Feb 052024
 


Giovanni Battista Tiepolo Allegory of the Planets and Continents 1752

 

Beijing Powerless As Chinese Stocks Crater (ZH)
Brzezinski’s Barbaric Dream. A Broader War, “Spreading Towards Iran” (Stea)
US Not Prepared for War Against Iran and ‘Axis of Resistance’ (Sp.)
EU Needs An Enemy – Kremlin (RT)
EU Gives Zelensky Life Support for Himself and His Regime. But .. (Jay)
EU Citizens’ Taxes Going To Terrorists – Moscow (RT)
Possible NATO Corps Deployment to Ukraine May Become ‘Suicide Mission’ (Sp.)
What Powerful Force Prevents the US from Defending its Borders? (PCR)
Shrinking Populations Fuel Divisive Politics (NYT)
Facebook: Tool for State Censorship, Goldmine for US Intel (Sp.)
Get The Zuck Out Of Here: 20 Years Later (RT)
Novichok Public Inquiry Turns Into A Secret Farce Before It Begins (Helmer)
E Jean Carroll Lawyer Says Trump Used Coded Version Of C-Word Against Her (G.)
Musk Took Drugs With Tesla, SpaceX Execs – WSJ (RT)

 

 

Congresswoman Luna about the new bipartisan Senate bill:

 

 

Farmers

 

 

 

 

Weinstein Border

 

 

RFK Jr

RFK/Smith

 

 

Elon Musk: “In the “bet-you-didn’t-know” category,
Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas issued written guidance making it clear that:
1. Illegal presence alone is not grounds for deportation.
2. Criminal charges, convictions or gang membership alone are not enough for deportation.
You basically have to be a convicted axe murderer to be deported! That’s because every deportation is a lost vote.”

 

 

 

 

Not much to do with Trump’s promised new tariffs, I would think. This has been coming for a while.

Zerohedge thinks it’s serious though: “..every day that Beijing is just more talk and no action brings us closer to the world’s biggest and most violent social revolt seen in history…”

Beijing Powerless As Chinese Stocks Crater (ZH)

The China Securities Regulatory Commission vowed on Sunday to prevent abnormal fluctuations, saying it would guide more medium- and long-term funds into the market and crack down on illegal activities including malicious short selling and insider trading. The brief statement followed a sudden plunge of as much as 3.4% in the benchmark CSI 300 Index on Friday — and an outpouring of frustration on social media from individual investors just days before families across the country gather to celebrate the Lunar New Year. “The statement sought to stabilize investor sentiment, but didn’t touch on fundamental problems including a lack of confidence and huge economic uncertainty,” said Shen Meng, director at investment bank Chanson & Co. “Those issues are the causes of abnormal market fluctuation.”

While authorities have taken piecemeal steps to support the economy and markets in recent months and have discussed a potential stock stabilization fund, they’ve yet to announce any major moves to stop the selloff. Weak economic data, simmering geopolitical tensions with the US, a worsening property crisis and an opaque crackdown on the financial sector have all weighed on investor sentiment. As reported last week, China’s CSI 300 tumbled 6.3% in January, a record sixth straight month of losses. Shares then rallied briefly toward the end of the month after Bloomberg reported that authorities were seeking to mobilize about 2 trillion yuan ($278 billion) for a stabilization fund, but the market has since renewed its decline, reaching the lowest level since January 2019 as once again the Beijing trial baloon was just that, and nothing more. .

Meanwhile, the hail mary media bullshit and lies continued, and over the weekend, 21st Century Business Herald daily newspaper reported that authorities should set up a stabilization fund as soon as possible to boost market confidence, with an aim to get its size to 10 trillion yuan or more. Next up it will be 100 trillion in promises, then 1 quadrillion, only by then the SHCOMP will hit 0. Meanwhile, in a sign of how exasperated some investors have become, thousands flocked to a social media account of the US embassy in Beijing to vent their frustrations over the economy and slumping share prices. In the comment section of the embassy’s Weibo post on giraffe protection on Friday evening, some 53,000 users added remarks by Saturday evening, winning over 300,000 likes. China’s internet users often struggle to find a venue to air grievances about the economy or government performance, with official accounts of Chinese state agencies or media usually either disabling the comment function or only showing selected feedback.

In the end, the outcome is a clear one: either Beijing will watch powerless as 1 billion furious Chinamen start rioting in the streets as both the real estate and capital markets crater – and only then, after countless are dead, will it inject trillions into the economy, or someone in Beijing will come to their senses and do so before there is bloodshed… Not that that’s a viable solution of course: at best, that’s kicking the can by a few years, but in the grand scheme of things, can kicking is all the world has left. And now all eyes are now on China and every day that Beijing is just more talk and no action brings us closer to the world’s biggest and most violent social revolt seen in history.

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It was Brzezinski who invented the plot of a war between Ukraine and Russia.

Brzezinski’s Barbaric Dream. A Broader War, “Spreading Towards Iran” (Stea)

In a recent interview, Paul Craig Roberts, former economic adviser (US Department of the Treasury) to the late President Ronald Reagan, outlined, with astonishing foresight, the trajectory that the current Middle East crisis may follow, and his insight is both brilliant and terrifying. To paraphrase Roberts’s analysis, the Israeli-Gaza conflict is merely the beginning of a widening conflict in the Middle East, spreading toward the neocon’s main target, Iran. Though Iran is extremely powerful now, the conflict will greatly weaken the country, making possible the West’s stealthy infiltration of jihadists into the Central Asian countries which border Iran and extend to both the Russian borders and, indeed the Chinese border, with Xinjiang, bordering Kazakhstan. Though Roberts does not mention China, the logic of his thesis would extend to China.

The purpose of these jihadists, infiltrated into countries neighboring Russia, with large Islamic populations which have, historically lived in peace with citizens of very diverse ethnic and religious identities, including Russian, Catholic, Jewish citizens, often intermarrying, will be, as Brzezinski planned. This purpose will be,[..] to incite violent, extremist religious separatist movements, destabilizing these peaceful Central Asian countries, fomenting “color revolutions” (as was tried, but failed in Kazakhstan recently), and engineering bloody putsch, in these countries, similar to the one incited in Ukraine in 2014 with the ensuing devastating wars. These infiltrated jihadists would spread and continue inciting violent separatist movements, next, within the Russian Federation itself, with Bashkortostan and Tartarstan on the Volga, with large Islamic populations, again, also hitherto living peacefully with other extremely diverse religious and ethnic citizens.

If successful in inciting separatist movements on the Volga, Russia could be isolated from the enormously rich resources in Siberia, and reduced in size to less than the area of France, and impoverished, accordingly. Though Russia may be aware of this lethal Western agenda, the militarization of the rabidly Russophobic Baltics, to the North, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, and the recent accession of Finland and Sweden into Nato, with planned “Steadfast Defender 2024, including 31 NATO participants, will threaten Russia from the north and west, reducing its ability to protect itself from threats from destabilized Central Asian neighbors, and demanding that Russia fight for its survival on two fronts.

Although Brzezinski, in “The Grand Chessboard”, describes a partnership between Russia and China as a disaster to be avoided at all costs, NATO’s provocation of Russia has forced a war between Russia and Ukraine, which Brzezinski fiercely advocated in order to isolate Russia from Europe. Though the Russia-China friendship would appear to protect Russia from the aforementioned crisis, at least now, if the deadly agenda Paul Craig Roberts describes becomes a reality, the infiltration of jihadists would likely spread to China, which has, also, a large Islamic population, hitherto living peacefully with diverse citizenry.

However, as violent, externally engineered separatist movements have already occurred in Xinjiang, in the West of China, these could be exacerbated by further outside infiltration of jihadists, and could metastasize throughout China. Further, the eastern part of China could be existentially threatened by the new “Axis” of Japan, South Korea and the United States, menacing China’s survival, and again forcing China to divert its defenses from the West to the East, increasing its vulnerability, and diminishing its ability to assist Russia, amidst the rampant chaos created by the Brzezinski plan, and Washington’s current neocon agenda, world domination.

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“The United States, its assets across Iraq would be crushed. It would be overrun and by extension Syria as well and Lebanon. The world has changed. This is not just Iran, by the way. This is the whole of West Asia.”

US Not Prepared for War Against Iran and ‘Axis of Resistance’ (Sp.)

US officials have reportedly signaled that plans have been approved for a series of strikes against targets in Iraq and Syria. That would be in response to a recent drone attack on US personnel in the Middle East — which claimed the lives of three soldiers and left 34 wounded. In the wake of the strike Bloomberg claimed the Biden administration was considering a covert strike on Iran or Iranian officials as possible options. But University of Tehran Professor Seyed Mohammad Marandi told Sputnik that directly targeting Iran would be a major mistake and a major miscalculation by Washington. He suggested that scenario was very unlikely, given Iran’s missile defense and drone capabilities, as well as the vulnerability of US bases which are scattered across the Middle Eastern region.

“Let’s assume that the United States strikes Iran,” Marandi said. “The United States has bases all across the Persian Gulf. The Iranians will hit out at those bases, and then the Iranians will also punish those countries that host those bases.” The professor warned the fallout from the tit-for-tat attacks would send oil and gas prices “through the roof.” “The Red Sea would no longer be safe for oil and gas. The Western economies would collapse if there was a major escalation in our region,” Marandi underlined. “The United States, its assets across Iraq would be crushed. It would be overrun and by extension Syria as well and Lebanon. The world has changed. This is not just Iran, by the way. This is the whole of West Asia.” Given the latest US media reports, it appears far more plausible that the US would attack targets in Iraq and Syria, Marandi continued.

“[The US] will claim some sort of ‘victory over terrorists’ and that sort of nonsense which they usually say,” the professor said. “But it will be like in Yemen, they will have very little impact because the resistance to the US occupation, the illegal occupation in Iraq and Syria is very well hidden. Their assets are underground, they are spread out. And all the United States would do would be to make people angrier and make the resistance more popular, both at home and abroad. That’s exactly what we saw in Yemen.” Marandi noted that most recently instead of pushing the Israeli regime to end the slaughter in the Palestinian Gaza Strip, the US tried to facilitate the genocide by attacking Yemen. Since early January the US and its allies conducted a series of strikes against the Ansar Allah-led government in the Yemeni capital Sana’a, also known as the Houthis after their leader.

“They launched many missiles, wasted a lot of money, but they were incapable of changing the balance of power. And Yemen continues to easily strike ships. Why?” the professor asked. “Because all of their assets are underground. Their mobile radar is well-protected underground. Their missiles and drones are well protected underground. They come out, strike the target and go back underground. So the Americans failed in Yemen. They made ‘Ansar Allah,’ or what the West likes to call the Houthis, very popular across the region and across the world, and they’ll only do the same in Iraq and Syria.”

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Just like the US..

EU Needs An Enemy – Kremlin (RT)

Recent statements by EU politicians about the possibility of a war with Russia serve their own domestic interests and distract the population from internal issues like tanking economies, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has suggested. At the same time, claims of an allegedly imminent conflict with Moscow also help to justify continued funding for Kiev, he said. On February 1 EU leaders signed off on a €50-billion ($54-billion) package of economic aid to Ukraine. This followed months of back-and-forth on the matter. “They [politicians in EU countries] need to continue to construct an image of the enemy, to do it in a textured, prominent way, in order to justify the increase in spending. And, you see, the allocation of 50 billion – on the one hand, for the EU this amount is not a very big deal, but on the other hand it is still noticeable against the backdrop of the crisis markers manifesting themselves in the economies of EU countries,” Peskov told journalist Pavel Zarubin on Sunday.

This effort to distract populations from domestic problems with talk about a purportedly looming conflict with Russia has been undertaken by multiple countries of the bloc, the spokesman pointed out. In particular, Germany has clearly taken such an approach to hide the internal issues it has been facing lately, he suggested. “Germany is an economic engine of the EU, and now whole sectors of the German economy are losing their attractiveness and competitiveness. And, of course, against this backdrop, it is best to divert attention by creating some kind of enemy and maintaining its image. And for this there is probably no one better than [Russia] in their opinion,” the spokesman explained.

In recent months, senior officials from various EU countries have been urging their citizenry to brace for an allegedly inevitable conflict with Russia, with governments redirecting funding towards their militaries. Berlin has actively taken such a route, adopting a new military and strategic doctrine late last year that aims for “war-ready” forces. At the time, Chancellor Olaf Scholz claimed the country needed “a long-term, permanent change of course,” with the goal of creating “a powerful Bundeswehr” actually able to fight in the war that has been flagged as imminent. Russia has repeatedly dismissed claims that it is somehow seeking to attack any EU or NATO countries, describing such allegations as “absurd.” Late last year, for instance, Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated that Moscow has “no interest… geopolitically, economically or militarily… in waging war against [the US-led NATO bloc].”

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“..They don’t actually believe there will be a war with Russia but it’s a great story to put out there which pays dividends…”

EU Gives Zelensky Life Support for Himself and His Regime. But .. (Jay)

So by hook or by crook, the EU got its funding for Ukraine agreed. But before you get too excited, perhaps it’s worth pondering the amount. A pathetic 50bn euros spread over four years! Is this money really for Zelensky and his cabal to keep the war going though, or simply a massive bribe for him to pass most of it on, in order for him to stay in power? What is the West worried about with Zelensky leaving office too early, some astute analysts will no doubt ask. From a military perspective it would be too little too late and so it’s all destined for public services and what some EU apparatchiks are calling “keeping the lights on”. But EU leaders should be aware that a good part of this money – probably at least half of it – will go directly to Zelensky and his circle of close aides and ministers whose only job is to keep him in power.

As president, he has control over the budgets of the government ministries including the finance ministry and it would be absurd to assume that most of this money will not be diverted in a regime which redefines the scales of corruption and embezzlement. Even the CIA chief Bill Mad Dog Burns had to fly in recently to Kiev to tell Zelensky personally to “not steal too much” from the next bundle which the Biden administration is expected to sign off in the coming weeks, which is expected to be around 65 billion dollars in military aid. And so the Americans appear to be ready to continue to give the military kit, despite much of it, according to my own investigation is ending up on the black market in Libya, while the EU is happy to pay the bills of the government and salaries. The Atlantic Council sums it up thus:

“This agreement is also an important signal to Washington that Europe is stepping up and is with Ukraine for the long run. Coincidentally, debates over aid packages to Ukraine on both sides of the Atlantic unfolded at the same time last year in December and now”. “Europe missed an opportunity to better impact the U.S. debate then. The EU hit the mark this time, showing Washington that Europe is doing its part”. But doing what part exactly? The EU default position on Ukraine is to blindly follow the Biden administration and its fatalistic support of the Ukraine regime until the abyss approaches. Indeed, most of last year Biden could only repeat the mantra over and over again “whatever it takes” and the EU followed, with many member states devastated by the decision. Germany’s economy is looking like a basket case while folks in the UK pay sky-high utility bills which in most cases look like a zero has been incongruously added by mistake.

Most EU countries have no military stock left to defend themselves against any threat – which does tend to take away the credibility of the absurd narrative that Russia is about to invade at any moment. And the EU itself continues to borrow money that has to be paid back by the next generation of taxpayers long after corrupt elitists like Ursula von der Leyen have left office and only have their dirty vaccine deals to fund their retirement plan while Europe starves. There is much talk in Brussels and on member state level that more money needs to be found for the EU project and that it needs to develop its own defence policy, without using the words EU army. Even in Britain, the conservative party are preparing for war with Russia. Well, strictly speaking senior officials are preparing the media narrative. They don’t actually believe there will be a war with Russia but it’s a great story to put out there which pays dividends.

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When you bomb bakeries, yes…

This is what Ukraine will switch to: targeting civilians.

EU Citizens’ Taxes Going To Terrorists – Moscow (RT)

The West is complicit in the Ukrainian military’s killing of civilians in Donbass, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has claimed. The diplomat was referring to a Ukrainian attack on a bakery in the city of Lisichansk, apparently involving weaponry provided by Kiev’s allies, which claimed the lives of at least 28 civilians. Following the attack, the acting head of the Lugansk People’s Republic, Leonid Pasechnik, accused the Ukrainian military of deliberately targeting the building on a weekend to maximize civilian casualties. In a post on his Telegram channel, he added that “emergency services have managed to rescue ten people from under the rubble,” with doctors doing their best to save their lives. In a statement on Saturday, Zakharova said that “according to preliminary information, the strike was conducted using Western weaponry.”

She described the shelling as a “terrorist attack” meant to convey Kiev’s “gratefulness for the ‘generous’ financial support by EU countries.” The foreign ministry spokeswoman added that the EU nations’ citizens should be cognizant of what their taxes are being spent on, namely “deadly weapons systems” used by the Ukrainian military to “kill civilians.” “We suggest that Parisians imagine how they go in the morning for a baguette, and Rome’s residents – to have a cup of coffee with cornetto – but instead of freshly-baked pastry return home with relatives wounded or killed by Ukrainian terrorists,” Zakharova charged. Echoing Pasechnik, the diplomat alleged that Kiev’s forces had been well aware that civilians, including families with children and the elderly, would typically flock to the bakery on Saturdays. She added that the building had been razed to the ground as a result of the shelling.

According to Zakharova, the deadly incident is “further proof of the criminal nature of the Kiev regime.” She went on to quote Russian President Vladimir Putin, who on Friday characterized the Ukrainian military as a “terrorist organization that attacks ambulances.” He was referring to several attacks on paramedics working in Donbass last month. The foreign ministry spokeswoman concluded by saying that Moscow will inform “international organizations of yet another terrorist attack on the part of Zelensky’s gang.” The official noted that Russia expects a swift and unequivocal condemnation of Kiev’s actions. Authorities in the LPR declared Sunday a day of mourning for the 28 victims of the attack on the bakery, which include one child. Pasechnik vowed that those responsible would eventually be brought to justice “for this horrible tragedy, for every death.”

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“..Russia has complete air dominance, escalatory dominance, logistical dominance, ammunition dominance..”

Possible NATO Corps Deployment to Ukraine May Become ‘Suicide Mission’ (Sp.)

The UK has urged its NATO allies to consider sending the alliance’s expeditionary force to Ukraine, an informed source told Sputnik. According to the source, the alleged move came “in connection with the unfavorable developments in the Ukrainian theater of military operations for Kiev”. The insider added that Britain also called on NATO to consider imposing a no-fly zone over the territory controlled by the Zelensky regime and to increase military aid to Ukraine. ”The UK’s reported plans about deploying NATO’s expeditionary corps to Ukraine is “a fantastical delusion on the part of the Brits and has no foundation in reality,” retired CIA intelligence officer and State Department official Larry Johnson told Sputnik. “But just because the Brits are insane does not mean Russia can ignore them. It is a serious proposal,” he added.

Johnson was partly echoed by Matthew Gordon-Banks, an international relations consultant, former member of Parliament and retired senior research fellow at the UK Defence Academy, who said he didn’t think the rumors of a NATO force in Ukraine should be taken seriously. “The suggestions I have heard are quite unrealistic at present,” Gordon-Banks stated. Asked to comment on the “unfavorable development of events” for Kiev on the battlefield, he emphasized that “things are collapsing in Kiev quite quickly”. “[Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky has not been able to fire his top general, and I think he is now very much a ‘lame duck’ president,” Gordon-Banks argued, referring to the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, Valery Zaluzhny.

The same tone was struck by Earl Rasmussen, a retired US Army lieutenant colonel turned geopolitical and military affairs consultant, who warned that if the information about London’s plans is true, and “if this is somebody’s dream, it could quickly become a nightmare for British and NATO forces.”But it is not a realistic solution or proposal. Russia has complete air dominance, escalatory dominance, logistical dominance, ammunition dominance. This would be catastrophic for any UK forces and definitely would show a symbol of direct NATO involvement, which could really be dangerous, as far as escalation goes,” Rasmussen emphasized, noting that “the British forces would probably be wiped out, fairly rapidly.” The US Army veteran suggested that someone in the UK military might be having “some type of delusional experience” for even suggesting such a scenario. “It’s a suicide mission for those troops. And it definitely would pull NATO into a much more dangerous situation and direct confrontation [with Russia],” Rasmussen concluded.

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“When the Western Roman Empire was overrun, Rome ceased to exist. How can it be any different for America?”

What Powerful Force Prevents the US from Defending its Borders? (PCR)

Israel can evict Palestinians from the the Palestinians’ villages in Palestine. Tiny Latvia can deport Russian ethnics born in Latvia for not learning to speak Latvian, but mighty America cannot prevent millions of immigrant-invaders from illegally entering the US each year and remaining. How can this be? Clearly the US government is in a conspiracy with the NGOs that are recruiting and funding the invasion in order to replace the white American population. Why is the US government cooperating with anti-American NGOs to steal America from Americans? Why do Americans sit on their butts and permit their country to be stolen? Why do a majority of American women vote for the Democrats who are aiding and abetting the theft of America? When Washington speaks of “American national interests,” whose interests is meant?

The military/security complex’s interest? How does a tower of babel have a national interest? Why is it in America’s national interest to be overrun by invaders? Why is Washington worried about attack from Russia and China but not from the vastly larger army of the anti-American NGOs? Does the US military have any role other than protecting the profits of the military/security complex? How can the United States be a country when it has no borders? How can something as abnormal as a country without borders continue to exist? When the Western Roman Empire was overrun, Rome ceased to exist. How can it be any different for America? Why are voices that speak for American identity, such as VDARE, suppressed by American prosecutorial authorities?

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3rd day in a row that we’re talking about birth rates.

Shrinking Populations Fuel Divisive Politics (NYT)

In the 2000 film “Almost Famous,” Cameron Crowe’s comedy-drama about rock musicians in the 1970s, the character played by Zooey Deschanel gives her younger brother some advice. “Listen to ‘Tommy’ with a candle burning, and you’ll see your whole future,” she says. I’m going to borrow that thought: Stare at the map accompanying this article with — or without — a candle burning, and you’ll see your whole future. The map shows how the number of working-age people around the world is forecast to change by 2050. Europe’s working-age population will shrink. So will that of Brazil, China, Chile, Japan and Russia, among others. And that change could have extremely negative consequences for those societies, without mitigation. “Working-age population” can sound technical and abstract. But these are the people who staff our offices and factories, work farms, treat the sick, care for the very old and the very young.

They are the ones who have children and raise them; who build new things and fix old ones. When that population shrinks, those activities become more difficult, more expensive and less frequent. The economy slows down. Fewer workers getting paid generates less tax revenue. As the population ages, more people rely on government social security programs to fund their retirements and health care, putting those vital programs further under strain. This is mostly a story about birthrates. As countries get richer, people have fewer children; and it turns out that once birthrates fall, it’s really hard to get them back up again. Although a number of countries have tried to boost fertility through tax breaks, cash bonuses and even awards for heroism given to women who bear many children, none of those programs have made more than a marginal difference.

But look at the map a little longer, and you see the phenomenon that has allowed a few wealthy countries to cushion the blow of demographic change: immigration. Australia, Canada and the United States have small green dots, denoting modest growth in their working-age populations. That’s largely because those countries take in relatively high numbers of immigrants, who not only bolster population numbers directly when they arrive, but also tend to have more children than the native-born population. In the United States, for instance, the modest increase in births since the 1970s was entirely driven by births to immigrant mothers. In Canada, immigration is the sole driver of population growth, according to government statistics.

Immigration, to be clear, can only ever be a partial solution to this demographic shift. To put the numbers in perspective, just to stay level by 2050, Europe would have to absorb about half of the entire working-age population growth in India, the world’s most populous country. China, facing an even bigger shortfall, could take all the growth of Pakistan and all that of Nigeria — Africa’s most populous country — and still be 2 million short of where it stands now. At the same time, this map strongly suggests that being able to attract and integrate large numbers of immigrants will be an important competitive advantage for countries in the coming decades. Doing so, however, will require overcoming political barriers that arise, partly, out of the same demographic shifts.

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Gretarded.

Facebook: Tool for State Censorship, Goldmine for US Intel (Sp.)

As Americans, Europeans and others around the world signed up, logged on and voluntarily offered up private information that companies and intel agencies would have paid a fortune to get their hands on just a few short decades ago, powerful forces quickly realized the importance of collecting and engineering this new form of online human interaction. “It is clear that intelligence agencies throughout the world, not only the US, can use Facebook to their advantage,” Ryan Hartwig, Facebook contractor-turned whistleblower and co-author of ‘Behind the Mask of Facebook: A Whistleblower’s Shocking Story of Big Tech Bias and Censorship,’ told Sputnik in an interview. “The government launders their censorship through various NGOs and institutions on behalf of the US government,” Hartwig said, pointing, for example, to a 2021 report by the Stanford Internet Observatory entitled “Combating Information Manipulation: A Playbook for Elections and Beyond,” which plainly outlines tools the company uses to “remove the spread of malign information” from social media.

