Jul 172019
 


Salvador Dali Mme. Reese 1931

 

The circus will be coming to town a week later, but not to worry, the show will go on longer and there will be many added attractions, including a full troop of 800-pound gorillas and an entire herd of 8000-pound elephants in the room. And once the balancing acts, the clowns and the ferocious beasts pack up and move on, America might find itself without a Democratic Party, or at least one it would recognize.

The circus is the testimony of Robert Mueller before the House Judiciary (extended to 3 hours) and Intelligence Committees (2 hours). The Democrats will aim to use Mueller’s words to finally achieve their long desired impeachment of Donald Trump. But is there anyone who’s not a US Democrat who thinks that is realistic? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn’t seem to think so.

In order for the Dems to get their wish, Mueller would have to say a lot of things that are not in his report. It all appears to hang on the interpretation of his assessment that a sitting president cannot be prosecuted, which the Dems take to mean that there actually was a crime that could -or should- be prosecuted.

It’s not clear why the hearing was delayed from July 17 to 24, but don’t be surprised if it has to do with US District Judge Dabney Friedrich’s decision that Mueller must stop talking in public about a case that is in front of her, because his words might prejudice a jury. That is the case that Mueller brought in February 2018 against Internet Research Agency, Concord Management, their owner Yevgeniy Prigozhin (aka Putin’s cook), and 12 of his employees.

Mueller thought he could get away with presenting a case against them because they would not show up, but Prigozhin did hire a major law firm. Ironically, Friedrich has reportedly also decided that the lawyers cannot talk about the case to their own client(s). She hasn’t thrown out the case or anything, she’s simply told everyone including Mueller to stop discussing it in public.

 

So it’s quite possible that once the House Democrats figured this out (the decision stems from May 28 but was unsealed only on July 1), they had to change strategy. Mueller has been barred from saying a single word about it, including in the House.

In his report, Mueller tried to establish a link between the Russian firms and the Kremlin, but never proved any such link. They are accused of meddling in the 2016 election through emails and social media posts, an accusation that looks shakier by the day.

With that part of his report out of the way, what is left for him to talk about? He himself already gave up on the whole collusion narrative, which would appear to leave only obstruction. Well, there’s the Steele dossier, but with John Solomon blowing another gaping hole in it yesterday, that may not be the wisest topic to discuss on the House floor. By now, only the very faithful still believe in the dossier.

The Republicans surely don’t, and they also happen to be House members, and get to ask questions of Mueller on the 24th. The spectacle last night where Nancy Pelosi insisted on calling Trump a racist was nutty (you don’t do that in the House), but the Mueller hearings promise to be much much more nuts still.

 

In the background a second investigation is playing out: DOJ IG Michael Horowitz has been probing if DOJ or FBI officials abused their powers to spy on the Trump campaign. His report has been delayed, if reports are correct, because Christopher Steele at the very last minute agreed to testify. Those talks apparently were long and detailed. Wonder what he had to say.

And there’s a third probe too: AG Barr has tasked John Durham, the US attorney for Connecticut, to follow up on the Horowitz report and look at whether officials at the CIA, the NSA, and/or foreign intelligence agencies (think MI6), violated protocols or statutes.

That case is about whether the FISA court was misled to secure a warrant to put Trump campaign aide Carter Page under surveillance. It can also take a new look at the text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, messages that Trump tweeted about on Saturday: “This is one of the most horrible abuses of all. Those texts between gaga lovers would have told the whole story. Illegal deletion by Mueller. They gave us “the insurance policy.”

The deletion reportedly may have been accidental. But it does set the tone. The door is wide open for the Republicans to go after Mueller. And he knows it, always has. He never wanted the hearings, he said it was all in his report. But the Dems wanted more, they want Mueller to say Trump is guilty of obstruction (of a probe that perhaps should never have taken place).

Personally, I wonder whether a Republican congressman/woman will have the guts to ask Mueller why he refused to talk to Julian Assange, the most obvious person for him to talk to in the whole wide world. But since the GOP hates Assange as much as the Dems, I don’t have high hopes of that happening.

What they certainly will ask is when he knew his probe wasn’t going anywhere. And if that was perhaps as much as a whole year before he presented his report. The Dems will tear into Mueller looking for obstruction. Like: if Trump were not the president, would you sue him? Problem with that is none of this would have happened if Trump were just a citizen.

But I lean towards Ray McGovern’s take, who says that the circus may not come to town on July 24 either. Because there’s no there there (something Peter Strzok himself said about the Steele dossier), and because the Dems know this is their last shot at glory. And the GOP doesn’t mind another week or so of preparation.

Since the Democrats, the media, and Mueller himself all have strong incentive to “make the worst case appear the better” (one of the twin charges against Socrates), they need time to regroup and circle the wagons. The more so, since Mueller’s other twin charge — Russian hacking of the DNC — also has been shown, in a separate Court case, to be bereft of credible evidence. No, the incomplete, redacted, second-hand “forensics” draft that former FBI Director James Comey decided to settle for from the Democratic National Committee-hired CrowdStrike firm does not qualify as credible evidence.


Both new developments are likely to pose a strong challenge to Mueller. On the forensics, Mueller decided to settle for what his former colleague Comey decided to settle for from CrowdStrike, which was hired by the DNC despite it’s deeply flawed reputation and well known bias against Russia. In fact, the new facts — emerging, oddly, from the U.S. District Court, pose such a fundamental challenge to Mueller’s findings that no one should be surprised if Mueller’s testimony is postponed again.

And I was serious when I said before that once the Mueller hearings are done, “America might find itself without a Democratic Party, or at least one it would recognize”. Because if and when the Mueller circus fails to provide the impeachment dream (try elections!), where are they going to go, what else is there to do?

They’ve been clamoring for impeachment for collusion (big fail), for obstruction (Mueller wouldn’t have it) and now racism, but that is merely based on interpretation of tweets. Nancy Pelosi wrote about ‘women of color’, not Donald Trump.

America needs a strong Democratic party, and it certainly doesn’t have one right now. The Dems should be calling for an end to regime change wars, that is a popular theme among their voters. But they don’t, because guess where their money comes from. They are in a very deep identity crisis, and Trump just has to pick them off one by one. They should look at themselves, not at him. Do these people ever do strategy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 172019
 
 July 17, 2019  Posted by at 9:20 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Piet Mondriaan Place de la Concorde 1938-43

 

FBI Spreadsheet Puts A Stake Through The Heart Of Steele’s Dossier (Solomon)
Sic Transit Gloria Mueller (Ray McGovern)
House Floor In Chaos Over Pelosi Speech On Trump Tweets (RC)
House Condemns Trump Over ‘Racist Comments’ Tweeted At Congresswomen (R.)
Republican Support For Trump Rises After Racially Charged Tweets (R.)
Pentagon To Review If It Exposed Americans To Weaponised Ticks (G.)
Bitcoin Tumbles As US Senators Grill Facebook On Crypto Plans (R.)
Twitter CEO Maxes Out Donations To Tulsi Gabbard (RT)
Everything’s Fine Until Suddenly it Isn’t: How a Leveraged Loan Blows Up (WS)
Boris Johnson’s New Plan To Sideline Parliament, Guarantee No Deal Brexit (ZH)
Labour Peers Tell Corbyn: You Have Failed Test Of Leadership (G.)
Berlin Buys 670 Flats From Private Owner (G.)
Freeing Julian Assange: Part Three (Suzie Dawson)

 

 

“.. the spreadsheet found upward of 90 percent of the dossier’s claims to be either wrong, nonverifiable or open-source intelligence found with a Google search..”

FBI Spreadsheet Puts A Stake Through The Heart Of Steele’s Dossier (Solomon)

Over months of work, FBI agents painstakingly researched every claim Steele made about Trump’s possible collusion with Russia, and assembled their findings into a spreadsheet-like document. The over-under isn’t flattering to Steele. Multiple sources familiar with the FBI spreadsheet tell me the vast majority of Steele’s claims were deemed to be wrong, or could not be corroborated even with the most awesome tools available to the U.S. intelligence community. One source estimated the spreadsheet found upward of 90 percent of the dossier’s claims to be either wrong, nonverifiable or open-source intelligence found with a Google search. In other words, it was mostly useless.


“The spreadsheet was a sea of blanks, meaning most claims couldn’t be corroborated, and those things that were found in classified intelligence suggested Steele’s intelligence was partly or totally inaccurate on several claims,” one source told me. The FBI’s final assessment was driven by many findings contained in classified footnotes at the bottom of the spreadsheet. But it was also informed by an agent’s interview, in early 2017, with a Russian that Steele claimed was one of his main providers of intelligence, according to my sources.

Read more …

“..the new facts — emerging, oddly, from the U.S. District Court, pose such a fundamental challenge to Mueller’s findings that no one should be surprised if Mueller’s testimony is postponed again.”

Sic Transit Gloria Mueller (Ray McGovern)

As the truth seeps out, there will be plenty of crow to go around. To avoid eating it, the Democrats on the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, the stenographers who pass for journalists at the Times and Post, and the “Mueller team” will need all the time they can muster to come up with imaginative responses to two recent bombshell revelations from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Perhaps the most damning of the two came last Monday, when it was disclosed that, on July 1, Judge Dabney Friedrich ordered Mueller to stop pretending he had proof that the Russian government was behind the Internet Research Agency’s supposed attempt to interfere via social media in the 2016 election.

While the corporate media so far has largely ignored Judge Friedrich’s order, it may well have been enough to cause very cold feet for those attached to the strained Facebook fable. (The IRA social-media “interference” has always been ludicrous on its face, as journalist Gareth Porter established.) Ten days is not a lot of time to conjure up ways to confront and explain Judge Friedrich’s injection of some unwelcome reality. Since the Democrats, the media, and Mueller himself all have strong incentive to “make the worst case appear the better” (one of the twin charges against Socrates), they need time to regroup and circle the wagons. The more so, since Mueller’s other twin charge — Russian hacking of the DNC — also has been shown, in a separate Court case, to be bereft of credible evidence.

No, the incomplete, redacted, second-hand “forensics” draft that former FBI Director James Comey decided to settle for from the Democratic National Committee-hired CrowdStrike firm does not qualify as credible evidence. Both new developments are likely to pose a strong challenge to Mueller. On the forensics, Mueller decided to settle for what his former colleague Comey decided to settle for from CrowdStrike, which was hired by the DNC despite it’s deeply flawed reputation and well known bias against Russia. In fact, the new facts — emerging, oddly, from the U.S. District Court, pose such a fundamental challenge to Mueller’s findings that no one should be surprised if Mueller’s testimony is postponed again.

Read more …

Good read on a pretty nutty spectacle.

House Floor In Chaos Over Pelosi Speech On Trump Tweets (RC)

Amid debate over whether to condemn tweets by President Donald Trump as racist on Tuesday, the House descended into parliamentary chaos, with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, who was presiding, abruptly dropping the gavel and saying, “I abandon the chair.” It was an extraordinary moment on an extraordinary day, as the House considered a resolution condemning Trump’s tweets from the weekend that told four freshman Democrats from the House to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Before Cleaver’s action, House debate had come to an abrupt halt when Georgia Republican Doug Collins took a rare procedural step to “take down” comments by Speaker Nancy Pelosi characterizing Trump’s tweets as racist.


“Every member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us to condemn the president’s racist tweets,” said Pelosi, speaking on the House floor. Collins interjected unsuccessfully, but once Pelosi was finished speaking, made Pelosi an offer. “I was just going to give the gentle speaker of the House, if she would like to rephrase that comment?” he asked. Pelosi responded that she cleared her remarks with the parliamentarian before she read them on the floor. “I ask that her words be taken down,” Collins said as Pelosi walked away from the rostrum to a spattering of applause. “I make a point of order that the gentlewoman’s words are unparliamentary and request they be taken down.” Collins set off a more than hour-long review and debate over Pelosi’s comments before a decision could be rendered.

Read more …

Virtue signalling 101. As if the divide isn’t wide enough yet.

House Condemns Trump Over ‘Racist Comments’ Tweeted At Congresswomen (R.)

The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to condemn President Donald Trump for “racist comments” against four minority Democratic congresswomen, a symbolic measure aimed at shaming Trump and his fellow Republicans who stood by him. The 240-187 vote, which split mainly along party lines, was the culmination of three days of outrage sparked by a Trump tweetstorm that diverted attention from other business in Washington but had little impact on the president’s overall approval rating, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll. Trump is seeking re-election next year. Trump had told the group of congresswomen on Sunday to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” [..]


“These comments from the White House are disgraceful and disgusting and these comments are racist,” Pelosi said. “Every single member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us in condemning the president’s racist tweets.” Pelosi’s comments put the House into a two-hour limbo after Republicans argued she went too far in her comments and broke debate rules. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy criticized Democrats for remarks that upset the “order and decency” of the chamber, saying: “Today is the day that historians will write about.”

Read more …

Not surprising. The trenches have been dug.

Republican Support For Trump Rises After Racially Charged Tweets (R.)

Support for U.S. President Donald Trump increased slightly among Republicans after he lashed out on Twitter over the weekend in a racially charged attack on four minority Democratic congresswomen, a Reuters/Ipsos public opinion poll shows. The national survey, conducted on Monday and Tuesday after Trump told the lawmakers they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” showed his net approval among members of his Republican Party rose by 5 percentage points to 72%, compared with a similar poll that ran last week.


Trump, who is seeking re-election next year, has lost support, however, with Democrats and independents since the Sunday tweetstorm. Among independents, about three out of 10 said they approved of Trump, down from four out of 10 a week ago. His net approval – the percentage who approve minus the percentage who disapprove – dropped by 2 points among Democrats in the poll. Trump’s overall approval remained unchanged over the past week. According to the poll, 41% of the U.S. public said they approved of his performance in office, while 55% disapproved.

Read more …

Craziest topic in a long time. Lyme comes from an army lab.

Pentagon To Review If It Exposed Americans To Weaponised Ticks (G.)

