Feb 212024
 
 February 21, 2024  Posted by at 9:46 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  42 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh Landscape with House and Ploughman 1889

 

Assange ‘Too Ill’ To Attend Last Chance UK Appeal Against US Extradition (RT)
President Trump’s Kafkaesque Civil Trial in New York State (Calabresi)
Pay to Play: Trump Faces a Staggering Cost for Appeal (Turley)
US ‘in Decline’ Today Due to ‘Ignorance, Arrogance’ – Pakistani Senator (Sp.)
What Happened To Alexei Navalny This Time Round (Helmer)
The US Is Planning for the Aftermath of Ukraine War (van den Ende)
How The Rosneft Refinery In Germany Is Being Expropriated (Helmer)
Germany Nationalizes Rosneft Deutschland, Poland Will Help (Andrei Gurkov)
As Ramadan Approaches, Israel Threatens War On Lebanon (Harb)
The Resistance Has a Plan for Israel (Alastair Crooke)
The Ever Expanding War (Paul Craig Roberts)
10 Million Illegals Have Entered The US Under Biden (ZH)
Germany Retreats Into The Middle Ages As Its Economy Declines (Henry Johnston)
Fixation on CO2 Ignores Real Driver of Temperature (ET)

 

 


MattOBranain: My rough sketch while trying to listen on a difficult audio feed. At front two Counsels for #Assange, to right behind them Gareth Perice, then from right John Shipton, @GabrielShipton, @Stella_Assange, behind them @ChrisLynnHedges. Also saw @CraigMurrayOrg and @suigenerisjen.

 

 

Trump Haley

 

 

Mike Benz

 

 

 

 

Thomas

 

 

Tucker Boris

 

 

Rogan Phil

 

 

 

 

“..the victim of his ‘crime’ (journalism) is a state rather than a person–the definition of a political offense, which the US-UK extradition treaty explicitly forbid..”

Assange ‘Too Ill’ To Attend Last Chance UK Appeal Against US Extradition (RT)

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is “too ill” to attend his appeal against the UK’s decision to extradite him to the US, his lawyers have said. The US wants him on 17 charges of espionage tied to WikiLeaks’ publication of State Department and Pentagon files in 2010. Assange, 52, has been held largely in solitary confinement in the Belmarsh maximum security prison in England since 2019, when Ecuador revoked his asylum at American insistence. The Australian-born publisher had requested to appear in court personally, but was unable to do so due to poor health, according to his lawyers. “The world is watching,” Assange’s wife Stella said outside the court house. She accused the US of abusing the legal system to “hound, prosecute and intimidate” and argued that the US “plotted to murder” her husband – referring to revelations that the CIA sought to kill Assange in 2017, when he sheltered in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

“What’s at stake is the ability to publish the truth and expose crimes when they’re committed by states,” Stella Assange told the dozens of demonstrators gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Tuesday. Protesters carried Australian flags and signs that said “Free Julian Assange” and “drop the charges.” The Australian parliament passed a motion, supported by the country’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, calling for Assange’s release from British captivity in the run up to the appeal. “The outrageous part of the UK’s years-long ‘trial’ to condemn Julian Assange to die in an American dungeon is that the victim of his ‘crime’ (journalism) is a state rather than a person–the definition of a political offense, which the US-UK extradition treaty explicitly forbid,” NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden said on X (formerly Twitter).

Activists outside the court chanted “US, UK, hands off Assange” and “There is only one decision – no extradition,” among other slogans. This week’s hearing will decide whether Assange will be allowed to appeal the 2022 decision by the UK government to extradite him to the US. His attorneys have argued that the extradition would amount to punishment for political opinions and violate the European Convention on Human Rights.

If the appeal fails, Assange will apply to the European Court of Human Rights and seek a Rule 39 order to stop the extradition while it considers the case, Stella Assange has said. In 2010, WikiLeaks published the US military’s Iraq and Afghanistan “war diaries,” as well as a trove of State Department cables. One of the videos, later known as “collateral murder,” showed a US helicopter killing 11 people in Iraq, including two Reuters journalists. Suspecting the Swedish “sexual assault” case was a pretext for the US to arrest him – correctly, as it later emerged – Assange sought asylum in Ecuador, which has no extradition treaty with Washington. He spent the next seven years in the country’s embassy in London, blocked from leaving by the British authorities.

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Kafla indeed.

President Trump’s Kafkaesque Civil Trial in New York State (Calabresi)

Donald Trump has been ordered to pay a $355 million fine and has been barred from doing business in New York State for three years. Judge Arthur Engoron ordered Trump to pay essentially all of his cash reserves of $400 million, which fine if upheld would force Trump to sell some of his real estate holdings to raise cash to live on. Once interest is added on the total fine will rise to $450 million. This is all on top of an $83.3 million fine Trump must pay for allegedly defaming the writer E. Jean Carroll. The fines in total could deprive Trump of between 11% and 13% of his wealth. Trump’s adult sons Donald Jr. and Eric have also been fined, and they are barred from doing business in New York State for two years. Ivanka or Melania Trump could legally run the Trump businesses for the next two years, but Judge Engoron appointed retired U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones to continue in her role as an “independent monitor” of the Trump business empire but expanded her authority to review financial disclosures before they are submitted to third parties.

Judge Jones can hire an independent director of compliance, and she has the authority to compel Trump to sell some or even all of his businesses down the road. This is all punishment for Trump allegedly committing fraud by falsely inflating and deflating the value of his real estate assets to pay lower state taxes and to receive more favorable loans from banks. The New York State laws used to go after Trump have NEVER been used in this way, historically, and while Trump may owe some back state taxes, if Judge Engoron is right, not a single bank claimed that it had been defrauded by Trump in the loans it had made to him. This is truly a victimless crime. Bankers took the stand at Trump’s civil trial testifying that they would have gladly made loans to Donald Trump given his extraordinary success as a businessman. It must also be noted that the banks that made loans to Trump did not take his assessment of the net worth of his assets at face value but made their own independent assessments of the value of Trump’s assets.

This is apparently standard practice in the New York State real estate market where borrowers often overstate the value of their assets. The bottom line is that a never before used New York State penalty has been twisted into a tool for a grossly excessive fine and more seriously the completely inappropriate appointment of Judge Jones as an “independent monitor” who can micromanage the Trump business, which she is not competent to do, and to even order the dissolution of the Trump Business in New York State. This outcome was pursued by Letitia James, a politically ambition Democrat, who is the Attorney General of New York State, and who hopes to win a future Democratic primary for Governor of or Senator from New York State.

Ms. James and Judge Engeron have essentially turned a vaguely worded New York State law into a modern day Bill of Attainder targeted at Donald Trump both for political gain and because they despise his political views and desperately want to call his truthfulness into question as he runs for President of the United States in 2024. In doing this, the have violated Trump’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech and of the press; his Fifth Amendment right not to be deprived of liberty or property without due process of law; his Fifth Amendment right not to have property taken away from him except for a pubic use with just compensation being paid; his Eighth Amendment right not to be made to pay an excessive fine; his Article IV, Section 2 right as a citizen of Florida to do make and enforce contracts in New York on the same terms as are other New Yorkers; and his Fourteenth Amendment right to be free to pursue an occupation without unnecessary and burdensome regulation.

The civil fraud judgment against Donald Trump is a travesty and an unjust political act rivaled only in American politics by the killing of former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton by Vice President Aaron Burr. If the New York State appellate courts do not reverse this judgment, the U.S. Supreme Court MUST grant cert on this case and reverse Judge Engeron’s outrageous decisions. National, presidential politics will be permanently altered if a local State’s legal system can be used in this way against candidates for President of the United States. This case raises a national issue of profound importance and if the New York State appellate courts do not address it, the U.S. Supreme Court MUST!

O’Leary

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“..every day, Trump is being hit by roughly $90,000 in just interest increases.”

Pay to Play: Trump Faces a Staggering Cost for Appeal (Turley)

In the wake of the massive judgment against Donald Trump, many in New York are celebrating the prospect that the former president could be forced to sell off his property just to be able to appeal the $355 million judgment against him. While Trump has good grounds to object to this excessive fine, he still has to come up with close to a half billion dollars just to make his arguments to the New York Court of Appeals. In order to file an appeal, the courts require a deposit for the full amount of the damages or a bond covering the full amount. Even with escrow options, the call for cash or collateral can be enough to put some executives in a fetal position. It can be challenging enough for many companies drained from years of litigation. For Donald Trump, the demand for $355 million plus $100 milion in interest could force a fire sale on properties to pony up just the deposit.

Many of us have been critical of the ruling of Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron who imposed the astronomical fine despite finding that Trump’s “victims” not only did not lose a single dollar but made handsome profits. Indeed, these banks testified that they wanted to continue to do business with Trump as a “whale” client, but Engoron is now barring them from doing so. Putting aside the merits of this judgment, the threshold deposit rule magnifies the unfairness of this New York law that does not require that anyone actually lose money to claim hundreds of millions from a company. One can argue that, if upheld, any insolvency is the fault of the company. However, this rule can force insolvency just to seek review of a judgment. For Trump, even this fine would only amount to roughly 14-17% of his wealth. The addition of the recent $83.3 million in damages imposed in a separate New York courtroom for defamation would bring the demand to over half a billion dollars in deposits with interest.

So, by making the fine so large, Engoron not only makes an appeal difficult, but could guarantee that Trump will lose tens of millions even if his judgment is dramatically reduced or tossed out. On top of this looming penalty, however, he already owes the writer E. Jean Carroll $83.3 million in damages from a separate defamation case that concluded in January. His legal fees are also mounting as he battles four criminal cases at the federal and state level. There is already speculation of whether Trump will have to leverage or sell his iconic properties at distressed prices. He has 30-days to ante up with the court and buyers could use that deadline to their advantage. The added amount is due to another New York provision imposing a massive 9 percent interest rate on judgments. That means that every day, Trump is being hit by roughly $90,000 in just interest increases.

Trump could secure a bond, but such a guaranty would come at its own premium price. However, a bonding company requires a defendant to put up 10% for the total and would lose that amount even if he prevailed. That is a roughly $45 million cost just to secure the right to an appeal. In this case, the cost could be higher given the judgment and the bar on Trump doing business for three years in New York. The expectation is that Trump can make the deposit or secure a bond to avoid what some gleefully called a “fire sale” on this properties. The deposit is now being celebrated as an added indignity and penalty. However, as New Yorkers cheer this moment, many business are likely wondering “but for the grace of God go I.” Undervaluing or overvaluing property is a common practice, particularly in real estate. That is why representations, like the one made by the Trump Corporation, come with a warning that estimates are their own and that the banks need to make their assessments.

Faced with high crime and high taxes, the spectacle in Manhattan is only likely to accelerate the exodus of businesses and high-earners from the city. That prospect has already alarmed Gov. Kathy Hochul who declared “business people have nothing to worry about, because they’re very different than Donald Trump and his behavior.” That sounds a lot like “you are fine so long as you are not Trump.” Yet, that is not reassuring to businesses who want a legal system that is based on something other than selective and arbitrary enforcement. Attorney General Letitia James campaigned on bagging Trump without even bothering to name the offense. She also sought to dissolve the National Rifle Association. The line between doing business and a public execution appears to be the dubious discretion of Letitia James. That is not the type of assurance that most businesses would accept in risking billions in investment. Despite the high taxes and falling services in New York, the city remained a draw for business as a commercial and legal center. The experience and objectivity of courts in dealing with business disputes was a selling point for companies.

That has been shattered by the James campaign and the Engoron ruling. Telling business to just “don’t be like Trump” is more menacing than consoling. Letitia James is now the face of New York corporate law — it is the “face that launched a thousand ships” . . . toward Florida. Businesses can get lower taxes, lower crime, better schools, and a better regulatory environment in virtually any other state. Fewer are likely to want to come for the shows, but stay for the disgorgement. Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary said Monday that he would “never” invest in New York after this absurd judgment. Creating an ad hoc business code for Trump undermines the city’s reputation as a premier jurisdiction for corporate and tax law. If the rate of exit increases, it will impact not just employees working for these companies (like the Trump companies) but the vast network of supporting businesses, including law firms. As New York politicians campaigning on “eat the rich” platforms, the confiscatory Trump judgment leaves many in the city wondering if they could be the next course.

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“The US I knew was a very strong and inclusive society, welcoming towards foreigners. They used to be multicultural and multireligious. Now I see a lot of paranoia and a lot of xenophobia in the US..”

US ‘in Decline’ Today Due to ‘Ignorance, Arrogance’ – Pakistani Senator (Sp.)

The reasons why the United States failed in Afghanistan and Iraq and is “in decline” today are its “ignorance and arrogance,” the chairman of the defense committee of the Senate of Pakistan, Mushahid Hussain Sayed, told Sputnik. “The US policy towards certain countries in Asia is sometimes based on the combination of ignorance and arrogance. Arrogance, because they are a big country, because they think of themselves as a superpower, they think they know it all. But they don’t. They don’t know the culture and the values of other countries. And also ignorance, because they don’t understand the people of these places. This is why they failed in Afghanistan, this is why they failed in Iraq,” Sayed said in an interview.

These are the same reasons why the US is “in decline” now and has been like that for some time, he added. The senator explained that he used to live in the US, received a masters degree from one of the most respected US universities in Washington — Georgetown, and worked in the US Congress as an intern. However, the country had changed a lot since then and the US he knew “was different.” “The US I knew was a very strong and inclusive society, welcoming towards foreigners. They used to be multicultural and multireligious. Now I see a lot of paranoia and a lot of xenophobia in the US. They call the Chinese threat, the Russian threat, the Islamic threat … That’s nonsense. They are returning to the 50s. So for me the modern US is a very strange, exclusive and divisive America,” the senator said.

In October 2001, a US-led coalition launched an invasion of Afghanistan. However, the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in August 2021, triggering the collapse of the US-backed government and accelerating Washington’s troop pullout. On August 31 of the same year, US forces completed their withdrawal from the country, ending the 20-year-long military presence. In March 2003, the US-led coalition invaded Iraq without a UN Security Council resolution. Consequently, the total of excess deaths related to the war amounted to 654,965 as of October 2006, according to The Lancet journal’s survey. The US troops withdrew from Iraq in December 2011. Despite that, to date, the US and coalition forces remain a notable military presence in the country, with military bases.

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“Inside Russia, it has been obvious for a long time that in or out of prison, Navalny alive was politically insignificant; now even less. The new western propaganda is as ineffectual for Russians as Navalny was himself.”

What Happened To Alexei Navalny This Time Round (Helmer)

Since a pack of lies about Alexei Navalny won last year’s Oscar for the best documentary film of the year when he was alive, there’s no doubt he can win another Oscar when he’s dead. But alive or dead, the prize-winning propaganda of Navalny’s story bears no resemblance to the truth. This is what happens in wartime, especially when the side which is losing the war on the battlefield – that’s the US, NATO and the Ukraine – claims to be winning the war of words against Russia. The Navalny story is now in two parts: Part 1, the Novichok in his airport cup of tea, in his hotel water bottle, and then in his underpants which causes Navalny’s collapse, but fails to be detected by Russian doctors in Omsk, by German doctors in Berlin and Munich, and then by Swedish and French state laboratories. Part 2, Navalny’s sudden death after he had taken a walk in the IK-3 penal colony in the village of Kharp, in the Russian Arctic region of Yamalo-Nenets.

The first part took 62 reports in this archive to expose the faking; the most telling evidence of this came from Navalny himself in the documented tests of his blood, urine and hair. According to these data, Navalny’s collapse was the outcome of an overdose of lithium, benzodiazepines, and other drugs. Part 2 of the Navalny story began last Friday, February 16, with the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) announcement, followed by an official telegramme to his mother in Moscow, that he had died just after two in the afternoon, Yamalo-Nenets time; that was just after noon Moscow time. Two hours later the Russian media began carrying the official announcement. The wording of the last line of the announcement is significant. “The causes of death are being established”, the FSIN statement said. Causes — plural.

In the UK coroner’s court practice, what this means is that there is likely to have been a sequence of causation, medically speaking, with the first or proximate cause of death identified as heart, brain, or lung injury or failure; and the second, intervening or contributory cause of death such as biochemical factors, including prescription drugs in lethal combination; mRNA anti-Covid vaccination triggering fatal blood clots; or homicidal poisons. For example, in the case of the alleged Russian Novichok death of Dawn Sturgess in England in 2018, the evidence is of British government tampering with the post-mortem reports to add Novichok when it wasn’t identified at first. In Navalny’s case, poisoning on the order of President Vladimir Putin has already been announced as the cause of Navalny’s death without evidence at all. The delay time required for the complicated processes of forensic pathology and toxicology to establish the evidence has been reported in the Anglo-American media to signify cover-up and body snatching. Meduza, an oppositionist publication in Riga, reports that “a doctor who advised Navalny’s associates” has said that blood clotting was “an unlikely cause of death” – this is medically false.

In speculation of poisoning as cause of death, there is at least as much likelihood that Navalny, his team, and their CIA and MI6 handlers devised a repeat of the August 2020 Tomsk operation; decided when Navalny met with his lawyer at the prison on February 14; but implemented two days later without the resuscitation Navalny himself was expecting. The Anglo-American propaganda warfare army is already pronouncing the contributory Cause 2– Putin did it — as the cause of Navalny’s death. If the Russians announce the proximate Cause 1 as cardiac arrest or brain aneurism, without a Cause 2, they won’t be believed. In the short term, Cause 2 cannot be established with credibility in Russia since it took the British government ten years, 2006-2016, to fabricate their story of Russian polonium poisoning in the Alexander Litvinenko case. In the Russian Novichok cases in England, it has so far taken six years of court, police and pathologist proceedings, 2018-2024, without outcome, and another two years will follow.

The problem for readers to interpret what has happened is that the Anglo-American propaganda warfare machine is better at what it does than the Russian side. But then when it comes to war with guns, not words, the Russian side is far superior, as can be seen in the Ukraine right now. Accordingly, the Kremlin has decided to concentrate on the main fight. Inside Russia, it has been obvious for a long time that in or out of prison, Navalny alive was politically insignificant; now even less. The new western propaganda is as ineffectual for Russians as Navalny was himself.

Nap Navalny

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“Nowhere outside the U.S. can you find as many American politicians in one place as at the Munich Security Conference this year.”

The US Is Planning for the Aftermath of Ukraine War (van den Ende)

According to the Rand Corporation, there are two scenarios for the United States: “after” the less favorable war or “after” the more favorable war. The prominent think tank for U.S. policymaking recently published a long report on the so-called aftermath of the war in Ukraine. Washington and its NATO allies have to admit that the U.S. is losing another proxy war together with its satellite states of Europe. Previously they lost in Afghanistan (after more than 20 years, a second Vietnam), also recently in Syria and Iraq, and now in Ukraine. Even so-called “Russia experts” in Europe admit that Ukraine is losing. “I do not rule out that Ukraine will lose the war this year. Europe has misjudged the Russian army,” says Belgian “Russia expert” Joris van Blade to De Standaard. Russia has the initiative again and the Russian people are not going to stop the war, he thinks. “We have missed historic opportunities to make Europe safer.”

According to the Rand study, two scenarios are possible: a so-called “hardline” or a “softline” postwar. Of course, the U.S. prefers a softline postwar outcome, where they still have room for manipulation and possible coup d’état and Balkanization (partition) of Russia just like they did in former Yugoslavia. According to Rand, the U.S. military presence in Europe has increased to around 100,000 personnel since the start of Russia’s Special Military Operation in February 2022. The United States deployed attack aviation from Germany to Lithuania; Patriot air defense systems from Germany to Slovakia and Poland; and F-15 tactical fighters from the United Kingdom to Poland. In addition, European countries are sending F-16s to Romania, as the Netherlands recently indicated. These F-16s are capable of attacking Russian cities. Washington characterized these deployments as part of a wartime surge to deter Russia from expanding its aggression beyond Ukraine to attack U.S. allies in Europe.

Leaders in Europe are almost hysterical. One after another, they proclaim that Russia is going to invade Europe, starting with Moldova, the Baltic States, and Poland. The Netherlands, Germany, and France are warning their people to expect an attack from Russia, as is Sweden, which recently joined NATO. The population is being frightened by the unhinged rhetoric of their politicians. Conscription must be reactivated and Germany even has a concept ready to recruit migrants (about 1.5 million serviceable men) and entice them to get a passport. European leaders are also concerned about the upcoming elections in the U.S. after Republican contender Donald Trump made comments suggesting he would quit NATO and let Europe fend for itself. They are worried that the U.S. might abandon them. During a recent NATO conference in Brussels, a lot of war rhetoric was spoken. “We live in an era where we have to expect the unexpected,” said Dutch NATO Admiral Rob Bauer. Meanwhile, the Danish and German defense ministers have warned of a potential war with Russia within five years.

The U.S. and European leaders assume the “hardline” scenario is likely in the next few years. They proclaim through their mouthpieces in the corporate-controlled news media that Russia is becoming much more “risk-acceptant”. Therefore, it is calculated that a hardline approach may increase NATO’s ability to deter purported Russian aggression. It’s that time of year again for the hawkish Munich Security Conference, in Bavaria, Germany. This is the forum where President Putin provoked alarm when he gave his famous speech in 2007, making it clear that the unipolar world was over and a multipolar world would emerge in the foreseeable future. Putin’s prognosis caused much chagrin for Western leaders. This year’s theme at Munich is animated by Trump’s supposed undermining of NATO.

The appeal for support from the U.S. has become more urgent among some European politicians. Ukraine lacks weapons and ammunition, they openly say. Russia is sometimes five times superior on the battlefield. In addition, a U.S. support package worth around $60 billion was approved by the Senate last week but the Republican-dominated House of Representatives could reject it – and so far it looks like it will. Europe, in turn, would not be able to fill this gap and, therefore, Ukraine will lose the proxy war for the U.S. and the West. In addition to the presence of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, the European leaders and lobbyists will also use the opportunity in Munich to lobby Republican Senators and Representatives to support Ukraine (with money). Nowhere outside the U.S. can you find as many American politicians in one place as at the Munich Security Conference this year.

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2 articles, one topic. Germany steals a Russian company.

How The Rosneft Refinery In Germany Is Being Expropriated (Helmer)

This is how the war in the Ukraine doesn’t end, not for the Germans and the Poles. So long as they can, they plan to steal or destroy Russian assets west of what used to be Kievan Ukraine; and mobilize the US military bases in both countries to reinforce and defend their larcenies. The German political party which promises to continue this war for the employment of German workers and the enrichment of German executives and shareholders will win the next election, replacing the Social Democratic Party and the Greens as the party of war. The post-Ukraine strategy of the Stavka starts here — To Berlin! On Friday last, the Russian language edition of the German state medium Deutsche Welle (DW) published a report of German and Polish government plans for the expropriation of PCK, the Rosneft crude oil refinery at Schwedt in northern Germany, and the Rosneft network of operating assets in Germany, Poland, and Austria.

The German assets of Rosneft, the Russian state oil production company under worldwide sanctions, had been placed under what the German government called “fiduciary management” by an “independent” state regulator in September 2022. This was announced at the time as a temporary arrangement to comply with the sanctions, renewable every six months, but leaving undisturbed the Russian ownership of the assets. This scheme was renewed at six monthly intervals, as Rosneft has reported. There was nothing independent about the BNA or what it has been doing every six months. BNA stands for the Federal Network Agency — Bundesnetzagentur für Elektrizität, Gas, Telekommunikation, Post und Eisenbahnen. It claims to be “an independent higher federal authority with its main office in Bonn operating within the scope of business of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) and the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV). We have been responsible for Germany’s essential electricity, gas, telecommunications and postal infrastructures for over 20 years.”

“Within the scope of” is a German fig leaf for “under control”. “Our task,” BNA says, is “to ensure fair and non-discriminatory competition for all market participants. Our success and our expertise in regulation led to the energy and rail sectors also being placed under our responsibility.” This was not what the government of Chancellor Olaf Scholz intended when it commenced its takeover of Rosneft and assigned BNA the role of camp guard. BNA described what it was doing to “safeguard security of supply in Germany…on the basis of the Energy Security of Supply Act (section 17 EnSiG) until 15 March 2023. This basis enables the fiduciary to take action to keep the business running in accordance with its importance for the functioning of society in the energy sector. The fiduciary management may be extended under certain conditions… The decision to introduce fiduciary management was prompted by…by the sanctions imposed on Russia…The fiduciary management means that the original owner no longer has authority to issue instructions.”

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“The German government is running out of time: on March 10, when the next decision on the transfer of Rosneft Deutschland under the so-called trust management of the state expires..”

Germany Nationalizes Rosneft Deutschland, Poland Will Help (Andrei Gurkov)

Expropriation of Rosneft’s German assets is becoming increasingly likely. Warsaw is ready to provide oil to the Schwedt refinery and replace supplies from Kazakhstan. But what about compensation? The nationalization of Rosneft’s German assets is becoming more and more likely, and new signals from Poland reinforce this impression. The German government is running out of time: on March 10, when the next decision on the transfer of Rosneft Deutschland under the so-called trust management of the state expires. Berlin, apparently, no longer wants to extend this regime introduced in September 2022 for six months, because they seek a stable, not temporary, solution to the fate of the oil refinery in Schwedt — PCK Raffinerie Schwedt. This is exactly the case, although Rosneft has other assets in Germany.

But in this refinery, the state-owned Russian concern actually owns 54%, and maintaining Moscow’s control over a strategically important enterprise seems to the German authorities to be too much of a risk, especially against the background of the growing threat from Russia. After all, PCK Raffinerie Schwedt provides petroleum products to a significant part of East Germany and, above all, to the capital of the country, Berlin, with its approximately four million inhabitants. The intention of the German government to put an end to the legally suspended state of the plant has clearly strengthened after the recent elections in Poland. They brought to power a pro-European coalition, which German politicians trust much more than the previous Polish government. Relations between the two countries are currently warming rapidly, as evidenced by the talks between the new Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on February 12.

Therefore, the visit of Vice Chancellor and Minister of Economy of Germany Robert Habeck to Warsaw the next day, February 13, played an important, and perhaps decisive role in determining the next concrete steps with regard to Rosneft Deutschland. “Poland has helped a lot in the past to provide oil to the east of Germany,” the German minister recalled after the talks and made it clear that in the event of the expropriation of Rosneft, the supply of the plant in Schwedt would improve, since the Polish side is ready to significantly increase the pumping of oil through its territory towards Germany from the port of Gdansk. According to the Reuters news agency, citing an informed source, Warsaw assured Berlin even before Habeck’s arrival that it would be able, if necessary, to completely replace the volumes of Kazakh oil currently flowing to Schwedt.

Some explanations are needed here. Until 2023, this refinery, built six decades ago in the GDR on the border with Poland, operated exclusively on oil coming from the USSR and then from Russia via the Druzhba oil pipeline. In response to the full-scale Russian aggression against Ukraine, the European Union imposed an embargo on Russian oil transported by tankers, but not on supplies via the Druzhba pipeline system, since several Eastern European EU members are still heavily dependent on them. However, the German government decided for its part to completely abandon Russian oil. Since last year, the Schwedt plant has been supplied with oil purchased on the world market in three ways. From the German Baltic port of Rostock via a longstanding and not very powerful pipeline that was originally laid down as a backup — through the Polish port of Gdansk, from where oil is pumped through Poland using the westernmost segment of the Druzhba, and from Kazakhstan in transit through the Russian territory on the same Druzhba.

Germany strongly emphasizes its desire to increase oil purchases in Kazakhstan, cooperation with which is becoming more intensive. However, there are fears that in the event of the nationalization of Rosneft’s German assets, Moscow will block the Druzhba oil pipeline as a retaliatory measure and thereby [stop] the supply of Kazakh oil. [..] It is noteworthy that articles in the German media about Robert Habeck’s negotiations in Warsaw, and in general about the future of Rosneft Deutschland, in effect do not consider the option of Rosneft selling this company and its assets. This is despite the letter with such a proposal, as the economic newspaper Handelsblatt wrote in early February, from the head of the Russian concern Igor Sechin to the German government. But Berlin, the publication concluded, “has placed its bet on expropriation.”

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“..the regional backlash threatens to undermine US diplomacy, unravel Arab normalization deals with Israel, and jeopardize US business interests throughout West Asia..”

As Ramadan Approaches, Israel Threatens War On Lebanon (Harb)

Tel Aviv’s mounting threats to destroy Beirut as it has done to Gaza, coupled with growing Israeli public support for aggressive military action against Lebanon, have spiked tensions on the northern battlefront in recent days. Furthermore, the precarious game at play in Washington – which has done absolutely nothing to impede Israeli occupation forces from launching an assault on Rafah and uprooting more than a million Palestinians from their last refuge on the Egyptian border – is driving the war to a volatile, dangerous brink. Adding fuel to this already incendiary mix are two critical factors. First, Israel’s targeted strikes on Lebanese civilians, exemplified by the recent attacks in Nabatiyeh and Al-Sowanah, have provoked a stern response from Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, who vowed retribution, declaring that “the price of civilian blood will be blood.”

Second is the approaching month of Ramadan, a sacred period observed by hundreds of millions of Muslims worldwide, which adds a transnational dimension to these developments. Fasting Muslims from Indonesia to Morocco will grow increasingly frustrated with Washington’s inaction in preventing genocide and the displacement of over two million Palestinians in Gaza, many of whom are on the brink of starvation. Despite US assurances that it is pressuring Israel to mitigate casualties, the relentless onslaught has resulted in an appalling daily death toll of around 300, with nearly 29,000 lives lost, and over 60 percent of homes and infrastructure decimated. When Nasrallah declared that “for every drop of blood shed in Gaza and the entire region, the primary responsibility falls on [US President Joe] Biden, [US Secretary of State Antony] Blinken, and [US Secretary of Defense Lloyd] Austin,” his words resonated deeply – not only within the Islamic world but with millions globally – calling for an end to the war by halting the influx of American weapons to the Israeli military.

The US State Department has received multiple warnings from diplomats in the region of the growing resentment toward Washington for its complicity in Israel’s genocidal campaign. Despite its tone-deaf attempts to adjust its stance and emphasize a need to protect Palestinian civilians, the regional backlash threatens to undermine US diplomacy, unravel Arab normalization deals with Israel, and jeopardize US business interests throughout West Asia. Speaking to The Cradle, sources close to the Axis of Resistance in Lebanon said the next fortnight carries the potential for a catastrophic escalation, particularly if Israel intensifies its military aggression during Ramadan and advances its plans to displace Palestinians from Rafah.

Additionally, the discontent among Israeli settlers displaced by Lebanese resistance operations along the northern border poses further risks, with officials in Tel Aviv contemplating drastic measures to ensure calm, including potential military action – a preview of which southern Lebanese civilians have recently witnessed. The discontent among northern settlers grows as they grapple with the new security dynamics in the aftermath of the Hamas-led Al-Aqsa Flood operation on 7 October. Extending over 100 kilometers from Naqoura to the Shebaa Farms and penetrating 5 to 10 kilometers deep, this border strip has seen the displacement of thousands of settler families.

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“..They want us to pay a price without Israel committing to a thing..”

