Jun 032021
 


Vincent van Gogh Avenue of Poplars at Sunset 1884

 

Tucker Carlson Levels Fauci After FOIA Emails Connect The Dots (ZH)
Fauci’s Upcoming Book Scrubbed On Amazon, Barnes & Noble Amid Backlash (JTN)
Wuhan Lab Chief To NIH Conference: ‘No Regulation’ On Virus Manipulation (NP)
Israel: Likely Link Between Pfizer Vaccine And Myocarditis In Young Males (RT)
Bill Gates, Warren Buffett To Build New Kind Of Nuclear Reactor In Wyoming (R.)
Why The US Isn’t Going To Nuke Anyone From Orbit Anytime Soon (RT)
The New Domestic War on Terror Has Already Begun (Greenwald)
Daniel Ellsberg Wants The US To Prosecute Him Under The Espionage Act (IC)
‘Dying for an iPhone’ (Chris Hedges)
China Rushes To Pull Back The Yuan From A Three-Year High (CNBC)
Olympics Will Go Ahead, Says Tokyo Games Chief (G.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tucker Berenson

 

 

An anagram for Dr Anthony Fauci is China Fraud Tony

 

 

“Fauci supported the grotesque and dangerous experiments that appeared to have made COVID possible.”

Tucker Carlson Levels Fauci After FOIA Emails Connect The Dots (ZH)

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson ripped “the utter fraudulence of Tony Fauci” Wednesday night, after BuzzFeed and the Washington Post obtained thousands of pages of emails through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, revealing that the nation’s top virologist was telling the public one thing, while furiously working on damage control and narrative-shaping as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded. According to Carlson, Americans assumed “that the man in charge of protecting the US from COVID must be rational and impressive,” adding “We also assumed he must be honest. But we were wrong.

“It soon became clear that Tony Fauci was just another sleazy federal bureaucrat – deeply political and often dishonest. More shocking than that we then learned that Fauci himself was implicated in the very pandemic he’d been charged with fighting.” “Fauci supported the grotesque and dangerous experiments that appeared to have made COVID possible.” -Tucker Carlson. Fauci’s emails collectively show that “from the beginning, Tony Fauci was worried that the public might conclude COVID had originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.” “Why would he be concerned that Americans would conclude that?” Tucker asked. “Possibly because Tony Fauci knew that he had funded gain-of-function experiments at that very same laboratory.”

“The emails prove that Fauci lied about this under oath,” said Tucker, who highlighted an email from scientist Christian G. Anderson to Fauci, saying that he and his fellow scientists felt the virus looked ‘potentially’ engineered, and that members of his team “all find the genome inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory.” Fauci then sent an urgent email to his deputy – Hugh Auchincloss – with the subject “IMPORTANT,” and which read “Hugh, it is essential that we speak this AM. Keep your cell phone on … You will have tasks today that must be done.”

Tucker Fauci

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Wonder why. Can’t be the negative publicity, there hasn’t been enough of that.

Fauci’s Upcoming Book Scrubbed On Amazon, Barnes & Noble Amid Backlash (JTN)

White House coronavirus adviser and long-time U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci’s upcoming book has been scrubbed from and altered on online listings, amid criticism that he is profiting from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. The book, “Expect the Unexpected,” was earlier pegged for a November release, according to its Amazon listing. As of Wednesday morning, the book’s listing had been entirely scrubbed from Amazon. However, a cached version of the listing, still displayed the book’s promotional description and preorder status. A cached website also shows the book’s listing on Barnes & Noble’s website, though by Wednesday morning that listing was no longer live anymore. The book appeared to still be available for preorder on some lesser known vendors such as Booktopia.


The scrubbing of the book comes after backlash from critics who accused Fauci of profiting off of the deadly pandemic the U.S. response to which he has overseen. Among those criticizing Fauci is Fox News Channel contributor Joe Concha, who compared him to New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signing a seven-figure book deal about his efforts during the pandemic, which resulted in a high number of death among assisted-living residents. “If you look at the numbers again, you had Cuomo profiting off a pandemic, a government official,” said Concha, also a media reporter for The Hill newspaper. “Now we have Fauci doing it as well. I think this is appalling.”

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Why go to Wuhan? Well…

Wuhan Lab Chief To NIH Conference: ‘No Regulation’ On Virus Manipulation (NP)

The National Institutes of Health hosted Wuhan Institute of Virology researchers at a 2011 conference focusing on scientific research that could pose a “significant threat” to human health – including manipulation of bat coronaviruses. At the event, the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s Deputy Director repeatedly asserted that his controversial lab had “no regulation” on this form of risky research, The National Pulse can exclusively reveal. The 2011 event – Continuing the Global Dialogue with the Scientific and Science Policy Community with a Focus on Asia and the Western Pacific – was sponsored by the U.S. government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) and sought to provide participants with a “greater understanding” of Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC).

Defined by the NIH as research “that could be directly misapplied to pose a significant threat with broad potential consequences to public health and safety,” DURC encompasses gain-of-function studies, which have come under increased scrutiny due to their role in potentially spawning COVID-19. Among the event participants were Wuhan Institute of Virology Deputy Director Yuan Zhiming, NIH Associate Director for Science Policy Amy Patterson, and top American researchers and scientific advisory board members. The NIH’s unearthed role in hosting the event follows National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci denying his agency’s relationship to the Wuhan lab.

While speaking at the event via telephone, Yuan Zhiming repeatedly emphasized that his lab and China lacked any meaningful regulation of dual-use research. “There’s no regulation in China, there’s no regulation on the identification of some dual-use research, and there’s no regulation on the classification of research or the classification of information,” he explained. “Even China, the biosafety and biosecurity philosophy is regulated by Chinese scientific community, but the dual-use research is not totally regulated. So we need to have some measure or some special program to raise the concern of principal investigators through training.”

Yuan reiterated the sentiment in his closing remarks to the conference, commenting “there’s no regulation on the dual-use identification and classification of some sensitive information, and I think maybe later the Chinese government and the Chinese scientific community will focus on the discussion in this matter.” Since the outbreak of COVID-19, however, Yuan has made rounds on American and Chinese state-run media outlets to discredit the possibility of the virus leaking from his lab.

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“The number of cases reported after the second shot was four times greater than those recorded after the first..”

Israel: Likely Link Between Pfizer Vaccine And Myocarditis In Young Males (RT)

A specially appointed epidemiological team has found “a likelihood of a link” between receiving the second dose of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine and the onset of myocarditis in young men, Israel’s Health Ministry said in a statement. The ministry says the team was set up following reports of cases of heart inflammation, known as myocarditis, among males aged 16 to 30 shortly after the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine was administered. The link was found to be stronger in people aged 16-19 relative to other age groups, and weakens as the age of the recipients increases. Most patients who experienced the problem spent up to four days in the hospital, and 95% of the cases were classified as mild, according to the ministry.

The Health Ministry commissioned the study after 275 cases of myocarditis were reported in Israel between December 2020 and May 2021. Nearly 150 cases were recorded after the vaccine was administered. The number of cases reported after the second shot was four times greater than those recorded after the first, the ministry said. Myocarditis is a condition characterized by chest pain, shortness of breath, or palpitations, and can be caused by Covid-19, according to the ministry. While the type of vaccine in question is not directly mentioned in the statement, Israel relies almost exclusively on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and it’s the only product mentioned on the vaccination information page of the Health Ministry website.

Pfizer said in a statement cited by Reuters that it has not recorded a higher rate of myocarditis than would normally be expected in the general population. The pharma giant added that it was aware of the Israeli observations of myocarditis but has not established a causal link to its vaccine. The Israeli Health Ministry says that given the findings, it will review the 12-15-year-old population’s eligibility for the vaccine. The shot was recently approved in the EU for people aged 12 and older.

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Oh, just lovely.

Bill Gates, Warren Buffett To Build New Kind Of Nuclear Reactor In Wyoming (R.)

Power companies run by billionaire friends Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have chosen Wyoming to launch the first Natrium nuclear reactor project on the site of a retiring coal plant. TerraPower, founded by Gates about 15 years ago, and power company PacifiCorp, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, said on Wednesday that the exact site of the Natrium reactor demonstration plant was expected to be announced by the end of the year. Small advanced reactors, which run on different fuels to traditional reactors, are regarded by some as a critical carbon-free technology than can supplement intermittent power sources like wind and solar as states strive to cut emissions that cause climate change. “We think Natrium will be a game-changer for the energy industry,” Gates told a media conference to launch the project in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

“This is our fastest and clearest course to becoming carbon negative,” Wyoming’s governor, Mark Gordon, said. “Nuclear power is clearly a part of my all-of-the-above strategy for energy” in Wyoming, the country’s top coal-producing state. The project features a 345 megawatt sodium-cooled fast reactor with molten salt-based energy storage that could boost the system’s power output to 500MW during peak power demand. TerraPower said last year that the plants would cost about $1bn. Late last year the US energy department awarded TerraPower $80m in initial funding to demonstrate Natrium technology, and the department has committed additional funding in coming years subject to congressional appropriations.

Chris Levesque, TerraPower’s president and chief executive, said the demonstration plant would take about seven years to build. “We need this kind of clean energy on the grid in the 2030s,” he told reporters. Nuclear power experts have warned that advanced reactors could have higher risks than conventional ones. Fuel for many advanced reactors would have to be enriched at a much higher rate than conventional fuel, meaning the fuel supply chain could be an attractive target for militants looking to create a crude nuclear weapon, a recent report said. Levesque said that the plants would reduce proliferation risks because they reduce overall nuclear waste.

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Not even the US is that crazy.

Why The US Isn’t Going To Nuke Anyone From Orbit Anytime Soon (RT)

Low-orbit space planes have been named as a possible carrier of American nuclear warheads. While theoretically possible, at current technology levels such weapons would be significantly more trouble than they are worth.
According to the director-general of Russian arms manufacturer Almaz-Antey, Yan Novikov, the US has orbital bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Variants of the Boeing X-37 orbital test vehicle, launched in 2010 and officially used for scientific purposes, can theoretically carry up to six warheads, Novikov claimed during a virtual educational forum in Russia in May. In the words of Kyle Mizokami, who wrote an article on this for Popular Mechanics, “this isn’t even a good idea”.

While Mizokami’s take is titled “Don’t believe Russia”, and its main thrust is apparently that Mr. Novikov is hyping up the US orbital nukes threat to boost the sales of Almaz-Antey’s surface-to-space missiles, he does have some good points that explain why the dangers of orbital bombing are more than a little exaggerated. First off, putting nukes on an X-37 to then launch them from orbit will require extensive modification to the weapons, which will only allow two or, at best, three, to be taken on board – not nearly enough for an effective surprise attack. And to carry an element of surprise, it would have to approach Russia from a very specific direction to avoid the radars of early-warning systems – and even so, it won’t be able to hide from visual detection.

Aside from the lack of surprise, there is a long list of problems associated with space planes carrying nuclear payloads. “The idea of placing strategic nuclear weapons in low Earth orbit isn’t new. It emerged with the first successful launches of the Earth’s artificial satellites,” ex-chief of the General Staff of the Air Defense Forces, Honored Military Pilot, Colonel-General of Aviation Igor Maltsev says. According to him, for a number of reasons, space projects like this never went beyond concept or, at best, preliminary design. Why was that the case? Technically, the goal of putting these weapons in space is achievable, says Igor Maltsev. Anything can be launched to space. But when the idea is to create a strategic weapons system in orbit, there are a number of challenges that have, so far, prevented any significant progress along these lines.

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“..ahead of a weekend in which potentially violent demonstrations were predicted by the FBI — but never materialized.”

The New Domestic War on Terror Has Already Begun (Greenwald)

The Department of Homeland Security on Friday issued a new warning bulletin, alerting Americans that domestic extremists may well use violence on the 100th Anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre. This was at least the fourth such bulletin issued this year by Homeland Security (DHS) warning of the same danger and, thus far, none of the fears it is trying to instill into the American population has materialized. The first was a January 14 warning, from numerous federal agencies including DHS, about violence in Washington, DC and all fifty state capitols that was likely to explode in protest of Inauguration Day (a threat which did not materialize). Then came a January 27 bulletin warning of “a heightened threat environment across the United States that is likely to persist over the coming weeks” from “ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority” (that warning also was not realized).

Then there was a May 14 bulletin warning of right-wing violence “to attack higher-capacity targets,” exacerbated by the lifting of COVID lockdowns (which also never happened). And now we are treated to this new DHS warning about domestic extremists preparing violent attacks over Tulsa (it remains to be seen if a DHS fear is finally realized). Just like the first War on Terror, these threats are issued with virtually no specificity. They are just generalized warnings designed to put people in fear about their fellow citizens and to justify aggressive deployment of military and law enforcement officers in Washington, D.C. and throughout the country. A CNN article which wildly hyped the latest danger bulletin about domestic extremists at Tulsa had to be edited with what the cable network, in an “update,” called “the additional information from the Department of Homeland Security that there is no specific or credible threats at this time.”

And the supposed dangers from domestic extremists on Inauguration Day was such a flop that even The Washington Post — one of the outlets most vocal about lurking national security dangers in general and this one in particular — had to explicitly acknowledge the failure: Thousands [of National Guard troops] had been deployed to capitals across the country late last week, ahead of a weekend in which potentially violent demonstrations were predicted by the FBI — but never materialized. Once again on Wednesday, security officials’ worst fears weren’t borne out: In some states, it was close to business as usual. In others, demonstrations were small and peaceful, with only occasional tense moments.

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“The study shows American generals enthusiastically planning for the use of nuclear weapons against China.”

Daniel Ellsberg Wants The US To Prosecute Him Under The Espionage Act (IC)

“The whole idea is to kill the bastards,” Gen. Thomas Power, commander of America’s nuclear forces from 1957 to 1963, once said about the use of atomic weapons. “At the end of the war, if there are two Americans and one Russian, we win.” The hold this nuclear lunacy had on the top of the U.S. government is terrifyingly illuminated in a top-secret study of U.S. war plans newly publicized by famed whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. The document, produced by the RAND Corporation and copied by Ellsberg at the same time he exfiltrated the Pentagon Papers from RAND, examines the U.S. response to the 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis. The study’s contents were first reported on May 22 by the New York Times.

The crisis, now completely forgotten, began when China attempted to seize several small islands off its coast from Taiwan. The study shows American generals enthusiastically planning for the use of nuclear weapons against China. It is not simply that the officials looked with equanimity on the possibility of killing millions; rather, many seemed frustrated that there were any delays forced upon them by the rest of the government. If China had not changed course, civilization could have ended then and there. Ellsberg is now speaking out about the study, he said in a phone interview, for a straightforward reason: “I got scared.” The issues that led to the 1958 crisis between the U.S. and China have never been resolved; both countries are now ramping up confrontational rhetoric; and most importantly, the strategic rationale that led the U.S. to consider nuclear war then remains exactly the same today.

“You shouldn’t be confident that the current calculations are any less crazy,” Ellsberg said. His apprehension about the potential use of nuclear weapons is intimately linked to another of his key concerns: the Justice Department’s accelerating use of the 1917 Espionage Act to prosecute leakers. Its chilling effect on potential whistleblowers makes it less and less likely that Americans will even know what their government is doing, much less be able to do anything about it. Ellsberg hopes his latest revelation will prompt a cultural and perhaps legal reckoning for the Act.

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“Workers are abused, underpaid and sickened from exposure to chemicals and toxins such as aluminum dust.”

‘Dying for an iPhone’ (Chris Hedges)

Global capitalists have turned back the clock to the early days of the Industrial Revolution. The working class is increasingly bereft of rights, blocked from forming unions, paid starvation wages, subject to wage theft, under constant surveillance, fired for minor infractions, exposed to dangerous carcinogens, forced to work overtime, given punishing quotas and abandoned when they are sick and old. Workers have become, here and abroad, disposable cogs to corporate oligarchs, who wallow in obscene personal wealth that dwarfs the worst excesses of the Robber Barons. In fashionable liberal circles there are, as Noam Chomsky notes, worthy and unworthy victims. Nancy Pelosi has called on global leaders not to attend the Winter Olympics, scheduled to be held in Beijing in February, because of what she called a “genocide” being carried out by the Chinese government against the Uyghur minority.

New York Times columnist Nick Kristof in a column rattled off a list of human rights violations overseen by China’s leader Xi Jinping, writing “[Xi] eviscerates Hong Kong freedoms, jails lawyers and journalists, seizes Canadian hostages, threatens Taiwan and, most horrifying, presides over crimes against humanity in the far western region of Xinjiang that is home to several Muslim minorities.” Not a word about the millions of workers in China who are treated little better than serfs. They live separated from their families, including their children, and housed in overcrowded company dormitories, which sees rent deducted from their paychecks, next to factories that have round-the-clock production, often making products for U.S. corporations. Workers are abused, underpaid and sickened from exposure to chemicals and toxins such as aluminum dust.

The suffering of the working class, within and outside the United States, is as ignored by our corporatized media as the suffering of the Palestinians. And yet, I would argue, it is one of the most important human rights issues of our era, since once workers are empowered, they can fend off other human rights violations. Unless workers can organize, here and in countries such as China, and achieve basic rights and living wages, it will cement into place a global serfdom that will leave workers trapped in the appalling conditions described by Friedrich Engels in his 1845 book “The Conditions of the Working Class in England” or Émile Zola‘s 1885 masterpiece “Germinal.”

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Small moves so far, more like virtue signalling.

China Rushes To Pull Back The Yuan From A Three-Year High (CNBC)

China is trying to rein in the yuan as it surges to three-year highs against the U.S. dollar. A stronger yuan makes Chinese goods relatively more expensive to buyers overseas, and has spurred concerns about the competitiveness of Chinese exports — a major contributor to national economic growth. The Chinese yuan traded little changed against the U.S. dollar Thursday after the People’s Bank of China set the yuan’s daily midpoint at 6.3811 versus the greenback. That marked the second-straight day of weaker fixings, reversing six straight trading days of stronger fixings since May 24, according to data from Wind Information.

The PBOC has tried to allow the market to play a greater role in deter mining the yuan’s exchange rate. But the central bank retains some control through daily midpoint fixings against the dollar, allowing the yuan to move 2% higher or lower from that level. The weaker fix followed the central bank’s announcement late Monday that beginning June 15, financial institutions must increase the ratio of their foreign exchange deposits by 2 percentage points — to 7% from 5% currently. The hike forces banks to retain more of their foreign currency holdings, reducing the amount that could be used to influence foreign exchange rates.

It is the first such hike in 14 years since the previous change in May 2007 — before the financial crisis — economists pointed out. They estimate the move will reduce the amount of foreign currency available for long-term trading by $20 billion. Analysts said the exact dollar amount is less significant than the central bank’s message that the yuan will not move in a single direction of continued strengthening against the U.S. dollar.

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With 80% of Japanese against.

Olympics Will Go Ahead, Says Tokyo Games Chief (G.)

The president of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics organising committee, Seiko Hashimoto, has said the Games will go ahead as planned, soon after the Japan’s most senior medical adviser said holding the event under current coronavirus conditions was “not normal”. “We cannot postpone again,” Hashimoto said an interview published on Thursday in the Nikkan Sports newspaper. Shigeru Omi, head of a panel of experts that has been advising the Japanese government on its Covid-19 response since the start of the pandemic, issued his strongest warning yet of the potential risks of holding the Games. “It’s not normal to have the Olympics in a situation like this,” Omi told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday, adding that organisers should explain to a sceptical public why it was pushing ahead with preparations.

Most Japanese people do not want Tokyo 2020 to be held this summer, according to recent opinion polls. Medical journals have questioned the wisdom of allowing 90,000 athletes, media, sponsors, officials and support staff to enter the country in July, while medical unions say the Games will place additional pressure on health services. The public broadcaster NHK reported that about 10,000 of the 80,000 volunteers who signed up to help during the Games have quit, but organisers said the lower numbers would not be “particularly problematic” since the decision had already been taken to ban spectators from overseas. “There’s no mistake that concerns over the coronavirus could have been a factor,” as well as scheduling conflicts due to last year’s postponement, the Nikkei business paper quoted Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto as saying.

[..] Tokyo and several other regions are under a state of emergency that is due to end on 20 June. While the rate of infections is falling in the capital, there is concern about the risks posed by new variants and Japan’s slow vaccine rollout. The vaccination programme has gathered pace in recent days, but only 2.7% of Japan’s 126 million population has been fully vaccinated. In an attempt to speed up the process with just 50 days to go before the opening ceremony, the government has said large companies and universities will be able to start inoculating staff and students from 21 June. Japan has avoided the large-scale infections suffered by many other countries, but serious cases have risen during the latest outbreak. It has reported more than 750,000 cases since the start of the pandemic, and about 13,200 deaths, a relatively high number among Asian countries.

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May 262021
 
 May 26, 2021  Posted by at 9:08 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  65 Responses »


Théodore Géricault Prancing Grey Horse 1812

 

I Don’t Know Of A Bigger Story In The World (NC)
The Drug That Cracked Covid (Michael Capuzzo)
Finnish Firm Earns US Patent For Covid Drug Containing Ivermectin, HCQ (Yle)
Mild COVID-19 Induces Lasting Antibody Protection (wustl)
Rand Paul Says Dr. Anthony Fauci Should ‘Be Immediately Fired’ (JTN)
Inside India’s “Hunger Games” (Bhandari)
More Bombshells On Covid And Wuhan Lab Connection Should Come Soon (JTN)
The Ghost of Arthur Burns (Stephen S. Roach)
America’s Nuclear Spending Spree (DP)

 

 

19 reasons

 

 

Michael Capuzzo, famous journalist and writer, started looking into ivermectin when his daughter fell ill with Covid. But even Capuzzo couldn’t get his paper published. It’s time to start talking about the untold number of deaths caused by the ban, by politics, media, medical field, social media, of mentioning anything related to ivermectin. This has gone too far.

When my daughter Grace, a vice president at a New York advertising agency, came down with COVID-19 recently, she was quarantined in a “COVID hotel” in Times Square with homeless people and quarantining travelers. The locks on her room door were removed. Nurses prowled the halls to keep her in her room and wake her up every night to check her vitals—not to treat her, because there is no approved treatment for COVID-19; only, if her oxygen plummeted, to move her to the hospital, where there is only a single effective approved treatment for COVID-19, steroids that may keep the lungs from failing.

I Don’t Know Of A Bigger Story In The World (NC)

Michael Capuzzo, a New York Times best-selling author , has just published an article titled “The Drug That Cracked Covid”. The 15-page article chronicles the gargantuan struggle being waged by frontline doctors on all continents to get ivermectin approved as a Covid-19 treatment, as well as the tireless efforts by reporters, media outlets and social media companies to thwart them. Because of ivermectin, Capuzzo says, there are “hundreds of thousands, actually millions, of people around the world, from Uttar Pradesh in India to Peru to Brazil, who are living and not dying.” Yet media outlets have done all they can to “debunk” the notion that ivermectin may serve as an effective, easily accessible and affordable treatment for Covid-19. They have parroted the arguments laid out by health regulators around the world that there just isn’t enough evidence to justify its use.

For his part, Capuzzo, as a reporter, “saw with [his] own eyes the other side [of the story]” that has gone unreported, of the many patients in the US whose lives have been saved by ivermectin and of five of the doctors that have led the battle to save lives around the world, Paul Marik, Umberto Meduri, José Iglesias, Pierre Kory and Joe Varon. These are all highly decorated doctors. Through their leadership of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care (FLCCC) Alliance, they have already enhanced our treatment of Covid-19 by discovering and promoting the use of Corticoid steroids against the virus. But their calls for ivermectin to also be used have met with a wall of resistance from healthcare regulators and a wall of silence from media outlets.

“I really wish the world could see both sides,” Capuzzo laments. But unfortunately most reporters are not interested in telling the other side of the story. Even if they were, their publishers would probably refuse to publish it. That may explain why Capuzzo, a six-time Pulitzer-nominated journalist best known for his New York Times-bestselling nonfiction books Close to Shore and Murder Room, ended up publishing his article on ivermectin in Mountain Home, a monthly local magazine for the of the Pennsylvania mountains and New York Finger Lakes region, of which Capuzzo’s wife is the editor. It’s also the reason why I decided to dedicate today’s post to Capuzzo’s article. Put simply, as many people as possible –particularly journalists — need to read his story. As Capuzzo himself says, “I don’t know of a bigger story in the world.”

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“A news blackout by the world’s leading media came down on Ivermectin like an iron curtain.”

