Aug 282022
 


Henri Matisse The terrace, St. Tropez 1904

 

All The Way To Odessa (Escobar)
Blame West For Global Inflation — Former Czech President (RT)
China Calls On Putin To End Russian Roulette At Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant (iN)
US Comments On American Fighter Death In Ukraine (RT)
Amnesty Issues Warning About Donbass Tribunal (RT)
Sanctions War Isn’t Going As Well As Planned – The Economist (RT)
Serbia Comments On Russia Gas Supplies (RT)
Pentagon Signs Deal To Make Air Defense Systems For Ukraine (RT)
Ukraine Site Threatens 1000s, Incl. Americans, With Extrajudicial Killings (A.)
What Did Not Happen With The Release Of The Mar-a-Lago Affidavit? (Turley)
Judge Announces ‘Preliminary Intent To Appoint A Special Master’ (Fox)
Don’t Charge Trump With Espionage (John Kiriakou)
Let Djokovic Play (Vinay Prasad)
62% of Democratic Students Oppose Sharing Dorm Rooms With Republicans (Turley)
Assange Files Appeal To Stop US Extradition (RT)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zelensky

 

 

Biden showering with his daughter is creepy as hell, but for me it’s more: what if Ivanka had written this about her dad? He would have been crucified.

 

 

Tucker Rumble

 

 

 

 

“..the NATO-Bandera alliance..”

All The Way To Odessa (Escobar)

Europe is now a runaway TGV – minus the requisite Hollywood production values. Assuming it does not veer off track – a dicey proposition – it may eventually arrive at a railway station called Agenda 2030, The Great Narrative, or some other NATO/Davos denomination du jour. As it stands, what’s remarkable is how the “marginal” Russian economy hardly broke a sweat to “end the abundance” of the wealthiest region on the planet. Moscow does not even entertain the notion of negotiating with Brussels because there’s nothing to negotiate – considering puny Eurocrats will only be hurled away from their zombified state when the dire socio-economic consequences of “the end of abundance” will finally translate into peasants with pitchforks roaming the continent.

It may be eons away, but inevitably the average Italian, German or Frenchman will connect the dots and realize it is their own “leaders” – national nullities and mostly unelected Eurocrats – who are paving their road to poverty. You will be poor. And you will like it. Because we are all supporting freedom for Ukrainian neo-nazis. That brings the concept of “multicultural Europe” to a whole new level. The runaway train, of course, may veer off track and plunge into an Alpine abyss. In this case something might be saved from the wreckage – and “reconstruction” might be on the cards. But reconstruct what? Europe could always reconstruct a new Reich (collapsed with a bang in 1945); a soft Reich (erected at the end of WWII); or break with its past failures, sing “I’m Free” – and connect with Eurasia. Don’t bet on it.

The SMO may be about to radically change – something that will drive the already clueless denizens of US Think Tankland and their Euro vassals even more berserk. President Putin and Defense Minister Shoigu have been giving serious hints the only way for the pain dial is up – considering the mounting evidence of terrorism inside Russian territory; the vile assassination of Darya Dugina; non-stop shelling of civilians in border regions; attacks on Crimea; the use of chemical weapons; and the shelling of Zaporizhzhya power plant raising the risk of a nuclear catastrophe. This past Tuesday, one day before the SMO completing six months, Crimea’s permanent representative to the Kremlin, Georgy Muradov, all but spelled it out.

He stressed the necessity to “reintegrate all the Taurian lands” – Crimea, the Northern Black Sea and the Azov Sea – into a single entity as soon as “in the next few months”. He defined this process as “objective and demanded by the population of these regions.” Muradov added, “given not only the strikes on Crimea, but also the continuous shelling of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, the dam of the Kakhovka reservoir, peaceful facilities on the territory of Russia, the DNR and LNR, there are all preconditions to qualify the actions of the Banderite regime as terrorist.” The conclusion is inevitable: “the political issue of changing the format of the special military operation” enters the agenda. After all, Washington and Brussels “have already prepared new anti-Crimean provocations of the NATO-Bandera alliance”.

So when we examine what the “restoration of the Taurian lands” implies, we see not only the contours of Novorossiya but most of all that there won’t be any security for Crimea – and thus Russia – in the Black Sea without Odessa becoming Russian again. And that, on top of it, will solve the Transnistria dilemma. Add to it Kharkov – the capital and top industrial center of Greater Donbass. And of course Dnipropetrovsk. They are all SMO objectives, the whole combo to be later protected by buffer zones in Chernihiv and Sumy oblasts. Only then the “tasks” – as Shoigu calls them – of the SMO would be declared fulfilled. The timeline could be eight to ten months – after a lull under General Winter.

Read more …

“The ‘green delirium..’”

Blame West For Global Inflation — Former Czech President (RT)

Former Czech President Vaclav Klaus has rejected the notion that the Ukrainian conflict has been the sole reason for the economic problems now experienced around the globe. “The issues that led to spiking inflation and to a huge increase in energy prices that we have now originated long before February 24” when Russia sent its troops into Ukraine, Klaus told outlet Seznam Sravy on Friday. “This is self-inflicted, this is self-inflicted by the West. The Russian invasion just added to that,”he insisted. Russia is a major supplier of gas, oil and coal, but it’s “just one of the players” on the international market, the 81-year-old economist, who was the Czech Republic’s president between 2003 and 2013, pointed out.


So, the reduction of supply of Russian hydrocarbons to the EU and soaring energy prices – which came as a result of sweeping sanctions imposed on Moscow by the bloc – just can’t be the number one cause for high inflation rates and soaring energy prices, Klaus insisted. “I don’t understand why the number one cause isn’t being mentioned. The ‘green delirium,’ the supposed fight against climate change and the EU’s Green Deal – that’s the fundamental cause for the rise in prices,” he said, referring to the Western attempts in recent years to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. The ex-president has urged the sides involved to find a solution to the conflict in Ukraine, which has already been going on for half a year, warning that the situation will only “get worse and worse” if it’s not done soon. “It won’t be enough for the representatives of Ukraine and Russia to get together. It’s necessary for the West, especially the US, to start negotiating with Russia. Every person with at least some intelligence understands this,” he also remarked.

Read more …

How news is fabricated. Michael Day at iNews.uk comes with this headline, but nowhere in his quotes is it repeated. Instead, China simply called on both sides to be careful. And of course the article talks about Russian shelling, which we know is nonsensical. Russia’s held the plant since March, and there was never an issue until Ukraine started firing at it. But yeah “Russian Roulette” sounds cute, and so does “China Calls On Putin To End..” [it].

China Calls On Putin To End Russian Roulette At Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant (iN)

China has issued a thinly veiled attack on Russia’s brinkmanship over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine, as fears of disaster escalate following a near-miss at the site. A senior Chinese official told the UN on Friday that just one incident might cause a serious nuclear accident “with irreversible consequences for the ecosystem and public health of Ukraine and its neighbouring countries”. Geng Shuang, China’s deputy permanent representative at the UN, pointedly called on all parties involved “to exercise maximum restraint strictly abide by international law and minimise the risk of accidents”, adding: ”We must not allow the tragedies of the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear accidents to be repeated.”

In addition to an international public health emergency, a serious accident and radiation release at the plant would be another blow to the world economy, already severely impoacted by Covid-19 and the energy crisis. China’s warning is signficiant as it is perhaps the only world power with real influence over the Putin regime. Beijing issued its statement just hours after an incident at Zaporizhzhia – Europe’s largest nuclear power plant – when electricity was cut off for hours, according to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. Mr Zelensky said Russian shelling on Thursday sparked fires in the ash pits of a nearby coal power station, wihch disconnected the Zaporozhzhia plant from the power grid. A Russian official claimed Ukraine was to blame.