The Resistance Has a Plan for Israel (Alastair Crooke)

In a speech on Tuesday, Hizbullah leader Seyed Nasrallah said that the Party will continue the border offensive until at least the Gaza massacre stops. The war in Gaza however, is far from over. And Nasrallah warned that even were a ceasefire to be reached in Gaza, “should the enemy perform any action, we will return to operating according to the rules and formulas that existed before. The purpose of the resistance is to deter the enemy, and we will react accordingly”. Israel’s Defence Secretary Gallant has underlined that contrary to international consensus expectations, he too expects the war in Lebanon to continue. Gallant said the military has stepped up its attacks against Hizbullah by one level out of ten: “The Air Force planes flying currently in the skies of Lebanon have heavier bombs for more distant targets. Hizbullah went up half a step, whilst we, a full one … We can attack not only at 20 kilometres [from the border], but also at 50 kilometres, and in Beirut and anywhere else”.

It is not clear what ‘red line’ Hizbullah would have to cross for Israel to significantly escalate its response to much higher levels; Israeli leaders have suggested that an attack on a strategic site; or an attack leading to major civilian casualties; or a substantive barrage on Haifa might constitute the breaking point. Nonetheless, with three military divisions rather than the usual one now deployed in the north of Israel, the IDF has more forces poised for action on the northern border than it has preparing for an incursion into Rafah – at this point. It is clear, as Chief of Staff Halevy has specified, that Israel is “preparing for war” against Hizbullah (more than preparing for Rafah). Is the threat to Rafah a bluff to put pressure on Hamas to concede on the deal and hostages? One way or another, both Israel’s political and military chiefs are adamant: The IDF will incurse into Rafah – ‘at some point’. The qualitatively different Hizbullah’s strike on Safed on Israel’s northern regional command HQ on Wednesday – which that resulted in 2 dead and 7 further casualties – is being treating in Israel as the gravest attack since the start of the war, with Ben Gvir calling it a “declaration of war”. Subsequent Israeli attacks killed 11 people, including six children, in a barrage of strikes on villages across southern Lebanon, in retribution for the Safed blitz – with the fierce exchange of fire still continuing.

The ‘Safed Strike’ deep into the Galilee very likely was intended to signal that Hizbullah is not about to capitulate to western demands that it provide Israel with a ceasefire that is intended to facilitate evacuated Israelis to return to their homes in the north. As Nasrallah confirmed in a scathing attack on those external (Western) mediators who serve only as Israel’s lawyers, and neglect to address the massacres in Gaza: “It is easier to move the Litani River forward to the borders, than to push back Hezbollah fighters from the borders, to behind the Litani River … They want us to pay a price without Israel committing to a thing”. In these circumstances, Nasrallah clarified that residents of northern Israel will not return to their homes – warning that even more Israelis risk being displaced: “‘Israel’ must prepare shelters, basements, hotels and schools to house two million settlers who will be evacuated from northern Palestine, [were Israel to expand the war zone].”

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“..The inaction of Putin, China, and Iran has steeled the American neoconservatives in their agenda of American hegemony..”

The Ever Expanding War (Paul Craig Roberts)

As I previously wrote, the Israeli/American intention is to expand the war against Hamas to Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. The expansion has begun. The latest news is that Israel has struck deep into Lebanon: “War Expands With Massive Israeli Airstrikes 60km Deep Into Lebanon.” The Arabs, likely restrained by Putin, have once again sat on their butts while Israel picks them off one by one. Only the Houthis but not a single Arab or Muslim country came to Hamas’ help. Consequently, the Arabs sat sucking their thumbs while Gaza and Hamas were destroyed. The arabs accepted Israel’s genocide of the Palestinian people. Evil prevails when it is left unopposed. If Hezbollah, Syria, the Iraqi militias, and Iran had joined Hamas’ attack, Israel today would not exist. Having missed their chance, they will now be knocked off one at a time by Israel and Washington.

Already before Israel is finished with Palestine, Israel has attacked with missiles and jet fighters deep into Lebanon. It appears that the Israeli-Washington strategy is to attack Lebanese cities to set off civil war between the Lebanese army and the Hezbollah militia so that Israel can take advantage of civil war in Lebanon to drive Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon and take possession of the water resources that Israel covets. When Hezbollah is finished, Washington and Israel will wipe out the Iraqi militias and attack Syria, a section of which containing the oil fields Washington already occupies. The Russians left the liberation of Syria unfinished. Syria has the Russian air defense system but apparently is not permitted to use it against Washington and Israel. Once Iraqi militias and Syria are out of the picture, Iran, sitting there on its huge number of missiles, doing nothing, will be next.

When Iran falls, the CIA’s Jihadists will be released into the Russian Federation, Central Asia, and China’a troublesome province. The inaction of Putin, China, and Iran has steeled the American neoconservatives in their agenda of American hegemony. As Putin, XI, and Iran seem determined to sit out conflicts that not only affect them but are directed against them, Washington will continue to run over red lines until a war is forced. Putin has been deceived, betrayed, demonized, and given the West’s cold shoulder for two decades, and he still wants to negotiate with those who have thrashed him? Negotiation with a government that has proven it doesn’t keep the agreements is a form of reality denial. As the evidence indicates, the Western world is in moral and social collapse, so its destruction will be no loss. The question is whether the values the Christian West once stood for will find expression elsewhere.

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Pretty crazy..

10 Million Illegals Have Entered The US Under Biden (ZH)

A record 7.3 million illegal aliens have crossed the southwest border under President Biden’s watch, a number which according to Fox News.is greater than the population of 36 individual states. That figure is sourced from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which has already reported 961,537 Southwest land border encounters in the current fiscal year, which runs from October through September, and if the current pace of illegal immigration does not slow down, fiscal year 2024 will break last year’s record of 2,475,669 southwest border encounters — a number that by itself exceeds the population of New Mexico. The total number of southwest land border encounters since Biden assumed office in 2021 is 7,298,486, CBP data shows.

That number is larger than the population of 36 U.S. states including: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. In fact, the only states that are not in danger of being “replaced” are the blue ones. Compared to the largest U.S. states, the 7.3 million number is about 18.7% of California’s population of 39 million, 23.9% of the state of Texas and its 31 million residents, 32.3% of the population of Florida and 37.3% of New York. It’s more than half the size of Pennsylvania, Illinois and Ohio. As Fox News graphically describes, were the number of illegal immigrants who entered the United States under President Biden gathered together to found a city, it would be the second-largest city in America after New York.

Shockingly, that total does not include an estimated additional 1.6 million illegals who entered the US at other locations, nor 1.8 million known “gotaways” who evaded law enforcement, which would make the total bigger than the population of New York. Taken together, over 10 million migrants have crossed into the U.S. illegally during the Biden administration, a record Biden’s critics assert could only be achieved by intentionally refusing to enforce the law. “This unprecedented surge in illegal immigration isn’t an accident. It is the result of deliberate policy choices by the Biden administration,” said Eric Ruark, Director of Research for Numbers USA, a nonprofit that advocates for immigration restrictions.

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“..renewables can’t power modern civilization is because they were never meant to. One interesting question is why anybody ever thought they could.”

Germany Retreats Into The Middle Ages As Its Economy Declines (Henry Johnston)

Bloomberg recently foretold the end of Germany’s days as an industrial power in an article that begins with a depiction of the closing of a factory in Dusseldorf. Stone-faced workers preside with funereal solemnity over the final act – the fashioning of a steel pipe at a rolling mill – at the century-old plant. The “flickering of flares and torches” and “somber tones of a lone horn player” lend the scene a decidedly medieval atmosphere. Intentional or not in their inclusion of such evocative detail, the Bloomberg writers offer potent imagery for Germany – not only because the country is regressing economically but because its elites are increasingly guided by an atavistic force: the abandonment of reason. As hard economic realities lay bare the futility of its utopian energy plan and the consequences of numerous terrible decisions mount, Germany is experiencing what Swedish essayist Malcom Kyeyune calls “narrative collapse.”

The peculiar offspring of this, Kyeyune argues, is a turn toward ritual, superstition, and taboo. It is a malaise afflicting the entire West, but Germany is suffering a particularly acute case. Kyeyune defines this as an occurrence “when social and political circumstances change too rapidly for people to keep up, the result tends to be collective manias, social panics, and pseudo-religious revivalist millenarianism.” The abandonment of reason can be conceived of in various ways. Quite a lot of ink has already been spilled about the irrationality behind Germany’s fantastically improbable climate policy. Indeed, the quasi-religious verve with which this program has been rolled out speaks to something of a loosening of the country’s moorings. But as we will see shortly, the problem goes far beyond an attachment to unattainable policy goals. Prominent German business executive Wolfgang Reitzle argued that for the government to deliver on its climate and energy policy, capacities for wind and solar power would have to be more than quadrupled, while storage and back-up capacities would have to be massively increased.

Such a plan is “neither technically feasible nor affordable for a country like Germany,” Reitzle argues. What it is then, he concludes, “is simply insanity.” Michael Shellenberger, in a piece for Forbes magazine in 2019, points out that the initial impetus for seeking to transition to renewables emerged from the idea that human civilization should be scaled back to sustainable levels. He cites German philosopher Martin Heidegger’s 1954 landmark essay ‘The Question Concerning of Technology’ and subsequent work by the likes of Barry Commoner and Murray Bookchin as espousing what emerged in the 1960s as a much more austere vision for the future of civilization. Shellenberger concludes that the reason why “renewables can’t power modern civilization is because they were never meant to. One interesting question is why anybody ever thought they could.”

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“..temperature doesn’t follow CO2—instead, CO2 follows temperature, which, itself, is due to solar activity.”

Fixation on CO2 Ignores Real Driver of Temperature (ET)

Each year from 2023 to 2030, climate change sustainable development goals will cost every person in economies such as the United States $2,026, the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development estimates. In lower-income economies, the per-person annual cost ranges from $332 to $1,864. In total, the global price tag comes to about $5.5 trillion per year. Separately, a report from the left-aligned nonprofit Climate Policy Initiative found that in 2021 and 2022, the world’s taxpayers spent $1.3 trillion each year on climate-related projects. It also found that the “annual climate finance needed” from 2031 to 2050 is more than $10 trillion each year. “Anyone who willfully denies the impact of climate change is condemning the American people to a very dangerous future,” President Joe Biden said on Nov. 14, 2023, while announcing $6 billion in new investments through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). “The impacts we’re seeing are only going to get worse, more frequent, more ferocious, and more costly.”

At its signing in August 2022, President Biden said the IRA “invests $369 billion to take the most aggressive action ever—ever, ever, ever—in confronting the climate crisis and strengthening our economic—our energy security.” A report from Goldman Sachs put the dollar amount much higher, stating, “Critical funding for this next energy revolution is expected to come from the IRA, which will provide an estimated $1.2 trillion of incentives by 2032.” The trillions of dollars being poured into new initiatives stem from the goals set by the United Nations’ Paris Agreement’s legally binding international treaty to “substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions” in the hope of maintaining a temperature of no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

But any decrease in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions won’t have an effect for hundreds to thousands of years—even under the most restrictive circumstances, according to some experts. “If emissions of CO2 stopped altogether, it would take many thousands of years for atmospheric CO2 to return to ‘pre-industrial’ levels,” the Royal Society states in a report on its website. The organization describes itself as a “fellowship of many of the world’s most eminent scientists.” “Surface temperatures would stay elevated for at least a thousand years, implying a long-term commitment to a warmer planet due to past and current emissions,” the report states. “The current CO2-induced warming of Earth is therefore essentially irreversible on human timescales.”

A frequently asked questions page on NASA’s website holds the same position. “If we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, the rise in global temperatures would begin to flatten within a few years. Temperatures would then plateau but remain well-elevated for many, many centuries,” NASA states. And, other scientists say, that’s because CO2 isn’t the culprit in the first place. “CO2 does not cause global warming. Global warming causes more CO2,” said Edwin Berry, a theoretical physicist and certified consulting meteorologist. He called Royal Society’s position on CO2 “pure junk science.” Ian Clark, emeritus professor for the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Ottawa, agreed that if all greenhouse gas emissions ceased today, the Earth would continue warming—but not because of CO2. He said that contrary to popular opinion, temperature doesn’t follow CO2—instead, CO2 follows temperature, which, itself, is due to solar activity.

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Vaxx

 

 

Cat perfume

 

 

Dinosaur Size

 

 

Blink an eye

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in wartime with Paypal, Bitcoin and Patreon.

 

 

 

 

 

Nov 142023
 
 November 14, 2023  Posted by at 10:04 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  57 Responses »


Piet Mondriaan The Flowering Apple Tree 1912

 

State Department Memo Blasts Biden Over ‘Misinformation’ on Gaza War (Sp.)
The Unspoken Elephant in the Room of Netanyahu’s Intent in Gaza (Crooke)
Behind Closed Doors US Calls on Israel to Speed Up Gaza Operation (Sp.)
Pentagon Asks Israel Not to Expand War to Lebanon (Sp.)
Billionaires Are Teaming Up For Pro-Israel, Anti-Hamas Media Drive (AlJ)
The War for Greater Israel and US Hegemony Is About to Begin (PCR)
Zelenskyy Is In Conflict With Ukrainian Military – Arestovych (RT)
Nord Stream ‘Sideshow’ Conceals Zelensky vs Zaluzhny Infighting (Sp.)
The Rise of Evil as the Determinant Force in the Western World (PCR)
Canada Is A Hostage To Nazi Ideology – Moscow (RT)
Light in the Darkness (Kunstler)
Suella Braverman Sacked As Home Secretary After Article Criticising Police (G.)
David Cameron Returns To UK Government As Foreign Secretary (G.)
The Sacking of the Beltway by Good Intentions (Turley)
Whistleblower David McBride Declares ‘Today I Serve My Country’ (G.)

 

 


Two Mothers watching over their sons. Same place in the world, 2,000 years apart

 

 

 

 

Galloway

 

 

 

 

Not Borat
https://twitter.com/i/status/1724175188638511544

 

 

 

 

Gaza gas

 

 

 

 

Shamir

 

 

 

 

 

 

“..accuses the president of being “complicit in genocide..”

State Department Memo Blasts Biden Over ‘Misinformation’ on Gaza War (Sp.)

One hundred State Department and USAID employees have signed a memo accusing the Biden administration of “spreading misinformation” about the war in Gaza and charging Israel with carrying out “war crimes” by cutting off electricity to the enclave, limiting aid deliveries and mounting attacks which have displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians.The five-page memo, excerpts of which were obtained by US media, accuses the president of being “complicit in genocide,” attacks him for questioning the number of lives lost in Gaza amid Israel’s campaign, and demands that the US government “advocate for the release of hostages by both Hamas” and by Israel, including “thousands” of Palestinians it says are being held by the Israelis “without charge.”

Accusing the administration of “doubl[ing] down on our unwavering military assistance [to Israel] without clear or actionable redlines,” the memo argues that the White House and members of the National Security Council have “displayed a clear disregard for the lives of Palestinians, a documented unwillingness to de-escalate, and, even prior to October 7, a reckless lack of strategic foresight.” The cutting memo appears to be the second of its kind since the media publication of excerpts from a separate letter by staffers on the Biden administration’s handling of the Gaza crisis last week. “We must publicly criticize Israel’s violations of international norms such as failure to limit offensive operations to legitimate military targets,” the earlier memo, excerpts of which were reported on Saturday, said. “When Israel supports settler violence and illegal land seizures or employs excessive use of force against Palestinians, we must communicate publicly that this goes against our American values so that Israel does not act with impunity,” it added.

The memos are the latest sign of widespread internal dissent in the State Department over the US handling of the Gaza crisis. Last month, Josh Paul, a director at State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, publicly resigned and warned in a letter that the US is “repeating the same mistakes we have made these past few decades” by “blindly” supporting the Israelis, and saying he would not “be a part of it for longer.” Last week, more than 500 former Biden 2020 campaign staffers signed a letter “imploring” the president to “step up” and “be a leader we can be proud of in the face of injustice” in the Palestinian-Israeli crisis. Expressing “horror” over the October 7 Hamas attacks, the staffers stressed that their violence did not justify what Israel is doing in the Gaza Strip.

Biden Israel

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“For now, the IDF are staying in their tanks. But sooner or later, they will have to engage with Hamas on foot. So, the fight with Hamas has barely begun.”

The Unspoken Elephant in the Room of Netanyahu’s Intent in Gaza (Crooke)

What is the ‘elephant’ (or elephants) in the room? Blinken’s recent regional diplomacy was ‘a bust’. None of the regional leaders that Blinken met would talk further about Gaza beyond demanding stridently, ‘no Palestinian population displacement into Egypt’ a ‘stop to this madness’ – the carpet bombing of Gazans – and the demand for an immediate ceasefire. And Biden’s calls for a ‘pause’ – softly, at first, and the more strident now – is being bluntly ignored by the Israeli government. The spectre of President Carter’s impotence during the Iran hostage crisis hangs ever more soberly in the backdrop. The truth is that the White House cannot force Israel to do its will – the Israeli lobby holds the more clout in Congress than any White House team. Thus, ‘no exit’ from the Israeli crisis is readily to be seen. Biden ‘made his bed’ with the Netanyahu cabinet and must live with consequences.

Impotence then, as the Democratic Party fractures beyond the simplistic division between centrists versus progressives. The polarisation emanating from the ‘no ceasefire stance’ is having stark destabilising effects on politics, both in the U.S. and Europe. Impotence then, as the shape of the Middle East crystallises into sharp antagonism towards the West’s perceived accommodation of the mass slaughter of Palestinian women, children and civilians. The die may be too far ‘cast’ to brake the ongoing tectonic reset already underway. Western double standards are just too inescapably obvious now to the Global Majority. The large ‘elephant’ is this: Israel has dropped more than 25,000 tons of high explosives since 7 October (the 1945 Hiroshima nuke was 15,000 tons equivalent). What exactly is Netanyahu and his war cabinet’s aim here?

Ostensibly, the earlier military operation in Jabalia Camp was about targeting a Hamas leader suspected of lurking under the camp – but six 2,000 lb bombs for one Hamas ‘target’ in a crowded refugee camp? And why too the attacks on water cisterns, hospital solar energy panels and hospital entrances, roads, schools and bakeries? Bread has almost disappeared in Gaza. The UN says all bakeries in northern Gaza have closed following the bombing of the last bakeries. Clean water is desperately short, and thousands of bodies are slowly decomposing under rubble. Disease and epidemic are appearing, whilst humanitarian supplies are being tightly restricted as a bargaining tool toward further hostage releases.. Editor of Haaretz, Aluf Benn, puts the Israeli strategy very plainly:

“The expulsion of the Palestinian residents, transformation of their homes into piles of construction rubble, and the restriction of the entry of supplies and fuel into Gaza are the “tiebreaking move” employed by Israel in the current conflict, unlike all previous rounds of fighting in the Strip”. Of what are we talking here? This clearly is not about avoiding collateral civilian deaths occurring as the IDF battles with Hamas. There have been no street battles in Jabalia, or in and around the hospitals – as one soldier commented: “All we’ve done is ride around in our armored vehicles. The boots on the ground stuff will come later”. The pretext of a ‘humanitarian evacuation’ therefore is bogus. Hamas’ main forces are sitting deep underground, for the right moment to engage the IDF (i.e. when they are on foot amidst the rubble). For now, the IDF are staying in their tanks. But sooner or later, they will have to engage with Hamas on foot. So, the fight with Hamas has barely begun.

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For Sleepy Joe’s re-election.

Behind Closed Doors US Calls on Israel to Speed Up Gaza Operation (Sp.)

The United States is calling on Israel to accelerate its operation in the Gaza Strip behind closed doors as it may negatively affect President Joe Biden’s reelection bid in case of prolongation, Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) said on Monday. “The truth, however, is that Americans are having very different conversations behind closed doors with Israeli leadership. The Israelis are being encouraged to speed up the operation in order to prevent it from being delayed, as this would negatively affect Biden’s election positions,” the SVR said in a statement. The US has managed to secure the support of the United Kingdom and Germany in promoting the operation to destroy the Palestinian Hamas movement despite the rising death toll among Gaza Strip residents, the SVR added.

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“.. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who wrote on social media late Sunday [..] the “Israeli regime” had “collapsed on October 7 and is now alive” only thanks to “American artificial respiration.”

Pentagon Asks Israel Not to Expand War to Lebanon (Sp.)

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah stopped short of opening a second front against Israel in a long-anticipated speech last week, saying that tying up substantial numbers of Israeli troops along the border was sufficient, while warning that “all options are on the table” if Israel continues it provocations. Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin ‘expressed concern’ to his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant about Israeli actions serving to escalate tensions along the Israeli-Lebanese border. That’s according to a report by US media citing three Israeli and American sources briefed on the Austin-Gallant phonecall, which took place Saturday. The unusually blunt request comes amid reports of concerns in Washington that Tel Aviv is deliberately trying to draw Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah militia into the Palestinian-Israeli crisis to drag the United States and other powers into the conflict.

Israel has dismissed such claims. The official readout of the Austin-Gallant call did not mention Lebanon or Hezbollah, paraphrasing Austin as having “reaffirmed Israel’s right to self-defense,” while emphasizing “the need to contain the conflict to Gaza and avoid regional escalation.” But in private, the report indicated, Austin specifically asked Gallant not to take ‘steps that could lead to an all-out war between Israel and Hezbollah,’ and for details on Israeli strikes against Lebanon, which Israeli media have indicated have proven increasingly ineffective against Hezbollah’s fighters. Austin’s remarks come amid concerns expressed Monday by Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, a top commander in Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, that Israel’s continued war in Gaza has already spilled over into Lebanon, and threatens to expand further.

“Today, we can see that the war has expanded and Lebanon is embroiled in it. It’s probable that the extent of clashes will grow even further. The future is uncertain, but Iran is prepared for all circumstances,” Hajizadeh said. The brigadier general, who commands the IRGC’s powerful Aerospace Force, went on to stress that Iran is not afraid of the United States, which has parked two aircraft carriers and at least one cruise missile sub in the Middle East and shored up its bases in the region with thousands of additional troops and warplanes. “The US is not threatening Iran…Iran is not in a position where anybody would seek to threaten it, as we are currently at the peak of our military strength,” Hajizadeh assured. The commander’s remarks were preceded by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who wrote on social media late Sunday that he had informed his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, that the “Israeli regime” had “collapsed on October 7 and is now alive” only thanks to “American artificial respiration.”

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“We must get ahead of the narrative.”

Billionaires Are Teaming Up For Pro-Israel, Anti-Hamas Media Drive (AlJ)

A billionaire real estate tycoon in the United States is rallying support for a high-dollar media crusade to boost Israel’s image and demonise the Hamas armed group amid global pro-Palestinian solidarity protests.The media campaign — called Facts for Peace — is seeking million-dollar donations from dozens of the world’s biggest names in media, finance and technology, according to an email seen by news website Semafor. More than 50 individuals are being courted, including former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Dell CEO Michael Dell and financier Michael Milken. They have a combined net worth of around $500bn, Semafor said. Some of the individuals, such as investor Bill Ackman, have publicly threatened to blacklist pro-Palestine students who are critical of Israel.

On October 10, Ackman wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that he and other business executives wanted Ivy League universities to disclose the names of students who are part of organisations that signed open letters criticising Israeli policies in Gaza.US billionaire Barry Sternlicht, who started the project, said the campaign would help Israel “get ahead of the narrative” as the world has reacted to the intensive Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip. “Public opinion will surely shift as scenes, real or fabricated by Hamas, of civilian Palestinian suffering will surely erode [Israel’s] current empathy in the world community”, Sternlicht wrote in an email soliciting contributions from the wealthy figures shortly after Hamas’s October 7 attacks on Israel, according to Semafor. “We must get ahead of the narrative.”

[..] Sternlicht’s media drive aims to brand Hamas as a “terrorist organisation” that is “not just the enemy of Israel, but of the United States”, he wrote. The goal is to draw $50m in private donations, paired with a matching contribution from a Jewish charity. Hamas is already designated as a “terrorist” organisation by the US and the European Union for its armed resistance against Israeli occupation. It is unclear which figures have donated, but the campaign has raised at least a few million dollars already, Semafor reported, citing “people familiar with the matter”. It is being advised by Josh Vlasto, a communications strategist who previously worked for US Senator Chuck Schumer and former Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo, Semafor reported.

The US is Israel’s strongest global ally, providing it with billions of dollars of aid annually and staunch diplomatic backing. Despite the mounting humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the US government has continuously rebuffed global calls for a ceasefire and reiterated that Washington will not give Israel “red lines” in the war. On November 2, the US Congress passed a $14.3bn emergency military aid package for Israel. However, public support for the US’s position appears to be ebbing, with nearly half of US Democrats disapproving of how Joe Biden has handled the conflict, according to a recent poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Social media giants such as Instagram, X, YouTube and TikTok have been accused of censoring pro-Palestine voices by reducing their reach, a practice known as shadowbanning. Axios reported last month that pro-Palestine posts on TikTok were being viewed four times more than pro-Israel posts. This came as people around the world have reacted with horror to the mounting death toll in Gaza where most of the killed are civilians. Facts For Peace, the media campaign launched by Sternlicht, aims to win back public favour for Israel, posting videos on its social media pages blaming Hamas for the plight of Palestinians and denying claims of Israeli rights violations.

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“How can the extraordinary situation be explained that the US, a country that demonizes its own white population, is led by neoconservatives who assert that the American people are exceptional and indispensable?”

The War for Greater Israel and US Hegemony Is About to Begin (PCR)

Putin could have prevented the coming world war by quickly dispatching Ukraine in 2014 and by providing air defense systems for Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza against Israel and Washington’s air strikes.I would be more optimistic that we have a future if Russian media and foreign affairs analysts, such as Fyodor Lukyanov, chairman of the Russian Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense policy, could dispense with their rose-colored glasses that protect them from reality, and face up to facts. The massive amounts of aircraft, air defense systems, warships, troops and nuclear missile submarines the US is pouring into the vicinity of Israel is not intended for use against Hamas. The intent is to open up the Middle East for Greater Israel and to use Iran as a base from which to cause problems for Russia in Central Asia. If this agenda succeeds, nuclear war is inevitable. An agenda that leads to ashes should be denounced and avoided.

The neoconservatives who control US foreign policy have had their sights on Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah before the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. These countries have been American targets since Norman Podhoretz wrote in Commentary that the US should overthrow the Middle Eastern governments. Prior to the George W. Bush regime’s invasion of Iraq, General Wesley Clark was shown a Pentagon memo that the US intended to overthrow 7 Middle Eastern countries in 5 years. The neoconservatives completely controlled US defense and foreign policy then, as they do today. This project is still the agenda, and it is unfolding before blind Russian and American eyes as I write. I often wonder if Russia, despite its overwhelming nuclear and military superiority over the West, has the ability to survive.

Russian intellectuals, media, and foreign policy analysts seem to be incapable of comprehending that the neoconservatives regard Russia as an enemy to be eliminated. Alienated by the Soviet regime, Russian intellectuals see the West as the touchstone of rationality and freedom. Can Russia survive such a delusion? Fyodor Lukyanov, for example, who is also the director of the Valdai International Discussion Club where Putin always shines, dismisses WW III as “inadmissible” because of nuclear weapons. Perhaps he was influenced by the decades of American propaganda and cannot reconcile his brainwashing with the Wolfowitz doctrine. Indeed, in my many years of being interviewed by Russian media, it is rare to come across a Russian journalist who is even aware of the Wolfowitz doctrine that the principal goal of US foreign policy is to prevent the rise of Russia or any other country capable of constraining US unilateral action.

The entirety of Putin’s travails in Ukraine is due to his inability to comprehend the agenda of the US neoconservatives. He sat there for 8 years while the US built a Ukrainian Army capable of destroying Russian Donbas before he, belatedly, acted. Putin is again sitting on his butt in the Middle East. He does nothing while the US builds up massive military power in the region except aid Washington by preventing Iran and Hezbollah from acting when they had the initiative and would have succeeded. Meanwhile his foreign policy analysts tell him that the Third World War is far off in the future, beyond his life time. How can the extraordinary situation be explained that the US, a country that demonizes its own white population, is led by neoconservatives who assert that the American people are exceptional and indispensable?

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“..the military is not satisfied with the failed counter-offensive, the misuse of Western assistance and the low level of competence in Kyiv..”

Zelenskyy Is In Conflict With Ukrainian Military – Arestovych (RT)

Oleksiy Arestovych, a former adviser to the head of the office of the Ukrainian president, has said that Volodymyr Zelenskyy is in conflict with the Ukrainian military due to the failure of the counter-offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU). “The president’s speech is becoming increasingly emotional because of the criticism he is receiving,” Arestovych said in an interview with El Mundo According to him, the military is not satisfied with the failed counter-offensive, the misuse of Western assistance and the low level of competence in Kyiv. Arestovych said that the position of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhnyi differs from the position of Zelensky. “Now we are faced with a situation where the commander in chief says one thing about the war and the prospects for victory, and the president says something completely different. This is not a normal situation,” the former adviser concluded. Earlier, the head of Zelenskyy’s office, Andrii Yermak, said that the Ukrainian leader and Zaluzhnyi are not in conflict and are united on key issues.

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“..The fact that he was featured in The Economist to me indicates that this is British intelligence signaling that they think this Zaluzhny is their boy..”

Nord Stream ‘Sideshow’ Conceals Zelensky vs Zaluzhny Infighting (Sp.)

US legacy media has added another layer of obfuscation and complexity to the Nord Stream cover story attempting to take the heat off Washington to blame Ukraine for the September 2022 attacks. Building on reports from earlier this year that an enigmatic “pro-Ukrainian group” rented a sailboat to carry out the attacks, released after Sy Hersh’s bombshell reporting implicating the US Navy for the acts of terrorism, the Washington Post story Saturday indicated that Ukrainian special operations forces colonel Roman Chervinsky coordinated the “brazen sabotage operation.” Chervinsky, WaPo’s story goes, “was the coordinator of the Nord Stream operation,” “managing logistics and support for a six-person team that rented a sailboat under false identities and used deep-sea diving equipment to place explosive charges on the gas pipelines.”

But in a new twist on an old narrative, the newspaper ‘revealed’ that Chervinsky, who is presently rotting in a Kiev jail on abuse of power charges, “took orders from more senior Ukrainian officials” reporting to Ukrainian Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Valery Zaluzhny. The twist, coming amid the very public spat between Zaluzhny and President Volodymyr Zelensky over the commander’s comments earlier this month that Ukraine’s counteroffensive had reached a “stalemate,” differs radically from previous MSM reporting on the Nord Stream attacks, which stressed that the alleged Ukrainian perpetrators had no affiliation whatsoever to Ukraine’s government or military. Sources cited by WaPo in its Saturday piece similarly stressed that “the Nord Stream operation was designed to keep Zelensky out of the loop.”

Russian officials haven’t bought the new take on the story, with Duma lawmaker Alexey Chepa characterizing the newspaper’s story as an attempt by the United States and NATO to whitewash their own culpability for the Nord Stream attacks. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the report’s suggestion that Zelensky was kept out of the loop should be “a very alarming sign” not only for Russia, but for the collective West as well. “Because if the Kiev regime no longer controls the situation in the country, this is alarming and should also be taken account.” Retired CIA intelligence officer and former State Department official Larry Johnson also dismisses the new take on the ‘Ukraine did Nord Stream’ story, stressing that it must be viewed using a much broader lens.

