Oct 242019
 
 October 24, 2019  Posted by at 8:38 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


Rembrandt van Rijn Self portrait with Saskia 1636

 

UK Blocks Spanish Judge From Questioning Julian Assange (El Pais)
Former House Lawyer Says Pelosi’s Impeachment Inquiry ‘Is Illegal’ (WT)
Democrats Set December Impeachment Target, But Obstacles Abound (R.)
Republicans Storm Closed-Door Hearing To Protest Impeachment Inquiry (Hill)
Benghazi Coverup Discussed on Emails to Clinton’s Unsecured Server (ET)
Steele, State and the Alfa Bank Conspiracy Theory Exposed (Solomon)
Oprah Has ‘Begged’ Disney CEO Bob Iger To Run For President (Week)
Biden Allies Push For Super PAC After Lackluster Fundraising Quarter (CNN)
Burn, Neoliberalism, Burn (Escobar)
Kremlin Says US Betrayed Kurds In Syria (R.)
Amazon Rainforest ‘Close To Irreversible Tipping Point’ (G.)

 

 

“It is an automatic procedure, and requests can only be rejected in exceptional cases.”

The lawless are trying to run out the clock on the Spanish probe, because it’s bound to find the CIA’s involvement, and because if Julian, his lawyers and doctors were spied upon, the entire extradition thing may be null and void.

UK Blocks Spanish Judge From Questioning Julian Assange (El Pais)

The British justice system is blocking a Spanish judge’s request to question Julian Assange in London as a witness in a case exploring allegations that the Spanish security firm Undercover Global S.L. spied on the WikiLeaks founder while he was living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The British position, unprecedented in these types of requests for judicial collaboration, is being viewed by Spanish judicial bodies as a show of resistance against the consequences that the case could have on the process to extradite the Australian cyberactivist to the United States.

On September 25, Judge José de la Mata sent British authorities an European Investigation Order (EIO) requesting permission to question Assange by videoconference as a witness in the case opened by Spain’s High Court, the Audiencia Nacional, against the owner of UC Global S. L., David Morales, for alleged offenses involving violations of privacy and client-attorney privileges, as well as misappropriation, bribery, money laundering and criminal possession of weapons. Morales was arrested in September and released on bail. Documents and video footage revealed by EL PAÍS show that UC Global S. L. spied on Assange’s meetings with his lawyers, where his legal defense strategy was discussed. Morales allegedly offered recordings of these and other conversations to US intelligence services.

The EIO is a new tool that speeds up cooperation between judges in the EU and circumvents laborious rogatory letters based on instruments of international law. The mechanism came into effect in Spain in 2018. With an EIO, a legal authority from an EU member state can ask a legal authority from another EU country for assistance in obtaining evidence or means of evidence (witness statements, telephone taps, DNA tests and so on). It is an automatic procedure, and requests can only be rejected in exceptional cases.

[..] On October 14, De la Mata sent the British agency a written reply that EL PAÍS has had access to. In the document, the judge expressed his surprise and referred to the “previous cases” in which the UKCA accepted requests for interviews via videoconference. De la Mata also quoted international cooperation treaties that say that the only obstacle in these cases would be if the person being questioned was the accused. “In this case, Julian Assange is a witness, not an accused party,” wrote De la Mata.

In the document, De la Mata also denied that his initial request was unclear: “We have provided a clear context for our case, describing all the events and crimes under investigation.” On the issue of jurisdiction, he replied: “The Spanish judicial system has jurisdiction and is able to hear cases of crimes committed by Spanish citizens outside of the country as long as the event is a crime in the place where it was committed, the victim or the public prosecutor present a criminal complaint, and the suspect has not been sentenced or acquitted in another country.” De la Mata added that the suspect (David Morales) is Spanish, the victim (Assange) has filed a complaint, and the crimes (unlawful disclosure of secrets and bribery) are crimes in the UK.

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“Nancy Pelosi Democrats Produce More Subpoenas Than Laws…”

Former House Lawyer Says Pelosi’s Impeachment Inquiry ‘Is Illegal’ (WT)

Thanks to a flurry of Ukraine activity, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic majority have approved more subpoenas to investigate President Trump than they have written laws. The subpoena issued Tuesday morning to former Ambassador William Taylor marked the 56th that has been publicly acknowledged and aimed at Mr. Trump and his team. That is 10 more than the 46 House bills that have become law this year. It’s far from a subpoena record, but it is complicating Mrs. Pelosi’s attempt to portray her troops as focused on their agenda. Perhaps more worrying to Mrs. Pelosi’s cause is the conclusion of a former senior oversight attorney for the House, who said the spate of subpoenas issued this month as part of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry is illegal.

Samuel Dewey, a lawyer at McDermott Will & Emery who used to lead investigations for the House Financial Services Committee, said the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, led by Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, is not authorized under the rules to lead an impeachment probe. “Unless there’s a bunch of stuff that’s not public, which would in itself be extraordinary, there is no way he has jurisdiction to conduct an impeachment inquiry. I think his proceeding is illegal,” Mr. Dewey said. Mr. Schiff’s impeachment inquiry subpoenas have all centered around Mr. Trump’s attempts to rope Ukraine into investigating a potential political opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden. The Washington Times counts 15 publicly acknowledged subpoenas issued on the Ukraine matter so far, including the one Tuesday to Mr. Taylor.

The House also has approved 22 subpoenas related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling and Trump campaign behavior in 2016, seven subpoenas dealing with the president’s finances, three concerning White House matters such as security clearances or the activities of Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, five subpoenas over immigration policy, three over Mr. Trump’s now-abandoned attempt to ask about citizenship on the 2020 census, and one subpoena to the State Department over U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

[..] Mr. Dewey said Democrats could face a legal challenge over any impeachment-related subpoenas because the House has yet to vote to authorize an inquiry. Mrs. Pelosi created an inquiry by proclamation, turning the reins over to Mr. Schiff. Mr. Nadler, meanwhile, has argued to the courts that he has been in the midst of an inquiry for months. Mr. Dewey said those arguments aren’t frivolous, but “I think they’re wrong.” “I do not think as a matter of law that the Judiciary Committee can exercise the impeachment power without a vote of the full House,” he said. “And I think independently of that, I do not think any other committee can exercise the impeachment power.”

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Two big problems:

1) Pelosi needs to solve the legitimacy issue.
2) Democrats are selectively leaking to the press they like, creating a picture that may not be realistic at all

Democrats Set December Impeachment Target, But Obstacles Abound (R.)

Democratic lawmakers hope to complete their impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump by year’s end and are coalescing around two articles of impeachment – abuse of power and obstruction, lawmakers and aides told Reuters. But some Democrats fear that a costly distraction may be the looming battle between the Republican Trump and Congress over funding the government when money runs out for many federal operations on Nov. 21, Democratic aides said. Some Democratic lawmakers said they believed they already had gathered enough evidence from the testimony of current and former U.S. officials to impeach Trump for asking Ukraine to investigate a political rival, Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.


Other Democrats were more cautious and said more information was needed to solidify the case for impeachment and make it an easier sell to a deeply polarized American public. Only two U.S. presidents have been formally impeached by the House of Representatives, and both were later acquitted by the Senate. Val Demings, a Democratic lawmaker who sits on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees, said congressional investigators should be able to wrap up their inquiry by December. “We need to be thorough, we need to be methodical, but we need to be timely,” she told Reuters. Three Democratic congressional sources said there had been talk among some Democrats about trying to wrap up hearings and hold an impeachment vote by the Nov. 28 Thanksgiving holiday, but this appeared highly unlikely as of Wednesday.

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Why turn the House into a circus?

Republicans Storm Closed-Door Hearing To Protest Impeachment Inquiry (Hill)

House Republicans stormed a closed-door hearing Wednesday to protest Democrats’ impeachment inquiry process, breaking up the deposition of a top Defense Department official who was testifying about President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. “They crashed the party,” said Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Calif.), a member of the Oversight and Reform Committee, one of three House panels leading the impeachment probe. Dozens of Republicans, including some members of leadership like House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), barged into the secure hearing room in the Capitol basement where Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, was set to provide private testimony.

The deposition got underway after a five-hour delay. Several lawmakers said that, in response to the Republican protest on Wednesday morning, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) left the room with Cooper and postponed her interview. “The fact that Adam Schiff won’t even let the press in — you can’t even go in and see what’s going on in that room,” Scalise told reporters outside the hearing room. “Voting members of Congress are being denied access from being able to see what’s happening behind these closed doors, where they’re trying to impeach the president of the United States with a one-sided set of rules, they call the witnesses.”

[..] Some Democrats were outraged by GOP lawmakers bringing cellphones and cameras into a secure room. “In short, they have compromised the security of the room. And they not only brought in their unauthorized devices, they may have brought in the Russian and Chinese with electronics in a secure space,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) told reporters. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a member of the Oversight Committee and a key Trump supporter, suggested the concerns over the cellphones were overblown. “There’s no cameras or phones in the SCIF, so I think that those phones actually went in, just because everybody went in,” Meadows told reporters. “I can tell you I actually collected phones and brought them back out. You certainly want a secure environment but at the same time I think everybody wants to hear exactly what’s going on.”

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“one of the gravest modern offenses against government transparency.”

Benghazi Coverup Discussed on Emails to Clinton’s Unsecured Server (ET)

Judicial Watch made public on Oct. 21 a 2012 email chain showing multiple senior U.S. State Department executives used then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s unsecured private email to discuss the most sensitive details of the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, died in the assault, which within hours was attributed by the Obama White House to an internet video that critically portrayed Islam and its founder, Mohammed. While Judicial Watch first sought the emails released on Oct. 21 in a 2014 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, they weren’t released to the nonprofit government watchdog until earlier in October by a federal court and only after the group threatened to expand its litigation in the case against the State Department.


It was this FOIA litigation that led to the public disclosure of Clinton’s use of the private email system, according to Judicial Watch. Hundreds of other State Department and White House documents sought in the 2014 suit were previously released, but only after years of litigation and discovery, which continues and may soon include deposing Clinton and Cheryl Mills, her former chief of staff. U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth, who has heard much of the Judicial Watch litigation seeking the documents, has called Clinton’s private email system “one of the gravest modern offenses against government transparency.”

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Another ghost story.

Steele, State and the Alfa Bank Conspiracy Theory Exposed (Solomon)

When Russia investigation Special Counsel Robert Mueller finally testified this summer, one of the few substantive revelations he made about something not specifically addressed in his final report involved a long-pedaled allegation that Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin had a secret communications network through a computer server at Russia’s Alfa Bank. “I believe it’s not true,” Mueller testified when questioned by Republican Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, confirming in public what FBI officials had privately told me and other reporters going back to late 2016.


We now have strong evidence that one of the events that gave life to that conspiracy theory was an Oct. 11, 2016 visit by the British intelligence operative Christopher Steele to the State Department, where the author of the now infamous anti-Trump dossier met with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec. Just a few days after the visit, Kavalec forwarded a document to FBI official Stephen Laycock on Oct. 13, 2016 as a followup to her contact with Steele that offered significant detail about the Alfa Bank theory based on unexplained pings between a server at the bank and one used by the Trump organization on the East Coast.

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Would she settle for Hillary? Why doesn’t Oprah herself run?

Oprah Has ‘Begged’ Disney CEO Bob Iger To Run For President (Week)

The Democratic field isn’t sitting well with Oprah. Despite being enthralled with former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg early in the 2020 race, Oprah Winfrey is now reportedly dissatisfied with who’s running. And she’s not the only one — Hillary Clinton is still thinking about jumping into the race, The Washington Post reports. Oprah has made her presidential ambitions for Disney CEO Bob Iger well known, and has reportedly “repeatedly begged” him to run. She said in September she hoped to be “knocking on doors in Des Moines, wearing an ‘Iger 2020’ T-shirt.”


“Bob Iger’s guidance and decency is exactly what the country needs right now,” she continued. Clinton similarly “has not ruled out jumping in herself,” suggesting she’s also seeing “dissatisfaction” with the race’s current frontrunners, two people tell the Post. Party leaders have said they’re worried about former Vice President Joe Biden’s involvement in President Trump’s impeachment, and that the other top-tier candidates, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), are “too liberal” to beat Trump.

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They might as well heat their villas with the money.

Biden Allies Push For Super PAC After Lackluster Fundraising Quarter (CNN)

A coalition of top Democratic strategists and donors are intensifying conversations about setting up an outside group to bolster Joe Biden’s presidential candidacy, people familiar with the matter tell CNN, aiming to create a super PAC designed to fight back against a barrage of well-funded attacks from President Donald Trump’s campaign. The idea of building an outside organization has been the subject of discussion for weeks by Biden allies, but the conversations intensified in the wake of a cash crunch for the former vice president’s campaign. He reported last week having less than $9 million in the bank, significantly less than his leading rivals.

Although he sits atop or near the top of recent polls, Biden’s lackluster financial performance has set off rounds of public hand-wringing among Democratic establishment figures about his ability to competitively fund his campaign through the battery of state primaries early next year. While Biden has previously spoken out against the creation of a super PAC, which would operate entirely separately from his campaign, several longtime allies say it’s clear that his presidential bid needs help. No final decision has been made about launching the outside group, but allies have started contacting potential vendors and lining up possible donors to fuel a super PAC, sources familiar with the efforts tell CNN. “They know they can use all the help they can get,” one Biden ally told CNN, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the group. “Trump is crushing him with spending.”

[..] Biden’s fundraising haul last quarter totaled nearly $15.7 million, but the candidate spent more than he raised, ending the quarter with $8.98 million cash on hand. Biden is outmatched in cash reserves by South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has amassed a stockpile of $33.7 million. Biden’s allies are most concerned about combating the attacks coming from Trump. His reelection campaign, joint fundraising committees and the Republican National Committee ended the quarter with a combined $158 million cash on hand.

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Keyword: IMF.

Burn, Neoliberalism, Burn (Escobar)

Neoliberalism is – literally – burning. And from Ecuador to Chile, South America, once again, is showing the way. Against the vicious, one-size-fits-all IMF austerity prescription, which deploys weapons of mass economic destruction to smash national sovereignty and foster social inequality, South America finally seems poised to reclaim the power to forge its own history. Three presidential elections are in play. Bolivia’s seem to have been settled this past Sunday – even as the usual suspects are yelling “Fraud!” Argentina and Uruguay are on next Sunday. Blowback against what David Harvey has splendidly conceptualized as accumulation by dispossession is, and will continue to be, a bitch. It will eventually reach Brazil – which as it stands continues to be torn to pieces by Pinochetist ghosts.

Brazil, eventually, after immense pain, will rise up again. After all, the excluded and humiliated all across South America are finally discovering they carry a Joker inside themselves. The question posed by the Chilean street is stark: “What’s worse, to evade taxes or to invade the subway?” It’s all a matter of doing the class struggle math. Chile’s GDP grew 1,1% last year while the profits of the largest corporations grew ten times more. It’s not hard to find from where the huge gap was extracted. The Chilean street stresses how water, electricity, gas, health, medicine, transportation, education, the salar (salt flats) in Atacama, even the glaciers were privatized. That’s classic accumulation by dispossession, as the cost of living has become unbearable for the overwhelming majority of 19 million Chileans, whose average monthly income does not exceed $500.

[..] Evo Morales represents a project of sustainable, inclusive development, and crucially, autonomous from international finance. No wonder the whole Washington Consensus apparatus hates his guts. Economy Minister Luis Arce Catacora cut to the chase: “When Evo Morales won his first election in 2005, 65% of the population was low income, now 62% of the population has access to a medium income.” The opposition, without any project except wild privatizations, and no concern whatsoever for social policies, is left to yell “Fraud!”, but this could take a very nasty turn in the next few days. In the tony suburbs of southern La Paz, class hate against Evo Morales is the favorite sport: the President is referred to as “indio”, a “tyrant” and “ignorant”. Cholos of the Altiplano are routinely defined by white landowning elites in the plains as an “evil race”.

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Russia in control.

Kremlin Says US Betrayed Kurds In Syria (R.)

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that the United States had betrayed and abandoned the Syrian Kurds and advised the Kurds to withdraw from the Syrian border as per a deal between Moscow and Ankara or be mauled by the Turkish army. The comments by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov to Russian news agencies followed a deal agreed on Tuesday between Russia and Turkey that will see Syrian and Russian forces deploy to northeast Syria to remove Kurdish YPG fighters and their weapons from the border with Turkey.


Peskov, who was reported to be reacting to comments by U.S. President Donald Trump’s special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey, complained that it appeared that the United States was encouraging the Kurds to stay close to the Syrian border and fight the Turkish army. “The United States has been the Kurds’ closest ally in recent years. (But) in the end, it abandoned the Kurds and, in essence, betrayed them,” Peskov was cited as saying. “Now they (the Americans) prefer to leave the Kurds at the border (with Turkey) and almost force them to fight the Turks.” If the Kurds did not withdraw as per the deal between Moscow and Ankara, Peskov said that Syrian borders guards and Russian military police would have to withdraw, leaving the Kurds to be dealt with by the Turkish army.

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WHen you read the article, it appears perhaps not the best way to report this.

Amazon Rainforest ‘Close To Irreversible Tipping Point’ (G.)

Soaring deforestation coupled with the destructive policies of Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, could push the Amazon rainforest dangerously to an irreversible “tipping point” within two years, a prominent economist has said. After this point the rainforest would stop producing enough rain to sustain itself and start slowly degrading into a drier savannah, releasing billions of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, which would exacerbate global heating and disrupt weather across South America. The warning came in a policy brief published this week by Monica de Bolle, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington DC.

