Jun 212020
 


Lewis Wickes Hine 12-year-old newsie, Hyman Alpert, been selling 3 years, New Haven CT 1909

 

Trump Makes Triumphant Return To Campaign Rallies (JTN)
Trump’s Tulsa Rally Was Just Another Sad Farce (G.)
Over A Third Of Americans Think Civil War Is Likely (ZH)
Judge Says Bolton ‘Gambling With National Security’ But Won’t Block Book (JTN)
Lawyer Says Bolton ‘Utterly Powerless’ To Stop Book’s Circulation (JTN)
Manhattan Prosecutor Steps Down, Ending Stand-Off With AG Barr (R.)
US Travel Industry Revenues To Plummet By Half a Trillion In 2020 (F.)
Nearly Half Of Americans Consider Selling Home As COVID Crushes Finances (ZH)
Greece Urges UK To Return Parthenon Marbles (G.)

 

 

I’m a bit later than usual today, I couldn’t resist taking a walk in the almost deserted city of Athina. It’s terrible for a lot of people I know who work in hospitality, but the quiet is appealing at the same time. Here’s a photo I took just around the corner:

 

 

I brought up a possible civil war in the US yesterday, and just about everything I read appears to rhyme with that idea. Trump held his first meeting last night in Tulsa, and all too predictably the MSM says it was awful and nobody showed up, while the right wing press calls it a “triumphant return”. Nobody cares about news anymore, everything has turned into opinion.

It’s been well over 4 years since I started noticing -and writing about- that the NYT, WaPo et al began to publish 10+ anti-Trump stories every single day, and that got me labeled as a Trump supporter. No use saying that I’m not, and never have been, even Nicole, bless her heart, said: yes you are!

Like I am too stupid to know what I support, or maybe I’m a closet Trumpian. It’s that whole idea of if you don’t comply with the narrative and parrot CNN etc., you must be against them. And it’s true that I dislike CNN very much, for adopting a 24/7 anti-Trump business model, but that is not the same as supporting Trump. A news channel should provide us with news, not a political opinion.

I would almost hope Joe Biden wins (not going to happen) because that would mean the end of CNN. I often think Trump and Jerry Zucker have a secret deal that requires Trump to say 100 crazy things per day and CNN to “report” on all of them and invent 100 more as they go along.

But, you know, only half the country now reads the NYT and WaPo, the so-called liberal half. There once was a time when both halves did, but that is no longer an option. There is more money in one-sided and overblown opinion. The country’s best newspapers have sold their souls to Dr. Faust.

The headlines at Britain’s Guardian this morning pretty much sum up the entire story:

• Donald Trump: President sows division and promises ‘greatness’ at Tulsa rally flop

• US president’s much hyped return turned to humiliation when he failed to fill arena in Republican stronghold of Oklahoma

• Don’t call it a comeback: rally was just another sad farce

• ‘Kung flu’ President uses racist term to describe Covid-19

• ‘Saving our country’: An event for Trump’s true believers

And people who read things like the Guardian, NYT, WaPo, keep on eating it up. They buy these papers, they take out subscriptions, just to get their daily fill of anti-Trump “news”. I personally think that is extremely sad, and dangerous to boot. But if and when I say that, I will be labeled a Trump supporter again.

Because that is the easy way out for the Orange Man Bad crowd. Just as it will be, mind you, for all those out there who are going to take a bite out of Joe Biden’s dementia. We should all be able to do better. We should all be able to see that this is not about two old white guys, and that they have much more in common with each other than they have with you or me.

But in the present environment, try saying you’re not partisan and you’ll be labeled “partisan” for saying it. That’s why I brought up the civil war thing yesterday. The liberal press absolutely loves the fact that some grandma on TikTok made kids in Korea order 1000s of tickets for Tulsa and then not show up. The same press that wouldn’t know TikTok from a hole in the ground.

Meanwhile, has anyone at all pondered what the outcome will be for a Joe Biden rally? Oh my Lord, the excitement! Be still my heart. Bring an extra set of underwear.

If the TikTok fake tickets thing happened to a Joe Biden “event”, you know who would be blamed? Russia.

 

 

Worldometer reports new cases for June 20 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 181,005 .

My count 6AM EDT to 6AM EDT (a bit more today) based on Worldometer numbers is 159,182.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 33,388
• Brazil + 31,571
• Russia + 7,889
• India + 15,545

 

 

Cases 8,945,774 (+ 159,182 from yesterday’s 8,786,592)

Deaths 467,306 (+ 4,150 from yesterday’s 463,156)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just the News is John Solomon’s new outlet.

Trump Makes Triumphant Return To Campaign Rallies (JTN)

After months of coronavirus, racial strife and economic calamity, President Trump returned Saturday night to the campaign trail with a extravagant stadium event in Tulsa, Okla., vowing to win re-election on behalf of a “silent majority” of Americans drowned out by polls, media pundits and protesters. n”You are warriors,” a smiling Trump declared as he waved and gave fist pumps to an audience of thousands who braved fears about contagion, a lawsuit that failed to stop the events and protests outside the arena.


“I stand before you today to declare the silent majority is stronger than ever before,” Trump said to cheers. “Five months from now we’re going to defeat sleepy Joe Biden. … We are going to stop the radical left, and we’re going to build a future of safety and opportunity for Americans of every race color, religion and creed.” Seeking to address the recent rioting and protests caused by police killings, Trump portrayed himself and the GOP as best suited to bring racial healing and quell the violence. “Republicans are the party of liberty, equality and justice for all. We are the party of Abraham Lincoln, and we are the party of law and order,” he told the crowd.

Read more …

“You got punked by several hundred thousand TikTok users, organized by a grandmother in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Mary Jo Laupp was apparently so upset by the original date and place of Trump’s rally – the city where one of America’s worst racist massacres took place, in 1921 – that she asked people to sign up for the rally and not show up. Laupp only joined TikTok earlier this year, but her call connected with thousands of K-Pop fans who are what Trump might call a silent majority.”

Trump’s Tulsa Rally Was Just Another Sad Farce (G.)

There have been so many reasons to feel embarrassed about Donald Trump. There was the time he paid off a porn star. There was the time he lied about the size of his inauguration crowd. The time he talked about the big water around Puerto Rico. The time he thought you could kill the coronavirus by injecting yourself with bleach. But nothing truly comes close to the embarrassment of his so-called comeback rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday. It was so toe-curlingly cringeworthy, such a crushing humiliation. There are 80s pop bands who have enjoyed greater comebacks than Donald Trump. To understand how much of his insides will always melt at the thought of that Tulsa rally, it’s worth quoting Trump’s fine words just before he boarded Marine One at the White House.


“The event in Oklahoma is unbelievable,” he boasted. “The crowds are unbelievable. They haven’t seen anything like it. And we will go there now. We’ll give a, hopefully, good speech. We’re going to see a lot of great people, a lot of great friends. And pretty much, that’s it. OK?” We really haven’t seen anything like that. For a man who loves peddling superlatives, this was the worst measure of his oh-so-sad popularity. The lowest point in electoral incompetence. The saddest campaign fiasco. The event in Oklahoma was literally unbelievable if you believe that the Trump campaign is competent, and that Trump himself is actually popular. That’s the weird thing about our populist president: his approval ratings have never cracked 50% and are now stuck firmly in the low 40s. Perhaps that’s why he’s trailing Joe Biden by double-digits in recent polls.

Read more …

Think perhaps I shouldn’t have raised the spectre of civil war yesterday?

Over A Third Of Americans Think Civil War Is Likely (ZH)

No one would have ever fathomed, that America – the greatest country in the world – with “the greatest economy ever” – could even be on the cusp of a civil war. Except for Peter Turchin, who predicted a decade ago in the scholarly journal Nature that America would “suffer a period of major social upheaval” starting around the year 2020. As race-driven/anti-police protests flourish nationwide – one-in-three Americans are warming up to the idea the country is on the brink of another civil war, according to Rasmussen Reports. The latest findings found 34% of respondents said the country would experience a second civil war within five years, and that includes 9% of those who said it’s very likely. Rasmussen noted, “This compares to 31 percent and 11 percent respectively two years ago.”

When examining between party lines, 40% of Republicans said civil war was “on the horizon,” while 28% of Democrats concurred. Around 38% of Independent voters said a civil war is possible in the next five years. The survey of 1,000 likely U.S. voters was conducted on June 11 and 14 by Rasmussen Reports, also asked respondents about local governments and protesters removing Confederate monuments. Rasmussen said: “39 percent) of all voters believe the removal of Confederate symbols, names, and monuments throughout the country honoring those who fought in the first civil war will help race relations. Twenty-seven percent (27 percent) disagree and think it will hurt race relations instead.”

“These numbers are reversed from August 2017 when 28% said the removal of the symbols would help race relations, while 39% thought it would hurt instead. Little changed is the 28% who think the removal of public traces of the Confederacy will have no impact,” it noted. Rasmussen continued, “Women and those under 40 are more supportive of the current anti-police protests and the anti-Confederacy drive than men and older voters.” “Younger voters worry most about another civil war… Just 29 percent of blacks believe the current protests will lead to long-term, meaningful racial change in America, compared to 35 percent of whites and 48 percent of other minority voters,” it said.

Chaos in America’s inner cities have been brewing for some time – and was due to erupt, according to Turchin. He looked at “declining wages, wealth inequality and exploding national debt” as social pressures that affected national stability. His model showed that the U.S. would reach a “boiling point” in 2020 — none of this should come as a surprise to Zero Hedge readers. So does civil war become a self-fulfilling prophecy with a third of Americans believing severe domestic turmoil is ahead?

Read more …

How about a $1 billion fine for Simon and Schuster? For sending out 10,000 copies while the case was pending?

Judge Says Bolton ‘Gambling With National Security’ But Won’t Block Book (JTN)

A federal judge on Saturday declined to block the publication of former national security adviser John Bolton’s tell-all book about the Trump White House, dealing a blow to the Trump administration’s efforts to halt what they claimed was a book full of classified information. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth in a decision issued Saturday declared that the government “failed to establish that an injunction will prevent irreparable harm,” noting that the book was already in widespread circulation even prior to formal publication. But Lamberth also slammed Bolton for “gambl[ing] with the national security of the United States” and “expos[ing] his country to harm” by ordering the publication of the book “without written authorization and without notice to the government.”


Bolton’s lawyers had argued yesterday that their client was “powerless” to stop the book’s dissemination throughout media and society. Copies of the manuscript have already been delivered to journalists, book reviewers and other media outlets around the country. Lamberth in his ruling agreed, writing that “by the looks of it, the horse is not just out of the barn—it is out of the country.”

Read more …

He couldn’t even stop himself from writing, it, I tells ya. It was divine intervention.

Lawyer Says Bolton ‘Utterly Powerless’ To Stop Book’s Circulation (JTN)

A lawyer for former national security adviser John Bolton on Friday argued before a district judge that his client is “utterly powerless” to stop the widespread circulation of his tell-all book, urging the court to dismiss the Trump administration’s attempt to halt publication of the book. The administration has sued to block the release of the book, arguing it contains classified information that necessitates the use of prior restraint, a high bar for governments to clear under First Amendment jurisprudence. In addition to arguing that the book’s material is suitable for publication, attorney Charles Cooper told Judge Royce Lamberth of the D.C. District Court that “the horse is out of the barn” on the matter of the book’s becoming part of the public record. Numerous journalists and media outlets around the country have already received advance copies of the account.


“This isn’t really a judicial proceeding,” Cooper told Lamberth. “It doesn’t actually have as its purpose convincing you to order John Bolton to do something that he is utterly powerless to do, and that you are utterly powerless to force him to do,” namely pull the book from general circulation. Justice Department lawyer David Morrell urged Lamberth to direct Bolton to halt publication “and further dissemination” of the book prior to further review. Morrell said Bolton committed a “flagrant breach” of proper protocol in seeking to publish the alleged classified material. Bolton’s attorneys in an earlier filing had urged Lamberth to toss the suit, claiming that the memoir – which reveals alleged incidents witnessed by Bolton during his tenure at the White House from April 2018 to September 2019 – is protected speech under the First Amendment.

Read more …

Again: the left’s new hero is a Trump campaign contributor.

Manhattan Prosecutor Steps Down, Ending Stand-Off With AG Barr (R.)

A stand-off over the independence of one of the country’s most important prosecutor’s offices ended on Saturday when Geoffrey Berman agreed to step down as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the office that had been investigating President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani. Berman’s confirmation of his departure came after Attorney General William Barr told him he had been fired by Trump at Barr’s request, and that Berman’s hand-picked No. 2, Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss, would become Acting U.S. Attorney until a permanent replacement is installed. Under Strauss’ leadership, Berman said the office could continue its “tradition of integrity and independence.”


Berman’s office, which is known for prosecuting the most high profile terrorism cases, Wall Street financial crimes and government corruption, has not shied from taking on figures in Trump’s orbit. It oversaw the prosecution of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, indicted two Giuliani associates and launched a probe into Giuliani in connection with his efforts to dig up dirt on Trump’s political adversaries in Ukraine. Giuliani has not formally been accused of any wrongdoing. The standoff with Berman follows the latest in a series of moves by Barr that critics say are meant to benefit Trump politically and undermine the independence of the Justice Department. It also comes as Trump has sought to purge officials perceived as not fully supporting him. In recent weeks he has fired a series of agency watchdogs, including one who played a key role in Trump’s impeachment earlier this year.

Read more …

Stay at Herm.

US Travel Industry Revenues To Plummet By Half a Trillion In 2020 (F.)

Travel spending in the United States will fall by more than a half-trillion dollars this year and likely won’t recover to 2019 levels until 2024. That’s according to a new economic analysis of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and government steps to constrict personal and business interactions in an effort to fight the disease’s spread. The dire forecast was prepared for the U.S. Travel Association, a Washington lobby group, by Tourism Economics. Both the USTA and the Air Line Pilots Association on Thursday went public with new requests for federal assistance. The analysis projects that companies providing travel related services – airlines, hotels, restaurants, attractions and more – will take in $505 billion less in revenue by the end of this year than they did in 2019.


Last year U.S. travel spending topped $1.1 trillion, an all-time high. This year the same group is forecast to take in 45 percent less revenue, or around $622 billion. Furthermore, the forecast for 2020 shows that while travel spending in the U.S. on travel in 2021 should rise 37.5 percent over this year’s total spending to around $855 billion, that still would leave the U.S. travel industry 24 percent smaller in terms of revenues in 2021 than it was in 2019. The recovery in travel spending is then forecast to continue in 2022 and 2023, but at a slower pace. The forecast 14.2 percent growth in travel spending in 2022 would take total spending to just shy of a trillion dollars: 976 billion.

Read more …

Would it be really stupid if I ask who’s going to buy them?

Nearly Half Of Americans Consider Selling Home As COVID Crushes Finances (ZH)

As the virus pandemic has metastasized into an economic downturn, tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs and are struggling to service mortgage payments. New research offers a glimpse into struggling households, discovers out of the 2,000 American homeowners polled, over half (52%) of respondents say they’re routinely worried about making future mortgage payments and nearly half (47%) considered selling their home because of the inability to service mortgage payments. The study, conducted by OnePoll and the National Association of Realtors, determined 81% of respondents had experienced unexpected financial stress due to the virus-induced recession. Over half (56%) reduced spending so they could service mortgage payments.

Since mid-March, or about the time when the lockdowns began, nearly half (47%) of homeowners have explored alternative ways of making money. About two-thirds of respondents (64%) started side projects, while 53% sold valuables to supplement income. “The swift and unprecedented impact of COVID-19 left many people in a financial emergency, and we want to make sure struggling homeowners know they have relief options, especially during Homeownership Month,” said the National Association of Realtors President Vince Malta. “Realtors and lenders can identify programs and aid designed to help meet loan obligations. Acting quickly may help homeowners stay in their homes and keep the money they have already invested into it,” Malta said.

From clothing (71%) and take-out (66%) to streaming TV services (46%) and groceries (45%), respondents said their spending habits had been significantly reduced so they could service mortgage payments. In a separate report, more than 4 million homeowners are in mortgage forbearance plan – representing 7.54% of all mortgages, delinquencies are set to surpass the great recession, which peaked at 10%.

Read more …

Broken record. Give them back, you twits.

Greece Urges UK To Return Parthenon Marbles (G.)

The New Acropolis Museum was purpose-built to host the one thing every Greek government will always agree on: the Parthenon marbles being returned from London. On Saturday, as the four-storey edifice marked its 11th anniversary, Athens reinvigorated the cultural row calling the British Museum’s retention of the antiquities illegal and “contrary to any moral principle”. “Since September 2003 when construction work for the Acropolis Museum began, Greece has systematically demanded the return of the sculptures on display in the British Museum because they are the product of theft,” the country’s culture minister Lina Mendoni told the Greek newspaper Ta Nea.

“The current Greek government – like any Greek government – is not going to stop claiming the stolen sculptures which the British Museum, contrary to any moral principle, continues to hold illegally.” For years, she said, the museum had argued that Athens had nowhere decent enough to display Phidias’ masterpieces, insisting that its stance was “in stark contrast” to the view of the UK public. In repeated polls, Britons have voiced support for the repatriation of the carvings, controversially removed from the Parthenon in 1802 at the behest of Lord Elgin, London’s ambassador to the Sublime Porte. “It is sad that one of the world’s largest and most important museums is still governed by outdated, colonialist views.” Greece’s centre-right administration has vowed to step up the campaign to win back artworks that adorned the frieze of the Periclean showpiece ahead of the country’s bicentennial independence celebrations next year.

Within weeks of his election, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greece’s prime minister, told the Observer Athens was prepared to allow treasures that had never travelled abroad to be exhibited in London in exchange for the marbles being reunited with “a monument of global cultural heritage”. Well-placed government officials have not excluded the EU pressing for the return of the antiquities as part of an overarching Brexit deal. The row was injected with renewed rancour when the British Museum’s director, Hartwig Fischer, described their removal from Greece as “a creative act”. Half of the 160-metre frieze is in London, with 50 metres in Athens and other pieces displayed in a total of eight other museums across Europe.

Read more …

 

 

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https://twitter.com/CarpeDonktum/status/1274537090261430275

 

 

 

My man. My Main man.

Robert Allen Zimmerman is 79 years old.

But his brain has just been born.

 

Three miles north of purgatory –
one step from the great beyond
I prayed to the cross, and I kissed the girls,
and I crossed the Rubicon.

Bob Dylan

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Apr 232020
 


Jack Delano Union Station, Chicago, Illinois 1943

 

Not a Black Swan but a Portent of a More Fragile Global System – Taleb (NYer)
Coronavirus Started Spreading In US Much Earlier Than Thought (CoD)
Coronavirus Study Points To Vast Number Of Cases Under Radar In China (SCMP)
How Does Coronavirus Kill? (ScienceMag)
Many Small Businesses Say Loans Won’t Get Them To Rehire (AP)
Congressional Democrats Do Little To Improve ‘Pathetic’ Coronavirus Deal (IC)
Trump Disagrees ‘Strongly’ With Georgia Reopening Shops (JTN)
HHS Secretary Alex Azar Waited For Weeks To Brief Trump (WSJ)
Azar Tapped Former Labradoodle Breeder To Lead US Pandemic Task Force (R.)
Cuomo Taps Bloomberg To Lead COVID-19 Contact “Tracing Army” (Gothamist)
Turkey PPE Supplier Doesn’t Have Enough Stock To Meet UK Order (Sky)
Coronavirus Upends Global Narcotics Trade (R.)
The Analogy Trap in Economic Policy (Eichengreen)
New York Times Revives its Role in Chinagate (Lauria)

 

 

• The US had +2,341 new deaths from coronavirus today, down from its record high yesterday, bringing the total US death toll to 47,659.

• New York had +661 new deaths, while New Jersey had +310, Massachusetts had +221, and three other states (CA, MI, CT) had over 100 new deaths. Only five states did not have a coronavirus death today.

• The US had nearly +30k new confirmed cases today, bringing the total to over 848k, with over 717k active cases.

 

• US total cases currently at 848,735, with death totals at 47,663.
• Globally, total cases have hit 2,637,414, with death totals at 184,204.

 

• US yesterday new 25,985, today now 27,948.
• IL, CT today exceed 2,000

 

• Spain yesterday 3,968, today 4,211. Fluctuating. No daily testing data

 

• 4/22/20 – Top 12 State Cases
New York: 257,216
New Jersey: 95,865
Massachusetts: 42,944
California: 35,396
Illinois: 35,108
Pennsylvania: 35,045
Michigan: 33,966
Florida: 28,309
Louisiana: 25,258
Connecticut: 22,469
Texas: 21,069
Georgia: 20,740

 

 

#Coronavirus: Global #Covid19 Deaths By Week
01/22: 17
01/29: 133
02/05: 564
02/12: 1,118
02/19: 2,122
02/26: 2,770
03/04: 3,254
03/11: 4,615
03/18: 8,733
03/25: 21,181
04/01: 46,809
04/08: 88,338
04/15: 134,177
04/22: 183,027

 

 

Cases 2,656,391 (+ 82,920 from yesterday’s 2,573,471)

Deaths 185,156 (+ 6,598 from yesterday’s 178,558)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer – NOTE: among Active Cases, Serious or Critical fell to 3%. Among Closed Cases, Deaths have fallen to 20%

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live: Note: Turkey, Russia, UK are the biggest risers

 

 

 

 

“The state,” he told me, “should not smooth out your life, like a Lebanese mother, but should be there for intervention in negative times, like a rich Lebanese uncle.”

Not a Black Swan but a Portent of a More Fragile Global System – Taleb (NYer)

COVID19 has initiated ordinary citizens into the esoteric “mayhem” that Taleb’s writings portend. Who knows what will change for countries when the pandemic ends? What we do know, Taleb says, is what cannot remain the same. He is “too much a cosmopolitan” to want global networks undone, even if they could be. But he does want the institutional equivalent of “circuit breakers, fail-safe protocols, and backup systems,” many of which he summarizes in his fourth, and favorite, book, “Antifragile,” published in 2012. For countries, he envisions political and economic principles that amount to an analogue of his investment strategy: government officials and corporate executives accepting what may seem like too-small gains from their investment dollars, while protecting themselves from catastrophic loss.

For Taleb, an antifragile country would encourage the distribution of power among smaller, more local, experimental, and self-sufficient entities—in short, build a system that could survive random stresses, rather than break under any particular one. (His word for this beneficial distribution is “fractal.”) We should discourage the concentration of power in big corporations, “including a severe restriction of lobbying,” Taleb told me. “When one per cent of the people have fifty per cent of the income, that is a fat tail.” Companies shouldn’t be able to make money from monopoly power, “from rent-seeking”—using that power not to build something but to extract an ever-larger part of the surplus.

There should be an expansion of the powers of state and even county governments, where there is “bottom-up” control and accountability. This could incubate new businesses and foster new education methods that emphasize “action learning and apprenticeship” over purely academic certification. He thinks that “we should have a national Entrepreneurship Day.” But Taleb doesn’t believe that the government should abandon citizens buffeted by events they can’t possibly anticipate or control. (He dedicated his book “Skin in the Game,” published in 2018, to Ron Paul and Ralph Nader.) “The state,” he told me, “should not smooth out your life, like a Lebanese mother, but should be there for intervention in negative times, like a rich Lebanese uncle.”

Right now, for example, the government should, indeed, be sending out checks to unemployed and gig workers. (“You don’t bail out companies, you bail out individuals.”) He would also consider a guaranteed basic income, much as Andrew Yang, whom he admires, has advocated. Crucially, the government should be an insurer of health care, though Taleb prefers not a centrally run Medicare-for-all system but one such as Canada’s, which is controlled by the provinces. And, like responsible supply-chain managers, the federal government should create buffers against public-health disasters: “If it can spend trillions stockpiling nuclear weapons, it ought to spend tens of billions stockpiling ventilators and testing kits.”

Read more …

This was a given.

