Dorothea Lange Miserable poverty. Elm Grove, Oklahoma County, OK 1936
“The regulator is pursuing fines of up to A$21 million ($14 million) for every transaction Westpac failed to monitor adequately or report on time.”
How much is 23 million times $14 million?
• Australia’s Westpac Bank Slapped With 23 Million Money Laundering Breaches (R.)
Regulators accused Australia’s Westpac of 23 million breaches of anti-money laundering laws, saying the banking giant ignored red flags and for years enabled payments from convicted child sex offenders and “high risk” countries. The oversight failure at Australia’s second-largest bank led to deep systemic non-compliance with anti-money laundering laws, financial crime watchdog AUSTRAC said in a civil court filing on Wednesday. The regulator is pursuing fines of up to A$21 million ($14 million) for every transaction Westpac failed to monitor adequately or report on time.
The lawsuit dwarfs a case AUSTRAC brought against larger Commonwealth Bank of Australia which agreed last year here to pay a record A$700 million penalty after admitting to allowing 53,750 payments that violated similar protocols. It also brings fresh scrutiny to an industry still trying to rebuild community trust after a bruising Royal Commission public inquiry. “These contraventions are the result of systemic failures in its control environment, indifference by senior management and inadequate oversight by the Board,” AUSTRAC said in the court filing.
In case you forgot Melzer represents the UN. When he speaks, the UN speaks. When he is ignored, the UN is ignored.
• UN Demands ‘Full Investigation’ After Sweden Drops Assange Rape Probe (RT)
The UN’s Special Rapporteur on torture has called for a “full investigation” into the role Sweden played in driving WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange into asylum and eventual custody, after the rape case against him was dropped. Swedish prosecutors announced on Tuesday that they would drop a dubious rape inquiry against Assange, as oral testimony against the publisher had “weakened,” and corroborating evidence was not strong enough to pursue a case. A Swedish arrest warrant was issued against assange in 2010, and a British court upheld a decision to extradite him in 2012. Threatened with what many saw as a politically motivated extradition, Assange sought refuge in London’s Ecuadorian embassy.
“Today’s collapse of Sweden’s #Assange investigation was inevitable,” rapporteur Nils Melzer tweeted on Tuesday. “Given its gross arbitrariness, there must now be a full investigation, and accountability & compensation for the harm inflicted on #JulianAssange.” Melzer had previously claimed that Assange was subjected to “psychological torture” and had his due process rights “systematically violated” by the governments of Britain and Sweden. The WikiLeaks founder is still languishing in a maximum security unit at Belmarsh prison, awaiting a hearing on extradition to the US, where he potentially faces 175 years behind bars for publishing leaked military documents. In a document tweeted by Melzer, the envoy accuses Sweden of “actively and knowingly” contributing to Assange’s torture, and accuses prosecutors there of working in tandem with Britain’s Crown Prosecutorial Service to keep the case against Assange alive in the face of exculpatory evidence.
With the rape case against him dropped, some commentators have warned that the path to extradition to the US may now be clearer. WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson told supporters that their focus should now shift to the most important “threat” that Assange was “warning about for years: the belligerent prosecution of the United States and the threat it poses to the First Amendment.”
"The Swedish people should be ashamed of the way they've been played by the CIA" @CraigMurrayOrg reacts to the prosecutor dropping the rape case against Julian Assange which he believes was a 'political fit up from the start'.https://t.co/DC1pJpqcm3 pic.twitter.com/gfQsCpiVtg
— RT UK (@RTUKnews) November 19, 2019
Not the strongest piece by George Szamuely. I like this tweet of his better:
“The Ukrainian people are fighting Russia over there, so we don’t have to fight Russia over here”–thus Tim Morrison. There’s definitely a lunatic asylum in which these sick individuals dwell. I guess it’s the US national security establishment.”
