Aug 102020
 


Cy Twombly Fifty Days at Iliam: Like a Fire that Consumes All before It 1978

 

 

Might as well call it a social experiment. Any other name, like “coup” or “fishing expedition” or “hookers peeing on a bed” or “justice being done” would just inflame “passions” and lead away from what should be the actual topic.

Whatever you call it, the fact remains that Donald Trump has been the first US president to be under continued investigation for the entire 4 years of his first term, and for about a year before it as well. And that should be a cause for alarm for anyone who cares even a little bit about the American political system, including those who abhor Trump. Because once you do that, it’s no longer about just one president, it’s about all who will follow him, and inevitably about the integrity and validity of the system as a whole.

In principle, there should be no investigations of a sitting president, and not even of a presidential candidate, because this risks endangering 1) the entire electoral process, and 2) the Office of the President (not for once, but for ever). In principle. If there must be an investigation, it must be based on solid evidence available beforehand, it must be short, and the President must be removed. If all of these three things are not guaranteed, no investigation is warranted, and the accusing parties should be “liberated” from the positions they held when they initiated the investigation regardless. Skin in the game.

 

 

It gets increasingly harder to write about American politics, or express an opinion in any other way, without being dumped into one of two camps, never to be heard from again in the other (except for ridicule or slander). There is no such thing as a neutral or objective viewpoint anymore. You’re either with us or you’re against us – or them.

Seeing -and projecting- the world in black and white is a tempting proposal for anyone afraid of being confused; it should, however, never be an excuse for the media to not present its viewers and readers with a full color palette. But we can see every single day how that went. Black and white it is. And in that environment, too claustrophobic to be put in a box, I might as well paint the picture as I see it. Yes, in color.

 

The “social experiment” I see progressing has two parts:

1) can a political party, aided and abetted by the media and intelligence services, unseat an elected president it has just lost an election to?

2) can a presidential candidate be elected while shunning the media, debates, etc., and only appear at times and in forms that have been pre-selected by her/his handlers for maximum effect, while hiding his/her weaknesses?

 

As for no. 1, it has evidently not succeeded, but that is certainly not for lack of trying. One investigation has followed the other non-stop since 2016, in public and behind the scenes, and they have all come up empty. Of course one side would contest that and still say there was lots of evidence, but if so, it obviously wasn’t very strong, or Trump would have been gone.

People may also claim that the mandate of the Mueller investigation was too narrow, but really, go back and watch the man’s pathetic (sorry, but it was) testimony in Congress after the fact, that should be enough. Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler and others have promised solid and inconvertible evidence many times, but we never saw any. Rest assured, whatever Trump may have done wrong, you would have heard about it by now.

Or to put it another way: he probably did many things wrong, but not the things he was accused of. In fact, the entire Putin puppet narrative is so idiotic it’s impossible not to ponder from time to time that it was designed from the get-go to support Trump, not hurt him.

As for no. 2, that looks even more experimental. The approach is helped along “wonderfully” by the pandemic, which provides plenty excuses to keep Biden hidden, but it goes against everything presidential campaigns have been built upon throughout American history: contact with voters. That very few people would believe Biden is his own man, and not a sock puppet, can’t help.

But there is more at stake. Presidential campaigns are one element of a much bigger process, and you can’t separate the two. Both parts of the “social experiment” seem to run afoul of the respect that bigger process, and ultimately the entire political system, necessarily demands from all participants, from an individual voter to a President. And that is much more important than either candidate. You can’t temporarily switch off that respect if and when that might suit your purpose, because you risk for it never to be switched on again.

 

You may dislike a presidential candidate, perhaps even intensely so, but that should never make you lose sight of the integrity, if not the sacredness, of the election process, of the political system, of the institutions, of the Constitution, and certainly not of the Office of the President of the United States. Because once you do that, you open the door for everyone to do the same in the future. And no, you can’t blame that on the candidate you don’t like, you do it.

When a candidate is selected through the primaries of his/her party, you must respect that, because if you don’t respect the process, you are lost, the system is lost, and there’s no telling when you’ll see it back, if ever. If that candidate is then elected President, a lot of doors that before allowed you to question and criticize him/her, should be closed. The country at that point has either a new President, or a second-term one. A different phase of the political process starts.

The House and the Senate become the critics, empowered by the system to hold the President accountable. But only the House and the Senate. Not the media, whose role it is, other than in the occasional opinion piece, to report on decisions made; not intelligence services, whose role it is to serve the country, and the new President it just elected; and not the opposition party, whose role it is to prepare for the next election, and to provide a degree of counterbalance, depending on how bad their loss was, on Capitol Hill.

The entire picture is crystal clear. So is everybody’s role in it. But now and then people -try to- refuse to accept their roles, obviously believing that they are more important than the integrity of the political system, and ignoring that in doing so they put the whole system at risk.

 

What was happening first became apparent in late 2015 – early 2016, when the New York Times began running multiple stories every day directed against Donald Trump. Mostly small bits, based on innuendo about his past, with a whiff of truth perhaps, but not more. The word “gratuitous” comes to mind. At a certain point, they did a dozen per day of the stories, it became assembly line work for the writers and editors..

The Washington Post chimed in, and so did CNN, MSNBC and others, including international press. It turned into a feeding frenzy, with all of them completely losing sight, voluntarily or not, of their roles as news providers. They all shape-shifted into opinion-only-makers, confident that their audience would not notice the difference, at least not at first. At that point it became a very Pavlovian thing.

Which is why I was initially going to name this essay “Trump vs Pavlov”. 100+ years ago, Ivan Pavlov “found” that if he rang a bell in front of a dog, and then gave her food, she would start to associate the two. When he increased the time-lapse between first, the bell, and then, the food, the dog would salivate in expectation of food at just the sound of the bell. In the end, all he had to do was ring the bell, with no food around, and the dog would salivate. So he had nothing to offer, no food, no substance, but the reaction was the same.

That is a very accurate description of what a large part of the US media have done -and become-. All they have to do at this point is mention Trump, or just show his picture, and their public will react the same every single time: Orange Man Bad. There doesn’t have to be any substance, any factual journalistic reports of wrongdoing. The “conditioned reflex” as Pavlov described it, has set in.

And their readers and viewers have become addicted to this. How could they not? They’ve been bombarded with 1000s of these bells ringing, and the substance may not be there, but the expectation of it is. If you’re a regular viewer of Rachel Maddow, what are the odds that your opinion is still your own after hearing RussiaRussia a million times? The only way it could be yours is if you switch her off.

I’ve written before that I don’t even think they really set out to do this. Initially, there were probably just some CEOs and owners and editors who didn’t like Trump and/or were affiliated in one way or another with the other party -and later candidate-. Who was counted on to win big anyway, so why not (well, because of the integrity of the political system!).

It was only later that they found out 24/7 anti-Trump “reporting” was a great business model for them. CNN was dying in early 2016, the New York Times was nor far behind, and all of a sudden numbers of viewers and readers and subscribers went through the roof.

Their problem is that if they succeed in making Trump lose in November, they will be back to where they came from before he appeared on the political scene. All of their “reporting” on US politics has devolved into a scheme based on ringing a bell, and on the scandal and anger their non-stop salivating audience have become addicted to, and mistake for substance.

If Joe Biden should win, that scheme is dead. They may hope to last a bit longer on the angry scandal of a possible persecution of Trump if he leaves office, but that would be it, and that’s not a business model. They can’t very well now turn on Biden and his puppeteers.

New York Times writer and editor Bari Weiss said it very well when she left the paper a few weeks ago, she summarized the essence of the MSM problem in just a few words:

“[..] the lessons that ought to have followed the election – lessons about the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society—have not been learned. Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else”.


Why edit something challenging to our readers, or write something bold only to go through the numbing process of making it ideologically kosher, when we can assure ourselves of job security (and clicks) by publishing our 4000th op-ed arguing that Donald Trump is a unique danger to the country and the world?

 

That’s the media. Second in line is US intelligence. Which, there’s no other way to put it, conspired against a presidential candidate and, when he was elected, a sitting president. The Strzok-Page “insurance policy”, the Obama Oval Office conversations where Comey, Brennan, Clapper, Susan Rice were present, plus 1,000 other things, the overall picture doesn’t exactly point to that famous seamless transition, and US Intel played a pivotal, because accommodating, role in that.

The best way to show this is perhaps that US intelligence themselves did not (could not) come up with a report on alleged links between the -prospective- president’s team and Russia, but took a dossier paid for by the president’s opposition and used it to discredit and persecute him and people in his team. The dossier was written by a two-bit MI6 hustler who hadn’t set foot in Russia in at least a decade, and whose main ‘Russian source’ wasn’t there either, but sitting in an office in the US.

That source in turn had contacts with a group of Russians whose very business model it was to make up and embellish whatever stories the highest bidder required, while failing to deal with their own severe drinking problems. That dossier was the entire foundation (or 99% of it) behind Rod Rosenstein appointing Bob Mueller as a Special Counsel. The appointment would never have been made, never have been possible, without the Steele dossier.

 

How was the dossier vetted by US intelligence, if at all? It’s very clear now what was wrong with it, but the all knowing and very clever intelligence people could not have figured that out 4 years ago, and instead cleared it for Mueller, for further FBI use, for FISA applications? How about their treatment of Michael Flynn, who they had already cleared only to resurrect the dead corpse of their investigation into his talks with Russian ambassador Kislyak? How would you, personally, spell “in good faith”?

We will see in the near future what the Durham investigation into all Russiagate players will come to. Apparently, Durham has just another three weeks to present at least something, because there is a two-month “no-go-zone” before the election, during which he would be accused of tampering with the election. And the premise for the Democrats and their sympathizers is that if Biden wins, all slates will be wiped clean.

They won’t, by the way. America still has a justice system, even if it is oftentimes crippled and grinding(ly) slow. Just watch Michael Flynn attorney Sidney Powell and her team. They have vowed to not only have their client be exonerated, but to fully clear his name, which according to their view has been besmirched by everyone up to and including Joe Biden and Barack Obama.

 

The third leg of the “creature” is the Democratic party. Who have stepped so far over their boundaries, nobody recognizes anymore that there were any. Or that the political system they are an integral part of, dictates that there are things they cannot do, lest they corrupt that system to the core.

Once you lose a presidential election, you prepare for the next one. You don’t use the next 4 years to try and frustrate the president you just lost to with all you got. The system should not allow it and can not tolerate it. There should be skin in the game for opposition politicians, who when they come with accusations of gross misconduct serious enough to remove a president, should be forced to step down when the accusations don’t lead to the intended result.

It should never be a free for all, in which you can simply try again the next morning. Because the system cannot work if that is possible. It can’t be that if you win a midterm election and get a majority in the House, you can then use that majority to make it impossible for a president to work on the agenda that made millions vote for him/her. That would cause the system to grind to a halt, and the system must always be more important than its temporary participants (even those who “sit” for 40-50 years).

When you look at the speaker’s list for the Democrat -non- convention next week where Joe Biden will be confirmed as their -virtual- candidate, you see that other than AOC, it’s just a long list of the same old people who were already there when they lost in 2016, and co-losers Hillary and Obama still have a very tight grip on the power and the purse strings.

Why they stick with Joe Biden, g-d only knows, and the same goes for whichever highly unpopular black woman they pick as VP who could soon be president. And sorry, but they all are. Kamala Harris was among the first to step down during the primaries because she didn’t get any votes. Susan Rice is not exactly “loved by the people” either, and the rest are no-names, except for Warren, but she’s both too left and much too white.

So you’re thinking: what’s going on there? That’s really the best you can do? But it does seem to be, likely because Barackillary have a small group of confidantes to choose from who they themselves are confident will be willing to cede all actual power to them once elected. And if Harris and Rice don’t get picked as VP, they’ll still exert a lot of power.

As will Pelosi, Schiff, Nadler, there’s more new blood at Madame Tussaud’s than at the upper echelons of the Democratic party. Yes, AOC can come in to represent the squad in a cynical move (no power but brings in lots of votes), but that’s it. For the rest it’s still just the broken left wing of the war party. But you’re right, they’re none of them, Trump. And that at the same time is the sole identity they possess.

 

Anti-Trumpism has become a political religion. Because Trump is the only topic that attracts clickbait and viewers. The only topic that rings a bell. Joe Biden rings no bells whatsoever. A while back Donald Trump jr tweeted:

Trump is really running against the media, Silicon Valley, the establishment, the swamp, Hollywood and maybe Joe Biden.

While investor GreekFire23 did even better:

Trump is running against himself in this election. The vote will come down to those who love him vs those who hate him. Biden is totally irrelevant and not even campaigning. Biden has no platform, no slogan, no stickers, no signs, no rallies, no followers. It’s Trump vs Trump.

What can still sink Trump is obvious: it’s the economy and the pandemic. America’s problem is that no matter who wins, those will still be its main problems by January 2021. And another problem has been added in the course of 2020: protests and violence in the streets.

 

Update: I thought I could leave it at that for now, step out for a moment, have a glass of wine, let it all sink in, and write a closing paragraph. But then I was sitting outside in gorgeous Athens and this popped up, which I very obviously can’t leave out:

Senate Chairman Subpoenas FBI Director Wray For Russiagate Records; Puts Bidens On Notice

FBI Director Christopher Wray has been subpoenaed by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to produce “all documents related to the Crossfire Hurricane Investigation,” which includes “all records provided or made available to the Inspector General” regarding the FISA probe, as well as documents regarding the 2016-2017 presidential transition..

[..] The subpoena was issued by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) as part of his investigation into the origins of Russiagate. It gives Wray until 5 p.m. on Aug. 20 to produce the documents. Johnson also released a lengthy letter on Monday in which he defended his Committee’s investigation and accused Democrats of initiating “a coordinated disinformation campaign and effort to personally attack” himself and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in order to distract from evidence his committee has gathered on Joe and Hunter Biden’s Ukraine dealings.

[..] Johnson’s committee has secured testimony from at least one State Department official who worked in Ukraine, and says the Bidens’ conduct created the appearance of a conflict of interest. “The appearance of family profiteering off of Vice President Biden’s official responsibilities is not unique to the circumstances involving Ukraine and Burisma,” wrote Johnson. “Public reporting has also shown Hunter Biden following his father into China and coincidentally landing lucrative business deals and investments there.

“Additionally, the former vice president’s brothers and sister-in-law, Frank, James and Sara Biden, also are reported to have benefited financially from his work as well.

I can’t let that go because it addresses exactly what my closing paragraph would have been about. Which is the risk of the giant divide that has developed in US society, getting even wider, and potentially leading to utter mayhem. Actually, it’s not even ‘potentially’ anymore, there already has been a lot of violence.

The Democrats think they will win easily on November 3, and then push through all of their their policies, after dumping on Trump for 4 years with their media and intelligence friends, but the 63 million Americans who voted for Trump, and most of their family and friends with them, don’t think so. That’s not a threat, it’s an observation.

They feel cheated out of their 2016 victory. They realize (or should I say “suspect”) that Russiagate and the Mueller probe and the Zelensky-linked impeachment “hearings” were empty vessels directed against the election outcome that they won fair and square, and I guarantee you they won’t take it sitting down.

Which means that no matter who wins, polarization will reach levels America has never seen, and, frankly, should never wish to. Because all of the people involved, bar just a precious few, will have to live together in the same country, and share the same society, streets, highways, stores and resources.

And sometimes I wonder: how are they going to do that? If Trump should win, how will the entire so-called left react, from the Democrats through the MSM to BLM? Will they just increase the protests and the violence in the streets?

Alternatively, if Joe Biden wins, how will the Conservative side of America react? Will they all go home and wait for what the DNC has in store for them, or will their reaction be pro-active? I know which reaction I would see them lean towards.

You have these two sides in society who appear further apart than even Moses could have hoped to bring back together again, you have the media who thrive on widening that divide even further, it’s a scary picture.

 

And in the meantime, while everyone’s busy blaming each other, who’s going to take care of the country?

 

 

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, your support is now an integral part of the publishing process. Which seems only fair and just.

Thank you.

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Jun 232020
 


G. G. Bain Katherine Stinson, “the flying schoolgirl,” Sheepshead Bay Speedway, Brooklyn 1918

 

Protesters Fail To Bring Down Andrew Jackson Statue Near White House (R.)
To Kill A Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn Banned From Minnesota Syllabuses (SOTT)
WHO Reports Largest Single-Day Increase In COVID19 Cases (SCMP)
Mexico Reports 5,343 New Coronavirus Infections And 1,044 Deaths (R.)
Surge In Coronavirus Cases Linked To More Texans In Their 20s (TT)
Complete Shutdown Could Be Only Way To Stop Coronavirus in Utah (SacBee)
Judge’s Ruling Opens Door For Bolton To Be Sued Or Prosecuted (JTN)
Jerry Nadler Preparing To Subpoena Bill Barr (NBC)
Fired NY Prosecutor Given Biden-Ukraine Info In 2018, Didn’t Follow Up (JTN)
Ghislaine Maxwell Hiding Behind French Extradition Laws (ZH)
Bayer Wins Court Ruling Restricting California’s Roundup Warning (R.)
BlackRock, the New Great Vampire Squid (Ellen Brown)

 

 

I have a hard time getting back to the daily grind. Also think maybe I should adapt the format somewhat. It’s clear that the virus will be with us for a long time. Deaths are increasing again:

 

 

 

Worldometer reports new cases for June 22 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 138,975 .

 

 

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

https://twitter.com/DrEricDing/status/1274940547824783360

 

 

 

 

I told you guys: you’re going to have to rename the capital AND the country.

Protesters Fail To Bring Down Andrew Jackson Statue Near White House (R.)

Protesters tried tearing down a statue of Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, in a park near the White House on Monday, scrawling “killer scum” on its pedestal and pulling on the monument with ropes before police intervened. The confrontation unfolded in Lafayette Square, where crowds peacefully protesting the death of George Floyd under the knee of a police officer were forcibly displaced three weeks ago to make way for staged photos of President Trump holding up a bible in front of a nearby church. The thwarted effort to topple the famed bronze likeness of Jackson astride a rearing horse was the latest bid, in protests fuelled by Floyd’s death, to destroy monuments of historical figures considered racist or divisive.

President Donald Trump took to Twitter here saying that many people were arrested for the “disgraceful vandalism” in Lafayette Park and also for defacing the exterior of St. John’s Church. “Ten years in prison under the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act. Beware!” he warned. Monday’s incident began around dusk with scores of protesters, most wearing masks against coronavirus infection, breaking through a 6-foot-tall fence erected in recent days around the statute at the center of the park.

Protesters then climbed onto the monument, fastening ropes and cords around the sculpted heads of both Jackson and his horse and dousing the marble pedestal with yellow paint before the crowd began trying to yank the statute from its base. Dozens of law enforcement officers, led by U.S. Park Police, stormed into the square, swinging batons and firing chemical agents to scatter protesters. By dark, police had taken control and outnumbered demonstrators in the immediate area. Jackson, a former U.S. Army general nicknamed “Old Hickory,” served two terms in the White House, from 1829 to 1837, espousing a populist political style that has sometimes been compared with that of Trump.

Read more …

This is a story that has no beginning and no end. There are some pretty offensive stories in the Bible. Go for it.

To Kill A Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn Banned From Minnesota Syllabuses (SOTT)

Two classic American novels have been banned from syllabuses at schools in Minnesota, USA. The reason being a concern that racial slurs used in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, could make pupils feel “humiliated or marginalised”. According to The Telegraph, The Duluth school district, which includes over 20 schools, is removing the books from the curriculum for ninth and 11th grade English classes. However, copies of Lee and Twain’s classics will remain in the school libraries. While Duluth district’s curriculum director Michael Cary has said To Kill A Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn will be replaced by books that “teach the same lessons” without using racial slurs.

The American Library Association have listed the two novels as among the most banned books from 2001-2009, mainly due to the offensive language used by some characters. To Kill a Mockingbird deals with racial injustice in segregated 1930s Alabama. While Huckleberry Finn is set in the 19th century before slavery was abolished. The American Library Association stated that most of the complaints were from black parents concerned about books on the curriculum containing racial slurs. Both books were temporarily removed from Virginia schools in 2016 after a parental complaint. While just this October Mississippi schools banned To Kill a Mockingbird from their syllabuses. However, students with parental permission can take part in a study of Lee’s novel.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author died in 2016 after publishing just two books. The second was Go Set a Watchman, her first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, written decades ago and published in 2015. Amazon said it was their most pre-ordered book ever since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007. Last year, Harry Potter books were banned from a school in Nashville, Tennessee. According to The Tennessean, pupils at St Edward Catholic School will no longer be able to borrow JK Rowling’s fantasy books to read from its library. The magical adventures have been censored from the school library because of their content, after Reverend Dan Reehil, a pastor of the Roman Catholic school wrote an email voicing his concerns. The email said: “These books present magic as both good and evil, which is not true, but in fact a clever deception.”

Read more …

They did it only 3 days after I signaled this. Keep your eye on India, Mexico.

