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:

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 282019
 


Salvador Dali Cadaques 1923

 

US Yield Inversion Deepens, Stokes Recession Fears (R.)
Ex-NY Fed Chief Bill Dudley Urges Jay Powell To Prevent Trump Re-Election (ZH)
Comey Confidant: Expect Andrew McCabe to be Indicted Any Day (GP)
Hong Kong Ponders Emergency Legislation Likened To Martial Law (HKFP)
Hong Kong Protesters Say They Have Nothing To Lose (R.)
Business Group Warns On China’s Corporate ‘Social Credit’ Plan (R.)
Chinese Government To Launch Cryptocurrency (F.)
Prince Andrew ‘Knows What He’s Done’, Should ‘Come Clean’ – Giuffre (Ind.)
Up to 30 Jeffrey Epstein Accusers To Speak Out At New York Court Hearing (G.)
Purdue Pharma Offers $10-$12 Billion To Settle Opioid Claims (NBC)
Near-Total Ban On Sending Wild Elephants To Zoos Agreed (AFP)
Boris Johnson, GMOs and Glyphosate (CP)

 

 

Treasuries safe haven.

US Yield Inversion Deepens, Stokes Recession Fears (R.)

The U.S. yield curve inversion deepened on Tuesday to levels not seen since 2007, rekindling fears of a looming recession that spurred a sell-off on Wall Street and stoked even more safe-haven demand for government bonds. The intense interest in Treasuries supported demand for $40 billion worth of two-year government debt for sale, part of this week’s $113 billion fixed-rate Treasury supply. The yield curve often inverts prior to a U.S. recession. “As the curve inverts further, it has inspired more long-end buying,” said Mike Lorizio, head of Treasuries trading at Manulife Asset Management in Boston.


The Treasury Department sold its latest two-year, fixed-rate note supply at a yield of 1.516%, which was the lowest at an auction of this maturity since September 2017. The Treasury will sell $41 billion of five-year notes on Wednesday, followed by a $32 billion auction of seven-year debt on Thursday. It will also offer $18 billion in floating-rate notes on Wednesday. On the open market, 10-year Treasury yields were 1.488%, down 5.60 basis points on the day. They reached a three-year low of 1.443% on Monday. The yields on two-year notes were 1.531%, down 2.00 basis points. On Monday, they declined to 1.449%, the lowest since September 2017.

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Curious op-ed by Dudley, good comment from Tyler.

“Trump now has documentary evidence that, by extension, the Fed also had the ability to ensure his re-election..”

Ex-NY Fed Chief Bill Dudley Urges Jay Powell To Prevent Trump Re-Election (ZH)

[..] while Dudley refers to the Fed as apolitical, underscoring that further in the next paragraph where he says that “I understand and support Fed officials’ desire to remain apolitical”, he immediately refutes himself by admitting that the Fed has never been apolitical and in fact, it is the US central bank that, through its actions chooses who the US president is, to wit: Central bank officials face a choice: enable the Trump administration to continue down a disastrous path of trade war escalation, or send a clear signal that if the administration does so, the president, not the Fed, will bear the risks — including the risk of losing the next election. And the punchline: “There’s even an argument that the election itself falls within the Fed’s purview.”

Translation: “there is even an argument”, Dudley says tongue-in-cheek, that the Fed should crush the economy (arguably by hiking or not cutting rates) and start the next recession, thereby preventing Trump from getting re-elected. And while we appreciate Dudley’s de facto confirmation of what we have said for years, namely that the Fed is not only a political entity, one which picks the US president as the former NY Fed president admitted, but that the Fed is an even more powerful entity than the top US executive (an entity which as Bernanke’s former advisor once said: “people would be stunned to know the extent to which the Fed is privately owned”). One hopes that finally a discussion can take place, whether in Congress or elsewhere, if such an entity should exist.


As for Dudley’s “modest proposal”, we look forward to Trump’s response, because if there is one thing the US president needed in writing, it was just such an op-ed, one written from a former Fed member to the current Fed chair, recommending what amounts to mutiny against Trump should Trump proceed with his current course of action. Because if things don’t work out, well Trump now has documentary evidence that, by extension, the Fed also had the ability to ensure his re-election, and if things seem like they are headed off course on the way to November 2020, we will sit back and enjoy as the war between Trump and the Fed goes nuclear.

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What’s taking so long?

Comey Confidant: Expect Andrew McCabe to be Indicted Any Day (GP)

Comey confidant Benjamin Wittes said in a Lawfare blog post on Tuesday that he expects former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to be indicted any day now. Benjamin Wittes is a ‘resistance’ lawyer and James Comey’s friend who runs the Lawfare Group. Wittes wrote in a blog post Tuesday that he was “shocked” to find out federal prosecutors were in the final stages of deciding whether to indict McCabe on charges he lied to federal investigators, referring to the New York Times bombshell released Monday. The potential indictment of McCabe stems from the Inspector General’s findings that the FBI official lied to federal investigators.

McCabe was criminally referred to the US Attorneys office for prosecution in the Spring of 2018 and they are finally getting around to (maybe) indicting him. The process has been dragged out because of internal deliberations and the case is taking so long that the term expired for the grand jury evidence. One of the lead prosecutors on the case has since left the DOJ out of frustration, according to the NYT. The New York Times reported that McCabe’s lawyers met with DAG Jeffrey Rosen, who is involved in the decision whether to prosecute the former FBI official.

In two meetings last week, Mr. McCabe’s lawyers met with the deputy attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen, who is expected to be involved in the decision about whether to prosecute, and for more than an hour with the United States attorney for the District of Columbia, Jessie K. Liu, according to a person familiar with the meetings. The person would not detail the discussions, but defense lawyers typically meet with top law enforcement officials to try to persuade them not to indict their client if they failed to get line prosecutors to drop the case. Mr. Wittes says these meetings only take place when an indictment is imminent.

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Hong Kong’s commerce minister is a bad liar.

Hong Kong Ponders Emergency Legislation Likened To Martial Law (HKFP)

Hong Kong’s commerce minister has said the city’s trade status may not be affected if the government uses emergency legislation, though democrat James To has said that such measures would be akin to martial law. The Emergency Regulations Ordinance (ERO) would grant the city’s leader and her council of advisors the power to “make regulations on occasions of emergency or public danger.” The plan was first reported by pro-government newspaper Sing Tao Daily, with Chief Executive Carrie Lam saying on Tuesday that she would consider using all laws in Hong Kong. The law was last used during the 1967 riots.

Asked if the government would consider using the ERO, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau said the government will act in accordance with the “One Country, Two Systems” principle and existing laws. “I believe most people hope that violence in Hong Kong will stop, and that things return to peace and order,” he said on Tuesday when meeting reporters. “Internationally, every place and government would use different means to do their work well, if they face a situation like in Hong Kong.” Asked if using the ERO would harm Hong Kong’s trade status, Yau said: “I don’t see that. From a trade perspective, without a stable and peaceful environment, any economic activity would be affected.”

Democratic Party lawmaker James To, appearing on a Commercial Radio programme on Wednesday, said the ERO was a “colonial suppressive law” that had unlimited power. “It is the same as announcing martial law,” he said. “It would be a disproportionate use of power.” He said the Hong Kong police can handle the situation, and the government should respond to protesters’ demands to move forward.

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“If we don’t succeed now, our freedom of speech, our human rights, all will be gone.”

Hong Kong Protesters Say They Have Nothing To Lose (R.)

Exasperated with the government’s unflinching attitude to escalating civil unrest, Jason Tse quit his job in Australia and jumped on a plane to join what he believes is a do-or-die fight for Hong Kong’s future. The Chinese territory is grappling with its biggest crisis since its handover to Beijing 22 years ago as many residents fret over what they see as China’s tightening grip over the city and a relentless march toward mainland control. The battle for Hong Kong’s soul has pitted protesters against the former British colony’s political masters in Beijing, with broad swathes of the Asian financial center determined to defend the territory’s freedoms at any cost.

Faced with a stick and no carrot – chief executive Carrie Lam reiterated on Tuesday protesters’ demands were unacceptable – the pro-democracy movement has intensified despite Beijing deploying paramilitary troops near the border in recent weeks. “This is a now or never moment and it is the reason why I came back,” Tse, 32, said, adding that since joining the protests last month he had been a peaceful participant in rallies and an activist on the Telegram social media app. “If we don’t succeed now, our freedom of speech, our human rights, all will be gone. We need to persist.”

Since the city returned to Chinese rule in 1997, critics say Beijing has reneged on a commitment to maintain Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms under a “one country, two systems” formula. Opposition to Beijing that had dwindled after 2014, when authorities faced down a pro-democracy movement that occupied streets for 79 days, has come back to haunt authorities who are now grappling with an escalating cycle of violence. “We have to keep fighting. Our worst fear is the Chinese government,” said a 40-year-old teacher who declined to be identified for fear of repercussions. “For us, it’s a life or death situation.”

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“Companies “cannot decide between legal and illegal anymore. You have to decide where you want to be on the good and bad scale..”

Business Group Warns On China’s Corporate ‘Social Credit’ Plan (R.)

The rollout of China’s controversial corporate “social credit system” is well under way and accelerating, a European business lobby in the country said on Wednesday, warning that foreign governments need to wake up to the plan’s potential risks. Beijing has been developing a globally unprecedented plan to give companies and individual people “social credit” scores, a goal that has drawn international concerns that it could heighten to Orwellian levels the already strict control that the ruling Communist Party has over society and the economy. In a roadmap plan released in 2014, China said it would by 2020 create the system to reward or punish individuals and corporations using technology to record various measures of financial credit, personal behavior and corporate misdeeds.


Some experts say that the system remains nascent and could help tackle social problems like fraud or food security, while reducing government discretion in regulating companies. But one of the authors of a new European Union Chamber of Commerce in China report on the system’s implications for companies said that it could become a “surgical instrument” for compelling companies to meet China’s political aims. “It is a very, very potent instrument of regulating, controlling and steering companies in a targeted way,” Bjoern Conrad, chief executive officer of Sinolytics, a consulting firm that helped draft the report, told reporters. Companies “cannot decide between legal and illegal anymore. You have to decide where you want to be on the good and bad scale,” Conrad said.

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Who would accept it?

Chinese Government To Launch Cryptocurrency (F.)

China’s central bank will launch a state-backed cryptocurrency and issue it to seven institutions in the coming months, according to a former employee of one of the institutions who is now an independent researcher. Paul Schulte, who worked as global head of financial strategy for China Construction Bank until 2012, says the largest bank in the world, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the second largest bank in the world, his former employer, the Bank of China, the Agricultural Bank of China; two of China’s largest financial technology companies, Alibaba and Tencent; and Union Pay, an association of Chinese banks, will receive the cryptocurrency.

A separate source, who’s involved in the development of the cryptocurrency, dubbed DC/EP (Digital Currency/Electronic Payments), confirmed that the seven institutions would be receiving the new asset when it launches, adding that an eighth institution could also be among the first tier of recipients. The source declined to provide the name of the additional company. Speaking under terms of anonymity, the source, who previously worked for the Chinese government, confirmed that the technology behind the cryptocurrency has been ready since last year and that the cryptocurrency could launch as soon as November 11, China’s busiest shopping day, known as Singles Day.

At the time of launch, the recipient institutions will then be responsible for dispersing the cryptocurrency to 1.3 billion Chinese citizens and others doing business in the renminbi, China’s fiat currency, according to the source. The source added that the central bank hopes the currency will eventually be made available to spenders in the United States and elsewhere through relationships with correspondent banks in the West. “That’s the plan, but that won’t happen right away,” the source said.

[..] What sets China’s DC/EP apart from libra and Carney’s “synthetic hegemonic currency” (SHC), according to Shulte, is that while libra is little more than early-stage computer code and the SHC doesn’t appear to have gone much further than Carney’s mind, the Chinese cryptocurrency is ready to launch. “China is barreling forward on reforms and rolling out the cryptocurrency,” says Schulte, who now runs an eponymous bank research firm. “It will be the first central bank to do so.”

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It’s time to hear Andrew and Ghislaine under oath. It’s also time for Bill Barr to recuse himself.

Prince Andrew ‘Knows What He’s Done’, Should ‘Come Clean’ – Giuffre (Ind.)

