Sep 212019
 
 September 21, 2019  Posted by at 2:12 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Salvador Dali Punta es Baluard de la Riba d’en Pitxot 1918-19

 

US Democrats and MSM are running down a blind alley, telling themselves there’s light at the end. It has become a mass delusion. For the largest part, it has been for some four years now. You would think they’d learn something along the way, but there are very few if any signs of that.

Someone comes up with a rumor, a snippet of something, and the entire crowd jumps and runs away with it. This happens a few times a week. Four years is 200 weeks. Granted, it was worse when they still had the idea they could keep Trump from the presidency, but now that idea has morphed into impeachment, and they just keep at it.

I’ve said it before, but I still don’t quite understand why so little attention is paid to their own credibility. That they continue to reside inside an echo chamber undoubtedly goes a long way towards explaining, but they must be aware that with only the echo chamber, they have no chance of winning in 2020.

Earlier this week the New York Times ran a new anti-Kavanaugh article, and apologized for it shortly afterwards because it was baseless: the woman quoted as accusing him didn’t even remember. By then, though, 100,000 other articles on the topic had been written and broadcast.

Perhaps to paper that over, though they might not care anymore after the first million nonsense stories, there’s a new tale in town: Trump and Ukraine. Do all the news outlets ‘reporting’ on it even realize how dangerous that issue is for ‘their own’ Joe Biden? Shouldn’t they be holding back? Or are they trying to cleverly sabotage Sloppy Joe’s campaign?

The Guardian provides a good example of how the ‘reporting’ goes. Get a catchy headline, create an atmosphere, throw in plenty innuendo, and hark back to some past rumors that are irrelevant today but linger in people’s minds. And…you can’t mention Mueller enough.

 

Ukraine Imbroglio Confirms Giuliani As Trump’s Most Off-Kilter Advocate

Cuomo: “Did you ask the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?” Giuliani: “No. Actually I didn’t.” Crystal clear. Except that 83 words and about 30 seconds later, Cuomo asked the question again. Cuomo: “So, you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?” Giuliani: “Of course I did.” That Giuliani was prepared so blatantly to contradict himself on live TV in the service of the president perfectly encapsulates his transformation. “America’s Mayor”, the hero of 9/11, has metamorphosed into what the New Yorker dubbed “Trump’s clown”.


This is not the first time Giuliani has incurred ridicule and rebuke in the cause of protecting his longtime friend – no, client. In the final days of the 2016 election the lawyer was almost the only person willing to speak in favor of Trump after the “grab ’em by the pussy” tape was aired. As the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in that election reached its climax, Giuliani threw lawyerly restraint to the winds and repeatedly denounced the inquiry as a witch-hunt.

That’s quite the portrait. Guess they may have thought people forgot about Rudy.

[..] But of all the scraps in which Giuliani has engaged in recent months, of all the obfuscations and verbal sleights of hand, this week’s performance could prove the most damaging, both for him and for his White House buddy. America’s Mayor has tied himself in ever-tighter knots over claims that at Trump’s behest he improperly sought to coerce Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden in the hope of dredging up damaging information.


No fewer than three House committees this week launched investigations into the Trump-Giuliani efforts in Ukraine. Though not yet on the scale of Mueller’s inquiry into whether Trump colluded with Russia, the new uproar bears chilling echoes of it.

Lovely. That’s how it’s done. Except that Giuliani did not “improperly seek to coerce Ukraine”, as we will see. Never mind, the neverending echoes still say Trump is Bad so Rudy is Bad. As for bringing up the Mueller inquiry, do they remember how that ended? Are they already fearing this narrative may end the same way?

[..] On Friday, the Wall Street Journal disclosed devastating new details of a phone conversation between Trump and Zelensky on 25 July. The paper reported that Trump pressed “about eight times” for his opposite number to look into work in the country by Biden’s son Hunter. And, the Journal wrote, Trump explicitly urged Zelensky to work with one person in forwarding the mission: Rudy Giuliani.


That Trump would be willing to attract further legal scrutiny just months after Mueller wrapped up his work, by inviting yet another foreign government to assist him in a presidential election campaign, is profoundly puzzling. After all, he partly brought the Mueller inquiry down upon his own head by inviting Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails in July 2016.

I think they’re insinuating that Trump’s campaign joke -partly- started the Muller inquiry. Wow. And to link that to an anonymous source telling someone something we don’t know because it’s been kept secret..wow again. They’re starting to sound needy.

[..] Giuliani began thumping the Ukraine theme in April, when he laid out his theory – some would say, conspiracy theory – on Fox News. He accused the former vice-president of using bribery to shield his son from legal peril relating to business activities in the eastern European country. Specifically, Giuliani alleged that Biden leant on a former Ukraine president to fire a top prosecutor who had been investigating corruption within a gas company on whose board Hunter Biden then served.

We know Biden did that. There’s video of him bragging about it. Right here:

 

 

[..] Perhaps most incendiary of all are suggestions Trump and Giuliani may have tried to encourage the Ukraine government to play ball by invoking US aid to the country. “The potentially most explosive issue here is whether the president essentially offered Ukraine a quid pro quo,” said Richard Pildes, professor of constitutional law at New York University.

Trump did not offer Zelensky a quid pro quo. The WaPo said so yesterday. We have proof of Biden demanding quid pro quo, we have none of Trump even asking for it.

Anyway, some bits from the BBC:

 

Trump Dismisses ‘Ridiculous Story’ About Alleged Promise To Foreign Leader

President Donald Trump has dismissed a whistleblower allegation that he made a promise to a foreign leader – believed to be Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky – calling it a “ridiculous story”. He said his talks with leaders were always “totally appropriate”. Reports say Mr Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son – who was on a Ukrainian gas company board – in return for more US military support.

“If these reports are true, then there is truly no bottom to President Trump’s willingness to abuse his power and abase our country,” Mr Biden wrote in a statement. In its report on the complaint by the whistleblower, the Washington Post said the intelligence official had found Mr Trump’s comment to the foreign leader “so troubling” that they went to the department’s inspector general.

The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, quoted sources as saying Mr Trump had urged Mr Zelensky about eight times to work with his lawyer Rudy Giuliani on an investigation into Mr Biden’s son, but had not offered anything in return. On Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that reports of the complaint raised “grave, urgent concerns” for US national security. Mr Trump and Mr Zelensky spoke by phone on 25 July. The whistleblower’s complaint is dated 12 August.

A: again, no quid pro quo, no nothing ‘in return for more US military support.’

B: Biden has guts accusing Trump of what he himself has been found guilty of. Attack is the best defense? Talk about abasing your country.

[Trump] described the complaint as “just another political hack job”. “It’s a ridiculous story. It’s a partisan whistleblower. He shouldn’t even have information. I’ve had conversations with many leaders. They’re always appropriate,” he said [..] On Thursday, Mr Trump wrote on Twitter that he knew all his phone calls to foreign leaders were listened to by US agencies.

Earlier this month, before the whistleblower’s complaint came to light, House Democrats launched an investigation into Mr Trump and Mr Giuliani’s interactions with Ukraine.

Three Democratic panel heads – Eliot Engel (foreign affairs), Adam Schiff (intelligence) and Elijah Cummings (oversight) – said Mr Trump and Mr Giuliani had attempted “to manipulate the Ukrainian justice system to benefit the president’s re-election campaign and target a possible political opponent”. They allege that Mr Trump and Mr Giuliani tried to pressure the Ukrainian government into investigating Joe and Hunter Biden.

Wait. Why were all those investigations launched? Phishing, are we?

Here’s the no quid pro quo again, as per Tyler Durden:

 

WaPo Reports No “Quid Pro Quo” Offered During Phone Call

[..] the Washington Post quietly reported on Friday evening that a July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky did not contain an explicit quid pro quo if Ukraine launched an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden’s son as initially reported. [..] “Trump did not raise the issue of American military and intelligence aid that had been pledged to Ukraine, indicating there was not an explicit quid pro quo in that call.”

[..] “The revelation that Trump pushed Zelensky to pursue the Biden probe, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, represents the most detailed account so far of the president’s conduct that prompted a U.S. intelligence official to file a whistleblower action against the president.” -Washington Post

So – the current US president asked Ukraine to conduct a legal investigation into the former US Vice President, who openly bragged about withholding $1 billion in US loan guarantees unless they fired the guy investigating his son and his son’s company – and there was no quid pro quo offered in exchange for that investigation – at least not on that phone call.

The Daily Beast found a real-life Ukraine official (or so they say). Did they slip something into the guy’s drink? He makes some strange claims.

Trump wants to take revenge for Manafort? Because of Biden? What did/does Biden have to do with Manafort? Makes little sense.

Look, Trump wouldn’t mind getting a more solid take behind the Biden video, that’s why he asked Zelensky to investigate. After already being informed that Ukraine sought contact with his government because of it (see below).

But that doesn’t mean Trump fears Biden and seeks to discredit him for that. That video is out there for everyone to see and Biden looks like he’s selling out the US. Make what you want from that.

 

Trump Urged Ukraine President 8 Times During Call To Investigate Biden’s Son

The Journal’s new report came as a top Ukraine official reportedly said that Trump “is looking” for Ukraine officials to investigate business dealings of Biden’s son in that country in an effort “to discredit” Biden as he seeks the Democratic presidential nomination. The official, Anton Geraschenko, told The Daily Beast that Ukraine is ready to investigate Hunter Biden’s relationship with the Ukraine gas company “as soon as there is an official request.”


But, he added, “Currently there is no open investigation.” Geraschenko is a senior advisor to Ukraine’s interior minister, who would be in charge of any investigation of Hunter Biden. “Clearly, Trump is now looking for kompromat to discredit his opponent Biden, to take revenge for his friend Paul Manafort, who is serving seven years in prison,” Geraschenko told The Daily Beast.

And don’t think we’re done yet. John Solomon has a lot more. Turns out, Ukraine has been contacting the US, not the other way around, about handing over evidence.

 

Missing Piece To The Ukraine Puzzle: State Department’s Overture To Rudy Giuliani

The coverage suggests Giuliani reached out to new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s team this summer solely because he wanted to get dirt on possible Trump 2020 challenger Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s business dealings in that country. Politics or law could have been part of Giuliani’s motive, and neither would be illegal. But there is a missing part of the story that the American public needs in order to assess what really happened:

Giuliani’s contact with Zelensky adviser and attorney Andrei Yermak this summer was encouraged and facilitated by the U.S. State Department. Giuliani didn’t initiate it. A senior U.S. diplomat contacted him in July and asked for permission to connect Yermak with him. [..] When asked on Friday, Giuliani confirmed to me that the State Department asked him to take the Yermak meeting and that he did, in fact, apprise U.S. officials every step of the way.

[..] Why would Ukraine want to talk to Giuliani, and why would the State Department be involved in facilitating it? According to interviews with more than a dozen Ukrainian and U.S. officials, Ukraine’s government under recently departed President Petro Poroshenko and, now, Zelensky has been trying since summer 2018 to hand over evidence about the conduct of Americans they believe might be involved in violations of U.S. law during the Obama years .

The Ukrainians say their efforts to get their allegations to U.S. authorities were thwarted first by the U.S. embassy in Kiev, which failed to issue timely visas allowing them to visit America.

Then the Ukrainians hired a former U.S. attorney — not Giuliani — to hand-deliver the evidence of wrongdoing to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York, but the federal prosecutors never responded.

The U.S. attorney, a respected American, confirmed the Ukrainians’ story to me. The allegations that Ukrainian officials wanted to pass on involved both efforts by the Democratic National Committee to pressure Ukraine to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election as well as Joe Biden’s son’s effort to make money in Ukraine while the former vice president managed U.S.-Ukraine relations, the retired U.S. attorney told me.

Eventually, Giuliani in November 2018 got wind of the Ukrainian allegations and started to investigate. [..] Ukrainian officials also are discussing privately the possibility of creating a parliamentary committee to assemble the evidence and formally send it to the U.S. Congress, after failed attempts to get the Department of Justice’s attention, my sources say.

And just like that we have an entirely different story. But everyone in the media and the Democratic party will either ignore Solomon or try to discredit him. Until their Trump-Ukraine tale fizzles out and there’s no more readerships or ads to sell on it. By then, they reckon someone will come up with the next empty shell.

I’ll keep on wondering why they always go with these false claims. Is there really nothing actually true that they can find? It is sheer laziness, are they all not all that smart, or are they secretly on Trump’s payroll?

Me, I’ll condemn Trump for what he allows to happen to Julian Assange, and Chelsea and Snowden. But I’m not going to make up narratives for that, or play along with others who do.

 

 

 

 

Sep 122019
 


Joan Miro Montroig, la iglesia y el pueblo 1918

 

 

Ok, the mailing lists still don’t work, and now the site layout is skewed too after a WordPress update. Lovely. Apologies. Working on it.

 

 

How the UK Security Services Neutralised The Guardian (Declassified)
The Consequences of the Bush-Era Assault on Civil Liberties (Taibbi)
No-Deal Brexit Papers Warn Of Shortages And Riots (BBC)
£8 Billion Bet on No Deal Crash-Out by Boris Johnson’s Leave Backers (Byline)
ECB To Turn Stimulus Taps Back On To Prop Up Ailing Economy (R.)
Ridiculous EU Commissioner Roles Show Why People Hate Brussels Bureaucracy (RT)
Trump Blasts ‘Mr. Tough Guy’ Bolton (Hill)
Three Bolton Aides Resign From Trump White House After His Exit (Hill)
Investors Concerned Over China’s Capital Controls, Lack Of Transparency (SCMP)
The Rich Can’t Get Richer Forever, Can They? (New Yorker)

 

 

Excellent from Declassified on how and why the Guardian started setting up vicious smear campaigns of Assange, Jeremy Corbyn and others.

