Jan 152020
 
 January 15, 2020  Posted by at 10:39 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Magazine and cannonballs at Battery Rodgers, Alexandria, defending Washington during the Civil War 1863

 

At The Iowa Debate, Bernie Sanders’s Most Vociferous Opponent Was CNN (IC)
McConnell: Senate Impeachment Trial To Start Next Tuesday (Hill)
GOP: There Aren’t 51 Votes To Dismiss Trump Articles Of Impeachment (Hill)
McConnell Opens Door For Hunter Biden Testimony At Trump Trial (Hill)
Michael Flynn Seeks To Withdraw Guilty Plea (G.)
Five Biggest US Stocks Are Dwarfing The Rest Of The Stock Market (CNBC)
Non-Commitment Probe Into Iran By France, Germany & UK ‘Groundless’ – Russia (RT)
Australia PM Backs Coal After BlackRock Quits (AFR)
‘Orwellian’ China Silencing Dissent At Home And Abroad – HRW Chief (G.)
Former Boeing Quality Manager: Fly Something Else (Big Think)
Boeing Sees Lowest Orders In Decades (BBC)
Malaysia Airlines Suspends Boeing 737 MAX Deliveries Due To Grounding (R.)

 

 

It’s just entertainment by now, and a poor sort at that. CNN ratings are plummeting, so they seek out controversy. And if smearing Trump doesn’t work, there’s Bernie.

At The Iowa Debate, Bernie Sanders’s Most Vociferous Opponent Was CNN (IC)

Ahead of the August 2015 Fox News debate, the company’s chair, Rupert Murdoch, issued a directive to debate moderator Megyn Kelly: The Donald Trump thing has gone on long enough, it’s time to take him down. Kelly took a bat to candidate Trump, listing off his most misogynistic remarks, asking how he could explain them to voters. But Trump ended up winning that war. Democrats assembled in Iowa Tuesday night for the opportunity to take him on in the upcoming general election. This time, though, it was CNN moderators who brought out the bat and swung it hard at Sen. Bernie Sanders. The Vermont independent had topped the important Iowa poll last week, compounding fears that have only recently emerged among the party establishment that he may be on course for the nomination.

In contrast to Sanders’s treatment, former Vice President Joe Biden, the national front-runner, was barely touched — either by moderators or his rivals. CNN moderator Abby Phillip opened a line of questioning on the recent feud between Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren: “CNN reported yesterday, and, Sen. Sanders, Sen. Warren confirmed in a statement that in 2018 you told her that you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?” The moderator’s use of Warren to confirm a version of the story that originally came from Warren’s account of the meeting at the time signaled which side CNN was taking in the he-said/she-said, but it was confirmed by the framing of the question — “Why did you say that?” — rather than asking whether he said it.

Sanders denied the accusation, noting that he had been ready to stand aside for Warren to run in 2016, though she declined to. Phillip pressed to be clear he was denying the charge, then pivoted to Warren, and waved away his denial with such force — “Sen. Warren, what did you think when Sen. Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?” — that Sanders and the audience laughed. After the debate, the candidates shook hands — all except Warren and Sanders. Warren pulled her hand back and the two had a tense exchange that couldn’t be heard as the mics had been cut off, but left both walking tersely off, Sanders turning his back on Warren.

The debate opened with a long discussion of war in Iran and Iraq, which included no mention of the costs of occupation.Yet CNN moderators did eventually ask Sanders how he would pay for Medicare for All, among other plans. Host Wolf Blitzer asked why the government should do anything to lower drug prices when nobody trusts the government. Philip later asked Sanders how he would keep his plans “from bankrupting the country?”

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Politicians can’t resist the circus at this time of year.

McConnell: Senate Impeachment Trial To Start Next Tuesday (Hill)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says the Senate will begin debating an organizing resolution to start the Senate trial on Tuesday of next week. The GOP leader said Chief Justice John Roberts will swear in senators as jurors this week, before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. “NEW: Sen. Mitch McConnell says “the House is likely to finally send the articles over to us tomorrow,” allowing Senate to take steps “which would set us up to begin the actual trial next Tuesday.” — ABC News Live (@ABCNewsLive) January 14, 2020.


McConnell said the House is expected to send over articles of impeachment on Wednesday and the Senate will then have to go through a series of preliminary steps and housekeeping measures. “We hope to achieve that by consent, which would set us up to begin the actual trial next Tuesday,” the GOP leader added. McConnell clarifying that a debate and vote on the organizing resolution, which will set up time for the House impeachment managers and the president’s defense team to make their opening arguments, as well as time for senators to ask questions, will happen next week. Then the Senate will notify the president’s defense team to appear for the Senate and give the White House several days to respond.

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There are Republicans who think Trump should shine in the circus.

GOP: There Aren’t 51 Votes To Dismiss Trump Articles Of Impeachment (Hill)

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told reporters on Monday that the Senate Republican caucus doesn’t have the votes to dismiss the articles of impeachment against President Trump, who endorsed an “outright dismissal” over the weekend. “I think our members generally are not interested in a motion to dismiss. … Certainly there aren’t 51 votes for a motion to dismiss,” Blunt, the No. 4 Senate Republican, told reporters after a closed-door leadership meeting. Republicans have warned for months that they will not dismiss the two articles of impeachment against Trump, predicting a trial will end with votes on either acquitting or convicting him. But Trump revived talk of trying to dismiss the articles over the weekend, saying the Senate was “giving credence” to the allegations against him by having a trial.


“Many believe that by the Senate giving credence to a trial based on the no evidence, no crime, read the transcripts, ‘no pressure’ Impeachment Hoax, rather than an outright dismissal, it gives the partisan Democrat Witch Hunt credibility that it otherwise does not have. I agree!” Trump tweeted on Sunday. Dismissing the articles of impeachment would require 51 votes. Because no Democrats would support the effort, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could afford to lose only two GOP senators and still successfully dismiss the articles. Multiple Republicans, including Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Rob Portman (Ohio), have indicated they would oppose a motion to dismiss, arguing that both Trump’s legal team and House impeachment managers should be able to make their case.

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Is the fight over witnesses going to take longer than the actual trial?

McConnell Opens Door For Hunter Biden Testimony At Trump Trial (Hill)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says Republicans could subpoena Hunter Biden to testify about his business dealings with a Ukrainian gas company if Democrats insist on having witnesses such as former National Security Adviser John Bolton testify at the Senate impeachment trial. “We’ll be dealing with the witness issue at the appropriate time into the trial and I think it’s certainly appropriate to point out that both sides would want to call witnesses they wanted to hear from,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday when asked about GOP senators who want Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, to testify. “When you get to that issue, I can’t imagine that only the witnesses that our Democratic colleagues would want to call would be called,” he said.


The GOP leader also noted “there is little or no sentiment in the Republican conference for a motion to dismiss” the articles of impeachment immediately, adding, “our members feel that we have an obligation to listen to the arguments.” McConnell confirmed that all 53 Republican senators support passing an organizing resolution at the start of President Trump’s trial that would set up time for the House prosecutors and the president’s defense team to lay out their opening arguments and for senators to submit questions to the chair in writing. Votes on subpoenaing witnesses such as Bolton or acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney will be considered after what McConnell calls “phase one of the trial.”

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When prosecutors say Flynn grew “antagonistic”, what they mean is he hired Sidney Powell. Who’s not going to stop at getting him exonerated. She’ll demand a huge amount in damages.

Michael Flynn Seeks To Withdraw Guilty Plea (G.)

Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser to Donald Trump who was due to be sentenced for lying to federal investigators, is seeking to withdraw his guilty plea “because of the government’s bad faith, vindictiveness, and breach of the plea agreement”, his lawyers said in a court document filed Tuesday. Flynn was the first senior White House official to cut a deal in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference. After pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition between Barack Obama and Trump, he went on to provide extensive information to federal prosecutors in exchange for leniency.

But in recent months, he grew less cooperative and suggested he hadn’t committed any crimes, leading prosecutors to recommend that he should be sentenced to up to six months in prison. “Far from accepting the consequences of his unlawful actions, he has sought to blame almost every other person and entity involved in his case, including his former counsel,” prosecutors wrote in a document filed last week. It appears Flynn and his legal team have doubled down, saying that the federal government breached the plea agreement with Flynn. They allege that prosecutors asked him to lie in another investigation, into his former business partner, Bijan Rafiekian. Rafiekian was convicted for illegally lobbying to have a Turkish exile returned from the US, but a federal judge threw out the conviction, citing a lack of sufficient evidence.

In the court filing, Flynn’s lawyers said the justice department was attempting to “rewrite history” by suggesting he had not been forthcoming and should receive prison time. “Mr Flynn has cooperated with the government in good faith for two years. He gave the prosecution his full cooperation,” Flynn’s legal team wrote. “He endured massive, unnecessary, and frankly counterproductive demands on his time, his family, his scarce resources, and his life.” As part of his plea deal, Flynn admitted he had lied to the FBI about discussing US sanctions on Russia with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador at the time. Flynn also said he lied about conversations with Kislyak discussing a UN security council resolution condemning Israel.

[..] Federal prosecutors had initially said Flynn was entitled to avoid jail time, before reversing course after Flynn grew antagonistic. In June, Flynn fired his longtime attorneys and replaced them with a new team that included the former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell, a fierce critic of the Mueller investigation.

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It’s much easier for the Fed and the Treasury to create a false picture of a strong economy when they help build huge monopolies.

Five Biggest US Stocks Are Dwarfing The Rest Of The Stock Market (CNBC)

It’s no secret that a handful of tech giants have been dominating the stock market, but their leadership has reached a level that is raising eyebrows on Wall Street as being unsustainable. The top five U.S. companies — Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon and Facebook — now make up 18% of the total market capitalization of the S&P 500, the highest percentage in history, according to Morgan Stanley. “A ratio like this is unprecedented, including during the tech bubble,” Mike Wilson, the bank’s head of U.S. equity strategy, said in a note Sunday. “Capital concentration is following corporate inequality like never before.”

These mega tech firms have been the front-runners in this record-long bull market as investors bet on superior growth and dominant market share in their respective industries. They were the biggest contributors to the market’s historic gains last year and the trend shows no signs of stopping in 2020. However, multiple Wall Street strategists are sounding alarms on the increasing dominance of Big Tech, warning of a potential pullback in the stocks ahead. Apple’s weighting in the S&P 500 surpassed 4% in October, the sixth time the iPhone maker has crossed that threshold. But if history is any guide, it could be a ominous sign for the stock, according to Leuthold Group analyst Phil Segner.


He noted during the previous five times when Apple topped the 4% threshold, the stock underperformed the S&P 500 by nearly 9% on average in the next 12 months. “With history as a guide, its most recent climb into the 4% Club looks like another selling opportunity,” Segner said in a note. Going back to 1990, only five stocks — Apple, Microsoft, Generic Electric, Cisco Systems and Exxon Mobil — have claimed more than 4% of the S&P 500, and their leader status has typically been short-lived, Segner noted. General Electric stayed the longest — 15 months — above the threshold, while Cisco only lasted a month, he said.

Apple and Microsoft, which surged 86% and 55% in 2019, respectively, together accounted for nearly 15% of the S&P 5002 s advance last year. No other stock even came close to their contribution. The megacap stocks are leading the market again in the new year. In fact, the 50 largest stocks in the S&P 500 are up the most this year with an average gain of 1.22%, according to Bespoke Investment Group. “The larger, the better so far in 2020,” Paul Hickey, Bespoke’s co-founder, said in a note Friday. “Market cap has seemingly been the most important factor in terms of performance so far this year.”

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Lap dogs.

Non-Commitment Probe Into Iran By France, Germany & UK ‘Groundless’ – Russia (RT)

The European trio’s accusation that Iran violates the key restrictions of the nuclear deal are unjustified, the Russian Foreign Ministry said urging the countries not to increase tensions that could endanger the pact. Paris, Berlin and London officially reported Iran’s non-compliance with the 2015 agreement to the Joint Commission under the Dispute Resolution Mechanism. This step could potentially lead to the UN Security Council being forced to decide on whether or not to bring back sanctions against Tehran. “We can’t rule out that the ill-considered actions of the European trio will lead to a new escalation around the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and make the return to the implementation of the ‘nuclear deal’ in its initially agreed format unachievable,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.


Iran rolled back on its uranium enrichment constraints detailed in the international agreement earlier this month after one of its top military commanders, Qassem Soleimani, was assassinated in an American drone strike in Iraq. Tehran’s decision to put its commitments on hold was a response to the actions of the US, which unilaterally withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and reintroduced restrictions against Iran, the ministry reminded. However, the country keeps allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitors to its nuclear sites – and “the transparency of the Iranian nuclear program has been one of the key clauses of the nuclear deal.”

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His days are counted.

Australia PM Backs Coal After BlackRock Quits (AFR)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has rejected criticism of Australia’s $70 billion coal export industry and its links to global warming after the world’s largest fund manager announced it was quitting thermal coal. BlackRock is dumping more than half a billion dollars in thermal coal shares from all of its actively managed portfolios, as part of a more active global stance on climate change driven by chief executive Larry Fink. Asked about BlackRock’s announced withdrawal from thermal coal, Mr Morrison said the resources industry was “incredibly important to Australia” and that coal exports were worth about $70 billion a year. “This is important to so many communities across the country,” the Prime Minister said on Wednesday.


“Our government’s plan is to meet and beat our emissions reduction targets … without putting higher taxes on people and without putting up electricity prices and not pulling the rug from regional communities.” Mr Morrison famously showed off a lump of black coal during Parliament’s question time in 2017. Thermal coal, which is burnt to generate electricity, accounted for $26 billion in export income last financial year. This was a relatively small share of Australia’s total resource and energy export earnings forecast of $281 billion for 2019-20. Metallurgical coal, which is used to make steel, delivered $44 billion in export revenue.

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China’s Catch 22: it has to open up if it wants to expand its economical role, but Xi doesn’t want the potential risk to his power.

“In principle, we support the rights and work of human rights defenders around the world.”. Yeah, just not in China.

‘Orwellian’ China Silencing Dissent At Home And Abroad – HRW Chief (G.)

The head of Human Rights Watch has accused the Chinese government of not only constructing “an Orwellian high-tech surveillance state” at home but using its growing economic clout to silence critics abroad. Kenneth Roth said on Tuesday that China was carrying out “the most intense attack on the global system for enforcing human rights since that system began to emerge in the mid-20th century”. He warned that if human rights weren’t defended, the world could face “a dystopian future in which no one is beyond the reach of Chinese censors”, with a global rights system so weakened that it can no longer serve as a check on government repression.

Roth was speaking at the UN Correspondents Association in New York after being denied entry to Hong Kong, where he had been scheduled to release the rights group’s annual report. It begins with his keynote essay entitled China’s Global Threat to Human Rights. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said on Monday that: “It is China’s sovereignty to allow one’s entry or not.” He indicated that Human Rights Watch is among organisations that support and instigate “anti-China activists … to engage in radical violent crimes, and incite separatist activities hyping Hong Kong independence.” “These organisations deserve sanctions and must pay a price,” he said.


UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, asked on Tuesday about Roth’s denial of entry to Hong Kong, said: “In principle, we support the rights and work of human rights defenders around the world.” Chinese diplomat Xing Jisheng, who attended the UN press launch, spoke at the end and said the was report “very prejudicial”, saying it has “fabrications” and telling journalists “we completely reject the content”. In the essay, Roth said the Chinese Communist Party is “worried that permitting political freedom would jeopardise its grasp on power” and “is running scared of its own people”. “The consequence under President Xi Jinping is China’s most pervasive and brutal oppression in decades,” he said.

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Not at all surprising, but first time I see this confirmed: a new leadership team who had previously worked on Boeing’s military projects began overseeing work on the commercial airliner.

Former Boeing Quality Manager: Fly Something Else (Big Think)

Slipping through the cracks of the Boeing controversy – which has taken on new twists and turns almost daily – were comments we recently uncovered by a former Boeing quality manager, who said last month that he thinks Boeing’s problems aren’t just limited to the 737. John Barnett was a quality manager for Boeing for 30 years before he was transferred to South Carolina to work on the 787, according to Big Think. It was there that a new leadership team who had previously worked on Boeing’s military projects began overseeing work on the commercial airliner. Barnett says that team lowered safety standards significantly. He stated: “They started pressuring us to not document defects, to work outside the procedures, to allow defective material to be installed without being corrected.

“They started bypassing procedures and not maintaining configurement control of airplanes, not maintaining control of non-conforming parts — they just wanted to get the planes pushed out the door and make the cash register ring.” At first, it was just administrative issues, Barnett said. But then, it got worse. “Over time it got worse and worse. They began to ignore defective parts installed on the planes and basic issues related to aircraft safety,” he said. According to Barnett, one audit uncovered that 25% of oxygen masks didn’t work. Defective parts were getting lost in the system before being discovered flying on aircraft. Barnett says he remembered “several defective bulkheads being installed without having been repaired.”


He also said that there was an issue with metal slivers. 3-inch-long slivers of razor-sharp metal would fall into areas where planes have sensitive wiring and electronics, he said. He continued: “That surface below the floor board is where all of your flight control wires are, that’s where all of your electronic equipment is. It controls systems on the airplane, it controls the power of the airplane. All of your electronic equipment is down where all of these metal slivers are falling.” He said these slivers would cause shorts and fires at the plant. As planes vibrate, these metal slivers work their way into wire bundles and can cause issues during flights, he said. Barnett filed complaints with multiple members of the Boeing team, which he said led to his reassignment to a department that isolated him.

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The military division will have to make up the losses.

Delta is surging because it doesn’t fly any 737MAX.

Boeing Sees Lowest Orders In Decades (BBC)

Boeing has reported its worst annual orders in at least two decades – as it remains in crisis over its 737 Max model. The company also said deliveries of its planes slumped to an 11-year low last year. It means the US firm has lost its title as the world’s biggest plane maker to European rival Airbus. The 737 Max has been grounded since March after two crashes in which 346 people were killed. Boeing said net orders after cancellations for 2019 totalled just 54 planes. That compares with 893 the previous year. At the same time deliveries fell by 53% to 380 planes, the lowest number since 2007. The company last month halted production of what had been its best-selling commercial airliner.


The grounding of the 737 Max means it is impossible for the firm to deliver the planes to customers. In comparison, Boeing’s main rival Airbus said earlier this month that it delivered a record 863 planes in 2019 and racked up a net 768 orders after cancellations. A bright spot for the Chicago-based plane maker was a record number of deliveries of 787 Dreamliners in the last three months of 2019. The company delivered 45 of the wide-body passenger jets, which first went into service in 2011. Boeing’s new chief executive David Calhoun took the helm of the manufacturer on Monday. Mr Calhoun said he is “confident in the future” of the firm, telling staff his “primary focus” will be returning the 737 Max to the skies.

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Plus Virgin Australia, Norwegian Air, Jet Airways, keep ’em coming.

Malaysia Airlines Suspends Boeing 737 MAX Deliveries Due To Grounding (R.)

Malaysia Airlines said on Wednesday it had suspended deliveries of 25 Boeing 737 MAX jets, citing the plane’s delayed return to service since it was grounded last year following two fatal crashes. The decision represents another setback for Boeing, which on Tuesday reported its worst annual net orders in decades, along with its lowest number of plane deliveries in 11 years, as the grounding of the 737 MAX saw it fall far behind main competitor Airbus. “In view of the production stoppage and the delayed return to service of the 737-MAX, Malaysia Airlines has suspended the delivery of its orders,” the airline said in an email, without saying when it wanted the deliveries to resume.

“As there is no clarity yet from various authorities on its return to service, our technical due diligence is still ongoing,” Malaysia Airlines said. The airline said it had previously planned to have five 737 MAX jets delivered this year, the first in July. Last year, its chief executive had said it was possible the craft’s introduction to service could slide beyond July. Boeing said it was sorry for the disruption the 737 MAX situation had caused Malaysia Airlines. “We are working to support them and all of our customers in every way possible to ensure complete confidence in the 737 MAX and a safe return to commercial flight,” Boeing said in a statement.


Analysts said cash-strapped carriers like Malaysia Airlines that over-ordered planes could take advantage of the 737 MAX grounding to negotiate with Boeing to restructure their orders. Virgin Australia said last year it would delay taking the first deliveries of 737 MAX jets for nearly two years to reduce capital spending. Norwegian Air said last year its Dublin-based leasing subsidiary had reached an agreement with Boeing to postpone delivery of 14 737 MAX planes that were originally due in 2020 and 2021. Boeing on Tuesday reported a net negative of 183 orders for the 737 MAX in 2019 including cancellations, but many were associated with the collapse of a major customer, India’s Jet Airways.

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Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Jan 122020
 


Dorothea Lange Crossroads grocery store and filling station, Yakima, Washington, Sumac Park 1939

 

China Wants To Save Iran Nuclear Deal As It Leaves Their Oil Market Behind (F.)
Instagram Says It’s Removing Posts Supporting Soleimani (CNN)
Trump Administration Warns Iraq Could Lose New York Fed Account (CNBC)
Ukraine Tells Israel To Stay Out Of Debate About Nazi Collaborators (JTA)
Obama Campaign Guru: Trump Would Love To Run Against Bernie (Pol.)
Bernie Sanders Rips Biden Revisionist History On Iraq War Support (WE)
Revolving Door Shills On TV Need An ‘Outing’ (AC)
Australia’s Fires Pump Out More Emissions Than 100 Nations Combined (MIT)
Greta Thunberg Tells World Leaders To End Fossil Fuel ‘Madness’ (G.)
Anti-Terror Police Target School Climate Strikers (G.)
‘Like Sending Bees To War’: The Deadly Truth Behind Your Almond-Milk (G.)

 

 

No discussion of the Iran situation is worth a grain of salt if it doesn’t include Putin. He called for a conference on Lybia yesterday; Iran is (one of the) next. But yeah, of course China wants to add its two bits as well.

China Wants To Save Iran Nuclear Deal As It Leaves Their Oil Market Behind (F.)

China’s top foreign policy officials scolded President Trump’s January 3 hit on Iranian general Kassam Soleimani over the weekend, vowing to do what they could to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran’s hands. Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, told the local press on Monday that Iran was basically “forced” to end its commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action after the death of Soleimani by drone strike outside of a Baghdad airport last week. Geng said that by doing so, however, they would be in violation of their non-proliferation obligations. The South China Morning Post reported Geng saying that, “China will continue to maintain close communication and coordination with all related parties, and will take relentless efforts” to save the nuclear deal and avoid greater conflict in the Gulf.

The Iran nuclear deal was signed under then-president Barack Obama in the summer of 2015. But the deal has had its critics ever since, with some saying the U.S. was basically bribing Iran not to enrich uranium for nuclear weaponry. Iran has been fighting a proxy war with the United States and its allies since the fall of the Washington-backed Shah of Iran. Soleimani was a lead soldier in that fight, and has since climbed the ranks to lead the elite Quds Force. He was blamed by Washington for leading a militia attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on December 31. Brent crude oil prices rose to $70 in intraday trading on Monday morning, but have since fallen below $70. Texas crude is still pricing in the low $60s, up half a percent following a rash of pro-Iran militia attacks against U.S. facilities this weekend.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi reportedly held telephone conversations on Saturday with the foreign ministers of Iran, Russia and France, reiterating that China would not back U.S. military strikes on Iran. China, France and Russia are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. That body has a weapons ban on Iran in place since 2010, set to expire in October of this year. “China will continue to uphold an objective and just position,” Wang said, adding that China will help safeguard “peace and security in the (Persian) Gulf.” On Friday, China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, spoke with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and urged the U.S. not to start a regional war in the Middle East.

Last week, Russia’s Vedomosti business daily sourced an unnamed diplomat who surmised that Iran would retaliate by blocking free shipping through the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that roughly 35% of all seaborne traded oil, or almost 20% of oil traded worldwide, goes through that Strait. The Strait curves through the coasts of Oman and Iran and is a key transit route for Saudi Arabian oil into China. China’s imports of Saudi oil have hit a record high of late due to sanctions on Iran and dwindling resources in Venezuela, making that body of water very important to Chinese oil supply. China imported 8.21 million tons of crude oil from Saudi Arabia in November, pushing the total volume for 11 months to a record 76.33 million tons. That’s up 53% from the same period in 2018, based on numbers crunched by Caixin Global..