The Drug That Cracked Covid (Michael Capuzzo)

Marik had been keeping tabs on Ivermectin but hadn’t included it in his protocols. He knew the drug as a core medicine on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines, and it is wellestablished in the literature as a “wonder drug” that won the 2015 Nobel Prize for its discoverer, Japanese microbiologist Satoshi Omura, for nearly eradicating two of the “most dis guring and devastating diseases” in history, river blindness and elephantiasis, that had plagued millions of people in Africa countries, one of the great achievements in the history of medicine. The drug was also well known as a standard treatment for scabies and lice, from nurseries to nursing homes. A veterinary version keeps millions of family dogs and cats, farm animals, and cattle safe from worms and parasitic diseases.

An over-the-counter medicine in France, Ivermectin is safer than Tylenol and “one of the safest drugs ever given to humanity,” Dr. Marik said, with “3.7 billion doses administered in forty years, that’s B for billion, and only extremely rare serious side e ects.” An earlier Australian study, reported in the journal Antiviral Research, showed that Ivermectin, which blocked other RNA viruses like Dengue virus, yellow fever virus, Zika virus, West Nile virus, influenza, the Avian fu, and HIV1/AIDS in vitro, decimated the coronavirus in vitro, wiping out “essentially all viral material by 48 hours.” But more research was needed in human beings. But by October Marik’s concerns were answered. ¬e studies were well-designed university trials that showed amazing anti-COVID-19 activity at the normal doses used to treat parasites.

Though small and endlessly diverse by large, Western big pharma “one-size-fits all” random control trials, the Ivermectin studies were a mosaic of hundreds of scientists and many thousands of patients in trials all over the world, all showing the same remarkable efficacy against all phases of COVID-19 no matter what dose or age or severity of the patient. “Penicillin never was randomized,” Marik says. “It just obviously worked. Ivermectin obviously works.” Marik was astonished. “If you were to say, tell me the characteristics of a perfect drug to treat COVID-19, what would you ask for?” he said. “I think you would ask rstly for something that’s safe, that’s cheap, that’s readily available, and has anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. People would say, “That’s ridiculous. There could not possibly be a drug that has all of those characteristics. That’s just unreasonable. But we do have such a drug. The drug is called Ivermectin.”

———––

A news blackout by the world’s leading media came down on Ivermectin like an iron curtain. Reporters who trumpeted the COVID-19 terror in India and Brazil didn’t report that Ivermectin was crushing the P-1 variant in the Brazilian rain forest and killing COVID-19 and all variants in India. That Ivermectin was saving tens of thousands of lives in South America wasn’t news, but mocking the continent’s peasants for taking horse paste was. Journalists denied the world knowledge of the most effective life-saving therapies in the pandemic, Kory said, especially among the elderly, people of color, and the poor, while wringing their hands at the tragedy of their disparate rates of death.

Three days after Kory’s testimony, an Associated Press “fact-check reporter” interviewed Kory “for twenty minutes in which I recounted all of the existing trials evidence (over fifteen randomized and multiple observational trials) all showing dramatic benefits of Ivermectin,” he said. Then she wrote: “AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. There’s no evidence Ivermectin has been proven a safe or effective treatment against COVID-19.” Like many critics, she didn’t explore the Ivermectin data or evidence in any detail, but merely dismissed its “insufficient evidence,” quoting instead the lack of a recommendation by the NIH or WHO. To describe the real evidence in any detail would put the AP and public health agencies in the difficult position of explaining how the lives of thousands of poor people in developing countries don’t count in these matters.

Not just in media but in social media, Ivermectin has inspired a strange new form of Western and pharmaceutical imperialism. On January 12, 2021, the Brazilian Ministry of Health tweeted to its 1.2 million followers not to wait with COVID-19 until it’s too late but “go to a Health Unit and request early treatment,” only to have Twitter take down the official public health pronouncement of the sovereign fifth largest nation in the world for “spreading misleading and potentially harmful information.” (Early treatment is code for Ivermectin.) On January 31, the Slovak Ministry of Health announced its decision on Facebook to allow use of Ivermectin, causing Facebook to take down that post and removed the entire page it was on, the Ivermectin for MDs Team, with 10,200 members from more than 100 countries.

In Argentina, Professor and doctor Hector Carvallo, whose prophylactic studies are renowned by other researchers, says all his scientific documentation for Ivermectin is quickly scrubbed from the Internet. “I am afraid,” he wrote to Marik and his colleagues, “we have affected the most sensitive organ on humans: the wallet…” As Kory’s testimony was climbing toward nine million views, YouTube, owned by Google, erased his official Senate testimony, saying it endangered the community. Kory’s biggest voice was silenced.

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Nasal spray.

Finnish Firm Earns US Patent For Covid Drug Containing Ivermectin, HCQ (Yle)

A coronavirus drug developed by Therapeutica Borealis, a pharmaceutical firm in Turku, has been granted a patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The nasal spray contains hydroxychloroquine, among other ingredients. Earlier in May, the company said it had received approval for a patent application, based on which it expected a final patent this month. “The final patent is an important milestone for us on our way to the market. Our next goal is to find an established pharmaceutical industry company with an international business scale,” says Professor Kalervo Väänänen, one of the three inventors and founders of Therapeutica Borealis, in a press release on Monday. Väänänen is a cell biologist and former rector of the University of Turku.

The co-inventors of the drug and co-founders of Therapeutica Borealis are Lauri Kangas, an adjunct professor of science at the University of Turku, and Matti Rihko, a psychologist, and board chair of the Turku Chamber of Commerce and of the University of Turku. He is also a former CEO of the Raisio food corporation, known for its cholesterol-lowering Benecol products. According to the company, the nasal spray acts on cell function in nasal mucous in three ways, impairing the ability of the virus to penetrate the body and multiply, thus reducing the risk of serious illness. [..] The firm said that the drug’s active ingredients – aprotinin, hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin – are well-known and widely used drugs, but in this product are used in a new, targeted manner on the upper respiratory mucous membrane.

All the drug molecules covered by the patent are approved for the treatment of other diseases, but if used systemically, for instance as pills or infusions swallowed by patients, the amounts of drugs would be high and potentially harmful. For topical use, as in a nasal spray, the concentrations of the active ingredients throughout the body remain very low but are sufficient locally to prevent the passage and replication of the virus, making the drug safer and more effective, says Therapeutica Borealis.

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No vaccines needed.

Mild COVID-19 Induces Lasting Antibody Protection (wustl)

Months after recovering from mild cases of COVID-19, people still have immune cells in their body pumping out antibodies against the virus that causes COVID-19, according to a study from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Such cells could persist for a lifetime, churning out antibodies all the while. The findings, published May 24 in the journal Nature, suggest that mild cases of COVID-19 leave those infected with lasting antibody protection and that repeated bouts of illness are likely to be uncommon. “Last fall, there were reports that antibodies wane quickly after infection with the virus that causes COVID-19, and mainstream media interpreted that to mean that immunity was not long-lived,” said senior author Ali Ellebedy, PhD, an associate professor of pathology & immunology, of medicine and of molecular microbiology.


“But that’s a misinterpretation of the data. It’s normal for antibody levels to go down after acute infection, but they don’t go down to zero; they plateau. Here, we found antibody-producing cells in people 11 months after first symptoms. These cells will live and produce antibodies for the rest of people’s lives. That’s strong evidence for long-lasting immunity.” During a viral infection, antibody-producing immune cells rapidly multiply and circulate in the blood, driving antibody levels sky-high. Once the infection is resolved, most such cells die off, and blood antibody levels drop. A small population of antibody-producing cells, called long-lived plasma cells, migrate to the bone marrow and settle in, where they continually secrete low levels of antibodies into the bloodstream to help guard against another encounter with the virus. The key to figuring out whether COVID-19 leads to long-lasting antibody protection, Ellebedy realized, lies in the bone marrow.

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Won’t happen. Not now.

Rand Paul Says Dr. Anthony Fauci Should ‘Be Immediately Fired’ (JTN)

Sen. Rand Paul said Tuesday that National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci has repeatedly lied and should be fired. Paul said on Just the News’ “Water Cooler” show that Fauci lied to Congress when he said the National Institutes of Health did not fund gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. “He oughta be immediately fired,” said Paul, who has repeatedly clashed with Fauci over numerous COVID-19 issues. “He’s been lying to us since the very beginning. He first said no masks work, which wasn’t true. Then he said all masks work and that wasn’t true either. The N95 masks work, the rest of them don’t. But he’s been dishonest from the very beginning.” The Kentucky Republican Paul also said Fauci has lied “so-called with good intentions, noble lies, but he has been dishonest and he should be dismissed.”

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And you thought your health care was a mess..

Inside India’s “Hunger Games” (Bhandari)

I have just returned from a visit to my family in India. It was hard to escape. To get to the US from India, I needed a COVID test. The Indian government has seriously restricted who can provide COVID testing, treatment, and vaccination. Private doctors and hospitals that are not approved face brutal legal consequences if they provide COVID treatment. Emergency powers were centralized early last year in the hands of the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. He gave himself direct control over the bureaucrats of the states, making local governments largely impotent and dependent on him. In their supreme wisdom, government bureaucrats concluded that because the prefix “COVID-” exists in treatment, vaccination, and testing, they must all be performed at the same place.

For my test, I sat in a petri dish of COVID, with those coming out positive sitting right next to me. Desperate, vulnerable old people, who merely wanted to get their jabs, sat among us. Those who were sick for reasons other than COVID were among us too, for the government has required everyone who is sick to be tested for COVID first . A microcosm of how everything is done in India, the tests were given haphazardly, with samples getting mixed up, nurses spending most of their time fighting among themselves, and — lacking a lineup system — people crowded together, pushing and breathing into the mouths of one another. A few days earlier, the government had given notice of the rate of tests and further restricted where they could be performed.

A bribe-taking system would have been my preference to bypass government restrictions, but no such system has evolved yet. Nevertheless, corruption has exploded, and self-centeredness, apathy, a dog-eat-dog environment has come to the surface. You see this everywhere; the scavengers are out in full force. I went to a private COVID hospital. The situation in government hospitals is far worse, beyond my capacity to cope with it. Yet the story of COVID in India is hardly about COVID as such, which is nothing more than a trigger. More than twice as many people died of fairly easily treatable tuberculosis in 2020 than of COVID. Instead, this is a story of foolish rulers, completely hollowed out institutions, and a pathetically irrational and tribal society.

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Hope.

More Bombshells On Covid And Wuhan Lab Connection Should Come Soon (JTN)

Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) believes that intelligence on COVID-19 originating from the Wuhan Institute of Virology is forthcoming, and will be revealed by force of legislation if it is not released otherwise. Braun told the “John Solomon Reports” podcast about the COVID-19 Origin Act of 2021 that he introduced with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.): “Something was afoot even a week to two weeks ago — we were just a little ahead of the game when we rolled that out — where I think we’re going to hear more information. “When you got somebody like Dr. Fauci that moves goalposts from one end zone to the other and then back again, and wherever it needs to kind of plop down, when you hear the head of the WHO, when you hear the Biden administration now saying that there needs to be an investigation — of course, they’re still saying WHO needs to do it itself.


“That’s like the fox in the henhouse metaphor. So something is happening. And that’s why, with our bill out there, it’s now very pertinent.” Braun is confident the truth will soon emerge. “I think we’re gonna get to the bottom of it,” he said. “It’s just a question of, will we need a bill to do it? I don’t even think we’re going to need that because I think there’s going to be stuff coming forward that might flush it out without having to force it legislatively. If not, we’re prepared to roll up the support. Sadly, we probably won’t get one Democrat on it, though.” Braun was asked where Congress could get information on COVID and Wuhan. “How about in our own DHS?” he replied. “How about in our own Director of National Intelligence? That’s the essence of declassifying this stuff. And when you’ve got such a political posture that has dominated the dynamic, we just need that — we need the Freedom of Information Act, in essence, to release all this stuff that’s been classified.”

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History of CPI.

The Ghost of Arthur Burns (Stephen S. Roach)

Memories can be tricky. I have long been haunted by the inflation of the 1970s. Fifty years ago, when I had just started my career as a professional economist at the Federal Reserve, I was witness to the birth of the Great Inflation as a Fed insider. That left me with the recurring nightmares of a financial post-traumatic stress disorder. The bad dreams are back.

They center on the Fed’s legendary chairman at the time, Arthur F. Burns, who brought a unique perspective to the US central bank as an expert on the business cycle. In 1946, he co-authored the definitive treatise on the seemingly rhythmic ups and downs of the US economy back to the mid-nineteenth century. Working for him was intimidating, especially for someone in my position. I had been tasked with formal weekly briefings on the very subjects Burns knew best. He used that knowledge to poke holes in staff presentations. I found quickly that you couldn’t tell him anything.

Yet Burns, who ruled the Fed with an iron fist, lacked an analytical framework to assess the interplay between the real economy and inflation, and how that relationship was connected to monetary policy. As a data junkie, he was prone to segment the problems he faced as a policymaker, especially the emergence of what would soon become the Great Inflation. Like business cycles, he believed price trends were heavily influenced by idiosyncratic, or exogenous, factors – “noise” that had nothing to do with monetary policy.

This was a blunder of epic proportions. When US oil prices quadrupled following the OPEC oil embargo in the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Burns argued that, since this had nothing to do with monetary policy, the Fed should exclude oil and energy-related products (such as home heating oil and electricity) from the consumer price index. The staff protested, arguing that it made no sense to ignore such important items, especially because they had a weight of over 11% in the CPI. Burns was adamant: If we on the staff wouldn’t perform the calculation, he would have it done by “someone in New York” – an allusion to his prior affiliations at Columbia University and the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Then came surging food prices, which Burns surmised in 1973 were traceable to unusual weather – specifically, an El Niño event that had decimated Peruvian anchovies in 1972. He insisted that this was the source of rising fertilizer and feedstock prices, in turn driving up beef, poultry, and pork prices. Like good soldiers, we gulped and followed his order to take food – which had a weight of 25% – out of the CPI.

We didn’t know it at the time, but we had just created the first version of what is now fondly known as the core inflation rate – that purified portion of the CPI that purportedly is free of the volatile “special factors” of food and energy, where gyrations were traceable to distant wars and weather. Burns was pleased. Monetary policy needed to focus on more stable underlying inflation trends, he argued, and we had provided him with the perfect tool to sharpen his focus.

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Where the big profits are.

America’s Nuclear Spending Spree (DP)

As Capitol Hill lawmakers continue to insist that initiatives like Medicare for All are too expensive, a new congressional report shows that the United States government is on a path to spend more than a half-trillion dollars on nuclear weapons in just the next decade. The report emerges at the same time a separate analysis shows that a handful of top executives at defense contractors are being wildly enriched by a Pentagon spending spree. The first report from the Congressional Budget Office finds that the federal government is on track to spend $634 billion over the next decade to maintain its nuclear forces, according to a new Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Almost two-thirds of those costs are for the Department of Defense, mostly to maintain ballistic missile submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles. About one-third is for the Department of Energy.

For comparison that is: • 1.5 times the cost of all of the $1,400 stimulus checks that were sent to people through the American Rescue Plan earlier this year • Nearly 14 times the $47 billion that Congress has spent so far this year helping Americans who are behind on rent. • Over one-third of the cost of cancelling the $1.7 trillion in student debt held by Americans, most of which is never going to be repaid. • More than 7 times the estimated $81 billion of outstanding medical debt in America, as of 2018. The new CBO estimate represents a 28-percent increase over the last 10-year estimate that the CBO made on U.S. nuclear forces two years ago.

The figures were released just a few weeks after a new analysis from the Center for International Policy, a foreign policy think tank in Washington, found that “In 2020 alone, the CEOs of the [Pentagon’s] top five contractors received a total of $105.4 million in compensation.” When accounting for all top corporate officials, these firms paid out more than a quarter billion dollars of total executive compensation in 2020 — and paid out more than $1 billion over the last four years.

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Feb 252021
 
 February 25, 2021  Posted by at 9:45 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  10 Responses »


Rembrandt van Rijn The flight into Egypt – a night piece 1651

 

Coronavirus Deaths Worldwide Fell By 20% Last Week – WHO (F.)
Researchers Find Emerging COVID-19 Strain in New York (NYP)
COVID Aid Bill Pays Federal Employees With Kids Out Of School Up To $21K (F.)
US Senators Weigh Paring Back Biden’s $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Aid Plan (R.)
New US Report To Blame Saudi Crown Prince For 2018 Killing Of Khashoggi (NBC)
Swalwell Committee Colleagues Ask FBI For Briefing On China ‘Honey Pot’ (NYP)
Twitter Deletes Dozens of Accounts for “Undermining Faith in NATO” (MPN)
NZ Housing Policy Stand Blows Up The Bond Market (AFR)
Lincoln Project Got $32mn In Free Media Coverage Since Sex Scandal Broke (RT)
House Dems Call for Biden to Give Up Sole Launch Authority for Nukes (NM)
The Greatest Threat to the Planet You’ve Never Heard Of (NC)
California Bill Requires ‘Gender Neutral’ Stores (DW)

 

 

 

 

Anyone seen an explanation?

Coronavirus Deaths Worldwide Fell By 20% Last Week – WHO (F.)

The number of coronavirus-related deaths decreased by 20% worldwide last week compared to the week before, according to an analysis by the World Health Organization, which coincides with a drop in cases and deaths in the United States as well, as it appears the course of both the global and domestic outbreaks of the virus may finally be slowing. Slightly fewer than 66,000 fatalities worldwide were reported last week—the third consecutive week the fatality rate has decreased. The WHO also announced the total number of new cases fell to 2.4 million for the week of Feb. 15 through Feb. 21, representing an 11% dip from the prior week, which marks the sixth consecutive week the global case count has declined.


The U.S. has averaged 68,038 new cases per day over the past seven days, a decrease of nearly 40% compared to the average earlier this month. On Tuesday, according to the Covid Tracking Project, the number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients in the U.S. dropped below 56,000 for the first time since early November. While there is no disputing the fact that the numbers are trending in the right direction, the emergence of new variants has many health professionals concerned. Three particular variants, B.1.1.7 (first found in the U.K.), B.1.351 (South Africa) and P.1 (Brazil) are the most prevalent at this point.

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There will be thousands. Get fit. One of the many drawbacks of the vaccines is that the virus will beat them. Too many people are infected worldwide to prevent this.

Researchers Find Emerging COVID-19 Strain in New York (NYP)

A new coronavirus strain that shares some characteristics with the South Africa variant is emerging in New York City, researchers said Wednesday. As of mid-February, the new variant, called B.1.526, was present in about 12 percent of coronavirus samples collected in the Big Apple and surrounding areas, according to researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. In their analysis of publicly available databases, the Columbia researchers did not find a high prevalence of the South Africa or Brazil COVID-19 variants in the region.


“Instead we found high numbers of this home-grown lineage,” Dr. Anne-Catrin Uhlemann, assistant professor in the division of infectious diseases at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, said in a statement. The Columbia study found the new strain shares some similarities to the South Africa strain, which scientists believe can spread more easily than other virus variants. B.1.526 was also described in research published this week by the California Institute of Technology.

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“Critics call it a personal bailout for bureaucrats.”

COVID Aid Bill Pays Federal Employees With Kids Out Of School Up To $21K (F.)

The U.S. House version of the “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021” – a $1.9 trillion emergency aid package to help America recover from the coronavirus pandemic has an extra perk for federal workers: Enhanced paid time off if your child is enrolled in a school that isn’t back to full-time, in-classroom instruction. Critics call it a personal bailout for bureaucrats. It is funded through a new $570 million family leave account exclusively for federal workers. While millions of parents struggle to work from home with kids who are enrolled in shuttered or partially shuttered schools, and millions more left the workforce or lost jobs to care for their at-home children, evidently parents in the federal bureaucracy need their own, personal Covid-19 bailout.

Buried on page 305 of the House bill released late last Friday night (included after the bailout details for states and localities), is a new Treasury Department fund called the “Emergency Federal Employee Leave Fund.” $570 million in the new fund is available through September 30. Federal employees caring for others due to Covid-19 are eligible for paid leave. Among those eligible are those who are “unable to work” because they are caring for school-aged children not physically in school full time “due to Covid-19 precautions[.]” The new Fund allows a federal employee “caring for a son or daughter” to qualify for the paid leave, specifically:


“if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, if the school of such son or daughter requires or makes optional a virtual learning instruction model or requires or makes optional a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning instruction models, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to Covid-19 precautions;” Under the bill as currently drafted, full-time federal employees can take up to 600 hours in paid leave until September 30, up to $35 an hour and $1,400 a week. That’s 15 weeks for a 40-hour employee. Part-time and “seasonal” employees are eligible, too, with equivalent hours established by their agency.

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Find in your thesaurus under “dysfunctional”.

US Senators Weigh Paring Back Biden’s $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Aid Plan (R.)

U.S. senators on Wednesday were eyeing potentially significant cuts to President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill as they awaited a ruling on whether the measure can include raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. The Senate parliamentarian was expected to decide soon whether Senator Bernie Sanders’ proposed minimum wage increase is allowable under a rule allowing a simple majority of the 100-member Senate to approve the sweeping relief measure, instead of the chamber’s typical 60-vote majority. The House of Representatives on Friday could pass the bill that would help tackle the heavy human and economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 500,000 Americans and thrown millions out of work.

The Senate is likely to follow up in early March. The measure is Biden’s top legislative priority. Senate Democrats and Republicans were looking at scaling back some of the biggest provisions, including expanded federal unemployment benefits, $1,400 direct payments to Americans and money for state and local governments, according to lawmakers and aides. [..] A new round of stimulus checks could be scaled back to exclude more high earners, the aide said. Several senators, including Democrat Joe Manchin, have said they were looking at a minimum wage increase to $10 to $11 an hour, instead of $15 by 2025, up from the current $7.25.


“I think even though several Democrats have some concerns, that we can still find a basis for agreement,” Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, told reporters. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who must juggle demands of progressive and moderate Democrats amid Republican opposition, described a U.S. economy in need of help beyond the nearly $4 trillion provided last year.

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“During the 2020 election campaign, Biden promised to make the Saudis “pay the price and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are.”

New US Report To Blame Saudi Crown Prince For 2018 Killing Of Khashoggi (NBC)

The Biden administration will release an intelligence report Thursday that concludes that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, three U.S. officials familiar with the matter said. The intelligence assessment, based largely on work by the CIA, is not new — NBC News was among the organizations that confirmed it in 2018. But its public release will mark a significant new chapter in the U.S.-Saudi relationship and a clear break by President Joe Biden with former President Donald Trump’s policy of equivocating about the Saudi state’s role in a brutal murder that was widely condemned by members of Congress, journalists and a U.N. investigator.

Reuters first reported on the declassified intelligence summary scheduled for release Thursday. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday that Biden would communicate with the Saudi king, rather than his son the crown prince. She said the declassified report was being prepared for release soon. It remains to be seen how releasing the report will affect U.S.-Saudi relations. Biden officials have been engaging with the Saudis since they took office, according to the State Department.


[..] During the 2020 election campaign, Biden promised to make the Saudis “pay the price and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are.” Biden has ended American support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, but he has not moved to cut off military aid to an important Middle East ally and counterterrorism partner. “The president’s intention, as is the intention of this government, is to recalibrate our engagement with Saudi Arabia,” Psaki said Wednesday.

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Get him under oath.

Swalwell Committee Colleagues Ask FBI For Briefing On China ‘Honey Pot’ (NYP)

Rep. Eric Swalwell’s Republican colleagues on the House Homeland Security Committee are asking the FBI to brief them on the California Democrat’s relationship with Chinese spy Fang Fang. The GOP legislators say that it’s important to understand Swalwell’s relationship with Fang, who seduced US politicians as part of her work, to protect themselves and national secrets. The 14 Homeland Security Committee Republicans, led by Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC), wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray that “Members of Congress must understand the threats we now face and the extent of damage already done.”

“As our nation faces a growing security threat from the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) attempts to infiltrate and undermine the United States Government, we write to request a full briefing regarding counterintelligence threats to Members of Congress, including information related to Representative Eric Swalwell’s ties to a suspected Chinese intelligence operative,” the legislators wrote. “In light of Fang’s infiltration of Rep. Swalwell’s inner circle, we believe Members of Congress must know the full extend of the CCP’s efforts to target Members of Congress.” The Republicans wrote to Wray, “We must ensure the Committee can safeguard Top Secret information and make an informed decision regarding Rep. Swalwell’s future access to classified information”


Swalwell is a member of both the House Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees, which entitles him to top-secret information. Most if not all of his GOP colleagues were unaware of his ties to Fang before a bombshell December report. Swalwell received an FBI “defensive briefing” in 2015 on Fang, who is believed to have returned to China to avoid apprehension. His brother and father remained active Facebook friends with her until after her role was publicly reported. Swalwell has refused to say if he had a romantic relationship with Fang, who fundraised for him and allegedly seduced at least two mayors as part of her work.

