Aug 282018
 
 August 28, 2018  Posted by at 9:38 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Vincent van Gogh Cypresses in starry night (reed pen) 1889

 

Meadows: FBI/DOJ Leaked To Press, Used Articles To Obtain FISA Warrants (ZH)
Lanny Davis Admits Being Source For CNN Trump Tower “Bombshell” (ZH)
Trump Announces US-Mexico Trade Deal, Setting Stage For Nafta Overhaul (G.)
Iran Says It Has Full Control Of Gulf And US Navy Does Not Belong There (R.)
Theresa May Says A No-Deal Brexit ‘Wouldn’t Be The End Of The World’ (G.)
Out In Left Field (Kunstler)
Skripals – When the BBC Hide the Truth (Craig Murray)
‘Criminal’ Roger Waters Blacklisted By Ukraine Over Russian Interviews (RT)
Greece Needs €4.7 Billion In Additional Tax Revenues To Reach Targets (K.)
Children Attempting Suicide At Greek Refugee Camp (BBC)
The Impending End Of Most Life On Earth (G.)

 

 

2nd special counsel, where are you?

Meadows: FBI/DOJ Leaked To Press, Used Articles To Obtain FISA Warrants (ZH)

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) dropped a late-night bombshell on Monday suggesting there’s evidence that the FBI and DOJ rigged their own FISA spy warrants by leaking information to the press, then using the resultant articles to obtain court authorization to surveil targets. “We’ve learned NEW information suggesting our suspicions are true: FBI/DOJ have previously leaked info to the press, and then used those same press stories as a separate source to justify FISA’s,” tweeted Meadows. Until now, we’ve known that the creator of the so-called Steele Dossier, former UK spy Christopher Steele, leaked information directly to Yahoo! News journalist Michael Isikoff – whose article became a supporting piece of evidence in the FBI’s FISA warrant application and subsequent renewals for Trump adviser Carter Page.

So while we’ve known that Steele seeded Isikoff with information from his dubious dossier, and that the FBI then used both Steele’s dossier and Isikoff’s Steele-inspired article to game the FISA system, Rep. Mark Meadows now says that the FBI/DOJ directly leaked information to the press, which they then used for the same type of FISA scheme. Strong evidence was discovered in January suggesting that former FBI employee Lisa Page leaked privileged information to Devlin Barrett, formerly of the Wall Street Journal and now with the Washington Post. Whether any of Barrett’s reporting was subsequently used to obtain a FISA warrant is unknown.

Meanwhile, Rep. Meadows’s Monday night tweet comes hours before twice-demoted DOJ employee Bruce Ohr is set to give closed-door testimony to the House Oversight Committee. Ohr was caught lying about his involvement with opposition research firm Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson – who employed Steele. Ohr’s CIA-linked wife, Nellie, was also employed by Fusion as part of the firm’s anti-Trump efforts, and had ongoing communications with the ex-UK spy, Christopher Steele as well.

Read more …

Cohen’s lawyer is the best thing that happened to Trump in ages.

Lanny Davis Admits Being Source For CNN Trump Tower “Bombshell” (ZH)

On July 26th, CNN unleashed a “bombshell” report that Michael Cohen was claiming that candidate Trump knew in advance about the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting. Dropping this line in the middle of their story: “Contacted by CNN, one of Cohen’s attorneys, Lanny Davis, declined to comment.”Then, last week, amid the deafening euphoria of the ‘anti-Trump’-ers, Davis told Anderson Cooper: “I think the reporting of the story got mixed up in the course of a criminal investigation. We were not the source of the story.” Davis increasingly backed away from the story in recent days, telling the Washington Post that he is not certain if the claim is accurate, and that he could not independently corroborate it. Destroying CNN’s “bombshell” story, crushing the hopes of millions of ‘not my president’-ers.

As Buzzfeed notes, after Davis publicly backtracked from the claims, the New York Post and the Washington Post outed him as their confirming source and published apologies from Davis But, of course, CNN was giving up such a great story so easily (whether it’s true or fake news), and followed up anxiously by none other than Brian Stelter who gushed over Twitter in the face of Davis’ refutation of their entire story that: ” Re: CNN’s July 27 story about Cohen claiming that Trump knew in advance about the Trump Tower meeting: “We stand by our story, and are confident in our reporting of it.”” All of which brings up to date, safe in the knowledge that despite Davis’ denial that CNN’s story ever occurred, CNN has “a source” that confirmed it and that’s good enough for them.

BUT… Now, after all that pre-amble, double-talk, and utterly bullshit fake news reporting, Lanny Davis – who we perhaps need to remind readers once again is an extremely well-paid f**king lawyer and communications expert – has told Buzzfeed that he was the anonymous source in a July CNN story. Tonight, Davis told BuzzFeed News that he regrets both his role as an anonymous source and his subsequent denial of his own involvement. Davis told BuzzFeed News that he did, in fact, speak anonymously to CNN for its story, which cited “sources with knowledge” — meaning more than one person. “I made a mistake,” Davis said. Regarding his comments about a month later to Cooper, he added, “I did not mean to be cute.”

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Canada on hold.

Trump Announces US-Mexico Trade Deal, Setting Stage For Nafta Overhaul (G.)

Donald Trump has said he will strike a new trade deal with Mexico while ripping up the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) and threatening a trade war with Canada. “I’ll be terminating the existing deal and going into this deal,” the US president told reporters in the Oval Office on Monday. “We’ll be starting negotiating with Canada relatively soon. They want to negotiate very badly.” He added: “One way or the other, we have a deal with Canada. It’ll either be a tariff on cars or it will be a negotiated deal. Frankly, a tariff on cars is a much easier way to go but perhaps the other would be much better for Canada.”

