Jul 292019
 
 July 29, 2019  Posted by at 8:41 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


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.

Read more …

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.”

Read more …

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”.

Read more …

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.”

Read more …

“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.”

Read more …

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.”

Read more …

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 …

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 062019
 
 July 6, 2019  Posted by at 9:15 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso Sleeper with shutters 1936

 

Mueller’s Own Report Undercuts Its Core Russia-Meddling Claims (Maté)
As You Celebrate Your Freedom, Remember Julian Assange (Nils Melzer)
Three Job-Market Data Points Investors Are Overlooking (Street)
Why Low Mortgage Rates Haven’t Goosed The Housing Market (HW)
Trump: Fed Doesn’t Know ‘What They’re Doing’ (AFP)
Fed Sheds $38 Billion in Treasuries, MBS in June, Dumps MBS at Record Pace (WS)
Turkey Sacks Central Bank Governor (AFP)
Ghosts of the Fourth (Kunstler)
Syriza Betrayed Its Principles – And The Greek People (G.)
The Ruling Class Are Not In Climate Denial, They Are in Control (CP)

 

 

Must read. Aaron Maté excellently hammers the final nails into the Mueller report. Ray McGovern commented: [Mueller} will call in sick on July 17; wanna bet?!

Mueller’s Own Report Undercuts Its Core Russia-Meddling Claims (Maté)

Mueller’s uncertainty over the theft and transfer of Democratic Party emails isn’t the only gap in his case. Another is his timeline of events – a critical component of any criminal investigation. The report’s timeline defies logic: According to its account, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announced the publication of the emails not only before he received the documents, but before he even communicated with the source that provided them. As the Mueller report confirms, on June 12, 2016, Assange told an interviewer, “We have upcoming leaks in relation to Hillary Clinton, which is great.” But Mueller reports that “WikiLeaks’s First Contact With Guccifer 2.0 and DC Leaks” comes two days after that announcement.

If Assange’s “First Contact” with DC Leaks came on June 14, and with Guccifer 2.0 on June 22, then what was Assange talking about on June 12? It is possible that Assange heard from another supposed Russian source before then; but if so, Mueller doesn’t know it. Instead the report offers the implausible scenario that their first contact came after Assange’s announcement. There is another issue with the report’s Guccifer 2.0-WikiLeaks timeline. Assange would have been announcing the pending release of stolen emails not just before he heard from the source, but also before he received the stolen emails. As noted earlier, Mueller suggested that WikiLeaks received the stolen material from Guccifer 2.0 “on or around” July 14 – a full month after Assange publicly announced that he had them.

Read more …

Nils Melzer is the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. He finally got an op-ed published, in Newsweek.

“It is about drowning his radical challenge to government secrecy, which holds the power to change world affairs forever, inspired by the truths and principles proclaimed in the 1776 Declaration.”

As You Celebrate Your Freedom, Remember Julian Assange (Nils Melzer)

[..] But how do you break a political dissident, a promoter of truth and transparency? Well, first you attack his reputation and credibility, and destroy his human dignity. You maintain a constant trickle of poisonous rumors, first half-truths and then increasingly bold lies. You keep him suspected of rape without trial, of hacking and spying, and of smearing feces on Embassy walls. You portray him as an ungrateful narcissist with a cat and a skateboard, whose only aim is self-glorifying exceptionalism. By making him unlikeable in the eyes of the world, you ensure no one will feel any empathy, so once his voice is muzzled and his isolation complete, he can be burned at the stake with impunity.

Most importantly, having degraded him to a clown for the entertainment of all, you will have diverted attention from his spotlight on your own crimes. Next, you make sure that any attempt of his to expose your lies comes at the cost of extradition to a hanging judge in a land bent to see his head on a stick, where torturers enjoy impunity. You then pressure his country of refuge into submission – military and economic leverage never fail – and you turn his protectors into enemies, and his daily existence into attritive hell. The method is deliberate, concerted, and sustained, and employs isolation, hostility, and shame. Whether you call it “bullying,” “mobbing,” or “persecution” – in essence it is all the same.

It purposefully inflicts severe mental suffering and aims to coerce, punish, and intimidate. It is thus, under international law, nothing else than full-fledged psychological torture. Mind you, psychological torture is neither ‘soft’ nor ‘light’. It aims straight at the destruction of your innermost self, albeit without leaving a physical trace. It targets your emotions, your mind and your dignity, and instills chronic shame and anxiety. Through relentless over-stimulation, confusion and stress, it eventually causes total exhaustion, cardiovascular failure and nervous collapse.

Let us not be fooled, extraditing Assange was never about hacking, rape, espionage or narcissism. It is about drowning his radical challenge to government secrecy, which holds the power to change world affairs forever, inspired by the truths and principles proclaimed in the 1776 Declaration. That is why the powerful persecute Assange with ferocity, while proven war criminals are allowed to walk free.