The US House of Representatives has called for an investigation into whether the spread of Lyme disease had its roots in a Pentagon experiment in weaponising ticks. The House approved an amendment proposed by a Republican congressman from New Jersey, Chris Smith, instructing the defence department’s inspector general to conduct a review of whether the US “experimented with ticks and other insects regarding use as a biological weapon between the years of 1950 and 1975”. The review would have to assess the scope of the experiment and “whether any ticks or insects used in such experiment were released outside of any laboratory by accident or experiment design”.


The amendment was approved by a voice vote in the House and added to a defence spending bill, but the bill still has to be reconciled with a Senate version. Smith said the amendment was inspired by “a number of books and articles suggesting that significant research had been done at US government facilities including Fort Detrick, Maryland, and Plum Island, New York, to turn ticks and other insects into bioweapons”. A new book published in May by a Stanford University science writer and former Lyme sufferer, Kris Newby, has raised questions about the origins of the disease, which affects 400,000 Americans each year. Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons, cites the Swiss-born discoverer of the Lyme pathogen, Willy Burgdorfer, as saying that the Lyme epidemic was a military experiment that had gone wrong.

Read more …

“..a U.S. senator said Facebook was “delusional” to believe people will trust it with their money.”

Bitcoin Tumbles As US Senators Grill Facebook On Crypto Plans (R.)

The cryptocurrency market took a beating on Tuesday with bitcoin losing over 10% in value after U.S. lawmakers grilled Facebook on its cryptocurrency plans, as political and regulatory scrutiny of digital coins intensifies. The social media giant is fighting to get Washington onside after it shocked regulators and lawmakers with its announcement on June 18 that it was hoping to launch its own digital coin called Libra in 2020. David Marcus, the company’s top executive overseeing the planned Libra project, answered questions from the Senate Banking Committee. During the hearing, a U.S. senator said Facebook was “delusional” to believe people will trust it with their money.


Facebook’s Libra plan, which is seen as a major step for wider adaptation of virtual currencies, has helped stoke this year’s rally in bitcoin, ethereum and other digital coins. “Libra is essentially slammed in the Senate,” said Lennon Sweeting, head trader at Coinsquare Capital Markets Ltd. “It’s just headline-driven volatility.” Digital currencies will likely recover with bitcoin returning to a $11,000-$12,000 trading range, Sweeting said. At 2:56 p.m. (1856 GMT), bitcoin fell 11.69% to $9,582.12 on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange. It fell below $10,000 for the first time in two weeks.

Read more …

And the next moment Jack’s twisted head erased Julian Assange’s Unity4J support.

Twitter CEO Maxes Out Donations To Tulsi Gabbard (RT)

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has donated thousands of dollars to anti-war Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard – and Twitter users and mainstream media journalists are (rather ironically) up in arms about it. Dorsey gave the maximum donation of $5,600 to Gabbard’s campaign a day after her appearance during the first Democratic presidential campaign in June, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings, reported on by BuzzFeed. Of all the Democrat contenders for the 2020 nomination, the Hawaii congresswoman has been a favorite punching bag for US journalists, who have accused her of being “pro-Russia” due to her anti-intervention foreign policy stances. She has also been consistently targeted for meeting Syrian President Bashar Assad during a 2017 trip to the war-torn country, with the media deriding her as an “Assad apologist” ever since.


BuzzFeed’s own story on Dorsey’s donations even smacks of disbelief, claiming that Gabbard is “probably best known for her visit to Syrian dictator” Assad, despite the fact that she is obviously well-known for other things, like being a high-profile congresswoman and Iraq war veteran. Later, BuzzFeed notes that Dorsey also scandalously “faved a bunch of tweets” from and about Gabbard. Needless to say, Dorsey’s own conspiracy machine – also known as Twitter – kicked into high gear, with people accusing him of being a Russian-bot-loving Assad apologist whose donations are “disappointing.”

Read more …

”And there are $1.3 trillion of them.”

Everything’s Fine Until Suddenly it Isn’t: How a Leveraged Loan Blows Up (WS)

Golden Gate Capital – the private equity firm now infamous for asset-stripping its portfolio company Payless ShoeSource into bankruptcy and liquidation – strikes again with another of its portfolio companies, Clover Technologies, whose $693-million leveraged loan has suddenly gone to heck. Slices of that leveraged loan are traded like securities. But because leveraged loans are loans, not securities, the SEC doesn’t regulate them. No one regulates them, though the Fed wrings its hands about them periodically. And there are $1.3 trillion of them.

The market for them is very illiquid, even during good times, and before Clover disclosed some issues on July 9, the loan still traded at 97 cents on the dollar, according to Bloomberg. This was the day investors, such as leveraged loan mutual funds and institutional investors that held these slices, suddenly woke up with the foul odor of debt restructuring and bankruptcy in the air. Within just a few days, the price of the loan plunged 35% to 62.625 cents on the dollar. The loan was “covenant-lite,” giving fewer protections to investors and allowing the company and its owners to get away with all kinds of things. This included the absence of certain disclosure requirements.


Not that we feel sorry for investors that suddenly got whacked: They knew that leverage loans are risky, that they’re issued by junk-rated over-leveraged companies with iffy cash-flows, often to fund their own leveraged buyout by a PE firm, and to fund special dividends back to the PE firm. Both factors apply to Clover’s leveraged loan. Investors don’t care. They’re chasing yield no matter what the risks, in a world where yield has been repressed by central-bank policies.

Read more …

Cheap tricks is what you need?!

Boris Johnson’s New Plan To Sideline Parliament, Guarantee No Deal Brexit (ZH)

The British pound tumbled to its weakest level in more than two years on Tuesday as fears of a ‘no deal’ Brexit continued to weigh on GBP, which has been steadily sinking during the Tory leadership contest that many expect will send Boris Johnson, a committed Brexiteer, to No. 10 Downing Street. And on Tuesday, Johnson – who said last night that he wouldn’t accept any time limits (both he and his rival Jeremy Hunt ruled out such a measure), unilateral escape hatches or any other kind of elaborate device to make the Irish Backstop more palatable – gave investors one more reason to worry: Sky News reports, citing anonymous sources from within Johnson’s campaign, that the candidate could delay a customary speech by the Queen that marks the beginning of the Parliamentary session – this would render MPs unavailable on Oct. 31, the day the UK is set to leave the EU.

Though Johnson’s rival Jeremy Hunt has said he’s open to another brief delay, Johnson’s position is that on Halloween, Brexit will finally mean Brexit. There have been some negotiations to work out an alternative to Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, but thanks to the inevitability of dealing with the hated Irish Backstop – which conservatives argue would effectively allow Europe to annex Northern Ireland – talks have once again been fraught. As Sky explains (for our American readers), Parliament is typically out of session for between one and two weeks ahead of the Queen’s speech – meaning MPs would in effect be unavailable to stop a no-deal Brexit immediately before October 31.

Johnson’s campaign confirmed that the delay is one option being explored, but insisted that no final decision had yet been made. But others pointed out that this move would scupper the chances of a last-minute deal, since Parliament wouldn’t be there to approve it. With an orderly Brexit is looking less likely by the day – even as some remainer Tories join the struggle to thwart their own future leader. And for anybody trying to discern what might happen next, well, BBG has put together yet another complicated Brexit flow chart.

Read more …

The Labour Blairites prefer Boris over Corbyn.

Labour Peers Tell Corbyn: You Have Failed Test Of Leadership (G.)

More than sixty Labour peers have taken out an advertisement accusing Jeremy Corbyn of having “failed the test of leadership” over his handling of antisemitism complaints within the party. The peers, including more than a dozen former ministers such as Peter Hain, Beverley Hughes and John Reid, have addressed the advert in the Guardian to Corbyn directly, saying: “The Labour party welcomes everyone* irrespective of race, creed, age, gender identity, or sexual orientation. (*except, it seems, Jews). This is your legacy, Mr Corbyn.”

Representing about a third of Labour’s members in the House of Lords, the signatories told Corbyn the party was “no longer a safe place for all members” and claimed that thousands have resigned their membership “because of the toxic culture you have allowed to divide our movement”. The advert has been taken out amid a backlash within the party about the leadership’s response to a BBC Panorama documentary that aired last week, in which eight former staff members accused the Labour of failing to tackle complaints about antisemitism properly and allowing Corbyn’s office to get involved in disputes.

Labour strongly denied any interference by the leader’s office, complained to the BBC and said the claims were made by “disaffected former officials including those who have always opposed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, worked to actively undermine it, and have both personal and political axes to grind”. In the advert, the 64 Labour peers state that Corbyn has not opened his eyes, taken responsibility or told the whole truth when it came to acknowledging the scale of complaints about antisemitism afflicting the party. “We are not asking if you are an antisemite. We are saying you are accountable as leader for allowing antisemitism to grow in our party and presiding over the most shaming period in Labour’s history,” they said.

Read more …

Government and central bank blow housing bubble, city must come to the rescue.

Berlin Buys 670 Flats From Private Owner (G.)

The state of Berlin has bought back 670 apartments on the historic Karl-Marx-Allee from a private owner after decades of property privatisation in the German capital. A 1950s prestige project for socialist East Germany, the grand boulevard that stretches from the city centre to Friedrichshain in the east has been the frontline of a months-long fight over gentrification and rising property prices. The struggle erupted last November when the property management firm Predac announced its intention to offload 700 apartments on the road to Berlin’s largest property company, Deutsche Wohnen. Fearing rent increases, tenants organised protest marches and hung banners from their apartments, eventually pushing the city senate to block the sale.


After months of legal wrangling, the senate confirmed on Monday that three blocs containing more than 670 apartments would instead be purchased by the state-owned housing provider Gewobag. While the price of the sale was not confirmed by either side, the move to renationalise the buildings on Karl-Marx-Allee is likely to come at a steep cost, with estimates ranging between €90m-€100m (£80m-£90m). Berlin’s mayor said the move was indicative of a wider strategy to reacquire housing stock sold to private investors in the 1990s, following rapid rises in rental costs in the city in recent years. “Berliners should be able to continue to afford living in the city,” said Michael Müller. “That is why it was and continues to be our intention to buy up apartments wherever we can, so that Berlin can regain control of its property market.”

Read more …

10,000 words on how to be an activist.

Freeing Julian Assange: Part Three (Suzie Dawson)

The movement to free Julian has already been a long battle but is likely to continue for many years to come. The movement to free Nelson Mandela was eight years to fruition, but some thirteen years of prior groundwork before that. Mandela was in prison for over a quarter century before being celebrated as a Nobel laureate or ascending to the Presidency of South Africa. These emancipation struggles are intergenerational. Nor are they guaranteed victories. There are no easy wins – they are hard. They are meaningful. And that’s why each win is so precious. Sometimes the same battle has to be won over and over again. At every stage, we individually and collectively have been, are and will be opposed by monied, institutional powers vastly greater than ourselves. To outmanoeuvre them takes great savvy.


It takes staunch, unmoving, determined activists willing to sacrifice the comforts of a conventional existence in service to greater principles. To be an activist like that, takes 50% natural talent and personal efficacy and 50% skill learned through experience, modelling and nurturing by other activists. I’m very lucky to have had both, and in this article I will attempt to pass on as much as I can of what I have learned, just as others did for me. In my nearly eight years of activism, I have traversed a rocky road fraught with peril and packed full of hard-learned lessons. I’ve gone from green, idealistic and largely oblivious, to jaded, seasoned and discerning. To varying extents, every other activist is somewhere along that path as well. Some are far, far more advanced than myself. (Julian would be a great example of this.)

Read more …

 

Apollo 11 U.S. Customs form after first moon landing

 

 

 

 

Jul 162019
 
 July 16, 2019  Posted by at 8:19 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Gustave Moreau Orpheus at the Tomb of Eurydice 1891

 

“Don’t Take The Bait”, said 4 young congresswomen yesterday in a press conference in Washington DC. They were referring to comments Donald Trump had made about them earlier. However, just the simple act of calling the press conference meant they were … taking the bait.

Yes, Trump was out of line, way out of left field territory out of line. But he did that on purpose, and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, were voluntarily following him into that same left field.

I’ve been saying for over 3 years now that the role of Trump is to expose the -inherent and longtime- failures of the US political system. But when I see things like that press-op, how can I possibly think the system has learned anything at all?

If Trump’s role is to reveal the failures of the system, and that same system turns around and blames Donald Trump for all of those failures, how are we ever supposed to take the next step out of here?

 

Trump has been especially vicious against the 4 women, and it’s simply not enough to put that down to his racism or anything like that. There’s something else going on; how obvious would you like it?

What is happening here is not Trump pandering or virtue-signalling to his base -that’s just an added feature. The reality is that Trump, in say (re-)election mode, sees a divide within the Democratic party, drives a wedge into that divide, and twists it.

His strong if not vicious attacks on the 4 women are aimed straight at Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden, plus all the rest of the centrist Dems. Trump is calling them out. So they will have to either end up supporting AOC and co, or they will not.

If they don’t the Dems are seriously split. They might have been anyway, but Trump makes it impossible for them to keep hiding that. He forces Pelosi et al to either stand behind AOC et al, or to leave her alone, as Nancy was sort of trying to do last week by saying (paraphrased) that “they are just four women”.

And then these girls take the bait to the extent that they call a press conference, which gets tons of attention, but not because they are so newsworthy, as I’m sure they believe, but because Trump is, as anything Trump still is.

It is Pelosi’s worst nightmare. The most vocal members of her party are the furthest removed from the picture she wants to present of the party. But she has to deal with it, with them. She talks about unity all the time, and for good reason.

And Pelosi is smart enough to understand what Trump is doing. She sees the big divide within the Dems and she sees how the divide could make her party lose in 2020. And she sees how Trump uses that.

 

But what can she do? Tell AOC to shut up for the good of Joe Biden’s chances? The last big shot the Dems have at redemption is next week’s 5 hour Mueller hearing on Capitol Hill. And if that doesn’t work out, where are they going to go? Is it perhaps not the greatest idea to keep people with such different ideas in one party?

