Dec 242019
 
 December 24, 2019  Posted by at 10:45 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  19 Responses »


George N. Barnard Federal picket post near Atlanta, Georgia 1864

 

Impeachment Foot-Dragging Is Proof Dems Have Nothing On Trump (McCaughey)
‘Stop Playing Games’: Graham Warns Pelosi Senate May ‘Strike Back’ (ZH)
Hunter Biden Allegedly Linked To Multiple Criminal Probes (NYP)
US Govt Blew $3 Trillion On Afghanistan, Congress Adds Another Trillion (OP)
Christmas in Flyover Land (Kunstler)
Medical Opinion, Torture and Julian Assange (AIM)
Russia Ready To Share All Info Required By MH17 Crash Investigators (RT)
New Russia-Crimea Rail Link Condemned By EU (BBC)
World ‘Faces 80% Calorie Increase By End Of Century’ (BBC)
For Her Head Cold, Insurer Coughed Up $25,865 (NPR)
‘Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself’ Goodies Hottest Holiday Merch This Xmas (NYP)

 

 

Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York.

She has some intriguing arguments: “they are trying to strong-arm McConnell into calling witnesses. Yet they are forgetting that McConnell can’t negotiate away executive privilege. It’s not his to surrender.”

The discussion is far from over.

Impeachment Foot-Dragging Is Proof Dems Have Nothing On Trump (McCaughey)

McConnell is proposing that House Dems and then White House lawyers make their arguments to the senators. The trial could be wrapped up in a couple of weeks, unless senators ≠decide after hearing the arguments that they need to hear witnesses. But Schumer wants more witnesses guaranteed upfront. After 17 witnesses, 8,000 pages of testimony and legal arguments, 106 House staff members working full-time, six high-paid outside lawyers and millions of dollars spent to produce a party-line vote in the House to impeach, Senate Democrats are hankering for another long, drawn-out spectacle. They aren’t outsmarting anyone except themselves. The witnesses they are seeking are unlikely to show up, no matter what political tricks the Democrats try.

Meanwhile, national support for impeachment is steadily falling, and every day Democrats spend on impeachment lessens their chances of unseating Trump in November. Schumer wants four White House officials, including Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and ex-National Security Adviser John Bolton, to testify. But Democrats lost their chance to bring in these witnesses by voting to impeach. Close advisers to any president are protected by executive privilege. That isn’t a Trump invention. Presidents, including George Washington, have said “no” when Congress demanded access to evidence of White House decision-making. President Barack Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, was especially aggressive about asserting privilege.

The Constitution creates three equal branches of government, and the president has a duty to protect his branch from congressional overreach. When these two branches clash, the federal courts are the referee. That’s true generally, but House Dems took a shortcut. When Trump refused to provide certain witnesses, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff balked at “a lengthy game of rope-a-dope with the courts.” It was a short-sighted move. Once House Dems voted to impeach, they lost any chance to have the federal courts order Trump’s advisers to appear. The Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that judges cannot interfere in impeachment trials, because the Senate has “the sole power” over them.

In fact, minutes after the vote, federal appeals judges asked Congress to show why its case to compel the testimony of former White House lawyer Don McGahn isn’t abruptly ended because “the articles of impeachment render the case moot.” With the courthouse doors slammed shut on impeachers, they are trying to strong-arm McConnell into calling witnesses. Yet they are forgetting that McConnell can’t negotiate away executive privilege. It’s not his to surrender.

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The only thing left for Pelosi appears to try and draw it out.

‘Stop Playing Games’: Graham Warns Pelosi Senate May ‘Strike Back’ (ZH)

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on Monday that the “Constitutional outrage” by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) “needs to end,” and that if it continues into 2020, “the Senate needs to strike back.” “The Senate will decide how we dispose of this sham created by the house,” Graham tweeted, referring to the impasse created by Pelosi – who is refusing to transmit two articles of impeachment against President Trump until the Senate agrees to her terms. President Trump also had words for Pelosi on Monday after the Speaker called for “fairness” in a Senate trial.

“Pelosi gives us the most unfair trial in the history of the U.S. Congress, and now she is crying for fairness in the Senate, and breaking all rules while doing so,” Trump tweeted, adding “She lost Congress once, she will do it again!” Pelosi says she will only transmit the impeachment articles to the Senate after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announces the process they will use for Trump’s trial. McConnell has advocated for a similar process to Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment, which included an initial agreement to first hear the case, followed by a vote on whether to call witnesses.

Speaking with “Fox and Friends” on Monday, McConnell said “we’re at an impasse” and “we can’t do anything until the speaker sends the papers over, so everybody enjoy the holidays.” McConnell blasted Pelosi for trying to “tell us how to run the trial.” “Look, what we need to do is to listen to the arguments, have a written questioning period, and then decide whether we need witnesses or not,” McConnell said, adding that some Republican senators “have said, ‘I am thinking of myself as a juror,'” while others believe “the case against President Trump is very thin.” -NBC News

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Either Joe drops Hunter or the Dems will drop Joe.

Hunter Biden Allegedly Linked To Multiple Criminal Probes (NYP)

Hunter Biden is the subject of multiple criminal investigations related to “fraud, money laundering and a counterfeiting scheme,” it’s claimed in court documents filed Monday in his Arkansas paternity case. The claims were put forward by a Florida-based private-eye firm, D&A Investigations, in Biden’s ongoing case against alleged baby mama Lunden Alexis Roberts, a former Washington, DC, stripper who went by “Dallas.” Soon after the claims were filed, a judge struck the allegations down because they were filed by an “intervener,” according to court papers. Biden filed a motion to strike down the claims, arguing “the notice is filed by a non-party simply to make scandalous allegations in the pending suit to gain some media attention.”

Biden, 49, “is the subject of more than one criminal investigation involving fraud, money laundering and a counterfeiting scheme,” the filing alleges. One of those purported investigations relates to Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian energy company with which Biden held a lucrative board post while his father, Joe, was vice president — drawing allegations of impropriety from Republicans including President Trump. Biden and a group of business associates “established bank and financial accounts with Morgan Stanley … for Burisma Holdings Limited … for the money laundering scheme,” D&A claims, further alleging that the accounts showed an average account value of nearly $6.8 million between March 2014 and December 2015.

Biden and the others — including Devon Archer, John Galanis and Bevan Cooney — allegedly “utilized a counterfeiting scheme to conceal the Morgan Stanley et al Average Account Value,” D&A claims in the papers filed at the Circuit Court of Independence County, Arkansas. The filing additionally alleges that Biden had a hand in a plot including Galanis, Cooney and Archer to rip off Sioux Native Americans to the tune of $60 million through the shady sale of tribal bonds. Galanis, Archer and Cooney were found guilty for their roles in June 2018, following a lengthy trial in Manhattan federal court. In November, Archer’s conviction was overturned by a Manhattan federal judge.

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In case you were wondering who really rules the USA.

US Govt Blew $3 Trillion On Afghanistan, Congress Adds Another Trillion (OP)

It’s rare that I read something on the Washington Post that I don’t find highly biased, even repugnant. But with their recent article on the Afghanistan Papers, they truly knocked the ball out of the park. The facts they shared should have every American protesting in the streets. Trillions of dollars have been spent on a war that the Pentagon knew was unwinnable all along. More than 2300 American soldiers died there and more than 20,000 have been injured. More than 150,000 Afghanis were killed, many of them civilians, including women and children. And they lied to us constantly. Congress just proved that the truth doesn’t matter, though. A mere 22 hours after the release of this document, the new National Defense Authorization Act that breezed through the House and Senate was signed by the President.

That bill authorized $738 billion in military spending for 2020, actually increasing the budget by $22 billion over previous years. So, how is your representation in Washington, DC working out for you? [..] I know, I know – WaPo. But believe me when I tell you this is something all Americans need to see. This was an article that took three years of legal battles to bring to light. WaPo acquired the documents using the Freedom of Information Act and got more than 2000 pages of insider interviews with “people who played a direct role in the war, from generals and diplomats to aid workers and Afghan officials.” These documents were originally part of a federal investigation into the “root failures” of the longest conflict in US history – more than 18 years now.

Three presidents, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump, have been involved in this ongoing war. It turns out that officials knew the entire time this war was “unwinnable” yet they kept throwing American lives and American money at it.

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“Pottersville is way more appealing than 99 percent of America’s small towns today, dead as they are.”

Christmas in Flyover Land (Kunstler)

When you get down to it, the sickness at the heart of our nation these days is the result of countless bad choices, large and small, that we’ve made collectively over decades, including the ones made by our elected officialdom. The good news is that we could potentially move in the opposite direction and start making better choices. However deficient and unappetizing you think Mr. Trump is, and how crudely unorthodox his behavior, that equation is what got enough people to vote for him. The strenuous efforts to antagonize him, disable him, and get rid of him by any means necessary — including police-state tactics, bad faith inquisitions, and outright sedition — have prevented the nation as a whole from entertaining a realistic new consensus for making better choices. In fact, it has achieved just the opposite: a near civil war, edition 2.0.

All the people of America, including the flyovers, are responsible for the sad situation we’re in: this failure to reestablish a common culture of values most people can subscribe to and use it to rebuild our towns into places worth caring about. Main Street, as it has come to be, is the physical manifestation of that failure. The businesses that used to occupy the storefronts are gone, except for second-hand stores. Nobody in 1952 would have believed this could happen. And yet, there it is: the desolation is stark and heartbreaking. Even George Bailey’s “nightmare” scene in It’s a Wonderful Life depicts the supposedly evil Pottersville as a very lively place, only programmed for old-fashioned wickedness: gin mills and streetwalkers.