How the UK Security Services Neutralised The Guardian (Declassified)

On 20 July 2013, GCHQ officials entered The Guardian’s offices at King’s Cross in London, six weeks after the first Snowden-related article had been published. At the request of the government and security services, Guardian deputy editor Paul Johnson, along with two others, spent three hours destroying the laptops containing the Snowden documents. The Guardian staffers, according to one of the newspaper’s reporters, brought “angle-grinders, dremels – drills with revolving bits – and masks”. The reporter added, “The spy agency provided one piece of hi-tech equipment, a ‘degausser’, which destroys magnetic fields and erases data.”

Johnson claims that the destruction of the computers was “purely a symbolic act”, adding that “the government and GCHQ knew, because we had told them, that the material had been taken to the US to be shared with the New York Times. The reporting would go on. The episode hadn’t changed anything.”

Yet the episode did change something. As the D-Notice Committee minutes for November 2013 outlined: “Towards the end of July [as the computers were being destroyed], The Guardian had begun to seek and accept D-Notice advice not to publish certain highly sensitive details and since then the dialogue [with the committee] had been reasonable and improving.” The British security services had carried out more than a “symbolic act”. It was both a show of strength and a clear threat. The Guardian was then the only major newspaper that could be relied upon by whistleblowers in the US and British security bodies to receive and cover their exposures, a situation which posed a challenge to security agencies.

[..] In 2018, however, The Guardian’s attempted vilification of Assange was significantly stepped up. A new string of articles began on 18 May 2018 with one alleging Assange’s “long-standing relationship with RT”, the Russian state broadcaster. The series, which has been closely documented elsewhere, lasted for several months, consistently alleging with little or the most minimal circumstantial evidence that Assange had ties to Russia or the Kremlin. [..] The string of Guardian articles, along with the vilification and smear stories about Assange elsewhere in the British media, helped create the conditions for a deal between Ecuador, the UK and the US to expel Assange from the embassy in April.

Read more …

Security Services rule the world.

The Consequences of the Bush-Era Assault on Civil Liberties (Taibbi)

A judge last week ruled the federal government’s Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB), which secretly categorized more than 1 million people as “known or suspected terrorists,” is unconstitutional. Like a number of “War on Terror” reforms instituted in the Bush years, the TSDB’s unconstitutionality was obvious from its inception. Indeed, the very idea that we needed to “take the gloves off” in our post-9/11 “State of Exception” was an original selling point of some of these programs.

The TSDB is cousin to the No-Fly List (a different and more restrictive list ruled unconstitutional in 2014), the Distribution Matrix (the drone assassination program also known as the “Kill List”), the STELLAR WIND warrantless surveillance program, multiple expansions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the broadened use of National Security Letters to obtain private data without warrant, the “Enhanced Interrogation” program the rest of the world calls torture, and countless other War on Terror initiatives that were and are clear violations of the spirit of the constitution.

[..] The Kill List, the TSDB, and all the secret surveillance programs pose the same problem: they exist more or less completely apart from meaningful public oversight. They’re bureaucratic states within states. For instance, part of the PATRIOT Act governing the issue of National Security Letters (NSLs) – by which the FBI can demand that private companies turn over subscriber information, billing records, and other private data – allows the government to place gag orders on recipients of such letters. Because of this, we only have a faint idea of what NSLs look like. In one rare case, a man named Nicholas Merrill balked and sued when his company was issued a National Security Letter. In that case, the government argued that even releasing the existence of the letter would compromise national security.

This is frightening given that a) no courts need to approve the issuance of such letters, and b) the quantity of such demands is massive. Over a ten-year period, the government reportedly issued over 300,000 NSLs, at one point reaching a pace of 60,000 issued per year. The Merrill case in 2015 represented the first time a gag order was lifted on one of these operations. The recent watchlist lawsuit should remind us we’re assassinating, torturing, snooping on, and blacklisting people all over the world, by means of a continually expanding federal bureaucracy that exists outside of any specific mission, and refuses to recognize the oversight authority of courts or congress.

Read more …

They’re ignoring Parliament. Risky strategy. Especially since a first court has now declared prorogation is unlawful. Before Supreme Court next week.

No-Deal Brexit Papers Warn Of Shortages And Riots (BBC)

Riots on the streets, food price rises and reduced medical supplies are real risks of the UK leaving the EU without a deal, a government document has said. Ministers have published details of their Yellowhammer contingency plan, after MPs voted to force its release. It outlines a series of “reasonable worst case assumptions” for the impact of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the paper confirmed the PM “is prepared to punish those who can least afford it”.


Michael Gove, one of Boris Johnson’s senior cabinet colleagues who has been given responsibility for no-deal planning, said “revised assumptions” will be published “in due course alongside a document outlining the mitigations the government has put in place and intends to put in place”. However, ministers have blocked the release of communications between No 10 aides about Parliament’s suspension. Mr Gove said MPs’ request to see e-mails, texts and WhatsApp messages from Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s chief aide, and eight other advisers in Downing Street were “unreasonable and disproportionate”. Publishing the information, he added, would “contravene the law” and “offend against basic principles of fairness”.

Read more …

“Under the Ministerial Code, Government ministers must have “no actual or perceived conflicts of interest”.

£8 Billion Bet on No Deal Crash-Out by Boris Johnson’s Leave Backers (Byline)

From the financial data publicly available, Byline Times can reveal that currently £4,563,350,000 (£4.6 billion) of aggregate short positions on a ‘no deal’ Brexit have been taken out by hedge funds that directly or indirectly bankrolled Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign. Most of these firms also donated to Vote Leave and took out short positions on the EU Referendum result. The ones which didn’t typically didn’t exist at that time but are invariably connected via directorships to companies that did. Another £3,711,000,000 (£3.7 billion) of these short positions have been taken out by firms that donated to the Vote Leave campaign, but did not donate directly to the Johnson leadership campaign.


Currently, £8,274,350,000 (£8.3 billion) of aggregate short positions has been taken out by hedge funds connected to the Prime Minister and his Vote Leave campaign, run by his advisor Dominic Cummings, on a ‘no deal’ Brexit. Does this £8 billion bet explain why the Prime Minister has said that he would rather “die in a ditch” before asking the EU for an extension? Is it the reason why Johnson is willing to defy the Benn Act that stops a ‘no deal’ Brexit? Is the £8 billion any kind of motivation to prorogue Parliament? Under the Ministerial Code, Government ministers must have “no actual or perceived conflicts of interest”. But what could be a bigger conflict of interest than those bankrolling the Prime Minister also having a vast financial interest in a catastrophe for Britain?

Read more …

How big will Draghi be?

ECB To Turn Stimulus Taps Back On To Prop Up Ailing Economy (R.)

The European Central Bank is set to unveil fresh stimulus measures on Thursday to prop up the ailing euro zone economy, but its exact moves are far from certain and a decision that underwhelms markets risks pushing up borrowing costs. With other major central banks easing monetary policy, Germany at risk of falling into recession and inflation expectations sliding, ECB President Mario Draghi has all but promised more support, putting all of the bank’s remaining tools in play. However Draghi, who hands over the leadership of the central bank to Christine Lagarde at the end of October, will face push back from more conservative members of his Governing Council.


Some policymakers have voiced concerted, public opposition to more radical stimulus measures, particularly the restarting of bond purchases, known as quantitative easing. Also, Draghi’s dovish talk has raised investors’ expectations so high that it will be difficult to fully deliver on them, leaving the ECB at risk of disappointing. This could see market interest rates increase, rather than fall. While the ECB has a wide range of policy instruments at its disposal, each comes with complications, from questionable efficacy and big side effects.

Read more …

No, seriously, they have a “Commissioner for Protecting our European Way of Life”

Ridiculous EU Commissioner Roles Show Why People Hate Brussels Bureaucracy (RT)

Ursula von der Leyen has unveiled her new team of EU Commissioners. Their job descriptions and responsibilities are nebulous, oddly overlapping and bound to cause confusion. This is European bureaucracy at its worst.
Most Europeans pay scant attention to the detailed inner workings of Brussels politics, precisely because of the bewildering nature of its bloated bureaucracy. Von der Leyen, the EU Commission President, has gone and made it worse. The former German defense minister has steered away from traditional ministerial titles and opted for more Orwellian-sounding names – the kind you need to google to decipher what they actually mean.


Instead of getting a commissioner for dealing with defense or foreign policy, for instance, we are getting a “Commissioner for a Stronger Europe in the World.” There will also be a “Commissioner for Inter-institutional Relations and Foresight” who will apparently deal with policy-making and regulation and a “Commissioner for an Economy that Works for People.” It’s all very ‘Ministry of Truth’-esque. One particular title has backfired spectacularly. The “Commissioner for Protecting our European Way of Life” will be dealing, partially, with immigration policy. The name has already been slammed as “fascist,” “grotesque” and, my favorite, an “infelicitous semantic choice” due to the alleged implication that Europeans need to be “protected” from immigrants.

Read more …

Riddance. Good.

Trump Blasts ‘Mr. Tough Guy’ Bolton (Hill)

President Trump blasted his former national security adviser John Bolton from the White House on Wednesday, saying he had been fired after making “some very big mistakes” and that he did not get along with others in the administration. In a public rebuke of a top aide that would have been extraordinary before the Trump White House, Trump said Bolton had “set us back” and that the adviser had disagreed with the president on various national security issues. He slammed a mistake Bolton made early in his tenure at the White House when he discussed a “Libyan model” in the context of North Korea — which that country took as a sign that its leadership could meet the fate of former Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.


While he insisted he had gotten along with the adviser, he also ridiculed Bolton for getting the United States involved in the Iraq War. “So, John is somebody that I actually got along with very well. He made some very big mistakes,” Trump said a day after his abrupt ousting of Bolton. He said the “Libyan model” remark had set back talks with North Korea and was “not a good statement to make.” “And it set us back, and frankly he wanted to do things — not necessarily tougher than me — You know John’s known as a tough guy. He’s so tough he got us into Iraq … but he’s actually somebody I had a very good relationship with. But he wasn’t getting along with people in the administration that I consider very important.”


Bolton to spend more time with his family

Read more …

What kind of job is that anyway?

Three Bolton Aides Resign From Trump White House After His Exit (Hill)

Three aides to national security adviser John Bolton are resigning from the White House a day after news broke of Bolton’s high-profile departure from the Trump administration, Reuters reported. According to the news agency, the White House received resignations on Wednesday from the trio of staffers, who have reportedly worked with Bolton for years: Bolton’s former spokesman, Garrett Marquis; his former communications director, Sarah Tinsley; and Christine Samuelian, who served as Bolton’s scheduler. Marquis said in a statement obtained by Reuters Wednesday that “it was an honor to serve my country, and I wish the president and the administration success moving forward.”


The Hill has not yet confirmed the departures with the White House. The departures came a day after Trump announced that he had fired Bolton via Twitter, citing disagreements they had over “many of his suggestions.” “I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning,” Trump said in a pair of tweets on Tuesday morning.

Read more …

If you can’t get your money out, why invest?

Investors Concerned Over China’s Capital Controls, Lack Of Transparency (SCMP)

China’s biggest investment fair was intended to project the image that the country is fully open for business, but instead it has been dominated by foreign firms complaining that local governments are still making it a difficult place to operate. Delegates in Xiamen this week suggested that local governments are ignoring advice from Beijing as it aims to increase market access and level the playing field with domestic companies, meaning that the implementation of reforms to make it easier for foreign firms to operate in China still have not gone far enough. As it undergoes pressures caused in the most part by the trade war with the United States, Beijing is redoubling its efforts to woo investment by lavishing promises of fair treatment on foreign investors and giving VIP treatment to the likes of Telsa CEO Elon Musk.

But capital controls that restrict the flow of money into and out of the country, as well as lack of transparency in the bidding processes involving local governments, were among specific concerns raised during a panel discussion at the annual China International Fair for Investment and Trade. “In the past, when it comes to tenders and bidding, everyone would immediately turn to the company identity. This happened very often. This is a foreign company, that is a state company and this is a private company,” said Wang Jie, vice-president of Schneider Electric China, which manufactures and distributes electrical components. “Sometimes it’s not explicit, but it would be like, ‘This is an important project, maybe it isn’t appropriate for a foreign company.’”

[..] Zhou Bing, vice-president for Dell Greater China, said that it is important to have more flexibility in cross-border capital flows to boost trade, with China currently maintaining strict controls that can effectively shut off outflows. This can prove to be a major disadvantage for overseas investors who want to know that they can transfer their money out of China after it has been invested. “We are a typical company in the processing trade business here,” said Zhou, referring to a company that imports components into China to assemble them into finished goods before being exported. “So, it means there’s massive amount of capital flowing in and out [of China]. Right now, it’s still relatively smooth, but in the long term, do we want to keep our capital in China, do we keep our profit in China? It depends on how open the policy is.”

Read more …

It’s not just America, the whole world should think this over. Inequality doesn’t last.

