Aug 192022
 


Edward Hopper Seven A.M. 1948

 

Ukraine Planning Nuclear Provocation On Friday – Moscow (RT)
Russia Warns Of Another Chernobyl Over Ukraine’s Attacks (RT)
Playing With Fire in Ukraine (Mearsheimer)
Ukraine Conflict Could End Western Hegemony – Hungary (RT)
Xi and Putin Confirmed For November’s G20 Summit In Bali (AlJ)
Russia Deploys MiG Jets Armed With Hypersonic Missiles To Kaliningrad (ZH)
US Must Arm Ukraine Now, Before It’s Too Late (Hill)
Dozens Of Foreign Fighters Eliminated In Strike On Ukrainian Base – Russia (RT)
Russia Explains Terms For Nuclear Arms Use (RT)
Sabotage, Terroristm, Diversionary Attacks Are A Real Risk For Russia (Saker)
Sleepy Greek Port Becomes US Arms Hub (NYT)
Winter Is Coming For Europe (Bill Blain)
EU Gas Prices Seven Times Higher Than In US – CNN
FBI Unit Leading Mar-a-Lago Probe Earlier Ran Russiagate Hoax (Sperry)
Big Pharma Spent $205 Million In 2 Years Lobbying vs Lower Drug Prices (CHD)
1,200 Scientists and Professionals Say “There is No Climate Emergency” (DS)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stelter Biden
https://twitter.com/i/status/1560354199954653185

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malhotra

 

 

 

 

Not just Moscow.

Ukraine Planning Nuclear Provocation On Friday – Moscow (RT)

Ukraine plans to carry out artillery strikes on the Russia-controlled Zaporozhye nuclear power plant on Friday, and then accuse Russia of causing a disaster at the site, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday. The predicted attack will be timed to coincide with the ongoing visit to Ukraine by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the ministry claimed. The Russian ministry said it has detected movements of Ukrainian troops, indicating a looming “provocation.” Kiev has deployed units trained in responding to the use of weapons of mass destruction, pre-positioning them to report a radiation leak and demonstrate a purported action to mitigate it, Russian military spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

The ministry said it expects a Ukrainian artillery unit to attack the plant on Friday from the city of Nikopol. “The blame for the consequences [of the strike] will be attributed to the Russian armed forces,” the statement said. In a separate statement on Thursday, Igor Kirillov, who heads Russia’s Nuclear Biological and Chemical Defense Troops, said his directorate has modeled possible scenarios for a disaster at the Zaporozhye plant. A plume of radioactive materials from the site may reach Poland, Slovakia and Germany, he warned. Russia has accused Ukraine of conducting frequent drone and artillery strikes against the nuclear power plant in the city of Energodar over the past few weeks.

Kiev has denied responsibility and said Russian forces were attacking the plant to discredit Ukraine. Ukrainian officials have also claimed that Russia is using the Zaporozhye facility as a military base. During the briefing, Konashenkov denied Ukrainian claims that Russia has deployed heavy weapons at the Zaporozhye plant and is attacking Ukrainian troops from the site. The only Russian troops at the facility are lightly armed guards providing physical security, the official said. The ministry pledged to do its best to prevent damage to the nuclear facility.

Gonzalo

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So does Erdogan.

Russia Warns Of Another Chernobyl Over Ukraine’s Attacks (RT)

Ukraine’s ongoing attacks on the Russia-controlled Zaporozhye nuclear power plant may cause a far worse disaster for Europe than the current energy crisis, a Russian Defense Ministry official has warned. Igor Kirillov, who heads Russia’s Nuclear Biological and Chemical Defense Troops, illustrated the likely worst-case scenario of a direct hit on Europe’s largest nuclear plant, during a briefing on Thursday. He showed journalists a map, with plumes of radioactive material from the site reaching Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Moldova, Belarus and even Germany. He blamed Ukraine’s Western backers for trying to downplay the danger of targeting the atomic plant, and forgetting the lessons of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and the 2011 Fukushima nuclear incident.

According to Kirillov, both disasters involved “the failure of support systems, the disruption of power supply and partial and complete shutdown of the cooling systems, which led to overheating of nuclear fuel and the destruction of the reactor”. The fallout of the Chernobyl disaster affected some 20 countries, while causing 4,000 deaths, a major spike in cancer cases, and the permanent relocation of around 100,000 people. The effects of the Fukushima nuclear incident might seem “insignificant” at first glance, but up to 500,000 people have abandoned their homes because of it, he noted. “Our experts believe that the actions of the Ukrainian armed forces may cause a similar situation at the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant,” Kirillov said.

Strikes by the Kiev forces could render the plant’s cooling systems and other support infrastructure inoperable, which would lead “to overheating of the core and, as a result, the destruction of reactor units at the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, with the release of radioactive substances into the atmosphere and their spreading for hundreds of kilometers,” he warned. “Such an emergency will cause mass migration of the population and will have more catastrophic consequences than the looming energy crisis in Europe,” the military official added. Moscow has accused Kiev of carrying out 12 attacks on the nuclear facilitity, which provides energy to both Russian- and Ukrainian-controlled areas, since mid-July.

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“..given that the consequences of escalation could include a major war in Europe and possibly even nuclear annihilation, there is good reason for extra concern..”

Playing With Fire in Ukraine (Mearsheimer)

Western policymakers appear to have reached a consensus about the war in Ukraine: the conflict will settle into a prolonged stalemate, and eventually a weakened Russia will accept a peace agreement that favors the United States and its NATO allies, as well as Ukraine. Although officials recognize that both Washington and Moscow may escalate to gain an advantage or to prevent defeat, they assume that catastrophic escalation can be avoided. Few imagine that U.S. forces will become directly involved in the fighting or that Russia will dare use nuclear weapons. Washington and its allies are being much too cavalier. Although disastrous escalation may be avoided, the warring parties’ ability to manage that danger is far from certain.

The risk of it is substantially greater than the conventional wisdom holds. And given that the consequences of escalation could include a major war in Europe and possibly even nuclear annihilation, there is good reason for extra concern. To understand the dynamics of escalation in Ukraine, start with each side’s goals. Since the war began, both Moscow and Washington have raised their ambitions significantly, and both are now deeply committed to winning the war and achieving formidable political aims. As a result, each side has powerful incentives to find ways to prevail and, more important, to avoid losing. In practice, this means that the United States might join the fighting either if it is desperate to win or to prevent Ukraine from losing, while Russia might use nuclear weapons if it is desperate to win or faces imminent defeat, which would be likely if U.S. forces were drawn into the fighting.

Furthermore, given each side’s determination to achieve its goals, there is little chance of a meaningful compromise. The maximalist thinking that now prevails in both Washington and Moscow gives each side even more reason to win on the battlefield so that it can dictate the terms of the eventual peace. In effect, the absence of a possible diplomatic solution provides an added incentive for both sides to climb up the escalation ladder. What lies further up the rungs could be something truly catastrophic: a level of death and destruction exceeding that of World War II.

Putin premeditated

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“He pointed to “the Chinese, Indians, Brazilians, South Africa, the Arab world, Africa” as regions not supporting the Western line on the conflict.”

Ukraine Conflict Could End Western Hegemony – Hungary (RT)

The deadly conflict in Ukraine has the potential to “demonstratively” put an end to Western hegemony globally, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has claimed. In an interview with German online magazine Tichys Einblick, published on Thursday, Orban said he expects the European Union to emerge weaker in the global arena once the fighting in Ukraine is over. The Hungarian leader argued that the West is incapable of winning the conflict militarily, and that the sanctions it has imposed on Moscow have failed to destabilize Russia. To make matters worse, the punitive measures have spectacularly backfired on Europe, he said. Orban also noted that a “large part of the world” is clearly not getting behind the US when it comes to Ukraine.

He pointed to “the Chinese, Indians, Brazilians, South Africa, the Arab world, Africa” as regions not supporting the Western line on the conflict. “It is quite possible that it will be this war that will demonstratively put an end to Western supremacy,” Orban said. On the other hand, non-EU powers are already benefiting from the situation, he said, pointing toward Russia, which “has its own energy sources.” The premier noted that while EU energy imports from Russia have plummeted, Russia’s majority state-owned gas giant Gazprom has seen its revenues skyrocket.

Beijing, too, is now better off than before the start of the conflict, Orban claimed. He explained that China had previously been “at the mercy of the Arabs,” but is not anymore, apparently referring to the oil market. The other beneficiaries, in the Hungarian prime minister’s view, are “big American corporations.” To prove his point, Orban pointed to profits doubling for Exxon, quadrupling for Chevron and increasing six-fold for ConocoPhillips. While going along with EU sanctions against Russia, Hungary has maintained a neutral stance since the outbreak of the conflict, by not providing either side with weapons or making any harsh statements against Moscow or Kiev. Budapest has insisted that it cannot not risk the security of Hungarians, and will not be dragged into the conflict.

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Last chance for the west to talk peace and prevent their ecoomies from freezing.

Xi and Putin Confirmed For November’s G20 Summit In Bali (AlJ)

Chinese and Russian presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have both confirmed they will attend the G20 summit on the resort island of Bali this November, according to President Joko Widodo. “Xi Jinping will come. President Putin has also told me he will come,” Widodo told Bloomberg News in an interview, confirming their attendance for the first time. The November summit will mark the first time that Putin, Xi and United States President Joe Biden will have met in person since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, triggering sanctions from Western countries as well as G20 members Japan and South Korea. China has avoided condemning the attack or joining the sanctions, which took place days after Beijing and Moscow announced a “no limits” partnership. A longtime adviser to the Indonesian president also confirmed Putin and Xi would attend the summit.

“Jokowi told me that Xi and Putin are both planning to attend in Bali,” Andi Widjajanto, who heads the National Resilience Institute, told the Reuters news agency. The Kremlin said in a statement that Putin and Widodo had discussed preparations for the G20 summit in a phone call on Thursday without confirming that the Russian leader would attend. Another official familiar with the situation told Bloomberg that Putin plans to attend the meeting in person. A trip to Bali would be significant given it would be Xi’s first time outside China since the start of the pandemic in early 2020. China has maintained a strict zero-COVID policy that has all but sealed its borders, and Xi is preparing to secure an unprecedented third term as president during the congress of the ruling Communist Party, which is expected to take place in late October or early November.

Chinese officials are also thought to be making plans for a meeting in Southeast Asia between Xi and US President Joe Biden, who will also be in Bali, according to the Wall Street Journal, amid rising tension between the two countries. As head of the G20 this year, Indonesia has faced pressure from Western countries to withdraw its invitation to Putin because of the invasion of Ukraine, which he has called a “special military operation”. Indonesia has also invited Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the Bali summit. Widodo has sought to position himself as a mediator, and at the end of June travelled first to Moscow and then to Kyiv to meet both presidents and urge an end to the war. This week, he said both countries have accepted Indonesia as a “bridge of peace”.

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Supersonic jets with hypersonic missiles.

Russia Deploys MiG Jets Armed With Hypersonic Missiles To Kaliningrad (ZH)

Russia’s defense ministry announced Thursday that it has deployed fighter planes equipped with cutting edge hypersonic missiles to its Baltic region exclave of Kaliningrad, which a statement said will provide “additional measures of strategic deterrence.” The statement detailed that three MiG-31 fighters armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles have landed at the Chkalovsk air base in Kaliningrad Oblast. The defense ministry emphasized that the warplanes will be put on “round-the-clock alert” – at a moment tensions with Ukraine’s powerful Western backers like the United States continue to soar. On a few alleged occasions over the last six months of war in Ukraine, Russia has been accused of launching hypersonic missiles on Ukrainian targets; however, the Pentagon has downplayed that it’s not a gamechanger.

But such an intentionally publicized move as placing hypersonic missile armed MiG fighters on “alert” at Russia’s Baltic outpost is an escalatory move aimed at NATO and Ukraine’s Western backers which have been ramping up longer-range missile and weapons shipments to Kiev. Kaliningrad borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania, both of which will see this move as a severe threat to their national security. The Associated Press is reporting that Finland is alarmed its airspace may have been violated by the MiGs as they were en route to the Kaliningrad base: A video released by the Defense Ministry showed the fighters arriving at the base but not carrying the missiles, which were apparently delivered separately.

Finland’s Defense Ministry said Thursday that two Russian MIG-31 fighter jets were suspected of having violating Finnish airspace in the Gulf of Finland off the southern town of Porvoo, west of Helsinki. The Nordic country’s Border Guard started a preliminary investigation into the incident. sThe Russian MoD and state media released video of the MiG fighters arriving in Kaliningrad. Ukraine government-linked officials have also highlighted the transfer with alarm…

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View from the dark ages:

“..a campaign of genocide aimed at erasing the Ukrainian nation from the map..”