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Historians are going to think Twitter was a political party.

Twitter Deletes Dozens of Accounts for “Undermining Faith in NATO” (MPN)

Social media giant Twitter announced yesterday that it has deleted 373 accounts it claims were linked to Russia, Iran, and Armenia. In a blog post entitled “Disclosing networks of state-linked information operations,” it claimed that it had taken the decision to remove 69 Russian accounts primarily because they were “undermining faith in the NATO alliance and its stability.”The move sparked controversy on Twitter itself, with many users joking that their own fealty to NATO was insufficiently zealous. Twitter justified the decision by pointing to its rules regarding the prohibition of state-controlled disinformation networks. Yet it failed to fully explain exactly how it knew these users were in the pay of the Kremlin or under the control of the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei.


Indeed, the supposedly “independent investigation and analysis” team at the Stanford Internet Observatory, to which Twitter contracted out its work, itself has troubling connections to the (U.S.) state. For example, its non-resident fellow Matt Masterton was, until recently, a senior official at the Department of Homeland Security. Indeed, the whole observatory is located within the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, headed by former American Ambassador to Russia (and noted Kremlin hawk) Michael McFaul. Supposed “experts” accuse users of being Russia-linked disinformation agents with great regularity. Ben Nimmo, data journalist and former NATO press officer, falsely asserted that a noted Ukrainian concert pianist and a Welsh pensioner were Kremlin bots. Nimmo was recently announced as Facebook’s chief of intelligence.

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Bubble.

NZ Housing Policy Stand Blows Up The Bond Market (AFR)

The New Zealand bond market imploded on Thursday as traders raced to price in a better-than-even chance of a rate hike coming as soon as this year, to ensure the central bank meets a shock Ardern government mandate to keep housing affordable. The yield on the 10-year New Zealand government bond soared 18.5 basis points to 1.852 per cent. Australian 10-year government bonds rose in sympathy, trading 11 basis points higher at 1.718 per cent. The New Zealand currency edged down 0.1 per cent to US74.26¢ late in the session, but it’s trading around the highest level since August 2017. The bond market sell-off came after New Zealand’s finance minister, Grant Robertson, declared that the central bank’s remit will now change so that it has to consider housing when making monetary and financial policy decisions.

Specifically, the the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) will have to take into account “government policy relating to more sustainable house prices, while working towards its objectives,” the finance minister said. In effect, that will mean that the RBNZ has to weed out investor property demand, which low rates and easy credit have fuelled. It will need to regularly explain to the government “how it has sought to assess the impacts on housing outcomes”. The finance minister also asked the RBNZ to provide advice on debt-to-income ratios and interest-only mortgages. “The minister’s direction is in tune with our recent advice to the government in which we detailed the many influences on house prices, including the actions of the Reserve Bank,” said RBNZ governor Adrian Orr. Just a day ago, he said the RBNZ had the capacity to deploy negative rates if needed.


The RBNZ is forecasting that house prices will soar to 22 per cent annual growth by mid-year, as New Zealanders turn to the investment they are most familiar with and that has delivered big returns in the past – housing. The central bank slapped new restrictions on the housing market earlier this month, after warning that speculation is helping to fuel huge post-pandemic price gains. The December REINZ house price index rose an eye-watering 17.3 per cent year on year, with prices up 18.1 per cent in Auckland and 16.6 per cent outside Auckland. ANZ New Zealand fixed income strategist David Croy said markets interpreted the government’s move to change the RBNZ’s mandate to include housing as further confirmation that the economy is flying. The market “is simply seeing the government’s move as validation of the good news,” he said.

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Sinkhole.

Lincoln Project Got $32mn In Free Media Coverage Since Sex Scandal Broke (RT)

Since the Lincoln Project’s co-founder John Weaver was accused of sexually harassing multiple young men, the controversial anti-Trump group has received tens of millions in free media coverage, according to a new analysis. Weaver’s alleged misconduct broke in a story on January 11 in a report from the American Conservative, but Lincoln Project members have still been aplenty on both CNN and MSNBC – two networks that have heavily promoted the organization, run by anti-Trump Republicans, since its inception. According to the new analysis from the conservative Washington Free Beacon, media coverage between January 11 and February 11 for the group is worth a whopping $32 million, based on advertising value estimated by media monitoring service Critical Mention. In that time, there were 40 appearances by founders and advisers – 10 on CNN and 30 on MSNBC.


Earlier this month, Weaver resigned from the group he co-founded after being accused of making unwanted sexual advances on numerous young men, often offering professional advances in exchange for sexual favors. He apologized for sending “inappropriate” messages, but reports since have indicated his behavior was known about by others, including co-founder Steve Schmidt, who has denied such knowledge. Only hours after Weaver’s departure, Schmidt appeared on ‘Real Time with Bill Maher’, where he faced no questions about his fellow co-founder but was grilled about the group’s tens of millions in funding and where it goes. That subject has become yet another controversy for the group, as it has been revealed much of the money was funneled into separate organizations involved with the founders.

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Pass it to Nancy and Kamala.

House Dems Call for Biden to Give Up Sole Launch Authority for Nukes (NM)

A group of about three dozen Democrats in the House have signed a letter calling for President Joe Biden to give up his sole authority to authorize the launch of nuclear weapons, which was obtained by Politico. “Vesting one person with this authority entails real risks,” reads the letter, which was spearheaded by Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., according to Politico. “Past presidents have threatened to attack other countries with nuclear weapons or exhibited behavior that caused other officials to express concern about the president’s judgment.” The letter continues, “While any president would presumably consult with advisors before ordering a nuclear attack, there is no requirement to do so. The military is obligated to carry out the order if they assess it is legal under the laws of war. Under the current posture of U.S. nuclear forces, that attack would happen in minutes.”


The congressman said in a tweet on Wednesday: “ICYMI: I’m calling on @POTUS to install checks & balances in our nuclear command-and-control structure. Past presidents have threatened nuclear attacks on other countries or exhibited concerning behavior that cast doubt on their judgment.” The Democrats suggest several alternatives to the president’s sole authority, including requiring other officials in the presidential line of succession, specifically the vice president and the House Speaker, neither of whom can be removed by the president if they disagree — to concur with a launch order.”

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Which idiots signed that treaty?

The Greatest Threat to the Planet You’ve Never Heard Of (NC)

On 4 February the German energy giant RWE announced it wassuing the government of the Netherlands. The crime? Proposing to phase out coal from the country’s electricity mix. The company, which is Europe’s biggest emitter of carbon, is demanding €1.4bn in ‘compensation’ from the country for loss of potential earnings, because the Dutch government has banned the burning of coal for electricity from 2030. If this sounds unreasonable, then you might be surprised to learn that this kind of legal action is perfectly normal – and likely to become far more commonplace in the coming years. RWE is suing under the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), a little-known international agreement signed without much public debate in 1994.

The treaty binds more than 50 countries, and allows foreign investors in the energy sector to sue governments for decisions that might negatively impact their profits – including climate policies. Governments can be forced to pay huge sums in compensation if they lose an ECT case. On Tuesday, Investigate Europe revealed that the EU, the UK and Switzerland could be forced to pay more than €345bn in ECT lawsuits over climate action in the coming years. This amount, which is more than twice the EU’s annual budget, represents the total value of the fossil fuel infrastructure that is protected by the ECT, and was calculated using data gathered by Global Energy Monitor and Change of Oil International.


With ECT-covered assets worth €141bn (or more than €2,000 per citizen), the UK – which in 2019 became the first major economy to pass a net zero emissions law – is the country most vulnerable to future claims. In 2019 the European Commission called the ECT “outdated” and “no longer sustainable”, and more than 450 climate leaders and scientists and 300 lawmakers from across Europe have called on governments to withdraw from the treaty. But in response, powerful interests have mobilised to not just defend the treaty, but to expand it to new signatory states. These interests include the fossil fuels lobby keen to keep its outsized legal privileges; lawyers who make millions arguing ECT cases; and the Brussels-based ECT Secretariat, which has close ties to both industries and whose survival depends on the treaty’s continuation.

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That graph is downright scary.

California Bill Requires ‘Gender Neutral’ Stores (DW)

California’s Assembly is slated to consider a new bill requiring department store childrens’ sections to be largely “gender-neutral” in order to combat “prejudice” and “judgment” against gender non-conforming children. “Large retailers that sell toys, clothes, and other children’s items in California would have to devote floor space to merchandise marketed to both boys and girls under a new bill,” Politico reported earlier this week. “Stores would be able to sell the same products they do now as long as they maintain some areas where shoppers can find all toys or clothes, regardless of gender-based marketing, under CA AB2826 (19R) from Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell). It would apply to department stores with 500 or more employees beginning in 2023.”


Lowe told Politico that the idea for the bill, which he also introduced last year to little effect, came from one of his staffers, who claims her daughter wanted an item in the “boys” section but felt slighted because she felt the toy was designated for a male child. “This is an issue of children being able to express themselves without bias,” Lowe told the outlet. “Keeping similar items that are traditionally marketed either for girls or for boys separated makes it more difficult for the consumer to compare the products and incorrectly implies that their use by one gender is inappropriate,” the text of the bill notes.

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 262021
 


James McNeill Whistler Harmony in Blue and Silver: Trouville 1865

 

EU Threatens To Block Covid Vaccine Exports Amid AstraZeneca Shortfall (G.)
COVID19 Has Cost Global Workers $3.7 Trillion In Lost Earnings – ILO (G.)
House Delivers Impeachment Article To Senate (ZH)
Joe Biden On Donald Trump’s Impeachment Trial: ‘It Has To Happen’ (G.)
Sen. Leahy To Preside Over Trump’s Second Impeachment Trial (JTN)
Democrats Have Released A Roadmap To One-Party Rule (RCP)
Poll: Trump ‘Patriot Party’ Would Win 23% Of Voters, Drop GOP To Third (JTN)
Democrat Sens. Manchin, Sinema Won’t Back Elimination Of The Filibuster (JTN)
Janet Yellen Confirmed As Treasury Secretary (Axios)
Twitter Launches Birdwatch, A Wikipedia-Style Approach To Fight Misinformation (F.)
Ex-CIA Engineer Tells Judge He’s Incarcerated Like An Animal (Ind.)
Leon Black To Step Down From Apollo Global After Epstein Investigation (F.)
Flying Blind (Jim Kunstler)
Let Nuke Plants Run for 100 Years? (CP)

 

 

We passed 100 million cases overnight.

 

 

And off to the bullfight we go. Still not a word on HCQ, ivermectin or even vitamin D. Is it really just incompetence?

EU Threatens To Block Covid Vaccine Exports Amid Astrazeneca Shortfall (G.)

The EU has threatened to block exports of coronavirus vaccines to countries outside the bloc such as Britain, after AstraZeneca was accused of failing to give a satisfactory explanation for a huge shortfall of promised doses to member states. The pharmaceutical company’s new distribution plans were said to be “unacceptable” after it “surprisingly” informed the European commission on Friday that there would be significant shortfalls on the original schedule. The EU has been due to receive 100m doses in the first quarter of this year. But it is feared that the bloc will only receive half of that despite making large advance purchases ahead of authorisation of the vaccine by the European medicines agency.

In a heated call with AstraZeneca’s chief executive, Pascal Soriot, on Monday, the European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said the company must live up to its contractual obligations. The EMA is expected to authorise the vaccine by the end of this week. Von der Leyen’s spokesperson said: “She made it clear that she expects AstraZeneca to deliver on the contractual arrangements foreseen in the advance purchasing agreement. “She reminded Mr Soriot that the EU has invested significant amounts in the company up front precisely to ensure that production is ramped up even before the conditional market authorisation is delivered by the European Medicines Agency. “Of course, production issues can appear with the complex vaccine, but we expect the company to find solutions and to exploit all possible flexibilities to deliver swiftly.”

The EU’s health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, made a televised statement to express her frustration at the company’s behaviour, warning that the answers so far provided had not been satisfactory. Late on Monday evening following discussions with executives representing the pharmaceutical company, Kyriakides tweeted: “Discussions with AstraZeneca today resulted in dissatisfaction with the lack of clarity and insufficient explanations. “EU member states are united: vaccine developers have societal and contractual responsibilities they need to uphold. “With our member states, we have requested from [Astrazeneca] a detailed planning of vaccine deliveries and when distribution will take place to member states. Another meeting will be convened on Wednesday to discuss the matter further.”

Read more …

On the bright side, at least we know where those trillions are. Safely in the hands of Bezos, Musk et al.

COVID19 Has Cost Global Workers $3.7 Trillion In Lost Earnings – ILO (G.)

The economic blow from Covid-19 has cost workers around the world $3.7tn (£2.7tn) in lost earnings, after the pandemic wiped out four times the number of working hours lost in the 2008 financial crisis, according to the UN’s labour body. The International Labour Organization (ILO) said women and younger workers had borne the brunt of job losses and reductions in hours, and warned that people in sectors hardest-hit by the crisis – such as hospitality and retail – risked being left behind when the economy recovers. Sounding the alarm that entrenched levels of inequality risked becoming a defining feature of the economic rebound from Covid-19, the Geneva-based agency said that governments around the world needed to take urgent action to support those at the heart of the storm.

In its annual analysis of the global jobs market, it said 8.8% of working hours were lost in 2020 relative to the end of 2019, equivalent to 255m full-time jobs. This is approximately four times bigger than the damage suffered by workers as a consequence of the 2008-9 financial crisis. These “massive losses” resulted in an 8.3% decline in global labour income, before government support measures are included, according to the ILO, equivalent to $3.7tn in earnings – about 4.4% of global GDP. Women have been more affected than men by the disruption to the jobs market, with female workers more likely to drop out of work altogether and stop looking for a new job. Younger workers have also been particularly hard hit, either losing jobs, dropping out of the labour force or delaying the search for a first job.

The ILO said there were some encouraging signs of recovery at the start of 2021 as the Covid-19 vaccine is gradually deployed around the world. However, it still estimated the continuing economic fallout would lead to a 3% loss of working hours globally in 2021 compared with the end of 2019, equivalent to 90m full-time jobs. In a pessimistic scenario, which assumes slow progress on vaccination, working hours would fall by 4.6% this year, while on an optimistic path the world economy would still lose 1.3% of working hours.

Read more …

They’re so hungry for blood they can’t see how ridiculous they look.

House Delivers Impeachment Article To Senate (ZH)

The House delivered its single impeachment article against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday, setting the stage for a February 8 trial. Just three Senate Republicans were present during the formal delivery of the article; Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney and Roger Marshall. Senators will get sworn in as jurors on Tuesday, according to a previous statement by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), while both the impeachment managers who will argue the House Democrats’ case, and Trump’s defense team, will have time to draft and file legal briefs, according to CNBC. “The managers, headed by lead manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., carried the article across the Capitol to the Senate on Monday in masked pairs as part of a formal procession. As Raskin read the charge against Trump, a smattering of senators wearing face coverings looked on from within the chamber.” -CNBC

Ironically, Trump – the only president to be impeached twice by the House – is unlikely to be convicted according to none other than President Biden, who told CNN he believed the outcome would be different if Trump had six months left in office – but that he doubts the required 17 GOP senators will vote to convict. Which begs the question if the entire exercise is moot, then why do it as it will only further polarize the already deeply divided US society and certainly not help the “unity” that Biden is allegedly striving to achieve. Trump was charged by the House with incitement of insurrection at the US Capitol on Jan. 6 by, as House Democrats claim, ‘falsely claiming that widespread election fraud cost him the 2020 election,’ and then encouraging his supporters to show up and challenge the electoral college count.

According to the article, Trump “threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government,” and “thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”

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Twitter comment:

“DC will stay under military occupation while the opposition leader is put on trial..”

Joe Biden On Donald Trump’s Impeachment Trial: ‘It Has To Happen’ (G.)

The impeachment trial of Donald Trump “has to happen”, Joe Biden told CNN on Monday. While acknowledging the effect it could have on his agenda, the president said there would be “a worse effect if it didn’t happen”. Biden said he didn’t think enough Republican senators would vote for impeachment to convict, though he also said the outcome might well have been different if Trump had had six months left in his term. “The Senate has changed since I was there, but it hasn’t changed that much,” Biden said. The US House on Monday delivered its article of impeachment against Trump to the Senate, setting the stage for Trump’s second impeachment trial and the first ever Senate trial of a former US president.


Trump has been charged with inciting the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January, when an assault by a violent pro-Trump mob lead to the deaths of five people. Monday’s delivery and formal reading of the charge marks the opening of the trial, although arguments are set to start the week of 8 February. Republicans and Democrats last week agreed to a two-week delay to the start of the proceedings to allow both sides to prepare arguments and give senators a fortnight to negotiate vital legislation to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus and consider Biden’s cabinet appointments. Following Trump’s impeachment in the House on 13 January, Biden had said he hoped senators would “deal with their constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation”.

Read more …

Judge, jury and henchman. Where’s the impartiality? Isn’t that required in a trial?

Sen. Leahy To Preside Over Trump’s Second Impeachment Trial (JTN)

Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy is presiding over the upcoming impeachment trial of former President Trump in the Democratic-led Senate, the lawmakers announced in a statement on Monday. Chief Justice John Roberts presided over the first impeachment trial against Trump, which centered on his phone conversation with Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, in which he brought up Hunter Biden’s work with a Ukrainian gas company while his father, Joe Biden, was U.S. vice president. Leahy, the new Senate president pro tempore, voted in favor of convicting Trump on both articles of impeachment during the first trial against Trump in February 2020. Trump was ultimately acquitted by the Republican-led Senate.


“The president pro tempore has historically presided over Senate impeachment trials of non-presidents. When presiding over an impeachment trial, the president pro tempore takes an additional special oath to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws,” Leahy said in a statement on Monday. “It is an oath that I take extraordinarily seriously.” Leahy also said he considers holding the president pro tempore position “one of the highest honors and most serious responsibilities” of his political career. “When I preside over the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, I will not waver from my constitutional and sworn obligations to administer the trial with fairness, in accordance with the Constitution and the laws,” he said.

Read more …

“Mark Zuckerberg alone poured $419 million into this scheme.”

Democrats Have Released A Roadmap To One-Party Rule (RCP)

The Democrats appear intent on instituting one-party rule in the United States. They’re trying to use the U.S. Capitol riots as an excuse to criminalize dissent and banish conservative voices from the public sphere, and at the same time they’re hoping to use their temporary, razor-thin majority in Congress to rewrite the rules governing our elections in a way designed to keep the Democratic Party entrenched in power for decades to come. In the House, Democrats have revived sweeping election reform legislation that died in the Senate during the previous session, perhaps hoping they can browbeat enough Republicans into going along with them. If that happens, the “Grand Old Party” of Abraham Lincoln might as well disband, because Republicans would never have any hope of regaining a congressional majority or controlling the White House under the rules that HR 1 would put in place.

Although the Constitution explicitly places state legislatures in charge of managing federal elections, HR 1 seeks to use the power of the purse to bludgeon the states into conforming to a centralized system pioneered in California and other deep-blue states. Congress can’t technically compel the states to change their voting laws, but seasoned politicians know that the states have become dependent on federal money to run their elections, and can’t afford to pick up the tab themselves. To make matters worse, HR 1 declares that Congress possesses “ultimate supervisory power over Federal elections” — an extraordinary usurpation of governmental authority that the Founders specifically assigned to the states. The 2020 election witnessed private interests dictating the manner in which the election was conducted in the nation’s urban cores.

Mark Zuckerberg alone poured $419 million into this scheme. The goal of centralizing power in the hands of the federal government has long been at the heart of liberal politics, and this legislation demonstrates why. HR 1 would codify the very practices — many of them currently illegal in most states — that created widespread irregularities in the 2020 elections and contributed greatly to public mistrust of the electoral process. In 2020, state and local officials used the COVID-19 pandemic as justification to ignore or deliberately violate state election laws. If HR 1 is enacted, they won’t need any such excuse in 2022 because the states will have no choice but to implement policies such as legalized ballot harvesting, early voting, and universal mail-in voting, as well as repeal of voter ID laws, signature-matching laws, and other ballot security measures.

Read more …

Democrats’ wet dream.

Poll: Trump ‘Patriot Party’ Would Win 23% Of Voters, Drop GOP To Third (JTN)

A hypothetical “Patriot Party” led by former President Donald Trump would win the support of almost a quarter — 23% — of the electorate, bumping the GOP down to third place with just 17%, according to a new Just the News poll with Scott Rasmussen. The startling survey result comes amid reports that Senate Republican support for convicting Trump in an impeachment trial is fast eroding. A Trump third party could provoke a pivotal realignment in American politics. With the support of 46% of registered voters in the new poll, Democrats would reap the benefits of a fractured opposition and entrench themselves as the nation’s dominant party — even without majority support.

Among “very conservative” voters — who make up a disproportionately large bloc within the Republican primary electorate — a Trump Patriot Party crushes the GOP 55%-24%. Should Trump remain in the GOP, his wide lead among these highly motivated voters affords him great leverage to influence the direction of the party by wielding the threat of conservative primary challenges against establishment Republicans ill at ease with the former president’s combative brew of conservatism infused with populism and nationalism. Despite Trump’s outperformance in 2020 of recent GOP presidential candidates among minorities, African-American and Hispanic voters effectively split evenly between the GOP and a Patriot Party in the the new poll.

Read more …

Move the goalposts.

Democrat Sens. Manchin, Sinema Won’t Back Elimination Of The Filibuster (JTN)

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema will not back the elimination of the filibuster. “I do not support doing away with the filibuster under any condition. It’s not who I am,” West Virginia’s Manchin said on Monday, according to The Hill. “If I haven’t said it very plain, maybe Sen. McConnell hasn’t understood, I want to basically say it for you. That I will not vote in this Congress, that’s two years, right? I will not vote” to alter the filibuster, the senator said in an interview on Monday, according to Politico. Sinema of Arizona is also unwilling to support nixing the filibuster. According to the Washington Post, a Sinema spokesperson said that the lawmaker is “against eliminating the filibuster, and she is not open to changing her mind about eliminating the filibuster.” “The Senate filibuster has evolved over the course of its history into a de facto supermajority requirement, necessitating 60 votes to end debate and advance legislation,” according to the Post.

Read more …

Vicious circles: as Fed president, she lowered interest rates, which as Treasury Secretary she can now use to excuse “acting big”.

Janet Yellen Confirmed As Treasury Secretary (Axios)

The Senate voted 84-15 to confirm Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary on Monday. Yellen is the first woman to serve as Treasury secretary, a Cabinet position that will be crucial in helping steer the country out of the pandemic-induced economic crisis. Yellen previously served as the first female chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Clinton and the first female chair of the Federal Reserve under President Obama. Her confirmation as Treasury secretary makes her the first person to have held all three economic power positions in the federal government. Yellen told senators during her confirmation hearings that her immediate focus would be pandemic relief. With her confirmation, she can immediately start negotiating and working with Congress to pass President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal.


“The damage has been sweeping, and as the President-elect said last Thursday, our response must be, too,” Yellen said last week. Yellen also endorsed Biden’s tax reform plan in her testimony, but she said the administration’s top legislative priority would be economic stimulus, with infrastructure not too far behind. “The focus right now is on providing relief and on helping families keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, and not on raising taxes.” “Neither the president-elect nor I propose this relief package without an appreciation for the country’s debt burden. But right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big.”

Read more …

Big Bird is watching you.

Twitter Launches Birdwatch, A Wikipedia-Style Approach To Fight Misinformation (F.)

In a significant attempt to overhaul how it moderates content, Twitter on Monday unveiled Birdwatch, a pilot program to crowdsource fact-checks to combat misinformation. Birdwatch will allow regular users, called “Birdwatchers,” to identify tweets they think have misinformation and write notes with more information and context, which is similar to Wikipedia, where registered volunteers write, update and edit articles for accuracy. Anyone can apply to be a Birdwatcher, and the only requirements are a valid phone number, email and no recent violations of Twitter’s rules. Birdwatch notes will appear beneath a tweet, and in an effort to prevent people from gaming the system, Birdwatchers will be able to rate the effectiveness of each note, impacting the note’s ranking.

The program is currently a pilot, and is only available via a separate website, but eventually the company wants to expand Birdwatch to the rest of Twitter. During the pilot, Twitter said it wants to focus on making Birdwatch “resistant to manipulation attempts and ensure “it isn’t dominated by a simple majority or biased based on its distribution of contributors.” “We believe this approach has the potential to respond quickly when misleading information spreads, adding context that people trust and find valuable. Eventually we aim to make notes visible directly on Tweets for the global Twitter audience, when there is consensus from a broad and diverse set of contributors,” Twitter Vice President Keith Coleman said in a blog post.

