Oct 142020
 
 October 14, 2020  Posted by at 9:05 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  42 Responses »


Giotto Legend of St Francis, Renunciation of Wordly Goods c.1297-1299

 

Google Researcher Warns Google May Be ‘Shifting Power’ to Flip Senate (NB)
Russia Health Watchdog: Shutting Down Economy For COVID19 is Pointless (RT)
UK Hospitality Firms Threaten Legal Action Over Lockdown (BBC)
Dutch PM Closes Pubs, Restaurants, Cafes As Coronavirus Cases Rise (RT)
Northern Ireland To Impose ‘Circuit Breaker’ Lockdown For 4 Weeks (Sky)
Johnson, Grassley Press FBI For All McCabe Texts (Fox)
FBI Used Media Reports Seeded By Steele To ‘Corroborate’ Anti-Trump Dossier (RT)
Consortium News Sues Canadian TV Network for Defamation (CN)
The Barbarians Are Threatening Us! (Crooke)
Fifth of Countries At Risk Of Ecosystem Collapse – Swiss Re (G.)

 

 

Lockdowns are all the fad again. They shouldn’t be, and this won’t end well. Give people N95 masks and vitamin D instead and let them live.

 

 

Let’s say: Interesting. It’s like a silent form of propaganda.

Google Researcher Warns Google May Be ‘Shifting Power’ to Flip Senate (NB)

The social media researcher who warned about Google’s power to shift the election said that the company may be focusing on a new solution: the United States Senate. Dr. Robert Epstein, senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, told the Media Research Center that Google is “now focusing most of their vote shifting power on the Senate races, where big-margin outcomes will be hard to contest.” Thirty-five seats in the Senate are up for election on Nov. 3, 2020. Out of those races, 23 seats currently belong to Republicans. Epstein theorized that Google had the power to “mobilize the base supporters of Democratic candidates to register to vote and then to vote; they can discourage some Republican voters from registering to vote or voting.”


He wrote that the company had “at least 9 million undecided voters they can still play with.” A Google search not affiliated with an account shows the search bar auto-completes certain terms with “senate.” When a user types in “flip the,” “senate” shows up three times.

More references to flipping auto-populate with “senate.”

Searches that involve the term “democrat” also auto-complete with “flip the senate.” In addition, when it comes to a search with the term “Mitch,” the first name of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Google auto-completes with “vote mitch mcconnell out.”

The official Google blog stated, “How do we determine these predictions? We look at the real searches that happen on Google and show common and trending ones relevant to the characters that are entered and also related to your location and previous searches.” However, a look at Google Trends shows that interest in the term “flip the senate” has been in steady decline since September 26. A report in Psychology Today noted that “Trump has generated by far the most search interest both nationally, and in each and every state.” However, Epstein countered Psychology Today’s statement by saying, “Google controls people’s perceptions about what kind of search activity is occurring. They have complete control over the numbers they display.


And while it should surprise no one that Trump generates a lot of online activity, we’re only aware of those big numbers (if they’re even real) because Google wants us to be aware of them.” Eight Republican-held Senate seats, according to USA Today, have the potential to flip. Google has the power, said Epstein, to be “personalizing the content of newsfeeds, search suggestions, search results, answer boxes, and other ephemeral content.” These actions could direct specific kinds of people to register to vote, to goad unwilling voters into voting, and convince specific kinds of people not to vote.

Read more …

“Despite the fact that we see a growth in cases, today, in Russia, we are not talking about blocking the economy,” Popova said. “We do not see any point in it.”

Russia Health Watchdog: Shutting Down Economy For COVID19 is Pointless (RT)

The top official at Russia’s state health watchdog believes that there is no point in suspending the economy to fight coronavirus. Anna Popova’s comments came after the Kremlin said a second lockdown isn’t even being considered. Speaking at a coronavirus event at well-known university RANEPA, on Tuesday, Rospotrebnadzor boss Anna Popova explained that Russia has quite a low rate of Covid-19 per capita, and therefore there is no sense in taking drastic measures. Currently, there are few restrictions in the world’s largest country with bars, restaurants, and shops open as usual. “Despite the fact that we see a growth in cases, today, in Russia, we are not talking about blocking the economy,” Popova said. “We do not see any point in it.”

In addition, she noted that Covid-19 testing has not dropped off at any point, even during the summer. Statistics from the country’s official coronavirus center show that Russia has carried out over 51 million tests, fourth globally, behind the three most populated countries, China, the US, and India. According to Popova, over the last week, the average daily rate for new coronavirus cases is eight per 100,000 people. This is much better than in other countries such as Israel (54), France (28), and the Netherlands (27), which are all more than three times worse.

Earlier this year, in the spring, the country saw some of the world’s strictest measures, with Moscow residents being restricted from leaving their apartments for anything other than food, medical help, or walking a dog. The restrictions were partially lifted on June 16, with cafes and restaurants being allowed to open terraces. With many business owners still battling the consequences of Russia’s lockdown, another closure of the economy could be a hammer blow. Last week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stressed the need for Russians to wear masks and comply with all measures, warning that numbers will rise if citizens refuse to follow the rules. Previously, Peskov had denied that a second lockdown was even being considered.

Read more …

Kill the pubs!

UK Hospitality Firms Threaten Legal Action Over Lockdown (BBC)

The UK hospitality industry has said it will take legal action to stop new local lockdown rules that could force pub, clubs and other venues to close. Trade body the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) said there was no evidence that hospitality venues contributed to the spread of Covid-19. It comes as the government prepares to unveil new restrictions for England. NTIA boss Michael Kill said the hospitality industry had been left with “no other option”. “These new measures will have a catastrophic impact on late night businesses, and are exacerbated further by an insufficient financial support package presented by the chancellor in an attempt to sustain businesses through this period,” he said.


“This next round of restrictions are hugely disproportionate and unjust, with no scientific rationale or correlation to Public Health England transmission rates, when compared to other key environments.” The Liverpool City Region is expected to face the tightest restrictions under a new “three tier” system, which will classify regions as being at a “medium,” “high” or “very high” level of alert. In the most infectious areas, pubs, bars and other hospitality and leisure businesses are likely to be forced to close, as has happened in parts of Scotland. The chancellor has promised to pay two-thirds of workers’ wages if employers have to shut. But some fear this will not be enough and there could still be an impact on jobs, said Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of business lobby group the CBI.

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Mandatory non-medical masks. Which make no difference. How do these people hang on to their jobs despite their glaring failures? Well, by blaming everybody but themselves.

Dutch PM Closes Pubs, Restaurants, Cafes As Coronavirus Cases Rise (RT)

Bars, restaurants and cafes in the Netherlands will close their doors as the Dutch government tries to control the spread of Covid-19. Unlike many of its European neighbors, the Netherlands has thus far avoided harsh lockdowns. Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced the “partial lockdown” on Tuesday evening, after health officials in the Netherlands reported a record 7,393 new cases of Covid-19 that day. A total of 43,903 new infections were recorded in the preceding week, along with 150 deaths. The new measures, which come into effect on Wednesday, will see all bars, restaurants and cafes close, and the sale of alcohol banned after 8pm. In addition, the wearing of face masks will be mandatory in all indoor spaces.


Rutte’s government has held off on some of the harsher lockdown measures imposed in other European countries since the pandemic began. Masks were only mandatory on public transport, and bars and hospitality venues operated as usual – albeit with some social distancing measures, and contact tracing forms given to customers. These rules tightened somewhat late last month, with restaurants and bars in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague ordered to close by 10pm, and workers in these cities advised to do their jobs remotely if possible. “It hurts, but it’s the only way,” Rutte said of the new restrictions on Tuesday. “We have to be stricter.” The Netherlands has so far recorded nearly 190,000 cases of Covid-19, and more than 6,600 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Read more …

Partial lockdown, circuit breaker lockdown, fancy terms.

Northern Ireland To Impose ‘Circuit Breaker’ Lockdown For 4 Weeks (Sky)

Northern Ireland is set to become the first part of the UK to impose a “circuit breaker” lockdown. Tighter restrictions will be in place for four weeks – with schools closing for two of them, Sky News understands. According to the PA news agency, the new measures will mean pubs and restaurants have to close, with the exception of takeaways. PA said closures of hospitality outlets would begin on Friday 16 October, and other measures from Monday 19 October. Current restrictions on household mixing were expected to remain unchanged. Retail outlets are expected to remain open, as well as churches and gyms for individual training.


First Minister Arlene Foster will address the Stormont Assembly later today, following a meeting of the Stormont executive that extended into the early hours of this morning. After the executive meeting concluded, Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill tweeted to say “painstaking consideration” had been given to the “next steps”. She wrote: “We know this is hard and that people will be worried about their livelihoods, but we will do everything we possibly can to make sure there are protections in place for businesses, workers and families.”

Read more …

Trump should have ordered declassification outright.

Johnson, Grassley Press FBI For All McCabe Texts (Fox)

Top Senate Republicans investigating the origins of the FBI’s Trump-Russia probe are pressing the bureau to produce all text messages belonging to former deputy director Andrew McCabe, calling the delay “unacceptable.” In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, demanded that the FBI turn over the documents, noting that their production would be responsive to a subpoena issued by Johnson’s committee in August.

“As you know, on August 6, 2020, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee subpoenaed the FBI for all records related to the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, which requires that records actually be produced to the Committee, not merely made available for review in a reading room,” they wrote. “We have waited nearly 70 days to receive these text messages, and when records were actually produced, we received only 8 percent of what we know exists.” They added: “It is simply unacceptable that we have waited so long to receive so little.” Johnson and Grassley said the text messages belonging to McCabe that the FBI did produce “include notable information that is highly relevant to several aspects of the Committees’ oversight efforts.”

One aspect the committee is investigating involves records made public last week by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, who declassified documents that revealed former CIA Director John Brennan briefed former President Obama on Hillary Clinton’s purported “plan” to tie then-candidate Donald Trump to Russia as “a means of distracting the public form her use of a private email server” ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The documents, which were first reported and exclusively obtained by Fox News, included Brennan’s handwritten notes — which were taken after he briefed Obama on the intelligence the CIA received — and a CIA memo, which revealed that officials referred the matter to former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok for potential investigative action.

“We have made a public commitment to determine and reveal the full extent of official investigative and intelligence action taken by federal officials against the Trump campaign, its presidential transition, and into the administration,” the senators wrote, adding that the information that has already been made public “reveals what might be the most outrageous abuse of power in U.S. history against a presidential candidate and sitting president.”

Read more …

Someone investigate the media’s role.

FBI Used Media Reports Seeded By Steele To ‘Corroborate’ Anti-Trump Dossier (RT)

The FBI sought to ‘verify’ information in the notorious dossier at the heart of Russiagate by using media articles seeded by the actual dossier author, British spy Christopher Steele, the newly released evidence has shown. The so-called Steele Dossier is the centerpiece of ‘Russiagate,’ the conspiracy theory that Donald Trump “colluded” with Moscow in the 2016 US presidential election. The dossier’s most bombastic claim was that Russia had “kompromat” on him in the form of sex tapes from a Moscow hotel involving urinating prostitutes. Steele compiled the dossier for Fusion GPS, a DC-based firm paid by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign through the DNC. The FBI then used it to obtain a FISA warrant to spy on Trump campaign aide Carter Page in October 2016, and extended it three times well into 2017.

A 94-page spreadsheet made public on Monday, however, shows the FBI relied heavily on media reports to corroborate Steele’s claims – in many cases, the very same reports Steele had planted himself. According to analyst Stephen McIntyre, footnotes listed in the spreadsheet show that 39 percent of the footnotes lead to Washington, DC media outlets, another 29 percent are redacted, and Steele himself was cited on 18 occasions, somehow self-verifying his own work. In one instance, McIntyre notes, the FBI triple counted an article from the Daily Beast as three separate sources. Other media outlets named in the document are CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Yahoo News and Mother Jones.

The FBI had actually decided to fire Steele as a paid informant in September 2016 – before obtaining the Page warrant – because he leaked to the media, specifically Yahoo and Mother Jones, but that never raised any red flags either with the warrant or the corroboration, apparently. Moreover, the Bureau knew in December 2016 that the “primary sub-source” (PSS) for the dossier was a Russian national they had investigated as a foreign agent in 2009, but the investigation was abandoned without explanation and this fact was never flagged. Even after interviewing the PSS in January 2017, and establishing that most of the dossier was fabricated outright, the FBI continued to use it at the FISA court to extend the Page warrant.

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It doesn’t only happen in the US: “Global received the storyline from CSE and then consciously regurgitated the preconceived narrative that it knew to be false.”

Just mention Russia and you’re good to go.

Consortium News Sues Canadian TV Network for Defamation (CN)

Consortium News has sued the Canadian TV network Global News for defamation in federal court in Virginia over a report that said CN was part of an “attack” and a “cyber influence” campaign “directed” by Moscow against a Canadian leader. The lawsuit accuses the Corus Entertainment-owned network of entering into a business conspiracy with the Canadian Communications Security Establishment (CSE)–Canada’s NSA—to “link …critics” of Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland to “’Russia’ as a way of discrediting those critics and protecting themselves.” The suit says: “Global received the storyline from CSE and then consciously regurgitated the preconceived narrative that it knew to be false. In its quest to paint Plaintiff as a ‘Russian collaborator’, Global abandoned journalistic integrity and ethics, misrepresented the content of CN’s articles, and applied false labels to Plaintiff.”

In January Consortium News sent libel notices to both Global News and the CSE, demanding an apology and retraction of any mention of CN in Global News’s Dec. 10, 2019 on-line article and video reports. The CSE did not respond to the notice. Global News refused to retract all mention of CN from the article or to apologize. Global News did not contact Consortium News for comment before it published its article and broadcast two TV reports. Instead, two months after the Global News reports appeared—and after receiving the libel notice—Global News attached an editor’s note to its article, which is still on-line. It says: “Editor’s Note – Subsequent to the publication of this article, Consortium News advised Global News it disputes statements about it referred to in the CSE document that are reported on in the article.“

Consortium News has told Global News it denies any implication it is ‘an organ of or directed by the Russian government’ and says it is an independent news source.” CN informed Global News that the editor’s note coming after publication was insufficient and insisted that without a retraction and apology it would pursue litigation. Citing case law, the suit filed on Tuesday states that “a clear evasion from the truth and the failure to interview an important witness, who was easily accessible, supports a finding of actual malice.” The lawsuit says: “The focal point of Global’s accusations was an article published in February 2017 in Virginia by Plaintiff and false accusations that Plaintiff – a Virginia corporation – is linked to Russia and knowingly published Russian propaganda to harm the reputation of Freeland.”

Read more …

“The values of the Millennial and Gen Z generations that will dominate in the years ahead are the opposite of Boomer values..”

The Barbarians Are Threatening Us! (Crooke)

Now, as we enter the final month of the U.S. election, the expected climax to long-buried animosities is at hand. It is unlikely to be brief or decisive. The internal convulsions of the U.S. however, are one thing. But the implosion of social trust in the U.S. is radiating out, and its effects are radiating out across the globe. If the imprecarity of our times – compounded by the virus – is making us nervous and tense, it may be because we intuit that a way-of-life, a way-of-economics, too, is coming to its end. The fear of social upheaval sows distrust. It can produce the spiritual state that Emile Durkheim called anomie, a feeling of being disconnected from society; a conviction that the world around one is illegitimate and corrupt; that you are invisible – a ‘number’; a helpless object of hostile repression, imposed by ‘the system’; a feeling that nobody is to be trusted.

Russian nineteenth century literature, including novels by Dostoevsky, chronicled how such feelings amongst the children of the Russian well-to-do could evolve into burning hatred. This hatred extended to nail-bombs hurled into smart cafés, in order “to see how the foul bourgeois will squirm in death agony”. The West’s post-war era largely was defined by the ‘Woodstock’ generation: an era in which the rich (white) 20% of the globe lived in a consumer paradise of choice and over-consumption, whilst the 80% non-white, did not. That generation lived at a period of relative cultural cohesion and social stability – and rarely was called upon to make sacrifice or to endure hardship. It was the era of one ‘easy-decision’ after the other, building up to an ethos that put personal liberty above every other value, including social obligation.

The emerging generations of today, David Brooks argues in The Atlantic, “enjoy none of that sense of security. They grew up in a world in which institutions failed, financial systems collapsed, and families were fragile. Yet human beings need a basic sense of security in order to thrive, as the political scientist Ronald F. Inglehart puts it: their “values and behaviour are shaped by the degree to which survival is secure””. “The values of the Millennial and Gen Z generations that will dominate in the years ahead are the opposite of Boomer values: not liberation, but security; not freedom, but equality; not individualism, but the safety of the collective; not sink-or-swim meritocracy, but promotion on the basis of social justice… Distrustful people try to make themselves invulnerable, armour themselves up in a sour attempt to feel safe… start to see threats that aren’t there.”

Read more …

Ecosystems don’t recognize borders.

Fifth of Countries At Risk Of Ecosystem Collapse – Swiss Re (G.)

One-fifth of the world’s countries are at risk of their ecosystems collapsing because of the destruction of wildlife and their habitats, according to an analysis by the insurance firm Swiss Re. Natural “services” such as food, clean water and air, and flood protection have already been damaged by human activity. More than half of global GDP – $42tn (£32tn) – depends on high-functioning biodiversity, according to the report, but the risk of tipping points is growing. Countries including Australia, Israel and South Africa rank near the top of Swiss Re’s index of risk to biodiversity and ecosystem services, with India, Spain and Belgium also highlighted. Countries with fragile ecosystems and large farming sectors, such as Pakistan and Nigeria, are also flagged up.

Countries including Brazil and Indonesia had large areas of intact ecosystems but had a strong economic dependence on natural resources, which showed the importance of protecting their wild places, Swiss Re said. “A staggering fifth of countries globally are at risk of their ecosystems collapsing due to a decline in biodiversity and related beneficial services,” said Swiss Re, one of the world’s biggest reinsurers and a linchpin of the global insurance industry. “If the ecosystem service decline goes on [in countries at risk], you would see then scarcities unfolding even more strongly, up to tipping points,” said Oliver Schelske, lead author of the research.

Jeffrey Bohn, Swiss Re’s chief research officer, said: “This is the first index to our knowledge that pulls together indicators of biodiversity and ecosystems to cross-compare around the world, and then specifically link back to the economies of those locations.” The index was designed to help insurers assess ecosystem risks when setting premiums for businesses but Bohn said it could have a wider use as it “allows businesses and governments to factor biodiversity and ecosystems into their economic decision-making”. The Swiss Re index is built on 10 key ecosystem services identified by the world’s scientists and uses scientific data to map the state of these services at a resolution of one square kilometre across the world’s land.

The services include provision of clean water and air, food, timber, pollination, fertile soil, erosion control, and coastal protection, as well as a measure of habitat intactness. Those countries with more than 30% of their area found to have fragile ecosystems were deemed to be at risk of those ecosystems collapsing. Just one in seven countries had intact ecosystems covering more than 30% of their country area. Among the G20 leading economies, South Africa and Australia were seen as being most at risk, with China 7th, the US 9th and the UK 16th.

Read more …

 

 

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“The beauty of physics is that it can rigorously predict things nobody has seen before, before the emergence of any empirical evidence. Compare to fraudulent fields like psychology that overfit from naive ‘empirical evidence’ to predict nothing.”

– Nassim Nicholas Taleb

 

 

 

 

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Oct 062020
 


Rembrandt van Rijn Old Man Sitting 1631

 

‘Don’t Let It Dominate You. Don’t Be Afraid Of It’ – President Trump (JTN)
WHO: 760 Million May Have Been Infected With Novel Coronavirus (JTN)
CDC Acknowledges Coronavirus Spreads Through Airborne Transmission (CNBC)
Gina Haspel Banks On Trump Loss To Keep Russiagate Documents Hidden (Fed.)
Carter Page Wants McCabe Subpoenaed To Testify Before Senate (JTN)
Ginsburg’s Nightmare: The Democratic Plan To Destroy The Supreme Court (Turley)
Out of the Woods? (Jim Kunstler)
100,000 Ballot Requests Invalidated In Iowa (IC)
Debt Collectors Have Made a Fortune This Year. They’re Coming for More (PP)
Facebook Refuses To Appoint Turkey Representative, Faces Penalties (Ahval)
UK Court Decision on Venezuela Gold Deals Blow to Regime Change Efforts (MPN)
Former Reserve Bank Of Australia Boss: Low Rates Haven’t Done Any Good (AFR)
John McAfee Arrested In Spain On Tax Evasion & Crypto Fraud, Awaits Extradition To US (RT)
Trump Briefly Leaves Hospital To Wave To Supporters From F-22 Raptor (BBee)

 

 

Trump has long known that it makes no difference what he says or does, everything will be presented in a form that can be used against him anyway. If he says: don’t be afraid of it, the media will tell everyone to be very afraid.

There’s only one exception: if he would start a war. Let’s hope he doesn’t fall into that trap.

 

 

US national debt

 

 

 

 

Media reaction: be afraid! And: don’t let Trump dominate you! Bit late for that now.

‘Don’t Let It Dominate You. Don’t Be Afraid Of It’ – President Trump (JTN)

President Trump on Monday night released a new video message in which he urged Americans to be cautious but not fear the coronavirus or allow it to consume their lives. “I just left Walter Reed Medical Center and it’s really something very special, the doctors, the nurses, the first responders, and I learned so much about coronavirus,” the president said. “And one thing that’s for certain: Don’t let it dominate you. Don’t be afraid of it. You’re gonna beat it. We have the best medical equipment. We have the best medicines, all developed recently.” “I went, I didn’t feel so good. And two days ago, I could’ve left two days ago. Two days ago I felt great, like better than I have in a long time. I said just recently, better than 20 years ago,” Trump said.


“I stood out front. I led. Nobody that’s a leader would not do what I did. And I know there’s a risk, there’s a danger, but that’s ok. And now I’m better, and maybe I’m immune, I don’t know. But don’t let it dominate your lives. Get out there. Be careful. We have the best medicines in the world and it all happened very shortly and they’re all getting approved. And the vaccines are coming momentarily,” the president said. President Trump on Monday evening departed Walter Reed Medical Center, where he had been staying since Friday evening, and returned to the White House.

Read more …

Based on what information?

WHO: 760 Million May Have Been Infected With Novel Coronavirus (JTN)

The World Health Organization estimated Monday that roughly 1 in 10 people worldwide have been infected by the novel coronavirus – more than 20 times the number of confirmed cases. The estimate was made by Dr. Michael Ryan, who leads the WHO’s emergencies division, during a session with the group’s 34-member executive board He said that the number was his “best estimates” and that “the vast majority of the world remains at risk.” He also said “many deaths have been averted and many more lives can be protected.” The new estimate from the WHO would indicate that 760 million people worldwide have been infected with the novel virus, a number far surpassing the currently reported 35 million confirmed cases. Ryan also said that the group is getting reports of a surge of cases in Asia and Europe. The doctor cautioned that the world may now be “heading into a difficult period. The disease continued to spread. It is on the rise in many parts of the world.”

Read more …

Are these people trying to clarify something, or just to confuse me? What of this didn’t we already know?

CDC Acknowledges Coronavirus Spreads Through Airborne Transmission (CNBC)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its coronavirus guidance Monday, acknowledging that it can sometimes spread through airborne particles that can “linger in the air for minutes to hours” and among people who are more than 6 feet apart. The CDC cited published reports that demonstrated “limited, uncommon circumstances where people with COVID-19 infected others who were more than 6 feet away or shortly after the COVID-19-positive person left an area.” “In these instances, transmission occurred in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces that often involved activities that caused heavier breathing, like singing or exercise,” the CDC said in a statement. “Such environments and activities may contribute to the buildup of virus-carrying particles.”

The agency added that it is “much more common” for the virus to spread through larger respiratory droplets that are produced when somebody coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes. People are infected through such droplets mostly when they are in close contact with an infected person, the CDC said. “CDC’s recommendations remain the same based on existing science and after a thorough technical review of the guidance,” the agency said. “People can protect themselves from the virus that causes COVID-19 by staying at least 6 feet away from others, wearing a mask that covers their nose and mouth, washing their hands frequently, cleaning touched surfaces often and staying home when sick.” To what degree the coronavirus can spread through airborne particles has been a contentious debate among scientists for months.

Some epidemiologists have charged that the World Health Organization as well as federal regulatory agencies in many countries have been slow to accept that the virus can spread by air. It’s a debate that could have implications for the importance of air filtration in reopening businesses and schools. Dr. Bill Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University, said the new guidance is largely in line with what he says the science indicates about the coronavirus spreading through the air. He said in a phone interview after reviewing the new guidance that airborne transmission is something of a “side street” for spread. “Some cars do get through on the side street,” he said. “But the highways of transmission are close in, usually within enclosed spaces and for periods of time longer than 15 minutes with people standing within three to six feet of each other.”

[..] Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist and biodefense expert at the University of Arizona, said the new CDC guidance is “quite good.” She added that “the term airborne means so much to so many people,” and the guidance does a good job of emphasizing that the virus appears to only spread by air in certain environments, such as crowded indoor and poorly ventilated spaces. “We know that these events are occurring, but they’re not the primary driver,” she said in a phone interview. “This is a good reminder that there are environments that are higher risk for airborne transmission and we just need to communicate that.”

Read more …

Running out the clock. Trump picked the wrong people in many high positions.

Gina Haspel Banks On Trump Loss To Keep Russiagate Documents Hidden (Fed.)

CIA Director Gina Haspel is personally blocking the declassification and release of key Russiagate documents in the hopes that President Donald Trump will lose his re-election bid, multiple senior U.S. officials told The Federalist. The officials said Haspel, who served under former CIA Director John Brennan as the spy agency’s station chief in London in 2016 and 2017, is concerned that the declassification and release of documents detailing what the CIA was doing during the 2016 election and the 2017 transition could embarrass the CIA and potentially even implicate Haspel herself. “Haspel and [FBI Director Christopher] Wray both want Trump to lose, because it’s the only chance they have of keeping their jobs,” one senior intelligence official told The Federalist.

“They’re banking on Biden winning and keeping them where they are.” The Federalist first reported last week that Haspel had emerged as the primary roadblock to declassification of materials showing that the U.S. intelligence community knew prior to the 2016 election that the allegations that Trump colluded with Russia were themselves the products of Russian disinformation. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe released a declassified summary last week that disclosed that Russian intelligence officials were aware that former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had planned to smear Trump as a treasonous Russian asset to distract from the Clinton’s e-mail scandal. As part of her operation, Clinton hired a foreign agent who was himself working for a sanctioned Russian oligarch to spread unverified smears against Trump.


One of the key sources of collusion allegations peddled by that foreign agent via the now-infamous Steele dossier was suspected by FBI authorities of being a Russian spy.“It’s far more important for Haspel to block any embarrassment of herself or her agency than to have full transparency and accountability,” another senior intelligence official told The Federalist. “She’s just hoping she can get past the election so the documents will never come out.” “This is not a source protection issue, it’s an embarrassment issue,” the intelligence official added. Officials also accused Haspel of repeatedly lying to the White House about the status of documents that are in the pipeline for declassification and release. These officials said that Haspel has consistently provided baseless excuses for her failure to produce certain documents, falsely claiming that she can’t physically locate documents, or that her agency doesn’t technically own them and therefore cannot release them.

Read more …

New: refusing to testify by video because of coronavirus.

Carter Page Wants McCabe Subpoenaed To Testify Before Senate (JTN)

Former Trump 2016 campaign adviser Carter Page says former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe should be subpoenaed to testify Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, after backing out over coronavirus concerns. “Hopefully a subpoena is issued today,” Page told “Just the News AM” host Carrie Sheffield. “It’s now Monday morning, and I hope that is resolved so that he can show up and be held to account and answer for these terrible problems that were created.” McCabe was set to testify before the committee on the FBI’s now-discredited Trump-Russia probe.