US Must Arm Ukraine Now, Before It’s Too Late (Hill)

Nearly 20 of our fellow experts and national security professionals — whose digital signatures appear at the end of this op-ed — agree: The war in Ukraine has reached a decisive moment and that vital U.S. interests are at stake. Long before the Kremlin first invaded Ukraine in 2014, we have — from senior positions in the U.S. government and military — followed Moscow’s foreign policy and the grave dangers it presents to the United States and our allies. We have carefully watched Moscow’s major offensive since February and the response of the Biden administration and its allies and partners. We have maintained close touch with Ukrainian, U.S. and European officials. Two of us just returned from meetings with Ukraine’s defense and military leaders.

Although the Biden administration has successfully rallied U.S. allies and provided substantial military assistance, including this month, to Ukraine’s valiant armed forces, it has failed to produce a satisfactory strategic narrative which enables governments to maintain public support for the NATO engagement over the long term. By providing aid sufficient to produce a stalemate, but not enough to roll back Russian territorial gains, the Biden administration may be unintentionally seizing defeat from the jaws of victory. Out of an over-abundance of caution about provoking Russian escalation (conventional as well as nuclear), we are in effect ceding the initiative to Russian President Vladimir Putin and reducing the pressure on Moscow to halt its aggression and get serious about negotiations.

Moscow’s imperialist war against the people of Ukraine is not just a moral outrage — a campaign of genocide aimed at erasing the Ukrainian nation from the map — but a clear danger to U.S. security and prosperity. American principles and interests demand the strongest possible response, one sufficient to force the Russians as much as possible back to pre-February lines and to impose costs heavy enough to deter Russia from invading a third time. With Russian forces struggling to regroup in the east and stave off Ukrainian efforts to retake Kherson in the south, now is the time for Ukraine’s allies to pull out all the stops by providing Ukraine the means it needs to prevail. Dragging out the conflict through so-called strategic pauses will do nothing but allow Putin to regroup, recover and inflict more damage in Ukraine and beyond.

But so far, neither the administration nor European allies have succeeded in making clear why this is important to the United States and the West. It is important because Putin is pursuing a revisionist foreign policy designed to upend the rules-based security system that has ensured American and global stability and enabled prosperity since the end of World War II. Putin’s aggressive designs do not end in Ukraine. As Russian officials have repeatedly made clear, if Russia wins in Ukraine, our Baltic NATO allies are at risk, as are other allies residing in the neighborhood. Prudent policy today identifies tomorrow’s risk and seeks the right place and time to deal with that risk. For the U.S. and NATO, that time is now — and the place is Ukraine, a large country whose population understands that its choice is either defeating Putin or losing their independence and even their existence as a distinct, Western-oriented nation. With the necessary weapons and economic aid, Ukraine can defeat Russia.

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“Thousands of fighters from Poland, Canada, the US, the UK and other countries..”

Dozens Of Foreign Fighters Eliminated In Strike On Ukrainian Base – Russia (RT)

Dozens of foreign mercenaries, fighting for Kiev against Moscow, have been killed in an attack on a compound in the city of Kharkov in northeastern Ukraine, Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Thursday. “A temporary base of foreign mercenaries in the city of Kharkov was hit with a ground-based high-precision weapon. More than 90 militants were killed,” ministry’s spokesman Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov announced during his daily briefing. The Russian Air Force also struck Ukrainian manpower and military hardware in Kherson and Nikolaev Regions, eliminating 80 combatants and injuring 50 others, he added. Compounds, hosting foreign mercenaries in Ukraine, have already been targeted by Russia several times this month, leading to multiple casualties.


Thousands of fighters from Poland, Canada, the US, the UK and other countries responded to a call by President Vladimir Zelensky and flocked to Ukraine. In April, the Russian military estimated their numbers at nearly 7,000. However, last month it said that only 2,741 foreign fighters remained in Ukraine. Many of them were killed, while others fled to their home countries and later complained about chaos in the ranks of the Kiev forces, and a lack of arms and other equipment. Konashenkov had earlier warned that mercenaries aren’t viewed as combatants under international law and “the best thing that awaits them if they are captured alive is a trial and maximum prison terms.”

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“the use of the nuclear arsenal is possible only in response to an attack as a self-defense measure and in extreme circumstances..”

Russia Explains Terms For Nuclear Arms Use (RT)

Russia is a responsible nuclear power and will only use its nuclear arms if attacked with weapons of mass destruction or if its existence is under threat, a spokesman for the country’s foreign ministry has said. Meanwhile, some Western officials argue that nukes can play a role on the battlefield, Ivan Nechaev added. According to Russia’s official nuclear posture,“the use of the nuclear arsenal is possible only in response to an attack as a self-defense measure and in extreme circumstances,” the deputy press secretary of the ministry said during a daily briefing on Thursday. The diplomat was responding to a question about the risk of nuclear escalation in the conflict with Ukraine. Russia is not in the habit of “saber-rattling, especially with nuclear weapons,” he said.


Moscow is determined to keep the situation in Ukraine conventional and has no need to use a nuclear option in Ukraine, Nechaev asserted. He lamented that the leaders of Western powers have become far less responsible than their Cold War-era predecessors when it comes to deterrence issues. “The liberal-globalist circles think it possible to discuss lowering the benchmark for the use of nuclear weapons,” he said, citing NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg as one example. The Russian Defense Ministry has repeatedly reassured that its goals in Ukraine can be achieved without the use of nuclear arms. Deploying them would not make any military sense, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said this week.

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” The entire Russian military is trained, and well trained, to operate in a hostile nuclear, chemical or bacteriological environment.”

Sabotage, Terroristm, Diversionary Attacks Are A Real Risk For Russia (Saker)

The only thing Russians can do is to 1) prepare for a very long counter-intelligence and counter-diversionary operations lasting many years and 2) accept the reality of war for what it is and not freak out the next time the Ukronazis blow up something, be it a ship, a train, an aircraft, a bridge or any other target in the LDNR or Russia. The one good news the Russians also need to keep in mind is that most of such diversionary/terrorist attacks are still fundamentally part of PSYOPs and are mostly designed for PR effect. In terms of their actual impact on Russian military capabilities, it is close to zero, just like the Israeli strikes in Syria have made exactly *zero* difference on the ground in Syria.

To really affect military operations you need to have a large, viable and sophisticated partisan/”stay behind” force, which the Ukrainians do not have, not by a long margin. Also, to really affect military operations, such diversionary tactics need to be carefully coordinated with “regular” friendly military forces (like the Soviet partisans during WWII who closely worked with the Soviet armed forces). So yes, this is a problem, a very unpleasant one, one which will be hard to deal with, but not one which will affect Russian military operations. Even if the Ukronazis blow up both the Chernobyl AND Zaporozhiie NPs, this will not significantly affect the SMO or even the war between Russia and the united West. The entire Russian military is trained, and well trained, to operate in a hostile nuclear, chemical or bacteriological environment.

As for Russian logistics, they are extremely sophisticated and highly redundant, so even if the Ukronazis blow up one node of the resupply network, it will be quickly fixed and/or easily replaced or bypassed. That being said, I would personally recommend that we all mentally prepare for what is almost certainly about to happen in the not too distant future. If we understand what such operation can and cannot achieve we will see them in a sober, pragmatic way, and not cave in to the hysterics (by many sides, including the Russian 6th column) which will inevitable follow any such attack.

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“..Erdogan – always willing to chart a different course – has positioned Turkey as a mediator…”

Sleepy Greek Port Becomes US Arms Hub (NYT)

It is an unlikely geopolitical flashpoint: a concrete pier in a little coastal city, barely used a few years ago and still occupied only by sea gulls most of the time. But the sleepy port of Alexandroupoli in northeastern Greece has taken on a central role in increasing the US military presence in Eastern Europe, with the Pentagon transporting enormous arsenals through here in what it describes as the effort to contain Russian aggression. That flow has angered not only Russia but also neighboring Turkey, underlining how war in Ukraine is reshaping Europe’s economic and diplomatic relationships. Turkey and Greece are both NATO members, but there is long-standing animosity between them, including conflict over Cyprus and territorial disputes in the Mediterranean, and Turkey sees a deeper relationship between Greece and Washington as a potential threat.

The spike in military activity has been welcomed by the government of Greece, most of its Balkan neighbors and local residents, who hope that Americans will stimulate the regional economy and provide security amid rising regional tensions. “We’re a small country,” said Yiannis Kapelas, 53, an Alexandroupoli cafe owner. “It’s a good thing to have a big country to protect us.” Raising the strategic stakes is the impending sale of the Alexandroupoli port. Four groups of companies are competing to buy a controlling stake – two include American firms, backed by Washington, and two have ties to Russia. US military operations in Greece have expanded greatly since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, and top officials from Russia and Turkey have called that a national security threat.

“Against whom were they established?” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said in June, referring to the US military outposts in Greece. “The answer they give is ‘against Russia.’ We don’t buy it.” While most of NATO has sided emphatically with Ukraine, Erdogan – always willing to chart a different course – has positioned Turkey as a mediator. In May, the Greek Foreign Ministry said Turkish fighter jets violated the country’s air space over Alexandroupoli, 11 miles from the Turkish border. The incident unnerved local residents concerned with Turkey’s claims to parts of Greece. The complex interplay of interests at Alexandroupoli highlights how the war is shifting the strategic focus of Europe to the Black Sea region.

“The Black Sea is back on the global agenda in an unprecedented way,” said Ilian Vassilev, a former Bulgarian ambassador to Moscow who now works as a strategic consultant. “Security in the Black Sea is central to the issue of how you contain and deal with Russia.” Greece and Russia share deep historical, economic and cultural ties centered on the common Orthodox Christian religion. Greeks are among the few Europeans who largely want to maintain economic ties to Russia, polls show. But the war in Ukraine has badly strained those bonds.

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‘For’, not ‘In’.

Winter Is Coming For Europe (Bill Blain)

Vladimir Putin could not have planned or executed his crippling energy strike on Europe better. While we promise ourselves Western Sanctions must be impacting Russia, the reality is Europe’s problems are about to get much, much worse through the run up to Winter. What possible incentives does Russia have to increase Nord Stream 1 supplies from their current 20% of capacity? They can feed Europe 1/6 of the Energy they delivered in January this year, and still make as much – selling the rest to the very many nations that have failed to condemn to assault on Ukraine. They may decide to cut supplies completely even as planned maintenance in Norway’s gas infrastructure cuts supplies. A dismal European winter is coming, and European politicians will do anything to avert it.

That will include appeasement – putting pressure on Ukraine to come to a deal with Russia that allows Putin to end the war looking like he achieved something. It would be a major long-term blow to Europe – knowing we’d had to cut a deal with the Devil, and would not immediately solve the West’s reliance on Russian power. (It could take 3 years before Europe can eliminate its reliance of Russian gas with new gas distribution infrastructure – but it can be done!) Power cuts, factory closures, business crisis already appear nailed on. It’s difficult to contemplate German workers welcoming job losses and stagflation, plus the expectation they pay the costs of Southern Europe to cope with the Energy war – but that’s effectively the ECB strategy: to balance European debt market credibility with German money to support Italy’s debt weakness.

While there may be many good reasons and indications to accept the US economy has already passed the nadir of economic woe for this year, the instability engendered by rising European energy prices, the threat of autumnal and winter power outages, combined with rising industrial strife across Europe as inflation and power trigger rising wage demands… means the whole Western Economy is going to struggle. It’s difficult to envisage the US market thriving when Europe is suffering a potentially crippling winter of stagflation and economic strife.

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“Every spare molecule we can find, we are shipping to the Eurozone..”

EU Gas Prices Seven Times Higher Than In US – CNN

European natural gas prices are trading at levels equivalent to about $70 per million British Thermal Unit (BTUs), which is roughly seven times higher than prices in the United States, CNN reported on Wednesday, citing Lipow Oil Associates. Analysts told the outlet that Europe’s natural gas crisis is contributing to higher prices in America, noting however that it’s not the main driver. US natural gas prices have surged to levels unseen since 2008, closing at $9.33 per million BTU on Tuesday. “Higher global prices are trickling down to the US. Natural gas has become a global commodity with the emergence of LNG,” said Rob Thummel, senior portfolio manager at Tortoise Capital Advisors.


The United States has stepped up its exports of LNG to Europe in an effort to mitigate the impact of declining flows from the continent’s major natural gas supplier, Russia. “Every spare molecule we can find, we are shipping to the Eurozone,” Robert Yawger, vice president of energy futures at Mizuho Securities, said. European gas prices have quadrupled since the start of the year on thinning Russian flows. This week, the cost of gas futures on the TTF hub in the Netherlands exceeded $2,600 per thousand cubic meters for the first time since March. Prices are forecast to spike 60% this winter, exceeding $4,000 per thousand cubic meters.

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Same people. It’s a big club, and Trump’s not in it.