The Rich Can’t Get Richer Forever, Can They? (New Yorker)

In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville, at the age of twenty-five, was sent by France’s Ministry of Justice to study the American penal system. He spent ten months in the United States, dutifully visiting prisons and meeting hundreds of people, including President Andrew Jackson and his predecessor, John Quincy Adams. On his return to France, he wrote a book about his observations, “Democracy in America,” the first volume of which was published in 1835. Many of the observations have weathered well (he noted, for instance, how American individualism coexisted with conformism). Others have not. For example, Tocqueville, who was the youngest son of a count, was deeply impressed by how equal the economic conditions in the United States were. It was, at the time, an accurate assessment.


The United States was the world’s most egalitarian society. Wages in the young nation were higher than in Europe, and land in the West was abundant and cheap. There were rich people, but they weren’t super-rich, like European aristocrats. According to “Unequal Gains: American Growth and Inequality Since 1700,” by the economic historians Peter H. Lindert and Jeffrey G. Williamson, the share of national income going to the richest one per cent of the population was more than twenty per cent in Britain but below ten per cent in America. The prevailing ideology of the country favored equality (though, to be sure, only for whites); Americans were proud that there was a relatively small gap between rich and poor. “Can any condition of society be more desirable than this?” Thomas Jefferson bragged to a friend.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 192019
 


Piet Mondriaan Self portrait 1918

 

Guardian columnist Owen Jones, a self-described left activist and socialist, was attacked in the streets of London at 2 am Saturday morning in what he himself describes as “a blatant premeditated assault” by a bunch of guys. He says he was kicked, punched, but then saved by the friends he was with, and nothing really happened to him. Or he would have taken photos and published them. Owen was fine, before and after. But his pride was not.

No pictures of black eyes or anything, but a brick load of indignation. No matter that in Britain, people are attacked all the time, certainly at that hour, in bar fights, in knife fights, people die every weekend. But for some reason Owen Jones thinks his role in this is special. That the incident happened because of his political views, and because the far right is getting more aggressive.

From Jones’s own Guardian:

 

Owen Jones Attacked Outside London Pub

The Guardian columnist and activist Owen Jones has been physically assaulted in London while celebrating his 35th birthday with friends. In an attack he called “a blatant premeditated assault”, Jones said he was kicked, punched and thrown to the ground by a group of men in the early hours of Saturday morning. He said that he and his friends went to a pub and left at 3am.

“We were about 30 metres away, saying goodbye to each other, when four men charged directly towards me: one of them karate kicked my back, threw me to the ground, started kicking me in the head and back, while my friends tried to drag them off, and were punched trying to defend me. “It was clearly a premeditated attack and I was their target. They all attacked me and only assaulted my friends when they tried to defend me.

“In the past year I’ve been repeatedly targeted in the street by far right activists, including attempts to use physical assault, and homophobic abuse. I’ve had a far-right activist taking pictures of me, and posting threatening messages and a video. “Because of this, and escalating threats of violence and death, I’ve had the police involved. My friends felt it was a matter of time until this happened. Give the context, it seems unthinkable that I was singled out for anything other than a politically motived premeditated attack.”

 

A second article in the same Guardian appeared on Sunday:

 

Owen Jones: Attackers Targeted Me For My Politics

Jones said: “I’m just a symptom of a wider phenomenon, an emboldened, increasingly violent far right.” He said he believed there had been a “dramatic escalation” in the level of threat faced by him and others in the last eight or nine months. He said far-right protesters were being radicalised by what he described as “hate preachers” in politics and in some parts of the media.

“We all know who the hate preachers are: one of them is the most powerful man on earth, the occupant of the White House. But there are also multiple politicians and people in the mainstream media who deliberately stoke tensions, who demonise minorities and who demonise the left,” he said.

[..] “The far right are trying to achieve political ends through coercion and violence, so there’s no way I’m going to change. Yes, I’ll take precautions, but I’ll be at my protests, fighting against racism, for socialism. What could I have done? Not had a birthday thing? Of course everybody should be vigilant, but I’m not going to be intimidated. I’m not changing my politics.”

 

I’m not sure (but of course I wasn’t there and I’m not in Jones’s shoes), but given the time of day, his ‘celebrity’ status and the fact that he’s openly gay, I could imagine this was not about politics. Not that that’s the crucial point in this, which is that everybody should be able to have a birthday party and be left in peace.

I must admit I smiled when I read that Jones said his attackers “charged out of the pub with military precision”, and then ostensibly failed to hurt him even a little bit. That sounds like either the most inept right wing militant unit ever, or they were all just piss drunk.

Still, calling Trump a hate preacher is also demonizing, and I do wonder why Jones feels that is appropriate while other comments are not. The Proud Boys vs Antifa ‘party’ this weekend in Portland, Oregon would seem to establish this, at least in the US, as a two-way street, but I’m not even going to try to convince both sides that there may be some blame in their camp too.

Because I think the following is much more important in the Owen Jones story. A few lines from the first article referenced above say:

 

Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief of the Guardian and Observer, said: “We deplore the outrageous attack on Owen Jones that took place late last night. Violent assaults on journalists or activists have no place in a democratic society.”


Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn sent a message of “solidarity” to Jones. He said: “Owen believes it was politically motivated, and we know the far right is on the march in our country. “An attack on a journalist is an attack on free speech and our fundamental values.”

 

Look, neither Katharine Viner, nor Owen Jones, nor the Guardian as a company, nor Jeremy Corbyn, have any right whatsoever, none, zilch, to present themselves as defenders of journalism or journalists. The reason for that is dead simple, and it consists of only two words: Julian Assange.

Jeremy Corbyn sits in the British parliament, while Assange sits in a high-security prison designed for terrorists, and those two things should never happen at the same time, lest Corbyn loses the right to speak. Hereby lost. And pretending to be a defender of journalism while a man who has won dozens of international awards for … journalism, rots away a few miles from that same Parliament, is too ridiculous to even talk about.

Owen Jones writes for the Guardian, and knows exactly what his employer has done to Julian Assange. And he can whine about an ‘attack’ on him all he wants, but there’s a journalist who’s really under attack, life-changing, life-threatening, if not lethal, and I have never seen Jones speak up for him. So spare us the hollow talk about hate preachers. It’s your own employer and your own government who preach hate.

As for The Guardian, it has been engaged in a vile anti-Assange smear campaign for many years, perhaps culminating in, but by no means limited to, the article last November that claimed Trump’s one-time adviser Paul Manafort had visited Assange many times in the Ecuador embassy, which was thoroughly debunked but never withdrawn or corrected.

Publishing an article such as that while you know it to be a bag of lies, makes you unfit to talk about journalism, period, for the rest of your lives. Sure, many of your readers may believe in you, and in what you tell them, after you’ve fed them smear and falsehoods for so long. But even if they believe you, that still doesn’t make you a news organization, it makes you a propaganda outlet. It makes you a pitchblack stain on your profession.

 

Australian journalist Mark Davis worked with Assange and the Guardian on the publication of the Afghan war logs in 2010. He recently spoke out about those days. And added a nice little -legal- twist to the story.

 

Australian Investigative Journalist Exposes Guardian/New York Times Betrayal Of Assange

At a Sydney “Politics in the Pub” meeting on Thursday night, award-winning Australian journalist Mark Davis revealed new first-hand information exposing the extent of the betrayal of Julian Assange by the Guardian and the New York Times, and refuting the lies both publications have used to smear the WikiLeaks founder.

Davis recounted his experiences documenting Assange’s life in the first half of 2010 for programs screened on the Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service (SBS). Using excerpts from the documentary “Inside WikiLeaks,” the journalist explained that he was present when WikiLeaks worked closely with media partners, including the Guardian and the New York Times, in the publication of the Afghan War logs.

[..] Davis said the assertions by Guardian journalists that Assange exhibited a callous attitude towards US informants and others who may have been harmed by the publication of the document were “lies.” David Leigh and Nick Davies, senior Guardian journalists, who worked closely with Assange in the publication of the logs, have repeatedly claimed that Assange was indifferent to the consequences of the publication.

Their statements have played a key role in the attempts by the corporate media to smear Assange, and dovetail with US government claims that the 2010 publications “aided the enemy.” In reality, the US and Australian militaries have been compelled to admit that release of the Afghan war logs did not result in a single individual coming to physical harm.

Davis explained that he was present in “the bunker,” a room established by the Guardian to prepare the publication of the documents. “Nick Davies made the most recurring, repetitive statement that Julian had a cavalier attitude to life. It’s a complete lie. If there was any cavalier attitude, it was the Guardian journalists. They had disdain for the impact of this material.”

[..] Davis explained that despite the vast technical resources of the Guardian and the New York Times (NYT), it was left to Assange to personally redact the names of informants and other individuals from the war logs, less than three days before scheduled publication. Davis said Assange was compelled to work through an entire night, during which he removed some 10,000 names from the documents.

“Julian wanted to take the names out,” Davis said. “He asked for the releases to be delayed.” The request was rejected by the Guardian, “so Julian was left with the task of cleansing the documents. Julian removed 10,000 names by himself, not the Guardian.”

Davis refuted the attempts by the Guardian and the Times to downplay their central role in the publication of the leaks. He stated that the relationship between the corporate reporters and Assange was not that between journalists and their source. Rather, both outlets were intimately involved in preparing the publication of the documents.

This included, Davis said, the Guardian assigning a technical division to prepare the entire set of logs in a publishable and searchable format on the WikiLeaks website. Davis explained that even in 2010, the Guardian and the NYT had employed “subterfuge” to shield them from any legal repercussions over the publication. Despite the explosive contents of the leaks, they had both insisted that WikiLeaks should publish first.

This, Davis stated, would allow them to claim that they were not primary publishers of the material, but were merely reporting material that had been released by WikiLeaks. This was the equivalent of the publications “pushing Julian out to walk the plank,” he said. “Julian’s in jail now because of that subterfuge.”

Tellingly, Davis stated that this plan was disrupted as a result of technical issues on the WikiLeaks website. The Guardian and the Times nevertheless ran their scheduled stories, reporting on WikiLeaks’ supposed publication of the logs, despite the fact that they had not yet been placed on the WikiLeaks website.

WikiLeaks published the documents two days after they had been reported by the corporate publications. “WikiLeaks did not publish for two days,” Davis said. The Guardian and the Times had “reported a lie. They set Julian up from the start.”

Davis’s claim potentially has significant legal implications. The espionage charges, under which the Trump administration is seeking to extradite Assange to the US and prosecute him, include among their offenses WikiLeaks’ publication of the Afghan war logs.

Davis’ timeline, however, indicates that the Guardian and the New York Times were in fact the initial and primary publishers of the material. These publications, which are pillars of the media and political establishment, are “in the frame” for the supposed offenses that the Trump administration is seeking to prosecute Assange for. As Davis bluntly declared, “If Julian’s in jail, they should be as well.”

 

I’m sure the fact that this last article was published on the World Socialist Web Site will only add to the fun, if not credibility, of it, for self-described socialist Owen Jones.

But -more- seriously, you can’t let the most decorated journalist of your time wither away in a concrete box designed for Hannibal Lecter, and at the same time preach about some threat to journalism and the freedom of speech. Because if you do, you ARE that threat.

 

 

 

 

Aug 092019
 


Prince Andrew, Virginia Roberts Giuffre and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2001

 

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit unsealed a batch of documents in the Jeffrey Epstein case today, as announced recently. Actually, it’s a case brought by Virginia Roberts Giuffre against Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s madam and main procurer of little girls. Giuffre bought the case after Maxwell accused her of lying about the whole thing.

There’s still much more of this to come, and given the VIP status of many people mentioned in the case, and the documents, there’s no saying what exactly will be revealed.

But I thought I’d pick out a few bits, if only to show you to what extent your opinion on cases like this is being manufactured for you, without you realizing it of course. And if you think you DO realize it, chances are you are the sucker at the poker table.

First, the Guardian’s take:

Jeffrey Epstein: Large Tranche Of Files Released In Ghislaine Maxwell Lawsuit

A large tranche out of 2,000 pages of potentially explosive documents in a lawsuit against Ghislaine Maxwell – the British socialite and daughter of former media tycoon Robert Maxwell accused of acting as a recruiter of girls and women for disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein – have been made public. Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s many accusers, filed a Manhattan federal court lawsuit against Maxwell in 2015, alleging defamation.


Giuffre, née Roberts, claimed Maxwell defamed her by calling her a liar over her allegations against Maxwell and Epstein. Giuffre has alleged that Maxwell recruited her to work as a masseuse for Epstein when she was 15 and had been working as a locker-room attendant at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. Giuffre had previously alleged that Epstein, who had political connections, forced her into sexual encounters with Prince Andrew.

That’s an introduction in case you still needed it. And the best the paper can do after that is regurgitate a bunch of Trump quotes, along with a two decades old photo of Trump and Epstein:

Epstein, a financier whose net worth is now thought to be some $560m, also associated with Donald Trump and Bill Clinton. Trump, who was pictured partying with Epstein and women in the 1990s, has recently attempted to distance himself from the financier. In the wake of Epstein’s arrest last month, Trump told reporters he “knew [Epstein], like everybody in Palm Beach knew him”, but added: “I had a falling out with him. I haven’t spoken to him in 15 years. I was not a fan of his, that I can tell you.”


However, in a 2002 profile of Epstein from New York magazine, Trump was quoted as saying: “I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.” Clinton also distanced himself from Epstein in a statement issued by his press secretary, saying he had “not spoken to Epstein in well over a decade” and “knows nothing about the terrible crimes Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty to in Florida some years ago, or those with which he had been recently charged in New York”.