Watch the movie and see for yourself. Pottersville is way more appealing than 99 percent of America’s small towns today, dead as they are. The dynamics that led to this are not hard to understand. The concentration of retail commerce in a very few gigantic corporations was a swindle that the public fell for. Enthralled like little children by the dazzle and gigantism of the big boxes, and the free parking, we allowed ourselves to be played. The excuse was “bargain shopping,” which actually meant we have sent the factories to distant lands and eliminated your jobs, and all the meaning and purpose in your lives — and cheap stuff from Asia is your consolation prize. Enjoy…

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After Doctors For Assange, it’s high time for Lawyers For Assange. Take the governments involved to court in their own countries.

Medical Opinion, Torture and Julian Assange (AIM)

The medical degrading of Assange has assumed ever greater importance, suggesting unwavering state complicity. On November 22, over 65 notable medical doctors sent the UK Home Secretary a note based on Melzer’s November 1 findings and Assange’s state at the October 21 case management hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court. “It is our opinion that Mr Assange requires urgent expert medical assessment of both his physical and psychological state of health. Any medical treatment indicated should be administered in a properly equipped and expertly staffed university teaching hospital (tertiary care).”

In a second open letter to the UK Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice dated December 4, the Doctors for Assange collective warned that the UK’s “refusal to take the required measures to protect Mr Assange’s rights, health and dignity appears [to] be reckless at best and deliberate at worst and, in both cases, unlawfully and unnecessarily exposes Mr Assange to potentially irreversible risks.” The same grounds were reiterated in a December 16 letter to Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, with a curt reminder that she had “an undeniable legal obligation to protect your citizen against the abuse of his fundamental rights, stemming from US efforts to extradite Mr Assange for journalism and publishing that exposed US war crimes.” In the event that Payne took no action on the matter, “people would want to know what you […] did to prevent his death.”

In the addendum to the open letter, further to reiterating the precarious state of Assange’s health and medical status as a torture victim, the doctors elaborate on the circular cruelty facing the publisher. An individual deemed “a victim of psychological torture cannot be adequately medically treated while continuing to be held under the very conditions constituting psychological torture, as is currently the case for Julian Assange.” Appropriate medical treatment was hardly possible through a prison hospital ward. A lesson in understanding mental torture is also proffered. “Contrary to popular misconception, the injuries caused by psychological torture are real and extremely serious. The term psychological torture is not a synonym for mere hardship, suffering or distress.”

At Assange’s case management hearing on December 19, restrictions on medical opinion were again implemented; psychiatrist Marco Chiesa and psychologist David Morgan were prevented from attending. Both had been signatories to the spray of open letters. According to Morgan, he had hoped to “provide some observations about Julian Assange’s health, psychologically, and with my colleagues, physically.” Instead, it transpired that access was denied, according to psychologist Lissa Johnson, “despite members of the public offering to give up seats for them.”

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They have been for 5.5 years. But they have already been found guilty before any trial. The “investigators” went with Ukraine and Bellingcat instead, and are now so deeply invested they can’t get out anymore.

Russia Ready To Share All Info Required By MH17 Crash Investigators (RT)

Moscow is poised to give assistance in the investigation of the crash of flight MH17 in 2014, as it always has been, a Russian EU envoy has assured stakeholders, responding to a call for cooperation by the Dutch foreign minister. “We are ready to cooperate in clarifying all the circumstances of the incident,” Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s envoy to the European Union, told media on Monday. In fact, Moscow has always been poised to do so, but its proposals were brushed aside, the diplomat recalled. Moscow is also prepared to hand over “the data we have” to its Dutch counterparts, ahead of a court trial that will look at the evidence collected by the Netherlands-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in March next year, Chizhov said.

The envoy spoke shortly after Stef Blok, the foreign minister of the Netherlands, said Russia’s contribution is needed to find some missing facts about the crash, which killed 298 passengers and crew. The Hague had “asked the Russian Federation to cooperate in a factual investigation into the closing of airspace above and around Ukraine,” Blok wrote to Dutch lawmakers on Sunday. Blok’s letter comes two months after Chris van Dam, spokesman for the MH17 probe, announced the inquiry will focus on why Ukraine’s airspace “was not closed” over Donetsk at the time of intense hostilities between the government military and rebel forces in the breakaway Donbass region.

Back in 2015, a report released by the Dutch Safety Board confirmed that, while it was hard to find out who was behind downing of flight MH17, the airspace over Ukraine should have been closed. Meanwhile, lawyers representing some victims of the crash maintain that it was Ukraine’s responsibility to ensure the safety of civilian air traffic during the fighting. [..] Moscow has consistently said that, despite not being included in the investigation team, it is still open to cooperation. Russia has already provided radar records, declassified military data on a missile thought to have downed the plane, and files proving that the projectile which downed the plane had been in Ukraine since the 1980s – but the data was persistently rejected as the probe proceeded.

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St Petersburg to Sevastopol: a 43-hour train ride.

New Russia-Crimea Rail Link Condemned By EU (BBC)

President Vladimir Putin has heralded the opening of a railway bridge to the Russian-annexed Crimea peninsula by posing in the driver’s cab and praising construction workers. But opening of the railway was immediately condemned by the European Union as “another violation” by Russia of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territory. Russia’s 19km (12-mile) bridge to Crimea first opened in May last year. President Putin marked that occasion by driving a lorry over it. On Monday he asserted that millions of cars had already crossed the bridge and said the rail link “was a big deal as well”, with plans to carry 14 million passengers and 13 million tonnes of freight in 2020. Until the bridge was built, Russia had to rely on sea and air to supply the peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in February 2014 before annexing it through a referendum rejected by the United Nations as invalid.


The $3.6bn (£2.8bn; €3.2bn) bridge was built by a close friend of the president, Arkady Rotenberg. Mr Rotenberg and several of his companies had EU and US sanctions imposed on them. Russia’s president said the Kerch Strait bridge, with its new rail link, would have an impact on Russia’s economy as a whole. In a tweet, the presidency declared the bridge open to railway traffic. Mr Putin boarded a three-carriage train in the Crimean city of Kerch, stood in the cab beside the driver and sounded the horn, before sitting with Mr Rotenberg as well as Russian and local officials as they travelled across the strait to Taman in southern Russia. Mr Putin told construction workers that there had only been three times in 145 years that the rail route from St Petersburg to Sevastopol in Crimea had been broken: during the Russian revolution, during World War Two and in 2014.

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Some things simply won’t happen because they can’t.

World ‘Faces 80% Calorie Increase By End Of Century’ (BBC)

The amount of food needed to feed the world’s population by the end of the century could increase by almost 80%, a study has suggested. Researchers from Germany said a trend of increasing Body Mass Index (BMI) is resulting in individuals requiring more calories. The authors warn that failure to meet the need for more calories could lead to greater global inequality. The findings have been published in the journal Plos One. The study, carried out by a team from the University of Gottingen, calculated that 60% of the calorie increase would be a result of the growing number of people in the world.


According to the UN World Population Prospects, the global population was estimated to increase from almost seven billion in 2010 to almost 11 billion in 2100. Yet, more that 18% of the increase in the calories from 2010 levels would come from a projected increase in height and weight figures in the global population. “The increase in the average daily required energy rises by 253 kcal per person between 2010 and 2100 in our estimations, assuming a rising BMI and height,” explained co-author Lutz Depenbusch from the World Vegetable Center. He told BBC News: “On a global scale, we calculate that the effect of the BMI and height increases in our model would lead to additional calorie requirements that match the 2010 requirements of India and Nigeria combined.”

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The system many people claim would be too expensive to repair or replace. Sounds like pretty straightforward fraud to me.

For Her Head Cold, Insurer Coughed Up $25,865 (NPR)

Alexa Kasdan had a cold and a sore throat. The 40-year-old public policy consultant from Brooklyn, N.Y., didn’t want her upcoming vacation trip ruined by strep throat. So after it had lingered for more than a week, she decided to get it checked out. Kasdan visited her primary care physician, Roya Fathollahi, at Manhattan Specialty Care, just off Park Avenue South and not far from tony Gramercy Park. The visit was quick. Kasdan got her throat swabbed, gave a tube of blood and was sent out the door with a prescription for antibiotics. She soon felt better, and the trip went off without a hitch. Then the bill came. The news was that her insurance company was mailing her family a check — for more than $25,000 — to cover some out-of-network lab tests.

The actual bill was $28,395.50, but the doctor’s office said it would waive her portion of the bill: $2,530.26. “I thought it was a mistake,” she says. “I thought maybe they meant $250. I couldn’t fathom in what universe I would go to a doctor for a strep throat culture and some antibiotics and I would end up with a $25,000 bill.” The doctor’s office kept assuring Kasdan by phone and by email that the tests and charges were perfectly normal. The office sent a courier to her house to pick up the check. How could a throat swab possibly cost that much? Let us count three reasons. First, the doctor sent Kasdan’s throat swab for a sophisticated smorgasbord of DNA tests looking for viruses and bacteria that might explain Kasdan’s cold symptoms.

Dr. Ranit Mishori, professor of family medicine at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, says such scrutiny was unnecessary. “In my 20 years of being a doctor, I’ve never ordered any of these tests, let alone seen any of my colleagues, students and other physicians order anything like that in the outpatient setting,” she says. “I have no idea why they were ordered.” The tests might conceivably make sense for a patient in the intensive care unit or with a difficult case of pneumonia, Mishori says. The ones for influenza are potentially useful, since there are medicines that can help, but there’s a cheap rapid test that could have been used instead.