FBI Unit Leading Mar-a-Lago Probe Earlier Ran Russiagate Hoax (Sperry)

The FBI division overseeing the investigation of former President Trump’s handling of classified material at his Mar-a-Lago residence is also a focus of Special Counsel John Durham’s investigation of the bureau’s alleged abuses of power and political bias during its years-long Russiagate probe of Trump. The FBI’s nine-hour, 30-agent raid of the former president’s Florida estate is part of a counterintelligence case run out of Washington – not Miami, as has been widely reported – according to FBI case documents and sources with knowledge of the matter. The bureau’s counterintelligence division led the 2016-2017 Russia “collusion” investigation of Trump, codenamed “Crossfire Hurricane.”

Although the former head of Crossfire Hurricane, Peter Strzok, was fired after the disclosure of his vitriolic anti-Trump tweets, several members of his team remain working in the counterintelligence unit, the sources say, even though they are under active investigation by both Durham and the bureau’s disciplinary arm, the Office of Professional Responsibility. The FBI declined to respond to questions about any role they may be taking in the Mar-a-Lago case. In addition, a key member of the Crossfire team – Supervisory Intelligence Analyst Brian Auten – has continued to be involved in politically sensitive investigations, including the ongoing federal probe of potentially incriminating content found on the abandoned laptop of President Biden’s son Hunter Biden, according to recent correspondence between the Senate Judiciary Committee and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

FBI whistleblowers have alleged that Auten tried to falsely discredit derogatory evidence against Hunter Biden during the 2020 campaign by labeling it Russian “disinformation,” an assessment that caused investigative activity to cease. Auten has been allowed to work on sensitive cases even though he has been under internal investigation since 2019, when Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz referred him for disciplinary review for his role in vetting a Hillary Clinton campaign-funded dossier used by the FBI to obtain a series of wiretap warrants to spy on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Horowitz singled out Auten for cutting a number of corners in the verification process and even allowing information he knew to be incorrect slip into warrant affidavits and mislead the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court.

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In praise of the Inflation Reduction Act?!

Big Pharma Spent $205 Million In 2 Years Lobbying vs Lower Drug Prices (CHD)

As the Inflation Reduction Act heads to President Biden’s desk that includes long overdue authority for Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices with big drug companies, an analysis from Accountable.US found the pharmaceutical industry has spent at least $205 million in recent years lobbying and resisting lower drug prices for seniors and families. This includes over $57 million in paid ads PhRMA (the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a lobbying group) and its allies ran against Medicare drug negotiations over the last year. According to Liz Zelnick, Accountable.US Spokesperson:

“Big Pharma spent massive sums to maintain the broken status quo where drug companies could charge whatever they please while millions of seniors are left to choose between food and medicine. Medicare finally being allowed to harness its bulk purchasing power will save lives. “The same big drug companies that claim they can’t afford to offer fairer prices have continued to break profit records and enrich a small group of wealthy investors on the backs of patients in need for years — all while paying virtually nothing in taxes. Industry opposition to lower drug prices has always been about squeezing maximum profits out of vulnerable consumers. Luckily their efforts failed, and the American people won. “The Inflation Reduction Act is a case study in how change demanded by Americans for years didn’t come easily in the face of powerful and greedy special interests with plenty of lawmakers in their pockets — but it’s possible.”


The analysis follows Accountable.US’ recent findings that major drug company CEOs have raked in over $292.6 million in compensation while their companies saw skyrocketing profits — at a time Americans spend an average of $1,200 per person on prescription drugs and as many as 18 million Americans simply cannot afford their prescribed medications. The government watchdog also previously found Republican lawmakers on the House Energy & Commerce Committee who voted against allowing Medicare to negotiate the prices of prescription drugs with drug companies (H.R. 3) have taken nearly $1.7 million in career contributions from industry groups and the five largest pharmaceutical companies opposed to Medicare drug negotiations.

Aus vaccines

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Discuss!!

1,200 Scientists and Professionals Say “There is No Climate Emergency” (DS)

The political fiction that humans cause most or all climate change and the claim that the science behind this notion is ‘settled’, has been dealt a savage blow by the publication of a ‘World Climate Declaration (WCD)’ signed by over 1,100 scientists and professionals. There is no climate emergency, say the authors, who are drawn from across the world and led by the Norwegian physics Nobel Prize laureate Professor Ivar Giaever. Climate science is said to have degenerated into a discussion based on beliefs, not on sound self-critical science. The scale of the opposition to modern day ‘settled’ climate science is remarkable, given how difficult it is in academia to raise grants for any climate research that departs from the political orthodoxy.

Another lead author of the declaration, Professor Richard Lindzen, has called the current climate narrative “absurd”, but acknowledged that trillions of dollars and the relentless propaganda from grant-dependent academics and agenda-driven journalists currently says it is not absurd. Particular ire in the WCD is reserved for climate models. To believe in the outcome of a climate model is to believe what the model makers have put in. Climate models are now central to today’s climate discussion and the scientists see this as a problem. “We should free ourselves from the naïve belief in immature climate models,” says the WCD. “In future, climate research must give significantly more emphasis to empirical science.” Since emerging from the ‘Little Ice Age’ in around 1850, the world has warmed significantly less than predicted by the IPCC on the basis of modelled human influences.

“The gap between the real world and the modelled world tells us that we are far from understanding climate change,” the WCD notes. The Declaration is an event of enormous important, although it will be ignored by the mainstream media. But it is not the first time distinguished scientists have petitioned for more realism in climate science. In Italy, the discoverer of nuclear anti-matter Emeritus Professor Antonino Zichichi recently led 48 local science professors in stating that human responsibility for climate change is “unjustifiably exaggerated and catastrophic predictions are not realistic”. In their scientific view, “natural variation explains a substantial part of global warming observed since 1850”. Professor Zichichi has signed the WCD.

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B,S&T

 

 

 

 

 

Recursion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jul 272022
 
 July 27, 2022  Posted by at 9:00 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  54 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Marie-Thérèse Walter 1937

 

US Says Coming Weeks ‘Crucial’ For Ukraine (RT)
Ukraine’s Military Morale In Decline – NYT (RT)
Public Opinion Turns Against The Military Draft In Ukraine (Artemyev)
Ukraine Wants Citi, JPMorgan And HSBC Prosecuted For ‘War Crimes’ (ZH)
Russia Rebukes Germany’s Gas-supply Claim (RT)
Pro Bono Lobbying For Ukraine ‘Hottest Trend’ In Washington DC (Kolomoets)
Private Chats Show Cassidy Hutchinson’s Flip Flop (Fed)
Former CDC Director Challenges Fauci On Covid-19 Origin (JTN)
New Studies Bolster Theory Coronavirus Emerged From The Wild (AP)
FBI Jeopardized National Security With Hunter Biden ‘Disinformation’ (Fed.)
National Peace Rally Blacklisted by Mainstream and Social Media (Celente)
Grain Inflation: Starve the Poor, Feed the Rich (Pettifor)

 

 

Wonder how the families of the dead and wounded look at an Annie Leibowitz glossy.

 

 

O’Looney

 

 

 

 

Russia oil imports

 

 

 

 

3-5 weeks. Bigger weapons. Word has it that Ukraine has already fired US weapons ito Russia. Be very careful.

US Says Coming Weeks ‘Crucial’ For Ukraine (RT)

Kiev needs longer-range weaponry before it is too late, the head of the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith, believes Ukraine might only have a few weeks left if it hopes to take back territories controlled by Russia, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Adam Smith told Politico’s National Security Daily on Monday. The Ukrainian forces would need longer-range weapons like tactical missiles and strike drones to change the tides of battle, he said, in the wake of his visit to Kiev. The approaching winter would turn the ongoing conflict between Moscow and Kiev into a war of attrition that would only benefit Russia, the news outlet said, adding that Kiev has asked the American congressional delegation to convince Washington to urgently send aid.

“Help them now as much as possible. The next three to six weeks are crucial,” Smith (D-WA) told the outlet. According to the congressman, the Ukrainian government is willing to reach a peace agreement with Moscow but still wants its territories back, particularly those in the south. Russian troops have seized control over Ukraine’s southern Kherson region and most of the neighboring Zaporozhye Region soon after the start of the military operation in February. Local officials in the two regions have considered holding referendums on joining Russia since then. Kiev has repeatedly stated that its goal is to take back all of its territories. Earlier in July, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said that his nation’s goal in the conflict was to “restore our territorial integrity, and full sovereignty in the east and south of Ukraine.”

But this is not the first time Kiev has indicated that it wants to see the end of the conflict before cold temperatures set in. In late June, President Vladimir Zelensky told the G7 summit that he wanted to see the conflict end by the onset of winter, according to Reuters. Smith believes the Ukrainian forces would need heavier weapons to achieve this goal. “The HIMARS systems with their range … [of] 30 to 50 kilometers is really helpful. We’ve seen the impact already just in the last month. But if they had a longer range, it’d be tougher for the Russians to hide their stuff,” Smith told RFE/RL on Saturday while still in Kiev. Washington supplied Kiev with 12 HIMARS multiple-launch rocket systems so far. Last week, the Pentagon announced Ukraine was about to get another four of these systems, which would bring their total number on the battlefield to 16.

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“Kiev police announced that they had raided two nightclubs in the capital over violating a curfew, and handed a summons for service to more than 200 male partygoers…”

Ukraine’s Military Morale In Decline – NYT (RT)

Kiev’s “secretive and arbitrary” military recruitment, which leads to the drafting of soldiers who are unwilling to serve, is affecting the morale of the Ukrainian troops fighting against Russia, the New York Times has reported. There are “signs, five grueling months into the war, that the sense of unity is fraying at the edges” within the Ukrainian military, the paper pointed out in a report on Monday. Some soldiers are unhappy that they have done “long, hard service,” while many others managed to stay away from service, it said. “There is no one to replace us. There are too few people. It’s very hard for the guys, psychologically,” a Ukrainian soldier, who’d spent months fighting, commented.

There is also “disillusionment” among Kiev’s troops with the country’s draft system, which “turns away some who want to fight [due to bureaucratic reasons], while taking in others who are unwilling and unqualified,” the NYT reports. Some Ukrainian commanders have been complaining that “summoning men unwilling to serve is lowering morale among those who volunteered,” it added. The paper recalled how, in June, Kiev police announced that they had raided two nightclubs in the capital over violating a curfew, and handed a summons for service to more than 200 male partygoers.

This angered Valery Markus, a senior sergeant of the 47th Armed Forces Battalion, who wrote on Facebook that he was “outraged” because the military profession is “being reduced to the level of punishment for these scumbags.” In his post, Markus slammed Ukraine’s “chaotic” draft system, arguing that poorly trained and unmotivated recruits are endangering the lives of other troops. He also recalled cases of alcoholism and other troubling issues among the newly arrived soldiers. The Ukrainian government, which has barred all men aged between 18 and 60 from leaving the country, has been undertaking a massive recruitment drive amid the conflict with Russia.

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“..the internet is flooded with videos of Ukrainian soldiers refusing to fight, complaining that their fleeing commanders are throwing them at tanks as cannon fodder– without any equipment or training. There are hundreds of these videos..”

Public Opinion Turns Against The Military Draft In Ukraine (Artemyev)

Five months into Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine many in the latter state are starting to vocalise their objection to the draft imposed by the regime in Kiev. Especially as the propaganda about victory, any day now, starts to lose its power. Popular Ukrainian blogger and activist Yury Kasyanov recently made a post on his Facebook page, in which he complained: “Let’s stop the mobilization, open the borders, and dissolve all the military recruitment offices… Let the professionals do the fighting – after all, they get paid for it – and let the volunteers join in, because they want to fight. But I am an untrained civilian, unfit for war, I’m going to get myself killed. And I pay my taxes, too!” With this provocative post, Kasyanov intended to spark a discussion about mandatory conscription in Ukraine.

But the results of the debate came as a shock to the blogger: “Judging by the comments on the previous post, nine out of ten Ukrainians have no intention to fight; they oppose nationwide mobilization, as well as the ban on men leaving the country.” It should be noted that Kasyanov’s followers, like himself, are fierce supporters of the idea that Ukraine must fight Russia to the bitter end. And yet, even among them, the vast majority have no desire to die for the glory of Ukraine. Modern civilization is built on a very self-conscious attitude toward one’s health. The first thing you see when you go online are banner ads that read ‘10 Warning Signs That You Have Cancer’ or ‘How to Relieve Joint Pain’, etc. Other core values include bodily integrity, the right to privacy, and of course, everyday comfort and convenience.

None of these go together well with the squalid realities of the front line. One might say that the whole ethos of war stands in opposition to the values of today’s society. Ukraine is a country largely populated by one or two-child families. How many of its citizens would voluntarily go to war to be killed or crippled? It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Ukrainians do not want to go to war. Yes, if you listen to what they say, the majority of Ukrainians are patriots. But when it comes to getting up from the couch and actually going to the front, very few are willing to ‘walk the talk’. And I don’t imagine that, after 30,000 more Ukrainian soldiers have perished on the battlefield, anyone would feel more motivated to join the cause. In fact, it would likely produce the opposite effect: ‘I don’t want to die like all the others’.