Trump also said it might be possible to make a deal involving all three countries, like the 24-year-old Nafta pact, but that separate bilateral agreements are also a possibility. However, any trade deal would have to first be approved by Congress, and time is running out. Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto will soon leave office and there is no guarantee his successor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, will agree to the same terms. Nafta reduced most trade barriers between the US, Mexico and Canada. But Trump and other critics say it encouraged US manufacturers to move south of the border to exploit low-wage Mexican labour.

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They have a point.

Iran Says It Has Full Control Of Gulf And US Navy Does Not Belong There (R.)

Iran has full control of the Gulf, and the U.S. Navy does not belong there, the head of the navy of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, General Alireza Tangsiri, said on Monday, according to the Tasnim news agency. The remarks come at a time when Tehran has suggested that it could take military action in the Gulf to block oil exports of other regional countries in retaliation for U.S. sanctions intended to halt its oil sales. Washington maintains a fleet in the Gulf which protects oil shipping routes. Tangsiri said Iran had full control of both the Gulf itself and the Strait of Hormuz that leads into it. Closing off the strait would be the most direct way of blocking shipping.

“We can ensure the security of the Persian Gulf and there is no need for the presence of aliens like the U.S. and the countries whose home is not in here,” he said in the quote, which appeared in English translation on Tasnim. Tension between Iran and the United States has escalated since President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers in May and reimposed sanctions.

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Just the end of her.

Theresa May Says A No-Deal Brexit ‘Wouldn’t Be The End Of The World’ (G.)

Theresa May claimed that a no-deal Brexit “wouldn’t be the end of the world” as she sought to downplay a controversial warning made by Philip Hammond last week that it would cost £80bn in extra borrowing and inhibit long-term economic growth. The prime minister conceded that crashing out of the European Union without a deal “wouldn’t be a walk in the park” but went on to argue that the UK could make an economic success of the unprecedented situation if it proved impossible to negotiate a satisfactory divorce. Her comments were designed to distance herself from pessimistic Treasury forecasts highlighted by the chancellor at the end of last week, predictions that incensed the Tory right and led to renewed calls from hard Brexiters for Hammond’s dismissal.

Speaking to reporters as she began a three-day trip to Africa, May cited and endorsed remarks about the Brexit situation made last week by Roberto Azevêdo, the director general of the World Trade Organisation, to justify a gentle rebuke of the chancellor. The prime minister said: “Look at what the director general of the World Trade Organisation has said. He has said about the no-deal situation that it will not be a walk in the park, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world. “What the government is doing is putting in place the preparation such that if we are in that situation, we can make a success of it, just as we can make a success of a good deal.”

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Huber. Remember the name.

Out In Left Field (Kunstler)

With Russian “meddling” stalled in the dead letter office, The New York Times has apparently re-branded itself Floozie Central in its quixotic campaign to unseat the Golden Golem of Greatness by all means necessary. The Stormy Daniels affair, and its slime-trail of payoffs, is the slender thread that the Resistance hopes to hang Donald Trump on. The great legal minds of cable TV have been very busy trying to suss out which part of the $130,000 non-disclosure payoff might apply as a campaign financing violation. If Rudy Giuliani still had his wits about him, of course, he would claim that the money was just Ms. Daniel’s going rate for an overnight frolic amongst her legendary twin peaks, that is, a sex worker’s simple transaction fee.

Where does it say in the constitution that a president may not consort with tramps and hussies? It was hilarious to discover that Mr. Trump’s erstwhile personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, picked DC Swamp attorney and Clinton insider, Lanny Davis, to represent him in negotiations with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. It must be like the old days in the locker room of the Burning Tree Golf Club for Lanny and Bob. They go back at least to the days when the Clintons fended off accusations of issuing pardons to special friends for a $450,000 payoff on Bubba’s last day in office, January 19, 2001. And there must have been a reunion around 2010 on the Uranium One matter, in which a tidy $145-million from Russian Oligarch Central landed in the Clinton Foundation coffers after Madam Secretary Hillary signed onto a go-ahead with the U-1 deal.

Meanwhile, way out in Left Field — Salt Lake City, actually —a forgotten lone ranger named John W. Huber is ostensibly toiling away on a roster of allegations so far ignored by the Mueller team, namely the politicization of the FBI and the Department of Justice, and the actions taken deviously by senior employees there against Mr. Trump during and after the 2016 election. Mr. Huber was tapped to carry out this assignment by Attorney General Jeff Sessions late in 2017.

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BBC Newsnight correspondent Mark Urban met with Skripal multiple times in 2017.

Skripals – When the BBC Hide the Truth (Craig Murray)

On 8 July 2018 a lady named Kirsty Eccles asked what, in its enormous ramifications, historians may one day see as the most important Freedom of Information request ever made. The rest of this post requires extremely close and careful reading, and some thought, for you to understand that claim. “Dear British Broadcasting Corporation, 1: Why did BBC Newsnight correspondent Mark Urban keep secret from the licence payers that he had been having meetings with Sergei Skripal only last summer. 2: When did the BBC know this? 3: Please provide me with copies of all correspondence between yourselves and Mark Urban on the subject of Sergei Skripal. Yours faithfully, Kirsty Eccles

The ramifications of this little request are enormous as they cut right to the heart of the ramping up of the new Cold War, of the BBC’s propaganda collusion with the security services to that end, and of the concoction of fraudulent evidence in the Steele “dirty dossier”. This also of course casts a strong light on more plausible motives for an attack on the Skripals. Which is why the BBC point blank refused to answer Kirsty’s request, stating that it was subject to the Freedom of Information exemption for “Journalism”.

“The information you have requested is excluded from the Act because it is held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art or literature.’ The BBC is therefore not obliged to provide this information to you. Part VI of Schedule 1 to FOIA provides that information held by the BBC and the other public service broadcasters is only covered by the Act if it is held for ‘purposes other than those of journalism, art or literature”. The BBC is not required to supply information held for the purposes of creating the BBC’s output or information that supports and is closely associated with these creative activities.”

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Fun.