The second reason behind the high price is that the doctor sent the throat swab to an out-of-network lab for analysis. In-network labs settle on contract rates with insurers. But out-of-network labs can set their own prices for tests, and in this case the lab settled on list prices that are 20 times higher than average for other labs in the same ZIP code. In this case, if the doctor had sent the throat swab off to LabCorp -Kasdan’s in-network provider- it would have billed her insurance company about $653 for “all the ordered tests, or an equivalent,” LabCorp told NPR. The third reason for the high bill may be the connection between the lab and Kasdan’s doctor. Kasdan’s bill shows that the lab service was provided by Manhattan Gastroenterology, which has the same phone number and locations as her doctor’s office.

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A fitting end to the year.

‘Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself’ Goodies Hottest Holiday Merch This Xmas (NYP)

It’s the most controversial time of the year. Following the August death of convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, a rash of sweaters, Christmas tree ornaments and other holiday goods have appeared on retail sites like Amazon and Etsy touting conspiracies that the 66-year-old was murdered. “Christmas lights are a lot like Epstein — they don’t hang themselves,” reads one $19.80 sweater on Amazon featuring the 66-year-old in a Santa hat. Plenty of ornaments also include the allegation, including this one, which also features a noose.

“During Christmas, an elf may sit on a shelf, but Epstein didn’t kill himself,” says another Amazon sweater, available starting at $29.99 in eight different colors.“Dasher & dancer & prancer & Epstein & didn’t & kill himself & Donner & Blitzen,” reads one $18.99 T-shirt. An almost-classic gingerbread-themed ornament has a naughty box, a nice box — and an “Epstein didn’t kill himself” box, which is checked. “Merry Christmas!” reads the cover of a $6.99 notebook, “Epstein didn’t kill himself.” A ransom-style note sweater with “Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself,” is available in designs featuring Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Kim Jong-un.

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Oct 182019
 
 October 18, 2019  Posted by at 9:10 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Salvador Dali The three pines 1919

 

McConnell: Senate Impeachment Trial ‘As Soon As Thanksgiving’ (ZH)
Trump Florida Golf Course To Host G7 Summit (BBC)
Turkey To Suspend Syria Offensive, Mike Pence Announces (BBC)
Washington is Wrong Once Again – Kurds Join Assad to Defend Syria (Ron Paul)
Media And Pundits Misread The ‘Everyone Wins’ Plan For Syria (MoA)
UK Agrees To Best Of Worst Possible Brexit Deals (MW)
EU Leaves Door Open To Brexit Extension, In Blow To Boris Johnson (G.)
UK MPs Win Bid To Vote On 2nd Brexit Referendum In Saturday Showdown (Ind.)
How Slashing Pentagon Budget Could Pay for Medicare for All (Conley)
Going Dutch? Low Interest Rates Rattle ‘World’s Best’ Pension System (R.)

 

 

And you thought you had seen absurd theater so far… Biden and Comey and Strzok testifying. Hillary?! Wasserman-Schultz?

“..you’d have basically Thanksgiving to Christmas — which would be wonderful because there’s no deadline in the world like the next break to motivate senators..”

McConnell: Senate Impeachment Trial ‘As Soon As Thanksgiving’ (ZH)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told Republican Senators on Wednesday to prepare for an impeachment trial of President Trump as soon as Thanksgiving, according to the Boston Globe. The announcement comes as House Democrats roll the dice on a second-hand claim from a CIA ‘whistleblower’ that President Trump pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate former VP Joe Biden – who the whistleblower worked for – and Biden’s son Hunter [..] .. while Trump will almost certainly be impeached by the Democrat-controlled House, the GOP-controlled Senate will be able to pick apart the entire affair.

“In their closed-door weekly luncheon, McConnell gave a presentation about the impeachment process and fielded questions alongside his staff and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who was a manager for the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton. “Impeachment is the first step to remove a president, with the House voting on formal charges and the Senate holding a trial in which it either convicts or acquits him. -Boston Globe “There’s sort of a planned expectation that it would be sometime around Thanksgiving, so you’d have basically Thanksgiving to Christmas — which would be wonderful because there’s no deadline in the world like the next break to motivate senators,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) following the meeting.


McConnell has previously said that if the House impeaches Trump, Senate rules would force him to begin a trial – one which could force the Bidens to testify. “Not only could Mr. Biden be forced to be in D.C. at a critical moment in the presidential campaign, but so could many of his chief rivals — the half-dozen senators also vying for Democrats’ presidential nomination, impeachment experts said. For that matter, if the House chooses to impeach Mr. Trump on charges stemming from the special counsel’s Russia investigation, aides said it could open the door to witnesses such as fired FBI Agent Peter Strzok or even major figures from the Obama administration. Mr. Trump could even be present for the entire spectacle. Experts said the Senate would have a hard time refusing him if he demanded to confront the witnesses against him.” -Washington Times

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Uber trolling.

Trump Florida Golf Course To Host G7 Summit (BBC)

One of President Donald Trump’s golf resorts in Florida will host the G7 summit next June, the White House says. White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney denied President Trump would profit from the event. The aide said “Donald Trump’s brand is probably strong enough as it is”, so he did not need a branding boost. Mr Trump has previously said he is not involved with the daily operations of the Trump Organization and that his sons run the business. Mr Mulvaney told reporters on Thursday that an advance team of scouts had started with a list of possible locations for the summit in about a dozen states. The team, he said, went to visit the venues in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, Tennessee and Utah.

“And it became apparent at the end of that process that Doral was by far and away, far and away, the best physical facility for this meeting. “In fact I was talking to one of the advance teams when they came back and I said, ‘What was it like?’ And they said, ‘You’re not going to believe this but it’s almost like they built this facility to host this type of event.'” The chief of staff said the event would be made available “at cost” and that using the Doral would save millions of dollars and was cheaper than the other potential sites. Earlier this year the US president floated the idea of his Doral property hosting the G7. But Mr Mulvaney denied on Thursday that his boss was profiting from the presidency, pointing out that he donates his salary to charity.


“It’s the most recognisable name in the English language [Trump] and probably around the world right now, so no, that has nothing to do with that,” he said. Mr Mulvaney said he had initially been sceptical about the idea and “aware of the political sort of criticism that we’d come under for doing it at Doral”. He added: “I get the criticisms, so does he. Basically, he’d be criticised regardless of what he’d chose to do, but no there’s no issue here on him profiting from this any way, shape or form.”

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120 hours. Followed by a ceasefire.

Turkey To Suspend Syria Offensive, Mike Pence Announces (BBC)

Turkey has agreed to a ceasefire in northern Syria to let Kurdish-led forces withdraw, US Vice-President Mike Pence has announced. All military operations will be paused for five days, and the US will help facilitate an “orderly withdrawal” of Kurdish-led troops from what Turkey has termed a “safe zone” on the border. Turkey launched its assault last week. It aimed to repel a Kurdish militia that it views as a terrorist group, and resettle Syrian refugees in the area. Critics fear this could lead to ethnic cleansing of the local Kurdish population.


The cross-border offensive came after US President Donald Trump pulled US forces out of the border region. His decision prompted a raft of criticism at home and abroad, with some accusing him of giving Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a “green light” for the operation. Mr Trump tweeted about the ceasefire before Mr Pence announced it, writing that “millions of lives will be saved!” Mr Pence thanked Donald Trump’s “strong leadership” during the announcement. “He wanted a ceasefire. He wanted to stop the violence,” the vice-president said.

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It’s obvious where Ron Paul stands, he always has: The best way to help the Kurds and everyone else in the region is to just come home.

Washington is Wrong Once Again – Kurds Join Assad to Defend Syria (Ron Paul)

When President Trump Tweeted last week that “it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous endless wars,” adding that the US would be withdrawing from Syria, Washington went into a panic. Suddenly Republicans, Democrats, the media, the think tanks, and the war industry all discovered and quickly became experts on “the Kurds,” who we were told were an “ally” being sent to their slaughter by an ignorant President Trump. But it was all just another bipartisan ploy to keep the “forever war” gravy train rolling through the Beltway. Interventionists will do anything to prevent US troops from ever coming home, and their favorite tactic is promoting “mission creep.”

As President Trump Tweeted, we were told in 2014 by President Obama that the US military would go into Syria for just 30 days to save the Yazidi minority that they claimed were threatened. Then that mission crept into “we must fight ISIS” and so the US military continued to illegally occupy and bomb Syria for five more years. Even though it was the Syrian army with its Russian and Iranian allies that did the bulk of the fighting against al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria, President Trump took credit and called for the troops to come home. But when the military comes home, the military-industrial-Congressional-media complex loses its cash cow, so a new rationale had to be invented.


The latest “mission creep” was that we had to stay in Syria to save our “allies” the Kurds. All of a sudden our military presence in Syria was not about fighting terrorism but rather about putting US troops between our NATO ally Turkey and our proxy fighting force, the Kurds. Do they really want us to believe that it is “pro-American” for our troops to fight and die refereeing a long-standing dispute between the Turks and Kurds?

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Moon of Alabama is the first I’ve seen mention that the YPG “will be disbanded and integrated into the Syrian army.”

As I wrote a few days ago in Trump Talks To Putin. But How?, this whole thing has been planned and co-ordinated, much more than western media report.