Read more …

224,000 new jobs sounds nice, but then you notice the US labor force has actually contracted by more than 600,000 workers this year…

Three Job-Market Data Points Investors Are Overlooking (Street)

Friday’s government report showed 224,000 added jobs, beating economists’ expectations of 140,000. The unemployment rate currently stands at 3.7%, but GDP growth has been slowly fading from a current-boom high of 4% in August 2018, and inflation has remained at around 2%. The Federal Reserve had initially planned to raise interest rates four times in 2019 — before rapidly falling economic forecasts prompted investors to sell off stocks to end 2018. Now, the Fed is considering cutting rates. When one considers a few more economic data points, the picture doesn’t necessarily get better. The S&P 500 fell 0.9% Friday, as investors worried the Fed may reconsider cutting rates.


The labor-participation rate is the elephant in the room. For the past few years skeptics have said the low participation rate is tainting the reported unemployment percentage. Jobless statistics account only for people seeking jobs or participating. They don’t count those who are not participating. The U.S.’s current labor-participation rate is 62.9%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, down from 66% in 2007, just before the financial crisis. “The number remains low,” Danielle DiMartino Booth, former adviser to the president of the Dallas Fed and founder and CEO of Quill Intelligence, told TheStreet. As for GDP, “There is no feasible way to reflect the labor-participation rate, and therefore you don’t get the full story when you see the GDP numbers,” she said. “The Fed’s dual mandate is to maximize employment. We’re not seeing that happen because were seeing a decline in the labor-participation rate.”

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Because: “Probably half the population is living pretty close to the edge.”

Why Low Mortgage Rates Haven’t Goosed The Housing Market (HW)

American household income fell in May, even with the unemployment rate at the lowest level in almost 50 years. Median household income fell 0.6% from the prior month to $63,799, according to a report by Sentier Research on Tuesday. That’s combined gross wages plus retirement and military benefits of all people sharing a housing unit. The unemployment rate in April and May was 3.6%, the lowest since December 1969. Stagnant or even falling wages are making it tougher for Americans to get mortgages to buy homes, evan as loan rates fall, according to Robert Dietz, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders. While corporate profits and C-suite compensation have spiraled higher during the economic expansion, workers haven’t had much to celebrate, he said.

Adjusted for inflation, household income has barely budged over the last two decades, according to Sentier Research. “When you’re talking about affordability, you’re not just talking about mortgage interest rates – you’re talking about home prices and household income,” Dietz said in an interview. “Since the end of the Great Recession, while we’ve had a very good improvement in the unemployment rate, wage growth has been lackluster.” Mortgage rates are near three-year lows, according to Freddie Mac. But that hasn’t sparked the buying activity it has in the past, Dietz said. In the past year, there have been some months that showed acceleration in household income, but the numbers have remained “lackluster,” he said.


“We have seen a pretty dramatic and quick decline in mortgage interest rates, but so far we haven’t seen a very noticeable uptick in home construction and home-sale activity,” Dietz said. [..] Lackluster wage growth has kept a portion of U.S. workers living from paycheck to paycheck, said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics. He pointed to a Federal Reserve report in May that said about 40% of American adults wouldn’t be able to cover a $400 emergency without resorting to credit cards they couldn’t pay off right away. “It’s indicative of the financial fragility of a large chunk of the population,” Zandi said in an interview. “Probably half the population is living pretty close to the edge.”

Read more …

The Fed as a power tool. Be careful with that.

Trump: Fed Doesn’t Know ‘What They’re Doing’ (AFP)

US President Donald Trump on Friday lobbed another attack on the Federal Reserve, accusing it of incompetence for failing to stimulate the economy. “If we had a Fed that would lower interest rates, we would be like a rocket ship,” he told reporters at the White House. “But we don’t have a Fed that knows what they’re doing.” Wall Street stocks were lower on Friday morning, with investors believing strong June jobs data could make the Fed less likely to cut interest rates this month. The Labor Department announced job creation had zoomed higher in June, with employers adding a much-higher-than-expected 224,000 net new positions for the month.


“Those were really unexpectedly good and our country continues to do really well really, really well so we’re very happy about,” Trump said Friday of the employment numbers. “We’re going to be breaking records.” Trump since last year has excoriated the central bank and its chairman, Jerome Powell, in particular, shattering recent political norms according to which presidents refrained from commenting on monetary policy. Powell has brushed off Trump’s jibes, insisting on the Fed’s political independence.

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They’re not sitting still.