Coronavirus Started Spreading In US Much Earlier Than Thought (CoD)

Experts have released new information about just how long the coronavirus (COVID-19) might have been silently spreading in the United States. Health officials in California said the first U.S. coronavirus deaths actually occurred weeks before they previously believed. This comes as no surprise to doctors. Many doctors had patients earlier on that they now believe were COVID-19 cases. But they didn’t qualify for testing at the time because they either didn’t have a history of travel to China or the didn’t have the initially reported symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. But now there’s concrete proof that the timeline of cases started much earlier.

The first confirmed case of the coronavirus in the U.S. came Jan. 21 in a man from Washington state who developed symptoms after returning from a trip to Wuhan, China. But the first confirmed death was thought to be more than a month later, on Feb. 29, in Kirkland, Washington. Health officials there later found two deaths on Feb. 26 were due to the virus, pushing the timeline back three days. But coroners across the country are now looking back at other deaths. The medial examiner in Santa Clara County, California, sent tissue samples collected during autopsies performed in February to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing.

Samples taken from patients who died at home on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17 both tested positive for the coronavirus. That pushes the fatality timeline back 20 days. Health officials believe the patients were infected in the community. Neither is known to have a travel history. Given that deaths tend to lag infections by about two weeks, the first patient could have been infected in mid-January. It’s likely the coronavirus was already spreading in the U.S. far earlier than initially reported — hidden in a bad flu season and undetected by rigid testing rules.

Read more …

So people will say: see, infection rate is much lower! Well, not if the death rate is also much higher. Which certainly in China is possible.

Coronavirus Study Points To Vast Number Of Cases Under Radar In China (SCMP)

China’s official tally of coronavirus cases could have quadrupled in mid-February if one broader system for classifying confirmed patients had been used from the outset of the pandemic, according to researchers at the University of Hong Kong. In a study published in the medical journal The Lancet on Tuesday, the researchers said China might have had 232,000 confirmed cases – rather than the official total of about 55,000 – by February 20 if a revised definition adopted earlier in the month had been applied throughout. “We estimated that there were at least 232,000 infections in the first epidemic wave of Covid-19 in mainland China,” they said, referring to the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“The true number of infections could still be higher than that currently estimated considering the possibility of under-detection of some infections, particularly those that were mild and asymptomatic, even under the broadest case definitions.” The researchers – led by Peng Wu from the University of Hong Kong’s school of public health – looked at the various classification systems used by the government after the epidemic erupted in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late December. China has published seven editions of diagnosis and treatment guidelines, changing the classification system as understanding of the disease developed. The Hong Kong team found that different definitions made a big difference to the number of cases.

“We estimated that when the case definitions were changed from version 1 to 2, version 2 to 4, and version 4 to 5, the proportion of infections being identified as Covid-19 cases was increased by 7.1 times from version 1 to 2, 2.8 times from version 2 to 4, and 4.2 times from version 4 to 5,” the paper, co-authored by Peng’s HKU colleagues epidemiologist Benjamin Cowling and medical faculty dean Gabriel Leung, said.

Read more …

Thorough report on how and why. But even then a lack of understanding of what the virus is, remains.

How Does Coronavirus Kill? (ScienceMag)

When an infected person expels virus-laden droplets and someone else inhales them, the novel coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2, enters the nose and throat. It finds a welcome home in the lining of the nose, according to a preprint from scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and elsewhere. They found that cells there are rich in a cell-surface receptor called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). Throughout the body, the presence of ACE2, which normally helps regulate blood pressure, marks tissues vulnerable to infection, because the virus requires that receptor to enter a cell. Once inside, the virus hijacks the cell’s machinery, making myriad copies of itself and invading new cells.

As the virus multiplies, an infected person may shed copious amounts of it, especially during the first week or so. Symptoms may be absent at this point. Or the virus’ new victim may develop a fever, dry cough, sore throat, loss of smell and taste, or head and body aches. If the immune system doesn’t beat back SARS-CoV-2 during this initial phase, the virus then marches down the windpipe to attack the lungs, where it can turn deadly. The thinner, distant branches of the lung’s respiratory tree end in tiny air sacs called alveoli, each lined by a single layer of cells that are also rich in ACE2 receptors.

Normally, oxygen crosses the alveoli into the capillaries, tiny blood vessels that lie beside the air sacs; the oxygen is then carried to the rest of the body. But as the immune system wars with the invader, the battle itself disrupts this healthy oxygen transfer. Front-line white blood cells release inflammatory molecules called chemokines, which in turn summon more immune cells that target and kill virus-infected cells, leaving a stew of fluid and dead cells—pus—behind. This is the underlying pathology of pneumonia, with its corresponding symptoms: coughing; fever; and rapid, shallow respiration. Some COVID-19 patients recover, sometimes with no more support than oxygen breathed in through nasal prongs.

But others deteriorate, often quite suddenly, developing a condition called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Oxygen levels in their blood plummet and they struggle ever harder to breathe. On x-rays and computed tomography scans, their lungs are riddled with white opacities where black space—air—should be. Commonly, these patients end up on ventilators. Many die. Autopsies show their alveoli became stuffed with fluid, white blood cells, mucus, and the detritus of destroyed lung cells.

Read more …

All the big money’s already been handed out.

Many Small Businesses Say Loans Won’t Get Them To Rehire (AP)

Some small businesses that obtained a highly-coveted government loan say they won’t be able to use it to bring all their laid-off workers back, even though that is what the program was designed to do. The Paycheck Protection Program promises a business owner loan forgiveness if they retain or rehire all the workers they had in late February. But owners say the equation isn’t so simple, in part because of current economic conditions and partly due to the terms of the loans. As a result, the lending may not reduce unemployment as much as the Trump administration and Congress hope. The government’s $2 trillion relief package included $349 billion for the small business loan program, which was besieged with applications and ran out of money Thursday.

Congress and the White House reached a deal Tuesday that would provide another $310 billion. To get the loans forgiven, companies need to spend 75% on payroll within eight weeks of receiving the money. The other 25% can be spent on rent, utilities, and mortgage payments. Otherwise, the loan has generous terms: Only a 1% interest rate and six months before any principal is due. Many of the small companies that were able to obtain a loan are having second thoughts about rehiring all their workers and a few plan to return the money. Others will use what they can on rent and utilities, and will use some to rehire a portion of their laid-off staff. But most are unsure they will be able to reopen eight weeks from now.

They see little point in rehiring all their workers, paying them to do little or nothing, and then potentially laying them off again if business remains weak two months from now. “You’re turning the business into a pass through for the federal government,” said Joe Walsh, who owns Clean Green Maine, a cleaning service in Portland, Maine with 35 employees. “You’re doing very little to actually help the business.” [..] Also, the generous unemployment aid that was also included in the government’s relief package has made it more difficult to rehire. Many workers are making more with unemployment checks, which now include a $600 weekly benefit from the federal government.

Walsh, who received a $280,000 loan from the SBA, said that he is reluctant to push his employees to return to work because, under unemployment benefit rules, they could lose their weekly checks if they turn down potential jobs. “That’s just putting me as the employer in a really difficult position,” Walsh said. He pays at least $17 an hour, with benefits, but his former employees are getting the equivalent of roughly $25 an hour from unemployment.

Read more …

They all have the same campaign contributors. And they’re not small businesses.

Congressional Democrats Do Little To Improve ‘Pathetic’ Coronavirus Deal (IC)

PROGRESSIVE GROUPS are outraged with the nearly $500 billion interim coronavirus rescue package the Senate passed on Tuesday, urging House Democrats to oppose the “pathetic” deal they say doesn’t come close to providing the relief vulnerable people need while giving away all Democratic leverage for future legislation. The “Phase 3.5” bill, which is expected to sail through the House this week, left out almost everything Democratic leaders were advocating for. There’s no additional funding for state and local governments, no expanded food stamp benefits, no hazard pay for front-line workers, nor money for the U.S. Postal Service, which had all been basic Democratic priorities.

The lack of progressive opposition in Congress has been especially noteworthy, after members of the progressive caucus promised to help make future legislation more comprehensive following the hastily passed Phase 3 bill. While some progressive advocates argue that Democrats didn’t have much leverage on the package to begin with, others note that Democrats control the House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could have led the party to pass its own bill. “Just as importantly as the inadequate policy provisions, this bill gives away all Democratic leverage,” Ezra Levin, co-executive director of Indivisible, said in an emailed statement.

“We fought so hard to win back the House in 2018 — to make sure that we had a voice in negotiations like this. So far we’ve heard silence from the House. This bill may be our last chance to get the things we need. [Republican Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell has already said he doesn’t want to push through another bill, and if he does, it won’t be for weeks.” [..] The interim package, which would replenish funds for an emergency small business lending program, also includes an additional $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for coronavirus testing — two necessities that have been framed as GOP concessions. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the legislation is everything they were expecting. “When you look at the package that is going to be passed, it’s almost exactly like the one we asked for two weeks ago, or 12 days ago,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

Read more …

It takes 2 weeks for new infections to occur. By then, most of the US will have reopened.

Trump Disagrees ‘Strongly’ With Georgia Reopening Shops (JTN)

President Trump said he disagreed with Georgia’s decision to allow some shops to re-open as early as Friday after shuttering due to the coronavirus pandemic. “I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities which are in violation of the Phase 1 guidelines for the incredible people of Georgia,” Trump said Wednesday during a press conference of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. “But at the same time, he must do what he thinks is right. I want him to do what he thinks is right. But I disagree with him on what he’s doing.” Trump said he wanted to give governors discretion, although he would step in if he sees something “totally egregious, totally out of line.”

Trump’s administration last week released a 3-phase set of guidelines to re-open following the worst of the pandemic. Trump said that these Georgia shops shouldn’t be re-opening during the federal phase 1 guidelines and should instead wait for phase 2. “We’re going to have phase 2 very soon,” Trump said. “It’s just too soon. I think it’s too soon. And I love the people. I love those people that use all of those things, the spas, and the beauty parlors, barber shops, tattoo parlors. I love ’em. But they can wait a little bit longer, just a little bit. Not much. Because safety has to predominate. We have to have that. So I told the governor very simply that I disagree with his decision, but he has to do what he thinks is right.”

[..] 46% of registered U.S. voters want decisions about re-opening the country after the coronavirus to be made by state and local officials. Only 15% think it should be a federal decision, according to the Just the News Daily Poll with Scott Rasmussen. Trump praised Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) for his re-opening strategy. “Some of the governors have done a fantastic job working with us,” Trump said.

Read more …

Sidelined a little too late perhaps?

HHS Secretary Alex Azar Waited For Weeks To Brief Trump (WSJ)

On Jan. 29, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told President Trump the coronavirus epidemic was under control. The U.S. government had never mounted a better interagency response to a crisis, Mr. Azar told the president in a meeting held eight days after the U.S. announced its first case, according to administration officials. At the time, the administration’s focus was on containing the virus. When other officials asked about diagnostic testing, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, began to answer. Mr. Azar cut him off, telling the president it was “the fastest we’ve ever created a test,” the officials recalled, and that more than one million tests would be available within weeks.

That didn’t happen. The CDC began shipping tests the following week, only to discover a flaw that forced it to recall the test from state public-health laboratories. When White House advisers later in February criticized Mr. Azar for the delays caused by the recall, he lashed out at Dr. Redfield, accusing the CDC director of misleading him on the timing of a fix. “Did you lie to me?” one of the officials recalled him yelling. Six weeks after that Jan. 29 meeting, the federal government declared a national emergency and issued guidelines that effectively closed down the country. Mr. Azar, who had been at the center of the decision-making from the outset, was eventually sidelined.

Many factors muddled the administration’s early response to the coronavirus as officials debated the severity of the threat, including comments from Mr. Trump that minimized the risk. But interviews with more than two dozen administration officials and others involved in the government’s coronavirus effort show that Mr. Azar waited for weeks to brief the president on the threat, oversold his agency’s progress in the early days and didn’t coordinate effectively across the health-care divisions under his purview.

[..] White House officials say there is no plan to replace Mr. Azar during a pandemic. Still, the president last week installed a former campaign aide, Michael Caputo, to serve as assistant secretary for public affairs at HHS. The White House also appointed policy adviser Emily Newman as a liaison to HHS who will oversee the agency’s political hires. Mr. Azar has largely been sidelined over the past several weeks from discussions with the president and with the White House task force, administration officials said. He hasn’t attended the daily briefing since April 3.

Read more …

The headline is just too good.

Azar Tapped Former Labradoodle Breeder To Lead US Pandemic Task Force (R.)

On January 21, the day the first U.S. case of coronavirus was reported, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services appeared on Fox News to report the latest on the disease as it ravaged China. Alex Azar, a 52-year-old lawyer and former drug industry executive, assured Americans the U.S. government was prepared. “We developed a diagnostic test at the CDC, so we can confirm if somebody has this,” Azar said. “We will be spreading that diagnostic around the country so that we are able to do rapid testing on site.” While coronavirus in Wuhan, China, was “potentially serious,” Azar assured viewers in America, it “was one for which we have a playbook.”

Azar’s initial comments misfired on two fronts. Like many U.S. officials, from President Donald Trump on down, he underestimated the pandemic’s severity. He also overestimated his agency’s preparedness. As is now widely known, two agencies Azar oversaw as HHS secretary, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, wouldn’t come up with viable tests for five and half weeks, even as other countries and the World Health Organization had already prepared their own. Shortly after his televised comments, Azar tapped a trusted aide with minimal public health experience to lead the agency’s day-to-day response to COVID-19.

The aide, Brian Harrison, had joined the department after running a dog-breeding business for six years. Five sources say some officials in the White House derisively called him “the dog breeder.” Azar’s optimistic public pronouncement and choice of an inexperienced manager are emblematic of his agency’s oft-troubled response to the crisis. His HHS is a behemoth department, overseeing almost every federal public health agency in the country, with a $1.3 trillion budget that exceeds the GDP of most countries. [..[ Azar and his top deputies oversaw health agencies that were slow to alert the public to the magnitude of the crisis, to produce a test to tell patients if they were sick, and to provide protective masks to hospitals even as physicians pleaded for them.

The first test created by the CDC, meant to be used by other labs, was plagued by a glitch that rendered it useless and wasn’t fixed for weeks. It wasn’t until March that tests by other labs went into production. The lack of tests “limited hospitals’ ability to monitor the health of patients and staff,” the HHS Inspector General said in a report this month. The equipment shortage “put staff and patients at risk.” A promised virus surveillance program failed to take root, despite assurances Azar gave to Congress. Rather than share information, three current and three former government officials told Reuters, Azar and top staff sidelined key agencies that could have played a higher-profile role in addressing the pandemic. “It was a mess,” said a White House official who worked with HHS.

Read more …

Little Mike mighty actually pull it off. But he doesn’t care too much about privacy.

Cuomo Taps Bloomberg To Lead COVID-19 Contact “Tracing Army” (Gothamist)

Michael Bloomberg has been charged with amassing and leading a “tracing army” to track the spread of COVID-19 in the Tri-State area, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo. The goal will be to aggressively test and isolate contacts of all those who tested positive for the virus — a major undertaking that experts say is necessary before officials can consider relaxing social distancing measures. After previewing this push in recent weeks, Cuomo revealed during a press conference on Wednesday that Bloomberg will “coordinate the entire effort,” including developing the program and designing the training for thousands of newly-hired tracers.

The multibillionaire former mayor, who does not have a public health background, has also agreed to contribute $10 million to the initiative. By comparison, he spent $1 billion on his failed presidential bid. The announcement came hours after Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his own plans for a citywide contact tracing apparatus. The mayor was not informed by the Governor’s Office that Bloomberg, his predecessor and political rival, would be heading up the statewide effort until Wednesday morning, as de Blasio was announcing his own initiative, mayoral spokesperson Freddi Goldstein told Gothamist. While the city will still be responsible for hiring some of the field workers, Cuomo stressed that the initiative had to be regionally focused.

“You cannot trace someone within the boundaries of New York City,” he said. The state will also partner with Johns Hopkins University and the non-profit Vital Strategies to roll out the program. Some of the roughly 35,000 CUNY and SUNY students in medical fields will also be tapped for the effort, Cuomo said. The federal government has made available $1.3 billion for New York to begin contact tracing. Cuomo did not immediately have an estimate for how much it would cost. “You don’t have months to get this up and running,” he added. “You have weeks.”

Read more …

Turkey is one of the exploding countries. Is it a good ide to export their supplies?

Turkey PPE Supplier Doesn’t Have Enough Stock To Meet UK Order (Sky)

A commercial supplier in Turkey did not have enough stock to fulfil an order for 84 tonnes of protective equipment supposed to be bound for the UK, Turkish officials have said. British sources said the UK government was working with the company and the Turkish authorities to secure the shipment “as soon as possible” – though no time frame was given. It comes as a flight carrying PPE – urgently needed by front line health workers as they treat COVID-19 patients in the UK – arrived from Turkey, following days of delays. The Royal Air Force plane arrived at Brize Norton in Oxfordshire from Istanbul just after 3am.


The total consignment of 84 tonnes includes 400,000 clinical gowns, but it is not clear how much of this is on today’s flight. An initial batch of just 2,500 gowns was sent to the airport in Istanbul for quality control checks on Tuesday. Turkish officials said Britain’s attempt to buy the protective equipment from a Turkish firm ran into trouble because the supplier did not have enough stock. Turkey’s ambassador to the UK, Umit Yalcin, told Sky News: “As far as I understand there have been problems with the private supplier company. “Now Turkey is cooperating with the UK authorities to find a quick solution for the UK’s urgent needs.

Read more …

Support your local dealer.

Coronavirus Upends Global Narcotics Trade (R.)

Countries around the world have spent billions of dollars bailing out businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Peru’s coca farmers, who grow the bushy plant used to make cocaine, say they want help, too. Prices for coca leaves sold to drug gangs have slumped 70% since Peru went on lockdown last month, according to Julián Pérez Mallqui, the head of a local growers’ organization. He said his members cater to Peru’s tightly regulated legal coca market, but acknowledged some growers sell on the black market. Peruvian officials say more than 90% of the country’s coca crop goes to traffickers who are now struggling to move product. With the sector in turmoil, Pérez’s group is crafting a plan to ask the government to buy up excess coca inventory.

Peru “has to design clear intervention strategies for coca,” Pérez said. “We’re screwed, just like everyone else in the world.” A spokesman for Peru’s anti-drugs agency said it may funnel more development aid to hard-hit areas. The coronavirus outbreak has upended industries across the globe. The international narcotics trade has not been spared. From the cartel badlands along the U.S.-Mexico border and verdant coca fields of the Andes, to street dealers in London and Paris, traffickers are grappling with many of the same woes as legitimate businesses, Reuters has found. On three continents, Reuters spoke with more than two dozen law enforcement officials, narcotics experts, diplomats and people involved in the illicit trade.

They described a business experiencing busted supply chains, delivery delays, disgruntled workers and millions of customers on lockdown. They also gave a window into the innovation – and opportunism – that are hallmarks of the underworld. [..] coronavirus has managed to do what authorities worldwide have not: slow the global narcotics juggernaut almost overnight and inflict a measure of pain on all who participate. In Mexico, the Sinaloa Cartel has faced many threats over the years, including the jailing of former leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. But never one like the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more …

“The task for now is income maintenance — targeting public support at the unemployed so that parents can feed their children.”

The Analogy Trap in Economic Policy (Eichengreen)

Where comparisons with past crises have value is precisely in highlighting how this crisis is different, and therefore how the policy response should vary. First, this crisis did not originate in the financial system, in contrast to 1929 and 2008. Flooding financial markets with liquidity, as central banks have done, may prevent problems on the real side of the economy from destabilising financial institutions and markets. But doing so will not mend the economy or even halt its downward spiral. Achieving this requires first containing the pandemic. Second, in contrast to these earlier episodes, major fiscal stimulus packages are not the right policy focus. Unlike in the past, we have also experienced an unprecedented supply shock.

It makes no sense to try to sustain demand at earlier levels at a time when production can’t keep up, since it is not yet safe — and won’t be safe for some time — for people to return to work. The time for demand stimulus is later. The task for now is income maintenance — targeting public support at the unemployed so that parents can feed their children. Third, this crisis will be most acute in low-income countries. These countries have weak health systems. They are being hit by weak commodity prices, falling remittances, capital flight, a shortage of trade credit and collapsing currencies all at once. They were not the focus in 1929 or 2008 because those crises centred on the global financial system, and because low-income countries had only rudimentary financial systems and were not integrated financially.

This time, low-income countries are at risk of a crisis that will dwarf anything in the advanced-country world. Addressing their plight should be priority number one on humanitarian grounds, but also because what happens there will spill back onto the rest of the world through both economic and epidemiological channels. With the IMF and World Bank meetings coming up next week, one wonders whether advanced countries will look beyond their domestic concerns. One worries that their preoccupation with the questions ‘is this downturn more serious than the Global Financial Crisis?’ and ‘could unemployment rise as high as in the Great Depression?’ will cause them to lose sight of what is about to become the most serious crisis of all.

Read more …

Yeah, before you know it you’re trapped with the NYT in your corner.

New York Times Revives its Role in Chinagate (Lauria)

During the saga of Russiagate The New York Times was the main vehicle for unnamed U.S. intelligence officials to filter uncorroborated allegations about Russia, presenting them as proven fact. Just as the Democratic Party attempted to shift the blame from its disastrous 2016 loss to Donald Trump onto Russia, the Trump administration is now trying to shift the blame from Trump’s disastrous handling of the Coronavirus crisis onto China. And The New York Times is once again the vehicle. In a front-page story on Wednesday, the Times reports as flat fact that “Chinese agents helped spread messages to millions of Americans about a fake lockdown last month, sowing virus panic in the U.S., officials said.” One of the messages said Trump would lock down the entire nation. “They will announce this as soon as they have troops in place to help prevent looters and rioters.”

But as in the Times‘ sordid history of numerous Russiagate stories, you have to read deep into the piece, in this case to paragraph seven, before you are told: “The origin of the messages remains murky. American officials declined to reveal details of the intelligence linking Chinese agents to the dissemination of the disinformation, citing the need to protect their sources and methods for monitoring Beijing’s activities.” Any reputable journalism school will teach its students that you hold off publishing until you see the evidence underlying an assertion. This is especially true when quoting anonymous sources. And it is doubly true when these sources are intelligence agents, who have a long history of deception. It is part of their job description.

Reporters should by now be wary and demand proof after they had allowed intelligence officials to misuse them in misleading the public about the reasons to invade Iraq, and indeed about the later proven lies about collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. The Times story on Wednesday rather shamelessly revives and links China’s alleged misdeeds to Russiagate. “American officials said China, borrowing from Russia’s strategies, has been trying to widen political divisions in the United States. As public dissent simmers over lockdown policies in several states, officials worry it will be easy for China and Russia to amplify the partisan disagreements.”

Read more …

 

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Feb 272020
 


‘Daly’ Store, Manning, South Carolina 1941

 

China City Offers $1,400 To Virus Patients Who Report To Authorities (R.)
UK Hospitals To Deny Care To Weakest If Pandemic Hits (Ind.)
The Hunt For ‘Patient Zero’ – The World’s Health May Depend On It (SCMP)
Japanese Woman Tests Positive For Second Time (R.)
HIV-Like Mutation Makes Coronavirus Far More Infectious Than Sars (SCMP)
Virus Response Delay Could Have Added 100,000 Cases, China Expert (SCMP)
60 Cases In US, One May Be Due To ‘Community Spread’ Of Infection (SCMP)
At This Rate, How Is China’s Economy Going To Recover Lost Ground? (SCMP)
Saudi Arabia Halts Travel To Islam’s Holiest Site To Prevent Spread (AP)
Pandemic Bonds: A “Scheme Like No Other” (Webb)
Judge Refuses to Intervene In Mistreatment of Assange by Prison Officials (Sp.)
Assange Blasts Court For Preventing Communication With “Spied-On” Lawyers, (RT)
Assange Detention Illegal Under English, European And International Law (RT)
Prosecution of Julian Assange Violates First Amendment (Napolitano)
Trump Campaign Sues New York Times For Libel Over Russia Story (R.)

 

Cases 82,419 (+ 1,190 from yesterday’s 81,229).

