Sep 062019
 


Claude Monet Éretrat sunset 1882-3

 

The Trade War Is Smart Geopolitics (NR)
China’s Growth Is Slowing, but not Because of the Trade War (PIIE)
The Ugly Truth About The Trade War (Alt-M)
Fed QE Unwind Continues Via Sharp Drop In MBS (WS)
Trump Administration Backs Privatizing Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac (MW)
Is Armed Conflict Possible in Today’s Europe? (Spiegel)
Boris Johnson: I’d Rather Be Dead In a Ditch Than Delay Brexit (BBC)
Hong Kong Braces For More Protests As Merkel Calls For Peaceful Solution (R.)
The Pentagon Wants More Control Over the News. What Could Go Wrong? (Taibbi)
Germany Announces Plan to Ban Glyphosate (CD)
Targeting the Tongass National Forest for Amazon-like Destruction (CP)
They Want Him Dead As A Warning (Maurizi)

 

 

A bunch of views on the trade war. I’d say take your pick. Something for everyone.

The Trade War Is Smart Geopolitics (NR)

Why is our industrial supply chain located inside of an adversary? Why does our military readiness therefore depend on that adversary? Why are American companies allowed to transfer critical technologies to China in exchange for short-term market access? Why can Tesla build self-driving cars in Shanghai? Why can Google run an AI lab in Beijing after canceling an AI contract with the Pentagon? The free traders have an answer: because the market wills it. But of course, markets have no reason to prefer one global power over another, and there’s no market rule barring a surveillance state from winning the competition. In that competition, our ideological commitment to free trade is nearly as great a handicap as the Soviet Union’s commitment to central planning was during the Cold War.

Free trade with China means allowing its distortions into our market. Refusing to allow our government to “pick winners” by rejecting industrial-policy support to key sectors means that Beijing will pick winners for us. Depending on Ricardian comparative advantage to organize supply chains means, in effect, that we will watch helplessly as American innovations are transformed into growth-boosting industries elsewhere, as firms reap efficiency gains by locating their engineering and management operations next to their manufacturing. Inevitably, the innovation will depart too. A recent survey of 369 manufacturers found that American firms are moving their R&D operations to China not just to take advantage of lower costs, but to be in close proximity to their supply chains.

Some 50 percent of foreign R&D centers in China are now run by American companies, helping China achieve first place in market share for manufacturing R&D. If we remain neutral as to where supply chains are located, “we innovate, they build” will become “they innovate, they build.” China’s rise may be inevitable. But given the danger represented by that rise, America can choose to minimize its risk. It can reduce opportunities for China to erode the long-term competitive advantage of American firms through forced technology transfer and R&D migration, and reduce our dependence on Chinese manufacturing for crucial industrial and military supply chains. In a word: decoupling.

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China’s problem is the dollar. It’s not dependent on the US for its GDP, but that is a problem in itself. If exports to the US were larger, it would receive more dollars.

China’s Growth Is Slowing, but not Because of the Trade War (PIIE)

First, as is well known, US taxpayers, not Chinese consumers and companies, are bearing the burden of Trump’s tariffs. The president acknowledged as much when he postponed new tariffs on goods (such as toys and consumer electronics) likely to be purchased during the US holiday shopping season. US tariffs on imports from China will likely subtract about half a percentage point from US GDP growth in 2019.

But second, China’s growth began to slow long before the trade war started (see figure). The pace of growth has moderated from the double-digit pace of 2010 to only 6.2 percent in the most recent quarter. As for the assertion that the trade war has accelerated China’s economic decline, the facts show the opposite. As shown in the figure, the pace of the slowdown has moderated since the initial imposition of tariffs by the United States in July 2018. Most of the slowdown is the result of President Xi Jinping’s ill-advised policy choice of allocating credit and other resources to less efficient state firms rather than private firms. Moreover, since 2017, China has reduced the growth of credit overall in order to reduce financial risk at a time of growing corporate indebtedness, a trend that also contributes to slowing growth throughout the economy.

Third, properly measured, China’s dependence on exports to the United States is not as large as some, including President Trump, may think. China’s exports to the United States before tariffs were imposed ran at $500 billion annually, or 4 percent of its $12.25 trillion GDP, which in theory is a significant number. In fact, the percentage is far less. The potential impact of US tariffs on China’s growth needs to be adjusted to measure only value added by China. GDP is measured in value-added terms; US imports from China are measured in gross sales. The value-added share in US imports from China is about one-half, so the direct contribution to China’s GDP from its sales to the United States is approximately $250 billion or only 2 percent of China’s GDP.

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Brandon Smith doesn’t appear to fully agree with PIIE.

The Ugly Truth About The Trade War (Alt-M)

The US only comprises around 18% of Chinese exports. While this is a nice piece of the pie, it’s hardly enough leverage to bring down China’s economy. China would suffer profit losses in certain sectors as well as a recession, but not the kind of crisis that some in the alternative media are predicting. Around 40% of China’s GDP is generated domestically, and 80% of its GDP growth comes from private consumption. For quite some time I have warned that China was shifting its economic model from an export based system to a more self reliant domestic based system, and that this might be an indication of a coming economic war with the US. As it turns out, this is exactly what has happened. Since 2010, China’s domestic market has grown dramatically, indicating that China has no intention of relying on the US consumer as an economic pillar.

The US consumer is almost tapped out. While retail sales in certain areas remain steady and this has been used by the mainstream media and the Fed to promote the idea that the economy is still “going strong”, this is not the big picture. The reality is that US consumption is driven by historic levels of debt. Household debt is now FAR above levels last seen after the last financial crisis, with total debt at $1.2 trillion higher today than its last peak in 2008. The downturn in retail is more obvious in the steady closings of thousands of outlets in 2019 alone. This year has seen a 29% increase in store closings compared to 2018, even though 2018 saw a considerable spike in store shutdowns. Around 12,000 stores are slated to close this year.

So the question is, with the US consumer stretched thin by debt and US retail on the verge of a recessionary plunge, why would China feel threatened by the loss of the American consumer market? They are losing it already by attrition. The truth is they aren’t threatened, which is why, as I predicted last year, the trade war continues unabated despite the fact that so many people argued that China would “quickly fold” to Trump’s demands. I realize this is not what many people want to hear, but it is foolish to get caught up in a farcical mob mentality and ignore the fundamentals in the trade war. If you think that the US is going to “win” based on leverage, you are sorely mistaken. The US is in no better shape economically than China; in many ways we are much worse off.

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Close down the place before it can do even more harm.

Fed QE Unwind Continues Via Sharp Drop In MBS (WS)

In August, the Fed shed Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) at a rate that exceeded its self-imposed “cap” of $20 billion for the fourth month in a row, but added some Treasury securities, with a new emphasis on short-term Treasury bills. Total assets on the Fed’s balance sheet fell by $20 billion, to $3.76 trillion, as of the balance sheet for the week ended September 4, released this afternoon. This brought the balance sheet to the lowest level since September 2013. So far this year, the Fed has shed $314 billion in assets. Since the beginning of the “balance sheet normalization” process, the Fed has shed $700 billion. Since peak-QE in January 2015, it has shed $738 billion:

During the month of August, $70 billion in Treasury securities in the Fed’s portfolio matured and were redeemed by the US Treasury Department. The Fed replaced all those with new Treasury securities. This replacement would have kept its holdings level. Per its new plan to replace its MBS securities with Treasury securities – more on that in a moment – it added about $15 billion in Treasury securities, bringing the total to $2.095 trillion. This was the first monthly increase since the end of 2017, bringing its Treasury holdings back to the level of last July, and just above the September 2013 level:

As part of its new regime to shorten the overall maturity of its holdings, the Fed’s holdings now include $3 billion in Treasury bills (maturing in one year or less), up from zero a few months ago. After “Operation Twist,” which was layered between QE-2 and “QE Infinity,” the Fed had not held any Treasury bills. About four months ago, it started dabbling in them again, but in August it got serious. These T-bills replaced some of the MBS that ran off its balance sheet.

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Trump giveth and the Fed taketh away. End the Fed AND Fannie and Freddie.

Trump Administration Backs Privatizing Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac (MW)

The Trump administration said it would support returning mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to private hands, a development that could keep the companies at the center of the housing market for decades to come. The principles announced Thursday represent a major reversal from what leaders of both parties over the past decade promised — to abolish the companies, which guarantee roughly half the U.S. mortgage market. The approach, which doesn’t require approval by Congress, would mark an important win for investors who have been betting politicians wouldn’t follow through on those promises. Treasury officials said they would aim to privatize the government-controlled firms without making it tougher and more expensive for people to get mortgages.


They generally avoided making specific policy recommendations on how to accomplish these goals in a report released Thursday. They said they would work with federal regulators to flesh out the details on how to put Fannie and Freddie on a sounder financial footing as well as to curtail the firms’ roles in housing finance. The process could take years to implement and won’t affect existing mortgages. “Our view is that the government footprint has become too big,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in an interview ahead of Thursday’s report. ”There are people in Washington who are happy to leave this the way it is for another 10 or 20 years, and that’s not us. We feel an obligation to try to fix this.”

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“The direction of European history would seem to have changed – shifting away from convergence and back to delineation.”

Is Armed Conflict Possible in Today’s Europe? (Spiegel)

“The war changed everything.” This statement by the late British historian Tony Judt contains the kernel of modern-day Europe. It was the war that made possible an extended period of peace. Things had to get extremely bad before they could get good again. For the last 75 years, there has been peace on the Continent, with just a few exceptions. Now, this Europe finds itself in crisis. It is no longer the Europe where national thinking is slowly dwindling. It is no longer the Europe that is growing together step by step. It is no longer the Europe in which all countries seem to be committed to democracy forever. The direction of European history would seem to have changed – shifting away from convergence and back to delineation.


What does that mean for the most important of all questions, the question of war or peace? At the moment, it doesn’t look at all as though the long period of peace is going to come to an end. There is no reason for alarm. But if the direction of European history is changing, we should take a close look at what that could mean. Not in the immediate future, but in the long term. History is a snail that persistently crawls along its path. Exactly 80 years ago, the war that changed everything began — on Sept. 1, 1939, with Adolf Hitler’s Germany invading neighboring Poland. Almost six years later, more than 60 million people around the world were dead as a result of the violence, huge portions of the Continent were destroyed, millions of Europeans had been forced from their homes and millions more were plunged into poverty. A state of shock reigned.

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When will he quit?

Boris Johnson: I’d Rather Be Dead In a Ditch Than Delay Brexit (BBC)

Boris Johnson has said he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than ask the EU to delay Brexit beyond 31 October. But the PM declined to say if he would resign if a postponement – which he has repeatedly ruled out – had to happen. Mr Johnson has said he would be prepared to leave the EU without a deal, but Labour says stopping a no-deal Brexit is its priority. The prime minister’s younger brother, Jo Johnson, announced earlier that he was standing down as a minister and MP. Speaking in West Yorkshire, Boris Johnson said Jo Johnson, who backed Remain in the 2016 referendum, was a “fantastic guy” but they had had “differences” over the EU.

Announcing his resignation earlier in the day, the MP for Orpington, south-east London, said he had been “torn between family loyalty and the national interest”. During his speech at a police training centre in Wakefield, the prime minister reiterated his call for an election, which he wants to take place on 15 October. He argued it was “the only way to get this thing [Brexit] moving”. “We either go forward with our plan to get a deal, take the country out on 31 October which we can or else somebody else should be allowed to see if they can keep us in beyond 31 October,” Mr Johnson said.

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Mutti? You here?

Hong Kong Braces For More Protests As Merkel Calls For Peaceful Solution (R.)

Hong Kong is bracing for more demonstrations this weekend, with protesters threatening to disrupt transport links to the airport, after embattled leader Carrie Lam’s withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill failed to appease some activists. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel raised Hong Kong with Chinese premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Friday, saying a peaceful solution is needed. “I stressed that the rights and freedoms for (Hong Kong) citizens have to be granted,” said Merkel. “In the current situation violence must be prevented. Only dialogue helps. There are signs that Hong Kong’s chief executive will invite such a dialogue. I hope that materializes and that demonstrators have the chance to participate within the frame of citizens’ rights,” she said during a visit to Beijing.


Li told a news conference with Merkel: “The Chinese government unswervingly safeguards ‘one country, two systems’ and ‘Hong Kong people govern Hong Kong people’”. He said Beijing supported the Hong Kong government “to end the violence and chaos in accordance with the law, to return to order, which is to safeguard Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability”. Protesters plan to block traffic to the city’s international airport on Saturday, a week after thousands of demonstrators disrupted transport links, sparking some of the worst violence since the unrest escalated three months ago. Many protesters have pledged to fight on despite a withdrawal of the extradition bill, saying the concession is too little, too late.

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The Pentagon will protect you from “large-scale, automated disinformation attacks” by publishing “large-scale, automated disinformation attacks..”

The Pentagon Wants More Control Over the News. What Could Go Wrong? (Taibbi)

If there’s a worse idea than the Pentagon becoming Editor-in-Chief of America, I can’t remember it. But we’re getting there: From Bloomberg over Labor Day weekend: “Fake news and social media posts are such a threat to U.S. security that the Defense Department is launching a project to repel “large-scale, automated disinformation attacks,” as the top Republican in Congress blocks efforts to protect the integrity of elections.” One of the Pentagon’s most secretive agencies, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is developing “custom software that can unearth fakes hidden among more than 500,000 stories, photos, video and audio clips.”

Once upon a time, when progressives still reflexively distrusted the military, DARPA was a liberal punchline, known for helping invent the Internet but also for developing lunatic privacy-invading projects like LifeLog, a program to “gather in a single place just about everything an individual says, sees, or does.” DARPA now is developing a semantic analysis program called “SemaFor” and an image analysis program called “MediFor,” ostensibly designed to prevent the use of fake images or text. The idea would be to develop these technologies to help private Internet providers sift through content. It’s the latest in a string of stories about new methods of control over information flow that should, but for some reason do not, horrify every working journalist.

From the Senate dragging Internet providers to the Hill to demand strategies against the sowing of “discord,” to tales of hundreds of Facebook sites zapped for “coordinated inauthentic behavior” following advice by government-connected groups like the Atlantic Council, it’s been clear the future of the information landscape is going to involve elaborate new forms of algorithmic regulation. Stories about the need for such technologies are always couched as responses to the “fake news” problem. Unfortunately, “fake news” is a poorly-defined, amorphous concept that the public has been trained to fear without really understanding.

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Why wait 4 years?

Germany Announces Plan to Ban Glyphosate (CD)

The German government announced Wednesday it had agreed on a plan to phase out the use of glyphosate—the key chemical in the weedkiller Roundup—with a total ban set to begin by the end of 2023. “Way to go, Germany!” tweeted the U.S.-based advocacy group Organic Consumers Association. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet agreed to the plan Wednesday. The proposal, reported Bloomberg, also says that the “government intends to oppose any request for the E.U. to renew the license to produce the weedkiller, according to a release by the environment ministry.” The European Commission, the E.U.’s rules and regulations body, in 2017 renewed the license for glyphosate in the bloc through the end of 2022.


Germany’s environment Minister, Svenja Schulze, framed the new move as necessary to protect biodiversity, and said that “a world without insects is not worth living in”. “What harms insects also harms people,” Schulze said at a press conference. “What we need is more humming and buzzing.” Glyphosate is no longer exclusive to Monsanto’s Roundup, as it “is now off-patent and marketed worldwide by dozens of other chemical groups including Dow Agrosciences and Germany’s BASF,” as Reuters noted. That’s despite the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer’s 2015 designation of glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen,” increasing concerns over its health effects, and mounting legal woes for Bayer, which acquired Monsanto last year, as multiple juries have found Roundup to have been a factor in plaintiffs’ cancers.

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Stop calling them conservatives.

Targeting the Tongass National Forest for Amazon-like Destruction (CP)

Alaskan politicians, the governor, Mike Dunleavy, and the two senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, all Republican, convinced Trump to dismantle federal protections of the Tongass National Forest. The Trump administration ordered the Forest Service to approve this process of destruction. In March 16, 2019, the Forest Service designed a 15-year logging project in the Prince of Wales Island that included the opening of 164 miles of new roads in 67 square miles of land and the clearcutting of up to 23,000 acres of old-growth trees – trees several centuries old.

Environmental organizations like Earthjustice, Sierra Club, Alaska Wilderness League, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Alaska Rainforest Defenders, National Audubon Society, Natural Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Center for Biological Diversity sued the Forest Service and the US Department of Agriculture for violating the National Environmental Policy Act and other environmental laws. They pointed out that such massive timber sale from the projected clearcutting of old growth trees was “wasteful, destructive, and a giveaway” to a timber industry contributing less than 1 percent to the economy of Alaska.

In addition, clearcutting 23,000 acres of ancient trees would harm the Alexander Archipelago wolf, flying squirrels, and birds like Goshawk. Why this violent attack on a forest these environmental organizations call the crown jewel of America? The Alaskan politicians, like Bolsonaro of Brazil, have a distorted and selfish vision: satisfy the landowners in Brazil and the timber barons in Alaska. Do these politicians, including Trump, ever think about the real bad effects, ecological and social, of their actions? They must have heard of the inferno in the Brazilian Amazon and its potentially horrific consequences on the planet. They cannot really assume or believe that adding quite a bit more carbon to the atmosphere from logging Tongass would be a good thing for America or the world? Or could they?

The only reasonable explanation of the murky world of Trump and the Republican politicians (of Alaska and the rest of the country) is that they reject science. Certainly, the Evangelicals do. These Christian Republicans support Trump. They make no secret they expect Jesus to rise up, thus signaling the end of life on Earth. This delusion gets scary as high officials of the Trump administration are its fervent believers.

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Long-time Assange confidant Stefania Maurizi talks to Roger Waters.

They Want Him Dead As A Warning (Maurizi)

He is one of the legends of rock famous for his progressive battles. At seventy-six, the Pink Floyd co-founder, Roger Waters, has not given up at all and does not hesitate to call his country, Great Britain, “disgusting” for its treatment of Julian Assange. Last Monday, Waters sang his great classic, “Wish You Were Here” in front of the UK Home Office in London in support of Assange, while the Australian journalist, John Pilger, explained the serious risk the WikiLeaks founder runs of being extradited to the US, and Assange’s brother, Gabriel, described an emotional meeting with Julian Assange. Roger Waters is currently in Venice to present his film “US + Them”. Repubblica interviewed him.


What made you go very public about Julian Assange’s situation? “Clearly, there has been a really powerful and international smear campaign, really since the Collateral Murder video. I have been watching it developing. Assange is the pet hate of Western governments, particularly the government of the United States, because he published evidence that shows the United States to have committed heinous war crimes, crimes against humanity in a big way. This smear campaign against him is all about getting him extradited to the US. They want him dead as a warning: they want to persuade any young person who might be thinking about the work of Julian Assange, or any whistleblower or any investigative journalist, that to pursue the path of truth-telling is extremely bad for your health. The message is: if you tell the truth, we will kill you, watch! The same with Chelsea Manning”.

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Withdrawing the extradition bill is no longer enough:

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 032019
 


Paul Ranson Apple tree with red fruit 1902

 

Global Recession Fears Mount As Manufacturing Shrinks Across Asia (R.)
How Many People Will Be Retiring in the Years to Come? (St.L.Fed)
Economic Growth Is An Unnecessary Evil (TLE)
Mueller Must Testify Publicly To Answer Three Critical Questions (Turley)
Alan Dershowitz: US ‘Overplayed Its Hand’ on Assange (NM)
The Intelligence Community Needs A House-Cleaning (Matt Taibbi)
Juncker: Not Enough Work To Keep 28 EU Commissioners Busy (EuA)
US Regulators Say Some Boeing 737 MAX Planes May Have Faulty Parts (R>)
Science institute That Advised EU and UN ‘Actually Industry Lobby Group’ (G.)
EU Candidate To Run UN Food Body Will ‘Not Defend’ EU Stance On GMO (G.)
Helsinki’s Radical Solution To Homelessness (G.)

 

 

One tool left: lower interest rates.

Global Recession Fears Mount As Manufacturing Shrinks Across Asia (R.)

Factory activity contracted in most Asian countries last month as an escalating trade war between Washington and Beijing raised fears of a global economic downturn and heaped pressure on policymakers in the region and beyond to roll out more stimulus. Such growth indicators are likely to deteriorate further in coming months as higher trade tariffs take their toll on global commerce and further dent business and consumer sentiment leading to job losses and delays in investment decisions. Some economists predict a world recession and a renewed race to the bottom on interest rates if trade tensions fail to ease at a Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan at the end of June, when presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping could meet.


In China, Asia’s economic heartbeat, the Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) showed modest expansion at 50.2, offering investors some near-term relief after an official gauge on Friday showed contraction. The outlook, however, remained grim as output growth slipped, factory prices stalled and businesses were the least optimistic on production since the survey series began in April 2012. PMIs were below the 50-point mark separating contraction from expansion in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan, came below expectations in Vietnam and improved slightly in the Philippines. “The additional shock from the escalated trade tensions is not going to be good for global trade and if demand in the U.S., China and Europe continues to soften, which is very likely, it will bode ill for Asia as a whole,” said Aidan Yao, senior emerging markets economist at AXA Investment Managers.

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And because of those lower interest rates, very few Americans will be able to retire, let alone at 65. Which makes this St. Louis Fed article outright insane, insulting even.