However, the committee postponed the hearing over McCabe’s coronavirus concerns, after two GOP members, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), tested positive for the virus in recent days. McCabe’s attorney said the alternative, to testify remotely via video camera, would be too complex and contentious. “I think it’s another example of the complete double standards,” said Page. “So many Trump supporters including myself, were dragged in front of not only the U.S. Senate, which is what’s in question here, but the House.” Page, on whom the FBI illegally eavesdropped, also expressed frustration about being a target in special counsel Robert Mueller’s years-long collusion probe.

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“Ruth Bader Ginsburg believed it was wrong to demand assurances on how justices will vote. In her confirmation hearing in 1993, she refused to give the answer that Blumenthal, Gillibrand, Sanders, Clinton, and others now demand from her potential successor.”

Ginsburg’s Nightmare: The Democratic Plan To Destroy The Supreme Court (Turley)

[..] the call for a litmus test for Supreme Court nominees and the packing of the Supreme Court with up to six new members to secure a majority. Both ideas were expressly denounced by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Indeed, to achieve these objectives, the Democratic members will have to tear down the very rule established by Ginsburg in her confirmation hearing. The refusal of Vice President Joe Biden to answer repeated questions about his position on the packing of the Supreme Court is deeply troubling. This is a proposal raised not by the Republicans but his own running mate Kamala Harris and leading Democrats. It would destroy the Supreme Court and voters should know if Biden would consider such an irresponsible act, particularly when he previously denounced it.

The refusal to stand against the proposal is a fundamental failure of leadership. Rather than confront the most extreme elements of his party, Biden has chosen to remain silent on a major issue in this election. Frankly, that is not the Biden that many of us knew from his time in the Senate. He should take a stand against this pernicious idea and defend the institution, as he did in 2019 [..] Subtlety has been a stranger to our politics. This is the age of rage, and there is little room for nuance. That is evident in the intense debate over the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Democrats have dispensed with any pretense in their calls to block her and pack the bench with more justices. What they want is a Supreme Court with litmus test confirmations where Senate votes are conditioned on pledges.


Several Democrats have said they will ask Barrett about her view of any challenge to Roe versus Wade, and cases like the pending challenge to the Affordable Care Act. Indeed, she faced such demands from Richard Blumenthal and others for her confirmation as a federal appellate judge, and several Democrats voted against her since she did not promise to uphold Roe. In their campaigns last year, Kirsten Gillibrand and Bernie Sanders pledged to nominate only those who would uphold Roe. [..] Ruth Bader Ginsburg believed it was wrong to demand assurances on how justices will vote. In her confirmation hearing in 1993, she refused to give the answer that Blumenthal, Gillibrand, Sanders, Clinton, and others now demand from her potential successor. In calling to protect the legacy of Ginsburg, these politicians have to first tear down the Ginsburg rule.

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“..a keening wail of lamentation rings out across the land at Mr. Trump’s possible, dastardly recovery. How dare he! — to paraphrase Saint Greta Thunberg.”

Out of the Woods? (Jim Kunstler)

CNN had a whack attack. Brian Stelter was beside himself, hinting that sinister forces had punked the network, and all the other righteous Resistance cadres, and that Mr. Trump could be endangering every federal employee down to the enlisted men posted overseas by venturing from his sickroom. The New York Times went farther afield (of course), declaring that “the murky and shifting narrative of his illness was rewritten again with grim new details.” Nicely put by an outfit that has come to specialize in shifting narratives! And indeed, the new Resistance narrative demands to know just exactly when did the president start to feel ill? Did he, perhaps on-purpose, haul his ailing, hulking, scheming Golem ass into the Cleveland debate venue with the hope of infecting his rival, delicate Ol’ White Joe Biden?

Did he recklessly put at risk the White House staff, dignitaries and luminaries coming and going, their family members, associates, underlings, servants, children? Did he threaten the global order, world peace, the fate of humanity? So now, a keening wail of lamentation rings out across the land at Mr. Trump’s possible, dastardly recovery. How dare he! — to paraphrase Saint Greta Thunberg. 209,000 other Americans died, and not him! What vile and unholy devices got him out of a sure death sentence? No doubt Democratic Party astrologasters and consulting augurers will be searching for clues among the orbiting planets and the spilled organs of sacrificed chickens in the days to come. Perhaps Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) can snare a few of the president’s attending physicians into his House Intel Committee and rev up another impeachment for going against doctors’ orders.


Wouldn’t that be a delectable counter to the looming confirmation process for Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement next door in the Senate this month? Over his dead body, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is hinting — a tantalizing prospect, with Covid-19 on the loose. It was Chuck who memorably told Rachel Maddow of MSNBC in 2017 that the Deep State “has six ways from [sic] Sunday at getting back at you.” By my count, they’re well over their allotted six by now. Not only did they all fail, but the seditionists behind them are liable to wind up behind bars before this is all over, perhaps even a few of Senator Schumer’s colleagues.

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Many stories developing. A mess overall. Seemingly impossible to regulate on a federal level.

100,000 Ballot Requests Invalidated In Iowa (IC)

In 2018, Democrats won three of Iowa’s four congressional districts, picked up five seats in the state House, and lost the governor’s race by less than 3 points. The state has only trended more Democratic since, giving the party real hope that its six electoral votes could wind up in the camp of Joe Biden and that its Senate seat, now held by Republican Joni Ernst, could flip to Democrat Theresa Greenfield. It may all hinge, however, on an absentee ballot snafu affecting tens of thousands of voters that the party is scrambling to rectify. In July, the top elections officials in Linn and Johnson counties went ahead and began mailing out absentee-ballot request forms with some voter information already filled in, like names and dates of birth.

Crucially, voters need to know their voter ID number. Most don’t, and Linn County Auditor Joel Miller had the state’s vendor fill it in for them. Republicans protested, and courts sided with the GOP, saying that Miller’s decision to proceed with the mailing violated a “clear directive” from Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate. More than 100,000 absentee ballot requests have already been invalidated in several Iowa counties. In late August, judges ordered two Iowa counties to invalidate at least 64,000 ballot requests, siding with a challenge brought by President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign and the GOP, which have been filing similar lawsuits nationwide.


About 50,000 voters in Linn County and at least 14,000 in Woodbury will be informed that their absentee-ballot requests won’t count and that anyone who still wants to vote by mail in November will have to send in a new form in order to receive their ballot. In a separate case in Johnson County, home to the University of Iowa, more than 92,000 ballot request forms were voided.

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The ultimate growth industry.

Debt Collectors Have Made a Fortune This Year. They’re Coming for More (PP)

Earlier this year, the pandemic swept across the country, killing 100,000 Americans by the spring, shuttering businesses and schools, and forcing people into their homes. It was a great time to be a debt collector. In August, Encore Capital, the largest debt buyer in the country, announced that it had doubled its previous record for earnings in a quarter. It primarily had the CARES Act to thank: The bill delivered hundreds of billions of dollars worth of stimulus checks and bulked-up unemployment benefits to Americans, while easing pressures on them by halting foreclosures, evictions and student loan payments. There was no ban on collections of old credit card bills, Encore’s specialty.

At the same time, the pandemic compelled households to cut spending. Finding themselves with enough money to settle old debts, people responded to collectors’ calls and letters. Debt-buying executives couldn’t help marveling at their good fortune. All this created “a perfect storm from a cash perspective,” the CEO of Portfolio Recovery Associates, Encore’s main competitor, told Wall Street analysts. After its record second quarter, analysts expect Encore to blow past $200 million in profit this year and reward stockholders with 40% earnings growth compared with last year. Portfolio Recovery is set for similar growth. The share prices of both have soared off their early April lows.


[..] In recent months, the only real bad news for debt buyers was that local courts across the country temporarily shut down. Debt collection lawsuits provide a key source of revenue for the companies, a way to extract payment from consumers, typically low-income, who don’t offer it up. But now even that hiccup is over. After a bit of a lull in the spring, Encore and other debt buyers are back at it, filing suits by the thousands every week, according to ProPublica’s analysis of state court filings. In August alone, Encore filed about 1,000 suits in Indiana and over 2,000 suits in the metro Atlanta area. Other debt buyers jumped back in as well. In Chicago, Portfolio Recovery filed over 3,000 suits in July, while LVNV, a major debt buyer privately owned by Sherman Financial Group, filed over 2,700 suits in Maryland in August.

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Might as well leave right now.

Facebook Refuses To Appoint Turkey Representative, Faces Penalties (Ahval)

Social media giant Facebook has decided against appointing a Turkey representative, defying a requirement placed on certain social media platforms by the Turkish government, cyber rights expert Yaman Akdeniz said on Monday. “Facebook has decided not to appoint a Turkey representative in line with (Turkey’s) newly-passed Social Media Law,’’ Akdeniz said on Twitter. In July, Turkish parliament ratified a bill introducing new powers to control social media. The bill was passed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), stipulates that social media companies with more than one million users must appoint a legal representative in Turkey to address the authorities’ concerns over content and includes deadlines for its removal.


Akdeniz said it remains to be seen what the government’s reaction would be, but underlined that the bill was passed by parliament in a period of 10 days without consultation and posed serious problems regarding basic rights and freedoms. Facebook’s refusal to comply with the law would mean they will be faced with “a tiered penalty system,’’ Akdeniz said. “They will be slapped with a penalty of 10 million lira ($1.28 million) in November, followed by 30 million lira in December,’’ he said. “There is a six-month period ahead that leads all the way to the reduction of Internet bandwidth.’’ According to the law, companies could face fines, blocked advertisements or have their bandwidth slashed by up to 90 percent.

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Did that coup fail or what?

UK Court Decision on Venezuela Gold Deals Blow to Regime Change Efforts (MPN)

United Kingdom court has handed the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro a major win today, overturning a previous ruling from a lower court that legitimized the British government’s decision to freeze Venezuelan government gold reserves held in the Bank of England. The English Court of Appeal ruled that the Conservative administration of Boris Johnson’s position that Juan Guaidó is the country’s legitimate ruler was far from equivocal, potentially paving the way for some $1.95 billion of the Central Bank of Venezuela’s gold to be accessed.

Following President Trump’s lead, in July, the U.K. government took the extraordinary step of derecognizing President Maduro in favor of the self-declared Guaidó, despite the fact that for nearly six months, he had not even been a member of his Popular Will party, let alone its leader. The move was labeled “highway robbery” by supporters of the Venezuelan government. A nearly unheard of politician before his ascension to the role of head of the Venezuelan National Assembly (a post given out on a yearly rotational basis among all parties in the institution) in January 2019, Guaidó shocked the country by using his appointment to unilaterally declare himself president of the country. He then led a series of coup attempts throughout 2019 and 2020, the last of which involved paying Trump-linked American mercenaries to shoot their way into the presidential palace.


However, the plan ended in complete disaster, with the Americans subsequently sentenced to 20 years of prison time. Guaidó based his claim to power on Article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution, which allows a president to be removed if he “abandons his position” or becomes “permanently unavailable to serve” for whatever reason. Maduro, however, had clearly not left his post. Regardless, if he had, Article 233 states that the vice-president would take charge until a new election by universal suffrage was held. Guaidó’s party was not even registered to stand in elections, having boycotted them the year previously under U.S. orders.

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They’ve done a lot of harm though.

“Once the majority do it, you really have no choice,” Mr Macfarlane said..”

Former Reserve Bank Of Australia Boss: Low Rates Haven’t Done Any Good (AFR)

Former Reserve Bank of Australia governor Ian Macfarlane says cutting interest rates to near zero has not done “any good” and warned ultra-loose monetary policy will have long-term costs for pensioners and insurance companies. In a very rare public critique of the RBA by a former governor, Mr Macfarlane said technology and globalisation were now more powerful forces than interest rates in affecting inflation, but central bankers were reluctant to admit their limitations. “I’ve been disappointed with the recent cuts in interest rates, all of them since about 2015,” Mr Macfarlane said. “The latest round of cutting interest rates and quantitative easing, I myself don’t think they’ve done any good.

“I thought, ‘wow, you didn’t need to do that’ but I don’t think there’s any way my successors could have stood there and said to the world ‘we’re not going to do that, we’re going to do it our way’.” The Australian dollar would have jumped “through the roof” if the RBA refused to follow other central banks cutting interest rates to near-zero, to buy government bonds and deploy other extraordinary monetary stimulus, he said. “Once the majority do it, you really have no choice,” Mr Macfarlane said in long interview on The Jolly Swagman podcast. Mr Macfarlane, RBA governor from 1996 to 2006, said there would be long-term economic costs of prolonged ultra-low interest rates.


“I think the jury is out on monetary policy for another decade or more because there are very big costs to having almost zero interest rates,” he said. “The whole retirement income industry – the pension funds, the superannuation funds, including insurance companies and businesses like that – don’t quite know how to operate with interest rates that are negligible because they’ve never had to do it before.” [..] “Monetary policy hasn’t lost its power, it’s used up all its power and there isn’t any more room.”

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Perhaps John should have seen a shrink.

John McAfee Arrested In Spain On Tax Evasion & Crypto Fraud (RT)

Former software guru and one-time presidential candidate John McAfee has been nabbed in Spain on tax evasion and cryptocurrency fraud, ending his year long stint as a globetrotting fugitive. He now faces extradition to the US. The US Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission both announced charges for McAfee on Monday, hitting the security software founder with 10 counts linked to dodging the IRS and another series of charges for promoting investments in cryptocurrencies without disclosing that he was paid some $23 million to do so. “John McAfee earned millions in income from promoting cryptocurrencies, consulting work, speaking engagements, and selling the rights to his life story for a documentary,” the DOJ said in a statement. “From 2014 to 2018, McAfee allegedly failed to file tax returns, despite receiving considerable income from these sources.”


McAfee was charged on five counts for willful failure to file a tax return, each of which carries a sentence of up to one year in prison, while the other five charges are linked to tax evasion itself, which could each result in up to five years behind bars. Originally filed in June, the newly unsealed indictment does not implicate McAfee’s former software company, which bears his name. The SEC also accused McAfee of promoting “multiple [initial coin offerings] on Twitter” while “pretending to be impartial and independent even though he was paid more than $23 million in digital assets for the promotions.” The complaint also alleges that McAfee and his bodyguard, Jimmy Watson Jr., engaged in a separate scheme to promote cryptocurrencies on Twitter and then sell them off as their price rose. The government did not name the particular currencies in its complaint.

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What could have been.

Trump Briefly Leaves Hospital To Wave To Supporters From F-22 Raptor (BBee)

A nurse working at Walter Reed Medical Center checked in on Trump but was shocked to discover his room was empty. She looked out the window, and sure enough, he had tied bedsheets together and escaped. Just then, the nurse noticed a cup of Diet Coke left by the bedside began to ripple and shake. “Oh, no,” she murmured. “Not again!” Looking out the window, she saw a speck on the horizon. A rapidly growing speck. It was Trump, gloriously flying by in an F-22 fighter jet. “Sorry, Pence — but it’s time to buzz the tower!” Trump radioed to his wingman, who flashed him a smile and a thumbs-up. He flew by the hospital and waved to his cheering supporters.


“America!” the president cried as he flew by the ecstatic crowd, though they couldn’t hear him over the roar of the fighter jet’s engines. “I feel the need — the need for speed!” Media condemned the move, saying Trump could very well have spread COVID to every person on the planet with his little stunt, though he was all alone in a tiny cockpit far above the ground.

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Sep 252020
 


Louis Anquetin Avenue de Clichy 1887

 

Durham, Barr, Jensen and DOJ Production to Sidney Powell (CT)
FBI Analysts Bought Insurance Fearing They’d Be Sued For Flynn Case (JTN)
Brennan Overruled Dissenting Analysts Who Said Russia Favored Hillary (RCI)
FBI Investigated Steele Dossier Source As A Possible Russian Spy In 2010 (DC)
McCabe At Center Of Durham’s Probe, Source A Suspected Russian Agent (SAC)
House Dems Prep Bill To Limit Supreme Court Justice Terms To 18 Years (F.)
Hunger In America, Especially For Children, Has “Skyrocketed” (Int.)
UK, France Break Daily COVID Case Record As Europe Braces For 2nd Wave (F.)
Territorial Reach—The 1961 Amendment That Imperils Assange (Lauria)
Assange a ‘Resilient Man’ Not at Risk of Suicide If Extradited – “Expert” (Sp.)
Assange Hearing Day 17 (Craig Murray)
This Is Lake Trump And It Is In Kosovo (GE)

 

 

40 days before the election, US Attorney Jeff Jensen handed over a pile of documents to Michael Flynn attorney Sidney Powell yesterday. They are damning for a lot of people at the FBI, CIA and Obama White House. And this can no longer be labeled a politcal move. Powell published the documents right away, something Jensen and Bill Barr couldn’t have done at this point in time. The docs also show that FBI agents even took out insurance in case they would be sued. It may come in handy. Powell will no longer settle for a full exoneration of Flynn, she will go after the people who set him up, and that includes Obama.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joe Rogan interviews Edward Snowden. Long but recommended.

 

 

Taibbi Putin

 

 

An option I wrote down months ago, but I don’t think I ever finished my piece on Sidney Powell: that Bill Barr knew any of his moves would be labeled “(party) political”, but if he handed over files to Sidney Powell, that would not be possible. Or, rather, he even had Jeff Jensen hand them over.

Durham, Barr, Jensen and DOJ Production to Sidney Powell (CT)

The document production by USAO Jeff Jensen to Michael Flynn attorney, Sidney Powell, provides an opportunity for me to share a detached research opinion from my ongoing time outside the wire in the center of the swamp. No matter what open source information is collected; and no matter what evidence congress can assemble; the toxic political environment in DC is the primary driver of DOJ investigative events. It shouldn’t be, but the reality of action reflects an uncomfortable truth. Here’s my opinion on what is happening.

Attorney General Bill Barr is trying to split the baby against two competing narratives. On one hand there is enough evidence to indict former officials for gross abuses of power, falsifying information to a FISA court (violating fourth amendment protections); manipulating investigative effort for political purposes; weaponizing the intelligence apparatus of the U.S. to target political opposition, and then using their positions to cover-up their corrupt and unlawful conduct. On the other hand there is a current highly toxic political environment; consisting of elected politicians and a fully vested branch of government; attempting to cloud the reality that corrupt former government officials worked hand-in-glove with deceitful media, which includes agents of Lawfare, who collaborated in the effort.

This leads to current DC officials and people within those remaining institutions saying: there are delicate balances. In my opinion, in an effort to thread this needle -and considering the timing of the 2020 election- Bill Barr is using the document production from Missouri USAO Jeff Jensen as a backdoor method to provide the information he will not/cannot put forth in a press conference, report or series of indictments. This is why Jensen is providing new information to Michael Flynn s defense attorney Sidney Powell. The U.S. Attorney General knows Powell will make this information public; therefore Powell becomes a conduit to receive significant amounts of evidence previously hidden by the Special Counsel (Weissmann/Mueller) cover-up operation; the “insurance policy” of sorts.


Barr is essentially funneling information through Powell in lieu of a report which would include much of the same evidence. This is just how all indications align. Occam’s razor. Much of the released information has no direct bearing on Flynn *IF* there was going to be an alternate use of the evidence. Bill Barr is splitting the baby.

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“The new AG might have some questions….then yada yada yada…we all get screwed..”

FBI Analysts Bought Insurance Fearing They’d Be Sued For Misconduct in Flynn Case

FBI analysts working on the Michael Flynn Russia investigation originally planned to end the inquiry in fall 2016 and eventually bought liability insurance fearing they could be sued after their bosses continued to keep the investigation open based on “conspiracy theories,” explosive new text messages showed Thursday. “We all went and purchased professional liability insurance,” one analyst texted on Jan. 10, 2017, just 10 days before Trump took office. “Holy crap,” a colleague responded. “All the analysts too?” “Yep,” the first analyst said. “All the folks at the Agency as well.” “Can I ask who are the most likely litigators?” a colleague responded. “As far as potentially suing y’all.”

“Haha, who knows….I think the concern when we got it was that there was a big leak at DOJ and the NYT among others was going to do a piece,” the original analyst texted back. The explosive messages were attached to a new filing by Flynn’s attorney Sidney Powell, who argued to the court that is considering dismissing her client’s guilty plea that the emails show “stunning government misconduct” and “wrongful prosecution.” A hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday. “There was no case against General Flynn,” Powell wrote in the new motion. “There was no crime. The FBI and the prosecutors knew that. This American hero and his entire family have suffered for four years from public abuse, slander, libel, and all means of defamation at the hands of the very government he pledged his life to defend.”


The new FBI evidence was turned over late Wednesday and included a stunning revelation that FBI agents originally planned to close Flynn’s probe, known as Crossfire Razor, on Nov. 8, 2016, nearly a year before he was charged with lying to the FBI. “He said shut down Razor” and “so glad they’re closing Razor,” an FBI official texted that day. “However [redacted] was silent though, so who knows what he will want.” By January, the FBI analysts were alarmed that their agency was engaged in misconduct that could be discovered by President Trump’s new attorney general. “The new AG might have some questions….then yada yada yada…we all get screwed,” one official wrote.

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But how do you prosecute him? Also a job for Sidney Powell?

Brennan Overruled Dissenting Analysts Who Said Russia Favored Hillary (RCI)

Former CIA Director John Brennan personally edited a crucial section of the intelligence report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and assigned a political ally to take a lead role in writing it after career analysts disputed Brennan’s take that Russian leader Vladimir Putin intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump clinch the White House, according to two senior U.S. intelligence officials who have seen classified materials detailing Brennan’s role in drafting the document. The explosive conclusion Brennan inserted into the report was used to help justify continuing the Trump-Russia “collusion” investigation, which had been launched by the FBI in 2016. It was picked up after the election by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who in the end found no proof that Trump or his campaign conspired with Moscow.

The Obama administration publicly released a declassified version of the report — known as the “Intelligence Community Assessment on Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent Elections (ICA)” — just two weeks before Trump took office, casting a cloud of suspicion over his presidency. Democrats and national media have cited the report to suggest Russia influenced the 2016 outcome and warn that Putin is likely meddling again to reelect Trump. The ICA is a key focus of U.S. Attorney John Durham’s ongoing investigation into the origins of the “collusion” probe. He wants to know if the intelligence findings were juiced for political purposes.


[..] The two officials said Brennan, who openly supported Clinton during the campaign, excluded conflicting evidence about Putin’s motives from the report, despite objections from some intelligence analysts who argued Putin counted on Clinton winning the election and viewed Trump as a “wild card.” The dissenting analysts found that Moscow preferred Clinton because it judged she would work with its leaders, whereas it worried Trump would be too unpredictable. As secretary of state, Clinton tried to “reset” relations with Moscow to move them to a more positive and cooperative stage, while Trump campaigned on expanding the U.S. military, which Moscow perceived as a threat.

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So you have the CIA involved -Brennan- and cooperating with the FBI. They had Danchenko in their sights as early as 2005. Did they introduce him to Steele?

FBI Investigated Steele Dossier Source As A Possible Russian Spy In 2010 (DC)

The FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation on the primary source for dossier author Christopher Steele, and considered obtaining a warrant to wiretap him in 2010, according to a document released Thursday. The FBI was also aware of the information about the source, identified elsewhere as Igor Danchenko, by December 2016, according to the document. “This is the most stunning and damning revelation the committee has uncovered,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said in a statement after releasing an FBI memo about the dossier source. The document shows that the FBI considered a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant of Danchenko years before the bureau relied heavily on information that he had provided Steele, a former British spy, to obtain FISAs against Carter Page.

Danchenko is not named in the memo, though is attorney has confirmed to reporters that the Russian national was Steele’s source. The information also could increase concerns that Russian disinformation was fed to Steele, a former MI6 officer who investigated the Trump campaign on behalf of the Clinton campaign and DNC. A Justice Department inspector general’s report released Dec. 9 said that the FBI received evidence in January and February 2017 that Russian intelligence officers may have fed false information into Steele’s network of sources. Footnotes from the IG report say that two Russian intelligence officers knew in July 2016 that Steele was investigating the Trump campaign.


According to the FBI document, Danchenko had contact with suspected Russian intelligence officers in Washington, D.C. in 2005 and 2006. The document says that the FBI had an investigation into Danchenko open from May 2009 to March 2011, based on an interaction he allegedly had with three employees of an American think tank. Danchenko worked at the time as a Russia analyst for the Brookings Institution, a prominent liberal foreign policy think tank. An employee of the think tank said that another employee, seemingly Danchenko, told others that if they got jobs in the government and obtained classified security clearances, they might be put them in touch with people so they could “make a little extra money.” “The coworker did express suspicion of the employee and had questioned the possibility that the employee might actually be a Russian spy,” the FBI memo says.

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“…were contacted last week by the DOJ and were warned that a “shit storm was heading their way.”..”

McCabe At Center Of Durham’s Probe, Source A Suspected Russian Agent (SAC)

Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Lindsey Graham hinted more than a week ago that more bombshell information regarding the FBI’s handling of its probe into President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia was about to be public. He was right because it was Graham’s committee that discovered the information. A letter released Thursday night by Graham’s committee from Justice Department Attorney General William Barr revealed a declassified summary from the bureau indicating that former British spy Christopher Steele’s primary sub-source in his debunked dossier was believed to be a Russian spy. Not only was the sub source believed to be a spy but the FBI knew about it and had conducted a counterintelligence investigation on the individual.

“In light of this newly declassified information, I will be sending the FISA Court the information provided to inform them how wide and deep the effort to conceal exculpatory information regarding the Carter Page warrant application was in 2016 and 2017,” said Graham. “A small group of individuals in the Department of Justice and FBI should be held accountable for this fraud against the court. I do not believe they represent the overwhelming majority of patriotic men and women who work at the Department of Justice and FBI.” One of those individuals being investigated by Connecticut Prosecutor John Durham is former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was fired from the FBI by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions for lying to the Inspector General on multiple occasions.

He is now in Durham’s crosshairs, along with multiple other former senior FBI officials that were involved in the investigation, according to a source with direct knowledge. McCabe, along with other FBI officials, withheld that information from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, as well as some of the FBI special agents investigating Trump’s campaign and its alleged ties to Russia, according to the source. “McCabe and others were suppressing information, misrepresenting it or lying about the information that they had in order to purposefully undermine the Trump candidacy and that turned into the predication for undermining the Trump presidency,” said a source with direct knowledge of the situation.


The source, who is familiar with the ongoings of the senior brass at the FBI, told this reporter the FBI Director Christopher Wray, along with Deputy Director David Bowdich, were contacted last week by the DOJ and were warned that a “shit storm was heading their way.” The source alleged that McCabe is now a central figure in Durham’s investigation, along with several other senior FBI officials who were aware of the information but failed to disclose it.

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Everyone’s first reaction: They should limit their own terms.

House Dems Prep Bill To Limit Supreme Court Justice Terms To 18 Years (F.)

Democrats in the House of Representatives will reportedly introduce a bill next week to limit the tenure of U.S. Supreme Court justices to 18 years as Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death puts a spotlight on the partisan fight over vacancies. Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Ca.), Joe Kennedy III (D-Ma.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.) said they plan to introduce the Supreme Court Term Limits and Regular Appointments Act on Tuesday, Khanna told Reuters. “It would save the country a lot of agony and help lower the temperature over fights for the court that go to the fault lines of cultural issues and is one of the primary things tearing at our social fabric,” said Khanna. The bill would limit each president to nominating two justices per four-year term, per Reuters which said it obtained a copy.

It would be the first legislation to set Supreme Court term limits by statute, according to Gabe Roth, the executive director of the judicial advocacy group Fix the Court, who notes Ginsburg’s death has brought more attention to the idea of term limits for the justices, who currently have lifetime appointments, with legal scholars and politicians from both sides of the aisle weighing in with potential proposals. [..] A 77% majority of Americans favor restrictions on the tenure of Supreme Court justices while 23% are against it, according to a recent PBS survey commissioned by Fix the Court.


The survey found that 70% of Republicans, 72% of Democrats and 68% of Independents found the statement, “No one with a position as powerful as Supreme Court justice should serve for life,” either “somewhat” or “very” persuasive. It also found that 70% of Republicans, 73% of Democrats and 68% of Independents were somewhat or very persuaded by the argument that, “Vacancies on the Supreme Court often occur unexpectedly and sporadically; term limits will make it so that vacancies are routine, which will reduce the political gamesmanship around them.”