Deaths 2,808 (+ 39 from yesterday’s 2,769)

 

• Italy 468 cases (25% rise)

• South Korea 334 new cases, total 1,595 (26% rise)

• Japan 16 new cases, total 196, Diamond Princess 705

• US 60 cases
– 14 “US cases”, 3 repatriated from Wuhan and 42 from the Diamond Princess
– 83 monitored in Nassau County, Orange County declares state of emergency
– Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar: “We have 30 million surgical masks. Those would be the gauze tied behind the ear-type masks meant to really protect people from the healthcare workers spreading. We have 12 million N95 NIOSH-certified masks in the stockpile and we have about 5 million N95 masks that I believe may have expired, they’re no longer NIOSH-certified.”

• France 18 cases

• Pakistan confirms first 2 cases

• Norway, Greece first case

• Saudi Arabia bars pilgrims from Mecca

• South Korea has tested 40,000 people. Japan 900.

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

 

 

Coming soon to a town near you.

China City Offers $1,400 To Virus Patients Who Report To Authorities (R.)

A city in China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the global coronavirus epidemic, will pay residents as much as 10,000 yuan ($1,425.96) if they proactively report symptoms of the illness and it is confirmed after testing. Qianjiang, a city of around one million people located about 150 km (90 miles) from the stricken provincial capital of Wuhan, has reported a total of 197 cases so far and is stepping up efforts to ensure its infected people are confined and treated. It is the latest of a number of regions to offer cash rewards to encourage members of the public to volunteer for medical checks.


Hubei has reported over 65,000 cases and more than 2,600 deaths from the epidemic. Worldwide, the death toll is about 2,800 and about 80,000 have been infected. The Qianjiang task force handling the epidemic said in a notice that residents would be entitled to the full 10,000 yuan payment if their coronavirus diagnosis is confirmed. Those who have previously been diagnosed will not be eligible. Those who are not immediately ruled out as suffering from the disease will be given 1,000 yuan, while those declared to be “suspected” cases will earn 2,000 yuan, it said.

Read more …

Also coming soon to a town near you.

UK Hospitals To Deny Care To Weakest If Pandemic Hits (Ind.)

NHS patients could be denied lifesaving care during a severe coronavirus outbreak in Britain if intensive care units are struggling to cope, senior doctors have warned. Under a so-called “three wise men” protocol, three senior consultants in each hospital would be forced to make decisions on rationing care such as ventilators and beds, in the event hospitals were overwhelmed with patients. The medics spoke out amid frustration over what one said was the government’s “dishonest spin” that the health service was well prepared for a major pandemic outbreak. The doctors, from hospitals across England, said the health service’s existing critical care capacity was already overstretched and “would crumble” under the demands of a pandemic surge in patients who may all need ventilation to help them breathe.


Those denied intensive care beds could be those suffering with coronavirus or other seriously ill patients, with priority given to those most likely to survive and recover. Doctors said this would lead to “tough decisions” needing to be made about the wholesale cancellation of operations to free-up beds. One consultant said the “three wise men” protocol had been discussed at his hospital in recent weeks while another from the north of England said it had been raised “informally”. It was initially developed after the 2009 swine flu pandemic but is still included in several NHS trust plans seen by The Independent. One doctor explained: “If you can imagine the real worst-case scenarios where supply is massively outstripped by demand we would have to refuse to admit many people who would normally get ventilated.

Read more …

Yeah, like when it turns out (s)he was infected in the Wuhan biolab.

The Hunt For ‘Patient Zero’ – The World’s Health May Depend On It (SCMP)

Chinese officials are still trying to trace the epidemic back to its source in China. The first coronavirus case was reported to the WHO on December 31 and has been linked to Wuhan’s Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market. However, a new study published by a team of Chinese scientists last week said the virus might have been imported from somewhere else. The first known Covid-19 patient, a male who showed symptoms on December 8, had been discharged but said he was not at the Huanan market, the Wuhan government said in a Weibo post on Wednesday. “We don’t know who the very first patient zero was, presumably in Wuhan, and that leaves a lot of unanswered questions about how the outbreak started and how it initially spread,” Borwein said.


Knowing who patient zero is would help prevent future outbreaks and provide information about how to prevent transmission, Borwein said. But as time passes, identifying the index case grows increasingly difficult. “Figuring out who patient zero was wouldn’t give us all the answers but it would help to map the path the virus has taken and how it’s travelling,” she said. “It’s hard to draw that map without knowing where it starts.” John Nicholls, a University of Hong Kong clinical professor in pathology, said identifying patient zero during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic in 2002-03 was vital from an epidemiological perspective, as it highlighted the mode of its spread. The disease, which infected over 8,000 and killed 813 people globally, was traced to a then 64-year-old medical professor from Guangzhou, who had infected at least 13 tourists staying at the Metropole Hotel in Hong Kong.

Read more …

Reinfection warrants much more attention than it gets.

Japanese Woman Tests Positive For Second Time (R.)

A woman working as a tour bus guide in Japan has tested positive for coronavirus for a second time, in what authorities say is the first such case. The woman, in her 40s and a resident of Osaka in western Japan, tested positive on Wednesday after developing a sore throat and chest pains, the prefectural government said. She first tested positive on 29 January and was discharged from the hospital after recovering on 1 February, before testing negative on 6 February. The health ministry confirmed the case was the first in Japan where a patient tested positive for coronavirus for a second time after being discharged from hospital, Japanese media said. Though a first in Japan, cases of second positive tests have been reported in China. The outbreak has spread rapidly and widely, infecting about 80,000 people globally and killing nearly 2,800, the vast majority in mainland China.


“Once you have the infection, it could remain dormant and with minimal symptoms, and then you can get an exacerbation if it finds its way into the lungs,” said Professor Philip Tierno at New York University’s school of medicine. He said much remained unknown about the virus: “I’m not certain that this is not bi-phasic, like anthrax,” he said, meaning the disease might appear to go away before recurring. The woman’s second positive test came as the number of confirmed cases in Japan rose by 16 to 186, in addition to the 704 diagnosed from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Tokyo has urged that big gatherings and sports events be scrapped or curtailed for two weeks to contain the virus, while pledging the 2020 Olympic Games will still go ahead.

Read more …

We’re going to see large-scale HIV-drug testing on corona cases.

HIV-Like Mutation Makes Coronavirus Far More Infectious Than Sars (SCMP)

The new coronavirus has an HIV-like mutation that means its ability to bind with human cells could be up to 1,000 times as strong as the Sars virus, according to new research by scientists in China and Europe. The discovery could help to explain not only how the infection has spread but also where it came from and how best to fight it. Scientists showed that Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) entered the human body by binding with a receptor protein called ACE2 on a cell membrane. And some early studies suggested that the new coronavirus, which shares about 80 per cent of the genetic structure of Sars, might follow a similar path.

But the ACE2 protein does not exist in large quantities in healthy people, and this partly helped to limit the scale of the Sars outbreak of 2002-03, iwhich infected about 8,000 people around the world. Other highly contagious viruses, including HIV and Ebola, target an enzyme called furin, which works as a protein activator in the human body. Many proteins are inactive or dormant when they are produced and have to be “cut” at specific points to activate their various functions. When looking at the genome sequence of the new coronavirus, Professor Ruan Jishou and his team at Nankai University in Tianjin found a section of mutated genes that did not exist in Sars, but were similar to those found in HIV and Ebola.

“This finding suggests that 2019-nCoV [the new coronavirus] may be significantly different from the Sars coronavirus in the infection pathway,” the scientists said in a paper published this month on Chinaxiv.org, a platform used by the Chinese Academy of Sciences to release scientific research papers before they have been peer-reviewed. “This virus may use the packing mechanisms of other viruses such as HIV.” According to the study, the mutation can generate a structure known as a cleavage site in the new coronavirus’ spike protein. The virus uses the outreaching spike protein to hook on to the host cell, but normally this protein is inactive. The cleavage site structure’s job is to trick the human furin protein, so it will cut and activate the spike protein and cause a “direct fusion” of the viral and cellular membranes.

Compared to the Sars’ way of entry, this binding method is “100 to 1,000 times” as efficient, according to the study. Just two weeks after its release, the paper is already the most viewed ever on Chinarxiv. [..] Chinese researchers said drugs targeting the furin enzyme could have the potential to hinder the virus’ replication in the human body. These include “a series of HIV-1 therapeutic drugs such as Indinavir, Tenofovir Alafenamide, Tenofovir Disoproxil and Dolutegravir and hepatitis C therapeutic drugs including Boceprevir and Telaprevir”, according to Li’s study.

Read more …

Government ‘expert’ Zhong Nanshan does more whitewashing, praising the government response. Problem is, there WAS a huge delay. It should read: Virus Response Delay DID Add 100,000 Cases.

The same Zhong Nanshan said on Jan 28 that “..the number of new cases will plateau within the next ten days..”

Virus Response Delay Could Have Added 100,000 Cases, China Expert (SCMP)

The number of daily coronavirus infections in South Korea could exceed those in China, with Beijing reporting 433 new cases on Thursday – slightly higher than the 406 of a day earlier – while South Korean cases surged on Thursday morning to 334, bringing its total infections to 1,595. If the number of new infections reported by Seoul continues to rise at the rate of recent days, South Korea’s cases could surpass China’s as early as Thursday afternoon, when health officials there are due to report their latest figures. China’s National Health Commission said 409 of its new cases were reported in Hubei province – the epicentre of the outbreak. [..] But cases outside Hubei returned to double digits, with 24 cases reported, a jump from just nine and five cases over the past two days respectively.

Zhong Nanshan, China’s top respiratory disease expert, said the number of patients would have been greatly reduced if China had taken action in early December, or even in early January. China announced human-to-human transmission of the virus on January 20, and Zhong said a delay of just a few more days could have led to well over 100,000 infections. “There have been three coronavirus outbreaks since the beginning of the 21st century. We should take actions to prevent it spreading whenever there is a coronavirus infection case. This is a big lesson for us,” Zhong said. He also called for more authority to be given to the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its local branches.

Currently local CDCs only reports to their local governments who decide what action to take on communicable diseases. “In other countries, the CDC can report to the central government, and even alert the public directly under ‘special circumstances’. Although our expert team announced on January 20 that human to human transmissions had occurred, but that (the transmission) was discovered much earlier … nobody paid attention to it,” Zhong said. He said doctors, including Li Wenliang, had raised the alarm in mid to late December but it was not reported to the government until December 30, adding that the local government had not paid attention to the warnings, “or they did not understand what it was. That is why the spread has not been stopped”.

Read more …

Why just the one?

60 Cases In US, One May Be Due To ‘Community Spread’ Of Infection (SCMP)

US health officials said on Wednesday they had detected a possible case of “community spread” of Covid-19 – the disease caused by the new coronavirus – with a patient testing positive, despite having no travel history to places with outbreaks or of being exposed to someone already infected. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statement was released soon after President Donald Trump said in a White House press briefing that he had appointed Vice-President Mike Pence to lead the containment effort against the spread of the illness that emerged in China’s Hubei province. Community transmission – in which multiple cases are detected without any clear source of infection – could significantly weaken the effectiveness of containment measures such as travel restrictions.


“At this time, the patient’s exposure is unknown. It’s possible this could be an instance of community spread of Covid-19, which would be the first time this has happened in the United States,” the CDC statement said. “It’s also possible, however, that the patient may have been exposed to a returned traveller who was infected,” it said. The patient tested positive for the illness after being screened by “astute clinicians” in the public health system in California, the CDC said. [..] The new case brings the total number of coronavirus infections in the US to 60. This includes 45 people who were either brought back from the central Chinese city of Wuhan – the epicentre of the outbreak – or from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan

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More government propaganda: “..normality could gradually return to the other 96 per cent of the economy.”

At This Rate, How Is China’s Economy Going To Recover Lost Ground? (SCMP)

The escalation of the coronavirus epidemic has completely changed the consensus narrative about China’s economic performance in 2020. The cautious optimism that followed the signing of the phase one trade deal between the US and China has now given way to acute concerns about an economy that has been paralysed by a severe epidemic for more than a month. Even assuming a quick resolution to the crisis, followed by a decent recovery, the Chinese economy will probably struggle to deliver growth much higher than 5 per cent. Therefore, the consensus forecast for full-year growth of 5.8 per cent despite the epidemic – according to the latest Bloomberg survey – must reflect expectations of significant policy easing by China.

However, while stimulus measures may help the economy, it is worth cautioning that their effectiveness is heavily contingent on how the Covid-19 outbreak evolves. To the extent that much of China’s macro outlook will be driven by the epidemic, it is encouraging to see some progress in the fight against the coronavirus. Since early February, the daily increase in infection cases in China has fallen steadily, from nearly 4,000 to about 500. Recent changes in diagnostic methodology have created volatility in the data, but not derailed the overall declining trend. What is also encouraging is that the infection rate outside the epicentre of Hubei has dipped to below 10 cases a day, thanks to Beijing’s aggressive quarantine tactics to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Since Hubei accounts for 4 per cent of China’s GDP, this means that normality could gradually return to the other 96 per cent of the economy. However, a rapid containment of the coronavirus is only a necessary, but by no means sufficient, condition for the realisation of the upbeat consensus forecast. Two other conditions are necessary: namely, an orderly resumption of the economy, and sufficient policy support. On the first point, there are fewer reasons for optimism. The draconian restrictions imposed by Beijing to contain the outbreak continue to hamper both the movement of people and the resumption of economic activity.

Read more …

Middle East pressure cooker.

Saudi Arabia Halts Travel To Islam’s Holiest Site To Prevent Spread (AP)

Saudi Arabia on Thursday halted travel to the holiest sites in Islam over fears about a new viral epidemic just months ahead of the annual haj pilgrimage, a move coming as the Middle East has over 220 confirmed cases of the illness. The extraordinary decision by Saudi Arabia stops foreigners from reaching the holy city of Mecca and the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims pray toward five times a day. It also said travel was suspended to Prophet Muhammad’s mosque in Medina. The decision showed the worry about the outbreak potentially spreading into Saudi Arabia, whose oil-rich monarchy stakes its legitimacy on protecting Islam’s holy sites.


The epicentre in the Middle East’s most-affected country, Iran, appears to be in the holy Shiite city of Qom, where a shrine there sees the faithful reach out to kiss and touch it in reverence. “Saudi Arabia renews its support for all international measures to limit the spread of this virus, and urges its citizens to exercise caution before travelling to countries experiencing coronavirus outbreaks,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement announcing the decision. “We ask God Almighty to spare all humanity from all harm.” Disease outbreaks always have been a concern surrounding the haj, required of all able-bodied Muslims once in their life, especially as pilgrims come from all over the world. The earliest recorded outbreak came in 632 as pilgrims fought off malaria. A cholera outbreak in 1821 for instance killed an estimated 20,000 pilgrims. Another cholera outbreak in 1865 killed 15,000 pilgrims and then spread worldwide.

Read more …

If a pandemic is declared after July 15, people stand to make a lot of dough.

Pandemic Bonds: A “Scheme Like No Other” (Webb)

A little known specialized bond created in 2017 by the World Bank may hold the answer as to why U.S. and global health authorities have declined to label the global spread of the novel coronavirus a “pandemic.” Those bonds, now often referred to as “pandemic bonds,” were ostensibly intended to transfer the risk of potential pandemics in low-income nations to financial markets. Yet, in light of the growing coronavirus outbreak, the investors who purchased those products could lose millions if global health authorities were to use that label in relation to the surge in global coronavirus cases. On Tuesday, federal health officials at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that they are preparing for a “potential pandemic” of the novel coronavirus that first appeared in China late last year.

[..] some have argued that the CDC’s concerns about a likely pandemic have come too late and that action should have been taken much earlier. For instance, in early February, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, had told the New York Times that the novel coronavirus is “very, very transmissible, and it almost certainly is going to be a pandemic,” while former CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden had echoed those concerns at the time, stating that it is “increasingly unlikely that the virus can be contained.” Despite those warnings, among many others, the CDC waited to announce its concerns that the virus could spread throughout the United States. Their Tuesday announcement riled markets, wiping out $1.7 trillion in stock market value in just two days.

[..] In June 2017, the World Bank announced the creation of “specialized bonds” that would be used to fund the previously created Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF) in the event of an officially-recognized (i.e. WHO-recognized) pandemic. They were essentially sold under the premise that those who invested in the bonds would lose their money if any of six deadly pandemics hit, including coronavirus. Yet, if a pandemic did not occur before the bonds mature on July 15, 2020, investors would receive what they had originally paid for the bonds back in addition to interest and premium payments on those bonds that they recieve between the date of purchase and the bond’s maturation date.

The PEF, which these pandemic bonds fund, was created by the World Bank “to channel surge funding to developing countries facing the risk of a pandemic” and the creation of these so-called “pandemic bonds” was intended to transfer pandemic risk in low-income countries to global financial markets. According to a World Bank press release on the launch of the bonds, WHO backed the World Bank’s initiative. However, there is much more to these “pandemic bonds” than meets the eye. For example, PEF has a “unique financing structure [that] combines funding from the bonds issued today with over-the-counter derivatives that transfer pandemic outbreak risk to derivative counterparties.” The World Bank asserted that this structure was used in order “to attract a wider, more diverse set of investors.” Critics, however, have called the unnecessarily convoluted system “World-Bank-enabled looting” …

Read more …

“..precedent of a High Court judge who called up Belmarsh prison’s governor on the phone to instruct him to change the prison’s practices towards an inmate..”

Judge Refuses to Intervene In Mistreatment of Assange by Prison Officials (Sp.)

Julian Assange’s lawyers have repeatedly submitted unsuccessful requests to the Judge on his case, over the past few months, for her to intervene over his prison conditions, which have included denying Assange proper access to his case file. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been subjected to “horrendous” treatment at the hands of prison authorities, the Belmarsh Magistrate’s Court (sitting at Woolwich Crown Court) heard on 25 February. The award-winning journalist and publisher was handcuffed 11 times as he was shuttled between the courthouse and the prison (despite the two locations being practically connected to each other), he was also strip-searched twice, and his legal papers were confiscated from him, according to his legal team and fellow WikiLeaks journalists.


Edward Fitzgerald QC, one of Assange’s barristers, pleaded with Judge Vanessa Baraitser to intervene with prison authorities. But she refused to intervene in any way, stressing that she had repeatedly told Assange’s lawyers that as far as she was concerned she had “no jurisdiction over [Assange’s] prison conditions”. Baraitser, who appeared frustrated with the request and points made by Fitzgerald, suggested that “surely this is a matter for the prison governor”. On 13 January 2020 Gareth Pierce, veteran human rights solicitor and part of Assange’s legal team, gave Baratiser precedent of a High Court judge who called up Belmarsh prison’s governor on the phone to instruct him to change the prison’s practices towards an inmate. But Baraitser was only prepared to go as far as to make a generalised statement in court that it would be “helpful” if the prison improved Assange’s access to his lawyers and his case file. Baraitser had also previously refused to intervene on 19 November 2019.

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“Mr Assange, generally defendants do not have a voice.”

Truer words were never spoken about Julian.

Assange Blasts Court For Preventing Communication With “Spied-On” Lawyers, (RT)

On the third day of his extradition hearing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has rebuked the court for preventing him from communicating with his legal team, saying his prosecutors have “100 times more contact hours each day.” Amid a prosecution argument about whether or not he stands charged with “political offenses” Assange stood and told the court that “the problem is I cannot participate, I cannot privately communicate with my lawyers.” Judge Vanessa Baraitser responded to the 48-year-old journalist and publisher by saying she would not allow him to address the court: “Mr Assange, generally defendants do not have a voice.”

The Australian continued to try and get his point across so the magistrate adjourned the court for five minutes while the defense team held a ‘private’ meeting. “The other side must have something like 100 contact hours each day,” Assange said upon the conclusion of the adjournment, before adding that his legal team is being spied on. There is already enough spying on my lawyers as it is. There are a number of unnamed embassy officials here. There are two microphones in here. What’s the point of asking if I can concentrate if I can’t participate? “I am as much a participant in these proceedings as I am at Wimbledon,” Assange wistfully joked while alleging that there was a microphone in the glass defendants dock.

The defense team asked for Assange to be removed from the dock so that he could sit with them; prosecutors reportedly didn’t object but the judge felt the security team might. “It is your call Madam,” the prosecutors said. Defense counsel Edward Fitzgerald argued that Assange is “no threat to anyone,” adding: “He is a gentle man of an intellectual nature. There’s no reason for him not to sit with us.” The judge then asked whether they would like to submit a formal bail application to make that a reality. The defense team will now submit such a formal bail application and a decision will be made on Thursday morning. For the time being, Assange will remain in the dock away from his legal team.

Read more …

“..the existence of a treaty is the fundamental basis of the Assange extradition request and that, without a treaty, there would be no such request in the first place. Choosing to ignore the provisions of such a treaty is itself an abuse of process..”

Assange Detention Illegal Under English, European And International Law (RT)

Day three of the Julian Assange extradition hearing is focusing on whether the allegations against Assange amount to “political offenses.” If so, it would likely be outside of the judge’s jurisdiction to approve extradition. Kicking off proceedings at Woolwich Crown Court on Wednesday, defense counsel Edward Fitzgerald argued that 17 of the 18 counts with which the WikiLeaks founder has been charged fall under the US Espionage Act, which makes them political on face value. He added that the 18th count, of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, was in order to carry out the other alleged offenses. Discussing the policy of not extraditing for political offenses, Assange’s lawyer said: “It is an essential fundamental protection, which the US puts in every single one of its extradition treaties.”

Fitzgerald said that political defence from extradition goes back 100 years and is standard in treaties based on the UN model, including the European Union convention on extradition, the Interpol convention and many others. “The more we research this, the more one sees this is a universal norm.” He also noted that while the US adds the ‘political defense’ extradition provision into all of its treaties, authorities there only take issue when it is invoked against them, despite using it to protect US citizens from extradition to hostile nations. WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnsson provided a video update from outside the court, saying that the case should be thrown out. “This is in contravention to all international treaties, to European Convention on Human Rights to UN treaties,” he said.

Fitzgerald cited numerous precedents tying international law and the ECHR with English law in determining the legality of detention, essentially arguing that Assange’s detention is illegal under all three. Furthermore, the initial charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion is illegal under US law, not English law, rendering all subsequent arguments inadmissible. He continued that the right to due process has been a part of English law since the Magna Carta, while also forming a cornerstone of the constitution. Fitzgerald then added that the existence of a treaty is the fundamental basis of the Assange extradition request and that, without a treaty, there would be no such request in the first place. Choosing to ignore the provisions of such a treaty is itself an abuse of process, he added.

Read more …

Illegal under American law too.

Prosecution of Julian Assange Violates First Amendment (Napolitano)

“Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech.” — First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution In the oral argument of the famous U.S. Supreme Court cases known collectively as the Pentagon Papers Case, the late Justice William O. Douglas asked a government lawyer if the Department of Justice views the “no law” language in the First Amendment to mean literally no law. The setting was an appeal of the Nixon administration’s temporarily successful efforts to bar The New York Times and The Washington Post from publishing documents stolen from the Department of Defense by Daniel Ellsberg. The documents were a history of the Vietnam War, which revealed that President Lyndon B. Johnson and his secretaries of defense and state and the military’s top brass materially misrepresented the status of the war to the American people.


Stated differently, they regularly, consistently and systematically lied to the public and the news media. Though LBJ was retired, Nixon did not want this unvarnished version of the war he was still fighting to make its way into the public arena. The Nixon DOJ persuaded a federal district court judge to enjoin the publication of the documents because they contained classified materials and they had been stolen. In a landmark decision, the court ruled that all truthful matters material to the public interest that come into the hands of journalists – no matter how they get there – may lawfully be disseminated. That does not absolve the thief – though the case against Ellsberg was dismissed because the FBI committed crimes against him during his prosecution – but it does insulate the publisher absolutely against civil and criminal liability.