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Don’t worry, the thought police has your back.

Instagram Says It’s Removing Posts Supporting Soleimani (CNN)

Instagram and its parent company Facebook are removing posts that voice support for slain Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani to comply with US sanctions, a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to CNN Business Friday. The Iranian government has called for nationwide legal action against Instagram in protest, even creating a portal on a government website for the app’s users to submit examples of posts the company removed, Iranian state media reported. Instagram is one of the few western social media platforms that is not blocked in Iran. Facebook and Twitter are blocked but some Iranians access those sites using VPNs.


In a tweet, Iran’s government spokesperson, Ali Rabiei, called Instagram’s actions “undemocratic.” Instagram shut down Soleimani’s own account on the platform last April after the US government designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization. Soleimani was an IRGC commander. “We operate under US sanctions laws, including those related to the US government’s designation of the IRGC and its leadership,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. Iranian soccer player Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who has a verified Instagram account, posted a photo of Soleimani after his death. Jahanbakhsh said Instagram had removed that post.

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Would almost like to see them try, but don’t think they will. Too many risks. Can’t just wave around the petrodollar; it’s not made of steel; we know because it’s getting rusty.

Trump Administration Warns Iraq Could Lose New York Fed Account (CNBC)

The Trump administration this week warned Iraq that it could lose access to its central bank account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York if Baghdad expels American troops from the region, Iraqi officials told The Wall Street Journal. The State Department’s warning follows the U.S. airstrike that killed Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s top military commander and the face of the Islamic Republic’s interventions across the Middle East. The strike led to Iraq’s parliament voting to force out American troops — a move some officials argued would hurt Iraq — and a counterstrike by Iran on two bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq last week. Shutting down Iraq’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York could be detrimental to its financial system.


The country puts its revenue from oil sales there, and takes out that money to pay government salaries and contracts. The Fed held almost $3 billion in overnight deposits at the close of 2018, according to the most recent financial statement from the Central Bank of Iraq. President Trump threatened to place economic sanctions on Iraq after parliament voted to request that Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi oust about 5,300 American troops. Those sanctions would also extend to Iran. The White House could also end waivers that allow Iraq to buy Iranian gas to fuel generators that supply a large portion of the country’s power, placing another pressure on the prime minister over addressing U.S. troops without enduring economic and financial loss. Mahdi has argued that forcing out American troops is the only way to avoid conflict in Iraq.

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Brought to you courtesy of John McCain and Victoria Nuland. This is America.

Ukraine Tells Israel To Stay Out Of Debate About Nazi Collaborators (JTA)

Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel has told Jerusalem to butt out of the debate about honoring of Nazi collaborators. Thursday’s intervention by Hennadii Nadolenko, head of Ukraine’s diplomatic mission in Tel Aviv, reflects an escalation in the disagreement between Israel and Ukraine over the issue. The subject is related to “internal issues of Ukrainian politics” and Israel’s protests about it are “counterproductive,” Nadolenko told Israeli diplomats, according to the news site Jewish.ru. Last week, Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine, Joel Lion, and his Polish counterpart Bartosz Cichocki wrote officials an open letter condemning the government-sponsored honoring of Stepan Bandera and Andryi Melnyk, two collaborators with the Third Reich.


The two have written on the subject before. In 2018, Lion wrote that he was shocked at an earlier act of veneration for Bandera, saying: “I cannot understand how the glorification of those directly involved in horrible anti-Semitic crimes helps fight anti-Semitism and xenophobia.” Ukrainian diplomats had previously refrained from commenting publicly about Lion’s protests. The veneration of Nazi collaborators, including killers of Jews, is a growing phenomenon in Eastern Europe, where many consider such individuals as heroes because they fought against Russian domination. But few of Lion’s counterparts in those countries have spoken out as forcefully and publicly on this issue.

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For Trump, it’s an easy campaign. Bernie is a socialist, Biden is a sleepy flip flop who blackmailed Ukraine, Warren is Pocahontas squared and a socialist, Buttigieg has a closet full of things he hasn’t yet outed, and nobody likes Bloomberg.

Obama Campaign Guru: Trump Would Love To Run Against Bernie (Pol.)

Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign manager is warning that Democrats would struggle in a general election against Donald Trump if Bernie Sanders is the nominee. In an interview with POLITICO, Jim Messina predicted that Trump would exploit Sanders’ stamp of socialism in battleground states needed to defeat Trump, keep control of the House and have a shot at winning the Senate. “If I were a campaign manager for Donald Trump and I look at the field, I would very much want to run against Bernie Sanders,” Messina said. “I think the contrast is the best. He can say, ‘I’m a business guy, the economy’s good and this guy’s a socialist.’ I think that contrast for Trump is likely one that he’d be excited about in a way that he wouldn’t be as excited about Biden or potentially Mayor Pete or some of the more Midwestern moderate candidates.”

This is not the first time Messina has questioned Sanders’ viability as a general election candidate. His latest remarks come amid Sanders’ first-place showing in the marquee Iowa Poll and as the Vermont senator‘s messaging has increasingly focused on his electability. Messina said he is not endorsing in the 2020 race. He recently attended a fundraiser for Biden in Irvine, Calif., he said, because his wife is a supporter of the former vice president. “From a general election perspective, socialism is not going to be what Democrats are going to want to defend,” Messina added.“If you’re the Democratic nominee for the Montana Senate race, you don’t want to spend the election talking about socialism.”

Messina is the latest Democrat to raise concerns about Sanders at the top of the ticket. Endangered House Democrats are coalescing around Biden because of concerns that Sanders or Elizabeth Warren could threaten their reelection hopes, POLITICO reported Saturday. [..] Sanders surged starting in late October after recovering from a heart attack and receiving a pivotal endorsement from New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. For more than a week, Sanders has more directly attacked Joe Biden, the national top polling candidate, arguing the former vice president has too much “baggage” to win a general election. Sanders has argued the excitement behind his campaign and his steady dominance in grass-roots fundraising makes him the more electable candidate.

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From the Sanders campaign: “Jim Messina’s corporate clients include Google, Uber, AirBNB, a major private equity firm, a major airline that has been fighting its workers’ efforts to form a union, and Third Way, the Wall Street front group whose mission is to destroy the progressive movement.”

The campaign had set January 1st as the starting date for attacking rivals long ago.

Bernie Sanders Rips Biden Revisionist History On Iraq War Support (WE)

Bernie Sanders’s campaign ratcheted up its attacks on Joe Biden’s claim that he did not support the Iraq War nearly as soon as it started. “It is appalling that after 18 years Joe Biden still refuses to admit he was dead wrong on the Iraq War, the worst foreign policy blunder in modern American history,” Sanders senior adviser Jeff Weaver said in a statement Saturday. “Unlike 23 of his Senate colleagues who got it right, Biden made explicitly clear that he was voting for war, and even after the war started, he boasted that he didn’t regret it.” Biden voted for the Iraq War in 2002 while he was a Delaware senator, but he has claimed several times on the campaign trail that he opposed the effort “from the moment” the March 2003 invasion started.

The then-senator expressed support for the war, saying in July 2003 that he still thought the job was “doable.” In a Senate floor speech, Biden said, “I voted to go into Iraq, and I’d vote to do it again.” He later changed his position. As vice president, Biden oversaw the withdrawal of nearly 150,000 troops from Iraq in 2011, which many argue fueled the rise of the Islamic State. “Bernie Sanders saw the same information and had the judgment to vote against the Iraq War,” Weaver said. “That’s the kind of commander in chief we need — someone with the toughness and judgment to get those calls right, not someone who undermined Democratic opposition, enthusiastically supported a disastrous war, refuses to admit mistakes, and then tries to rewrite history.”

Foreign policy shot to prominence in the Democratic presidential field after President Trump ordered a strike that killed of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force leader Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 2, changing the landscape of Middle East policy. Sanders argued that the move puts the United States on the path to another war. Despite flaunting in Iowa last week that his supporters “have not heard me disparage any of the candidates,” Sanders has been increasing his attacks on the former vice president as the the Feb. 3 first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses loom. “You know, Joe Biden has been on the floor of the Senate, talking about the need to cut Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid,” Sanders said in an interview on Monday. “Joe Biden pushed a bankruptcy bill, which has caused enormous financial problems for working families.”

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The worst of this relates to Clapper and Brennan’s Russiagate comments.

Revolving Door Shills On TV Need An ‘Outing’ (AC)

David Petraeus, Van Hipp, Jeh Johnson, John Negroponte (and these are just the ones featured in Fang’s piece)—all have ties to the Big 5 contracting companies like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon (whose stocks are soaring in response to recent events) and/or work for venture capital firms that invest in these companies. In fact, General Jack Keane, who is reportedly at the elbow of the president, advising him directly, while alternately appearing on FOX News to congratulate him after launching kinetic attacks like killing Gen. Soleimani, currently serves as a partner for such a firm (SCP Partners) and has worked for General Dynamics and Blackwater. [..] key here, according to Fang is this: “Many of the pundits who appeared on national television or were quoted in major publications to praise the president’s actions have undisclosed ties to the defense industry — the only domestic industry that stands to gain from increased violence.”


Whether they are not disclosing their ties to producers or the hosts don’t bother to mention it on air doesn’t matter. It’s called ethics and journalistic integrity. Due diligence. Honesty. None if it seems to be in evidence here. “It is imperative that viewers are aware when their news commentary is coming from someone with a financial incentive tied to the topic they’re coming on, especially when so many lives hang in the balance,” Gin Armstrong, who’s with the Public Accountability Initiative, told Fang. Quite right. This seems so simple, yet this practice of deception—and it is a deception—has been going on for decades. But that doesn’t mean we have to swallow it passively.

Think of all the damage that was done in the run-up to the Iraq War and after the invasion, when former military generals were cultivated by the Pentagon and delivered to the networks and cable shows as commentators for years, helping to sell the war and pacify public opinion when conditions on the ground went sour. The “Afghanistan Papers” revealed last month that hundreds of government officials and military officers knew for years that the war was lost and that the American people were being sold a bill of goods throughout the entire 18-year campaign. By their silence and complicity they served as enablers. How many of them have cycled through the revolving door to the private sector and have served as “experts” in any media capacity (authors, speechmakers, pundits) to promote those lies back to the American people? If they hadn’t, might there be more public pressure to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home (14,000 still there) today?

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Tree-planting anyone?

Australia’s Fires Pump Out More Emissions Than 100 Nations Combined (MIT)

The wildfires raging along Australia’s eastern coast have already pumped around 400 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, further fueling the climate change that’s already intensifying the nation’s fires. That’s more than the total combined annual emissions of the 116 lowest-emitting countries, and nine times the amount produced during California’s record-setting 2018 fire season. It also adds up to about three-quarters of Australia’s otherwise flattening greenhouse-gas emissions in 2019. And yet, 400 million tons isn’t an unprecedented amount nationwide at this point of the year in Australia, where summer bush fires are common, the fire season has been growing longer, and the number of days of “very high fire danger” is increasing.

Wildfires emissions topped 600 million tons from September through early January during the brutal fire seasons of 2011 and 2012, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service. But emissions are way beyond typical levels in New South Wales, where this year’s fires are concentrated. More than 5.2 million hectares (12.8 million acres) have burned across the southeastern state since July 1, according to a statement from the NSW Rural Fire Service. Climate change doesn’t spark wildfires. But rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall dries out trees, plants, and soil, converting them into fuel that can amplify fires when they do break out.

A 2018 report by Australia’s national science agency and the Bureau of Meteorology concludes climate change has contributed to the nation’s worsening fire conditions, noting that average temperatures have risen more than 1˚C. In turn, these huge fires are fueling climate change. As trees and plants burn, they release the carbon stored in their trunks, leaves, branches, and roots. That creates a vicious feedback loop, as the very impacts of climate change further exacerbate it, complicating our ability to get ahead of the problem.


Wildfire emissions from September through early January, nationwide and in New South Wales. Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service

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But to be replaced with what? I still haven’t seen an answer to that which makes any sense.

Stay out of Davos, Greta, you’re being bought.

Greta Thunberg Tells World Leaders To End Fossil Fuel ‘Madness’ (G.)

Greta Thunberg and fellow youth climate campaigners are demanding that global leaders immediately end the “madness” of huge ongoing investments in fossil fuel exploration and enormous subsidies for coal, oil and gas use. The 21 young activists are also calling on the political and business leaders who will be attending the World Economic Forum in Davos to ensure investment funds dump their holdings in fossil fuel companies. “Anything less would be a betrayal against life itself,” said Thunberg and colleagues in an article in the Guardian. “Today’s business as usual is turning into a crime against humanity. We demand that you play your part in putting an end to this madness.”

The burning of fossil fuels is the biggest driver of the climate emergency. Scientists predict catastrophic impacts unless deep cuts in emissions are made rapidly, but global emissions are still rising. “Young people are being let down by older generations and those in power,” the climate strikers said. “To some it may seem like we are asking for a lot. But this is just the very minimum effort needed to start the rapid sustainable transition.” Much of the world’s existing coal, oil and gas reserves must be kept in the ground to avoid the worst impacts of global heating. But investment in fossil fuel exploration and extraction remains high.

Since the Paris climate agreement in 2015, the world’s largest investment banks have provided more than $700bn to fossil fuel companies to develop new projects, with the total investment estimated to be trillions of dollars. Fossil fuel companies argue that their products will be used for many years to come and that they have a pivotal role in shifting the energy system to zero emissions. But their investments in green energy are tiny compared with those in fossil fuels. Subsidies for fossil fuels also remain high despite a G20 pledge in 2009 to eliminate them. The IMF estimates such subsidies run at $10m a minute, or $5.2tn a year. “The fact that [ending investment and subsidies] hasn’t been done already is, quite frankly, a disgrace,” said Thunberg and colleagues.

Investors managing funds totalling $12tn have already divested from coal, oil and gas, but the climate activists demand that “all companies, banks, institutions and governments immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels”. Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, said in December that the financial sector was not cutting investments in oil and gas companies rapidly enough and warned that assets in the sector could end up “worthless”. He said in October that companies and industries not moving towards zero-carbon emissions would be punished by investors and go bankrupt.

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UK 2020. Laughing stock.

Anti-Terror Police Target School Climate Strikers (G.)

Extinction Rebellion is threatening legal action against counter-terrorism police for what it said was the illegal listing of the group as an extremist ideology in a guide designed to help stop terrorist violence. The Guardian revealed on Friday that counter-terrorism police had placed the non-violent protest group on a list of extremist ideologies that should be reported to the authorities running the Prevent anti-radicalisation programme. Police now say that was an error. Amnesty International condemned the decision on Saturday as criticism grew and questions remained about how Extinction Rebellion (XR) came to be included in the guide alongside neo-Nazi and terrorist groups.

The climate emergency campaign group was included in a 12-page document produced by Counter Terrorism Policing South East (CTPSE) titled “Safeguarding young people and adults from ideological extremism”. XR has instructed lawyers. Jules Carey, who acted for XR when it successfully struck down police protest bans in the courts last year, told the Guardian that the latest guidance was unlawful. “It is extraordinary that Counter Terrorism Policing South East have added Extinction Rebellion to the list of terrorist groups and extremist organisations that the Prevent strategy was set up to deal with.

“The guidance issued by the CTPSE is clearly unlawful. It constitutes an unlawful interference with human rights including free speech, right to assemble and enjoyment of a private life. “The guidance is clearly designed to harm Extinction Rebellion and cast those who support the movement as domestic extremists. It is a glaring example of the sort of overzealous policing we have come to expect around protests. Being referred to Prevent could have long-lasting and life-changing consequences for a young school activist.”

[..] Kerry Moscogiuri, Amnesty International UK’s campaigns director, said the police guidance added to longstanding concerns about Prevent. “It’s deeply shocking that the police ever seriously considered classifying peaceful climate crisis protesters as extremists. To see that schoolchildren were effectively going to be profiled under these proposed measures, just deepens our shock. “Given that children are potentially those who will be most affected by the climate emergency, it’s vital that they are able to speak out on these issues without this heavy-handed and entirely disproportionate police attention. This episode only adds to our existing concerns about Prevent, which is a highly dubious scheme sorely in need of a proper, independent and impartial review.”

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“Commercial honeybees are considered livestock by the US Department of Agriculture..”

Might as well register them as cartoon characters. Same difference. We really don’t have any connection to anything alive anymore, do we?

‘Like Sending Bees To War’: The Deadly Truth Behind Your Almond-Milk (G.)

A recent survey of commercial beekeepers showed that 50 billion bees – more than seven times the world’s human population – were wiped out in a few months during winter 2018-19. This is more than one-third of commercial US bee colonies, the highest number since the annual survey started in the mid-2000s. Beekeepers attributed the high mortality rate to pesticide exposure, diseases from parasites and habitat loss. However, environmentalists and organic beekeepers maintain that the real culprit is something more systemic: America’s reliance on industrial agriculture methods, especially those used by the almond industry, which demands a large-scale mechanization of one of nature’s most delicate natural processes.

Environmental advocates argue that the huge, commercially driven proliferation of the European honeybees used on almond farms is itself undermining the ecosystem for all bees. Honeybees out-compete diverse native bee species for forage, and threaten the endangered species that are already struggling to survive climate change. Environmentalists argue a better solution is to transform the way large-scale agriculture is carried out in the US. Like all bees, honeybees thrive in a biodiverse landscape. But California’s almond industry places them in a monoculture where growers expect the bees to be predictably productive year after year.

Commercial honeybees are considered livestock by the US Department of Agriculture because of the creature’s vital role in food production. But no other class of livestock comes close to the scorched-earth circumstances that commercial honeybees face. More bees die every year in the US than all other fish and animals raised for slaughter combined. “The high mortality rate creates a sad business model for beekeepers,” says Nate Donley, a senior scientist for the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s like sending the bees to war. Many don’t come back.”

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The state of -rich western- mankind in a few words.

 

 

 

Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Jan 112020
 
 January 11, 2020  Posted by at 10:50 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Milton Greene “Actress Marilyn Monroe in bed” 1955

 

US Rejects Iraq Request To Discuss Troop Withdrawal (R.)
US, Iran Used An Encrypted Swiss Fax Machine To Defuse Crisis (ZH)
Iran Admits It Shot Down Ukrainian Plane (AlJ)
The Cost of Debt-Financed War (Peltier)
Trump Impeachment Charges May Go To Senate As Early As Next Week (R.)
How’s This Working Nancy? (Kunstler)
Central Bankers Are Quietly Freaking Out About How To Fight The Next Recession (F.)
Boeing’s Ousted CEO Departs With $62 Million, Even Without Severance Pay (R.)
FAA Seeks To Fine Boeing $5.4 Million For Defective Parts On 737 MAX (R.)
Key Boeing 737 MAX Supplier Spirit Aerosystems To Cut 2,800 Jobs (CNBC)
Joe Biden Gets $Millions In TV Ads In Iowa From Undisclosed Donors (IC)

 

 

Cue mass demonstrations. Here’s where the US empire is drawing to a close. See the video for those who resist that close.

US Rejects Iraq Request To Discuss Troop Withdrawal (R.)

The United States rebuffed an Iraqi request on Friday to prepare to pull out its troops, amid heightened US-Iranian tensions following the US killing of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani. Seeking to tighten pressure on its rival, the US, meanwhile, imposed more sanctions on Iran, responding to an attack on US troops in Iraq launched by Tehran in retaliation for the assassination of Soleimani. Iraq looks set to bear the brunt of any further violence between neighbouring Iran and the US. Its leaders are caught in a bind as Washington and Tehran are also the Iraqi government’s main allies and vie for influence there.

Iraq’s caretaker prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, made his request in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo late on Thursday in line with a vote by Iraq’s parliament last week, his office said in a statement. Abdul Mahdi asked Pompeo to “send delegates to put in place the tools to carry out the Parliament’s decision,” it said, adding without elaborating, that the forces used in the killing had entered Iraq or used its airspace without permission. However, the US State Department said any US delegation would not discuss the withdrawal of US troops as their presence in Iraq was “appropriate”. “There does, however, need to be a conversation between the US and Iraqi governments not just regarding security, but about our financial, economic, and diplomatic partnership,” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

The latest flare-up in the long shadow-war between Iran and the US started with the killing of Soleimani in a US drone attack on January 3. Iran responded on Wednesday by firing missiles at US forces in Iraq. In the aftermath, both sides backed off from intensifying the conflict but the region remains tense, with Iranian commanders threatening more attacks. [..] Iraq’s top Shia leader on Friday condemned the US-Iranian confrontation taking place on Iraqi soil, saying it risked plunging an already war-ravaged country and the wider Middle East into deeper conflict. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said it was Iraqis who stood to suffer most from the US-Iranian conflict.

In a message delivered through a representative at Friday prayers in the holy city of Karbala, al-Sistani said no foreign powers should be allowed to decide Iraq’s fate. “The latest dangerous aggressive acts, which are repeated violations of Iraqi sovereignty, are a part of the deteriorating situation” in the region, al-Sistani said. Al-Sistani, who wields huge influence over public opinion in Iraq, only weighs in on politics during times of crisis and is seen as a voice of moderation. “The people have suffered enough from wars … Iraq must govern itself and there must be no role for outsiders in its decision-making,” Sistani said.

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As Russiagate showed with great clarity, presidents must be able to talk to each other. Safety requires it.

US, Iran Used An Encrypted Swiss Fax Machine To Defuse Crisis (ZH)

Even as Trump was rage-tweeting on Jan 4, two days after the killing of Iran’s top military leader Qassem Soleimani, that he would hit 52 targets including Iranian heritage sites for potential retaliation if America suffered losses following an Iranian attack, warning that “those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD”, the US president was busy, secretly using an encrypted back-channel to bring the world back from the brink of war. As the WSJ reports, just hours after the U.S. strike which killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the Trump administration sent an urgent back channel message to Tehran: “Don’t escalate.”

The encrypted fax message was sent via the Swiss Embassy in Iran, one of the few means of direct, confidential communication between the two sides, U.S. officials told the WSJ. Then, in frantic attempts to de-escalate even as top US and Iranian leaders were stirring patriotic sentiment and nationalistic fervor, the White House and Iranian leaders exchanged further messages in the days that followed, which officials in both countries described as far more measured than the fiery rhetoric traded publicly by politicians.

It worked: a week later, and after a retaliatory, if highly theatrical, Iranian missile attack on two military bases hosting American troops that purposefully inflicted no casualties, Washington and Tehran have stepped back from the brink of open hostilities (for now). “We don’t communicate with the Iranians that much, but when we do the Swiss have played a critical role to convey messages and avoid miscalculation,” a senior U.S. official said. While a spokesman at Iran’s mission to the United Nations declined to comment on the exchanges, he said “we appreciate [the Swiss] for any efforts they make to provide an efficient channel to exchange letters when and if necessary.” Another Iranian official said the back channel provided a welcome bridge, when all others had been burned: “In the desert, even a drop of water matters.”

[..] The first American fax was sent immediately after Washington confirmed the death of Soleimani, the most important figure in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the U.S. officials said. It arrived on a special encrypted fax machine in a sealed room of the Swiss mission – the most enduring, and secret, method since the 1979 Islamic Revolution – for the White House to exchange messages with Iran’s top leadership, especially when the two nations are concurrently parading in public media in their bellicose propaganda to earn political brownie points. The equipment operates on a secure Swiss government network linking its Tehran embassy to the Foreign Ministry in Bern and its embassy in Washington, say Swiss diplomats. Only the most senior officials have the key cards needed to use the equipment.

Former Swiss ambassadors say the diplomatic channel is effective because the U.S. and Iran can trust a message will remain confidential, be delivered quickly, and will reach only its intended recipients.

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Allegedly, Khameini personally intervened. There are too many voices speaking for Tehran.

Iran Admits It Shot Down Ukrainian Plane (AlJ)

Iran has announced that its military “unintentionally” shot down a Ukrainian jetliner, killing all 176 on board. The statement on Saturday morning blames “human error” for the incident, adding that the military mistook Flight 752 for a “hostile target”. Press TV also quoted Iran’s General Staff of the Armed Forces as saying that the plane had flown close to a “sensitive military site”. The military said it was at its “highest level of readiness” amid the heightened tensions with the United States. “In such a condition, because of human error and in a unintentional way, the flight was hit,” the military said. It apologised and said it would upgrade its systems to prevent future tragedies.