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But bankers and “investors” are fine.

Hunger In America, Especially For Children, Has “Skyrocketed” (Int.)

The level of hunger in U.S. households almost tripled between 2019 and August of this year, according to an analysis of new data from the Census Bureau and the Department of Agriculture. Even more alarming, the proportion of American children who sometimes do not have enough to eat is now as much as 14 times higher than it was last year. The Agriculture Department conducts yearly studies on food insecurity in the U.S., with its report on 2019 released this month. The Census Bureau began frequent household surveys in April in response to Covid-19 that include questions about hunger.

The analysis, by the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, found that 3.7 percent of U.S. households reported they sometimes or often had “not enough to eat” during 2019. Meanwhile, the most recent Census data from the end of August of this year showed that 10 percent of households said they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat within the past seven days. Levels of food insecurity in Black and Latino households are significantly higher, at 19 percent and 17 percent, respectively, compared to 7 percent in white households. Even worse, while about 1 percent of adults with children said their children sometimes or often went hungry in 2019, between 9 and 14 percent of such adults said the same about their kids in August 2020.


CBPP estimates that this adds up to about 5 million school-aged children in such households. “What I see every day from the pandemic is amazingly-increased numbers of severely underweight children coming to our clinic, and parents really panicked about how they’re going to find enough food,” says Dr. Megan Sandel, an associate professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine. [..] The increase in hunger among children is particularly disturbing, for several reasons. Generally, explains Dottie Rosenbaum, another CBPP expert, “parents shield their children.” Sandel says that “parents are reporting to me sometimes at mealtime going back into the kitchen so the kids don’t notice that they are not eating themselves.” So when children are going hungry, there is little food for anyone.

Read more …

Greece is preparing military and private hospitals for a patient influx. But tourists from countries like France and Holland, which have huge increases in cases, are still welcome.

UK, France Break Daily COVID Case Record As Europe Braces For 2nd Wave (F.)

Both the United Kingdom and France counted record-breaking new daily coronavirus infections Thursday, and while officials partly credit an increased testing capacity, the numbers point toward a possible second coronavirus wave sweeping across Europe. The U.K. reported a record of 6,634 new coronavirus cases Thursday, the highest number recorded by the country, even before its nationwide lockdown. However, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News the situation is not as dire as during the peak of the pandemic, when the government estimates that as many as 100,000 people were being infected with the virus per day, though lower testing rates at the time mean the daily infection figures from that period don’t reflect the virus’ true spread.

“Now we estimate that it’s under 10,000 people a day getting the disease,” Hancock said. “That’s too high, but it’s still much lower than in the peak.” Just across the English Channel, France also counted a record-breaking 16,096 new daily cases Thursday, the fourth time the record has been broken in just the past week or so. The news comes just after new coronavirus crackdowns were placed on cities like Paris, Marseilles, Bordeaux and Lyon to help damper a resurgence of new cases after the nationwide lockdown was scaled back. Like in the U.K., French officials say improved testing has meant more infections are being detected and recorded, though the country has seen a worrying trend of increased hospitalizations—the number of coronavirus patients in Paris’ hospitals has doubled over the past few weeks and will likely increase nearly twofold again before October, a Parisian hospital system official told Agence France-Presse.

“Although these numbers reflect more comprehensive testing, it also shows alarming rates of transmission across the region,“ the European director of the World Health Organization Hans Kluge said last week according to the BBC, when daily new cases began to rival the pandemic’s peak in spring. Kluge added that those numbers “should serve as a wake-up call for all of us.” European countries, some of the hardest hit early on in the coronavirus pandemic, were hailed as a model for the rest of the world after their governments enacted strict, nationwide lockdowns that drastically decreased the number of new coronavirus cases. However, many of those successful countries have reported a resurgence of cases in recent months after emerging from lockdown and gradually returning to a more normal life.


Countries like Spain, France, the U.K., The Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, France and the Netherlands have all counted jumps in cases. The surges of new infections—though not considered as serious as the situation in spring, the peak of the pandemic in Europe—has led to new, often localized crackdowns in a bid to keep new cases at bay. The spikes across the continent have been blamed on young people shunning social distancing guidelines and attending parties after long months of isolation and people going on holiday despite travel warnings. While the European resurgence of the virus is concerning, it is still nowhere near the devastation seen in countries like the United States, which counted its 200,000th coronavirus death this week.

Read more …

Should have been banned right there and then.

Territorial Reach—The 1961 Amendment That Imperils Assange (Lauria)

If the original 1917 Espionage Act were still in force, the U.S. government could not have charged WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange under it. The 1917 language of the Act restricted the territory where it could be applied to the United States, its possessions and international waters: “The provisions of this title shall extend to all Territories, possessions, and places subject to the jurisdiction of the United States whether or not continguous thereto, and offenses under this title when committed upon the high seas or elsewhere within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the United States …” WikiLeaks publishing operations have never occurred in any of these places. But in 1961 Congressman Richard Poff, after several tries, was able to get the Senate t0 repeal Section 791 that restricted the Act to “within the jurisdiction of the United States, on the high seas, and within the United States.”

Poff was motivated by the case of Irvin Chambers Scarbeck, a State Department official who was convicted under a different statute, the controversial 1950 Subversive Activities Control Act, or McCarran Act, of passing classified information to the Polish government during the Cold War. (Congress overrode a veto by President Harry Truman of the McCarran Act. He called the Act “the greatest danger to freedom of speech, press, and assembly since the Alien and Sedition Laws of 1798,” a “mockery of the Bill of Rights” and a “long step toward totalitarianism.” Most of its provisions have been repealed.) Polish security agents had burst into a bedroom in 1959 to photograph Scarbeck in bed with a woman who was not his wife. Showing him the photos, the Polish agents blackmailed Scarbeck: turn over classified documents from the U.S. embassy or the photos would be published and his life ruined. Adultery was seen differently in that era.


Scarbeck then removed the documents from the embassy, which is U.S. territory covered by Espionage Act, and turned them over to the agents on Polish territory, which at the time was not. Scarbeck was found out, fired, and convicted, but he could not be prosecuted under the Espionage Act because of its then territorial limitations. That set Congressman Poff off on a one-man campaign to extend the reach of the Espionage Act to the entire globe. After three votes the amendment was passed. The Espionage Act thus became global, ensnaring anyone anywhere in the world into the web of U.S. jurisdiction. After the precedent being set by the Assange prosecution, it means that any journalist, anywhere in the world, who publishes national defense information is not safe from an Espionage Act prosecution.

Read more …

He had not even evaluated Julian.

Assange a ‘Resilient Man’ Not at Risk of Suicide If Extradited – “Expert” (Sp.)

A psychiatrist testifying for the government says that whilst the WikiLeaks publisher is suffering from mild clinical depression he does not think he is a suicide risk if he is extradited to the United States to face espionage charges. A psychiatrist testifying for the US government in the extradition case of Julian Assange told the Old Bailey on 24 September 2020 that in his assessment the WikiLeaks publisher “would be able to resist any suicidal impulse” were he to be sent to the United States. During the examination-in-chief conducted by James Lewis QC, for the prosecution, Dr Nigel Blackwood, Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist with the NHS, explained that he saw Mr Assange in April 2020, in Belmarsh maximum-security prison. The doctor thought Mr Assange was “moderately depressed”, in the clinical sense, though a review of his most recent medical records from Belmarsh leads him to believe that there is some improvement of his state of mind.

Dr Blackwood did not think Mr Assange suffered from a “severe depressive disorder with psychotic symptoms” in November 2019, though he had not himself evaluated Mr Assange at that time and relied in his assessment on other observations made by the prison staff. The doctor, who consults with inmates at Wandsworth prison, notes some risk of suicide but that risk has been very carefully managed in Belmarsh, and the publisher engages closely with treatments to manage that risk. He believes Mr Assange retains the capacity to resist suicide, the court heard. Dr Blackwood says that he disputes that Mr Assange “was at the very severest end of the spectrum” and complains that Professor Michael Kopelman, a defence expert, “did not recognise” that if the treating physician at Belmarsh would have been bound to refer Mr Assange to a secure unit and that that did not occur.


Defence experts told the court earlier in the week that that they believed the risk that Mr Assange may commit suicide if extradited is “high” or even “very high”. Dr Blackwood explained that a person’s description of their own mood and mental state “will definitely be coloured” by their personality and own perspective. He thinks Mr Assange may have had a self-dramatising or hyperbolic approach to describing the symptoms and insisted that one must look very clearly at the psychological records Dr Blackwood also told the court that he has “anxieties” about making an autism diagnosis in a 49-year-old man where there has been no such diagnosis historically, despite Mr Assange’s contact with the medical community earlier in his life.

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“..three psychiatrists and a physician with extensive experience of treating trauma have all testified in court that Assange’s mental and physical condition deteriorated while he was in “healthcare” for several months. ..”

Assange Hearing Day 17 (Craig Murray)

During the hearing of medical evidence the last three days, the British government has been caught twice directly telling important lies about events in Belmarsh prison, each lie proven by documentary evidence. The common factor has been the medical records kept by Dr Daly, head of the jail’s medical services. There has also been, to put it at its very lightest, one apparent misrepresentation by Dr Daly. [..] This is Mr Kemp’s description of the medical wing at Belmarsh: “Security is on another level here with six times more staff per inmate than the rest of the jail.” While in the medical wing or “healthcare”, Julian Assange was in effect in solitary confinement, and three psychiatrists and a physician with extensive experience of treating trauma have all testified in court that Assange’s mental and physical condition deteriorated while he was in “healthcare” for several months.

They also said he improved after he left “healthcare”. That says something profound about the “healthcare” being provided. The same doctors testified that Assange has a poor relationship with Dr Daly and will not confide his symptoms or feelings to her, and this has also been asserted by defence council. That is all essential background to the lies. Now let me come to the lies. Unfortunately to do so I must reveal details of Julian’s medical condition which I had withheld, but I think the situation is so serious I must now do that. I did not report that Professor Michael Kopelman gave evidence that, among other preparations for suicide, Julian Assange had hidden a razor blade in his folded underwear, but this had been discovered in a search of his cell.

As I did report, Kopelman was subjected to an extremely aggressive cross-examination by James Lewis, which in the morning had focused on the notion that Julian Assange’s mental illness was simply malingering, and that Kopelman had failed to detect this. The razor blade was a key factor in Lewis’s browbeating of Kopelman, and he attacked him on it again and again and again. [..] In an attempt to humiliate Kopelman, Lewis said “You say you do not rely on the razor blade for your diagnosis. But you do rely on it. Let us then look at your report. You rely on the razor blade at paragraph 8. You mention it again at paragraph 11a. Then 11c. Then paragraph 14, paragraph 16, 17b, 18a. Then we come to the next section and the razor blade is there at paragraph 27 and 28. Then again in the summary it is at paragraphs 36 and again at paragraph 38. So tell me Professor, how can you say that you do not rely on the razor blade?” [I do not give the actual paragraph numbers; these are illustrative].


Lewis then went on to invite Kopelman to change his diagnosis. He asked him more than once if his diagnosis would be different if there was no razor blade and it were an invention by Assange. Kopelman was plainly unnerved by this attack. He agreed it was “very odd indeed” it was not mentioned in the medical notes if it were true. The plain attack that he had naively believed an obvious lie disconcerted Kopelman. Except it was Lewis who was not telling the truth. There really was a concealed razor blade, and what Assange had told Kopelman, and what Kopelman had believed, was true in every single detail. In a scene straight out of a TV legal drama, during Kopelman’s testimony, the defence had managed to obtain the charge sheet from Belmarsh Prison – Assange had been charged with the offence of the razor blade. The charge sheet is dated 09.00 on 7 May 2019

Read more …

Ha ha! In gold letters please!

This Is Lake Trump And It Is In Kosovo (GE)

It all started as an idea to relax negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia delegations, but the idea to name the Gazivoda/Ujman Lake “Lake Trump” as seen in the photo seems more serious than initially thought. An idea that started as a joke for the Ujman Lake, which Serbs refer to as Gazivoda, to find a compromise name seems to be taking shape. During the negotiations at the White House, the US Presidential envoy for the dialogue, Richard Grenell, gave the idea to name the lake after Trump. Initially everybody laughed with the idea. But not today. Gazeta Express has learned that Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti expressed his readiness to support Grenell’s idea at a meeting with him.


The same idea was endorsed also by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic at another meeting. The debate, and later the Agreement, about Ujman Lake have triggered a wave of reactions in Kosovo. Kosovo has reached an agreement with the US for the State Department to carry out a feasibility study on how to share the lake’s resources. The Ujman/Gazivoda Lake is mostly located in Kosovo’s territory but almost 20 percent of it is part of Serbia’s territory. This artificial lake was accumulated decades ago by the “Iber Lepenci” company, back when Kosovo was part of Yugoslavia. After the end of the war in 1999, there was a lot of tension caused about the lake as Kosovo considers it as its own property, while Serbia claims its ownership since part of it is in Serbia.

Read more …

 

 

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Jun 052020
 


DPC On the beach, Coney Island 1907

 

After Pakistan’s Lockdown Gamble, COVID19 Cases Surge (R.)
Most COVID-19 Cases In BC Have Strains From Europe And Eastern Canada (CBC)
Authors Retract Influential Lancet Article That Found HCQ Risks (R.)
ECB Gives Another Shot Of Stimulus As Economy Reels (R.)
Japan’s Household Spending Falls At Record Pace As Virus Stalls Economy (R.)
China Can’t Take Over US Security Presence in SE Asia: Singapore PM (SCMP)
US Schools Lay Off Hundreds Of Thousands, Setting Up Lasting Harm To Kids (R.)
Medical Martial Law: Liberalism’s Final Capitulation (Pear)
Trump Fires Back At Critics Murkowski, Mattis And Kelly (JTN)
Rosenstein Slams McCabe, Obstruction Theories, 1000 Former Prosecutors (Turley)
The Hunt For The Origins Of The Russia Collusion Narrative (JTN)

 

 

Seen a whole new bunch of utterly sickening videos again. As I said a few days ago, nothing has changed with policing in the US other than that now everyone has a camera.

But i don’t think it’s much use to post all that mindless violence here.

 

 

Worldometer puts global new cases for June 4 at + 129,990. A new record. The increase in cases warrants much more attention than it gets.

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 22,406
• Brazil + 31,890
• Russia + 8,831
• India + 9,908
• Chile + 4,664
• Pakistan + 3,895
• Mexico + 4,442

 

 

New daily highs in Covid-19 cases and deaths for India, Brazil, South Africa, and Mexico.

Another 20,000+ cases and another 1,000+ dead in the United States.

 

 

Worldometer puts global new deaths for June 4 at + 5,499.

 

 

 

 

 

Cases 6,724,096 (+ 127,595 from yesterday’s 6,596,501)

Deaths 393,553 (+ 5,132 from yesterday’s 388,421)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

A curious initiative.

 

 

Taleb principles

 

 

Pakistan may be more inclined towards lifting a lockdown due to its poverty, but the cost will in the end almost certainly be much higher because of it, both in economic terms and in lives.

After Pakistan’s Lockdown Gamble, COVID19 Cases Surge (R.)

Four weeks ago, with its most important festival coming up and millions of people facing starvation as economic activity dwindled, Pakistan lifted a two-month-long coronavirus lockdown. Prime Minister Imran Khan has said despite rising infections and deaths, the country would need to learn to “live with” the virus to avert pushing tens of millions living on daily wages into destitution. Now, a Reuters review of government data shows over 20,000 cases of the virus were identified in the three weeks before the lockdown was lifted, and more than double that figure were identified in the three weeks since. To be sure, testing rates have also increased. But of those tested, the daily average of positive results climbed from on average 11.5% in the three weeks before the lockdown was lifted, to 15.4% on average in the subsequent three weeks.

The ratio is around 23% this week, according to the data. Pakistan has officially identified over 80,000 cases of COVID-19, with 1,770 confirmed deaths. “Those numbers are concerning, since they do suggest there may still be widespread transmission in certain parts of the country,” said Claire Standley, assistant research professor at the Department of International Health at Georgetown University. [..] According to a letter seen by Reuters, a committee of experts backed by the local health department in Pakistan’s most populous province, Punjab, told the provincial government the lockdown needed to continue. The letter said random testing suggested more than 670,000 people in the provincial capital Lahore had likely contracted the virus, many of them asymptomatic.


Pakistan lifted its lockdown on May 9, about two weeks before the Eid al-Fitr festival that marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and is celebrated with family gatherings and feasting. Transport and most businesses have re-opened but cinemas, theatres and schools remain closed. There has been growing debate among experts globally on whether populous developing nations can afford comprehensive social distancing measures to contain the coronavirus while avoiding economic ruin.

Read more …

Very useful research, albeit a bit too localized.

Most COVID-19 Cases In BC Have Strains From Europe And Eastern Canada (CBC)

Strains traced to Europe and Eastern Canada are by far the largest source of COVID-19 infections in B.C., according to new modelling presented by the provincial government Thursday. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry revealed the results of genomic tracing of different strains of the virus, showing that of those samples that have been sequenced, early cases linked to travel from China and Iran appear to have been well contained, leading to relatively few other infections. But beginning in March, with an outbreak that began with the Pacific Dental Conference in Vancouver, infections with strains from Eastern Canada and Europe spiked dramatically.

“One of the people that we knew was positive and had attended that conference had previously been in Germany during his incubation period before he became ill,” Henry said. Strains traced to Washington state have also been linked to a large number of cases, particularly in long-term care homes in the Vancouver Coastal Health region. Henry explained that this kind of tracing is possible because the genome of the virus changes relatively quickly, but not as fast as diseases like influenza. She also announced nine new confirmed cases of the virus on Thursday, for a total of 2,632 to date. No new deaths have been recorded, leaving B.C.’s total at 166.


The new cases announced Thursday include four people who have already recovered, people that Henry described as epidemiologically linked to previous patients who have tested positive. This means these four people were close contacts of known cases and developed symptoms of COVID-19, but may not have had access to testing at the time.

Read more …

As I commented yesterday: when they say they “can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources”, that means they never could, because they never had access to the data or the sources. We know this because it’s not as if either has dramatically changed since publication, or they would have mentioned it.

Authors Retract Influential Lancet Article That Found HCQ Risks (R.)

An influential medical journal article that found hydroxychloroquine increased the risk of death in COVID-19 patients was retracted on Thursday, adding to the controversy around a drug championed by U.S. President Donald Trump. Three of the authors of the article retracted it, citing concerns about the quality and veracity of data in the study. The anti-malarial drug has been controversial in part due to support from Trump, as well as implications of the study published in British medical journal the Lancet last month, which led several COVID-19 studies to be halted. The three authors said Surgisphere, the company that provided the data, would not transfer the dataset for an independent review and that they “can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources.”


The fourth author of the study, Dr. Sapan Desai, the chief executive of Surgisphere, declined to comment on the retraction. [..] Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that relied on Surgisphere data and shared the same lead author, Harvard Medical School Professor Mandeep Mehra, was also retracted for the same reason. The observational study published in the Lancet on May 22 said it looked at 96,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, some treated with the decades-old malaria drug. It claimed that those treated with hydroxychloroquine or the related chloroquine had higher risk of death and heart rhythm problems than patients who were not given the medicines.

Read more …

The idea: save the banks so they can lend money at higher rates than they borrow at from the ECB. Utterly crazy and useless.

ECB Gives Another Shot Of Stimulus As Economy Reels (R.)

Just months after a raft of crisis measures, the ECB again expanded its money-printing scheme to cushion a potential fall in output of up to 12% this year, even as governments spend record amounts to preserve jobs while restrictions keep businesses shuttered. “The euro area economy is experiencing an unprecedented contraction,” ECB President Christine Lagarde said. “There has been an abrupt drop in economic activity as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the measures taken to contain it.” The ECB’s move, coming just weeks after Germany’s Constitutional Court tried to curb its powers, was also seen as an act of defiance, with one of the European Union’s most powerful institutions making clear it would not take orders from national courts.

Thursday’s decision extended the ECB’s emergency bond purchase scheme to mid-2021 and increased it by 600 billion euros to 1.35 trillion euros. That should allow the bank to buy up most of the new debt euro zone governments are issuing to overcome the pandemic. Three sources told Reuters that figure was a compromise after policymakers discussed an expansion of between 500 billion and 750 billion euros. Markets rallied on the decision, with bond yields on the bloc’s periphery tumbling, suggesting the measures would give a bigger boost to nations such as Italy and Spain, both hit hard by the pandemic and struggling with high debt levels.


Ten-year Italian yields fell by 14 basis points, but perhaps more importantly the gap between Italian and German bonds, a key benchmark, narrowed by 16 basis points. The ECB’s bond purchases come on top of big German spending plans and an ambitious European Union fiscal package, pointing to the biggest coordinated effort in the euro’s 20-year history. ECB staff dramatically revised downward their baseline scenario for euro zone output this year to a contraction of 8.7% from the modest 0.8% rise they forecast only in March.

Read more …

After ten years of Abenomics failure, here comes deflation again. Only now Abe can blame a virus.

Japan’s Household Spending Falls At Record Pace As Virus Stalls Economy (R.)

Japan’s household spending fell at the fastest pace on record in April as the coronavirus shut down travel and dining-out in the world’s third-largest economy, and prospects of higher jobs losses chilled consumer sentiment. The dismal number will keep policymakers under pressure to prevent a larger decline in the economy, which is expected to fall deeper into recession this quarter. Household spending tumbled 11.1% in April from a year earlier, government data showed on Friday, marking the fastest pace of decline since comparable data became available in 2001. The decline was slower than a median forecast of a 15.4% fall and followed March’s 6.0% decline.

Many analysts expect consumption to have bottomed out in April or May, as businesses re-open after last month’s lifting of nationwide lockdowns. But any rebound will be slow and fragile, as companies and households remain wary of spending, they say. “Unless effective vaccines are developed, a strong recovery cannot be expected for the foreseeable future,” said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute. Friday’s data showed some winners and losers. Spending on bars, plane tickets, hotels and amusement parks tanked by around 90% as households were forced to stay home, the data showed.


On the other hand, stay-home policies boosted spending on pasta by 70%, instant noodles by 43% and sanitary goods like face masks by 124%, it showed. Overall, however, an expected rise in job losses and the hit to household sentiment from the pandemic will weigh on consumption, analysts say. “A lot of people are out of work and couldn’t look for jobs during lockdowns in April. Wages are likely to fall too, which will weigh on consumption,” said Yoshiki Shinke, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute. “Japan’s economy will rebound in July-September if there’s no renewed spike in infections. Even so, it may take until 2023 or 2024 for the economy to return to pre-COVID levels.”

Read more …

“Any confrontation between these two great powers is unlikely to end as the Cold War did, in one country’s peaceful collapse..”

China Can’t Take Over US Security Presence in SE Asia: Singapore PM (SCMP)

The US security presence “remains vital to the Asia-Pacific region,” and China would be unable to take over that role in Southeast Asia even with its increasing military might, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said. In an article published by Foreign Affairs on Thursday, Lee wrote that China’s competing maritime and territorial claims in the South China Sea meant that countries in the region will “always see China’s naval presence as an attempt to advance those claims”. He also wrote that many Southeast Asian nations are “extremely sensitive” about perceptions that China has influence on their sizeable ethnic Chinese minorities.

“Despite its increasing military strength, China would be unable to take over the United States’ security role,” he wrote, adding that a US withdrawal in North Asia would compel Japan and South Korea to contemplate developing nuclear weapons to counter North Korea’s growing threat. Lee’s article comes as tensions between the US and China continue to escalate, with the world’s biggest economies sparring on everything from 5G networks to the South China Sea to responsibility for the Covid-19 pandemic. Singapore has been one of the most outspoken countries in Asia calling for the US and China to avoid a destructive clash that would force smaller countries to choose sides.


“Asia-Pacific countries do not wish to be forced to choose between the United States and China,” Lee wrote, echoing comments he’s made previously. “They want to cultivate good relations with both.” Lee warned that if the US tried to contain China, or if Beijing sought to build an exclusive sphere of influence in Asia, the two countries “will begin a course of confrontation that will last decades and put the long-heralded Asian century in jeopardy”. “Any confrontation between these two great powers is unlikely to end as the Cold War did, in one country’s peaceful collapse,” he wrote.

Read more …

You mean worse damage to kids than the school system itself inflicts? I’d say it’s a toss-up at best.

US Schools Lay Off Hundreds Of Thousands, Setting Up Lasting Harm To Kids (R.)

In April alone, 469,000 public school district personnel nationally lost their jobs, including kindergarten through twelfth-grade teachers and other school employees, a Labor Department economist told Reuters. That is more than the nearly 300,000 total during the entire 2008 Great Recession, according to a 2014 paper by three university economists financed by the Russell Sage Foundation. The number of public school teachers hasn’t recovered from that shakeout, reaching near-2008 levels only in 2019. Multiple school district administrators, public officials and teaching experts have warned that the current school personnel job loss will last for years, hurting the education of a generation of American students. It also could be a drag on economic recovery, for one thing because school districts are big employers.

The Labor Department reported on May 8 that 20.5 million non-farm workers lost jobs in April, including 980,000 government workers. Of those, 801,000 were local government employees. Although the Labor Department report does not break out the number, 469,000 of the 801,000 local government workers were K-12 public school teachers and other school personnel, the department economist told Reuters. School districts in poor areas face the most punishing blows. A Brookings Institution paper in April predicted that education layoffs “would come at the worst possible time for high-poverty schools, as even more students fall into poverty and need more from schools as their parents and guardians lose their own jobs.”


Low-income districts are particularly troubled because of plunging revenue amid the Covid-19 recession. Districts rely for revenue on local property taxes and state subsidies. Poorer districts, where property tax revenue is low, rely on states for most of their income. With states hit hard by falling income and sales taxes, aid to school districts is dwindling in many places. [..] April was an especially cruel month for education. The Labor Department report said that in addition to the 469,000 K-12 personnel, state-run colleges and universities laid off 176,000 professors and other employees. Private schools, including well-known colleges and universities and K-12 private schools, were down by 457,000.

Read more …

Don’t choose sides. There is only one.

Medical Martial Law: Liberalism’s Final Capitulation (Pear)

Liberals elected Barack Obama in 2008, laughed, cheered, cried, and then they went to sleep for eight years. They thought that Obama would do the heavy lifting for them. Instead he went from bombing three countries to bombing seven, after winning the Nobel Peace Prize for nothing. Obama looked the other way as the Police Occupied Zuccotti Park, Black Lives Didn’t Matter, and Dakota Pipelined. Obama imprisoned and tortured whistleblowers, and he became the deporter-in-chief. He bailed out the banks, while millions of families lost their homes. Obamacare enriched insurance companies and big-pharma. Gitmo stands as the legacy of Obama’s droning wedding parties and funerals, and for all his broken promises. His answer to climate change was Artic drilling, and fracking the USA.

Obama and the liberal class are the reason we have Trump. The rich do not care about any of the liberal class’s identity politics and correctness. It costs the rich nothing to make those concessions. The liberals are not willing to fight for anything of importance, and the corporatists know it. The corporatists don’t care if Trump or Biden is the next president. Bernie or bust! Fugget about it: Bernie Sanders is just a sheepdog, a foil, a professional wrestler, and Kabuki theater. Bernie is the Senator from Lockheed and Israel. He is a carnival huckster, herding the liberal suckers into the big tent. The DNC will be happy to keep Trump. They get to keep their jobs, their power, their influence, and the gravy train keeps on rolling.