Back-up diesel generators ensured that the power supply to the plant, vital for cooling and safety systems there, continued, Mr Zelensky said. He urged international bodies to act faster to force Russian troops to vacate the site, located in the south of country. Oleh Savitskyi, an energy policy expert with the Ukrainian Climate Network who has worked in the country’s ministry of energy and environment protection, told the Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists (BOAS) that relying on back-up diesel generators was not enough “Russians are using Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as their military base, they could have been stealing that diesel fuel or using it for their vehicles. Nobody knows how much fuel is available,” he said.

Read more …

Why do you have to hear this through RT, and not a US source, who should be all over it? Easy:

“..the fighter was killed not by Russian or allied forces, but by his fellow soldiers while “fleeing from the position.”

US Comments On American Fighter Death In Ukraine (RT)

Another American has died in fighting in Ukraine, the US State Department revealed on Friday, confirming previous claims made by Russian officials. “We can confirm the death of a US citizen in Ukraine,” a US State Department spokesperson told Newsweek on Friday. “Out of respect for the privacy of the family, we have no further comment at this time.” On Friday, Oleg Kozhemyako, who serves as the governor of Russia’s Far Eastern Primorsky Region, said that the ‘Tiger’ military unit from his area had eliminated an American while repelling an attack from a group consisting of mercenaries from several countries.

“An American mercenary was destroyed in Ukraine,” he said on his Telegram, attaching photos of both a US passport and Ukrainian military service card, apparently issued in the name of Joshua Alan Jones. The ID documents say he was born in Tennessee and joined the Ukrainian Army on July 14 with the A3449 military unit. According to Andrey Rudenko, a Russian military reporter, the fighter was killed not by Russian or allied forces, but by his fellow soldiers while “fleeing from the position.” The State Department spokesperson offered a reminder that “US citizens should not travel to Ukraine, due to the active armed conflict and the singling out of US citizens in Ukraine by Russian government security officials.”

“US citizens in Ukraine should depart immediately if it is safe to do so using any commercial or other privately available ground transportation options,” the representative reiterated. Russia’s Ministry of Defense has repeatedly claimed it had destroyed foreign mercenaries in Ukraine, including by conducting high-precision missile strikes. Moreover, earlier this month, authorities of the Donetsk People’s Republic said that three Western nationals accused of fighting as mercenaries for Ukraine could be sentenced to death while another two are facing up to eight years behind bars for the same reason. Earlier, the Russian Ministry of Defense warned that mercenaries aren’t viewed as combatants under international law and “the best thing that awaits them if they are captured alive is a trial and maximum prison terms.” s

Read more …

Amnesty still feels queasy. More interesting is Duma Speaker Volodin:

“He and his inner circle ordered to bomb, shoot and kill peaceful citizens: the elderly, women, children. That is why Zelensky is doing everything to prevent the tribunal.

Amnesty Issues Warning About Donbass Tribunal (RT)

Amnesty International is against putting Ukrainian POWs on trial for alleged war crimes, insisting that Russia and Donbass are in no position to do so. Describing the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics as “Russian-backed armed groups,”the organization called the upcoming tribunals “illegal and abusive.” The organization also blasted the decision to set up the trials in the city of Mariupol, captured by Russian and Donbass forces during the ongoing conflict, saying it was “a further act of cruelty against a city.” “Any attempts by Russian authorities to try Ukrainian prisoners of war in so-called ‘international tribunals’ set up by armed groups under Russia’s effective control in Mariupol are illegal and unacceptable,” Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Marie Struthers, said in a statement on Friday.

The remarks echoed those recently made by top Ukrainian officials, including Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, who threatened to cut any potential negotiations with Russia should Ukrainian POWs, primarily fighters of the notorious neo-Nazi Azov regiment, be placed on a “show trial.” “If this despicable show trial takes place … This will be the line beyond which any negotiations are impossible. Russia will cut itself off from any negotiations,” Zelensky said in a video address on Monday. Zelensky’s call, however, has been promptly snubbed by top Russian and Donbass officials, with the head of the DPR, Denis Pushilin, stating such threats will have “no effect” on the tribunal plans.

“The data on 80 counts of crimes committed by the Azov has been collected, 23 people have been arrested and are in custody,” Pushilin stated. Russian Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin issued a darker warning in response to Zelensky’s threats, suggesting the public hearings will expose Kiev’s crimes, which is why the Ukrainian president rightfully fears them. “He and the Kiev regime have reasons to be afraid,” Volodin said. “He and his inner circle ordered to bomb, shoot and kill peaceful citizens: the elderly, women, children. That is why Zelensky is doing everything to prevent the tribunal.”

Read more …

“The biggest flaw [of sanctions] is that full or partial embargoes are not being enforced by over 100 countries with 40% of world GDP..”

Sanctions War Isn’t Going As Well As Planned – The Economist (RT)

The harsh sanctions imposed on Russia by the West over the conflict in Ukraine have so far been unable to deliver the desired result, The Economist magazine has acknowledged, adding that the strategy has “flaws.” “Worryingly, so far the sanctions war is not going as well as expected,” the British publication said in its article on Thursday, insisting that the effectiveness of economic restrictions on Moscow “is key to the outcome of the Ukraine war.” “Russia’s GDP will shrink by 6% in 2022, reckons the IMF, much less than the 15% drop many expected in March… Energy sales will generate a current-account surplus of $265 billion this year, the world’s second-largest after China. After a crunch, Russia’s financial system has stabilized and the country is finding new suppliers for some imports, including China,” it pointed out.

At the same time, the energy crisis, which has been provoked by the sanctions war, “may trigger a recession” in Europe, where gas prices spiked by another 20% this week, according to the British magazine. This all means that the expected “knockout blow [from restricting Russia] has not materialized,” The Economist said. “The unipolar moment of the 1990s, when America’s supremacy was uncontested, is long gone, and the West’s appetite to use military force has waned since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” it acknowledged. Economic restrictions “seemed” to be the new tool that would allow the US, EU and its allies to project their power globally, but the conflict in Ukraine has revealed that “the sanctions weapon has flaws,” it said.

One of those flaws is “the time lag,” the magazine continued. For example, “blocking [Russia’s] access to tech the West monopolizes takes years to bite,” it added. The Economist suggested that isolation from Western markets could only “cause havoc in Russia… on a three- to five-year horizon.” “The biggest flaw [of sanctions] is that full or partial embargoes are not being enforced by over 100 countries with 40% of world GDP,” the outlet insisted. “A globalized economy is good at adapting to shocks and opportunities, particularly as most countries have no desire to enforce Western policy.” With economic curbs failing to cripple the Russian economy, one should “discard any illusions that sanctions offer the West a cheap and asymmetric way to confront China” if it decides to use force against Taiwan, The Economist warned.

Read more …

Hungary, Serbia, Turkey, who’s next?

Serbia Comments On Russia Gas Supplies (RT)

Serbs would not have to save energy and reduce their consumption this winter thanks to Belgrade’s policies and gas imports from Russia, President Aleksandar Vucic told his fellow citizens in an address on Saturday. “There are no plans for electricity restrictions next winter,” he said, adding, however, that the situation in the energy field remains “extremely difficult.” At the same time, the Serbian cabinet is expected to provide “large discounts” to those who did save electricity this year in comparison to the previous one, he said. Such measures have become possible particularly due to gas imports from Russia, the Serbian leader believes. Serbia purchases 2 million cubic meters of gas – or between 63% and 64% of all gas it needs – from Russia and its total cost amounts to €800 million ($797 million), Vucic said, calling such a price “fantastic.”


If Belgrade had to buy gas at the current European market prices, it would go bankrupt, he said, arguing that the remaining 1.2 million cubic meters of gas – or around 36% of its total consumption – would cost Serbia €4.8 billion ($4.7 billion) now. “And our entire budget is around €13 billion,” the president said. Vucic also praised a deal Belgrade struck with Budapest that would see Hungary storing between 300 and 500 cubic meters of gas purchased by Serbia in its gas storages. The Serbian president’ comments come as the European gas prices continue to soar. September futures on the TTF hub in the Netherlands rose to nearly $3,500 per thousand cubic meters on Friday, according to data on the London ICE exchange.