WHO Reports Largest Single-Day Increase In COVID19 Cases (SCMP)

The World Health Organisation on Sunday reported the largest single-day increase in coronavirus cases by its count, at more than 183,000 new cases in the latest 24 hours. The UN health agency said Brazil led the way with 54,771 cases tallied. The Brazilian government has since announced that the country’s death toll has passed 50,000. The US was next at 36,617 infections, while over 15,400 were in India. Experts said rising case counts can reflect multiple factors including more widespread testing as well as broader infection. Testing continues to be a contentious issue in the US, with a White House aide defending President Donald Trump’s latest remarks on the issue.

Trump had drawn criticism after saying at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday that the US has tested 25 million people, but the “bad part” is that it found more cases. “When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases,” Trump said. “So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please’.” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on CNN that Trump was being “tongue-in-cheek” and made the comment in a “light mood.” Democratic rival Joe Biden’s campaign accused Trump of “putting politics ahead of the safety and economic well-being of the American people”.

The US has the world’s highest number of reported infections, over 2.2 million, and the highest death toll, at about 120,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Health officials say robust testing is vital for tracking outbreaks and keeping the virus in check. Overall in the pandemic, WHO reported 8,708,008 cases – 183,020 in the last 24 hours – with 461,715 deaths worldwide, with a daily increase of 4,743. More than two-thirds of those new deaths were reported in the Americas. Brazil’s Health Ministry said on Monday that the country had a total of 1,085,038 confirmed cases and 50,617 deaths.

Read more …

This was on Sunday. Yesterday they had “only” 758 deaths.

Mexico Reports 5,343 New Coronavirus Infections And 1,044 Deaths (R.)

Mexico on Sunday reported 5,343 new infections and 1,044 additional deaths from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the health ministry said, bringing the totals for the country to 180,545 cases and 21,825 deaths. The government has said the actual number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

Read more …

Party!

Surge In Coronavirus Cases Linked To More Texans In Their 20s (TT)

Texans under the age of 30 are testing positive for the new coronavirus at a higher rate than previously seen since the pandemic began, contributing to a recent surge in the number of cases in the state, Gov. Greg Abbott said during a press conference Tuesday. Data from several counties and health experts confirms the trend in younger people testing positive across Texas. “There are certain counties where a majority of the people who are tested positive in that county are under the age of 30, and this typically results from people going to bars,” Abbott said during the conference. “That is the case in Lubbock County, Bexar County, Cameron County.” mAbbott said that it’s unclear why more young people are contracting the virus, but he speculated that it could be from increased activity over Memorial Day weekend, visits to bars or other types of social gatherings.


This comes as Texas businesses have begun to reopen with relaxed restrictions under Abbott’s executive orders. As of last Friday, restaurants can operate at 75% capacity, while almost all other businesses can operate at 50%. Texas water parks and amusement parks have been allowed to reopen as well. In recent weeks, thousands of Texans have also flooded the streets of some of the largest cities to protest police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death. One of the areas of concern Abbott mentioned was Hays County, where 476 of the 938 confirmed cases are people ages 20 to 29. People in their 20s accounted for 50.7% of all the cases in Hays County as of Monday, an increase from Friday, when the age group made up 42% of total cases.

Read more …

Not just in Utah, I would venture.

Complete Shutdown Could Be Only Way To Stop Coronavirus in Utah (SacBee)

With coronavirus cases climbing fast in Utah, the state’s top health official is warning that if something doesn’t change soon, a full-scale shutdown will be the only way to control the virus’ spread, outlets report. “We are quickly getting to a point where the only viable option to manage spread and deaths will be a complete shutdown,” a memo state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn shared with state and local health officials, said, according to KUTV Dunn went on to say that Utah must achieve an average daily case count of 200, for seven consecutive days, by July 1, KUTV reported, or else raise the threat level to orange.


Doing so “will send the message to Utahns that this outbreak continues to be a serious problem, and state leadership is committed to saving lives and preventing a complete economic shutdown.” Gov. Gary Herbert downgraded the alert status to yellow on May 15, and 12 days later, coronavirus spread began to accelerate, Dunn said, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. The memo, released on Friday, came the same day Gov. Herbert downgraded most of rural Utah’s status to green, the lowest alert level, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Read more …

“These guys shouldn’t be joining administrations to write books and enrich themselves..”

Judge’s Ruling Opens Door For Bolton To Be Sued Or Prosecuted (JTN)

John Bolton’s legal troubles may be far from over. The former National Security Advisor won a limited but notable victory in court Saturday when a federal judge ruled that he would not prevent his tell-all book, “The Room Where It Happened,” from being published. The Trump administration had sued to stop the book’s publication, claiming it contained classified information that would endanger national security if it were to be released to the general public. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled in favor of Bolton, stating that since the book has already been circulated among numerous journalists and media outlets the question of injunction was mostly moot. Yet he acknowledged in his ruling that Bolton may still have “expose[d] himself to criminal liability” in publishing the exposé.

Alan Dershowitz agreed. Dershowitz, the storied Harvard law professor and noted proponent of civil liberties, told Just the News on Saturday that there “may be a basis for a lawsuit against Bolton by the government.” Dershowitz pointed to the 1980 Supreme Court case Snepp v. United States as the controlling precedent. In that case, Frank Snepp — a CIA intelligence analyst in Saigon during the Vietnam War —published the book “Decent Interval” following his departure from the agency. The government sued Snepp over the book, which was drawn from an after-action report he had written for the CIA following his service in Saigon. The government argued that Snepp had broken his contractual obligation to submit his book to the CIA prior to publication.

The Supreme Court eventually ruled against Snepp, forcing him to surrender his monetary earnings to the federal government and enjoining him from future publication without prepublication review from the government. Dershowitz represented Snepp in the controlling case. “We argued the rule was unconstitutional. We lost,” he told Just the News. “I don’t approve of that decision,” he said. “I think it’s wrong on the law, and I think it’s wrong on the Constitution. But it may be a basis for a lawsuit against Bolton by the government.”

Kevin Brock, meanwhile — the former FBI assistant director for intelligence — suggested that it appeared Bolton had worked for the Trump administration just to line his own pockets. “Everybody who’s at the SCS level in government has to sign documentation that they’re not going to disclose information that they collect while they’re performing their duties without first getting approval,” Brock said. “It seems like more and more executives are ignoring that, and the courts haven’t really tested it or enforced it that I’m aware of.” “These guys shouldn’t be joining administrations to write books and enrich themselves,” he said. “It’s like they’re accepting jobs with an eye to enriching themselves after serving.”

Read more …

Sure, subpoena people who are willing to come voluntarily, and then talk about it on the Rachel Maddow show. Prediction: Barr will come when he wants, not Nadler.

Jerry Nadler Preparing To Subpoena Bill Barr (NBC)

The Democrat who leads the House Judiciary Committee is set to subpoena Attorney General William Barr for testimony early next month, NBC News has confirmed. Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., is preparing to subpoena testimony on July 2, a committee spokesperson confirmed Monday night. “We have begun the process to issue that subpoena,” Nadler said Monday night on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” News of the planned subpoena was reported earlier Monday by Axios. Barr has been criticized in recent days for the abrupt removal of the top prosecutor for the influential Southern District of New York, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, over the weekend.

Nadler said Sunday on CNN that Barr deserves to be impeached but that doing so would be a waste of time because the majority-Republican Senate would never convict him. Barr had been scheduled to testify before the Judiciary Committee in March, but his testimony was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. In a letter, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, acknowledged that Nadler intends to subpoena Barr, but he objected to it. “Attorney General Barr remains willing to testify voluntarily once the pandemic concludes,” wrote Jordan, a staunch ally of President Donald Trump’s. “Accordingly, there is no legitimate basis for you to compel his testimony at this time.”

Jordan also wrote that circumstances had not changed enough since March to warrant a subpoena. When Barr and House Democrats reached an agreement on testimony this spring, Democrats wrote that they planned to ask him about the Justice Department’s decision to overrule career prosecutors and propose a reduction in the prison sentence for Trump confidant Roger Stone.

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To be continued.

Fired NY Prosecutor Given Biden-Ukraine Info In 2018, Didn’t Follow Up (JTN)

Could the impeachment scandal have been prevented if the now-fired U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman had followed up on Ukrainian allegations about Joe Biden and his family in 2018? That’s the tantalizing question raised by emails from fall 2018 between an American lawyer and the chief federal prosecutor in Manhattan that were obtained by Just the News. The memos show that well before Ukrainian prosecutors reached out to Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s lawyer, in 2019 to talk about the Bidens and alleged 2016 election interference they first approached Berman’s office in New York in October 2018 via another American lawyer.

The memos show Little Rock, Ark., lawyer Bud Cummins, a former U.S. attorney himself, reached out at least five times in October 2018 to Berman seeking to arrange a meeting with then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko.Lutsenko, who emerged as a key figure in the impeachment scandal, wanted to confidentially share with federal prosecutors in New York evidence he claimed to possess that raised concerns about the Bidens’ behavior as well as alleged wrongdoing in the Paul Manafort corruption case. “Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko is offering to come to U.S. meet with high-level law enforcement to share the fruits of investigations within Ukraine which have produced evidence of two basic alleged crimes,” Cummins wrote Berman on Oct. 4, 2018, one day after the two had talked on the phone about the allegations.

The allegations included that Joe Biden had “exercised influence to protect Burisma Holdings” after his son Hunter and his son’s business partner Devon Archer had joined the Ukrainian gas company’s board of directors and “substantial sums of money were paid to them,” Cummins wrote. At the time Hunter Biden and Archer joined Burisma in 2014, the company was under criminal investigation in both England and Ukraine for alleged corruption. The British case was dropped in 2015, and the Ukraine cases were eventually settled in the final days of the Obama administration.

Joe Biden boasted during a 2018 public appearance that he forced the firing on Lutsenko’s predecessor, Viktor Shokin, back in 2016by threatening to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid to Ukraine. At the time, Shokin was leading the investigation into Burisma. Biden denies the investigation factored into his decision. Biden’s and Archer’s firm received more than $3 million in payments from Burisma between 2014 and 2016, bank records obtained by the FBI show.

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“Under French law anyone born on French soil is safe from extradition to another country, regardless of the alleged crime.”

Ghislaine Maxwell Hiding Behind French Extradition Laws (ZH)

Jeffrey Epstein’s accused ‘madam’ is reportedly holed up in a luxury apartment on Paris’s Avenue Matignon – just a five minute drive from the dead pedophile’s $8.6 million flat, according to the Daily Mail. Maxwell “is moving locations every month to keep private investigators off her tail and is staying at the residences of trusted colleagues and contacts,” according to a source. “She wants to remain in France for as long as she can to take advantage of extradition laws and has a huge network of contacts willing to keep her hidden,” they added. “Under French law anyone born on French soil is safe from extradition to another country, regardless of the alleged crime.”

It doesn’t mean she won’t be prosecuted for her links to Epstein but if she does end up facing charges it will be in France and not the US. The French apartment is linked to a Normandy-based business contact, according to the report. Epstein and Maxwell began dating in the early 1990s, after which she became his ‘madam’ and helicopter pilot – allegedly ferrying underage girls to his multiple properties around the world. In 2003, Epstein told a reporter with Vanity Fair that Maxwell was his “best friend.”

Maxwell comes from money. Her father was publisher Robert Maxwell – who himself faced accusations of being a Mossad double (and possibly triple) agent and a “bad character” who was “almost certainly financed by Russia,” according to the British Foreign Office. Robert Maxwell died in 1991 when he fell from his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine – however the circumstances surrounding his demise have been rife with speculation (including that it was a Mossad assassination – a theory which attorney and longtime Epstein associate Alan Dershowitz slammed in a 2003 op-ed). Ghislaine has been accused by three women of procuring and training young girls to perform massage and sexual acts on Epstein and his associates.

Read more …

Whenever Bayer wins, everyone else loses..

Bayer Wins Court Ruling Restricting California’s Roundup Warning (R.)

Bayer AG won a court ruling blocking California from requiring the German-based company to tell consumers that a chemical in its Roundup herbicide is known to cause cancer, Bloomberg News reported on Monday. A federal judge in Sacramento on Monday granted Bayer’s request to block the state from requiring the company or any businesses from providing a “clear and reasonable warning before exposing any individual to glyphosate,” the report said. Bayer, which acquired Roundup manufacturer Monsanto in a $63 billion deal in 2018, to date has faced three juries over claims that Roundup causes cancer. The company has denied the allegations made by more than 42,700 plaintiffs in the United States, saying decades of studies have shown Roundup and glyphosate are safe for human use.

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“It is the world’s largest asset manager and “shadow bank,” larger than the world’s largest bank (which is in China)..”

BlackRock, the New Great Vampire Squid (Ellen Brown)

To most people, if they are familiar with it at all, BlackRock is an asset manager that helps pension funds and retirees manage their savings through “passive” investments that track the stock market. But working behind the scenes, it is much more than that. BlackRock has been called “the most powerful institution in the financial system,” “the most powerful company in the world” and the “secret power.” It is the world’s largest asset manager and “shadow bank,” larger than the world’s largest bank (which is in China), with over $7 trillion in assets under direct management and another $20 trillion managed through its Aladdin risk-monitoring software. BlackRock has also been called “the fourth branch of government” and “almost a shadow government”, but no part of it actually belongs to the government.

Despite its size and global power, BlackRock is not even regulated as a “Systemically Important Financial Institution” under the Dodd-Frank Act, thanks to pressure from its CEO Larry Fink, who has long had “cozy” relationships with government officials. BlackRock’s strategic importance and political weight were evident when four BlackRock executives, led by former Swiss National Bank head Philipp Hildebrand, presented a proposal at the annual meeting of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in August 2019 for an economic reset that was actually put into effect in March 2020. Acknowledging that central bankers were running out of ammunition for controlling the money supply and the economy, the BlackRock group argued that it was time for the central bank to abandon its long-vaunted independence and join monetary policy (the usual province of the central bank) with fiscal policy (the usual province of the legislature).

They proposed that the central bank maintain a “Standing Emergency Fiscal Facility” that would be activated when interest rate manipulation was no longer working to avoid deflation. The Facility would be deployed by an “independent expert” appointed by the central bank. The COVID-19 crisis presented the perfect opportunity to execute this proposal in the US, with BlackRock itself appointed to administer it. In March 2020, it was awarded a no-bid contract under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to deploy a $454 billion slush fund established by the Treasury in partnership with the Federal Reserve. This fund in turn could be leveraged to provide over $4 trillion in Federal Reserve credit. While the public was distracted with protests, riots and lockdowns, BlackRock suddenly emerged from the shadows to become the “fourth branch of government,” managing the controls to the central bank’s print-on-demand fiat money.

Read more …

 

 

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– Charles Bukowski

 

 

https://twitter.com/i/status/1274974090466639877

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Jun 032020
 


DPC ‘On the beach, Palm Beach’ 1905

 

New Zealand Could Return To Normal Life As Early As Next Week (R.)
Coronavirus May Be a Blood Vessel Disease, Which Explains Everything (M.)
Charting Sweden’s Disastrous No-Lockdown Strategy (Ind.)
Brazil Sets Another Record For Daily Coronavirus Deaths (R.)
Greece Suspends Qatar Flights After 12 On One Plane Test Positive (K.)
Handheld High-Intensity UV Lamp Could Kill Coronavirus Once And For All (RT)
Lancet Issues Major Disclaimer On Anti-HCQ Study (ZH)
The Great Unequalizer (El-Erian/Spence)
Food Bank Parcels For Scottish Children ‘At Record High’ (BBC)
What The Flynn Transcripts Do Not Contain: A Crime (Turley)
The 10 Most Important Questions For Rod Rosenstein (Solomon)
Jerry Nadler Moves To Cut Bill Barr’s Budget By $50 Million (R.)
Will Italy Be The Next Country To Leave the EU? (Antonopoulos)
Where Did Policing Go Wrong? (Taibbi)
Police Didn’t Spend Millions On Tank Just To Let Protests Stay Peaceful (Onion)

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 21,608
• Brazil + 28,832
• Russia + 8,952
• India + 8,272
• Peru + 4,845
• Pakistan + 4,065

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Number of cases seems extremely low at less than 80K vs well over 100K for the past week.

Cases 6,474,289 (+ 79,973 from Saturday’s 6,394,316)

Deaths 382,914 (+ 4,948 from Saturday’s 377,966)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

While 99% of the rest of the world stumbles on with no end in sight.

New Zealand Could Return To Normal Life As Early As Next Week (R.)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday she could lift all social distancing measures to return the country to normal life, bar the international border closure, as early as next week. Ardern will decide on Monday whether the country is ready to shift to alert level 1, more than two months after she imposed a strict level 4 lockdown, shutting most businesses and forcing people to stay home, in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Arden said waiting until Monday would allow her to see if recent changes, like the removal of restrictions on the number of people in bars and at social gatherings, had led to a rise in cases. “If it hasn’t, then we will be in a good position to move,” she said during a televised news conference.


Under level 1 there is no requirement for physical distancing or limits on the number of people allowed in places like bars, clubs, churches, and sports venues, she said. However, there would be one major change from pre-pandemic normality, with no immediate plans to reopen New Zealand’s border. New Zealand recorded no new cases of coronavirus for a 12th consecutive day on Wednesday and has just one active case. Ardern’s decision to swiftly impose one of the harshest lockdowns in the world has been credited with constraining the spread of COVID-19 in New Zealand, which has reported a total of 1,504 cases and 22 deaths.

Read more …

Nothing explains everything, but the angle remains interesting.

Coronavirus May Be a Blood Vessel Disease, Which Explains Everything (M.)

In April, blood clots emerged as one of the many mysterious symptoms attributed to Covid-19, a disease that had initially been thought to largely affect the lungs in the form of pneumonia. Quickly after came reports of young people dying due to coronavirus-related strokes. Next it was Covid toes — painful red or purple digits. What do all of these symptoms have in common? An impairment in blood circulation. Add in the fact that 40% of deaths from Covid-19 are related to cardiovascular complications, and the disease starts to look like a vascular infection instead of a purely respiratory one. Months into the pandemic, there is now a growing body of evidence to support the theory that the novel coronavirus can infect blood vessels, which could explain not only the high prevalence of blood clots, strokes, and heart attacks, but also provide an answer for the diverse set of head-to-toe symptoms that have emerged.

“All these Covid-associated complications were a mystery. We see blood clotting, we see kidney damage, we see inflammation of the heart, we see stroke, we see encephalitis [swelling of the brain],” says William Li, MD, president of the Angiogenesis Foundation. “A whole myriad of seemingly unconnected phenomena that you do not normally see with SARS or H1N1 or, frankly, most infectious diseases.” “If you start to put all of the data together that’s emerging, it turns out that this virus is probably a vasculotropic virus, meaning that it affects the [blood vessels],” says Mandeep Mehra, MD, medical director of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Heart and Vascular Center.

In a paper published in April in the scientific journal The Lancet, Mehra and a team of scientists discovered that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can infect the endothelial cells that line the inside of blood vessels. Endothelial cells protect the cardiovascular system, and they release proteins that influence everything from blood clotting to the immune response. In the paper, the scientists showed damage to endothelial cells in the lungs, heart, kidneys, liver, and intestines in people with Covid-19. “The concept that’s emerging is that this is not a respiratory illness alone, this is a respiratory illness to start with, but it is actually a vascular illness that kills people through its involvement of the vasculature,” says Mehra.

SARS-CoV-2 is thought to enter the body through ACE2 receptors present on the surface of cells that line the respiratory tract in the nose and throat. Once in the lungs, the virus appears to move from the alveoli, the air sacs in the lung, into the blood vessels, which are also rich in ACE2 receptors. “[The virus] enters the lung, it destroys the lung tissue, and people start coughing. The destruction of the lung tissue breaks open some blood vessels,” Mehra explains. “Then it starts to infect endothelial cell after endothelial cell, creates a local immune response, and inflames the endothelium.”

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“The rolling seven-day average for new confirmed deaths per million people in Sweden is now nearly twice that of the US..”

Charting Sweden’s Disastrous No-Lockdown Strategy (Ind.)

Sweden has taken the ignominious title of the country with the world’s highest death rate from Covid-19. The title, which was was briefly held by the UK late last month, comes after Swedish officials decided to ignore the lockdown advice of countless health experts and kept the country largely open during the pandemic. The number of deaths per capita in Sweden is now more than four-times that of its Nordic neighbours. And while its death toll of around 4,500 is a fraction of other badly affected countries like the US (105,000) and the UK (38,000), it is the death rate that reveals the true impact of Sweden’s no-lockdown approach. The rolling seven-day average for new confirmed deaths per million people in Sweden is now nearly twice that of the US, and more than five-times that of France, which had the highest death rate in the world in April.

France imposed a strict lockdown, similar to those of Italy and Spain, in an attempt to contain severe outbreaks of the deadly virus. These lockdowns have proven to be an extremely effective strategy in the fight against coronavirus, with death rates dropping drastically in all of the countries that imposed them. Countries that pre-empted large-scale outbreaks with early lockdowns, such as New Zealand, appear to have almost entirely eliminated the virus.

Yet while social distancing, PPE advice and other containment measures have helped slow the spread in Sweden, a lack of lockdown means the country’s infection rate shows no sign of falling. When Sweden is compared to other Nordic countries, the scale of the country’s coronavirus crisis seems even more pronounced.