Fed Sheds $38 Billion in Treasuries, MBS in June, Dumps MBS at Record Pace (WS)

In June, the Fed shed Treasury securities at the slower pace announced in its new plan for QT, but it dumped Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) at the fastest rate since the QE unwind started, breaching its “up to” cap for the first time. And it is experimenting with the opposite of its QE-era “Operation Twist” – Operation Untwist? Total assets at the Fed fell by $34 billion in June, as of the balance sheet for the week ended July 3, released Friday afternoon. This includes $15 billion in Treasury securities and a record $23 billion in MBS, for a total of $38 billion, less some other balance-sheet activities unrelated to the QE unwind. This trimmed its total assets to $3.813 trillion, the lowest since September 2013. Since the beginning of the “balance sheet normalization” era, the Fed has shed $648 billion. Since peak-QE in January 2015, it has shed $687 billion:

The Fed doesn’t sell its Treasury holdings outright. But when securities mature, the US Treasury Department pays them off, and the Fed then doesn’t reinvest this money in new securities. Instead, it destroys this money in the reverse manner in which it created it during QE. But the Fed has announced caps — the “up to” amounts. If the amount of Treasuries that mature in a given month exceed the cap, the Fed reinvests the overage in new Treasuries. Under the Fed’s new regime, the maximum amount of Treasury securities allowed to roll off when they mature was $15 billion in June. And that’s what happened.


In June, three issues matured, for a total of about $21 billion. The Treasury Department redeemed them and paid the Fed for them. The Fed reinvested $6 billion of this money into new Treasury securities but allowed $15 billion to roll off without replacement. So the balance of Treasuries dropped by $15 billion, to $2.095 trillion, the lowest since September 2013:

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Hey, if Erdogan can do it…

Turkey Sacks Central Bank Governor (AFP)

Turkey has sacked the governor of its central bank and replaced him with his deputy, a presidential decree published in the official gazette said on Saturday. Murat Cetinkaya, who was appointed to the role in April 2016, had been replaced by Murat Uysal, the decree said, but gave no official reason for the change. There had been recent speculation that Cetinkaya could be replaced amid disagreements with the government on cutting interest rates. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly railed against high interest rates and called for them to be lowered in a bid to stimulate growth. Erdogan once called high rates the “mother and father of all evil”.


Turkey’s main interest rate is 24 percent after the bank under Cetinkaya made an aggressive rate hike of 625 basis points last September following a currency crisis in August. Uysal said he would continue to use monetary policy tools “independently” while remaining focused on ensuring price stability as his “main aim”, according to a central bank statement. Uysal, who had served as deputy governor since June 2016, will hold a press conference in the coming days, the bank said. Turkish inflation fell to 15.72 percent in June from 18.71 percent in May, official statistics showed on Wednesday, the lowest rate in nearly a year.

Read more …

“Today, we remain hostages to the automobile, with its geography-negating banality, but you can see the end of that road from here, too, and it is already subject to a very public nostalgia.”

Ghosts of the Fourth (Kunstler)

We heard there was a good parade up in Salem, NY, ten miles northeast of here. Salem was a railroad town after 1852. It changed everything for a while. Farmers could send their potatoes and milk all the way to Boston. Slate was abundant nearby and there was a lively commerce in it for roofing and other things. Marble came over from Vermont and was dressed into tombstone blanks, which were sent as far as the Midwest. The railroad itself employed scores of hands in the roundhouse where its locomotives were repaired. This rail connection to distant places and markets must have seemed wondrous. The system held together for less than 100 years and now it, too, is a ghost presence, along with the factories.

History has treated this corner of the country with something that feels like swift injustice. Today, we remain hostages to the automobile, with its geography-negating banality, but you can see the end of that road from here, too, and it is already subject to a very public nostalgia. The Fourth of July parade up in Salem was mostly a parade of motor vehicles: fire engines, EMT trucks, tractors, vintage 1920s flivvers, 1960s muscle cars, one classic hot-rod, and one weird Avanti, a mid-60s product of the then-floundering Studebaker Company — which, ironically, had run a wagon and carriage assembly factory in Salem around 1910, just as cars were being introduced.


The economic history of this place looks like a sequence of great works performed at enormous capital investment, and then quickly trashed for the next new thing. It must have been intoxicating at the time. I’d put the high-tide of it all at about 1900, when all the systems of manufacturing and transport were humming in synchrony. Turns out it was an economy with a surprising purpose: to get rid of itself! And it’s stunning how gone it all is now. What replaced it is not only happening far, far away, but many items made far, far away can’t even be bought within a twenty-mile journey of any town in the county.

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Tomorrow Greece will elect a right wing government. Life will get even harder.

Syriza Betrayed Its Principles – And The Greek People (G.)