How Many People Will Be Retiring in the Years to Come? (St.L.Fed)

In this post, I will describe a preliminary estimate of the number of people retiring each month over the next 20 years. I started with the population of workers between the ages of 40 and 65 in 2018 using data gathered by IPUMS-USA. I then used age- and gender-specific mortality rates from the Human Mortality Database to compute how many people are expected to still be alive the next year (at only one year older). I continued iterating this procedure for a few years, assuming that the age-specific mortality rates remain constant over the years I specify. Finally, I counted the number of people reaching age 65 each year, further breaking it down to the averages of those reaching 65 each day and each month. The figure below shows the result of this calculation.

Initially, it is evident that there will be around 10,000 people (taking the total of retiring males and females) turning 65 each day for the next two decades. The right axis indicates the number of people turning 65 each month, which is an easier number to compare with the BLS monthly report on the current employment situation in the U.S. Not surprisingly, the peak corresponds to the retiring of the baby boomers. From 2025 onward, the trend is declining, which is likely because of the baby bust that followed the baby boom.

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Don’t worry, growth will soon be a thing of the past.

Economic Growth Is An Unnecessary Evil (TLE)

In 2012, writing as a lone economics blogger, I put forward a case for why countries should ditch economic growth as a political priority. Long revered as a stalwart of a capitalist society the need to grow has come to overshadow everything else. We prioritise it over our personal health, we prioritise it over the health of the planet and we prioritise it over our happiness. But given that the function of any economy is to provide an environment of subsistence, that could be little short-sighted. Economist Kenneth Boulding once said that we eat in order to achieve the state of being well-fed, and moving our jaws is simply the ‘cost’ of getting there.

We would therefore be mistaken to focus our attention on the act of chewing as the desired end-state when it is simply the price we pay to become fed. But as long as growth is the target of our economic systems people will continue to focus on chewing, which is neither a sustainable nor desirable trait of an economy. Which is why I welcomed news that New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has put out a national budget where spending is dictated by what best encourages the “well-being” of citizens, rather than focussing on traditional bottom-line measures like productivity and economic growth.

The government will put an emphasis on goals like community and cultural connection and equity in well-being across generations in what has been described as a “game-changing event” by LSE professor Richard Layard. As part of the framework Ardern has set aside more than $200 million to bolster services for victims of domestic and sexual violence and included a promise to provide housing for the homeless population. New guidance on policy suggests all new spending must advance one of five government priorities: improving mental health, reducing child poverty, addressing the inequalities faced by indigenous Maori and Pacific islands people, thriving in a digital age, and transitioning to a low-emission, sustainable economy.

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But he said he wouldn’t say another word…

Mueller Must Testify Publicly To Answer Three Critical Questions (Turley)

In that twinkling zone between man and myth, Robert Mueller transcends the mundane. Even in refusing to reach a conclusion on criminal conduct, he is excused. As Mueller himself declared, we are to ask him no questions or expect any answers beyond his report. But his motivations as special counsel can only be found within an approved range that starts at “selfless” and ends at “heroic.” Representative Mike Quigley defended Mueller’s refusal to reach a conclusion as simply “protecting” President Trump in a moment of “extreme fairness.” Yet, as I noted previously, Mueller’s position on the investigation has become increasingly conflicted and, at points, unintelligible.

As someone who defended Mueller’s motivations against the unrelenting attacks of Trump, I found his press conference to be baffling, and it raised serious concerns over whether some key decisions are easier to reconcile on a political rather than a legal basis. Three decisions stand out that are hard to square with Mueller’s image as an apolitical icon. If he ever deigns to answer questions, his legacy may depend on his explanations. One of the most surprising disclosures made by Attorney General William Barr was that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein expressly told Mueller to submit his report with grand jury material clearly marked to facilitate the release of a public version.

The Justice Department cannot release grand jury material without a court order. Mueller knew that. He also knew his people had to mark the material because they were in the grand jury proceedings. Thus, Barr and Rosenstein reportedly were dumbfounded to receive a report that did not contain these markings. It meant the public report would be delayed by weeks as the Justice Department waited for Mueller to perform this basic task. Mueller knew it would cause such a delay as many commentators were predicting Barr would postpone the release of the report or even bury it. It left Barr and the Justice Department in the worst possible position and created the false impression of a coverup.

Why would a special counsel directly disobey his superiors on such a demand? There is no legal or logical explanation. What is even more galling is that Mueller said in his press conference that he believed Barr acted in “good faith” in wanting to release the full report. Barr ultimately did so, releasing 98 percent of the report to select members of Congress and 92 percent to the public. However, then came the letter from Mueller.

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“..the Supreme Court. “I suspect that is where this case is headed as well..”

Alan Dershowitz: US ‘Overplayed Its Hand’ on Assange (NM)

Bringing charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange under the Espionage Act is one thing, but legal extradition is going to be far more difficult for merely publishing stolen material, not actually stealing it, according to legal expert Alan Dershowitz. “I think the Trump administration has overplayed its hand, so did the Justice Department,” Dershowitz told “The Cats Roundtable” on 970 AM-N.Y.. “They had a very strong case for extradition when they initially accused him of breaking into a password [-protected machine] to try to get classified material, that’s a crime. “But publishing materials? That’s very different. That’s The New York Times and The Washington Post, and I think Great Britain is going to have a lot of difficulty extraditing Assange to the U.S. to face trial for merely publishing material stolen not by him but by others.”


The case will not be one of espionage but a case of free speech and the First Amendment, according to Dershowitz. I think we’re in for a very interesting First Amendment case, probably the most interesting First Amendment case involving national security since Pentagon Papers.” Dershowitz was one of the lawyers of the Pentagon Papers case related to Watergate and the ultimate impeachment proceedings and resignation of former President Richard Nixon, taking the case to the Supreme Court. “I suspect that is where this case is headed as well,” Dershowitz told host John Catsimatidis.

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“Schiff was gung-ho to declassify “as much as possible about Russia hacking our elections” back in the summer of 2016, but now describes attempts to declassify information about the reasons for the probe as an attempt to “weaponize law enforcement.”

The Intelligence Community Needs A House-Cleaning (Matt Taibbi)

CIA director Gina Haspel crowed to the Washington Post a year ago that disclosing the name of informant Stefan Halper “could risk lives.” It turned out Halper had been outed as a spook in the pages of the New York Times back in 1983, and openly traded on his intelligence past as a professor in England. Where were lives at risk, in the Cambridge University Botanical Garden? We also saw reports that revealing the name of former British spy Christopher Steele would imperil his life. When the Wall Street Journal outed him in January of 2017, Steele responded by telling British media that he was “terrified for his safety.” He added he was going into hiding because he feared a “potentially dangerous backlash against him from Moscow.”

We later found out Steele had more media contacts than the Kardashian family, meeting with (at minimum) the Times, Post, Yahoo!, The New Yorker, CNN and Mother Jones in the space of about seven weeks in September-October 2016. In the years since his report became public, Steele fought through his terror to keep commiserating with the media. He invited a sprawling, laudatory 2018 profile in The New Yorker that described him answering “one of his two phones” in Farnham, a Surrey town with a “beautiful Georgian high street,” where he and his four children live on “nearly an acre of land.” He’s given depositions, negotiated to testify before congress, and been a primary source in several bestselling books. Thanks to such elaborate precautions, he’s managed somehow to avoid assassination since 2016.

[..] The release of the Page warrant turned out to not to compromise anything but the reputation of the FBI and other agencies. The major revelation was the FBI had indeed used Steele, a “compensated” FBI informant as well as a private oppo researcher, as a source despite having “suspended its relationship” with him in October 2016, ostensibly over failure to disclose media contacts. House Intel committee ranking member Adam Schiff knew this information when he conducted his “bombshell” hearing” on March 20, 2017. That was the one in which he and other members questioned not-yet-fired FBI chief James Comey and Rogers, and read out information from the Steele report as if it were factual, not giving any hint that there might be issues with it.

Schiff was gung-ho to declassify “as much as possible about Russia hacking our elections” back in the summer of 2016, but now describes attempts to declassify information about the reasons for the probe as an attempt to “weaponize law enforcement.” The hemming and hawing about “sources and methods” is really a pre-emptive ass-covering campaign. A bunch of these people are about to be highlighted in the upcoming review by Justice IG Michael Horowitz, as well as the larger probe led by former Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham. This is why we’ve seen stories that essentially show James Comey and Brennan pointing fingers and blaming the other for using the Steele material.

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“..a million euro per Commissioner, for relocation, staff and the lifelong pension which every Commissioner gets, no matter how long he or she has been in office..”

Juncker: Not Enough Work To Keep 28 EU Commissioners Busy (EuA)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has urged member states not to name short-term replacements for the Commissioners that have been elected as MEPs, insisting there is not enough work for 28 Commissioners anyway. Five of Juncker’s Commissioners have been elected as MEPs: First Vice President Frans Timmermans, vice-presidents Andrus Ansip and Valdis Dombrovskis, and Commissioners Corina Cretu and Mariya Gabriel. In an interview with BILD am Sontag yesterday (2 June), Juncker made a strong appeal that the member states should not replace them until the end of the mandate in November.


The elected MEPs must decide whether to take their seats before 1 July. If some of the elected Commissioners take their MEP seats, their countries will be without a Commissioner for four months. “Each member state has the right to appoint a new Commissioner for the remaining four months,” Juncker said, adding that “this would cost the European taxpayer a million euro per Commissioner, for relocation, staff and the lifelong pension which every Commissioner gets, no matter how long he or she has been in office, because the member states have decided that this is so. I’m trying to stop this.”

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“If it is in the air by Christmas (Dec. 25) I’ll be surprised – my own view..”

US Regulators Say Some Boeing 737 MAX Planes May Have Faulty Parts (R>)

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Sunday disclosed a new problem involving Boeing Co’s grounded 737 MAX, saying that more than 300 of that troubled plane and the prior generation 737 may contain improperly manufactured parts and that the agency will require these parts to be quickly replaced. The FAA said up to 148 of the part known as a leading-edge slat track that were manufactured by a Boeing supplier are affected, covering 179 MAX and 133 NG aircraft worldwide. Slats are movable panels that extend along the wing’s front during takeoffs and landings to provide additional lift. The tracks guide the slats and are built into the wing.

[..] In a statement issued after the FAA announcement, Boeing said it has not been informed of any in-service issues related to this batch of slat tracks. Boeing, the world’s largest plane maker, said it has identified 20 737 MAX airplanes most likely to have the faulty parts and that airlines will check an additional 159 MAXs for these parts. Boeing said it has identified 21 737 NGs most likely to have the suspect parts and is advising airlines to check an additional 112 NGs. The NG is the third-generation 737 that the company began building in 1997. The affected parts “may be susceptible to premature failure or cracks resulting from the improper manufacturing process,” the FAA said.

[..] Boeing in April said the two fatal crashes had cost it at least $1 billion as it abandoned its 2019 financial outlook, halted share buybacks and lowered production. The company’s shares have fallen by nearly 20 percent since the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March. Some international carriers are skeptical the plane will resume flying by August as some U.S. airlines have suggested. Tim Clark, president of Emirates, told reporters in Seoul that it could take six months to restore operations as other regulators re-examine the U.S. delegation practices. “If it is in the air by Christmas (Dec. 25) I’ll be surprised – my own view,” he said.

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And there’s Monsanto again.

Science Institute That Advised EU and UN ‘Actually Industry Lobby Group’ (G.)

An institute whose experts have occupied key positions on EU and UN regulatory panels is, in reality, an industry lobby group that masquerades as a scientific health charity, according to a peer-reviewed study. The Washington-based International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) describes its mission as “pursuing objectivity, clarity and reproducibility” to “benefit the public good”. But researchers from the University of Cambridge, Bocconi University in Milan, and the US Right to Know campaign assessed over 17,000 pages of documents under US freedom of information laws to present evidence of influence-peddling.

The paper’s lead author, Dr Sarah Steele, a Cambridge university senior research associate, said: “Our findings add to the evidence that this nonprofit organisation has been used by its corporate backers for years to counter public health policies. ILSI should be regarded as an industry group – a private body – and regulated as such, not as a body acting for the greater good.” In a 2015 email copied to ILSI’s then director, Suzanne Harris, and executives from firms such as Coca-Cola and Monsanto, ILSI’s founder Alex Malaspina, a former Coca-Cola vice-president, complained bitterly about new US dietary guidelines for reducing sugar intake.

“These guidelines are a real disaster!” he wrote. “They could eventually affect us significantly in many ways; Soft drink taxations, modified school luncheon programs, a strong educational effort to educate children and adults to significanty [sic] limit their sugar intake,, curtail advertising of sugary foods and beverages and eventually a great pressure from CDC [the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention] and other agencies to force industry to start deducing [sic] drastically the sugar we add to processed foods and beverages.”

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And more Monsanto. Europe is losing.

EU Candidate To Run UN Food Body Will ‘Not Defend’ EU Stance On GMO (G.)

Europe’s candidate to run the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which guides policymakers around the world, has promised the US she will “not defend the EU position” in resisting the global spread of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In a bid for US support, Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle told senior US officials at a meeting in Washington on 15 May that under her leadership the FAO would be more open to American interests and accepting of GMOs and gene editing, according to a US official record of the meeting seen by the Guardian. The issue has been a longstanding point of conflict in trade talks with the EU, which has adopted a far more cautious approach to biotechnology in food and agriculture.

All GMO imports are subject to strict safety assessments imposed on a case-by-case basis. Plants and animals whose genome has been manipulated through gene editing are deemed to be GMOs and are subject to similar restrictions. The US portrays such restrictions as trade barriers and has demanded they be dropped. In the meeting with officials from the US agriculture and state departments, Geslain-Lanéelle, a former director general of the French agriculture and food ministry who also ran the European Food Safety Authority, signalled she would veer to the US side if she ran the FAO. “She is proud to be European, who she is, and where she comes from; however, she will promote FAO from a global perspective rather than with European Union or French views,” said a US government internal memo.

“She will not defend the EU position on biotechnology and genetically modified organisms. This is not what agriculture needs. She will defend a global project that includes US interests.”

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“..you don’t need to solve your problems before you get a home. Instead, a home should be the secure foundation that makes it easier to solve your problems.”

Helsinki’s Radical Solution To Homelessness (G.)

As in many countries, homelessness in Finland had long been tackled using a staircase model: you were supposed to move through different stages of temporary accommodation as you got your life back on track, with an apartment as the ultimate reward. “We decided to make the housing unconditional,” says Kaakinen. “To say, look, you don’t need to solve your problems before you get a home. Instead, a home should be the secure foundation that makes it easier to solve your problems.” With state, municipal and NGO backing, flats were bought, new blocks built and old shelters converted into permanent, comfortable homes – among them the Rukkila homeless hostel in the Helsinki suburb of Malminkartano where Ainesmaa now lives.

Housing First’s early goal was to create 2,500 new homes. It has created 3,500. Since its launch in 2008, the number of long-term homeless people in Finland has fallen by more than 35%. Rough sleeping has been all but eradicated in Helsinki, where only one 50-bed night shelter remains, and where winter temperatures can plunge to -20C. The city’s deputy mayor Sanna Vesikansa says that in her childhood, “hundreds in the whole country slept in the parks and forests. We hardly have that any more. Street sleeping is very rare now.” In England, meanwhile, government figures show the number of rough sleepers – a small fraction of the total homeless population – climbed from 1,768 in 2010 to 4,677 last year (and since the official count is based on a single evening, charities say the real figure is far higher).

But Housing First is not just about housing. “Services have been crucial,” says Helsinki’s mayor, Jan Vapaavuori, who was housing minister when the original scheme was launched. “Many long-term homeless people have addictions, mental health issues, medical conditions that need ongoing care. The support has to be there.”

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It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.
– Noel Coward

 

 

 

 

May 262019
 


 

Pence To West Point Grads: You Will Fight On a Battlefield for America (Taer)
Global Elites Started The Russia Nonsense (Farnan)
Indictment of Julian Assange is a Clear and Present Danger to Journalism (EFF)
The US Media Is in the Crosshairs of the New Assange Indictment (Lawfare)
The World: What is Really Happening (Murray)
Europeans Vote, With EU Future In Balance (R.)
Who Gets To Choose The UK’s Next Prime Minister? (BBC)
Elon Musk Confronts The “Bear Case” (VF)
You Will Probably Never Want To Eat GMO Food Again (Snyder)
Glyphosate Exposure Linked to Fatty Liver Disease in Humans (BP)

 

 

He’s ordering the body bags as we speak. And you thought Trump was crazy.

Pence To West Point Grads: You Will Fight On a Battlefield for America (Taer)

Vice President Mike Pence told the graduating class of the West Point Military Academy on Saturday that the world is “a dangerous place” and they should expect to see combat. “Men and women of West Point, no matter where you’re deployed, you will be the vanguard of freedom, and you know that the “soldier does not bear the sword in vain.” The work you do has never been more important. America will always seek peace, but peace comes through strength. And you are now that strength. It is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life. You will lead soldiers in combat. It will happen.


Some of you will join the fight against radical Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of you will join the fight on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific, where North Korea continues to threaten the peace, and an increasingly militarized China challenges our presence in the region. Some of you will join the fight in Europe, where an aggressive Russia seeks to redraw international boundaries by force. And some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere. And when that day comes, I know you will move to the sound of the guns and do your duty, and you will fight, and you will win. The American people expect nothing less.”

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We’re going to hear a lot about this.

Global Elites Started The Russia Nonsense (Farnan)

Attorney General William Barr has turned the attention of the Russia probe to its origin: who started this and why? The answer, as in all the best crime dramas, is probably hiding in plain sight. On July 13, 2016, British academic Dr. Andrew Foxall penned an op-ed in the New York Times, “Why Putin Loves Brexit.” He blamed Russia for the previous month’s Brexit vote, adding in a little noted aside: The United States is so concerned over Moscow’s determination to exploit European disunity that in January, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, began a review of Russia’s clandestine funding of European parties. Bingo! The Obama administration was spying on conservative European political parties.

Which means, almost necessarily under the Five Eyes Agreement, foreign agents were returning the favor and spying on the Trump campaign. On August 11, 2018, I wrote: The British aristocracy has a condescending view of the hoi polloi who voted for Brexit, regarding them as easily manipulated Pygmalion-like by smarter people. They assumed Vladimir Putin was somehow playing Professor Henry Higgins to the flower girls who voted to reject the EU, because that’s how they see the world. Among the Cambridge class, this simple prejudice renders Russian collusion a first principle with no need for supporting evidence…. Without supporting evidence to prove their fantastical worldview, the global elite set out to manufacture some.

First up was Christopher Steele, who hasn’t set foot in Russia since 2009. He wears as a badge the claim that Putin hates him which, if true, means he has no real Russian sources. Maybe because of that, Steele’s farcical dossier on Trump was not enough for the FBI to open an investigation, and these international men of mystery needed something more. They invited George Papadopoulos to London, used a Maltese asset disguised as a Russian agent – Joseph Mifsud – to feed him a whopper about Hillary Clinton’s emails, then claimed he repeated the lie to Andrew Downer, an Australian diplomat with ties to the Clinton Foundation. That was the final straw that caused lovestruck counterintelligence specialist Peter Strzok to open an FBI investigation into the Trump campaign ..

[..] the FBI delegated the inspection of the computer servers to CrowdStrike, an insider paid by the DNC. James Comey testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee in January 2017 that CrowdStrike was “a highly respected private company.” What he failed to mention was that a month before his testimony, CrowdStrike had been caught falsely blaming Russia for a hack into a Ukrainian artillery computer app. In other words, at the same time this “highly respected private company” was blaming the Russians for stealing the Clinton campaign’s emails, it was fabricating a different Russian hack to serve Ukrainian misinformation.

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“The press stands in place of the public in holding the government accountable..”

This is the essence. And it’s not what the press has been doing. Other than WikiLeaks, that is.

Indictment of Julian Assange is a Clear and Present Danger to Journalism (EFF)

The century-old tradition that the Espionage Act not be used against journalistic activities has now been broken. Seventeen new charges were filed yesterday against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. These new charges make clear that he is being prosecuted for basic journalistic tasks, including being openly available to receive leaked information, expressing interest in publishing information regarding certain otherwise secret operations of government, and then disseminating newsworthy information to the public. The government has now dropped the charade that this prosecution is only about hacking or helping in hacking. Regardless of whether Assange himself is labeled a “journalist,” the indictment targets routine journalistic practices.

But the indictment is also a challenge to fundamental principles of freedom of speech. As the Supreme Court has explained, every person has the right to disseminate truthful information pertaining to matters of public interest, even if that information was obtained by someone else illegally. The indictment purports to evade this protection by repeatedly alleging that Assange simply “encouraged” his sources to provide information to him. This places a fundamental free speech right on uncertain and ambiguous footing. Make no mistake, this not just about Assange or Wikileaks—this is a threat to all journalism, and the public interest. The press stands in place of the public in holding the government accountable, and the Assange charges threaten that critical role.

The charges threaten reporters who communicate with and knowingly obtain information of public interest from sources and whistleblowers, or publish that information, by sending a clear signal that they can be charged with spying simply for doing their jobs.

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As if the US media doesn’t self-censor enough yet.

The US Media Is in the Crosshairs of the New Assange Indictment (Lawfare)

As Susan Hennessey said, “[I]t will be very difficult to craft an Espionage Act case against him that won’t adversely impact true journalists.” I don’t think this is an accident. I think the government’s indictment has the U.S. news media squarely in its sights. The first sentence of the indictment reads: “To obtain information to release on the WikiLeaks website, ASSANGE encouraged sources to (i) circumvent legal safeguards on information; (ii) provide that protected information to WikiLeaks for public dissemination; and (iii) continue the pattern of illegally procuring and providing protected information to WikiLeaks for distribution to the public.”