Nancy Pelosi will still get her kicks from gourmet chocolate, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will keep making arm-waving rants to an empty House, Ilhan Omar will kowtow to the Zionist lobby, and the Congressional Black Caucus will vote against blacks. Liberals will grandstand politically correct platitudes, while the banks, corporations, military-industrial complex, Israel, and the well-connected get unlimited hand-outs. Lest I forget, fake liberal Rachel Maddow and her ilk in the media will still get paid $30 thousand a night for “Russia-Russia-Russia!”, and the New York Times will endorse every regime-change war, just as it has done for the past 150 years. And Liberals will commiserate with each other, preach to their dwindling choir, blame everybody except themselves, and waste another four years without organizing any opposition.

Read more …

Much ado about nothing at all. Clickbait.

Trump Fires Back At Critics Murkowski, Mattis And Kelly (JTN)

President Trump on Thursday unleashed Twitter attacks against former Defense Secretary James Mattis, former Chief of Staff John Kelly and sitting Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, pledging to see the latter unseated during her next election. Trump said he will campaign against Murkowski and endorse a candidate who challenges her. Earlier on Thursday, Murkowski said that she is “struggling” with whether to support the president in the upcoming election. “Few people know where they’ll be in two years from now, but I do, in the Great State of Alaska (which I love) campaigning against Senator Lisa Murkowski. She voted against HealthCare, Justice Kavanaugh, and much else,” Trump tweeted.


“Get any candidate ready, good or bad, I don’t care, I’m endorsing. If you have a pulse, I’m with you!” Trump also tweeted the text of a note in which his former attorney John Dowd excoriated James Mattis, the former Defense Secretary who on Wednesday issued a scathing rebuke of the president. The president urged people to read the note that Dowd wrote lambasting Mattis. “Perhaps, your anger is borne of embarrassment for your own failure as the leader of Central Command,” Dowd said to Mattis in the note.

And Trump’s former Chief of Staff John Kelly did not escape the president’s fiery criticism on Thursday either. The Washington Post quoted Kelly disputing Trump’s claim that he fired Mattis and requested his resignation. “The president did not fire him. He did not ask for his resignation,” Kelly said. “The president has clearly forgotten how it actually happened or is confused. The president tweeted a very positive tweet about Jim until he started to see on Fox News their interpretation of his letter. Then he got nasty. Jim Mattis is an honorable man.” Trump lobbed several tweets about Kelly, including one in which he said Kelly “was totally exhausted by the job, and in the end just slinked away into obscurity.”

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Rosenstein has resolved not to go quiet.

Rosenstein Slams McCabe, Obstruction Theories, 1000 Former Prosecutors (Turley)

Yesterday, we did our first live blogging on a hearing with former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. There was a lot of broken china after the hearing was over. Indeed, the most interesting aspect was that some of the greatest damage for the Democratic narrative occurred during ill-considered questions from Sen. Mazie Hirono (D., HI) who elicited a series of answers supporting the Trump Administration and the purpose of further hearings. Rosenstein ultimately supported the need for further investigations into FBI misconduct, supported the Durham investigation, categorically dismissed claims that Trump committed obstruction of justice, and most importantly stated that he would not have signed off on the continued surveillance under the FISA for Carter Page if he knew the truth about claims of Russian collusion.

That was just a few of the highlights. He also dismissed objections from former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and the “1000 prosecutors” who were so widely cited as claiming that there was clear criminal conduct by Trump. The most important moment came at the beginning of Rosenstein’s testimony when he acknowledged that there were serious flaws and misconduct involved in the Russian investigation and that, if he knew then what he knows now, he would have put a stop to it, including refusing to sign off on the continued of the FISA surveillance on Page. He also repeatedly said in contradiction to the Democratic senators that he believed that there was a need for further investigation and that much more needs to be known about what occurred, including the source of “disinformation” in the Steele dossier and whether Steele was used by Russian intelligence and other sources for nefarious purposes.


On the investigation of U.S. Attorney John Durham, Rosenstein repeatedly endorsed the need to look into the entire Russian investigation and added “Attorney General Barr is trusting US attorney Durham to do that. I think that’s a reasonable decision.” Rosenstein also acknowledged that we still need to know more about the disinformation and that an investigation is warranted on the Steele dossier and other related issues.

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And now come the rest. Everyone but Obama and Biden. But that won’t save them.

The Hunt For The Origins Of The Russia Collusion Narrative (JTN)

Hollywood once gave us the Cold War thriller called “The Hunt for Red October.” And now the U.S. Senate and its Republican committee chairmen in Washington have launched a different sort of hunt made for the movies. Armed with subpoenas, Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., want to interrogate a slew of Obama-era intelligence and law enforcement officials hoping to identify who invented and sustained the bogus Russia collusion narrative that hampered Donald Trump’s early presidency. And while Graham and Johnson aren’t exactly Sean Connery and Alex Baldwin, they and their GOP cohorts have a theory worthy of a Tom Clancy novel-turned-movie: The Russia collusion investigation was really a plot by an outgoing administration to thwart the new president.

[..] For much of the last two years, the exact theory that congressional Republicans held about the bungled, corrupt Russia probe — where collusion between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin was ultimately disproven and FBI misconduct was confirmed — was always evolving. But after explosive testimony this week from former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who openly accused the FBI of keeping him in the dark about flaws, failures and exculpatory evidence in the case, the GOP believes it may prove the Russia case was a conspiracy to use the most powerful law enforcement and intelligence tools in America to harm Trump.

[..] “There are millions of Americans pretty upset about this,” Graham said this week. “There are people on our side of the aisle who believe this investigation, Crossfire Hurricane, was one of the most corrupt, biased criminal investigations in the history of the FBI. And we’d like to see something done about it.” Graham tried to take action to approve 50-plus subpoenas from the Senate Judiciary Committee to witnesses on Thursday but was forced to delay a week. Johnson, meanwhile, successfully secured about three dozen subpoenas to get documents and interviews with key witnesses from his Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.


Evidence is growing, Johnson said, that there was not a “peaceful and cooperative” transition between the Obama and Trump administrations in 2017. “The conduct we know that occurred during the transition should concern everyone and absolutely warrants further investigation,” he said. With Rosenstein’s testimony now behind them, the senators have some lofty targets for interviews or testimony going forward, including fired FBI Director James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, ex-CIA Director John Brennan, and the former chiefs of staff for President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

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Obama, Biden And Democratic Party Desperately Try To Co-Opt Protest. They Think We’re Stupid!

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 092020
 


Tomb of the diver, Paestum c480 BCE

 

Ugly US Jobs Data Hides As Much As It Reveals (R.)
How Australia Got On Top Of COVID19 (SMH)
South Korea’s COVID19 Exceptionalism (Atl.)
South Korea Backtracks On Reopening After COVID19 Cases Jump (NW)
Enough With the Phoney ‘Lockdown’ Debate (Kay)
UK To Place All Incoming Travellers Under 14-Day Quarantine (R.)
COVID19 Death Rate Sinking? Data Reveals A Complex Reality (DW)
Want To Be More Like Sweden? What If We Already Are? (Mish)
Velociraptors Still On The Loose? No Reason Not To Reopen Jurassic Park (McS)
The Bailout Miscalculation That Could Crash the Economy (Taibbi)
Wall Street-Friendly Lawmakers Sought Bailout For Shady Lenders (HuffPo)
Auto Production Collapses By 99% In Mexico and Brazil (R.)
Our Utter Incompetence Actually Helps Us (Kunstler)
What Did Joe Biden Know About Michael Flynn? (York)
Andrew McCabe’s Bizarre CNN Interview (Turley)

 

 

•The US recorded 1,635 #coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 77,178, with a confirmed total of 1,283,829 cases

 

 

• Brazil today now 10,199, total near 150k
• Mexico 23% jump to 1,982, new high
• India today 3,362, small decrease after large increase
• Pakistan 1,791 new high
• Iran recent increasing trend continues 1,556
• Kuwait 641, Qatar 1,311 both new highs

 

 

 

Cases 4,032,763 (+ 98,052 from yesterday’s 3,934,711)

Deaths 276,677 (+ 5,582 from yesterday’s 271,095)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-

 

 

From Worldometer Deaths among Closed cases is down to 17%. That still needs to come down much more.

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Total nonfarm payroll employment fell by 20.5 million in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, bringing the unemployment rate to 14.7%.

That is the highest rate and largest month-over-month increase since the report began in its current form in 1948.

Ugly US Jobs Data Hides As Much As It Reveals (R.)

April really was the cruelest month. Over 20 million Americans lost their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, bringing the unemployment rate to an eye-popping 14.7% – the highest since at least the 1940s. But the headline number leaves out much of the Covid-19 economic story. The report makes for grisly – if unsurprising – reading. The economy shed roughly a decade of job gains. The figure dwarfs the 8.7 million jobs lost in the Great Recession that lasted from December 2007 to June 2009 and suggests an annualized second-quarter GDP contraction north of 30% is possible. It represents the highest recorded losses in the report’s seven-decade history, and includes the wipeout of almost half of the country’s leisure and hospitality jobs.

Comparing this to previous crises and slumps is of limited use, because the United States has never intentionally shut off almost 30% of its economy before. But other things are different too. For one, Friday’s figure doesn’t necessarily paint an accurate income picture. Federal stimulus has added $600 a week to jobless benefits, making them, on average, actually higher than normal salaries in a majority of states, according to the New York Times. This is only temporary and the levels vary by state, but it’s still a huge difference from previous crises. The $1,200 one-off payments made to many Americans also mean households, overall, might not see income decline as much as the depressing statistics would suggest.

Just as the record lows in unemployment before Covid-19 didn’t give a full picture, the highs present a similar problem. The headline unemployment figure leaves out workers who aren’t looking for jobs. And it classifies over 18 million workers as being on temporary layoff – but it’s impossible to know whether they will be rehired. After the lockdown, demand may remain depressed because people are scared to, say, go to restaurants or spend much at all. Jobless figures during the decade-plus expansion didn’t account for the low quality of jobs, limited benefits, and low labor-force participation rate. Unfortunately, Friday’s statistics mostly make clear what was already known – that the U.S. economy is in an induced coma – without giving clues on how or when it will wake up.

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In a nutshell: by ignoring the WHO.

How Australia Got On Top Of COVID19 (SMH)

It got really serious for Greg Hunt while he was at the cricket. It was a Saturday morning, February 1, while Australia’s Health Minister was watching his 10-year-old son play that he got the message. In between phone calls and text messages, Hunt was cheering his boy on as he walked laps around the Balnarring cricket oval on his home turf of Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. “We now have sustained human-to-human transmission outside Wuhan,” read the message from Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, as Hunt recalls it. “I think we are going to have to close the border to China.” It’s a morning that Hunt says he remembers clearly. The government was already on high alert.

It had been 12 days since Murphy had informed Hunt he was invoking the Biosecurity Act to list the novel coronavirus as a disease of pandemic potential. Behind closed doors, Prime Minister Scott Morrison had already told the national security committee of the cabinet that he’d resolved to “respect the medical advice” as the guiding principle in any response to the epidemic that was spreading in China. Now it was time to act. Hunt immediately connected with Morrison and Murphy on a three-way phone call. Murphy set out the facts and advised: “There’s a very strong risk of this spreading to Australia.” “Are you recommending that we close the border to China?” the Prime Minister asked. Yes, came Murphy’s answer. It was announced at 5pm that same day. It was to be, in Hunt’s words, “almost the biggest, one-day decision a government had made in 50 years”.

Beijing, predictably, put on a show of anger. The Chinese embassy gave Canberra a stern lecture, called Australia “xenophobic” and demanded compensation for Chinese students who were inconvenienced. The Australian government realised that something was badly wrong with the World Health Organisation, or WHO, around this time. The Geneva-based UN organisation kept insisting that there was no cause for countries to ban travel from China. Many nations, Britain and Canada among them, were trusting enough to take its advice. Australia wasn’t the first to shut down arrivals from China. The US and Singapore had done it a day earlier. Taiwan had barred tourists from China’s mainland earlier still, on January 26.

Australian officials since have reflected privately that, if Canberra had been watching China as closely as Taiwan does – and with as much scepticism of its official announcements – Australia would have acted at the same time. Taiwan is the standout global success story in managing COVID-19 to date. It’s an island with roughly the same population as Australia but only six deaths. Australia’s death toll is approaching 100. Taiwan’s restrictions on movement weren’t much more drastic than Australia’s but it moved sooner. Taiwan also was smart enough to put no faith in the WHO. Indeed, Beijing has barred Taiwan from membership of the WHO. Which, in this case, hasn’t done Taiwan any harm whatsoever.

Canberra announced other border closures in short order – Iran, Italy, South Korea. But then it paused before finally banning all foreign arrivals after March 19. Was it a mistake to wait so long? Should Australia have followed its China ban with a global ban sooner?

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What comes before the fall?

South Korea’s COVID19 Exceptionalism (Atl.)

By the end of February, South Korea had the most COVID-19 patients of any country outside China. New confirmed cases were doubling every few days, and pharmacies were running out of face masks. More than a dozen countries imposed travel restrictions to protect their citizens from the Korean outbreak, including the U.S., which had, at the time, recorded an official COVID-19 death toll low enough to count on one hand. But just as South Korea appeared to be descending into catastrophe, the country stopped the virus in its tracks. The government demanded that the Shincheonji Church turn over its full membership list, through which the Ministry of Health identified thousands of worshippers. All were ordered to self-isolate.

Within days, thousands of people in Daegu were tested for the virus. Individuals with the most serious cases were sent to hospitals, while those with milder cases checked into isolation units at converted corporate training facilities. The government used a combination of interviews and cellphone surveillance to track down the recent contacts of new patients and ordered those contacts to self-isolate as well. Within a month, the Korean outbreak was effectively contained. In the first two weeks of March, new daily cases fell from 800 to fewer than 100. (This morning, the nation of 51 million reported zero new domestic infections for the third straight day.) On April 15, the country successfully held a national parliamentary election with the highest turnout in three decades, without triggering another wave.

South Korea is not unique in its ability to bend the curve of daily cases; New Zealand, Australia, and Norway have done so, as well. But it is perhaps the largest democracy to reduce new daily cases by more than 90 percent from peak, and its density and proximity to China make the achievement particularly noteworthy. [..] In mid-March, the U.S. and South Korea had the same number of coronavirus-caused fatalities—approximately 90. In April, South Korea lost a total of 85 souls to COVID-19, while the U.S. lost 62,000—an average of 85 deaths every hour. That the U.S. population is approximately six times larger than South Korea’s does little to soften the horror of the comparison.

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Uh-oh….

South Korea Backtracks On Reopening After COVID19 Cases Jump (NW)

Despite recently reopening businesses amid an impressive decline in new coronavirus case, the South Korean government has issued a nationwide health advisory for bars and nightclubs to close down for 30 more days after health officials tracked 13 new cases to a single person who attended five nightclubs and bars in the country’s capital city of Seoul. “We believe we will have another community infection,” said Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip at a Friday press briefing. “The spread took place in enclosed and crowded spaces. Transmission with no known source of infection can lead to a widespread cluster infection and that is why the government is not letting its guard down.”

The man in question had no symptoms when he visited the nightspots. He eventually tested positive on Wednesday and gained admittance to a hospital in Suwon, a city south of Seoul, according to the UPI wire service. Officials think he may have come in contact with over 1,500 people during his night out. City officials are now using CCTV and credit card records to help identify visitors and are encouraging them to self-isolate and immediately report any coronavirus symptoms to local hospitals. With a decline in new cases, South Korea has allowed places of worship, museums venues, recreational facilities and nightclubs to recently resume business. The country’s high schools begin reopening next week and its lower schools will gradually reopen throughout May.

However, similar to the reopening plans of many U.S. states, South Korea has said it will pull back on and reverse reopenings if new cases emerge. While the number of coronavirus cases in South Korea originally exploded in late February and early March, the country’s Ministry of Health worked hard to conduct rigorous contact tracing, contacting anyone who had attended venues where patients with confirmed cases of coronavirus had gone. Using a combination of interviews and cellphone surveillance, anyone in proximity to these patients and their neighbors were widely tested and all encouraged to self-quarantine.

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People lock themselves down.

Enough With the Phoney ‘Lockdown’ Debate (Kay)

The skeptics who argue that lockdowns “don’t work” usually will support this claim by ticking off nations that have succeeded in fighting COVID-19 without imposing harsh government restrictions. But when you parse the actual data, what you find is that these tend to be high-trust, high-education, high-information societies—such as in Scandinavia and East Asia—where official lockdowns haven’t been necessary precisely because a critical mass of people have effectively locked themselves down on their own. If, say, spring-breakers in Miami were as conscientious and disciplined as, say, most office workers in Stockholm or Tokyo, the state’s governor wouldn’t have had to clear the beaches. But they’re not, so he did. Such spectacles tell us a lot about college students, but not much about lockdowns.


The crowdsourced aspect of lockdowns is bad news and good news. It’s bad news because getting all of society’s actors on the same page will take many months. And so we won’t be able to get our economies up and running on anything like the speedy timeline that most self-styled lockdown opponents are seeking. But it’s good news because a slower, crowdsourced form of lockdown lifting will be subject to a whole slew of negative feedback mechanisms whereby outbreaks naturally lead to corrections. And so we can avoid the problem, depicted in Ferguson’s graphs, by which sudden quantum shifts in centralized policy yield behavioural spikes whose catastrophic effects set off an endless wave of epidemiological boom and bust.

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This should have been a January headline. Now all the clusters are in place.

UK To Place All Incoming Travellers Under 14-Day Quarantine (R.)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce on Sunday that all travellers coming to the United Kingdom will be quarantined for a fortnight, The Times reported. “Passengers arriving at airports and ports including Britons returning from abroad, will have to self-isolate for 14 days,” the newspaper said, adding that travellers will have to provide the address sat which they will self-isolate on arrival. Travellers from Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man will be exempt, as will lorry drivers bringing crucial supplies, the report added.


The authorities will carry out spot checks and those found to be breaking the rules are to face fines of up to 1,000 pounds or even deportation, the report added. According to The Times, travellers will have to fill in a digital form with details of where they plan to self-isolate themselves for the duration of the quarantine. The measures will help reduce the “transmission of the virus as we move into the next phase of our response,” the report said, citing a government source. The measures are expected to come into force in early June.

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The all-cause death number. Hot potato.

COVID19 Death Rate Sinking? Data Reveals A Complex Reality (DW)

When is a COVID-19 death counted as a COVID-19 death? The answer is not as straightforward as one might think, because different countries have different methods for determining a COVID-19 case or declaring COVID-19 as a deceased person’s cause of death. Some countries, like Spain, carry out post-mortem COVID-19 tests, while in others like Germany, the UK, or Turkey it not a common practice. Belgium, for example, counts all coronavirus deaths outside hospitals in its daily statistics: This means the country includes people suspected of having died of coronavirus, without a confirmed positive test result, whereas countries like Italy only count deaths in hospitals. Spain only recently started to count non-hospitalized, coronavirus-related deaths from some regions.

Why is the all-cause death number relevant? There are a few essential lessons we can learn from all-cause death data. According to many scientific experts, it is the only unbiased information we can trust to measure the real impact of the pandemic, and create policies to minimize its effects. The number of people dying of COVID-19 is huge, but it still is not the leading cause of death in many countries. People are more reluctant to go to hospitals because they fear contagion, or simply do not want to burden the health system further. However, a scenario in which the leading causes of death, such as heart disease or cancer, increase by even 5% could translate into hundreds of thousands of people.


David Spiegelhalter, Professor of Public Understanding of Risk from the University of Cambridge, notes the differences in each country: “I would say the all-cause death number is the really unbiased measure of the impact of this epidemic. And it’s the one I look up far more closely,” he told DW. Data collected by DW both on all-cause deaths and COVID-19 deaths shows: Thousands more people are dying directly or indirectly due to COVID-19 than the official numbers suggest. DW’s data analysis focused on Spain, England and Wales, but indicates a pattern present in other countries too.

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Success breeds success.

Want To Be More Like Sweden? What If We Already Are? (Mish)

Unlike most of the rest of the world, Sweden did not mandate coronavirus lockdowns. Instead, most measures were voluntary, but it did cutoff access to nursing homes after a surge in deaths. It has been an experiment worth monitoring. And for weeks, many in the US have been clamoring for the US to be “more like Sweden”. But what do the results really show and what is Sweden saying now? Please note the head of Sweden’s no-lockdown coronavirus plan said the country’s Heavy Death Toll ‘Came as a Surprise’ “We never really calculated with a high death toll initially, I must say,” said epidemiologist Anders Tegnell. “We calculated on more people being sick, but the death toll really came as a surprise to us.”

The deniers will point out that about half of Sweden’s deaths came from nursing homes as if those deaths don’t matter. When it comes to per-capita counts, the US is remarkably like Sweden. This can be portrayed two ways. • See, the lockdowns didn’t help. • Based on population density, Sweden is a total disaster. You should not compare a tiny Nordic country to the US but there it is anyway, for those clamoring to be more like Sweden. On a fatality rate basis, we better hope the US does not become more like Sweden. Clearly Sweden is not the success story widely claimed. Unfortunately, people will look at these charts, continue to make inane flu comparisons and continue to tout Sweden’s success. The one area of attack left open is whether or not the US approach was economically justified. I will not address that question because I will not change anyone’s mind.

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“And will some of the employees returning to work have their limbs torn off and tossed into the air like a juggler tossing bowling pins? Undoubtedly.”

Velociraptors Still On The Loose? No Reason Not To Reopen Jurassic Park (McS)

Hello, Peter Ludlow here, CEO of InGen, the company behind the wildly successful dinosaur-themed amusement park, Jurassic Park. As you’re all aware, after an unprecedented storm hit the park, we lost power and the velociraptors escaped their enclosure and killed hundreds of park visitors, prompting a two-month shutdown of the park. Well, I’m pleased to announce that, even though the velociraptors are still on the loose, we will be opening Jurassic Park back up to the public!

Now, I understand why some people might be skeptical about reopening an amusement park when there are still blindingly fast, 180-pound predators roaming around. But the fact of the matter is, velociraptors are intelligent, shifty creatures that are not going to be contained any time soon, so we might as well just start getting used to them killing a few people every now and then. Some might argue that we should follow the example of other parks that have successfully dealt with velociraptor escapes. But here at Jurassic Park, we’ve never been ones to listen to the recommendations of scientists, or safety experts, or bioethicists, so why would we start now?

As some of you know, Dr. Ian Malcolm, our lead safety consultant, had recommended that we wait until the velociraptors have been located and contained before reopening the park, so he wasn’t thrilled when we told him the news. I believe his exact words were “you were so preoccupied with whether you could reopen the park, you didn’t stop to think whether you should.” Talk about a guy on a high horse.

That said, you’ll be pleased to know that, rather than double down on our containment efforts, we’ve decided to dissolve the velociraptor containment task force altogether, and focus instead on how we can get people back into the park as quickly as possible. So rather than concentrating on so-called life-saving measures like “staying in designated safe areas” or “masking your scent,” we’ll be focusing on the details that will get our customers really excited, like a wider selection of fun hats, a pterodactyl-shaped gondola ride to the top of the island, and a brand new Gordon Ramsay designed menu at the Cretaceous Cafe.

In addition to satisfying our customers, the decision to reopen the park is also about allowing the furloughed employees of Jurassic Park to get back to the work they love. Could we have continued to pay their salaries for several months until we got the velociraptor situation under control? Definitely. We’re the wealthiest nature preserve on the planet after all. And will some of the employees returning to work have their limbs torn off and tossed into the air like a juggler tossing bowling pins? Undoubtedly. But we’re confident that with a few safety precautions put in place, we’ll be able to keep the level of workplace injuries and deaths just below levels that would elicit widespread public outrage.

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Do these people really not understand securitization? To skip a few steps, US housing would collapse without these “miscalculations”. There’s now talk of a federal agency to take over for the “servicers”. Another bottomless pit.

The Bailout Miscalculation That Could Crash the Economy (Taibbi)

When Donald Trump signed the $2 trillion CARES Act rescue on March 27, there was immediate praise across the political spectrum for section 4022, concerning homeowners in distress. Under the rule, anyone with a federally-backed mortgage could now receive instant relief. Forbearance, the law said: “…shall be granted for up to 180 days, and shall be extended for an additional period of up to 180 days at the request of the borrower.” Essentially, anyone with a federally-backed mortgage was now eligible for a six-month break from home payments. Really it was a year, given that a 180-day extension could be granted “at the request of the borrower.” It made sense. The burden of having to continue to make home payments during the coronavirus crisis would be crushing for the millions of people put out of work.

If anything, the measure didn’t go far enough, only covering homeowners with federally-backed (a.k.a. “agency”) mortgages. Still, six months or a year of relief from mortgage payments was arguably the most valuable up-front benefit of the entire bailout for ordinary people. Unfortunately, this portion of the CARES Act was conceived so badly that it birthed a potentially disastrous new issue that could have severe systemic ramifications. “Whoever wrote this bill didn’t have the faintest fucking clue how mortgages work,” is how one financial analyst put it to me. When homeowners take out mortgages, loans are bundled into pools and turned into securities, which are then sold off to investors, often big institutional players like pension funds.

Once loans are pooled and sold off as securities, the job of collecting home payments from actual people and delivering them to investors in mortgage bonds goes to companies called mortgage servicers. Many of these firms are not banks, and have familiar names like Quicken Loans or Freedom Mortgage. The mortgage servicing business is relatively uncomplicated – companies are collecting money from one group of people and handing it to another, for a fee – but these quasi-infamous firms still regularly manage to screw it up. “An industry that is just… not very good,” is the generous description of Richard Cordray, former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Because margins in the mortgage service business are relatively small, these firms try to automate as much as possible. Many use outdated computers and have threadbare staffing policies.

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Fully bipartisan.

Wall Street-Friendly Lawmakers Sought Bailout For Shady Lenders (HuffPo)

A bipartisan group of House Financial Services Committee members asked the Federal Reserve in an April letter to extend an emergency loan program to a host of controversial financial firms that offer high-interest loans to low-income Americans. In other words, firms that offer Americans high-interest loans want a low-cost loan from the government. All 14 signatories of the April letter are recipients of campaign contributions this election cycle from the political action committee of the American Financial Services Association, or AFSA, which represents subprime lenders’ interests in Washington.

“It’s bad on the substance to have the Federal Reserve be lending to subprime consumer and small business lenders,” Graham Steele, a former Democratic counsel on the Senate Banking Committee, who now runs Stanford School of Business’ Corporations and Society Initiative. “It doesn’t look good when the members asking for that kind of bailout for these companies are also funded by those predatory lenders.” Writing to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, the lawmakers encouraged the Fed to expand eligibility for loans from its Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, or TALF, for “non-bank lenders and fintech platforms.” “Non-bank lenders” issue loans that are less regulated than loans made by traditional banks, but they are also willing to take greater risks. And “fintech platforms” are a kind of non-bank lender that operate online and through mobile apps.

The House members – seven Democrats and seven Republicans – were responding to a letter that the AFSA sent to Congress appealing for its members to become eligible for the program. In late March, the Fed reinitiated TALF, a program it created to shore up consumer lenders after the 2008 financial crisis, to address the economic fallout from the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Fed has said that every financial institution is eligible for the emergency loans, but it will not bail out some riskier forms of credit. In the letter, the House members make clear that they specifically want TALF to include loans issued by “installment” lending firms that the program currently excludes. Those firms offer high-interest loans for low-income borrowers to pay off in installments.

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My first reaction is: that’s great, half a million fewer cars! Than I realize of course I’m not supposed to think that. “Bad, bad” for the economy!

Auto Production Collapses By 99% In Mexico and Brazil (R.)

Auto production in Mexico and Brazil, Latin America’s top producers, plunged by an unprecedented 99% in April as a result of the coronavirus crisis, with the two countries building a total of just 5,569 vehicles. In normal times, Mexico and Brazil produce over half a million cars a month combined. The industry accounts for hundreds of thousands of jobs and several percentage points of their respective countries’ gross domestic products. “The situation is difficult and dramatic,” Luiz Carlos Moraes, president of Brazil’s automakers association, told reporters.


