A separate group of states announced an investigation into Facebook’s dominance on Friday. The Department of Justice , the Federal Trade Commission and Congress are also conducting probes.


Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has said only that the investigation will look at “whether large tech companies have engaged in anticompetitive behavior that stifled competition, restricted access, and harmed consumers.” Reports in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal say Google will be the primary target. Google expects state attorneys general will ask it about past similar investigations in the U.S. and internationally, senior vice president of global affairs Kent Walker wrote in a blog post Friday . Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has a market value of more than $820 billion and controls so many aspects of the internet that it’s hard to imagine surfing the web for long without running into at least one of its services. Experts believe the antitrust probe could focus on at least one of three aspects of Google’s business that have caught regulators’ eyes.

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Background: renowned Greek film director Costa-Gravas has made a movie based on Varoufakis’ book “Adults in the Room,” which recounts Yanis’ dealings with the EU. It was presented at the Venice film festival this week. Well, the Greek press still doesn’t like him (but they dare not ignore Costa-Gavras either). And because of the structure of the press, neither do many Greeks. But they make it about how Yanis presents himself, and sure, maybe it’s too much about him at times. But really, it should be about his ideas, about substance. Unfortunately, those ideas go above their paygrade and understanding. So appearance it is then…

Yanis Varoufakis’ Close-Up (K.)

The term “narcissist,” which has become almost a permanent fixture in any description of Yanis Varoufakis – in tones ranging from the deliberate and angry to the lighthearted and playful, sometimes to the point of absolving him of his sins – is inadequate. A man who writes a book while simultaneously envisioning himself as a big-screen hero does not simply fall into the category of garden-variety delusions of stardom because his actions are rife with intent. Viewing reality through the realm of fiction neither clears nor burdens an official of complicity with regard to how he managed the country’s economic affairs and the stance he adopted more generally, and especially when this concerns an exceptionally crucial period.


Walking down the red carpet does not instantly transform Varoufakis from a former finance minister (who is co-credited with a memorandum and capital controls) into a movie star. The Venice International Film Festival – the glamour, the camera flashes, the gowns – and the reviews of critics neither erase nor transfer political responsibility. The publicity shone on Greece as a result of Costa-Gavras’ film “Adults in the Room,” based on Varoufakis’ book of the same title, shifts the focus of the conversation from the intentions and rules according to which officials with institutional responsibilities ought to abide, to the rule-free realm of art. It takes it away from the need for political figures to answer for their actions and omissions, to the extremely capacious realm of film production and artistic creativity.

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Noah.

Australia Launches Emergency Relocation Of Fish (G.)

Faced with a looming ferocious summer with little rain forecast, the New South Wales government has embarked on a Noah’s Ark type operation to move native fish from the Lower Darling – part of Australia’s most significant river system – to safe havens before high temperatures return to the already stressed river basin. Researchers have warned of other alarming ecological signs that the Lower Darling River – part of the giant Murray-Darling Basin – is in a dire state, following last summer’s mass fish kills. Professor Fran Sheldon, from Griffith University’s Australian Rivers Institute, said only one surviving colony of river mussels had been found along the river and there were signs that river red gums were under severe stress.


“If the river red gums die, and some are hundreds of years old, there will be a domino effect. Banks will collapse, there will be massive erosion and it will send sediments down the river.” “These sort of ecological collapses are much harder and expensive to reverse,” she warned. The New South Wales government announced a $10m rescue package last week to mitigate the effects of the river crisis on native fish this summer. The NSW agriculture minister, Adam Marshall, said the unprecedented action would provide “a lifeline for key native species ahead of an expected summer of horror fish kills”. “We’re staring down the barrel of a potential fish Armageddon, which is why we’re wasting little time rolling out this unprecedented action,” Marshall said.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 162019
 


Samuel Peploe Beach scene 1907

 

‘Crazy Inverted Yield Curve’ Vexes Fed, With No Clear Resolution (R.)
China Preps Plan To Boost Disposable Income By 2020 (R.)
Hong Kong Police Say No Need For China Intervention (AFP)
The Great Switch: Old Ways Fade (Crooke)
American Flags On Epstein’s Private Islands Lowered To Half-Staff (NBC)
Ghislaine Maxwell Spotted At LA In-N-Out Burger (NYPost)
Jeffrey Epstein Spent Time Alone With Young Woman In Prison Attorney Room (F.)
Jeffrey Epstein ‘Kept A Diary Of His Under-Aged Victims’ (Tel.)
Donald Trump Reportedly Wants To Purchase Greenland From Denmark (G.)
Google Whistleblower Claims FBI, SWAT, Bomb Squad Appeared at His Home (PJM)
With Jakarta Sinking, Indonesia Forced To Build New Capital (AFP)
400 Years Of Slavery (G.)

 

 

Don’t let the Fed try to solve what they have caused.

‘Crazy Inverted Yield Curve’ Vexes Fed, With No Clear Resolution (R.)

Amid the recent financial market volatility, the interest rates on some long-dated government bonds have fallen below the level for short-term debt. Called a “yield curve inversion,” this has been a traditional warning sign for the economy: If smart investors see more risk two years ahead than 10 years down the road, it can’t be good for near-term growth. In response, President Donald Trump and others have upped demands for a U.S. Federal Reserve rate cut. So do U.S. central bankers care about what Trump called the “crazy inverted yield curve” or not? Policymakers have been trying to get a handle on the issue for a while, with no consensus on whether a curve inversion today means the same thing it did in the past. Here are selected comments of Fed policy makers over the last two years on the issue:


Dec. 1, 2017: “There is a material risk…if the (Federal Open Market Committee) continues on its present course” – St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard. He was off by a few months, expecting a yield curve inversion late in 2018, but Bullard as well as Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan flagged early on what might happen if the Fed continued to hike, as it did throughout last year. Aug. 20, 2018: “I pledge to you I will not vote for anything that will knowingly invert the curve and I am hopeful that as we move forward I won’t be faced with that.” – Atlanta Federal Reserve President Raphael Bostic. The comment captured the Fed’s dilemma at that point. The economy was growing faster than expected and seemed robust enough to warrant rate increases. Bostic voted for two more by the end of the year. Yet through the year, bond spreads narrowed.

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Will fail for the same reason Abenomics has and does: you can’t force people to spend. The more you try, the more afraid they become and the less they actually will spend.

China Preps Plan To Boost Disposable Income By 2020 (R.)

China’s state planner said on Friday it will roll out a plan to boost disposable income this year and in 2020 to spur consumption as the economy slows. The plan will include further reforming the Hukou system – a family registration program that serves as a domestic passport and regulates rural-to-urban migration, and expanding channels for making non-salary income, said Meng Wei, spokeswoman at the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). She did not elaborate.


Data this week showed China’s economy stumbled more sharply than expected in July, with retail sales pointing to growing consumer caution, as the intensifying U.S. trade war took a heavier toll on businesses and consumers. Second-quarter growth slowed to a near 30-year low. China has been trying to quicken its urbanization process through relaxed requirements for obtaining Hukou in urban areas, although it keeps a strict cap in top-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

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Sounds like an invitation to me.

Hong Kong Police Say No Need For China Intervention (AFP)

Hong Kong’s police are confident they have the resources to continue battling pro-democracy protesters, even if violence escalates further, pouring cold water on concerns that the authoritarian mainland might need to intervene. Three senior commanders said they were unaware of any plans by China to bolster their own ranks with mainland troops or police officers, even if the political chaos worsens. And they admitted that any move to do so would place the city’s police force in uncharted waters. But, they insisted, the issue was moot because the local force could handle the crisis.

“I can’t envisage it,” said one senior commander. “At the operational level we have considerable depth. I think we have the determination, the cohesiveness and the depth of resources to keep going.” The three officers agreed to sit down with a group of foreign journalists on condition of anonymity so they could speak more freely during the worst unrest the force has faced since leftist riots in the late 1960s. Hong Kong’s summer of rage was sparked by broad opposition to a plan to allow extraditions to the mainland, but has since morphed into a wider call for democratic rights in the semi-autonomous city. [..] With neither Beijing nor Hong Kong’s leaders willing to offer any compromises, the police have become the loathed face of the government.

The chant “hak geng” — corrupt cops — has become routine, both from protesters and, more recently, local residents infuriated by police engaging in near nightly battles in their neighbourhoods. Protesters, rights groups and the UN’s rights chief have accused police of using excessive force, with videos of teargas and rubber bullets generating renewed public outrage each weekend.

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Alastair draws mighty big conclusions.

The Great Switch: Old Ways Fade (Crooke)

Conflict is popping up everywhere: A major portion of the Turkish army stands ready to invade parts of Syria (though invasion may have been averted for now); PM Modi may just have ignited the next round of Kashmir wars with Pakistan with his Hindu ‘nationalist’ putsch to annex Muslim majority Jammu-Kashmir; Japan has started a mini trade war with South Korea; Turkey is bracing for a face-off with Greece and Cyprus over energy exploration in the East Mediterranean; the Yemen war is heating up with the war increasingly being fought inside southern Saudi Arabia; the US-Iran and the Syria conflicts simmer, and Hong Kong has boiled-over into violence. What is going on? Is there some unifying thread connecting this sudden outbreak of widespread global tension? Of course all these conflicts have their separate background contexts.

But why so many at the same time? Well, in a word, it’s all about change — about the recognition that we are at the cusp of major changes. The world is beginning to pre-position. Take, for example, the about-turn by the UAE (heretofore, a major agitator for an Iran confrontation) reaching out to Iran. Much of this Gulf State fervour for confrontation with Iran arose on the rebound from the Obama move to normalise with Iran (through the JCPOA). The Gulf States feared losing the umbrella of the US protection which, it was believed, inoculated these monarchies as much from repression of their internal reformists, as from Iran. Then, with the arrival of President Trump, the opportunity seemed to present itself again to lock-in that US ‘guarantee’ by inciting the new President, already obsessed with his notion of Iranian ‘malignity’ into action.

But suddenly, the Gulf chimaera of Trump retarding a resurgent Iran through inflicting a couple of generations worth of missile damage on its infrastructure faded under the desert heat. When Iran took the initiative with its counter-pressures, the US finally did not react, either to Hormuz, or to the loss of its high-spec drone. It’s not over yet: Iran remains a grave flash-point, but in the region it is understood that the US neither has the political will, nor the capacity, for protracted military action (as opposed to a quick ‘one and done’, to which Iran has promised substantial retaliation). This sense of a ‘shift’ has been reinforced by Trump’s repeat last month of his call for withdrawal from Syria, and by his almost indecent haste in trying to exit Afghanistan. The omens are plain: America is on its way out from the Middle East.

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Noteworthy because of Whitney Webb’s comment:

“He was a child rapist w sex slaves and NBC calls the “news” of US flags at half mast lowered to honor this creep a “solemn sight”.

Have we reached rock bottom as a nation yet? Sure looks like the press has.”

American Flags On Epstein’s Private Islands Lowered To Half-Staff (NBC)

The American flags on Jeffrey Epstein’s private island were lowered to half-staff four days after he died in an apparent jailhouse suicide. A boat captain cruising past Little St. James, located off the coast of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, captured images and videos of the solemn sight Wednesday night. “It was a real moment out there and it just felt so heavy,” said Captain Kelly Quinn, owner of Salty Dog Day Sails. “I didn’t feel there was a realness of the end of Jeffrey Epstein until I saw that. That was a lot more literal.”

It wasn’t clear who lowered the two flags on opposite ends of the 70-acre island. But Quinn is nearly certain it was one of the employees Epstein hired to staff his lavish estate. “They’re doing this as a remembrance, but the irony is he’ll only be remembered for the deviance,” said Quinn. Quinn said the American flag on the nearby island that Epstein owns, Great St. James, was also flying at half-staff on Wednesday.

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Why oh why did they stage this ‘chance’ encounter? Why even try to make it look like one? And where is she now?

Ghislaine Maxwell Spotted At LA In-N-Out Burger (NYPost)

Jeffrey Epstein’s former gal pal Ghislaine Maxwell isn’t holed up in her British manor or summering on the Massachusetts coast. The Post found the socialite hiding in plain sight in the least likely place imaginable — a fast-food joint in Los Angeles. Maxwell, 57, the alleged madam to the multimillionaire pedophile, was scarfing down a burger, fries and shake al fresco at an In-N-Out Burger on Monday while reading “The Book of Honor: The Secret Lives and Deaths of CIA Operatives,” a nonfiction best seller by journalist Ted Gup. Sitting alone with a pet pooch, she was surprised to be found and told an onlooker, “Well, I guess this is the last time I’ll be eating here!”


Maxwell, accused in court papers of providing sex slaves for Epstein and engaging in threesomes with the financier and underage girls, had not been photographed in public since 2016. The daughter of the late, disgraced publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell has not been charged with any crimes but could find herself in the feds’ crosshairs following Epstein’s apparent jailhouse suicide Saturday.

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And why not? He had bought the entire jail.

Jeffrey Epstein Spent Time Alone With Young Woman In Prison Attorney Room (F.)

The day after he was taken off suicide watch, disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein spent at least two hours locked up alone with a young woman, in a private room reserved for inmates and their attorneys, according to an attorney who was visiting the prison that day. “The optics were startling. Because she was young. And pretty,” said the visiting attorney, who asked that his name not be used because he didn’t want to create friction with the prison administration. He speculated the woman could be a lawyer—NBC News has reported that Epstein paid members of his team to sit with him in a room for eight hours a day for attorney-client meetings, allowing him to avoid his cell.

The visiting attorney went to the Manhattan Correctional Center on July 30, a day after Epstein was reportedly taken off suicide watch and transferred into the Special Housing Unit (SHU). During the hours the visiting attorney was present, it wasn’t Epstein’s main lawyer, Reid Weingarten, or other named attorneys who visited him. “If I was him, I would have hired… an old bald guy,” said the lawyer, who said the young woman was in there with Epstein for at least two hours when he was there. He also pointed out that the room is locked when prisoners go in, after their handcuffs are removed, and unlocked only when prisoners leave and handcuffs are put back on.

[..] Epstein’s daily occupation of the room in the SHU was a sore point for attorneys trying to visit their clients. Instead of waiting 15 minutes for a room, the wait could stretch for two hours, as it was that day. “They wouldn’t move anybody until he got where he was going, which is what they used to do with El Chapo, too,” the visiting attorney said. There are 12 attorney visiting rooms at MCC, but only two are for attorneys visiting SHU clients. That means Epstein was monopolizing a scarce resource. n

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This is from March 4 2011. All this was known at the time. Epstein was only arrested more than 8 years later.

He attended the Queen’s birthday party in 2000!

Jeffrey Epstein ‘Kept A Diary Of His Under-Aged Victims’ (Tel.)

The Duke of York’s billionaire paedophile friend kept a secret journal, described as “The Holy Grail” by lawyers, which listed his alleged under-aged victims and the celebrity guests he entertained at his Florida mansion. Jeffrey Epstein used the “black book” to log contact details of the girls that gave massages to him and his friends and those of his powerful and famous associates, such as Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. A servant at the £4 million manor in Palm Beach, where Prince Andrew enjoyed daily massages during several stays, stole the journal and initially kept it secret from investigators. He is now in prison after attempting to sell it for $50,000 (£31,000). Epstein, 58, was accused of sex offences by more than 20 under-aged girls.

They alleged that after being recruited as masseuses by aides including Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of the late tycoon Robert, they were seriously assaulted and then paid hundreds of dollars. The billionaire financier, who attended The Queen’s birthday party in 2000, was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2008, having secured a plea bargain that prevented full criminal trials. He later settled more than a dozen multi-million dollar civil lawsuits from his alleged victims out of court. The previously undisclosed journal, however, “detailed the full scope and the extent of Epstein’s involvement with underage girls”, according to lawyers for several alleged victims.

It contained the names of girls that Epstein allegedly abused in “Michigan, California, West Palm Beach, New York, New Mexico, and Paris”, according to court papers. It also listed extensive contact details for Epstein’s house guests, who had “no connection whatsoever” with alleged offences, including Mr Clinton, the former US President, and Mr Trump, the famous businessman. It could not be confirmed last night whether the book contained contact details for the Duke. One lawyer for Epstein’s alleged victims said: “I would bet he is, because he is that good a friend”.

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Well, Truman tried after WWII…

Donald Trump Reportedly Wants To Purchase Greenland From Denmark (G.)

Donald Trump is fond of bragging about his conspicuous wealth and buying power, plastering his name over buildings and gilding the elevators of Trump Tower. But his latest reported aspiration is on the extravagant side, even for him: to purchase Greenland from Denmark. According to the Wall Street Journal, the US president has “expressed interest” in buying the expansive icy territory and has asked his aides to explore the possibility. He has even sought the view of the White House counsel, though the Journal noted his inquiries came “with varying degrees of seriousness”. News that Trump had set his sights on acquiring a meaty chunk of the Kingdom of Denmark set Twitter aflutter on Thursday night.

Pundits tried in vain to find a real estate valuation for the 811,000 square miles on Zillow, while others attempted to calculate Greenland’s worth in pickled herring. Despite the levity the idea has provoked, it is not entirely in the realm of fantasy. In 1946 US President Harry Truman tried to buy Greenland from Denmark for $100m but was rebuffed. There was a more successful precedent dating back to 1917 when the US acquired the Danish West Indies, rebranding them the US Virgin Islands. The US military already has a major airbase on Greenland, on the north-west of the island. The base has 600 personnel and is important in the country’s global radar system.

Trump travels to Denmark next month in his first official visit to the kingdom, though Greenland is not thought to be on the agenda. The Journal reported that the president raised the issue at a dinner last year in which he said he had heard Denmark was finding its financial support to the self-governing territory burdensome.

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We need to go through the docs.

Google Whistleblower Claims FBI, SWAT, Bomb Squad Appeared at His Home (PJM)

On Wednesday, former Google employee Zachary Vorhies went public as the whistleblower who spoke with Project Veritas in June, revealing the political bias in Google’s “Machine Learning Fairness” program. He also told the story of police storming his home to perform a “wellness check” after he was outed as a “leaker” and after Google had sent him a demand letter. Project Veritas released its video with Vorhies (whose identity was masked), exposing the bias in the “Machine Learning Fairness” program and its hidden camera interview footage showing a Google executive describing her work on algorithms to prevent “the next Trump situation.” Shortly afterward, the whistleblower received a demand letter from Google.


Vorhies said he complied with Google’s demands, including sending any Google documents he retained. But he also sent those documents to the Department of Justice Antitrust Division. An anonymous account — which Vorhies said he believes belongs to a Google employee — outed him as a “leaker” on Twitter, and then he was approached by law enforcement at his residence in California. San Francisco police received a call from Google which prompted a “wellness check.” “They got inside the gate, the police, and they started banging on my door… And so the police decided that they were going to call in additional forces. They called in the FBI, they called in the SWAT team. And they called in a bomb squad,” Vorhies told Project Veritas.

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A city with a grand history.