A woman who claims she was forced to have sex with the Duke of York when she was 17-years-old has dismissed his repeated denials and said she hopes “he comes clean about it”. Prince Andrew “knows exactly what he’s done”, Virginia Roberts Giuffre said outside a New York court where a succession of women said the disgraced paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused them at a young age. Many lamented that his jailhouse suicide earlier this month had deprived them of the opportunity to obtain justice. It later emerged that he signed a will just two days before his death, placing all his property, worth more than £469m, into a trust, making it harder for victims to claim. Ms Giuffre has previously alleged in court papers filed in Florida, that she had sex with Prince Andrew “three times”.


She said she took part in ”one orgy” in London and one on “his private island in the Caribbean”. Prince Andrew has repeatedly and strenuously denied the claim that he had sex with Ms Giuffre, who at 17 would have been under the age of consent in Florida. [..] Ms Giuffre has alleged that she 15 when was recruited to perform sex acts on Epstein when she was working at Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. Speaking outside court on she said: “It’s not how Jeffrey died, it’s how he lived.” She added: “I won’t stop fighting – I will never be silenced until these people are brought to justice.” Other women were invited to speak both inside and outside the court.

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The judge still can’t believe what happened.

Up to 30 Jeffrey Epstein Accusers To Speak Out At New York Court Hearing (G.)

Up to 30 women are expected to take a judge up on his invitation to speak at a hearing after Jeffrey Epstein killed himself while facing sex trafficking charges. The hearing on Tuesday morning was scheduled last week by US district judge Richard Berman, who presided over the case prosecutors brought against Epstein after the 66-year-old convicted criminal was arrested on 6 July after he arrived at a New Jersey airport from Paris. A New York coroner has formally classified Epstein’s death as a suicide. He died on 10 August. Epstein, long accused of abusing teen girls, was faced with sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy counts. Berman on Tuesday morning in the New York courtroom addressed Epstein’s death prior to victim testimony.


“The news on August 10 2019 that Jeffrey Epstein had been found dead in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the MCC, was certainly shocking,” Berman said. “Most of you, and myself for that matter, were anticipating that the next steps in this case would be defense motion practice – including motion to dismiss – followed by a trial on the merits before a jury if the motions were not successful, through which the accusers and the accused would come face-to-face allowing everyone to get their day in court.” He continued: “Mr. Epstein’s death obviously means that a trial in which he is a defendant cannot take place. It is a rather stunning turn of events.”

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For 400,000 American lives.

Purdue Pharma Offers $10-$12 Billion To Settle Opioid Claims (NBC)

Purdue Pharma and its owners, the Sackler family, are offering to settle more than 2,000 lawsuits against the company for $10 billion to $12 billion. The potential deal was part of confidential conversations and discussed by Purdue’s lawyers at a meeting in Cleveland last Tuesday, Aug. 20, according to two people familiar with the mediation. Brought by states, cities and counties, the lawsuits — some of which have been combined into one massive case — allege the company and the Sackler family are responsible for starting and sustaining the opioid crisis. At least 10 state attorneys general and the plaintiffs’ attorneys gathered in Cleveland, where David Sackler represented the Sackler family, according to two people familiar with the meeting. David Sackler, who was a board member of the company, has recently been the de facto family spokesperson.


The lawsuits that Purdue and the Sacklers are seeking to settle allege that their company’s sales practices were deceptive and at least partly responsible for the opioid crisis, which claimed more than 400,000 lives from 1999 to 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some of the lawsuits also allege that after 2007 the Sackler family drained the company of money to enrich themselves. “The Sackler family built a multibillion-dollar drug empire based on addiction,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in May when his state joined others in suing the Sackler family and their company. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey was the first to name family members in her suit in January.

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Some things are just too obvious.

Near-Total Ban On Sending Wild Elephants To Zoos Agreed (AFP)

The regulator of global wildlife trade decided Tuesday to impose a near-total ban on sending African elephants captured from the wild to zoos, in a decision hailed by conservationists as “momentous”. Following a heated debate at a meeting of parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Geneva, the member countries approved a proposed text after a revision by the European Union included some exceptions to the ban. The decision met with strong opposition from Zimbabwe in particular, which along with Botswana is the main provider of wild African elephants to zoos outside of the continent and tried in vain to block the vote.

But with 87 in favour, 29 against and 25 abstaining, the vote for the amended text secured the two-thirds majority needed to pass. “This is a momentous CITES decision for Africa’s elephants,” said Audrey Delsink, the wildlife director at Humane Society International (HSI)’s Africa division. The vote in plenary altered slightly a decision taken at the start of the 12-day conference — set to wrap up Wednesday — prohibiting the transfer of all African elephants caught in the wild to so-called captive facilities. The decision only impacts African elephants. Asian elephants already enjoy more protection against international trade.

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With an in-depth look at the dangers for humans.

Boris Johnson, GMOs and Glyphosate (CP)

In his first speech to parliament as British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said: “Let’s start now to liberate the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules and let’s develop the blight-resistant crops that will feed the world.” Johnson reads from a well-rehearsed script. The ‘GM will feed the world mantra’ is pure industry spin. There is already enough food being produced to feed the global population yet around 830 million are classed as hungry. Feeding the world effectively, sustainably and equitably involves addressing the in-built injustices of the global food system.

The never-ending push to force GM on the public under the guise of saving humanity is a diversion that leaves intact the root causes of world hunger and undernutrition: neoliberal deregulation and privatisation policies, unfair WTO rules, poverty, land rights issues, World Bank/IMF geopolitical lending strategies and the transformation of food secure regions into food deficit ones, etc. Even in regions where productivity in agriculture lags behind or concerns exist about climate change, numerous high-level reports have recommended that (non-GMO) agroecological practices should be encouraged to enhance biodiversity and deal with food and climate crises.

However, pro-Brexiteer Conservative politicians talk of the essential need for Britain and the world to adopt GM is little more than an attempt to justify a post-Brexit trade deal with Washington that will effectively incorporate the UK into the US’s regulatory food regime. The type of ‘liberation’ Johnson really means is the UK adopting unassessed GM crops and food and a gutting of food safety and environmental standards.

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Aug 092019
 
 August 9, 2019  Posted by at 9:43 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Odilon Redon Street in Samois 1888

 

UK Economy Contracts On Back Of Brexit Uncertainty (G.)
The Dramatic Drop In Sterling Is Only A Taste Of What Is To Come (G.)
Johnson Plotting Abuse Of Power To Force No-Deal Brexit – Corbyn (G.)
Andrew McCabe Sues DOJ, FBI Over “Politically Motivated Firing” (ZH)
Uber Loses $5.2 Billion on $3.2 Billion in Revenue (WS)
Italy’s Matteo Salvini Calls For Fresh Elections As Coalition Fractures (G.)
China PPI Deflation Arrives While CPI Food Inflation Soars (ZH)
Three Days Of Protests Begin At Hong Kong Airport (BBC)
Malaysia Files Charges Against 17 Current, Ex-Goldman Execs Over 1MDB (AFP)
The Swiss Battle to Cheapen the Franc (Rickards)
Bayer Proposes Paying $8 Billion to Settle Roundup Cancer Claims (BBG)
Monsanto Built A Step-by-Step Strategy To Destroy My Reputation (Carey Gillam)

 

 

“UK economy suffers shock 0.2% contraction in second quarter..”

UK Economy Contracts On Back Of Brexit Uncertainty (G.)

The UK economy shrank in the second quarter, its worst performance in six and a half years, as growth was held back by Brexit uncertainty and car factory shutdowns. A 0.2% contraction between April and June was the weakest since the fourth quarter of 2012, when the economy contracted by 0.2%, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. It followed growth of 0.5% in the first three months of the year, when the economy received a boost from unprecedented stockpiling by manufacturers in the run-up to the initial Brexit deadline of 29 March.


The ONS data showed that all three main sectors of the economy – services, manufacturing and construction – struggled in the three months to June. The slowdown – which leaves the annual growth rate at 1.2% – was considerably worse than the Bank of England’s forecast in its quarterly inflation report. Early evidence has suggested slightly stronger activity at the start of the third quarter of 2019.

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Just starting.

The Dramatic Drop In Sterling Is Only A Taste Of What Is To Come (G.)

As our currency plummeted last week, politicians were remarkably quiet. In normal times, a catastrophic slide in the pound would send a shockwave through Westminster. An emergency cabinet meeting might have been called. The chancellor might have made an announcement, calming markets and reassuring the public. But these aren’t normal times. Over the past three years, politics has been increasingly blind to the concerns of ordinary people. The Brexit debate is stuck on abstract constitutional issues such as the backstop. While they are important matters, the relentless focus of public discourse on them means that we are in danger of forgetting about the lives of real people.

Westminster is gripped by a fanatical race towards a cliff-edge Brexit and nobody is stopping to think about the impact it would have on the everyday lives of the people we serve as politicians. The falling pound is a perfect example. Consider for a moment the situation we find ourselves in. Three years on from the referendum, and sterling has now fallen by 15% against the euro. On average, the pound is now weaker than it was at the height of the financial crisis. We cannot dismiss this as a trivial bump in the road. This matters, because a no-deal Brexit is now the number one threat to the value of our currency, a fundamental factor driving this nation’s prosperity. And as Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, put it, a fall in the pound “makes those of us whose earnings or savings or investment income is in pounds poorer. Period.”

We simply cannot ignore the impact this is having on people in our country. August is the most popular month for Brits to go on holiday. This month, some 6 million people will go on a trip to a eurozone destination, during which they will spend an average of £574 per head, according to the Office for National Statistics. Whereas before the referendum, that would have bought a UK holidaymaker €740 on the continent, now the same spend is worth only €620. In other words, our politicians’ dangerous no-deal Brexit musings have cost travellers more than £100 per person already.

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Oh well, at least the lawyers are happy. But even they don’t know what is legal and what is not.

Johnson Plotting Abuse Of Power To Force No-Deal Brexit – Corbyn (G.)

Jeremy Corbyn has called on the UK’s most senior civil servant to intervene to stop Boris Johnson forcing a no-deal Brexit in the middle of an election campaign, amid rising signs the country is heading for the polls again this autumn. The Labour leader wrote to Sir Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary, accusing the prime minister of plotting an “unprecedented, unconstitutional and anti-democratic abuse of power”, after it emerged No 10 would be prepared to delay an election until immediately after 31 October if Johnson loses a no confidence vote among MPs. In his letter, Corbyn demanded urgent clarification of the rules around purdah, which are meant to prevent the government taking major policy decisions during an election campaign.

He asked Sedwill to confirm that if the UK is due to leave the EU without a deal during an election campaign, then the government must seek an extension to article 50 and allow an incoming administration to take a decision about Brexit on the basis of the result. “Forcing through no deal against a decision of parliament, and denying the choice to the voters in a general election already underway, would be an unprecedented, unconstitutional and anti-democratic abuse of power by a prime minister elected, not by the public, but by a small number of unrepresentative Conservative party members,” he said. “I am therefore writing to seek your urgent clarification on the proper application of ‘purdah’ rules in such a scenario and the constitutional implications of failing to abide by those rules.”

Corbyn released the letter as No 10 refused to rule out delaying an election until the immediate few days after Brexit on 31 October if one is triggered by MPs voting down Johnson’s government and failing to form another administration. Asked by the BBC on Thursday if he would resign if he lost a confidence vote, Johnson swerved the question, and stressed the need to leave the EU on 31 October. “I think that what MPs should do and what I think they’ve already voted to do, when triggering article 50 and reconfirmed several times, is honour the mandate of the people and leave the EU on 31 October,” he said. He also insisted there was “bags of time” for the EU to “show some flexibility” and agree to ditch the Irish backstop, which he claimed could make the UK into a “satellite state” of Brussels.

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Former FBI chief Comey now communicates via The View?!

Andrew McCabe Sues DOJ, FBI Over “Politically Motivated Firing” (ZH)

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe – flush with cash after a GoFundMe campaign raised $540,000, is the second former high-ranking FBI official to sue the Justice Department and FBI this week for what he describes as a “politically motivated firing” just days before he was set to retire with full benefits. The lawsuit describes former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray as “Trump’s personal enforcers,” who catered “to Trump’s unlawful whims instead of honoring their oaths to uphold the Constitution.” McCabe was fired after the DOJ’s Inspector General issued a criminal referral based on findings that he “made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor – including under oath – on multiple occasions.”