Read more …

Trump can launch a hundred of these lawsuits against the NYT alone. This is from Reuters, published in the Guardian. All MSM, and all clinging to the “Mueller established so-and-so” narrative. Mueller didn’t establish a thing, other than an all-pervasive bias. All he had left after 3 years was 13 Russians and Assange who could’t speak up for themselves. And there’s still people who say Mueller is not a liar and a coward.

Trump Campaign Sues New York Times For Libel Over Russia Story (R.)

Donald Trump’s re-election campaign said on Wednesday it had filed a libel suit against the New York Times accusing the newspaper of intentionally publishing a false opinion article related to Russian interference in the 2016 US election. In an escalation of the Republican president’s long-running battle with the news media, campaign officials said the lawsuit was being filed in New York state supreme court, the state’s trial-level court. A statement from the campaign said the aim of the litigation was to “hold the news organization accountable for intentionally publishing false statements against President Trump’s campaign”. The lawsuit relates to a 27 March 2019, opinion article written by Max Frankel, who served as executive editor of the Times from 1986 to 1994.

The campaign attached to a news release a draft copy of the suit accusing the newspaper of “extreme bias against (the campaign) and animosity” and cited what it called the Times’ “exuberance to improperly influence the presidential election in November 2020”. Trump is seeking re-election on 3 November. The opinion piece was headlined, “The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo” with a subhead adding, “The campaign and the Kremlin had an overarching deal: help beat Hillary Clinton for a new pro-Russian foreign policy.” Quid pro quo is a Latin term meaning a favor in exchange for a favor. The lawsuit originated with the Trump re-election campaign, but Trump himself has contended the Times has at times been biased against him.

Former special counsel Robert Mueller documented Moscow’s campaign of hacking and social media propaganda to boost Trump’s 2016 candidacy and harm his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. It documented numerous contacts between people associated with Trump’s campaign and Russians. Mueller found insufficient evidence to show a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s team and Russia but did not exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice related to the investigation. In the opinion piece, Frankel stated, “Collusion – or a lack of it – turns out to have been the rhetorical trap that ensnared President Trump’s pursuers.”

Frankel added: “There was no need for detailed electoral collusion between the Trump campaign and Vladimir Putin’s oligarchy because they had an overarching deal: the quid of help in the campaign against Hillary Clinton for the quo of a new pro-Russian foreign policy, starting with relief from the Obama administration’s burdensome economic sanctions. The Trumpites knew about the quid and held out the prospect of the quo.”

Jenna Ellis, senior legal adviser to Donald J Trump for President Inc, said: “Today the President’s re-election campaign filed suit against the New York Times for falsely stating the Campaign had an ‘overarching deal’ with ‘Vladimir Putin’s oligarchy’ to ‘help the campaign against Hillary Clinton’ in exchange for ‘a new pro-Russian foreign policy, starting with relief from … economic sanctions’. “The statements were and are 100% false and defamatory. The complaint alleges the Times was aware of the falsity at the time it published them, but did so for the intentional purpose of hurting the campaign, while misleading its own readers in the process,” Ellis said. In a copy of the lawsuit provided by his re-election team, the campaign stated, “The Times was well aware when it published these statements that they were not true.”

Read more …

 

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Nov 082019
 
 November 8, 2019  Posted by at 8:41 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Salvador Dali Bay of Cadaques 1925

 

Do I really need to reiterate -as I’ve done easily a hundred times- that I don’t think Donald Trump is a great choice to be president of the United States, that when you have a pick of 320 million people there should certainly be a better option? Then again, should I also reiterate that he was elected as president 3 years ago, and that means a lot in the US political system, so much that people who don’t like the outcome of an election should always respect it, lest they do irreparable harm to the system?! Well, hereby.

What got me, with limited interest in politics, going about the elections back in 2015-16 was not Trump, it was the concerted effort by the DNC, the Democratic party in general, US intelligence and the media, to frustrate his run for president. Not because of him, but because of all of them. The media went so overboard that today you cannot read an article by NYT or WaPo, or watch a TV program on CNN or MSNBC, and believe a single word that is said. That, too, has nothing to do with Trump.

It has to do with the control over their readers’ and viewers’ views that they think they have. It has to do with CNN head Jeff Zucker insisting, as Project Veritas showed, that all of his ‘journalists’ focus on impeachment. Because that’s where the money is. CNN, NYT, WaPo have been doing great since they started attacking Trump 24/7. And even when Robert Mueller came up emptier than a black hole, they managed to hide the consequences, keep on dumping on Trump and selling ads and subscriptions up the wazoo.

 

But the latest trend should worry everyone even more. It doesn’t come out of nowhere, it might even be called predictable. We had the Steele dossier, but there wasn’t a secret about who was behind it for very long. There were even a lot of references to the man’s achievements and credibility. We’re still awaiting something similar on Mifsud and Downer, but so far they’re seen as having at least some credibility.

However, all of the above has changed since accusations and allegatiosn against Trump started to be made by, and based on, an anonymous whistleblower, who turned out not to be a whistleblower at all but a CIA operative closely linked to sworn Trump enemies Obama, Biden and Brennan. First time I saw that, I thought: wow, desperation sets in. The usual suspects don’t feel they’re winning. They think they need a backdoor.

And who is to blame them? The Democrats have nobody who could even possibly challenge Trump in a ‘normal’ election. Biden won’t survive Burisma, and that’s far from his only flaw, Warren and Sanders are too left for 2020 America, and they’re actively screwing with Tulsi Gabbard’s campaign, because she threatens to break their link to the military industrial complex, aka the Deep State.

So in comes Mike Bloomberg at a mere 112 years old, because rich old white men always do these things. I predicted the other day to a friend that Hillary would try to join in, but she wouldn’t have a chance in hot hell either; too tainted. She may still do it, though, in 5 years time she’ll be too old.

 

Apparently, though, that one backdoor, the anonymous CIA faultily labeled whistleblower, just won’t do.

Now we have a book, it’s coming out on November 19, and it’s written by, guess who … Anonymous. Who apparently claims to be a White House insider. Something we can’t check. It might as well be Hillary, or Brennan, or Clapper, or anyone in the CIA or DNC who doesn’t mind writing awful stories about Orange Man Bad, as long as they can remain anonymous.

 

 

So then you get this kind of thing, This first quote is from the Hill (which may have left their ace reporter John Solomon out to dry, I don’t know, but I only see his articles on his own website these days). And yeah, Rachel Maddow is a real credible source on all things Trump. She only spent 4 whole years shrieking about Russiagate every night until Bob Mueller grossly failed:

Maddow: Anonymous Op-ed Author Details ‘Steady State’ That Kept ‘Wheels From Coming Off The White House W agon’

In a new book, the author of an anonymous New York Times op-ed has described a “steady state” that formed to “keep the wheels from coming off the White House wagon,” according to excepts from the book read by MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on her show Thursday. “The early Steady State formed to keep the wheels from coming off the White House wagon,” Maddow read from the excerpts of the book “A Warning.” “When presidential appointees started conferring about their shared concerns with the nation’s chief executive … it was done informally, in weekly phone calls or on the margins of meetings,” Maddow continued, citing the book. Many of the concerns staff members had about the president stemmed from his “inattentiveness” and “impulsiveness.”


[..] “In Russia, for instance, the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behavior. But his national security team knew better — such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable,” the person wrote last year. “This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state,” they continued at the time. The Post on Thursday also reported on an excerpt of the book in which the anonymous person, billed as “a senior official in the Trump administration,” wrote that officials wake up “in a full-blown panic” due to Trump’s tweets.

And some more from Maddow’s employer, NBC (every “left” news outlet is covering this, obviously):

Anonymous Author Writes Trump’s Decision-Making Is Eroding Over Time

President Donald Trump’s behavior can be so erratic that most top administration officials have pre-written resignation letters ready to submit, an anonymous author claiming to be a senior official in the Trump administration says in a book scheduled to be published this month. To complicate matters, the president’s decision-making abilities are getting worse with time, according to excerpts of “A Warning” that were obtained and read Thursday night on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” The author, described only as “a senior Trump administration official,” is the same person who wrote an op-ed in The New York Times last year headlined, “I am part of the resistance inside the Trump administration.”

The column said “many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.” The information is coming from an anonymous source, and NBC News does not know who the writer is nor whether they were in a position to have witnessed what they say transpired. In the book excerpts, the author describes near-daily “five-alarm fire drill” that leads senior officials to cancel plans and race to the White House to intercept Trump before he can enact his latest “wacky or destructive idea.” “Staff throw up the Bat-Signal, calling a snap meeting or a teleconference. ‘He’s about to do something,’ one warns the group, explaining what the president is about to announce.” “‘He can’t do this. We’ll all look like idiots, and he’ll get murdered for it in the press,’ another exclaims. “‘Yeah, well, I’m telling you he’s going to do it unless someone gets to him fast,’ the first warns. ‘Can you cancel your afternoon?'”

[..] In excerpts published separately by The Washington Post, the author likens Trump to “a twelve-year-old in an air traffic control tower, pushing the buttons of government indiscriminately, indifferent to the planes skidding across the runway and the flights frantically diverting away from the airport.” “I’ve sat and listened in uncomfortable silence as he talks about a woman’s appearance or performance,” according to the Post’s excerpts. “He comments on makeup. He makes jokes about weight. He critiques clothing. He questions the toughness of women in and around his orbit. He uses words like ‘sweetie’ and ‘honey’ to address accomplished professionals. This is precisely the way a boss shouldn’t act in the work environment.”

The image they try to present is very obvious: Trump is crazy. We got there from him not having a chance getting elected, to owing his election to Russia, and now Ukraine, from which he also demanded ‘dirt’ on his ‘main’ political rival Joe Biden, who was never that, and now we have deteriorated into He Is Crazy, and we get that from anonymous whistleblowers and ‘authors’.

Thing is, if you’re allowed to be anonymous, you can be anyone, including Trump’s direct rivals in the 2020 elections, or a CIA officer, you name it. Does this open the window for the GOP to start publishing fake news too? Because that’s what it is, right, when things are said that nobody can verify? It’s not news, it’s partisan propaganda. Why would anyone opposed to Trump want to be anonymous today? It’s not as if the CIA or FBI would come after them, they’re siding with the other party.

 

What is the problem with anonymous CIA ‘whistleblowers’ and authors? That we have no way of verifying what they say. Duh! And believe it or not, in days of old, other than in cases like Deep Throat, US media would never have dreamed of publishing a single word from the CIA not-whistleblower or the guy or gal or entire team (we can’t know) who wrote that book.

Journalistic standards have simply eroded and vanished to a huge extent. And people will say: yes, but Trump, but Orange Man Bad, anything is justified to get rid of him.

And that is very simply not true. The media and politicians and intelligence agencies cannot abandon their standards, developed over many decades, just to get rid of someone they don’t like. That, in the end, is up to the American people to decide, whether you like it or not, in the next election.

This whole anonymous thing feels increasingly like an election item, because the Dems know they have nothing to very little. We get that. But the sanctity of the election process, and of the Office of the President of the United States, must always prevail. Because if it doesn’t you will find yourselves in a state of anarchy. Anonymous accounts that are widely re-covered because that fits a political agenda are a solid step towards that anarchy. Beware.

 

 

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Oct 152019
 
 October 15, 2019  Posted by at 9:43 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


Paul Gauguin A seashore 1887

 

Trump Tells Turkey To Stop Its Syria Invasion (R.)
‘You’ve Been Duped By Spooks & Terrorists’ (RT)
Bernie Wants You to Own More of the Means of Production (Jac.)
No Choice But To Invest In Oil, Shell CEO Says (R.)
New German Rules Leave 5G Telecoms Door Open To Huawei (R.)
James Comey Is Swimming In Cash (BI)
Ghislaine Maxwell’s Open Secret (Webb)
Behind Hong Kong’s Black Terror (Escobar)
Trio Wins Economics Nobel For Science-Based Poverty Fight (R.)

 

 

Did they plan this in advance?

Trump Tells Turkey To Stop Its Syria Invasion (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday demanded Turkey stop its military incursion in Syria and imposed new sanctions on the NATO ally as Trump scrambled to limit the damage from his much-criticized decision to clear U.S. troops from Turkey’s path. Vice President Mike Pence said Trump had told Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in a phone call on Monday to agree to an immediate ceasefire. He also said he would travel to the region soon to try to mediate the crisis. Pence said Trump had been firm with Erdogan on the phone. “The United States of America simply is not going to tolerate Turkey’s invasion in Syria any further. We are calling on Turkey to stand down, end the violence and come to the negotiating table,” Pence told reporters.

Turkey launched a cross-border operation into northern Syria on Wednesday just days after Erdogan told Trump in a phone call that he planned to move ahead with a long-planned move against America’s Kurdish allies in the region. Trump abruptly announced a redeployment of 50 American troops from the conflict zone to get them out of harm’s way, dismissing criticism that this would leave the Kurds open to attack. This was widely seen as giving Erdogan a green light for his operation. With lawmakers in the U.S. Congress moving to impose sanctions of their own, Trump issued an executive order authorizing sanctions against current and former officials of the Turkish government for contributing to Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria.


In a statement, Trump said he had increased tariffs on imports of Turkish steel back up to 50 percent, six months after they were reduced, and would immediately stop negotiations on what he called a $100 billion trade deal with Turkey. “Unfortunately, Turkey does not appear to be mitigating the humanitarian effects of its invasion,” said Trump.

Read more …

The New York Times had no credibility left anyway.

‘You’ve Been Duped By Spooks & Terrorists’ (RT)

A damning report by the New York Times, which accused Russia of bombing four UN-protected hospitals in Syria, is a product of misinformation by Western intelligence services and jihadists, the Russian military said. On Sunday, the leading US newspaper said it had irrefutable proof that Russian warplanes had bombed four sites in Syria, which it knew to be locations of civilian hospitals. The accusation stems from analysis of social media, interviews with witnesses, data provided by local plane spotters and records of communications of the Russian military deployed in Syria. The bombings, which happened on May 5 and 6, are just a faction of attacks on civilian infrastructure, for which Moscow carries responsibility, the newspaper alleged.

Responding to the accusation on Monday, the Russian military said Times report was flawed for several reasons, including failure to explain that Idlib Governorate, where the four alleged bombings took place, lives under rule of brutal jihadists. That detail affects the entire narrative, indicating its flawed sourcing. “Gadgets, modern radio scanners, protected notebooks, internet connection are all things that the local civilian population simply cannot afford. They are more interested in daily surviving under the yoke of the terrorists,” said Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov. He was referring to the equipment used by “plane spotters”, who provided their data to Times.


The newspaper said those observers “insisted on anonymity for their safety”, but the Russian military says they shouldn’t have bothered and identified them as the people behind a “combat intelligence system” based on equipment developed by a US company called Hala Systems. The system known as Sentry is a collection of suitcase-sized sensors connected into a network plus an AI-based algorithm, which uses signals from those sensors as well as social media data to analyze and predict airstrikes in Idlib. Hala Systems says it’s a for-profit company that develops and operates the system on grants from governments of Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark the United States, and Germany.

Read more …

Electable?

Bernie Wants You to Own More of the Means of Production (Jac.)

Bernie Sanders released a proposal today that would gradually shift 20 percent of corporate equity into funds owned and controlled by the workers in each company. The plan, which would apply to all publicly-traded companies and large closely-held companies, would move 2 percent of corporate stock into worker funds each year for a decade. Once the shares are transferred into the funds, workers would begin receiving dividends and have the ability to exercise the voting rights of the shares, including the right to vote on corporate board elections and on shareholder resolutions. Sanders’s plan is by far the most radical worker ownership proposal put forward by a presidential candidate in recent memory.

By last count, the market value of publicly-traded domestic companies stood at $35.6 trillion. This means that the Sanders plan would shift at least $7.1 trillion of corporate equity into worker funds by gradually diluting the value of previously-issued corporate stock. Those who stand to “lose” from the proposal are the incumbent owners of corporate equity, which are overwhelmingly affluent people. At present, the top 10 percent of families own around 86.4 percent of corporate equities and mutual fund shares, with the top one percent owning 52 percent by themselves.


Closely-held businesses, which will also be affected by the scheme if they are large enough, have similarly concentrated ownership, with the top 10 percent of families owning 87.5 percent of private business equity and the top one percent of families owning 57.5 percent of it. Of course, these incumbent owners will not actually lose anything in an absolute sense. The average historical return of the US stock market has been 9.8 percent per year, while the average return of the last 10 years has been just over 13 percent. The effect of the two percent share issuances is to knock the total rate of return down by two percentage points, meaning that incumbent owners still get richer year-over-year, just less so than they would absent the Sanders plan.

Read more …

Well, they’re on oil company. What did you expect?

No Choice But To Invest In Oil, Shell CEO Says (R.)

Royal Dutch Shell still sees abundant opportunity to make money from oil and gas in coming decades even as investors and governments increase pressure on energy companies over climate change, its chief executive said. But in an interview with Reuters, Ben van Beurden expressed concern that some shareholders could abandon the world’s second-largest listed energy company due partly to what he called the “demonisation” of oil and gas and “unjustified” worries that its business model was unsustainable. The 61-year-old Dutch executive in recent years became one of the sector’s most prominent voices advocating action over global warming in the wake of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Shell, which supplies around 3% of the world’s energy, set out in 2017 a plan to halve the intensity of its greenhouse emissions by the middle of the century, based in large part on building one of the world’s biggest power businesses. Still, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from Shell’s operations and the products it sells rose by 2.5% between 2017 and 2018. A defiant van Beurden rejected a rising chorus from climate activists and parts of the investor community to transform radically the 112-year-old Anglo-Dutch company’s traditional business model. “Despite what a lot of activists say, it is entirely legitimate to invest in oil and gas because the world demands it,” van Beurden said. “We have no choice” but to invest in long-life projects, he added.

[..][ “We can sustain an upstream portfolio all the way into the 2030s if there is an economic rationale for doing that and a societal rationale for doing that,” van Beurden said. “Fortunately enough, we have more of those than we have money to spend on them.” Van Beurden rejected as a “red herring” arguments that Shell’s oil and gas reserves, which can sustain its current production for around eight years, would be economically unviable, or stranded, in the future. A lack of investment in oil and gas projects could lead to a supply shortage and result in price spikes, he said. “One of the bigger risks is not so much that we will become dinosaurs because we are still investing in oil and gas when there is no need for it anymore. A bigger risk is prematurely turning your back on oil and gas.”


Shell plans to increase its annual spending to around $32 billion by 2025 from the current $25 billion, with up to one tenth allocated to renewables and the power business. The company, the world’s largest dividend payer, plans to return $125 billion to shareholders in the five years to 2025.

Read more …

“..banning the Chinese vendor would add years of delays and billions of dollars in costs to launching 5G networks.”

New German Rules Leave 5G Telecoms Door Open To Huawei (R.)

Germany has finalised rules for the build-out of 5G mobile networks that, in a snub to the United States, will not exclude China’s Huawei Technologies. Government officials confirmed that Germany’s so-called security catalogue foresaw an evaluation of technical and other criteria, but that no single vendor would be barred in order to create a level playing field for equipment vendors. “We are not taking a pre-emptive decision to ban any actor, or any company,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told a news conference in Berlin on Monday. The United States has piled pressure on its allies to shut out Huawei, the leading telecoms equipment vendor with a global market share of 28%, saying its gear contained ‘back doors’ that would enable China to spy on other countries.


German operators are all customers of Huawei and have warned that banning the Chinese vendor would add years of delays and billions of dollars in costs to launching 5G networks. The Shenzhen-based company has denied the allegations by Washington, which imposed export controls on Huawei in May, hobbling its smartphone business and raising questions over whether the Chinese company can maintain its market lead. U.S. officials have also argued that, under China’s national intelligence law, all citizens and companies are required to collaborate in espionage efforts.

Read more …

No kidding: “It’s a lot!” Comey told the Times. “Seriously, it’s crazy.”

James Comey Is Swimming In Cash (BI)

Losing a job and having your career go up in flames can be scarring. But the smoldering embers sometimes give forth to fertile new soil from which to start anew. Few have had a more public and dramatic firing than former-FBI director James Comey, who President Donald Trump infamously and suddenly ousted in 2017 amid inquiries into Russian meddling and suspicions that he did not have Comey’s loyalty. That fateful decision sent Comey’s law-enforcement career up in smoke — and precipitated the special-counsel investigation by Robert Mueller — but also laid the groundwork to launch a lucrative second-act in media, including six-figure speaking fees, prestigious writing contracts, a TV series, and a multimillion dollar book deal.

In a profile of his post-FBI life by Matt Flegenheimer in The New York Times, Comey asserts his primary preoccupation now, as a self-described “unemployed celebrity,” is stopping Trump. This vocation, while lacking the official powers of his former post in the FBI, appears well-suited for raking in piles of cash. Comey may have lost a roughly $170,000 annual salary as FBI director, but now he earns as much in a single speaking engagement. He’s been traveling the country giving six-figure paid speeches on leadership, as well as gratis appearances at universities, according to the NYT. “It’s a lot!” Comey told the Times. “Seriously, it’s crazy.”


Comey recently gave talks at Yale, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and the Sacramento Speaker Series, and he’s due to speak at “Politicon” in Nashville later this month. He also has a contract to write opinion columns for The Washington Post, according to the NYT. And then there’s the forthcoming CBS Studios miniseries, in which he’ll be portrayed by actor Jeff Daniels. The series is based on Comey’s bestselling 2018 book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership,” which reportedly netted him millions as well. Of course, Comey was already a multimillionaire before accepting the job in 2013 as FBI director under President Barack Obama. In financial filings, he reported a net worth of $11 million, not including an anticipated $3 million payout from hedge-fund giant Bridgewater Associates, where Comey spent a couple years as general counsel.

Read more …

Whitney Webb continues her series.

Ghislaine Maxwell’s Open Secret (Webb)

Media reports cite Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell as having developed a close relationship at least by February 2000, when Andrew had spent a week at Epstein’s controversial New York penthouse at 9 East 71st Street. One report published in 2000 by London’s Sunday Times claimed that the two were introduced by Andrew’s ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, often referred to as “Fergie” in the press, and further claims that this introduction had taken place several years prior. Epstein is alleged to have first been introduced to Andrew via Maxwell in 1999. Years after this introduction was made, Jeffrey Epstein would provide financial assistance to Ferguson at Prince Andrew’s behest by paying Ferguson’s former personal assistant £15,000, allegedly in order to allow for “a wider restructuring of Sarah’s £5 million debts to take place,” according to The Telegraph.

Oddly, by April of that year, Maxwell and Prince Andrew were spotted by their fellow diners at a posh New York restaurant holding hands, prompting both the Prince and Maxwell to claim that their relationship was merely “platonic.” However, a separate report from 2007 in the Evening Standard refers to Maxwell as one of Prince Andrew’s former girlfriends. Within a year of their close relationship having become public, Andrew and Ghislaine were reported to have gone on eight different vacations together, of which Epstein accompanied them for five. Andrew also brought Maxwell and Epstein to celebrate the Queen’s birthday in 2000 as his personal guests.


Several reports from this period also provide interesting insight into Maxwell’s business activities and private life. One article from 2000, published in London’s Sunday Times, states that “for all her high-profile appearances on Manhattan’s A-List merry-go-round, she [Maxwell] is secretive to the point of paranoia and her business affairs are deeply mysterious.” It goes on to say that Maxwell “has been building a business empire as opaque as father’s” — referencing Robert Maxwell’s business empire, which included multiple front companies for Israeli intelligence — and adds that “her office in Manhattan refuses to confirm even the nature or the name of her business.”

Read more …

A slightly different take.

Behind Hong Kong’s Black Terror (Escobar)

The new slogans of Hong Kong’s black bloc – a mob on a rampage connected to the black shirt protestors – made their first appearance on a rainy Sunday afternoon, scrawled on walls in Kowloon. Decoding the slogans is essential to understand the mindless street violence that was unleashed even before the anti-mask law passed by the government of the Special Administrative Region (SAR) went into effect at midnight on Friday, October 4. By the way, the anti-mask law is the sort of measure that was authorized by the 1922 British colonial Emergency Regulations Ordnance, which granted the city government the authority to “make any regulations whatsoever which he [or she] may consider desirable in the public interest” in case of “emergency or public danger”.