Twitter has long been under pressure to prevent misinformation from spreading on its platform. But it wasn’t until this year that the company took more aggressive action. Twitter fact-checked tweets from former president Donald Trump and other politicians about Covid-19, mail-in voting and the election results. Those labels linked to news organizations or other institutions offering credible information. The social network eventually banned Trump entirely, citing tweets that could incite more violence following the Capitol riot. The intention of Birdwatch, though, is to expand those efforts beyond “circumstances where something breaks our rules or receives widespread public attention,” Coleman said.

Read more …

Gitmo in Manhattan.

“Schulte has been in solitary confinement and not been outdoors in over two years..”

“Schulte’s filthy cell, the size of a parking space, is infested with rodents, rodent droppings, cockroaches and mold and there is no heating, air conditioning or functioning plumbing..”

Ex-CIA Engineer Tells Judge He’s Incarcerated Like An Animal (Ind.)

A former CIA software engineer charged with leaking government secrets to WikiLeaks says it’s cruel and unusual punishment that he’s awaiting trial in solitary confinement, housed in a vermin-infested cell of a jail unit where inmates are treated like “caged animals ” Joshua Schulte, 32, has asked a Manhattan federal judge to force the federal Bureau of Prisons to improve conditions at the Metropolitan Correction Center, where he has been held for over two years under highly restrictive conditions usually reserved for terrorism defendants. In court papers Tuesday, Schulte maintained he is held in conditions “below that of impoverished persons living in third world countries.” “It is barbaric and inhumane to lock human beings into boxes for years and years — it is a punishment worse than death,” the court filing said.

Last year, a jury deadlocked on espionage charges alleging that Schulte stole a massive trove of the agency’s hacking tools and gave it to the organization that publishes news leaks. He was convicted of lesser charges of contempt of court and making false statements. He is scheduled for another trial on espionage charges in June in what was said to be the largest leak in CIA history involving classified information. Afterward, he faces a separate trial on child pornography charges. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. In his 20s, Schulte, originally from Lubbock, Texas, worked as a coder at the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, where digital sleuths design computer code to spy on foreign adversaries.

The so-called Vault 7 leak published in March 2017 by WikiLeaks revealed how the CIA hacked Apple and Android smartphones in overseas spying operations and efforts to turn internet-connected televisions into listening devices. After a yearlong probe, investigators blamed Schulte, who had already left the agency after falling out with colleagues and supervisors and moved to New York City to work at a news agency. At trial, a prosecutor called the leaks “devastating to national security.” A defense lawyer said the materials could have been accessed and stolen by hundreds of people. Juror Alexis Anthony said she never thought the evidence was strong enough to convict Schulte of espionage-related charges.

According to the court papers, Schulte has been in solitary confinement and not been outdoors in over two years under special administrative measures designed to severely restrict an inmate’s communications and interactions with others. Prosecutors say the measures are necessary after Schulte tried to leak even more classified information using a contraband cellphone that had been smuggled into the jail. They said he declared an “information war” and was “prepared to burn down the United States government.” Schulte’s filthy cell, the size of a parking space, is infested with rodents, rodent droppings, cockroaches and mold and there is no heating, air conditioning or functioning plumbing, the court papers said, while sunlight is blocked by a blacked out window. Television access is permitted for one hour per week.

Read more …

“Black paid Epstein a stunning $158 million in fees for services..”

Leon Black To Step Down From Apollo Global After Epstein Investigation (F.)

Leon Black, the billionaire co-founder of private equity giant Apollo Global Management, will be stepping down from his role as CEO of the $433 billion in assets firm. Black, who will remain as chairman, will be replaced by co-founder Marc Rowan by mid-year. The announcement of changed leadership came on Monday evening as Apollo released findings of an investigation directed by its board of directors into Black’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the deceased financier who was criminally charged with human trafficking in 2019. Apollo said its investigation, conducted by law firm Dechert, found “no evidence that Mr. Black was involved in any way with Mr. Epstein’s criminal activities at any time.”

However, the report did show that Black paid Epstein a stunning $158 million in fees for services, loaned him over $30 million in loans and made a $10 million donation to Epstein’s charity, all figures that are multiples of what was previously reported. While the changing of guard atop one of the world’s largest private equity firms was characterized as part of its succession planning—Black is turning 70 this year and has been one of Wall Street’s most feared dealmakers for decades—it is also a maneuver by Apollo to move past well over a year of Epstein-related questions, which have slowed the firm’s growth, sunk its stock at times, and been a troubling mystery for its investors.

Black is the most prominent Wall Street A-lister connected to Epstein, a disgraced financier who was convicted and jailed for sex trafficking charges in 2008. After a Miami Herald investigation into Epstein in 2018, it was revealed that his trafficking operation was far greater than the public had known due to a sweetheart deal he cut with Florida prosecutors. The Herald found Epstein’s alleged trafficking was international and included numerous victims who came forward with allegations. The investigation, which won reporter Julia K. Brown a Pulitzer prize, caused prosecutors to reopen their investigations of Epstein, and exposed deep ties between Epstein, Wall Street power players like Black and well connected politicians and heads of state.

Read more …

“There will be plenty of work for former professors of Intersectionality in the sorghum fields.”

Flying Blind (Jim Kunstler)

Growing food and getting it to markets is the most critical activity. Poor Bill Gates, addled by his fortune, has bought up something like a quarter-million acres of farmland. His grandiosity prompts him to believe he can organize farming on the super-giant scale — Walmart for corn and turnips. Nothing could be further from the real coming trend: a reduction of scale and scope of farming and of the distribution supply lines that serve it. Poor Bill doesn’t seem to realize that the oil-and-gas-based “inputs” (fertilizers, pesticides) won’t be there for him, nor will the million-dollar diesel-powered combines. Nor the trucking industry. He could do more good for mankind getting into the mule business. (He won’t. Lacks razzle-dazzle.)

The transition between the old giant agri-biz model of farming and the emergent system of small-scaled farms based on human and animal labor will be arduous and disorderly in the early going. A lot of people will miss a lot of meals, and you know what that means. Working on a farm will be one way to make sure you get enough to eat. But also consider all the businesses that have to be created from scratch on the local level to serve the logistics of farming. You are already seeing many food products unavailable in the supermarkets. That will become more distressingly obvious in the disorders of 2021. When food deliveries to the supermarkets get really spotty, the farmers’ markets will not just be for schmoozing over lattes and almond croissants.

For those perhaps not paying attention, Covid-19 has destroyed what remains of education, especially the public school system. It was already moribund, waiting to crash, reduced to a pension racket for teachers. Going forward, the money won’t be there to operate these giant centralized schools and their yellow buses (while paying out pensions). The virus has kick-started exactly the kind of home-schooling pod system (several families combining) that can be reorganized into small-scale schooling for people who want it. People who don’t want it can move into their future without knowing how to read or do arithmetic. We’ll finally get a good test of the noble savage hypothesis. As for the colleges and universities, their business models are toast. They’ll be downscaling and shuttering as far ahead as the eye can see. Whatever remains will be more like finishing schools for neo-medieval ladies and gentlemen — and, by the way, the distinction between men and women will be reestablished. Why? Because reality insists on it. There will be plenty of work for former professors of Intersectionality in the sorghum fields.

Read more …

“..when they began being built were not seen as running for more than 40 years because of radioactivity embrittling metal parts and otherwise causing safety problems..”

Let Nuke Plants Run for 100 Years? (CP)

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission held a “public meeting” last week on what it titled “Development of Guidance Documents To Support License Renewal For 100 Years Of Plant Operation.” Comments from the “public” were strongly opposed to the NRC’s desire for it to let nuclear power plants run for a century. “I request you pause and consider before you go ahead on this reckless path,” testified Michel Lee, chairman of the New York-based Council on Energy & Conservation Policy. “Our position and that of our constituents is a resounding no,” declared Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Oversight Project at the national organization Beyond Nuclear.

“It’s time to stop this whole nuke con job,” said Erica Grey, nuclear issues chair of the Virginia Sierra Club. There is “no solution” to dealing with nuclear waste, she said. It is “unethical to continue to make the most toxic waste known to mankind.” And, “renewable energy” with solar and wind “can power the world.” Jan Boudart, a board member of the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service, spoke, too, of the lack of consideration of nuclear waste. Cited was the higher likelihood of accidents with plants permitted to run for 100 years. Whether the NRC—often called the Nuclear Rubberstamp Commission—listens is highly unlikely considering its record of rubberstamping whatever has been sought by other nuclear promoters in government and the nuclear industry.

Nuclear power plants when they began being built were not seen as running for more than 40 years because of radioactivity embrittling metal parts and otherwise causing safety problems. So operating licenses were limited to 40 years. But with the major decline of nuclear power—the U.S. is down to 94 plants from a high of 129 and only two are now under construction—the nuclear promoters in the U.S. government and nuclear industry are pushing to let nuclear power plants run for 100 years to somehow keep nuclear power going.

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 102020
 
 January 10, 2020  Posted by at 10:23 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  15 Responses »


Jack Delano Main street intersection, Norwich, Connecticut 1940

 

Iran Invites US To Join Probe Of Ukrainian Jet Disaster (R.)
Missile System Suspected Of Bringing Down Airliner – Short Range, Fast And Deadly (R.)
Trump’s Iran De-Escalation Succeeds (Flores)
Tulsi Gabbard: ‘Iran Is Closer Now To A Nuclear Weapon Than Ever Before’ (NW)
Iran Could Have Nuclear Weapon Within One To Two Years: French Minister (R.)
Matt Gaetz Voted With Democrats On War Powers Resolution (SAC)
Democrats To Press For Impeachment Witnesses Throughout Trial (R.)
The Justice Department Is Devoid of Justice (PCR)
Internal Boeing Messages Raise Serious Questions About 737 MAX (R.)
Boeing Emails Show Workers Mocking FAA, Ridiculing 737 MAX Safety (MW)
White House Unveils Plan To Speed Big Projects Permits (R.)
China To Become First To Realize UN Goal Of ‘No Poverty’ (CD)

 

 

There are still far too many people out there with opinions derived from confirmation bias. Please stop it, open your minds. Whether it’s Soleimani or this downed jet, it’s fine if you need some time to figure things out. WWIII? Attacking Iran? These things would cost Trump the presidency. And he knows it.

Meanwhile, why are the US and Canada falling over themselves to declare the shooting down of the 737-800NG (if that’s even what happened) “unintentional” and “accidental”? That brings back memories of MH17. Where the opposite happened.

And why did Iran go from refusing to hand over black boxes, to inviting the US and others in, within 24 hours? Detente?

 

Iran Invites US To Join Probe Of Ukrainian Jet Disaster (R.)

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has accepted an invitation from Iran to take part in its investigation into the crash of a Ukrainian airplane in Tehran, the agency confirmed late on Thursday. The NTSB said in a statement its Response Operations Center had received formal notification from Iran of Wednesday’s crash of the Boeing 737-800 that killed all 176 on board. “The NTSB has designated an accredited representative to the investigation of the crash,” the agency said. The NTSB confirmed it would take part in the probe after an Iranian official told Reuters of the agreement. “The NTSB has replied to our chief investigator and has announced an accredited representative,” Farhad Parvaresh, Iran’s representative at the International Civil Aviation Organization, part of the United Nations, told Reuters.

A person briefed on the matter said it was unclear what if anything its representative would be able to do under U.S. sanctions. NTSB said in its statement it “continues to monitor the situation surrounding the crash and evaluate its level of participation in the investigation.” The United States is allowed to take part under global rules since the Boeing 737-800NG jet was designed and built there. Canada, which had dozens of passengers onboard, has also assigned an expert, while a team from Ukraine held discussions in Tehran on Thursday, Parvaresh said in a telephone interview. Iran is ready to provide consular facilities and visas for accredited investigators, he added.

Sweden and Afghanistan, which had some passengers on board, have also been notified. France may also be involved as it was one of the countries where the engines were made, Parvaresh said. He denied U.S. and Canadian claims that the jet had been shot down accidentally and said Iran was committed to a full and transparent investigation for the accident, adding it was too early to speculate on the cause. “As Iranians we feel this tragedy and disaster for us and for the families,” Parvaresh said, expressing condolences to the relatives of the people who died. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier the jet was probably brought down by an accidental Iranian missile strike, citing intelligence from Canadian and other sources.

The U.S. government believes Iran shot down the plane by mistake, three U.S. officials told Reuters. The Ukraine International Airlines flight to Kiev from Tehran crashed hours after Iran fired ballistic missiles at two U.S. military bases in Iraq. Parvaresh said expert testimony indicated that the aircraft could not have been hit by a missile and that it was important to keep the crash investigation non-political. “I think we should keep this purely technical and not confuse it with political tensions in the region. We should leave it to experts to investigate and make their report.”

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And Russian.

Missile System Suspected Of Bringing Down Airliner – Short Range, Fast And Deadly (R.)

Canada said on Thursday that a surface-to-air missile brought down a Ukrainian airliner in Tehran, while the Ukrainian government said it was investigating reports of debris from a Russian-made Tor-M1 missile. The Tor, also called the SA-15 Gauntlet by NATO, is a short-range “point defense” system that integrates the missile launcher and radar into a single tracked vehicle. It is designed to be mobile and lethal against targets at altitudes up to 6,000 meters (20,000 feet) and at ranges of 12 km (7.5 miles), according to the Federation of American Scientists, which researches and analyses “catastrophic threats to national and international security”.

Military aircraft and cruise missiles – which the Tor system is designed to destroy – typically plot their courses to avoid being spotted on radar. They are equipped with systems such as chaff, which confuses radar, and flares, which act as decoys for heat-seeking missiles. The jet that crashed on Wednesday, Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, a Boeing 737-800, would have filed a flight plan and had no defensive features. It was unlikely the flight crew had time to react to any missile, said Michael Duitsman, a research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. “They probably wouldn’t have even seen it coming,” Duitsman said. “Right after takeoff, the pilots were probably preoccupied with other things.”

To attack a target, the Tor operator must identify it on the radar screen and direct the missile to launch. There were several other civilian aircraft nearby when Flight 752 crashed just a few kilometers from the airport. All of those aircraft would have been visible on the radar screen of the Tor battery as well as civilian radar at the airport. [..] Tor missiles are guided by radar and fly at almost three times the speed of sound. That means that if launched at a target 5 km (3 miles) away, they will arrive within about five seconds. They have a small warhead – about 15 kg (33 lb) of high explosive – but are designed to spray fragments of shredded metal, like bullets, into a target upon detonation.

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Most intriguing piece of the day. Do read it from A to Z. Was Trump tricked into killing Soleimani? Just so anti-war voters would move away from him?

Trump’s Iran De-Escalation Succeeds (Flores)

Impeachment against Trump has now been used several times to push him to act aggressively in the middle-east, contrary to his policy and self-interest. On all the ‘impeachment threat – then strike’ occasions, Trump ordered strikes on predictable targets – targets so predictable and oddly executed, that Syrian and Iranian forces barely felt them. There appears to be at the very least an ‘unspoken communication’ at play, where strikes are made to assuage political needs but not to inflict serious damage. If Trump really wanted an excuse to strike Iran, he’s had it before.

There was precisely such an opportunity when subversives in government hatched a plan to push Trump into a war with Iran, when two planes were sent to violate Iranian airspace – one manned, the other unmanned – flying in close proximity. This created the chance that Iran’s downing of either plane could be used as a pretext for a major war-creating strike on Iran.

Despite Trump’s acting reasonably, government actors and media attempted to create a sensation where Trump was ridiculed for ‘calling off’ a planned retaliation in the aftermath of the downed drone. The same liberal media and Democratic Party establishment that attacked Trump’s de-escalation then from a hawkish perspective, today manifest as doves who suddenly oppose Trump’s reckless hawkishness. Here, in the aftermath of the drone incident, a Trump policy was formulated – and it’s a policy that figures prominently in de-escalation in the aftermath of the assassination of Soleimani and Iran’s measured response. The policy is this – if Iran kills Americans, then the U.S escalates. If the U.S does something provocative, then Iran is actually allowed to respond militarily, so long as American personnel are not killed.

[..] A war with Iran would push the anti-war sentiments of independent voters away from Trump, and towards a more revitalized and mobilized Democrat Party anti-war base. Trump needs an anti-war base to be re-elected, and war with Iran pushes that base towards nearly any Democrat candidate. At the same time, Trump also needs the continued support from America’s Christian Zionist evangelical ‘Israel Firsters’, as well as the infamous AIPAC, not only to be re-elected, but to maintain the support in the senate against impeachment. That conflict between Trump’s two greatest populist strengths – between Trump’s anti-war base and his Christian Zionist base – largely defines his weakest political spot. That’s why it’s the best place to attack him.

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Easy, Tulsi!

Scott Ritter on Twitter: “I’m a huge @TulsiGabbard fan, but she is treading on dangerous ground. The implication here is that Iran has nuclear weapons ambition. If you buy into this fallacy, you empower those who will use this as a justification for war.”

Tulsi Gabbard: ‘Iran Is Closer Now To A Nuclear Weapon Than Ever Before’ (NW)

Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard blasted President Donald Trump’s actions toward Iran, claiming that his decisions has brought the Persian Gulf nation closer “than ever before” to obtaining a nuclear weapon. “Trump’s war with Iran is undermining our national security and putting all Americans in greater danger,” Gabbard, a Hawaii congresswoman and Iraq War veteran, warned in a Thursday tweet, sharing a clip of herself discussing recent tensions with Iran on CNN. “Iran is closer now to a nuclear weapon than ever before. And it’s opening the door to resurgence of ISIS/Al-Qaeda,” she claimed.

Iran is believed to be closer today to possessing a nuclear weapon than it has been under the restrictions of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump withdrew from in May 2018. Still, it appears to be an exaggeration to say the country is closer than “ever before” to obtaining such a weapon. The JCPOA successfully reduced Iran’s uranium enrichment program, with U.S. intelligence leaders saying last year it would take the Islamic Republic at “about one year” to create a nuclear weapon. Before that agreement, Iran was believed to be within two to three months of creating highly enriched uranium that could be used in a weapon, according to a July 2018 report by the Congressional Research Service.

[..] Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based security think tank, told CBS News that Iran could now develop a nuclear weapon within six months. She noted, however, that Iran has still expressed support for the JCPOA but plans to no longer abide by its obligations under the deal. Iran “is still allowing the verification by [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspectors,” she told CBS.

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Sometimes you might just get the idea that NATO wants nothing more than for Iran to develop nukes.

Iran Could Have Nuclear Weapon Within One To Two Years: French Minister (R.)

Iran could have nuclear weapons in one to two years if the country carries on violating the 2015 nuclear accord, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday. “If they continue with unravelling the Vienna agreement, then yes, within a fairly short period of time, between one and two years, they could have access to a nuclear weapon, which is not an option”, Le Drian said on RTL radio. EU foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Friday to seek ways to guide the United States and Iran away from confrontation, knowing that a miscalculation on either side could leave the bloc facing a war and a serious nuclear proliferation crisis on its doorstep.

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It’s toothless anyway.

Matt Gaetz Voted With Democrats On War Powers Resolution (SAC)

“I spoke to the president today,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, (R-FL) said on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” “The president told me he is more antiwar than I am, and I love the president for that. The thing is, I think a few of the advisers of the president are trying to slow-walk the administration into war. When the president relies on his instincts and we have the Trump doctrine, we kill the terrorist and we come home.” “I think this War Powers Resolution was worthy of support because it did not criticize the president,” Gaetz said. “It did not say he was wrong in killing [Quds Force Gen.] Soleimani. But…it did say that if any president wants to drag our nation into another forever Middle East war that they require the approval of the United States Congress.”


“That’s something I deeply believe. And I think it’s something the president deeply believes,” Gaetz explained. Tucker Carlson questioned Gaetz’s claim that his vote had Trump’s support. “Just to be totally clear,” Tucker Carlson asked, “you are one of three Republicans who voted, in effect, against the president’s stated position but you just talked to the president and he said that he is on your side?” “Well, the president probably would have preferred that I vote with the other Republicans,” Gaetz responded. “He [Trump] certainly said that. I think on these broader questions of war and peace, Donald Trump understands that the pro-war candidate loses presidential elections … it’s typically the anti-war candidates that win.”

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Inviting Biden and Schiff onto the stage.

Democrats To Press For Impeachment Witnesses Throughout Trial (R.)

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he will press Republicans to accept four witnesses, including John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, even if the Senate rejects testimony at the start of the trial to determine whether Trump should be convicted of abusing his power and obstructing Congress over Ukraine. “Those votes at the beginning of the trial will not be the last votes on witnesses and documents. Make no mistake, we will continue to revisit the issue,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. Schumer, who needs only four of the 100-seat Senate’s 53 Republicans to join Democrats on the witness question, could succeed by pressuring vulnerable Republicans such as Senator Susan Collins and Senator Cory Gardner, who face re-election challenges in swing states in November.


Without witnesses, Democrats fear Senate Republicans could move quickly to dismiss the charges against Trump. But securing witnesses could also open a Pandora’s box for Democrats. Trump has said he would like to hear from former Vice President Joe Biden, his businessman son Hunter Biden, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint launched the impeachment inquiry. Trump also has said he might try to block Bolton from testifying. “When we start allowing national security advisers to just go up and say whatever they want to say… We can’t do that,” he told reporters at the White House.

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“This is how corrupt American law has become. A man is being put in prison for 6 months for not cooperating with an investigation of an event that did not happen!”

The Justice Department Is Devoid of Justice (PCR)

In the United States the criminal justice (sic) system is itself not subject to law. We see immunity to law continually as police commit felonies against citizens and even murder children and walk away free. We see it all the time when prosecutors conduct political prosecutions and when they prosecute the innocent in order to build their conviction record. We see it when judges fail to prevent prosecutors from withholding exculpatory evidence and bribing witnesses and when judges accept coerced plea deals that deprive the defendant of a jury trial.

We just saw it again when federal prosecutors recommended a six month prison sentence for Lt. Gen. Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency accused of lying to the FBI about nothing of any importance, for being uncooperative in the Justice (sic) Department’s effort to frame President Trump with false “Russiagate” charges. The Justice (sic) Department prosecutor said: “The sentence should adequately deter the defendant from violating the law, and to promote respect for the law. It is clear that the defendant has not learned his lesson. He has behaved as though the law does not apply to him, and as if there are no consequences for his actions.”

That is precisely what the Justice (sic) Department itself did for years in their orchestration of the fake Russiagate charges against Trump. The prosecutor’s hypocrisy is overwhelming. The Justice (sic) Department is a criminal organization. It has no sense of justice. Convicting the innocent builds the conviction rate of the prosecutor as effectively as convicting the guilty. The Horowitz report of the Justice (sic) Department’s lies to the FISA court did not recommend a six-month prision sentence for those Justice (sic) Deplartment officials who lied to the government. Horowitz covered up the crimes by converting them into “mistakes.” Yes, they are embarrassing “mistakes,” but mistakes don’t bring prison sentences.

Now that we know the only Russiagate scandal was its orchestration by the CIA, Justice (sic) Department, and Democrats, failing to cooperate with the special counsel investigation of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election is nonsensical as we know for a definite fact that there was no such interference. [..] This is how corrupt American law has become. A man is being put in prison for 6 months for not cooperating with an investigation of an event that did not happen! If Trump doesn’t pardon Flynn (and Manafort and Stone), and fire the corrupt prosecutors who falsely prosecuted Flynn, Trump deserves no one’s support. A president who will not defend his own people from unwarranted prosecution is not worthy of support.

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Clowns and monkeys. Are these people still working at Boeing?

Internal Boeing Messages Raise Serious Questions About 737 MAX (R.)

Boeing on Thursday released hundreds of internal messages that raise serious questions about its development of simulators and the 737 Max that was grounded in March after two fatal crashes, prompting outrage from US lawmakers. In an April 2017 exchange of instant messages, two employees expressed complaints about the Max following references to issues with the plane’s flight management computer. “This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys,” one unnamed employee wrote. In one message, dated November 2015, which appears to shed light on lobbying methods used when facing demands from regulators, a Boeing employee notes regulators were likely to want simulator training for a particular type of cockpit alert.

“We are going to push back very hard on this and will likely need support at the highest levels when it comes time for the final negotiation,” the employee writes. The planemaker said some communications “raise questions” about Boeing’s interactions with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in connection with the simulator qualification process. In releasing redacted versions of what it called “completely unacceptable” communications, Boeing said it was committed to transparency with the regulator. Unredacted versions of the messages were turned over to the FAA and Congress in December.