Sweden’s hope has been to achieve herd immunity, whereby enough of the population has been infected that coronavirus can no longer spread widely. Yet studies in May suggest that Sweden is nowhere near the threshold needed to realise this. Experts claim that at least 60 per cent of the population would need to have Covid-19 antibodies before herd immunity is reached. The government had hoped for 20 per cent immunity by the end of May, but instead only 7.3 per cent have it. This is lower than most countries that enforced lockdowns, including the UK and US, yet with still no lockdown in place, the full impact for Sweden may still a long way from being realised.

Read more …

Rockin’ on.

Brazil Sets Another Record For Daily Coronavirus Deaths (R.)

Brazil registered another record number of novel coronavirus deaths over the last 24 hours, the health ministry said on Tuesday evening, as the pandemic in Latin America’s largest country shows no signs of slowing down. The nation registered 28,936 additional cases of the novel coronavirus, the ministry said, and 1,262 deaths. There are now 555,383 total confirmed coronavirus cases in Brazil and 31,199 coronavirus deaths. The fresh record comes as some Brazilian leaders, including right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, continue to belittle the virus, warning that the economic fallout from quarantine measures will be worse than the virus itself.


“We lament all deaths, but it’s everyone’s destiny,” Bolsonaro said in front of the presidential residence in Brasilia earlier on Tuesday. Even in states and cities where leaders had previously instituted lockdown orders, authorities have been rapidly loosening restrictions in recent days, despite the number of daily new cases continuing to grow in most regions.

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I don’t get why they let them in in the first place. Qatar entered the top 20 of most cases/infections over the past few days, with over 60,000 cases. Thing is, only 2.8 million people live there. For the US, with 117x more people, that would come down to over 7 million cases. Granted, Qatar reports only 43 total deaths. But how credible is that?

Greece Suspends Qatar Flights After 12 On One Plane Test Positive (K.)

Greece on Tuesday announced they were suspending flights to and from Qatar until mid-June, after 12 out of 91 passengers in a Qatar Airways flight that landed in Athens on Monday tested positive for the coronavirus. Nine of the infected passengers are Pakistani nationals, coming from the city of Gujrat, who have a Greek residence permit, two are Greek nationals coming from Australia and one person is a Japanese national and member of a Greek-Japanese family, the General Secretariat for Civil Protection said in a press release.


All passengers in the flight from Doha to Athens’ International Airport were tested and quarantined in hotels until they got their results back, in line with the current health protocols. Those infected will remain in the hotels for two weeks, while those who tested negative will have to stay for seven days as they are considered close high and low risk contacts, the authority said. Health officers will repeat the tests on the passengers who tested negative after a week.


Timeline of Greece measures

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As billions are thrown at everything everywhere, these people have an entire $90,000 in seed funding.

Handheld High-Intensity UV Lamp Could Kill Coronavirus Once And For All (RT)

We may have a powerful new weapon in the war against Covid-19, as a scientific breakthrough has paved the way for personal, handheld devices that emit high-intensity ultraviolet (UV) light capable of killing the coronavirus. Chemical or UV exposure are the most common methods of sanitizing and disinfecting surfaces from bacteria and viruses. In the latter case, there need to be sufficiently high levels of UV radiation – 200 to 300 nanometers – to kill the unwanted bugs. Such devices do exist at present, but are prohibitively expensive, use discharge lamps that contain mercury, are bulky and short-lived, and require a large amount of power to function. Not exactly ideal for scaling up to rid the world of Covid-19.

However, using theoretical modeling of a range of materials, researchers at Penn State, the University of Minnesota and two Japanese universities believe they have found the holy grail of transparent conductors, which could allow for cheap, easy-to-produce LEDs that emit UV light at a high enough intensity to kill coronavirus. Computer, smartphone and lighting manufacturers have often grappled with finding transparent electrode materials that function in the visible light spectrum, let alone the ultraviolet spectrum. But the researchers have settled on a substance called strontium niobate as the potential game-changer material.

“While our first motivation in developing UV transparent conductors was to build an economic solution for water disinfection, we now realize that this breakthrough discovery potentially offers a solution to deactivate Covid-19 in aerosols that might be distributed in the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems of buildings,” one of the researchers, Joseph Roth, a doctoral candidate in materials science and engineering at Penn State, explains. The researchers have secured $90,000 in seed funding to determine the ‘Goldilocks zone’ for UV intensity and exposure time to eradicate airborne viruses.

Read more …

The Lancet looks unprofessional.

Lancet Issues Major Disclaimer On Anti-HCQ Study (ZH)

The Lancet has issued a major disclaimer regarding a study which prompted the World Health Organization to halt global trials of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), an anti-Malaria drug currently being used around the world to treat COVID-19. As we noted last week, major data discrepancies have called the entire study into question – though the lead author says it does not change the study’s findings that patients who received HCQ died at higher rates and experienced more cardiac complications than without. Until the data has been audited, The Lancet issued the following “expression of concern” regarding the study.


“Important scientific questions have been raised about data reported in the paper by Mandeep Mehra et al,” reads the “expression of concern” from The Lancet. “Although an independent audit of the provenance and validity of the data has been commissioned by the authors not affiliated with Surgisphere and is ongoing, with results expected very shortly, we are issuing an Expression of Concern to alert readers to the fact that serious scientific questions have been brought to our attention. We will update this notice as soon as we have further information.” -The Lancet

Of course, this is yet more evidence of the manufactured disinformation surrounding HCQ that Richard Moss, MD, (via AmericanThinker.com) exposes below… I took hydroxychloroquine for two years. A long time ago as a visiting cancer surgeon in Asia, in Thailand, Nepal, India, and Bangladesh. From 1987 to 1990. Malaria is rife there. I took it for prophylaxis, 400 milligrams once a week for two years. Never had any trouble. It was inexpensive and effective. [..] Chloroquine, the precursor of HCQ, was invented by Bayer in 1934. Hydroxychloroquine was developed during World War II as a safer, synthetic alternative and approved for medical use in the U.S. in 1955.


The World Health Organization considers it an essential medicine, among the safest and most effective medicines, a staple of any healthcare system. In 2017, US doctors prescribed it 5 million times, the 128th most commonly prescribed drug in the country. There have been hundreds of millions of prescriptions worldwide since its inception. It is one of the cheapest and best drugs in the world and has saved millions of lives. Doctors also prescribe it for Lupus and Rheumatoid arthritis patients who may consume it for their lifetimes with few or no ill effects. Then something happened to this wonder drug.

[..] It began when President Trump discussed it as a possible treatment for COVID-19 on March 19, 2020. The gates of hell burst forth on May 18 when Trump casually announced that he was taking it, prescribed by his physician. Attacks on Trump and this otherwise harmless little molecule poured in. The heretofore respected, commonly used, and highly effective medicinal became a major threat to life, a nefarious and wicked chemical that could alter critical heart rhythms, resulting in sudden cataclysmic death for unsuspecting innocents. Trump, more than irresponsible, was evil incarnate for daring to even mention it. While at it, the salivating media trotted out the canard about Trump’s nonrecommendation for injecting Clorox and Lysol or drinking fish-tank cleaner to combat COVID. It was Charlottesville all over again.


[..] the media agonized over, of all things, the prolongation of the now infamous “QT interval,” and the risk of sudden cardiac death. The FDA and NIH piled on, piously demanding randomized, controlled, double-blind studies before physicians prescribed HCQ. No one mentioned that the risk of cardiac arrest was far higher from watching the Superbowl. Nor did the media declare that HCQ and chloroquine have been used throughout the world for half a century, making them among the most widely prescribed drugs in history with not a single reported case of “arrhythmic death” according to the sainted WHO and the American College of Cardiology.

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When the rich warn about society.

The Great Unequalizer (El-Erian/Spence)

As parts of the United States begin to open up after months of coronavirus lockdown, hope is rising that some semblance of economic normalcy could be on the near-term horizon. That hope could still be dashed by lingering health, business, and consumer uncertainties, any of which could slow recovery. But for the least fortunate segments of the population, more economic pain is a virtual certainty. Far from the “great equalizer” that some initially dubbed the pandemic, COVID-19 has walloped the U.S. economy in a way that exacerbated inequalities in income, wealth, and opportunity. Absent a timely policy response, this negative trend could begin to reinforce itself, as one debilitating setback for the disadvantaged increases the odds of another.

The data are stark and alarming, and they will get worse before they get better. GDP is set to contract by 30 percent or more this quarter. More than 40 million workers, or roughly a quarter of the U.S. labor force, have filed jobless claims in the last three months. The unemployment rate is likely to approach—and could even exceed—the 25 percent record set during the Great Depression. And all this despite an enormous fiscal and monetary policy relief effort that cost nearly $6 trillion, or 28 percent of U.S. GDP in 2019. The distributional features of the job and income losses are even more concerning. According to a recent survey by the Federal Reserve, 39 percent of workers in households with annual incomes below $40,000 have been laid off or furloughed.

Women have been hit especially hard, as have minorities: of the 20.5 million jobs that vanished in April, 55 percent belonged to women, pushing the unemployment rate for women to 15 percent and the rate for African American women and Hispanic women to 16.4 percent and 20.2 percent, respectively. There is no question that the pandemic has been an unequal opportunity unemployer. Those whose jobs have withstood the shock of COVID-19 are disproportionately in relatively high-paying professions that can accommodate work-from-home arrangements. According to researchers at the University of Chicago’s Becker Friedman Institute, roughly one-third of U.S. jobs can be done remotely, but there are enormous discrepancies by sector—discrepancies that widen further when adjusted for earnings. Whereas 76 percent of (mostly well-paid) finance and insurance jobs can be done from home, for example, the same is true for just three percent of (mostly low-paid) food and service sector jobs.

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The effects of the unequalizer.

Food Bank Parcels For Scottish Children ‘At Record High’ (BBC)

Food banks in Scotland say they have recorded the largest ever increase in emergency food parcels going to children during the pandemic. The Trussell Trust – which runs 83% of the country’s network – reported total deliveries were up 47% in April compared to the same period in 2019. This included a 62% increase in parcels going to children. The trust is now calling for the government to give help to low-income families, including a £250 lump sum. It also wants an extension of cash payments for children eligible for free school meals until schools reopen in August. The Scottish government said it had committed £350m of additional funding “to support those most at risk”.


A spokesman said it was also supporting over 175,000 children with access to free school meals. More than 100 organisations have signed up to a coalition urging the Scottish and UK governments to help “as widespread concern mounts for children’s wellbeing”. The group includes the Trussell Trust, the / Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) in Scotland and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). They want the UK government to introduce a/ temporary/ Coronavirus Emergency Income Support Scheme. The charities say this would “ensure/ everyone has/ enough money in their pocket for essentials during this crisis”.

Read more …

There was never a reason for the FBI to investigate Flynn. When they did anyway, they found nothing. And still here we are 40-odd months later, and he’s still not been cleared. People are going to pay for this.

What The Flynn Transcripts Do Not Contain: A Crime (Turley)

“Remember … Ambassador, you’re not talking to a diplomat, you’re talking to a soldier.” When President Trump’s incoming national security adviser, Michael Flynn, said those words to then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, he also spoke to American intelligence agents listening in on the call. For three years, congressional Democrats have assured us Flynn’s calls to Kislyak were so disturbing that they set off alarms in the closing days of the Obama administration. They were right. The newly released transcripts of Flynn’s calls are deeply disturbing — not for their evidence of criminality or collusion but for the total absence of such evidence. The transcripts, declassified Friday, strongly support new investigations by both the Justice Department and by Congress, starting with next week’s Senate testimony by former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

It turns out Flynn’s calls are not just predictable but even commendable at points. When the Obama administration hit the Russians with sanctions just before leaving office, the incoming Trump administration sought to avoid a major conflict at the very start of its term. Flynn asked the Russian to focus on “common enemies” in order to seek cooperation in the Middle East. The calls covered a variety of issues, including the sanctions. What was not discussed was any quid pro quo or anything untoward or unlawful. Flynn stated what was already known to be Trump policy in seeking a new path with Russia. Flynn did not offer to remove sanctions but, rather, encouraged the Russians to respond in a reciprocal, commensurate manner if they felt they had to respond.

The calls, and Flynn’s identity, were leaked by as many as nine officials as the Obama administration left office — a serious federal crime, given their classified status. The most chilling aspect of the transcripts, however, is the lack of anything chilling in the calls themselves. Flynn is direct with Kislyak in trying to tone down the rhetoric and avoid retaliatory moves. He told Kislyak, “l am a very practical guy, and it’s about solutions. It’s about very practical solutions that we’re — that we need to come up with here.” Flynn said he understood the Russians might wish to retaliate for the Obama sanctions but encouraged them not to escalate the conflict just as the Trump administration took office.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1268006146423623683

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Lindsey Graham has a reputation of scaring away from major questions. But he won’t be able to stop this anymore.

The 10 Most Important Questions For Rod Rosenstein (Solomon)

Two years ago, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein chafed when asked whether congressional Republicans might have legitimate reason to suspect the factual underpinnings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants that targeted Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in the Russia probe. Seeming a bit perturbed, Rosenstein launched into a mini-lecture on how much care and work went into FISA applications at the FBI and Justice Department. “There’s a lot of talk about FISA applications. Many people I’ve seen talk about it seem not to recognize that a FISA application is actually a warrant, just like a search warrant. In order to get a FISA warrant, you need an affidavit signed by a career law enforcement officer who swears the information is true … And if it is wrong, that person is going to face consequences,” Rosenstein asserted.

[..] On Wednesday, when he appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Rosenstein is likely to strike a humbler tone in the face of overwhelming evidence that the FBI-executed FISAs have been chronically flawed, including in the Russia case he supervised. “Even the best law enforcement officers make mistakes, and some engage in willful misconduct,” Rosenstein said in a statement issued ahead of his appearance. “Independent law enforcement investigations, judicial review and congressional oversight are important checks on the discretion of agents and prosecutors.” [..] Here are the 10 most important questions those senators are likely to set out to answer:

  1. Did Rosenstein read the FISA warrant renewal he signed in summer 2017 against Page, review any evidence supporting it, or ask the FBI any questions about the case before affixing his signature?
  2. Does the former No. 2 DOJ official now believe the FISA was so flawed that it should never have been submitted to the court? Does he regret signing it?
  3. Given what he now knows about flaws with the Steele dossier and FBI probe, would Rosenstein have appointed Robert Mueller as the Russia Special Counsel if given a do-over?
  4. Did Rosenstein engage in a conversation with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe in 2017 about wearing a wire on President Trump as part of a plot to remove the 45th president from office under the 25th Amendment?
  5. Who drafted and provided the supporting materials that Rosenstein used to create the scope of investigation memos that guided Mueller’s probe?
  6. Does Rosenstein have any concerns about the conduct of fired FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe as he looks back on their tenure and in light of the new evidence that has surfaced?
  7. When did Rosenstein learn that the CIA had identified Page as one of its assets — ruling out he was a Russian spy — and that information in Steele’s dossier used in the FISA warrant had been debunked or linked to Russian disinformation?
  8. Does Rosenstein believe the FISA court was intentionally misled, or can the glaring missteps be explained by bureaucratic bungling?
  9. What culpability does Rosenstein assign to himself for the failures in the Russia case he supervised, and what other people does he blame?
  10. Does the former deputy attorney general believe anyone in the Russia case should face criminal charges?

Read more …

Everything Nadler touches turns to failure. This will be no exception.

Jerry Nadler Moves To Cut Bill Barr’s Budget By $50 Million (R.)

The Democrat who chairs the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary committee said on Tuesday he will introduce legislation this week to cut $50 million in funding from Attorney General William Barr’s personal office. New York Representative Jerrold Nadler said he would move to reduce funding for Barr’s personal office as a response to what he called “continued defiance of Congress and improper politicization of the Department of Justice.” Nadler said he was making this move and others in the wake of Barr’s refusal to appear before his committee. Passing such a cut would require approval of both the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate.


“We do not take these actions lightly or with any sense of joy. We have both a duty and a moral obligation to protect the rule of law in our country, and we intend to do just that,” Nadler said. He complained that although Barr “could not find the time to testify” before his committee because of the coronavirus pandemic, the attorney general “took the time to tour the peaceful protests at Lafayette Park just minutes before riot police fired tear gas into the crowd.” A Justice Department spokesman said the Department informed the committee it would consider scheduling a committee appearance by Barr after the expiration at the end of June of current guidance requiring White House approval for such testimony. He added the Department also might be willing to discuss possible testimony by Barr’s deputy at a “a mutually agreeable date.”

Read more …

The pic is the cover of a Dutch magazine that says: “Not a nickel extra to Southern Europe”.

Will Italy Be The Next Country To Leave the EU? (Antonopoulos)

On May 27, the political movement Italia Libera submitted a constitutional bill to the Supreme Court of Cassation demanding a referendum for Italy to leave the EU. After years of discussions, the foundation stone was laid for Italians to debate whether they want to remain in the EU or follow the United Kingdom out of the bloc. The draft bill presented by Italia Libera to the Supreme Court of Cassation is entitled “Call for a referendum on the withdrawal of the state from the European Union.” Effectively, Italia Libera has demonstrated that it is possible to follow an institutional path to allow citizens to decide whether they want to remain in the EU or not – and for those who want to leave, now is the best time considering the massive decline in popularity for the bloc after their abandonment of Italy when it was at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

There are many positive aspects to the EU, most notably the free movement of people and a coordinated effort to fight crime through Europol, but these multilateral agreements can exist without a European Parliament and domineering institutions based in Brussels and Strasbourg. As Toppi explained, Italy imagined the EU to be “a community of peoples and not of bankers.” It is for this reason that they announced the bill on the same day an unprecedented European Union Recovery Fund became official. This fund was only established because of the backlash received due to the bloc’s initial disinterest in assisting already struggling economies of the EU that were being further devastated financially by the pandemic.

With widespread southern European dissatisfaction with how the EU abandoned its supposed liberal ideals, particularly Germany, in favour of serving inward self-interests, bloc leaders are now playing catch up. President of the European Commission and Angela Merkel’s right-hand man in previous German governments, Ursula Von Der Leyen, and the President of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, who was also a former member of the Troika of bankers, announced the unprecedented measures to assist Europe through its financial woes. This time they promised real aid that would not completely decimate state structures and entire economies like what happened to Greece, Spain, Portugal, and to a lesser extent Italy, for the entirety of the 2010’s.

The Governor of the Bank of Italy expects a 13% drop in GDP in 2020, and for this reason Toppi emphasized that Italy does not need any further indebtedness which will increasingly put Italy in the hands of international speculators. However, Italians remember that Lagarde announced on March 13, just as coronavirus was truly beginning to overwhelm hospitals, that the pandemic was an Italian problem only. This was the catalyst that saw ordinary Italians begin to remove EU flags from public display and replace them with Russian and Chinese flags in gratitude to the significant assistance that these two countries gave to Italy when it was abandoned by Brussels and Berlin.

Read more …

Cultures that have existed for centuries.

Where Did Policing Go Wrong? (Taibbi)

Watching all the terrible news in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, it’s been hard not to think about Eric Garner. The cases have so many similarities. Once again, an unarmed African-American man in his forties has been asphyxiated in broad daylight by a police officer with a history of abuse complaints. He and his fellow officers ignore cries of “I can’t breathe,” and keep subduing their target even after he stops moving, unconcerned that he’s being filmed. Five years ago, while sketching the outline for a book about the Garner case called I Can’t Breathe, my editor suggested I take on a larger question.

Why, he asked, do we even have police? After all, the history of policing in our country, especially as it pertains to minority neighborhoods, has always rested upon dubious justifications. The early American police forces evolved out of slave patrols in the South, and “progressed” to enforce the Black Codes from the Civil War period and beyond, on to Jim Crow through the late sixties if not longer. In an explicit way, American policing has almost always been concerned on some level with enforcing racial separatism. Because Jim Crow police were upholding a way of life, the actual laws they were given to enforce were deliberately vague, designed to be easily used as pretexts for controlling the movements of black people.

They were charged with punishing “idleness” or “impudence,” and encouraged to enforce a range of vagrancy laws, including such offenses as “rambling without a job” and “leading an idle, profligate, or immoral course of life.” I ended up not taking on that question, focusing on the hard-enough question of what had led two young, amped-up policemen to choke the life out of a harmless father and street character like Garner. I was more interested in those police than all police, and part of me – the white part, probably – thought the answer to the question of why we need police at all was at least somewhat self-evident.

Read more …

“I mean, the city wouldn’t buy a teacher a pencil and then tell them not to use it, right?

Police Didn’t Spend Millions On Tank Just To Let Protests Stay Peaceful (Onion)

In response to concerns that law enforcement officers were escalating violence in the nationwide George Floyd uprisings, Los Angeles Police Department officials announced Tuesday that they didn’t spend millions on an awesome tank just to let protests stay peaceful. “We got the city to drop, like, $10 million on this sick tank and you expect we’ll just let people stand there chanting?” said LAPD chief Michael Moore, adding there was “no way in hell” that the department would let something like peaceful demonstrations stop them from making use of the vehicle’s “totally tricked-out” weapons system, armor, and ability to ram through virtually everything in its path.