In his book, coauthored with attorney Kent Heckenlively, Hartwig documents how, while working as a content moderator for Facebook in the 2010s, he had witnessed the platform’s disturbing transformation after the 2016 US elections into a tool for systematically suppressing conservative viewpoints while elevating liberal ones, and cracking down on some forms of suspected hate speech while amplifying others. Of course, conservatives aren’t the only ones targeted by the social media giant’s censorship leviathan, with non-liberal left groups, critics of the US military-industrial complex, Big Pharma, Big Tech and other elite forces which run America and much of the world also falling victim. Documented instances of censorship by Facebook include the scrubbing of criticism of US and European immigration policy, climate policies, vaccines and vaccine mandates, criticisms of Facebook itself, and the vagaries of US foreign policy, with posts on these issues occasionally deleted outright, but more often hidden or deranked without users being informed using the platform’s complex, non-open source algorithm.

In 2022, Facebook rolled out a special carve-out of exceptions to its anti-hate speech rules to allow users to make explicitly Russophobic posts, issue death threats against Russian officials, use dehumanizing language to refer to Russian troops, and even offer praise for the neo-Nazi Azov** Regiment, despite the social media giant’s ban on content featuring Nazi and neo-Nazi ideology. “Facebook manipulates public opinion by suppressing unpopular opinions, or allowing newsworthy exceptions for the people they like,” Hartwig explained, noting this extends not just to big name issues, but even extremely minute details bordering on psychopathy. “For example, they made a specific rule to protect Greta Thunberg from being attacked or called ‘Gretarded’,” the former content moderator recalled, referring to the WEF-promoted climate activist. “Normally, public figures, even young individuals like Greta are allowed to be called retarded. Facebook made an exception to protect her,” Hartwig said.

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I heard a similar story last year about another company 🙂 : “The company’s headcount decreased by 22% year-over-year, following layoffs, indicating a strategic shift in its workforce.”

Get The Zuck Out Of Here: 20 Years Later (RT)

As Facebook approached its adolescence and entered the realm of maturity, its impact on society became increasingly significant. The platform, once a college-focused social hub, had evolved into a global information-sharing powerhouse, shaping not only individual interactions but also influencing broader societal dynamics. Despite the controversies, Facebook’s financial triumphs were undeniable. Meta’s Q4 2023 earnings report showcased a strong rebound in its online ad business, with a 25% year-over-year increase in sales. The company’s expenses decreased, and its operating margin more than doubled, reflecting successful cost-cutting measures. Net income also saw a significant increase, reaching $14 billion.

In addition to the positive financial results, Meta announced its first-ever dividend payment and a $50 billion share buyback, signaling confidence in its financial standing. However, the financial success was not without challenges. Meta’s Reality Labs unit, responsible for virtual reality and augmented reality technologies, generated over $1 billion in sales but recorded a $4.65 billion loss, highlighting the risks associated with cutting-edge technologies. Looking ahead this year, Meta anticipates first-quarter sales in the range of $34.5-37 billion, with expenses in 2024 projected at $94-99 billion. The company’s headcount decreased by 22% year-over-year, following layoffs, indicating a strategic shift in its workforce.

Zuckerberg has trumpeted the role of artificial intelligence in the company’s growth trajectory, emphasizing continued investments in AI and computing infrastructure. However, he has also acknowledged the company’s commitment to maintaining a relatively lean workforce, balancing technological innovation with operational efficiency. The confluence of financial triumphs, persistent challenges, and controversies marked the pivotal phase in Facebook’s transformation into Meta. The rebranding aimed to thrust the company to the forefront of the metaverse. However, this strategic maneuver encountered skepticism and formidable challenges, notably in light of substantial losses associated with metaverse-related technologies.

During its adolescent years, Facebook endeavored to stay relevant among younger generations. By introducing features like ‘Reels’, it sought to emulate the success of competitors such as TikTok. Yet, these initiatives met with only limited success, as the platform’s user base continued to age, resulting in diminished engagement, particularly from Generation Z. The challenges extended beyond shifting demographics. Facebook’s reputation suffered amid data privacy controversies. Younger users, in particular, perceived the platform as less trustworthy, further impinging on engagement. In response, the company embarked on a broader identity shift.

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He can’t seem to decide if Skripal is alive or not. But certainly strange that we’ve never seen father nor daughter again.

Novichok Public Inquiry Turns Into A Secret Farce Before It Begins (Helmer)

In a London courtroom on Friday, Lord Anthony Hughes, the retired judge whom the British government has appointed to run a public inquiry into the alleged Novichok poisonings of March and June 2018, collapsed into a farce of state secrecy. Not even the open hearings which are now scheduled to start later this year, on October 14, will in fact be open, Hughes told lawyers for the Home Office and for the family of Dawn Sturgess. This is because the police and the security services have told the judge they want a livestream default or broadcasting delay of at least fifteen minutes, possibly longer when “the police will decide if any disclosure at all will be made”, a government lawyer told the judge.Hughes announced: “I absolutely accept how difficult it is when you are batting in the dark…but it is a situation which has simply got to be coped with.”

Follow the archive on the official investigation of the cause of Dawn Sturgess’s death in June 2018, allegedly from a Novichok poison which Russian assassins left behind after they had attacked Sergei and Yulia Skripal the previous March. The Skripals have been assigned a lawyer, Adam Chapman, to represent them in the Hughes proceeding, but he wasn’t present in court on Friday. To date, Chapman hasn’t asked a question, made a written submission, or reported what the Skripals want to say about the Novichok affair. Chapman’s silence confirms that if the Skripals are still alive, they are being held by the British government incommunicado. Hughes has yet to rule on whether they will be called to testify as witnesses, and if so, whether their testimony will be given in open or secret session.

Hughes ran Friday’s hearing to just under 90 minutes. A switch of stream engineering companies and a failure by Paul Dunlay, the judge’s technician in charge of live-streaming, excluded reporters who had registered to hear the proceeding from their offices. Hughes’s spokesman apologized for the “confusion”. Dunlay said “we are not responsible for your IT systems security which may have blocked this auto response.” “My starting point,” Hughes claimed, “has always been that this is a public hearing and everything is in public unless there is a necessity for it not to be. But given the circumstances of this Inquiry – involving as it does the use of a chemical weapon on British soil – it will be of no surprise that there will inevitably be some material that will be CLOSED. Indeed that was the reason for the conversion of the original Inquest to a public Inquiry.”

Just how little will be open — and just how large “the necessity for it not to be” — were revealed in Friday’s hearing. Closed circuit television (CCTV) tapes from Salisbury and Amesbury which the police seized after the Skripal attack and the Sturgess death, and which have not been released to date, are to be allowed in evidence in the open hearing, but only, Judge Hughes has conceded, in the form of a “compilation”. What has been withheld will remain a state secret. A police report combining the Skripal incident in Salisbury of March 4, 2018, and the Sturgess incident in Amesbury four months later, on June 30, 2018, has been partially released to the Sturgess family’s lawyers, led by Michael Mansfield KC. But on Friday he told Hughes the evidential value of the report has already been compromised.

“There are 17 pages of redactions,” Mansfield said, “not all of them total pages, although the further you go into the report, starting at page, for example — it should be the same on yours, so that is page 53 onwards. There is nothing visible there, or the 20 succeeding pages. Altogether 17 pages in which, again, if we can just say, there must be questions arising there and in relation to the open and closed divide, it would be of great help if we did have a gist.” Mansfield went on to refer to a section he has read in the police report entitled “Target”. “I hope I am not exaggerating it, there are some pretty astonishing observations in this section alone and if what is said in this section alone about the target, there is and must be very much more material, or absence of material.”

Mansfield was intimating in public that the police report he has seen is missing the key elements of how the alleged Russian-made Novichok got into Dawn Sturgess’s hands and killed her, as well as the police account of how their searches of Sturgess’s house failed to detect the Novichok in a perfume bottle standing on the kitchen table until July 11, 2018 – eleven days after Sturgess had collapsed and been taken to Salisbury District Hospital, and after police reported their search of the house for suspected narcotics.


Dawn Sturgess, died between June 30 and July 8, 2018; Sergei Skripal, died in British custody at an unknown date after his last telephone call to Russia on June 19, 2019; Adam Chapman, the London lawyer appointed by the British government on March 25, 2022 — without evidence of Skripal consent.

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What am I supposed to make of this?

E Jean Carroll Lawyer Says Trump Used Coded Version Of C-Word Against Her (G.)

E Jean Carroll’s attorney says Donald Trump used a coded expression to call her the C-word during a deposition before she helped the magazine columnist win an $83.3m verdict in her defamation case against the former president. Roberta Kaplan shared the anecdote during an appearance Friday on the George Conway Explains It All podcast, saying it happened while Trump was deposed at his Mar-a-Lago resort as part of an unrelated, since-dismissed case in which he faced accusations of collaborating with a fraudulent marketing company. As Kaplan told it, at the end of the questioning, Trump’s attorneys ensured the two sides were no longer on the record before he looked at her and remarked: “See you next Tuesday.” The phrase is well-known, thinly veiled code for perhaps the most offensive misogynistic insult that can be directed at a woman, combining words that sound like the first two letters of the slur – “C” and “U” – along with words that start with the letters “N” and “T”.

Kaplan told Conway that she initially didn’t understand the meaning of what Trump said because the opposing sides weren’t scheduled to meet that upcoming Tuesday. “I, thank God, had no idea what that meant, so I said to him, ‘What are you talking about? I’m coming back on Wednesday,’” Kaplan remarked. “Literally, it was an honest answer. I had no idea what he’s talking about.” Colleagues of Kaplan informed her what the former president had meant by saying “see you next Tuesday” once they were all in their car driving away from Trump’s property, she said. “That is a teenage boy-level joke,” the podcast co-host Sarah Longwell said. Kaplan replied: “Had I known, I for sure would have gotten angry … I looked like I was being above it all, which I wasn’t. I just did not know.”

Conway – a conservative attorney formerly married to Trump’s White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway – punctuated Kaplan’s recollections by saying: “So that’s just an amazing story.” According to Kaplan, Trump had also thrown a temper tantrum that day when his legal team offered to provide lunch to Kaplan and her associates. “There was a huge pile of documents, exhibits, sitting in front of him, and he took the pile and he just threw it across the table – and stormed out of the room,” Kaplan said. That claim about Trump throwing papers across a table in particular called to mind another anecdote produced by testimony to the congressional committee that investigated the Capitol attack staged by the ex-president’s supporters after he lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden. A former White House aide testified that Trump angrily threw a plate of food at a wall in the White House – smearing it with ketchup – after his attorney general at the time publicly denied Trump’s lies that there had been voter fraud in the race won by Biden.

Friday’s remarks from Kaplan were also sure to open Trump to renewed criticism over his mistreatment of women. Conway went on CNN later Friday and said Trump was “a pig” for how he addressed Kaplan, according to the attorney. Kaplan represented Carroll in a separate legal matter that saw the former Elle magazine writer sue Trump on accusations that he sexually abused her in a department store changing room in the mid-1990s. Carroll’s lawsuit asserted that Trump then defamed her as he attacked her credibility.

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If and when you say about an outlet that takes itself very seriously that it “..is not fit to line a parrot cage for bird [poop emoji]..”, then you get this. Which sorta proves your point. And the rest will chime in, too.

Musk Took Drugs With Tesla, SpaceX Execs – WSJ (RT)

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has been taking illegal drugs for years, on many occasions alongside the board members and directors of his companies, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday, citing sources who claimed to have either witnessed the drug use or had knowledge of it. According to the report, Musk has attended a number of social gatherings in recent years with Tesla board member Joe Gebbia, where he recreationally took ketamine, an anesthetic commonly used to euthanize house pets. Other directors, Antonio Gracias, Kimbal Musk and Steve Jurvetson, have reportedly consumed drugs like ecstasy and LSD with him at several parties, including those held at Hotel El Ganzo, a boutique hotel in Mexico allegedly known for its drug-fueled events.

According to several sources, some of the directors felt pressured to consume drugs with Musk either because refraining could upset the billionaire, or result in them “losing the social capital” of being in the CEO’s circle. Sources told the news outlet that Musk’s drug use was common knowledge among several current and former Tesla and SpaceX officials, and the volume of his consumption has become concerning in recent years. However, the companies’ boards haven’t investigated Musk’s alleged drug use nor documented any claims. On the one hand, the use of illegal substances violates antidrug policies at both firms, while on the other, official board minutes could become public, and if they mentioned Musk’s drug problems, it could put SpaceX’s federal contracts and Musk’s security clearance at risk, the report notes.

The WSJ already reported on Musk’s alleged illegal drug use last month, claiming that the CEO has a history of using drugs including cocaine, ecstasy, LSD and psychedelic mushrooms. In response to that news piece, Musk lashed out at WSJ on X, saying that the news outlet “is not fit to line a parrot cage for bird [poop emoji].” Musk noted that he regularly took random drug tests at SpaceX, which he never failed. This claim was backed by his lawyer, Alex Spiro.Later, Musk also tweeted: “If drugs actually helped improve my net productivity over time, I would definitely take them!”

https://twitter.com/i/status/1754340103873564988

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FREEMAN DYSON Emeritus Professor, Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies (2009)


THERE IS NO GLOBAL WARMING, THERE IS ONLY REGIONAL WARMING (AND IT’S A GOOD THING!):

“The change that’s now going on is very strongly concentrated in the Arctic. In fact in three respects, it’s not global, which I think is very important. First of all, it is mainly in the Arctic. Secondly, it’s mainly in the winter rather than summer. And thirdly, it’s mainly in the night rather than at the daytime. In all three respects, the warming is happening where it is cold, not where it is hot. The people in Greenland love it. They tell you it’s made their lives a lot easier. They hope it continues. I am not saying none of these consequences are happening. I am just questioning whether they are harmful. There’s a lot made out of the people who died in heat waves. And there is no doubt that we have heat waves and people die. What they don’t say is actually five times as many people die of cold in winters as die of heat in summer. And it is also true that more of the warming happens in winter than in summer.

So, if anything, it’s heavily favorable as far as that goes. It certainly saves more lives in winter than it costs in summer.So that kind of argument is never made. And I see a systematic bias in the way things are reported. Anything that looks bad is reported, and anything that looks good is not reported.A lot of these things are not anything to do with human activities. Take the shrinking of glaciers, which certainly has been going on for 300 years and has been well documented. So it certainly wasn’t due to human activities, most of the time. There’s been a very strong warming, in fact, ever since the Little Ice Age, which was most intense in the 17th century. That certainly was not due to human activity.

And the most serious of almost all the problems is the rising sea level. But there again, we have no evidence that this is due to climate change. A good deal of evidence says it’s not. I mean, we know that that’s been going on for 12,000 years, and there’s very doubtful arguments as to what’s been happening in the last 50 years and (whether) human activities have been important. It’s not clear whether it’s been accelerating or not. But certainly, most of it is not due to human activities. So it would be a shame if we’ve made huge efforts to stop global warming and the sea continued to rise. That would be a tragedy. Sea level is a real problem, but we should be attacking it directly and not attacking the wrong problem.”

 

 

Leash

 

 

Honeybees

 

 

Belly rubs

 

 

 

 

Bucket sheep

 

 

Baby hippo

 

 

Doomsday fish

 

 

Fast car

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in wartime with Paypal, Bitcoin and Patreon.

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 122023
 
 September 12, 2023  Posted by at 8:55 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  47 Responses »


Claude Monet O Rio (The River) 1881

 

Zelensky ‘Senses’ Weakening Western Support (RT)
Zelensky Threatens To Terrorize Europe (MoA)
Ukrainians Blame Zelensky For Corruption – Poll (RT)
EU Believes Ukraine Is ‘A Very Corrupt Country’ – Politico (RT)
Blinken Contradicts Ukraine On Peace Negotiations (RT)
Elon Musk Responds To Ukraine ‘Treason’ Claims (RT)
Medvedev Advocates Suspending Diplomatic Relations With EU (TASS)
Russian Customs Chief Accuses EU Of ‘Total Lawlessness’ (RT)
Brazilian Court To Decide About Putin If He Attends G20 Summit – Lula (TASS)
Lies And Pretence In New London Novichok Hearing (Helmer)
The Gun Charge Against Hunter Is the Way of Covering Up the Real Issues (PCR)
The “Why Not” Culture: The Georgia Final Report Should Worry Us All (Turley)
The Mills of the Gods (Jim Kunstler)
9/11 After 22 Years (Paul Craig Roberts)

 

 

 

 

RFK

 

 

 

 

Trump 9/11


https://twitter.com/i/status/1701253565702938885

 

 

 

 

Isaacson

 

 

“A judge in Pennsylvania has ruled that former President Trump has ‘presidential immunity’ and cannot be sued over statements he made about 2020 election fraud.”

 

 

 

 

He’s directly threatening Europe now:

“..the millions of Ukrainian refugees now residing in foreign nations. They have generally “behaved well,” but if the hosts “drive these people into a corner,” the end result will not be “a good story” for Europe..”

Zelensky ‘Senses’ Weakening Western Support (RT)

If Western nations do not maintain their assistance to Kiev, they could face defeats at the ballot box and trouble from the millions of Ukrainian refugees they host, President Vladimir Zelensky has warned. In an interview with The Economist, Zelensky complained about weakening support from senior Western officials, which he claimed to have seen in their eyes during meetings. “I see that he or she is not here, not with us” contrary to spoken assurances, he said, according to the interview published on Sunday. According to Zelensky, failure to support Ukraine amounts to siding with Russia in the conflict, which escalated into open hostilities in February 2022. “If partners do not help us, it means they will help Russia to win,” he stated.

Zelensky believes that Western voters will not forgive their leaders if they “lose Ukraine.” Further trouble may also come from the millions of Ukrainian refugees now residing in foreign nations. They have generally “behaved well,” but if the hosts “drive these people into a corner,” the end result will not be “a good story” for Europe, the president added. The Ukrainian leader said he is “morally” ready for a long war with Russia, but this will require the country to switch to a “totally militarized economy.” He added that now is “a bad moment” for peace talks with Russia, due to the lackluster battlefield progress over the three months of Kiev’s summer ‘counteroffensive’. Moscow has estimated Ukrainian losses during the push at over 66,000 troops and 7,600 heavy weapons.

The Economist noted that the Zelensky government had built up expectations for the offensive, but now he is “carefully adjusting his message to reality.” The Ukrainian president also appeared to take credit for the drone attacks deep inside Russian territory, which Kiev formally refuses to claim as its own. Explaining his strategy, he said public support for the Russian government will fall “because our drones will land.”In a “long war,” Moscow will lose regardless of how the Russians feel because the Russian economy will fail, he added. The Russian government expects the economy to grow by 2.5% or more in 2023. Recent forecasts by the World Bank and the IMF have upgraded their predictions for Russia due to strong industrial production and higher-than-expected energy revenues.

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Moon of Alabama noticed it too.

“I have seen such threats from low ranking individuals of the fascist Bandera fringe. They spoke of terrorism they would unleash in the West should it end its support for Ukraine. That the Ukrainian president now reinforces such threats shows how deeply he immersed himself in that mindset..”

Zelensky Threatens To Terrorize Europe (MoA)

The Economist published another interview with the Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenski. It includes his usual unrealistic platitudes about not ending the war until Russia has completely pulled back. Speaking with an English language media he didn’t miss to mention the ever misunderstood story about Chamberlain’s move in Munich: “Tapping loudly on the table, Mr Zelensky rejects outright the idea of compromise with Vladimir Putin. War will continue for “as long as Russia remains on Ukrainian territory”, he says. A negotiated deal would not be permanent. The Russian president has a habit of creating “frozen conflicts” on Russia’s borders (in Georgia, for example), not as ends in themselves but because his goal is to “restore the Soviet Union”. Those who choose to talk to the man in the Kremlin are “tricking themselves”, much like the Western leaders who signed an agreement with Adolf Hitler at Munich in 1938 only to watch him invade Czechoslovakia. “The mistake is not diplomacy. The mistake is diplomacy with Putin. He negotiates only with himself.”

In 1938 Chamberlain had no other choice but to give in on Czechoslovakia. Britain was not ready for war and the parts Hitler wanted to annex from Czechoslovakia had undeniably a largely German population: “He contended that Sudeten German grievances were justified and believed that Hitler’s intentions were limited”. Zelenski goes on to threaten, in rather unthankful fashion, those countries which have delivered aid to Ukraine but may want to cut their losses: “Curtailing aid to Ukraine will only prolong the war, Mr Zelensky argues. And it would create risks for the West in its own backyard. There is no way of predicting how the millions of Ukrainian refugees in European countries would react to their country being abandoned. Ukrainians have generally “behaved well” and are “very grateful” to those who sheltered them. They will not forget that generosity. But it would not be a “good story” for Europe if it were to “drive these people into a corner”.

I have seen such threats from low ranking individuals of the fascist Bandera fringe. They spoke of terrorism they would unleash in the West should it end its support for Ukraine. That the Ukrainian president now reinforces such threats shows how deeply he immersed himself in that mindset. A previous Economist story shows that Ukraine has already set up the necessary infrastructure to wage a terrorist campaign: “In modern Ukraine, assassinations date back to at least 2015, when its domestic security service (SBU) created a new body after Russia had seized Crimea and the eastern Donbas region. The elite fifth counter-intelligence directorate started life as a saboteur force in response to the invasion. It later came to focus on what is euphemistically called “wet work”.

“Valentin Nalivaychenko, who headed the SBU at the time, says the switch came about when Ukraine’s then leaders decided that a policy of imprisoning collaborators was not enough. Prisons were overflowing, but few were deterred. “We reluctantly came to the conclusion that we needed to eliminate terrorists,” he says. A former officer of the directorate describes it in similar terms. “We needed to bring war to them.” In 2015 and 2016 the directorate was linked to the assassinations of key Russian-backed commanders in the Donbas; Mikhail Tolstykh, aka “Givi”, killed in a rocket attack; Arsen Pavlov, aka “Motorola”, blown up in a lift; Alexander Zakharchenko, blown up in a restaurant.

Intelligence insiders say the SBU’s fifth directorate is playing a central role in counter-Russia operations. From there it is just a short step towards total war: “Meanwhile, a long war of attrition would mean a fork in the road for Ukraine. The country would lose even more people, both on the front lines and to emigration. It would require a “totally militarised economy”. The government would have to put that prospect to its citizens, Mr Zelensky says, without specifying how; a new social contract could not be the decision of one person. Almost 19 months into the war, the president says he is “morally” ready for the switch. But he will only broach the idea with his people if the weakness in the eyes of his Western backers becomes a “trend”. Has that moment come? No, not yet, he says. “Thank God.” Does Zelenski know of any country with a totally militarized economy that survived? I have yet to hear of one.

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“..78% of Ukrainian adults see Zelensky as “directly responsible” for Kiev’s corruption problem..”

“..only 18% of Ukrainian adults disagreed with the statement that Zelensky bears responsibility…”

And we hand him tens of billions.

Ukrainians Blame Zelensky For Corruption – Poll (RT)

The vast majority of Ukrainians believe that President Vladimir Zelensky is at fault for widespread corruption in the country’s government and military, a new study has revealed. The poll, released on Monday, found that 78% of Ukrainian adults see Zelensky as “directly responsible” for Kiev’s corruption problem. It was conducted by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Charitable Foundation and the Kiev International Institute of Sociology. Prior to the launch of Russia’s military offensive in February 2022, Ukraine consistently ranked among the world’s most corrupt nations, but it was touted as a bastion of freedom and democracy as the US and its NATO allies rallied public support for massive aid to Kiev. However, Ukrainian corruption remains a concern and could hinder the country’s bid to join the European Union, an unidentified Western diplomat told Politico on Monday.

Ukraine is a “very corrupt country,” the diplomat said, adding that Zelensky’s plan to use the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) to prosecute graft cases could “send the wrong message.” Upon landing in Kiev for a surprise visit on Monday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock reportedly said Ukraine needed to step up its efforts to fight corruption. The Ukrainian poll was conducted from July 3 to July 17 in face-to-face interviews with thousands of citizens across the country. There were no major differences in findings based on region or socioeconomic factors. Respondents aged 60 and older took a harsher view, with 81% saying Zelensky was responsible for government corruption. The rate was 70% in the youngest segment, ages 17 to 29. Overall, only 18% of Ukrainian adults disagreed with the statement that Zelensky bears responsibility.