With Jakarta Sinking, Indonesia Forced To Build New Capital (AFP)

Time is running out for Jakarta. One of the fastest-sinking cities on earth, environmental experts warn that one third of it could be submerged by 2050 if current rates continue. Decades of uncontrolled and excessive depletion of groundwater reserves, rising sea-levels, and increasingly volatile weather patterns mean swathes of it have already started to disappear. Existing environmental measures have had little impact, so authorities are taking drastic action: the nation will have a new capital. Its location could be announced imminently, according to local reports. “The capital of our country will move to the island of Borneo,” Indonesian leader Joko Widodo said on Twitter.

Relocating the country’s administrative and political heart may be an act of national preservation, but it effectively sounds the death-knell for Jakarta where many of the city’s 10 million residents have little means of escape. [..] Built in an earthquake zone, on swamplands, near the confluence of 13 rivers, the city’s foundations have been further stressed by unchecked development, heavy traffic, and poor urban planning. Jakarta doesn’t have a piped water system in its northern reaches, so local industry and millions of residents tap into its aquifers. This rampant groundwater extraction causes land subsidence, which is making Jakarta sink by as much as 25 centimetres (10 inches) a year in some areas — double the global average for major coastal cities.


An abandoned, submerged mosque is seen next to a giant sea wall in Jakarta

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The first slaves arrived even before the Mayflower did.

400 Years Of Slavery (G.)

Many Americans’ introduction to US history is the arrival of 102 passengers on the Mayflower in 1620. But a year earlier, 20 enslaved Africans were brought to the British colonies against their will. As John Rolfe noted in a letter in 1619, “20 and odd negroes” were brought by a Dutch ship to the nascent British colonies, arriving at what is now Fort Hampton, then Point Comfort, in Virginia. Though enslaved Africans had been part of Portuguese, Spanish, French and British history across the Americas since the 16th century, the captives who landed in Virginia were probably the first slaves to arrive into what would become the United States 150 years later.


Four hundred years on, the captives’ arrival has informed nearly every major moment in American history, even if that history has been framed around anyone but Africans and African Americans. “Historians, elected political figures [and] community leaders would prefer to sort of imagine the United States as a kind of mythic, Anglo-Saxon Christian place,” says Michael Guasco, an early American history professor at Davidson College. In 1992, Toni Morrison told the Guardian: “In this country, American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.”


Arrival of a Dutch slave ship with a group of African slaves for sale at Jamestown, Virginia, 1619. MPI/Getty Images

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A Boston advertisement for a cargo of about 250 ‘fine healthy negroes’, recently arrived from Africa on the slave ship Bante Island. Circa 1700. MPI/Getty Images

 

 

 

 

Aug 142019
 


Edouard Vuillard The flowered dress 1891

 

China’s Industrial Output Hits 17-Year Low (AFP)
US Senator Warns China On Hong Kong Trade Status (R.)
UK Should Give British Nationality To Hong Kong Citizens – MP (G.)
Shrieking Heard From Jeffrey Epstein’s Jail Cell The Morning He Died (CBS)
Google Insider Turns Over 950 Pages Of Docs And Laptop To DOJ (SAC)
US Student Debt Defaults Have ‘Grown Stunningly’ (Y!)
Danish Bank Launches World’s First Negative Interest Rate Mortgage (G.)
Germany: The End Of A Golden Decade (Brzeski)
Tulsi Gabbard Remains Low in ‘Approved’ DNC Polls Despite Popularity (LR)
GDP Growth Isn’t the Same Thing as Economic Growth (Shostak)
Speaker Will ‘Fight With Every Breath’ To Stop Johnson Closing Parliament (G.)
Britain Is Being Stripped Of Its Social Infrastructure (G.)
Teen’s Tweets From Smart Fridge Go Viral After Mother Confiscates Phone (G.)
More Than Half Of World’s Forest Wildlife Lost In 40 Years (Ind.)

 

 

Blamed on sell-off of dirty cars before new legislation.

China’s Industrial Output Hits 17-Year Low (AFP)

China’s economy showed further signs of strain in July with output at its factories falling to its lowest level in 17 years, while investment and retail sales also slowed, official data showed Wednesday. The figures are the latest to highlight how the world’s second-largest economy is being battered by an escalating trade war with the United States, weak global demand and deteriorating conditions at home. Industrial output increased 4.8 percent on-year in July, down from 6.3 percent in June and marking the weakest pace since 2002. It was also well below the 6.0 percent forecast by economists in a Bloomberg News survey.


“Given the complicated and grave external environment and the mounting downward pressure on the economy at home, the foundation for sustainable and healthy growth of the economy still needs to be consolidated,” said Liu Aihua, a spokeswoman for the National Bureau of Statistics, which released the data. The data also suggested China’s billion-strong army of consumers were showing signs of increasing thriftiness. Retail sales – which have long been a bright spot for the economy – slowed to a 7.6 percent rise last month, sharply down from 9.8 percent in June.

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I was wondering when someone would bring this up.

US Senator Warns China On Hong Kong Trade Status (R.)

A prominent U.S. senator warned China on Tuesday Hong Kong could lose its special U.S. trade status if Beijing intervenes directly to crack down on increasingly violent pro-democracy protests in the city. A leading Republican also said the Trump administration must make clear to Beijing it would face “profound consequences,” including sanctions, if it intervened directly. “I can assure you that if China comes down hard on the protesters that there will be action in Congress to enforce the autonomy agreements that were entered into that are part of the special recognition of Hong Kong,” Senator Ben Cardin told Reuters. He said such action had bipartisan support.

Cardin, a Democrat, has co-sponsored bipartisan legislation that would require the U.S. government to provide annual justification for the continuation of special treatment afforded to Hong Kong. A 1992 U.S. law affords Hong Kong preferential treatment in matters of trade and economics compared with China. Areas of special treatment include visas, law enforcement and investment. Cardin said Hong Kong enjoyed the special status in exchange for the “one country-two systems” arrangement guaranteeing it a high degree of autonomy and human rights after its handover to China from Britain in 1997. “If China interferes with the autonomy of Hong Kong, then it does affect our agreements in regard to Hong Kong as far as the trade zone is concerned,” Cardin said.

Cory Gardner, another leading senator who is Republican chair of the Senate’s East Asia subcommittee, said on Twitter the Trump administration “must make clear to Beijing that any crackdown in Hong Kong will have profound consequences for China, including imposition of U.S. sanctions.” “The voice of the people of Hong Kong must be heard without fear of repression and retaliation. The Hong Kong government must fully guarantee the democratic rights of Hong Kongers, while Beijing must fully respect Hong Kong’s autonomy. The world is watching,” Gardner said.

Cardin was sharply critical of President Donald Trump’s failure to take a stronger line on Hong Kong and his characterization of the protests there earlier this month as “riots” that were a matter for China to deal with. “The president has not been clear that the United States stands with the people of Hong Kong in protecting their human rights and the autonomy,” Cardin said. “It is inconceivable that the president would put the blame on those who are seeking to protect their rights.” “The president was wrong to give China an excuse to come down against the protesters,” Cardin said.

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Might work.

UK Should Give British Nationality To Hong Kong Citizens – MP (G.)

The UK should give Hong Kong citizens full UK nationality as a means of reassurance amid the current standoff with Beijing, the chair of the influential Commons foreign affairs committee has argued. Tom Tugendhat said this should have happened to people in the formerly British-ruled territory in 1997, when it was handed back to Chinese control, and that doing so now would reassure Hong Kong’s people that they were supported by the UK. Hong Kong has been gripped by 10 weeks of large-scale and occasionally violent pro-democracy demonstrations, which have been met by a sometimes brutal police response, and increasingly trenchant threats from Beijing. On Monday, two Chinese state media outlets ran video footage showing armoured personnel and troop carriers purportedly driving to Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, prompting concerns about military intervention.


Under the so-called “one country, two systems” arrangement that had Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule, Beijing considers the population to be Chinese nationals. However, a number of people in the territory hold what is known as a British national (overseas) passport, which gives some rights, for example to stay in the UK for up to six months, but no automatic ability to live permanently or work. Tugendhat said: “The UK had obligations to Hong Kong citizens before 1997, and the extension of overseas citizenship, which is in many ways a second-tier citizenship, was a mistake, and I think it’s one that should be corrected. At a time when there are clearly tensions in Hong Kong, the UK could reassure many Hong Kong citizens that their existing rights are recognised by the UK, and they are valued.”

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NY Times now reports that both of Jeffrey Epstein’s two guards fell asleep and falsified records to cover up their failure to check on him for three hours before he died.

Yeah, right.

Shrieking Heard From Jeffrey Epstein’s Jail Cell The Morning He Died (CBS)

On the morning of Jeffrey Epstein’s death there was shouting and shrieking from his jail cell, a source familiar with the situation told CBS News. Corrections officers attempted to revive him while saying “breathe, Epstein, breathe.” Congress is the latest to start investigating Epstein’s apparent suicide over the weekend, with new reports raising questions about the federal jail where he was being held. One of Epstein’s guards at the Metropolitan Correctional Center on the night he died was reportedly not a regular corrections officer. On Monday, Attorney General William Barr criticized the detention center where the disgraced financier was held.

“We will get to the bottom of what happened and there will be accountability,” Barr said. “I was appalled and frankly angry to learn of the MCC’s failure to adequately secure this prisoner.” Government investigators raided the alleged sex trafficker’s private island in the Virgin Islands Monday. With Epstein gone, potential co-conspirators involved in his alleged sex-trafficking network are shifting into focus. British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell is one of four women accused of recruiting underage girls for sex. She’s denied those claims in the past and has not been charged with a crime. Maxwell is said to be Epstein’s ex-girlfriend turned business associate. Her current location is unknown.

“She was more of a partner in his obsession, really,” said Miami Herald reporter Julie Brown, who spent more than two years looking into Epstein’s controversial 2008 plea deal. “And there are allegations that she was involved in having sex with some of these girls as well.” Court documents from 2011 reveal Epstein controlled several apartments in a building just blocks from his $77 million New York townhouse and allegedly housed “underage girls from all over the world.”

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This could get very big.

Google Insider Turns Over 950 Pages Of Docs And Laptop To DOJ (SAC)

A former Google insider claiming the company created algorithms to hide its political bias within artificial intelligence platforms – in effect targeting particular words, phrases and contexts to promote, alter, reference or manipulate perceptions of Internet content – delivered roughly 950 pages of documents to the Department of Justice’s Antitrust division Friday. The former Google insider, who has already spoken in to the nonprofit organization Project Veritas, met with SaraACarter.com on several occasions last week. He was interviewed in silhouette, to conceal his identity, in group’s latest film, which they say exposes bias inside the social media platform. Several weeks prior, the insider mailed a laptop to the DOJ containing the same information delivered on Friday, they said. The former insider is choosing to remain anonymous until Project Veritas’s James O’Keefe reveals his identity tomorrow (Wednesday).

He told this reporter on his recent trip to Washington D.C. that the documents he turned over to the Justice Department will provide proof that Google has been manipulating the algorithms and the evidence of how it was done, the insider said. Google CEO Sundar Pichai told the House Judiciary Committee in December, 2018, that the search engine was not biased against conservatives. Pichai explained what algorithm’s are said Google’s algorithm was not offensive to conservatives because its artificial intelligence does not operate in that manner. He told lawmakers, “things like relevance, freshness, popularity, how other people are using it” are what drives the search results. Pichai said even if his programmers were anti-Republican, the process is so intricate that the artificial intelligence could not be manipulated and it was to complicated to train the algorithm to fit their bias.

The insider says Google is aware most people are unaware or not knowledgeable about these advanced IT systems and therefore unable to determine who is telling the truth. “I honestly think that a free market can fix this issue,” he told this reporter at a meeting in Washington D.C. “The issue is that the free market has been distorted and what’s happened is that the distortion is so grotesque and the engineering is so repulsive, all we need to do is just expose what’s going on. People can hear that it is bad but that can be bias. But when they see what Google has actually written with the documents, this will actually be taught in universities of what totalitarian states can do with this type of capability.” “It will be so revolting that it doesn’t matter what the solution is, a solution will just form as a reaction to this manipulation they have done,” the Google insider said.

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Slaves.

US Student Debt Defaults Have ‘Grown Stunningly’ (Y!)

Total U.S. household debt increased for the 20th consecutive quarter this year, rising by $192 billion to $13.86 trillion, according to the New York Fed. And the data reveals an unsettling truth about student loan balances, which are at alarming levels of missed payments. Fed researchers noted that “in the second quarter of this year, the outstanding severely derogatory balance is comprised of 35 percent defaulted student loans, which have grown stunningly since 2012.” Severely derogatory refers to “any stage of delinquency paired with a repossession, foreclosure, or ‘charge of’” (meaning that the lender has removed the debt from its books),” the report explained.


The increase in overall household debt was “boosted primarily by a $162 billion gain in mortgage installment balances,” the Fed’s Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit explained. While consumer spending has been resilient amid the U.S.-China trade war, two components within household debt are seeing worsening performance. Student loans are the biggest red flag.

While outstanding student debt declined slightly from $1.49 trillion in Q1 to $1.48 trillion this quarter — a “typical change” for the quarter, the report stated — the proportion of student loan borrowers who are unable to pay back their loans has increased rapidly. And the pressure to repay their student loans — which in many cases exceeds tens of thousands of dollars — affects borrowers in several ways. A separate study by JPMorgan Chase Institute, which looked at 4.9 million checking accounts, found that some families are spending up to 17% of their annual income as they repay their debts. They’re even putting off “basic necessities,” in some cases, the study noted.

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War on pensions and savings.

Danish Bank Launches World’s First Negative Interest Rate Mortgage (G.)

A Danish bank has launched the world’s first negative interest rate mortgage – handing out loans to homeowners where the charge is minus 0.5% a year. Negative interest rates effectively mean that a bank pays a borrower to take money off their hands, so they pay back less than they have been loaned. Jyske Bank, Denmark’s third largest, has begun offering borrowers a 10-year deal at -0.5%, while another Danish bank, Nordea, says it will begin offering 20-year fixed-rate deals at 0% and a 30-year mortgage at 0.5%. Under its negative mortgage, Jyske said borrowers will make a monthly repayment as usual – but the amount still outstanding will be reduced each month by more than the borrower has paid.


“We don’t give you money directly in your hand, but every month your debt is reduced by more than the amount you pay,” said Jyske’s housing economist, Mikkel Høegh. In recognition of how puzzling the new mortgage is for customers, the bank’s FAQ is littered with questions and statements such as Hvordan kan det lade sig gøre? (How is that possible?) and Ja, du læste rigtigt (Yes, you read that right). The mortgage is possible because Denmark, as well as Sweden and Switzerland, has seen rates in money markets drop to levels that turn banking upside-down. Høegh said Jyske Bank is able to go into money markets and borrow from institutional investors at a negative rate, and is simply passing this on to its customers. But the flipside is that savers will see nothing paid in interest on their deposits – and may also suffer as they go negative.

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Richard Werner: “ECB crushes German community banks, making up 80% of banks and the bulk of lending to the real economy and SMEs, forcing them to join the ECB-induced property bubble Germany, in pursuit of its official program to reduce the number of banks & commentators wonder why economy tanks.”

Germany: The End Of A Golden Decade (Brzeski)

It’s official: the German economy shrank by 0.1% quarter-on-quarter in the second quarter of the year, from +0.4% QoQ in the first quarter. On the year, the economy still grew by 0.4%, calendar and seasonally adjusted. GDP components will only be released at the end of the month, but available monthly data and the press release of the Statistical Agency suggest that private and government consumption were slightly up but trade and the construction sector were a drag on growth. Today’s GDP report definitely marks the end of a golden decade for the German economy. Since the end of the 2008/09 recession, the economy has grown by an average of 0.5% QoQ every quarter. In fact, the economy grew in 35 out of the last 40 quarters.

However, under the surface of these impressive headline numbers, a worrisome trend has emerged. Since 3Q 2018, the economy has been in a de facto stagnation, with quarterly GDP growth at an average of zero percent. Trade conflicts, global uncertainty and the struggling automotive sector have finally brought the German economy down on its knee. In particular, increased uncertainty, rather than direct effects from the trade conflicts, have dented sentiment and hence economic activity. Who remembers that one year ago, the biggest problem for the German economy was supply-side constraints? Last summer the entire economy was close to overheating; now the lack of demand has become a pressing issue.

Even worse, this transition has taken place without the expected boost to investments. While the slowdown of the industry is not really new, recent developments show that the resilience of the domestic economy to external shocks is crumbling. Profit warnings, first lay-offs, an increase in short-time work schemes, falling consumer confidence and weaker activity in the service sector have sounded the alarm bells. Let’s be clear: the fact that the German economy is currently in stagnation is not the most disconcerting message after a long period of strong growth. It is the weakening of the domestic economy that is most worrisome.

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They’re going to do Bernie 2016 all over again.

Tulsi Gabbard Remains Low in ‘Approved’ DNC Polls Despite Popularity (LR)

The Democratic party has a candidate problem. Twenty-four candidates are currently in the race, and after two rounds of primary debates, the field still feels crowded. The DNC is hoping that their stricter qualification rules for the September and October debates will significantly thin the pack. For these debates, candidates must get 130,000 unique donors and reach 2% or higher in four different DNC-approved polls. As of this article’s publication, only nine candidates have qualified: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and Andrew Yang. Julian Castro, the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, is one qualifying poll away from meeting the criteria as well.

The only other candidate that is close to doing so is Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who saw a massive uptick in donors after her debate performance in which she roasted Harris. Since then, Gabbard has shot past the 130,000 donor threshold, and as of Aug. 11, she was sitting at 159,514 individual donors. That took care of one-half of the qualification criteria for the next two debates. Where Gabbard is seeing some struggles is in the polling numbers. Well, sort of. The reality is that since June 28 (the first day of the time in which polls can be counted towards September qualification), Gabbard has hit 2% or higher in eight different polls, which is more than the already-qualified Klobuchar and Yang.

Yet, the DNC only counts one of those as an approved poll, meaning Gabbard still needs three more polls to her resume. If she can’t do that, missing the September debates will be a de facto death blow to her campaign. Gabbard, a staunch anti-war candidate, has been getting the ‘Ron Paul treatment’ from the DNC and the media since ABC’s first primary debate. While her appeal to the voters has been demonstrated (as she was the most googled candidate after each debate), she’s still getting push back. It seems almost improbable that Gabbard can continually pull between 2 and 3% in some polls and then struggle to register even 1% in what the DNC counts as polls.

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“Within the GDP framework, the aspect of funding economic activity never emerges. In this framework goods emerge because of people’s desires.”

GDP Growth Isn’t the Same Thing as Economic Growth (Shostak)

To gain insight into the state of an economy, most financial experts and commentators rely on a statistic called the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The GDP framework looks at the value of final goods and services produced during a particular time interval, usually a quarter or a year. This statistic is constructed in accordance with the view that what drives an economy is not the production of wealth but rather its consumption. What matters here is the demand for final goods and services. Since consumer outlays are the largest part of the overall demand, it is commonly held that consumer demand is the key driver of economic growth.