In January 2015, progressives the world over hailed Syriza’s general election victory as a rejection of EU-imposed austerity and the dawn of a new era for Greece. Four years on, Alexis Tsipras’s once radical party goes to the polls on Sunday as a dead man walking – it’s now a confused political mishmash of leftists, social democrats, conservatives and rightwing populists that defends the very neoliberal policies Syriza once threatened to destroy the eurozone over. The party’s main difference from its rightwing rival, New Democracy, is a laughable persistence in claiming to be a party of the left. Its government record shows greater zeal in implementing the neoliberal programme of the European troika – the consortium of the European commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF – in the years since the 2008 financial crisis than any of its conservative predecessors.

Tsipras goes to the polls on Sunday having already suffered a major setback in the European elections in May. In its first contest since the national election of September 2015, Syriza saw its share of the vote plummet, confirming the party’s slump since its peak four years ago. The party’s own ministers attributed its defeat in May to the unpopularity of austerity and the controversial Prespa agreement, resolving the decades-long dispute over Macedonia’s name. Centre-right opponents, however, portray the result as a rejection of what they call Syriza’s populism. Both explanations, however, are inadequate. The painful truth about Syriza is that it has ruled Greece for four years as a party suffering from identity loss and diminishing credibility.

Its record in government has been so full of compromises and retreats that it now hovers across the political spectrum like an amorphous haze – a phantom of its old self, without much shape or substance. Tsipras’s cabinet includes ministers who have defected from almost every other party in parliament, even several hard-right populists from the Independent Greeks. Much of this goes back to the summer of 2015, when Tsipras made an astonishing U-turn, accepting the troika’s bailout deal with many strings attached, including austerity until 2060 and revenue from privatisations going to an international fund until 2114. What Syriza fails to grasp, is that, besides the toxic deal itself, the deceitful manner in which it accepted and implemented it caused a deep political and cultural trauma among Greek progressives.

Exit polls from the European elections show that “desire to punish Syriza for its unfulfilled promises” was a key voter sentiment as the pain of austerity lingers. [..] Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “I can tell you how to fail: try to please everybody.” On Sunday Syriza will be crushed because it broke this cardinal rule.

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“When Trump and the Republicans deny climate change, when Pelosi, Pallone, Perez, Biden and Obama join with Trump in sabotaging the Green New Deal or dismissing climate action as too expensive, too dreamy, not practical or too pure — they are all bold-faced liars and frauds.”

The Ruling Class Are Not In Climate Denial, They Are in Control (CP)

The ruling class may be an utter failure but that is not stopping them taking aggressive action on climate change. Their chief concern: maintaining power, control and profits at all costs. The plan is well underway and it sure ain’t the Green New Deal. Just imagine a more extreme version of the world that already exists: where healthcare is rationed; where wealth inequality strangles democracy; where austerity is a weapon of class warfare; where millions die prematurely from toxins in air and water; where war and incarceration is the solution of choice; where people are rounded up in concentration camps; where corporations rule unchallenged; where extreme weather wrecks havoc in an expanding circle of misery. The only new thing about their solution is the stench of fascism that grows ever stronger and more odious.

When Trump and the Republicans deny climate change, when Pelosi, Pallone, Perez, Biden and Obama join with Trump in sabotaging the Green New Deal or dismissing climate action as too expensive, too dreamy, not practical or too pure — they are all bold-faced liars and frauds. The Republicans know full well that their partners in crime — oil companies, bankers and the military brass have known about climate change for decades. And, the corporate Democrats know that these same powerful players they too represent already have a risky plan to deal with climate change. From their shared perspective, even the Democrat’s Green New Deal, despite its weaknesses, must be marginalized since it competes with the establishment’s plans for our future.


To maintain power they need to limit our thinking. The two most important narratives imposed on us are climate change as a “threat to national security” and as a “business opportunity” — the twin rationales for military and corporate power. They want to focus us on how to manage the crisis, profit from it, or adapt to it, instead of opposing it. Once framed in this way the very institutions responsible for climate change can benefit from disaster while hiding their responsibility for creating the crisis. But the military-corporate management of the crisis will undoubtedly follow the same principles that created the crisis: the costs of pollution, adaptation, endless growth and war won’t appear in the corporate ledger.

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UNESCO lists Iraq’s Babylon as World Heritage Site

 

 

 

 

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


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 072019
 
 June 7, 2019  Posted by at 9:44 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


René Magritte L’empire des lumières 1949

 

Assange Persecution Very Similar To Historic Witch-Hunts – Melzer (Can.)
Belmarsh Prison Inmate Provides Photos of Julian Assange (Cassandra)
Police Raids Raise Fears Of Australian Media Crackdown (G.)
The Fed Can’t Help Housing or Autos at This Point (DDMB)
Fed Signals It Will Use QE Aggressively To Fight Next Recession (MW)
That America Is Gone (PCR)
Key Figure Mueller Linked To Russia Was State Department Intel Source (Hill)
Putin Says Russia Prepared To Drop START Nuclear Arms Treaty (AFP)
Russia Must Change Behavior For Better Relations: UK PM May’s Spokeswoman (R.)
Next Tory PM Will Not Be Able To Suspend Parliament – Bercow (G.)
‘Surveillance Capitalism’: Toronto Urged To Abandon Smart City Project (G.)
Microplastics Have Invaded The Deep Ocean – And The Food Chain (NPR)

 

 

Excerpts from an interview the Canary had with UN torture expert Nils Melzer

Assange Persecution Very Similar To Historic Witch-Hunts – Melzer (Can.)