Documents obtained by the International Association of Investigative Journalists in 2021 showed that Zelensky and his business partners set up offshore companies to purchase lavish properties in central London. Zelensky transferred his stake in one of the companies to an aide just before he was elected president in 2019. Supporters of former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko accused Zelensky and his associates of using their offshore accounts to evade taxes. Zelensky has purged officials in his government for alleged corruption, including an embezzlement scheme involving humanitarian aid. Just this month, he sacked Defense Minister Aleksey Reznikov, who came under fire earlier this year over purchases of military rations at inflated prices. However, the new defense chief, Rustem Umerov, is reportedly under investigation for alleged crimes in his previous job.

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If everyone’s corrupt, who investigates?

EU Believes Ukraine Is ‘A Very Corrupt Country’ – Politico (RT)

Widespread corruption in Ukraine could hamper Kiev’s bid for EU membership, a western European diplomat told Politico on Monday. He said Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s efforts to tackle the problem have also alarmed Brussels. Ukraine applied for membership in the European Union last February, and was formally granted candidate status four months later. Although European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is expected to address the issue of enlargement during her state of the union speech on Wednesday, and EU Council President Charles Michel has vowed to admit all candidate nations by 2030, Ukraine’s bid could be hamstrung by rampant corruption. Ukraine is a “very corrupt country,”an anonymous western European diplomat told Politico.

“We want to give a positive signal to Ukraine but things such as this proposal to give more power to [Ukraine’s] intelligence [services] over corruption can send the wrong message.” The proposal in question was raised by Zelensky last month. Following a purge of allegedly corrupt officials at the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, Zelensky announced that he would task the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) with probing and prosecuting corruption cases, taking investigative power away from the country’s multiple anti-graft agencies. The SBU reports solely to Zelensky. Representatives of Ukraine’s existing anti-corruption agencies told Politico last month that by making the SBU the only body allowed to investigate these cases, Zelensky is essentially giving himself the power to decide which corrupt officials to prosecute and which ones to shield.

There is precedent for these fears, the head of the Anti-Corruption Action Center (ACAC), Vitaly Shabunin, said. Oleg Tatarov, the deputy head of Zelensky’s office, was under investigation by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) last year, when the case was unexpectedly transferred to the SBU. “It was buried there,”Shabunin said. “Now [Zelensky’s] office wants to make that into practice.” Ukraine has for years been ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, as of 2022, the country ranked 116th out of 180. Aside from corruption concerns, disputes between Ukraine and European nations over agriculture could also hold up Kiev’s membership bid. Ukrainian farmers could undercut their European counterparts with cheap grain exports, meaning that the EU will likely have to reform its Common Agricultural Policy if Ukraine is to be admitted, Politico noted.

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“..Russia controlled more land last month than it did at the beginning of the counteroffensive..” But Blinken said Ukraine reclaimed 50%.

Blinken Contradicts Ukraine On Peace Negotiations (RT)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has claimed that the Ukrainian government will agree to peace talks with Russia if Moscow offers to negotiate first. Ukrainian leaders have argued otherwise, however, and insist that peace “needs to be won on the battlefield.” “Thus far, we see no indication that [Russian President] Vladimir Putin has any interest in meaningful diplomacy,” Blinken told ABC News on Sunday. “If he does, I think the Ukrainians will be the first to engage, and we’ll be right behind them,” he added. Blinken and other top American officials have long insisted that the Ukrainian government will decide when to seek peace with Russia, and that the US will continue to supply Kiev with weapons until that time comes.

Ukraine agreed in principle to a Turkish-mediated peace deal in April 2022, but walked away from the agreement after a visit to Kiev by then-British prime minister Boris Johnson. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has since issued a decree forbidding any negotiations with Putin’s government, as well as repeatedly vowing to take back the territories of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, Zaporozhye, and Crimea – the latter of which voted to join Russia in 2014 – by force. Retaking this land, however, has proven costly for Kiev. More than three months into its long-awaited summer counteroffensive, the Ukrainian military has lost more than 66,000 troops and 7,600 pieces of heavy weaponry, according to the latest figures from the Russian Defense Ministry.

In exchange, Kiev’s forces have only managed to reclaim a handful of villages near Zaporozhye, while Russia controlled more land last month than it did at the beginning of the counteroffensive, according to the Washington Post. Nevertheless, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba declared last week that the conflict “cannot be ended by simply bringing belligerent parties to the table for negotiations.” “It needs to be won on the battlefield for Russia to become serious about negotiating peace,”Kuleba added. Russia maintains that it is open to a diplomatic solution to the conflict, but that any peace deal would have to take into account the “new territorial reality” – that Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, Zaporozhye, and Crimea will never be ceded back to Ukraine. Furthermore, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said negotiations would be held “not with Zelensky, who is a puppet in the hands of the West, but directly with his masters.”

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“..if anyone is treasonous, it is those who call me such. Please tell them that very clearly.”

Elon Musk Responds To Ukraine ‘Treason’ Claims (RT)

American tech billionaire Elon Musk has responded to criticism over his refusal to help enable a Ukrainian drone attack on Russian naval forces in Crimea by pointing out that he’s a citizen of only the US and isn’t obliged to fight for Kiev. “I am a citizen of the United States and have only that passport,” Musk said on Monday in a post on his X (formerly Twitter) social media platform. “No matter what happens, I will fight for and die in America.” He added that in light of the fact that the US Congress hasn’t declared war on Russia, “if anyone is treasonous, it is those who call me such. Please tell them that very clearly.”

At issue is Musk’s decision last year to prevent his Starlink satellite network from being used to guide Ukrainian naval drones for an attack against the Russian Black Sea Fleet on the Crimean coast. When news of Musk’s refusal came to light last week, US media outlets suggested that he had been traitorous, and Ukrainian presidential aide Mikhail Podoliak accused him of “committing evil and encouraging evil.” The Tesla CEO and SpaceX founder gave Ukraine free use of more than 20,000 Starlink terminals after Russia launched its military offensive against Kiev in February 2022. His aim was to keep Ukrainians from losing internet access and communications capabilities amid the conflict.

However, Musk expressed concern about his network being used for offensive purposes and potentially playing part in triggering a wider conflict. He therefore refused Kiev’s pleas to extend the country’s Starlink coverage all the way to Sevastopol. “If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation.” CNN host Jake Tapper argued on Sunday that Musk had “effectively sabotaged” an American ally, and he asked US Secretary of State Antony Blinken whether the “capricious billionaire” should therefore face “repercussions.” Blinken declined to condemn Musk and pointed out that Starlink had been a vital tool for Ukraine’s defense.

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..”straightforward and honest Brussels bosses” who “told all Russians directly and without beating around the bush: you are second-class people for us.”

Medvedev Advocates Suspending Diplomatic Relations With EU (TASS)

Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev has called for suspending diplomatic relations with the EU in response to the EU decision to bar Russian citizens from entering the EU with everyday personal items, calling it a spit in the face of every Russian. “What should we do about it? Certainly not impose tit-for-tat retaliatory restrictions on EU citizens. We are not racists, in contrast to many leaders of those countries whose relatives served in the SS (Schutzstaffel, the notorious paramilitary organization under Germany’s Nazi regime – TASS). Moreover, those [Europeans] who travel here usually have a love and appreciation for Russia. It would be better just to suspend diplomatic relations with the EU for a while.

And to call our diplomatic personnel home,” Medvedev suggested, commenting on the European Commission’s clarification on the EU’s ban on importing automobiles, smartphones, suitcases and shampoo, among an entire range of items, into the EU from Russia, even for strictly personal use. Medvedev mockingly “praised” the EU leaders, calling them “straightforward and honest Brussels bosses” who “told all Russians directly and without beating around the bush: you are second-class people for us.” And the EU’s decision is clearly not meant as just punishment for what Brussels sees as the “criminal and aggressive regime in the Kremlin.” Rather, “this is a spit in the face of every citizen of Russia,” Medvedev emphasized. In suggesting measures to suspend Moscow’s diplomatic relations with the EU, Medvedev noted that only such a move could make Brussels officials truly afraid, “because embassies are [traditionally] evacuated before certain very specific events.”

“Who knows what else these ‘orcs’ from that immense ‘Mordor’ are capable of?” Medvedev asked sarcastically, using a common derogatory slur used in the West to refer to Russia and Russians, equating them to the goblin-like humanoid creatures in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel “The Lord of the Rings.” The European Commission’s clarification dated September 8 bans the import from Russia to the EU of goods listed in Annex 21 to EU Regulation No. 833/2014, regardless of the purpose of their use and the duration of stay in the EU, including cars with less than 10 seats. The EC emphasized that it does not matter whether the vehicles are being used for private or commercial purposes. The list contains a wide range of all sorts of items from cellular telephones and audio and video recording devices, to suitcases, hold-alls, articles of clothing, toothpaste, shampoo and other hygiene products.

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“Goods that are classified as prohibited – even shampoo and toilet paper – should be confiscated..”

“..at least “they have not banned [Russian nationals] from wearing pants when crossing the border.”

Russian Customs Chief Accuses EU Of ‘Total Lawlessness’ (RT)

Russia’s interim customs chief has blasted the European Commission’s instruction to EU member states to confiscate personal possessions of arriving Russian tourists. “How do we take the European Commission’s ban on traveling by personal car or with smart phones? Well, it’s utter nonsense,”Ruslan Davydov told journalists on Monday on the sidelines of an economic forum in the city of Vladivostok. The EU slapped wide-ranging sanctions on trade with Russia over the Ukraine conflict. Last Friday, however, Brussels explained that the restrictions should also apply to items for personal use brought by tourists crossing the bloc’s border. Goods that are classified as prohibited – even shampoo and toilet paper – should be confiscated, according to the clarification. The European Commission urged “EU operators [to] identify, assess, and understand the possible risks of sanctions circumvention” when conducting customs checks.

Davydov branded the decision as “total lawlessness” that defies the normal logic of customs controls. Moscow has little influence on the policies, since the EU broke all cooperation with Russia, he noted. “The way they regulate customs procedures on their soil can only invoke regret and incomprehension,” he added. But at least “they have not banned [Russian nationals] from wearing pants when crossing the border.”=The official assured that the Federal Customs Service, which he heads, shall not adopt a similar policy regarding tourists arriving from the EU. The Russian embassy in Helsinki urged citizens on Sunday not to travel to Finland in cars with Russian license plates, citing the risk of seizure stemming from the new guidelines.

Read more …

Lula opens the door and closes it at the same time. Putin as Schrödinger’s president: “..the decision [on a possible arrest] is within the power of the judiciary, not my government..”

Brazilian Court To Decide About Putin If He Attends G20 Summit – Lula (TASS)

The issue of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s arrest during his visit to the G20 summit in Brazil in 2024 will be considered by the country’s court taking into account the arrest warrant issued for the Russian leader by the International Criminal Court (ICC), the country’s president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said. “If Putin decides to attend [next year’s summit], the decision [on a possible arrest] is within the power of the judiciary, not my government,” Reuters quoted the politician as saying. On September 9, in an interview with the Indian TV channel Firstpost, Lula da Silva said that as long as he was president of Brazil, “he [Putin] will not be arrested without the authorization of the authorities.” At the same time, Reuters pointed out the president questioned Brazil’s membership in the ICC. He recalled that neither Russia, China nor the US are members of the organization.

According to the leader, such agreements harm developing countries. On March 17, the ICC issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova, alleging that they were responsible for the unlawful deportation of Ukrainian children. It could theoretically be executed if the Russian leader arrives in one of the countries that recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction. Moscow has rejected such accusations, calling “the very phrasing of the question” outrageous and pointing out that Russia does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC, so its decisions are null and void for Russia.

Read more …

“Sergei Skripal, the original target and survivor of the Novichok attack allegations in the official narrative, must never be allowed to testify publicly..”

Lies And Pretence In New London Novichok Hearing (Helmer)

In a London courtroom last week, lawyers for the British government and the presiding judge, Lord Anthony Hughes (lead image, centre), revealed they will resist the efforts of the Dawn Sturgess family to obtain a multi-million pound settlement in compensation for what they claim, and the government says, was her death five years ago from Novichok poisoning by Russian state agents. Secrecy is the key, not only to the big money claim, but to the government’s aim to defeat it and at the same time preserve the official story that the Kremlin ordered and carried out the chemical warfare attack in England in 2018.

Lord Hughes is defending the government’s effort to keep secret enough of the evidence in the case to block Adam Straw KC and Michael Mansfield KC, the Sturgess family lawyers, from demonstrating that the British security services should have known in advance – and did know enough — to have protected Sturgess from the Russian cause of her death. Their argument has been that for this negligence a very large sum of money should be paid to Sturgess’s heirs, to Rowley, and to the lawyers. The judge, the government, and the lawyers have agreed, however, there is one secret they must all keep. Sergei Skripal, the original target and survivor of the Novichok attack allegations in the official narrative, must never be allowed to testify publicly to what he knows.

To cover this up, Straw, Mansfield, and a lawyer representing the British press lied in court last week, claiming they want “open justice” from the secret services and the police. According to Jude Bunting KC representing the media, “open justice is about avoiding ill-informed speculation about proceedings and, insofar as material is in the public domain because of assertion, or even because of state-sponsored [Russian] misinformation, that is all the more reason for disclosing that material in open rather than in closed.” Hughes claimed to be seeking the same openness. “One of the difficulties of this inquiry and this case…is that everybody popularly supposes that they know the answer. They may or may not be right, but the purpose of the inquiry is to find out.” Hughes was pretending.

Read more …

Paul Craig Roberts. “The gun charge is just a way of getting rid of the real charges..”

The Gun Charge Against Hunter Is the Way of Covering Up the Real Issues (PCR)

Conservatives and Republicans are gleeful that the DOJ has been forced off its sweetheart gun charge deal for Hunter and might now have to bring a felony gun charge. The conservatives and Republicans do not realize that the gun charge is the least serious or important of the charges and that by making the gun charge the issue the real issues, which are threats to Joe Biden, don’t get a day in court. The gun charge is just a way of getting rid of the real charges. Moreover, if Hunter is convicted, something a Democrat jury is unlikely to do, and doesn’t get a suspended sentence, Joe will pardon him.

The conservatives and Republicans don’t understand that they and President Trump, not the Bidens, are the prosecutors’ target. We now have a black quota-hire Fulton County prosecutor adding US Senators and Trump lawyers to her racketeering indictment. The ridiculous indictment is so broadly framed that anyone who expressed doubt about the election is covered by the indictment. When you give power over law to people who see law only as a weapon with which to get enemies, you destroy the rule of law. That’s what the dumbshit white liberals have done.

Read more …

“..But the question is whether such requests are evidence of a crime…”

The “Why Not” Culture: The Georgia Final Report Should Worry Us All (Turley)

With the release of the special grand jury final report in Georgia, the nation finally was able to see what foreperson Emily Kohrs last February was giggling about in interviews. Call it the “Why not?” report. Back then, when Kohrs was asked if there were recommended charges, she chuckled and said, “Can you imagine doing this for eight months and not coming out with a whole list of recommended indictments? It’s not a short list. It’s not.’” In addition to nodding at an expected Trump indictment, she added, “There may be some names on that list that you wouldn’t expect.” After all, why not? The final product did not disappoint. The members recommended 39 people for prosecution, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and former Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.).

They also included lawyers who argued for recounts or investigations into alleged election fraud. While the report expressly claims that the Fulton County District Attorney’s office did not create the list, it was the office of Fani Willis that presented the law, the evidence and potential targets to the special grand jury. During that process, these members concluded that politicians voicing support for the former president and his allegations could be criminally charged for doing so. The news that Willis did not indict Graham and others infuriated many on the left. Liberal websites were inundated with comments like “I want all the enablers charged, tried, and given long sentences as traitors to our country” and asking why the list did not include Senators Grassley, Cruz, Lee and “147 current and former members of the House, just to name a few.”

[..] The question is when advocacy or inquiries or negotiations become criminal acts. Willis’s first grand jury clearly believed that senators who called for recounts or Raffensperger’s resignation should go to prison. The comparison between their recommendations and the eventual indictment does not clearly answer how such acts are distinguishable as crimes. The same lack of limiting principle is evident in the new theory being pushed by various experts under the 14th Amendment to bar Trump from ballots on the grounds that he “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” or gave “aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” Beyond the tendentious claim that the Jan. 6 riot was an actual insurrection, they also maintain that the provision is self-executing, requiring no vote of Congress for secretaries of state to bar Trump from next year’s ballots.

Even though Trump has not been charged, let alone convicted, of insurrection (or even incitement), these advocates believe that he can be removed from the ballot because of his election claims, his inflammatory rhetoric and his delay in calling for supporters to leave the Capitol. This is one of the most dangerous legal theories to arise in decades. This week, Democratic Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes aptly described the claimed right to disqualify as a “radical” measure that would “encompass every elected office in our government — state, local, federal, and so forth.” Indeed, Democrats have called for barring not just Trump but 120 Republicans in Congress from running for office.

As with the Georgia special grand jury, the question is “Why not?” If the standard is “giving aid or comfort” to insurrectionists, then why not throw hundreds of other Republicans who supported the challenge to certification on Jan. 6 off the ballot? And while we’re at it, why not bar every lawyer who helped file claims of voting fraud from ever running for office? They all gave aid or comfort with their actions. By this reasoning, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and other Democrats could have been barred from ballots for opposing Trump’s certification in 2016 without any basis, along with leaders such as Hillary Clinton, who continued to call the election “stolen” for years. In 2016, there were also violent riots in Washington opposing Trump’s inauguration, thanks in no small part to such rhetoric. We can then have different candidates of both parties removed from ballots in every state.

Read more …

“Mr. Gaetz pushed through an agreement that the process to remove and replace the Speaker of the House could be activated by one vote. Mr. Gaetz reiterated last week that he means business. He’s the one vote.”

The Mills of the Gods (Jim Kunstler)

Do you think that more than half of the US public may be getting a little irked with “Joe Biden’s” lawfare elf, AG Merrick Garland, as he rolls one innocent J-6 protester after another into decades of hard-time for strolling through the US Capitol building — while the special counsels assigned to only a few of the Biden family crimes play hide-the-salami with due process? For all their cheap talk about “our democracy,” it’s a little scary to see what Democratic Party lawyers actually think of the legal system that is supposed to allow a society based on liberty to function fairly. Court filings last week indicate that Special Counsel David Weiss is about to indict Hunter Biden on that gun charge they have used as the joker in a three-card Monte game for going on five years.

Last time, they ran the game before Delaware federal judge Maryellen Noreika, she detected a teeny-weeny, sneaky clause in the plea agreement to a watered-down gun charge that would have granted immunity to Hunter B from any other past wrongdoing, including, of course, the entire alleged Biden family racketeering operation that had the First Son acting as prime broker and bag-man for tens of millions of dollars in bribes from foreign actors in countries less than friendly to US interests, funneled into any number of Biden family shell corporations. Judge Noreika nixed the plea agreement. Now, Mr. Weiss’s crew seems to be saying that the immunity clause is still tied to any plea deal answering a forthcoming September 29 indictment.

The move would appear to be timed to exactly the moment that a House impeachment committee would begin its inquiry into the Biden family’s moneygrubbing activities. In ordinary House committee hearings, DOJ officials like to use the excuse of “an ongoing investigation” to demur from answering questions. Merrick Garland has done this dozens of times. Will they now try to upgrade that to “an ongoing prosecution?” Could that move lead to a constitutional impasse, requiring the Supreme Court to rule? Or does a House impeachment panel enjoy special privileges of inquiry? It also appears that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FLA) intends to force the issue of opening an impeachment ASAP against “Joe Biden.” In last January’s maneuvering to seat a new Republican House majority, Mr. Gaetz pushed through an agreement that the process to remove and replace the Speaker of the House could be activated by one vote. Mr. Gaetz reiterated last week that he means business. He’s the one vote.

The argument that Republicans should leave hands-off “Joe Biden” so they can run against the feeble old grifter in 2024 is preposterous because there is no way that the “JB” can possibly run for reelection under any circumstances. It’s just another trip being laid on the American public — and one that illustrates how tragic and dangerous is the absence of an honest news media for challenging such insolent gambits. The President can barely totter into a room now without making some embarrassing pratfall or gaffe. He couldn’t possibly survive a debate, especially with all the new records of his crimes unearthed since the last time around in 2020 when he pretended to know nothing about his son’s business dealings.

Read more …

“..it is pretty clear who is responsible for 9/11 and why. Many Americans today understand what really happened..”

“It is paradoxical that President Trump is in the dock for questioning an election, while Dick Cheney and the neoconservatives, and the whore media that covered up for them, never faced a single charge.”

9/11 After 22 Years (Paul Craig Roberts)

Today is the 22nd Anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon known as 9/11. A generation of 22-year olds has grown up after 9/11, and the event probably means nothing to them. They learn that it was an attack on America like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and 9/11 disappears into history. It is unlikely that anyone under 40 is much concerned with 9/11. A 40-year old today would have been 18 in 2001 and would likely dismiss 9/11 concerns as conspiracy theory. Today’s youth are more likely to be marching in support of sexual perversion than wondering about the source and purpose of the 9/11 attack.

Over the years I have reported the mounting evidence provided by scientists and by architect Richard Gage’s Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth until the organization he created removed him at the request of the government, effectively destroying the organization. But for me the proof that 9/11 was an inside job has always been that no one in government and security agencies was ever held accountable for the worst humiliation ever inflicted on an alleged “superpower.” Instead, it took a year before the White House even agreed to an official coverup with the 9/11 Commission, another in the long line of commissions like the Warren Commission that validates the official story. If a few young Saudi Arabians had actually defeated the entire national security apparatus of the United States, the White House would have been screaming, and heads would have rolled.

The neoconservatives had just called for a “new Pearl Harbor” so they could launch their wars of destruction of Israel’s enemies in the Middle East. They immediately blamed 9/11 on “Muslim terrorists” and began their invasions that halted only when Russia blocked the neoconservatives’ overthrow of Syria. So it is pretty clear who is responsible for 9/11 and why. Many Americans today understand what really happened, but the government will never admit it. It takes decades for the truth to come out, and by then everyone affected by the event is dead, and the event becomes ancient history. It is paradoxical that President Trump is in the dock for questioning an election, while Dick Cheney and the neoconservatives, and the whore media that covered up for them, never faced a single charge.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

Great Depression
https://twitter.com/i/status/1701337655886102874

 

 

Smile
https://twitter.com/i/status/1701205047835521236

 

 

Left my heart

 

 

 

 

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Mar 192021
 
 March 19, 2021  Posted by at 7:05 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »


Brian Griffin Memorial to the Conquerors of Space, Moscow, Russia 1974

 

 

In the space of just 24 hours, Joe Biden and Antony Blinken managed to make Donald Trump look like a perfect diplomat. And we must wonder why that is. Why did Biden call Putin a soulless killer, and Blinken invoke a 20 minute tirade from Chinese top diplomat Yang Jiechi in Alaska? Is it just stupidity, which is quite possible, or is it orchestrated, which you might suspect given it took so little time to insult America’s alleged two biggest adversaries? Reuters:

 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, and State Councilor Wang Yi in Anchorage that the U.S. side would discuss its “deep concerns” about Chinese actions in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as cyber attacks on the United States and economic coercion of allies. “Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability,” he said. …Yang hit back, accusing the United States of using its military might and financial supremacy to pressure countries and of abusing national security to threaten the future of international trade.


He said Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan were all inseparable parts of Chinese territory and China firmly opposed US interference in its internal affairs. Yang said human rights in the United States were at a low point with Black Americans being “slaughtered” and added that the United States should handle its own affairs and China its own. Yang said it was necessary to abandon a “Cold War mentality,” and confrontation and added: “The way we see the relationship with the United States is as President Xi Jinping has said, that is we hope to see no confrontation, no conflict, mutual respect and win-win cooperation with the United States.”

It’s time that people understand Joe Biden is an entirely scripted actor. Not well-scripted, and not a good actor, but still. His comments about Putin being a “killer with no soul” are insane, they scrape the bottom of the bottom of the barrel of diplomacy, they insult not just Putin, and thereby all of Russia, and threaten world peace, but they’re not his. They were written for him. Biden keeps reminding me of Max Headroom, an early MTV thing. Cartoon character. Scripted.