Bernie Sanders wants Medicare for all, as allegedly do AOC and Elizabeth Warren. AOC wants a Green New Deal, whatever shape that may take, and so on and so on. But if they ever agree on one candidate to run against Trump in 2020, will this person (m/f) run on that platform too?

Or will they go for a center kind of like candidate who’s totally out of line with the four women Trump is aggressively railing against, who thinks US healthcare only needs to be tweaked in minor fashion, Biden-style?!

By now, it’s all good by Trump, because he understands how divided the Dems are, and he’s had time to prepare for using that division.

And he also understands that the main thing the Dems are going to run on, because they have nothing else, is that they are not Donald Trump. They’re not going to agree on Medicare for All or absolving all student debt or any grand plans like that, because they’re too divided to do it.

What unites them is Donald Trump. And then he has them where he wants them.

Please note this is not what I prefer, I think America needs a strong Democratic Party, or perhaps by now more than two parties. It’s just that I think -as I have since 2016- that Trump is the ultimate challenge to the US political sytem, and the system is failing miserably in its response.

 

 

 

 

Jul 132019
 
 July 13, 2019  Posted by at 9:18 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso Weeping woman 1937

 

Robert Mueller’s Testimony Extended, Postponed By One Week (G.)
Trump Organization Probe Likely to End With No Charges (CNN)
Nemesis Rising (Kunstler)
Epstein Accused Of Paying Witnesses $350K In Hush Money (ZH)
Wall Street Banks Bailing On Troubled US Farm Sector (R.)
Fed Rate Cut Would Ease Pressure On China’s Central Bank (CNBC)
About Half Of China’s Loans To Developing Countries Are ‘Hidden’ (CNBC)
CIA Invokes WikiLeaks in Push For Expansion Of Secrecy Law (SP)
CIA Torture Unredacted (Bureau)
US To Hold Hearing On French Tax On Big Tech (R.)
EPA Expands Use Of Pesticide Considered ‘Very Highly Toxic’ To Bees (Hill)
Meeting the last Malaysian Sumatran Rhino on Earth (Lack)

 

 

The circus comes to town one week later but with a much longer show and added attractions. This will be nuts.

Robert Mueller’s Testimony Extended, Postponed By One Week (G.)

The special counsel Robert Mueller will testify before Congress about the findings of the Russia investigation on 24 July, one week later than his appearance was originally planned, under an agreement that gives lawmakers more time to question him. Mueller had been scheduled to report on the inquiry into Russian election meddling and ties between Russia and the campaign of Donald Trump on 17 July. But lawmakers in both parties complained that the short length of the hearings would not allow enough time for all members to ask questions. Under the new arrangement, Mueller will testify for an extended period of time, three hours instead of two, before the House judiciary committee. He will then testify before the House intelligence committee in a separate hearing.

The two committees said in a statement that all members of both committees will be able to question him. In the joint statement, the panels said the longer hearing “will allow the American public to gain further insight into the special counsel’s investigation and the evidence uncovered regarding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and President Trump’s possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power”. Mueller has expressed his reluctance to testify and said he won’t go beyond what is in his 448-page report. But Democrats have been determined to highlight its contents for Americans who they believe have not read it. They want to extract information from the former special counsel and spotlight what they say are his most damaging findings against Trump.

Democrats are expected to ask Mueller about his conclusions, including that he could not exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice after detailing several episodes in which Trump tried to influence the investigation. Mueller also said there was not enough evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Kremlin. One thing judiciary members want to focus on in questioning Mueller is whether Trump would have been charged with a crime were he not president. Mueller said at the news conference that charging a president with a crime was “not an option” because of longstanding justice department policy. But Democrats want to know more about how he made that decision and when.

Read more …

Michael Cohen couldn’t deliver.

Trump Organization Probe Likely to End With No Charges (CNN)

A federal investigation into whether Trump Organization executives violated campaign-finance laws appears to be wrapping up without charges being filed, according to people familiar with the matter. For months, federal prosecutors in New York have examined whether company officials broke the law, including in their effort to reimburse Michael Cohen for hush-money payments he made to women alleging affairs with his former boss, President Donald Trump.
In recent weeks, however, their investigation has quieted, the people familiar with the inquiry said, and prosecutors now don’t appear poised to charge any Trump Organization executives in the probe that stemmed from the case against Cohen.


In January, one month after Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison, prosecutors requested interviews with executives at the company, CNN reported. But prosecutors never followed up on their initial request, people familiar with the matter said, and the interviews never took place. Meanwhile, there has been no contact between the Manhattan US Attorney’s office and officials at the Trump Organization in more than five months, one person familiar with the matter said.

Read more …

“..the obliteration of moral and ethical boundaries by the people who ended up running things in this fretful moment of US history.”

Nemesis Rising (Kunstler)

Where are Clintons, these dog days of summer? The Hamptons? Salty, sunny Martha’s Vineyard? Under a rock somewhere in the Chappaqua woods? Fate is turning in more than one uncomfortable way for the once-charmed couple of Boomerdom. There is, of course, the freshly re-issued Jeffrey Epstein underage sex scandal, come ‘round again with a vengeance this time because there are fewer Clinton partisans left in the Department of Justice where the matter has festered for decades like a fistula slowly seeping its rot through the body politic. The vengeance emanates from the Clinton’s nemesis, the uppity Golden Golem of Greatness who dared to “steal” Hillary’s place in the Oval Office (and history).

To put it plainly, Mr. Trump had enough of the two-year-plus persecution he endured from the Clinton-inspired Mueller investigation into the Clinton-propagated Russia Collusion flim-flam. And having patiently survived this audacious, seditious effrontery, is now out to squash the Clintons like a pair of palmetto bugs. [..] And now there is the Epstein matter, which threatens not only former president Bill Clinton, but a cosmos of political, financial, and entertainment “stars” in countless ugly incidents that involve a kind of personal corruption that has no political context but says an awful lot about the obliteration of moral and ethical boundaries by the people who ended up running things in this fretful moment of US history. President Clinton has already kicked off this debacle by lying to the media about the number of rides he took on Mr. Epstein’s notorious airplane.

I voted for Bill Clinton twice. When they came up from the backwater of Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1992, they seemed like the fresh, bright antidote to twelve years of fusty Reaganism with the GHW Bush moldy cherry-on-top. Governor Bill, so glib and charming. Tall and catnip to the ladies, too! And almost immediately he was in deep shit over that part of his act, but he wiggled through it all with the aid of his perky, stalwart wife and partner, who defended him sedulously on nationwide TV. (America had never even heard about her misadventures on the Watergate Committee, where, age 27, she gained a reputation for being less than honest.) And that was followed by the first instance of Hillary moneygrubbing when she turned a few thousand bucks into a six-figure bonanza almost overnight in a wired commodities trade.

Read more …

There is so much ugliness still hidden in this. Will we ever know?

Epstein Accused Of Paying Witnesses $350K In Hush Money (ZH)

Federal prosecutors allege in a new court filing that Jeffrey Epstein may have engaged in witness tampering by paying off two potential witnesses days before the Miami Herald began publishing a series of explosive exposés about the registered sex offender and his victims. According to financial records, Epstein wired $350,000 to two ‘possible co-conspirators’ who could testify against him. $100,000 was wired from “Institution-1” to one person, while just three days later $250,000 was wired to another individual. Neither of the payments appear to be recurring based on five years of bank records. Is one of the co-conspirators Ghislaine Maxwell? The daughter of a British media barron, Maxwell was described by one Epstein accuser in a 2017 lawsuit as “the highest ranking employee” of his alleged enterprise, in which she was said to have managed both Epstein’s household and his sex life.

Via the Wall Street Journal: “Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of a British media baron, was a fixture for years in Manhattan’s social scene, often written about in tabloids for her close ties to British royalty and to a mysterious financier named Jeffrey Epstein. But Mr. Epstein’s arrest last week on sex-trafficking charges has brought renewed attention to her alleged role as one of his top aides. Ms. Maxwell, 57 years old, has been accused by three women in affidavits and other court filings of recruiting young women for Mr. Epstein and training them for sex. Two of the women have alleged that Ms. Maxwell, together with Mr. Epstein, sexually assaulted them, according to the filings.

What’s more, “Juan Alessi, who said in one of the depositions that he served as the Palm Beach house manager from around 1992 through 2002, described a basket of sex toys in Ms. Maxwell’s bathroom closet. He said he would find them around when he cleaned up after visits from the young women,” according to the Journal.

Read more …

Only Big Ag deals with Wall Street.

Wall Street Banks Bailing On Troubled US Farm Sector (R.)

In the wake of the U.S. housing meltdown of the late 2000s, JPMorgan Chase & Co hunted for new ways to expand its loan business beyond the troubled mortgage sector. The nation’s largest bank found enticing new opportunities in the rural Midwest – lending to U.S. farmers who had plenty of income and collateral as prices for grain and farmland surged. JPMorgan grew its farm-loan portfolio by 76 percent, to $1.1 billion, between 2008 and 2015, according to year-end figures, as other Wall Street players piled into the sector. Total U.S. farm debt is on track to rise to $427 billion this year, up from an inflation-adjusted $317 billion a decade earlier and approaching levels seen in the 1980s farm crisis, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


But now – after years of falling farm income and an intensifying U.S.-China trade war – JPMorgan and other Wall Street banks are heading for the exits, according to a Reuters analysis of the farm-loan holdings they reported to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The agricultural loan portfolios of the nation’s top 30 banks fell by $3.9 billion, to $18.3 billion, between their peak in December 2015 and March 2019, the analysis showed. That’s a 17.5% decline.

Read more …

I meant to do that?!

Fed Rate Cut Would Ease Pressure On China’s Central Bank (CNBC)

A widely expected interest rate cut by the U.S. Federal Reserve would give China more breathing room in shoring up its slowing economy, some analysts said. Overnight, markets took Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s comments during the first of a two-day Congressional testimony as affirming expectations for easier monetary policy in the U.S. The S&P 500 briefly topped 3,000 for the first time, and Treasury yields edged lower. A looser monetary policy environment would reduce pressure on China’s central bank to ease monetary policy. Amid trade tensions with the U.S., China’s economy has struggled to gain momentum.


Private surveys released last week by Caixin showed services activity fell in June to its lowest since February, and the manufacturing sector contracted, after three months of expansion. Among several measures to support the economy over the last several months, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) has made targeted attempts to lower financing costs to privately run enterprises, which account for the majority of the country’s economic growth and employment. “If the Fed does go ahead and cut rates, which I don’t think is a given … it simply means the PBoC has a little breathing room to see if the policies it has implemented have an impact on the real economy,” Hannah Anderson, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, told CNBC on Thursday by phone.

Read more …

“Between 2000 and 2017, other countries’ debt owed to China soared ten-fold, from less than $500 billion to more than $5 trillion..”

“..debt has increased on average from less than 1% of their GDP in 2015, to more than 15% in 2017..”

About Half Of China’s Loans To Developing Countries Are ‘Hidden’ (CNBC)

China’s lending to other countries has surged in the past decade, causing debt levels to jump dramatically, and as much as half of such debt to developing economies is “hidden,” a new study has found. Such “hidden” debt means that the borrowing isn’t reported to or recorded by official institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank, or the Paris Club — a group of creditor nations. Between 2000 and 2017, other countries’ debt owed to China soared ten-fold, from less than $500 billion to more than $5 trillion — or from 1% of global economic output to more than 5%, according to the study from Germany-based think tank the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. “This has transformed China into the largest official creditor, easily surpassing the IMF or the World Bank,” the report’s researchers said.


The study, which looked at nearly 2,000 Chinese loans to 152 countries from 1949 to 2017, was undertaken by well-known debt expert Carmen Reinhart from Harvard University, as well as Kiel Institute’s Christoph Trebesch and Sebastian Horn. For 50 developing countries which have borrowed from China, that debt has increased on average from less than 1% of their GDP in 2015, to more than 15% in 2017, according to estimates by the study’s researchers. “Advanced and higher middle income countries tend to receive portfolio debt flows, via sovereign bond purchases of the People’s Bank of China, ” the report said. “As a result, many advanced countries have become highly indebted towards the Chinese government.”

Read more …

There’s Adam Schiff for you in all his glory. Watch for him in the Mueller hearings too.

CIA Invokes WikiLeaks in Push For Expansion Of Secrecy Law (SP)

When the CIA and other agencies in the United States government pushed for the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) in 1981, it was crafted to exclude “covert agents” who resided in the U.S. There was consideration by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of how the legislation might “chill or stifle public criticism of intelligence activities or public debate concerning intelligence policy.” More than three decades later, the CIA is apparently unsatisfied with the protections the bill granted “covert agents. It has enlisted a select group of senators and representatives to help expand the universe of individuals who are protected, making members of the press who cover intelligence matters more vulnerable to prosecution.

Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the House intelligence committee, was involved in adding language to expand the IIPA to the Intelligence Authorization Act moving through Congress. “Schiff is once again putting the interests of the intelligence agencies in concealing their misdeeds ahead of protecting the rights of ordinary Americans by criminalizing routine reporting by the press on national security issues and undermining congressional oversight in his Intelligence Authorization bill,” declared Daniel Schuman, who is the policy director for Demand Progress. Schuman added, “Schiff’s expansion of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act beyond all reason will effectively muzzle reporting on torture, mass surveillance, and other crimes against the American people—all at the request of the CIA. Schiff is clearly the resistance to the resistance, and he should drop this provision from his bill.”

The CIA put their specific request for what language they would like amended in writing and sent it to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Their request was essentially copied and pasted, with no changes, into the intelligence bill. “Undercover agency officers face ever-evolving threats, including cyber threats,” the CIA argued. “Particularly with the lengths organizations such as WikiLeaks are willing to go to obtain and release sensitive national security information, as well as incidents related to past agency programs, such as the RDI investigation [CIA torture report], the original congressional reasoning mentioned above for a narrow definition of ‘covert agent’ no longer remains valid.”