“I mean, the city wouldn’t buy a teacher a pencil and then tell them not to use it, right? This is the kind of hardware you just can’t let sit gathering dust—same with the grenade launchers, drones, and tear gas. We have whole storage bays full of projectiles and we’re supposed to just not use them? Get real. They wouldn’t give us all this killer stuff if we weren’t supposed to have a little fun.” LAPD officials added that the city’s residents deserved to witness the full scope of all the badass shit their tax dollars could do.

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 202020
 


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Nadler Says Dems Unwilling To Negotiate Hunter Biden Testimony (Fox)
Warren Joins Bernie in Jabbing Biden on Social Security (Pol.)
Lindsey Graham Broke My Heart’ (Amy Klobuchar)
John Durham Investigaties Months Before Mueller Appointment (WE)
India’s Half-Finished “Ghost Towns” Leave Middle Class In Crisis (ZH)
Boris Johnson Urged To Publish Report On Russian Meddling (G.)
World’s Richest 2,000 People Hold More Than Poorest 4.6 Billion Combined (R.)
UN Decarbonisation Target For Shipping To Cost Over $1 Trillion (R.)
Oil Firms Risk Public Backlash If Profits Put Before Climate, Says IEA (G.)
EU Could Waste €29bn On Gas Projects Despite Climate Action Plan (G.)
Huge Dust Storms In Australia Hit Central New South Wales (AAP)

 

 

Warming up for the fight. Get your gloves on, check ’em twice, practice some jabs in front of the mirror, have a last drink of water and let the trainer put in your mouthguard. This may get ugly.

Nadler Says Dems Unwilling To Negotiate Hunter Biden Testimony (Fox)

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., one of the House impeachment managers, dismissed on Sunday any notion that Democrats would be willing to negotiate on witnesses called during the Senate trial – adding that Republicans who want to block or negotiate what witnesses testify are “part of the cover-up.” Nadler, who as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee led the writing of the articles of impeachment brought against President Trump, said that all “relevant witnesses must be heard” and balked at the idea of Democrats agreeing to having former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter testify in exchange for the witnesses Democrats want to hear from.


“This whole controversy about whether there should be witnesses is really a question about does the Senate want to have a fair trial or are they part of the cover-up of the president,” Nadler said during an interview on CBS’ “Face The Nation.” Nadler added that “Hunter Biden has no knowledge of the accusations against the president.” “Any Republican senator who says there should be no witnesses, or even that witnesses should be negotiated, is part of the cover-up,” Nadler added.

Read more …

The Warren campaign has noticed Bernie’s gains after attacking Biden. They want a piece of the action.

Warren Joins Bernie in Jabbing Biden on Social Security (Pol.)

Elizabeth Warren hit Joe Biden for his past stances on changing Social Security and expressed solidarity with Bernie Sanders on the issue as the two liberal senators seek to move past their recent feud. “Bernie Sanders and I established the ‘Expand Social Security Caucus’ in the Senate,” Warren said in a quick interview as she hopped into her car outside a candidate forum in Iowa. “As a senator, Joe Biden had a very different position on Social Security, and I think everyone’s records on Social Security are important in this election.” Warren’s comments come as Sanders has been relentlessly bashing Biden for his past openness to freezing cost-of-living spikes or raising the retirement age as part of larger bipartisan deals — proposals that Sanders opposed during his time in Congress.


Warren linking arms with Sanders on the issue also comes after long-simmering tensions between the two exploded into the open this week. The campaigns have been trying to move on from the conflict — which climaxed Tuesday night when each accused the other of calling them a “liar” on the stage immediately following the debate —and are largely not responding to media questions about the rift. The Social Security issue provides a potential opportunity for a liberal tag-team against Biden as both senators have long fought to expand the program and have rolled out plans on the campaign trail.

Read more …

The NYT endorsed Warren and Klobuchar yesterday. Everyone yawned. At least seeing Klobuchar praise McCain and Poroshenko means there’s no doubt where she stands. War it is.

Lindsey Graham Broke My Heart’ (Amy Klobuchar)

Transcript from Sen. Amy Klobuchar interview with the editorial board of The New York Times:

Who has broken my heart? O.K., so here we go. Lindsey Graham’s broken my heart lately in the political system. Senator Lindsey Graham has transformed from a Trump critic, who called the president “xenophobic” and “race-baiting,” to one of his most staunch supporters. He told The Times Magazine, “If you don’t want to get re-elected, you’re in the wrong business.” Just because I like him and know him really well and traveled with him and Senator McCain all over the, all over the world. I’m just more thinking of Senator McCain and how much I miss him right now because I think he would have been really strong on Ukraine and on standing up against some of the things the president did and he’s no longer with us.

And Lindsey and McCain and I were actually on the front line with former President Poroshenko in a blizzard on New Year’s Eve, and I think about this now every New Year’s Eve — because John McCain wanted to show — after Trump got elected — wanted to show those countries that we were on their side. And so of course I was disappointed with how the Kavanaugh hearing was handled. I think everyone could see me on TV to see that, but I just hope that he has the ability to rise up here, and has a very important job right now as chair of the Judiciary Committee and certainly smart enough and has shown some tendency in the past to stand up for things and I just wish he would do it again when it comes to this conduct and a whole range of issues about our judicial system.

Read more …

Meanwhile, in the background:

John Durham Investigaties Months Before Mueller Appointment (WE)

A trail of documents has reportedly led Attorney General William Barr’s handpicked federal prosecutor to focus his inquiry into the origins of the Russia investigation on the first several months of President Trump’s tenure. John Durham, a U.S. attorney from Connecticut, is zeroing in on the period spanning from January 2017, when Trump took office, to May of that year. A “strong” paper trail, as CBS News senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge put it on Friday, has led the investigation into possible misconduct by federal law enforcement and intelligence officials to that time frame.

While Trump and his allies have championed Durham’s effort, Democrats have dismissed the allegations of wrongdoing during the Trump-Russia investigation and are concerned the inquiry may be an effort to discredit the work of special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump gave Barr full declassification authority for the endeavor. Barr and Durham have traveled around the world for the investigation, and Durham’s team has already asked witnesses about possible anti-Trump bias among former FBI officials.

The secretive DOJ inquiry includes scrutiny of former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former FBI special agent Peter Strzok, and British ex-spy Christopher Steele. In October, it was reported that Durham was expanding the scope of his investigation, adding agents and resources, to examine the post-election timeline up to the appointment of Mueller as special counsel in May 2017. The “investigation into the investigators” was reported to be upgraded to a criminal inquiry later that month, which would give Durham the power to impanel a grand jury and hand down indictments. Durham has also reviewed the Intelligence Community’s conclusions about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Little else is known about the investigation other than that Durham is exploring whether a crime was committed by Kevin Clinesmith, a former FBI lawyer who was found by the Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to have altered a document during the FBI’s efforts to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant renewal to continue wiretapping onetime Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Among those known to be cooperating with Barr is retired Adm. Michael Rogers, the former director of the National Security Agency who has a history of uncovering FISA violations.

Read more …

US, EU, China, India, everyone gets their turn.

India’s Half-Finished “Ghost Towns” Leave Middle Class In Crisis (ZH)

If you thought the American housing market was a mess during the immediate aftermath of the collapse, wait until you read about what’s going in India. Rapid economic growth and the government’s gradual economic liberalization have caused the ranks to India’s middle class to boom. The emerging Hindu middle class is already reshaping Indian society: Prime Minister Narendra Modi owes his electoral victories to this group, and his reform agenda was designed with the goal of sheparding even more of the country’s 1.4 billion citizens into the higher income bracket.

Modi’s first term included several important reforms, including simplifying India’s byzantine tax system and instituting a simplified system for taxing goods and services (though some argue that it must still be simplified further. He’s also helped modernize the country’s bankruptcy laws. But as the country’s growing wealth has sparked a flight from India’s crowded urban slums to its more spacious suburbs, they’re struggling with a shortage of homes, a shortage that has been made even more intense thanks to roughly half a million apartments that have been sitting unfinished for years.

Across the country, outside major cities like New Delhi and Mumbai, hundreds of developments have been stranded by developers, many of which have declared bankruptcy, or simply run out of money to finish the projects, according to the Wall Street Journal. India’s banks, already saddled with bad loans, are refusing to lend any more money to the developers. As a result, millions of Indians who put up their life savings as a down payment on a new, yet-to-be-built apartment have essentially been left bereft, with no money and nowhere to live. Most are now making ends meet by cutting out any and all luxuries, and relying on friends and family, as they wait to see if the apartments they paid for will ever be finished.

Read more …

If the Royal Family can’t unite the nation, there’s always the Big Bad Wolf.

Boris Johnson Urged To Publish Report On Russian Meddling (G.)

The SNP’s leader at Westminster has written to Boris Johnson demanding that he take immediate steps to allow the suppressed report into Russia’s interference in the British political system to be published. Ian Blackford, the leader of the third-largest party in the Commons, called on the prime minister to begin appointing members of parliament’s intelligence and security committee, necessary to allow the controversial document to be released. “It is unacceptable that your government has repeatedly and intentionally failed to take steps to establish the committee and has sought to escape scrutiny on vital issues,” Blackford writes in a letter that has been shared with the Guardian.

“The public interest and the imperative is and has always been clear: lift your sanction on publishing this report and re-establish the intelligence and security committee so that it can be immediately published,” the SNP MP added. A report on Russia’s spying activities against the UK and its attempts to penetrate the British establishment had been prepared by the committee in the last parliament, and had been made ready to publish when the election was called. Members of the committee saw evidence of Russian infiltration in Conservative political circles, but it is unclear how much of that concern reached the final document, which some sources say was watered down even before it went to Johnson.

Ministers have repeatedly said there are no examples of “successful Russian interference” in the 2016 EU referendum or an election, although there is scepticism as to whether that has been properly investigated. The report was nevertheless awaiting final clearance from Downing Street, to check it did not contain any classified information, when the election was called. No 10 said it was not possible to clear it in time, a point disputed by the previous chairman of the committee, former MP Dominic Grieve. Downing Street eventually said after the election that the report was cleared. But its release depends on the appointment of nine cross-party backbench MPs and peers to the committee’s membership, a task that falls to Johnson after consulting with other parties.

Read more …

And what are you going to do about it?

World’s Richest 2,000 People Hold More Than Poorest 4.6 Billion Combined (R.)

The world’s richest 2,153 people controlled more money than the poorest 4.6 billion combined in 2019, while unpaid or underpaid work by women and girls adds three times more to the global economy each year than the technology industry, Oxfam said on Monday. The Nairobi-headquartered charity said in a report released ahead of the annual World Economic Forum of political and business leaders in Davos, Switzerland, that women around the world work 12.5 billion hours combined each day without pay or recognition. In its “Time to Care” report, Oxfam said it estimated that unpaid care work by women added at least $10.8 trillion a year in value to the world economy – three times more than the tech industry.


“It is important for us to underscore that the hidden engine of the economy that we see is really the unpaid care work of women. And that needs to change,” Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India, told Reuters in an interview. To highlight the level of inequality in the global economy, Behar cited the case of a woman called Buchu Devi in India who spends 16 to 17 hours a day doing work like fetching water after trekking 3km, cooking, preparing her children for school and working in a poorly paid job. “And on the one hand you see the billionaires who are all assembling at Davos with their personal planes, personal jets, super rich lifestyles,” he said.

Read more …

Davos counts in trillions. This is just shipping. And that is just 2.2% of CO2 emissions.

UN Decarbonisation Target For Shipping To Cost Over $1 Trillion (R.)

At least $1 trillion of investment in new fuel technology is needed to enable the shipping industry to meet U.N. targets for cuts in carbon emissions by 2050, a study published on Monday showed. The global shipping fleet, which accounts for 2.2% of the world’s CO2 emissions, is under pressure to reduce those emissions and other pollution. About 90% of world trade is transported by sea. U.N. shipping agency, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), aims to reduce the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50% from 2008 levels by 2050, a target that will require the swift development of zero or low emission fuels and new ship designs using cleaner technology.

In the first study into costs, researchers estimated that the cumulative investment needed between 2030 and 2050 would be between $1 trillion to $1.4 trillion, or an average of $50 billion to $70 billion annually for 20 years. If the shipping industry was to fully decarbonise by 2050, this would require further investment of some $400 billion over 20 years, bringing the total to $1.4 trillion to $1.9 trillion. “Our analysis suggests we will see a disruptive and rapid change to align to a new zero carbon system, with fossil fuel aligned assets becoming obsolete or needing significant modification,” said Tristan Smith, reader at University College London’s (UCL) Energy Institute, which was involved in the study.

Apart from more than a decade of tough market conditions, the shipping industry is also contending with the exit of many European banks from providing finance, leaving a capital shortfall of tens of billions of dollars annually. Around 87% of investments needed would be in land-based infrastructure and production facilities for low-carbon fuels, the study said. This includes investments in the production of low-carbon fuels as well as the land-based storage and bunkering infrastructure needed for their supply. The remaining 13% of investments are related to the ships themselves including the machinery and onboard storage required for a ship to run on low-carbon fuel. “Sustainable investing is here to stay,” said Michael Parker, chairman of Global Shipping Logistics & Offshore at Citigroup.

Read more …

Let’s see what shareholders have to say.

Oil Firms Risk Public Backlash If Profits Put Before Climate, Says IEA (G.)

The world’s energy watchdog has warned the oil and gas industry that it risks a public backlash by failing to act on the climate crisis in favour of making short-term profits. The International Energy Agency (IEA) said oil companies must balance their desire for near-term returns and a long-term future by playing a much more significant role in combating the climate crisis. The IEA is preparing to make its most direct call for oil companies to help tackle the climate crisis at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos on Tuesday. The oil and gas industry faces “twin threats” to its financial profitability and social acceptability, according to the IEA.


“There are already signs of both, whether in financial markets or in the reflexive antipathy towards fossil fuels that is increasingly visible in the public debate, at least in parts of Europe and North America,” it said. Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said: “No energy company will be unaffected by clean-energy transitions. Every part of the industry needs to consider how to respond. Doing nothing is simply not an option.” The report said that although some oil and gas companies have taken steps to support efforts to combat the climate crisis, the industry as a whole could play a much more significant role. Oil companies could do more now to help shrink the industry’s giant carbon footprint but most companies were yet to play a meaningful role, according to the report.

Read more …

Basically: be careful what you waste our money on.It’s fine to waste those €29bn on that climate action plan.

EU Could Waste €29bn On Gas Projects Despite Climate Action Plan (G.)

The European Investment Bank risks wasting €29bn (£25bn) of EU taxpayers’ money by overinvesting in gas projects which will be unnecessary under Europe’s climate action plans, according to a report. The EIB vowed late last year to end its support for fossil fuels within the next two years to become the world’s first “climate bank”, but 32 gas projects are still eligible for funding before the crackdown. The majority of these projects would waste billions of euros of taxpayers’ money, according to Artelys, an independent data science company, because they would be left as “stranded assets” in the move towards cleaner energy.

The report warns that gas investments will be unnecessary in the decades ahead because Europe already has enough infrastructure – such as pipelines and processing plants – to meet the continent’s future demand. The European commission set out a sweeping Green Deal plan late last year which aims to create a carbon-neutral EU by 2050, in part by increasing renewable energy and energy efficiency. Under Europe’s climate action roadmap, gas demand is expected to fall by almost 30% by 2030 compared with 2015 levels. But even in scenarios in which gas demand climbs higher, the report found that new investments in gas infrastructure would be “superfluous” from an economic perspective.

[..] Claude Turmes, Luxembourg’s energy minister, said it “makes absolutely no sense” that EU decision-makers are supporting investments in new gas infrastructure with public funds. “This report debunks the argument that these investments would be needed for the EU’s security of gas supply. We risk wasting €29bn on future stranded assets while locking our energy system into fossil gas addiction for the next 40 years,” he said.

Read more …

Some 90 years after the US dust bowl.

Huge Dust Storms In Australia Hit Central New South Wales (AAP)

Damaging winds produced by thunderstorms across central New South Wales have whipped up dust storms that turned daytime into night in some towns. The Bureau of Meteorology issued a series of severe thunderstorm warnings on Sunday evening for inland NSW with the associated winds generating massive dust clouds. Videos posted to social media showed dust storms descending on Dubbo and nearby towns that were so thick they blocked out the sun. A gust of 94 km/h was recorded at Parkes about 6.30pm while a gust of 107 km/h was recorded at Dubbo about 7.45pm, the bureau said.


A bureau meteorologist, Rose Barr, said Sunday’s significant rain was concentrated across central and northern parts of the state on, and east, of the ranges. Rain and hail also lashed Victoria, sparking almost 1500 calls for assistance with more severe weather on the way as bushfires continue. The State Emergency Service received 1453 calls for assistance since Sunday morning, more than 1000 of them for building damage. Many towns on the NSW mid-north coast and the northern rivers regions received between 100mm and 180mm from 9am to 10.30pm on Sunday. In the southern part of the state, high winds saw storms race overhead quickly, resulting in lower measured falls.

Read more …

Social behaviour of striped catfish.

 

 

 

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Dec 052019
 


Pablo Picasso Couple on a bench 1943

 

No no no, I want to do something else, but they won’t let me. There are just too many assumptions, opinions, interpretations and hearsay that linger on in what I see, and I can’t let that just go now that we’ve come so far. Nancy Pelosi just now:

The California congresswoman told Thursday morning’s news conference: “The facts are uncontested. The president abused his power for his own political benefit at the expense of our national security , by withholding military aid and a crucial Oval Office meeting in exchange for an announcement for an investigation into his political rival.”

No, “the facts are NOT uncontested”. The one Constitutional judge the Dems allowed yesterday that they did not pick, Jonathan Turley, made that abundantly clear. Why “allow” him to speak at all if you’re going to drown him out anyway? Turley also made it very clear that he voted for Obama and Clinton, not the GOP that invited him. He simply doesn’t approve of the process that’s taking place. But he did “contest” the “facts”.

Meanwhile, Jerry Nadler, tag teaming from Adam Schiff as head of the Judiciary Committee said:

The committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, said that Trump was the first president to engage in conduct that met all three criteria for impeachment contemplated by the framers of the constitution: abuse of power, betrayal of national security, and interference in the conduct of elections. “Never before has a president engaged in a course of conduct that included all the acts that most concerned the framers,” Nadler said. Nadler was echoed by witnesses including Gerhardt. “If Congress fails to impeach here, then the impeachment process has lost all meaning, and, along with that, our constitution’s carefully crafted safeguards against the establishment of a king on American soil,” Gerhardt said.

Okidoki, let’s take a look. “Abuse of Power”. That’s a very broad stroke, it could mean anything really. What they mean is Trump asked Zelensky to look into – Hillary-linked- Crowdstrike and Joe Biden. And their interpretation of that is that this constitutes asking a foreign government to look into not a past, but a future election. Thing is, where’s the proof? I’ve seen the tape, read the relevant part of the transcript, and it’s not there. One may think or feel it is, but that’s not the same thing.

“Betrayal of National Security”. What they mean here is Trump delaying military aid to Ukraine. But there is no evidence he did that to get Zelensky to start probing Biden. That’s just a story. Moreover, Obama withheld “lethal aid” to Ukraine for a very long time. Where were the Dems shrieking about national security back then? Trump was the one to reverse that policy. It’s upside down world.

“Interference in the conduct of elections”. Really? After Crowdstrike and Fusion GPS and Christopher Steele, you sure you want to make this point?

 

More from yesterdays’ “Law experts”:

Prof Feldman testified that the “evidence clearly constitutes” an impeachable offence because Mr Trump’s interactions with Ukraine show him “corruptly using the powers of the presidency for personal political gain”.

Eh, no, they don’t. That’s opinion, not fact. Trump, again, asked Zelensky to look into Crowdstrike and Burisma, because the White House had a hard time figuring out what went on with both. Impeachable? Personal political gain? Both are very much up in the air. Nothing that “clearly constitutes” anything.

Mr Trump has attacked the “safeguards against establishing a monarchy in this country”, Prof Gerhardt stated. “The president’s serious misconduct, including bribery, soliciting a personal favour from a foreign leader in exchange for his exercise of power, and obstructing justice and Congress are worse than the misconduct of any prior president, including what previous presidents who faced impeachment have done or been accused of doing,” he said in his opening remarks. “If what we’re talking about here is not impeachable, nothing is impeachable,” he added.

Gerhardt introduces, and I betcha he didn’t think of this himself, if only because Pelosi used the same meme today, the idea that Trump wants to be a monarch. They do this because the Framers in 1776 had such worries vis a vis the British crown. In 2019, though, it’s a ridiculous notion. But they use it because Trump may one day want to crown himself. No kidding.

Prof Turley, who was chosen as a witness by Republicans, said he disagreed with Mr Trump’s conduct but “this is not how an American president should be impeached”. He also warned that Democrats are setting a dangerous precedent. “I get it. You are mad. The President is mad. My Democratic friends are mad. My Republican friends are mad….” he said. “We are all mad and where has it taken us? Will a slipshod impeachment make us less mad or will it only give an invitation for the madness to follow in every future administration?”