Perhaps the Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, was unaware of this fine lineage when she commented that the law “only intensifies concern over freedom of expression.” And it is probably safe to assume that neither she nor other virulent opponents of the law know that a very similar anti-mask law was enacted in Canada on June 19, 2013. More likely to be informed is Hong Kong garment and media tycoon Jimmy Lai, billionaire publisher of the pro-democracy Apple Daily, the city’s Chinese Communist Party critic-in-chief and highly visible interlocutor of official Washington, DC, notables such as US Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and ex-National Security Council head John Bolton.


On September 6, before the onset of the deranged vandalism and violence that have defined Hong Kong “pro-democracy protests” over the past several weeks, Lai spoke with Bloomberg TV’s Stephen Engle from his Kowloon home. He pronounced himself convinced that – if protests turned violent China would have no choice but to send People’s Armed Police units from Shenzen into Hong Kong to put down unrest. “That,” he said on Bloomberg TV, “will be a repeat of the Tiananmen Square massacre and that will bring in the whole world against China….. Hong Kong will be done, and … China will be done, too.”

Read more …

Science fights poverty?! Sounds like absolute BS to me. I asked Steve Keen if he knows the winners. He replied:

“No. Experimental economics is the latest fad, though it’s not supposed to encompass real world experiments like the IMF’s program for Argentina.”

Trio Wins Economics Nobel For Science-Based Poverty Fight (R.)

U.S.-based economists Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer won the 2019 Nobel Economics Prize on Monday for work fighting poverty that has helped millions of children by favoring practical steps over theory. French-American Duflo becomes only the second woman to win the economics prize in its 50-year history, as well as the youngest at 46. She shared the award equally with Indian-born American Banerjee and Kremer, also of the United States. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said their work had shown how poverty could be addressed by breaking it down into smaller and more precise questions in areas such as education and healthcare, and then testing solutions in the field.

It said the results of their studies and field experiments had ranged from helping millions of Indian schoolchildren with remedial tutoring to encouraging governments around the world to increase funding for preventative medicine. “It starts from the idea that the poor are often reduced to caricatures and even the people that try to help them do not actually understand what are the deep roots of (their) problems,” Duflo told reporters in Stockholm by telephone. “What we try to do in our approach is to say, ‘Look, let’s try to unpack the problems one-by-one and address them as rigorously and scientifically as possible’,” she added.


The team pioneered “randomized controlled trials”, or RCTs, in economics. Long used in fields such as medicine, an RCT could for example take two groups of people and study what difference a treatment makes on one group while the other group is only given a placebo. Applied to development economics, such field experiments found for example that providing more textbooks and free school meals had only small effects, while targeting help for weak students made a big difference to overall educational levels. “It’s a prize not just for us but for the whole movement,” Banerjee later told a joint news conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where they both work. Kremer is a researcher at Harvard University.

Read more …

 

When small men begin to cast big shadows, it means that the sun is about to set


Lin Yutang

 

 

 

Apr 042019
 
 April 4, 2019  Posted by at 9:01 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Nude on a beach 1929

 

Lack Of Redundancies On Boeing 737 MAX Baffles Its Developers (ST)
Trolling the Mueller Report (WSJ Op-ed)
Mueller Investigators Say Findings More Damaging To Trump Than Barr Has Let On
Comey Says He Fears Possible Counterinvestigation After Mueller Report (Pol.)
US Senators Want Stiff Sanctions To Deter Russia Election Meddling (R.)
Maybe Politics Matters After All (John Rubino)
Economist: Brexit Will Happen And Trump Fans Are ‘Economically Illiterate’ (FN)
UK MPs Back Brexit Delay Bill By One Vote (BBC)
No Deal Brexit Measures Needed To Keep Planes In Air And Troops On Ground (G.)
Top Labour Figures Demand Corbyn Secure Referendum (Ind.)
IMF Warns That Tech Giants Stifle Innovation And Threaten Stability (G.)
Next Phase in Trucking Boom-Bust Cycle Has Started (WS)
‘Excluding Everything That Makes China What It Is’ (Crooke)

 

 

Let’s start with the Seattle Times, because this article strongly hints that Boeing’s problems cannot possibly be solved with a software tweak. It’s a hardware issue as much as anything else. Cutting corners until there’s no corner left. And well over 300 people lost their lives due to this.

“Normal” planes have 3×3 sensors. The 737MAX effectively has one. And it was known to fail.

Lack Of Redundancies On Boeing 737 MAX Baffles Its Developers (ST)

Boeing has long embraced the power of redundancy to protect its jets and their passengers from a range of potential disruptions, from electrical faults to lightning strikes. The company typically uses two or even three separate components as fail-safes for crucial tasks to reduce the possibility of a disastrous failure. Its most advanced planes, for instance, have three flight computers that function independently, with each computer containing three different processors manufactured by different companies. So even some of the people who have worked on Boeing’s new 737 MAX airplane were baffled to learn that the company had designed an automated safety system that abandoned the principles of component redundancy, ultimately entrusting the automated decision-making to just one sensor — a type of sensor that was known to fail.

Boeing’s rival, Airbus, has typically depended on three such sensors. “A single point of failure is an absolute no-no,” said one former Boeing engineer who worked on the MAX, who requested anonymity to speak frankly about the program in an interview with The Seattle Times. “That is just a huge system engineering oversight. To just have missed it, I can’t imagine how.” Boeing’s design made the flight crew the fail-safe backup to the safety system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS.

A faulty reading from an angle-of-attack sensor (AOA) — used to assess whether the plane is angled up so much that it is at risk of stalling — is now suspected in the October crash of a 737 MAX in Indonesia, with data suggesting that MCAS pushed the aircraft’s nose toward Earth to avoid a stall that wasn’t happening. Investigators have said another crash in Ethiopia this month has parallels to the first. [..] one problem with two-point redundancies is that if one sensor goes haywire, the plane may not be able to automatically determine which of the two readings is correct, so Boeing has indicated that the MCAS safety system will not function when the sensors record substantial disagreement.

Read more …

The Wall Street Journal counterbalances the NYT and WaPo.

Trolling the Mueller Report (WSJ Op-ed)

Democrats are still reeling from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s conclusion that the Trump campaign did not collude with Russians in 2016. But they’ve now hit upon a political comeback strategy: Accuse Attorney General William Barr of a coverup. That’s the context for Wednesday’s decision by House Democrats to authorize subpoenas, on a partisan vote, demanding that Mr. Barr immediately hand over the entire Mueller report and its supporting evidence. This is intended to give the impression, abetted by a press corps that was fully invested in the collusion story, that Mr. Barr is somehow lying about Mr. Mueller’s real conclusions. That’s preposterous, since Mr. Barr’s four-page letter quotes directly from Mr. Mueller’s report.

The AG surely understood on releasing the summary of conclusions last week that he would be open to contradiction by Mr. Mueller if he took such liberties. Mr. Barr also knew he’d be called to testify before Congress once the rest of the report is released. Mr. Barr has committed to releasing as much of the report as possible subject to Justice Department rules. He’s working with the special counsel’s office to make redactions required by grand-jury rules of secrecy, intelligence sources and methods, ongoing investigations, and “the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.” Under Justice rules relating to special counsels, Mr. Barr has no obligation to provide anything beyond notifying Congress when an investigation has started or concluded, and whether the AG overruled a special counsel’s decisions.

Mr. Barr’s notice to Congress that Mr. Mueller had completed his investigation said Mr. Mueller was not overruled. Congress has no automatic right to more. The final subparagraph of DOJ’s rule governing special counsels reads: “The regulations in this part are not intended to, do not, and may not be relied upon to create any rights, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or equity, by any person or entity, in any matter, civil, criminal or administrative.” Mr. Barr has made clear that he appreciates the public interest in seeing as much of Mr. Mueller’s report as possible. Yet his categories of information for review aren’t frivolous or political inventions. The law protecting grand-jury secrecy is especially strict, as even Democrats admit.

Read more …

Glenn Greenwald tweets about this:

Trump/Russia conspiracists are like zombies: the dream can’t die. Their new hope is a) anonymously sourced, b) bereft of even one specific, c) irrelevant to *conspiracy* as opposed to obstruction & d) unrelated to the fact that Mueller indicted *zero* Americans for conspiracy

[..] Mueller could have concluded he thinks Trump was guilty of obstruction, but chose not to. He could have alleged a Trump/Russia conspiracy, or could have charged Trump officials & family members with conspiring with Russia, but didn’t. These last-gasp efforts don’t change that.

[..] Anyway, we’ve had 3 years of anonymously-sourced “bombshells” journalists spend 16-24 hours tiring themselves out celebrating on Twitter, only for it to fizzle into nothing (ie: no indictments from Mueller for conspiring with Russia). Why not have one more? An addict’s last fix.:

Mueller Investigators Say Findings More Damaging To Trump Than Barr Has Let On

The conclusions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation are more damaging to President Donald Trump than Attorney General William Barr has revealed, the New York Times reported late Wednesday. The Times said some investigators who were part of the probe are frustrated that Barr has undersold the findings, which may be creating a misleading narrative that could be hard to overcome if and when the full report is released. The sources did not specify how they believe the report is more damaging to Trump. The investigators told the Times that they had written numerous summaries of their main conclusions, which were not included in Barr’s summary of the report. Barr said the report found no collusion between Trump and Russia, but did not exonerate Trump on the issue of obstruction of justice. House Democrats have pressed Barr to release the full report, but Barr claims parts of it needs to be redacted first for security reasons.

Read more …

It would be crazy if there isn’t one.

Comey Says He Fears Possible Counterinvestigation After Mueller Report (Pol.)

Former FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday condemned President Donald Trump’s calls for a possible investigation into how special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia inquiry started, adding that it creates a troubling precedent. During an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Comey was asked about whether he feared possible counterinvestigations. “I don’t fear it personally. I fear it as a citizen,” he said. “Right? Investigate what? Investigate that investigations were conducted? What would be the crime you’d be investigating? So it’s a terrible cycle to start.” Several days after Attorney General William Barr released his summary of Mueller’s report, Trump and his team have called for investigations into how the probe began.


“Hopefully, somebody is going to look at the other side,” Trump told reporters late last month. The president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has also made similar statements. On Tuesday, Trump continued to advocate for an examination of how the FBI and Mueller investigations began. “I hope they now go and take a look at the origins of the investigation, the beginnings of the investigation,” the president told reporters at the White House on Tuesday. “You look at the origin of the investigation, where it started, how it started, who started it.” “Whether it‘s [former FBI Deputy Director Andrew] McCabe or Comey or a lot of them, where does it go? How high up in the White House did it go?“ Trump continued, calling on reporters to investigate the origins of Mueller‘s probe, even dangling the prospect of a Pulitzer Prize to journalists in the room.

Read more …

Whatever powers these people have should be taken away from them. Both sides of the aisle want war with Russia.

US Senators Want Stiff Sanctions To Deter Russia Election Meddling (R.)

U.S. Republican and Democratic senators introduced legislation on Wednesday seeking to deter Russia from meddling in U.S. elections by threatening stiff sanctions on its banking, energy and defense industries and sovereign debt. The “Deter Act” is the latest effort by U.S. lawmakers to increase pressure on Moscow over what they see as a range of bad behavior, from its aggression in Ukraine and involvement in Syria’s civil war to attempts to influence U.S. elections. The measure was introduced by Senators Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican. They offered a similar measure last year, when it also had bipartisan support but was never brought up for a vote by the Senate’s Republican leaders, who have close ties to President Donald Trump.

Trump has gone along with some previous congressional efforts to increase sanctions on Russia, although sometimes reluctantly. Backers of stronger action against Russia believe such measures will have better prospects in 2019, given control of the House of Representatives by Democrats, who are less reluctant than Trump’s fellow Republicans to push back against the White House. According to details of the legislation, first reported by Reuters, it would require the U.S. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to determine, within 30 days of any federal election, whether Russia or other foreign government or anyone acting as an agent of that government, had engaged in election interference.

If the DNI found such interference occurred, the act would require, among other things, that mandatory sanctions be imposed within 10 days on, among others, Russian banks and energy companies. The act would mandate that sanctions be imposed on two or more of the following Russian banks: Sberbank, VTB Bank, Gazprombank, Vnesheconombank and Rosselkhozbank. It also would order the prohibition of all transactions subject to U.S. jurisdiction in Russian sovereign debt, Russian government bonds and the debt of any entity owned or controlled by Russia’s government.

Read more …

Very-long-time Automatic Earth friend John Rubino has a series of reasons why politics matter.

Maybe Politics Matters After All (John Rubino)

Looking strictly at the numbers it’s hard to work up much interest in whether Republicans or Democrats are in charge after 2020. Either way, trillion-dollar deficits and extremely easy money are guaranteed, which means the US – along with most of the rest of the world – will fall off a financial cliff shortly. After that, the only non-financial issue that will matter is war – and both parties seem about equally bloodthirsty these days. However, after the November congressional elections — in which Democrats with, ahem, assertive ideas and attitudes did extremely well — proposing big, potentially transformative change now looks like the best way to cut through the media clutter and gain a following.

So the Democrat base has lost its fear of the “S” word and is now embracing a list of policies that are designed to lock in their dominance for a generation, but which carry myriad unintended consequences. If the Dems were in charge today, there’s a good chance that they would: Make Washington D.C. a state This is a no-brainer for Democrats. Since DC voters skew liberal (no surprise for people who by and large work for the government), making it a state adds two guaranteed votes in the Senate and several solid votes in the House. That alone might be enough to tip the balance on many votes.

[..] The math of elector apportionment gives more per-capita clout to small states as a way of protecting them from the whims of the large. Without this advantage, according to fans of the Electoral College, candidates would ignore Wyoming and Rhode Island and spend all their time in population centers like Los Angeles and Dallas. Subsequent governments would favor big states over small; good luck to Nevada if it has a water dispute with California. In short, without the Electoral College, flyover country is toast. But with the Electoral College it’s possible to win the most votes and still lose the election, as has happened a couple of times recently to the Dems. As the following chart shows, a majority of Democrats would abolish the College while Republicans would keep it.

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The City sees itself as immune.

Economist: Brexit Will Happen And Trump Fans Are ‘Economically Illiterate’ (FN)

The received wisdom within the City is that Brexit will cause widespread disruption to the Square Mile. But according to Dr Savvas Savouri, chief economist at Toscafund Asset Management, the $4bn London-based investment firm, so great is the extent of foreign investment in UK companies that leaving the EU carries no risk for the City at all. In an interview with Financial News at Toscafund’s Covent Garden office, when asked what is the biggest risk posed by Brexit to London’s finance industry, the abrasive and outspoken economist replied: “Nothing. The whole point about Brexit is there’s too much insurable interest in the UK across Europe for it to fail [for the UK and the EU not to form an agreement]. Ireland would go into immediate deep recession, so would Spain, Malta, Greece and Cyprus.”


An IMF study in August estimated that a scenario where the UK leaves the customs union and single market, and trades with the EU on WTO terms — an orderly version of a no-deal Brexit — would impose long-term costs on Ireland of 4% of output, and between 0.2% and 0.5% on countries such as Spain and Greece. Economists have warned that a disorderly Brexit would likely hit such countries even harder. “They know a bad Brexit would undermine the pound, a currency in which they have large holdings,” Savouri said. Warming to his theme, he added that the lack of short interest in European stocks exposed to the UK suggests investors are not particularly worried about a crash-out Brexit. “The people in finance who tell you they’re worrying about Brexit are not putting their money where their mouth is.”

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The most dangerous majority on earth.

UK MPs Back Brexit Delay Bill By One Vote (BBC)

MPs have voted by a majority of one to force the prime minister to ask for an extension to the Brexit process, in a bid to avoid any no-deal scenario. Labour’s Yvette Cooper led the move, which the Commons passed in one day. The bill will need Lords approval to become law, while it is the EU who decides whether to grant an extension. It comes as talks between Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to end the Brexit deadlock are set to continue. Discussions between the two leaders on Wednesday were described as “constructive”, but were criticised by MPs in both parties.


Meanwhile, Chancellor Philip Hammond has suggested that he expects Brussels to insist on a lengthy delay to Brexit and described a public vote to approve any final deal as “a perfectly credible proposition”. Ms Cooper’s attempts to prevent a no-deal departure from the EU passed by 313 votes to 312. The draft legislation by the former Labour minister would force the prime minister to ask the EU for an extension to the Article 50 process beyond 12 April and would give Parliament the power to decide the length of this delay.

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Yup. They voted down No Deal again, and the press keeps talking about what happens under a No Deal.

No Deal Brexit Measures Needed To Keep Planes In Air And Troops On Ground (G.)

Cabinet ministers were told they must agree emergency contingency plans to keep planes flying to North America and Australia, as well as keeping British troops legally in Bosnia, in case the EU forces a no-deal exit. Before their marathon cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the cabinet secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill, briefed ministers that major security and commercial decisions would need to be completed if Brussels rejected Theresa May’s plan to ask for a short extension to article 50. A cabinet source said the decisions were likely to result in large costs to the taxpayer and that decisions would also need to be taken on direct rule in Northern Ireland and payment of the UK’s £39bn divorce bill to the EU.

Among the decisions outlined in a 14-page document handed to ministers in Downing Street were: • New agreements would be required for air services with Canada, the US and Australia. • British troops in Bosnia currently serving as part of an EU force would need to be placed under Nato command. • Negotiations would need to be urgently completed on a future fisheries agreement so that EU fishing boats could be expelled from British waters. Sedwill, the UK’s highest-ranking civil servant, is said to have warned cabinet ministers that some of the biggest decisions were likely to be very difficult to reverse, because they involved international agreements.

The warnings from Sedwill, who is also May’s national security adviser, follow an earlier letter he wrote to ministers warning that no deal would lead to food price rises and a reduction in security capacity. The 14-page leaked letter, obtained on Monday by the Daily Mail, said no deal would result in the reintroduction of direct rule in Northern Ireland. Sedwill also warned that the UK would face a recession “more harmful” than the 2008 financial crisis and that food prices could increase by up to 10%. He wrote that it was possible that the government would come under pressure to bail out companies facing collapse due to the barriers to trade with the EU and that security services and police would face a reduction in their capabilities.

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May would be done if she’d give in.

Top Labour Figures Demand Corbyn Secure Referendum (Ind.)

Labour is on the brink of a major bust-up if Jeremy Corbyn fails to demand a second referendum as the price for any Brexit deal struck with Theresa May. A string of senior figures – including shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry – believe securing a public vote is an absolute must, while 11 MPs, including four frontbenchers, have written an open letter to Mr Corbyn in The Independent saying “it would be untenable for Labour not to insist” on one. As Mr Corbyn was in the prime minister’s office holding the talks, one of his party’s biggest trade union backers also endorsed a motion calling for a confirmatory referendum on any deal.


But key individuals on the Labour side of the talks indicated a new vote may not be one of his asks, with one shadow cabinet member attending having stated hours earlier that a deal endorsed by the party would not need a referendum. It comes despite Labour, and indeed Mr Corbyn himself, backing a motion in the House of Commons days ago which called for a referendum on any Brexit plan passed by parliament.

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Yeah, we really trust the IMF in everything they say.

IMF Warns That Tech Giants Stifle Innovation And Threaten Stability (G.)

The International Monetary Fund has warned that the market power exercised by a small number of global companies threatens to stifle innovation and make it harder for central banks to deal with recessions. Adding its contribution to the growing public debate about the corporate power exercised by the US tech giants such as Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook, the IMF said it would be concerned if there was any further increase in the clout of already dominant firms. The IMF said there was a need for stronger competition policy to ensure that established firms did not block the entry of potential rivals and called for excess profits to be targeted by a tougher international tax regime.

Although the study contained in the IMF’s forthcoming World Economic Outlook (WEO) did not mention any company by name, it said the past two decades had seen the concentration of market power among a small number of productive and innovative firms. Market concentrations tended to be higher in the US than in Europe, the IMF said, and in part reflected the growth of firms that exploited intangible assets. “Over the past two decades, a generally moderate but broad-based rise in corporate market power has been observed across advanced economies, driven primarily by a small fraction of firms.”

The chapter from the WEO noted that the big-picture economic implications of the trend had so far been “rather modest” and that the impact of rising market power on innovation had so far been positive. But the IMF said impact would become “increasingly negative if the market power of high mark-up firms, in particular, were to continue to rise in the future.”

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Just a cycle?!

Next Phase in Trucking Boom-Bust Cycle Has Started (WS)

This is one of the most cyclical industries, with legendary boom-and-bust cycles: Orders for Class-8 trucks plunged 67% in March compared to March last year, to 15,200 orders, the lowest March for orders since 2010, according to FTR Transportation Intelligence. These are the heavy trucks that haul consumer goods, equipment, commodities, and supplies across the US. This plunge comes after orders had already plunged 58% year-over-year in February and January and 43% in December. The chart shows the percent change of Class-8 truck orders for each month compared to the same month a year earlier. The year-over-year collapse in orders over the past four months are of the same or greater magnitude as those during the last transportation recession in 2015 and 2016:

The recipients of these orders are the truck manufacturers Peterbuilt and Kenworth (divisions of Paccar); Navistar International; Freightliner and Western Star (divisions of Daimler); and Mack Trucks and Volvo Trucks (divisions of Volvo Group). The industry is notorious for over-ordering, which then, once these trucks are built, leads to overcapacity, at which point freight rates take a hit. Trucking companies see this coming and slash their orders in advance. Hence the bust that inevitably follows the boom. The last transportation recession in 2015 and 2016 led to waves of layoffs at truck and engine manufacturers. But at the moment, truck manufacturers are sitting on what was a historic backlog of orders dating from the phenomenal boom that peaked last August at 52,400 orders, as this chart of total monthly class-8 truck orders shows (data via FTR):

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Alastair’s starting to feel goal-seeked. Like many Belt&Road views.

‘Excluding Everything That Makes China What It Is’ (Crooke)

In the past few weeks, we have witnessed a mini ‘Belt & Road’ unfolding across the northern Middle East – linking Iran to Iraq, to Syria, and to Lebanon – a ‘Belt and Road’ that, it is envisaged, ultimately will be assimilated into China’s greater BRI project. And – as telling – Lebanon, the eternal weathervane for the Middle East wind direction, seems to be cutting a 500-year-old umbilical linking it to Rome and Europe, to look rather to Moscow (to protect the regions’ Christians, to get its Syrian refugees home to Syria, and to move under President Putin’s protective ‘wing’ in preventing Bolton and Netanyahu from detonating chaos on their patch) – and to China.

More recently, the New Silk Road infrastructure initiative landed squarely in Italy, potentially giving some real substance (i.e. infrastructure) – especially in the case of Sicily – to the notion of a Mediterranean commonality. Both these events are linked by a single motive: How to return autonomy to these states; how to recover at least a modicum of decision-making – and to break free from the strait-jacket of economic stagnation, and the deadweight of stale political shackles. As Christina Lin has noted: “China for one takes the view that security follows economic development, and has made it clear that reconstruction comes before political settlement. It is adopting a regional approach to the Levant and now views Lebanon as a platform for reconstruction in Syria and Iraq”.

[..] Both Italy and the Levant are ‘civilisation-states’ in their own right. They do not need the EU ‘brand’ to reassure them of their status as ‘civilisation-states’. As Lebanon’s former Minister of Economy noted last year, China doesn’t “look at Lebanon as a small country of 4 million citizens, but as a country with huge potential given its geographical location”. The point here is precisely that ‘the West’ is no longer the West. There is the belligerent ‘West’ of Trump, Pence, Bolton and Pompeo – and this is the ‘West’ that is incrementally losing traction across the Middle East, and beyond.