Specifically, McCabe authorized an F.B.I. spokesman and attorney to tell Devlin Barrett of the Wall St. Journal, just days before the 2016 election, that the FBI had not put the brakes on a separate investigation into the Clinton Foundation – at a time in which McCabe was coming under fire for his wife taking a $467,500 campaign contribution from Clinton proxy pal, Terry McAuliffe. Then he lied about it to the inspector general four times. In his defense, McCabe said said that his boss – former FBI Director James Comey, knew about and authorized the leak. Comey, in response, called McCabe a liar on The View, after host Megan McCain asked how he thought the public was supposed to have “confidence” in the FBI amid revelations that McCabe lied about the leak.

“It’s not okay. The McCabe case illustrates what an organization committed to the truth looks like,” Comey said. “I ordered that investigation.” Comey then appeared to try and frame McCabe as a “good person” despite all the lying. “Good people lie. I think I’m a good person, where I have lied,” Comey said. “I still believe Andrew McCabe is a good person but the inspector general found he lied,” noting that there are “severe consequences” within the DOJ for doing so.

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Child of the Fed’s policies.

Uber Loses $5.2 Billion on $3.2 Billion in Revenue (WS)

Uber’s losses have been legendary for years, ever since they were being leaked to the public while it was still a privately held company. But this takes the cake. Uber reported this evening that it had lost $5.24 billion in the quarter through June 30. The thing is, Uber reported revenues of only $3.2 billion. In other words, its net loss exceeded revenue by $2 billion. That takes some doing. Its $5.24 billion loss came on top of its $878 million loss in the first quarter. Combined, during the first half of 2019, Uber lost $6.25 billion. Total revenue for the two quarters was $6.3 billion. The chart of Uber’s “Loss from operations” – which does not include interest expense ($368 million in the first half) and “other income (expense),” such as last year’s gain from the sale of its stakes in Grab and Yandex – shows the annual totals from 2014 through 2018 and first-half total for 2019:

Lyft, Uber’s biggest competitor in the US, reported yesterday that its Q2 revenues of $867 million had generated a loss of $644 million. And that over the first half, its revenues of $1.64 billion generated a loss of $1.78 billion. You see, this phenomenon of well-established global companies with thousands of employees generating as much or more in losses than they have in revenues causes my old-school thinking to short-circuit. Uber has been around for a decade, and it has already burned through many billions of dollars in investor money to get where it is today, and there is still no functioning business model in sight.

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He’s following the polls closely.

Italy’s Matteo Salvini Calls For Fresh Elections As Coalition Fractures (G.)

Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy prime minister and the leader of the far-right League party, has called for a snap election, urging the prime minister to reconvene parliament to confirm that the coalition government is no longer viable. The dramatic move on Thursday came after months of fighting between the League and its coalition partners, the anti-establishement Five Star Movement (M5S). The cavernous differences between the parties were clearly exposed on Wednesday when parliament rejected a motion by M5S to block a high-speed rail project linking Italy and France. M5S has built most of its popularity on vehemently opposing the long-stalled project but was outvoted by the League and opposition parties. In a statement, Salvini, who is also Italy’s interior minister, said it was pointless continuing the government with all the quarrelling.


“Italians need certainty and a government that does things, not a ‘Mr No’,” he said. “We do not want extra seats or ministers, nor do we want reshuffles or technical governments. After this government (which has done so many good things), the only thing is elections.” Salvini said he told the prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, who does not belong to either party, to reconvene parliament straight away to “acknowledge that there is no longer a majority, as evidenced by the vote [on Wednesday] and the repeated insults against me.” Conte, who had held separate talks with Salvini and the country’s President Sergio Mattarella as the crisis deepened, said in a statement later that the interior minister doesn’t summon parliament and “it’s not up to him to dictate the steps of the political crisis.”

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You know I don’t like using inflation and deflation in this way, but the idea is obvious.

China PPI Deflation Arrives While CPI Food Inflation Soars (ZH)

On Friday, China’s National Bureau of Statistics reported that the Producer Price Index (PPI), i.e. factory prices, fell 0.3% in July from a year ago, missing the modest 0.1% decline expected by analysts. This was the first annual decline in China’s PPI in three years – since August 2016 – and just like back then, was largely the result of tumbling commodity prices which in turn depressed both manufacturing and raw material goods prices. And with oil sliding, and iron ore plunging, not to mention the whole trade war thing, it does not seem like a rebound is imminent at all.

Worse, since PPI is closely linked to corporate profitability, the decline suggests that China is badly lagging in the credit impulse arena despite having started off 2019 with a bang and some of the biggest increases in Total Social Financing on record. So what’s the big deal: China has always been able to boost inflation, all it had to do was turn on the credit spigot and inject a few trillion in new bank and shadow loans into the economy. Maybe that was the case in the past, but this time it will have a big headache, because even as PPI declined for the first time in three years, consumer prices jumped 2.8%, and coming in hotter than the 2.7% expected, were tied for the highest annual headline inflation since February 2018.

Before that one would have to go all the way to 2013 to find a hotter CPI print. A continuation of recent trends, the bulk of the inflation was the result of sharply higher food prices, which surged 9.1% Y/Y as China continues to battle the rapid spread of “pig ebola” which some expect will eradicate half of China’s entire pig population, leading to even higher prices. Sure enough, pork prices soared 27% in July from a year ago, the highest in three years, but that wasn’t even the worst of it: the prices of fresh fruit soared by 39%, the highest since 2006!

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“It will be a peaceful protest as long as the police do not show up…”

Three Days Of Protests Begin At Hong Kong Airport (BBC)

Demonstrators have gathered at Hong Kong’s airport, marking the start of three days of unauthorised rallies in the Chinese territory. Activists dressed in black sat in the arrivals hall waving banners to raise awareness among international visitors. Protests have gripped Hong Kong for weeks, beginning with anger at an extradition bill and morphing into demands for greater freedoms. The former British colony is part of China but enjoys more autonomy. It has a free press and judicial independence under the “one country, two systems” approach – freedoms activists fear are being increasingly eroded.


They have called for an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality during the protests, the complete withdrawal of the controversial extradition bill, and the resignation of Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam. Beijing has warned demonstrators not to “play with fire” or to “underestimate the firm resolve [of] the central government”. Demonstrators plan to stay at the airport throughout the weekend. They are waving banners written in different languages denouncing Carrie Lam and the police, and handing out leaflets with artwork explaining the recent protests. Authorities are so far tolerating the peaceful rally, which have not overly disrupted passengers. There are as yet no police at the scene. “It will be a peaceful protest as long as the police do not show up,” one demonstrator told Reuters news agency.

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Imagine the pressure the Malaysians must be under…

Malaysia Files Charges Against 17 Current, Ex-Goldman Execs Over 1MDB (AFP)

Malaysia filed criminal charges Friday against 17 current and former directors of three Goldman Sachs subsidiaries, piling further pressure on the Wall Street titan over the multi-billion dollar 1MDB scandal. Huge sums were looted from Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad in a globe-spanning fraud, which allegedly involved ex-leader Najib Razak and his inner circle. Goldman’s role has been under scrutiny as it helped arrange a series of bond issues worth $6.5 billion for the investment vehicle. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad re-opened investigations into the 1MDB affair last year after defeating Najib at the polls, in large part due to public anger at the scandal, and pressure has been steadily mounting on the bank since.


Announcing the latest charges, Attorney General Tommy Thomas said: “Custodial sentences and criminal fines will be sought against the accused… given the severity of the scheme to defraud and fraudulent misappropriation of billions in bond proceeds.” Goldman said in a statement it believed the charges were “misdirected” and would be “vigorously defended”. Thomas listed the names of the 17 accused, whom he said were directors of three Goldman subsidiaries in 2012 and 2013. In December, Malaysia filed charges against the units — Goldman Sachs International, Goldman Sachs (Asia), and Goldman Sachs (Singapore) — and two ex-employees.

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Everybody gather in the basement!

The Swiss Battle to Cheapen the Franc (Rickards)

One of the crucial insights in currency trading that many investors fail to grasp is that currencies don’t go to zero, and they don’t go through the roof. That’s a generalization, but an important one. Here are the qualifications: This observation applies to major currencies only — not to currencies of corrupt or incompetent countries like Venezuela or Zimbabwe. Those currencies do go to zero through hyperinflation. The observation also applies only in the short-to-intermediate run. In the long run, all fiat currencies also go to zero. Yet over a multiyear horizon, major currencies such as the dollar (USD), euro (EUR), yen (JPY), sterling (GBP) and the Swiss franc (CHF) retain value and do not go to extremes. Instead, they trade in ranges against each other.


That’s the key to successful foreign exchange trading. Trading profits are the result of catching the turning points. Stocks can go to zero when a company goes bankrupt. Enron, WorldCom and a host of dot-com stocks in the early 2000s are all good examples. Bonds can go to zero when a borrower defaults. That happened to Lehman Bros. and Bear Stearns. But major currencies do not go to zero. They move back and forth against each other like two kids on a seesaw moving up and down and not going anywhere in relation to the seesaw. The EUR/USD cross-rate is a good example. In the past 20 years, the value of the euro has been as low as $0.80 and as high as $1.60. There have been seven separate instances of moves of 20% or more in EUR/USD in that time period. But EUR/USD never goes to zero or to $100. The exchange rate stays in the range.

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Or else.

Bayer Proposes Paying $8 Billion to Settle Roundup Cancer Claims (BBG)

Bayer is proposing to pay as much as $8 billion to settle more than 18,000 U.S. lawsuits alleging its Roundup herbicide causes cancer, according to people familiar with the negotiations, Bloomberg News reports. Though such an agreement may be months away, if successful it would ease investor pressure over the German drug and chemical company’s massive litigation exposure. Bayer’s shares have fallen more than one-third in the 14 months since its $63 billion acquisition of the weedkiller’s maker, Monsanto Co.

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Lawyers, PR firms, spin doctors. That’s Monsanto. Plus a handful of scientists.

Monsanto Built A Step-by-Step Strategy To Destroy My Reputation (Carey Gillam)

As a journalist who has covered corporate America for more than 30 years, very little shocks me about the propaganda tactics companies often deploy. I know the pressure companies can and do bring to bear when trying to effect positive coverage and limit reporting they deem negative about their business practices and products. But when I recently received close to 50 pages of internal Monsanto communications about the company’s plans to target me and my reputation, I was shocked. I knew the company did not like the fact that in my 21 years of reporting on the agrochemical industry – mostly for Reuters – I wrote stories that quoted skeptics as well as fans of Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds.

I knew the company didn’t like me reporting about growing unease in the scientific community regarding research that connected Monsanto herbicides to human and environmental health problems. And I knew the company did not welcome the 2017 release of my book, Whitewash – The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science, which revealed the company’s actions to suppress and manipulate the science surrounding its herbicide business. But I never dreamed I would warrant my own Monsanto action plan. The company records I’ve obtained show a range of actions. One Monsanto plan involved paying for web placement of a blogpost about me so that Monsanto-written information would pop up at the top of certain internet searches involving my name.

The correspondence also discussed a need to produce “third party talking points” about me. In addition, Monsanto produced a video to help it amplify company-engineered propaganda about me and my work. I even inspired a Monsanto spreadsheet: as part of “Project Spruce”, the “Carey Gillam Book plan” lists more than 20 items, including discussion of how the company might get third parties to post book reviews about Whitewash.

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Jul 312019
 


Gustav Klimt Field of poppies 1907

 

Judge Dismisses DNC Suit Against Trump Campaign, Russia, WikiLeaks (Pol.)
Trump Wants To Rein In Intelligence Agencies (R.)
Trump’s Tax Returns Required Under New California Election Law (LAT)
FAA Hopes Global Regulators Simultaneously Approve Boeing 737 MAX (R.)
China Probes Small Bank Shareholdings As Risk Worries Persist (R.)
China Gathers Forces On Hong Kong Border Amid Unrest (ZH)
German Prosecutors Charge Ex-VW Boss With Fraud (AFP)
Jeremy Corbyn’s Finest Hour? (Varoufakis)
Mess With Good Friday And We’ll Block UK Trade Deal, US Politicians Warn (G.)
Dominic Cummings: Tories Do Not Care About Poor People Or NHS (G.)
Toxic History Of Monsanto In The UK (OffG)
Xenophobia About Russians Is Never Condemned In Western Media (Ryan)

 

 

Judge said DNC “claims entirely divorced from the facts”.