[..] Jonathan Turley, picked by the Republicans, acknowledged that the president’s actions were far from “perfect,” but lamented the anger in American politics and warned that action in this case would dangerously lower the bar for impeachable conduct for future presidents.

There’s your contest to what Pelosi said is “uncontested”. The sole voice of reason, outnumbered 3 to 1, by design. Designed so that Pelosi can claim something is “uncontested”. And there’s still more Pelosi, and lo and behold, it involved Putin:

Pelosi Says Impeachment Inquiry Is About Russia, Not Ukraine

Asked by a reporter whether there was an “aha” moment when she decided to back impeachment, Nancy Pelosi said the decision has been slowly building for more than two years — since the start of the Russia investigation. This is a noteworthy comment because some Republicans have argued the inquiry is moving far too quickly, an opinion echoed yesterday by a legal witness called by the House minority yesterday. “This isn’t about Ukraine; this is about Russia, who benefitted from the withholding of that military assistance,” Pelosi said. She then added her oft-repeated line about the investigation, “All roads lead to Putin.”

I was going to get into the insane RussiaRussia rant by Democrat donor “law expert” Pamela Karlan, but let it go, it’s plenty obvious by now who these people are.

Matt Taibbi: “We laughed at this logic when George W. Bush used it to justify his Mideast wars: “We will fight them over there so we do not have to face them in the United States of America.”

Michael Tracey: “This woman was ostensibly called to testify about the legal and Constitutional questions around impeachment and instead ends up going on a bizarre Cold Warrior rant implying that Russia plans to invade the United States”

 

Just one last thing, the final nail in Joe Biden’s coffin, who I never thought Trump was worried about in the least, but that’s the Ukraine story don’t you know, is John Kerry now endorses him. Please John, don’t, you’re going to kill me! There’s not enough people who like ketchup that much! Let alone Hillary!

“I’m not endorsing Joe because I’ve known him a long time. I’m endorsing him because I know him so well,” Kerry told the Washington Post. “The world is broken. Our politics are broken. The country faces extraordinary challenges. “And I believe very deeply that Joe Biden’s character, his ability to persevere, his decency and the experiences that he brings to the table are critical to the moment. The world has to be put back together, the world that Donald Trump has smashed apart.”


Kerry specifically cited Trump’s performance this week at the Nato summit in London as a reason why the country needed Biden. “The petulance and smallness and ridicule that he invited is very dangerous for all of us,” Kerry said. “And that just underscores the urgency of people recognizing the assets that Joe Biden brings to the table.”

There’s so much more I could write here about the “experts” paraded in front of a TV audience yesterday -and last week-, and about all the things they said that were not legal facts but their personal opinions, but I’m not trying to write a book here, just an essay, and I should be able to trust people’s intelligence on this, right? And I can be skeptical of anything and everything without being painted into a corner, right? Turley is not alone?!

 

 

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Dec 042019
 
 December 4, 2019  Posted by at 6:47 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh Vase with honesty 1884-85

 

There are things you just cannot do. Partisanship, even the semblance of it, when discussing the US Constitution, is certainly one of them. But there we go: in Jerry Nadler’s Judiciary Committee hearings starting today, the Democrats get to pick 3 Constitutional experts, vs just one for the Republicans. There is no bigger no-no.

This is not about whether Trump has tried to bribe Ukraine president Zelensky, something the latter has denied quite vehemently multiple times, this is about the Constitution, the document that holds the entire country together, the paper that everyone will cite whenever it appears to favor their views. But which should also be a beacon when those views get blurred.

You cannot make the Constitution play second fiddle to party politics. But that’s what just happened. Trump already sounds almost lackadaisical about it, after all he’s been through for 3 years: “They get three constitutional lawyers… and we get one..” “That’s not sounding too good, and that’s the way it is. “It’s all nonsense, just wasting their time, and we get one. Ok. Nobody needs to know anything about constitutional law..”

I don’t think he should be that accepting. He should protect the Constitution instead. That’s in the job description of a US president.

 

Trump Impeachment: Law Experts Have Their Say In New Congress Hearings

The judiciary committee has the power to formally draft articles of impeachment and submit them for a full vote in the House of Representatives. The committee is hearing on Wednesday from four law professors – three picked by Democrats and one by Republicans. Chosen by the Democrats are Stanford University’s Pamela Karlan, Harvard University’s Professor Noah Feldman and from the University of North Carolina, Michael Gerhardt. George Washington University’s Jonathan Turley was picked by Republicans.

The lawyers will interpret the impeachment clause of the constitution, which allows for presidents to be removed from office due to “high crimes and misdemeanours”. The White House was invited to participate in the hearing, but on Sunday declared that they would not send any administration officials to attend. Mr Trump was scheduled to return from London to Washington later on Wednesday, after the first judiciary hearing has concluded. But on Wednesday, Mr Trump announced that he would depart early, skipping a final news conference “because we did so many over the past two days”.

His hasty departure came soon after a video emerged of other world leaders at the Nato conference appearing to mock him. “They get three constitutional lawyers… and we get one,” Mr Trump said on Tuesday during a bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in London. “That’s not sounding too good, and that’s the way it is. “It’s all nonsense, just wasting their time, and we get one. Ok. Nobody needs to know anything about constitutional law,” he said.

 

 

Kamala Harris just ended her presidential bid. She was a forerunner not long ago. Can we hand kudos to Tulsi Gabbard for this? This bit of news came in as I was watching Hillary refusing to rule out another run in 2020 on a BBC TV show. They still don’t get it, do they, why they lost, but that’s probably because they have no candidates. Other than Tulsi.

Joe Biden will not survive Burisma, there’s no way. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are at this moment both too far left for flyover country, and you would have to worry about their charisma to begin with. Hillary has some charisma alright, but she’s not a popular person across the nation; she’s downright despised among large groups of people, the same way Trump is among other groups. A bit of a Mexican stand-off?!

Jerry Nadler, who Devin Nunes said recently had been “in a witness protection program because of the failed Mueller probe”, will kick off another round of “impeachment” (or is it censure by now?) inquiries, to which he invited Trump knowing full well the latter would be in London for a NATO summit that day.

 

 

Lisa Page lied to her direct boss, FBI deputy head Andrew McCabe, about her relationship with FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok, while she was working there -as a lawyer- as well. Strzok was thrown off the Mueller investigation, which was all FBI, because his partisanship even in those partisan settings had become all too obvious. He was later fired outright by the FBI. Page “left on her own accord”.

And now Lisa Page decides to speak out under the really strange headline ‘There’s No Fathomable Way I Have Committed Any Crime at All’ because Trump appears mean to her. “Trump Target” was part of so many headlines the past few days you’d think all the “reporters” and editors who used it were communicating about it. But maybe not, maybe by now they no longer need instructions or meetings, maybe it all seems natural at this point.

Thing is, way before Page could even remotely could have been a Trump target, if there is such a thing, because he had no idea she existed in 2016, Trump had become a Lisa Page -and Peter Strzok- target. We know this from thousands of emails the lovebirds sent each other. “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Page texted Strzok in August 2016, during the investigation into the campaign. “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it,” Strzok responded. In another text message sent in August by Strzok to Page, he said “I want to believe the path you threw out in Andy’s [McCabe’s] office—that there’s no way he gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take the risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”

But Lisa decided to go on record at the Daily Beast as a victim, a Trump Target. One must truly wonder what made her do that, at this particular point in time. We can speculate about the upcoming Horowitz report, or the Durham investigation, all we want, but we just don’t know. That she won’t be named in either would seem far-fetched though. And maybe she knows that too. The DOJ IG said:

“We found that the conduct of these five FBI employees brought discredit to themselves, sowed doubt about the FBI’s handling of the Midyear investigation, and impacted the reputation of the FBI,” the inspector general wrote in 2018 of Page and pals.


“Moreover, the damage caused by their actions extends far beyond the scope of the Midyear investigation and goes to the heart of the FBI’s reputation for neutral factfinding and political independence. We were deeply troubled by text messages exchanged between Strzok and Page that potentially indicated or created the appearance that investigative decisions were impacted by bias or improper considerations.”

While a somewhat curious, in the context, bit from Zero Hedge says:

“Page insists that Trump wasn’t the target of the 2016 investigation into his campaign, and that the FBI learned of “the possibility that there’s someone on the Trump campaign coordinating with the Russian government in the release of emails, which will damage the Clinton campaign.” “We were very deliberate and conservative about who we first opened on because we recognized how sensitive a situation it was,” Page says. “So the prospect that we were spying on the campaign or even investigating candidate Trump himself is just false. That’s not what we were doing.”

Again, there are 1000’s of emails between Strzok and Page that confirm they were targeting Trump, and not some unknown Russian. Her claims about this make zero sense. The best way to approach this is perhaps this Jordan Schachtel tweet:

 

 

Is the FBI more interested in harming Trump than it is in the harm done to its own organization? It seems obvious it was in 2016. How is that now? Am I a conspiracy theorist for even thinking about it? As always, just when you think you’ve seen it all, there turns out to be more from where that came from.

 

 

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Aug 032019
 


Edward Hopper The long leg 1935

 

Last weekend, I noticed that two of the main newsmakers were both named Cummings, one in the US, the other in the UK. At first glance they don’t look like family, but I’ll readily admit I can’t be sure of that. What I do know is that both are symbolic of what’s wrong with the political systems they figure in.

Also last weekend, I saw a comment somewhere, think it was Twitter, that said something in the vein of: let’s hope the British don’t make the same mistake with Boris Johnson that the Americans made -and make- with Donald Trump, that is, labeling every single thing he does as “Bad”, because then they would lose all of their credibility, fast.

 

Elijah Cummings and Dominic Cummings. Not related.

 

And I thought: that could have been my comment, that’s how I look upon the whole political circus too. The entire blind demonization of Trump has only made him stronger, and the loss of credibility of the ‘accusers’ is a major factor in that. Not everything that goes wrong in America is Trump’s fault, it can’t be. But for large segments of the press, and their affiliated politicians, that has been the message for three years now.

And then you wake up one morning after -another- hearing, this time that of Robert Mueller, which you lost again, and you find that nobody believes you anymore, or cares, except for those who’d believe anything you say whatever it is anyway, and all of the time. But that also means you don’t reach anyone new, anyone not already in your echo chamber.

Right before the Mueller hearings, Jerry Nadler once again stated that Mueller had ‘very substantial evidence’ Trump is ‘guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors'”. But not one iota of any such ‘substantial evidence’ was addressed by Mueller in the hearings. And that hurts Nadler’s credibility to no end.

 

After three years, there’s no more time and space for empty allegations. Just watch Rachel Maddow’s plunging ratings. She lost some 25% of her viewers in the first half of this year. The Democrats would do well to take that into consideration before they speak out again. The latest episode a week ago started with Trump calling out Elijah Cummings (D-MD) on his comments about the border and telling him to take care of Baltimore first.

When Trump said Baltimore was rat infested, a million Democrats called him a racist for it, as in: he wasn’t talking about rats, he was really talking about black people. And subsequently we find out that Baltimore indeed has a substantial problem with rats, various other rodents, garbage, you name it. And one thinks: stop doing it, stop calling him names, stop calling every single thing he does “Bad”. Elijah Cummings has been one of many people doing just that.

Y’all need to stop it because you’re losing. You have been losing for those entire three years. You helped Maddow and the WaPo and NY Times make a fortune with their 24/7 empty allegations, but in the process you’ve been murdering your own party. If you want to fight Trump, you’ll have to do it with facts and evidence, mere innuendo no longer works, those days are gone. You need to change strategy, urgently, you have less than a year to do so.

And talking about the MSM, you also need to stop only watching and reading those sources. Because they don’t provide a wide enough picture, they put blinders on you. It’s what’s been so profitable for them. But not for your party, though it may seem to be.

But yeah, you look at the line-up of ‘candidates’, most of whom appear completely lost in the ‘field’, and you must wonder what 2020 will bring for your party. There’s Kamala and Biden on the right, and then there’s Bernie and Warren on the left. And you just know the DNC is going to pull another Bernie 2016 move. They don’t want the left, they don’t want the Squad, and they’re conspiring against Tulsi Gabbard too. It’s not the empire that’s coming for Tulsi, it’s the DNC.

 

If I were you, I’d first make sure the DNC gets no say in the choice of your candidate. I’d say disband the whole thing. They are responsible to a large extent for the losing pro-Hillary tactics that have made Trump that much stronger and got him elected. They are behind the whole Russiagate disaster, and the party must urgently distance itself from that. How you can do that without major internal cleansing, I don’t see.

If I were you, I would get rid of Nadler and Adam Schiff and Cummings and a whole lot more faces. Make a fresh start. As things are, the only people who will vote for you are those who would anyway, the echo chamber inhabitants. But the Democrats need additional voters too, swing voters, the already converted are simply not enough.

I see voices promoting an everything-on-red gamble for Michelle Obama, but that reeks far too much of desperation. Then again, betting on Biden or Kamala doesn’t look to be a winner either. The best person might well be Bernie, but the party made clear in 2016 they don’t want him. Personally, I would like to see a Bernie/Warren ticket, because it would give Americans a choice between truly different ideas and options.

Then again, Bernie keeps you far too close to being the War Party with his Russia comments. Americans deserve better. Embrace Tulsi Gabbard’s voice, even if you don’t want her as your candidate. The people love her, even if the DNC does not. She can get you votes you wouldn’t otherwise get. But overall, I don’t see much hope for you next year. Unless you manage to crash the economy before Christmas. Or Easter at the latest. How about Halloween?

 

If only because then there’s the other Cummings who made the news this week, Boris Johnson’s special adviser Dominic Cummings. I referenced the movie The Uncivil War a while back, and one thing I think I learned from it is that this Mr. Cummings doesn’t play second fiddles. He only agreed to run the VoteLeave campaign that in the end won the Brexit vote when he was given free rein. I think the same thing might have happened now.

He’s agreed to run Boris Johnson’s “Brexit by Halloween” program on the condition that nobody, very much including Boris himself, gets in his way. In 2016, Cummings pushed Boris forward because his polling data told him Nigel Farage was too unpopular and would cost too many votes (yes, the same Farage who has since pretended he was the big winner). But Cummings had no high opinion of Boris either, and still doesn’t.

What that adds up to is that the real boss in no. 10 is not even the PM nobody elected, it’s a guy who got handed the power by that unelected PM in a backroom meeting. And once Dominic Cummings has delivered Brexit, he’ll vanish into the shadows again, where he feels best. Given his past criticisms of Brexit, as well as the entire political system, it could all be more about the win, the kill, then about the value of what it will achieve. He’s not a politician anyway because he’s not a puppet. Cummings is a puppeteer. Boris, well, you get the picture.

 

Mind you, Brexit may well be a great idea. Just not this way, certainly not this way. The EU has turned into a very questionable club, no doubt. But does anyone at all have the idea that the UK will be well-prepared when they leave that club at Halloween? The thing I find problematic is that all UK laws, regulations, treaties over the past 40 years were agreed to in team efforts with Brussels. London signed them all.

That is a lot of laws and treaties and pieces of paper. Everything modern, everything that didn’t exist 40 years ago, think communications, internet etc. etc., will be part of that. Are they going to leave but still use all those thousands of pages of legislation anyway to regulate their “new” country? I don’t know how they see that, and frankly I don’t think they know either. They seem to just have been bickering amongst themselves for 3 years, and left preparation on the backburner.

Are their businesses prepared for reams upon reams of new paperwork, digital or not? I can’t be sure, but I don’t see it. And then there’s the Irish border, and the backstop. Westminster largely acts as if that’s a minor nuisance, and Paddy will fall into line, but today it’s not just a matter of talking to Dublin, but of talking to Brussels as well.

And you can despise the EU all you want, but they have no choice but to stand with Ireland. They can’t say: let’s ditch the backstop, that is not an option, Brexit would make the Irish border the border of the EU. And if Cummings and Boris want to head for a no-deal Brexit regardless, Good Friday will be as good as dead. Does Dominic Cummings really want to be held responsible for that? Hard to believe. Boris perhaps, but Cummings?

Boris and his people insist there won’t be new border crossings, that technology can save the day, and do the work away from the border. Haven’t seen them explain it though, and certainly not in any detail. But I did see a video the other day of someone involved in the Good Friday negotiations explaining what would happen.

He said, paraphrased: “you put cameras on -or near- that border, there’ll be militants shooting them down. Then you need police to protect the cameras, and they’ll shoot at the police. So you must bring in the army to protect the police, and you’re right back to the Troubles”. The Irish border is still a highly fragile combustible situation. And if Boris insists on not having a backstop, it’s hard to see how new Troubles can be avoided. The Good Friday Agreement came into effect less than 20 years ago, in December 1999.

The dysfunctional political systems Elijah Cummings and Dominic Cummings are part of may appear to be dysfunctional for different reasons. But the role of the media in both cases is very similar. The media wants to be -and define- the message, because that’s where the money is, and the power.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1156316342141759492

 

 

 

 

Jul 222019
 


Claude Monet Impression, sunrise 1872

 

Nadler: Mueller Has Evidence Of Trump High Crimes And Misdemeanours (G.)
Trump Has Nothing To Fear From Mueller (Hill)
Boris Johnson’s Brexit Plans Under Threat From Ministers’ Resignations (G.)
Incoming Prime Minister Poses A Brexit Puzzle For Brussels (G.)
From Hammond on to Johnson – Where Next For Fiscal Policy? (PE)
Abe Fails To Get Enough Votes To Change Japan’s Pacifist Constitution (AT)
Armed Mob Violence On Protesters Leaves Hong Kong In Shock (BBC)
Puerto Rico’s Week Of Massive Protests, Explained (Vox)
The Secret Sources of Populism (Bruno Maçães)
Latest Secret Government File Reveals UK Middle East Policy (TP)
Kicked Off the Land (New Yorker)
Losing My Religion For Equality (Jimmy Carter)

 

 

Curious to see what that evidence is, and curious to know why iot has remained hidden to date.

Nadler: Mueller Has Evidence Of Trump High Crimes And Misdemeanours (G.)

The eyes of America will be trained on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, as Robert Mueller testifies before two House committees about his report on Russian election interference, links between the Trump campaign and Moscow and potential obstruction of justice by the president. On Sunday, the chairman of the judiciary committee indicated the stakes when he said the 448-page report contained “very substantial evidence that the president is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanours” – the benchmark for impeachment. “It’s important that we not have a lawless administration and a lawless president,” the New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler told Fox News Sunday.


“And it’s important that people see what we’re doing and what we’re dealing with.” Nadler’s committee would initiate impeachment proceedings. Mueller, a former director of the FBI, will also appear before the intelligence panel. “The report presents very substantial evidence that the president is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanours,” he said, “and we have to present, or let Mueller present those facts to the American people and then see where we go from there because the administration must be held accountable and no president can be above the law.”

Read more …

Surprise: not everyone agrees with Nadler. Is everybody citing from the same report? Bradley A. Blakeman was a deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2004.

Trump Has Nothing To Fear From Mueller (Hill)

The president has nothing to fear from the testimony from Robert Mueller because nothing Mueller could possibly say will change the result of the report he delivered. He conclusively found that there was no collusion with the Russians by the Trump 2016 campaign, and he did not bring any indictments for obstruction of justice against the President or even a referral. What Mueller left open with regard to obstruction — if at all — was conclusively dealt with by the Justice Department through the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General who found that there was no probable cause to bring criminal charges against the president.


Congress is not bound by the Mueller investigation or its findings. Congress on its own could bring on impeachment proceedings in the House based on the report — if there was evidence contained therein to warrant such actions. Mueller’s testimony will add nothing other than to further politicize an investigation that was supposed to be apolitical. Mueller reminds me of the patient who decides not to be resuscitated only to find that doctors did so against his wishes. At best, Mueller is a reluctant witness and at worst — for Democrats — a hostile witness. He made it clear in his press conference months ago that he would like the report to speak for itself and that he would not go beyond his own reporting. Congress now runs the risk of further being seen as conducting a witch-hunt against the president by calling a witness who clearly has nothing further to add.

Read more …

Quite a few could walk, starting today, but most on Wednesday, when he takes over.

Boris Johnson’s Brexit Plans Under Threat From Ministers’ Resignations (G.)

Boris Johnson’s hoped-for triumphant march into Downing Street this week is set to be dampened by a carefully timed series of resignations by senior ministers, who will retreat to the backbenches with a vow to thwart any moves towards a no-deal Brexit. The announcements by Philip Hammond and David Gauke that they will step down on Wednesday, immediately before Johnson is likely to head to Buckingham Palace, highlight the perilous political climate for Theresa May’s expected successor. It comes amid predictions that the Conservatives’ already wafer-thin working Commons majority of three could entirely disappear by the time MPs return from their summer recess, with mooted defections to the Lib Dems coming on top of a predicted byelection defeat.