Now, if you turn these two quotes around, and you start with the 2002 one and follow it with the morse recent quote, what you end up with is Trump at first being unaware of who Epstein is and upon finding out, distancing himself from the man. There’s also the alleged fact that Trump threw Epstein out of Mar-a-Lago some 15 years ago for forcing himself upon an underage girl.

I’m not trying to exonerate Trump, and may he burn in the same hell Epstein is going to if he’s guilty of the same depraved behavior, it’s just that I haven’t seen any proof, merely another endless tempest of innuendo, such as we’ve seen about Trump for 3 solid years now. Anybody remember Russiagate?

And you know, this is from the Guardian, whose simplistic worldview is everything Trump=BAD and everything Putin=BAD. But it’s still a bit puzzling. If they assigned a reporter, or more, to the story, how is it possible that the reporter(s) didn’t pick up on the one thing that is actually newsworthy about it? I think I know how that is possible: Trump=BAD.

I hadn’t seen any reports of Trump being on an Epstein plane to date, but CNBC’s coverage of the unsealed documents lifts a little piece of the veil. He WAS on an Epstein plane, albeit over 22 years ago, but it wasn’t the Lolita Express that flew underage girls and VIPs from various US locations to Epstein’s private Caribbean island. It was just Palm Beach to Newark.

That is something I’ve been wondering about for a while: We know that Bill Clinton was on that Lolita Express at least 26 times, yet there are no reports of Donald Trump having been on it even once. But just about any article that deals with Epstein has a 20-year-old photo of him with Trump.

Giuffre names names, 5 in particular, as CNBC found out from the docs. Wait, but the Guardian did not find these names?! What was the Guardian looking for then?

Court Documents About Jeffrey Epstein, Accused In Sex Traffic Case, And His Alleged Procurer Ghislaine Maxwell

The documents include one containing flights records showing that President Donald Trump flew on Epstein’s private plane in January 1997, from a Palm Beach, Florida, airport to Newark, New Jersey. In another document, one of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Giuffre, says Maxwell directed her to have sex with a former governor and other prominent people.

The files released Friday are part of a defamation lawsuit that Giuffre filed against Maxwell several years ago. The suit accused Maxwell of calling Giuffre, a liar for claiming that Maxwell and Epstein sexually abused her when she was underage. Giuffre had also alleged that she was sexually abused while in Epstein’s circle by “numerous prominent American politicians, powerful business executive, foreign presidents, a well-known Prime Minister and other world leaders,” as well as noted lawyer Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard Law professor.

[..] On Friday, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Maxwell’s request to have the full circuit review an earlier decision by a three-judge appeals panel that had denied Maxwell’s effort to keep the entire case sealed. The circuit court sent the case back to the district court, where a judge will decide how much of the remaining documents will be unsealed. It also unsealed documents that included pleadings in the defamation case, depositions, and other material.

Among the documents unsealed is deposition of Giuffre, in which she says that Maxwell directed her to have sex with Prince Andrew of Britain, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, hedge funder Glenn Dubin, late MIT scientist Marvin Minsky, modeling company founder Jean Luc-Brunel, the owner of large hotel chain, and another prince. In that deposition, when asked if she was angry at Epstein, Giuffre answered, “Furious.” Asked if she was angry at [Alan] Dershowitz, Giuffre said, “Absolutely.”

But all the above, the Guardian and CNBC, is only an lead-in to what made me take this up. The first I read about the unsealing was from Adam Klasfeld at CourtHouseNews via Zero Hedge. And there is not one iota of doubt about what is the main take-away from the first batch of unsealed docs. None. How did the Guardian miss this then, and CNBC? Is it incompetence? You be the judge.

Epstein Documents Hit; Accuser Says Trump ‘Didn’t Partake In Any Sex With Any Of Us’

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has ordered the partial release of what is expected to be approximately 2,000 pages of documents related to convicted pedophile sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. The document release stems from a 2015 defamation lawsuit in New York brought by Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre against Epstein’s ‘Madam’ – Ghislaine Maxwell.

Giuffre says Maxwell helped Epstein traffic herself and other underage girls to sex parties at the billionaire pedophile’s many residences. The case was settled in 2017 and the records were sealed – leading to an appeal by filmmaker and author Mike Cernovich, who was later joined by the Miami Herald and several other parties including lawyer Alan Dershowitz – who has sought to clear his name in connection with Epstein’s activities.

[..] While Epstein’s ties to former President Bill Clinton and other famous figures are well known – all of whom have tried to distance themelves in recent weeks, much has been made about the relationship between President Trump and the pedophile financier.

Following a 2011 article by journalist Sharon Churcher claiming that Donald Trump was a “good friend of Jeffrey’s,” Giuffre was asked to clarify Churcher’s possible misquote that “Donald Trump was also a good friend of Jeffrey’s,” and that Trump “Didn’t partake in any” of — “any sex with any of us but he flirted with me.” “It’s true that he didn’t partake in any sex with us, and but it’s not true that he flirted with me. Donald Trump never flirted with me,” said Giuffre.

That main take-away, the Big Kahuna, which concerns the President of the United States, is that Giuffre fully exonerates Trump. At least for what she has witnessed of Epstein’s behavior. And Giuffre, if you follow the story, was a pretty central figure in the Epstein/Maxwell depravity. And she was that for many years. So you would think that must be the Guardian’s big fat headline tomorrow morning. Yeah, good luck.

The Guardian wrote the story for you long ago -and you don’t get a say-: Trump=BAD and Putin=BAD and Julian Assange=BAD and Jeremy Corbyn=an antisemite, so also BAD.

Here are the docs:

 

And:

 

And I keep on asking myself: how is it possible that Ghislaine Maxwell is still walking around free? Does she have something on every single DA in the US?

Also, the news out of those unsealed docs is that the President of the United States is exonerated by perhaps the no. 1 victim in Jeffrey Epstein’s cabal, and the media just “forget” to report on that?

 

 

 

 

Jul 122019
 


Jack Delano Rebuilt Chicago and North Western Railroad caboose at the Proviso yard in Chicago 1943

 

Making Banking Boring Again: The Decline Of Deutsche Bank (NS)
The Parable of Deutsche Bank and Investment Banking (Wright)
Bank Of England Warns Of Lending Crisis For EU Firms After No-Deal Brexit (G.)
Epstein Sold ‘Lolita Express’ Weeks Before Arrest (ZH)
Did Pedophile Jeffrey Epstein Work for Mossad? (Giraldi)
AOC on the 2020 Presidential Race and Trump’s Crisis at the Border (NYer)
Guardian Publishes, Then Censors Jewish Open Letter Defending Labour MP (GZ)
BBC Panorama’s Hatchet Job On Labour Antisemitism (Cook)
Bitcoin Extends Losses After Fed Chief Urges Halt To Facebook’s Libra (R.)
Japan Crypto Exchange Says $32 Million Missing In Hack (AFP)
Iran Calls On Britain To Release Seized Oil Tanker Immediately (R.)
Greek Growth Expected To Recover In The Second Half Of The Year (K.)

 

 

“If Deutsche falls, it could pull many other European banks down with it.” And American banks too.

Making Banking Boring Again: The Decline Of Deutsche Bank (NS)

There once was a time when Deutsche Bank’s central purpose was to expand its investment banking operations to compete with its American counterparts. On Sunday (7 July), its CEO declared those “days of spectacular ambition” over, announcing a major restructuring in a last attempt to save the bank from collapse. In a decade of decline for the once-great European investment banks, Deutsche has fared particularly badly. In the aftermath of the financial crash, it refused a German government bailout. Regulators have since discovered it was only able to do so by fiddling its books, earning it a large fine from the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The bank has remained fragile. The IMF called it the “most important net contributor to systemic risks in the global banking system”.


If Deutsche falls, it could pull many other European banks down with it. It has also been breaking rules in pursuit of a return to profitability. It earned big post-crisis fines for its role in the Libor rigging scandal, for laundering Russian money, and for violating US sanctions against a string of countries. The bank’s share price has fallen to below €7, from a pre-crisis peak of €112. The scale of its restructuring has shocked many analysts. Having already squeezed shareholders for huge amounts of capital, Deutsche aims to pay for it by cutting costs. Eighteen thousand jobs will be lost worldwide and the bank will shift away from expensive investment banking and return to its “traditional strengths” in corporate banking.

Read more …

Quite obvious what went wrong.

The Parable of Deutsche Bank and Investment Banking (Wright)

I first started writing about Deutsche Bank in the mid-1990s as a cub reporter on a City trade paper and this week’s news made me feel quite nostalgic. My first interview as a reporter in 1996 was on an empty trading floor in the City with someone called Edson Mitchell – the uber-trader hired by Deutsche Bank in 1995 to spearhead its ambitious project. He patiently explained to a clueless reporter why the bank was hiring 500 traders and what they would soon be doing. My first front page splash a few months later was that Deutsche Bank had hired the entire Latin American equities team of about 70 people from ING Barings. Why bother building a business from the bottom up when you can just buy the people from another firm that has already done so?

Those early moves were repeated many times over. You want to build the best trading business? Hire a huge team from Merrill Lynch. You want the best equities and advisory business? Take the best team on the street from SG Warburg. In the early days of the Deutsche Bank project it had the culture of an ambitious start-up: hire large teams of very good people, pay them a ton of money, focus on revenues, scale and market share – and eventually the profits will follow. Throw in as much leverage as your balance sheet can bear, and the numbers started adding up pretty quickly. It was a simple and successful formula. Soon Deutsche Bank graduated from hiring teams to buying entire firms: its acquisition of Bankers Trust in 1998 for $10bn – the biggest ever attempt by a European bank to break into the US market – briefly made it the biggest bank in the world in terms of assets.

It snapped up Scudder Investments a few years later, and Russian investment bank UFG a few years after that. The danger was that this ambitious start-up culture became the de facto culture of the investment bank. As a business model it worked when regulators around the world were more generous with how much leverage banks could have and when everyone was printing money in the years running up to the financial crisis. In 2007 the investment bank at Deutsche generated a shade under €20bn in revenues of a balance sheet that was just shy of €2 trillion. Two thirds of that revenue came from its huge sales and trading business. Pretax profits topped €5bn and its return on equity – a measure of profitability – was just under 20%. The Deutsche Bank project had worked.

The problem with this culture and business model – or rather, collection of businesses that had been rammed together over the previous decade – was that when the music stopped in 2008 it left Deutsche Bank with a huge and unproductive balance sheet, a cost-base that was nowhere near as flexible as it should have been, and a toxic culture in which many people’s expectation of how much they should be paid had become disconnected from the reality of the day-to-day business.

Read more …

“Britain has enabled UK companies banking with EU institutions located in Britain to keep on trading in the same way, even in a no-deal scenario, under special rules legislated for by the government. However, Brussels has not taken similar steps, the Bank warned.”

Bank Of England Warns Of Lending Crisis For EU Firms After No-Deal Brexit (G.)

The Bank of England has warned that a no-deal Brexit could trigger a material shock to the UK economy while causing widespread disruption for EU companies by cutting them off from London-based banks. Stating that the risk of Britain crashing out without a deal had risen, the Bank said the City of London was ready to withstand such a scenario and avoid banks failing, as they did in the financial crisis. However, there would still be major disruption for companies. Mark Carney, the Bank’s governor, said: “The perceived likelihood of no-deal Brexit has increased since last year. Although the degree of preparedness for such a scenario has improved, material risks still remain.”

He said the absence of further action by Brussels to get ready for Brexit could leave the door open to disruption for banks and their customers in the EU, while warning that the UK would face “material economic disruption” from a no-deal departure. “Although such disruption would primarily affect EU households and businesses, it could amplify volatility and spill back to the UK in ways that cannot be fully anticipated or mitigated,” he said. Against the backdrop of a rising threat of a no-deal Brexit, the central bank used its twice yearly financial stability report to say that UK, EU and international banks operating in London had made progress planning for a disorderly departure.

However, it warned that about half of EU companies using banks registered in Britain could be cut off from their banking services after the Halloween Brexit date, as they had yet to fully prepare. Britain has enabled UK companies banking with EU institutions located in Britain to keep on trading in the same way, even in a no-deal scenario, under special rules legislated for by the government. However, Brussels has not taken similar steps, the Bank warned.

Read more …

If they let him out on bail there’ll be riots.

Epstein Sold ‘Lolita Express’ Weeks Before Arrest (ZH)

A curious footnote has appeared in a court filing by Jeffrey Epstein’s attorneys suggesting that the registered sex offender sold his infamous Boeing 727-200 weeks before his Satuday arrest on suspicion of sex-trafficking minors. While arguing for why Epstein should be allowed to remain under house arrest pending trial, his attorneys made the case that the wealthy financier would “deregister or otherwise ground his private jet,” with the footnote reading “Mr. Epstein owns one private jet. He sold the other jet in June 2019,” placing the sale just weeks before his July 6 arrest upon his return from Paris in his Gulfstream G550 according to Bloomberg.

In other words, it looks like the financier unloaded the potentially ‘evidence-rich’ aircraft – said to have had a bed installed where passengers reportedly had group sex with young girls – right before the hammer came down. According to investigative journalist Conchita Sarnoff – who first revealed the former president’s extensive flights on Epstein’s “lolita express” in a 2010 Daily Beast exposé – former president Bill Clinton flew on the ‘lolita express’ no fewer than 27 times.