Judge Dismisses DNC Suit Against Trump Campaign, Russia, WikiLeaks (Pol.)

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit the Democratic National Committee filed against the Trump campaign, the Russian government, WikiLeaks and various Trump campaign officials over alleged involvement in the hacking of Democratic Party email accounts during the 2016 presidential race. U.S. District Judge John Koeltl rejected the central theory of the racketeering suit: that the Trump campaign, campaign aides and Trump allies abetted the theft of the emails by encouraging WikiLeaks to publish the messages and by urging they be released when they would be of maximum political benefit to then-candidate Donald Trump. Koeltl said such actions were protected by the First Amendment when taken by people not involved in the actual hacking.

“Even if the documents had been provided directly to the Campaign [and] the Campaign defendants … they could have published the documents themselves without liability because they did not participate in the theft and the documents are of public concern,” the judge wrote in an 81-page opinion. “The DNC cannot hold these defendants liable for aiding and abetting publication when they would have been entitled to publish the stolen documents themselves without liability.” The judge said the DNC’s suit did not allege that anyone beyond the Russian Federation took part in the hacking of the Democratic Party computer systems or email accounts. And he concluded that WikiLeaks could not legitimately be sued as a recipient of that information because what it released was of genuine public interest.

“The DNC’s published internal communications allowed the American electorate to look behind the curtain of one of the two major political parties in the United States during a presidential election,” Koeltl wrote. “This type of information is plainly of the type entitled to the strongest protection that the First Amendment offers.” Koeltl, a Manhattan-based appointee of President Bill Clinton, also rejected the DNC’s contention that fundraising-related records amount to trade secrets that get special protection under the law. “The DNC’s interest in keeping ‘donor lists’ and ‘fundraising strategies’ secret is dwarfed by the newsworthiness of the documents as a whole,” the judge wrote. “If WikiLeaks could be held liable for publishing documents concerning the DNC’s political financial and voter-engagement strategies simply because the DNC labels them ‘secret’ and trade secrets, then so could any newspaper or other media outlet.”

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They turned on him.

Trump Wants To Rein In Intelligence Agencies (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended his choice for the next U.S. spy chief as someone who could “rein in” intelligence agencies that “have run amok,” fueling concerns Trump seeks assessments that support his own views. Trump’s choice of Republican Representative John Ratcliffe of Texas as the next director of national intelligence, has been greeted with scant enthusiasm by his fellow Republicans and charges by former intelligence officials and Democrats that he is unqualified and will frame intelligence to suit the president.


Ratcliffe, a member of the House Intelligence Committee for six months, would replace Dan Coats, whose judgments on Iran, North Korea and Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections clashed with Trump’s views, earning the president’s disdain. Returning to the White House from an appearance in Virginia, Trump on Tuesday said Ratcliffe “is going to do an incredible job, if he gets approved” by the Senate. “I think we need somebody like that in there,” he continued. “We need somebody strong that can rein it in. Because, as I think you’ve all learned, the intelligence agencies have run amok. They have run amok.” Trump denied he had a “conflict” with Coats, saying he was “a friend of mine” and a “terrific person.” But, he added, “Dan made statements and they were a little confused.”

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Overreach.

Trump’s Tax Returns Required Under New California Election Law (LAT)

President Trump will be ineligible for California’s primary ballot next year unless he discloses his tax returns under a state law that immediately took effect Tuesday, an unprecedented mandate that is almost certain to spark a high-profile court fight and might encourage other states to adopt their own unconventional rules for presidential candidates. The law, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on his final day to take action and passed on a strict party-line vote in the Legislature, requires all presidential candidates to submit five years of income tax filings. They must do so by late November in order to secure a spot on California’s presidential primary ballot in March. State elections officials will post the financial documents online, although certain private information must first be redacted.

“As one of the largest economies in the world and home to one in nine Americans eligible to vote, California has a special responsibility to require this information of presidential and gubernatorial candidates,” Newsom said in a statement that accompanied his signature on the bill approved by the Legislature earlier this month. “These are extraordinary times and states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards, and to restore public confidence. The disclosure required by this bill will shed light on conflicts of interest, self-dealing, or influence from domestic and foreign business interest.”

Trump, who is not singled out by the law but is clearly its inspiration, is likely to fight back. “The Constitution is clear on the qualifications for someone to serve as president and states cannot add additional requirements on their own,” said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the president’s reelection campaign. “The bill also violates the 1st Amendment right of association, since California can’t tell political parties which candidates their members can or cannot vote for in a primary election.”

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That potato is darn hot.

FAA Hopes Global Regulators Simultaneously Approve Boeing 737 MAX (R.)

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration hopes civil aviation authorities around the world will decide at about the same time to allow the Boeing 737 MAX to resume flying, the agency told Congress on Tuesday in a letter seen by Reuters. The FAA and other regulators grounded the plane in March after two fatal crashes in five months killed 346 people. Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell said in letters to Senators Susan Collins and Jack Reed that the agency “hopes to achieve near simultaneous approval from the major civil aviation authorities around the world” but added that every regulator will make its own determination. “We are working with our colleagues from the European Union, Canada and Brazil to address their concerns,” he wrote.


Collins will chair a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing Wednesday that will feature four senior FAA officials, including Ali Bahrami, who oversees aviation safety. Boeing Co Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg told analysts last week he was confident the MAX would be back in service as early as October after a certification flight in “the September time frame.” Ryan Air Chief Executive Michael O’Leary said Monday that he had been told that flight would be delayed until October. Boeing on Tuesday reiterated Muilenburg’s recent comments. Elwell said in his letter the FAA “will lift the 737 MAX grounding order only when it is safe to do so.”

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Shareholders buy each other’s stock with borrowed money and then use it as collateral to borrow more money..

China Probes Small Bank Shareholdings As Risk Worries Persist (R.)

China is sharpening its scrutiny of small banks’ shareholders amid fears that loans from the lenders to big investors could prove a weak point in the country’s financial system, jolted by the state’s weekend rescue of one lender and recent takeover of another. While nominally small, China’s numerous small city commercial banks risk having outsized significance because of their close ties to the rest of the banking system as well as with bigger shareholders, many of whom are giant companies. Earlier this month, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) asked banks and some other financial firms for details of any investor building up stakes of 5% or more without required regulatory approvals.

The regulator also asked the firms if they had disclosed all business transactions with their main owners, according to a regulatory notice seen by Reuters. Regulators have also conducted spot checks at some smaller banks in the last two months to probe possible misuse of capital linked to shareholders and transferring of ownership interests, said four people with direct knowledge of the matter. The scrutiny comes amid concerns that some debt-heavy Chinese private enterprises have amassed substantial stakes in smaller banks without regulatory approval and are using the lenders for their personal borrowings.

“There may be many shareholders using small Chinese banks as ATM machines, but I don’t think we have enough understanding of bank ownership to know,” said Andrew Collier, managing director of Hong Kong-based Orient Capital Research. “Certainly if there are under-capitalized corporates as majority shareholders of the less well-funded smaller banks you could have a bank run,” he said, adding the regulators have so far done a good job of rescuing ailing financial firms.

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Blame outsiders: “..this is the creation of the U.S.”

China Gathers Forces On Hong Kong Border Amid Unrest (ZH)

Massive anti-Beijing protests which have gripped Hong Kong over the past month, and have become increasingly violent as both an overwhelmed local police force and counter-protesters have hit back with force, are threatening to escalate on a larger geopolitical scale after the White House weighed in this week. With China fast losing patience, there are new reports of a significant build-up of Chinese security forces on Hong Kong’s border, as Bloomberg reports: “The White House is monitoring what a senior administration official called a congregation of Chinese forces on Hong Kong’s border.”

From nearly the start of the protests which began over a proposed extradition bill (which would see Hong Kong citizens under legal accusation potentially extradited to the mainland) interpreted as major Chinese overreach inside historically semi-autonomous Hong Kong, officials in Beijing have suggested an “external plot” afoot, more recently alleging the hidden hand of the United States. The latest charge made Tuesday by mainland government officials is that the still escalating Hong Kong unrest is the “creation of the US” — something which the Trump admin official speaking under anonymity to Bloomberg firmly denied.

On Monday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a press interview that “protest is appropriate” and that “we hope the Chinese will do the right thing” regarding respecting Hong Kong’s historic “one country, two systems” status. This was enough to elicit a quick response alleging US meddling out of Beijing on Tuesday. It’s clear that Mr. Pompeo has put himself in the wrong position and still regards himself as the head of the CIA,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a news briefing. “He might think that violent activities in Hong Kong are reasonable because after all, this is the creation of the U.S.”

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Here’s thinking fraud is a serious offence in Germany.

German Prosecutors Charge Ex-VW Boss With Fraud (AFP)

German prosecutors said Monday they had charged former Volkswagen chief executive Martin Winterkorn and four other managers over “dieselgate”, bringing the cheating scandal back into the headlines just as VW battles to move on from the affair. Prosecutors in Brunswick, near VW’s Wolfsburg HQ in northern Germany, said they had charged Winterkorn and four other managers. Among the accusations against the former chief executive were “a particularly serious case of fraud”, “infraction of the law against unfair competition” and “breach of trust”. Winterkorn was CEO during a period when VW fitted 11 million diesel-powered vehicles worldwide with so-called “defeat devices” – software that made them appear less polluting in the lab than in real driving conditions.


Such allegations have hit other German manufacturers since, with Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler confirming Sunday it was facing a regulatory probe, reportedly over 60,000 vehicles. At the helm from 2007 to 2015, Winterkorn, a trained engineer, had a reputation as a detail-obsessed executive who was familiar with “every screw” of each VW model. The group admitted to the fraud in September 2015, beginning a drawn-out process of fact-finding and legal action that has so far seen it pay out $33 billion in fines, compensation and buyback schemes, much of it in the United States.

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Wishful thinking?!

Jeremy Corbyn’s Finest Hour? (Varoufakis)

Since the 2016 referendum, a civil war-like atmosphere has made it increasingly impossible for Leavers and Remainers to hold a civilized conversation. Corbyn valiantly tried to keep Labour’s Leavers and Remainers together by seeking an honorable compromise: The UK would formally leave the EU, to respect the referendum’s outcome, while remaining in as many of the bloc’s structures as possible – including a customs union. Instead of applauding Corbyn for this tricky balancing act, his opponents within the Labour Party, together with a liberal establishment unprincipled enough to deliver all Leavers to Nigel Farage and Johnson, attacked him with extraordinary viciousness. But that was then and this is now.

With Johnson as prime minister, and his strategy crystal clear, Corbyn’s task is to expose the truth about Johnson’s no-deal Brexit – namely, that it means a Trump-deal Brexit – and put forward Labour’s plan to end the interminable Brexit ordeal immediately. Corbyn must first show voters that a Johnson government will turn the UK into a vassal state of a Trumpian US and of the multinationals eager to usurp the country’s cherished institutions (especially the National Health Service). Johnson will bind the UK to a global alliance of populist/nationalist regimes and destroy Britain’s chances to lead Europe and the world with a Green New Deal that overhauls a failed UK business model based on low taxes, low wages, low investment, zero-hour contracts, and unregulated finance.

Corbyn’s second task is to offer an alternative for ending the humiliation of the ongoing negotiations. That means committing to revoke Article 50 to allow a Labour government time to implement a green-investment, anti-austerity policy agenda in tune with the party’s progressive internationalism, while simultaneously organizing a Citizens’ Deliberative Assembly to formulate the question(s) to be put to voters in a second Brexit referendum. A general election fought over these two unequivocal alternatives, Johnson’s and Corbyn’s, would empower the UK’s people, at last, to determine their country’s future.

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Boris wants to ditch the backstop, and that automatically messes with Good Friday.

Mess With Good Friday And We’ll Block UK Trade Deal, US Politicians Warn (G.)