This is exactly what national security reporters and their news publications often ask government officials or contractors to do. Anytime a reporter asks to receive information knowing it is classified, that person encourages sources to circumvent legal safeguards on information. The news organizations’ encouragement is underscored by the mechanisms they provide for sources to convey information securely and anonymously. (The New York Times’s menu includes SecureDrop, an “encrypted submission system set up by The Times [that] uses the Tor anonymity software to protect [the] identity, location and the information” of the person who sends it.) Like WikiLeaks, these reporters and organizations encourage the sources to provide the “protected information” for public dissemination. And also like WikiLeaks, they often encourage the sources to engage in a “pattern of illegally procuring and providing protected information.”

There are other similarities. The government thought it significant that the WikiLeaks website states: “WikiLeaks accepts classified, censored, or otherwise restricted material of political, diplomatic, or ethical significance” (emphasis in indictment). This sounds very much like the public interest standard that U.S. editors use to decide when and how to publish classified information. Former Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie once told me, “‘Highly classified’ doesn’t mean anything to me …. The question is, is it important for the American public to know that its government is acting in its name in this particular way?” Or as the Times’s former executive editor once said, “As journalists in a robust democracy, our responsibility is to publish information of interest to the public, and that includes publishing secrets when we find them.”

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“..the OPCW was manipulated by the NATO powers to produce a highly biased report that omits the findings of its own engineers.”

The World: What is Really Happening (Murray)

[..] the OPCW Fact Finding Mission reflected in their final report none of the findings of their own sub-group of university based engineers from two European universities, but instead produced something that is very close to the amateur propaganda “analysis” put out by Bellingcat. The implications of this fraud are mind-blowing. The genuine experts’ findings were completely suppressed until they were leaked last week. And still then, this leak – which has the most profound ramifications – has in itself been almost completely suppressed by the mainstream media, except for those marginalised outliers who still manage to get a platform, Robert Fisk and Peter Hitchens (a tiny platform in the case of Fisk).


Consider what this tells us. A fake chemical attack incident was used to justify military aggression against Syria by the USA, UK and France. The entire western mainstream media promoted the anti-Syrian and anti-Russian narrative to justify that attack. The supposedly neutral international watchdog, the OPCW, was manipulated by the NATO powers to produce a highly biased report that omits the findings of its own engineers. Which can only call into doubt the neutrality and reliability of the OPCW in its findings on the Skripals too. There has been virtually no media reporting of the scandalous cover-up. This really does tell you a very great deal more about how the Western world works than the vicissitudes of the ludicrously over-promoted Theresa May and her tears of self pity.

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Fragmentation is the key word. But the big power blocks will remain, courtesy of the EU structure. Salvini’s Lega may become the largest single party in Europe, but the real power lies in those blocks.

Europeans Vote, With EU Future In Balance (R.)

Europeans vote on Sunday in an election expected to further dent traditional pro-EU parties and bolster the nationalist fringe in the European Parliament, putting a potential brake on collective action in economic and foreign policy. Polls opened at 7 a.m. (0400 GMT) in the east of the bloc and will finally close at 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) in Italy. Seven states have already voted, with 21 joining in on Sunday in what is the world’s biggest democratic exercise after India. Right-wing populists top opinion polls in two of the big four member states – Italy and supposedly exiting Britain – and could also win in a third, France, rattling a pro-Union campaign championed by centrist President Emmanuel Macron.

However, exit polls in some countries that have already voted have given pro-EU parties some comfort. The Dutch Labour party, all but written off, looks to have finished first, helped by the visibility of having the EU socialists’ lead candidate, current EU deputy chief executive Frans Timmermans. In the Netherlands pro-Union parties scored 70%, up three points on the last European Parliament vote in 2014, and left the upstart anti-immigration party of Thierry Baudet fourth on 11%. The Dutch also turned out in bigger numbers, albeit at just 41%, reinforcing hopes in Brussels of reversing a 40-year trend of declining turnout that critics cite as a “democratic deficit” that undermines the legitimacy of European Union lawmaking.

An exit poll after Friday’s vote in deeply pro-EU Ireland pointed to an expected “Green Wave”. Across the bloc, concerns about climate change and the environment may bolster the pro-EU Greens group and could mean tighter regulations for industry and for the terms the EU may set for partners seeking trade accords. Britain also voted on Thursday and a new party focused on getting out of the EU was forecast by pre-vote opinion polls to come top, but there has been no exit poll data. Attention there has focused on the resignation of Prime Minister Theresa May. Results will be out late on Sunday, when all countries have voted.

[..] Matteo Salvini’s League in Italy may pip the Christian Democrats of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the bloc’s power broker, to become the biggest single party in the 751-seat chamber. Right-wing ruling parties in Poland and Hungary, defying Brussels over curbs to judicial and media independence, will also return eurosceptic lawmakers on Sunday.

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Grandma does.

Who Gets To Choose The UK’s Next Prime Minister? (BBC)

With Theresa May finally on her way out of Downing Street, a Tory leadership contest that has been bubbling under for months is now starting. It’s a two-stage process. The first sees votes among Conservative MPs designed to whittle the contenders down to just two front-runners. The second stage sees the party’s grassroots members choose between them in a postal ballot. In other words, it is members of the public – those who pay £25 a year to join the Conservative Party – who get the final say on who the next prime minister is. There will not be a general election because the party is already in power. So, who are its members and what do they think on key issues, not least of course Brexit?

We don’t know exactly how many Conservative Party members there are because – unlike the UK’s other parties – the Conservatives don’t regularly release the figures. The last time they did so was back in March 2018, when they put the figure at 124,000. That’s larger than some of the more pessimistic guesstimates, but way down on the peak of nearly three million that the party boasted in the early 1950s. Membership plunged after that before levelling off at around one million in the 1970s and 1980s, since when it has been dropping almost inexorably. One thing we can be sure of, however, is that the Tories have far fewer members than the Labour Party. Even if we assume that Labour’s membership has fallen from the late 2017 peak of more than 550,000, it still has a huge advantage over the Conservatives when it comes to campaigning on the ground.


[..] What Tory members haven’t cooled on, however, is Brexit. Indeed, since we started tracking them in 2015, they’ve hardened their position. It is clear that they are not supporters of the deal negotiated by their outgoing leader. In fact, it is now the case that fully two-thirds of them back a no-deal Brexit – an outcome supported by only a quarter of voters as a whole. Nor are they in the least bit keen on the idea of letting the public have another say on the UK’s EU membership. Some 84% of them oppose the idea of a new referendum on the issue. In short, the grassroots aren’t simply sceptical on Europe; they can’t wait to leave, whatever that might take. This, then, is the Conservative Party electorate. And those MPs hoping to succeed Mrs May will need to pitch their promises accordingly.

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Bubble. Tesla is brought to you by the Fed.

Elon Musk Confronts The “Bear Case” (VF)

Don’t say “death spiral,” but Tesla has unquestionably entered a perilous new era. Last September, a month after Elon Musk’s notorious “funding secured” tweet, I wrote a New York Times opinion piece about the fact that the real problem at Tesla, Musk’s electric-car company, was not necessarily Musk’s irresponsible, and perhaps illegal, behavior as C.E.O. Rather, it was the Tesla balance sheet, which was larded with $11 billion in debt, some $1.7 billion of which needed to be paid off before November 2019. Debt isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But when a company doesn’t have the operating earnings to service that debt, a single dollar of debt can be too much. And then it becomes more like a Ponzi scheme, which, to be honest, Tesla is increasingly resembling.


Can Tesla convince investors to give it enough new capital to pay off the maturing debt before the world concludes that the company doesn’t have the resources to meet its obligations as they become due? That, of course, is the textbook definition of a bankrupt company. When I last wrote about Tesla, the company’s stock was trading at $300 per share, giving Tesla a market capitalization of around $51 billion. Nowadays, Tesla’s stock is trading around $190 per share and the company is valued at around $34 billion. That’s a loss of a cool $17 billion for equity investors, in eight months. In November, Tesla repaid $230 million of convertible debt with some of its cash pile instead of converting the debt to equity because its stock price was well below the conversion price. In March, Tesla paid off another $920 million in convertible notes in cash, again because its stock price was below the conversion price.

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..eating a corn chip produced from Bt corn might transform our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories, possibly for the rest of our lives.”

You Will Probably Never Want To Eat GMO Food Again (Snyder)

In recent years, researchers have been pushing the boundaries of biology in order to come up with new “plant-based” alternatives to existing food products. Essentially, “synthetic biology” is being used “to create life forms from scratch”… Impossible’s “bleeding” veggie burger, shrimp made of algae, and vegan cheeses that melt are all making their way into restaurants and on to supermarket shelves, offering consumers a new generation of plant-based proteins that look, act, and taste far more like the real thing than ever before. What consumers may not realize, however, is that many of these new foods are made using synthetic biology, an emerging science that applies principles of genetic engineering to create life forms from scratch.

[..] “GM corn and cotton are engineered to produce their own built-in pesticide in every cell. When bugs bite the plant, the poison splits open their stomach and kills them. Biotech companies claim that the pesticide, called Bt — produced from soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis’ has a history of safe use, since organic farmers and others use Bt bacteria spray for natural insect control. Genetic engineers insert Bt genes into corn and cotton, so the plants do the killing.” The Bt-toxin produced in GM plants, however, is thousands of times more concentrated than natural Bt spray, is designed to be more toxic, has properties of an allergen, and unlike the spray, cannot be washed off the plant.” Do you think that it is actually safe to eat such “food”?

Sadly, the health consequences from eating GMO food may not just be temporary. In fact, one study found that the effects of eating genetically-modified food could last for a lot longer that anyone had anticipated… “The only published human feeding study revealed what may be the most dangerous problem from GM foods. The gene inserted into GM soy transfers into the DNA of bacteria living inside our intestines and continues to function. This means that long after we stop eating GMOs, we may still have potentially harmful GM proteins produced continuously inside of us. Put more plainly, eating a corn chip produced from Bt corn might transform our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories, possibly for the rest of our lives.”

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Without the precautionary principle, it’s certain that we will poison our children and not realize it until it’s too late.

Glyphosate Exposure Linked to Fatty Liver Disease in Humans (BP)

Glyphosate weed killers may be contributing to the growing worldwide epidemic f non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition that causes swelling of the liver, and can eventually lead to cirrhosis, cancer, or liver failure. Researchers at the University of California (UC) San Diego found that higher levels of glyphosate detected in urine corresponded significantly with individuals that have also been diagnosed with NAFLD. Advocates are urging lawmakers at every level to respond to the accumulating science on the danger of glyphosate herbicides, ban their use, and adopt policy changes that put into place organic land management practices.


“There have been a handful of studies, all of which we cited in our paper, where animals either were or weren’t fed Roundup or glyphosate directly, and they all point to the same thing: the development of liver pathology,” said Paul J. Mills, PhD, professor and chief in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine in a press release. [..] With glyphosate still the most popular herbicide used in the U.S., exposure to the chemical is alarmingly widespread. “The increasing levels [of glyphosate] in people’s urine very much correlates to the consumption of Roundup [glyphosate] treated crops into our diet,” said Dr. Mills. He cautions that the results need further follow up, and there may be other pesticides in the environment leading to similar disease outcomes. “There are so many synthetic chemicals we are regularly exposed to,” Dr. Miller notes. “We measured just one.”

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Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment, until it’s a memory.
– Dr. Seuss

 

 

 

 

May 022019
 


Bugatti Atlantic Coupé 1935

 

Julian Assange Legal Team Begin ‘Big Fight’ Over Extradition (G.)
US May Have To Stop Borrowing Later This Year – Treasury (R.)
From 2024, All US Debt Issuance Will Be Used To Pay For Interest On Debt (ZH)
Fed Sees No Strong Case For Hiking Or Cutting Rates (R.)
Venezuela and Binary Choice (Murray)
Nellie Ohr’s ‘Hi Honey’ Emails On Russia Collusion Should Alarm Us All (Hill)
Barr Cancels Second Day Of Testimony, Escalating Battle With US Congress (R.)
WSJ: Dems Vilifying Barr For ‘Acting Like A Real Attorney General’ (Hill)
737 Max Sensor Had Been Flagged Over 200 Times To FAA (CNN)
US Environment Agency Says Glyphosate Is Not A Carcinogen (R.)

 

 

Straight from the horse’s foul-smelling mouth, the Guardian. First judge called Assange a narcissist. This one says he cost taxpayers £16m. Judges in Britain are apparently not required to be objective. Here’s praying he’ll receive better treatment today.

Julian Assange Legal Team Begin ‘Big Fight’ Over Extradition (G.)

A struggle over the US request for Julian Assange’s extradition will open in court on Thursday morning, a day after the WikiLeaks founder was jailed for just under a year for breaching bail conditions to avoid being extradited to Sweden. Wednesday’s sentence was decried as an “outrage” by Kristinn Hrafnsson, the editor-in-chief of the whistleblowing website, who said the hearing at Westminster magistrates court to oppose Assange’s extradition would be the start of the “big fight” – a process he said would be “a question of life and death for Mr Assange”. A judge largely rejected the mitigating factors put forward by lawyers for Assange – who took refuge in Ecuador’s embassy to London in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations, which he has denied – and told the 47-year-old it was difficult to envisage a more serious example of the offence.

“You remained there for nearly seven years, exploiting your privileged position to flout the law and advertise internationally your disdain for the law of this country,” said Judge Deborah Taylor, as she sentenced him at Southwark crown court. “Your actions undoubtedly affected the progress of the Swedish proceedings. Even though you did cooperate initially, it was not for you to decide the nature or extent of your cooperation with the investigations. They could not be effectively progressed, and were discontinued, not least because you remained in the embassy.” Assange, who was arrested last month when Ecuador revoked his political asylum and invited Metropolitan police officers inside the country’s Knightsbridge diplomatic premises, had written a letter in which he expressed regret for his actions but claimed he had been left with no choice.

“I apologise unreservedly to those who consider that I have disrespected them by the way I have pursued my case. This is not what I wanted or intended,” he said in the letter read out by his lawyer, Mark Summers QC. “I found myself struggling with terrifying circumstances for which neither I nor those from whom I sought advice could work out any remedy. I did what I thought at the time was the best and perhaps the only thing that could be done – which I hoped might lead to a legal resolution being reached between Ecuador and Sweden that would protect me from the worst of my fears.”

Assange, wearing a black blazer and shorn of the beard worn when police carried him out of the embassy last month, was told by the judge that his continued residence there had cost £16m of taxpayers’ money “in ensuring that when you did leave, you were brought to justice”. “It is essential to the rule of law that nobody is above or beyond the reach of the law,” said the judge, who said Assange’s written apology was the first recognition that he regretted his actions.

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Don’t they say that all the time about twice a year?

US May Have To Stop Borrowing Later This Year – Treasury (R.)

The U.S. government will have to stop borrowing money between July and December if Washington doesn’t agree to raise a legal restriction on public debt, the Treasury Department said on Wednesday. Hitting that so-called “debt ceiling” could trigger a U.S. default on its debt and an immediate recession, a risk that has become a regular facet of U.S. politics over the last decade. The current debt limit was set in March. Treasury has been able to continue borrowing from investors by using accounting measures such as limiting government payments to public sector retirement funds.


“Treasury expects that the extraordinary measures will be exhausted sometime in the second half of 2019,” Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary Brian Smith said in a statement announcing the department’s quarterly debt issuance plans. Wall Street also sees Treasury exhausting its borrowing authority in the third or fourth quarter, according to the minutes of a meeting of a Treasury advisory committee of financiers. The debt ceiling is already affecting how the government funds itself. Issuance of Treasury bills – short-term debt – is expected to gradually decline over the second quarter due to debt ceiling constraints, Smith said.

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“..while we don’t know yet what the next reserve currency – either fiat, hard or digital – after the US dollar will be, we urge readers to own a whole lot of it.”

From 2024, All US Debt Issuance Will Be Used To Pay For Interest On Debt (ZH)

As part of today’s Treasury Presentation to the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee, there is a chart showing the Office Of Debt Management’s forecast for annual US debt issuance, broken down between its three component uses of funds: Primary Deficit, Net Interest Expense, and “Other.” That chart is troubling because while in 2019 and 2020 surging US interest expense is roughly matched by the other deficit components in the US budget, these gradually taper off by 2024, and in fact in 2025 become a source of budget surplus (we won’t be holding our breath). But what is the real red flag is that starting in 2024, when the primary deficit drops to zero according to the latest projections, all US debt issuance will be used to fund the US net interest expense, which depending on the prevailing interest rate between now and then will be anywhere between $700 billion and $1.2 trillion or more.

In short: in the stylized cycle of the US “Minsky Moment”, the US will enter the penultimate, Ponzi Finance, phase – the one in which all the new debt issuance is used to fund only interest on the debt – some time around in 2024. From that point on, every incremental increase in interest rates, which will eventually happen simply due to rising inflation expectations, will merely accelerate the ponzi process, whereby even more debt is sold just to fund the rising interest on the debt, requiring even more debt issuance, and so on, until finally the “Minsky Moment” arrives. At that point, while we don’t know yet what the next reserve currency – either fiat, hard or digital – after the US dollar will be, we urge readers to own a whole lot of it.

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Get rid of the Fed or you will have no economy left. You already don’t have markets anymore, because the Fed became the market, and with the markets the economy will vanish too.

Fed Sees No Strong Case For Hiking Or Cutting Rates (R.)

The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday held interest rates steady and signaled little appetite to adjust them any time soon, taking heart in continued job gains and economic growth and the likelihood that weak inflation will edge higher. “We think our policy stance is appropriate at the moment; we don’t see a strong case for moving it in either direction,” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said in a press conference following the end of the central bank’s latest two-day policy meeting. Overall, he said, “I see us on a good path for this year.” Fed policymakers said ongoing economic growth, a strong labor market and an eventual rise in inflation were still “the most likely outcomes” as the U.S. expansion nears its 10-year mark.


“The labor market remains strong … economic activity rose at a solid rate” in recent weeks, the Fed said in a policy statement a day after President Donald Trump called on it to cut rates by a full percentage point and take other steps to stimulate the economy. The policy statement, and particularly Powell’s insistence the Fed saw no compelling reason to consider a rate cut in response to weak inflation, prompted a modest selloff in stock markets and pushed bond yields higher. The S&P 500 index fell 0.75 percent, its largest daily decline since mid-March. Interest rate futures also reversed direction, signaling a lower degree of confidence the next Fed move would be a rate cut, exactly the point Powell was driving at in a “stay-the-course” message, said analysts at Cornerstone Macro.

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“Juan Guaido has been groomed for 15 years as a long-term CIA project.”

Venezuela and Binary Choice (Murray)

When a CIA-backed military coup is attempted by a long term CIA puppet, roared on by John Bolton and backed with the offer of Blackwater mercenaries, in the country with the world’s largest oil reserves, I have no difficulty whatsoever in knowing which side I am on. Juan Guaido has been groomed for 15 years as a long-term CIA project. His coup attempt yesterday, which so far appears to have stalled, was the culmination of these efforts to return Venezuela’s oil reserves to US hegemony.

It is strange how the urgent installation of liberal democracy by force correlates so often with oil reserves not aligned to the USA, as in Libya, Iraq or Venezuela, while countries with massive oil reserves which permit US military domination and align with the West and Israel can be as undemocratic as they wish, eg Saudi Arabia. Venezuela is an imperfect democracy but it is far, far more of a democracy than Saudi Arabia and with a much better human rights record. The hypocrisy of Western media and politicians is breathtaking.

Hypocrisy and irony are soulmates, and there are multiple levels of irony in seeing the “liberal” commentators who were cheering on an undisguised military coup, then complaining loudly that people are being injured or killed now their side is losing. Yesterday the MSM had no difficulty in calling the attempted coup what anybody with eyes and ears could see it plainly was, an attempted military coup. Today, miraculously, the MSM line is no coup attempt happened at all, it was just a spontaneous unarmed protest, and it is the evil government of Venezuela which attempts to portray it as a coup. BBC Breakfast this morning had the headline “President Maduro has accused the opposition of mounting a coup attempt”… Yet there is no doubt at all that, as a matter of plain fact, that is what happened.

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We’re going to have a civil war. But it won’t be civil.

Nellie Ohr’s ‘Hi Honey’ Emails On Russia Collusion Should Alarm Us All (Hill)

First came the text messages between FBI lovebirds Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, which gave us a painful glimpse at potential political bias inside America’s most famous crime-fighting bureau. Now, a series of “Hi Honey” emails from Nellie Ohr to her high-ranking federal prosecutor husband and his colleagues raise the prospect that Hillary Clinton-funded opposition research was being funneled into the Justice Department during the 2016 election through a back-door marital channel. It’s a tale that raises questions of both conflict of interest and possible false testimony.

Ohr has admitted to Congress that, during the 2016 presidential election, she worked for Fusion GPS — the firm hired by Democratic nominee Clinton and the Democratic National Committee to perform political opposition research — on a project specifically trying to connect Donald Trump and his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, to Russian organized crime. Now, 339 pages of emails from her private account to Department of Justice (DOJ) email accounts, have been released under a Freedom of Information Act request by the conservative legal group Judicial Watch. And they are raising concerns among Republicans in Congress, who filed a criminal referral with the Justice Department on Wednesday night.