Read more …

Still just a theory. I would be careful with that.

Did Pedophile Jeffrey Epstein Work for Mossad? (Giraldi)

Questions about Epstein’s wealth also suggest a connection with a secretive government agency with deep pockets. The New York Times reports that “Exactly what his money management operation did was cloaked in secrecy, as were most of the names of whomever he did it for. He claimed to work for a number of billionaires, but the only known major client was Leslie Wexner, the billionaire founder of several retail chains, including The Limited.” But whose intelligence service? CIA and the Russian FSB services are obvious candidates, but they would have no particular motive to acquire an agent like Epstein. That leaves Israel, which would have been eager to have a stable of high-level agents of influence in Europe and the United States.

Epstein’s contact with the Israeli intelligence service may have plausibly come through his associations with Ghislaine Maxwell, who allegedly served as his key procurer of young girls. Ghislaine is the daughter of Robert Maxwell, who died or possibly was assassinated in mysterious circumstances in 1991. Maxwell was an Anglo-Jewish businessman, very cosmopolitan in profile, like Epstein, a multi-millionaire who was very controversial with what were regarded as ongoing ties to Mossad. After his death, he was given a state funeral by Israel in which six serving and former heads of Israeli intelligence listened while Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir eulogized: “He has done more for Israel than can today be said”

[..] It will be very interesting to see just how far and how deep the investigation into Epstein and his activities goes. One can expect that efforts will be made to protect top politicians like Clinton and Trump and to avoid any examination of a possible Israeli role. That is the normal practice, witness the 9/11 Report and the Mueller investigation, both of which eschewed any inquiry into what Israel might have been up to. But this time, if it was indeed an Israeli operation, it might prove difficult to cover up the story since the pedophile aspect of it has unleashed considerable public anger from all across the political spectrum. Senator Chuck Schumer, self-described as Israel’s “protector” in the Senate, is loudly calling for the resignation of Acosta. He just might change his tune if it turns out that Israel is a major part of the story.

Read more …

Yes, the US needs to improve conditions at the border, no doubt about it. But calling it Trump’s crisis while it plays out in Obama facilities is a step too far. At least get some stories about what went on there before January 2017.

And AOC saying Trump called migrants “animals” is simply false. He was referring to MS-13 gang members (see video), and it’s very hard to believe she doesn’t know that. And then he compliments her. Maybe it’s time she pays him a compliment in return. Varoufakis said it very well:

“Come on, wake up! You can not say to Trump voters that they are idiots, and Putin duped them. You can say that, but then that’s it – you lose them forever. And it’s also not true.”
– Yanis Varoufakis

AOC on the 2020 Presidential Race and Trump’s Crisis at the Border (NYer)

So, we walked in and in one of the cells, the cell is just all concrete. There were just women on a concrete floor, and then there were two concrete slabs where they could sit, and then in the back there was a toilet, and a concrete slab in front of the toilet, but no door. And these women were just in these sleeping bags on the floor over each other. There’s no way that they could all sleep at once. Almost no way. And [..] it was, it was the physical manifestation of Trump’s rhetoric in calling migrants animals.


Caption: “[Trump] was responding during a White House event to a point made by a California sheriff about the MS-13 gang, which was started in the 1980s by immigrants from Central America.”

Read more …

The UK looks to be dissolving into complete chaos. Corbyn sympathizes with the Palestinians, and this is what happens.

Guardian Publishes, Then Censors Jewish Open Letter Defending Labour MP (GZ)

Britain’s leading newspaper The Guardian, which has relentlessly attacked Jeremy Corbyn and his leftist allies, published but then quickly removed an open letter signed by Noam Chomsky defending Labour MP Chris Williamson from “anti-Semitism” smears. Britain’s leading newspaper The Guardian has censored an open letter published by prominent Jewish intellectuals, writers, and activists that defended leftist Labour Party Member of Parliament Chris Williamson from “anti-Semitism” smears. The Guardian printed, but then quickly removed the letter without explanation. Meanwhile, the paper has refused to retract a wholly discredited article that maligned journalist and political prisoner Julian Assange which has remained on the website for more than seven months.

WikiLeaks says this piece is completely false, and has pledged to sue the newspaper over it. The retracted open letter was a defense of Chris Williamson emphasizing that the socialist and anti-imperialist MP “has a longer record of campaigning against racism and fascism than most of his detractors,” and “stands as we do with the oppressed rather than the oppressor.” Among the more than 100 signatories on the missive are world-renowned intellectual Noam Chomsky, accomplished scholar Norman Finkelstein, anti-war activists Medea Benjamin and Ariel Gold, legal expert and former UN special rapporteur Richard Falk, Holocaust survivors, Israeli dissidents, and leaders of progressive Jewish organizations in the United Kingdom.

Chris Williamson has been a key Corbyn ally in Parliament, advancing a staunchly progressive anti-war and anti-imperialist politics at a time when many Blairite holdovers in the Labour Party are pushing for more aggressive and bellicose policies against Russia, China, Venezuela, Iran, and Syria. Williamson was suspended in February after making comments which were later misrepresented by anti-Corbyn activists. He lamented that the Labour Party, which had “done more to stand up to racism is now being demonised as a racist, bigoted party.” “I’ve got to say I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion,” the MP added. “We’ve backed off far too much, we’ve given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic.”

Read more …

Britain has a whole bunch of right wing papers, and then there’s the Guardian that has the same agenda phrased slightly differently, and then there’s the BBC. The media environment is perfect for smear jobs. Watch Assange.

There’s no way out anymore.

BBC Panorama’s Hatchet Job On Labour Antisemitism (Cook)

It is difficult to describe as anything other than a hatchet job the BBC Panorama special this week that sought to bolster claims that the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn has become “institutionally antisemitic”. The partisan tone was set from the opening shot. A young woman whose name was not revealed tearfully claimed to have been abused with antisemitic taunts at a Labour Party conference. The decision not to disclose the interviewee’s identity is understandable. It would have discredited the whole narrative Panorama was trying so hard to build. The woman’s name is Ella Rose, a senior official in the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), an organisation representing Jewish and non-Jewish members of Labour at the forefront of attacks on Corbyn.

Rose has a secret past too: she once worked at the Israeli embassy in London. Two years ago she and other JLM officials were exposed collaborating with Shai Masot, an Israeli embassy official. He had to be hurriedly removed from the UK after an undercover Al Jazeera documentary showed him plotting with activists in the Labour and Conservative parties to discredit British politicians seen as a threat to Israel. Most observers believe that Masot was operating within the embassy, as part of Israel’s strategic affairs ministry, which in turn has been running black ops against western critics of Israel. Corbyn, we can safely assume, is high on that list. Rose is on record as saying she was a close friend of Masot’s.

[..] Why, one can reasonably ask, did Panorama ignore Jewish Voice for Labour in this supposed “investigation” of Labour and anti-semitism? The group was specifically set up by Jewish members to counter the claims being made by activists like Rose. Groups like the Jewish Labour Movement have implied that Jewish supporters of Corbyn are the “wrong kind of Jews” – an extremely ugly insinuation that Panorama appeared to endorse by entirely sidelining them. This was one of the reasons the Labour leadership censured the programme-makers in a 50-page document presented to BBC boss Tony Hall, in which it argued that Panorama had “pre-determined the outcome of its investigation”.

Read more …

Trump doesn’t like crypto either. He thinks there should be banking charters required.

Bitcoin Extends Losses After Fed Chief Urges Halt To Facebook’s Libra (R.)

Bitcoin dipped almost 8% on Thursday, extending losses the day after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell called for a halt to Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency project until concerns ranging from privacy to money-laundering were addressed. The original cryptocurrency initially fell 7.7% to $11,164 in early morning trade, following a 3.8% slide on Wednesday after Powell’s testimony on monetary policy before the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee. It was last down 4.5%. Other major cryptocurrencies including Ethereum and Ripple’s XRP fell by similar levels.


“This is a direct response to the Powell testimony and comments on Facebook’s Libra and the implications that could have for the entire cryptocurrency space,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at FX trading platform OANDA. “Libra raises many serious concerns regarding privacy, money laundering, consumer protection and financial stability,” Powell told the committee, adding that he did not think the project could proceed unless those concerns were addressed.

Read more …

Hot wallets appear weak.

Japan Crypto Exchange Says $32 Million Missing In Hack (AFP)

A Tokyo-based cryptocurrency exchange said Friday it had halted all services after losing cryptocurrency worth more than $32 million in the latest apparent hack involving virtual money. Remixpoint said its subsidiary BITPoint Japan discovered overnight that about 3.5 billion yen ($32.3 million) in various digital currencies had gone missing from its management. The apparent hack was discovered after an error appeared in the firm’s outgoing funds transfer system on Thursday night. It said the cryptocurrency went missing from a so-called “hot wallet”, which is connected to the internet, but that currency held in “cold wallets” that are offline was not affected.


BITPoint Japan handles various virtual currencies, including bitcoin, ethereum and ripple. Remixpoint said the firm was still analysing the loss and offered no further details. It said it would compensate customers for the losses. Around 2.5 billion yen worth of the missing currency was customer funds, with the rest owned by the firm. Remixpoint shares plunged 18.6 percent following the announcement.

Read more …

It’s like Venezuela. Aggression gone completely wrong.

Iran Calls On Britain To Release Seized Oil Tanker Immediately (R.)

Iran called on Britain on Friday to immediately release an oil tanker that British Royal Marines seized last week on suspicion it was breaking European sanctions by taking oil to Syria, a foreign ministry spokesman told state news agency IRNA. “This is a dangerous game and has consequences … the legal pretexts for the capture are not valid … the release of the tanker is in all countries’ interest,” the spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, said. Iran has warned of reciprocal measures if the tanker is not released.


Britain said on Thursday that three Iranian vessels tried to block a British-owned tanker passing through the Strait of Hormuz, which controls the flow of Middle East oil to the world, but backed off when confronted by a Royal Navy warship. Iran denied that its vessels had done any such thing. Tension between Iran and the West has increased a week after Britain seized the tanker and London said the British Heritage, operated by oil company BP, had been approached in the strait between Iran and the Arabian peninsula. Mousavi accused Britain of seizing the tanker under U.S. pressure. “Such illegal measures could increase tensions in the Persian Gulf,” he told IRNA.

Read more …

Oh, sure, the new right wing government will make things look like they recover. But the EU squeeze is still on and growth will only be a mirage. Watch the poor get poorer. As long as Greece has to have a 3.5% budget surplus, taking all that direly needed money out of its economy, growth is mathematically impossible.

Greek Growth Expected To Recover In The Second Half Of The Year (K.)

The Greek economy is expected to regain its growth momentum in the second half of the year, after a slowdown in the previous quarters, as a result of increased confidence and favorable monetary conditions, a report by the financial analysis department of the National Bank of Greece argues. The report projects that after a drop in the growth rate in late 2018 and at the start of 2019, economic activity is set to rebound in July-December, with the main indexes reflecting a trend for strengthening consumption and for increased investments.


Nevertheless, the NBG report adds that increased exports are making the economy more vulnerable to the slowdown of the European economy. This, it says, is also reflected in the stagnation of international tourism arrivals over the first four months of the year, on a year-on-year basis. The bank’s baseline scenario provides for a zero increase to tourism revenues in 2019 from the record year of 2018.

Read more …

Mexico wants out of the EU

 

 

 

 

Jun 112019
 


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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

Leaked Documents Reveal Russian Effort To Exert Influence In Africa

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

What operations? Catering operations?

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

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

 


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Apr 112019
 


Carl Spitzweg The raven 1845

 

 

In light of the horrible news that Julian Assange was arrested by British police inside the Ecuadorian embassy this morning, what is there to say that we haven’t already said?

We originally published this essay on May 16 2018.

 

 

Julian Assange appears to be painfully close to being unceremoniously thrown out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London. If that happens, the consequences for journalism, for freedom of speech, and for press freedom, will resound around the world for a very long time. It is very unwise for anyone who values truth and freedom to underestimate the repercussions of this.

In essence, Assange is not different from any journalist working for a major paper or news channel. The difference is he published what they will not because they want to stay in power. The Washington Post today would never do an investigation such as Watergate, and that’s where WikiLeaks came in.

It filled a void left by the media that betrayed their own history and their own field. Betrayed the countless journalists throughout history, and today, who risked their lives and limbs, and far too often lost them, to tell the truth about what powers that be do when they think nobody’s looking or listening.

Julian is not wanted because he’s a spy, or even because he published a number of documents whose publication was inconvenient for certain people. He is wanted because he is so damn smart, which makes him very good and terribly effective at what he does. He’s on a most wanted list not for what he’s already published, but for what he might yet publish in the future.

He built up WikiLeaks into an organization that acquired the ultimate trust of many people who had access to documents they felt should be made public. They knew he would never betray their trust. WikiLeaks has to date never published any documents that were later found out to be false. It never gave up a source. No documents were ever changed or manipulated for purposes other than protecting sources and other individuals.

 

Julian Assange built an ’empire’ based on trust. To do that he knew he could never lie. Even the smallest lie would break what he had spent so much time and effort to construct. He was a highly accomplished hacker from a very young age, which enabled him to build computer networks that nobody managed to hack. He knew how to make everything safe. And keep it that way.