Any future US-UK trade deal would almost certainly be blocked by the US Congress if Brexit affects the Irish border and jeopardises peace in Northern Ireland, congressional leaders and diplomats have warned. Boris Johnson has presented a trade deal with the US as a way of offsetting the economic costs of leaving the EU, and Donald Trump promised the two countries could strike “a very substantial trade agreement” that would increase trade “four or five times”. Trump, however, would not be able to push an agreement through a hostile Congress, where there would be strong bipartisan opposition to any UK trade deal in the event of a threat to the 1998 Good Friday agreement, and to the open border between the two Irelands.


Johnson’s rise to power, and his demand for the EU to drop the backstop, which is intended to safeguard the open border after Brexit, has galvanised determination in Congress to make a stand in defence of the landmark accord, to which the US is guarantor. “The American dimension to the Good Friday agreement is indispensable,” said Richard Neal, who is co-chair of the 54-strong Friends of Ireland caucus in Congress, and also chairs the powerful House ways and means committee, with the power to hold up a trade deal indefinitely. “We oversee all trade agreements as part of our tax jurisdiction,” Neal, a Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, said in a phone interview. He pointed out that such a complex trade deal could take four or five years, even without the Northern Ireland issue.

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He said it as an observer, it’s not what he wants.

Dominic Cummings: Tories Do Not Care About Poor People Or NHS (G.)

Voters are right to think Tory MPs largely do not care about poorer people or the NHS, according to Dominic Cummings in comments that have emerged from two years ago. Boris Johnson’s new senior adviser and a key architect of Brexit gave his damning view on Conservative MPs at a conference in 2017, where he said: “People think, and by the way I think most people are right: ‘The Tory party is run by people who basically don’t care about people like me.’ “That is what most people in the country have thought about the Tory party for decades. I know a lot of Tory MPs and I am sad to say the public is basically correct. Tory MPs largely do not care about these poorer people. They don’t care about the NHS. And the public has kind of cottoned on to that.”


Cummings is now integral to Johnson’s administration, which has a majority of just two and is relying on Conservative and DUP MPs to back his Brexit strategy of taking the UK out of the EU by 31 October – unless he suspends parliament to achieve a no-deal exit. Ian Lavery, the chair of the Labour party, said it was a “staggering admission from the prime minister’s right-hand man”. “As Dominic Cummings says himself, the Conservatives don’t care about anything apart from looking after their rich friends – whether that means selling off our NHS to American corporations in pursuit of a Trump trade deal, or giving tax cuts to big businesses while cutting public services. We need a general election and a Labour government to protect our health service from the likes of Boris Johnson,” Lavery said.

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Shattering.

Toxic History Of Monsanto In The UK (OffG)

A special report in the Observer newspaper in the UK on 23 June 2019 asked the question: Why is life expectancy faltering? The piece noted that for the first time in 100 years, Britons are dying earlier. The UK now has the worst health trends in Western Europe. Aside from the figures for the elderly and the deprived, there has also been a worrying change in infant mortality rates. Since 2014, the rate has increased every year: the figure for 2017 is significantly higher than the one in 2014. To explain this increase in infant mortality, certain experts blame it on ‘austerity’, fewer midwives, an overstrained ambulance service, general deterioration of hospitals, greater poverty among pregnant women and cuts that mean there are fewer health visitors for patients in need.

While all these explanations may be valid, according to environmental campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason, there is something the mainstream narrative is avoiding. She says: “We are being poisoned by weedkiller and other pesticides in our food and weedkiller sprayed indiscriminately on our communities. The media remain silent.” Mason begins by offering a brief history of Monsanto in the UK. In 1949, that company set up a chemical factory in Newport, Wales, where it manufactured PCBs until 1977 and a number of other dangerous chemicals. Monsanto was eventually found to be dumping toxic waste in the River Severn, public waterways and sewerage. It then paid a contractor which illegally dumped thousands of tons of cancer-causing chemicals, including PCBs, dioxins and Agent Orange derivatives, at two quarries in Wales – Brofiscin (80,000 tonnes) and Maendy (42,000 tonnes) – between 1965 and 1972.

Monsanto stopped making PCBs in Anniston US in 1971 because of various scandals. However, the British government agreed to ramp up production at the Monsanto plant in Newport. In 2003, when toxic effluent from the quarry started leaking into people’s streams in Grosfaen, just outside Cardiff, the Environment Agency – a government agency concerned with flooding and pollution – was hired to clean up the site in 2005. Mason notes that the agency repeatedly failed to hold Monsanto accountable for its role in the pollution (a role that Monsanto denied from the outset) and consistently downplayed the dangers of the chemicals themselves. In a report prepared for the agency and the local authority in 2005 but never made public, the sites contain at least 67 toxic chemicals. Seven PCBs have been identified, along with vinyl chlorides and naphthalene. The unlined quarry is still leaking, the report says:

“Pollution of water has been occurring since the 1970s, the waste and groundwater has been shown to contain significant quantities of poisonous, noxious and polluting material, pollution of… waters will continue to occur.” Apart from these events in Wales, Mason outlines the overall toxic nature of Monsanto in the UK. For instance, she discusses the shockingly high levels of weedkiller in packaged cereals. Samples of four oat-based breakfast cereals marketed for children in the UK were recently sent to the Health Research Institute, Fairfield, Iowa, an accredited laboratory for glyphosate testing. Dr Fagan, the director of the centre, says of the results: “These results are consistently concerning. The levels consumed in a single daily helping of any one of these cereals, even the one with the lowest level of contamination, is sufficient to put the person’s glyphosate levels above the levels that cause fatty liver disease in rats (and likely in people).”

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“A list of 10 “ground rules” for befuddled Westerners seeking to unravel the enigma that is Russia..”

Xenophobia About Russians Is Never Condemned In Western Media (Ryan)

Pretending to ‘understand’ Russia has become quite the lucrative business for Western media professionals in recent years – and “leading” Russia expert extraordinaire Keir Giles is the latest to believe he has cracked the code. Generous Giles has published a list of 10 “ground rules” for befuddled Westerners seeking to unravel the enigma that is Russia – but before we delve into the finer details, let’s add some important context. This Russia whisperer is a “senior consulting fellow” at Chatham House – a British think tank receiving funding from the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO), the UK Ministry of Defence, the British Army and the US embassy, as well as an impressive array of arms manufacturers.


Very often, those posing as ‘experts’ on Russia pepper their analysis with outright xenophobia. Yet, this problematic and bigoted language is rarely noticed by their admiring peers because, as I have written before, “the Russians” are an exception to current cultural rules around political correctness. Xenophobia, when it is about Russians, is never condemned in Western media and ‘think tank’ circles. Rather, it has become an essential component of any celebrated ‘analysis’ of the country and its actions. Recall a recent New York Times article which claimed corruption is in the Russian “DNA” and sharing is “not the Russian way.” Before that, there was James Clapper, former US Director of National Intelligence, telling NBC that Russians are “genetically driven” to lie and cheat. Now, enter Giles.

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Jul 092019
 


Pablo Picasso Guernica [Study] III 1937

 

Carnage At Deutsche Bank (Coppola)
Gold Is At A Historical Low (Von Greyerz)
Trump Hits Out At May After Leak Of Damning Cables (AFP)
Barr Talks 2020 Citizenship Question, Recuses Self From Epstein Case (ZH)
I Hear That Train a’Comin’ (Kunstler)
How Syriza Let The Greek Right Escape The Dustbin Of History (Varoufakis)
Hong Kong Leader Carrie Lam: Extradition Bill ‘Is Dead’ (CNBC)
Almost Half Of Brits Are Stockpiling Food, Medicine And Clothes (BI)
Russia Prepares S-400 Systems For Delivery To Turkey (AP)
Russia-Gate Blossoms Into Deep-State-Gate (McGovern)
Russia’s RT and Sputnik Barred From UK Conference On Media Freedom (G.)
Juror Urges US Judge To Uphold $80 Million Roundup Verdict Against Bayer (R.)

 

 

No, we’re not going to feel sorry for bankers.

Carnage At Deutsche Bank (Coppola)

The outlook for many of the terminated staff is grim, particularly in the U.K. where Brexit uncertainty is casting a considerable shadow. Not that anyone outside the finance industry cares, much. The British haven’t forgotten the financial crisis of 2008. The business that Deutsche Bank is closing down is bigger than Nissan’s automobile manufacturing plant in Sunderland, the uncertain future of which has hit headlines and led to questions in the U.K. Parliament. But no-one is going to lose any sleep over unemployed investment bankers – even if there are more of them than there are workers at the Sunderland plant. The silence from British politicians about the prospect of up to 8,000 British workers losing their jobs is deafening.

But the woes of terminated staff don’t concern Deutsche Bank’s Chief Executive, Christian Sewing. He has a bank to rescue, and investors to placate. His letter to staff had a distinctly ruthless tone: “I am very much aware that in rebuilding our bank, we are making deep cuts. I personally greatly regret the impact this will have on some of you. In the long-term interests of our bank, however, we have no choice other than to approach this transformation decisively.” “I weep for you, I really do…” while dishing out the redundancy notices. Sewing has all the personnel skills of a crocodile.

Just how little concern Sewing has for the feelings of the staff he is letting go became apparent at 9.30 am London time. While hundreds of staff in the London office were being sacked, executive management held a conference call – from the London office. During that call, the Chief Executive, Christian Sewing, announced that the bank still plans to maintain a large presence in London. In fact it is intending to move into shiny new offices on Moorgate. It is not hard to imagine how the sacked staff felt about this. It amounted to rubbing their noses in it.

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“..the peak price for gold in 1980 at $850, today would be $18,160 adjusted for inflation.”

Gold Is At A Historical Low (Von Greyerz)

[..] when we entered our physical gold investment in 2002, I had certainly been “sitting” for a very long time. Gold started the current bull market in 1971 at $35, made a temporary top in 1980 at $850 and then spent 20 years correcting. But the gold bull certainly hadn’t finished, central banks saw to that. They continued their irresponsible monetary policy, leading to a chronic credit expansion, debasement of currencies and thereby permanently underwriting the gold price. Looking at gold on an inflation adjusted basis, 2000 was the lowest point since 1971 when the price was $35 per ounce (based on Shadow Government Statistics inflation calculation).


The gold chart below, adjusted for real inflation, shows this amazing insurance can be bought today at an all-time historical low. Gold priced currently at $1,400 is cheaper than in 2000 at $280, cheaper than in 1970 when gold was $35 or in 1780 when gold was traded in London at £4 per ounce. What the chart also shows is that the peak price for gold in 1980 at $850, today would be $18,160 adjusted for inflation. There is no reason why gold wouldn’t reach that level in the next few years, especially as the gold paper market implodes.

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Which government is more inept?

Trump Hits Out At May After Leak Of Damning Cables (AFP)

Donald Trump launched an extraordinary attack Monday on outgoing British premier Theresa May, following the leak of diplomatic cables highly critical of his presidency. London has been scrambling to stem the damage caused by the weekend release of confidential telegrams in which its envoy to Washington, Kim Darroch, described the US leader as “inept” and his White House as “uniquely dysfunctional.” Visibly angered by May’s continuing support for her ambassador — which Downing Street reiterated on Monday — Trump assailed the prime minister over her handling of fraught Brexit negotiations, and welcomed her impending departure from office.


“What a mess she and her representatives have created,” Trump fumed in a series of tweets. “I told her how it should be done, but she decided to go another way.” “The good news for the wonderful United Kingdom is that they will soon have a new Prime Minister,” he wrote. As for London’s man in Washington, Trump declared he would have no further contact with him. “I do not know the Ambassador, but he is not liked or well thought of within the U.S,” the president said, doubling down on weekend comments claiming his administration were “not big fans” of Darroch. “We will no longer deal with him,” Trump vowed. But even after Trump’s remarks, a government spokesman said that “Sir Kim Darroch continues to have the prime minister’s full support.”

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“..he used to work for one of the law firms representing Epstein “long ago..”

Nothing else about Epstein for now, but I find the reports interesting about no-one knowing where his money comes from. Financiers leave traces of their work, he did not.