The CIA, Pentagon, NATO, Boeing, Raytheon, you name them, all badly need to conserve the image of Putin as Satan, because he’s their “raison d’être”. Putin is the figurehead for why the US spends 10 times more than Russia on “defense”, and still ends up with inferior weaponry. The CIA thought they had it all won when they put Yeltsin in the Kremlin, and started to take over all resources of the country with the most natural resources on the planet.

And then Putin came, and prevented that take-over. It’s hilarious to see how that same CIA now tries to push Alexey Navalny, a virtual nobody in Russia, as “opposition leader”, just as even Amnesty take their hands off of him, and reverse their nutty “prisoner of conscience” moniker, because all of a sudden they realize he called Muslims “flies and cockroaches”. Navalny, like Yeltsin, is a CIA asset, plain and simple.

The narrative of him being poisoned with novichok, the deadliest poison in the world, which never seems to kill anyone when Russians use it on their enemies, of course goes back to the “poisoning” of father and daughter Skripal in the UK 3 years ago, who didn’t die either, but haven’t been heard from since. It’s a narrative: evil Putin poisons people. But if you look at the background, none of the people he supposedly targets are ever a threat to him. They just serve the narrative. Just like Joe Biden does. That’s his role.

Driving all this blubber are people like neocon man and wife team Robert Kagan and Victoria Nuland and their ilk, the latter a driving force behind the 2014 Maidan coup in Ukraine, who were outsmarted by Putin’s peaceful and democratic take-over take-back of Crimea, and are still mightily pissed off about that. And guess what, Nuland is now back in Joe Biden’s US government.

Skripal was a Russia military intelligence officer who turned double agent and spied for Britain. That would have been enough for any country to either lock him up for a very long time or simply eliminate him, certainly in the US. It happens all the time. But Putin let him leave to live in Britain. Ergo: he can’t have been that much of a threat. And then years later they want to kill him anyway, and send two clowns who screw up the operation with the deadliest poison in the world? That theory only works if you think Russians, and Russian intelligence, are the stupidest on the planet. While ex-KGB agent Putin is in charge. Then he must be stupid too.

Who buys that? Well, Americans do. Because their media do nothing but repeat Putin is Satan messages. And corrupt too. Navalny recently had a story about some multi-billion “castle” Putin allegedly owns, western media ate it up, and then it turns out to be some empty shell, like those cardboard store fronts you see in western movies. But this is not about truth anymore. It‘s about how endless repetition makes lies “believable” to gullible people – of which America has a seemingly endless supply. They can only sell you the story about how stupid Russians supposedly are if they assume you are really stupid.

Putin won’t starve when he retires, but we have no indications that he stole billions either. That’s a narrative that’s been repeated for all twenty odd years he’s led Russia. America’s war industry needs an enemy, so they create one. It all just serves to show ever more that “US intelligence” is an oxymoron. And that Biden is a moron, period.

 

ZeroHedge is (re?)running a series of articles by US hedge fund manager Alex Krainer, who noticed how, especially in 2014 post-Maidan, the Putin stories ran in the MSM, and started looking into it. And then wrote a book about it. In 2018, he wrote 3 articles on the topic. Here are some excerpts, but do read all of it:

 

 

Is Vladimir Putin Evil? – 1

In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis Putin declared publicly that he bore responsibility to ensure that the 1998 crisis would not repeat itself on his watch. His government also took proactive steps to limit the fallout from the crisis. In July 2008, Putin personally went to the town of Pikalyevo in Leningrad Oblast to confront the directors and owners of a large metallurgical factory. This was not long after the owners had shut the facility down, suspending without pay thousands of their workers.

Addressing the gathering, Putin excoriated them, saying that because of their unprofessional conduct and greed, thousands of families would find themselves destitute. This was unacceptable to his government and he ordered the owners to restart the facility, else the government would do it without them. He further ordered the management to immediately (“deadline today”) pay all workers’ salary arrears, amounting to more than 41 million rubles. [..]
Putin publicly chastised Oleg Deripaska, once Russia’s richest man, and other Russian businessmen at a meeting in Pikalyovo.

Putin took similar action protecting the ordinary people in another crisis situation. During his first winter as president, entire towns and villages across the far east of the country counting as many as 400,000 inhabitants, lost heating for the lack of coal. A serious crisis emerged with mines shutting down, workers out in the streets and even hospitals ceasing to function because of the cold. But the coal for heating was available in Russia, only most of it was already allotted for export. Vladimir Putin didn’t think that Russian people should suffer freezing conditions all winter in order for that coal to be exchanged for American dollars. He decreed that export of coal be stopped immediately and that all available quantities be sent back to Siberia to fuel the boiler stations.

Is Vladimir Putin Evil? – 2

According to his chief of security, Alexander Korzhakov, Boris Yeltsin worked about two hours per day. The rest he spent eating, drinking, playing tennis, hunting or enjoying some other pastime. Vladimir Putin reportedly works exceptionally long hours and several of his advisers and ministers have testified to working with him until very late into the night and then receiving a call from him early in the morning the next day. Exiled banker and former oligarch Sergei Pugachev described his experience: “we hardly parted company, we met on a daily basis from early morning to late evening until 3, until 4 AM, every day, every day. We naturally discussed matters of state business development, the state of the economy and so on. Putin needed someone who understood and knew those matters well. (Harding, Smith and Maynard 2015)

Some of his advisors and ministers reported meeting with him to discuss some matter within their own domain of specialty only to be startled in realizing that Putin commanded a more detailed understanding of that very matter than they themselves had. Being that immersed in and devoted to his occupation enables Vladimir Putin to hold his famous marathon press conferences when he speaks for three or four hours answering journalists questions with accurate and detailed information and without teleprompters. His 14th annual call-in marathon in 2016 lasted 3 and a half hours during which he took and answered 80 questions!

[..] I wondered if the Russians wouldn’t in the end get Edward Snowden and trade him for some big concession from their “American partners” who were clearly extremely keen on getting the renegade whistle-blower. I remember thinking that the outcome of that incident would give us an important indication of what Vladimir Putin was made of: would he do the right thing and offer Snowden asylum and protection, or would he end up trading him off? My gut feeling was that Putin would indeed do the right thing, but at the same time I cringed at the thought that I might end up disappointed. After several weeks of legal procedures, on July 31st 2013, Snowden was granted asylum in Russia.

Is Vladimir Putin Evil? – 3

In a speech to the Federal Assembly in 2005, Putin drew on the philosophy of Ivan Ilyin to outline the limitations of state power: “State power cannot oversee and dictate the creative states of the soul and mind, the inner states of love, freedom and goodwill. The state cannot demand from its citizens faith, prayer, love, goodness and conviction. It cannot regulate scientific, religious and artistic creation… It should not intervene in moral, family and daily private life, and only when extremely necessary should it impinge on people’s economic initiative and creativity.”


It is unusual for a politician to speak of such things as states of the soul and mind or the “inner states of love” to a gathering of other politicians but these ideas do appear to run as a theme in Putin’s conception of political leadership. At the 15th Congress of the Russian Geographical Society, he ventured the following statement: “In general, love is the whole meaning of life, of being. Love of family, of children, and of the motherland. It is such a multifaceted phenomenon that is the basis of all our actions.” To a Westerner, exposed to a relentless defamation of Vladimir Putin, this may be difficult to believe. After all, we know that he was a KGB agent, that he routinely ordered assassinations of his critics and political opponents, that he has made himself the wealthiest man in the world, and many other similarly negative “facts” about him.

And Scott Ritter has it right:

Biden’s Tough-Guy Flexing At ‘Soulless Killer’ Putin Would Be Funny If The Consequences Weren’t So Serious

[..] the likelihood of the Biden-Putin meeting occurring as described by Joe Biden is slim to none. When Biden made his trip to the Kremlin in 2011, he was fronting for the Obama administration’s “reset” with Russia. There was no opportunity, or need, for Biden’s faux machismo. The two men did meet, but as part of delegations discussing the possibility for improving relations. Not only would Biden’s insulting verbal flexing have been wildly inappropriate and inconsistent with the larger policy objectives of his visit, but it ran counter to his own feelings, expressed at the time, about Russia.

“Russia has the best engineers in the world,” Biden said in a press conference after his meeting with Putin (who was serving as Russia’s prime minister, not president, at the time.) “Russia has intellectual capital. Russia is a great nation.” These are not words one utters after telling a Russian leader in private that he has “no soul.”

Biden’s struggle with the truth is well known, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that he possibly made up a meeting with Putin. Biden has been caught plagiarizing a speech delivered by former British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock, lied about his academic record and accomplishments, and manufactured from whole cloth a narrative that has him participating in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Biden’s lies all have one goal in common: to make him out to be that which he is not. So, too, his apparent lie about calling Putin soulless.

Biden is desperate to be a ‘tough guy’. But for that reputation to stick vis-à-vis Putin, there had to be a ‘showdown’ moment, where the good guy faced off against the bad guy and called him out. Since no such event exists, Biden had to make one up. And, like most of his lies, Biden repeats them long enough and often enough that they take on a life of their own, embraced as fact by unquestioning journalists.

 

Joe Biden only has a veneer, a semblance, of credibility, and that’s only because US media never ask him any serious questions. Not just because he never did any press-ops after becoming president, but also because even if he did, they still wouldn’t.

Putin, on the other hand, saved his country from America, globalism, and the worst outgrowths of capitalism and neocons. The US no longer has any meaningful dialogue with Russia anymore, which is of course utterly insane (but yeah, the narrative), but the Alaska meeting does give us an insight into where this train is about to be headed next.

Biden is no match for Putin in any way shape or form, but that doesn’t matter much “back home” as long as the press reports on just one side of the situation. We could have a great relationship with Russia, mutually beneficial, but that is too much of a threat to certain forces in the country. And those forces just came back into power.

Putin’s weak point is he would like to retire, but can’t find anyone he trusts to take over. And the CIA is ready to pounce as soon as he leaves. Biden is no problem for him, but finding a successor as smart as himself, is.

And you know, do you see Joe Biden take on the entire Russian intelligence apparatus, on his own? Just saying. And asking for a friend.

 

 

 

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Sep 022020
 
 September 2, 2020  Posted by at 7:09 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  16 Responses »


Caspar David Friedrich The Monk by the Sea c1809

 

 

“The Kremlin” poisoned their “fierce rival” Navalny with the infamous deadly agent novichok. That is the headline. Only, the German accusation in that direction doesn’t say novichok, its says a “cholinesterase inhibitor”, of which novichok is just one example, was used. The news outlets must be thinking that at least after the Skripal case, enough people will recognize the term, and let’s not confuse them.

The Germans claim they have “unequivocal proof” (eindeutiger Beweis) for this. While the Russian doctors who initially treated Navalny after he fell ill on a flight from Tomsk to Omsk (or was that the other way around?!) said he showed zero signs of poisoning. But yeah, they’re Russians, so they can’t be trusted, right? They all squander their Hippocratic oaths at the feet of the great malevolent dictator Trump Putin. You’re familiar with the parable about “all Cretans lie”?

“Merkel spokesman Seibert said the German government will inform its partners in the European Union and NATO about the test results..” NATO? What do they have to do with anything? How does the alleged poisoning of a two-bit (2% in the polls) Russian “politician” link to NATO? Is Navalny himself linked to NATO? Where does NATO come in to the conversation? How much does the CIA pay Navalny anyway?

 

The thing, the problem, is that it makes no difference anymore even if this particular instance has a kernel of truth in it. Because there have been so many of them, and they’re all “based” on non-evidence, circumstantial “evidence”, stuff that you wouldn’t get a conviction on in any western court. For good reason.

In the Skripal case, a pair of vague Russians were presented in the UK media who supposedly had been in the area where the alleged poisoning took place, where the head of all UK nurses “just happened” to deliver first aid, but the story still never made sense. Now I read in a Dutch news outlet that the two Skripals were moved to New Zealand to start a new life, but the fact remains that no-one has heard from them since that alleged incident. Almost as if someone doesn’t want to provide any proof, just the narrative.

In the MH17 case, another RussiaRussia story, they threw all credibility out from the start by appointing main victim the Netherlands (2/3 of deaths) the main prosecutor, but even more by allowing one of the main potential perpetrators, Ukraine, not just a role in the investigation, but handing them a veto right over whatever info could be shared with the outside world. I think we call that lock stock and barrel.

 

It is of vital importance for two parties -which might as well be one- in the west to keep accusing Russia of all manner of issues, while knowing full well they will never answer (though, remember Concord Asset Management, Robert Mueller III?), which means you can say whatever you want. It’s a free for all. The two parties are intelligence and NATO.

Western nations, and that means all of them, all the self-congratulating “democracies”, are being blackmailed by their own -secret- intelligence services, which most often pose as “national security services”, and they find they have no way out. In most countries, the best before date of a politician, even the political system itself, is way shorter than that of an intelligence agency’s agenda. The only thing a newly elected politician can do is accept a secret service’s word at face value, and define policy accordingly.

Be it domestic, bi-lateral vs particular countries, or global. The policies have already been defined years ago, and they have been defined by unelected “spooks”, not elected representatives of the people. This is incredibly (and I don’t use that word lightly) damaging to all of our societies, and we need to call a halt to it. But how do you do that? When they are the ones making policy, and not the people we vote into office to do that for us? It’s certainly not an easy task, but we can’t let them continue either. That would only mean assured destruction, economic depression and, ultimately, war.

 

That’s how and why we get the Navalny and Skripal stories. This goes back to at least WWII. US intelligence and the Wolfowitz/Brzezinski/Leo Strauss/Kissinger neocon cabal have severely compromised US national security for decades, only to funnel trillions towards US arms manufacturers, who today produce second rate weapons to boot. It is high time to stop this. Security is much better served by dialogue. Or should I say ”arguably?”

What the Navalny story, lacking evidence as much as so many other narratives, should tell us is that we are sort of hostages to a Ghost of Christmas past. We are being blackmailed as we speak by secret agents in cohort with the very military industrial complex that Eisenhower warned about, because they all need to keep a long lost dream alive in order to still appear relevant and chuck trillions out of our pockets.

It’s a scam, it’s blackmail. Russia is not about to attack you. They may have much better weaponry by now than we do (they do, check hypersonic), but they still won’t attack you, because A) they don’t want to, and B) they don’t have the numbers. They don’t have the manpower, they don’t have the money, they just want to be left alone, and we won’t leave them alone.

Our spooks invent Skripal and MH17 and Navalny and Russia collusion and prostitutes peeing on beds in Moscow. Because that’s how they justify -literally- endless streams of money towards their operations, and those of their Siamese twin NATO. All that money goes towards the 1950’s though, we’re paying through the nose for a long discredited notion and a long passed… past.

But as soon as anyone mentions Russia, you know there’s never going to be any checks and balances, as long as there are still enough people who buy into the Putin=”Bogeyman who eats little children” thing, in the same way that they believe Putin controls Donald Trump’s mind and policies. It’s a numbers thing: as long as enough people buy it, the narrative will continue to be sold.

You’re essentially stuck in your grandparents’ mindframe. No kidding. As we go through our 2020 crisis, which seems real enough, we spend extraordinary amounts of money on long outdates ideas maintained only to maintain the CIA and the army. Say what you will, but there’s nothing smart about that. It’s only very stupid.

Because, for one thing, suppose there are real threats lurking today, how can we face those while we’re still focusing on things that ceased being threats decades ago? Shouldn’t we perhaps replace our “intelligence” with something more intelligent? And fit not for the 1950’s but for the 2020’s?

Our “security services”, and NATO very much as well, make us less secure, safe, not more, because that’s the only way they know to justify their continued existence. Yes, there’s a paradox hidden in there somewhere. They don’t serve us, they only serve themselves.

 

 

 

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Mar 282020
 


Dorothea Lange White Angel Bread Line, San Francisco 1933

 

US Coronavirus Cases Top 100,000, Doubling In Three Days (CNBC)
The UK’s Coronavirus Policy May Sound Scientific. It Isn’t (Taleb, Bar-Yam)
Up To 40 Million Lives Could Be Saved If Countries Act Quickly (Ind.)
Dr. Fauci: Coronavirus Death Rate Like Very Bad Flu (WND)
China Closes Borders, Claims Wuhan ‘Basically Blocked’ Coronavirus (SAC)
Countries Worldwide Roll Out Draconian Measures To Fight Covid-19 (RT)
COVID-19 Has Exposed Just How Broken American Economy & Society Are (Ritter)
US May Be Headed For Highest Unemployment Ever (RT)
Yet Another Rant on Coronavirus & Trump (Brad DeLong)
Millions Will Struggle To Pay Rent In April, But Few In Congress Care (IC)
Panama Canal Blocks Cruise Ship With 138 Ill, 2 COVID-19 Cases On Board (BI)
Venezuela’s Coronavirus Response Might Surprise You (Flores)
RT Loses Challenge Against Claims Of Bias In Novichok Reporting

 

 

US tops 100,000, world almost tops 100,00 new cases in 24 hours. Winning.

 

 

Cases 613,829 (+ 71,444 from yesterday’s 542,385)

Deaths (+ 3,861 from yesterday’s 24,368)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 17% –

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info:

 

 

 

 

I think we just missed the next 100,000 global cases within 24 hours.

US Coronavirus Cases Top 100,000, Doubling In Three Days (CNBC)

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. surpassed 100,000 Friday, doubling in just three days as the pandemic accelerates and the U.S. rolls out broader testing measures. Data from Johns Hopkins University showed the total number of coronavirus cases as 101,707 and the total number of deaths in the U.S. as 1,544. The virus emerged in Wuhan, China, in December. It has since spread to more than half a million people in almost every country around the world and continues to pick up speed, the World Health Organization warned earlier this week. “The pandemic is accelerating,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday at a press briefing from the organization’s Geneva headquarters.

“It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach 100,000 cases, 11 days for second 100,000 cases, and just four days for the third 100,000 cases.” Confirmed U.S. cases passed 50,000 on Tuesday, up from 5,000 last week. At the beginning of the month, there were roughly 100 confirmed cases in the U.S. On Thursday, confirmed cases in the U.S. surpassed that of both China and Italy, making it the country with the largest outbreak in the world. The number of confirmed cases likely underestimates the true number of infections across the country, officials have acknowledged. Testing in the U.S. has been hampered by delays and a restrictive diagnostic criteria that limits who can get tested. With 44,635 confirmed cases as of Friday morning, New York state accounts for almost half of all cases in the U.S., according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.


He said Thursday that the rapid growth of confirmed cases is partly due to a “backlog” of infections that had not been confirmed due to lack of testing. However, the virus appears to be spreading to multiple so-called hot spots around the country, including Los Angeles, Detroit, New Orleans and other cities around the country.

Read more …

I can quote myself here from last night:

Taleb is very correct in his assessment that the precautionary principle is the only viable approach. Which means you have to hedge for the worst, and only after that may there be other options.

What he doesn’t say clearly enough, I think, is that the ignorant politicians and their science advisers (who only know how to model), as well as the equally ignorant media, have been so late in reacting they should all be pink slipped. Imagine people would have paid attention to the Jan 25 piece he references, when it was published (it advised “moderate distancing”, immediately). [constrain mobility. Immediately]

A report last week said if China had acted 3 weeks earlier 95% of its cases could have been prevented. That is true everywhere.”

The UK’s Coronavirus Policy May Sound Scientific. It Isn’t (Taleb, Bar-Yam)

When, along with applied systems scientist Dr Joe Norman, we first reacted to coronavirus on 25 January with the publication of an academic note urging caution, the virus had reportedly infected fewer than 2,000 people worldwide and fewer than 60 people were dead. That number need not have been so high. At the time of writing, the numbers are 351,000 and 15,000 respectively. Our research did not use any complicated model with a vast number of variables, no more than someone watching an avalanche heading in their direction calls for complicated statistical models to see if they need to get out of the way.

We called for a simple exercise of the precautionary principle in a domain where it mattered: interconnected complex systems have some attributes that allow some things to cascade out of control, delivering extreme outcomes. Enact robust measures that would have been, at the time, of small cost: constrain mobility. Immediately. Later, we invoked a rapid investment in preparedness: tests, hospital capacity, means to treat patients. Just in case, you know. Things can happen. The error in the UK is on two levels. Modelling and policymaking.

First, at the modelling level, the government relied at all stages on epidemiological models that were designed to show us roughly what happens when a preselected set of actions are made, and not what we should make happen, and how. The modellers use hypotheses/assumptions, which they then feed into models, and use to draw conclusions and make policy recommendations. Critically, they do not produce an error rate. What if these assumptions are wrong? Have they been tested? The answer is often no. For academic papers, this is fine. Flawed theories can provoke discussion. Risk management – like wisdom – requires robustness in models. But if we base our pandemic response plans on flawed academic models, people die. And they will.

This was the case with the disastrous “herd immunity” thesis. The idea behind herd immunity was that the outbreak would stop if enough people got sick and gained immunity. Once a critical mass of young people gained immunity, so the epidemiological modellers told us, vulnerable populations (old and sick people) would be protected. Of course, this idea was nothing more than a dressed-up version of the “just do nothing” approach. Individuals and scientists around the world immediately pointed out the obvious flaws: there’s no way to ensure only young people get infected; you need 60-70% of the population to be infected and recover to have a shot at herd immunity, and there aren’t that many young and healthy people in the UK, or anywhere. Moreover, many young people have severe cases of the disease, overloading healthcare systems, and a not-so-small number of them die. It is not a free ride.

And Taleb’s best friend, Fat Tony has a message for many people out there:

Read more …

As the WaPo: contends “Disease Modelers Factor In New Public Health Risk: Accusations Their Work Is A Hoax”. What, accused by Taleb? Why is anyone still quoting the WaPo? Doesn’t their record speak for itself?

40 million is one of the highest numbers I’ve seen. Luckily, not every politician is Bolsonaro.

Up To 40 Million Lives Could Be Saved If Countries Act Quickly (Ind.)

If all countries implemented strict anti-coronavirus measures and did so rapidly, up to 40 million lives worldwide could be saved in theory this year, British scientists have calculated. Acting early can cut death numbers by up to 95 per cent but failing to curb the effects of Covid-19 could lead to huge loss of life, they found. Their study concludes that testing and isolation of suspected cases as well as wide social-distancing measures early on can have a dramatic impact. Scientists at Imperial College London studied the health impacts of the pandemic in 202 countries, to compare three scenarios: theoretical death rates without any interventions or distancing with two that could be achieved by policies to curb or suppress spread of the disease.

In all three cases, health systems in all countries would still be quickly overwhelmed without high-cost steps to prevent coronavirus, the report warns. If governments globally did nothing to combat the virus, the pandemic in all likelihood would have caused around 7 billion infections 40 million deaths this year, they concluded. But by taking strict measures as soon as possible, 95 per cent of deaths could be prevented, saving 38.7 million lives, based on an average of 0.2 deaths per 100,000 population per week. If these strict measures are delayed, 30.7 million people’s lives are saved, the research found. “Delays in implementing strategies to suppress transmission will lead to worse outcomes and fewer lives saved,” the academics report.

A midway scenario that involved shielding the elderly and slowing but not interrupting transmission – with a 40 per cent reduction in social contacts among the general population – only halved the number of lives lost. “How individual countries respond in the coming weeks will be critical in influencing the trajectory of national epidemics,” the report says. But lower-income countries are likely to face a much higher burden than wealthier nations, with 25 times more patients in poor nations needing critical care than beds available, while in high-income countries demand outstrips supply by seven times, the report says. Dr Patrick Walker, an author of the report, said: “We estimate that the world faces an unprecedented acute public-health emergency in the coming weeks and months.

“Our findings suggest that all countries face a choice between intensive and costly measures to suppress transmission or risk health systems becoming rapidly overwhelmed. However, our results highlight that rapid, decisive and collective action now will save millions of lives in the next year.”

https://twitter.com/noelhimself/status/1243196148787163136

Read more …

Weird turnarounds: Fausi goes from a 1.0% CFR to 0.1% in 2 weeks, Neil Ferguson takes just 10 days to move from 500,000 deaths to under 20,000. Oh, and Deborah Brix claims the US have “..enough data now of the real experience with the coronavirus on the ground..” and, well, after all: “Models are [just] models”.