• Swedish Decision To Drop Rape Probe Comes Too Late To Help Assange (Szamuely)
The Swedish prosecutors’ decision to end the investigation of Julian Assange—for the third time—confirms that the sexual-misconduct accusations were always a cynical ploy to trap the publisher in a Kafkaesque legal proceeding. Swedish prosecutors today announced they were closing their nearly 10-year-old sexual-misconduct investigation of Julian Assange. The reason? The “evidence has weakened considerably due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the events in question.” However, the prosecutor tendentiously added, “the complaint was credible” but that corroborating evidence was not strong enough to pursue the case.
Let’s focus on the verbiage. Note first the use of the word “investigation.” This is very important, because contrary to what innumerable media outlets have reported during the past decade, the Swedes never charged Assange with anything, least of all “rape.” Following Assange’s arrest on April 11 of this year, there was a plethora of media stories informing us that there are outstanding rape charges pending against Assange in Sweden. Human Rights Watch chimed in, saying that Assange was facing a “rape charge” in Sweden. Jeremy Corbyn and the Labor Party feminists urged the UK government to extradite Assange to Sweden to face “rape charges.”
The Swedish case was a fraud. The prosecutors’ goal all along was to use their powerful coercive tools in order to trap Assange within a slow-moving legal proceeding from which he would be unable to escape, while the US prepared its criminal charges against him. Sadly, despite today’s announcement, the Swedes’ mission has been accomplished.
• Statement For Aaron Swartz Day 2019 (Chelsea Manning )
Good Evening Folks, I wish I could be there in person, but I appreciate this opportunity to summarize for you my letter to the court that ordered me to be confined, explaining why grand juries are so dangerous. I am not alone in objecting to the grand jury as a dangerous relic that has evolved in ways that increase its power without increasing its protections. I refuse to participate in a process that has clearly transformed into something that violates the spirit, if not the letter of the law. I am certainly not alone in thinking that the grand jury process, which at one time acted as an independent body of citizens along the lines of a civilian police review board, has slowly transitioned into an unbridled arm of the police and prosecution in ways that run contrary to its originally intended purpose.
Early grand juries acted independently, as investigations by citizens, ostensibly to protect citizens, not only from unjust indictments, but from unjust laws. In 2019, the federal grand jury exists as a mockery of the institution that once stood against the whims of monarchs. It guts the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable search and seizure, and the Fifth Amendment’s guarantees of due process. Today’s grand juries do not safeguard such fundamental rights and are easily subject to abuse. The tradition of using grand juries to jail political dissidents and activists is long. The ability of grand juries to be abused or used for political ends is entrenched and perpetuated by the fact that jeopardy doesn’t attach with a grand jury, so prosecutors can repeatedly bring the same charges.
Despite laws that require prosecutors to show new evidence or that it is in the public interest to extend or reconvene a grand jury, this is hardly an obstacle. For instance, Thomas Jefferson had to convene three separate grand juries in order to indict Aaron Burr for sedition – but he was able to continue to convene those grand juries until he obtained his desired indictment. During the McCarthy era, when people were publicly interrogated about their beliefs and associations, the public was eventually outraged, and the McCarthy hearings are widely seen as a disgraceful episode of modern history. However, these kinds of interrogations have now returned, and happen routinely, under the modern grand jury system.
Business as usual.
• Massive ‘Dark-Money’ Group Boosted Democrats In 2018 (Pol.)
The “green wave” of campaign cash that boosted Democrats and liberal causes in 2018 included an unprecedented gusher of secret money, new documents obtained by POLITICO show. The Sixteen Thirty Fund, a little-known nonprofit headquartered in Washington, spent $141 million on more than 100 left-leaning causes during the midterm election year, according to a new tax filing from the group. The money contributed to efforts ranging from fighting Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and other Trump judicial nominees to boosting ballot measures raising the minimum wage and changing laws on voting and redistricting in numerous states. The spending was fueled by massive anonymous donations, including one gift totaling $51.7 million.