In today’s information age, the media have an extraordinary power to shape public opinion, and no one is exempt from their influence. The media are a veritable ‘fourth power’ in the state next to the traditional branches of government, controlling not only what is said and shown, but also what is not disseminated and, therefore, is withheld from the public. This enormous power comes with an equally enormous ethical responsibility. Many media outlets and individual journalists have shown a remarkable lack of critical independence and have contributed significantly to spreading abusive and deliberately distorted narratives about Mr Assange.

When the media find it more appropriate to spread humiliating jokes about Mr Assange’s cat, his skateboard and his faeces, than to challenge governments consistently refusing to hold their officials accountable for wars of aggression, corruption and serious international crimes, they demonstrate a deplorable lack of responsibility, decency and respect not only towards Mr Assange, but also towards their own readers, hearers and viewers, whom they are supposed to inform and empower. It is a bit like being served poisoned junk food at a restaurant – a betrayal of trust with potentially serious consequences.

[..] By making Mr Assange ‘unlikeable’ and ridiculous in public opinion, an environment was created in which no one would feel empathy with him, very similar to the historic witch-hunts, or to modern situations of mobbing at the workplace or in school. Once totally isolated, it would be easy to violate Mr Assange’s most fundamental rights without provoking public outrage. If the involved states get away with persecuting Mr Assange without ever prosecuting the crimes exposed by him, they will have established a dangerous precedent of impunity threatening freedom of press and opinion worldwide, and they will also have seriously undermined the accountability of government officials for crime and corruption under the rule of law. So there is much at stake here for every single one of us, and everyone should use the democratic means at their disposal to inform themselves, make their voice heard and hold their government accountable.

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• Note: the photos are from before Assange fell gravely ill.

• New charges vs Assange, to be filed on June 14, are to be based on testimony from a convicted pedophile, Sigi Thordarson, who stole $50,000 from WikiLeaks, then fled to the FBI when caught.

• Next hearing, planned for 12 June has now also been moved to 14 June. The hearing will be in Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court.

• Kim Dotcom on Twitter: “The US Department of Justice has nothing to do with Justice. Here’s just another example. After everything I’ve seen so far I can say with confidence that there will be no extradition of Julian Assange. The charges are ludicrous and the evidence is non-existent. Typical DOJ.”

Belmarsh Prison Inmate Provides Photos of Julian Assange (Cassandra)

The Gateway Pundit has obtained exclusive testimony, as well as photos, from a fellow inmate of imprisoned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange inside London’s highest security prison. The inmate, who wishes to remain anonymous, sent multiple photos of Assange from inside Belmarsh maximum security prison and spoke to The Gateway Pundit about the WikiLeaks founder’s situation using a contraband phone he has inside. Along with the photos from inside the prison, the inmate pushed a fundraiser — causing supporters to worry that he was attempting to extort WikiLeaks or harm Assange by violating his privacy. The Gateway Pundit reached out to him to get his side of the story.

This reporter spoke to the inmate through a series of online messages and a phone call for multiple hours on Wednesday evening. At the beginning of the conversation I asked him if he was a prisoner or someone who works there — and if his motive was to extort money from the organization. “I’m in prison right now,” he said, sending a photo from inside his cell. “Extort him for what reason? He exposed the biggest scandals in the world. Whose side do you think someone in prison would be on? The government who have us locked up in here or a fellow prisoner who actually doesn’t deserve to be here?” The photos feature Assange prior to his illness and being moved to the prison’s hospital wing last month. We have not been able to verify if Assange is aware of the existence of the photographs.

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Does Australia have any laws at all?

Police Raids Raise Fears Of Australian Media Crackdown (G.)

Annika Smethurst, the political editor of Australia’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper, was preparing to leave her Canberra home shortly before 9am on Tuesday morning. When she heard a knock at the front door, she assumed it was her cleaner. Instead there were five federal police officers on the doorstep, pursuing evidence relating to a story she had written more than 12 months earlier. The police presented their warrants. The journalist told them she wanted a lawyer. Two legal representatives arrived at her house shortly afterwards. The search started in Smethurst’s bedroom. While that was under way, another two officers arrived with electronic equipment to go through her phone and computers. The police wanted access to all her electronic equipment.

