Apr 022021
 
 April 2, 2021  Posted by at 8:44 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  90 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Vue de Notre-Dame de Paris 1945

 

Why Are ‘Experts’ Disagreeing With Each Other Over Covid Vaccine? (Ron Paul)
CDC Real-World Study Confirms Protective Benefits of mRNA Vaccines (CDC)
Faith in Quick Test Leads to Epidemic That Wasn’t (NYT)
Quadruple Therapy With Ivermectin Is Effective In Treating COVID-19 (Hindu)
Texas COVID-Positivity-Rate Drops To Record Low After Mask-Mandate Lifted (ZH)
Fewer Than 1 In 5 Britons With Symptoms Gets Tested, Only 2 In 5 Isolate (RT)
Almost Third Of UK Covid Hospital Patients Readmitted Within 4 Months (G.)
GOP Rep. Greene Introduces Bill To Cut Fauci’s $400,000 Salary To Zero (JTN)
Kremlin Responds To Anger Over Ukraine Border Build-Up (ZH)
We‘ll Talk To NATO ‘But Not Just About Ukraine’ – Lavrov (RT)
Analyst Pleads To Leaking Secrets About Drone Program (AP)
The Empire State Building Falls into the Suez Canal (Stoller)
Massive DNA Damage Caused By CRISPR/Cas9 Gene Editing (GMW)
New Digital Archive Preserves and Protects Indigenous Folk Medicine (Smiths.)

 

 

Reopening

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Deaths in Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), since its start in 1990. 2021 is off the charts.”

 

 

Ron Paul is a Doctor of Medicine. Will he be censored too?

Why Are ‘Experts’ Disagreeing With Each Other Over Covid Vaccine? (Ron Paul)

Even the establishment experts seem to be in total disagreement with each other – and often with themselves – over the experimental Covid “vaccine.” Does it prevent the illness? Lessen the illness? Provide lasting immunity? Temporary immunity? Is it safe for all? So many questions, but so few reliable answers.

Read more …

Pfizer’s sales team.

CDC Real-World Study Confirms Protective Benefits of mRNA Vaccines (CDC)

A new CDC study provides strong evidence that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infections in real-world conditions among health care personnel, first responders, and other essential workers. These groups are more likely than the general population to be exposed to the virus because of their occupations. The study looked at the effectiveness of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infections among 3,950 study participants in six states over a 13-week period from December 14, 2020 to March 13, 2021. Results showed that following the second dose of vaccine (the recommended number of doses), risk of infection was reduced by 90 percent two or more weeks after vaccination.

Following a single dose of either vaccine, the participants’ risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2 was reduced by 80 percent two or more weeks after vaccination. It takes about two weeks following each dose of vaccine for the body to produce antibodies that protect against infection. As a result, people are considered “partially vaccinated” two weeks after their first dose of mRNA vaccine and “fully vaccinated” two weeks after their second dose. These new vaccine effectiveness findings are consistent with those from Phase 3 clinical trials conducted with the vaccines before they received Emergency Use Authorizations from the Food and Drug Administration. Those clinical trials evaluated vaccine efficacy against COVID-19 disease, while this study evaluated vaccine effectiveness against infection, including infections that did not result in symptoms.

“This study shows that our national vaccination efforts are working. The authorized mRNA COVID-19 vaccines provided early, substantial real-world protection against infection for our nation’s health care personnel, first responders, and other frontline essential workers,” said CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH. “These findings should offer hope to the millions of Americans receiving COVID-19 vaccines each day and to those who will have the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated in the weeks ahead. The authorized vaccines are the key tool that will help bring an end to this devastating pandemic.”

Read more …

PCR history.

From New York Times Jan. 22, 2007

Faith in Quick Test Leads to Epidemic That Wasn’t (NYT)

Dr. Brooke Herndon, an internist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, could not stop coughing. For two weeks starting in mid-April last year, she coughed, seemingly nonstop, followed by another week when she coughed sporadically, annoying, she said, everyone who worked with her.Before long, Dr. Kathryn Kirkland, an infectious disease specialist at Dartmouth, had a chilling thought: Could she be seeing the start of a whooping cough epidemic? By late April, other health care workers at the hospital were coughing, and severe, intractable coughing is a whooping cough hallmark. And if it was whooping cough, the epidemic had to be contained immediately because the disease could be deadly to babies in the hospital and could lead to pneumonia in the frail and vulnerable adult patients there. It was the start of a bizarre episode at the medical center: the story of the epidemic that wasn’t.

[..] For months, nearly everyone involved thought the medical center had had a huge whooping cough outbreak, with extensive ramifications. Nearly 1,000 health care workers at the hospital in Lebanon, N.H., were given a preliminary test and furloughed from work until their results were in; 142 people, including Dr. Herndon, were told they appeared to have the disease; and thousands were given antibiotics and a vaccine for protection. Hospital beds were taken out of commission, including some in intensive care. Then, about eight months later, health care workers were dumbfounded to receive an e-mail message from the hospital administration informing them that the whole thing was a false alarm. Not a single case of whooping cough was confirmed with the definitive test, growing the bacterium, Bordetella pertussis, in the laboratory. Instead, it appears the health care workers probably were afflicted with ordinary respiratory diseases like the common cold.

[..] “You’re in a little bit of no man’s land,” with the new molecular tests, said Dr. Mark Perkins, an infectious disease specialist and chief scientific officer at the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, a nonprofit foundation supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “All bets are off on exact performance.” Of course, that leads to the question of why rely on them at all. “At face value, obviously they shouldn’t be doing it,” Dr. Perl said. But, she said, often when answers are needed and an organism like the pertussis bacterium is finicky and hard to grow in a laboratory, “you don’t have great options.” Waiting to see if the bacteria grow can take weeks, but the quick molecular test can be wrong. “It’s almost like you’re trying to pick the least of two evils,” Dr. Perl said.

At Dartmouth the decision was to use a test, P.C.R., for polymerase chain reaction. It is a molecular test that, until recently, was confined to molecular biology laboratories. “That’s kind of what’s happening,” said Dr. Kathryn Edwards, an infectious disease specialist and professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University. “That’s the reality out there. We are trying to figure out how to use methods that have been the purview of bench scientists. The Dartmouth whooping cough story shows what can ensue.

Read more …

From September 2020.

Quadruple Therapy With Ivermectin Is Effective In Treating COVID-19 (Hindu)

Elaborating on the effective methods being followed for treating COVID-19 across the globe, Shashikanth Manikappa, a specialist cardiac anaesthetist working at Monash Health in Melbourne, Australia, has strongly advised what he termed Quadruple Therapy involving four medicines — Ivermectin, Doxycycline, Zinc and Vitamin D3 — as a preventive as well as treating method. Addressing a media conference in Kalaburagi on Monday, the senior doctor said that the use of Ivermectin would be more effective than that of Hydroxychloroquine which was widely being used worldwide, right from the outbreak of the pandemic.

Referring to a pre-official release of a randomised controlled trial using Ivermectin in three doses in primary contacts of COVID-19, Dr. Manikappa said that 93 % of primary contacts who received Ivermectin did not develop any symptoms and 58 % of primary contacts who did not receive Ivermectin did progress to have symptoms of the pandemic. “Quadruple Therapy includes Ivermectin 12 mg one dose, Doxycycline 100 mg once a day for four days, Zinc 50 mg once a day for four days and Vitamin D3 once a week. Ivermectin, Doxycycline and Zinc are to be repeated every 14 days and Vitamin D3 every week with blood levels monitored. The synergistic effect of these medicine acts to prevent viral multiplication and also stop the virus from entering human cells.

Thomas Borody, an Australian gastroenterologist who is known for curing peptic ulcers with triple antibiotic therapy, has revealed that one block in South America that received Ivermectin combination prophylaxis did not contract coronavirus infection while others did,” he said. On the side effects, Dr. Manikappa said that Ivermectin was being used in 3.7 billion people for intestinal parasites and was found to be safe. “These are not new medicine. They are already in use for treating different ailments and are found to be safe. They can be prescribed by any doctor to control the pandemic,” he said.

Read more …

“The 4.95 percent test positivity rate is the lowest the state has seen since the start of the pandemic.”

Texas COVID-Positivity-Rate Drops To Record Low After Mask-Mandate Lifted (ZH)

For the better part of the past year, the US public was bombarded with “science” how only the wearing of a mask (or two masks, or three masks or more) was the only thing that stood between the Western way of life and Armageddon (despite the periodic emergence of cold, hard data showing no improvement in covid transmission in states that mandated masks vs those that did not, at least until Twitter decided to ban it). Then, one month ago, Texas had had enough and its governor shocked the Faucis of the world – and the White House – when he declared that the mask mandate in the state was officially over. What happened then? Well, in a development that would likely shock Dr. Fauci, newly confirmed Coronavirus cases in Texas plunged to their lowest since June, roughly three weeks after the state lifted its mask mandate and reopened businesses.

Additionally, the 7-day Covid positivity rate dropped to a new recorded low: 4.95%…

Texas Governor Greg Abbott wrote in a tweet over the weekend. “Everyone now qualifies for a shot. They are highly recommended to prevent getting Covid but always voluntary.” The 4.95 percent test positivity rate is the lowest the state has seen since the start of the pandemic. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, some 1,900 new virus cases were reported on Sunday, which is the lowest daily number the state has seen since early June. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the seven-day moving average number of cases in Texas dropped to the lowest level since mid-June. According to the CDC, Texas was averaging 3,783 daily cases as of March 27.

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National Health Service’s Test and Trace program costs £37 billion over two years.

Fewer Than 1 In 5 Britons With Symptoms Gets Tested, Only 2 In 5 Isolate (RT)

Only half of Britons know the main symptoms of Covid-19, and most don’t get tested or self-isolate, a new study has shown, raising questions about the UK’s Test and Trace system and placing emergence from the pandemic at risk The large study, exploring the effectiveness of the National Health Service’s Test and Trace program, was published in the British Medical Journal on Wednesday. Designed to identify, find and test those who have coronavirus, it has been allocated a massive budget of £37 billion over two years. Researchers at King’s College London, University College London and Public Health England looked at aggregated data from some 37 national online surveys, encompassing more than 75,000 responses from nearly 54,000 people living in the UK.

Only some 51.5% of those surveyed managed to properly identify the symptoms of Covid-19 – which include a cough, high temperature, fever, and loss of sense of smell or taste – that have been “actively promoted to members of the UK public,” the study reads. Moreover, the willingness to get tested should any of those symptoms be experienced turned out to be extremely low, with only 18% of those who reported suffering such symptoms having requested a test to confirm whether they had coronavirus. Such low figures call into question the effectiveness of the whole Test and Trace system, the researchers said, while acknowledging a slight improvement in people’s willingness to follow the rules over time.

With such low rates for symptom recognition, testing, and full self-isolation, the effectiveness of the current form of the UK’s test, trace, and isolate system is limited. Only 43% of respondents said they had adhered to self-isolation. The need to go to work or to leave the house to shop or attend to medical needs other than Covid-19 were among the most common excuses given for breaking the rules. Young people, those on a low income and/or from a working-class background were identified as the ones most likely to break the rules. The researchers suggested targeted messaging and increased financial support as methods by which to improve adherence.

Read more …

“..far from a benign illness..”

Almost Third Of UK Covid Hospital Patients Readmitted Within 4 Months (G.)

Nearly a third of people who have been in hospital suffering from Covid-19 are readmitted for further treatment within four months of being discharged, and one in eight of patients dies in the same period, doctors have found. The striking long-term impact of the disease has prompted doctors to call for ongoing tests and monitoring of former coronavirus patients to detect early signs of organ damage and other complications caused by the virus. While Covid is widely known to cause serious respiratory problems, the virus can also infect and damage other organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys. Researchers at University College London, the Office for National Statistics, and the University of Leicester, compared medical records of nearly 48,000 people who had had hospital treatment for Covid and had been discharged by 31 August 2020, with records from a matched control group of people in the general population.


The records were used to track rates of readmission, of deaths, and of diagnoses for a range of respiratory, heart, kidney, liver and metabolic diseases, such as diabetes. After an average follow-up time of 140 days, nearly a third of the Covid patients who had been discharged from hospital had been readmitted and about one in eight had died, rates considerably higher than seen in the control group. “This is a concern and we need to take it seriously,” said Dr Amitava Banerjee, at the Institute of Health Informatics at University College London. “We show conclusively here that this is very far from a benign illness. We need to monitor post-Covid patients so we can pick up organ impairment early on.”

Read more …

Ha ha ha!

GOP Rep. Greene Introduces Bill To Cut Fauci’s $400,000 Salary To Zero (JTN)

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene on Thursday said she is introducing a bill to strip Dr. Anthony Fauci of his government salary. In a press release Greene posted on Twitter, the controversial Georgia Republican said her “Fire Fauci Act” would decrease “Dr. Always Wrong’s pay to $0 and the ‘We Will Not Comply Act’ will ‘prevent discrimination against the unvaccinated.’ ” Greene said the Fire Fauci Act will: • Remind the American public that Dr. Fauci is the highest paid ($434,312) of all 4 million federal employees, including the president. • Cite numerous findings about Dr. Fauci’s evolving and contradictory advice on COVID-19. • Reduce Dr. Fauci’s salary to $0 until a new NIAID administrator is confirmed by the Senate. • Direct the Government Accounting Office to conduct a study about the correspondence, financials, and policy memos inside the NIAID before COVID through the end of this year. This will allow us to see what Fauci and the NIAID knew, when they knew it, what they spent money on, and how the agency responded to the virus.


The bill has little if any chance of passage in the Democrat-controlled House. Fauci has made several seemingly contradictory statements during the pandemic about the virus and related health-safety measures – including one on mask wearing. The annual salary for Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, makes him “the highest paid doctor in the federal government and the highest paid out of all 4 million federal employees,” Forbes reported. In fact, Fauci’s salary is more than the president of the United States’ annual $400,000 pay.

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Who do YOU think is the agressor here?

Kremlin Responds To Anger Over Ukraine Border Build-Up (ZH)

Various reports strongly suggest that over the past week there’s been a significant uptick in shelling and fighting in the war-torn Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. This has served to thrust the over 5-year long crisis back in the media spotlight in the past days, particularly after the US Army ( via US European Command, or EUCOM) raised its Europe threat level to its highest of “potential imminent crisis”. At the same time The New York Times and others are detailing the escalation while alleging ‘Russian aggression’ is fueling the fresh flare-up, which has signaled the collapse of yet another cease-fire. And more alarmingly the reports allege a major build-up of Russian troops and tanks along Ukraine’s eastern border. But even as the NY Times report mused, it’s also likely that the estimated 4,000 regular Russian soldiers there were simply left over from recent scheduled military exercises common during this time of year.


The Kremlin has responded to the slew of reports on Thursday, underscoring that given the troops remain entirely within Russia’s national boundaries, it’s essentially ‘nobody’s business’ where they go. “The Russian Federation transfers the Armed Forces on its soil as it wants to. This should not concern anyone and this is not posing any threat to anyone,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov emphasized. Moscow is taking “all the necessary measures to ensure security of its frontiers,” he stressed according to TASS. Peskov added that: “As for the participation of Russian troops in the armed conflict on Ukraine’s soil, the Russian troops have never taken part in it and are not participating now.” He further said: “And we, the European countries and all world states would not like the civil war in Ukraine as a result of provocations and provocative steps by Ukraine’s military to flare up again.”

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“we do not refuse to work, we just don’t want to sit there and hear about Ukraine.”

We‘ll Talk To NATO ‘But Not Just About Ukraine’ – Lavrov (RT)

Moscow has rejected claims that it is unwilling to participate in talks with NATO, arguing instead that it would be eager to hold a summit, but only if it sticks to topics that are actually within the US-led military bloc’s remit. Last week, the faction’s General Secretary, Jens Stoltenberg, claimed that a breakdown in communication was the fault of one side alone. “Since the summer of 2019, there have been no meetings of the NATO-Russia Council,” he said. “And that’s because Russia has not responded positively to our invitation to convene the Council.” “I regret that, because I think that dialogue is important, especially when times are difficult as they are now, then it is important that we sit down, discuss also difficult issues,” Stoltenberg added.

“I believe in dialogue with Russia partly to strive for a better relationship with [that country].” However, on Wednesday, Moscow hit back at the remarks, with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arguing that his country was not opposed to talks with the bloc. “Our colleague Mr Stoltenberg declares that Russia refuses to work in the Russia-NATO Council,” Lavrov said, insisting that “we do not refuse to work, we just don’t want to sit there and hear about Ukraine.” “NATO has nothing to do with Ukraine,” the Minister said, “and yet when they offer to convene the Russia-NATO Council, they always insist that the first question should be about Ukraine. We sat down a couple of times, listened, we all know this.

Therefore, we have proposed to restore contacts between our militaries in order to save complex agreements that we have previously signed.” In February, Stoltenberg said that the ball was in Moscow’s court when it comes to relations with the bloc. “We need to send a clear signal to Russia,” he said. “If they want clashes, we are ready. If they want to co-operate, we will be glad.”

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“Damn, @theintercept got yet another whistleblower pinched. It’s almost like Omidyar is running a sting operation there.”

Analyst Pleads To Leaking Secrets About Drone Program (AP)

A former Air Force intelligence analyst pleaded guilty Wednesday to leaking classified documents to a reporter about military drone strikes against al-Qaida and other terrorist targets. The guilty plea from Daniel Hale, 33, of Nashville, Tennessee, comes just days before he was slated to go on trial in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, for violating the World War I-era Espionage Act. Hale admitted leaking roughly a dozen secret and top-secret documents to a reporter in 2014 and 2015, when he was working for a contractor as an analyst at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). While court papers never specified the recipient of the leak, details about the case make it clear that the documents were given to Jeremy Scahill, a reporter at The Intercept, who used the documents as part of a series of critical reports on how the military conducted drone strikes on foreign targets.


He faces up to 10 years in prison at sentencing scheduled for July 13. The original indictment against Hale states that he reached out to the reporter in April 2013 while still enlisted in the Air Force and assigned to the National Security Agency. The leaks continued after Hale became a private contractor and was assigned to NGA. Hale’s lawyers sought unsuccessfully last year to have the case tossed on First Amendment grounds. They also argued that the case was a selective and vindictive prosecution. Defense lawyers said that while Hale was being punished for leaking information about negative aspects of the drone program, the government seemed unconcerned about anonymous leaks by government officials about successful strikes.

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“And frankly, we should have seen this coming, because a lot of people have been noticing supply chain fragility, even if Thomas Friedman didn’t.”

The Empire State Building Falls into the Suez Canal (Stoller)

Over the last few decades, ships have gotten really really big, four times the size of what they were 25 years ago, what the FT calls “too big to sail.’ The argument behind making such massive boats was efficiency, since you can carry more at a lower cost. The downside of such mega-ships should have been obvious. Ships like this, which are in effect floating islands, are really hard to steer in tight spaces like ports and canals, and if they get stuck, they are difficult to unstick. In other words, the super smart wizard financiers who run global trade made ships that don’t fit in the canals they need to fit into. The rise of mega-ships is paralleled by the consolidation of the shipping industry itself. In 2000, the ten biggest shipping companies had a 12% market share, by 2019 that share had increased to 82%.

This understates the consolidation, because there are alliances among these shippers. The stuck ship is being run by the Taiwanese shipping conglomerate Evergreen, which bought Italian shipping firm Italia Marittima in 1998 and London-based Hatsu in 2002, and is itself part of the OCEAN alliance, which has more than a third of global shipping. Making ships massive, and combining such massive ships into massive shipping monopolies, is a bad way to run global commerce. We’ve already seen significant problems from big shipping lines helping to transmit financial shocks into trade shocks, such as when Korean shipper Hanjin went under and stranded $14 billion of cargo on the ocean while in bankruptcy. It’s also much harder for small producers and retailers to get shipping space, because large shippers want to deal with large clients.

And fewer ports can handle these mega-ships, so such ships induce geographical inequality. Increasingly, we’re not moving ships between cities, we’re moving cities to where the small number of giant shipping lines find it efficient to ship. Dumb big ships owned by monopolies are the result of dumb big ideas, the physical manifestation of what Thomas Friedman was pushing in the 1990s and 2000s with books such as The Lexus and the Olive Tree and The World is Flat, the idea that “taking fat out of the system at every joint” was leading towards a more prosperous, peaceful and competitive world. Friedman’s was a finance-friendly perspective, a belief that making us all interdependent with a very thin margin of error would force global cooperation.

Just make ships bigger, went the thinking, until a big boat got stuck in a canal, taking down global supply chains with it. It seems so dumb. And it is. But it’s also reality, because for whatever reason, a lot of powerful people at one point thought Thomas Friedman was a genius. And frankly, we should have seen this coming, because a lot of people have been noticing supply chain fragility, even if Thomas Friedman didn’t.

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Bigger than God.

Massive DNA Damage Caused By CRISPR/Cas9 Gene Editing (GMW)

New research from Chinese scientists shows that CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing causes massive damage to the genome, much of which would have been missed by the analytical tools used so far. In a previous study, the same authors described a novel DNA sequencing procedure, which they called a “primer-extension-mediated sequencing assay” or PEM-seq. By applying this procedure, they found that DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) brought about by the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing tool could lead to unintended chromosomal translocations and large deletions. In their latest follow-up report, the researchers describe a new computer program, which enabled them to analyse the PEM-seq data to greater depth than previous programs had allowed.

They used this program to analyse real sequence data from their own new experiments, as well as previous ones, following CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing in mouse and human cells. In gene editing, while the initial double-strand break made by the DNA “scissors” or gene-editing tool can be targeted to a given location, the subsequent DNA repair that makes the “edit” is performed by the cell’s own repair mechanisms and is not controllable or precise. The researchers analysed the outcomes of the gene edit – and found what they call “tremendous deleterious DSB repair byproducts of CRISPR/Cas9 editing”. The unintended outcomes or genetic errors ranged from unintended small insertions or deletions (indels) to large deletions, plasmid (gene-editing tool delivery vehicle) integrations, and chromosomal translocations.

The researchers wrote, “Our findings provide an extra dimension for genome editing safety besides off-targets” – the well documented unintentional DNA damage at locations of the genome that were not targeted for editing. They added, “Caution should be exercised to avoid not only off-target damages but also deleterious DSB repair byproducts during genome editing.” Worryingly, these unintended deleterious outcomes of gene editing were not overcome even when a high-fidelity CRISPR/Cas tool was used. Furthermore, when components of the DNA repair machinery were inhibited in an attempt to force a specific gene sequence modification outcome (known as SDN-2), this resulted in large deletions, large insertions, and DNA cuts around the start site of genes.

Read more …

Smithsonian. The Archive of Healing lists traditional remedies, procedures and practices from all seven continents.

New Digital Archive Preserves and Protects Indigenous Folk Medicine (Smiths.)

For thousands of years, people around the world have relied on medicinal folklore, herbal treatments and rituals to heal an array of ailments. Now, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have created an online platform featuring hundreds of thousands of these traditional therapies. Spanning seven continents and 200 years, the Archive of Healing draws on such sources as anthropologists’ field notes, scholarly journals, oral histories and folktales. “The whole goal here is to democratize what we think of as healing and knowledge about healing, and take it across cultures in a way that’s respectful and gives attention to intellectual property rights,” says David Shorter, director of the digital archive, in a statement.

As Valentina Di Liscia reports for Hyperallergic, the database is one of the most inclusive catalogues of medicinal folklore in the world. A key goal of the project is preserving Indigenous treatments while ensuring that this knowledge is protected against exploitation by pharmaceutical companies seeking to make a profit. To that end, certain identifying details for plants and recipes are omitted from the archive. Western medicine has, historically, overlooked herbal remedies used by women and Indigenous peoples. As folk herbalist Sade Musa explained for Healthline in 2019, many traditional treatments were passed down orally and, as a result, overlooked in favor of written documentation.