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Jan 152019
 
 January 15, 2019  Posted by at 9:52 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Ivan Aivazovsky Moonlight c1850

 

May Faces Crushing Brexit Defeat Despite Last-Minute Plea To MPs (G.)
100 Of May’s Own MPs Set To Vote Against Her Brexit Deal (Ind.)
No-Deal Brexit Means ‘Social And Economic Catastrophe’ -Banks (Ind.)
Brexit Preppers: ‘I Don’t Trust The Government To Look After Me Or My Dog’ (G.)
Global Economy Fears Grow As China And Eurozone Slump (G.)
Hunting for Golem (Jim Kunstler)
FBI Investigation Of Trump As National Security Threat Is A Serious Danger (GG)
Trump Reportedly Said He Wanted To Pull The US From NATO (CNBC)
WikiLeaks Starts Suing Guardian Over Assange-Manafort Fake News Story (RT)
Antarctic Losing 500% More Ice A Year Than In 80s – NASA (Ind.)
Wildlife: The Real Crisis At The US-Mexico Border (PI)
98% Of Ground Insects Vanish From Puerto Rican Rainforest In 35 Years (G.)

 

 

““We have an instruction from the British people to leave and it’s our duty to deliver on that..”

May Faces Crushing Brexit Defeat Despite Last-Minute Plea To MPs (G.)

Theresa May appears to be on course for a crushing defeat in the House of Commons as Britain’s bitterly divided MPs prepare to give their verdict on her Brexit deal in the “meaningful vote” on Tuesday. With Downing Street all but resigned to losing by a significant margin, Guardian analysis pointed to a majority of more than 200 MPs against the prime minister. Labour sources said that unless May made major unexpected concessions, any substantial margin against her would lead Jeremy Corbyn to call for a vote of no confidence in the government – perhaps as soon as Tuesday night. But since Conservative MPs are unlikely to offer Corbyn the backing he would need to win a no-confidence vote, he would then come under intense pressure to swing Labour’s weight behind a second referendum.

Cabinet ministers have not yet been told how May plans to keep the Brexit process on track if her deal is defeated – and they remain split on how she should proceed. Leavers are convinced that the prime minister should return to Brussels and press for fresh concessions, while remainers hope she will seek a compromise with Labour. On Monday, May issued one final call to parliament to back her, urging MPs to “take a second look” at her deal and stressing that it was the only option on the table that could deliver an “orderly” exit from the EU. But there was little evidence of movement after her speech.

[..] There is growing speculation at Westminster that whichever course May pursues, she will be forced to announce that she will ask the EU27 to extend article 50. The prime minister refused to rule out doing so categorically on Monday, saying only that she didn’t believe it should be necessary. “We’re leaving on 29 March. I’ve been clear I don’t believe we should be extending article 50 and I don’t believe we should be having a second referendum,” May said. “We have an instruction from the British people to leave and it’s our duty to deliver on that, but I want to do it in a way that is smooth and orderly and protects jobs and security.”

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Her own party turns against her, but May’s plans when she loses: fly to Brussels. She should leave and never come back.

100 Of May’s Own MPs Set To Vote Against Her Brexit Deal (Ind.)

Theresa May has made a desperate last-ditch plea begging her own MPs to back her Brexit plans in the face of an expected historic defeat. The prime minister beseeched Conservative MPs at a closed meeting to think of the future of their party and compromise, with around 100 of them considering voting against her. But Brexiteers still left the meeting determined to reject her plans, while Ms May also now faces up to 12 separate attempts from rebel and opposition MPs to re-shape her strategy before the final vote on Tuesday. She gave no indication as to her course of action if she loses, but Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn spoke to his own MPs in a room nearby restating his determination to call a motion of no confidence and trigger an election.

After 19 months of negotiation, a dozen EU summits and countless hours taking questions at the despatch box, Ms May will finally put her Brexit deal to a vote of the Commons on Tuesday. With her final chance to address all MPs coming shortly before the vote due after 7pm, she held a private gathering of Tories on Monday night to try to win over rebels. [..] Much of the opposition to her deal to focuses on the hated “Irish backstop”, which would come into play if no future trading arrangement is in place by December 2020, and could keep the UK in a customs union indefinitely. [..] On Monday night, Ms May’s deal suffered its first official parliamentary defeat in the House of Lords as peers voted by 321 votes to 152 to reject it.

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Every possible outcome will mean chaos.

No-Deal Brexit Means ‘Social And Economic Catastrophe’ -Banks (Ind.)

A no-deal Brexit would be an economic and social “catastrophe”, a senior banking industry leader has warned. Stephen Jones said leaving the European Union (EU) without an agreement could lead to a 1930s-style economic depression, with widespread job losses, homeowners unable to afford their mortgages, and mass defaults on loans. “A no-deal Brexit on 29 March, where we crash out of European Union, is a catastrophe,” the head of the UK Finance trade body told Channel 4 News. “It’s a social catastrophe, it’s an economic catastrophe.” The devastation caused by a disorderly exit would not just hurt the banks’ bottom lines, but hit ordinary people, he warned. “I don’t wish to be labelled a doom mongerer… but if our economy contracts by 10 per cent that’s 1930s-style contraction,” he said.

“That is a massive increase in credit card losses, mortgage losses, vehicle loan losses. “This is about jobs, this is about people not being able to pay their mortgages, not being able to pay back their loans, and that’s really bad news and it’s an outcome we can avoid.” Mr Jones, who leads the British banking sector’s lobby group, added: “I think there is a real risk of No Deal happening by accident… if the prime minister’s deal is voted down, we are in totally uncharted territory.” Asked if he backed Mrs May’s deal to prevent a no-deal scenario, Mr Jones would only say he backed a “solution that avoids a no-deal Brexit”. He added: “It’s not a great deal, there’s an awful lot of money being paid for a political declaration, which quite frankly is not worth the paper it is written on.”

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People unsure whether epilepsy drugs for their children will be available.

Brexit Preppers: ‘I Don’t Trust The Government To Look After Me Or My Dog’ (G.)

[..] it’s not just about food for Elgarf and her family. One of her four-year-old twins, Nora, who has been sitting happily on her mum’s lap as we talk, has a rare brain condition called polymicrogyria. She has lots of prescriptions, but without two of them – Epilim and Keppra – for her epilepsy, she would have multiple seizures a day. “She can’t do without them,” says Elgarf. Both Epilim and Keppra are imported. If she could stockpile these medicines, she would. But they are controlled, and she can only get a month’s supply at a time. “It should be all right,” she has been told by doctors and the pharmacists. But when it’s your daughter’s life that’s at stake, “it should be all right” isn’t good enough.

Many of the people who join the Facebook group have concerns about medicines, Elgarf says. There are a lot of diabetics and coeliacs among them. What they need is some reassurance. “We need to know for certain they have got a proper plan in place for anybody who depends on meds.” She has heard rumours that the most critical medicines may have to be collected from central hubs, which would be stocked on the basis of lists provided by GPs. [..] Helena, who has a politics degree and works for a charity, doesn’t come across as crazy. None of the people I speak to do. Informed: tick. Cautious: tick. Organised: tick. Very organised, in Helena’s case: she has – and shares with me – a spreadsheet, colour-coded according to what is fully purchased (eg tinned tomatoes and loo paper, alongside a note that the average person uses 110 rolls a year), part-purchased (eg cereal), waiting delivery (powdered coconut), or pending testing (dried falafel mix).

Falafel! I’m going straight round to Helena’s. She also has booze and biscuits. Brexit party in Cardiff on Friday 29 March, everyone. And she’s got makeup! We’re going to be looking good as the good ship Britannia goes down. Helena is not just prepping for herself. She is doing it for her dog, Charlie, too. And while she has about three months’ worth of supplies for herself, she is looking at more like a year for the dog, as she doesn’t see that pet food will be a priority. “I don’t really trust the government to look after me; I certainly don’t trust them to look after my dog,” she says. As well as dog food, there are treats and toys on the spreadsheet. Charlie is going to enjoy a hard Brexit.


Helena’s dog, Charlie, with his Brexit stockpile. Photograph: Gareth Phillips for the Guardian

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Brexit will shake the markets.

Global Economy Fears Grow As China And Eurozone Slump (G.)

Fears are growing over the state of the global economy after China recorded a shock fall in exports, while European factory output declined by the biggest margin in almost three years. In a sign that the worldwide slowdown is gathering pace, official figures showed Chinese exports were down 4.4% in December – the largest fall since 2016 – on the back of faltering demand in most of its key markets. Imports fell 7.6% to reflect waning domestic demand. The unexpected downturn for the biggest global exporter of manufactured products came as eurozone industrial output shrank in November.

The EU statistics office, Eurostat, estimated industrial production slipped 1.7% in November compared with the previous month, and 3.3% on the year, reflecting the struggles facing several European economies in recent months. The latest snapshot confirmed disappointing readings of industrial output in several major eurozone nations, raising the prospect of some of the EU’s biggest economies, including Germany and Italy, slipping into recession in the second half of 2018. Several major European economies, including the UK, have struggled with faltering levels of car production in recent months as factories adjust to handling new vehicle emissions tests introduced after the VW scandal.

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Link to transcript of Lisa Page’s testimonies is here.

Hunting for Golem (Jim Kunstler)

As another president once remarked in a different context — LBJ speaking to a hanger full of grunts in Vietnam — “go on out there, boys, and nail that coonskin to the wall!” That was around the time the war was looking like a lost cause, with 1000 soldiers a month coming home in a box and even the Rotarians of Keokuk, Iowa, starting to doubt the official story of what exactly we thought we were doing over there. It was also, arguably, around the time America stopped being, ahem, “great” and commenced the long, nauseating slide into idiocracy and collapse. The news media has taken LBJ’s place in today’s Wile E. Coyote phase of our history, cheerleading the congressional hunt for the glittering golden scalp of You-Know-Who in the White House.

[..] The CBS 60 Minutes Show took its turn last night with a puff piece on Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), incoming chairman of the House oversight Committee, which, CBS interlocutor Steve Kroft delighted in pointing out, “can investigate any [old] thing.” And so, Rep. Cummings will be the ringmaster of this new “Greatest Show on Earth,” aimed at climaxing in an orgasmic impeachment operation. Mr. Kroft could hardly contain his glee onscreen. The facts say something a bit different about the actual reality-based Russia Collusion case, namely, that it’s been a two-year smokescreen to cover the collective ass of a rogue leadership in the Department of Justice and its step-child, the FBI, who deliberately and repeatedly broke the law in dishonestly pursuing a way to annul the 2016 election result.

It also reflects darkly on the Obama White House and its participation in all this huggermugger. Wads of information around this matter also came out in the past week — which you can be sure the news media would not touch — including congressional testimony from last July with former FBI lawyer, Lisa Page, revealing that the traffic controller for the so-called Steele Dossier was one John Carlin, Assistant Attorney General at the time, and formerly then-FBI Director Robert Mueller’s chief-of-staff. Ms. Page herself characterized Mr. Carlin as “a political appointee.” Was he Mr. Mueller’s clean-up man?

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Glenn Greenwald makes a valid point comparing the Trump probe with those of Henry Wallace and George McGovern by Hoover. What he misses out on, though, is how they differ: unlike in the cases of Wallace and McGovern, the FBI is now used not just to smear a politician, but to try and oust a president.

FBI Investigation Of Trump As National Security Threat Is A Serious Danger (GG)

It is not difficult to understand what is so ominous and even tyrannical about the FBI investigating domestic political figures whose loyalties they regard as “suspicious,” and whose political career they regard as a “national security threat,” simply because those politicians express policy positions about U.S. adversaries that the FBI dislikes or regards as insufficiently belligerent. It’s the FBI’s job to investigate possible crimes under the law or infiltration by foreign powers, not ideological sins. If a politician adopts policy views that are “threatening” to U.S. national security or which is unduly accommodating to America’s adversaries or “enemies,” that’s not a crime and the FBI thus has no business using its vast investigative powers against a politician who does that.

That’s why it’s so easy to see that Hoover’s investigative scrutiny of Henry Wallace, and George McGovern, and an endless array of domestic dissenters, was so anti-democratic and dangerous. If a politician adopts “threatening” policy views or is too subservient toward or accommodating of a foreign adversary, it’s the job of the American voting public or Congress in its political oversight and lawmaking role to take action, not the FBI’s job to criminalize policy differences through investigations. It should not be difficult for a rational brain free of partisan muck to see this same principle at play when it comes to the FBI’s investigation of Trump on the ground that he may be, in the eyes of FBI officials, a “national security threat.”

Even if you’re someone who hates Trump’s overtures toward Russia or even believes that they are the by-product of excessive subservience to the Kremlin, the dangers of having the FBI take on the role of investigating that rather than the political wings of the U.S. political system should be obvious – as obvious as they are in the case of Henry Wallace and George McGovern. [..] The person elected by the U.S. electorate to make foreign policy for the United States and to determine “America’s interests” was Donald Trump, not the FBI. It’s the role of elected officials in the White House and Congress, not the unelected police agents who report to them, to decide what is and is not in “America’s interests.” If Trump’s foreign policy is misguided or “threatening,” that’s a matter for the Congress and/or the American public, not the FBI.

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More so-called revelations. It’s never been a secret what Trump thinks of NATO in its present form: he thinks the US pays too much. But now the NYT presents this as some dark conspiracy story.

Like the Guardian, the New York Times has moved beyond caring about its credibility: both think there are enough people swallowing everything they get served up.

Trump Reportedly Said He Wanted To Pull The US From NATO (CNBC)

U.S. President Donald Trump privately said several times last year that he wanted to withdraw his country from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, The New York Times reported on Monday. The newspaper’s findings, which cited unnamed senior administration officials, are likely to resurface worries of a breakdown in the military alliance that was created in 1949 by the United States, Canada and some European nations. Those concerns were first sparked last year when the U.S. leader hinted that he could leave the 29-member defense bloc without Congressional approval. At the time, Trump was pushing member countries to increase spending. Since then, however, the Republican has backtracked on that threat.

After a chaotic NATO meeting in July 2018, Trump claimed that allies had committed to his request and said that U.S. withdrawal from the organization would be “unnecessary.” Responding to the New York Times’ report, a White House official repeated some of Trump’s remarks from July when the president said Washington’s commitment to NATO is “very strong” and the alliance is “very important.” As the Times notes, a weakened NATO is thought to be a major geopolitical goal of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump’s dislike for participation in international organizations is well known to global leaders by now. Early in his White House tenure, the president withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord and a massive Pacific trade pact.

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If the Guardian, or another British paper, runs an entirely false story like this about you or me, we would need to raise a similar amount just to defend ourselves from such smear.

WikiLeaks Starts Suing Guardian Over Assange-Manafort Fake News Story (RT)

WikiLeaks says it has collected enough funds to file a lawsuit against the Guardian for publishing an uncorroborated story about alleged meetings between former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Julian Assange. The whistleblowing website has thanked all its supporters who contributed to its GoFundMe campaign, launched on November 27 following the publication of an article by the Guardian, which claimed that US President Donald Trump’s disgraced former campaign manager Paul Manafort had held secret talks with Julian Assange at least three times in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where the Australian has been holed up since 2012.

The donations have recently hit the $50,000 threshold, enabling the whistleblowing site to formally launch proceedings against the renowned British newspaper, WikiLeaks said, calling on its supporters to keep the money flowing. “Legal action will now commence (but more is required to complete),” it tweeted on Monday. When it launched the campaign, WikiLeaks set up the ambitious target of $300,000. It has so far raised $51,749. WikiLeaks seeks to challenge the Guardian in court over its source-based ‘bombshell,’ co-authored by its former Moscow correspondent Luke Harding, alleging that Manafort had traveled to London three times over four years prior to the publication of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) email leaks.

The report relies on Ecuadorean intelligence sources and documents provided to the Guardian by the country’s intelligence agency. In its GoFundMe appeal, WikiLeaks suggested that the intelligence agency might have deliberately fed the British publication false information, which it was happy to take at a face value. WikiLeaks also noted that it was not the first time the Guardian put out a false story about Assange.

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Just the tip of the iceberg. Happy driving.

Antarctic Losing 500% More Ice A Year Than In 80s – NASA (Ind.)

The Antarctic ice sheet is losing six times as much ice each year as it was in the 1980s and the pace is accelerating, one of the most comprehensive studies of climate change effects on the continent has shown. More than half an inch has been added to global sea levels since 1979, but if current trends continue it will be responsible for metres more in future, the Nasa-funded study found. The international effort used aerial photos, satellite data and climate models dating back to the 1970s across18 Antarctic regions to get the most complete picture to date on the impacts of the changing climate. It found that between 1979 and 1990 Antarctica lost an average of 40 gigatonnes (40 billion tonnes) of its mass each year.

Between 2009 and 2017 it lost an average 252 gigatonnes a year. This has added 3.6mm per decade to sea levels, or around 14mm since 1979, the study shows. “That’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak,” Professor Eric Rignot from University of California, Irvine and lead author of the study published in Nature Geoscience. “As the Antarctic ice sheet continues to melt away, we expect multi-metre sea level rise from Antarctica in the coming centuries.”

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“..the wall “may very well lead to the extinction of the jaguar, ocelot … and other species”..”

Wildlife: The Real Crisis At The US-Mexico Border (PI)

While debate swirls around the border wall — whether it’s immoral, whether it even works — one huge impact, while understood, is just not being discussed: The wall is already an ecological catastrophe, devastating rare and endangered species, carving up critical habitats, exacerbating flooding, even worsening climate change. The Center for Biological Diversity estimates that the wall “may very well lead to the extinction of the jaguar, ocelot … and other species” in America. This is tragic, as the 2,000-mile border, stretching from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico along the Rio Grande, passes through three mountain chains, North America’s two largest deserts, and the Tijuana Estuary, a salt marsh that offers habitat for 400 species of birds.

An astonishing 25 million acres of protected public lands lies near the border on the American side, including wildlife refuges, national parks, and wilderness areas with large refuges on the Mexican side as well, all created by the long, hard work of many organizations and agencies aiming to protect land that is biologically unique and fragile. It’s a diverse area, too: A 2011 study documented 134 mammal, 178 reptile, and 57 amphibian species living in the wall region; 56 of these species that already been hurt by the wall, including five that are at risk for extinction, one the jaguarundi, a small cat.

The jaguar, that cat’s bigger cousin, is the poster child for the wall’s ecological impact. Once hunted to extinction in the U.S., jaguars in northern Mexico have been spotted moving back into Arizona. Protected both here and in Mexico, its U.S. recovery plan — written by the federal government (!) — calls for free movement of these 300-pound predators across the border. The few cats that have reclaimed their American habitat will not recover if they cannot return to Mexico to find mates.


Fernando Llano / AP

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And there’s no panic. There’s hardly any concern. The web of life is disappearing and we watch TV.

98% Of Ground Insects Vanish From Puerto Rican Rainforest In 35 Years (G.)

Scientist Brad Lister returned to Puerto Rican rainforest after 35 years to find 98% of ground insects had vanished “We knew that something was amiss in the first couple days,” said Brad Lister. “We were driving into the forest and at the same time both Andres and I said: ‘Where are all the birds?’ There was nothing.” His return to the Luquillo rainforest in Puerto Rico after 35 years was to reveal an appalling discovery. The insect population that once provided plentiful food for birds throughout the mountainous national park had collapsed. On the ground, 98% had gone. Up in the leafy canopy, 80% had vanished. The most likely culprit by far is global warming.

“It was just astonishing,” Lister said. “Before, both the sticky ground plates and canopy plates would be covered with insects. You’d be there for hours picking them off the plates at night. But now the plates would come down after 12 hours in the tropical forest with a couple of lonely insects trapped or none at all.” “It was a true collapse of the insect populations in that rainforest,” he said. “We began to realise this is terrible – a very, very disturbing result.” Earth’s bugs outweigh humans 17 times over and are such a fundamental foundation of the food chain that scientists say a crash in insect numbers risks “ecological Armageddon”. When Lister’s study was published in October, one expert called the findings “hyper-alarming”.

The Puerto Rico work is one of just a handful of studies assessing this vital issue, but those that do exist are deeply worrying. Flying insect numbers in Germany’s natural reserves have plunged 75% in just 25 years. The virtual disappearance of birds in an Australian eucalyptus forest was blamed on a lack of insects caused by drought and heat. Lister and his colleague Andrés García also found that insect numbers in a dry forest in Mexico had fallen 80% since the 1980s. “We are essentially destroying the very life support systems that allow us to sustain our existence on the planet, along with all the other life on the planet,” Lister said. “It is just horrifying to watch us decimate the natural world like this.”

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Nov 042018
 
 November 4, 2018  Posted by at 10:53 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Francisco Goya The straw mannequin 1791-92

 

Where the Heck are Share Buybacks in This Rotten Market? (WS)
Corporate Buybacks Return, Supporting Market (WSJ)
US Mortgage Rates Rise Sharply to Fresh 7-Year Highs (MND)
Theresa May’s ‘Secret’ Brexit Deal (Ind.)
Brexit Puts Good Friday Agreement At Risk – Irish PM (Ind.)
UK Business Leaders Call For Second Brexit Vote (BBC)
Brexit Is Just A Sideshow For An EU Beset By Problems On All Sides (G.)
“Posh Ghost Towers”: Gloom Spreads Over London Housing Market (DQ)
33 Trillion More Reasons Why New York Times Gets Russiagate Wrong (CN)
Break-in Attempted at Assange’s Residence in Ecuador Embassy (CN)

 

 

No blackout, no market. Only deceit.

Where the Heck are Share Buybacks in This Rotten Market? (WS)

Shares fell today in part because Apple, the giant in the indices, gave iffy guidance for the holidays Thursday evening; and with product sales not going anywhere, and only price increases boosting revenues, it said it would no longer disclose unit sales. This combo worked like a charm, and shares dropped 6.6%. So where are the corporate share buybacks when you need them? This is when companies buy back their own shares in order to prop up their price and thereby the overall market. Where is this panacea that was considered securities fraud until 1982? Throughout October, Wall Street gurus promised that shares would rise as soon as companies emerged from their “blackout” period that prevents them from buying back their shares. Alas, there is no federally mandated “blackout” period.

[..] Let’s take a gander at International Business Machines [IBM], one of the biggest share buyback queens. Since 2000, it blew $146 billion on share buybacks. The chart below shows the cumulative amounts since 2013 that IBM wasted on share buybacks: $43 billion (data via YCharts):

Wall Street gurus keep hyping that share buybacks “unlock shareholder value,” or “return cash to shareholders,” or some such thing. But here’s what IBM’s share buybacks did to shareholder value, as measured by the stock price:

[..] IBM has been buying back the shares it issued its own executives as part of their stock compensation plans, and the shares it issued to buy other companies, including minuscule privately-owned startups for billions of dollars. Buybacks covered up the dilutive effects from those actions. IBM could have spent this money on research and invented something cool. But that would have been too hard. Far better to farm out much of the work to cheap countries like India, shut down US operations, waste money on share buybacks in a vain effort to manipulate up its shares, and instead watch them go to heck.

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There are no functioning markets without price discovery, so what exactly is supported here? Deceit?

Corporate Buybacks Return, Supporting Market (WSJ)

U.S. companies are ramping up share buybacks again, offering potential support to volatile markets. Share buybacks fell ahead of earnings season, when regulations bar such repurchases. As that so-called blackout period ends, there has been a resurgence, with companies making the most of last month’s selloff. That has eased analysts’ concerns that the year’s buyback boom is over. Net buybacks in the month totaled just $12 billion by Oct. 19, but jumped to $39 billion by Oct. 29, according to estimates from JPMorgan Chase & Co. That is more than the $30 billion recorded in September and just under the $48 billion recorded in August.

The bank’s estimates are based on the average drop in share count across the S&P 500, FTSE Russell1000, Datastream U.S. and MSCI U.S. indexes. Some analysts hope a resurgence in buybacks could help support share prices during a period of geopolitical and economic uncertainty. Others are skeptical that companies can continue purchasing their own shares at the current pace, particularly as the stream of repatriated cash that helped drive the year’s buybacks slows down. “It is possible that some companies saw the equity correction as an opportunity to buy back their stock” in October, said Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou, global-markets strategist at JPMorgan. “But this raises the hurdle for November.”

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Great jobs numbers equals higher rates.