The report sparked controversy among climate scientists. Some believe the tipping point is still 15 to 20 years away, while others say the warning accurately reflects the danger that Bolsonaro and global heating pose to the Amazon’s survival. “It’s a stock, so like any stock you run it down, run it down – then suddenly you don’t have any more of it,” said de Bolle, whose brief also recommended solutions to the current crisis. Bolsonaro has vowed to develop the Amazon, and his government plans to allow mining on protected indigenous reserves. Amazon farmers support his attacks on environmental protection agencies. His business-friendly environment minister, Ricardo Salles, has met loggers and wildcat miners, while deforestation and Amazon fires have soared since he assumed office in January.

The policy brief noted that Brazil’s space research institute, INPE, reported that deforestation in August was 222% higher than in August 2018. Maintaining the current rate of increase INPE reported between January and August this year would bring the Amazon “dangerously close to the estimated tipping point as soon as 2021 … beyond which the rainforest can no longer generate enough rain to sustain itself”, de Bolle wrote.

Read more …

 

 

“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.”


William Shakespeare

 

 

 

 

Oct 182019
 
 October 18, 2019  Posted by at 9:10 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Salvador Dali The three pines 1919

 

McConnell: Senate Impeachment Trial ‘As Soon As Thanksgiving’ (ZH)
Trump Florida Golf Course To Host G7 Summit (BBC)
Turkey To Suspend Syria Offensive, Mike Pence Announces (BBC)
Washington is Wrong Once Again – Kurds Join Assad to Defend Syria (Ron Paul)
Media And Pundits Misread The ‘Everyone Wins’ Plan For Syria (MoA)
UK Agrees To Best Of Worst Possible Brexit Deals (MW)
EU Leaves Door Open To Brexit Extension, In Blow To Boris Johnson (G.)
UK MPs Win Bid To Vote On 2nd Brexit Referendum In Saturday Showdown (Ind.)
How Slashing Pentagon Budget Could Pay for Medicare for All (Conley)
Going Dutch? Low Interest Rates Rattle ‘World’s Best’ Pension System (R.)

 

 

And you thought you had seen absurd theater so far… Biden and Comey and Strzok testifying. Hillary?! Wasserman-Schultz?

“..you’d have basically Thanksgiving to Christmas — which would be wonderful because there’s no deadline in the world like the next break to motivate senators..”

McConnell: Senate Impeachment Trial ‘As Soon As Thanksgiving’ (ZH)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told Republican Senators on Wednesday to prepare for an impeachment trial of President Trump as soon as Thanksgiving, according to the Boston Globe. The announcement comes as House Democrats roll the dice on a second-hand claim from a CIA ‘whistleblower’ that President Trump pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate former VP Joe Biden – who the whistleblower worked for – and Biden’s son Hunter [..] .. while Trump will almost certainly be impeached by the Democrat-controlled House, the GOP-controlled Senate will be able to pick apart the entire affair.

“In their closed-door weekly luncheon, McConnell gave a presentation about the impeachment process and fielded questions alongside his staff and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who was a manager for the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton. “Impeachment is the first step to remove a president, with the House voting on formal charges and the Senate holding a trial in which it either convicts or acquits him. -Boston Globe “There’s sort of a planned expectation that it would be sometime around Thanksgiving, so you’d have basically Thanksgiving to Christmas — which would be wonderful because there’s no deadline in the world like the next break to motivate senators,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) following the meeting.


McConnell has previously said that if the House impeaches Trump, Senate rules would force him to begin a trial – one which could force the Bidens to testify. “Not only could Mr. Biden be forced to be in D.C. at a critical moment in the presidential campaign, but so could many of his chief rivals — the half-dozen senators also vying for Democrats’ presidential nomination, impeachment experts said. For that matter, if the House chooses to impeach Mr. Trump on charges stemming from the special counsel’s Russia investigation, aides said it could open the door to witnesses such as fired FBI Agent Peter Strzok or even major figures from the Obama administration. Mr. Trump could even be present for the entire spectacle. Experts said the Senate would have a hard time refusing him if he demanded to confront the witnesses against him.” -Washington Times

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Uber trolling.

Trump Florida Golf Course To Host G7 Summit (BBC)

One of President Donald Trump’s golf resorts in Florida will host the G7 summit next June, the White House says. White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney denied President Trump would profit from the event. The aide said “Donald Trump’s brand is probably strong enough as it is”, so he did not need a branding boost. Mr Trump has previously said he is not involved with the daily operations of the Trump Organization and that his sons run the business. Mr Mulvaney told reporters on Thursday that an advance team of scouts had started with a list of possible locations for the summit in about a dozen states. The team, he said, went to visit the venues in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, Tennessee and Utah.

“And it became apparent at the end of that process that Doral was by far and away, far and away, the best physical facility for this meeting. “In fact I was talking to one of the advance teams when they came back and I said, ‘What was it like?’ And they said, ‘You’re not going to believe this but it’s almost like they built this facility to host this type of event.'” The chief of staff said the event would be made available “at cost” and that using the Doral would save millions of dollars and was cheaper than the other potential sites. Earlier this year the US president floated the idea of his Doral property hosting the G7. But Mr Mulvaney denied on Thursday that his boss was profiting from the presidency, pointing out that he donates his salary to charity.


“It’s the most recognisable name in the English language [Trump] and probably around the world right now, so no, that has nothing to do with that,” he said. Mr Mulvaney said he had initially been sceptical about the idea and “aware of the political sort of criticism that we’d come under for doing it at Doral”. He added: “I get the criticisms, so does he. Basically, he’d be criticised regardless of what he’d chose to do, but no there’s no issue here on him profiting from this any way, shape or form.”

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120 hours. Followed by a ceasefire.

Turkey To Suspend Syria Offensive, Mike Pence Announces (BBC)

Turkey has agreed to a ceasefire in northern Syria to let Kurdish-led forces withdraw, US Vice-President Mike Pence has announced. All military operations will be paused for five days, and the US will help facilitate an “orderly withdrawal” of Kurdish-led troops from what Turkey has termed a “safe zone” on the border. Turkey launched its assault last week. It aimed to repel a Kurdish militia that it views as a terrorist group, and resettle Syrian refugees in the area. Critics fear this could lead to ethnic cleansing of the local Kurdish population.


The cross-border offensive came after US President Donald Trump pulled US forces out of the border region. His decision prompted a raft of criticism at home and abroad, with some accusing him of giving Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a “green light” for the operation. Mr Trump tweeted about the ceasefire before Mr Pence announced it, writing that “millions of lives will be saved!” Mr Pence thanked Donald Trump’s “strong leadership” during the announcement. “He wanted a ceasefire. He wanted to stop the violence,” the vice-president said.

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It’s obvious where Ron Paul stands, he always has: The best way to help the Kurds and everyone else in the region is to just come home.

Washington is Wrong Once Again – Kurds Join Assad to Defend Syria (Ron Paul)

When President Trump Tweeted last week that “it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous endless wars,” adding that the US would be withdrawing from Syria, Washington went into a panic. Suddenly Republicans, Democrats, the media, the think tanks, and the war industry all discovered and quickly became experts on “the Kurds,” who we were told were an “ally” being sent to their slaughter by an ignorant President Trump. But it was all just another bipartisan ploy to keep the “forever war” gravy train rolling through the Beltway. Interventionists will do anything to prevent US troops from ever coming home, and their favorite tactic is promoting “mission creep.”

As President Trump Tweeted, we were told in 2014 by President Obama that the US military would go into Syria for just 30 days to save the Yazidi minority that they claimed were threatened. Then that mission crept into “we must fight ISIS” and so the US military continued to illegally occupy and bomb Syria for five more years. Even though it was the Syrian army with its Russian and Iranian allies that did the bulk of the fighting against al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria, President Trump took credit and called for the troops to come home. But when the military comes home, the military-industrial-Congressional-media complex loses its cash cow, so a new rationale had to be invented.


The latest “mission creep” was that we had to stay in Syria to save our “allies” the Kurds. All of a sudden our military presence in Syria was not about fighting terrorism but rather about putting US troops between our NATO ally Turkey and our proxy fighting force, the Kurds. Do they really want us to believe that it is “pro-American” for our troops to fight and die refereeing a long-standing dispute between the Turks and Kurds?

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Moon of Alabama is the first I’ve seen mention that the YPG “will be disbanded and integrated into the Syrian army.”

As I wrote a few days ago in Trump Talks To Putin. But How?, this whole thing has been planned and co-ordinated, much more than western media report.

Media And Pundits Misread The ‘Everyone Wins’ Plan For Syria (MoA)

The U.S. media get yesterday’s talks between U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan all wrong. Those talks were just a show to soothe the criticism against President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeast Syria. The fake negotiations did not change the larger win-win-win-win plan or the facts on the ground. The Syrian Arab Army is replacing the Kurdish PKK/YPG troops at the border with Turkey. The armed PKK/YPG forces, which had deceivingly renamed themselves (vid) “Syrian Democratic Forces” to win U.S. support, will be disbanded and integrated into the Syrian army. Those moves are sufficient to give Turkey the security guarantees it needs. They will prevent any further Turkish invasion.

[..] The U.S. can not “allow Turkey to annex a portion of Syria”. The U.S. does not own Syria. It is completely bollocks to think that it has the power to allow Turkey to annex parts of it. Turkey will not “gain territory”. There will be no Turkish “security corridor”. The Kurdish civilians in Kobani, Ras al Ain and Qamishli areas will not go anywhere. The Turks will not touch those Kurdish majority areas because they are, or soon will be, under control of the Syrian government and its army. [..] The Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu confirmed that Turkey agrees with the Syrian government moves: “Russia “promised that the PKK or YPG will not be on the other side of the border,” Cavusoglu said in an interview with the BBC. “If Russia, accompanied by the Syrian army, removes YPG elements from the region, we will not oppose this.”


These moves have been planned all along. The Turkish invasion in northeast Syria was designed to give Trump a reason to withdraw U.S. troops. It was designed to push the Kurdish forces to finally submit to the Syrian government. Behind the scene Russia had already organized the replacement of the Kurdish forces with Syrian government troops. It has coordinated the Syrian army moves with the U.S. military. Turkey had agreed that Syrian government control would be sufficient to alleviate its concern about a Kurdish guerilla and a Kurdish proto-state at its border. Any further Turkish invasion of Syria is thereby unnecessary. The plan has everyone winning. Turkey will be free of a Kurdish threat. Syria regains its territory. The U.S. can leave without further trouble. Russia and Iran gain standing. The Kurds get taken care of.

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“Boris Johnson has signed a deal he said he didn’t need, creating a border he didn’t want, under the authority of a Court he didn’t accept, to be submitted to a Parliament he doesn’t control. ”

UK Agrees To Best Of Worst Possible Brexit Deals (MW)

Boris Johnson has signed a deal he said he didn’t need, creating a border he didn’t want, under the authority of a Court he didn’t accept, to be submitted to a Parliament he doesn’t control. The one “great” thing about the agreement with the European Union that the U.K. prime minister hailed Thursday is that it reduces – if slightly – the possibility of a hard Brexit, and the associated foreseeable economic crisis. But beyond the forex market’s obvious relief at the possible end of three years of uncertainty — the pound jumped almost 1% on the news, before reversing — this is still a deal that will hurt the British economy. On a scale of 1 to 10 — from no-pain, remain in the EU to maximum damage, no-deal Brexit — the agreement concluded just a few hours before an EU leaders summit in Brussels registers as an 8 or 9.


Its economic impact will be worse than the deal negotiated by Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May and rejected three times by the U.K. Parliament earlier this year. That is true both in the short term and in the long term. In the short term, it leaves the U.K. outside the customs union where it would have stayed under the infamous “backstop” negotiated by the previous government. But more uncertainty is also hanging over the near term economic future. The dearth of investment in the last three years has been the main drag on the U.K. economy, which explains why the country’s GDP is now 1-to-3% lower than it would have been if voters had opted for remain in 2016.

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People are pressed to vote for a deal they don’t want. Is that really such a good idea?

EU Leaves Door Open To Brexit Extension, In Blow To Boris Johnson (G.)

EU leaders have left open the option of extending Brexit beyond 31 October if the new deal is voted down by the Commons, in a blow to Boris Johnson’s strategy. The prime minister had been seeking to pitch Saturday’s vote in the Commons as a choice between deal or no deal after coming to an agreement with the EU. Johnson was helped by comments from Jean-Claude Juncker casting doubt on the possibility of a further Brexit delay, but the heads of state and government did not follow the European commission president’s lead. A summit communique issued after two hours of discussion tasked the commission and European parliament with taking “the necessary steps to ensure that the agreement can enter into force on November 1”.


But a senior EU official said that the leaders would follow events on Saturday, and reflect on the next steps if they were in a “different situation”. A second diplomatic source said they had chosen not to interfere in a “sensitive domestic debate … but they leave the door open to the possibility of an extension, to be discussed at a later stage – if required”. Johnson is facing an uphill battle to build a majority after the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist party rejected the revised deal, describing it as driving “a coach and horses through the professed sanctity of the Belfast agreement”. Juncker had tried to help sell the deal by pouring doubt on a further Brexit extension in the event of it being rejected.

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So even if the deal is accepted, it may still not be?

UK MPs Win Bid To Vote On 2nd Brexit Referendum In Saturday Showdown (Ind.)

MPs have won a key parliamentary vote paving the way for a Commons bid to secure a second referendum on Saturday. Ex-Tory backbencher Sir Oliver Letwin led a successful attempt to allow backbench MPs to amend Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans, in a knife-edge vote that passed by 287 votes to 275. MPs also approved a rare Saturday sitting to scrutinise Mr Johnson’s new plan – but the government’s proposal for a short debate on a motion to either “approve the deal or approve a no-deal Brexit” were derailed by the backbench victory. The move now clears the way for pro-EU MPs to force a vote on a second referendum, by tacking on an amendment calling for another public vote on the prime minister’s Brexit blueprint.


Sir Oliver said the plan would allow MPs to move any amendment to the government’s proposal and for them to be voted upon, if selected by Speaker John Bercow. He suggested that it could close a loophole in the so-called Benn Act – which requires the PM to seek a Brexit delay if he does not have a deal by 19 October. The law only compels the PM to seek an extension if MPs fail to pass a motion. Sir Oliver told MPs: “That will enable those of us, like me, who wish to support and carry through and eventually see the ratification of this deal, not to put us in the position of allowing the government off the Benn Act hook on Saturday, but only at a time when the bill has been taken through both Houses of Parliament and legislated on.”

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A discussion you won’t be able to escape. It might be good to get the terminology straight. I think Tucker Carlson called Medicare for All pure socialism, but that would mean Canada, the UK, most of Europe and Asian countries like Thailand all pure socialist countries. Hard to maintain.

How Slashing Pentagon Budget Could Pay for Medicare for All (Conley)

The Institute for Policy Studies on Thursday shared the results of extensive research into how the $750 billion U.S. military budget could be significantly slashed, freeing up annual funding to cover the cost of Medicare for All—calling into question the notion that the program needs to create any tax burden whatsoever for working families. Lindsay Koshgarian, director of the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), took aim in a New York Timesop-ed at a “chorus of scolds” from both sides of the aisle who say that raising middle class taxes is the only way to pay for Medicare for All. The pervasive claim was a primary focus of Tuesday night’s debate, while Medicare for All proponents Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) attempted to focus on the dire need for a universal healthcare program.

At the Democratic presidential primary debate on CNN Tuesday night, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was criticized by some opponents for saying that “costs will go down for hardworking, middle-class families” under Medicare for All, without using the word “taxes.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), on the other hand, clearly stated that taxes may go up for some middle class families but pointed out that the increase would be more than offset by the fact that they’ll no longer have to pay monthly premiums, deductibles, and other medical costs. “All these ambitious policies of course will come with a hefty price tag,” wrote Koshgarian. “Proposals to fund Medicare for All have focused on raising taxes. But what if we could imagine another way entirely?”


“Over 18 years, the United States has spent $4.9 trillion on wars, with only more intractable violence in the Middle East and beyond to show for it,” she added. “That’s nearly the $300 billion per year over the current system that is estimated to cover Medicare for All (though estimates vary).” “While we can’t un-spend that $4.9 trillion,” Koshgarian continued, “imagine if we could make different choices for the next 20 years.”

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The state of denial. Pensions funds have all moved into risk assets, so if stocks start falling, it’s over and out. Moreover, there will be far more elderly people soon vs the young, which will reduce contributions enormously while increasing payouts. At least try some realism. Zero interest rates klill pensions. Period.

Going Dutch? Low Interest Rates Rattle ‘World’s Best’ Pension System (R.)

The planned reductions, due to take effect from January 2020, have shaken a country renowned for having one of the world’s strongest pension systems, and are an early warning to others about the impact of record low interest rates. [..] The European Central Bank’s (ECB) stimulus policies, which have helped drive interest rates into negative territory, are blamed in part for the impending cuts in the Netherlands and have triggered a fierce debate over how the funding of pensions should be calculated. ECB President Mario Draghi said last month that the central bank was “very concerned” about the side effects of negative rates, but maintained they were required for economic growth.