Read more …

Raytheon pay day. But this stuff won’t be ready for another two years. They are actively trying to create a 10-year war. Why would Russia wait that long, though?

Pentagon Signs Deal To Make Air Defense Systems For Ukraine (RT)

The Pentagon has signed a $182-million deal with US arms manufacturer Raytheon to produce NASAMS (National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems) for the Ukrainian military. The work on short-and medium-range air defense weaponry will be conducted at Raytheon’s facilities in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, with an estimated completion date of August 23, 2024, the US Department of Defense said in a statement on Friday. Earlier this week, US President Joe Biden announced yet another military aid package for Ukraine amid its conflict with Russia. At $2.98 billion it is the largest to date, and will include six NASAMS systems.


The military assistance will be funded as part of the so-called Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), meaning the hardware will be specifically produced for Kiev, and not taken from US stocks. In an article earlier this month, Air Force Magazine described the NASAMS as a vital piece of technology that could help the Ukrainian forces to shoot down Russian cruise missiles, which have so far been hitting targets in the country “nearly unimpeded.” Moscow has long been critical of weapons supplies to Kiev by Washington and its allies, saying that they only prolong the conflict and increase the risk of a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia.

Read more …

“In total, nearly 200,000 people have been declared ‘criminals’ over the five years.”

German politicians, a French actor, Victor Orban, Henry Kissinger, and of course as per last week, Roger Waters.

Ukraine Site Threatens 1000s, Incl. Americans, With Extrajudicial Killings (A.)

Mirotvorets, which compiles lists of ‘enemies of Ukraine’, has been operating with impunity for eight years. For the last eight years, a group of publicly unknown activists in Ukraine have been compiling lists of ‘enemies of the people’ with impunity. Hundreds of thousands have been declared criminals without trial. Among them are not only Russian citizens, but also Ukrainian opposition figures and bloggers, European politicians, and US citizens. At the very least, being added to this list is a stigma that makes life difficult in Ukraine, but it can also serve as justification for imprisonment or, in some cases, even being killed. This is exactly what happened last weekend to Daria Dugina, daughter of world-famous Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin, who’s name also can be found on that list.

RT explains what is behind the Mirotvorets, or ‘Peacemaker’, website, whose creators seek to bring ‘peace’ to their country with the help of extrajudicial killings, and why the Ukrainian authorities have done nothing about this despite condemnation from the international community. What is Mirotvorets? The main page of the Ukrainian Mirotvorets website proclaims that the outlet represents a ‘Center for Research of Signs of Crimes against the National Security of Ukraine, Peace, Humanity, and the International Law’. It claims to have been created by a group of academics, journalists, and other specialists. However, their names are known to no one, and the outfit itself has never even been officially registered in Ukraine. Nevertheless, this organization has been in operation for nine years, since August 2014.

[..] As long as Mirotvorets was limiting itself to publishing information on Ukrainian citizens living in Crimea and Donbass, Ukrainian opposition politicians and journalists, and Russian residents and officials, the odious organization went unnoticed in the ‘civilized world’. But a scandal erupted in 2016, when Mirotvorets published information on employees of a host of media outlets, including the BBC, Reuters, Al Jazeera, AFP, Le Monde, the Guardian, Le Figaro, France 24, El Mundo, CBS News, CNN, Sky News, The Daily Telegraph, The Times, Cheska Televize, Radio France, Channel 9 Australia, the Associated Press, Japan TV, the Daily Mail, Die Welt, the Washington Post and New York Times, as well as representatives of Human Rights Watch and many other organizations, for “cooperating with a terrorist organization” (i.e., the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics).

[..] so far, calls for the closure of Mirotvorets have, in fact, been limited to a chorus of journalists, human rights defenders, and parliamentarians, who lack the power to make legally binding decisions with respect to Ukraine. This issue is not included among the list of requirements put forth by the Council of Europe or the European Commission that Kiev must fulfil in order to implement the EU Association Agreement.

Read more …

“..the largest Rorschach test in history..”

What Did Not Happen With The Release Of The Mar-a-Lago Affidavit? (Turley)

With Friday’s release of the redacted affidavit from the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago, the largest Rorschach test in history seemed to play out on cable television. Instead of ink blots, pundits and politicians stared at pages of solid black lines and offered strikingly different “ah-ha” observations. For former Mueller top aide Andrew Weissmann, the affidavit meant one thing — that “the former president is going to be prosecuted.” (Of course, Weissmann once expressed certainty that Donald Trump would pardon himself by his last day in office.) There already are a plethora of news and opinion columns focusing on five things we learned from the redacted affidavit. Equally telling, I think, is what did not happen with the affidavit’s release.

[..] There is every reason to believe that what followed contained some facts that could be released on the FBI’s communications with the Trump team or the breakdown of such communications. After all, the Trump team already knows about that. Yet the government is saying that everything which occurred in that critical month cannot be disclosed in even the smallest detail. The court could have pushed for additional disclosures but chose to call it a day, based on government representations that more would cause harm. Yet this is the same department that maintained all of the pages released this week could not be released without causing harm.

There is still more that can be done by the court. One option is the special master requested, belatedly, by Trump’s team. I previously argued that Attorney General Merrick Garland should have proposed such an appointment to assure the public that this was not a pretextual search using sensitive documents as an excuse for a massive seizure. The scope of the warrant was ridiculously broad, allowing the seizure of virtually every document in the storage room and every document generated during Trump’s presidency. A special master could have sorted through this mass of material and separated privileged or immaterial documents. That would add to the legitimacy of an otherwise unlimited search.

That also did not happen. However, a special master could still serve the same interests of transparency and legitimacy. By dividing these documents into classified material, unclassified but defense-related information, and unclassified material we would have a better understanding of the scope and seriousness of any alleged crimes. That is why the most curious thing about the redacted affidavit is what did not happen. In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Silver Blaze,” a police inspector asks Sherlock Holmes if anything about a crime scene bothered him. The brilliant detective responds, “To the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime.” When the confused inspector objects that “the dog did nothing in the night-time,” Holmes replies: “That was the curious incident.”

Read more …

“A hearing is set for Sept. 1 at 1:00 p.m.”

Judge Announces ‘Preliminary Intent To Appoint A Special Master’ (Fox)

A federal judge on Saturday announced her “preliminary intent to appoint a special master” to review records seized by the FBI during its unprecedented raid of his Mar-a-Lago home earlier this month, at the request of former President Trump and his legal team, citing the “exceptional circumstances.” Trump and his legal team filed a motion Monday evening seeking an independent review of the records seized by the FBI during its raid of Mar-a-Lago earlier this month, saying the decision to search his private residence just months before the 2022 midterm elections “involved political calculations aimed at diminishing the leading voice in the Republican Party, President Trump.”

U.S. District Judge from the Southern District of Florida Judge Aileen M. Cannon on Saturday afternoon said that the decision was made upon the review of Trump’s submissions and “the exceptional circumstances presented.” “Pursuant to Rule 53(b) (1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Court’s inherent authority, and without prejudice to the parties’ objections, the Court hereby provides notice of its preliminary intent to appoint a special master in this case,” Cannon wrote in a filing Saturday. A hearing is set for Sept. 1 at 1:00 p.m. in West Palm Beach, Fla. Cannon also ordered the Justice Department to file a response by Aug. 30 and provide, “under seal,” a “more detailed Receipt for Property specifying all property seized pursuant to the search warrant executed on August 8, 2022.”