Media And Pundits Misread The ‘Everyone Wins’ Plan For Syria (MoA)

The U.S. media get yesterday’s talks between U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan all wrong. Those talks were just a show to soothe the criticism against President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeast Syria. The fake negotiations did not change the larger win-win-win-win plan or the facts on the ground. The Syrian Arab Army is replacing the Kurdish PKK/YPG troops at the border with Turkey. The armed PKK/YPG forces, which had deceivingly renamed themselves (vid) “Syrian Democratic Forces” to win U.S. support, will be disbanded and integrated into the Syrian army. Those moves are sufficient to give Turkey the security guarantees it needs. They will prevent any further Turkish invasion.

[..] The U.S. can not “allow Turkey to annex a portion of Syria”. The U.S. does not own Syria. It is completely bollocks to think that it has the power to allow Turkey to annex parts of it. Turkey will not “gain territory”. There will be no Turkish “security corridor”. The Kurdish civilians in Kobani, Ras al Ain and Qamishli areas will not go anywhere. The Turks will not touch those Kurdish majority areas because they are, or soon will be, under control of the Syrian government and its army. [..] The Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu confirmed that Turkey agrees with the Syrian government moves: “Russia “promised that the PKK or YPG will not be on the other side of the border,” Cavusoglu said in an interview with the BBC. “If Russia, accompanied by the Syrian army, removes YPG elements from the region, we will not oppose this.”


These moves have been planned all along. The Turkish invasion in northeast Syria was designed to give Trump a reason to withdraw U.S. troops. It was designed to push the Kurdish forces to finally submit to the Syrian government. Behind the scene Russia had already organized the replacement of the Kurdish forces with Syrian government troops. It has coordinated the Syrian army moves with the U.S. military. Turkey had agreed that Syrian government control would be sufficient to alleviate its concern about a Kurdish guerilla and a Kurdish proto-state at its border. Any further Turkish invasion of Syria is thereby unnecessary. The plan has everyone winning. Turkey will be free of a Kurdish threat. Syria regains its territory. The U.S. can leave without further trouble. Russia and Iran gain standing. The Kurds get taken care of.

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“Boris Johnson has signed a deal he said he didn’t need, creating a border he didn’t want, under the authority of a Court he didn’t accept, to be submitted to a Parliament he doesn’t control. ”

UK Agrees To Best Of Worst Possible Brexit Deals (MW)

Boris Johnson has signed a deal he said he didn’t need, creating a border he didn’t want, under the authority of a Court he didn’t accept, to be submitted to a Parliament he doesn’t control. The one “great” thing about the agreement with the European Union that the U.K. prime minister hailed Thursday is that it reduces – if slightly – the possibility of a hard Brexit, and the associated foreseeable economic crisis. But beyond the forex market’s obvious relief at the possible end of three years of uncertainty — the pound jumped almost 1% on the news, before reversing — this is still a deal that will hurt the British economy. On a scale of 1 to 10 — from no-pain, remain in the EU to maximum damage, no-deal Brexit — the agreement concluded just a few hours before an EU leaders summit in Brussels registers as an 8 or 9.


Its economic impact will be worse than the deal negotiated by Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May and rejected three times by the U.K. Parliament earlier this year. That is true both in the short term and in the long term. In the short term, it leaves the U.K. outside the customs union where it would have stayed under the infamous “backstop” negotiated by the previous government. But more uncertainty is also hanging over the near term economic future. The dearth of investment in the last three years has been the main drag on the U.K. economy, which explains why the country’s GDP is now 1-to-3% lower than it would have been if voters had opted for remain in 2016.

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People are pressed to vote for a deal they don’t want. Is that really such a good idea?

EU Leaves Door Open To Brexit Extension, In Blow To Boris Johnson (G.)

EU leaders have left open the option of extending Brexit beyond 31 October if the new deal is voted down by the Commons, in a blow to Boris Johnson’s strategy. The prime minister had been seeking to pitch Saturday’s vote in the Commons as a choice between deal or no deal after coming to an agreement with the EU. Johnson was helped by comments from Jean-Claude Juncker casting doubt on the possibility of a further Brexit delay, but the heads of state and government did not follow the European commission president’s lead. A summit communique issued after two hours of discussion tasked the commission and European parliament with taking “the necessary steps to ensure that the agreement can enter into force on November 1”.


But a senior EU official said that the leaders would follow events on Saturday, and reflect on the next steps if they were in a “different situation”. A second diplomatic source said they had chosen not to interfere in a “sensitive domestic debate … but they leave the door open to the possibility of an extension, to be discussed at a later stage – if required”. Johnson is facing an uphill battle to build a majority after the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist party rejected the revised deal, describing it as driving “a coach and horses through the professed sanctity of the Belfast agreement”. Juncker had tried to help sell the deal by pouring doubt on a further Brexit extension in the event of it being rejected.

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So even if the deal is accepted, it may still not be?

UK MPs Win Bid To Vote On 2nd Brexit Referendum In Saturday Showdown (Ind.)

MPs have won a key parliamentary vote paving the way for a Commons bid to secure a second referendum on Saturday. Ex-Tory backbencher Sir Oliver Letwin led a successful attempt to allow backbench MPs to amend Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans, in a knife-edge vote that passed by 287 votes to 275. MPs also approved a rare Saturday sitting to scrutinise Mr Johnson’s new plan – but the government’s proposal for a short debate on a motion to either “approve the deal or approve a no-deal Brexit” were derailed by the backbench victory. The move now clears the way for pro-EU MPs to force a vote on a second referendum, by tacking on an amendment calling for another public vote on the prime minister’s Brexit blueprint.


Sir Oliver said the plan would allow MPs to move any amendment to the government’s proposal and for them to be voted upon, if selected by Speaker John Bercow. He suggested that it could close a loophole in the so-called Benn Act – which requires the PM to seek a Brexit delay if he does not have a deal by 19 October. The law only compels the PM to seek an extension if MPs fail to pass a motion. Sir Oliver told MPs: “That will enable those of us, like me, who wish to support and carry through and eventually see the ratification of this deal, not to put us in the position of allowing the government off the Benn Act hook on Saturday, but only at a time when the bill has been taken through both Houses of Parliament and legislated on.”

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A discussion you won’t be able to escape. It might be good to get the terminology straight. I think Tucker Carlson called Medicare for All pure socialism, but that would mean Canada, the UK, most of Europe and Asian countries like Thailand all pure socialist countries. Hard to maintain.

How Slashing Pentagon Budget Could Pay for Medicare for All (Conley)

The Institute for Policy Studies on Thursday shared the results of extensive research into how the $750 billion U.S. military budget could be significantly slashed, freeing up annual funding to cover the cost of Medicare for All—calling into question the notion that the program needs to create any tax burden whatsoever for working families. Lindsay Koshgarian, director of the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), took aim in a New York Timesop-ed at a “chorus of scolds” from both sides of the aisle who say that raising middle class taxes is the only way to pay for Medicare for All. The pervasive claim was a primary focus of Tuesday night’s debate, while Medicare for All proponents Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) attempted to focus on the dire need for a universal healthcare program.

At the Democratic presidential primary debate on CNN Tuesday night, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was criticized by some opponents for saying that “costs will go down for hardworking, middle-class families” under Medicare for All, without using the word “taxes.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), on the other hand, clearly stated that taxes may go up for some middle class families but pointed out that the increase would be more than offset by the fact that they’ll no longer have to pay monthly premiums, deductibles, and other medical costs. “All these ambitious policies of course will come with a hefty price tag,” wrote Koshgarian. “Proposals to fund Medicare for All have focused on raising taxes. But what if we could imagine another way entirely?”


“Over 18 years, the United States has spent $4.9 trillion on wars, with only more intractable violence in the Middle East and beyond to show for it,” she added. “That’s nearly the $300 billion per year over the current system that is estimated to cover Medicare for All (though estimates vary).” “While we can’t un-spend that $4.9 trillion,” Koshgarian continued, “imagine if we could make different choices for the next 20 years.”

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The state of denial. Pensions funds have all moved into risk assets, so if stocks start falling, it’s over and out. Moreover, there will be far more elderly people soon vs the young, which will reduce contributions enormously while increasing payouts. At least try some realism. Zero interest rates klill pensions. Period.

Going Dutch? Low Interest Rates Rattle ‘World’s Best’ Pension System (R.)

The planned reductions, due to take effect from January 2020, have shaken a country renowned for having one of the world’s strongest pension systems, and are an early warning to others about the impact of record low interest rates. [..] The European Central Bank’s (ECB) stimulus policies, which have helped drive interest rates into negative territory, are blamed in part for the impending cuts in the Netherlands and have triggered a fierce debate over how the funding of pensions should be calculated. ECB President Mario Draghi said last month that the central bank was “very concerned” about the side effects of negative rates, but maintained they were required for economic growth.

At the heart of the Dutch debate is a technical question over how to calculate the cost of future pension payouts while the ECB helps keep rates low. Actuaries make assumptions about how long pensioners will live, count up the future payments that have been promised to them and then use an assumed interest rate to “discount” how much must be put away to pay them. The lower this interest rate, “rekenrente” in Dutch, the more conservative the accounting, and the more it costs to meet future liabilities. The rekenrente is derived from government bond yields — which have turned negative across Europe as interest rates steadily fell this summer.