That single donation was more than the group had ever raised before in an entire year before President Donald Trump was elected. Most of the group’s funders are likely to remain a mystery because federal law does not require “social welfare”-focused nonprofits to reveal their donors. The group’s 2018 fundraising surpassed any amount ever raised by a left-leaning political nonprofit, according to experts, who pointed to the Koch network and the Crossroads network as rare right-leaning groups that posted bigger yearly fundraising totals at the height of their powers. The Sixteen Thirty Fund’s rise last year is a sign that Democrats and allies have embraced the methods of groups they decried as “dark money” earlier this decade, when they were under attack from the money machines built by conservatives including the Kochs.
“In terms of the size of dark money networks, there are only a few that have gone into the $100 million-plus range,” said Robert Maguire, the research director for the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and an expert in political nonprofits. “These kinds of totals aren’t unheard of,” Maguire added. “I do think they’re unheard of on the liberal side. I think that’s what’s so striking about this.”
@RepMikeTurner : Did he ever say to you that he was not going to allow aid with the US to go to Ukraine unless there were investigations into Burisma, the Bidens or the 2016 election?
VOLKER: No he did not.
WATCH —> Amb. Volker just took apart Democrats’ ENTIRE case. @RepMikeTurner: Did he ever say to you that he was not going to allow aid with the US to go to Ukraine unless there were investigations into Burisma, the Bidens or the 2016 election?
VOLKER: No he did not. pic.twitter.com/PA8368ExV6
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) November 20, 2019
It’s open season on John Solomon. By the way, Marie Yovanovitch has denied the existence of a Don’t Prosecute list, and all kinds of people say Lutsenko denied it too. Solomon says he did not.
• Another Congresswoman Lashes Out At The Hill (Pol.)
Florida Congresswoman Val Demings questioned Tuesday whether the The Hill is “fair and unbiased” during an exchange with a reporter from the publication, the second of such incidents in recent days. California Rep. Jackie Speier, who is also a Democrat, told a Hill reporter on Friday that it was “reprehensible” that the paper published columns by John Solomon, a conservative journalist who helped ignite the Ukraine scandal and whose work has been promoted by President Donald Trump and his allies. Demings said Tuesday she had “not heard good things recently” about The Hill in response to tech policy reporter Emily Birnbaum identifying herself before asking a question about a short-term funding bill to avoid a government shutdown, according to audio of the exchange reviewed by POLITICO.
“Recently, I have not heard good things about The Hill being fair and impartial and unbiased… and that concerns me because any story we’re telling needs to be fair and unbiased and impartial,” Demings told Birnbaum during the exchange in the speaker’s lobby, which was witnessed by other reporters. Demings answered Birnbaum’s question and agreed it was fair. Though Demings did not mention Solomon specifically, the former employee’s work has come under increasing scrutiny and has put The Hill under the media spotlight. ProPublica recently explored Solomon’s relationship with associates of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and CNN looked Monday night at the connection between The Hill’s owner, Jimmy Finkelstein, and Trump, Giuliani and Solomon.
Solomon’s work has come up several times during impeachment testimony. Former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch on Friday denied an allegation from Ukraine’s former top prosecutor that she gave Ukraine’s then-top prosecutor a list of who not to prosecute. “Yovanovitch says John Solomon’s columns were used to push false allegations,” read a headline in The Hill. Solomon, who left The Hill in September and his now a contributor for Fox News, where he was a frequent guest this past year, has repeatedly defended his reporting. “I stand by each and every one of the columns that I wrote and that The Hill (both editors and lawyers) carefully vetted,” Solomon told POLITICO on Friday. “All facts in those stories are substantiated to original source documents and statements.”
So the best thing Solomon can do is do his job: report.
• FBI Cites Strzok Cited For Misconduct, ‘Exceptionally Poor Judgment’ (Solomon)
This summer, ex-FBI agent Peter Strzok filed a lawsuit suggesting his firing was political retribution for having run the bureau’s counterintelligence investigation into the now debunked allegations that Donald Trump and Russia colluded to hijack the 2016 election. The Justice Department has responded to the lawsuit in a big way, releasing to the court presiding over the civil case Strzok’s official misconduct file that concluded the former FBI supervisor exhibited “a gross lack of professionalism and exceptionally poor judgment.” It shows the FBI substantiated that Strzok had engaged in dereliction of duty, had committed misconduct through the expression of anti-Trump bias on his official FBI phone and committed security violations by performing official government work on personal email.