The current property receipt shows that FBI agents took approximately 20 boxes of items from the premises, including one set of documents marked as “Various classified/TS/SCI documents,” which refers to top secret/sensitive compartmented information. Records covered by that government classification level could potentially include human intelligence and information that, if disclosed, could jeopardize relations between the U.S. and other nations, as well as the lives of intelligence operatives abroad. However, the classification also encompasses national security information related to the daily operations of the president of the United States. The property receipt also showed that FBI agents collected four sets of top secret documents, three sets of secret documents and three sets of confidential documents, but the document does not reveal any details about any of those records.

Maher Reiner

Read more …

Word du jour: Overreach.

Don’t Charge Trump With Espionage (John Kiriakou)

To understand the damage that this deeply flawed law has done, and will continue to do, we have to look at its origins. The Espionage Act was written in 1917, at the height of World War I. The U.S. was panicked at the thought of German spies working undercover to steal its secrets and to disrupt its ability to produce war materiel and support its allies. Congress drew up a law in which one provision, Section 794, made it a crime punishable by life imprisonment or death to provide “national defense information” to a foreign power. But another provision, Section 793, made it a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison to “provide national defense information to any person not entitled to receive it.”

The problems with the law were myriad. First, nobody ever bothered to define what “national defense information” was. The law doesn’t even mention the term “classified information” because the classification system wouldn’t be invented for another 40 years. Second, there was no “affirmative defense” written into the law. A defendant was forbidden from saying in court, “Yes, I gave national defense information to a reporter because I was revealing a crime” or “I did it in the national interest.” And to make matters worse, the Sedition Act, which was passed a year later, amended the Espionage Act to criminalize many forms of speech, including “any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States, or the flag of the United States, or the uniform of the Army or Navy.”

Even a Hollywood studio was prosecuted under the Espionage Act. In United States v. Motion Picture Film, a federal court upheld the Justice Department’s seizure of the film, called Spirit of ’76, because a scene showed British soldiers being cruel to colonists. The Justice Department had argued that such a depiction, even if true, could undermine public support for the British in the world war. The film’s producer, Robert Goldstein, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined $5,000. He served three years. These are only a few of the dozens of “espionage” prosecutions from the period. The law’s Section 793 was largely ignored from the mid-1920s to the early 1970s, when the Nixon administration charged Daniel Ellsberg with multiple counts of espionage for releasing the Pentagon Papers to the media. The case fell apart when Nixon ordered his “plumbers” to break into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office, steal his files and send them to newspapers. Section 793 then went dormant again until Barack Obama was elected president in 2008.

Read more …

It’s theater. And it’s too late.

Let Djokovic Play (Vinay Prasad)

The credibility and legitimacy of public health demands two things. The rules have to make sense; they can’t be nakedly contradictory. And the rules have to benefit people. You can’t demand jumping through hoops merely for optics. The treatment of the tennis star Novak Djokovic, who is officially blocked from competing in this year’s U.S. Open, set to begin on Monday, violates both. Keeping him from playing because he has not received a Covid-19 vaccine undermines the credibility of the White House, which set the policy, and public health more broadly. I’m saying this both as a Democrat and a doctor gravely concerned about eroded trust in our institutions.

Djokovic is one of the best tennis players of all time. He is currently vying for most majors of any champion (21 to date), competing with Rafael Nadal (22) and Roger Federer (20). But there will forever be an asterisk next to those comparisons because Djokovic is banned from entering the U.S. to compete in this year’s U.S. Open because of a byzantine rule that non-U.S. citizens cannot enter the country without proof of vaccination. This rule makes no sense from a medical or public health standpoint. Consider the facts. Djokovic is 35 years old, and he is in terrific health. He has had and recovered from Covid-19 twice. This—and the fact that current variants are less lethal than prior strains—means that Djokovic’s odds of doing well were he to get sick with Covid-19 again are remarkably good, and lower than his risk of seasonal influenza.

If Djokovic gets a vaccine at this moment it would be against the ancestral, Wuhan strain of the coronavirus and there is no good evidence this would further improve his odds. Now consider Djokovic’s risk to others. At least 140 million Americans have had and recovered from Covid-19 as of January (this number is higher today), and both vaccinated and unvaccinated can spread the disease. Data shows, when infected, that vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals shed virus at similar rates and for similar durations. Forcing Djokovic to get vaccinated won’t protect others. Sars-cov-2 will circulate in the United States for a thousand years whether we let Djokovic in, or keep him out forever.

Then, there are the absurd contradictions in our current rules. Unvaccinated American citizens can move freely in and out of the country without testing. Unvaccinated people can pack the stadium to watch this year’s U.S. Open, where face masks are optional. There is no vaccine or testing requirement to attend. Worst of all, Novak Djokovic competed in last year’s U.S. Open, where he made the finals before the travel rule barring his entry was in place. Joe Biden, who made the rule that blocks Djokovic, has received four Covid-19 vaccine doses. He has had Covid-19 twice, and taken at least 2 courses of Paxlovid. His wife, first lady Jill Biden, has also had four vaccine doses, also had Covid-19 twice. Yet, for some reason, their concern is the Novak Djokovics of the world.

Read more …

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Is there any comparable time in history?

62% of Democratic Students Oppose Sharing Dorm Rooms With Republicans (Turley)

It is a sign of our times. It used to be that the key criterion for college roommates was whether you are a “partier v. non-partier.” Now, it is just your party. A new NBC and Generation Lab study of the class of 2025 showed that roughly half of college students refuse to live with someone who voted for a member of a different political party. That percentage is notably much higher with Democrats rather than Republicans. According to the poll, 46% responded that they would “probably not” or “definitely not” be willing to share a room with someone from another political party.


Of those, 62% of young Democrats refused to share a room with a member of the Republican party while only 28% of young Republicans took that position. That attitude extended to marriage where 52% ruled out a spouse from an opposing party. So much for opposites attracting. Notably, 62% would not work for a company that does not share their political values. It seems Twitter is going to be busy this hiring season. sThe poll reflects not just our age of rage but the increasing siloed news consumption of citizens. People now largely remain in echo chambers for news from the left or the right. It appears that such self imposed isolation now extends socially and professionally for the rising generation, particularly for Democratic students.

Read more …

“Overwhelming evidence has emerged proving that the US prosecution against my husband is a criminal abuse..”

Assange Files Appeal To Stop US Extradition (RT)

Julian Assange’s legal team filed an appeal on Friday to stop the WikiLeaks co-founder’s extradition to the US, where he faces espionage charges that carry a prison sentence of up to 175 years. According to WikiLeaks, Assange’s lawyers filed “perfected grounds of appeal” before the UK High Court of Justice against the US government and UK Home Secretary Priti Patel, who approved the extradition of the Australian-born editor in mid-June. The appeal argues that “Julian Assange is being prosecuted and punished for his political opinions,” while the US government “misrepresented the core facts” of the case to the UK judiciary. It adds that the request to extradite the WikiLeaks co-founder violates the relevant treaty between the US and the UK, as well as international law.