‘Criminal’ Roger Waters Blacklisted By Ukraine Over Russian Interviews (RT)

Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters has found himself blacklisted by being added to the Ukrainian database of national enemies, after statements to Russian media about Crimea and the conflict in Ukraine. Waters, 74, is wrapping up his US+Them European tour with concerts in St. Petersburg and Moscow this week and spoke with several Russian outlets about both music and his political activism. The rock musician has been an outspoken champion of the Palestinian cause and a critic of Western-backed rebels in Syria. On Monday, however, his name appeared in the “purgatory” database of Mirotvorets (Peacemaker), maintained by people connected with Ukraine’s security and intelligence services and listing alleged enemies of the state.

The site says “criminal” Waters is responsible of “anti-Ukrainian propaganda, attacks on the territorial integrity of Ukraine [and] participation in attempts to legalize the Russian annexation of Crimea.” As proof, the site lists links to two interviews Waters gave to Russian media outlets RIA and Izvestiya, and quotes specifically a statement about the city of Sevastopol being Russian and important to Russians. Waters called “laughable” the idea of blaming Russia for the conflict in Ukraine and said the blame rests with Victoria Nuland, the senior State Department official for Europe and Eurasia during the Obama administration. [..] Waters also expressed concern about the US leadership, which he said does not seem to recognize any agreements and does whatever it wants. Such a policy will eventually get everyone killed, the rock star told Izvestiya, in an interview published Monday.

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Already grossly overtaxed.

Greece Needs €4.7 Billion In Additional Tax Revenues To Reach Targets (K.)

The Greek government will have to collect additional tax revenues of 4.7 billion euros in the first post-bailout period of enhanced supervision (2018-2022) by its creditors, in order to achieve the agreed primary surpluses and record surpluses. These revenues are not expected to come only from economic growth but also from the imposition of new taxes, notably the trimming of the tax reduction from a current level of 1,900 euros to 1,250 euros – a change that will affect 6 million salaried employees and pensioners.

In 2018, direct taxes are projected to generate 17.4 billion euros, slightly less than the 17.7 billion of 2017. The reduction is entirely attributable to the fact that high tax rates result in an ever-increasing reduction of declared incomes. As for indirect taxes, they are expected to drop to 35.2 billion euros this year compared with 35.4 billion in 2017, while no significant change is expected for 2019, despite the projected economic growth. For 2020, tax revenues are expected to rise further when the government is seen reducing the tax-free threshold. It is indicative that revenues from direct taxes are seen rising to 18.40 billion euros that year, versus 17.43 billion in 2019.

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“..her family spend all day queuing for food at the camp and all night ready to run..”

Children Attempting Suicide At Greek Refugee Camp (BBC)

At Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, there is deadly violence, overcrowding, appalling sanitary conditions and now a charity says children as young as 10 are attempting suicide. The Victoria Derbyshire programme has been given rare access inside. “We are always ready to escape, 24 hours a day we have our children ready,” says Sara Khan, originally from Afghanistan. “The violence means our little ones don’t get to sleep.” Sara explains that her family spend all day queuing for food at the camp and all night ready to run – in fear of the fights that break out constantly. Conditions are so appalling that charities have actually left in protest.

The place smells of raw sewage, and there are around 70 people per toilet, according to medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). Some people live in mobile cabins, but rammed in-between them all are tents and tarpaulin sheets – homes for those who cannot obtain any official living space. The camp is also now sprawling into surrounding countryside. One tent houses 17 people – four families under one canvas. MSF says there are currently more than 8,000 people crammed into Moria camp, which was supposed to house 3,000. [..] The camp opened in 2015 and was initially designed as a transit post for people to stay for a matter of days – but some have been here for years.

It is controlled by the Greek government, and the overcrowding is because Greece is enforcing the EU’s “containment” policy, keeping people on the island rather than transferring them to the Greek mainland. It is part of the EU-Turkey deal which aims to return thousands of refugees to Turkey, and it has been in force since March 2016. From then to July 2018, according to EU figures, 71,645 new refugees arrived in Greece by sea and only 2,224 have been returned to Turkey. George Matthaiou, a Greek government press representative on Moria, concedes conditions are terrible, but blames the EU rather than Greece. “We don’t have the money. You know the situation of Greece, economically,” he says. “I want to help but I can do nothing, because the European Union closed the borders.”

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“I’m not going to write anymore because there’s nothing more that can be said..”

The Impending End Of Most Life On Earth (G.)

We’re doomed,” says Mayer Hillman with such a beaming smile that it takes a moment for the words to sink in. “The outcome is death, and it’s the end of most life on the planet because we’re so dependent on the burning of fossil fuels. There are no means of reversing the process which is melting the polar ice caps. And very few appear to be prepared to say so.” Hillman, an 86-year-old social scientist and senior fellow emeritus of the Policy Studies Institute, does say so. His bleak forecast of the consequence of runaway climate change, he says without fanfare, is his “last will and testament”. His last intervention in public life. “I’m not going to write anymore because there’s nothing more that can be said,” he says when I first hear him speak to a stunned audience at the University of East Anglia late last year.

From Malthus to the Millennium Bug, apocalyptic thinking has a poor track record. But when it issues from Hillman, it may be worth paying attention. Over nearly 60 years, his research has used factual data to challenge policymakers’ conventional wisdom. In 1972, he criticised out-of-town shopping centres more than 20 years before the government changed planning rules to stop their spread. In 1980, he recommended halting the closure of branch line railways – only now are some closed lines reopening. In 1984, he proposed energy ratings for houses – finally adopted as government policy in 2007. And, more than 40 years ago, he presciently challenged society’s pursuit of economic growth.

[..] In 1971, 80% of British seven- and eight-year-old children went to school on their own; today it’s virtually unthinkable that a seven-year-old would walk to school without an adult. As Hillman has pointed out, we’ve removed children from danger rather than removing danger from children – and filled roads with polluting cars on school runs. He calculated that escorting children took 900m adult hours in 1990, costing the economy £20bn each year. It will be even more expensive today.