The records show one official recommended termination, and another recommended suspension for 60 days without pay. The bureau leadership chose the more severe of the two penalties, terminating Strzok last year. The dereliction of duty citation involved Strzok’s failure, according to the FBI, to quickly follow up in fall 2016 after the belated discovery of a trove of Hillary Clinton emails on a laptop belonging to former Congressman Anthony Weiner and his wife, Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Strzok was supervising the investigation of whether Clinton’s use of personal email for classified State Department matters created a security risk, and his failure caused an unnecessary delay to evaluate the new evidence just weeks before Election Day, the FBI concluded.
The disciplinary file included testimony from one of Strzok’s colleagues, a fellow agent, about the failure to respond to the discovery of emails. “The crickets I was hearing was making me uncomfortable because something was going to come crashing down,” the agent testified. “….I still to this day don’t understand what the hell went wrong.” The agent testified he feared “somebody was not acting appropriately, somebody was trying to bury this” discovery of new Clinton email evidence, the files show. Strzok offered a bevy of excuses for his inaction, including he was busy working the Trump-Russia case at the time. All were rejected. “The investigation reveals that there is no reasonable excuse for the FBI’s delay in following up on this matter,” the disciplinary file concluded.
Why does Hong Kong still have courts?
• Beijing’s Angry Reaction To High Court Mask Ruling Sparks Concern (SCMP)
There was a swift response from Beijing when the High Court ruled on Monday that the Hong Kong government’s anti-mask law was unconstitutional. Central government officials criticised the court for failing to support the government in its efforts to end more than five months of increasingly violent social unrest. For the first time, they suggested that the city’s courts do not have the power to declare a local law invalid by checking it against the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. China’s top legislative affairs body argued that only the national legislature had the right to decide on issues of constitutionality.
Beijing’s reaction left its critics in Hong Kong fearing for the erosion of the city’s independent judiciary. They also feared that Beijing would decide to hand down its own interpretation of the Basic Law and overturn the court ruling. But members of the pro-establishment camp dismissed those concerns, saying Beijing was only reiterating its position. What are the key issues in the controversy over the court ruling?
Remember: Hong Kong won’t become Chinese until 2037.
• China Vows To Retaliate If Trump Signs Hong Kong Democracy Act Into Law (SCMP)
China summoned a senior United States diplomat on Wednesday as it warned it would retaliate if US President Donald Trump signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act into law, after the act was passed by the US Senate. In a statement, the Chinese foreign ministry said Foreign Vice-Minister Ma Zhaoxu had summoned William Klein, the US embassy’s Minister Counsellor for Political Affairs. “China will take strong opposing measures, and the US has to bear all the consequences,” the statement said, after Congress’ upper chamber passed the act – which could pave the way for diplomatic action and economic sanctions against Hong Kong’s government.
It was the second time China had summoned a US diplomat since anti-government protests in Hong Kong began five months ago, triggered by a now-withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed the transfer of criminal suspects to mainland China’s opaque legal system. In June, Robert Forden, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US embassy in Beijing, was summoned by Foreign Vice-Minister Le Yucheng. Klein was summoned after foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that any attempt by the US to interfere in China’s internal affairs would be in vain. “We call on the US side to take a clear look at the situation and take steps to stop the act from becoming a law, and stop meddling in the internal affairs of China and Hong Kong, to avoid setting a fire that would only burn itself,” Geng said in a statement. “If the US sticks to its course, China will surely take forceful measures to resolutely oppose it to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interest.”
If the treatment of Assange shows you anything, it’s that you live in a fascist world.