Now, she of course in fact merely has new models based on new data (so why diss models?), and it’s not nearly enough; re: testing. What Fauci and Ferguson hope to accomplish in risking their credibility with their sudden “moodswings” is unclear, but they’re not sufficiently supported by new data either. Not in that amount of time. Political pressure perhaps?

Dr. Fauci: Coronavirus Death Rate Like Very Bad Flu (WND)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, co-authored an article published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine predicting the fatality rate for the coronavirus will turn out to be like that of a “severe seasonal influenza.” In an exceptionally bad flu season, the case fatality rate is about one-tenth of 1 percent, the authors write. Regarding the current coronavirus pandemic, they said: “If one assumes that the number of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic cases is several times as high as the number of reported cases, the case fatality rate may be considerably less than 1%.”

Taking into account the unreported cases, they conclude “that the overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS, which have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10% and 36%, respectively.” Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. His current assessment is a signicant downgrade from the figure he cited in testimony to the House of Representatives on March 11 in which he called for a cancellation of any large gatherings. Fauci estimated at the time – prior to the current shutdown – that the true mortality rate of the coronavirus outbreak, taking into account unreported cases, was “somewhere around 1%, which means it is 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu.”

[..] the lead author of a dire coronavirus study cited by the White House, Downing Street and other governments in their decisions implement unprecendented “social distancing” measures has drastically revised the estimated death toll of the pandemic in the U.K. The study by Imperial College of London published March 16 estimated that 2.2 million Americans and 500,000 Britons could die. But lead author Neil Ferguson testified Wednesday to a parliamentary committee that the U.K. death toll is unlikely to exceed 20,000 and could be much lower. And more than half that number would have died anyway by the end of the year, because of their age and underlying illnesses, he told the panel.

[..] At the White House Coronavirus Task Force daily briefing Thursday, coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx mentioned Ferguson’s dramatic downgrade of his estimate. She said the predictions of models also “don’t match the reality on the ground in either China, South Korea or Italy.” “Models are models. There’s enough data now of the real experience with the coronavirus on the ground, really, to make these predictions much more sound,” said Birx. “So when people start talking about 20% of a population getting infected, it’s very scary,” she said. “But we don’t have data that matches that.”

Ferguson issued a clarification Thursday via Twitter, arguing his evidence to Parliament “referred to the deaths we assess might occur in the UK in the presence of the very intensive social distancing and other public health interventions now in place.” “Without those controls, our assessment remains that the UK would see the scale of deaths reported in our study (namely, up to approximately 500 thousand),” he wrote.

Read more …

China, from zero to hero. Nice story, but…

China Closes Borders, Claims Wuhan ‘Basically Blocked’ Coronavirus (SAC)

The Chinese government is reporting that the city of Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus began is no longer an area of “high risk” for the transmission of the coronavirus and hasn’t seen any new cases since March 18. The report comes as the country plans to close its borders to foreigners beginning Saturday, March 28 after limiting inbound and outbound international flights on Thursday. “The suspension is a temporary measure that China is compelled to take in light of the outbreak situation and the practices of other countries,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “China will stay in close touch with all sides and properly handle personnel exchanges with the rest of the world under the special circumstances. The above-mentioned measures will be calibrated in light of the evolving situation and announced accordingly.”


The city of Wuhan first shut down on January, 23. That date, however, was too late in stopping the spread of the virus as millions of people fled shortly before the quarantine was ordered. According to the city’s mayor, it was nearly 5 million people. Many of the millions who left travelled abroad for the Chinese Lunar New Year. Earlier this month, President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak began and claimed that the virus “has basically been curbed” in the city. He reportedly visited hospitals and quarantined citizens. The city is located in Hubei province, which claims to have had no cases for 22 consecutive days outside of Wuhan.

Read more …

Keyword: incompetence.

“..repeat offenders staring down the possibility of 3-18 months in prison..”

Countries Worldwide Roll Out Draconian Measures To Fight Covid-19 (RT)

New regulations in Singapore which threaten prison time for anyone found violating “social distancing” protocols exemplify the harsh rules being imposed around the world in the fight against coronavirus.
According to a press release from the Ministry of Health, Singaporeans who fail to maintain a distance of one meter from other people in “non-transient” public interactions can be fined up to 10,000 Singapore dollars ($6,985) and even risk a six-month jail sentence. The strict measures come as nations around the world adopt similarly extreme provisions to halt the spread of coronavirus.

Jordan introduced some of the most radical anti-coronavirus policies to date. The country initially imposed an around-the-clock lockdown, with officials promising to deliver bread and water to all citizens. Those who violated the strict quarantine were threatened with a year in prison. At least 800 were arrested over a span of several days, the Guardian reported. The measures were later eased, with the government permitting people to take walks and visit shops and pharmacies.

Authorities have begun to ratchet up efforts to stop quarantine violators in Italy. The country deployed more than 100 soldiers tasked with enforcing lockdown measures in Lombardy, the hardest-hit region in Europe. More than 90,000 Italians have been slapped with fines which can potentially reach €3,000 ($3,300). Italians can also end up behind bars for three months for flouting the stay-in-place protocols.

Spain might have the most stringent rules in Europe. Since announcing a countrywide lockdown in mid-March, residents have only been allowed outside for essentials such as grocery shopping or medical needs. The provisions, originally scheduled to be lifted after fifteen days, have been extended until April 11. Those found in violation of the rules face astronomical fines, with repeat offenders staring down the possibility of 3-18 months in prison. More than 30,000 fines have been issued and 900 arrests made for disobedience, according to reports.

Read more …

Just like Trump has, I would add.

COVID-19 Has Exposed Just How Broken American Economy & Society Are (Ritter)

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed some uncomfortable truths about the state of America today. First and foremost is the fragility of the American economy. After years of outsourcing manufacturing, the United States has constructed an economy where services industries comprise some 55 percent of overall economic activity. In the age of globalization, with interconnectivity functioning seamlessly, this model has been able to generate the appearance of prosperity, with a booming stock market and increased GDP. The reality, however, is that the American economy lacks resilience in time of crisis. The ongoing trade war with China, combined with a depressed global oil market, were in the process of exposing this reality before the coronavirus pandemic.

The national lockdown, and resulting economic stoppage, only accelerated what was a gradual economic recession in progress. Even if the US economy could be taken off stimulus-driven life support, the conditions that preceded the shutdown still exist and, if anything, have only been exacerbated by the impact of the pandemic on global economic health. American corporations have been shown to have little capacity to plan for “rainy day” contingencies, instead focusing all their economic resources on the generation of short-term profit. And the American working class has been likewise exposed as living on the edge of catastrophe, with few Americans able to fall back on savings that would enable them to ride out a period of sustained economic inactivity or, worse, to pay for emergency health care.

The other uncomfortable truth about America that has been exposed by the crisis is the overall fragility of American society. The medical emergency brought about by the need to treat this virus has shown that what passes for a national healthcare system is, in fact, a fragile construct of for-profit institutions susceptible to being rapidly overburdened and unable to function once the cash-stream of overpriced healthcare has been cut off. The coronavirus crisis has revealed the reality of the US healthcare system today – most Americans don’t have the wherewithal to get quality healthcare when needed – the cost of such care is prohibitive, as are the insurance premiums one must pay to cover it.

Read more …

“The peak unemployment rate in the US was 24 percent in the depth of the Great Depression..”

US May Be Headed For Highest Unemployment Ever (RT)

The coronavirus pandemic will push the US jobless rate even higher than it was during the Great Depression if all the gloomy forecasts are true, Roger Farmer, an economist at the University of Warwick, believes. Earlier this week, a US Federal Reserve official predicted that the outbreak will leave 30 percent of Americans jobless while the country’s GDP will fall by 50 percent. According to James Bullard, president of the St. Louis branch of the US Federal Reserve Bank, that could happen quite soon – in the second quarter of this year. “If that turns out to be correct it will be the highest ever recorded. The peak unemployment rate in the US was 24 percent in the depth of the Great Depression,” Professor Farmer told RT.


The economist noted that the decline may be short-term as the situation will start to improve as soon as social isolation ends. Much will depend on the right stimulus, such as direct wage subsidies that can help the economy to rebound. “If job losses become permanent and employment relationships are destroyed, the recovery will take longer,” the analyst said. Another forecast released by the developers of the US Private Sector Job Quality Index (JQI) warned that some 37 million workers across the US are vulnerable to layoffs due to the shutdowns triggered by the health crisis.

Read more …

Economist DeLong says: test test test. Which is the one thing everyone says they do, but nobody does, other than in token numbers.

Yet Another Rant on Coronavirus & Trump (Brad DeLong)

Could “reopening America for business” on Easter backfire? Oh, yes it could. Oh, it definitely could backfire: BIGTIME. The experience so far is that, in a society not undertaking social distancing, coronavirus cases double in a little less than five days—grow 100-fold in a month. If, say, the virus has been largely suppressed and only 10000 in the U.S. have it Easter week, then after the u.S. is opened up 1 million will have it on May 15, and then 100 million on June 15, at which point the epidemic will have pretty much run its course. But from May 1 to June 15 hospitals will have been overwhelmed. The likely death rate will have been not 1% but 6%. 5 million additional Americans will have died. In return we will have produced an extra $1 trillion of stuff. That’s a tradeoff of $200K per life, which is not a good tradeoff to aim at making.

And, while it could be better, it could be much worse… The right way to do it is to lockdown while we test, test, test, test, test: • Test a random-sample panel of 10000 Americans weekly to get a handle on the progress of the disease. • Test everyone for antibodies. • Let those who have had the disease and so are no immune go back to work—after testing to make sure that they are immune. • Indeed, draft those who have recovered to be hospital orderlies and nurses. • Make decisions based on knowledge of where the epidemic is in the community, and tune quarantine, social distancing, and shutdown measures to those appropriate given where the epidemic is. But we do not know where the epidemic is.

And because we are not testing on a sufficient scale, we will not know when and if the virus is truly on the run until a month after the peak, when deaths start dropping. And even then we will not know how much the virus is on the run. And removing social distancing before the virus is thoroughly on the run means that the virus comes roaring back. Once the virus is thoroughly on the run, then normal public health measures can handle it:

• Test, test, test. • Test patients presenting with symptoms. • Trace and test their contacts. Do what Japan and Singapore did—close to the epicenter in Wuhan, yet still with true caseloads lower than one in ten thousand. • Test those crossing borders, symptomatic or not. • Test those moving from city to city via air. •Test a random sample on the interstates, to see how much virus is leaking from place to place that way. • Test a random sample of the population to see whether and how much the disease was established, and then test another one.

Read more …

“..Pelosi and Democratic leadership still have their eyes on protecting corporations and not the people,” said one House Democratic staffer.”

Millions Will Struggle To Pay Rent In April, But Few In Congress Care (IC)

On Wednesday, April 1, rent payments will be due for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic — yet even with unemployment at a record high, major bill payments have barely factored into U.S. politicians’ response to the crisis. On Friday, the House passed an emergency multi-trillion dollar relief package, which was approved by the Senate on Wednesday night and will now head to President Donald Trump’s desk. It’s about five times bigger than Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus and represents a massive upward transfer of wealth. Though it includes a significant expansion of unemployment benefits and a onetime check of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for couples, it’ll take up to three weeks for people to begin receiving those relief checks, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

That will be too late for the nearly 3.3 million people who filed for unemployment benefits last week, and others who have become underemployed as a result of the pandemic. While some states — namely New York — have taken steps to temporarily block evictions, congressional Democrats, with the exception of a handful of progressive lawmakers, have shown almost no interest in addressing the bills due in less than a week, one of the most pressing financial concerns ordinary people currently face. “It shows that Pelosi and Democratic leadership still have their eyes on protecting corporations and not the people,” said one House Democratic staffer.

[..] For the most part, demands to cancel rent have been coming from the political left, tenants’ rights groups and other progressive activist circles. They have made modest and incremental gains in a handful of cities and states, but as of yet no change has been enacted that meets the size of the crisis. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order leaving the decision to pause evictions up to local jurisdictions, which has prompted a confusing patchwork of temporary measures in cities like San Francisco and San Bernardino. States like Washington and Pennsylvania, meanwhile, have adopted more widespread measures.

Read more …

Left on March 7. And we still can’t say: leave them alone?!

Panama Canal Blocks Cruise Ship With 138 Ill, 2 COVID-19 Cases On Board (BI)

The Panama Canal Authority will block the MS Zaandam, a Holland America cruise ship with two confirmed cases of COVID-19 on board, from entering the canal. “Following protocol of Panama’s Ministry of Health, if a vessel has individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 on board, it cannot make any port operations or transit the Canal,” the Panama Canal Authority said in a statement sent to Business Insider on March 27. The Holland America previously considered having the ship sail through the Panama Canal in order to head back to Fort Lauderdale for a March 30 arrival.


The Zaandam has been stranded off the coast of South America and Central America after different ports began closing to cruise ships due to coronavirus concerns. A bout of respiratory disease then broke out on the ship, prompting 138 sick passengers and crew members to report to the vessel’s medical center. Holland America confirmed that four passengers have died on board, and two individuals have tested positive for COVID-19. The cruise on the Zaandam was scheduled to last 14 days, embarking from Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7. For some passengers, the cruise would end after 14 days in San Antonio, Chile. For others, it was due to April 7 in Fort Lauderdale.

Read more …

Sanctions made Russia stronger, and Venezuela too.

Venezuela’s Coronavirus Response Might Surprise You (Flores)

Within a few hours of being launched, over 800 Venezuelans in the U.S. registered for an emergency flight from Miami to Caracas through a website run by the Venezuelan government. This flight, offered at no cost, was proposed by President Nicolás Maduro when he learned that 200 Venezuelans were stuck in the United States following his government’s decision to stop commercial flights as a preventative coronavirus measure. The promise of one flight expanded to two or more flights, as it became clear that many Venezuelans in the U.S. wanted to go back to Venezuela, yet the situation remains unresolved due to the U.S. ban on flights to and from the country. Those who rely solely on the mainstream media might wonder who in their right mind would want to leave the United States for Venezuela.

[..] These media outlets painted a picture of a coronavirus disaster, of government incompetence and of a nation teetering on the brink of collapse. The reality of Venezuela’s coronavirus response is not covered by the mainstream media at all. [Their articles shortchange] the damage caused by the Trump administration’s sanctions, which devastated the economy and healthcare system long before the coronavirus pandemic. These sanctions have impoverished millions of Venezuelans and negatively impact vital infrastructure, such as electricity generation. Venezuela is impeded from importing spare parts for its power plants and the resulting blackouts interrupt water services that rely on electric pumps. These, along with dozens of other implications from the hybrid war on Venezuela, have caused a decline in health indicators across the board, leading to 100,000 deaths as a consequence of the sanctions.

[..] First, international solidarity has played a priceless role in enabling the government to rise to the challenge. China sent coronavirus diagnostic kits that will allow 320,000 Venezuelans to be tested, in addition to a team of experts and tons of supplies. Cuba sent 130 doctors and 10,000 doses of interferon alfa-2b, a drug with an established record of helping COVID-19 patients recover. Russia has sent the first of several shipments of medical equipment and kits. These three countries, routinely characterized by the U.S. foreign policy establishment as evil, offer solidarity and material support. The United States offers more sanctions and the IMF, widely known to be under U.S. control, denied a Venezuelan request for $5 billion in emergency funding that even the European Union supports.

Second, the government quickly carried out a plan to contain the spread of the disease. On March 12, a day before the first confirmed cases, President Maduro decreed a health emergency, prohibited crowds from gathering, and cancelled flights from Europe and Colombia. On March 13, Day 1, two Venezuelans tested positive; the government cancelled classes, began requiring facemasks on subways and on the border, closed theaters, bars and nightclubs, and limited restaurants to take-out or delivery. It bears repeating that this was on Day 1 of having a confirmed case; many U.S. states have yet to take these steps. By Day 4, a national quarantine was put into effect (equivalent to shelter-in-place orders) and an online portal called the Homeland System (Sistema Patria) was repurposed to survey potential COVID-19 cases.

Read more …

If I were a Briton, I’d be very worried about the state of my judicial system by now.

RT Loses Challenge Against Claims Of Bias In Novichok Reporting

The Kremlin-backed news channel RT has lost a high court challenge to overturn a ruling by the UK media regulator that it broadcast biased programmes relating to the novichok poisoning in Salisbury and the war in Syria. Ofcom fined RT £200,000 after determining that seven programmes, including two presented by the former MP George Galloway, were in breach of UK broadcasting rules relating to due impartiality regarding matters of political controversy. The programmes fronted by Galloway, a regular presenter on the 24-hour news channel, covered the poisoning of the Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury two years ago. While the poisoning was blamed on Russia, Galloway cast doubt on the assertion.

Ofcom also found that four news and current affairs broadcasts addressing the US’s involvement in the Syrian conflict, and a news programme concerning the Ukrainian government’s position on Nazism and the treatment of Roma people, breached impartiality rules. RT contended that Ofcom had not taken into account the fact that the “dominant media narrative” at the time of the poisonings – that Russia was to blame – meant it could leave that view out of its own programming. The broadcaster also said the requirement to be impartial interfered with its right to freedom of expression. Lord Justice Dingemans, who delivered the high court judgment remotely on Friday, said the requirement for media to be balanced was paramount in the era of fake news.

“At present, the broadcast media maintains a reach and immediacy that remains unrivalled by other media,” he said. “Indeed, there is reason to consider that the need [for due impartiality] is at least as great, if not greater than ever before, given current concerns about the effect on the democratic process of news manipulation and of fake news.” He saud RT was not restricted from broadcasting its point of view on the Salisbury poisonings, the war on Syria or events in Ukraine. “The only requirement was that, in the programme as broadcast, RT provided balance to ensure that there was ‘due impartiality’,” he said.

Read more …

 

It must be possible to run a joint like the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. These are no longer the times when ads pay for all you read, your donations have become an integral part of it. It has become a two-way street; and isn’t that liberating, when you think about it?

Thanks everyone for your wonderful and generous donations over the past few days. The rest of you: don’t be strangers.

 

 


Be like Mr Lego. Don’t forget to wash your hands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To prevent the Black Death spreading in the 14th century, all ships thought to be infected were isolated for 40 days to prevent the spread of the disease. In fact, the word quarantine comes from the Italian quaranta giorni, meaning “40 days”.

 

 

Support us in virustime. Help the Automatic Earth survive. It’s good for you.

 

Sep 262019
 
 September 26, 2019  Posted by at 9:28 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Paul Gauguin By the stream, autumn 1885

 

House To Grill Trump Intel Chief About Whistleblower Report (R.)
House Backs Release Of Trump Whistleblower Complaint 421-0 (R.)
Biden Campaign Blasts Republican Request For Classified VP Documents (Pol.)
Fury And Mistrust As The Brexit Pressure Cooker Blows Its Top (Sky)
Financial System Disappearing into Black Hole – Egon von Greyerz (USAW)
How Employees & Employers Get Bled by Health Insurance (WS)
The Disaster of Negative Interest Rates (Brown)
New Weapons for the ECB (Varoufakis)
Boeing Settles First Lion Air Lawsuits For At Least $1.2 Million Apiece (R.)
Beijing Vows To Retaliate After US Hong Kong Human Rights Bill Approved (SCMP)
Salisbury Attack Novichok Bottle Was Not Recovered For 4 Months (Ind.)

 

 

It’s time for a lot of people to take a lot of very deep breaths and count to ten a million times. The UK is imploding on rhetoric, and in the US people convince themselves they see diametrically opposed things in the exact same material, much of which they‘ve never even read or watched.

There is such a thing as the future of your country and your (grand-)children that must also be considered, guys and gals. You will all have to live together.

House To Grill Trump Intel Chief About Whistleblower Report (R.)

President Donald Trump’s top intelligence official will be grilled by U.S. lawmakers on Thursday over the administration’s handling of a whistleblower report central to an impeachment inquiry into the president. The acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, will testify to the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee after refusing to share the complaint with Congress, despite a law requiring that it be sent to lawmakers after an inspector general’s determination that it was urgent and credible. Maguire has been in his position for less than two months.


While the formal impeachment inquiry announced on Tuesday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is led by Democrats, some of Trump’s fellow Republicans joined them in calling on the administration to send the report to Congress. Members of the House and Senate intelligence committees were allowed to see the complaint on Wednesday. “Republicans ought not to be rushing to circle the wagons to say there’s no there there when there’s obviously lots that’s very troubling there,” Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said after reading the document.

Read more …

We agree then.

House Backs Release Of Trump Whistleblower Complaint 421-0 (R.)

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 421-0 on Wednesday for a resolution calling on President Donald Trump to release a whistleblower complaint to Congress, despite the administration letting them view the classified document at secure locations in the U.S. Capitol. Two House members voted present and 10 did not vote. The document is central to the impeachment inquiry into the Republican president announced on Tuesday by the Democratic House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, after reports that Trump had tried to put pressure on Ukraine’s president to help smear a political rival.


The Senate passed a similar resolution by unanimous voice vote on Tuesday. Republicans joined Democrats in backing the release of the document, after many lawmakers argued that Trump’s associates were defying a law calling for whistleblower complaints to be sent to Congress if they are found to be credible.

Read more …

Doesn’t seem all that far-fetched.

Biden Campaign Blasts Republican Request For Classified VP Documents (Pol.)

The Biden campaign slammed the Republican National Committee on Tuesday night for urging former Vice President Joe Biden to release the transcripts of his calls with Ukrainian and Chinese leaders, saying it would not be legal or even physically possible for Biden to do that. “Imagine our disbelief that Republicans called for Joe Biden to break the law and release classified transcripts he doesn’t have access to or permission to release, given their track record for holding politicians who commit crimes accountable and their general ethical and moral conduct across the board,” Biden spokesman TJ Ducklo said in a statement provided exclusively to POLITICO.


On Tuesday afternoon, RNC chair Ronna McDaniel called for Biden to release the transcripts of his calls during his years as VP “while his son was conducting shady business deals in those countries.” There’s no indication that Hunter Biden did anything illegal in his business dealings in Ukraine. “With their newfound sense of transparency, will they also ask President Donald Trump to release his tax returns, something he promised to do nearly four years ago?” Ducklo added.

Read more …

What kind of country will it be, whatever happens?

Fury And Mistrust As The Brexit Pressure Cooker Blows Its Top (Sky)

Brexit has been a pressure cooker for our government, our parliament, our political parties, our MPs and for all of us too – and finally the tensions really erupted. Back in business after the Supreme Court ruled the government’s decision to suspend parliament was unlawful and therefore void, the whole place was absolutely furious from the moment Geoffrey Cox took to the dispatch box at 11.30am to the close of play nearly 12 hours later. The attorney general, the prime minister’s warm up act, he quickly set the tone. Yes this was a government which had been admonished by the Supreme Court for proroguing parliament unlawfully. But there would be no apologies, contrition or regret.

Instead the government’s top legal brain unleashed an unfettered attack on parliament, working himself into a frenzy as he raged against the “spineless” Labour frontbench and “cowardly” MPs for refusing to grant the prime minister an election. “This parliament is a disgrace,” he boomed to the jeering of opposition MPs. “This parliament is a dead parliament. It should no longer sit, It has no moral right to sit on these green benches.” He charged on: “The time is coming when even these turkeys won’t be able to prevent Christmas!” MPs raged. Labour’s Barry Sheerman shaking in anger as he accused the attorney general of having “no shame all”. “To come here with his barrister’s bluster to obsfucate the truth – a man like him, a party like this and a leader like this to talk about morals and morality. It’s a disgrace.”

With the stage set, Mr Johnson was straight into character as he arrived in the parliament, unrepentant and indignant as he tried to goad his opponents into tabling a motion of no-confidence in the government. The people versus the parliament election, Mr Johnson cast himself as the prime minister trying to deliver on the biggest popular vote in history while ‘the establishment’ – be it the parliament or the courts – block his path. The language provocative and incendiary as he sought to portray his political rivals as anti-democratic and treacherous. Parliament was “refusing to deliver on the priorities of the people” while Jeremy Corbyn and his cronies “do not trust the people. They are determined to throw out the referendum result, whatever the cost.””We will not betray the people who sent us here,” he bellowed as MPs erupted in fury.

Complaints that his inflammatory words were being cited in death threats were dismissed as “humbug”. When he told MPs that the “best way” to honour Jo Cox, who was murdered in the 2016 referendum, was to “get Brexit done”, the chamber moved past boiling point and into complete meltdown. Some MPs walked out of the chamber in protest. Others left in tears.