All that matters in this view is the demand for goods, which in turn will give rise almost immediately to their supply. Because the supply of goods is taken for granted, this framework ignores the whole issue of the various stages of production that precede the emergence of the final good. However, in order to manufacture a car, there is a need for coal to be employed in the production of steel, which in turn will be employed to manufacture an array of tools. These in turn are used to produce other tools and machinery and so on, until we reach the final stage of the production of a car. The harmonious interaction of the various stages of production results in the final product.

Within the GDP framework, the aspect of funding economic activity never emerges. In this framework goods emerge because of people’s desires. In the real world, it is not enough to have demand for goods – one must have the means to accommodate people’s desires. The means are various final goods that are required to sustain various individuals in the various stages of production. [..] The GDP framework is hostile to savings given that in this framework more savings weakens consumption and weakens the so-called Keynesian multiplier. The GDP framework gives the impression that it is not the activities of individuals that produce goods and services, but something else outside these activities called the “economy.” However, at no stage does the so-called “economy” have a life of its own independent of individuals. The so-called economy is a metaphor—it does not exist.

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This is going to the courts.

Speaker Will ‘Fight With Every Breath’ To Stop Johnson Closing Parliament (G.)

The House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, has said he will “fight with every breath in my body” to stop Boris Johnson from proroguing parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit without the consent of MPs. Bercow, who has previously said he did not believe it would be possible to suspend parliament to force through no deal, gave his strongest signal yet he was prepared to personally intervene to stop prorogation. Speaking at the Edinburgh festival fringe, the Speaker said he would insist on the right of parliament to continue to sit and debate. “The one thing I feel strongly about is that the House of Commons must have its way,” he said. “And if there is an attempt to circumvent, to bypass or – God forbid – to close down parliament, that is anathema to me.


“I will fight with every breath in my body to stop that happening. We cannot have a situation in which parliament is shut down. We are a democratic society and parliament will be heard. “Nobody is going to get away, as far as I’m concerned, with stopping that happening. Nobody should be afraid to say what he or she thinks.” Asked by an audience member if parliament was able to stop a no-deal Brexit, Bercow replied: “Yes.” Speaking in the Commons in June, Bercow warned the then-Tory leadership candidates that prorogation was not an option. “That is simply not going to happen. It is just so blindingly obvious that it almost doesn’t need to be stated, but apparently, it does and therefore I have done,” he told MPs.


Led by Donkeys: Hi @BorisJohnson & @MichaelGove, we heard about your plan to spend £100m on a No Deal advertising campaign. The thing is you’re both liars who can’t be trusted to tell the public the truth. So we’re doing it for you. More details at http://NoDealBrexit.info (location: Salisbury)

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Thatcher said there’s no such thing as “society”. And now there isn’t.

Britain Is Being Stripped Of Its Social Infrastructure (G.)

Whole swaths of Britain experience a blackout and the country lights up with fury. Cabinet minsters, the press, members of the public rightly demand answers: why was Newcastle airport plunged into darkness? Who is responsible for rail services being halted for hours? Threats are issued of a whopping fine, an official inquiry, heads rolling. Days of rage for a power cut of less than an hour. When it works, infrastructure is invisible. Point out the crumbliness, by all means, and lament the dangerous compromises – but as long as the wretched system judders on, voters shrug and politicians look the other way. Until the day the bridges collapse, the trains seize up and the lights no longer come on. By which time it is too late for anything but blame in 24-point headlines.

Between these two extremes lies a much rarer phenomenon, which blights Britain today. We are right in the middle of an infrastructure breakdown – we just haven’t named it yet. You’ll know what I mean when we list the component parts. More than 760 youth clubs have shut across the UK since 2012. A pub closes every 12 hours. Nearly 130 libraries were scrapped last year, and those that survive in England have lopped off 230,000 opening hours. Each of the above is a news story. Each stings a different group: the books trade, the real-ale aficionados, the trade unions. But knit them together and a far darker picture emerges. Britain is being stripped of its social infrastructure: the institutions that make up its daily life, the buildings and spaces that host friends and gently push strangers together.

Public parks are disappearing. Playgrounds are being sold off. High streets are fast turning to desert. These trends are national, but their greatest force is felt in the poorest towns and suburbs, the most remote parts of the countryside, where there isn’t the footfall to lure in the businesses or household wealth to save the local boozer. When I am out reporting it is not uncommon to go into a suburban postcode short of money yet still bustling with people – but the banks have nearly all cleared out, the church has gone and all that’s left of the last pub is an empty hulk. The private sector has buggered off, the state is a remote and vengeful god who dispenses benefits or sanctions, and the “big society” never made it out of the pages of a report from a Westminster thinktank.

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“After the saga went viral, with more than 12,000 retweets, Twitter itself stepped in and joined the calls for Dorothy to be returned to the internet, tweeting #FreeDorothy.”

Teen’s Tweets From Smart Fridge Go Viral After Mother Confiscates Phone (G.)

A resourceful teenager has taken the rise of increasingly powerful smart home devices to its logical conclusion – tweeting from her family’s smart fridge after her mother confiscated her phone. The 15-year-old Ariana Grande fan known only as “Dorothy” was barred from using her phone but managed to find a number of innovative ways to reach her thousands of followers – a handheld Nintendo device, a Wii U gaming console, and finally, her family’s LG Smart Refrigerator. Dorothy, who declined to share her last name, says her mother disciplined her two weeks ago after she got too distracted while cooking and caused a fire. “She took all my tech so I’d pay more attention to my surroundings,” said the teen, who messaged the Guardian from her cousin’s iPad because she was still facing a tech ban.


“I felt mortified! I was worried because I’ve been bored all summer and Twitter passes the time for me.” The user was worried about losing her “mutuals” – accounts she follows that follow her back – and devised other ways to get tweets out. Her self-described “fan account” is used primarily to send tweets about Ariana Grande. Dorothy then sent a tweet saying: “my mom took my phone and my nintendo ds so i have no choice but to use my wii … thank u all for the support and love.” The tweet’s source label, which indicates the device from which a tweet was sent, confirmed that the tweet came from a Wii U. Finally, after her mother apparently took her Wii U away as well, she sent a tweet from her LG Smart refrigerator: “I’m talking to my fridge what the heck,” she said.

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The speed at which this is happening is literally more than we can comprehend.

More Than Half Of World’s Forest Wildlife Lost In 40 Years (Ind.)

The amount of wildlife in the world’s forests has plummeted by more than half (53 per cent) in just over 40 years, conservationists have found. Humanity is killing the Earth’s greatest natural ally in the fight against climate breakdown, our forests, according to the report by the WWF. The charity is calling on world leaders to declare a planetary emergency and develop a “new deal for nature and people” to halt climate breakdown, restore nature and fix food systems. The first ever global assessment of forest biodiversity shows that habitat loss and degradation, chiefly caused by people, account for 60 per cent of the threats to forests and forest species.

The report, ‘Below the Canopy’, written jointly by WWF and ZSL, found the drops in wild animal and bird populations were greatest in tropical forests such as the Amazon rainforest, where there is the most wildlife to lose. Monitored populations of forest-living birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles declined, on average, by 53 per cent between 1970 and 2014, the most recent year with available data. Protecting and restoring forests must be at the heart of the global plan, the charity says. WWF says that forests, which are home to more than half of the world’s land-based species, are vital to the health of the planet, absorbing damaging greenhouse gases.

The report outlines how in the vast tropical forests of South America and Africa, the carbon locked in would decline if large birds and primates in particular were lost. “When animals are lost from forests this has severe implications for forest health, the livelihoods of more than a billion humans who depend on forests, and our opportunity to mitigate against climate disaster,” WWF says.


Day’s Edge Productions / WWF-US

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Minoan fresco depicting a bull leaping scene, found in Knossos, 1600-1400 BC

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 262019
 
 July 26, 2019  Posted by at 8:31 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Dora Maar with green nails 1936

 

What Mueller Was Trying to Hide (Strassel)
Barr And State AGs Discuss Big Tech Monopolies (ZH)
Tulsi Gabbard Sues Google For Campaign “Interference” (ZH)
Brussels Repels Boris Johnson’s Quest For New Brexit Deal (G.)
Don’t Call It A Coup, You’ll Spoil Boris Johnson’s Big Day Out (G.)
World Trade in Face of Tariffmageddon, Trade Wars & Manufacturing Slowdown (WS)
After Century of Chaos and War, Versailles Treaty Still Haunts the World (Sp.)
The Tyranny of the Police State Disguised as Law-and-Order (Whitehead)
In Roundup Case, US Judge Cuts $2 Billion Verdict To $86 Million (R.)
Florida Senator Says Under Siege For Seeking Epstein Probe (Julie K. Brown)
Boeing Targets October, FAA Official Says No Timeline For 737 MAX (R.)
Jacinda Ardern Accused By Maori Of ‘Lacking Leadership’ In Land Dispute (G.)
The Cheapest Way to Save the Planet Grows Like a Weed (Brown)
Earth, But Not As We Knew It – James Lovelock Turns 100 (G.)

 

 

Horowitz and/or Durham will have to look at Weissmann and the rest of Mueller’s lawyers. As well as the FBI.

What Mueller Was Trying to Hide (Strassel)

Special counsel Robert Mueller testified before two House committees Wednesday, and his performance requires us to look at his investigation and report in a new light. We’ve been told it was solely about Russian electoral interference and obstruction of justice. It’s now clear it was equally about protecting the actual miscreants behind the Russia-collusion hoax. The most notable aspect of the Mueller report was always what it omitted: the origins of this mess. Christopher Steele’s dossier was central to the FBI probe, the basis of many of the claims of conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. Yet the Mueller authors studiously wrote around the dossier, mentioning it only in perfunctory terms. The report ignored Mr. Steele’s paymaster, Fusion GPS, and its own ties to Russians. It also ignored Fusion’s paymaster, the Clinton campaign, and the ugly politics behind the dossier hit job.


Mr. Mueller’s testimony this week put to rest any doubt that this sheltering was deliberate. In his opening statement he declared that he would not “address questions about the opening of the FBI’s Russia investigation, which occurred months before my appointment, or matters related to the so-called Steele Dossier.” The purpose of those omissions was obvious, as those two areas go to the heart of why the nation has been forced to endure years of collusion fantasy. Mr. Mueller claimed he couldn’t answer questions about the dossier because it “predated” his tenure and is the subject of a Justice Department investigation. These excuses are disingenuous. Nearly everything Mr. Mueller investigated predated his tenure, and there’s no reason the Justice Department probe bars Mr. Mueller from providing a straightforward, factual account of his team’s handling of the dossier.

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The pushback intensifies. They’re going to have to find a way out. Even if the CIA likes things just the way they are.

Barr And State AGs Discuss Big Tech Monopolies (ZH)

A bipartisan group of eight state attorneys general met with US Attorney General William Barr on Thursday to discuss “the real concerns consumers across the country have with big tech companies stifling competition,” according to Politico. “Our bipartisan coalition of eight state attorneys general was pleased with the opportunity to meet with U.S. Attorney General Barr to talk about the real concerns consumers across the country have with big tech companies stifling competition on the internet,” reads a joint statement from the state AGs, which include Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana.

“The potential state action adds yet another layer to the growing scrutiny of the power of online platforms. In announcing its antitrust review this week, the DOJ said it will consider “widespread concerns” expressed about search, social media and online retail services.” -Politico. Meanwhile, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes is has been meeting with regulators to make the case for breaking up the social media giant, according to the New York Times. In recent weeks, Mr. Hughes has joined two leading antitrust academics, Scott Hemphill of New York University and Tim Wu of Columbia University, in meetings with the Federal Trade Commission, the Justice Department and state attorneys general. In those meetings, the three have laid out a potential antitrust case against Facebook, Mr. Wu and Mr. Hemphill said.

“For nearly a decade, they argue, Facebook has made “serial defensive acquisitions” to protect its dominant position in the market for social networks, according to slides they have shown government officials. By scooping up nascent rivals, they assert, Facebook has thwarted potential competitors, making it easier for the social network to charge advertisers higher prices and to offer a worse experience for users.” -New York Times

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Barr can start right here.

Tulsi Gabbard Sues Google For Campaign “Interference” (ZH)

Progressive Democrat presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, who has long been under fire from mainstream media and establishment voices in her own party for her vehemently anti-war and anti-interventionist stance, is suing Google, The New York Times reports, in what is said to be the first time in history a presidential candidate has sued a major technology firm. It must be remembered that though considered a “long shot” by party insiders based on her outlier stances (for which she’s been called a popular Ron Paul type unorthodox figure among the Dems), from criticizing the Democrats’ ‘Russiagate’ fixation to calling for an end to “regime change wars” abroad to being willing to meet with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, Google searches for her named surged across the US during last month’s first round of presidential nominee debates.

And now, as the Times reports, she says Google infringed on her free speech by suspending her campaign’s ability to get its message out: “Tulsi Now Inc., the campaign committee for Ms. Gabbard, said Google suspended the campaign’s advertising account for six hours on June 27 and June 28, obstructing its ability to raise money and spread her message to potential voters.” Google and other major US tech companies like Facebook have faced an avalanche of scrutiny and criticism of late for censoring and/or manipulating the visibility of those with unorthodox political views. The new lawsuit claims Google took steps to “interfere” with Gabbard’s chances in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

“Google’s arbitrary and capricious treatment of Gabbard’s campaign should raise concerns for policymakers everywhere about the company’s ability to use its dominance to impact political discourse, in a way that interferes with the upcoming 2020 presidential election,” the lawsuit stated. Specifically the lawsuit suggests Google diverted Gabbard campaign emails to be sent to spam folders on Gmail at “a disproportionately high rate” compared to her Democratic rival candidates.

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No-deal Brexit was voted down in London multiple times. What are the odds it won’t be if Boris tries again?

Brussels Repels Boris Johnson’s Quest For New Brexit Deal (G.)

Brussels has roundly rebuffed Boris Johnson after he laid down tough conditions for the new Brexit deal he hopes to strike over the summer. Speaking to the House of Commons for the first time as prime minister on Thursday, Johnson reiterated his campaign pledge of ditching the Irish backstop and promised to ramp up preparations for a no-deal Brexit immediately. “I would prefer us to leave the EU with a deal,” he said. “I would much prefer it. I believe that it is possible even at this late stage, and I will work flat-out to make it happen. “But certain things need to be clear: the withdrawal agreement negotiated by my predecessor has been three times rejected by this house; its terms are unacceptable to this parliament and to this country.”


In a phone call later in the day, the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, signalled the EU27’s determination to stick with the deal negotiated with Theresa May’s government – which includes the backstop. “President Juncker listened to what Prime Minister Johnson had to say, reiterating the EU’s position that the withdrawal agreement is the best and only agreement possible – in line with the European council guidelines,” a commission spokesperson said. Juncker told Johnson the EU was willing to “add language” to the political declaration – the non-binding document that covers the future relationship – but would only consider any other proposals “providing they are compatible with the withdrawal agreement”.

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“When you haven’t got a principle left to betray, such displays of craven loyalty come as second nature.”

Don’t Call It A Coup, You’ll Spoil Boris Johnson’s Big Day Out (G.)

If a developing country had just changed its entire government without an election, we’d be calling it a coup. And if that coup had been led by a man clearly unfit for office, whom even his own family can’t trust to tell the truth, we’d be calling that country a failed state. But as this is the UK and the leader in question is Boris Johnson, we plead the exceptionalism of a first-world democracy. No matter that no one voted for a de facto Vote Leave government of shits and charlatans, that is what we now have. Taking Back Control is far too precious a virtue to be entrusted to the people. For now at least. When he had made his first speech as prime minister outside Downing Street, Johnson had briefly tried to present himself as a serious figure.

Even if the content of what he was saying was still basically the same divisive doggybollocks. It hadn’t gone down that well. Because if there was one thing more terrifying than Boris acting the fool, it was Boris pretending to be serious. A carapace of sincerity that dissolves on contact with reality. Everyone knows Boris is serious about only one thing: the fulfilment of his own delusions. Other people only exist as satellites to his own ego. Useful idiots in the service of World King Idiot. A man who can go toe to toe with Donald Trump in any dysfunctionality contest. Someone who believes he is an innocent victim, misunderstood by the entire world, but who is actually a sociopath only misunderstood by himself. Someone deserving of the undying gratitude of a nation for taking a pay cut to enter Downing Street.

For his first outing in the Commons, Johnson had gone back to his more familiar default setting. The Fool. The court jester from whom no one expects the truth, so long as they are entertained. “Pifflepafflewifflewaffle,” he began. The script remains the same, even if the persona changes. Dominic Raab, Sajid Javid, Priti Patel and the dozen or so other members of the recently appointed cabinet on the frontbench roared their approval. When you haven’t got a principle left to betray, such displays of craven loyalty come as second nature.

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No collapse yet, but a plateau.

World Trade in Face of Tariffmageddon, Trade Wars & Manufacturing Slowdown (WS)

World trade volume – imports and exports of merchandise across the globe – increased 0.3% in May from April, after falling 0.6% in the prior month, according to the Merchandise World Trade Monitor, released today by CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis. On a year-over-year basis, the index fell 0.4%. And it is down 2.1% from the peak in October 2018. This isn’t exactly stellar, compared to 2017 and 2018, when the world trade index increased between 2% and 6% year-over-year.

But it isn’t a “collapse” either. A collapse of world trade occurred during the Global Financial Crisis when companies shut down their ordering process – not knowing if the banking system would still be there the next morning – and when consumers closed their wallets, particularly American consumers who provide much of the oomph behind world trade, given their penchant for imports, but they were losing their jobs by the millions. From September 2008 through the trough in May 2009, the World Trade Monitor plunged 17.5%.


In the Eurozone, there has been some decline in both imports and exports in recent months. While Germany is heavily exposed to the automotive sector and is getting hit harder, other countries such as Greece, Italy, Portugal, and France, are not. Especially in Southern Europe, food exports – such as olive oil, wine, salami, cheese, and other specialty foods – play a larger role among their exports, and there is no slowdown in food products. Also note the impact of the euro debt crisis on imports (red line):

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“A new world seemed to have been created.”

After Century of Chaos and War, Versailles Treaty Still Haunts the World (Sp.)

A century ago, in July 1919, Germany began its journey to the lowest reaches of Hades. Another 26 years would pass before a previously civilized, enlightened people finally emerged, their nation in ruins, its cities bombed and its countryside occupied. Another four decades would pass before their country was reunited, and even then some of Berlin’s neighbors, convinced that Germans possessed a double dose of original sin, preferred a divided Germany. In 1919, World War I formally came to an end. The victorious allies dictated a peace that humbled Germany, formalized the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires, created a gaggle of weak ethnically based states, and shared the geopolitical spoils among the victors. A new world seemed to have been created.

The treaty signed on June 28 in the famous Hall of Mirrors at the Versailles palace, however, proved to be but a brief interlude of peace. Germany remained recalcitrant. The myth had emerged that the German military had been defeated by the Dolchstoss, or “stab-in-the-back,” at home. But the reality was unpleasant enough: the peace settlement made no pretense of applying Woodrow Wilson’s famed Fourteen Points to Germany as the surrendering Germans had expected. The first democratically elected German government resigned rather than signing what became known as the Versailles Treaty. After being threatened with invasion, the successor leadership submitted. Not until two weeks later, in July, did the reluctant Reichstag ratify the pact.