“[C]olonialism built a medical industrial complex through often violent means of cultural suppression, erasure, and exploitation,” noted Heathline. “The rise of the patriarchy also authorized only white male physicians to practice and define medicine for the world.” Former faculty member Wayland Hand launched the UCLA database more than 40 years ago. In 1996, folklorist Michael Owen Jones began digitizing the collection of more than one million notecards—then known as the Archive of Traditional Medicine—after receiving a grant. Speaking with Jeyling Chou of the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s independent student newspaper, in 2005, Jones said, “Folk medicine [includes] the beliefs and practices that we learn and teach in our first-hand interactions with one another in our everyday lives.” He added, “It’s not institutional medicine, it’s not medicine that requires a license.”

Read more …

 

 

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How Earth will look in 250 million years according to plate tectonics theory

 

 

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Mar 242021
 
 March 24, 2021  Posted by at 9:09 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , ,  52 Responses »


Paul Gauguin Farm in Brittany 1894

 

We Are Living Through a Time of Fear (Cook)
Covid: £5,000 Fine For People Going On Holiday Abroad (BBC)
Lockdown One Year On – It Was Never Supposed To Work (OffG)
CoroNaspresso: A Cheap, Rapid and Simple Home Test (chemrxiv)
Every Day We Discuss Closure And Then Decide To Keep Going (MENA)
Top Yale Doctor: ‘Ivermectin Works,’ Including For Long COVID (TSN)
Logic In Lockdown: The German Corona Policy Is In Ruins (NZZ)
US Home Sales Fell Nearly 20% In February (F.)
EU Has ‘Destroyed’ Once Friendly Ties With Russia – Lavrov (RT)
Welcome To ‘Shocked & Awed’ 21st Century Geopolitics (Escobar)
H.R.1 – Is It Really “For the People”? (Farrell)
Leaked Docs Show Obama FTC Gave Google Its Monopoly (Bovard)
Big Oil Backs Carbon Tax (Reason)
Minnesota Police Ready For Pipeline Resistance (IC)

 

 

“One must still have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

 

 

“I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest”.
– Henry David Thoreau, ‘Civil Disobedience’

 

 

UK politics has gone completely bonkers….

We Are Living Through a Time of Fear (Cook)

Welcome to the age of fear. Nothing is more corrosive of the democratic impulse than fear. Left unaddressed, it festers, eating away at our confidence and empathy. We are now firmly in a time of fear – not only of the virus, but of each other. Fear destroys solidarity. Fear forces us to turn inwards to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Fear refuses to understand or identify with the concerns of others. In fear societies, basic rights become a luxury. They are viewed as a threat, as recklessness, as a distraction that cannot be afforded in this moment of crisis. Once fear takes hold, populations risk agreeing to hand back rights, won over decades or centuries, that were the sole, meagre limit on the power of elites to ransack the common wealth. In calculations based on fear, freedoms must make way for other priorities: being responsible, keeping safe, averting danger.

Worse, rights are surrendered with our consent because we are persuaded that the rights themselves are a threat to social solidarity, to security, to our health. It is therefore far from surprising that the UK’s draconian new Police and Crime Bill – concentrating yet more powers in the police – has arrived at this moment. It means that the police can prevent non-violent protest that is likely to be too noisy or might create “unease” in bystanders. Protesters risk being charged with a crime if they cause “nuisance” or set up protest encampments in public places, as the Occupy movement did a decade ago. And damaging memorials – totems especially prized in a time of fear for their power to ward off danger – could land protesters, like those who toppled a statue to notorious slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol last summer, a 10-year jail sentence.

In other words, this is a bill designed to outlaw the right to conduct any demonstration beyond the most feeble and ineffective kind. It makes permanent current, supposedly extraordinary limitations on protest that were designed, or so it was said, to protect the public from the immediate threat of disease. Protest that demands meaningful change is always noisy and disruptive. Would the suffragettes have won women the vote without causing inconvenience and without offending vested interests that wanted them silent? What constitutes too much noise or public nuisance? In a time of permanent pandemic, it is whatever detracts from the all-consuming effort to extinguish our fear and insecurity. When we are afraid, why should the police not be able to snatch someone off the street for causing “unease”?

The UK bill is far from unusual. Similar legislation – against noisy, inconvenient and disruptive protest – is being passed in states across the United States. Just as free speech is being shut down on the grounds that we must not offend, so protest is being shut down on the grounds that we must not disturb.

Read more …

… and I mean completely.

Covid: £5,000 Fine For People Going On Holiday Abroad (BBC)

A £5,000 fine for anyone in England trying to travel abroad without good reason is due to come into force next week as part of new coronavirus laws. The penalty is included in legislation that will be voted on by MPs on Thursday. Foreign holidays are currently not allowed under the “stay at home” rule which ends on Monday. But then the ban on leaving the UK at this time will become a specific law backed up by the threat of the fine. Under the current plan for easing restrictions, the earliest date people in England could go abroad for a holiday would be 17 May. However, another surge in Covid cases in continental Europe, as well as the slow rollout of vaccines across Europe, has cast doubt on the resumption of foreign travel.


Health Secretary Matt Hancock said restrictions on travelling abroad were necessary to guard against the importation of large numbers of cases and new variants which might put the vaccine rollout at risk. Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves told BBC Breakfast that Labour supported measures to keep the UK’s borders secure and avoid the importation of new variants but said the government’s “slowness to react” had contributed to the country’s high death rate. Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Monday the UK should be “under no illusion” that it will feel the effects of a rising number of cases on the continent. One of his ministers, Lord Bethell, said England might put “all our European neighbours” on the “red list” of countries. However, Mr Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there were no plans to do this.

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A two week lockdown can achieve something. A one year lockdown can only achieve something other than the stated intent.

An entire library on lockdown effectiveness is at The Fat Emperor.

Lockdown One Year On – It Was Never Supposed To Work (OffG)

And so we come to March 23rd, and lockdown’s first birthday. Or, as we call it here, the longest two weeks in history. 1 year. 12 calendar months. 365 increasingly gruelling days. It’s a long time since “2 weeks to flatten the curve”, became an obvious lie. Sometime in July it turned into a sick joke. The curve was flattened, the NHS protected and the clapping was hearty and meaningful. …and none of it made any difference. This was not a sacrifice for the “greater good”. It was not a hard decision with arguments on both sides. It was not a risk-benefit scenario. The “risks” were in fact certainties, and the “benefits” entirely fictional.Because Lockdowns don’t work. It’s really important to remember that.


Even if you subscribe to the belief that “Sars-Cov-2” is a unique discrete entity (which is far from proven), or that it is incredibly dangerous (which is demonstrably untrue), the lockdown has not worked to, in any way, limit this supposed threat. Lockdowns. Don’t. Work. They don’t make any difference, the curves don’t flatten and the R0 number doesn’t drop and the lives aren’t saved (quite the opposite, as we’ve all seen). Just look at the graphs. This one, comparing “Covid deaths” in the UK (lockdown) and Sweden (no lockdown):

Or this one, comparing “Covid deaths” in California (lockdown) and Florida (no lockdown):

From Belarus to Sweden to Florida to Nicaragua to Tanzania, the evidence is clear. “Covid”, whatever that means in real terms, is not impacted by lockdowns. Putting the entire population under house arrest doesn’t benefit public health. In fact, it’s (rather predictably) incredibly counter-productive. The damage done by shuttering businesses, limiting access to healthcare, postponing treatments and diagnoses, postponed surgeries, increasing depression, soaring unemployment and mass poverty has been discussed to death. The scale of the impact cannot be overstated.


Dr David Nabarro, World Health Organization special envoy for Covid-19, said this of lockdowns back in October: “We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of the virus[…]just look at what’s happened to the tourism industry…look what’s happening to small-holding farmers[…]it seems we may have a doubling of world poverty by next year. We may well have at least a doubling of child malnutrition […] This is a terrible, ghastly global catastrophe.”

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Haven’t read the whole document yet, but the picture looks intruiging.

CoroNaspresso: A Cheap, Rapid and Simple Home Test (chemrxiv)

Development of a novel LAMP device which is cheap, reusable, and can be produced in large amounts in a short period of time. The device was designed such not to require chemical exothermic reactions, have limited waste produced and with a minimum cost of the device as a whole. The device was tested for the detection of SARS-CoV2 RNA.

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In Lebanon, it’s one crisis on top of another crisis on top of another.

Every Day We Discuss Closure And Then Decide To Keep Going (MENA)

Once bustling with life, Beirut’s famed Gemmayze Street is now deserted. Lined with damaged homes, collapsed buildings and closed businesses, the residential and commercial hub was one of the city’s most vibrant destinations – but not any more. “It’s like a nightmare. We’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Charbel Bassil, owner of renowned Le Chef restaurant, on the first day of reopening after a nationwide lockdown. One of Beirut’s oldest and most popular restaurants, Le Chef, in in Gemmayze, is one of many businesses struggling to stay afloat under the weight of Lebanon’s compounding crises. The family business reopened its doors on March 22, as per the government’s lockdown strategy, but customers were hardly pouring in.

The modest space, which was often full to the brim for lunchtime, now welcomed only three tables after a full day of work, or about 10 customers. The burst of vigor and energy that characterised the dining experience at Le Chef was replaced by a sense of moping and melancholy. “We’re doing our best to keep going, but everything is a mess,” Mr Bassil told The National. Le Chef , founded in 1967, weathered civil wars and crises, but none harmed trade like Lebanon’s current events. “This is our family business. I’ve been working here since I was a child, but nothing we lived through was as bad as this,” Mr Bassil said. After almost losing the restaurant in the Beirut blast, Le Chef was able to rebuild thanks to donations, $5,000 of which came from the actor Russell Crowe.

But what the port explosion could not destroy, the economic crisis shattered. “We can’t work in this crisis. Suppliers won’t give us goods because of the market rate and we don’t know how to price our dishes,” Mr Bassil told The National. “We’re a restaurant for the people. We want to serve high-quality food for affordable prices.” Lebanon’s currency lost more than 80 per cent of its value since the beginning of the economic crisis, declared one of the worst in the country’s history. In one year, the Lebanese pound, which once traded at 1,500 to the US dollar, slumped to 15,000 on the parallel market. The minimum wage shrank from $450 to an average of $50, leaving people with insufficient salaries to cover rising living costs.

[..] Despite the opportunity to be back in business, Lebanon’s hospitality sector is wary about reopening because operational costs now outweigh profits. Fewer than 1,000 restaurants and cafes are expected to reopen this week, said Aref Saade, treasurer at the Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafes, Night-Clubs and Pastries. Prior to the crisis, Lebanon had about 8,500 tourist institutions in business. The number decreased to 4,500 when Covid-19 struck, and is anticipated to sink below 1,000 due to the soaring and unstable currency exchange rate. “Businesses are refraining from reopening – it’s just not worth it,” Mr Saade told The National.

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“If I can save you,” he said referring to his father, “I can tell you, I save anybody.”

Top Yale Doctor: ‘Ivermectin Works,’ Including For Long COVID (TSN)

A Yale University professor and renowned cancer researcher has pored over the COVID-19 literature and treated several dozen patients. He can remain silent no longer. Dr. Alessandro Santin, a practicing oncologist and scientist who runs a large laboratory at Yale, believes firmly that ivermectin could vastly cut suffering from COVID-19. Santin joins a growing group of doctors committed to using the safe, generic drug both as an early home treatment to prevent hospitalization and alongside inpatient treatments like steroids and oxygen. “The bottom line is that ivermectin works. I’ve seen that in my patients as well as treating my own family in Italy,” Santin said in an interview, referring to his father, 88, who recently suffered a serious bout of COVID. “We must find a way to administer it on a large scale to a lot of people.”

Santin’s statements carry the prestige of a leadership position at Yale School of Medicine and the gravitas of a top uterine cancer researcher, who has authored more than 250 science journal articles and pioneered treatment, used worldwide, for the most aggressive form of uterine cancer. At Yale, he is an OB/GYN professor, team leader in gynecologic oncology at the Smilow Comprehensive Cancer Center, and co-chief of gynecologic oncology. When COVID came along, Santin began reading about how best he might help his cancer patients, 10 to 20 percent of whom were coming in infected with COVID. He began using ivermectin after the National Institutes of Health changed its advisory in January to allow the drug’s use outside of COVID trials. Santin’s endorsement is not only important but broad.

He said he has seen ivermectin work at every stage of COVID — preventing it, eliminating early infection, quelling the destructive cytokine storm in late infection, and helping about a dozen patients so far who suffered months after COVID. One of them is an athlete and mother of two, 39, who had been disabled by post-COVID chest pain, shortness of breath and fatigue; she confirmed in an email to me her joy at being able to walk up a hill again and breathing better within 72 hours of her first dose. “When you have people that can’t breathe for five, six, eight, nine months and they tried multiple drugs and supplements with no success, and you give them ivermectin,” Dr. Santin said of long-haul patients, “and you see that they start immediately feeling better, this is not placebo. This is real.”

[..] Beyond his outpatients, Santin has treated family members and friends infected with COVID in both his home community in Connecticut and in his native Italy via telemedicine. There, he prescribed ivermectin to more than 15 families, in which parents, children or others had became infected; the goal was both to treat early and prevent severe COVID, as studies have shown ivermectin does. “I have not a single one that right now had to go to the hospital to receive oxygen,” he said. “I have no doubt ivermectin saved my 88-year-old father’s life.” His father survived COVID despite high blood pressure, cardiac disease that led previously to seven stents and open heart surgery, and lung problems. “If I can save you,” he said referring to his father, “I can tell you, I save anybody.”

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Google translate.

Logic In Lockdown: The German Corona Policy Is In Ruins (NZZ)

Instead of easing concepts, the Chancellor and Prime Minister present the extension and tightening of the lockdown. The citizens have to pay for what the government has missed for months. Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Prime Minister wrestled with each other for twelve hours on Tuesday. Anyone who expected a big hit after this nightly marathon was disappointed: The result of the conference is shameful. Not only that the tentative easing of the corona measures has been discarded. Germany should also go into a tough lockdown at Easter. “We thought again today,” said the Chancellor in the early hours of the morning. In order to “break through” the third corona wave a little bit, April 1st and 3rd at Easter will be “one-off days of rest”, as “extended rest time”.

Rethought? With these resolutions, Germany’s government surrenders to the principles of reason. If you wanted to avoid hamster purchases and crowds in supermarkets until now, the opposite is now the case: the closing of supermarkets over Easter is forcing citizens to replenish their supplies. You don’t need a crystal ball to predict the resulting overcrowding of the shops on Holy Saturday. Is that still wanton or already deliberate bad planning? Either way, it lacks any logic. Religious freedom could also be a victim of the comfortably formulated “extended rest period at Easter” – for all those for whom five months of rest are not enough – there should be no Easter services with an audience in attendance, according to the will of the conference.

So while in the past few days 700 Hansa Rostock football fans were allowed to go to the stadium with a negative quick test and 1,000 classical music fans who also tested negative were allowed to go back to the Berlin Philharmonic, is it not possible to organize a gathering of Christians at their highest festival? Not if you leave it to this government, that’s for sure. Local politicians such as Tübingen’s Mayor Boris Palmer show that there is another way. With test stations he enables the citizens of his city to live a little and the business people to survive.

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“..the lowest reported inventory since the Realtors association began tracking it in 1982..”

US Home Sales Fell Nearly 20% In February (F.)

Single-family home sales dropped 18.2% from January to February, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, even as annualized sales remain much higher than pre-pandemic rates. 775,000 (at a seasonally adjusted annual rate) new single-family homes were sold in Feb. 2021—that’s a large drop from the 958,000 homes sold rate in Jan. 2021. Adjusted home sale rates are still far higher than they were pre-pandemic: 716,000 new single family homes were sold in Feb. 2020. The median price of new homes sold in February was $349,000 and the average sale price was $416,000. The National Association of Realtors said the decline from January was due to “historically-low inventory”, and said home sales are ahead of total 2020 sales. At the end of December 2020, there were just 1.07 million homes for sale—the lowest reported inventory since the Realtors association began tracking it in 1982.

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“Brussels “has consistently destroyed all mechanisms without exception that existed on the basis of an agreement on partnership and cooperation.”

EU Has ‘Destroyed’ Once Friendly Ties With Russia – Lavrov (RT)

Months of political tension and a wave of new sanctions have severed all links between the EU and Russia, Moscow’s top diplomat has said, adding that his country is ready to resume cooperation if Brussels decides it is interested. Speaking at a press conference alongside his Chinese counterpart on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that currently, “there are no relations with the EU as an organization. The entire infrastructure of these relations has been destroyed by unilateral decisions made from Brussels.” Some individual European countries, he argued, are still seeking closer ties with Moscow, “guided by their national interests.” However, these are being fast outpaced by growing partnerships with China, Lavrov told journalists.

“If and when Europeans decide to eliminate these anomalies in contacts with their largest neighbor, of course, we will be ready to build up these relations based on equality,” the diplomat confirmed, “while in the East, in my opinion, we have a very intensive agenda, which is becoming more diverse every year.” In February, the foreign minister stated that Moscow’s relations with the bloc had taken a tumble in 2014, after the EU “blamed the Russian Federation for everything that is happening” in Ukraine following the Maidan. Since then, he argued, Brussels “has consistently destroyed all mechanisms without exception that existed on the basis of an agreement on partnership and cooperation.”

As part of a fiery broadcast interview, Lavrov warned that if the bloc’s leadership sought to impose sanctions on Russia that hit sensitive areas of the economy, Moscow could break off diplomatic contact altogether as a last resort. “Of course, we do not want to isolate ourselves from living in the world, but we must be ready for this. If you want peace, prepare for war,” he stressed. Earlier this month, the EU unveiled a new package of sanctions against four Russian officials it claimed were responsible for the detention of opposition figure Alexey Navalny, and “human rights violations” during the policing of subsequent protests held in his support. At the time, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said the bloc had “missed yet another opportunity to review its … approach to relations with Russia.”

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“The United States is not qualified to talk to China in a condescending manner. The Chinese people will not accept that.”

Welcome To ‘Shocked & Awed’ 21st Century Geopolitics (Escobar)

With a Russia-China-Iran triple bitch slap on the hegemon, we now have a brand new geopolitical chessboard… It took 18 years after Shock and Awe unleashed on Iraq for the Hegemon to be mercilessly shocked and awed by a virtually simultaneous, diplomatic Russia-China one-two. How this is a real game-changing moment cannot be emphasized enough; 21st century geopolitics will never be the same again. Yet it was the Hegemon who first crossed the diplomatic Rubicon. The handlers behind hologram Joe “I’ll do whatever you want me to do, Nance” Biden had whispered in his earpiece to brand Russian President Vladimir Putin as a soulless “killer” in the middle of a softball interview.

Not even at the height of the Cold War the superpowers resorted to ad hominem attacks. The result of such an astonishing blunder was to regiment virtually the whole Russian population behind Putin – because that was perceived as an attack against the Russian state. Then came Putin’s cool, calm, collected – and quite diplomatic – response, which needs to be carefully pondered. These sharp as a dagger words are arguably the most devastatingly powerful five minutes in the history of post-truth international relations. In For Leviathan, it’s so cold in Alaska, we forecasted what could take place in the US-China 2+2 summit at a shabby hotel in Anchorage, with cheap bowls of instant noodles thrown in as extra bonus.

China’s millennial diplomatic protocol establishes that discussions start around common ground – which are then extolled as being more important than disagreements between negotiating parties. That’s at the heart of the concept of “no loss of face”. Only afterwards the parties discuss their differences. Yet it was totally predictable that a bunch of amateurish, tactless and clueless Americans would smash those basic diplomatic rules to show “strength” to their home crowd, distilling the proverbial litany on Taiwan, Hong Kong, South China Sea, “genocide” of Uighurs. Oh dear. There was not a single State Dept. hack with minimal knowledge of East Asia to warn the amateurs you don’t mess with the formidable head of the Foreign Affairs Commission at the CCP’s Central Committee, Yang Jiechi, with impunity.

Visibly startled, but controlling his exasperation, Yang Jiechi struck back. And the rhetorical shots were heard around the whole Global South. They had to include a basic lesson in manners: “If you want to deal with us properly, let’s have some mutual respect and do things the right way”. But what stood out was a stinging, concise diagnostic blending history and politics: “The United States is not qualified to talk to China in a condescending manner. The Chinese people will not accept that. It must be based on mutual respect to deal with China, and history will prove that those who seek to strangle China will suffer in the end.”

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It is a weird piece of legislation.

H.R.1 – Is It Really “For the People”? (Farrell)

A lot has been written about H.R.1 — the so-called “For the People Act of 2021.” Former Vice President Mike Pence has opined on the bill. The Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal sounded the alarm back in January. The editors of National Review come right out and call it a “partisan assault on American democracy.” H.R.1 purports to, “expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, strengthen ethics rules for public servants, and implement other anti-corruption measures for the purpose of fortifying our democracy, and for other purposes.” The Bill is 791 pages long. Here are just a few of the more egregious federal power grabs in H.R.1 concocted against the 50 states that run elections under the U.S. Constitution:

• Ban voter ID laws and allow ballot harvesting; • Expand Election Day to “election season” by mandating mail-in ballots be counted 10 days after the election would normally be over; • Automatic voter registration of people who apply for unemployment, Medicaid, Obamacare and college, or who are coming out of prison. There is a lot more, and it gets worse. Substantially worse. There are First Amendment restrictions on political speech and on the support or opposition of a bill and/or a candidate. Remember: This is supposed to be “fortifying our democracy.” If you are interested in a “through the looking glass” annotated analysis of H.R.1 — then head over to the Brennan Center for Justice. They are happy to explain how those pesky constitutional rights can be whittled down to something more “fair” for everyone.

For example, the Brennan Center analysis confidently assures readers about how H.R.1 “affirms Congress’ power to protect the right to vote, regulate federal elections, and defend the democratic process in the United States.” It seeks to airbrush Article I, Section 4 — The Elections Clause — from history and practice. The Clause directs and empowers states to determine the “Times, Places, and Manner” of congressional elections. H.R.1 would federally strangle the Elections Clause. In order to find our way out, it is helpful to know how we got into this terrible predicament. The foundation for the madness of H.R.1 is legal positivism, a thesis, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which states “that the existence and content of law depends on social facts and not on its merits.” H.R.1 is nearly 800 pages of meritless, militant, social engineering targeting the foundations of the U.S. Constitution, voting rights and political free speech — all dressed-up as being “for the people.”

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Too late now.

Leaked Docs Show Obama FTC Gave Google Its Monopoly (Bovard)

Eight years ago, the Federal Trade Commission had the chance to face down Google — the giant of Silicon Valley whose power now alters the free flow of information at a global scale, distorts market access for businesses large and small, and changes the nature of independent thought in ways the world has never experienced. Instead, the FTC blinked — and blinked hard, choosing to close the investigation in early 2013. A remarkable leak to Politico of agency documents about the 2012 Google investigation reveals that, despite ample evidence of market distortions and threats to competition presented by the agency’s lawyers, the five commissioners of the FTC deferred instead to speculative claims by their economists.

Records and reporting about the 2012 investigation suggest the FTC did so while bending to political pressure from the Obama White House — which was, in turn, bending to political pressure from Google. William Kovacic, a former FTC chair under President George W. Bush, reviewed the more than 300 pages of documents leaked to Politico and concluded the agency overlooked “what many experts and regulators would consider clear antitrust violations,” calling the specificity of issues outlined “breathtaking.” In short, where we find ourselves today — with Google as the primary filter of the world’s information, engaging in a network of exclusionary contracts and anti-competitive conduct, and subject to an antitrust lawsuit led by the Department of Justice and joined by 48 state attorneys general — could have, and should have, been avoided.

That it wasn’t, however, provides key takeaways about where we are now with Big Tech, and, in particular, the method of enforcement of our antitrust laws, whose application has become too tightly wrapped around the axle of price, and captured by the speculative science of economic forecasting. It also reveals just how politicized antitrust enforcement has become — influenced by the siren song of internet exceptionalism and the powerful tug of Google, one of the world’s richest companies. Perhaps the most stunning takeaway in the 2012 documents is the extent to which the recommendations of the FTC’s lawyers sharply differed from those of the agency’s economists, on whose judgment the FTC commissioners ultimately relied in their decision to drop the investigation into Google.