The document also reportedly contains some new evidence that has been compiled since the UK court ruled on Assange’s extradition in early 2021. The editor’s wife, Stella Assange, said: “Overwhelming evidence has emerged proving that the US prosecution against my husband is a criminal abuse,” adding that the high court will now decide whether her husband is given the opportunity to make his case against the US before open court at the appeal. In early June, the Wall Street Journal reported that Assange’s lawyers had filed two appeals to fight his extradition to the US, just a day before the deadline for the legal action was set to expire. The exact details of the appeal, however, were unclear.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quick prayer
https://twitter.com/i/status/1563382574139207682

 

 

German power baseload price

 

 

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

 

 

 

Jul 242022
 
 July 24, 2022  Posted by at 8:23 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  56 Responses »


Piet Mondriaan Place de la Concorde 1938-43

 

Rule by the Few or Rule for the Many? (Batiushka)
Zelensky Refuses Peace Talks (RT)
US Concerned About Zelensky’s Safety (RT)
Mysterious Missiles Strike Grain Facility at Odessa Port (CTH)
Flying Coffins (Will Schryver)
Russia Claims It Destroyed HIMARS (RT)
For Those About To Rock, NAM 2.0 Salutes You (Escobar)
Ukraine To Make Seeking Russian Passport A Crime (RT)
Hungary Urges EU To Not ‘Hide The Truth’ About Russian Gas (RT)
Go East, My Son! (Salamah)
Canada Joins the Netherlands in Operation Eat Bugs (CTH)
Is The Clock Finally Running Out On Hunter Biden? (Turley)
The Senior Biden Officials Entangled In Durham’s Russiagate Probe (Sperry)
Why Do The Minority Who Haven’t Had Covid Account For Most New Infections? (G.)
CV19 Vax Lies Destroyed Trust Everywhere on the Planet – Steve Kirsch (USAW)

 

 

 

 

Jim Rickards @JamesGRickards: Russia just raised its growth forecast from -8% to -4%, cut interest rates from 9.5% to 8%, and raised its current account surplus forecast from $145 billion to $243 billion. Exports expected to reach a record $593 billion. How are those sanctions working out, Joe?

 

 

Tedros overruled his own experts. 98% of monkeypox infections are gay men. 5 people have died with/from it. How is that a global health emergency? Well, it could become one…

 

 

Bannon Alex Jones
https://twitter.com/i/status/1550863875473539074

 

 

 

 

Oligarchy or Patriarchy. Take your pick.

Rule by the Few or Rule for the Many? (Batiushka)

Today the Ukraine is the battlefield where these two systems, Oligarchy and Patriarchy, are competing. The future of the whole world is being decided there. The Oligarchy has become embroiled ever more in its proxy war there because it intends to destroy Russia so that it can then destroy China. However, in order to do this, the USA must first finish off Russian-supplied Europe. The European elite has followed the Oligarchy’s dictates because its leaders are all only other ‘zelenskies’, whose strings are also pulled by the Oligarchy’s same puppeteers.


This is why the dollar has recently been rising against the pound sterling and the euro (and also the yen). However, seeing this, other countries are seeking alternatives and the USA is threatened with dedollarisation. There is no end game in the Ukraine for the Oligarchy. Meddling in Russia and Europe has meant heading towards economic meltdown. The Oligarchy is now pulling down an iron curtain on the Western world, not to protect it from some imagined foreign military attack, but to imprison the peoples of the USA, UK, EU, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand. As those peoples cotton on, this will end badly for the Oligarchy.

Read more …

“Putin said that back in March, Moscow and Kiev had “actually reached an agreement, the only thing left to do was to sign it.”

Zelensky Refuses Peace Talks (RT)

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, explaining the reasons behind his country’s refusal to negotiate with Moscow, compared Russia to an insatiable “cachalot” who would not understand the language of diplomacy. In a Friday interview with the Wall Street Journal, Zelensky responded to the recent remarks of his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, who said earlier this week that Russia and Ukraine could have ended their conflict in March if Kiev had not withdrawn from negotiations. Calling this statement “total delirium,” the Ukrainian leader said that, prior to Moscow’s offensive, he had been trying to talk to Putin for a long time but he couldn’t be bothered to take a phone call.

“He came here without talking, killed people, displaced 12 million, and now says Ukraine doesn’t want to negotiate. They just murder people, destroy cities, enter them, and then say: ‘Let’s negotiate’. With whom can they talk? With rocks? They are covered in blood, and this blood is impossible to wash off. We will not let them wash it off,” Zelensky said. Now, five months into the military conflict, Ukrainians believe that all of the country’s territories must be “liberated” before any negotiations can resume, according to him. Zelensky stressed that he would prefer to conduct ‘de-occupation’ in a non-military manner but, in his opinion, Russia would not understand anything until it got “smashed in the face.”

Moreover, he believes there is another reason conducting talks no longer makes sense. Russia will never stop seizing Ukrainian territories, he claimed. “It is a cachalot that has swallowed two regions and now says: Freeze the conflict. Then it will rest and, in two or three years, it will seize two more regions and say again: Freeze the conflict. And it will keep going further and further. One hundred percent,” the Ukrainian leader said. Meanwhile, Putin said that back in March, Moscow and Kiev had “actually reached an agreement, the only thing left to do was to sign it.” “In order to create these conditions, our troops withdrew from central Ukraine, from Kiev, but the Kiev authorities refused to implement these agreements” and have no desire to do so even now, the Russian president added.

Read more …

If Russia wanted Zelensky dead, he would be.

US Concerned About Zelensky’s Safety (RT)

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Friday that Washington is worried about the personal safety of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky. The US is assisting Zelensky with his security, Sullivan added. “President Zelensky’s personal safety is something that concerns us,” Sullivan told the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. “This is a leader in wartime, dealing with an enemy in Russia that is ruthless, brutal and capable of just about anything.” “President Zelensky takes the precautions you would expect to protect himself,” Sullivan continued, adding that the US is helping to “facilitate” the Ukrainian leader’s security, without elaborating. The US offered to evacuate Zelensky from Kiev when Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine in February. Zelensky did not take up the offer.

This week, Ukraine’s parliament approved the firing of Ivan Bakanov, the top official at the state security service (the SBU). Zelensky also removed the heads of SBU departments in five of the country’s regions. Bakanov was a close associate of Zelensky, and the pair had worked together since the latter’s days in comedy. Ukraine’s president has claimed on several occasions that assassins have threatened his life, and his officials said numerous times that Russia intends to have the president killed. Moscow denies these allegations, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stating in April that Zelensky “is the president of Ukraine,” and Russia wants him to sit down and agree to its terms for peace. Asked whether he worries about declining public support for Ukraine at home, Sullivan said that he worries “about literally everything,”except the arms pipeline to Kiev.

The $40 billion military and economic aid bill signed by US President Joe Biden in May allocates “enough resources to keep weapons flowing for some time,” Sullivan stated, adding that even though public support for Ukraine may be dipping, there is a “reservoir” of “deep and sustainable support” in the White House and Congress. Should the tens of billions of dollars run out, Sullivan said that “there will be bipartisan support in the Congress to re-up those resources should it become necessary.” As Sullivan spoke in Aspen, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby announced that the Biden administration would send a fresh tranche of weapons worth $270 million to Ukraine, including four HIMARS rocket artillery systems. The US has given Ukraine a dozen of these truck-mounted weapons platforms already, although Russia claims to have destroyed four during the last three weeks.

Zelensky Is About To Be Assassinated By The Americans

Read more …

“Russia had nothing to do with the targeting of a grain facility in the port city of Odesa..”

Mysterious Missiles Strike Grain Facility at Odessa Port (CTH)

Let me say from the outset, with a degree of specific assurance we generally reserve for other matters, Russia had nothing to do with the targeting of a grain facility in the port city of Odesa. Geopolitically and strategically, such an action would be against their interests. These events have the smell of the U.S. State Dept and CIA all over them. Start by first reviewing the agreement between Russia and Ukraine that was announced yesterday. July 22 (Reuters) – Russia and Ukraine signed a landmark deal on Friday to reopen Ukrainian Black Sea ports for grain exports, raising hopes that an international food crisis … can be eased.” NATO country Turkey, specifically Recep Erdogan, brokered the deal between Russia and Ukraine. Ignore the narrative engineering and WATCH:

Russia was particularly a geopolitical beneficiary from the agreement itself. No longer could NATO and the western alliance blame Russia for the void in gobal food markets associated with the conflict in Ukraine. From the perspective of Russian President Putin, the grain movement through the port city of Odesa was a net benefit. “Russia has taken on the obligations that are clearly spelled out in this document. We will not take advantage of the fact that the ports will be cleared and opened. We have made this commitment,” said Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. However, from the perspective of the Western alliance, the agreement mooted one of their biggest justifications for the upcoming global food shortage. If Ukraine and Russia are exporting food, and yet food costs are still rising…. well, the food shortage impact from western energy disruption, the Build Back Better agenda, starts to become increasingly visible.