Peter DeFazio, the House transportation committee chairman, who has been investigating the Max, said the messages “paint a deeply disturbing picture of the lengths Boeing was apparently willing to go to in order to evade scrutiny from regulators, flight crews, and the flying public, even as its own employees were sounding alarms internally”. He added: “they show a coordinated effort dating back to the earliest days of the 737 Max program to conceal critical information from regulators and the public”.

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“Would you put your family on a Max simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn’t.”

Boeing Emails Show Workers Mocking FAA, Ridiculing 737 MAX Safety (MW)

Newly released internal emails from Boeing Co. paint a disturbing picture of its 737 Max program, with employees bragging about fooling FAA regulators and ridiculing its safety. The emails were part of more than 100 pages of documents sent Thursday by Boeing to House and Senate committees that have been investigating the aircraft maker in the wake of two crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed a combined 346 people. The 737 Max family has been grounded for nearly a year, with no return date yet. “This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys,” read one email.


Some messages detail problems with the development of Boeing’s 737 Max simulator and suggest the planes got FAA approval under false pretences. “I still haven’t been forgiven by God for the covering up I did last year,” one of the employees says in a 2018 email, apparently referring to interactions with the Federal Aviation Administration. “Would you put your family on a Max simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn’t,” one employee emailed a colleague. “No,” the co-worker responded. “These newly-released emails are incredibly damning,” Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said in a statement Thursday night. “They paint a deeply disturbing picture of the lengths Boeing was apparently willing to go to in order to evade scrutiny from regulators, flight crews, and the flying public.”

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They’ll be buried in ever more lawsuits, and many courts will choose the other side. It’s simply too late, and opinion on fossil fuels etc. is against deregulation.

White House Unveils Plan To Speed Big Projects Permits (R.)

The Trump administration on Thursday unveiled a plan to speed permitting for major infrastructure projects like oil pipelines, road expansions and bridges, one of the biggest deregulatory actions of the president’s tenure. The plan, released by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), would help the administration advance big energy and infrastructure projects like the Keystone XL oil pipeline or roads, bridges and federal buildings that President Donald Trump and industry groups complained have been hampered by red tape. “For the first time in over 40 years today we are issuing a new rule under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to completely overhaul the dysfunctional bureaucratic system that has created these massive obstructions,” Trump said at the White House on Thursday.

The proposal to update the how NEPA, the 50-year bedrock federal environmental law, is implemented is part of Trump’s broader effort to cut regulations and oversight to boost industry. “This proposal affects virtually every significant decision made by the federal government that affects the environment,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said, adding that the NEPA reform would be the “most significant deregulatory proposal” of the Trump administration. The proposed rule says federal agencies would not need to factor in the “cumulative impacts” of a project, which could include its impact on climate change, making it easier for major fossil fuel projects to sail through the approval process and avoid legal challenges.

[..] Trump’s efforts to cut regulatory red tape have been praised by industry. But they have so far largely backfired by triggering waves of lawsuits that the administration has lost in court, according to a running tally here by the New York University School of Law’s Institute for Policy Integrity. Over the last few years, federal courts have ruled that NEPA requires the federal government to consider a project’s carbon footprint in decisions related to leasing public lands for drilling or building pipelines.

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The author is a senior fellow at the think tank Center for China and Globalization. That explains a lot. But yes, China achieved a lot re: poverty. Question is: at what price?

China To Become First To Realize UN Goal Of ‘No Poverty’ (CD)

China is poised to realize a dream that a few decades ago most experts would have dismissed as wishful thinking. For centuries, China dreamed of building a “moderately prosperous society” in all respects. And this year, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, China will realize that dream despite having a population of more than 1.3 billion. Late leader Deng Xiaoping resurrected this ancient but never-realized goal when reform and opening-up were launched. Chinese leaders who followed adopted it, adding additional details. President Xi Jinping included it in his seminal “four-pronged comprehensive strategy” in 2014. Xi explained the notion in great detail at the 19th National Congress of the CPC in October 2017 in a speech titled, “Secure a Decisive Victory in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects”, mentioning the concept 18 times.

He said that building a moderately prosperous society in all respects meant promoting social fairness and justice, as well as ensuring steady access to childcare, education, employment, medical service, elderly care, housing and social assistance. He pledged to “intensify poverty alleviation, see that all our people have a greater sense of fulfillment as they contribute to and gain from development, and continue to promote well-rounded human development and common prosperity for everyone.” Now, a little more than two years later, the results are in, and China is about to eradicate absolute poverty. In 1979, China’s per capita GDP was $200. It is now estimated to be $10,000, a 50-fold increase – with GDP growth averaging just shy of 10 percent a year.

Over the past four decades, China has lifted about 800 million people out of poverty, which is 70 percent of the global total. Little wonder China is set to become the first developing country to achieve the first of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals: No poverty. China’s rural population living under the currently defined poverty line of $1.90 per person per day fell from 770 million in 1978 to 16.6 million in 2018, and the rural poverty level declined from 97.5 percent to 1.7 percent, a decrease of 95.8 percent. In 2019 alone, about 340 impoverished counties and 10 million people were lifted out of poverty. And Xi has pledged that after the eradication of absolutely poverty in 2020, China will launch a campaign to eliminate relative poverty.

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In the same way that you ARE the climate. Or the war.

 

 

 

Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Jan 072020
 


Jack Delano Worker inspecting locomotive, Proviso Yard 1942

 

China Pledges ‘Prudence’ In Diversifying Foreign Exchange Reserves (SCMP)
Experts Urge Fed To Consider Radical Approaches To Fight Next Recession (MW)
Iran ‘Not Interested’ In Having Nukes – UN Envoy (RT)
McConnell Urges Lawmakers To Wait For Facts On Soleimani Killing (R.)
McConnell Has The Votes To Block Democrats’ Impeachment Witness Demands (Hill)
A Very Real Scenario Of A Protracted, Bizarro World Democratic Primary (Pol.)
China Must Cancel New Coal Plants To Achieve Climate Goals (R.)
American Airlines Reaches Secret Settlement With Boeing Over 737 MAX (R.)
Chelsea Clinton Reaps $9 Million From Corporate Board Position (Hill)
Australia To Kill Thousands Of Camels As They Drink Too Much Water (Hill)
Australian Owners Say Cultural Burning Saved Their Property (Age)
New Neural Activity Suggests Our Brains Even More Powerful Than We Think (RT)

 

 

Read between the lines. China suffers from capital flight. It can’t keep the dollars at home. But sure, it’s tempting to call this diversifying.

China Pledges ‘Prudence’ In Diversifying Foreign Exchange Reserves (SCMP)

China will “steadily and prudently” diversify its US$3.1 trillion foreign exchange reserve holdings, the government agency managing the assets pledged in its 2020 work plan, suggesting a subtle policy change in the way Beijing uses its hard currency holdings. The careful approach would “promote the diversified use … and ensure the safety, flow, and preservation and appreciation of foreign exchange reserve assets,” China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) said in a statement published on Sunday, which summarised the results of its annual work conference last week. It is the first time that SAFE, headed by Pan Gongsheng, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, has called for “prudence” in diversifying China’s reserve assets in its annual work conference statement.

The regulator also vowed to improve its management of reserves “with Chinese characteristics”, although it did not explain what that meant. SAFE added it would prevent risks caused by external shocks endangering “national economic and financial security” in 2020. China’s diversification strategy for its foreign exchange reserves – which generally indicates a reduction in holdings of US government bonds for other riskier assets – has gained speed in the past decade after the creation of a separate sovereign wealth fund in 2007. SAFE has created a special office of lending dollars to institutions like the China Development Bank to finance overseas projects and launched a number of overseas offices for investment.

In its 2018 annual report, SAFE revealed for the first time the share of US dollar denominated assets in its reserves portfolio for the period 2005 to 2014. Dollar assets accounted for 58 per cent of China’s total reserves by 2014 – the most recent data provided – down from 79 per cent in 2005, the report showed. By international standards, the share of US dollar assets in China’s reserves in 2014 was below average. The latest data from the International Monetary Fund showed that 61.8 per cent of the world’s reserves assets were denominated in US dollars at the end of the third quarter last year.

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Ha ha! Larry Summers as the expert.

Experts Urge Fed To Consider Radical Approaches To Fight Next Recession (MW)

Two monetary-policy experts, contradicting former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, said they wanted the central bank to consider new “radical” approaches to fight the next recession, out of a concern that existing tools might not be as effective as they were in the last crisis. In a Sunday morning panel at the American Economic Association annual meeting, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said the Fed’s QE program, in which the central bank would buy government bonds to bring down long-term rates, might not pack so much punch because the 10-year Treasury note is already close to 1%. “I’m less optimistic about the incremental efficacy of QE,” Summers said.

“I don’t think pushing 10-year rates down from 100 basis points to 50 basis points or 20 basis points has [a] significant incremental effect.” In a speech to the AEA on Saturday night, former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke said he thought the Fed had to the tools, including QE, to successfully combat a severe downturn. Bernanke said he thought QE, and verbal guidance from the Fed, would be equivalent to a 300-basis-point easing of the central bank’s benchmark federal funds rate. Adam Posen, a former policy maker at the Bank of England, urged the Fed to consider “radical” approaches, including a new tool called “yield-curve control” to fight the next downturn.

The Bank of Japan has already been using yield-curve control since 2016 to fight deflation. “The BOJ has gotten it right. Yield-curve control is a success story,” Posen said. Under this policy, last used in the U.S. during World War II, the Fed would announce it intended to peg the 10-year Treasury rate at a specific low rate. Low rates would help spur activity. And with the Fed guaranteeing low rates, Congress could boost government spending. “It enables fiscal policy, it doesn’t judge it,” Posen said. It was used during World War II precisely because the government needed to boost fiscal spending.

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A consistent point of view. The west makes sure nobody here believes it, but Iran has said the same thing for many years. It’s a religious issue. And just because we warp Christian values to allow for the inclusion of nukes, doesn’t mean they should do the same with the Islam.

Iran ‘Not Interested’ In Having Nukes – UN Envoy (RT)

Prohibited by the supreme leader’s decree, nuclear weapons are inconsistent with Iran’s defensive doctrine, the country’s UN envoy said after Tehran announced the suspension of limits under the 2015 deal. Iran’s decision to lift restrictions on uranium enrichment – after a US drone strike killed General Qassem Soleimani near Baghdad International Airport – made headlines in Western media, with some speculating that the Islamic Republic could be seeking nuclear weapons. However, Iran’s ambassador to the UN, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, reassured the public that this is not the case – even though the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is now in jeopardy.


There is “no place for nuclear weapons in Iran’s defensive doctrine,” he told PBS Newshour, adding that the country is also abiding by the Non-Proliferation Treaty – a 1968 pact that aims for nuclear disarmament and sets standards for arms control. We are not interested in having a nuclear weapon, because we have a very clear, clear-cut religious edict by our supreme leader prohibiting nuclear weapons. Tehran has meticulously followed the provisions of the nuclear deal even, though it has received “almost nothing in return,” Takht-Ravanchi said. And while the European parties to the JCPOA (from which Tehran expected to receive benefits) “didn’t act in accordance with the deal,” Iran has chosen not to abandon it completely. “If Iran is given the benefits of the deal, we will go back to the full implementation of it,” the ambassador stated.

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That’s not how social media work these days, Mitch. Everyone needs to form an opinion within seconds.

McConnell Urges Lawmakers To Wait For Facts On Soleimani Killing (R.)

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Monday U.S. lawmakers should wait for the facts before criticizing President Donald Trump’s decision to kill top Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad last week. “We can and we should learn more about the intelligence and thinking that led to this operation and the plan to defend American personnel and interests in the wake of it,” McConnell said at the U.S. Capitol after lawmakers returned from winter break. “Unfortunately, in this toxic political environment, some of our colleagues rushed to blame our own government before even knowing the facts. Rushed to split hairs about intelligence before being briefed on it.”

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So that’s that?!

McConnell Has The Votes To Block Democrats’ Impeachment Witness Demands (Hill)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has the votes to quash Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer’s (N.Y.) demands to require additional witnesses testify at the start of President Trump’s impeachment trial. Two key moderate senators, Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), on Monday evening backed McConnell’s position that the Senate should follow the precedent of the 1999 Clinton impeachment trial and defer until later in the process the question of calling additional witnesses. Collins told reporters at Monday evening votes that the Senate should follow the 1999 precedent and consider the question of subpoenaing additional witnesses and documents only after House impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team present their opening arguments.


She noted in a statement Monday that then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) adopted a resolution in 1999 to set out the rules for the proceeding that didn’t include any agreement for specific witnesses to testify. “The process moved to a period during which the Senate debated and voted that three witnesses should be deposed. I believe that this process — the Clinton approach — worked well,” she said. Murkowski also urged colleagues to follow the path laid out during the Clinton trial. “I think we need to do what they did the last time they did this unfortunate process and that was to go through a first phase and then they reassessed after that,” she told reporters.

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A whole new game. Maybe Bloomberg still has a shot. But really, the time between Super Tuesday and the elections should be used to form a united front. Not going to happen. Trump is the only thing that keeps the Dems together.

A Very Real Scenario Of A Protracted, Bizarro World Democratic Primary (Pol.)

Democrats are now beginning to confront a very real scenario where the nomination — and the winnowing — will not be decided in states where campaigns have been plowing ground for more than a year, but in places and calendar dates so deep into primary season that until recently they’ve received almost no attention at all. The Iowa field is bunched together with little daylight between a handful of well-funded candidates. Each of the four early voting states continues to present the prospect of a different winner. And, at the end of that gauntlet on Super Tuesday, a free-spending billionaire — Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor — is waiting to challenge whichever candidate or candidates emerge.

It’s a unique set of circumstances that has the campaigns — and party officials — scrambling to make sense of the reconfigured landscape. Looking at the possibility of a still-contested nomination even after Super Tuesday’s massive delegate allocation on March 3, Washington state Democratic Party chair Tina Podlodowski said mid-March will “probably matter more than ever before.” One strategist working with a presidential candidate said, “We’ve never had a situation where we get past Super Tuesday and there’s still five people in the field,” predicting that possibility this year. “We’re in bizarro world here,” the strategist said.

[..] “Super Tuesday is typically a wild scramble, and anybody who’s still surviving is usually limping a little bit in terms of money. They’re spread thin in terms of where to go,” said Doug Herman, a Democratic strategist. “Campaigns can’t pay to have simultaneous overhead in all of the early states and all of the next round of states with quality people. So they put all of their best people in early states and then cut and paste them into the next states.” For later states, said Matt Bennett, a veteran of the 2004 presidential campaign and a co-founder of the center-left group Third Way, “The strategy is wait and pray. There is no other strategy … I just think you basically ignore it, and then they’ll frantically run around in those states for a week.”

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Look at per capita emissions. In the end that’s all that counts. Now imagine Europe, China and the US at the same levels as India. That’s our future.

China Must Cancel New Coal Plants To Achieve Climate Goals (R.)

China must end the construction of all new coal-fired power plants in order to meet long-term climate goals in the most economically feasible manner, according to a study co-authored by a government-backed research institute. China’s energy strategy over the next decade is under close scrutiny as it aims to bring climate warming carbon emissions to a peak by 2030 and fulfill a pledge made as part of the 2015 Paris agreement. But with economic growth at its slowest pace in nearly 30 years, Beijing has continued to approve new coal-fired plants, raising fears the world’s biggest producer of greenhouse gas is backtracking on its commitments.

Beijing is capable of phasing out coal to help meet a global target to keep temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, but only if it embarks on a “structured and sustainable” closure strategy to minimize the economic impact, according to the study by Chinese government researchers and the University of Maryland Center for Global Sustainability published on Monday. The report, which evaluated more than 1,000 existing coal-fired power plants, said China must first end new construction and then rapidly close older and inefficient plants. As much as 112 gigawatts (GW) does not meet environmental standards and could be shut down immediately, it said.

China currently has over 1,000 GW of coal-fired power, accounting for about 60% of the country’s total installed generation capacity. “Well-designed policies can help lower the cost of coal-power deep decarbonization,” said Jiang Kejun, research professor with the Chinese government-backed Energy Research Institute, one of the report’s authors. [..] Beijing promised last year to show the “highest possible ambition” when drawing up new climate pledges for the coming decade, but it has built 42.9 GW of new coal-fired power capacity since the start of 2018, with another 121 GW under construction.

Read more …

We need a whistleblower.

American Airlines Reaches Secret Settlement With Boeing Over 737 MAX (R.)

American Airlines said on Monday it had reached a confidential agreement with Boeing to address damages the airline incurred in 2019 due to the ongoing grounding of its fleet of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. American, the largest U.S. airline, said the compensation will be received over several years. The airline will use more than $30 million of the compensation for the airline’s 2019 employee profit-sharing program. American said it does not expect any material financial impact of the agreement to be realized in its fourth-quarter 2019 earnings and it will continue talks regarding compensation for damages related to the MAX grounding beyond 2019. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents American Airlines’ 28,000 flight attendants, said it welcomed the news about compensation, and was evaluating the details.

Read more …

Et tu, Hunter?

Chelsea Clinton Reaps $9 Million From Corporate Board Position (Hill)

Chelsea Clinton has reaped $9 million in compensation since 2011 for serving on the board of an internet investment company, according to Barron’s, the financial publication. Barron’s reported Sunday that Clinton has profited handsomely as a board member for IAC/InterActiveCorp, a media and internet investment company that has an ownership stake in 150 well-known brands, such as Vimeo, Tinder, Angie’s List and Home Advisor. Clinton, the only child of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has served on IAC’s board since 2011 and receives an annual $50,000 retainer and $250,000 worth of restricted IAC stock units, Barron’s reports.


She reported owning $8.95 million worth of IAC stock to the Securities and Exchange Commission at the end of December. Barron’s notes that IAC’s stock has risen 89 percent, 50 percent and 36 percent in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively, a far steeper rise than the broader stock market. Clinton’s public profile has proved a valuable commodity. She earned an annual salary of $600,000 working as a special correspondent for NBC News in 2013 and part of 2014. Clinton was named to the board of Expedia Group in March of 2017, a position that typically earned $250,000 in 2015, according to a report at the time by The Guardian. Both IAC and Expedia are controlled by Barry Diller, the business and television mogul, who is a friend of Hillary Clinton.

Read more …

It’s all their fault, of course.

Australia To Kill Thousands Of Camels As They Drink Too Much Water (Hill)

Officials will kill thousands of camels in Australia as they drink too much water amid the wildfires. Leaders in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in northwest Australia will send helicopters to kill up to 10,000 camels in a five-day campaign starting Wednesday, The Australian reported. The order to kill comes as a drought makes the camels more desperate for water, causing chaos in local communities. Marita Baker, an APY executive board member, told the newspaper that the camels were causing problems in her community of Kanypi. “We have been stuck in stinking hot and uncomfortable conditions, feeling unwell, because the camels are coming in and knocking down fences, getting in around the houses and trying to get to water through air conditioners,’’ she said.


The State Department for Environment and Water will send the helicopters up. The camels’ bodies will be burnt or buried if they are accessible, but in remote areas, their bodies will be left. The camels are also being removed due to concerns about greenhouse gas emissions, since camels emit one ton of carbon dioxide per year. The animal’s population also doubles every nine years if not regulated. The National Feral Camel Management Plan estimated about one million camels lived in three states and the Northern territory in 2010, according to the newspaper. One million camels is the equivalent of having 400,000 more cars on the roads, Tim Moore, chief executive of carbon farming specialists RegenCo, told the newspaper.

Read more …

Think the white Aussies will change their ways now?

Australian Owners Say Cultural Burning Saved Their Property (Age)

Aboriginal cultural fire practitioner Dennis Barber led a series of cultural burns on six hectares of bushland at Ngurrumpaa in 2015 and 2016 – the first burns in the area since a wildfire swept through in 1994. “There’s nothing more powerful than doing it and feeling like you’re doing the right thing, and seeing the results,” he said. Unlike hazard reduction burning, cultural burns are cooler and slower moving, usually no taller than knee height, leaving tree canopies untouched and allowing animals to take refuge from the flames. Small fires are lit with matches, instead of drip torches, and burn in a circular pattern. Mr Barber says the ancient practice is informed by thousands of years of traditional knowledge.

“It’s more than just putting the fire on the ground – it’s actually knowing the country, knowing what’s there … the soil types, the geology, the trees, the animals, the breeding times of animals, the flowering times of plants,” he said. The timing and frequency of burns depend on the environmental “system”. A former park ranger with 15 years’ professional firefighting experience, Mr Barber says he had a “light bulb moment” at a cultural burning workshop with Indigenous elders in far north Queensland in 2010. “Everything that I’d been doing as a professional firefighter, thinking that I was doing the right thing, was wrong, because I viewed fire in the landscape totally differently after that week,” he said.

“That’s where I got the bug to come back and actually spread that knowledge and see it happening in other parts of Australia.” The Wiradjuri man started Koori Country Firesticks in 2016 to promote cultural burning as an alternative to hazard reduction techniques in NSW. The organisation has culturally burnt around 50 hectares of land across the Hunter Valley and Sydney, mainly on private properties at the request of owners. But the 55-year-old has met plenty of resistance from governments, professional firefighters, national parks and even ecologists. “It’s been a little bit frustrating, but I’ve just decided I’m not going to let that stand in the way anymore,” he said.

Read more …

Wait. If our brains are indeed more powerful than we think, why are we not already thinking that?

New Neural Activity Suggests Our Brains Even More Powerful Than We Think (RT)

Scientists have discovered a new form of brain activity related to how cells process information. The incredible find suggests our brains might be even more powerful than previously thought, according to the team. The new research, conducted by German and Greek scientists and published in Science, centers on signals sent and received by the ends of neurons, known as ‘dendrites.’ The information passed by these parts of the brain is key to how the organ decides subsequent actions. Working with slices of human brain tissue, the team found unexpectedly complex electrical activity in the dendrites of human pyramidal neurons.


Modeling this activity then showed that single neurons were capable of solving computational problems which were thought to need a lot more brain power. “The dendrites are central to understanding the brain because they are at the core of what determines the computational power of single neurons,”said study co-author Matthew Larkum, a neuroscientist at Humboldt University of Berlin. “There was a ‘eureka’ moment when we saw the dendritic action potentials for the first time.” Little is currently known about how dendrites operate in other species, or if this kind of high-computational activity is uniquely human. However, it’s incredibly difficult to record dendrite activity in humans or animals while they’re alive, and Larkum says more research is needed to fill in these blanks.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Jul 292019
 


Pablo Picasso Massacre in Korea 1951

 

It’s been a long time since I wrote anything at all about nuclear energy. And even then I thought the whole discussion had been wrapped up and thrown away. But I guess it’s inevitable that as the climate change debate develops, there’d be parties seeking to revive the nukes ‘discussion’, because there’s so much potential profit in there. And then today I came upon this report, and a few interpretations of it, that set me off again, and brought back the whole Yucca Mountain issue to mind.

Please note that in all that follows, there is ONE very obvious notion to keep in mind: nuclear energy is a huge economic loss-maker, no matter how and where you look.

And that makes nukes, right from the get-go, completely unfit to replace anything fossil-fuel based, because coal and oil and gas are sources that do the opposite: they generate huge profits while nukes generate huge losses, i.e.: you can’t run your economy on nuclear. You can not run an economy on any energy source that generates economic losses. It does NOT get simpler than that. It’s the economics of energy, and for once economics are right (though not economists, name me one who understands this. Hi, Steve!).

Mind you, you can’t run our present complex economies and societies on renewables either, no more than you can run them on nuclear. Much simpler economies, sure, but then you will have to figure out how you’re going to pay for that. It’s hard to comprehend to which extent fossil fuels have shaped our world, but we have no choice but to try, because this is one thing you don’t want to get wrong.

The report comes from the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin), which studied 674 nuclear power plants built since 1951. Their own abstract says the following:

 

Nuclear Power Is Not an Option for the Climate-Friendly Energy Mix

The debate on effective climate protection is heating up in Germany and the rest of the world. Nuclear energy is being touted as “clean” energy. Given the circumstances, the present study analyzed the historical, current, and future costs and risks of nuclear energy. The findings show that nuclear energy can by no means be called “clean” due to radioactive emissions, which will endanger humans and the natural environment for over one million years. And it harbors the high risk of proliferation. An empirical survey of the 674 nuclear power plants that have ever been built showed that private economic motives never played a role.


Instead military interests have always been the driving force behind their construction. Even ignoring the expense of dismantling nuclear power plants and the long-term storage of nuclear waste, private economy-only investment in nuclear power plant would result in high losses— an average of five billion euros per nuclear power plant, as one financial simulation revealed. In countries such as China and Russia, where nuclear power plants are still being built, private investment does not play a role either. Nuclear power is too expensive and dangerous; therefore it should not be part of the climate-friendly energy mix of the future.