They asked for her passwords, downloaded the contents of her phone on to their computer and used keyword searches to check the stored data. While the electronic dump was under way, police looked under Smethurst’s bed, through her clothes, handbags and sewing basket, through the spare room, through her cookbooks and stored Christmas decorations. They picked up 20 USBs in the house and checked them. The search spanned seven hours, with the group leaving about 4.30pm. “I felt shocked,” Smethurst told the Guardian. “I was very cooperative, and to be fair, they were too. They had a warrant. There was very little I could do apart from sitting down and watching them go through the search.

“But it’s a very confronting thing, watching somebody go through the house you’ve lived in for five years. It was uncomfortable. “I was very stressed when they were on my phone. Obviously as a journalist, my business model relies on people being able to ring me and talk to me anonymously, with that information not being seen by anyone else, then all of a sudden, police had access to it, and it was an incredible invasion of privacy.” Tuesday’s raid in Canberra, which came without any warning, was connected to a scoop revealing a plan by one of Australia’s surveillance agencies, the Australian Signals Directorate, to broaden its powers to spy on citizens without their knowledge. It was published in April 2018, and referred immediately for police investigation.

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Maxumum bubble has been reached.

The Fed Can’t Help Housing or Autos at This Point (DDMB)

Hopes are running high that potential interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve will support the auto and housing sectors, two parts of the economy that are sensitive to borrowing costs. The risk, though, is rising that any relief won’t come until after these critical leaders of the current economic cycle have already fallen into contraction. Headed into the promotion-heavy Memorial Day weekend, analysts spoke of automakers finally succumbing to the need to spur car sales with deep discounts. What’s remarkable is the line manufacturers have been able to hold off on incentives, which fell for 11 straight months, according to TrueCar Inc.’s ALG data and analytics unit. While shareholders have applauded the safeguarding of profit margins as inventories piled up, the pressure to match supply and demand has given way to three months – and counting – of production cuts.

The rapid rate at which auto layoffs are rising suggest a spillover into the broader economy. Challenger, Gray and Christmas notes that the almost 20,000 announced layoffs in the first four months of the year were up 207% over the same period of 2018. “Job cuts in this sector are likely to continue, especially with the implementation of additional tariffs on Chinese goods,” Andrew Challenger, the firm’s vice president, wrote in a report. “Automakers and suppliers will feel the pressure, which may lead to more cuts.” It’s one thing to have a continuation of losses in the beleaguered retail sector, but the loss of high-paying jobs in both autos and industrials threaten to further hobble the housing market.

Connecting autos to housing isn’t a stretch. Fed officials have maintained that the recent slowdown in inflation would be “transitory” in nature. History, however, reminds us that one form of inflation is anything but passing once in nature. Home prices largely held their gains after recovering in the wake of the last recession. Recently, though, there’s been a downtick in the rate of those gains. Home price appreciation fell to an 11-month low in April, based on a three-month moving average of purchases using Federal Housing Finance Agency data.

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Just bonkers.

Fed Signals It Will Use QE Aggressively To Fight Next Recession (MW)

The Federal Reserve’s two-day Chicago strategy conference laid the groundwork for the aggressive use of asset purchases, known as quantitative easing, to counter the next recession, experts who attended the forum said. With short-term interest rates in a range of 2.25%-2.5%, the Fed does not have a lot of ammunition to fight the next downturn. In the past, the Fed was able to slash rates by 5 percentage points to stimulate the economy as needed. So the Fed is going to use “pretty aggressive, desperate, measures,” to stem the next recession, said Adam Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “If you thought you saw QE before, this is going to be QE squared,” Posen said. The Fed bought almost $4 trillion in assets during the Great Recession some 10 years ago to bring down long-term interest rates and stimulate the economy.


Posen and former Fed governor Randy Krozner said the Fed used the conference to prepare the public, lawmakers and the markets to the likely implementation again of this unconventional policy tool. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and his top deputy, Vice Chairman Richard Clarida, want to short-circuit any political opposition and bottlenecks that greeted former Fed chief Ben Bernanke’s first use of asset purchases during the Great Recession. “The next time policy rates hit the effective lower bound [i.e. zero] — and there will be a next time — it will not be a surprise. We are now well aware of the challenges the ELB presents, and we have the painful experience of the global financial crisis and its aftermath to guide us,” Powell said in a speech opening the conference.

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“Corporate boards and executives achieved “performance” by reducing labor costs by moving jobs offshore and by using profits and borrowing in order to buy back the company’s shares..”