Suddenly, within hours of the trade agreement, the grain transportation system and the port city of Odesa come under fire from mysterious cruise missiles. “Europe – Missiles struck a key Ukrainian port Saturday, just one day after Kyiv and Moscow signed a breakthrough deal to unblock shipments of grain. Pointing the finger at Russia, Ukraine’s air force chief said the port — a key site for exporting Ukrainian grain — had been deliberately targeted. “The port of Odesa, where grain is processed for shipment, was shelled. We shot down two missiles, and two more missiles hit the port territory, where, obviously, there is grain,” Ukrainian air force spokesman Yuri Ignat told reporters. Russia has denied any involvement in the strikes, says Turkey’s defence minister.”

The origin of the mysterious missile attack becomes clear when you overlay the question of ‘who has motive’? It wasn’t Russia. We can be almost certain it was the U.S. State Department, and covert CIA operators, who used their operational control within Ukraine to target the exports. Stopping the export of Ukrainian grain is in the interests of the western alliance. After all, it was the United States who previously claimed, “Vladimir Putin is weaponizing food.”… pparently, Russian President Vladimir Putin has the ability to drive up U.S. inflation, explode U.S. energy costs, increase gasoline prices, influence global agriculture, weaken U.S. oil refining capability, disrupt availability of diesel fuel, impede the transportation of U.S. goods, force municipal energy companies to raise prices, cancel airline flights, stop the manufacturing of infant formula and now block the production -and increase the cost- of food in North America.

That’s their collective story, and they’re sticking to it.

Read more …

“..if Russia were to aggressively deploy its best-in-class air defense systems into the battle zone, two squadrons of actively flying F-16s would be destroyed in less than a month – if not sooner..”

Flying Coffins (Will Schryver)

[..] we are now hearing apparently serious talk of sending some of our otherwise destined-for-retirement F-16s and A-10s to Ukraine – ostensibly to become the latest “game-changer” able to “turn the tide” against a seemingly inexorable Russian victory. Indeed, since the news first broke earlier this week, in the form of comments by Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall at the Aspen Security Forum, thousands of “Slava Ukraini!”-chanting supporters of Ukraine have erupted with shouts of “Hallelujah!” on Twitter and elsewhere – convinced that THIS is – finally! – the wunderwaffe they’ve been waiting for. So … let me be perfectly clear: The notion that the US (and/or its NATO allies) can ship F-16s and A-10s to Ukraine in order to save the Ukrainians from an otherwise absolutely certain defeat is an unqualified delusion; a ridiculous fantasy of the highest order.

To be even more precise, it’s batshit crazy silly talk. Indeed, the only possible interpretation of Kendall’s broaching of the subject at this juncture is that there is now a profound recognition, at the highest levels of the Pentagon, that the inevitable outcome of this war is set in stone. But, because political considerations preclude them being able to acknowledge this reality, they must somehow stall for time, during which they can better prepare the American people to receive the bad news that the Mother of All Proxy Armies – which the US spent eight long years and countless billions building – has been comprehensively wrecked in a matter of months by the supposedly inept armed forces of the Russian Federation.

As expected and predicted by a great many intelligent and insightful military analysts, the 120+ M-777 tow-behind howitzers (of which 80+ have now been destroyed) and a dozen M-142 HIMARS multiple-launch rocket systems (of which at least 4 have already been “eliminated” from the battlefield) have produced negligible results. Each, in its turn, generated a hopeful sense of euphoria among those rooting for the team in blue and yellow. Each produced a few early successes which were celebrated far beyond their actual military significance by western commentators. And, once Russian countermeasures were formulated and executed, each has proven to be nothing more than what sober military analysts always knew them to be: run-of-the-mill artillery systems which are at best equivalent to their Russian counterparts, and arguably inferior in several key respects.

As far as providing F-16s and A-10s to Ukraine is concerned, I am strongly persuaded that it is nothing but empty propaganda. I don’t believe there is any serious actionable intent behind the words. But even if there is, there are several realities that render the entire proposition futile: – Ukrainian pilots are not trained on these platforms, and they cannot possibly be adequately trained in any less than at least a year. It is utterly ludicrous to believe otherwise. – Even if US/NATO pilots and ground crew were provided to field, say, two squadrons of F-16s and another two squadrons of A-10s, they would prove to be, against Russian air defenses and fighter aircraft, the obsolescent air frames they are already known to be. The A-10s, in particular, would not survive more than a handful of sorties – at most – in Ukrainian airspace. And, if Russia were to aggressively deploy its best-in-class air defense systems into the battle zone, two squadrons of actively flying F-16s would be destroyed in less than a month – if not sooner. In short, it would be an absolute slaughter.

Read more …

Sitting ducks.

Russia Claims It Destroyed HIMARS (RT)

Four of the US-supplied HIMARS rocket artillery launchers and one of their support vehicles have been destroyed over the past three weeks of fighting in Ukraine, the Russian Ministry of Defense said on Friday. The US sent 12 launchers earlier this month, and said on Friday it would provide Kiev with four more. “High-precision strikes with land- and air-based missiles destroyed four HIMARS multiple rocket launch systems and one ammunition and reloading vehicle between July 5 and July 20,”General Igor Konashenkov said in a daily briefing. Two of the launchers were destroyed near the settlement of Malotaranovka, south of Kramatorsk. Another, alongside the support vehicle, was destroyed near Krasnoarmeysk – known in Ukraine as Pokrovsk.

The final one was destroyed on the eastern outskirts of Konstantinovka, the Defense Ministry specified. All three locations are on territory claimed by the Donetsk People’s Republic but under the control of Ukrainian troops. The US provided Kiev with eight High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) last month, to replace rocket artillery lost in the conflict with Russia. The Malotaranovka strike was widely publicized on July 5, but the subsequent two strikes had not been previously mentioned. Earlier on Friday, the White House confirmed that four additional HIMARS launchers, 580 suicide drones and thousands of rounds of artillery ammunition would be sent to Ukraine as part of the $270 million “security assistance”package.

One US official, who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, insisted that no HIMARS launchers sent to Ukraine had been destroyed. Meanwhile, the government in Kiev has accused Moscow of spreading “misinformation” calculated to dissuade the West from sending Ukraine more weapons. “Russia is trying to stop the supply of weapons from the West and intimidate Ukraine’s allies with the fictional power of Russia’s armed forces,” Sergey Leshchenko, an aide to President Vladimir Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andrei Yermak, told reporters.

Washington has sent Kiev a total of 16 wheeled HIMARS launchers, with London providing another three or so tracked rocket artillery vehicles capable of launching the same munitions. The HIMARS came with medium-range, satellite-guided GLMRS projectiles, which Ukraine claims to have used to great effect against ammunition storage facilities and infrastructure objects. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Ukraine has lost over 760 multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) and more than 3,100 artillery pieces since the beginning of hostilities in February.

Read more …

“This NAM 2.0 drive – of which China is a key player – stands in stark opposition to how the Empire of Chaos – and Lies – wove its toxic net..”

For Those About To Rock, NAM 2.0 Salutes You (Escobar)

Those were the days, in 1955, at the legendary Bandung conference in Indonesia, when the newly emancipated Global South started dreaming of building a new world, via what became configured later in 1961 in Belgrade as the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). The Empire of Chaos – and Lies – would never allow a starring role for NAM. So it played dirty: everything from hardcore subversion and bribing to military coups and proto-color revolutions. Yet now, the Spirit of Bandung lives again, via a sort of NAM 2.0 on steroids: a Newly Aligned Movement, with the leaders of Eurasian integration at the vanguard. We just had a taste of which way the geopolitical wind is blowing at the gathering of a new power troika in Tehran. Unlike Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill in 1943, Putin, Raisi and Erdogan did not meet to carve up the world.