The Deutsche Zeitung inveighed against the “disgraceful treaty” and promised, “We will never stop until we win back what we deserve.” Versailles almost immediately began radicalizing politics in the Weimar republic, encouraging violence, assassinations of left-wing politicians, and extremist bids for power, including by an army veteran and surprisingly effective rabble-rouser named Adolf Hitler. The sense of crisis gradually receded, however, only to have the Great Depression destroy much of the middle class, the mainstay of any democratic order. Hitler gained power, and a little more than two decades after losing one war Germany plunged into another one…

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“America’s expanding military empire is bleeding the country dry at a rate of more than $15 billion a month (or $20 million an hour)..”

The Tyranny of the Police State Disguised as Law-and-Order (Whitehead)

Having been co-opted by greedy defense contractors, corrupt politicians and incompetent government officials, America’s expanding military empire is bleeding the country dry at a rate of more than $15 billion a month (or $20 million an hour)—and that’s just what the government spends on foreign wars. The U.S. military empire’s determination to police the rest of the world has resulted in more than 1.3 million U.S. troops being stationed at roughly 1000 military bases in over 150 countries around the world. That doesn’t include the number of private contractors pulling in hefty salaries at taxpayer expense. In Afghanistan, for example, private contractors outnumber U.S. troops three to one. No matter how we might differ about the role of the U.S. military in foreign affairs, surely we can agree that America’s war spending and commitment to policing the rest of the world are bankrupting the nation and spreading our troops dangerously thin.

All of the imperial powers amassed by Barack Obama and George W. Bush—to kill American citizens without due process, to detain suspects indefinitely, to strip Americans of their citizenship rights, to carry out mass surveillance on Americans without probable cause, to suspend laws during wartime, to disregard laws with which they might disagree, to conduct secret wars and convene secret courts, to sanction torture, to sidestep the legislatures and courts with executive orders and signing statements, to direct the military to operate beyond the reach of the law, to operate a shadow government, and to act as a dictator and a tyrant, above the law and beyond any real accountability—were inherited by Donald Trump.

These presidential powers—acquired through the use of executive orders, decrees, memorandums, proclamations, national security directives and legislative signing statements and which can be activated by any sitting president—enable past, president and future presidents to operate above the law and beyond the reach of the Constitution. Yet no matter how we might differ about how success or failure of past or present presidential administrations, surely we can agree that the president should not be empowered to act as an imperial dictator with permanent powers.

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Trying not to say Monsanto. And why have a jury system when judges keep overruling them? Doesn’t that make it all a mockery?

In Roundup Case, US Judge Cuts $2 Billion Verdict To $86 Million (R.)

A California judge on Thursday reduced a $2 billion jury verdict, slashing the award for a couple who blamed Bayer’s glyphosate-based weed killer Roundup for their cancer to $86.7 million. Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith of the California Superior Court in Oakland said the jury’s billion-dollar punitive damages awards were excessive and unconstitutional, but rejected Bayer’s request to strike the punitive award outright. Under Smith’s final order, California couple Alva and Alberta Pilliod would receive roughly $17 million in compensatory and $69 million in punitive damages, down from $55 million and $2 billion, respectively. The plaintiffs still have to formally accept the reduced award. Bayer in a statement on Thursday said Smith’s decision to slash the award was a step in the right direction, but added it would file an appeal.


“We continue to believe that the verdict and damage awards are not supported by the evidence at trial and conflict with the extensive body of reliable science and conclusions of leading health regulators worldwide that confirms glyphosate-based herbicides can be used safely and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic,” the company said. [..] The company had asked Smith to strike the punitive damages award in the Pilliods’ case, arguing that hundreds of studies and assessments by regulators worldwide concluded the herbicide to be safe for human use. But the judge in her Thursday order rejected those arguments.“In this case there was clear and convincing evidence that Monsanto made efforts to impede, discourage, or distort scientific inquiry and the resulting science,” Smith said.

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Typical: sheriff is very powerful. Not so typical: Senator Lauren Book’s dad is a very powerful lobbyist.

Florida Senator Says Under Siege For Seeking Epstein Probe (Julie K. Brown)

Florida Sen. Lauren Book has reached out to Capitol police after receiving an anonymous warning connected to her demand for a state inquiry into Palm Beach Sheriff Ric Bradshaw’s handling of accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein’s lenient work release program, the Miami Herald has learned. Book, a vocal advocate for child sexual assault survivors, said she also received more than a dozen calls from Bradshaw’s political supporters asking her to back off on her call for an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement into Bradshaw. On Monday, Book, a Democrat, wrote a letter to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis asking him to authorize a probe into how Epstein, accused of molesting dozens of underage girls and a registered sex offender, was permitted to leave the Palm Beach County Jail and spend much of his 2008-2009 incarceration in an office in West Palm Beach.

DeSantis said Thursday after a Cabinet meeting that he would “certainly consider” an investigation but that he has yet to decide how the state should respond. [..] the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office issued a new statement that its previously announced internal affairs investigation of the deputies who guarded and supervised Epstein during his work release had become a criminal investigation as well. No further elaboration was provided. Meanwhile, Book, in an interview with the Herald, said she had asked the Capitol police, who handle security for state lawmakers, to look into claims made on a Russian website alleging that Bradshaw was behind an effort to access her phone and emails by using the pretext of “imminent danger’’ to obtain her personal information.

“I’ve received countless phone calls saying ‘Little girl you don’t know what you’re getting into,’ and telling me that I should just stop,’’ said Book, a child sexual abuse survivor herself who has worked to pass strict sex offender laws in Florida. In a statement, PBSO said it had no knowledge of anyone trying to threaten or pressure Book.

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Southwest has already cancelled flights till 2020, and they far more 737 MAXs than anyone else. Even closed down Newark operations because of it.

Boeing Targets October, FAA Official Says No Timeline For 737 MAX (R.)

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration distanced itself on Thursday from suggestions by Boeing that its grounded 737 MAX could resume flying passengers in October, saying regulators do not have a timeline for vetting safety upgrades. Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg told analysts on Wednesday he was confident the MAX would be back in service as early as October after a certification flight with regulators in September. But the FAA’s top official declined to be pinned down on Boeing’s target of October or any other timeline for clearing the plane, which was grounded in March after two fatal crashes.


“We don’t have a timeline. Don’t have October. Don’t have August. Don’t have 2021,” Acting Administrator Dan Elwell told reporters at the EAA AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. “We have one criteria. When the 737 MAX has been – when the complications to it have been satisfactorily assessed, and the MAX is safe to return to service, that’s the only criteria,” Elwell said. [..] U.S. airlines are cancelling thousands of monthly flights due to the grounding and have warned of an increasing financial toll in the second half of the year. Southwest Airlines, a top customer, said on Thursday it was scheduling without the MAX until early January and ending operations at Newark Liberty International airport due to a scarcity of planes.

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Not looking good, Jacinda.

Jacinda Ardern Accused By Maori Of ‘Lacking Leadership’ In Land Dispute (G.)

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, is being accused of a “lack of leadership” over an escalating land dispute between Maori and a construction company which plans to build 500 homes on sacred land in south Auckland. Opposition to the project boiled over this week over when a group that had been illegally occupying the land was served an eviction notice. The protest group has grown into about 300 people with police also increasing their presence. Seven protesters were arrested on Thursday night after they linked arms and chained themselves to a van to block part of the motorway near the city’s airport. The site, called Ihumatao, is home to New Zealand’s earliest market gardens as well as being a significant archaeological site on land considered sacred by local Maori.


Fletcher Building is looking to develop around 500 homes on the land, which local Maori say was stolen from them after land wars with the British dating back to the 1860s. The protest group want the land given back to local Maori. Protesters have implored Ardern to step in, including sending a letter directly to her. However, she has so far said the government will not get involved. “This is something obviously everyone wants to see resolution around, no one wants to see the kinds of disruption and outpouring of emotion [we have seen],” Ardern said. “Everyone wants a resolution but ultimately it will have to come from mana whenua (Maori). Protest leader Pania Newton told media that Ardern’s words showed “a lack of leadership” and showed “ignorance” about its treaty obligations. “This is the revolution of our generation,” Newton said.

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How much industrial hemp can we plant? Pretty sure if we do it, it’ll be for money.

The Cheapest Way to Save the Planet Grows Like a Weed (Brown)

Planting billions of trees across the world is by far the cheapest and most efficient way to tackle the climate crisis. So states a Guardian article, citing a new analysis published in the journal Science. The author explains: As trees grow, they absorb and store the carbon dioxide emissions that are driving global heating. New research estimates that a worldwide planting programme could remove two-thirds of all the emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere by human activities, a figure the scientists describe as “mind-blowing”. [..] The July analytical review in Science calculated how many additional trees could be planted globally without encroaching on crop land or urban areas.

It found that there are 1.7 billion hectares (4.2 billion acres) of treeless land on which 1.2 trillion native tree saplings would naturally grow. Using the most efficient methods, 1 trillion trees could be restored for as little as $300 billion—less than 2% of the lower range of estimates for the Green New Deal introduced by progressive Democrats in February. The Guardian quoted Professor Tom Crowther at the Swiss university ETH Zürich, who said, “What blows my mind is the scale. I thought restoration would be in the top 10, but it is overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other climate change solutions proposed.” He said it was also by far the cheapest solution that has ever been proposed. The chief drawback of reforestation as a solution to the climate crisis, as The Guardian piece points out, is that trees grow slowly.

The projected restoration could take 50 to 100 years to reach its full carbon sequestering potential. Fortunately, as of December 2018, there is now a cheaper, faster and more efficient alternative—one that was suppressed for nearly a century but was legalized on a national scale when President Trump signed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. This is the widespread cultivation of industrial hemp, the nonintoxicating form of cannabis grown for fiber, cloth, oil, food and other purposes. Hemp grows to 13 feet in 100 days, making it one of the fastest carbon dioxide-to-biomass conversion tools available. Industrial hemp has been proved to absorb more CO2 per hectare than any forest or commercial crop, making it the ideal carbon sink. It can be grown on a wide scale on nutrient-poor soils with very small amounts of water and no fertilizers.

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A formidable mind. And one not shy about contradicting himself.

Earth, But Not As We Knew It – James Lovelock Turns 100 (G.)

James Lovelock, the scientist and writer, is 100 years old on Friday and remains a combination of environmental Cassandra and Old Testament prophet. Unlike them, though, he changes his mind about what the future holds. Foolish consistency, Emerson wrote, is the hobgoblin of little minds, and Mr Lovelock’s mind is not little. More than 10 years before the record high July temperatures, Mr Lovelock flatly told the Guardian that 80% of human life on Earth would perish by 2100 because of the climate emergency. He imagined a dystopian end of humanity where “the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable” by the end of the 21st century.

As a scientist (his first letter to Nature was published in 1945, on the subject of writing on petri dishes), Mr Lovelock’s life has been studded with insight. He invented an electron capture detector that could pick up minute traces of pollutants – such as the pesticides that spurred Rachel Carson to write the 1962 book Silent Spring. At home he built instruments that ended up on Mars, helping Nasa to establish that the red planet was lifeless.

Mr Lovelock’s imagination has not narrowed, but his vision has become bleaker with time. His new book Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence proposes that the 300,000-year Anthropocene era of Earth’s human domination is ending. Novacene is a new age where our species is doomed to a worse fate than clinging on for dear life at the north pole as previously imagined. Instead we will become lackeys of cyborgs able to think 10,000 times faster than humans. We will be kept on to ensure there are habitable temperatures for these superior intelligences.

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How the Mueller people -and the Senate, let’s not forget them- kept Russiagate alive all that time:

 

 

 

 

Jun 242019
 


Pablo Picasso Sleeping girl 1935

 

Free Money Socialism (Henrich)
Iran Goes For “Maximum Counter-Pressure” (Escobar)
Facebook’s Libra Cryptocurrency ‘Poses Risks To Global Banking’ -BIS (G.)
Google’s Chrome Web Browser “Has Become Spy Software” (ZH)
Austerity, Inequality Fuelling Mental Illness – Top UN Envoy (G.)
Republicans Don’t Understand Democrats – and Vice Versa (Atl.)
400 Pilots Sue Boeing In Class Action Over 737 MAX Cover-Up (ABC.au)
How Wall Street Colonized the Caribbean (BR)
Blow To Turkey’s Erdogan As Opposition Wins Big In Istanbul (R.)
Turkey Warns EU Not To Interfere On Cyprus EEZ Issue (K.)
Greek Armed Forces On Standby For Turkish Moves In East Med, Aegean (K.)

 

 

Very close to what I’ve been saying.

Free Money Socialism (Henrich)

According to Jay Powell the Fed’s primary mission is now to “sustain the economic expansion.” I’ve never used the term “manipulation” before, but let’s just be clear what “sustain the economic expansion” really means: To prevent natural market forces from taking hold. That’s manipulation. Business cycles are natural. They serve a purpose, they lay the foundation for new growth, they weed out the excess, they permit for a reset of an aging expansion, for a renewed flourishing of innovation, new solutions, creativity, and yes growth. Of course because of all this recessions bring about temporary pain, but nobody wants pain anymore, and hence central bankers with hero magazine covers have now taken on a new role, that of preventing a recession altogether.

No more cleansing, no more resets, but only ever more excess and propagating the notion that they alone can prevent the cleansing process from taking place with their favorite and only method: Free Money. Oh yes, the free money whores are here again. Hurry back into stocks: “Now, interest rates are coming down en masse. Investors who adjusted their portfolios for a high-rate environment must readjust. That means leaning into growth stocks again, scouring Asia for opportunities, and earning income from investments that won’t succumb to the low-rate trend and will also hold up in a shaky economy”. Barron’s calls the Fed flip flop “graceful”. I call it disgraceful.

Just stop. It’s 2019, wealth inequality is higher than ever, corporate debt is higher than ever, and growth is slowing. Innovation is hampered by a system that has benefitted the few which have grown into bloated monopolies, and the entire system itself remains held afloat by massive and ever more expending debt. After all there is zero intellectual integrity to anything that is being propagated. In recent times Fed chairs have bemoaned rising wealth inequality, oh how un-American it all is, and rising corporate debt being a threat to the economy, but then they proceed to again exacerbate both by promising more easy money, their default solution in the misguided attempt to bail investors out from all pain and any bad decisions.

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“The key in the analysis is what is called notional. They are so far out of the money that they are said to mean nothing. But in a crisis the notional can become real.”

Iran Goes For “Maximum Counter-Pressure” (Escobar)

The facts are stark. Tehran simply won’t accept all-out economic war lying down – prevented to export the oil that protects its economic survival. The Strait of Hormuz question has been officially addressed. Now it’s time for the derivatives. Presenting detailed derivatives analysis plus military analysis to global media would force the media pack, mostly Western, to go to Warren Buffett to see if it is true. And it is true. Soleimani, according to this scenario, should say as much and recommend that the media go talk to Warren Buffett. The extent of a possible derivatives crisis is an uber-taboo theme for the Washington consensus institutions. According to one of my American banking sources, the most accurate figure – $1.2 quadrillion – comes from a Swiss banker, off the record.

He should know; the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) – the central bank of central banks – is in Basle. The key point is it doesn’t matter how the Strait of Hormuz is blocked. It could be a false flag. Or it could be because the Iranian government feels it’s going to be attacked and then sinks a cargo ship or two. What matters is the final result; any blocking of the energy flow will lead the price of oil to reach $200 a barrel, $500 or even, according to some Goldman Sachs projections, $1,000. Another US banking source explains; “The key in the analysis is what is called notional. They are so far out of the money that they are said to mean nothing.

But in a crisis the notional can become real. For example, if I buy a call for a million barrels of oil at $300 a barrel, my cost will not be very great as it is thought to be inconceivable that the price will go that high. That is notional. But if the Strait is closed, that can become a stupendous figure.” BIS will only commit, officially, to indicate the total notional amount outstanding for contracts in derivatives markers is an estimated $542.4 trillion. But this is just an estimate. The banking source adds, “Even here it is the notional that has meaning. Huge amounts are interest rate derivatives. Most are notional but if oil goes to a thousand dollars a barrel, then this will affect interest rates if 45% of the world’s GDP is oil. This is what is called in business a contingent liability.”

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“If even modestly successful, Libra would hand over much of the control of monetary policy from central banks to these private companies.”

Facebook’s Libra Cryptocurrency ‘Poses Risks To Global Banking’ -BIS (G.)

Facebook’s plan to operate its own digital currency poses risks to the international banking system that should trigger a speedy response from global policymakers, according to the organisation that represents the world’s central banks. Although the move of big tech firms such as Facebook, Amazon and Alibaba into financial services could speed up transactions and cut costs, especially in developing world countries, it could also undermine the stability of a banking system that has only just recovered from the crash of 2008. Echoing warnings from many tech experts, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) said that while there were potential benefits to be made, the adoption of digital currencies outside the current financial system could reduce competition and create data privacy issues.

“The aim should be to respond to big techs’ entry into financial services so as to benefit from the gains while limiting the risks,” said Hyun Song Shin, economic adviser and head of research at BIS. “Public policy needs to build on a more comprehensive approach that draws on financial regulation, competition policy and data privacy regulation.” The warning from the BIS on Sunday comes only days after Facebook announced it would launch its own digital currency, Libra, in 2020. It will allow its billions of users to make financial transactions across the globe in a move that could potentially shake up the world’s banking system.

Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, last week added his voice to concerns being expressed over big tech’s move into finance, warning that Libra could shift power into the wrong hands. Hughes, who is co-chair of the Economic Security Project, an anti-poverty campaign group, said: “If even modestly successful, Libra would hand over much of the control of monetary policy from central banks to these private companies. If global regulators don’t act now, it could very soon be too late.”

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Very easy for a government to counter. Should make one suspicious as to why they don’t.

Google’s Chrome Web Browser “Has Become Spy Software” (ZH)

Google’s Chrome is essentially spy software according to Washington Post tech columnist Geoffrey Fowler, who spent a week analyzing the popular browser and concluded that it “looks a lot like surveillance software.” Fowler has since switched to Mozilla’s Firefox because of its default privacy settings, and says that it was easier than one might imagine.

“My tests of Chrome vs. Firefox unearthed a personal data caper of absurd proportions. In a week of Web surfing on my desktop, I discovered 11,189 requests for tracker “cookies” that Chrome would have ushered right onto my computer but were automatically blocked by Firefox. These little files are the hooks that data firms, including Google itself, use to follow what websites you visit so they can build profiles of your interests, income and personality. Chrome welcomed trackers even at websites you would think would be private. I watched Aetna and the Federal Student Aid website set cookies for Facebook and Google. They surreptitiously told the data giants every time I pulled up the insurance and loan service’s log-in pages.

And that’s not the half of it.= Look in the upper right corner of your Chrome browser. See a picture or a name in the circle? If so, you’re logged in to the browser, and Google might be tapping into your Web activity to target ads. Don’t recall signing in? I didn’t, either. Chrome recently started doing that automatically when you use Gmail. -Washington Post”

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Iceland?!