In other words, nuclear energy is already a huge economic loser even before decommissioning and waste storage are taken into consideration, and those last two costs are by far the largest. So much so that it even makes precious little sense to calculate nuke costs without including decommissioning and waste storage costs. But people do it, and they get paid for that….

A site called Renew Economy, which appears to be Australian, has this comment on the DIW report (they’re one of the few I found that had any comment at all):

 

Nuclear Energy Is Never Profitable

A new study of the economics of nuclear power has found that nuclear power has never been financially viable, finding that most plants have been built while heavily subsidised by governments, and often motivated by military purposes, and is not a good approach to tackling climate change. The study has come from DIW Berlin, a leading German economic think-tank, and found that the average 1,000MW nuclear power plant built since 1951 resulted in an average economic loss of 4.8 billion euros ($7.7 billion AUD). The report comes amid a hot debate over the future of nuclear power in both Germany and Australia.


The report published by the German Institute for Economic Research (known as DIW Berlin) reviewed the development of 674 nuclear power plants built since 1951, finding that none of the plants was built using ‘private capital under competitive conditions’. “The results showed that in all cases, an investment would generate significant financial losses. The (weighted) average net present value was around minus 4.8 billion euros,” the study says. “Even in the best case, the net present value was approximately minus 1.5 billion euros. The authors included conservative assumptions with high electricity prices, low capital costs, and specific investment. Considering all assumptions regarding the uncertain parameters, nuclear energy is never profitable.”

 


click to enlarge in new tab

 

The report authors are also pessimistic about the future of nuclear power, concluding that nuclear power will remain unprofitable into the foreseeable future. Unlike Australia, Germany has a history of nuclear power use, which as recently as 2010, supplied around a quarter of Germany’s electricity. The government led by Angela Merkel has committed to the complete phase-out of nuclear power by 2022. The report found that when nuclear power plants were built using private investment, that “large state subsidies” were used to make the projects viable, and that in most cases, nuclear power stations were built at a loss.


DIW Berlin calculated that for every 1,000 Megawatts of nuclear power capacity that has been built since 1951, there were average economic losses of between 1.5 to 8.9 billion Euros. “Nuclear power was never designed for commercial electricity generation; it was aimed at nuclear weapons. That is why nuclear electricity has been and will continue to be uneconomical. Further, nuclear energy is by no means ‘clean.’ Its radioactivity will endanger humans and the natural world for over one million years,” Christian von Hirschhausen, co-author of the study said.

 

 

The DIW Berlin report stressed that governments should not be seduced by claims that nuclear power was a solution to the climate crisis. “Nuclear energy for climate protection” is an old narrative that is as inaccurate today as it was in the 1970s. Describing nuclear energy as “clean” ignores the significant environmental risks and radioactive emissions it engenders along the process chain and beyond,” the report concluded.

Another site called Recharge Transition finds basically the same:

 

Nuclear Has Never Been Economic And Is Dangerous

Nuclear power is economically unviable, dangerous and should not be labelled as a clean form of energy, the renowned German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) said, pointing to research it has carried out on the profitability of investments in nuclear power plants. DIW Berlin is one of the leading economic think tanks in Germany. According to “numerous scientific studies,” none of the world’s more than 600 nuclear power stations have ever been economically viable, and the plants could only be operated for years due to government subsidies, the institute claims.


“That nuclear energy has never been economically competitive comes as no surprise as electricity production has always only be a by-product. Military and geo-strategical interests have always come first and this energy source has been massively subsidised,” the study’s author Christian von Hirschhausen said. “Now it is also certain that it won’t be profitable in the future either to invest in atomic energy – neither in new nuclear power plants, nor in the extension of existing ones. “If in addition you consider that nuclear power absolutely isn’t safe, the fairy tale of a climate friendly alternative to fossil energy sources completely collapses.”

And you know what’s “funny” is that as mentioned before, the report never even talks about decommissioning and storage. For me, this was a closed topic, got it, move on. But I looked it up anyway. I couldn’t remember the dates the judge had set. I knew he had thrown out the EPA’s 10,000 years for guaranteed storage safety.

10,000 years is already way beyond man’s powers to guarantee anything at all, it’s pure hubris. According to YuccaMountain.org, the latest a judge mentioned is at least 300,000 years. You know, half-life and all that. I didn’t remember if it was 100,000 or 1 million, and it makes no difference at all, man can make no claim of being capable of doing either, or even 10,000.

The Court’s Ruling

On July 9, 2004, the Court of Appeals ruled on Nevada’s Yucca Mountain Lawsuits. The judges dismissed almost all of the State’s claims except a key challenge against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Court ruled that the EPA’s 10,000-year safety standard on radiation containment at the site was arbitrary and inconsistent with the congressionally-mandated recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences. The Court also struck down the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s licensing standards insofar as they include a 10,000 year compliance limit.

The National Academy of Sciences said the radiation safety standard should be set at a higher limit, when the waste would be at its peak radiation levels – at least 300,000 years from the time the waste is sent to Yucca. The EPA was required by law to base its rule on NAS’ recommendation, but chose to set the standard at 10,000 years instead.

[..] State officials believe the ruling will significantly delay or even scrap the project. State Attorney General Brian Sandoval claimed a sound victory for Nevada, saying that the EPA would have to form a new rule with a tougher standard – a standard the Energy Department would not be able to meet due to Yucca Mountain’s inferior geology. This “is a fatal blow to the repository ,” Sandoval said. DOE itself has expressed doubts in the past about being able to meet a longer time limit. As quoted by the Court, former project director Lake Barrett wrote in 1999 that a safety standard significantly longer than 10,000 years would be “unworkable and probably unimplementable.”

Yeah, there are dozens of nuclear plants either under construction or in planning phases as we speak. We are told to see Chernobyl and Fukushima as unfortunate accidents, and there are plenty nuclear plants that never have accidents like those, but even then they are all of them gigantic economic loss-makers, and that’s before decommissioning and waste storage, which generate additional behemoth financial losses, and in the end are incapable of solving the problems they themselves generate. It’s all exclusively about profit, damn humans or other lifeforms, and damn the torpedoes.

And the little green Martians out there in space somewhere are watching us saying ”A potentially smart species. Too bad they’re doomed by their own ultimate hubris. But why would they volunteer to nuke their offspring?”

One more time: you can not run an economy on an energy source that generates economic losses. It is NOT an option. Our present economies have been made possible by fossil energy sources that gave us 10-100 times more energy than we put in to extract them. Those days are over. Please adjust your lifestyles accordingly.

 

 

 

 

Jun 282019
 
 June 28, 2019  Posted by at 9:41 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »


Salvador Dali Invisible Sleeping Woman, Horse, Lion 1930

 

56% Of Americans Are Lying Awake At Night Worrying About Money (MW)
America’s Monopoly Crisis Hits the Military (AC)
US Car Industry Is Killing Itself (WS)
Baoshang Bank Collapse Threatens China’s Economy (ABC.au)
Deutsche Bank Passes Fed Stress Test In Boost For Its US Operations (R.)
Paul Singer Warns A 40% Market Crash Is Coming (ZH)
US Gets No Commitment From NATO Allies For Help On Iran Threat (AP)
Boeing Hopes To Complete 737 MAX Software Fix In September (AP)
Large US Companies Are Getting Bigger While The Small Wither Away (MW)
CIA Finances Another Group of Fraudsters: the Venezuelan ‘Opposition’ (SCF)
Varoufakis: My Proposals Don’t Need Negotiation With Greece’s Creditors (A.)
The First Genetically Modified Animals Approved For US Consumption (AP)

 

 

Brought to you by the world’s richest country.

56% Of Americans Are Lying Awake At Night Worrying About Money (MW)

How are you sleeping lately? Some Americans are feeling uneasy. Consumer confidence fell to a two-year low in June, the Conference Board announced this week. It fell to 121.5 this month from a 131.3 in May. That’s the lowest level since September 2017. “The escalation in trade and tariff tensions earlier this month appears to have shaken consumers’ confidence,” Lynn Franco, senior director at the Conference Board, said in a statement. Continued uncertainty could “diminish” people’s confidence in the economic expansion, she added. Many people are living with wildly fluctuating income, a recent report from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System said.


“Volatile income and low savings can turn common experiences — such as waiting a few days for a bank deposit to be available — into a problem.” Despite unemployment hitting a 49-year low, plus low interest rates and inflation, people are feeling skittish. “A major trade war between the U.S. and China represents our greatest economic risk,” according to Lynn Reaser, chief economist of the Controller’s Council of Economic Advisors. All of these worries are taking their toll. 78% of adults are losing sleep over work, relationships, retirement and other worries, according to a study released Thursday by personal-finance site Bankrate.com. Over half (56%) of Americans are lying awake at night worrying about money.

Read more …

Can’t make anything anymore. And now there are plans to make Europe use US nukes…..

America’s Monopoly Crisis Hits the Military (AC)

Early this year, U.S. authorities filed criminal charges—including bank fraud, obstruction of justice, and theft of technology—against the largest maker of telecommunications equipment in the world, a Chinese giant named Huawei. Chinese dominance in telecom equipment has created a crisis among Western espionage agencies, who, fearful of Chinese spying, are attempting to prevent the spread of Huawei equipment worldwide, especially in the critical 5G next-generation mobile networking space. In response to the campaign to block the purchase of Huawei equipment, the company has engaged in a public relations offensive.

The company’s CEO, Ren Zhengfei, portrayed Western fears as an advertisement for its products, which are, he said, “so good that the U.S. government is scared.” There’s little question the Chinese government is interested in using equipment to spy. What is surprising is Zhengfei is right about the products. Huawei, a relatively new company in the telecom equipment space, has amassed top market share because its equipment—espionage vulnerabilities aside—is the best value on the market. In historical terms, this is a shocking turnaround. Americans invented the telephone business and until recently dominated production and research. But in the last 20 years, every single American producer of key telecommunication equipment sectors is gone.

Today, only two European makers—Ericsson and Nokia—are left to compete with Huawei and another Chinese competitor, ZTE. This story of lost American leadership and production is not unique. In fact, the destruction of America’s once vibrant military and commercial industrial capacity in many sectors has become the single biggest unacknowledged threat to our national security. Because of public policies focused on finance instead of production, the United States increasingly cannot produce or maintain vital systems upon which our economy, our military, and our allies rely. Huawei is just a particularly prominent example.

Read more …

Well, they can still make cars…

US Car Industry Is Killing Itself (WS)

The average age of passenger cars and trucks on the road in the US ticked up again in 2019, to another record of 11.8 years, IHS Markit reported today. When I entered the car business in 1985, the average age had just ticked up to 7.8 years, and the industry was fretting over it and thought the trend would have to reverse, and customers would soon come out of hiding and massively replace those old clunkers with new vehicles, and everyone would sell more and make more. But those industry hopes for a sustained reversal of the trend of the rising average age have been bitterly disappointed:

This rising average age is largely driven by vehicles lasting longer – an unintended consequence of relentless improvements in overall quality, forced upon automakers by finicky customers in an ultra-competitive market where automakers struggle to stay alive. To make it in the US, they have to constantly improve their products, and stragglers that can’t compete are left unceremoniously by the wayside. US consumers are brutal. This unintended consequence of rising overall quality contributes to the dreadful industry problem: The US, despite constant population growth, is a horribly mature auto market. In 1999, so 20 years ago, new vehicle sales reached a record of 16.9 million units.


This record was broken in 2000, with 17.3 million units. Then sales tapered off. By 2007, they’d dropped to 16.1 million units. Then the Financial Crisis hit, GM and Chrysler went bankrupt, Ford almost did, and peak-to-trough, sales plunged 40% to 10.4 million units by 2009. The recovery has been steep, and in 2015, finally the old record of the year 2000 was broken, but barely with 17.48 million units, and in 2016, the industry eked out another record of 17.55 million units. And that was it. Sales have fizzled since then. So far in 2019, the data indicates that sales are likely to fall below 17 million units, according to my own estimates, bringing the industry right back where it had been 20 years ago in 1999:

Read more …

Nothing a little QE won’t fix?!

Baoshang Bank Collapse Threatens China’s Economy (ABC.au)

Up until a few weeks ago the Baoshang Bank’s prospects seemed bright enough. According to Baoshing’s most recent regulatory filing, the smallish lender based in Inner-Mongolia, made a $600 million profit in 2017. It had assets of around $90 billion, non-performing loans were modest — under 2 per cent — and its capital buffers would fit comfortably with the global demands of a Tier1 bank. Then it collapsed. That set off a series of events rarely, if ever, seen in Chinese banking. Regulators seized Baoshang, the first action of its type since 1998. That may have shaken the foundations of Chinese banking, but of far greater significance was the collapse caused by China’s first recorded interbank default.

It is yet to be a “Lehman moment” — where the credit market freezes, banks stop lending to each other and the economy teeters above the abyss —but it has, as Societe Generale’s Wei Yao noted, “triggered severe liquidity tensions in the interbank market”. “The Baoshang incidence has challenged one fundamental belief of China’s financial system; interbank defaults are not possible thanks to 100 per cent implicit guarantees,” Ms Yao said. “Now that credit risks and counter-party risks have finally descended on this very core market in China’s financial system, all the key players in the system have to figure out how to price risks in the new paradigm, and quickly.”

Ms Yao said the understandable consequence was “a big and unpleasant wave of risk repricing”, with major banks shying away from doing business with smaller lenders. And that’s a worry, as small-to-medium sized banks combined have balance sheets as big as the big banks combined, but are far more dependent on interbank funding. The central bank (PBoC) immediately pumped around 600 billion yuan ($125 billion) into the system and halted a run on the banks by guaranteeing 100 per cent of all retail deposits.

Read more …

Not the Onion.

Deutsche Bank Passes Fed Stress Test In Boost For Its US Operations (R.)

Deutsche Bank’s shares rose as much as 4.8% on Friday after Germany’s biggest bank passed an annual health check by the U.S. Federal Reserve, in a boost to its Wall Street operations. But the Federal Reserve placed conditions on the U.S. operations of Credit Suisse, knocking its shares 1% lower after identifying weaknesses in its capital planning. The tests assess whether it is safe for banks to implement their capital plans, including using extra capital for stock buybacks, dividends and other purposes beyond providing a cushion against losses. They are designed to avoid a repeat of the taxpayer bailouts of the 2007-2009 financial crisis.


Deutsche Bank, whose U.S. business has been plagued by litigation, underperformance and regulatory investigations, topped the German bluechip index .GDAX in Frankfurt after its U.S. shares were up as much as 6% in after-the-bell trading on Thursday following the Fed’s news. The German bank maintained a large presence on Wall Street after the 2007-2009 financial crisis, while Credit Suisse made big cuts. But Deutsche’s efforts to compete with U.S. rivals have been hampered by litigation and regulatory investigations. Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Christian Sewing, who is battling to turn the bank around, said the Fed’s decision was “excellent news” in a memo to staff on its website. “Achieving success here was one of the key goals we set a year ago. It is a huge step forward for our business in the U.S. and globally. A strong operating platform in the Americas is essential to our clients,” he said.

Read more …

Lowballing.

Paul Singer Warns A 40% Market Crash Is Coming (ZH)

Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival, billionaire investor and Elliott Management founder, Paul Singer, warned that the global economy is heading toward a “significant market downturn” cautioning that “the global financial system is very much toward the risky end of the spectrum.” While Paul Singer’s traditionally downcast outlook is hardly surprising, as it permeates every investor letter published by the successful investor who has been particularly clear in the past decade that the Fed’s monetary experiment will end terribly, he sees two particular reasons why the economy is approaching a tipping point: “global debt is at an all-time high.

Derivatives are at an all-time high and it took all of this monetary easing to get to where we are today and I don’t think central bankers, or policymakers or academics are in any better shape to predict the next downturn and I think we are the high end of the risk spectrum.” He then ominously added that “I’m expecting the possibility of a significant market downturn.” How bad would the crash be? According to the Elliott Management CEO, there will be a market “correction” of 30% to 40% when the downturn hits, although unlike Goldman – which gave a timeline of 12 months in which the next major market will materialize, Singer said he couldn’t predict the timing.

In the panel discussion, Singer also said the market meltdown late last year after interest rates spiked in the 4th quarter was the first hint of a pending slump, as it indicated that the Federal Reserve and other central banks were now victims of their policies, something he has been warning about for years. “December supported the notion that they’re trapped,” he said. “What they should have done, and what they should do now, is try to restore the soundness of money. They should not be cutting rates right now. They should be calling on the congresses and parliaments around the developed world to take steps to deal with the economic slowdown in growth.”

Read more …

Europe likes Iran just the way it is.

US Gets No Commitment From NATO Allies For Help On Iran Threat (AP)

NATO allies gave the U.S. no firm commitments that they will participate in a global effort to secure international waterways against threats from Iran, acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Thursday, wrapping up his first alliance meeting. Esper said the U.S. will come back next month and provide reluctant allies more details on exactly how the Iranian threat has escalated in recent months, and how nations can work together to deter further aggression. “At the end of the day what our ask is here, near term, is to publicly condemn Iran’s bad behavior,” Esper said as he prepared to leave Brussels. “And in the meantime, in order to avoid a military escalation, help us maintain the freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz, in the Persian Gulf and wherever.”


Esper, who didn’t have high expectations for firm commitments coming in, got little of either, though he said that some allies privately expressed interest in hearing more. Esper’s visit to NATO, just days after he took over at the Pentagon, came amid sharply increased tensions between the U.S. and the Islamic Republic. The Trump administration has blamed Iran for recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, as well as bombings in Iraq. Iranian forces also shot down an American drone that it said had flown into its airspace, which the U.S. disputes. Earlier this week, as he headed to NATO, Esper said his goal was to persuade allies that the confrontation with Iran is a global challenge requiring an international response, and that it is “not Iran versus the United States.”

Read more …

“There are many families here who will not want to participate in mediation until they know what Boeing knew, when they knew it, what they did about it, and what they’re going to do about it..”

Boeing Hopes To Complete 737 MAX Software Fix In September (AP)

Boeing says it expects to finish work on updated flight-control software for the 737 Max in September, a sign that the troubled jet likely won’t be flying until late this year. The latest delay in fixing the Max came a day after the disclosure that government test pilots found a new technology flaw in the plane during a test on a flight simulator. The plane has been grounded since mid-March after two crashes that killed 346 people. Preliminary accident reports pointed to software that erroneously pointed the planes’ noses down and overpowered pilots’ efforts to regain control. A Boeing official said Thursday that the company expects to submit the software update to the Federal Aviation Administration for approval “in the September timeframe.”

Once Boeing submits its changes, the FAA is expected to take several weeks to analyze them, and airlines would need additional time to take their grounded Max jets out of storage and prepare them to fly again. Airlines were already lowering expectations for a quick return of the plane, which has been grounded since mid-March. Southwest Airlines, the biggest operator of Max jets, announced Thursday that it has taken the plane out of its schedule for another month, through Oct. 1. Earlier this week, United Airlines pulled the plane from its schedule through early September.

While Boeing engineers continue working on the plane’s software, company lawyers pushed Thursday to settle lawsuits brought by the families of dozens of passengers killed in the October crash of a Lion Air Max off the coast of Indonesia and the March crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Max near Addis Ababa. Boeing and the families of Lion Air Flight 610 victims agreed to mediation that could lead to early settlements. However, the families of some Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 passengers are resisting mediation. “There are many families here who will not want to participate in mediation until they know what Boeing knew, when they knew it, what they did about it, and what they’re going to do about it to prevent this kind of disaster from occurring again,” said Robert Clifford, a Chicago lawyer who filed lawsuits on behalf of nearly two dozen victims of the Ethiopian crash.

Read more …

Concentrate.

Large US Companies Are Getting Bigger While The Small Wither Away (MW)

FTSE Russell will rebalance its suite of indexes at the close of trade Friday, and the changes will reflect several broad trends in equity markets over the past year, including the resilience of large-capitalization companies, the dismal performance of smaller U.S. firms, and the emergence of new, highly valued technology companies that promise to, or already have, revolutionized their respective industries. “We reconstitute the Russell indexes annually to accurately reflect equity markets,” said Catherine Yoshimoto, director of product management at FTSE Russell, in an interview. “All the companies are ranked by total market capitalization and the break point between the [large cap] Russell 1000 and [small cap] Russell 2000 are reset.”


The dividing line between the large cap index and the small fell this year, from a capitalization of $3.7 billion to $3.6 billion, as a result of the poor performance of small cap companies, which shrunk in average market capitalization from $2.5 trillion to $2.4 trillion, as the small cap index fell 6.3% over the past 12 months, versus a 7.5% rise in price for larger companies. Steven DeSanctis, equity strategist at Jefferies told MarketWatch that today’s environment — with rising labor costs, material costs and new trade barriers — is especially difficult for small companies to navigate. He estimates that earnings for Russell 2000 companies fell 14.5% in the first quarter of this year on 3.4% of sales growth, while the second quarter will likely show small-cap earnings falling 11.5%, on 3.6% of revenue growth. “Small cap companies are getting squeezed at the margin,” he said. “A lot of companies have revenue growth but falling profits.”

Read more …

The story gets uglier by the day.

CIA Finances Another Group of Fraudsters: the Venezuelan ‘Opposition’ (SCF)

Once again, the Central Intelligence Agency has been caught financing a group of grifters and fraudsters at the expense of the American taxpayers. In the latest case, just another in the agency’s 72-year history, the Trump administration-appointed ad hoc board of CITGO, the US subsidiary of the state-owned Venezuelan oil company, PDVSA, stands accused of steering $70 million of escrowed funds, earmarked for PDVSA’s fiscal year 2020 bond, to the pockets of CIA-supported officials of the Venezuelan opposition “Popular Will” party headed by the so-called “interim president” of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó.

In addition to Guaidó, who is accused by the legitimate Venezuelan government of money laundering, treason, and corruption, other Popular Will leaders under investigation by both the Venezuelan Attorney General and the US Justice Department include Carlos Vecchio, Guaidó’s envoy in Washington; Rossana Barrera and Kevin Rojas, Guaidó’s emissaries in Cucuta, a Colombian-Venezuelan border town; Sergio Vargara, Barrera’s brother-in-law and a Member of the Venezuelan Congress; Guaidó’s “ambassador” to Colombia, Humberto Calderon Berti, opposition businessman Miguel Sabal; and Guaidó’s chief of staff, Roberto Marrero. Over two dozen other Popular Will leaders are also under investigation for fraud involving money earmarked by the Trump administration, particularly Iran-Contra scandal felon and current Trump special envoy for regime change in Venezuela, Elliot Abrams.

Barrera and Rojas are accused of spending money given to the Popular Will by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), a longtime CIA financial pass-through, for “humanitarian relief” for alleged massive numbers of Venezuelan refugees in Colombia. The Popular Will grifters reportedly used the aid money, including that which was raised by Virgin Group’s billionaire founder and obvious CIA dupe Richard Branson, for expensive hotels, fancy restaurants, nightclubs, prostitutes, and clothing.

Read more …

Varoufakis is way ahead of his time. Elections July 7, but he’ll be lucky to get any seats at all.

Varoufakis: My Proposals Don’t Need Negotiation With Greece’s Creditors (A.)

– Reduction of the public debt with an embedded growth clause: the higher the national income, the more creditors will receive, and the reverse. Varoufakis said that this will force lenders to become partners in the recovery of Greece.

– Ending austerity by a drastic reduction of surpluses. Varoufakis said that Syriza and ND have pledged to return to the lenders the equivalent of at least 7,000 euros per capita each year from the so-called primary state surpluses. MeRA25 will unilaterally reduce these surpluses by 60-100 pct, depending on the recovery rate, he added.

– Abolition of obligatory prepayment of 100% of taxes, and capping the VAT rate at 18% for cash purchases, 15% for using a credit card. Reduction of corporate tax: e.g. from current 29 pct, to 26 pct for large businesses, 20 pct for medium-sized ones and 15 pct for small businesses; capping profits on SMEs at 50 pct tax (currently at 75 pct).

– Public extra-bank reliant payment system allowing free digital transactions among citizens, businesses and the state, benefitting all: e.g. by mutual debt cancellation, tax deductions, funding of anti-poverty programs, reducting the hold of private banks and the European Central Bank on citizens and state alike.

– Establishment of a public management company of private debt, so that non-performing loans (NPLs) are transferred from banks to this organisation, in exchange for government guarantees not counted towards public debt. In addition, a ban on loan sales, foreclosure auctions, especially of primary residences and small businesses.