They met essentially to discuss how another world is possible – through bilaterals, trilaterals, multilaterals and an enhanced role for an array of relatively new geopolitical and geoeconomic institutions. Russia – and China – have been on the forefront of all recent key decisions. Their diplomacy has brought Iran to join the SCO as a full member. Their pull is attracting key Global South players to join BRICS+. Russia has all but convinced Turkey to join BRICS+, the SCO and the EAEU, and facilitated the re-approximation of Tehran and Ankara as well as Tehran and Riyadh. Russia has largely influenced the remake/remodel process across West Asia. This NAM 2.0 drive – of which China is a key player – stands in stark opposition to how the Empire of Chaos – and Lies – wove its toxic net, via the war on terror, since the start of the millennium.

The Empire tried to subdue what it described as MENA (Middle East-Northern Africa) on the basis of two invasions/occupations (Afghanistan-Iraq); a total devastation (Libya); and a protracted proxy war (Syria). All eventually failed. And that brings us to the stunning contrast between these two foreign policy approaches, graphically illustrated by the spectacular failure of the teleprompter-reading “leader of the free world” in his visit to Jeddah – he was not even allowed to go to Riyadh – compared to Putin’s performance in Tehran. Not only we are witnessing the lineaments of a Russia/Iran/Turkey informal alliance; we are witnessing the alliance reading a soft riot act to the Empire: leave Syria, before you suffer yet another humiliation. And with a Kurd-directed corollary: keep away from the Americans and recognize the authority of Damascus before it’s too late.

Ankara could never admit it in public, but the fact is Sultan Erdogan – as much against US troops in Syria as Putin and Raisi – even seems to have swiftly calibrated his previous designs on Syrian sovereign territory. The much-debated Turkish military operation in northern Syria in the end may be restricted to taming the YPG Kurds. The heart of the action will in fact revolve around how the Russia/Iran/Turkey/Syria alliance will make like impossible for Americans stealing Syrian oil.

Read more …

Not many freedoms left there.

Ukraine To Make Seeking Russian Passport A Crime (RT)

Trying to obtain Russian citizenship as a Ukrainian could soon become a criminal offense, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories Irina Vereschuk warned on Friday. In a Telegram post, Vereschuk said that the matter had previously been discussed during a closed interdepartmental meeting. “Work on the draft law continues, there will be discussions, but the direction has been determined,” the deputy prime minister said. She admitted that there could be “a long and difficult discussion” about the legal aspects of obtaining a Russian passport, about human rights, and “the need to survive under occupation.”

“But let’s not forget: There is a lot of Ukrainian blood on the red Russian passport – military and civilian, women’s and children’s,” Vereschuk said. Two days ago, she wrote on Facebook that passports and referendums were being used by Moscow as “weapons, more dangerous than missiles.” In her opinion, these “weapons” enable Russia to create a “live shield” of Ukrainian citizens in the territories it controls. Therefore, the deputy prime minister argued, Kiev should take “a clearer and stricter stance” on Ukrainians who obtain citizenship from the “aggressor state”and vote in referendums.

“I understand that it’s tough, but it’s about the existence of the Ukrainian state,” Vereschuk said. On June 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree granting all Ukrainians the right to apply for Russian citizenship under a simplified procedure. By doing so, he extended the procedures that had previously been reserved for citizens of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, as well as residents of Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions, which are under the control of Russian forces. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said that Moscow’s move was nothing short of an “encroachment on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

Read more …

Open Nord Stream 2.

Hungary Urges EU To Not ‘Hide The Truth’ About Russian Gas (RT)

The EU should be truthful about the realities of the gas supply from Russia, rather than treating it as an ideological matter, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has said. “It has been proven that the purchase of natural gas is not an ideological issue, but a physical issue that can’t be solved by talking,” Szijjarto told reporters on Friday following a trip to Moscow. The EU has been urging member states to decrease their dependence on Russian gas in response to Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine, which was launched in late February. Germany triggered the “alarm stage” of its emergency gas plan on Thursday, while the European Commission called on members to slash the use of gas by 15% from August to the end of March next year.

Budapest, however, has said it plans to buy an additional 700 million cubic meters of gas from Moscow to ensure that it has enough reserves to last the winter. Szijjarto said the necessary volumes can only be obtained from Russia. “I’ll be frank: I’ve been hearing from leading politicians in Western Europe in recent months that they’ve gotten it all sorted out. They have found alternative sources, they have bought gas from elsewhere, they have gotten rid of their dependence on Russia. So why the alarm?”Szijjarto said. “After a while, the heating season will arrive and politicians would have to say if there is gas or not,” he said, adding that politicians should not “hide the truth” regarding energy supplies.

Russian state company Gazprom resumed gas deliveries to Germany through the Nord Stream 1 Baltic Sea pipeline on Thursday after a ten-day pause due to maintenance, which sparked fears in Europe that Moscow could shut down the gas supply completely. Officials in Germany have warned that an immediate halt to deliveries from Moscow would severely hurt the economy. Hungary has said the EU should focus on the interests of its own citizens rather than increasingly involving itself in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Prime Minister Viktor Orban said this month that Brussels “shot itself in the lungs” by imposing sanctions on Moscow.

Read more …

“Today’s Western economy is dominated by the FIRE sectors (Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate) plus the military industry, all of which have usurped the bulk of the economy’s wealth and income..”

Go East, My Son! (Salamah)

Today’s Western economy is dominated by the FIRE sectors (Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate) plus the military industry, all of which have usurped the bulk of the economy’s wealth and income, leaving far too little for the other sectors to survive let alone grow. The result is an alarming rise in extreme inequality with, it is claimed, the top 1% (or 10%) of the population owning the bulk of the wealth and income. Other sectors have also grown, most prominent are those related to IT and services. But these are highly volatile and high-risk businesses and not all who enter them succeed or remain and prosper. Quite a few have turned into Zombie companies that absorb endless bouts of capital increases in the millions and even billions of Dollars but fail to show a profit.

The great western industry has all but disappeared. It has migrated to China, Asia, and elsewhere, as a result of an erroneous application of the famous economic edict of “maximizing profits”. It was applied exclusively to the short-term with total disregard to its negative long-term implications on both the companies themselves as well as the economy as a whole. The result, among other things, was the stripping of the West’s industrial capability, increasing its balance of trade deficit, creating endless supply chain bottlenecks, and increasing its vulnerability and reliance on the outside world. Despite the negative description above, the US, so far, remains the biggest and strongest economy and the US Dollar remains the main trade currency, the main reserve currency held by the world’s central banks, and the number one safe haven currency.

Also, we should by no means ignore the huge American agriculture capacity that has fed and continues to feed a substantial number of the world’s population. But at the same, we cannot disregard the huge and important changes that are rapidly occurring elsewhere in the world, especially as most of these changes seem intent on competing directly, commercially and economically with the US and the West. Nor can we disregard the well-published data signaling a shrinkage in the West’s global market share and the gradual erosion of the US Dollar hegemony. And once we add the increasingly belligerent geopolitical tug-of-war between the US and its allies against Russia, China, and part of the Global South, it quickly becomes apparent that the world is on the verge of a major historic and permanent split into two or more camps.

Read more …

“After using government incentives and subsidies to build a new facility in London, Ontario, to manufacture 9,000 metric tons of crickets for human consumption to replace cows, pigs and chickens..”

My eternal question: If crickets and other bugs were such a great form of nutrition, wouldn’t people all over the world be eating them?

Canada Joins the Netherlands in Operation Eat Bugs (CTH)

You will switch to bugs, and you will like it. After using government incentives and subsidies to build a new facility in London, Ontario, to manufacture 9,000 metric tons of crickets for human consumption to replace cows, pigs and chickens, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau now triggers a series of nitrogen emission reduction regulations to target traditional farming. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is following the same roadmap as his political friend in the Netherlands, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and the Canadian farmers are not happy about it.