“Since the Washington Post normally is the preferred mouthpiece of the CIA, you have to take this as an example of CIA propaganda to identify this individual, who has zero experience in underwater demolition operations, as sort of the mastermind of an underwater demolition operation, as just silly beyond belief,” Johnson told Sputnik. “All of this has to be viewed in the context of the growing conflict between General Zaluzhny and President Zelensky,” Johnson emphasized. “He basically has been seen as a competitor to Zelensky. The fact that he was featured in The Economist to me indicates that this is British intelligence signaling that they think this Zaluzhny is their boy. And the CIA is pushing back, saying ‘no, no, no, it’s got to be Zelensky.’ So Chervinsky is just a sideshow. When you look at the picture here, there’s nothing at all about him that would suggest an operative with any kind of competence.”

Attempts by Washington to deflect the blame for the Nord Stream attacks onto Ukraine makes sense in the context of Kiev’s gradual “abandonment” by the Biden administration, Johnson believes. “This has happened to Afghanistan. It happened in Vietnam. It’s going to happen to Kiev. They’re not winning the war. The United States is preoccupied with the war in Israel. And the United States does not have the money nor the weapons to keep Ukraine in the fight. So we’re looking for exit strategies. And right now the question is whether or not Zelensky will survive. Will he be replaced by Zaluzhny? Will there be a military coup? I think that we’re into that territory now because Ukraine has experienced absolutely zero success on the battlefield,” the observer explained.

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“Western civilization has to go,” as the students chanted, and it has. In its place evil has risen.”

The Rise of Evil as the Determinant Force in the Western World (PCR)

Normally when there is a school shooter, the media goes on and on about the right-wing gun nut who killed the kids. We learn all about him and his politically incorrect ideas and associations. No stone in his life is left unturned. But if the shooter is not a rightwing gun nut, we hear nothing about it. Moreover, as Glenn Greenwald points out, the police and the media suppress the information as it doesn’t fit the narrative. This time the shooter, or rather, murderer, was a trans woman, Audrey Hale, who shot and murdered three teachers and three nine-year olds in a Christian school in Tennessee. Her motives were political, her ideology was left/liberal, and her victims were white in a private Christian school. She left a manifesto, interest in which was non-existent among the presstitutes. The FBI and Tennessee police refused to release the manifesto. When a court ordered the manifesto’s release, the FBI and Tennessee police appealed and the appellate court stayed the court’s order.

Greenwald contrasts this behavior with what happens when the shooter is a white male who can be described as rightwing. Not only are conservative beliefs blamed, but also prominent conservative people who are alleged to have inspired the shooter. Greenwald writes: “Rumble host Steven Crowder announced he had obtained several pages of the manifesto. He published them on Twitter and his online show. The Nashville PD acknowledged their authenticity, expressed rage, and ordered an investigation to find the leaker. The pages published by Crowder of Hale’s writings contained vicious and hateful anti-white and anti-Christian sentiments, prompting the question: who in media or politics radicalized Audrey Hale to go murder people in the name of these bigotries? Yet immediately, Big Tech platforms—including Google’s YouTube and Facebook—censored Crowder’s publications. We know about them—and were able to read them—only because Twitter (X) and Rumble refused as usual to censor, highlighting yet again the vital importance of these free speech platforms.”

For many years I have documented that the overriding purpose of media, universities, the public school system, Hollywood, and the Democrat Party has been to demonize white, traditional Americans as racists, white supremacists, gun nuts, anti-semites, Russian agents, insurrectionists, domestic terrorists, and whatever else. It is extraordinary that the backbone of the United States–the white normal citizen–has been demonized, while sexual perverts and anti-Americans prevail in setting the agendas. The qualities, such as integrity, that comprised the virtues of Americans in my lifetime are no longer passed forward by education, literature, and entertainment. “Western civilization has to go,” as the students chanted, and it has. In its place evil has risen.

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“Neo-Nazi ideology or nationalist ideology, unfortunately, has a very strong influence in Canada. I think this is obvious..”

Canada Is A Hostage To Nazi Ideology – Moscow (RT)

The recent honoring of a Waffen-SS veteran in Canada’s House of Commons was hardly surprising, given the country’s history of harboring Nazi collaborators after World War II, a senior Russia diplomat told RIA Novosti on Monday. The descendants of these people lobby the government to have their ancestors whitewashed and celebrated, Dmitry Polyansky, Russia’s first deputy permanent representative to the UN, explained, referring to an incident in September involving an elderly Ukrainian-Canadian man named Yaroslav Hunka. “Neo-Nazi ideology or nationalist ideology, unfortunately, has a very strong influence in Canada. I think this is obvious,” the Russian official said. “The [Justin] Trudeau government is somewhat a hostage [to the situation].”

Polyansky noted that the large number of Nazi war criminals that entered Canada after World War II had children and grandchildren in the country, and so the situation in which Hunka, a 98-year-old veteran of the SS Galicia Division, was honored in the Canadian parliament earlier this year was hardly “surprising.” Last September, a scandal erupted when Hunka, who served with the notorious 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, which is known to have committed atrocities against Jews and Poles during World War II, received a standing ovation in the Canadian parliament with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky in attendance. The Waffen SS veteran was introduced as a “hero” who fought “for Ukrainian independence against the Russians” during World War II.

At the time, Canada’s immigration minister, Marc Miller, admitted that the country has “a really dark history with Nazis,” saying that at one point, “it was easier to get in [to Canada] as a Nazi than it was as a Jewish person.” Following backlash from Jewish organizations, House Speaker Anthony Rota, who invited Hunka to the event, accepted full responsibility for the incident and has since resigned. Trudeau offered “unreserved apologies” for applauding the Nazi veteran. In October, Russia’s Investigative Committee charged Hunka in absentia with genocide, claiming that archive documents serve as evidence that he and fellow SS Galicia members killed at least 500 civilians between February 23 and 28, 1944. Russian media outlets later reported that the country’s Interior Ministry placed him on its official database of wanted individuals.

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“..a blatantly corrupt and ignorant attorney general in New York state can get away with bringing a politically-motivated nonsense case against the leading presidential candidate in a courtroom ruled by a judge who acts like a jester in a Shakespeare play..”

Light in the Darkness (Kunstler)

The sun is low on the horizon all day long now, and darkness creeps in like a home invasion of your mind. Demons descend through a red and black sky and no help is on the way. Our country is so mentally hog-tied trying to unravel the twisted events of just a few years past that it has no mojo left for rationally anticipating the events of just a few years ahead. Have you ever felt more alone? This is the end-process that we’ve been softened up for: the inability to think and plan. The gigantic “intel community” evolved from something intended to act as sensitized antennae for detecting threats against our republic into what is now a remorseless mind-fucking operation against our republic. That word, by the way, derives from the Latin res publica: the public thing, a society that literally belongs to the people, who decide its affairs. Now, so much is mysteriously decided for us, and not in any good way.

It’s no wonder more than half the country can’t think straight, and it’s a whopping irony that this group comprises most of our country’s thinking class —the bureaucratic managers, the professors, the curators, the editors, the reporters lost in mis-reporting. This group used to play a critical role in the res publica: to earnestly determine what is true and what is real, and to present us with a way of understanding all that so we can think and plan. They appear to be captured by malign forces. The scribes are hard at work defending every act of official malice. The dishonesty at work is epic. You need a decoder ring to keep your mind right. You are probably desperate to understand why this is happening — how, for instance, a blatantly corrupt and ignorant attorney general in New York state can get away with bringing a politically-motivated nonsense case against the leading presidential candidate in a courtroom ruled by a judge who acts like a jester in a Shakespeare play. New York AG Letitia James gets away with it because the flagship organ of the thinking class, The New York Times, is in on the gambit. But why?

We struggle to sort this out. One explanation is that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has infiltrated the management of our country at every level so as to eventually conquer our territory for its resources while eliminating or enslaving the population? Surely, the CCP has made significant inroads, starting with the successful bribery and compromise of “Joe Biden,” probably other elected officials, too, in placing many CCP agents in the vast array of university research departments, NGOs, PACs, and lobbying gangs, and extending to the purchase of vital businesses and farmland to prepare the gameboard for eventual takeover. My opinion is they’ve accomplished a good bit of this, but it’s not the answer you’re seeking.

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In UK politics, incompetence is a job requirement.

Suella Braverman Sacked As Home Secretary After Article Criticising Police (G.)

Rishi Sunak has sacked Suella Braverman as UK home secretary after she was blamed for inflaming tensions over Armistice Day protests, immediately replacing her with James Cleverly, the foreign secretary. A No 10 announcement said Cleverly was becoming home secretary following “the departure from government” of Braverman. A government source earlier said that Sunak “asked Suella Braverman to leave government and she has accepted”. David Cameron, the former prime minister, was later confirmed as replacing Cleverley as foreign secretary. Braverman’s dismissal is being used by Sunak as the trigger for a wider reshuffle, with Thérèse Coffey, the environment secretary, and Steve Barclay, the health secretary, believed to be also likely to go.

Jeremy Hunt, who had been tipped to be moved as chancellor, was also confirmed as staying in post. Two junior ministers, the schools minister Nick Gibb and the health minister Neil O’Brien, announced they were stepping down from their roles. After being sacked, Braverman said “it has been the greatest privilege of my life to serve as home secretary”, adding: “I will have more to say in due course.” Jess Phillips, part of Labour’s shadow home affair team, called Braverman the “worst home secretary in living memory”, adding: “Putting aside obvious ghoulish divisions, she simply didn’t understand her job.” Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: “Suella Braverman was never fit to be home secretary. Rishi Sunak knew this and he still appointed her. It was the prime minister’s sheer cowardice that kept her in the job even for this long.”

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Blair is back, AND Cameron is back. That’s the best Britain can do.

David Cameron Returns To UK Government As Foreign Secretary (G.)

David Cameron has returned to government as UK foreign secretary, in a stunning comeback for the former prime minister that highlighted Rishi Sunak’s willingness to take risks as he looks to revive his political fortunes. Downing Street announced on Monday that Cameron would join the government, accepting a peerage in order to do so, as part of a wider reshuffle in which Suella Braverman was sacked as home secretary and replaced by the foreign secretary, James Cleverly. A spokesperson also confirmed Jeremy Hunt would remain as chancellor. Cameron posted on X, formerly known as Twitter: “We are facing a daunting set of international challenges, including the war in Ukraine and the crisis in the Middle East. At this time of profound global change, it has rarely been more important for this country to stand by our allies, strengthen our partnerships and make sure our voice is heard.

“While I have been out of front-line politics for the last seven years, I hope that my experience – as Conservative Leader for eleven years and Prime Minister for six – will assist me in helping the Prime Minister to meet these vital challenges.” Cameron stood down in 2016 after losing the Brexit referendum, but reportedly told friends in 2018 he wanted to return to frontline politics, preferably as foreign secretary. Since then he has maintained a relatively low profile, though he became embroiled in scandal two years ago when he lobbied government ministers to provide financing for the now-insolvent financial services company Greensill Capital.

He returned to the headlines last month when he said Sunak’s decision to cancel the HS2 high-speed train line between Birmingham and Manchester was wrong, adding: “We are heading in the wrong direction.” Cameron has also been a strong supporter of the UK retaining its commitment to spending 0.7% of gross national income on international aid, a commitment Sunak has since junked. Cameron said in his online statement: “Though I may have disagreed with some individual decisions, it is clear to me that Rishi Sunak is a strong and capable Prime Minister, who is showing exemplary leadership at a difficult time. I want to help him to deliver the security and prosperity our country needs and be part of the strongest possible team that serves the United Kingdom and that can be presented to the country when the General Election is held.”

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“..the “newly elected Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) does not have a bank account” and apparently “lives paycheck to paycheck.”

The Sacking of the Beltway by Good Intentions (Turley)

There is a palpable level of panic that seems to have taken hold of Washington this week. Establishment figures are raising the alarm over the rise of dangerous figures as if they are the barbarians at the gate before the sacking of Rome in 410. The threat is coming from both parties in the form of the new Speaker Mike Johnson and Democratic presidential candidate Robert Kennedy Jr. They may be the worst type of barbarians because they came to this city with the best of intentions. For some in Washington, there may be nothing more unnerving than the best of intentions. This is a one-industry town where fortunes are made the old-fashioned way with influence peddling, special dealing, and pork barreling. In that world, the rise of Johnson and Kennedy are about as welcomed as a priest among the Pirates of Penzance.

Johnson is the ultimate buzz kill. Many were aghast that Johnson used his first speech as speaker to thank God and to say that he believes that God has a plan for him. That is a view shared by millions of religious Americans and it is not the first time that a politician has made such public expressions of devotion. Bill Clinton used to invoke God and salvation continually as he set physical records for debauchery. Even after his Monica Lewinsky scandal, Clinton would rally liberals to “politics and political involvement dictated by faith.” The problem is not that Johnson said it but he actually seems to mean it. I likely do not share Johnson’s views on legislating morality or the separation of church and state. However, he has always been viewed as a honest man with deep convictions. Of course, this is a city that can more easily forgive actual convictions than religious convictions.

This is a city where professed socialists and populists unapologetically give their husbands or children huge amounts of campaign funds. Rep. Maxine Waters has reportedly given her daughter over a million dollars. Confronted with millions of dollars in alleged influence peddling by the Biden family, the media has continued to maintain a lack of interest, often excusing the practice as common in Washington. Indeed, this month, NBC compared Hunter Biden tapping shady foreign figures for millions to the controversy over Nikki Haley’s daughter using TikTok. The panic over the appearance of an honest man in Congress was evident in an article by the Daily Beast when senior political reporter Roger Sollenberger declared that the “newly elected Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) does not have a bank account” and apparently “lives paycheck to paycheck.”

Of course, surveys show that over sixty percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and fewer than half of Americans can cover a $1000 emergency expense. However, those are average Americans, not one of us. In this city, hard-working members of Congress plan for the future with gold bars and cash stuffed in a closet or millions transferred from corrupt foreign figures through a labyrinth of shell companies and accounts. In this city, the appearance of Johnson left people dumbfounded like seeing a Triceratops strolling down Pennsylvania Avenue. The Daily Beast’s Mike Fuller noted: “Mike Johnson doesn’t have any retirement savings, own a single stock, or have any assets at all. He has less than $5,000 in his bank account. He’s got a 250-500K mortgage, a home equity loan, and a personal loan. So what’s his retirement plan? To lobby?”

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“Today I serve my country,” he said. “The question I have for you, Anthony Albanese, is who do you serve?”

Whistleblower David McBride Declares ‘Today I Serve My Country’ (G.)

David McBride has declared “today I serve my country” as he entered an ACT court to face trial for the alleged leaking of material later used to expose Australian war crimes in Afghanistan. McBride faces five charges, including the unauthorised disclosure of information, breaches of the Defence Act and the theft of commonwealth property. His trial started on Monday in the ACT supreme court. The former military lawyer, who is represented by leading criminal law barrister Stephen Odgers SC, has pleaded not guilty. Supporters gathered in front of the court on Monday to hear speeches from the Human Rights Law Centre senior lawyer Kieran Pender, Julian Assange’s Australian lawyer Stephen Kenny and the Medical Association for Prevention of War’s Sue Wareham, among others.

McBride spoke briefly to the crowd as he entered the court with his support dog, Jakey, who will stay beside him during the proceedings. “Today I serve my country,” he said. “The question I have for you, Anthony Albanese, is who do you serve?” McBride allegedly leaked material to the ABC about the investigation of Australian special forces operating in Afghanistan. ABC reporters later used the documents as the basis of a 2017 series on Australian war crimes titled The Afghan Files. The court on Monday was dealing with preliminary legal issues before a jury was to be empanelled later this week. The preliminary arguments related to whether McBride had a duty not to disclose the material. Commonwealth prosecutors, led by Trish McDonald SC, argue McBride’s role within the Australian Defence Force, and the military disciplinary system he was operating within, imposed a duty on him not to disclose the material.

McBride’s defence says he had a separate duty to act in the public interest and that the military disciplinary regime – and any duty it imposed on McBride not to disclose such material – could only be considered by military tribunals, not by courts of criminal law. “If the jury is satisfied that what was done was in the public interest, even though it was in breach of orders, then, in my respectful submission, you’re not in breach of your duty for the purposes of a criminal offence,” Odgers said.

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Spain’s large scale anti-socialism protests are silenced by our media.

 

 

 

 


Capybaras are herbivores, therefore harmless to other animals around them. They’re easy-going semi-aquatic mammals, social, friendly, and gentle, and get along with just about everyone, so it makes sense that other animals would enjoy their company

 

 


A 4-ton orca leaping 4 meters into the air

 

 

Elephants

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in wartime with Paypal, Bitcoin and Patreon.

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 102021
 


Pieter Bruegel the Elder Two monkeys 1562

 

“This Drug Will Be Incorporated In The DNA” (ZH)
One-year Sustained Cellular, Humoral Immunities Of Covid-19 Convalescents (CID)
Longitudinal Analysis: Durable, Broad Immune Memory After Covid Infection (Cell)
Iceland Stops Use Of Moderna’s Covid Vaccine For All Ages (RT)
Twitter Censors Thread From Entrepreneur Who Regrets Taking the Vaccine (GP)
Aspirin Lowers Risk Of Covid (JPost)
UCLA Doctor ‘Willing To Lose Everything’ Escorted From Work (SB)
Southwest Pilots Union Sues To Block Airline’s Vaccination Mandate
UK Study Shows Vaccine Passports Will Lead to Rebellion (CCTH)
The WEF and the Pandemic (Swprs)
Steven Donziger Was Imprisoned by the 1 Percent’s Favorite Judge (Jac.)
Facebook Whistleblower Testimony Should Prompt New Oversight – Adam Schiff (G.)
‘Global Stilling’ Is Blamed As Wind Speeds Drop Across Europe (DM)
Lebanon’s Electricity Crisis Plunges Beirut, Country Into Darkness (MEE)

 

 

No correlation between vaxx and mortality.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Promo material for the “documentary”

 

 

Masks

 

 

It doesn’t get much scarier than this. Changed for life. Are you then Merck property?

“This Drug Will Be Incorporated In The DNA” (ZH)

According to Barron’s, some scientists who have studied the drug believe that its method of suppressing the virus could potentially run amok within the body. Some scientists who have studied the drug warn, however, that the method it uses to kill the virus that causes Covid-19 carries potential dangers that could limit the drug’s usefulness. Molnupiravir works by incorporating itself into the genetic material of the virus, and then causing a huge number of mutations as the virus replicates, effectively killing it. In some lab tests, the drug has also shown the ability to integrate into the genetic material of mammalian cells, causing mutations as those cells replicate. If that were to happen in the cells of a patient being treated with molnupiravir, it could theoretically lead to cancer or birth defects.

In particular, Raymond Schinazi, a professor of pediatrics and the director of biochemical pharmacology at Emory who studied the drug while it was being developed, and published a number of papers on NHC, the compound that’s the active ingredient in the drug. He published a paper that showed the drug can produce a reaction like the one described above, and insisted it shouldn’t be given to young people – especially pregnant women – without more data. Schinazi told Barron’s that he did not believe that molnupiravir should be given to pregnant women, or to young people of reproductive age, until more data is available. Merck’s trials of molnupiravir have excluded pregnant women; the scientists running the trial asked male participants to “abstain from heterosexual intercourse” while taking the drug, according to the federal government website that tracks clinical trials.

Barron’s even shared a paper published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases in May by Schinazi and scientists at the University of North Carolina which reported that NHC can cause mutations in animal cell cultures in a lab test designed to detect such mutations – something Merck claims it has tested for. The paper’s authors concluded that the risks for molnupiravir “may not be zero”. Merck told Barron’s that it has run “extensive tests” on animals which it says show that this shouldn’t be an issue. “The totality of the data from these studies indicates that molnupiravir is not mutagenic or genotoxic in in-vivo mammalian systems,” a Merck spokesman said. Still, scientists and doctors who have studied NHC say that Merck needs to “be careful,” and it’s not just Schinazi warning about the drug’s potential risks. Dr. Shuntai Zhou, a scientist at the Swanstrom Lab at UNC, said “there is a concern that this will cause long-term mutation effects, even cancer.” Zhou says that he is certain that the drug will integrate itself into the DNA of mammalian hosts. “Biochemistry won’t lie,” he says. “This drug will be incorporated in the DNA.”

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No pills or jabs needed.

One-year Sustained Cellular, Humoral Immunities Of Covid-19 Convalescents (CID)

The longitudinal antigen-specific immunity in COVID-19 convalescents is crucial for long-term protection upon individual re-exposure to SARS-CoV-2, and even more pivotal for ultimately achieving population-level immunity. To better understand the features of immune memory in individuals with different disease severities at one year post-disease onset we conducted this cohort study.

Methods We conducted a systematic antigen-specific immune evaluation in 101 COVID-19 convalescents, who had asymptomatic, mild, moderate, or severe disease, through two visits at months 6 and 12 post-disease onset. The SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies, comprising NAb, IgG, and IgM, were assessed by mutually corroborated assays, i.e. neutralization, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), and microparticle chemiluminescence immunoassay (MCLIA). Meanwhile, the T-cell memory against SARS-CoV-2 spike, membrane and nucleocapsid proteins was tested through enzyme-linked immunospot assay (ELISpot), intracellular cytokine staining (ICS), and tetramer staining-based flow cytometry, respectively.

Results SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG antibodies, and also NAb can persist among over 95% COVID-19 convalescents from 6 months to 12 months after disease onset. At least 19/71 (26%) of COVID-19 convalescents (double positive in ELISA and MCLIA) had detectable circulating IgM antibody against SARS-CoV-2 at 12m post-disease onset. Notably, the percentages of convalescents with positive SARS-CoV-2-specific T-cell responses (at least one of the SARS-CoV-2 antigen S1, S2, M and N protein) were 71/76 (93%) and 67/73 (92%) at 6m and 12m, respectively. Furthermore, both antibody and T-cell memory levels of the convalescents were positively associated with their disease severity.

Conclusions SARS-CoV-2-specific cellular and humoral immunities are durable at least until one year after disease onset.

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This is from July. But just weeks ago Fauci said he didn’t know about natural immunity.

Longitudinal Analysis: Durable, Broad Immune Memory After Covid Infection (Cell)

Ending the COVID-19 pandemic will require long-lived immunity to SARS-CoV-2. Here, we evaluate 254 COVID-19 patients longitudinally up to 8 months and find durable broad-based immune responses. SARS-CoV-2 spike binding and neutralizing antibodies exhibit a bi-phasic decay with an extended half-life of >200 days suggesting the generation of longer-lived plasma cells. SARS-CoV-2 infection also boosts antibody titers to SARS-CoV-1 and common betacoronaviruses. In addition, spike-specific IgG+ memory B cells persist, which bodes well for a rapid antibody response upon virus re-exposure or vaccination.


Virus-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cells are polyfunctional and maintained with an estimated half-life of 200 days. Interestingly, CD4+ T cell responses equally target several SARS-CoV-2 proteins, whereas the CD8+ T cell responses preferentially target the nucleoprotein, highlighting the potential importance of including the nucleoprotein in future vaccines. Taken together, these results suggest that broad and effective immunity may persist long-term in recovered COVID-19 patients.

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Little reason to think Pfizer doesn’t do the same thing. Dose is a bit smaller.

Iceland Stops Use Of Moderna’s Covid Vaccine For All Ages (RT)

Iceland will no longer administer Moderna’s mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, with the country’s chief epidemiologist citing the risk of rare heart inflammations seen in other Nordic countries. The announcement was made by Icelandic health authorities on Friday. Officials stated that Iceland has been administering Moderna’s Spikevax shot over the last two months as a booster for those already inoculated with either two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or one shot of Johnson & Johnson’s jab. Some 75% of Icelanders are fully vaccinated, and health officials maintain that there is a sufficient supply of Pfizer’s vaccine to continue the rollout without the Moderna shots. Pfizer’s is already recommended for under-18s in Iceland.

The decision to halt Moderna vaccinations was made after adverse effects to the shot were noted in several other Nordic nations, which have since restricted their own rollouts of the jab. “A Nordic study involving Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark found that men under the age of 30 who received Moderna Spikevax had a slightly higher risk than others of developing myocarditis,” Director of Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare Mika Salminen said on Thursday. Salminen announced that men born in 1991 and after would no longer be given Spikevax. One day earlier, Sweden stopped giving the Moderna shot to all of its population born in 1991 and later, while Denmark suspended its use on under-18s. Norway recommended that men under the age of 30 choose Pfizer’s jab instead.

The European Medicines Agency in July published findings urging the heart conditions myocarditis and pericarditis be added to the list of potential rare side effects of mRNA Covid-19 vaccines manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna after reviewing over 300 incidences across the European Economic Area. According to the EMA, these cases are extremely rare.

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“..I am now fighting a T-Cell Lymphoma as a result of the degraded MRNA Protein Spike via dendritic reaction, called by Pfizer a waning immunity!”

Twitter Censors Thread From Entrepreneur Who Regrets Taking the Vaccine (GP)

Twitter has censored a thread in which Michael Robison explained that he regretted trading “my solid health, for a temporary freedom to travel and freedom from being criticized.” Robison — an investor, entrepreneur and the founder of SPARTN Monkey Rescue — had posted his personal story about his health declining after taking the COVID vaccine and warned people to “THINK, STUDY & BE AWARE” before getting it themselves. “I am not anti-vaccine… but I will caution…. Proceed with care!!! Police cars revolving light I am now fighting a T-Cell Lymphoma as a result of the degraded MRNA Protein Spike via dendritic reaction, called by Pfizer a waning immunity! It is not truly a safe precaution for #COVID19,” Robison wrote.

Robison continued on to say “the CDC, Pfizer, Moderna and J&J know that the instability of IVT use of MRNA is accompanied by the bodies clearing of the Inert 19 Protein Spike by the immune system. When it leaves the cell structure compromised after insertion & clearing…. It results in autoimmune issues….” “One such issue is the risk and causation of severe results such as Leukemia and T-Cell Lymphoma. Another common long term effect is autoimmune disorders that impact the skin…. And require life long maintenance and treatment…” the thread continued. “All such issues and cases have been consistently reported to VAERS which is co-managed by the CDC & FDA…. But no attention or research has been prioritized or funded for this repository of information!”

“My caution is this…. Be aware. As late as 2018 all of the groups involved were still convinced that MRNA was still far too unstable for use in vaccine distribution. This vaccine is the largest form of a clinical trial in the history of mankind,” Robison wrote. He concluded by saying, “my caution is this…. Be aware. As late as 2018 all of the groups involved were still convinced that MRNA was still far too unstable for use in vaccine distribution. This vaccine is the largest form of a clinical trial in the history of mankind.” Soon, the first post of the thread had amassed over 100 retweets — and was noticed by the censors.

First, Twitter slapped on warning on the tweet claiming that it is “misleading” because health officials say that the vaccines are safe for “most people.” They also took away the ability to like, comment or share it. Next, the platform made it so that if you clicked on the first tweet, the ones below it no longer appeared. Speaking to the Gateway Pundit, Robison said that “this stark, swift and harsh censorship by Twitter is a reminder that the ‘facts’ you read on any social media platform are not unbiased or unfiltered. Rather it is dictated by narratives that fit the political or personal gain of those in charge of multi-billion dollar platforms to which we have surrendered our lives.” “It’s good to be reminded that social media is nothing more than a highlight reel of life, managed by agendas, driven by money!” Robison continued.

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Deve Collum: “Aspirin helps. That’s humorous. Have they tried chicken soup?” “WD-40 and duct tape…”

Aspirin Lowers Risk Of Covid (JPost)

Over-the-counter aspirin could protect the lungs of COVID-19 patients and minimize the need for mechanical ventilation, according to new research at the George Washington University. The team investigated more than 400 COVID patients from hospitals across the United States who take aspirin unrelated to their COVID disease, and found that the treatment reduced the risk of several parameters by almost half: reaching mechanical ventilation by 44%, ICU admissions by 43%, and overall in-hospital mortality by 47%. “As we learned about the connection between blood clots and COVID-19, we knew that aspirin – used to prevent stroke and heart attack – could be important for COVID-19 patients,” said Dr. Jonathan Chow of the study team. “Our research found an association between low-dose aspirin and decreased severity of COVID-19 and death.”


Low-dose aspirin is a common treatment for anyone suffering from blood clotting issues or in danger of stroke, including most people who had a heart attack or a myocardial infarction. Although affecting the respiratory system, the coronavirus has been associated with small blood vessel clotting, causing tiny blockages in the pulmonary blood system, leading to ARDS – acute respiratory distress syndrome. Israeli researchers reached similar results in a preliminary trial at the Barzilai Medical Center in March. In addition to its effect on blood clots, they found that aspirin carried immunological benefits and that the group taking it was 29% less likely to become infected with the virus in the first place.

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“But what they don’t realize is that I’m willing to go lose everything — job, paycheck, freedom, even my life for this cause.”

UCLA Doctor ‘Willing To Lose Everything’ Escorted From Work (SB)

An anesthesiologist at UCLA Health in California who has not shied away from airing his suspicions about COVID-19 vaccines was escorted out of his workplace this week for refusing to get vaccinated in defiance of a statewide and employer mandate, according to local reports and a video posted on Twitter. Dr. Christopher Rake is seen in a video appearing to record himself as another man escorts him out of the UCLA Medical Plaza in Westwood on Monday. “This is what happens when you stand up for freedom and when you show up to work, willing to work, despite being unvaccinated, and this is the price you have to pay sometimes,” Rake is heard saying in the video posted Tuesday by The Beverly Hills Courier staff writer Samuel Braslow. “But what they don’t realize is that I’m willing to go lose everything — job, paycheck, freedom, even my life for this cause.” Rake concludes his video with a message for viewers: “Be well. United we stand, divided we fall.”

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Lots of flight cancellations yesterday. Conflicting reports on the reasons behind those.

Southwest Pilots Union Sues To Block Airline’s Vaccination Mandate

In what appears to be one of the first cases of a union pushing back against the new COVID vaccination requirements handed down by the Biden Administration, a union representing pilots at Southwest Airlines is suing to stop the vaccine requirement from being forced until a lawsuit is resolved. Bloomberg reports that the union representing Southwest’s pilots has asked a court to grant a temporary stay against the federal vaccination rules until an ongoing lawsuit over what they allege are violations of US labor laws is resolved. In a court filing on Friday, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association also asked for an immediate hearing on the request before a federal court in Dallas, claiming the carrier has continued to take unilateral actions that violate terms of the Railway Labor Act, which governs relations between airlines and employee unions.

The “unilateral action” in question is the company’s attempt (at the Biden Administration’s direction) to force workers to either get the jab, or be fired or sent on unpaid leave, Bloomberg reports. “The new vaccine mandate unlawfully imposes new conditions of employment and the new policy threatens termination of any pilot not fully vaccinated by December 8, 2021,” the legal filing said. “Southwest Airlines’ additional new and unilateral modification of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement is in clear violation of the RLA.” According to the guidelines set out by President Biden (and “voluntarily” embraced by most of the major airlines), Southwest has a deadline of Oct. 4 under the federal mandate for employees to get jabbed or have an approved medical or religious exemption. SW is affected by the mandate because it has contracts with the federal government (like many large businesses).