In a statement posted on social media, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wrote that the country “deeply regrets this disastrous mistake”. “My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences,” he said, adding that “investigations continue to identify and prosecute this great tragedy and unforgivable mistake”. Iran had denied for several days that a missile downed the aircraft. But then the US and Canada, citing intelligence, said they believe Iran shot down the aircraft. On Friday, Ali Abedzadeh, head of Iran’s civil aviation authority, said it was impossible due to close coordination between Iran’s air defence and the civil aviation department. “What is obvious for us, and what we can say with certainty, is that no missile hit the plane,” Abedzadeh told reporters in Tehran.

[..] Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig, reporting from Tehran, said questions were now being raised as to why Iranian authorities kept the country’s air space open during a military operation. “There’s a lot of explaining to do by Iranian authorities. People want to know why and how it happened.” In a social media post, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that “human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to the disaster”. “Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims and to other affected nations.”

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PDF file from Brown University. The changes in US war financing, from war bonds and direct taxation until the Korean War, to limitless borrowing – and interest payments- ever since.

The Cost of Debt-Financed War (Peltier)

Throughout the 18 years the U.S. has been engaged in the “Global War on Terror,” mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan, the government has financed this war by borrowing funds rather than through alternative means such as raising taxes or issuing war bonds. Thus, the costs of the post-9/11 wars include not only the expenses incurred for operations, equipment, and personnel, but also the interest costs on this debt. Since 2001 these interest payments have been growing, resulting in more and more taxpayer dollars being wasted on interest payments rather than being channeled to more productive uses. This paper calculates that the debt incurred for $2 trillion in direct war-related spending by the Department of Defense and State Department has already resulted in cumulative interest payments of $925 billion.

Even if military interventions ceased immediately, interest payments would continue to rise, and will grow further as the U.S. continues its current military operations. War is expensive — in terms of lives lost, physical damage to people and property, mental trauma to soldiers and war-zone inhabitants, and in terms of money. The expense of war is not restricted to the annual budgetary costs of the war spending itself, but also depends upon the way in which war is financed. When war is financed through debt, the costs are much greater than when it is financed through taxation or other revenues, since interest payments must be made as long as the debt is outstanding. In fact, interest payments can sometimes grow to beyond the level of the debt itself, as will likely be the case with the post-9/11 wars.

If war spending ceased immediately, interest payments on the $2 trillion of existing war debt would rise to over $2 trillion by 2030 and to $6.5 trillion by 2050. These interest payments will grow larger as the U.S. continues its post-9/11 military interventions and continues amassing debt to pay for the costs of war. This level of borrowing to pay for the post-9/11 wars has been unique. Since the country’s founding, U.S. wars have been funded at least partly through revenues raised specifically for that purpose, including war bonds and direct taxes levied for war. As noted by Boston University political scientist Rosella Cappella-Zielinski, “Taxation as a percent of war finance was significant during the World Wars, meeting 30 percent of the cost of World War I and almost 50 percent of the cost of World War II, and peaked as a method of war finance during the Korean War, which was fully financed by taxes. Starting with the Civil War and ending with the Korean War, the government made a systematic effort to pay for its wars via direct taxation

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Looks like Pelosi was losing her own people.

Trump Impeachment Charges May Go To Senate As Early As Next Week (R.)

The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives will send formal impeachment charges against President Donald Trump to the Senate as early as next week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday, setting the stage for his long-awaited trial. Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, has been engaged in a three-week cat-and-mouse game with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over the rules for Trump’s trial in the Republican-controlled Senate. Democrats have demanded it include new witness testimony and evidence about the Republican president’s pressuring of Ukraine to probe former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democrat running for the right to face Trump in the November election.


McConnell slammed the door on that idea this week, saying he had enough Republican votes to start the trial without a commitment to hear from additional witnesses, including former Trump national security adviser John Bolton. Democrats are trying to convince a few moderate Republican senators to allow witnesses. One moderate, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, told reporters in her home state that she and a “fairly small group” of her fellow Republican senators are working to ensure witnesses can be called. The Senate is expected to acquit Trump before the 2020 presidential election campaign heats up, as no Republicans have voiced support for ousting him, a step that would require a two-thirds majority.

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Whose side is the Trojan horse on?

Also, if Pelosi makes Adam Schiff a “manager”, can the GOP still call him to testify?

How’s This Working Nancy? (Kunstler)

The case for House members to get access to all that backstage Mueller material could go up to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, Impeachment’s second act is about to get underway whether Mrs. Pelosi likes the terms or not. It’s the Senate’s prerogative to decide. These terms appear to be exactly the same as the ones used by the Senate for Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial — which means that each side chooses a team of “managers” to present its case, and then the managers are subject to grilling by senators. The House Democrats are insisting on calling witnesses solely to maintain their court claim for testimony from the White House counsel, with which the aforesaid Mueller material is associated in the case.

If the rules eschew witnesses, that case is moot, and the Democrats lose access to a trove of political oppo research obtained for them under false pretenses by their own operatives in the Department of Justice. Secondarily, the impeachment was designed to get senators in swing states on the record voting to acquit the president in the hopes that it will somehow taint their re-election prospects and possibly flip control of the Senate to the Democrats. That outcome would above all insure that Mr. Trump could not get another Supreme Court nominee confirmed in his second term, nor continue the wholesale appointment of lesser federal district judges. Plus, of course, it would obstruct any other legislative initiative his party brought for four years.

Personally, I would miss the chance to hear from the so-called “whistleblower” who instigated the impeachment phase of the long-running coup against Mr. Trump. Contrary to the disinformation put out by The New York Times and other coup co-conspirators, the “whistleblower” enjoys no right to anonymity. It would also be satisfying to hear how his enabler, Intel Community IG Michael Atkinson, might account for the process that steered the “whistleblower” to Rep. Adam Schiff and his staff — for instance, back-dating the official documents that green-lighted the “whistleblower’s” case. Mr. Atkinson is deeply implicated himself as a player in the earlier 2017 RussiaGate FISA court mischief, since his previous job was agency counsel to DOJ National Security chief John Carlin, who signed off on fraudulent FISA warrants. Mr. Atkinson must have counseled Mr. Carlin to do that.

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Where the main economic damage continues to emanate from.

Central Bankers Are Quietly Freaking Out About How To Fight The Next Recession (F.)

The world’s top central bank officials are rightly concerned that politicians in rich economies missed one key lesson of the last recession: Interest rate cuts can help to moderate a downturn, but aggressive fiscal policy is key to a healthy recovery. It was a pro-austerity stance both in the United States, and even more saliently in the euro zone, that arguably prolonged the period of high unemployment and low wage growth that plagued most of the decade-long recovery from the 2007-2009 U.S. Great Recession. Outgoing Bank of England Governor Mark Carney told the Financial Times this week that central banks are running low on fuel. “If there were to be a deeper downturn, [that requires] more stimulus than a conventional recession, then it’s not clear that monetary policy would have sufficient space,” he said.


“It’s generally true that there’s much less ammunition for all the major central banks than they previously had and I’m of the opinion that this situation will persist for some time.” That echoed the sentiment of Christine Lagarde, who recently took over the ECB. She’s telling budget-shy European politicians (especially in Germany) to get to work. Now, a new paper from Fed board economist Michael Kiley points to similar alarm among U.S. central bankers about their ability to fight future slumps. Drawing up two basic assumptions of what a downturn might look like, Kiley finds that “a recession may result in near-zero interest rates at long maturities, bringing U.S. experience closer to that seen in Europe and Japan.” This, says Kiley, “could imply limits on the ability of monetary policy to support a recovery.”

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“This is corruption, plain and simple,” U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren said on Twitter.”

No, Elizabeth, this is legal. Corruption is not. Look it up.

Boeing’s Ousted CEO Departs With $62 Million, Even Without Severance Pay (R.)

Boeing Co’s ousted chief executive officer, Dennis Muilenburg, is leaving the company with $62 million in compensation and pension benefits but will receive no severance pay in the wake of the 737 MAX crisis. Muilenburg was fired from the job in December as Boeing failed to contain the fallout from a pair of fatal crashes that halted output of the company’s bestselling 737 MAX jetliner and tarnished its reputation with airlines and regulators. The compensation figures were disclosed in a regulatory filing late on Friday during a difficult week for Boeing when it also released hundreds of internal messages — two major issues hanging over the company before new CEO David Calhoun starts on Monday.


The messages contained harshly critical comments about the development of the 737 MAX, including one that said the plane was “designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys.” The 737 MAX has been grounded since March following the second of two crashes that together killed 346 people within a span of five months. “It is incredibly heart wrenching to see the man at the heart of our loss walk away with a reward,” said Zipporah Kuria, whose 55-year-old father from Kenya died in the second crash. Lawmakers also blasted Boeing. “346 people died. And yet, Dennis Muilenburg pressured regulators and put profits ahead of the safety of passengers, pilots, and flight attendants. He’ll walk away with an additional $62.2 million. This is corruption, plain and simple,” U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren said on Twitter.

Read more …

As CEO, Muilenburg was responsible for the installation of defective parts on 737 MAX. His golden handshake is worth about 12 times the FAA’s fine for that. And he doesn’t even have to pay it.

FAA Seeks To Fine Boeing $5.4 Million For Defective Parts On 737 MAX (R.)

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Friday it was seeking to fine Boeing $5.4 million, alleging it failed to prevent the installation of defective parts on 737 MAX airplanes. The FAA alleged Boeing “failed to adequately oversee its suppliers to ensure they complied with the company’s quality assurance system, … Boeing knowingly submitted aircraft for final FAA airworthiness certification after determining that the parts could not be used due to a failed strength test.” The FAA proposed a $3.9 million civil penalty against Boeing for the same issue in December involving 133 737 NG airplanes, which is the prior generation of the 737.


The 737 MAX has been grounded since March after two fatal crashes killed 346 people. Boeing’s safety record on a number of issues have come under scrutiny from lawmakers and the FAA. The parts issue is completely unrelated to the crashes, Boeing said. The FAA disclosed in June that about 300 NG and 737 MAX airplanes could contain improperly manufactured parts and said it would require these parts to be quickly replaced. The parts at issue are tracks on the leading edge of the wings used to guide the movement of slats that provide additional lift during takeoff and landing, the FAA said. The issue could result in a slat striking an airplane, potentially resulting in injury to passengers or preventing a safe landing.

Read more …

More Muilenburg fallout.

Key Boeing 737 MAX Supplier Spirit Aerosystems To Cut 2,800 Jobs (CNBC)

A key Boeing 737 Max supplier said Friday that it is planning to cut about 2,800 jobs as the planes remain grounded far longer than expected and the financial impact ripples through the aerospace company’s supply chain. Wichita, Kansas-based Spirit Aerosystems, which produces fuselages for the beleaguered planes, said it made the decision due to uncertainty around the Max’s return to service. The company’s shares fell after its announcement, trading down 2.7%. Boeing was off nearly 1.5%. The 737 Max accounts for half of Spirit’s revenue. The planes have been grounded since mid-March [..] Regulators haven’t said when they would allow the planes to fly again.


“This is not the news I wanted to share, and I know it’s not the news you wanted to hear,” CEO Tom Gentile told employees on Friday. “But the continued grounding of the Max fleet and the suspension of production has created a challenging situation for us.” In addition to fuselages, Spirit makes thrust reversers, engine pylons and wing parts. Spirit, which issued what’s known as a WARN notice that requires companies to give employees 60 days notice of mass layoffs, said more job cuts are possible, a sign of how Boeing’s 737 Max crisis continues to hurt suppliers and the communities where they’re based. The laid-off employees, while they will have to depart in the coming weeks, will be paid for the entire 60-day notice period, Spirit said.

Read more …

Going through all the amounts spent, how can you not despair? What is fair about this sytem?

Joe Biden Gets $Millions In TV Ads In Iowa From Undisclosed Donors (IC)

Heading into the Iowa caucus, a Super PAC backing Joe Biden is spending big on TV ads in the state, giving him a boost over his fellow Democratic presidential frontrunners. Unite the Country PAC, which was launched in October by longtime advisers to the former vice president and allies of former President Barack Obama, has spent $2.3 million on TV ads in support of Biden in Iowa, according to recent disclosures. In recent years, political campaigns have devoted more of their resources to digital advertising and email distribution, but they continue to spend big on TV ads. For candidates like Biden, whose campaign had been struggling with fundraising in the fall, Super PACs can play a key role in helping reach people on the airwaves.

Biden had disavowed the support of Super PACs early in his campaign, but walked that position back just before Unite the Country launched in October. The timing of the launch comes with an additional benefit: The PAC will be able to keep its donors under wraps until just three days before the February 3 Iowa caucus. Under Federal Election Commission rules, the Super PAC’s first disclosure is due on January 31. The schedule gives Biden more of a chance to escape scrutiny of who exactly is bundling for the PAC — a list likely to include more major industry players, far and away from the working-class voters for whom Biden has cast himself as a hero. Asked about the date the group was required to file its next disclosure, a spokesperson for the PAC said it followed the FEC’s reporting schedule.

As Sen. Cory Booker’s campaign continues to flounder, his Super PAC, United We Win, has spent $250,000 on TV advertising on his behalf. Other campaigns have made massive investments in TV ads in Iowa. Both Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg have spent around $3.9 million on TV ads in the state so far. Andrew Yang has spent $2.5 million, Biden has spent $1.8 million, and Elizabeth Warren has spent $1.6 million. Billionaire Tom Steyer has spent $9 million in Iowa and $116.5 million overall, and it’s paying off: According to a Fox News poll released this week, Steyer is polling ahead of Sanders, Warren, and Buttigieg in South Carolina, where he’s spent $8.3 million on TV ads, and ahead of Warren in Nevada, where he’s spent $8.7 million. Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who is self-funding his campaign, has spent $153.1 million on TV ads so far.

Read more …

 

This aged remarkably well.

 

 

 

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Jan 102020
 
 January 10, 2020  Posted by at 10:23 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  15 Responses »


Jack Delano Main street intersection, Norwich, Connecticut 1940

 

Iran Invites US To Join Probe Of Ukrainian Jet Disaster (R.)
Missile System Suspected Of Bringing Down Airliner – Short Range, Fast And Deadly (R.)
Trump’s Iran De-Escalation Succeeds (Flores)
Tulsi Gabbard: ‘Iran Is Closer Now To A Nuclear Weapon Than Ever Before’ (NW)
Iran Could Have Nuclear Weapon Within One To Two Years: French Minister (R.)
Matt Gaetz Voted With Democrats On War Powers Resolution (SAC)
Democrats To Press For Impeachment Witnesses Throughout Trial (R.)
The Justice Department Is Devoid of Justice (PCR)
Internal Boeing Messages Raise Serious Questions About 737 MAX (R.)
Boeing Emails Show Workers Mocking FAA, Ridiculing 737 MAX Safety (MW)
White House Unveils Plan To Speed Big Projects Permits (R.)
China To Become First To Realize UN Goal Of ‘No Poverty’ (CD)

 

 

There are still far too many people out there with opinions derived from confirmation bias. Please stop it, open your minds. Whether it’s Soleimani or this downed jet, it’s fine if you need some time to figure things out. WWIII? Attacking Iran? These things would cost Trump the presidency. And he knows it.

Meanwhile, why are the US and Canada falling over themselves to declare the shooting down of the 737-800NG (if that’s even what happened) “unintentional” and “accidental”? That brings back memories of MH17. Where the opposite happened.

And why did Iran go from refusing to hand over black boxes, to inviting the US and others in, within 24 hours? Detente?

 

Iran Invites US To Join Probe Of Ukrainian Jet Disaster (R.)

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has accepted an invitation from Iran to take part in its investigation into the crash of a Ukrainian airplane in Tehran, the agency confirmed late on Thursday. The NTSB said in a statement its Response Operations Center had received formal notification from Iran of Wednesday’s crash of the Boeing 737-800 that killed all 176 on board. “The NTSB has designated an accredited representative to the investigation of the crash,” the agency said. The NTSB confirmed it would take part in the probe after an Iranian official told Reuters of the agreement. “The NTSB has replied to our chief investigator and has announced an accredited representative,” Farhad Parvaresh, Iran’s representative at the International Civil Aviation Organization, part of the United Nations, told Reuters.

A person briefed on the matter said it was unclear what if anything its representative would be able to do under U.S. sanctions. NTSB said in its statement it “continues to monitor the situation surrounding the crash and evaluate its level of participation in the investigation.” The United States is allowed to take part under global rules since the Boeing 737-800NG jet was designed and built there. Canada, which had dozens of passengers onboard, has also assigned an expert, while a team from Ukraine held discussions in Tehran on Thursday, Parvaresh said in a telephone interview. Iran is ready to provide consular facilities and visas for accredited investigators, he added.

Sweden and Afghanistan, which had some passengers on board, have also been notified. France may also be involved as it was one of the countries where the engines were made, Parvaresh said. He denied U.S. and Canadian claims that the jet had been shot down accidentally and said Iran was committed to a full and transparent investigation for the accident, adding it was too early to speculate on the cause. “As Iranians we feel this tragedy and disaster for us and for the families,” Parvaresh said, expressing condolences to the relatives of the people who died. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier the jet was probably brought down by an accidental Iranian missile strike, citing intelligence from Canadian and other sources.

The U.S. government believes Iran shot down the plane by mistake, three U.S. officials told Reuters. The Ukraine International Airlines flight to Kiev from Tehran crashed hours after Iran fired ballistic missiles at two U.S. military bases in Iraq. Parvaresh said expert testimony indicated that the aircraft could not have been hit by a missile and that it was important to keep the crash investigation non-political. “I think we should keep this purely technical and not confuse it with political tensions in the region. We should leave it to experts to investigate and make their report.”

Read more …

And Russian.

Missile System Suspected Of Bringing Down Airliner – Short Range, Fast And Deadly (R.)

Canada said on Thursday that a surface-to-air missile brought down a Ukrainian airliner in Tehran, while the Ukrainian government said it was investigating reports of debris from a Russian-made Tor-M1 missile. The Tor, also called the SA-15 Gauntlet by NATO, is a short-range “point defense” system that integrates the missile launcher and radar into a single tracked vehicle. It is designed to be mobile and lethal against targets at altitudes up to 6,000 meters (20,000 feet) and at ranges of 12 km (7.5 miles), according to the Federation of American Scientists, which researches and analyses “catastrophic threats to national and international security”.

Military aircraft and cruise missiles – which the Tor system is designed to destroy – typically plot their courses to avoid being spotted on radar. They are equipped with systems such as chaff, which confuses radar, and flares, which act as decoys for heat-seeking missiles. The jet that crashed on Wednesday, Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, a Boeing 737-800, would have filed a flight plan and had no defensive features. It was unlikely the flight crew had time to react to any missile, said Michael Duitsman, a research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. “They probably wouldn’t have even seen it coming,” Duitsman said. “Right after takeoff, the pilots were probably preoccupied with other things.”

To attack a target, the Tor operator must identify it on the radar screen and direct the missile to launch. There were several other civilian aircraft nearby when Flight 752 crashed just a few kilometers from the airport. All of those aircraft would have been visible on the radar screen of the Tor battery as well as civilian radar at the airport. [..] Tor missiles are guided by radar and fly at almost three times the speed of sound. That means that if launched at a target 5 km (3 miles) away, they will arrive within about five seconds. They have a small warhead – about 15 kg (33 lb) of high explosive – but are designed to spray fragments of shredded metal, like bullets, into a target upon detonation.

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Most intriguing piece of the day. Do read it from A to Z. Was Trump tricked into killing Soleimani? Just so anti-war voters would move away from him?

Trump’s Iran De-Escalation Succeeds (Flores)

Impeachment against Trump has now been used several times to push him to act aggressively in the middle-east, contrary to his policy and self-interest. On all the ‘impeachment threat – then strike’ occasions, Trump ordered strikes on predictable targets – targets so predictable and oddly executed, that Syrian and Iranian forces barely felt them. There appears to be at the very least an ‘unspoken communication’ at play, where strikes are made to assuage political needs but not to inflict serious damage. If Trump really wanted an excuse to strike Iran, he’s had it before.

There was precisely such an opportunity when subversives in government hatched a plan to push Trump into a war with Iran, when two planes were sent to violate Iranian airspace – one manned, the other unmanned – flying in close proximity. This created the chance that Iran’s downing of either plane could be used as a pretext for a major war-creating strike on Iran.

Despite Trump’s acting reasonably, government actors and media attempted to create a sensation where Trump was ridiculed for ‘calling off’ a planned retaliation in the aftermath of the downed drone. The same liberal media and Democratic Party establishment that attacked Trump’s de-escalation then from a hawkish perspective, today manifest as doves who suddenly oppose Trump’s reckless hawkishness. Here, in the aftermath of the drone incident, a Trump policy was formulated – and it’s a policy that figures prominently in de-escalation in the aftermath of the assassination of Soleimani and Iran’s measured response. The policy is this – if Iran kills Americans, then the U.S escalates. If the U.S does something provocative, then Iran is actually allowed to respond militarily, so long as American personnel are not killed.

[..] A war with Iran would push the anti-war sentiments of independent voters away from Trump, and towards a more revitalized and mobilized Democrat Party anti-war base. Trump needs an anti-war base to be re-elected, and war with Iran pushes that base towards nearly any Democrat candidate. At the same time, Trump also needs the continued support from America’s Christian Zionist evangelical ‘Israel Firsters’, as well as the infamous AIPAC, not only to be re-elected, but to maintain the support in the senate against impeachment. That conflict between Trump’s two greatest populist strengths – between Trump’s anti-war base and his Christian Zionist base – largely defines his weakest political spot. That’s why it’s the best place to attack him.

Read more …

Easy, Tulsi!

Scott Ritter on Twitter: “I’m a huge @TulsiGabbard fan, but she is treading on dangerous ground. The implication here is that Iran has nuclear weapons ambition. If you buy into this fallacy, you empower those who will use this as a justification for war.”

Tulsi Gabbard: ‘Iran Is Closer Now To A Nuclear Weapon Than Ever Before’ (NW)

Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard blasted President Donald Trump’s actions toward Iran, claiming that his decisions has brought the Persian Gulf nation closer “than ever before” to obtaining a nuclear weapon. “Trump’s war with Iran is undermining our national security and putting all Americans in greater danger,” Gabbard, a Hawaii congresswoman and Iraq War veteran, warned in a Thursday tweet, sharing a clip of herself discussing recent tensions with Iran on CNN. “Iran is closer now to a nuclear weapon than ever before. And it’s opening the door to resurgence of ISIS/Al-Qaeda,” she claimed.

Iran is believed to be closer today to possessing a nuclear weapon than it has been under the restrictions of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump withdrew from in May 2018. Still, it appears to be an exaggeration to say the country is closer than “ever before” to obtaining such a weapon. The JCPOA successfully reduced Iran’s uranium enrichment program, with U.S. intelligence leaders saying last year it would take the Islamic Republic at “about one year” to create a nuclear weapon. Before that agreement, Iran was believed to be within two to three months of creating highly enriched uranium that could be used in a weapon, according to a July 2018 report by the Congressional Research Service.

[..] Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based security think tank, told CBS News that Iran could now develop a nuclear weapon within six months. She noted, however, that Iran has still expressed support for the JCPOA but plans to no longer abide by its obligations under the deal. Iran “is still allowing the verification by [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspectors,” she told CBS.

Read more …

Sometimes you might just get the idea that NATO wants nothing more than for Iran to develop nukes.

Iran Could Have Nuclear Weapon Within One To Two Years: French Minister (R.)

Iran could have nuclear weapons in one to two years if the country carries on violating the 2015 nuclear accord, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday. “If they continue with unravelling the Vienna agreement, then yes, within a fairly short period of time, between one and two years, they could have access to a nuclear weapon, which is not an option”, Le Drian said on RTL radio. EU foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Friday to seek ways to guide the United States and Iran away from confrontation, knowing that a miscalculation on either side could leave the bloc facing a war and a serious nuclear proliferation crisis on its doorstep.