– Inclusion under the Foundation of Social Insurance (IKA) of all freelancers who work more than 8 hours a week for the same employer. Incentives towards start-up entrepreneurs with a 5-year exemption from taxes and insurance contributions.

– Conversion of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund to a Development Bank, abolition of all privatizations, and use of public property as collateral to create investment flows in the public sector; the new bank’s shares will be owned by insurance funds, boosting their capitalization.

Yanis Varoufakis insisted that these measures would be implemented without negotiation with Greece’s lenders and financial institutions, and underlined that the creditors might react by bringing back GRexit scenarios. In this case, which he ruled out, “it will cost them 1 trillion euros.” “If we continue to apply Syriza’s fourth memorandum there will be no young people left in our country,” concluded Varoufakis, who also reiterated that his party will not give a vote of confidence to either Syriza or New Democracy, but will nevertheless support any bill it considers fair.

Read more …

Mass suicide.

The First Genetically Modified Animals Approved For US Consumption (AP)

Inside an Indiana aquafarming complex, thousands of salmon eggs genetically modified to grow faster than normal are hatching into tiny fish. After growing to roughly 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) in indoor tanks, they could be served in restaurants by late next year. The salmon produced by AquaBounty are the first genetically modified animals approved for human consumption in the U.S. They represent one way companies are pushing to transform the plants and animals we eat, even as consumer advocacy groups call for greater caution. AquaBounty hasn’t sold any fish in the U.S. yet, but it says its salmon may first turn up in places like restaurants or university cafeterias, which would decide whether to tell diners that the fish are genetically modified.

“It’s their customer, not ours,” said Sylvia Wulf, AquaBounty’s CEO. To produce its fish, Aquabounty injected Atlantic salmon with DNA from other fish species that make them grow to full size in about 18 months, which could be about twice as fast as regular salmon. The company says that’s more efficient since less feed is required. The eggs were shipped to the U.S. from the company’s Canadian location last month after clearing final regulatory hurdles.

As AquaBounty worked through years of government approvals, several grocers including Kroger and Whole Foods responded to a campaign by consumer groups with a vow to not sell the fish. Already, most corn and soy in the U.S. is genetically modified to be more resistant to pests and herbicides. But as genetically modified salmon make their way to dinner plates, the pace of change to the food supply could accelerate. This month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to simplify regulations for genetically engineered plants and animals. The move comes as companies are turning to a newer gene-editing technology that makes it easier to tinker with plant and animal DNA.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Mar 012018
 
 March 1, 2018  Posted by at 11:03 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »


Paramount Theater, Times Square NYC 1956

 

Donald Trump Stuns Allies By Signalling Backing For Tighter Gun Control (G.)
Members of Congress Are Petrified of The NRA, Says Trump (Ind.)
Where Did The Republican Trump-Haters Go? (BBC)
This Has Predicted Every Market Crash in History (Bonner)
US January Pending Home Sales Crash Most Since 2010 (ZH)
Hawk Or Dove? Fed’s Powell Showed Markets Both Sides In Debut (R.)
Trump Says US Will Use “All Available Tools” To Pressure China On Trade (BBG)
South Korea Cuts 68-Hour Working Week (G.)
John Major Tears Into Theresa May’s ‘Grand Folly’ Brexit Strategy (Ind.)
Russia Says US Is Training Europe To Use Nuclear Weapons Against It (CNBC)
American Hellenic Institute Urges Trump To Condemn Turkish Aggression (K.)
Greece Loosens Capital Controls, Raises Cash Withdrawal Limit (R.)
Greek Jan-Feb 2018 Retail Sales Down 8.8% y-o-y (K.)

 

 

I don’t normally like to open Debt Rattles with politics, but this leads the news.

Trump’s stance here should be a huge opening for Democrats, but it can’t be: they‘re too far gone in their demonizing of him. So if nothing happens -again- you’re going to have to wonder whose fault that is.

Note: a first reaction to a school shooting is easy, but you are talking fiddling with about the US constitution here.

Donald Trump Stuns Allies By Signalling Backing For Tighter Gun Control (G.)

Donald Trump has repeatedly endorsed a series of gun control proposals that put the Republican president at odds with the National Rifle Association and stunned lawmakers within his own party. The president made the remarks during an extraordinary, hour-long White House meeting on Wednesday with congressional Republicans and Democrats who are under pressure to address gun violence in the aftermath of the massacre at a Florida high school earlier this month. During the meeting, Trump called for a “beautiful” comprehensive bill that would expand background checks on gun purchases, remove guns from the hands of the mentally ill, bolster security on school campuses and restrict young people from purchasing certain weapons.

Within hours of the meeting’s conclusion, conservatives and some Republicans turned on Trump, who was elected with broad support from the gun lobby and claimed on Wednesday that the National Rifle Association had “no bigger fan”. Breitbart, the far-right news organization that fanned the flames of Trump’s rise, denounced the president as a “gun grabber” who “cedes” to Democrats. [..] Trump, who ran the meeting like a boardroom CEO, pointing at lawmakers for updates on their legislation, called on Congress to be “very strong” on background checks, repeatedly offering his support for a plan that failed to pass the Senate in April 2013, months after a gunman killed 20 young children and six staff members at Sandy Hook elementary school.

“You have to be very, very powerful on background checks. Don’t be shy,” Trump said during the televised session. He added: “I’d rather have you come down on the strong side than the weak side. The weak side is easier to do.” Two senators, Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Pat Toomey, both of whom attended the meeting, plan to reintroduce their bill that would have imposed universal background checks for commercial gun purchases, including at gun shows and over the internet. 84% of Americans favor such a law [..] In a surprising exchange with Toomey, Trump asked if his measure included a provision to raise the age to buy assault weapons from 18 to 21. Toomey replied that it did not, and Trump shot back: “You know why? Because you’re afraid of the NRA.”

Trump rejected a demand by conservatives in the House that this so-called Fix Nics bill be paired with controversial concealed carry legislation, which is favoured by the NRA and would loosen restrictions by enabling gun owners with concealed-carry permits in their home states to take their firearms across state lines. “If you add concealed carry to this, you’ll never get it passed,” Trump told Steve Scalise, the House majority whip, who was last summer by a gunman targeting a congressional baseball practice. “Let it be a separate thing.” Trump repeatedly berated his Republican colleagues, accusing them of being afraid of the NRA, and appeared to take pleasure in stating his willingness to take on the gun lobby. “Some of you people are petrified of the NRA. You can’t be petrified,” he said.

Read more …

And they get their funding there.

Members of Congress Are Petrified of The NRA, Says Trump (Ind.)

President Donald Trump has accused members of Congress of being afraid of the National Rifle Association (NRA), as he called for an increase in the minimum age for buying a rifle. “[The NRA] has great power,” Mr Trump said at a bipartisan meeting with members of Congress on school safety. “They have great power over you people. They have less power over me. I don’t need it. What do I need? But I’ll tell you, they are well-meaning … We have to do what is right.” Members of Congress have again been anxious to find a solution to prevent mass shootings after an alleged 19-year-old gunman on Valentine’s Day open fired at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school in Florida, killing 17 people.

On the first day students of the school resumed their lessons following the shooting, several legislators gathered at the White House to discuss school safety and legislation aimed at combatting gun violence. One such proposal, drafted by Republican Senator Pat Toomey and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, is primarily focused on expanding background checks for gun purchases. Mr Trump asked Mr Toomey about a proposal to raise the age limit for purchasing assault weapons from 18 to 21, a measure the NRA does not support.

“Now, this is not a popular thing in terms of the NRA, but I’m saying it anyway,” Mr Trump said. “Right now, you have to wait to buy a handgun until you’re 21, but you can buy the type of weapon used in a school shooting at 18. I can say the NRA is opposed to it… These are great patriots, they love our country, but that doesn’t mean we have to agree on it.” Mr Toomey said the age issue is not addressed in his bill with Mr Manchin. “You know why, because you’re afraid of the NRA,” the President responded.

Read more …

This fits in nicely with the gun issue. Scott “Dilbert” Adams’ view on Twitter: “Persuasion Phase 1 is complete. He’s coming for Democrats next.”

Where Did The Republican Trump-Haters Go? (BBC)

Once upon a time there was an active, vocal resistance among conservatives to the prospect of Donald Trump’s presidency. One year in, and the signs of dissent are rapidly fading. On Friday morning at the Conservative Political Action Conference on the outskirts of Washington, DC, Donald Trump took the stage and reminded the packed hall just how far he’d come. “Remember when I first started running?” the president asked. “People said, ‘Are you sure he’s a conservative?’ I think I proved I’m a conservative.” Mr Trump then launched into nearly an hour and a half of his trademark campaign-style oratory, often acknowledging that he was deviating from his “boring” speech text. On script and off, however, it was clear his intended objective was to drive home the point that he has governed as a true conservative.

He boasted of his tax cuts, right-wing judicial nominations, regulatory rollbacks and defence of religious liberty. Those are the sort of accomplishments attendees of this annual conference of young Republicans, grassroots activists, party functionaries, conservative media pundits, assorted merchants and special interests longed for through eight years of the Obama presidency, and now they’re getting. That’s got to make them thrilled, right? Well, sort of. According to straw poll of conference attendees, 93% approve of the job Mr Trump is doing in the White House. It’s a number not too far from the 80% of Republicans across the US who continue to tell pollsters they support the president. That, as the president acknowledged, was not always the case.

In 2016 – at the beginning of his long march to the Republican nomination and the presidency, Mr Trump abruptly cancelled an appearance at Cpac when faced with the prospect of a walkout from “never-Trump” conservatives. [A 2015] straw poll had Mr Trump as the presidential pick of just 3.5% of attendees, in eighth place, far behind libertarian-leaning Senator Rand Paul’s 25.7%. Another Republican presidential hopeful at that conference, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, would just a handful of months later describe Mr Trump’s politics as “a toxic mix of demagoguery and mean-spiritedness and nonsense” and call his candidacy a “cancer on conservatism”. Last week, Mr Perry – now Mr Trump’s energy secretary – was back at Cpac, referring to himself as “footsoldier in the army”. Donald Trump’s army, that is.

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Should that say “predicted after the fact”? (From Bill Bonner, Mish and Semper Augustus)

This Has Predicted Every Market Crash in History (Bonner)

“Buy the dip” has worked for the last 38 years. And now, investors are more than 100% convinced that it will work again. But they are wrong. Semper Augustus: “Every major stock market decline and every recession in the last 100 years was preceded by the Federal Reserve raising short-term interest rates by enough to provide the pin to prick the balloon. Note the emphasis on every. Yes, there have been periods where the Fed raised rates and a recession didn’t ensue. Everyone knows the famous saying about the stock market having predicted nine of the past five recessions! That may be true, that rising rates don’t necessarily cause a recession. But as an investor, you must be aware that every major stock market decline occurred on the heels of a tightening phase by the Fed. More importantly, there have been no substantive Fed tightening phases that did not end with a stock market decline”.


Going back to 1950, every U.S. recession (gray shaded area) has been preceded by the Fed hiking interest rates

A little debt may be a good thing; a lot of it is not. At a certain point, you have more than “too much debt,” and it becomes toxic. Where exactly in the cycle we are, we don’t know. But our guess is we are already way beyond the place where we are fully indebted. This is an economy built on debt. The whole capital structure – stocks, bonds, and real estate – now depends on excess debt… and more of it. In a correction, the only way to stop stock prices from falling and the economy from shrinking is to bring in some more debt. But when you do that a few times, you are soon beyond Peak Debt… which is to say, you’re way over the legal limit.

Debt has been growing three to six times faster than income for more than an entire generation. This makes the old 1.5-to-1 ratio of debt to income seem quaint. It is now 3.5-to-1 nationwide. Which is why deficits still matter. Every penny in debt that we add now is a penny that cannot be repaid, not by any plausible combination of economic projections. Because there is no way to “grow your way out of debt” when your income is falling while your debt is still increasing. Instead, you have to suffer the indignities of a correction, including a major reset in the stock market. That’s what happens when stocks that are more than fully priced meet a debt load that is beyond 100% of capacity.

Read more …

As noted earlier, new home sales were down 33.3% in the northeast. Pending home sales feel by 9% there.

US January Pending Home Sales Crash Most Since 2010 (ZH)

After New- and Existing-Home-Sales have already disappointed, Pending Home-Sales just collapsed too (to the lowest since Oct 2014) to confirm January was a bloodbath for the real estate market. Pending Home Sales plunged 4.7% in January (massively below the 0.5% expected rise in sales) – this is the biggest drop since May 2010. Year-over-year Pending home sales are down 1.7%. Purchases fell 9% in the Northeast, 6.6% in the Midwest, 3.9% in the South and 1.2% in the West.

NAR is desperate to convince home-buyers and sellers that this is nothing but an inventory issue, but it is affordability that is the real driver here. “There’s little doubt last month’s retreat in contract signings occurred because of woefully low supply levels and the sudden increase in mortgage rates,” Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said in a statement. “With the cost of buying a home getting more expensive and not enough inventory, some prospective buyers are either waiting until listings increase come spring or now having to delay their search entirely to save up for a larger down payment.” So, will higher rates break housing market momentum? The following chart suggest ‘yes’ – that surge in rates will have a direct impact on home sales (or prices will be forced to adjust lower) as affordability collapses…

And Homebuilder stocks are starting to look a lot less invincible…

As Bloomberg notes, economists consider pending sales a leading indicator because they track contract signings; purchases of existing homes are tabulated when a deal closes, typically a month or two later.

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Something for everyone. Useless.

Hawk Or Dove? Fed’s Powell Showed Markets Both Sides In Debut (R.)

Financial markets barely batted an eye on Tuesday when Jerome Powell’s first public statement as Federal Reserve chief saw daylight, interpreting it as a steady-handed commitment to the U.S. central bank’s policy of gradual interest rate increases. The calm evaporated about a couple of hours later, at 10:42 a.m. EST, when Powell, testifying before a U.S. House of Representatives committee, struck a bullish, and personal, tone on the strength of the economy. U.S. bond yields jumped as investors raised their bets for four rate increases this year, rather than the three that Fed policymakers projected in late December, and began asking one key question: Is a hawk or a dove now running the Fed?

“The message coming from the written portion of the testimony did not signal any change,” analysts from Barclays wrote on Tuesday, drawing a contrast with Powell’s live remarks that “point to a risk of a steeper policy rate path.” Fed policymakers consider their public statements an important tool in shaping public perceptions and, in doing so, making monetary policy more effective. Fed chiefs try to avoid off-the-cuff remarks that cause impromptu repricing, preferring to hew close to their job of representing the views of the Fed’s rate-setting committee and avoiding disclosing much about their personal opinions. Veteran Fed analysts were split over whether Powell had broken that unwritten rule in his remarks, which came just weeks after he took over from Janet Yellen.

“The tone of the testimony was definitely NOT hawkish,” said Cornerstone Macro economist and former Fed staffer Roberto Perli, who emphasized Powell’s written comments might be read as a willingness to allow the economy to run hot in order to boost inflation to the Fed’s 2% target on a sustained basis. “Powell more confident on growth, putting 2018 dots in play,” is how JP Morgan’s Michael Feroli summed up the day, referring to the quarterly “dot plot” of projected interest rates that Fed policymakers submit. Feroli argued that Powell’s “modestly hawkish” appearance in Congress strengthened the chance that policymakers’ rate outlook would rise when the central bank issues its next set of economic projections next month.

Read more …

Xi advocating against protectionism is a keeper.

Trump Says US Will Use “All Available Tools” To Pressure China On Trade (BBG)

President Donald Trump is warning the U.S. will use “all available tools” to prevent China’s state-driven economic model from undermining global competition, the latest warning to Beijing as America readies a host of trade actions. China hasn’t lived up to the promises of economic reforms it made when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, and actually appears to be moving further away from “market principles” in recent years, according to the president’s annual report to Congress on his trade-policy agenda. China’s “statist” policies are causing a “dramatic misallocation” of global resources that is leaving all countries poorer than they should be, said the report. Chinese President Xi Jinping has dispatched one of his top economic advisers, Liu He, this week to Washington to meet with senior administration officials amid signs of growing tension between the world’s two biggest economies.

“China is free to pursue whatever trade policy it prefers. But the United States, as a sovereign nation, is free to respond,” according to the report, which is prepared by the U.S. Trade Representative’s office. Xi has called for countries to avoid protectionism and stick to the current path of globalization. At the same time, Chinese officials are weighing raising tariffs on U.S. soybeans as tensions escalate. Trump’s warning comes as his administration considers a range of actions either directly aimed at China, or that could impact the Asian power. The president is weighing several options for curbing imports of steel and aluminum, and Trump has told confidants he’s considering a global tariff on steel of 24%, the most punitive alternative recommended by his officials. The administration is ready to act unilaterally if necessary to fight unfair trading practices, according to trade report.

Read more …

Well, it did get them the Olympics…

South Korea Cuts 68-Hour Working Week (G.)

Employees in one of the most overworked countries in Asia are about to get a break after South Korea passed a bill to reduce the typical work week in an effort to improve quality of life and boost employment. South Korea’s National Assembly overwhelmingly passed the law which cut the maximum weekly work hours to 52, down from 68. The law comes into force in July and will apply to large companies before being rolled out to smaller businesses. The cut was a campaign promise by President Moon Jae-in, who also secured a 16% increase in the minimum wage this year. The law faced opposition from businesses but was seen as necessary to improve living standards, create more jobs and boost productivity. It is also aimed at increasing the country’s birth rate, which hit record lows last year.

As South Korea’s economy boomed in the 80s and 90s, a workaholic culture took hold and the birth rate plummeted. Chung Hyun-back, the gender equality and family minister, has called the country’s working hours “inhumanely long” and said they were a factor in the South’s rapidly ageing society. South Koreans workers have some of the longest weeks in the developing world, behind only Mexico, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The group of mostly developed economies does not include countries such as China and India, and developing countries tend to work more. But South Koreans still work about 400 more hours a year compared with workers in the UK and Australia, about 10 additional standard work weeks, despite having relatively similar average incomes.

Read more …

Just as she tries to strike a defiant pose…

John Major Tears Into Theresa May’s ‘Grand Folly’ Brexit Strategy (Ind.)

Former Conservative leader John Major has launched a devastating attack on Theresa May’s approach to Brexit, just 48 hours before the Prime Minister sets out her plans for future relations with the EU. In a significant intervention, Mr Major tore into Ms May’s negotiating red lines as “bad politics” and “grand folly” dictated by “ultra Brexiteers”. He demanded MPs be freed from the party whip and allowed to vote with their conscience on her final deal, and said Britain may need a second referendum to avoid years of damaging rows over Brexit. His explosive speech sparked a ferocious backlash from Tories that back hard Brexit, with one saying his arguments were “grubbing around in the weeds”.

The surgically timed intervention comes as Ms May prepares to reveal the final text of her next big Brexit speech to the Cabinet, before meeting European Council president Donald Tusk in Downing Street on Thursday. Mr Major’s intervention also appears to have been choreographed with another speech from ex-prime minister Tony Blair in Brussels on Thursday, in which the ex-Labour leader will address European politicians on Brexit. When the ex-Tory leader stood to make his speech on Wednesday, Ms May had already locked horns with Brussels negotiators who had in the morning published what she called an “unacceptable” draft withdrawal agreement.

Despite Ms May having repeatedly claimed she settled the withdrawal agreement last year, she argued in the Commons that a new draft had crossed her Brexit red lines. It was those very “red lines” that Mr Major took aim at when he began talking in London minutes later, claiming they had “boxed” Ms May in. He said: “They are so tilted to ultra-Brexit opinion, even the Cabinet cannot agree them – and a majority in both Houses of Parliament oppose them. “If maintained in full, it will be impossible to reach a favourable trade outcome.”

Read more …

The western press will simply continue to claim that Russia’s the aggressor, not NATO or the US. Case solved.

Russia Says US Is Training Europe To Use Nuclear Weapons Against It (CNBC)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that the U.S. was still deploying “strategic arms” in Europe and was training European countries to use nuclear weapons, violating a major nuclear arms agreement called the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Lavrov said that nuclear disarmament was impossible without taking into account factors which destabilize “strategic stability and international security today,” including, he said, “the deployment of a global anti-missile system” and “the deployment of U.S. strategic arms in Europe and the continuing destabilizing practice of ‘joint nuclear missions,’ as they call them.” “As we all know, these nuclear missions violate the Non-Proliferation Treaty and non-nuclear states plan and take part in the U.S. exercises and learn how to use the nuclear weapons,” he said.

For its part, he said Russia had reduced its nuclear arsenal by 85% compared to the Cold War era. The Russian Foreign Ministry has complained about what it calls “joint nuclear missions” and says the U.S. has many nuclear weapons located in Europe. It also says the U.S. is training European countries to use these weapons. Last April, the foreign ministry issued a statement in which it said that “Washington’s approach to compliance with its obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is still of great concern. The U.S. and its non-nuclear NATO allies continue their nuclear skill training as part of the so-called “nuclear sharing”,” it said.

Read more …

But Merkel wants her refugee treaty. Or she’s done.

American Hellenic Institute Urges Trump To Condemn Turkish Aggression (K.)

The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) sent a letter to US President Donald J. Trump in the wake of acts of Turkish provocation and aggression in the eastern Mediterranean and broader region that have dire implications to American security interests. In the February 27 letter, AHI President Nick Larigakis requests President Trump to condemn strongly Turkish aggression and acts of provocations that have been directed at the United States, Greece, Cyprus, and international oil and gas companies – all of which have occurred in the month of February.

Larigakis cites: a Turkish coastguard vessel colliding with a stationary Greek coastguard vessel, the harassment of Italian oil company Eni’s surveying vessel by Turkish warships, which threatened to sink Eni’s surveying vessel because it was on its way to survey for energy resources in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus; and Turkish President Erdogan’s threat of an “Ottoman slap” to United States military forces if they continued to partner with Syrian Kurds in Syria.

In addition, Larigakis raised the concern among NATO allies about Turkey’s purchase of four divisions of S-400 missiles from Russia and how it potentially subjects Turkey to US sanctions. “Turkey’s aggressive and provocative actions directed at the United States and U.S. allies, Greece and Cyprus, are overt, egregious and dangerous. I urge the administration to act to uphold the rule of law and to call on Turkey, the provocateur of these tensions, to cease and desist with its aggressive actions that are a threat to peace and stability and are not in the best interests of the United States,” Larigakis concludes.

Read more …

Just about nobody has that kind of cash to withdraw anymore. Thanks a lot.

Greece Loosens Capital Controls, Raises Cash Withdrawal Limit (R.)

Greece on Wednesday moved to ease capital restrictions imposed since the summer of 2015, raising the monthly limit of cash that can be withdrawn from bank accounts by 28%. Athens first imposed capital controls in July 2015 to stem a flight of cash from its banks at the height of a debt crisis which led to its third financial bailout since 2010. Based on a finance ministry decree published in the government’s gazette, individuals will be allowed to withdraw lump sums of up to 2,300 euros in cash per month from bank accounts from 1,800 euros currently, effective from March 1.

Read more …

Just imagine the added job losses that come with this. And still, as I keep on saying, things can still only get worse from here.

Greek Jan-Feb 2018 Retail Sales Down 8.8% y-o-y, Up To 20% In Cities (K.)

Retail sales in the first two months of the year were down some half a billion euros on the same period in 2017, as households were left with less spending money after their Christmas shopping and purchases made during the Black Friday promotional event at the end of November. According to a survey conducted by the Hellenic Confederation of Commerce and Enterprises (ESEE), retail turnover declined this past January and February by 8.8% compared to 2017. In absolute figures, this reduction translates into the loss of 484 million euros, with turnover up until Wednesday amounting to 5.02 billion, against 5.5 billion in January-February 2017.

In certain areas of the country the drop in sales turnover in the first two months of the year reached up to 40%, while out of Greece’s 65 traders’ associations, only one reported an increase from last year. In the cities of Athens and Thessaloniki, sales declined between 11 and 20% year-on-year. The ESEE survey showed that one in three enterprises offered discounts of between 21 and 40%, while two out of five offered discounts in excess of 40%.