Read more …

“The balance sheet . . . of the Fed is going to go from around $4 trillion to $40 trillion. It is going to go to $100 trillion before this is over.”

Financial System Disappearing into Black Hole – Egon von Greyerz (USAW)

Europe is starting QE again with $20 billion a month, but that’s nothing compared to what is coming. . . . The panic that started with central banks in the summer in late July and August was, to me, the first step towards total chaos in the world that we will be seeing in the months and years to come. They (central bankers) see it clearly. They know the banking system is absolutely on the verge of collapse. They know Deutsche Bank (DB) and CommerzBank, too, are down 95%. If you show this chart to a child and ask where is that likely to go, it is likely to go to zero. DB, with their $50 trillion in derivatives, there is no chance they will survive. Of course, Germany and the ECB is panicking because that will affect the whole banking system worldwide.

This is why they have started to print money now because there is a massive liquidity problem, and that’s Germany, which is the best country in the EU from the point of economics. Then you take Italy, Spain, France and Greece and they are in a real mess. This is why the whole system is on the verge of disappearing into a black hole. . . . With the U.S., there is massive liquidity pressure there too.” The massive amount of money printing to keep the fiat system afloat is just starting. EvG contends, “This is just a practice round. This is just more money at this point. The balance sheet . . . of the Fed is going to go from around $4 trillion to $40 trillion. It is going to go to $100 trillion before this is over.

All of these bubble assets that are based on just credit and credit expansion are going to implode measured in real terms, measured in gold. I expect the stock market and the property market to lose at least 95% or more in real terms. . . . The next up cycle for gold (and silver) has started. The next phase of this market has started, and it is going to go on for a long, long time. It is going to go to levels that will be hard to believe today.

Read more …

People suffer and die.

How Employees & Employers Get Bled by Health Insurance (WS)

The annual cost of the average health insurance family plan through employers — employer and employee contributions combined – rose another 4.9% in 2019, to $20,576. This is up 255% from 20 years ago, having soared five times faster than the Consumer Price Index (+52%). Employees paid about 29% of the premium for family coverage ($6,015 annually, red portion) and employers paid about 71% ($14,561 annually, blue portion). Over the past 20 years, the employee contribution has increased by 290%. These are among the findings of the annual survey of over 2,000 companies, both small (3-199 employees) and large (200+ employees), including non-federal public employers, by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.

Employers and employees both are groaning under the relentlessly ballooning weight of health insurance costs. And the numbers are large: 153 million Americans are covered by employer sponsored health insurance. At companies with few lower-wage workers, the employee contribution for family coverage was on average $5,968 annually. But at companies with many lower-wage workers, the employee portion for family coverage was $7,047 annually. “The single biggest issue in health care for most Americans is that their health costs are growing much faster than their wages are,” KFF CEO Drew Altman said. “Costs are prohibitive when workers making $25,000 a year have to shell out $7,000 a year just for their share of family premiums.”


Many lower-wage workers cannot afford the contributions and forego the health insurance even if their companies offer it. As a result, at companies with many lower-wage workers, only 33% of the workers are covered by the employer’s health insurance, compared to 63% at the other companies. For single coverage of the employee only, the annual cost of the average health insurance premium — employer and employee contributions combined — rose 4.2% in 2019, to $7,188, with the employee paying 17% or $1,242 (up from 14% in 1999) and the employer paying 83% or $5,946 (down from 86% in 1999).

Read more …

“Before the Eurozone debt crisis of 2011-12, even the European Central Bank was forbidden to buy sovereign debt.”

The Disaster of Negative Interest Rates (Brown)

EU member governments have lost the sovereign power to issue their own money or borrow money issued by their own central banks. The EU experiment was a failed monetarist attempt to maintain a fixed money supply, as if the euro were a commodity in limited supply like gold. The central banks of member countries do not have the power to bail out their governments or their failing local banks as the Fed did for U.S. banks with massive quantitative easing after the 2008 financial crisis. Before the Eurozone debt crisis of 2011-12, even the European Central Bank was forbidden to buy sovereign debt. The rules changed after Greece and other southern European countries got into serious trouble, sending bond yields (nominal interest rates) through the roof.


But default or debt restructuring was not considered an option; and in 2016, new EU rules required a “bail in” before a government could bail out its failing banks. When a bank ran into trouble, existing stakeholders–including shareholders, junior creditors and sometimes even senior creditors and depositors with deposits in excess of the guaranteed amount of €100,000–were required to take a loss before public funds could be used. Also included in Italy were subordinated bonds that were owned not just by well-off families and other banks but by small savers who in many cases were fraudulently mis-sold the bonds as being risk-free (basically as good as deposits). The Italian government got a taste of the potential backlash when it forced losses onto the bondholders of four small banks. One victim made headlines when he hung himself and left a note blaming his bank, which had taken his entire €100,000 savings.

Read more …

Making sense.

New Weapons for the ECB (Varoufakis)

Fortunately, an effective weapon can immediately be built to all four of these standards: ECB conversion bonds. A sketch of their announcement follows: “Henceforth, whenever a eurozone government bond matures, the ECB will issue a conversion bond with a face value equivalent to the Maastricht-compliant portion of the member-state’s total public debt. The bond’s purpose is to service, at low interest rates that only the ECB can fetch, member states’ Maastricht-compliant public debt (up to 60% of GDP) – conditional on member states’ commitment to redeem the bond and afford it seniority over all other debts (presumably serviced at higher interest rates).”

To give a numerical example, if a member state’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 90%, the ECB conversion bond services €667 of each €1,000 of maturing state debt. The less the member state has exceeded its Maastricht debt limit, the larger the percentage of its public debt that will be serviced at the ultra-low ECB bond yields. Immediately, we see how this interest rate differential encourages discipline and eliminates the fear of moral hazard that the present quantitative easing program has elevated to dangerous levels. Note also that, besides minimizing moral-hazard risks, the new ECB bonds meet the other three standards. Their issuance requires no discretionary powers by the ECB as it follows directly from the existing Maastricht limits.

They would provide eurozone banks the missing safe asset they need to wean themselves off bonds issued by often-weak national governments (while creating a safe asset for foreigners to buy with their euros). Finally, ECB conversion bonds would allow interest rates in surplus countries like Germany to rebound, because the ECB would no longer need to buy German bunds as a condition for purchasing Italian bonds. [..] Technically speaking, ECB conversion bonds are the obvious replacement for the failing quantitative easing program. Only the misplaced fear of debt mutualization stands in their way.

Read more …

It seems like only yesterday that they offered $120,000. Wait, that WAS yesterday.

Boeing Settles First Lion Air Lawsuits For At Least $1.2 Million Apiece (R.)

Boeing Co has settled the first claims stemming from the crash of a Lion Air 737 MAX in Indonesia, a U.S. plaintiffs’ lawyer said, and three other sources said that families of those killed will receive at least $1.2 million apiece. Floyd Wisner of Wisner Law Firm said he has settled 11 of his 17 claims against Boeing on behalf of families who lost their relatives when a brand-new MAX crashed into the Java Sea on Oct. 29 soon after take-off, killing all 189 aboard. Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe declined comment. Boeing did not admit liability in its 11 settlements, Wisner said.


The claims, each representing one victim, are the first to be settled out of some 55 lawsuits against Boeing in U.S. federal court in Chicago and could set the bar for mediation talks by other Lion Air plaintiffs’ lawyers that are scheduled through next month, three people familiar with the matter said. Wisner said he could not disclose the amount of the settlements because of a confidentiality agreement with Boeing. The three people familiar with the matter said families of Lion Air victims, who were nearly all from Indonesia, are set to receive at least $1.2 million each. That amount would be for a single victim without any dependents.

Read more …

“If passed, it would, among other actions, require the US to sanction Chinese officials deemed responsible for “undermining basic freedoms in Hong Kong…“

Beijing Vows To Retaliate After US Hong Kong Human Rights Bill Approved (SCMP)

China said it would “hit back forcefully” at the United States after the US Congress officially pushed ahead with a bill to support democratic freedoms in Hong Kong by putting pressure on Chinese authorities. The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 moved through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, setting the stage for votes in both chambers in the coming weeks. The bill could pave the way for diplomatic action and economic sanctions against the Hong Kong government.


If passed, it would, among other actions, require the US to sanction Chinese officials deemed responsible for “undermining basic freedoms in Hong Kong” and require the US president to review Hong Kong’s special economic status. China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement on Thursday that the bill was an attempt to “wantonly interfere in China’s domestic affairs” and had shown the “malicious intention of some in the US Congress to contain China’s development”.

Read more …

This must be the strangest thing I’ve read in a long time. The claim is that the Novichock used in the first (Skripal) incident was found after the second incident. But we know that bottle was sealed, and couldn’t have been used on Skripal. How is this a story then to be published today?

Salisbury Attack Novichok Bottle Was Not Recovered For 4 Months (Ind.)

Investigators took almost four months to recover the bottle which contained the deadly novichok nerve agent for almost four months after it was used in an assassination attempt in Salisbury. After it was placed on the front door of former double agent Sergei Skripal on 4 March 2018, a counterfeit Nina Ricci perfume bottle which was used to smuggle the nerve agent into the UK, was not recovered until 27 June. Police believe two Russian men, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, then used a secret pump to spread the nerve agent on Mr Skripal’s front door in March 2018. The former Russian military intrelligence officer and his daughter Yulia were both left seriously ill and a further six people were exposed to novichok in Salisbury, which saw large swathes of it’s town centre shut down as police investigated.


Nick Bailey, a police officer, also fell seriously ill after being exposed to the substance while investigating the case. The source of the novichok was found almost four months later, after the death of Dawn Sturgess. Ms Sturgess was given the perfume bottle as a gift by her partner Charlie Rowley, who had found it in a charity shop bin on 27 June 2018. She died from exposure to the nerve agent three days later. Mr Rowley fell seriously ill but later recovered.

Read more …

 

He’s getting an award.

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 052018
 
 September 5, 2018  Posted by at 2:18 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Pablo Picasso The actor 1904

 

 

I’ve had a few comments lately wondering why I’m against Brexit, while before the referendum I was not. Someone even remembered I had been talking about Beautiful Brexit back in 2016. It’s real simple. Brexit could be, or could have been, a good idea. There’s a lot wrong with the way the European Union is set up. There’s nothing democratic about Germany always having the last say when it comes to important decisions. Slaughtering the entire nation of Greece on the altar of saving Deutsche and Commerzbank says it all.

But Brexit today is not the same -anymore- as it was before or during the June 23 2016 vote. What happened is that nothing happened. The Brits wasted two whole years and change, and the complexity of the process never allowed for that kind of delay. There are many thousands of pages of EU rules and regulations that not only has the UK been bound by over the past 45 years, but that have shaped its own society.

It’s not just that these ties have to be untangled, they have to be replaced by other rules and regulations. And no, the UK can’t just go back to what they had before 1973; too much water under the bridge, both domestically and internationally. Politically, the EU may be a disaster, but the single market is quite the achievement. And they’re not going to risk it by letting London cherry-pick the rules it likes while leaving others behind. It’s a package deal.

But that is what the Brits, or at least the Tories, appear to have counted on: cherry-picking. They still do. It’s going to be a cold shower. And obviously, they’re going to blame it all on the EU, but that’s neither true nor credible. Still, expect a huge blame campaign. They’re practicing on Labour and its leader Jeremy Corbyn, who the entire UK press including the BBC and Guardian, who are supposed to balance out the slew of Murdoch rags that shape opinion, started accusing of anti-semitism a few weeks ago.

It’s as concerted an effort as the D-Notice gag orders issued earlier this year in the novichok cases. And now that the few media outlets who once had some degree of independence start saying the same things as their smut peers, Brits can safely assume they have no press left that attempts to inform them. It’s now all a propaganda machine.

 

As for Jeremy Corbyn, one can feel sorry for him, but he doesn’t even try to defend himself. Needs to take some cues from Trump? Still, if Corbyn’s a jew hater, I’m Napoleon. There’s nothing in the man’s life that points to that. Just saying that Palestinians are not treated fairly doesn’t mean you hate Jews. That this has become the thread of the ‘discussion’ is an ominous sign.

How are Brits supposed to find out what’s happening in their own country, let alone the rest of the world? There’s no-one left to tell them who doesn’t subscribe to pre-gurgitated ideas and politics. So Theresa May can claim today they know who poisoned the Skripals, and threaten further sanctions against Russia, without sharing any proof with anyone. She can do that because there are no media left in Britain that will ask questions.

If no. 10 says the Russians did it, everyone reports that. If the Blair section of the Labour party says their own leader is an anti-Semite, everyone reports that. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that both Huxley and Orwell were Brits. There is no proof needed anymore: the media will parrot anything the ‘authorities’ say.

Well, kiddo’s, enjoy it while you can, because Brexit is going to shatter that little controlled world of yours into very little pieces. Pretend won’t do it anymore after that. You will need proof for that one, in the form of actual food, and actual trade and jobs. And you won’t have those to offer.

 

Today, Bloomberg reports that both Germany and the UK are willing to accept less stringent conditions for Brexit, but after Brexit day, March 29 2019, goods can no longer move across borders the way they used to. Yes, there is a 21-month transition period, but British products will have to comply with ALL EU rules and laws to be sold to Europe, including Ireland. The same goes for products and services and people that move the opposite way. And in the meantime, the UK cannot close any trade deals with 3rd part countries that don’t comply with EU rules.

Taking control of the narrative(s), as has been the UK’s model, only gets you so far. Britain can trade with the EU, but it cannot simultaneously trade with the US under entirely different conditions. Likewise, London can let Polish people pick British fruits, but not without letting other Europeans work in Britain as well. These rules are broad, and there can be no exceptions, since 27 other countries will want them too.

Now, if only Britain had a press that would tell people what’s going on. It doesn’t. The press only parrots. And if only Jeremy Corbyn told his anti-Semitism accusers to shut up or be sued for libel, and unveil an actual alternative plan for how to do Brexit -or not-. Nobody’s seen any such plan, and Corbyn doesn’t say a thing.

The whole place is just swirling down the drain, watching silly weddings and cooking shows, sipping gin and dreaming of a lost empire nobody can actually remember anymore. And the pace of the swirling can be adapted a little, but no-one is trying to stop it from happening. Oh well, tragedy can be beautiful too.

 

 

Jul 252018
 
 July 25, 2018  Posted by at 8:19 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Ivan Aivazovsky Lake Maggiore 1892

 

Trump Downbeat Ahead Of Trade Talks With EU (R.)
Trump’s $12 Billion Aid For Farmers Risks Unintended Consequences (CNBC)
ECB To Hold Steady Amid Heightened Risks Of A Trade War (CNBC)
Alphabet May Become The Berkshire Hathaway Of The Internet Age (CNBC)
Brexit: Raab ‘Sidelined’ As May Takes Control Of EU Negotiations (G.)
“Cliff Edge” Brexit Threatens $34 Trillion of Derivative Contracts (DQ)
UK Ministers Set To Be Given New Powers To Block Foreign Takeovers (G.)
Offshore Owners Of British Property To Be Forced To Reveal Names (G.)
The Greedy Little Nation That Sold Its Soul For House Prices (MB)
When America Was Ruled by a King (Davis)
Moon-Strzok No More, Lisa Page Spills the Beans (McGovern)
Novichok Victim Found Substance Disguised As Perfume In Sealed Box (G.)
US Intelligence Community as a Collapse Driver (Dmitry Orlov)
Holiday Hunger Should Be The Shame Of This Government And It Isn’t (G.)

 

 

The EU doesn’t have a lot of room to move. It’s made of tariffs, barriers and subsidies.

Trump Downbeat Ahead Of Trade Talks With EU (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump took a pessimistic view of talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker set for Wednesday aimed at averting a trade war. In a tweet on Tuesday night, Trump said both the United States and the European Union should drop all tariffs, barriers and subsidies. “That would finally be called Free Market and Fair Trade!” Trump said. “Hope they do it, we are ready – but they won’t!” he said. Trump has accused the EU of unfair trade practices and has threatened to raise tariffs on cars imported from the bloc.

European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, who will accompany Juncker, said last week that the EU was preparing a list of U.S. products to hit if the United States imposed the tariffs. Juncker will not arrive in Washington with a specific trade offer, the commission said on Monday. “I do not wish to enter into a discussion about mandates, offers because there are no offers,” Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a news conference in Brussels. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow has said he expected Juncker to come with a “significant” trade offer.

Read more …

EU agriculture is built on enormous subsidies. No way they can let much of that go. Imagine the protests in France. Perhaps countries, but certainly continents should focud on producing their own food, not export it. But then the tiny Netherlands is the 2nd biggest tomato exporter in the world. That’s quite an applecart to upset.

Trump’s $12 Billion Aid For Farmers Risks Unintended Consequences (CNBC)

According to the statement from the USDA, the administration “will take several actions to assist farmers in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliation.” The plan authorizes the agency to spend “up to $12 billion in programs, which is in line with the estimated $11 billion impact of the unjustified retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods. These programs will assist agricultural producers to meet the costs of disrupted markets.” “Our farmers, our producers, they don’t want bailouts,” Simon Wilson, executive director of the North Dakota Trade Office, told CNBC’s “Closing Bell” on Tuesday. “They don’t want this help in the short term. They want long-term stability.”

Wilson added, “A lot of people have been hurt, so that’s a lot of money that’s going to have to be shared.” Payments under the largest part of the federal government’s relief plan would be targeted to producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy and hogs. Some experts have warned in the past that government aid or new subsidies could distort or disrupt markets and ultimately have negative consequences for the agriculture industry. That also includes the possibility it could lead to more retaliation on other agricultural exports.

In any event, Glauber said the program is likely to be taken as “producer support” and appears to be targeted toward a drop in the market price of certain commodities, meaning it could get counted against the U.S. commitments from the WTO. “We’ve run pretty low levels of [producer] support in recent years, but it will certainly raise a lot of eyebrows and will make people look at those calculations very, very carefully,” said Glauber. “It also will look at the way we formulate those programs very, very carefully.”

Read more …

With Brexit and Trump in its face, the ECB is pretty much stuck.

ECB To Hold Steady Amid Heightened Risks Of A Trade War (CNBC)

After a surprisingly dovish meeting in June, the European Central Bank (ECB) is expected to strike a more balanced tone this week, given heightened uncertainties for the global economy. The focus will be on the ECB‘s assessments of these risks at its meeting Thursday, with investors concerned of the acute risk of a trade war escalation. “We expect Mario Draghi to aim for a ‘Goldilocks’ tone at the July 26 press conference — not too hawkish, not too dovish,” said Mark Wall, the chief economist at Deutsche Bank, in a research note. “The ECB only recently made a commitment to unchanged rates for the next year to lean against trade and volatility risks and avoid an unwarranted tightening of financial conditions.”

The ECB has committed itself to stop buying new bonds at the end of this year, but the onus clearly now is on the reinvestment of these purchases (as part of its crisis-era stimulus program) and its refined rate guidance. The euro zone’s central bank pledged to keep its key interest rate at minus 0.4 percent “at least through the summer of 2019” during its last meeting. The risks now are that the ECB is unwinding its monetary stimulus right at a time when the economy could head south. For now, its seems the ECB is convinced the region’s economy will remain resilient.

Read more …

Building empires.

Alphabet May Become The Berkshire Hathaway Of The Internet Age (CNBC)

Alphabet CEO Larry Page has long admired Warren Buffett’s business acumen in creating the industrial and investment conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway. And now analysts and investors are noticing Alphabet’s investments in emerging disparate businesses are starting to bear fruit — including YouTube, autonomous cars and cloud computing — drawing comparison to Berkshire Hathaway’s success. The internet giant reported better-than-expected second-quarter earnings Monday, driving Alphabet shares to a new all-time high the following day. It generated adjusted earnings per share of $11.75 versus the Wall Street consensus of $9.59 for the quarter. Alphabet also posted a $1.06 billion gain in its equity investments for the time period.

“Our investments are driving great experiences for users, strong results for advertisers, and new business opportunities for Google and Alphabet,” said Ruth Porat, CFO of Alphabet and Google in the earnings press release Monday. As a result one well-known investor believes Alphabet has a shot of being the Berkshire Hathaway of tomorrow. “What I’m really talking about is the diversified nature of what [Alphabet is] building away from the ad platform, in much the same way as Berkshire reinvested the float from insurance premiums into other investments. I guess I am also talking in terms of longevity, not just size,” Josh Brown said in an email Tuesday. “This quarter witnessed a host of Google’s other investments throwing off profits. Larry and Sergey were very open about their intention to create something Berkshire-like when they first announced the new structure and Alphabet.”

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She can’t escape a second vote anymore. If you have 2.5 years, and you waste the first two, that’s what happens. It’s just the illusion of control.

Brexit: Raab ‘Sidelined’ As May Takes Control Of EU Negotiations (G.)

Theresa May has taken back control of crucial negotiations with Brussels from her new Brexit secretary just hours after the government published its white paper on withdrawing from the EU. The prime minister announced she would now lead the crunch talks with the EU while Dominic Raab, who was appointed two weeks ago, would be left in charge of domestic preparations, no-deal planning and legislation. The move was swiftly characterised as a “sidelining” of the Brexit secretary by No 10’s Europe unit, led by May’s chief Brexit adviser, Olly Robbins, with the prime minister also taking officials from his department. In a written statement on the last sitting day of the Commons before the summer recess, May said: “I will lead the negotiations with the European Union, with the secretary of state for Exiting the European Union deputising on my behalf.

“Both of us will be supported by the Cabinet Office Europe Unit and with this in mind the Europe Unit will have overall responsibility for the preparation and conduct of the negotiations, drawing upon support from DExEU and other departments as required.” Robbins, appearing alongside Raab at the Commons’ Brexit committee, said: “The overall strategy for the conduct of these negotiations, she regards very much as her personal responsibility, now with the secretary of state very close at hand.” Raab described the changes as a “shifting of the Whitehall deckchairs” and said there would now be “one team, one chain of command” but pointed out that there would be “full assertion of ministerial accountability”.

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I’d swear it’s more. It’s dominoes.

“Cliff Edge” Brexit Threatens $34 Trillion of Derivative Contracts (DQ)

A messy, no-deal Brexit could throw 48 million insurance contracts and £26 trillion ($34 trillion) of derivatives deals into confusion. Nausicaa Delfas, head of international strategy at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), told delegates at a CityUK and Bloomberg event that there were “cliff-edge” risks due to uncertainty over the legality of financial contracts extending beyond the planned Brexit date, in March. The UK government has already passed regulations that would allow European banks and insurers to maintain their UK operations under current rules after Brexit. So far, the EU has refused to reciprocate, even on a temporary basis.

The EU has also ruled out extending passporting rights to UK financial institutions after Brexit. These rights allow UK-based institutions to sell financial products from the City to investors in the 27 other EU member states. Brussels has also turned down the UK government’s latest proposal for a system of “advanced equivalence” between British and EU financial services. If the EU continues to reject a temporary permissions regime and no cooperative Brexit deal is signed by the March 29 deadline, big doubts could be raised about the viability of certain derivatives contracts. And that could seriously disrupt an already highly volatile, deeply opaque, largely unregulated $600-trillion dollar industry.

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Cue Trump.

UK Ministers Set To Be Given New Powers To Block Foreign Takeovers (G.)

Ministers will have the power to block foreign takeovers across all sectors of the British economy on national security grounds under new government proposals designed to protect some of the UK’s most important and technically advanced businesses. The business secretary, Greg Clark, wants to widen the scope of the current system, which is limited to large transactions and certain industries such as defence, to cover all UK firms including small businesses as he seeks to keep vital firms and technologies out of foreign ownership. The proposals, which will be subject to a 12-week consultation, will allow ministers to halt or unwind takeovers and even the smallest asset sales that could be deemed to jeopardise Britain’s national security.

Potential targets under the new rules are likely to be Chinese and Russian takeovers of defence-related industries. Technology firms, including cybersecurity businesses that already have links with the Ministry of Defence, or are viewed as crucial to the development of the UK’s financial and commercial defence systems, are also expected to top the list of ministers’ national security concerns. Clark allowed the £74m takeover of the handset maker Sepura by the Hytera Corporation of China last year, making it only the second review of a transaction on national security grounds in 18 months, after the MoD raised concerns this month over the sale of Northern Aerospace to a Chinese buyer. The Competition and Markets Authority later cleared the Northern Aerospace transaction, by which time it had lapsed.

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Why would you want faceless foreigners owning your real estate?