Since authorities were never able to get their hands on WikiLeaks, its sources, or its leader, a giant smear campaign was started around rape charges in Sweden (the country and all its citizens carry a heavy blame for what happened) and connections to America’s favorite enemy, Russia. The rape charges were never substantiated, Julian was never even interrogated by any Swedish law enforcement personnel, but that is no surprise.

It was clear from the get-go what was happening. First of all, for Assange himself. And if there’s one thing you could say he’s done wrong, it’s that he didn’t see the full impact from the campaign against him, sooner. But if you have the world’s largest and most powerful intelligence services against you, and they manage to find both individuals and media organizations willing to spread blatant lies about you, chances are you will not last forever.

If and when you have such forces running against you, you need protection. From politicians and from -fellow- media. Assange didn’t get that, or not nearly enough. Ecuador offered him protection, but as soon as another president was elected, they turned against him. So have news organizations who were once all too eager to profit from material Assange managed to obtain from his sources.

 

That the Guardian today published not just one, not two, but three what can only be labeled as hit pieces on Julian Assange, should perhaps not surprise us; they fell out a long time ago. Still, the sheer amount of hollow innuendo and outright lies in the articles is astonishing. How dare you? Have you no shame, do you not care at all about your credibility? At least the Guardian makes painfully clear why WikiLeaks was needed.

No, Sweden didn’t “drop its investigation into alleged sexual offences because it was unable to question Assange”. The Swedes simply refused to interview him in the Ecuador embassy in London, the only place where he knew he was safe. They refused this for years. And when the rape charges had lost all credibility, Britain asked Sweden to not drop the charges, but keep the pressure on.

No, there is no proof of links from Assange to Russian hackers and/or to the Russian government. No, there is no proof that DNC computers were hacked by Russians to get to John Podesta’s emails. In fact there is no proof they were hacked at all. No, Ecuador didn’t get tired of Julian; their new president, Moreno, decided to sell him out “at the first pressure from the United States”. Just as his predecessor, Correa, said he would.

Julian Assange has been condemned by Sweden, Britain, the US and now Ecuador to solitary confinement with no access to daylight or to medical care. Without a trial, without a sentence, and on the basis of mere allegations, most of which have already turned out to be trumped up and false. This violates so many national and international laws it’s futile to try and count or name them.

It also condemns any and all subsequent truth tellers to the prospect of being treated in the same way that Julian is. Forget about courts, forget about justice. You’ll be on a wanted list. I still have a bit of hope left that Vladimir Putin will step in and save Assange from the gross injustice he’s been exposed to for far too many years. Putin gets 100 times the lies and innuendo Assange gets, but he has a powerful nation behind him. Assange, in the end, only has us.

What’s perhaps the saddest part of all this is that people like Chelsea Manning, Kim Dotcom, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange are among the smartest people our world has to offer. We should be cherishing the combination of intelligence, courage and integrity they display at their own risk and peril, but instead we let them be harassed by our governments because they unveil inconvenient truths about them.

And pretty soon there will be nobody left to tell these truths, or tell any truth at all. Dark days. By allowing the smartest and bravest amongst us, who are experts in new technologies, to be silenced, we are allowing these technologies to be used against us.

We’re not far removed from being extras in our own lives, with all significant decisions taken not by us, but for us. America’s Founding Fathers are turning in their graves as we speak. They would have understood the importance of protecting Julian Assange.

To say that we are all Julian Assange is not just a slogan.

 

 

Apr 062019
 


Raphael The school of Athens 1509-11

 

Allow me to start with a question: Has anyone seen any of the main newspapers and networks who went after Donald Trump for 3 years accusing him of colluding with “the Russians”, apologize to either Trump, or to their readers and viewers, for spreading all that fake news now that Robert Mueller said none of that stuff was real, that they all just made it up?

I’ve seen only one such apology, albeit a very good and thorough one, from Sharyl Attkisson for The Hill. But one is a very meager harvest of course. With over 500,000 articles on collusion published on the topic, as Axios said -leading to 245 million social media ‘interactions’, shouldn’t there be more apologies, if only so people can hold on to their faith in US media for a while longer?

 

Apologies to President Trump

With the conclusions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe now known to a significant degree, it seems apologies are in order. However, judging by the recent past, apologies are not likely forthcoming from the responsible parties. In this context, it matters not whether one is a supporter or a critic of President Trump. Whatever his supposed flaws, the rampant accusations and speculation that shrouded Trump’s presidency, even before it began, ultimately have proven unfounded. Just as Trump said all along. Yet, each time Trump said so, some of us in the media lampooned him.

We treated any words he spoke in his own defense as if they were automatically to be disbelieved because he had uttered them. Some even declared his words to be “lies,” although they had no evidence to back up their claims.We in the media allowed unproven charges and false accusations to dominate the news landscape for more than two years, in a way that was wildly unbalanced and disproportionate to the evidence. We did a poor job of tracking down leaks of false information. We failed to reasonably weigh the motives of anonymous sources and those claiming to have secret, special evidence of Trump’s “treason.”

As such, we reported a tremendous amount of false information, always to Trump’s detriment. And when we corrected our mistakes, we often doubled down more than we apologized. We may have been technically wrong on that tiny point, we would acknowledge. But, in the same breath, we would insist that Trump was so obviously guilty of being Russian President Vladimir Putin’s puppet that the technical details hardly mattered. So, a round of apologies seem in order.

 

It’s a shame Attkisson refrains from labeling the whole decrepit circus as “fake news”, even if she says it’s just that, in different words. It’s a shame because the term “fake news” can this way remain connected to Trump, something the mainstream media really like. Because it allows for the media to cast doubts on the Mueller report, and for the Democrats to cast doubt on AG Bill Barr.

But they, the MSM, CNN and the NYT, are the ones who, as Robert Mueller has proven, have been spreading fake news all that time, not Trump. And if you would suggest they apologize, they’ll tell you that you’re too early, wait for the report to be released, or that Bill Barr is holding tons of stuff back, or that Mueller didn’t have access to elementary info, or that Trump is a really bad person or or or.

Their reputations would be lost forever if they issue a mea culpa, and apologizing constitutes a mea culpa, so that’s not going to happen. And they all think their credibility remains sound and alive, because they live in echo chambers where they don’t have to listen to anyone prepared to cast any doubt on their credibility.

I first said it years ago: in the new -digital, social- media age, the mainstream media have only one chance of survival: report the naked truth, and be relentless about that. There are a billion voices who can write up rumors, slander, smear and other falsities, but none have the organizations to find out the truth.

Well, it looks like they gave up on that one chance. Russiagate has made it crystal clear that the MSM would rather make a quick buck than investigate, that money and political views trump veracity any day where they operate. So stick a fork in them and turn them over; they’re done.

 

April 1 was the perfect moment to add it all up, and the Babylon Bee did exactly that:

 

CNN Publishes Real News Story For April Fools’ Day

Fooling thousands of readers in a prank that the cable news organization said was “just for fun,” CNN published a real news story for April Fools’ Day this year. The story simply contained a list of facts, with no embellishment, editorializing, or invented details. The story also didn’t cite shaky “anonymous sources” and only quoted firsthand witnesses to the event. It was completely factual without any errors whatsoever. Baffled CNN fans immediately knew something was up.


“I was reading this story, and I was like, ‘Wait, what is this?'” said one man in New York who relies on CNN for his fake news every morning. “They really got me good. Then I looked up at the calendar and I realized I’d been duped. A classic gag!” “Those little rascals!” he added, shaking his head and laughing goodnaturedly. “As long as they return to their regularly scheduled fake news tomorrow, we’re good. We’re good.”

 

We could stop right there. What’s to add? It sums up America to the core. Then again, perhaps not quite yet. How about we add this from the BBC?

 

Is Facebook Winning The Fake News War?

For the people contracted by Facebook to clamp down on fake news and misinformation, doubt hangs over them every day. Is it working? “Are we changing minds?” wondered one fact-checker, based in Latin America, speaking to the BBC. “Is it having an impact? Is our work being read? I don’t think it is hard to keep track of this. But it’s not a priority for Facebook. “We want to understand better what we are doing, but we aren’t able to.”


[..] While there are efforts from fact-checking organisations to debunk dangerous rumours within the likes of WhatsApp, Facebook has yet to provide a tool – though it is experimenting with some ideas to help users report concerns.

 

Right, Facebook Fights Fake News. Right. 533,074 web articles on Trump-Russia collusion pre-Mueller report according to Axios, and 245 million ‘interactions’ -including likes, comments and shares- on Twitter and Facebook. Let’s say 100 million on Facebook.

How much did they catch as fake news in their valiant efforts? Not “the Russians” spreading fake news, but the New York Times? How about none? How many times did Facebook shut down the New York Times? Rachel Maddow? None. But Robert Mueller says all those articles about collusion were fake news.

Those reputations are gone forever. Nobody serious will ever again believe anything these people say. Oh, their own subscribers will, but they don’t count as serious people. They swallowed all the nonsense for all of that time. Get real.

 

Talking about reputations: I decided to try and follow the trails of the Steele dossier earlier, because I think if you figure out the road that dossier has traveled, who has been pushing it etc., you can get a long way towards finding out how how Russiagate came about.

I turned to Wikipedia first, where “Steele dossier” automatically becomes “Trump-Russia dossier”. I read the intro, and it was already so clear where Wikipedia stands on this: not on Trump’s side. Impartiality does not count as a virtue there either. And I know that this stuff is written by third parties, but does Jimmy Wales really want to devalue his life’s work for party politics?

Right below the intro of the very long entry, a familiar name pops up: Luke Harding, and I’m thinking HAHAHAHA!

Luke Harding, after making a mint with his book Collusion, which Robert Mueller has singlehandedly moved into the Fiction section of the bookstore, and co-writing Manafort Held Secret Talks With Assange In Ecuadorian Embassy last November, which Mueller fully discredited, is presented as a source for an entry about collusion? Oh boy.

A few paragraphs down I come upon the name Victoria Nuland, and again of course I think HAHAHAHA, what kind of source is she? Nuland became notorious for colluding with John McCain on Maidan Square in Kiyv, and she has less credibility than Harding, if such a thing is possible. A Nuland quote from the Wikipedia article:

 

“In the middle of July [2016], when he [Steele] was doing this other work and became concerned, he passed two to four pages of short points of what he was finding and our immediate reaction to that was, ‘This is not in our purview’.” “This needs to go to the FBI if there is any concern here that one candidate or the election as a whole might be influenced by the Russian Federation. That’s something for the FBI to investigate.”

The entry continues:

 

It has remained unclear as to who exactly at the FBI was aware of Steele’s report through July and August, and what was done with it, but they did not immediately request additional material until late August or early September, when the FBI asked Steele for “all information in his possession and for him to explain how the material had been gathered and to identify his sources. The former spy forwarded to the bureau several memos — some of which referred to members of Trump’s inner circle. After that point, he continued to share information with the FBI.”[57][56]

According to Nancy LeTourneau, political writer for the Washington Monthly, the report “was languishing in the FBI’s New York field office” for two months, and “was finally sent to the counterintelligence team investigating Russia at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.”, in September 2016.[65]

Meanwhile, in the July to September time frame, according to The Washington Post, CIA Director John Brennan had started an investigation with a secret task force “composed of several dozen analysts and officers from the CIA, the NSA and the FBI”. At the same time, he was busy creating his own dossier of material documenting that “Russia was not only attempting to interfere in the 2016 election, they were doing so in order to elect Donald Trump … [T]he entire intelligence community was on alert about this situation at least two months before [the dossier] became part of the investigation.”

 

Ergo: the fully deranged Nuland, then Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, gets the dossier to the FBI, where nothing happens with it despite Nuland’s insistence that it shows terrible things going on, until someone (McCain?!) gets it to Brennan, and then the ball gets rolling.

There’s all these people in the Hillary sphere of influence who pick it up, in the media, the House, and the FBI and CIA. Because the campaign decides a story about prostitutes peeing on a bed where Obama once slept can a be a winner, and by July 2016 a few nerves had started twitching. The entire machinery shifted into gear right then and there.

The index to the entry contains some 350 links to articles, almost all by the usual suspects and with the usual angles. It all oozes collusion. An exception is Bob Woodward in January 2017:

 

‘Garbage Document’: Woodward Says US Intel Should Apologize Over Trump Dossier

Woodward said on “Fox News Sunday” the dossier was a “garbage document” and that Trump’s point of view on the matter is being “under-reported.”Woodward said the dossier should never have been presented at an intelligence briefing and it was a mistake for U.S. intelligence officials to do so. “Trump’s right to be upset about that … Those intelligence chiefs, who were the best we’ve had, who were terrific and have done great work, made a mistake here.


And when people make mistakes, they should apologize,” said Woodward. Meantime, Woodward’s former partner in reporting on the Watergate scandal, helped report the news about the dossier on CNN last week. Carl Bernstein defended the reporting on the dossier, dismissing Trump’s contention that it was “fake news.” Bernstein argued that U.S. intelligence saw fit to present the material to President Obama and President-elect Trump.

 

“Mistakes” by the intelligence chiefs? Hard to believe, if you’ve followed Brennan, Clapper, Comey in the past 2 years.

Not sure I’m going to finish reading that Wikipedia entry on the Steele dossier. What’s the point? It’s fantasy advertized as fact in order to make money. It’s misleading, it’s fake and it seeks to damage people. It would appear we’d be better off discussing what fake news is (and what is not), and to not stick the label to everything Trump says, or the $50 million spent on the Mueller probe will have been entirely wasted.