Barr Talks 2020 Citizenship Question, Recuses Self From Epstein Case (ZH)

Attorney General William Barr said on Monday that the Trump administration can legally add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, which had been excluded for the first time in US history by President Obama. Barr told the Associated Press that he has been in regular contact with President Trump over the matter. “I agree with him that the Supreme Court decision was wrong,” said Barr – referring to the USSC’s June Decision to block the citizenship question, adding that there is “an opportunity potentially to cure the lack of clarity that was the problem and we might as well take a shot at doing that.” According to the report, President Trump is likely to issue a presidential memorandum to the Commerce Department over the next several days ordering it to include the citizenship question.

Last week the Justice Department appeared to cave to legal pressure to keep the question off the census, only for President Trump to reverse course the next day – tweeting that the efforts to print the question would move forward. “The tweet this morning was the first I had heard of the president’s position on this issue, just like the plaintiffs and Your Honor. I do not have a deeper understanding of what that means at this juncture other than what the president has tweeted,” DOJ attorney Joshua Gardner told a federal judge during a Wednesday teleconference, adding “But obviously, as you can imagine, I am doing my absolute best to figure out what’s going on.” The DOJ on Sunday also announced that it would be replacing its entire legal team dealing with the citizenship issue – replacing them with other government attorneys.

On Monday, Barr told reporters that he had recused himself from the case involving billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who was arrested over the weekend on charges of sex-trafficking minors, according to the Washington Times. Barr says that he used to work for one of the law firms representing Epstein “long ago,” though he did not name the firm.

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Didn’t Jim used to be a Democrat?

I Hear That Train a’Comin’ (Kunstler)

The Republican Party is a train of booby-trapped freight cars that can blow at any time. The engine is running on the fumes of the financialized economy. The engineer, Mr. Trump, only has his eye on the gauge that represents the stock market, which produces the gaseous emanations running his train. But the tank cars are leaking. The vapors are highly flammable. Any little spark can set it off, and surely will.

The Democratic Party is carrying seventeen gondola cars of the worst political scandal in US history: RussiaGate, the attempted coup d’état by national gaslighting, which will expose dozens of party officers and foot-soldiers in an actual criminal conspiracy, and subject them to ignominious prosecution in the heart of the election year. The damage could run as high as former President Obama when all is said and done, with Mrs. Clinton dragged under the wheels in the ensuing train wreck. It will be ugly and embarrassing to the max.

The Dem’s train also includes the circus cars of its identity politics hustlers, Reps AOC, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley plus the sideshow of so-far-suppressed Joe Biden scandals concerning massive cash payoffs from Ukraine and China to his entrepreneurial son, Hunter — conveniently arranged during his Dad’s official trips to those places as Vice-president. There is reason to believe that a majority of voters are good and goddam sick of identity hustling and the tiresome racket of political correctness that spawned it. They see its bottomless appetite for grievance and complaint — against a reality in which life is difficult for everybody, not just self-proclaimed victims of oppression.

They smell the odor of bad faith in the party’s campaign for an open border with Mexico and its abject refusal to legislate immigration law reform — while grandstanding about the alleged mistreatment of people who cross the border illegally. Most of all, they are sick of the endless moral instruction and coercion, especially over “gender” issues and sexual boundary-stretching, the parades of freaks in dog masks, ball gags, and S & M get-ups, not to mention the utter insanity of the drag queen story hour, in which men perform as monstrous caricatures of women for impressionable six-year-olds. That is what it’s come to for the party of Franklin Roosevelt and Jack Kennedy.

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“..on one side, apparatchiks connected to vulture funds and failed banks and, on the other, ultra-nationalist former fascists.”

How Syriza Let The Greek Right Escape The Dustbin Of History (Varoufakis)

The Greek right is back: greedier, uglier and more focused than ever. The incoming New Democracy government is determined to reclaim full control of the state on behalf of the most parasitic segment of Greece’s oligarchy and, of course, of our country’s ruthless creditors. Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the new prime minister, is a scion of one of the dynasties responsible for Greece’s perpetual bankruptcy, corruption and subservience to the Atlanticist oligarchy-without-borders. Tellingly, he has surrounded himself with, on one side, apparatchiks connected to vulture funds and failed banks and, on the other, ultra-nationalist former fascists.

Together, Mr Mitsotakis’ motley reactionaries plan to unleash a fresh class war against a people who have already lost almost everything, against minorities, against our environment, against common decency. How did this happen? Four short years ago, Greek voters gave Syriza, the party of the radical left, a mandate to unseat the oligarchs and confine New Democracy to its rightful place — the dustbin of history. On 25 January 2015, caught up in the moment’s excitement, I quoted from Dylan Thomas to convey a message of hope to progressives across the globe: “Greek democracy,” I wrote, “today chose to stop going gently into the night. Greek democracy resolved to rage against the dying of the light.”

So, what went wrong? What was it that allowed the restoration of an authoritarian, incompetent regime that wrecked Greece before turning it into a harsh debtor’s prison from which emigration was, and remains, the only escape? When did my fellow Greeks stop raging against the long night of our debt bondage? The answer is: the night of Sunday 5 July 2015.

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But she won’t withdraw it.

Hong Kong Leader Carrie Lam: Extradition Bill ‘Is Dead’ (CNBC)

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said Tuesday that the controversial extradition bill that has led to mass protests in the city is “dead.” Addressing the weeks-long drama during a news conference, she reiterated that there is no plan to restart the legislation. She described the work to amend the bill as a “total failure.” Lam, meanwhile, said she took full responsibility for what has happened in the city, according to a translation of her address. Political tensions in Hong Kong have risen in recent weeks amid protests over an extradition bill that would have allowed some arrested in the city to be sent for trial in mainland China.


The bill had been suspended after a first round of demonstrations, but protesters continued taking to the street with calls for it to be withdrawn completely. “I have almost immediately put a stop to the (bill) amendment exercise, but there are still lingering doubts about the government’s sincerity, or worries whether the government will restart the process in the legislative council, so I reiterate here: There is no such plan, the bill is dead.” Notably, Lam did not say that she is officially withdrawing the bill, raising questions about to what extent the measure could be revived in the future.

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Halloween is less than 4 months away.

Almost Half Of Brits Are Stockpiling Food, Medicine And Clothes (BI)

Four out of ten Brits are stockpiling items including food, medicine and clothes in preparation for the growing prospect of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without a Brexit deal later this year. 40% of people in the UK have started stockpiling goods in fear that there will be shortages in a no-deal Brexit scenario, according to research into consumer behaviour carried out by intelligence company, Blis. The most commonly stockpiled item is food. 56% of those Brits who are stockpiling are doing so with food items. 44% are building up supplies of household items, and well over a third (37%) are doing so with medicine. The public is even stockpiling clothing. Over a quarter of Brits (28%) have bought extra clothes and shoes to prepare for shortages and higher prices in aftermath of the UK leaving the EU without a deal on October 31.


Both candidates to replace Theresa May as prime minister, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, have promised to take the UK out of the EU this year, with or without a deal, with Johnson insisting that leaving on October 31 is “do or die.” The revelation that nearly half of British people are stockpiling goods like food and medicine in their own homes comes as British businesses ramp up preparations for a possible no-deal Brexit on October 31. Business Insider reported earlier this year that there was an even greater risk of supermarket shelves going empty due to shortages in October, than there was in the run-up to the original Brexit deadline in March. That’s because most of the warehouse space that companies used to stockpile goods in the run-up to March is not available in October, as it’s already booked up for the busy Christmas period when demand for goods rockets.

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How big will this blow up?

Russia Prepares S-400 Systems For Delivery To Turkey (AP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Russia’s S-400 air defense missiles are currently being prepared to be flown to Turkey. Speaking to reporters before leaving for Bosnia on Monday, Erdogan wouldn’t say, however, when the Russian missile defense system would reach Turkey or where they will be deployed. The delivery of the systems could bring Turkey closer to US sanctions. US officials have warned that Turkey would face economic sanctions as well as being expelled from a program to produce the F-35 fighter jets. Turkey has refused to pull back from the deal. Erdogan said: “The preparations for the journey, the loading [of the S-400] is continuing … The S-400 will arrive by planes. May it be beneficial for our country, our region and especially for the world.”

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“And sure enough, now, three months later, where are the criminal referrals?”

Russia-Gate Blossoms Into Deep-State-Gate (McGovern)

That the Deep State retains formidable power can be seen in the repeated Lucy-holding-then-withdrawing-the-football-for-Charlie Brown treatment experienced by House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member, Devin Nunes (R-CA). On April 5, 2019, in the apparent belief he had a green light to go on the offensive, Nunes wrote that committee Republicans “will soon be submitting criminal referrals on numerous individuals involved … in the abuse of intelligence for political purposes. These people must be held to account to prevent similar abuses from occurring in the future.”

On April 7, Nunes was even more specific, telling Fox News that he was preparing to send eight criminal referrals to the Department of Justice “this week,” concerning alleged misconduct during the Trump-Russia investigation, including leaks of “highly classified material” and conspiracies to lie to Congress and the FISA court. It seemed to be no-holds-barred for Nunes, who had begun to talk publicly about prison time for those who might be brought to trial. Except for Fox, the corporate media ignored Nunes’s explosive comments. The media seemed smugly convinced that Nunes’s talk of “referrals” could be safely ignored — even though a new sheriff, Barr, had come to town. And sure enough, now, three months later, where are the criminal referrals?

There is ample evidence that President Trump is afraid to run afoul of the Deep State functionaries he inherited. And the Deep State almost always wins. But if Attorney General Barr leans hard on the president to unfetter Nunes, IG Horowitz, Durham and like-minded investigators, all hell may break lose, because the evidence against those who took serious liberties with the law is staring them all in the face.

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Clowns.

Russia’s RT and Sputnik Barred From UK Conference On Media Freedom (G.)

Russia’s RT and Sputnik news organisations have been banned by the Foreign Office from attending a global conference on media freedom in London because of their “active role in spreading disinformation”. Some 60 ministers and 1,000 journalists and members of civil society are expected to attend the meeting, co-hosted with Canada, on Wednesday and Thursday. “We have not accredited RT or Sputnik because of their active role in spreading disinformation,” a Foreign Office spokeswoman said. “While it’s not possible to accommodate all requests for accreditation, journalists from across the world’s media are attending the conference, including from Russia.”


The Russian embassy previously condemned the decision relating to RT as “direct politically motivated discrimination” and said it had complained to the Foreign Office. In a statement on Friday, it said RT had been told there was no space for its journalists at the conference. After the Foreign Office comments on Monday, RT said in a statement: “It takes a particular brand of hypocrisy to advocate for freedom of press while banning inconvenient voices and slandering alternative media.” In December, British media regulator Ofcom found that RT had broken impartiality rules with several programmes broadcast after the nerve agent attack in the English city of Salisbury. Moscow has denied claims by London that it approved the attack on a former Russian double agent in March last year.

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Interesting legal arguments. Juror tells judge what the law actually says. And Monsanto getting personal about jurors.

Juror Urges US Judge To Uphold $80 Million Roundup Verdict Against Bayer (R.)

A juror who was part of a panel that delivered an $80 million award against Bayer AG after finding that its glyphosate-based weed killer Roundup caused a man’s cancer has urged the presiding judge to uphold the decision. A letter from the juror written on July 4 was posted to the court docket on Monday as part of legal filings by Bayer. The company accused the juror of bias and called on the judge to disregard the letter in his decision making. In the letter, the unidentified juror told U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco that the $80 million in awards “were no accident” and the result of “meticulous planning” by the jury.


The letter was a response to statements by Chhabria during a court hearing last week, when the judge said he would have to reduce the $75 million punitive damages portion of the award on constitutional grounds. Following a four-week trial, a federal jury on March 27 awarded $5 million in compensatory and $75 million in punitive damages to Edwin Hardeman, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014. U.S. Supreme Court rulings limit the ratio of punitive to compensatory damages to 9 to 1, which in this case would put the maximum for punitive damages at $45 million. In the letter, the juror said higher damages ratios were allowed in extraordinary cases, echoing arguments Hardeman’s lawyers made during Tuesday’s hearing, when they urged Chhabria to affirm the total award.