Read more …

It’s toothless anyway.

Matt Gaetz Voted With Democrats On War Powers Resolution (SAC)

“I spoke to the president today,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, (R-FL) said on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” “The president told me he is more antiwar than I am, and I love the president for that. The thing is, I think a few of the advisers of the president are trying to slow-walk the administration into war. When the president relies on his instincts and we have the Trump doctrine, we kill the terrorist and we come home.” “I think this War Powers Resolution was worthy of support because it did not criticize the president,” Gaetz said. “It did not say he was wrong in killing [Quds Force Gen.] Soleimani. But…it did say that if any president wants to drag our nation into another forever Middle East war that they require the approval of the United States Congress.”


“That’s something I deeply believe. And I think it’s something the president deeply believes,” Gaetz explained. Tucker Carlson questioned Gaetz’s claim that his vote had Trump’s support. “Just to be totally clear,” Tucker Carlson asked, “you are one of three Republicans who voted, in effect, against the president’s stated position but you just talked to the president and he said that he is on your side?” “Well, the president probably would have preferred that I vote with the other Republicans,” Gaetz responded. “He [Trump] certainly said that. I think on these broader questions of war and peace, Donald Trump understands that the pro-war candidate loses presidential elections … it’s typically the anti-war candidates that win.”

Read more …

Inviting Biden and Schiff onto the stage.

Democrats To Press For Impeachment Witnesses Throughout Trial (R.)

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he will press Republicans to accept four witnesses, including John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, even if the Senate rejects testimony at the start of the trial to determine whether Trump should be convicted of abusing his power and obstructing Congress over Ukraine. “Those votes at the beginning of the trial will not be the last votes on witnesses and documents. Make no mistake, we will continue to revisit the issue,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. Schumer, who needs only four of the 100-seat Senate’s 53 Republicans to join Democrats on the witness question, could succeed by pressuring vulnerable Republicans such as Senator Susan Collins and Senator Cory Gardner, who face re-election challenges in swing states in November.


Without witnesses, Democrats fear Senate Republicans could move quickly to dismiss the charges against Trump. But securing witnesses could also open a Pandora’s box for Democrats. Trump has said he would like to hear from former Vice President Joe Biden, his businessman son Hunter Biden, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint launched the impeachment inquiry. Trump also has said he might try to block Bolton from testifying. “When we start allowing national security advisers to just go up and say whatever they want to say… We can’t do that,” he told reporters at the White House.

Read more …

“This is how corrupt American law has become. A man is being put in prison for 6 months for not cooperating with an investigation of an event that did not happen!”

The Justice Department Is Devoid of Justice (PCR)

In the United States the criminal justice (sic) system is itself not subject to law. We see immunity to law continually as police commit felonies against citizens and even murder children and walk away free. We see it all the time when prosecutors conduct political prosecutions and when they prosecute the innocent in order to build their conviction record. We see it when judges fail to prevent prosecutors from withholding exculpatory evidence and bribing witnesses and when judges accept coerced plea deals that deprive the defendant of a jury trial.

We just saw it again when federal prosecutors recommended a six month prison sentence for Lt. Gen. Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency accused of lying to the FBI about nothing of any importance, for being uncooperative in the Justice (sic) Department’s effort to frame President Trump with false “Russiagate” charges. The Justice (sic) Department prosecutor said: “The sentence should adequately deter the defendant from violating the law, and to promote respect for the law. It is clear that the defendant has not learned his lesson. He has behaved as though the law does not apply to him, and as if there are no consequences for his actions.”

That is precisely what the Justice (sic) Department itself did for years in their orchestration of the fake Russiagate charges against Trump. The prosecutor’s hypocrisy is overwhelming. The Justice (sic) Department is a criminal organization. It has no sense of justice. Convicting the innocent builds the conviction rate of the prosecutor as effectively as convicting the guilty. The Horowitz report of the Justice (sic) Department’s lies to the FISA court did not recommend a six-month prision sentence for those Justice (sic) Deplartment officials who lied to the government. Horowitz covered up the crimes by converting them into “mistakes.” Yes, they are embarrassing “mistakes,” but mistakes don’t bring prison sentences.

Now that we know the only Russiagate scandal was its orchestration by the CIA, Justice (sic) Department, and Democrats, failing to cooperate with the special counsel investigation of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election is nonsensical as we know for a definite fact that there was no such interference. [..] This is how corrupt American law has become. A man is being put in prison for 6 months for not cooperating with an investigation of an event that did not happen! If Trump doesn’t pardon Flynn (and Manafort and Stone), and fire the corrupt prosecutors who falsely prosecuted Flynn, Trump deserves no one’s support. A president who will not defend his own people from unwarranted prosecution is not worthy of support.

Read more …

Clowns and monkeys. Are these people still working at Boeing?

Internal Boeing Messages Raise Serious Questions About 737 MAX (R.)

Boeing on Thursday released hundreds of internal messages that raise serious questions about its development of simulators and the 737 Max that was grounded in March after two fatal crashes, prompting outrage from US lawmakers. In an April 2017 exchange of instant messages, two employees expressed complaints about the Max following references to issues with the plane’s flight management computer. “This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys,” one unnamed employee wrote. In one message, dated November 2015, which appears to shed light on lobbying methods used when facing demands from regulators, a Boeing employee notes regulators were likely to want simulator training for a particular type of cockpit alert.

“We are going to push back very hard on this and will likely need support at the highest levels when it comes time for the final negotiation,” the employee writes. The planemaker said some communications “raise questions” about Boeing’s interactions with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in connection with the simulator qualification process. In releasing redacted versions of what it called “completely unacceptable” communications, Boeing said it was committed to transparency with the regulator. Unredacted versions of the messages were turned over to the FAA and Congress in December.

Peter DeFazio, the House transportation committee chairman, who has been investigating the Max, said the messages “paint a deeply disturbing picture of the lengths Boeing was apparently willing to go to in order to evade scrutiny from regulators, flight crews, and the flying public, even as its own employees were sounding alarms internally”. He added: “they show a coordinated effort dating back to the earliest days of the 737 Max program to conceal critical information from regulators and the public”.

Read more …

“Would you put your family on a Max simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn’t.”

Boeing Emails Show Workers Mocking FAA, Ridiculing 737 MAX Safety (MW)

Newly released internal emails from Boeing Co. paint a disturbing picture of its 737 Max program, with employees bragging about fooling FAA regulators and ridiculing its safety. The emails were part of more than 100 pages of documents sent Thursday by Boeing to House and Senate committees that have been investigating the aircraft maker in the wake of two crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed a combined 346 people. The 737 Max family has been grounded for nearly a year, with no return date yet. “This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys,” read one email.


Some messages detail problems with the development of Boeing’s 737 Max simulator and suggest the planes got FAA approval under false pretences. “I still haven’t been forgiven by God for the covering up I did last year,” one of the employees says in a 2018 email, apparently referring to interactions with the Federal Aviation Administration. “Would you put your family on a Max simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn’t,” one employee emailed a colleague. “No,” the co-worker responded. “These newly-released emails are incredibly damning,” Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said in a statement Thursday night. “They paint a deeply disturbing picture of the lengths Boeing was apparently willing to go to in order to evade scrutiny from regulators, flight crews, and the flying public.”

Read more …

They’ll be buried in ever more lawsuits, and many courts will choose the other side. It’s simply too late, and opinion on fossil fuels etc. is against deregulation.

White House Unveils Plan To Speed Big Projects Permits (R.)

The Trump administration on Thursday unveiled a plan to speed permitting for major infrastructure projects like oil pipelines, road expansions and bridges, one of the biggest deregulatory actions of the president’s tenure. The plan, released by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), would help the administration advance big energy and infrastructure projects like the Keystone XL oil pipeline or roads, bridges and federal buildings that President Donald Trump and industry groups complained have been hampered by red tape. “For the first time in over 40 years today we are issuing a new rule under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to completely overhaul the dysfunctional bureaucratic system that has created these massive obstructions,” Trump said at the White House on Thursday.

The proposal to update the how NEPA, the 50-year bedrock federal environmental law, is implemented is part of Trump’s broader effort to cut regulations and oversight to boost industry. “This proposal affects virtually every significant decision made by the federal government that affects the environment,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said, adding that the NEPA reform would be the “most significant deregulatory proposal” of the Trump administration. The proposed rule says federal agencies would not need to factor in the “cumulative impacts” of a project, which could include its impact on climate change, making it easier for major fossil fuel projects to sail through the approval process and avoid legal challenges.

[..] Trump’s efforts to cut regulatory red tape have been praised by industry. But they have so far largely backfired by triggering waves of lawsuits that the administration has lost in court, according to a running tally here by the New York University School of Law’s Institute for Policy Integrity. Over the last few years, federal courts have ruled that NEPA requires the federal government to consider a project’s carbon footprint in decisions related to leasing public lands for drilling or building pipelines.

Read more …

The author is a senior fellow at the think tank Center for China and Globalization. That explains a lot. But yes, China achieved a lot re: poverty. Question is: at what price?

China To Become First To Realize UN Goal Of ‘No Poverty’ (CD)

China is poised to realize a dream that a few decades ago most experts would have dismissed as wishful thinking. For centuries, China dreamed of building a “moderately prosperous society” in all respects. And this year, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, China will realize that dream despite having a population of more than 1.3 billion. Late leader Deng Xiaoping resurrected this ancient but never-realized goal when reform and opening-up were launched. Chinese leaders who followed adopted it, adding additional details. President Xi Jinping included it in his seminal “four-pronged comprehensive strategy” in 2014. Xi explained the notion in great detail at the 19th National Congress of the CPC in October 2017 in a speech titled, “Secure a Decisive Victory in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects”, mentioning the concept 18 times.

He said that building a moderately prosperous society in all respects meant promoting social fairness and justice, as well as ensuring steady access to childcare, education, employment, medical service, elderly care, housing and social assistance. He pledged to “intensify poverty alleviation, see that all our people have a greater sense of fulfillment as they contribute to and gain from development, and continue to promote well-rounded human development and common prosperity for everyone.” Now, a little more than two years later, the results are in, and China is about to eradicate absolute poverty. In 1979, China’s per capita GDP was $200. It is now estimated to be $10,000, a 50-fold increase – with GDP growth averaging just shy of 10 percent a year.

Over the past four decades, China has lifted about 800 million people out of poverty, which is 70 percent of the global total. Little wonder China is set to become the first developing country to achieve the first of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals: No poverty. China’s rural population living under the currently defined poverty line of $1.90 per person per day fell from 770 million in 1978 to 16.6 million in 2018, and the rural poverty level declined from 97.5 percent to 1.7 percent, a decrease of 95.8 percent. In 2019 alone, about 340 impoverished counties and 10 million people were lifted out of poverty. And Xi has pledged that after the eradication of absolutely poverty in 2020, China will launch a campaign to eliminate relative poverty.

Read more …

 

In the same way that you ARE the climate. Or the war.

 

 

 

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Jan 092020
 
 January 9, 2020  Posted by at 9:50 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


John Vachon Five o’clock crowds, Chicago 1941

 

Pelosi Seeks To Limit Trump’s War Powers (USAT)
Pelosi Loses Senate Democrats On Trump Impeachment Delay (BBC)
McConnell Won’t Haggle With House Over Impeachment Trial Plan (R.)
Can You Locate Iran On A Map? Few Americans Can. (MC)
World Bank Trims 2020 Growth Forecast (R.)
Ghosn: Seeds of Renault-Nissan Crisis Were Sown By Macron (R.)
Carlos Ghosn And The Dark Corners Of Japanese Justice (G.)
Come Home, America: Stop Policing the Globe (Whitehead)
Juan Guaidó’s Surreal Regime Change Reality Show (GZ)
Hunter Biden ‘Biological And Legal Father’ Of Stripper’s Child – Judge (Fox)

 

 

“…citing ‘urgent’ concerns on Iran strategy…”

This of course cannot be about Trump alone. It has to concern an assessment of all past and future presidents too. Plus, you may be forced to change the Constitution. So future potential Democrat presidents will see their hands tied by Pelosi in 2020, and we’ll need an in-depth discussion about Obama and Hillary’s actions in Syria, Libya etc., because, again, it can’t be just about Trump. Is taking out Soleimani so much worse than raping Ghadaffi to death with a bayonet?

This is going to take a lot of time. More than the 10 months until the next election. In which Pelosi should ostensibly run if she wants to usurp the president’s powers.

 

Pelosi Seeks To Limit Trump’s War Powers (USAT)

The House will vote Thursday on a measure that would limit President Donald Trump’s ability to wage war with Iran, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced. The Democratic House speaker said Trump’s action last week – authorizing a drone strike that killed top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani – was “provocative and disproportionate” and done without consulting Congress. Thursday’s debate will shine a spotlight on the Soleimani killing and the possibility of further escalation between the U.S. and Iran. It will also air constitutional questions about the president’s ability to order military action without congressional authorization.

“Members of Congress have serious, urgent concerns about the administration’s decision to engage in hostilities against Iran and about its lack of strategy moving forward,” Pelosi said. “To honor our duty to keep the American people safe, the House will move forward with a War Powers Resolution to limit the President’s military actions regarding Iran.” But even if the measure passes the House, which is controlled by Democrats, it will face hurdles in the GOP-controlled Senate. And Trump can veto the measure, as he did last year when Congress tried to end the American military role in Yemen.

Pelosi’s decision to move forward with the war powers measure came after Iran retaliated on Tuesday for Soleiman’s killing by launching ballistic missiles at two Iraqi airbases that house U.S. and coalition forces. Trump said that incident did not cause any American casualties and resulted in only minimal damage, as he sought to lower tensions with Iran in an address to the nation Wednesday. But Pelosi and other Democrats said they remained alarmed at the possibility of further military confrontation. “The consequences of this strike already … have been cataclysmic,” said Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He and others said the situation could still easily spiral out of control.

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They get worried over their seats.

Pelosi Loses Senate Democrats On Trump Impeachment Delay (BBC)

The US Congress’ most powerful Democrat is losing support among Senate allies as she holds up President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has delayed sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate in a tussle over rules with Republicans. Senator Dianne Feinstein called on Mrs Pelosi, her fellow California Democrat and ex-neighbour, to “send it over”. The Senate’s Republican leader vowed there would be “no haggling”. Mitch McConnell said he can muster the majority of 51 votes needed among his fellow Republicans in the Senate to codify the proceedings without Democratic support. Senate Democrats said prolonging the standoff would be pointless.


“The longer it goes on the less urgent it becomes,” Senator Feinstein said on Wednesday, Bloomberg News reported. “So if it’s serious and urgent, send them over. If it isn’t, don’t send it over.” The political trial of Mr Trump cannot begin until the Democratic-controlled House sends its articles of impeachment, the charges against the president, to the Senate. Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, told Politico: “I respect the fact that [Pelosi] is concerned about the fact about whether or not there will be a fair trial, but I do think it is time to get on with it.” Senator Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, said: “I don’t know what leverage we have. It looks like the cake is already baked.” Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, also said he believed it was time to start the Senate trial.

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“If Pelosi sought leverage over the Senate, McConnell said, “no such leverage exists … it will never exist.”

McConnell Won’t Haggle With House Over Impeachment Trial Plan (R.)

U.S. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday the Senate would not haggle with the House of Representatives over procedures for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, adding that the Senate would make a decision on calling witnesses for the trial at the appropriate time. Speaking on the Senate floor, the Republican senator expressed exasperation that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a letter to her fellow Democrats on Tuesday night, had indicated she would continue holding back the House-passed articles of impeachment from the Senate until she knows more about Senate plans for the impeachment trial.

McConnell did not specifically answer Pelosi’s demand, but lambasted her actions as “game-playing” and said she could not dictate the Senate’s trial proceedings. “There will be no haggling with the House over Senate procedure. We will not cede our authority to try this impeachment,” McConnell said. If Pelosi sought leverage over the Senate, McConnell said, “no such leverage exists … it will never exist.” He accused Pelosi of wanting to keep Trump “in limbo” over the trial indefinitely. The House in December charged Trump with abusing his power for personal gain by asking Ukraine to announce a corruption investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in November’s presidential election.

It also charged the president with obstructing Congress by directing administration officials and agencies not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. Under the U.S. Constitution, the House brings impeachment charges, while impeachment trials are held by the Senate. But McConnell has said that Senate rules prevent the Senate from starting the trial until the House sends it the articles of impeachment, and the House has not done so.

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I like the ones who locate Iran inside the USA.

Can You Locate Iran On A Map? Few Americans Can. (MC)

As tensions between the United States and Iran rise in the aftermath of the American drone strike that killed the country’s most powerful commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a new Morning Consult/Politico survey finds fewer than 3 in 10 registered voters can identify the Islamic republic on an unlabeled map.

Twenty-eight percent of registered voters were able to accurately label Iran on a map of the Middle East region, according to new Morning Consult/Politico polling conducted Jan. 4-5, before the Iranian military fired missiles at two bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops. Twenty-three percent could identify the country on a larger, also unlabeled, global map. Eight percent of voters thought Iran was Iraq on the smaller map.


The polling experiment sheds light on voters’ geographical unfamiliarity with foreign countries, even those with which the United States has been engaged in sustained conflict. Some respondents fared better than others, however.

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When will the first people stand up and say we can’t afford to grow any longer?

World Bank Trims 2020 Growth Forecast (R.)

The World Bank on Wednesday trimmed its global growth forecasts slightly for 2019 and 2020 due to a slower-than-expected recovery in trade and investment despite cooler trade tensions between the United States and China. The multilateral development bank said 2019 marked the weakest economic expansion since the global financial crisis a decade ago, and 2020, while a slight improvement, remained vulnerable to uncertainties over trade and geopolitical tensions. In its latest Global Economic Prospects report, the World Bank shaved 0.2 percentage point off of growth for both years, with the 2019 global economic growth forecast at 2.4% and 2020 at 2.5%.

“This modest increase in global growth marks the end of the slowdown that started in 2018 and took a heavy toll on global activity, trade and investment, especially last year,” said Ayhan Kose, the World Bank’s lead economic forecaster. “We do expect an improvement, but overall, we also see a weaker growth outlook.”

The latest World Bank forecasts take into account the so-called Phase 1 trade deal announced by the United States and China, which suspended new U.S. tariffs on Chinese consumer goods scheduled for Dec. 15 and reduced the tariff rate on some other goods. While the tariff rate reduction will have a “rather small” effect on trade, the deal is expected to boost business confidence and investment prospects, contributing to a pickup in trade growth, Kose said. Global trade growth is expected to improve modestly in 2020 to 1.9% from 1.4% in 2019, which was the lowest since the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the World Bank said. This remains well below the 5% average annual trade growth rate since 2010, according to World Bank data.

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Ghosn also has a French passport.

Ghosn: Seeds of Renault-Nissan Crisis Were Sown By Macron (R.)

Ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn said on Wednesday that a surprise corporate move, orchestrated five years ago by French President Emmanuel Macron who was then economy minister, soured relations between Renault and Nissan and contributed to his ouster. Ghosn, the former head of the car alliance, said Nissan executives and Japanese officials were shocked by a 2015 decision by the French government to increase its voting rights at Renault. “This left a big bitterness. Not only with the management of Nissan, but also the government of Japan,” Ghosn told reporters, although he did not name Macron. “And this is where the problem started.”


In April 2015, as a 37-year-old minister with then-unknown presidential ambitions, Macron ordered a rise in the state’s stake in Renault here designed to secure double voting rights. The overnight move gave the French state a blocking minority in Renault, which in turn controlled Nissan via its 43.4 percent stake in the Japanese firm. According to French and Japanese sources, that rattled the Japanese side of the Renault-Nissan alliance, which feared a national champion was falling under the control of the French government.

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Ghosn was citing a 99.4% conviction rate in Japanese cases. Why have a lawyer?

Carlos Ghosn And The Dark Corners Of Japanese Justice (G.)

Given his brash demeanour and immense wealth, Ghosn is not a sympathetic character. Indeed, he may well be guilty of financial misconduct. But he is right to shine a light into the dark corners of Japan’s justice system. Anyone familiar with the Japanese justice system would know that Ghosn’s allegations are not far-fetched. In Japan, laws are used as weapons against targeted people and not applied equally. One example of this is the “hostage justice” (hitojichi-shiho) system. Hostage justice boils down to the accused remaining in custody until they incriminate themselves by signing a confession. Often this is drawn up by prosecutors who browbeat the accused without defence counsel.

Knowing that the playing field is tilted in favour of the prosecutors and that they could spend a very long time in jail even before going to court, many innocent defendants confess. Ghosn spent more than 120 days in detention. In the late 1980s, a once high-flying company president called Hiromasa Ezoe was accused of bribery. Despite extreme pressure to confess, Ezoe defied prosecuting authorities by pleading not guilty. Over a decade of judicial purgatory later, he was effectively exonerated by receiving a suspended three-year sentence in 2003. In 2010 he published a book, Where is the Justice?, a savage indictment of a system in which the presumption of innocence is abandoned and defendants are railroaded. Ghosn may well have wanted to avoid this fate.

In Japan, the accused can be held for 23 days without charge – this is almost indefinitely renewable as judges normally give prosecutors the benefit of the doubt. In April 2019, more than 1,000 lawyers and scholars submitted a petition to the justice ministry demanding an end to this antediluvian system. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations has also long lobbied against it. The 2019 petition doesn’t mince its words, asserting that the “long-term detention in the Carlos Ghosn case has triggered surprise and criticism overseas, leading to doubts about Japan’s integrity as a democratic nation that guarantees human rights”.

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“Worldwide, the military runs more than 170 golf courses.”

Come Home, America: Stop Policing the Globe (Whitehead)

It’s time to bring our troops home. Bring them home from Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Bring them home from Germany, South Korea and Japan. Bring them home from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Oman. Bring them home from Niger, Chad and Mali. Bring them home from Turkey, the Philippines, and northern Australia. That’s not what’s going to happen, of course. The U.S. military reportedly has more than 1.3 million men and women on active duty, with more than 200,000 of them stationed overseas in nearly every country in the world. Those numbers are likely significantly higher in keeping with the Pentagon’s policy of not fully disclosing where and how many troops are deployed for the sake of “operational security and denying the enemy any advantage.”

As investigative journalist David Vine explains, “Although few Americans realize it, the United States likely has more bases in foreign lands than any other people, nation, or empire in history.” Don’t fall for the propaganda, though: America’s military forces aren’t being deployed abroad to protect our freedoms here at home. Rather, they’re being used to guard oil fields, build foreign infrastructure and protect the financial interests of the corporate elite. In fact, the United States military spends about $81 billion a year just to protect oil supplies around the world. The reach of America’s military empire includes close to 800 bases in as many as 160 countries, operated at a cost of more than $156 billion annually.

As Vine reports, “Even US military resorts and recreation areas in places like the Bavarian Alps and Seoul, South Korea, are bases of a kind. Worldwide, the military runs more than 170 golf courses.” This is how a military empire occupies the globe. Already, American military servicepeople are being deployed to far-flung places in the Middle East and elsewhere in anticipation of the war drums being sounded over Iran. This Iran crisis, salivated over by the neocons since prior to the Iraq War and manufactured by war hawks who want to jumpstart the next world war, has been a long time coming. Donald Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton: they all have done their part to ensure that the military industrial complex can continue to get rich at taxpayer expense.

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The opposition will get rid of Guaidó, Maduro doesn’t have to do much.

Juan Guaidó’s Surreal Regime Change Reality Show (GZ)

Fistfights and screaming matches broke out at Venezuela’s National Assembly on January 5, when the legislative body was scheduled to elect its leader. But the melee was not what the corporate US media has portrayed it as. The fights weren’t between the Chavistas who support the Bolivarian Revolution and President Nicolás Maduro on one side and opposition members on the other, but rather between competing members of the opposition itself. The opposition imploded because Juan Guaidó, the former president of the National Assembly and self-declared “interim president” of the country, lost his campaign to be reelected as head of the legislature.