Each 1% fall in interest rates has led to roughly a 12% fall in the coverage ratio between assets and liabilities in pension pots, the Dutch central bank says. As a January deadline approaches, cuts appear inevitable. That has led several funds and some experts to argue that the rekenrente, which is around 0.3%, should be raised instead. Many blame ECB policy and see its effects as temporary. Increasing the rekenrente to 2% or 3% would restore the funds to full solvency. Corien Wortmann-Kool, the chairwoman of the 456 billion euro ABP civil servants fund, told Reuters she opposes pension cuts as “unnecessary” for now.

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Mar 272019
 


Pablo Picasso Mandolin and guitar 1924

 

The EU’s Censorious Copyright Directive Will Create Two Internets (CapX)
All New UK Cars To Have Speed Limiters By 2022 Under EU Plans (G.)
Brexit Extension Could Be Until 31 March 2020 (G.)
Brexiters Demand May Exit Date To Back Deal (G.)
EU Cannot Betray ‘Increasing Majority’ Who Want To Cancel Brexit – Tusk (G.)
McConnell Backs Push For Investigation Of Russia Probe Missteps (R.)
Mueller Report Details To Be Issued In ‘Weeks, Not Months’ (R.)
Ecuador Ambassador Tells Assange to ‘Shut up’ and Accept Spying (GP)
Boeing 737 MAX Software Fix: Easy To Upload, Harder To Approve (R.)
US Jury To Determine Liability, Damages In Roundup Cancer Trial (R.)
Widespread Losses Of Pollinating Insects Revealed Across Britain (G.)

 

 

Behemoth overreach. It’s like they’re trying to tell the British that leaving is a really good idea.

Sure, there are things that can be improved, but Brussels wants to do BIG.

The EU’s Censorious Copyright Directive Will Create Two Internets (CapX)

The European Parliament’s approval of the Copyright Directive today is the end of the internet as we know it. This new regulation creates substantial new controls on what we can share online which threaten freedom of expression, undermine creativity, and cement the dominance of technology giants. The Copyright Directive will create two internets. The first, a heavily censored version for European users, including filters to prevent you from uploading content. The second, a free internet where creativity is encouraged, for everyone else. The directive represents everything that’s wrong with the EU’s policymaking process. It was written at a substantial distance from Europeans, heavily influenced by lobbyists and national compromises.


There is a serious lack of accountability. The opposition to the directive was substantial, but it didn’t seem to matter. Over 200 intellectual property academics have warned that the directive serves “narrow sectional interests”. Even substantial parts of the European music industry have raised concerns about the scheme. The Change.org petition opposing the directive has reached over 5.1 million signatories, the most in the website’s history. Last weekend – while some Brits were marching to stay in the EU – thousands of Europeans took to the street in Save the Internet marches.

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More overreach.

“Safety campaigners described the move as one of the biggest leaps forward in 50 years and said it could save 25,000 lives by 2037..”

Oh yeah? How many lives could be saved by designing your infrastructure to make cars unnecessary?

All New UK Cars To Have Speed Limiters By 2022 Under EU Plans (G.)

All new cars sold in the UK and Europe are to be fitted with devices to automatically stop drivers from exceeding the speed limit under sweeping changes to vehicle safety rules provisionally agreed by the EU. Although Britain may no longer be part of the EU when the rules come into effect, the UK regulator, the Vehicle Certification Agency, has said it will mirror safety standards for vehicles in the UK. The speed limiter is one of a range of safety features to be made mandatory from 2022, along with automated emergency braking, electronic data recorders and improved visibility built into lorries for drivers to see vulnerable cyclists and pedestrians around the vehicle.


Safety campaigners described the move as one of the biggest leaps forward in 50 years and said it could save 25,000 lives by 2037. The package of measures needs to be ratified by the European parliament, which is likely by September. The speed limiter device, called intelligent speed assistance, or ISA, uses GPS data and sign recognition cameras to detect speed limits where the car is travelling, and then will sound a warning and automatically slow down the vehicle if it is exceeding the limit. However, drivers will be able to override the device simply by pushing hard on the accelerator, reassuring some motoring groups that have argued that in certain situations – such as when trying to swiftly overtake a vehicle in front – speeding up could be safer.

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A long extension appears to be the only way forward.

Brexit Extension Could Be Until 31 March 2020 (G.)

The EU has pencilled in April Fools’ Day 2020 as a leading option for Britain’s first day outside the bloc, should the UK government ask Brussels for a lengthy extension of article 50 in three weeks’ time, it can be revealed. The date was to be offered at the leaders’ summit last week if Theresa May had followed through on her promise to request a short extension in the event of passing her Brexit deal, and a longer one should it be rejected again by the House of Commons. Such was the disapproval of her cabinet, the prime minister only sought a short delay until 30 June in her formal letter. She was subsequently given an unconditional extension until 12 April, or a longer one to 22 May in the unlikely event of the withdrawal agreement being ratified this week.


Without having received a request from Downing Street for a prolonged extension, the EU’s leaders instead left open the offer of a lengthy delay should there be a new political process or event before 12 April, such as a general election or second referendum, but they did not stipulate its potential length. A one-year extension, ending on 31 March 2020, was, however, written into internal EU papers before the summit as an offer that could be made to May should she formally seek a longer extension, sources said. It will likely remain an option if May comes back to Brussels having failed to ratify her deal. Such a UK departure date would ensure the British government would not have any opportunity to meddle in the EU’s long-term plans, including its budget, sources suggested.

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The same deal they fought so hard against.

Brexiters Demand May Exit Date To Back Deal (G.)

Theresa May is under intense pressure to set out a timetable for her departure from Downing Street to seal the support of Brexit hardliners for her twice-rejected deal. The prime minister will address Conservative MPs at a meeting of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers on Wednesday as the House of Commons prepares to vote on alternatives to her Brexit deal. There are renewed signs that leavers are reluctantly preparing to back her in a third meaningful vote rather than risk seeing Brexit slip away altogether. MPs will hold a series of “indicative votes” on alternative Brexit options on Wednesday after three ministers resigned to back a motion to seize control of the parliamentary timetable from the government.


Leavers fear this could lead to what May has a called a “slow Brexit” – a lengthy delay to the article 50 process, leading to a closer future relationship with the EU. Options for MPs to consider may include revocation of article 50, a second referendum, leaving with no deal and backing a Norway-style deal that would include single market membership and a customs arrangement. Boris Johnson appeared to pave the way for a climbdown over May’s deal on Tuesday night. Asked at a Telegraph event whether he would vote for it, the leading Brexiter said: “I am not there yet.” He described it as a “terrible deal, something which I bitterly opposed for a long time”. However, he said he needed “to see that the second phase of the negotiations will be different from the first” and highlighted the “appreciable risk” that not voting for the deal could lead to no Brexit.

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“In a pantomime moment, Farage turned to those sat behind him to ask whether they really wanted him to return as an MEP.”

EU Cannot Betray ‘Increasing Majority’ Who Want To Cancel Brexit – Tusk (G.)

Donald Tusk has issued a rallying call to the “increasing majority” of British people who want to cancel Brexit and stay in the European Union. In a stirring intervention, the European council president hailed those who marched on the streets of London and the millions who are petitioning the government to revoke article 50. Speaking to the European parliament, Tusk reprimanded those who voiced concerns about a potential lengthy extension to article 50 in the event of the Commons rejecting the withdrawal agreement again this week.

Tusk said: “Let me make one personal remark to the members of this parliament. Before the European council, I said that we should be open to a long extension if the UK wishes to rethink its Brexit strategy, which would of course mean the UK’s participation in the European parliament elections. And then there were voices saying that this would be harmful or inconvenient to some of you. “Let me be clear: such thinking is unacceptable. You cannot betray the 6 million people who signed the petition to revoke article 50, the 1 million people who marched for a people’s vote, or the increasing majority of people who want to remain in the European Union”

To heckling from Ukip MEPs, Tusk went on: “They may feel that they are not sufficiently represented by the UK Parliament, but they must feel that they are represented by you in this chamber. Because they are Europeans.” The former Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, responded to Tusk by describing him as “deluded” and claiming that a second referendum would deliver a larger majority for leave. Initial suggestions that 1 million people marched last weekend in favour of remaining in the EU have been questioned in recent days. In a pantomime moment, Farage turned to those sat behind him to ask whether they really wanted him to return as an MEP. He ended his speech to the parliament by appealing to the EU’s leaders to “get the British out”.

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2nd Special Counsel.

McConnell Backs Push For Investigation Of Russia Probe Missteps (R.)

The top Republican in the U.S. Senate said on Tuesday he supported a push by a Republican colleague for an inquiry into potential law enforcement missteps in a probe of possible collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. “I think Senator (Lindsey) Graham has raised a legitimate question,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters. “I think it’s not inappropriate for the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, with jurisdiction over the Justice Department, to investigate possible misbehaviors.”


Graham, who heads the panel, said on Monday he wanted to see a special counsel appointed to look into the origins of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant for former Trump adviser Carter Page. The warrant was based in part on information in a dossier on Trump compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who co-founded a private intelligence firm. Graham said he would use the panel’s subpoena power if necessary, whether or not a special counsel is appointed, to look into the matter.

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Barr’s on his way to becoming America’s new punchbag.

Mueller Report Details To Be Issued In ‘Weeks, Not Months’ (R.)

U.S. Attorney General William Barr plans to issue a public version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election within “weeks, not months,” a Justice Department official said on Tuesday. Barr released his own summary of the report’s central findings on Sunday, but said he needed more time to review the report to determine how much of it could be made public. He relayed his plans to release a public version of the report in the coming weeks to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham during a phone call this week, the official said.