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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 142019
 


Pablo Picasso Napping 1932

 

AG Barr Appoints US Attorney To Investigate FBI/DOJ Spying On Trump (ZH)
Who Were the Mueller Report’s Hired Guns? (RCI)
US Accuses Iran Of Attack On Saudi Tankers (ZH)
Sweden Wants To Extradite Assange Over Rape Allegation (R.)
Lewinsky Scandal Beginning Of The End Of American Journalism – Taibbi (SHTF)
The CNN Search Engine? Google Favors Stories From Liberal News Sites (RT)
The Trend is Not Your Friend (Jim Kunstler)
US Police Raid Venezuelan Embassy To Evict Pro-Maduro Activists (RT)
Britain Risks Heading To US Levels Of Inequality – Angus Deaton (G.)
Theresa May Remains Opposed To Any Form Of Brexit Referendum (G.)
Uber & Lyft IPOs Turn into Colossal Flops (WS)
California Jury Awards Couple $2 Billion In Monsanto/Bayer Cancer Trial (RT)
Bayer Says Monsanto Likely Kept Files On Influential People Across Europe (R.)
German Failure on the Road to a Renewable Future (Spiegel)
415.26 Parts Per Million: CO2 Levels Hit Historic High (AFP)

 

 

To what extent can US intelligence take care of its own? We’re about to find out.

AG Barr Appoints US Attorney To Investigate FBI/DOJ Spying On Trump (ZH)

Attorney General William Barr has appointed US Attorney John H. Durham of Connecticut to examine the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation to determine if the FBI’s spying on the Trump campaign was “lawful and appropriate,” according to Fox News. The move comes as the Trump administration has demanded answers over the use of “informants” on his 2016 campaign. According to Fox, Barr is “serious” and has assembled a team from the DOJ to participate in the probe, adding that Durham is known as a “hard-charging, bulldog” prosecutor according to their source.

“Sources familiar with matter say the focus of the probe includes the pre-transition period – prior to Nov. 7, 2016 – including the use and initiation of informants, as well as potential Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) abuses. An informant working for U.S. intelligence posed as a Cambridge University research assistant in September 2016 to try extracting any possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia from George Papadopoulos, then a Trump foreign policy adviser, it emerged earlier this month. Papadopoulos told Fox News the informant tried to “seduce” him as part of the “bizarre” episode. Durham previously has investigated law enforcement corruption, the destruction of CIA videotapes and the Boston FBI office’s relationship with mobsters. He is set to continue to serve as the chief federal prosecutor in Connecticut.” -Fox News

Of note – in January House Republicans Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows wrote to Durham, saying that they had “discovered” he was “investigating former FBI General Counsel James Baker” over unauthorized leaks to the media, adding “We know the DOJ and FBI departed from traditional investigative and prosecutorial practices, and insufficiently adhered to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Durham has a history of serving as a special prosecutor, investigating wrongdoing among national security officials – including the FBI’s ties to a Boston crime boss, as well as accusations of CIA detainee abuse. According to the report, Durham’s review would run in parallel with the ongoing DOJ probe by Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz. Meanwhile, Republicans have been seeking answers from US Attorney for Utah, John Huber, who was appointed by former AG Jeff Sessions to review FBI and DOJ surveillance abuses, as well as authorities’ handling of the probe into the Clinton Foundation.

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Mueller and Steele. A fine pair. If Mueller really worked with Steele and Fusion GPS, he should be investigated, because he knew they were Hillary assets.

Who Were the Mueller Report’s Hired Guns? (RCI)

[..] The arrangement has led congressional investigators, government watchdog groups and others to speculate that the private investigators and researchers who worked for the special counsel’s office might have included Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS, the private research firm that hired Steele to produce the Russia collusion dossier for the Clinton campaign. U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said the report should be renamed “The Mueller Dossier,” because he says it contains a lot of similar innuendo. Even though Mueller failed to corroborate key allegations leveled in the dossier, Nunes said his report twists key facts to put a collusion gloss on events.

He also asserted that it selectively quotes from Trump campaign emails and omits exculpatory information in ways that cast the campaign’s activities in the most sinister light. Steele’s 17-memo dossier alleged that the Trump campaign was involved in “a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” with the Russian government to rig the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor. It claimed this conspiracy “was managed on the Trump side by Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, who was using foreign policy adviser Carter Page and others as intermediaries.” Specifically, the dossier accused Page of secretly meeting with Kremlin officials in July 2016 to hatch a plot to release dirt on Hillary Clinton. And it accused Manafort of being corrupted by Russian President Vladimir Putin through his puppets in the Ukraine.

Likewise, Mueller’s report focuses on Manafort and Page and whether they “committed crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.” [..] Mueller’s team worked closely with dossier author Steele, a long-retired British intelligence officer who worked for the Clinton campaign. Mueller’s investigators went to London to consult with Steele for at least two days in September 2017 while apparently using his dossier as an investigative road map and central theory to his collusion case. Steele now runs a private research and consulting firm in London, Orbis Business Intelligence. It’s not clear if Mueller’s office paid Steele, but recently released FBI records show the bureau previously made a number of payments to him, and at one point during the 2016 campaign offered him $50,000 to continue his dossier research. Steele was also paid through the Clinton campaign, earning $168,000 for his work on the dossier.

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“Oh, and that would be the Persian Gulf for those wondering, not the Gulf of Tonkin..”

US Accuses Iran Of Attack On Saudi Tankers (ZH)

Update: Just as everyone with half a frontal lobe had expected, the WSJ reported late on Monday that according to an initial U.S. assessment, “Iran was likely behind the attack” on the two Saudi Arabian oil tankers and two other vessels damaged over the weekend near the Strait of Hormuz, a U.S. official said, a finding that, whether confirmed or not, will certainly inflame military tensions in the Gulf and likely result in a global proxy war that drags in the US, China and Russia. Oh, and that would be the Persian Gulf for those wondering, not the Gulf of Tonkin, which is where another famous False Flag naval incident occurred. Furthermore, as we predicted would happen on Sunday, this “official assessment”, was the first suggestion by any nation that Iran was responsible for the attack and follows a series of U.S. warnings against “aggression” by Iran or its allies and proxies against military or commercial vessels in the region.

Some more details from the WSJ: “The U.S. official, who declined to be identified, didn’t offer details about what led to the assessment or its implications for a possible U.S. response. The U.S. has said in the past week that it was sending an aircraft carrier, an amphibious assault ship, a bomber task force and an antimissile system to the region after it alleged intelligence showed Iran posed a threat to its troops. “If they do anything, they will suffer greatly. We’ll see what happens with Iran,” President Trump said while meeting with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the White House earlier on Monday.”

The assessment, predictable from a mile away, squares perfectly with CIA veteran Mike Pompeo’s warning from just two days before the alleged attack, in which he said that “The regime in Tehran should understand that any attacks by them or their proxies of any identity against US interests or citizens will be answered with a swift and decisive US response,” the US Secretary of State wrote in a statement warning that Iran should not mistake US “restraint” for a “lack of resolve,” and criticizing Iran for “an escalating series of threatening actions and statements in recent weeks.”

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There was a preliminary investigation. The case was closed three times. The word “rape” never came up until propaganda started.

Sweden is a country full of very sick people. I haven’t seen even one raise their voice. Avoid Sweden. Don’t buy IKEA.

Sweden Wants To Extradite Assange Over Rape Allegation (R.)

Sweden reopened an investigation into a rape allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Monday and will seek to extradite him from Britain, a potential setback to efforts by the United States to put him on trial over a huge release of secret documents. Deputy Chief Prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson told a news conference in Stockholm she would continue a preliminary investigation that was dropped in 2017 without charges being brought after Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. Assange, who denies the accusation, was arrested in Britain last month after spending seven years hiding inside the embassy.


The Swedish prosecutor said she would request Assange be detained in his absence on probable cause for an allegation of rape and that her office would issue a European arrest warrant – the start of the extradition process. The United States is also seeking to extradite him on conspiracy charges relating to the public release by Wikileaks of a cache of secret documents, including assessments of foreign leaders, wars and security matters. The British courts will have to rule on the two extradition requests, with Home Secretary Sajid Javid having the final say on which one takes precedence. “I am well aware of the fact that an extradition process is ongoing in the UK and that he could be extradited to the US,” Persson said.

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Yes, true. But is it all about anger? Or is the anger merely a substitute for identity and belonging?

Lewinsky Scandal Beginning Of The End Of American Journalism – Taibbi (SHTF)

In a new “On Contact” episode, host Chris Hedges and Taibbi dive into the roots of the decay of journalism in the United States, which preys on prejudices and fear while pitting people against each other and paving the way for demagogues. According to RT, Taibbi says this all started back when Bill Clinton was president. From Monica Lewinski to Hillary Clinton, the coverage of major news stories by the U.S. media has grown increasingly strident, with cable channels no longer trying to project a picture of objectivity but “selling a story that makes people angry,” Taibbi, an award-winning journalist, and author says. Taibbi says that the result of this journalistic decay and emotional fear mongering is a public addicted to hating each other.


Americans have become addicted to the news that agrees with their bias, and it was set up that way on purpose. The only thing anyone will hear when they turn on the news are stories specifically crafted to manufacture outrage, make you hate the other side, and fuel the addiction to anger. Taibbi is the author of Hate Inc: Why Today’s Media Makes Us Despise One Another. “In this characteristically turbocharged new book, Matt Taibbi provides an insider’s guide to the variety of ways today’s mainstream media tells us lies. Part tirade, part confessional, it reveals that what most people think of as “the news” is, in fact, a twisted wing of the entertainment business. “Heading into a 2020 election season that promises to be a Great Giza Pyramid Complex of invective and digital ugliness, Hate Inc. will be an invaluable antidote to the hidden poisons dished up by those we rely on to tell us what is happening in the world.” –Hate Inc. description, Amazon

If video doesn’t show properly, please go to the Automatic Earth site

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“..CNN is stuck in a vicious cycle; criticized for focusing too much on negative Trump stories, yet not being able to stop for fear of losing more viewers.”

The moment CNN is labeled “left” is where insanity takes off.

The CNN Search Engine? Google Favors Stories From Liberal News Sites (RT)

Researchers from Northwestern University performed an “algorithm audit” of the ‘Google Top Stories’ box, which is a major driver of traffic to news publishers and therefore prime online real estate. They examined results for nearly 200 searches relating to news events for one month in late 2017 and found “a left-leaning ideological skew.” The researchers did allow some leeway for Google to defend itself, however, saying that while the left-leaning bias was detected, it is possible that the dominance of particular sources is a result of “successful strategic behavior” by those sources to achieve “algorithmic recognizability” — but whatever the reason, liberal sources still far eclipsed conservatives ones.

CNN, perhaps the outlet most-reviled by conservatives, was Google’s overall favorite source. Of the 6,302 articles appearing on Google’s ‘top stories’ during the month in focus, more than 10 percent came from CNN. The New York Times and Washington Post were up next, garnering 6.5 and 5.6 percent of the results, respectively. Fox News, the most mainstream right-wing outlet, was the source for only 3 percent of stories appearing in the top box. Then it was back to liberal outlets, with the BBC, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Politico and ABC News filling out the rest of the top 10. Overall, 62.4 percent of the most common sources were left-leaning, while only 11.3 perfect were said to be right-leaning.

Ironically, despite the heavy promotion from Google in the online realm, CNN’s overall audience declined by a colossal 26 percent in April compared to a year earlier — and network boss Jeff Zucker admitted last November that CNN’s audience just “goes away” any time the channel switches from its (overwhelmingly negative) coverage of President Donald Trump to other topics. So it seems CNN is stuck in a vicious cycle; criticized for focusing too much on negative Trump stories, yet not being able to stop for fear of losing more viewers. Perhaps an even more damning indictment than Google’s detected liberal bias, however, is that nearly all (86 percent) of the stories promoted by the search giant came from just 20 sources across the entire internet, which doesn’t exactly display much of a commitment to diversity of information and opinion.

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“All that, to paraphrase the immortal words of Mr. Dylan, balances like a mattress on a bottle of wine.”

The Trend is Not Your Friend (Jim Kunstler)

By the mid-1980s, the non-OPEC world was once again swimming in oil from the last great bonanzas of the oil age: The Alaska North Slope and the North Sea. Twenty years later, they were running down. Meanwhile, the USA had fecklessly “offshored” its factories in the mistaken belief that we had entered a shimmering new digital economy of virtual business were nobody had to make real stuff. China became the world’s workshop and the USA became the world’s financial bucket-shop, churning out endless swindles and frauds. The predictable result was the financial crisis of 2008, which coincided with oil prices rising to over $140-a-barrel (and six months later they crashed, with the economy, to under $30-a-barrel).