At the heart of the Dutch debate is a technical question over how to calculate the cost of future pension payouts while the ECB helps keep rates low. Actuaries make assumptions about how long pensioners will live, count up the future payments that have been promised to them and then use an assumed interest rate to “discount” how much must be put away to pay them. The lower this interest rate, “rekenrente” in Dutch, the more conservative the accounting, and the more it costs to meet future liabilities. The rekenrente is derived from government bond yields — which have turned negative across Europe as interest rates steadily fell this summer.


Each 1% fall in interest rates has led to roughly a 12% fall in the coverage ratio between assets and liabilities in pension pots, the Dutch central bank says. As a January deadline approaches, cuts appear inevitable. That has led several funds and some experts to argue that the rekenrente, which is around 0.3%, should be raised instead. Many blame ECB policy and see its effects as temporary. Increasing the rekenrente to 2% or 3% would restore the funds to full solvency. Corien Wortmann-Kool, the chairwoman of the 456 billion euro ABP civil servants fund, told Reuters she opposes pension cuts as “unnecessary” for now.

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Oct 152019
 
 October 15, 2019  Posted by at 7:29 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Rembrandt van Rijn Self portrait with tousled hair 1629

 

If you ask me, this is brilliant, but I know you’re not asking me. Still, what I’m reading today is genius. That is, Donald Trump and his people have found a way to communicate with Vladimir Putin and his people while the entire crew that’s listening in to his talks with foreign leaders were doing something else, whatever that may be.

The overall impression of Trump’s order to redeploy an entire 50 US soldiers within Syria is that he opened the floodgates to mayhem and genocide, but perhaps that picture is not entirely accurate. Perhaps Trump did not act on some whiff of the moment instinct. Perhaps he’s not as shallow and stupid as the press makes him out to be. I know, big challenge and all, but let’s look at what actually happened.

Me, I’m sure Trump talked to Putin before he withdrew the 49 or 50 troops , just to make sure all-out disaster wouldn’t ensue. This is from Newsweek, not exactly a pro-Trump outlet:

US Cedes Syrian City To Russia In Battlefield ‘Handover’ As Turkey Tries To Take It

The U.S. was scheduled as of Monday to officially withdraw from Manbij within 24-hours, leaving the mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces behind as two rival factions—the Syrian government, backed by Russia and Iran, and the Turkey-backed Syrian insurgents opposed to it—sought to seize control of the strategic location. A senior Pentagon official told Newsweek that U.S. personnel, “having been in the area for longer, has been assisting the Russian forces to navigate through previously unsafe areas quickly.”


“It is essentially a handover,” the official said. “However, it’s a quick out, not something that will include walk-throughs, etc., everything is about making out with as much as possible of our things while destroying any sensitive equipment that cannot be moved.” Contacted by Newsweek on Monday, no reply was returned from the Pentagon before publication. Faced with a potentially imminent clash with Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies, the Syrian Democratic Forces have chosen to realign themselves with the central government and its Russian backer, a partnership that would soon be put to the test.

I don’t claim to know how the two presidents manage to communicate in the face of all the scrutiny (re: Trump’s call with Ukraine president Zelensky), but communicate they did. Or we would never have arrived at the outcome we have. Trump, I’m convinced, did not leave the Kurds to die at the hand of Erdogan. He got Putin involved. And yes, that means Russia strengthening its position in Syria.

But it also means Trump being able to fulfill his campaign promise to withdraw US troops from “endless wars”. And Russia may well be the best bet to prevent further mayhem and bloodshed in the region. See, Syria, as I’ve said a million times by now, is Russia’s only stronghold in the Middle East, and they will therefore never let go of it. Not a chance.

That is the reason why the insane US policy of regime change in Iraq, Libya, etc., was never going to work in Syria. Syria = Russia. Not because Putin is a big admirer of Assad, but because without Syria Russia is gone from the Middle East. So, zero chance. A bit more from the BBC:

Russia Vows To Prevent Turkey-Syria Clashes

Russia has said it will not allow clashes between Turkish and Syrian forces, as Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria continues. “This would simply be unacceptable… and therefore we will not allow it, of course,” said Moscow’s special envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev. The withdrawal of US troops from the region, announced last week, gave Turkey a “green light”, critics say. Russia is a key military ally of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Russia’s defence ministry said its forces, which have been deployed in Syria since 2015, were patrolling along the “line of contact” between Syrian and Turkish forces.


During a visit to the United Arab Emirates, Mr Lavrentyev described Turkey’s offensive as “unacceptable”. He said that under previous agreements Turkey can only go 5-10km (3-6 miles) into Syria – far less than the 30km “safe zone” Ankara is proposing – and that Turkey has no right to permanently deploy its troops in the country. Syria is in contact with Turkey to avoid a conflict, he said. Mr Lavrentyev also confirmed that Russia had helped to broker a deal between Kurds and Damascus that saw Kurdish-led forces cede territory to Syrian government troops in return for military support.

All the talk about Erdogan genociding the Kurds is, well, greatly exaggerated. His hands are tied. By Trump, who has warned him with a threat of obliterating his economy, and far more by Putin who simply states some things are not acceptable.

The outcome of all this is going to be that Turkey will have its safe zone on the Syrian border, just smaller than Erdogan wants. The Kurds will have their territory just behind that safe zone. Millions of Syrian refugees will be able to resettle in these two territories. It is a pretty genius solution to the whole issue. US troops, gone, Russia and Assad keeping the peace, no 3.6 million refugees coming to Europe.

And you were saying Trump is an idiot who leaves the Kurds to be slaughtered? You see, I’m never sure about anything, but I’m having to doubt that judgment. That’s not what I’m seeing.

But, you know, I am big time wondering what channels Trump and Putin have found to talk to each other. It’s not phone calls, given how the Zelensky call led to an alleged impeachment inquiry, but how have they managed to do it? Shouldn’t be all that hard, perhaps, just a friend talking to a friend under the radar. But still.

 

 

 

 

Oct 142019
 
 October 14, 2019  Posted by at 5:36 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »


Salvador Dali Self portrait (Figueres) 1921

 

 

An article from long term Automatic Earth contributor Alexander Aston, who feels very strongly about the topic.

Personally, I have many more questions left. It’s easy to say Trump abandoned the Kurds, and everybody says just that, but because they all do I ask myself if that is really what happened. It’s an ugly situation alright, but would it have been prefereable if US soldiers had stayed in Syria indefinitely?

I’m looking at France, UK, Germany, Holland, refusing to repatriate ‘their’ ISIS citizens, leaving the US -and the Kurds- to take care of them, of the conundrum, and of the consequences. There’s no question that leaving it up to Erdogan is a bad idea, but Putin has already taken over command.

Everyone but Capitol Hill agrees it’s a good idea to get the US out of Endless Wars, but they haven’t been doing anything about it for many years. And when Trump does, there are no intricate discussions, there’s only black or white and then there’s Orange Man Bad.

Should Trump have gone the Obama route and bombed the heebeejeebees out of the country? You know, rather than let Turkey do it, knowing full well that Putin would stop it anyway?

But this is Alexander’s piece, not mine, and I love him.

 

 

Alexander Aston:

“If we do not do the impossible, we shall be faced with the unthinkable.”
– Murray Bookchin

 

Like the best of his generation, my American grandfather was a die-hard antifascist. He was shot down twice over Europe and spent the last nine months as a prisoner of war. The old man was highly decorated, earning a distinguished flying cross with three oak leaf clusters, four air medals, a silver star and a purple heart. However, the only memento of the war he ever showed me as a child was the tin mug that he ate from while in prison camp.

One of the few times that I saw him cry in my life was asking him about his experiences. He said to me, “son, I don’t know what was under those bombs I dropped; I’m going to die not knowing how many people I’ve killed.” He taught me more about sacrifice and responsibility with those words and the look in his eyes than I could express in a thousand pages. He showed me more about integrity and grit with a simple tin cup than all the honours and decorations in the world.

My grandfather was not perfect, but he was a good man. If you were wrong he would fight with you all day long, and if you were right he’d stand back to back with you until the very end. He was shot down the first time over Yugoslavia having been assigned to the mission as a replacement bombardier for another crew. After making it back to Allied lines with the aid of partisans he went back to work fighting fascism with his old crew, with whom he had promised to see out the war. It was his fourth tour of duty when he was shot down the second time.

He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross when their B-24 was strafed by a BF-109, killing one of the waist gunners and severely wounding the other as well as jamming the bomb bay doors open. Unstrapping his parachute so he could make his way to the back of the plane, he stabilised the surviving gunner, manned the 50 cal. and managed to shoot down the fighter as it came in for another sweep. The old man was fearless his whole life; he even testified against the mob after being hung by his ankles over the side of a high rise in Baltimore decades later.

 

These are lessons that he taught me which I will try to embody and to live up to my entire life: always keep your word, defend those weaker than yourself, and never stop fighting for what is right no matter the opponent, no matter the odds. He would have turned ninety-seven this last Friday, and I know that if he were here to see what has been done to the Syrian Kurds, his shame and anger would be boundless. He’s not here to speak up, so I will because that is what he taught me.

The Syrian Kurds and their allies in the SDF have sacrificed life and limb to stop the spread of Daesh. They confronted head on one of the most virulent and horrific ideologies in history, of an organisation bent on genocide, enslavement and unimaginable cruelty. The Kurds managed to do this at the same time that they set up a multi-ethnic, religiously tolerant, confederated democracy with equal political representation of women. It is not a perfect system, but it’s a hell of an accomplishment given the circumstances and a damn sight better than anything else going on in the Middle East.

Whether you are on the left or the right, we should all feel shame over the betrayal and dishonour shown to those that have fought Daesh. The Kurds dismantled their defensive position at the request of the US in the expectation that the Americans would maintain the security mechanism in good faith. The United States has actively impeded attempts by the SDF to come to a rapprochement with the Syrian State.

Now, these people that fought and died fighting Islamofascism are being massacred by the Turkish army and its FSA proxies, which are largely comprised of jihadists from Daesh and Al-Nusra. All of this violence is at the behest of Erdogan and the AKP, an authoritarian ethno-nationalist party which has systematically destroyed the secular democratic institutions and economy of Turkey, not to mention that it materially aided and abetted the rise of the Islamic State.

Many people, on both the left and the right, are currently justifying the current campaign of ethnic cleansing by the Turkish state. Often this justification is couched as some sort of anti-imperialist position. It is rather simplistic and naive to think that creating a sudden power vacuum and allowing the Kurds to be destroyed is going to end American imperialism or even improve the country’s foreign policy. Rather, this decision ensures further entanglement into an endless conflict in the Middle East. The announced deployment of US troops to Saudi Arabia this week shows that there is no real intention to leave the region.

 

 

Furthermore, as a NATO member, the US supplies and maintains the vast majority of Turkey’s military hardware. Allowing Erdogan to destroy one of the few secular and stable regions in the area and reviving the Jihadi caliphate is hardly dismantling America’s imperial model. It is simply allowing the same folks to continue making money off the collective suffering of decent people everywhere.

Likewise, replacing the US with other imperialisms will only set the stage for further conflict, particularly in a region on which the global energy system is dependent. While the Americans are undeniably in Syria for their own imperial ambitions, the Kurds worked in good faith with the US out of a very reasonable desire to survive and secure their own freedom. Defending them from ethnic cleansing now is not an imperial act but basic human solidarity.

The other absurd argument bandied about is that this ethnic cleansing campaign is somehow the fault of the Syrian Kurds because they failed to side with Assad. This view is ignorant of the historical relationship between the Assad regime and the Kurds, who were systematically dispossessed and excluded from participation within Syrian society. The Syrian army abandoned Kurdish areas before the YPG and YPJ stepped into the power vacuum.

They were left to their own devices fighting Daesh for quite some time before the Americans began to support them tentatively. The destruction of their communities is not warranted because, caught between the SAA’s indifference and Turkey’s antagonism, they made a pragmatic alliance with the US, a government that was not directly oppressing them. Should they have allowed themselves to be slaughtered by Daesh in a quest for ideological purity?

The US repeatedly attempted to build its coalition with Turkey and its preferred network of jihadist rebels. The truth is that the Kurds were the most resilient, tenacious and effective forces fighting the Islamic State. The Pentagon backed them once it was clear that they were the only ones “getting the job done.” It should also be noted that this chain of events is distinct from the cynical roles played by the State Department and CIA in arming the jihadists (though this does reveal the many internal contradictions and competing power blocs within the US).

 

The reality of the situation is immensely complex with a lot of grey areas. Nonetheless, if the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria is wiped off the map, we will all live to regret it. The United States inadvertently created Daesh with its invasion of Iraq and the prisons in which it housed Baathists and Jihadists together. The catastrophe that is the contemporary Middle East is fundamentally a result of the United States’ imperial hubris and horrific foreign policy, but, as the Americans like to say, “you break it, you buy it.”

After five hard years of putting that genie back in the bottle, another strategic blunder threatens us with a resurgence of the Caliphate. Yes, the United States should leave the Middle East, but it should do so responsibly. If this lunacy is not stopped then it is only a matter of time before there are more waves of terror attacks in Europe.

The Syrian Kurds have borne the brunt of the fight against Islamofascism and made a sincere attempt at setting up a libertarian society in the heart of the Middle East. A no fly zone needs to be put in place immediately; without American F-16’s bombing their positions the SDF is perfectly capable of fighting the Turkish military in a ground war. Arms embargoes on Turkey and targeted sanctions on the leadership of the AKP, making it increasingly difficult for Turkey to carry out its ethnic cleansing campaign.

Furthermore, European countries should repatriate and try to imprison their nationals who were radicalised in their own countries before absconding to fight with Daesh in Syria instead of leaving the SDF to take care of them with their limited resources. Essentially, it is time to take some responsibility.

 

 

The American president is probably too incompetent and too narcissistic to understand what he has done. He has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and materially supported the resurgence of the Islamic State. It is the greatest historical blunder in US foreign policy since Iraq. Appeasing Erdogan will only encourage him to be more aggressive. We must boycott, divest and sanction Turkey before we find ourselves in an even more expanded conflict. Those who are willing and able to engage in non-violent direct actions outside of Northern Syria to disrupt the Turkish agenda, must do so!

In the course of writing roughly a thousand Islamic State affiliated prisoners, at least, have been freed by Turkey and its proxies. In a last ditch effort to avoid annihilation, the SDF has made a bargain with the Syrian Arab Army, with luck it will prevent the worst atrocities at present from continuing. Perhaps this will expand the conflict on international scale not yet seen. Nonetheless, the Assad regime is brutal, authoritarian and ideologically defined by a strain of Arab ethno-nationalist chauvinism.

Undoubtedly, the people of eastern Syria have given up a great deal of freedom and autonomy to avoid destruction. As the regime solidifies its control, arrests, disappearances and torturing of the political opposition are all but assured. Hopefully there is enough resilience and conviction amongst the Syrian population that they might be able to peacefully depose their leader once the war has truly ended.

What is undeniable is the American strategic position and geopolitical clout has been fundamentally shaken by its abandonment of the Kurds. I welcome the end of American empire, but make no mistake, this is not an intelligent, strategic withdrawal and deconstruction of that institution. This is a chaotic and ill-conceived implosion of the American system that will only bring suffering to her people and the rest of us.

Nonetheless, dignity demands that we try to keep our word, stand up for what is right and defend the Syrian Kurds to the best of our abilities. If we will not shoulder the burden and share in the sacrifice of those that fight for us then we do not deserve the honour of so much as a tin cup in the prisons we will have erected for ourselves.

 

Bijî Berxdewana Rojava!

 

 

Just a thought from Beau of the Fifth Column

 

 

Alexander Aston is a doctoral candidate in archaeology at the University of Oxford and is on the board of directors with the Centre for Cognitive Archaeology at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. He has prior degrees in philosophy and history. His work lays at the intersection of Cognitive Archaeology, Deep History and Natural Philosophy, examining the relationship between ecology, material culture and social cognition. Alexander grew up between Zimbabwe, Greece and the United States.

Oct 142019
 
 October 14, 2019  Posted by at 8:55 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Martin Johnson Heade Thunderstorm on Narragansett Bay 1868

 

Syrian Army Deployed To Country’s Northeast To Counter ‘Turkish Aggression’ (RT)
Putin Says Trump Not To Blame For Lack Of Improvement In Russia-US Ties (R.)
“If The Entire System Collapses, Gold Will Be Needed To Start Over” (ZH)
Lisa Page’s ‘Quid Pro Quo’ With State Department Over Hillary Email (DM)
Johnson To Set Out Post-Brexit Law And Order Drive In Queen’s Speech (R.)
China 9-Month Exports To US Down 10.7%, Imports Fall 26.4% (R.)
Emirates President Does Not Expect To Take Any Boeing 777x In 2020 (R.)
Ecuador Repeals Law Ending Fuel Subsidies In Deal To Stop Protests (BBC)
Catalonia Leaders Jailed For Between 9 And 13 Years By Spanish Court (BBC)

 

 

Now we can wait for US media suggesting Trump left Syria so Putin could move in.

Syrian Army Deployed To Country’s Northeast To Counter ‘Turkish Aggression’ (RT)

Syrian government troops have reportedly entered Tell Tamer, a town in the middle of Kurdish-controlled part of the country, amid a continued Turkish offensive against Kurdish militias. Troops of the Syrian Arab Army have entered the town on Monday, according to the news agency SANA. Tell Tamer is a relatively small town, but it’s located on an intersection of several major roads and has strategic importance. Earlier the government troops were reported entering Al-Thawrah, a city in the Raqqa governorate located on the Euphrates River and famous for its proximity to a major dam. The relocation of Syrian troops comes as Kurdish militias in northeastern Syria face an incursion from neighboring Turkey.