The Venezuelan opposition is in a state of disaster — as it has been since former President Hugo Chávez’s first election in 1998. It’s a loose and ever-changing coalition of around a dozen political parties, with differing ideologies, strategies, and constituencies. The far right, which is comprised mainly of the Voluntad Popular and Primero Justicia parties, is filled with people who have been receiving financial and logistical support from the United States for the past 20 years. In the 2002 coup against then President Chávez, the far right briefly took over, and excluded the more moderate opposition from positions of power. The moderates learned the wrong lesson: instead of challenging the US-backed right, it caved to them, acceding to their plans of regime change and undemocratic maneuvers.

But an important split occurred between the moderates and the extremists during the presidential elections in May 2018. The moderates ignored the far right’s calls for a boycott and won 3 million votes in the presidential elections, out of a voting electorate of around 15 million people (with approximately 20 million eligible voters). In September 2019, these moderate opposition figures sat down with the Maduro administration and came to a wide-ranging agreement that included a bipartisan rejection of US sanctions and the appointment of new members of the National Electoral Council.

Between them, the moderates and Chavistas now represent more than 9 million votes, accounting for a full 60 percent of likely voters and 45 percent of eligible voters. This dialogue between two important sectors of Venezuela electoral politics helps explain why September, October, and November were easily the most stable three months for Venezuela in the past year. The dialogue led directly to the events of January 5 in Caracas.

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Get out of the race, Joe, you’re muddying the field.

Hunter Biden ‘Biological And Legal Father’ Of Stripper’s Child – Judge (Fox)

Hunter Biden, the son of presidential candidate Joe Biden, is the “biological and legal father” of a child he fathered with an ex-stripper, an Arkansas judge ruled Tuesday, contradicting the younger Biden’s previous denials that he had any role in the pregnancy. In an order establishing paternity, Independence County, Ark., Circuit Judge Holly Meyer noted that the results of DNA tests indicated Biden was the father “with near scientific certainty,” and instructed the Arkansas Department of Health to issue a birth certificate listing Biden as the father of 29-year-old Lunden Alexis Roberts’ child.

Roberts, who The New York Post reported was a stripper at a Washington, D.C., club that Biden patronized, received “primary physical and legal custody” of the child. In previous filings, Roberts told the court that Hunter Biden “had no involvement in the child’s life since the child’s birth, never interacted with the child, never parented the child,” and “could not identify the child out of a photo lineup.”

Biden “shall have visitation with the child as agreed between the parties,” Judge Meyer ruled. The next hearing in the case is now set for Jan. 29 at 9:30 a.m. ET, to address “temporary child support for the minor child and other matters,” the judge wrote, adding that the parties have until Jan. 16 to comply with all “pending discovery” which is currently “past due.” Another hearing is set for the morning of March 13 to handle any remaining discovery issues, with a final hearing on May 13 to set “permanent child support for the minor child.”

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Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Jan 082020
 


Dorothea Lange Farm boy at main drugstore, Medford, Oregon 1939

 

Iranian Strike Was ‘Proportionate’ Self-Defense, No Need For War – FM Zarif (RT)
Predictions for the 2020s (Dmitry Orlov)
Some Other People Do Some Other Things (Kunstler)
Maduro Opponents Storm Parliament To Reinstall Guaidó As Leader (G.)
Boeing Changes Stance, Recommends 737 MAX Simulator Training For Pilots (R.)
US, EU Regulators To Meet With Boeing This Week On 737 Max Software Audit (R.)
Shadow Banking Runs (MW)
The Americans Dying Because They Can’t Afford Medical Care (G.)
‘Roadmap To Recovery’ Could Reverse Insect Apocalypse (G.)
Love the Land or Watch It Die (Yates)

 

 

I don’t know exactly what lies behind the US attack on Soleimani anymore than others do. The difference between us appears to be that I don’t pretend to know. Is the attack truly the start of WWIII, as I see many voices present as fact? Or did the US merely take out a dangerous individual? I don’t know, and neither do they.

If the Iranian reaction is anything to go by, WWIII seems far away. Tehran did what Trump did in Syria: dump missiles in the desert. They purposely avoided hitting their targets, and killing anyone. We know this because they know the region very well and their missiles are good enough to hit what they want to hit.

Don’t let’s forget that Iran can’t and won’t do much of anything without talking to Putin -and perhaps Xi- first. Putin yesterday flew to Syria, maybe just to make his presence known. It is no use for anyone to discuss Iran-US without including Putin.

What the entire situation may boil down to is even a new opening for talks between Iran and the US. Whether that is more or less likely than WWIII is something I don’t know, and neither do all those commentators.

As for all the war belligerent talk by Tehran and Washington, it’s how these things are conducted; no use taking that stuff at face value. Iran must talk the talk, and fly the missiles, for domestic purposes. Ditto for Trump.

Iran FM Zarif -who was refused a US visa just days ago- makes a peace offer. And sure, oil prices shoot up, but neither country sees that as a bad thing -for now-.

 

Iranian Strike Was ‘Proportionate’ Self-Defense, No Need For War – FM Zarif (RT)

Missile strikes against US bases in Iraq were legitimate self-defense measures and are now over, as Iran does not intend to wage war or escalate the situation further, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has said. Two volleys of missiles aimed at the Al-Asad base in Iraq’s Anbar province and another facility near Erbil were “proportionate measures in self-defense” under 51 of the UN Charter, Zarif tweeted from Tehran in the early hours of Wednesday, describing the action as “completed.” Zarif noted that the strikes targeted the US base from which “cowardly” attacks were launched against Iranian citizens and senior officials – referring to General Qassem Soleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, killed in a drone strike outside Baghdad last week.


Iran threatened “hard revenge” against the US for Soleimani’s death. The strike on Al-Asad reportedly took place at 01:20 local time on Wednesday, the exact time Soleimani’s convoy had been struck. Another volley of missiles followed about an hour later. The Pentagon said no Americans were killed in the attacks. There are conflicting reports about possible Iraqi casualties. As it sent out the two missile volleys, the IRGC threatened any regional US allies they would be targeted next if their territory is used for any follow-up attacks on Iran.

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Trump’s tweet: All is well! Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning.

If the US press were in working order, Trump would not make such crazy claims. But nobody tells Americans how far Russia has moved ahead of the US in military matters. Dmitry explains again:

Predictions for the 2020s (Dmitry Orlov)

With regard to military matters, it seems safe to declare that by the end of the 2020s the US empire will be definitively over. It is already the case that the US can no longer even threaten a long list of countries, especially those armed with Russia’s new air defense systems which can establish no-fly zones for US aircraft, while the US military cannot function at all if it is denied air superiority. It is also already the case that the entire US aircraft carrier fleet is obsolete and useless because the latest Russian missiles can reliably sink it from greater distances than can be reached by the armaments or the aircraft these aircraft carriers carry.

Add to this the fact that Russia’s latest missiles, which can achieve Mach 20 and which cannot be intercepted using any current or planned missile defense systems, make it possible to take out targets on the US mainland, including the Pentagon itself, should the US ever attack Russia. The US still has nuclear deterrence, plus the ability to cause minor mischief by arming and training terrorist groups around the world, but it is so woefully behind Russia in weapons development that it will probably never catch up in spite of constantly outspending Russia ten-to-one on defense.

Russia’s stance with regard to NATO troops training, preening and posturing provocatively right on Russia’s borders has been largely dismissive. Russia has largely rearmed with new weapons based on new physical principles known only to its scientists, engineers and designers and is now cutting its defense budget while bringing in billions from increased worldwide weapons sales. The US cannot catch up—not due to lack of money (as long as the printing press continues to run) but due to lack of brains.

As the impotence of the US military becomes obvious, the NATO alliance will come apart. Already Turkey, which is NATO’s second-largest member, is barely a member at all and far more interested in cooperating with Russia and Iran on defense matters rather than with the US. In spite of this, the US military-industrial complex will continue its zombie-like existence until the money dries up, at which point my initial prediction of US troops left stranded at a multitude of overseas locations with no resources available to repatriate them will come true.

[..] Although collapse in the US is yet to run its course, I feel that it is already time to give the United States of America a more appropriate name. After all, it is not the only united states on the American continent: there is also Estados Unidos Mexicanos. This shameful, self-important name-squatting has to come to an end at some point. I therefore propose renaming the USA—perhaps not immediately, but perhaps in a decade, maybe two. As its new name I would like to suggest something like the Republic of Deteriorado, Degenerado or Disintegrado. Its national language is likely to become Spanglish. Its national bird already seems to be the extended middle finger. As for its flag, here we can simply observe which flag is considered sufficiently sacred and inviolable to result in jail time for anyone who dares to burn it in public. And it turns out to be the LGBTQ rainbow flag.

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“..the two countries slugged it out through the entire 1980s. About a quarter-million people died in that war. ..”

Some Other People Do Some Other Things (Kunstler)

The financial markets know that a lot less new investment will flow into shale oil from now on, since it was a lousy investment the past ten years, despite all the admirable techno-virtuosity behind it, and that before long the mighty shale oil bell curve will turn down, and everything economic with it. Folks who make foreign policy and military plans may sense this too, perhaps dimly. But then they confront the additional mystifying calculus of all those moiling parties in the Middle East jockeying for position and advantage as the oil-hungry big dogs of the world desperately try to figure how to keep those oil flows going their way.

Eventually — and sooner rather than later — the mighty flows of everything in the global economy have to neck down, and the process will probably consist of sharp political and economic shocks rather than simple deceleration. Just such a shock was the assassination of General Qassim Suleimani. His multifarious activities all around the Middle East were in themselves a symptom of the instability dogging Iran as its economy wobbles. Much of that is due to the squeeze that the USA put on Iran in the way of trade sanctions and currency movements. And much of that stems from events over forty years ago when the mullahs ran the shah out of town and took the American embassy staff hostage for well over a year. The enmity on both sides runs wide and deep.

Iran’s neighbor, Iraq, is quite a prize oil-wise, and Iran has made significant inroads attempting to gain control of that broken country, even while the USA retains its garrisons there. The region of Iraq closest to Iran, Basra, is overwhelmingly Shia, like Iran, and produces a lot of Iraq’s oil. Baghdad is not so hot to give it up. Remember, the two countries slugged it out through the entire 1980s. About a quarter-million people died in that war. It is surely a high priority for the USA to not let that Iraqi oil slip into Iran’s hands. It’s a zero-sum game, of course, because even Iraq’s copious oil reserves will not save the global economy’s ass, let alone Iran’s economy.

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It’s become laughable. Exclusively.

Maduro Opponents Storm Parliament To Reinstall Guaidó As Leader (G.)

Venezuela’s increasingly byzantine political meltdown took its latest turn on Tuesday as opponents of authoritarian president Nicolás Maduro stormed the country’s parliament to reinstall Juan Guaidó as their leader. Troops loyal to Maduro had surrounded the palm-dotted national assembly compound in Caracas in a bid to keep Guaidó and his supporters out after the president’s attempt to seize control of the parliament on Sunday. But in frantic scenes that spread rapidly on social media, Guaidó and his backers were filmed physically forcing their way into the 19th-century capitol to cheers of “Viva Venezuela!” Outside, pro-government thugs attacked and robbed Venezuelan and European journalists, including one correspondent from Spain’s El País.


Inside, Guaidó was sworn in for a second term as Venezuela’s caretaker leader, even though the auditorium’s electricity had been cut. “In the name of those who have no voice, of the mothers who weep in the distance, of the teachers who are battling and the nurses and the students, of the political prisoners … in the name of Venezuela, I vow to fulfill the duties of interim president,” said Guaidó, who is recognized by more than 50 governments including the United States and United Kingdom but boasts little concrete power. Guaidó’s wife, Fabiana Rosales, tweeted: “Now the struggle goes on, together with all Venezuelans we will rescue our country from dictatorship.”

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But they don’t have nearly enough simulators.

Boeing Changes Stance, Recommends 737 MAX Simulator Training For Pilots (R.)

If U.S. and international regulators ultimately back Boeing’s proposal, it could take airlines longer to prepare their crews to fly the 737 MAX jets that have been grounded since March after two crashes that killed 346 people. Boeing has been working on revised pilot training and software updates for the 737 MAX to win regulatory approval for the jets to fly commercially again. After repeated setbacks, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is not expected to give the greenlight until at least February, perhaps March or later. Last year, the planemaker said it would propose that MAX pilots did not need to train on costly simulators, a position it originally used to market the latest version of its 737 narrowbody workhorse against competition from European rival Airbus.

Airlines that bought the MAX have had to cancel flights while the global fleet remains grounded. If only computer-based training were required for renewed 737 MAX commercial flying, Boeing’s largest customer Southwest Airlines had said it would take one to two months to prepare its more than 9,500 pilots on the updates. Southwest had not been part of Boeing’s recent discussions on pilot training recommendations and could not provide additional cost or timing estimates before there was specific guidance, spokeswoman Brandy King said. Southwest has three MAX simulators in various stages of FAA certification and expects three more later this year.

American Airlines and United Airlines each have one MAX simulator. Not many MAX simulators exist and it was unclear if training could be performed on the 737 NG simulator that 737 pilots have used until now. As of December, Toronto-based manufacturer CAE had delivered 23 MAX full-flight simulators, a spokeswoman said.

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This could have been written a year ago. Any progress?

US, EU Regulators To Meet With Boeing This Week On 737 Max Software Audit (R.)

U.S. and European aviation safety regulators will meet with Boeing this week in an effort to complete a 737 MAX software documentation audit – a key step toward the grounded plane’s eventual return to service. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) both confirmed on Tuesday that they will meet in the Seattle-area with Boeing before heading to a Rockwell Collins facility in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in an effort to complete the audit. Documentation requirements are central to certification for increasingly complex aircraft software, and can become a source of delays. In 2008, EASA nearly derailed Europe’s Airbus A400M military transporter over software documentation following a failed audit.


In early November, EASA and FAA met with Boeing at the Rockwell Collins facility in Cedar Rapids and did not approve the audit. Instead, they sought revisions to the documentation of the 737 MAX software fix and flagged a number of issues, Reuters reported. In mid-January, Boeing will halt production on the best-selling plane, which has been grounded since March following two crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia that killed 346 people in five months. Boeing said on Monday it was reassigning 3,000 employees to other jobs as a result of the temporary halt. Reuters has reported previously that the FAA is unlikely to approve the plane until at least February and perhaps until March or later. Boeing said in November that regulators had requested the “information be conveyed in a different form, and the documentation is being revised accordingly.”

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Big in China.

Shadow Banking Runs (MW)

The U.S. shadow banking sector is alive and well, growing at a fast pace and remains opaque, experts said Friday. And while the sector might not cause the next downturn, it could add to the economy’s troubles in a downturn. The shadow banking sector, now called by the more polite term “private debt market’ has roughly tripled in size over the past few years and one estimate puts the size around $1.2 trillion, said Steven Kaplan, a professor at the University of Chicago, at the American Economics Association conference in San Diego. About half of the market is collateralized loan obligations, or CLOs. These are business loans pooled together and carved into investment products.

The other half are direct loans to businesses by private firms, or DLFs, or by business development companies known as BDCs that are set up like real estate investment trusts. The loans go to U.S. middle-market companies, with sales between $10 million and $1 billion that are typically not publicly traded. Kaplan said the growth in private debt market shows no sign of slowing down. In the wake of the financial crisis, federal regulators placed new rules on banks but with global interest rates low, institutional investors are reaching for yield and there is increased demand for private market debt.

Jeremy Stein, a former Federal Reserve governor and a finance expert at Harvard, said he was “ambivalent” about the trend. On the one hand, private debt funds are generally holding more equity than traditional banks. But at the same time, especially for the open-ended funds, their investors can demand their money at any time, Stein said. And there might be advantages to leaving first. “They can get run on,” he said.

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Why study, invent new tools etc., if you’re not going to use them?

The Americans Dying Because They Can’t Afford Medical Care (G.)

A December 2019 poll conducted by Gallup found 25% of Americans say they or a family member have delayed medical treatment for a serious illness due to the costs of care, and an additional 8% report delaying medical treatment for less serious illnesses. A study conducted by the American Cancer Society in May 2019 found 56% of adults in America report having at least one medical financial hardship, and researchers warned the problem is likely to worsen unless action is taken. Dr Robin Yabroff, lead author of the American Cancer Society study, said last month’s Gallup poll finding that 25% of Americans were delaying care was “consistent with numerous other studies documenting that many in the United States have trouble paying medical bills”.


Despite millions of Americans delaying medical treatment due to the costs, the US still spends the most on healthcare of any developed nation in the world, while covering fewer people and achieving worse overall health outcomes. A 2017 analysis found the United States ranks 24th globally in achieving health goals set by the United Nations. In 2018, $3.65tn was spent on healthcare in the United States, and these costs are projected to grow at an annual rate of 5.5% over the next decade. [..] A 2009 study conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School found 45,000 Americans die every year as a direct result of not having any health insurance coverage. In 2018, 27.8 million Americans went without any health insurance for the entire year.

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“Scientists” should not lead this. You and I should, armed with the precautionary principle.

‘Roadmap To Recovery’ Could Reverse Insect Apocalypse (G.)

The world must eradicate pesticide use, prioritise nature-based farming methods and urgently reduce water, light and noise pollution to save plummeting insect populations, according to a new “roadmap to insect recovery” compiled by experts. The call to action by more than 70 scientists from across the planet advocates immediate action on human stress factors to insects which include habitat loss and fragmentation, the climate crisis, pollution, over-harvesting and invasive species. Phasing out synthetic pesticides and fertilisers used in industrial farming and aggressive greenhouse gas emission reductions are among a series of urgent “no-regret” solutions to reverse what conservationists have called the “unnoticed insect apocalypse”.

Alongside these measures, scientists must urgently establish which herbivores, detritivores, parasitoids, predators and pollinators are priority species for conservation, according to a new paper published in Nature Ecology & Evolution. The animals are crucial to the healthy functioning of ecosystems by recycling nutrients, serving as pollinators and acting as food for other wildlife. The paper comes amid repeated warnings about the threat of human-driven insect extinction causing a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, with more than 40% of insect species declining and a third endangered, according to the first worldwide scientific review, published in February 2019.

[..] The scientists have called on governments to follow the example of Germany, which announced a €100m action plan for insect protection in September 2019, adding that there is a strong consensus among experts that the decline of insects, other arthropods and global biodiversity is a serious threat that society must address. In the short term, the roadmap advocates immediate action on rewilding and conservation programmes, avoiding and mitigating the impact of alien species and prioritising imports that are not produced at the cost of species-rich ecosystems. Enhancing citizen science projects to improve data quality and inform academic study was also deemed a priority.

“Most importantly, we should not wait to act until we have addressed every key knowledge gap. We currently have enough information on some key causes of insect decline to formulate no-regret solutions whilst more data are compiled for lesser known taxa and regions and long-term data are aggregated and assessed,” the roadmap states.

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The precautionary principle added to being in constant awe of a world we cannot even begin to comprehend. Or: what conservatism should really be about.

Love the Land or Watch It Die (Yates)

Sagebrush, Ponderosa Pine, Juniper Trees, and Piñón Pine are important flora in the western United States. Juniper can live more than 1,000 years, as can some Piñón. Ponderosa live up to 400 years. Sagebrush is a perennial and can survive for 100 years. All have been and are used for a variety of purposes by native peoples. They are also integral parts of what were once vibrant ecosystems in some of the most beautiful and astonishing parts of the United States. The ways in which plants, grasses, trees, and wildlife interreacted, in what are harsh environments, was remarkable. Not only could we learn much from studying these ecosystems, but their sheer beauty made them places worthy of contemplation and awe.

We know that biodiversity is essential to any efforts to limit global warming, to avoid devastating fires, to, in a word, the maintenance of a healthy, habitable earth. Where a part of the planet is healthy, it should not be made unhealthy. John Donne said, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” But then he wrote, “if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were.” That is, the human and the non-human world are intimately connected, in ways increasingly known by scientists but little understood by most of us, to our detriment.

Unfortunately, the integrity of the earth has been constantly ripped apart by the incessant drive for cash benefit. In the Intermountain West, that space between the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains to the east and the Cascade Range and the Sierra Nevada to the west, government agencies, in league with powerful economic interests and even environmental groups, have joined together to utterly devastate the land. The Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and numerous state agencies, routinely poison and otherwise kill wolves, mountain lions, grizzlies, and coyotes; effectively privatize public lands; and apply pesticides to, chainsaw, and otherwise rip apart sagebrush, Ponderosa, Piñón, and Juniper.

While pseudoscientific justifications are sometimes offered to the gullible, the goal is to free public lands for mining, drilling, logging, jeep and ATV tourism, and worst of all, cattle grazing. The results have been predictable: invasive species, ruined ecosystems, species on the verge of extinction, repulsive animal cruelty, and the diminution of public property. Further, the more this is done, the more it will continue to be done, as the public comes to think of that which is now is normal, if they think at all.

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Eloquence. Watch.

 

 

 

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Jan 072020
 


Jack Delano Worker inspecting locomotive, Proviso Yard 1942

 

China Pledges ‘Prudence’ In Diversifying Foreign Exchange Reserves (SCMP)
Experts Urge Fed To Consider Radical Approaches To Fight Next Recession (MW)
Iran ‘Not Interested’ In Having Nukes – UN Envoy (RT)
McConnell Urges Lawmakers To Wait For Facts On Soleimani Killing (R.)
McConnell Has The Votes To Block Democrats’ Impeachment Witness Demands (Hill)
A Very Real Scenario Of A Protracted, Bizarro World Democratic Primary (Pol.)
China Must Cancel New Coal Plants To Achieve Climate Goals (R.)
American Airlines Reaches Secret Settlement With Boeing Over 737 MAX (R.)
Chelsea Clinton Reaps $9 Million From Corporate Board Position (Hill)
Australia To Kill Thousands Of Camels As They Drink Too Much Water (Hill)
Australian Owners Say Cultural Burning Saved Their Property (Age)
New Neural Activity Suggests Our Brains Even More Powerful Than We Think (RT)

 

 

Read between the lines. China suffers from capital flight. It can’t keep the dollars at home. But sure, it’s tempting to call this diversifying.

China Pledges ‘Prudence’ In Diversifying Foreign Exchange Reserves (SCMP)

China will “steadily and prudently” diversify its US$3.1 trillion foreign exchange reserve holdings, the government agency managing the assets pledged in its 2020 work plan, suggesting a subtle policy change in the way Beijing uses its hard currency holdings. The careful approach would “promote the diversified use … and ensure the safety, flow, and preservation and appreciation of foreign exchange reserve assets,” China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) said in a statement published on Sunday, which summarised the results of its annual work conference last week. It is the first time that SAFE, headed by Pan Gongsheng, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, has called for “prudence” in diversifying China’s reserve assets in its annual work conference statement.

The regulator also vowed to improve its management of reserves “with Chinese characteristics”, although it did not explain what that meant. SAFE added it would prevent risks caused by external shocks endangering “national economic and financial security” in 2020. China’s diversification strategy for its foreign exchange reserves – which generally indicates a reduction in holdings of US government bonds for other riskier assets – has gained speed in the past decade after the creation of a separate sovereign wealth fund in 2007. SAFE has created a special office of lending dollars to institutions like the China Development Bank to finance overseas projects and launched a number of overseas offices for investment.

In its 2018 annual report, SAFE revealed for the first time the share of US dollar denominated assets in its reserves portfolio for the period 2005 to 2014. Dollar assets accounted for 58 per cent of China’s total reserves by 2014 – the most recent data provided – down from 79 per cent in 2005, the report showed. By international standards, the share of US dollar assets in China’s reserves in 2014 was below average. The latest data from the International Monetary Fund showed that 61.8 per cent of the world’s reserves assets were denominated in US dollars at the end of the third quarter last year.

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Ha ha! Larry Summers as the expert.

Experts Urge Fed To Consider Radical Approaches To Fight Next Recession (MW)

Two monetary-policy experts, contradicting former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, said they wanted the central bank to consider new “radical” approaches to fight the next recession, out of a concern that existing tools might not be as effective as they were in the last crisis. In a Sunday morning panel at the American Economic Association annual meeting, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said the Fed’s QE program, in which the central bank would buy government bonds to bring down long-term rates, might not pack so much punch because the 10-year Treasury note is already close to 1%. “I’m less optimistic about the incremental efficacy of QE,” Summers said.