[..] Ukraine is going through a demographic crisis with its population shrinking from 52 million in 1991 to barely more than 30 million, even before the conflict erupted in February. The situation is so bad that the state has avoided holding a census for over two decades. I read Ukrainian mass and social media daily, which is heavily censored by the regime in Kiev. It’s output is rather different from the reality on the ground. While the internet is flooded with videos of Ukrainian soldiers refusing to fight, complaining that their fleeing commanders are throwing them at tanks as cannon fodder– without any equipment or training. There are hundreds of these videos and new ones are uploaded every day. They are shot by Ukrainians in military fatigues, not Russian state media. Also, the number of videos showing Ukrainian women refusing to let their men be taken by the police or recruiters is also growing.

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Blackmail?

Ukraine Wants Citi, JPMorgan And HSBC Prosecuted For ‘War Crimes’ (ZH)

Ukraine wants major US and European banks prosecuted for “committing war crimes” because they finance companies that trade oil with Russia, according to CNBC, citing President Volodomyr Zelensky’s top economic aide, Oleg Ustenko. “Everybody who is financing these war criminals, who are doing these terrible things in Ukraine, are also committing war crimes in our logic,” Ustenko told the network on Tuesday, calling out banks such as JPMorgan, HSBC and Citi. When asked if the banks should be prosecuted for war crimes, Ustenko replied “Exactly.” “Ustenko said Zelenskyy believes these banks should be held accountable for prolonging the conflict and the war on Ukraine.His comments came in response to a FT report last week, which said that Ukraine’s government wrote to the chiefs of U.S. and European banks — such as Jamie Dimon from JPMorgan and Noel Quinn from HSBC — urging them to cut ties with the groups that are trading Russian oil.” -CNBC

According to letters seen by the FT, Ustenko asked the banks to cut off financing to any businesses that deal in Russian oil, and to divest from Gazprom and Rosneft, Russia’s primary state-owned oil and gas companies. The letters directly accuse Citigroup and Credit Agricole of “prolonging” the war by extending financing to companies that ship Russian oil, and warns that said banks won’t be allowed to take part in Ukraine’s reconstruction when the war is over. Ustenko told CNBC that the Zelensky administration is gathering evidence to send to the International Criminal Court. “We are collecting all these information” on companies that are financing Russia, he said. “Our Ministry of Justice and our security service of Ukraine are collecting. And then later, this is going to be passed to the ICC.”

“This isn’t the first time that Ukraine has gone after Western companies for having business dealings with Russia. In March, the government was highly critical of big oil companies for still doing business with Russia, and warned that some of those firms could find themselves on the wrong side of history. Ustenko said the war has taken a significant toll on Ukraine’s economy since Russia’s invasion began on Feb. 24.” -CNBC

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“..Even in the most difficult moments Russia continued to fulfil its obligations.”

Russia Rebukes Germany’s Gas-supply Claim (RT)

Comments by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, that Russia is not a reliable gas supplier, contradict the facts, the Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Monday. “These statements absolutely contrast with reality and with the history of supplies. Even in the most difficult moments Russia continued to fulfil its obligations.” Peskov told journalists in Moscow. Last week, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz suggested that Berlin could no longer rely on Moscow when it came to gas supplies. Scholz was likely referring to a reduction of gas flow through the Nord Stream-1 pipeline by 60% last month, and a complete halt in supplies due to annual maintenance last week. The two developments led to a gas shortage in the EU and to a panic that supplies would not be resumed. However, Russian deliveries were resumed at 40% capacity on July 21.


“[Things] will not get more reliable than today.”Scholz said on Friday, also suggesting that he wasn’t convinced by Russia’s statements that the delayed return of the repaired Siemens turbine was necessary for the full functioning of the Nord Stream-1 pipeline. The turbine, which was stuck where it was being fixed in Canada due to sanctions, is now in Germany awaiting shipment to Russia. Pipeline operator Gazprom cited the delay with its return as the reason for the slashing of gas supplies to the EU. “The fact that now there has been a decrease in the volume of supplies is due to the illegal restrictions that the Europeans, in particular Germany, have imposed.” Peskov stated. According to him, the equipment will be installed after all formalities of the process are completed, and the pumping will resume in volumes that are technologically possible.

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Yeah, K street works for free…

Pro Bono Lobbying For Ukraine ‘Hottest Trend’ In Washington DC (Kolomoets)

If you’ve wondered why so much Western media coverage of the Ukraine conflict seems to be based on “Kiev says,” the answer is largely down to the power of lobbying. The Ukraine is always good and Russia is always bad narrative didn’t create itself. On July 11, Washington DC-based public affairs consultancy Ridgely Walsh registered as a Foreign Agent on behalf of Ukrainian interests with the US Justice Department. The company – which typically advises Silicon Valley big hitters such as eBay, Google, Snapchat, SpaceX, and Uber – is just the latest Beltway operator to enlist under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA). This is archaic and abstruse legislation thrust to the forefront of the mainstream news agenda during the ‘Russiagate’ hoax of the Donald Trump presidency. Last July, just 11 US-based firms were registered as lobbyists for Ukrainian clients under FARA.


Over the course of 2021, these influencers attempted to pressure Washington to kill the Nord Stream 2 project, increase lethal aid shipments to Kiev, and post ever-more US and NATO forces along Russia’s border. In the process, they amassed over 10,000 contacts with lawmakers, think tanks, and journalists. This is a staggering figure when one considers the Saudi lobby – one of the largest and most influential in the US – had just 2,834 interactions with these elements in the same timeframe. Lobbying activity on behalf of Kiev over 2022 will inevitably dwarf even that vast total. Now, the number of registered pro-Ukrainian agents in Washington stands at an unprecedented 24, with six being compelled to register in June alone. Strikingly too, many of these companies are providing their services free of charge – to the extent pro bono lobbying for Zelensky’s government has been dubbed the ‘hottest trend’ in Washington DC political circles.

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“In Private, Cassidy Hutchinson Joked About Riot, Called J6 Committee ‘Phony,’”

Private Chats Show Cassidy Hutchinson’s Flip Flop (Fed)

In November 2021, Hutchinson was among the first former White House staffers to be subpoenaed by the Select Committee. In the weeks and months following, Hutchinson continued to disparage the politicized committee in private, and repeatedly joked about the same riot she now says leaves her with emotional scars today. Six days after she was issued a subpoena, Hutchinson called the Jan. 6 panel a “phony committee.” Around the same time, she told a former colleague her testimony would have nothing to offer. “Other than a handful of irrelevant texts, I have literally no documents or anything they’re asking about,” one ex-White House staffer texted her.

“Same,” she wrote back. Of being subpoenaed in November, Hutchinson wrote, “we were [f—–] by Bennie Thompson,” the titular chair of the committee. She joked that he would be sending her to jail, and hoped that another friend would come visit her. In a text published by the Daily Caller earlier this month, Hutchinson called the panel’s probe “bs.”

[..] Hutchinson also aimed fire at Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney, the Wyoming Republican so consumed by her opposition to Trump and his voters that polls show she is about to lose her re-election bid. The two women publicly embraced in the committee room immediately after Hutchinson’s testimony, an unusual interaction for congressional proceedings purporting to be legitimate. In a gauzy puff piece for The New York Times, the two were described as forming an “unlikely bond.” It was particularly unlikely given what Hutchinson was saying about Cheney until recently. In September, Hutchinson disparaged Cheney and Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the two Republicans hand-picked to serve on the committee by Pelosi, as a “crop of losers.”

Discussing how other anti-Trump extremists had declined to run for re-election rather than face certain defeat at the hands of Republican voters, Hutchinson said she didn’t think Kinzinger or Cheney would take that approach because, “Their egos are too [f——] big.” She mocked their self-conception as “The REPUBLICAN MARTYRS.” “I think Liz being the ‘future of the GOP’ is a massive stretch,” Hutchinson wrote in one string of messages just two months before her appearance. “I think she does have the power to cement the anti-Trump, RINO movement and really capitalize off it on a national scale. She’ll never ever turn the tides in her favor. Ever.”

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All of a sudden the wet market is back. It’s hard to keep up.

Former CDC Director Challenges Fauci On Covid-19 Origin (JTN)

Former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield on Monday challenged National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci’s view that the coronavirus originated naturally. Fauci has eschewed the notion that the coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, insisting COVID-19 likely originated in nature. The NIAID director has long been at odds which his right-leaning critics, especially Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, over this position. Redfield, however, gave more credence to the Wuhan lab origin in a Fox News interview, saying the virus had to be educated in the laboratory to gain the efficient human-to-human transmission capability that it has.”


“So it’s really exceptional that this virus is one of the most infectious viruses for man. And I still argue that’s because it was educated how to infect human tissue,” he continued. While health officials and the mainstream media largely derided the Wuhan theory as misinformation, evidence has mounted to lend greater credibility to the idea. The FBI launched an inquiry into the lab’s work on coronaviruses while Congress ultimately lent the theory enough weight to ban further federal funding specifically to the WIV and to labs in adversary nations. Redfield expressed disappoint that American health institutions were so stalwartly opposed to examining the WIV as an origin site for COVID-19. “I’ve been very disappointed in the scientific community led by [National Institutes of Health] that has really dug their heels in from the beginning to try to minimize any of us that have a different hypothesis,” he said, per the Epoch Times.

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Two new studies just as the lab leak was getting confirmed. Curious.

New Studies Bolster Theory Coronavirus Emerged From The Wild (AP)

Two new studies provide more evidence that the coronavirus pandemic originated in a Wuhan, China market where live animals were sold – further bolstering the theory that the virus emerged in the wild rather than escaping from a Chinese lab. The research, published online Tuesday by the journal Science, shows that the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market was likely the early epicenter of the scourge that has now killed nearly 6.4 million people around the world. Scientists conclude that the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, likely spilled from animals into people two separate times. “All this evidence tells us the same thing: It points right to this particular market in the middle of Wuhan,” said Kristian Andersen a professor in the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research and coauthor of one of the studies.

“I was quite convinced of the lab leak myself until we dove into this very carefully and looked at it much closer.” In one study, which incorporated data collected by Chinese scientists, University of Arizona evolutionary biologist Michael Worobey and his colleagues used mapping tools to estimate the locations of more than 150 of the earliest reported COVID-19 cases from December 2019. They also mapped cases from January and February 2020 using data from a social media app that had created a channel for people with COVID-19 to get help. They asked, “Of all the locations that the early cases could have lived, where did they live? And it turned out when we were able to look at this, there was this extraordinary pattern where the highest density of cases was both extremely near to and very centered on this market,” Worobey said at a press briefing.

“Crucially, this applies both to all cases in December and also to cases with no known link to the market … And this is an indication that the virus started spreading in people who worked at the market but then started to spread into the local community.” Andersen said they found case clusters inside the market, too, “and that clustering is very, very specifically in the parts of the market” where they now know people were selling wildlife, such as raccoon dogs, that are susceptible to infection with the coronavirus. In the other study, scientists analyzed the genomic diversity of the virus inside and outside of China starting with the earliest sample genomes in December 2019 and extending through mid-February 2020.

They found that two lineages – A and B – marked the pandemic’s beginning in Wuhan. Study coauthor Joel Wertheim, a viral evolution expert at the University of California, San Diego, pointed out that lineage A is more genetically similar to bat coronaviruses, but lineage B appears to have begun spreading earlier in humans, particularly at the market. “Now I realize it sounds like I just said that a once-in-a-generation event happened twice in short succession,” Wertheim said. But certain conditions were in place — such as people and animals in close proximity and a virus that can spread from animals to people and from person to person. So “barriers to spillover have been lowered such that multiple introductions, we believe, should actually be expected,” he said.

George Webb.

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The FBI looks awful here.

FBI Jeopardized National Security With Hunter Biden ‘Disinformation’ (Fed.)

FBI whistleblowers claim that agents opened a sham investigation into Hunter Biden to brand reliable and verifiable derogatory evidence as “disinformation,” according to an explosive news release issued yesterday by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. If true, beyond exposing the FBI’s role in running cover for the Biden family, the whistleblowers’ claims prove significant for a second reason: By failing to thoroughly vet the evidence in its possession related to Hunter Biden — which included the hard drive for the MacBook Hunter had abandoned at a repair shop — the intelligence community ignored a momentous national security threat, namely that the Russians potentially possessed a second Hunter Biden laptop.

[..] The FBI whistleblowers’ charges, if accurate, are devastating and mean that at a time that Hunter Biden was already reportedly under investigation by the Delaware U.S. Attorney’s Office, rather than work with the agents already investigating then-candidate Joe Biden’s son, FBI headquarters initiated its own “assessment.” Then, according to the whistleblowers, agents improperly shut down sources, falsely framed evidence as disinformation, and hid the reasoning for that determination from other FBI agents behind restricted areas. The press release also suggests that the FBI’s “assessment” served to frame the investigation Grassley and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., were conducting into Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealing as tainted by Russian disinformation.