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See? He’s Putin’s lapdog.

Putin Says Trump Not To Blame For Lack Of Improvement In Russia-US Ties (R.)

Moscow is not blaming U.S. President Donald Trump for failing to improve U.S.-Russian relations, a pledge he had made during his election campaign, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with Arab broadcasters. “We know that, including during his previous election campaign, he spoke in favor of a normalization (of U.S.-Russia relations), but unfortunately it has not happened yet,” Putin told Al Arabiya, Sky News Arabia and RT Arabic. “But we have no claims because we see what’s going on in U.S. domestic politics,” he said, according to a transcript published on the Kremlin’s website on Sunday.


Putin said the “internal political agenda” was not allowing Trump to take steps aimed at a drastic improvement of bilateral relations, adding Moscow would in any case work with any U.S. administration to the extent that Washington itself wants. Putin also said Russia had weapons that neutralize any threat from NATO’s missile deployments in Poland and Romania. “This obviously poses a threat to us because it’s an attempt to level out our strategic nuclear potential. It’s bound to fail, this attempt, it’s already obvious,” he said.

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A: There’s only one central bank in Europe. B: A lot of Dutch gold is in London and the US.

“If The Entire System Collapses, Gold Will Be Needed To Start Over” (ZH)

An article published by the De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB), or Dutch Central Bank, has shocked many with its claim that “if the system collapses, the gold stock can serve as a basis to build it up again. Gold bolsters confidence in the stability of the central bank’s balance sheet and creates a sense of security.” [..] The article, titled “DNB’s Gold Stock” states: “A bar of gold retains its value, even in times of crisis. This makes it the opposite of “shares, bonds and other securities” all of which have inherent risk and prices can go down. According to the IMF’s latest data, the DNB holds 615 tons (15,000 bars) of gold mainly in Amsterdam, with other stores in the U.K. and North America; the value of this gold reserve is over €6 billion ($6.62 billion).


Calling gold the “trust anchor,” the article details briefly why the hard asset is so important to wealth building and the global economy, claiming: “Gold is… the trust anchor for the financial system. If the whole system collapses, the gold stock provides a collateral to start over. Gold gives confidence in the power of the central bank’s balance sheet.” Why this sudden admission of what goldbugs have been saying for years? Perhaps it has to do with the fact that on October 7, the bank announced it would soon be moving a large part of its gold reserves to “the new DNB Cash Center at military premises in Zeist.” Almost as if the Netherlands is preparing for the grand reset, and is moving its most valuable asset to a “military” installation just for that purpose.

Read more …

These people really thought they were running the country.

Lisa Page’s ‘Quid Pro Quo’ With State Department Over Hillary Email (DM)

An FBI employee who texted with her in-house lover about blocking Donald Trump’s presidential ambitions wrote in 2016 of a ‘quid pro quo’ with the State Department to hide the fact that an email found on Hillary Clinton’s home-brew email server was considered classified. Lisa Page fretted in the closing days of the presidential campaign about a pending Freedom of Information Act disclosure of a discussion between top State and Justice Department officials about the potential trade. Under the arrangement, the State Department would have given the FBI more legal attachés for its overseas division in exchange for altering the basis for keeping one of the Clinton emails from the public.


At the time, the email in question was exempt from FOIA requests because it was classified – a fact that was ultimately made public. The FBI had asked the State Department to ‘change the basis of the FOIA withhold [decision] … from classified to something else.’ The plot was never consummated. But Page, an FBI lawyer, was worried enough about it at the time to alert her colleagues that other employees had told investigators about it. One of those colleagues was Peter Strzok, the married FBI agent she was having an affair with.

The email came to light on Monday as part of a raft of material released by Judicial Watch, a conservative government transparency group whose standard practice is to sue government agencies that slow-walk the disclosure of public records. Page and Strzok became poster children in 2017 for conservatives’ claims that the Burean was biased against Trump and took actions to tilt the election in Clinton’s favor despite the national security threats posed by classified material found on her unsecured private email server.

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“What we’ve got in effect is a party political broadcast from the steps of the throne.”

Johnson To Set Out Post-Brexit Law And Order Drive In Queen’s Speech (R.)

Queen Elizabeth will on Monday announce several new pieces of legislation to reform Britain’s justice system, in a ceremonial speech setting out Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit plans. The so-called Queen’s Speech is the highlight of a day of elaborate pageantry in Westminster and is used to detail all the bills the government wants to enact in the coming year. It is written for the 93-year old monarch by the government. But, with Brexit unresolved, and any plans beyond even the next seven days likely subject to an unpredictable election, rival parties said Johnson was misusing the politically-neutral Queen for political gain.

The speech will lay out 22 new bills – pieces of proposed legislation – including several covering tougher treatment for foreign criminals and sex offenders, and new protection for victims of domestic abuse. “Keeping people safe is the most important role of any government, and as the party of law and order it is the Conservatives who are cracking down on crime and better protecting society,” a statement from Johnson’s office setting out some details of the speech said. It will almost certainly include a section on a law to enact a Brexit deal. But, while any deal is still in the balance, new details are unlikely. The speech will also touch on election campaign issues like the health service and living standards.


“Having the Queen’s Speech and the State Opening of Parliament tomorrow is ludicrous, utterly ludicrous,” Corbyn said in a Sky News interview broadcast on Sunday. “What we’ve got in effect is a party political broadcast from the steps of the throne.”

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Think it’s all the trade war?

China 9-Month Exports To US Down 10.7%, Imports Fall 26.4% (R.)

China’s exports to the United States fell 10.7% from a year earlier in dollar terms in January-September, while U.S. imports dropped 26.4% during that period, a Chinese customs spokesman said on Monday. Trade frictions with the United States have led to some pressure on Chinese trade, although the latest Sino-U.S. trade talks have yielded favorable outcomes in some areas, customs spokesman Li Kuiwen told reporters.

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Boeing has a lot of problems.

Emirates President Does Not Expect To Take Any Boeing 777x In 2020 (R.)

Emirates doubts it will receive any of the 115 Boeing 777-9s it has ordered next year, its president said on Monday, as the U.S. planemaker grapples with challenges in building the jet. Emirates, a launch customer of the world’s biggest twin engined jet, was to receive its first 777-9 in 2020 but the manufacturer has suspended load testing of the plane. “… By the end of next year we were to have eight of them. Now it doesn’t look like we will have any,” Tim Clark said at a conference in Dubai. Boeing suspended load testing of the new widebody in September when media reports said a cargo door failed a ground stress test.


There have also been issues with General Electric’s new GE9X turbine engine that will power the jet. Boeing has said it expects to hold the initial flight test in 2020 and is aiming for the 777X to enter commercial service in the same year. Clark said he had told Boeing he insists on a 13 to 16 month test period for the new jet. Emirates ordered 150 777X jets, including 777-8 variants, in 2013. It later placed a preliminary order for 40 Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets in 2017, which Clark said he still saw a place for in the airline’s fleet plans. Boeing has also been unable to deliver any of its 737 MAX aircraft since the single-aisle plane was grounded worldwide in March…

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Are they going to let Moreno stay in power?

Ecuador Repeals Law Ending Fuel Subsidies In Deal To Stop Protests (BBC)

Ecuador’s government has agreed to restore fuel subsidies in a deal with indigenous leaders to end mass protests that have brought the capital, Quito, to a standstill, the UN says. It came after the two sides held talks brokered by the UN and the Roman Catholic Church. The talks, which were broadcast live on state television, came after nearly two weeks of violent demonstrations. President Lenín Moreno had imposed a curfew enforced by the military. The announcement after Sunday’s meeting sparked late night celebrations in Quito. Fireworks were set off and car drivers honked their horns. A joint statement said the government had withdrawn an order removing the fuel subsidies. “With this agreement, the mobilisations… across Ecuador are terminated and we commit ourselves to restoring peace in the country,” it said.

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Europe, 2019.

Catalonia Leaders Jailed For Between 9 And 13 Years By Spanish Court (BBC)

Spain’s Supreme Court has sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders to between nine and 13 years in prison for sedition over their role in an independence referendum in 2017. Three other defendants were found guilty of disobedience but will not serve prison sentences. The 12 politicians and activists had all denied the charges. Separatists in Catalonia were planning mass civil disobedience ahead of the verdict. The prosecution had sought up to 25 years in prison for Oriol Junqueras, the former vice-president of Catalonia and the highest-ranking pro-independence leader on trial.

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It’s time for much larger crowds.

 

 

 

 

Oct 132019
 
 October 13, 2019  Posted by at 9:25 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Paul Gauguin Huts under trees 1887

 

All Foreign Forces Should Leave Syria, Including Russia – Putin (RT)
Domestic Politics, Idlib Sway Timing Of Turkey’s Syrian Operation (AlM)
Army Deployed In Ecuador As Protests Descend Into Violence (G.)
Ecuador Indigenous Group Says Will Continue Protests After Curfew Imposed (R.)
Johnson Will Speak To EU Leaders On Brexit Deal By End Of Monday (R>)
Labour Will Stop No-Deal Brexit ‘Whatever It Takes’ – Starmer (G.)
The Beginning of the End (Sven Henrich)
White House Accidentally Sends Ukraine Talking Points To Democrats Again (Hill)

 

 

Number of things on Turkey’s attack on Syria. First, Putin is right. Let Syrians return and let them be safe at home. Would solve many problems in one go.

All Foreign Forces Should Leave Syria, Including Russia – Putin (RT)

The territorial integrity of Syria must be fully restored and all foreign forces should withdraw, including Russia if Damascus decides it doesn’t need Moscow’s help anymore, according to President Vladimir Putin. “All the forces deployed illegitimately inside any sovereign state – in this case Syria – must leave,” Putin said in a joint interview with RT Arabic, UAE-based Sky News Arabia, and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya broadcasters. This is true for everyone. If Syria’s new legitimate government chooses to say that they have no more need for Russia’s military presence, this will be just as true for Russia. Meanwhile, Moscow’s stance on the settlement in Syria remains unchanged and was already relayed to its partners Iran, Turkey and the US, the president noted.


“Syria must be free from other states’ military presence. And the territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic must be completely restored.” Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops from border areas in northeastern Syria, saying it was time to “get out of ridiculous endless wars.” Unlike the Russian military, which arrived in the country at an invitation of the government in Damascus, US forces have been in Syria illegally since 2016. The Syrian government has repeatedly blasted the American military presence as a violation of its sovereignty. Putin was also asked about Moscow’s attitude towards NATO’s eastward expansion and buildup near Russian borders. “We are not happy about it… and voiced our concerns,” he replied.

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Then some background from Al Monitor on 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. The west doesn’t do anything to solve the situation, apart from some money now and then. But it was the west that caused the problems with its attacks on Syria, Lybia etc.

Domestic Politics, Idlib Sway Timing Of Turkey’s Syrian Operation (AlM)

Ankara is greatly concerned over the prospect of a new refugee influx from Idlib that would further entangle Turkey’s Syrian refugee problem. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had warned in September that Turkey cannot tolerate another refugee wave atop the 3.6 million Syrians it is already hosting. Besides putting strains on Turkey’s financial resources and social stamina, the Syrian refugee problem has proved increasingly costly for the AKP in terms of domestic politics. It is no coincidence that since the party’s rout in the June 23 rerun in Istanbul, government spokesmen have constantly touted the safe zone plan inside Syria as a way to expedite the return of Syrian refugees.

Across Turkey and in big cities in particular, most of the Syrian refugees live in close proximity to AKP voters, either in the same neighborhoods or adjoining ones. Under the impact of the economic crisis, tensions between locals and refugees have grown, contributing to a gradual disenchantment with the government among AKP voters. In Istanbul — the heartbeat, the spirit and the mirror of the country — 73% of some 479,000 registered Syrians live in districts where local administrations are controlled by the AKP. Out of the 10 districts with the largest refugee numbers, seven are held by the AKP. Similarly, eight of the 10 districts with the biggest refugee populations in proportion to the locals are run by the AKP.


While announcing the launch of Operation Peace Spring, Erdogan said the campaign would “lead to the establishment of a safe zone, facilitating the return of Syrian refugees to their homes.” The political motive underlying this pledge rests on the fact that the Syrian refugee problem is becoming unbearable for the government. If the campaign progresses as planned, leading the Turkish military and its Syrian allies to take control of a border stretch running 30 kilometers (19 miles) deep to the east of the Euphrates, the Syrians who could be forced to flee Idlib in the near future could perhaps be placed in tent cities in this “security belt” without being let into Turkey at all and instead transferred via Afrin and al-Bab, which are already under Turkish control.

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However, when it comes to Ecuador, the Guardian has an entirely different point of view. Not surprising, since they sided with Moreno against Assange. But my Twitter feed is full of videos of extreme Ecuador police and army violence against their own people, snipers on rooftops, the works. Looks just like the Turkish-led assault on Kurds. The Guardian, though, suggests in this case the protesters are violent.

Army Deployed In Ecuador As Protests Descend Into Violence (G.)

President Lenín Moreno ordered the army on to the streets of Ecuador’s capital Quito after a week and a half of protests over fuel prices devolved into violent incidents, with masked protesters attacking a television station, newspaper and the national auditor’s office. Moreno said the military enforced curfew would begin at 3pm local time in response to violence in areas previously untouched by the protests. Masked protesters broke into the national auditor’s office and set it ablaze, sending black smoke billowing across the central Quito park and cultural complex that have been the epicentre of the protests.

Later, several dozen masked men swarmed the offices of the private Teleamazonas television station, set fires on the grounds and tried to break into the building where about 20 employees were trapped. “They’re trying to enter the station, trying to break down the doors, we’re asking for help but the police aren’t coming,” one employee told the Associated Press. A journalist with the newspaper El Comercio told the AP that the paper’s offices were also under attack. The building’s security guards were seized and tied up and attackers were trying to break into offices where journalists were hiding.


Moreno appeared on national television alongside his vice-president and defence minister to announce that he was ordering people indoors and sending the army on to the streets. He blamed the violence on drug traffickers, organised crime and followers of former president Rafael Correa, who has denied allegations that he is trying to topple Moreno’s government.

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Moreno has turned into a right-wing US backed dictator, that much is clear. Guess we’ll never know what they have on him that made him turn 180º.

Ecuador Indigenous Group Says Will Continue Protests After Curfew Imposed (R.)

Ecuadorean indigenous group Conaie said late on Saturday that it would continue anti-austerity protests after President Lenin Moreno imposed a military-enforced curfew in the capital Quito and the armed forces said they would restrict movement across the country. The group suggested that its decision earlier in the day to hold direct talks with Moreno about a decree that cut fuel subsidies might be at risk by the military crackdown. Conaie has led protests against the law but has rejected vandalism that swept Quito on Saturday. “There’s no real dialogue without guarantees for the safety of indigenous leaders,” Conaie said in a statement on Twitter.


“We’ll carry out approaches to try to repeal the decree,” it added, “but we will hold protest actions nationally..exhorting the government to provide necessary guarantees.” It did not specify when it would hold protests or if it would do so in defiance of the curfew. Moreno did not say when the curfew in Quito would end.

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Was Boris only now advised about violence?

Johnson Will Speak To EU Leaders On Brexit Deal By End Of Monday (R>)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will speak to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker by the end of Monday to urge the leaders to support his Brexit deal, the Sunday Times reported. Johnson will offer the three leaders the option to either help him deliver a new deal this week, or to agree on a friendly version of a no-deal Brexit by Oct. 31, the newspaper said, citing a source familiar with the conversations. “He’ll be talking to Merkel, Macron and Juncker by the end of Monday to see if there’s agreement on a ‘landing zone’ for Northern Ireland and customs,” the source was quoted as telling the newspaper.


“The alternative is to agree a friendly version of no deal and finish it that way.” Security chiefs have convinced Johnson that a no-deal Brexit will heighten the danger of extremist attacks in Northern Ireland and on the mainland, along with sectarian violence in cities such as Glasgow, according to the report. As a result, the British prime minister desperately wants a Brexit deal, the Sunday Times reported. “Any one of these risks we could cope with, but taken collectively they would be a massive challenge to the UK state and no one would choose to go down that route,” Johnson told a senior Conservative in a private conversation, according to the newspaper.

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is it election time already?

Labour Will Stop No-Deal Brexit ‘Whatever It Takes’ – Starmer (G.)

Labour will take action in the courts to prevent Boris Johnson from pushing through a no-deal Brexit against the will of parliament, Keir Starmer has pledged. The shadow Brexit secretary said that if the prime minister is unable to reach an agreement with Brussels by 31 October, he must comply with the Benn act and seek a further delay. In a speech at the Co-operative party conference in Glasgow, Starmer said: “If he can’t – or I should say won’t – get a deal we will take whatever steps are necessary to prevent our country crashing out of the EU without a deal. “If no deal is secured by this time next week, Boris Johnson must seek and accept an extension. That’s the law. No ifs, no buts. And if he doesn’t, we’ll enforce the law – in the courts and in parliament. Whatever it takes, we will prevent a no-deal Brexit.”


Starmer dismissed suggestions that the prime minister could circumvent the law by accompanying a request for an extension with a second letter to the EU saying he did not want one. “That’s the equivalent of attaching a Post-it note to divorce papers saying ‘only kidding’ – It’s a ridiculous idea,” he said. Officials are continuing talks in Brussels over the weekend after the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, gave the go-ahead on Friday for intensive negotiations to start. Starmer said that if the prime minister succeeded in getting an agreement, Labour would demand it was put to the public in a referendum.