“This proposal would provide protection for all undercover agency officers by allowing for the prosecution of individuals responsible for disclosing the identities of those officers, regardless whether the undercover officer serves inside or outside of the United States,” the agency additionally stated. Schiff supports the prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and shares the CIA’s view that WikiLeaks is a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” not a media organization. In 2018, when Assange was willing to speak with investigators about the Russia probe, he replied, “Our committee would be willing to interview Julian Assange when he is in U.S. custody, not before.”

Read more …

Do I want to read this report?

CIA Torture Unredacted (Bureau)

In December 2014, the Bureau, alongside The Rendition Project, began a major project to trace the history of the RDI programme. The impetus for our investigation came from the long-awaited publication of a report into CIA torture by the US Senate Select Intelligence Committee. The authors of this report had high-level access to internal CIA documents, which they mined to produce a damning assessment of the torture programme’s brutality, mismanagement and ineffectiveness. But they were compelled by the Obama administration, and by the CIA itself, to censor — “redact” — all parts of the report that could identify specific times and places where abuses had occurred.

This is important, because without being able to tie illegal activities to specific times and places, the quest for redress is hamstrung, and meaningful accountability — legal, public, historical — remains a mirage. The Senate report did offer a crucial insight, however: the first complete list of prisoners held in the CIA’s black sites. 119 names, each with a date of custody (redacted) and a record of how many days they were held (also partly redacted). In the days after the publication of the Senate report, we set to work reconstructing this list to reveal the hidden dates. Figuring out a date often meant that we could match it to a flight record; matching to a flight record meant that we could determine where a prisoner was brought from or sent to.

As we cross-correlated thousands of data points — from declassified government documents, footnotes in the Senate report, aviation data, records of corporate outsourcing of rendition flights, legal cases, media reporting and NGO investigations — the contours of the CIA’s programme of secret detention and torture began to emerge more clearly. Rather than just understanding certain individual histories, we could begin to discern the entire scope of the programme’s development. More than four years later, we’re publishing the results of our investigation in a 400-page report entitled CIA Torture Unredacted. It is the first time that the entirety of the CIA’s detention programme has been systematically revealed.

Read more …

“Other EU countries including Austria, Britain, Spain and Italy have also announced plans for their own digital taxes.”

US To Hold Hearing On French Tax On Big Tech (R.)

The U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Office will hold a hearing on Aug 19 in its probe of France’s new planned tax on big technology companies, calling the proposal “unreasonable.” President Donald Trump on Wednesday ordered an investigation into the tax, which could lead to the United States imposing new tariffs or other trade restrictions. USTR said in a public notice the levy was an “unreasonable tax policy.” The plan departs from tax norms because of “extraterritoriality; taxing revenue not income; and a purpose of penalizing particular technology companies for their commercial success,” it said. USTR added that statements by French officials suggest the tax will “amount to de facto discrimination against U.S. companies… while exempting smaller companies, particularly those that operate only in France.”


The tax is due to apply retroactively from the start of 2019. USTR said that calls into question the fairness of the tax. On Thursday, the French Senate approved the 3% levy that will apply to revenue from digital services earned in France by firms with more than 25 million euros in French revenue and 750 million euros ($845 million) worldwide. Other EU countries including Austria, Britain, Spain and Italy have also announced plans for their own digital taxes. They say a levy is needed because big, multinational internet companies such as Facebook and Amazon are currently able to book profits in low-tax countries like Ireland, no matter where the revenue originates. Political pressure to respond has been growing as local retailers in high streets and online have been disadvantaged.

Read more …

The crazies.

EPA Expands Use Of Pesticide Considered ‘Very Highly Toxic’ To Bees (Hill)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Friday it would allow for the expanded use of a pesticide it considers toxic to bees, a move that comes just days after the Trump administration said it was suspending data collection on bee populations. The pesticide known as sulfoxaflor will be permitted for use on certain crops for the first time, and in other areas that were prohibited under the Obama administration. The agency considers sulfoxaflor “very highly toxic” to bees. In a call with reporters to announce the decision, a top EPA official emphasized the agency’s research on the pesticide’s effects on bees and said the rule was designed with pollinators in mind.


“To reduce exposure to bees, the product label will have crop-specific restrictions and important pollinator protection language,” including limits on how close to bloom sulfoxaflor can be sprayed, the official said. But it may be difficult to monitor whether the regulations spare bees as intended. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last week it was suspending one of the few remaining government data sets that monitor bee populations and loss. “At a time when honeybees and other pollinators are dying in greater numbers than ever before, Trump’s EPA decision to remove restrictions on yet another bee-killing pesticide is nothing short of reckless,” Earthjustice, which fought sulfoxaflor use in the 2015 suit, said in a statement Friday. “Scientists have long said pesticides like sulfoxaflor are the cause of the unprecedented colony collapse. Letting sulfoxaflor back on the market is dangerous for our food system, economy, and environment.”

Read more …

“..perhaps I will abstain from telling them of the heart-shattering, breath-snatching moment I gazed into the deep eyes of the last of a species, every sense trembling with anticipation.”

Meeting the last Malaysian Sumatran Rhino on Earth (Lack)

Deep set beady eyes peer from folds of thick leather skin. They close slowly in a leisurely, ponderous blink. Nostrils flare with each warm, damp exhalation, causing a slight rise of the stubby nasal horn that rests on those cavernous nostrils. I stare at this primitive, prehistoric creature which seems to have just trundled out of the Jurassic Period. Her skin is leather-thick, her face is topped by a firm horn and her species is over 20 million years old. She seems invincible. Somehow our soft-skinned species has managed to mangle her population down and down until today, when only one Malaysian Sumatran Rhino exists on earth. And there I stand looking into her eyes. She is called Iman. Iman means faith.

Faith is a funny concept when you stand looking at the very last individual of a species and your ears ring with her plaintive cries. Rather than feel faith in humanity, I felt a deep loss, a deep hopelessness. That was only after five minutes of meeting Iman. Yet behind me stood Dr Junaidi Payne and Dr Zainal Zahari Zainuddin, who have been working on protecting the Sumatran Rhino in Sabah for almost their whole lives. They were there in 2017 when Puntung had to be euthanised. They were there in May this year when Tam, the last male, died. They will, most likely, be there when Iman breathes her last breath. The last breath of a species. They have front row seats of the sixth mass extinction, directed and produced wholly by humans.


Iman cannot be saved. It is the brutal yet undeniable truth that one day she will be gripped by illness or old age and will leave us. If I choose to have children, their world will be undoubtedly different to ours today. Perhaps they will cry at the abundance of life that has been ravaged by their ancestors. Perhaps they will listen to the story of the time I met Iman. But perhaps I will abstain from telling them of the heart-shattering, breath-snatching moment I gazed into the deep eyes of the last of a species, every sense trembling with anticipation. Rhino and girl. We were two, yet we were alike. Our hearts both pounding as we watched each other, our gazes both narrowed and our breath quickened.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 072019
 
 July 7, 2019  Posted by at 7:02 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Johannes Vermeer The geographer 1668-69

 

July 7 2019, just another tequila Sunday. There are elections here in Greece, and the right wing will take over. Bad idea, because it will bring out the left wing resistance that have remained subdued while Syriza reneged on all their promises, but they were left wing, and how does left protesting left work exactly? They didn’t know. Better lay low. No more.

From now on in, it’s women and children first. And there are so many pent up grievances. Youth unemployment is still at 40%. While ever more Greeks are evicted from their homes through Airbnb alone. This ain’t gonna go well. That strong economy the right promises will be there exclusively for their own richer supporters, at the ever-increasing cost of the poor.

 

The US women’s soccer team just became World Champions again. That’s the last time in a very long time. Because traditional soccer countries now also have women’s teams. There’s a very peculiar division at the bottom of this. In Europe and South America and Africa, soccer is a men’s game.

In the US, baseball, hockey, basketball and American football have spent millions making sure soccer was turned into, and perceived as, a girly sport. Just so the best male athletes would not turn there. So the US, colleges, universities, have this decades-long tradition of women’s soccer. But they have no such tradition for men, while almost the entire rest of the world does.

That’s why the US women’s soccer team will never win again, and it’s also why the men’s team never will. No culture, no tradition, even as they easily could have them. This was very obvious to me in my Montreal days. In summer, in just about every city park, there were community and family gatherings of South- and Central Americans, and they were all playing soccer.

Still, Canada stinks at the game on an international level. Why? Because the hockey people don’t want the competition for male athletes. They cut it down wherever they can. All they would have to do is take the most promising 100 10-year old kids just playing in the parks in one city, and get them into a program. Within 10 years they’d have a national team that’s an international contender. Kids from Peru, Chili, Brazil, 100 different countries, and throw in the European kids that are there anyway. But no.

 

Still, I was going to talk about Trump again. Just to piss off the people some more who -stupidly- accuse me of supporting Trump. Though it is sort of the same thing: Greek PM Tsipras is set to lose (no results yet as I write this) because he never did what he promised. US soccer is set to lose because other domestic sports don’t want it to be successful. People are -mostly- blind.

First I saw this UK ambassador to Washington, one Sir Kim Darroch, has sent “secret” cables (memos) to his government about how Trump’s administration is supposedly “inept, insecure and incompetent”, as well as “uniquely dysfunctional” and “divided”. “We don’t really believe this administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction-riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept.”

“Differences between the US and the UK on climate change, media freedoms and the death penalty might come to the fore as the countries seek to improve trading relations after Brexit, the memos said.” Oh, fcuking yeah, the UK is such a shining light on climate change and press freedom, right?! Who’s holding a certain journalist, one Julian Assange, in a maximum security prison again?

“Mr Trump’s publicly stated reason for calling off an airstrike against Tehran with 10 minutes to go – that it would cause 150 casualties – “doesn’t stand up”, Sir Kim said. Instead, he suggested the president was “never fully on board”. When I read that line, I thought Sir Kim was not-even-so secretly in favor of attacking Iran. Was that just me?

Oh, and earlier today I was wondering if they ever hand out these Sir and Dame titles to people who are poor or even destitute but who work 25 hours a day for the people around them, to make sure they can alleviate the suffering in their communities as much as they can. Or does that mummified “Queen” of theirs only bestow that “honor” on the upper classes? No, I do not care, I think I know the answer. Inglan is a bitch.

And if I’ve ever seen a dysfunctional, “inept, insecure and incompetent” government, it’s the one that these secret memos were sent to. From Cameron to May to soon Boris Johnson, let get real.

 

Then also today there were all these news reports about Jeffrey Epstein on how he’s finally being charged with abusing dozens of underage on his planes and his estates. This has been going on for decades (who was in charge during those years). What is the media focus? Trump, of course. But Epstein was thrown out of Mar-A-Lago I think 12 years ago for hitting on an underage girl. Does that mean we know for sure Trump was never involved? Nope.

But we do know that Bill Clinton flew 26 times in a few years on Epstein’s ‘Lolita Express’ bringing helpss girls so faraway places. So maybe he should be the main focus here, not Trump. Then again, it’s too late in the game now, isn’t it? US -and UK- media have bet all their money on the anti-Trump game. They have lost everything so far, and then they double down, everything on red style.

I’m thinking: guys, you lost, time to find a new game plan. But they don’t have the flexibility nor the intelligence required. Aaron Maté wrote another scathing -must read- essay on the Mueller Report , putting its credibiltiy at the same level as the Steele dossier, but one half of America doesn’t even want to see that. It only wants to see more damning reports, damn evidence, about their favorite orange piñata.

And no, talking about that does not make me a Trump supporter. Let’s say I’m looking at that like it were a game of soccer, and I point out to you that the other team has absolutely nothing while they’re already 10-0 down (that’s a very big score in soccer).

 

But a third thing i saw today really made me think Trump can’t lose in 2020. The Guardian of all places had a review of a book entitled American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War by Politico writer Tim Alberta, in which Trump effusively praises Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among other things by comparing her to Evita Peron.

“Trump says he first saw Ocasio-Cortez during her primary against Crowley, while watching TV with political advisers. “I see a young woman,” he says, “ranting and raving like a lunatic on a street corner, and I said: ‘That’s interesting, go back.’” Alberta then says Trump “became enamored” and “starstruck” by Ocasio-Cortez. “I called her Eva Perón,” Trump says. “I said, ‘That’s Eva Perón. That’s Evita.”


[..] Trump does row back on his praise, telling Alberta: “She’s got talent. Now, that’s the good news. The bad news: she doesn’t know anything. She’s got a good sense, an ‘it’ factor, which is pretty good, but she knows nothing. But with time, she has real potential.”

 

I still remain convinced that the one dimensional Trump haters, the same people who would accuse me of supporting him, don’t understand how or why that means he will win easily in 2020. Well, that, and they have nobody to put up against him. Joe Biden is not just a joke, he’s an old and stale joke. Kamala Harris is an attempt to cross Obama with Hillary. Bernie Sanders is a wonderful man, but he should be the campaign manager for a younger prospect, but who isn’t there.

And Tulsi Gabbard is being actively suppressed by the DNC, like Bernie Sanders four years ago. All the rest of the field are mere bystanders. It’s the exact same feeling of the GOP ‘contestants’ standing against Trump in 2016. They’re there to fill up space, and to create the illusion there’s an actual conversation or dialogue or contest happening.

 

Personally, I think it would be great if the Democrats have a valid candidate next year, at the level of Trump or better. The Donald should have stayed in real estate. But instead he’s the President, and now everybody has to deal with that. And you don’t do that by continuing to blame him for everything that happens under the sun. That ‘tactic’ has failed for three years.

Those past 3 years of media bias against him, plus the Mueller report debacle, should have made this clear. But what we see today is that neither the Democrats nor the press that supports them have anything to fight Trump with. While he compliments their main future asset for her talent, and for her likeness to a world-famous tragic actress-turned-politician and Broadway darling.

That’s why he’ll win.

 

 

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


Pablo Picasso Sleeper with shutters 1936

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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They’re not sitting still.