“I don’t think pushing 10-year rates down from 100 basis points to 50 basis points or 20 basis points has [a] significant incremental effect.” In a speech to the AEA on Saturday night, former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke said he thought the Fed had to the tools, including QE, to successfully combat a severe downturn. Bernanke said he thought QE, and verbal guidance from the Fed, would be equivalent to a 300-basis-point easing of the central bank’s benchmark federal funds rate. Adam Posen, a former policy maker at the Bank of England, urged the Fed to consider “radical” approaches, including a new tool called “yield-curve control” to fight the next downturn.

The Bank of Japan has already been using yield-curve control since 2016 to fight deflation. “The BOJ has gotten it right. Yield-curve control is a success story,” Posen said. Under this policy, last used in the U.S. during World War II, the Fed would announce it intended to peg the 10-year Treasury rate at a specific low rate. Low rates would help spur activity. And with the Fed guaranteeing low rates, Congress could boost government spending. “It enables fiscal policy, it doesn’t judge it,” Posen said. It was used during World War II precisely because the government needed to boost fiscal spending.

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A consistent point of view. The west makes sure nobody here believes it, but Iran has said the same thing for many years. It’s a religious issue. And just because we warp Christian values to allow for the inclusion of nukes, doesn’t mean they should do the same with the Islam.

Iran ‘Not Interested’ In Having Nukes – UN Envoy (RT)

Prohibited by the supreme leader’s decree, nuclear weapons are inconsistent with Iran’s defensive doctrine, the country’s UN envoy said after Tehran announced the suspension of limits under the 2015 deal. Iran’s decision to lift restrictions on uranium enrichment – after a US drone strike killed General Qassem Soleimani near Baghdad International Airport – made headlines in Western media, with some speculating that the Islamic Republic could be seeking nuclear weapons. However, Iran’s ambassador to the UN, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, reassured the public that this is not the case – even though the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is now in jeopardy.


There is “no place for nuclear weapons in Iran’s defensive doctrine,” he told PBS Newshour, adding that the country is also abiding by the Non-Proliferation Treaty – a 1968 pact that aims for nuclear disarmament and sets standards for arms control. We are not interested in having a nuclear weapon, because we have a very clear, clear-cut religious edict by our supreme leader prohibiting nuclear weapons. Tehran has meticulously followed the provisions of the nuclear deal even, though it has received “almost nothing in return,” Takht-Ravanchi said. And while the European parties to the JCPOA (from which Tehran expected to receive benefits) “didn’t act in accordance with the deal,” Iran has chosen not to abandon it completely. “If Iran is given the benefits of the deal, we will go back to the full implementation of it,” the ambassador stated.

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That’s not how social media work these days, Mitch. Everyone needs to form an opinion within seconds.

McConnell Urges Lawmakers To Wait For Facts On Soleimani Killing (R.)

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Monday U.S. lawmakers should wait for the facts before criticizing President Donald Trump’s decision to kill top Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad last week. “We can and we should learn more about the intelligence and thinking that led to this operation and the plan to defend American personnel and interests in the wake of it,” McConnell said at the U.S. Capitol after lawmakers returned from winter break. “Unfortunately, in this toxic political environment, some of our colleagues rushed to blame our own government before even knowing the facts. Rushed to split hairs about intelligence before being briefed on it.”

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So that’s that?!

McConnell Has The Votes To Block Democrats’ Impeachment Witness Demands (Hill)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has the votes to quash Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer’s (N.Y.) demands to require additional witnesses testify at the start of President Trump’s impeachment trial. Two key moderate senators, Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), on Monday evening backed McConnell’s position that the Senate should follow the precedent of the 1999 Clinton impeachment trial and defer until later in the process the question of calling additional witnesses. Collins told reporters at Monday evening votes that the Senate should follow the 1999 precedent and consider the question of subpoenaing additional witnesses and documents only after House impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team present their opening arguments.


She noted in a statement Monday that then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) adopted a resolution in 1999 to set out the rules for the proceeding that didn’t include any agreement for specific witnesses to testify. “The process moved to a period during which the Senate debated and voted that three witnesses should be deposed. I believe that this process — the Clinton approach — worked well,” she said. Murkowski also urged colleagues to follow the path laid out during the Clinton trial. “I think we need to do what they did the last time they did this unfortunate process and that was to go through a first phase and then they reassessed after that,” she told reporters.

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A whole new game. Maybe Bloomberg still has a shot. But really, the time between Super Tuesday and the elections should be used to form a united front. Not going to happen. Trump is the only thing that keeps the Dems together.

A Very Real Scenario Of A Protracted, Bizarro World Democratic Primary (Pol.)

Democrats are now beginning to confront a very real scenario where the nomination — and the winnowing — will not be decided in states where campaigns have been plowing ground for more than a year, but in places and calendar dates so deep into primary season that until recently they’ve received almost no attention at all. The Iowa field is bunched together with little daylight between a handful of well-funded candidates. Each of the four early voting states continues to present the prospect of a different winner. And, at the end of that gauntlet on Super Tuesday, a free-spending billionaire — Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor — is waiting to challenge whichever candidate or candidates emerge.

It’s a unique set of circumstances that has the campaigns — and party officials — scrambling to make sense of the reconfigured landscape. Looking at the possibility of a still-contested nomination even after Super Tuesday’s massive delegate allocation on March 3, Washington state Democratic Party chair Tina Podlodowski said mid-March will “probably matter more than ever before.” One strategist working with a presidential candidate said, “We’ve never had a situation where we get past Super Tuesday and there’s still five people in the field,” predicting that possibility this year. “We’re in bizarro world here,” the strategist said.

[..] “Super Tuesday is typically a wild scramble, and anybody who’s still surviving is usually limping a little bit in terms of money. They’re spread thin in terms of where to go,” said Doug Herman, a Democratic strategist. “Campaigns can’t pay to have simultaneous overhead in all of the early states and all of the next round of states with quality people. So they put all of their best people in early states and then cut and paste them into the next states.” For later states, said Matt Bennett, a veteran of the 2004 presidential campaign and a co-founder of the center-left group Third Way, “The strategy is wait and pray. There is no other strategy … I just think you basically ignore it, and then they’ll frantically run around in those states for a week.”

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Look at per capita emissions. In the end that’s all that counts. Now imagine Europe, China and the US at the same levels as India. That’s our future.

China Must Cancel New Coal Plants To Achieve Climate Goals (R.)

China must end the construction of all new coal-fired power plants in order to meet long-term climate goals in the most economically feasible manner, according to a study co-authored by a government-backed research institute. China’s energy strategy over the next decade is under close scrutiny as it aims to bring climate warming carbon emissions to a peak by 2030 and fulfill a pledge made as part of the 2015 Paris agreement. But with economic growth at its slowest pace in nearly 30 years, Beijing has continued to approve new coal-fired plants, raising fears the world’s biggest producer of greenhouse gas is backtracking on its commitments.

Beijing is capable of phasing out coal to help meet a global target to keep temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, but only if it embarks on a “structured and sustainable” closure strategy to minimize the economic impact, according to the study by Chinese government researchers and the University of Maryland Center for Global Sustainability published on Monday. The report, which evaluated more than 1,000 existing coal-fired power plants, said China must first end new construction and then rapidly close older and inefficient plants. As much as 112 gigawatts (GW) does not meet environmental standards and could be shut down immediately, it said.

China currently has over 1,000 GW of coal-fired power, accounting for about 60% of the country’s total installed generation capacity. “Well-designed policies can help lower the cost of coal-power deep decarbonization,” said Jiang Kejun, research professor with the Chinese government-backed Energy Research Institute, one of the report’s authors. [..] Beijing promised last year to show the “highest possible ambition” when drawing up new climate pledges for the coming decade, but it has built 42.9 GW of new coal-fired power capacity since the start of 2018, with another 121 GW under construction.

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We need a whistleblower.

American Airlines Reaches Secret Settlement With Boeing Over 737 MAX (R.)

American Airlines said on Monday it had reached a confidential agreement with Boeing to address damages the airline incurred in 2019 due to the ongoing grounding of its fleet of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. American, the largest U.S. airline, said the compensation will be received over several years. The airline will use more than $30 million of the compensation for the airline’s 2019 employee profit-sharing program. American said it does not expect any material financial impact of the agreement to be realized in its fourth-quarter 2019 earnings and it will continue talks regarding compensation for damages related to the MAX grounding beyond 2019. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents American Airlines’ 28,000 flight attendants, said it welcomed the news about compensation, and was evaluating the details.

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Et tu, Hunter?

Chelsea Clinton Reaps $9 Million From Corporate Board Position (Hill)

Chelsea Clinton has reaped $9 million in compensation since 2011 for serving on the board of an internet investment company, according to Barron’s, the financial publication. Barron’s reported Sunday that Clinton has profited handsomely as a board member for IAC/InterActiveCorp, a media and internet investment company that has an ownership stake in 150 well-known brands, such as Vimeo, Tinder, Angie’s List and Home Advisor. Clinton, the only child of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has served on IAC’s board since 2011 and receives an annual $50,000 retainer and $250,000 worth of restricted IAC stock units, Barron’s reports.


She reported owning $8.95 million worth of IAC stock to the Securities and Exchange Commission at the end of December. Barron’s notes that IAC’s stock has risen 89 percent, 50 percent and 36 percent in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively, a far steeper rise than the broader stock market. Clinton’s public profile has proved a valuable commodity. She earned an annual salary of $600,000 working as a special correspondent for NBC News in 2013 and part of 2014. Clinton was named to the board of Expedia Group in March of 2017, a position that typically earned $250,000 in 2015, according to a report at the time by The Guardian. Both IAC and Expedia are controlled by Barry Diller, the business and television mogul, who is a friend of Hillary Clinton.

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It’s all their fault, of course.

Australia To Kill Thousands Of Camels As They Drink Too Much Water (Hill)

Officials will kill thousands of camels in Australia as they drink too much water amid the wildfires. Leaders in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in northwest Australia will send helicopters to kill up to 10,000 camels in a five-day campaign starting Wednesday, The Australian reported. The order to kill comes as a drought makes the camels more desperate for water, causing chaos in local communities. Marita Baker, an APY executive board member, told the newspaper that the camels were causing problems in her community of Kanypi. “We have been stuck in stinking hot and uncomfortable conditions, feeling unwell, because the camels are coming in and knocking down fences, getting in around the houses and trying to get to water through air conditioners,’’ she said.


The State Department for Environment and Water will send the helicopters up. The camels’ bodies will be burnt or buried if they are accessible, but in remote areas, their bodies will be left. The camels are also being removed due to concerns about greenhouse gas emissions, since camels emit one ton of carbon dioxide per year. The animal’s population also doubles every nine years if not regulated. The National Feral Camel Management Plan estimated about one million camels lived in three states and the Northern territory in 2010, according to the newspaper. One million camels is the equivalent of having 400,000 more cars on the roads, Tim Moore, chief executive of carbon farming specialists RegenCo, told the newspaper.

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Think the white Aussies will change their ways now?

Australian Owners Say Cultural Burning Saved Their Property (Age)

Aboriginal cultural fire practitioner Dennis Barber led a series of cultural burns on six hectares of bushland at Ngurrumpaa in 2015 and 2016 – the first burns in the area since a wildfire swept through in 1994. “There’s nothing more powerful than doing it and feeling like you’re doing the right thing, and seeing the results,” he said. Unlike hazard reduction burning, cultural burns are cooler and slower moving, usually no taller than knee height, leaving tree canopies untouched and allowing animals to take refuge from the flames. Small fires are lit with matches, instead of drip torches, and burn in a circular pattern. Mr Barber says the ancient practice is informed by thousands of years of traditional knowledge.

“It’s more than just putting the fire on the ground – it’s actually knowing the country, knowing what’s there … the soil types, the geology, the trees, the animals, the breeding times of animals, the flowering times of plants,” he said. The timing and frequency of burns depend on the environmental “system”. A former park ranger with 15 years’ professional firefighting experience, Mr Barber says he had a “light bulb moment” at a cultural burning workshop with Indigenous elders in far north Queensland in 2010. “Everything that I’d been doing as a professional firefighter, thinking that I was doing the right thing, was wrong, because I viewed fire in the landscape totally differently after that week,” he said.

“That’s where I got the bug to come back and actually spread that knowledge and see it happening in other parts of Australia.” The Wiradjuri man started Koori Country Firesticks in 2016 to promote cultural burning as an alternative to hazard reduction techniques in NSW. The organisation has culturally burnt around 50 hectares of land across the Hunter Valley and Sydney, mainly on private properties at the request of owners. But the 55-year-old has met plenty of resistance from governments, professional firefighters, national parks and even ecologists. “It’s been a little bit frustrating, but I’ve just decided I’m not going to let that stand in the way anymore,” he said.

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Wait. If our brains are indeed more powerful than we think, why are we not already thinking that?

New Neural Activity Suggests Our Brains Even More Powerful Than We Think (RT)

Scientists have discovered a new form of brain activity related to how cells process information. The incredible find suggests our brains might be even more powerful than previously thought, according to the team. The new research, conducted by German and Greek scientists and published in Science, centers on signals sent and received by the ends of neurons, known as ‘dendrites.’ The information passed by these parts of the brain is key to how the organ decides subsequent actions. Working with slices of human brain tissue, the team found unexpectedly complex electrical activity in the dendrites of human pyramidal neurons.


Modeling this activity then showed that single neurons were capable of solving computational problems which were thought to need a lot more brain power. “The dendrites are central to understanding the brain because they are at the core of what determines the computational power of single neurons,”said study co-author Matthew Larkum, a neuroscientist at Humboldt University of Berlin. “There was a ‘eureka’ moment when we saw the dendritic action potentials for the first time.” Little is currently known about how dendrites operate in other species, or if this kind of high-computational activity is uniquely human. However, it’s incredibly difficult to record dendrite activity in humans or animals while they’re alive, and Larkum says more research is needed to fill in these blanks.

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Jan 062020
 
 January 6, 2020  Posted by at 10:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »


Esther Bubley Soldiers with their girls at the Indianapolis bus station 1943

 

Gold, Oil Soar, Shares Slip As US And Iran Rattle Sabers (R.)
Iraqi PM Claims Soleimani Was On Peace Mission When Assassinated (GZ)
Iraqi Parliament Calls For Expulsion Of Foreign Troops (AlJ)
Boeing Reports “Previously Unreported Concerns” With Wiring In 737 MAX (CNN)
Why We’ll Never Get Rich By Putting Cash Away For A Rainy Day (Bell)
Fed Focuses On Repo Market Exit Strategy After Avoiding Year-End Crunch (R.)
PBOC Says Its Prudent Policies Will Continue (CD)
Trump Admin Pressed Dutch Hard To Cancel China Chip-Equipment Sale (R.)
Handwritten Note Found In Jeffrey Epstein’s Jail Cell (CBS)
Ghislaine Maxwell Under 24-Hour Guard By Former US Navy Seals (DM)
Victoria’s Secret Models Got Much Thinner Over Last 23 Years (WBUR)
Ricky Gervais Skewers Hollywood’s A-List (R.)

 

 

With war cries rulling the waves, “investors” wonder where their money is safest: with a sweat-shop using company that buys back its shares all the time, or with gold. Given volumes, governments, central banks also appear involved.

Gold, Oil Soar, Shares Slip As US And Iran Rattle Sabers (R.)

Tensions in the Middle East after the killing of a top Iranian general by the United States pushed an index of Asian shares off an 18-month high on Monday as investors pushed safe-haven gold near a seven-year high, and oil jumped to four-month peaks. The United States detected a heightened state of alert by Iran’s missile forces, as President Donald Trump warned the United States would strike back, “perhaps in a disproportionate manner,” if Iran attacked any American person or target. Iraq’s parliament on Sunday recommended all foreign troops be ordered out of the country after the U.S. killing of a top Iranian military commander and an Iraqi militia leader in a drone strike on a convoy at Baghdad airport.


Spot gold gained 1.6% to $1,579.55 per ounce in jittery trade to reach its highest since April 2013. Oil prices extended gains on fears any Middle East conflict could disrupt global supplies. Brent crude futures rose $1.9 to $70.50 a barrel, while U.S. crude climbed $1.5 to $64.57. “The risk of further escalation has clearly gone up – given the direct attack on Iran, Iran’s threat of retaliation and Trump’s desire to look tough – posing the threat of higher oil prices,” said Shane Oliver, chief economist at AMP Capital. “Historically though oil prices need to double to pose a severe threat to global growth and we are long way from that.”

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Max Blumenthal takes a bit much as gospel: “Iraqi PM Reveals…”

Iraqi PM Claims Soleimani Was On Peace Mission When Assassinated (GZ)

At a January 3 State Department briefing, where reporters finally got the chance to demand evidence for the claim of an “imminent” threat, one US official erupted in anger. “Jesus, do we have to explain why we do these things?” he barked at the press. Two days later, when Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi addressed his country’s parliament, Trump’s justification for killing Soleimani was exposed as a cynical lie. According to Abdul-Mahdi, he had planned to meet Soleimani on the morning the general was killed to discuss a diplomatic rapproachment that Iraq was brokering between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Abdul-Mahdi said that Trump personally thanked him for the efforts, even as he was planning the hit on Soleimani – thus creating the impression that the Iranian general was safe to travel to Baghdad.


Soleimani had arrived in Baghdad not to plan attacks on American targets, but to coordinate de-escalation with Saudi Arabia. Indeed, he was killed while on an actual peace mission that could have created political distance between the Gulf monarchy and members of the US-led anti-Iran axis like Israel. The catastrophic results of Soleimani’s killing recall the Obama administration’s 2016 assassination of Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansur, a Taliban leader who was eager to negotiate a peaceful end to the US occupation of Afghanistan. Mansur’s death wound up empowering hardline figures in the Taliban who favored a total military victory over the US and triggered an uptick in violence across the country, dooming hopes for a negotiated exit.

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Again: who gets what they wanted?

Iraqi Parliament Calls For Expulsion Of Foreign Troops (AlJ)

Iraq’s parliament has passed a resolution calling on the government to expel foreign troops from the country as Iran-US tensions escalate following the killing of a top Iranian military commander and Iraqi armed group leader in a US strike in Baghdad. In an extraordinary parliamentary session on Sunday, parliament called on the government to end all foreign troop presence in Iraq and to cancel its request for assistance from the US-led coalition which had been working with Baghdad to fight ISIL. “The government commits to revoke its request for assistance from the international coalition fighting Islamic State due to the end of military operations in Iraq and the achievement of victory,” the resolution read.


“The Iraqi government must work to end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and prohibit them from using its land, airspace or water for any reason.” Parliament resolutions, unlike laws, are non-binding and the move would require new legislation to cancel the existing agreement. Ahead of the vote, chants of “No, no, America…long live Iraq”, rang out inside the hall, before Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi also called on parliament to end foreign troop presence. “Despite the internal and external difficulties that we might face, it remains best for Iraq on principle and practically,” said Abdul Mahdi in an address to parliament ahead of the vote.

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Latest proposal: mandatory simulator trainning for all pilots. That’s what started the whole charade, so a nice round circle.

Boeing Reports “Previously Unreported Concerns” With Wiring In 737 MAX (CNN)

[..] as part of a December audit of the plane’s safety ordered by the US Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing found “previously unreported concerns” with wiring in the 737 Max, according to a report earlier Sunday from the New York Times. The company informed the FAA last month that it is looking into whether two sections of wiring that control the tail of the plane are too close together and could cause a short circuit — and potentially a crash, if pilots did not react appropriately — the Times reported, citing a senior Boeing engineer and three people familiar with the matter. A Boeing spokesperson confirmed the report to CNN Business on Sunday, saying the issue was identified as part of a “rigorous process” to ensure the plane’s safety.


“Our highest priority is ensuring the 737 Max meets all safety and regulatory requirements before it returns to service,” the spokesperson said. “We are working closely with the FAA and other regulators on a robust and thorough certification process to ensure a safe and compliant design.” The spokesperson said it “would be premature to speculate” whether the discovery will lead to new design changes for the plane, or further extend the timeline for its recertification. It will be a challenge for Boeing’s new chief executive, David Calhoun, who officially takes over the job on January 13 after former CEO Dennis Muilenburg was ousted on December 23. “A change in leadership was necessary to restore confidence in the company moving forward as it works to repair relationships with regulators, customers, and all other stakeholders,” the company in December.

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We would still do much better if central banks wouldn’t strangle interest rates.

Why We’ll Never Get Rich By Putting Cash Away For A Rainy Day (Bell)

Norway has a wealth tax. Now, I’m in favour of a greater role for wealth taxes but, whatever your view, there’s at least one benefit we should all appreciate: lots of data on who owns what. Recent research delves into this Norwegian data mine and helps us investigate the popular view that those with more wealth build it up by saving more. You might call this the “wealth as the reward for doing the right thing” view of the world. But the research finds it’s nonsense – Norwegians save around 7% of their income, however much they may own. Despite saving the same proportion as those with much less, those with lots accumulate more. Why? Because we can accumulate wealth by the rising value of assets, such as property and shares.


The wealthier have more assets and more capital gains. These are banked, not consumed, so the gap grows. This is a huge deal, explaining 80% of wealth growing faster than income in Norway. The UK has also seen a wealth boom from rising house prices. These unexpected windfalls – rather than active savings like paying off a mortgage – explain 82% of increased property wealth since the early 1990s. Yet we pretend that wealth comes from savings and we ignore these capital gains when considering who is doing well, and so we make a dog’s dinner out of taxing them. It’s time we woke up to where wealth has actually come from in modern Britain … and Norway.

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They can only exit repo if they support banks somewhere else.

Fed Focuses On Repo Market Exit Strategy After Avoiding Year-End Crunch (R.)

Wall Street’s worst fears of a year-end funding squeeze never materialized thanks in large part to the quarter-trillion dollars the Federal Reserve stuffed into the market to ensure nothing became gummed up. The question now, though, is what it will take for the U.S. central bank to withdraw from its daily liquidity operations in the $2.2 trillion market for repurchase agreements, or repos – after it became a dominant player in a short three months. “The repo operations are a band-aid, but the wound isn’t healed fully,” said Gennadiy Goldberg, an interest rate strategist at TD Securities. The New York Fed began injecting billions of dollars of liquidity into the repo market in mid-September, when a confluence of events sent the cost of overnight loans as high as 10%, more than four times the Fed’s rate at the time.

A month later, the Fed moved to expand its balance sheet – and boost the level of reserves – by snapping up $60 billion a month in U.S. Treasury bills. The Fed will continue pumping tens of billions a day into the repo market through at least the end of January. Its ability to exit from the repo market after that time will depend on how long it takes the central bank to make the balance sheet large enough so there are adequate reserves in the banking system – and the repo operations are no longer needed. “It seems implausible to me that the Fed will be able to stop their repo operations by the end of January,” said Mark Cabana, head of U.S. rates strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Minutes from the Fed’s December policy meeting released on Friday showed its staffers expected repo operations to be “gradually” reduced after mid-January. However, staff members also said the central bank may need to continue offering some repo operations until at least April, when tax payments could reduce the level of reserves. Another challenge for Fed officials: Deciding just how big the central bank’s balance sheet, which is currently about $4 trillion, should be.

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Michael Pettis on Twitter: “So far “prudent policies” has meant that for several years China has generated nearly five times as much debt per unit of GDP as the rest of the world — even more if you think GDP growth has been overstated on a comparable basis.”

PBOC Says Its Prudent Policies Will Continue (CD)

China will maintain a prudent monetary policy while keeping it flexible this year to ensure reasonably adequate liquidity, and it will strengthen adjustments to support economic growth, the People’s Bank of China, the central bank, said in a statement on Sunday. [..] The PBOC will promote credit financing for small and private companies, it said in its statement. Last year, it increased large commercial banks’ loans for small and micro companies by more than 30 percent, leading to a drop in lending costs of 1 percentage point. “These targets have been over-fulfilled,” it said.

The central bank is aiming this year to “win the battle of preventing and reducing large financial risks” and reiterated its role as “the lender of last resort”, which means the it will provide money to financial institutions that are experiencing financial difficulty to prevent their collapse. Last year, financial regulators took over Baoshang Bank in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region and provided liquidity to prevent the spread of financial risks. To support liquidity and improve commercial bank’s asset quality, the PBOC will supplement commercial banks’ capital in 2020 through issuance of perpetual bonds — a credit instrument having no date to pay back.