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“And really Fed? You are throwing this $60B a month announcement out on a Friday with the $DJIA already up 350 points?”

The Beginning of the End (Sven Henrich)

They sure are trying their best. To do what? To goose markets higher. It’s been quite the spectacle all year, but this Friday sure took the cake. The entire week had been a giant jerk fest of sudden rips and dips as headline chasing algos were ripping through support and resistance levels unleashed like fat kids at the candy shop. But this Friday was something else, almost designed to have markets overdose on an insulin spike. Ever more hyped up on an impending China deal, every meeting, and movement of negotiators caused market spikes, a Trump tweet about “warm feelings”, a $82.7B repo operation by the Fed to keep things tidy, a sudden out of the blue $60B/month Treasury buying operation announced by the Fed, multiple Fed speakers to boot, what a scene.

And really Fed? You are throwing this $60B a month announcement out on a Friday with the $DJIA already up 350 points? What are you thinking here? The Fed knows this kind of announcement juices up markets. The Fed sheepishly claims it’s not QE. Oh piss off already. Expanding the balance sheet by $60B a month is a massive intervention any way you cut it or slice it. How big? Do the math. $60B per month is a run rate of $720B a year. And while they claim they’ll stop it in Q2 next year who really believe anything they say? Did you believe QT was on autopilot last year? Lol. Fool me once.


You know what else is $720B a year or $60B a month? The ENTIRE US MILITARY BUDGET. The largest military budget on the planet. Millions under arms, submarines, aircraft carriers, nuclear arsenal, bombers, fighter jets, military bases across the globe, satellites, drones, laser guided missiles, you name it. All of it runs at $60B per month. So lest everyone is blind to numbers these days as everything is so monstrous our eyes glaze over I trust this comparison highlights how massive the Fed’s announcement was on Friday. But not QE. Right. Believe it if you so choose.

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Accidental? You sure?

White House Accidentally Sends Ukraine Talking Points To Democrats Again (Hill)

The White House accidentally sent Democrats a list of talking points related to ex-Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s Friday House deposition, two sources with knowledge of the email told The Hill, the second time in a month the administration has sent its Ukraine talking points to Democrats. The email included guidance for Republicans seeking to defend the president from potentially damaging witness testimony from an ambassador who was removed from her post in May under controversial circumstances. In copies of the guidance shared with The Hill, the White House encouraged Republicans to adopt a series of messages designed to turn the tables back on Democrats, including attacks on House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s (D-Calif.) handling of the investigation.

Yovanovitch told House lawmakers that she was removed after “a concerted campaign” against her from President Trump and his allies. She also said in her opening statement that the State Department had “been under pressure from the president to remove me since the summer of 2018.” Yovanovitch’s ouster came two months before Trump’s July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president — now at the center of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry — in which Trump asked Kiev to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading 2020 presidential candidate. “We are not concerned with any information Yovanovitch might share, because the President did nothing wrong,” the White House email meant for Republicans said.


“But we are concerned that Schiff is putting her in a precarious position by having her testify in secret without State Department lawyers be present.” “It raises serious questions about why Schiff is willing to put career officials in such risky situations while bullying them with legally unfounded threats of obstruction charges,” the email continued. It added that Schiff “is willing to ride roughshod over fair process and to use career officials to further a baseless political objective.” The email marks the second time the White House has unintentionally sent talking points to Democrats in recent weeks, after an administration official inadvertently emailed them suggested rhetoric defending the July 25 phone call.

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Oct 122019
 
 October 12, 2019  Posted by at 9:19 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Balthus Girl at the window 1955

 

US Delays China Tariff Increase As Trump Claims ‘Substantial’ Deal (G.)
Boris Johnson’s Major U-Turn Sets Up 48 Hours To Clinch Brexit Deal (G.)
Turkey Attacks US Special Forces In Syria (NW)
US Lawmakers Press Again For Stronger Trump Action On Turkey (R.)
In Memoriam: Reality (Kunstler)
Boeing Board Strips CEO Of Chairman Title Amid 737 MAX Crisis (R.)
Facebook’s Libra Currency Abandoned By Major Financial Companies (R.)
US SEC Halts Telegram’s $1.7 Billion Digital Token Offering (R.)
Rising Used Car Prices Help Push Poor Americans Over The Edge (R.)
Saudi Naval Blockade Sparks Fresh Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen (MPN)
Human, Organ Trafficking Booming in Yemen as War Enters its Fifth Year (MPN)
Julian Assange To Remain Locked Up In UK Prison (RT)

 

 

Not much of a deal, but lots of talk, from what I understand. Still, 1.3 billion Chinese need food.

US Delays China Tariff Increase As Trump Claims ‘Substantial’ Deal (G.)

Donald Trump announced a “very substantial phase one deal” to solve the long-running trade dispute with China. After a two-day meeting in Washington between US and Chinese officials on Friday Trump announced a delay on plans to raise tariffs on $250bn worth of goods to 30% on 15 October. A further 15% tariff on almost all remaining Chinese imports including laptops, smartphone, footwear and clothing is still set to be imposed on 15 December unless a deal can be reached with Beijing. Trump said progress had been made on allegations of currency manipulation, intellectual property theft and other issues.


China also agreed to increase its purchases of US agricultural goods and further open up its market to foreign financial services companies. The deal has not been written yet and may take weeks to finalize. Speaking in the White House Trump said: “I think we have a lot of good faith right now.” He said the agreement was bigger than a trade deal. “There was a lot of friction between the US and China and now it’s a lovefest,” said Trump. Earlier Trump had tweeted there were “warmer feelings” in US-China trade talks. The news helped boost stock prices with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing up 319 points and the S&P 500 snapping a three-week losing streak.

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Will Northern Ireland remain in the customs union forever?

Boris Johnson’s Major U-Turn Sets Up 48 Hours To Clinch Brexit Deal (G.)

Boris Johnson has signalled that he will make a last-ditch U-turn on his plans for the Irish border, setting up 48 hours of intense negotiations that will make or break a Brexit deal. On a day of rapid movement in talks, EU sources said the prime minister had conceded that there could not be a customs border on the island of Ireland – a critical step away from his previous position. That came after European ambassadors prompted tentative hope of a deal by giving the green light for what some diplomats described as a “tunnel” discussion in which a small team of negotiators meet for intensive talks to find a break-through moment.


The Democratic Unionist party and European Research Group (ERG), a group of rightwing Conservatives, later issued statements promising flexibility, keeping hope alive that Johnson could find support for a new offer in the House of Commons. But amid ongoing scepticism that a deal could be forced through in the short time left and with Angela Merkel due to hold talks with Emmanuel Macron on Sunday night, the prime minister faces a frantic race to push through his fresh proposals with Brussels or at home. “The UK has accepted that there is not a deal that involves a border on the island of Ireland – that is a big break from what they were saying,” one EU source said. “Now the key is for them to lay out how their new position over the weekend.”

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Tweet: “Coalition official tells me after Turkish bombing near US base Mashtenour hill: “They know we are there, we told them our position. There’s no other target in the area. They’re trying to drive us out. If Turkey can get us to leave so they can siege Kobane, it’s all over.”

Turkey Attacks US Special Forces In Syria (NW)

A contingent of U.S. Special Forces was caught up in Turkish shelling against U.S.-backed Kurdish positions in northern Syria, days after President Donald Trump told his Turkish counterpart he would withdraw U.S. troops from certain positions in the area. A senior Pentagon official said shelling by the Turkish forces was so heavy that the U.S. personnel considered firing back in self-defense. Newsweek has learned through both an Iraqi Kurdish intelligence official and the senior Pentagon official that Special Forces operating on Mashtenour hill in the majority-Kurdish city of Kobani fell under artillery fire from Turkish forces conducting their so-called “Operation Peace Spring” against Kurdish fighters backed by the U.S. but considered terrorist organizations by Turkey. No injuries have been reported.


Instead of returning fire, the Special Forces withdrew once the shelling had ceased. Newsweek previously reported Wednesday that the current rules of engagement for U.S. forces continue to be centered around self-defense and that no order has been issued by the Pentagon for a complete withdrawal from Syria. The Pentagon official said that Turkish forces should be aware of U.S. positions “down to the grid.” The official could not specify the exact number of personnel present, but indicated they were “small numbers below company level,” so somewhere between 15 and 100 troops. Newsweek has reached out to the Pentagon for comment on the situation.

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This will build.

US Lawmakers Press Again For Stronger Trump Action On Turkey (R.)

U.S. lawmakers introduced more legislation on Friday seeking to slap stiff sanctions on Turkey over its offensive against Kurdish fighters in Syria, underscoring unhappiness from both Democrats and President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress over his Syria policy. Representatives Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, and Mike McCaul, the committee’s ranking Republican, introduced a bill that would sanction Turkish officials involved in the Syria operation and banks involved with Turkey’s defense sector until Turkey ends military operations in Syria. It also would stop arms from going to Turkish forces in Syria, and require the administration to impose existing sanctions on Turkey for its purchase of a Russian S-400 missile-defense system.


On Sunday, Trump abruptly shifted policy and said he was withdrawing U.S. forces from northeastern Syria, clearing the way for Turkey to launch an assault across the border. Turkey began the offensive quickly, pounding Kurdish militias, who had spent many months fighting alongside U.S. forces against Islamic State militants. Earlier, Engel and McCaul had introduced a resolution expressing strong support for Kurdish forces in Syria and recognizing their contribution to the fight against Islamic State. It also called on Turkey to immediately stop military action in northeast Syria and called on the United States to stand with Syrian Kurdish communities affected by violence.

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“The nation has been too preoccupied with political mud-wrestling to notice that the US debt has gone hockey-stick parabolic..”

In Memoriam: Reality (Kunstler)

The Golden Golem of Greatness shifted into mad bull overdrive for last night’s Minneapolis fan rally, cussing and bellowing at the picadors of the Left who have been sticking lances in his neck for three years. Decorum is not Mr. Trump’s strong suit, but then the bull is not sent into the ring to negotiate politely for his life. The narrative of the bullring is certain death. The bull must do what he can within his nature to dispute it. It’s in Mr. Trump’s nature to act the part of a reality TV star, and, of course, it is the nature of reality TV shows to be unreal. That is perhaps the ruling paradox of life in the USA these days.

Saturated in unreality, the spectators (also called “voters”) flounder through a relentless barrage of narratives aimed at confounding them, with the unreal expectation that they can make sense of unreal things. In a place like Minneapolis of an October evening, you can go see the Joker movie or take in the President’s rally — and come away with the same sense of hyper-unreality. We’re no longer the nation we pretend to be and we don’t know it. Jokers are wild and the joke’s on us. So it goes in these dangerous autumn days of The Fourth Turning. Something’s got to give, and all indications are it will happen where few are looking at the moment: the sideshow of money and banking.


When things start slip-sliding away over in that alternative universe, Mr. Trump will be propelled into the role he was cast for in 2016: bag-holder for economic collapse. The global slowdown of productive activity and commerce is undermining a vast network of dubious financial obligations ruled by an overgrowth of loans that will never be paid back. Unlike New York real estate moguls, the whole world can’t just go into bankruptcy court and apply for a fresh start. The “workout” is brutal and produces epoch-defining trauma. The nation has been too preoccupied with political mud-wrestling to notice that the US debt has gone hockey-stick parabolic, racking up $814 billion just since August. Math majors may see that’s close to a trillion dollars, or 4 percent of the total $22,837 trillion, just in a few months.

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“..to strengthen the company’s governance and safety management processes,” the company said.”

Boeing Board Strips CEO Of Chairman Title Amid 737 MAX Crisis (R.)

Boeing Co’s board has stripped chief executive Dennis Muilenburg of his chairmanship title, in an unexpected strategy shift announced by the U.S. planemaker on Friday only hours after a global aviation panel criticized development of the troubled 737 MAX. Separating the roles, which will enable Muilenburg to have “maximum focus” on steering daily operations, was the latest step the board has taken in recent weeks to improve executive oversight of its engineering ranks and industrial operations. Lead Director David Calhoun, a senior managing director at Blackstone Group, will takeover as non-executive chairman, Boeing said in its announcement, which came late on Friday afternoon without warning.


It added that the board had “full confidence” in Muilenburg, who will retain the top job and remain on the board. The decision came as Boeing struggles to get its best-selling 737 MAX back into service following a worldwide safety ban in March triggered by two crashes that killed a total of 346 people in Ethiopia and Indonesia. It also comes some six months after Muilenburg survived a shareholder motion to split his chairman and CEO roles, part of the intense pressure he has faced during the worst crisis of his four years at the helm of the world’s largest planemaker. “This decision is the latest of several actions by the board of directors and Boeing senior leadership to strengthen the company’s governance and safety management processes,” the company said.

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I said last week that Paypal wouldn’t be the only one.

Facebook’s Libra Currency Abandoned By Major Financial Companies (R.)

Facebook Inc’s ambitious efforts to establish a global digital currency called Libra suffered severe setbacks on Friday, as major payment companies including Mastercard and Visa Inc quit the group behind the project. The two companies announced they would leave the association Friday afternoon, as did EBay Inc, Stripe Inc. and Latin American payments company Mercado Pago. They join PayPal Holdings Inc which exited the group a week ago, as global regulators continue to air concerns about the project. The latest exodus leaves the Libra Association without any remaining major payments companies as members, meaning it can no longer count on a global player to help consumers turn their currency into Libra and facilitate transactions.


The remaining association members, including Lyft and Vodafone, consist mainly of venture capital, telecommunications, blockchain and technology companies, as well as nonprofit groups. “Visa has decided not to join the Libra Association at this time,” the company said in a statement. “We will continue to evaluate and our ultimate decision will be determined by a number of factors, including the Association’s ability to fully satisfy all requisite regulatory expectations.” Facebook’s head of the project, former PayPal executive David Marcus, cautioned on Twitter against “reading the fate of Libra into this update,” although he acknowledged “it’s not great news in the short term.”

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Libra, Grams, who’s next?

US SEC Halts Telegram’s $1.7 Billion Digital Token Offering (R.)

U.S. authorities said on Friday they have halted a $1.7 billion unregistered digital token offering by the messaging service Telegram Group Inc and its TON Issuer subsidiary. The Securities and Exchange Commission said it had received a temporary restraining order against the two offshore entities, which the regulator said had failed to register to sell 2.9 billion digital tokens called “Grams” to initial investors globally, including 1 billion to U.S. buyers. The move marks the latest effort by the agency to crack down on the fledgling cryptocurrency industry.


The SEC has taken the position that initial coin offerings are securities offerings and therefore subject to SEC offering rules, which require firms to file registration and disclosure documents. “Our emergency action today is intended to prevent Telegram from flooding the U.S. markets with digital tokens that we allege were unlawfully sold,” Stephanie Avakian, co-director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, said in a statement.

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You’re going to wish your cities weren’t designed to make cars a necessity.

Rising Used Car Prices Help Push Poor Americans Over The Edge (R.)

For America’s working poor, an often essential ingredient for getting and keeping a job – having a car – has rarely been more costly, and millions of people are finding it impossible to keep up with payments despite prolonged economic growth and low unemployment. More than 7 million Americans are already 90 or more days behind on their car loans, according to the New York Federal Reserve, and serious delinquency rates among borrowers with the lowest credit scores have by far seen the fastest acceleration. The seeds of the problem are buried deep in the financial crisis, when in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, automakers slashed production.


A decade later, that has made a relative rarity of used 10-year-old vehicles that are typically more affordable for low-wage earners. According to data provided to Reuters by industry consultant and car shopping website Edmunds, the average price of that vintage of vehicle is $8,657, still nearly 75% higher than in 2010 despite some softening in prices over the last year. The average new car, in contrast, has seen a price rise of 25% in that same time period. “This is pinching people at the worst point possible,” said Ivan Drury, Edmunds’ senior manager of industry analysis. “If you need basic A to B transportation, you have to get an older car that needs more repairs and has more wear-and-tear issues.”

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War crimes.

Saudi Naval Blockade Sparks Fresh Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen (MPN)

Recent political developments have offered a glimmer of hope to some that the end of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen may be near. But a new report by the United Nations Development Programme shows that a recent tightening of the Saudi-led Coalition’s blockade against the country, and the fuel shortages it has sparked, not only are exacerbating Yemen’s humanitarian crisis but also are slated to make Yemen the world’s poorest country by 2022. In the nursery at the Maternity and Childhood Hospital in Amran, doctors and families alike fear that fuel shortages will lead to power cuts, plunging the ward into darkness and rendering its life-saving machines inoperable.

One mother in the ward diligently watches a heater placed near her infant, knowing that it the electricity-powered medical device stops, her child will die. Dr. Hadi Al-Hamzi, the director-general of the hospital, said that 30 infants could die if their incubators stop for just two hours. He added, “We have a severe shortage of generator fuel, and we have no prospect of getting more in the coming days.” Mohammed Mujahed, the director of Amran Governorate’s Health Office, warned that intensive care for pregnant mothers and nurseries in the province could be stopped in a matter of hours if no generator fuel is secured.


The Saudi-led Coalition has stepped up its seizure and detention of ships carrying food and fuel into Yemen and the effects of those seizures are already being felt by ordinary people. Thousands of Yemenis already facing acute food shortages could die, as stocks of stored food dwindle and cannot be replenished. Sultana Begum, a representative of the Norwegian Refugee Council humanitarian organization, told Reuters that “fuel shortages in Yemen exacerbate the already dire humanitarian situation in the country and lead to unacceptable levels of suffering.”

