Nov 202019
 
 November 20, 2019  Posted by at 10:10 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  14 Responses »


Dorothea Lange Miserable poverty. Elm Grove, Oklahoma County, OK 1936

 

Australia’s Westpac Bank Slapped With 23 Million Money Laundering Breaches (R.)
UN Demands ‘Full Investigation’ After Sweden Drops Assange Rape Probe (RT)
Swedish Decision To Drop Rape Probe Comes Too Late To Help Assange (Szamuely)
Statement For Aaron Swartz Day 2019 (Chelsea Manning )
Massive ‘Dark-Money’ Group Boosted Democrats In 2018 (Pol.)
Another Congresswoman Lashes Out At The Hill (Pol.)
FBI CItes Strzok For Misconduct, ‘Exceptionally Poor Judgment’ (Solomon)
Beijing’s Angry Reaction To High Court Mask Ruling Sparks Concern (SCMP)
China Vows To Retaliate If Trump Signs Hong Kong Democracy Act Into Law (SCMP)
Reclaiming Your Inner Fascist (C.J. Hopkins)
Fossil Fuel Production On Track For Double The Safe Climate Limit (G.)

 

 

“The regulator is pursuing fines of up to A$21 million ($14 million) for every transaction Westpac failed to monitor adequately or report on time.”

How much is 23 million times $14 million?

Australia’s Westpac Bank Slapped With 23 Million Money Laundering Breaches (R.)

Regulators accused Australia’s Westpac of 23 million breaches of anti-money laundering laws, saying the banking giant ignored red flags and for years enabled payments from convicted child sex offenders and “high risk” countries. The oversight failure at Australia’s second-largest bank led to deep systemic non-compliance with anti-money laundering laws, financial crime watchdog AUSTRAC said in a civil court filing on Wednesday. The regulator is pursuing fines of up to A$21 million ($14 million) for every transaction Westpac failed to monitor adequately or report on time.


The lawsuit dwarfs a case AUSTRAC brought against larger Commonwealth Bank of Australia which agreed last year here to pay a record A$700 million penalty after admitting to allowing 53,750 payments that violated similar protocols. It also brings fresh scrutiny to an industry still trying to rebuild community trust after a bruising Royal Commission public inquiry. “These contraventions are the result of systemic failures in its control environment, indifference by senior management and inadequate oversight by the Board,” AUSTRAC said in the court filing.

Read more …

In case you forgot Melzer represents the UN. When he speaks, the UN speaks. When he is ignored, the UN is ignored.

UN Demands ‘Full Investigation’ After Sweden Drops Assange Rape Probe (RT)

The UN’s Special Rapporteur on torture has called for a “full investigation” into the role Sweden played in driving WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange into asylum and eventual custody, after the rape case against him was dropped. Swedish prosecutors announced on Tuesday that they would drop a dubious rape inquiry against Assange, as oral testimony against the publisher had “weakened,” and corroborating evidence was not strong enough to pursue a case. A Swedish arrest warrant was issued against assange in 2010, and a British court upheld a decision to extradite him in 2012. Threatened with what many saw as a politically motivated extradition, Assange sought refuge in London’s Ecuadorian embassy.

“Today’s collapse of Sweden’s #Assange investigation was inevitable,” rapporteur Nils Melzer tweeted on Tuesday. “Given its gross arbitrariness, there must now be a full investigation, and accountability & compensation for the harm inflicted on #JulianAssange.” Melzer had previously claimed that Assange was subjected to “psychological torture” and had his due process rights “systematically violated” by the governments of Britain and Sweden. The WikiLeaks founder is still languishing in a maximum security unit at Belmarsh prison, awaiting a hearing on extradition to the US, where he potentially faces 175 years behind bars for publishing leaked military documents. In a document tweeted by Melzer, the envoy accuses Sweden of “actively and knowingly” contributing to Assange’s torture, and accuses prosecutors there of working in tandem with Britain’s Crown Prosecutorial Service to keep the case against Assange alive in the face of exculpatory evidence.

With the rape case against him dropped, some commentators have warned that the path to extradition to the US may now be clearer. WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson told supporters that their focus should now shift to the most important “threat” that Assange was “warning about for years: the belligerent prosecution of the United States and the threat it poses to the First Amendment.”

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Not the strongest piece by George Szamuely. I like this tweet of his better:

“The Ukrainian people are fighting Russia over there, so we don’t have to fight Russia over here”–thus Tim Morrison. There’s definitely a lunatic asylum in which these sick individuals dwell. I guess it’s the US national security establishment.”

Swedish Decision To Drop Rape Probe Comes Too Late To Help Assange (Szamuely)

The Swedish prosecutors’ decision to end the investigation of Julian Assange—for the third time—confirms that the sexual-misconduct accusations were always a cynical ploy to trap the publisher in a Kafkaesque legal proceeding. Swedish prosecutors today announced they were closing their nearly 10-year-old sexual-misconduct investigation of Julian Assange. The reason? The “evidence has weakened considerably due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the events in question.” However, the prosecutor tendentiously added, “the complaint was credible” but that corroborating evidence was not strong enough to pursue the case.

Let’s focus on the verbiage. Note first the use of the word “investigation.” This is very important, because contrary to what innumerable media outlets have reported during the past decade, the Swedes never charged Assange with anything, least of all “rape.” Following Assange’s arrest on April 11 of this year, there was a plethora of media stories informing us that there are outstanding rape charges pending against Assange in Sweden. Human Rights Watch chimed in, saying that Assange was facing a “rape charge” in Sweden. Jeremy Corbyn and the Labor Party feminists urged the UK government to extradite Assange to Sweden to face “rape charges.”

The Swedish case was a fraud. The prosecutors’ goal all along was to use their powerful coercive tools in order to trap Assange within a slow-moving legal proceeding from which he would be unable to escape, while the US prepared its criminal charges against him. Sadly, despite today’s announcement, the Swedes’ mission has been accomplished.

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Chelsea rocks.

Statement For Aaron Swartz Day 2019 (Chelsea Manning )

Good Evening Folks, I wish I could be there in person, but I appreciate this opportunity to summarize for you my letter to the court that ordered me to be confined, explaining why grand juries are so dangerous. I am not alone in objecting to the grand jury as a dangerous relic that has evolved in ways that increase its power without increasing its protections. I refuse to participate in a process that has clearly transformed into something that violates the spirit, if not the letter of the law. I am certainly not alone in thinking that the grand jury process, which at one time acted as an independent body of citizens along the lines of a civilian police review board, has slowly transitioned into an unbridled arm of the police and prosecution in ways that run contrary to its originally intended purpose.

Early grand juries acted independently, as investigations by citizens, ostensibly to protect citizens, not only from unjust indictments, but from unjust laws. In 2019, the federal grand jury exists as a mockery of the institution that once stood against the whims of monarchs. It guts the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable search and seizure, and the Fifth Amendment’s guarantees of due process. Today’s grand juries do not safeguard such fundamental rights and are easily subject to abuse. The tradition of using grand juries to jail political dissidents and activists is long. The ability of grand juries to be abused or used for political ends is entrenched and perpetuated by the fact that jeopardy doesn’t attach with a grand jury, so prosecutors can repeatedly bring the same charges.

Despite laws that require prosecutors to show new evidence or that it is in the public interest to extend or reconvene a grand jury, this is hardly an obstacle. For instance, Thomas Jefferson had to convene three separate grand juries in order to indict Aaron Burr for sedition – but he was able to continue to convene those grand juries until he obtained his desired indictment. During the McCarthy era, when people were publicly interrogated about their beliefs and associations, the public was eventually outraged, and the McCarthy hearings are widely seen as a disgraceful episode of modern history. However, these kinds of interrogations have now returned, and happen routinely, under the modern grand jury system.

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Business as usual.

Massive ‘Dark-Money’ Group Boosted Democrats In 2018 (Pol.)

The “green wave” of campaign cash that boosted Democrats and liberal causes in 2018 included an unprecedented gusher of secret money, new documents obtained by POLITICO show. The Sixteen Thirty Fund, a little-known nonprofit headquartered in Washington, spent $141 million on more than 100 left-leaning causes during the midterm election year, according to a new tax filing from the group. The money contributed to efforts ranging from fighting Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and other Trump judicial nominees to boosting ballot measures raising the minimum wage and changing laws on voting and redistricting in numerous states. The spending was fueled by massive anonymous donations, including one gift totaling $51.7 million.

That single donation was more than the group had ever raised before in an entire year before President Donald Trump was elected. Most of the group’s funders are likely to remain a mystery because federal law does not require “social welfare”-focused nonprofits to reveal their donors. The group’s 2018 fundraising surpassed any amount ever raised by a left-leaning political nonprofit, according to experts, who pointed to the Koch network and the Crossroads network as rare right-leaning groups that posted bigger yearly fundraising totals at the height of their powers. The Sixteen Thirty Fund’s rise last year is a sign that Democrats and allies have embraced the methods of groups they decried as “dark money” earlier this decade, when they were under attack from the money machines built by conservatives including the Kochs.

“In terms of the size of dark money networks, there are only a few that have gone into the $100 million-plus range,” said Robert Maguire, the research director for the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and an expert in political nonprofits. “These kinds of totals aren’t unheard of,” Maguire added. “I do think they’re unheard of on the liberal side. I think that’s what’s so striking about this.”

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@RepMikeTurner : Did he ever say to you that he was not going to allow aid with the US to go to Ukraine unless there were investigations into Burisma, the Bidens or the 2016 election?

VOLKER: No he did not.

It’s open season on John Solomon. By the way, Marie Yovanovitch has denied the existence of a Don’t Prosecute list, and all kinds of people say Lutsenko denied it too. Solomon says he did not.

Another Congresswoman Lashes Out At The Hill (Pol.)

Florida Congresswoman Val Demings questioned Tuesday whether the The Hill is “fair and unbiased” during an exchange with a reporter from the publication, the second of such incidents in recent days. California Rep. Jackie Speier, who is also a Democrat, told a Hill reporter on Friday that it was “reprehensible” that the paper published columns by John Solomon, a conservative journalist who helped ignite the Ukraine scandal and whose work has been promoted by President Donald Trump and his allies. Demings said Tuesday she had “not heard good things recently” about The Hill in response to tech policy reporter Emily Birnbaum identifying herself before asking a question about a short-term funding bill to avoid a government shutdown, according to audio of the exchange reviewed by POLITICO.

“Recently, I have not heard good things about The Hill being fair and impartial and unbiased… and that concerns me because any story we’re telling needs to be fair and unbiased and impartial,” Demings told Birnbaum during the exchange in the speaker’s lobby, which was witnessed by other reporters. Demings answered Birnbaum’s question and agreed it was fair. Though Demings did not mention Solomon specifically, the former employee’s work has come under increasing scrutiny and has put The Hill under the media spotlight. ProPublica recently explored Solomon’s relationship with associates of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and CNN looked Monday night at the connection between The Hill’s owner, Jimmy Finkelstein, and Trump, Giuliani and Solomon.

Solomon’s work has come up several times during impeachment testimony. Former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch on Friday denied an allegation from Ukraine’s former top prosecutor that she gave Ukraine’s then-top prosecutor a list of who not to prosecute. “Yovanovitch says John Solomon’s columns were used to push false allegations,” read a headline in The Hill. Solomon, who left The Hill in September and his now a contributor for Fox News, where he was a frequent guest this past year, has repeatedly defended his reporting. “I stand by each and every one of the columns that I wrote and that The Hill (both editors and lawyers) carefully vetted,” Solomon told POLITICO on Friday. “All facts in those stories are substantiated to original source documents and statements.”

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So the best thing Solomon can do is do his job: report.

FBI Cites Strzok Cited For Misconduct, ‘Exceptionally Poor Judgment’ (Solomon)

This summer, ex-FBI agent Peter Strzok filed a lawsuit suggesting his firing was political retribution for having run the bureau’s counterintelligence investigation into the now debunked allegations that Donald Trump and Russia colluded to hijack the 2016 election. The Justice Department has responded to the lawsuit in a big way, releasing to the court presiding over the civil case Strzok’s official misconduct file that concluded the former FBI supervisor exhibited “a gross lack of professionalism and exceptionally poor judgment.” It shows the FBI substantiated that Strzok had engaged in dereliction of duty, had committed misconduct through the expression of anti-Trump bias on his official FBI phone and committed security violations by performing official government work on personal email.

The records show one official recommended termination, and another recommended suspension for 60 days without pay. The bureau leadership chose the more severe of the two penalties, terminating Strzok last year. The dereliction of duty citation involved Strzok’s failure, according to the FBI, to quickly follow up in fall 2016 after the belated discovery of a trove of Hillary Clinton emails on a laptop belonging to former Congressman Anthony Weiner and his wife, Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Strzok was supervising the investigation of whether Clinton’s use of personal email for classified State Department matters created a security risk, and his failure caused an unnecessary delay to evaluate the new evidence just weeks before Election Day, the FBI concluded.