Austerity, Inequality Fuelling Mental Illness – Top UN Envoy (G.)

Austerity, inequality and job insecurity are bad for mental health and governments should counteract them if they want to face up to the rising prevalence of mental illness, the UN’s top health envoy has said. In an exclusive interview with the Guardian to coincide with a hard-hitting report to be delivered to the UN in Geneva on Monday, Dr Dainius Puras said measures to address inequality and discrimination would be far more effective in combatting mental illness than the emphasis over the past 30 years on medication and therapy. “This would be the best ‘vaccine’ against mental illness and would be much better than the excessive use of psychotropic medication which is happening,” said Puras, who as the UN’s special rapporteur on health reports back to the UN human rights council in Geneva.

He said that since the 2008 financial crisis, policies that accentuated division, inequality and social isolation have been bad for mental equilibrium. “Austerity measures did not contribute positively to good mental health,” he said. “People feel insecure, they feel anxious, they do not enjoy good emotional wellbeing because of this insecurity situation.” “The best way to invest in the mental health of individuals is to create a supportive environment in all settings, family, the workplace. Then of course [therapeutic] services are needed, but they should not be based on an excessive biomedical model.”

Puras said there had been an overemphasis on trying to cure mental illness like physical illness, through “good medicine”, without thinking about the social factors that cause or contribute to some mental disorders. The prescription of psychotropic drugs to deal with mental illness, particularly antidepressants, has soared across the developed world in the past 20 years.

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What do Americans understand these days?

Republicans Don’t Understand Democrats – and Vice Versa (Atl.)

Unfortunately, the “Perception Gap” study suggests that neither the media nor the universities are likely to remedy Americans’ inability to hear one another: It found that the best educated and most politically interested Americans are more likely to vilify their political adversaries than their less educated, less tuned-in peers. Americans who rarely or never follow the news are surprisingly good at estimating the views of people with whom they disagree. On average, they misjudge the preferences of political adversaries by less than 10 percent. Those who follow the news most of the time, by contrast, are terrible at understanding their adversaries. On average, they believe that the share of their political adversaries who endorse extreme views is about 30 percent higher than it is in reality.


Perhaps because institutions of higher learning tend to be dominated by liberals, Republicans who have gone to college are not more likely to caricature their ideological adversaries than those who dropped out of high school. But among Democrats, education seems to make the problem much worse. Democrats who have a high-school degree suffer from a greater perception gap than those who don’t. Democrats who went to college harbor greater misunderstandings than those who didn’t. And those with a postgrad degree have a way more skewed view of Republicans than anybody else. It is deeply worrying that Americans now have so little understanding of their political adversaries. It is downright disturbing that the very institutions that ought to help us become better informed may actually be deepening our mutual incomprehension.

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And that’s just in one airline.

400 Pilots Sue Boeing In Class Action Over 737 MAX Cover-Up (ABC.au)

More than 400 pilots have joined a class action against American plane manufacturer Boeing, seeking damages in the millions over what they allege was the company’s “unprecedented cover-up” of the “known design flaws” of the latest edition of its top-selling jet, the 737 MAX. Boeing’s 737 MAX series— first announced in 2011 and put to service in 2017 — is the fourth generation of its 737 aircraft, a widely popular narrow-body aircraft model that has been a mainstay of short-haul aircraft routes across the globe. By March 2019, the entire global fleet was suspended by a US presidential decree, following the second fatal crash involving a 737 MAX that killed 157 people in Ethiopia.

The first crash involving the 737 MAX jet happened off the coast of Indonesia in October 2018, killing 189 people. In the time since the two fatal crashes, some of the families of the 346 people killed have sought compensation, while aircraft carriers — such as Norwegian Air — have sought compensation from the American manufacturer for lost revenue as a result of the plane’s global ban. This latest lawsuit filed against Boeing marks the first class action lodged by pilots qualified to fly the 737 MAX series, who have alleged that Boeing’s decisions have caused them to suffer from monetary loss and mental distress since the jet’s suspension.

The originating plaintiff, known as Pilot X —who has chosen to remain anonymous for “fear of reprisal from Boeing and discrimination from Boeing customers” — lodged the statement of claim on Friday, which seeks damages for them and more than 400 colleagues who work for the same airline. In court documents seen by the ABC, the claim alleges that Boeing “engaged in an unprecedented cover-up of the known design flaws of the MAX, which predictably resulted in the crashes of two MAX aircraft and subsequent grounding of all MAX aircraft worldwide.” They argue that they “suffer and continue to suffer significant lost wages, among other economic and non-economic damages” since the fleet’s global grounding. The class action will be heard in a Chicago court, with a hearing date set for October 21, 2019.

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History lesson” “The Caribbean archipelago was ground zero for U.S. imperial banking.”

How Wall Street Colonized the Caribbean (BR)

Scrubbed from the pages of glossy coffeetable books, the history of U.S. imperialism can be found in the archives of Wall Street’s oldest, largest, and most powerful institutions. A deep dive into the vaults and ledgers of banking houses such as Citigroup, Inc., and J. P. Morgan Chase and Co. reveals a story of capitalism and empire whose narrative is not of morally pure and inspiring economic growth, technological innovation, market expansion, and shareholder accumulation, but rather of blood and labor, stolen sovereignty and pilfered resources, military occupation and monetary control. Sugar comingles with blood, chain gangs cross spur lines, and the magical abstractions of finance are found vulgarized in the base manifestations of racial capitalism.

This history of bankers and empire is also a Caribbean history. The Caribbean archipelago was ground zero for U.S. imperial banking. Wall Street’s first experiments in internationalism occurred in Cuba, Haiti, Panama, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua, often with disastrous results—for those countries and colonies, and often for the imperial banks themselves. Yet where there was expansion, there was also pushback. The internationalization of Wall Street was met with local resistance, refusal and revolt. And just as the history of imperialism has been excised from popular narratives, so too has this history of Caribbean anti-imperialism and autonomy. The history of imperial banking and racial capitalism begins at the end of the nineteenth century, at the historical horizon where the project of U.S. settler colonialism that spurred the financing of the West became the enterprise of U.S. territorial colonialism in the Caribbean and Asia.

Buoyed by unprecedented wealth and boosted by the expansionist jingoism following the victory over Spain in the Caribbean and the Pacific, New York City’s bankers and merchants believed that the organization of an imperial banking system—one that could compete with Europe’s long-established institutions—was critical to the global rise of the city and to the consolidation of Wall Street’s position in international finance, trade, and commerce. With these ambitions, bankers and business-people set their sights on asserting control over the trade and finance of the Americas. They sought to control local central banks, establish U.S. branch banks, take over commodity financing, reorganize monetary systems on a dollar basis, and refinance European-funded sovereign debt.

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He’s losing it. Beware. Next move will be to suggest Turkey’s under threat, call for patriotism.

Blow To Turkey’s Erdogan As Opposition Wins Big In Istanbul (R.)

Turkey’s opposition has dealt President Tayyip Erdogan a stinging blow by winning control of Istanbul in a re-run mayoral election, breaking his aura of invincibility and delivering a message from voters unhappy over his policies. Ekrem Imamoglu of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) secured 54.21% of votes, according to state-owned Anadolu news agency – a far wider victory margin than his narrow win three months ago. The previous result was annulled after protests from Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party, which said there had been widespread voting irregularities. The decision to re-run the vote was criticized by Western allies and caused uproar among domestic opponents who said Turkey’s democracy was under threat.


On Sunday, tens of thousands of Imamoglu supporters celebrated in the streets of Istanbul after the former businessman triumphed over Erdogan’s handpicked candidate by almost 800,000 votes. “In this city today, you have fixed democracy. Thank you Istanbul,” Imamoglu told supporters who made heart signs with their hands, in an expression of the inclusive election rhetoric that has been the hallmark of his campaigning. “We came to embrace everyone,” Imamoglu said. “We will build democracy in this city, we will build justice. In this beautiful city, I promise, we will build the future.”

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The EU has no choice anymore.

Turkey Warns EU Not To Interfere On Cyprus EEZ Issue (K.)

Turkey has warned the European Union that any intervention on their part on the issue of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) would negatively affect relations between Greece and Turkey, as well as any prospects for an end to the occupation of the northern part of Cyprus. The warning was made through a non-paper sent to 27 of the EU’s 28 member-states on June 16, Cyprus’ “Fileleftheros” newspaper reports. Turkey didn’t send the note to Cyprus, whose government it does not recognize. The non-paper says the EU would be wise not to act as a judge in the dispute on sea borders and that a similar stance would further discourage efforts to solve the “Cyprus problem” and would cause Greek-Turkish relations to deteriorate.


Turkey claims that the area where one of its drillships has begun exploring for oil and natural gas, soon to be joined by a second, is within Turkey’s continental shelf and that no islands, Cyprus included, can constitute a “full” EEZ. Turkey repeats its views on “equal rights” between Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots, that-is, between the internationally-recognized Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish-occupied north of the island, which Turkey alone has recognized as the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” and says the best solution is the appointment of a mixed commission with representatives of both sides. Failing that, Turkey says, it is determined to protect the rights of the Turkish-Cypriot resources in the area. The non-paper ends with the hope that, in the decisions to be taken by the EU, “common sense” will prevail.

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Greece will not give in.

Greek Armed Forces On Standby For Turkish Moves In East Med, Aegean (K.)

As Turkey continues with its provocative behavior in the Eastern Mediterranean, despite European Union calls for it to desist from drilling for oil in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Greece’s armed forces are on standby to deal with a possible escalation of tensions in the East Med or the Aegean, Kathimerini understands. According to sources, the key question being pondered in Athens is how to react in the event that Turkey decides to conduct seismic research or drilling within Greece’s continental shelf or its EEZ. The biggest concern is about a potential Turkish intervention east of Rhodes and south of Kastellorizo.

On the political level, Athens has done what it can, underlining the potential repercussions of Turkey’s provocative behavior on stability in the broader region. The statement by the EU last week, though vague, was welcomed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras as “the first clear and decisive” condemnation of Turkey by the bloc “after decades of violations of international law.” On the operational level, however, it is less clear what Greece’s response should be. The country’s armed forces will be on high alert over the summer as defense officials prepare a series of plans to deal with a possible Turkish intervention. The plans are primarily based on Hellenic Navy maneuvers, as Turkey is currently using research ships and drilling vessels to entrench its presence in the region.

However, the Hellenic Air Force would likely play a supportive role in any response. Asked last week whether Greece can count on military support from the EU or the United States in the event of an incident, Defense Minister Evangelos Apostolakis told reporters that Greece will have to plan to deal with such a scenario independently. “There is no such promise, nor any such issue at the moment, but as I’ve said before, when we need to do something we expect that we will basically be alone.” Athens also holds little faith in promises by French President Emmanuel Macron to send French Navy ships to the Aegean if necessary, as such pledges have been made in the past.

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Jun 112019
 


James Ensor Baths at Ostend 1890

 

1 in 4 Americans Skip Medical Treatment Because They Worry About the Cost (M.)
House Committee To See Mueller Evidence (AP)
Was Mueller The Wrong Man To Investigate Trump? (G.)
Big US Defense Merger Touts Tech, But Trump Has Questions (AFP)
Google Earned $4.7 Billion From News Organizations In 2018 (RT)
Kim Dotcom Fights U.S. Extradition in New Zealand Court (AP)
We Have Nothing to Lose but Our Debts – Varoufakis (Jacobin)
China’s Rare Earth Monopoly Is Diminishing (ZH)
The Problem With Billionaires Fighting Climate Change (G.)
Canada Bans Capture And Breeding Of Dolphins, Whales (AFP)
Forest Twice Size Of UK Destroyed In Decade For Big Consumer Brands (G.)
The Permafrost Thawing Nightmare (CP)
Honey Bee Colonies Across Europe Plunge 16% (ZH)
Americans’ Extinction Denial Syndrome (CP)

 

 

Yeah, well, what do they know?

“48% of Americans said they believe the quality of the U.S. health care system is “the best or among the best in the world.”

1 in 4 Americans Skip Medical Treatment Because They Worry About the Cost (M.)

One in four Americans chose not to receive treatment for a health issue over the last year due to its high cost, according to a new survey released by Gallup and West Health, a health care nonprofit. Not only that, but 45% of Americans worry a major health issue could send them into bankruptcy and 19% have delayed purchasing medicine due to its cost. The findings, released Tuesday, display the personal and financial impacts caused by the rising cost of health care in the United States. Tens of millions of Americans are borrowing money to afford health care and cutting out other household expenses. And Americans share a concern over the rising cost of health care and how it will impact their finances and the U.S. economy.


Indeed, Americans borrowed around $88 billion to pay for health care over the last year, the study found. About 12% of Americans borrowed money for health care, and 23% cut back on household spendings to afford it. Health care spending in the U.S. rose to $3.5 trillion in 2017 — a 3.9% jump from 2016. In 2017, the U.S. spent more than $10,700 on health care per person. The U.S.’s health spending per capita far exceeds those of other countries, according to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Forty-eight percent of Americans said they believe the quality of the U.S. health care system is “the best or among the best in the world.” But when asked about the quality of care compared to costs, 31% said it was “worst of among the worst in the world.”

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It will never stop.

House Committee To See Mueller Evidence (AP)

The House judiciary committee expects to receive the first files of underlying evidence from Robert Mueller’s report soon, after a sudden shift by the justice department as Democrats weigh impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. It is unclear if the deal, announced moments before the start of a judiciary committee hearing with Watergate star witness John Dean, will ultimately be enough for Democrats, who have called for the full, unredacted report and underlying documentation from the special counsel’s work. However, it signalled the first real breakthrough in the standoff over the report and came at the start of a week of increased activity by the House in the Trump-Russia investigation.

The Republican senator for New York, Jerrold Nadler, , the chairman of the committee, said the justice department will provide some of Mueller’s “most important files” and all members of the committee will be able to view them. He said the files will include those used to assess whether Trump obstructed justice. In response to the agreement, Nadler said the panel will not vote to hold the attorney general, William Barr, in criminal contempt, for now. But the House will still vote on a resolution on Tuesday that would empower the committee to file a civil lawsuit for the materials, if Democrats decide to do so.

[..] Dean, a White House counsel under Richard Nixon who helped bring down his presidency, testified on Monday that Mueller had provided Congress with a “road map” for investigating Trump. He said he saw parallels between Mueller’s findings regarding Trump and those of congressional investigators looking into Nixon’s administration decades ago. He pointed to the way the presidents used their pardon power in an attempt to influence witness testimony, and their efforts to seize control of the investigation and direct the efforts of prosecutors.

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He was because he didn’t deliver Trump’s head on a plate.

Was Mueller The Wrong Man To Investigate Trump? (G.)

In so many ways, Robert Mueller was the right man for the job. The former special counsel was fast, precise, ran a tight ship and, working in a hyper-partisan environment under the full glare of history, Mueller managed to investigate and document a historic attack on the United States while retaining the public trust. But one week after Mueller first spoke out about his investigation of Russian election tampering and the Donald Trump campaign, concern has sharpened that in one big way – potentially the biggest way – Mueller was exactly the wrong man for the job.

For when the pursuit of justice took Mueller into unprecedented terrain – as the special counsel’s investigation came under sustained public attack by the president and the attorney general, William Barr – Mueller failed, his critics say, both to stand up for his investigation and to get the word out to the American people about what he had found. “To my mind, this is a Shakespearean-level tragedy,” said Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor who was part of the team that convicted the Gambino family boss John Gotti. “It is the tragedy of the principled person, who is constrained by principle, being opposed by the completely unprincipled – Barr, and the president, and their lackeys.

“The principled are chained, and the unprincipled romp free. And in a debate over reality, the unprincipled will always win, because they will just lie, and they will make reality whatever they want it to be.” Congressional Democrats convened hearings on the Mueller report on Monday, and the judiciary committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, has said he would call Mueller to testify about the 11 instances of potentially criminal obstruction of justice committed by Donald Trump and his campaign that the Mueller report documents. But Mueller has refused, and has said he will continue to refuse, in discussions of his findings, to go beyond the language in his report, which declines to weigh evidence against the president while leaving open the possibility that crimes were committed.

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Unholiness.

Big US Defense Merger Touts Tech, But Trump Has Questions (AFP)

Executives from United Technologies and Raytheon said Monday their merger would benefit the Pentagon and other customers but the proposed deal garnered immediate skepticism from President Donald Trump. The two companies, which unveiled a “merger of equals” on Sunday, said combining would boost development of faster weapons systems, connected aircraft and other envelope-pushing products, while saving the Pentagon and other customers money. But Trump, who has shown more willingness than past US presidents to haggle with defense contractors and interject himself into the private sector in general, emerged as a potential question mark, telling CNBC Monday that he was “concerned” by the merger.


“When I hear they’re merging, does that take away more competition? It becomes one big fat beautiful company,” he told CNBC. “But I have to negotiate, meaning the United States has to buy things, and does that make it less competitive? Because it’s already non-competitive.” Moments after Trump’s comments, United Technologies Chief Executive Gregory Hayes said on CNBC that the two companies currently have almost no overlap and that their combination would not dent competition. [..] The UTC merger with Raytheon would transform the two companies into a single conglomerate with varied but well-established brands, each in the top tier of its specialty. The two companies together would have about $74 billion in 2019 sales, according to the announcement.

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Do no evil.

Google Earned $4.7 Billion From News Organizations In 2018 (RT)

An explosive new report details how Google earned a whopping $4.7 billion in ad revenue from news organizations online in 2018, while the entire US news industry made a combined $5.1 billion from digital advertising.
The study, by the News Media Alliance, reveals the extent to which the tech giant profits from the work of web journalists and digital news organizations by monetizing Google search and Google News. According to the study, some 40 percent of clicks on Google’s trending queries are news-related, all of which are monetized. “They make money off this arrangement,” said President and CEO of the News Media Alliance David Chavern who argues that journalists and content creators deserve a cut of that money, “and there needs to be a better outcome for news publishers.”

Google does not pay for the content but generates web traffic clicks, and thus revenue, by sharing headlines and news summaries from various outlets verbatim. Furthermore, the $4.7 billion figure is a conservative estimate as the analysis didn’t factor in the personal user data collected by Alphabet, Google’s parent company, which can be further monetized. Details from the report generated a very mixed reception among journalists and media workers who particularly drew attention to the revenues built up by Google while news outlets increasingly lay off staff. What also seemed unjust is that the snippet Google shows “is all anyone cares about,” and readers don’t bother actually clicking into the full story. “Google should license/pay for this,” one commenter suggested.

People do realize though that the relationship between the tech company and news media is more complicated, saying that when Google “makes money on news it’s by serving ads ON publishers’ sites.” According to the newly-launched Save Journalism Project some 2,400 journalists have been laid off in the US so far in 2019 while 32,000 have lost their jobs in the last 10 years. They estimate 63 percent of digital ad revenue is controlled by Google and Facebook, the remainder falling under the auspices of Amazon, Twitter and Microsoft, among others.

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New Zealand’s under intense pressure to break its own laws.