The official said there is no plan to share an advanced copy of the report with the White House. Some portions of Mueller’s confidential report contain materials that arose during secret grand jury proceedings. Federal rules generally prohibit the government from releasing that information to the public. The report also contains information about ongoing criminal investigations that Mueller referred to other U.S. attorneys offices. Barr has not yet revealed a precise date for when the final public version might be ready.

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Cassandra Fairbanks’s intensely sad story.

Ecuador Ambassador Tells Assange to ‘Shut up’ and Accept Spying (GP)

It was meant to be a routine visit by a journalist to another journalist. Instead, I found myself locked in a cold, surveilled room for over an hour by Ecuadorian officials, as a furious argument raged between the country’s ambassador and Julian Assange on Monday. The room was inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where 2019 Nobel Peace Prize nominee Julian Assange currently lives under the ostensible protection of political asylum. Yet the WikiLeaks publisher was barred from entering the room, where he was supposed to join me for a pre-approved meeting, because he refused to submit to a full-body search and continuous surveillance. In the fireworks that followed, Assange accused the ambassador of being an agent of the United States government.


The crackdown on visitors was felt before I even entered the embassy. It’s the third time I’ve visited in the past year, and each time the atmosphere seems progressively worse. Just like my previous visit, since new rules for visitors were enacted, I couldn’t take my phone into the meeting without giving the Ecuadorian officials a swathe of data. If you want to take it in with you, they request its brand, model, serial number, IMEI number, and telephone number. I was also advised that Ecuador could not be trusted to hold my phone while I met with Assange, so I left it behind and walked to the embassy phoneless, several minutes early to make sure I was on time.

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This is not going to be easy.

Boeing 737 MAX Software Fix: Easy To Upload, Harder To Approve (R.)

Boeing engineers armed with laptops and thumb drives will be able to upload a crucial software fix for the 737 MAX anti-stall system in about an hour. That’s the easy part. Before Boeing’s workhorse of the future can resume flying, the upgrade must first be approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and then by wary regulators around the globe who have grounded it in the wake of two deadly crashes.R egulators in China, Europe and Canada have signaled they will not rubber stamp an FAA decision to allow the planes back into the air but conduct their own reviews. With the FAA under pressure for its role in certifying the newest 737, and other regulators challenging its leadership of the airline safety system, Boeing’s money-spinning jet could remain parked for months.


“We are guessing this thing’s not going to be put to bed until the July or August time frame,” said Charlie Smith, chief investment officer at Fort Smith Capital Group, which holds shares in Boeing. The world’s largest planemaker has been working on the upgrade for its MCAS stall-prevention system since October’s Lion Air crash, when pilots are believed to have lost a tug of war with software that repeatedly pushed the nose down. Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell told the U.S. Senate Tuesday in written testimony that the agency will agree to allow the 737 MAX to return to service “only when the FAA’s analysis of the facts and technical data indicate that it is appropriate.”

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“The case is only the second of more than 11,200 Roundup lawsuits to go to trial in the United States..”

US Jury To Determine Liability, Damages In Roundup Cancer Trial (R.)

A lawyer for a man who said his cancer was caused by Bayer AG’s glyphosate-based weed killer Roundup on Tuesday urged U.S. jurors to “send a message” to the company by holding it liable and awarding millions in damages. The case is only the second of more than 11,200 Roundup lawsuits to go to trial in the United States as litigation setbacks and a prior jury verdict against the company have sent Bayer shares plunging. “A responsible company would test its product. A responsible company would tell their customers if they knew it causes cancer,” Aimee Wagstaff, a lawyer for plaintiff Edwin Hardeman, said during closing arguments on Tuesday. She called conduct by Bayer’s Monsanto unit reckless and offensive.


Bayer, which bought Roundup maker Monsanto in a $63 billion deal last year, denies the allegations, saying decades of studies by independent scientists have shown glyphosate and Roundup to be safe for human use. In Hardeman’s case, the jury on March 19 found Roundup to have been a “substantial factor” in causing his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. That verdict followed a first phase of the trial that focused exclusively on science. The decision allowed the trial to proceed to a second phase in which the same jury will decide if Bayer is liable. In the second phase lawyers for Hardeman were able to present previously excluded internal documents allegedly showing the company’s efforts to influence scientists and regulators about the popular product’s safety.

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These findings have become our new normal: “the insects have been lost from a quarter of the places they were found in 1980.”

Widespread Losses Of Pollinating Insects Revealed Across Britain (G.)

A widespread loss of pollinating insects in recent decades has been revealed by the first national survey in Britain, which scientists say “highlights a fundamental deterioration” in nature. The analysis of 353 wild bee and hoverfly species found the insects have been lost from a quarter of the places they were found in 1980. A third of the species now occupy smaller ranges, with just one in 10 expanding their extent, and the average number of species found in a square kilometre fell by 11. A small group of 22 bee species known to be important in pollinating crops such as oilseed rape saw a rise in range, potentially due to farmers increasingly planting wild flowers around fields. However, the scientists found “severe” declines in other bee species from 2007, coinciding with the introduction of a widely used neonicotinoid insecticide, which has since been banned.


Researchers have become increasingly concerned about dramatic drops in populations of insects, which underpin much of nature. Some warned in February that these falls threaten a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, while studies from Germany and Puerto Rico have shown plunging numbers in the last 25 to 35 years. The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, is based on more than 700,000 sightings made by volunteers across Britain from 1980 to 2013. These are used to map the range of each species of bee and hoverfly over time. The data did not allow the assessment of numbers of insects, but some researchers think populations have fallen faster than range.

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Dec 202018
 


Giovanni Bellini Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist and Female Saint 1500-04

 

It’s 100 days to Brexit (Ind.)
Powell Breaks The Market (ZH)
A Major Technical Breakdown Just Occurred In Stocks (Colombo)
Peter Schiff : Not A Bear Market But ‘A House Of Cards The Fed Built’ (MW)
Asian Shares Battered After Fed Raises Rates For Fourth Time (G.)
Short-Term Funding Bill Announced To Stop Trump’s Government Shutdown (Ind.)
Trump Plans Full Withdrawal Of US Troops From Syria (AFP)
Don’t Hold Your Breath on US Troop Withdrawal from Syria (CN)
US Occupation of Middle East Doesn’t Suppress Terrorism, It Causes It (Murray)
Big Pharma Returning To US Price Hikes In January After Pause (R.)
Italy Avoids EU Sanctions After Reaching 2019 Budget Agreement (G.)
French Police Threaten To Join Protesters (NW)
London’s Gatwick Airport Shut Down After Drones Spotted Overhead (AP)
Der Spiegel Says Top Journalist Faked Stories For Years (G.)
Finless Porpoise, China’s Smiling Angel, Fights To Survive (AFP)

 

 

Yes it is. And so of course the UK talked about one thing only. Did Corbyn call Theresa May a ‘stupid woman’ or did he say ‘stupid people’ about a group of Tories, as a whole contingent of lipreaders claimed?

They sure know what’s important, and what not.

It’s 100 days to Brexit (Ind.)

The vote of the House of Commons on the Brexit deal will now be in the week beginning 14 January, the prime minister confirmed on Monday. She hopes that her MPs are slowly coming round to the deal as the least worst option. She may also hope that Jeremy Corbyn gives his MPs a free vote, in which case enough of them may vote for her deal as a way of avoiding another referendum. It still seems more likely that Theresa May will lose, in which case the Brexit timetable will slip further. She would probably then ask the Commons to vote again after it had rejected the other options.

The one that is easiest to eliminate would be that of leaving the EU without a deal, even if it were dressed up as a “managed no deal” – at least, it ought to be easy to eliminate this option, but, until all the hoops have been jumped through, a no-deal Brexit remains the default, which is why there was such a fuss about no-deal planning at yesterday’s cabinet. The more difficult course for parliament to rule out is that of postponing Brexit and holding a referendum. If Corbyn backs a final say referendum, a Commons vote could be close, but, if May can defeat that option, she could then ask MPs to vote again on her deal. That seems to be her plan: to wear parliament down. That way she might finally win the vote at a second attempt a week later, in the week beginning 21 January – or even after that.

By then, the country would be running out of time to complete Brexit by 29 March. The problem is that a vote to approve the deal, important though it is, is only one of the things that need to be done to take us out of the EU. Once the deal has been approved, parliament also has to pass legislation to give effect to the withdrawal agreement in UK law. This will be called the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – yet another bill that sounds similar to all the others. It will be a complex and contentious bill that will be tricky to get through a hung parliament. In particular, it will contain a mechanism to entrench parts of the withdrawal agreement in UK law and make it hard for future parliaments to change them.

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Well, not really. Powell and his predecessors built such a huge zombie that it can’t be called a market. So he’s not breaking a market but a zombie, and how exactly can that be a bad thing?

Powell Breaks The Market (ZH)

“Everything was awesome” and then Jay Powell said… Some years ago, we took away the lesson that the markets were very sensitive to news about the balance sheet, so we thought carefully about how to normalize it and thought to have it on automatic pilot, and use rates to adjust to incoming data. That has been a good decision, I think, I don’t see us changing that…. we don’t see balance sheet runoff as creating problems” And everything broke…

Overnight futures show hopeful buying – “surely The Fed will deliver and capitulate… for goodness sake, someone has to rescue my FANG portfolio!!??” – But The Fed did not – cutting their rate outlook by a mere one hike, with plenty still seeing 3 hikes ahead in 2019…

The market now expects 18bps of RATE CUTS in 2020!!!