What we can learn from it is that we can no longer trust the media we once had confidence in. Those days are gone and they won’t be back. They’ve been lying for a long time for their 30 pieces of silver, and once your credibility is gone, it’s gone for good.

That, by the way, is why we need Julian Assange so much, because we know he doesn’t lie. But of course that little fact has also already been buried in a big pile of fake news.

Orwell would be delighted.

 

 

Mar 252019
 


Yves Klein Leap into the Void 1960

 

Message to Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Kemala Harris, Tulsi Gabbard and the rest of the crew: you can stop asking for campaign donations, because you no longer stand a chance in the 2020 elections. Your own party, and the media who support you, made sure of that. Or rather, the only chance you would have is if you guys start another smear campaign against your president, and I wouldn’t recommend that.

I don’t want to start another Lock Her Up sequence, that’s too ugly for my taste. But three parties in this No Collusion disaster must be held accountable: US intelligence, the Democratic party, and the media. You can’t just let it go, too much water under the bridge. No can do. “The Democrats need to move on”, a recent ‘soft line’, is not good enough. They must be held to account.

Bill Barr can investigate the FBI and DOJ, but the obstacles there are obvious: investigating the investigators. The Democratic party would mean going after individuals, but sure, let’s see what Loretta Lynch, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Maxine Waters have to say for themselves and take it from there, before you get to Hillary. The media, though, is something else altogether.

Freedom of the press, and freedom of opinion, is one thing. Conducting a 2-year+ smear campaign against your own president is another. So what does US law say about this? Let’s hear it. Since Trump made Bill Barr the new Attorney General, Barr is instrumental in answering these questions. Is it a smear campaign? Is that acceptable? Is it legal? Asking for a friend.

Not a soul could blame me if I were to gloat because what I’ve said since the 2016 elections has been proven: there is no collusion between ‘the Russians’ and Donald Trump and there never was. But I don’t feel much like gloating because 1) it’s old news and 2) this tale is far from over. The media, and the Democrats, are not going to cave in, because they have nowhere left to ‘cave into’.

The biggest shame, I think, is not that the media will just keep doing what they have, but that a remnant, a residue of all the made-up narratives will remain in their audience’s minds, long after Robert Mueller has said it was all lies all that time. That the public will say: there’s been so much, surely some of it must be true?! The power of repetition.

 

The same media that has spun the collusion theme all this time will simply continue doing what it’s done, just perhaps without using that term -and not even that is sure. Don’t let’s forget, and I’ve said this 1000 times, that while there is a dose of genuine hatred of their own president involved, and some political issues, most of all it’s about their business model. Trump scandals mean readers and viewers. And money.

Because of that, or at least partly because of it, I would seriously like to ask what the odds are of putting Rachel Maddow behind bars. How many lies can you tell, and how often can you repeat them, about anyone, but certainly about your President, before someone calls you on it? Trump can’t really defend himself, or couldn’t as long as Mueller was busy, but this can’t be.

Does the fact that you work for the media protect you to the extent that you can just say anything? And Maddow of course is just an example, albeit an extreme one, but the same goes for CNN, New York Times et al. What freedoms do you have as a journalist? And at what point are you no longer a journalist at all? Who decides that?

BuzzFeed said Mueller was in possession of evidence that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. Mueller himself had to discredit that. The Guardian’s Luke Harding wrote a #1 NYT bestselling book called “Collusion” before writing an article with Dan Collins claiming that Manafort had met with Assange multiple times in London.

Not a word of that was true. But Harding And Collins and their editor still work at the Guardian, and no apologies or corrections were ever issued. And at some point you have no choice but to ask: where does it stop? Where do we draw the line? Can anyone who labels themselves a journalist and/or anyone employed by MSM, say anything they want? From sources:

The nonpartisan Tyndall Report pegged the total amount of time devoted to the story on the evening newscasts of ABC, CBS and NBC last year at 332 minutes, making it the second-most covered story after the Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

According to a count by the Republican National Committee released Sunday, The [Washington] Post, The New York Times, CNN.com and MSNBC.com have written a combined 8,507 articles [since 2017] mentioning the special counsel’s investigation [into nonexistent collusion], some 13 articles a day. The cable news networks, particularly CNN and MSNBC, have added hundreds of hours of discussion about the topic, too.

And they wrote many more in 2016 as well. They were on a mission. Tyler Durden adds:

Mueller’s 40 FBI agents issued over 2,800 subpoenas, executed “nearly 500 search warrants,” and “obtained over 230 orders for communication records. They also issued 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.

All that time, and all those resources, dedicated to a figment of the imagination, invented out of this air to derail a presidential election and a presidency. Where do we think these people see their country go? I must admit I’m not sure about that one. But I see Bernie Sanders on the anti-Trump wagon, and AOC and Tulsi trying to get on, and I think: please don’t do that, it doesn’t go anywhere.

I’ve called for a second special counsel many times, and I can’t imagine there won’t be one, and as much as I think it’s desperately needed, it’s obvious at the same time that it can only divide the nation further.

There was a reason Trump was elected: people had gotten sick of what was there before, of what Republicans and Democrats had to offer. And there is absolutely nobody in either party who addresses that issue. In other words, there’s still nobody who is listening to those people. So they tune into Rachel Maddow and her kind of ‘reporting’.

Looks like Bill Barr will be badly needed. And that to restore the credibility of US intelligence, he will need to clean up the FBI and DOJ and get rid of all those who’ve taken part in the collusion debacle. A formidable task. I’d suggest he start with Maddow et al and take it from there. Find out who feeds the media their fantasy stories.

Oh, and now that collusion’s off the table, free Julian Assange. Let Robert Mueller show he’s not as much of a coward as he looks until now. To that end, let him swallow the Guccifer 2.0 nonsense as well. That Rachel Maddow makes things up from scratch, doesn’t mean Special Counsels should do that too. Mueller knows exactly what this is about.

A friend (not exactly a Trump fan) mailed me last night saying this was never a witch hunt. And I’m thinking: maybe that depends on how you define it. Here’s one definition: “an unforgiving, evidence-scant campaign against a group of people with unpopular views.” Not too far off, is it?

Time for spring cleaning, Bill Barr.

 

 

Jan 192019
 


Pablo Picasso Guitar on a table 1922

 

Mueller Shoots Down Buzzfeed’s Latest Russiagate Scoop With Rare Dismissal (RT)
US Asked Ecuadorean Officials About Alleged Assange-Manafort Meeting (R.)
56% Majority Of Britons Now Want To Remain In The EU – Poll (DM)
Extending The Brexit Deadline Could Clash With Coming EU Elections (CNBC)
EU Loves British Money More Than It Loves Democracy (Clark)
UK Patients Stockpile Drugs In Fear Of No-Deal Brexit (G.)
UK Shoppers Rein In Spending As Fears Grow Over Economy (G.)
Rising Credit-Card Use Shows US Consumers Are Strapped (DDMB)
Tesla Cuts 7% Of Workforce, Musk Sees ‘Very Difficult’ Road Ahead (CNBC)
Tesla Has $920 Million In Debt Coming Due, A Third Of Company’s Cash (CNBC)
Russia Outshines China To Become World’s 5th Biggest Holder Of Gold (RT)
French Court Cites Precautionary Principle To Cancel Monsanto Permit (R.)

 

 

Is this the worst day for fake news to date? It’s hard to keep track. It’s just that this one was taken up by so many hoping for -finally!- impeachment. Please Lord make it stop.

Two reasons why Mueller issued his statement: 1) the credibility of the Special Counsel itself (since every outlet ran with the -false- BuzzFeed story), 2) members of Congress were calling for investigations based on the story (would have been even more embarrassing than making the statement).

One Shimon Prokupecz on Twitter: “We cannot underestimate the statement disputing Buzzfeed’s story from the special counsel. I’m sure it pained them to do this. I’m sure this went through many levels at the DOJ and FBI. They don’t talk. This is massive.”

Trump on Twitter: “Remember it was Buzzfeed that released the totally discredited “Dossier,” paid for by Crooked Hillary Clinton and the Democrats (as opposition research), on which the entire Russian probe is based! A very sad day for journalism, but a great day for our Country!”

Mueller Shoots Down Buzzfeed’s Latest Russiagate Scoop With Rare Dismissal (RT)

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has poured cold water on BuzzFeed’s latest Russiagate “bombshell” with a rare public statement calling the article, which claims Trump told his ex-lawyer Cohen to lie to Congress, “not accurate.” BuzzFeed reported that President Donald Trump directly instructed his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about his plans to build a Trump Tower property in Moscow, citing two anonymous “federal law enforcement officials” as sources that the president had suborned perjury – which, being an actual crime, triggered talk of impeachment “walls closing in” among the anti-Trump “Resistance.”

While half of Congress took to Twitter to wave the story as the long-awaited proof of Collusion, the BuzzFeed reporters could not seem to agree on their own sourcing. Anthony Cormier admitted to CNN he hadn’t seen the proof directly but had two “law enforcement” sources claiming they had seen it, while Jason Leopold told MSNBC they had in fact seen the documents themselves. The smoking gun du jour collapsed further when word came down from Mueller himself – via spokesman Peter Carr – that Buzzfeed’s “description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony” were “not accurate.”

Mueller has been extremely tight-lipped about the numerous previous “Russiagate” scoops, and considering the time and effort involved in his own ongoing crusade to take Trump down, his dismissal of BuzzFeed’s would-be bombshell knocked the legs out from under a story whose vague sourcing had already raised questions.

Read more …

And this fits in seamlessly with the Mueller/BuzzFeed thing: The Guardian story has been thoroughly discredited, but 2 months later, US officials are still chasing it. What’s new to me is that it’s the first time I see a Guardian response: “The Guardian has defended the article and said it “relied on a number of sources.” Lame poppycock. And the same thing Buzzfeed says.

US Asked Ecuadorean Officials About Alleged Assange-Manafort Meeting (R.)

U.S. officials spoke with officials from Ecuador’s British embassy on Friday about an alleged meeting there between President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, an Ecuadorean government source said. The Guardian newspaper reported the meeting in November, alleging the two met at least three times, including in 2016, just before WikiLeaks released damaging emails about Trump’s rival in the 2016 presidential elections, Hillary Clinton. Manafort and Assange have both previously denied meeting each other at the embassy.

WikiLeaks, in a statement on Friday entitled the “U.S. interrogation of Ecuadorian diplomats,” accused Ecuador’s government of assisting the United States in prosecuting Assange, who first sought asylum in the embassy in 2012. The source said the embassy officials, at the request of the U.S. Justice Department, provided testimony in Quito at facilities provided by Ecuadorean authorities. [..] Part of Mueller’s probe has involved looking into whether Trump associates may have had advance notice before WikiLeaks published emails stolen by Russian hackers from Democratic computer networks to damage Clinton. WikiLeaks called the Guardian’s story “indisputably fabricated” and said it was being used as a pretext for the United States to prosecute Assange. The Guardian has defended the article and said it “relied on a number of sources.”

Read more …

But neither one of the two main parties do. How screwed up is that? Nobody represents the majority.

56% Majority Of Britons Now Want To Remain In The EU – Poll (DM)

A majority of Britons now say they want to stay in the EU after Theresa May’s Brexit plan suffered a massive defeat, a new poll published today has found. A YouGov survey asked 1,070 voters how they would vote in a second Brexit referendum if it were held today – and found Remain has stretched out a 12-point lead over Leave, with 56% saying they would vote to stay in the EU versus 44% in favour of leaving. The voters were questioned the day after the PM’s Brexit plan suffered a crushing defeat – leaving the machinery of government deadlocked and with the bitter divisions among MPs offering no clear way ahead.

Ministers are now at war over Brexit, openly clashing over whether Britain should be willing to crash out without a deal on March 29, or back a softer Brexit or second referendum. The Prime Minister must make a statement on Monday where she will lay out her ‘next steps’ on a Brexit ‘plan B’ before a week of debate on the various options. The following week, MPs will vote on their preferred course of action, putting huge pressure on the Prime Minister to adopt it. With Westminster gripped by chaos, the new poll suggests voters are losing faith in Brexit with growing numbers now backing Remain. The survey for The Times found that 56% of those polled would now back staying in the EU, while the same proportion back a second referendum. And voters were even more likely to want to stay in the bloc if the only other option was the PM’s Brexit deal, with Remain leading by 65% to 35%.

Read more …

If Article 50 were extended, which looks pretty sure, Britain will have to vote in European elections. But their seats have already been given out to others.

Extending The Brexit Deadline Could Clash With Coming EU Elections (CNBC)

Extending the official Brexit deadline for the U.K. could bring a wave of extra logistical and political problems for the EU. The ongoing deadlock has sparked a debate on the potential extension of Article 50 — the legal means by which the U.K. leaves the EU. However, there is strong opposition from some European lawmakers over giving more time to the U.K. to sort out its domestic politics. The U.K. is set to leave the EU on March 29 — but this could change if the U.K. asks for an extension and the other 27 member nations accept the request. Extending the departure beyond the agreed date would likely clash with European parliamentary elections that are set to take place between May 23 and 26. The chamber is made of lawmakers from all 28 European member countries, including the U.K., and is responsible for approving European policies, such as the Union’s total budget.