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“..nearly 4 million Yemenis are currently stranded abroad..”

Human, Organ Trafficking Booming in Yemen as War Enters its Fifth Year (MPN)

In addition to poverty and the absence of law enforcement, there are other reasons why human trafficking flourishes in Yemen, perhaps the most prominent being the blockade levied against the country by the Saudi Coalition since 2015. Before the war, Yemenis would regularly leave the country to seek better health care, employment opportunities and safety abroad — including, somewhat ironically, in neighboring Saudi Arabia. Now — with seaports, airports, highways and especially the once-bustling Sana`a International Airport effectively shuttered by the Saudi Coalition — Yemenis are no longer able to flee the violence in their country or travel to neighboring wealthy Gulf countries for stints of work to earn some cash, leaving many with few options but to resort to selling their organs out of desperation to make ends meet.


The blockade has also left a large number of Yemenis stranded abroad, including some students and others who have managed to find a way out in hopes of receiving medical treatment. It is estimated, according to data provided by the Sana`a International Airport Media Center, that nearly 4 million Yemenis are currently stranded abroad. Many of the stranded are left in a state of legal limbo, unable to secure citizenship in neighboring countries and therefore unable to work, leaving them with no way to earn money short of begging on the street or agreeing to sell their organs. The Yemen Organisation for Combating Human Trafficking told MintPress that many Yemenis who fled when the war broke out are now stuck abroad and that the organization has recorded as many as 300 cases of Yemenis stranded abroad selling their kidneys out of desperation.

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Emmy B on Twitter: “At Westminster Magistrates Court today we saw Julian #Assange via video link. We saw his further physical deterioration. He only said his name and DOB responding at the request of the Magistrate and remained speechless and motionless to the end. Hearing did not last more than 10’”

Julian Assange To Remain Locked Up In UK Prison (RT)

WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange has been ordered to stay in a British prison ahead of a hearing on his possible extradition to the United States, despite reaching the end of his custody period. Assange was due to be released on September 22 after serving a sentence for breaching bail conditions by seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012. The 48-year-old was told at a court hearing last month that he would be kept in Belmarsh prison because of “substantial grounds” for believing he would abscond. At a brief hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Friday, deputy senior district judge Tan Ikram said that Assange would remain in custody “for the same reasons as before.”


Assange spoke only to confirm his name and age before he was remanded in prison. He is due to appear in court in person at his next hearing on October 21. “I very much hope we can make some progress on this case,” Judge Ikram told him at the end of the five-minute hearing, Reuters reports. In the US, Assange is charged with possession and dissemination of classified information. If found guilty, he could receive up to 175 years in prison. The activist has long feared that the US would attempt to extradite him after WikiLeaks published the leaked ‘Collateral Murder’ video, which shows the US military attacking journalists and civilians in Iraq in July 2007.

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Autumn pedestrian crossing in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

 

 

 

 

Oct 112019
 
 October 11, 2019  Posted by at 9:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  10 Responses »


Balthus Girl at a window 1957

 

How the Crybabies on Wall Street Try to Force the Fed into QE-4 (WS)
After Unveiling ‘NotQE’, Fed Eases Liquidity Rules For Foreign Banks (ZH)
America’s Political Implosion (SCF)
Dems Weigh Knee-Capping A Republican Impeachment Criticism (Pol.)
US House Republicans To Seek Sanctions On Turkey Over Kurd Offensive (R.)
Syrian Kurdish Leaders Urge EU To Pull Envoys Over Turkey Offensive (RT)
Explosions Rock Iranian Tanker Near Saudi Port City Of Jeddah (RT)
GM’s Third-Quarter China Vehicle Sales Down 17.5% (R.)
What Jeff Bezos Wants (Atl.)
Facebook Paid Just £28m Tax On Record £1.6bn Earnings In UK (G.)

 

 

2 stories I couldn’t find decent pieces on: new hopes for a Brexit deal, and Giuliani’s ‘associates’ arrested. I was wondering why they were labeled his ‘associates’, but all I could find is they were ’associated’ with him. Right. Now, I always found Rudy a weird character, but these stories simply become part of the entire load of anti-Trump tales we’re doused in every day. It becomes impossible to judge what is real or not.

Meanwhile, while you weren’t looking, the Fed is busy saving Wall Street again. Got to rescue them bonuses.

How the Crybabies on Wall Street Try to Force the Fed into QE-4 (WS)

Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s explanation on Tuesday and the FOMC minutes released yesterday were a bitter disappointment for the Crybabies on Wall Street – the broker-dealers and banks: They’d expected a massive bout of QE, and perhaps some of the players had gleefully contributed to, or even instigated the turmoil in the repo market to make sure they would get that massive bout of QE as the Fed would be forced to calm the waters with QE, the theory went. This QE would include big purchases of long-term securities to push down long-term yields, and drive up the prices of those bonds these Crybabies are holding or have bet on with derivatives.


This is particularly crucial to the “primary dealers” – the 24 US and foreign broker-dealers and banks that are authorized to deal directly with the US Treasury and the New York Fed. They’ve been hoarding Treasury securities with longer maturities. As of October 2, according to the most recent data from the New York Fed, they hoarded $161 billion, double the $81 billion a year ago – though that has come down from the peak in July of $219 billion. Note the top two lines (black): Less than two-year maturities amounting to $74 billion; and 11-year and over maturities amounting to $37 billion. Not included on this chart are the primary dealers’ holdings of Treasury bills, TIPS, Agency securities, and Floating Rate Notes.

Primary dealers are funding their hoard in the repo market. These funding needs were putting pressures on the repo market, the Fed already said in its minutes for the July meeting, before repo rates totally blew out in mid-September. But primary dealers could have sold a large part of those securities, if they’d wanted to. Prices were high and yields were low, a sign that there was heavy demand. But the dealers were holding out for even higher prices and even lower yields. And any heavy selling could have pushed up those yields and steepened the yield curve, very unpalatable for folks clamoring for rate cuts. So these dealers are sitting on a pile of Treasury notes and bonds whose prices they want to rise, and therefore their yields would have to fall. Massive QE, where the Fed buys these types of Treasury securities, would accomplish that.

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Why would the banks not risk going broke? They’ll be saved no matter what.

After Unveiling ‘NotQE’, Fed Eases Liquidity Rules For Foreign Banks (ZH)

Having cracked down on Deutsche Bank in the past, The Fed appears to be playing good-regulator/bad-regulator as The FT reports that Deutsche is expected to benefit most from an imminent change in The Fed’s liquidity rules. Specifically, US banking regulators have dropped an idea to subject local branches of foreign banks to tough new liquidity rules (forcing US branches of foreign banks to hold a minimum level of liquid assets to protect them from a cash crunch). As The FT further details, people familiar with his thinking say Randal Quarles, the vice-chair for banking supervision at the Fed, accepts the banks’ argument that any liquidity rules on bank branches should only be imposed in conjunction with foreign regulators.

“Without some international agreement, we could have the situation where each country is trying to grab whatever isn’t nailed down if there is another scare.” And Deutsche Bank benefits most (or rescued from major liquidity needs) since it has by far the largest assets in US branches… Why would The Fed do this? Simple, it cannot afford another Lehman-like move (or even the fear of one)…

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The whole enchilada is under threat. Time to leave the partisan trenches.

America’s Political Implosion (SCF)

The polarization in American politics has become so extreme there seems no longer to be any center ground. The political establishment is consequently imploding into an abyss of its own making. President Trump is being driven into an impeachment process by Democrats and their media supporters who accuse him of being “unpatriotic” and a danger to national security. Trump and Republicans hit back at Democrats and the “deep state” whom they condemn for conspiring to overthrow the presidency in a coup dressed up as “impeachment”. The White House is being subpoenaed, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives wants to access transcripts to all of Trump’s phone calls to foreign leaders; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has blasted congressmen for “harassing the State Department” in their search of evidence to indict Trump.

Trump calls the impeachment bid a “witch-hunt”. Republican Representatives protest that the US is facing a dark day of constitutional crisis, whereby opposing Democratic party leaders are abusing their office by accusing Trump of “high crimes” without ever presenting evidence. It’s an Alice in Wonderland scenario writ large, where the gravest verdict is being cast before evidence is presented, never mind proven; the president is guilty until proven innocent. Trump, in his turn, has berated senior Democrat Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, for “treason” – a capital offense. Are federal police obliged to arrest him? Schiff is accused of colluding with a supposed CIA whistleblower in concocting the complaint that Trump tried to extort Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to dig dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.


There seems no end to this political civil war in the US. The American political class is literally tearing itself apart, destroying its ability to govern with any normal function. So-called liberal media outlets, in lockstep with the Democrats, inculpate Trump for wrongdoing, while they staunchly assert that credible reports of Joe Biden abusing his former vice presidential office to enrich his son over Ukraine gas business are false. Many Americans don’t see it that way. They see Biden as being up to his neck in past corruption; they also see a flagrant double-standard of the establishment protecting Biden from investigation while hounding Trump at every possible opportunity, even when evidence against Trump is scant.

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Curious way to phrase holding a simple vote.

Dems Weigh Knee-Capping A Republican Impeachment Criticism (Pol.)

House Democrats are grappling with whether to take more steps to formalize their impeachment inquiry and silence a chief Republican criticism of their efforts, with competing factions beginning to emerge. President Donald Trump and his allies on Capitol Hill have hammered Speaker Nancy Pelosi for not holding a vote authorizing the House’s impeachment proceedings — arguing that without a vote, the entire process is illegitimate. Pelosi has refused to cave, dismissing Trump’s demand last week and insisting it is not required under the Constitution or House rules. And allies close to the speaker say her position hasn’t changed, describing the idea as the latest “Republican canard” in a series of stall tactics the GOP will employ to protect Trump.

“It is one act after another of obstruction of justice by the White House, by the State Department, and by the attorney general. And I say, give them more rope to hang themselves,” Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Calif.), who flipped his conservative Orange County district in 2018, said in an interview. Yet some Democratic lawmakers and aides have begun to say privately — and, to a lesser extent, publicly — that the House should just vote to formalize the inquiry, robbing the GOP of its main talking point. The debate is threatening to cleave Democrats’ unified front as the White House makes the arcane procedural arguments the centerpiece of its impeachment defense. “If Nancy asked me, I would say sure, let’s have a vote. Everybody’s on record, so they’re not going to vote any differently. What’s the danger in having a vote to formalize it?” said Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), an early impeachment backer.


But the suggestion has provoked strong objections from some of their colleagues who say they would be abdicating their authority if lawmakers permit other branches of government to dictate their procedures. “If we allow that to happen, Congress would be completely dysfunctional,” Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) said at a recent town hall event in Glen Ellyn, Ill. “If we have to take a complete show vote, we’ll get the vote. But I find it offensive that they are basically telling us how to do our job with a misreading of the Constitution. Read the freakin’ Constitution. And then let’s honor our oath to it.”

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Will the Democrats support this?

US House Republicans To Seek Sanctions On Turkey Over Kurd Offensive (R.)

Twenty-nine of President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives announced on Thursday they would introduce legislation to impose sanctions against Turkey, underscoring lawmakers unhappiness about its assault on Kurdish forces in Syria. A day after Republicans and Democrats announced similar legislation in the Senate, the lawmakers – including Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, Republican Whip Steve Scalise and other party leaders – said they wanted a strong response to Ankara’s aggression. “President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan and his regime must face serious consequences for mercilessly attacking our Kurdish allies in northern Syria,” Republican Representative Liz Cheney, chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, said in a statement.


It was not immediately clear how the legislation would fare in the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats. On Sunday, Trump abruptly shifted policy and said he was withdrawing U.S. forces from northeastern Syria, clearing the way for Turkey to launch an assault across the border. Turkey began the offensive quickly, pounding Kurdish militias, who recently were fighting alongside U.S. forces against Islamic State militants, on Wednesday and Thursday, killing dozens and forcing many thousands of people to flee.

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Erdogan has threatend to release 3.6 million refugees into Europe, so don’t hold your breath for this one.

Syrian Kurdish Leaders Urge EU To Pull Envoys Over Turkey Offensive (RT)

Kurdish leaders have called on European countries to withdraw their ambassadors from Turkey in protest at Ankara’s military operation against their forces in northern Syria. A delegation from the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) – the political wing of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – traveled to Brussels on Thursday to urge the EU to take concrete measures to punish Turkey, AFP reports. “We want an urgent intervention on this crisis, and these attacks should be stopped quickly. Air space should be closed for Turkish flights so that air attacks can be stopped,” senior SDC figure Ilham Ahmed said in Brussels. “All European states should freeze their relations by withdrawing their ambassadors from Turkey immediately.” The EU has urged Turkey to halt the assault but has not taken any action. The bloc’s foreign ministers will discuss the crisis at a regular meeting on Monday.

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Oh, lovely.

Explosions Rock Iranian Tanker Near Saudi Port City Of Jeddah (RT)

A tanker belonging to Iran’s government-owned oil corporation has been hit by two missiles and caught fire in the Red Sea, 60 miles from Saudi shores. The incident is being treated as a terrorist attack, local media says.
The tanker Sinopa, operated by the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), was sailing through the Red Sea when the explosion occurred. The blast was powerful enough to damage two of its reservoirs, leading to an oil spill in the area. Local media cited unnamed Iranian “technical experts” who believe that the incident could have been caused by a “terrorist attack,” but didn’t provide any evidence to back the claim.


The tanker’s crew wasn’t hurt in the incident, which took place near Jeddah, the largest port in the Red Sea and maritime gateway to Saudi Arabia. NIOC, which once ranked second after Saudi Aramco in terms of crude oil extraction, told state-run IRNA news agency that the vessel was hit by what appears to be two missiles. That report did not expand on where the attack came from.

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Small is beautiful.

GM’s Third-Quarter China Vehicle Sales Down 17.5% (R.)

General Motors Co’s July to September vehicle sales in China fell 17.5%, as the U.S. automaker was hurt by a slowing economy amid the Sino-U.S. trade war and by heightened competition in its key mid-priced SUV segment. GM delivered 689,531 vehicles in China in the third quarter this year, according to a company statement. The drop for the quarter ended September 30 marks the fifth straight quarterly sales decline for GM in China, the world’s biggest auto market. It delivered 2.26 million vehicles in the first nine months this year, according to Reuters calculation.


As GM and Ford Motor Co’s China sales extend declines, U.S. car companies’ share of total China passenger vehicles sales fell to 9.5% in the first eight months of this year from 10.7% in the year-ago period, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM). Over the same period, German car makers’ share has risen to 23.8% from 21.6% and Japanese auto makers’ to 21.7% from 18.3%.

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Wasn’t he the guy who wants to live on the moon?

What Jeff Bezos Wants (Atl.)

Where in the pantheon of American commercial titans does Jeffrey Bezos belong? Andrew Carnegie’s hearths forged the steel that became the skeleton of the railroad and the city. John D. Rockefeller refined 90 percent of American oil, which supplied the pre-electric nation with light. Bill Gates created a program that was considered a prerequisite for turning on a computer. At 55, Bezos has never dominated a major market as thoroughly as any of these forebears, and while he is presently the richest man on the planet, he has less wealth than Gates did at his zenith. Yet Rockefeller largely contented himself with oil wells, pump stations, and railcars; Gates’s fortune depended on an operating system. The scope of the empire the founder and CEO of Amazon has built is wider. Indeed, it is without precedent in the long history of American capitalism.


Today, Bezos controls nearly 40 percent of all e-commerce in the United States. More product searches are conducted on Amazon than on Google, which has allowed Bezos to build an advertising business as valuable as the entirety of IBM. One estimate has Amazon Web Services controlling almost half of the cloud-computing industry—institutions as varied as General Electric, Unilever, and even the CIA rely on its servers. Forty-two percent of paper book sales and a third of the market for streaming video are controlled by the company; Twitch, its video platform popular among gamers, attracts 15 million users a day. Add The Washington Post to this portfolio and Bezos is, at a minimum, a rival to the likes of Disney’s Bob Iger or the suits at AT&T, and arguably the most powerful man in American culture.

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“Profits on social media app surged by more than 50% to £797m in latest tax year..”

Facebook Paid Just £28m Tax On Record £1.6bn Earnings In UK (G.)

Facebook’s UK operations paid £28m in tax last year despite attracting a record £1.6bn in British sales. The social media company’s latest UK accounts show that gross income from advertisers rose almost 30% last year to £1.65bn, and pretax profits surged by more than 50% from £63m to £97m. Facebook UK said the net revenues it made from advertisers rose 50% last year to £797m, meaning 12% of its sales were converted to profits. This falls far short of the company’s overall performance – last year Facebook made $25bn (£19.7bn) of profit on total sales of $55.8bn – meaning it converted 44% of its sales into profits.


Facebook’s UK operation expanded rapidly last year with staff numbers rising by more than 50%, from 1,290 to 1,965 year on year, with a total staff wages and pension bill of £431m. The company’s UK office provides marketing services and sales and engineering support to other parts of the company. Facebook said it spent £356m on research, development and engineering in the UK last year. Last month, online retail giant Amazon came under fire for paying just £14.7m in UK corporation tax last year, despite reporting sales of £2.3bn. Earlier this month, Netflix UK’s accounts showed that the streaming giant received a €57,000 (£51,000) tax rebate from the UK government last year, despite making an estimated £700m from British subscribers bingeing on fare from The Crown to Stranger Things.