The FTC’s antitrust attorneys concluded that Google was breaking the law by “banishing potential competitors” with a series of exclusionary contracts on mobile phones — much of which forms the basis for the lawsuit brought nearly a decade later by the Trump Department of Justice. The FTC’s economists, however, demurred, insisting that claims of Google’s market dominance were unfounded and would soon give way to competition. This required a markedly un-curious treatment of key facts.

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Whatever Big Oil backs can never be good.

Big Oil Backs Carbon Tax (Reason)

Executives from leading oil companies, including ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and the American Petroleum Institute (API), met virtually with Biden administration officials to discuss policies aimed at addressing the problem of man-made climate change. The Wall Street Journal reported that company leaders said that “they wanted to work with the administration and pledged support for policies that would make it more expensive to emit the gases that contribute to climate change.” In a statement issued after the virtual meeting, API CEO Mike Sommers declared, “We are committed to working with the White House to develop effective government policies that help meet the ambitions of the Paris Agreement and support a cleaner future.” The API is rumored to be considering coming out in support of carbon emissions pricing.

ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips previously endorsed the bipartisan Climate Leadership Council’s (CLC) revenue neutral carbon tax and dividend proposal in which escalating taxes collected on oil and natural gas at the wellhead and on coal at the minehead would be entirely rebated in equal sums to each American as an annual payment. The CLC cites a 2018 study that finds that 70 percent of American households would receive more in dividend payments then they would pay in increased energy prices. Once the CLC’s carbon tax plan is adopted, all other regulations and subsidies aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions, such as automobile fuel efficiency and renewable portfolio standards, are supposed to be permanently repealed.

However, lots of climate activists oppose carbon taxes. Why? InsideClimateNews offered the example of Matto Mildenberger, a political scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who has argued that carbon taxes make climate action unpopular because they front load the costs immediately onto consumers while the eventual benefits of lower temperatures, less fierce storms, and lower sea levels stretch into the future. As InsideClimateNews explained: “In the view of Mildenberger and others who’ve studied climate politics around the world, subsidies, regulation, and other policies that provide more immediate and visible benefits—like jobs creation—are a better way to jump-start climate policy, even if they cost more in the short run. That’s because they stimulate investment to help lower the cost of alternative energy, and at the same time help broaden political support for stronger climate policy. New actors with real investments they want to protect and advance will want more aggressive action, and politicians will respond.”

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Drilling under the Mississippi. Leave it be.

Minnesota Police Ready For Pipeline Resistance (IC)

As you drive toward the Mississippi River’s headwaters from the east, the lakes that open up on either side of the highway are still white-blue with ice. The Mississippi River, however, is flowing. The open water — a trickle compared to the expanse it will become farther south — is a hopeful sign of the end of another long Minnesota winter, but it also has opponents of pipeline construction in the area on edge. Enbridge, the Canadian energy-transport firm, is planning to route its Line 3 pipeline under the Mississippi, near where it crosses Highway 40. In winter, a pollution-control rule bars drilling under the frozen waters. As the ice melts away, so do the restrictions. Those organizing against the project worry that Enbridge could begin tunneling under the Mississippi and other local rivers any day — and the pipeline-resistance movement is getting ready for it.

“They got a lot of money, they got a lot of equipment, but we got a lot of people,” said Anishinaabe water protector Winona LaDuke at an event last week with actor and activist Jane Fonda, which took place in front of the flowing Crow Wing River, not far from where Enbridge seeks to drill under its shores. “Spring is coming. Let’s be outdoorsy.” Enbridge’s Line 3 project began construction four months ago. It was designed to replace a decaying pipeline of the same name; however, a large portion of its 338-mile Minnesota section, which makes up most of the U.S. route, plows through new land and waters. The project would double Line 3’s capacity for carrying tar sands oil, one of the most carbon-intensive fossil fuels in the world, at a moment when a rapid shift away from fossil fuels has become critical to address the climate crisis.

The delicate waterway ecosystems through which the pipeline passes have become the central organizing point of the anti-pipeline, or water protector, movement. Hundreds of rivers, streams, and wetlands face the specter of a tar sands leak after the replacement Line 3 begins operating. And the particularly intensive form of drilling required to tunnel the pipeline under rivers holds its own set of risks during construction.

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God Save the Queen

 

 

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Feb 142021
 
 February 14, 2021  Posted by at 10:22 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Edward Hopper Christmas card 1928

 

Only Seven GOP Senators Vote To Convict Trump (F.)
Trump’s Philly Lawyers Are Facing A Backlash At Home (Inq.)
Statement on Senate Impeachment Acquittal of Trump (Nader/Fein)
Newsom Recall Effort Has Enough Signatures To Trigger Special Election (JTN)
How To Understand The Rage Economy (IC)
Cuomo Didn’t Protect Seniors. But it Was the Media That Covered it Up (NW)
Patent For Secret Bat Cages At Wuhan Lab (DM)
India Finally Bans Cryptocurrencies (BTCPeers)
State Clears First Three Foreign Military Sales Of Biden Administration
Why Russia Is Driving The West Crazy (Escobar)
Opening the CIA’s Can of Worms (Edward Curtin)

 

 

 

 

As I said to friends earlier: A circus in which even the clowns are not funny. The Dems never really tried to win. When they all agreed on witnesses, the Dems reneged as soon as it was clear that Pelosi would be called.

Only Seven GOP Senators Vote To Convict Trump (F.)

The U.S. Senate on Saturday voted to acquit former President Donald Trump on charges of inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, with just 7 Senate Republicans siding with Democrats in voting to convict him. Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) voted with all Democrats to convict Trump on one article of impeachment. The article alleges the ex-president “engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States.” The result comes after a particularly tumultuous final day of an already chaotic trial in which senators voted to approve debates on calling witnesses, only to backtrack and swiftly conclude the proceedings hours later.

Trump’s acquittal was widely seen as a foregone conclusion, cemented further by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s announcement to Republican colleagues on Saturday that he would vote to let off the ex-president he has publicly condemned. “Whatever you came to Washington to do… This is almost certainly how you will be remembered by history,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the lead impeachment manager, had told senators before the vote. Trump became the first president to be impeached twice last month when the House passed the article of impeachment 232-197, with a historic 10 House Republicans breaking with their party and voting to impeach.

[..] Trump is not out of the woods yet, as he is facing legal scrutiny from prosecutors in several states. Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance is probing his finances and business practices, while prosecutors in Georgia have reportedly opened a criminal investigation into his call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which he urged Georgia election officials to “find” votes for him.

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Mostly peaceful.

“Michael van der Veen hired 24-hour private security for his family after vandals smashed windows & spray-painted “TRAITOR” on the driveway of his..home Friday night. He told reporters Saturday he received more than 100 death threats.”

Trump’s Philly Lawyers Are Facing A Backlash At Home (Inq.)

If Donald Trump’s team of Philadelphia lawyers thought they’d get a reputational bump from defending a former president on the biggest stage of their careers, it hasn’t turned out that way. They won his acquittal Saturday at his second impeachment trial. But the backlash could end up following them for years. Members of the team described the five-day trial as a trying experience, from infighting between attorneys and second-guessing by Republican advisers in Washington, to derision hurled their way online and at their homes and offices. Michael van der Veen hired 24-hour private security for his family after vandals smashed windows and spray-painted “TRAITOR” on the driveway of his suburban Philadelphia home Friday night. He told reporters Saturday he received more than 100 death threats.

And they acknowledged being caught off guard by the level of rancor from Trump’s critics and supporters alike — even given the country’s fiercely divided politics and how other lawyers in his orbit have fared. “I’ve been representing controversial clients for 30 years, and I’ve never experienced this type of vitriol,” said William J. Brennan, another local member of the team whose past clients include priests accused of sexual abuse and judges facing corruption charges. “We had no political agenda here. We are not partisan warriors. We are criminal defense lawyers who represented a client.” Bruce L. Castor Jr., the former Montgomery County commissioner and district attorney, entered the week as the nominal leader of Trump’s team — a high-profile job that had some back home wondering if it could bolster a future run for statewide office.

Instead, his rocky, rambling opening performance Tuesday drew his client’s ire and turned him into an internet punchline. Conservative TV hosts, like Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, called him “terrible.” Sean Hannity responded: “You’re way too charitable.” Everything from his verbose delivery to his pin-striped suit became targets for social media mockery. Some used his performance to question the aptness of the term Philadelphia lawyer — a phrase inspired by Colonial-era attorney Andrew Hamilton that has long characterized an exceptionally shrewd attorney. Van der Veen — the head of Castor’s law firm, who took over the defense presentation Friday after Castor was sidelined — fared little better.

He delivered a more combative, incendiary performance, attacking Democrats for “hypocrisy” and what he described as “constitutional cancel culture.” His style was reportedly more to his client’s liking. But his testy, hectoring demeanor at the lectern turned him into a target, too. On Saturday, a small group of protesters gathered outside his Center City law firm. They left “VAN DER VEEN = LIAR” scrawled in chalk on the street. On Facebook, the firm’s page turned into a toxic stew of invective. “Michael van der Veen is ranting on my television screen — the new shame of Philadelphia,” one commenter wrote, as another added: “This entire firm should be shut down and every single one of you should lose your license.”

 

 

MVDV: “What happened at the Capitol on January 6 is absolutely horrific. But what happened at the Capitol during this trial was not too far away from that.”

Read more …

Pelosi didn’t want to be called, so no-one was?!

Tweet: “The Democrats went for cover when they found out that the Defense was going to call DC Mayor and Pelosi to testify. What are they hiding?”

Statement on Senate Impeachment Acquittal of Trump (Nader/Fein)

Donald J. Trump has once again circumvented justice, but not because of a want of facts or law. His life preserver was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to refrain from calling critical witnesses possessing “smoking gun” incriminating evidence at Mr. Trump’s second impeachment trial. Her plan to abandon an Ace of Spades for a Two of Clubs to prove Mr. Trump’s guilt was upset by Republican freshman Congresswoman Jamie Herrera Butler (Wash.) who gave the Democrats an opportunity to subpoenas witnesses to testify under oath to fortify the video evidence introduced during the House Managers’ case in chief.

Ms. Butler’s disclosing a conversation with House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) proving President Trump’s endorsement of his mob’s resort to lethal force and violence to unconstitutionally prevent a peaceful transfer of presidential power precipitated a surprise 55-45 Senate vote this morning, including several Republicans, to entertain live witnesses. Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin (Maryland) appeared on NPR shortly before the Senate reconvened from a recess at 12:30 pm. The Senator declared that the impeachment trial would be continued for two weeks; and, that the only issue remaining for resolution between the prosecution and defense (then in private negotiations) was whether five witnesses for each side would be named or left open for later identification in a Senate witness resolution.

Mr. Cardin was clueless of the Democratic capitulation, snaring defeat from the jaws of victory. The House Managers and Mr. Trump’s defense team agreed to a stipulation to admit into the record a mere written statement by Congresswoman Butler, not delivered in person under oath or via a deposition. Not a single witness would be called.

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Schwarzenegger redux.

Newsom Recall Effort Has Enough Signatures To Trigger Special Election (JTN)

The growing effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom has reportedly secured enough signatures to trigger a special election, potentially setting up the first gubernatorial recall in that state in nearly two decades. Organizers have obtained 1.5 million signatures, more than enough to mandate a special election, Fox News reported on Saturday. The number was allegedly hit earlier this week. The state secretary will have to process the signatures first to ensure they are valid.


Newsom has faced extended criticism for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic—particularly his shutdown orders, which have at times been among the strictest in the nation—as well as a disastrous PR blunder last year when he was spotted mask-less and at a crowded dinner table in an indoor restaurant. The last California recall election took place in 2003; in that instance, Arnold Schwarzenegger successfully won the election after voters recalled Democratic Gov. Gray Davis.

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“..the fragmentation of the American public into a multitude of angry factions, radicalized in different ways online and holding completely different baseline perceptions of reality.”

How To Understand The Rage Economy (IC)

The attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 underlined a disturbing phenomenon that has become undeniable at this point: the fragmentation of the American public into a multitude of angry factions, radicalized in different ways online and holding completely different baseline perceptions of reality. The problem of deliberate misinformation undermining democracy has received lots of attention, but in many ways, the power of fantastic lies to grab people’s allegiance is also a byproduct of a deeper problem: extreme polarization driven by news media monetizing anger in order to survive.

This phenomenon is at the core of what media ecologist and author Andrey Mir in a new book calls “postjournalism.” Mir’s book, titled “Postjournalism and the Death of Newspapers,” is a sweeping look at how the news media evolved and shaped the world over hundreds of years, from newsletters for traders published in medieval Venice, Italy, to modern print newspapers, television, and finally the internet. For pretty much everyone, the news media is the major force that shapes how they perceive the world outside their direct experience. During an era when the main technology for producing and disseminating information changes, the world changes as well. For better or worse, we are living through one of those eras now.

The collective psychological impact of new technologies like social media has been written about in a wave of books over the past few years. Equally significant has been the underlying economic shift that has gradually transformed even traditional media outlets into something wholly different. Journalism traditionally relied on an advertising-based revenue model, and that economy also subtly incentivized a particular lens through which the world was depicted: an upbeat-as-possible, unifying worldview that made advertisers happy and promoted the needs of consumerism, even as it often overlooked or suppressed stories that fell outside its parameters.

When advertisers suddenly flocked to social media, the traditional economic model that underpinned the media and allowed even smaller papers to afford luxuries like foreign correspondents suddenly collapsed. Today established news outlets not only struggle to find advertisers after Facebook and Google swallowed up the market, but they must also compete with a seemingly infinite number of other websites, companies, and even individuals committing “acts of journalism” or just putting out entertainment, thus forcing them to battle for a finite slice of an attention economy that they cannot possibly corner.

The loss of the old advertising paradigm simply killed many local news outlets, which have shuttered at an incredible rate over the past decade. The surviving large organizations have sought desperately for a new model to support themselves. A lucky few have been able to rely on the patronage of philanthropists supporting journalism as a pure social good. But many others have been forced to do something not seen since the era of mass-produced penny tabloids: relying primarily on readers to support them through subscription and membership fees. As Mir argues, this change in the economic structure of the news media has quietly transformed what journalism itself is about, turning it from a theoretically neutral means of “manufacturing consent” into a political cause that people are rallied into supporting, usually by inciting them to some form of outrage.

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“It would prove a death sentence for thousands of seniors.”

Cuomo Didn’t Protect Seniors. But it Was the Media That Covered it Up (NW)

Things are not looking good for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. After receiving an Emmy “in recognition of his leadership” and writing a bestselling book called American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic, the toll Cuomo’s leadership has taken is finally emerging. On Thursday, the New York Post broke the story that Melissa DeRosa, one of the governor’s top aides, apologized to Democratic lawmakers for fudging the number of nursing home deaths from COVID for fear of being investigated.

Such an investigation was long overdue. One of the biggest scandals of the pandemic has been the number of nursing home deaths in New York City, many of them possibly linked to a March 25 directive from the Cuomo administration forcing nursing homes to take in people even if they had tested positive for COVID-19. It would prove a death sentence for thousands of seniors. And to fend off an investigation, the Cuomo administration underestimated the number of nursing home deaths by 40%. The true number was 15,000, not 9,056.

But this isn’t just a government scandal. It’s a media scandal. For while the Cuomo administration was sentencing seniors to death, the media was busy fawning over Cuomo in a series of softball interviews, many of them conducted by his own brother. Cuomo has been a television mainstay throughout the crisis, particularly on CNN where his brother, Chris Cuomo, is a host. But it wasn’t just his brother who fawned. A June interview with CNN’s Chris Cilizza provided Cuomo an opportunity to tout his performance while criticizing that of then-president Donald Trump and Republican governors who had not gone along with economy-crushing lockdowns. Cilizza was more than happy to assist.

“We tested both theories,” Cuomo told Cilizza. “We have the evidence. It’s numbers. It’s irrefutable. Why don’t we pause and recognize the undeniable reality of the situation?” “On the numbers, it’s hard to disagree,” Cilizza dutifully wrote. “On April 9, New York had almost 10,000 coronavirus cases in a single day, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University. On Friday, it had just 673 cases statewide.” There would be no follow-up article when New York would hit over 14,000 cases in January. No review of what went wrong in Cuomo’s “undeniable reality.” No comparison to states that found a different “undeniable reality of the situation” and have objectively handled the COVID crisis better.

Read more …

What does the WHO hold back?

Patent For Secret Bat Cages At Wuhan Lab (DM)

The Chinese laboratory at the centre of suspicion over the origins of the coronavirus pandemic was awarded a patent for cages to hold live bats for testing just months before the virus started spreading. The revelation comes after the World Health Organisation last week backed Beijing’s line, saying that a leak from the institute was ‘highly unlikely’, while giving credence to theories that the virus had entered the country via frozen meat. The team included Peter Daszak, a British-born zoologist whose organisation EcoHealth Alliance has studied bat-borne viruses with Wuhan lab scientists for 15 years, and who has categorically denied that researchers keep the mammals for testing.

However, The Mail on Sunday has established that the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) filed an application in June 2018 to patent ‘bat rearing cages’ which would be ‘capable of healthy growth and breeding under artificial conditions’. The patent, which has been seen by this newspaper, was granted in January 2019 – 11 months before Beijing reported that the first cases of the virus in the city had broken out just a few miles from the institute. A separate patent, filed by the institute on October 16, 2020, relates to the ‘artificial breeding method of wild bat’. The patent discusses cross- species transmission of SARS- CoV from bat to humans and other animals, saying: ‘Bats infected with the virus naturally or artificially have no obvious clinical symptoms, and the mechanism is unknown’.

It explicitly states that the method is for breeding bats for scientific experiments: ‘The invention aims to provide an artificial breeding method of wild bat predators, which aims at overcoming the defects in the prior art, and the wild bat predators are artificially domesticated, bred and passaged to establish an artificial breeding group, thereby providing a brand-new model experimental animal for scientific research.’ Responding to a question over whether researchers were keeping live bats, Mr Daszak tweeted in April last year: ‘The researchers don’t keep the bats, nor do they kill them. ‘All bats are released back to their cave site after sampling. It’s a conservation measure and is much safer in terms of disease spread than killing them or trying to keep them in a lab.’

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6 months to liquidate your assets.

India Finally Bans Cryptocurrencies (BTCPeers)

India has become the second country to outrightly ban Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. This is coming after the Central Bank of Nigeria instructed all financial institutions in the country to block the accounts of all individuals and entities linked to cryptocurrency transactions. There has been a lot of drama surrounding India’s cryptocurrency stance. In 2018, the Reserve Bank of India issued a ban on all cryptocurrency transactions. The ban was lifted by the country’s Supreme Court in March 2020. In December 2020, government officials hinted that they were considering taxing Bitcoin transactions by up to 18%. Barely a month later and there were rumors that the country was mulling over banning all private cryptocurrencies.


Apparently, officials were serious about banning cryptocurrencies. Citing an unnamed senior finance ministry official, BloombergQuint disclosed the government’s move. However, according to the official, the ban would not be imposed overnight, as in the case of Nigeria. Instead, investors would be given three to six months to liquidate their investments. As per the report, India’s Parliament will proceed to introduce a law that bans the usage of cryptocurrencies in all forms, including restricting trading via foreign exchanges. On the flip side of India’s ban is Kenya, an East-African country that has proposed to make Bitcoin its base currency.

Read more …

BAU

State Clears First Three Foreign Military Sales Of Biden Administration

The Biden administration has approved three Foreign Military Sales requests for Jordan, Chile and a NATO agency, with a combined potential price tag of more than $200 million.] The approvals mark the first FMS cases moved since President Joe Biden took office. The last FMS cases approved by the State Department came in late December; the Biden team has since announced a pause and review of a number of weapon sales approved by the Trump administration, most notably on weapons purchased by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The three approvals were announced on the website of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. DSCA announcements mean that the State Department has decided the potential FMS cases meet its standards, but this does not guarantee the sales will happen in their announced forms.

If the U.S. Congress does not object, the foreign customer begins to negotiate on price and quantity, both of which can change during the final negotiations. Jordan was approved for an F-16 Air Combat Training Center and related equipment, with an estimated cost of $60 million. That package would include “mission trainers, combat tactics trainers, instructor/operator stations, tactical environment simulators, brief/debrief stations, scenario generation stations, database generation stations, mission observation centers, and other training center equipment and support,” per the DSCA notice. The center would “enhance” Jordan’s pilot training for their fleet of F-16s, the oldest of which entered service in 1997. Work will primarily be done at Lockheed Martin’s Rotary & Mission Systems center in Orlando, Fla.

Chile was approved to purchase up to 16 Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) Block IIIA missiles, along with support equipment and contractor assistance, with an estimate price tag of $85 million. The anti-air weapons are slated to be used aboard two recently transferred former Adelaide-class frigates to the Chilean Navy. Work would be preformed by Raytheon Missiles and Defense in Tucson, Ariz. The NATO alliance’s Communications and Information Agency to buy 517 AN/PRC-158 Manpack UHF SATCOM radio systems, worth an estimated $65 million. Also included in the package would be “crypto fill devices, man-portable ancillaries, vehicular ancillaries, deployed Headquarter ancillaries, power support, and operator and maintenance training,” per the DSCA notice.

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“The main problem we all face is the lack of normalcy in relations between Russia and the European Union – the two largest players in the Eurasian space. It is an unhealthy situation, which does not benefit anyone.”

Why Russia Is Driving The West Crazy (Escobar)

Future historians may register it as the day when usually unflappable Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov decided he had had enough: “We are getting used to the fact that the European Union is trying to impose unilateral restrictions, illegitimate restrictions and we proceed from the assumption at this stage that the European Union is an unreliable partner”. Josep Borrell, the EU foreign policy chief, on an official visit to Moscow, had to take it on the chin. Lavrov, always the perfect gentleman, added, “I hope that the strategic review that will take place soon will focus on the key interests of the European Union and that these talks will help to make our contacts more constructive.” He was referring to the EU summit of heads of state and government at the European Council next month, where they will discuss Russia.

Lavrov harbors no illusions the “unreliable partners” will behave like adults. Yet something immensely intriguing can be found in Lavrov’s opening remarks in his meeting with Borrell: “The main problem we all face is the lack of normalcy in relations between Russia and the European Union – the two largest players in the Eurasian space. It is an unhealthy situation, which does not benefit anyone.” The two largest players in the Eurasian space. Let that sink in. We’ll be back to it in a moment. As it stands, the EU seems irretrievably addicted to worsening the “unhealthy situation”. European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen memorably botched the Brussels vaccine game. Essentially, she sent Borrell to Moscow to ask for licensing rights for European firms to produce the Sputnik V vaccine – which will soon be approved by the EU.

And yet Eurocrats prefer to dabble in hysteria, promoting the antics of NATO asset and convicted fraudster Navalny – the Russian Guaido. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, under the cover of “strategic deterrence”, the head of the US STRATCOM, Admiral Charles Richard, casually let it slip that “there is a real possibility that a regional crisis with Russia or China could escalate quickly to a conflict involving nuclear weapons, if they perceived a conventional loss would threaten the regime or state.” So the blame for the next – and final – war is already apportioned to the “destabilizing” behavior of Russia and China. It’s assumed they will be “losing” – and then, in a fit of rage, will go nuclear. The Pentagon will be no more than a victim; after all, claims Mr. STRATCOM, we are not “stuck in the Cold War”.

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RFK, Jr.

Opening the CIA’s Can of Worms (Edward Curtin)

With the rise of alternate media and a wide array of dissenting voices on the internet, the establishment felt threatened and went on the defensive. It, therefore, should come as no surprise that those same elite corporate media are now leading the charge for increased censorship and the denial of free speech to those they deem dangerous, whether that involves wars, rigged elections, foreign coups, COVID-19, vaccinations, or the lies of the corporate media themselves. Having already banned critics from writing in their pages and or talking on their screens, these media giants want to make the quieting of dissenting voices complete. Just the other day The New York Times had this headline: “Robert Kennedy Jr. Barred From Instagram Over False Virus Claims.” Notice the lack of the word alleged before “false virus claims.” This is guilt by headline.