Offshore Owners Of British Property To Be Forced To Reveal Names (G.)

Offshore owners of British property will be forced to reveal their true identities or face jail sentences and unlimited fines under draft laws that aim to end the UK’s reputation as a high-risk jurisdiction for money laundering. The legislation follows years of scandals involving the acquisition of high-value UK property by offshore companies, and concerns that a lack of regulation was allowing corrupt money into the housing market. The National Crime Agency said three years ago that overseas criminal gangs were using British property transactions to launder billions of pounds in corrupt funds. Parliament’s foreign affairs committee went further earlier this year, saying that corrupt Russian funds laundered through the UK, including via property, posed a threat to national security.

Under the new legislation, overseas companies that own UK properties will be required to identify their true owners on a publicly available register. The government said the register was part of a wider crackdown on money laundering in the property sector, and would make it easier for law enforcers to seize criminal assets. The anonymous ownership of property via offshore companies is perfectly legal, but it has also been a subject of concern for housing campaigners concerned about an influx of foreign money forcing up house prices.

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If it’s any consolation: you’re not alone.

The Greedy Little Nation That Sold Its Soul For House Prices (MB)

There was a time when Australia’s housing bubble was not much more than a curiosity. Contained mostly to Sydney it seemed it would pass with a little pop and be forgotten. Then there was a time when the bubble went national. And suddenly the little pop was going to be a big pop so monetary and fiscal policy began to distort in support of it. Next there was a time when moral hazard became so great that the bubble grew to engulf all policy and media, marginalising an entire generation from home ownership. Politicians routinely lied to cover the collapse in evidence based policy-making.

Finally, we come to today. When notions of managing the macro-economic levers of an economy now boil down to just one thing: • low interest rates to prevent the housing bubble bursting; • fiscal repair to prevent the bubble bursting, and • mass immigration to prevent the bubble bursting even though it is crushing living standards and gutting wages. [..] It’s all so bizarre. All we need to do is cut immigration and let house prices fall. There’ll be a period of adjustment while wages and the currency correct but it won’t be too bad. We’ll still be on the doorstep of Asia. The students and tourists will still come, in greater numbers than ever as we get cheaper, but they’ll also go home not pressuring living standards.

Broader tradables (40% of the economy) will boom. Commodity income will surge, lifting the Budget. Our maginalised youth will have much greater opportunities to advance their global opportunities as Dutch Disease ends. Incomes will ultimately be much more sustainable. Then we can all move on with a much healthier economy, polity, society and strategic outlook. The alternative is to sell our freedom to China, our standards of living to a few rich developers, our politics to carpet baggers and our society to fractious class wars. Just for higher house prices. If a more ignominious fate awaited any nation in history then I’m not aware of it.

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Did the US go down with Elvis? And in the same way?

When America Was Ruled by a King (Davis)

America emerged out of darkness and light – a proto-nation clouded by the genocide of native Americans and the enslavement of transshipped Africans but brilliantly shot through with shafts of luminescence – the liberal ideals of European philosophers such as Locke and Hume.The alternate red and white stripes of its flag have thus come to echo a nation born in the blood of its innocent victims yet ennobled, in parallel, by the spirit of the Enlightenment. Yet even after its ideals were enshrined in The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the country continued to countenance slavery, the trading of domestic, purpose-bred Africans and the brutal killing of native peoples and their vibrant communities.

Today, the historic and contemporary horrors of the American nation are ground together with its liberal principles (in some mythic bedrock mortar) to produce a culture that proclaims its goodness to its people and to the world, yet is visibly marbled with the evils of state violence against refugees and minorities, the economic oppression of a population paradoxically made comatose through over-consumption and the global havoc wreaked by its Imperial killing machine. It is this grand chiaroscuro that Eugene Jarecki explores in The King, 2018, his new documentary on the life, death and after-life of Elvis Presley, now in select release following its acclaimed debuts at the film festivals in Sundance and Cannes.

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The FBI as a Shakespearean comedy.

Moon-Strzok No More, Lisa Page Spills the Beans (McGovern)

Former FBI attorney Lisa Page has reportedly told a joint committee of the House of Representatives that when FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok texted her on May 19, 2017 saying there was “no big there there,” he meant there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. It was clearly a bad-luck day for Strzok, when on Friday the 13th this month Page gave her explanation of the text to the House Judiciary and Oversight/Government Reform Committees and in effect threw her lover, Strzok, under the bus. Strzok’s apparent admission to Page about there being “no big there there” was reported on Friday by John Solomon in the Opinion section of The Hill based on multiple sources who he said were present during Page’s closed door interview.

Strzok’s text did not come out of the blue. For the previous ten months he and his FBI subordinates had been trying every-which-way to ferret out some “there” — preferably a big “there” — but had failed miserably. If Solomon’s sources are accurate, it is appearing more and more likely that there was nothing left for them to do but to make it up out of whole cloth, with the baton then passed to special counsel Robert Mueller. The “no there there” text came just two days after former FBI Director James Comey succeeded in getting his friend Mueller appointed to investigate the alleged collusion that Strzok was all but certain wasn’t there.

Robert Parry, the late founder and editor of Consortium News whom Solomon described to me last year as his model for journalistic courage and professionalism, was already able to discern as early as March 2017 the outlines of what is now Deep State-gate, and, typically, was the first to dare report on its implications. Parry’s article, written two and a half months before Strzok texted the self-incriminating comment to Page on there being “no big there there,” is a case study in professional journalism. His very first sentence entirely anticipated Strzok’s text: “The hysteria over ‘Russia-gate’ continues to grow … but at its core there may be no there there.”

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And entire article from the Guardian without blaming Russia. Wow. Story still makes little sense. Why does this guy get to talk, when the Skripals are still nowhere to be found?

Novichok Victim Found Substance Disguised As Perfume In Sealed Box (G.)

The British man poisoned with the nerve agent novichok has claimed the substance that killed his girlfriend and left him critically ill came in a bottle disguised as a legitimate perfume in a sealed box. Charlie Rowley claimed his partner, mother-of-three Dawn Sturgess, fell ill within 15 minutes of spraying the bottle, which he said he had found, on to her wrists at his home in Amesbury, Wiltshire. In his first interview since he was discharged from hospital, Rowley told ITV News: “I do have a memory of her spraying it on her wrists and rubbing them together. “I guess that’s how she applied it and became ill.

I guess how I got in contact with it is when I put the spray part to the bottle … I ended up tipping some on my hands but I washed it off under the tap. “It was an oily substance and I smelled it and it didn’t smell of perfume. It felt oily. I washed it off and I didn’t think anything of it. It all happened so quick. “Within 15 minutes, Dawn said she had a headache. She asked me if I had any headache tablets. In that time she said she felt peculiar and needed to lie down in the bath. I went into the bathroom and found her in the bath, fully clothed, in a very ill state.”

Counter-terrorism detectives are working on the theory that the poisoning of Rowley and Sturgess at the end of last month is directly linked to the poisoning of the Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury in March. Experts from the top secret research facility at Porton Down in Wiltshire are trying to establish if the novichok was from the same batch. But if Rowley is correct about the perfume bottle being boxed and sealed, it may undermine the line of inquiry that the novichok that he and Sturgess came into contact with had been discarded by the attackers of the Skripals. It also opens up the possibility that there may yet be more novichok that has not been found in Wiltshire.

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“Intelligence”. Always good to see Dmitry.

US Intelligence Community as a Collapse Driver (Dmitry Orlov)

In today’s United States, the term “espionage” doesn’t get too much use outside of some specific contexts. There is still sporadic talk of industrial espionage, but with regard to Americans’ own efforts to understand the world beyond their borders, they prefer the term “intelligence.” This may be an intelligent choice, or not, depending on how you look at things. First of all, US “intelligence” is only vaguely related to the game of espionage as it has been traditionally played, and as it is still being played by countries such as Russia and China. Espionage involves collecting and validating strategically vital information and conveying it to just the pertinent decision-makers on your side while keeping the fact that you are collecting and validating it hidden from everyone else.

In eras past, a spy, if discovered, would try to bite down on a cyanide capsule; these days torture is considered ungentlemanly, and spies that get caught patiently wait to be exchanged in a spy swap. An unwritten, commonsense rule about spy swaps is that they are done quietly and that those released are never interfered with again because doing so would complicate negotiating future spy swaps. In recent years, the US intelligence agencies have decided that torturing prisoners is a good idea, but they have mostly been torturing innocent bystanders, not professional spies, sometimes forcing them to invent things, such as “Al Qaeda.” There was no such thing before US intelligence popularized it as a brand among Islamic terrorists.

Most recently, British “special services,” which are a sort of Mini-Me to the to the Dr. Evil that is the US intelligence apparatus, saw it fit to interfere with one of their own spies, Sergei Skripal, a double agent whom they sprung from a Russian jail in a spy swap. They poisoned him using an exotic chemical and then tried to pin the blame on Russia based on no evidence. There are unlikely to be any more British spy swaps with Russia, and British spies working in Russia should probably be issued good old-fashioned cyanide capsules (since that supposedly super-powerful Novichok stuff the British keep at their “secret” lab in Porton Down doesn’t work right and is only fatal 20% of the time).

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A country in downfall.

Holiday Hunger Should Be The Shame Of This Government And It Isn’t (G.)

As the summer holidays begin, many families look forward to breaks away from home, in the UK and abroad. Yet for thousands of families, the six-week school break is characterised not by play schemes and day trips in the sun, but acute financial stress, hunger and malnourishment, due to the absence of free school meals for children on low incomes that costs a family £30-£40 a week. With three million children at risk of hunger during the school holidays, the Trussell Trust has warned that food bank use spikes each summer. And last year, 593 organisations running holiday clubs across the UK provided more than 190,000 meals to over 22,000 school-aged children.

Feeding Britain, the charity set up by two Labour MPs, Emma Lewell-Buck and Frank Field, expects to provide meals for 27,000 children in 79 clubs across England this summer. In pilots in 2017, it provided a total of 43,314 meals in holiday fun clubs across eight areas, including Birkenhead, South Shields and Cornwall, in the summer holidays and October half term. Feeding Britain works with existing local charities, community groups, councils and others in the community providing funding and toolkits on how to run and roll out pilots, and creates networks for practical support. The clubs run in community centres, church halls, schools, children’s centres, libraries and parks, and they host games and activities for children, alongside breakfast, lunches, and lessons about food and nutrition for the young attendees.

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Jul 062018
 
 July 6, 2018  Posted by at 8:55 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  16 Responses »


Henri Matisse Reading woman in violet dress 1898

 

China Imposes Tariffs, Says US Launching ‘Largest Trade War In History’ (CNBC)
Trump Says China Could Face More Than $500 Billion In US Tariffs (CNBC)
Merkel Open To Reducing EU Tariffs On American Cars (NC5)
US Labor Shortage Is Reaching A Critical Point (CNBC)
Theresa May’s New Customs Plan ‘Dead On Arrival’ In EU (Ind.)
Theresa May Battles To See Off Revolt Ahead Of Key Brexit Summit (G.)
The Dark Cloud Of Global Debt (GT)
“People Assume That Stocks Always Rise Over Time. They’re Wrong” (Eric Peters)
Most Dangerous Market Ever – Michael Pento (USAW)
Moscow Using UK As Dumping Ground For Poison, Says Sajid Javid (G.)
If The Novichok Was Planted By Russia, Where’s The Evidence? (G.)
Seehofer Tells Merkel, Italy And Greece To Solve Migration Row (EUO)
European Parliament Rejects Controversial Copyright Rules (Ind.)

 

 

Act like grown-ups.

China Imposes Tariffs, Says US Launching ‘Largest Trade War In History’ (CNBC)

China implemented retaliatory tariffs on some imports from the U.S. Friday, state media reported, immediately after new U.S. duties had taken effect. The move signals the start of a full-blown trade war between the world’s two largest economies, after President Donald Trump’s administration had initially made good on threats to impose steep tariffs on Chinese goods. At midnight Washington time, the U.S. imposed new tariffs on $34 billion of annual imports from China. This prompted Beijing to respond in kind with levy tariffs on 545 items of U.S. imports — also worth $34 billion, state-run newspaper The China Daily reported Friday.

A spokesperson at China’s ministry of commerce said that while the Asian giant had refused to “fire the first shot,” it was being forced to respond after the U.S. had “launched the largest trade war in economic history.” “This act is typical trade bullying,” the spokesperson said, before adding: “It seriously jeopardizes the global industrial chain … Hinders the pace of global economic recovery, triggers global market turmoil and will affect more innocent multinational companies, general companies and consumers.”

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China has already retaliated.

Trump Says China Could Face More Than $500 Billion In US Tariffs (CNBC)

President Donald Trump said on Thursday he would consider imposing additional tariffs on $500 billion in Chinese goods, should Beijing retaliate. U.S. tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods kicked in on Friday. Another $16 billion are expected to go into effect in two weeks and potentially another $500 billion, Trump told reports aboard Air Force One on his way to a rally in Montana before the tariffs kicked in. China implemented retaliatory tariffs on some imports from the U.S., state media reported about two hours later, after new U.S. duties had taken effect.

First “34, and then you have another 16 in two weeks and then as you know we have 200 billion in abeyance and then after the 200 billion we have 300 billion in abeyance. Ok? So we have 50 plus 200 plus almost 300,” Trump said. “It’s only on China,” he added. Trump’s statements reinforce earlier threats that he would escalate the trade conflict. The dispute with China has roiled financial markets worldwide, including stocks, currencies and the global trade of commodities from soybeans to coal.

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Was that so hard?

Merkel Open To Reducing EU Tariffs On American Cars (NC5)

In the midst of trade tension between the European Union and the U.S., German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she’s open to lowering tariffs on American car imports. According to Reuters, Merkel said Europe would have to first agree upon a reduction in tariffs. In addition, she cited World Trade Organization rules that state lowering U.S. auto tariffs would mean doing the same for other countries as well. Merkel’s comments come after President Donald Trump imposed steel and aluminum tariffs on U.S. allies, including the EU, and threatened to put a 20 percent tax on European car imports.

The German chancellor warned Trump on Wednesday not to implement auto tariffs to avoid inciting an all-out trade war. Auto industry experts have suggested that if the Trump administration follows through on that threat, the move would negatively affect American autoworkers’ jobs and raise car prices. Trump is scheduled to travel to Brussels next week for the NATO summit, his first big meeting with European leaders together since last month’s G-7 summit.

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With 95 million still out of the labor force.

US Labor Shortage Is Reaching A Critical Point (CNBC)

America’s labor shortage is approaching epidemic proportions, and it could be employers who end up paying. A report Thursday from ADP and Moody’s Analytics cast an even brighter light on what is becoming one of the most important economic stories of 2018: the difficulty employers are having in finding qualified employees to fill a record 6.7 million job openings. Truck drivers are in perilously low supply, Silicon Valley continues to struggle to fill vacancies, and employers across the grid are coping with a skills mismatch as the economy edges ever closer to full employment. “Business’ number one problem is finding qualified workers. At the current pace of job growth, if sustained, this problem is set to get much worse,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said in a statement.

“These labor shortages will only intensify across all industries and company sizes.” Private payrolls grew by 177,000 in June, a respectable number but below market expectations. It was the fourth month in a row that the ADP/Moody’s count fell short of 200,000 after four months at or above that level. The reason for the tick down in hiring certainly isn’t because there aren’t enough jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that April closed with 6.7 million job openings. May ended with just over 6 million people the BLS classifies as unemployed, continuing a trend this year that has seen openings eclipse the labor pool for the first time. At some point that gap will have to close. Economists expect that employers are going to have to start doing more to entice workers, likely through pay raises, training and other incentives.

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“We have been telling the UK for two years that we would not accept a single market a la carte. “What do they come with? – A single market a la carte.”

Theresa May’s New Customs Plan ‘Dead On Arrival’ In EU (Ind.)

Theresa May’s new plan for future relations with the EU will be “dead on arrival”, senior figures in Brussels have told The Independent. EU officials said any hint that the UK wants to be part of the single market on goods, but not services will be rejected. It is a blow for the prime minister who has spent the last week in meetings with EU leaders, including Angela Merkel, in a bid to prevent Europe dismissing her plans out of hand when they are published next week. Ms May is expected to push her cabinet to agree to a plan at Chequers on Friday, which would see Britain remaining in full regulatory alignment with the EU on goods, but not on services.

The meeting has also been preceded by threats and warnings from the Brexiteer wing of the Conservatives that the proposals mooted by the prime minister will not be accepted by them in the UK because they keep Britain too closely tied to the EU’s rules and regulations. But before her ministers have even agreed to the deal, EU officials told The Independent the white paper would be “dead on arrival” in Brussels if, as expected, it proposes that the UK remain in the EU’s single market for goods, but not services. They claimed they had repeatedly warned UK negotiators that this option would not work. They said it had been widely discussed among EU ministers and rejected – including, crucially, by the EU’s two most powerful players, France and Germany.

One Brussels source said: “We have been telling the UK for two years that we would not accept a single market a la carte. “What do they come with? – A single market a la carte.”

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Who will be left standing by Saturday?

Theresa May Battles To See Off Revolt Ahead Of Key Brexit Summit (G.)

Theresa May was battling to see off a revolt on the eve of a critical cabinet summit, as Boris Johnson convened a meeting of pro-Brexit ministers to discuss their options amid an atmosphere of tension and recrimination. The government was forced to deny “selective leaks” that appeared to suggest that the UK could struggle to strike a trade deal with the US in the future. No 10 insisted that paperwork released to ministers ahead of Friday’s crunch Brexit meeting at Chequers said just the opposite – as a caucus of seven cabinet members including Johnson, Michael Gove, Liam Fox and David Davis met at the Foreign Office to discuss their concerns.

An early leak suggested that the UK should “maintain a common rulebook” with the European Union on food and farming standards and that could make striking a trade deal with the more free market-oriented US more difficult as a result. That prompted a series of complaints from backbench Tory MPs and led to the Thursday evening meeting at the Foreign Office hosted by Johnson, the foreign secretary. Sources at No 10 said there had been selective leaks from the paperwork and the controversial passage appeared on page 15 out of 50 from one of several documents sent to all members of the cabinet.

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It’s corporations this time around.

The Dark Cloud Of Global Debt (GT)

While everyone is debating the effects of possible trade sanctions on the global economy, few are paying attention to a far more serious issue. Enormous global debt, combined with low-interest rates, have set the stage for a global recession that has the potential for economic chaos. The combination of enormous debt and artificially low-interest rates were at the center of the 2008 credit bubble. One would expect central banks to be aware of this and show more concern. However, the overall silence has been astonishing. An exception to this is the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), which has been making loud noises about the toxic level of global debt and the anticipated bubble.

It recently reported that the global debt of 2008 was $60 trillion, small when compared to the current debt of $170 trillion. To make matters worse, today’s global debt is 40 percent higher in relation to GDP than it was in 2008, just prior to the Lehman Bros. downfall. To add to the current headache are the rising debt levels of emerging markets and corporate debts. According to McKinsey & Company, a global consulting firm, two-thirds of U.S. corporate debt are from corporations that pose a high default risk. Countries such as Brazil, India, and China have been busy issuing questionable credit. This dubious credit being issued in many emerging markets has come with extremely low-interest rates.

If the borrowers’ default, the lenders won’t be looking at enough compensation to recoup their loses. Low-interest rates have become an overall global problem, including the rates in the U.S. high-yield bond market. Central banks around the world have been keeping interest rates artificially low while printing money with abandon. The current global debt is the direct result of this policy. $2 trillion in corporate debt will be maturing annually through 2022. A considerable amount of this debt may default and cause debt repricing. The damage caused by central banks and their policy of easy credit has been done, and there is little that can be done at this point to stem the tide. It can only be hoped that they are more aware now than they were in 2008.

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Central banks don’t really matter anymore.

“People Assume That Stocks Always Rise Over Time. They’re Wrong” (Eric Peters)

We’ve all looked at the stats, and we’re now at an unemployment rate in the US of sub-4% – 3.8%–3.7%. I think what a lot of people focus on is if the participation rate were back where it was pre-2008 you’d end up with an unemployment rate that had an 8 handle or something like that. So that’s what people are referring to. But making comparisons like that is difficult because a lot of things are changing. The US labor force is shrinking because people are getting older. There is the opioid issue. And this disability issue. Which are difficult to really handicap in terms of how big an impact that’s having on the US labor force.

If the central banks have been the ones who have gotten us here, they just – by definition – they’re not the ones that are going to get us out of here. So I think – look, we’re always going to look at what central banks are doing, they will be important. But I think that they’re no longer going to be dominant. What’s going to be dominant are the politicians. You’re seeing that in the US right now. I know that everyone loves to hang on every word that Powell speaks. And they look at the Fed statement. And people are still trained to look at the Fed dot plots (which are probably going to go away). People are trained to look at all of these things because that’s what they’ve done their whole careers.

But they just are not going to matter that much anymore. Whether the Fed’s terminal rate is 2.25 or 2.5 or 2.75 – we’re not talking about much. What are we going to do in terms of immigration policy? What are we going to do in terms of trade policy? How is that going to impact all of the major corporations’ global supply chains? These are the things that are really going to matter.

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“It is a confluence of events coming in October ..”

Most Dangerous Market Ever – Michael Pento (USAW)

Money manager Michael Pento is sounding the alarm because we are getting very close to something called a “yield curve inversion.” Pento explains, “Why do I care if the yield curve inverts? Because 9 out of the last 10 times the yield curve inverted, we had a recession. . . . The spread with the yield curve is the narrowest it has been since outside of the start of the Great Recession that commenced in December of 2007. . . . The last two times the yield curve inverted, we had a stock market drop of 50%. The market dropped, and the S&P 500 lost 50% of its value.” Can we keep partying in the markets like it’s 1999 or is there an expiration date for the good times?

Pento says, “Well, I have put a check on the calendar for October because of the fact the rate of quantitative easing goes to $15 billion per year, because the trade war will reach a crescendo, then because I believe, unfortunately because I am conservative, the Republicans lose the House of Representatives, because the Chinese credit boom will be in full reverse by October. It is a confluence of events coming in October . . . we’ve already entered into the beginnings of a bear market around the world. The top 22 banks in the world are in a bear market. There are many, many examples of banks around the world that are in a bear market. You have a bear market in Chinese shares. 20% of the S&P 500 is in a bear market. This is an incipient bear market that is already beginning. I believe it manifests clearly to even the people on CNBC by October.”

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None of this makes any sense.

Moscow Using UK As Dumping Ground For Poison, Says Sajid Javid (G.)

Britain will consult its allies about a possible response to Russia over the latest poisonings in Wiltshire as it emerged that the couple taken critically ill had handled an item contaminated with the nerve agent novichok. The home secretary, Sajid Javid, accused Moscow of using the UK as a “dumping ground” for poison and urged Russia to explain “exactly what has gone on”. In Salisbury, public health and council chiefs warned people not to pick up unidentified objects but dismissed the idea of making a general sweep of the city for novichok, although they said they could not rule out the possibility that more of the nerve agent was present.

The Guardian understands that the novichok that harmed them may have been in a sealed container left following the attack on the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in March. Sources close to the investigation dropped a hint that they may now know the identity of the would-be killers who targeted the Skripals. The Metropolitan police confirmed on Thursday evening that the couple taken ill, Dawn Sturgess, 44, from Salisbury, and Charlie Rowley, 45, of Amesbury, collapsed after picking up a contaminated item.

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Even the Guardian allows itself to publish out right criticism. Putin has a really successful World Cup going. Brexit splits Britain. 1+1=2

If The Novichok Was Planted By Russia, Where’s The Evidence? (G.)

I seem to be the only person alive with no clue as to who has poisoned four people in Wiltshire. I am told that only Russians have access to the poison, known as novichok – though the British research station of Porton Down, located ominously nearby, clearly knows a lot about it. Otherwise, I repeat, I have no clue. I suppose I can see why the Kremlin might want to kill an ex-spy such as Sergei Skripal and his daughter, so as to deter others from defecting. But why wait so long after he has fled, and why during the build-up to so highly politicised an event as a World Cup in Russia? Four months on from the crime, the Skripals have been incommunicado in a “secure location”. Barely a word has been heard from them.