Read more …

Aug 272018
 
 August 27, 2018  Posted by at 8:50 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Hasui Kawase Moon at Megome (woodblock print) 1930

 

BIS Warns Of “Perfect Storm” For Global Economy (ZH)
BIS’s Carstens Warns Of Economic Risks Of Protectionism (R.)
No-Deal Brexit Thrusts UK Into ‘Legal Vacuum’ – Labour (G.)
Britain Prepares for War Against Russia (SCF)
UK’s Biggest Payday Lender Wonga ‘On The Brink Of Collapse’ (G.)
Malaysia’s Reaction Shows China Needs To Review Belt And Road Plan (SCMP)
China To Block More Than 120 Offshore Cryptocurrency Exchanges (SCMP)
Michael Cohen’s Attorney Backpedals On Trump-Russia Claims (ZH)
Becoming Serfs (Chris Hedges)
Former Top Vatican Official Says Pope Should Resign Over Abuse Crisis (R.)
‘Foreign Specialists’ May Stage Chemical Attack In Syria In 2 Days – Russia (RT)
Greece Tops Eurozone In Overtaxation (K.)
Lesbos Refugees Pushed To ‘Absolute Breaking Point’, Warns Report (Ind.)

 

 

Carstens’ comments on letters of credit are interesting. Non-US banks will need access to dollars, or trade stops. Not sure where Tyler got that quote.

BIS Warns Of “Perfect Storm” For Global Economy (ZH)

Carstens highlighted the potential catalysts that could unleash the “perfect storm” he highlighted as the key risk resulting from the interaction of real and financial risks, namely: the trillions in outstanding dollar-denominated debt – whereby a dollar-shortage threatening to cripple international trade – and the growing risk of currency wars:

Consider that non-US banks provide the bulk of dollar-denominated letters of credit, which in turn account for more than 80% of this source of trade finance. The Great Financial Crisis highlighted the fragility of this setup, since non-US banks depend on wholesale markets to obtain dollars. Ten years on, we should not forget how the dramatic fall in trade finance in late 2008 played a key part in globalising the crisis. Any dollar shortage among non-US banks could cripple international trade. On top of that, trade skirmishes can easily escalate into currency wars, although I hope that they will not.

As we saw earlier with Mexico, imposing tariffs on imports tends to weaken the target country’s currency. The depreciation could then be construed as a currency “manipulation” that seemingly justifies further protectionist measures. If currency wars break out, countries may put financial markets off-limits to foreign investors or, on the other side, deliberately cut back foreign investment, politicising capital flows. In addition, we must be mindful of long-observed knock-on effects from tighter US monetary conditions, given the large stock of dollar borrowing by non-banks outside the United States, which has now reached $11.5 trillion.”

His conclusion: “Policymakers in advanced economies should not shrug off the growing evidence that abrupt exchange rate depreciations reduce investment and economic growth in emerging market economies. This has implications for everybody, in that weaker economic activity reduces demand for exports from advanced economies.” “In the long term, protectionism will bring not gain but only pain,” Carstens said, echoing a familiar talking point of establishment economists. “Not just for the United States, but for us all.”

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Yeah, well, so called free trade is their thing.

BIS’s Carstens Warns Of Economic Risks Of Protectionism (R.)

Agustin Carstens, general manager of the Bank of International Settlements, on Saturday delivered a scathing critique of rising protectionism, a not-so-subtle rebuke to U.S. President Donald Trump’s use of tariffs and trade talks to wring concessions from China, Mexico and many other countries. Reversing globalization “could increase prices, raise unemployment and crimp growth,” Carstens, the former head of Mexico’s central bank, told fellow former and current central bankers at the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank’s annual economic symposium here. Higher tariffs could drive up U.S. inflation and force the Fed to raise rates, driving up the dollar and hurting both U.S. exporters and emerging market economies in the process, Carstens said

Protectionism also threatens “to unsettle financial markets and put a drag on firms’ capital spending, as investors take fright and financial conditions tighten,” he said. The BIS released a research paper at the same time as Carstens’ speech that estimated revoking the North American Free Trade Agreement, as Trump has threatened, would mean a loss to GDP of $37 billion in Canada, $22 billion in Mexico, and $40 billion in the United States, with non-tariff trade barriers accounting for the lion’s share of the losses. Wages would also fall across North America, the research found.

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It’s already a given. There’s no time left.

No-Deal Brexit Thrusts UK Into ‘Legal Vacuum’ – Labour (G.)

Theresa May and the government would face a race against time to pass a slew of new laws, or risk creating an “unsustainable legal vacuum”, if Britain plunged out of the EU without a deal, Labour’s Keir Starmer has warned. Dominic Raab insisted last week that the government had the legislation in place to cope, if Britain is forced to leave in March 2019 without a withdrawal agreement. “Our laws will be on the statute book, the staff will be in place, the teams will be in post and our institutions will be ready for Brexit – deal, or no deal,” the Brexit secretary said. But Labour’s analysis suggests new legislation would have to be passed hastily in four key policy areas: • EU citizens’ rights. • Immigration rules for EU travellers entering Britain. • Criminals held under the European arrest warrant. • The Irish border.

The government has long promised an immigration bill – but has not yet even published a white paper. The home affairs select committee warned recently that “if there’s no deal, [the immigration system] is going to be completely chaotic as no one will know what the arrangements will be until the very last minute and there is going to be no time for anyone to plan at all”. The government has long promised an immigration bill – but has not yet even published a white paper. The home affairs select committee warned recently that “if there’s no deal, [the immigration system] is going to be completely chaotic as no one will know what the arrangements will be until the very last minute and there is going to be no time for anyone to plan at all”.