The disciplinary file included testimony from one of Strzok’s colleagues, a fellow agent, about the failure to respond to the discovery of emails. “The crickets I was hearing was making me uncomfortable because something was going to come crashing down,” the agent testified. “….I still to this day don’t understand what the hell went wrong.” The agent testified he feared “somebody was not acting appropriately, somebody was trying to bury this” discovery of new Clinton email evidence, the files show. Strzok offered a bevy of excuses for his inaction, including he was busy working the Trump-Russia case at the time. All were rejected. “The investigation reveals that there is no reasonable excuse for the FBI’s delay in following up on this matter,” the disciplinary file concluded.

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Why does Hong Kong still have courts?

Beijing’s Angry Reaction To High Court Mask Ruling Sparks Concern (SCMP)

There was a swift response from Beijing when the High Court ruled on Monday that the Hong Kong government’s anti-mask law was unconstitutional. Central government officials criticised the court for failing to support the government in its efforts to end more than five months of increasingly violent social unrest. For the first time, they suggested that the city’s courts do not have the power to declare a local law invalid by checking it against the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. China’s top legislative affairs body argued that only the national legislature had the right to decide on issues of constitutionality.


Beijing’s reaction left its critics in Hong Kong fearing for the erosion of the city’s independent judiciary. They also feared that Beijing would decide to hand down its own interpretation of the Basic Law and overturn the court ruling. But members of the pro-establishment camp dismissed those concerns, saying Beijing was only reiterating its position. What are the key issues in the controversy over the court ruling?

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Remember: Hong Kong won’t become Chinese until 2037.

China Vows To Retaliate If Trump Signs Hong Kong Democracy Act Into Law (SCMP)

China summoned a senior United States diplomat on Wednesday as it warned it would retaliate if US President Donald Trump signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act into law, after the act was passed by the US Senate. In a statement, the Chinese foreign ministry said Foreign Vice-Minister Ma Zhaoxu had summoned William Klein, the US embassy’s Minister Counsellor for Political Affairs. “China will take strong opposing measures, and the US has to bear all the consequences,” the statement said, after Congress’ upper chamber passed the act – which could pave the way for diplomatic action and economic sanctions against Hong Kong’s government.


It was the second time China had summoned a US diplomat since anti-government protests in Hong Kong began five months ago, triggered by a now-withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed the transfer of criminal suspects to mainland China’s opaque legal system. In June, Robert Forden, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US embassy in Beijing, was summoned by Foreign Vice-Minister Le Yucheng. Klein was summoned after foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that any attempt by the US to interfere in China’s internal affairs would be in vain. “We call on the US side to take a clear look at the situation and take steps to stop the act from becoming a law, and stop meddling in the internal affairs of China and Hong Kong, to avoid setting a fire that would only burn itself,” Geng said in a statement. “If the US sticks to its course, China will surely take forceful measures to resolutely oppose it to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interest.”

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If the treatment of Assange shows you anything, it’s that you live in a fascist world.

Reclaiming Your Inner Fascist (C.J. Hopkins)

OK, we need to talk about fascism. Not just any kind of fascism. A particularly insidious kind of fascism. No, not the fascism of the early 20th Century. Not Mussolini’s National Fascist Party. Not Hitler’s NSDAP. Not Francoist fascism or any other kind of organized fascist movement or party. Not even the dreaded Tiki-torch Nazis. It’s the other kind of fascism we need to talk about. The kind that doesn’t come goose-stepping up the street waving big neo-Nazi flags. The kind we don’t recognize when we’re looking right at it. It’s like that joke about the fish and the water … we don’t recognize it because we’re swimming in it. We’re surrounded by it. We are inseparable from it. From the moment we are born, we breathe it in.

We are taught it by our parents, who were taught it by their parents. We are taught it again by our teachers in school. It is reinforced on a daily basis at work, in conversations with friends, in our families and our romantic relationships. We imbibe it in books, movies, TV shows, advertisements, pop songs, the nightly news, in our cars, at the mall, the stadium, the opera … everywhere, because it is literally everywhere. It doesn’t look like fascism to us. Fascism only looks like fascism when you’re standing outside of it, or looking back at it. When you are in it, fascism just looks like “normality,” like “reality,” like “just the way it is.”

We (i.e., Americans, Brits, Europeans, and other citizens of the global capitalist empire) get up in the morning, go to work, shop, pay the interest on our debts, and otherwise obey the laws and conform to the mores of a system of power that has murdered countless millions of people in pursuit of global-hegemonic dominance. It has perpetrated numerous wars of aggression. Its military occupies most of the planet. Its Intelligence agencies (i.e., secret police) operate a worldwide surveillance apparatus that can identify, target, and eliminate anyone, anywhere, often by remote control. Its propaganda network never sleeps, nor is there any real way to escape its constant emotional and ideological conditioning.

The fact that the global capitalist empire does not call itself an empire, and instead calls itself “democracy,” doesn’t make it any less of an empire. The fact that it uses terms like “regime change” instead of “invasion” or “annexation” makes very little difference to its victims. Terms like “security,” “stability,” “intervention,” “regime change,” and so on are not meant for its victims. They are meant for us … to anesthetize us. The empire is “regime-changing” Bolivia currently. It has “regime-changed” most of Latin America at one time or another since the Second World War. It “regime-changed” Iraq, Libya, Yugoslavia, Indonesia … the list goes on. It very much wants to “regime-change” Iran, which it “regime-changed” back in the 1950s, before the Iranians “regime-changed” it back. It would love to “regime-change” Russia and China, but their ICBMs make that somewhat impractical.

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Lip service.

Fossil Fuel Production On Track For Double The Safe Climate Limit (G.)

The world’s nations are on track to produce more than twice as much coal, oil and gas as can be burned in 2030 while restricting rise in the global temperature to 1.5C, analysis shows. The report is the first to compare countries’ stated plans for fossil fuel extraction with the goals of the Paris climate agreement, which is to keep global heating well below 2C above pre-industrial levels, and to aim for 1.5C. It exposes a huge gap, with fossil fuel production in 2030 heading for 50% more than is consistent with 2C, and 120% more than that for 1.5C. Scientists have warned that even the difference between 1.5C and 2C of heating will expose hundreds of millions of people to significantly higher risks of extreme heatwaves, drought, floods and poverty.

The report was produced by the UN Environment Programme and a coalition of research organisations. It complements an earlier UN analysis showing the current Paris agreement pledges to cut emissions would still lead to a catastrophic 3-4C rise. “We’re in a deep hole – and we need to stop digging,” said Måns Nilsson, executive director of the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), which was part of the analysis. “Despite more than two decades of climate policymaking, fossil fuel production levels are higher than ever.” Most action to tackle the climate crisis involves reducing emissions, but Inger Andersen, head of the UN Environment Programme, said a focus on fossil fuel production was long overdue.

Most of the action pledges made by countries under the Paris deal do not even mention changes to production. The UK is a “striking” example of this mismatch, said Cleo Verkuijl, at the SEI’s centre in Oxford, UK. It was the first major economy to commit to net zero emissions by 2050, she said, but also subsidises fossil fuel production at home and abroad and intends to extract “every drop of oil and gas” from its North Sea fields.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Oct 172019
 


Salvador Dali Sick Boy (Self-portrait in Cadaqués) 1923

 

Pelosi, Trump Exchange ‘Meltdown’ Barbs Over Meeting On US Policy In Syria (R.)
The Russian Masterpiece in Syria: Everyone Wins (Pieraccini)
Everybody Betraying Everybody in Syria (Fuller)
Schiff Pushed Volker To Say Ukraine Felt Pressure From Trump (WE)
One Person Is Missing In The Dems’ Impeachment Inquiry: The Whistleblower (R.)
Wait for It (Kunstler)
Michael Flynn Lawyer Seeks Data From Joseph Mifsud Phones (Ross)
Tulsi Gabbard Was A Dove On The Warpath (Tracey)
DUP Says It Cannot Support Boris Johnson’s Brexit Deal (G.)
Australia’s Housing Downturn A Larger-Than-Expected Drag On Economy (R.)
China Bans Exports Of Black Clothing To Hong Kong (SCMP)
Assange Subjected To Torture & Violations Of Due Process Rights – UN Envoy (RT)

 

 

I like this one: “White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham called Pelosi’s decision to walk out “baffling but not surprising.”

And as long as the only things Dems have to say about Trump are exclusively negative, what do they expect? Goes to credibility, your honor.

This was a meeting about Syria, and some people have started calling the situation there “..one of the greatest diplomatic masterpieces ever conceived..”

Still, the House condemns it….

As for Pelosi’s comments to Trump: Russia’s always a had a foothold in the Middle East. But it’s convenient to ‘forget’ that, as well as the Mueller report. Goes to credibility, your honor.

 

Pelosi, Trump Exchange ‘Meltdown’ Barbs Over Meeting On US Policy In Syria (R.)

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democratic leaders cut short a meeting with Republican President Donald Trump after he had a “meltdown” over a House of Representatives vote condemning his Syria withdrawal and showed no signs of having a plan to deal with a crisis there. Trump called Pelosi a “third-rate politician” and the meeting in the White House deteriorated into a diatribe, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters. Later, in remarks to reporters on Capitol Hill, Pelosi said that Trump actually called her a “third-grade” politician. “What we witnessed on the part of the president was a meltdown. Sad to say,” Pelosi had said upon leaving.

Trump posted on Twitter on Wednesday night – “Nervous Nancy’s unhinged meltdown!” with a photo of Pelosi standing up and pointing at him during the meeting. The Democrats exited the meeting complaining that they were expecting to hear Trump provide details on a plan for dealing with an unfolding “crisis” in Syria but instead were subjected to “derogatory” language from him about congressional Democrats and Democratic former President Barack Obama. White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham, in a statement, called Pelosi’s decision to walk out “baffling but not surprising.” She added that after Democratic leaders “chose to storm out,” remaining Republican leaders held a productive meeting.


Pelosi directly to Trump: Russia has always wanted a “foothold in the Middle East” and now it has one. “All roads with you lead to Putin.”

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“..one of the greatest diplomatic masterpieces ever conceived..”

The Russian Masterpiece in Syria: Everyone Wins (Pieraccini)

The agreement between the Kurds (SDF) and Damascus is the only natural conclusion to events that are heavily orchestrated by Moscow. The deployment of Syrian and Russian troops on the border with Turkey is the prelude to the reconquest of the entirety of Syrian territory — the outcome the Kremlin was wishing for at the beginning of this diplomatic masterpiece. Washington and Ankara have never had any opportunities to prevent Damascus from reunifying the country. It was assumed by Moscow that Washington and Ankara would sooner or later seek the correct exit strategy, even as they proclaimed victory to their respective bases in the face of defeat in Syria. This is exactly what Putin and Lavrov came up with over the last few weeks, offering Trump and Erdogan the solution to their Syrian problems.

Trump will state that he has little interest in countries 7,000 miles from the homeland; and Erdogan (with some reluctance) will affirm that the border between Turkey and Syria, when held by the Syrian Arab Army, guarantees security against the Kurds. Putin has no doubt advised Assad and the Kurds to begin a dialogue in the common interests of Syria. He would have no doubt also convinced Erdogan and Trump of the need to accept these plans. An agreement that rewards Damascus and Moscow saves the Kurds while leaving Erdogan and Trump with a semblance of dignity in a situation that is difficult to explain to a domestic or international audience.

Moscow has started joint patrols with the Syrian Arab Army on the borders with Turkey for the purposes of preventing any military clashes between Ankara and Damascus. If Ankara halts its military operation in the coming days, Damascus will regain control of the oil fields. The world will then have witnessed one of the greatest diplomatic masterpieces ever conceived, responsible for bringing closer the end of the seven-year-long Syrian conflict.

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Former senior CIA official Graham Fuller has a slightly different take.

Everybody Betraying Everybody in Syria (Fuller)

Just what have we witnessed in the recent events in Syria? It’s hard to know, given the avalanche of superficial and over-the-top headlines in most US media: betrayal of the Kurds, handing Syria over to Russia, caving to Turkey’s Erdogan, bestowing a gift upon Iran, allowing ISIS to once again run wild, end of US leadership. Yet the bottom line of the story is that after some eight years of civil conflict, the situation in Syria is basically reverting to the pre-conflict norm. The Syrian government is now close to re-establishing its sovereign control again over the entire country. Indeed, Syria’s sovereign control over its own country had been vigorously contested, in fact blocked, by many external interventions—mainly on the part of the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and a few European hangers-on—all hoping to exploit the early uprising against the Asad regime and overthrow it. In favor of what was never clear.


Much of this picture has a long history. The US has been trying to covertly overthrow the Syrian regime off and on for some fifty years, periodically joined on occasion by Israel or Saudi Arabia or Iraq, orTurkey or the UK. Most people assumed that when the Arab Spring broke out in Syria in 2011 that civil uprisings there too would lead to the early overthrow of another authoritarian regime. But it did not. This was in part due to Asad’s brutal put-down of rebel forces, in part because of the strong support he received from Russia, Iran and Hizballah, and in part because large numbers of Syrian elites feared that whoever might take Asad’s place—most likely one or another Jihadi group—would be far worse, more radical and chaotic than Asad’s strict but stable secular domestic rule.

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The secrets get spilled.