The union represents 9,000 pilots at the airline, and a strike could easily disrupt American air travel (remember the air traffic controllers strike in the 1980s?) For whatever reason, the airline isn’t backing down, insisting that the vaccination mandate (which airline CEOs have gone on TV to defend) isn’t an issue subject to labor-management negotiation, and that anybody who refuses the jab without an exemption will be fired. “The airline disagrees with SWAPA’s claims that any Covid-related changes over the past several months require negotiation,” Southwest said in an emailed statement. The carrier is committed to working with its unions “as we continue navigating the challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic.”

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“..the available evidence shows us that there is absolutely no logical or legal basis for implementing these vaccine passports.”

UK Study Shows Vaccine Passports Will Lead to Rebellion (CCTH)

Instead of increasing vaccine acceptance, the implementation of vaccine passports could actually increase vaccine hesitancy. These are the findings of a recent study published as a pre-print in the Lancet journal EClinicalMedicine[1]. A summary of this study was written by Ken Macon and published on Reclaim the Net last September 1, 2021. The survey, which included 16,000 respondents, is the first quantitative assessment of the potential impact of vaccine passports on vaccination uptake. It was funded by the Merck Investigator Studies Program. The authors make the following conclusion in regard to vaccine passports: “We call for further evidence on the impact of vaccine certification on confidence in COVID-19 vaccines and in routine immunizations in wider global settings and, in particular, in countries with low overall trust in vaccinations or in authorities that administer or recommend vaccines.”

The survey was conducted in April 2021, as plans for the implementation of vaccine passports were already gaining traction. It was also around this same time when the first iterations of the (faulty) New York vax passports were being rolled out. We will remember that around this time, some publications were starting to talk about the ‘righteousness’ of vaccine passports while various health experts started raising their opposition to this plan. Was mainstream media starting to condition the masses to accept vaccine passports because they knew of this study? The vaccine passport or green pass has common goals: to limit the movements of those who will not submit to the injection and restrict participation in society. But the available evidence shows us that there is absolutely no logical or legal basis for implementing these vaccine passports.

1/ Vaccines cannot prevent infection and stop transmission. Even if everyone took the vaccine, infections will continue [indeed, we are already seeing evidences proving this, see Israel, once the model for beating COVID, now has one of the highest infections in the world; 75% of new COVID cases in Singapore are vaccinated; Countries with the highest vaccination rates also facing surge in COVID cases and deaths; World’s most vaccinated nation activates new lockdowns as cases rise, New COVID surge in 4 out of 5 top vaccinated countries in the world.] This means that COVID vaccines, if it works, cannot be used as a public health policy as it has no impact on public health.

2/However, based on the survey, there is a high probability of individuals from working classes of submitting to vaccine passports. It is not far-fetched to assume because they want to move around freely, especially those whose jobs require travel. CDC said on their website[2], do not travel internationally if you are not fully vaccinated, but why is Israel banned from other countries right now?

3/ Our immune system is robust, broad, and long-lasting. Immunity from vaccines pale in comparison to natural immunity.

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They just lost one of their “young global leaders” in Austria chancellor Kurz.

The WEF and the Pandemic (Swprs)

The Davos World Economic Forum (WEF) is a premier forum for governments, global corporations and international entrepreneurs. Founded in 1971 by engineer and economist Klaus Schwab, the WEF describes its mission as “shaping global, regional and industry agendas” and “improving the state of the world”. According to its website, “moral and intellectual integrity is at the heart of everything it does.” The WEF has been involved in the coronavirus pandemic in several ways. First, the WEF was, together with the Gates Foundation, a sponsor of the prescient “Event 201” coronavirus pandemic simulation exercise, held in New York City on October 18, 2019 – the same day as the opening of the Wuhan Military World Games, seen by some as “ground zero” of the global pandemic. China itself has argued that US military athletes may have brought the virus to Wuhan.

Second, the WEF has been a leading proponent of digital biometric identity systems, arguing that they will make societies and industries more efficient, more productive and more secure. In July 2019, the WEF started a project to “shape the future of travel with biometric-enabled digital traveler identity management”. In addition, the WEF collaborates with the ID2020 alliance, which is funded by the Gates and Rockefeller foundations and runs a program to “provide digital ID with vaccines”. In particular, ID2020 sees the vaccination of children as “an entry point for digital identity.” Third, WEF founder Klaus Schwab is the author of the book COVID-19: The Great Reset, published in July 2020, which argues that the coronavirus pandemic can and should be used for an “economic, societal, geopolitical, environmental and technological reset”, including, in particular, advancing global governance, accelerating digital transformation, and tackling climate change.

Finally, the WEF has been running, since 1993, a program called “Global Leaders for Tomorrow”, rebranded, in 2004, as “Young Global Leaders”. This program aims at identifying, selecting and promoting future global leaders in both business and politics. Indeed, quite a few “Young Global Leaders” have later managed to become Presidents, Prime Ministers, or CEOs (see below). During the coronavirus pandemic, several WEF Global Leaders and Global Shapers (a junior program of the Global Leaders) have played prominent roles, typically promoting zero-covid strategies, lockdowns, mask mandates, and vaccine mandates. This may have been a (largely failed) attempt to protect public health and the economy, or it may have been an attempt to advance the global transformation agenda outlined above, or perhaps both.

WEF
https://twitter.com/i/status/1426753784315793411

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Both Assange and Donziger have heavily compromised female judges.

Steven Donziger Was Imprisoned by the 1 Percent’s Favorite Judge (Jac.)

The Donziger case isn’t the first time those connections created a conflict of interest for the judge. Back in 1995, three years after she had been approved for the court, Preska presided over a copyright case involving the Twin Cities–based West Publishing Company, despite her and her husbands’ connections to the firm. (Preska’s husband, Thomas Kavaler, is a nearly forty-year veteran of and partner at Cahill Gordon & Reindel, a top corporate law firm that specializes in the world of finance). It was only when pressed by one of the litigants, forcing her to admit relationships with two West employees, including a lawyer who was key to the case, that she recused herself.

Seventeen years later, Preska presided over the case of “hacktivist” Jeremy Hammond who was under trial for hacking into various law enforcement agencies and private security firms, including Strategic Forecasting Limited, or Stratfor, which counted the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security among its clients. As the hacking group Anonymous pointed out, and noted by almost no news outlets besides the likes of RT, Rolling Stone, or journalists like Chris Hedges, Preska’s husband was one of the Stratfor customers whose data had been hacked, and who would have been eligible for a payout from the multimillion-dollar class-action suit against the company that resulted. Sratfor had also spied on the Occupy Wall Street movement, a movement in direct opposition to Preska’s husband’s client base, and more than twenty of his firm’s clients had been caught up in the hack, including Merrill Lynch.

Despite this clear conflict of interest — and despite telling senators at her confirmation hearing decades before that “through my husband, I might be thought to have an indirect financial interest in the profits of the law firm of Cahill Gordon & Reindel” — Preska refused to recuse herself from the case. Doing so, she said, “would only encourage supporters of this defendant — or other defendants — to allege unsubstantiated conflicts of interest against any of my brothers and sisters of the Court until no judge remained qualified to hear his case.” With echoes of the Donziger case, Preska denied Hammond bail, leaving him in federal prison for a year, much of it spent in solitary confinement, before sentencing him to the maximum ten years in prison, citing a “need for adequate public deterrence.”

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This woman was obviously staged. By Schiff himself? He’s been silent since Russiagate, but now he’s got a book to sell.

“..harming children and destabilising democracy via the sharing of inaccurate and divisive content..”

“It’s just like cigarettes … teenagers don’t have good self-regulation.”

“..balkanising the public and deepening the divisions in our society”

Facebook Whistleblower Testimony Should Prompt New Oversight – Adam Schiff (G.)

Testimony in Congress this week by the whistleblower Frances Haugen should prompt action to implement meaningful oversight of Facebook and other tech giants, the influential California Democrat Adam Schiff told the Guardian in an interview to be published on Sunday. “I think we need regulation to protect people’s private data,” the chair of the House intelligence committee said. “I think we need to narrow the scope of the safe harbour these companies enjoy if they don’t moderate their contents and continue to amplify anger and hate. I think we need to insist on a vehicle for more transparency so we understand the data better.” Haugen, 37, was the source for recent Wall Street Journal reporting on misinformation spread by Facebook and Instagram, the photo-sharing platform which Facebook owns.

She left Facebook in May this year, but her revelations have left the tech giant facing its toughest questions since the Cambridge Analytica user privacy scandal. At a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Haugen shared internal Facebook reports and argued that the social media giant puts “astronomical profits before people”, harming children and destabilising democracy via the sharing of inaccurate and divisive content. Haugen likened the appeal of Instagram to tobacco, telling senators: “It’s just like cigarettes … teenagers don’t have good self-regulation.” Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, said Haugen’s testimony might represent a “big tobacco” moment for the social media companies, a reference to oversight imposed despite testimony in Congress that their product was not harmful from executives whose companies knew that it was.

[..] Schiff was speaking to mark publication of a well-received new memoir, Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could. The Democrat played prominent roles in the Russia investigation and Donald Trump’s first impeachment. He now sits on the select committee investigating the deadly attack on the US Capitol on 6 January, by Trump supporters seeking to overturn his election defeat – an effort in part fueled by misinformation on social media. In his book, Schiff writes about asking representatives of Facebook and two other tech giants, Twitter and YouTube, if their “algorithms were having the effect of balkanising the public and deepening the divisions in our society”. Facebook’s general counsel in the 2017 hearing, Schiff writes, said: “The data on this is actually quite mixed.” “It didn’t seem very mixed to me,” Schiff says.

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Don’t think I’ve heard that term before.

‘Global Stilling’ Is Blamed As Wind Speeds Drop Across Europe (DM)

Industry experts are warning that climate change may have caused wind speeds in Europe to plummet this year in news that threatens to drive energy prices even higher. Long labelled as a saviour of the energy industry, wind farms have cropped up across the continent in recent years and have been billed a low-cost, renewable and dependable source of power. Increased dependence on green forms of energy has also been touted as a solution to Britain’s national gas crisis, amid soaring global prices and energy bills set to reach record-breaking levels. But weather modelling groups and academics appear to have quashed those hopes, as ever-increasing global temperatures are threatening to derail any prospective green energy revolution.

Experts are blaming a growing phenomenon known as ‘global stilling’ – whereby measurable wind speeds across the world’s continental surfaces have decreased by as much as 15 per cent since 1980. Atmosphere expert Professor Paul Williams, of the University of Reading, told the Financial Times that winds have ‘generally weakened over land over the past few decades’. He said one explanation for plummeting wind speeds could be ‘human-related climate change’, that would see poles warming ‘faster than tropics in lower atmosphere’ areas. Prof Williams said: ‘This would have the effect of weakening the mid-latitude north-south temperature difference and consequently reducing the thermal wind at low altitudes.’ Any significant fall in wind speed would be felt by Europe’s growing army of wind farms, as stronger gusts equate to more electricity being generated, up to a certain point.

With winds in the North Sea not blowing as they should, energy companies were left scrambling to source reserve gas to heat homes and businesses this winter. That rush caused energy costs to sky rocket, with British firms already warning they are having to slow production ahead of the winter months. As the crisis escalated, industry analysts suggested the current energy cap of £1,277 would rise by as much as £800, while energy firms slammed the cap as ‘not fit for purpose’. Compounding the issue, weather modelling group Vortex warned northern Europe has already endured speed decreases of up to 15 per cent in 2021. As a result, Britain’s wind-powered output as a total percentage of installed capacity hit just 11 per cent between February and March 2021. That amounted to the country’s longest spell of low wind in over a decade, reports the FT.

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No cooling: “Basic food items have now become a luxury..”

Lebanon’s Electricity Crisis Plunges Beirut, Country Into Darkness (MEE)

Wandering the streets of Beirut after sunset, car headlights are often the only thing breaking through the pitch-black night. The omnipresent sound of car engines during rush hour fades away at night, to be replaced by the buzz of generator engines, as if Beirut were a giant beehive. But instead of honey, the air of the city is thick with the smell of generator exhaust fumes. Like the rest of Lebanon, the country’s capital has been struck by acute fuel shortages, which have meant residents have had little, if any, state-supplied power for the past few months. Lebanon’s state electricity company, Electricite du Liban (EDL), warned in September that the country could plunge into a total blackout in October, amid dwindling fuel reserves, as the company is unable to generate the minimum 600 megawatts needed daily for the network to function properly.

On 3 October, EDL once again raised the alarm as the electrical grid shut down across the country – meaning residents of Lebanon are now entirely dependent on costly private generators for power, if they can even afford it. The electric grid shutdown comes amid an already devastating economic crisis blamed largely on decades of corruption and mismanagement by the ruling class, with the Lebanese currency losing over 90 percent of its value in less than two years. A new government was sworn in on 20 September, after more than a year of political paralysis, a development described by Prime Minister Najib Mikati as lighting “a candle in this hopeless darkness” – an ironic metaphor, given that the swearing-in process was delayed for several hours due to a power cut in parliament.

The dark nights, however, obscure the ways in which the absence of electricity transform daily life once the sun rises – and things are getting worse. Basic food items have now become a luxury, and what were once anecdotal details of life during the civil war have become a reality once again for many – with no end in sight.

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Rome

 

 

Paris
https://twitter.com/i/status/1446835091418796034

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime; donate with Paypal, Bitcoin and Patreon.

 

Aug 112020
 


Joan Miró Caballo, pipa y flor roja (Horse Pipe and Red Flower) 1920

 

FBI Director Wray Subpoenad For All Records Related to Crossfire Hurricane (GP)
Sen. Johnson Subpoenas FBI Director Wray, Puts Bidens On Notice (ZH)
House Will Be Out Of Session For Additional Week In September (Hill)
Schumer Says Democrats Ready For Coronavirus Aid Talks, If Republicans Move (R.)
MSNBC Public Editor Pekary: A Strained Symbiosis With Obama (CJR)
US Demands Hong Kong Exports To US Be Relabelled ‘Made in China’ (SCMP)
No, Americans Aren’t Suddenly Flying Again, Despite What the Media Says (WS)
Let The Dogs Out (Jim Kunstler)
Seattle City Council Approves Millions In Police Budget Cuts (JTN)
Lebanon PM, President Were Warned About 2,750 Tonnes Of Ammonium Nitrate (R.)
US Special Forces Active in 22 African Countries (MPN)
Libya Begins Negotiations With Greece To Demarcate Maritime Borders (LibyaR.)
Greece Armed Forces Placed On High Alert (K.)

 

 

You keep going with these numbers like this, and you might just turn me into an optimist!

The discovery of “SARS-CoV-2 S-reactive antibodies in uninfected individuals, particularly prevalent in children and adolescents”, could well do the rest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mostly for the doctors amongst us (let’s hear you!), but a bit of good news for everyone:

“SARS-CoV-2 S-reactive antibodies were readily detectable [..] in SARS-CoV-2-uninfected individuals and were particularly prevalent in children and adolescents.”

Pre-Existing And De Novo Humoral Immunity To SARS-CoV-2 In Humans (Biorxiv)

Several related human coronaviruses (HCoVs) are endemic in the human population, causing mild respiratory infections1. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the etiologic agent of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is a recent zoonotic infection that has quickly reached pandemic proportions2,3. Zoonotic introduction of novel coronaviruses is thought to occur in the absence of pre-existing immunity in the target human population. Using diverse assays for detection of antibodies reactive with the SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) glycoprotein, we demonstrate the presence of pre-existing humoral immunity in uninfected and unexposed humans to the new coronavirus.

SARS-CoV-2 S-reactive antibodies were readily detectable by a sensitive flow cytometry-based method in SARS-CoV-2-uninfected individuals and were particularly prevalent in children and adolescents. These were predominantly of the IgG class and targeted the S2 subunit. In contrast, SARS-CoV-2 infection induced higher titres of SARS-CoV-2 S-reactive IgG antibodies, targeting both the S1 and S2 subunits, as well as concomitant IgM and IgA antibodies, lasting throughout the observation period of 6 weeks since symptoms onset.

SARS-CoV-2-uninfected donor sera also variably reacted with SARS-CoV-2 S and nucleoprotein (N), but not with the S1 subunit or the receptor binding domain (RBD) of S on standard enzyme immunoassays. Notably, SARS-CoV-2-uninfected donor sera exhibited specific neutralising activity against SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-2 S pseudotypes, according to levels of SARS-CoV-2 S-binding IgG and with efficiencies comparable to those of COVID-19 patient sera. Distinguishing pre-existing and de novo antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 will be critical for our understanding of susceptibility to and the natural course of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

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“..Crossfire Hurricane was a scam, based on absurd gossip and innuendo. This document is Exhibit A to Obamagate, the worst corruption scandal in American history.”

FBI Director Wray Subpoenad For All Records Related to Crossfire Hurricane (GP)

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) FINALLY subpoenaed FBI Director Christopher Wray for all records related to the bureau’s CI investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign dubbed “Crossfire Hurricane.” The subpoena, which was issued on August 6, demands Wray appear before the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee by August 20 with all documents related to the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. In July of 2016, Peter Strzok opened a counterintel investigation into Trump’s camp dubbed “Crossfire Hurricane” on suspicions (based on no evidence) that the Russians had infiltrated Trump’s circle. The “electronic communication” that launched Crossfire Hurricane was written by Peter Strzok and obtained by Judicial Watch in May of this year as the result of a FOIA lawsuit.

The EC reveals Peter Strzok opened Crossfire Hurricane based on third-hand information that the Russian government “had been seeking prominent members of the Donald Trump campaign in which to engage to prepare for potential post-election relations should Trump be elected U.S. President.” Peter Strzok also alleged Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos claimed to an unnamed individual that “they (the Russians) could assist the Trump campaign with the anonymous release of information during the campaign that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton.” Republican lawmakers have asked why documents related to Crossfire Hurricane have been kept secret for so many years.

Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said its because the Obama Admin had no basis for opening the investigation. “No wonder the DOJ and FBI resisted the public release of this infamous ‘electronic communication’ that ‘opened’ Crossfire Hurricane – it shows there was no serious basis for the Obama administration to launch an unprecedented spy operation on the Trump campaign,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton previously stated. “We now have more proof that Crossfire Hurricane was a scam, based on absurd gossip and innuendo. This document is Exhibit A to Obamagate, the worst corruption scandal in American history.”

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Maybe that basement is soundproof, and he can’t hear you.

Sen. Johnson Subpoenas FBI Director Wray, Puts Bidens On Notice (ZH)

FBI Director Christopher Wray has been subpoenaed by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to produce “all documents related to the Crossfire Hurricane Investigation,” which includes “all records provided or made available to the Inspector General” regarding the FISA probe, as well as documents regarding the 2016-2017 presidential transition, according to Politico. The subpoena was issued by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) as part of his investigation into the origins of Russiagate. It gives Wray until 5 p.m. on Aug. 20 to produce the documents. Johnson also released a lengthy letter on Monday in which he defended his Committee’s investigation and accused Democrats of initiating “a coordinated disinformation campaign and effort to personally attack” himself and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in order to distract from evidence his committee has gathered on Joe and Hunter Biden’s Ukraine dealings.

“We didn’t target Joe and Hunter Biden for investigation; their previous actions had put them in the middle of it,” reads the Monday letter, which outlines the timeline and connections between Joe Biden’s policy actions in Ukraine and his son Hunter’s relationship with Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas company, according to Just The News. “Many in the media, in an ongoing attempt to provide cover for former Vice President Biden, continue to repeat the mantra that there is ‘no evidence of wrongdoing or illegal activity’ related to Hunter Biden’s position on Burisma’s board,” wrote Johnson. “I could not disagree more.”

Johnson noted evidence gathered by his committee showed Joe Biden met with his son’s business partner, Devon Archer, in April 2014 and within a month the vice president then visited Ukraine and both his son Hunter and the business partner were put on the Burisma board as the firm faced multiple corruption investigations. “Isn’t it obvious what message Hunter’s position on Burisma’s board sent to Ukrainian officials?” Johnson asked. “The answer: If you want U.S. support, don’t touch Burisma. It also raised a host of questions, including: 1) How could former Vice President Biden look any Ukrainian official (or any other world leader) in the face and demand action to fight corruption? 2) Did this glaring conflict of interest affect the work and efforts of other U.S. officials who worked on anti-corruption measures?” -Just The News

Johnson also denied that he had been on contact with, or received documents from, Russian-tied Ukrainians. “The only problem with their overblown handwringing is that they all knew full well that we have been briefed repeatedly, and we had already told them that we had NOT received the alleged Russian disinformation,” wrote Johnson. “The very transparent goal of their own disinformation campaign and feigned concern is to attack our character in order to marginalize the eventual findings of our investigation.”

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What? They’re going campaigning in COVID time? And what’s even better, they are, but Biden is not?

There are 19 weeks left in the year. House members will only be in Washington for 6 of them.

House Will Be Out Of Session For Additional Week In September (Hill)

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced Monday that the chamber won’t be called back into session until the week of Sept. 14, giving members an additional week in their districts next month. Lawmakers have been advised that they could be called back before then if there’s a deal on coronavirus-relief legislation. He said they would given 24 hours notice in the event of a vote. The House was previously scheduled to be back in session Sept. 8. Monday’s announcement gives incumbents more time to campaign in their districts ahead of November’s election. If lawmakers don’t return until mid-September, they’ll face a tight deadline to pass government funding legislation by Sept. 30 to avert a shutdown. Under the new schedule, House lawmakers will only be in Washington for six weeks through the end of the calendar year.

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Everyone’s ready as long as the other side moves first so they themselves don’t lose face. It’s a game, and not a very uplifting one.

Schumer Says Democrats Ready For Coronavirus Aid Talks, If Republicans Move (R.)

U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on Monday that Democrats are ready to return to the negotiating table over coronavirus relief, if Republicans would agree to a larger bill than they have been willing to accept up to now. “Democrats remain ready to return to the table. We need our Republicans to join us there and meet us half way and work together to deliver immediate relief to the American people,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. Last week, Schumer used similar language to urge White House negotiators to agree to a legislative package at least $1 trillion larger than the $1 trillion bill that Senate Republicans have already proposed. The White House rejected the offer, ending nearly two weeks of almost daily negotiations.

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“A less corrupt, less wealth-enslaved, less warmongering Democratic Party—a party that had paid more than lip service to the needs of working people over the previous eight years—would have walked away with the 2016 election.”

MSNBC Public Editor Pekary: A Strained Symbiosis With Obama (CJR)

Barack Obama and MSNBC have a lot in common. They are rich, sleek, and corporate-friendly. They staff their organizations with urbane meritocrats. Both institutions rely on a kind of soft-focus patriotism that stops shy of nationalism—an American-exceptionalist-lite rhetoric that takes refuge in hope and in appeals to “who we are,” among other superficial aspirational slogans. Consequently, it’s no surprise that Obama meets with little criticism on MSNBC. The alignment isn’t merely political; it’s aesthetic, generational, and class-based. Reverence for Obama is by now the network’s stock-in-trade. It has never critically assessed his presidency.

[..] The Obama brand is appealing, especially in comparison with the current president. Obama is everything that Trump is not: handsome, well read, reasonable-seeming, beautifully turned out; even today, the sight of Obama on television is enough to persuade people that things are still halfway okay. Sadly, however, things are really not all that okay. I’d like to believe the highly artificialized vision of the world that television conjures up in order to seduce, titillate, and comfort the maximum number of people. But how well does the glossy, TV-friendly facade serve the needs of the network’s viewers? Not very, according to former MSNBC producer Ariana Pekary, who quit her job some days ago in an apparent crisis of conscience.

Pekary wrote a much-circulated blog post about her decision to quit the network in early August, calling the cable news obsession with ratings “a cancer” that stokes political division by amplifying the most outrageous voices. The ratings obsession risks lives, she said, by focusing on Trump’s failures in the pandemic, in preference to vital scientific and epidemiological news; it risks democracy itself, by allowing Trump’s excesses to dominate coverage, in preference to intelligent and serious discussion of the threats our society and our world are facing. All of this is true, and worth thinking about, but MSNBC’s coverage demonstrates something subtler and farther-reaching still. Though Pekary was held up by right-wing media as a critic of MSNBC particularly, her concerns were economic, not ideological. “The flawed structure of the industry,” she said, “affects everyone.”

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Even if opinions are divided on this, at least the direction is clear. Endless talks have provided too little result.

US Demands Hong Kong Exports To US Be Relabelled ‘Made in China’ (SCMP)

Goods made in Hong Kong for export to the United States will have to be labelled “Made in China” after September 25, according to a draft US government notice. The move, in accordance with the suspension of the Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 and the invoking of US President Donald Trump’s executive order on “Hong Kong Normalisation”, will see Hong Kong companies subjected to the same trade war tariffs levied on mainland Chinese exporters, should they make products subject to these duties. A notice will be published on the US Federal Register on August 11, stipulating that “45 days after the date of publication”, goods “must be marked to indicate that their origin is ‘China’”. The move is “due to the determination that Hong Kong is no longer sufficiently autonomous to justify differential treatment in relation to China”.


The confirmation of a move implied by Trump’s previous legislation is another blow to Hong Kong’s struggling economy and to the high-value, if low-volume base of exporters in the city. Goods that fail to comply will face a punitive 10 per cent duty at US ports. Hong Kong has a higher trade deficit with the US than with any other economy, though this dropped by 16 per cent last year to US$26 billion. From January to May this year, Hong Kong’s exports to the US fell by 22.3 per cent in volume from a year earlier. Hong Kong is much more significant as a re-export hub than a direct trading hub in its own right. Its economy is a much different beast than in the 1970s and ’80s, when it was a manufacturing stronghold. Now, only 1 per cent of goods shipped from Hong Kong are made in the city, which instead serves as a logistical gateway to mainland China for both goods made there and going there.

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Between all the work from home scheduled, and the holidays by car, you have to wonder where airlines will be a year from now.

No, Americans Aren’t Suddenly Flying Again, Despite What the Media Says (WS)

The best day – meaning the least catastrophically worst day – in terms of air passengers entering to security zones at airports to board flights during the Pandemic wasn’t yesterday, as the financial media wanted to have us think, but July 2, when the count of TSA airport security screenings was down by only -63.4% from the same weekday in the same week last year, and on July 3, when the count was down by only -67.1% from a year earlier. That was over the extended Independence Day travel weekend. Now it’s peak summer travel season. Yesterday’s TSA screenings – Sunday being a peak travel day – reached 831,789, the highest during the Pandemic. But it’s peak travel season and Sunday is one of the peak travel days, so last year on that Sunday, the TSA performed 2.65 million screenings, and this Sunday’s was down by -68.6% from Sunday a year ago. And the year-over-year decline has remained roughly in the same range since the beginning of July:

People are traveling to go on vacation. But they’re driving. All kinds of lodgings near or in national parks are booked. People want to get out and do stuff, and they have the stimulus money and the extra $600 a week in federal unemployment insurance. Early indications are that they’re driving more for vacation purposes than they did last year. That’s the big thing. But flying is still an iffy proposition for most people. The seven-day moving average of the daily TSA screenings, which irons out the day-to-day ups and downs, has remained about the same since its best days since the beginning of July – “best” meaning least catastrophically down days. This indicates that the recovery of passenger volume has stalled since the beginning of July and is still terrible, terrible, terrible for the airlines:

Nevertheless, this situation caused the financial media to hyperventilate in an effort to pump up the shares. For example, CNBC reported breathlessly:

No capital-intensive business, such as an airline, can survive for long with roughly three-quarters of its business wiped out overnight, unless it undertakes a large-scale trimming-down, and unless it gets lots of financial help from all corners, including central banks and taxpayers. And that’s happening with airlines. That’s the part in CNBC’s headline that nailed it: Another $25 billion bailout has been tucked into the next stimulus package. It comes on top of the prior $25 billion in bailouts, mostly grants, that were designed to preserve airline jobs until September 30. Airlines have since told over 70,000 employees that they could lose their jobs after the deadline, and have incentivized them to leave voluntarily before the deadline, using a range of incentives, from buyout packages to early retirements.


Today, the WOLF STREET airline index of the seven largest US airlines – Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and United – jumped 7.0%. Since word of the second $25 billion bailout package started circulating last Monday, the index has surged 15.7%. But it’s still down 44% from the end of the Good Times in mid-January 2020, and down a whole bunch more since January 2018. That 15.7% gain since last Monday is the little thing sticking up on the right of the chart (market cap data via YCharts):

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“..America unleashes its dogs of war upon itself…”

Let The Dogs Out (Jim Kunstler)

Attorney General Barr sat through a leisurely chat with Mark Levin on TV last night, a curious hour of understatement and elision, especially concerning the momentous matter of US Attorney John Durham’s way-overdue actions in the Russia Collusion hoax. Mr. Levin dropped the ball so many times in his questioning that it seemed deliberate — for instance failing to ask whether Mr. Barr had detected any prosecutorial misconduct in the pursuit of General Michael Flynn. There’s plenty of reason to suppose that Robert Mueller’s lawyers royally misbehaved in that case, colluding with FBI director Christopher Wray to withhold a ton of exculpatory evidence even to this day.

There are plenty more reasons to suppose that the entire Mueller investigation was a knowing, seditious sham, and that several of his “team” members — e.g. Andrew Weissmann, Jeannie Rhee, Brandon Van Grack, Zainab Ahmad, Aaron Zebley, plus US Attorney Tanisha Guahar, and possibly Mr. Mueller himself — deserve to be indicted for their efforts to overthrow a president. (And, of course, there’s a long list of other now well-known characters in the DOJ, FBI, CIA, and other festering places who played roles in Coup-O-Rama).

Speaking of General Flynn, his mandamus petition comes before an en banc session of the DC Court of Appeals on Tuesday. It’s hard to see how they can get around their earlier three-judge panel’s order under a mandamus petition for DC District Judge Emmet Sullivan to vacate the case, as now demanded by the federal prosecutors who brought it in the first place. We won’t rehearse the tedious legal arguments, except to say that where there is no prosecution, there is no case, and Judge Sullivan has no standing to act as prosecutor himself under the separation of powers in the constitution. But in these dark days of a weaponized judiciary, with its Lawfare henchmen grubbing away in the shadows, there’s no telling what bad faith gears may be turning in that mill.

So, buckle up for what, all of a sudden, looks like an action-packed week. Lay in some tonic water and gin for both Covid-19 relief and some self-prescribed anesthesia as America unleashes its dogs of war upon itself.

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I don’t know enough about how police are funded across the US. It appears to be a cesspool with many different faces.

Seattle City Council Approves Millions In Police Budget Cuts (JTN)

In the state of Washington the Seattle City Council on Monday approved millions of dollars in police budget cuts. “Total initial cuts to SPD’s budget during the summer session are a down-payment for future potential reductions to the SPD budget. These reductions equate to nearly $4 million in cuts, which actualized over a year will equate to an estimated $11 million,” according to a release. “Cut 32 officers from patrol,” is one of the multiple funding decreases listed. Self-described socialist council member Kshama Sawant, who blasted the city’s budgetary maneuvering, which included other moves in addition to the police funding decreases, said that the police budget cuts were not nearly large enough.