Theresa May has persistently blamed Russia. She has called the incident “brazen and despicable”, and MI5 condemned “flagrant breaches of international rules”. But I cannot see the diplomatic or other purchase in prejudging the case, when no one can offer a clue. As to why the same person or persons should want to kill a couple, unconnected to the Skripals, on an Amesbury housing development, the questions are even more baffling. It seems a funny sort of carelessness. Did the couple pick up the infecting agent nearer the original site, eight miles away? Might the new poisoning be an attempt to divert attention from the earlier one? Could it be a devious plot, to make it seem that novichok is available on every street corner, from your friendly neighbourhood drug dealer?

Or perhaps one of the victims, Charlie Rowley, has mates in Porton Down? Perhaps someone is showing off, or panicking, or behaving like a complete idiot. Who knows? Since I have not a smidgen of an answer to any of these questions, I feel no need to capitulate to the politics of terror and fear. I can open my front door without cleaning my hand. I can visit Wiltshire in peace and safety and marvel at the spire of Salisbury Cathedral. I can revel in the remains of the bronze age Amesbury archer – whose death from bone disease has finally been resolved by the scientists. Where knowledge is nonexistent, ignorance is bliss.

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NIMBY on steroids.

Seehofer Tells Merkel, Italy And Greece To Solve Migration Row (EUO)

German interior minister Horst Seehofer defused tensions with Austria on Thursday (5 July) but increased political pressure on his boss, chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as on Italy and Greece, to find a way how Germany can reject asylum seekers without closing its border with Austria. “There will be no measures taken by Germany at the expense of Austria,” Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz said after meeting Seehofer in Vienna. Under a plan agreed on Monday between Merkel’s centre-right CDU party and Seehofer’s CSU, its Bavarian conservative sister party, asylum seekers would be sent back to the EU country where they were first registered, or to Austria.

Kurz had warned that in reaction, Austria would consider closing its own border with Italy and Slovenia in order to prevent migrants from coming in. This, Vienna had warned, would lead to a “domino effect” of closing borders and imperil the free-movement Schengen area. But Seehofer assured Kurz that Austria would have to take no specific measures, and that it would be up to Italy and Greece, where three-quarters of asylum seekers come from, to take them back. The Bavarian politician has been trying for almost a month to impose his plan on Merkel, who first refused to unilaterally reject asylum seekers. She advocated instead a “European solution” to be agreed with other member states, who would accept taking refugees from Germany.

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It’s not defeated yet.

European Parliament Rejects Controversial Copyright Rules (Ind.)

The European Parliament has voted against an incredibly controversial new set of copyright rules that campaigners claim could “ban memes”. The law will now be sent for a full reconsideration and debate inside the parliament, during which activists will try and remove the controversial Article 11 and 13. Article 11 has been referred to by campaigners as instituting a “link tax”, by forcing tech companies like Google and Facebook to pay to use snippets of content on their own sites. Article 13 adds rules that make tech companies responsible for ensuring any copyrighted material is not spread over their platforms. Those rules could force technology companies to scan through everything their users post and check it doesn’t include copyrighted material.

If it is found, the post will be forced to be removed, which campaigners claim could destroy the kind of memes and remixes that spread across the internet. The revamp has triggered strong criticism from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, net neutrality expert Tim Wu, internet pioneer Vint Cerf and others. Copyright campaigners claim that the rules are necessary to ensure that material isn’t illegally spread across the internet. Europe’s broadcasters, publishers and artists including Paul McCartney backed the rules, arguing the controversial Article 13 would protect the music industry.

A total of 318 law makers voted against opening talks with EU countries based on the committee’s proposal while 278 voted in favour, and 31 abstained. In practice, the vote only delays the final decision on the rules and gives the European Parliament more time to deliberate on them. Another decision will be taken in September.

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May 212018
 


Margaret Bourke-White Great Ohio River Flood, Louisville, Kentucky 1937

 

The Soaring Dollar Will Lead To An “Explosive” Market Repricing (ZH)
Draghi Calls for Consolidation of Debts? (Martin Armstrong)
Italy’s Organic Crisis (Thomas Fazi)
Italy Has A New Government As Populist Parties Agree On New Premier (ZH)
Argentina: From The “Confidence Fairy” To The -Still Devilish- IMF (CF)
US-China Trade War ‘On Hold’ As America Backs Off On Tariffs (Ind.)
Bill Aimed At Saving Community Banks Is Already Killing Them (Dayen)
EU Blocking Cities’ Efforts To Curb Airbnb (G.)
End Of Greek Bailout Means Fresh Cuts To Salaries, Pensions (K.)
Why Boomtown New Zealand Has A Homelessness Crisis
Hundreds Of Homeless People Fined And Imprisoned In UK (G.)
Scientists Revise Their Understanding of Novichok (Slane)

 

 

Dollar shortage grows as interest rates grow.

The Soaring Dollar Will Lead To An “Explosive” Market Repricing (ZH)

Something curious took place one month ago when the PBOC announced on April 17 that it would cut the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) by 1% to ease financial conditions: it broke what until then had been a rangebound market for both the US Dollar and the US 10Y Treasury, sending both the dollar index and 10Y yields soaring…

… which led to an immediate tightening in financial conditions both domestically and around the globe, and which has – at least initially – manifested itself in a sharp repricing of emerging market risk, resulting in a plunge EM currencies, bonds and stocks.

Adding to the market response, this violent move took place at the same time as geopolitical fears about Iran oil exports amid concerns about a new war in the middle east and Trump’s nuclear deal pullout, sent oil soaring – with Brent rising above $80 this week for the first time since 2014 – a move which is counterintuitive in the context of the sharply stronger dollar, and which has resulted in even tighter financial conditions across the globe, but especially for emerging market importers of oil.

Meanwhile, all this is playing out in the context of a world where the Fed continues to shrink its balance sheet – a public sector “Quantitative Tightening (QT)” – further tightening monetary conditions (i.e., shrinking the global dollar supply amid growing demand), even as high grade US corporate bond issuance has dropped off a cliff for cash-rich companies which now opt to repatriate cash instead of issuing domestic bonds, with the resulting private sector deleveraging, or “private sector QT”, further exacerbating tighter monetary conditions and the growing dollar shortage (resulting in an even higher dollar).

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Europe has no bond market left. Japan has no bond market left. All they have is central banks.

Draghi Calls for Consolidation of Debts? (Martin Armstrong)

COMMENT: You were here in Brussels a few weeks ago. Suddenly, the ECB is talking about the need to merge the debts to prevent a crisis. So your lobbying here seems to work. – RGV, Brussels. REPLY: I do not lobby. It is rather common knowledge I have made those proposals since the EU commission attended our World Economic Conference held back in 1998 in London. I focused on the reason the Euro would fail if the debts were not consolidated. So it is not a fair statement to say I meet in Brussels to lobby for anything. I meet with people who call me in because of a crisis brewing.

So everyone else understands what this is about, the ECB President Mario Draghi has come out and proposed interlocking the euro countries to create a “stronger” and “new vehicle” as a “crisis instrument” to save Europe. He is arguing that this should prevent countries from drifting apart in the event of severe economic shocks. Draghi has said it provides “an extra layer of stabilization” which is a code phrase for the coming bond crash. He has conceded that the legal structure is difficult because what he is really talking about is the consolidation of national debts into a single Eurobond market. There is no bond market that is viable in Europe after the end of Quantitative Easing. There will be NO BID.

There is no viable bond market left in Europe. The worst debt is below US rates only because the ECB is the buyer. Stop the buying and the ceiling comes crashing down. This is why what he is saying is just using a different label. He is not calling it debt consolidation, just an extra layer of stabilization to bind the members closer together. It will be a hard sell and it may take the crisis before anyone looks at this. You have “bail-in” policies because of the same problem. If the banks in Italy need a bailout from Brussels, then other members will look at it as a subsidization for Italy which is unfair. There is no real EU unity behind the curtain which is when the debt was NEVER consolidated from day one. They wanted a single currency, but not a single responsibility for the debt.

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“..20% of Italy’s industrial capacity has been destroyed, and 30% of the country’s firms have defaulted..”

Italy’s Organic Crisis (Thomas Fazi)

The Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci coined the term “organic crisis” to describe a crisis that differs from ”ordinary” financial, economic, or political crises. An organic crisis is a “comprehensive crisis,” encompassing the totality of a system or order that, for whatever reason, is no longer able to generate societal consensus (in material or ideological terms). [..] Gramsci was talking about Italy in the 1910s. A century later, the country is facing another organic crisis. More specifically, it is a crisis of the post-Maastricht model of Italian capitalism, inaugurated in the early 1990s.

[..] The downfall of the political establishment—and the rise of the “populist” parties—can only be understood against the backdrop of the “the longest and deepest recession in Italy’s history,” as the governor of the Italian central bank, Ignazio Visco, described it. Since the financial crisis of 2007–9, Italy’s GDP has shrunk by a massive 10%, regressing to levels last seen over a decade ago. In terms of per capita GDP, the situation is even more shocking: according to this measure, Italy has regressed back to levels of twenty years ago, before the country became a founding member of the single currency. Italy and Greece are the only industrialized countries that have yet to see economic activity surpass pre–financial crisis levels.

As a result, around 20% of Italy’s industrial capacity has been destroyed, and 30% of the country’s firms have defaulted. Such wealth destruction has, in turn, sent shockwaves throughout the country’s banking system, which was (and still is) heavily exposed to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Italy’s unemployment crisis continues to be one of the worst in all of Europe. Italy has an official unemployment rate of 11% (12% in southern Italy) and a youth unemployment rate of 35% (with peaks of 60% in some southern regions). And this is not even considering underemployed and discouraged workers (people who have given up looking for a job and therefore don’t even figure in official statistics).

If we take these categories into consideration, we arrive at a staggering effective unemployment rate of 30%, which is the highest in all of Europe. Poverty has also risen dramatically in recent years, with 23% of the population, about one in four Italians, now at risk of poverty—the highest level since 1989.

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Europe gets nervous.

Italy Has A New Government As Populist Parties Agree On New Premier (ZH)

Taking the biggest step toward forming Italy’s next government, the head of the anti-immigration League party Matteo Salvini said he’s reached a deal with Five Star leader Luidi Di Maio on forming a populist government, and picked a premier. According to a report in Corriere, Florence University law professor Giuseppe Conte was chosen as prime minister, while Matteo Salvini would be proposed as interior minister, and Five Star head Luigi and Di Maio would be labor minister. On Saturday, Il Messaggero reported that Salvatore Rossi, the Bank of Italy’s director general, could be picked as finance minister.

Today, Ansa added that according to Di Maio, Five Star will head joint ministry of economic development and labor; separately Giancarlo Giorgetti, Matteo Salvini’s right-hand man, will be proposed as economy minister, while Nicola Molteni would become minister of the infrastructure and transport and Gian Marco Centinaio would head the department of Agriculture and Tourism. ANSA added that Salvini will present the proposal to President Sergio Mattarella on Monday. As Bloomberg adds, the endgame follows a week of turmoil in Italian bonds and stocks triggered by reports about the coalition’s spending plans and rejection of European Union budget rules.

Italy’s 10-year yield spread over German bonds shot up to 165 bps on Friday, the most since October, prompting a warning from Paris. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said in a Sunday interview with Europe 1 radio that “if the new government took the risk of not respecting its commitments on debt, the deficit and the cleanup of banks, the financial stability of the entire euro zone will be threatened.” Salvini fired back on Twitter, suggesting the warning was “unacceptable” interference. “Italians first!” he said, clearly referencing Donald Trump.

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No crisis until now because so much was borrowed. Crisis now because so much was borrowed. It’s like a blue print for the entire world.

Argentina: From The “Confidence Fairy” To The -Still Devilish- IMF (CF)

[..] looking at the external front, one may even be forgiven for asking: why did this crisis take so long to burst? Argentina was haemorrhaging dollars for many years, and with no sign of reversal: since 2016 the domestic non-financial sector acquired an accumulated amount of USD 41 billion in external assets. During the same period, the current account deficit totalled another USD 30 billion, in the form of trade deficit, tourism deficit, profit remittances by foreign companies and increasing interest payments. The well-known factor that allowed all these trends to last until now is the foreign borrowing spree that involved the government, provinces, firms, and the central bank, including the inflow from short-term investors for carry trade operations.

In the case of debt issuance, since 2016 the central government, provinces and private companies, have issued a whopping USD 88 billion of new foreign debt (13% of GDP). In the case of carry trade operations, since 2016 the economy recorded USD 14 billon of short-term capital inflows (2% of GDP). The favourite peso-denominated asset for this operations were the debt liabilities of the central bank called LEBAC (Letters of the Central Bank). Because of this, the outstanding stock of this instrument has now become the centre of all attention. It is important to understand the LEBACs. They were originally conceived as an inter-bank and central bank liquidity management instrument.

Since the lifting of foreign exchange and capital controls and the adoption of inflation targeting, the stock of LEBACs grew by USD 18 billion. Moreover, the composition of holders has changed significantly since 2015: At that time, domestic banks held 71% of the stock, and other investors held 29%. In 2018 that proportion has reverted to 38% banks/62% to other non-financial institution holders, which includes other non-financial public institutions (such as the social security administration) (17%), domestic mutual investment funds (16%), firms (14%), individuals (9%), and foreign investors (5%). That means that a large part of all the new issuance of LEBAC is held by investors outside the regulatory scope of the central bank, especially individuals and foreign investors. [..] these holdings could easily be converted into foreign currency, causing a large FX depreciation.

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They’re talking.

US-China Trade War ‘On Hold’ As America Backs Off On Tariffs (Ind.)

The US will hold off on imposing steep tariffs on China that ignited fears of a trade war as both sides pursue a broader deal, a top economic official said. “We’re putting the trade war on hold,” Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin said during an appearance on Fox News Sunday. “We have agreed to put the tariffs on hold”. The announcement of a detente in the escalating trade dispute came after Chinese officials visited Washington last week, leading the White House to release an optimistic statement about both sides agreeing to take “measures to substantially reduce the United States trade deficit in goods with China” and to work on expanding trade and protecting intellectual property.

Donald Trump has railed against trade imbalances, particularly with China, as he seeks to renegotiate America’s economic relationship with other nations he accuses of exploiting the US. Breaking with some of his top economic advisers, Mr Trump announced earlier this year that he would levy tariffs on steel and aluminium. He also signed a memorandum seeking tariffs on $60bn worth of Chinese goods. [..] Mr Mnuchin signalled that America was using the leverage from tariff threats to pivot to negotiation, saying talks with Chinese officials had produced “very meaningful progress” – including a “Very productive” oval office meeting between Mr Trump and a top Chinese official.

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Unintended?

Bill Aimed At Saving Community Banks Is Already Killing Them (Dayen)

After initial reluctance, House Republicans have finally reached an agreement to move forward on a bipartisan bank deregulation bill that the Senate passed in March. Its stated aim — to help rural community banks thrive against growing Wall Street power — appears to have been enough to power it across the finish line. But banking industry analysts say the bill is already having the opposite effect, and its loosening of regulations on medium-sized banks is encouraging a rush of consolidation — all of which ends with an increasing number of community banks being swallowed up and closed down. “We absolutely expect bank consolidation to accelerate,” Wells Fargo’s Mike Mayo told CNBC the day after the Senate passed the deregulation bill in March.

The reason? Banks no longer face the prospect of stricter and more costly regulatory scrutiny as they grow. And regional banks in Virginia, Ohio, Mississippi, and Wisconsin have already taken note before the bill has even passed into law, announcing buyouts of smaller rivals. The expected consolidation simply furthers an existing trend. Community banks have been struggling for decades against an epidemic of consolidation; the number of banks in America has fallen by nearly two-thirds in the past 30 years. Ironically, the one state that has seemingly figured out how to arrest this systemic abandonment of smaller communities is North Dakota, the home state of the bill’s co-author, Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. That’s because North Dakota has a public bank.

Using idle state tax revenue as its deposit base, the Bank of North Dakota partners with community lenders on infrastructure, agriculture, and small business loans. It has thrived, earning record profits for 14 straight years, which have funneled back into state coffers. And while Heitkamp has complained that the Dodd-Frank Act has been disastrous for community banks, in North Dakota they appear to be doing well. According to a Institute for Local Self-Reliance analysis of Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data, North Dakota has more banks per capita than any other state, and lends to small businesses at a rate that is four times the national average.

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The wonders of lobbying.

EU Blocking Cities’ Efforts To Curb Airbnb (G.)

The explosive rise of short-stay Airbnb holiday rentals may be shutting locals out of housing and changing neighbourhoods across Europe, but cities’ efforts to halt it are being stymied by EU policies to promote the “sharing economy”, campaigners say. “It’s pretty clear,” said Kenneth Haar, author of UnfairBnB, a study published this month by the Brussels-based campaign group Corporate Europe Observatory. “Airbnb is under a lot of pressure locally across Europe, and they’re trying to use the top-down power of the EU institutions to fight back.” While it might have started as a “community” of amateur hosts offering spare rooms or temporarily vacant homes to travellers, Airbnb had seen three-digit growth in several European cities since 2014 and was now a big, powerful corporation with the lobbying clout to match, Haar said.

The platform lists around 20,500 addresses in in Berlin, 18,500 in Barcelona, 61,000 in Paris and nearly 19,000 in Amsterdam. Data scraped by the campaign group InsideAirbnb suggests that in these and other tourist hotspots, more than half – sometimes as many as 85% – of listings are whole apartments. Many of the properties are also rented out year-round, removing tens of thousands of homes from the residential rental market. Even in cities where short-term lets are now restricted, about 30% of Airbnb listings are available for three or more months a year, the data indicates. In those where they are not, such as Rome and Venice, the figure exceeds 90%.

[..] local attempts to protect residents’ access to affordable housing and preserve the face of city-centre neighbourhoods are being undermined, campaigners say, by the EU’s determination to see the “collaborative economy” as a key future driver of innovation and job creation across the bloc. “The commission seems almost hypnotised by the prospect of a strong sharing economy, and not really interested in its negative consequences,” said Haar. “Commissioners talk about ‘opportunities, not threats’. The parliament, too, recently condemned cities’ attempts to restrict lettings on online platforms.”

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The torture never stops. Death by a thousand cuts.

End Of Greek Bailout Means Fresh Cuts To Salaries, Pensions (K.)

Millions of salaried workers and pensioners stand to lose at least one monthly payment within two years, in 2019 and 2020. For Greece to boast of a successful – as the government desires – exit from the third bailout program without facing any obstacles by August, the Finance Ministry has ruled out the option of avoiding a reduction to pensions from 2019 and will also be proceeding with demands to reduce the minimum tax threshold as of 2020. [..] January 2019 is when the barrage of cuts to pensions is due to start, lasting at least until 2022, with reductions to main as well as auxiliary pensions and also the abolition of family benefits. The bulk of cuts will affect some 1.1 million retirees, who will see their main pension slashed as of this December (when the January 2019 pensions are paid out) by up to 18%.

In total, in the private and public sector, the reduction of pension expenditure from this particular measure in 2019 is estimated at 2.13 billion euros. Reductions will start at 5 euros a month and may reach up to 350 euros a month. There will even be cuts to pensions where there is no personal difference, owing to the abolition of family benefits currently being paid out with the pensions in the public and private sectors. This is expected to concern around 1 million pensioners. Some 200,000 pensioners will also be affected by the cut of the personal difference from auxiliary pensions. According to the midterm fiscal plan, the reduction in 2019 will amount to savings of 232 million euros for state coffers, which is the amount pensioners will also be deprived of.

According to the government’s plans, the sum of cuts that will become evident as of this December will mean that new pensions will eventually be 30 percent below the original level before the law introduced in May 2016 by then labor minister Giorgos Katrougalos. Therefore, the vast majority of monthly pensions will hover in the 700-euro range, even for retirees who used to bring in an average of 1,300 euros.

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“They’re a long way down a hole that was created by somebody else..”

Why Boomtown New Zealand Has A Homelessness Crisis

New Zealand’s dairy-fuelled economy has for several years been the envy of the rich world, yet despite the rise in prosperity tens of thousands of residents are sleeping in cars, shop entrances and alleyways. The emerging crisis has created a milestone that New Zealanders won’t be proud of: the highest homelessness rate among the 35 high-income OECD countries. It’s a curious problem afflicting boom towns where some residents get pushed onto the streets as they can no longer afford the rocketing rents in a flourishing economy – let alone purchase a house as the price of property has soared. “I have no assets at the moment,” said 64-year-old Victor Young, who spoke to Reuters at a soup kitchen in New Zealand’s capital, Wellington.

“It’s not a kind country, it’s not an easy country. I slept in my car 20 days last year. I worked 30 hours a week.” That sentiment is something the country’s popular Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern would like to reverse. Last Thursday, across town from the Sisters of Compassion Soup Kitchen, her Labour-led government unveiled its first budget with an ambitious plan to build social infrastructure. The government has allocated NZ$3.8 billion ($2.62 billion) of new capital spending over a five-year period. This includes an extra NZ$634 million for housing, on top of the NZ$2.1 billion previously announced to fund Kiwibuild, a government building program to increase affordable housing supply.

[..] But experts say the government’s first budget underwhelms on the radical reforms the wider public wanted. “They’re a long way down a hole that was created by somebody else and they haven’t really got a great or easy solution,” said John Tookey, professor of construction management at Auckland University of Technology. He said the government’s much-vaunted Kiwibuild could come unstuck because there weren’t enough skilled workers to deliver on its ambitious target to build 100,000 homes in the next decade.

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Where does this originate? WIth Theresa May of course.

Hundreds Of Homeless People Fined And Imprisoned In UK (G.)

Growing numbers of vulnerable homeless people are being fined, given criminal convictions and even imprisoned for begging and rough sleeping. Despite updated Home Office guidance at the start of the year, which instructs councils not to target people for being homeless and sleeping rough, the Guardian has found over 50 local authorities with public space protection orders (PSPOs) in place Homeless people are banned from town centres, routinely fined hundreds of pounds and sent to prison if caught repeatedly asking for money in some cases. Local authorities in England and Wales have issued hundreds of fixed-penalty notices and pursued criminal convictions for “begging”, “persistent and aggressive begging” and “loitering” since they were given strengthened powers to combat antisocial behaviour in 2014 by then home secretary, Theresa May.

Cases include a man jailed for four months for breaching a criminal behaviour order (CBO) in Gloucester for begging – about which the judge admitted “I will be sending a man to prison for asking for food when he was hungry” – and a man fined £105 after a child dropped £2 in his sleeping bag. Data obtained by the Guardian through freedom of information found that at least 51 people have been convicted of breaching a PSPO for begging or loitering and failing to pay the fine since 2014, receiving CBOs in some cases and fines up to £1,100. Hundreds of fixed-penalty notices have been issued. Lawyers, charities and campaigners described the findings as “grotesque inhumanity”, saying disadvantaged groups were fined for being poor.

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“..one of its primary effects is to generate in its victims a strong desire to go out for a beer followed by a pizza.”

Scientists Revise Their Understanding of Novichok (Slane)

Warning: This article is likely to contain traces of satire. In the aftermath of the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury on 4th March, scientists are currently re-evaluating their understanding of A-234 – or Novichok as it is more commonly known. Prior to the poisoning, it had been thought that the substance was around 5-8 times more toxic than VX nerve agent, and therefore that just a tiny drop would be likely to kill a person within minutes or possibly even seconds of them coming into contact with it. In the unlikely event of a person surviving, it was believed that their central nervous system would be completely destroyed, and that they would suffer numerous chronic health issues, including cirrhosis, toxic hepatitis, and epilepsy before dying a premature and miserable death, probably within a year or so.

However, according to an anonymous source at the Porton Down laboratory, which is located just a few miles down the road from Salisbury, scientists now believe they may have completely misunderstood the properties and effects of the chemical: “All the available information we had about Novichok before March this year suggested that it was by far the most lethal nerve agent ever produced, and we had assumed that even the tiniest drop would kill a person within minutes. However, after studying the movements of the Skripals after being poisoned, we have now revised our understanding, and we now believe that one of its primary effects is to generate in its victims a strong desire to go out for a beer followed by a pizza.”

Yet it’s not only the effects of the substance that have led to this reappraisal, but also its mysterious ability to move about from location to location, seemingly at will. According to the source: “At first, differing reports of the location of the poisoning baffled us. First it was the restaurant, then it was the pub, followed by the bench, the car, the cemetery, the flowers, the luggage, the porridge, and then finally the door handle three weeks after the incident. However, we now believe we have an explanation for this phenomena. When Novichok was developed, we think it may have been given the ability to appear in one place, only to then disappear and turn up in an entirely different place.

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