As part of that investigation, in May 2020, “Senate Republicans issued a subpoena seeking documents from the younger Biden and asked for information related to more than two dozen entities, including Burisma,” which was the Ukrainian energy company that paid Hunter nearly $1 million a year to sit on its board. With the Trump-Biden presidential contest in full force, Grassley and Johnson’s investigation into Hunter prompted pushback from Democrats, with Democrat members of the Gang of Eight sending a letter and classified addendum in July 2020 to FBI Director Christopher Wray “specifically citing the Johnson-Grassley probe into Hunter Biden as reason for an urgent briefing for Congress about foreign ‘disinformation.’”

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You’re going to need more than a few people sitting in lawn chairs…

National Peace Rally Blacklisted by Mainstream and Social Media (Celente)

Saturday’s “Peace and Freedom Rally,” launched by Occupy Peace in historic Kingston, NY, featured some of the top names in America, but was blacklisted by the mainstream and social media. Featured speakers included Judge Andrew Napolitano, the former chief legal analyst for Fox News; Phil Giraldi, the former CIA operative; Gary Null, the host at Progressive Radio Network; Scott Ritter, an ex-weapons inspector for the UN; and Gerald Celente, publisher of The Trends Journal, founder of Occupy Peace, and Deacon of the Universal Church of Freedom, Peace and Justice. Despite sending thousands of press releases over the past three weeks to international, national, and local media, there was no coverage of the heavily attended Rally. Moreover, Twitter and Facebook banned Occupy Peace ads for the event.

However, when rallies are held to support Ukraine and America and NATO’s fight against Russia, there’s massive coverage. Thus, considering the establishment media’s pro-war and anti-peace sentiments… they deplore the Founding Fathers who fought for America’s freedom and independence. Never a word from their featured “experts” or government “officials” of George Washington’s farewell address when he warned that any nation which “indulges towards another in habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave.” Total media silence of Washington’s plea to “Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all.” In fact, by their deeds, the mainstream media does not “Observe good faith and justice to all.” Instead, their one-sided-war-hawk-narratives are making Americans “a slave” to the military-industrial complex.

Yes, the same military-industrial complex that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about in his farewell address when he said they were taking control of America and robbing the nation of the genius of scientists, the sweat of the laborers, and the future of the children. Indeed, not only is America’s defense secretary a former board member of Raytheon, the second largest military contractor in the United States, last month the Senate Armed Services Committee approved a record $858 billion military budget for 2023. Considering how low the mainstream media has fallen, it is clear why the latest Gallup poll shows just 16 percent of U.S. adults have respect or confidence in newspapers, and just 11 percent in TV news.

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Artificial shortages. Great for profits. Signed: Bayer.

Grain Inflation: Starve the Poor, Feed the Rich (Pettifor)

In a world of financialised globalisation, prices of food are not determined by the simplistic laws of supply and demand. Prices are determined by a wall of money wielded by relatively few, invisible speculators and aimed at largely unregulated global grain markets. Yesterday, the Financial Times ran an article on global food security. Editors made clear the text was not the work of FT journalists, but “partner content.” The name of the partner? Bayer AG – by their own definition “a global leader in agriculture.” The article began thus: “While the people of Ukraine face an ongoing nightmare, the Russian invasion has set in motion a global food crisis that requires our attention and immediate action. In fact, the war has knocked the global food system off its axis, risking a humanitarian disaster.”

As readers will know from an earlier post, I take a different view. The global food crisis is a consequence of commodity price speculation on Wall St and the CME – not directly the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Readers may think this controversial, but bear with me, as we hear Bayer out: “Ukraine is one of the most important suppliers of wheat, corn, oils, and other essential commodities to the world. Known as the breadbasket of the world, the country has secured the food supply for parts of the Middle East and East Africa, including countries like Egypt and Lebanon whose stability is paramount for the region.” These facts – the invasion of Ukraine, and the latter’s role as “as one of the most important suppliers of wheat, corn…” were directly contradicted by Bayer AG on another platform: when announcing its Q1 earnings results – as Seeking Alpha reported in May this year – fully three months after war began:

The German conglomerate’s core EPS grew +36.3% Y/Y to €3.53. Net income (including discontinued operations) grew +57.5% to ~€3.29B. Group sales grew +18.7% Y/Y (or +14.3% on a currency and portfolio-adjusted basis, or Fx & portfolio adj.) to ~€14.64B. “We achieved outstanding sales and earnings growth, with particularly substantial gains for our agriculture business,” said Werner Baumann, chairman of the board of management. The company said that in Q1 group sales and earnings were not negatively impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In total, the two countries account for ~3% of sales.

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Sep 032017
 


Edward Hopper Sunday 1926

 

America’s Superstar Companies Are a Drag on Growth (BBG)
Forget Wall Street – Silicon Valley Is The New Political Power In DC (G.)
Google To Be Hit With Record EU Fine Over Claims Of Phone Software Abuse (T.)
North Korea Quake Seems Related To Nuclear Test (BBG)
Bitcoin Tumbles To Pre Korea-Missile-Launch Level After Topping $5000 (ZH)
China Sees New World Order With Oil Benchmark Backed By Gold (ANR)
Why Houston Doesn’t Need Federal Flood Relief (Mises)
Harvey Could Bankrupt The Federal Flood-Insurance Program (ZH)
Harvey Makes Landfall in Saudi Arabia (BBG)
Pesticides Linked To Birth Abnormalities In Major New Study (Ind.)
France Votes Against The Use Of Pesticide Glyphosate (FarmingUK)

 

 

The perfect recipe for strangling an economy: “..as a result of this increased market power, the big superstar companies have been raising their prices and cutting their wages. This has lifted profits and boosted the stock market, but it has also held down real wages, diverted more of the nation’s income to business owners, and increased inequality. It has also held back productivity, since raising prices restricts economic output.”

America’s Superstar Companies Are a Drag on Growth (BBG)

Here’s a story about the U.S. economy that more people are telling these days. Since the 1980s, antitrust enforcement has gotten weaker. As a result, a few big companies have managed to capture a much bigger share of the market in various industries. Technology may have helped too, by letting big companies spread their geographic reach, and by creating network effects that keep customers locked in to platforms like Facebook. Anyway, as a result of this increased market power, the big superstar companies have been raising their prices and cutting their wages. This has lifted profits and boosted the stock market, but it has also held down real wages, diverted more of the nation’s income to business owners, and increased inequality. It has also held back productivity, since raising prices restricts economic output.

Like all big, sweeping theses about the economy, this story can’t be proven or disproven with a single research paper, or even a dozen papers. But like detectives, economists can probe various pieces and see how each one checks out. In the past few years, researchers have found that industrial concentration – measured by the market share of the four biggest companies in an industry – has indeed been increasing in most parts of the U.S. economy. They’ve documented a correlation between industrial concentration and a decline in labor’s share of national income. They’ve confirmed that profits have risen substantially. They’ve documented a slackening in the enforcement of antitrust law. And they’ve found some evidence that after mergers, prices go up while productivity doesn’t improve.

Now, a series of new papers provides even more support for key aspects of the story. The first, a paper by economists Jan de Loecker and Jan Eeckhout, has caused quite a stir in the economics press and on the blogs. De Loecker and Eeckhout find that markups – the amount that companies charge over and above their costs – have been on the rise since about 1980. Back then, according to the authors’ estimates, the average company charged a price that was about 18% above costs – now, the number is 67%.

The authors then use some very simple econ models to link a rise in markups to declines in labor’s share of national income, low-skilled workers’ wages, reduced labor force participation and a slowdown in the broader economy. It all fits with basic economic theory – less competition leads to increased market power, leading in turn to all sorts of bad economic outcomes. The second paper, by German Gutierrez and Thomas Philippon, looks at declining levels of business investment. Basic theory suggests that when top companies get more market power, they invest less in their businesses as they restrict output and raise prices. Market power could therefore be one big reason for the decline in U.S. business investment:

Read more …

But these ‘superstar’ companies can do what they want; they have the power, both politically and economically.

Forget Wall Street – Silicon Valley Is The New Political Power In DC (G.)

Funding thinktanks is just one of the ways that America’s most powerful industries exert their influence over policymakers. Much of the work takes place a quarter of a mile from the White House, in a lesser-known political power base: Washington’s K Street corridor, the epicenter of the lobbying industry. In addition to thinktanks, K Street is packed with slick corporate representatives, hired guns, and advocacy groups. The lobbyists spend their days swarming over members of Congress to ensure their private interests are reflected in legislation and regulation. While the big banks and pharma giants have flexed their economic muscle in the country’s capital for decades, there’s one relative newcomer that has leapfrogged them all: Silicon Valley. Over the last 10 years, America’s five largest tech firms have flooded Washington with lobbying money to the point where they now outspend Wall Street two to one.

Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon spent $49m on Washington lobbying last year, and there is a well-oiled revolving door of Silicon Valley executives to and from senior government positions. Tech companies weren’t always so cozy with Capitol Hill. During its 1990s heyday, Microsoft accumulated enormous wealth and market share. Despite being one of the world’s largest companies, the PC software pioneer mostly kept away from Washington, spending just $2m on lobbying in 1997. However, the company’s size and anticompetitive business practices attracted the scrutiny of regulators in Clinton’s administration, whipped up by the lobbying of disgruntled competitors including Sun Microsystems, IBM and a company called Novell. The following year, the Department of Justice sued Microsoft, accusing it of using a Windows operating system monopoly to push its Internet Explorer browser to the disadvantage of rivals.

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US ‘superstar’ companies’ power has not yet fully pervaded Europe. A matter of time?!.

Google To Be Hit With Record EU Fine Over Claims Of Phone Software Abuse (T.)

Google faces a multibillion-euro fine by the European Commission for using its Android smartphone software to stifle competition. The record-breaking penalty could be imposed as soon as this month, according to industry and legal sources in Brussels. Other insiders said the commission may wait until later in the year before sanctioning Google. Brussels has accused the world’s second-biggest company of breaking anti-trust laws by forcing mobile phone manufacturers to pre-load Google apps on their devices. The fine will escalate the company’s regulatory woes in Europe, where the commission has waged a long-running campaign to try to ensure competition flourishes in the digital economy. In June, the competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager fined Google €2.4bn (£2.2bn) for doctoring search results to favour its price-comparison shopping service.

Vestager also ordered the company to change how it presents search results. It has until the end of the month to comply with the demand, or face daily fines of 5% of its global turnover. Sources expect the Android fine to be substantially higher than the shopping penalty. The software is a central pillar of the $650bn (£502bn) empire of Alphabet, Google’s owner. It powers an estimated 80% of smartphones. About half of all internet traffic is through phones. Last year Vestager, 49, accused Google of using Android as a tool to “protect and expand its dominant position in internet search”. The company allows handset makers to use the software without paying a fee, but they must pre-install Google’s Chrome browser, search bar and other apps. This stipulation “harms consumers” and prevents digital rivals “from competing on their own merits”, according to Vestager.

In addition to fining Google, she is expected to demand a fundamental overhaul of its relationship with smartphone makers, such as Samsung. That could undermine the big profits Google earns through Android. It monetises the software platform by analysing the mountains of data generated by its apps and selling targeted adverts to clients. [..] the company has strenuously denied breaking competition laws. Last year it said giving away Android “keeps manufacturers’ costs low, while giving consumers unprecedented control of their mobile devices”.

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The pressure on Xi will rise a lot. And US should sit down with Putin. Urgently.

North Korea Quake Seems Related To Nuclear Test (BBG)

North Korea said it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb with “unprecedentedly big power” on Sunday that can be loaded onto an intercontinental ballistic missile, in its first nuclear test under U.S. President Donald Trump’s watch. The test, ordered by Kim Jong Un, was a “perfect success” and confirmed the precision and technology of the hydrogen bomb, according to the Korean Central News Agency. Kim’s regime has defied Trump’s warnings as it seeks the capability to strike America with an atomic weapon. “The creditability of the operation of the nuclear warhead is fully guaranteed,” KCNA said. South Korea’s weather agency said it detected a magnitude 5.7 earthquake around 12:29 p.m. local time near the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in northeast North Korea. Energy from Sunday’s explosion was about six times stronger in force than the nuclear test conducted by Pyongyang last September, the weather agency said.

“All options are on the table,” Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said on public broadcaster NHK. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said a North Korea nuclear test would be “absolutely unacceptable and we must protest it strongly.” Pyongyang’s actions are set to further increase tensions in Northeast Asia, where concerns have grown this year that a war of words between Trump and Kim could set off a military conflict. It was the sixth nuclear test by Pyongyang since 2006 and the first since the U.S. and South Korea elected new leaders. Trump had no immediate response to the nuclear test, though he sent a tweet thanking relief workers after Hurricane Harvey devastated states in the southern U.S. He has repeatedly lashed out at North Korea since taking office, warning last month of “fire and fury” if Kim’s regime continues to threaten the U.S.