It is a perfect piece of propaganda posing as reporting, since it accuses Kennedy, a brilliant and honorable man, of falsity and stupidity, thus justifying Instagram’s ban, and it is an inducement to further censorship of Mr. Kennedy by Facebook, Instagram’s parent company. That ban should follow soon, as the Times’ reporter Jennifer Jett hopes, since she accusingly writes that RFK, Jr. “makes many of the same baseless claims to more than 300,000 followers” at Facebook. Jett made sure her report also went to msn.com and The Boston Globe. This is one example of the censorship underway with much, much more to follow. What was once done under the cover of omission is now done openly and brazenly, cheered on by those who, in an act of bad faith, claim to be upholders of the First Amendment and the importance of free debate in a democracy.

We are quickly slipping into an unreal totalitarian social order. Which brings me to the recent work of Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi, both of whom have strongly and rightly decried this censorship. As I understand their arguments, they go like this. First, the corporate media have today divided up the territory and speak only to their own audiences in echo chambers: liberal to liberals (read: the “allegedly” liberal Democratic Party), such as The New York Times, NBC, etc., and conservative to conservatives (read” the “allegedly” conservative Donald Trump), such as Fox News, Breitbart, etc. They have abandoned old school journalism that, despite its shortcomings, involved objectivity and the reporting of disparate facts and perspectives, but within limits.

Since the digitization of news, their new business models are geared to these separate audiences since they are highly lucrative choices. It’s business-driven since electronic media have replaced paper as advertising revenues have shifted and people’s ability to focus on complicated issues has diminished drastically. Old school journalism is suffering as a result and thus writers such as Greenwald and Taibbi and Chris Hedges have taken their work to the internet to escape such restrictive categories and the accompanying censorship.

Secondly, the great call for censorship is not something the Silicon Valley companies want because they want more people using their media since it means more money for them, but they are being pressured to do it by the traditional old school media, such as The New York Times, who now employ “tattletales and censors,” people who are power-hungry jerks, to sniff out dissenting voices that they can recommend should be banned. Greenwald says, They do it in part for power: to ensure nobody but they can control the flow of information. They do it partly for ideology and out of hubris: the belief that their worldview is so indisputably right that all dissent is inherently dangerous ‘disinformation.’”

Read more …

 

 

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Dec 092019
 
 December 9, 2019  Posted by at 10:14 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Lewis Wickes Hine News of the Titanic and possible survivors 1912

 

US Banks’ Reluctance To Lend Cash May Have Caused Repo Shock: BIS (R.)
BIS Offers Stunning Explanation Of What Happened On Repocalypse Day (ZH)
The Incredible Shrinking Private Sector (G.)
Northern Ireland Customs Protocol Could Thwart Brexit Plans (G.)
Boris Johnson’s Promise Of Brexit By End Of 2020 Torpedoed By EU Chief (Mi.)
The Invisible Tories (Craig Murray)
China Tells Government Offices To Remove All Foreign Computer Equipment (G.)
NATO Seeks To “Dominate The World”, Eliminate Competitors: Lavrov (ZH)
Russian Air Defense System Shot Down US Drone Over Libyan Capital (R.)

 

 

From what I understand, big banks moved from cash to Treasuries, which decreased the amount of cash available for lending. Hedge funds also play a role. Have they become market makers?

US Banks’ Reluctance To Lend Cash May Have Caused Repo Shock: BIS (R.)

The unwillingness of the top four U.S. banks to lend cash combined with a burst of demand from hedge funds for secured funding could explain a recent spike in U.S. money market rates, the Bank for International Settlements said. Cash available to banks for short-term funding all but dried up in late September, and interest rates deep in the plumbing of U.S. financial markets climbed into double digits. That forced the Fed to make an emergency injection of billions of dollars for the first time since the global financial crisis more than a decade ago.

While the exact cause of the squeeze is unclear – with explanations ranging from large withdrawals for quarterly tax payments to a big settlement of a trade in U.S. Treasuries – BIS analysts said the growing reliance on the biggest U.S. banks to keep the repo market functioning may have been a big factor. The big four banks, which BIS did not name in its report, have become net providers of funds to repo markets as they account for more than half of all Treasuries held by banks in the United States at the Federal Reserve.

The repo market underpins much of the U.S. financial system, helping ensure banks have liquidity to meet their daily operational needs. In a repo trade, Wall Street firms and banks offer U.S. Treasuries and other high-quality securities as collateral to raise cash, often just overnight, to finance their trading and lending. The next day, borrowers repay the loans plus what is typically a nominal rate of interest and get their bonds back. In other words they repurchase, or repo, the bonds.

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Did the big banks know the Fed would move in? Were there conversations between JPM and the Fed prior to the move into Treasuries??

BIS Offers Stunning Explanation Of What Happened On Repocalypse Day (ZH)

About a month ago, we first laid out how the sequence of liquidity-shrinking events that started about a year ago, and which starred the largest US commercial bank, JPMorgan, ultimately culminated with the mid-September repo explosion. Specifically we showed how JPM’s drain of liquidity via Money Markets and reserves parked at the Fed may have prompted the September repo crisis and subsequent launch of “Not QE” by the Fed in order to reduce its at risk capital and potentially lower its G-SIB charge – currently the highest of all major US banks.

Shortly thereafter, the FT was kind enough to provide confirmation that the biggest US bank had been quietly rotating out of cash, while repositioning its balance sheet in a major way, pushing more than $130bn of excess cash away from reserves in the process significantly tightening overall liquidity in the interbank market. We learned that the bulk of this money was allocated to long-dated bonds while cutting the amount of loans it holds, in what the FT dubbed was a “major shift in how the largest US bank by assets manages its enormous balance sheet.”

The moves saw the bank’s bond portfolio soar by 50%, and were prompted by capital rules that treated loans as riskier than bonds. And since JPM has been aggressively returning billions of dollars to shareholders in dividends and share buybacks each year, JPMorgan had far less room than most rivals to hold riskier assets, explaining its substantially higher G-SIB surcharge, which indicated that the Fed currently perceives JPM as the riskiest US bank for a variety of reasons. An executive at a large institutional investor told the FT that what JPM did “is incredible”, adding that “the scale of what JPMorgan is doing is mind-boggling . . . migrating out of cash into securities while loans are flat.”

The dramatic change, which occurred gradually over the year, and which may have catalyzed the spike in repo rates in September, was first flagged by JPMorgan at an investor event back in February. Then CFO Marianne Lake said that, after years of industry-leading loan growth, “we have to recognize the reality of the capital regime that we live in”. About half a year later, the rest of the world did too when the overnight general collateral rate briefly did something nobody had ever expected it to do, when it exploded from 2% to about 10% in minutes, an absolutely unprecedented move, and certainly one that was seen as impossible in a world with an ocean of roughly $1.3 trillion in reserves floating around.

[..] in a novel twist, the BIS also found that hedge funds exacerbated the turmoil in the repo market with their thirst for borrowing cash to juice up returns on their trades. Here is what the BIS said: “US repo markets currently rely heavily on four banks as marginal lenders. As the composition of their liquid assets became more skewed towards US Treasuries, their ability to supply funding at short notice in repo markets was diminished. At the same time, increased demand for funding from leveraged financial institutions (eg hedge funds) via Treasury repos appears to have compounded the strains of the temporary factors.”

Read more …

Britain.

The Incredible Shrinking Private Sector (G.)

The latest GDP figures released on Wednesday suggest on the surface the overall economy is doing better, but further inspection highlights the underlying weakness. The domestic private sector is in a dire state, having now shrunk for four consecutive quarters – the worst result since the 1990s recession – and the economy is now more dependent on government spending to keep it afloat than at any time since the GFC . First the good news – things are better than we previously thought. The GDP figures contained some fairly significant revisions of past data, based on more accurate underlying data. Whereas in June it appeared the economy grew by just 1.5% – the worst since 2001 – now the ABS estimates in June the economy was growing at an annual rate of 1.7% and is now growing at 1.8% in trend terms:

This is good, and yet it is pretty sad really how low the bar has become to think economic growth can be called “good”. The current growth rate of 1.8% is around 1% point below the long-term trend and well below the old marker of 3% growth that used to be considered average. In the September quarter the economy grew by 0.4% (seasonally adjusted), or 0.5% (trend), still below average, but what is important is where this growth is being generated. The biggest driver was net exports – contributing 0.35% pts of that growth.

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They don’t appear to have all the details figured out.

Northern Ireland Customs Protocol Could Thwart Brexit Plans (G.)

Northern Ireland customs arrangements may thwart Boris Johnson’s plan to leave the EU by December 2020, according to a document said to be leaked from civil servants in the Department for Exiting the EU. In the document, seen by the Financial Times, staff raised concerns about the readiness of the new customs arrangement, calling the protocol to keep part of the EU customs code in Northern Ireland, a “major” obstacle to Brexit delivery. The FT reported that the document was sent to senior Whitehall officials last week and said that implementing the Northern Ireland protocol before next December was a “strategic, political and operational challenge”.

The protocol would implement a form of customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK – an alternative arrangement to the Northern Irish “backstop” in the withdrawal agreement. Civil servants reportedly highlighted the “legal and political” repercussions both within the UK and Europe of failing to deliver Brexit on time, which Boris Johnson has made it the focal issue of his election campaign. Doubt was also cast on the free-trade agreement that Johnson has pledged to establish with the EU next year, with the document, marked “official sensitive”, reportedly stating that “delivery on the ground would need to commence before we know the outcome of negotiations”.

The government said it did not comment on leaks, but insisted that its deal with the EU would comprehensively withdraw the whole of the UK – including Northern Ireland. It reiterated its commitment to complete the process before December 2020.

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“The EU/UK future relationship cannot be settled in 11 months.”

Boris Johnson’s Promise Of Brexit By End Of 2020 Torpedoed By EU Chief (Mi.)

Michel Barnier has torpedoed Boris Johnson’s promise that Brexit will be done and dusted by the end of next year. The Sunday Mirror has seen minutes of a private meeting between the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator and MEPs which rubbish the PM’s pledge. Mr Johnson has said he will not extend the transition period beyond 2020 – which raises the danger of the UK crashing out with no deal. Trade talks are planned after Britain formally leaves the EU on January 31. But Mr Barnier told EU Employment and Social Affairs Committee MEPs: “The EU/UK future relationship cannot be settled in 11 months.” He added that means prioritising some areas while more time will be needed for other issues such as transport.

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Dominic Cummings focuses on social media, not canvassing.

The Invisible Tories (Craig Murray)

I live in a marginal constituency, where the excellent Joanna Cherry of the SNP has a lead of just over 1,000 over the Tories. If the most recent opinion polls are correct, the parties’ standings at this moment are similar to the result last time, the momentum is with the Tories and this should be a key Tory target. Yet I have not received one single Tory leaflet (and I live on one of the main residential streets) nor have I seen one single Tory campaigner, including when I have been out delivering leaflets for Joanna Cherry myself. Nor have I seen one single Tory poster in a house.

It is not just on TV that the Tories have been skipping interviews and debates, they seem to have eschewed any semblance of a ground campaign too, in what presumably is a key target seat for them. Boris Johnson is not popular with any of the local residents I have spoken to, and there is no enthusiasm at all for Brexit in this part of Edinburgh. In short, I am absolutely unable to square the opinion polls with the evidence of my own eyes and ears.

What is your experience?

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Sounds like quite the undertaking.

China Tells Government Offices To Remove All Foreign Computer Equipment (G.)

China has ordered that all foreign computer equipment and software be removed from government offices and public institutions within three years, the Financial Times reports. The government directive is likely to be a blow to US multinational companies like HP, Dell and Microsoft and mirrors attempts by Washington to limit the use of Chinese technology, as the trade war between the countries turns into a tech cold war. The Trump administration banned US companies from doing business with Chinese Chinese telecommunications company Huawei earlier this year and in May, Google, Intel and Qualcomm announced they would freeze cooperation with Huawei.


By excluding China from western know-how, the Trump administration has made it clear that the real battle is about which of the two economic superpowers has the technological edge for the next two decades. This is the first known public directive from Beijing setting specific targets limiting China’s use of foreign technology, though it is part a wider move within China to increase its reliance on domestic technology.

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“We have an answer to all the threats that the Alliance is multiplying in this world.”

NATO Seeks To “Dominate The World”, Eliminate Competitors: Lavrov (ZH)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has charged NATO with wanting to “dominate the world” a day after 70th anniversary events of the alliance concluded in London. “We absolutely understand that NATO wants to dominate the world and wants to eliminate any competitors, including resorting to an information war, trying to unbalance us and China,” Lavrov said from Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, while attending the 26th Ministerial Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). He seized upon NATO leaders’ comments this week, specifically Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, naming China as a new enemy alongside Russia. Stoltenberg declared at the summit that NATO has to “tackle the issue” of China’s growing capabilities.

Lavrov told reporters Thursday: “I think that it is difficult to unbalance us and China. We are well aware of what is happening. We have an answer to all the threats that the Alliance is multiplying in this world.” He also said the West is seeking to dominate the Middle East under the guise of NATO as well. The new accusation of ‘world domination’ comes at a crisis moment of growing and deep divisions over the future of the Cold War era military alliance, including back-and-forth comments on Macron’s “brain death” remarks, and looming questions over Turkey’s fitness to remain in NATO, and the ongoing debate over cost sharing burdens and the scope of the mission.

“Naturally, we cannot but feel worried over what has been happening within NATO,” Lavrov stated. “The problem is NATO positions itself as a source of legitimacy and is adamant to persuade one and all it has no alternatives in this capacity, that only NATO is in the position to assign blame for everything that may be happening around us and what the West dislikes for some reason.”

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Who operated each contraption?

Russian Air Defense System Shot Down US Drone Over Libyan Capital (R.)

The U.S. military believes that an unarmed American drone reported lost near Libya’s capital last month was in fact shot down by Russian air defenses and it is demanding the return of the aircraft’s wreckage, U.S. Africa Command says. Such a shootdown would underscore Moscow’s increasingly muscular role in the energy-rich nation, where Russian mercenaries are reportedly intervening on behalf of east Libya-based commander Khalifa Haftar in Libya’s civil war. Haftar has sought to take the capital Tripoli, now held by Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA). U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, who leads Africa command, said he believed the operators of the air defenses at the time “didn’t know it was a U.S. remotely piloted aircraft when they fired on it.”


“But they certainly know who it belongs to now and they are refusing to return it. They say they don’t know where it is but I am not buying it,” Townsend told Reuters in a statement, without elaborating The U.S. assessment, which has not been previously disclosed, concludes that either Russian private military contractors or Haftar’s so-called Libyan National Army were operating the air defenses at the time the drone was reported lost on Nov. 21, said Africa Command spokesman Air Force Colonel Christopher Karns. Karns said the United States believed the air defense operators fired on the U.S. aircraft after “mistaking it for an opposition” drone. An official in Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) told Reuters that Russian mercenaries appeared to be responsible.

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Sep 282019
 
 September 28, 2019  Posted by at 9:51 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »


Paul Gauguin Harbour scene, Dieppe 1883

 

New Docs Contradict Biden Claim That Fired Ukrainian Prosecutor Was Corrupt (ZH)
Adam Schiff Epitomizes the Total Collapse of Democratic Party Integrity (PCR)
10 Reasons Democrats’ Impeachment Argument Is Falling Apart (Grabien)
Intel Community Secretly Nixed Whistleblower Demand of First-Hand Info (Fed.)
Pompeo Subpoenaed By House Democrats In Trump Impeachment Inquiry (BBC)
Everything the Press Gets Wrong about the Ukraine Call (Scott Adams)
A Dumpster Fire on a Garbage Barge (Kunstler)
Joseph Wilson, US Envoy Who Defied Bush Over Iraq, Dies Aged 69 (BBC)
White House Deliberates Block On All US Investments In China (CNBC)
Western Dominance Is On The Wane – Lavrov at UNGA (RT)
Establishment & Media Sympathize With Greta. So How Is That A Protest? (RT)
Assange Behind Bars (Felicity Ruby)

 

 

As I wrote yesterday: “John Solomon’s account is really important in the impeachment hearings.. And everything he says is documented.”

Solomon is the key figure here.

New Docs Contradict Biden Claim That Fired Ukrainian Prosecutor Was Corrupt (ZH)

Appearing on “Hannity” Thursday night, Solomon explained “These documents show, as I report tonight for the first time, that the very day that Joe Biden managed to get that Ukraine prosecutor fired, that very day his son’s company’s lawyers, the American company lawyers helping Burisma trying to fight this investigation were trying to urgently reach the new prosecutor, the replacement prosecutor.” “In that meeting, according to the official record from the prosecutor, the lawyers for Hunter Biden’s company stated to the replacement prosecutor, we know that the information calling Mr. Shokin was corrupt and was ‘False information distributed by U.S. Government officials and other figures. We would like to make this up to you by bringing you to Washington, you are not corrupt and you instigated numerous reforms.’ That is the official record of the meeting. Ukrainian prosecutors kept.” (via the Daily Caller). According to Solomon, the memos raise troubling questions (via The Hill):


1) If the Ukraine prosecutor’s firing involved only his alleged corruption and ineptitude, why did Burisma’s American legal team refer to those allegations as “false information?” 2) If the firing had nothing to do with the Burisma case, as Biden has adamantly claimed, why would Burisma’s American lawyers contact the replacement prosecutor within hours of the termination and urgently seek a meeting in Ukraine to discuss the case? What’s more, Ukrainian prosecutors attempted to get this information to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) since last summer – first unsuccessfully engaging a US attorney in New York who they say showed no interest, and then reaching out to Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s attorney.

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Schiff was a disgrace in the House- again.

Adam Schiff Epitomizes the Total Collapse of Democratic Party Integrity (PCR)

US Rep. Adam Schiff, Democrat from California and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, had no qualms about lying through his teeth in his opening statement prior to the testimony of Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire. Everyone present had read the transcript of the telephone conversation between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky, and everyone knew that what Schiff, who said he was reading from the transcript of the telephone call, was saying was not in the transcript. How can it be that the chairman of a House committee in a room full of newspersons and TV cameras has no qualms about intentionally misrepresenting the written record in order to make it conform to the lies the Democrats and their stable of corrupt presstitutes have spread about a telephone call revealed by an alleged whistleblower, a likely Democrat operative, who claimed to have heard it second hand.

When I was a member of the Congressional staff, any Representative who so dishonored a committee of the House and the House itself as Schiff has done would have been reprimanded, brought before the Ethics Committee, and forced to resign. But the Democrats have ground integrity under their heel in their fanatical determination to prevent Trump’s reelection. In his opening statement Adam Schiff further showed his total lack of integrity in his assault on the integrity and character of Joseph Maguire and made wild and irresponsible charges probably never witnessed previously in the halls of Congress.

The transcript of the telephone call shows that what the alleged whistleblower said is false. Yet in the face of the evidence Adam Schiff speaks as if the evidence does not exist and that the alleged whistleblower’s second hand statement is true. Once again we hear the Democratic Party say, “Evidence? We don’t need no stinkin’ evidence.” They don’t need evidence because the presstitutes support their lies and control the explanations given to Americans. The Democrats are betting their future on their lies being shielded by their media whores and that the insouciant American people will hear nothing but false allegations against Trump repeated endlessly, as was the case with Russiagate. If the people realize that the “impeachment investigation” is another hoax like Russiagate, Schiff will have destroyed the Democrats’ chances in the next election.

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Key feature: “..the Ukrainian delegation hadn’t even been made aware aid was held up until a month after the Trump call…”

10 Reasons Democrats’ Impeachment Argument Is Falling Apart (Grabien)

1. No quid pro quo. Despite Democrats’ initial claim, there was no quid pro quo. The call transcript shows the topic of aid only came up in reference to how well the U.S. treats Ukraine, particularly as compared to Euro nations, most specifically Germany. At no point does Trump threaten to withhold anything, as even some of Trump’s media critics conceded.

2. Ukrainians weren’t pressured. Democrats and the media have repeatedly insisted President Trump “acted like a mob boss” in applying pressure on President Volodymyr Zelensky. He, however, defended Trump, saying he felt no pressure. “ I think you read everything,” he told reporters in New York this week. “So I think you read text. I’m … I am sorry but I don’t want to be involved to democratic open, uh, hum… [..] .. elections of U.S.A. You’ve heard we had, um, I think good phone call. It was normal. We spoke about many things and I thought so. And I think and you read it that nobody push it, pushed me.”

3. Timeline. Politico’s Ken Vogel reported that the Ukrainian delegation hadn’t even been made aware aid was held up until a month after the Trump call. It’s hard to see they could feel they’re being “extorted,” as Democrats keep saying, if they weren’t even aware of the pressure supposedly being applied.

4. No Illicit Favors. When the White House released the call transcript, readers noticed that after some initial mutual flattery, Zeleznsky brings up buying more Javelin missiles; President Trump then asks for a favor and requests additional information into 2016 election meddling. Rep. Adam Schiff suggested Trump’s request for a “favor” actually referenced wanting dirt on Joe Biden, but Biden only comes up later in the conversation, and in a separate context. Nonetheless, the major media almost uniformly reported the “favor” line from Trump’s call in the same inaccurate fashion.

5. Whistleblower Complaint Lacks Credibility. This complaint, which Democrats for some reason insisted was more important than the call transcript itself, was basically a version of that original call that had been run through a game of telephone. The report had the basic story reasonably accurate, but then supplemented that synopsis with additional accumulated gossip. At least three key details in the complaint have since been shown to be false. As the document is itself a product of hearsay — the self-described whistleblower admits at the beginning of his report that he never witnessed anything — and the fact it contains demonstrable inaccuracies, its importance should certainly be subjugated to the call transcript itself. [..]

9. Rudy. It’s widely reported Rudy Giuliani was Trump’s go-to guy for actually carrying out this conspiracy. On his call, Trump told the Ukraine president to speak with Rudy (as well as AG Barr), about the investigation into an oil company on whose board sat Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son. But Giuliani first communicated with his Ukrainian counterparts more than a year before Biden entered the race. Yes, it’s possible they anticipated Biden eventually entering the race; but it’s also possible Trump actually thought there might be legitimate corruption worthy of investigating. Giuliani tries to prove this point by noting the State Dept. was helping coordinate his communications.

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This is too much.

Intel Community Secretly Nixed Whistleblower Demand of First-Hand Info (Fed.)

Between May 2018 and August 2019, the intelligence community secretly eliminated a requirement that whistleblowers provide direct, first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoings. This raises questions about the intelligence community’s behavior regarding the August submission of a whistleblower complaint against President Donald Trump. The new complaint document no longer requires potential whistleblowers who wish to have their concerns expedited to Congress to have direct, first-hand knowledge of the alleged wrongdoing that they are reporting.

The brand new version of the whistleblower complaint form, which was not made public until after the transcript of Trump’s July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and the complaint addressed to Congress were made public, eliminates the first-hand knowledge requirement and allows employees to file whistleblower complaints even if they have zero direct knowledge of underlying evidence and only “heard about [wrongdoing] from others.” The internal properties of the newly revised “Disclosure of Urgent Concern” form, which the intelligence community inspector general (ICIG) requires to be submitted under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA), show that the document was uploaded on September 24, 2019, at 4:25 p.m., just days before the anti-Trump complaint was declassified and released to the public.

The markings on the document state that it was revised in August 2019, but no specific date of revision is disclosed. The complaint alleges that President Donald Trump broke the law during a phone call with the Ukrainian president. In his complaint, which was dated August 12, 2019, the complainant acknowledged he was “not a direct witness” to the wrongdoing he claims Trump committed. A previous version of the whistleblower complaint document, which the ICIG and DNI until recently provided to potential whistleblowers, declared that any complaint must contain only first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoing and that complaints that provide only hearsay, rumor, or gossip would be rejected.

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You start to feel pity for them.

Pompeo Subpoenaed By House Democrats In Trump Impeachment Inquiry (BBC)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been ordered by Democrats to turn over documents relating to the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine. In a letter, the heads of three House committees subpoenaed Mr Pompeo to produce the documents within a week. It is the latest move in rapidly escalating impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. He is being scrutinised for allegedly pressuring Ukraine’s president to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden. In a separate development on Friday, the US special envoy for Ukraine negotiations, Kurt Volker, resigned, US media reported.