Schiff Pushed Volker To Say Ukraine Felt Pressure From Trump (WE)

In a secret interview, Rep. Adam Schiff, leader of the House Democratic effort to impeach President Trump, pressed former United States special representative to Ukraine Kurt Volker to testify that Ukrainian officials felt pressured to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter as a result of Trump withholding U.S. military aid to Ukraine. Volker denied that was the case, noting that Ukrainian leaders did not even know the aid was being withheld and that they believed their relationship with the U.S. was moving along satisfactorily, without them having done anything Trump mentioned in his notorious July 25 phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

When Volker repeatedly declined to agree to Schiff’s characterization of events, Schiff said, “Ambassador, you’re making this much more complicated than it has to be.” The interview took place Oct. 3 in a secure room in the U.S. Capitol. While the session covered several topics, the issue of an alleged quid pro quo — U.S. military aid in exchange for a Ukrainian investigation of the Bidens and a public announcement that such an investigation was underway — was a significant part of the discussion. “[The Ukrainians] didn’t want to be drawn into investigating a Democratic candidate for president, which would mean only peril for Ukraine, is that fair to say?” Schiff asked Volker.

“That may be true,” Volker said. “That may be true. They didn’t express that to me, and, of course, I didn’t know that was the context at the time.” (Volker has said he did not know that Trump had mentioned the Bidens on the July 25 call with Zelensky until the rough transcript of the call was released on Sept. 25.)

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A heavily distorted process. They should watch out with that.

One Person Is Missing In The Dems’ Impeachment Inquiry: The Whistleblower (R.)

Democratic lawmakers leading an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump have heard days of testimony from a parade of senior government officials. But they have yet to hear from the whistleblower who sparked the probe – and may never do. In the end, it may not matter, some Democratic lawmakers said, because the other officials who have testified, Trump’s own statements, a trove of texts between top U.S. diplomats, and other White House documents have largely substantiated the whistleblower’s complaint that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden. Talks between lawyers for the whistleblower and representatives of the House of Representatives and Senate committees that want to question the intelligence official have all but deadlocked, three sources familiar with the negotiations told Reuters.

Lawyers for the official have voiced concern about the person’s safety and that testifying in person to congressional aides could expose the person’s identity. They have attributed some of that concern to statements by Trump, who calls the inquiry a sham and has suggested the whistleblower committed treason. U.S. officials told Reuters last week that the government was providing security for the whistleblower. At first, the negotiations focused on proposals that would allow the whistleblower to testify but away from Capitol Hill and with face and voice obscured, two of the sources said. But the whistleblower’s lawyers remained concerned that those precautions might not be enough to protect their client’s anonymity.

A proposal was made for the whistleblower to answer questions in writing, the two sources said, and House aides accepted it in principle. Republican and Democratic sources both say, however, that members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are insistent that they be allowed to interview the whistleblower, ideally face to face, although possibly under conditions that would still shield the person’s identity.

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“..a phantom confabulation of gossip threads..”

Wait for It (Kunstler)

An eerie silence cloaked the political landscape this lovely fall weekend as the soldiers in this (so far) administrative civil war scrambled for position in the next round of skirmishes. Rep. Adam Schiff fell back on the preposterous idea that he might not produce his “whistleblower” witness at all in the (so far) hypothetical impeachment proceeding. He put that one out after running a similarly absurd idea up the flagpole: that his “whistleblower” might just testify by answering written questions. I was waiting for him to offer up testimony by Morse code, carrier pigeon, or smoke signals.

Of course, the effort to “protect” the “whistleblower” has been a juke all along. For one thing, he-she-it is not a “whistleblower” at all; was only labeled that via legalistic legerdemain to avoid revealing the origin of this affair as a CIA cover-your-ass operation. Did Mr. Schiff actually think he could conceal this figure’s identity in a senate impeachment trial, when it came to that — for what else is impeachment aimed at? Anonymous sources are not admissible under American due process of law. Mr. Schiff must have missed that class in law school. All of this hocus-pocus suggests to me that there is no “whistleblower,” that it is a phantom confabulation of gossip threads that unraveled the moment Mr. Trump released the transcript of his phone call to Ukraine’s president Zelensky, aborting Mr. Schiff’s game plan.

The ensuing weeks of congressional Keystone Kops buffoonery since then appears to conceal a futile effort by Mr. Schiff and his confederates to find some fall guy willing to pretend that he-she-it is the “whistleblower.” He might as well ask for a volunteer to gargle with Gillette Blue Blades on NBC’s Meet the Press. One marvels at Rep. Schiff’s tactical idiocy. But just imagine the panicked consternation it must be triggering among his Democratic colleagues. Notice that Mrs. Pelosi has been hiding out during this latest phase of the action. She may sense that there is nothing left to do but allow Mr. Schiff to twist slowly slowly in the wind, as he has hung himself out to dry. She should have known better since every previous declaration of conclusive evidence by Mr. Schiff over the past three years has proved to be false, knowingly and mendaciously so.

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Flynn thanks the lord that he hired Sidney Powell. Buit still, more secrecy: why is the FBI sitting on those phones?

Michael Flynn Lawyer Seeks Data From Joseph Mifsud Phones (Ross)

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s attorney made a surprising request in a court filing Tuesday for two phones that she says belonged to Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor whose contacts with former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos are at the heart of the Trump-Russia probe. Sidney Powell, a Flynn lawyer, asked the judge presiding over Flynn’s case to order prosecutors “to produce evidence that has only recently come into its possession.” She listed two Blackberry phones she asserts Mifsud used and requested data and metadata from the devices. Powell did not explain in the filing how the Mifsud phones might be relevant to Flynn’s case, but she wrote that “this information is material, exculpatory, and relevant to the defense of Mr. Flynn.”


Flynn, who served as President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, has been awaiting sentencing on a charge that he made false statements to the FBI on Jan. 24, 2017 regarding his conversations in December 2016 with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn pleaded guilty to the charge on Dec. 1, 2017 and has been awaiting sentencing for nearly 10 months. Powell has said that Flynn is not planning to try to withdraw his guilty plea. Instead, she has argued that the case should be dismissed against the retired lieutenant general altogether. Prosecutors have rejected some of Powell’s previous requests for a variety of documents from the special counsel’s probe, arguing that they are immaterial to the false statements charge to which Flynn pleaded guilty.

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“Tulsi threatened to boycott the debate because of the despicable tactics of the NYT, CNN, and the rest of the corporate media who hate her so intensely. But rather than boycotting, she went and called them despicable to their faces”

Tulsi Gabbard Was A Dove On The Warpath (Tracey)

It was never especially plausible that Tulsi Gabbard would follow through on her threat to boycott last night’s presidential debate. Too much campaign energy and resources have flowed into ensuring that she secured a spot on the corporate TV stage, which is a sordid but unavoidable aspect of the modern primary process. But in her first comments, she spelled out the reasons why such a boycott would in theory have been absolutely warranted. The two media co-sponsors, CNN and the New York Times, had just spent the past several days attacking her with a level of brazenness that was shocking even to those well-accustomed to the regularity with which she is smeared by journalistic antagonists.

The NYT released a bottom-of-the-barrel hit-job on Saturday, regurgitating the entire litany of bogus talking points marshaled against her over the course of the campaign — Russian apologist, Assad apologist, friend to white nationalists, naive isolationist, cult member — with the obligatory David Duke reference thrown in for good measure. This has all been aired before, but it was packaged together by the NYT in the cheapest, sleaziest form imaginable. The unsubtle subtext is always that Tulsi has some nefarious hidden motive, and couldn’t possibly be running on an earnest commitment to the principles she espouses. Her campaign refused to comply with the NYT’s requests for the article, and rightly so.

[..] CNN is generally of the same disposition toward Tulsi (undisguised contempt) and that reached a new peak Tuesday, the day of the debate, when Democratic operative and ‘analyst’ Bakari Sellers proclaimed with total self-satisfied certitude that she is a ‘puppet for the Russian government’. His esteemed co-panelists had neither the knowledge or interest to meaningfully interrogate the charge, which of course is grotesque nonsense. As such, that’s the context in which Tulsi’s threat to boycott the debate was perfectly valid — but it’s better to be there than not.

So she took the opportunity to point out how despicable the CNN/NYT attacks were and segue into a broader indictment of the entire political/media class for the ongoing debacle in Syria, in which they have been collectively complicit for years. They might prefer to pin sole blame for recent developments on Trump — Tulsi was also unsparing in maligning him for his role — but Tulsi correctly widened the indictment to include the entire bipartisan war-marking apparatus and its loyal media cheerleaders. They pushed one narrative of the conflict — the US was funding and arming ‘good guys’ in the form of ‘moderate rebels’ seeking to overthrow Assad — that turned out to be spectacularly wrong, seeing as those same ‘rebels’ are now being denounced by US officials for taking part in the massacre of Kurds.

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Never ending.

DUP Says It Cannot Support Boris Johnson’s Brexit Deal (G.)

The Democratic Unionist party is threatening to scupper the Brexit deal that Boris Johnson is on the brink of agreeing with the EU. On the morning of a crucial EU summit in Brussels, a joint statement from the DUP’s leader, Arlene Foster, and her deputy, Nigel Dodds, explicitly says the party cannot support the deal that is close to being finalised. The pound fell 0.5% against the dollar and the euro within minutes of the announcement. The DUP statement said: “As things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues, and there is a lack of clarity on VAT.” The statement will come as blow to the prime minister, who hopes to bring back a deal from the Brussels meeting and then secure the backing of parliament in a rare Commons vote pencilled in for Saturday.

The backing of the 10 DUP MPs is crucial for the success of that vote because many Conservative Brexiters have indicated they will not back a deal that is opposed by unionists. Steve Baker, the chair of the hard Brexit European Research Group, said he was optimistic the group would back a deal. But he also suggested the ERG could not support it if Johnson failed to secure the backing of the DUP. The DUP statement added: “We will continue to work with the government to try and get a sensible deal that works for Northern Ireland and protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.”

Johnson has met Foster and Dodds three times in the last three days as he tried to shore up their support before Saturday’s deadline to prevent a delay to Brexit. Housing minister Robert Jenrick said on BBC Breakfast: “We know there are clearly concerns on the part of the DUP and we want to try and work through these productively in the hours to come. “All sides in this do want to secure an orderly exit from the EU, and I think one is in sight, although there is clearly very significant issues to be hammered out. Let’s wait and see.”

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The zombies were never cleared for the 28 years of boom.

Australia’s Housing Downturn A Larger-Than-Expected Drag On Economy (R.)

Australia’s property downturn is hitting household consumption and is a big drag on economic growth and inflation that will likely last at least another year, despite three interest rate cuts, a senior central bank official said on Thursday. However, an uptick in home prices in recent months, steady population growth and all-time low interest rates were expected to revive housing construction by 2021, Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) Deputy Governor Guy Debelle said in a speech. Housing is a significant part of Australia’s A$1.95 trillion ($1.3 trillion) economy, with residential construction accounting for around 2% of total employment and 6% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).


“Much of the downturn in construction activity is still ahead,” Debelle said in Sydney in a speech titled “Housing and the Economy.” Home prices and construction activity in Australia peaked nearly two years ago with approvals to build new homes around 40% lower than their late-2017 highs. “We are forecasting a further 7% decline in dwelling investment over the next year, and there is some risk the decline could be even larger,” Debelle added. “This will directly subtract around 1 percentage point from GDP growth from peak to trough…” Housing also impacts consumption. The RBA’s standard estimate of the wealth effect is that a 10% fall in housing prices leads to a 1.5% fall in household consumption over time.

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Best thing perhaps is the South China Morning Post filed this in the lifestyle/fashion-beauty section.

China Bans Exports Of Black Clothing To Hong Kong (SCMP)

The Chinese government is cracking down on exports of black clothing to Hong Kong from mainland China. The protesters who have taken to the streets of Hong Kong for the last four months, initially to oppose a now-withdrawn extradition bill, have adopted as their uniform black T-shirts, black jeans and black sneakers, often paired with a black face mask. According to a notice issued by Guangdong courier company PHXBUY on July 11, mainland Chinese customs required courier companies to halt delivery of a list of products. “They include yellow helmets, yellow umbrellas, flags, flagpoles, poster banners, gloves, masks, black T-shirts, metal rods, fluorescent tubes, bludgeon clubs. We cannot take delivery of the above products … Thank you for supporting us,” the notice said.


A subsequent notice posted on September 26 by Guangdong-based EXPRESS contains an even longer list of banned items: foodstuffs, liquid, powder, gases, counterfeit brand products, big machines, helmets, umbrellas, wrist bands, towels, safety vests, speakers, amplifiers, trestles, walkie-talkies, drones, black shirts and other clothing, goggles, metal beads, metal balls, horticulture scissors, metal chains, torches, binoculars, remote-controlled toys. “Customers mailing products have to use their real names. For mismatch between proclaimed names of goods to be mailed and actual goods, they will be left in the warehouse … for any discovery of the aforementioned goods [for mailing to Hong Kong], a thorough investigation will be launched.”

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Everyone completely ignores the UN, and international law.