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“Chinese market regulators have begun cracking down on ICOs as “illegal fundraising vehicles” in disguise..“

Bitcoin Tumbles To Pre Korea-Missile-Launch Level After Topping $5000 (ZH)

Shortly after topping $5,000 (according to several exchanges), Bitcoin began to tumble dramatically – now down almost $500 – erasing all the post-North-Korea missile anxiety gains.

Ethereum has crashed even more.

Meanwhile, one of the world’s largest bitcoin exchange, Shanghai-based BTC China, announced it had suspended ICOCoin deposits as well as trading and withdrawals, starting 6pm on Sunday, while Caixin reports that authorities shut down a blockchain conference over the weekend on concerns unregulated Initial Coin Offerings were being used to raise funds illegally, adding that Chinese market regulators have begun cracking down on ICOs as “illegal fundraising vehicles” in disguise, and in taking a page out of the SEC playbook, will soon issue official rules on ICOs. As CoinTelegraph adds, the self-regulatory group National Internet Finance Association of China warned its members about the dangers in participating in initial coin offerings (ICO).

The group claimed that ICOs could be using misleading information as part of fundraising campaigns. In a statement in late August 2017, the online finance organization further warned its member companies to exercise extreme caution when dealing with the new fundraising mechanism. Part of the statement reads: “China Internet Finance Association members should take the initiative to strengthen self-discipline, to resist illegal financial behavior.” [..] an official for Russia’s national legislature said that new laws regulating the exchange of cryptocurrencies will be complete by the end of the fall. Anatoly Aksakov, who leads the State Duma’s financial markets committee, told Russian media this week that next steps involve the formation of a dedicated working group to address the issue.

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Sounds overcooked. But yes, US sanctions are not helping. Still, physical delivery in gold is not what anyone wants, far too clumsy for real trade. And who trusts paper gold? Even better: no-one trusts the yuan.

China Sees New World Order With Oil Benchmark Backed By Gold (ANR)

China is expected shortly to launch a crude oil futures contract priced in yuan and convertible into gold in what analysts say could be a game-changer for the industry. The contract could become the most important Asia-based crude oil benchmark, given that China is the world’s biggest oil importer. Crude oil is usually priced in relation to Brent or West Texas Intermediate futures, both denominated in U.S. dollars. China’s move will allow exporters such as Russia and Iran to circumvent U.S. sanctions by trading in yuan. To further entice trade, China says the yuan will be fully convertible into gold on exchanges in Shanghai and Hong Kong. “The rules of the global oil game may begin to change enormously,” said Luke Gromen, founder of U.S.-based macroeconomic research company FFTT.

The Shanghai International Energy Exchange has started to train potential users and is carrying out systems tests following substantial preparations in June and July. This will be China’s first commodities futures contract open to foreign companies such as investment funds, trading houses and petroleum companies. Most of China’s crude imports, which averaged around 7.6 million barrels a day in 2016, are bought on long-term contracts between China’s major oil companies and foreign national oil companies. Deals also take place between Chinese majors and independent Chinese refiners, and between foreign oil majors and global trading companies. Alan Bannister, Asia director of S&P Global Platts, an energy information provider, said that the active involvement of Chinese independent refiners over the last few years “has created a more diverse marketplace of participants domestically in China, creating an environment in which a crude futures contract is more likely to succeed.”

China has long wanted to reduce the dominance of the U.S. dollar in the commodities markets. Yuan-denominated gold futures have been traded on the Shanghai Gold Exchange since April 2016, and the exchange is planning to launch the product in Budapest later this year. Yuan-denominated gold contracts were also launched in Hong Kong in July – after two unsuccessful earlier attempts – as China seeks to internationalize its currency. The contracts have been moderately successful. The existence of yuan-backed oil and gold futures means that users will have the option of being paid in physical gold, said Alasdair Macleod, head of research at Goldmoney, a gold-based financial services company based in Toronto. “It is a mechanism which is likely to appeal to oil producers that prefer to avoid using dollars, and are not ready to accept that being paid in yuan for oil sales to China is a good idea either,” Macleod said.

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The size of both Texas and Houston Metro GDP is quite something.

Why Houston Doesn’t Need Federal Flood Relief (Mises)

In his article today, Christopher Westley noted that Texas’s economy — when measured by GDP — is larger than Canada’s. In other words: If Texas were an independent country, it would be the world’s 10th largest economy (totaling $1.6 trillion), and its citizens would be more than capable of addressing natural disasters of the magnitude of a major flood. Texas’s economy is also larger than those of Russia and Australia. By why stop our analysis at the state of Texas? Indeed, if we look at the GDP of the Houston metropolitan area, we find it comes in at $503 billion. This total is similar to the GDPs of Poland, Belgium, and Austria. It’s significantly larger than the GDPs of Norway and Denmark. Nor is Texas’s GDP largely driven by federal spending — so we can’t say that Texas’s economy depends on federal spending to stay afloat.

When we look at federal spending in Texas compared to the federal taxes paid by Texans, we find it’s nearly a one-for-one relationship. So, if the Federal government stopped spending in Texas — but allowed Texans to keep their money, Texas would be fine. [..] Of course, we’ll be told that federal disaster relief programs are all about “sharing” and “cooperation” and “kindness.” In reality, it’s all just about forcing one group of people to hand over money to another group of people. There is no doubt that Texas and Houston now face significant challenges in rebuilding after the flood. But, when we demand that other regions and states pay for the rebuilding of Texas, we’re acting as if those other states and communities don’t have problems of their own. Needs related to poverty, infrastructure, and education in, say, Michigan did not magically disappear because Texas experienced a flood.

The only reason it now seems right to take money from people in Michigan, and hand it over to Houstonians, is because Houston’s problems are in the headlines, and Michigans mundane daily problems are not. The central planners have decided that Houstonians deserve Michigan’s money. But the rationale for this decision is purely political, and thus arbitrary. This isn’t to say real sharing and kindness are a bad thing. It’s excellent that private charities have already been hard at work helping with the cleanup in Houston. If one wants to insist that governments be involved, there’s nothing stopping other states from handing over funds to Texas directly. The federal government need not be involved at all.

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Which is why the possibility of a second hurricane hitting the US this year is intriguing.

Harvey Could Bankrupt The Federal Flood-Insurance Program (ZH)

Hurricane Harvey may solve the auto industry’s inventory problem. But right now, it’s about to create a giant headache for the federal government. Based on the latest estimates from Irvine, California-based CoreLogic, insured flood losses for homes in the affected areas of Texas and Louisiana could total between $6.5 billion to $9.5 billion. Since private insurers typically don’t provide personal flood insurance, all but $500 million of that will fall to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program, or NFIP. According to the Street, if insured damages reach the high end of this range, it would totally deplete the $7.5 billion of cash and available credit available to the 49-year-old government program, which provides about 98% of residential flood insurance. The program is already about $25 billion in debt to the US Treasury Department and would need Congressional authorization for additional funding.

To be sure, final totals could be much, much higher given the severity of the the “1-in-1000-year” flood. The potential funding shortfall could create problems if Congress doesn’t act quickly this month to shore up the financially-troubled flood-insurance program. As we’ve reported, Congress already has a full agenda in September – a month where lawmakers must pass a funding bill to keep the government open, and another to raise the debt limit and stave off a technical default on US debt. Initially, President Trump said he would force a government shutdown if Congress didn’t approve funding for his border wall in its next budget. However, it appears that he has backed away from this, as the Washington Post reported today that the administration has quietly notified Congress that the $1.6 billion in wall funding would not need to be included in the September continuing resolution.

Furthermore, Congress must explicitly pass legislation to keep the NFIP intact. Without it, the entire program will lapse. To be sure, there are some signs that Republicans are taking steps to ensure that emergency disaster-relief funding is approved as quickly as possible. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, some Republican lawmakers are raising the possibility that funding for the cleanup effort could be attached to the debt-ceiling bill, giving both measures a strong chance of passing. But it didn’t say if funding for the flood-insurance program would be included. Thanks, in part, to the hurricane, and the perceived political consequences of failing to aid the disaster victims (though Texas has proven to be a reliably red state), Goldman has cut its odds of a government shutdown to 15%.

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“..even as Saudi Arabia sees prices of the end products of its industry spiking, by and large it is not capturing that windfall for itself..”

Harvey Makes Landfall in Saudi Arabia (BBG)

Hurricane Harvey has devastated the Gulf Coast, and its impact is now spreading out to the rest of the U.S., chiefly at gas pumps. But America’s resurgent role in the global energy trade means the ripples extend far beyond its own shores. One place they are lapping onto is Saudi Arabia.In theory, the de-facto leader of efforts by OPEC, Russia and other members of the so-called Vienna Group stands to gain from disruption at the nerve center of the shale boom that has helped to suppress oil prices. In practice, things are a bit more complicated.

The shale boom has moved a lot of U.S. oil production inland and contributed to a glut of barrels building up in storage. So Harvey’s biggest impact on the region’s energy industry has been the closure of ports, refineries and pipelines – and keeping many drivers off highways that have turned into lakes and streams.The net result is depressed demand for crude oil due to absent refiners and panic buying of refined products such as gasoline for the same reason. So even as Saudi Arabia sees prices of the end products of its industry spiking, by and large it is not capturing that windfall for itself:

The disruption should cause U.S. inventories of refined products to fall as they are used to cover shortages and stocks of crude oil and products to drop elsewhere as, for example, European refiners run flat-out to send fuel to the U.S. to capture higher prices. This ultimately helps Saudi Arabia.Again, though, there’s a complicating factor.Saudi Arabia has explicitly targeted the U.S. in its strategy to drain the glut; shipments of its oil to America have dropped noticeably this summer:

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Will we ever stop poisoning ourselves? No high hopes here.

Pesticides Linked To Birth Abnormalities In Major New Study (Ind.)

High exposure to pesticides as a result of living near farmers’ fields appears to increase the risk of giving birth to a baby with “abnormalities” by about 9%, according to new research. Researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, compared 500,000 birth records for people born in the San Joaquin Valley between 1997 and 2011 and levels of pesticides used in the area. The average use of pesticides over that period was about 975kg for each 2.6sq km area per year. But, for pregnant women in areas where 4,000kg of pesticides was used, the chance of giving birth prematurely rose by about 8% and the chance of having a birth abnormality by about 9%. Writing in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers compared this to the 5 to 10% increase adverse birth outcomes that can result from air pollution or extreme heat events.

“Concerns about the effects of harmful environmental exposure on birth outcomes have existed for decades,” they wrote. “Great advances have been made in understanding the effects of smoking and air pollution, among others, yet research on the effects of pesticides has remained inconclusive. “While environmental contaminants generally share the ethical and legal problems of evaluating the health consequences of exposure in a controlled setting and the difficulties associated with rare outcomes, pesticides present an additional challenge. “Unlike smoking, which is observable, or even air pollution, for which there exists a robust network of monitors, publicly available pesticide use data are lacking for most of the world.”

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Addicted farmers: “More than half of British farmers say they are concerned that a ban could cost them more than £10,000 every year.”

France Votes Against The Use Of Pesticide Glyphosate (FarmingUK)

The French government has voted against the renewal of an EU Commission license for the pesticide glyphosate. The decision by the French government comes as evidence emerges of the risk of birth defects caused by exposure to pesticides. Monsanto is the major supplier of products containing glyphosate, with ‘Roundup’ being the best-known product. The product is widely used by farmers, gardeners and local authorities to control weeds. In 2015 the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen. But in March, the EU’s chemicals agency said glyphosate should not be classed as a carcinogen. And a survey has shown that a ban on glyphosate in the UK could force one in five wheat farms into ‘serious financial difficulty’. More than half of British farmers say they are concerned that a ban could cost them more than £10,000 every year.

Speaking at Cereals 2017, NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: “This year looks like being a watershed year for classical chemistry for arable farms with these three decisions on the horizon from Europe. “A poor decision on endocrine disruptor definition could see an end to the availability of around 26 active ingredients; the European Commission is proposing a ban on the use of neonicotinoids on all outdoor crops; and a decision on the reauthorisation of glyphosate is due by the end of the year. “The NFU will continue to make the case for evidence-based decisions to be made in all three of these areas, and we will continue to work with our members to help them make the case to politicians and other decision makers about the importance of these products and to demonstrate the damage that bad decisions will have on farming and our food supply.”