Mr Trump has denied putting any pressure on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a phone call in July, when Mr Biden was leading polls to win the Democratic nomination for the White House race in 2020. Mr Trump has alleged that Mr Biden pressed for the sacking of Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin in 2016 to protect a business that employed his son, Hunter Biden. Mr Biden did call for the sacking of Mr Shokin, even threatening to withhold $1bn (£813m) in aid to Ukraine.

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Everyone understands why the US president needs the room to move, and they’ll grant it to every single one. Except for Trump.

Everything the Press Gets Wrong about the Ukraine Call (Scott Adams)

We give our presidents a lot of flexibility in dealing with foreign affairs because it works better to have one “boss” in these situations. Had Trump permanently withheld funds approved by Congress, that would be a system problem on our end. But temporarily putting a hold on those funds before speaking leader-to-leader is just smart presidenting. It creates the impression that the president is the only American the foreign leader needs to deal with. That’s “setting the table.” Does it matter exactly what Trump was going to discuss, negotiate, or request? Nope. If the only thing Trump did on the phone call was congratulate President Zelensky on his election victory, it would still be smart to hold the funds until then.

We want our president to go into every conversation with foreign leaders fully armed, persuasion-wise. When Trump brings the full weight of the office with him, it sets the table for the current conversations, and every one after that. When Trump withholds funds, pulls out of a deal, or otherwise transfers power from Congress to himself, it makes him a more effective negotiator. It puts him in charge. It is a strong psychological advantage. Compare that approach to sending a president out weak, dependent on Congress to wipe his nose. Those are not similar table settings. Trump knows the difference. So does everyone who read his book, The Art of the The Deal.

We’ve heard Trump say he was concerned about corruption in Ukraine, and that was why he put a hold on the funds. I’m sure that was at least a part of his concern. Probably every American has that same concern about foreign aid in general. But as I said, it doesn’t matter what reason he gives the American public. Regardless of corruption in Ukraine, it was still smart to withhold funds until after the leaders spoke, because it made Trump the only person Zelensky needs to satisfy. That’s what we want from our presidents. We want them going in strong, with the full weight of their office and influence, to every interaction with foreign leaders, every time.

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“Their ongoing campaign to undo the 2016 election is igniting a civil war.”

A Dumpster Fire on a Garbage Barge (Kunstler)

Others have pointed out that the whistleblower’s complaint was composed as a legal brief, leading to the inference that it was constructed by lawyers and perhaps a team of lawyers. The whistleblower’s lawyer is Andrew Bakaj, a former CIA employee who got his start interning for Senator Chuck Schumer and then Hillary Clinton. The Washingtonian said Bakaj “actually wrote the CIA’s internal rules on whistleblowing.” Is that so? Did he write Form 401 then? His client’s complaint states: “I was not a direct witness to most of the events described. However, I found my colleagues’ accounts of these events to be credible because, in almost all cases, multiple officials recounted fact patterns that were consistent with one another.” In other words, second-hand information. Dismissed.

Everyone and his uncle remembers the infamous threat issued to Mr. Trump by Senator Schumer during the transition period in January, 2017: “Let me tell you: You take on the intelligence community — they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” Perhaps Senator Schumer should have kept his pie-hole shut on that. He made it official that the Intel Community would act as an adversary and antagonist to the President, and that appears to be exactly what has happened. One suspects that this rogue agency has captured The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, and several TV cable news networks as well. And now they are metamorphosing into an enemy of the people.

The moment approaches when Mr. Trump will have to carry out a severe housecleaning of the CIA and perhaps many other agencies under the executive branch of the government. Their ongoing campaign to undo the 2016 election is igniting a civil war. Clearly a part of the whistleblower gambit was an attempt to discredit Attorney General William Barr and set up a device that would force him to recuse himself from any further inquiry into shenanigans carried out in and around Ukraine since 2014, when the CIA and the Obama State Department overthrew the government of Viktor Yanukovych. Mr. Barr is a sturdy fellow. He may have seven ways from Sunday for countering their seditious monkeyshines. Wait for it.

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Literally lives destroyed by the Deep State.

Joseph Wilson, US Envoy Who Defied Bush Over Iraq, Dies Aged 69 (BBC)

The US diplomat Joseph Wilson, who defied President George W Bush over the decision to go to war with Iraq, has died aged 69. In 2003, Mr Wilson disproved allegations used by the Bush administration as grounds for invasion that then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had bought uranium in Niger. Days later, his then-wife Valerie Plame was outed as a CIA agent, in what some saw as an act of political revenge. He and Ms Plame divorced in 2017. Ms Plame told the Washington Post that er ex-husband had died of organ failure in a hospice in New Mexico, where they both lived. In a career spanning three decades, Mr Wilson held numerous postings, mainly in Africa. As acting ambassador to Iraq in the run-up to the First Gulf War in 1991, he was the last US diplomat to meet Saddam Hussein.


In 2002, by then a private citizen, Mr Wilson was sent by the CIA on a fact-finding mission to Niger to investigate reports that Iraq had bought a nuclear material – uranium yellowcake. Mr Wilson concluded that the reports were false, but 11 months later they reappeared in Mr Bush’s State of the Union address. They were used as evidence that Iraq was obtaining weapons of mass destruction, and justification for the 2003 war. In July of that year, the former diplomat wrote in the New York Times: “I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons programme was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.”

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May not be all that practical. How about existing investments?

White House Deliberates Block On All US Investments In China (CNBC)

The White House is weighing some curbs on U.S. investments in China, a source familiar with the matter told CNBC. This discussion includes possibly blocking all U.S. financial investments in Chinese companies, the source said. It’s in the preliminary stages and nothing has been decided, the source said. There’s also no time frame for their implementation, the source added. Restricting financial investments in Chinese entities would be meant to protect U.S. investors from excessive risk due to lack of regulatory supervision, the source said. The deliberations come as the U.S. looks for additional levers of influence in trade talks, which resume on Oct. 10 in Washington.


Both countries slapped tariffs on billions of dollars worth of each other’s goods. The discussions also come as the Chinese government is taking steps to increase foreign access to its markets. Bloomberg News first reported earlier on Friday that Trump administration officials are considering ways to limit U.S. investors’ portfolio flows into China, including delisting Chinese companies from American stock exchanges and preventing U.S. government pension funds from investing in the Chinese market. Shares of Alibaba, Baidu and other Chinese companies plunged following the news. China’s yuan weakened to 7.15 against the dollar on the report.

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‘We’re liberals hence anything is permitted to us’”

Western Dominance Is On The Wane – Lavrov at UNGA (RT)

The West ignores reality by trying to prevent the formation of a multi-polar world by imposing its narrow “liberal” rules on others, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has told the UN General Assembly. Lavrov’s speech on Friday at the UN headquarters in New York focused on global challenges but, unlike some of the speakers, he didn’t mince words, proceeding into a full-on rebuke of the Western ideal of world order. New centers of economic growth and political influence are emerging internationally, he said, but the US and its allies are trying to impede the rise of the multi-polar world. In order to achieve this, they “impose the standards of conduct based on narrow Western interpretation of liberalism on others. In short, ‘We’re liberals hence anything is permitted to us’” was how he characterized this attitude.

“It’s hard for the West to accept that its centuries-long domination is diminishing.” “The West has been increasingly forgetting about international law and more often dwell on rules-based order.”

As opposed to this counterproductive approach, lasting solutions to global challenges should be founded “on the basis of the UN Charter, through the balance of interests of all states,” the Russian FM recommended. The top Russian diplomat also expressed hope that Moscow and Washington would agree on an extension of the New Strategic Arms Treaty (New START), which is set to expire in February 2021. All the suggestions that Russia has made to establish additional communication channels to work on the issue are still “on the table,” Lavrov said, as is Moscow’s most recent proposal for NATO to impose a mutual moratorium on the deployment of short- and mid-range missiles in Europe.

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Oh, jeez…: “The Guardian comparing her speech on Monday to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address for its historical significance, and New York Magazine calling her “the Joan of Arc of climate change.”

Establishment & Media Sympathize With Greta. So How Is That A Protest? (RT)

As hundreds of thousands of people – many of them schoolchildren – take to the streets in another demonstration over climate change, one must wonder: at what point does protest become the status quo? Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg’s solo school walkout last August was little more than a sideshow to newspaper editors and TV crews. But the teenage crusader’s ‘school strike’ snowballed, and the ‘Fridays for Future’ movement grew. Now, after an emotional speech by Thunberg at the UN Climate Action Summit on Monday, hundreds of thousands of climate strikers worldwide are packing the streets on Friday, demanding their governments declare a state of emergency, slash carbon emissions, penalize meat-eating and kill the car, to pick but a few of their proposals.

But these radicals – as they would have been called not so long ago – aren’t being met by the batons, tear gas and rubber bullets the state usually deploys to quash dissent (not that any peaceful demonstrations should be). Media outlets aren’t smearing those within their ranks as racists and downplaying attendance numbers, and the crowds occupying city streets aren’t risking injury and mutilation to do so. The very idea of ‘protest’ implies some resistance, some injustice of state to be overcome. Climate protesters would argue that not enough is being done to heal our heating earth – and that’s a debate beyond the scope of this article – but government, media, and the world’s power brokers have aided Thunberg and co’s protest movement at every step of the way.

France’s ‘Yellow Vests’ protests began in opposition to a fossil fuel tax hike, and were met with all of the violence described above on a weekly basis. Thunberg, in contrast, was invited to address the French parliament in July. Likewise with her appearances at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year, her speeches before British parliament and the US Congress, and her most recent UN appearance. On every occasion, the world’s political leaders rolled out the red carpet and held the door open for her to lecture them. Media coverage of Thunberg and the climate protests has been overwhelmingly favorable – with The Guardian comparing her speech on Monday to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address for its historical significance, and New York Magazine calling her “the Joan of Arc of climate change.” The Yellow Vests, to continue the comparison, were described as a rabble of anti-semites and “notorious Holocaust deniers,” based on the actions of a tiny minority of protesters.

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A visit to Belmarsh maximum-security prison. Hard to get through.

Assange Behind Bars (Felicity Ruby)

I have only ever known Julian Assange in detention. For nine years now, I have visited him in England bearing Australian news and solidarity. To Ellingham Hall I brought music and chocolate, to the Ecuadorian embassy I brought flannel shirts, Rake, Wizz Fizz and eucalyptus leaves, but to Belmarsh prison you can bring nothing—not a gift, not a book, not a piece of paper. Then I returned to Australia, a country so far away that has abandoned him in almost every respect.

Over the years I have learned to not ask, ‘How are you?’, because it’s bloody obvious how he is: detained, smeared, maligned, unfree, stuck—in ever-narrower, colder, darker and damper tunnels—pursued and punished for publishing. Over the years I’ve learned to not complain of the rain or remark on what a beautiful day it is, because he’s been inside for so long that a blizzard would be a blessing. I’ve also learned that it is not comforting but cruel to speak of sunsets, kookaburras, road trips; it’s not helpful to assure him that, like me and my dog, he will find animal tracks in the bush when he comes home, even though I think it almost every day.

It is the prolonged and intensifying nature of his confinement that hits me as I wait in the first line outside the front door of the brown-brick jail. At the visitor centre opposite I’ve been fingerprinted after showing two forms of proof of address and my passport. Sure to remove absolutely everything from my pockets, I’ve locked my bags, keeping only £20 to spend on chocolate and sandwiches. Despite the security theatre that follows, the money gets nicked at some point through no fewer than four passageways that are sealed from behind before the next door opens, a metal detector, being patted down and having my mouth and ears inspected. After putting our shoes back on, we visitors cross an outdoor area and are faced with the reality of the cage: grey steel-mesh fencing with razor wire that is about 4 metres high all around. I hurry into the next building before going into a room where thirty small tables are fixed to the floor, with one blue plastic chair facing three green plastic chairs at each.

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Sep 232019
 
 September 23, 2019  Posted by at 10:59 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Paul Gauguin The Seine at the Pont d’Iena 1875

 

Half of Americans Expect A Recession To Hit In The Next 12 Months (MW)
Negative Interest Rates Are The Price We Pay For De-Civilization (Deist)
British Travel Firm Thomas Cook Collapses, Stranding 600,000 Tourists (R.)
No-Deal Brexit Will Have ‘Seismic’ Impact – European Car Industry (G.)
Oil Set To Spike As Saudi Repairs At Abqaiq May Take “Up To Eight Months” (ZH)
Trump Doubles Down On Call To Investigate Biden (Hill)
Trump Hit By Election Dirt From Ukraine… Forget? (RT)
Ted Cruz Insists Iran Wants To Nuke American Cities (RT)
Facebook Declares It’s A ‘Publisher’, Walking Into Legal Trap (RT)
World at a Crossroads (Sergei Lavrov)

 

 

“..21% of Republicans said a recession will likely happen within a year, while 74% of Democrats said a recession is coming..”

Half of Americans Expect A Recession To Hit In The Next 12 Months (MW)

There are more Americans expecting an economic downturn now than there were just before the start of the Great Recession. A Gallup poll released Friday painted a gloomy picture: people are becoming increasingly pessimistic about the economy and bracing for a recession. • 49% of poll participants said a recession will likely arrive in the next 12 months. In October 2007 — two months before the Great Recession began — 40% of poll participants felt the same way. • For the third straight month, a growing share of Americans said the economy is deteriorating, going from 37% in July to 48% in September. At the same time, fewer people said it’s improving, slipping from 54% to 46%. • Republicans are rosy and Democrats are downbeat: 21% of Republicans said a recession will likely happen within a year, while 74% of Democrats said a recession is coming in that time. Independents were evenly split.


Gallup noted it conducted the poll from September 3 to 15, as the latest round of Chinese tariffs took effect, but before the latest interest rate cut. Consumer perceptions weren’t totally glum. Though 49% of people told Gallup a recession is either fairly likely or very likely, another 50% said a recession isn’t too likely, or not likely at all. After all, there’s still a record-breaking 10-year bull market and a 3.7% unemployment rate, which is around a 50-year low. Like consumers, market experts are also divided. Some brush off recession talk, but others say a downturn will happen by the end of 2020.

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“If in fact negative interest rates can occur naturally, without central bank or state interventions, then economics textbooks need to be revised on the quick.”

Negative Interest Rates Are The Price We Pay For De-Civilization (Deist)

“Calculation Error,” which Bloomberg terminals sometimes display, is an apt metaphor for the current state of central bank policy. Both Europe and Asia are now awash in $17 trillion worth of negative-yielding sovereign and corporate bonds, and Alan Greenspan suggests negative interest rates soon will arrive in the US. Despite claims by both Mr. Trump and Fed Chair Jerome Powell concerning the health of the American economy, the Fed’s Open Market Committee moved closer to negative territory today — with another quarter-point cut in the Fed Funds rate, below even a measly 2%.

Negative interest rates are just the latest front in the post-2008 era of “extraordinary” monetary policy. They represent a Hail Mary pass from central bankers to stimulate more borrowing and more debt, though there is far more global debt today than in 2007. Stimulus is the assumed goal of all economic policy, both fiscal and monetary. Demand-side stimulus is the mania bequeathed to us by Keynes, or more accurately by his followers. It is the absurd idea, that an economy prospers by consuming and borrowing instead of producing and saving. Negative interest rates turn everything we know about economics upside down.

Under what scenario would anyone lend $1,000 to receive $900 in return at some point in the future? Only when the alternative is to receive $800 back instead, due to the predicted interventions of central banks and governments. Only then would locking in a set rate of capital loss make sense. By “capital loss” I mean just that; when there is no positive interest paid, the principal itself must be consumed. There is no “market” for negative rates. The future is uncertain, and there is always counterparty risk. The borrower might abscond, or default, or declare bankruptcy. Market conditions might change during the course of the loan, driving interest rates higher to the lender’s detriment. Inflation could rise higher and faster than the agreed-upon nominal interest rate. The lender might even die prior to repayment.

Positive interest rates compensate lenders for all of this risk and uncertainty. Interest, like all economics, ultimately can be explained by human nature and human action. If in fact negative interest rates can occur naturally, without central bank or state interventions, then economics textbooks need to be revised on the quick. Every theory of interest contemplates positive interest paid on borrowed capital. Classical economists and their “Real” theory say interest represents a “return” on capital, not a penalty. Capital available for lending, like any other good, is subject to real forces of supply and demand. But nobody would “sell” their capital by giving the buyer interest payments as well, they would simply hold onto it and avoid the risk of lending.

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150,000 Brits stranded, as are 140,000 Germans. 50,000 stranded in Greece alone.

British Travel Firm Thomas Cook Collapses, Stranding 600,000 Tourists (R.)

Thomas Cook, the world’s oldest travel firm, collapsed on Monday, stranding hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers around the globe and sparking the largest peacetime repatriation effort in British history. Chief Executive Peter Fankhauser said it was a matter of profound regret that the company had gone out of business after it failed to secure a rescue package from its lenders. The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said Thomas Cook had now ceased trading and the regulator and government would work together to bring the more than 150,000 British customers home over the next two weeks. “I would like to apologise to our millions of customers, and thousands of employees, suppliers and partners who have supported us for many years,” Fankhauser said in a statement released in the early hours of Monday morning.


“It is a matter of profound regret to me and the rest of the board that we were not successful.” The government and aviation regulator said that due to the scale of the situation some disruption was inevitable. “Thomas Cook has ceased trading so all Thomas Cook flights are now cancelled,” the CAA said. The demise of Thomas Cook marks the end of one of Britain’s oldest companies that started life in 1841 running local rail excursions before it survived two world wars to pioneer package holidays first in Europe and then further afield. The firm now runs hotels, resorts and airlines for 19 million people a year in 16 countries. It currently has 600,000 people abroad, forcing governments and insurance companies to coordinate a huge rescue operation.

Read more …

Who are UK firms/factories going to sell their cars to?

No-Deal Brexit Will Have ‘Seismic’ Impact – European Car Industry (G.)

The European car industry has warned of catastrophic effects of a no-deal Brexit, saying it would have a “seismic” impact on making cars in Europe. In a rare joint statement, chiefs from 23 automotive business associations across Europe joined forces to caution against a brutal exit from the bloc by Britain, where auto giants BMW, Peugeot PSA and Japan’s Nissan have factories. “Brexit is not just a British problem, we are all concerned in the European automotive industry, and even further,” said Christian Peugeot, head of French automotive industry association CCFA in the statement.

Reaping the benefits of the EU’s single market, carmakers have supply chains that criss-cross the English Channel and Britain is the destination of around 10% of vehicles assembled on the continent, according to industry data. British prime minister, Boris Johnson, has rattled nerves with his vow to leave the European Union on 31 October come what may – with or without a trade deal with Brussels. “The UK’s departure from the EU without a deal would trigger a seismic shift in trading conditions, with billions of euros of tariffs threatening to impact consumer choice and affordability on both sides of the Channel,” the joint statement said.

A chaotic Brexit would land a “severe” blow against the industry’s just-in-time supply chains that stretch across international borders and depend on zero administrative hassle, the associations warned. “The EU and UK automotive industries need frictionless trade and would be harmed significantly by additional duties and administrative burden on automotive parts and vehicles,” said Bernhard Mattes, the head of Germany’s auto lobby VDA.

Read more …

Catch 22: tell the world everything will be fine in no time, but without causing prices to plummet.

Oil Set To Spike As Saudi Repairs At Abqaiq May Take “Up To Eight Months” (ZH)

[..] the WSJ reported that it may take “up to eight month”, rather than 10 weeks company executives had previously promised, to fully restore operations at Aramco damaged Abqaiq facility, suggesting the crude oil shortfall will last far longer than originally expected. The official reason for the delay: the supply-chain is unable to respond to the Saudi needs. Specifically, Aramco is” in emergency talks with equipment makers and service providers, offering to pay premium rates for parts and repair work as it attempts a speedy recovery from missile attacks on its largest oil-processing facilities.” Following a devastating attack on its largest oil-processing facility more than a week ago, Aramco is asking contractors to name their price for patch-ups and restorations.

In recent days, company executives have bombarded contractors, including General Electric , with phone calls, faxes and emails seeking emergency assistance, according to Saudi officials and oil-services suppliers in the kingdom. “One Saudi official said costs could run in the hundreds of millions of dollars”, the WSJ reported. The unofficial, and more likely, version: Aramco is unhappy with how quickly oil prices dropped after the “Iranian attack”, and since its objective from the very beginning – especially with its IPO looming – was to get oil prices higher, and with its reputation to prevent “outside shocks” in tatters, it is now creating its own bottlenecks in restoring output.

Hinting at the second explanation is the fact that until now, Saudi officials and Aramco executives had been consistent in communicating statements aimed at reassuring oil markets that the state-owned company will recover quickly while continuing to supply customers as usual. Just yesterday, Aramco’s CEO Amin Nasser reiterated production would be back to its precrisis level by the end of the month. “Not a single shipment to our international customers has been missed or canceled as a result of the attacks,” he said.

Read more …

Rightly so. Same goes for Trump, of course.

Trump Doubles Down On Call To Investigate Biden (Hill)

President Trump on Sunday doubled down on his call for former Vice President Joe Biden’s dealings with Ukraine to be investigated amid reports of a whistleblower who is said to have raised concerns about the president’s interaction with a foreign leader who may have been Ukraine’s president. “Now the Fake News Media says I ‘pressured the Ukrainian President at least 8 times during my telephone call with him.’ This supposedly comes from a so-called ‘whistleblower’ who they say doesn’t even have a first hand account of what was said,” the president tweeted Sunday evening.

“Breaking News: The Ukrainian Government just said they weren’t pressured at all during the ‘nice’ call. Sleepy Joe Biden, on the other hand, forced a tough prosecutor out from investigating his son’s company by threat of not giving big dollars to Ukraine. That’s the real story!” he added. On Friday, multiple outlets reported that Trump had pressured Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden’s son Hunter Biden during a July call. Trump has not denied that he urged Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden. Earlier Sunday, speaking to reporters outside the White House, Trump insisted there was no quid pro quo involved in the talks with the Ukrainian president, calling it a “perfect conversation.”

Instead, Trump has questioned why the media is not paying more attention to the Democratic front-runner’s actions. He also criticized the whistleblower, saying the official had caused a “false alarm.”

Read more …

No, I do remember.

Trump Hit By Election Dirt From Ukraine… Forget? (RT)

Scroll back to August 2016. The Trump versus Clinton campaigns are in full swing, polls give the Democrat a win, but the Republican is not far behind. So, a pair of Ukrainian officials – a US-linked MP and the head of a freshly created anti-corruption bureau – conspire to illegally leak to the US media material about an ongoing probe into ousted President Viktor Yanukovich and his party. At least that’s how a Ukrainian court in October 2018 described what they had done. In particular, the two leaked photos of a handwritten ledger allegedly showing cash payouts by Yanukovich’s party with the name of Paul Manafort on it.


The same Manafort who was Trump’s campaign manager at the time and was later tried and sentenced for tax evasion and bank fraud as part of the Robert Mueller investigation. There are serious questions about how reliable this leaked ledger was in the first place and how extensive the conspiracy was. The two Ukrainian officials may have acted alone, or on behalf of senior figures in their government wishing to score some points with the perceived future leader in Washington. There are claims of some coordination with people in DC, or rather, the DNC. Whichever the case, one thing is clear: what the Kiev court described was a case of foreign interference in the American election.

Read more …

Ted smokes the good stuff.

Ted Cruz Insists Iran Wants To Nuke American Cities (RT)

Ted Cruz insists Tehran’s grand dream is to nuke American cities and that Iran nuclear deal is to blame for the attack on Saudi oil facilities. The argument was mocked for making no sense, but the hawkish US senator doubles down. The Texas legislator and one of the most vocal cheerleaders of Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran went to the pages of New York Post on Friday to warn the public of an imminent danger. More international sanctions against Iran may soon be dropped under the 2015 nuclear deal, which means Tehran is drawing closer to obtaining nuclear weapons that “could incinerate American cities with a single flash of light.”


America must act now and invoke the so-called snapback mechanism outlined the nuclear deal to keep the sanctions in place and also cut Iran entirely from the global financial system, Cruz said. If you are somewhat puzzled by this line of argument, you are not alone. After all, how can Trump use the nuclear deal, from which he withdrew in the first place, to cudgel Iran more? And what Tehran may hope to win by killing millions of American civilians even if it had the capability to do it?