Assange Subjected To Torture & Violations Of Due Process Rights – UN Envoy (RT)

WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange has been subjected to “psychological torture” and his due process rights have been “systematically violated” by all the states involved, according to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer. Two medical experts accompanied Melzer when he visited Assange at Belmarsh prison in the UK, he said on Tuesday. “We came to the conclusion that he had been exposed to psychological torture for a prolonged period of time. That’s a medical assessment.” Melzer’s message fell largely on deaf ears, as only a handful of reporters attended Tuesday’s press conference at the UN headquarters in New York.


It was not the first time that Melzer has tried to bring attention to Assange’s plight. He wrote an opinion piece about it in June, only to find it ignored or rejected by mainstream media outlets, and ended up publishing open letters to the US, British, Ecuadorian, and Swedish governments in July. We asked for all the involved states to investigate this case and to alleviate the pressure that has been done on him, and especially to respect his due process rights, which in my view have been systematically violated in all these jurisdictions,” Melzer said on Tuesday. No country has agreed to do so, he added, even though this was their obligation under the Convention on Torture.

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Slogen of the year:

If it’s a Boeing… I’m not going!

 

 

 

 

Jul 292019
 


Odilon Redon Fallen angel 1872

 

A New US Oil Production Peak Looks Imminent (Robert Rapier)
China’s Wobbly Giants (Fortune)
Business Lobby Group CBI Says UK, EU Not Ready For No-Deal Brexit (BBC)
Johnson Told No-Deal Brexit Will Crush Domestic Policy Plans (G.)
More Than 4 Million In UK Are Trapped In Deep Poverty (G.)
Ratcliffe Tapped To Replace Coats As US Spy Chief (R.)
Work On Production Line Of Boeing 737 MAX ‘Not Adequately Funded’ (BBC)
Insulin Is Our Oxygen: Bernie Sanders Rides Another Campaign Bus To Canada (G.)
Papadopoulos To Head To Greece To Retrieve $10,000 Payment (Fox)
US Wants To ‘Make An Example’ Of Assange In Jail, UN Expert Claims (SMH)

 

 

Cheap money blows bubbles, but…

A New US Oil Production Peak Looks Imminent (Robert Rapier)

The resurgence of U.S. oil production over the past decade diminished OPEC’s control of the global oil markets. In less than eight years, U.S. oil production climbed from under 6 million barrels per day (BPD) to more than 12 million BPD. This surge is arguably the only reason oil prices today aren’t above $100/barrel (bbl). OPEC’s current strategy seems to be to wait for U.S. production to begin declining so they can begin to regain control of the oil markets. They may not have to wait all that long.

In last week’s article, I covered the slowdown in oil production growth in the Permian Basin. This is the most important oil-producing region in the U.S., but of course it isn’t the only one. And while most of the coverage of the resurgence of U.S. oil production has been primarily focused on shale oil and tight oil, U.S. offshore oil production has also made a big jump. Over the past decade, Gulf Coast oil production in the U.S. rose from about 1.2 million BPD to about 2.0 million BPD.


Thus, I thought today it might be instructive to look at the trends in total U.S. oil production. Note that in the previous graphic, it looks like production may be starting to turn down right at the end of the time frame. In fact, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) has reported a slight downward trend in U.S. oil production since May. The key question is whether this is an anomaly, or the beginning of a sustained trend. Applying the same analysis that I did last week to Permian Basin production – which looked at year-over-year production changes – it becomes clear that overall U.S. production growth is declining even faster than Permian Basin production growth.

Read more …

“.. state-owned enterprises account for 80% of the revenue generated by Chinese companies..”

China’s Wobbly Giants (Fortune)

In China, publication of the Fortune Global 500 has become a major media event. Companies advancing even a place or two rush out press releases. Those making the list for first time bask in the achievement; this year’s most notable Chinese debutant, smartphone maker Xiaomi, celebrated by doling out $24 million in stock to its 20,000 employees. The 2019 list gives Chinese firms something special to crow about: the number of Chinese firms rose to a record 129, including 10 from Taiwan, overtaking the 121 firms from the United States.

[..] the most striking characteristic of China’s presence on the Global 500 remains the overwhelming—and growing—dominance of state-owned firms. A calculation by Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post found that, if firms from Hong Kong and Taiwan are excluded, state-owned enterprises account for 80% of the revenue generated by Chinese companies on the 2019 list, up from 76% last year. Derek Scissors, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, argues the prevalence of state-owned behemoths among Chinese firms “reveals more weakness than strength.”

He questions whether firms like Ping An Insurance Group (No. 29) and Huawei Technologies (No. 61) are truly private; doubts the veracity of financial results reported by China’s state-owned firms; and notes that Chinese SOEs are mostly sleepy monopolies. The vast revenue of state-owned Chinese companies on the Fortune 500, he concludes, “primarily represents waste.” Former Financial Times China correspondent Richard McGregor offers a more nuanced explanation for the ascendance of China’s state-owned giants in his new book Xi Jinping: The Backlash. For China watchers, the entire book is a must-read, but this excerpt published recently in The Guardian, summarizes Richard’s account of how and why Xi sought to bolster state-owned enterprises at the expense of private enterprise.

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What is it, 100 days until Halloween?!

Business Lobby Group CBI Says UK, EU Not Ready For No-Deal Brexit (BBC)

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has warned the government that neither the UK nor the EU is ready for a no-deal Brexit on 31 October. “While the UK’s preparations to date are welcome, the unprecedented nature of Brexit means some aspects cannot be mitigated,” said the CBI. It has published practical steps it says the UK, EU and firms can take. A government spokesman said the UK has increased the pace of planning for no-deal. The CBI had previously said leaving the EU with a deal was essential to protect the economy and jobs. New Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made Michael Gove responsible for planning a no-deal Brexit. Mr Gove has said the UK government is currently “working on the assumption” of a no-deal Brexit.


He said his team still aimed to come to an agreement with Brussels but, writing in the Sunday Times, he added: “No deal is now a very real prospect.” The CBI’s report What Comes Next? The Business Analysis Of No Deal Preparations advises what measures businesses can take to reduce the worst effects. The advice is based on a study of existing plans laid out by the UK government, European Commission, member states and firms. “And although businesses have already spent billions on contingency planning for no deal, they remain hampered by unclear advice, timelines, cost and complexity,” the CBI says. “Larger companies, particularly those in regulated areas such as financial services, have well-thought-through contingency plans in place, though smaller firms are less well prepared.”

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They’re stuck on the backstop: “Johnson may well find that having left one political union, he spends an increasing proportion of his time trying to keep another together..”

Johnson Told No-Deal Brexit Will Crush Domestic Policy Plans (G.)

Boris Johnson’s ambitious domestic agenda would be crushed by the pressing needs of the emergency that would follow a no-deal Brexit, a new report by a Whitehall thinktank has concluded. The Institute for Government (IfG) warned there is “no such thing as a managed no deal” and the hard Brexiters predictions of a “clean break” from the EU will not materialise. Johnson will begin his first full week in Downing Street by ramping up planning for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October, with more than £1bn to be announced within days for preparations by Sajid Javid, the chancellor. He sent out a raft of cabinet ministers over the weekend to talk about “turbo-charging” preparations as part of a publicity blitz, making clear that the UK will be heading for no deal unless EU leaders agree to replace the Irish backstop.

The new prime minister is also heading to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the coming days to promise to “strengthen the union”, but he faces a difficult meeting with Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, on Monday as she warned over the weekend that she cannot sign up to his no-deal Brexit strategy. In its report on no deal, the IfG predicted that the union of the United Kingdom would come under “unprecedented pressure” in the event of a no-deal Brexit, with Northern Ireland “most acutely affected”. It said that legislation to introduce direct rule in Northern Ireland with immediate effect would be needed to get through a no-deal Brexit if the devolved government is not restored by the end of October. “Johnson may well find that having left one political union, he spends an increasing proportion of his time trying to keep another together,” it said.

[..] In another sign of the uncertainty Johnson faces, the owner of Vauxhall warned on Sunday that it will close its Ellesmere Port plant with the loss of 1,000 jobs if Brexit renders it unprofitable. “No deal is a step into the unknown: the prime minister’s second 100 days will be even more unpredictable than his first,” the report says, adding that the EU is unlikely to agree to negotiate any “side deals” to soften the impact. “Rather than ‘turbo-charging’ the economy, as Johnson has suggested, the government is more likely to be occupied with providing money and support to businesses and industries that have not prepared or are worst affected by a no-deal Brexit – as well as dealing with UK citizens in the EU, and EU citizens here, who have been similarly caught out,” it says.

[..] Dominic Cummings, the mastermind behind Vote Leave, who has been hired as Johnson’s special adviser, has been tasked with delivering Brexit “by any means necessary”. In a meeting with fellow special advisers, he made it clear that he believes No 10 can outmanoeuvre parliamentary critics of no deal and force Brexit to happen by 31 October. However, leading former cabinet ministers – Philip Hammond, David Gauke and Rory Stewart – are all preparing to join the cross-party battle to make sure parliament has a say on the form of the UK’s departure. One source close to the group said Cummings’s confidence of being able to proceed with a no deal if necessary was “misplaced”, while another former cabinet minister described the senior No 10 adviser as a “master of disinformation and spin”.

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While all attention and funding goes towards Brexit…

More Than 4 Million In UK Are Trapped In Deep Poverty (G.)

More than 4 million people in the UK are trapped in deep poverty, meaning their income is at least 50% below the official breadline, locking them into a weekly struggle to afford the most basic living essentials, an independent study has shown. The Social Metrics Commission also said 7 million people, including 2.3 million children, were affected by what it termed persistent poverty, meaning that they were not only in poverty but had been for at least two of the previous three years. Highlighting evidence of rising levels of hardship in recent years among children, larger families, lone parent households and pensioners, the commission urged the new prime minister, Boris Johnson, to take urgent action to tackle growing poverty.


The commission’s chair, Philippa Stroud, a Conservative peer, said there was a pressing need for a concerted approach to the problem. “It is time to look again at our approach to children, and to invest in our children as the future of our nation,” she said. Campaigners said the commission showed austerity had undermined two decades of anti-poverty policy. “By cutting £40bn a year from our work and pensions budget through cuts and freezes to tax credits and benefits, the government has put progress into reverse,” said Alison Garnham, the chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group.

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He was strong in the Mueller hearing.

Ratcliffe Tapped To Replace Coats As US Spy Chief (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday he would nominate Representative John Ratcliffe, a Texas Republican who strongly defended him at a recent congressional hearing, to replace Dan Coats as the U.S. spy chief. Coats, the current U.S. director of national intelligence who has clashed with Trump over assessments involving Russia, Iran and North Korea, will step down on Aug. 15, the president said as he announced his decision on Twitter. “John will lead and inspire greatness for the Country he loves,” Trump said, thanking Coats “for his great service to our Country” and saying an acting director will be named shortly. The post of director of national intelligence, created after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, oversees the 17 U.S. civilian and military intelligence agencies, including the CIA.


Ratcliffe, a member of the House of Representatives intelligence and judiciary committees, defended Trump during former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony on Wednesday about his two-year investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible obstruction of justice. Ratcliffe also accused Mueller of exceeding his authority in the report’s extensive discussion of potential obstruction of justice by Trump after the special counsel decided not to draw a conclusion on whether Trump committed a crime. The congressman agreed that Trump was not above the law, but said the president should not be “below the law” either.

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“My family won’t fly on a 737 Max.”

Work On Production Line Of Boeing 737 MAX ‘Not Adequately Funded’ (BBC)

A former Boeing engineer has told the BBC’s Panorama programme that work on the production line of the 737 Max plane was not adequately funded. The aircraft is currently grounded after two crashes which killed 346 people. The 737 Max is the company’s fastest selling plane and has earned the company billions of dollars in sales. Boeing denies the claims and says it’s committed to making the 737 Max one of the safest aircraft ever to fly. Adam Dickson worked at Boeing for 30 years and led a team of engineers who worked on the 737 Max. He said they were under constant pressure to keep costs down. “Certainly what I saw was a lack of sufficient resources to do the job in its entirety,” he says. “The culture was very cost centred, incredibly pressurised. Engineers were given targets to get certain amount of cost out of the aeroplane.”


Mr Dickson said engineers were under pressure to downplay new features on the 737 Max. He said by classifying them as minor rather than major changes, Boeing would face less scrutiny from the US regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration. “The goal was to show that those differences were so similar to the previous design that it would not require a major design classification in the certification process. There was a lot of interest and pressure on the certification and analysis engineers in particular, to look at any changes to the Max as minor changes.” He said that downplaying the changes reduced scrutiny in a way that could impact safety. Now even his own family have fears about the plane’s safety. “My family won’t fly on a 737 Max. It’s frightening to see such a major incident because of a system that didn’t function properly or accurately.”

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“How does it happen 10 minutes away from the American border in Michigan, people here are paying one-10th of the price for the vitally important drug they need to stay alive?”

Insulin Is Our Oxygen: Bernie Sanders Rides Another Campaign Bus To Canada (G.)