That America Is Gone (PCR)

As the Federal Reserve’s low interest rate policy has not served ordinary Americans or spurred investment in new plant and equipment, who has it served? The answer is corporate executives and shareholders. As the liquidity supplied by the Federal Reserve has gone mainly into the prices of financial assets, it is the owners of these assets who have benefited from the Federal Reserve’s policy. Years ago Congress in its unwisdom capped the amount of executive pay that could be deducted as a business expense at one million dollars unless performance related. What “performance related” means is a rise in profits and share price.

Corporate boards and executives achieved “performance” by reducing labor costs by moving jobs offshore and by using profits and borrowing in order to buy back the company’s shares, thus driving up the price. In other words, corporate leaders and owners benefited by harming the US economy, the careers and livelihoods of the American work force, and their own companies. This is the reason for the extraordinary worsening of the income and wealth distribution in the United States that is polarizing the US into a handful of mega-rich and a multitude of have-nots.

The America I grew up in was an opportunity society. There were ladders of upward mobility that could be climbed on merit alone without requiring family status or social and political connections. Instate college tuition was low. Most families could manage it, and the students of those families that could not afford the cost worked their way through university with part time jobs. Student loans were unknown. That America is gone. The few economists capable of thought wonder about the high price/earnings ratios of US stocks and the 26,000 Dow Jones when stock buy-backs indicate that US corporations see no investment opportunities. How can stock prices be so high when corporations see no growth in US consumer income that would justify investment in the US?

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It’s on. And don’t worry, you don’t have to choose a side.

Key Figure Mueller Linked To Russia Was State Department Intel Source (Hill)

In a key finding of the Mueller report, Ukrainian businessman Konstantin Kilimnik, who worked for Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is tied to Russian intelligence. But hundreds of pages of government documents — which special counsel Robert Mueller possessed since 2018 — describe Kilimnik as a “sensitive” intelligence source for the U.S. State Department who informed on Ukrainian and Russian matters. Why Mueller’s team omitted that part of the Kilimnik narrative from its report and related court filings is not known. But the revelation of it comes as the accuracy of Mueller’s Russia conclusions face increased scrutiny.

The incomplete portrayal of Kilimnik is so important to Mueller’s overall narrative that it is raised in the opening of his report. “The FBI assesses” Kilimnik “to have ties to Russian intelligence,” Mueller’s team wrote on page 6, putting a sinister light on every contact Kilimnik had with Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman. What it doesn’t state is that Kilimnik was a “sensitive” intelligence source for State going back to at least 2013 while he was still working for Manafort, according to FBI and State Department memos I reviewed. Kilimnik was not just any run-of-the-mill source, either. He interacted with the chief political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, sometimes meeting several times a week to provide information on the Ukraine government.

He relayed messages back to Ukraine’s leaders and delivered written reports to U.S. officials via emails that stretched on for thousands of words, the memos show. The FBI knew all of this, well before the Mueller investigation concluded. Alan Purcell, the chief political officer at the Kiev embassy from 2014 to 2017, told FBI agents that State officials, including senior embassy officials Alexander Kasanof and Eric Schultz, deemed Kilimnik to be such a valuable asset that they kept his name out of cables for fear he would be compromised by leaks to WikiLeaks.

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Worst idea ever.

Putin Says Russia Prepared To Drop START Nuclear Arms Treaty (AFP)

President Vladimir Putin said Thursday Russia was prepared to drop a nuclear weapons treaty with the US and warned of “global catastrophe” if Washington keeps dismantling an international arms control regime. Speaking to heads of international news agencies at an economic forum in the city of Saint Petersburg, Putin said Washington showed no genuine interest in conducting talks on extending the New START treaty which caps the number of nuclear warheads well below Cold War limits. “If no-one feels like extending the agreement — New START — well, we won’t do it then,” Putin said.


“We have said a hundred times that we are ready (to extend it),” Putin said. “There is no formal negotiating process.” The treaty was signed by US President Barack Obama and Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in Prague in 2010. It expires in 2021. Together with another agreement known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, New START is considered a centrepiece of superpower arms control. Moscow suspended participation in the INF treaty in March after President Donald Trump’s White House announced it would ditch the key agreement for alleged Russian violations of the terms.

Putin said he was puzzled by the absence of a global discussion. “Will anyone think about it, speak up, show some concern?” the Russian leader said. “No — total silence.” Putin said he discussed the issue with Trump during their phone talks in early May. “Donald told me that he is also concerned,” Putin said, adding that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo whom he hosted the same month also spoke “in a similar vein.” “If they think like this, then it is necessary to take practical steps towards joint work,” the Kremlin chief said. Putin said all nuclear powers — both officially recognised as possessing nuclear weapons and not — should take part in future talks. “We have to create a broad platform for discussions and decision-making,” Putin said. “That could be the light at the end of the tunnel.”

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Ha ha. Full of emptiness.

Russia Must Change Behavior For Better Relations: UK PM May’s Spokeswoman (R.)