Read more …

Just became an interesting court case.

Facebook Declares It’s A ‘Publisher’, Walking Into Legal Trap (RT)

Facebook has invoked its free speech right as a publisher, insisting its ability to smear users as extremists is protected, but its legal immunity thus far has rested on a law which protects platforms, not publishers. Which is it? Facebook has declared it has the right, as a publisher, to exercise its own free speech and bar conservative political performance artist Laura Loomer from its platform. Even calling her a dangerous extremist is allowed under the First Amendment, because it’s merely an opinion, Facebook claims in its motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Loomer. But Facebook has always defined itself as a tech company providing a platform for users’ speech in the past, a definition that has come to appear increasingly ridiculous in the era of widespread politically-motivated censorship.


Now, the not-so-neutral content platform has redefined itself as a publisher equipped with a whole new set of rights, but bereft of the protections that have kept it safe from legal repercussions in the past. “Under well-established law, neither Facebook nor any other publisher can be liable for failing to publish someone else’s message,” Facebook’s motion to dismiss Loomer’s defamation suit reads, justifying its decision to ban her from the platform. It also points out that terms like “dangerous” or “promoting hate” cannot be factually verified and are thus constitutionally protected opinions for a publisher, while also claiming it never applied either term to Loomer, despite banning her from its platform under its “dangerous individuals” policy.

Read more …

Lavrov’s long speech at UN this week, via Dmitry Orlov.

“Sergei Lavrov is a world-class diplomatic heavyweight and Russia’s foreign minister. As the saying goes, if you don’t deal with Lavrov, you’ll end up dealing with Sergei Shoigu, defense minister.”

World at a Crossroads (Sergei Lavrov)

The defeat of fascism in 1945 had fundamentally affected the further course of world history and created conditions for establishing a post-war world order. The UN Charter became its bearing frame and a key source of international law to this day. The UN-centric system still preserves its sustainability and has a great degree of resilience. It actually is kind of a safety net that ensures peaceful development of mankind amid largely natural divergence of interests and rivalries among leading powers. The War-time experience of ideology-free cooperation of states with different socioeconomic and political systems is still highly relevant. It is regrettable that these obvious truths are being deliberately silenced or ignored by certain influential forces in the West.

Moreover, some have intensified attempts at privatizing the Victory, expunging from memory the Soviet Union’s role in the defeat of Nazism, condemning to oblivion the Red Army’s feat of sacrifice and liberation, forgetting the many millions of Soviet citizens who perished during the War, wiping out from history the consequences of the ruinous policy of appeasement. From this perspective, it is easy to grasp the essence of the concept of expounding the equality of the totalitarian regimes. Its purpose is not just to belittle the Soviet contribution to the Victory, but also to retrospectively strip our country of its historic role as an architect and guarantor of the post-war world order, and label it a “revisionist power” that is posing a threat to the well-being of the so-called free world.

Interpreting the past in such a manner also means that some of our partners see the establishment of a transatlantic link and the permanent implanting of the US military presence in Europe as a major achievement of the post-war system of international relations. This is definitely not the scenario the Allies had in mind while creating the United Nations.

Read more …

 

Bruce Springsteen turns 70 today.

 

 

 

 

 

Jan 242019
 


René Magritte The black flag 1937

 

One thing I am not is an expert on Venezuela. What I know is the country has the world’s largest oil reserves, mainly in the Orinoco Belt, but they come in a form of tar sands that while they are not as hard to exploit as Canada’s (viscosity), they’re far from easy, and buried deep. And I know Venezuela had Hugo Chávez as its president, who, for a socialist, was quite successful at what he did (depending who you ask).

And I know of course that the US yesterday recognized an opposition leader, Juan Guaido, as the ‘real’ president of Venezuela, instead of the elected Nicolas Maduro, whom Chávez picked as his successor. Soon as I read that, I thought: CIA. If Chávez, and Maduro, are hated in one place in the world, look no further than Langley, Virginia.

So I looked up a few articles I though would be interesting to read. The first comes from a site called Venezuela Analysis, an entity recommended for Venezuela news. They had the article below, but also this enlightening picture:

Note: in 2002, coincident with the attempted coup against Chávez, half the employees at state oil company PDVSA went on strike. They must have felt like clowns, too, 48 hours later.

The article explains what happened in terms you can find everywhere (but are perhaps good to note), except for the last bit:

 

Venezuelan Opposition Leader Guaido Declares Himself President, Recognized by US and Allies

Opposition leader Juan Guaido swore himself in as “interim president” of Venezuela on Wednesday, a move which was immediately recognized by the United States and regional allies. “As president of the National Assembly, before God and Venezuela, I swear to formally assume the competencies of the national executive as interim president of Venezuela,” he declared before an opposition rally in eastern Caracas.

Guaido had already proclaimed on several occasions that he was “ready” to assume the responsibilities of the executive branch, as the US was reportedly considering recognizing him as “interim president.” US authorities reacted swiftly, with President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Senator Marco Rubio immediately voicing their recognition of Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president.

“I will continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy,” Trump said in a statement. Washington’s regional allies, including Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and other members of the so-called Lima Group, were quick to follow suit, giving their backing to the 35-year-old opposition politician.

The Lima Group had set the tone in early January with a statement refusing to recognize Maduro’s second term. Meanwhile, Cuba and Bolivia expressed their support for Maduro, while Uruguay and the new Lopez Obrador government in Mexico refused to recognize Guaido as president and called for dialogue to “avoid an escalation of violence.” Russia and Turkey likewise indicated that their relations with Maduro administration were unchanged.

This last paragraph may be the most important and revealing bit of news we see today:

[..] Torino Capital Chief Economist Francisco Rodriguez, who advised defeated opposition presidential candidate Henri Falcon last year, wrote on Twitter that the recognition from the Trump administration makes it possible for Guaido, or a presumed transition government, to take charge of Venezuelan assets on US soil, such as state oil company PDVSA’s largest subsidiary, CITGO. It could also prevent the Venezuelan government from invoicing payments for oil shipments.

Without CITGO life becomes hard for Maduro, very hard. The company has extensive refining and chemicals capacity in the Houston area, but the US hasn’t been able to touch it until now. If they get enough allies to recognize their CIA puppet as president, they can close it down, sell it off to Exxon, anything they want. But we’re not there yet.

Russia has been very outspoken in its opinions about what’s going on. Its Rosneft oil company has large assets in Venezuela. Just like China has huge loans outstanding in the country. And though it’s hard to gauge how strong the people’s support is for Maduro (don’t believe everything you read), there’s no doubt where the army stands. The whole top brass was on TV today pledging loyalty to the government.

Turkey also came out strong in favor of Maduro. A Turkish site named Yeni Safak talks about social media as an intelligence tool:

 

CIA Launches Media Campaign To Ignite Protests Against Venezuela’s Maduro

The CIA is backing Washington’s decision to recognize Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido as president by manipulating the public opinion against democratically-elected President Nicolas Maduro and the legitimate government over social media platforms. [..] Millions of posts designed to instigate Venezuelans against the country’s legitimate president, Nicolas Maduro, were shared in a very short time to kindle a social unrest against Maduro.

Assoc. Prof. Dr Levent Eraslan unveiled the striking details of the U.S’s perception and deception strategies [..] Stressing the U.S. national intelligence’s strategy report in 2019 that consists Pentagon’s intervention in Venezuelan politics, Eraslan said, “The role of ‘machine learning’ and providing data to decision makers by determining political instabilities through social media were emphasized in the report.”

Noting that thousands of tweets that have been shared from different accounts in the last two days, “People are being called to take streets to overthrow the elected president. The efforts to trigger rebellion and push this process into a bloody situation through social media networks such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook can be observed,” he concluded.

This is from Volkan at DutchTurks; nothing is new (except Facebook as a regime change instrument):

 

 

Hugo Chávez was president of Venezuela from 1999 to his death of cancer in 2013. Whatever you may think of the man, and you don’t have to think hard to know what the CIA thought of him, have you ever wondered why the rampant runaway inflation the country has suffered lately, and which has been blamed by many on ‘socialism’, was not happening while socialist Chávez was alive? This from a site named War Is Boring provides at least some ideas as to why.

 

To Understand Venezuela’s Crisis, Look to the Past … and the CIA

Chavez died of cancer in 2013, and now five years later it seems that his socialist dream, like Allende’s, has failed. Under his successor Pres. Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela has descended into economic and political chaos. Hyperinflation has beset the country, with prices rising at an annualized rate of 1,000,000 percent.

Shortages of basic necessities such as toilet paper and bread have caused mass unrest, culminating in violent protests. Now there is open talk about the need to overthrow Maduro or remove him from power, perhaps through U.S. military intervention.

[..] In Venezuela the figure of Chavez precluded an overthrow of the government there. We know this for a fact because a coup against him in 2002 lasted a matter of hours before mass uprisings and a lack of support from the military forced the plotters to surrender. Chavez was a controversial figure, hated by significant elements of Venezuelan society, but beloved by a majority of the largely poor country and respected by the military.

Chavez announced the return of his cancer in the fall of 2012 and died in March 2013. The current economic crisis kicked into high gear in the late summer of 2012, with inflation — typically high, but manageable — suddenly growing at an exponential rate. The cause typically cited by Western media — a precipitous fall in oil prices — occurred a full two years after the crisis began.

 

[..] Since 2012 Venezuela has faced a twin plague of shortages and rampant inflation. Venezuelan economist Pasqualina Curcio makes the case in her 2016 book The Visible Hand of the Market: Economic Warfare in Venezuela that both phenomena cannot be explained through normal economics, but rather by political causes.

Shortages have been a feature of Venezuelan life since Chavez came to power in 1999, with their magnitude growing over time. Yet over the course of years when Venezuela saw steadily and then sharply increasing shortages both imports and domestic production were also rising. If more products are being brought into the country, and more are being produced, but consumers are experiencing shortages, it begs the question of where the stuff went.

[..] As for inflation, the factors typically involved with currency devaluation–a shortage of foreign reserves or increased liquidity–have not coincided with inflation spikes. Nor has the state hoarded foreign currency as many claim. Curcio shows that 94 percent of foreign reserves were distributed to the private sector, and these distributions have grown over time.

It appears that manipulation of currency black markets — a phenomenon that happened in Chile under Allende as well — and then adoption of this inflated exchange rate by importers to spike the costs of necessary goods, services, and industrial inputs neatly produces the sort of induced inflation plaguing Venezuela today.

Russian foreign minister Lavrov put it nice and succinctly:

The US, which is paranoid about somebody interfering in their elections, even though they have no proof of that, themselves are trying to rule the fates of other peoples. What they actually do is interfere in their internal affairs. There is no need for [US special counsel Robert] Mueller to determine that.

American regime change in other countries is something that perhaps the rest of the world is getting tired of. America instigating chaos in its own southern backyard, like it has for years in the Middle East and North Africa, is getting old in the eyes of many. And the CIA can get Trump to support their puppet, but Trump knows nothing about Venezuela, other than that there’s lots of oil there, and that makes him a CIA puppet too.

Not a good idea.

A lot of what has led up to the present coup has been the US flexing its financial muscle. But the American economy isn’t doing all that great, so it’s not just flexing that muscle, it’s also stretching it. And yeah, there’s an old set of Venezuelan domestic interests that has been faithful, just like there was one in Cuba, but that’s all in the past. That was way back when the US could get away with bullying the whole neighborhood.

And it shouldn’t want to do that anymore. Neither the bullying nor the living in the past.

Not good ideas either.

 

 

Nov 252018
 


Floris van Schooten Still-Life with Glass, Cheese, Butter and Cake 1st half 17th century

 

Assange Lawyers Barred From Visiting Client Ahead Of US Court Hearing (ZH)
‘He Has Moved Incredibly Quickly’: Mueller Nears Trump Endgame (G.)
One Of The Most Spectacularly Misleading Uses Of Statistics Ever (Porter)
Russia A Greater Threat Than ISIS or Al-Queda – New British Army Chief (PA)
European Security Held Hostage By Washington’s Geopolitical Games – Lavrov (RT)
Why Theresa May’s Brexit Deal Is Terrible For The UK (Coppola)
UK Food Banks Fear Winter Crisis (G.)
UK Parliament Seizes Cache Of Facebook Internal Papers (O.)
Trump Says Asylum Seekers To Wait In Mexico, Incoming Government Denies (R.)
Amazon To Contribute Over Half Of Q4 Earnings Growth For S&P 500 Retail (MW)
JPMorgan Spots The Next Big Problem: A Plunge In Global Bond Demand (ZH)
Bear Necessities: The Charts That Predict Market Downturns (MW)
EU Unhappy With China Penetrating Greek Energy Market (K.)
Climate Change Will Wreck Economic Growth – US Government Report (MW)

 

 

These are dark days.

Assange Lawyers Barred From Visiting Client Ahead Of US Court Hearing (ZH)

After being cooped up for six years inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, the Department of Justice is finally closing in on Julian Assange, and the government of Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno is doing everything in its power to evict its most infamous tenant. To wit, lawyers for Assange have been refused entry to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, WikiLeaks announced in a tweet, which has only helped to spur fears that Assange will soon be evicted. And what’s worse, he’s being denied access to legal counsel at a time of desperate need. WikiLeaks said the Ecuadorian government refused to allow Assange’s lawyers, Aitor Martinez and Jen Robinson, to meet with their client this week, which is a huge problem for the whistleblower, because Assange is facing a US court hearing Tuesday, and needs to meet with his legal team to prepare.

The hearing is being called to remove the secrecy order on the charges against Assange (which were only publicly revealed because of a copy and paste error). “The hearing is on Tuesday in the national security court complex at Alexandria, Virginia,” WikiLeaks tweeted, adding it is to “remove the secrecy order on the US charges against him.” Visitors to Assange were only recently readmitted after being cut off by the Ecuadorian government. The government also restored Assange’s communications in October. But this was accompanied by restrictions on Assange’s communications. In another sign that Moreno is preparing to oust Assange, the Ecuadorian government recently terminated the credentials of Ecuador’s London ambassador Abad Ortiz without explanation. As Wikileaks explained: “Now all diplomats known to Assange have now been transferred away from the embassy.”

Read more …

The Guardian has a guy named David Taylor in new York doing a series, in which yesterday he called Robert Mueller: ‘America’s straightest arrow’. Yeah, that’s the same Mueller who lied through his teeth about WMD in Iraq as FBI chief. Taylor lists ‘four distinct parts’ of Mueller investigation, and is fully oblivious to the fact that all four have been thoroughly dismantled long ago. Taylor and the Guardian count on you not reading anything but them.

In a few words:
1• Manafort is not linked to Trump-Russia collusion, not even Mueller suggests that
2• See article below
3• There was no hacking that we know of, and certainly not in connection with WikiLeaks and/or Democratic party
4• Papadopoulos was set up, and only a bit player

‘He Has Moved Incredibly Quickly’: Mueller Nears Trump Endgame (G.)

The investigation, which cost more than $16.6m in its first 11 months, can be broken down into four distinct parts which have all led to indictments:

1• Manafort and his business connections to Russia following years of work in support of the former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

2• Russian use of fake social media accounts to influence the 2016 election.

3• Russian hacking of the Democratic party and the Clinton aide John Podesta – and the subsequent leak of thousands of emails by WikiLeaks.

4• Trump campaign connections to Russia – including the Trump Tower meeting and the adviser George Papadopoulos’s involvement with a professor who told him the Russians had “dirt” on Clinton including “thousands of emails”.

Anne Milgram, a law professor at New York University and a former prosecutor and attorney general of New Jersey, said Mueller and his 17 lawyers had done “a terrific job”. “Months have gone by – people think it’s a long time – it is not in criminal justice,” she said. “He has moved incredibly quickly, got a lot of co-operation agreements, charges, done an extraordinary job of running down Russian hacking of the election.”

Read more …

As per the second point in the article above, here’s Gareth Porter ripping that to shreds.

One Of The Most Spectacularly Misleading Uses Of Statistics Ever (Porter)

What Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 31, 2017 is a far cry from what the Times claims. “Our best estimate is that approximately 126,000 million people may have been served one of these [private Russian company, Internet Research Agency, ‘IRA’-generated] stories at some time during the two year period,” Stretch said. Stretch was expressing a theoretical possibility rather than an established fact. He said an estimated 126 million Facebook members might have gotten at least one story from the IRA –- not over the ten week election period, but over 194 weeks during the two years 2015 through 2017—including a full year after the election.

That means only an estimated 29 million FB users may have gotten at least one story in their feed in two years. The 126 million figure is based only on an assumption that they shared it with others, according to Stretch. Facebook didn’t even claim most of those 80,000 IRA posts were election–related. It offered no data on what proportion of the feeds to those 29 million people were. In addition, Facebook’s Vice President for News Feed, Adam Moseri, acknowledged in 2016 that FB subscribers actually read only about 10 percent of the stories Facebook puts in their News Feed every day. The means that very few of the IRA stories that actually make it into a subscriber’s news feed on any given day are actually read.

And now, according to the further research, the odds that Americans saw any of these IRA ads—let alone were influenced by them—are even more astronomical. In his Oct. 2017 testimony, Stretch said that from 2015 to 2017, “Americans using Facebook were exposed to, or ‘served,’ a total of over 33 trillion stories in their News Feeds.” To put the 33 trillion figure over two years in perspective, the 80,000 Russian-origin Facebook posts represented just .0000000024 of total Facebook content in that time.

Shane and Mazzetti did not report the 33 trillion number even though The New York Times’ own coverage of that 2017 Stretch testimony explicitly stated, “Facebook cautioned that the Russia-linked posts represented a minuscule amount of content compared with the billions of posts that flow through users’ News Feeds everyday.” The Times‘ touting of the bogus 126 million out 137 million voters, while not reporting the 33 trillion figure, should vie in the annals of journalism as one of the most spectacularly misleading uses of statistics of all time.

Read more …

The new army chief himself is the greatest threat.

Russia A Greater Threat Than ISIS or Al-Queda – New British Army Chief (PA)

Russia “indisputably” poses a far greater threat to national security than Islamic terrorist groups such as al-Qaida and Isis, the new head of the British army has warned. General Mark Carleton-Smith said the UK cannot be complacent about the threat Russia poses “or leave it uncontested”. The former SAS commander said Russia had made plain its preparedness to use force to expand its interests, while it had also been “systematic” in its efforts to exploit cyber space and undersea military arenas. “The Russians seek to exploit vulnerability and weakness wherever they detect it,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

“Russia today indisputably represents a far greater threat to our national security than Islamic extremist threats such as al-Qaida and Isil,” he said, using another name for Isis. Carleton-Smith, who graduated from Sandhurst in the final years of the Cold War, took over as chief of the general staff in June. He led the hunt for Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 terror attacks and later spearheaded Britain’s role in the campaign to defeat Isis. Now, with the threat from Islamist groups in the Middle East reduced by years of concerted international military action, the focus needs to shift to Russia, he said. “We cannot be complacent about the threat Russia poses or leave it uncontested,” Carleton-Smith warned.

Read more …

The European arms industry holds the entire continent hostage.

European Security Held Hostage By Washington’s Geopolitical Games – Lavrov (RT)

The blindness of the EU bureaucrats allows the US to instigate dangerous military activity near Russian borders, jeopardizing the security of the whole European continent, Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, said. The Ukrainian crisis, which was used as a justification for sanctions against Moscow, is “a result of geopolitical games, played by the US and their allies in several countries, as well as the blindness of the bureaucrats in Brussels,” Lavrov, who was visiting Portugal on Saturday, said in an interview with local Publico paper. The EU leadership “not only sacrificed its principles and values by turning a blind eye to the armed coup in Kiev, in which a democratically elected president was deposed, but followed Washington’s lead and joined the anti-Russian sanctions,” he added.

In February 2014, Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovich, was removed from power as a result of a violent uprising, in which a key role was played by the radical nationalist groups. A few months later, the new government in Kiev launched the so-called “anti-terrorist operation” in the south-east of the country after the local population refused to recognize the results of the coup. The conflict in Donbas, which has claimed more than 10,000 lives, is still ongoing as the Ukrainian authorities don’t seem willing to commit to the truce earlier reached with the Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.

“And what have we now?” Lavrov wondered. “The architecture of dialogue between Russia and the EU is seriously damaged; the European producers suffer multi-billion losses [due to sanctions and countermeasures by Moscow]; there’s a new conflict in Europe.” Meanwhile, the Americans, who are directly responsible for the “unhealthy situation” in Europe, “suffer no losses,” he said.

Read more …

Good explanation by Frances Coppola of why the Irish border is such a hot iron in the Brexit talks.

Why Theresa May’s Brexit Deal Is Terrible For The UK (Coppola)

After Brexit, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will become an international border, rather than an intra-EU border as at present. In the absence of a trade agreement, both the EU and the U.K. would be obliged to apply the WTO’s “Most Favored Nation” (MFN) rules on that border. This would mean tariffs and regulatory checks on a border which is politically highly sensitive, because of its long history of conflict, and economically extremely important to the economies of Northern Ireland and its southern neighbour. Neither the U.K. nor the EU wants there to be a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland after Brexit. But preventing one is proving difficult.

The U.K. Government proposed technological solutions that it said would eliminate the need for actual checks at the border, but the EU doesn’t believe that the technology exists. The EU proposed a temporary arrangement which would keep Northern Ireland in the Customs Union and Single Market until a free trade agreement could be negotiated, but the U.K. objected on the grounds that customs checks on goods in transit between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. would undermine the U.K.’s own internal market.

The Withdrawal Agreement breaks this deadlock by providing for the U.K. to remain in the EU’s Customs Union, and Northern Ireland in the Single Market, not merely until the end of the transitional period scheduled to end in December 2020, but until a replacement trade agreement can be negotiated, or (potentially) indefinitely if none can be agreed. This is by any measure unsatisfactory. Everyone hates “frozen Brexit.” But the backstop is not the only problem with this deal. Buried in the accompanying Political Declaration, which establishes the framework for future trade negotiations, is this conundrum:

“The future relationship will be based on a balance of rights and obligations, taking into account the principles of each Party. This balance must ensure the autonomy of the Union’s decision making and be consistent with the Union’s principles, in particular with respect to the integrity of the Single Market and the Customs Union and the indivisibility of the four freedoms. It must also ensure the sovereignty of the United Kingdom and the protection of its internal market, while respecting the result of the 2016 referendum including with regard to the development of its independent trade policy and the ending of free movement of people between the Union and the United Kingdom.” When combined with the backstop, this conundrum makes Mrs. May’s deal terrible for the U.K.

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Hostile environment. Signed, Theresa May.

UK Food Banks Fear Winter Crisis (G.)

Food banks in some of the poorest areas are preparing for a big rise in demand when universal credit is rolled out by calling for more donations and volunteers, and stockpiling essential supplies. Volunteers have told the Observer they are concerned about how their communities will cope this winter. In areas where the new benefit has been in place for months, the pressure on food banks has increased. Under the new system, people are made to wait for over a month to receive the benefit. When universal credit is paid out, it is often given as a lump sum, which many find difficult to budget. The Trussell Trust, which operates 428 food banks, reported in April that its facilities were four times busier in areas where the new credit had been in place for 12 months or more compared with those where it had been introduced more recently.

Blackpool, the Isle of Anglesey, Milton Keynes and parts of Liverpool and Glasgow will become some of the last places to introduce universal credit in the coming weeks. Roy Fyles, who supervises the Anglesey food bank, said he was not looking forward to its arrival on 5 December. “Even if there are only a few new claimants between now and Christmas, they will not get any money, unless they request an advance, until the new year,” he said. “We’re talking five weeks.” In nearby Flintshire, the credit piled a lot of pressure on food banks when it was brought in 20 months ago. “We are hoping that, because we’re only a small island, we’ll have fewer problems,” Fyles said. Already, the number of packages his food bank delivers has gone up by a third in the past few months. “We’re preparing by trying to get more volunteers and collecting food for Christmas hampers.”

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Nice twist.

UK Parliament Seizes Cache Of Facebook Internal Papers (O.)