The statements on production, made on Friday by Mexico’s Inegi statistics association and Brazil’s Anfavea automakers association, are the first available window into the sheer extent of the crisis for automakers in Latin America. The coronavirus pandemic is putting jobs in peril and raising questions about the sustainability of the industry’s international supply chains, much of which go back to China. The poor results may also be used by auto executives to obtain government aid. Both countries have so far avoided layoffs but much hinges on when production can restart and whether there will be any demand for cars once that happens. Mexico could tentatively restart production on May 18, while Brazil’s top automakers are eyeing a June restart.

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Jim quoted Comey in his headline -“I sent them”-, I changed that to a Strzok quote.

Our Utter Incompetence Actually Helps Us (Kunstler)

“Our utter incompetence actually helps us,” declared Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI Peter Strzok to his confidante (10,000 text messages) and paramour, FBI attorney Lisa Page, when he discovered on January 4, 2017, that the agency had omitted to close the barren Crossfire Razor case against General Michael Flynn. There you have a perfect summary of the fantastic hubris at work in the agency-gone-rogue under then-FBI Director Jim “I sent them” Comey days before the swearing-in of a president somehow mistakenly elected by bamboozled voters — or so the thinking apparently went at the highest level there. Or what passed for thinking.

General Flynn, you see, having been anathematized by Barack Obama, and black-spotted by the so-called Interagency (i.e. the giant hairball of competing spy shops set up after the 9/11 fiasco), was about to assume the pivotal job of White House National Security Advisor, and it was known that he was fixing to change things up with all that. He had been director of one such shop, the Defense Intelligence Agency, for a few years and he had a fair idea just how lawlessly debauched the Intel Community had grown under CIA Director John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, not to mention Mr. Comey, and they all knew that.

So, General Flynn had to go, and then get squeezed hard to somehow rat-out his boss, the incoming President Trump, against whom the Interagency had nothing but a dossier of already discredited oppo research baloney courtesy of the Clinton campaign. The pretext was some conversations General Flynn had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak a few weeks before the inauguration. The FBI cooked up a “narrative” that it was criminal misbehavior for a duly appointed incoming NSA to confab with foreign diplomats – a completely specious notion, of course. The Interagency’s errand boys in the press ran with that preposterous story, and the inconsolable cohort of Hillary voters herding up to form “the Resistance” went along with the gag out of sheer, crazed bitterness.

Attorney General William Barr neatly disposed of that yarn Thursday in his remarkable chat with Catherine Herridge of CBS News (transcript here), saying: “[H]e [General Flynn] was the designated national security adviser for President-Elect Trump, and was part of the transition, which is recognized by the government and funded by the government as an important function to bring in a new administration. And it is very typical, very common, for the national security team of the incoming president to communicate with foreign leaders.”

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Obama will be implicated.

What Did Joe Biden Know About Michael Flynn? (York)

It takes a little digging, but there’s a Joe Biden connection deep inside the documents released as part of the Justice Department’s decision to drop charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn. It is this: Sally Yates was Barack Obama’s Deputy Attorney General, and as such she played a key role in the Flynn investigation. She told special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors in September 2017 that she did not know about the transition phone call between Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak until she was told about it by…President Barack Obama.

It happened on January 5, 2017. Yates was in a group that went to the Oval Office to brief Obama on the findings of the Intelligence Community investigation into Russian campaign meddling. The meeting had all the administration’s top national security officials: FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, National Intelligence chief James Clapper, national security adviser Susan Rice, and other National Security Council officials. “After the briefing, Obama dismissed the group but asked Yates and Comey to stay behind,” a memo of Yates’ interview read. “Obama started by saying he had ‘learned of the information about Flynn’ and his conversation with Kislyak about sanctions.” Yates was totally blindsided. “At that point, Yates had no idea what the president was talking about,” the interview write-up said.

What does that have to do with Biden? The interview notes made no mention of the vice president. But think back to one of the stranger moments in the Trump-Russia investigation: Rice, on January 20, 2017, at almost the exact minute the Obama administration left office, sent an email to herself documenting the January 5 meeting. This is how it began: “On January 5, following a briefing by IC leadership on Russian hacking during the 2016 presidential election, President Obama had a brief follow-on conversation with FBI Director Jim Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in the Oval Office. Vice President Biden and I were also present.”

Oh — so Biden was there, too. The Rice memo-to-self always appeared to be an oddly-timed effort to cover for Obama. “President Obama began the conversation by stressing his continued commitment to ensuring that every aspect of this issue is handled by the intelligence and law enforcement communities ‘by the book,’ Rice wrote. “The president stressed that he is not asking about, initiating or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective. He reiterated that our law enforcement team needs to proceed as it normally would by the book.” Got that? By the book.

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” In this story, McCabe is not a news analyst. He is news. Instead of pressing him on these conflicts and allegations, he was allowed to rage against Trump, Barr, and Flynn. It is a new twist on echo journalism. McCabe the CNN analyst was echoing his own false account and calling it news analysis.”

Andrew McCabe’s Bizarre CNN Interview (Turley)

CNN host John Berman interviewed McCabe. CNN has long used McCabe to give analysis on a host of Trump-related stories despite being fired by Trump, ridiculed for his prior bias, and referred (by career officials) for possible criminal charges. This interview, however, was even more remarkable. The documents released in the Flynn case referred to McCabe and his alleged misconduct. He was not asked about any of the specific allegations against him. Instead, he gave a revisionist history that quickly crossed into fantasy. McCabe told Berman that, in December 2016, they were considering the closure of the investigation involving Flynn but that it was a “close question.” We have previously discussed this history.

On January 4, 2017, the FBI’s Washington Field Office issued a “Closing Communication” indicating that the bureau was terminating “CROSSFIRE RAZOR” — the newly disclosed codename for the investigation of Flynn. CROSSFIRE RAZOR was formed to determine whether Flynn “was directed and controlled by” or “coordinated activities with the Russian Federation in a manner which is a threat to the national security” of the United States or a violation of federal foreign agent laws. The FBI investigated Flynn and various databases and determined that “no derogatory information was identified in FBI holdings.” Due to this conclusion, the Washington Field Office concluded that Flynn “was no longer a viable candidate as part of the larger CROSSFIRE HURRICANE umbrella case.”

After Strzok intervened to stop the closure of the investigation, he texted FBI lawyer Lisa Page “Razor still open. :@ but serendipitously good, I guess. You want those chips and Oreos?” Page replied “Phew. But yeah that’s amazing that he is still open. Good, I guess.” Strzok replied “Yeah, our utter incompetence actually helps us. 20% of the time, I’m guessing :)” So McCabe was left unchallenged in saying that at that time there was a close question as to whether to close Crossfire Razor when his investigators found nothing. Nothing. That made it a close question for McCabe whether to continue to investigate the incoming Trump National Security Adviser.

What McCabe stated next was truly incredible. He told Berman that he then learned that Flynn has arranged “surreptitious meetings” with the Russians. He explained that this was akin to investigating someone for drug dealing and then learning about his meeting with drug dealers. The problem is that there was no evidence of a crime of any kind against Flynn. Moreover, this was not a “surreptitious” meeting. There was no reason for McCabe to know about the communications of the incoming National Security Adviser with foreign officials. It was not “surreptitious.” Flynn reportedly told the transition team about the call and that the Russians wanted to talk after the newly imposed sanctions against them. It is not “surreptitious” just because McCabe did not know about it and he did not reach out to the Transition Team.

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We try to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. Since their revenue has collapsed, ads no longer pay for all you read, and your support is now an integral part of the process.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 


“Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there!
He wasn’t there again today,
Oh how I wish he’d go away

Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn’t there,
He wasn’t there again today
I think he’s from the CIA.

– Hughes Mearns et al

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Feb 162020
 


John Collier Trucks on highway en route to Utica, New York 1941

 

Chinese Doctors Say Wuhan Coronavirus Reinfection Even Deadlier (ZH)
70 More Infections On Diamond Princess Cruise Ship Bring Total To 355 (SCMP)
Cruise Passengers Face 14 More Days In Quarantine On Return To Hong Kong (SCMP)
Quarantined Cruise Ship Passenger Speaks Out Against US Evacuation Plan (Fox)
American From Cruise Ship Docked In Cambodia Tests Positive In Malaysia For Coronavirus (R.)
Cruise Firm Seeks New Virus Test For Passenger From Ship In Cambodia (R.)
New Coronavirus Threatens Meltdown In China’s Economy (SCMP)
Coronavirus Scare Leaves China’s Empty Restaurants Selling Off Stocks (R.)
Chinese Students -Used To- Spend Billions Overseas (CNN)
Fiat Chrysler Suspends 500L Production Over China Supply Disruption (R.)
Looming Hill-Berg: Bloomberg Considering Hillary Clinton As Running Mate (NYP)
TV Execs Celebrate Unprecedented Flood Of Bloomberg Campaign Spending (IC)
Why Wasn’t Andrew McCabe Charged? (NR)

 

 

• Cases: 69,264, up 2,162 from yesterday

• Deaths: 1,669, up 143 from yesterday

 

Cruise ship the Diamond Princess -off Yokohama- has 3,711 people on board. 1,219 have been tested of which 355 have been confirmed positive for the virus. The ship has been in quarantine for 11 days, so capacity for testing is apparently limited to just over 100 per day. Not impressive. And this doesn’t yet tell us how many people have been tested more than once. But that appears to be necessary.

The main development over the past 24 hours concerns the cruise ships and getting infected more than once. The Diamond Princess is turning into one of Dante’s circles of hell -take your pick- just as governments send planes to pick up their citizens aboard the ship. Who will arrive home just in time to start another 14 days of quarantine. Lovely. Hong Kong and Canada have reported this renewed quarantine, the US must follow suit.

The Diamond Princess is also a loud flashing warning sign about the ease with which the virus spreads. Everyone has been isolated in their cabins for 10+ days, yet there are 70 more cases daily. With a 14-day incubation time, less than a third of passengers tested in those 10+ days with a 30% infection rate, and questionable testing quality, what awaits these people? What awaits those who are not at present considered suspect?

Another cruise ship, the Werkendam, finally accepted in Cambodia after being shunned by 4-5 other countries, has let well over 1,000 passengers leave the ship before one was diagnosed positive for COVID19. It arrived on Thursday carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew, 236 passengers and 747 crew remain on board.

Potentially even more ominous is Tyler’s piece on re-infection. If people can be infected more than once, that means their immune systems have successfully fought the virus once, only to be weakened by both the fight and the medication applied in that fight. Imagine large scale re-infection. Imagine the hospital accomodation needed. Which country has that kind of spare capacity?

 

 

 

 

A second infection of a recovered patient will hit a body with compromised immunity. Cytokine storms, ACE2.

Chinese Doctors Say Wuhan Coronavirus Reinfection Even Deadlier (ZH)

Doctors working on the front lines of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak have told the Taiwan Times that it’s possible to become reinfected by the virus, leading to death from sudden heart failure in some cases. “It’s highly possible to get infected a second time. A few people recovered from the first time by their own immune system, but the meds they use are damaging their heart tissue, and when they get it the second time, the antibody doesn’t help but makes it worse, and they die a sudden death from heart failure,” reads a message forwarded to Taiwan News from a relative of one of the doctors living in the United Kingdom.

“The source also said the virus has “outsmarted all of us,” as it can hide symptoms for up to 24 days. This assertion has been made independently elsewhere, with Chinese pulmonologist Zhong Nanshan saying the average incubation period is three days, but it can take as little as one day and up to 24 days to develop symptoms. Also, the source said that false negative tests for the virus are fairly common. “It can fool the test kit – there were cases that they found, the CT scan shows both lungs are fully infected but the test came back negative four times. The fifth test came back positive.” -Taiwan Times

Notably, one of the ways coronaviruses cripple the immune system is via an HIV-like attachment to white blood cells, which triggers a ‘cytokine storm’ – a term popularized during the avian H5N1 influenza outbreak – in which an uncontrolled release of inflammatory ‘cytokines’ target various organs, often leading to failure and in many cases death. The cytokine storm is best exemplified by severe lung infections, in which local inflammation spills over into the systemic circulation, producing systemic sepsis, as defined by persistent hypotension, hyper- or hypothermia, leukocytosis or leukopenia, and often thrombocytopenia. In addition to lung infections, the cytokine storm is a consequence of severe infections in the gastrointestinal tract, urinary tract, central nervous system, skin, joint spaces, and other sites. (Tisoncik, et. al, Into the Eye of the Cytokine Storm – 2012)

According to the 2012 study, “Cytokine storms are associated with a wide variety of infectious and noninfectious diseases and have even been the unfortunate consequence of attempts at therapeutic intervention.” How do coronaviruses enter the body? With SARS (sudden acute respiratory syndrome), another coronavirus, researchers discovered that one of the ways the disease attaches itself is through an enzyme known as ACE2, a ‘functional receptor’ produced in several organs (oral and nasal mucosa, nasopharynx, lung, stomach, small intestine, colon, skin, lymph nodes, thymus, bone marrow, spleen, liver, kidney, and brain).

ACE2 is also “abundantly present in humans in the epithelia of the lung and small intestine, which might provide possible routes of entry for the SARS-CoV,” while it was also observed “in arterial and venous endothelial cells and arterial smooth muscle cells” – which would include the heart. This has led some to speculate that Asians, who have higher concentrations of ACE2 (per the 1000 genome project) may be affected to a greater degree than those of European ancestry, who produce the least of it – and have largely been the asymptomatic ‘super spreaders’..

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The Diamond Princess is a mess. But would it have been better to let potentially infected passengers leave and spread the disease? Perhaps this is one of those situations that we don’t have an solution for.

70 More Infections On Diamond Princess Cruise Ship Bring Total To 355 (SCMP)

The number of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which remains quarantined in a dock in Yokohama, Japan, has risen to 355, up 70 from the last government count, the country’s health minister said on Sunday. “So far, we have conducted tests for 1,219 individuals. Of those, 355 people tested positive. Of those, 73 individuals are not showing symptoms,” Katsunobu Kato told public broadcaster NHK. Canada has chartered a plane to evacuate its citizens from the ship, the Canadian government said in a statement late on Saturday. Canadian passengers who exhibit symptoms of infection will not be allowed to board the flight and will instead be transferred to the Japanese health care system, the government said. Passengers who fly to Canada will enter a 14-day quarantine on arrival.

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I lost count, which circle of hell is this again?

Cruise Passengers Face 14 More Days In Quarantine On Return To Hong Kong (SCMP)

Hong Kong passengers stranded on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan have baulked at the suggestion they spend another 14 days in quarantine when they return home, even as they welcomed the government’s move to arrange chartered flights to bring them back to the city. The evacuation plan came as 70 new cases of the coronavirus were confirmed by Japanese health officials on Sunday morning, taking the total number of infections aboard the vessel to 355, including at least 11 Hongkongers who have been hospitalised. Among the 330 passengers from Hong Kong who have been held on the ship for 11 days, Young Wo-sang, who was stranded with his wife, welcomed the news, but said he did not understand the need for another two weeks in quarantine.


“We have been placed in quarantine in Japan from February 5, and it has been nearly 14 days already. Why is there a need to quarantine us for another 14 days?” The Hong Kong Immigration Department said the move was to protect against the health risks associated with repatriating the residents, 260 of whom are SAR passport holders, with the remaining 70 travelling on other passports. Young said his wife received text messages from the department in the early hours of Sunday, that said the couple would be notified when they could leave, once Japanese authorities had confirmed the detailed plans for disembarkation.

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Damned if you do and doomed if you don’t.

Quarantined Cruise Ship Passenger Speaks Out Against US Evacuation Plan (Fox)

A passenger aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which is currently quarantined off the coast of Japan amid a coronavirus outbreak, is speaking out against the United States’ plan to evacuate American passengers. Matthew Smith, who has been quarantined with his wife since Feb. 5, told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto that he prefers to stay on the cruise ship. “Our greatest desire at this point is to maintain the quarantine that the Japanese health officials have established,” Smith said, “then get a test for the virus at the end of that quarantine so we can establish with relative certainty that we are not infected and be free to go. “Unfortunately, the State Department has thrown a monkey wrench into that,” he added.

Approximately 400 Americans and their families on the Diamond Princess will be offered seats on two flights that could arrive at Travis Air Force Base near Sacramento, Calif., as early as Sunday, a CDC official told The Wall Street Journal. A CDC team will screen passengers and those exhibiting symptoms won’t be allowed on the flights. Smith, however, said he’s skeptical about the proposed plan. “I understand getting off the ship to be in another space, but under this circumstance, the offer is we’re going to put you on buses with other people who haven’t completed their quarantines and have not been tested for the virus,” Smith said.


“We’re going to then put you on a plane with all these people and take you back to the United States, and because of the risk you still pose due to that situation we’re going to stick you in another quarantine.” Smith said he would rather stay put on the Diamond Princess ship. While the ship is “getting a bad rap” for its living conditions, Smith said he is content where he is. “We have access to the balcony, we are fed well – three times a day along with excess food — they provide all the necessities we need in there,” he said.

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Or did she?

American From Cruise Ship Docked In Cambodia Tests Positive In Malaysia For Coronavirus (R.)

An 83-year-old American woman who had been a passenger on a cruise ship that docked in Cambodia has tested positive for the new coronavirus on landing in Malaysia, health authorities said on Saturday. The American woman flew to Malaysia on Friday from Cambodia along with 144 others from the ship, the Malaysian health ministry said in a statement. The woman’s husband had tested negative, it said. The MS Westerdam, operated by Carnival Corp unit Holland America Inc, docked in the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville on Thursday after being shunned by five countries on fears that passengers could be carrying the virus.


The Westerdam, carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew, spent two weeks at sea. The passengers were tested regularly on board and Cambodia also tested 20 once it docked. None was found to have the new coronavirus that has killed more than 1,500 people, the vast majority in China. U.S. President Donald Trump has thanked Cambodia for taking in the ship in a rare message to a country that is one of China’s closest allies and has often been at odds with Washington.

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Holland America Line doesn’t think she was ever really positive.

Cruise Firm Seeks New Virus Test For Passenger From Ship In Cambodia (R.)

More tests are needed to confirm that an American passenger from a cruise ship docked in Cambodia has the new coronavirus after she tested positive in Malaysia, the MS Westerdam’s operator said on Sunday. The 83-year-old woman was the first passenger from the MS Westerdam, operated by Carnival Corp unit Holland America Inc, to test positive for the virus. “While the first results have been reported, they are preliminary at this point and we are awaiting secondary testing for confirmation,” Holland America said in a statement. Cambodian authorities called on Malaysia to review its test results.

Holland America said 236 passengers and 747 crew remained aboard the vessel, which is docked in the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville. It arrived on Thursday carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew. It had spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand. The passengers were tested regularly on board and Cambodia also tested 20 once it docked. None was found to have the new coronavirus that has killed more than 1,500 people, the vast majority in China.


The American woman flew to Malaysia on Friday from Cambodia along with 144 others from the ship, the Malaysian health ministry said in a statement, adding that she was in stable condition. The woman’s husband had shown symptoms but tested negative, it said. The couple were the only ones among the 145 to show symptoms, the ministry said. Cambodia’s government said its own tests had been done in collaboration with the World Health Organisation and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The Ministry of Health requests the Malaysian authorities to review the results of the test,” Cambodia’s Ministry of Health said in statement.

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Everything stands still. Nobody believes China’s official numbers anymore. How about 0% GDP growth?

New Coronavirus Threatens Meltdown In China’s Economy (SCMP)

Given the rapid advance of medical science and globalisation of recent decades, the scale, spread and economic costs of human epidemics are rocketing up, even if fatality rates are starting to fall. Never before has China paid such an economic price for an epidemic as it has done already with the coronavirus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan and causes the disease now officially known as Covid-19. And the damage is spreading. It is too soon to assess the full impact of the virus as the data changes day after day and not even the brightest expert can say with any certainty when the outbreak might end. Nevertheless, that has not stopped economists from attempting to forecast the likely economic cost based on precedents such as the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or Sars.

Sars sickened about 8,000 people and killed fewer than 800 and in these terms has already been surpassed by the new coronavirus, though its fatality rate of 9.6 per cent is significantly higher than that of Covid-19, which some estimates put at around 2.4 per cent. Sars cut two percentage points from China’s real GDP growth in the second quarter of 2003 and caused US$50 billion of damage to the global economy. Of course, the economic losses from Covid-19 will depend somewhat on how long the outbreak lasts and on what policy support the Chinese government comes up with to offset the impact. But even at this stage, it is obvious that the economic impact of Covid-19 will be far more severe than that of Sars, or any other previous epidemic, for a number of reasons.


Firstly, the Chinese economy is four times as big as it was in 2003, so its losses and the impact on the global economy are likely to be correspondingly larger. China’s gross domestic product accounted for around 16 per cent of the global total last year while it was just four per cent in 2003. A rough estimate is that Covid-19 will cause at least four times as big a loss as Sars. Secondly, the timing is far worse. The outbreak took place just days before the Lunar New Year holiday, when hundreds of millions of Chinese travel domestically and internationally to attend family reunions and festive events. Sars happened in the second quarter of the year, when there was far less activity to disrupt. [..] Thirdly, China’s rapid urbanisation means Chinese are now much more likely to travel domestically and abroad than two decades ago. This also means that when they stop travelling, the disruption is greater.

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Not a good time for small business in China.

Coronavirus Scare Leaves China’s Empty Restaurants Selling Off Stocks (R.)

Wang Chuanchao shuttered his restaurant in central Beijing three weeks ago as the scare over the coronavirus epidemic in country kept customers away and now he’s reduced to selling off vegetables on the street outside to cut losses. Anticipating packed tables at his 125-seater restaurant over the Lunar New Year, Wang says he bought in 300,000 yuan (nearly $43,000) worth of ingredients, ranging from celery to ox tripe. Now, he has to find ways to pay the rent, and his staff, so he can re-open for business once his customers find the courage to come back. “We must help ourselves as we can’t count on anything else,” the 32-year-old Wang, standing in front of a stall laden with vegetables that would perish unless they’re sold quickly. “We must try all efforts to cut our losses.”


Most other restaurants have been forced to do the same, as demand has plummeted following the outbreak in the central city of Wuhan in December, with local authorities across the country curbing travel and closing off public areas to prevent the coronavirus spreading. “We purchased stocks of foodstuffs worth 500,000 yuan before the new year, but now the fresh vegetables have started rotting,” said Liu, a young man working at The Cheng’s restaurant in downtown Beijing. “We threw it all away yesterday.” A report published this week by China Cuisine Association said scare over the epidemic has cost the catering sector 500 billion yuan in lost earnings during the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, with 93% restaurants shutting down operations.

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“In 2017, an estimated 900,000 Chinese tertiary students studied abroad.”

Chinese Students -Used To- Spend Billions Overseas (CNN)

If it weren’t for the novel coronavirus outbreak, Xu Mingxi would have been in class at a prestigious New York university this week. Instead, the 22-year-old has spent the past three weeks confined to his family’s apartment in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the outbreak, which is currently on lockdown to prevent the virus spreading. But even if Xu could leave home, the United States – where he’s studied for the past four-and-a-half years – won’t let him in. Over 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) away in Beijing, Alex – who asked not to use her real name for fear of online retribution – is in a similar situation. She’s spent the past two weeks at home with her mom and grandpa, being delivered groceries by community leaders.

She’s worried she won’t be able to fly to Sydney to study later this month and may have to delay her law degree by a semester. As novel coronavirus spreads, over 60 countries have imposed travel restrictions on Chinese citizens, hoping to limit their exposure to the virus that has killed more than 1,600 people, almost all in mainland China, and infected over 68,000 worldwide. Both Australia and the US have put temporary bans on foreign nationals who visited China in the 14 days prior to their arrival. That has locked Xu and Alex out of their studies — and they are by no means alone. In 2017, an estimated 900,000 Chinese tertiary students studied abroad. Around half of those went to either the United States or Australia, contributing billions of dollars to their economies — money that those countries now stand to lose.


It is not clear how many of the 360,000 Chinese students studying in the US were outside the country when the US travel ban hit on January 31, shortly before many universities were due to resume. But when Australia imposed its restrictions at the start of February, authorities estimated that 56% of Chinese students — about 106,680 people — were still abroad. Term was due to begin in late February or early March. “For Australia, it couldn’t have come at a worse time. It’s exactly the time of the year in which people are coming from China to Australia,” said Andrew Norton, a professor in the practice of higher education policy at the Australian National University. The virus outbreak coincided with the Lunar New Year — the most important holiday in the Chinese calendar, when many students go home to see their family.

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First of many?

Fiat Chrysler Suspends 500L Production Over China Supply Disruption (R.)

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said it had temporarily halted production at its Serbian plant due to disruptions related to components sourced from China, where companies have been hampered by the outbreak of a new coronavirus. Planned downtime at the Kragujevac plant in Serbia has been rescheduled, an FCA spokesman said on Friday. Production will restart later this month, the spokesman said, adding that the group did not expect the changes would affect total production forecasts for this month. “We are in the process of securing future supply of the affected parts,” the spokesman said. The automaker builds the 500L in Kragujevac.


The spokesman said the supply of audio system parts had been disrupted. Output at the Kragujevac plant was about 40,000 units last year, Serbian media reported, or a quarter of total capacity. FCA had said on Feb. 6 that it might have to temporarily close a European plant within two to four weeks if the impact of the coronavirus in China created supply line issues. The Kragujevac stoppage marks first time an automaker has had to idle a facility in Europe due to the virus. The next few weeks will be critical for automakers. Parts made in China are used in millions of vehicles assembled around the world. China’s Hubei province, epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, is a major hub for vehicle parts production and shipments.

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The ultimate fight for control over the party. How can Bernie, Tulsi and AOC be expected to support the Looming Hill-Berg?

Looming Hill-Berg: Bloomberg Considering Hillary Clinton As Running Mate (NYP)

He’s with her? Mike Bloomberg could team up with Hillary Clinton to try to take down President Trump in November — by making her his running mate. Bloomberg’s internal polling found the combo “would be a formidable force,” sources close to the campaign told the Drudge Report Saturday. Bloomberg’s communications director did not deny the rumored matchmaking effort. “We are focused on the primary and the debate, not VP speculation,” Jason Schechter said in a statement. But minutes after Drudge broke the news, Bloomberg himself posted a coy message about working with female colleagues. “I would not be where I am today without the talented women around me,” he tweeted. “I’ve depended on their leadership, their advice and their contributions.”

A Bloomberg campaign insider told The Post that the two have long been simpatico – going back to the days when she represented New York in the U.S. Senate and he was Gotham’s mayor. “I am sure that they polled it, just because you would be dumb not to wonder,” the insider said. “You want to see what a match-up might look like.” But the pairing is a “net negative” for Bloomberg, a Democratic strategist said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me,” said Brad Bannon, a consultant not affiliated with any presidential campaign. “If he wins the nomination, there’s going to be a lot of unhappiness in the progressive wing of the party,” Bannon explained. “You can’t afford to have them sit on their hands in November.”


[..] Asked about the looming Hill-Berg, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has endorsed Sanders, deflected. “I would hope [Bloomberg] would not be in a position to be choosing a running mate at all,” she told The Post during her Queens campaign office opening Saturday. “I think Bloomberg’s past on stop and frisk, on harassment of women— all of these claims are huge red flags.” Clinton and Bloomberg were spotted together in December at Orso in the Theatre District, where they dined with daughter Chelsea, Barry Diller, Diane von Furstenberg, and others, Page Six reported – supposedly to celebrate the birthday of socialite Annette de la Renta. “From what I have seen they have always been friendly,” the campaign insider said.

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Trump draws the viewers, Bloomberg pays for them.

TV Execs Celebrate Unprecedented Flood Of Bloomberg Campaign Spending (IC)

Fox news hosts regularly bash former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg as a globalist demagogue intent on seizing Americans’ firearms and big gulp sodas. High-level executives at the company, however, are much more enthusiastic about the billionaire politician and Democratic presidential candidate. Lachlan Murdoch, the chief executive of Fox Corp., the parent company of Fox News, is one of several media executives to welcome Bloomberg’s unprecedented spending spree on television advertisements. In a February 5 briefing for investors, Murdoch noted that he had heard “the Bloomberg campaign has expected to sort of double its advertising spend earlier this week.” The billionaire’s campaign, Murdoch noted, makes purchases on a week-to-week basis, making it difficult to project the ultimate benefit for his company.