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Oct 242016
 
 October 24, 2016  Posted by at 9:09 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle October 24 2016


Dorothea Lange Arkansas flood refugee family near Memphis, Texas 1937

Japan Exports Fall 6.9% YoY, Imports Plunge 16.3% (BBG)
China: Soon The Most Visible Victim of Deglobalization (AJ)
China Continues To Buy Up The World (BBG)
German Momentum Grows for Curbs on Chinese Overseas Investment (BBG)
Chinese Money Flowing to Hong Kong Stocks Has Suddenly Dried Up (BBG)
Europe’s Incredibly Safe Banks (BBG)
Unaffordable Australian Housing ‘in Government Sights’ (BBG)
What Is “Impossible” And What Is Inevitable (CH Smith)
Watergate’s Bob Woodward: “Clinton Foundation Is Corrupt, It’s A Scandal” (ZH)
It’s Time To Drain The Swamp: Five-Point Plan For Ethics Reform (Trump)
Trump is America: The Poetic Justice Of The World (Dabashi)
Saudi, Allies ‘Deliberately Targeting Yemen’s Food Industry’, Bomb Cows (Fisk)
NATO Continues To Prepare For War With Russia (Korzun)
Juncker To Face No Confidence Vote In EU Parliament (Exp.)
Wikileaks Status Update on Julian Assange and the US Election (ZH)

 

 

WHAT? “Today’s report confirmed that exports are on the rebound,” said Masaki Kuwahara, senior economist at Nomura.”

Japan Exports Fall 6.9% YoY, Imports Plunge 16.3% (BBG)

Japanese exports fell for a 12th consecutive month in September, rounding out a rough year for manufacturers struggling with a stronger yen and soft global demand. Yet the numbers were better than expected, and export volumes rose last month by the most in nearly two years, prompting some upbeat assessments by economists. “Today’s report confirmed that exports are on the rebound,” said Masaki Kuwahara, senior economist at Nomura. “Manufacturing activities are picking up globally, especially in Asian nations. That bodes well for Japanese exports.” Overseas shipments dropped 6.9% in September from a year earlier, the Ministry of Finance said on Monday. Imports fell 16.3% during the same period, resulting in a trade surplus of 498.3 billion yen ($4.8 billion).

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has gotten little help from exports recently as he tries to revive Japan’s economy. Net shipments abroad shaved 0.3 percentage point off GDP growth in the second quarter. The yen has gained 16% since the start of the year, and soft global demand has made matters worse. This environment has made companies more reluctant to invest in domestic production, compounding the difficulty of creating economic growth. [..] Exports to the U.S. fell 8.7% from a year earlier. Those to the EU rose 0.7%. Exports to China, Japan’s largest trading partner, dropped 10.6%.

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“..trade and investment peaked in 2007-2008. Since then international trade has declined by roughly half a%. Foreign direct investment, or FDI, has fallen by half. That is not half a percent. That is half.”

China: Soon The Most Visible Victim of Deglobalization (AJ)

Global exports as a percentage of global GDP hit an all-time high of 30.8% in 2008. They fell precipitously during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009 and have since stabilised at just under 30%. These figures cap off a remarkable quarter-century of global export growth that began back in 1973. In that period global GDP roughly doubled, but global export volumes grew by a factor of 5.6 (based on inflation-adjusted data from the World Bank). China played a leading role in that story, but it was the rise in international trade that pulled the Chinese economy along, not the other way around. China rode the coat-tails of a quarter-century of globalisation.

Most people think of globalisation as a process that began in the 1990s with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the foundation of the World Trade Organization in 1995. But the roots of today’s global economy really go back to 1973, when the United States went off the gold standard and most countries moved from fixed to floating exchange rates. Floating exchange rates meant that the era of managed trade was over. The global economy moved into a new phase driven by market forces. The oil exporting countries of the Gulf were the first to benefit as the market price for oil quadrupled between 1973 and 1974. China came to the party just a few years later.

Since then the global economy has become more and more open. After the currency liberalisation of 1973 came a huge increase in international trade and then, in the 1990s, in foreign investment. Both trade and investment peaked in 2007-2008. Since then international trade has declined by roughly half a%. Foreign direct investment, or FDI, has fallen by half. That is not half a percent. That is half. Annual global FDI is down roughly 50% from its 2007 peak of just over $3 trillion. It’s still much larger than it was in the 1990s or earlier decades, but global FDI has stabilised at roughly the levels of the early 2000s. Unlike global FDI, foreign investment into China hasn’t fallen in absolute terms. But it too has stabilised and is no longer rising.

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The flipside of deglobalization. Monopoly money.

China Continues To Buy Up The World (BBG)

When a Chinese home-appliance company announced a plan in May to become the largest shareholder in one of Germany’s most advanced robot manufacturers, the backlash was immediate. German politicians and European officials denounced Midea’s offer for Frankfurt-listed Kuka, whose robotic arms assemble Airbus jets and Audi sedans. In a rare public appeal for alternative acquirers, Germany’s economy minister argued that Kuka’s automation technology needed to stay out of Chinese hands. And yet in two months, Midea pulled it off. Thanks to a combination of political courtship, guarantees on jobs and security, and support from influential customers like Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche, Midea overcame knee-jerk opposition to the deal. By July the appliance maker had secured an 86% stake, valuing Kuka at €4.6 billion.

The experience showed how some Chinese firms are learning to soothe misgivings about the country’s record $207 billion overseas buying spree. While Sinophobia isn’t yet a thing of the past and practices among Chinese buyers vary widely, merger-and-acquisition professionals say a new generation of savvy dealmakers is starting to emerge from the world’s second-largest economy. “Many Chinese companies have become much more adept at navigating international deals in the last few years, and at soothing the concerns stakeholders might have,” said Nicola Mayo, a partner at London law firm Linklaters LLP who specializes in China-Europe transactions. “In many of the larger Chinese companies, you’re dealing with managers who were educated abroad or have worked in international firms. They understand the concerns about China and know they need to move carefully.”


What China’s been buying

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And here’s the backlash..

German Momentum Grows for Curbs on Chinese Overseas Investment (BBG)

Germany is seeking tighter control over foreign investment in European companies, in a sign of a growing protectionist reaction to China’s appetite for overseas acquisitions. Spurred by the purchase of German robot maker Kuka by China’s Midea, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s deputy, Sigmar Gabriel, is calling for EU measures to give national governments expanded powers to block or impose conditions on shareholdings of non-EU companies. He’s found an ally in EU Digital Economy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, a German who’s a member of Merkel’s party. “It’s absolutely right to initiate this debate at the European level,” Oettinger said in an interview last week. “Everybody has to play by the same rules. Clearly, there are many countries, including big ones such as China, that make market access or corporate takeovers difficult or effectively impossible.”

While Merkel hasn’t publicly backed her vice chancellor’s push, Gabriel’s proposal reflects growing resistance within her government to unfettered Chinese investment in Europe’s biggest economy. In the latest potential Chinese bid, lighting maker Sanan Optoelectronics said it had held talks with Osram Licht on a possible acquisition of the almost century-old German company. The initiative by Gabriel, who also is Germany’s economy minister, calls for allowing EU member states to step in if a non-EU investor seeks to acquire more than 25% of the voting rights in a company [..] Chinese companies have announced or completed acquisitions of German companies worth a record $12.3 billion this year, almost eight times the level of 2015. That includes the purchase of Kuka by Midea, China’s biggest appliance maker, after Gabriel led a failed effort to find an alternative bid by a European suitor.

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“Investors in Shanghai spent more than $8 billion on Hong Kong shares in September [..] Net buying this month through last week was just 7% of that amount..”

Chinese Money Flowing to Hong Kong Stocks Has Suddenly Dried Up (BBG)

Hong Kong’s stock market is suffering from a post-holiday hangover. The flood of Chinese money into the city before the mainland’s National Day celebrations in early October has slowed to a trickle since traders returned from the week-long break. Investors in Shanghai spent more than $8 billion on Hong Kong shares in September, the biggest monthly inflow via the exchange link since it began in 2014. Net buying this month through last week was just 7% of that amount, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The narrowing valuation discount on the city’s dual-listed shares and concern about the Federal Reserve’s impending rate increase may have spurred mainland investors to turn off the taps, according to Hong Kong analysts, who also say they’re perplexed at the speed of the shift.

The change is a headwind for equities after the influx of Chinese money helped drive the Hang Seng Index up 12% last quarter for its best such gain in seven years. “It’s a bit of a mystery as to why this is happening,” said Mohammed Apabhai, head of Asia trading strategy at Citigroup. “Nobody has put forward a convincing explanation about exactly why the southbound flow has dried up and whether it’s a temporary phenomenon. That has removed one of the supports from the Hong Kong equity market.” China International Capital cut its rating on Hong Kong-listed mainland banks last week, citing the dwindling inflows. Trades from Shanghai made up as much as 17% of the total turnover in Hong Kong at one point last month, the highest on record. That ratio dropped to less than 7% on Oct. 20.

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I have an ominous feeling about this.

Europe’s Incredibly Safe Banks (BBG)

Given the parlous state of Europe’s economy, it’s hard to imagine that the investments of the region’s banks are among the safest in the world. Yet that is precisely what they would have regulators and investors believe. The banks’ safety has come into the spotlight as European officials – including German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and European Commission financial-services chief Valdis Dombrovskis – battle with global regulators over requirements for capital, the layer of loss-absorbing financing that prevents bad investments from turning into system-wide disasters. The dispute involves risk-weighting, a process in which the largest and most sophisticated banks assess the riskiness of their assets to figure out how much capital they need.

A loan to a struggling company might require a lot, safe government bonds none at all. Less capital means more leverage, which in good times boosts measures of profitability such as return on equity. Hence, banks have an incentive to make their assets look as safe as possible. Europe’s banks have excelled in this minimizing endeavor. On average for eight of the euro area’s most systemically important institutions, risk-weighted assets amounted to just 31% of total unweighted assets at the end of June – as if about seven out of every 10 euros in investments were risk-free. For Germany’s Deutsche Bank, among the world’s most thinly capitalized, the ratio was just 22%. That compares with averages of 35% and 45% for the largest U.K. and U.S. banks, respectively. Here’s how that looks:

To be sure, lower risk weights could mean that Europe’s banks actually do have safer assets. There’s plenty of evidence, though, to suggest this isn’t the case. The IMF estimates that banks in the euro area are sitting on more than $1 trillion in bad loans. Also, markets place a much lower value on each euro of European banks’ book assets than they do on each dollar of U.S. banks’.

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This from a government that relies on soaring housing prices to make its economy appear viable. Australia’s problem is not the extravagant tax perks, or ultra low rates, or Chinese monopoly money pouring in. No, all that’s fine, and all that needs to be done is build build build.

Unaffordable Australian Housing ‘in Government Sights’ (BBG)

Australian states need to remove or simplify residential land planning regulations that have made homes “increasingly unaffordable” in the nation’s biggest cities, Treasurer Scott Morrison said. Insufficient land releases and complex development regulations must be addressed, Morrison said in the text of a speech being given in Sydney Monday. He’ll use a December meeting with his state counterparts to urge a freeing up of housing supply, an issue which will be a key focus of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government, he said. “Of all the determinants of house prices in Australia, whether cyclical or structural, the most important factor behind rising prices has been the long running impediments to the supply side of the market,” Morrison said.

While a three-year surge in Australian home prices paused at the end of last year after banks raised mortgage rates, the market has taken off again as a growing population tries to squeeze into too few properties. Dwelling values in Sydney, which have almost doubled since the end of 2008, are up 14% this year through September, compared with a 9% gain across the nation’s other major cities, according to CoreLogic. The recent rise defies an assessment by real-estate listing firm Domain last year that the boom was over, and is posing a potential headache for new central bank Governor Philip Lowe, who said this month that that fewer properties were changing hands and “some markets have strengthened recently.” Housing in Australia’s three biggest cities – Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane – “is expensive and increasingly unaffordable,” Morrison said.

Other factors contributing to supply-side constraints are the cost and availability of infrastructure, transaction taxes and negative public attitudes toward urban development, he said. Still, Morrison is again ruling out his government stripping back some of the tax perks for landlords and property investors, known as negative gearing, which the Labor opposition blames for inflating house prices. “The key to addressing housing affordability is not to crash the housing market,” Morrison said. “Rather the objective is to have policies that mitigate the artificial inflation of asset prices, ensure that supply is not restricted from responding to genuine demand and that enable home-buyers, through their own efforts, to make more rapid progress to being able to enter the market.’’

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“..the S-curve of “growth” can continue expanding even as the foundation weakens. As the foundations of real growth weaken – productivity, collateral, social mobility, etc. – the system becomes increasingly fragile and brittle.”

What Is “Impossible” And What Is Inevitable (CH Smith)

We are about to start a painful learning process about what is “impossible” and what is inevitable. Two charts illustrate Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform: this chart of the S-Curve of financialization, leverage, debt, central planning, regulatory capture and globalization – that is, the engines of modern “growth” – depicts the inevitable stagnation and decline of these dynamics as overcapacity, debt saturation and diminishing returns take hold. This chart illustrates the status quo’s insistence on doing more of what has failed spectacularly: since all this worked in the boost phase, the central planning Cargo Cult’s “leadership” is convinced it will all work magically again, if only we do more of it. Alas, this is magical thinking. One might as well paint radio dials on rocks and expect the rock to magically turn into a functioning radio.