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

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

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


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

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Hey, if Erdogan can do it…

Turkey Sacks Central Bank Governor (AFP)

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


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

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

Ghosts of the Fourth (Kunstler)

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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UNESCO lists Iraq’s Babylon as World Heritage Site

 

 

 

 

Jul 052019
 


Pablo Picasso Rest 1932

 

US Job Growth Seen Accelerating, Rate Cut Still Expected (R.)
German Industrial Orders Fell Far More Than Expected In May (R.)
Iran Demands Britain Release Oil Tanker Held In Gibraltar (AFP)
Europe Trade Channel With Iran Close To First Deal In Days (R.)
Has Trump Turned an Important Corner? (Luongo)
Mueller Report Gets Trump Tower Meeting Wrong; Promotes Browder Hoax (CN)
Vast Chinese Loans Pose Risks to Developing World (Spiegel)
The End Of Inheritance For The Middle Class (F.)
Electric Cars Will Not Solve Transport Problem (BBC)
Brazil Deforestation Increase Exceeds 88% In June (R.)
From Madagascar to Brazil, Researchers Pick Best Spots To Replant Forests (R.)
Tree Planting ‘Has Mind-Blowing Potential’ To Tackle Climate Crisis (G.)
Europe’s Treatment of Migrants Is Shameful (Spiegel)
82 Migrants Feared Dead After Boat Capsizes Off Tunisia (AlJ)

 

 

No, no fireworks, jets or tanks here.

 

The world of finance has developed a whole new logic.

US Job Growth Seen Accelerating, Rate Cut Still Expected (R.)

U.S. job growth likely rebounded in June, with wage gains expected to pick up, but that would probably not be enough to discourage the Federal Reserve from cutting interest rates this month amid growing evidence the economy is slowing. Lack of concrete progress in resolving an acrimonious trade war between the United States and China was also seen forcing the U.S. central bank’s hand, regardless of a strong employment report from the Labor Department on Friday. The Fed last month signaled it could ease monetary policy as early as July, citing low inflation as well as growing risks to the economy from an escalation in trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.

President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping last week agreed to a trade truce and a return to talks. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on Tuesday talks were heading in the right direction, but it would take time to get the right deal made. The trade fight has undercut business confidence, leading to a downturn in equipment spending and manufacturing. “Given signs of slowing growth and little material progress on the trade war, a rebound in job growth would still leave the Fed on course to cut rates at the July meeting and we expect a 25 basis points cut,” said Sam Bullard, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Nonfarm payrolls probably increased by 160,000 jobs last month after rising by only 75,000 in May, according to a Reuters survey of economists. May marked the second time this year that job gains dropped below 100,000. Reports on Wednesday showed private employers hired far fewer-than-expected workers last month and a measure of services industries employment declined.

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When Germany has a problem, the entire EU does.

German Industrial Orders Fell Far More Than Expected In May (R.)

German industrial orders fell far more than expected in May, and the Economy Ministry warned on Friday that this sector of Europe’s largest economy was likely to remain weak in the coming months. Contracts for ‘Made in Germany’ goods were down by 2.2% on the month after rising slightly in March and April, data from the Economy Ministry showed. The reading undershot the Reuters consensus forecast for a 0.1% decline. “The great order book deflation continues,” ING economist Carsten Brzeski said. Devastating new orders data just undermined any hopes for an industrial rebound.”


Other recent data have painted a gloomy picture of the sector too, with engineering orders falling and activity in the manufacturing sector contracting. In a sign that the economic slowdown is beginning to bite, a survey by the Ifo institute published on Thursday showed German manufacturers expect to make more use of “Kurzarbeit” — a short-hours facility aimed at avoiding mass lay-offs. “What misery!” VP Bank economist Thomas Gitzel said after the orders data was published. “Given the significant decline in incoming orders, industrial production will remain extremely weak in the second half of the year and that increases the risk of recession for the German economy.”

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It didn’t even dock, it just slowed down to take on provisions. In waters that EU member Spain says are Spanish.

Iran Demands Britain Release Oil Tanker Held In Gibraltar (AFP)

Iran demanded Friday that Britain immediately release an oil tanker it has detained in Gibraltar, accusing it of acting at the bidding of the United States. A senior foreign ministry official “described the UK move as unacceptable” in a meeting with British ambassador Rob Macaire, who had been summoned to hear a formal protest, the ministry said in a statement. He “called for the immediate release of the oil tanker, given that it has been seized at the request of the US, based on the information currently available”, the statement added. Authorities in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory on Spain’s southern tip at the western entrance to the Mediterranean, said they suspected the tanker was carrying crude to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.


The detention of the 330-metre (1,000-feet) Grace 1 vessel comes at a sensitive time in Iran-EU ties as the bloc mulls how to respond to Tehran announcing it is poised to breach the uranium enrichment limit it agreed to in a troubled 2015 nuclear deal. The Grace 1 tanker was halted in the early hours of Thursday by police and customs agencies in Gibraltar, aided by a detachment of British Royal Marines. The ship was detained 2.5 miles (four kilometres) south of Gibraltar in what it considers British waters, although Spain, which lays claim to the territory, says they are Spanish. It was boarded when it slowed down in a designated area used by shipping agencies to ferry goods to vessels.

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So how do we link the seized Iran tanker to the new Instex trade channel set up to bypass the US?

Europe Trade Channel With Iran Close To First Deal In Days (R.)

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Thursday he hoped a special trade channel set up with Iran would complete a first, limited transaction in the coming days. Set up by France, Britain and Germany, Instex is a barter trade mechanism that aims to avoid direct financial transfers by offsetting balances between importers and exporters on the European side. The mechanism is aimed at making it possible for trade between European Union members and Iran to continue in the face of stiff U.S sanctions since Washington quit a 2015 nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers last year.


Those sanctions have effectively suffocated Iran’s economy by clamping down on its oil sales. “We want Instex to enter into force in a few days, and I hope that we will be able to operate in a few days. I hope the first transaction will be completed in a few days,” Le Maire told journalists at a meeting in Poland. “The first transaction will be a limited one, but this is a starting point and we expect Instex to be an efficient tool,” Le Maire added. [..] France’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that Instex would become operational based on Iran’s “full compliance with its JCPOA (Iran deal) commitments.” “We aren’t going to press the yes button if there are doubts about its compliance,” said one European diplomat.

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Bolton in Mongolia, Tucker Carlson in Air Force One.

Has Trump Turned an Important Corner? (Luongo)

Donald Trump’s surprise visit to North Korea last week was impressive. It was a bold first step in repairing a foreign policy in tatters after more than a year of assaults by his neoconservative boobsie-twins Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton. Trump took Kim at his word who said after talks broke down thanks to Bolton and Pompeo in Hanoi that no dialogue would be possible if Bolton was involved. So, Trump sent Bolton to Mongolia. Then he went to Korea and did the one thing he had to do to begin unraveling the mess he’d gotten himself into. Last week I asked where does Trump go after his confrontation with Iran? Trump answered that question in dramatic fashion. And he deserves a lot of credit for it.

But what does this mean in the wider context? It’s a good first step but we’ve seen this game from him before, making bold moves only to be reined in by his staff. I would say that the optics of sending Bolton to Mongolia are pretty clear. Bolton’s time in the White House is nearly over. This is also a strong signal to Iran that Trump trying to back down without actually saying that. The drone incident was intended to box Trump into a path to war with Iran after the tanker attack in the Gulf of Oman two weeks prior. That was likely not the Iranians but the Saudis and/or MEK, again trying to get Trump to fly off the handle, since he’s easily manipulated into emotional acts. But he was talked out of it at the last minute, presumably by Tucker Carlson, who was with him on Air Force One when Trump went to meet Kim.

[..] A lot has changed in the past four months since the end of the Mueller investigation. And the signs are all there that Trump is feeling a lot more secure both politically and financially that would allow him to not only make bold first moves but follow through on them. Speaker Nancy Pelosi backed down on border wall funding. She’s ruled out impeachment as a bad political tactic. And she’s under fire from the hard-core Progressives in the party. This makes them weak. So, from a re-election standpoint Trump looks very secure, especially after the “I’m more woke than you” fest that was the first debate among DNC candidates. We’re looking at a mirror of 2016 with the Republicans that Trump beat. A wide and shallow pool of less than capable candidates who will all eat each other alive while he rides to re-election.

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“On the issue of Browder, the Magnitsky story and the essence of the Trump Tower meeting, the Mueller Report is a deception intended to keep the myth of collusion in the air while dismissing that any collusion took place.”

Mueller Report Gets Trump Tower Meeting Wrong; Promotes Browder Hoax (CN)

The Mueller report thus focuses instead on “efforts to prevent disclosure of information about the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Russians and senior campaign officials.” But the report on this topic is deceptive. Ironically, as it attacks Donald Trump and top campaign officials for lying, the report itself lies about the issue the meeting addressed. It wasn’t to provide dirt on Hillary Clinton, which the Russian lawyer did not have and never produced. That was a ploy by Robert Goldstone, a British music publicist whose job is to get what his clients want, in this case, a meeting. So, recklessly, he invented the idea of Clinton dirt as a bait-and-switch to get Trump’s people to come to it. He got the lawyer the meeting for her to lobby a potentially incoming administration against the Magnitsky Act, which is why she was in the United States in the first place.

The Magnitsky Act is a 2012 U.S. law that was promoted by William Browder, an American-born British citizen and hedge fund investor, who claimed his “lawyer” Sergei Magnitsky had been imprisoned and murdered because he uncovered a scheme by Russian officials to steal $230 million from the Russian Treasury. It sanctioned Russians he said were involved or benefitted from Magnitsky’s death. It has since been used by the U.S. to put sanctions on other Russians and nationals from other countries.

The lawyer lobbying against the act, Natalia Veselnitskaya, told Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort that Browder’s story was fake, a smokescreen to block the Russians from going after him for multi-millions in tax evasion. She argued the Magnitsky Act was built on this fraud. Manafort’s notes, included in the Mueller Report, trace what she said.

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At the heart of Belt and Road is Chinese overcapacity.

Vast Chinese Loans Pose Risks to Developing World (Spiegel)

The future rail link cuts its way through the jungles of Laos for over 400 kilometers. Soon, trains will be rolling through — over bridges, through tunnels and across dams built just for the line, which runs from the Chinese border in the north to the Laotian capital of Vientiane on the Mekong River. After five years of construction, the line is set to go into service in 2021. And the Chinese head of one of the sections has no doubt that it will be finished on time. “Our office alone employs 4,000 workers,” he says. There is also no lack of money: The Chinese government in Beijing has earmarked around 6 billion dollars for the project and has recently become both Laos’s largest creditor and most significant provider of development aid.

China, after all, isn’t just directly financing 70 percent of the new train lain, it is also building dams, schools, military hospitals and has even launched a communications satellite into space for the country. In April, Beijing loaned Laos another 40 million dollars for road construction — a credit that was provided through the multilateral Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank based in Beijing, a financial institution that China established as an alternative to Western development banks. If Hong Kong is included, China isn’t just the largest creditor in Laos, but in the entire world. Beijing’s foreign loans dominate global markets almost to the same degree as its toys, smartphones and electric scooters do.

From Kenya to Montenegro, from Ecuador to Djibouti, roads, dams and power plants are being built with billions in loans from Beijing. And all of those countries will have to pay back those loans in the years to come. With interest. The flood of capital from China helped prevent the global economy from plunging into depression following the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the ensuing financial crisis. But it isn’t without controversy. For some, the billions of dollars from China are a welcome contribution to helping many underdeveloped regions in Asia and Africa expand infrastructure. For others, the loans from Beijing have forced half the world into economic and political dependency on Beijing.

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What is left of Americans’ wealth dies by a thousand cuts. A predator society.

The End Of Inheritance For The Middle Class (F.)

Increasingly, the old family homestead is not being passed down to the family when the parents die. Older parents are taking advantage of reverse mortgages to pay off credit cards and to escape poverty and debt. This reduces equity in the home and often leads to foreclosure, leaving traditional heirs with nothing but memories. Not only are reverse mortgage companies feasting upon the assets of older Americans; so too are health insurers and prescription drug companies. Moreover, seniors on a fixed income were adversely affected by President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which raised the threshold on medical expense tax deductions and placed a cap of $10,000 on the itemized deductibility of state and local taxes.

America seems to be in the midst of a paradigm shift. Wealth transfer is skipping the deceased’s traditional heirs and going directly into the pockets of mortgage companies, banks, international corporations and the government. An alarming percentage of older Americans have insufficient money to cover basic necessities. According to the Institute on Assets and Social Policy, one-third of senior households have no money left over each month or are in debt after meeting essential expenses. This makes them vulnerable to the lure of reverse mortgages.

Reverse mortgages allow homeowners age 62 and above to withdraw a portion of their home’s equity to help them pay expenses in retirement. The debt usually comes due when the borrower dies and is repaid through the sale of the home. However, borrowers can face foreclosure while living if they fall behind on property taxes or homeowner’s insurance.

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That a report must be written on this is what drives me to despair.

Electric Cars Will Not Solve Transport Problem (BBC)

Car use will still need to be curbed even when all vehicles are powered by clean electricity, a report has said. It warns that electrifying cars will not address traffic jams, urban sprawl and wasted space for parking. The Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS) report calls on the government to devise a strategy allowing people to have a good standard of living without needing a car. The government said it was spending £2bn to promote walking and cycling. It also says it plans to spend £50bn on improving roads. However, critics accuse the government of not having a serious plan to deal with the social problems associated with mass car ownership.


CREDS is an academic consortium of more than 80 academics across the UK. “Car use is a massive blind spot on government policy,” Prof Jillian Anable, one of the authors of the report, said. She added: “For many years ministers have adopted the principle of trying to meet demand by increasing road space. “They need to reduce demand instead.” The authors say there will always be people who depend on cars, especially in the countryside or suburbs. But, they point out that many young people in cities are choosing not to buy cars. Instead they are using public transport, walking, cycling, taking minicabs and hiring cars when they are needed.

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Imagine all the species that vanish with the trees.

Brazil Deforestation Increase Exceeds 88% In June (R.)