Several new regulators or other public bodies would also have to be created, including in medicines and aviation, Labour claims. The withdrawal bill gives ministers some powers to do this, but they are tightly curtailed. Starmer described last week’s release of 24 technical notices on how the government is preparing for a no deal as a “poorly executed PR stunt designed to convince Tory MPs to back the prime minister’s discredited Chequers proposal”. He said the government has “barely scratched the surface” of what would need to be done to prepare the UK for a no-deal scenario, and there was a serious risk of an “unsustainable legal vacuum”.

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Britain and the military-industrial complex impoverish the population.

Britain Prepares for War Against Russia (SCF)

The Brexit pantomime is taking place in an era in which it is recorded that “As benefits are cut and rents soar, Britain has seen a staggering rise in homelessness: the number of rough sleepers in England alone has more than doubled since 2010. Almost 1.2 million older people in Britain, as well as another one million disabled people, are living without the social care they need for basics such as eating, dressing and washing. It’s horrific: severely ill people forced to wait 14 hours to go to the toilet or wheelchair users who, with no assistant to help them cook, are now malnourished.” But this dreadful state of affairs means nothing to those who lack for nothing — which includes politicians of the governing Conservative Party who demand that more taxpayers’ money must be spent on military hardware.

The previous defence minister, Michael Fallon (who had to resign because he was found out to have indulged in some sexual shenanigans), told the BBC last year that “we will be adding to defence, there will be new equipment and the budget will grow every year” and the present one, Gavin Williamson (the man who said that Russia should “go away and shut up”), demanded in June that Britain increase its annual military spending by about $25 billion. The strange thing about agitating to spend more money on armaments is that, apart from an indubitable terrorist menace, there is no military threat whatever to Britain. On the other hand, there is a social crisis of the most serious magnitude.

As the New York Times reported in May, “the protracted campaign of budget cutting, started in 2010 by a government led by the Conservative Party, has . . . yielded a country that has grown accustomed to living with less, even as many measures of social well-being — crime rates, opioid addiction, infant mortality, childhood poverty and homelessness — point to a deteriorating quality of life.” But the government’s answer lies in buying missiles and whooshing new aircraft, and two aircraft carriers of incalculable expense and nuclear submarines that the BBC reports are to cost “£31 bn (including inflation), with a contingency of a further £10 bn, spread over 35 years…”

[..] So on August 18 the UK’s Daily Express newspaper, a sad wreck of its former self, and now competing with the Daily Mail in publicising ‘celebs’ and headlining articles of ultra-nationalist tripe, ran a piece headlined “Royal Navy’s £3bn warship launches to tackle ‘frightening’ Russians.” Just how it’s going to deter anyone is not explained, because it hasn’t any aircraft and won’t be operational until 2021. It cost over 4 billion dollars and its yet-to-arrive 36 F-35 aircraft will cost a minimum of 90 million dollars each. This is in a country where the Joseph Rowntree Foundation records that some 14 million people live in poverty – more than one in five of the population.

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Payday loans are the lowest point in a society. If that doesn’t even work anymore….

UK’s Biggest Payday Lender Wonga ‘On The Brink Of Collapse’ (G.)

Britain’s biggest payday lender, Wonga, is teetering on the brink of collapse following a surge of customer compensation claims in recent weeks that could cause it to call in administrators. The short-term loan provider has reportedly lined up accountancy firm Grant Thornton to handle a potential administration of the company should its board believe it is unable to avoid falling into insolvency. The report from Sky News said Wonga could appoint Grant Thornton as soon as this week. The flood of claims facing the company relate to loans taken out before 2014, when Wonga was the poster child for outrage in the payday lending industry that resulted in rules capping the cost of borrowing.

Campaigners claimed the firm and others in the industry fleeced consumers with high interest rates and targeted vulnerable customers with slick marketing. Wonga has shown signs of mounting difficulties in recent weeks. Earlier this month, it emerged the company received a £10m emergency cash injection from shareholders to save it from going bust. At the time, a spokesman said the firm was facing “a marked increase in claims related to legacy loans, driven principally by claims management company activity”. Should the company fall into administration, it would signal a remarkable fall from its previous status as one of the fastest-growing financial companies in the UK. The company was once touted for a stock exchange listing that could have valued it at more than $1bn (£780m) but was recently reported to be worth just $30m.

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Don’t even remember when I first said BRI is a Chinese scheme to export overcapacity and make others pay for it. Others who, of course, will become debt slaves because of it.

Malaysia’s Reaction Shows China Needs To Review Belt And Road Plan (SCMP)

Five years ago in September, during a visit to Kazakhstan, President Xi Jinping first proposed building the Silk Road Economic Belt, which included countries along the ancient Silk Road leading through Central Asia and the Middle East to Europe. In October that year, while visiting Indonesia, he followed up by suggesting a “21st Century Maritime Silk Road”, tracing the old trading routes that took Chinese merchants to Southeast Asia, Arabian countries and all the way to eastern Africa. Since then, Xi’s proposals – collectively known as the “Belt and Road Initiative” – have promised trillions of US dollars worth of investments in infrastructure to enhance connectivity and boost trade in more than 60 countries.

[..] From last month, state media have ramped up propaganda to mark the fifth anniversary of the grand plan and catalogue achievements ranging from China-built railways in Ethiopia to the China-owned Greek port of Piraeus. But the celebratory mood was somewhat marred by Malaysia’s decision last week to cancel two China-financed mega projects in the country, the US$20 billion East Coast Rail Link and two gas pipeline projects worth US$2.3 billion. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said his country could not afford those projects and they were not needed at the moment. Interestingly, Mahathir announced the decision even before leaving China, and said both Xi and Premier Li Keqiang understood the reasons behind the cancellations and accepted them.

The Chinese government put on a brave face in response, with a foreign ministry spokesman saying it was inevitable there would be problems or different points of views between any two countries. But Mahathir’s announcement has transcended bilateral cooperation, and should serve as a timely warning to the Chinese leadership about the importance and urgency with which they should conduct a comprehensive review of the belt and road strategy and recalibrate it by reining in its ambitious investment plans. Indeed, Mahathir’s decision is just the latest setback for the plan, as politicians and economists in an increasing number of countries that once courted Chinese investments have now publicly expressed fears that some of the projects are too costly and would saddle them with too much debt.