The chart of the Seneca Cliff illustrates how the S-curve of “growth” can continue expanding even as the foundation weakens. As the foundations of real growth weaken – productivity, collateral, social mobility, etc. – the system become increasingly fragile and brittle. But this fragility is masked by the appearance of stability until a crisis cracks it wide open. Normalcy crumbles into instability, and people and systems accustomed to stable supply chains and political stability struggle to maintain their grip on income streams and resources as abundance slips into scarcity and dependence on central planning becomes a liability of learned helplessness.

The S-curve:

The Seneca Cliff:

There are two sets of solutions as stability and financialized “growth” slide into instability and DeGrowth. 1. Acquire skills that will be increasingly scarce and a network of collaborators, customers and suppliers who value/make use of these skills. 2. Create a new mode of production that doesn’t rely on central banks, states and global finance to function: in effect, a decentralized, localized networked system that exists in parallel with the centralized hierarchies of the current mode of production which is centralized, industrialized, globalized, financialized, neofeudal, neoliberal, neocolonial, and dependent on ever-expanding leverage, debt, central planning, regulatory capture and fossil fuel consumption.

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Here’s the theme I wrote about in yesterday’s “Ungovernability”: “I think the issue is, what’s going to be the aftermath of this campaign. Can somebody govern…?”

Watergate’s Bob Woodward: “Clinton Foundation Is Corrupt, It’s A Scandal” (ZH)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS SUNDAY: Then there are the allegations about the Clinton Foundation and pay to play, which I asked Secretary Clinton about in the debate, and she turned into an attack on the Trump Foundation. But, Bob, I want to go back to the conversation I was having with Robby Mook before. When – when you see what seems to be clear evidence that Clinton Foundation donors were being treated differently than non-donors in terms of access, when you see this new – new revelations about the $12 million deal between Hillary Clinton, the foundation, and the king of Morocco, are voters right to be troubled by this?

BOB WOODWARD, THE WASHINGTON POST: I – yes, it’s a – it’s corrupt. It’s – it’s a scandal. And she didn’t answer your question at all. And she turned to embrace the good work that the Clinton Foundation has done. And she has a case there. But the mixing of speech fees, the Clinton Foundation, and actions by the State Department, which she ran, are all intertwined and it’s corrupt. You know, I mean, you can’t just say it’s unsavory. But there’s no formal investigation going on now, and there are outs that they have. But the election isn’t going to be decided on that. I mean Karl was making the point about this, I’m not going to observe the result of the election. I mean that’s – that’s absurd. I mean it has no consequence. If Trump loses, they’re not going to let him in the White House. He’s not going to have a transition team. And – and to focus on that, I think, is wrong. I think the issue is, what’s going to be the aftermath of this campaign. Can somebody govern…?

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Call him as crazy as you wish, but he does make a lot of sense here.

It’s Time To Drain The Swamp: Five-Point Plan For Ethics Reform (Trump)

I’m proposing a package of ethics reforms to make our government honest once again.

First: I am going to re-institute a 5-year ban on all executive branch officials lobbying the government for 5 years after they leave government service. I am going to ask Congress to pass this ban into law so that it cannot be lifted by executive order.

Second: I am going to ask Congress to institute its own 5-year ban on lobbying by former members of Congress and their staffs.

Third: I am going to expand the definition of lobbyist so we close all the loopholes that former government officials use by labeling themselves consultants and advisors when we all know they are lobbyists.

Fourth: I am going to issue a lifetime ban against senior executive branch officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government.

Fifth: I am going to ask Congress to pass a campaign finance reform that prevents registered foreign lobbyists from raising money in American elections.

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Prof. Dabashi revels in comparing Trump to Hitler, a weird thing to do for any intellectual, and absolute nonsense. But he’s right in many other aspects.

Trump is America: The Poetic Justice Of The World (Dabashi)

Hours before the scheduled third and final debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in Las Vegas, The New York Times published an article in which it argued that the Republican presidential nominee in effect has no foreign policy beyond using and abusing global issues to elicit gut fears and hostile fantasies of his domestic followers, that foreign policy has in effect become a matter of domestic fear-mongering. The piece could not have been more timely and poignant – but not in the sense that The New York Times intended it further to discredit the liberal bete noire of this election. In a sense far more serious and accurate. For the World at large, Trump is America and America is Trump. What has now become domestic politics to the US has been its foreign policy for a much longer history.

There are decent Americans who insist Trump is “the worst of America”. But for the world at large and at the receiving end of American military might, Trump is the very quintessence of America because Trump is what America does to the world, and now it has come dangerously close to do unto itself what it has habitually done unto others. Liberal America is now scared that Trump will do to America what America has done to the world. It was just “foreign policy” when America set up lunatic puppet dictators just like Trump to torture, maim, and murder their own people around the globe to protect its “national security interest”. It was just something “Daddy” did at work. When he came home he was all good, kind, and cuddly – just like Obama.

Now the Daddy is about to become a nasty, vicious, domestic abuser – like Trump. Trump is the poetic justice of the world. So long as America was only doing to the world at large what America now fears Trump may do to America, there was no outcry. There was consensus. The world deserved what America did to the world. Now liberal America is up in arms to disown, to exorcise, to dispel this demonic spirit from itself and put it back in a bottle and hand it over to Hillary Clinton so she can continue the habitual exercise of doing it to the world and be a nice, lovely-looking grandma at home, as Ronald Reagan was its grandpa before her.

Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

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“..the Saudis have included in their bombing targets cows..”

Saudi, Allies ‘Deliberately Targeting Yemen’s Food Industry’, Bomb Cows (Fisk)

The Yemen war uniquely combines tragedy, hypocrisy and farce. First come the casualties: around 10,000, almost 4,000 of them civilians. Then come those anonymous British and American advisers who seem quite content to go on “helping” the Saudi onslaughts on funerals, markets and other obviously (to the Brits, I suppose) military targets. Then come the Saudi costs: more than $250m (£200m) a month, according to Standard Chartered Bank – and this for a country that cannot pay its debts to construction companies. But now comes the dark comedy bit: the Saudis have included in their bombing targets cows, farms and sorghum – which can be used for bread or animal fodder – as well as numerous agricultural facilities.

In fact, there is substantial evidence emerging that the Saudis and their “coalition” allies – and, I suppose, those horrid British “advisers” – are deliberately targeting Yemen’s tiny agricultural sector in a campaign which, if successful, would lead a post-war Yemeni nation not just into starvation but total reliance on food imports for survival. Much of this would no doubt come from the Gulf states which are currently bombing the poor country to bits. The fact that Yemen has long been part of Saudi Arabia’s proxy war against Shiites and especially Iran – which has been accused, without evidence, of furnishing weapons to the Shia Houthi in Yemen – is now meekly accepted as part of the Middle East’s current sectarian “narrative” (like the “good” rebels in eastern Aleppo and the “very bad” rebels in Mosul). So, alas, have the outrageous bombings of civilians. But agricultural targets are something altogether different.

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A NATO Schengen zone means foreign soldiers can move into any country the command wishes. If that’s not a recipe for disaster, I don’t know what is. Imagine deplying Turkish troops in Greece, or Polish in Britain, French in Germany.

NATO Continues To Prepare For War With Russia (Korzun)

NATO uses any pretext to accuse Russia of harboring aggressive intentions. It has raised ballyhoo over the recent deployment of Iskander short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles to the Kaliningrad region. Time and time again, the alliance reaffirms its bogus Russia narrative. “We see more assertive and stronger Russia that is willing to use force,” concluded NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg speaking at the round table in Passau, Bavaria on October 10. At the same time, NATO is pushing ahead with its military “Schengen zone” in Europe. “We are working to ensure that each individual soldier will not require a decision at the political level to cross the border,” said Estonian Defense Minister Hannes Hanso.

The idea is to do away with travel restrictions on the movement of NATO forces troops and equipment across Europe. There will be no need to ask for permissions to move forces across national borders. It will undermine the sovereignty of member states but facilitate the cross-continent operations instead. The Baltic States and Poland are especially active in promoting the plan. The restrictions in place hinder rapid movement of the 5,000 strong “Very High Readiness Joint Task Force”. Besides being the first response tool, it could be used for preventing Article 4 situations, such as subterfuge, civil unrest or border infractions, from escalating into armed conflict. The troops can move freely in time of war, but introducing a NATO Schengen zone is needed for concentrating forces in forward areas in preparation for an attack across the Russian border.

The formation of the much larger 40 thousand strong NATO Response Force (NRF) is on the way. Meanwhile, the US and Norwegian militaries are discussing the possibility of deploying US troops in Norway – a country which has a 200 km long common border with Russia. The deployment of US servicemen would be part of a rotating arrangement in the country that would fulfil a “long-standing US wish.” Norwegian newspaper Adresseavisen reported on October 10 that 300 combat US Marines could soon be in place at the Værnes military base near Trondheim, about 1,000 kilometres from the Russian-Norwegian frontier. The air station also serves as part of Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway, a program that allows the Corps to store thousands of vehicles and other major pieces of equipment in temperature-controlled caves ready for combat contingency.

Several defence sources told the newspaper that the plans to put US troops at the military base have been underway for some time. According to Military.com, the information that the plans are underway was also confirmed by American Maj. Gen. Niel E. Nelson, the commander of Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa. 300 Marines can be easily reinforced. The only purpose for the deployment is preparation for an attack against Russia. After all, the Marines Corps is the first strike force. And it’s not Russian Marines being deployed near US national borders, but US Marines deployed in the proximity of Russian borders. The provocative move is taking place at the time the Russia-NATO relationship is at the lowest ebb.

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Not sure how serious to take this, but it’s plenty entertaining. Just look at the woman who’s after Juncker. She’s would scare me too. Already does.

Juncker To Face No Confidence Vote In EU Parliament (Exp.)

Lifelong anti-corruption campaigner Eva Joly has launched a bid to boot out the controversial EU president in yet another blow to his crumbling authority. The French magistrate and politician, who was born in Norway, blasted the eurocrat’s past as president of Luxembourg and vowed to lead an MEPs’ rebellion to “make him fall”. Ms Joly has accused Brussels’ top unelected official of favouring certain multinational corporations for “sweetheart” tax deals when he was head of the tiny European state. Mr Juncker has denied being corrupt, claiming that any decisions related to the tax arrangements of large companies during his time in office were “strictly a matter for the tax administration”. But the damaging row has seriously dented his already battered reputation and has added to the growing calls from across the continent for him to quit.

And Ms Joly, from the Green party, said the escalating scandal could finally finish off the “considerably weakened” Teflon bureaucrat. She said: “Everyone knows that this system was built while he was prime minister. It is a scandal that he leads the Commission. We, the Greens, we do not want it. “At the first opportunity, I will bring a motion [before the the European Parliament] to make him fall.” Such a vote would severely test MEPs’ loyalty towards the Brussels chief at a time when he has become the face and symbol of all Europe’s ills. Mr Juncker is seen as the centrepiece of a federalist European dream which has driven Britain to the exit door and angered many eastern European states, who are already calling for him to quit. He has also apparently lost the support of German leader Angela Merkel over Brussels’ farcical handling of the migrant crisis, making his position at the heart of the Brussels machine ever more tenuous.

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“Concerned speculation about the Ecuadorian embassy exile had risen to such an degree, that overnight Wikileaks announced it would provide a state update on Assange’s current status.”

Wikileaks Status Update on Julian Assange and the US Election (ZH)

On Tuesday, the government of Ecuador issued a statement saying that it had decided to not permit Mr. Assange to use the government of Ecuador’s internet connection during the US election citing its policy of “non interference.” Ecuador’s statement also clarified that it does not seek to interfere with WikiLeaks journalistic work and that it would continue to protect Mr. Assange’s asylum rights. Mr. Assange has asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where the United Nations has ruled he has been unlawfully deprived of liberty by the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Sweden for the last six years. He has not been charged. It is the government of Ecuador’s prerogative to decide how to best guard against the misinterpretation of its policies by media groups or states whilst ensuring that it protects Mr. Assange’s human rights.

WikiLeaks is a global, high volume publisher that publishes on average one million documents and associated analyses a year. WikiLeaks publishes its journalistic work from large data centers based in France, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, among others. Most WikiLeaks staff and lawyers reside in the EU or the US and have not been disrupted. WikiLeaks has never published from jurisdiction of Ecuador and has no plans to do so. Similarly Mr. Assange does not transmit US election related documents from the embassy. WikiLeaks is entirely funded by its readers, book and film sales. Its publications are the result of its significant investigative and technological capacities. WikiLeaks has a perfect, decade long record for publishing only true documents. It has many thousands of sources but does not engage in collaborations with states. Mr. Assange has not endorsed any candidate although he was happy to speak at the Green’s convention due to Dr. Jill Stein’s position [on] whistleblowers, peace and war.

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