They clearly show that Ohr sent reams of open-source intelligence to her husband, Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, and on some occasions to at least three DOJ prosecutors: Lisa Holtyn, Ivana Nizich and Joseph Wheatley. The contents tracked corruption developments in Russia and Ukraine, including intelligence affecting Russian figures she told Congress she had tried to connect to Trump or Manafort. “Hi Honey, if you ever get a moment you might find the penultimate article interesting — especially the summary in the final paragraph,” Nellie Ohr emailed her husband on July 6, 2016, in one typical communication. The article and paragraph she flagged suggested that Trump was a Putin stooge: “If Putin wanted to concoct the ideal candidate to service his purposes, his laboratory creation would look like Donald Trump.” Nellie Ohr bolded that key sentence for apparent emphasis.

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Still don’t get why they insist on lawyers asking their questions for them.

Barr Cancels Second Day Of Testimony, Escalating Battle With US Congress (R.)

Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday canceled plans to testify before the House of Representatives about his handling of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, further inflaming tensions between U.S. President Donald Trump and Democrats in Congress. Barr was due to face the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, but pulled out after the two sides were unable to agree on the format for the hearing. “It’s simply part of the administration’s complete stonewalling of Congress,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler told reporters. Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said Nadler’s proposal to have committee lawyers question Barr was “unprecedented and unnecessary,” saying questions should come from lawmakers.


The Justice Department also said on Wednesday it would not comply with a Nadler-issued subpoena seeking an unredacted version of Mueller’s report and underlying investigative files from the probe. Earlier on Wednesday, Barr spent more than four hours before the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee where he fended off Democratic criticism of his decision to clear Trump of criminal obstruction of justice and faulted Special Counsel Robert Mueller for not reaching a conclusion of his own on the issue.

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The Wall Street Journal takes a very strong stand.

WSJ: Dems Vilifying Barr For ‘Acting Like A Real Attorney General’ (Hill)

The Wall Street Journal editorial board on Wednesday excoriated Democrats for making Attorney General William Barr out to be a “villain,” defending Barr as merely “acting like a real Attorney General.” “Washington pile-ons are never pretty, but this week’s political setup of Attorney General William Barr is disreputable even by Beltway standards,” the board wrote in an op-ed published just hours after Barr testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The editorial, which was shared by President Trump on Twitter, slammed Democrats’ criticism of Barr’s handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference and possible obstruction of justice by Trump.


The board also took issue with Mueller, saying that the letter he wrote to Barr expressing concerns with how the attorney general summarized his investigation amounted to “posterior covering.” “Democrats leapt on the letter as proof that Mr. Barr was somehow covering for Donald Trump when he has covered up nothing,” the board wrote, arguing that Barr’s four-page memo adequately summarized the chief findings of Mueller’s investigation. The board wrote that the “trashing of Barr shows how frustrated and angry Democrats continue to be that the special counsel came up empty in his Russia collusion probe.”

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“Single sources of data are considered acceptable in such cases by our industry..” As I explained when this came out, you need three sources. One is crazy, two is too dangerous.

737 Max Sensor Had Been Flagged Over 200 Times To FAA (CNN)

The device linked to the Boeing 737 Max software that has been scrutinized after two deadly crashes was previously flagged in more than 200 incident reports submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration, but Boeing did not flight test a scenario in which it malfunctioned, CNN has learned. The angle-of-attack (AOA) sensor, as it’s known, sends data to a 737 Max software system that pushes the nose of the aircraft down if it senses an imminent stall. That software, triggered by erroneous data from AOA sensors, is believed to have played a role in crashes of Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines jets. Former Boeing engineers and aviation analysts interviewed by CNN have criticized Boeing’s original software design for relying on data from a single AOA sensor, claiming that those devices are vulnerable to defects.

FAA data analyzed by CNN supports that assessment. The FAA has received at least 216 reports of AOA sensors failing or having to be repaired, replaced or adjusted since 2004, according to data from the FAA’s Service Difficulty Reporting website. [..] In one 2011 case, the flight crew on a Boeing 737-800 reported that the “angle of attack and airspeed failed” and declared an emergency. An AOA sensor was then replaced. The FAA also issued two directives for various Boeing aircraft models before the 737 MAX was released, indicating that Boeing was aware of the potential for the sensors to cause problems in its planes. A 2013 directive mandated inspections of certain AOA sensors to prevent possible problems that included “obstacles after takeoff, or reduced controllability of the airplane.”

Another FAA directive published in 2016 warned that AOA sensors on Boeing MD-90-30 airplanes needed to be modified and tested to address “the unsafe condition on these products.” While those directives did not involve the 737 Max, Peter Goelz, a former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and a CNN aviation analyst, said AOA sensors fundamentally work the same on different aircraft models. “This is a fairly simple external device that can get damaged on a regular basis,” Goelz said. “That’s important because Boeing made the decision to rely on them as single sources for streams of data.”

In a statement to CNN, a Boeing spokesperson said the 737 Max and its stall-prevention system, called MCAS, were certified in accordance with all FAA requirements, and that Boeing’s analysis for the plane determined that in the event of erroneous inputs from an AOA sensor, pilots would be able to maintain control of the plane by following established procedures. “Single sources of data are considered acceptable in such cases by our industry,” the Boeing spokesperson said.

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Unbelievable. Might as well end the EPA too. There is only one way to deal with GMO and the poisons that keep them alive: precautionary principle.

US Environment Agency Says Glyphosate Is Not A Carcinogen (R.)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on Tuesday that glyphosate, a chemical in many popular weed killers, is not a carcinogen, contradicting decisions by U.S. juries that found it caused cancer in people. The EPA’s announcement reaffirms its earlier findings about the safety of glyphosate, the key ingredient in Bayer’s Roundup. The company faces thousands of lawsuits from Roundup users who allege it caused their cancer. “EPA continues to find that there are no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label and that glyphosate is not a carcinogen,” the agency said in a statement.


Farmers spray glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in U.S. agriculture, on fields of soybeans and other crops. Roundup is also used on lawns, golf courses and elsewhere. The EPA did previously find ecological risks from the chemical and has proposed new measures to protect the environment from glyphosate use by farmers and to reduce the problem of weeds becoming resistant to it. Bayer said it was pleased the EPA and other regulators who have assessed the science on glyphosate for more than 40 years continue to conclude it is not carcinogenic. “Bayer firmly believes that the science supports the safety of glyphosate-based herbicides,” it said in a statement. The company has repeatedly denied allegations that glyphosate and Roundup cause cancer.

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Apr 112019
 


Marion Post Wolcott Signboard along highway in Alabama 1939

 

EU Leaders Agree Brexit Delay Until Halloween (Ind.)
Macron Enrages Other EU Leaders After Opposing Long Brexit Extension (G.)
UK Car Production Could Halve In No-Deal Brexit Scenario (G.)
Peter Strzok Could Face ‘Serious’ Charges (Sara Carter)
William Barr on 2016 Elections: ‘I Think Spying Did Occur’ (CNS)
The Next Phase of Deep State-Gate (Ray McGovern)
WikiLeaks Says Julian Assange Is Being Spied On In Ecuadorean Embassy (R.)
Spanish Police ‘Recover Julian Assange Surveillance Footage’ (G.)
Spain Police Probe Extortion Scheme Involving Surveillance on Assange (Lauria)
Short-Term Growth Policies Risk New Financial Crisis – IMF (G.)
Fed Hawk-o-Meter Jumps 18% (WS)
The Family That Took On Monsanto (G.)
Chinese Scientists Put Human Brain Genes In Monkeys (TR)
The Gates Of Hell At The End Of Space And Time (Nature)

 

 

Between Halloween Brexit, EU leaders having a Macadamia Nut Parfait, and the black hole pictures described as “The Gates Of Hell At The End Of Space And Time”, what can I say? Can’t compete with that.

EU Leaders Agree Brexit Delay Until Halloween (Ind.)

Theresa May is set to enrage her critics within the Conservative party after setting herself up to stay on as prime minister until the winter while presiding over a long delay to Brexit. She told MPs just weeks ago that she was “not prepared to delay Brexit any further than 30 June” as prime minister and said she would resign once this stage of talks was complete – prompting her rivals to gear up for a summer leadership contest. But as EU leaders met on Wednesday night to decide on another lengthy Article 50 extension, a Conservative source said the prime minister’s promised departure was tied to passing the withdrawal agreement rather than a specific date.


After six hours of talks late into the night leaders agreed to extend the new Brexit deadline until 31 October, with a potential summit in June to review the situation. Ms May tried to play down the consequences of the expected long extension as she arrived at the meeting on Wednesday evening, telling reporters that “what is important is that any extension enables us to leave at the point we ratify the withdrawal agreement” rather than the length. Asked whether the 30 June date was still a red line for the prime minister, the Tory source said: “She understands that the Conservative Party feels a sense that new leadership is required for the second phase of negotiations. That was the commitment she gave to her parliamentary colleagues and that’s one she stands by.”

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Macadamia Nut Parfait

Macron Enrages Other EU Leaders After Opposing Long Brexit Extension (G.)

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, enraged fellow leaders after standing alone against a long extension to Britain’s membership of the EU. Macron insisted on speaking last during a working dinner in Brussels on Wednesday night during which he set his stall against a longer extension up to 31 December backed by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. Over a dinner of scallop salad, cod loin and macadamia nut parfait, it soon emerged that France was nearly isolated, with only a handful of member states, such as Belgium, sounding sympathetic to his arguments. The French president angered some EU leaders with his attempt to block a long extension of nine to 12 months that was favoured by the majority.

The European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, told the room that Macron’s opposition meant that “we are now only solving French domestic problems”. German officials were said to be “very irritated” with Macron. France argued that a long delay risked serious damage to the EU, an outcome Paris said was worse than no-deal. “We do not want to import Britain’s political crisis into the EU,” said an Élysée official. Theresa May’s talks with Jeremy Corbyn were not a justification “that we have a long extension without guarantees for the functioning of the European Union”. The French source said no-deal could not be ruled out, arguing that damaging the running of the EU was the worst possible outcome. “The default position is no deal. Endangering the functioning of the EU is not preferable to no-deal.”

After the new deadline was announced, Macron said leaders had found “the best possible compromise” because the 31 October date preserved EU unity, allowed the British more time and preserved “the good functioning of the European Union”.

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Well, that’s a good thing, no?!

UK Car Production Could Halve In No-Deal Brexit Scenario (G.)

Car production in Britain could collapse by almost half by the mid-2020s in a no-deal Brexit scenario, with plant closures triggering job losses across the country, according to an Oxford University study. Matthias Holweg, an automotive expert at Oxford, said Britain leaving the EU without a deal and trading on World Trade Organization terms would trigger a big fall in output. According to the study, car production has already slipped by about 9% since the EU referendum in 2016. Production volumes have fallen from more than 1.7m cars per year to less than 1.5m, but could drop further to about 900,000 a year in 2026 if Britain leaves without a deal.


Holweg said the UK’s current volumes of production could not be sustained under a WTO trading regime with the EU, as higher levels of border friction and tariffs would render UK car manufacturing less competitive. Car plants across the country would at first be starved of investment before their owners eventually closed them. The study found that investment has already dropped by about 80% over the past three years. “This would invariably lead to a hollowing-out of the UK’s component supply chain, effectively condemning the automotive industry to a slow ‘death by a thousand cuts’,” said Holweg, professor of operations management at Oxford University’s Saïd business school. “The great and present danger is that the decisions on where to produce new models will continue to go against the UK.”

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Michael Horowitz’s report is more interesting than the Mueller report.

Peter Strzok Could Face ‘Serious’ Charges (Sara Carter)

Former FBI Agent Peter Strzok could face ‘serious’ charges for his involvement and actions in the bureau’s probe of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server to send classified emails, as well as the FBI’s investigation into President Trump’s campaign, multiple sources with knowledge of Strzok’s actions told SaraACarter.com. Further, sources contend that the nearly year long investigation by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, will reveal explosive information and shed light on alleged malfeasance by FBI and DOJ officials directly involved in the Russia investigation. The Inspector General’s report may be completed as early as May or June, according to testimony provided this week by Attorney General William Barr.

Strzok who has already been investigated by Horowitz for his role in the FBI’s Clinton investigation is also expected to be named in the IG’s upcoming report on how the Russia investigation was handled by the FBI. He was removed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team in 2017 and then fired from the FBI in August, 2018. He was fired by the FBI after an extensive review by Horowitz’s office into the FBI’s handling of the Clinton investigation and was removed from Mueller’s team after the IG discovered his anti-Trump text messages to his paramour former FBI Attorney Lisa Page.

“There are a number of individuals who are looking at Peter Strzok’s actions and inactions and how those actions affected both of the investigations he was involved in,” said a U.S. official, with knowledge. “Further evaluation of what Peter Strzok did or did not do needs to be evaluated thoroughly.” The official did not reveal what Strzok’s “actions or inactions” may have been but said “obstruction, is a serious concern.” Strzok “is in hot water,” said another government official, with knowledge. “I’m certain he’s not the only one.”

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Between Horowitz and Barr, we’re going to have us some fun.

William Barr on 2016 Elections: ‘I Think Spying Did Occur’ (CNS)

Attorney General William Barr told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday that spying did occur during the 2016 presidential election, but he needs to “explore” whether or not it was “predicated.” “News just broke today that you have a special team looking into why the FBI opened an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections? I wonder if you can share with this committee who’s on that team, why you felt the need to form that kind of a team and what you intend to be the scope of their investigation,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) asked Barr. “As I said in my confirmation hearing, I am going to be reviewing both the genesis and the conduct of intelligence activities directed at the Trump campaign during 2016.”


“A lot of this has already been investigated, and a substantial portion of it has been investigated and is being investigated by the Office of Inspector General at the department, but one of the things I want to do is pull together all the information from the various investigations that have gone on, including on the Hill and in the department and see if there are any remaining questions to be addressed,” Barr said. Shaheen asked Barr why he felt “a need to do that.” “For the same reason we’re worried about foreign influence in elections,” Barr said.

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MICIMATT

The Next Phase of Deep State-Gate (Ray McGovern)

Readers of The Washington Post on Monday were treated to more of the same from editorial page chief Fred Hiatt. Hiatt, who won his spurs by promoting misleading “intelligence” about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and suffered no consequences, is at it again. This time he is trying to adjust to the fading prospect of a Deus ex Mueller to lessen Hiatt’s disgrace for being among the most shameless in promoting the Trump-Russia collusion narrative. He is not giving up. When you are confident you will not lose your job so long as you adhere to the agenda of the growing Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think-Tank complex (MICIMATT if you will), you need not worry about being a vanguard for the corporate media. It is almost as though Hiatt is a tenured professor in an endowed chair honoring Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who perhaps did most to bring us Iraqi WMD.


In his Monday column Hiatt warned: “Trump was elected with the assistance of Russian spies and trolls, which he openly sought and celebrated. But he did not (or so we are told) secretly conspire with them.” In effect, Hiatt is saying, soto voce: “Fie on former (now-de-canonized) Saint Robert of Mueller; we at the Post and our colleagues at The New York Times, CNN et al. know better, just because we’ve been saying so for more than two years.” Times executive editor Dean Baquet said, about the backlash to the Times‘ “collusion” coverage: “I have no regrets. It’s not our job to determine whether or not there was illegality.” CNN President Jeff Zucker said: “We are not investigators. We are journalists.” (One wonders what investigative journalist Bob Parry, who uncovered much of Iran-Contra and founded this site, would have thought of that last one.)

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Take Lenin Moreno to The Hague.

WikiLeaks Says Julian Assange Is Being Spied On In Ecuadorean Embassy (R.)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been the subject of a sophisticated spying operation in the Ecuadorean embassy where he has been holed up since 2012, the group said on Wednesday. “Wikileaks has uncovered an extensive spying operation against Julian Assange within the Ecuadorean embassy,” Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief said, adding that Assange’s “eviction” from the embassy could happen at any time. Hrafnsson did not immediately give evidence for his claims. Reuters was unable to independently verify the allegations. Assange’s relations with his hosts have chilled since Ecuador accused him of leaking information about President Lenin Moreno’s personal life. Moreno has said Assange has violated the terms of his asylum.


To some, Assange is a hero for exposing what supporters cast as abuse of power by modern states and for championing free speech. But to others, he is a dangerous rebel who has undermined the security of the United States. “We know that there was a request to hand over visitors’ logs from the embassy and video recordings from within the security cameras in the embassy,” Hrafnsson told reporters, adding that he assumed the information had been handed over to the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.

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Criminal behavior: “.. included recordings of Assange’s meetings with his lawyers and doctor.”

Spanish Police ‘Recover Julian Assange Surveillance Footage’ (G.)

WikiLeaks has said it has uncovered a surveillance operation against Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy and that images, documents and videos gathered have been offered for sale. Spanish police were said to have mounted a sting operation against unnamed individuals in Madrid who offered the material for sale in what lawyers and colleagues of Assange said on Wednesday was an attempt at extortion. Some of the material came from video cameras with a capacity to record audio and which had been installed last year, a press conference organised by WikiLeaks was told. WikiLeaks said material including video, audio, copies of private legal documents and a medical report had turned up in Spain, where a group was said to have threatened to start publishing unless they were paid €3m.

The Guardian reported last year that Ecuador had bankrolled a multimillion-dollar surveillance operation to protect and support Assange at the embassy, employing an international security company and undercover agents to monitor his visitors, embassy staff and even the British police. Kristinn Hrafnsson, the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, said he had met four individuals, one of whom he was told was a ringleader and who had prior convictions. There was a possibility that at least one was not a Spanish national, he added. The matter is now in the hands of an investigating Spanish magistrate, according to the whistleblowing website.

Hrafnsson said the surveillance at the embassy – which had led to Assange living a “Truman Show existence” – was part of an escalation designed to result in Assange being extradited to the US. “If you connect the dots it’s easy to draw that picture,” said Hrafnsson, who was appearing with the barrister Jennifer Robinson and Fidel Narváez, a former consul of Ecuador in London. It remained unclear whether Assange was planning to leave the embassy of his own accord at any point soon. His legal team said they would still need assurances from the UK government that Assange would not face onward extradition to the US. WikiLeaks said the surveillance had constituted a total invasion of privacy, which had included recordings of Assange’s meetings with his lawyers and doctor.

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WikiLeaks:
Ecuador caught in espionage operation against its refugee Julian Assange which:
1. Spied on his legal, medical visits
2. Stole legal notes during the middle of a court hearing against them
3. Secretly cooperated with US
4. Tried to extort him for 3M Euro

Spain Police Probe Extortion Scheme Involving Surveillance on Assange (Lauria)

A Spanish judge is investigating an alleged extortion scheme in which suspects in Madrid offered video and audio surveillance to the editor of WikiLeaks in exchange for €3 million, WikiLeaks said on Wednesday. The surveillance was taken over the past year inside the Ecuador embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has legally been granted political asylum since 2012, said Kristinn Hrafnsson, the WikiLeaks editor, at a press conference in the British capital. Included in the “trove” of material was a copy of a legal document regarding Assange’s defense strategy that was briefly left behind in a conference room in the embassy, Hrafnsson said. “It is a grave and serious concern when legal meetings are being spied upon and legal documents are stolen,” he said. “That is something that not even prisoners have to endure.”

Assange was also filmed being examined by his doctor in the embassy, Hrafnsson said. “Nobody expected that this was recorded and stored and found its way to some dubious individuals in Spain,” he said. Jennifer Robinson, Assange’s lawyer, called it a breach of attorney-client privilege. “The documents you have seen [presented at the press conference] demonstrates just how much surveillance he has been under and it is a breach of confidence for us, his lawyers, and his doctors to provide medical care in the embassy,” Robinson said. “This is a severe breach of attorney-client privilege and fundamentally undermines our ability to defend and provide defense to Julian Assange.”

Hrafnsson communicated with the alleged extortioners and was given samples of what they possessed, the WikiLeaks editor said. He then traveled to Spain and secretly videotaped a meeting with “four individuals” in which Hrafnsson learned the extent of the material that they possessed. They told them him that €3 million was “a good deal” as they had had offers of €9 million for the material. Hrafnsson then went to the Spanish police who opened an investigation. He said he knew the identity of one of the four who had a prior conviction on similar charges and was seen as the “ringleader.”

Aitor Martinez, the Assange lawyer who said he’d briefly left the legal document in the embassy conference room that was copied, then took part in a sting operation with the police. He wore a wire as he met with the alleged extortioners in Madrid, Hrafnsson said. A full investigation by a special extortion team was then opened and the case is now in the hands of an investigative judge, he said. “Extortion is a serious matter,” Hrafnsson said, “but of greater concern to me is that this is material gathered by spying by the government of Lenin Moreno and officials who work on his behalf against an individual who was granted diplomatic protection by the Ecuadorian government.”

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There are clever people at the IMF, they’re just mostly silenced.

Short-Term Growth Policies Risk New Financial Crisis – IMF (G.)

Central banks are running the risk of a severe financial crisis through policies aimed at boosting short-term economic growth, the International Monetary Fund has warned. In its half-yearly global financial stability report, the IMF said the removal of the threat of higher interest rates had prompted a rapid recovery in financial markets after last autumn’s turbulence but would lead to a fresh buildup in already high levels of debt. The report expressed concern about a sharp increase in lower quality corporate bonds, the vulnerability of European banks to falling government bond prices, debt levels in China, flows of hot money in and out of developing countries, and the risk of house price crashes.