When Hunter Sego realized the insulin he needed to manage his Type 1 diabetes cost more than $1,400, he called his mother in a panic. His family had insurance. He did not believe it was possible a one-month supply of “life saving” medication could cost so much. The price tag was correct. Then a student and football player at DePauw University, he began to ration his insulin, using a quarter of what had been prescribed. He lost weight. His grades dropped. He struggled on the field. Fortunately, his mother found out and stopped him from rationing his insulin – a practice that is increasingly common and potentially deadly.

On Sunday, Sego and his mother, Kathy, drove seven hours from Indiana to join a caravan of roughly a dozen patients with Type 1 diabetes on a bus to Canada with Vermont senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. The Americans – wearing glucose monitors on their arms and shirts that said “diabetic” – set out to buy insulin for a fraction of its cost at home. Sanders’ northern sojourn, a trip his campaign sponsored, was designed to highlight the rising cost of prescription drugs in the US, which the senator said was the result of “incredible corruption and greed” on the part of the US pharmaceutical industry.

“How does it happen 10 minutes away from the American border in Michigan, people here are paying one-10th of the price for the vitally important drug they need to stay alive?” Sanders asked, calling the disparity a “national embarrassment”. In his remarks outside of the Olde Walkerville Pharmacy in Windsor, Sanders vowed that as president he would appoint an attorney general to investigate the pharmaceutical industry for what he described as “collusion” between the major drug companies. “Prices go up and up and up at the same level for the same companies,” he said. “So what you do is you throw these people in jail if they engage in price-fixing.”

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How many agents are going to be on his tail?

Papadopoulos To Head To Greece To Retrieve $10,000 Payment (Fox)

Former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo in an exclusive interview that he is heading back to Greece to retrieve $10,000 that he suspects was dropped in his lap as part of an entrapment scheme by the CIA or FBI — and federal investigators want to see the marked bills, which he said are now stored in a safe. Papadopoulos said on “Sunday Morning Futures” he was “very happy” to see Devin Nunes, R-Calif., grill former Special Counsel Robert Mueller about the summer 2017 payment during last week’s hearings — even though Mueller maintained, without explanation, that the matter was outside the scope of his investigation.

“I was very happy to see that Devin Nunes brought that up,” Papadopoulos said. “A man named Charles Tawil gave me this money [in Israel] under very suspicious circumstances. A simple Google search about this individual will reveal he was a CIA or State Department asset in South Africa during the ’90s and 2000s. I think around the time when Bob Mueller was the director of the FBI. “So, I have my theory of what that was all about,” Papadopoulos added. “The money, I gave it to my attorney in Greece because I felt it was given to me under very suspicious circumstances. And upon coming back to the United States I had about seven or eight FBI agents rummaging through my luggage looking for money.”

According to Papadopoulos, “the whole setup” by the “FBI likely, or even the special counsel’s office,” was intended to “bring a FARA [Foreign Agents Registration Act] violation against me.” The FARA statute played a key role in the prosecutions of former Trump aides, including Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort. Papadopoulos previously told Bartiromo in May that he wanted authorities to take a look at the money trail. “I actually want Congress, [Bill] Barr, [DOJ Inspector General Michael] Horowitz, and [U.S. Attorney John] Huber to review the bills because I still have the bills and I think they are marked,” Papadopoulos said. “These bills that are still in Athens right now must be examined by the investigators because I think they are marked and they’re going to go all the way back to DOJ, under the previous FBI under [James] Comey, and even the Mueller team.”

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But the torture just continues…

US Wants To ‘Make An Example’ Of Assange In Jail, UN Expert Claims (SMH)

The United States government has promised that Julian Assange will get a fair trial on espionage charges, rejecting the accusation of a United Nations expert that the administration “intends to make an example of him” with excessive charges and jail time. It has challenged the assessment of the expert, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer, that Assange would “be exposed to a real risk of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” if he ended up in a US jail. But Melzer has warned that extradition to the US would severely and dangerously worsen Assange’s already fragile psychological state.

The WikiLeaks founder is in a London jail awaiting a legal fight against extradition to the US, where he has been charged with conspiracy to receive and disclose top secret documents allegedly obtained from army whistleblower Chelsea Manning in 2010. Assange’s team are expected to argue he will not receive a fair trial if the extradition takes place, and that extradition would be dangerous to his health – arguments bolstered by the damning independent report from Melzer. In May, after visiting Assange in Belmarsh Prison for an interview and psychological examination, Melzer concluded that the US, Britain, Sweden and Ecuador shared responsibility for the “psychological torture” of Assange.

On Sunday new details emerged of Melzer’s conclusions, after the publication of letters that Melzer sent to the respective governments of those countries. The UN Human Rights Commissioner also published two responses received from the US and Sweden which strongly rejected Melzer’s claims and arguments. In his letters, Melzer gave new details of Assange’s prison regimen. At the time of his visit Assange was shut in his cell for about 20 hours a day, eating all his meals in the 2 metre by 3 metre space with “a bed, a cupboard, a note-board, basic sanitary installations, a plastic chair and a medium sized window”. Melzer called for Assange to be given access to the prison library and gym, and expressed concern that his situation “severely hampers his ability to adequately prepare” for his legal fight.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 102019
 
 June 10, 2019  Posted by at 9:54 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Georges Seurat Bathers at Asnières 1884

 

Stupidity, Evil and the Decline of the US (Doug Casey)
The Great Depression: A Real Estate Boom Gone Bust (Vague)
Game Over (Sven Henrich)
ECB Floats Rate Cut Trial Balloon (ZH)
Boris Johnson Pledges Major Tax Cut For Wealthy (Ind.)
Boris Johnson Is ‘Poisoning Our Politics’ – Tory Leadership Rival (Ind.)
Mike Pompeo Tells Jewish Leaders He Would ‘Push Back’ Against Corbyn (G.)
Tulsi Gabbard Pushes No War Agenda – And The Media Is Out To Get Her (SCF)
One Million March In Hong Kong To Protest China Extradition Bill (R.)
Hong Kong Plunged Into Political Crisis (R.)
Boeing 737 Max Seen as ‘Airplane Non Grata’ by Wary Travelers (BBG)
Boeing Used To Getting Its Way, Grip On Congress Is Legendary (Ralph Nader)
Chris Hedges Talks To UN Special Rapporteur About Assange (RT)

 

 

“To the Romans, virtues were things like fortitude, nobility and courage. Those virtues are true to the root of the word. When people think of virtues today they think of faith, hope, charity—which are not related to the word’s root meaning. ”

Stupidity, Evil and the Decline of the US (Doug Casey)

Regrettably, the US is no longer the land of the free and the home of the brave. It’s become the land of whipped and whimpering dogs that roll over on their backs and wet themselves when confronted with authority. Now, why are Americans this way? Let me give you two reasons—though there are many more. First, there’s a simple absence of virtue. Let’s look at the word virtue. It comes from the Latin vir, which means manly, even heroic. To the Romans, virtues were things like fortitude, nobility and courage. Those virtues are true to the root of the word. When people think of virtues today they think of faith, hope, charity—which are not related to the word’s root meaning. These may pass as virtues in a religious sense.

But, outside a Sunday school, they’re actually vices. This deserves a discussion, because I know it will shock many. But I’ll save that for another time. An absence of virtues and the presence of subtle vices is insinuated throughout society. Worse, overt vices like avarice and especially envy are encouraged. Envy, in particular will become a big vice in the years to come. It’s similar to jealousy, but worse. Jealousy says “You have something I want; I’ll try to take it from you”. Envy says “You have something I want. If I can’t take it from you, I’ll destroy it, and hurt you if I can.” Jealousy and envy seem to motivate most Democratic Party presidential candidates. No wonder America is in rapid decline.

A second reason is unsound philosophy. The reigning philosophy in the US used to be based on individualism and personal freedom. It’s now statism and collectivism. But most people don’t think about philosophy—or even have a consistent worldview. More than ever, they do what seems like a good idea at the time. The average American has problems. But his rulers are something else again. Most of the people running the US are either knaves or fools. How do we know if we are dealing with a knave or a fool? In other words, are you dealing with somebody who is evil or just stupid? To give a recent, but classic, example, are you dealing with a Dick Cheney or a George W. Bush? Do you prefer the knavish Obama, or the knavish Biden? The foolish Trump, or the foolish Pence. Not much of a real choice anywhere…

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Excerpt from A Brief History of Doom by Richard Vague.

The Great Depression: A Real Estate Boom Gone Bust (Vague)

Contrary to the explanation found in many histories of the Great Depression, that calamity was a massive real estate boom gone bust. Residential construction more than tripled, and the housing boom was every bit as large as in the Great Recession on a per capita basis. In Manhattan more skyscrapers were built in the late 1920s than during any other comparable span in its history, and the skylines of most major U.S. cities are still testimony to the excesses of that era: “The Great Depression brought a level of misery rarely seen in American history. … [and] was a massive residential and commercial real estate crisis. The financial records of the 1920s, which have largely been overlooked, indelibly show this. During the 1920s, annual housing and commercial real estate construction almost tripled — and nearly all of it was financed by debt.

“This explosion in residential and commercial construction lending, aug≠mented by lending for utilities and stock purchases, created the euphoria of the Roaring Twenties, the jazz age of robust spending and celebration. Com≠panies used the new money from loans to expand and employ more people. “The acceleration in construction resulted in such extensive overbuilding that by the final years of the decade, before the stock market crash, thousands of newly erected office buildings, houses, and apartments sat empty. Office vacancy rates rose, and residential mortgage foreclosures nearly doubled in the final years of the decade.’ As in other cases, this crisis was inevitable be≠fore it was obvious. The only question, and the only area where the president and the Federal Reserve could still have a discretionary impact, was the length and severity of that correction. …

“The iconic structures of American skylines form the silhouette of the Great Depression: New York’s Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, and RCA Building; Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, Wrigley Building, and Tribune Tower; Philadelphia’s PSFS Building; Los Angeles’s City Hall; Dallas’s Cotton Exchange Building; Detroit’s Fischer Building; and Houston’s Gulf Building. These are enduring architectural feats of the 1920s, vestiges of the real estate eruption that came before the fall. Many were speculative projects, unsupported by actual real estate demand; begun toward the end of the 1920s, when loans were still available; and finished after the crash, when lenders had little choice but to make funds available to complete construction or else see their entire loan go bad. None was financially successful for its original investors. They remained partly or largely empty for a decade or more after completion, as would hundreds of others.”

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“Everything every central banker has uttered last year was completely wrong. ”

Game Over (Sven Henrich)

Game over. The grand central bank experiment of the last 10 years has ended in utter and complete failure. The games of cheap money and constant intervention that have brought you record global debt to the tune of $250 trillion and record wealth inequality are about to embark on a new round of peddling blue meth again. Australia has already cut, so has India. The ECB is talking about it, markets are already pricing in multiple Fed cuts. The new global rate cutting cycle begins anew before the last one ever ended. Brace yourselves as no one, absolutely no one, can know how this will turn out. Absolutely staggering. We are witnessing a historic unraveling here. Everything every central banker has uttered last year was completely wrong.


Every projection they made over the last 10 years has been wrong. No wonder Jay Powell wants to toss the dot plot. It’s a public record of failure. Why place confidence in people who are staring at the ruins of the policies they unleashed on the world and are about to unleash again? All the distortions of 10 years of cheap money, debt, wealth inequality, zombie companies, negative debt, TINA, you name it, will all be further exacerbated by hapless and scared central bankers whose only solution to failure is to embark on the same cheap money train again. All under the banner to “extend the business cycle” at all costs. Never asking whether they should nor considering the consequences. But since they are not elected by the people and face zero consequences for failure they don’t have to consider the collateral damage they inflict.

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Take away their powers or else.

ECB Floats Rate Cut Trial Balloon (ZH)

Last week’s non-committal ECB announcement caught markets by surprise, with the Euro jumping despite Mario Draghi’s best attempts to signal further easing even as he hinted at growing “downside risks”, prompting speculation that the ECB may have lost the last shreds of its credibility and leading Rabobank to publish a piece titled “Whatever It Takes” > “Whatever”.” Not used to being spurred by markets, Mario Draghi refused to take such aggression against his legacy quietly – especially as the former Goldman partner is set to retire shortly – and on Sunday, the European Central Bank used its traditional trial balloon conduit, Reuters, which reported that ECB policymakers “are open to cutting the ECB’s policy rate again” if economic growth weakens in the rest of the year and a strong euro hurts a bloc already bearing the brunt of a global trade war, clearly hoping that this jawboning would be sufficient to slam the euro (it wasn’t with the EURUSD basically unchanged from its Friday close).

As a reminder, last Thursday the ECB said that its interest rates would stay “at their present levels” until mid-2020 but President Mario Draghi added rate setters had started a discussion about a possible cut or fresh bond purchases to stimulate inflation. This conflicting message failed to convince some investors, who saw it as too tenuous a commitment to more stimulus, sending the euro rallying to a nearly 3 month high of $1.1347 against the U.S. dollar. So in an attempt to convince the skeptics, Reuters cited its traditionally anonymous “two sources” familiar with the ECB’s policy discussions, who said a rate cut was firmly in play if the bloc’s economy was to stagnate again after expanding by 0.4% in the first quarter of the year.