And Futures collapsed…

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Same here with my buddie Jesse: comparing what happens with today’s zombie, with functioning markets of the past, is dangerous and of limited value.

A Major Technical Breakdown Just Occurred In Stocks (Colombo)

The much-anticipated December Fed meeting has finally come and gone, and the stock market did not like what it heard. The Fed raised rates by 0.25% and cut its expectation for 2019 rate hikes from three to two. Because the Fed didn’t sound as dovish as many investors would have liked, the S&P 500 promptly fell 1.54% to a fresh 2018 low. From a technical perspective, today’s action is extremely concerning because the S&P 500 broke the key 2,550 to 2,600 support zone that I’ve been showing for the past couple months. Today’s breakdown increases the probability of further bearish action unless the index somehow manages to close back above that zone.

The longer-term S&P 500 chart shows how critical today’s breakdown is. Today’s breakdown is the second important technical breakdown in recent months (the first one being the break below the trendline that formed in early-2016, which I said was a bad omen). Assuming today’s breakdown remains intact, 2,100 (the 2015 and 2016 highs) is the next price target and support level to watch.

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Peter Schiff appears to agree with me, only he calls it a house of cards, not a zombie.

Peter Schiff : Not A Bear Market But ‘A House Of Cards The Fed Built’ (MW)

Where in the world is Peter Schiff, as the stock market entered an apparent unraveling phase? Find the chief executive of Euro Pacific Capital, a longtime gold bug and market pundit, on a beach in Puerto Rico, where he’s taken up residence as he watches the equity market get rocked. “I’m watching the U.S. economy implode from the beach,” Schiff told MarketWatch during a recent phone interview. “We’re in a lot of trouble,” he said. “This isn’t a bear market, we’re in a house of cards that the Fed built,” he said. Indeed, despite recent attempts to rebound, the Dow Jones is on track for its worst year since 2008 — down by about 3.5% — when the financial crisis brought global markets to their knees, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

The same goes for the S&P 500 which would also notch its worst year in a decade, if its roughly 4% decline thus far this year hold. Schiff is a polarizing figure on Wall Street, a man that critics say has harbored a persistent and unrealized post-crisis narrative for the Fed’s monetary policy, with predictions of soaring inflation and a dollar collapse. However, the prominent investor should be worthy of investors’ attention, on the back of his prescient calls ahead of the 2008 financial crisis, which earned him plaudits as one of the few able to spot a global economic crisis emanating from the housing market.

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“The Fed’s been a huge friend of the stock market and they are now a little bit of an enemy and will probably become worse of an enemy..”

Asian Shares Battered After Fed Raises Rates For Fourth Time (G.)

Asian stock markets have taken a battering after the US Federal Reserve voted to raise borrowing costs for the fourth time this year, signalling a further squeeze on liquidity around the world. In Tokyo, the Nikkei closed down nearly 3% to its lowest point for 14 months as the Fed’s pledge to continue with “gradual” rate hikes next year sent shivers through financial markets. Shares in Hong Kong and Seoul were both down more than 1% while stocks in Sydney finished at a two-year low. Futures trading pointed to a drop of 2% in the FTSE100 index in London and the Dax in Frankfurt when when the markets open on Thursday morning.

Investors’ confidence that the global economy is headed for a significant slowdown was further weakened when China’s central bank introduced a new lending facility for small private businesses, which was seen as a targeted rate cut designed to kickstart the spluttering economy. The move by the People’s Bank of China shows the two biggest economies are out of step with Beijing responding to a rate hike in the US with a de facto cut. The Shanghai Composite share index was down nearly 1% in afternoon trade while the yuan wad fixed 0.22% lower against the US dollar. [..] “The Fed’s been a huge friend of the stock market and they are now a little bit of an enemy and will probably become worse of an enemy before this is all over,” Bob Doll, Nuveen chief equity strategist and senior portfolio manager, told Bloomberg.

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McConnell saves the day…

Short-Term Funding Bill Announced To Stop Trump’s Government Shutdown (Ind.)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has introduced a short-term spending bill to finance the US government and avoid a shutdown at the end of the week Mr McConnell, the leading Republican in the Senate, said that the funding bill known as a continuing resolution “will ensure continuous funding for the federal government” until 8 February. The short-term bill needs to be approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives before it can proceed to President Donald Trump’s desk to be signed into law. Mr McConnell’s bill comes as Congress races against time before funding for the government runs out on Friday at midnight, amid a contentious push by Mr Trump to make $5bn worth in funding for his controversial border wall a requirement for any spending agreement.

But, while Mr Trump had indicated that he would take responsibility for a shutdown in order to make a point about the wall, the White House has since stepped back from that threat. We have other ways that we can get to that $5 billion”, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Tuesday. On the Senate floor, Mr McConnell lashed out at Democrats, who will reclaim their House majority in January, for failing to give Mr Trump any of the $5bn he has asked for. “This seems to be the reality of our political moment,” Mr McConnell said. “It seems like political spite for the president may be winning out over sensible policy.”

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We’re going to see endless and contradictory ‘analyses’ of this. It’s already drawn out the likes of Lindsey Graham and Mario Rubio and exposed them as deep state soldiers.

Trump Plans Full Withdrawal Of US Troops From Syria (AFP)

The United States will withdraw its troops from Syria, a US official told AFP on Wednesday, after President Donald Trump said America has “defeated ISIS” in the war-ravaged country. The stunning move will have extraordinary geopolitical ramifications and throws into question the fate of US-backed Kurdish fighters who have been tackling Islamic State jihadists. “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” the Republican president tweeted. The US official told AFP that Trump’s decision was finalized Tuesday. “Full withdrawal, all means all,” the official said when asked if the troops would be pulled from all of Syria.

Currently, about 2,000 US forces are in Syria, most of them on a train-and-advise mission to support local forces fighting IS. The official would not provide a timeline for a withdrawal, saying only: “We will ensure force protection is adequately maintained, but as quickly as possible.” Echoing Trump, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said IS has been defeated territorially, noting the US-led coalition that includes dozens of nations would continue fighting IS. “These victories over ISIS in Syria do not signal the end of the Global Coalition or its campaign,” Sanders said in a statement. “We have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign.”

[..] Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, said the president’s decision was shortsighted. “President @realDonaldTrump is right to want to contain Iranian expansion,” Graham said on Twitter. “However, withdrawal of our forces in Syria mightily undercuts that effort and put our allies, the Kurds at risk.” Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, called the decision “extraordinarily short-sighted and naive.” “This move will look like a ‘withdrawal,’ not a ‘victory,’ and yet more evidence of the dangerous unpredictability of the US president,” Lister said. “This is not just a dream scenario for ISIS, but also for Russia, Iran and the Assad regime, all of whom stand to benefit substantially from a US withdrawal.”

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It is quite possible that the deep state will eventually swallow Trump’s announcement whole. However, if he had gone through the usual channels to make his announcement, they would have caught it before it became public. That’s why he has Twitter.

Don’t Hold Your Breath on US Troop Withdrawal from Syria (CN)

The announcement on Wednesday that the U.S. will withdraw all remaining troops from Syria within the next month looked at first like a rare victory for Donald Trump in his admittedly erratic opposition to senseless wars of adventure. “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there,” the president tweeted with an unmistakable air of triumph. Don’t get your hopes up. Just about everything in these initial reports is either wrong or misleading. One, the U.S. did not defeat the Islamic State: The Syrian Arab Army, aided by Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah militias did. Two, hardly was ISIS the only reason the U.S. has maintained a presence in Syria. The intent for years was to support a coup against the Assad government in Damascus—in part by training and equipping jihadists often allied with ISIS.

For at least the past six months, the U.S. military’s intent in Syria has been to counter Iranian influence. Last and hardly least, the U.S. is not closing down its military presence in Syria. It is digging in for an indefinite period, making Raqqa the equivalent of the Green Zone in Baghdad. By the official count, there are 503 U.S. troops stationed in the Islamic State’s former capital. Unofficially, according to The Washington Post and other press reports, the figure is closer to 4,000—twice the number that is supposed to represent a “full withdrawal” from Syrian soil. It would be nice to think Washington has at last accepted defeat in Syria, given it is preposterous to pretend otherwise any longer.

Damascus is now well into its consolidation phase. Russia, Iran, and Turkey are currently working with Staffan de Mistura, the UN’s special envoy for Syria, to form a committee in January to begin drafting a new Syrian constitution. It would also be nice to think the president and commander-in-chief has the final say in his administration’s policies overseas, given the constitution by which we are supposed to be governed. But the misleading announcement on the withdrawal of troops, followed by Trump’s boastful tweet, suggest something close to exactly the opposite. As Trump finishes his second year in office, the pattern is plain: This president can have all the foreign policy ideas he wants, but the Pentagon, State, the intelligence apparatus, and the rest of what some call “the deep state” will either reverse, delay, or never implement any policy not to its liking.

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The Grand Coalition includes the media.

US Occupation of Middle East Doesn’t Suppress Terrorism, It Causes It (Murray)

Even the neo-con warmongers’ house journal The Guardian, furious at Trump’s attempts to pull US troops out of Syria, in producing a map to illustrate its point, could only produce one single, uncertain, very short pen stroke to describe the minute strip of territory it claims ISIS still control on the Iraqi border. Of course, the Guardian produces the argument that continued US military presence is necessary to ensure that ISIS does not spring back to life in Syria. The fallacy of that argument can be easily demonstrated. In Afghanistan, the USA has managed to drag out the long process of humiliating defeat in war even further than it did in Vietnam.