“This budget fails to address the systemic racism of policing, trimming only $3 million from the bloated department’s remaining 2020 budget of $170 million just weeks after 6 of the 8 other Councilmembers publicly declared they would support defunding SPD by 50 percent, as our Peoples Budget and the Justice for George Floyd movement have demanded” Sawant said in the statement.

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No wonder they resign en masse.

Lebanon PM, President Were Warned About 2,750 Tonnes Of Ammonium Nitrate (R.)

Lebanese security officials warned the prime minister and president last month that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in Beirut’s port posed a security risk and could destroy the capital if it exploded, according to documents seen by Reuters and senior security sources. Just over two weeks later, the industrial chemicals exploded in a massive blast that obliterated most of the port, killed at least 163 people, injured 6,000 more and destroyed some 6,000 buildings, according to municipal authorities. A report by the General Directorate of State Security about events leading up to the explosion included a reference to a private letter sent to President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Hassan Diab on July 20.


While the content of the letter was not in the report seen by Reuters, a senior security official said it summed up the findings of a judicial investigation launched in January, which concluded the chemicals needed to be secured immediately. The state security report, which confirmed the correspondence to the president and the prime minister, has not previously been reported. “There was a danger that this material if stolen, could be used in a terrorist attack,” the official told Reuters. “At the end of the investigation, Prosecutor General (Ghassan) Oweidat prepared a final report which was sent to the authorities,” he said, referring to the letter sent to the prime minister and president by the General Directorate of State Security, which oversees port security. “I warned them that this could destroy Beirut if it exploded,” said the official, who was involved in writing the letter and declined to be named.

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So does China. And France is going back in.

US Special Forces Active in 22 African Countries (MPN)

A new report published in South African newspaper The Mail and Guardian has shed light on the opaque world of the American military presence in Africa. Last year, elite U.S. Special Operations forces were active in 22 African countries. This accounts for 14 percent of all American commandos deployed overseas, the largest number for any region besides the Middle East. American troops had also seen combat in 13 African nations. The U.S. is not formally at war with an African nation, and the continent is barely discussed in reference to American exploits around the globe. Therefore, when U.S. operatives die in Africa, as happened in Niger, Mali, and Somalia in 2018, the response from the public, and even from the media is often “why are American soldiers there in the first place?”

The presence of the U.S. military, especially commandos, is rarely publicly acknowledged, either by Washington or by African governments. What they are doing remains even more opaque. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) generally claims that special forces go no further than so-called “AAA” (advise, assist and accompany) missions. Yet in combat, the role between observer and participant can become distinctly blurry. The United States has roughly 6,000 military personnel scattered throughout the continent, with military attachés outnumbering diplomats in many embassies across Africa. Earlier this year, The Intercept reported that the military operates 29 bases on the continent. One of these is a huge drone hub in Niger, something The Hill called “the largest U.S. Air Force-led construction project of all time.”

[..][ Washington claims that the military’s primary role in the region is to combat the rise of extremist forces. In recent years, a number of Jihadist groups have arisen, including Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and other al-Qaeda affiliated groups. However, much of the reason for their rise can be traced back to previous American actions, including the destabilization of Yemen, Somalia, and the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya. It is also clear that the United States plays a key role in training many nations’ soldiers and security forces. For example, the U.S. pays Bancroft International, a private military contractor, to train elite Somali units who are at the forefront of the fighting in the country’s internal conflicts. According to The Mail and Guardian, these Somali fighters are likely also funded by the U.S. taxpayer.

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This is all about Turkey. Greece already has a new deal with Egypt on maritime borders. Turkey is seeking to claim a lot of area in the region.

Libya Begins Negotiations With Greece To Demarcate Maritime Borders (LibyaR.)

Libya’s Interim Government’s Foreign Minister, Abdul-Hadi Al-Hawaij, revealed that his ministry has held talks with its Greek counterpart. Both Libya and Greece agreed to begin negotiations to demarcate their maritime borders, as well as discuss a number of issues between the two countries. Al-Hawaij noted that Libya welcomes a solution through Article 74 of the Law of the Sea, relating to solutions based on agreements and good-neighbourliness. The Libyan FM welcomed the agreement demarcating the maritime borders between Egypt and Greece. He stressed that Libya welcomes any agreement that is in line with the UN’s Law of the Sea and which preserves the rights of Libyans.


He pointed out that the visits of the Libyan Speaker of Parliament, Ageela Saleh, to a number of countries was meant to clarify the Libyan-Egyptian political initiative. The Speaker claimed that the Libyan people were exhausted from the presence of the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. “One of the most significant conditions for consensus among Libyans is to push the Turkish intervention in the country away, and leave the matter for Libyans to address the crisis”, he added. Al-Hawaij called on Libyans to end the use of force, and to diminish the power of militias. He stressed that the international community was managing the crisis, and not trying to solve it. He pointed out that Libyans were able to establish a leadership in 1922, in similar circumstances in the city of Sirte, and could be able to do so again.

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This is serious. The Turkish lira is under severe stress; the central bank tried to support it by buying lira with its dollar reserves two weeks ago, but that failed, and now it has no dollars left. This could be very bad for Erdogan, who will go for support among patriots, muslims (re: Hagia Sophia). Prediction: Greece will not give in.

Greece Armed Forces Placed On High Alert (K.)

Greece was placed on high alert Monday after Turkey sent its Oruc Reis survey ship into an area within the Greek continental shelf, a move which Athens described as a threat to peace and stability in the region. According to a navigational telex it issued, Ankara reserved an area south of the Greek island of Kastellorizo to conduct research over the next two weeks. In response, Greece’s armed forces were placed in a state of absolute readiness, with units of the Hellenic Navy and Air Force deployed in the wider sea area where the Turkish research was expected. When the Oruc Reis accompanied by ships of the Turkish Navy entered the Greek continental shelf, Greek warships sent messages at a frequency of about 15 minutes requesting the vessel’s removal from the area.

The messages went unanswered by the vessel which, however, moving at a low speed – similar to that appropriate for a search process – had prepared cables to lower to the seabed in order to proceed with research activities in the area. However, according to sources, exploratory activities were rendered impossible due to the noise caused by the many naval units sailing in the area. This is because exploration of this sort entails the transmission of data from the seabed and the noise of the ships made this transmission impossible. In Athens, an emergency meeting of the country’s top decision-making body on foreign affairs and defense matters, KYSEA, was convened. Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias issued a stern statement calling on Turkey to “immediately end its illegal actions that undermine peace and security in the region.”

He added that the Turkish navtex “is a new serious escalation and exposes in the most obvious way the destabilizing and threatening role of Turkey.” “Greece will not accept any blackmail. It will defend its sovereignty and sovereign rights,” he said.

Read more …

 

 

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Full Moon Aug 3, Astypalea Island, Greece. Photo George Tsitouras.

 

 

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Mar 082020
 


Unknown Daniels-Wells Pontiac, 3055 Broadway, Oakland CA 1938

 

Strongest Evidence Yet That America Is Botching Coronavirus Testing (Atl.)
US Airport Screeners, Health Workers Plagued By Fear And Anger (R.)
One Tests Positive After Conference Also Attended By Trump, Pence, Pompeo (X.)
Nebraska Woman Rushed To Bio-Containment Unit In Specialized Isolation Pod (DM)
Italy To Quarantine Whole Of Lombardy Due To Coronavirus (O.)
Quarter Of Italy’s Population Put In Quarantine (O.)
Head Of Italy Players’ Union Calls For Soccer To Stop (R.)
Lebanon To Default On Foreign Debt Payments For First Time (BBC)
IMF Deal Would Spark ‘Popular Revolution’ In Lebanon – Hezbollah (R.)
US Blocks UN Statement Backing Syria Ceasefire (Ditz)
Top Saudi Royals ‘Arrested For Plotting With Americans Against King’ (RT)
Saudi Arabia Starts All-Out Oil War (ZH)

 

 

 

Cases 106,487 (+ 3,943 from yesterday’s 102,544)

Deaths 3,600 (+ 99 from yesterday’s 3,501)

 

Lovely. North America moves its clock 3 full weeks ahead of Europe. I lose an hour every morning.

Meanwhile, the virus continues its march unabated. In virus time.

 

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

South Korea has tested 200,000+ people, it says. The Atlantic could only confirm 1,895 tests in the US.

Strongest Evidence Yet That America Is Botching Coronavirus Testing (Atl.)

It’s one of the most urgent questions in the United States right now: How many people have actually been tested for the coronavirus? This number would give a sense of how widespread the disease is, and how forceful a response to it the United States is mustering. But for days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has refused to publish such a count, despite public anxiety and criticism from Congress. On Monday, Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, estimated that “by the end of this week, close to a million tests will be able to be performed” in the United States. On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence promised that “roughly 1.5 million tests” would be available this week.

But the number of tests performed across the country has fallen far short of those projections, despite extraordinarily high demand, The Atlantic has found. “The CDC got this right with H1N1 and Zika, and produced huge quantities of test kits that went around the country,” Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC from 2009 to 2017, told us. “I don’t know what went wrong this time.” Through interviews with dozens of public-health officials and a survey of local data from across the country, The Atlantic could only verify that 1,895 people have been tested for the coronavirus in the United States, about 10 percent of whom have tested positive. And while the American capacity to test for the coronavirus has ramped up significantly over the past few days, local officials can still test only several thousand people a day, not the tens or hundreds of thousands indicated by the White House’s promises.


To arrive at our estimate, we contacted the public-health departments of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. We gathered data on websites, and we corresponded with dozens of state officials. All 50 states and D.C. have made some information available, though the quality and timeliness of the data varied widely. Some states have only committed to releasing their numbers once or three times a week. Most are focused on the number of confirmed cases; only a few have publicized the number of people they are capable of testing. The Atlantic’s numbers reflect the best available portrait of the country’s testing capacity as of early this morning. These numbers provide an accurate baseline, but they are incomplete. Scattered on state websites, the data available are not useful to citizens or political leaders. State-based tallies lack the reliability of the CDC’s traditional—but now abandoned—method of reporting.

[..] Our reporting found that the capacity to test for the coronavirus varies dramatically—and sometimes dangerously—from state to state. California claims the highest testing capacity of any state, and has tested the most individuals so far. As of yesterday afternoon, it had tested 516 people, with 53 positive cases, a spokesperson for the Department of Health told us. The department now has the capacity to test 6,000 people every day, and it expects that capacity to expand to 7,400 people a day starting today, the spokesperson said. Washington State, the site of the country’s largest outbreak thus far, can test roughly 1,000 people a day. The state health department’s laboratory can test 100 people a day; the rest of the testing is being done at the University of Washington’s Virology Lab.


Officials have found 70 positive cases in Washington so far, though a genetic study has estimated that there may be hundreds of untested people who have COVID-19 in the greater Seattle area. Oregon, situated between the California and Washington hot spots, can test only about 40 people a day. Texas has 16 positive cases, according to media reports, but the health department’s website still lists only three cases. The Texas Tribune has reported that the state can test approximately 30 people a day.

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Everyone up and down the food chain of command should tell their superiors they’ll do it, but only if he/she will be standing there next to them doing the same job, with the same gear and the same protection.

US Airport Screeners, Health Workers Plagued By Fear And Anger (R.)

As coronavirus cases exploded across the world, federal medical workers tasked with screening incoming passengers at U.S. airports grew alarmed: Many were working without the most effective masks to protect them from getting sick themselves. Screeners with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked their supervisors this week to change official protocols and require stronger masks, according to an internal document reviewed by Reuters. On Friday evening, they learned their worst fears were realized: Two screeners, both working at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), had tested positive for the virus. “Sad news,” a senior quarantine official at the CDC wrote in an email Friday evening to colleagues about the two workers.

The email, reviewed by Reuters and not previously reported, said the two screeners will be quarantined until March 17. “Let us keep our colleagues at LAX in our thoughts.” The news was not surprising to some CDC screeners. “It was bound to happen,” said a veteran CDC medical official involved with screening who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They are assuring us we are safe. If we were safe, screeners would not be getting sick.” The struggles within the CDC, an agency that advises the country’s health systems about how to protect people against the virus, underscore the difficulties confronting health workers across the nation and illustrate a challenge for the Trump administration, which has faced criticism over its response to the outbreak.

[..] The CDC recommends that so-called “secondary” screeners, who meet with passengers who have traveled to certain countries, such as China, wear a surgical mask, gloves and eye protection, Nordlund said. Secondary screeners are advised to stand six feet away from passengers they observe and do not wear the sturdier N95 masks, also known as respirators, because they aren’t exposed to symptomatic travelers, she said. N95 masks are designed to protect screeners from the smaller pathogens such as coronavirus which can penetrate deeper into the lungs. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, surgical masks are not designed to block very small particles, such as those transmitted by coughs and sneezes, and do not provide complete protection because of the loose fit.


Nordlund said that CDC’s guidance calls for screeners who meet with people exhibiting obvious signs of illness to wear N95 respirators and other protective gear. But people infected with the coronavirus do not necessarily exhibit obvious signs of illness. “Surgical masks won’t protect us from getting the virus – they just protect us from infecting someone else,” the CDC medical official involved in screening said. “We want to know why we can’t wear N-95 masks. It’s crazy.” “You might as well have a tissue over your face for all the good it will do,” the official added.

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Getting close.

One Tests Positive After Conference Also Attended By Trump, Pence, Pompeo (X.)

An attendee at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which U.S. President Donald Trump also attended, has tested positive for COVID-19, the American Conservative Union (ACU) said on Saturday. The exposure occurred prior to the conference held in National Harbor, U.S. state of Maryland, just south of Washington D.C., said the ACU, a conservative grassroots organization, in a statement. A New Jersey hospital tested the person, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the positive result, said the statement. “The individual is under the care of medical professionals in the state of New Jersey, and has been quarantined,” it said. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the gathering, which took place from Feb. 26 to Feb. 29.


Also present at the event were a number of administration and cabinet officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and newly-appointed White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement Saturday that the White House is aware of the attendee testing positive for the virus. “At this time there is no indication that either President Trump or Vice President Pence met with or were in close proximity to the attendee,” Grisham said in a statement. “The president’s physician and United States Secret Service have been working closely with White House Staff and various agencies to ensure every precaution is taken to keep the First Family and the entire White House Complex safe and healthy.”

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Yeah, sure, going for the cheap effect. But this woman is just 36 years old, not 86. Maybe the photo can bring this home.

Nebraska Woman Rushed To Bio-Containment Unit In Specialized Isolation Pod (DM)

In Nebraska, there were dramatic scenes as a woman who tested positive for the virus was rushed from a community hospital to the nation’s leading biocontainment unit at he University of Nebraska Medical Center Omaha. The 36-year-old Nebraska resident was photographed being transported to the facility in a hi-tech isolation pod late Friday. The woman, who is the first person in Nebraska to test positive to coronavirus, is ‘very seriously ill’, according to doctors who spoke with Omaha.com Saturday. A chest CT scan conducted yesterday showed the coronavirus is evolving into acute respiratory distress syndrome (ADRS). The syndrome, which is characterized by a rapid onset of widespread inflammation in the lungs, is often fatal. People with ARDS suffer severe shortness of breath and often are unable to breathe on their own without support from a ventilator.


The woman reportedly traveled to England with her father February 18 to February 27. She began to feel ill on February 25, two days before she flew back to the United States. Doctors say they are still trying to piece together where she went and who she had contact with in the 10 days since she arrived back from overseas. According to doctors, her symptoms were quite mild until this Thursday, when she arrived at a local emergency room. As her condition took a turn for the worse Friday, a decision was made to move her from Omaha’s Methodist Hospital to the to the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit. [..] the woman was place in an isolation pod, made of heavy duty plastic and complete with a dozen ports for ventilators and other tubes. Medics donned plastic face shields, rubber gloves and rain boots as they moved her from the ambulance in a stretcher.


A woman who tested positive with the coronavirus is brought to the University of Nebraska Medical Center on Friday. She was transferred from Omaha’s Methodist Hospital in an isolation pod inside an ambulance ©AP

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Things move fast: mere hours after the closure of Lombardy is reported, a new report says a “Quarter Of Italy’s Population Put In Quarantine” in 11-14 provinces.

Italy To Quarantine Whole Of Lombardy Due To Coronavirus (O.)

The Italian government is to lockdown the northern region of Lombardy, as it battles to contain the spread of the coronavirus. A draft decree would extend the quarantined areas, so-called “red-zones”, ordering people not to enter or leave the region. The country is grappling to contain Europe’s worst outbreak of Covid-19, which has claimed 233 lives and infected a total of 5,883 people. Italian authorities announced that a new decree containing draconian measures would be approved later on Saturday. It will include the power to impose fines on anyone caught entering or leaving Lombardy, the worst-affected region, until 3 April. People may be allowed in and out for serious reasons. The decree provides for banning all public events, closing cinemas, theatres, gyms, discos and pubs. Religious ceremonies such as funerals and weddings will also be banned.


Rome is also considering prolonging the closure of schools across the country until 3 April, while major sporting events, such as Serie A football games, will be played behind closed doors. The number of coronavirus cases in Italy leapt by more than 1,200 in a 24-hour period, the civil protection agency said on Saturday. It is the biggest daily rise since the outbreak began two weeks ago. The number of cases in the country rose to 5,883 on Saturday from 4,636 announced on Friday, with the spread showing little sign of slowing. In total there are now 5,061 cases, not including those who have died or recovered. The northern regions of Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto are the hardest hit, representing 85% of cases and 92% of recorded deaths. “We will win this battle if our citizens adopt a responsible attitude and change their way of living,” the head of Italy’s civil protection agency, Angelo Borrelli, told a press conference.

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Ben Hunt: “Italy is a time machine that shows us our future.”

Quarter Of Italy’s Population Put In Quarantine (O.)

Italy has formally locked down more than a quarter of its population in a bid to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, as the outbreak reached Washington DC and a political convention attended by Donald Trump and Mike Pence. More than 5,800 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Italy, after an alarming increase of more than 1,200 in a single 24-hour period. Two hundred and thirty-three people have died. Almost 100 countries are now responding to outbreaks. In the early hours of Sunday, Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree enacting forced quarantine for the region of Lombardy – home to more than 10 million people and the financial capital, Milan – and multiple other provinces, totalling around 16 million residents.

https://twitter.com/Dr_FarrisD/status/1236057723621568512

Affected provinces include Venice, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia, Rimini, Pesaro and Urbino, Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano Cusio Ossola, Vercelli, Padua, and Treviso. The lockdown decree includes the power to impose fines on anyone caught entering or leaving Lombardy, the worst-affected region, until 3 April. It provides for the banning of all public events, closing cinemas, theatres, gyms, discos and pubs. Religious ceremonies such as funerals and weddings will also be prohibited, and leave for healthcare workers has been cancelled. Rome is also prolonging the closure of schools across the country until at least 3 April, while major sporting events, such as Serie A football games, will be played behind closed doors.

Read more …

And forget about soccer Eurocup, Olympics etc.

Head Of Italy Players’ Union Calls For Soccer To Stop (R.)

The President of Italy’s players’ union (AIC) has called for soccer to be stopped in the country amid reports that the entire region of Lombardy will be locked down as part of efforts to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. The Italian government has ordered all sporting competitions to be played behind closed doors until April 3 in a bid to control the spread of the disease, which has killed around 200 people in the country. And tough new measures are expected to be approved on Saturday that will tell people not to enter or leave Lombardy, home to around 10 million people, as well as 11 provinces in four other regions.


Damiano Tommasi, head of the players’ union, responded to the news on Twitter by posting a link to the story and issuing a plea to stop games from going ahead. He wrote: “Let’s stop the league!! Do we need anything else? Stop football!!” Tommasi also issued a statement on the AIC website earlier in the day outlining his concerns for players’ welfare. “There is a risk for players and we must take all precautions for the security of those who play: on the pitch you certainly can’t stay at a distance of one meter away. “But every measure must be taken to guarantee the safety of everyone at the stadium, including staff and personnel, to reduce the risks.

Read more …

A long time coming.

Lebanon To Default On Foreign Debt Payments For First Time (BBC)

Lebanon is to default on a foreign debt payment for the first time in its history as the country struggles with a major financial crisis. Prime Minister Hassan Diab said Lebanon would not be making a bond payment of $1.2bn due on Monday. “The debt has become bigger than Lebanon can bear, and bigger than the ability of the Lebanese to meet interest payments,” Mr Diab said. Lebanon has been struggling since the value of its currency plummeted. The Lebanese pound has been losing value against the dollar for months, in part because the country’s banks have been reluctant to convert local pounds to dollars – leading to an increase in demand for the latter.


This issue with foreign exchange has led to importers having difficulty accessing goods, which have become more expensive. Those with savings have also been affected by the drop in value of the local currency. In a live televised address on Saturday, Mr Diab said that negotiations to restructure the country’s debt, which stands at more than $30bn, would continue “with all creditors… in a manner consistent with the national interest”. Mr Diab added that more than 40% of the population could soon be in poverty as Lebanon tackles its worst economic crisis in decades.

Read more …

From a few days ago, before the default was announced. France is heavily involved. And the IMF deal should be there any moment now.

IMF Deal Would Spark ‘Popular Revolution’ In Lebanon – Hezbollah (R.)

Hezbollah believes that terms required by any IMF bailout package for Lebanon would spark “a popular revolution”, a senior official said on Tuesday, rejecting such a step and calling instead for a “national solution” to a deep economic crisis. Lebanon is in the throes of an unprecedented economic crisis, the result of long-entrenched corruption and bad governance that have landed the state with one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens. Hezbollah, a heavily armed Shi’ite group which is backed by Iran and designated a terrorist organization by Washington, is one of the main backers of a new government that has sought technical but not financial aid from the International Monetary Fund.


Long-standing financial backer France said last week it was looking at options to support Lebanon, including through an IMF program if Beirut sought one. Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah told Reuters the group was against the type of terms typically imposed by the IMF as part of a bailout such as taxes, privatization, reducing the size of the public sector and halting subsidies. “The position is not toward the Fund as an international financial institution but on the terms offered to Lebanon, because they will lead to a popular revolution,” he said. “Our position is against this type of program and not against the Fund as an organization.”

Read more …

Most notable: Erdogan keeps the peace for now.

US Blocks UN Statement Backing Syria Ceasefire (Ditz)

The ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib Province took effect on Friday, and has been holding so far. With every other nation on board, the US blocked a joint UN statement backing the ceasefire, saying it was “premature” to do so. The ceasefire was brokered by Turkey and Russia, and that’s almost certainly the problem from the US perspective. The US broadly refuses to back any Syria agreements Russia is involved in. US officials had also been loudly backing Turkey’s military offensive in Idlib, and probably aren’t happy that Turkey has made a deal not to go to war. US officials weren’t super on board with directly participating in a Turkey-instigated war, but were only too happy to give lip-service to it. Having the UN back a ceasefire, even if it is one not expected to necessarily survive, is usually the norm, though the US may find, in seeking backing for its Afghan deal, they may face similar resistance.

Read more …

RT adds a “nice” twist. There are rumors that King Salman has either already died or is about to, and MbS is consolidating his power before his death leads to a revolt.

Top Saudi Royals ‘Arrested For Plotting With Americans Against King’ (RT)

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has had his relatives arrested for plotting a coup against him and King Salman with the help of “foreign powers, including the Americans,” Western media claim. RT asked Middle East analysts to weigh in. Three senior members of the Saudi Royal family were arrested on Friday, several Western media outlets have reported, citing sources. The list of detainees includes prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, the younger brother of King Salman, Mohammed bin Nayef, the king’s nephew and former crown prince, and Nawaf bin Nayef, the younger half-brother of Prince Nayef, as reported by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has allegedly accused them of treason, namely “conducting contacts with foreign powers, including the Americans and others, to carry out a coup d’etat” against King Salman and his son, Reuters, which has also picked up the news, added, citing own sources. While Western media is not above publishing unverified rumors about the ‘regimes’ they dislike, some of which have turned out to be utterly fake, there is no easy way to verify reports on the secretive world of Saudi court affairs. One has to bear in mind the possibility someone in Riyadh has purposefully fed the news to the media. While the reports of the high-profile arrests have yet to be confirmed by Saudi Arabia, they wouldn’t be unprecedented.


The allegations of foreign involvement may be meant for domestic consumption in Saudi Arabia and nothing to do with international politics, believes Sergey Balmasov from the Moscow-based Institute for the Near East. “What other foreign meddler could they have named? Accusing, for example Iran would have not been credible,” he explained. The US has great influence in the Saudi military and intelligence services, thanks to decades of training their members, Balmasov added. So if the US as a nation were actually determined to effect a regime change in Saudi Arabia, “a different person would have now been in the palace.” If the US really needed this, a bloodless coup would have happened already, and I’m sure many Americans wouldn’t have even noticed.

Read more …

Sorry, but no. Putin started this by refusing OPEC+ production cuts. Saudi merely reacted to that.

Saudi Arabia Starts All-Out Oil War (ZH)

With the commodity world still smarting from the Nov 2014 Saudi decision to (temporarily) break apart OPEC, and flood the market with oil in (failed) hopes of crushing US shale producers (who survived thanks to generous banks extending loan terms and even more generous buyers of junk bonds), which nonetheless resulted in a painful manufacturing recession as the price of Brent cratered as low as the mid-$20’s in late 2015/early 2016, on Saturday, Saudi Arabia launched its second scorched earth, or rather scorched oil campaign in 6 years. And this time there will be blood.

Following Friday’s shocking collapse of OPEC+, when Russia and Riyadh were unable to reach an agreement during the OPEC+ summit in Vienna which was seeking up to 1.5 million b/d in further oil production cuts, on Saturday Saudi Arabia kick started what Bloomberg called an all-out oil war, slashing official pricing for its crude and making the deepest cuts in at least 20 years on its main grades, in an effort to push as many barrels into the market as possible. In the first major marketing decision since the meeting, the Saudi state producer Aramco, which successfully IPOed just before the price of oil cratered launched unprecedented discounts and cut its April pricing for crude sales to Asia by $4-$6 a barrel and to the U.S. by a whopping $7 a barrel in attempts to steal market share from 3rd party sources, according to a copy of the announcement seen by Bloomberg.


In the most significant move, Aramco widened the discount for its flagship Arab Light crude to refiners in north-west Europe by a hefty $8 a barrel, offering it at $10.25 a barrel under the Brent benchmark. In contrast, Urals, the Russian flagship crude blend, trades at a discount of about $2 a barrel under Brent. Traders said the Saudi move was a direct attack at the ability of Russian companies to sell crude in Europe. Confirming the obvious, Iman Nasseri, managing director for the Middle East at oil consultant FGE said “Saudi Arabia is now really going into a full price war.”

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

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Sep 152019
 
 September 15, 2019  Posted by at 2:17 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Pavel Filonov The Kolkhoznik (Member of a Collective Farm) 1931

 

Those winds just keep on shifting, no matter that the western press either doesn’t see them shift, doesn’t recognize them for what they are, or chooses to ignore them. But these winds bring tidings of a tectonic plate-shaking shift in the global political climate.

The fires in Saudi oil installations, whether they were caused by drones or missiles, and whoever fired those, are a major story, and rightly so, because they could shake up economies in drastic ways. But they may still, not be the biggest story after all.

Last Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his intention to annex the Jordan Valley (already occupied territory, 65,000 Palestinians and 11,000 Israeli settlers live there). He did that to steal votes from the far right in next Tuesday’s (Sep. 17) Knesset election. “Bibi” also called Donald Trump his “friend” every second word for that same purpose. Trump responded in kind. He may come to regret that. Choose your friends wisely. Bit of background from RT:

 

US, Israel Talk About Mutual Defense Treaty – Trump

The US and Israel are discussing a mutual defense treaty that would further cement the already “tremendous” alliance between the two countries, President Donald Trump has revealed. “I had a call today with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss the possibility of moving forward with a Mutual Defense Treaty, between the United States and Israel, that would further anchor the tremendous alliance between our two countries,” Trump tweeted.

Trump voiced not-that-veiled support for Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections in Israel. “I look forward to continuing those discussions after the Israeli Elections when we meet at the United Nations later this month!” Trump wrote. The support surely comes in handy, as Netanyahu’s backing appears to be quite shaky. The September 17 polls are the second snap legislative elections this year after Netanyahu failed to form the government back in April.

The outcome of the upcoming vote is hard to predict, as Netanyahu’s party, Likud, has almost equal support as their main opponent the Blue and White led by Benny Gantz, opinion polls show. Netanyahu was quick to respond to Trump’s announcement, lauding the prospects of the alliance and managing to call the US president a “friend” twice in a single tweet.

[..] Israel was one of the first major non-Nato ally (MNNA), a designation that goes with a whole set of benefits, such as generous loans, a priority in delivery of various military surplus, possession of war reserve stocks of Pentagon-owned hardware outside US military bases (Israel is said to have at least six sites) and others.

Yet in 2014 the US enshrined Israel into a new class of ally – a major strategic partner. The new designation, which is a step above MNNA, was basically established specifically for Israel. It greatly expanded the US wartime stockpiles in Israel from $200 million in value to a whopping $1.8 billion. Under the Trump administration, the trend has continued, and in 2017, the US established its first permanent military base – an air defense facility – in Israel.

A second thing Bibi is trying to do to win Tuesday’s elections is intimidating the prosecutors who are on his tail for three different cases or fraud. He has a grand plan to become immune from this prosecution (basically, become King Bibi), but he must win the election to execute it. Haaretz is Israel’s oldest newspaper, but it’s not Bibi’s biggest fan(club):

 

Netanyahu’s Plan to Escape Trial, in His Own Words: ‘Time for Them to Be Frightened’

Immediately after the last election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outlined to members of his inner circle a plan to extract him from facing trial. The plan was based on obtaining immunity from the Knesset and passing legislation to prevent the High Court of Justice from removing that immunity. If his bloc wins 61 Knesset seats next week, Netanyahu will presumably resort to this rescue plan. For him it will be the Day of Judgment.

“Stop being frightened. It’s time for them to be frightened,” Netanyahu told his confidants, referring to justice officials, headed by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, who have decided to indict him in three cases, subject to a hearing. Netanyahu told his confidants why he insisted on his destructive plan, telling them he had lost all confidence in the legal system on all levels – the attorney general’s office, the state prosecutor and the court system.

“They want me in prison,” he told one of his cronies, noting that if he were indicted that would indeed be the result – not because he had crossed a red line, but merely due to the jurists’ collective hostility toward him and his ideology. Netanyahu appears to wholeheartedly believe himself to be a victim, framed by prosecutors and that Mendelblit, who is weak, doesn’t believe in them at all, but couldn’t withstand the pressure.

In his interviews with the police Netanyahu acted like a hunted man. “It’s a wacky conception,” he told national fraud squad chief Koresh Bar-Nur in January 2017. Bar-Nur came to Netanyahu’s residence with a team of investigators to question him under caution on Case 2000, involving a bribery deal Netanyahu allegedly negotiated with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes.