The report said the tightening in financial conditions during the final three months of 2018 – when markets were unnerved by the possibility of the US Federal Reserve tightening policy throughout 2019 – had been too short-lived to have a material impact on the buildup of vulnerabilities. Tobias Adrian and Fabio Natalucci, two IMF officials, said in a blogpost released alongside the report that policymakers faced a dilemma as they sought to counter a slowdown in the global economy that has seen the IMF cut its growth forecast to 3.3% this year.

“In the United States, the ratio of corporate debt to GDP is at record-high levels. In several European countries, banks are overloaded with government bonds. In China, bank profitability is declining, and capital levels remain low at small and medium-size lenders,” Adrian and Natalucci said. “By taking a patient approach to monetary policy, central banks can accommodate growing downside risks to the economy. But if financial conditions remain easy for too long, vulnerabilities will continue to build, and the odds of a sharp drop in economic growth at some later point will be higher.”

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“The average frequency per meeting minutes of “strong,” “strongly,” and “stronger” between January 2013 and December 2017..”

Fed Hawk-o-Meter Jumps 18% (WS)

My fancy-schmancy Fed Hawk-o-Meter jumped 18% from 22 to 26, after having been on a downtrend for four Fed meetings in a row. Something’s up. The Fed Hawk-o-Meter checks the minutes of the FOMC meetings for signs that the Fed sees the economy as strong and that rates should rise; or that the economy is OK but not strong enough to raise rates further; or that the economy is spiraling down to where rates need to be cut. It quantifies and visualizes what the Fed wishes to communicate to the markets by counting how often “strong,” “strongly,” and “stronger” appear in the minutes to describe the economy. In the minutes of the March 19-20 meeting, released this afternoon, those words appear 26 times, up 18% from 22 times in the prior minutes:

The average frequency per meeting minutes of “strong,” “strongly,” and “stronger” between January 2013 and December 2017 was 8.7 times. The 26 mentions in the March-meeting minutes were 226% the pre-redline average. The 18% jump in the March minutes from the January minutes is particularly striking because the Fed had spent the prior four meetings backing off ever so gingerly its bullish assessment of the economy. But in March, the direction changed. Yet the reading still hasn’t jumped back to the peak levels of last August, when the Fed, with the economy running red hot, was telling the markets that it would raise rates four times in the year.
The current reading of 26 is just above the average over the past 11 meetings minutes of 25.2, starting with the December 2017 meeting, when the Hawk-o-Meter started redlining.

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Stop killing weeds. Because you’re killing life itself.

The Family That Took On Monsanto (G.)

Edwin Hardeman and his wife, Mary, never expected that they would become de facto leaders of the federal court fight against the world’s most widely used weedkiller. They just wanted Monsanto to acknowledge the dangers – and potentially save other families from the horror they endured. “This is something that was egregious to me. It was my personal battle and I wanted to take it full circle,” said Edwin, whose cancer is now in remission. “It’s been a long journey.” Mary bristled when she thought about Monsanto’s continued defense of its chemical: “They should have been with us when we were in the chemo ward … not knowing what to do to relieve the pain.“ I get angry,” she added. “Very angry.”


Monsanto first put Roundup on the market in 1974, presenting the herbicide, which uses a chemical called glyphosate, as a breakthrough that was effective at killing weeds and safe. The product has earned the corporation billions in revenue a year, and glyphosate is now ubiquitous in the environment – with traces in water, food and farmers’ urine. But research has repeatedly challenged Monsanto’s assertions that Roundup is safe, culminating in a key 2015 ruling by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (Iarc), which said glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans”. The Iarc classification opened the floodgates to litigation alleging that Roundup exposure caused their NHL, a cancer that affects the immune system.

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Let’s call it Progress, shall we?

Chinese Scientists Put Human Brain Genes In Monkeys (TR)

Human intelligence is one of evolution’s most consequential inventions. It is the result of a sprint that started millions of years ago, leading to ever bigger brains and new abilities. Eventually, humans stood upright, took up the plow, and created civilization, while our primate cousins stayed in the trees. Now scientists in southern China report that they’ve tried to narrow the evolutionary gap, creating several transgenic macaque monkeys with extra copies of a human gene suspected of playing a role in shaping human intelligence. “This was the first attempt to understand the evolution of human cognition using a transgenic monkey model,” says Bing Su, the geneticist at the Kunming Institute of Zoology who led the effort.


According to their findings, the modified monkeys did better on a memory test involving colors and block pictures, and their brains also took longer to develop—as those of human children do. There wasn’t a difference in brain size. The experiments, described on March 27 in a Beijing journal, National Science Review, and first reported by Chinese media, remain far from pinpointing the secrets of the human mind or leading to an uprising of brainy primates. Instead, several Western scientists, including one who collaborated on the effort, called the experiments reckless and said they questioned the ethics of genetically modifying primates, an area where China has seized a technological edge. “The use of transgenic monkeys to study human genes linked to brain evolution is a very risky road to take,” says James Sikela, a geneticist who carries out comparative studies among primates at the University of Colorado.

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The object in that photo no longer exists. What you see is what it looked like 55 million years ago.

The Gates Of Hell At The End Of Space And Time (Nature)

Astronomers have finally glimpsed the blackness of a black hole. By stringing together a global network of radio telescopes, they have for the first time produced a picture of an event horizon — a black hole’s perilous edge — against a backdrop of swirling light. “We have seen the gates of hell at the end of space and time,” said astrophysicist Heino Falcke of Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, at a press conference in Brussels. “What you’re looking at is a ring of fire created by the deformation of space-time. Light goes around, and looks like a circle.” The images — of a glowing, ring-like structure — show the supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy M87, which is around 16 megaparsecs (55 million light years) away and 6.5 billion times the mass of the Sun.

They reveal, in greater detail than ever before, the event horizon — the surface beyond which gravity is so strong that nothing that crosses it, even light, can ever climb back out. The highly anticipated results, comparable to recognizing a doughnut on the Moon’s surface, were unveiled today by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration in six simultaneous press conferences on four continents. The findings were also published in a suite of papers in Astrophysical Journal Letters on 10 April. [..] Nearly a century ago, physicists first deduced that black holes should exist from Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, but most of the evidence so far has been indirect. The EHT has now made a new, spectacular confirmation of those predictions.

The team observed two supermassive black holes — M87’s and Sagittarius A*, the void at the Milky Way’s centre — over five nights in April 2017. They mustered enough resolution to capture the distant objects by linking up eight radio observatories across the globe — from Hawaii to the South Pole — and each collected more data than the Large Hadron Collider does in a year. It took two years of work to piece the pictures together.

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Mar 312019
 


Banksy Devolved Parliament 2009

 

Boris Johnson and Michael Gove Under Fire On Vote Leave’s Law-Breaking (G.)
EU Will Delay Brexit To Allow Another Referendum (Ind.)
May Risks ‘Total Collapse’ Of Government In Brexit Impasse – Sunday Times (R.)
Furious Tory MPs Tell May: We’ll Block Snap Brexit Election (G.)
Corbyn Accuses Government Of ‘Bullying’ MPs (G.)
The Insanity of Global Trade (Roar)
Chelsea Manning’s Lawyers File An Appeal Against Her Detention (Canary)
Who Is Paying For Monsanto’s Crimes? We Are (G.)
$80 Million Roundup Verdict Is Only $2.5M After Taxes, New IRS Math (F.)
EU Bans UK’s Most-Used Pesticide Over Health And Environment Fears (G.)
How The Lion Lost Its Strength (G.)
Chicxulub: Stunning Fossils Record Dinosaurs’ Demise (BBC)

 

 

For anyone who wanted to stop Brexit, this seemed the way out: show illegal activity. Plenty appears to be there, but it’s been swept under the carpet. Why hasn’t it been investigated much more?

Boris Johnson and Michael Gove Under Fire On Vote Leave’s Law-Breaking (G.)

Conservative leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are facing growing calls to account for illegal behaviour by the official Vote Leave Brexit campaign. The group has dropped its appeal against the Electoral Commission’s ruling that it broke the law by channelling hundreds of thousands of pounds of donations to an ostensibly independent campaign group, BeLeave. When the Observer revealed evidence a year ago that Vote Leave had broken spending rules, Johnson attacked the report on Twitter as “utterly ludicrous” and said it had “won … legally”. A Johnson adviser said on Saturday that the former foreign secretary would not comment on the end of the appeal.

There has been no government response to the appeal being dropped and little media coverage. And while national broadcasters and newspapers gave prime coverage to Vote Leave chief executive Matthew Elliot when he launched an aggressive media campaign against the watchdog’s initial findings, few covered the decision to to end the appeals process in any depth. After the announcement, whistleblower Shahmir Sanni, who was outed by a member of Theresa May’s team, lost his job and was vilified as a fantasist after his revelations about Vote Leave’s spending, said: “The [end of the appeal] feels extremely vindicating, but the way the media has responded to it has been extremely disappointing. The only excuse they had is that they were appealing. Now we know they broke the law, they need to be held to account.”


Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said the confirmation that Vote Leave had broken the law underlined the need for a second referendum. “It is now incumbent on the government to act. We have heard minister after minister say the referendum is valid. This is proof it was not,” she said. “Going ahead with Brexit in these circumstances would be the biggest betrayal of our democracy of all.”

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Britain can only do what the EU will allow.

EU Will Delay Brexit To Allow Another Referendum (Ind.)

EU leaders are prepared to let Britain delay Brexit again to allow time for a second referendum, The Independent understands. After parliament rejected Theresa May’s deal for a third time, the bloc called a summit on 10 April – two days before the UK is on course to leave without a deal. And senior Brussels officials familiar with leaders’ thinking say that barring a credible plan to get a majority for the withdrawal agreement, the UK would be given more time only if it was for another clear option such as a general election or a referendum. The EU has already warned that a further extension, which could run until at least the end of the year, would also require the UK to take part in European parliament elections scheduled for the end of May.


As reported by The Independent, the prime minister is considering a general election as a way out of the Brexit chaos in Westminster, where MPs have rejected all options – including a no-deal Brexit. Senior officials in Brussels have made clear that an extension would also be justified if it was to make time for a referendum. Indicative votes in the Commons this week showed relatively strong support for a confirmatory referendum among MPs, with numbers such that only around a dozen more would need to be convinced to back one to pass it. One senior EU official said there were “three possible justifications” for a long extension emerging in member states’ thinking following their summit last week.

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Obviously. But a lot more could collapse.

May Risks ‘Total Collapse’ Of Government In Brexit Impasse – Sunday Times (R.)

British Prime Minister Theresa May risks the “total collapse” of her government if she fails to get her battered Brexit deal through parliament, the Sunday Times newspaper said, amid growing speculation that she might call an early election. Underscoring the tough choices facing May to break the Brexit impasse, the newspaper said at least six pro-European Union senior ministers will resign if she opts for a potentially damaging no-deal departure from the EU. But at the same time, rival ministers who support Brexit were threatening to quit if May decides to stay close to the EU with a customs union or if she sought a long delay to Brexit, the Sunday Times said.

May’s Brexit strategy is in tatters after the exit deal she hammered out with other EU leaders was rejected for a third time by the House of Commons on Friday, the day that Britain was supposed to leave the bloc. [..] The Mail on Sunday newspaper said May’s advisors were divided over whether she should call an early election if she fails to win support for her Brexit deal from parliament in the coming week. The newspaper said a possible “run-off” vote could take place on Tuesday in parliament between May’s deal and whatever alternative emerges as the most popular from voting by lawmakers on Monday. That meant an election could be called as early as Wednesday, the newspaper said …


The Sunday Telegraph said senior members of the Conservative Party did not want May to lead them into a snap election, fearing the party would be “annihilated” at the polls if she faced down parliament over Brexit in the coming months. An opinion poll in the Mail on Sunday gave the opposition Labour Party a lead of five percentage points over the Conservatives. That lead fell to three points if voters were offered the chance to vote for a new group of independent lawmakers who have not yet created an official party.

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“The threat of an election immediately angered both pro-Brexit and pro-Remain MPs. May would need a two-thirds majority in the Commons to secure one..”

Furious Tory MPs Tell May: We’ll Block Snap Brexit Election (G.)

Conservative MPs from across the party are threatening to vote down any attempt by Theresa May to lead them into a snap election, warning it would split the Tories and exacerbate the Brexit crisis. In a sign of the collapse in authority suffered by the prime minister, cabinet ministers are among those warning that there will be a serious campaign by Conservative MPs to vote against an election headed by May, a move she hinted at last week to break the Brexit deadlock. The threat of an election immediately angered both pro-Brexit and pro-Remain MPs. May would need a two-thirds majority in the Commons to secure one, meaning a serious rebellion by Tories could block it. May would then be forced to secure an election by backing a no-confidence vote in her own government, which only requires a simple majority of MPs.


Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan said: “If we have a general election before Brexit is resolved, it will only make things worse.” Antoinette Sandbach, a Tory MP who backs another referendum being held on any deal agreed by parliament, said she would vote against calling an election. “The answer is not a general election, and I would vote against that. We need to find a way forward in parliament and then put that to the people in a confirmatory referendum.” Mark Francois, a member of the European Research Group of pro-Brexit MPs, said there was “not a chance” that Conservative MPs would back an election under May. “‘Of course they wouldn’t – not after last time. And remember, she needs a super majority to do it.”

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Then call for a national government, you twit.

Corbyn Accuses Government Of ‘Bullying’ MPs (G.)

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has accused the government of running down the clock and “bullying and threatening” MPs as it tried to force through Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Speaking in Newport, south Wales, before a byelection on Thursday, Corbyn also refused to say what his party’s parliamentary tactics would be during a second round of indicative votes due to take place on Monday. He said that the option of giving the public a confirmatory referendum on any Brexit deal “is the Labour position so far, but there hasn’t been enough support for that across the floor in the House of Commons”. During this week’s indicative votes, the option for a public vote was whipped by Labour but was defeated by 295 to 268 votes, with 27 of the party’s MPs rebelling.


Corbyn said: “The absolute priority at the moment is to end this chaos the government has brought us to by their endlessly running down the clock and basically bullying and threatening people. The bullying hasn’t worked, the threats haven’t worked. It’s time now for the sensible people to take over.” He cautioned: “This is a very dangerous period, because if we crash out without a deal then the supply chains get interrupted, jobs are at stake, and also the sense of security of many EU nationals living in Britain, and of course British people living across Europe.” [..] “However people voted in the referendum, no one voted to lose their jobs, no one voted to be worse off, and no one voted to deregulate our society.”

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Maximizing waste production is our economic model. Lovely video.

The Insanity of Global Trade (Roar)

The way trade works in the global economy is often absurd. Food routinely gets shipped halfway across the world to be processed, then shipped back to be sold right where it started. Mexican calves — fed imported American corn — are exported to the United States to be butchered, and then the meat is exported back to Mexico for sale. More than half of the seafood caught in Alaska gets processed in China, and much of it is sent right back to American grocery store shelves. Compounding the insanity of this “re-importation” is the equally head-scratching phenomenon of “redundant trade”. This is a common practice whereby countries both import and export identical quantities of identical products in a given year.

For instance, in 2007, Britain imported 15,000 tons of chocolate-covered waffles, while exporting 14,000 tons. In 2017, the US both imported and exported nearly 1.5 million tons of beef and nearly half a million tons of potatoes. On the face of it, this kind of trade makes no economic sense. Why would it be worth the immense cost — in money as well as fuel — of sending perfectly good food abroad only to bring it right back again? The answer lies in the way the global economy is structured. Direct and indirect subsidies for fossil fuels, on the order of $5 trillion per year worldwide, allow the costs of shipping to be largely borne by taxpayers and the environment instead of the businesses that actually engage in it. This allows transnational corporations to take advantage of differences in labor and environmental laws between countries, not to mention tax loopholes, in service of making a bigger profit.


The consequences of this bad behavior are already severe, and set to become worse in the coming decades. Small farmers, particularly in the Global South, have seen their livelihoods undermined by influxes of cheap food from abroad. Trade agreements have made it impossible for companies to compete in the global economy unless they base their operations in places with the weakest protections for workers and the environment. And all the while, the share of global carbon emissions produced by commercial shipping is set to rise to 17 percent by 2050, if action isn’t taken to curb our addiction to trade.

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So far, the law has not been on Chelsea’s side. Or actually, it has. It just doesn’t count for much anymore.

Chelsea Manning’s Lawyers File An Appeal Against Her Detention (Canary)

Chelsea’s Manning’s legal team have filed an appeal on her behalf. They’ve asked that the fourth circuit court order her release from detention. On 8 March, Manning refused to testify in front of a grand jury about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. Judge Claude Hilton found that Manning was in contempt of court and ordered her jailed. Manning will walk free when she either chooses to testify or the grand jury finishes its work. As a result, Manning could be held in jail for a further 18 months. Her support group Chelsea Resists! published a statement about the appeal. It said that her legal team are basing the appeal on three issues. Firstly, it said: “Judge Hilton denied Chelsea’s motion asking the government to disclose the existence of any unlawful surveillance without actually considering the evidence.”

This is important, it argued, because “evidence derived from unlawful surveillance may not be used in a grand jury”. Secondly, it claimed judge Hilton did not get assurances that the government’s subpoenaing of Manning was “properly motivated”. Chelsea Resists! said: “Prosecutors may not use the grand jury for the primary purpose of preparing for trial of an already-secured indictment. Chelsea raised concerns that the government did not need her testimony to further their investigation, and that rather they intended to use the subpoena to preview and perhaps undermine any testimony she might give at trial for an already-pending indictment.” It said this is “an abuse of process” which would void the initial subpoena. It argued that the judge “did not consider the facts or the law on this motion”.


For now, the US government is still holding Manning in detention. As The Canary previously reported, her support group has also accused the government of torturing her. According to Chelsea Resists!, prison authorities confine Manning to her cell for 22 hours a day. It says that “this treatment qualifies as Solitary Confinement” which “amounts to torture” when maintained for over 15 days. In its latest statement, it also said that this confinement: “..is especially egregious given that Chelsea has not been charged with or convicted of a crime.” The US government previously held Manning in solitary confinement from May 2010 to April 2011.

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“..US district judge Vince Chhabria [..] said there were “large swaths of evidence” showing that the company’s herbicides could cause cancer. He also said there was “a great deal of evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of its product..”

Who Is Paying For Monsanto’s Crimes? We Are (G.)

The chickens are coming home to roost, as they say in farm country. For the second time in less than eight months a US jury has found that decades of scientific evidence demonstrates a clear cancer connection to Monsanto’s line of top-selling Roundup herbicides, which are used widely by consumers and farmers. Twice now jurors have additionally determined that the company’s own internal records show Monsanto has intentionally manipulated the public record to hide the cancer risks. Both juries found punitive damages were warranted because the company’s cover-up of cancer risks was so egregious.


The juries saw evidence that Monsanto has ghost-written scientific papers, tried to silence scientists, scuttled independent government testing, and cozied up to regulators for favorable safety reviews of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. Even the US district judge Vince Chhabria, who oversaw the San Francisco trial that concluded Wednesday with an $80.2m damage award, had harsh words for Monsanto. Chhabria said there were “large swaths of evidence” showing that the company’s herbicides could cause cancer. He also said there was “a great deal of evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of its product… and does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue.”

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Oh dear…

$80 Million Roundup Verdict Is Only $2.5M After Taxes, New IRS Math (F.)

Another Roundup verdict is in. This time, jurors found that Monsanto failed to warn users its product was dangerous and awarded Edwin Hardeman $200,000 for economic losses, $5 million for past and future pain and suffering, and $75 million in punitive damages. Last year, jurors gave $289 million to a man they say got cancer from Monsanto’s Roundup. That verdict was later reduced, and is on appeal. But the latest case is federal, and suggests that others could be headed for big numbers. The jury had already concluded that the weedkiller was a substantial factor in causing Mr. Hardeman’s non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Monsanto faces over 10,000 claims, and can be expected to continue fighting hard. But even if Monsanto pays up, new tax rules could swallow up many of the verdicts plaintiffs might be hoping to collect. Wait until you see the new tax math.

Under President Trump’s tax bill passed in late 2017, there is a new tax on litigation settlements: no deduction for legal fees. Amazingly, many legal fees can no longer be deducted. That means many plaintiffs must pay taxes even on monies their attorneys collect. Of course, the attorneys must also pay tax on the same money. Here’s the new math. Hardeman was awarded a bit over $5 million in compensatory damages, and $75M in punitive damages. The combined contingent fees and costs Mr. Hardeman pays his attorneys might total as much as 50%. If so, the plaintiff would get to keep half, or $2.5 million of the $5 million compensatory award. Since it is for his claimed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, that part for physical injuries should not be taxed.


Then, of the $75 million punitive award, $37.5 million goes to legal fees and costs, and $37.5 million to Hardeman. So before taxes, the plaintiff’s take home is $40 million. What about after taxes? The $75 million in punitive damages are fully taxable, with no deduction for the fees to his lawyer. Between federal taxes of 37% and California taxes of up to 13.3%, Hardeman could lose about 50% to the IRS and California Franchise Tax Board. That makes his after-tax (and after legal fee) haul from an $80 million verdict only $2.5 million.

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Everything dies baby that’s a fact. We live in a death culture.

EU Bans UK’s Most-Used Pesticide Over Health And Environment Fears (G.)

One of the world’s most common pesticides will soon be banned by the European Union after safety officials reported human health and environmental concerns. Chlorothalonil, a fungicide that prevents mildew and mould on crops, is the most used pesticide in the UK, applied to millions of hectares of fields, and is the most popular fungicide in the US. Farmers called the ban “overly precautionary”. But EU states voted for a ban after a review by the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) was unable to exclude the possibility that breakdown products of the chemical cause damage to DNA. Efsa also said “a high risk to amphibians and fish was identified for all representative uses”.