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A baby Grauer’s gorilla, a critically endangered species, in the forest of Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2018, logging began in the protected area, threatening the habitat of the gorillas.

 

 

 

 

Oct 072019
 
 October 7, 2019  Posted by at 9:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  23 Responses »


Print your own Assange mask

 

The ‘Whistleblower’ Probably Isn’t (Taibbi)
DNC Colluded With Ukraine To Boost Hillary By Harming Trump – Report (DWire)
Bob Woodward: GOP Senators ‘Choking’ On Trump-Ukraine Scandal (WE)
In Last Minute Call, Erdogan Agrees To Meet Trump Over Syria ‘Safe Zone’ (ZH)
Arise, Commissioner Farage! (Pol.eu)
Brexit Border Talk Stirs Up Bad Memories In Northern Ireland (G.)
An Actual Conspiracy Kept Jeffrey Epstein’s Accomplices out of Prison
Chinese Farmers Raise Mutant Pigs The Size Of Polar Bears (ZH)
Lula’s Prosecutors Request His Release From Prison. He Refuses. (Greenwald)

 

 

Not even close.

The ‘Whistleblower’ Probably Isn’t (Taibbi)

Start with the initial headline, in the story the Washington Post “broke” on September 18th: “TRUMP’S COMMUNICATIONS WITH FOREIGN LEADER ARE PART OF WHISTLEBLOWER COMPLAINT THAT SPURRED STANDOFF BETWEEN SPY CHIEF AND CONGRESS, FORMER OFFICIALS SAY”. The unnamed person at the center of this story sure didn’t sound like a whistleblower. Our intelligence community wouldn’t wipe its ass with a real whistleblower. Americans who’ve blown the whistle over serious offenses by the federal government either spend the rest of their lives overseas, like Edward Snowden, end up in jail, like Chelsea Manning, get arrested and ruined financially, like former NSA official Thomas Drake, have their homes raided by FBI like disabled NSA vet William Binney, or get charged with espionage like ex-CIA exposer-of-torture John Kiriakou.


It’s an insult to all of these people, and the suffering they’ve weathered, to frame the ballcarrier in the Beltway’s latest partisan power contest as a whistleblower. I’ve met a lot of whistleblowers, in both the public and private sector. Many end up broke, living in hotels, defamed, (often) divorced, and lucky if they have any kind of job. One I knew got turned down for a waitressing job because her previous employer wouldn’t vouch for her. She had little kids. The common thread in whistleblower stories is loneliness. Typically the employer has direct control over their ability to pursue another job in their profession. Many end up reviled as traitors, thieves, and liars. They often discover after going public that their loved ones have a limited appetite for sharing the ignominy. In virtually all cases, they end up having to start over, both personally and professionally.

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When will the MSM start publishing about the “DNC-UKRAINE SCANDAL”? The Director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine was convicted in Ukraine for interfering in the U.S. presidential election in 2016…

DNC Colluded With Ukraine To Boost Hillary By Harming Trump – Report (DWire)

The Blaze has released an audio recording that they recently obtained that appears to show Artem Sytnyk, Director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, admitting that he tried to boost the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton by sabotaging then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign. The connection between the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Ukrainian government was veteran Democratic operative Alexandra Chalupa, “who had worked in the White House Office of Public Liaison during the Clinton administration” and then “went on to work as a staffer, then as a consultant, for Democratic National Committee,” Politico reported.

Chalupa was working directly with the Ukrainian embassy in the United States to raise concerns about Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and, according to Politico, she indicated that the Embassy was working “directly with reporters researching Trump, Manafort and Russia to point them in the right directions.” The Ukrainian embassy political officer who worked at the embassy at the time, Andrii Telizhenko, stated that the Ukrainians “were coordinating an investigation with the Hillary team on Paul Manafort with Alexandra Chalupa” and that “the embassy worked very closely with” Chalupa. The Blaze highlighted an email from WikiLeaks from Chalupa to Louise Miranda at the DNC:


“Hey, a lot coming down the pipe. I spoke to a delegation of 68 investigative journalists from Ukraine last night at the Library of Congress, the Open World Society forum. They put me on the program to speak specifically about Paul Manafort. I invited Michael Isikoff, who I’ve been working with for the past few weeks, and connected him to the Ukrainians. More offline tomorrow, since there was a big Trump component you and Lauren need to be aware of that will hit in the next few weeks. Something I’m working on that you should be aware of.” The Blaze then reported that Sytnyk, who eventually “was tried and convicted in Ukraine for interfering in the U.S. presidential election in 2016,” released a “black ledger” on Manafort during the 2016 presidential election that eventually led to Manafort’s downfall.

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Republicans drowning in donations.

Bob Woodward: GOP Senators ‘Choking’ On Trump-Ukraine Scandal (WE)

Veteran journalist Bob Woodward said Republican senators are “choking” on President Trump’s Ukraine scandal. At his second appearance in Spokane, Washington, in as many days, the famed Watergate sleuth discussed the precarious situation GOP lawmakers find themselves in as Trump faces controversy for encouraging foreign countries to investigate Joe Biden, a political rival, and his son Hunter. “I know Republican senators, and they are choking on this,” Woodward said on Friday, according to the Spokesman-Review. “Whether they say that’s too much, I don’t know.” Some Republicans in the upper chamber have begun to break ranks after Trump openly encouraged Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens on Thursday.

Among those who have vented publicly are Maine Sen. Susan Collins, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, as well as Texas Rep. Will Hurd in the House. Trump, who claims his overtures were about corruption and not crippling a political opponent in the 2020 election, repeatedly castigated Romney on Saturday, even calling for his impeachment. In a discussion with college students on Thursday, Woodward said the situation for Trump is getting “more serious each day” and predicted that impeachment in the House “is almost certainly going to happen to Trump.” He added, “But then there’s a trial in the Senate.”


On Friday, Woodward acknowledged that Trump encouraging foreign countries to investigate the Biden family is “probably not criminal,” but he nonetheless referred to the controversy as being wide in scope. Speaking of the House impeachment inquiry, Woodward said, “They’re looking through a keyhole, and it’s a panorama.” Woodward also noted how some Republicans in the Senate are seeing an advantage from the Democrats’ impeachment venture. He mentioned that Sen. Lindsey Graham, a former Trump critic who has become one of his most vociferous defenders, is seeing an influx of donations. Woodward said the South Carolina Republican told him he “couldn’t count the money fast enough.”

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Erdogan blames the US for not establishing the safe zone.

In Last Minute Call, Erdogan Agrees To Meet Trump Over Syria ‘Safe Zone’ (ZH)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan again threatened this weekend to initiate a military incursion into northeast Syria, where US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are based (and bolstered locally by small American bases), saying an offensive “both on land and air” would come “as soon as today or tomorrow.” Like many threats of an “imminent” invasion, it appears this proverbial can will be kicked further down the road, as presidents Trump and Erdogan held a “last minute” phone call on Sunday, where it appears the two leaders came to some level of an understanding. They discussed Turkey’s proposed “safe zone” east of the Euphrates in Syria — which Erdogan has long urged a resistant Washington to cooperate militarily on — and though exact details of the exchange weren’t published, they agreed to meet in Washington next month upon Trump’s invitation.

“Erdogan expressed Turkey’s unease with U.S. military and security bureaucracies not doing what is required by the agreement between the two countries, the presidency said, adding that the two men agreed to meet,” Reuters reported of the call. As we reported previously, Turkey’s military is reportedly on high alert, ready to carry out the Turkish president’s orders on short notice, after a longtime military build-up along the border. “We will carry out this operation both on land and air as soon as today or tomorrow,” Erdogan said on Saturday. “We gave all warnings to our interlocutors regarding the east of Euphrates and we have acted with sufficient patience,” the Turkish president added.


He further slammed the prospect of cooperating with the US on a US-Turkey administered safe zone “a fairytale” given Washington’s recalcitrance regarding Syria’s Kurds, the ethnic group’s militias of which Turkey considers “terrorists”. The Kurdish dominated and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has vowed it will treat any invading Turkish soldiers as an act of war. In a statement the SDF said it would “not hesitate to turn any unprovoked (Turkish) attack into an all-out war” to defend its region in northeast Syria, according to Reuters.

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Given what Dominic Cummings thinks of Farage, hard to see him taking up a job with much publicity.

Arise, Commissioner Farage! (Pol.eu)

London may not be planning to nominate a commissioner to Brussels but if it does, some say there’s only one option: Nigel Farage. Conservative MP Steve Baker told the Telegraph’s Chopper Brexit Podcast that the Brexit Party member of the European Parliament would be the obvious choice to be the U.K.’s European commissioner, if Brexit is delayed and the country is able to nominate one. “I think we should appoint somebody with about twenty years experience … we should appoint somebody who’s incredibly well-known throughout the institutions, somebody who can be absolutely relied upon at all times to support our exit from the European Union,” he said.


“And therefore I unashamedly back Nigel Farage to be our next European commissioner in the event, in the unfortunate event, should it transpire, though I think it unlikely, that we have to remain in.” Baker, who leads the pro-Brexit European Research Group of MPs in the U.K. parliament, said the idea would be “inspired by the film Armageddon,” referring to a 1998 science fiction movie. There is a scene where “they’re trying to save the world, and so what they do is they land on the asteroid, and they put a nuclear weapon in the heart of the asteroid, and Nigel Farage is that nuclear weapon,” Baker said. “I’ve reason to think he might say that he would accept such an offer,” Baker added, while noting that “my sympathy for Nigel Farage, which has not always been at very high levels, has dramatically increased the more that I am demonized.”

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A traumatized people. Too easily forgotten.

Brexit Border Talk Stirs Up Bad Memories In Northern Ireland (G.)

Remnants of Hurricane Lorenzo unleashed wind and rain from the Atlantic across the area, a rural pocket of County Fermanagh that marks Northern Ireland’s border with the Republic. “Stay back, stay high, stay dry,” advised the authorities, and residents duly hunkered down. Lorenzo passed without major damage. [..] Around Gortmullan, businesses and ordinary people were left wondering if – and where – to seek cover, a dilemma dating from the 2016 referendum result that now thrummed with urgency. “We’re setting up new companies on both sides of the border,” said Liam McCaffrey, CEO of Quinn Industrial Holdings, which supplies building materials.

Customs checks would be bad enough, but Johnson’s apparent plan to give the Stormont assembly a veto over trading arrangements verged on surreal, said McCaffrey. Power sharing in Northern Ireland collapsed in January 2017 and shows little sign of reviving. “The future of how we trade is to be decided every four years by an assembly that hasn’t sat in three years? Bizarre.” Such was the challenge of Storm Boris. Perhaps it was hot air, a plan destined for oblivion to be superseded by who knows what. Or perhaps it was a blast of what is to come in a no-deal crash-out, or a deal negotiated in the next few weeks or after a general election. The uncertainty was head spinning.


[..] The 310-mile border, drawn in 1922 during the partition of Ireland, bristled with military patrols and fortifications during the Troubles. The 1998 Good Friday agreement and the EU’s single market rendered it invisible, helping to seal the peace. [..] A complex web connects the economies on both sides of the border. Trade in goods is worth about £5.2bn. About a third of Northern Ireland’s goods and services exports are sold to the Republic, while about a quarter of its imports come from the south. Downing Street says electronic paperwork and a “very small number” of physical inspections at traders’ premises would limit disruption. Farmers and business leaders dispute that. Some warn of disaster. Diageo, which makes Guinness and Baileys, estimates a hard border could cost it £1.3m, based on an estimate of an hour’s delay for each of the 18,000 beer trucks that traverse the border each year. Smaller businesses with tight margins could face ruin.

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How could this ever happen? “The parties anticipate that this agreement will not be made part of any public record. If the United States receives a Freedom of Information Act request or any compulsory process commanding the disclosure of the agreement, it will provide notice to Epstein before making that disclosure.”

An Actual Conspiracy Kept Jeffrey Epstein’s Accomplices out of Prison (MJ)

But not limited to: It was just a four-word phrase, a bit of plain contractual verbiage, but even now, more than a decade later, Spencer Kuvin has a hard time expressing just how bizarre it was. “It’s incredibly odd language,” said Kuvin, an attorney in Florida. “I’ve never seen it before in a non-prosecution agreement.” Kuvin and I were talking about the infamous and inexplicable 2007 plea deal offered by then–US Attorney Alexander Acosta, last seen slinking out of the Labor Department’s back door. Kuvin had represented three of Epstein’s victims at the time of the agreement, and Kuvin is still exercised about the deal, in particular its brief immunity clause that continues to protect Epstein’s co-conspirators.

According to a ruling by US District Judge Kenneth Marra in February 2019, “from between about 1999 and 2007, Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused more than 30 minor girls…at his mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, and elsewhere in the United States and overseas.” The ruling goes on to describe a child sex ring: “In addition to his own sexual abuse of the victims, Epstein directed other persons to abuse the girls sexually. Epstein used paid employees to find and bring minor girls to him. Epstein worked in concert with others to obtain minors not only for his own sexual gratification, but also for the sexual gratification of others.”

But back in 2007, Epstein was charged only with procuring an underage girl for prostitution, having struck an unbelievable sweetheart deal with Acosta. Epstein served 13 months in a Palm Beach County jail, of which six days a week were spent on work release in his high-rise office, a limo chauffeuring him to and from jail. He was also required to register as a sex offender. The deal on its face is incredibly favorable to Epstein. If you look closer, things get even better for him:


“The United States also agrees that it will not institute any criminal charges against any potential co-conspirators of Epstein, including but not limited to Sarah Kellen, Adriana Ross, Lesley Groff, or Nadia Marcinkova.” The four women named had allegedly helped recruit underage girls for Epstein at his direction. But that four-word phrase “but not limited to” gave a free pass to anybody who would have helped Epstein acquire or traffic underage girls for sex. How could the government agree to immunize “any potential co-conspirators” of an alleged serial child rapist? The question is at the center of so many conspiracy theories surrounding Epstein’s life and death.

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Me when I see this, I’m thinking Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell.

Chinese Farmers Raise Mutant Pigs The Size Of Polar Bears (ZH)

Amid one of the worst food crises in recent memory, Chinese farmers are reportedly trying to breed larger pigs as the African swine fever – less affectionately known as ‘pig ebola’ – has destroyed over 100 million pigs, between one-third and a half of China’s supply of pigs by various estimates, causing pork prices to explode to levels never seen before. As Beijing scrambles to make up for the lost domestic supply with imports, even desperately waiving tariffs on American pork products in what China’s politicians tried to sell to their population (and Washington) as a “gesture of goodwill”, farmers in southern China have raised a pig that’s as heavy as a polar bear.

Once slaughtered, these giant mutant pigs can fetch a, well, giant price on the market. Here’s more from Bloomberg: “The 500 kilogram, or 1,102 pound, animal is part of a herd that’s being bred to become giant swine. At slaughter, some of the pigs can sell for more than 10,000 yuan ($1,399), over three times higher than the average monthly disposable income in Nanning, the capital of Guangxi province where Pang Cong, the farm’s owner, lives.” Soaring pork prices have encouraged small and large farms to experiment with DIY genetic experimentation, in the name of raising pigs that are about 40% heavier than the ‘normal’ weight of 125 kilos.

“High pork prices in the northeastern province of Jilin is prompting farmers to raise pigs to reach an average weight of 175 kilograms to 200 kilograms, higher than the normal weight of 125 kilograms. They want to raise them “as big as possible,” said Zhao Hailin, a hog farmer in the region.”

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The entire case is falling to bits.

Lula’s Prosecutors Request His Release From Prison. He Refuses. (Greenwald)

The same Brazilian prosecutors who for years exhibited a single-minded fixation on jailing former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva are now seeking his release from prison, requesting that a court allow him to serve the remainder of his 11-year sentence for corruption at home. But Lula — who believes the request is motivated by fear that prosecutorial and judicial improprieties in his case, which were revealed by The Intercept, will lead to the nullification of his conviction — is opposing these efforts, insisting that he will not leave prison until he receives full exoneration. In seeking his release, Lula’s prosecutors are almost certainly not motivated by humanitarian concerns. Quite the contrary: Those prosecutors have often displayed a near-pathological hatred for the two-term former president.

Last month, The Intercept, jointly with its reporting partner UOL, published previously secret Telegram messages in which the Operation Car Wash prosecutors responsible for prosecuting Lula cruelly mocked the tragic death of his 7-year-old grandson from meningitis earlier this year, as well as the 2017 death of his wife of 43 years from a stroke at the age of 66. One of the prosecutors who participated publicly apologized, but none of the others have. Far more likely is that the prosecutors are motivated by desperation to salvage their legacy after a series of defeats suffered by their once-untouchable, widely revered Car Wash investigation, ever since The Intercept, on June 9, began publishing reports based on a massive archive of secret chats between the prosecutors and Sergio Moro, the judge who oversaw most of the convictions, including Lula’s, and who now serves as President Jair Bolsonaro’s Minister of Justice and Public Security.


The prosecutors’ cynical gambit, it appears, is that the country’s Supreme Court — which two weeks ago nullified one of Moro’s anti-corruption convictions for the first time on the ground that he violated core rights of defendants — will feel less pressure to nullify Moro’s guilty verdict in Lula’s case if the ex-president is comfortably at home in São Paulo (albeit under house arrest) rather than lingering in a Curitiba prison. But this strategy ran into a massive roadblock when Lula demanded that he not be released from prison unless and until he is fully exonerated.