“But obviously,” he added, “we expect it to be very strong and particularly, as I mentioned, in the markets of our local TV stations.” Bloomberg, the ninth wealthiest person in the world, with a fortune estimated at almost $62 billion, has upended the Democratic presidential primary with an infusion of cash that has smashed through historical records in a matter of weeks. Advertising Analytics, which tracks campaign spending, reported Thursday that Bloomberg has already spent $363 million on cable, broadcast, and radio advertisements alone. The 2020 campaign is shaping up to be an incredible financial opportunity for media companies, with one market research firm recently estimating that nearly $7 billion of paid advertising be spent this year, up over 60 percent since the 2016 presidential race.


Bloomberg alone has enticed media executives to see the race as a golden opportunity. “The political is going to be huge this year,” boasted Christopher Ripley, president and chief executive of Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the largest owners of television stations in the country, speaking last month at the Citi 2020 Global TMT West conference in Las Vegas. “The amount of fundraising that’s happened through this year has broken all records. And the good news about politicians is they never return the money, they spend it,” Ripley quipped.

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Well, it’s going to be an election like never before.

Why Wasn’t Andrew McCabe Charged? (NR)

The Justice Department announced Friday that it is closing its investigation of Andrew McCabe, the FBI’s former deputy director, over his false statements to investigators probing an unauthorized leak that McCabe had orchestrated. McCabe was fired in March 2018, shortly after a blistering Justice Department inspector general (IG) report concluded that he repeatedly and blatantly lied — or, as the Bureau lexicon puts it, “lacked candor” — when questioned, including under oath. Why not indict McCabe on felony false-statements charges? That is the question being pressed by incensed Trump supporters.

After all, the constitutional guarantee of equal justice under the law is supposed to mean that McCabe gets the same quality of justice afforded to the sad sacks pursued with unseemly zeal by McCabe’s FBI and Robert Mueller’s prosecutors. George Papadopoulos was convicted of making a trivial false statement about the date of a meeting. Roger Stone was convicted of obstruction long after the special counsel knew there was no Trump–Russia conspiracy, even though his meanderings did not impede the investigation in any meaningful way. And in the case of Michael Flynn’s false-statements conviction, as McCabe himself acknowledged to the House Intelligence Committee, even the agents who interviewed him did not believe he intentionally misled them.

I emphasize Flynn’s intent because purported lack of intent is McCabe’s principal defense, too. Even McCabe himself, to say nothing of his lawyers and his apologists in the anti-Trump network of bureaucrats-turned-pundits, cannot deny that he made false statements to FBI agents and the IG. Rather, they argue that the 21-year senior law-enforcement official did not mean to lie, that he was too distracted by his high-level responsibilities to focus on anything as mundane as a leak — even though he seemed pretty damned focused on the leak while he was orchestrating it. The “he did not believe he intentionally misled them” defense is not just implausible; it proved unavailing on McCabe’s watch, at least in General Flynn’s case.

Hence, McCabe has a back-up plan: To argue that it would be extraordinary — and thus unconstitutionally selective and retaliatory — for the Justice Department to prosecute a former official for false statements in a “mere” administrative inquiry (which the leak probe was), as opposed to a criminal investigation. Again, tell that to Flynn, with whom the FBI conducted a brace-style interview — at the White House, without his counsel present, and in blithe disregard of procedures for FBI interviews of the president’s staff — despite the absence of a sound investigative basis for doing so, and whom Mueller’s maulers squeezed into a guilty plea anyway.

Read more …

 

Don’t ask.

 

 

 

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Feb 152020
 


Harris & Ewing Gettysburg 50th reunion: Grand Army of the Republic and the United Confederate Veterans 1913

 

Massive Medical Response As China Death Toll Reaches 1,526 (SCMP)
Beijing To Quarantine All Arrivals As Economic Life Struggles To Pick Up (R.)
Xi Puts On Brave Face, Vows To Deliver Economic Goals Amid Coronavirus (SCMP)
Egypt Confirms Coronavirus Case, The First In Africa (AlJ)
Chinese Medical Staff Pay ‘Too High A Price’ In Battle To Curb Virus (SCMP)
Wandering Ship Becomes ‘Best Cruise Ever (R.)
Sidney Powell: One Atrocity After The Other In Michael Flynn Case (SAC)
Barr Assigns Outside Prosecutor To Review Case Against Flynn (ZH)
DOJ Drops Investigation Of Former FBI Deputy Andrew McCabe (UPI)
Roger Stone Asks For New Trial (Hill)
Carville Slams Sanders For ‘Hack’ Slam: ‘At Least I’m Not A Communist’ (Hill)
United Airlines Pulls Boeing 737 MAX From Schedule Until September 4 (R.)
Impure Thoughts (Kunstler)
US Soldiers in Deathly Scuffle With Syrian Civilians (Whitney Webb)
Varoufakis Submits Recordings Of Eurogroup Talks To Greek Parliament (K.)
Multibillion Mystery Of The Great British Gold Sale (Conway)

 

 

And we’re off to the races again. With the renewed attention for the FBI and DOJ shenanigans in the cases past and present of Roger Stone, Michael Flynn and even Andrew McCabe, it’s easy to get too many articles for an effective aggregator.

 

• Cases 67,102, up 2,661 from yesterday. 11,053 – 18% of cases listed as severe.

• Deaths 1,526, up 143 from yesterday

First death in Europe, a Chinese tourist in France. Close the borders!

• 2,420 new cases (total 54,406) and 139 new deaths in Hubei province

• Chinese experts expect surge in confirmed cases inn coming days.

• 4 more cases in Japan, 3 more cases in Hong Kong

• Infected passengers and crew aboard ‘the Diamond Princess’ climbs to 218

• Lockdown in Beijing

• 217 medical teams sent to provinces, including 25,033 medical professionals to Hubei, in addition to 181 teams of army doctors in Wuhan and 36 army medical teams across Hubei

 

 

 

 

They’re even sanitizing coins and bank notes with UV light.

Massive Medical Response As China Death Toll Reaches 1,526 (SCMP)

China reported 2,641 new confirmed cases and 849 new severe cases on Saturday. A total of 143 more people have died, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 1,526. There are 2,277 suspected new cases. The total number of confirmed cases across the country stands at 66,492, of which 11,053 – 18 per cent – are severe. In Hubei province – epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak – 2,420 new confirmed cases were reported with 1,923 of those in provincial capital Wuhan. The city also accounted for 107 of the 139 new deaths reported in Hubei on Saturday. National Health Commission deputy director Wang Hesheng said nine medical shelters had been opened to accommodate patients with mild symptoms, as well as people with suspected infections.

It was Wang’s first press conference since his arrival in Wuhan – provincial capital of Hubei where the novel coronavirus emerged – about a week ago. Wang and Chen Yixin, secretary general of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, the Communist Party’s top law enforcement body, were sent to Wuhan in response to public uproar about the death of ophthalmologist Li Wenliang, widely regarded as a whistle-blower about the new virus. Wang said China had sent 217 medical teams across provinces, including a total of 25,033 medical professionals to Hubei. These were in addition to the 181 teams of army doctors in Wuhan and a further 36 military medical teams in other cities in the province.


[..] Fan Yifei, vice-governor of the People’s Bank of China, said money supply in the country would be ensured, with 4 billion yuan (US$572 million) in new bank notes already allocated to Hubei before the Spring Festival holiday. Fan said the central bank would temporarily store bank notes from major government institutes or state enterprises in warehouses to prevent the disease spreading through the handling of cash. Banks have also been told to sanitise notes before giving them to enterprises. Fan said cash from hospitals and wet markets were being stored and bank notes and coins sanitised with UV light before they were released back into circulation.

Read more …

Imagine this in Paris, London, New York.

Beijing To Quarantine All Arrivals As Economic Life Struggles To Pick Up (R.)

The Chinese capital Beijing on Friday imposed a 14-day self-quarantine on people returning to the city from holidays to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, and threatened to punish those who failed to comply. It was not immediately clear how the restriction, relayed by the official Beijing Daily newspaper, would be enforced, or whether it would apply to non-residents of Beijing or foreigners arriving from abroad. [..] Wuhan, the city of 11 million people where the outbreak began, has the most acute problem. With all public transport, taxis and ride-hailing services shut down in the city, volunteer drivers are responding to requests on ad hoc messaging groups to ferry medical staff and others in vital jobs to and from work, risking their own health.


Others work round the clock to find accommodation for medical workers in hotels that have volunteered rooms. Many of the drivers keep their identities secret to avoid objections from family and friends. “Everyone in our group has such a strong sense of mission,” said 53-year-old Chen Hui, who runs one of the ad hoc ride services. [..] “From now on, all those who have returned to Beijing should stay at home or submit to group observation for 14 days after arriving,” read the notice from Beijing’s virus prevention working group cited by the Beijing Daily. “Those who refuse to accept home or centralised observation and other prevention and control measures will be held accountable under law.”

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He’s starting to acknowledge he can’t do both. How to save face?

Xi Puts On Brave Face, Vows To Deliver Economic Goals Amid Coronavirus (SCMP)

Shrouded in utmost secrecy, the Politburo Standing Committee is the inner circle of China’s power structure. The seven-member body, which is the core of the 25 member Politburo cabinet with general secretary Xi Jinping as its head, rarely publishes meeting schedules or agendas before or even after meetings. The details of only four standing committee meetings have been published in the two and half years since Xi consolidated his power in late 2017, even though the group is believed to have met on a weekly basis. Two of the meetings were to listen to work reports from China’s government, parliament and the top court, one was a discussion about a grand plan to build an entirely new city in Xiongan, Hebei province, and the fourth concerned a low-quality vaccine scandal.

This all changed last month with the outbreak of the coronavirus, which causes the disease now officially known as Covid-19. The conclusions of three standing committee meetings in three consecutive weeks have since been published, an attempt to make it clear that China’s leadership, in particular Xi himself, has a strong message to send to the country’s ruling apparatus and the general public. During Wednesday’s meeting, Xi said control of the coronavirus had entered a critical stage despite “positive developments” in containing the outbreak, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. However, Xi emphasised that the outbreak of coronavirus should not stop China from achieving its social and economic goals, while also continuing the country’s long-term rise.


“This year is the last year to complete the goal of building up a comprehensively well-off society” said Xi, with all levels of the government expected to ensure economic stability and social harmony to achieve set goals despite the coronavirus. The meeting came just a day after Xi told his Indonesian counterpart, Joko Widodo, that China “has the capability, confidence and certainty to score an outright victory over the epidemic”. “We must see that the long-term sound fundamentals of our economy haven’t changed. The impact of the outbreak will only be short-term and [China] won’t be intimidated by the current problems and difficulties,” Xi said according to Xinhua.

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Africa is an ideal breeding ground for a virus like this. But who’s going to do the testing, and with what? A hospital in Cairo may do it, but what about the Congo for instance? There are at least a millionn Chinese working in Africa. Come to think of it, what will COVID19 mean for Belt and Road?

Egypt Confirms Coronavirus Case, The First In Africa (AlJ)

Egypt has confirmed its first case of a deadly coronavirus that emerged in central China at the end of last year and has since spread to more than two dozen countries around the world. Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Mugahed said in a statement on Friday that the affected person was a “foreigner” who did not show any serious symptoms. Officials were able to confirm the case through a follow-up programme implemented by the government for travellers arriving from countries where the virus has spread. The ministry statement said the person was hospitalised and in isolation. It did not specify the person’s nationality or their point of entry. The development made Egypt the first country in the African continent to report a confirmed case, and the second in the Middle East region, after the United Arab Emirates late last month diagnosed its first cases.

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China must ask for mass assistance.

Chinese Medical Staff Pay ‘Too High A Price’ In Battle To Curb Virus (SCMP)

More than a thousand health care workers have been infected with Covid-19, many of whom contracted the virus that causes the disease in the early weeks of the outbreak when there was a shortage of protective equipment and the authorities said there had been few cases of human-to-human transmission. One specialist warned that frontline medical workers were paying “too high a price” in the battle to contain the disease and warned that the high number of infected health care staff increased the risk of cross-infection in hospitals. On Friday the government said a total 1,716 health care workers had been infected with the disease. The number is far higher than that recorded during the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic, although there have been 12 times more confirmed cases of Covid-19.

[..] Cai Haodong, a communicable diseases specialist from Beijing’s Ditan Hospital, said the absolute number of health care worker infections was far higher than during the Sars epidemic because there were many patients who had not initially shown any symptoms. “The enemy (coronavirus) is in the dark. The awareness of doctors of non-communicable disease was not strong. They may have lowered their guard when the patient did not show any symptoms.” Health care workers were also forced to go to the frontline without proper protective clothing and masks, she added. “The doctors in Wuhan don’t have sufficient protective gear and they are forced to go to the frontline. The price is just too high,” she said.


The large number of health care worker infections increases the risks of cross-infection in hospitals. “When doctors are infected, they may infect patients and cause cross-infections. That is why the United States requires doctors to have influenza vaccines so that they won’t pass it on to patients,” Cao said.

Read more …

How much did the industry pay for this commercial?

“We had free internet and free wine. We had three-course meals. There was so much choice..”

Wandering Ship Becomes ‘Best Cruise Ever (R.)

After nearly two weeks cast away in search of a port that would take them, passengers aboard the MS Westerdam cruise ship spoke of an ordeal that was anything but harrowing. “Everyone says ‘poor you’. But there was no poor you. We had free internet and free wine. We had three-course meals. There was so much choice,” said Zahra Jennings, a retired staff nurse from Britain. How was it? “Lovely,” she said. The 1,544 passengers and 802 crew had never expected a port stop in Hong Kong to metastasize into full-blown fear that some of the ship’s passengers carried the novel coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, China, late last year and has killed more than 1,500 people.

Turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand, it was Cambodia that finally let the lost ship dock – and it was discovered there that none of the passengers was infected. The only complaint aboard? “They ran out of hash browns a couple of days ago, and tomato sauce,” said Robert Sayers, a 60-year-old chemical company employee from New Zealand. “But that was it. It was fine, really.” Cruise ships around Asia face widespread fears they may be spreading the virus since it was found aboard the Diamond Princess that is now at anchor in Yokohama and where 218 of the passengers have been diagnosed with the virus.

Vietnam turned back two ships on Friday. It was Valentine’s Day when the first passengers disembarked from the Westerdam. The prime minister, Hun Sen, flew in from the capital, shaking hands with passengers and handing out roses. Government officials draped “Welcome to Cambodia” banners on buses. All passengers were given free visas. Hun Sen, an authoritarian ruler condemned by Western countries for human rights abuses said: “Our current disease around the world is fear and discrimination,” he said. “If Cambodia didn’t allow this ship to dock, where should these 2,000 passengers go?”


Holland America sent letters to all passengers saying it would reimburse the cost of the cruise, give them another free 14-day cruise, and charter them flights home. The company, it said, would do its best to match the class of flight they had originally booked. The cruise had been scheduled to end in Shanghai on Saturday. In Shanghai it was 14 Celsius, overcast and raining. In Sihanoukville, it was 27C and sunny.

Read more …

He was led to believe that he wasn’t being investigated, so he didn’t need a lawyer, and now we’re off to the races.

Sidney Powell: One Atrocity After The Other In Michael Flynn Case (SAC)

Sidney Powell, the attorney for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn told Sean Hannity on Friday that there has been “one atrocity after another” in the proceedings. “So not only was [Michael Flynn] not warned of his rights, he didn’t even know that he was being investigated,” Powell told host Sean Hannity. “In fact, he was led to believe that he wasn’t being investigated.” Powell added that Michael Flynn’s case was the first instance she had heard of in which a defendant accused of making false statements to the FBI was not warned of his rights or informed that he was under investigation. “They say they can’t find [it], he can’t produce it [the 302 form],” she said of Michael Flynn prosecutor Brandon Van Grack. who she claimed has a separate conflict of interest in the case. “There is one atrocity after the other in this case.”

Read more …

Would this have happened if Powell hadn’t taken over? I don’t believe it for a second.

Barr Assigns Outside Prosecutor To Review Case Against Flynn (ZH)

A week of two-tiered legal shenanigans was capped off on Friday with a New York Times report that Attorney General William Barr has assigned an outside prosecutor to scrutinize the government’s case against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, which the Times suggested was “highly unusual and could trigger more accusations of political interference by top Justice Department officials into the work of career prosecutors.” Notably, the FBI excluded crucial information from a ‘302’ form documenting an interview with Flynn in January, 2017. While Flynn eventually pleaded guilty to misleading agents over his contacts with the former Russian ambassador regarding the Trump administration’s efforts to oppose a UN resolution related to Israel, the original draft of Flynn’s 203 reveals that agents thought he was being honest with them – evidence which Flynn’s prior attorneys never pursued.

His new attorney, Sidney Powell, took over Flynn’s defense in June 2019 – while Flynn withdrew his guilty plea in January, accusing the government of “bad faith, vindictiveness, and breach of the plea agreement.” In addition to a review of the Flynn case, Barr has hired a handful of outside prosecutors to broadly review several other politically sensitive national-security cases in the US attorney’s office in Washington, according to the Times sources. Of particular interest will be cases overseen by now-unemployed former US attorney for DC, Jessie Liu, which includes actions against Stone, Flynn, the Awan brothers, James Wolfe and others. Notably, Wolfe was only sentenced to leaking a classified FISA warrant application to journalist and side-piece Ali Watkins of the New York Times – while prosecutors out of Liu’s office threw the book at former Trump adviser Roger Stone – recommending 7-9 years in prison for process crimes.


[..] New York Times: “The moves amounted to imposing a secondary layer of monitoring and control over what career prosecutors have been doing in the Washington office. They are part of a broader turmoil in that office coinciding with Mr. Barr’s recent installation of a close aide, Timothy Shea, as interim United States attorney in the District of Columbia, after Mr. Barr maneuvered out the Senate-confirmed former top prosecutor in the office, Jessie K. Liu. Mr. Flynn’s case was first brought by the special counsel’s office, who agreed to a plea deal on a charge of lying to investigators in exchange for his cooperation, before the Washington office took over the case when the special counsel shut down after concluding its investigation into Russia’s election interference”.

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But that’s not the end of the line for McCabe, says Jason Chaffetz. Stay tuned.

DOJ Drops Investigation Of Former FBI Deputy Andrew McCabe (UPI)

The Justice Department has dropped its investigation into former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe over accusations he leaked information to news media, his attorneys said Friday. A letter to McCabe’s lawyers said the Justice Department declined to pursue criminal charges. “Based on the totality of the circumstances and all of the information known to the government at this time, we consider the matter closed,” said the letter, signed by J.P. Cooney and Molly Gaston of the Fraud & Public Corruption Section of the Justice Department. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe from the FBI in March 2018 after the Justice Department’s inspector general determined he’d authorized FBI officials to reveal sensitive information to media about an investigation related to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.


The IG report accused McCabe of subsequently misleading investigators about his role in the matter. McCabe had stepped down from his role as deputy director of the FBI months earlier. McCabe’s lawyers, Michael Bromwich and David Schertler, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Washington, D.C., notified them the case was closed.

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How can the request be refused? Hard to see.

Roger Stone Asks For New Trial (Hill)

Attorneys for Roger Stone on Friday requested a new trial, a day after saying they were looking into potential bias by a juror who voted to convict the longtime Trump associate of lying to Congress and witness tampering. The request also comes after President Trump accused the juror of harboring “significant bias” following reports that her social media activity contained posts that were critical of Trump. “Now it looks like the fore person in the jury, in the Roger Stone case, had significant bias. Add that to everything else, and this is not looking good for the “Justice” Department. @foxandfriends @FoxNews,” Trump tweeted Thursday.

Stone’s attorneys would not reveal the contents of the motion, which was filed under seal to protect sensitive information, saying only that an un-redacted version will be submitted later for public filing. However, a day earlier they indicated they were looking into the newly surfaced social media activity of jury foreperson Tomeka Hart. “Mr. Stone and his defense team are diligently reviewing the newly reported information to determine any appropriate next steps,” said attorney Grant Smith, who did not refer to the juror by name. Hart’s role as the jury foreperson became publicly known Wednesday when she confirmed to CNN that she had written a Facebook post defending the prosecutors in Stone’s case.


The four-person prosecution team quit Tuesday after their recommended sentence of seven to nine years in prison was overruled by top Justice Department officials, sparking questions about whether the White House had put undue political pressure on the department to seek a lighter sentence for Trump’s longtime associate. Stone, a 67-year-old right-wing provocateur, was found guilty in November of lying to Congress and witness tampering related to his efforts to provide the Trump campaign inside information about WikiLeaks in 2016. [..] It was unclear if the request for a new trial — Stone’s second attempt after the first was denied — would delay his scheduled Feb. 20 sentencing.

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Carville is THE symbol of the demise of the Democratic Party in the past 30 years. He’s a sleaze like Roger Stone, only he’s free.

Carville Slams Sanders For ‘Hack’ Slam: ‘At Least I’m Not A Communist’ (Hill)

James Carville fired back at Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for calling him “a political hack,” calling the self-described democratic socialist “a communist.” The back and forth follows a week in which Carville has repeatedly sounded the alarm about a potential Sanders match-up against President Trump in November, calling the scenario “the end of days” for the Democratic Party while referring to Sanders supporters as “a cult.” Sanders returned fire on Wednesday night during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, arguing that “political hack” Carville represents the establishment his campaign is running against.

“James, in all due respect, is a political hack,” Sanders said. “We are taking on Trump, the Republican establishment, Carville and the Democratic establishment. But at the end of the day, the grassroots movement that we are putting together — of young people, of working people, of people of color — want real change.” Carville, who worked as a campaign strategist for former President Clinton, escalated the feud Thursday on Snapchat with former CNN reporter Peter Hamby. “Last night on CNN, Bernie Sanders called me a political hack,” Carville said. “That’s exactly who the f— I am! I am a political hack! I am not an ideologue. I am not a purist. He thinks it’s a pejorative. I kind of like it! At least I’m not a communist.”


Trump also recently referred to Sanders as a communist. “I think he’s a communist. I mean, you know, look, I think of communism when I think of Bernie,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity before the Super Bowl. Sanders dismissed Trump’s comment a week later in an interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” “Obviously I am not a communist,” Sanders said, adding that maybe Trump “doesn’t know the difference.”

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Does anyone think the 737 MAX will fly again this year? How about ever?

United Airlines Pulls Boeing 737 MAX From Schedule Until September 4 (R.)

United Airlines said on Friday it is extending the cancellation of Boeing 737 MAX flights until Sept. 4, a fresh delay that comes as sources told Reuters that the timing of a key certification flight may not happen until at least April. U.S. airlines that operate Boeing’s737 MAX, which was grounded worldwide last March after two fatal crashes, had last pulled the jet from their flight schedules until early June. On Thursday, Southwest Airlines extended its MAX cancellations until Aug. 10.

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“..it is a peculiar feature of our times that a lot of things have an appearance that doesn’t sync with reality..”

Impure Thoughts (Kunstler)

..companies doing business need a revenue stream to service their revolving debts. They have to make stuff, and move stuff, and get paid for it. What happens when there is no revenue stream? The workings of this hyper-complex financial system depend utterly on the velocity of these revenue streams. They can’t just… stop! Everybody who follows these things understands that China’s banking system is 1) a hot mess of confabulated public and private lending relationships, 2) completely opaque as regards the true workings of its operations, and 3) shot through with fraud, swindling, and Ponzis. Did China’s ruling party just put its banking system in an induced coma while Corona virus plays out? How can that possibly not affect the rest of global finance, which is plenty janky, too?

The USA gets everything from car parts to pharmaceuticals from China. How long will it take for the manufacturing lock-down to show up in American daily life? What if it continues for some months going forward? You can easily draw your own conclusions. Here’s another interesting angle on that: Corona virus might give President Donald Trump an easy out from being the bag-holder for a stock market crash and banking train wreck. The signal weakness of Mr. Trump’s term-in-office was his taking ownership of a magical mystery stock market that climbs ever-higher day after day, defying all known rules of physics as applied to money.


This longest “expansion” in US history (if that’s what it was, and I’m not so sure about it) seems to have hit a speed bump last September when something broke in the short-term “re-po” lending markets, at which time (and ever since), Jay Powell’s Federal Reserve began jamming hundreds of billions of dollars into them to smash down zooming interest rates and prevent a heart attack in the system. That creation of “liquidity” — money from thin air — appears to have stabilized the situation. But then, it is a peculiar feature of our times that a lot of things have an appearance that doesn’t sync with reality.

Read more …

Time to go before things get out of hand.

US Soldiers in Deathly Scuffle With Syrian Civilians (Whitney Webb)

As resistance to U.S. troop presence in both Iraq and Syria gains steam, a rare scuffle between Syrian civilians and U.S. forces broke out on Wednesday resulting in the death of one Syrian, believed to be a civilian, and the wounding of another. A U.S. soldier was also reportedly injured in the scuffle. The event is likely to escalate tensions, particularly in the Northeastern region where the incident took place, as Syria, Iraq and Iran have pushed for an end to the U.S. troop presence in the region following the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.

The clash between U.S. forces and Syrian locals took place near the town of Qamishli where the U.S. forces were conducting a patrol that, for reasons that are still unclear, entered into territory controlled by the Syrian government instead of territory occupied by the U.S. and its regional proxy, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). At a Syrian military checkpoint, the U.S. patrol was met by Syrian civilians of a nearby village who gathered at the checkpoint and began throwing rocks at the U.S. convoy. Then, one Syrian took a U.S. flag off of one of the military vehicles. Reports from activists on the ground and Syrian media then claim that U.S. troops opened fire using live ammunition and fired smoke bombs at the angry residents, killing one and wounding another.


A U.S. soldier was said to have received a superficial wound, though the nature of the wound was not specified. After the scuffle, the protests grew larger, preventing more U.S. troops from arriving at the scene. In one video of the protests, a local was seen ripping a U.S. flag as he approached an American soldier. The obstruction of the road prevented the U.S. patrol from advancing and two military vehicles had to be towed after becoming stuck in the grass after an apparent attempt to circumvent the roadblock created by the Syrian military checkpoint and supportive Syrian civilians.

Read more …

After the Greek House speaker refused to accept the recordings, Varoufakis -through DiEM25- said this:

“No one has the right to keep a sovereign Parliament, nor citizens, in the dark. This is why by the end of February we will release all recordings, so that all European citizens finally get to see the hypocrisy of the Establishment and the despicable way in which governments behave, in their name, behind closed doors.”

Varoufakis Submits Recordings Of Eurogroup Talks To Greek Parliament (K.)

The head of Mera25 party and former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis on Friday submitted to Parliament an envelope allegedly containing his secret audio recordings from the Eurogroup meetings while he was negotiating for Greece’s SYRIZA-led government in the first half of 2015. Varoufakis said he expected House speaker Kostas Tasoulas to forward the content to Greek lawmakers. Tasoulas, however, said he had no intention of sharing the recordings. “Parliament will not shoulder [Varoufakis’] responsibilities,” he said. The exchange took place during a debate on labor issues.


Tasoulas’ reaction was welcomed by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. In a statement, Mera25 said that Tasoulas’ refusal to accept the transcripts “confirms that Eurogroup’s wall of intransparency suited and still suits many people, while truth and transparency terrifies [them].” “All European citizens have a right to directly access the statements, the dialogues and the decisions that shape their future,” it said. Eurogroup rules do not explicitly prohibit participants from recording talks as long as the contents are kept confidential.

Read more …

Intruiging. But no answer.