 

And that wasn’t all. To court the right wing vote, Bibi also planned to bomb locations in Syria controlled by “Iran-backed” Assad troops, right about right now. And he needed permission from Vladimir Putin to do that. So he flew to Moscow, did a bunch of photo-ops with Putin to show Israeli voters he’s an important statesman, but all he got was a big load of coal in his stocking. Putin said: we’l shoot you out of the skies if you dare. And do note: this is not the first time.

In other words, Bibi was deeply humiliated one week before the election he so deperately needs to him to stay out of jail. Now tell me, which western paper or TV channel did you read or watch the news about this in/on? Remember, this happened before Trump announced his Mutual Defense Treaty with Bibi. By the way, what does that “Mutual” mean anyway, that Israel will save America? This is from Zero Hedge:

 

Israeli Attacks On Syria Halted After Russian Threat To Shoot Down Jets

According to reports in both Israeli and Arabic regional media, Israel this past week was preparing to expand major airstrikes against “Iran-backed” targets in Syria, but Moscow imposed its red line. The Independent has published a story describing that Russia’s military in Syria threatened to shoot down any invading Israeli warplanes using fighter jets or their S-400 system.

The Jerusalem Post, citing sources in the UK Independent (Arabia), writes just after the latest meeting in Sochi between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin: “According to the report, Moscow has prevented three Israeli airstrikes on three Syrian outposts recently, and even threatened that any jets attempting such a thing would be shot down, either by Russian jets or by the S400 Anti-aircraft missiles.

The source cited in the report claims a similar situation has happened twice, and that during August, Moscow stopped an airstrike on a Syrian outpost in Qasioun, where a S300 missile battery is placed.” Netanyahu’s hasty trip to meet with Putin on Thursday – even in the final days before Tuesday’s key election – was reportedly with a goal to press the Russian president on essentially ignoring Israel’s attacks in Syria.

Citing further sources in the British-Arabic Independent Arabia, The Jerusalem Post continues: According to the Russian source, Putin let Netanyahu know that his country will not allow any damage to be done to the Syrian regime’s army, or any of the weapons being given to it… Israel sources cited by the Arabic newspaper described Netanyahu’s attempts to persuade Putin as “a failure”. This in spite of Netanyahu telling reporters after the meeting that his relations with Moscow were stronger than ever.

[..] The Russian source said: “Putin has expressed his dissatisfaction from Israel’s latest actions in Lebanon” and even emphasized to Netanyahu that he “Rejects the aggression towards Lebanon’s sovereignty”, something which has never been heard from him.

Putin further stated that someone is cheating him in regards to Syria and Lebanon and that he will not let it go without a response. According to him, Netanyahu was warned not to strike such targets in the future.

 

 

This is where and how the winds -and with them the tectonic plates- have shifted. And don’t underestimate it. Bibi can presumably count on Trump more than any other US President in his time, and the US is supposedly this almighty force, also in the Middle East, but today Putin just tells him “don’t you dare!” Putin refuses to let him touch Assad’s territory and -Russian- weapons.

The clincher is those weapons have become so sophisticated that Bibi, Trump support or not, puts his tail between his legs and flies back, hoping nobody notices what shape he’s in. And in that humiliation, Lebanon is the cherry that Putin puts on top of the pie. “Now that you’re here, I want you to stop harassing Lebanon too. Yes, now you may go.” Lebanon must have stunned Bibi.

What these shifting winds tell us is that the shots in that part of the world, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, (I wouldn’t go as far as including Iran and Saudi Arabia just yet) are no longer called by Bibi or the US. The main reason, as we’ve mentioned often before, is that Russian weapons have become so powerful.

Because as also previously discussed, Russian arms may well be -far- superior to American ones, which in turn in due to the US arms industry developing weapons for profit, vs Russia producing them to defend itself. Putin outright humiliating Bibi Netanyahu may be the first real obvious consequence of that.

This is something that will play out over a long time, but it may change the global political climate dramatically very rapidly. Mike Pompeo can try to blame Iran for whatever it is that happened to Saudi oil facilities, but for the US to attack Iran, which may be the reason for that blame game, it would need to ask Putin for permission, just like Netanyahu did.

And why would Putin give that permission? That’s a real good question. Mind you, Netanyahu may on Tuesday get the Knesset seats he needs to stifle the investigations against him, and to annex the Jordan Valley, but he will still have to ask permission if he has big dreams. And neither Trump nor Jared Kushner nor anyone else can help him there.

The US neocons have been talking about a New World Order for decades. Well, now they got one.

 

 

 

 

Nov 182017
 
 November 18, 2017  Posted by at 9:58 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Henri Cartier Bresson Juvisny, France 1938

 

Consumers Are Both Confident And Broke (John Rubino)
You Have Been Warned (Lance Roberts)
Norway Plan to Sell Off $35 Billion in Oil, Gas Stocks Rattles Markets (BBG)
The World’s Biggest Wealth Manager Won’t Touch Bitcoin (BBG)
Trump’s Saudi Scheme Unravels (Alastair Crooke)
Saudi ‘Corruption’ Probe Widens: Dozens Of Military Officials Arrested (ZH)
Hariri Arrives in Paris With Family Amid Saudi-Iran Tensions (BBG)
Qatar Says It Has US Backing in Lingering Gulf Crisis (BBG)
House Prices Aren’t The Issue – Land Prices Are (G.)
ECB Denies EU Auditors Access To Information On Greek Bailouts (EuA)
Greek Pensioners Forced To Return ‘Social Dividend’ (K.)
UK Considers Tax On Single-Use Plastics To Tackle Ocean Pollution (G.)
Irish Catholic Priest Urges Christians To Abandon The Word Christmas (G.)

 

 

Powerful graph from Bob Prechter.

Consumers Are Both Confident And Broke (John Rubino)

Elliott Wave International recently put together a chart (click here or on the chart to watch the accompanying video) that illustrates a recurring theme of financial bubbles: When good times have gone on for a sufficiently long time, people forget that it can be any other way and start behaving as if they’re bulletproof. They stop saving, for instance, because they’ll always have their job and their stocks will always go up. Then comes the inevitable bust. On the following chart, this delusion and its aftermath are represented by the gap between consumer confidence (our sense of how good the next year is likely to be) and the saving rate (the portion of each paycheck we keep for a rainy day). The bigger the gap the less realistic we are and the more likely to pay dearly for our hubris.

Read more …

“Prior to 2000, debt was able to support a rising standard of living..” Two decades later, it can’t even maintain the status quo. That’s what you call a breaking point.

You Have Been Warned (Lance Roberts)

There is an important picture that is currently developing which, if it continues, will impact earnings and ultimately the stock market. Let’s take a look at some interesting economic numbers out this past week. On Tuesday, we saw the release of the Producer Price Index (PPI) which ROSE 0.4% for the month following a similar rise of 0.4% last month. This surge in prices was NOT surprising given the recent devastation from 3-hurricanes and massive wildfires in California which led to a temporary surge in demand for products and services.

Then on Wednesday, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was released which showed only a small 0.1% increase falling sharply from the 0.5% increase last month.

This deflationary pressure further showed up on Thursday with a -0.3 decline in Export prices. (Exports make up about 40% of corporate profits) For all of you that continue to insist this is an “earnings-driven market,” you should pay very close attention to those three data points above. When companies have higher input costs in their production they have two choices: 1) “pass along” those price increase to their customers; or 2) absorb those costs internally. If a company opts to “pass along” those costs then we should have seen CPI rise more strongly. Since that didn’t happen, it suggests companies are unable to “pass along” those costs which means a reduction in earnings. The other BIG report released on Wednesday tells you WHY companies have been unable to “pass along” those increased costs.

The “retail sales” report came in at just a 0.1% increase for the month. After a large jump in retail sales last month, as was expected following the hurricanes, there should have been some subsequent follow through last month. There simply wasn’t. More importantly, despite annual hopes by the National Retail Federation of surging holiday spending which is consistently over-estimated, the recent surge in consumer debt without a subsequent increase in consumer spending shows the financial distress faced by a vast majority of consumers. The first chart below shows a record gap between the standard cost of living and the debt required to finance that cost of living. Prior to 2000, debt was able to support a rising standard of living, which is no longer the case currently.

With a current shortfall of $18,176 between the standard of living and real disposable incomes, debt is only able to cover about 2/3rds of the difference with a net shortfall of $6,605. This explains the reason why “control purchases” by individuals (those items individuals buy most often) is running at levels more normally consistent with recessions rather than economic expansions.

If companies are unable to pass along rising production costs to consumers, export prices are falling and consumer demand remains weak, be warned of continued weakness in earnings reports in the months ahead. As I stated earlier this year, the recovery in earnings this year was solely a function of the recovering energy sector due to higher oil prices. With that tailwind now firmly behind us, the risk to earnings in the year ahead is dangerous to a market basing its current “overvaluation” on the “strong earnings” story.

Read more …

Another way to push up prices?

Norway Plan to Sell Off $35 Billion in Oil, Gas Stocks Rattles Markets (BBG)

Norway’s proposal to sell off $35 billion in oil and natural gas stocks brings sudden and unparalleled heft to a once-grassroots movement to enlist investors in the fight against climate change. The Nordic nation’s $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund said Thursday that it’s considering unloading its shares of Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and other oil giants to diversify its holdings and guard against drops in crude prices. European oil stocks fell. Norges Bank Investment Management would not be the first institutional investor to back away from fossil fuels. But until now, most have been state pension funds, universities and other smaller players that have limited their divestments to coal, tar sands or some of the other dirtiest fossil fuels. Norway’s fund is the world’s largest equity investor, controlling about 1.5% of global stocks. If it follows through on its proposal, it would be the first to abandon the sector altogether.

“This is an enormous change,” said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a non-profit that advocates for sustainable investing. “It’s a shot heard around the world.” The proposal rattled equity markets. While Norwegian officials say the plan isn’t based on any particular view about future oil prices, it’s apt to ratchet up pressure on fossil fuel companies already struggling with the growth of renewable energy. Norway’s Finance Ministry, which oversees the fund, said it will study the proposal and will take at least a year to decide what to do. The fund has already sold off most of its coal stocks. “People are starting to recognize the risks of oil and gas,” said Jason Disterhoft of the Rainforest Action Network, which pushes banks to divest from fossil fuels.

Read more …

From the biggest wealth fund to the biggest wealth manager.

The World’s Biggest Wealth Manager Won’t Touch Bitcoin (BBG)

UBS, the world’s largest wealth manager, isn’t prepared to make portfolio allocations to bitcoin because of a lack of government oversight, the bank’s chief investment officer said. Bitcoin has also not reached the critical mass to be considered a viable currency to invest in, UBS’s Mark Haefele said in an interview. The total sum of all cryptocurrencies is “not even the size of some of the smaller currencies” that UBS would allocate to, he said. Bitcoin has split investors over the viability of the volatile cryptocurrency and UBS is among its critics. Bitcoin capped a resurgent week by climbing within a few dollars of a record $8,000 on Friday. Still, events such as a bitcoin-funded terrorist attack are potential risks which are hard to evaluate, he said.

“All it would take would be one terrorist incident in the U.S. funded by bitcoin for the U.S. regulator to much more seriously step in and take action, he said. “That’s a risk, an unquantifiable risk, bitcoin has that another currency doesn’t.” While skeptics have called bitcoin’s rapid advance a bubble, it has become too big an asset for many financial firms to ignore. Bitcoin has gained 17% this week, touching a high of $7,997.17 during Asia hours before moving lower in late trading. The rally through Friday came after bitcoin wiped out as much as $38 billion in market capitalization following the cancellation of a technology upgrade known as SegWit2x on Nov. 8.

Read more …

Former (and current?!) TAE contributor Alastair Crooke draws his conclusions.

Trump’s Saudi Scheme Unravels (Alastair Crooke)

Aaron Miller and Richard Sokolsky, writing in Foreign Policy, suggest “that Mohammed bin Salman’s most notable success abroad may well be the wooing and capture of President Donald Trump, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.” Indeed, it is possible that this “success” may prove to be MbS’ only success. “It didn’t take much convincing”, Miller and Sokolski wrote: “Above all, the new bromance reflected a timely coincidence of strategic imperatives.” Trump, as ever, was eager to distance himself from President Obama and all his works; the Saudis, meanwhile, were determined to exploit Trump’s visceral antipathy for Iran – in order to reverse the string of recent defeats suffered by the kingdom.

So compelling seemed the prize (that MbS seemed to promise) of killing three birds with one stone (striking at Iran; “normalizing” Israel in the Arab world, and a Palestinian accord), that the U.S. President restricted the details to family channels alone. He thus was delivering a deliberate slight to the U.S. foreign policy and defense establishments by leaving official channels in the dark, and guessing. Trump bet heavily on MbS, and on Jared Kushner as his intermediary. But MbS’ grand plan fell apart at its first hurdle: the attempt to instigate a provocation against Hezbollah in Lebanon, to which the latter would overreact and give Israel and the “Sunni Alliance” the expected pretext to act forcefully against Hezbollah and Iran.

Stage One simply sank into soap opera with the bizarre hijacking of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri by MbS, which served only to unite the Lebanese, rather than dividing them into warring factions, as was hoped. But the debacle in Lebanon carries a much greater import than just a mishandled soap opera. The really important fact uncovered by the recent MbS mishap is that not only did the “dog not bark in the night” – but that the Israelis have no intention “to bark” at all: which is to say, to take on the role (as veteran Israeli correspondent Ben Caspit put it), of being “the stick, with which Sunni leaders threaten their mortal enemies, the Shiites … right now, no one in Israel, least of all Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is in any hurry to ignite the northern front. Doing so, would mean getting sucked into the gates of hell”.

Read more …

Targeting the military means MbS does not feel safe. How desperate is he?

Saudi ‘Corruption’ Probe Widens: Dozens Of Military Officials Arrested (ZH)

After jailing dozens of members of the royal family, and extorting numerous prominent businessmen, 32-year-old Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman has widened his so-called ‘corruption’ probe further still. The Wall Street Journal reports that at least two dozen military officers, including multiple commanders, recently have been rounded up in connection to the Saudi government’s sweeping corruption investigation, according to two senior advisers to the Saudi government. Additionally, several prominent businessmen also were taken in by Saudi authorities in recent days. “A number of businessmen including Loai Nasser, Mansour al-Balawi, Zuhair Fayez and Abdulrahman Fakieh also were rounded up in recent days, the people said. Attempts to reach the businessmen or their associates were unsuccessful.”

It isn’t clear if those people are all accused of wrongdoing, or whether some of them have been called in as witnesses. But their detainment signals an intensifying high-stakes campaign spearheaded by Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. There appear to be three scenarios behind MbS’ decision to go after the military: 1) They are corrupt and the entire process is all above board and he is doing the right thing by cleaning house; 2) They are wealthy and thus capable of being extorted (a cost of being free) to add to the nation’s coffers; or 3) There is a looming military coup and by cutting off the head, he hopes to quell the uprising. If we had to guess we would weight the scenarios as ALL true with the (3) becoming more likely, not less.

So far over 200 people have been held without charges since the arrests began on November 4th and almost 2000 bank accounts are now frozen, which could be why, as The Daily Mail reports, Saudi prince and billionaire Al-Waleed bin Talal has reportedly put two luxury hotels in Lebanon up for sale after being detained in his country during a corruption sweep. The Saudi information ministry previously stated the government would seize any asset or property related to the alleged corruption, meaning the Savoy hotel could well become the state property of the kingdom. ‘The accounts and balances of those detained will be revealed and frozen,’ a spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s information ministry said. ‘Any asset or property related to these cases of corruption will be registered as state property.’

Read more …

France and Germany play completely different roles. Hariri has said he will return to Lebanon by Wednesday.

Hariri Arrives in Paris With Family Amid Saudi-Iran Tensions (BBG)

Saad Hariri arrived in France with his family amid mounting concern that his country, Lebanon, may once again turn into a battleground for a showdown between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Lebanese prime minister and his family were invited to France by President Emmanuel Macron. French officials say they can’t say how long Hariri will stay. On Saturday, Macron and Hariri will meet at noon for talks, following which the Lebanese leader and his family will have lunch at the Elysee Palace. Hariri, 47, hasn’t returned to Lebanon since his shock resignation announcement from Saudi Arabia on Nov. 4, which sparked fears of an escalating regional conflict between the kingdom and Iran. The Saudi government has denied accusations it was holding Hariri against his will. The kingdom recalled its ambassador to Germany in response to comments made by Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

Hariri weighed in on the spat, suggesting that Gabriel has accused the kingdom of holding him hostage. “To say that I am held up in Saudi Arabia and not allowed to leave the country is a lie. I am on the way to the airport, Mr. Sigmar Gabriel,” he said on Twitter. In limited public comments and on Twitter, Hariri has sought to dispel speculation that Saudi Arabia asked him to resign because he wouldn’t confront Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim group that plays a key role in Lebanon’s fragile government. The group is considered a terrorist organization by countries including Israel and the U.S., and it has provided crucial military support to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria’s war.

Macron, who met with Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, said last week that the two agreed that Hariri “be invited for several days to France.” He also reiterated France’s pledge to help protect Lebanon’s “independence and autonomy.” Hariri will be welcomed in France “as a friend,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said a press conference in Riyadh on Thursday after meeting with Saudi authorities. French officials have said they still regard Hariri as Lebanon’s prime minister since the country’s president, Michel Aoun, rejected his resignation on the grounds that it must be handed over on Lebanese soil.

Read more …

And if you weren’t confused enough yet, there’s this:

Qatar Says It Has US Backing in Lingering Gulf Crisis (BBG)

Qatar’s foreign minister said the tiny emirate has U.S. backing to resolve the ongoing crisis with a Saudi-led alliance, but the country is also prepared should its Gulf Arab neighbors make military moves. The Trump administration is encouraging all sides to end the dispute and has offered to host talks at the Camp David presidential retreat, but only Qatar has agreed to the dialogue, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Al-Thani said Friday. Four countries in the Saudi-led bloc severed diplomatic and transport links with Qatar in June, accusing it of backing extremist groups, a charge Doha has repeatedly denied. Saudi Arabia closed Qatar’s only land border. Sheikh Mohammed said he will meet Secretary of State Rex Tillerson next week after having talks this week with Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker and ranking member Ben Cardin as well as other congressional leaders.

“The Middle East needs to be addressed as the top priority of the foreign policy agenda of the United States,” he told reporters in Washington on Friday. “We see a pattern of irresponsibility and a reckless leadership in the region, which is just trying to bully countries into submission.” The Middle East has been a key foreign policy issue for the Trump administration, with much of it centered around support for the Saudis. The White House has backed the kingdom’s “anti-corruption” campaign that has ensnared top princes and billionaires once seen as U.S. allies, it has provided support for the Saudis in their war in Yemen and it has been muted in criticism of the crisis sparked when Lebanon’s prime minister unexpectedly resigned this month while in Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, mediation attempts by Kuwait and the U.S. have failed to settle the spat with the Saudi-led bloc and Qatar.

Sheikh Mohammed accused Saudi Arabia of interfering in other countries’ affairs, citing the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri as an example of the oil-rich kingdom’s overreach and warning that other countries could be next. Asked about the prospect of the Saudi-led bloc taking military action, Sheikh Mohammed said though Qatar hopes that won’t happen, his country is “well-prepared” and can count on its defense partners, including France, Turkey, the U.K. and the U.S., which has a base in Qatar. “We have enough friends in order to stop them from taking these steps,” but “there is a pattern of unpredictability in their behavior so we have to keep all the options on the table for us,” he said. On the U.S. military presence, “if there is any aggression when it comes to Qatar, those forces will be affected,” he added.

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There is nothing secret about land tax. Nor is it anything new. It can be implemented tomorrow morning.

House Prices Aren’t The Issue – Land Prices Are (G.)

While reporting on the recent court case where controversial landlord Fergus Wilson defended (but lost) his right to refuse to let to Indians and Pakistanis, I learned something about how he’s now making money. He is now far from being Britain’s biggest buy-to-let landlord. He’s down to 350 homes, from a peak of 1,000. And what’s he doing with the cash made from sales? Buying agricultural land close to Kent’s biggest towns. One plot he bought for £45,000 is now worth, he boasted, £3m with development permission. And therein lies the reason why we have a housing crisis.

As long ago as 1909, Winston Churchill, then promoting Lloyd George’s “people’s budget” and its controversial measures to tax land, told an audience in Edinburgh that the landowner “sits still and does nothing” while reaping vast gains from land improvements by the municipality, such as roads, railways, power from generators and water from reservoirs far away. “Every one of those improvements is effected by the labour and the cost of other people … To not one of those improvements does the land monopolist contribute, and yet by every one of them the value of his land is sensibly enhanced … he contributes nothing even to the process from which his own enrichment is derived.”

When Britain’s post-war housebuilding boom began, it was based on cheap land. As a timely new book, The Land Question by Daniel Bentley of thinktank Civitas, sets out, the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act under Clement Attlee’s government allowed local authorities to acquire land for development at “existing use value”. There was no premium because it was earmarked for development. The New Towns Act 1946 was similar, giving public corporation powers to compulsorily purchase land at current-use value. The unserviced land cost component for homes in Harlow and Milton Keynes was just 1% of housing costs at the time. Today, the price of land can easily be half the cost of buying a home..

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Democracy in 2017.

ECB Denies EU Auditors Access To Information On Greek Bailouts (EuA)

The European Central Bank (ECB) challenged an attempt by the European Court of Auditors (ECA), the watchdog of EU finances, to examine the Bank’s role in the Greek bailout and reform programmes and refused to provide access to some requested information, citing banking confidentiality. The European Court of Auditors published a report assessing the effectiveness and results of the Greek bailouts on Thursday (16 November). “In line with the ECA’s mandate to audit the operational efficiency of the management of the ECB, we have attempted to examine the Bank’s involvement in the Greek Economic Adjustment Programmes. However, the ECB questioned the Court’s mandate in this respect,” the report reads. The auditors examined the role of the European Commission and found some shortcomings in its approach, which they said overall lacked transparency.

They made a series of recommendations to improve the design and implementation of the Economic Adjustment Programmes. “These recommendations have been accepted in full,” the report said. However, the ECB had invoked the banking confidentiality and denied access to specific information. “It [ECB] did not provide sufficient amount of evidence and thus we were unable to report on the role of the ECB in the Greek programmes,” the auditors said. The report pointed out that the European Parliament had specifically asked the Court to analyse the role of the ECB in financial assistance programmes. It noted that EU auditors had faced similar problems with obtaining evidence from the ECB when reviewing the Single Supervisory Mechanism.

The report highlighted the ECB’s decision on 4 February 2015 to suspend the waiver for accepting Greek government bonds as loan collateral, thereby automatically increasing short-term borrowing costs for the banks. That happened during the tough negotiations between Greece’s leftist government and its international lenders before the third bailout. Many believed it was meant to put additional pressure on Alexis Tsipras’ government to back down and respect the obligations undertaken by the country’s previous governments.

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It just gets crazier all the time. If your intention was to make sure an economy slowly dies, this is the way to go.

“Retirees on low pensions will effectively have to return the handout they get in late December at the end of January..”

Greek Pensioners Forced To Return ‘Social Dividend’ (K.)

Salary workers, retirees on low pensions, property owners and families with three or more children will bear the brunt of the new austerity measures accompanying the 2018 budget, which come to 1.9 billion euros. Next year the primary budget surplus will have to rise to 3.5% of GDP, therefore more cuts will be required, with low-income pensioners – the recipients of next month’s so-called “social dividend” – set to contribute most, according to the new measures. Retirees on low pensions will effectively have to return the handout they get in late December at the end of January, as the cost of pension interventions according to the midterm fiscal strategy plan amounts to 660 million euros. This is just 60 million euros shy of the social dividend’s 720 million euros that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras promised this week.

The new measures for 2018 are set to be reflected in the final draft of the budget that is to be tabled in Parliament on Tuesday. They are likely to further increase the amount of expired debts to the state, after the addition of 34 billion euros from unpaid taxes and fines in the last three years, owing to the inability of most taxpayers to meet their obligations to the tax authorities. Plans for next year provide for the further reduction of salaries in the public sector in the context of the single salary system, additional cuts to pensions and family benefits, as well as the abolition of the handout to most low-income pensioners (EKAS). Freelance professionals are also in for an extra burden in 2018, due to the increase in their social security contributions that will be calculated on the sum of their taxable incomes and the contributions they paid in 2017.

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The UN should be all over this.

UK Considers Tax On Single-Use Plastics To Tackle Ocean Pollution (G.)

The chancellor, Philip Hammond, will announce in next week’s budget a “call for evidence” on how taxes or other charges on single-use plastics such as takeaway cartons and packaging could reduce the impact of discarded waste on marine and bird life, the Treasury has said. The commitment was welcomed by environmental and wildlife groups, though they stressed that any eventual measures would need to be ambitious and coordinated. An estimated 12m tonnes of plastic enters the oceans each year, and residues are routinely found in fish, sea birds and marine mammals. This week it emerged that plastics had been discovered even in creatures living seven miles beneath the sea. The introduction just over two years ago of a 5p charge on single-use plastic bags led to an 85% reduction in their use inside six months.

Separately, the environment department is seeking evidence on how to reduce the dumping of takeaway drinks containers such as coffee cups through measures such as a deposit return scheme. Announcing the move on plastics, the Treasury cited statistics saying more than a million birds and 100,000 sea mammals and turtles die each year from eating or getting tangled in plastic waste. The BBC series Blue Planet II has highlighted the scale of plastic debris in the oceans. In the episode to be broadcast this Sunday, albatrosses try to feed plastic to their young, and a pilot whale carries her dead calf with her for days in mourning. Scientists working with the programme believed the mother’s milk was made poisonous by pollution. The call for evidence will begin in the new year and will take into account the findings of the consultation on drinks containers.

Tisha Brown, an oceans campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said the decades-long use of almost indestructible materials to make single-use products “was bound to lead to problems, and we’re starting to discover how big those problems are”. She said: “Ocean plastic pollution is a global emergency, it is everywhere from the Arctic Ocean at top of the world to the Marianas trench at the bottom of the Pacific. It’s in whales, turtles and 90% of sea birds, and it’s been found in our salt, our tap water and even our beer.

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It’s either Christ or Santa Claus. Makes sense.

Irish Catholic Priest Urges Christians To Abandon The Word Christmas (G.)

An Irish Catholic priest has called for Christians to stop using the word Christmas because it has been hijacked by “Santa and reindeer”. Father Desmond O’Donnell said Christians of any denomination need to accept Christmas now has no sacred meaning. O’Donnell’s comments follow calls from a rightwing pressure group for a boycott of Greggs bakery in the UK after the company replaced baby Jesus with a sausage roll in a nativity scene. “We’ve lost Christmas, just like we lost Easter, and should abandon the word completely,” O’Donnell told the Belfast Telegraph. “We need to let it go, it’s already been hijacked and we just need to recognise and accept that.”

O’Donnell said he is not seeking to disparage non-believers. “I am simply asking that space be preserved for believers for whom Christmas has nothing to do with Santa and reindeer. “My religious experience of true Christmas, like so many others, is very deep and real – like the air I breathe. But non-believers deserve and need their celebration too, it’s an essential human dynamic and we all need that in the toughness of life.”

Read more …

Nov 082017
 
 November 8, 2017  Posted by at 1:47 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Salvador Dalí The oecumenial council 1960

 

Trying to figure out what on earth is happening in the Middle East appears to have gotten a lot harder. Perhaps (because) it’s become more dangerous too. There are so many players, and connections between players, involved now that even making one of those schematic representations would never get it right. Too many unknown unknowns.

A short and incomplete list of the actors: Sunni, Shiite, Saudi Arabia, US, Russia, Turkey, ISIS, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Kurds, Lebanon, Hezbollah, Hamas, Qatar, Israel, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Houthis, perhaps even Chechnya, Afghanistan, Pakistan. I know I know, add your favorites. So what have we got, or what do we know we’ve got? We seem to have the US lining up with Israel, the UAE and Saudi Arabia against Russia, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah. Broadly. But that’s just a -pun intended- crude start.

Putin has been getting closer to the Saudis because of the OPEC production cuts, trying to jack up the price of oil. Which ironically has now been achieved on the heels of the arrests of 11 princes and scores of other wealthy and powerful in the kingdom. But Putin also recently signed a $30 billion oil -infrastructure- deal with Iran. And he’s been cuddling up to Israel as well.

In fact, Putin may well be the most powerful force in the Middle East today. Well played?! He prevented the demise of Assad in Syria, which however you look at it at least saved the country from becoming another Iraq and Libya style failed state. If there’s one thing you can say about the Middle East/North Africa it’s that the US succeeded in creating chaos there to such an extent that it has zero control left over any of it. Well played?!

 

One thing seems obvious: the House of Saud needs money. The cash flowing out to the princes is simply not available anymore. The oil price is a major factor in that. Miraculously, the weekend crackdown on dozens of princes et al, managed to do what all the OPEC meetings could not for the price of oil: push it up. But the shrinkage of foreign reserves shows a long term problem, not some momentary blip:

 

 

Another sign that money has become a real problem in Riyadh is the ever-postponed IPO of Saudi Aramco, the flagship oil company supposedly worth $2 trillion. Trump this week called on the Saudi’s to list it in New York, but despite the upsurge in oil prices you still have to wonder which part of that $2 trillion is real, and which is just fantasy.

But yeah, I know, there’s a million different stocks you can ask the same question about. Then again, seeing the wealth of some of the kingdom’s richest parties confiscated overnight can’t be a buy buy buy signal, can it? Looks like the IPO delay tells us something.

And then you have the 15,000 princes and princesses who all live off of the Kingdom’s supposed riches (‘only 2,000’ profit directly). All of them live in -relative- wealth. Some more than others, but there’s no hunger in the royal family. Thing is, overall population growth outdoes even that in the royal family. Which means, since the country produces nothing except for oil, that there are 1000s upon 1000s of young people with nothing to do but spend money that’s no longer there. Cue mayhem.

 

 

And things are not getting better, Saudi Arabia loses money on every barrel it produces. There are stories about them lowering their break-even price, but let’s take that with a few spoonfuls of salt. A 25% drop in break-even prices in just one year sounds a bit too good. Moreover, main competitors like Iran would still have a much lower break-even price. So even if prices would rise further, the Saudi’s might only break even while Iran gets much richer. Running vs standing still.

 

Saudi Arabia Leads Gulf Nations in Cutting Break-Even Oil Price

Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s biggest oil producer, is also a leader when it comes to slashing the crude price the country needs to balance its budget. The kingdom will need oil to trade at $70 a barrel next year to break even, the IMF said Tuesday in its Regional Economic Outlook for the Middle East and Central Asia. That’s down from a break-even of $96.60 a barrel in 2016, the biggest drop of eight crude producers in the Persian Gulf. The break-even is a measure of the crude price needed to meet spending plans and balance the budget.

 

 

Gulf oil producers are cutting spending and eliminating subsidies after crude plunged from more than $100 a barrel in 2014 to average just over half that this year. The need to curb spending is more urgent with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries cutting output to reduce a global glut. Oil will trade at $50 to $60 a barrel for the “medium term,” the IMF said.

 

 

So a thorough cleansing job of the royal family is perhaps inevitable, albeit very risky. King Salman and crown prince Mohammed bin Salman are up against a very large group of rich people. But there’s no way back now.