Britain’s relationship with Russia can only change when Moscow changes its behavior, Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokeswoman said on Thursday, after President Vladimir Putin said he hoped for better relations under her successor. Putin said he hoped a new British prime minister would work toward improving bilateral relations, badly soured last year by the poisoning of a former Russian double agent in England that London blamed on Moscow. The spokeswoman told reporters: “We have been clear that Russia’s pattern of aggression and destabilizing behavior undermines its claims to be a responsible international partner. “We will continue to engage with Russia on matters of international security as this is in the UK’s national interest … however the PM has made clear on numerous occasions we can only have a different relationship if Russia changes its behavior.”

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Don’t like parliament? No problem.

Next Tory PM Will Not Be Able To Suspend Parliament – Bercow (G.)

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, has said it is “blindingly obvious” that the new Conservative prime minister will not be able to suspend parliament to push through a no-deal Brexit. The Speaker said it would not be an option after outrage across the political spectrum when the leadership hopeful Dominic Raab suggested he might try to take that path. “That is simply not going to happen. It is just so blindingly obvious that it almost doesn’t need to be stated, but apparently, it does and therefore I have done,” he told MPs. Matt Hancock, another Tory leadership contender, called for all his rivals to rule out the possibility of ending the parliamentary session to stop MPs from voting on whether there should be a no-deal Brexit. He said it undermined parliamentary democracy and risked a general election.


Rory Stewart, another contender, called the suggestion “unconstitutional” and “undemocratic”, adding: “It wouldn’t work.” Andrea Leadsom and Boris Johnson are also among those who have said they would not pursue such an option in order to take the UK out of the EU without a deal on 31 October. Amid suggestions it could even be unconstitutional, Valerie Vaz, the shadow leader of the Commons, asked the government for clarity on whether prorogation to avoid a decision from parliament would be allowed. In response, Mel Stride, the leader of the Commons, said prorogation was “ultimately in the gift of the Queen”, adding: “What I would say is, that I do think Her Majesty should be kept out of the politics of our parliament.

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I guess it’s just that “smart city” sounds kinds good. Better than “surveillance city”.

‘Surveillance Capitalism’: Toronto Urged To Abandon Smart City Project (G.)

A “smart city” project in Canada has hit yet another snag, as mounting delays and privacy concerns threaten the controversial development along the Toronto’s eastern waterfront. The 12-acre Quayside project, a partnership between Google’s Sidewalk Labs and the city of Toronto, has come under increasing scrutiny amid concerns over privacy and data harvesting. This week, the US venture capitalist Roger McNamee warned that technology companies such as Google cannot be trusted to safely manage the data they collect on residents. “The smart city project on the Toronto waterfront is the most highly evolved version to date of … surveillance capitalism”, he wrote to the city council, suggesting Google will use “algorithms to nudge human behavior” in ways to “favor its business”.


McNamee, an early investor in Facebook and Google, is co-founder of Silver Lake Partners, one of the world’s largest technology investors. But in recent years, he has soured on many of the technology giants and their handling of data and privacy concerns. “No matter what Google is offering, the value to Toronto cannot possibly approach the value your city is giving up,” he wrote, pleading with officials to abandon the project. “It is a dystopian vision that has no place in a democratic society.”

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Literally everywhere.

Microplastics Have Invaded The Deep Ocean – And The Food Chain (NPR)

The largest habitat for life on Earth is the deep ocean. It’s home to everything from jellyfish to giant bluefin tuna. But the deep ocean is being invaded by tiny pieces of plastic — plastic that people thought was mostly floating at the surface, and in amounts they never imagined. Very few people have looked for microplastic concentrations at mid- to deep-ocean depths. But there’s a place along the California coast where it’s relatively easy: The edge of the continent takes a steep dive into the deep ocean at Monterey Bay. Whales and white sharks swim these depths just a few miles offshore. [..] “The deep ocean is the largest ecosystem on the planet,” says Van Houtan, “and we don’t know anything about the plastic in the deep ocean.”


Scientists do know about plastic floating on the surface, and have tried to measure how much there is. The Great Pacific garbage patch is just one of many giant eddies in the oceans where enormous amounts of plastic waste collects. But beneath the surface? Not much. So Ventana made several dives to collect water samples at different depths. Technicians filtered the water, looking for microplastic, the tiny fragments and fibers you can barely see. “What we found was actually pretty surprising,” Van Houtan says. “We found that most of the plastic is below the surface.” More, he says, than in the giant floating patches. And also to their surprise, they found that submerged microplastics are widely distributed, from the surface to thousands of feet deep.


The deep ocean is filled with sea creatures like giant larvaceans. They’re actually the size of tadpoles, but they’re surrounded by a yard-wide bubble of mucus that collects food — and plastic. Courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

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


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
 
 June 1, 2019  Posted by at 8:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


 

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