Kim Dotcom Fights U.S. Extradition in New Zealand Court (AP)

Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom and three of his former colleagues on Monday took their fight against being extradited to the U.S. to New Zealand’s top court. The Supreme Court began hearing arguments in the seven-year-old case after Dotcom and the others lost several previous court rulings. But even if the men lose their latest appeal, they have legal options which could keep their case alive in the New Zealand court system and delay any extradition for several more years. U.S. authorities in 2012 shut down Dotcom’s file-sharing website Megaupload and filed charges of conspiracy, racketeering and money laundering. If found guilty, the men could face decades in prison.

Megaupload was once one of the internet’s most popular sites. U.S. prosecutors say it raked in at least $175 million, mainly from people using it to illegally download songs, television shows and movies. Ira Rothken, one of Dotcom’s lawyers, said in an interview that if anyone did something illegal in relation to Megaupload, it was the users. “This case is all about trying to hold Megaupload and Kim Dotcom and the others responsible for the acts of users,” Rothken said. “And we’re saying you can’t do that. You can’t do that in the United States and you can’t do that in New Zealand.” The Supreme Court has scheduled five days to hear the appeal. After that, it could take them several months to issue their decision.

Should the Supreme Court uphold the earlier court rulings and find the men are eligible for extradition, then New Zealand’s Justice Minister Andrew Little would need to make the final decision on whether the extraditions should proceed. And Little’s decision could also be appealed in the courts.

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Greece has snap elections on July 7. It won’t be pretty.

We Have Nothing to Lose but Our Debts – Varoufakis (Jacobin)

Amid the bad results for the Left in the European elections, the Greek outcome was particularly poignant. In the last such contest in 2014, Syriza rode the revolt against austerity to become the largest single party, in its final step toward national office. Five years later, in last month’s election, it finished ten points behind the right-wing New Democracy. And where once Syriza promised to spark change throughout the EU, it is now the best student of the neoliberal dogma “There Is No Alternative.” After four years of slashed pensions, sell-offs of state assets, and even a right-wing turn on foreign policy, Syriza is now also set to lose office.

Indeed, not only did Alexis Tsipras’s party enforce an even harsher austerity than its predecessors ever dreamt of, but as snap general elections loom, it is set to become an exhausted opposition to a sharply reactionary New Democracy government. Polls for the July 7 vote suggest the conservatives have a massive lead, and could even secure an absolute majority in parliament. The hollowing out of Syriza’s base is the expression of disappointment and despair. But there are also signs that some of its voters are turning to left-wing alternatives. Former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis’s MeRA25 party achieved a particularly creditable result in the European contest, less than four hundred votes from electing a member of the European Parliament.

As Greece heads to a fresh general election, MeRA25 hopes to elect its first members of parliament, offering a platform for its call to replace austerity with Europe-wide investment. Jacobin’s David Broder spoke to Varoufakis about the effect of Syriza’s defeat on the wider European left, the prospects of a realignment of EU politics, and MeRA25’s own plans for a “political revolution” in Greece.

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Still substantial.

China’s Rare Earth Monopoly Is Diminishing (ZH)

Some while ago, precious rare earths important in the production of microchips, electronics and electric motors were almost exclusively sourced in China. However, as Statista’s Katharina Buchholz points out, in recent years, several nations have picked up production again while new players entered the market, diversifying it at least to some degree. Yet, China was still responsible for more than two thirds of global production, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. But as many countries are wary of depending on China, especially when it comes to technology products, countries with rare earth deposits are likely to exploit them further.

China also has the largest know deposits of rare earths, but Brazil, Vietnam and Russia also have a lot of (largely) untapped potential in the sector. The United States, together with Australia, emerged as a major producer of rare earths after 2010. The country, which has produced rare earths before for military uses, got back into the market as rare earths were getting more important as a part of the implementation of crucial technologies.

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The problem here is calling Bloomberg a benevolent billionaire.

The Problem With Billionaires Fighting Climate Change (G.)

Before the financial crisis, the top 1% held a collective $15bn in cash. Today they’ve got almost $304bn. And while the yachts and frequent flying habits of the wealthy are a pox on the planet, so is the fact that they now have more money than ever to throw into world-wrecking investments, buying off politicians and lobbying for their pet causes – namely, to let them keep doing more of the same. For every Michael Bloomberg there are dozens of Koch Brothers and Rebekah Mercers, who’ve poured tens of millions of dollars into spreading climate denial and blocking de-carbonization efforts at the local, state and national level. None of them should have as much money as they do.

The climate crisis isn’t going to be solved with the benevolence of a couple of billionaires, and their outsized control over our politics and economy stands in contradiction to our hopes for a liveable future. With rightwing populism on the rise around the world, having elites like Bloomberg as the public face of the climate fight is also risky politics. We don’t need their money to fund the Green New Deal – the US has more than enough for that – but we should take it anyway, with a far more progressive tax system than the one we’ve got. If that sounds radical, it’s worth remembering that the top marginal tax rate during the time hailed as capitalism’s Golden Age floated somewhere north of 90% in the US.

After it’d already fallen, Ronald Reagan’s administration collapsed it to 50% when he took office, and it would dip to just 28% by the time he left. The many billions that have been lost as a result are resources that have been captured out of democratic control, emboldening a handful of oligarchs to run roughshod over people and planet alike.

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100 years too late at least.

Canada Bans Capture And Breeding Of Dolphins, Whales (AFP)

Canada’s parliament on Monday approved a bill banning the capture and breeding of cetaceans such as whales and dolphins in a move hailed by animal rights activists. The bill, first proposed in 2015 and now awaiting symbolic royal approval, will not apply retroactively, meaning captive marine mammals can stay confined. And it will contain exceptions for marine mammals who require rehabilitation following an injury, or in other cases authorized by authorities. “This is such an important law because it bans breeding, making sure the whales and dolphins currently kept in tiny tanks in Canada are the last generation to suffer,” Melissa Matlow, campaign director for World Animal Protection Canada, said in a statement.


“We hope other countries will now follow Canada’s lead and that travel companies will also realize the declining acceptance for these types of attractions.” “Canada is now one of 11 leading countries that have taken a progressive stand against the keeping and breeding of whales, dolphins and porpoises for entertainment,” with Costa Rica and Chile among the others, said Nina Devries, the spokeswoman for the animal rights group. A backlash has been growing in recent years against theme parks that showcase whales and dolphins.

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“Meat consumption is set to rise by 76%… Soya production is also predicted to soar by almost 45% and palm oil by nearly 60%..”

Forest Twice Size Of UK Destroyed In Decade For Big Consumer Brands (G.)

An area twice the size of the UK has been destroyed for products such as palm oil and soy over the last decade, according to analysis by Greenpeace International. In 2010, members of the Consumer Goods Forum, including some of the world’s biggest consumer brands, pledged to eliminate deforestation by 2020, through the sustainable sourcing of four commodities most linked to forest destruction: soya, palm oil, paper and pulp, and cattle. But analysis by Greenpeace International suggests that by the start of 2020, an estimated 50m hectares (123m acres) of forest are likely to have been destroyed in the growing demand for and consumption of agricultural products, in the 10 years since those promises were made.

Its report, Countdown to Extinction, said that since 2010, the area planted with soya in Brazil has increased by 45% and palm oil production in Indonesia has risen by 75%. The environmental group accused major brands of failing to meet their commitments and warned that the current situation was “bleak”, advising them to evolve in order to “prevent climate and ecological breakdown”. Deforestation releases greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change and destroy important habitat, threatening species with extinction. Greenpeace says it wrote to more than 50 traders, retailers, producers and consumer companies early in 2019 asking them to demonstrate progress towards deforestation by disclosing their commodity suppliers.

Only a handful replied and all of those that did disclose the requested information source products from traders or producers involved in forest destruction, they said. None of the 50 demonstrated “meaningful” action to end deforestation, the campaigners said, based on assessing their policies and publicly available supply chain information. [..] About 80% of global deforestation is caused by agricultural production [..] Agricultural consumption, and therefore production, is forecast to rise globally. Meat consumption is set to rise by 76% according to some estimates. Soya production is also predicted to soar by almost 45% and palm oil by nearly 60%, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

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Speeding up. Methane.

The Permafrost Thawing Nightmare (CP)

Permafrost covers 25% of the Northern Hemisphere. It is the world’s largest icebox, and its landmass is 4.5xs larger than Antarctica, 6.5xs larger than the United States. It is stuffed full of carbon locked in frozen ground accumulated over eons, which, by way of contrast, makes coal power plant emissions look bush-league. Most notably, permafrost has an image of permanence and slow/gradual change, “the sloth of the north.” But, that slothful image is now out-of-date. Global warming has changed the equation. Nowadays, permafrost disintegration is officially hot news.

Scientists that have long studied the gradual thawing of permafrost are now experiencing a dramatic switch from their former “eyes wide shut” viewpoint, i.e., refusing to see something that’s in plain view because of preconceived notions. That slothful image of yesteryear has been shattered via numerous studies, as for example: Merritt Turetsky, Canadian Research Chair in Integrative Ecology, University of Guelph, “Rapid Permafrost Thaw Unrecognized Threat to Landscape, Global Warming Researcher Warns,” Nature d/d May 1, 2019. Gradual permafrost thaw is now passé: “Turetsky and an international team of researchers are looking at something very different: Rapid collapse of permafrost that can transform the landscape in mere months through subsidence, flooding and landslides,” Ibid.

Based upon observations as recorded by the Turetsky research team, a climate crisis has already set in. It is here now: “We work in areas where permafrost contains a lot of ice, and our field sites are being destroyed by abrupt collapse of this ice, not gradually over decades, but very quickly over months to years,” said Turetsky. According to team member Miriam Jones, a U.S. Geological Survey research geologist: “This abrupt thaw is changing forested ecosystems… resulting in a wholesale transformation of the landscape that not only impacts carbon feedbacks to climate but is also altering wildlife habitat and damaging infrastructure.” “It’s happening faster than anyone predicted,” Turetsky.

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“Portugal, Northern Ireland, Italy, and England had the most significant colony collapses of more than 25%..”

Honey Bee Colonies Across Europe Plunge 16% (ZH)

The total number of honey bee colonies across Europe plunged 16% over the winter 2017–18, according to COLOSS (Prevention of honey bee COlony LOSSes), an international, non-profit organization based in Switzerland, tasked with the goals of protecting honey bees. Allison Gray, the lead researcher on the study, sent a COLOSS questionnaire to 25,363 beekeepers in 36 countries: 33 in Europe, plus Algeria, Israel, and Mexico. [..] Gray and her team determined that Portugal, Northern Ireland, Italy, and England had the most significant colony collapses of more than 25%. The authors noted that smaller bee farms experienced higher loss rates than large-scale ones.

“The overall loss rate in winter 2017/18 was highest in Portugal (32.8%), a new country to the survey. Other countries with high losses (above 25%) were Slovenia, Northern Ireland, England, Wales, Italy, and Spain, countries mostly in Western Europe,” wrote Gray. [..] The colony collapse of honey bees is a complex issue, wrote Gray, and are frequently caused by volatile weather or natural disasters rather than climate. And there is no solution at the moment. She noted that future investigations should be conducted into the impact of pesticides, and herbicides on honey bees.


Not too long ago, we reported that honey bees exposed to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, lose critical bacterial in their guts and are more susceptible to infection and death from harmful bacteria. It showed how glyphosate is possibly contributing to a rapid decline of honey bees around the world, otherwise known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind the queen.

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“What are Americans thinking? Are they even thinking?”

Americans’ Extinction Denial Syndrome (CP)

When I go into a Lowe’s or Home Depot store to buy plumbing or electrical supplies, I’m assaulted as soon as I go in the door by the smell of lawn chemicals. Plastic jugs of Roundup are stacked six feet high right near the entrance of these stores for easy grabbing by shoppers heading for the garden supply area. At Costco, I found myself in line at the checkout counter behind a man who had a huge bag of grass seed that the label on the bag promised was already treated with “fertilizer and weed killer for a perfect lawn.”The weed killer, I discovered on checking further, is of course Roundup.

Most of Europe has banned Roundup because of both a determination that is carcinogenic and because its widespread use has been linked to the decimation of the world’s bees, essential for the pollination of some 90 percent of all plants and of 30 percent of food crops, and Monsanto/Bayer has so far lost three major lawsuits levying a total of over $2.4 billion in punitive damages against the company for cancers found caused by their glyphosate herbicide. Yet despite all this, the American public wants its pristine green lawns, unblemished by dandelions and other transgressors like violets, buttercups and wild strawberries. Glyphosate cancer risk and bee die-offs be damned!

Mentioning this bizarre attitude to the woman at HealthGuard, she replied, “I know. It’s crazy. People actually tell me they’re stocking up on Roundup because they say, ‘I’m sure the government is going to ban it eventually, but it really works, so I want to have it to use.’” This is a bit like the people who insist on buying incandescent light bulbs and stocking up on them for fear they’ll eventually disappear, even as LED lighting keeps getting better and cheaper, and uses a fraction of the electricity required by incandescent light bulbs. In our house, switching to LEDs has reduced our electrical bill by nearly two-thirds, lighting being the main share of our home’s electrical use.

What are Americans thinking? Are they even thinking?

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There is a snow leopard in this photo. Click for larger picture.

 

 

 

 

Jun 062019
 
 June 6, 2019  Posted by at 9:54 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  17 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Guitar 1925

 

The China Battle Has Just Started (Vague)
Beijing Warns US Farmers May Lose China Market For Good (SCMP)
Millennial Net Wealth Collapses (ZH)
Aftermath: Interview with James Rickards (Whalen)
Google, Facebook Have Tight Grip On Growing US Online Ad Market (R.)
For MMT (Mitchell/Fazi)
The Great Bilderberg Secret Of 2019 (Escobar)
Welsh Government Officially Switches To Campaign For Remain (TNE)
Fitch Downgrades Mexico And Moody’s Lowers Outlook (R.)
Fiat Chrysler Withdraws Merger Offer For Renault, Blames French Politics (R.)
Lavrov Says D-Day Memorials Are Part Of A ‘False’ History Of WWII (BI)
Russia to West: D-Day Wasn’t Decisive In Ending World War Two (R.)
People Eat At Least 50,000 Plastic Particles A Year (G.)

 

 

“It’s about wealth and power, not political systems or ideology.”

The China Battle Has Just Started (Vague)

Long-term, intense economic competition between China and the United States is inevitable. It’s simply a result of China’s new economic size. It’s about wealth and power, not political systems or ideology. Forget these two countries per se. Take any country that has been an uncontested economic leader for decades, add a rapidly rising country that is becoming an economic threat, and watch the battle for markets, trade, and intellectual property unfold. The current trade negotiations could get uglier and derail. But even if they don’t, both sides will likely feel they did not get what they needed, and future rounds could get worse. There’s almost never a situation where the two leaders in a market don’t get locked in a protracted, high-stakes struggle.

[..] It’s also worth noting the history of free trade. The United States was one of the most protectionist nations in history during most of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the very period in which it rose to economic supremacy, with tariffs routinely as high as 50 percent. More politicians than not backed tariffs because they protected American industry. And supporters liked tariffs because they kept wages high. In addition, in the era before the income tax, tariffs were our chief source of revenue, and Washington relished the fact that they created a government surplus (and many a congressional debate of that era was about how to spend that surplus). The subject dominated the halls of Congress.

[..] Now that the United States has woken up, my best guess is that it is not going to sit idly and let China’s encroachment continue. Trump’s approach may be poorly conceived and ham-handed, but some kind of more assertive response was overdue. China’s raison d’être is its own wealth and preeminence, and it is not likely it will permanently stand down, even if it does so strategically from time to time. In fact, in discussing this trade negotiation, Xi is now invoking China’s almost mythic tale of heroic perseverance, the Long March. Absent a China implosion—a la Japan in the late 1990s—even occasional rapprochement won’t abate the ferocity of this competition. The only question is how polite or impolite, or even bellicose, it will be.

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Let China grow its own food. Nothing wrong with that.

Beijing Warns US Farmers May Lose China Market For Good (SCMP)

Farmers in the United States cannot afford to lose the Chinese market, but farmers in China will be able to withstand the impact of American tariffs, according to a top agriculture official in Beijing. Han Jun, vice-minister of agriculture and rural affairs, said China’s retaliatory tariffs on American products – the latest of which took effect on Saturday – now covered “virtually all US agricultural product exports to China”, warning that US farmers could lose the Chinese market for good. “If the US doesn’t lift all additional tariffs [levied on Chinese products], bilateral agricultural product trade between China and the US, including soybean trade, will never go back to normal,” Han told the official Xinhua news agency.

“If the US loses China’s market, it will be very difficult for the US to regain it.” Han, who is also a top policymaker as deputy head of the Office of the Central Leading Group for Rural Affairs, said the two rounds of aid offered by US President Donald Trump to American farmers would not be enough to cover their potential losses if they lost the Chinese market. But he said Chinese farmers would be able to weather the impact of American tariffs. In terms of the soybean trade, while China’s imports from the United States had plunged, it could find ways to diversify its sources, including encouraging Chinese farmers to grow more of the crop and buying more from other countries, Han said.

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Everybody gets poorer while the Fed pours trillions into the economy.

Millennial Net Wealth Collapses (ZH)

The net worth of millennials (18- to 35-year-old) has collapsed 34% since 1996, according to a new, shocking report from Deloitte. Millennials are financially worse off than any other generation before them. With student loans, auto and credit card debts, rising rents, and out of control, health-care costs have pushed their average net worth below $8,000. Deloitte told The Washington Post that their findings reveal that millennials are delaying home-buying and marriage because of massive debt loads and rising costs are making big ticketed items virtually unaffordable. “The narrative out there is that millennials are ruining everything, from breakfast cereal to weddings, but what matters to consumers today isn’t much different than it was 50 years ago,” chief retail officer Kasey Lobaugh told the Post.

“Generally speaking, there have not been dramatic changes in how consumers spend their money.” Lobaugh described the soaring wealth inequality gap as another reason why young adults have little or no net wealth. In a separate report, we highlighted in April that 60% of millennials don’t have $500 in savings. The Post said education expenses had climbed 65% in the past decade. Food prices have increased by 26%, health care costs are up 21%, housing jumped 16%, and transportation costs rose 11%. The study showed millennials had delayed the American dream of a house, family, and automobile because of their insurmountable debts. Since 2005, retail spending has increased by about 13%, to roughly $3 trillion per year, but Deloitte said much of that growth is due to population increase, not a robust consumer base.


In the past decade, the income growth of the top 10% of Americans jumped 1,305% more than the bottom 90% of Americans – which means millennials stuck in the gig-economy with multiple jobs and high debt loads will be trapped in a life of financial misery.

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“..the Fed has failed to distinguish between credit driven bubbles and mania driven bubbles..”

Aftermath: Interview with James Rickards (Whalen)

In the beginning of your book, you use the metaphor of The Odyssey to describe the choices facing the Federal Reserve Board going back to Alan Greenspan, who we knew as “Uncle Alan” in Washington years ago. You talk about how the Fed went from deflating bubbles before Greenspan, as with the “taking away the punch bowl” image, then to trying to maintain bubbles, and now overtly using monetary policy to stoke inflation and huge asset bubbles. Where does that leave us today?