“If inflation and growth slow, then a rate cut is warranted,” said one of the sources, who requested anonymity because the ECB’s deliberations are confidential. The problem is that no matter what Draghi says, or “floats”, the market is concerned that the ECB is approaching the end of its credible ammo: with the ECB’s deposit rate already negative 40 bps and Germany’s yield hitting all time low. In this context, countering the euro’s strength, rather than lowering already rock-bottom borrowing costs, would be the main reason for a further cut to that deposit rate, one of the sources said.

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Because the Tory members, and they’re wealthy, decide who is the next PM.

Boris Johnson Pledges Major Tax Cut For Wealthy (Ind.)

Boris Johnson has pledged to cut income tax for three million higher earners, in a move that would cost £9.6bn a year. The current frontrunner in the Tory leadership contest said he would raise the threshold for the 40p tax band from £50,000 to £80,000 if he becomes prime minister. The move would be paid for through money currently set aside for no-deal Brexit planning and by rises in National Insurance. Mr Johnson said: “We should be raising thresholds of income tax – so that we help the huge numbers that have been captured in the higher rate by fiscal drag.” But the announcement sparked immediate criticism, including from senior Conservatives.


Nicky Morgan, the chair of the Commons Treasury committee, said: “The question for Boris is why is this a priority when you could be obviously lifting more people out of paying income tax – the lower rate taxpayers – or you could be give people receiving child benefit an extra £15 a week.” And Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, said: “If you want to badge yourself as a One Nation Conservative, you focus on tax cuts and investment in infrastructure to help the lowest paid and the people in most difficulty in all parts of this country. That’s not what he’s doing.”

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Can it be more severely poisoned yet?

Boris Johnson Is ‘Poisoning Our Politics’ – Tory Leadership Rival (Ind.)

Conservative leadership contender Rory Stewart has launched a furious broadside at rival Boris Johnson, accusing the former foreign secretary of not being honest about his Brexit plans and challenging him to rule out suspending parliament to force no deal through. Speaking to The Independent, Mr Stewart said the leadership front-runner was trying to “out-Farage Farage” with an undeliverable plan to renegotiate Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement which was designed to usher in no-deal Brexit but would instead trigger a disastrous general election. And he blasted Johnson’s “swaggering machismo” over Brexit, which he said risked poisoning the UK’s relations with Europe.

The verbal assault came ahead of the formal launch of the contest to replace Ms May at No 10, with the official line-up of candidates to be confirmed after nominations close on Monday. Previously-fancied Michael Gove found his campaign mired in controversy over his admission of past cocaine use, with the environment secretary forced to fend off allegations of hypocrisy and deny having lied on security forms when entering parliament and travelling to the US. He dismissed as “foolish” suggestions that he might be barred from going to the US as prime minister.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson – who picked up backing from cabinet ministers Chris Grayling and Alun Cairns and former Tory deputy chair James Cleverly – broke his campaign silence with a Sunday Times interview in which he said he would withhold Britain’s £39 billion Brexit divorce bill until Brussels agreed better terms for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The threat brought an immediate response from France, where a source close to President Emmanuel Macron said it would be regarded as “a failure of international commitments equivalent to a sovereign debt default” – something that could send the UK’s credit rating tumbling.

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Guess they couldn’t get him with sex smears.

Mike Pompeo Tells Jewish Leaders He Would ‘Push Back’ Against Corbyn (G.)

Labour has accused Donald Trump’s top official, Mike Pompeo, of trying to stop Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister, after he was caught on tape telling Jewish leaders that he would “push back” against the party’s leadership. In a recording leaked to the Washington Post, the US secretary of state was asked what he would do if Corbyn were to be elected as prime minister, after sustained criticism over Labour’s handling of accusations of antisemitism within the party. The questioner said: “Would you be willing to work with us to take on actions if life becomes very difficult for Jews in the UK?” In response, Pompeo appeared to suggest that he would seek to intervene in the debate before Corbyn had a chance to become prime minister.

“It could be that Mr Corbyn manages to run the gauntlet and get elected,” he said on the recording. “It’s possible. You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back. We will do our level best. It’s too risky and too important and too hard once it’s already happened.” A Labour spokesman said: “President Trump and his officials’ attempts to decide who will be Britain’s next prime minister are an entirely unacceptable interference in the UK’s democracy.” He added that the party was “fully committed to the support, defence and celebration of the Jewish community and is implacably opposed to antisemitism in any form”.

Pompeo’s comments emerged after Trump turned down Corbyn’s request for a meeting during his state visit to the UK last week, saying the leader was “somewhat of a negative force”. Corbyn joined protests outside Trump’s press conference with Theresa May, where he pledged to oppose the US president’s drive for greater access for US health companies to NHS contracts. The comments come at a time when Corbyn’s team are nervous about the latest attempts to oust him from within the party over the issues of antisemitism and Brexit, after several senior figures came out in support of a second referendum.

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No sex smears for Tulsi either, but Russia might do.

Tulsi Gabbard Pushes No War Agenda – And The Media Is Out To Get Her (SCF)

Tulsi Gabbard could well be the only genuine antiwar candidate that might truly be electable in the past fifty years, and that is why the war party is out to get her. Two weeks ago, the Daily Beast displayed a headline: “Tulsi Gabbard’s Campaign Is Being Boosted by Putin Apologists.” The article also had a sub-headline: “The Hawaii congresswoman is quickly becoming the top candidate for Democrats who think the Russian leader is misunderstood.” The obvious smear job was picked by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, television’s best known Hillary Clinton clone, who brought it up in an interview with Gabbard shortly thereafter. He asked whether Gabbard was “softer” on Putin than were some of the other candidates.


Gabbard answered: “It’s unfortunate that you’re citing that article, George, because it’s a whole lot of fake news.” Politico the reported the exchange and wrote: “’Fake news’ is a favorite phrase of President Donald Trump…,” putting the ball back in Tulsi’s court rather than criticizing Stephanopoulos’s pointless question. Soon thereafter CNN produced its own version of Tulsi the Russophile, observing that Gabbard was using a Trump expression to “attack the credibility of negative coverage.” Tulsi responded “Stephanopoulos shamelessly implied that because I oppose going to war with Russia, I’m not a loyal American, but a Putin puppet. It just shows what absurd lengths warmongers in the media will go, to try to destroy the reputation of anyone who dares oppose their warmongering.”

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Impressive crowds.

One Million March In Hong Kong To Protest China Extradition Bill (R.)

Organizers said the turnout outstripped a demonstration in 2003 when 500,000 hit the streets to challenge government plans for tighter national security laws. Those laws were later shelved and a key government official forced to resign. Sunday’s outpouring was already raising the pressure on the administration of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and her official backers in Beijing. “She has to withdraw the bill and resign,” veteran Democratic Party lawmaker James To told crowds outside the city’s parliament and government headquarters on Sunday night. “The whole of Hong Kong is against her.” After To spoke, thousands were still arriving, having started the march five hours earlier, filling four lanes of a major thoroughfare.


Some sat in a nearby park singing “Hallelujah” while police increased their numbers around the area. Lam had yet to comment on the rally. The demonstration capped weeks of growing outrage in the business, diplomatic and legal communities, which fear corrosion of Hong Kong’s legal autonomy and the difficulty of ensuring basic judicial protections in mainland China. The protest descended into violence in the early hours of Monday as several hundred protesters clashed with a similar number of police outside the city’s parliament. Protesters charged police lines to try to force their way into the Legislative Council building, and police charged back, using pepper spray, after warning the protesters. The standoff ended in the early hours of Monday.

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What say you, Xi?

Hong Kong Plunged Into Political Crisis (R.)

Riot police surrounded Hong Kong’s parliament early on Monday after what had been a peaceful million-strong protest against an extradition bill descended into running clashes between police and protesters. Several hundred riot police armed with batons, shields, tear gas guns and pepper spray sealed off the Legislative Council as a similar number of protesters charged their lines shortly after midnight, Reuters witnesses said. Police used batons and fired pepper spray at protesters, who still managed to close off part of a nearby road. Several people on both sides appeared to be injured, and ambulances were called. Metal barriers were left twisted and torn in the clashes.


The Legislative Council is where debates will start on Wednesday to pass a new government bill that will allow suspects wanted in mainland China to be sent across the border for trial. Earlier on Sunday, hundreds of thousands had jammed Hong Kong’s streets to protest the bill in the biggest demonstration in years. Many said they feared it put the city’s vaunted legal independence at risk. The rallies — and the violence — plunge the global financial hub into a fresh political crisis, with marchers and opposition leaders demanding the bill be shelved and that the city’s Beijing-backed Chief Executive Carrie Lam resign. After seven hours of marching, organisers estimated 1,030,000 people took part, far outstripping a demonstration in 2003 when half that number hit the streets to successfully challenge government plans for tighter national security laws.

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“Travelers aren’t merely scared of the 737 Max, they’re terrified of it..”

Boeing 737 Max Seen as ‘Airplane Non Grata’ by Wary Travelers (BBG)

U.S. airlines have their work cut out for them in trying to coax frightened travelers back onto Boeing Co.’s 737 Max once a worldwide grounding ends. At least 20% of U.S. travelers say they will definitely avoid the plane in the first six months after flights resume, according to a study led by consultant Henry Harteveldt. More than 40% said they’d be willing to take pricier or less convenient flights to stay off the Max. A separate UBS Group AG survey found that 70% would hesitate today to book a flight on Boeing’s best-selling jet. “Travelers aren’t merely scared of the 737 Max, they’re terrified of it,” Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research Group, said in the report, which was released Tuesday.


“The 737 Max is, for now, an ‘airplane non grata’ — a plane passengers do not want to fly.” The surveys underscore the challenge looming for Boeing as it seeks to regain public trust after two deadly crashes and a global flying ban that’s nearing the three-month mark. Boeing is finalizing a software fix for a flight-control system malfunction linked to the accidents, as well as proposed new pilot training. Regulators in the U.S. and other countries say there’s no timeline for when the plane will resume flights. Only 14% of U.S. passengers would definitely fly on a 737 Max within six months of its return, according to the online study for Atmosphere of 2,000 U.S. airline passengers from April 27 to May 1.

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They have to fire the CEO and many others. Nader is not going away.

Boeing Used To Getting Its Way, Grip On Congress Is Legendary (Ralph Nader)

The Boeing-driven FAA is rushing to unground the notorious prone-to-stall Boeing 737 MAX (that killed 346 innocents in two crashes) before several official investigations are completed. Troubling revelations might keep these planes grounded worldwide. The FAA has a clearly established pro-Boeing bias and will likely allow Boeing to unground the 737 MAX. We must demand that the two top FAA officials resign or recuse themselves from taking any more steps that might endanger the flying public. The two Boeing-indentured men are Acting FAA Administrator Daniel Elwell and Associate FAA Administrator for Aviation Safety Ali Bahrami. Immediately after the crashes, Elwell resisted grounding and echoed Boeing claims that the Boeing 737 MAX was a safe plane despite the deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

Ali Bahrami is known for aggressively pushing the FAA through 2018 to further abdicate its regulatory duties by delegating more safety inspections to Boeing. Bahrami’s actions benefit Boeing and are supported by the company’s toadies in the Congress. Elwell and Bahrami have both acquired much experience by going through the well-known revolving door between the industry and the FAA. They are likely to leave the FAA once again for lucrative positions in the aerospace lobbying or business world. With such prospects, they do not have much ‘skin in the game’ for their pending decision.

[..] Boeing has about 5,000 orders for the 737 MAX. It has delivered less than 400 to the world’s airlines. From its CEO, Dennis Muilenburg to its swarms of Washington lobbyists, law firms, and public relations outfits, Boeing is used to getting its way. Its grip on Congress – where 300 members take campaign cash from Boeing – is legendary. Boeing pays little in federal and Washington state taxes. It fumbles contracts with NASA and the Department of Defense but remains the federal government’s big vendor for lack of competitive alternatives in a highly concentrated industry.

[..] Time is not on the side of the 737 MAX 8. A comprehensive review of the 737 MAX’s problems is a non-starter for Boeing. Boeing’s flawed software and instructions that have kept pilots and airlines in the dark have already been exposed. New whistleblowers and more revelations will emerge. More time may also result in the Justice Department’s operating grand jury issuing some indictments.

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One of Melzer’s many interviews. Where is the UN suppoort for him?

Chris Hedges Talks To UN Special Rapporteur About Assange (RT)

Chris Hedges discusses with UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer the conditions of Julian Assange’s detention, his psychological and physical health as well as the judicial proceedings against the WikiLeaks founder.

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Jun 012019
 
 June 1, 2019  Posted by at 1:44 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Rest (Marie-Thérèse Walter) 1932

With the news that Julian Assange is “wasting away” in Belmarsh prison hospital, and with UN rapporteur Professor Nils Melzer’s report detailing how this happens, I’m once again drawn towards the lawlessness that all “authorities” involved in his case have been displaying, and with impunity. They all apparently think they are literally above the law. Their own laws.

But they can’t be, nowhere, not above their respective national laws nor the international ones their countries have signed up to. They can’t, because that would instantly make any and all laws meaningless. So you tell me where we find ourselves today.