Deforestation in Brazil’s portion of the Amazon rainforest soared more than 88% in June compared with the same month a year ago, the second consecutive month of rising forest destruction under new President Jair Bolsonaro, who has called for development of the region. According to data from Brazil’s space research agency, deforestation in the world’s largest tropical rainforest totaled 920 square km (355 square miles). The data showing an 88.4% deforestation increase is preliminary but indicates the official annual figure, based on more detailed imaging and measured for the 12 months to the end of July, is well on track to surpass last year’s figure.


In the first 11 months, deforestation already has reached 4,565 square km (1,762 square miles), a 15 percent increase over the same period in the previous year. That is an area larger than the U.S. state of Rhode Island. Environmentalists have warned that Bolsonaro’s strong remarks calling for the development of the Amazon and criticizing the country’s environmental enforcement agency Ibama for handing out too many fines would embolden loggers and ranchers seeking to profit from deforestation. “Bolsonaro has aggravated the situation. … He has made a strong rhetorical attack,” said Paulo Barreto, a researcher at Brazilian nongovernment organization Imazon.

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“..more than half of the tropical forests in the world are gone – most of that in the last 50 years..”

From Madagascar to Brazil, Researchers Pick Best Spots To Replant Forests (R.)

Researchers have identified swathes of lost tropical rainforests as the best places to replant trees, hoping to redress some of the damage done by deforestation and limit climate change. A four-year study used high-resolution satellite imagery to pinpoint more than 100 million denuded hectares (247 million acres) – from South Sudan to Brazil and India – that would deliver good results if reforested. “Globally, more than half of the tropical forests in the world are gone – most of that in the last 50 years,” said Robin Chazdon, a professor at the University of Connecticut and co-author of the study published on Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.


“These forests provide a huge amount of functioning and services for our planet and people that have gone unappreciated,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The tropics lost 12 million hectares of tree cover in 2018, the fourth-highest annual loss since records began in 2001, according to forest monitoring service Global Forest Watch. Of greatest concern, it said, was the disappearance of 3.6 million hectares of old-growth rainforest, an area the size of Belgium, much due to fires, land-clearing for farms and mining. Environmentalists say protecting existing forests and restoring damaged ones prevents flooding, stores carbon, limits climate change and protects biodiversity.

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Strong contender for stupidest headline.

Tree Planting ‘Has Mind-Blowing Potential’ To Tackle Climate Crisis (G.)

Planting billions of trees across the world is by far the biggest and cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis, according to scientists, who have made the first calculation of how many more trees could be planted without encroaching on crop land or urban areas. As trees grow, they absorb and store the carbon dioxide emissions that are driving global heating. New research estimates that a worldwide planting programme could remove two-thirds of all the emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere by human activities, a figure the scientists describe as “mind-blowing”. The analysis found there are 1.7bn hectares of treeless land on which 1.2tn native tree saplings would naturally grow. That area is about 11% of all land and equivalent to the size of the US and China combined.


Tropical areas could have 100% tree cover, while others would be more sparsely covered, meaning that on average about half the area would be under tree canopy. The scientists specifically excluded all fields used to grow crops and urban areas from their analysis. But they did include grazing land, on which the researchers say a few trees can also benefit sheep and cattle. “This new quantitative evaluation shows [forest] restoration isn’t just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one,” said Prof Tom Crowther at the Swiss university ETH Zürich, who led the research. “What blows my mind is the scale. I thought restoration would be in the top 10, but it is overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other climate change solutions proposed.”

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“This year alone, just under 600 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean, a figure that is far greater than the number who have died along the U.S.-Mexican border.”

Europe’s Treatment of Migrants Is Shameful (Spiegel)

Today’s migration policies in the European Union are even more brutal than those pursued by Donald Trump. It may be true that the Europe doesn’t have border officials separating children from their parents, but the Europeans have entered into pacts with Libyan militias that operate horrific camps where torture and rape are commonplace, and they work together with the so-called Libyan coast guard, which is little more than a militia at sea. Sea rescue operations in the Mediterranean have practically been shut down, and Italian hardliner Matteo Salvini is no longer allowing private rescue ships to come ashore in the country.

The aim of all of this is clear: The crossing to Europe should be made more dangerous as a way of discouraging migrants from attempting it. And it seems to have worked: Fewer boats are coming. But more of those who try are dying. This year alone, just under 600 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean, a figure that is far greater than the number who have died along the U.S.-Mexican border. The horrors of the EU’s migration policies aren’t playing out in front of the cameras — they are unfolding in North Africa and on the high seas. There was one exception last week: The captain of a ship with the German rescue organization Sea Watch, Carola Rackete, steered her ship to Lampedusa because people on board had already spent two weeks crammed together on deck and she felt the situation was no longer tenable. The captain was promptly arrested upon the vessel’s arrival in Italy. She was released by an Italian court on Tuesday.

Despite the suffering, the situation in the Mediterranean Sea is quite convenient for countries in northern Europe, while Italian Interior Minister Salvini is playing the role of brutal doorman and scapegoat. The numbers of refugees are stable, but the status quo also means that the issue of migration isn’t being solved. And meanwhile, the EU is selling its soul.

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Time to normalize Libya.

82 Migrants Feared Dead After Boat Capsizes Off Tunisia (AlJ)

A boat carrying at least 86 refugees and migrants has capsized off the coast of Tunisia with most feared drowned. Some of the four initial survivors told the Tunisian coastguard on Thursday the boat sank off the town of Zarzis, Tunisian Red Crescent official Mongi Slim told Reuters news agency. Tunisian fishermen came across the sinking boat and were able to pull four survivors out on Wednesday night, but could not find any of the other passengers, said Lorena Lando, head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Tunisia.


Eighty-two people remain missing in the incident, which comes a day after a deadly air attack on a Libyan detention centre killed at least 44 migrants. Al Jazeera’s Sarah Khairat, reporting from a refugee camp in Zarzis where the survivors were brought, said the vessel was heading from the west of Libya to Europe when it capsized. The four survivors were all men – three from Mali and one from the Ivory Coast. The Ivory Coast national later died and two of the others are in hospital. Slim told dpa news agency the boat set sail from Libya on Monday. Earlier this week, another boat from Libya made it to the Tunisian port of Sfax with 65 people on board.

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Europe c.1320

 

 

 

 

Jun 262019
 
 June 26, 2019  Posted by at 9:46 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso The muse 1935

 

Iran Says It Will Never Pursue A Nuclear Weapon (ZH)
Iran Foreign Minister Accuses Bolton Of Plotting For War (R.)
NATO Calls On Russia To Destroy New Missile, Warns Of Response (R.)
Mueller To Testify Before Two House Committees July 17 (AFP)
A. Gary Shilling Says The US Is Already In A Recession
Housing Market Slump Could Drive Global Growth To A Decade Low (MW)
Merrill Lynch Caught Criminally Manipulating Precious Metals Market (ZH)
Apple Doubles Down On Buybacks (Axios)
Italy’s Gold Now Belongs To The ECB (ZH)
Investors With $34 Trillion Demand Urgent Climate Change Action (R.)

 

 

“How many people have you killed with a nuclear weapon? How many generations have you wiped out with these weapons?”

Iran Says It Will Never Pursue A Nuclear Weapon (ZH)

Following Iran’s statement that diplomacy with the United States is “closed forever” after Washington sanctioned the Supreme Leader and other key officials, including on the foreign minister himself – making it practically hard to actually “do” diplomacy given sanctions also have the impact of restricting travel for the nation’s top diplomat – FM Javad Zarif slammed America’s track record with nukes. “You were really worried about 150 people? How many people have you killed with a nuclear weapon? How many generations have you wiped out with these weapons?” Zarif said Tuesday in reference to Trump’s calculus that he refrained from ordering last Thursday night’s readied military strike against Iran when informed 150 people would die.


“It is us who, because of our religious views, will never pursue a nuclear weapon,” Zarif added. Indeed it’s been long understood that since Iran’s Islamic revolution the Ayatollahs have been consistently against nuclear weapons on moral grounds, citing Koranic principles. The US remains the only country in the world to have ever deployed nuclear weapons in a wartime situation, dropping two on Japan at the end of WWII. Though scholars generally agree that the overwhelming destruction on Hiroshima and Nagasaki made counting impossible, conservative estimates tend to be at over 200,000 dead and wounded total wrought by the twin atom bombs dropped over those cities. And of course, the overwhelming majority of the Japanese dead and wounded were civilians.

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How dare he.

Iran Foreign Minister Accuses Bolton Of Plotting For War (R.)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton of plotting for war against Iran in a tweet on Tuesday. “Wanna know why those with proven record of detesting diplomacy are suddenly interested in talks? Just read @AmbJohnBolton’s 2017 recipe for destroying the #JCPOA,” Zarif wrote, adding a link to a 2017 article written by Bolton in the National Review. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, is the landmark 2015 nuclear deal Iran signed with world powers. “Iran never left the negotiation table. #B_Team dragged the U.S. out, while plotting for war,” Zarif added. Zarif has in the past said that a “B-team” including Bolton, an ardent Iran hawk, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, could goad Trump into a conflict with Tehran.

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An excuse for more rockets on Russia’s border.

NATO Calls On Russia To Destroy New Missile, Warns Of Response (R.)

NATO urged Russia on Tuesday to destroy a new missile before an August deadline and save a treaty that keeps land-based nuclear warheads out of Europe or face a more determined alliance response in the region. NATO defense ministers will discuss on Wednesday their next steps if Moscow keeps the missile system that the United States says would allow short-notice nuclear attacks on Europe and break the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). “We call on Russia to take the responsible path, but we have seen no indication that Russia intends to do so,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference. “We will need to respond,” Stoltenberg said.


He declined to go into more details. But diplomats said defense ministers will consider more flights over Europe by U.S. warplanes capable of carrying nuclear warheads, more military training and the repositioning U.S. sea-based missiles. The United States and its NATO allies want Russia to destroy its 9M729/SSC-8 nuclear-capable cruise missile system, which Moscow has so far refused to do. It denies any violations of the INF treaty, accusing Washington of seeking an arms race. Without a deal, the United States has said it will withdraw from the INF treaty on Aug. 2, removing constraints on its own ability to develop nuclear-capable, medium-range missiles.

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Brought to you by the Trump 2020 re-election committee.

Mueller To Testify Before Two House Committees July 17 (AFP)

Former US special counsel Robert Mueller is to testify in public about his report into Russian electoral interference, paving the way for a historic television moment in which Democrats will attempt to make the case for President Donald Trump’s impeachment before the American people. The scrupulously tight-lipped Mueller will appear at back-to-back hearings on July 17 of the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, which announced Tuesday that the prosecutor had agreed to abide by subpoenas for his testimony. “Russia attacked our democracy to help Trump win. Trump welcomed and used that help,” House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff said on Twitter.


“As Mueller said, that should concern every American. And now, every American will get to hear directly from Mueller.” Trump’s apparent response to the announcement came swiftly in a two-word tweet in which he complained, without referring to Mueller, of “Presidential Harassment!” The Mueller report released in April outlined numerous contacts between Trump’s 2016 election campaign and government-linked Russians, as well as evidence that the president tried on several occasions to stymie the investigation. The Democrats have been split on whether to launch impeachment proceedings against the Republican president but — fearing that much of the country is unaware of the Mueller report’s contents — have been asking major figures in the probe to testify in public on its findings.

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He says it will be mild.

A. Gary Shilling Says The US Is Already In A Recession

Gary Shilling, an economist and financial analyst who is credited with predicting several recessions over the past 40 years, thinks the U.S. is in a relatively mild slump. “I think we’re probably already in a recession but I think it will probably be a run-of-the-mill affair, which means real GDP would decline 1.5% to 2%, not the 3.5% to 4% you had in the very serious recessions,” Shilling, president of economic and financial research firm A. Shilling & Co., said in a recent interview broadcast this week by Real Vision. In such a tempered slide, he says, “Stocks probably wouldn’t fall” but if they did, they likely would tumble about 22% — similar to other recent recessions. That, he says, would take the Standard and Poor’s 500 index about 200 points below it’s Christmas Eve nadir of 2,351.


His view is at odds with the vast majority of economists who expect the economy to grow a solid 2% to 2.5% this year after expanding at about a 3% clip last year and in the first quarter. Shilling points to: • Declining industrial production, a result of a weak global economy and the Trump administration’s trade war with China. • Feeble job growth of 75,000 in May, along with downward revisions to prior months. • The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s recession probability chart, which shows about a 30% chance of a downturn the next 12 months, up from about 10% early this year. That data is based on an inversion of the yield curve, which has shown rates on 3-month Treasury bonds topping 10-year notes recently – a sign that investors don’t have much faith in the longer-term outlook. Inversions do herald recessions but often two years in advance.

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China: $6.8 trillion in household debt, a 70% rise in personal debt from just three years ago.

Housing Market Slump Could Drive Global Growth To A Decade Low (MW)

The global housing market is showing cracks. Those fissures could spread throughout the world-wide economy, potentially sending world-wide gross domestic product, or GDP, to its lowest annual pace of in 10 years, according to research from Oxford Economics, led by economists Adam Slater, and John Payne in a research report dated June 24. “A combined slump in house prices and housing investment in the major economies could cut world growth to a 10-year low of 2.2% by 2020 – and to below 2% if it also triggered a tightening in global credit conditions.” the Oxford Economics researchers wrote.

A decade since the 2008-09 U.S. housing bubble imploded, sparking a global financial crisis, worries about the health of the global housing market persist. An Oxford Economics’ proprietary gauge of housing conditions in the globe shows that home prices have declined by 10% and investments in houses have shrunk by 8%. Housing prices across the globe have come in to focus as a protracted tariff squabble between the U.S. and China ripples throughout the global economy, compelling a number of central bankers to entertain the idea of lowering benchmark borrowing costs in an effort to stimulate, or just maintain, economic expansion.

The Federal Reserve last Wednesday signaled a willingness to lower federal-funds rates, currently at 2.25%-2.50%, if financial conditions worsen. In China, a decade long housing boom has sent home values to the lofty levels, with buying in the region underpinned by some $6.8 trillion in household debt, according to the Bank for International Settlements, a 70% rise in personal debt from just three years ago, with much of that tied to residential mortgages. Oxford Economics says data show that residential investment in China is slowing as are starts for new construction also ebb

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Nopbody goes to jail, nobody even pays a fine. A broken system indeed.