 

Saudi Banks Freeze More Than 1,200 Bank Accounts in Anti-Corruption Purge

Saudi Arabian banks have frozen more than 1,200 accounts belonging to individuals and companies in the kingdom as part of the government’s anti-corruption purge, bankers and lawyers said on Tuesday. They added that the number is continuing to rise. Dozens of royal family members, officials and business executives have been detained in the crackdown and are facing allegations of money laundering, bribery, extorting officials and taking advantage of public office for personal gain. Since Sunday, the central bank has been expanding the list of accounts it is requiring lenders to freeze on an almost hourly basis…

Much more will have to follow that. Doing a half way job is far too risky once the job has started. Not even $800 billion sounds like all that much. Separate families and factions within the royal family have had decades to accumulate wealth.

 

Saudi Crackdown Targets Up to $800 Billion in Assets

The Saudi government is aiming to confiscate cash and other assets worth as much as $800 billion in its broadening crackdown on alleged corruption among the kingdom’s elite, according to people familiar with the matter. Several prominent businessmen are among those who have been arrested in the days since Saudi authorities launched the crackdown on Saturday, by detaining more than 60 princes, officials and other prominent Saudis, according to those people and others. The country’s central bank, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, said late Tuesday that it has frozen the bank accounts of “persons of interest” and said the move is “in response to the Attorney General’s request pending the legal cases against them.”

The most visible – and perhaps richest- of all those arrested -in western eyes- is Al-Waleed. The Bloomberg estimate of his wealth that came out this week is $19 billion. But their own article seems to indicate a much higher number. He owns 5% of Apple -says Bloomberg-, and that share alone would be worth $45 billion.

 

Alwaleed, Caught in Saudi Purge, Has Assets Across the World

Apple – Alwaleed bought 6.23 million shares, or 5 percent, of the computer and mobile-device maker for $115.4 million in 1997. He made these purchases between mid-March and April of that year while the company was still struggling to turn itself around. He has since continued to hold the stake while Apple’s valuation has soared to as high as $900 billion.

 

Going through all these numbers, you can imagine why the ruling family, or rather the rulers within that family, are getting nervous. And that’s where we get to an interesting piece by Ryan Grim at the Intercept, who says it’s not even 32-year-old crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, or King Salman, 81, who control the kingdom these days, it’s the United Arab Emirates (UAE) -and maybe Washington-.

The coup has already been perpetrated.

 

Saudi Arabia’s Government Purge – And How Washington Corruption Enabled It

The move marks a moment of reckoning for Washington’s foreign policy establishment, which struck a bargain of sorts with Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, and Yousef Al Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the U.S. who has been MBS’s leading advocate in Washington. The unspoken arrangement was clear: The UAE and Saudi Arabia would pump millions into Washington’s political ecosystem while mouthing a belief in “reform,” and Washington would pretend to believe that they meant it.

MBS has won praise for some policies, like an openness to reconsidering Saudi Arabia’s ban on women drivers. Meanwhile, however, the 32-year-old MBS has been pursuing a dangerously impulsive and aggressive regional policy, which has included a heightening of tensions with Iran, a catastrophic war on Yemen, and a blockade of ostensible ally Qatar. Those regional policies have been disasters for the millions who have suffered the consequences, including the starving people of Yemen, as well as for Saudi Arabia, but MBS has dug in harder and harder. And his supporters in Washington have not blinked.

The platitudes about reform were also challenged by recent mass arrests of religious figures and repression of anything that has remotely approached less than full support of MBS. The latest purge comes just days after White House adviser Jared Kushner, a close ally of Otaiba, visited Riyadh, and just hours after a bizarre-even-for-Trump tweet. Whatever legitimate debate there was about MBS ended Saturday — his drive to consolidate power is now too obvious to ignore. And that puts denizens of Washington’s think tank world in a difficult spot, as they have come to rely heavily on the Saudi and UAE end of the bargain.

As The Intercept reported earlier, one think tank alone, the Middle East Institute, got a massive $20 million commitment from the UAE. And make no mistake, MBS is a project of the UAE — an odd turn of events given the relative sizes of the two countries. “Our relationship with them is based on strategic depth, shared interests, and most importantly the hope that we could influence them. Not the other way around,” Otaiba has said privately.

The kingdom’s broke. Not today, or tomorrow morning, but crown prince MBS is able to look at the numbers and go: Oh Shit! And if he doesn’t see it, he has Kushner (re: Israel) and Al-Otaiba to fill him in. All three relative youngsters -MBS is 32, Kushner is 36, Otaiba is 43- are exceedingly nervous by now.

And then you get war, or the threat of war. War in Yemen, a blockade of Qatar, and now ‘mingling’ in Lebanon with the somewhat mysterious removal of billionaire PM Hariri -allegedly on an Iran/Hezbollah assassination plot-, and outright threats against Iran and Hezbollah:

 

Lebanon’s Hariri Visits UAE As Home Crisis Escalates

Lebanon’s outgoing prime minister, Saad al-Hariri, made a brief visit to the United Arab Emirates from Saudi Arabia on Tuesday despite a deepening crisis back home and a rise in regional tensions triggered by his surprise resignation. Hariri announced his resignation on Saturday during a visit to his ally Saudi Arabia and has not yet returned to Lebanon. He said he believed there was an assassination plot against him and accused Iran, Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival, and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of sowing strife in the Arab world.

His resignation has thrust Lebanon back into the frontline of the regional rivalry that pits a mostly Sunni bloc led by Saudi Arabia and allied Gulf monarchies against Shi‘ite Iran and its allies. Hariri’s office said he had flown to Abu Dhabi on Tuesday and then returned to Riyadh, but it gave no reason for the trip. It also did not say when he would return home. Hariri’s Future TV channel said he would also visit Bahrain but gave no reason.

In short: billionaire PM Hariri is a puppet. Just perhaps not of Saudi Arabia, but of Abu Dhabi. Whether he’s under house arrest in Riyadh, as has been suggested, is still unclear. But it’s a safe bet that he didn’t fly to Abu Dhabi -and back- alone, or of his own accord. He went to receive instructions.

 

Saudi Arabia Accuses Iran Of ‘Direct Military Aggression’ Over Yemen Missile

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has accused Iran of “direct military aggression” by supplying missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen, raising the stakes in an already tense standoff between the two regional rivals. Mohammed bin Salman linked Tehran to the launch of a ballistic missile fired from Yemen towards the international airport in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Saturday. The missile was intercepted and destroyed.

“The involvement of the Iranian regime in supplying its Houthi militias with missiles is considered a direct military aggression by the Iranian regime,” the prince said on Tuesday during a phone conversation with the UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency. He added that the move “may be considered an act of war against the kingdom”. Iran has called Riyadh’s accusations as baseless and provocative.

We have way of knowing what is true or not about this. We do know that Saudi Arabia have been executing a barbaric war in Yemen. With weapons from the US, UK, et al. So someone firing back wouldn’t be that far-fetched.

 

Regardless, Pepe Escobar, a journalist who knows much more than his peers, or at least doesn’t hold back as much as them, doesn’t see this end well for MBS, UAE, Israel, US, and whoever else is in their corner. Another losing war for the US in the Middle East? We’re losing count.

 

The Inside Story Of The Saudi Night Of Long Knives

A top Middle East business/investment source who has been doing deals for decades with the opaque House of Saud offers much-needed perspective: “This is more serious than it appears. The arrest of the two sons of previous King Abdullah, Princes Miteb and Turki, was a fatal mistake. This now endangers the King himself. It was only the regard for the King that protected MBS. There are many left in the army against MBS and they are enraged at the arrest of their commanders.” To say the Saudi Arabian Army is in uproar is an understatement. “He’d have to arrest the whole army before he could feel secure.”

[..] The story starts with secret deliberations in 2014 about a possible “removal” of then King Abdullah. But “the dissolution of the royal family would lead to the breaking apart of tribal loyalties and the country splitting into three parts. It would be more difficult to secure the oil, and the broken institutions whatever they were should be maintained to avoid chaos.” Instead, a decision was reached to get rid of Prince Bandar bin Sultan – then actively coddling Salafi-jihadis in Syria – and replace the control of the security apparatus with Mohammed bin Nayef. The succession of Abdullah proceeded smoothly.

Power was shared between three main clans: King Salman (and his beloved son Prince Mohammed); the son of Prince Nayef (the other Prince Mohammed), and finally the son of the dead king (Prince Miteb, commander of the National Guard). In practice, Salman let MBS run the show. And, in practice, blunders also followed. The House of Saud lost its lethal regime-change drive in Syria and is bogged down in an unwinnable war on Yemen, which on top of it prevents MBS from exploiting the Empty Quarter – the desert straddling both nations. The Saudi Treasury was forced to borrow on the international markets. Austerity ruled …

[..] aversion to MBS never ceased to grow; “There are three major royal family groups aligning against the present rulers: the family of former King Abdullah, the family of former King Fahd, and the family of former Crown Prince Nayef.” Nayef – who replaced Bandar – is close to Washington and extremely popular in Langley due to his counter-terrorism activities. His arrest earlier this year angered the CIA and quite a few factions of the House of Saud – as it was interpreted as MBS forcing his hand in the power struggle. According to the source, “he might have gotten away with the arrest of CIA favorite Mohammed bin Nayef if he smoothed it over but MBS has now crossed the Rubicon though he is no Caesar. The CIA regards him as totally worthless.”

[..] The source, though, is adamant; “There will be regime change in the near future, and the only reason that it has not happened already is because the old King is liked among his family. It is possible that there may be a struggle emanating from the military as during the days of King Farouk, and we may have a ruler arise that is not friendly to the United States.”

In the end, it all comes down to a familiar theme: follow the money. And we need to seriously question the economic reality of Saudi Arabia. That graph above of their foreign reserves looks downright grim.

With money comes power. Who loses money loses power. Saudi Arabia is bleeding money. The population surge is uncanny, and there are no jobs for all these young people. Perhaps the best they can do is be a US/Israel puppet in an attempt to ‘redo’ the map of the Middle East, but that has not been a very successful project off late -like the past 100 years-.

Then again, when you’re desperate you do desperate things. And when you’re a 32-year-old crown prince with more enemies than you can keep track of, you use what money is left to 1) keep up appearances, 2) steal what others have gathered, 3) buy weapons up the wazoo, and 4) go to war.

It all paints a very dark picture for the world. Russia won’t stand for attacks on Iran. And Iran won’t let attacks on Lebanon/Hezbollah go unanswered. All that is set to push up oil prices further, and all parties involved are just fine with that. Because they can buy more weapons with the additional profits.

I’ll leave you with Nassim Taleb’s comments on the situation. After all, Nassim’s from Lebanon, and knows that part of the world like the back of his hand:

 

 

 

Nov 082017
 
 November 8, 2017  Posted by at 9:56 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Henri Cartier Bresson Nehru Announces Gandhi’s Death, Birla House, Delhi, India Jan 30, 1948

 

700 Years of Data Forewarn of Rapid Reversal From Low Interest Rates (BBG)
Saudi Banks Freeze More Than 1,200 Bank Accounts in Anti-Corruption Purge (R.)
Saudi Crackdown to Confiscate Up to $800 Billion in Assets (WSJ)
Leaked Secret Israeli Cable Confirms Israeli-Saudi Coordination In Lebanon (ZH)
Lebanon – The Next Front In The Great Gas War (Golem XIV)
UK Sales Of Bombs And Missiles To Saudi Arabia Increase By Almost 500% (Ind.)
May to Lose Second Top Minister in One Week Over Secret Israel Meetings (BBG)
Those Who Broke The Economy Cannot Fix It (Ann Pettifor)
German ‘Wise Men’ Sound Alarm Over ‘Overheating’ Economy (R.)
Bean Counters: Lost in Paradise (Ren.)
British Mainstream Media Spreading Dangerous MMT Ideas (Bilbo)
Brick-and-Mortar Meltdown Sinks Property Prices (WS)
Catalan Secessionist Parties Fail To Agree On Unity Ticket For Vote (R.)
1 in 200 British, 1 in 60 Londoners Are Homeless (G.)

 

 

Long term is always better.

700 Years of Data Forewarn of Rapid Reversal From Low Interest Rates (BBG)

Forget secular stagnation. One historian says the world is actually in its ninth “real rate depression” and 700 years of data show that – when it comes – the turnaround could be sudden. In research published on the Bank of England’s staff blog, Harvard University’s Paul Schmelzing says most work pointing to a period of permanently lower equilibrium real interest rates is too short term. Instead, he tracked the risk-free rate since 1311 by identifying the dominant asset of each period – starting with sovereign rates in the Italian city states in the 14th and 15th centuries and moving to long-term rates in Spain, then the Province of Holland, the U.K., Germany, and finally the U.S. Real rates, or the benchmark interest rates minus inflation, have averaged 4.78% while the 200-year real-rate average is 2.6%.

That makes the current market environment “severely depressed,” Schmelzing wrote. However, it’s simply following a five-century downward trend, in which there have been nine periods of secular decline followed by reversals. The current period – since the 1980s – is the second-longest recorded and its closest historical analogy is the global “Long Depression” of the 1880s and 1890s which saw low productivity growth, deflationary price dynamics, and the rise of global populism and protectionism. This spell seems to have ended without a push from policy makers. That could be good news for those struggling to find a fix for the current low-rate environment. “There is strong evidence suggesting that the last ‘secular stagnation cycle’ started fading relatively autonomously after just over two decades following the key financial shock, not requiring the aid of decisive fiscal or monetary stimulus.”

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There’ll be more.

Saudi Banks Freeze More Than 1,200 Bank Accounts in Anti-Corruption Purge (R.)

Saudi Arabian banks have frozen more than 1,200 accounts belonging to individuals and companies in the kingdom as part of the government’s anti-corruption purge, bankers and lawyers said on Tuesday. They added that the number is continuing to rise. Dozens of royal family members, officials and business executives have been detained in the crackdown and are facing allegations of money laundering, bribery, extorting officials and taking advantage of public office for personal gain. Since Sunday, the central bank has been expanding the list of accounts it is requiring lenders to freeze on an almost hourly basis, one regional banker said, declining to be named because he was not authorised to speak to media.

The banker did not name the companies affected but said they included listed and unlisted firms across many sectors. He added that if the freezes stayed in place for long, they could start to hurt day-to-day business activities such as paying staff and creditors or making other transactions. A second banker said, however, that most of the frozen accounts belonged to individuals rather than companies, and that banks were being allowed by the regulator to continue to fund existing commitments. Among top business executives detained in the probe are billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, chairman of investment firm Kingdom Holding; Nasser bin Aqeel al-Tayyar, founder of Al Tayyar Travel; and Amr al-Dabbagh, chairman of builder Red Sea International.

The stocks of all three companies, which have issued statements saying they continue to operate as normal, plunged between 9 and 10% on Tuesday. One of the bankers speaking to Reuters said the central bank had met with some foreign banks this week to reassure them that the freezing of accounts targeted individuals, and that firms linked to those people would not be damaged.

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WSJ has gone full paywall.

Saudi Crackdown to Confiscate Up to $800 Billion in Assets (WSJ)

The Saudi government is aiming to confiscate cash and other assets worth as much as $800 billion in its broadening crackdown on alleged corruption among the kingdom’s elite, according to people familiar with the matter. Several prominent businessmen are among those who have been arrested in the days since Saudi authorities launched the crackdown on Saturday, by detaining more than 60 princes, officials and other prominent Saudis, according to those people and others. The country’s central bank, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, said late Tuesday that it has frozen the bank accounts of “persons of interest” and said the move is “in response to the Attorney General’s request pending the legal cases against them.”

The purge is the most extensive of the kingdom’s elite in recent history. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the son of King Salman, was named heir to the throne in June and has moved to consolidate power. He has said that tackling corruption at the highest level is necessary to overhaul what has long been an oil-dependent economy. The crackdown could also help replenish state coffers. The government has said that assets accumulated through corruption will become state property, and people familiar with the matter say the government estimates the value of assets it can reclaim at up to 3 trillion Saudi riyal, or $800 billion.

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Strange bedfellows.

Leaked Secret Israeli Cable Confirms Israeli-Saudi Coordination In Lebanon (ZH)

Early this morning, Israeli Channel 10 news published a leaked diplomatic cable which had been sent to all Israeli ambassadors throughout the world concerning the chaotic events that unfolded over the weekend in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, which began with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s unexpected resignation after he was summoned to Riyadh by his Saudi-backers, and led to the Saudis announcing that Lebanon had “declared war” against the kingdom. The classified embassy cable, written in Hebrew, constitutes the first formal evidence proving that the Saudis and Israelis are deliberately coordinating to escalate the situation in the Middle East. The explosive classified Israeli cable reveals the following:

• On Sunday, just after Lebanese PM Hariri’s shocking resignation, Israel sent a cable to all of its embassies with the request that its diplomats do everything possible to ramp up diplomatic pressure against Hezbollah and Iran.
• The cable urged support for Saudi Arabia’s war against Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.
• The cable stressed that Iran was engaged in “regional subversion”.
• Israeli diplomats were urged to appeal to the “highest officials” within their host countries to attempt to expel Hezbollah from Lebanese government and politics.

As is already well-known, the Saudi and Israeli common cause against perceived Iranian influence and expansion in places like Syria, Lebanon and Iraq of late has led the historic bitter enemies down a pragmatic path of unspoken cooperation as both seem to have placed the break up of the so-called “Shia crescent” as their primary policy goal in the region. For Israel, Hezbollah has long been its greatest foe, which Israeli leaders see as an extension of Iran’s territorial presence right up against the Jewish state’s northern border.

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“Having failed to liberate the Syrians, Saudi, the West, its Sunni Gulf allies and Israel will now see if they can succeed in blocking any Iranian gas ambitions by liberating the Lebanese from their own government.”

Lebanon – The Next Front In The Great Gas War (Golem XIV)

The Great Gas War has already two distinct fronts: The now relatively quiet Northern Front in Ukraine and the Southern Front in Syria in which the Western empire has been losing. It looks to me that Lebanon is being targeted as the next front, where the West hopes its loses might be recouped. Yesterday, November 6th, Reuters reported, “Saudi Arabia said on Monday that Lebanon had declared war against it because of attacks against the Kingdom by the Lebanese Shi‘ite group Hezbollah.” This comes after Israel, Saudi’s long time though largely un-offical best friend in the region, has been very publicly preparing to renew its own war with Lebanon – or more accurately with Hezbollah. As the American news journal Newsweek put it recently, “ISRAEL PREPARES FOR ANOTHER WAR WITH HEZBOLLAH AS IDF PRACTICES LEBANON INVASION.”

Why now and why Lebanon? Well the rulers of Saudi, a Sunni dominated country, will tell us that it is because Hezbollah is a Shia terrorist organisation. “Hezbollah” literally means the “Party of Allah” or “Party of God”. Saudi Gulf affairs minister Thamer al-Sabhan yesterday pointedly referred to Hezbollah as, “the Lebanese Party of the Devil”. Saudi is not alone of course, Hezbollah has also been listed as a terrorist organisation by America, Israel, the Arab League, the UK and the EU. It is also, however, part of the popular government of Lebanon having seats in its parliament. I suggest, however, a powerful reason that a new war with Hezbollah may be in the offing is because Lebanon is the next link in any gas pipeline that could potentially bring Iranian Gas to Europe.

That was the reason the West decided to “liberate” the Syrian people and it will be why they decide to enforce the same salvation upon the people of Lebanon. Having failed to liberate the Syrians, Saudi, the West, its Sunni Gulf allies and Israel will now see if they can succeed in blocking any Iranian gas ambitions by liberating the Lebanese from their own government. I would not be surprised to hear quite soon from opposition groups vocally denouncing the government or at least Hezbollah. I expect spokes people from those groups to suddenly get a global platform along-side American and regional supporters such as Saudi.

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How to spell insanity.

UK Sales Of Bombs And Missiles To Saudi Arabia Increase By Almost 500% (Ind.)

The number of British-made bombs and missiles sold to Saudi Arabia since the start of its bloody campaign in Yemen has risen by almost 500%, The Independent can reveal. More than £4.6bn of arms were sold in the first two years of bombings, with the Government grant increasing numbers of export licences despite mounting evidence of war crimes and massacres at hospitals, schools and weddings. The United Nations says air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition are the main cause of almost 5,295 civilian deaths and 8,873 casualties confirmed so far, warning that the real figure is “likely to be far higher”. It has condemned the “entirely man-made catastrophe” leaving millions more on the brink of famine and sparking the world’s worst cholera epidemic, while blacklisting Saudi Arabia for killing and maiming children.

There is also fresh concern over the Kingdom’s attempt to shut all air, land and sea ports into Yemen, which it said was to stop the flow of weapons but will also halt aid imports. British-made bombs have been found at the scene of bombings deemed to violate international law but the UK has continued its political and material support for Riyadh’s campaign. Figures from the Department for International Trade (DIT) show that in the two years leading up to the Yemen war, £33m of ML4 licences covering bombs, missiles and countermeasures were approved. But in the two years since the start of Saudi bombing in March 2015, the figure increased by 457% to £1.9bn, according to calculations by Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT). Licences covering aircraft including Eurofighter jets have also risen by 70% to £2.6bn in the same period.

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Secret meetings as the Middle East is imploding. And arms sales are exploding.

May to Lose Second Top Minister in One Week Over Secret Israel Meetings (BBG)

Prime Minister Theresa May is weighing whether to fire a member of her cabinet only seven days after her defense secretary quit in a sexual harassment scandal, as the U.K. government faces fresh turmoil in the midst of Brexit talks. May is likely to dismiss her International Development Secretary Priti Patel in a row over a succession of unauthorized meetings she held with Israeli officials behind the prime minister’s back, according to reports from the BBC and The Sun Tuesday, which the U.K. government declined to deny. The premier has not yet had the chance to speak to Patel – who is on an official trip to Africa – about the latest revelations. A conversation would be expected before a decision is made about the minister’s future. If she is forced out, Patel will be the second minister to depart May’s cabinet in one week, after Michael Fallon resigned from the defense ministry amid allegations over his past behavior toward women.

For some, May’s latest headache is yet another demonstration of her weakness, which draws repeated questions over how her government can last long enough to see Brexit to the finish line. If more dominoes drop – in the shape of senior ministers – the last one to fall could ultimately be the prime minister herself. “The destabilizing effect on an already weak administration has prompted another burst of speculation that May could soon be forced to resign,” Mujtaba Rahman of Eurasia Group said in a note to clients. He thought one likely scenario is for May to be toppled if she fails to get a grip on the latest crisis and is ousted because her MPs judge that the government cannot go on like this – and is incapable of recovering the authority a prime minister needs.

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The British economy is being bled dry….

Those Who Broke The Economy Cannot Fix It (Ann Pettifor)

Make no mistake, last week’s increase in interest rates was a big deal. Painful as it might be for a good share of the population, the real point is that the Bank is signalling the end of a particular phase of monetary policy. Since 2010 the counterpart to self-defeating austerity policies has been expansionary monetary policies. These have inflated assets – enriching the already-rich, while failing to stimulate wider economic recovery. Yesterday the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee signalled an end of this dangerous game. But this technocratic realignment makes no difference to the fact that ‘the Guardians of the nation’s finances’ – Bank and Treasury economists – have failed absolutely to revive the economy.

You need look no further than the (ongoing) decline in real wages, to continuing low levels of private investment, and to the dangers of rising household debt. A small interest rate rise is hardly likely to improve these conditions. Bank and Treasury economists (aided and abetted by the OBR) are guilty of defeatism. They argue that despite their powers, THERE IS NOTHING TO BE DONE. It is assumed that somehow ‘the invisible hand’ or ‘the markets’ will, without intervention by the authorities, correct the weakness, insecurity and failures of the British economy. The prolonged and painfully weak recovery is regularly blamed on something defined as “productivity”. By shifting responsibility for economic failure on to productivity, the Bank, Treasury and OBR economists are saying that somehow economic failure is inherent to the economy – to businesses and especially to workers.

“Nothing to do with us, guv” they mutter. They add that the situation has been exacerbated by the vote to leave the EU. This is a handy way of denying that the ongoing economic failure of the British economy (and the Brexit vote) can be explained by austerity policies, and the failures of the financial system. By taking this approach, economists at the Bank have – conveniently – set the scene for endorsing further inaction by the Chancellor later this month. Yesterday the Governor of the Bank was flanked by Ben Broadbent and Dave Ramsden. Ben Broadbent, as a Goldman Sachs economist, was among the earliest to call for austerity policies. Dave Ramsden (who did not vote for the rate rise) implemented these policies as top economist at the Treasury.

But both Broadbent and Ramsden were senior figures in economic policy-making throughout the debt inflation that preceded the crisis, and (we presume) supporters of financial globalisation. It is obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense that austerity policies have hurt the most vulnerable, and damaged Britain’s economic potential, by forcing a brutal adjustment to lower quality and lower paid work. Labour has been forced to bear the brunt of the Global Financial Crisis. The weakness in productivity is just the outcome of these policies, not the cause.

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… while Germany’s needs diverge ever more from those of southern Europe.

German ‘Wise Men’ Sound Alarm Over ‘Overheating’ Economy (R.)

The German economy is at risk of overheating, according to a leaked advisory council report that follows pressure from the Bundesbank for a swifter end to the ECB’s expansive monetary policy. In their annual report, seen by Handelsblatt newspaper, the five “wise men” who advise the German government on economic policy said the economy, which they expected to expand strongly this year and next, was moving gradually into a “boom phase”. “There are clear signs that economic capacity is over-utilised,” read the report, which is due to be published on Wednesday. Germans have been among the foremost critics of the ECB’s bond-buying program, which was introduced three years ago to depress borrowing costs and reignite growth in the euro zone’s heavily indebted southern periphery.

The wise men expected Germany’s economy to expand by 2% this year and by 2.2% in 2018, Handelsblatt said. With unemployment at its lowest level since the early 1990s, Germany’s circumstances are very different from Italy’s or Spain‘s, straining the ECB’s ‘one-size-fits-all’ monetary policy. ECB President Mario Draghi last month announced a halving n the size of its 2 trillion euro bond-buying program, but this is far from the return to conventional monetary policy many Germans, including Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann, demand. Without an intervention to cool the economy, Germany’s hawks fear the buoyant economy could tip over into an inflationary cycle. Last week, a senior official from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives warned that German savers would not tolerate continued low interest rates for much longer.

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Accountants and auditors are not doing their jobs.

Bean Counters: Lost in Paradise (Ren.)

“The phrase ‘Set a thief to catch a thief’ is common parlance,” says Professor Atul K. Shah. “‘Set a global brand of professional accountants to rob society and pilfer its taxes, bleeding governments’, is not, but it should be.’ Professor Bill Black says internal controls are absolutely critical in reducing fraud by insiders in particular, but not just insiders, as the Paradise Papers have repeatedly demonstrated. Emile Woolf says there is no way to remove control fraud and dodgy accounting practices from the economy without first prosecuting the culprits. “The devils that committed this criminal negligence – with the exception of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) – have never been fined or prosecuted” he said. “What you can then do is create a ring fenced fund inside those institutions, earmarked to save them from going under. But the company has to recognise it has to be paid back.

“RBS is incapable of paying back the billions of fines it still owes for misconduct,” he says. “Where does that money come from and where does it go? Without the fines RBS would have made £100 million profit this year, but because of the reserve for fines in the USA and UK, all those fines are far too great to allow for payment of a dividend.” Of course calculating a true profit figure is difficult when a significant portion of that profit is fraudulent, because it doesn’t take into account the result of the inequities of ten years ago. “The worrying thing for all of us is if it happens again,” he says. “My hope is that three years from now, banks will be forced to recognise their loans that will never be repaid. But my worry is that this is going to be after the next financial crisis, because it’s happening again. There is no redeeming features in the present. The only difference is the next crisis is going to be bigger.”

Joel Benjamin told Renegade Inc that accounting is as much about *what* you count or don’t count as it is *how* you count it. “This is evidenced through the practice of ‘base erosion and profit shifting’ – shifting profits to offshore low or no tax jurisdictions, ” he said. In the space of 50 years, Britain’s economy has transformed from an industrial power house, to that of a finance-led extractive parasite, where the cash starved productive economy receives less than 10% of bank credit. “Until the Big Four accountancy firms are accurately viewed as enablers of corporate offshore dealing, regulatory arbitrage and ardent defenders of the neoliberal order, not the ‘reputable’ objective independent arbiters of the public interest as they claim, society will continue to be taken for a ride, and public services and social cohesion will continue their long decline,” he said.

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Bill Mitchell in a long talk with his alter ego.

British Mainstream Media Spreading Dangerous MMT Ideas (Bilbo)

Mitchell tried to tell me that governments do not spend by ‘printing money’ but rather just adjust bank accounts with numbers. But I know as anyone in the street knows that they just want to print more and more. That is at the core of MMT – they want the government to go on a spending spree and just ignore the inflationary consequences. They hide that by saying that “public spending cannot be unlimited and must be commensurate to the capacity of the economy” which is just a smokescreen that I can see through. And everybody will see through it. It is code for spend like a drunken’ sailor – throw money at lazy people who cannot be bothered finding a job. Throw money at public schools that teach socialist doctrines – you know about inequality and stuff like that.

Throw money at public hospitals so that people can receive unlimited health care without having to pay for it – that is the quickest way to encourage waste and bad behaviour. People know that they can just get sick and no matter what their income is they will get some care. Where is the incentive to stay healthy in that sort of system. The article also shows how stupid Mitchell is when it says he: “… debunks the idea that governments borrow money from international markets and with it the notion that they are hostage to the market.” Well where the hell else do they get the cash from? Does he really think we are that stupid? How come China has all those US government debt bonds or whatever they are called and the US government is spending the Chinese cash? How does he explain that obvious point?

Well he tried to claim the Chinese doesn’t issue US dollars and that only the US government issues US dollars so that it cannot possibly be funded by the Chinese. I don’t buy that, not that I understood anything he said about this – all this talk about trade surpluses accumulating financial claims in the currency that the deficit country issues, and then allowing the surplus nation to use those claims (say, US dollars in the first instance) to purchase US dollar financial assets etc ad nauseum. As if that tells us anything. How come the Chinese can loan the US government money that is what I want to know? Mitchell told the journalist that Jeremy Corbyn should not worry about international capital markets because Britain could impose capital controls if it wanted to. That gets to the nub of my worries – socialist governments stealing hard-earned cash from investors who actually have some get up and go.

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Malls don’t look like good investments.