There’s this paragraph in an article by Jonathan Cook entitled Abuses Show Assange Case Was Never About Law, which lists “17 glaring anomalies in Assange’s legal troubles”, that sums it all up pretty perfectly:

Australia not only refused Assange, a citizen, any help during his long ordeal, but prime minister Julia Gillard even threatened to strip Assange of his citizenship, until it was pointed out that it would be illegal for Australia to do so.

See, Cook is already skipping a step there. Gillard didn’t take Assange’s citizenship away, because that is against Australian law, but it’s just as much against Australian law for a government to let one of its citizens rot in some kind of hell. Still, they did let him rot, but as an Australian citizen. At that point, what difference does anything make anymore?

This is a pattern that runs through the entire Assange “file”, and it does so to pretty astonishing levels. Where you’re forced to think that the countries involved effectively have no laws, and no courts, because if they did, the actions by their governments would surely be whistled back by parliaments or judges or someone, anyone. They’re all essentially lawless.

 

There are 5 principal countries involved in the case (that doesn’t absolve any other country from its own responsibility for speaking out when international laws are broken). In alphabetical order, they are Australia, Ecuador, Sweden, the UK and the US. We can go through them in that order.

Australia: The above already mostly sums up where Australia comes up short, i.e. fails miserably to such an extent that both its legal and its political system should long have sounded a five alarm -but didn’t-. A government cannot abandon its own citizens abroad, just because it doesn’t agree with what that citizen has done or said.

It can’t do that even if that citizen is a Hannibal Lecter or an Adolf Hitler, and Julian Assange is very far removed from either. Nor has anyone ever even claimed that Assange broke even one Australian law, let alone proven it. What it comes down to then is that it’s the government that has broken its own laws, not Assange. That, too, is a pattern, it holds for all 5 countries I mentioned above.

It’s not Assange who breaks laws and should be persecuted for that, it’s the politicians who form the governments of these countries. Plus of course the parliamentarians tasked with controlling them. And the legal systems as well as the press tasked with controlling the entire system.

UN rapporteur Nils Melzer says in his report: “Australia is a glaring absence in this case. They’re just not around, as if Assange was not an Australian citizen. That is not the correct way of dealing with that.”

 

Ecuador: This country’s former president, Rafael Correa, followed international law on asylum in the exact way it was framed and intentioned, by granting Julian Assange asylum in the summer of 2012. But his successor and former friend Lenin Moreno broke that law in the most flagrant ways imaginable.

Ecuador is a signatory country to both the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Moreno’s actions, which have led to UK police dragging Assange out of the Ecuador embassy in London, which international law says is Ecuadorian territory in which the UK has no jurisdiction, violate an entire litany of laws, rules and regulations phrased by both these international bodies, as well as Ecuador’s own laws (if only because they ARE a signatory member of both).

Asylum laws, necessarily international, have zero meaning if and when a country seeks to (re-)interpret them whenever the wind changes direction and/or a new government is installed. Asylum laws are there to last. You can’t throw out a person your country has previously granted asylum just because someone offers you a bag of money. That is the exact reason why there are such laws.

And every single country that is a signatory to these laws MUST protest what Moreno did to Assange, lest the laws covering asylum become invalid overnight. Well, that’s what they have become in April. For every single country, and for every single human being. That’s how far-reaching the events are.

Does phrasing it like that perhaps make it -a little bit- clearer how big an issue this is, that if it doesn’t apply to Assange, it by default doesn’t apply to anyone anymore? That his case wipes out many decades of jurisprudence, established after, and because of, two world wars and many other atrocities? That Assange’s treatment throws us back in time at least a full century?

Everyone NOT protesting what has been done to Assange had better think again. If you are a law student, lawyer, a judge in a democratic country, you have an obligation here, as much as all politicians have. It makes no difference what you think about Assange or what he’s done.

 

Sweden: The Swedes have sex crime laws that apparently are different from anyone else’s, more strict etc. Maybe they think they know better than everyone else?! In Assange’s story, this means they have closed the file on him on 2010, 2013 and 2017, but re-opened it again and again, for reasons that are not immediately clear -to me-.

This appears to indicate that once you’re suspected, let alone accused, of for instance rape, you may never be able to clear your name anymore. And don’t let’s forget that Assange was never charged with anything, not one single thing, all the way back to 2010.

From what we know, the two women mentioned in the case never wanted to file a complaint against him. But the police did. And then that complaint was thrown out. And revived. He was specifically allowed to leave the country after staying on for over a month, and then shortly after he did leave for London a Swedish prosecutor filed an Interpol Red Notice against him, something hitherto exclusively reserved for terrorists and war criminals.

Prosecutor Marianne Ny refused to interview Assange in London for years, though other such interviews – by Swedish prosecutors in Britain- took place 44 times during Assange’s stay in the Ecuador embassy. The UK even told Sweden not to close the case. And there’s still so much more that happened in Sweden. There is a term for a country that behaves like this: a rogue state.

 

The UK: Former UK ambassador and Assange adviser Craig Murray probably summarizes it best today when he says the UK has become a rogue state. This is true as well for Australia, Ecuador, Sweden and the US. It is the inevitable consequence of flouting the law.

Professor Melzer is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture. Professor Melzer is Swiss. He is an extremely distinguished lawyer and Professor of International Law at the University of Glasgow in addition to Professor of International Humanitarian Law at the Geneva Academy. He served 12 years as a Red Cross Delegate. There is no doubting either Professor Melzer’s expertise or his independence in this matter. When Professor Melzer says that “UK courts have not shown the objectivity and impartiality required by law”, people should sit up and listen.

I have detailed judge Michael Snow calling Assange a “narcissistic personality” in a brief hearing in which Assange had said virtually nothing but “not guilty”, on the basis of prejudice Snow brought with him into the courtroom. Snow convicted him summarily of bail jumping and sentenced him to a virtually unprecedented 50 weeks.

I have detailed Judge Arbuthnot, wife of a former Tory Defence Minister who co-owns a company with a former Head of MI6, mocking Assange and saying he can get all the exercise his health required on a Juliet balcony, as she dismissed a motion to have the bail charges dropped. I have detailed Judge Phillips of the Supreme Court choosing to rely on the French text and discount the English text of a treaty in arguing extradition was in order.

The bias of the British courts has been palpable and stinking.[..] when the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary and Illegal detention ruled that Julian was being held against his will in the Ecuadorean Embassy and should be permitted to leave to Ecuador, in repudiating the UN Working Group – whom the UK had supported in every single one of hundreds of previous cases – then Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond stood up in the Commons and denounced the UN Working Group as being “lay people not lawyers”, when in fact every single one of the panel is an extremely distinguished international lawyer.

Hammond’s lie to parliament did not surprise me; but I was genuinely astonished that the entire corporate and state media went along with this most blatant of lies and did not call it out. The BBC, Times, Financial Times, Guardian all reported Hammond’s comment that the UN panel were “not lawyers”. None of them would agree to publish a correction of this basic and easily verifiable fact.

Britain no longer makes a pretence of obeying the rule of international law. It simply refuses to acknowledge the concerns of the UN in the Assange case, happily dependent on the bubble of prejudice the political and media elite have manufactured. This is part of a general pattern of direspecting the UN. Theresa May as Home Secretary refused to let the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women inside Yarls Wood immigration detention centre to inspect conditions there. The Tory government reacted to the recent shocking UN report on poverty in the UK – none of the basic facts of which are challenged – by seeking to have the UN Rapporteur removed.

When you add this together with the UK’s refusal to accept the 13-1 Opinion of the International Court of Justice that the Chagos Islands belong to Mauritius, and the UK’s refusal to accept the ruling of the agreed International Chambers of Commerce Court of Arbitration that Britain must pay its debt to Iran, you get what is a very clear picture that the UK has gone full rogue state and has simply abandoned its support for the system of international law which was in very large part a UK creation.

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday thought attack is the best defense and called out Professor Melzer for his criticism of the UK. Melzer responded by implying Hunt doesn’t know his own laws.

 

 

I was thinking when I saw the “conversation” that Hunt is basically implying Assange tortured himself. And that doesn’t just demonstrate poor knowledge of the law, that is full-blast BS. Because no matter what led to Assange seeking refuge in the Ecuador embassy, according to international law he always, under any and all circumstances, has (among other things) the right to proper medical care. The UK has refused him that.

It doesn’t even have anything to do with him being free to leave or not. Which he evidently was not. Moreover, other than skipping bail Assange didn’t do anything illegal, and under asylum laws, he had a right to skip bail. Once again, it’s not Assange who has broken laws, it’s everyone else involved in this tragic saga. And even if Assange had broken a law, he still would have had the right to proper medical care.

 

The US: Where to even start? The American hunt for Assange is a decade old and has recently escalated when they could get heir hands on the new Ecuador president. Then they invoked the much ridiculed 1917 Espionage Act to accuse a foreign national of spying. And whatever Assange has done, spying it is not.

But they obviously think they can get Eastern District of Virginia Judge Leonie Brinkema (aka the hanging judge) to pretend that it is, or at least that some of what he’s done falls under a law that almost everyone agrees should have been abolished long ago.

What Nils Melzer also mentioned in his report on Assange is that certain parts of the Espionage Act allow for the death penalty. Not those that he has been charged under so far, but they could attempt to stick them on. Which would make it illegal for the UK to extradite Julian Assange. But who still thinks these people give one flying hoot about the law?

For them, laws are things they use to further their means, nothing else. Other than that, they care nothing for the laws that govern their countries, even though they are the very same laws that allowed them to assume their power.

They think they’re going to get away with the murder of Julian Assange. Unhindered by any law. That means there no longer is a functioning -international- legal system. There are only rogue states left.

 

 

 

 

Jun 012019
 


 

Relentless and Unrestrained Public Mobbing, Intimidation and Defamation (CN)
UN Special Rapporteur Calls for Julian Assange to Be Freed (DN)
Assange ‘Psychologically Tortured To Breaking Point By Democratic States’ (RT)
Are US/UK Trying To Kill Assange? – Ron Paul (DM)
Assange May Have To Die Before Journalists Realize Implications – Galloway (RT)
36 Countries The US Has Bullied This Week (RT)
Prelude to a Fiasco (Jim Kunstler)
US Stock Market Forgoes $5 Trillion In Returns Due To Trade War – Deutsche (MW)
Dow 25,000! Oops…(WS)
Mexico Tariffs May Hurt $600 Billion In Cross-Border Trade, US Economy (MW)
Brazil Snubs Venezuelan Opposition Envoy As Doubts Rise On Guaido (R.)

 

 

NOTE: quite a few video’s today, which don’t always show if you receive this by mail. In that case, please refer to the Automatic Earth site.

 

 

“I’ve seen atrocities in war areas that were physically more horrible but I’ve never seen a single person pursued so relentlessly and with so little foundation.”

Relentless and Unrestrained Public Mobbing, Intimidation and Defamation (CN)

“It was obvious that Mr. Assange’s health has been seriously affected by the extremely hostile and arbitrary environment he has been exposed to for many years. Most importantly, in addition to physical ailments, Mr. Assange showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma.” “My most urgent concern is that, in the United States, Mr. Assange would be exposed to a real risk of serious violations of his human rights, including his freedom of expression, his right to a fair trial and the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” said Melzer.

He said he was “particularly alarmed” by the Espionage Act charges. “This may well result in a life sentence without parole, or possibly even the death penalty, if further charges were to be added in the future,” said Melzer. “[Assange] is really something I’ve never seen in 20 years,” Melzer said. “I’ve seen atrocities in war areas that were physically more horrible but I’ve never seen a single person pursued so relentlessly and with so little foundation. “[When I saw him] I immediately compared him to some of the graver cases in interrogation prisons in terms of his psychological reaction patterns. That’s what alarmed me so much.” He said Assange’s treatment was “very close to the intentional, purposeful infliction of coercive measures to try to break him”.

He appeared “extremely agitated and preoccupied,” Melzer said. “He asked a lot of questions and he would jump around, he was so preoccupied with everything he can’t even compute my answers any more. “There were episodes of this, then he was part of the conversation as normal, then again he would enter into this agitated state. I have seen with other victims of psychological torture that would happen.” Melzer also blasted the government of Assange’s native Australia. He told the newspaper, “Australia is a glaring absence in this case. They’re just not around, as if Assange was not an Australian citizen. That is not the correct way of dealing with that.”

 

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Interesting man for sure. This part of his report stands out:

“I believe we have to take a step back and look at all these proceedings, how they have been conducted, and come to our own conclusions whether these are fair. We also have to take a step back and look at this whole narrative of suspected rapist; narcissist; selfish, ungrateful person; hacker, and scratch the surface a little bit and see what’s below there.


When I was first approached by his defense team seeking protection from my mandate in December last year, I was reluctant to do so, because, me, too, I had been affected by this prejudice that I had absorbed through all these public, you know, narratives spread in the media over the years. And only when I scratched the surface a little bit, I saw how little foundation there was to back this up and how much fabrication and manipulation there is in this case. So I encourage everybody to really look below the surface in this case.”