Other risk-control measures will be taken for internet and real estate financing, and a macro-prudential regulatory system will be built to supervise cross-border capital flows, according to the central bank. Regulatory control over monetary policy operations is expected to continue to strengthen in China. “Monetary easing, if any, is expected to be limited and should not translate into relaxed regulatory control over the riskier types of leverage, which is positive to system stability,” said Rowena Chang, associate director of Non-Banks Asia Pacific at Fitch Ratings, an international rating agency.

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Military use is a deal killer.

Trump Admin Pressed Dutch Hard To Cancel China Chip-Equipment Sale (R.)

The Trump administration mounted an extensive campaign to block the sale of Dutch chip manufacturing technology to China, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lobbying the Netherlands government and White House officials sharing a classified intelligence report with the country’s Prime Minister, people familiar with the effort told Reuters. The high-level push, which has not previously been reported, demonstrates the importance the White House places on preventing China from getting hold of a machine required to make the world’s fastest microprocessors. It also shows the challenges facing the U.S. government’s largely unilateral efforts to stem the flow of advanced technology to China.

The U.S. campaign began in 2018, after the Dutch government gave semiconductor equipment company ASML, the global leader in a critical chip-making process known as lithography, a license to sell its most advanced machine to a Chinese customer, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. Over the following months, U.S officials examined whether they could block the sale outright and held at least four rounds of talks with Dutch officials, three sources told Reuters. The effort culminated in the White House on July 18 when Deputy National Security Advisor Charles Kupperman raised the issue with Dutch officials during the visit of Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who was given an intelligence report on the potential repercussions of China acquiring ASML’s technology, according to a former U.S. government official familiar with the matter.

The pressure appears to have worked. Shortly after the White House visit, the Dutch government decided not to renew ASML’s export license, and the $150 million machine has not been shipped. [..] The ASML machine uses extreme ultraviolet (EUV) light beams, generated by lasers and focused by giant mirrors, to lay out extraordinarily narrow circuits on slabs of silicon known as wafers. That in turn makes it possible to create faster and more powerful microprocessors, memory chips and other advanced components, which are critical for consumer electronics and military applications alike. Only a few companies, including America’s Intel, South Korea’s Samsung and Taiwan’s TSMC, are currently capable of manufacturing the most sophisticated chips.

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Curious: CBS puts a whole team on this for 5 months, and then writes about a note that says nothing, instead of photos that say a lot. Bloody neck, bloodless noose.

Handwritten Note Found In Jeffrey Epstein’s Jail Cell (CBS)

While Epstein surrounded himself with a collection of powerful and high profile figures, the wealthy financier lived a majority of his life in privacy, avoiding television appearances and media interviews almost entirely. And though the federal charges brought against Epstein in July served as a gateway into learning more about the secretive life the 66 year-old led, filled with a controversial plea deal, luxurious travels around the world and alleged sex abuse rings, public intrigue about Epstein, who neglected to give any public statements following his arrest, has heightened.


In the course of a five-month investigation, 60 Minutes obtained photos of Epstein’s cell after his apparent suicide. Also found was a note, giving the world a look into what Jeffrey Epstein may have been thinking in his final days. The note was written on yellow lined paper with a blue ballpoint pen and there were complaints about jail conditions. The note says that one guard “kept me in a locked shower stall for 1 hour.” “[Another prison guard] sent me burnt food.” “Giant bugs crawling over my hands. No fun!!” Epstein’s apparent discomfort about jail conditions comes as no surprise. According to Bruce Barket, Epstein’s former cellmate’s lawyer, Jeffrey Epstein and his legal team took up one of the two attorney visiting rooms “all day, every day.”

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No, I don’t know how credible the Daily Mail is here. But it’s good to keep the conversation going.

Ghislaine Maxwell Under 24-Hour Guard By Former US Navy Seals (DM)

Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend of convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, is being guarded round the clock by former US Navy SEALs amid concern that her life is in danger, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. A source says ex-special forces are shuttling the 58-year-old friend of Prince Andrew from one safe house to another across the American Midwest following ‘credible death threats’. She is now the principal focus of an FBI investigation and is said to hold the key to the truth about the Duke of York’s relationship with the disgraced financier and whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl. The Duke has repeatedly denied these allegations and any suggestion of wrongdoing.


While Miss Maxwell has never been accused by the authorities of criminal wrongdoing, Epstein’s alleged victims have portrayed her as his ‘madam’ and ‘fixer’. A source said: ‘There has been so much rubbish written about Ghislaine. The reality is she receives multiple, credible death threats on a daily basis. The hate mail is sometimes 2ft high. ‘She is constantly moving. Her life is in danger. She is being guarded by the best of the very best and that includes former US Navy SEALs. She’s not under the protection of any government. She’s on her own.’ Asked about reports last week that Miss Maxwell was being sheltered in Israel and supported by wealthy friends, the source said: ‘I only wish. This is costing her a fortune. She moves constantly. The reports are just b*******.’

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The reason Victoria’s Secret had no 2019 show is Epstein. But interesting that as America gets fatter fast, models go the opposite way. Neither looks very healthy.

Victoria’s Secret Models Got Much Thinner Over Last 23 Years (WBUR)

Cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Neelam Vashi says she is fascinated by women’s waist-to-hip ratio, the hourglass curve from the narrowest point of the waist to the widest point of the hips. She was curious, she says, to see whether previous cross-cultural findings that men tend to prefer women with a 0.7 waist-to-hip ratio would hold true across time in a group known for beauty — models in the famed Victoria’s Secret fashion show. So Vashi, an assistant professor of dermatology at Boston University and director of the Cosmetic and Laser Center at Boston Medical Center, and colleagues analyzed the measurements of models who walked the runway at the now-defunct fashion show over 23 years, from 1995 to 2018.

She found that the 0.7 ratio — roughly a 24-inch waist divided by 35-inch hips — did hold true for the models, a nice confirmation of her hypothesis. But the results from other measures the team examined were surprising — and, she says, concerning. “Overall, these models became slimmer and their dress size decreased,” says Vashi. “The ratio stayed the same, but each one of those measurements did decrease.” And as Victoria’s Secret models got thinner, the average American woman’s measurements grew — with the average woman now at least a size 16. Concern over that rising disparity comes across in the research paper’s title, which begins: “Unattainable Standards of Beauty.”

“These findings represent an ideal of beauty that continuously moves further away from the characteristics of the average American woman,” says a news release accompanying the study. In 2019, with ratings low, Victoria’s Secret canceled the fashion show, saying it needed to evolve and be rethought for a new media era. As a cosmetic dermatologist, Vashi focuses on enhancing people’s looks, she says, but she also hopes people recognize that Victoria’s Secret models, “have bodies that are just not attainable by an average person.” Though that hasn’t stopped some from trying. The study notes a dramatic recent rise in cosmetic surgery, “with buttock and lower body lift [procedures] increasing by 4295% and 256%, respectively, since 2000.”

[..] The study found that bust measurements dropped from 32.9 inches in the 1990s, to 32 inches 20 years later. Waist size dropped from 24.7 inches to 23.6 inches, and hips shrank from 34.9 inches to 34.4 inches. Average dress size dropped from 5.2 to 3.7. The research also found the models became more racially and ethnically diverse. “To decrease a dress size from 5.2 to 3.7, that’s a significant difference,” Vashi says. “To slim an inch off one’s waist — that’s very hard to do.”

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And then you realize you really couln’t get one single American to say it. Painful.

Ricky Gervais Skewers Hollywood’s A-List (R.)

British comedian and actor Ricky Gervais returned to host the Golden Globe awards on Sunday, cracking scathing jokes about Hollywood’s elite that got both laughs and disapproving looks from the A-list audience. Gervais last hosted the Globes four years ago, before the #MeToo and #OscarsSoWhite movements shined a spotlight on the underrepresentation of women and minorities in Hollywood. He said the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which hands out the Golden Globes, had planned to have a segment honoring celebrities who died in 2019, “but when I saw the list of people who died, it wasn’t diverse enough.”


Gervais also called out Hollywood actors as hypocrites for giving impassioned political speeches at awards shows while working in movies or television series produced by major tech and media corporations. “You say you’re woke, but the companies you work for – I mean, unbelievable – Apple, Amazon, Disney. If ISIS started a streaming service, you’d call your agent, wouldn’t ya?,” he asked. “So if you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech. You are in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. “So if you win, right? Come up, accept your little award, thank your agent and your God” and leave the stage, he concluded, using an expletive.

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Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Jan 052020
 
 January 5, 2020  Posted by at 11:03 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  15 Responses »


Jack Delano Foggy night in New Bedford, Massachusetts 1941

 

Suleimani’s Death Huge Blow To Iran’s Plans For Regional Domination (Hassan)
Trump Could Start A War Via Twitter; The Social Network Is OK With That (Keys)
Sanders, Warren Want No War With Iran, Biden, Buttigieg Better-Run Wars (IC)
Lies, the Bethlehem Doctrine, and the Illegal Murder of Soleimani (Murray)
Doubling Down Into Yet Another ‘March of Folly,’ This Time on Iran (VIPS)
To Stop Trump’s War with Iran, We Must Also Confront the Democrats (ITT)
PBOC Says Will Keep Monetary Policy Prudent, Flexible And Appropriate (R.)
Bernanke: Fed Has Ample Clout To Fight Downturn If Toolkit Used Properly (R.)
How the Two-Party System Broke the Constitution (Atlantic)
Bushfire Turns Aussie Sky Into A Re-Creation Of The Aboriginal Flag (DMA)

 

 

It’s very hard not to wonder what everyone would have been writing and talking about in these first few days of 2020 if Australia weren’t burning and the US hadn’t killed Soleimani. Because this is all people are on about. Nobody talks about impeachment, for one thing.

It’s a shame that virtually all use the two events to reaffirm their prior positions, that they see to tweak events to reinforce their prior positions. It’s nigh impossible not to read that Trump will start a grand war, or the US will. This first article by Hassan Hassan is a rare exception.

Something else that crossed my mind: Soleimani’s death has -perhaps greatly- increased the chance that US troops will have to leave Iraq. Who would want that to happen?

Suleimani’s Death Huge Blow To Iran’s Plans For Regional Domination (Hassan)

The killing of the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani could prove to be the most consequential US slaying of an enemy operative in recent memory. It will eclipse in its significance the killing of Osama bin Laden almost a decade ago or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October. Not because it might spark another Middle East war, as many have warned, or merely because Suleimani was irreplaceable. Rather, his killing came at a time when the project he had led – to create an Iranian hegemony in the region – is facing unprecedented challenges in Iraq and Lebanon, through cross-sectarian and grassroots protests, while in Syria the project is still in its infancy. One can add to this picture a more aggressive policy adopted by the US.

Indeed, Suleimani was killed while he was trying to deal with these very challenges. His successor is unlikely to be able to complete that mission and contain the spiral of events in countries where, only a year ago, Iran declared major victories – in Syria against the rebels, in Lebanon through a Hezbollah-friendly government and in Iraq and Syria against Isis. In the short term, doomsday scenarios seem far-fetched. Neither side is interested in an outright war, even if developments over the past few years indicate that both have been caught in an unpredictable cycle of escalation and mounting tension. Crucially, nearly all the most influential public figures in Iraq, so far the main battle-space for the two powers, have called for a restrained and clear-headed response to prevent the situation in their country from spinning out of control.

These calls reduced significantly the chances for the worst-case scenario – of Iraq’s public figures mobilising impulsively and collectively against the United States in a way that might spark attacks and retaliations. Such scenarios would have made the US presence in Iraq unsustainable, at best. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most revered cleric, condemned Washington for its “flagrant aggression” but, in the same breath, he also called for restraint. What’s more, he cited the Iran-linked attack on the US embassy in Baghdad as part of a dangerous whirlwind of events that could steer Iraq into renewed chaos.

Beyond the extreme scenarios, Iran’s options for retaliation seem limited to familiar patterns of proxy and asymmetric warfare. Even Iranian officials have suggested any response to Suleimani’s killing would have to come later; foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said that Tehran would launch “legal measures” at international level to hold the US to account. While a future response is possible, alarmism about a spiral into confrontation between Iran and the US is misplaced.

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Hmmm. Yes, Trump was the first to use Twitter, social media the way he does. because they didn’t exist the way they do. Presidents, CIS etc., would use the NYT and WaPo to start wars, sell them to voters. Does any of this mean Twitter should censure Trump? Or that not doing it makes them warmongers?

Trump Could Start A War Via Twitter; The Social Network Is OK With That (Keys)

Lost in the back-and-forth over the legality of the assassination and whatever future consequences it may hold is that Trump may be the first president to stoke, and perhaps even declare, war through the Internet. [..] Since taking office, Trump has used Twitter to antagonize North Korea, start false rumors about Russia, intimidate witnesses, harass journalists, slander political rivals and — perhaps we should have seen it coming — threaten Iran. For its part, Twitter seems okay — maybe even pleased — that Trump has selected their platform to connect directly with the public. To date, no other social media platform has been able to boast that two sitting presidents have actively used their platform with the level of tenacity seen on Twitter.

That was likely the thought in mind when Twitter responded to criticism over its selective enforcement of its own terms of service — the kind that prohibit direct harassment against a person, incitement of violence, certain slurs and other acts of malfeasance — by saying it would give greater leniency to world leaders because what they have to tweet is important for people to read. “Twitter is here to serve and help advance the global, public conversation,” a blog post published in January 2018 said. “Elected world leaders play a critical role in that conversation because of their outsized impact on our society. Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate.”

Twitter goes on to argue that removing a world leader like Trump from the platform would not silence them as some would wish, but rather “hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.” “We review Tweets by leaders within the political context that defines them, and enforce our rules accordingly,” Twitter said. So far, that enforcement has amounted to a blank check for Trump to say whatever he want with impunity, with the social network apparently figuring that whatever Trump has to say — on his personal account that he used for several years before he became president — has roots in political discourse. And, hey, it’s not like anyone has died from a president’s tweet before.

But the assassination of Gen. Soleimali at Trump’s direction changes everything. Nowhere has Trump’s trademark approach to public discourse — filterless, unhinged, often ignorant and without regard to consequence — played out more than on Twitter. Now, people are paying closer attention to what Trump has to say, particularly on Iran, and a lot of the focus is on what Trump will tweet next. Certainly among those waiting with baited breath are world leaders — allies who are trying hard to prepare for what’s ahead with virtually little advance notice and foes who are looking for any excuse to attack.

As the crisis between the United States and Iran over the killing of Gen. Soleimali intensifies, it’s not unreasonable to assume Trump will, at some point, tweet something that instigates an attack or declaration of war. When that happens, Americans will die. By choosing not to enforce its terms equitably across users and show privilege and favor to world leaders, Twitter — as a platform and as a company — will play a role in whatever comes next.

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Trump alos said he wants no war with Iran. Biden and Mayor Pete are twisting like pretzels, Warren has a hard time keeping up with events.

Sanders, Warren Want No War With Iran, Biden, Buttigieg Better-Run Wars (IC)

Warren, who faced criticism from the left for initially prefacing her alarm at the threat of “another costly war” with the statement that Suleimani was “a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans,” amplified Sanders’s anti-war message more clearly on Friday. “Donald Trump is dangerous and reckless,” she wrote. “He’s escalated crises and betrayed our partners. He’s undermined our diplomatic relationships for his own personal, political gain. We cannot allow him to drag us back into another war. We must speak out.”

Biden also criticized the killing of the general as needlessly provocative, but issued a statement that embraced the Trump administration’s argument that Suleimani, who orchestrated deadly attacks on U.S. soldiers during the post-war occupation of Iraq, “deserved to be brought to justice for his crimes against American troops.” The former vice president — who voted to authorize the use of military force in Iraq when he was still in the Senate, and later authored a bizarre plan to partition the country along ethnic and sectarian lines — was critical mainly of what he called Trump’s failure to explain his “strategy and plan to keep safe our troops and embassy personnel” and Trump’s lack of a “long-term vision” for the U.S. military’s role in the region.

Warren, who faced criticism from the left for initially prefacing her alarm at the threat of “another costly war” with the statement that Suleimani was “a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans,” amplified Sanders’s anti-war message more clearly on Friday. “Donald Trump is dangerous and reckless,” she wrote. “He’s escalated crises and betrayed our partners. He’s undermined our diplomatic relationships for his own personal, political gain. We cannot allow him to drag us back into another war. We must speak out.”

Biden also criticized the killing of the general as needlessly provocative, but issued a statement that embraced the Trump administration’s argument that Suleimani, who orchestrated deadly attacks on U.S. soldiers during the post-war occupation of Iraq, “deserved to be brought to justice for his crimes against American troops.” The former vice president — who voted to authorize the use of military force in Iraq when he was still in the Senate, and later authored a bizarre plan to partition the country along ethnic and sectarian lines — was critical mainly of what he called Trump’s failure to explain his “strategy and plan to keep safe our troops and embassy personnel” and Trump’s lack of a “long-term vision” for the U.S. military’s role in the region.

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Propaganda is what it is.

Lies, the Bethlehem Doctrine, and the Illegal Murder of Soleimani (Murray)

In one of the series of blatant lies the USA has told to justify the assassination of Soleimani, Mike Pompeo said that Soleimani was killed because he was planning “Imminent attacks” on US citizens. It is a careful choice of word. Pompeo is specifically referring to the Bethlehem Doctrine of Pre-Emptive Self Defence. Developed by Daniel Bethlehem when Legal Adviser to first Netanyahu’s government and then Blair’s, the Bethlehem Doctrine is that states have a right of “pre-emptive self-defence” against “imminent” attack. That is something most people, and most international law experts and judges, would accept. Including me.

What very few people, and almost no international lawyers, accept is the key to the Bethlehem Doctrine – that here “Imminent” – the word used so carefully by Pompeo – does not need to have its normal meanings of either “soon” or “about to happen”. An attack may be deemed “imminent”, according to the Bethlehem Doctrine, even if you know no details of it or when it might occur. [..] The truth of the matter is that if you take every American killed including and since 9/11, in the resultant Middle East related wars, conflicts and terrorist acts, well over 90% of them have been killed by Sunni Muslims financed and supported out of Saudi Arabia and its gulf satellites, and less than 10% of those Americans have been killed by Shia Muslims tied to Iran.

This is a horribly inconvenient fact for US administrations which, regardless of party, are beholden to Saudi Arabia and its money. It is, the USA affirms, the Sunnis who are the allies and the Shias who are the enemy. Yet every journalist or aid worker hostage who has been horribly beheaded or otherwise executed has been murdered by a Sunni, every jihadist terrorist attack in the USA itself, including 9/11, has been exclusively Sunni, the Benghazi attack was by Sunnis, Isil are Sunni, Al Nusra are Sunni, the Taliban are Sunni and the vast majority of US troops killed in the region are killed by Sunnis.

Precisely which are these hundreds of deaths for which the Shia forces of Soleimani were responsible? Is there a list? It is of course a simple lie. Its tenuous connection with truth relates to the Pentagon’s estimate – suspiciously upped repeatedly since Iran became the designated enemy – that back during the invasion of Iraq itself, 83% of US troop deaths were at the hands of Sunni resistance and 17% of of US troop deaths were at the hands of Shia resistance, that is 603 troops. All the latter are now lain at the door of Soleimani, remarkably.

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“One short week ago, for example, Iran launched its first joint naval exercises with Russia and China in the Gulf of Oman, in an unprecedented challenge to the U.S. in the region.”

Doubling Down Into Yet Another ‘March of Folly,’ This Time on Iran (VIPS)

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) SUBJECT: Doubling Down Into Another “March of Folly”?

The drone assassination in Iraq of Iranian Quds Force commander General Qassem Soleimani evokes memory of the assassination of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand in June 1914, which led to World War I. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quick to warn of “severe revenge.” That Iran will retaliate at a time and place of its choosing is a near certainty. And escalation into World War III is no longer just a remote possibility, particularly given the multitude of vulnerable targets offered by our large military footprint in the region and in nearby waters. What your advisers may have avoided telling you is that Iran has not been isolated. Quite the contrary. One short week ago, for example, Iran launched its first joint naval exercises with Russia and China in the Gulf of Oman, in an unprecedented challenge to the U.S. in the region.

Cui Bono? It is time to call a spade a spade. The country expecting to benefit most from hostilities between Iran and the U.S. is Israel (with Saudi Arabia in second place). As you no doubt are aware, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for his political life. He continues to await from you the kind of gift that keeps giving. Likewise, it appears that you, your son-in-law, and other myopic pro-Israel advisers are as susceptible to the influence of Israeli prime ministers as was former President George W. Bush. Some commentators are citing your taking personal responsibility for providing Iran with a casus belli as unfathomable. Looking back just a decade or so, we see a readily distinguishable pattern.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon payed a huge role in getting George W. Bush to destroy Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Usually taciturn, Gen. Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, warned in August 2002 that “U.S. action against Iraq … could turn the whole region into a cauldron.” Bush paid no heed, prompting Scowcroft to explain in Oct. 2004 to The Financial Times that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had George W. Bush “mesmerized”; that Sharon has him “wrapped around his little finger.” (Scowcroft was promptly relieved of his duties as chair of the prestigious President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.)

In Sept. 2002, well before the attack on Iraq, Philip Zelikow, who was Executive Secretary of the 9/11 Commission, stated publicly in a moment of unusual candor, “The ‘real threat’ from Iraq was not a threat to the United States. The unstated threat was the threat against Israel.” Zelikow did not explain how Iraq (or Iran), with zero nuclear weapons, would not be deterred from attacking Israel, which had a couple of hundred such weapons.

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Guess who the main Democratic donors are. Except for Bernie and Warren, but she’s already in funding trouble.

To Stop Trump’s War with Iran, We Must Also Confront the Democrats (ITT)

Since President Trump took office in 2017, the leadership of the Democratic Party has overwhelmingly supported the precursors to today’s dangerous U.S. escalation towards Iran: sanctions, proxy battles and a bloated military budget. Yet, now that we stand on the brink of a possible U.S. war of aggression, Democratic leaders are feigning concern that Trump is leading a march to war without congressional approval, and using a faulty strategy to do so. These objections, however, are grounded in process critiques, rather than moral opposition—and belie Democrats’ role in helping lay the groundwork for the growing confrontation.

The U.S. drone assassination of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force and a ranking official of the Iranian government, takes confrontation with Iran to new heights, inching the U.S. closer to the war the Trump administration has been pushing for. While Trump deserves blame for driving this dangerous escalation, he did not do it on his own.

As recently as December 2019, the House overwhelmingly passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 with a vote of 377-48. Two amendments were stripped from that bill before it went to a vote: Rep. Ro Khanna’s (D-Calif.) amendment to block funding for a war with Iran barring congressional approval and Rep. Barbara Lee’s (D-Calif.) amendment to repeal 2001’s “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists” (AUMF). That AUMF effectively allows the government to use “necessary and appropriate force” against anyone suspected of being connected to the 9/11 attacks, and has been interpreted broadly to justify U.S. aggression around the world. Officials from the Trump administration have suggested that the 2001 AUMF may give them authority to go to war with Iran.

Of the 377 Representatives who voted for the $738 billion defense bill, 188 were Democrats. Just 41 Democrats opposed the legislation. The bill cleared the Senate with a tally of 86-8, with just four Democrats voting against it. None of the Senators running for the 2020 Democratic nomination were present for the vote. Before the vote, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took to the Senate floor to brag about the fact that “partisan demands” had effectively been removed from the bill and declared that “sanity and progress” had won out. “Reassuringly, the past few days have finally brought an end to bipartisan talks and produced a compromise NDAA,” said McConnell.

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Talk about propaganda. Hollow words.

PBOC Says Will Keep Monetary Policy Prudent, Flexible And Appropriate (R.)

China will keep monetary policy prudent, flexible and appropriate, and continue to deepen financial reforms, the central bank said on Sunday, reiterating previous policy statements. After a work meeting chaired by People’s Bank of China Governor Yi Gang, the central bank also vowed to prevent any financial crisis, and said it would continue to help small companies seeking financing, according to a statement posted on PBOC’s website. It also said it will continue to let market play a decisive role in the currency exchange rate, but would keep the yuan exchange rate stable within a reasonable range. China’s economic growth cooled to a near 30-year low of 6% in the third quarter, but is expected to meet the government’s full-year 2019 target of 6%-6.5%. The PBOC on Wednesday cut the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves for the eighth time in nearly two years…

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And there’s more where that came from. The rate cuts Bernanke once labeled “uncharted territory”, he now calls “conventional”.