Parliament has used its legal powers to seize internal Facebook documents in an extraordinary attempt to hold the US social media giant to account after chief executive Mark Zuckerberg repeatedly refused to answer MPs’ questions. The cache of documents is alleged to contain significant revelations about Facebook decisions on data and privacy controls that led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It is claimed they include confidential emails between senior executives, and correspondence with Zuckerberg. Damian Collins, the chair of the culture, media and sport select committee, invoked a rare parliamentary mechanism to compel the founder of a US software company, Six4Three, to hand over the documents during a business trip to London.

In another exceptional move, parliament sent a serjeant at arms to his hotel with a final warning and a two-hour deadline to comply with its order. When the software firm founder failed to do so, it’s understood he was escorted to parliament. He was told he risked fines and even imprisonment if he didn’t hand over the documents. “We are in uncharted territory,” said Collins, who also chairs an inquiry into fake news. “This is an unprecedented move but it’s an unprecedented situation. We’ve failed to get answers from Facebook and we believe the documents contain information of very high public interest.” [..] MPs leading the inquiry into fake news have repeatedly tried to summon Zuckerberg to explain the company’s actions. He has repeatedly refused.

Collins said this reluctance to testify, plus misleading testimony from an executive at a hearing in February, had forced MPs to explore other options for gathering information about Facebook operations. [..] The documents seized were obtained during a legal discovery process by Six4Three. It took action against the social media giant after investing $250,000 in an app. Six4Three alleges the cache shows Facebook was not only aware of the implications of its privacy policy, but actively exploited them, intentionally creating andeffectively flagging up the loophole that Cambridge Analytica used to collect data. That raised the interest of Collins and his committee.

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Negotiating.

Trump Says Asylum Seekers To Wait In Mexico, Incoming Government Denies (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted on Saturday that migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border would stay in Mexico until their asylum claims were individually approved in U.S. courts, but Mexico’s incoming government denied they had struck any deal. Mexico’s incoming interior minister said there was “no agreement of any type between the future government of Mexico and the United States.” Olga Sanchez Cordero, also the top domestic policy official for president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador who takes office on Dec. 1, told Reuters that the incoming government was in talks with the United States but emphasized that they could not make any agreement since they were not yet in government.

Sanchez ruled out that Mexico would be declared a “safe third country” for asylum claimants, following a Washington Post report of a deal with the Trump administration known as “Remain in Mexico,” which quoted her calling it a “short-term solution.” The plan, according to the newspaper, foresees migrants staying in Mexico while their asylum claims in the United States are being processed, potentially ending a system Trump decries as “catch and release” that has until now often allowed those seeking refuge to wait on safer U.S. soil.

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At what point will we call it a monopoly? Apparently not at 50%. How about 75%?

Amazon To Contribute Over Half Of Q4 Earnings Growth For S&P 500 Retail (MW)

Amazon.com’s fourth quarter earnings are expected to account for more than half of earnings growth among S&P 500 retailers, according to a report from FactSet. FactSet expects Amazon to report earnings per share of $5.51, more than double the $2.16 the e-commerce giant reported last year. Amazon beat FactSet earnings expectations the last five quarters. “Amazon.com is expected to report the highest earnings growth and is expected to be the largest contributor to earnings growth for the Retailing Industry Group and Food & Staples Retailing Industry Group combined,” wrote John Butters at FactSet. “If Amazon were excluded, the estimated earnings growth for Q4 for these two retail industry groups would fall to 6.8% from 15%.”

Ten of the 13 retail sub-industries, including internet and direct marketing retail (projected for 69.4% growth), automotive retail (expected to be up 22.4%) and home improvement retail (forecast for 20.1% growth) are expected to report higher fourth-quarter earnings. Other categories projected for double-digit growth include general merchandise stores (up 12.3%) and food distributors (up 11.1%). Drug retail, department stores and specialty stores are forecast to grow 6.9%, 6.8% and 6.4% respectively. “Amazon alone accounts for more than half of the projected earnings growth for all S&P 500 retailers for the fourth quarter,” Butters wrote.

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As supply skyrockets, central banks stop buying. A recipe for fun, we’re sure.

JPMorgan Spots The Next Big Problem: A Plunge In Global Bond Demand (ZH)

[..] with traders – across all asset classes, including equity, credit and rates, all focusing on what happens to US Treasury yields next, the JPMorgan strategist revisits his previous analysis on global bond demand and supply, incorporating updated supply forecasts both for the balance of 2018 as well as for 2019. “Given this year has seen the largest increase in excess supply of bonds since 2010, which as we noted last week has together with continued Fed hikes contributed to a tightening in financial conditions that has been reverberating across markets, there has been considerable interest in how next year is shaping up.”

Attention on 2019 is especially acute as the Fed’s balance sheet normalization process is set to accelerate given that it is only in 4Q18 that the monthly cap for the quantity of maturing bonds that are allowed to roll off has reached its steady state of $50Bn/month, which unlike 2018 when QT was just starting, will induce a further increase in net supply that needs to be absorbed by the market of more than $100bn. It’s not just the Fed: with the ECB set to end its QE purchases in December this year and we see the BoJ continuing its gradual slowdown in bond purchases to ¥30tr in 2019 compared to around ¥40tr this year, JPMorgan notes that this collective shrinkage of the G-4 balance sheet means that the market needs to absorb a further decrease in price-insensitive QE demand of more than $400bn next year.

Here’s the bad news: adding together both the supply and demand side impact, the G4 central bank flow looks set to decline a further $550bn next year. Which begs the question: will there be an incremental increase in demand to offset this dramatic net increase in supply in the coming year? JPMorgan’s answer is hardly what bond bulls are looking for…

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Entertainment.

Bear Necessities: The Charts That Predict Market Downturns (MW)

Is a bear market on the horizon? WSJ markets reporter Riva Gold analyzes the trends that came before the dot-com bubble burst and the financial crisis hit.

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Yes, that’s right, lignite. But that’s not what bothers the EU.

EU Unhappy With China Penetrating Greek Energy Market (K.)

Brussels is raising obstacles to Chinese plans to enter Greece’s energy market, reversing the situation in the tender for the privatization of Public Private Corporation’s lignite-fired plants where CHN Energy had appeared to be the favorite. Days before bid submissions for the four plants at Meliti and Megalopoli, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy sent a letter to Greece’s Regulatory Authority for Energy, seen by Kathimerini, raising the issue of European law violation and asking for the review of ADMIE’s certification after China State Grid purchased 24 percent of the grid operator.

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People may feel vindicated in some way because of this, especially because of Trump. But really, expressing environmental damage in dollars is a road to nowhere at all. If economic growth is your main worry, you’re not too smart.

Climate Change Will Wreck Economic Growth – US Government Report (MW)

Climate change is a threat to Americans’ health and the country’s economic well-being, a major report issued Friday by 13 federal agencies said. “Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century,” wrote the authors of the Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II. The report, authored by more than 300 experts, spells out a litany of impacts linked to climate change, including problems with human health, water quality, agriculture, tourism, and infrastructure.

Flooding will decrease crop yields, warming oceans will slow the shellfish industry, and heat stress will cause a drop in dairy production, the authors wrote, describing just a few of the economic effects. If people don’t take action to lessen its effects, climate change is expected to affect import and export prices and U.S. businesses with overseas operations and supply chains, the report notes. “With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century — more than the current GDP of many U.S. states,” the authors wrote.

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Aug 212018
 
 August 21, 2018  Posted by at 8:38 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  10 Responses »


Henri Matisse The painter and his model 1916-17

 

China’s Biggest Risk May Be Its Property Market – Not The Trade War (CNBC)
Why Do American CEOs Get Paid So Much? (Galbraith)
Trump Says It Is ‘Dangerous’ For Twitter, Facebook To Ban Accounts (R.)
Trump Worries That Mueller Interview Could Be A ‘Perjury Trap’ (R.)
Trump Demands Fed Help On Economy, Complains About Interest Rate Rises (R.)
UK’s Hunt To Call On Trump To Impose Fresh Sanctions On Russia (G.)
‘Secret Directive’ Bans UN Agencies From Helping Rebuild Syria – Lavrov (RT)
UK Household Debt Balloons To £19bn As Bailiff Problems Multiply (Ind.)
NHS Leak Warns Of Brexit Drug Shortages And Disease Risk (G.)
Jacinda Ardern Freezes New Zealand MPs’ Pay To Tackle Rich-Poor Divide (G.)
Salvini Refuses To Let In Refugees After Coastguard Ship Docks (G.)
What Being Back in the Markets Actually Means for Greece (TPP)
The Winners Will Lose and the Losers Will Win (Kunstler)
The Inescapable Weight Of My $100,000 Student Debt (G.)

 

 

“Real estate investment accounts for about two-thirds of Chinese household assets..”

China’s Biggest Risk May Be Its Property Market – Not The Trade War (CNBC)

China’s hot real estate market remains a challenge for authorities trying to maintain stable economic growth in the face of trade tensions with the U.S. In fact, property is the country’s biggest risk in the next 12 months, much greater than the trade war, according to Larry Hu, head of greater China economics at Macquarie. He said he is especially watching whether the real estate market in lower-tier, or smaller, cities will see a downturn in prices or housing starts after recent sharp increases. Real estate investment accounts for about two-thirds of Chinese household assets, according to wealth manager Noah Holdings. The property market also plays a significant role in local government revenues, bank loans and corporate investment.

As a result, a sharp slowdown in the real estate market’s growth and drop in prices would have a negative affect on overall economic growth. So far, the market has been hot: The average selling price for newly built non-governmental housing in 60 tier-three and tier-four cities tracked by Tospur Real Estate Consulting rose 28.1 percent from January 2016 to May 2018. [..] Last week, Nanjing, a tier-two city, announced a ban on corporate purchases of residential properties, following similar moves to limit speculation by Shanghai and some other cities. That’s a good move for controlling risk, according to Joe Zhou, real estate and investment management firm JLL’s regional director for China capital markets. He said the government is not likely to loosen its policy soon and that prices could decline on average.

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“The reliance of tech firms on venture capital and bubble psychology, rather than cash flow..”

Why Do American CEOs Get Paid So Much? (Galbraith)

A new report from the Economic Policy Institute calls attention to the hardy perennial of how much America’s corporate titans make: bosses of the top 350 firms made an average of $18.9m in 2017. That’s a ratio of 312-1 over the median worker in their industries. Big bucks to be sure. And a big change since 1965, when the ratio was just 20-1. But what does it mean? And if there’s a problem, what is it, exactly? What it means, as the EPI economists carefully document, is that the top US corporate chiefs are paid overwhelmingly with stock options, and their income fluctuates with the market. About 80% of the pay packet is in stocks, and the rise of 17% in 2017 after two flat years surely suggests that the top CEOs (not unreasonably) sensed the market peaked last year.

So they cashed in. On the other 20% of the pay packets, no gains occurred. The US numbers have shock value. But bear in mind that they reflect not only the way companies are run, but also changes over decades in the structure of the US economy and tax law, specifically the rise of market valuations in technology and finance at the expense of the major industrial corporations, and a corresponding decline in unions, which held down the ratios in the sectors the industrial firms dominated a half century back. Plus, there is the radical decline in top marginal tax rates on income and capital gains, beginning in 1978, which gave executives strong reasons to restructure their pay away from inside-the-corporation perks (the penthouses and country clubs of yore) and toward cash and capital assets.

The reliance of tech firms on venture capital and bubble psychology, rather than cash flow, deepened this trend. Note also that there is something a bit artificial about the resulting “wealth.” Jeff Bezos may have a net worth of over $150bn, mostly in Amazon stock, but he couldn’t convert it into cash if he wanted to, neither by selling nor by borrowing. Any effort to sell would demolish Amazon’s valuation and hence his own fortune. The rich aren’t like us – they have more money, true, but some of it isn’t really money and it can disappear, by the billions, pretty fast.

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As I wrote yesterday, this will have to change.

Trump Says It Is ‘Dangerous’ For Twitter, Facebook To Ban Accounts (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that it is “very dangerous” for social media companies like Twitter and Facebook to silence voices on their services. Trump’s comments in an interview with Reuters come as the social media industry faces mounting scrutiny from Congress to police foreign propaganda. Trump has made his Twitter account – with more than 53 million followers – an integral and controversial part of his presidency, using it to promote his agenda, announce policy and attack critics. Trump previously criticized the social media industry on Aug. 18, claiming without evidence in a series of tweets that unnamed companies were “totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices.”

In the same post, Trump said “too many voices are being destroyed, some good & some bad.” Those tweets followed actions taken by Apple, Alphabet, YouTube and Facebook to remove some content posted by Infowars, a website run by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Jones’ own Twitter account was temporarily suspended on Aug. 15. “I won’t mention names but when they take certain people off of Twitter or Facebook and they’re making that decision, that is really a dangerous thing because that could be you tomorrow,” said Trump.

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Also mentioned yesterday. Chances of a sitdown in the next 10 days don’t look good.

Trump Worries That Mueller Interview Could Be A ‘Perjury Trap’ (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday he was worried that any statements under oath he provides to Special Counsel Robert Mueller could be used to bring perjury charges against him as part of the probe into Russia’s electoral interference. In an interview with Reuters, Trump echoed the concerns of his top lawyer in the probe, Rudy Giuliani, who has warned that any sit-down with Mueller could be a “perjury trap.” The president expressed fears that investigators could compare his statements with that of others who have testified in the probe, such as former FBI Director James Comey, and that any discrepancies could be used against him.

“So if I say something and he (Comey) says something, and it’s my word against his, and he’s best friends with Mueller, so Mueller might say: ‘Well, I believe Comey,’ and even if I’m telling the truth, that makes me a liar. That’s no good.” Despite his concerns, Trump did not comment on whether he would ultimately agree to an interview with Mueller, who is, among other things, investigating whether Trump’s campaign team colluded with Russians during the 2016 election and whether Trump has obstructed justice in the probe. Trump also declined to say whether he might strip Mueller of his security clearance, as he did last week to former CIA Director John Brennan, who had repeatedly criticized Trump’s handling of foreign policy and national security issues.

“I haven’t given it a lot of thought,” he said. [..] Trump asserted that he retained the power to intervene in the probe, but that he had chosen not to do so for the moment. His administration, Trump said, was “a smooth-running machine, except in that world. And I’ve decided to stay out. Now I don’t have to stay out. “I can go in, and I could do whatever — I could run it if I want. But I decided to stay out,” he said. “I’m totally allowed to be involved if I wanted to be. So far, I haven’t chosen to be involved. I’ll stay out.”

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Whatever the predictable comments on this, what he really does is confirm the Fed’s independence.

Trump Demands Fed Help On Economy, Complains About Interest Rate Rises (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday he was “not thrilled” with the Federal Reserve under his own appointee, Chairman Jerome Powell, for raising interest rates and said the U.S. central bank should do more to help him to boost the economy. In the middle of international trade disputes, Trump in an interview with Reuters also accused China and Europe of manipulating their respective currencies. American presidents have rarely criticized the Fed in recent decades because its independence has been seen as important for economic stability.

Trump has departed from this past practice and said he would not shy from future criticism should the Fed keep lifting rates. The president spooked investors in July when he criticized the U.S. central bank’s over tightening monetary policy. On Monday he said the Fed should be more accommodating on interest rates. “I’m not thrilled with his raising of interest rates, no. I’m not thrilled,” Trump said, referring to Powell.

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Nobody Hunt goes to Washington with veiled criticism of Trump. Good luck with that.

UK’s Hunt To Call On Trump To Impose Fresh Sanctions On Russia (G.)

The British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is to urge Donald Trump to face down Moscow’s threat to western values by imposing wider economic sanctions against Russia and agreeing new rules to protect the legitimacy of democratic elections. In a speech in Washington on Tuesday during his first visit since taking over from Boris Johnson as the UK’s most senior diplomat, Hunt will specifically call for tighter regulation of online political advertising and new measures to prevent cyber attacks on electoral machinery. Hunt will also throw out a challenge to Trump’s protectionist policies by warning a weakening of free trade will only damage western economies, and ultimately western political power.

He will say the emergence of an international order based on the application of law rather than might had led to an exponential growth in trade, leading to extraordinary advances in economic and social prosperity across the globe. He will also call for Nato to set clearer red lines about Russia’s use of chemical weapons and incursions into foreign territory such as the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Without directly challenging the legitimacy of Trump’s election as president in 2016, he will point to the drawbacks in many recent democratic outcomes, saying: “The heart of any democracy is freedom of expression, which allows citizens to access independent information to help decide who to vote for. But the ubiquity of fake news, social media targeting and foreign attempts to manipulate elections have undermined confidence that this can actually happen.”

Any tarnishing of Trump’s electoral mandate is highly perilous territory for a foreign politician, and Hunt will temper his criticism by saying western leaders should not deceive themselves that populism is merely a byproduct of social media spreading fake news.

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Rebuilding Syria can solve a large part of Europe’s refugee problem, and US and UN are holding it back?

‘Secret Directive’ Bans UN Agencies From Helping Rebuild Syria – Lavrov (RT)

Washington’s “absolutely deconstructive” stance is hampering the rebuilding of Syria and constricts the UN in aiding the country until a so called ‘political transition’ takes place, Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, said.
“We addressed UNESCO on how they plan to implement the longtime talks, the longtime understanding on attracting the potential of this organization to rebuilding Palmyra,” an ancient city, regarded by the agency as a World Heritage Site, Lavrov said. “From the explanations of why UNESCO has still been unable to get involved in this process actively, we took that there was some kind of a directive from the United Nations headquarters in New York.”

He said that the UN Secretariat, which is the organizations’ executive arms, has “actually issued and distributed a secret directive throughout the UN system in October last year that prohibited the agencies included in this system from participating in any kind of projects aimed at restoring the Syrian economy.” Only humanitarian aid and nothing more” was allowed, the minister told the journalists after talks with Lebanese counterpart, Gebran Bassil, in Moscow. “A term was put forward that restoration of Syria would only be on the agenda after a certain progress is made in the so-called political transition” in the country, he added. The Russian Foreign Ministry also said that due to the “absolutely deconstructive” stance of the US one also shouldn’t expect any positive decisions on rebuilding Syria and return of refugees to the country from the UN Security Council.

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“People can face having their essential services cut off, be kicked out of their home due to rent arrears or even face prison if they get behind on their council tax..”

A country moving backwards.

UK Household Debt Balloons To £19bn As Bailiff Problems Multiply (Ind.)

UK households have fallen behind on essential bills such as council tax and electricity by as much as £18.9bn, according to Citizens Advice, which says it helps someone with bailiff-related problems every three minutes. The total outstanding debt includes almost £7.5bn in tax credit overpayments, £2.84bn owed in council tax and £2.2bn owed to water companies. Household debt has now overtaken consumer credit as the main money problem people contact Citizens Advice about, and the charity said that falling behind on household bills “has more severe consequences than missing consumer credit repayments”, such as overdrafts and personal loans.

“People can face having their essential services cut off, be kicked out of their home due to rent arrears or even face prison if they get behind on their council tax,” Citizens Advice warned. The charity said it had seen a 24 per cent increase in bailiff problems since the government introduced reforms in 2014 that were meant to protect people from unfair bailiff practices. Under the reforms, bailiffs are no longer allowed to make late-night visits to collect debts, and are prevented from using force against people who owe money, amongst other rules.

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Since there is no progress on many essential Brexit elements, this is not some doom fantasy.

NHS Leak Warns Of Brexit Drug Shortages And Disease Risk (G.)

Hospitals face running out of drugs in a chaotic no-deal Brexit, the group that represents NHS hospital and ambulance service has privately warned. Poor co-ordination by ministers and health service bosses means there has been a failure to prepare for the UK to be left without a Brexit deal, a leaked letter from NHS Providers said. “Public health and disease control co-ordination could suffer,” said NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson, setting out how a hard Brexit or no deal could negatively effect “the entire supply chain of pharmaceuticals” and “jeopardise” the EU citizens making up the “workforce on which the NHS relies”. Hopson’s letter, sent to NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens and NHS Improvement chief Ian Dalton on Friday, was leaked to the Times.

Hopson said the possibility of a no-deal or hard Brexit “with minimal regulatory alignment appears to be growing … For as long as that risk remains it is important that detailed operation planning is undertaken across the NHS. “Yet trusts tell us that their work in this area is being hampered by the lack of visible and appropriate communication. “Our members have begun planning … but they have hit a problem, in that some activities are clearly best done at a national level and, in the view of trusts, are best co-ordinated by NHS England and NHS Improvement. “However there has been no formal communication to trusts from either of your organisations on this issue.”

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Always risky to cut your immediate colleagues, but makes a ton of sense.

Jacinda Ardern Freezes New Zealand MPs’ Pay To Tackle Rich-Poor Divide (G.)

Jacinda Ardern has frozen the salaries of New Zealand’s MPs, saying the pay rises were out of step with the wider workforce and were adding to the rich-poor divide. The radical move has cross-party support from Ardern’s coalition partners, as well as the opposition National party. MPs’ salaries and allowances would be frozen till July 2019, Ardern said, while “a fairer formula for future pay increases” is developed for those in politics, who earn between NZ$163,000 ($108,000) to more than NZ$450,000 ($300,000). Ardern said the freeze was “the right thing to do” and was not about cost-cutting, but making New Zealand a more equitable nation.

The PM was prompted to take action after the Remuneration Authority recommended MPs receive a 3% pay rise, in a year that is seeing widespread strike action by teachers, nurses and other workers across New Zealand. Ardern earns more than NZ$450,000 a year, making her the fifth-highest paid leader in the OECD, and better paid than Canada’s Justin Trudeau and the UK’s Theresa May. According to a survey by Stuff, 62% of New Zealanders think the country’s prime ministers are paid too much. Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull earns the largest salary of any leader in the OECD. “It’s about whether or not it’s right that we receive a 3% pay increase that continues to extend that gap between those on the highest incomes and those on lower and more modest incomes,” Ardern told Radio NZ today.

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The EU MUST come up with a plan.

Salvini Refuses To Let In Refugees After Coastguard Ship Docks (G.)

An Italian coastguard ship with 177 people on board has docked in the Sicilian seaport of Catania, but Italy’s far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini has not given authorisation for the refugees and migrants to disembark. The passengers, who have been stuck on the coastguard boat Ubaldo Diciotti for five days will not be allowed on land until “Europe steps in to help’’, Salvini said. The Diciotti picked up 190 refugees and migrants last Wednesday from an overcrowded boat about 17 sea miles from the island of Lampedusa. Thirteen of them were evacuated for emergency medical treatment. Since then, Rome has insisted that Malta should take the group because their boat first passed through its search-and-rescue area.

But Malta has refused, claiming that the migrants wanted to reach Italy. Questioned by the Italian authorities, the 13 evacuated migrants claimed that the Maltese had escorted them outside its search-and-rescue zone. On Monday afternoon, after three days of negotiations, Italy’s transport minister Danilo Toninelli announced finally on Twitter that “The Diciotti ship will dock in Catania.” But shortly afterwards, sources close to Salvini said he had not given the authorisation to disembark, suggesting the boat was granted permission to dock but the migrants will have to remain on board. Salvini said on Italian TV: “The ship may land in Italy, as long as the 177 migrants are distributed, in a spirit of solidarity by the EU.”

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What does it mean? More debt.

What Being Back in the Markets Actually Means for Greece (TPP)

The devil, as they say in English, lies in the details. Being ‘back in the markets’, ‘turning a page,’ even declaring ‘the end of the Greek Crisis’ have all become commonplace expressions over the past few weeks. But what does this substantively mean? It means that an economy that has shrunk by around 25% saw, due to that shrinkage, its debts go up by about the same amount, despite near 100 billion Euro in debt being wiped off in 2012. Current outstanding Greek debt stands at 343 billion Euro. It now needs to pay a large chunk of that back to get back to where it was in 2008, with 109% debt to GDP.

The years of the Greek crisis (2010-2018) were the years that former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis famously described as the years of ‘extend and pretend.’ The EU would extend more credit (debt) to Greece that Greece would pretend to pay back. While most of the bailout cash prior to 2013 went through Greece back to Northern Banks, after 2013 most of the Debt was held by an opaqueprivate financial institution housed in Luxemburg called the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). It’s the debts held by the ESM, and the loans disbursed by the ESM, that have been the focus of the new game of extend and pretend that is called variously ‘debt-relief’ and Greece ‘being back in the markets.’