• Reclaiming Your Inner Fascist (C.J. Hopkins)
OK, we need to talk about fascism. Not just any kind of fascism. A particularly insidious kind of fascism. No, not the fascism of the early 20th Century. Not Mussolini’s National Fascist Party. Not Hitler’s NSDAP. Not Francoist fascism or any other kind of organized fascist movement or party. Not even the dreaded Tiki-torch Nazis. It’s the other kind of fascism we need to talk about. The kind that doesn’t come goose-stepping up the street waving big neo-Nazi flags. The kind we don’t recognize when we’re looking right at it. It’s like that joke about the fish and the water … we don’t recognize it because we’re swimming in it. We’re surrounded by it. We are inseparable from it. From the moment we are born, we breathe it in.
We are taught it by our parents, who were taught it by their parents. We are taught it again by our teachers in school. It is reinforced on a daily basis at work, in conversations with friends, in our families and our romantic relationships. We imbibe it in books, movies, TV shows, advertisements, pop songs, the nightly news, in our cars, at the mall, the stadium, the opera … everywhere, because it is literally everywhere. It doesn’t look like fascism to us. Fascism only looks like fascism when you’re standing outside of it, or looking back at it. When you are in it, fascism just looks like “normality,” like “reality,” like “just the way it is.”
We (i.e., Americans, Brits, Europeans, and other citizens of the global capitalist empire) get up in the morning, go to work, shop, pay the interest on our debts, and otherwise obey the laws and conform to the mores of a system of power that has murdered countless millions of people in pursuit of global-hegemonic dominance. It has perpetrated numerous wars of aggression. Its military occupies most of the planet. Its Intelligence agencies (i.e., secret police) operate a worldwide surveillance apparatus that can identify, target, and eliminate anyone, anywhere, often by remote control. Its propaganda network never sleeps, nor is there any real way to escape its constant emotional and ideological conditioning.
The fact that the global capitalist empire does not call itself an empire, and instead calls itself “democracy,” doesn’t make it any less of an empire. The fact that it uses terms like “regime change” instead of “invasion” or “annexation” makes very little difference to its victims. Terms like “security,” “stability,” “intervention,” “regime change,” and so on are not meant for its victims. They are meant for us … to anesthetize us. The empire is “regime-changing” Bolivia currently. It has “regime-changed” most of Latin America at one time or another since the Second World War. It “regime-changed” Iraq, Libya, Yugoslavia, Indonesia … the list goes on. It very much wants to “regime-change” Iran, which it “regime-changed” back in the 1950s, before the Iranians “regime-changed” it back. It would love to “regime-change” Russia and China, but their ICBMs make that somewhat impractical.
• Fossil Fuel Production On Track For Double The Safe Climate Limit (G.)
The world’s nations are on track to produce more than twice as much coal, oil and gas as can be burned in 2030 while restricting rise in the global temperature to 1.5C, analysis shows. The report is the first to compare countries’ stated plans for fossil fuel extraction with the goals of the Paris climate agreement, which is to keep global heating well below 2C above pre-industrial levels, and to aim for 1.5C. It exposes a huge gap, with fossil fuel production in 2030 heading for 50% more than is consistent with 2C, and 120% more than that for 1.5C. Scientists have warned that even the difference between 1.5C and 2C of heating will expose hundreds of millions of people to significantly higher risks of extreme heatwaves, drought, floods and poverty.
The report was produced by the UN Environment Programme and a coalition of research organisations. It complements an earlier UN analysis showing the current Paris agreement pledges to cut emissions would still lead to a catastrophic 3-4C rise. “We’re in a deep hole – and we need to stop digging,” said Måns Nilsson, executive director of the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), which was part of the analysis. “Despite more than two decades of climate policymaking, fossil fuel production levels are higher than ever.” Most action to tackle the climate crisis involves reducing emissions, but Inger Andersen, head of the UN Environment Programme, said a focus on fossil fuel production was long overdue.
Most of the action pledges made by countries under the Paris deal do not even mention changes to production. The UK is a “striking” example of this mismatch, said Cleo Verkuijl, at the SEI’s centre in Oxford, UK. It was the first major economy to commit to net zero emissions by 2050, she said, but also subsidises fossil fuel production at home and abroad and intends to extract “every drop of oil and gas” from its North Sea fields.
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