Brick-and-Mortar Meltdown Sinks Property Prices (WS)

Commercial real estate prices soared relentlessly for years after the Financial Crisis, to such a degree that the Fed has been publicly fretting about them. Why? Because US financial institutions hold nearly $4 trillion of commercial real estate loans. But the boom in most CRE sectors is over. The Green Street Property Price Index – which measures values across five major property sectors – had soared 107% from May 2009 to the plateau that began late last year, and 27% from the peak of the totally crazy prior bubble that ended with such spectacular fireworks. But it has now turned around, dragged down by a plunge in prices for retail space. The CPPI by Green Street Advisors dropped 1.1% in October from September. In terms of points, the 1.4-point decline was the largest monthly decline since March 2009. The index is now below where it had been in June 2016:

This phenomenal bubble, as depicted by the chart above, has even worried the Fed because US financial institutions hold nearly $4 trillion of CRE loans, according to Boston Fed governor Eric Rosengren earlier this year. Of them, $1.2 trillion are held by smaller banks (less than $50 billion in assets). These smaller banks tends to have a loan book that is heavily concentrated on CRE loans, and these banks are less able to withstand shocks to collateral values. Rosengren found that among the root causes of the Financial Crisis “was a significant decline in collateral values of residential and commercial real estate.” But the CRE bubble isn’t unraveling as gently as the chart suggests. Some sectors are still surging, while others are plunging. According to the report, the index, which captures the prices at which CRE transactions are currently being negotiated and contracted, “was pushed down by falling mall valuations.”

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Puidgemont predicted to get 14-15 out of 135 seats. He won’t be the leader.

Catalan Secessionist Parties Fail To Agree On Unity Ticket For Vote (R.)

Catalan secessionist parties on Tuesday failed to agree on a united ticket to contest a December snap regional election, making it more difficult to rule the region after the vote and press ahead with their collective bid to split from Spain. Catalonia’s secessionist push has plunged Spain into its worst political crisis in four decades, triggered a business exodus, forced Madrid to cut its economic forecast and reopened old wounds from Spain’s civil war in the 1930s. Pro-independence groups have called for a general strike in the restive region on Wednesday. Catalan political parties had until midnight on Tuesday to register coalitions ahead of the Dec. 21 vote, but the two main forces which formed an alliance to rule the region for the last two years did not manage to agree on a new pact in time.

While they could still find an agreement after the vote, political analysts say the lack of a deal on a joint campaign may also trigger a leadership fight at the top of the movement. This is because center-right PdeCat (Catalan Democratic Party) of sacked Catalan president Carles Puigdemont is expected to be overtaken by leftist Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) of former regional vice president Oriol Junqueras. Puigdemont and Junqueras are the two main leaders behind the current secession bid that last month led to a unilateral declaration of independence which Spain thwarted by imposing direct rule on the region. Junqueras is currently in custody pending a potential trial on charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds. Puigdemont, who faces the same charges, is currently in self-imposed exile in Belgium and has said he would oppose extradition.

An opinion poll released on Sunday by Barcelona-based newspaper La Vanguardia showed Junqueras’ ERC could garner between 45 and 46 seats in the 135-strong regional assembly while Puigdemont’s PdeCat would win between 14 and 15 seats. In order to reach the 68-seat threshold for a majority, they would then have to form a parliamentary alliance with anti-capitalist CUP, which is expected to get seven or eight seats. Such an alliance previously existed between 2015 and 2017.

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Down the drain.

1 in 200 British, 1 in 60 Londoners Are Homeless (G.)

More than 300,000 people in Britain – equivalent to one in every 200 – are officially recorded as homeless or living in inadequate homes, according to figures released by the charity Shelter. Using official government data and freedom of information returns from local authorities, it estimates that 307,000 people are sleeping rough, or accommodated in temporary housing, bed and breakfast rooms, or hostels – an increase of 13,000 over the past year. Shelter said the figures were an underestimate as they did not include people trapped in so-called “hidden homelessness”, who have nowhere to live but are not recorded as needing housing assistance, and end up “sofa surfing”. London, where one in every 59 people are homeless, remains Britain’s homelessness centre. Of the top 50 local authority homelessness “hotspots”, 18 were in Greater London, with Newham, where one in 27 residents are homeless, worst hit.

However, while London’s homeless rates have remained largely stable over the past year, the figures show the problem is becoming worse in leafier commuter areas bordering the capital, such as Broxbourne, Luton, and Chelmsford. Big regional cities have also seen substantial year-on-year increases in the rate of homelessness. In Manchester, one in 154 people are homeless (compared with one in 266 in 2016); in Birmingham one in 88 are homeless (119); in Bristol one in 170 are affected (199). Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “It’s shocking to think that today, more than 300,000 people in Britain are waking up homeless. Some will have spent the night shivering on a cold pavement, others crammed into a dingy hostel room with their children. And what is worse, many are simply unaccounted for.

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Nov 072017
 
 November 7, 2017  Posted by at 10:07 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Edward S. Curtis Zuni Girl with Jar c. 1903

 

Saudi Arabia’s Government Purge — And How Washington Corruption Enabled It (IC)
Saudi Arabia Accuses Lebanon Of ‘Declaring War,’ Egypt Calls For Calm (CNBC)
Oil Prices Surge On Saudi Purge (CNBC)
The Black Swan In Plain Sight – Debt Out The Wazoo (Stockman)
What Could Go Wrong? (Jim Kunstler)
Growing Homeless Camps Contrast With West Coast Tech Wealth (AP)
Profiting from Puerto Rico’s Pain (New Yorker)
Sacked Catalan President Condemns ‘Brutal Judicial Offensive’ (G.)
Bernie Sanders Warns Of ‘International Oligarchy’ – Paradise Papers (G.)
End These Offshore Games Or Our Democracy Will Die (G.)
Four False Viral Claims Spread by Journalists on Twitter in One Week (GG)
Growing Number of Greeks Unable To Pay Taxes (K.)
Greek Notaries Refuse To Carry Out Foreclosures (K.)
Hawking: AI Could Be ‘Worst Event In The History Of Our Civilization’ (CNBC)
The Charter of the Forest (Standing)

 

 

Reading a lot on Saudi. This is good by Ryan Grim. ” And make no mistake, MBS is a project of the UAE — an odd turn of events given the relative sizes of the two countries.”

Saudi Arabia’s Government Purge — And How Washington Corruption Enabled It (IC)

Whatever the official explanation, it is being read around the world as a power grab by the kingdom’s rising crown prince. “The sweeping campaign of arrests appears to be the latest move to consolidate the power of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the favorite son and top adviser of King Salman,” as the New York Times put it. “The king had decreed the creation of a powerful new anti-corruption committee, headed by the crown prince, only hours before the committee ordered the arrests. The men are being held in the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh. “There is no jail for royals,” a Saudi source noted. The move marks a moment of reckoning for Washington’s foreign policy establishment, which struck a bargain of sorts with Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, and Yousef Al Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the U.S. who has been MBS’s leading advocate in Washington.

The unspoken arrangement was clear: The UAE and Saudi Arabia would pump millions into Washington’s political ecosystem while mouthing a belief in “reform,” and Washington would pretend to believe that they meant it. MBS has won praise for some policies, like an openness to reconsidering Saudi Arabia’s ban on women drivers. Meanwhile, however, the 32-year-old MBS has been pursuing a dangerously impulsive and aggressive regional policy, which has included a heightening of tensions with Iran, a catastrophic war on Yemen, and a blockade of ostensible ally Qatar. Those regional policies have been disasters for the millions who have suffered the consequences, including the starving people of Yemen, as well as for Saudi Arabia, but MBS has dug in harder and harder. And his supporters in Washington have not blinked.

The platitudes about reform were also challenged by recent mass arrests of religious figures and repression of anything that has remotely approached less than full support of MBS. The latest purge comes just days after White House adviser Jared Kushner, a close ally of Otaiba, visited Riyadh, and just hours after a bizarre-even-for-Trump tweet. Whatever legitimate debate there was about MBS ended Saturday — his drive to consolidate power is now too obvious to ignore. And that puts denizens of Washington’s think tank world in a difficult spot, as they have come to rely heavily on the Saudi and UAE end of the bargain. As The Intercept reported earlier, one think tank alone, the Middle East Institute, got a massive $20 million commitment from the UAE. And make no mistake, MBS is a project of the UAE — an odd turn of events given the relative sizes of the two countries.

“Our relationship with them is based on strategic depth, shared interests, and most importantly the hope that we could influence them. Not the other way around,” Otaiba has said privately. For the past two years, Otaiba has introduced MBS around Washington and offered assurances of his commitment to modernizing and reforming Saudi Arabia, according to people who’ve spoken with him, confirmed by emails leaked by the group, Global Leaks. When confronted with damning headlines, Otaiba tends to acknowledge the reform project is a work in progress, but insists that it is progress nonetheless, and in MBS resides the best chance of the region.

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“The region cannot support more turmoil..”

Saudi Arabia Accuses Lebanon Of ‘Declaring War,’ Egypt Calls For Calm (CNBC)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called on Middle Eastern nations to maintain stability just as tensions were suddenly spiking between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. “The stability of the region is very important and we all have to protect it … I am talking to all the parties in the region to preserve it,” Al-Sisi said in an interview with CNBC over the weekend that aired Tuesday morning. On Saturday, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri shocked the political establishment in Beirut by announcing his resignation. The leader said he was stepping down amid concerns of a potential assassination plot against him. Speaking from Riyadh, Hariri criticized Iran, and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, for igniting conflict in the region.

Following the CNBC interview, Reuters reported that Saudi Arabia sharply escalated rhetoric in the region by declaring that Lebanon had — figuratively at least — declared “war” against it because of aggression from Hezbollah. Saudi Gulf Affairs Minister Thamer al-Sabhan said the government of Lebanon “would be dealt with as a government declaring war on Saudi Arabia,” Reuters reported. When asked whether the time had come for Egypt to consider its own measures against Hezbollah, Al-Sisi replied, “The subject is not about taking on or not taking on, the subject is about the status of the fragile stability in the region in light of the unrest facing the region.” “The region cannot support more turmoil,” he said.

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What OPEC couldn’t do.

Oil Prices Surge On Saudi Purge (CNBC)

Oil prices surged to their highest levels since the summer of 2015 on Monday as a major political shakeup in Saudi Arabia underpinned a rally fueled by geopolitical risk, analysts said. Crude futures hit the new highs overnight after the powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman coordinated the arrest of several princes and ministers, ostensibly as part of crackdown on corruption. Prices pulled back in morning trade as the market digested a wealth of analysis on the Saudi purge, but futures suddenly shot higher at midday. International benchmark Brent crude oil topped $64 a barrel for the first time since June 2015. Meanwhile U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude broke above $57, a level the market has not seen since July 2015.

WTI finished Monday’s session $1.71 or 3.1 percent, higher at $57.35. Brent was trading up $2.04, or 3.3 percent, at $64.11 by 2:27 p.m. ET. Analysts cautioned against pinning the surge on any one headline, or even the Saudi arrests alone. Instead, they said a growing cloud of geopolitical uncertainty was unleashing animal spirits in an already bullish market. “You can grab all sorts of different headlines when you have a runaway market, and this is a runaway market right now,” said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at Oil Price Information Service. In this kind of environment, “people throw caution to the wind, and this is like the grand finale of fireworks,” he said.

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More debt, fast.

The Black Swan In Plain Sight – Debt Out The Wazoo (Stockman)

The black swan in plain sight does emit the Donald’s orangish glow, but at the end of the day its true color is actually red. That is, monumental towers of rapidly rising debt loom everywhere on the planet. For the moment, the artificial cash flow from this unsustainable borrowing spree is keeping a simulacrum of growth and prosperity alive. Yet this whole outbreak of debt madness – represented by $225 trillion outstanding on a global basis – is careening toward a financial and economic dead end that will soon crush today’s fiscally profligate politicians and heedless financial punters, alike, in a devastating reset of bond yields. For our first case in point, the always excellent Wolf Richter published a great chart over the weekend on the exploding US public debt.

To say the least, it constitutes a clanging wake-up call amidst the absolute fantasy world that prevails on both ends of the Acela Corridor. That’s because during the mere 8 weeks since the public debt ceiling was suspended by the Donald’s end-run with Nancy and Chuckles in September, the national debt has spiked by $640 billion. That’s about $16 billion per Federal business day, and they are not done yet. The US Treasury will continue to borrow heavily until the current debt ceiling “suspension” expires on December 8 – at which time it will repair to the old game of divesting trusting funds and employing other gimmicks which circumvent the ceiling, while waiting for Congress to blink and raise the ceiling or authorize a new “temporary” suspension.

As Wolf pointed out, this pattern played out during the debt showdowns of 2013 and 2015, as well, when the resulting “temporary” suspension resulted in borrowing spikes of $464 billion and $650 billion, respectively. Accordingly, Washington has suspended it way into a $5.7 trillion increase in the public debt in just six years since October 2011. That is, during a period which supposedly constitutes the third longest business expansion in US history.

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“The “narrative” is firmest before its falseness is proved by the turn of events, and there are an awful lot of events out there waiting to present, like debutantes dressing for a winter ball.”

What Could Go Wrong? (Jim Kunstler)

The economy isn’t growing and can’t grow. The economy is a revenant of something that used to exist, an industrial economy that has rolled over and died and come back as a moldy ghoul feeding on the ghostly memories of itself. Stocks go up because the unprecedented low interest rates established by the Fed allow company CEOs to “lever-up” issuing bonds (i.e. borrow “money” from, cough cough, “investors”) and then use the borrowed “money” to buy back their own stock to raise the share value, so they can justify their companies’ boards-of-directors jacking up their salaries and bonuses — based on the ghost of the idea that higher stock prices represent the creation of more actual things of value (front-end-loaders, pepperoni sticks, oil drilling rigs).

The economy is actually contracting because we can’t afford the energy it takes to run the things we do — mostly just driving around — and unemployment is not historically low, it’s simply mis-represented by not including the tens of millions of people who have dropped out of the work force. And an epic wickedness combined with cowardice drives the old legacy news business to look the other way and concoct its good times “narrative.” If any of the reporters at The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal really understand the legerdemain at work in these “mysteries” of finance, they’re afraid to say. The companies they work for are dying, like so many other enterprises in the non-financial realm of the used-to-be economy, and they don’t want to be out of paycheck until the lights finally go out.

The “narrative” is firmest before its falseness is proved by the turn of events, and there are an awful lot of events out there waiting to present, like debutantes dressing for a winter ball. The debt ceiling… North Korea… Mueller… Hillarygate….the state pension funds….That so many agree the USA has entered a permanent plateau of exquisite prosperity is a sure sign of its imminent implosion. What could go wrong?

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All bubbles disrupt.

Growing Homeless Camps Contrast With West Coast Tech Wealth (AP)

SEATTLE — Housing prices are soaring here thanks to the tech industry, but the boom comes with a consequence: A surge in homelessness marked by 400 unauthorized tent camps in parks, under bridges, on freeway medians and along busy sidewalks. The liberal city is trying to figure out what to do. “I’ve got economically zero unemployment in my city, and I’ve got thousands of homeless people that actually are working and just can’t afford housing,” said Seattle City Councilman Mike O’Brien. “There’s nowhere for these folks to move to.” That struggle is not Seattle’s alone. A homeless crisis is rocking the entire West Coast, pushing abject poverty into the open like never before. Public health is at risk, several cities have declared states of emergency, and cities and counties are spending millions – in some cases billions – in a search for solutions.

San Diego now scrubs its sidewalks with bleach to counter a deadly hepatitis A outbreak. In Anaheim, 400 people sleep along a bike path in the shadow of Angel Stadium. Organizers in Portland lit incense at an outdoor food festival to cover up the stench of urine in a parking lot where vendors set up shop. Homelessness is not new on the West Coast. But interviews with local officials and those who serve the homeless in California, Oregon and Washington — coupled with an Associated Press review of preliminary homeless data — confirm it’s getting worse. People who were once able to get by, even if they suffered a setback, are now pushed to the streets because housing has become so expensive. All it takes is a prolonged illness, a lost job, a broken limb, a family crisis. What was once a blip in fortunes now seems a life sentence.

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“There is no European Union standing ready to bail out Puerto Rico.”

Profiting from Puerto Rico’s Pain (New Yorker)

In 2012, Cate Long was working at the news service Reuters, where she wrote a daily column on the municipal-bond market. Municipal bonds are typically a sleepy corner of investing. They are forms of debt issued by states, counties, or cities, usually to fund infrastructure projects, such as airports and highways, and they are generally considered a safe investment, paying relatively low levels of interest. Finding a compelling story about the municipal-bond market is not an easy task, so when Long came across a document related to an $800 million bond sale that Puerto Rico would be undertaking that spring, she decided to look at the numbers more closely. What she found was startling. “I sat down and read it for a couple of hours, and I said, ‘These people are going to default,’ ” she told me recently. “It was pretty obvious.”

In the column she wrote about her analysis, titled “Puerto Rico Is America’s Greece,” Long expressed concern about the island’s economic health, calling it “America’s own Third World country.” At the time, Puerto Rico’s per-capita income was just $15,203 (less than half that of Mississippi, the poorest of the fifty states), and 45% of its residents were living below the poverty line. Puerto Rico also had a “massive” amount of debt, and was issuing even more bonds, which mutual funds and individuals were eagerly buying up, in spite of the warning signs. In her article, Long seemed to charge almost everyone involved, borrowers and creditors alike, with disingenuousness, incompetence, or both. “As happened with Greece, bond investors continue to buy the debt assuming at some point the government will be bailed out by somebody, somewhere,” she wrote.

“Caution, bond investors: There is no European Union standing ready to bail out Puerto Rico.” The article sent shock waves through the investment community. Moody’s Investors Service, which provides credit ratings, asked Long to come to its offices and defend her findings. (Her defense was, essentially, “I’m looking at the numbers.”) Nevertheless, the island continued its unsustainable borrowing for years—and Wall Street investors kept lending it money. By 2017, five years after Long’s warning, Puerto Rico’s bond debt had soared to $74 billion, almost a third of which was held by hedge funds. Meanwhile, the government was struggling to provide basic services to residents.

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Guess: he won’t be back in Catalonia in time for the Dec 21 elections.

Sacked Catalan President Condemns ‘Brutal Judicial Offensive’ (G.)

The deposed Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, has accused the Spanish authorities of conducting a “brutal judicial offensive” against members of his ousted government and said he was afraid they would not receive an unbiased hearing in Spanish courts. Writing in the Guardian, Puigdemont said it was a “colossal outrage” that he and 13 colleagues were being investigated over possible charges including sedition and rebellion in relation to their roles in last month’s declaration of independence. “Today, the leaders of this democratic project stand accused of rebellion and face the severest punishment possible under the Spanish penal code; the same as for cases of terrorism and murder: 30 years in prison,” he said.

Puigdemont said he doubted that he and his colleagues would get a “fair and independent hearing” and called for “scrutiny from abroad” to help bring the Catalan crisis to a political, rather than judicial, conclusion. He added: “The Spanish state must honour what was said so many times in the years of terrorism: end violence and we can talk about everything. We, the supporters of Catalan independence, have never opted for violence, on the contrary. But now we find it was all a lie that everything is up for discussion.” The former Catalan leader fled to Brussels with a handful of cabinet colleagues last week, hours before Spain’s attorney general announced he would be seeking to bring charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds against them.

On Thursday, a national court judge ordered the jailing of the eight Catalan politicians and, a day later, issued a European arrest warrant for Puigdemont and four of his allies. Late on Sunday, a Belgian judge granted the five conditional release. They will make their first appearance in court on 17 November when a judge will decide on whether to execute the arrest warrant. The conditions of release include a ban on them leaving Belgium until their appearance in the court of first instance in Brussels later this month. With the extradition process likely to take months rather than weeks, there is growing scope for Puigdemont’s presence in Belgium to cause the country’s coalition government serious difficulties.

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No kidding.

Bernie Sanders Warns Of ‘International Oligarchy’ – Paradise Papers (G.)

Bernie Sanders has warned that the world is rapidly becoming an “international oligarchy” controlled by a tiny number of billionaires, highlighted by the revelations in the Paradise Papers. In a statement to the Guardian in the wake of the massive leak of documents exposing the secrets of offshore investors, Sanders said that the enrichment of wealthy individuals and companies in tax havens was “the major issue of our time”. He said the Paradise Papers opened the door on a “major problem not just for the US but for governments throughout the world”. “The major issue of our time is the rapid movement toward international oligarchy in which a handful of billionaires own and control a significant part of the global economy. The Paradise Papers shows how these billionaires and multinational corporations get richer by hiding their wealth and profits and avoid paying their fair share of taxes,” the US senator from Vermont said.

Sanders, who came in a close second to Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, pointed the finger of blame for the flourishing of offshore holdings on both Congress and the Trump administration. He told the Guardian that Republicans in Congress were responsible for providing “even more tax breaks to profitable corporations like Apple and Nike”. The same tax breaks, he said, were being seized upon by super-wealthy members of Trump’s cabinet “who avoid billions in US taxes by shifting American jobs and profits to offshore tax havens. We need to close these loopholes and demand a fair and progressive tax system.”

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“We must accept that Big Finance and runaway inequality are incompatible with either a functioning democracy or a sustainable economy.”

End These Offshore Games Or Our Democracy Will Die (G.)

Tax avoidance is now so systemic that the Queen’s own wealth managers apparently see nothing wrong with her receiving £82m a year from taxpayers while shunting £10m into the Caymans and elsewhere. Shuttling between tax havens is so commonplace that economist Gabriel Zucman describes it as an “elite sport” – a sport in which the loser each time is the rest of society, which sees its taxbase shrink. These papers are aptly named: they outline a model that is paradise for the super-rich and purgatory for the rest of us. The second myth of British politics is that austerity was the only correct response to the high-living of the New Labour boom. That was always opposed by some of us – now it is exploded with each new tax investigation.

Drawing in part on data from last year’s Panama Papers and the HSBC files leaked in 2015, Zucman recently co-published a study that found wealthy Britons have stashed about £300bn – equivalent to 15% of our GDP – in offshore tax havens. Three hundred billion quid would more than cover our entire education budget for the rest of this decade and into the 2020s. Or, if you prefer, it is the equivalent of £350m being paid into the NHS every week for the next 16 years. Instead, it is funnelled offshore and used to buy yachts and mansions and other baubles – tax efficiently, of course. The economics of David Cameron and George Osborne can be summed up simply: punish the poor, but reward the rich for fear they will flee offshore. To that end, they scrapped the 50p tax rate for millionaires, they drove down corporation tax to a record low, and cut sweetheart deals with companies such as Google who couldn’t be bothered to pay even that much.

The result is that London has more super-rich residents than any other city – yet however soft the kid gloves with which they are treated, our wealthiest 0.01% stick 30-40% of their wealth offshore. In high-tax Sweden, by contrast, the rich do not use havens half as much. The logic that has underpinned our tax system over this entire decade is rubbish. [..] Add the City of London to Britain’s crown dependencies such as Jersey and the Isle of Man, and overseas territories such as the Caymans, and Britain’s tax havens account for nearly a quarter of the entire offshore financial industry. According to Deutsche Bank, London itself receives about £1bn a month in what it calls “hidden capital flows”, much of it Russian. It ends up in Stucco-fronted houses and fine art.

Much of this could be changed, and quickly. Britain has previously ordered the Caymans and other overseas territories to decriminalise homosexuality and abolish the death penalty. It could do the same with tax transparency, in an Order of Council that, a Mayfair tax lawyer recently told me, need be no longer than two sides of A4. We could change the rules on Lords and Commons’ members’ interests so that all offshore holdings would have to be registered. These are the fixes, but a real solution is ultimately political. We must accept that Big Finance and runaway inequality are incompatible with either a functioning democracy or a sustainable economy. Britain either shrinks the City of London, or the City of London will swallow Britain.

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Lots of talk about this, with widely differing views.

Four False Viral Claims Spread by Journalists on Twitter in One Week (GG)

There is ample talk, particularly of late, about the threats posed by social media to democracy and political discourse. Yet one of the primary ways that democracy is degraded by platforms such as Facebook and Twitter is, for obvious reasons, typically ignored in such discussions: the way they are used by American journalists to endorse factually false claims that quickly spread and become viral, entrenched into narratives, and thus can never be adequately corrected. The design of Twitter, where many political journalists spend their time, is in large part responsible for this damage. Its space constraints mean that tweeted headlines or tiny summaries of reporting are often assumed to be true with no critical analysis of their accuracy, and are easily spread.

Claims from journalists that people want to believe are shared like wildfire, while less popular, subsequent corrections or nuanced debunking are easily ignored. Whatever one’s views are on the actual impact of Twitter Russian bots, surely the propensity of journalistic falsehoods to spread far and wide is at least as significant. Just in the last week alone, there have been four major factually false claims that have gone viral because journalists on Twitter endorsed and spread them: three about the controversy involving Donna Brazile and the DNC, and one about documents and emails published by WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign. It’s well worth examining them, both to document what the actual truth is as well as to understand how often and easily this online journalistic misleading occurs:

Viral Falsehood #1: The Clinton/DNC agreement cited by Brazile only applied to the General Election, not the primary.

Viral Falsehood #2: Sanders signed the same agreement with the DNC that Clinton did.

Viral Falsehood #3: Brazile stupidly thought she could unilaterally remove Clinton as the nominee.

Viral Falsehood #4: Evidence has emerged proving that the content of WikiLeaks documents and emails was doctored.

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Deep deep deeper and down.

Growing Number of Greeks Unable To Pay Taxes (K.)

Almost half a million taxpayers were added to the long list of debtors to the state in the month of September, according to the latest data from the Independent Authority for Public Revenue. The authority’s figures are a reflection of citizens’ increasing inability to pay their taxes, with 410,000 not paying their second income tax installment and the ENFIA property tax in September. More specifically, 4,267,408 taxpayers owed money to the Greek state in September, up from 3,857,086 in August. Moreover, by the end of September, the amount of unpaid taxes since the beginning of the year came to 9.25 billion euros. What concerns the government is whether the 410,000 that couldn’t pay their taxes in September will join the Finance Ministry’s 12-month installment program, as the hole in tax revenues will only grow if they don’t.

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What good will kicking people out do?

Greek Notaries Refuse To Carry Out Foreclosures (K.)

The outlook for property foreclosures in Greece is unclear after notaries announced a boycott on auctions until the end of the year, citing abuse by protesters, though foreign creditors expect the first online auctions to take place this month. According to sources, Greece’s lenders have suggested that the responsibility for foreclosures be shifted from notaries to Greek courts or possibly to Justice Ministry officials. The latter model, which has been tried and tested in Germany and Spain, was first mooted last month during a visit to Athens by bailout monitors. The auditors made it clear that the resumption of foreclosures on the homes of overindebted Greeks, which have dragged during the crisis years due to strikes by lawyers and notaries and more recently due to anti-austerity protesters, is a prerequisite for the successful conclusion of Greece’s current bailout review.

In comments at Monday’s summit of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels, ECB President Mario Draghi indicated that the resumption of property auctions would help banks by reducing the large proportion of bad loans that they hold. Commenting, Greek Finance Ministry sources said Athens was committed to “not taking our foot off the gas in the implementation of reforms for the review.” One of the many conditions of the latest review is that Greece launch electronic foreclosures. The first is supposed to take place on November 29. However, it is unclear how that procedure will be carried out in view of the protracted walkout by Greek notaries.

In a joint statement on Monday, the associations representing notaries in Athens, Piraeus and the islands of the Aegean and the Dodecanese said they will not be conducting any property auctions through December 31. The decision was reached during a meeting on Saturday with a vote of 134 in favor and 132 against. The associations said the decision was aimed at initiating talks with the Justice Ministry in order to provide protection to notaries who have come under attack – often violent – by anti-establishment groups and protesters opposed to foreclosures. Notaries also want the Justice Ministry to be made responsible for electronic auctions, as well as to address any disputes that may arise from them.

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I don’t share his optimism.

Hawking: AI Could Be ‘Worst Event In The History Of Our Civilization’ (CNBC)

The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) could be the “worst event in the history of our civilization” unless society finds a way to control its development, high-profile physicist Stephen Hawking said Monday. He made the comments during a talk at the Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal, in which he said, “computers can, in theory, emulate human intelligence, and exceed it.” Hawking talked up the potential of AI to help undo damage done to the natural world, or eradicate poverty and disease, with every aspect of society being “transformed.” But he admitted the future was uncertain. “Success in creating effective AI, could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization. Or the worst. We just don’t know. So we cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by AI, or ignored by it and side-lined, or conceivably destroyed by it,” Hawking said during the speech.

“Unless we learn how to prepare for, and avoid, the potential risks, AI could be the worst event in the history of our civilization. It brings dangers, like powerful autonomous weapons, or new ways for the few to oppress the many. It could bring great disruption to our economy.” Hawking explained that to avoid this potential reality, creators of AI need to “employ best practice and effective management.” The scientist highlighted some of the legislative work being carried out in Europe, particularly proposals put forward by lawmakers earlier this year to establish new rules around AI and robotics. Members of the European Parliament said European Union-wide rules were needed on the matter. Such developments are giving Hawking hope.

“I am an optimist and I believe that we can create AI for the good of the world. That it can work in harmony with us. We simply need to be aware of the dangers, identify them, employ the best possible practice and management, and prepare for its consequences well in advance,” Hawking said.

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We want one!

The Charter of the Forest (Standing)

Eight hundred years ago this month, after the death of a detested king and the defeat of a French invasion in the Battle of Lincoln, one of the foundation stones of the British constitution was laid down. It was the Charter of the Forest, sealed in St Paul’s on November 6, 1217, alongside a shortened Charter of Liberties from 2 years earlier (which became the Magna Carta). The Charter of the Forest was the first environmental charter forced on any government. It was the first to assert the rights of the property-less, of the commoners, and of the commons. It also made a modest advance for feminism, as it coincided with recognition of the rights of widows to have access to means of subsistence and to refuse to be remarried. The Charter has the distinction of having been on the statute books for longer than any other piece of legislation.

It was repealed 754 years later, in 1971, by a Tory government. In 2015, while spending lavishly on celebrating the Magna Carta anniversary, the government was asked in a written question in the House of Lords whether it would be celebrating the Charter this year. A Minister of Justice, Lord Faulks, airily dismissed the idea, stating that it was unimportant, without international significance. Yet earlier this year the American Bar Association suggested the Charter of the Forest had been a foundation of the American Constitution and that it was more important now than ever before. They were right. It is scarcely surprising that the political Right want to ignore the Charter. It is about the economic rights of the property-less, limiting private property rights and rolling back the enclosure of land, returning vast expanses to the commons.

It was remarkably subversive Sadly, whereas every school child is taught about the Magna Carta, few hear of the Charter. Yet for hundreds of years the Charter led the Magna Carta. It had to be read out in every church in England four times a year. It inspired struggles against enclosure and the plunder of the commons by the monarchy, aristocracy and emerging capitalist class, famously influencing the Diggers and Levellers in the 17th century, and protests against enclosure in the 18th and 19th. At the heart of the Charter, which is hard to understand unless words that have faded from use are interpreted, is the concept of the commons and the need to protect them and to compensate commoners for their loss. It is scarcely surprising that a government that is privatising and commercialising the remaining commons should wish to ignore it.

In 1066, William the Conqueror not only distributed parts of the commons to his bandits but also turned large tracts of them into ‘royal forests’ – ie, his own hunting grounds. By the time of the Domesday Book in 1086, there were 25 such forests. William’s successors expanded and turned them into revenue-raising zones to help pay for their wars. By 1217, there were 143 royal forests. The Charter achieved a reversal, and forced the monarchy to recognise the right of free men and women to pursue their livelihoods in forests. The notion of forest was much broader than it is today, and included villages and areas with few trees, such as Dartmoor and Exmoor. The forest was where commoners lived and worked collaboratively.

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