Consider the following. The ESM lent 86 Billion Euro to Greece between August 2015 and July 2018. The final tranche of these loans will not be paid back until 2060, with payments beginning in 2034. This ten year deferral of payments along with an interest rate reduction to an average of 1.62% across issues is the much heralded debt relief agreement of June 21st 2018. All things considered, and given real ‘go to the market’ alternatives if you have Greece’s bond rating, this is not a bad deal – on paper. These measures, plus the final bailout cash being added to cash reserves, means that Greece will actually not have to return to the markets for funding for almost two years. Given this, the ‘return to the markets’ comes with some pretty large airbags, all of which makes buying Greek debt more attractive, hence recent bond rating upgrades. So, we are extending, but what are we still pretending?

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“..Pabst Blue Ribbon by the case!”

The Winners Will Lose and the Losers Will Win (Kunstler)

What a revoltin’ development, as Chester A. Riley used to say on “The Life of Riley” TV show back in 1955, when America was great (at least that’s the theory). Riley was an original deplorable before the concept even emerged from the murk of early pop culture. He worked in an aircraft factory somewhere in southern California, which only a few decades prior was the mecca of an earlier generations of losers: the Oakies and other Dust Bowl refugees who went west to pick fruit or get into the movies. Chester A. Riley supported a family on that job as a wing-riveter. All the male characters in the series had been through the Second World War, but were so far removed from the horror that the audience never heard about it.

That was the point: to forget all that gore and get down with the new crazes for backyard barbeque, seeing the USA in your Chevrolet, enjoying that healthful pack of Lucky Strikes in the valley of the Jolly Green Giant… double your pleasure, double your fun… and away go troubles down the drain…. As Tom Wolfe pointed out eons ago, the most overlooked feature of post-war American life was the way that the old US peasantry found themselves living higher on the hog than Louis the XVI and his court at Versailles. Hot and cold running water, all the deliciously engineered Betty Crocker cake you could eat, painless dentistry, and Yankees away games on Channel 11, with Pabst Blue Ribbon by the case! By 1960 or so, along came color TV and air-conditioning, and in places like Atlanta, St. Louis, and Little Rock, you barely had to go outside anymore, thank God! No more heat stroke, hookworm, or chiggers.

It was a helluva lot better than earlier peasant classes had it, for sure, but let’s face it: it was kind of a low-grade nirvana. And a couple of generations beyond “The Life of Riley” the whole thing has fallen apart. There are few hands-on jobs that allow a man to support a family. And what would we even mean by that? Stick the women back in kitchen and the laundry room? What a waste of human capital (even for socialists who oppose capital). The odd thing is that there is increasingly little for this class of people to do besides stand near the door of the WalMart, and if the vaunted tech entrepreneurs of this land have their way with robotics, you can be sure there would be less than nothing for them to do… except crawl off and die quietly, without leaving an odoriferous mess.

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Long read. Steve Keen comments: This will doom the USA to stagnation: a generation with too much debt and no prospect of using credit like the previous generation.

The Inescapable Weight Of My $100,000 Student Debt (G.)

On Halloween in 2008, about six weeks after Lehman Brothers collapsed, my mother called me from Michigan to tell me that my father had lost his job in the sales department of Visteon, an auto parts supplier for Ford. Two months later, my mother lost her job working for the city of Troy, a suburb about half an hour from Detroit. From there our lives seemed to accelerate, the terrible events compounding fast enough to elude immediate understanding. By June, my parents, unable to find any work in the state where they spent their entire lives, moved to New York, where my sister and I were both in school. A month later, the mortgage on my childhood home went into default.

After several months of unemployment, my mother got a job in New York City, fundraising for a children’s choir. In the summer of 2010, I completed my studies at New York University, where I received a BA and an MA in English literature, with more than $100,000 of debt, for which my father was a guarantor. My father was still unemployed and my mother had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. She continued working, though her employer was clearly perturbed that she would have to take off every Friday for chemotherapy. To compensate for the lost time, on Mondays she rode early buses into the city from the Bronx, where, after months of harrowing uncertainty, my parents had settled. She wanted to be in the office first thing.

In January 2011, Chase Bank took full possession of the house in Michigan. Our last ties were severed by an email my father received from the realtor, who had tried and failed to sell the property, telling him he could now cancel the utilities. In May, I got a freelance contract with a newspaper that within a year would hire me full-time – paying me, after taxes, roughly $900 every two weeks. In September 2011, my parents were approved for bankruptcy, and in October, due to a paperwork error, their car was repossessed in the middle of the night by creditors. Meanwhile, the payments for my debt – which had been borrowed from a variety of federal and private lenders, most prominently Citibank – totalled about $1,100 a month.

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Apr 152018
 
 April 15, 2018  Posted by at 9:50 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  19 Responses »


 

Russia Claims OPCW Manipulated Skripal Findings (AFP)
To Opt Out Of Facebook’s Tracking, I’m Going To Have To Join Facebook (Wired)
Tesla Is The Worst Car Manufacturer In The Developed World (F.)
New Lawsuit Alleges Musk Knowingly Lied About Model 3 Production (ZH)
Subprime Stages Comeback As ‘Non-Prime’ (CNBC)
247,977 Stories In The Vacant City (NYDN)
Judge Rules Exxon Can’t Stop Probe Into Whether They Lied For Decades (Ind.)
World May Hit 2ºC Warming in 10-15 Years Thanks to Fracking (NC)
‘There Is No Such Thing As Past Or Future’ (G.)
Time is Elastic (Rovelli)

 

 

Curiouser. You’d think Russia doesn’t just make up an entire Swiss lab.

Russia Claims OPCW Manipulated Skripal Findings (AFP)

Moscow on Saturday accused the chemical weapons watchdog of manipulating the results of its investigation into the poisoning of a former Russian spy, saying his samples had traces of a nerve agent used by the west. Britain says former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were last month targeted with a nerve agent of the novichok family, which was developed in the Soviet Union. The attack shredded ties between Russia and Britain and led to a crisis in relations between Moscow and the west including a huge wave of tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has said it confirmed “the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical” without naming the substance involved.

On Saturday, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, claimed the UN-linked Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had sent the Skripals’ biomedical samples to Swiss experts who found they contained traces of the nerve agent BZ, used by the west. “According to the results of the examination, the samples had traces of toxic chemical BZ and its precursors,” Lavrov said, citing what he said was “confidential information”. “Russia and the USSR never developed such chemical substances,” he said. “In this regard we are asking the OPCW why the information which reflected the conclusions of specialists from the Spiez laboratory was completely omitted from the final document.”

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Not a discussion we should leave up to Facebook. Or Congress.

To Opt Out Of Facebook’s Tracking, I’m Going To Have To Join Facebook (Wired)

Now I know what you’re thinking. What kind of person has never been on Facebook? I’d like to tell you it was all about privacy, but the truth is, I just had a bad feeling about it. You see, I went to Cambridge, so I was one of the first to get the chance to join what you insist on calling your “community.” And almost instantly, it was clear that it turned people into wankers. (Bigger wankers. This was Cambridge, after all.) If I remember correctly, in the early days everyone was desperate to have a higher friend count. Then it was obsessive tagging in photos. Yes, even in its earliest days, your system brought out the worst in people.

It’s not easy, not being on Facebook. At first, it was the parties. At a certain point, people stopped sending email invites. They just assumed you were on Facebook – and, if you weren’t, you didn’t find out. I’m 35 now, so I don’t get invited to parties, unless they’re for small children. Instead, I miss out on work, because I can’t contact people or share my articles. When you finally make journalism pivot to Facebook Groups, I’ll be completely screwed. I considered joining many times. But every time I aired the thought, I got the same reaction: “Don’t! It’s the worst!” I wasn’t sure if I remembered this correctly, so I called a few people to check. All agreed: they hate your service, but they have to use it, because everyone else does. (One person objected. She works in your London office.)

Every other social network, even Twitter, has a core of fans that genuinely wish it well. You’re the sole exception. Then I got into tech, and privacy, and data protection, and I learned that you were throttling internet freedoms in developing countries, and letting random strangers see your users’ most intimate details, so I started becoming one of those paranoid people who uses a VPN all the time, and puts a scrap of torn-off Post-It note on their laptop camera. Just like you! But you probably knew all this about me anyway. Which brings me back to my question. In your testimony to Congress, you said: “Anyone can turn off or opt out of any data collection for ads, whether they use our services or not.”

But, as you should know, while that’s possible for someone on Facebook, for me, a non-Facebook user, it’s not. Your illegal trackers follow me across 30 per cent of the internet, building a “shadow profile” you store in a nonanonymised format in your “Hive” analysis database. You claim to do it “for security purposes” (let me tell you, if Facebook’s security requires you to surveil the world’s population, then you have made a desert and called it peace). But reporters – and people who used to work in your advertising team – say the information is collected to improve the friend suggestions you’ll give me in case I do ever sign up. It’s one more growth hack on a whole site of them.

What can I do to stop you? I’ve installed tracker blockers on my browser, but, since you killed the media business, a lot of my favourite sites make me disable them. And your trackers work in the apps on my phone. Unless I go full tin-foil hat (and it’s tempting), you’ve basically left me with one option. To opt out of Facebook’s tracking, I’m going to have to join Facebook. So yeah: fuck you. Because, of course, this is exactly your plan. Forcing people onto Facebook is what you’re all about.

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“..that is a terrible way to produce a consumer product, and a terrible way to generate returns for shareholders.”

Tesla Is The Worst Car Manufacturer In The Developed World (F.)

I visited my first auto plant in 1992, and have been fortunate enough to visit plants in most countries where cars are made. I have seen workers sleeping under half-finished bodies in Brazil, seen employees trying to make doors fit by using rubber hammers at a now-closed Ford facility in New Jersey and, noted, that, yes, they do have beer in the vending machines at many German auto factories. To see a rack of die castings sitting outside exposed to the weather at a facility that is, according to Google Maps, 10.7 miles away from the actual Tesla assembly facility in Fremont is just mind-boggling. Tesla is the worst car manufacturer in the developed world. Bar none. Note that I didn’t write “designer” or “marketer,” but manufacturer.

Musk had zero auto industry experience when founding Tesla and CTO J.T. Straubel—who according to Tesla’s 10-K filing personally holds Tesla’s important patents—developed a love for electric vehicles by rebuilding golf carts. It’s just astounding to me that the markets are affording a $50 billion valuation to a company that can’t perform the most basic task for which it was incorporated. Famed VW purchasing chief José Ignacio López de Arriortúa famously walked into a plant and repeatedly pointed at boxes of yet-to-be-used parts and yelled the word “capital.” When capital is tied up in byzantine manufacturing processes that stunts the development of cash flow. It’s all connected. This is why Tesla has such dire cash flow problems.

This is why I believe—sorry, Elon—Tesla is going to have to issue equity this year. My favorite automotive mantra is “quality is designed in.” That’s the most damning piece of information in the CNBC article, actually, more damning than the pictures of parts racks. Here is the quote: “Current and former employees from the company’s Fremont, Calif. and Sparks, Nevada factories blame Tesla for spending less time to vet suppliers than is typical in auto manufacturing. These people said the company failed to comprehensively test “variance specs” with some vendors before embarking on Model 3 production.”

Tesla has cut corners in building up to current production, and published reports this week indicated Tesla was alerting suppliers of an incredibly fast 19-month design-to-job one timetable on the upcoming Model Y crossover. So, it would seem corner-cutting is continuing, and that is a terrible way to produce a consumer product, and a terrible way to generate returns for shareholders.

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He better hope he wins this one.

New Lawsuit Alleges Musk Knowingly Lied About Model 3 Production (ZH)

A new securities class action lawsuit filed in late March 2018, which names Elon Musk as a defendant, alleges that the Tesla CEO knew that the Model 3 was not going to be able to be produced as the rates he claimed – and that the company was not going to be able to meet production goals due to – get this – the production lines not even being assembled. The lawsuit alleges that this didn’t prevent Elon Musk from going out and telling the investing public otherwise, hence the allegation of securities fraud. First, the allegation that Musk was told by his own employees that the Model 3 couldn’t be mass produced by the end of 2017, which was the company’s stated goal.

Then, after claiming in May 2017 that the company was “on track” to meet its mass production goal, it’s alleged the company hadn’t even finished building its production lines, clearly meaning it wasn’t “on track”. The lawsuit alleges that Musk knew the line was “way behind”. The suit alleges that the company was building Model 3’s by hand at a “pilot shop” at the same time Tesla claimed to be on track for “mass production”; it also claims that it was “evident to anyone who visited the facility” – including Elon Musk – that the line wasn’t built and that “construction workers were spending most of their shifts sitting around with nothing to do”. We also read in the lawsuit that Tesla’s Gigafactory, at the time in question, was allegedly capable of producing only one battery pack per day – and that the production of one battery pack took “two shifts” to complete.

The suit alleges that the company’s former CFO, Jason Wheeler – who is one of more than 50 key executives and VPs to have left the company over the last half decade or so – told Elon Musk personally that they wouldn’t be able to mass produce by the end of 2017. The entire lawsuit is available at this link and some of the most interesting content was first shared by critics of the company on Twitter. The drumbeat of accountability for Elon Musk continues to pound louder and louder as each day progresses, with some analysts calling for the SEC to investigate him if the company doesn’t meet its stated cash flow positive and “no capital raise” guidance for the back end of 2018.

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Got to find the last sucker.

Subprime Stages Comeback As ‘Non-Prime’ (CNBC)

They were blamed for the biggest financial disaster in a century. Subprime mortgages – home loans to borrowers with sketchy credit who put little to no skin in the game. Following the epic housing crash, they disappeared, due to strong, new regulation, and zero demand from investors who were badly burned. Barely a decade later, they’re coming back with a new name — nonprime — and, so far, some new standards. California-based Carrington Mortgage Services, a midsized lender, just announced an expansion into the space, offering loans to borrowers, “with less-than-perfect credit.” Carrington will originate and service the loans, but it will also securitize them for sale to investors.

“We believe there is actually a market today in the secondary market for people who want to buy nonprime loans that have been properly underwritten,” said Rick Sharga, executive vice president of Carrington Mortgage Holdings. “We’re not going back to the bad old days of ninja lending, when people with no jobs, no income, and no assets were getting loans.” Sharga said Carrington will manually underwrite each loan, assessing the individual risks. But it will allow its borrowers to have FICO credit scores as low as 500. The current average for agency-backed mortgages is in the mid-700s. Borrowers can take out loans of up to $1.5 million on single-family homes, townhomes and condominiums.

They can also do cash-out refinances, where borrowers tap extra equity in their homes, up to $500,000. Recent credit events, like a foreclosure, bankruptcy or a history of late payments are acceptable. All loans, however, will not be the same for all borrowers. If a borrower is higher risk, a higher down payment will be required, and the interest rate will likely be higher. “What we’re talking about is underwriting that goes back to common sense sort of practices. If you have risk, you offset risk somewhere else,” added Sharga, while touting, “We probably are going to have the widest range of products for people with challenging credit in the marketplace.”

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It’s not about people, it’s about money. Fundamental flaw.

247,977 Stories In The Vacant City (NYDN)

There’s a hidden city in the five boroughs. Though its permanent population is zero, it is growing faster than any other neighborhood. Early numbers from the Census Bureau’s Housing and Vacancy Survey show the unoccupied city has ballooned by 65,406 apartments since 2014, an astonishing 35% jump in size in the three years since the last survey. Today, 247,977 units — equivalent to more than 11% of all rental apartments in New York City — sit either empty or scarcely occupied, even as many New Yorkers struggle to find an apartment they can afford. The Vacant City — let’s call it that, with a tip of the hat to the 1948 movie and old TV series “Naked City” — has tripled in 30 years.

A generation ago, there were just 72,051 apartments in the Vacant City. Back in 1987, when rents were cheap by today’s standards at a median $395 a month, the Vacant City made up less than 4% of rental apartments. Today, the median rent is $1,450, having risen twice as fast as inflation, even while the Vacant City tripled in size. The numbers just don’t add up the way conventional wisdom said they should. For years, development officials, the real estate industry and think tanks have told us that artificially low rents are holding the city back. Higher rents, the argument went, would free landlords to make a reasonable amount of money and serve as an incentive to increase the housing supply.

The new Census gleanings finally put the lie to that reasoning. We have higher prices for sure — but the only part of the city’s residential real estate that has grown is the Vacant City. More apartments are being held off the market than ever. Some remain vacant for legitimate reasons. Almost 28,000 of those unused units have been rented or sold but not yet occupied, or are awaiting a sale. Almost 80,000 are getting renovated, 9,600 tied up in court, and 12,700 vacant because the owner is ill or elderly or simply can’t be bothered. But that still leaves more than 100,000 units — 74,945 occupied temporarily or seasonally, and 27,009 held off the market for unexplained reasons.

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Shell, Exxon, they’ve all known all along. But they have lots of power.

Judge Rules Exxon Can’t Stop Probe Into Whether They Lied For Decades (Ind.)

A Massachusetts judge has ruled that ExxonMobil cannot stop a probe into whether the oil giant misled shareholders for decades about the dangers of climate change and its impact on their business. The judge, in a Friday ruling, found that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has grounds to pursue its civil investigation into the matter even though Exxon is not technically an in-resident corporation. The judgement follows after a federal judge in New York dismissed a similar lawsuit aimed at ending the climate change probe late last month. In that lawsuit, Exxon argued that Ms Healey and her New York counterpart, Eric Schneiderman, were pursuing their climate probes in bad faith. The judge dismissed the argument as “implausible”.

“For the second time this month, Exxon’s scorched earth campaign to block our investigation has been entirely rejected by the courts. In its decision today, our state’s highest court affirmed that Exxon is subject to our laws, and that our office has authority to investigate,” Ms Healey said in a statement following the decision. “Now Exxon must come forward with the truth, what it knew about climate change, when, and what it told the world. The people of Massachusetts — and people everywhere — deserve answers.” New York and Massachusetts first began their climate change probes after news reports in 2015 found that Exxon had known for years that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is necessary to combat climate change impacts, but did not reveal those concerns to shareholders or the public.

Exxon has denied that their public policies were in any way inconsistent with what their scientists’ findings that climate change poses a serious risk to its business and to the environment.

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It’s used to be 2100. Now it’s 2030.

World May Hit 2ºC Warming in 10-15 Years Thanks to Fracking (NC)

In 2011, a Cornell University research team first made the groundbreaking discovery that leaking methane from the shale gas fracking boom could make burning fracked gas worse for the climate than coal. In a sobering lecture released this month, a member of that team, Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, Professor of Engineering Emeritus at Cornell University, outlined more precisely the role U.S. fracking is playing in changing the world’s climate. The most recent climate data suggests that the world is on track to cross the two degrees of warming threshold set in the Paris accord in just 10 to 15 years, says Ingraffea in a 13-minute lecture titled “Shale Gas: The Technological Gamble That Should Not Have Been Taken,” which was posted online on April 4.

That’s if American energy policy follows the track predicted by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which expects 1 million natural gas wells will be producing gas in the U.S. in 2050, up from roughly 100,000 today. An average global temperature increase of 2° Celsius (3.6° Fahrenheit) will bring catastrophic changes — even as compared against a change of 1.5° C (2.7° F). “Heat waves would last around a third longer, rain storms would be about a third more intense, the increase in sea level would be approximately that much higher and the percentage of tropical coral reefs at risk of severe degradation would be roughly that much greater,” with just that half-degree difference, NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory explained in a 2016 post about climate change.

A draft report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was leaked this January, concludes that it’s “extremely unlikely” that the world will keep to a 1.5° change, estimating that the world will cross that threshold in roughly 20 years, somewhat slower than Ingraffea’s presentation concludes.

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Hawking’s successor.

‘There Is No Such Thing As Past Or Future’ (G.)

Rovelli’s work as a physicist, in crude terms, occupies the large space left by Einstein on the one hand, and the development of quantum theory on the other. If the theory of general relativity describes a world of curved spacetime where everything is continuous, quantum theory describes a world in which discrete quantities of energy interact. In Rovelli’s words, “quantum mechanics cannot deal with the curvature of spacetime, and general relativity cannot account for quanta”. Both theories are successful; but their apparent incompatibility is an open problem, and one of the current tasks of theoretical physics is to attempt to construct a conceptual framework in which they both work.

Rovelli’s field of loop theory, or loop quantum gravity, offers a possible answer to the problem, in which spacetime itself is understood to be granular, a fine structure woven from loops. String theory offers another, different route towards solving the problem. When I ask him what he thinks about the possibility that his loop quantum gravity work may be wrong, he gently explains that being wrong isn’t the point; being part of the conversation is the point. And anyway, “If you ask who had the longest and most striking list of results it’s Einstein without any doubt. But if you ask who is the scientist who made most mistakes, it’s still Einstein.”

How does time fit in to his work? Time, Einstein long ago showed, is relative – time passes more slowly for an object moving faster than another object, for example. In this relative world, an absolute “now” is more or less meaningless. Time, then, is not some separate quality that impassively flows around us. Time is, in Rovelli’s words, “part of a complicated geometry woven together with the geometry of space”. For Rovelli, there is more: according to his theorising, time itself disappears at the most fundamental level. His theories ask us to accept the notion that time is merely a function of our “blurred” human perception.

We see the world only through a glass, darkly; we are watching Plato’s shadow-play in the cave. According to Rovelli, our undeniable experience of time is inextricably linked to the way heat behaves. In The Order of Time, he asks why can we know only the past, and not the future? The key, he suggests, is the one-directional flow of heat from warmer objects to colder ones. An ice cube dropped into a hot cup of coffee cools the coffee. But the process is not reversible: it is a one-way street, as demonstrated by the second law of thermodynamics. Time is also, as we experience it, a one-way street. He explains it in relation to the concept of entropy – the measure of the disordering of things.

Entropy was lower in the past. Entropy is higher in the future – there is more disorder, there are more possibilities. The pack of cards of the future is shuffled and uncertain, unlike the ordered and neatly arranged pack of cards of the past. But entropy, heat, past and future are qualities that belong not to the fundamental grammar of the world but to our superficial observation of it. “If I observe the microscopic state of things,” writes Rovelli, “then the difference between past and future vanishes … in the elementary grammar of things, there is no distinction between ‘cause’ and ‘effect’.”

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Extract from Carlo Rovelli’s The Order of Time.

Why do things fall? Because “..the movement of things inclines naturally towards where time passes more slowly..”

Time is Elastic (Rovelli)

Reality is often very different from what it seems. The Earth appears to be flat but is in fact spherical. The sun seems to revolve in the sky when it is really we who are spinning. Neither is time what it seems to be. Let’s begin with a simple fact: time passes faster in the mountains than it does at sea level. The difference is small but can be measured with precision timepieces that can be bought today for a few thousand pounds. This slowing down can be detected between levels just a few centimetres apart: a clock placed on the floor runs a little more slowly than one on a table. It is not just the clocks that slow down: lower down, all processes are slower. Two friends separate, with one of them living in the plains and the other going to live in the mountains.

They meet up again years later: the one who has stayed down has lived less, aged less, the mechanism of his cuckoo clock has oscillated fewer times. He has had less time to do things, his plants have grown less, his thoughts have had less time to unfold … Lower down, there is simply less time than at altitude. Einstein understood this slowing down of time a century before we had clocks precise enough to measure it. He imagined that the sun and the Earth each modified the space and time that surrounded them, just as a body immersed in water displaces the water around it. This modification of the structure of time influences in turn the movement of bodies, causing them to “fall” towards each other.

What does it mean, this “modification of the structure of time”? It means precisely the slowing down of time described above: a mass slows down time around itself. The Earth is a large mass and slows down time in its vicinity. It does so more in the plains and less in the mountains, because the plains are closer to it. This is why the friend who stays at sea level ages more slowly. If things fall, it is due to this slowing down of time. Where time passes uniformly, in interplanetary space, things do not fall. They float. Here on the surface of our planet, on the other hand, the movement of things inclines naturally towards where time passes more slowly, as when we run down the beach into the sea and the resistance of the water on our legs makes us fall headfirst into the waves. Things fall downwards because, down there, time is slowed by the Earth.

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