Multibillion Mystery Of The Great British Gold Sale (Conway)

Every so often you encounter a chart that takes your breath away. This week I saw just such a graph and I’m still struggling to get my head round it. It depicts something which on the face of it sounds mundane — exports of gold from the UK — and it looks like a hockey stick. You’ve probably seen a hockey-stick chart before. There’s the one Al Gore put up on the big screen in An Inconvenient Truth showing temperatures hovering at about the same level for century after century before shooting up in recent decades. Or the one of GDP going back to the dark ages: for most of history we subsisted on meagre earnings until the industrial revolution came along and catapulted GDP into the stratosphere.

The one this week has much the same shape. Not much of anything for month after month from 1998 when it begins until October 2019. Sure, there were occasional months when the amount of gold leaving British hands would hit a few hundred million pounds. Once or twice it ticks over a billion. But nothing like what occurs in November and December last year: in those months it skyrockets at a rate that doesn’t make any sense. Until then, the monthly average of gold exports was £126 million. Then in November they leapt to £4 billion. In December they doubled to £8 billion. [..] Britain does not mine any significant quantity of gold yet we are the world’s hub for the trade in physical bullion.

This is something of an accident of history, in much the same way as we are also the world’s centre for the trade in fine wine, despite the fact that we produce very little of the stuff ourselves. Yet gold bullion is so valuable that every time it changes hands it massively distorts the trade figures. Consider: Britain has not achieved a goods trade surplus, which is where we export more goods than we import, in any single month since comparable records began more than two decades ago. Yet in December that astonishing leap in gold exports meant that the headline figures published this week showed Britain achieving its first goods trade surplus in modern times. That this was almost entirely down to a mysterious movement of gold bars was seemingly lost on Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, who promptly issued a press release hailing a “record-breaking year for UK exports”.

[..] why did gold exports soar at the end of last year? Was it down to Brexit, with traders switching out of gold in the run-up to Brexit day? Was it to do with the election? Was it central banks repatriating gold or investment banks shifting their portfolios from UK-domiciled funds to EU ones? We still don’t know. I have spoken to statisticians, to gold analysts and economists, to traders and industry experts. None of them have the foggiest idea what is going on. One analyst took a look at the chart and spluttered a four-letter word. “That’s crazy,” he said. “Must be a mistake.” Another person pointed to the fact that Poland flew back about £4 billion worth of gold from the UK last year, before remembering that this happened before December and, oh, these kinds of things don’t count as official exports anyway.


The most plausible explanation I’ve heard is that this was simply an accounting change: one of London’s leading gold custodians, an American investment bank, shifted some of the gold from one column of its accounts to another. The gold didn’t leave the country; someone simply fiddled with a spreadsheet. Even so, that raises further questions: is that bank in trouble? Why do it now? Who ordered it: the bank holding the gold or the gold’s owners? If the latter, then who owns so much gold that they could single-handedly distort this country’s trade figures and surface in Britain’s national accounts?

Read more …

 

Valentine’s.

 

 

 

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Sep 142019
 
 September 14, 2019  Posted by at 9:51 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Kazimir Malevich Spotrsmeny 1931

 

Saudi Arabia Oil Facilities Ablaze After Drone Strikes (BBC)
Julian Assange To Stay In Prison Over Absconding Fears (BBC)
Hopes Of Clean Break With EU Are Nonsense: Ex-Brexit Official (G.)
Scores Of Councils Say Food Shortages A Risk If UK Crashes Out Of EU (Ind.)
McCabe Lawyer Presses Justice Department To Drop Criminal Case (R.)
Tectonic Rumblings (Kunstler)
Latest Russian Spy Story Looks Like Another Elaborate Media Deception (Taibbi)
Felicity Huffman Shows Rich & Famous Can Get Away With ANYTHING (RT)
Crisis-Hit Boeing Readies Huge Effort To Return 737 MAX To The Skies (R.)
A Person The Most Powerful Government In The World Wanted To Go Away (G.)
‘If I Happen to Fall out of a Window, You Can Be Sure I Was Pushed’ (Spiegel)

 

 

Wonder who’s behind this, and who will get the blame. Not the same thing.

Saudi Arabia Oil Facilities Ablaze After Drone Strikes (BBC)

Drone attacks have set alight two major oil facilities run by the state-owned company Aramco in Saudi Arabia, state media say. Footage showed a huge blaze at Abqaiq, site of Aramco’s largest oil processing plant, while a second drone attack started fires in the Khurais oilfield. The fires are now under control at both facilities, state media said. A spokesman for the Iran-aligned Houthi group in Yemen said it had deployed 10 drones in the attacks. The military spokesman told al-Masirah TV, owned by the Houthi movement and based in Beirut, that further attacks could be expected in the future. Saudi officials have not yet commented on who could be behind the attacks.


“At 04:00 (01:00 GMT), the industrial security teams of Aramco started dealing with fires at two of its facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais as a result of… drones,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported. “The two fires have been controlled.” Abqaiq is about 60km (37 miles) south-west of Dhahran in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, while Khurais, some 200km further south-west, has the country’s second largest oilfield. The Abqaiq plant turns sour crude into sweet crude, producing up to 7 million barrels a day. Aramco says it is the world’s largest “crude oil stabilisation plant”. Saudi security forces foiled an attempt by al-Qaeda to attack the Abqaiq facility with suicide bombers in 2006. The Khurais oilfield came on line in 2009 and is the nation’s second-largest after Ghawar. Khurais reportedly produces 1.5 million barrels a day with estimated recoverable oil reserves of more than 20 billion barrels.

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A circus of evil clowns.

Julian Assange To Stay In Prison Over Absconding Fears (BBC)

Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange is to remain in prison when his jail term ends because of his “history of absconding”, a judge has ruled. He was due to be released on 22 September after serving his sentence for breaching bail conditions. But Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard there were “substantial grounds” for believing he would abscond again. The Australian, 48, is fighting extradition to the US over allegations of leaking government secrets. He will face a full extradition hearing next year, starting on 25 February, after an extradition request was signed by the then home secretary Sajid Javid in June. Assange received a 50-week sentence in Belmarsh Prison, south-east London, after being found guilty of breaching the Bail Act in April.


He was arrested at the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he took refuge in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations – which he has denied. District judge Vanessa Baraitser on Friday told Assange, who appeared by video-link: “You have been produced today because your sentence of imprisonment is about to come to an end. “When that happens your remand status changes from a serving prisoner to a person facing extradition.” She said that his lawyer had declined to make an application for bail on his behalf, adding “perhaps not surprisingly in light of your history of absconding in these proceedings”. “In my view I have substantial ground for believing if I release you, you will abscond again.”

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“..what it does is it takes us legally out of the EU. But what it can’t do is undo all of the very close economic ties that we have with the EU..”

Hopes Of Clean Break With EU Are Nonsense: Ex-Brexit Official (G.)

Claiming a no-deal Brexit represents a clean break with the European Union is “nonsensical”, according to Philip Rycroft, the former permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the EU. Boris Johnson has promised to extricate the UK from the EU on 31 October “come what may” – and has hinted that he could try to get around legislation mandating him to request a Brexit delay. The Brexit party leader, Nigel Farage, whose party trounced the Tories in May’s European elections, has been urging the PM to deliver a “clean break Brexit” by leaving without a deal. But Rycroft, who was the most senior civil servant at DexEU until March this year, told the Guardian a no-deal Brexit would mark the beginning of a complex series of negotiations.

“It is not a clean break: what it does is it takes us legally out of the EU. But what it can’t do is undo all of the very close economic ties that we have with the EU, on which so much of our trade as a country depends. And nor would we want to undo all of the close security ties that we have with the EU,” he said. “And because of the importance of those ties both for the EU and the UK, it will remain hugely important to have those expressed through a formal relationship. In other words, we’re going to have to negotiate – and that negotiation on the future relationship starts with citizens, money and the border on the island of Ireland. “So the notion that no deal somehow means that we can turn our backs on the EU and break all our ties is just nonsensical.”


Rycroft spent part of his career at the Scottish Office and in the Scottish Executive before working in Nick Clegg’s office during the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government, and helping to coordinate Whitehall’s approach to devolution from the Cabinet Office. He gave a speech on Monday warning that politicians should be thinking carefully about how to protect the union with Scotland and Northern Ireland after Brexit – deal or no deal. “Clearly at the moment, political time has collapsed: everything has become very short term, everyone’s worrying about what’s happening not even next week but tomorrow,” he said. “In those circumstances it’s very different to be lifting their eyes to a more distant horizon. How do we manage as a country, if and when we come out of the EU?”

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Councils are powerless.

Scores Of Councils Say Food Shortages A Risk If UK Crashes Out Of EU (Ind.)

Scores of local councils have said a no-deal Brexit could result in food, medicine and fuel shortages in their constituencies – with many stating that crashing out without an agreement could lead to civil unrest and damage to social care. Official documents from 63 councils uncovered by the People’s Vote campaign have revealed local authorities fear that fundamental services could suffer and others could be cut if the UK crashes out of the EU. It follows the release of the government’s Operation Yellowhammer planning paper, which warned lorries could face delays of up to two and a half days at Dover, and that protest and public disorder would take up “significant” police resources.


Of the councils that released their Brexit “risk registers”, more than two-thirds said food shortages could grip their local area. Many also said this could lead to unchecked contaminated food entering the supply chain. More than half warned of medicine supplies being put at risk, while 59 per cent said fuel could also become scarce leading to a breakdown in their ability to deploy services – on top of the damage caused to the general public. And just under two-thirds said civil unrest, increased tensions between communities and public disorder could be sparked, including Dartford council which warned of an “increase in hate crime” as the area had “always been a target” for extreme right wing groups.

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What do you mean they can’t find evidence?

McCabe Lawyer Presses Justice Department To Drop Criminal Case (R.)

A lawyer for former FBI official Andrew McCabe pressed U.S. prosecutors on Friday to drop their politically sensitive case against him, citing reports that suggest they may be having trouble securing criminal charges. The U.S. Justice Department has been investigating McCabe, the FBI’s former No. 2 official, for more than 1-1/2 years over allegations he misled internal investigators about his decision to share internal communications with a reporter at the height of the 2016 presidential election. Prosecutors and senior officials within the Justice Department, including Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, have recommended moving forward with criminal charges, according to sources familiar with the investigation.


But they might have encountered another hurdle. The Washington Post reported on Thursday that a federal grand jury investigating the case had been called back to consider evidence, but had left without returning an indictment. Grand juries are used in the U.S. legal system to assess the validity of possible criminal charges in major cases. To obtain an indictment, U.S. prosecutors typically need to convince the grand jury there is probable cause that a crime has been committed, which is a lower legal standard than that needed to secure a guilty verdict at trial. Proceedings are conducted in secret.

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How does Flynn pay his legal bills?

Tectonic Rumblings (Kunstler)

After Mr. Trump won the 2016 election, he moved to appoint General Flynn as his National Security Advisor. Within a few days, FBI director James Comey pulled off an entrapment gambit to incriminate General Flynn over a conversation he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak — as if incoming high officials for foreign policy are not supposed to associate with foreign ambassadors. You understand now that the government had continued its surveillance of General Flynn for years, including tapping his phone when he moved into his White House office. That enabled Mr. Comey to set up a perjury trap. The General was successfully sandbagged this time, kicked offstage, and conned into a guilty plea. He’s been awaiting sentencing for more than a year.

A few months ago, General Flynn fired his old lawyers and hired Sidney Powell, an attorney who literally wrote the book on discovering prosecutorial misconduct in the case of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, whose prosecution over Mickey Mouse comped hotel bills was thrown out of court by the same Judge, Emmet Sullivan, who presides in the US versus Flynn. Ms. Powell has now declared that she intends to prove “egregious prosecutorial conduct” and suppression of exculpatory evidence against the DOJ lawyers who ran the case against General Flynn. The government never would have had a case if they revealed the FBI’s internal memos on General Flynn.


Attorney Powell is seeking to have the case thrown out of court. The FBI and the DOJ lawyers who conducted the prosecution have stonewalled the court on producing the documents at issue. Judge Sullivan may sense that he’s seen this movie before. The case took on a life of its own long before William Barr was confirmed as attorney general and one wonders if he has any role in ending this damaging farce. Legal protocol may require Judge Sullivan to complete the case one way or another. I wrote in this space a year ago that General Flynn had been subject to prosecutorial misconduct. Now, I’ll venture to assert that if Judge Sullivan does not throw the case out, Mr. Trump will step in and pardon General Flynn, and in doing so will make it clear exactly how and why he was run into court in the first place.

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Matt Taibbi on the story I covered early this week in Pulp Fiction Media

Latest Russian Spy Story Looks Like Another Elaborate Media Deception (Taibbi)

It’s a characteristic of third world countries to have the intelligence world and the media be intertwined enough that it’s not always clear whether the reporters and the reported-about are the same people. When you turn on the TV in Banana Republics, you’re never sure which group is talking to you. We’re now in that same paradigm in America. CNN has hired nearly a dozen former intelligence or counterintelligence officials as analysts in the last few years. Their big get was former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, but they also now have former deputy FBI chief Andrew McCabe, former FBI counsel James Baker, and multiple former CIA, NSA, and NSC officials.


Meanwhile, former CIA director John Brennan has an MSNBC/NBC gig, as does former CIA and DOD chief of staff Jeremy Bash, and several other ex-spooks. The Washington Post is owned by Jeff Bezos, who doubles as the CEO of one of America’s largest intelligence contractors. This odious situation is similar to 2003-2004, when cable networks were tossing contributor deals to every ex-general and ex-spook they could find while they were reporting on the Iraq invasion. At one point, FAIR.org found that 52 percent of the sources in network newscasts were current or former government officials. The numbers now aren’t quite that skewed, but CNN and MSNBC both employ former senior intelligence officials who comment upon stories in which they had direct involvement, especially the Russia investigation.

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Don’t want to turn into a gossip site, but the difference between 2 weeks and 5 years is a tad much.

Felicity Huffman Shows Rich & Famous Can Get Away With ANYTHING (RT)

That actress Felicity Huffman will go to jail for only 14 days over college entrance fraud shows there are really two justice systems in the US: one for the rich, famous and politically correct – and another for everyone else.
The ‘Desperate Housewives’ star pleaded guilty to paying $15,000 to falsify her daughter Sophia’s SAT – a college admissions test – and was sentenced to two weeks in jail, 250 hours of community service, a $30,000 fine and a year of supervised release. Altogether, a slap on the wrist to a Hollywood celebrity. It did not take long for her case to be contrasted with the fate of Tanya McDowell, a Connecticut woman who falsified a residency document in 2011 to enroll her son in a better school. McDowell ended up getting jailed for five years for first-degree larceny, and would have faced an even longer sentence had she not made a deal with prosecutors.


Comparing the two cases is absolutely apples to apples. That McDowell was later charged with selling drugs to undercover police officers and given a concurrent sentence does not change the severity of her initial punishment – 130 times longer than was meted out to Huffman. Could it be that it’s because Huffman is white and McDowell is black, and the US justice system is irreparably racist, as a lot of people have argued? Another possibility could be Huffman’s fame, fortune – and politics. After her arrest in April, Huffman was revealed to have donated over $10,000 to Democrats, including over $1,500 to the Senate campaign of Kamala Harris – the tough-on-crime prosecutor in San Francisco and California, now running for president.

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What do you guys think, will all regulators comply? How about the public? Do you want to board a 737 MAX?

Crisis-Hit Boeing Readies Huge Effort To Return 737 MAX To The Skies (R.)

As Boeing sets its sights on winning approval to fly its 737 MAX within weeks, following a six-month safety ban, engineers around the world are rolling out plans for one of the biggest logistical operations in civil aviation history. Inside Boeing’s 737 factory at Renton, Washington, south of Seattle, workers have pre-assembled dedicated tool kits for technicians tasked with installing software updates and readying over 500 jets that have sat idle for months, insiders said. Across the globe, Boeing teams are hammering out delivery schedules – and financial terms – with airline customers who have been forced to cancel flights, cut routes and fly aging jetliners while they await the MAX’s return.

Although regulators must still approve the jets for flight, Boeing and airline staff and executives say the world’s largest planemaker is weeks into an elaborate blueprint for production, maintenance and delivery that one source said involves 1,500 engineers – as many as it takes to design a small new jet. Another likened the logistics to a nation “going to war.” Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief Engineer John Hamilton called the previously unreported mobilization more like an elaborate “ballet,” which includes synchronizing 680 suppliers of everything from carbon brakes to pilot seatbelts.


[..] Once regulators certify the MAX for flight, Boeing will have to mobilize hundreds of mechanics and pilots to bring the roughly 250 stored aircraft out of hibernation. Airlines estimate the process – which includes installing new software, changing fluids and cycling the engines – will take 100 to 150 hours per jet, and months in total for Boeing. In one example highlighting the minute risks that could upend months of planning, a team of employees is analyzing years of data on December snowfall at an airport in rural Moses Lake, Washington – where Boeing has parked some 100 jets – to predict demand for aircraft anti-freeze and runway performance.

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I know Snowden needs to sell his book, but the Guardian? Really? The paper runs a smear campaign against Assange, without whom Snowden would be in a very different set-up.

A Person The Most Powerful Government In The World Wanted To Go Away (G.)

The world’s most famous whistleblower, Edward Snowden, says he has detected a softening in public hostility towards him in the US over his disclosure of top-secret documents that revealed the extent of the global surveillance programmes run by American and British spy agencies. In an exclusive two-hour interview in Moscow to mark the publication of his memoirs, Permanent Record, Snowden said dire warnings that his disclosures would cause harm had not come to pass, and even former critics now conceded “we live in a better, freer and safer world” because of his revelations.

In the book, Snowden describes in detail for the first time his background, and what led him to leak details of the secret programmes being run by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK’s secret communication headquarters, GCHQ. He describes the 18 years since the September 11 attacks as “a litany of American destruction by way of American self-destruction, with the promulgation of secret policies, secret laws, secret courts and secret wars”. Snowden also said: “The greatest danger still lies ahead, with the refinement of artificial intelligence capabilities, such as facial and pattern recognition. “An AI-equipped surveillance camera would be not a mere recording device, but could be made into something closer to an automated police officer.”


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Moscow is not such a bad place. It beats Belmarsh.

‘If I Happen to Fall out of a Window, You Can Be Sure I Was Pushed’ (Spiegel)

Book a suite in a luxury hotel in Moscow, send the room number encrypted to a pre-determined mobile number and then wait for a return message indicating a precise time: Meeting Edward Snwoden is pretty much exactly how children imagine the grand game of espionage is played. But then, on Monday, there he was, standing in our room on the first floor of the Hotel Metropol, as pale and boyish-looking as the was when the world first saw him in June 2013. For the last six years, he has been living in Russian exile. The U.S. has considered him to be an enemy of the state, right up there with Julian Assange, ever since he revealed, with the help of journalists, the full scope of the surveillance system operated by the National Security Agency (NSA).


For quite some time, though, he remained silent about how he smuggled the secrets out of the country and what his personal motivations were. Now, though, he has written a book about it. It will be published worldwide on September 17 under the title “Permanent Record.” Ahead of publication, Snowden spent over two-and-a-half hours patiently responding to questions from DER SPIEGEL.

Read more …

 

Vintage Australia map from 1773

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 132019
 
 September 13, 2019  Posted by at 9:44 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Marc Chagall The watering trough 1925

 

The Dogs in the Street Know (Craig Murray)
Speaker Bercow Warns Boris Johnson Against Disobeying Brexit Law (BBC)
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe Must Face Criminal Charges (CNBC)
US House Panel Wants Boeing To Allow Employee Interviews On 737 MAX (R.)
US Pressures Israel To Drop China ‘Belt And Road’ Investments (ZH)
Huawei CEO Offers To License 5G Technology To American Companies (F.)
Mnuchin Says 100-Year Treasury Bond Possible (R.)
US Justice Department To Release Name Of Shadowy Figure In 9/11 Case (R.)
Trump’s Taliban Talks Led by Neocon Operation Cyclone Agent (MPN)
Palace Revolt at the ECB, Legitimacy of Policy out the Window (WS)
The New ECB QE Is A Mistake. Here Is What It Should Have Done (Lacalle)

 

 

A Scotsman taking down the Queen.

The Dogs in the Street Know (Craig Murray)

There are some very obvious facts in British politics which nobody seems to be saying. Joanna Cherry stated in her successful court case that “the dogs in the street know” that the real reason that Boris Johnson had prorogued parliament was to prevent parliament from having an effective say on the outcome of Brexit. The documents that the government was forced to produce to the Scottish Courts proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that was indeed Johnson’s motive. So why are we expected to believe that what you knew and I knew, what Joanna Cherry knew, what the very dogs in the street knew, was not known to the Queen?

Do we really believe that the Queen was “misled” and that she and her courtiers were the only people in the entire country who actually believed that Johnson just wanted the longest prorogation for 89 years to prepare a really good Queen’s speech? Are we really expected to believe that the Queen had not noticed that Brexit was at a crucial stage and the effect that prorogation would have on parliament’s say in the process? This is obviously complete and utter nonsense. The Queen has better sources of information than any of us and knew exactly what was happening. She was not “misled” by Boris Johnson, she was his ally in a common purpose. She absolutely understood both the context and the effect of the prorogation. All this utter nonsense about the Queen being “lied to” and “misled” is part of this strange myth of the ultimate goodness of authority which is a recurring theme in human societies.

Peasants died under the knout while building the Trans-Siberian railway thinking “if only the good Tsar knew.” The Queen is not a naive figure of Christ like innocence taken in by Boris Johnson, she is an ultra wealthy woman of very conservative views embedded in a social circle dominated by very rich and reactionary people. To repeat what I have repeatedly explained, it was unconstitutional for the Queen to appoint Boris Johnson in the first place when it was plain as a pikestaff that he could not command a parliamentary majority. That initial crime (and I use the word advisedly) was compounded by the decision to prorogue parliament to enable her no majority Prime Minister to govern. In a sane world we should be getting out the pitchforks. Instead people are tut-tutting about the poor Queen being misled.

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Prior to his election to Speaker, Bercow was a longtime member of the Conservative Party.

Speaker Bercow Warns Boris Johnson Against Disobeying Brexit Law (BBC)

John Bercow has vowed “creativity” in Parliament if Boris Johnson ignores the law designed to stop a no-deal Brexit. The Commons Speaker also said in a speech that the only possible Brexit was one backed by MPs. A new law, passed before the suspension of Parliament, forces the PM to seek a delay until 31 January 2020, unless a deal or no-deal exit is approved by MPs by 19 October. The PM has said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask for a delay. Delivering a lecture in London, Mr Bercow said: “Not obeying the law must surely be a non-starter. Period.” He said it would be a “terrible example to set to the rest of society”.


“The only form of Brexit which we will have, whenever that might be, will be a Brexit that the House of Commons has explicitly endorsed,” he said. “Surely, in 2019, in modern Britain, in a parliamentary democracy, we – parliamentarians, legislators – cannot in all conscience be conducting a debate as to whether adherence to the law is or isn’t required.” He called it “astonishing” that “anyone has even entertained the notion”. If the government comes close to disobeying the Act, the MP said that Parliament “would want to cut off such a possibility and do so forcefully”. “If that demands additional procedural creativity in order to come to pass, it is a racing certainty that this will happen, and that neither the limitations of the existing rule book nor the ticking of the clock will stop it doing so,” he added.

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Hmm. Should McCabe run free?

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe Must Face Criminal Charges (CNBC)

Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe has failed in his efforts to convince the Justice Department not to file potential criminal charges against him for allegedly lying to federal agents, NBC News reported Thursday. Lawyers for McCabe, who has not been charged in the case, reportedly met last month with a top Justice official the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and in what were believed to be talks seeking to dissuade then from filing criminal charges. The Washington Post reported last week that federal prosecutors for months have been using a grand jury to investigate McCabe, a critic of President Donald Trump.

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They have to ASK?

US House Panel Wants Boeing To Allow Employee Interviews On 737 MAX (R.)

Congress on Thursday asked Boeing Co’s chief executive to make several employees available for interviews as part of a congressional probe into the design, development and certification of 737 MAX aircraft involved in two crashes that killed 346 people. House of Representatives Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio and Representative Rick Larsen, who chairs the aviation subcommittee, said in a statement that while Boeing has provided substantial documents and shared senior management’s perspective, “it’s important to the committee’s investigation to hear from relevant Boeing employees.”

The committee plans another Boeing hearing in the coming weeks and previously asked whistleblowers to come forward with any information about the plane’s development. Boeing has provided more than 300,000 pages of documents, a person briefed on the matter said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Boeing said in a statement it was “deeply disappointed the committee chose to release private correspondence given our extensive cooperation to date. We will continue to be transparent and responsive to the committee.”

[..] CEO Dennis Muilenburg said at an investor conference on Wednesday that the company is still targeting “early fourth quarter for getting the airplane back up in the air” but added that “ultimately return-to-service timing will be determined by the regulator.” The FAA has repeatedly said it will not certify the plane to fly again until it is safe to do so. The European Aviation and Space Agency said on Tuesday it “intends to conduct its own test flights separate from, but in full coordination with, the FAA. The test flights are not scheduled yet, the date will depend on the development schedule of Boeing.”

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If they’re pressuring Israel, they much be pressuring others too.

US Pressures Israel To Drop China ‘Belt And Road’ Investments (ZH)

As China executes on its “Belt and Road” global trade scheme, more than 130 countries who have either committed to or expressed interest in the $600 billion initiative have been hard at work expanding their infrastructure to accommodate Beijing’s ambitious plan. And while President Trump has been pounding the table in an ongoing US-China trade war, progress made on Belt and Road threatens to reduce US leverage over Beijing – putting US allies such as Israel, which extended a 25-year offer for the operation of the Haifa terminal to state-controlled Shanghai International Port Group – in a tricky position, according to Bloomberg’s Ivan Levingston.

“With national elections approaching on Sept. 17, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can ill afford to alienate the Trump administration on its signature international issue. Trump has endeared himself to Netanyahu by transferring the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognizing Israeli sovereignty in the disputed Golan Heights. Netanyahu reciprocated by naming a new Golan settlement after Trump and praising the American leader for, among other things, quitting the Iranian nuclear accord. “Over the years, Israel has been blessed to have many friends who sat in the Oval Office, but Israel has never had a better friend than you,” Netanyahu told the president during a March trip to the White House. An October Pew study found that 69% of Israelis had confidence in Trump’s performance as president, and many of Netanyahu’s campaign ads prominently feature the U.S. leader.” -Bloomberg

Of note, China is currently Israel’s second-largest trading partner with around $11.5 billion in annual transactions in 2018, according to the report. Meanwhile, the United States has pressed Israel to create a buffer with China in the interest of national security – which would look something like the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (the same one that rubber-stamped Russia’s purchase of 20% of America’s Uranium). “Israel and Israeli companies are quickly coming to the realization that it’s going to be difficult to sustain business as usual in work with China while keeping the United States as the primary partner,” said Daniel Shapiro, Barack Obama’s US ambassador to Israel.

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How is Huawei linked to Belt & Road?

Huawei CEO Offers To License 5G Technology To American Companies (F.)

Zhengfei Ren, the CEO and founder of Huawei offered an olive branch to the Trump administration: License the Chinese telecommunications giant’s 5G technology to American companies, with the caveat that the U.S. government ““the U.S. side has to accept us at some level for that to happen.” Currently, the use of Huawei equipment is banned from U.S. networks over concerns that it could be used by the Chinese government as a method to spy or disrupt telecom systems. The offer [..] would essentially allow the U.S. to finally get in the race for 5G supremacy which is now dominated by Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE, Ericsson of Sweden and Nokia from Finland.


“Huawei is open to sharing our 5G technologies and techniques with U.S. companies, so that they can build up their own 5G industry. That would create a balanced situation between China, the U.S. and Europe,” told Ren to the newspaper. [..] Ren added that the U.S. companies would be allowed to modify as they see fit the software code used to run any of Huawei’s 5G equipment or even change it and use their own. [..] Ren added that the American licensees will be able to sell their 5G equipment based on Huawei’s intellectual property anywhere in the world, except in China.

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“We are going to start with 50 years, and if the answer is, 50-years is successful, we’ll consider 100-year bonds..”