Recent research further identified chlorothalonil and other fungicides as the strongest factor linked to steep declines in bumblebees. Regulators around the world have falsely assumed it is safe to use pesticides at industrial scales across landscapes, according to a chief scientific adviser to the UK government. Other research in 2017 showed farmers could slash their pesticide use without losses, while a UN report denounced the “myth” that pesticides are necessary to feed the world.


A European commission spokeswoman said: “The [chlorothalonil ban] is based on Efsa’s scientific assessment which concluded that the approval criteria do not seem to be satisfied for a wide range of reasons. Great concerns are raised in relation to contamination of groundwater by metabolites of the substance.” Chlorothalonil has been used across the world since 1964 on barley and wheat, as well as potatoes, peas and beans. The ban will be passed formally in late April or early May and then enter into force three weeks later, the commission spokeswoman said.

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Inbreeding.

How The Lion Lost Its Strength (G.)

For more than a century, explorers and settlers have warned about the likely impact of the hunting of lions and other wild animals in Africa. One of the most prescient, Frederick Selous, the inspiration for the character Allan Quatermain in the novels of H Rider Haggard, wrote in 1908 that “since my first arrival in 1871, I had seen game of all kinds gradually decrease and dwindle in numbers to such an extent that I thought that nowhere south of the Great Lakes could there be a corner of Africa left where the wild animals had not been very much thinned out”.

Now researchers have uncovered the impact of that predation on the lion. Lion numbers and range have plunged – but it appears their genetic fitness has also declined. An alarming new study has revealed that lions shot by colonial hunters more than 100 years ago were more genetically diverse than the ones that now populate Africa. The discovery is worrying because it indicates that the species’ fight to survive may be even more difficult than had been previously thought. “Loss of genetic diversity means that lions are now less able to withstand new diseases or environmental problems, such as heatwaves or droughts,” said lead author Simon Dures, of the Zoological Society of London. “It means that we will have to be even more careful about how we try to protect them.”


In the late 19th century there were about 200,000 members of Panthera leo roaming the savannahs of Africa. Then European colonialists arrived and began shooting lions – the most social of all cats – in their thousands, first as sport and later to protect the cattle that the newcomers had begun to farm. With fewer than 20,000 of these majestic predators left on the continent, the species has now been designated as “vulnerable”.


Lions have lost some of their ability to cope with diseases, environmental changes or other threats. Photograph: Heinrich van den Berg/Getty Images

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Always fascinating.

Chicxulub: Stunning Fossils Record Dinosaurs’ Demise (BBC)

Scientists have found an extraordinary snapshot of the fallout from the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. Excavations in North Dakota reveal fossils of fish and trees that were sprayed with rocky, glassy fragments that fell from the sky. The deposits show evidence also of having been swamped with water – the consequence of the colossal sea surge that was generated by the impact. Robert DePalma, from the University of Kansas, and colleagues say the dig site, at a place called Tanis, gives an amazing glimpse into events that probably occurred perhaps only tens of minutes to a couple of hours after the giant asteroid hit the Earth.


Fossilised fish piled one atop another as they were flung ashore by the seiche

When this 12km-wide object slammed into what is now the Gulf of Mexico, it would have hurled billions of tonnes of molten and vaporised rock into the sky in all directions – and across thousands of kilometres. And at Tanis, the fossils record the moment this bead-sized material fell back down and strafed everything in its path. Fish are found with the impact-induced debris embedded in their gills. They would have breathed in the fragments that filled the water around them. There are also particles caught in amber, which is the preserved remnant of tree resin. It is even possible to discern the wake left by these tiny, glassy tektites, to use the technical term, as they entered the resin.


Dating the tektites gives an age for the impact – 65.76 million years ago

Geochemists have managed to link the fallout material directly to the so-called Chicxulub impact site in the Gulf. They have also dated the debris to 65.76 million years ago, which is in very good agreement with the timing for the event worked out from evidence at other sites around the world. From the way the Tanis deposits are arranged, the scientists can see that the area was hit by a massive surge of water. Although the impact is understood to have generated a huge tsunami, it would have taken many hours for this wave to travel the 3,000km from the Gulf to North Dakota, despite the likely presence back then of a seaway cutting directly across the American landmass.


The outer rim (white arc) of the crater lies partly under Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula

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Mar 302019
 


René Magritte The muscles of the sky 1927

 

May Hopes To Hold Fourth Vote On Brexit Deal (Ind.)
May Ready To Trigger Election Within 10 Days (Ind.)
EU Gives Britain 11 Days To Come Up With New Brexit Plan (G.)
The Democrats Are Self-Destructing (PCR)
Wokester’s Nightmare (Kunstler)
Barr Says Mueller Report Will Be Released In Mid-April ‘If Not Sooner’ (AP)
On Russiagate and Our Refusal to Face Why Trump Won (Taibbi)
US Readying Sanctions On Russia Over Nerve-Agent Attack In Britain (R.)
Southwest To Keep Boeing 737 MAX Off Schedules Through May (R.)
TUI Sticks With Boeing, Sees 737 Maxs Flying By Mid-July (R.)
Human Population Explosion Squeezes Out Wildlife On African Savannah (Ind.)
The Places in America that Use the Most (and Least) Pesticides (PO)

 

 

Get me Bill Murray on the phone.

May Hopes To Hold Fourth Vote On Brexit Deal (Ind.)

Theresa May hopes to bring her Brexit deal back to parliament again next week after it was rejected for a third time by MPs – and appears poised to trigger a general election if parliament fails to agree a way forward. Despite the embattled prime minister’s dramatic promise on Wednesday that she would hand over the keys to 10 Downing Street if her Tory colleagues backed the withdrawal agreement, parliament voted against it on Friday, by 344 to 286. The Commons vote was held on the day when Britain was meant to be leaving the European Union, as Parliament Square outside overflowed with raucous pro-Brexit protesters.

A string of leave-supporting Conservative backbenchers who had twice rejected the deal, including Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, switched sides to support the agreement. But with Labour unwilling to shift its position, and the Democratic Unionist party’s 10 MPs implacably opposed, it was not enough to secure a majority for May. The result was a sense of stunned disbelief in Westminster. Asked what could happen next, one government source said: “Last one out, turn off the lights.” Immediately after the defeat was announced, May told MPs: “The implications of the house’s decision are grave. The legal default now is that the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on 12 April. In just 14 days’ time.”

Under the deal agreed by EU leaders in Brussels last week, if May had passed her withdrawal agreement this week, Brexit would have been delayed until 22 May. Now, she will have to return to Brussels for an emergency European council summit on 10 April. The EU27 expect her to ask for a longer delay – requiring Britain to participate in the European elections in May – or accept a no-deal Brexit two days later. However, her aides hope the 22 May date could still be in play if her deal is accepted next week.

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So what’s she waiting for?

May Ready To Trigger Election Within 10 Days (Ind.)

Britain is veering towards a new general election after MPs voted down Theresa May’s Brexit deal for a third time on Friday. She strongly hinted after the defeat that she will take the country to the polls if parliament does not pass a deal respecting the 2016 referendum result in the next 10 days. Ministers told The Independent a new election was a clear possibility featuring in the prime minister’s thinking, with her likely to have one final attempt to push her deal through next week. As thousands of pro-Brexit protesters shouted outside parliament, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Scottish nationalists, who form the third biggest group in the House of Commons, also called for an election.


It comes as MPs will once again take control of the chamber’s schedule on Monday to hold indicative votes to see if a soft-Brexit compromise can achieve a majority. [..] Asked whether an election was now becoming a clear possibility, one cabinet source told The Independent without hesitation: “Yes. Absolutely. No question.” There had been speculation that the vote itself was set up for 29 March to make a show of Mr Corbyn’s party voting against Brexit ahead of a pending election campaign. One cabinet minister later said: “We would throw at them the question of ‘what did your MP do on exit day?’ “This is going to be difficult for a lot of individual Labour MPs in Leave areas.”

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10 days, 11 days, they’re intent on entertaining us every single day.

EU Gives Britain 11 Days To Come Up With New Brexit Plan (G.)

The EU has given the British government 11 days to come up with a fresh Brexit plan to avoid crashing out of the bloc at 11pm on 12 April. In the immediate aftermath of the crushing rejection of the prime minister’s deal, the European council president, Donald Tusk, called an emergency leaders’ summit. Should the UK seek a lengthy extension, leaders will debate any request at an extraordinary meeting on 10 April. EU capitals would require a clear justification at least two days earlier from Downing Street on the reason for a lengthy delay to allow officials to prepare. “We expect the UK to indicate a way forward before then, well in time for the European council to consider,” an official said.


EU heads of state and government expressed their alarm at the continued impasse in Westminster following the third defeat of May’s deal. The Irish taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, said: “It is up to the UK to indicate how it plans to proceed in order to avoid a no-deal scenario. The European council has agreed unanimously that the withdrawal agreement will not be reopened.” However, he added: “I believe we must be open to a long extension should the UK decide to fundamentally reconsider its approach … I believe that will result in a generous and understanding response from the 27.”

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Haven’t heard from Paul Craig Roberts in a while. Is that just me?

The Democrats Are Self-Destructing (PCR)

I know Democrats are disappointed not to have Trump’s head presented to them by Mueller on a silver platter. But surely not even Democrats are stupid enough to believe the Russiagate conspiracy tale. It was all cooked up by the military/security complex to prevent Trump from normalizing relations with Russia, thereby removing the enemy that justifies the $1,000 billion annual budget. Before writing such nonsense as Hartmann has written, he should have read Barr’s summary of the report. Barr quotes Mueller directly from the report: “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” Again from Mueller’s report: “The evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference.”


Other Democrats who cannot cope with their disappointment claim that although cleared of election theft collusion Trump was not cleared of obstruction of justice. This is nonsensical even for Democrats. As Trump committed no crime, what evidence did he obstruct? The evidence of his innocence? Just as murder requires a body, obstruction requires a crime to obstruct. But facts are boring to Democrats. They were certain that all the lies that they and the media whores told would find their way into Mueller’s report. Mueller’s staff was Democrat to the core, and Mueller used every dirty trick in the book in his effort to get something on Trump. It simply couldn’t be done. Democrats will never get over it, just as they never have got over Iran-Contra. Hartmann couldn’t write about the “Russiagate coverup” without dragging in Ronald Reagan and the “Iran-Contra coverup.”

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“It’s also very likely that Robert Mueller learned that the Steele Dossier was a fraud in the summer of 2017, if not shortly after his appointment in May of that year..”

Wokester’s Nightmare (Kunstler)

All of a sudden, a whole lot of people who have been punking the public-at-large will have to answer for their behavior. Despite the fog of misdirection blowing out of The New York Times, The WashPo, CNN, and MSNBC, it’s become obvious that the RussiaGate hoax was kicked off by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and a cabal of Obama appointees in several executive agencies. The evidence is public, fully documented, and overwhelming that the so-called Steele Dossier was the sole animating instrument in both the 2016 pre-election effort to incriminate the Golden Golem of Greatness, and the Mueller Investigation launched post-election to cover-up those same political misdeeds of the Clinton campaign, the FBI, the Department of Justice, the CIA, NSA, and State Department.


It’s also very likely that Robert Mueller learned that the Steele Dossier was a fraud in the summer of 2017, if not shortly after his appointment in May of that year, and yet he dragged out his investigation for almost two years in order to defame and antagonize Mr. Trump — and deflect attention from the ugly truth of the matter. It is certain Mr. Mueller knew that the Steele Dossier was purchased by Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS political “research” company, which was simultaneously in the paid employ of Mrs. Clinton and the Russian political lobbying agency Prevezon (as reported by Sean Davis in The Federalist). If the FBI brass did not bring that to Mr. Mueller’s attention right away, then either their incompetence is epic or they are criminally liable for concealing the hoax.

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Mueller’s doing the redacting with Barr.

Barr Says Mueller Report Will Be Released In Mid-April ‘If Not Sooner’ (AP)

Congress should expect to receive a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation by mid-April, Attorney General William Barr said Friday. In a letter to the chairmen of the House and Senate judiciary committees, Barr said he shares a desire for Congress and the public to be able to read Mueller’s findings, which are included in the nearly 400-page report Mueller submitted last week. Barr said he does not plan to share the report with the White House before making it public. He said that while President Donald Trump would have the right to assert executive privilege over certain parts of the report, “he has stated publicly that he intends to defer to me and, accordingly, there are no plans to submit the report to the White House for a privilege review.”

Mueller officially concluded his investigation when he submitted the report last Friday. Two days later, Barr sent a four-page letter to Congress that detailed Mueller’s “principal conclusions.” Mueller’s report did not find that the Trump campaign coordinated or conspired with Russia, Barr wrote, and did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice. Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided on their own that Mueller’s evidence was insufficient to establish that the president committed obstruction.

Barr said he is preparing to redact multiple categories of information from the report. Those include grand jury material; information that would compromise sensitive sources and methods; information that could affect ongoing investigations, including those referred by Mueller’s office to other Justice Department offices; and information that could infringe on the personal privacy and reputation of “peripheral third parties.” “Our progress is such that I anticipate we will be in a position to release the report by mid-April, if not sooner,” he said.

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Getting a bit tired of all the regurgitating and gloating, but this look back is nice.

On Russiagate and Our Refusal to Face Why Trump Won (Taibbi)

Nate Silver, the ex-baseball stats guru and renowned “National Oracle™” (as Gizmodo cheekily called him), laughed at Trump’s chances[1]. His site, FiveThirtyEight, ran a story called “Why Donald Trump Isn’t a Real Candidate, In One Chart.” The piece said Trump was more likely to “play in the NBA finals” or cameo in another Home Alone movie than win the nomination. Dana Milbank in the Washington Post: “I’m so certain Trump won’t win the nomination that I’ll eat my words if he does. Literally.” Milbank ended up actually doing this, for which he deserves a lot of credit. “Donald Trump is going to lose because he is crazy,” was the take of Jonathan Chait, who would soon be writing Trump might have been recruited by the KGB in 1987.

It isn’t just that wizards of prognostication were wrong. The bigger issue was why they were so confident. A common take was the political establishment just wouldn’t allow it. Former “The Note” writer Mark Halperin used to talk about having his finger on the pulse of the “Gang of 500,” which he described as “campaign consultants, strategists, pollsters, pundits and journalists who make up the modern-day political establishment.” The subtext of Halperin’s pieces was that the Gang of 500 decided elections. It’s hard to understand how it never occurred to Halperin or anyone else that people might be grossed out by the concept of 500 self-appointed guardians of democracy deciding the presidency for 300 million people.

In this case, just by saying out loud the idea that the people who mattered would never let Trump win, probably helped Trump win. It validated his talk about “elites.” Nate Cohn of The New York Times wrote Trump had “just about no shot of winning the nomination no matter how well he is doing in the early polls.” He prefaced this by saying it is “the party elites who traditionally decide nomination contests.” When Trump defied these predictions and sealed up the Republican nomination, he immediately became subject to a new legend, about how he was destined to be the biggest landslide loser in history of general elections: bigger than Alf Landon or even George McGovern, whose very name in America is synonymous with “loser.”

Here are some takes on Trump’s campaign after he sealed up the nomination: David Brooks: Trump will be the “biggest loser” in American politics. The Week: “Trump is poised to lose the biggest landslide in modern American history.” George Will: “Donald Trump may find a place in history – by losing just that badly.” I belong on this infamous list myself. In one of the worst mistakes of my career, I ended up changing my mind about “free-falling” Trump’s chances, spending the stretch run predicting doom for Republicans. I read too many polls and ignored what I was seeing, i.e. that even the post-Access Hollywood Trump was still packing stadiums.

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I swear I thought it was an April Fools prank.

US Readying Sanctions On Russia Over Nerve-Agent Attack In Britain (R.)

The White House has received a package of new sanctions to be imposed on Russia in retaliation for the 2018 nerve-agent attack on a Russian double agent in Britain, Bloomberg reported on Friday. Officials at the U.S. Treasury and State Departments have vetted the sanctions and are awaiting approval from the White House to issue them, Bloomberg said, citing people familiar with the matter. Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, were found unconscious on a bench in the southern English city of Salisbury in March 2018 after a liquid form of the Novichok type of nerve agent was applied to the front door of Skripal’s home.


Both Skripal and his daughter survived. Russia has denied any involvement in the attack. Asked about Friday’s report, a Trump administration official noted that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in a phone call in February that the United States was determined to hold Russia accountable for the attack through sanctions.

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Don’t think they’ll make it.

Southwest To Keep Boeing 737 MAX Off Schedules Through May (R.)

Southwest Airlines Co said on Friday it was pulling its Boeing Co 737 MAX jets from flight schedules through May, extending its earlier timeline from April 20, according to a company memorandum seen by Reuters. “This will impact the lines in May, but, now that the decision has been made, we can construct our schedule without those flights well in advance in hopes to minimize the daily disruptions,” the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association and the company said in the joint memorandum. Boeing’s top-selling 737 MAX jetliner has been grounded in the wake of two deadly crashes involving that model in five months, one in Indonesia last October and another on March 10 in Ethiopia.

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Europe’s no 1 tour operator. Note how nice Boeing and them are to each other:“..he was “very certain” of receiving some compensation from Boeing, probably next year.|”

TUI Sticks With Boeing, Sees 737 Maxs Flying By Mid-July (R.)

TUI remains committed to its Boeing 737 MAX orders despite two fatal crashes that have led to the grounding of the plane worldwide and caused the Anglo-German tour operator to issue a profit warning on Friday. TUI said its profit would fall by at least 200 million euros ($225 million) this year due to the cost of substituting planes, loss of business and lower fuel efficiency – further evidence of the financial impact of the two deadly accidents after warnings from North American airlines. The holiday firm’s shares fell to an all-time low.

Global airlines and travel groups have had to make contingency plans after 737 MAX planes were taken out of service following an Ethiopian Airlines disaster on March 10 that killed 157 people, five months after a Lion Air crash in Indonesia that killed 189. Boeing is planning a software fix to address an issue that can arise when the MAX’s anti-stall system, MCAS, repeatedly pushes the plane’s nose down. The MCAS system is at the center of safety investigations into the two crashes. Based on feedback from Boeing and EU regulator EASA, the planes should be flying again in July, TUI’s Chief Executive Friedrich Joussen told analysts on a call.

CEO Joussen said: “We are saving $1 million per year per aircraft in fuel, but – and here comes the but – safety first.” TUI has little scope to cancel flights, as some airlines are doing, because the flights feed its hotel and cruise business. It is leasing planes complete with crews to replace those due to have been flown by 737 MAXs at the cost of $1 million each per month, executives said, adding they had seen some tightening of the so-called wet-leasing market. Bookings were down by 10 percent in major markets since the Ethiopian crash, Joussen said, adding he was “very certain” of receiving some compensation from Boeing, probably next year.

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“.. a 400 per cent increase in human population over the last decade, while more than three quarters of the populations of some of the larger species of migrating animals like wildebeest, zebra and gazelle have been wiped out..”

Human Population Explosion Squeezes Out Wildlife On African Savannah (Ind.)

Encroachment by people into one of Africa’s most celebrated ecosystems is “squeezing the wildlife in its core”, by damaging habitation and disrupting the migration routes of animals, a major international study has concluded. Boundary areas of the Serengeti-Mara region in East Africa have seen a 400 per cent increase in human population over the last decade, while more than three quarters of the populations of some of the larger species of migrating animals like wildebeest, zebra and gazelle have been wiped out, scientists revealed after examining 40 years of data. Despite being one of the most protected ecosystems on Earth, the influx of people and livestock around both the Serengeti and Masai Mara has had a detrimental impact on plants, wild animals and soils.


This has occurred in two main ways, the study found. Firstly, the protected areas’ or “buffer zones” where more livestock including cattle are being reared, are leaving less and lower quality grasses for wildebeest, zebra and gazelle to graze. Secondly, the presence of people and farm animals has also reduced the frequency of natural fires, which in turn impacts the variety of vegetation, altering grazing opportunities for wildlife in the core protected areas. Publishing their findings in the journal Science, the authors said the impacts were cascading down the food chain. Animals were forced to eat less palatable herbs and therefore the beneficial interactions between plants and microorganisms that enable the ecosystem to flourish were being altered.


Zebra, gazelle and wildebeest populations have fallen as human populations have risen on the edges of protected areas (Getty)

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h/t Tyler

The Places in America that Use the Most (and Least) Pesticides (PO)

We decided to analyze data to uncover which states in the United States had the most and least exposure to pesticides, herbicides and other agricultural chemicals, with a particular focus on glyphosate, the active ingredient that is in the news right now. We looked at data from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to see which compounds were most popular and which locations had the highest usage levels of these chemicals. By a significant margin, the most popular herbicide in the United States is glyphosate, which is four times more popular than the second most popular chemical. Not surprisingly, large agricultural states like California, Washington, and Illinois use the most pesticides.

However, some states that use a lot of these chemicals see very little glyphosate usage, while others nearly exclusively use the compound. In California for example, only 6 percent of pesticide usage is glyphosate, while in Montana, 52 percent of such usage is from glyphosate. [..] By a significant margin, glyphosate is the most popular pesticide used in American agriculture. Over 130 million kilograms were used in 2016, which was approximately four times more than the second-place pesticide, Atrazine. In total, just over 544 million kilograms of pesticides were used in the U.S. in 2016, and 24 percent of that was glyphosate. It’s hard to overestimate just how pervasive Roundup and glyphosate are this country.