Rickards: In the book I talk about how Greenspan defeated deflation in 2005 before he left office, but, this was a Pyrrhic victory. Low rates gave rise to the housing bubble and subprime debt crisis. Since 2008, we’ve had more of the same but a more extreme version of Greenspan’s anti-deflation medicine. If Greenspan’s three-year experiment with sub 2% rates gave rise to the Global Financial Crisis, what was the world to make of the Bernanke-Yellen policy of 0% for seven years? Bernanke’s Federal Reserve also engaged in a completely unprecedented money printing binge called quantitative easing.

[..] the Fed has failed to distinguish between credit driven bubbles and mania driven bubbles. The former are dangerous because they are connected with the credit system, the latter less so because people loose money but the crisis is not systemic. The 2000 dot.com bubble was speculative, but not credit driven so it did not turn into a systemic crisis when it popped. Of course 2008 was credit driven and it did metastasize throughout the system right up to the top of the food chain with large banks and the housing GSEs failing. When you are kicking around the idea of should I or should I not pop the bubble, this is a key distinction and the threshold question for policy.

[..] It’s one thing when loose monetary policy results in private credit extremes. The Fed can reign that in. But, what happens when public credit from the Fed is the source of the problem? The Bernanke choice of stoking asset price inflation via zero rates and QE is not something that can be reversed without a great deal of pain. Once you make that trade-off between promoting inflation and future market instability, you have no way out. You’re much better off taking the pain and accepting a lower level of economic growth in the short-run rather than deferring the pain but creating far larger asset bubbles down the road. There is no way out of the Bernanke policy choice without bigger bubbles and much larger market crash that results.

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Why they must be broken up.

Google, Facebook Have Tight Grip On Growing US Online Ad Market (R.)

The U.S. internet advertising industry is projected to hit $160 billion by 2023 from $107 billion last year, led by fast-growing categories like mobile video with Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc firmly controlling the market, consultancy PwC said on Wednesday. The two tech giants together commanded nearly 60% of the U.S. internet advertising market in 2018, according to the report, up 3% from the previous year. Google’s YouTube dominates online video, while Facebook has been expanding its video product called Watch and adding advertising options. Google and Facebook are both currently under watch by U.S. regulators for possible antitrust concerns, as well as tech giants Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc.


U.S. wireless carrier AT&T Inc despite spending $85 billion for media company Time Warner to transform into a media and advertising firm, has only managed to eke out single digit market share, according to PwC. Gaining market share is difficult because platforms must have features that are new and specific as well as some degree of emerging technology, said C.J. Bangah, a principal at PwC. An advantage the telecommunications companies like AT&T have over Google and Facebook is they will benefit from 5G, the next generation wireless network that is expected to bring technology like autonomous cars to reality.

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A discussion we will be having. Because what we have now has failed us.

For MMT (Mitchell/Fazi)

MMT is not a regime that you ‘apply’ or ‘switch to’ or ‘introduce’. Rather, it is a lens which allows us to see how our fiat monetary systems already work. How you decide to use that understanding depends on the value system or ideology you apply to it. It thus makes little sense to talk of ‘MMT-type prescription’ or an ‘MMT solution’. Indeed, governments already operate according to the framework offered by MMT, regardless of what they may claim in public (and the accounting smokescreens they may employ). Citizens are constantly told that the government cannot afford to invest more in education, healthcare, infrastructure, welfare and other public services.


Yet, there is never a lack of money when it comes tax cuts for the rich, bank bailouts, military activities and other programmes that benefit our political and economic elites. As of March 2006, approximately £4.5 billion had been spent by the UK in Iraq, enough to pay for the building of around 44 new hospitals and to fund the recruitment and retention of over 10,300 new teachers for ten years. Yet, there was never any debate about how the UK would ‘fund’ the war. Unfortunately, the mainstream macroeconomic narrative continues to plague large swathes of the left, particularly in Europe. Meadway’s article is representative. It concentrates ‘on the practical and political implications [of MMT], why they are wrong–and why Labour’s own economic programme makes more sense’. In that sense, he is really talking about a conception of the application of MMT according to a certain value set, rather than MMT itself.

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Pepe doesn’t convince me.

The Great Bilderberg Secret Of 2019 (Escobar)

The great Bilderberg secret of 2019 had to do with why, suddenly, the Trump administration has decided that it wants to talk to Iran “with no preconditions”. It all has to do with the Strait of Hormuz. Blocking the Strait could cut off oil and gas from Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Iran – 20% of the world’s oil. There has been some debate on whether this could occur – whether the US Fifth Fleet, which is stationed nearby, could stop Tehran doing this and if Iran, which has anti-ship missiles on its territory along the northern border of the Persian Gulf, would go that far. An American source said a series of studies hit President Trump’s desk and caused panic in Washington.

These showed that in the case of the Strait of Hormuz being shut down, whatever the reason, Iran has the power to hammer the world financial system, by causing global trade in derivatives to be blown apart. The Bank for International Settlements said last year that the “notional amount outstanding for derivatives contracts” was $542 trillion, although the gross market value was put at just $12.7 trillion. Others suggest it is $1.2 quadrillion or more. Tehran has not voiced this “nuclear option” openly. And yet General Qasem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force and a Pentagon bête noire, evoked it in internal Iranian discussions. The information was duly circulated to France, Britain and Germany, the EU-3 members of the Iran nuclear deal (or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), also causing a panic.

Oil derivative specialists know well that if the flow of energy in the Gulf is blocked it could lead to the price of oil reaching $200 a barrel, or much higher over an extended period. Crashing the derivatives market would create an unprecedented global depression. Trump’s former Goldman Sachs Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin should know as much. And Trump himself seems to have given the game away. He’s now on the record essentially saying that Iran has no strategic value to the US. According to the American source: “He really wants a face-saving way to get out of the problem his advisers Bolton and Pompeo got him into. Washington now needs a face-saving way out. Iran is not asking for meetings. The US is.”

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Quicksand. The entire country.

Welsh Government Officially Switches To Campaign For Remain (TNE)

Brexit minister Jeremy Miles said that efforts towards an acceptable Brexit had reached “the end of the road”. He said any Brexit deal must now be subject to a public vote, with remaining in the EU on the ballot paper. The Labour-led government, along with Plaid Cymru, had previously followed a 2017 policy outlined in the White Paper ‘Securing Wales’ Future’, that aimed to find “the least damaging kind of Brexit”, as Miles put it. But the government in Westminster have made this impossible, he said. “We as a government must recognise these realities and change course,” said Miles. “Parliament should now show the courage to admit it is deadlocked.” Although Wales voted to leave by 52%, public opinion has shifted towards Remain, said Miles.

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Strongarming?!

Fitch Downgrades Mexico And Moody’s Lowers Outlook (R.)

In a double blow for Mexico, credit ratings agency Fitch downgraded the nation’s sovereign debt rating on Wednesday, citing risks posed by heavily indebted oil company Pemex and trade tensions, while Moody’s lowered its outlook to negative. The Mexican peso weakened as much as 1.3% on the news. Cutting Mexico’s rating to BBB, nearing junk status, Fitch said the financial woes of state oil company Pemex were taking a toll on the nation’s prospects. Fitch said mounting trade tensions influenced its view, according to a statement issued shortly after the end of a meeting in the White House in which Mexican officials tried to stave off tariffs U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to impose next week.


Following a surge in mostly Central American migrants arriving at the U.S. border, Trump threatened blanket tariffs on Mexican imports if it did not do more to stem the flow. “Growth continues to underperform, and downside risks are magnified by threats by U.S. President Trump,” Fitch said. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office in December with ambitious plans to build a $8 billion refinery, a decision ratings agencies and investors warned would divert funds from its more profitable production and exploration business. Lopez Obrador has said the ratings agencies were punishing Mexico for the “neo-liberal” policies of previous administrations. A Reuters analysis of Pemex accounts from the past decade shows debt increased by 75% during the term of Lopez Obrador’s predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto, amid a landmark energy reform.

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The same governments that talk about going green own carmakers.

Fiat Chrysler Withdraws Merger Offer For Renault, Blames French Politics (R.)

Fiat Chrysler said it has abandoned its $35 billion merger offer for Renault, blaming French politics for scuttling what would have been a landmark deal to create the world’s third-biggest automaker. A source close to the French carmaker’s board said Fiat Chrysler made the move after France sought to delay a decision on the deal in order to win the support of Nissan Motor Co, Renault’s Japanese alliance partner. French government officials had pushed for Nissan to support the merger. Nissan had said it would abstain. The French government, which owns a 15% stake in Renault, had also pushed Fiat Chrysler for guarantees that France would not lose jobs, and for a dividend to be paid to Renault shareholders, including the government, people familiar with the talks said.


Fiat Chrysler’s original proposal offered no special dividend to Renault shareholders. “It has become clear that the political conditions in France do not currently exist for such a combination to proceed successfully,” Fiat Chrysler said in a statement issued early Thursday from London. Renault, in a separate statement, said its board was “unable to take a decision due to the request expressed by the representatives of the French state to postpone the vote to a later meeting.”

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Russia lost an entire generation of young men.

Lavrov Says D-Day Memorials Are Part Of A ‘False’ History Of WWII (BI)

Ahead of the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of France, Russia’s foreign minister has written an article arguing that the commemorations of the event are part of a “false” history that belittles the contributions of the Soviet Union toward defeating Nazi Germany. Sergey Lavrov chastised Western powers in an article published in Russia’s International Affairs magazine on Tuesday, ahead of events in Europe to mark the D-Day landings on the Nazi-occupied Normandy coast. “False interpretations of history are being introduced into the Western education system with mystifications and pseudo-historical theories designed to belittle the feat of our ancestors,” Lavrov wrote.


“Young people are being told that the main credit in victory over Nazism and liberation of Europe goes not to the Soviet troops, but to the West due to the landing in Normandy, which took place less than a year before Nazism was defeated.” He added: “It was the peoples of the Soviet Union who broke the backbone of the Third Reich. That is a fact.” [..] Historians agree that the Soviets sustained the heaviest losses of all powers involved in World War II, placing the death toll for the Red Army at between 9 million and 11 million troops, part of an estimated 26 million Soviet citizens who died. Lavrov also wrote Russia had been falsely labeled as an aggressor in World War II. “Our detractors seek to diminish the role of the Soviet Union in World War II and portray it if not as the main culprit of the war, then at least as an aggressor, along with Nazi Germany,” he wrote.

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Quite the claim: “There was a wish to wait for the maximum weakening of Germany’s military power from its enormous losses in the east, while reducing losses in the west..”

Russia to West: D-Day Wasn’t Decisive In Ending World War Two (R.)

Russia told the West on Wednesday the Normandy landings on D-Day in 1944 did not play a decisive role in ending World War Two and that the Allied war effort should not be exaggerated. Moscow’s comments might irk war veterans in Britain where the 75th anniversary on Wednesday of the largest seaborne invasion in history was marked at a ceremony in Portsmouth attended by Queen Elizabeth and world leaders including Donald Trump and Angela Merkel. Speaking at a weekly news conference in Moscow, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova offered a tribute to those who died on the western front of World War Two and said Moscow appreciated the Allied war effort.

“It should of course not be exaggerated. And especially not at the same time as diminishing the Soviet Union’s titanic efforts, without which this victory simply would not have happened,” she said. The Soviet Union lost over 25 million lives in what it calls the Great Patriotic War, and Moscow under President Vladimir Putin has taken to marking victory in the war with a massive annual military parade on Red Square. “As historians note, the Normandy landing did not have a decisive impact on the outcome of World War Two and the Great Patriotic War. It had already been pre-determined as a result of the Red Army’s victories, mainly at Stalingrad (in late 1942) and Kursk (in mid-1943),” Zakharova told reporters.

More than 150,000 allied troops launched an air, sea and land attack on Normandy on June 6, 1944 that ultimately led to the liberation of western Europe from Nazi Germany. Moscow, which had been fighting German forces in the east for almost three years by the time of D-Day, and gradually pushing them back from early 1943, had been urging Britain’s Winston Churchill to open a second front as far back as August 1942. “There was a wish to wait for the maximum weakening of Germany’s military power from its enormous losses in the east, while reducing losses in the west,” she said.

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And we just keep making the stuff. And keep proclaiming we love our children.

People Eat At Least 50,000 Plastic Particles A Year (G.)

The average person eats at least 50,000 particles of microplastic a year and breathes in a similar quantity, according to the first study to estimate human ingestion of plastic pollution. The true number is likely to be many times higher, as only a small number of foods and drinks have been analysed for plastic contamination. The scientists reported that drinking a lot of bottled water drastically increased the particles consumed. The health impacts of ingesting microplastic are unknown, but they could release toxic substances. Some pieces are small enough to penetrate human tissues, where they could trigger immune reactions.

Microplastic pollution is mostly created by the disintegration of plastic litter and appears to be ubiquitous across the planet. Researchers find microplastics everywhere they look; in the air, soil, rivers and the deepest oceans around the world. [..] Most food and drink types have not been tested, however, meaning the study only assessed 15% of calorie intake. “We don’t know a huge amount. There are some major data gaps that need to get filled,” said Kieran Cox, at the University of Victoria in Canada, who led the research.

Other foods, such as bread, processed products, meat, dairy and vegetables, may well contain just as much plastic, he said. “It is really highly likely there is going to be large amounts of plastic particles in these. You could be heading into the hundreds of thousands.” Some of the best available data is on water, with bottled water containing 22 times more microplastic than tap water on average. A person who only drank bottled water would consume 130,000 particles per year from that source alone, the researchers said, compared with 4,000 from tap water.

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May 142019
 


Pablo Picasso Napping 1932

 

AG Barr Appoints US Attorney To Investigate FBI/DOJ Spying On Trump (ZH)
Who Were the Mueller Report’s Hired Guns? (RCI)
US Accuses Iran Of Attack On Saudi Tankers (ZH)
Sweden Wants To Extradite Assange Over Rape Allegation (R.)
Lewinsky Scandal Beginning Of The End Of American Journalism – Taibbi (SHTF)
The CNN Search Engine? Google Favors Stories From Liberal News Sites (RT)
The Trend is Not Your Friend (Jim Kunstler)
US Police Raid Venezuelan Embassy To Evict Pro-Maduro Activists (RT)
Britain Risks Heading To US Levels Of Inequality – Angus Deaton (G.)
Theresa May Remains Opposed To Any Form Of Brexit Referendum (G.)
Uber & Lyft IPOs Turn into Colossal Flops (WS)
California Jury Awards Couple $2 Billion In Monsanto/Bayer Cancer Trial (RT)
Bayer Says Monsanto Likely Kept Files On Influential People Across Europe (R.)
German Failure on the Road to a Renewable Future (Spiegel)
415.26 Parts Per Million: CO2 Levels Hit Historic High (AFP)

 

 

To what extent can US intelligence take care of its own? We’re about to find out.

AG Barr Appoints US Attorney To Investigate FBI/DOJ Spying On Trump (ZH)

Attorney General William Barr has appointed US Attorney John H. Durham of Connecticut to examine the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation to determine if the FBI’s spying on the Trump campaign was “lawful and appropriate,” according to Fox News. The move comes as the Trump administration has demanded answers over the use of “informants” on his 2016 campaign. According to Fox, Barr is “serious” and has assembled a team from the DOJ to participate in the probe, adding that Durham is known as a “hard-charging, bulldog” prosecutor according to their source.

“Sources familiar with matter say the focus of the probe includes the pre-transition period – prior to Nov. 7, 2016 – including the use and initiation of informants, as well as potential Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) abuses. An informant working for U.S. intelligence posed as a Cambridge University research assistant in September 2016 to try extracting any possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia from George Papadopoulos, then a Trump foreign policy adviser, it emerged earlier this month. Papadopoulos told Fox News the informant tried to “seduce” him as part of the “bizarre” episode. Durham previously has investigated law enforcement corruption, the destruction of CIA videotapes and the Boston FBI office’s relationship with mobsters. He is set to continue to serve as the chief federal prosecutor in Connecticut.” -Fox News

Of note – in January House Republicans Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows wrote to Durham, saying that they had “discovered” he was “investigating former FBI General Counsel James Baker” over unauthorized leaks to the media, adding “We know the DOJ and FBI departed from traditional investigative and prosecutorial practices, and insufficiently adhered to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Durham has a history of serving as a special prosecutor, investigating wrongdoing among national security officials – including the FBI’s ties to a Boston crime boss, as well as accusations of CIA detainee abuse. According to the report, Durham’s review would run in parallel with the ongoing DOJ probe by Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz. Meanwhile, Republicans have been seeking answers from US Attorney for Utah, John Huber, who was appointed by former AG Jeff Sessions to review FBI and DOJ surveillance abuses, as well as authorities’ handling of the probe into the Clinton Foundation.

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Mueller and Steele. A fine pair. If Mueller really worked with Steele and Fusion GPS, he should be investigated, because he knew they were Hillary assets.

Who Were the Mueller Report’s Hired Guns? (RCI)

[..] The arrangement has led congressional investigators, government watchdog groups and others to speculate that the private investigators and researchers who worked for the special counsel’s office might have included Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS, the private research firm that hired Steele to produce the Russia collusion dossier for the Clinton campaign. U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said the report should be renamed “The Mueller Dossier,” because he says it contains a lot of similar innuendo. Even though Mueller failed to corroborate key allegations leveled in the dossier, Nunes said his report twists key facts to put a collusion gloss on events.

He also asserted that it selectively quotes from Trump campaign emails and omits exculpatory information in ways that cast the campaign’s activities in the most sinister light. Steele’s 17-memo dossier alleged that the Trump campaign was involved in “a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” with the Russian government to rig the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor. It claimed this conspiracy “was managed on the Trump side by Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, who was using foreign policy adviser Carter Page and others as intermediaries.” Specifically, the dossier accused Page of secretly meeting with Kremlin officials in July 2016 to hatch a plot to release dirt on Hillary Clinton. And it accused Manafort of being corrupted by Russian President Vladimir Putin through his puppets in the Ukraine.

Likewise, Mueller’s report focuses on Manafort and Page and whether they “committed crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.” [..] Mueller’s team worked closely with dossier author Steele, a long-retired British intelligence officer who worked for the Clinton campaign. Mueller’s investigators went to London to consult with Steele for at least two days in September 2017 while apparently using his dossier as an investigative road map and central theory to his collusion case. Steele now runs a private research and consulting firm in London, Orbis Business Intelligence. It’s not clear if Mueller’s office paid Steele, but recently released FBI records show the bureau previously made a number of payments to him, and at one point during the 2016 campaign offered him $50,000 to continue his dossier research. Steele was also paid through the Clinton campaign, earning $168,000 for his work on the dossier.

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“Oh, and that would be the Persian Gulf for those wondering, not the Gulf of Tonkin..”