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Volume is way down, as is price. Wyy the heavy hand now?

China To Block More Than 120 Offshore Cryptocurrency Exchanges (SCMP)

China is poised to block more than 120 foreign cryptocurrency exchanges as part of the government’s broader crackdown on activities related to digital money, according to state media. Authorities will block access in China to 124 websites operated by offshore cryptocurrency exchanges that provide trading services to citizens on the mainland, the Shanghai Securities News, a newspaper affiliated with the country’s financial and markets regulators, reported on Thursday. It said authorities will also continue to monitor and shut down domestic websites related to cryptocurrency trades and initial coin offerings (ICOs), and ban payment services from accepting cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin.

The newspaper cited people close to the Leading Group of Internet Financial Risks Remediation, which was set up by China’s cabinet in 2016 and headed by Pan Gongsheng, a deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China – the country’s central bank. The report marks the latest effort by Beijing to intensity the clampdown on cryptocurrency activities because of concerns about financial instability. Censors recently shut down at least eight blockchain and cryptocurrency-focused online media outlets, some of which raised several million dollars in venture capital. These entities found their official public accounts on WeChat blocked on Tuesday evening, owing to violations against new regulations from China’s top internet watchdog.

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I dealt with Lanny David a few days ago in Fixers. No surprise he turns out to lie about this too. I asked in that article if Cohen was sure he wanted him as his lawyer. He must be asking himself that now.

Michael Cohen’s Attorney Backpedals On Trump-Russia Claims (ZH)

Lanny Davis – the attorney for Michael Cohen, has massively backpedaled on “confident assertions” that Cohen would share information with investigators that President Trump knew of Russian efforts to undermine Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton – a lifelong friend of Davis’. The Washington Post reported on Sunday that Davis said in an interview that he is “no longer certain about claims he made to reporters on background and on the record in recent weeks about what Cohen knows about Trump’s awareness of the Russian efforts.” “Davis told The Washington Post that he cannot confirm media reports that Cohen is prepared to tell special counsel Robert S. Mueller III that Trump had advance knowledge of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting” -WaPo

CNN reported in July that Cohen claimed to have witnessed Trump approving the meeting between Trump Jr. and Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, arranged by an associate of opposition research firm Fusion GPS. The day after CNN’s report, the Washington Post – using an “anonymous source” they now admit was Davis, peddled the same story that “Cohen had told associates that he witnessed an exchange in which Trump Jr. told his father about an upcoming gathering in which he expected to get information about Clinton,” however the Post didn’t say Trump Jr. told Sr. it was the Russians. “I should have been more clear — including with you — that I could not independently confirm what happened,” Davis said, adding perhaps the most difficult four words for an attorney to utter: “I regret my error.”

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“..The New Deal programs were paid for by taxing the rich. Even in the 1950s, during the Eisenhower presidency, the top marginal rate was 91%..”

Becoming Serfs (Chris Hedges)

We live in a new feudalism. We have been stripped of political power. Workers are trapped in menial jobs, forced into crippling debt and paid stagnant or declining wages. Chronic poverty and exploitative working conditions in many parts of the world, and increasingly in the United States, replicate the hell endured by industrial workers at the end of the 19th century. The complete capture of ruling institutions by corporations and their oligarchic elites, including the two dominant political parties, the courts and the press, means there is no mechanism left by which we can reform the system or protect ourselves from mounting abuse. We will revolt or become 21st-century serfs, forced to live in misery and brutally oppressed by militarized police and the most sophisticated security and surveillance system in human history while the ruling oligarchs continue to wallow in unimagined wealth and opulence.

“The new tax code is explosive excess,” the economist Richard Wolff said when we spoke in New York. “We’ve had 30 or 40 years where corporations paid less taxes than they ever did. They made more money than they ever did. They have been able to keep wages stagnant while the productivity of labor rose. This is the last moment historically they need another big gift, let alone at the expense of the very people whose wages have been stagnant. To give them a tax bust of this sort, basically reducing from 35% to 20%, is a 40% cut. This kind of crazy excess reminds you of the [kings] of France before the French Revolution when the level of excess reached an explosive social dimension. That’s where we are.”

When capitalism collapsed in the 1930s, the response of the working class was to form unions, strike and protest. The workers pitted power against power. They forced the oligarchs to respond with the New Deal, which created 12 million government-funded jobs, Social Security, the minimum wage and unemployment compensation. The country’s infrastructure was modernized and maintained. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) alone employed 300,000 workers to form and maintain national parks. “The message of the organized working class was unequivocal,” Wolff said. “Either you help us through this Depression or there will be a revolution.” The New Deal programs were paid for by taxing the rich. Even in the 1950s, during the Eisenhower presidency, the top marginal rate was 91%.

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True, but it won’t make any difference.

Former Top Vatican Official Says Pope Should Resign Over Abuse Crisis (R.)

Pope Francis said on Sunday he would not respond to a former top Vatican official who accused him of having known for years of allegations of sex abuse by a prominent U.S. cardinal, calling on the pontiff to resign in an unprecedented broadside against the pope by a Church insider. Francis, speaking to reporters on the plane returning from a trip to Dublin, said dismissively that a statement containing the accusations “speaks for itself”. In a detailed 11-page bombshell statement given to conservative Roman Catholic media outlets during the pope’s visit to Ireland, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano accused a long list of current and past Vatican and U.S. Church officials of covering up the case of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who resigned last month in disgrace.