Merrill Lynch Caught Criminally Manipulating Precious Metals Market (ZH)

On Tuesday after the close, the CFTC announced that Merrill Lynch Commodities (MLCI), a global commodities trading business, agreed to pay $25 million to resolve the government’s investigation into a multi-year scheme by MLCI precious metals traders to mislead the market for precious metals futures contracts traded on the COMEX (Commodity Exchange Inc.). The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office. In other words, if the Merrill Lynch Commodities group was an individual, he would have gotten ye olde perp walk.

As MLCI itself admitted, beginning in 2008 and continuing through 2014, precious metals traders employed by MLCI schemed to deceive other market participants by injecting materially false and misleading information into the precious metals futures market. They did so in the now traditional market manipulation way – by placing fraudulent orders for precious metals futures contracts that, at the time the traders placed the orders, they intended to cancel before execution. In doing so, the traders intended to “spoof” or manipulate the market by creating the false impression of increased supply or demand and, in turn, to fraudulently induce other market participants to buy and to sell futures contracts at quantities, prices and times that they otherwise likely would not have done so.

Over the relevant period, the traders placed thousands of fraudulent orders. Of course, since we are talking about a bank, and since banks are in charge of not only the DOJ, and virtually every other branch of government, not to mention the Fed, nobody will go to jail and MLCI entered into a non-prosecution agreement and agreed to pay a combined – and measly – $25 million in criminal fines, restitution and forfeiture of trading profits.

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Stock manipulation

Apple Doubles Down On Buybacks (Axios)

Apple again led S&P 500 companies in buybacks, spending a new record $23.8 billion in Q1, more than doubling its spend from the previous quarter, data from S&P Global shows. Apple has long been a buyback behemoth. The company holds 8 of the 10 all-time records for quarterly buybacks, and has spent more than $75 billion on buybacks over just the past year. It has spent $234.7 billion over the most recent 5-year period, and $284.3 billion over the last 10-year period. Apple accounted for 23% of share buybacks made by the top 20 S&P 500 companies. The big picture: While Apple has increased its buyback spending, other S&P 500 companies have slowed from 2018’s record pace.


Companies bought back just $205.8 billion worth of their own shares, a 7.7% decline from Q4 2018, S&P reported. That ended the streak of 4 consecutive quarters of record buybacks. Yes, but: Buybacks rose 8.9% from Q1 2018, which set a record at the time. Outside analysis of the broader stock market, beyond just the S&P, shows announced buyback spending was higher in Q1 2019 than Q4 2018. Ratings agency Moody’s warned last month that companies are spending more on share buybacks and dividends than they were paying in taxes before the 2017 tax cut. The tax savings “can be wiped out entirely by even a modest change in share buybacks,” Christina Padgett, senior vice president at Moody’s, told Axios at the time.

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Italy has quite a lot of it.

Italy’s Gold Now Belongs To The ECB (ZH)

As the squabbling over Italy’s populist government’s plans to blow out its budget deficit to finance an agenda of tax cuts and social spending (including a ‘citizen’s income’ that’s essentially UBI-lite) crowded the headlines, the issue of who owns the 2,451 metric tons of gold reserves held by the Bank of Italy has been quietly ignored – at least, outside of Italy. But that might be about to change. On Tuesday, the ECB asked the League, the dominant party in Italy’s ruling coalition, to remove a reference to the Bank of Italy holding gold as an “exclusive title of deposit” according to Bloomberg. Translation? If Italy is not allowed to have title to Italian gold, then Italy’s gold now belongs to the ECB.

Today’s escalation over Italy’s gold “title” comes two months after the WSJ reported that Italy’s ruling populists pushed ahead with efforts to seize control of the central bank and its gold reserves. Complaining that hundreds of thousands of small individual investors lost billions of dollars after several Italian banks failed in recent years, the current Italian government depicted the central bank as a symbol of a technocratic elite aloof from the needs of ordinary Italians. “We need a change of course at the Bank of Italy if we think about what happened in the last years,” said Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, leader of the 5 Star Movement. Shortly thereafter, 5 Star lawmakers asked parliament to pass two draft laws.

One law would instruct the central bank’s owners, most of them private banks , to sell their shares to the Italian Treasury at prices from the 1930s.The other law would declare the Italian people to be the owners of the Bank of Italy’s reserve of 2451.8 metric tons of gold, worth around $102 billion at current prices. “The gold belongs to the Italians, not to the bankers,” said Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Brothers of Italy, a far-right opposition party that supports both bills. “We are ready to battle everywhere in Italy and to bring Italians to the streets if necessary.” So far there has been no fighting but if indeed Draghi just told Italy that its gold now belongs to the Frankfurt-based central bank we expect that to change..

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So how much are they willing to pay?

Investors With $34 Trillion Demand Urgent Climate Change Action (R.)

Investors managing more than $34 trillion in assets, nearly half the world’s invested capital, are demanding urgent action from governments on climate change, piling pressure on leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies meeting this week. In an open letter to the “governments of the world” seen by Reuters, groups representing 477 investors stressed “the urgency of decisive action” on climate change to achieve the Paris Agreement target. Almost 200 nations agreed in Paris in 2015 to limit the global average temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. Current policies put the world on track for at least a 3C rise by the end of the century.


The letter comes ahead of a June 28-29 G20 summit in Japan and as United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urges countries to back more ambitious climate goals. “There is an ambition gap… This ambition gap is of great concern to investors and needs to be addressed, with urgency,” a statement from the investors accompanying the letter said. Governments were urged to strengthen their Paris Agreement targets by 2020; phase out thermal coal power and fossil fuel subsidies by set deadlines; set a robust global carbon price by 2020 and improve climate-related financial reporting. “It is vital for our long-term planning and asset allocation decisions that governments work closely with investors to incorporate Paris-aligned climate scenarios into their policy frameworks and energy transition pathways,” the statement said.

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Arundhati Roy:

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 112019
 


James Ensor Baths at Ostend 1890

 

1 in 4 Americans Skip Medical Treatment Because They Worry About the Cost (M.)
House Committee To See Mueller Evidence (AP)
Was Mueller The Wrong Man To Investigate Trump? (G.)
Big US Defense Merger Touts Tech, But Trump Has Questions (AFP)
Google Earned $4.7 Billion From News Organizations In 2018 (RT)
Kim Dotcom Fights U.S. Extradition in New Zealand Court (AP)
We Have Nothing to Lose but Our Debts – Varoufakis (Jacobin)
China’s Rare Earth Monopoly Is Diminishing (ZH)
The Problem With Billionaires Fighting Climate Change (G.)
Canada Bans Capture And Breeding Of Dolphins, Whales (AFP)
Forest Twice Size Of UK Destroyed In Decade For Big Consumer Brands (G.)
The Permafrost Thawing Nightmare (CP)
Honey Bee Colonies Across Europe Plunge 16% (ZH)
Americans’ Extinction Denial Syndrome (CP)

 

 

Yeah, well, what do they know?

“48% of Americans said they believe the quality of the U.S. health care system is “the best or among the best in the world.”

1 in 4 Americans Skip Medical Treatment Because They Worry About the Cost (M.)

One in four Americans chose not to receive treatment for a health issue over the last year due to its high cost, according to a new survey released by Gallup and West Health, a health care nonprofit. Not only that, but 45% of Americans worry a major health issue could send them into bankruptcy and 19% have delayed purchasing medicine due to its cost. The findings, released Tuesday, display the personal and financial impacts caused by the rising cost of health care in the United States. Tens of millions of Americans are borrowing money to afford health care and cutting out other household expenses. And Americans share a concern over the rising cost of health care and how it will impact their finances and the U.S. economy.


Indeed, Americans borrowed around $88 billion to pay for health care over the last year, the study found. About 12% of Americans borrowed money for health care, and 23% cut back on household spendings to afford it. Health care spending in the U.S. rose to $3.5 trillion in 2017 — a 3.9% jump from 2016. In 2017, the U.S. spent more than $10,700 on health care per person. The U.S.’s health spending per capita far exceeds those of other countries, according to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Forty-eight percent of Americans said they believe the quality of the U.S. health care system is “the best or among the best in the world.” But when asked about the quality of care compared to costs, 31% said it was “worst of among the worst in the world.”

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It will never stop.

House Committee To See Mueller Evidence (AP)

The House judiciary committee expects to receive the first files of underlying evidence from Robert Mueller’s report soon, after a sudden shift by the justice department as Democrats weigh impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. It is unclear if the deal, announced moments before the start of a judiciary committee hearing with Watergate star witness John Dean, will ultimately be enough for Democrats, who have called for the full, unredacted report and underlying documentation from the special counsel’s work. However, it signalled the first real breakthrough in the standoff over the report and came at the start of a week of increased activity by the House in the Trump-Russia investigation.

The Republican senator for New York, Jerrold Nadler, , the chairman of the committee, said the justice department will provide some of Mueller’s “most important files” and all members of the committee will be able to view them. He said the files will include those used to assess whether Trump obstructed justice. In response to the agreement, Nadler said the panel will not vote to hold the attorney general, William Barr, in criminal contempt, for now. But the House will still vote on a resolution on Tuesday that would empower the committee to file a civil lawsuit for the materials, if Democrats decide to do so.

[..] Dean, a White House counsel under Richard Nixon who helped bring down his presidency, testified on Monday that Mueller had provided Congress with a “road map” for investigating Trump. He said he saw parallels between Mueller’s findings regarding Trump and those of congressional investigators looking into Nixon’s administration decades ago. He pointed to the way the presidents used their pardon power in an attempt to influence witness testimony, and their efforts to seize control of the investigation and direct the efforts of prosecutors.

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He was because he didn’t deliver Trump’s head on a plate.

Was Mueller The Wrong Man To Investigate Trump? (G.)

In so many ways, Robert Mueller was the right man for the job. The former special counsel was fast, precise, ran a tight ship and, working in a hyper-partisan environment under the full glare of history, Mueller managed to investigate and document a historic attack on the United States while retaining the public trust. But one week after Mueller first spoke out about his investigation of Russian election tampering and the Donald Trump campaign, concern has sharpened that in one big way – potentially the biggest way – Mueller was exactly the wrong man for the job.

For when the pursuit of justice took Mueller into unprecedented terrain – as the special counsel’s investigation came under sustained public attack by the president and the attorney general, William Barr – Mueller failed, his critics say, both to stand up for his investigation and to get the word out to the American people about what he had found. “To my mind, this is a Shakespearean-level tragedy,” said Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor who was part of the team that convicted the Gambino family boss John Gotti. “It is the tragedy of the principled person, who is constrained by principle, being opposed by the completely unprincipled – Barr, and the president, and their lackeys.

“The principled are chained, and the unprincipled romp free. And in a debate over reality, the unprincipled will always win, because they will just lie, and they will make reality whatever they want it to be.” Congressional Democrats convened hearings on the Mueller report on Monday, and the judiciary committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, has said he would call Mueller to testify about the 11 instances of potentially criminal obstruction of justice committed by Donald Trump and his campaign that the Mueller report documents. But Mueller has refused, and has said he will continue to refuse, in discussions of his findings, to go beyond the language in his report, which declines to weigh evidence against the president while leaving open the possibility that crimes were committed.

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Unholiness.

Big US Defense Merger Touts Tech, But Trump Has Questions (AFP)

Executives from United Technologies and Raytheon said Monday their merger would benefit the Pentagon and other customers but the proposed deal garnered immediate skepticism from President Donald Trump. The two companies, which unveiled a “merger of equals” on Sunday, said combining would boost development of faster weapons systems, connected aircraft and other envelope-pushing products, while saving the Pentagon and other customers money. But Trump, who has shown more willingness than past US presidents to haggle with defense contractors and interject himself into the private sector in general, emerged as a potential question mark, telling CNBC Monday that he was “concerned” by the merger.


“When I hear they’re merging, does that take away more competition? It becomes one big fat beautiful company,” he told CNBC. “But I have to negotiate, meaning the United States has to buy things, and does that make it less competitive? Because it’s already non-competitive.” Moments after Trump’s comments, United Technologies Chief Executive Gregory Hayes said on CNBC that the two companies currently have almost no overlap and that their combination would not dent competition. [..] The UTC merger with Raytheon would transform the two companies into a single conglomerate with varied but well-established brands, each in the top tier of its specialty. The two companies together would have about $74 billion in 2019 sales, according to the announcement.

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Do no evil.

Google Earned $4.7 Billion From News Organizations In 2018 (RT)

An explosive new report details how Google earned a whopping $4.7 billion in ad revenue from news organizations online in 2018, while the entire US news industry made a combined $5.1 billion from digital advertising.
The study, by the News Media Alliance, reveals the extent to which the tech giant profits from the work of web journalists and digital news organizations by monetizing Google search and Google News. According to the study, some 40 percent of clicks on Google’s trending queries are news-related, all of which are monetized. “They make money off this arrangement,” said President and CEO of the News Media Alliance David Chavern who argues that journalists and content creators deserve a cut of that money, “and there needs to be a better outcome for news publishers.”

Google does not pay for the content but generates web traffic clicks, and thus revenue, by sharing headlines and news summaries from various outlets verbatim. Furthermore, the $4.7 billion figure is a conservative estimate as the analysis didn’t factor in the personal user data collected by Alphabet, Google’s parent company, which can be further monetized. Details from the report generated a very mixed reception among journalists and media workers who particularly drew attention to the revenues built up by Google while news outlets increasingly lay off staff. What also seemed unjust is that the snippet Google shows “is all anyone cares about,” and readers don’t bother actually clicking into the full story. “Google should license/pay for this,” one commenter suggested.

People do realize though that the relationship between the tech company and news media is more complicated, saying that when Google “makes money on news it’s by serving ads ON publishers’ sites.” According to the newly-launched Save Journalism Project some 2,400 journalists have been laid off in the US so far in 2019 while 32,000 have lost their jobs in the last 10 years. They estimate 63 percent of digital ad revenue is controlled by Google and Facebook, the remainder falling under the auspices of Amazon, Twitter and Microsoft, among others.