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Mar 282019
 
 March 28, 2019  Posted by at 9:45 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Self portrait 1907

 

UK MPs Vote Down All Alternative Brexit Options (G.)
Speaker Issues Fresh Warning Over Third Vote On May’s Brexit Deal (G.)
May Vows To Resign Before Next Phase Of Brexit If Deal Is Passed (G.)
DUP Vows To Block May’s Brexit Deal After She Offers To Resign (Ind.)
Turkey Is Unraveling Fast (Colombo)
Erdogan’s Big Turkish Ambitions Could Come Tumbling Down (BBC)
MEPs Approved Controversial ‘Meme Ban’ EU Copyright Law By Accident (Ind.)
Rachel Maddow Sheds 500,000 Viewers In Post-Mueller Slump (RT)
Deutsche Bank Seeking a “Guarantee of Existence” with Monster-Merger? (WS)
‘Why Not Give Israel North & South Carolina?’ Syrian Envoy Asks US At UN (RT)
‘Leave Syria First’: Moscow Reacts To Trump’s Demand To Leave Venezuela (RT)
Monsanto Ordered To Pay $80 Million In Damages To Cancer Victim (G.)
‘Doomsday Vault’ Town Warming Quicker Than Any Other On Earth (Ind.)

 

 

They can’t agree on anything. But they will keep trying, until they find something that can be accepted, by a narrow margin. And that narrow margin will be used to push through Brexit, which was voted for by narrow margin. A recipe for disaster. This can only end well if they put it off and talk first.

UK MPs Vote Down All Alternative Brexit Options (G.)

A first attempt by MPs to find a consensus route forward for Brexit has ended in deadlock and confusion after the Commons rejected every option put forward, albeit with a near-even split on the idea of joining a customs union. Oliver Letwin, the veteran Conservative MP who led the process which allowed backbenchers to seize control of the order paper to hold a series of indicative votes, said the results were “disappointing” but he hoped a new round of votes would be held on Monday. The Speaker, John Bercow, said he would allow this to take place, prompting shouts of protests from many MPs. The Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, said the results strengthened the government’s view that Theresa May’s Brexit deal was the best and only way forward.


On the lack of a majority for any of the eight alternatives put to the vote on Wednesday, he said: “It demonstrates that there is not easy option here, that there is no easy way forward.” Groups of MPs had suggested 15 ideas, of which eight were selected by Bercow for votes. The closest result was a commitment for the government to negotiate a “permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union with the EU” in any Brexit deal. Put forward by the pro-EU Tory veteran Ken Clarke and others, it was voted down by 272 votes to 264. The only other relatively close vote was on a plan drawn up by the Labour MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson, and tabled by the former foreign secretary Margaret Beckett, to require a referendum to confirm any Brexit deal. This was lost by 268 votes to 295.

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But everything hangs on that vote.

Speaker Issues Fresh Warning Over Third Vote On May’s Brexit Deal (G.)

Theresa May’s hopes of putting her Brexit deal to a third meaningful vote have hit another obstacle after John Bercow said parliamentary procedures could not be used to present it unchanged, even as more senior Eurosceptics seem to be getting behind the agreement. Amid speculation the prime minister is making a private pact to set a date to stand down when the deal goes through, more than 20 Conservative Eurosceptics have publicly suggested they will change their minds because they do not want a softer Brexit. Even if this many MPs in the European Research Group (ERG) switched, the vote would be extremely tight, but there was mounting speculation the government could table it on Thursday or Friday. This plan, however, could be scuppered after the Speaker told ministers he stood by his ruling that the twice-defeated motion could not be put to MPs again without significant change.


Bercow said he had instructed officials to block any attempts to put forward the same or similar plan using procedural rule changes, for example, by using a vote by MPs to instruct the Commons to overlook the rule behind his block. “I understand that the government may be thinking of bringing meaningful vote three before the house either tomorrow or even on Friday, if the house opts to sit that day,” Bercow told the Commons before the start of a debate on indicative votes on Brexit. “Therefore, in order that there should be no misunderstanding, I wish to make clear that I do expect the government to meet the test of change. They should not seek to circumvent my ruling by means of tabling either a notwithstanding motion or a tabling motion.

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Is it too late to say she’s too late?

May Vows To Resign Before Next Phase Of Brexit If Deal Is Passed (G.)

Theresa May has played her final desperate card to tame the Brexit rebels in her warring party, by promising to sacrifice her premiership if they back her twice-rejected Brexit deal. The beleaguered prime minister, whose authority has been shattered by the double rejection of her deal and the humiliation of a delay to Brexit day, made the offer to Tory backbenchers at a packed meeting in parliament. It came as MPs held backbench-led “indicative votes” on eight alternative Brexit options, including no deal, a referendum, a customs union and a Norway-style deal – none of which secured a majority.


May told her party’s backbench 1922 Committee: “I have heard very clearly the mood of the parliamentary party. I know there is a desire for a new approach – and new leadership – in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations, and I won’t stand in the way of that.” She added: “I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party.” [..] The prime minister had hoped to remain in No 10 after exit day, and build a legacy that extended beyond the humiliations of the Brexit talks to domestic policy. But if the withdrawal agreement is passed and Britain leaves the EU in eight weeks’ time, she could now be gone before the summer – after just three years in the top job.

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The fringe group she needed after her terrible election outcome now keeps her from pushing through her deal. Poetic justice?

DUP Vows To Block May’s Brexit Deal After She Offers To Resign (Ind.)

Theresa May’s plan to secure Tory MPs’ backing for her Brexit deal by promising to resign has been blown apart after her DUP partners in government vowed to block it in a new vote. Ms May announced she will resign within weeks if Tory rebels desperate to see the back of her, allow the Brexit deal she struck with Brussels to pass through the House of Commons. The move did see Boris Johnson and other rebels finally fall into line, but within hours the boost was wiped out when DUP leader Arlene Foster branded the prime minister’s Brexit plan an “unacceptable threat” to the UK’s integrity.


With the success of Ms May’s final gambit now heavily in doubt, MPs held a series of votes to determine if any compromise can be found to break the parliamentary deadlock – but none of the eight options tested gained a majority. Earlier in the day cabinet ministers went on the airwaves to show support after Ms May’s pledge and to urge MPs to get behind her Brexit deal, but several will now ramp up preparations for a leadership contest with the PM looking fatally weakened. Several Conservatives told The Independent that with her Brexit plan on its last legs and parliament having so far failed to find an alternative, a new election now appears a very real possibility.

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Erdogan is in full scale war with financial markets, even going up against JP Morgan. The classic failure of fighting against the shorts, which is like fighting windmills. But he thinks he has a right to be god in his own country.

Turkey Is Unraveling Fast (Colombo)

This week, Turkey further roiled markets by preventing foreign banks from accessing the liras they need to close out their swap positions. That’s made it almost impossible for bankers to short the lira or exit carry trades, and forced the overnight lira rate up to about 1,000 percent from 23 percent.

Turkey’s shocking intervention this week – which sought to punish speculators who were betting against the lira – is more confirmation that the country’s financial and economic situation is spiraling out of control. The primary reason for this turmoil is the bursting of Turkey’s 15 year old credit bubble. To summarize, a credit bubble formed in Turkey starting in the early-2000s, which led to an artificial economic boom. Private sector credit grew from roughly 15% of GDP in 2003 to 70% of GDP in 2016. Surging interest rates are now bursting the credit bubble and putting an end to the artificial economic boom.


Unfortunately, Turkey’s situation is only going to get worse – a 15 year-old credit bubble doesn’t resolve in a mere six months. This week’s currency intervention will only serve to scare away foreign investors, which will contribute to the downward spiral. Turkey is just one of many emerging economies that have experienced credit bubbles in the past decade due to the stimulative actions of global central banks. Bubbles – including the one in Turkey – have caused global debt to explode by $150 trillion in 15 years and $70 trillion in 10 years. Even if you do not invest directly in Turkey, you are still likely exposed to contagion risk – welcome to the downside of globalization.

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Yup. Biggest airport in the world.

Erdogan’s Big Turkish Ambitions Could Come Tumbling Down (BBC)

The crater is the size of a football pitch, dug 50 metres (165ft) deep into the earth. Mounds of rock line the surface. The only life here is the seagulls drinking from pools of stagnant water. It was supposed to be the site of Istanbul’s gleaming new development: a grandiose mix of apartments, malls and spas in the district of Fikirtepe. The promotional video from 2010 showed a symbol of Turkey’s newfound wealth. The houses of at least 15,000 people were demolished to make way for it. Many paid deposits to buy into the project. But as financial problems hit, investors pulled out – and most of the planned buildings never materialised. All that’s left is a gaping hole of bankrupt companies and broken promises.

It is symptomatic of a wider economic slump that poses the gravest threat to Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his 16 years in power. Polls before this weekend’s local elections suggest his governing AK Party could lose control of the capital, Ankara – and perhaps even Istanbul. Over the past 16 years, Mr Erdogan has championed construction as the engine of Turkey’s growth. His so-called “mega projects” – from airports to bridges to tunnels – have transformed the country’s infrastructure. And high-rise housing developments have changed city skylines, often to the horror of architects. Construction moguls close to the president have won state tenders through political support. The industry is mired in claims of corruption and cronyism.

But with inflation now at 20% and the Turkish lira having plunged by around a third, the cost of importing raw materials and servicing foreign loans has soared – and construction companies are failing. Pana Yapi, the conglomerate running the Fikirtepe project, told the BBC “the whole country is going through an economic crisis”, arguing that it too is a victim. Cranes suspended in mid-air and half-built skyscrapers that now dot Istanbul are a sign of that crisis. Turkey entered recession last year, shrinking 3% in the final quarter. Many fear there is worse to come. “Turkey is heavily dependent on foreign-denominated debt and when that’s harder to service, that’s when you see the problems we’re in”, said Can Selcuki, general manager at Istanbul Economics Research.

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The EU will split itself off the global internet because representatives didn’t understand procedures, and can’t correct their mistakes.

MEPs Approved Controversial ‘Meme Ban’ EU Copyright Law By Accident (Ind.)

The most controversial “meme ban” part of new EU copyright law was voted through by MEPs by mistake, it has emerged. This week, the European Parliament voted to pass the new copyright regulations, which critics claim could fundamentally alter how the internet works. And one vote on those specifics of those rules appears to have been decided on the basis of MEPs who approved them by accident. During deliberations on the new regulations, MEPs were offered the chance to specifically debate the two most controversial pieces of the law: Article 11, which would stop search engines from showing snippets of text from other websites, and the renamed Article 13, which requires that tech companies ensure their users are not violating copyright and has been accused of leading to a “meme ban”.

The MEPs turned down an amendment that would have allowed them to specifically reject those parts of the law, by a very thin margin, in advance of the main vote. But now some of those politicians say they mistakenly voted the wrong way – and enough of them that it would have swung the vote. That amendment was rejected by just five votes. But at least ten MEPs said they had accidentally cast their vote the wrong way, and if they had voted it would have fallen the other way. Video taken during the vote shows the confusion among the politicians as they attempt to quickly vote on the amendments, which could have fundamentally changed the regulations that were eventually passed.

The voting records have now been fixed to show that a number of MEPs had cast the wrong votes, and registers the names of those who had intended to approve the amendment. But despte the fact that the voting records now show the corrected results, the original ones will still stand. There is no way for those MEPs to change the official vote, even though the records can be corrected.

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How is it possible she was ever the no. 1 show?

Rachel Maddow Sheds 500,000 Viewers In Post-Mueller Slump (RT)

After putting all its eggs in the Russiagate conspiracy-theory ‘basket’ only to be let down by the contents (or lack thereof) of the Mueller report, MSNBC – and its top attraction, Rachel Maddow – are hemorrhaging viewers.
Russian-collusion high priestess Rachel Maddow’s nightly news show has slipped from number one in cable news to number six since Special Counsel Robert Mueller turned in his report on Friday, hemorrhaging half a million viewers in the space of a week. An MSNBC insider spilled the beans to the Daily Beast, assuring them that no one at the network was panicking.

“It was obviously a big couple of nights for Fox,” they said. MSNBC’s second-top-rated program, ‘The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,’ was also down half a million pairs of eyes. #Resistance media reactions to Mueller’s “no more indictments” recommendation have varied wildly, from desperate pleas to “wait and see” what’s in the full report to claims that Mueller himself was compromised, or asking the wrong questions, all along. Maddow herself seems to have chosen the “denial” route:

“Can we expect President Trump and the Trump White House to finally accept the underlying factual record that Russia did in fact attack us?” she asked on Monday, interpreting the report summary of Attorney General William Barr, which found no evidence to suggest Russian collusion, as proof that the Russian menace was even more menacing than previously believed.

Maddow’s privileged status as Queen of the Russiagaters has largely insulated her from the standard journalistic responsibilities of telling the truth, fact-checking, and otherwise maintaining a reality-based narrative, but the Beast cited “many producers” at MSNBC who had noticeably backed away from other fiery preachers of the Russiagate gospel, like Malcolm “Russia has been plotting to invade the US for 20 years! Also memes are cruise missiles” Nance.

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It’s the German government trying to create a situation in which the EU/ECB catches Deutsche’s fall.

Deutsche Bank Seeking a “Guarantee of Existence” with Monster-Merger? (WS)

The chief executive of eternally troubled Too-Big-To-Fail Deutsche Bank, Christian Sewing, believes the time is ripe for a merger with its national rival, Commerzbank, combing Germany’s two biggest, most dangerous lenders. So, too does his counterpart at Commerzbank, as does US private equity firm Cerberus, which owns 3% of Deutsche Bank and 5% of Commerzbank. Germany’s Finance Minister and card-carrying social democrat Olaf Scholz is also firmly on board. Indeed, many say that he’s the one leading the charge despite the tens of thousands of job losses a merger between the two banks is guaranteed to produce. Scholz’s deputy, Joerg Kukies, has courted controversy for his previous role as co-chief executive of Goldman Sachs, which is reportedly advising Commerzbank on the proposed $28 billion tie-up.

But Kukies insists there are no conflicts of interest, which is a relief. For some time now, the German government has been exploring ways to lever a merger between the top two banks to add scale and slash expenses. As things currently stand, Deutsche Bank shows little sign of halting, let alone reversing, the “vicious cycle of declining revenues, sticky expenses, lowered ratings and rising funding costs” that the group’s CFO James von Motke says has been plaguing it. Whether lumping it together with a bank that has already been bailed out once in “a merger of weakquals,” as London-based brokerage Olivetree calls it, will help right the ship is highly debatable.

But right now, the big concern is that time is fast running out for one of Europe’s biggest and most hyper-connected lenders. Unless something drastic is done soon, the next downturn could prove fatal for an already gravely weakened Deutsche Bank whose stock has been in a death-spiral since 2007, having lost over 90% of its value, and whose price-to-book ratio — the equation often used to reflect the value that market participants attach to a company’s equity — is currently below 0.25%. Normally, when a company’s P/B ratio falls below 1, it means the market is either undervaluing it and thus it could be good value, or the company is in trouble. When the ratio slumps as low as 0.22%, as is the case with Deutsche Bank, it’s far more likely to be the latter than the former.

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The Arab world can’t let this go.

‘Why Not Give Israel North & South Carolina?’ Syrian Envoy Asks US At UN (RT)

Syria’s UN ambassador has suggested the US hand “a couple” of its own states over to Israel instead of flaunting international law and selling others’ land for favors with the Israeli lobby, like it did with the Golan Heights.
Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar Jaafari offered a stark rebuke to the US-backed Israeli claim to the occupied Golan Heights at the UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday. Jaafari said the Trump administration does the bidding of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the UN to curry favor with the powerful Israeli lobby in the US. In a remark that elicited a chuckle and a head-shake from his Israeli counterpart, Jaafari suggested that Washington bargain away land that is actually its to give.


Trump’s decision to back the Israeli claim to the Golan Heights comes just ahead of the Israeli general elections on April, 6 and has been widely considered as an electoral boost for Netanyahu, who is facing charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust at home. “Don’t be misguided by thinking that one day this land will be yours due to hypocrisy or due to being a pawn in the electoral game where you bring each other support, so the Israeli can succeed in their elections and the Americans can also get support from Israeli lobbying groups in the US,” Jaafari said. The Golan Heights, seized by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day war and formally annexed in 1981, will ultimately “come back” to Syria, the Syrian diplomat said.

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“Trump upped the ante by warning Russia that “all options are open..”

‘Leave Syria First’: Moscow Reacts To Trump’s Demand To Leave Venezuela (RT)

The Trump administration should make good on its own promise to pull troops out of Syria before telling others where they should or shouldn’t be, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in reply to Washington’s threat over Venezuela. “Before they have their say in the lawful interests of other nations, I would advise the US administration to fulfill the promises that it had given to the international community,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, referring to US President Donald Trump’s pledge to get American troops out of Syria. The US is behaving like a “cowboy in the Louvre,” undermining international order with its “chaotic moves and unpredictable behavior,” Zakharova said.


The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed on Wednesday that two of its military planes arrived in Venezuela as part of a 2001 military cooperation deal that does not require further approval by the Venezuelan National Assembly, which has been taken over by the opposition and the self-proclaimed ‘interim president’ Juan Guaido. The planes carrying up to 100 Russian military specialists and cargo landed outside Caracas on Saturday, prompting wild guesses in the media. Washington was incensed over the arrival of the Russian troops and denounced it as “unnecessary provocation.” Trump upped the ante by warning Russia that “all options are open” when it comes to kicking Russia out.

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They’ll just keep on appealing.

Monsanto Ordered To Pay $80 Million In Damages To Cancer Victim (G.)

A federal jury ruled that Monsanto was liable for a California man’s cancer and ordered the Roundup manufacturer to pay $80m in damages. The ruling on Wednesday, which holds the company responsible for the cancer risks of its popular weedkiller, is the first of its kind in US federal court and a major blow to Monsanto and its parent company, Bayer. A spokesperson said Bayer would appeal. In a verdict during an earlier phase of the trial, the jury in San Francisco unanimously ruled that the herbicide was a “substantial factor” in causing the cancer of Edwin Hardeman. Hardeman, a 70-year-old Santa Rosa man, was the first person to challenge Monsanto’s herbicide in a federal trial, alleging that his exposure to the glyphosate weedkiller caused him to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), a cancer that affects the immune system.


The case has attracted international attention and raised new questions about the potential health hazards of Roundup. It also challenged the conduct of Monsanto, now owned by the German pharmaceutical company Bayer. The corporation is facing more than 9,000 similar lawsuits across the US that allege Roundup has caused cancer. The jury ruled that Roundup’s design was “defective”, that the product lacked sufficient cancer warnings, and that Monsanto was negligent in its failure to warn Hardeman of the NHL risk. The jurors ordered the company to pay Hardeman $75m in punitive damages, $200,000 for past economic losses and $5.6m in non-economic losses.

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Another win for Monsanto.

‘Doomsday Vault’ Town Warming Quicker Than Any Other On Earth (Ind.)

The world’s northernmost settlement and home to what is known as the “Doomsday vault” – the subterranean Svalbard global seed vault which stores specimens of almost all the world’s seeds – is now believed to be the fastest-warming location on Earth, according to a new report. Longyearbyen, on the Norwegian island of Svalbard, had an average temperature in Svalbard was -7.8C in 1900 but since then, it has risen by 3.7C – more than three times the global average rise of about 1°C. Not only has it become significantly warmer, but wetter too, spelling trouble for the Doomsday vault as the seeds’ preservation depends on stable temperatures and bone-dry conditions.


“Svalbard is the ultimate failsafe for biodiversity of crops,” Marie Haga, the executive director of the Crop Trust told CNN. The vault was opened in 2008. Its construction was funded by the Norwegian government and built in partnership with the country’s Crop Trust and is now a secure storage unit for around a million seed samples, representing over 13,000 years of agricultural history. [..] Set deep within a mountain in a geologically inert area, there is a very low risk of earthquakes or volcanoes and similarly, Norway’s political system is also “very stable”, Ms Haga said. The seeds are stored at -18C. But the increasing likelihood of wet weather has already seen major upheaval at the site. Following heavy rainfall in October 2016, the entrance to the seed vault became half-flooded and ended up freezing into huge blocks of ice.

Read more …

Mar 272019
 


Pablo Picasso Mandolin and guitar 1924

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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


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

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More overreach.

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

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

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

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


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

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A long extension appears to be the only way forward.

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

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


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

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The same deal they fought so hard against.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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2nd Special Counsel.

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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Cassandra Fairbanks’s intensely sad story.

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

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


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

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This is not going to be easy.

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Read more …

Mar 042019
 


Robert Frank London 1951-52

 

US, China Said To Appear Close To Deal To Roll Back Tariffs (R.)
Beijing To Encourage ‘Shadow’ Lending To Boost Growth – China Economist (CNBC)
Beijing Locked Down For China’s Greatest Political Spectacle (G.)
Huawei: Meng Wanzhou Sues Canadian Government Over Arrest (AP)
May Accused Of £1.6bn Brexit ‘Bribe’ Over New Fund For Deprived Towns (Ind.)
Russia Tells US It Is Ready For Bilateral Talks On Venezuela (R.)
Roger Stone Suggests In Instagram Post Robert Mueller ‘Framed’ Him (CNBC)
Donald Trump Facing Major New Investigation Into ‘Abuse Of Power’ (Ind.)
America’s Trust In Mainstream Media Hits Rock Bottom (SCF)
Trump Blames Timing Of Cohen Testimony For Collapse Of Kim Jong-Un Summit (G.)
US Voters Overwhelmingly Reject “Socialists” And Candidates “Over 75” (ZH)
Carpocalypse Now: We’re In The Endgame For Cars (BI)
Toxic Agrochemicals And Regulators’ Collusion With Industry (OffG)
Endangered Fruit Bats ‘Being Driven To Extinction’ In Mauritius (Ind.)