In remarkably blunt language, Vigano said alleged cover-ups in the Church were making it look like “a conspiracy of silence not so dissimilar from the one that prevails in the mafia”. “Pope Francis has repeatedly asked for total transparency in the Church,” wrote Vigano, who has criticized the pope before. “In this extremely dramatic moment for the universal Church, his extremely dramatic moment for the universal Church, he must acknowledge his mistakes and, in keeping with the proclaimed principle of zero tolerance, Pope Francis must be the first to set a good example for cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses and resign along with all of them,” Vigano said.

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Russia is getting very specific, as per the time, location, chemicals used etc.

‘Foreign Specialists’ May Stage Chemical Attack In Syria In 2 Days – Russia (RT)

“Foreign specialists” have arrived in Syria and may stage a chemical attack using chlorine in “the next two days,” the Russian Defense Ministry said. This will be filmed for international media to frame Damascus forces.
Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said the operation is planned to unfold in the village of Kafr Zita in Syria’s northwestern Hama Province in “the next two days.” Konashenkov said that “English-speaking specialists” are already in place to use “poisonous agents.” While a group of residents from the north has been transported to Kafr Zita and is currently being prepared “to take part in the staging of the attack” and be filmed suffering from supposed “‘chemical munitions’ and ‘barrel bombs’ launched by the Syrian government forces.”

The groups of residents will be used to assist “fake rescuers from the White Helmets.” They will be filmed apparently suffering from the effects of chemical weapons and then be shown in “the Middle Eastern and English-language media.” The defense ministry earlier warned that the US, UK, and France are preparing to use the planned attack as a pretext for airstrikes against Syria. The USS The Sullivans, an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided missile destroyer, was already deployed to the Persian Gulf a couple of days ago. On August 22, US National Security Adviser John Bolton stated that “if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons, we will respond very strongly and they really ought to think about this a long time.”

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Lowest incomes, highest taxes. That’s recovery. And there’s much more to come.

Greece Tops Eurozone In Overtaxation (K.)

Greece has taken the lead among eurozone countries in the taxes-to-GDP ratio, rising from 13th place in 2008, before the country requested a bailout to stabilize its finances, to first place as of 2016. A tax-to-GDP ratio of over 27% is unprecedented in the country, at least since the restoration of democracy in 1974. At the same time, Greece set a record in terms of the speed with which the “taxation shock” was implemented, with the tax-to-GDP ratio jumping by 7 percentage points over eight years of bailouts.

Direct or indirect overtaxation has been the main driver for the reduction of the huge deficits Greece had to tackle at the beginning of the economic crisis. In 2008, taxes on production and imports accounted for 12.6% of GDP, while in 2017 the figure rose to 17.5%, according to data from the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT). Taxes on income stood at 8.1% in 2008 and 10.2% in 2017. In social security contributions the ratio stood at 12.7% in 2008, reaching 14.6% in 2017.

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Give it some time, and it’ll get as bad as Nauru. If Merkel and Juncker would have wanted to stop this, they’ve had plenty time. They didn’t and they don’t.

Lesbos Refugees Pushed To ‘Absolute Breaking Point’, Warns Report (Ind.)

Thousands of refugees are living in perpetual fear and at risk of developing serious illnesses as the situation on the Greek island of Lesbos reaches “absolute breaking point”, new research shows. A report by Refugee Rights Europe warns that physical and mental health problems are rife on the island, as unsanitary conditions contribute to the spread of disease and growing desperation grips the men, women and children who are stuck there. Reports of violence and racially motivated attacks on refugees by police have also become commonplace, with nearly half of the 311 asylum seekers surveyed for the report saying they had been attacked by officers – usually with tear gas.

There are currently an estimated 8,000 refugee men, women and children on Lesbos, making it the largest host out of the Greek islands. A third come from Syria, 27% are from Afghanistan, 13% are Iraqi and the remaining are mainly from African countries. A series of accounts from asylum seekers in the report exposes the squalor and dangers they endure, including only having access to a shower once every few weeks and being unable to access medical care for their sick children. Respondents also reported being too afraid to leave their tents at night due to lack of security in the camps. Others expressed suicidal thoughts, with one refugee telling researchers: “I prefer to die than be here”.

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 August 23, 2018  Posted by at 1:35 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Gustave Caillebotte Young man by his window 1875

 

If there’s one thing that is exposed in the sorry not-so-fairy tale of former Trump aides Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, it’s that Washington is a city run by fixers. Who often make substantial amounts of money. Many though by no means all, start out as lawyers and figure out that let’s say ‘the edges of what’s legal’ can be quite profitable.

And it helps to know when one steps across that edge, so having attended law school is a bonus. Not so much to stop when stepping across the edge, but to raise one’s fees. There’s a lot of dough waiting at the edge of the law. None of this should surprise any thinking person. Manafort and Cohen are people who think in millions, with an easy few hundred grand thrown in here and there.

But sometimes the fixers happen to come under scrutiny of the law, like when they get entangled in a Special Counsel investigation. Both Manafort and Cohen now rue the day they became involved with Trump, or rather, the day he was elected president and solicited much more severe scrutiny.

Would either ever have been accused of what they face today had Trump lost to Hillary? It’s not too likely. They just gambled and lost. But there are many more just like them who will never be charged with anything. Still, a new fixer name has popped up the last few days who may, down the line, not be so lucky.

 

And that’s not even because Lanny Davis is a registered foreign agent for Dmytro Firtash, a pro-Russia Ukrainian oligarch wanted by the US government. After all, both Manafort and Cohen have their contacts in that part of the world. Manafort made tens of millions advising then-president Yanukovich in the Ukraine before the US coup dethroned the latter. Cohen’s wife is Ukrainian-American.

Lanny Davis is a lawyer, special counsel even, for the Clintons. Has been for years. Which makes it kind of curious that Michael Cohen would pick him to become his legal representation. But that’s not all Davis is involved in. Like any true fixer, he has his hands in more cookie jars than fit in the average kitchen. Glenn Greenwald wrote this in August 2009 about the health care debate:

 

Lanny Davis Disease

After Tom Daschle was selected to be Barack Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services and chief health care adviser, Matt Taibbi wrote: “In Washington there are whores and there are whores, and then there is Tom Daschle.” One could easily have added: “And then there’s Lanny Davis.” Davis frequently injects himself into political disputes, masquerading as a “political analyst” and Democratic media pundit, yet is unmoored from any discernible political beliefs other than: “I agree with whoever pays me.”