The “recovery” from that was based on Wall Street’s premier swindle: the shale oil “miracle,” based on high-risk lending to companies that couldn’t make a red cent even while accomplishing the majestic stunt of exceeding America’s old 1970 oil production peak of around 10 million barrels-a-day (now at around 12 million). Notice, too, that the final push to 12-million barrels occurred during the last two years: thus, Mr. Trump’s miracle economy. All that, to paraphrase the immortal words of Mr. Dylan, balances like a mattress on a bottle of wine.

The China-US trade impasse, if it stands for even a few months, will crash the US economy again and it will also crash the price of shale oil back to levels that destroy oil companies. You understand, of course, that the rise of shale oil was amazingly swift, ten years, and that its fall will be similarly fast and furious. The feds may have to either bail it out or nationalize the whole shootin’ match — and that will end up as just another rat-hole we pound sand into, along with our long-running campaign to build failed states overseas. Translation: not so good for the value of the US dollar.

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Sore losers.

US Police Raid Venezuelan Embassy To Evict Pro-Maduro Activists (RT)

Pro-Maduro activists occupying the Venezuelan embassy in Washington have refused to vacate the premises in defiance of a notice threatening them with arrest and police entering the building but stopping short of evicting everyone. “We are expecting the police to come in and violate the Vienna convention with their fictional government, nongovernment claiming that we should leave,” the Embassy Civilian Protection Collective said in a video message shortly before the police arrived at the doors of the diplomatic premises to the cheers of the pro-Guaido camp outside. At least four embassy ‘protectors’ have remained inside the building and could be seen through the windows – even after police entered and left, apparently stopping short of forcefully evicting everyone – for now.


Despite their resolve to defend the diplomatic mission from “illegal seizure” by Guaido-appointed US representative Carlos Vecchio, many of the activists have left the embassy – apparently tired of the siege and worried about the threat of arrest – after a notice, which was not signed by any US government agency, urged them to “depart immediately” from the building in which they have lived for the last 34 days. “The United States does not recognize the authority of the former Maduro regime or any of its former representatives to allow any individuals to lawfully enter, remain on this property, or take any action with respect to this property,” a notice taped to the door of the building earlier in the day read.

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The Guardian tries to make this about the finance sector. It is not.

Britain Risks Heading To US Levels Of Inequality – Angus Deaton (G.)

Rising inequality in Britain risks putting the country on the same path as the US to become one of the most unequal nations on earth, according to a Nobel-prize winning economist. Sir Angus Deaton is leading a landmark review of inequality in the UK amid fears that the country is at a tipping point due to a decade of stagnant pay growth for British workers. The Institute for Fiscal Studies thinktank, which is working with Deaton on the study, said the British-born economist would “point to the risk of the UK following the US” which has extreme inequality levels in pay, wealth and health. Speaking to the Guardian at the launch of the study, he said: “There’s a real question about whether democratic capitalism is working, when it’s only working for part of the population.


“There are things where Britain is still doing a lot better [than the US]. What we have to do is to make sure the UK is inoculated from some of the horrors that have happened in the US.” His warning comes as analysis from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) showed that real wages in the finance sector had outstripped average salaries in the UK over the decade since the financial crisis. Earnings after inflation in the finance sector have grown by as much as £120 a week on average, compared with the average British worker still being about £17 a week worse off after taking account of rising living costs over the past decade. Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, said: “It’s not right that pay is racing ahead in the City when most working people are still worse off than a decade ago.”

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Who cares anymore? Wait till she loses bigly in the EU elections in two weeks. Then nobody will care.

Theresa May Remains Opposed To Any Form Of Brexit Referendum (G.)

Downing Street has said the prime minister remains opposed to any form of referendum being attached to a Brexit deal, as the government prepares to enter its seventh week of talks with Labour to find a compromise. The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, and the deputy Labour leader, Tom Watson, have said a deal is unlikely to pass without a referendum as part of the package, with up to 150 of the party’s MPs prepared to vote against an agreement without one. Key figures from both sides including Starmer, John McDonnell and Rebecca Long-Bailey, as well as the chancellor, Philip Hammond, Theresa May’s de facto deputy, David Lidington, and the environment secretary, Michael Gove, are set to meet again on Monday afternoon.


Downing Street said May had made clear her views about a second public vote: “She has said on many occasions that she is focused on delivering the result of the first referendum.” May’s spokesman declined to put a deadline on the talks but said the government was prepared to move on to a series of indicative votes in parliament if no resolution was possible. “If we were able to make progress with Labour then we would look to bring the bill before the House of Commons before the European elections,” he said. Both Labour and government sources have suggested the two sides will need to take stock on the likely progress of the talks this week, and the effectiveness of continuing discussions is likely to be discussed at cabinet on Tuesday morning.

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Scams “R” Us.

Uber & Lyft IPOs Turn into Colossal Flops (WS)

The Nasdaq composite dropped 3.4% today. In the six trading days since its peak on May 3 (8,164), it has dropped 6.3%, after a historic surge of 32% from December 24 through May 3. I mean, what did you expect? The index is now back where it had first been on June 6, 2018. Uber, which had sold its China operations and is no longer significantly tangled up in the US-China trade war, is morphing from the biggest, most hyped tech IPO in recent memory into the most colossal flop in recent memory. Shares plunged nearly 11% today to $37.10 a share. This left shares down 17.6% from its IPO price of $45, at which Uber had extracted another $8.1 billion from gullible investors. Prior investors are even deeper in the hole.


Uber extracted nearly $7 billion from institutional investors between December 2015 and February 2017 by selling them 140 million shares at $48.77 a share, over half of them to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, and these folks are now down nearly 24%. Shares of Softbank, which also holds a large stake in Uber, fell 5.5% today. Lyft dropped another 5.7% today, to a new closing low of $48.15. Lyft had been the trailblazer this year for the hottest most hyped IPOs. On March 28, Lyft priced the IPO shares at $72 and extracted at this price about $2.3 billion in new money from IPO investors. On March 29, the first day of trading, it took hours of machinations before shares finally started trading, with a heavily mediatized “pop” of 21%, at $87.24. Then, Lyft shares plunged 10% in 4 Hours from “pop” to close. Today, shares were down 45% from the pop.

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At what point are Bayer shareholders going to protest?

California Jury Awards Couple $2 Billion In Monsanto/Bayer Cancer Trial (RT)

A US jury has awarded $2 billion in punitive damages to a California couple after concluding that Roundup weed killer caused their cancer and that Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, failed to warn them of the chemical’s health risks. Glyphosate, the signature ingredient in Roundup, was found by jury in Alameda County Superior Court to be the cause of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in both Alva and Alberta Pilliod of Livermore. The couple has used the herbicide since the 1970s. In their ruling on Monday, the jury noted that American agrochemical giant Monsanto (now owned by Germany’s Bayer AG) failed to properly warn Roundup users about potential detrimental effects to their health.


Pointing out deliberate negligence by the company, the jury went on to award $18 million in compensatory and $1 billion in punitive damages to Alva Pilliod. His wife Alberta was awarded another $37 million in compensatory and $1 billion in punitive damages. The ruling marks the third time since August 2018 that a US jury has found glyphosate to be a cause of cancer. Thousands of lawsuits with similar claims have been filed against Monsanto, which was acquired by the German pharmaceutical giant last June.

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Bayer trying to clear its name. And the press just prints it, no questions asked.

Bayer Says Monsanto Likely Kept Files On Influential People Across Europe |(R.)

Bayer said on Monday its Monsanto unit, which is being investigated by French prosecutors for compiling files of influential people such as journalists in France, likely did the same across Europe, suggesting a potentially wider problem. French prosecutors said on Friday they had opened an inquiry after newspaper Le Monde filed a complaint alleging that Monsanto – acquired by Bayer for $63 billion last year – had kept a file of 200 names, including journalists and lawmakers in hopes of influencing positions on pesticides. On Sunday, Bayer acknowledged the existence of the files, saying it does not believe any laws were broken but that it will ask an external law firm to investigate.

“It’s safe to say that other countries in Europe were affected by lists … I assume that all EU member states could potentially be affected,” Matthias Berninger, Bayer’s head of public affairs and sustainability, told journalists on Monday. While he did not say there had any illegal activity and added it was up to the external law firm to evaluate the conduct, Berninger said there were signs Monsanto had not played fairly in the use of private data. “There have been a number of cases where – as they would say in football – not the ball was played but the man, or woman, was tackled,” Berninger, who joined Bayer in January, said on a conference call.

Bayer said in its initial statement on Sunday that “Currently, we have no indication that the preparation of the lists under discussion violated any legal provisions.” It added, “Bayer will ask an external law firm to investigate the project Monsanto commissioned and evaluate the allegations. The law firm will also inform all of the persons on the lists of the information collected about them”.

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The point of my article last week was that renewables don’t scale up the way people are told to believe. Not in Germany and not elsewhere.

German Failure on the Road to a Renewable Future (Spiegel)

The German government made a key mistake when it announced the end of the nuclear era in Germany eight years ago: It announced it was turning away from nuclear power, without simultaneously initiating the end of coal. Wind turbines and solar panels were installed across the country — but the coal-fired power plants kept operating. The government set up a clean energy system alongside the dirty one. But why? Because Berlin was afraid of do anything that might harm a single company or voter. Germany has never come up with a clear strategy for the shift to renewables, fully thought out from the beginning to end. There have always been two competing concepts of the Energiewende, even before Merkel.


Politicians like former Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin, a Green Party politician who was part of the cabinet of the center-left Social Democratic (SPD) Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, were in favor of a radical shift, no matter what the cost. Others, like the SPD Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel and his successor Peter Altmaier, from Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats (CDU), were more concerned about German industry and job numbers. Neither side trusted the other and a stalemate ensued. Progress halted. This helps explain why the government never dared set up an Energy Ministry that might have had the ability to move things forward, and instead divided up the project among the Chancellery, the Environment Ministry and the Economics Ministry.

It is an unholy trinity that has continually followed the same pattern: The Environment Ministry surges ahead, the Economics Ministry warns of dramatic job losses and the Chancellery avoids making a decision. The expansion of Germany’s electrical grid has suffered the most from this lack of political impetus. More than a decade ago, the German government passed a resolution to quickly build the necessary high-voltage transmission lines, with experts today saying there is a need for 7,700 kilometers (4,800 miles) of such lines. But only 950 have been built. And in 2017, only 30 kilometers of lines were built across the whole country. In Berlin, one can hear the wry observation that 30 kilometers is roughly the distance that a snail can travel in a year.

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“..the increase is increasing at an increasing rate!”

415.26 Parts Per Million: CO2 Levels Hit Historic High (AFP)

Scientists in the United States have detected the highest levels of planet-warming carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere since records began, sounding new alarm over the relentless rise of man-made greenhouse gas emissions..26 The Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, which has tracked atmospheric CO2 levels since the late 1950s, on Saturday morning detected 415.26 parts per million (ppm). It was also the first time on record that the observatory measured a daily baseline above 415 ppm. The last time Earth’s atmosphere contained this much CO2 was more than three million years ago, when global sea levels were several metres higher and parts of Antarctica were blanketed in forest.

“It shows that we are not on track with protecting the climate at all. The number keeps rising and it’s getting higher year after year,” Wolfgang Lucht, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), told AFP. “This number needs to stabilise.” But far from stabilising, levels of CO2 – one of a trinity of greenhouse gases produced when fossil fuels are burnt – are climbing ever more rapidly. Ralph Keeling, director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s CO2 Programme, said the trend would probably continue throughout 2019 – likely to be an El Nino year in which temperatures rise due to warmer ocean currents. “The average growth rate is remaining on the high end. The increase from last year will probably be around three parts per million whereas the recent average has been 2.5 ppm,” he said. “Likely we’re seeing the effect of mild El Nino conditions on top of ongoing fossil fuel use.”

[..] “I’m old enough to remember when passing 400ppm was a big deal,” Gernot Wagner, a research associate at Harvard University, said on Twitter. “Two years ago we hit 410ppm for the first time. By now, it’s 415ppm. And oh, the increase is increasing at an increasing rate!”

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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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