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New Zealand’s under intense pressure to break its own laws.

Kim Dotcom Fights U.S. Extradition in New Zealand Court (AP)

Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom and three of his former colleagues on Monday took their fight against being extradited to the U.S. to New Zealand’s top court. The Supreme Court began hearing arguments in the seven-year-old case after Dotcom and the others lost several previous court rulings. But even if the men lose their latest appeal, they have legal options which could keep their case alive in the New Zealand court system and delay any extradition for several more years. U.S. authorities in 2012 shut down Dotcom’s file-sharing website Megaupload and filed charges of conspiracy, racketeering and money laundering. If found guilty, the men could face decades in prison.

Megaupload was once one of the internet’s most popular sites. U.S. prosecutors say it raked in at least $175 million, mainly from people using it to illegally download songs, television shows and movies. Ira Rothken, one of Dotcom’s lawyers, said in an interview that if anyone did something illegal in relation to Megaupload, it was the users. “This case is all about trying to hold Megaupload and Kim Dotcom and the others responsible for the acts of users,” Rothken said. “And we’re saying you can’t do that. You can’t do that in the United States and you can’t do that in New Zealand.” The Supreme Court has scheduled five days to hear the appeal. After that, it could take them several months to issue their decision.

Should the Supreme Court uphold the earlier court rulings and find the men are eligible for extradition, then New Zealand’s Justice Minister Andrew Little would need to make the final decision on whether the extraditions should proceed. And Little’s decision could also be appealed in the courts.

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Greece has snap elections on July 7. It won’t be pretty.

We Have Nothing to Lose but Our Debts – Varoufakis (Jacobin)

Amid the bad results for the Left in the European elections, the Greek outcome was particularly poignant. In the last such contest in 2014, Syriza rode the revolt against austerity to become the largest single party, in its final step toward national office. Five years later, in last month’s election, it finished ten points behind the right-wing New Democracy. And where once Syriza promised to spark change throughout the EU, it is now the best student of the neoliberal dogma “There Is No Alternative.” After four years of slashed pensions, sell-offs of state assets, and even a right-wing turn on foreign policy, Syriza is now also set to lose office.

Indeed, not only did Alexis Tsipras’s party enforce an even harsher austerity than its predecessors ever dreamt of, but as snap general elections loom, it is set to become an exhausted opposition to a sharply reactionary New Democracy government. Polls for the July 7 vote suggest the conservatives have a massive lead, and could even secure an absolute majority in parliament. The hollowing out of Syriza’s base is the expression of disappointment and despair. But there are also signs that some of its voters are turning to left-wing alternatives. Former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis’s MeRA25 party achieved a particularly creditable result in the European contest, less than four hundred votes from electing a member of the European Parliament.

As Greece heads to a fresh general election, MeRA25 hopes to elect its first members of parliament, offering a platform for its call to replace austerity with Europe-wide investment. Jacobin’s David Broder spoke to Varoufakis about the effect of Syriza’s defeat on the wider European left, the prospects of a realignment of EU politics, and MeRA25’s own plans for a “political revolution” in Greece.

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Still substantial.

China’s Rare Earth Monopoly Is Diminishing (ZH)

Some while ago, precious rare earths important in the production of microchips, electronics and electric motors were almost exclusively sourced in China. However, as Statista’s Katharina Buchholz points out, in recent years, several nations have picked up production again while new players entered the market, diversifying it at least to some degree. Yet, China was still responsible for more than two thirds of global production, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. But as many countries are wary of depending on China, especially when it comes to technology products, countries with rare earth deposits are likely to exploit them further.

China also has the largest know deposits of rare earths, but Brazil, Vietnam and Russia also have a lot of (largely) untapped potential in the sector. The United States, together with Australia, emerged as a major producer of rare earths after 2010. The country, which has produced rare earths before for military uses, got back into the market as rare earths were getting more important as a part of the implementation of crucial technologies.

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The problem here is calling Bloomberg a benevolent billionaire.

The Problem With Billionaires Fighting Climate Change (G.)

Before the financial crisis, the top 1% held a collective $15bn in cash. Today they’ve got almost $304bn. And while the yachts and frequent flying habits of the wealthy are a pox on the planet, so is the fact that they now have more money than ever to throw into world-wrecking investments, buying off politicians and lobbying for their pet causes – namely, to let them keep doing more of the same. For every Michael Bloomberg there are dozens of Koch Brothers and Rebekah Mercers, who’ve poured tens of millions of dollars into spreading climate denial and blocking de-carbonization efforts at the local, state and national level. None of them should have as much money as they do.

The climate crisis isn’t going to be solved with the benevolence of a couple of billionaires, and their outsized control over our politics and economy stands in contradiction to our hopes for a liveable future. With rightwing populism on the rise around the world, having elites like Bloomberg as the public face of the climate fight is also risky politics. We don’t need their money to fund the Green New Deal – the US has more than enough for that – but we should take it anyway, with a far more progressive tax system than the one we’ve got. If that sounds radical, it’s worth remembering that the top marginal tax rate during the time hailed as capitalism’s Golden Age floated somewhere north of 90% in the US.

After it’d already fallen, Ronald Reagan’s administration collapsed it to 50% when he took office, and it would dip to just 28% by the time he left. The many billions that have been lost as a result are resources that have been captured out of democratic control, emboldening a handful of oligarchs to run roughshod over people and planet alike.

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100 years too late at least.

Canada Bans Capture And Breeding Of Dolphins, Whales (AFP)

Canada’s parliament on Monday approved a bill banning the capture and breeding of cetaceans such as whales and dolphins in a move hailed by animal rights activists. The bill, first proposed in 2015 and now awaiting symbolic royal approval, will not apply retroactively, meaning captive marine mammals can stay confined. And it will contain exceptions for marine mammals who require rehabilitation following an injury, or in other cases authorized by authorities. “This is such an important law because it bans breeding, making sure the whales and dolphins currently kept in tiny tanks in Canada are the last generation to suffer,” Melissa Matlow, campaign director for World Animal Protection Canada, said in a statement.


“We hope other countries will now follow Canada’s lead and that travel companies will also realize the declining acceptance for these types of attractions.” “Canada is now one of 11 leading countries that have taken a progressive stand against the keeping and breeding of whales, dolphins and porpoises for entertainment,” with Costa Rica and Chile among the others, said Nina Devries, the spokeswoman for the animal rights group. A backlash has been growing in recent years against theme parks that showcase whales and dolphins.

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“Meat consumption is set to rise by 76%… Soya production is also predicted to soar by almost 45% and palm oil by nearly 60%..”

Forest Twice Size Of UK Destroyed In Decade For Big Consumer Brands (G.)

An area twice the size of the UK has been destroyed for products such as palm oil and soy over the last decade, according to analysis by Greenpeace International. In 2010, members of the Consumer Goods Forum, including some of the world’s biggest consumer brands, pledged to eliminate deforestation by 2020, through the sustainable sourcing of four commodities most linked to forest destruction: soya, palm oil, paper and pulp, and cattle. But analysis by Greenpeace International suggests that by the start of 2020, an estimated 50m hectares (123m acres) of forest are likely to have been destroyed in the growing demand for and consumption of agricultural products, in the 10 years since those promises were made.

Its report, Countdown to Extinction, said that since 2010, the area planted with soya in Brazil has increased by 45% and palm oil production in Indonesia has risen by 75%. The environmental group accused major brands of failing to meet their commitments and warned that the current situation was “bleak”, advising them to evolve in order to “prevent climate and ecological breakdown”. Deforestation releases greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change and destroy important habitat, threatening species with extinction. Greenpeace says it wrote to more than 50 traders, retailers, producers and consumer companies early in 2019 asking them to demonstrate progress towards deforestation by disclosing their commodity suppliers.

Only a handful replied and all of those that did disclose the requested information source products from traders or producers involved in forest destruction, they said. None of the 50 demonstrated “meaningful” action to end deforestation, the campaigners said, based on assessing their policies and publicly available supply chain information. [..] About 80% of global deforestation is caused by agricultural production [..] Agricultural consumption, and therefore production, is forecast to rise globally. Meat consumption is set to rise by 76% according to some estimates. Soya production is also predicted to soar by almost 45% and palm oil by nearly 60%, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

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Speeding up. Methane.

The Permafrost Thawing Nightmare (CP)

Permafrost covers 25% of the Northern Hemisphere. It is the world’s largest icebox, and its landmass is 4.5xs larger than Antarctica, 6.5xs larger than the United States. It is stuffed full of carbon locked in frozen ground accumulated over eons, which, by way of contrast, makes coal power plant emissions look bush-league. Most notably, permafrost has an image of permanence and slow/gradual change, “the sloth of the north.” But, that slothful image is now out-of-date. Global warming has changed the equation. Nowadays, permafrost disintegration is officially hot news.

Scientists that have long studied the gradual thawing of permafrost are now experiencing a dramatic switch from their former “eyes wide shut” viewpoint, i.e., refusing to see something that’s in plain view because of preconceived notions. That slothful image of yesteryear has been shattered via numerous studies, as for example: Merritt Turetsky, Canadian Research Chair in Integrative Ecology, University of Guelph, “Rapid Permafrost Thaw Unrecognized Threat to Landscape, Global Warming Researcher Warns,” Nature d/d May 1, 2019. Gradual permafrost thaw is now passé: “Turetsky and an international team of researchers are looking at something very different: Rapid collapse of permafrost that can transform the landscape in mere months through subsidence, flooding and landslides,” Ibid.

Based upon observations as recorded by the Turetsky research team, a climate crisis has already set in. It is here now: “We work in areas where permafrost contains a lot of ice, and our field sites are being destroyed by abrupt collapse of this ice, not gradually over decades, but very quickly over months to years,” said Turetsky. According to team member Miriam Jones, a U.S. Geological Survey research geologist: “This abrupt thaw is changing forested ecosystems… resulting in a wholesale transformation of the landscape that not only impacts carbon feedbacks to climate but is also altering wildlife habitat and damaging infrastructure.” “It’s happening faster than anyone predicted,” Turetsky.

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“Portugal, Northern Ireland, Italy, and England had the most significant colony collapses of more than 25%..”

Honey Bee Colonies Across Europe Plunge 16% (ZH)

The total number of honey bee colonies across Europe plunged 16% over the winter 2017–18, according to COLOSS (Prevention of honey bee COlony LOSSes), an international, non-profit organization based in Switzerland, tasked with the goals of protecting honey bees. Allison Gray, the lead researcher on the study, sent a COLOSS questionnaire to 25,363 beekeepers in 36 countries: 33 in Europe, plus Algeria, Israel, and Mexico. [..] Gray and her team determined that Portugal, Northern Ireland, Italy, and England had the most significant colony collapses of more than 25%. The authors noted that smaller bee farms experienced higher loss rates than large-scale ones.

“The overall loss rate in winter 2017/18 was highest in Portugal (32.8%), a new country to the survey. Other countries with high losses (above 25%) were Slovenia, Northern Ireland, England, Wales, Italy, and Spain, countries mostly in Western Europe,” wrote Gray. [..] The colony collapse of honey bees is a complex issue, wrote Gray, and are frequently caused by volatile weather or natural disasters rather than climate. And there is no solution at the moment. She noted that future investigations should be conducted into the impact of pesticides, and herbicides on honey bees.


Not too long ago, we reported that honey bees exposed to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, lose critical bacterial in their guts and are more susceptible to infection and death from harmful bacteria. It showed how glyphosate is possibly contributing to a rapid decline of honey bees around the world, otherwise known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind the queen.

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“What are Americans thinking? Are they even thinking?”

Americans’ Extinction Denial Syndrome (CP)

When I go into a Lowe’s or Home Depot store to buy plumbing or electrical supplies, I’m assaulted as soon as I go in the door by the smell of lawn chemicals. Plastic jugs of Roundup are stacked six feet high right near the entrance of these stores for easy grabbing by shoppers heading for the garden supply area. At Costco, I found myself in line at the checkout counter behind a man who had a huge bag of grass seed that the label on the bag promised was already treated with “fertilizer and weed killer for a perfect lawn.”The weed killer, I discovered on checking further, is of course Roundup.

Most of Europe has banned Roundup because of both a determination that is carcinogenic and because its widespread use has been linked to the decimation of the world’s bees, essential for the pollination of some 90 percent of all plants and of 30 percent of food crops, and Monsanto/Bayer has so far lost three major lawsuits levying a total of over $2.4 billion in punitive damages against the company for cancers found caused by their glyphosate herbicide. Yet despite all this, the American public wants its pristine green lawns, unblemished by dandelions and other transgressors like violets, buttercups and wild strawberries. Glyphosate cancer risk and bee die-offs be damned!

Mentioning this bizarre attitude to the woman at HealthGuard, she replied, “I know. It’s crazy. People actually tell me they’re stocking up on Roundup because they say, ‘I’m sure the government is going to ban it eventually, but it really works, so I want to have it to use.’” This is a bit like the people who insist on buying incandescent light bulbs and stocking up on them for fear they’ll eventually disappear, even as LED lighting keeps getting better and cheaper, and uses a fraction of the electricity required by incandescent light bulbs. In our house, switching to LEDs has reduced our electrical bill by nearly two-thirds, lighting being the main share of our home’s electrical use.

What are Americans thinking? Are they even thinking?

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There is a snow leopard in this photo. Click for larger picture.

 

 

 

 

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


René Magritte L’empire des lumières 1949

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Belmarsh Prison Inmate Provides Photos of Julian Assange (Cassandra)

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

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

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Does Australia have any laws at all?

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

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

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

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

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Maxumum bubble has been reached.

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

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

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

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

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Just bonkers.

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

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


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

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

That America Is Gone (PCR)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Worst idea ever.

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

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


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

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

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Ha ha. Full of emptiness.

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

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

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Don’t like parliament? No problem.

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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Literally everywhere.

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

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


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


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

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