“What we will not let happen, deal or no deal, is that the mess in British politics is again imported into European politics. While we understand the U.K. could need more time, for us it is unthinkable that Article 50 is prolonged beyond the European Elections,” Guy Verhofstadt, a member of the European Parliament and its representative in Brexit negotiations, said on Twitter on Wednesday. [..] Seb Dance, member of the European Parliament for the U.K. Labour party, said the prospect of having Brexit and the European elections clashing “is a logistical headache.” “The impact of delaying Brexit on the EU elections is certainly troublesome logistically speaking,” he said, “but politically speaking it shouldn’t make a difference as it is entirely possible that elections take place in the other member states without needing to take place in Britain.”

[..] According to a Brussels-based European official, who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity surrounding the Brexit talks, an extension would likely mean that the U.K. would have to participate in the vote. This is because it would still technically be a member of the European Union. Zsolt Darvas, senior fellow at Bruegel, reiterated this point in an email to CNBC Friday. “If the extension goes beyond the elections, the U.K. would have to elect members of the European Parliament. Not expecting this, the European Parliament has already agreed on how to allocate the U.K. seats after Brexit. That agreement will have to be revised, or perhaps its implementation be postponed after the actual, delayed Brexit date.”

“From the U.K. side, it might look awkward to elect members of the European Parliament when people expect that the U.K. will leave the EU not much after the European elections; plus the U.K. would need to act quickly to make the European Parliament election possible, which would also involve some costs.”

Read more …

“..the Common Fisheries Quota has for the past 34 years given 84% of the cod in the English Channel to France and just 9% to the UK..”

EU Loves British Money More Than It Loves Democracy (Clark)

The European establishment is desperate for Britain to reconsider Brexit. Internationalist ideals about ‘preserving European unity’, don’t come in to it, this is all about protecting income streams. Consider a few facts. If Britain does leave without a deal, then the EU as an institution would be considerably worse off. The UK has consistently been one of the top three countries that puts most into the EU budget (after Germany and France). It is one of ten countries that puts more into the EU than it gets out. In 2017, the UK’s net contribution was £9bn. If Britain leaves, the EU faces a financial shortfall. In 2016, 16 countries were net receivers, including Donald Tusk’s Poland. Little wonder that he regards Britain staying as “the only positive solution”.

The very generous financial remuneration packages of EU officials might also be threatened by British withdrawal. In December, it was reported that the EU’s top civil servants would be paid over €20,000 a month for the first time, and that Tusk and Juncker would see their packages rise to €32,700 a month. Austerity? Not in Brussels, mon ami! The EU is a fabulous gravy train once you are on board. But the gravy train relies on its richest members not leaving, otherwise who’s going to foot the bill? If Britain leaves with ‘No Deal’, it’s not just the EU budget which will take a hit. In 2017, EU countries sold around £67 billion more in goods and services to the UK, than the UK sold to them. Europe needs full and unfettered access to British markets, much more than Britain needs full and unfettered access to European markets.

[..] The country that would lose out the most with Brexit is Germany. Britain’s trade deficit with Germany is higher than with any other country, even higher than China, whose products are everywhere in our shops! In 2016, the year of the EU referendum, Britain imported around £26 billion more from Germany than it exported. [..] We also have to discuss fishing. The other EU countries do extremely well out of the Common Fisheries Policy, which provides them with access to UK waters. Belgian fleets get around half their catch from British waters! As reported in the Independent, the Common Fisheries Quota has for the past 34 years given 84% of the cod in the English Channel to France and just 9% to the UK. Overall, EU vessels take out around four times as much fish out of UK waters as British vessels take out of EU waters.

Read more …

Is it Brexit or just the overall state of affairs as the Tories dismantle the NHS?

UK Patients Stockpile Drugs In Fear Of No-Deal Brexit (G.)

Ministers have been urged by top doctors to reveal the extent of national drug stocks, amid growing evidence patients are stockpiling medication in preparation for a no-deal Brexit. The Royal College of Physicians (RCP), which represents tens of thousands of doctors, urged the government to be more “transparent about national stockpiles, particularly for things that are already in short supply or need refrigeration, such as insulin”. Prof Andrew Goddard, the RCP president, said: “Faith in the system will be created by openness and regular updates to trusts and clinicians; this will allow clinicians to reassure patients.” The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has warned medical shortages have increased in recent months.

Generic drugs are usually bought through nationally set tariff prices. However, pharmacies can apply for price concessions under which the NHS will temporarily pay more when the drugs are in short supply. The number of concessions the PSNC applied for went up from 45 in October, to 72 in November and 87 in December. The Guardian has also found evidence some patients are stockpiling drugs, against official guidance. They said they were doing so by ordering drugs from abroad, and by asking their GPs for emergency prescriptions. One diabetic patient has been stockpiling insulin for four months, ordering twice the amount he needs for each of his drugs from the pharmacist.

Robin Hewings, the head of policy at Diabetes UK, backed calls for more transparency from the government about current stock levels to reassure patients. “There is a level of concern that has risen quite a lot [in the last few months] and people with diabetes are talking about stockpiling. The government needs to be more transparent about insulin supplies.”

Read more …

Only, not really: “..sales grew by 2.7% last year, compared with a growth rate of 2% in 2017.”

UK Shoppers Rein In Spending As Fears Grow Over Economy (G.)

British consumers reined in their spending in December after splashing out during November on Black Friday promotions, according to official figures that confirmed the tough festive shopping period on the high street. The Office for National Statistics said the quantity of goods bought last month fell by 0.9% compared to November, when Black Friday deals encouraged shoppers to bring forward some of their Christmas spending. All sectors except food and petrol declined on the month, the figures showed, coming after the British Retail Consortium said the key Christmas shopping period had been the worst for retailers since the financial crisis a decade ago.

James Smith, an economist at the City bank ING, said: “After another bumpy week for Brexit, today’s UK retail sales data is a timely reminder that all is not particularly well in the UK economy.” Figures for the three months to December, highlighting the wider trend for consumer spending, showed that the quantity of goods bought dropped by 0.2%. [..] Despite the downturn last month, the latest snapshot showed that retail sales growth for 2018 as a whole was above the level recorded a year earlier. Although significantly below the peak growth rate of 4.7% seen before the Brexit vote in 2016, sales grew by 2.7% last year, compared with a growth rate of 2% in 2017.

Read more …

Or does it show that they are more confident? Always a nice puzzle. A popular industry POV: people get deeper in debt because they feel so great.

Rising Credit-Card Use Shows US Consumers Are Strapped (DDMB)

Even though evidence is mounting that the U.S. economy may be soon heading into a recession, there are plenty of analysts who say that the surge in credit card borrowing is a sign of strong confidence among households. That’s hardly the case. In fact, households’ confidence in the future growth of their incomes has been cooling since late last summer, which means borrowers will only reach for what’s in their wallet to compensate for what their paychecks will not cover. Many working adults have no recollection of credit card borrowing not being a mainstay among their financing options. But then, few would be able to identify a Diners Club card, which was a popular brand during the 1980s “yuppie” era when Americans first began to embrace credit card spending in earnest.

These days, consumers are not keen to lean on credit cards, partly due to a cultural and financial shift in the industry. The financial crisis arguably altered households’ views on charging beyond their means. It didn’t hurt that the availability of subprime credit all but disappeared for a few years or that the interest rate on credit cards remained in double-digit territory despite the Federal Reserve’s zero interest rate policy. That said, the idea of frugality re-entered many households’ thinking in the wake of the severe hardship the foreclosure crisis brought to bear on millions of working Americans. Debit cards became the predominant form of plastic used at the checkout.

And yet, consumer credit likely rounded out 2019 at a new $4 trillion milestone as runaway higher educationand car-price inflation coupled with ridiculously looser lending standards pushed households to take on record levels of student loan and auto debt. At roughly $1 trillion, credit cards are but a co-star in a star-studded, full-length feature film. A long history of credit card borrowing suggests that we would have multiples of today’s $1.04 billion in outstanding balances had the growth rate of spending on plastic maintained the headier double-digit paces clocked in the 1980s and 1990s.

Read more …

Shares down 13%.

Tesla Cuts 7% Of Workforce, Musk Sees ‘Very Difficult’ Road Ahead (CNBC)

Tesla is cutting its full-time staff headcount by about 7 percent, as it ramps up production of its Model 3 sedans, CEO Elon Musk said Friday. The announcement follows recent cost-cutting measures the company has made in a bid to reduce the price of its products and boost margins. Tesla shares fell 13 percent by the end of trading Friday. In an email to employees, Musk said the company faces a “very difficult” road ahead in its long-term goal to sell affordable renewable energy products, noting the company is younger than other players in the industry. “Tesla will need to make these cuts while increasing the Model 3 production rate and making many manufacturing engineering improvements in the coming months,” Musk said.

“Attempting to build affordable clean energy products at scale necessarily requires extreme effort and relentless creativity, but succeeding in our mission is essential to ensure that the future is good, so we must do everything we can to advance the cause.” The exact number of employees who will be laid off has not been disclosed. However in an October tweet, Musk said Tesla had a staff count of 45,000. If still true today, that would mean 3,150 layoffs. Musk said Friday that Tesla faces “an extremely difficult challenge” in making its electric vehicles and solar products a competitive alternative to traditional vehicles and energy products that rely on fossil fuels.

Read more …

Plunging share prices are the last thing Tesla needs.

Tesla Has $920 Million In Debt Coming Due, A Third Of Company’s Cash (CNBC)

Tesla has a billion dollar debt coming due, and it could wipe out nearly a third of the company’s cash if the stock price doesn’t improve. About $920 million in convertible senior notes expires on March 1 at a conversion price of $359.87 per share. But Tesla’s stock hasn’t traded above $359 for weeks. If the shares are about $359.87, then Tesla’s debt converts into Tesla shares. If not, Tesla will have to pay the debt in cash. Tesla reported cash and cash equivalents of $3.37 billion at the end of its September quarter. The company continues to reveal pressure to maintain profitability, and announced Friday it would cut 7 percent of its full-time workforce. Shares fell more than 10 percent Friday following the announcement to trade around $310 per share.

Read more …

If only because of the sanctions.

Russia Outshines China To Become World’s 5th Biggest Holder Of Gold (RT)

The Central Bank of Russia reported purchasing 8.5 million troy ounces of gold in January-November 2018. With its 67.6 million ounces of gold Russia is now the world’s fifth largest holder behind the US, Germany, France and Italy. China dropped to sixth place as it reported an increase in gold reserves just once in more than two years – to 59.6 million ounces in December 2018 from 59.2 million ounces in October 2016. Industry sources told Reuters that Western sanctions against Russia lifted the country’s gold buying to record highs in 2018. One of the reasons Russia’s Central Bank was betting on the yellow metal was because it could not be frozen or blacklisted, sources explained.

“It seems that there is an aim to diversify from American assets,” said a source in one of Russia’s gold producers, referring to the Central Bank’s holdings. While purchases of the precious metal by Russia jumped last year the country continued getting rid of US Treasury securities. Earlier this month, Russia’s Central Bank reported that it cut the share of the US dollar in the country’s foreign reserves to a historic low, transferring nearly $100 billion into the euro, the Japanese yen and the Chinese yuan. The step came as a part of a broader state policy on eliminating reliance on the greenback. According to sources, the Central Bank has been purchasing a significant portion of Russia’s domestic gold production, which is also rising.

Read more …

As the EU promotes Roundup, this court has the only right attitude, referring to “a precautionary principle in French law.” All GMO crops should be banned because of that principle. The risks are too great, and there’s likely no way back. You can’t put the onus of proof on society at large, Monsanto will have to prove there is no risk or damage at all, not the other way around. Nassim Taleb is the only person I’ve seen who also says this as the most important thing concerning GMO.

French Court Cites Precautionary Principle To Cancel Monsanto Permit (R.)

A French court canceled the license for one of Monsanto’s glyphosate-based weedkillers on Tuesday over safety concerns, placing an immediate ban on Roundup Pro 360 in the latest legal blow to the Bayer-owned business. Germany’s Bayer, which bought Monsanto for $63 billion last year, faces thousands of U.S. lawsuits by people who say its Roundup and Ranger Pro products caused their cancer. A court in Lyon in southeast France ruled that the approval granted by French environment agency ANSES in 2017 for Roundup Pro 360 had failed to take into account potential health risks. Bayer, which said it disagreed with the decision and was considering its legal options, has cited regulatory rulings as well as scientific studies that found glyphosate to be safe.

The firm is appealing a first U.S. court ruling that awarded $78 million in damages to a school groundskeeper from California. “Bayer disagrees with the decision taken by the Administrative Court of Lyon to cancel the marketing authorization for RoundUp Pro 360,” it said in a statement. “This product formulation, like all crop protection products, has been subject to a strict evaluation by the French authorities (ANSES), an independent body and guarantor of the public health security.” The French court said ANSES had not respected a precautionary principle in French law, notably by not conducting a specific evaluation of health risks for Roundup Pro 360.

“Despite the European Union’s approval of the active substance (glyphosate), the court considered that scientific studies and animal experiments showed Roundup Pro 360 … is a potentially carcinogenic product for humans, suspected of being toxic for human reproduction and for aquatic organisms,” the court said in a summary of its ruling. ANSES said it was still examining the court ruling, but that the decision was effective immediately. “As a consequence, the sale, distribution and use of RoundUp Pro 360 are banned as of today,” the agency said in an email.

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