 

 

Can’t wait to see the details

US, China Said To Appear Close To Deal To Roll Back Tariffs (R.)

The United States and China appear close to a deal that would roll back U.S. tariffs on at least $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, as Beijing makes pledges on structural economic changes and eliminates retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods, a source briefed on negotiations said on Sunday. U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping could seal a formal trade deal at a summit around March 27 given progress in talks between the two countries, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday. In an eight-month trade war, the United States has imposed punitive tariffs on $250 billion worth of imports from China, while Beijing has hit back with tariffs on $110 billion worth of U.S. goods, including soybeans and other commodities.

The actions have roiled financial markets, disrupted manufacturing supply chains and reduced U.S. farm exports. Trump administration officials have said they expect the two presidents to “close” a deal at a summit in coming weeks at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. The source briefed on the talks said that no dates for a summit had been determined, but that Beijing had reserved a 10-day window from around March 20 for a possible summit. Many details still needed to be worked out, including the terms of an enforcement mechanism to ensure that Beijing follows through on pledges to make changes to policies to better protect U.S. intellectual property, end forced technology transfers and curb industrial subsidies.

Another source familiar with the talks said that Washington and Beijing were close to agreement on non-enforcement issues, including China’s pledges to increase purchases of farm, energy and manufactured products, as well as six agreements on structural policy changes.

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Xiang Songzuo is the same economist who is December said Chinese GDP growth was just 1.67%. But openly saying that Xi is selling his soul to the shadows is quite the statement again. How’s that linked to the tariffs deal?

Beijing To Encourage ‘Shadow’ Lending To Boost Growth – China Economist (CNBC)

After tamping down on shadow banking in the last few years, China will now likely encourage such lending to boost economic growth, a Chinese economist told CNBC on Monday ahead of the country’s annual parliamentary session. “The top agenda of (the) NPC this year is to design policies to prevent further decline (of growth rate),” said Xiang Songzuo, professor at Renmin University in Beijing, referring to the National People’s Congress, which kicks off on Tuesday. “I think this year, regulators will encourage more shadow banking financing, particularly to the private sector,” said Xiang, who was previously a deputy director at the People’s Bank of China and chief economist at the Agricultural Bank of China.

Shadow banking refers to activities performed by financial firms outside the formal banking sector, and therefore subject to lower levels of regulatory oversight and higher risks. According to Xiang, Chinese officials have moved from talking about cutting debt to stabilizing the economy. China’s GDP target last year was around 6.5%. Sources have told Reuters that Beijing will likely set a growth target of between 6.0 to 6.5% in 2019. Shadow banking is “coming back,” Xiang said. In addition to spending more on infrastructure, Beijing will also need to stimulate the economy through lending, particularly to the private sector, he added. [..] Beijing will need to tread a tightrope as it faces the dilemma of what increased shadow lending could bring, said Xiang. “On the one hand, they need shadow banking to finance investment; but on the other hand, they (need to) try to control the potential risks,” he added.

Read more …

Orwell lives!

Beijing Locked Down For China’s Greatest Political Spectacle (G.)

China’s largest political event of the year, a meeting of legislative delegates and political advisers known as the “two sessions”, gets under way this week and comes at a time when Chinese leader Xi Jinping faces one of the most challenging periods since coming to power. Thousands of delegates will descend on the Great Hall of the People in Beijing while authorities go into overdrive to prevent any semblance of dissent during the two weeks of meetings of the 3,000-strong National People’s Congress (NPC) , and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), an advisory body. Xi faces public scrutiny against the backdrop of a slowing Chinese economy, a bruising trade war with the US, heightened international concern over Chinese tech firm Huawei, and growing global criticism over Chinese policies in Xinjiang.

[..] Debate among delegates, scholars, and political observers will be even more constrained this year. Notices ahead of the meeting instruct party members on the “right way to build the party” banning over-the-top praise of the party as well as criticism. “People can’t talk normally, and now even this kind of expression is forbidden. It shows this is a very sensitive period,” said Zhang Lifan, a historian based in Beijing who follows elite Chinese politics. “I’m afraid party committees have taken many preventive measures, to prevent any sensitive speech that can lead to a chaos during the meeting.” He believes discussion of economic issues and the trade war are inevitable. “I think there will still be some ways of talking about the political system, not in direct ways, but using the economy,” he said.

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This will hurt Canada much more than the US.

Huawei: Meng Wanzhou Sues Canadian Government Over Arrest (AP)

Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese technology company Huawei, is suing the Canadian government, its border agency and the national police force over her high-profile detention. Meng claims they detained, searched and interrogated her before telling her she was under arrest. Lawyers for Meng said on Sunday they had filed a notice of civil claim in the British Columbia supreme court. Canada arrested Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, at the request of the US on 1 December at Vancouver airport. US prosecutors will accuse her of misleading banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran. Meng’s lawsuit alleges that instead of immediately arresting her, authorities interrogated her “under the guise of a routine customs” examination and used the opportunity to “compel her to provide evidence and information”.

The suit also claims Canada Border Service Agency agents seized her electronic devices, obtained passwords and unlawfully viewed the contents and intentionally failed to adviser her of the true reasons for her detention. The suit said only after three hours was she told she was under arrest and had right to counsel. “This case concerns a deliberate and pre-meditated effort on the part of the defendant officers to obtain evidence and information from the plaintiff in a manner which they knew constituted serious violations of the plaintiff’s rights,” the claim says. Meng has been released on bail and is living in Vancouver awaiting extradition proceedings.

Read more …

25 days. Desperation creeps in. May is bribing Labour MPs.

May Accused Of £1.6bn Brexit ‘Bribe’ Over New Fund For Deprived Towns (Ind.)

The government has been accused of “bribing” MPs to back Theresa May‘s Brexit deal after announcing a new £1.6bn fund to help deprived towns. The “Stronger Towns Fund“ will offer investment to places that have not benefited from economic growth as much as other parts of the country, ministers said. The government said the money would be used to create jobs, train local people and boost investment, but critics said it was an attempt to convince Labour MPs in Leave-voting areas to back Ms May’s withdrawal agreement, and was not enough to offset the impact of Brexit. £1bn of the funding will be allocated to areas across the country, with more than half going to towns in the north of England. The other £600m will be available for local authorities to bid for.

Of the money being directly allocated by the government, the north west will receive the most, with £281m, followed by the west Midlands (£212m) and Yorkshire and the Humber (£197m). Announcing the fund, Ms May said: ”For too long in our country prosperity has been unfairly spread. Our economy has worked well for some places but we want it to work for all communities. “Communities across the country voted for Brexit as an expression of their desire to see change – that must be a change for the better, with more opportunity and greater control. “These towns have a glorious heritage, huge potential and, with the right help, a bright future ahead of them.”

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Doubt that Bolton is interested.

Russia Tells US It Is Ready For Bilateral Talks On Venezuela (R.)

Russia is ready to take part in bilateral talks with the United States over the issue of Venezuela, Russia’s foreign minister told his U.S. counterpart late on Saturday. The situation in Venezuela was the main topic in a phone call between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that took place on March 2, Russia’s foreign ministry said on its website. “In connection with Washington’s proposal to hold bilateral consultations on the Venezuelan topic, it was stated that Russia is ready to participate in this,” the ministry said in a statement.

It was “vital to be strictly guided by the principles of the UN Charter since only the Venezuelan people have the right to determine their future,” the statement said. Russia and the United States have been at loggerheads over a U.S.-led campaign for international recognition of Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan opposition leader who declared himself the interim head of state, over President Nicholas Maduro. In the phone call, initiated by the United States, Lavrov condemned the threats that Washington made towards “the country’s lawful leadership,” the ministry said, referring to Maduro.

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You can’t put Stone under quasi house arrest and expect him to be quiet. He’ll end up doing crazy stuff.

Roger Stone Suggests In Instagram Post Robert Mueller ‘Framed’ Him (CNBC)

Roger Stone on Sunday suggested he has been “framed” by special counsel Robert Mueller in an Instagram post that appeared to run afoul of a judge’s barely week-old gag order barring President Donald Trump’s longtime friend from criticizing the prosecutors in the criminal case against him. Stone deleted the only image in that multi-image post that included “Who framed Roger Stone” language shortly after CNBC emailed his lawyer to ask about it. Stone’s post was put online less than 48 hours after the judge, Amy Berman Jackson, ordered lawyers for the admitted Republican “dirty trickster” to explain why they did not tell her earlier about the planned publication of a book by Stone that could violate her gag order on him.

Stone announced on Instagram in January that he was coming out with the book, “The Myth of Russian Collusion: The Inside Story of How Trump Really Won.” In her gag order in U.S District Court in Washington, D.C., Jackson barred Stone from “making statements to the media or in public settings about the Special Counsel’s investigation or this case or any of the participants in the investigation or the case.” The gag extends to “posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other form of social media.” If Stone violates the order, Jackson could order him jailed without bail until his trial.

Stone’s new post is comprised of a rotating series of images that ask for money to support Stone’s defense to charges that he lied to Congress and tampered with a witness. One says, “I am committed to proving my innocence. But I need your help.” Another photo, which shows a young Stone standing behind Trump years ago, says, “I’ve always had Trump’s back. Will you have mine?” Two other images tout a “Roger Stone Did Nothing Wrong” t-shirt and “Stone Cold Truth” sweatshirt.

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Nadler, Schiff, Mark Warner, they’re on a publicity tour to keep collusion alive just as it’s dying.

Donald Trump Facing Major New Investigation Into ‘Abuse Of Power’ (Ind.)

The US House Judiciary Committee will launch a probe into possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power by Donald Trump. Jerry Nadler, who chairs the committee, told ABC that the panel wanted to obtain documents from more than 60 people and entities as part of the investigation. Documents from Donald Trump Jr, the president’s son and Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, are among those wanted by the panel. “We are going to initiate investigations into abuses of power, into corruption … and into obstruction of justice,” Mr Nadler said. “It’s our job to protect the rule of law.” “It’s very clear that the president obstructed justice,” he said. But the congressman added that it was too soon to consider the possibility of impeachment.

“Before you impeach somebody, you have to persuade the American public that it ought to happen,” he said. The politician said the committee would release the full list of people and organisations it would be seeking information from on Monday. He said that the president’s firing of James Comey, who at the time was leading an investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 US election, was evidence of Mr Trump’s obstruction. The congressman also cited what he described as Mr Trump’s attempts to intimidate witnesses involved in the probe. “I am an innocent man being persecuted by some very bad, conflicted & corrupt people in a Witch Hunt that is illegal & should never have been allowed to start,” Donald Trump said on Twitter, in response to the announcement. “Despite this, great success!”

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Gee, how can it be?

America’s Trust In Mainstream Media Hits Rock Bottom (SCF)

Things are going from bad to worse for the US legacy media as its trust credentials have reached an all-time new low, as if that were possible. It has even achieved a lower trust rating than lawyers and members of Congress. The introduction to the CJR poll provided the following ominous opening: “For decades, we’ve known that Americans don’t trust the press. What we haven’t known is how people view the makings of journalism, from the use of fact checkers and anonymous sources to the question of whether money skews journalistic decision-making. This new national poll for CJR answers those questions, and points to how big the trust gap remains.” Indeed, the cynicism on the street should have every mainstream media purveyor in a state of absolute panic.

In one particular finding, it was revealed that many news consumers believe that reporters, seemingly in an effort to push forward with a political agenda, are too quick to run with a story before knowing all of the facts. This has never been more true before than in the Trump era where anything goes, so long as it trashes conservatives. We have just witnessed ample proof of that media tendency in several high-profile cases. This week, attorneys for Nick Sandmann, a student from Covington Catholic High School, filed a lawsuit against the Washington Post, seeking $250 million in damages for negligence. Sandmann and his fellow students became the target of false accusations of racism during a trip to Washington, D.C.

The mainstream media, as well as many politicians and celebrities, pushed the story that the young student, a Trump supporter, had taunted an elderly Native American Indian near the Lincoln Memorial. The story quickly fell apart, however, after video of the encounter and eyewitness accounts destroyed the media version of events. Attorneys for the boy claim that the Bezos-owned newspaper “wrongfully targeted and bullied Nicholas because he was the white, Catholic student wearing a red ‘Make America Great Again’ souvenir cap on a school field trip to the January 18 March for Life in Washington, D.C.” Todd McMurtry, one of the attorneys for the Catholic student, called the Washington Post “a weaponized news outlet that used its power and strength to destroy Nick Sandmann’s reputation.”

[..] When asked how much confidence they had in the media, almost 70 percent of Republican respondents answered “hardly any confidence at all,” while just 25 percent of Democrats held a similar opinion.

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Well, not entirely; he merely named it as a factor.

Trump Blames Timing Of Cohen Testimony For Collapse Of Kim Jong-Un Summit (G.)

US president Donald Trump has blamed that the Democrats’ decision to interview his longtime fixer, lawyer Michael Cohen, on the same day as a meeting with Kim Jong-un for the fact that the North Korea summit ended with no deal. “For the Democrats to interview in open hearings a convicted liar & fraudster, at the same time as the very important Nuclear Summit with North Korea, is perhaps a new low in American politics and may have contributed to the ‘walk.’” Trump said on Twitter, referring to his decision to walk away from what he previously said was a bad deal with Kim. “Never done when a president is overseas. Shame!” Last week in Hanoi, Trump and Kim met for the second time to try to negotiate a deal that would surrender some of North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal in return for sanctions relief. After talks fell apart over the issue of sanctions, Trump told a media conference “sometimes you have to walk”.

At the same time in Washington, Trump’s former aide Cohen was testifying before the US House of Representatives’ oversight committee, accusing Trump of ordering his personal attorney to make threats for him about 500 times over the past 10 years. He also called the president a liar, racist and conman. When asked about Cohen’s testimony at a press conference on Thursday in Hanoi after Trump had abruptly decided to end the summit with Kim early, the president called the allegations “incorrect” and criticised the decision to have the hearing while he was away. “I tried to watch as much as I could,” Trump said. “I wasn’t able to watch too much because I’ve been a little bit busy, but I think having a fake hearing like that and having it in the middle of this very important summit is really a terrible thing.”

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It doesn’t get more obvious.

US Voters Overwhelmingly Reject “Socialists” And Candidates “Over 75” (ZH)

[..] in the latest indication that the odds in the general election would be heavily stacked against Bernie, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll revealed that only 25% of respondents ranked “socialist” as a desirable trait for a candidate. And only 37% said “someone over 75” would be a desirable candidate, according to Bloomberg. Meanwhile, more voters said they would accept a candidate who was gay or a lesbian, or an Independent under the age of 40. Critically, the survey showed that 41% of voters would definitely or likely vote for Trump in 2020, while 48% said they would probably vote for the Democratic candidate. But, in a possible silver lining for Sanders and his “political revolution”, 55% of voters said they would support a candidate who would implement major changes (as Trump did), vs. 42% who said they wouldn’t.

“We’re getting early signals from Democratic primary voters that they are looking for bigger change and someone who agrees with them on policy,” said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who worked on the survey. Republicans in the White House, Congress and in the media have made “socialism” a significant point of attack as the election draws closer, ripping proposals for expanded access to Medicare, the so-called Green New Deal, and other Democratic priorities. And though only 41% of respondents said they would support Trump in 2020, a majority said they had a favorable view of the Trump economy, and few expect a recession in the coming year. “As long as these economic numbers look like this, that always keeps an incumbent president in the race,” McInturff said.

[..] only 38% of respondents said they would support a third-party candidate in 2020. Meanwhile, Trump’s approval rating ticked higher in January from 43% to 46%. [..] Trump’s approval rating ticked up to 46 percent from 43 percent in January. He had the support of 88 percent of Republicans. Thirty-seven percent of GOP primary voters said they’d like to see another Republican challenge Trump in 2020, while 59 percent said they were opposed to that.

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I’m all for ending teh scourge that cars have become. But why do we need a bunch of US investors for that? And do these people realize that we won’t pay for the upkeep of the roads once we ditch our cars? It’s going to be public transport, not Lyft cars.

Carpocalypse Now: We’re In The Endgame For Cars (BI)

The founders of the ride-sharing app Lyft filed their IPO papers last week, and their vision for the company is dramatic. Lyft (which works a bit like Uber) is not just about getting you from A to B, they say. Rather, founders Logan Green and John Zimmer believe that car ownership is in permanent decline and they want to help it die, they write in their S-1 filing. “We believe that the world is at the beginning of a shift away from car ownership to Transportation-as-a-Service, or TaaS. Lyft is at the forefront of this massive societal change,” they told investors.

“Car ownership has … economically burdened consumers. US households spend more on transportation than on any expenditure other than housing. … On a per household basis, the average annual spend on transportation is over $9,500, with the substantial majority spent on car ownership and operation.” Cars create “inequality,” they argue. “The average cost of a new vehicle in the United States has increased to over $33,000, which most American households cannot afford,” the IPO says. “We estimate over 300,000 Lyft riders have given up their personal cars because of Lyft.”

• Car sales in Britain declined 18.2% in January. It was the eighth successive month of decline. • Sales in Turkey declined 60%. •Europe-wide, sales are down around 6%. • In the US, total car registrations have declined by about 10% • Tire sales – a proxy for vehicle production – are down in China, too.

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The power of Bayer and Monsanto will make us commit collective suicide.

Toxic Agrochemicals And Regulators’ Collusion With Industry (OffG)

Dr Mason had been writing to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the EU Commission for an 18-month period, challenging them about ECHA’s positive assessment of glyphosate. Many people around the world had struggled to understand how and why the US EPA and the EFSA concluded that glyphosate is not genotoxic (damaging to DNA) or carcinogenic, whereas the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency, the IARC, came to the opposite conclusion. The IARC stated that the evidence for glyphosate’s genotoxic potential is “strong” and that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. While IARC referenced only peer-reviewed studies and reports available in the public literature, the EPA relied heavily on unpublished regulatory studies commissioned by pesticide manufacturers.

In fact, 95 of the 151 genotoxicity assays cited in the EPA’s evaluation were from industry studies (63%), while IARC cited 100% public literature sources. Another important difference is that the EPA focused its analysis on glyphosate in its pure chemical form, or ‘glyphosate technical’. The problem with that is that almost no one is exposed to glyphosate alone. Applicators and the public are exposed to complete herbicide formulations consisting of glyphosate plus added ingredients (adjuvants). The formulations have repeatedly been shown to be more toxic than glyphosate in isolation. The European Ombudsman has now rejected Rosemary Mason’s complaint who has in turn written a 25-page response documenting the wide-ranging impacts of glyphosate-based Roundup and other agrochemicals on human health and the environment.

She also outlines the various levels of duplicity that have allowed many of these chemicals to remain on the commercial market. Mason is led to conclude that, due to the rejection of her complaint (as with others lodged by her to the Ombudsman), the European Ombudsman Office is also part of the problem and is essentially colluding with European pesticide regulatory authorities. Mason has addressed this concern directly to Emily O’Reilly, who currently holds the post of European Ombudsman: “In your rejection of all my complaints over the last few years, it is clear that The Ombudsman’s Office is protecting the European pesticides regulatory authorities, who are in turn being controlled by the European Glyphosate Task Force…. You have turned a blind eye to the authorisation of many of the toxic pesticides that are on the market today because industry is being allowed to self-regulate.”

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The things that must be turned around. We’ve gone much too far.

“The bats – also known as flying foxes – are resorting to eating in orchards to survive because only 5 per cent of Mauritius’s native forests remain..”

Endangered Fruit Bats ‘Being Driven To Extinction’ In Mauritius (Ind.)

Scientists are suing the Mauritian government for “driving endangered fruit bats towards extinction”, after mass culls killed at least half their population. More than 50,000 of the animals are thought to have been killed in three culls since 2015, in an attempt to protect fruit in orchards. The bats – also known as flying foxes – are resorting to eating in orchards to survive because only 5 per cent of Mauritius’s native forests remain, animal experts warned. Fruit bats are vital for biodiversity as they pollinate flowers and scatter seeds, enabling trees and plants to grow and spread, according to conservationists. But populations of the flying foxes have fallen by more than 50 per cent in four years, said Vincent Florens, an ecologist at the University of Mauritius. Some believe fewer than 30,000 now remain.

Tigga Kingston, a biologist and bat specialist for the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said the fewer animals remain, the more vulnerable they will be to natural disasters, disease and habitat loss, leading to extinction. Britain’s Bat Conservation Trust has pleaded for the culls to end, citing research that found they accounted for only 10 per cent of fruit plant damage. The first cull, in 2015, killed 30,000, and in a second cull, the following year, 7,380 were targeted. The IUCN then raised the bats’ status from vulnerable to endangered. But the latest cull involved 13,000. Prof Florens said he believed the number killed is much higher than the 50,300 government figure. “The culls took place late in the year, when many mothers were pregnant or had babies,” he told National Geographic. “You shoot one bat and basically kill two.” Others were likely to have been injured and died later, he said.


At least 50,000 fruit bats have been culled in Mauritius since they have been forced to survive on orchard fruits because of deforestation (iStock )

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