Barring a hugely unexpected twist, Johnson is expected to be announced on Tuesday as the victor over Jeremy Hunt in the vote of Conservative members, formally taking over the next day, after May holds a valedictory prime minister’s questions. However, some of the gloss will be removed with the promised resignations of Hammond, the chancellor, and Gauke, the justice secretary, with predictions that other ministers and junior ministers opposed to no deal, such as the international development secretary, Rory Stewart, could follow.

Read more …

Headline is just wrong. The EU has seen Boris coming from miles away. They know he will put the blame with Brussels. They know he wants to ditch the backstop, and they won’t let him. Then Boris will be known as the man who broke the Good Friday Agreement.

Incoming Prime Minister Poses A Brexit Puzzle For Brussels (G.)

While Westminster has been gripped by the Conservative leadership race, Brussels has been on a Brexit break. That respite will soon be over. And despite rumours of Brussels compromises in the works, the EU has no off-the-shelf Brexit plan for the new prime minister, who is expected to be announced on Tuesday. “It wouldn’t make any sense to start working on this now,” one senior EU source said. “Because we really need to know [what he wants]. The only thing we have seen are his public statements.” EU negotiators have had no contact with the teams of Boris Johnson – the widely presumed winner – or his rival, Jeremy Hunt. Danuta Hübner, a Polish centre-right member of the European parliament’s Brexit steering group, said there was a “worrying” lack of time to find a compromise before Britain’s departure day on 31 October.


She could not imagine the EU putting anything new on the table, but said it remained open to renegotiating the political declaration on future relations. “We cannot change the major red lines on our side, that there is no possibility of renegotiating the agreement, including the backstop.” Johnson and Hunt have vowed to tear up the backstop, the fallback plan to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland, which both men have voted for at least once. Recent reports have suggested the EU is ready to offer a five-year transition to break the deadlock over the backstop. But three EU sources said this was a rehash of debates from the negotiation period, rather than fresh ideas. “It’s all quite ancient” and “not something that we are considering at all”, an official said.

Read more …

Ann Pettifor: “Hammond has quietly overseen the dismantling through austerity of a decent society…..”

From Hammond on to Johnson – Where Next For Fiscal Policy? (PE)

As Mr Johnson takes over as Leader of the Conservative Hard Brexit Cult, and by virtue thereof as Prime Minister, it is timely to take a quick look at what his economic and fiscal policy options are – at least in the lead up to DD-Day (Do or Die) on 31st October. It’s equally important to take stock of Mr Hammond’s record as he quietly fades away after three years as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Johnson proposes tax cuts for corporates (reduction in corporate tax rate, already one of the lowest of major economies), and praises President Trump’s example: “He has been very clever in allowing businesses to offset capital investment in tax, with capital allowances. I think we should think about that sort of thing for start-ups, in addition to cutting corporation tax, which would also be effective.” (Via Tom Newton Dunn, The Sun)


Johnson also promises significant tax cuts for the rich and well-to-do, notably by a big rise in the 40% income tax threshhold to £80,000 and by raising the starting-level of earnings for national insurance contribution (NIC) purposes. On the higher tax threshold, Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says this “costs about £9 billion and benefits the 4 million or so income taxpayers with the highest incomes. Most of the gain goes to those in the top 10% of the income distribution would gain an average of nearly £2,500 a year.” On the NIC issue, he calculates this costs £3 billion for every £1,000 the starting level is raised. All these measures will reduce the immediate tax take for government, probably by £20 to 30 billion per year initially, which is 1-1.5% of GDP.


Messrs Johnson & Hammond, circa 1910

Read more …

“The provisions, imposed by the United States after World War II, are popular with the public at large, but reviled by nationalists like Abe..”

Abe Fails To Get Enough Votes To Change Japan’s Pacifist Constitution (AT)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claimed victory Sunday for his ruling coalition in the upper house election, but appeared to fail to secure a “super majority” in the chamber in support of his dream to amend the nation’s pacifist constitution. With the results, the 64-year-old Abe, who is on course to become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, aims to shore up his mandate ahead of a crucial consumption tax hike later this year, along with trade negotiations with Washington. “The ruling parties were given a majority … as people decided to urge us to firmly push for policies under the stable political base,” Abe told public broadcaster NHK.

“I want to meet their expectations soundly,” he said at the headquarters of his Liberal Democratic Party. Abe’s LDP and its coalition partner Komeito are forecast to take at least 69 of the 124 seats – about half the chamber – up for election on Sunday, with six seats still undecided, according to NHK. The two parties control 70 seats in the half of the 245-seat chamber that is not being contested, putting them on track to maintain their overall majority. [..] Local media did predict that forces in favor of revising the constitution, led by Abe’s LDP, were certain to fail to reach 85 of the seats up for grabs, which would have given them a two-thirds “super majority” in the chamber.

Following the vote, however, Abe said he would continue trying to expand support for the revision even if the pro-revision group eventually misses the target, necessary for proposing a constitutional amendment. Abe has pledged to “clearly stipulate the role of the Self-Defence Forces in the constitution,” which prohibits Japan from waging war and maintaining a military. The provisions, imposed by the United States after World War II, are popular with the public at large, but reviled by nationalists like Abe, who see them as outdated and punitive.

Read more …

Crazy. But Chinese.

Armed Mob Violence On Protesters Leaves Hong Kong In Shock (BBC)

Hong Kong has been left in shock after a night of violence on Sunday which saw dozens of masked men storm a train station. The men – dressed in white shirts and suspected to be triad gangsters – assaulted pro-democracy protesters and passers-by in the Yuen Long area. This is the first time this kind of violence has been seen in the ongoing anti-extradition demonstrations. Several lawmakers questioned why police were slow to arrive at the scene. Footage posted on social media showed dozens of men attacking people with batons inside the station. Forty-five people were injured, with one person in critical condition.


Lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said police had taken more than an hour to arrive. “Hong Kong has one of the world’s highest cop to population ratio,” said another pro-democracy lawmaker Ray Chan in a tweet. “Where were [they?]” Police on Monday said they had not made any arrests but were still carrying out investigations. The mob attack followed a pro-democracy rally on Sunday in the centre of Hong Kong, where riot police had fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters. The masked men stormed Yuen Long MTR station at about 22:30 local time (14:30 GMT), attacking passengers and people making their way back from the protest.

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“Protesters gave an ultimatum to the Governor after his address. “You have until 11:59pm to leave. If you refuse, we will make this country unmanageable“

Puerto Rico’s Week Of Massive Protests, Explained (Vox)

Thousands of protesters demonstrated in the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico Saturday, marking the eighth straight day of rallies calling for the resignation of the island’s governor. The crowds show no sign of ebbing, and analysts say that the protests are quickly becoming the biggest political demonstration in the US territory’s modern history. The protests arose in response to the leak of Telegram app messages in which Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and his inner circle make light of the casualties caused by Hurricane Maria and disparage political opponents using vulgar, homophobic, and sexist language.

The text message leak came days after another scandal: The FBI arrested two former top officials in Rosselló’s government as part of a corruption probe over their handling of $15.5 million in contracts. The officials, former Education Secretary Julia Keleher and Ángela Ávila-Marrero (former chief of Puerto Rico’s Health Insurance Administration), are accused of funneling the contracts to businesses they had personal ties to, regardless of those companies’ relevant experience or ability. The incidents have galvanized a public that feels neglected and exploited by political and economic elites, and one that has endured great suffering in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017 and a seemingly unresolvable debt crisis.

Calls for Rosselló’s resignation were growing following the corruption scandal; they exploded after the group chat scandal. Two cabinet officials have resigned in the wake of the scandals, but so far Rosselló has said that he plans to stay in office. Pressure on the governor is rising, however. The protests have garnered international attention, and a number of Puerto Rican celebrities like singer Ricky Martin (who was mocked in the leaked texts), Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, and reggaeton star Bad Bunny have backed the demonstrations. “They mocked our dead, they mocked women, they mocked the LGBT community, they made fun of people with physical and mental disabilities, they made fun of obesity. It’s enough. This cannot be,” Martin said in a video on Twitter.

Many politicians from the US mainland have started to weigh in on the issue as well. President Donald Trump — who has called Puerto Rican officials “incompetent or corrupt” and who has opposed increased Hurricane Maria aid to the territory — was critical of Rosselló on Twitter. “The Governor is under siege, the Mayor of San Juan is a despicable and incompetent person who I wouldn’t trust under any circumstance, and the United States Congress foolishly gave 92 Billion Dollars for hurricane relief, much of which was squandered away or wasted, never to be seen again,” Trump tweeted on Thursday.

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Populism as a result of decaying power.

“As European affairs minister in Portugal, I had quickly become used to thinking of Poland as the EU’s fourth power, ahead of Spain and Italy”

The Secret Sources of Populism (Bruno Maçães)

Populism is a direct result of significant shifts in the global distribution of power. Namely, it is a reaction to the loss of power by a formerly hegemonic West. The populist parties competing for power in many European countries are reminiscent of the nationalist movements of the 1800s and 1900s in developing countries, which won support from people tired of feeling dependent on Europe and the United States. In particular, they sensed that their ancient civilizations had come to abandon their way of life for Western ideas. They lamented that their countries had been so deeply Westernized that only the sense of emptiness remained. “Our country resembles a hospital,” the Turkish writer Kazim Nami wrote in Turkish Country, a journal published between 1911 and 1931, “deprived of medicine, doctors and care.”

In Russia, a Europeanized aristocracy existed in an entirely different world from the peasantry. They spoke French, listened to different music and songs, ate different food, and had a radically different view of religion and the ends of life. It was as two countries rather than as two classes that they looked at each other, plotting a final and decisive struggle over Russia’s soul. Even in France, England, Germany, and the United States, a creeping sense of alienation was slowly developing between the classes, but it was of a different sort. Because these were the world’s ruling nations, elites assumed the responsibility of managing the affairs of foreign countries. Their outlook was more universal in character, although rooted in colonialism, and that created an inevitable distance with their compatriots.

Of course, as long as Western hegemony persisted, the spoils of empire flowed to the lower classes and reconciled them with those in power. But as the balance of power shifted, cosmopolitan elites appeared in a different light. It was implausible for them to dictate to the rest of the world from a position of growing weakness, and some had learned too well to incorporate the interests of the rest of humanity when formulating their positions. Today, many voters in Europe and the United States are starting to regard the elites as profoundly disconnected from what they see as the national interest. Distrust and alienation will keep growing.

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Divide and rule. Long read. Here’s one of its stories.

Latest Secret Government File Reveals UK Middle East Policy (TP)

In April 1941, nationalist army officers known as the Golden Square staged a coup in Iraq, overthrowing the pro-British regime, and signalled they were prepared to work with German and Italian intelligence. In response, the British embarked on a military campaign and eventually crushed the coup leaders two months later. But Suarez discovered in the files that the British were already wanting such a “military occupation of Iraq” by November 1940 – well before the Golden Square coup gave them a pretext for doing so. The reason was that Britain wanted to end “the mufti’s intrigues with the Italians”. One file notes: “We may be able to clip the mufti’s wings when we can get a new government in Iraq. FO [Foreign Office] are working on this.”

Suarez notes that a prominent thread in the British archive is: “How to effect a British coup without further alienating ‘the Arab world’ in the midst of the war, beyond what the empowering of Zionism had already done.” As British troops closed in on Baghdad, a violent anti-Jewish pogrom rocked the city, killing more than 180 Jewish Iraqis and destroying the homes of hundreds of members of the Jewish community who had lived in Iraq for centuries. The Farhud (violent dispossession) has been described as the Iraqi Jews’ Kristallnacht, the brutal pogrom against Jews carried out in Nazi Germany three years earlier.

There have long been claims that these riots were condoned or even orchestrated by the British to blacken the nationalist regime and justify Britain’s return to power in Baghdad and ongoing military occupation of Iraq. Historian Tony Rocca noted: “To Britain’s shame, the army was stood down. Sir Kinahan Cornwallis, Britain’s ambassador in Baghdad, for reasons of his own, held our forces at bay in direct insubordination to express orders from Winston Churchill that they should take the city and secure its safety. Instead, Sir Kinahan went back to his residence, had a candlelight dinner and played a game of bridge.” Could this be the reason that UK government censors want the file to remain secret after all these years? It would neither be the first, nor the last time that British planners used or created pretexts to justify their military interventions.

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“Between 1910 and 1997, African-Americans lost about ninety per cent of their farmland. This problem is a major contributor to America’s racial wealth gap; the median wealth among black families is about a tenth that of white families.”

Kicked Off the Land (New Yorker)

In the spring of 2011, the brothers Melvin Davis and Licurtis Reels were the talk of Carteret County, on the central coast of North Carolina. Some people said that the brothers were righteous; others thought that they had lost their minds. That March, Melvin and Licurtis stood in court and refused to leave the land that they had lived on all their lives, a portion of which had, without their knowledge or consent, been sold to developers years before. The brothers were among dozens of Reels family members who considered the land theirs, but Melvin and Licurtis had a particular stake in it. Melvin, who was sixty-four, with loose black curls combed into a ponytail, ran a club there and lived in an apartment above it. He’d established a career shrimping in the river that bordered the land, and his sense of self was tied to the water. Licurtis, who was fifty-three, had spent years building a house near the river’s edge, just steps from his mother’s.

Their great-grandfather had bought the land a hundred years earlier, when he was a generation removed from slavery. The property—sixty-five marshy acres that ran along Silver Dollar Road, from the woods to the river’s sandy shore—was racked by storms. Some called it the bottom, or the end of the world. Melvin and Licurtis’s grandfather Mitchell Reels was a deacon; he farmed watermelons, beets, and peas, and raised chickens and hogs. Churches held tent revivals on the waterfront, and kids played in the river, a prime spot for catching red-tailed shrimp and crabs bigger than shoes. During the later years of racial-segregation laws, the land was home to the only beach in the county that welcomed black families. “It’s our own little black country club,” Melvin and Licurtis’s sister Mamie liked to say.

In 1970, when Mitchell died, he had one final wish. “Whatever you do,” he told his family on the night that he passed away, “don’t let the white man have the land.” Mitchell didn’t trust the courts, so he didn’t leave a will. Instead, he let the land become heirs’ property, a form of ownership in which descendants inherit an interest, like holding stock in a company. The practice began during Reconstruction, when many African-Americans didn’t have access to the legal system, and it continued through the Jim Crow era, when black communities were suspicious of white Southern courts. In the United States today, seventy-six per cent of African-Americans do not have a will, more than twice the percentage of white Americans.

Many assume that not having a will keeps land in the family. In reality, it jeopardizes ownership. David Dietrich, a former co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Property Preservation Task Force, has called heirs’ property “the worst problem you never heard of.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture has recognized it as “the leading cause of Black involuntary land loss.” Heirs’ property is estimated to make up more than a third of Southern black-owned land—3.5 million acres, worth more than twenty-eight billion dollars. These landowners are vulnerable to laws and loopholes that allow speculators and developers to acquire their property. Black families watch as their land is auctioned on courthouse steps or forced into a sale against their will.

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Carter leaves the Southern Baptist Convention after 60 years.

Losing My Religion For Equality (Jimmy Carter)

I have been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries. At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.

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Mar 092019
 


Juan Gris Portrait of Pablo Picasso 1912

 

World’s Biggest Debt Slaves: Americans Wimp Out in 11th Place (WS)
Chelsea Manning Jailed For Refusing To Testify About Wikileaks (ZH)
On Trump’s Ties To Russia, Americans Have Made Up Their Minds – Poll (R.)
Trump’s Private Talks With Putin May Contain Clues To His Russia Romance (G.)
Ilhan Omar Criticizes Obama And Past Presidents’ ‘Really Bad Policies’ (MW)
EU’s Barnier Sets May On Course For Brexit Defeat (G.)
Corbyn Tells May Second Defeat For Her Deal Is ‘The End Of The Road’ (Ind.)
Greenpeace Co-Founder Thrashes Global Warming ‘Brainwashing’ Campaign (RT)
Italy’s Government On Verge Of Collapse Over A Train (ZH)
Dutch Pharmacies Join Backlash At Expensive Drugs By Making Their Own (R.)
A Place of Your Own (Jim Kunstler)

 

 

Wolf Richter has the entire top-11. I picked a few. Note: this is debt-to-GDP. For debt-to-disposable income, graphs are different. Note 2: Switzerland is always an odd one out because of the role of its banking system.

World’s Biggest Debt Slaves: Americans Wimp Out in 11th Place (WS)

US household debt inched down to 76.4% of GDP in the third quarter 2018, according to the newest batch of global data from the Bank for International Settlements. This was the lowest level since 2002. It put Americans in the inexplicably wimpy, and for the finance sector, insufferable 11th place:

Canadian households have long been making headlines with their top-notch borrowing binge to support their top-notch housing bubble. By other debt measures, such as debt-to-disposable income, Canadian and Australian households have been battling over first place for years. In the debt-to-GDP measure, Canadian households are in a still respectable 6th place: This debt will pose some issues as the majestic housing bubbles in top metros are now deflating:

Households in the Netherlands were track to be undisputed king of the hill, with a debt-to-GDP ratio nearing 120%, in part because GDP plunged during the Financial Crisis, which caused the spike in the debt-to-GDP ratio and the collapse of some banks. During the subsequent euro debt crisis, GDP declined again. But since then, the economy has grown, and households have curtailed their borrowing, edging away from the brink, and in the process getting demoted to 4th place:

Australian households have been caught up in one of the biggest housing bubbles in the world, financed by debt. The household-debt-to-GDP ratio more than doubled between 1997 and 2016. Now that the housing bubble is deflating at an astounding pace, the debt ratio has begun to tick down, but remains in second place:

[..] the #1 debt slaves in the world: Swiss households. This is one of the reasons interest-rate repression remains the rule in Switzerland. The Swiss National Bank has imposed its negative interest rate policy on the country for years, and there have been stories of mortgages with 0% and even negative interest rates. There is simply too much household debt, and no one wants to see it blow up. Hence the negative interest rate policy. But this policy encourages more household borrowing, and the cycle will continue until it can’t:

China is in a category of its own. And so the chart has a different scale. The household-debt-to-GDP ratio is still in the German neighborhood of just above 50%, but it has quintupled in the 12 years since the BIS data began in 2006. The idea that Chinese households are paying cash to sustain their housing bubble or to buy cars has become a bad joke: Chinese consumers have discovered debt, and they are eagerly turning into debt slaves:

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Daniel Ellsberg: “Chelsea Manning is again acting heroically in the name of press freedom, and it’s a travesty that she has been sent back to jail for refusing to testify to a grand jury. An investigation into WikiLeaks for publishing is a grave threat to all journalists’ rights, and Chelsea is doing us all a service for fighting it. She has already been tortured, spent years in jail, and has suffered more than enough. She should be released immediately.”

Chelsea Manning Jailed For Refusing To Testify About Wikileaks (ZH)

Following a dramatic hearing at a federal district court in Eastern Virginia, activist and former military prisoner Chelsea Manning was jailed by a judge for contempt of court after refusing to testify to a grand jury empaneled in the government’s long running criminal investigation into Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange. The judge, the Hon. Claude H. Hilton, ruled that Manning must remain in civil detention until she testifies, her lawyer Moira Meltzer-Cohen told the New York Times. Manning was subpoeaned in January to testify before the jury. But she vowed not to cooperate even though prosecutors offered immunity for her testimony. “In solidarity with many activists facing the odds, I will stand by my principles,” she said on Thursday. “I will exhaust every legal remedy available. My legal team continues to challenge the secrecy of these proceedings, and I am prepared to face the consequences of my refusal.”

Manning’s jailing offers another glimpse into the government’s secretive investigation into Wikileaks, which was started under the Obama Administration and picked up by the Trump Administration. Manning served seven years in prison for leaking the infamous “collateral murder” tape to Wikileaks, by far the longest prison term ever served for leaking government secrets. Manning, who transitioned to a woman during her time in prison, twice tried to commit suicide before she was pardoned by Obama. Late last year, an accidental leak of some information in the case revealed that Assange had been charged under seal last summer. And while Manning has decided to refuse to cooperate, a Wikileaks volunteer recently agreed to testify against Assange in exchange for immunity. The grand jury has been investigating Assange for nine years.

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This is the worst condemnation of US media to date. And I betcha, no-one sees it that way. Whatever Mueller says, minds are made up. By what then? Can only be unproven accusations.

And it has similarities with the Chelsea Manning disaster: When will the first Republican refuse to testify before Nadler’s committee? In both cases people are looking to confirm pre-established narratives, if need be by force.

On Trump’s Ties To Russia, Americans Have Made Up Their Minds – Poll (R.)

Only a small number of Americans have not yet made up their minds about whether Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign coordinated with Russian officials, according to new Reuters/Ipsos polling, which also showed deep divisions in the United States in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. Eight out of 10 Americans decided almost immediately about Trump campaign ties to Moscow and only about two in 10 appear to be undecided, the opinion poll released on Friday showed. About half of Americans believe President Trump tried to stop federal investigations into his campaign, the survey found. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to soon wrap up his investigation into U.S. allegations that Moscow interfered in the U.S. political process as well as the Trump campaign links and possible obstruction of justice.