It’s genuinely difficult to recall any instance where he publicly defended someone who hadn’t, at some point, hired and shuffled money to him. Yesterday, he published a new piece simultaneously in The Hill and Politico – solemnly warning that extremists on the Far Left and Far Right are jointly destroying democracy with their conduct in the health care debate and urging “the vast center-left and center-right of this country to speak up and call them out equally” – that vividly illustrates the limitless whoring behavior which shapes Washington generally and specifically drives virtually every word out of Lanny Davis’ mouth.

Davis’ history is as long and consistent as it is sleazy. He was recently hired by Honduran oligarchs opposed to that country’s democratically elected left-wing President and promptly became the chief advocate of the military coup which forcibly removed the President from office. He became an emphatic defender of the Israeli war on Gaza after he was named by the right-wing The Israel Project to be its “Senior Advisor and Spokesperson.” He has been the chief public defender for Joe Lieberman, Jane Harman and the Clintons, all of whom have engaged his paid services.

And as NYU History Professor Greg Grandin just documented: “Recently, Davis has been hired by corporations to derail the labor-backed Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for unions to organize, all the while touting himself as a “pro-labor liberal.” Davis was also the chief U.S. lobbyist of the military dictatorship in Pakistan in the late 90s and played an important role in strengthening relations between then President Bill Clinton and de facto president General Perez Musharraf.”

There’s much more in that article, but you get the drift. And now Davis, the Clinton fixer, is Michael Cohen’s lawyer. The fixer defending a fixer. So who pays the bill? Well, ostensibly no-one, because Davis started a Go Fund Me campaign where people can donate so Cohen “can tell people the truth about Trump”. The goal is $500,000. Which goes to .. Lanny Davis.

On TV yesterday he apparently promoted a wrong URL, which was promptly picked up by someone else who had it redirect to the Trump campaign. Even fixers screw up, right? Still, there’s already well over $100,000 donated for Cohen Davis. But why $500,000? One of the accusations against Cohen concerns lying to a bank for a $20 million loan. He bought an apartment not long ago for $6.7 million. He owned multiple apartments in Trump buildings.

Did he lose everything when Robert Mueller et al raided his office, home and hotel room on April 9 2018? Were all his assets frozen? Possibly. What we do know is that he ‘expected’ the Trump campaign to pay for his legal fees. Which they declined. Or rather, as Fortune reported in June: “The Trump campaign has given some money to Cohen to help cover legal expenses for the Russia investigation. To date, though, it has not offered financial assistance in the investigation of his business practices.”

It seems safe to assume that’s the point where Cohen turned, or was turned, to Lanny Davis. From a full decade of being Trump’s fixer to being fixed by the Clintons’ fixer. That’s a big move. It raises a number of questions: why did Trump not pay Cohen’s legal fees? This is 2 months after the raid on the man’s office, home, hotel room, in which huge amounts of files and disks etc. were seized.

Second question: if Lanny Davis only now sets up a Go Fund Me campaign, who’s been paying him over the past 2 months? Did Cohen sell assets, or is someone else involved?

Anyway, so Davis goes on TV with big words about how Cohen will tell all about Trump -provided people donate half a million- and adding “I know that Mr. Cohen would never accept a pardon from a man that he considers to be both corrupt and a dangerous person in the oval office. And [Cohen] has flatly authorized me to say under no circumstances would he accept a pardon from Mr. Trump.”

Oh, and that “the turning point for his client’s attitude toward Trump was the Helsinki summit in July 2018 which caused him to doubt Trump’s loyalty to the U.S.” That, to my little brain, doesn’t sound like something that would come from Cohen. That sounds more like a political point the likes of which Cohen has never made. That’s plain old Russiagate.

 

But anyway. So Lanny Davis, fixer of fixers and presidents, goes on a talk-show tour last night and what do you think happens? He walks back just about everything he’s said the previous day. Aaron Maté made a list in this Twitter thread:

 

 

Is Michael Cohen sure he wants this guy as his lawyer? Is he watching this stuff?

If Cohen and Manafort have broken laws, they should be punished for it. The same goes for all other Trump campers, including the Donald. But it would be good if people realize that Cohen and Manafort are not some kind of stand-alone examples, that they are instead the norm in Washington. And Moscow, and Brussels, London, everywhere there’s a concentration of power. In all these places, and probably more so in DC, there are these folks specializing in the edge of the law.

What do you think will happen when someone of the stature of Bob Mueller spends 18 months investigating the Clintons and their fixers? Perhaps the events of the past few days won’t bring such a 2nd Special Counsel any closer, but by the same token they might do just that. Offense is the best defense.

I don’t know, we don’t know, what monsters Trump has swept under his luxurious carpets. But we do know that those are not the only monsters in Washington. Meanwhile, the Steele dossier that was used to start the entire Mueller remains just about entirely unverified. The Russian collusion meme he was tasked with investigating has so far come up empty.

That he would find something if he tried hard enough was obvious from the start. That is both dangerous in that the mandate of a Special Counsel should be limited lest it becomes endless and veers off the reasons it was initiated, as well as in the risk that it can easily turn into a party-political tool to hurt one’s opponent while one’s own dirt remains unscrutinized.

In the end, I can draw only one conclusion: there are so many sharks and squids swimming in the swamp that either it should be expanded or the existing one should be cleaned up and depopulated. So bring it: investigate the FBI, the Clintons, and fixers like Lanny Davis and Michael Avenatti, the same way the Trump camp has been.

Because if you don’t do that, you can only possibly end up in an even bigger mess. You can’t drain half a swamp.