Bernanke: Fed Has Ample Clout To Fight Downturn If Toolkit Used Properly (R.)

The U.S. Federal Reserve still has enough clout to fight a future downturn, but policymakers should state in advance the mix of policies and policy promises they plan to use to get the most bang for their buck, former Fed chief Ben Bernanke said on Saturday. In an address to the American Economics Association, Bernanke pushed back on the notion that central banks have lost influence over the economy, and laid out his thoughts about how the Fed in particular could change its monetary policy “framework” to be sure that is not the case. Citing new research of his own and others at the Fed and elsewhere, Bernanke said the bondbuying programs known as “quantitative easing” were effective in lowering long-term interest rates even after the Fed’s target policy rate had been cut to zero.


Several rounds of QE were rolled out in response to the deep 2007-2009 financial crisis and recession, and Bernanke said bondbuying should be made a permanent part of the U.S. central bank’s toolkit. Similarly, “forward guidance,” or promises about future policy, proved effective particularly as those pledges became more specific and tied to particular goals like reaching a certain level of unemployment. “Forward guidance in the next downturn will be more effective – better understood, better anticipated, and more credible – if it is part of a policy framework clearly articulated in advance,” Bernanke said. “Both QE and forward guidance should be part of the standard toolkit going forward.” “The room available for conventional rate cuts is much smaller than in the past,” Bernanke said, but “the new policy tools are effective.”

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You can talk about the Framers all you want, but the country has changed a lot since them.

How the Two-Party System Broke the Constitution (Atlantic)

From the mid-1960s through the mid-’90s, American politics had something more like a four-party system, with liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans alongside liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats. Conservative Mississippi Democrats and liberal New York Democrats might have disagreed more than they agreed in Congress, but they could still get elected on local brands. You could have once said the same thing about liberal Vermont Republicans and conservative Kansas Republicans. Depending on the issue, different coalitions were possible, which allowed for the kind of fluid bargaining the constitutional system requires.

But that was before American politics became fully nationalized, a phenomenon that happened over several decades, powered in large part by a slow-moving post-civil-rights realignment of the two parties. National politics transformed from a compromise-oriented squabble over government spending into a zero-sum moral conflict over national culture and identity. As the conflict sharpened, the parties changed what they stood for. And as the parties changed, the conflict sharpened further. Liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats went extinct. The four-party system collapsed into just two parties.

The Democrats, the party of diversity and cosmopolitan values, came to dominate in cities but disappeared from the exurbs. And the Republicans, the party of traditional values and white, Christian identity, fled the cities and flourished in the exurbs. Partisan social bubbles began to grow, and congressional districts became more distinctly one party or the other. As a result, primaries, not general elections, determine the victor in many districts.

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Nice find, dark humor.

Bushfire Turns Aussie Sky Into A Re-Creation Of The Aboriginal Flag (DMA)

An amazing photo taken by a woman as fires raged nearby seemed to mimic the Aboriginal flag. South Australian woman Rose Fletcher took the photo at Victor Harbour as the sun rose on New Year’s Day when fires near her home were at their worst. ‘It was taken on New Year’s Day, just after sunrise, when the fires were arguably at their worst, and hearts were heavy and people were frightened – me included,’ Mrs Fletcher told Daily Mail Australia. ‘The rising sun was just a pale disc behind the layers of smoke over the Southern Ocean – and then, for just a few magic seconds, as it moved up through successively dense layers, it formed the Aboriginal flag.’


Towns on Australia’s east coast have been plunged into darkness in the middle of the day recently, while others have witnessed the sky turn apocolyptic red as the fire front approached. At least 24 people have died so far and dozens more are still missing so far this fire season. Authorities predict that number will rise. In addition to the death toll, more than 1,500 homes and four million hectares of land have been wiped out. More than 500 million animals are feared to have perished. Ms Fletcher said she recognised right away the power of the image and immediately went home to share it. ‘So I went home and put it up on Facebook, hoping that those moments would speak to other people as they spoke to me, and the rest is history,’ she said.

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Jan 042020
 


Jack Delano Near Shawboro, North Carolina, Florida migrants on way to Cranberry, NJ 1940

 

The Dubious Official Story Behind the Soleimani Assassination (Whitney Webb)
Israel Had Advance Notice Of US Plan To Kill Iranian General Suleimani (LAT)
How Trump Decided To Kill Iran’s Soleimani (Pol.)
Inside The Plot By Iran’s Soleimani To Attack US Forces In Iraq (R.)
Iraqi PMF Militias Retract Claims Of Medics Targeted By US Airstrike (RT)
The Dogs of War (Kunstler)
Fed Policymakers Broadly See Eye To Eye On 2020 Outlook (R.)
Fed’s Mester Warned Of Inflation Risks, Says Current Policy ‘Well Calibrated’ (R.)
Australian Troops Called To Tackle Fires (BBC)
Slow Burn (John Quiggin)
Australia’s Bushfires Push Countless Species To Extinction (G.)
Mexico President Calls For Julian Assange To Be Released From UK Prison (R.)

 

 

See far too many people pretending they’re far too sure about what’s going on. Mostly in line with their pre-conceived views, but others, too, appear to think there’s shame in not having a strong opinion on things they don’t know much about (there will be a war!). While Israel and Saudi are almost completely missing from those opinions and reports.

First victim of war is truth, guys, and that war for now only exists in opinions. And don’t believe everyone in Iran is in deep mourning now. There, too, in the upper echelons there’s a constant power battle, with lots of bloodshed and torture and renditioned people. Just like in America. Plenty Iranians will be happy to see Soleimani gone.

The Dubious Official Story Behind the Soleimani Assassination (Whitney Webb)

Much has been written by MintPress and other outlets about the long-standing efforts by prominent neoconservatives in the U.S. as well as the Israel lobby and Israeli government to prod the U.S. into a major war with Iran. Neoconservative efforts at regime change in Iran have been decades in the making and the current presidential administration has several notable Iran hawks in prominent positions. Furthermore, both President Trump and his foremost ally in the Middle East, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are facing domestic efforts aimed at removing them from office and are facing fresh elections, giving both leaders incentive to ratchet up tensions abroad to distract from their own domestic conflicts.

Yet, the current pressure facing both Trump and Netanyahu in their respective policies is only the latest factor that has pushed both administrations into a renewed and increasingly desperate push to satisfy the decades-old effort of Iran hawks in both countries to stoke war and “reshape” the Middle East in favor of the U.S.-Israel axis. Given the recent assassination of Soleimani, however, it is essential to point out that the U.S. airstrike targeting the Quds Force leader came just a few months after Israel tried but failed to assassinate the general. Indeed, the most recent of these failed attempts was slated to occur early last October and, per The Times of Israel:

“The assassins planned to dig under a religious site associated with Soleimani’s father and set off an explosion under the building when he was inside, and then try to deflect blame so that it ignited an interfaction[al] religious war. The assassins prepared some 500 kilograms to use for the bomb.” Israel’s government did not comment on the alleged plot, though it is notable that the plan to dig below a Muslim holy site and plant a bomb has been attempted by Israeli extremist groups in the past, groups which have a major foothold in Israel’s current government.


This alleged attempt by Israel to kill Soleimani came after claims that, in 2018, the Trump administration had given Israel a “green light” to assassinate the general. The report claimed that “there is an American-Israeli agreement” that Soleimani is a “threat to the two countries’ interests in the region” and was published by the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida, which is widely considered to be “an Israeli platform for conveying messages to other countries in the Middle East,” according to Israeli media.

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Geez, what a surprise.

Israel Had Advance Notice Of US Plan To Kill Iranian General Suleimani (LAT)

Israel had advance notice of the U.S. plan to kill Iranian military leader Gen. Qassem Suleimani, Israeli military and diplomatic analysts reported Friday night while refraining from providing further details due to heavy military censorship. “Our assessment is that the United States informed Israel about this operation in Iraq, apparently a few days ago,” Barak Ravid, a journalist and commentator with deep sources in the Israeli security establishment, said on Channel 13. An Israeli army officer with knowledge of Israeli military assessments, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not have permission to speak to reporters, told the Los Angeles Times that the attack on Suleimani “did not come as a surprise.”

The reactions of Israel’s political leadership to Suleimani’s assassination were mostly positive, though deep concern was registered throughout the leadership. Iran and Israel maintained warm relations for almost four decades before the 1979 Islamic Revolution that overthrew the shah and imposed a theocratic Shiiite Muslim regime that for four decades now has called for “death to Israel” and is accused of backing and masterminding numerous terrorist attacks against Israeli or Jewish targets, including the 1992 and 1994 attacks on the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that left over 100 people dead. Hezbollah, the Lebanese-based Iranian proxy militia, has in recent years been accused of perpetrating further attacks against Israeli targets in India, Thailand and Bulgaria.


[..] Due to the heightened alarm, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short a visit to Greece, where he had signed an agreement for a regional gas pipeline. He made a statement on the tarmac ahead of boarding his flight back to Israel, saying that the United States had the right to defend itself. “Qassem Suleimani is responsible for the death of American citizens and many other innocent people. He was planning more such attacks. President Trump deserves all the credit for acting swiftly, forcefully and decisively. Israel stands with the United States in its just struggle for peace, security and self-defense.” The Israeli army officer described the situation as “definitely higher readiness than usual, but not DEFCON One. We want to err on the side of caution, but we know we are not the first target. We are the second.”

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Lots of stories of Trump spilling the beans before the attack to run of the mill Mar-a-Lago guests. While Howie Carr didn’t know anything until afterwards. Don’t let news outlets shape your opinions for you.

How Trump Decided To Kill Iran’s Soleimani (Pol.)

Hours before the U.S. military sent a Reaper drone to kill one of the most wanted men on the planet, President Donald Trump was relaxing at his palatial Florida properties. In the morning, he played 18 holes at Trump International, his West Palm Beach golf club. At around 3 p.m., he returned to Mar-a-Lago, the historic oceanfront estate he’s branded “the Winter White House,” and waited, donning a navy blue suit with a powder-blue tie and an American flag pinned to his lapel. He’d already made a risky—and potentially world-altering—decision to allow the U.S. military to kill Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s elite paramilitary forces.

Earlier this week, he’d been surrounded at Mar-a-Lago by top officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, national security adviser Robert O’Brien and Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland. Throughout the entire week, Trump sought input from other advisers by phone. “He was calm, cool and collected,” said conservative radio host Howie Carr, who spoke with Trump on Thursday at Mar-a-Lago soon after the news first broke, as the president dined with GOP House leader Kevin McCarthy. “I had no idea there was anything out of the ordinary going on until I got home.”

As rocket attacks against U.S. bases in Iraq intensified over the last two months, the president had granted the Pentagon extraordinary latitude: The U.S. military had his permission to kill Soleimani the next time it had an opportunity to do so, according to a senior defense official who was not authorized to speak on the record. “We had authority before the strike to take that action,” said the official, who wouldn’t say how recently Trump gave the Pentagon that authorization—whether it was hours, weeks or even months earlier. As recently as New Year’s Eve, the president was telling reporters that he didn’t want war with Iran.


For a man U.S. officials have portrayed as a terrorist mastermind, an evil genius responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans, Soleimani often flaunted his influence as he jetted between Tehran, Baghdad and Beirut for meetings with local potentates. “I don’t think it was so hard [to find him] because he was not below the radar in the last two or three years,” said a former senior Israeli government official, who noted that Soleimani had previously moved around under strict operational secrecy. “But the last two or three years, he worked in the open.”

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We simply don’t know what is fact and what fiction. And that’s okay.

Inside The Plot By Iran’s Soleimani To Attack US Forces In Iraq (R.)

In mid-October, Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani met with his Iraqi Shi’ite militia allies at a villa on the banks of the Tigris River, looking across at the U.S. embassy complex in Baghdad. The Revolutionary Guards commander instructed his top ally in Iraq, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and other powerful militia leaders to step up attacks on U.S. targets in the country using sophisticated new weapons provided by Iran, two militia commanders and two security sources briefed on the gathering told Reuters. The strategy session, which has not been previously reported, came as mass protests against Iran’s growing influence in Iraq were gaining momentum, putting the Islamic Republic in an unwelcome spotlight.

Soleimani’s plans to attack U.S. forces aimed to provoke a military response that would redirect that rising anger toward the United States, according to the sources briefed on the gathering, Iraqi Shi’ite politicians and government officials close to Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. Soleimani’s efforts ended up provoking the U.S. attack on Friday that killed him and Muhandis, marking a major escalation of tensions between the United States and Iran. The two men died in air strikes on their convoy at a Baghdad airport as they headed to the capital, dealing a major blow to the Islamic Republic and the Iraqi paramilitary groups it supports. Interviews with the Iraqi security sources and Shi’ite militia commanders offer a rare glimpse of how Soleimani operated in Iraq, which he once told a Reuters reporter he knew like the back of his hand.


Two weeks before the October meeting, Soleimani ordered Iranian Revolutionary Guards to move more sophisticated weapons – such as Katyusha rockets and shoulder-fired missiles that could bring down helicopters – to Iraq through two border crossings, the militia commanders and Iraqi security sources told Reuters. At the Baghdad villa, Soleimani told the assembled commanders to form a new militia group of low-profile paramilitaries – unknown to the United States – who could carry out rocket attacks on Americans housed at Iraqi military bases. He ordered Kataib Hezbollah – a force founded by Muhandis and trained in Iran – to direct the new plan, said the militia sources briefed on the meetings. Soleimani told them such a group “would be difficult to detect by the Americans,” one of the militia sources told Reuters.

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That second strike everyone’s talking about? Did it even happen?

Iraqi PMF Militias Retract Claims Of Medics Targeted By US Airstrike (RT)

The Iranian-backed Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) have dropped their claims that a medical convoy was destroyed in a US air raid along Taji road, north of Baghdad. In a new press release cited by several news agencies, the PMF leadership retracted their statement in which the group said their medics were hit by a US airstrike. This happened after Reuters cited Iraqi Army sources who said that six people were killed in a raid near Taji. The Iraqi Army, however, later denied that an airstrike took place there. In a statement quoted by local media, the military urged everyone to be “careful” about spreading unverified information and “rumors” in the future. The US-led coalition in Iraq also said that no air raids have been conducted in that area in recent days.

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“..the little towns that dotted that landscape where all the carnage and horror played out. Not a strip-mall in the whole gorgeous panorama. The rolling fields neatly fenced in the stillness of a summer’s day. A peaceful tranquility we today cannot even imagine.”

The Dogs of War (Kunstler)

In that mercifully quiet week between Christmas and New Years, I re-watched Ken Burns’ documentary of the first Civil War, in contemplation of a possible second. What an almighty bloodbath that was. Thousands butchered in minutes in one battle after another, heads and limbs flying, men turned inside-out, and horses, too. The blue and the gray were hostage to their battlefield tactics and didn’t seem to learn from the insane extravagance of souls wasted in massed assaults against massed artillery again and again and again. The population of the whole nation (Confederacy included) was 31 million in 1860 and the war killed two percent of that, almost entirely young men.

Another impression left by that documentary was the startling beauty of the countryside in that day, and of the little towns that dotted that landscape where all the carnage and horror played out. Not a strip-mall in the whole gorgeous panorama. The rolling fields neatly fenced in the stillness of a summer’s day. A peaceful tranquility we today cannot even imagine. Everything human-scaled and so many buildings graced with beauty deliberately made: pediments, steeples, cupolas, columns, and swags. Walt Disney could not have imagined a more tender and appealing place. The lyrical names of those towns are linked to rivers of blood: Shiloh, Spotsylvania, Missionary Ridge, Cold Harbor….


And the last impression accumulated over each installment was that this we did it to ourselves, and couldn’t seem to stop, just as today various parties to current events can’t seem to stop their provocations to a new episode of national domestic violence. This time it is the very government at war with itself, and so far the war is merely legalistic, the battles of lawyers — of which, one senses, we have far too many for our own good. The Department of Justice in particular is at war with itself, one faction in it refusing to cooperate with the other, hiding documents, trafficking in political muck, kluging up the works with deceptions, and still at it in the yet-unresolved case of General Flynn, which should have been thrown out of court months ago based on obvious prosecutorial malice.

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These people think you are really really stupid…

Fed Policymakers Broadly See Eye To Eye On 2020 Outlook (R.)

Federal Reserve policymakers who last year were frequently at odds over where to set U.S. borrowing costs opened 2020 telegraphing confidence in the state of the economy and signaling broad agreement that monetary policy is right where it should be. In their first remarks in the new year, heads of several regional Fed banks noted a strong job market, robust consumer spending and a rising optimism for a resolution to the trade tensions that had nicked growth in the second half of 2019.


And after cutting interest rates three times last year to bring the Fed’s target to a range of 1.5% to 1.75% and ensure global headwinds didn’t short-circuit the longest U.S. economic expansion in history, “I think most of us think that we are well-calibrated now,” Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank President Loretta Mester said in an interview on the sidelines of an economics conference in San Diego. Based on forecasts of her fellow policymakers on the Fed’s rate-setting committee, she said, “the committee thinks a flat path (for interest rates)… is appropriate.” Mester had been among a handful of Fed policymakers who argued last year that the U.S. economy did not need lower rates to continue to grow.

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… so stupid, in fact, that they say whatever sounds good, truth be damned.

Fed’s Mester Warned Of Inflation Risks, Says Current Policy ‘Well Calibrated’ (R.)

Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank President Loretta Mester, among the Fed policymakers most concerned that easy monetary policy would risk excessive inflation, said on Friday she has put those fears to rest for now and is willing to leave rates at their current level absent some substantial change in the economy. Her comments in an interview with Reuters on the sidelines of the American Economic Association conference suggest how firmly the Fed is anchored to its current setting for overnight interest rates, fixed in a range of between 1.5% and 1.75% after three rate cuts last year. Advocates for even deeper rate reductions now agree the current setting is helping the economy enough that the Fed can stand pat while Mester and others who worried that lower rates might court faster inflation or risky lending have concluded that at this point there is little cause for concern.


I have been kind of forecasting inflation to go up to 2% for quite a while and we have been undershooting,” said Mester, who assumes a voting role this year on the Fed’s policy-setting committee. Mester, who was skeptical last year that rate cuts were needed, said, “I think we are really well calibrated now.” A rate increase would not be needed, “until I see either financial stability issues looming or some indication that inflation is going to pick up strongly. I don’t see that now and it is not in my forecast.” “You want to see that inflation really is at 2%. You want persistence. You want to be able to say that I am confident now that inflation is meeting our goal,” which was set at 2% in 2012 but never consistently achieved, she said.

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Finally, and even then it’s just reserve troops.

Australian Troops Called To Tackle Fires (BBC)

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced 3,000 reserve troops will be deployed to help tackle raging bushfires across the country. Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said this is the first time this has happened in Australia’s history. Temperatures have surpassed 40C (104F) in parts of south-east Australia. Officials had warned that Saturday was set to be a “dangerous day”. Since September, fires in Australia have killed at least 23 people. Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Mr Morrison told reporters: “We have seen this disaster escalate to an entirely new level.”


An emergency warning was issued for areas of eastern Victoria that told remaining residents it was now too late to leave. “The safest option is to plan how you will safely take shelter indoors as conditions worsen,” the warning said, adding: “Leaving now would be deadly.” Residents were instructed to attempt to take shelter indoors or in a large clearing or body of water. Dozens of people are missing and some 1,500 homes have already been lost this fire season. Mr Morrison also announced A$20m (£10m) has been allocated to lease four water bomber planes. Defence force bases would provide temporary accommodation, he said.

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Just think about all the plastics and paints etc. that are burning.

Slow Burn (John Quiggin)

At least eighteen people have already been killed by this season’s bushfires — and, with most of January and all of February still to come, that number is sure to rise. But these dramatic deaths are far outweighed by the hundreds, perhaps thousands, that will ultimately result from the toxic smoke blanketing Australian cities.

The most dangerous component of bushfire smoke are tiny particulates, no more than 2.5 micrometres in diameter, known as PM2.5. Over the past twenty years, studies have shown that high levels of PM2.5 have contributed to millions of premature deaths in highly polluted cities like Beijing and Delhi. Sydney, Canberra and other Australian cities have recently joined this list. In 2016 alone, exposure to PM2.5 contributed to an estimated 4.1 million deaths worldwide from heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, chronic lung disease and respiratory infections.

Even before the current cataclysm, air pollution was a major health hazard. While Sydney’s prevailing average of 6 micrograms per cubic metre (6 μg/m3) is within international health standards, it is above the levels observed in most European and American cities. A study led by the Sydney Public Health Observatory’s Richard Broome estimated that particulates and associated forms of pollution already account for between 310 and 540 premature deaths annually.

As far as can be determined, the mortality and health risks of PM2.5 are a linear function of the level of exposure. Being exposed to 6 μg/m3 every day for a year, for example, amounts to 2190 “microgram days.” Broome and his colleagues’ work implies that each microgram day is associated with between 0.14 and 0.25 premature deaths. This figure is consistent with a range of international studies they cite.

The overall mortality effects are also a linear function of the number of people exposed. That’s why a city like Delhi, with thirty million people and an average PM2.5 of 150 μg/m3, suffers tens of thousands of premature deaths every year.

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Think anyone cares? Always had the impression white Australia only wants to sell off all resources as fast as they can, because they know they stole all of them to begin with. Before you get caught, make sure the money’s in your pocket.

Australia’s Bushfires Push Countless Species To Extinction (G.)

Close to the Western River on Kangaroo Island, Pat Hodgens had set up cameras to snap the island’s rare dunnart – a tiny mouse-like marsupial that exists nowhere else on the planet. Now, after two fires ripped through the site a few days ago, those cameras – and likely many of the Kangaroo Island dunnarts – are just charred hulks. “It’s gone right through the under storey and that’s where these species live,” said Hodgens, an ecologist at Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife, a not-for-profit conservation group. “The habitat is decimated.” On Friday afternoon word came through that three other Land for Wildlife sites protecting dunnarts and other endangered species, including the southern brown bandicoot, had also been consumed by fire on the island off the South Australian coast.


Prof Sarah Legge, of the Australian National University, said the prognosis for the Kangaroo Island dunnart was “not good” and its plight was symbolic of what was happening all across the east coast of Australia. “Many dozens” of threatened species had been hit hard by the fires, she said. In some cases “almost their entire distribution has been burnt”. So far, the Australian bushfire season has burned through about 5.8m hectares of bush, known across the world for its unique flora and fauna. Ecologists say the months of intense and unprecedented fires will almost certainly push several species to extinction. The fires have pushed back conservation efforts by decades, they say, and, as climate heating grips, some species may never recover. Climate scientists have long warned that rising greenhouse gases will spark a wave of extinctions.

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AMLO doesn’t appear to be very effective so far, certainly not internationally. A socialist right on America’s doorstep. Can’t be easy.

Mexico President Calls For Julian Assange To Be Released From UK Prison (R.)

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Friday called for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to be released from prison in London, urging an end to what he described as his “torture” in detention. Assange, 48, is in a British jail for skipping bail when he sought asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in London, where he spent nearly seven years to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of rape that were dropped in November. Assange is also battling U.S. attempts to extradite him over Wikileaks’ publication of vast caches of leaked military documents and diplomatic cables. He faces a lengthy prison term if extradited to the United States.


A U.N. human rights investigator last year said Assange has suffered psychological torture from a defamation campaign and should not be extradited to the United States where he would face a “politicized show trial.” Lopez Obrador, a leftist who has close ties with Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, expressed his solidarity with Assange and said he hoped the former hacker and activist is “forgiven and released” from prison. “I don’t know if he has recognized that he acted against rules and norms of a political system, but at the time these cables demonstrated how the world system functions in its authoritarian nature,” Lopez Obrador said in response to a question about Assange at a regular government news briefing. “Hopefully consideration will be given to this, and he’s released and won’t continue to be tortured.”

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