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Feb 022019
 


Pablo Picasso The bathers 1918

 

Russia Suspends INF Treaty In ‘Mirror Response’ To US – Putin (RT)
US Payrolls Surge By 304,000, Smashing Estimates Despite Shutdown (CNBC)
Big Trouble in Little China (Schmid)
How Fast Housing Markets in Sydney & Melbourne Are Coming Unglued (WS)
Venezuela To Sell Gold Reserves To UAE Without Russia’s Help (RT)
Italy Rejects Guaido, Says Venezuela is a Sovereign State (Telesur)
Whitehall Begins ‘Serious Work’ On Customs Union With EU (Ind.)
Judge Considers Gag Order On Roger Stone And Prosecution (BBC)
America’s Kurdish Allies Risk Being Wiped Out – By NATO (Graeber)
Rigging the Science of GMO Ecotoxicity (Latham)

 

 

US arms producers eye their ultimate bid for trillions in development fees. But Russia is not fazed at all.

“Let’s wait until our partners mature sufficiently to hold a level, meaningful conversation on this topic..”

Russia Suspends INF Treaty In ‘Mirror Response’ To US – Putin (RT)

President Vladimir Putin says Moscow is halting its participation in the Cold War-era INF nuclear agreement after Washington’s decision to suspend it. Russia will develop missiles previously forbidden under its terms. “Ours will be a mirror response. Our US partners say that they are ceasing their participation in the treaty, and we are doing the same,” the Russian president said in Moscow on Saturday in reference to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). “They say that they are doing research and testing [on new weapons] and we will do the same thing,” Putin said during a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.

The Russian leader emphasized that while Moscow’s offers on modernizing the 1987 treaty and making it more transparent “are still on the table,” no more talks should be initiated with the Americans to try and save it. “Let’s wait until our partners mature sufficiently to hold a level, meaningful conversation on this topic, which is extremely important for us, them, and the entire world,” Putin said. In December, the Trump administration threatened to quit the agreement, which limits nuclear and conventional land-launched missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500km within 60 days, unless Russia stopped allegedly violating it with its 9M729 missile, which Washington claims exceeds the permitted range.

Moscow denied that it had broken the treaty, and offered additional mutual inspections during failed talks in Geneva last month. On February 1, Washington officially confirmed that the bilateral agreement signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan will be suspended for 180 days. Washington also signaled intentions to entirely withdraw from it afterwards. During the meeting in front on the cameras on Saturday, Lavrov insisted that Moscow “attempted to do everything we could to rescue the treaty.” This included “unprecedented steps going far beyond our obligations,” he said, accusing Washington of systematically undermining the INF Treaty at least since the late 1990s.

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“December’s big initially reported gain of 312,000 was knocked all the way down to 222,000..”

US Payrolls Surge By 304,000, Smashing Estimates Despite Shutdown (CNBC)

Job growth in January shattered expectations, with nonfarm payrolls surging by 304,000 despite a partial government shutdown that was the longest in history, the Labor Department reported Friday. The unemployment rate ticked higher to 4 percent, a level where it had last been in June, a likely effect of the shutdown, according to the department. However, officials said federal workers generally were counted as employed during the period because they received pay during the survey week of Jan. 12. On balance, federal government employment actually rose by 1,000. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had expected payrolls to rise by 170,000 and the unemployment rate to hold steady at 3.9 percent.

In all, it was a powerful performance at a time when economists increasingly have said they expect growth to slow in 2019. January marked 100 months in a row of positive job creation, by far the longest streak on record. Stock futures and Treasury yields jumped in response to the better-than-expected report. The news was not all good, though, as data revisions pushed previous numbers lower. December’s big initially reported gain of 312,000 was knocked all the way down to 222,000, while November’s rose from 176,000 to 196,000. On net, that took the two months down by 70,000, bringing the three-month average to 241,000. That’s still well above the trend that would be common this far into an economic expansion dating back 9 1/2 years.

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“Real GDP fell by 1.7 percent and 0.6 percent in Q3 and Q4 respectively compared with the official figures showing growth of 6.4 percent and 6 percent..”

Big Trouble in Little China (Schmid)

There are those who think “China will take over the world” with its technocratic central planning. Then there are those who say its debt bubble is so gigantic, the economy will crash and burn. The truth, probably, lies somewhere in the middle. And it looks like we are getting closer to know the truth. Official GDP growth, is of course on track at 6.6 percent for the year 2018, stellar among industrial and even emerging economies. But nobody believes these figures, even though they are the worst since 1990. “Real GDP fell by 1.7 percent and 0.6 percent in Q3 and Q4 respectively compared with the official figures showing growth of 6.4 percent and 6 percent,” Enodo Economics chief economist Diana Choyleva wrote in a note to clients about the annualized growth during the past two quarters of 2018. According to Choyleva, China is experiencing an unofficial recession.

While this doesn’t mean the crash and burn scenario is unavoidable, the flurry of official and unofficial economic indicators flashing red make the “take over the world” scenario quite unbelievable for the intermediate future. No matter which official indicator you look at, the Chinese economy is in decline. Retail sales growth is barely above 5 percent, the lowest level since 2003 with automobile sales crashing 13 percent. Total imports in U.S. dollar terms are down 7.6 percent in December of 2018 as compared to the year before.

The main problem of the Chinese economy is debt and overcapacity. Debt has blown up to 300 percent of GDP through the state-controlled banking system. The financing went into building trains, roads, airports, apartments, shipyards, anything that can be built. And while some of the stuff is undoubtedly useful, a lot of it is not. If it’s not useful or sustainable, it won’t generate the returns necessary to service said debt. This problem could have been nipped in the bud, but Chinese central planners wanted ever more steel mills and high speed trains and push back the day of reckoning when most of the unprofitable companies would go bankrupt. So in order to keep the gravy train running, more debt had to be issued to build more stuff.

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TEXT

How Fast Housing Markets in Sydney & Melbourne Are Coming Unglued (WS)

“Can we still describe this as an orderly slowdown in housing conditions?” mused CoreLogic Asia Pacific’s head of research Tim Lawless about the Australian housing market today. Over the last three months, the index for Sydney dropped 4.5%, and the index for Melbourne 4.0%, the “largest rolling quarterly fall since at least the 80’s.” Across the metro area of Sydney, prices of all types of homes combined, according to CoreLogic’s Daily Home Value Index, fell 1.35% in January from December, the third month in a row with a monthly decline of over 1%. The 4.5% decline over the past three months pencils out to an annual rate of decline of 17%. The index is now down about 12% from its peak in July 2017. Note the accelerating decline over the past three months:

The 12% drop from the peak in July 2017 pushed the index back where it been in July 2016 – which shows how crazy and unsustainable the price boom had been on the way up. Now it is getting unwound at a slightly slower pace on the way down. Over the 12-month period through January, the index fell 9.7%, with house prices down 10.9% and condo prices down 6.9%. At the same time, the number of homes of all types listed for sale in the Sydney metro jumped by 24%. [..] In the Melbourne metro, the second largest market in Australia, the housing bust is also taking on momentum, instead of slowing down, but started about four months behind Sydney’s. According to the CoreLogic Daily Home Value Index, since the peak in November 2017, prices of all types of homes fell about 9%, which pushed prices back to January 2017 levels. Note the acceleration over the past three months:

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US sanctions deprive Maduro of food and medicine. Seen as a way to create a revolt.

Venezuela To Sell Gold Reserves To UAE Without Russia’s Help (RT)

Caracas plans to sell 29 tons of gold to the United Arab Emirates in return for euro in cash, Reuters cites a senior government official as saying. The money is needed to provide liquidity for imports of basic goods.
According to the official, the sale of the nation’s gold began with the shipment of 3 tons on January 26, following the export last year of $900 million in unrefined gold to Turkey. The source denied Moscow’s involvement in the operation after rumors circulated this week that mysterious Russian-operated airplanes arrived in the country and planned to leave with Venezuelan gold on board. That is incorrect, according to the official. Caracas reportedly needs cash for imports of basic products that it sells to the population at subsidized prices.

A possible explanation for the payment for the gold in euros is US sanctions, which restrict Venezuela’s use of the dollar. Venezuela’s central bank reportedly began to sell gold reserves to allied countries after supplies of unrefined gold from small mines began to run low. The bank held 150 tons of gold in January 2018. By the end of November holdings had fallen to 132 tons between the central bank’s vaults and the Bank of England, according to central bank data. The Bank of England has refused to return an estimated 31 tons of Venezuelan gold worth $1.2 billion. Bankers in Britain are allegedly concerned that Venezuelan officials would sell state-owned gold “for personal gain.”

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“..this same mistake was made in Libya, and everyone today recognizes it. We must prevent the same thing happening in Venezuela.”

Italy Rejects Guaido, Says Venezuela is a Sovereign State (Telesur)

On Thursday the Italian Government withdrew from the position assumed by the European Parliament and informed that it does not recognize Juan Guaido as “president in charge” of Venezuela. “Italy does not recognize the self-proclaimed President Juan Guaido,” Italy’s Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs, Manlio Di Stefano, said. The senior official explained that Italy is “totally against” that a country or a group of countries “can determine the internal policies” of a sovereign State. “This is called the principle of non-intervention and is enshrined by the United Nations,” Di Stefano said. He also expressed the Italian Government’s concern to prevent a warlike confrontation in the South American nation and stressed that “this same mistake was made in Libya, and everyone today recognizes it. We must prevent the same thing happening in Venezuela.”

Last Wednesday the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, warned the international community that it is not “prudent” to support one of the opposing parties in Venezuela, since “an invasive attitude would generate more division in the world.” “We do not consider it opportune to rush to recognize investitures that have not gone through an electoral process,” said Conte. Nevertheless, violating international law, and adding to the U.S.-driven coup d’état, the European Parliament approved a resolution Thursday that recognizes Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s “interim president.”

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With just 56 days left, great moment to start.

Whitehall Begins ‘Serious Work’ On Customs Union With EU (Ind.)

Whitehall officials have begun “serious work” on the UK staying in a permanent EU customs union as a route to rescuing the Brexit deal, despite Theresa May ruling out the move, The Independent can reveal. Preparations are underway at a high level, amid a belief the beleaguered prime minister will be forced to offer the potentially crucial compromise to Labour. Ms May has repeatedly rejected a customs union – fearing a further revolt by anti-EU Tories – but some cabinet ministers are pushing her to accept that the red line will have to be dropped if her deal is to be rescued. They believe it could tempt scores of Labour MPs to back the deal when it returns to the Commons, even if Jeremy Corbyn himself still refuses to drop his opposition.

Now a well-placed Whitehall source has told The Independent: “There is serious work going on about a customs union. We need to be prepared, so we are ready if the politics moves in that direction.” Although the prime minister has not yet been won over, she will come under fierce pressure if, as expected, the EU rejects her plea to replace the backstop – before fresh Commons votes in just 12 days’ time. The concession of a customs union is unlikely to be enough to persuade Mr Corbyn to throw his weight what he is determined to brand “a Tory Brexit”, but many Labour MPs are expected to switch sides. Furthermore, despite inevitable Tory outrage, some Conservative MPs could be persuaded that a customs union would make it less likely the Irish backstop they oppose – designed to guarantee an open border – will ever be needed.

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“To storm my house with greater force than was used to take down (Osama) bin Laden or El Chapo or Pablo Escobar, to terrorise my wife and my dogs, is unconscionable..”

Judge Considers Gag Order On Roger Stone And Prosecution (BBC)

The judge overseeing the criminal case against ex-Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone says she is considering a gagging order on both him and the prosecution. Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the case was “a criminal proceeding and not a public relations campaign”. Mr Stone has been charged on seven counts by special counsel Robert Mueller, including witness tampering and lying to Congress. He denies any wrongdoing and has made frequent jibes against Mr Mueller. Mr Stone, 66, a longstanding ally of the president, has previously vowed to resist any gagging order, saying on Tuesday: “I will fight and the deep state is in panic mode.”

Mr Mueller is overseeing an investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and whether Donald Trump’s campaign conspired with Moscow. President Trump denies collusion, calling the investigation “a witch hunt”, and the Kremlin denies any meddling. At a court hearing in Washington on Friday, Judge Jackson cited a number of “extrajudicial statements by the defendant”. She said that if a gagging order was imposed, Mr Stone would still be able to talk to the media about issues not connected to the case. She asked both sides to respond to the possible order by 8 February. The charges against Mr Stone are linked to an alleged Russian-led hack into the emails of Democratic Party officials. The information contained in the emails was released by Wikileaks during the 2016 campaign.

Since his arrest, Mr Stone has given a string of media interviews. He has been highly critical of his arrest, describing it as political theatrics. “To storm my house with greater force than was used to take down (Osama) bin Laden or El Chapo or Pablo Escobar, to terrorise my wife and my dogs, is unconscionable,” he told reporters. He has accused Mr Mueller of running a politically motivated “inquisition”. In an interview with Reuters, Mr Stone dismissed the charges as “process crimes” with no intentional lies. He said any failure to disclose emails or texts had been an “honest mistake”. In a phone interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on his radio programme Infowars, Mr Stone said he intended to “fight for my life”.

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“This not only means they are supplied with state-of-the-art weaponry; it also means those weapons are being maintained by other Nato members. ”

America’s Kurdish Allies Risk Being Wiped Out – By NATO (Graeber)

Remember those plucky Kurdish forces who so heroically defended the Syrian city of Kobane from Isis? They risk being wiped out by Nato. The autonomous Kurdish region of Rojava in Northeast Syria, which includes Kobane, faces invasion. A Nato army is amassing on the border, marshaling all the overwhelming firepower and high-tech equipment that only the most advanced military forces can deploy. The commander in chief of those forces says he wants to return Rojava to its “rightful owners” who, he believes, are Arabs, not Kurds. Last spring, this leader made similar declarations about the westernmost Syrian Kurdish district of Afrin. Following that, the very same Nato army, using German tanks and British helicopter gunships, and backed by thousands of hardcore Islamist auxiliaries, overran the district.

According to Kurdish news agencies, the invasion led to over a 100,000 Kurdish civilians being driven out of Afrin entirely. They reportedly employed rape, torture and murder as systematic means of terror. That reign of terror continues to this day. And the commander and chief of this Nato army has suggested that he intends to do to the rest of North Syria what he did to Afrin. I am speaking, of course, of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is, increasingly, Turkey’s effective dictator. But it’s crucial to emphasize that these are Nato forces. This not only means they are supplied with state-of-the-art weaponry; it also means those weapons are being maintained by other Nato members. Fighter jets, helicopter gunships, even Turkey’s German-supplied Panzer forces – they all degrade extremely quickly under combat conditions.

The people who continually inspect, maintain, repair, replace, and provide them with spare parts tend to be contractors working for American, British, German or Italian firms. Their presence is critical because the Turkish military advantage over Northern Syria’s “People’s Defense Forces” (YPG) and “Women’s Defense Forces” (YPJ), those defenders of Kobane that Turkey has pledged to destroy, is entirely dependent on them. That’s because, aside from its technological advantage, the Turkish army is a mess. Most of its best officers and even pilots have been in prison since the failed coup attempt in 2016, and it’s now being run by commanders chosen by political loyalty instead of competence. Rojava’s defenders, in contrast, are seasoned veterans. In a fair fight, they would have no more problem fending off a Turkish incursion than they had driving back Turkish-backed Jihadis in the past.

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Precautionary principle. The only response.

Rigging the Science of GMO Ecotoxicity (Latham)

Researchers who work on GMO crops are developing special “artificial diet systems”. The stated purpose of these new diets is to standardise the testing of the Cry toxins, often used in GMO crops, for their effects on non-target species. But a paper published last month in the journal Toxins implies a very different interpretation of their purpose. The new diets contain hidden ingredients that can mask Cry toxicity and allow them to pass undetected through toxicity tests on beneficial species like lacewings (Hilbeck et al., 2018). Thus the new diets will benefit GMO crop developers by letting new ones come to market quicker and more reliably. Tests conducted with the new diets are even being used to cast doubt on previous findings of ecotoxicological harm.

The resulting crops are usually called Bt crops. Cry toxins kill insects that eat the GMO crop because the toxin punches a hole in the membranes of the insect gut when it is ingested, causing the insect to immediately stop feeding and eventually die of septicaemia. Cry toxins are controversial. Although the biotech industry claims they have narrow specificity, and are therefore safe for all organisms except so-called ‘target’ organisms, plenty of researchers disagree. They suspect that Cry toxins may affect many non-target species, even including mammals and humans (e.g. Dolezel et al., 2011; Latham et al., 2017; Zdziarski, et al., 2018).

The Cry toxin mode of action, we and others have noted, does not necessarily discriminate between species. Any organism with a membrane-lined gut is, in principle, vulnerable if it consumes the GMO Bt crop. In these Bt crops the leaves, straw, roots, nectar, and pollen, all typically contain Cry toxins. Therefore, most organisms in agricultural landscapes will at some point in their life-cycle be exposed to GMO plant material. As pollinator declines and a more generalised insect apocalypse have revealed, the question of the effects of such crops on biodiversity is far from trivial.

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GMO Cry toxins
Cry toxins are a family of highly active protein toxins originally isolated from the gut pathogenic bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Latham et al., 2017). They confer insect-resistance and up to six distinct ones are added to GMO corn, cotton, and other crops (Hilbeck and Otto, 2015).

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