Mnuchin Says 100-Year Treasury Bond Possible (R.)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday said the United States will issue 50-year bonds if there is “proper demand,” a moved aimed at “derisking” the government’s $22 trillion of debt and locking in low interest rates. “We are going to start with 50 years, and if the answer is, 50-years is successful, we’ll consider 100-year bonds,” Mnuchin said in an interview with New York Times’ DealBook and streamed online live, adding that he began looking into the possibility of ultra-long U.S. bonds two years ago. The longest-dated U.S. Treasury currently is 30 years.


U.S. President Donald Trump has proposed a different fix for the rising cost of the record U.S. debt, calling on Wednesday on the “boneheads” at the Federal Reserve to reduce interest rates to below zero so as to reduce interest-rate payments. The Fed is widely expected to cut interest rates by a modest quarter of a percentage point next week when U.S. rate-setters meet. Fed Chair Jerome Powell and other policymakers see U.S. economic conditions as still generally favorable despite a global slowdown and a still-unresolved U.S.-China trade war, and they have consistently pushed back against the notion of negative rates or of setting rates to cater to political pressure.

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Is something moving?

US Justice Department To Release Name Of Shadowy Figure In 9/11 Case (R.)

The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday said it would release the name of an individual sought by people who are suing the government of Saudi Arabia for alleged involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001, hijacking attacks. U.S. prosecutors in New York said in a court filing that Attorney General William Barr had decided not to invoke state secrets and will share the person’s name with attorneys involved in the case. The decision could help victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and their family members, who charge in a long-running lawsuit that the Saudi government supported the hijackers who crashed jet liners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, killing nearly 3,000 people.


The Saudi government has repeatedly denied involvement in the attacks. The Saudi embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday. The case, filed in 2003, received a boost in 2016 when Congress passed a law making it easier to sue foreign governments for alleged involvement in terrorism. The plaintiffs have been trying to obtain redacted material from a 2012 FBI report which indicated the agency was investigating two Saudi officials, Omar al-Bayoumi and Fahad al-Thumairy, and said there was evidence that a third, unnamed party had ordered them to help the hijackers. Attorneys will now get to learn the name of that person, though their identity will remain under seal.

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Scary people.

Trump’s Taliban Talks Led by Neocon Operation Cyclone Agent (MPN)

John Bolton wasn’t the only veteran of the conflict in Afghanistan now charged with resolving it. Nor was he the only PNAC veteran in the Trump administration. U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, the top American official in the negotiations, was a PNAC charter member and has been quietly overseeing the destruction of Afghanistan for most of his political career — longer than the Taliban has existed as an organization. Khalilzad worked closely with late National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who took a leading role in Operation Cyclone under President Carter. The secret CIA program pumped the Afghan Mujahideen up with cash, weapons, training, and jihadist school books.

The Brooklyn-based Al-Kifah Afghan Refugee Center — a front for Maktab al-Khidamat, an organization co-founded by Osama bin Laden — would become key to this endeavor. Brzezinski’s aim, as he stated, was to give the Soviets their own Vietnam quagmire. Back then, his message to the Mujahideen fighters that would become al-Qaeda and the Taliban was: “Your cause is right and God is on your side.” Even after the devastating attacks of September 11, Brzezinski defended the decision to support the Mujahideen in the name of defeating the Soviet Union.

The United States’ support for the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, and later Bosnia, was intended to bleed the Soviet Union. It is no surprise that the same leeches — the Taliban and al-Qaeda — that were trained by the United States, would turn on their masters. In the case of the Taliban, clinging on to the U.S. for nearly two decades, slowly sucking away all the while. In the case of al-Qaeda, the attacks on the World Trade Center dealt massive blows. The end-game tactics mirror the CIA’s philosophy in training the Mujahideen against the USSR. U.S officials like Khalilzad would spend decades in luxurious buildings in and around Washington while the people of Afghanistan would continue to suffer nearly another two decades of conflict because of their policies.

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Wolf Richter sees the ECB falling to bits. Wonder what Lagarde is doing these days.

Palace Revolt at the ECB, Legitimacy of Policy out the Window (WS)

ECB President Mario Draghi, who is on his way out, will, as we’re learning more and more, do anything to push his agenda and make it stick at the ECB long after he leaves, but whatever his agenda may be, it’s clearly unrelated to the European economy which has been buckling under the consequences of his agenda: the destructive weight of negative interest rates and QE. And in the process, he is destroying the legitimacy of the ECB’s policy. The latest incident was on Thursday. During the press conference following the ECB’s policy meeting, he lied to reporters, claiming that the “consensus was so broad there was no need to take a vote,” when in fact he had a revolt on his hand during the meeting by the presidents of the national central banks that represented half of the economy of the Eurozone, and by members of the Executive Board.

Among the key policy changes the ECB announced on Thursday was the restart of QE to the tune of €20 billion a month and a tiny 10-basis point cut in its deposit rate, from the old negative -0.4% to the new negative -0.5%. The announcement also included a provision to help banks – which have been getting re-crushed by these idiotic negative interest rates – to survive those negative interest rates: the ECB would exempt part of the banks’ deposits at the ECB from negative rates in a two-tier system. It was the QE portion of the decision that had triggered the unprecedented revolt during the meeting. “Officials with knowledge of the matter” told Bloomberg that during the contentious meeting, the members of the Governing Council and of the Executive Board who vigorously opposed the restart of QE included but was not limited to:

• Jens Weidmann, President of the Bundesbank • Francois Villeroy de Galhau, Governor of the Bank of France • Klaas Knot, President of the Dutch central bank • Ewald Nowotny, Governor of the Austrian central bank • Ardo Hansson, Governor of the Bank of Estonia • Sabine Lautenschlaeger, Member of the Executive Board • Benoit Coeure, Member of the Executive Board. The countries of the five heads of the national central banks, from Weidmann to Hansson, account for about half of the economy of the Eurozone. They opposed the restart of QE, but there was no vote – which is common in ECB proceedings when there is a consensus. But there was no consensus. And Draghi simply imposed his agenda.

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Mistake perhaps. But hardly an honest one, if you read Wolf Richter’s piece above. The ECB IS the mistake.

The New ECB QE Is A Mistake. Here Is What It Should Have Done (Lacalle)

The ECB is creating a dangerous bubble and should not have cut rates by 10bps nor added a new purchase program of €20 billion per month. 1) Eurozone states are already financing themselves at negative rates. There is no need for lower rates and this disguises real risk. This has saved governments more than 1 trillion euro in interest expenses. 2) The ECB has not abandoned its stimulus. It repurchases all maturities, launched a liquidity injection (TLTRO) in March 2019 and balance sheet stands at almost 40% of eurozone GDP. 3) Excess liquidity is 1.7 trillion euro. More liquidity does not lead agents to spend/invest more. There is no higher solvent credit demand because monetary policy perpetuates overcapacity and zombifies the economy. Share of zombie companies has soared c30% since 2013 (BIS).

4) Interest rates are already negative. This has caused a 23 billion euro loss for banks (according to Scope Ratings) and a worrying rise in junk debt demand. 5) There is no evidence of a need for more credit growth. Rather the opposite. The ECB believes the eurozone problem is one of excess saving and lack of demand when it is of excess debt and oversupply. 6) Negative rates zombify the economy and are a massive transfer of wealth from savers and productive sectors to the indebted and inefficient. 7) The ECB already accumulates a disproportionate amount of sovereign debt as well as corporate bonds of issuers that never had a problem financing themselves at low rates. This disguises risk and creates an enormous bubble.

8) The problem of the eurozone is not one of lack of stimuli, but an excess of them. Governments burden the productive private sector with higher taxes and unnecessary regulations, so economic surprise falls despite massive stimulus. 9) When this fails or -even worse- explodes, central planners will likely blame “markets” or “lack of stimulus” to repeat. 10) Saying that negative rates are “demanded” by investors is a sad excuse. Financial repression leads economic agents to take more risk for lower yields and central banks go from lenders of last resort to enablers of financial bubbles.

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Aug 242019
 


Frank Walton Crows on a beach 1884

 

World Needs To End Risky Reliance On US Dollar: BoE’s Carney (R.)
China Strikes Back At US With New Tariffs On $75 Billion In Goods (R.)
Trump Heaps Another 5% Tariff On Chinese Goods In Latest Escalation (R.)
Majority Of Americans Don’t Want Trump Impeached, Removed From Office (USAT)
CNN Hires Former FBI #2 Andy McCabe, Who Was Fired For Leaking And Lying (ZH)
Genesis and Evolution of the Jeffrey Epstein-Bill Clinton Relationship (Webb)
Bill Barr And Bill Clinton (Webb)
Long Before Epstein: Sex Traffickers & Spy Agencies (Vos)
Psychologist Approved Jeffrey Epstein’s Removal From Suicide Watch (R.)
France Launches Rape Inquiry in Jeffrey Epstein Case (BBC)
Lost at Sea (Kunstler)
Tulsi Gabbard Victimized by DNC’s Dubious Debate Criteria (Tracey)

 

 

“Synthetic Hegemonic Currency” sounds creepy to me.

World Needs To End Risky Reliance On US Dollar: BoE’s Carney (R.)

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney took aim at the U.S. dollar’s “destabilizing” role in the world economy on Friday and said central banks might need to join together to create their own replacement reserve currency. The dollar’s dominance of the global financial system increased the risks of a liquidity trap of ultra-low interest rates and weak growth, Carney told central bankers from around the world gathered in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in the United States. “While the world economy is being reordered, the U.S. dollar remains as important as when Bretton Woods collapsed,” Carney said, referring to the end of the dollar’s peg to gold in the early 1970s. Emerging economies had increased their share of global activity to 60% from around 45% before the financial crisis a decade ago, Carney said.

But the dollar was still used for at least half of international trade invoices – five times more than the United States’ share of world goods imports – fuelling demand for U.S. assets and exposing many countries to damaging spillovers from swings in the U.S. economy. Carney – who was considered a candidate to be the next head of the International Monetary Fund but failed to secure backing from Europe’s governments – said the problems in financial system were encouraging protectionist and populist policies. [..] Carney warned that very low equilibrium interest rates had in the past coincided with wars, financial crises and abrupt changes in the banking system. As a first step to reorder the world’s financial system, countries could triple the resources of the IMF to $3 trillion as a better alternative to countries protecting themselves by racking up enormous piles of dollar-denominated debt.

“While such concerted efforts can improve the functioning of the current system, ultimately a multi-polar global economy requires a new IMFS (international monetary and financial system) to realize its full potential,” Carney said. China’s yuan represented the most likely candidate to become a reserve currency to match the dollar, but it still had a long way to go before it was ready. The best solution would be a diversified multi-polar financial system, something that could be provided by technology, Carney said. Facebook’s Libra was the most high-profile proposed digital currency to date but it faced a host of fundamental issues that it had yet to address. “As a consequence, it is an open question whether such a new Synthetic Hegemonic Currency (SHC) would be best provided by the public sector, perhaps through a network of central bank digital currencies,” Carney said.

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Globalization is dead.

China Strikes Back At US With New Tariffs On $75 Billion In Goods (R.)

China said on Friday it will impose retaliatory tariffs against about $75 billion worth of U.S. goods, putting as much as an extra 10% on top of existing rates in the dispute between the world’s top two economies. The latest salvo from China comes after the United States unveiled tariffs on an additional $300 billion worth of Chinese goods, including consumer electronics, scheduled to go into effect in two stages on Sept. 1 and Dec. 15. China will impose additional tariffs of 5% or 10% on a total of 5,078 products originating from the United States including agricultural products such as soybeans, crude oil and small aircraft. China is also reinstituting tariffs on cars and auto parts originating from the United States.

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Dead as a doornail.

Trump Heaps Another 5% Tariff On Chinese Goods In Latest Escalation (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday lashed back at a new round of Chinese tariffs by heaping an additional 5% duty on some $550 billion in targeted Chinese goods in the latest tit-for-tat trade war escalation by the world’s two largest economies. Trump’s move, announced on Twitter, came hours after China unveiled retaliatory tariffs on $75 billion worth of U.S. goods, prompting the president earlier in the day to demand U.S. companies move their operations out of China. The intensifying U.S.-China trade war stoked market fears that the global economy will tip into recession, sending U.S. stocks into a tailspin, with the Nasdaq Compositedown 3%, and the S&P 500 down 2.6%. U.S. Treasury yields also declined as investors sought safe-haven assets, and crude oil, targeted for the first time by Chinese tariffs, fell sharply.


Trump’s tariff response was announced after markets closed on Friday, leaving potentially more damage for next week. “Sadly, past Administrations have allowed China to get so far ahead of Fair and Balanced Trade that it has become a great burden to the American Taxpayer,” Trump said on Twitter. “As President, I can no longer allow this to happen!” He said the United States would raise its existing tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports to 30% from the current 25% beginning on Oct. 1, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the communist People’s Republic of China. At the same time, Trump announced an increase in planned tariffs on the remaining $300 billion worth of Chinese goods to 15% from 10%.

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Don’t take Nadler’s hobby away.

Majority Of Americans Don’t Want Trump Impeached, Removed From Office (USAT)

A majority of Americans oppose impeaching President Donald Trump, according to a new poll by Monmouth University released Thursday. The data point – with 59% of those surveyed responding that Trump should not be impeached and compelled to leave office – comes as Trump’s approval rating remains at 40% in the same poll. In the poll, there is a clear partisan divide on whether the House Judiciary Committee should pursue an impeachment inquiry. While 72% of Democrats believe such an inquiry is a good idea, only 39% of independents and 8% of Republicans share that belief. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. confirmed the launch of an impeachment inquiry by his House panel earlier this month in an interview on CNN.

Additionally, Nadler sent a letter Thursday asking four other Democratic House committee chairs currently leading investigations into Trump to share documents to aid his committee’s investigation into possible obstruction and other abuses, which could lead to potentially filing articles of impeachment against the president. Nadler wrote to Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. He asked for “documents and testimony, depositions, and/or interview transcripts that you believe may be relevant to the Judiciary Committee’s ongoing impeachment investigation relating to President Trump.”

The Monmouth University poll surveyed 800 adults in the U.S. via telephone from August 16-20, 2019. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

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Neither Orwell nor Bizzarro World have anything on this: CNN just hired the FBI’s former no. 2, who was fired for lying to his own employer/agency. For which he should obviously be in jail, but he’s not. Want to guess where you would be if you lied to the FBI? Ask George Papadopoulos. His lie was superficial slash meaningless at best, but he served time. McCabe’s lies are a whole different universe.

CNN Hires Former FBI #2 Andy McCabe, Who Was Fired For Leaking And Lying (ZH)

Another Ex-Obama official has joined the ranks of anti-Trump cable news punditry, this time disgraced FBI #2 Andrew McCabe, who was fired for leaking information to the media – then lying about it at least four times, including under oath. Now, McCabe – who is suing the DOJ and FBI over what he claims was a “politically motivated” firing just days before he was set to retire with full benefits,” will join former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper at CNN. Succinctly put by The Federalist’s Mollie Hemmingway: “Andrew McCabe, one of the central figures of the “Russia collusion” hoax, who was fired from the FBI for lying about his leaks to the media, has been hired by CNN, one of the media outlets that did the most to perpetuate the damaging hoax.” – Mollie (@MZHemingway) August 23, 2019

McCabe authorized an FBI spokesman to tell the Wall Street Journal’s Devlin Barrett – just days before the 2016 US election, that the FBI hadn’t put the brakes on an investigation into the Clinton Foundation – at a time in which McCabe was coming under fire for his wife taking a $467,500 campaign contribution from Clinton associate, Terry McAuliffe. As noted above, McCabe then lied about the leak at least four times and was subsequently fired over it. McCabe claimed that his boss, also-fired former FBI Director James Comey, was well aware of the leaks. Comey shot back on ABC’s The View, calling McCabe a liar.

Comey was asked by host Megan McCain how he thought the public was supposed to have “confidence” in the FBI amid revelations that McCabe lied about the leak. “It’s not okay. The McCabe case illustrates what an organization committed to the truth looks like,” Comey said, adding “Good people lie … I still believe Andrew McCabe is a good person but the inspector general found he lied,” noting that there are “severe consequences” within the DOJ for doing so.

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Part 4 of Whitney Webb’s incredible series on sexual blackmail.

“Of particular importance are Epstein’s relationship to the Clinton Foundation and the alleged role of Epstein’s Virgin Islands-based hedge fund and the Clinton Foundation in money laundering activity.. [..] It is this tale of intrigue that fully reveals the extent to which this decades-old alliance between organized crime, the CIA, and Israeli intelligence has corrupted and influenced politicians of both political parties, both through the use of sexual blackmail and through other means of coercion. ”

Genesis and Evolution of the Jeffrey Epstein-Bill Clinton Relationship (Webb)

[..] these sexual blackmail operations proliferated during the Iran-Contra affair, which involved this same dark alliance between U.S./Israeli intelligence and organized crime. Though this series has thus far largely focused on the ties of Republican officials to those operations and associated crimes, the final installment of this series will focus on Democratic politicians, namely the Clinton family, and their ties to this same network as well as Jeffrey Epstein. The Clintons’ own involvement in Iran-Contra revolved around the covert activities at Arkansas’ Mena Airport, which involved the CIA front company Southern Air Transport and occurred while Clinton was governor.

Just a few years into the Clinton presidential administration, Leslie Wexner and Jeffrey Epstein would play a major role in Southern Air Transport’s relocation to Columbus, Ohio, leading to concerns among top Ohio officials that both men were not only working with the CIA, but that Wexner’s company, The Limited, sought to use the CIA-linked airline for smuggling. During that same period of time, Epstein had already forged close ties to important Clinton White House officials and prominent Clinton donors like Lynn Forester de Rothschild and made several personal visits to the official presidential residence.

Some of these ties appear related to Epstein’s shady financial activities, particularly involving currency markets and offshore tax havens — activities he began to perfect while working for prominent Iran-Contra figures in the early 1980s, several of whom were tied to the CIA-linked bank Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) and had known relationships with Israeli intelligence, namely the Mossad. The nature of Epstein’s work for these individuals and other evidence strongly suggests that Epstein himself had a relationship with BCCI after leaving Bear Stearns and prior to the bank’s collapse in 1991.

Of particular importance are Epstein’s relationship to the Clinton Foundation and the alleged role of Epstein’s Virgin Islands-based hedge fund and the Clinton Foundation in money laundering activity, a relationship still under investigation by MintPress. It is this tale of intrigue that fully reveals the extent to which this decades-old alliance between organized crime, the CIA, and Israeli intelligence has corrupted and influenced politicians of both political parties, both through the use of sexual blackmail and through other means of coercion.

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From the same Whitney Webb article. This part warrants attention.

Bill Barr And Bill Clinton (Webb)

After Clinton’s half-brother Roger was busted for cocaine smuggling (Clinton would later pardon him while president) the CIA sought to move Contra operations out of Arkansas, hoping to put a damper on the increasingly public and sloppy Arkansas-based operation. According to Terry Reed in his book Compromised: Clinton, Bush and the CIA, co-written with John Cummings, a hushed meeting was held in a bunker at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock, Arkansas. During the meeting, William Barr, who represented himself as the emissary of then-CIA Director Bill Casey told Clinton: “The deal we made was to launder our money through your bond business but what we didn’t plan on was you and your n****r here start taking yourselves seriously and purposely shrinking our laundry.”

Barr chastised Clinton for his sloppy handling of the delicate operation and his half-brother’s very public fall from grace. He would later tell Clinton, according to Reed, “Bill, you are Mr. Casey’s fair-haired boy … You and your state have been our greatest asset. Mr. Casey wanted me to pass on to you that unless you fuck up and do something stupid, you’re No. 1 on the short list for a shot at the job that you’ve always wanted. You and guys like you are the fathers of the new government. We are the new covenant.” Attempts to investigate Clinton’s role in the Mena operations and more broadly in the Iran-Contra affair were allegedly axed by Clinton’s own confidantes, who consistently denied he played a role in the scandal.

According to the Wall Street Journal, former IRS investigator William Duncan teamed with Arkansas State Police Investigator Russell Welch in what became a decade-long battle to bring the matter to light. In fact, of the nine separate state and federal probes into the affair, all failed. Duncan would later say of the investigations, “[They] were interfered with and covered up, and the justice system was subverted,” and a 1992 memo from Duncan to high-ranking members of the attorney general’s staff notes that Duncan was instructed “to remove all files concerning the Mena investigation from the attorney general’s office.” The attorney general, serving under George H. W. Bush, at that time was William Barr, who is currently attorney general under Trump.

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This stuff is so institutionalized, so deeply engrained in our societies, that is will be very hard to get rid of.

Long Before Epstein: Sex Traffickers & Spy Agencies (Vos)

In the U.S., the New York State Select Committee On Crime in 1982 investigated nationwide networks of trafficking underage sex workers and producing child pornography. Dale Smith, a committee investigator, noted that call services using minors also profited from “sidelines,” besides the income from peddling prostitution. Smith said they sold information “on the sexual proclivities of the clients to agents of foreign intelligence.” Presumably, this information could be used to blackmail those in positions of power. Smith added that one call service sold information to “British and Israeli intelligence.”

Another U.K. scandal included allegations that Sir Peter Hayman, a British diplomat and deputy director of MI6, was a member of the Pedophile Information Exchange (PIE). Police discovered that two of the roughly dozen pedophiles in his circle had been writing to each other about their interest in “the extreme sexual torture and murder of children,” according to the The Daily Mail. In 2015, The Guardian reported that former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had been “adamant that officials should not publicly name” Hayman, “even after she had been fully briefed on his activities….formerly secret papers released to the National Archives shows.”

Still, Hayman was unmasked as a subscriber to PIE in 1981 by M.P. Geoffrey Dickens, who also reportedly raised the national security risk of Hayman’s proclivities, implying they were a potential source of blackmail sought by intelligence agencies. The British tabloid The Mirror reported that intelligence agencies, including the KGB and CIA, kept their own dossiers on U.K. establishment figures involved with PIE and the abuse of minors, to blackmail the targets in exchange for information.

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Makes very little sense. Suicide watch is a serious thing, and all it takes is one psychologist?

Psychologist Approved Jeffrey Epstein’s Removal From Suicide Watch (R.)

A psychologist at the federal detention center in New York City where financier Jeffrey Epstein was jailed on sex-trafficking charges had approved his removal from suicide watch before he killed himself, the U.S. Justice Department said on Friday. The disclosure came in a letter dated on Thursday from Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd and addressed to the leaders of the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, seeking details about the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death earlier this month. Epstein, who was 66, was found dead Aug. 10 in his cell inside a segregated housing unit of the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Lower Manhattan. An autopsy concluded that he hanged himself.


His death triggered investigations by the FBI, the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, which runs the detention facility. The Boyd letter, provided to Reuters on Friday, confirmed that Epstein had been placed on suicide watch in July, a status under which the designated prisoner is held in a special cell under constant observation by staff or “inmate companions.” Epstein was “later removed from suicide watch after being evaluated by a doctoral-level psychologist who determined that a suicide watch was no longer warranted,” Boyd wrote in the three-page letter. The letter did not state precisely why a suicide watch had been ordered for Epstein. But Epstein in July had been found unconscious on the floor of his cell with marks on his neck, and officials had been investigating that incident as a possible suicide attempt or assault.

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Maybe it takes the French to dig deep enough. Certainly wouldn’t bet on Bill Barr doing the job.

France Launches Rape Inquiry in Jeffrey Epstein Case (BBC)

French prosecutors have opened an inquiry into rape allegations against the late US financier Jeffrey Epstein. [..] He had an apartment in Paris, and French gender equality minister Marlène Schiappa had called for an inquiry into any abuses committed on French soil. On Friday Paris prosecutors launched a probe for “rape” and “sexual assault”. [..] Epstein spent plenty of time in Paris and owned a luxury apartment near the Arc de Triomphe. Investigations “will focus on potential crimes committed against French victims… and on suspects who are French citizens”, Paris Prosecutor Remy Heitz said in a statement.


A French advocacy group for child sex abuse victims, Innocence En Danger (Innocence at Risk), said this week it had received 10 witness statements involving Epstein regarding alleged sex crimes committed against minors on French soil. Epstein was also friends with French modelling tycoon Jean-Luc Brunel, who was accused in US court documents of procuring young girls for Epstein, along with allegations of rape. Mr Brunel has denied the accusations.

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“The Democratic contest may be peaking way too early. And Joe Biden hasn’t even had a chance to claim he is the out-of-wedlock grandson of W.C. Handy.”

Lost at Sea (Kunstler)

Elizabeth Warren set the stage for anointing herself America’s Race Hustler-in-Chief by addressing the niggling matter of her former claim to be a Cherokee Indian, since disproven by a DNA test. There was loose talk, you see, that she used the Cherokee ruse to bamboozle her overseers on the Harvard Plantation, where she got to work in the Big House known as the Harvard Law School based on her “diversity” bona fides — a “minority hire!” The claim was so transparently idiotic and dishonest that she was desperate to walk it back as delicately as possible, in order to keep up with the race hustling of her fellow pols chasing the nomination. A rain dance was arranged in the aptly-named heartland town of Sioux City.

“Like anyone who’s being honest with themselves, I know that I have made mistakes,” said Ms. Warren, who was met with a standing ovation when she took the stage [The Times reported]. “I am sorry for harm I have caused. I have listened and I have learned a lot, and I am grateful for the many conversations that we’ve had together.” Was a more disingenuous political statement ever contrived? A bundle of devious platitudinous promises of the sort that white people always offered the indigenous folk at a thousand crooked treaty councils? It would have been a little more satisfying, perhaps, if Ms. Warren had specified the mistakes made, e.g. I was falsely claiming a racial identity for career advancement. Now that’s an apology!

“Listening and learning?” I dunno… sounds a little like groveling and pandering. Anyone can choke down a few bites of humble pie but please don’t make me eat that shit sandwich! The Democratic contest may be peaking way too early. And Joe Biden hasn’t even had a chance to claim he is the out-of-wedlock grandson of W.C. Handy. There are indications that the political center is already a little tired of the Everything-Is-Racist trope that the party ran up the flagpole this summer. For The New York Times, it became the publicly acknowledged official editorial slant when newsroom chief Dean Baquet announced that the paper needed a replacement for the shredded gonfalon of RussiaGate.

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Is the DNC secretly working for Trump?

Gabbard torpedoed Kamala Harris’s shot at the job. That won’t be forgiven.

Tulsi Gabbard Victimized by DNC’s Dubious Debate Criteria (Tracey)

Tulsi Gabbard is on the verge of being excluded from the next Democratic presidential debate on the basis of criteria that appear increasingly absurd. Take, for instance, her poll standing in New Hampshire, which currently places Gabbard at 3.3% support, according to the RealClearPolitics average as of Aug. 20. One might suspect that such a figure would merit inclusion in the upcoming debates — especially considering she’s ahead of several candidates who have already been granted entry, including Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, and Andrew Yang. But the Democratic National Committee has decreed that the polls constituting this average are not sufficiently “qualifying.”

What makes a poll “qualifying” in the eyes of the DNC? The answer is conspicuously inscrutable. Months ago, party chieftains issued a list of “approved sponsoring organizations/institutions” for polls that satisfy their criteria for debate admittance. Not appearing on that list is the Boston Globe, which sponsored a Suffolk University poll published Aug. 6 that placed Gabbard at 3%. The DNC had proclaimed that for admittance to the September and October debates, candidates must secure polling results of 2% or more in four separate “approved” polls – but a poll sponsored by the newspaper with the largest circulation in New Hampshire (the Globe recently surpassed the New Hampshire Union Leader there) does not count, per this cockamamie criteria.

There has not been an officially qualifying poll in New Hampshire, Gabbard’s best state, in over a month. The absurdity mounts. A South Carolina poll published Aug. 14 by the Post and Courier placed Gabbard at 2%. One might have again vainly assumed that the newspaper with the largest circulation in a critical early primary state would be an “approved” sponsor per the dictates of the DNC, but it is not. Curious.

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Cerberus, the early days.