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Jan 162017
 
 January 16, 2017  Posted by at 10:13 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


John Collier Japanese restaurant, Monday after Pearl Harbor, San Francisco 1941

World Could Enjoy Utopian Future With Sustainable Development (Ind.)
The Global Chain That Produces Your Fish (AFP)
Trump Calls NATO Obsolete And Dismisses EU (BBG)
Trump Slams NATO And EU, Prepared To “Cut Ties” With Merkel (ZH)
NATO, Russia, Merkel, Brexit: Trump Unleashes Broadsides On Europe (AFP)
Trump Vows ‘Insurance For Everybody’ In Replacing Obamacare (R.)
CIA Director Warns Trump To Watch What He Says (R.)
Trump Team May Move West Wing Briefings to Expand Capacity (BBG)
Pound Sterling Hits New 31-Year-Low Ahead Of May’s Brexit Speech (Ind.)
The Scandal of the 35-Page Anti-Trump ‘Intelligence Dossier’ (GR)
Eight Billionaire Men ‘As Rich As World’s Poorest 3.5 Billion People’ (BBC)
“China Should Stop Intervening In FX Market And Let Yuan Float” (R.)
China’s Booming Middle Class Drives Asia’s Toxic E-Waste Mountains (G.)
Greece Strives To Absorb EU’s Migration Funds (Kath.)

 

 

If you find this appealing, seek help. These people mean it, which makes them the biggest danger to your future, bar none. We’re not going to fix the world for profit. The sustainable delusion will kill us.

World Could Enjoy Utopian Future With Sustainable Development (Ind.)

It is an unremittingly bleak vision of the future: over the next decade the world’s economy stagnates, fossil fuels ramp up global warming and the gap between rich and poor widens, fuelling nationalist tensions based on resentment of the ‘global elite’. But, while a major new report by the Business & Sustainable Development Commission (BSDC) warns this appears to be humanity’s current path, it also spells out how to create not quite “heaven on Earth” but a world that is wealthier, more peaceful and fair for all. And their call for the world to start living up to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals was backed by more than 80 major companies in a joint letter to Theresa May, which urged the UK Government to take this “essential” step to secure “our long-term prosperity and the well-being of generations to come”.

However, Ms May did not respond personally to the letter, with the Department for International Development instead issuing a response on behalf of the Government in an implicit snub to the letter’s call for all departments, “not only” DfID, to get involved. The UN’s ‘Global Goals’, as they are known, seem at first sight to be almost impossibly ambitious. There should be “no poverty” and “zero hunger” in the world, universal health coverage, a decent education for all, gender equality, access to affordable and clean energy, action on climate change, the list goes on. But the BSDC’s report, compiled after a year of research into their effects, says achieving them is actually key to delivering massive growth. The document, called Better Business, Better World, estimates the Global Goals could be worth up to $36,000bn a year in savings and extra revenue by 2030.

They based this on an analysis of four major economic sectors – food and agriculture; energy and materials; cities; and health and wellbeing – which would benefit to the tune of $12,000bn a year. They then estimated the total economic prize would be two to three times higher. Lifting people out of poverty could bring up to a billion people into the consumer economy. And achieving gender equality alone could add at least $12,000bn to the world’s total GDP by 2025, according to one estimate. “The overall prize is enormous,” the report says. “The results will not be heaven on Earth; there will be many practical challenges. “But the world would undoubtedly be on a better, more resilient path. We could be building an economy of abundance.

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Mommy, tell me the story again about how smart we once were.

The Global Chain That Produces Your Fish (AFP)

That smoked salmon you bought for the New Year’s festivities has a story to tell. The salmon may have been raised in Scotland – but it probably began life as roe in Norway. Harvested at a coastal farm, the fish may have been sent to Poland to be smoked. It may even have travelled halfway around the world to China to be sliced. It eventually arrived, wrapped in that tempting package, in your supermarket. Globalisation has changed the world in many ways, but fish farming is one of the starkest examples of its benefits and hidden costs. The nexus of the world fish-farming trade is China – the biggest exporter of fish products, the biggest producer of farmed fish and a major importer as well.

With battalions of lost-cost workers, linked to markets by a network of ocean-going refrigerated ships, China is the go-to place for labour-intensive fish processing. In just a few clicks on Alibaba, the Chinese online trading hub, you can buy three tonnes of Norwegian filleted mackerel shipped from the port city of Qingdao for delivery within 45 days. “There is a significant amount of bulk frozen fish sent to China just for filleting,” said a source from an association of importers in an EU country. “The temperature of the fish is brought up to enable the filleting but the fish are not completely defrosted.” The practice has helped transform the Chinese coastal provinces of Liaoning and Shandong into global centres for fish processing.

But globalised fish farming leaves a mighty carbon footprint and has other impacts, many of which are unseen for the consumer. Don Staniford, an activist and director of the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture, called the fish industry’s production and transportation chain “madness”. “The iconic image of Scottish salmon – a wild salmon leaping out of the river – has gone. The Scottish salmon farming industry is dominated, 60-70%, by Norwegian companies,” he said. The biggest such company, Marine Harvest, is the world’s largest producer of Atlantic salmon, some 420,000 tonnes in 2015. Scottish salmon farms import eggs from Norway, the fish food from Chile and then send the fish to Poland – “because it’s cheaper” – for smoking, said Staniford.

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Lots of coverage of Trump’s weekend interviews in Europe. Too many details to cover them all in this format. Overall impression: he makes a lot of sense. Likes Brexit, doesn’t like NATO, sees EU as a project to benefit Germany, wants far less nukes, far less US regime change-focused interventionism.

Trump Calls NATO Obsolete And Dismisses EU (BBG)

Donald Trump called NATO obsolete, predicted that other European Union members would follow the U.K. in leaving the bloc, and threatened BMW with import duties over a planned plant in Mexico, according to two European newspapers which conducted a joint interview with the president-elect. Trump, in an hourlong discussion with Germany’s Bild and the Times of London published on Sunday, signaled a major shift in trans-Atlantic relations, including an interest in lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia as part of a nuclear weapons reduction deal. Quoted in German by Bild from a conversation held in English, Trump predicted that Britain’s exit from the EU will be a success and portrayed the EU as an instrument of German domination designed with the purpose of beating the U.S. in international trade.

For that reason, Trump said, he’s fairly indifferent to whether the EU stays together, according to Bild. The Times quoted Trump as saying he was interested in making “good deals with Russia,” floating the idea of lifting sanctions that were imposed as the U.S. has sought to punish the Kremlin for its annexation of Crimea in 2014 and military support of the Syrian government. “They have sanctions on Russia – let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia,’’ Trump said, according to the Times. “For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that’s part of it.’’ Trump’s reported comments leave little doubt that he’ll stick to campaign positions and may in some cases upend decades of U.S. foreign policy, putting him fundamentally at odds with Angela Merkel on issues from free trade and refugees to security and the EU’s role in the world.

Repeating a criticism of NATO he made during his campaign, Trump said that while trans-Atlantic military alliance is important, it “has problems.” “It’s obsolete, first because it was designed many, many years ago,” Trump said in the Bild version of the interview. “Secondly, countries aren’t paying what they should” and NATO “didn’t deal with terrorism.” The Times quoted Trump saying that only five NATO members are paying their fair share. While those comments expanded on doubts Trump expressed about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during his campaign, he reserved some of his most dismissive remarks for the EU and Merkel, whose open-border refugee policy he called a “catastrophic mistake.”

In contrast, Trump praised Britons for voting in 2016 to leave the EU. People and countries want their own identity and don’t want outsiders coming in to “destroy it,” he said. The U.K. is smart to leave the bloc because the EU “is basically a vehicle for Germany,” the Times quoted Trump as saying. “If you ask me, more countries will leave,” he said. Trump told the Times that he plans to quickly pursue a trade deal with the U.K. after taking office and will meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May soon. “We’re gonna work very hard to get it done quickly and done properly. Good for both sides,” he said. “We’ll have a meeting right after I get into the White House and it’ll be, I think we’re gonna get something done very quickly.”

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ZH has a good summary of the interviews.

Trump Slams NATO And EU, Prepared To “Cut Ties” With Merkel (ZH)

In two separate, and quite striking, interviews with Germany’s Bild (paywall) and London’s Sunday Times (paywall), Donald Trump did what he failed to do in his first US press conference, and covered an extensive amount of policy and strategy, much of which however will likely please neither the pundits, nor the markets. Among the numerous topics covered in the Bild interview, he called NATO obsolete, predicted that other European Union members would join the U.K. in leaving the bloc and threatened BMW with import duties over a planned plant in Mexico, according to a Sunday interview granted to Germany’s Bild newspaper that will raise concerns in Berlin over trans-Atlantic relations. Furthermore, in his first “exclusive” interview in the UK granted to the Sunday Times, Trump said he will offer Britain a quick and “fair” trade deal with America within weeks of taking office to help make Brexit a “great thing”.

Trump revealed that he was inviting Theresa May to visit him “right after” he gets into the White House and wants a trade agreement between the two countries secured “very quickly”. Trump told the Times that other countries would follow Britain’s lead in leaving the European Union, claiming it had been deeply damaged by the migration crisis. I think it’s very tough, he said. People, countries want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity. [..] Trump discussed his stance on Russia and suggested he might use economic sanctions imposed for Vladimir Putin’s encroachment on Ukraine as leverage in nuclear-arms reduction talks, while NATO, he said, “has problems.” “[NATO] is obsolete, first because it was designed many, many years ago,” Bild quoted Trump as saying about the trans-Atlantic military alliance. “Secondly, countries aren’t paying what they should” and NATO “didn’t deal with terrorism.”

While those comments expanded on doubts Trump raised about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during his campaign, he reserved some of his most dismissive remarks for the EU and Merkel, whose open-border refugee policy he called a “catastrophic mistake.” He further elaborated on this stance in the Times interview, where he said he was willing to lift Russian sanctions in return for a reduction in nuclear weapons. When asked about the prospect of a nuclear arms reduction deal with Russia, Trump told the newspaper in an interview: “For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that’s part of it.” Additionally, Trump said Brexit will turn out to be a “great thing.” Trump said he would work very hard to get a trade deal with the United Kingdom “done quickly and done properly”.

Trump praised Britons for voting last year to leave the EU. People and countries want their own identity and don’t want outsiders to come in and “destroy it.” The U.K. is smart to leave the bloc because the EU “is basically a means to an end for Germany,” Bild cited Trump as saying. “If you ask me, more countries will leave,” he was quoted as saying.

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Goal-seeked ‘reporting’: “Five days before his inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, the billionaire populist let loose a torrent of controversial comments..” AFP didn’t stand out so far as having joined the anti-Trump ranks, but there you go.

NATO, Russia, Merkel, Brexit: Trump Unleashes Broadsides On Europe (AFP)

NATO is “obsolete”, Germany’s Angela Merkel made a “catastrophic mistake” on refugees, Brexit will be “great” and the US could cut a deal with Russia: Donald Trump unleashed a volley of broadsides in interviews with European media. Five days before his inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, the billionaire populist let loose a torrent of controversial comments about European allies in interviews with British newspaper The Times and Germany’s Bild. He extended a hand to Russia, which has been hit by a string of sanctions under his predecessor Barack Obama over Moscow’s involvement in Ukraine, the Syrian war and for alleged cyber attacks to influence the US election. “Let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia,” Trump said in remarks carried by The Times.

The US president-elect suggested a deal in which nuclear arsenals would be reduced and sanctions against Moscow would be eased, but gave no details. “Russia’s hurting very badly right now because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are gonna benefit,” said the president-elect, who has previously expressed admiration for Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Washington’s European allies imposed sanctions against Russia over Ukraine in 2014. Those measures were renewed on December 19.

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Trump grants an interview to the WaPo? He has a big heart!

Trump Vows ‘Insurance For Everybody’ In Replacing Obamacare (R.)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump aims to replace Obamacare with a plan that would envisage “insurance for everybody,” he said in an interview with the Washington Post published on Sunday night. Trump did not give the newspaper specifics about his proposals to replace Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature health insurance law, but said the plan was nearly finished and he was ready to unveil it alongside the leaders of the Republican-controlled Congress. The Republican president-elect takes office on Friday. “It’s very much formulated down to the final strokes. We haven’t put it in quite yet but we’re going to be doing it soon,” Trump told the Post, adding he was waiting for his nominee for health and human services secretary, Tom Price, to be confirmed.

The plan, he said, would include “lower numbers, much lower deductibles,” without elaborating. “We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” Trump said. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.” Trump was also quoted as saying in the interview that he would target pharmaceutical companies over drug pricing and insist they negotiate directly with the Medicare and Medicaid government health plans for the elderly and poor. U.S. House Republicans won passage on Friday of a measure starting the process of dismantling the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, despite concerns about not having a ready replacement and the potential financial cost of repealing the law.

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All these people, CIA, media, who actively attempted to undermine Trump’s campaign and candidacy, are now shocked (I tell you, shocked!) that he doesn’t ignore what they did.

CIA Director Warns Trump To Watch What He Says (R.)

CIA Director John Brennan on Sunday offered a stern parting message for Donald Trump days before the Republican U.S. president-elect takes office, cautioning him against loosening sanctions on Russia and warning him to watch what he says. Brennan rebuked Trump for comparing U.S. intelligence agencies to Nazi Germany in comments by the outgoing CIA chief that reflected the extraordinary friction between the incoming president and the 17 intelligence agencies he will begin to command once he takes office on Friday. In an interview with “Fox News Sunday,” Brennan questioned the message sent to the world if the president-elect broadcasts that he does not have confidence in the United States’ own intelligence agencies.

“What I do find outrageous is equating the intelligence community with Nazi Germany. I do take great umbrage at that, and there is no basis for Mr. Trump to point fingers at the intelligence community for leaking information that was already available publicly,” Brennan said. Brennan’s criticism followed a tumultuous week of finger-pointing between Trump and intelligence agency leaders over an unsubstantiated report that Russia had collected compromising information about Trump. The unverified dossier was summarized in a U.S. intelligence report presented to Trump and outgoing President Barack Obama this month that concluded Russia tried to sway the outcome of the Nov. 8 election in Trump’s favor by hacking and other means. The report did not make an assessment on whether Russia’s attempts affected the election’s outcome.

Trump has accused the intelligence community of leaking the dossier information, which its leaders denied. They said it was their responsibility to inform the president-elect that the allegations were being circulated. Later on Sunday, Trump took to Twitter to berate Brennan and wrote, “Was this the leaker of Fake News?” In a separate posting, Trump scolded “those intelligence chiefs” for presenting the dossier as part of their briefing. “When people make mistakes, they should APOLOGIZE,” he wrote.

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Excellent. The elite press do not deserve their status.

Trump Team May Move West Wing Briefings to Expand Capacity (BBG)

The incoming Trump administration is considering moving White House press briefings out of the West Wing to accommodate more than the “Washington media elite,” President-elect Donald Trump’s press secretary said. “This is about greater accessibility, more people in the process,” Sean Spicer said Sunday on Fox News Channel’s “Media Buzz.” Involving more people, including bloggers and others who aren’t from the mainstream media, “should be seen as a welcome change,” he said. Their comments followed a report Saturday by Esquire, citing unidentified officials from the transition team, that the new administration may move the press corps out of the main White House building altogether because of antagonism between Trump and the media.

Any change would be made for logistical reasons, in response to heavy demand from media organizations, Vice President-elect Mike Pence said Sunday. “The briefing room is open now to all reporters who request access,” White House Correspondents’ Association President Jeff Mason said in a statement Sunday. “We object strenuously to any move that would shield the president and his advisers from the scrutiny of an on-site White House press corps.” Mason said he was meeting with Spicer “to try to get more clarity on exactly what” the proposal is. “There’s such a tremendous amount of interest in this incoming administration that they’re giving some consideration to finding a larger venue on the 18 acres in the White House complex, to accommodate that extraordinary interest,” Pence said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”

“The interest of the team is to make sure that we accommodate the broadest number of people who are interested and media from around the country and around the world,” Pence said. On ABC’s “This Week,” incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said demand for press-conference credentials far exceeds the “49 people” who can fit into the current briefing room. “The one thing that we discussed was whether or not we want to move the initial press conferences into the Executive Office Building,” Priebus said, adding, “you can fit four times the amount of people.”

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Oh well, with Trump praising Brexit and promising a swift deal, this may reverse.

Pound Sterling Hits New 31-Year-Low Ahead Of May’s Brexit Speech (Ind.)

Fears of the consequences of a hard Brexit have sent the pound to a fresh 31-year-low against the dollar, excluding last October’s flash crash. The pound hit new lows after reports said that Prime Minister Theresa May will on Tuesday signal plans to quit the EU’s single market to regain control of Britain’s borders, in a speech which is expected to give the most detailed insight yet into her approach to the forthcoming negotiations with Brussels. Sterling fell against all of its major peers, dropping below $1.1985 against the dollar in early Asian trade on Monday, before recovering slightly to just above $1.20. This is a more than three-decade low for the currency, excluding the flash crash on 7 October that sent the pound plunging more than six per cent to $1.18.

Fears among currency traders and investors that the UK is heading for a hard Brexit – in which access to the EU’s single market would be sacrificed in favour of tighter control over immigration – have tended to weaken the pound while suggestions that the UK could retain access to the EU single market have helped it recover. Sterling is down against the dollar by about 19 per cent since the Brexit vote, with declines since mainly sparked by concerns that Mrs May would pursue a so-called hard Brexit. City analysts are anticipating Mrs May’s speech on Tuesday with a sense of gloom.

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I know, I know, we should ignore this drivel. But there’s a few good take downs, this being one. I still wonder how the peeing hookers tale -apparently- ended up in Steele’s report. Because it came from the US, not Russia. Then again, of course, Steele hasn’t been to Russia in decades. If this report says anything, it’s that they can’t find dirt on Trump.

The Scandal of the 35-Page Anti-Trump ‘Intelligence Dossier’ (GR)

Some critics have been ungrateful enough to suggest that claims published without the least scintilla of supporting evidence by intelligence agencies which have a rich history of lying to the American people as well as everyone else, and which are in addition led by James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, may not be above suspicion. But the latest revelation, a 35-page sequence of linked texts published on January 10 by BuzzFeedNews, gives what simpletons are expected to interpret as unimpeachable evidence of soundness and credibility. The document is authored “by a person who has claimed to be a former British intelligence official,” and its sources, identified by letters of the alphabet, include a “senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure,” “a former top level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin,” as well as another “senior Kremlin official.”

(How could one fail to doff one’s cap in acknowledgment of the spy-craft of those Brits, who are able so deftly to penetrate the inner counsels of the wicked Mr. Putin and induce his close associates to sing like canaries?) The texts which make up this document propose that Mr. Trump and his entourage had routine treasonous contacts with Russian state authorities over a long period leading up to the election, and that Mr. Putin was interfering in that election in every way possible—including by exploiting “TRUMP’s personal obsessions and sexual perversion in order to obtain suitable ‘kompromat’ (compromising material) on him.” The document’s most lurid claim—certified by Sources B, D, E and F—is made on its second page. It’s not clear what form of perverse pleasure Mr. Trump was supposed to have obtained by having “a number of prostitutes” urinate on his bed in the Moscow Ritz Carlton’s presidential suite.

The explanation given for the motivation behind this command performance – that the same bed had previously been slept in, on one of their official visits to Russia, by Barack and Michelle Obama (“whom he hated”) – seems bizarre. After all, on the night in question, whose soggy bed was it now? [..] The most immediate concern raised by this literally filthy story may be humanitarian. It seems well attested that Mr. Trump is not merely fastidious, but germaphobic: where is he supposed to have slept out the rest of the night? On the perhaps undefiled sofa, or on the carpet? And what are we to make of the claim by trolling posters at 4Chan that this “golden showers” story was a hoax they had foisted onto a Republican operative known to despise Trump, who then shopped it around to news media, other politicians, and intelligence agencies? If this story is a fiction, then are the document’s Sources B, D, E and F, who confirmed it, also fictional? And if some of the document’s sources are made up, what kind of fool would want to believe that any of the rest are authentic?

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We call these people success stories. We need to redefine ‘success’.

Eight Billionaire Men ‘As Rich As World’s Poorest 3.5 Billion People’ (BBC)

The world’s eight richest individuals have as much wealth as the 3.6bn people who make up the poorest half of the world, according to Oxfam. The charity said its figures, which critics have queried, came from improved data, and the gap between rich and poor was “far greater than feared”. Oxfam’s report coincides with the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Mark Littlewood, of the Institute of Economic Affairs, said Oxfam should focus instead on ways to boost growth. “As an ‘anti-poverty’ charity, Oxfam seems to be strangely preoccupied with the rich,” said the director-general of the free market think tank. For those concerned with “eradicating absolute poverty completely”, the focus should be on measures that encourage economic growth, he added.

Ben Southwood, head of research at the Adam Smith Institute, said it was not the wealth of the world’s rich that mattered, but the welfare of the world’s poor, which was improving every year. “Each year we are misled by Oxfam’s wealth statistics. The data is fine – it comes from Credit Suisse – but the interpretation is not.” The annual event in Davos, a Swiss ski resort, attracts many of the world’s top political and business leaders. Katy Wright, Oxfam’s head of global external affairs, said the report helped the charity to “challenge the political and economic elites”. “We’re under no illusions that Davos is anything other than a talking shop for the world’s elite, but we try and use that focus,” she added.

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But that would sink it. A band of 25%?!

“China Should Stop Intervening In FX Market And Let Yuan Float” (R.)

China should stop intervening in the foreign exchange market, devalue the yuan and let it float freely to restore stability, a senior researcher at a government-backed think tank said. Xiao Lisheng, a finance expert with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, made the remarks in an article on Monday in the official China Securities Journal amid a growing debate among the country’s economists on whether authorities should let the closely-managed currency trade more freely. The yuan lost 6.6% against the dollar last year, the biggest annual loss since 1994. “The more the government delays the release of depreciation pressure, the greater the impact and destructive power of the release of depreciation pressure will be,” Xiao wrote.

The authorities should “let the yuan exchange rate have a one-off adjustment to realize a free float” of the currency, he said. The yuan is allowed to trade in a band of 2% on either side of a daily reference rate managed by the central bank. Authorities have said repeatedly there was no basis for continued depreciation of the unit, but many currency strategists predict a further weakening this year if the U.S. dollar remains strong, spurring further capital outflows from China. Xiao said the current mid-point formation mechanism, adopted in 2015, is still immature and in transition, although it has eased depreciation pressure and curbed sharp declines in the country’s foreign exchange reserves. “But any foreign exchange rate mechanism without a free float cannot fundamentally reach a market clearing (price),” he wrote.

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Much more of that to come, even if -or especially if- their economy tanks.

China’s Booming Middle Class Drives Asia’s Toxic E-Waste Mountains (G.)

Asia’s mountains of hazardous electronic trash, or e-waste, are growing rapidly, new research reveals, with China leading the way. A record 16m tonnes of electronic trash, containing both toxic and valuable materials, were generated in a single year – up 63% in five years, new analysis looking at 12 countries in east and south-east Asia shows. In China the mountain of discarded TVs, phones, computers, monitors, e-toys and small appliances grew by 6.7m tonnes in 2015 alone. That’s an 107% increase in just five years. To get a sense of scale, if every woman, man and child in China had an old LCD monitor and dumped it the pile would not equal the 2015 tonnage. The region’s fast-increasing middle class is the main driver of e-waste increases, not population growth, the report by the United Nations University found.

However, Asia’s 3.7kg per person of waste is still tiny compared to Europe’s 15.6 kg per person, it said. “Growing incomes, the creation of more and more gadgets and ever-shorter lifespans of things like mobile phones are the reasons for this tremendous increase in Asia,” said co-author Ruediger Kuehr of UN University. Electronics and electrical devices have a big eco footprint, meaning their manufacture consumes a lot of energy and water, along with valuable and sometimes scarce resources, making recycling and recovery very important. The increasing volumes of e-waste combined with a lack of environmentally sound management is a cause for concern, says Kuehr. “We risk future production of these devices and very high costs without recycling the materials,” he said.

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The numbers start to be confusing. It’s good to realize that Kathimerini is not a fan of Tsipras. What we know is the EU prefers to donate millions to NGOs rather than Greece.

But the point stands: where is the money going, what is it being spend on, and why is there no public accounting of this? Why are refugees freezing to death?

Greece Strives To Absorb EU’s Migration Funds (Kath.)

Greece is struggling to make use of EU money for migrants and refugees after having absorbed just a fraction of the 509 million euros in funding for up to 2020. So far, Athens has used about 2% of 294.6 million euros from the EU’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund, and around 25% of 214.8 million euros from the Internal Security Fund. Greek authorities blame the slow absorption rate on emergency conditions caused by the migrant influx, whereas Brussels has pointed to technical faults on the other end.

Athens, however, appears more flexible absorbing separate EU emergency funding: From about 350 million euros for 2015-16, some 175 million has gone to state agencies and an equal sum to the UN refugee agency, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the European Asylum Service. “Were it not for the emergency funds, we would be able to do nothing. Or we would have to spend money from the state budget. Regular funding requires a lot of bureaucracy,” a Labor Ministry official told Kathimerini on condition of anonymity.

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