It is plain as a pikestaff that the presence of US occupation troops is itself the best recruiting sergeant for resistance. In Sikunder Burnes I trace how the battle lines of tribal alliances there today are precisely the same ones the British faced in 1841. We just attach labels like Taliban to hide the fact that invaders face national resistance. The secret to ending the strength of ISIS in Syria is not the continued presence of American troops. It is for America’s ever closer allies in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf to cut off the major artery of money and arms, which we should never forget in origin and for a long time had a strong US component. The US/Saudi/Israeli alliance against Iran is the most important geo-political factor in the region today.

It is high time this alliance stopped both funding ISIS and pretending to fight it; schizophrenia is not a foreign policy stance. There has been no significant Shia Islamic terrorist or other threat against the West in recent years. 9/11 was carried out by Saudi Sunni militants. Al Qaida, ISIS, Al Nusra, Boko Haram, these are all Sunni groups, and all Saudi sponsored. It is a matter of lunacy that the West has adopted the posture that it is Iran – which has sponsored not one attack on the West in recent memory – which is the threat in the Middle East.

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Trump will have to act, or risk looking like a fool.

Big Pharma Returning To US Price Hikes In January After Pause (R.)

Novartis and Bayer are among nearly 30 drugmakers that have taken steps to raise the U.S. prices of their medicines in January, ending a self-declared halt to increases made by a pharma industry under pressure from the Trump administration, according to documents seen by Reuters.The hikes will pose a new challenge to President Donald Trump’s pledge to lower the costs of prescription medications in the world’s most expensive pharmaceutical market. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has proposed a slew of policies aimed at lowering prices and passing more of the discounts negotiated by health insurers on to patients.

Those measures are not expected to provide relief to consumers in the short-term, however, and fall short of giving government health agencies direct authority to negotiate or regulate drug prices. 28 drugmakers filed notifications with California agencies in early November disclosing that they planned to raise prices in 60 days or longer. Under a state law passed last year, companies are required to notify payers in California if they intend to raise the U.S. list price on any drug by more than 16 percent over a two-year period. [..] “Requests and public shaming haven’t worked” to lower drug prices, said Michael Rea, chief executive of RX Savings Solutions, which helps health plans and employers seek lower cost prescription medicines. “We expect the number of 2019 increases to be even greater than in past years.”

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I think Salvini will get away with presenting this as a victory. But I may be wrong. How far removed is it from what Tsipras pulled in summer 2015? And how much is it like Macron and the yellow vests?

Italy Avoids EU Sanctions After Reaching 2019 Budget Agreement (G.)

Italy has managed to avert EU sanctions after reaching a compromise with the European commission over its 2019 budget. The Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, said the government had managed to reach an agreement to reduce the deficit target to 2.04% of GDP from 2.4%. This has been achieved without making drastic changes to key budget proposals such as the promise of a universal basic income and lowering the pension age. “Over the last few weeks we worked to bring the positions closer without ever moving backwards with respect to the objectives the Italian people set us in the 4 March election,” Conte said.

“The economic-financial estimates about the measures that attracted the most attention of our European partners revealed that the resources [needed] were less than forecast.” The yield, or effective interest rate, on Italian 10-year government bonds fell to 2.79%, the lowest level since September. Less than two months ago the yield, the price the Italian government has to pay to borrow, rose to 3.8%. However, Valdis Dombrovskis, a European commission vice-president, described the agreement with Italy as a “borderline compromise” that fails to provide long-term solutions to the country’s economic problems. “But it enables us, for now, to avoid opening a debt procedure, as long as the negotiated measures are fully applied,” he said at a press conference in Brussels.

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Hilarious: “Police have accumulated some 23 million hours of overtime that is yet to be paid.”

French Police Threaten To Join Protesters (NW)

The French government is desperately trying to keep its exhausted police force onside following weeks of violent protests demanding economic reforms, improved living standards and the resignation of President Emmanuel Macron. On Wednesday, French officials met with police trade union leaders to work out a deal to soothe anger in law enforcement ranks regarding overwork, unpaid overtime and difficult working conditions, Le Monde reported. But some activists are calling on police to walk out on government negotiations, close down police stations and join the “gilets jaunes”—or yellow vest—protesters with whom they have been facing off since November 17. Negotiations between three unions—Alliance, UNSA-Police and Unity-SGP-FO—and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner on Tuesday failed to reach a settlement.

As talks resumed on Wednesday, France 24 reported that activists were calling on forces across the country to commit to a “slowdown” and only respond to emergencies until the dispute had been settled. Police have accumulated some 23 million hours of overtime that is yet to be paid. According to The Local France, police union leader Frédéric Lagache explained, “Faced with this irresponsibility [of the government], we are forced to be irresponsible in our actions.” The Alliance and Unity-SGP-FO unions called for a “black day for the police” on Wednesday. The Alliance is using Twitter and Facebook to rally support for what it calls “Act 1” of the police protests, using the name given to the ongoing demonstrations held by the gilets jaunes. The group has also threatened to hold “Act II” and “Act III” if required.

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I’m thinking one word here: copycats. Too easy not to try at home.

London’s Gatwick Airport Shut Down After Drones Spotted Overhead (AP)

London’s Gatwick Airport shut down late Wednesday while officials urgently investigated reports that two drones were flying above the airfield. The airport suspended all flights, causing severe disruptions just days before Christmas during one of the heaviest travel times of the year. Police and aviation authorities were still investigating early Thursday as incoming flights were diverted to other locations in Britain and nearby countries. Passengers complained on Twitter that their flights had landed at London Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham and other cities. Other flights were sent to France and the Netherlands. One traveler whose flight was diverted tweeted that passengers were not being told when they could continue to their destination.

Gatwick advised travelers via Twitter to check flights scheduled for Thursday before heading to the airport. It also advised anyone planning to pick up arriving passengers to check first. Any problem at Gatwick causes a ripple effect throughout Britain and continental Europe, particularly during a holiday period when the air traffic control system is under strain. It is a busy airport 27 miles south of London, hosting a variety of short- and long-haul flights and serving as a major hub for the budget carrier easyJet. Gatwick normally operates throughout the night but the number of flights is restricted because of noise limitations. The airport website says it usually handles 18 to 20 flights overnight during the winter months.

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Yes, it’s priceless to read the Guardian on fake news.

Craig Murray tweets: ..The Guardian today published a story about a German journalist who invented stories, but still has never apologised for its own 100% fabricated Luke Harding piece about Manafort’s “visits to Assange in the Embassy”, and Harding and Viner are still employed..

Der Spiegel Says Top Journalist Faked Stories For Years (G.)

The German news magazine Der Spiegel has been plunged into chaos after revealing that one of its top reporters had falsified stories over several years. The media world was stunned by the revelations that the award-winning journalist Claas Relotius had, according to the weekly, “made up stories and invented protagonists” in at least 14 out of 60 articles that appeared in its print and online editions, warning that other outlets could also be affected. Relotius, 33, resigned after admitting to the scam. He had written for the magazine for seven years and won numerous awards for his investigative journalism, including CNN Journalist of the Year in 2014.

Earlier this month, he won Germany’s Reporterpreis (Reporter of the Year) for his story about a young Syrian boy, which the jurors praised for its “lightness, poetry and relevance”. It has since emerged that all the sources for his reportage were at best hazy, and much of what he wrote was made up. The falsification came to light after a colleague who worked with him on a story along the US-Mexican border raised suspicions about some of the details in Relotius’s reporting, having harboured doubts about him for some time.

The colleague, Juan Moreno, eventually tracked down two alleged sources quoted extensively by Relotius in the article, which was published in November. Both said they had never met Relotius. Relotius had also lied about seeing a hand-painted sign that read “Mexicans keep out”, a subsequent investigation found. Other fraudulent stories included one about a Yemeni prisoner in Guantanamo Bay, and one about the American football star Colin Kaepernick.

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Sometimes I think that if all my friends are leaving, why would I stay behind?

Finless Porpoise, China’s Smiling Angel, Fights To Survive (AFP)

In an oxbow lake along the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, a breathy sigh pierces the surface stillness as one of China’s most endangered animals comes up for a gulp of hazy air. A slick black back with no dorsal fin arches briefly above the water line before plunging back down. Such glimpses of the shy Yangtze finless porpoise, the only aquatic mammal left in China’s longest river and known in Chinese as the “smiling angel” for its perma-grin, are increasingly rare. Pollution, overfishing, hydroelectric dams and shipping traffic have rendered them critically endangered, worse off even than China’s best-known symbol of animal conservation, the panda.


AFP Photo/Johannes EISELE

China’s government estimates there were 1,012 wild Yangtze finless porpoises in 2017, compared to more than 1,800 giant pandas, which is no longer endangered. But researchers see signs of hope. Porpoise numbers fell by nearly half from 2006-2012 to an estimated 1,040. But the rate of decline has slowed markedly since then, suggesting that conservation may be making a dent. A central component of the rescue effort is the introduction of porpoises to several conservation areas off the busy river, where researchers say numbers have been actually increasing. [..] Chinese officials are keen to avoid a repeat of the “baiji”, or Yangtze dolphin, the river’s only other aquatic mammal, which since 2006 has been considered extinct in a huge conservation setback for China. Losing the “smiling angel” would be a further tragedy, conservationists say.

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