UN Special Rapporteur Calls for Julian Assange to Be Freed (DN)

The United Nations special rapporteur on torture is warning that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is suffering from the effects of “psychological torture” due to his ongoing detention and threats of possible extradition to the United States. The U.N. expert, Nils Melzer, also warned that Assange would likely face a “politicized show trial” if he were to be extradited to the United States. Melzer writes, “In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution, I have never seen a group of democratic states ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonize and abuse a single individual for such a long time.” Julian Assange is currently serving a 50-week sentence for skipping bail in 2012 at London’s Belmarsh Prison, after he was forcibly removed from the Ecuadorean Embassy by British police last month.


Last week, the U.S. Justice Department announced it was charging Assange with 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act for his role in publishing U.S. classified military and diplomatic documents exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assange, who had already been charged on one count of hacking a government computer, now faces up to 170 additional years in prison under the new charges—10 years for each count of violating the Espionage Act. Assange was due to appear by video link before a magistrates’ court on Thursday but failed to appear, reportedly due to health problems. We speak with U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer.

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Nils Melzer did a whole range of interviews in one day.

Assange ‘Psychologically Tortured To Breaking Point By Democratic States’ (RT)

Jailed WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange shows clear signs of degrading and inhumane treatment which only adds to his deteriorating health, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer told RT. Assange has “all the symptoms typical for a person who has been exposed to prolonged psychological torture,” Melzer told RT’s Afshin Rattansi. This adds to the toll of his deteriorating physical state caused by a lack of adequate medical care for several years, he said. Melzer said he was judging from two decades of experience in working with POWs and political prisoners, and only after applying “scientific” UN methods to assess Assange’s condition. But the journalist’s case still “shocked” him.


An individual has been isolated and singled out by several democratic states, and persecuted systematically… to the point of breaking him. Earlier this month, a UK court sentenced the WikiLeaks co-founder to nearly a year in jail for skipping bail in 2012. The courts are now deciding whether to extradite Assange to the US where he is wanted for 17 charges under the Espionage Act. He can end up serving up to 175 years in prison if proven guilty.

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Me too, I thought of Warmbier: “..how would we look a lot different to the North Koreans on the surface?’

Are US/UK Trying To Kill Assange? – Ron Paul (DM)

Former Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul says Julian Assange could die in prison and blames the apparent deterioration in the WikiLeaks founder’s heath on how he is being treated by the US and UK governments. Speaking on ‘Ron Paul Liberty Report, the 83-year-old accuses the US government of pursuing Assange and says they would like to either challenge him with a death penalty or a life time in prison ‘for being a journalist.’ The Libertarian calls Assange’s a ‘tragic story’ and describes his health as ‘very very bad,’ commenting that friends of the whistleblower are worried that his health may not hold up. [..] Paul also compares Assange’s plight to the case of Otto Frederick Warmbier, an American college student imprisoned in North Korea in 2016.


In June 2017, Warmbier was released by North Korea in a vegetative state and died soon afterward. Paul goes on to ask what the ramifications would be if Assange is much sicker than is being revealed and dies in prison as the result of how his case has been handled by Washington and London. ‘If he had a terminal disease or something happens to him, good, bad, or whatever and he dies in the prison, how would we look a lot different to the North Koreans on the surface?’ Paul questions. Paul goes on to slam the American media and journalists for their lack of reporting on Assange’s health problems, adding that news of his ill health came out via a Swedish newspaper. Paul adds there is ‘not much good journalism around any more’ and that by not doing more reporting on Assange, journalists ‘don’t want to protect their right to be a journalist.’

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They still wouldn’t realize a thing.

Assange May Have To Die Before Journalists Realize Implications – Galloway (RT)

“Julian Assange may have to die in the hospital wing of Belmarsh prison in order to bring it about” George Galloway believes it’s not long until ‘we could be in George Orwell’s 1984’ as he talks to In Question’s Manila Chan about the Wikileaks founder being too ill to appear at extradition hearing.

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The US will end up all alone.

36 Countries The US Has Bullied This Week (RT)


© Global Look Press / Uwe Skrzypczak

It’s been a busy few days for American diplomacy, with three dozen nations ending up at the receiving end of threats, ultimatums and sanctions this week alone. And it’s only Friday. Mexico is the latest target, slapped with 5 percent tariffs on each and every export, gradually increasing to 25 percent until it stops the flow of Latin American migrants into the US, thus fulfilling one of President Donald Trump’s election promises. Most of those migrants aren’t even from Mexico. On the other side of the world, India is reportedly about to be forced to face a choice: ditch the purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems or face sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA, Washington’s go-to cooperation enforcement instrument).

Turkey is facing a similar ultimatum: abandon S-400s (something Ankara has repeatedly refused to do) or lose access to the F-35 fighter jet program. This threat was repeated on Thursday by Kathryn Wheelbarger, US acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. Ankara has already invested some $1.25 billion into the super-expensive American fighter, but with a lot of its parts being made in Turkey, it’s still an open question who would be the bigger loser. The entire European Union could be facing punishment if it tries to trade with Iran using its non-dollar humanitarian mechanism to bypass the American embargo. Having worked hard on the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, which has repeatedly been confirmed to be working, EU member states are not ready to ditch trade at Trump’s whim – and US Special Representative to Iran Brian Hook on Thursday reaffirmed the threat of CAATSA sanctions.

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”The object is solely to divert the nation’s attention with an impeachment circus, allowing Mr. Mueller to slip away harmlessly into history..”

Prelude to a Fiasco (Jim Kunstler)

You’d think that Robert Mueller might know what any licensed attorney-at-law in the land tells a client in a tight spot with a lame alibi: better keep you mouth shut. Instead, Mr. Mueller crept Sphinx-like out of the Deep State woodwork on little cat’s paws and in a brief nine minutes blabbed out a set of whopperish riddles much more likely to get himself in trouble than the target of his hinky inquisition. The key whopper was that he could not make “a determination” on an obstruction-of-justice charge against Mr. Trump because guidance policy from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel had said some years ago that a sitting president can’t be indicted. That is not what he told his boss, Mr. Barr, the Attorney General (and a roomful of the AG’s staffers who heard it), in person when he delivered his final report a few weeks ago.

Upon receipt of that report, Mr. Barr asked the Special Counsel three times whether his inability to conclude anything on an obstruction charge was due to the OLC guidance, and three times Mr. Mueller answered “no.” Mr. Barr relayed this on-the-record in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee and, as averred above, he has plenty of witnesses. It should not be hard to reach a determination on who is telling truth here. In fact, Mr. Mueller could have declared that he found chargeable obstruction crimes were committed based on the evidence, and also demurred to press them at this time — leaving them available to federal prosecutors until after the president was out of office, one way or another.

The reason he didn’t is that Mr. Mueller does not want the case to come to trial, ever, because he would lose badly and his reputation would be destroyed. Consider that in any trial, the defendant gets to call witnesses and make his own case. The evidence for gross prosecutorial misconduct on the part of Mr. Mueller and his associates is mountainous compared to the molehill of Mr. Trump’s temper tantrums over the seditious hoax he was subject to. And that matter is now moving in the direction of adjudication. So instead, Mr. Mueller has set in motion a potential political crisis as momentous as the Civil War, but completely unlike it.

Knowing that congress can impeach the president on just about anything — especially this president, publicly reviled like no other before him — he served congress the platter of material to use in the form of his final report, and pretty much dared them to not go forward with it. Get this: it is a ruse. The object is solely to divert the nation’s attention with an impeachment circus, allowing Mr. Mueller to slip away harmlessly into history without sacrificing his own reputation in a courtroom.

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We like big numbers.

US Stock Market Forgoes $5 Trillion In Returns Due To Trade War – Deutsche (MW)

The U.S. stock market has left $5 trillion on the table as trade tensions over the past 17 months contributed to an effectively sideways trade, Deutsche Bank estimated on Friday. “While other factors also arguably played a role, the trade war has been key in preventing a recovery in global growth and keeping U.S. equities range bound. Foregone U.S. equity returns from price appreciation for 17 months are worth $5 trillion,” wrote Binky Chadha, the bank’s chief strategist, in a Friday note, based on an price appreciation at an annual rate 12.5% (see chart below).

Chadha’s calculation is based on the capitalization of the Russell 3000, a broad measure of equity markets, which had a capitalization of $28.7 trillion at the start of 2018. Foregone returns for the index over 17 months comes out to $5 trillion. The S&P 500 in the first four months of 2019 bounced back sharply from a steep fourth-quarter selloff nudging to an all-time closing high in April. But the index has retreated more than 6% in May, posting its first monthly decline since December and its worst May performance since 2010. The Dow Jones Industrial Average which failed to return to record territory before the May swoon, also fell more than 6% for the month.

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What $20 trillion in stimulus bought you.

Dow 25,000! Oops…(WS)

Stocks were already gunning for the worst May since 2010 when, on the evening before the last trading day, Trump tweeted that he would impose tariffs on imports from Mexico, if Mexico doesn’t crack down on migration flows coming through its southern border. Those tariffs would hit the automakers particularly hard because they imported 2.6 million vehicles from Mexico in 2018, up 10% from the prior year. Not even counting the component makers. But the Presidential tweet was just the icing on the cake. May had been crappy for stocks before the tweet went out.


The S&P 500 index, which earlier this week had fallen through 2,800, dropped another 1.3% today to 2,752, down 6.8% from its peak in early May that had exceeded by a hair the prior peak of September 2018. The index is now back where it had first been on January 9, 2018, having spent nearly 17 months going nowhere, despite intoxicating surges and nerve-wracking drops. And the chart is morphing from “not pretty” to something a little uglier (data via S&P Dow Jones Indices):

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.1% today, unceremoniously plopping through the 25,000 level and closed at 24,815. It’s now 7.9% below its October 2018 peak and right back where it had first been in December 2017, having spent 17 months gyrating to nowhere, including a 19% peak-to-trough plunge in four months followed by a blistering 22% rally in four months. The Nasdaq composite dropped 1.5% today, to 7,453, the level it first reached in January 2018, also going nowhere in nearly 17 months despite a huge bout of volatility. It fell 8.7% in May. The Russell 2000 index, which covers stocks with smaller market capitalization, fell 1.3% today, to 1,478. It’s down 9.2% in May alone, down 15.7% from its October 2018 peak, and right back where it had first been on September 26, 2017, a very volatile 20 months of going nowhere. Chart looking ugly (data via Investing.com):

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This just might go horribly wrong.

Mexico Tariffs May Hurt $600 Billion In Cross-Border Trade, US Economy (MW)

The U.S. economy could suffer a wrenching blow, business leaders and economists say, if President Trump follows through on his threat to slap tariffs on all imports from Mexico in a dispute over immigration controls. The president on Thursday said he would apply a 5% tariff on $350 billion in imports from Mexico unless the country reduces the flow of immigrants seeking to enter the United States. The surprise move slammed the stock market and prompted an immediate backlash from business. “These proposed tariffs would have devastating consequences,” said Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers. “Workers should not be forced to suffer because of the failure to fix our immigration system.”

Households could face higher prices for groceries and other key consumer staples, economists say. And businesses would have to pay more for key parts and materials, especially in the auto industry. “The duties represent a significant risk to business activity both north and south of the border,” said chief economist Gregory Daco of Oxford Economics. He said Mexico could be thrown into recession while U.S. growth could fall to 1% or less by 2020. The economies of the U.S. and Mexico have become inextricably intertwined in the quarter of a century since the North American Free Trade Agreement deal was signed in 1994. The two countries exchanged a whopping $612 billion in goods last year, making Mexico the third largest trading partner after Canada and China. More than $1.5 billion in products cross the border between the two countries every day.


Although Mexico is popularly known as the main U.S. source for avocados and tequila, the huge amount of products it sends to its northern neighbor each year touch almost every major segment of America’s economy. The U.S. imports enormous quantities of autos and parts, computer equipment, oil and gas, appliances and plastic and rubber products — not to mention fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, berries and melons. Mexican imports in 2018 hit a record $347 billion.

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Geez, is that still on?

Brazil Snubs Venezuelan Opposition Envoy As Doubts Rise On Guaido (R.)

Brazil withdrew an invitation to the envoy for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to present her diplomatic credentials, she said on Friday, and the government in Brasilia said it would decide later whether to accept them. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro still recognises Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela, his spokesman said. Guaido’s envoy, Maria Teresa Belandria, played down the idea that the snub reflected scepticism from Bolsonaro’s government. Diplomatic analysts said mounting evidence that a change of government in Venezuela is not imminent may have Bolsonaro and his aides wondering if they overplayed their support for Guaido.


Former military officers making up about a third of Brazil’s cabinet have been wary of provoking Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, warning against moves that could tip an economic and political crisis into violence across Brazil’s northern border. Belandria had been invited to present her credentials at the presidential palace along with ambassadors from other countries next Tuesday, but the government changed its mind. “I was uninvited,” she told Reuters, but went on to dismiss any suggestion the snub reflected diminished support for Guaido. “There will be another opportunity,” she said. “Brazil’s support continues to be strong, solid and decisive. It’s merely a protocol matter.”

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Julian on Google