US Accuses Iran Of Attack On Saudi Tankers (ZH)

Update: Just as everyone with half a frontal lobe had expected, the WSJ reported late on Monday that according to an initial U.S. assessment, “Iran was likely behind the attack” on the two Saudi Arabian oil tankers and two other vessels damaged over the weekend near the Strait of Hormuz, a U.S. official said, a finding that, whether confirmed or not, will certainly inflame military tensions in the Gulf and likely result in a global proxy war that drags in the US, China and Russia. Oh, and that would be the Persian Gulf for those wondering, not the Gulf of Tonkin, which is where another famous False Flag naval incident occurred. Furthermore, as we predicted would happen on Sunday, this “official assessment”, was the first suggestion by any nation that Iran was responsible for the attack and follows a series of U.S. warnings against “aggression” by Iran or its allies and proxies against military or commercial vessels in the region.

Some more details from the WSJ: “The U.S. official, who declined to be identified, didn’t offer details about what led to the assessment or its implications for a possible U.S. response. The U.S. has said in the past week that it was sending an aircraft carrier, an amphibious assault ship, a bomber task force and an antimissile system to the region after it alleged intelligence showed Iran posed a threat to its troops. “If they do anything, they will suffer greatly. We’ll see what happens with Iran,” President Trump said while meeting with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the White House earlier on Monday.”

The assessment, predictable from a mile away, squares perfectly with CIA veteran Mike Pompeo’s warning from just two days before the alleged attack, in which he said that “The regime in Tehran should understand that any attacks by them or their proxies of any identity against US interests or citizens will be answered with a swift and decisive US response,” the US Secretary of State wrote in a statement warning that Iran should not mistake US “restraint” for a “lack of resolve,” and criticizing Iran for “an escalating series of threatening actions and statements in recent weeks.”

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There was a preliminary investigation. The case was closed three times. The word “rape” never came up until propaganda started.

Sweden is a country full of very sick people. I haven’t seen even one raise their voice. Avoid Sweden. Don’t buy IKEA.

Sweden Wants To Extradite Assange Over Rape Allegation (R.)

Sweden reopened an investigation into a rape allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Monday and will seek to extradite him from Britain, a potential setback to efforts by the United States to put him on trial over a huge release of secret documents. Deputy Chief Prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson told a news conference in Stockholm she would continue a preliminary investigation that was dropped in 2017 without charges being brought after Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. Assange, who denies the accusation, was arrested in Britain last month after spending seven years hiding inside the embassy.


The Swedish prosecutor said she would request Assange be detained in his absence on probable cause for an allegation of rape and that her office would issue a European arrest warrant – the start of the extradition process. The United States is also seeking to extradite him on conspiracy charges relating to the public release by Wikileaks of a cache of secret documents, including assessments of foreign leaders, wars and security matters. The British courts will have to rule on the two extradition requests, with Home Secretary Sajid Javid having the final say on which one takes precedence. “I am well aware of the fact that an extradition process is ongoing in the UK and that he could be extradited to the US,” Persson said.

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Yes, true. But is it all about anger? Or is the anger merely a substitute for identity and belonging?

Lewinsky Scandal Beginning Of The End Of American Journalism – Taibbi (SHTF)

In a new “On Contact” episode, host Chris Hedges and Taibbi dive into the roots of the decay of journalism in the United States, which preys on prejudices and fear while pitting people against each other and paving the way for demagogues. According to RT, Taibbi says this all started back when Bill Clinton was president. From Monica Lewinski to Hillary Clinton, the coverage of major news stories by the U.S. media has grown increasingly strident, with cable channels no longer trying to project a picture of objectivity but “selling a story that makes people angry,” Taibbi, an award-winning journalist, and author says. Taibbi says that the result of this journalistic decay and emotional fear mongering is a public addicted to hating each other.


Americans have become addicted to the news that agrees with their bias, and it was set up that way on purpose. The only thing anyone will hear when they turn on the news are stories specifically crafted to manufacture outrage, make you hate the other side, and fuel the addiction to anger. Taibbi is the author of Hate Inc: Why Today’s Media Makes Us Despise One Another. “In this characteristically turbocharged new book, Matt Taibbi provides an insider’s guide to the variety of ways today’s mainstream media tells us lies. Part tirade, part confessional, it reveals that what most people think of as “the news” is, in fact, a twisted wing of the entertainment business. “Heading into a 2020 election season that promises to be a Great Giza Pyramid Complex of invective and digital ugliness, Hate Inc. will be an invaluable antidote to the hidden poisons dished up by those we rely on to tell us what is happening in the world.” –Hate Inc. description, Amazon

If video doesn’t show properly, please go to the Automatic Earth site

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“..CNN is stuck in a vicious cycle; criticized for focusing too much on negative Trump stories, yet not being able to stop for fear of losing more viewers.”

The moment CNN is labeled “left” is where insanity takes off.

The CNN Search Engine? Google Favors Stories From Liberal News Sites (RT)

Researchers from Northwestern University performed an “algorithm audit” of the ‘Google Top Stories’ box, which is a major driver of traffic to news publishers and therefore prime online real estate. They examined results for nearly 200 searches relating to news events for one month in late 2017 and found “a left-leaning ideological skew.” The researchers did allow some leeway for Google to defend itself, however, saying that while the left-leaning bias was detected, it is possible that the dominance of particular sources is a result of “successful strategic behavior” by those sources to achieve “algorithmic recognizability” — but whatever the reason, liberal sources still far eclipsed conservatives ones.

CNN, perhaps the outlet most-reviled by conservatives, was Google’s overall favorite source. Of the 6,302 articles appearing on Google’s ‘top stories’ during the month in focus, more than 10 percent came from CNN. The New York Times and Washington Post were up next, garnering 6.5 and 5.6 percent of the results, respectively. Fox News, the most mainstream right-wing outlet, was the source for only 3 percent of stories appearing in the top box. Then it was back to liberal outlets, with the BBC, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Politico and ABC News filling out the rest of the top 10. Overall, 62.4 percent of the most common sources were left-leaning, while only 11.3 perfect were said to be right-leaning.

Ironically, despite the heavy promotion from Google in the online realm, CNN’s overall audience declined by a colossal 26 percent in April compared to a year earlier — and network boss Jeff Zucker admitted last November that CNN’s audience just “goes away” any time the channel switches from its (overwhelmingly negative) coverage of President Donald Trump to other topics. So it seems CNN is stuck in a vicious cycle; criticized for focusing too much on negative Trump stories, yet not being able to stop for fear of losing more viewers. Perhaps an even more damning indictment than Google’s detected liberal bias, however, is that nearly all (86 percent) of the stories promoted by the search giant came from just 20 sources across the entire internet, which doesn’t exactly display much of a commitment to diversity of information and opinion.

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“All that, to paraphrase the immortal words of Mr. Dylan, balances like a mattress on a bottle of wine.”

The Trend is Not Your Friend (Jim Kunstler)

By the mid-1980s, the non-OPEC world was once again swimming in oil from the last great bonanzas of the oil age: The Alaska North Slope and the North Sea. Twenty years later, they were running down. Meanwhile, the USA had fecklessly “offshored” its factories in the mistaken belief that we had entered a shimmering new digital economy of virtual business were nobody had to make real stuff. China became the world’s workshop and the USA became the world’s financial bucket-shop, churning out endless swindles and frauds. The predictable result was the financial crisis of 2008, which coincided with oil prices rising to over $140-a-barrel (and six months later they crashed, with the economy, to under $30-a-barrel).

The “recovery” from that was based on Wall Street’s premier swindle: the shale oil “miracle,” based on high-risk lending to companies that couldn’t make a red cent even while accomplishing the majestic stunt of exceeding America’s old 1970 oil production peak of around 10 million barrels-a-day (now at around 12 million). Notice, too, that the final push to 12-million barrels occurred during the last two years: thus, Mr. Trump’s miracle economy. All that, to paraphrase the immortal words of Mr. Dylan, balances like a mattress on a bottle of wine.

The China-US trade impasse, if it stands for even a few months, will crash the US economy again and it will also crash the price of shale oil back to levels that destroy oil companies. You understand, of course, that the rise of shale oil was amazingly swift, ten years, and that its fall will be similarly fast and furious. The feds may have to either bail it out or nationalize the whole shootin’ match — and that will end up as just another rat-hole we pound sand into, along with our long-running campaign to build failed states overseas. Translation: not so good for the value of the US dollar.

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Sore losers.

US Police Raid Venezuelan Embassy To Evict Pro-Maduro Activists (RT)

Pro-Maduro activists occupying the Venezuelan embassy in Washington have refused to vacate the premises in defiance of a notice threatening them with arrest and police entering the building but stopping short of evicting everyone. “We are expecting the police to come in and violate the Vienna convention with their fictional government, nongovernment claiming that we should leave,” the Embassy Civilian Protection Collective said in a video message shortly before the police arrived at the doors of the diplomatic premises to the cheers of the pro-Guaido camp outside. At least four embassy ‘protectors’ have remained inside the building and could be seen through the windows – even after police entered and left, apparently stopping short of forcefully evicting everyone – for now.


Despite their resolve to defend the diplomatic mission from “illegal seizure” by Guaido-appointed US representative Carlos Vecchio, many of the activists have left the embassy – apparently tired of the siege and worried about the threat of arrest – after a notice, which was not signed by any US government agency, urged them to “depart immediately” from the building in which they have lived for the last 34 days. “The United States does not recognize the authority of the former Maduro regime or any of its former representatives to allow any individuals to lawfully enter, remain on this property, or take any action with respect to this property,” a notice taped to the door of the building earlier in the day read.

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The Guardian tries to make this about the finance sector. It is not.

Britain Risks Heading To US Levels Of Inequality – Angus Deaton (G.)

Rising inequality in Britain risks putting the country on the same path as the US to become one of the most unequal nations on earth, according to a Nobel-prize winning economist. Sir Angus Deaton is leading a landmark review of inequality in the UK amid fears that the country is at a tipping point due to a decade of stagnant pay growth for British workers. The Institute for Fiscal Studies thinktank, which is working with Deaton on the study, said the British-born economist would “point to the risk of the UK following the US” which has extreme inequality levels in pay, wealth and health. Speaking to the Guardian at the launch of the study, he said: “There’s a real question about whether democratic capitalism is working, when it’s only working for part of the population.


“There are things where Britain is still doing a lot better [than the US]. What we have to do is to make sure the UK is inoculated from some of the horrors that have happened in the US.” His warning comes as analysis from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) showed that real wages in the finance sector had outstripped average salaries in the UK over the decade since the financial crisis. Earnings after inflation in the finance sector have grown by as much as £120 a week on average, compared with the average British worker still being about £17 a week worse off after taking account of rising living costs over the past decade. Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, said: “It’s not right that pay is racing ahead in the City when most working people are still worse off than a decade ago.”

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Who cares anymore? Wait till she loses bigly in the EU elections in two weeks. Then nobody will care.

Theresa May Remains Opposed To Any Form Of Brexit Referendum (G.)

Downing Street has said the prime minister remains opposed to any form of referendum being attached to a Brexit deal, as the government prepares to enter its seventh week of talks with Labour to find a compromise. The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, and the deputy Labour leader, Tom Watson, have said a deal is unlikely to pass without a referendum as part of the package, with up to 150 of the party’s MPs prepared to vote against an agreement without one. Key figures from both sides including Starmer, John McDonnell and Rebecca Long-Bailey, as well as the chancellor, Philip Hammond, Theresa May’s de facto deputy, David Lidington, and the environment secretary, Michael Gove, are set to meet again on Monday afternoon.


Downing Street said May had made clear her views about a second public vote: “She has said on many occasions that she is focused on delivering the result of the first referendum.” May’s spokesman declined to put a deadline on the talks but said the government was prepared to move on to a series of indicative votes in parliament if no resolution was possible. “If we were able to make progress with Labour then we would look to bring the bill before the House of Commons before the European elections,” he said. Both Labour and government sources have suggested the two sides will need to take stock on the likely progress of the talks this week, and the effectiveness of continuing discussions is likely to be discussed at cabinet on Tuesday morning.

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Scams “R” Us.

Uber & Lyft IPOs Turn into Colossal Flops (WS)

The Nasdaq composite dropped 3.4% today. In the six trading days since its peak on May 3 (8,164), it has dropped 6.3%, after a historic surge of 32% from December 24 through May 3. I mean, what did you expect? The index is now back where it had first been on June 6, 2018. Uber, which had sold its China operations and is no longer significantly tangled up in the US-China trade war, is morphing from the biggest, most hyped tech IPO in recent memory into the most colossal flop in recent memory. Shares plunged nearly 11% today to $37.10 a share. This left shares down 17.6% from its IPO price of $45, at which Uber had extracted another $8.1 billion from gullible investors. Prior investors are even deeper in the hole.


Uber extracted nearly $7 billion from institutional investors between December 2015 and February 2017 by selling them 140 million shares at $48.77 a share, over half of them to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, and these folks are now down nearly 24%. Shares of Softbank, which also holds a large stake in Uber, fell 5.5% today. Lyft dropped another 5.7% today, to a new closing low of $48.15. Lyft had been the trailblazer this year for the hottest most hyped IPOs. On March 28, Lyft priced the IPO shares at $72 and extracted at this price about $2.3 billion in new money from IPO investors. On March 29, the first day of trading, it took hours of machinations before shares finally started trading, with a heavily mediatized “pop” of 21%, at $87.24. Then, Lyft shares plunged 10% in 4 Hours from “pop” to close. Today, shares were down 45% from the pop.

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At what point are Bayer shareholders going to protest?

California Jury Awards Couple $2 Billion In Monsanto/Bayer Cancer Trial (RT)

A US jury has awarded $2 billion in punitive damages to a California couple after concluding that Roundup weed killer caused their cancer and that Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, failed to warn them of the chemical’s health risks. Glyphosate, the signature ingredient in Roundup, was found by jury in Alameda County Superior Court to be the cause of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in both Alva and Alberta Pilliod of Livermore. The couple has used the herbicide since the 1970s. In their ruling on Monday, the jury noted that American agrochemical giant Monsanto (now owned by Germany’s Bayer AG) failed to properly warn Roundup users about potential detrimental effects to their health.


Pointing out deliberate negligence by the company, the jury went on to award $18 million in compensatory and $1 billion in punitive damages to Alva Pilliod. His wife Alberta was awarded another $37 million in compensatory and $1 billion in punitive damages. The ruling marks the third time since August 2018 that a US jury has found glyphosate to be a cause of cancer. Thousands of lawsuits with similar claims have been filed against Monsanto, which was acquired by the German pharmaceutical giant last June.

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Bayer trying to clear its name. And the press just prints it, no questions asked.

Bayer Says Monsanto Likely Kept Files On Influential People Across Europe |(R.)

Bayer said on Monday its Monsanto unit, which is being investigated by French prosecutors for compiling files of influential people such as journalists in France, likely did the same across Europe, suggesting a potentially wider problem. French prosecutors said on Friday they had opened an inquiry after newspaper Le Monde filed a complaint alleging that Monsanto – acquired by Bayer for $63 billion last year – had kept a file of 200 names, including journalists and lawmakers in hopes of influencing positions on pesticides. On Sunday, Bayer acknowledged the existence of the files, saying it does not believe any laws were broken but that it will ask an external law firm to investigate.

“It’s safe to say that other countries in Europe were affected by lists … I assume that all EU member states could potentially be affected,” Matthias Berninger, Bayer’s head of public affairs and sustainability, told journalists on Monday. While he did not say there had any illegal activity and added it was up to the external law firm to evaluate the conduct, Berninger said there were signs Monsanto had not played fairly in the use of private data. “There have been a number of cases where – as they would say in football – not the ball was played but the man, or woman, was tackled,” Berninger, who joined Bayer in January, said on a conference call.

Bayer said in its initial statement on Sunday that “Currently, we have no indication that the preparation of the lists under discussion violated any legal provisions.” It added, “Bayer will ask an external law firm to investigate the project Monsanto commissioned and evaluate the allegations. The law firm will also inform all of the persons on the lists of the information collected about them”.

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The point of my article last week was that renewables don’t scale up the way people are told to believe. Not in Germany and not elsewhere.

German Failure on the Road to a Renewable Future (Spiegel)

The German government made a key mistake when it announced the end of the nuclear era in Germany eight years ago: It announced it was turning away from nuclear power, without simultaneously initiating the end of coal. Wind turbines and solar panels were installed across the country — but the coal-fired power plants kept operating. The government set up a clean energy system alongside the dirty one. But why? Because Berlin was afraid of do anything that might harm a single company or voter. Germany has never come up with a clear strategy for the shift to renewables, fully thought out from the beginning to end. There have always been two competing concepts of the Energiewende, even before Merkel.


Politicians like former Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin, a Green Party politician who was part of the cabinet of the center-left Social Democratic (SPD) Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, were in favor of a radical shift, no matter what the cost. Others, like the SPD Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel and his successor Peter Altmaier, from Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats (CDU), were more concerned about German industry and job numbers. Neither side trusted the other and a stalemate ensued. Progress halted. This helps explain why the government never dared set up an Energy Ministry that might have had the ability to move things forward, and instead divided up the project among the Chancellery, the Environment Ministry and the Economics Ministry.

It is an unholy trinity that has continually followed the same pattern: The Environment Ministry surges ahead, the Economics Ministry warns of dramatic job losses and the Chancellery avoids making a decision. The expansion of Germany’s electrical grid has suffered the most from this lack of political impetus. More than a decade ago, the German government passed a resolution to quickly build the necessary high-voltage transmission lines, with experts today saying there is a need for 7,700 kilometers (4,800 miles) of such lines. But only 950 have been built. And in 2017, only 30 kilometers of lines were built across the whole country. In Berlin, one can hear the wry observation that 30 kilometers is roughly the distance that a snail can travel in a year.

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“..the increase is increasing at an increasing rate!”

415.26 Parts Per Million: CO2 Levels Hit Historic High (AFP)

Scientists in the United States have detected the highest levels of planet-warming carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere since records began, sounding new alarm over the relentless rise of man-made greenhouse gas emissions..26 The Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, which has tracked atmospheric CO2 levels since the late 1950s, on Saturday morning detected 415.26 parts per million (ppm). It was also the first time on record that the observatory measured a daily baseline above 415 ppm. The last time Earth’s atmosphere contained this much CO2 was more than three million years ago, when global sea levels were several metres higher and parts of Antarctica were blanketed in forest.

“It shows that we are not on track with protecting the climate at all. The number keeps rising and it’s getting higher year after year,” Wolfgang Lucht, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), told AFP. “This number needs to stabilise.” But far from stabilising, levels of CO2 – one of a trinity of greenhouse gases produced when fossil fuels are burnt – are climbing ever more rapidly. Ralph Keeling, director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s CO2 Programme, said the trend would probably continue throughout 2019 – likely to be an El Nino year in which temperatures rise due to warmer ocean currents. “The average growth rate is remaining on the high end. The increase from last year will probably be around three parts per million whereas the recent average has been 2.5 ppm,” he said. “Likely we’re seeing the effect of mild El Nino conditions on top of ongoing fossil fuel use.”

[..] “I’m old enough to remember when passing 400ppm was a big deal,” Gernot Wagner, a research associate at Harvard University, said on Twitter. “Two years ago we hit 410ppm for the first time. By now, it’s 415ppm. And oh, the increase is increasing at an increasing rate!”

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