Moscow and Trump deny the allegations. Barring bombshell revelations, the survey results suggest the investigation’s influence on voters in the 2020 campaign may already have run its course. The Reuters/Ipsos poll has tracked public opinion of the investigation since Mueller was appointed in May 2017 following Trump’s firing of FBI chief James Comey, gathering responses from more than 72,000 adults. Public opinion appears to have hardened early, changing little over the past two years despite a string of highly publicized criminal charges against people associated with the Trump campaign. Every time respondents were asked about the investigation, about 8 in 10 Democrats said they thought the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, while 7 in 10 Republicans said they did not.

With so few voters left undecided, the report expected from Mueller looks unlikely to serve as a significant voter turnout tool for Republicans or Democrats in November 2020 and could backfire on Democrats if they overplay it. “We keep waiting for something to happen during the Trump era to vastly change the way people view him,” said Kyle Kondik, a non-partisan analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “It hasn’t happened yet,” he said. “Maybe at this point there just aren’t many minds left to change.”

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The media can’t let go of Russiagate, no matter what Mueller says, it would leave them empty handed. So they play into the fact that Americans have their minds made up anyway. Scary when you think about it.

Trump’s Private Talks With Putin May Contain Clues To His Russia Romance (G.)

Since Donald Trump was sworn in as president he has met his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, five times. The details of their conversations remain unknown to the public, and in most cases even to senior administration officials. Democrats in Congress are now demanding more details of communications between the two leaders. Secrecy around such meetings, they say, raises fresh questions about the nature of Trump’s relationship with Putin at a time when his ties to Russia are the subject of several investigations. The meetings with Putin are not the only subject of such Democratic demands. House leaders left little room for doubt this week that they will utilize their newly minted majority to cast a wide net around the president, his family and their businesses.

The judiciary committee issued document requests to 81 individuals and entities, seeking information on everything from contacts between Trump aides and Moscow to hush money payments to women and possible obstruction of justice. [..] Democrats now say Trump’s reportedly forceful attempts to conceal his communications with Putin raise questions about his motivations in pursuing closer relations with a regime largely regarded as a primary adversary. In a joint letter this week, the chairs of the House intelligence, foreign affairs and oversight committees raised “profound national security, counterintelligence and foreign policy concerns, especially in light of Russia’s ongoing active measures campaign to improperly influence American elections.

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Discussions America should have but refuses. The Dem old guard wants things to stay as they were/are. But the party must change in radical ways.

Ilhan Omar Criticizes Obama And Past Presidents’ ‘Really Bad Policies’ (MW)

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) says former President Barack Obama’s promise of “hope and change” was just a mirage in a Politico interview that hit on Friday. The magazine profile explains that when she ran for office in 2016, she was fed up with the Democratic Party — not so much Trumpism or politics in general. Omar also reminded the interviewer that there was “caging of kids” at the U.S.-Mexico border under the Obama administration. (Obama was called the “deporter-in-chief” by immigrant rights advocates for the record number of undocumented immigrants deported during his presidency; ICE deportations peaked at 409,849 in 2012. But it dropped to almost half of that by 2017.) mAnd she called out the “droning of countries around the world” under Obama. A 2015 report claimed that nearly 90% of people killed in recent drone strikes in the Middle East “were not the intended targets.”

The interview dropped the day after the House passed a resolution condemning bigotry that included anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim discrimination, which was a response to comments made by Omar, who accused people of having allegiances to foreign countries. (It did not mention Omar by name, however.) Her comments to Politico suggest she doesn’t mind being at the center of controversy. “As much as other people are uncomfortable, I’m excited about the change in tone that has taken place that is extremely positive … and my ability, I think, to agitate our foreign policy discussions in a way that many of my colleagues who have been anti-intervention, antiwar have been unable to do in the past,” she said. “So, I’m OK with taking the blows if it means it will ignite conversations that no one was willing to have before.”

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Is the Guardian finally standing up for May? Bit late, isn’t it?

EU’s Barnier Sets May On Course For Brexit Defeat (G.)

Theresa May appears set for a second humiliating defeat when she brings her Brexit deal back to parliament next week, after the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, rebuffed her pleas for last-minute concessions. The prime minister urged MPs to “get it done” and back her deal, in an impassioned speech at a dockside warehouse in the leave-voting town of Grimsby. A vote against the deal would mean “not completing Brexit and getting on with all the other important issues people care about, just yet more months and years arguing”, May told MPs. “If we go down that road we might never leave the EU at all.”

Addressing workers from Ørsted, a Danish energy and wind turbine firm, May also urged the EU to make new concessions over the Irish backstop – the issue that caused many of her MPs to vote against the deal the first time – before last-ditch talks in Brussels this weekend. The EU “has to make a choice too”, the prime minister said. “We are both participants in this process. It is in the European interest for the UK to leave with a deal. We are working with them but the decisions that the European Union makes over the next few days will have a big impact on the outcome of the vote. “European leaders tell me they worry that time is running out and that we only have one chance to get it right. My message to them is: now is the moment for us to act.”

But Barnier immediately appeared to rebuff the prime minister, by responding with an offer of reverting to his original plan, the Northern Ireland-only backstop, which May repeatedly said no prime minister could accept, because it risked creating a border in the Irish Sea. The EU’s chief negotiator said in a series of tweets that the EU was committed “to give the UK the option to exit the single customs territory unilaterally, while the other elements of the backstop must be maintained to avoid a hard border. [The] UK will not be forced into a customs union against its will.” The Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, immediately replied: “With a very real deadline looming, now is not the time to rerun old arguments. The UK has put forward clear new proposals. We now need to agree a balanced solution that can work for both sides.”

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If a tree falls in a forest….

Corbyn Tells May Second Defeat For Her Deal Is ‘The End Of The Road’ (Ind.)

Jeremy Corbyn has warned Theresa May not to make a third attempt to ram through her Brexit deal if it crashes to its expected defeat next week, saying it must be “the end of the road”. The prime minister has not ruled out a third “meaningful vote” if MPs reject her agreement next week – even with the scheduled exit day from the EU just three weeks away. But, speaking to Labour activists in Scotland, Mr Corbyn said Ms May must accept that defeat on Tuesday would “represent an unprecedented failure in British political history”. “Having already failed once to get her deal through, I want to make it clear to the prime minister if she fails again it will be the end of the road for her deal,” the Labour leader said.

“There is no coming back from it. There can be no more playing for time.” Mr Corbyn again insisted Labour’s softer Brexit proposals could secure agreement both at Westminster and in Brussels, following his “discussions with Michel Barnier” [the EU negotiator]. However, he also insisted Labour was not “obsessed” by Brexit like other parties – pointing to poverty and climate change as the issues that really matter. “Turn on the news at the moment and you’ll hear endlessly about constitutional issues. Brexit. Independence. It borders on the obsessive,” he told a conference in Dundee. “You don’t hear so much about the children arriving hungry to school or how the teachers at one nursery have had to arrange for Tesco and Greggs to donate their leftovers so they can feed the kids.”

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I think Moore has at least a partial burden of proof here. Just shouting out stuff isn’t good enough at this stage. Suggesting that research is good only if it’s paid by General Electric or Dupont or 3M is quite the stretch. Even if politics and business are indeed eyeing huge profits off of going green and off people’s ignorance about what that means.

Greenpeace Co-Founder Thrashes Global Warming ‘Brainwashing’ Campaign (RT)

Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore had harsh words for the modern environmental movement, calling global warming “the greatest scam in history” and denouncing the use of “fear and guilt” to push the message. “The climate catastrophe is strictly a fear campaign – well, fear and guilt,” Moore told Breitbart radio host Rebecca Mansour. “You’re afraid you’re killing your children because you’re driving them in your SUV and emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and you feel guilty for doing that. There’s no stronger motivation than those two.” “This abomination that is occurring today in the climate issue is the biggest threat to the enlightenment that has occurred since Galileo.”

“Nothing else comes close,” Moore insisted, likening the contemporary environmental movement to “a toxic mix of ideology, of politics and religion.” “CO2 is the food for life! It’s not pollution,” the would-be heretic declared, claiming that the use of fossil fuels had actually “saved life from an early demise” because CO2 had been declining since the last ice age, with barely enough for the earth’s plant life to sustain itself, until humanity stepped into the breach during the Industrial Revolution. Moore, who founded the pioneering environmental activist group almost 50 years ago to protest nuclear war, met with an outpouring of support from conservatives and weary Democrats alike, after tweeting a scathing rebuke earlier this week to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose quixotic Green New Deal has become the standard-bearer of the 21st century environmental movement.

“And so you’ve got the green movement creating stories that instill fear in the public. You’ve got the media echo chamber — fake news — repeating it over and over and over again to everybody that they’re killing their children, and then you’ve got the green politicians who are buying scientists with government money to produce fear for them in the form of scientific-looking materials, and then you’ve got the green businesses, the rent-seekers and the crony capitalists who are taking advantage of massive subsidies, huge tax write-offs, and government mandates requiring their technologies to make a fortune on this, and then of course you’ve got the scientists who are willingly, they’re basically hooked on government grants.

When they talk about the 99 percent consensus [among scientists] on climate change, that’s a completely ridiculous and false numbers, but most of the scientists — put it in quotes, scientists — who are pushing this catastrophic theory are getting paid by public money. They are not being paid by General Electric or Dupont or 3M to do this research, where private companies expect to get something useful from their research that might produce a better product and make them a profit in the end because people want it — build a better mousetrap type of idea — but most of what these so-called scientists are doing is simply producing more fear so that politicians can use it control people’s mind and get their votes because some of the people are convinced, ‘Oh, this politician can save my kid from certain doom.’

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The collapse may happen soon, but likely not because of an old topic like this.

Italy’s Government On Verge Of Collapse Over A Train (ZH)

With the Italian government seemingly on the verge of collapse every few months, and with tensions between the two parties in the ruling coalition – Five Star and the League, especially as the former has been sliding in the polls at the expense of the latter’s rising popularity – escalating in recent weeks, it was only a matter of time before Italian bondholders had a PTSD flashback to May 2018 when the populist government first stormed on the stage, sending Italian bonds plunging. All that was missing was a catalyst. Said catalyst emerged as a lingering dispute within Italy’s ruling coalition over the future of a train, or technically a high-speed rail link with France, escalated suddenly on Thursday, once again raising the risk of a government collapse, with the 5-Star chief accusing his partner of acting irresponsibly.

The Alpine rail line has been backed by the ruling League party but is fiercely opposed by its coalition partner, the 5-Star Movement, which argues Italy’s share of the funding would be better spent upgrading existing roads and bridges. And after League leader, the outspoken Matteo Salvini who continues to enjoy rising popularity with every new poll, said in an evening television interview he would not back down and his party would “never sign” a decree to block the project, 5-Star chief Luigi Di Maio accused him of threatening to bring down the government.

While the tensions between Di Maio and Salvini were for the most part contained before closed doors, the animosity between the two “equal” vice premiers erupted in public when Di Maio said in a statement that Salvini “will bear the responsibility before millions of Italians” adding that he considers “this to be irresponsible behavior” adding that he was “stunned by the threat of a government crisis” coming from Salvini. The TAV project (Treno Alta Velocita) is a joint venture between the Italian and French states to link the cities of Turin and Lyon with a 58-km (36-mile) tunnel through the Alps on which work has already begun. According to Reuters, the EU has pledged to fund up to 40 percent of costs, Italy up to 35 percent and France up to 25 percent.

Earlier on Thursday, Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that recently updated traffic projections for the line warranted a review of the project’s long-term viability and, if necessary, a renegotiation of the way the funding is split. Conte told reporters he had strong personal doubts about the validity of the venture and he would take responsibility for a final decision based on a cost-benefit analysis already carried out by the government. That analysis, commissioned by Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, a 5-Star politician, found the TAV was a waste of public money, estimating the economic return would be a negative balance of $7.9-$8.8 billion. Conte, who is technically not a member of either party but is closer to 5-Star, called the funding of the TAV “iniquitous” and said he would speak to France and the EU “to share our doubts and perplexities.”

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Like the part where Big Pharma gets the big subsidies.

Dutch Pharmacies Join Backlash At Expensive Drugs By Making Their Own (R.)

In a radiation-proof room at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, Emar Thomasa sits behind shielded glass as he carefully measures and mixes lutetium octreotate, an intravenous treatment for certain types of cancer. The Dutch hospital has been offering it to patients for more than a decade at 16,000 euros ($18,000) for one course of treatments. Drug firm Novartis, which in 2018 acquired rights to sell it in Europe, is asking more than five times that for its proprietary version, Lutathera. Thomasa is part of a protest against high drug prices launched by an unlikely group of rebels: Dutch pharmacies.

Three – Erasmus, Amsterdam’s University Medical Center (UMC) and the Transvaal Pharmacy in The Hague – have vowed to bypass drug company products and make treatments for a handful of rare diseases themselves, exercising their right to “compound” medicines. The Dutch market is small, with only hundreds of patients for the diseases in question. But the dispute is part of a growing global backlash against high drug prices, from the United States and Canada to Japan, and campaigners said it was being closely watched by health experts elsewhere. “People with rare diseases are dependent on medicines that are so expensive that they can’t afford them, when they could be offered for a much lower price,” said UMC pharmacist Marleen Kemper.

“The pharmaceutical industry plays an important role in developing good products, but we think it’s not fair if these firms make big money off these patients.” Compounding is the ancient practice of preparing medicines for individual patients. Pharmacists are trained to compound, though nowadays most medicines are made by industrial producers. Drug companies have raised concerns about the safety of compounded medicines that have not been approved by European regulators. But the specialized compounding pharmacies, which have on-site laboratories, have been backed by the Dutch government as part of efforts to tame rapidly rising medicine costs.

[..] The first two drugs targeted by Dutch pharmacies are Novartis’s Lutathera and a drug called CDCA, registered in Europe by Leadiant. High prices are not unusual for new rare disease drugs, as companies must recoup development costs from a relatively small group of patients. Novartis charges 92,000 euros for a one-off course of four Lutathera injections. But while the drug is innovative, its development costs were relatively small and cannot justify the price tag, said Erasmus MC Chief Executive Ernst Kuipers. Main development costs amounted to about 40 million euros, including 15 million euros in public funding, according to Erasmus – where most of the testing took place – and a review published in the Dutch Journal of Medicine.

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Jim at his best.

A Place of Your Own (Jim Kunstler)

I don’t think you can overstate the damage we’ve done to ourselves in the sheer material arrangement of our national life. A decade ago, I sat in on many zoning board meetings called to approve new WalMarts and other chain-stores around my region of upstate New York and southern Vermont. Inevitably, the companies organized a claque of locals in the meeting hall — itself a depressing, low-ceilinged chamber of cinder blocks and fluorescent lighting — to fill the seats and yell in support of “bargain shopping.” That was some bargain they got. The chain-stores got approved and the Main Streets died, but that wasn’t the end of it. This dynamic also destroyed networks that gave local citizens an economic and social place.

Locally owned business people were the caretakers of the town. They took care of two buildings — their place of business and their home. They sat on library, school, and hospital boards and donated money to running local institutions. They employed people who lived in town and there were consequences for treating them well or badly. There was even a time in this country when local business people wouldn’t dare to put up an insultingly ugly building. A lot of this economic behavior has produced the social perversities of our time. Exterminating an entire class of local merchants has eliminated the heart of the American middle-class and grotesquely concentrated the nation’s wealth among corporate leviathans who comprise one percent of the population.

It also eliminated the place where young people learned how to do business, preparing themselves to try ventures of their own, and to make a place for themselves in the world. What is your place now? A cubicle in the marketing department of Old Navy? An aisle in the Home Depot? A desk in the Diversity and Inclusion office of some State University, pushing to sort the student population into racial and sexual categories because all other ways of belonging in society are gone? Or do you occupy ten square feet of sidewalk with a tarp and a shopping cart? None of those places are liable to furnish a personal sense that life is worth living.

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Mar 052019
 


Vincent van Gogh Weaver 1884

 

China Warns Of ‘Tough Struggle’, Cuts Growth Target To Lowest Since 1990 (G.)
China’s Largest Property Developer To Sell All Homes At A 10% Discount (ZH)
Relying On Central Banks For Growth Is A Bad Idea (Das)
Theresa May ‘Did Not Understand EU When She Triggered Brexit’ (G.)
Dear Europe, Brexit Is A Lesson For All Of Us: It’s Time For Renewal (Macron)
EU Must Learn From Brexit And Reform – Macron (G.)
The Prisoner Says No To Big Brother (John Pilger)
White House Lambasts Trump Probe (BBC)
Fox News’s Propaganda Isn’t Just Unethical, It’s Enormously Influential (Vox)
Manafort Asks Judge to Revisit Order on Lies to Special Counsel (CN)
Britain Puts New Roof On Skripal House of Horrors (Galloway)
Sunset Boulevard with Chimp (Kunstler)
Heatwaves Sweeping Oceans ‘Like Wildfires’ (G.)
World’s Rarest Orangutan Under Threat In Indonesia From Dam Project (G.)

 

 

To reiterate from yesterday, Xiang Songzuo, professor at Renmin University in Beijing, former deputy director at the People’s Bank of China and chief economist at the Agricultural Bank of China, said in a speech in December that real GDP growth was 1.67%, and now says: “I think this year, regulators will encourage more shadow banking financing, particularly to the private sector.”

Perhaps the biggest takeaway today is that China is failing to increase domestic demand, long predicted to be the country’s saving grace.

China Warns Of ‘Tough Struggle’, Cuts Growth Target To Lowest Since 1990 (G.)

China has set its lowest growth target in nearly three decades as premier Li Keqiang warned of “tough” challenges facing the world’s second-largest economy. He set the country’s growth at 6.0 to 6.5%, down from a target of 6.5% last year. In 1990, growth sank to 3.9% because of international sanctions sparked by the Tiananmen square protests. Growth in 2018 was 6.6%, the slowest rate since 1990. Speaking at the opening of the National People’s Congress, China’s legislative body, on Tuesday, Li said: “We will face a graver and more complicated environment as well as risks and challenges … We must be fully prepared for a tough struggle.”

Li’s state-of-the-nation-style address comes as the ruling Chinese Communist Party faces a difficult year amid a slowing economy, a trade war with the US, and diplomatic tensions over Huawei, the Chinese tech giant. Domestically, China has been hit by public health scandals as well as protests by workers, students, and small pockets of activists. Striking a sombre tone, Li stressed the “severe challenges” China is faced last year, including trade frictions, “mounting protectionism and unilateralism” and slowing domestic demand. “Downward pressure on the Chinese economy continues to increase, growth in consumption is slowing, and growth in effective investment lacks momentum. The real economy faces many difficulties,” Li said.

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The people who gave you empty cities.

China’s Largest Property Developer To Sell All Homes At A 10% Discount (ZH)

“Property accounts for roughly 70 per cent of urban Chinese families’ total assets – a home is both wealth and status. People don’t want prices to increase too fast, but they don’t want them to fall too quickly either,” said Shao Yu, chief economist at Oriental Securities. “People are so used to rising prices that it never occurred to them that they can fall too. We shouldn’t add to this illusion,” Shao added, echoing Ben Bernanke circa 2005. The bottom line is that just like true price discovery for US capital markets is prohibited (and sees Fed intervention any time there is an even modest, 10-20% drop in asset prices) or else the risk of an all out panic is all too real, in China true price discovery is also not permitted, however when it comes to the country’s all important, and wealth effect boosting, real estate.

Which is a problem, because whereas China suddenly appears to be suffering from all the conventional signs of deflation in the auto retail sector, where as we noted previously, neither lower prices nor easier loans have managed to put a dent the ongoing demand plunge the same ominous price cuts – which are clearly meant to boost flagging demand – are starting to emerge in China’s housing sector. Case in point, according to China’s Paper, Hui Ka Yan, the Chairman of Evergrande, China’s biggest property developer, and China’s second richest person announced it must ramp up home sales and to do that it would sell all its properties at a 10% discount after its home sales tumbled in January amid a cooling market.

[..] In November, Evergrande, which carries the industry’s largest debt pile of any Chinese housing developer, was caught in a vicious funding squeeze and raised eyebrows with a $1.8BN, 5-year bond deal, which it had to pay a whopping 13.75% coupon, prompting analysts to say the move “carried a whiff of desperation.” The fact that chairman Hui Ka Yan, China’s second-richest person, bought $1bn of it himself, added to a sense that outside investors were shunning the company. In many ways, Evergrande had no choice: after the property market boomed for the past three years, helping to power the economy through Xi Jinping’s crucial political transition year of 2017, in 2018 the market slowed sharply, after local governments shifted focus to controlling frothy prices and China Development Bank, the policy lender, phased out a $1 trillion subsidy program for homebuyers in smaller cities, where Evergrande’s projects are concentrated, the FT reported.

Even the official China News Service, usually a cheerleader for the economy, acknowledged recently that the property market “was a bit chilly”. Nomura chief China economist Ting Lu put it more starkly, forecasting a “frigid winter”. The bigger problem for Evergrande, which had $208 billion in total liabilities at the end of June 2018 — the most of any Chinese developer — including $43bn maturing in 2019, is that should China’s housing market suffer a steep downturn, it will likely be the company to suffer the most, if for no other reason than its massive leverage which stood at a net debt to equity ratio of 400%.