US Mortgage Rates Rise Sharply to Fresh 7-Year Highs (MND)

Mortgage rates had a bad week and an especially bad day following a much stronger-than-expected jobs report. The Employment Situation (the most important piece of labor market data and arguably the most important economic report as far as interest rates are concerned) showed the highest pace of wage growth since before the recession and a surprisingly robust addition of new jobs in October. Strong jobs data is the nemesis of low interest rates and today was no exception. Mortgage rates were already operating fairly close to long-term highs, but today’s move easily took them to new highs. The average lender is now quoting conventional 30yr fixed rates of 5% for relatively ideal scenarios.

Those without a big down payment or without perfect credit/income can expect to see even higher rates. Most lenders ended up recalling the morning’s initial rate sheets and reissuing higher rates at least once today. There’s really no silver lining apart from the fact that the higher rates go, and the quicker they get there, the closer we get to the point that the economy slows down as a result. When that happens, rates will begin to fall before just about anything else. Unfortunately, the expected time frame for such things is incredibly wide (not the sort of thing you hope for if you need to buy/refi). And yes… it’s also unfortunate that our one source of solace at the moment involves an economic downturn, but if you want low interest rates, that tends to come with the territory.

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The wool over your eyes.

Theresa May’s ‘Secret’ Brexit Deal (Ind.)

Theresa May has reportedly secured concessions from Brussels to keep the whole of the UK in a customs union in the wake of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. The agreement reached would prevent the need for Northern Ireland to be treated differently from the rest of the UK, a main stumbling block during Brexit negotiations. The “secret” deal would avoid the need for an Irish backstop and will be written into the legally-binding deal, according to The Sunday Times. However, Downing Street has poured cold water on the report, calling it speculation. The EU has reportedly suggested a backstop post-Brexit customs arrangement covering all of the UK could give mainland Britain some scope to set trade rules.

Preparations for a final deal were far more advanced than previously disclosed, the report said, and would lead to a document of 50 pages or more being published. The agreement would include an “exit clause” designed to convince Brexit-supporting MPs that remaining in the customs union was only temporary, The Sunday Times said. Ms May’s cabinet would meet on Tuesday to discuss her plan, and she hoped there would be enough progress by Friday for the EU to announce a special summit, the newspaper reported. The prime minister’s office has described the report as speculation, but claimed the majority of a deal on Britain’s exit from the bloc in March 2019 had been agreed.

“This is all speculation,” a spokesman for Ms May said. “The prime minister has been clear that we are making good progress on the future relationship and 95 percent of the withdrawal agreement is now settled and negotiations are ongoing.”

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Peace in Ireland is the no.1 concern.

Brexit Puts Good Friday Agreement At Risk – Irish PM (Ind.)

Brexit is “fraying” the relationship between the UK and Ireland and putting peace in Northern Ireland at risk, Irish premier Leo Varadkar has said. The Taoiseach said the Good Friday Agreement was being “undermined” by fractious relations between the two countries over how the Northern Irish border should be managed once Britain leaves the EU. It comes just a day after Theresa May’s de facto deputy, David Lidington, travelled to Dublin to hold talks with his Irish counterpart, Simon Coveney, in a bid to improve relations between the two governments.

But speaking within hours of the visit, Mr Varadkar described the relationship between the two countries as “fraying”. He told Irish broadcaster RTE: “Brexit has undermined the Good Friday Agreement and is fraying the relationship between Britain and Ireland. “Anything that pulls the communities apart in Northern Ireland undermines the Good Friday Agreement, and anything that pulls Britain and Ireland apart undermines that relationship.” The warning comes despite Mr Coveney having claimed a deal between the UK and the EU was “very close”.

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Many sides will call for this.

UK Business Leaders Call For Second Brexit Vote (BBC)

More than 70 business leaders have signed a letter to the Sunday Times calling for a public vote on the UK’s Brexit deal. The chief executive of Waterstones and former Sainsbury’s boss Justin King are among those saying a “destructive hard Brexit” will damage the UK economy. A group called Business for a People’s Vote will launch on Thursday. A Downing Street source told the BBC the Prime Minister was clear that there would be no new referendum. The letter was coordinated by The People’s Vote campaign, which wants a ballot on whether to accept the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU. Richard Reed, co-founder of Innocent Drinks, Lord Myners, the former chairman of Marks and Spencer and Martha Lane Fox, the founder of Lastminute.com, also signed the letter.

It reads: “The business community was promised that, if the country voted to leave, there would continue to be frictionless trade with the EU and the certainty about future relations that we need to invest for the long term. “Despite the Prime Minister’s best efforts, the proposals being discussed by the government and the European Commission fall far short of this. “The uncertainty over the past two years has already led to a slump in investment.” The letter concludes: “We are now facing either a blindfold or a destructive hard Brexit. “Given that neither was on the ballot in 2016, we believe the ultimate choice should be handed back to the public with a People’s Vote.”

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The only true Brezit reality. Merkel’s departure is a far bigger issue for Europe.

Brexit Is Just A Sideshow For An EU Beset By Problems On All Sides (G.)

There is a weariness to the coterie of diplomats and officials based in Brussels intimately involved in the negotiations over the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European union. Privately they describe it as “Brexit fatigue”, the result of second-guessing a chaotic situation in Westminster for two years, and working through the summer in response to the demand from the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, for continuous negotiations. These officials from the 27 other EU member states were picked as the brightest and the best for the existential crisis of the time, but the hard truth for these ambitious men and women is that the crisis in question is no longer Brexit.

“You go to the capitals, you can see that, because no one talks about it any more,” said Fabian Zuleeg, chief executive of the leading EU thinktank, the European Policy Centre. Speaking to his parliament on his return to Madrid from the recent leaders’ summit in Brussels, Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, put it succinctly: “The British spend 24 hours a day thinking about Brexit and the Europeans think about it for four minutes every trimester.” While the UK’s chaotic withdrawal has become a dreary process to be managed, the EU is being dealt hammer blows from elsewhere – from crises that really could make or break the bloc, along with many diplomatic careers.

Foremost on the list of problem zones right now is Italy. “Nothing and nobody, no big or small letter will make us backtrack,” the country’s deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, and leader of the far-right League, told his followers in a Facebook video made in his office in Rome on Friday. “Italy will no longer be a slave and will no longer kneel down.”

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Let’s build a few highways to nowhere too.

“Posh Ghost Towers”: Gloom Spreads Over London Housing Market (DQ)

After decades of mind-boggling growth, home prices in metropolitan London, according to official numbers, started to fall this year, if barely. Between March and September, they slid 2.3%. But it’s a lot worse in the most expensive parts of the city: Prices in central London have already dropped 15% since 2014, according to James Hyman, head of the residential agency division at Cluttons. He expects another 7% drop over the next year and a half. And the total volume of transactions has fallen by a fifth, according to Residential Analysts. In 2014, a change in the stamp duty made buying high-end homes in the UK more costly. In London, the city that hosts the highest number of super-rich individuals per capita in the world, high-end homes are the staple product.

And it’s getting harder and harder to offload them: The Guardian reported that over half of the 1,900 ultra-luxury apartments built in London last year failed to sell. This freeze at the high end is fueling concerns that the city would be left with dozens of “posh ghost towers.” The newest phantom skyscraper is London’s Centre Point Tower, a 33-story office building from the 1960s that was recently converted into multi-million-pound luxury apartments. But demand is anemic and the developer behind the project, Almacantar, has all but given up trying to sell the flats after receiving too many “detached from reality” lowball offers. Until conditions improve, half of the tower’s 82 flats will lie empty.

Yet even as demand for upscale real estate in London fades, there’s little sign of any slow down in the construction of luxury apartments, meaning there will be an even greater glut of upscale real estate in the near future. That’s likely to further exacerbate the fall in prices. It’s the latest in a long line of reality checks for London. Clearly, those at the thin upper crust of the global wealth and income scale — just about the only people left who can afford to buy residential property in London these days — either have less money to spend on over-priced high-end London real estate or are splashing it elsewhere, including in other parts of the UK.

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Russiagate is a non-story kept alive by papers and TV stations.

33 Trillion More Reasons Why New York Times Gets Russiagate Wrong (CN)

Even more damning evidence has come to light undermining The New York Times‘ assertion in September that Russia used social media to steal the 2016 election for Donald Trump. The Times‘ claim last month that Russian Facebook posts reached nearly as many Americans as actually voted in the 2016 election exaggerated the significance of those numbers by a factor of hundreds of millions, as revealed by further evidence from Facebook’s own Congressional testimony. Further research into an earlier Consortium News article shows that a relatively paltry 80,000 posts from the private Russian company Internet Research Agency (IRA) were engulfed in literally trillions of posts on Facebook over a two-year period before and after the 2016 vote.

That was supposed to have thrown the election, according to the paper of record. In its 10,000-word article on Sept. 20, the Times reported that 126 million out of 137 million American voters were exposed to social media posts on Facebook from IRA that somehow had a hand in delivering Trump the presidency. The newspaper said: “Even by the vertiginous standards of social media, the reach of their effort was impressive: 2,700 fake Facebook accounts, 80,000 posts, many of them elaborate images with catchy slogans, and an eventual audience of 126 million Americans on Facebook alone.” The paper argued that 126 million was “not far short of the 137 million people who would vote in the 2016 presidential election.”

But Consortium News, on Oct. 10, debunked that story, pointing out that reporters Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti failed to report several significant caveats and disclaimers from Facebook officers themselves, whose statements make the Times’ claim that Russian election propaganda “reached” 126 million Americans an exercise in misinformation. [..] only an estimated 29 million FB users may have gotten at least one story in their feed in two years. The 126 million figure is based only on an assumption that they shared it with others, according to Stretch. Facebook didn’t even claim most of those 80,000 IRA posts were election–related. It offered no data on what proportion of the feeds to those 29 million people were.

In addition, Facebook’s Vice President for News Feed, Adam Moseri, acknowledged in 2016 that FB subscribers actually read only about 10 percent of the stories Facebook puts in their News Feed every day. The means that very few of the IRA stories that actually make it into a subscriber’s news feed on any given day are actually read.

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Completely insane. Next time it might be police, military, mercenaries. Julian’s supporters need to stand watch 24/7 now.

Break-in Attempted at Assange’s Residence in Ecuador Embassy (CN)

An attempted break-in at Julian Assange’s residence inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on Oct. 29, and the absence of a security detail, have increased fears about the safety of the WikiLeak’s publisher. Lawyers for Assange have confirmed to activist and journalist Suzie Dawson that Assange was awoken in the early morning hours by the break-in attempt. They confirmed to Dawson that the attempt was to enter a front window of the embassy. A booby-trap Assange had set up woke him, the lawyers said. Scaffolding has appeared against the embassy building in the Knightsbridge section in London which “obscures the embassy’s security cameras,” the lawyers said.


Scaffolding near balcony where Assange has appeared. (Sean O’Brien)

On the scaffolding electronic devices, presumably to conduct surveillance, can be seen, just feet from the embassy windows. Later on the day of the break-in, Sean O’Brien, a lecturer at Yale University Law School and a cyber-security expert, was able to enter the embassy through the front door, which was left open. Inside he found no security present. Someone from the embassy emerged to tell him to send an email to set up an appointment with Assange. After emailing the embassy, personnel inside refused to check whether it had been received or not. O’Brien then noticed more scaffolding being erected and observed the devices, which he photographed. Though a cyber-security expert, O’Brien said he could not identify what the devices are.


One of the apparent surveillance devices. (Sean O’Brien.)

“I’ve never seen devices quite like this, and I take photos of surveillance equipment often,” O’Brien said. “There were curious plastic tubes with yellow-orange caps, zip-tied to the front. I have no idea what these are but they seem to have equipment inside them.” The devices are pointed towards the embassy, where all the blinds were open, and not the street, he said. “The surveillance devices in the photos reveals no manufacturer branding, serial numbers or visible device information,” Dawson said. “The combination of the obscuring of the street-facing surveillance cameras and the installation of surveillance equipment pointed into instead of away from the Embassy, is alarming.”

[..] On Thursday the government suddenly barred all access to Assange visitors, including his legal team until next Monday, raising fears that no witnesses could be present should there be an attempt to abduct Assange over the weekend.

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Oct 032018
 
 October 3, 2018  Posted by at 9:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Paul Gauguin The ford 1901

 

Fed’s Powell Says US Outlook ‘Remarkably Positive’ (R.)
Another Market Volatility Surge Is Likely Ahead (Colombo)
White House Responds To “Misleading” NYTimes’ Trump Tax Fraud Story (ZH)
Italy Folds To Europe On Budget Deficit; Euro Surges (ZH)
Merkel’s End Could Spark EU Breakdown (Luongo)
Vancouver Home Sales Crash 44% As “For Sale” Inventory Soars (ZH)
Australia Banking Royal Commission Could Trigger House Price Collapse (ABC.au)
DMZ Demining Operations Lay Groundwork For Korean Peninsula Peace (YH)
Russia May Veto Greece-FYROM Name Deal at the UN (GR)
The Case For Paying Every American A Dividend On The Nation’s Wealth (MW)
Restaurants In Austin Banned From Throwing Away Food (Hill)
‘We Have Found Hell’: Trauma Runs Deep For Children At Dire Lesbos Camp (G.)

 

 

First, here’s Ted Koppel agreeing with me that Trump Sells Better Than Sex, and Stelter really doesn’t understand:

 

 

And then he closed the spigots…

Fed’s Powell Says US Outlook ‘Remarkably Positive’ (R.)

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Tuesday hailed a “remarkably positive outlook” for the U.S. economy that he feels is on the verge of a “historically rare” era of ultra-low unemployment and tame prices for the foreseeable future. It is a view, he said, based on how a changed economy is operating today, with businesses and households immunized by strong central bank policy from the inflationary psychology that caused unemployment, inflation and interest rates to swing wildly in the 1960s and 1970s. It is an outlook that includes an economic performance “unique in modern U.S. data,” with unemployment of below 4 percent expected for at least two more years and inflation remaining modest even as wages rise.

And it is an outlook he feels will even survive the Trump administration’s efforts to rewrite the global trading system, a policy shift Powell said may lead to one-time price hikes, but not to persistent changes in the annual rate of inflation going forward. “This forecast is not too good to be true,” Powell told the National Associate for Business Economics, but instead “is testament to the fact that we remain in extraordinary times.” “These developments amount to a better world for households and businesses which no longer experience or even fear the scourge of high and volatile inflation.”

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There can be no doubt.

Another Market Volatility Surge Is Likely Ahead (Colombo)

The U.S. stock market is climbing to record highs once again and volatility has calmed down dramatically from its panic-induced levels reached earlier this year. Traders have become complacent as they passively ride the stock market higher and bet on lower volatility again. While it may seem like all is well, several reliable indicators are warning that another powerful volatility surge is likely ahead.

The first indicator is the 10-year/2-year Treasury spread that is calculated by subtracting the 2-year Treasury note yield from the 10-year Treasury note yield. The 10-year/2-year Treasury spread is helpful for estimating when the next recession is likely to occur, as I explained in a recent Forbes piece. The chart below (which I recreated from a chart made by BofA’s Savita Subramanian) shows that the inverted 10-year/2-year Treasury spread leads the CBOE Volatility Index or VIX by approximately three years. If this historic relationship holds true, we are about to experience a whole lot more volatility over the next few years.

The next chart shows the positioning of the “smart money” and “dumb money” in the Volatility Index or VIX futures. The “smart money”, or commercial futures hedgers (who tend to be right at major market turning points), are building up another bullish position in VIX futures, just like they did one year ago ahead of the stock market correction and volatility spike. In addition, the “dumb money”, or large traders (who tend to be wrong at major turning points), have built up a large short position, like they did before the early-2018 volatility spike. The positioning of these groups of traders indicates that another volatility spike is likely ahead in the not-too-distant future.

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Decades old, started when Trump was a toddler, good luck. Of course they pay as little as they can, but once the IRS signs off on it…

White House Responds To “Misleading” NYTimes’ Trump Tax Fraud Story (ZH)

Update 2: The White House has finally responded to the NYTimes story…(via Sarah Sanders) “Fred Trump has been gone for nearly twenty years and it’s sad to witness this misleading attack against the Trump family by the failing New York Times. Many decades ago the IRS reviewed and signed off on these transactions. The New York Times’ and other media outlets’ credibility with the American people is at an all time low because they are consumed with attacking the president and his family 24/7 instead of reporting the news.

The truth is the market is at an all-time high, unemployment is at a fifty year low, taxes for families and businesses have been cut, wages are up, farmers and workers are empowered from better trade deals, and America’s military is stronger than ever, yet the New York Times can rarely find anything positive about the President and has tremendous record of success to report. Perhaps another apology from the New York Times, like the one they had to issue after they got the 2016 election so embarrassingly wrong, is in order.”

The NYT reported that Trump and his siblings set up a “sham” corporation to help disguise otherwise taxable income that came from gifts from their parents. The president also allegedly helped his father take improper tax deductions that amounted to millions of dollars and helped formulate strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings, with the Internal Revenue Service reportedly providing little pushback against the Trumps’ reported tactics. According to the leaked confidential filings, Trump’s parents left more than $1 billion to their children, which would have resulted in a roughly $550 million tax bill at the time.

However, the Trumps paid a total of $52.2 million on that source of income, according to the NYT report. To achieve this, the newspaper cited records that showed Trump helped undervalue his father’s real estate holdings, which led to a lower tax bill when he and his siblings inherited the properties. In total, Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, based on questionable tax dealings starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day. And, in what will attract the most attention, the newspaper wrote that Trump’s behavior amounted to fraud in some cases.

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I don’t think this one’s over yet.

Italy Folds To Europe On Budget Deficit; Euro Surges (ZH)

After two days of brutal punishment by the markets which sent Italian bond yields to 4 years highs and slammed the euro, the Italian government appears to have folded to pressure from Brussels (and the one place in the world where the bond vigilantes still operate, just ask Sylvio Berlusconi), and according to Corriere della Sera, Italy’s draft budget plan will pledge to cut the deficit to 2% in 2021, after Rome reversed a proposal to maintain a 2.4% shortfall in the face of pressure from the EU. As a result, while the 2019 deficit will still rise to 2.4% of GDP in 2019, it will decline by 0.2% to 2.2% in 2020, and another 0.2% the year after. In kneejerk reaction, futures lept to fresh session highs, Treasury yields jumped by 2bps to 3.07% and the EURUSD spiked 50 pips higher to 1.1590.

Italy is not out of the woods yet though: according to Mizuho, the sustainability of the euro’s rebound will depend on whether the EU sees Italy’s latest budget plan as appropriate. It could be that Italy has already made compromise with the EU, but hard to predict whether the euro’s rebound has more legs until we see a reaction from the EU: “It all boils down to the EU’s response”, and if the ongoing war of words is any indication, merely promising to trim the deficit in the next three years will hardly be smiled upon. Others were even more skeptical. According to bond fund manager Daintree Capital, “The euro’s definitely reacting to the headlines on Italian budget plans, and it will continue to do so for future headlines.” However, “anyone who believes a populist government is all of a sudden going to be particularly responsible in a fiscal sense, has a misguided view.”

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Merkel’s losing it.

Merkel’s End Could Spark EU Breakdown (Luongo)

I saw a recent poll from Die Welt which has Alternative for Germany (AfD) creep past Merkel’s Grand Coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD), and challenge the CDU itself. Because when you back out the Christian Social Union’s (CSU) total which runs between 8% and 9% AfD is now in a position to become the party with the highest backing in Germany. And this is happening on the eve of Bavarian State elections this month. [..] I’ve talked about AfD’s chances to achieve this result in the past in terms of them crossing the 16% Chasm. And it appears, that slowly, they are doing so. German politics, from what I understand, is not used to this kind of upheaval and certainly not these kinds of leadership challenges. Earlier this year Merkel barely survived a challenge by former CSU Leader Horst Seehofer over immigration.

So, where to things go from here? As Mercouris points out, Merkel has very skillfully gutted the landscape of the CDU to keep potential leaders from emerging within the party. The SPD is falling off a cliff having lost more than half of its support since the 2014 elections. And the CSU is primarily a Bavarian party so they don’t have the support of the entirety of Germany. This landscape is why we’ve seen the Greens rise to 15% as well as AfD’s rise. And that cannot be ignored. The hard left of German politics is now split and ineffectual. But, no party has emerged in this chaos to take the reins of power.

This is reminding me of Italy’s situation at the end of 2017 with no less than five parties polling in double digits. It’s a messy situation and it makes more sense in Germany that big shifts in voter preference would occur at a slower rate given the stability of German coalition governments since the modern state was founded after World War II. In other words Germans are loathe to make these kinds of changes. So, you know the situation must be bad if these numbers are changing this quickly. So, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise really to see this type of breakdown and the slow rise of AfD past the 16% chasm. It may be the riots in Chemnitz that finally begin pushing their poll numbers into the 20’s nationally.

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Glass half full: “”There’s more selection for home buyers to choose from today.”

Vancouver Home Sales Crash 44% As “For Sale” Inventory Soars (ZH)

What happens when prices rise so high that a chasm forms between bids and asks? The market grinds to a halt. That’s what happened in Vancouver housing in September, when according to the Real Estate Board of Vancouver (REBGV), residential property sales tumbled by 17.3% from August 2018, and a whopping 43.5% from one year ago. In fact, a total of only 1,595 transactions took place as both buyers and sellers continue to sit on their hands amid confusion whether the recent torrid price gains will continue or whether the housing bubble has burst. Sales of detached properties in July was just 508, a decrease of 40.4% from the 852 recorded in September 2017, and the 812 apartments sold was a 44% drop compared to the 1,451 sales in September 2017.

And no, it’s not seasonal: last month’s sales were a whopping 36.1% below the 10-year September sales average. The reason for the collapse in transactions: the formerly all too willing buyers, mostly Chinese oligarchs who would use Vancouver real estate as their offshore Swiss bank account, have disappeared. Meanwhile sellers are dumping properties in the market in hopes of a quick flip. “Fewer home sales are allowing listings to accumulate and prices to ease across the Metro Vancouver housing market,” Ashley Smith, REBGV president-elect said. “There’s more selection for home buyers to choose from today. Since spring, home listing totals have risen to levels we haven’t seen in our market in four years.”

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What would we do without our housing bubble?

Australia Banking Royal Commission Could Trigger House Price Collapse (ABC.au)

There is a lot riding on the policy recommendations from the banking royal commission, not least of which is the stability of the Australian property market, according to some respected analysts. Independent economist Saul Eslake said there was potential for the royal commission’s recommendations to have what economists refer to as “unintended consequences”. The unintended consequences Mr Eslake is referring to include a steep fall in house prices spurred on by a royal commission-inspired clampdown on bank lending. Capital Economics chief economist Paul Dales said while house price falls to date have been small, Australia could be in for a record housing decline, at least in its recent history.

“At the moment the trajectory is a bit worrying cause the house prices seem to be declining at a faster rate and, in our view at Capital Economics, this will eventually prove to be the largest downturn in Australia’s modern history,” he said. Mr Dales is forecasting a protracted slowdown in the housing market as a result of a crackdown in bank lending standards, the banking royal commission itself and rising interest rates. “There’s significant time delays with these things,” he said. “I would have thought over the next six to 12 months is where we would, if there was going to be a big pullback in lending, that’s when we would see it and then, thereafter as and when the royal commission makes any recommendations and the Government implements them, the next six to 12 months after that.

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Korea’s move on.

DMZ Demining Operations Lay Groundwork For Korean Peninsula Peace (YH)

After a 15-minute bumpy ride along a dusty, hilly path inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), dozens of South Korean troops in full gear disembarked near a grisly site of intense battles during the 1950-53 Korean War. Accompanying them in the buffer zone separating the two Koreas was a phalanx of security guards, medical specialists and other personnel specializing in disposing of unidentified explosives and excavating war remains. They are part of the 120-member team tasked with removing landmines in the Arrowhead Ridge, or Hill 281 in Cheorwon, some 90 kilometers northeast of Seoul — a site that the two Koreas have designated for a joint project to retrieve war remains from April to October next year.