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I like and appreciate Satiayit Das, but the Fed doesn’t make grand policy errors, it simply protects its clients with public money. Since it does that by killing off price discovery, let’s stop talking about ‘markets’.

Relying On Central Banks For Growth Is A Bad Idea (Das)

Just since December 2018, central banks have collectively injected as much as $500 billion of liquidity to stabilize economic conditions. The U.S. Federal Reserve has put interest rate increases on hold and is contemplating a halt to its balance-sheet reduction plan. Other central banks have taken similar actions, fueling a new phase of the “everything bubble” as markets careen from December’s indiscriminate selling to January’s indiscriminate buying. The monetary onslaught appears a reaction to financial factors – falling equity markets, rising credit spreads, increased volatility – and a perceived weakening of economic activity, primarily in Europe and China.

If they heeded Walter Bagehot’s oft-cited rule, central banks would act only as lenders of last resort in times of financial crisis, lending without limit to solvent firms against good collateral at high rates. Instead, they’ve become lenders of first resort, expected to step in at any sign of problems. U.S. central bankers are currently debating whether quantitative-easing programs should be used purely in emergency situations or more routinely. Since 2008, the global economy has grown far too dependent on huge central bank balance sheets and accommodative monetary policy. The U.S. economic boom President Donald Trump loves to tout is largely fake, engineered by artificial policy settings.

Such dependence is dangerous and, for various reasons, could well backfire. For one thing, central banks are poor forecasters. GDP growth, inflation and labor markets may prove more resilient than feared, remaining at or above trend. Key risks, such as the trade dispute between the U.S. and China, may recede. Financial markets and asset prices have already recovered substantially. It’s possible that central banks may be forced to make another U-turn to reduce the risk of reflating asset price bubbles and overheating economies. This flip-flop would be destabilizing and affect decisionmakers’ credibility.

Printing money was always going to be easier than withdrawing it later. In effect, central banks are boxed into a situation where they can’t normalize policy and must maintain low rates and abundant liquidity, lest they destabilize fragile asset markets and spur low growth and disinflation. This state of “infinite QE” risks miscalculations and major policy errors. If central banks are, as is now fashionable to state, the only game in town, then the game is lost.

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The Tories thought they could get deals done with separate EU countries.

Theresa May ‘Did Not Understand EU When She Triggered Brexit’ (G.)

Theresa May and her circle of advisers did not understand how the European Union works, and consequently followed a negotiating strategy in 2016 that was doomed to fail, the former UK ambassador to the EU Sir Ivan Rogers has said. Speaking to the Institute for Government on Monday, Rogers said the people around the prime minister at the start of the article 50 process “didn’t know very much about European councils or that much about the EU”. Rogers, who resigned a year ago and has developed a reputation for producing some of the most caustic assessments of the misunderstandings between the UK and the EU, said the UK lived under the illusion that it could circumvent Brussels by making direct deals with the major capitals.

He said: “Capitals obviously matter, but I think having lived through this with a number of prime ministers, a number of different negotiations … that reflex in the British system always to think that we can deal direct with the organ grinders and not the monkeys: it never works like that. “It didn’t work like that in the Cameron renegotiation either. That stuff is not done in the way British politics works, leader to leader. It’s done via the bureaucrats, and the sherpas, and the people at the top of the institutions.” Rogers also warned that the chances of a no-deal Brexit sticking for long were close to zero. “The UK and EU know there is no chance of no-deal Brexit being the long-term end state, as the UK would quickly come back to the negotiating table,” he said. “There is not a world where we are going to end up with no deal.”

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A 25% approval rating won’t keep Little Napoleon from designing grande plans. More Europe!

Dear Europe, Brexit Is A Lesson For All Of Us: It’s Time For Renewal (Macron)

Never since the second world war has Europe been so essential. Yet never has Europe been in such danger. Brexit stands as the symbol of that. It symbolises the crisis of a Europe that has failed to respond to its peoples’ need for protection from the major shocks of the modern world. It also symbolises the European trap. The trap lies not in being part of the European Union; the trap is in the lie and the irresponsibility that can destroy it. Who told the British people the truth about their post-Brexit future? Who spoke to them about losing access to the EU market? Who mentioned the risks to peace in Ireland of restoring the border? Retreating into nationalism offers nothing; it is rejection without an alternative. And this is the trap that threatens the whole of Europe: the anger mongers, backed by fake news, promise anything and everything.

Europe is not a second-tier power. Europe in its entirety is a vanguard: it has always defined the standards of progress. In this, it needs to drive forward a project of convergence rather than competition: Europe, where social security was created, needs to introduce a social shield for all workers, guaranteeing the same pay for the same work, and an EU minimum wage, appropriate to each country, negotiated collectively every year. Getting back on track also means spearheading the environmental cause. Will we be able to look our children in the eye if we do not also clear our climate debt?

The EU needs to set its target – zero carbon by 2050 and pesticides halved by 2025 – and adapt its policies accordingly with such measures as a European Climate Bank to finance the ecological transition, a European food safety force to improve our food controls and, to counter the lobby threat, independent scientific assessment of substances hazardous to the environment and health. This imperative needs to guide all our action: from the Central Bank to the European commission, from the European budget to the Investment Plan for Europe, all our institutions need to have the climate as their mandate.

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Not the Onion. The man who has his police maim his own citizens now says “the people will really take back control of their future”.

EU Must Learn From Brexit And Reform – Macron (G.)

Macron later said: “The Brexit impasse is a lesson for us all”. In a nod to the Brexiters’ campaign slogan “take back control”, he said that in a changed Europe “the people will really take back control of their future”. In a suggestion the UK would deepen its future relationship with the EU, he said that “in this new Europe, the UK, I am sure, will find its true place”. The call for a Europe-wide agency “for the protection of democracies” to shield against electoral interference from outside powers comes as campaigning for May’s European parliament elections gets underway. Security officials are preparing for potential attempts by Russia-linked hackers to sway the vote and potentially deepen divisions in the bloc.

“There’s a strong likelihood that people will try to manipulate the debates and falsify the European election results,” the EU’s security commissioner, Julian King, told France’s Alsace newspaper last week. The May vote is shaping up as a continental clash between populist and Eurosceptic movements on the one hand, and pro-European internationalists on the other. Macron, who has faced months of gilets jaunes or yellow vest anti-government protests, has sought to style himself as a progressive voice against nationalism. His centrist party La République En Marche is narrowly ahead of Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally in French polls – a re-run of his face-off with Le Pen in the 2017 presidential election.

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John Pilger gave this speech at a rally in Sydney for Julian Assange recently, organised by the Socialist Equality Party. Unfortunate name.

The Prisoner Says No To Big Brother (John Pilger)

Whenever I visit Julian Assange, we meet in a room he knows too well. There is a bare table and pictures of Ecuador on the walls. There is a bookcase where the books never change. The curtains are always drawn and there is no natural light. The air is still and fetid. This is Room 101. Before I enter Room 101, I must surrender my passport and phone. My pockets and possessions are examined. The food I bring is inspected. The man who guards Room 101 sits in what looks like an old-fashioned telephone box. He watches a screen, watching Julian. There are others unseen, agents of the state, watching and listening. Cameras are everywhere in Room 101. To avoid them, Julian manoeuvres us both into a corner, side by side, flat up against the wall.

[..] Julian is a distinguished Australian, who has changed the way many people think about duplicitous governments. For this, he is a political refugee subjected to what the United Nations calls “arbitrary detention”. The UN says he has the right of free passage to freedom, but this is denied. He has the right to medical treatment without fear of arrest, but this is denied. He has the right to compensation, but this is denied. As founder and editor of WikiLeaks, his crime has been to make sense of dark times. WikiLeaks has an impeccable record of accuracy and authenticity which no newspaper, no TV channel, no radio station, no BBC, no New York Times, no Washington Post, no Guardian can equal. Indeed, it shames them. That explains why he is being punished.

For example: Last week, the International Court of Justice ruled that the British Government had no legal powers over the Chagos Islanders, who in the 1960s and 70s, were expelled in secret from their homeland on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and sent into exile and poverty. Countless children died, many of them, from sadness. It was an epic crime few knew about. For almost 50 years, the British have denied the islanders’ the right to return to their homeland, which they had given to the Americans for a major military base. In 2009, the British Foreign Office concocted a “marine reserve” around the Chagos archipelago. This touching concern for the environment was exposed as a fraud when WikiLeaks published a secret cable from the British Government reassuring the Americans that “the former inhabitants would find it difficult, if not impossible, to pursue their claim for resettlement on the islands if the entire Chagos Archipelago were a marine reserve.”

The truth of the conspiracy clearly influenced the momentous decision of the International Court of Justice. WikiLeaks has also revealed how the United States spies on its allies; how the CIA can watch you through your iPhone; how Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took vast sums of money from Wall Street for secret speeches that reassured the bankers that if she was elected, she would be their friend. In 2016, WikiLeaks revealed a direct connection between Clinton and organised jihadism in the Middle East: terrorists, in other words. One email disclosed that when Clinton was US Secretary of State, she knew that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were funding Islamic State, yet she accepted huge donations for her foundation from both governments. She then approved the world’s biggest ever arms sale to her Saudi benefactors: arms that are currently being used against the stricken people of Yemen. That explains why he is being punished.

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Nadler et al sent Julian Assange a request for documents. Imagine the brain damage required for that. Other than that, from what I get, there’s nothing new. All 81 requests concern people who’s already sent docs before, to Mueller and elsewhere.

White House Lambasts Trump Probe (BBC)

House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, a Democrat, said it was the “obligation” of Congress to “provide a check on abuses of power” by the White House. Mr Nadler, whose committee has the power to conduct impeachment hearings, also said it was “very clear” that the president had obstructed justice. But Mr Nadler told ABC News it was too early to discuss removing the president from office. President Trump dismissed Mr Nadler’s probe as a “political hoax”, but added: “I co-operate all the time with everybody.” Democrats, who took control of the House of Representatives in January, have vowed to open investigations into the president and White House.

More than five House committees are now investigating alleged attempts by Russia to meddle in the 2016 election campaign, the president’s tax returns and potential conflicts of interest involving Mr Trump’s family. Those inquiries are in addition to the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is expected to file his report soon. In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said: “Today, Chairman Nadler opened up a disgraceful and abusive investigation into tired, false allegations already investigated by the special counsel and committees in both chambers of Congress. “Chairman Nadler and his fellow Democrats have embarked on this fishing expedition because they are terrified that their two-year false narrative of ‘Russia collusion’ is crumbling.

[..] Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, longtime Trump personal assistant Rhona Graff and ex-White House counsel Don McGahn are also on the list of names released by the House Judiciary Committee. Donald Trump Jr has previously been forced by members of Congress to answer questions about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, in which he sat down with a Kremlin-linked lawyer who had offered dirt on Mr Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton. Wikileaks, and its founder Julian Assange, have also been sent documents requests by the committee. Wikileaks published emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee and released them during the 2016 campaign, causing political embarrassment to Mrs Clinton and her campaign team.

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Yes, Trump has Fox. The other side has just about everything else: CNN, MSNBC, NYT, WaPo, ABC, Politico, etc etc etc. Doesn’t someone who writes pieces like this one see the irony?

Fox News’s Propaganda Isn’t Just Unethical, It’s Enormously Influential (Vox)

Jane Mayer, the New Yorker’s longtime star investigative reporter, has a fantastic new longform piece out detailing the extent to which the Fox News Channel has become propaganda television for the Trump administration. Many of the basic points — like Fox’s bending of ethical standards to accommodate Sean Hannity, the collaborative relationship between Fox and Trump in shaping the news agenda, and the extent to which Trump at times seems to take his policy cues from Fox & Friends – will be familiar to Vox readers. But Mayer adds critical new insights into the arc of change at the network during a period when CEO Roger Ailes was deposed and then died, vice president Bill Shine left to become White House communications director, and the company’s owner Rupert Murdoch has restructured his media holdings and prepared to pass the baton to his son.

She also adds a couple of key scoops, including: • A Fox reporter named Diana Falzone had pieced together the entire Stormy Daniels story before the election, but network executives killed the story, demoted her, and then, after she sued them, reached a settlement with her that included a nondisclosure agreement. • “Trump ordered Gary Cohn, then the director of the National Economic Council, to pressure the Justice Department to intervene” and sue to block AT&T’s proposed takeover of Time Warner. (The DOJ did sue, though they denied this was due to improper interference from the White House, and ended up losing in court.) • “During the Bush Administration’s disastrous handling of Hurricane Katrina, Fox’s ratings slumped so badly, a former Fox producer told me, that he was told to stop covering it.”

Fox’s propaganda broadcasting matters. It’s a somewhat underexplored topic in political science research, but the information that’s available suggests that right-wing propaganda broadcasting — led by Fox but also including Sinclair Broadcast Group — has a decisive influence on American politics. [..] A study by Emory University political scientist Gregory Martin and Stanford economist Ali Yurukoglu estimates that watching Fox News translates into a significantly greater willingness to vote for Republican candidates. Specifically, by exploiting semi-random variation in Fox viewership driven by changes in the assignment of channel numbers, they find that if Fox News hadn’t existed, the Republican presidential candidate’s share of the two-party vote would have been 3.59 points lower in 2004 and 6.34 points lower in 2008. Without Fox, in other words, the GOP’s only popular vote win since the 1980s would have been reversed and the 2008 election would have been an extinction-level landslide.

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Interesting twist. But under wraps.

Manafort Asks Judge to Revisit Order on Lies to Special Counsel (CN)

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort asked a federal judge Monday to reconsider her earlier ruling that Manafort violated his plea agreement by lying about his contacts with suspected Russian spy Konstantin Kilimnik. The details of the request remain under seal for now, but a short order from U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson entered into the docket in the case shows it is a request to reconsider her earlier decision based on new evidence. The docket entry specifically references a supplemental filing last month from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office that informed Jackson of new information relevant to Manafort’s plea deal that came up in an interview with longtime Manafort associate Rick Gates.

Jackson said in the short order Monday she will “deem [Manafort’s] filing as a motion for reconsideration” of her earlier decision. The motion is under seal for now, but Manafort and Mueller’s office will discuss whether portions of the filing may become public, according to the order. Manafort is scheduled to be sentenced in Washington, D.C., on March 13. He pleaded guilty to head off a second criminal trial after a federal jury in Virginia found him guilty last year of various financial crimes. In Washington, Manafort pleaded to conspiring to defraud the United States, obstruction of justice and violations of lobbying laws in relation to work he did on behalf of a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.

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Britain would fall apart if it could no longer unite vs Russia.

Britain Puts New Roof On Skripal House of Horrors (Galloway)

In 12 months of shifting sands, one thing remains as its original foundations: the British state narrative on Salisbury stands as a castle in the air. One year from the dastardly fate of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, no one is a step forward on what happened to them, how, why, or of course where they are. One year ago, a nerve agent was allegedly sprayed onto their front doorknob. One year later, their house needs a new roof as a result. And why the roof? And why only the roof? I don’t know what happened to the stricken pair but then, neither do you, however much you’ve followed the story in Britain’s mass media. In fact, the more you’ve read, the more confused you’re likely now to be. There are some things I do know, however. The first is that the Russian state had as little to gain from attacking this pair in broad daylight on a Salisbury street with a signature Soviet-developed weapon, ‘novichok,’ as I said at the time.

It was exactly 100 days before the World Cup, just days before President Putin’s re-election. If – and it’s a big if – the Russian state wanted to kill the Skripals, many things would’ve been different. Firstly, they would’ve been dead. Yulia would’ve been dead in Russia where she lived. And Sergei would’ve been dispatched at a less sensitive time by rather more reliable, less identifiable means, and by rather less comical killers. The killers would not have flown directly from and back to Moscow. They would not have entrusted their egress to the Sunday service of Wiltshire public transport. They would not have smiled up at every CCTV camera they could find. They would not have stayed at a downscale small hotel in East London, they would not have smoked drugs there, and they would not have noisily entertained a prostitute in their room. They would not have left traces of their nerve agent in their hotel room.

They would not have spent a mere hour scoping Salisbury the day before the alleged poisoning of the Skripals. Nor would they have returned by public transport to London for their sex and drug party, only to retrace their steps by public transport the next day. If they were going to kill a man and his daughter, they would not have trusted nerve agent on a doorknob when there was no conceivable way of knowing who’s hand would touch it. Yulia? Sergei? The milkman? Any Tom, Dick or Harry in the street (or any of their children)? If they were going to smear nerve agent on a doorknob, they would’ve done it in the dark – not at noon the next day, when anyone or any camera could watch them doing so, yet no one did. Quite apart from the salient fact that by noon the victims had already left the house never to return to it.

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Very sorry to see what Jacko was up to.

Sunset Boulevard with Chimp (Kunstler)

If you want some insight into how deep the collective public psychosis of this land runs, check out Dan Reed’s four-hour documentary about the late Michael Jackson streaming on the HBO cable network. The film apparently provoked outrage when it premiered at the Sundance Festival recently, as if it were in bad taste to disclose the icon’s peccadillos in these days of Progressive intersectional triumph. Mr. Jackson methodically assembled a harem of catamites as his show business fame exploded and he struggled with the personal horror of developing into a full-grown man. He solved that problem by restricting his social consort to little boys while surgically metamorphosing into a schematic approximation of a woman — interesting, since he repeatedly referred to women as “evil,” but then his greatest hit was the self-revealing song, Bad.

Everybody and his uncle’s-second-cousin in Hollywood at the time must have known what the deal was with him but they went along with the gag that he was the reincarnation of Peter Pan, just a harmless character out of Show Biz’s own catalog of manufactured mythology, something they could understand, a framing device to spin cotton candy out of the truth that Mr. Jackson was simply a child-molester. [..] perhaps, Leaving Neverland signals an interesting turning point in the madness that has gripped this country for years, and especially the bewitched, bothered, and bewildered thinking class, lost in its labyrinth of sacred monsters. This year 2019 — and especially the coming springtime — promises to be a time of spectacular reversals in politics, manners, and markets.

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Most of you will be eating yellyfish in your lifetime, it’s not just your kids anymore.

Heatwaves Sweeping Oceans ‘Like Wildfires’ (G.)

The number of heatwaves affecting the planet’s oceans has increased sharply, scientists have revealed, killing swathes of sea-life like “wildfires that take out huge areas of forest”. The damage caused in these hotspots is also harmful for humanity, which relies on the oceans for oxygen, food, storm protection and the removal of climate-warming carbon dioxide the atmosphere, they say. Global warming is gradually increasing the average temperature of the oceans, but the new research is the first systematic global analysis of ocean heatwaves, when temperatures reach extremes for five days or more. The research found heatwaves are becoming more frequent, prolonged and severe, with the number of heatwave days tripling in the last couple of years studied.

In the longer term, the number of heatwave days jumped by more than 50% in the 30 years to 2016, compared with the period of 1925 to 1954. As heatwaves have increased, kelp forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs have been lost. These foundation species are critical to life in the ocean. They provide shelter and food to many others, but have been hit on coasts from California to Australia to Spain. “You have heatwave-induced wildfires that take out huge areas of forest, but this is happening underwater as well,” said Dan Smale at the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth, UK, who led the research published in Nature Climate Change. “You see the kelp and seagrasses dying in front of you. Within weeks or months they are just gone, along hundreds of kilometres of coastline.”

The damage global warming is causing to the oceans has also been shown in a series of other scientific papers published in the last week. Ocean warming has cut sustainable fish catches by 15% to 35% in five regions, including the North Sea and the East China Sea, and 4% globally, according to work published by Pinsky and colleagues.

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More victims of European fossil fuel replacements. This is so easy to solve: pay them to NOT build that dam. Demand phasing out of palm oil, in fuel and food.

World’s Rarest Orangutan Under Threat In Indonesia From Dam Project (G.)

Environmentalists in Indonesia have lost a court challenge to a Chinese-backed dam project in Indonesia that will rip through the habitat of the most critically endangered orangutan species. On Monday, the state administrative court in North Sumatra’s capital, Medan, ruled that construction can continue despite critics of the 510-megawatt hydro dam providing evidence that its environmental impact assessment was deeply flawed. Experts said the dam would flood and in other ways alter the habitat of the orangutan species, which numbers only about 800 primates, and was likely to make it impossible to ensure the species survived.

Scientists announced the discovery of the species, Pongo tapanuliensis, in November after DNA analysis and field study revealed unique characteristics. The population, with frizzier hair and distinctively long calls, was previously believed to be Sumatran orangutans, also critically endangered. Without special protection, it is in danger of rapid extinction, according to scientists. The species is found only in the Batang Toru forest, where the dam will be built. Announcing the decision of a three-judge panel, presiding Judge Jimmy C Pardede said the witnesses and facts presented by the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, the country’s largest environmental group, in its case against the North Sumatra provincial government were irrelevant.


A newly-discovered species of orangutan, the Pongo tapanuliensis, is only found in the forest where the dam will be built. Photograph: HANDOUT/Reuters

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