There were three key battles against communist forces on the notorious ridge from 1952-53. The remains of more than 200 South Korean soldiers and dozens of U.N. Command (UNC) forces, such as U.S. and French troops, are thought to be buried in it. “We have made preparations (for the landmine removal) for a long period and are well prepared now,” the commander in charge of the frontline areas told reporters on condition of anonymity on Tuesday, the second day of the demining work set to continue until Nov. 30. “We will not rush and will carry out our mission with the first and foremost priority placed on the safety of our troops,” he added.

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EU and NATO want to keep pushing, but how about democracy?

Russia May Veto Greece-FYROM Name Deal at the UN (GR)

Russia is implicitly threatening that it may block the Prespa agreement at the UN Security Council. In a statement on Monday, following the referendum in FYROM, the Russian foreign ministry says that the low turnout “means that the referendum cannot be recognised as valid.” It clearly indicates that the voters “chose to boycott the solutions imposed on Skopje and Athens.” The statement also blasts leading politicians from NATO and EU member states who participated in “large-scale propaganda campaign directly, freely interfering in the internal affairs of this Balkan state.” Despite the low turnout, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev vowed to push ahead with the name change on Monday.

The Russian foreign ministry condemned the move: “There is a clear drive to ensure Skopje’s entanglement in NATO despite the will of the Macedonian people.” Russia is traditionally wary of NATO’s enlargement in eastern Europe. The alliance’s 1999 bombings of its ally Serbia caused a major rift in Russia’s relations with the West at the time. Moscow says that a long-term solution can only be agreed upon by the two parties on their own, without any external interference, and only within the framework of the law and with broad public support.

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Inequality in Europe rises fast, too. Where are the breaking points?

The Case For Paying Every American A Dividend On The Nation’s Wealth (MW)

The newest research shows that unconditional cash transfers boost work productivity and quality of life, including better mental and physical health, and reduce crime. A study by the Roosevelt Institute in New York, a left-leaning think tank, concludes that giving $500 a month to every adult American could meaningfully grow the U.S. economy and address its widening wealth gap. (The top 1% of Americans now receive 20% of the national income, while those in the bottom 50% receive 13%; in 1980, the numbers were essentially reversed, at 11% and 20%, respectively, according to the 2018 World Inequality Report.)

Yet basic income in the U.S., characterized as a utopian solution by its true believers but as welfare, socialism or worse by its detractors, has gone nowhere. Basic income did enjoy a bit of a heyday in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s and was even embraced in conservative circles; free-market economist Milton Friedman went so far in 1962 as to propose a negative federal income tax that would guarantee a basic income to the poorest Americans while also incentivizing work. Other ideals of the era — the four-day workweek, the 30-hour workweek, the all but limitless vacation allotment — have fallen by the wayside, even as U.S. labor conditions have worsened.

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In France, this is a nation-wide law.

Restaurants In Austin Banned From Throwing Away Food (Hill)

Restaurants in Austin, Texas, will no longer be allowed to throw out food waste, the city announced this week. Under a new policy that began Monday, all food-permitted businesses in the city are required to keep organic material, such as food scraps and soiled paper products, from landfills. Businesses can dispose of their food waste by donating extra food, giving scraps to local farms for animals, or composting, the city government said in a press release announcing the policy.

The city’s Universal Recycling Ordinance also requires businesses to provide employees with training on organic waste diversion, and to post information about the plan. Official city data shows that 37 percent of material sent to landfills is organic and could have otherwise been donated or composted, the city said. Austin’s ordinance is the latest move by a major city to introduce eco-friendly policies. Dozens of cities and businesses nationwide have banned plastic straws and other single-use plastic items in an effort to cut down on waste.

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Welcome to Europe.

‘We Have Found Hell’: Trauma Runs Deep For Children At Dire Lesbos Camp (G.)

The drawings tell of trauma. Stormy seas dotted with terrified faces. Lifeless bodies of children floating among the waves. And planes dropping bombs, down on to homes and on to people. Eyes that weep blood. The pencil scrawls were made by children who are part of a growing phenomenon in the Moria refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece. All have attempted suicide or serious self-harm since they came to this place. Approximately 3,000 minors live in the Moria camp, which Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) calls a giant open-air “mental asylum” owing to the overcrowding and dire sanitary conditions. Last Tuesday an adolescent attempted to hang himself from a pole. In August, a 10-year-old boy only just failed to take his own life.

The camp, among hills dotted with olive trees a few kilometres from the island’s capital town of Mytilene, is home to 9,000 asylum seekers living in a centre designed to hold one third of that number. Migrants live in groups of up to 30 people, crammed into tents or metal containers situated just centimetres apart. Rubbish, scattered everywhere, makes the air almost unbreathable. Most come from war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. They arrive in dinghies from the Turkish towns of Ayvalik or Canakkale. According to aid agencies, the controversial deal brokered between Brussels and Ankara aimed at stopping the flow of migrants to Europe via Turkey, combined with the refusal on the part of European countries to take in asylum seekers arriving in Greece, have transformed Lesbos into an Alcatraz, leaving people imprisoned on the island with no way out.

“Although the vast majority of migrants who arrive in Moria are traumatised, after having fled from violent conflicts in their home countries, conditions in the camp have exacerbated their trauma,” says Luca Fontana, field coordinator of MSF on the island. “After two years, some are still awaiting transferral, even if they know they could be deported to Turkey at a moment’s notice. I’ve worked in camps infested with Ebola in Sierra Leone and Guinea, but I guarantee you that this is the worst situation I’ve ever seen.”

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Sep 222018
 
 September 22, 2018  Posted by at 9:21 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »


René Magritte Memory of a voyage 1955

 

Rosenstein Proposed Secretly Recording Trump, Invoking 25th Amendment (ZH)
NY Times, McCabe Give Trump Perfect Cover To Fire Rosenstein, Sessions (Hill)
Grassley Extends Deadline On Kavanaugh Accuser’s Decision To Testify (Pol.)
Ding Dong…. (Jim Kunstler)
Theresa May Demands European Leaders Show UK Respect (Ind.)
Legal Action To Revoke Article 50 Referred To European Court Of Justice (G.)
UK PM May Facing Ministerial Resignations Over Brexit Plan (R.)
Russia, Turkey Agree Borders Of Syria Demilitarised Zone (AFP)
Google Suppresses Memo Revealing Plans To Track Search Users In China (IC)
French Court Orders Psychiatric Assessment of Marine Le Pen (Sp.)
Russia’s Secret Plan To Help Julian Assange Escape From UK (G.)
Ecuador Pledged to Not Kick Out Assange – Lawyer (RT)
Ecuador Reportedly Mulled Sending Assange As A Diplomat To Russia (RT)

 

 

The New York Times now helps Trump, or do they think this hurts him?

Rosenstein Proposed Secretly Recording Trump, Invoking 25th Amendment (ZH)

[..] the NYT recounted on Friday an aborted mutiny attempt organized by Rosenstein, who allegedly tried to organize members of Trump’s cabinet to invoke the 25th amendment to oust Trump from office. In an attempt to persuade the clearly reluctant members of Trump’s cabinet, Rosenstein suggested that he or other officials should secretly tape Trump “to expose the chaos” he said was engulfing the West Wing. According to NYT, the sources were either briefed on Rosenstein’s plans, or learned about it from the files of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was fired after being disgraced by an inspector general investigation. ABC News, which also reported the story, cited sources familiar with McCabe’s files. A grand jury is also weighing whether to press charges against McCabe for allegedly misleading the inspector general.

“Mr. Rosenstein made the remarks about secretly recording Mr. Trump and about the 25th Amendment in meetings and conversations with other Justice Department and F.B.I. officials. Several people described the episodes, insisting on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The people were briefed either on the events themselves or on memos written by F.B.I. officials, including Andrew G. McCabe, then the acting bureau director, that documented Mr. Rosenstein’s actions and comments. None of Mr. Rosenstein’s proposals apparently came to fruition. It is not clear how determined he was about seeing them through, though he did tell Mr. McCabe that he might be able to persuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions and John F. Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security and now the White House chief of staff, to mount an effort to invoke the 25th Amendment.”

[..] Mr. Rosenstein disputed this account. “The New York Times’s story is inaccurate and factually incorrect,” he said in a statement. “I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda. But let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”

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Yeah, strange things are happening…

NY Times, McCabe Give Trump Perfect Cover To Fire Rosenstein, Sessions (Hill)

It has been a year of ironies: President Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, once said he would take a bullet for Trump and now seeks to destroy him (and to do so pro bono). Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) once denounced Trump for suggesting Cruz’s father was a presidential assassin but now politically relies on and praises the man who called him “Lying Ted.” The greatest irony of all, however, could be how the newspaper that Trump loves to call “the failing New York Times” succeeded in delivering to him what he has long wanted: a clean shot at firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and then installing a new AG to oversee special counsel Robert Mueller.

To make this more bizarre, Trump could rely for all this on the man he publicly called on to be fired and possibly prosecuted — former FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe. The Times dropped a bombshell story late Friday that Rosenstein discussed secretly recording Trump and seeking cabinet support to force him out of office as being incapacitated under the 25h Amendment. Rosenstein denies the story as “inaccurate and factually incorrect,” insisting “there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.” However, McCabe reportedly wrote memos stating that Rosenstein did discuss the possibility of taping and entrapping the president. Trump has previously referred to McCabe’s memos as “fake.”

At least one source has said the comments about secret taping were made in jest. Of course, joking about secretly taping your boss or forcing him from office is not a huge improvement, particularly when you are technically controlling a special counsel’s investigation of the president. Even in jest, it fulfills Trump’s long narrative of a Justice Department set against him from the outset. So how could the Times clear the way for Trump to clean house at Justice and end up with Mueller directly controlled by an attorney general of his choosing? Simple.

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The Kavanaugh story tries hard to be even more absurd than the Rosenstein one.

Grassley Extends Deadline On Kavanaugh Accuser’s Decision To Testify (Pol.)

[..] late Friday, Grassley tweeted: “Five times now we hv granted extension for Dr Ford to decide if she wants to proceed w her desire stated one wk ago that she wants to tell senate her story Dr Ford if u changed ur mind say so so we can move on I want to hear ur testimony. Come to us or we to u.” Minutes later, he added: “Judge Kavanaugh I just granted another extension to Dr Ford to decide if she wants to proceed w the statement she made last week to testify to the senate She shld decide so we can move on I want to hear her. I hope u understand. It’s not my normal approach to b indecisive.”

Grassley followed with a candid lament that he was being outmaneuvered by Democrats: “With all the extensions we give Dr Ford to decide if she still wants to testify to the Senate I feel like I’m playing 2nd trombone in the judiciary orchestra and [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer is the conductor.” Grassley and other Republicans want Ford to appear on Wednesday, though Ford has requested a Thursday appearance. They accepted some of Ford’s requests after holding a conference call on Friday morning such as allowing one camera in the room, making sure Kavanaugh and Ford aren’t in the same hearing room at the same time and giving Ford breaks during testimony as well as security from the U.S. Capitol Police.

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“Fourth Turning horror show with whipped cream and a cherry on top…”

Ding Dong…. (Jim Kunstler)

This might come as a shock to readers, but the time is not far off when the remaining not-insane cohort of adult Americans gets good and goddamn sick of political sex bombing. Especially given this case of shuck-and-jive. Consider that the same CNN this week produced an entire segment about the shape and size of the President’s generative organ (as reported by an expert in these matters, the porn star and prostitute known as Stormy Daniels). It must be a subject of extraordinary interest to CNN’s Anderson Cooper. On the other flank of the news this week is the much more perilous showdown between the Department of Justice (and the FBI), and Mr. Trump, the cis-hetero-white Golem who happens to be president.

He has ordered these agencies to produce a set of un-redacted documents pertaining to the long-running Russia investigation, set into motion by personnel at these very places. It’s his prerogative under the constitution to do that. In turn, these agencies are being egged on by possibly culpable characters in this melodrama, such as former CIA Director John Brennan and Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Cal), to stonewall the Golem. If I were president — and I may get there yet — I’d send federal marshals into Rod Rosenstein’s office to seize these documents before they are mysteriously “lost.” A tremendous tension hangs over this transaction. Imagine the awful possibility that Mr. Trump may have to declare some kind of martial law to roust out these seditious rascals and clean up their departments. There’s your Fourth Turning horror show with whipped cream and a cherry on top.

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There are plenty other plans. She just doesn’t like them.

Theresa May Demands European Leaders Show UK Respect (Ind.)

Theresa May has demanded EU leaders show Britain respect, branding their public rejection of her Brexit proposals “not acceptable”. In a statement at Downing Street, the prime minister hit out at the way European Council President Donald Tusk discarded her plans without giving a detailed explanation or offering alternatives. Ms May said neither of the options previously offered by the EU were acceptable, stated that talks are now at an “impasse” and underlined her willingness to walk away if needs be – finishing with the words “we stand ready”. But the prime minister also made a new pledge to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living and working in the UK, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Her intervention won approval from cabinet Brexiteers and to an extent from MPs on Conservative benches, steadying a volatile political situation which hours earlier had seen critics predicting the collapse of her strategy. Mr Tusk had surprised British officials by making an unexpectedly strong statement at the end of a summit in Salzburg this week, saying Ms May’s proposals for Brexit “will not work” and following it up with a social media post mocking her negotiating strategy. With pressure mounting, Ms May acknowledged from inside No.10 that Mr Tusk said the UK proposals would undermine the single market, but added: “He didn’t explain how in any detail or make any counter-proposal. So we are at an impasse.”

She said: “Throughout this process, I have treated the EU with nothing but respect. The UK expects the same. A good relationship at the end of this process depends on it. “At this late stage in the negotiations, it is not acceptable to simply reject the other side’s proposals without a detailed explanation and counter proposals. “So we now need to hear from the EU what the real issues are and what their alternative is so that we can discuss them. Until we do, we cannot make progress.”

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Someone in Scotland’s been digging into the law.

Legal Action To Revoke Article 50 Referred To European Court Of Justice (G.)

A legal action to establish whether the UK can unilaterally stop Brexit has been referred to the European court of justice by the court of session in Edinburgh. The case was brought by a cross-party group of six Scottish MPs, MEPs and MSPs, who want the ECJ to offer a definitive ruling on whether the UK can halt the article 50 process without needing the approval of all other 27 EU member states. Rejecting the argument put forward by lawyers for the UK government, that ministers have repeatedly made it clear they have no intention of stopping the Brexit process, even if there were no deal with the EU, Scotland’s most senior judge, Lord Carloway, said: “It seems neither academic nor premature to ask whether it is legally competent to revoke the notification and thus to remain in the EU.”

Carloway, one of three judges to consider the case on appeal after it was initially rejected in June as “academic and hypothetical”, noted that the Commons would be required to vote on whether to ratify any Brexit deal before 29 March 2019, “a date which is looming up”, and that a judgment from the ECJ would “have the effect of clarifying the options open to MPs in the lead-up to what is now an inevitable vote”. Lord Menzies said: “There will have to be a vote, and it appears to me to be legitimate for those who are involved in that vote to know, by means of a judicial ruling, the proper legal meaning of article 50, and in particular whether a member state which has given notification of its intention to withdraw from the EU may revoke that notification of intention unilaterally before the expiry of two years after the notification.”

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Monday could be good. New plans are demanded, but there’s no time for them.

UK PM May Facing Ministerial Resignations Over Brexit Plan (R.)

Some of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s ministers will demand a “Plan B” on her Brexit proposal next week and could quit if she does not change course, the Telegraph newspaper reported late on Friday, citing unnamed sources. Ministers will demand an alternative plan to her “Chequers” proposal at a Cabinet meeting on Monday, the Telegraph said. That plan had already been savaged by European Union leaders in Salzburg earlier in the week, prompting May to defiantly challenge leaders of the bloc to come up with its own plans. Pro-Brexit members of May’s party on Friday had welcomed her defiant tone, but her Chequers proposal has many domestic critics, too.

The Telegraph said there was “speculation” that work and pensions minister Esther McVey might walk out of Monday’s meeting if no new proposal was presented, while international development minister Penny Mordaunt was also tipped as a possible resignation candidate, though the newspaper said friends denied she would resign. Earlier on Friday, Mordaunt said that the EU’s attitude was increasing support within Britain for an exit from the bloc, even if it meant leaving without a deal. .

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Let’s hope Russia got this one right.

Russia, Turkey Agree Borders Of Syria Demilitarised Zone (AFP)

Russia and Turkey have agreed on borders of a demilitarised zone in northern Syria, Russia’s top diplomat said Friday, part of a deal that could check an assault on the last rebel enclave in Idlib. “Just yesterday or the day before, the militaries of Russia and Turkey agreed the concrete frontiers of the demilitarised zone,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with his Bosnian counterpart Igor Crnadak. Moscow says the demilitarised zone would help stop attacks from Idlib on Syrian army positions and Russia’s military bases in the region. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed the establishment of the 15 to 20 kilometre (9.3-12 miles) buffer zone on Monday after talks that lasted more than four hours.

Security in the zone, which includes parts of Idlib and neighbouring provinces including the city of Aleppo, will be overseen by Turkish contingents and Russian military police. The agreement will prevent military action against the city of Idlib, Russia’s defence minister said. “It’s an intermediate step… but a necessary step,” Lavrov said of the zone. “By mid-October, all (fighters of the Al-Nusra Front) must leave this demilitarised zone, and all heavy military equipment must be pulled out of there,” he said.

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Practising for the west?

Google Suppresses Memo Revealing Plans To Track Search Users In China (IC)

Google bosses have forced employees to delete a confidential memo circulating inside the company that revealed explosive details about a plan to launch a censored search engine in China, The Intercept has learned. The memo, authored by a Google engineer who was asked to work on the project, disclosed that the search system, codenamed Dragonfly, would require users to log in to perform searches, track their location — and share the resulting history with a Chinese partner who would have “unilateral access” to the data. The memo was shared earlier this month among a group of Google employees who have been organizing internal protests over the censored search system, which has been designed to remove content that China’s authoritarian Communist Party regime views as sensitive, such as information about democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest.

According to three sources familiar with the incident, Google leadership discovered the memo and were furious that secret details about the China censorship were being passed between employees who were not supposed to have any knowledge about it. Subsequently, Google human resources personnel emailed employees who were believed to have accessed or saved copies of the memo and ordered them to immediately delete it from their computers. Emails demanding deletion of the memo contained “pixel trackers” that notified human resource managers when their messages had been read, recipients determined.

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For posting ISIS execution pictures.

French Court Orders Psychiatric Assessment of Marine Le Pen (Sp.)

The request is connected with a series of images she posted on Twitter showing Daesh* executions. France’s National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen took to Twitter to express her anger with the court order. “I thought I had been through it all: well, no! For denouncing the horrors of Daesh (Isis) with tweets, the “justice system” has referred me for a psychiatric assessment. How far will they go?!” she said. “This regime is really starting to be frightening,” Le Pen added. Le Pen noted that, contrary to French media reports, the procedure was not customary. According to a decision made on September 11, which Le Pen posted on Twitter, the purpose of the psychiatric assessment was to answer the question: “Can she [Le Pen] understand the statements and answer the questions.”

In the list of questions given to the experts, there were eight points, among which were: “whether she acted under the influence of forces or circumstances of force majeure” as well as “is she in a dangerous state from the standpoint of psychiatry or forensic science, and what is the forecast,” among others. The National Assembly (lower house of parliament) of France in November 2017, at the request of the Nanteré Prosecutor’s Office, deprived Le Pen of parliamentary immunity in connection with the publication on Twitter. If the French court finds her guilty, the leader of the party may face up to three years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros.

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More Guardian smear, sources that are known have long been discredited, Mueller’s allegations have been keelhauled, anonymous sources are suspect.

Russia’s Secret Plan To Help Julian Assange Escape From UK (G.)

Russian diplomats held secret talks in London last year with people close to Julian Assange to assess whether they could help him flee the UK, the Guardian has learned. A tentative plan was devised that would have seen the WikiLeaks founder smuggled out of Ecuador’s London embassy in a diplomatic vehicle and transported to another country. One ultimate destination, multiple sources have said, was Russia, where Assange would not be at risk of extradition to the US. The plan was abandoned after it was deemed too risky. The operation to extract Assange was provisionally scheduled for Christmas Eve in 2017, one source claimed, and was linked to an unsuccessful attempt by Ecuador to give Assange formal diplomatic status.

The involvement of Russian officials in hatching what was described as a “basic” plan raises new questions about Assange’s ties to the Kremlin. The WikiLeaks editor is a key figure in the ongoing US criminal investigation into Russia’s attempts to sway the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Robert Mueller, the special counsel conducting the investigation, filed criminal charges in July against a dozen Russian GRU military intelligence officers who allegedly hacked Democratic party servers during the presidential campaign. The indictment claims the hackers sent emails that embarrassed Hillary Clinton to WikiLeaks. The circumstances of the handover are still under investigation. According to Mueller, WikiLeaks published “over 50,000 documents” stolen by Russian spies. The first tranche arrived on 14 July 2016 as an encrypted attachment. Assange has denied receiving the stolen emails from Russia.

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Very promising.

Ecuador Pledged to Not Kick Out Assange – Lawyer (RT)

Despite widespread speculation a few months ago that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may be kicked out of the Ecuadorian embassy by the country’s new leadership, his asylum seems to be safe for now, his lawyer told RT. In July, there were numerous reports that Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno, may revoke the political asylum given to Assange by his predecessor, Rafael Correa, as part of an effort to establish closer ties with the US. The threat never materialized, but his long-time lawyer said “anything could happen at any time.” “Ecuador has made it clear in the past few months – after this wide-spread speculation that he would be forced to leave – that they will respect the asylum,” she said.

Assange remains cut off from all communications and kept in what is effectively solitary confinement with no access to outdoor areas. His health is deteriorating, and the UK authorities have made sure that he won’t get treatment without leaving the embassy, she said. Assange was granted asylum in August 2012, skipping bail in the UK justice system. At that time, he was fighting extradition to Sweden, where he faced prosecution over a now-closed case over alleged sex offenses. He said he had to seek Ecuador’s protection because if forced to go to Sweden, he could be extradited to the US and face serious charges over his actions as WikiLeaks founder.

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Would have been a good solution.

Ecuador Reportedly Mulled Sending Assange As A Diplomat To Russia (RT)

London refused to grant WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange diplomatic immunity so he could escape the confinement of the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK and relocate to Russia, Reuters reports, citing government communications. The persona of Julian Assange has become a thorn in Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno’s side and, ever since assuming office in May of last year, Moreno has made every effort to make sure the Australian’s stay at Ecuador’s embassy in London comes to an end as soon as possible. To shift the responsibility for Assange’s protection against US persecution, Ecuador allegedly mulled offering the WikiLeaks founder a diplomatic post in Russia, which the country hoped would enable him –protected by diplomatic immunity– to finally leave the embassy after six years of arbitrary detention.

London, however, refused to honor Moreno’s move to authorize “special designation” for 47-year-old to carry out diplomatic functions in Moscow, and declined to grant the whistleblower a free passage out of the country, Reuters reports, citing a letter by Ecuador’s foreign ministry to opposition legislator Paola Vintimilla. According to the letter, Quito abandoned its idea to relocate the whistleblower to Moscow after the UK Foreign Office refused to recognize Assange’s special status, or any privileges and immunities awarded under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The “special designation” status awarded by the Ecuadorian president would allow Assange to hold diplomatic posts abroad even if the whistleblower is not career diplomat. However, under English law, the 47 year-old can only enjoy diplomatic privileges, such as immunity, only if his credentials are accepted by the Foreign Office.

[..] Citing at least four, traditionally anonymous, sources, the Guardian wrote that Moscow was plotting to smuggle Assange out of London on Christmas eve last year, but dropped the plan because it was “deemed too risky.” The paper, claimed that Ecuador’s former London consul, Fidel Narvaez, was in talks with Russian diplomats and in constant contact with a ‘Russian businessman’ who coordinated the proposed operation with the Kremlin. It took the newspaper a mere five paragraphs of its 1,000-word report to bring up “questions about Assange’s ties to the Kremlin” in the context of the notorious Mueller probe and alleged ‘Russian hacking’ of the US elections.

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