“CANADA – Saskatchewan and Alberta Ministers of Agriculture are expressing profound disappointment in the federal government’s fertilizer emissions reduction target. “We’re really concerned with this arbitrary goal,” Saskatchewan Minister of Agriculture David Marit said. “The Trudeau government has apparently moved on from their attack on the oil and gas industry and set their sights on Saskatchewan farmers.” “This has been the most expensive crop anyone has put in, following a very difficult year on the prairies,” Alberta Minister of Agriculture Nate Horner said. “The world is looking for Canada to increase production and be a solution to global food shortages. The Federal government needs to display that they understand this. They owe it to our producers.” [..]

Another press release from the affected Fertilizer industry reads: […] “In initial conversations with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), the government has stated their intention to pursue an absolute emissions reduction of 30%, rather than an emissions intensity reduction of 30%. This short-sighted approach to reducing emissions will result in the need to reduce nitrogen fertilizer use and will have considerable impact on Canadian farmers’ incomes and reduce overall Canadian exports and GDP.” On the positive side, there is no indication yet, that Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez-Obrador (AMLO) is in alignment with the Canadian proposals for farming. Trudeau and his uber-leftists might be able to destroy the Canadian farmland; and there is a possibility Joe Biden might join Canada in trying to destroy U.S. farmland; however, it looks like Mexico is going to remain with the commonsense and pragmatic approach outside the western alliance idiocy.

Read more …

If the DNC wants to get rid of Joe, there will be a special counsel. Unless there are too many ties to other Dems; then Hunter will be disappeared.

Is The Clock Finally Running Out On Hunter Biden? (Turley)

A long-standing Justice Department policy instructs prosecutors to exercise caution in “the timing of charges or overt investigative steps near the time of a primary or general election.” Accordingly, some observers have objected that prosecutor Weiss should not issue an indictment against Hunter before the midterm elections, since that could hurt Democratic candidates. That could explain the failure to release any indictments after the disbanding of the grand jury. But the use of this policy to seal or delay any indictments could raise equal concerns over the politicalization of prosecution. The protected period under Justice’s policy has been stated variously as 60 or 90 days. This grand jury’s term expired outside of either period.

Moreover, the policy does not bar filings during that period; it bars prosecutors from using “the timing of investigative steps or criminal charges for the purpose of affecting any election, or for the purpose of giving an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party.” It is the grand jury’s expiration, not any nefarious purpose, that is driving this schedule. The most obvious problem with this argument is that neither President Biden nor his son are on any ballot in November. The policy is not supposed to be a political variation of the parlor game “Six Degrees of Separation From Kevin Bacon.” An indictment in Delaware would be three degrees from any Democratic candidate: (1) Hunter is the son of Joe Biden, (2) Joe Biden is president and a Democrat, and (3) there are candidates running as Democrats.

To use such a strained connection can itself be a political act. If the Justice Department can withhold prosecutions with even tangential political elements, it can shield political allies from having to address criminal allegations before the voters. Of course, if there are sealed indictments, any delay would not stop an eventual prosecution. However, that timing still could benefit Hunter. He did not have to face a special counsel, who ordinarily would prepare a comprehensive report. There has long been an overwhelming basis for the appointment of a special counsel in this case, given direct references to President Biden as a prospective beneficiary of Hunter’s deals. By leaving this case with a U.S. Attorney, such a report is unlikely, and only limited information would be disclosed with any indictment.

More importantly, if an indictment is confined to narrow charges, not a broader conspiracy, Hunter could plead guilty to secure a more favorable sentence and avoid both a trial and the release of additional information. A plea could offer practical protection from future congressional hearings, too: It would close the case before Republicans could regain control of one or both houses of Congress, and the Justice Department could decline to bring further charges. Indeed, the expiration of the grand jury without a public indictment fueled concerns that the Biden Justice Department might cut a generous plea deal with the president’s son.

Read more …

Paul Sperry still has some hope for Durham.

The Senior Biden Officials Entangled In Durham’s Russiagate Probe (Sperry)

Several individuals connected to a 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign plot to cast Donald Trump as a covert Kremlin collaborator are working in high-level jobs within the Biden administration – including at least two senior Biden appointees cited by Special Counsel John Durham in his “active (and) ongoing” criminal investigation of the scheme, according to recently filed court documents. Jake Sullivan, who now serves as Biden’s national security adviser, and Caroline Krass, a top lawyer at the Pentagon, were involved in efforts in 2016 and 2017 to advance the Clinton campaign’s false claims about Trump through the media and the federal government, documents show. Other evidence shows that two other Biden officials – senior State Department official Dafna Rand and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler – also are entangled in the so-called Russiagate scandal.

It’s not known whether these Biden appointees have been interviewed by Durham’s investigators. But as the probe widens, some government ethics watchdogs anticipate that Biden’s presidency could be pulled into the scandal, which saw the FBI abuse its surveillance powers to spy on a Trump campaign adviser based on Clinton opposition research. Just as the Democrats have used their control of Congress to cast President Trump and the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol as threats to American democracy, Republicans are vowing if they regain power after November’s congressional elections to investigate the years-long effort to question Trump’s 2016 victory and undermine his presidency.

The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Turner, recently pledged to hold hearings and issue subpoenas “to get to the bottom of [Russiagate] so this never happens again, so we never have Americans having to distrust their own government because of the politicization of the FBI [and] of our intelligence community.” RealClearInvestigations has learned that Congress has referred to the Special Counsel’s Office at least a dozen cases of potential perjury involving former Clinton campaign officials and Obama administration officials who have testified behind closed doors about their involvement in Russiagate. Hill lawyers and investigators have met with Durham’s staff about the criminal referrals stemming from the sworn depositions. Republican sources say that the roles played in Russiagate by Krass, Sullivan, Rand, and Gensler may be among the first to draw attention in hearings. Although the full range of their efforts has not been made public, here’s what is known so far.

Read more …

Obvious nonsense froom the Guardian. Somone do a deep dive into the details. Who’s hiding what?

Why Do The Minority Who Haven’t Had Covid Account For Most New Infections? (G.)

Having somehow dodged Covid since the pandemic kicked off, the proportion of people who have never seen the red line appear on a rapid test are a steadily shrinking minority. On Thursday, the White House announced that the US president, Joe Biden, had tested positive for Covid, becoming the most high-profile figure yet to join the increasingly exclusive club of people who are only now, in the third year of rife disease, notching up their first infection. Figures from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) are striking on this. About 15% of people in England have never had Covid. But in the current wave, driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of Omicron, this minority group still accounts for 55% of infections. How can so few be contributing so much? There are, as ever with Covid, multiple forces at work.

In a textbook pandemic, the proportion of first-timers who get infected is expected to drop from 100% in the early days to a much smaller number as the bug eventually infiltrates every niche of society. Ultimately, the only people unexposed tend to be babies and young children. Not that we will reach this point soon. Going into the latest Covid wave in England, the UKHSA estimated more than 10 million people had still never been infected. “It will take a while to get there,” says Bill Hanage, an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard. The decline in first-timers getting infected may not be a smooth one as the pandemic plays out. People’s behaviour (such as whether they shield or reduce social contacts), their immunity, and new variants all exert an influence on that downward trend.

Even though 55% of Covid infections in England are first-timers, this is the lowest it has been since the start of the pandemic, except at the peak of the first Omicron wave, driven by the BA.1 variant in December. Looked at another way, 45% of cases are now reinfections, the highest the figure has ever been, or at least very close to it. There is good reason for first-time infections to seem even more common than the data suggests. The first encounter with Covid is often the worst, with subsequent infections usually being milder. Across the population, this can skew awareness: many people on their second, third or fourth infection may never even realise they have caught it again.

“If infections after the first are less likely to be symptomatic, or less likely to be seen by the public as ‘test worthy’, then there will be many people who are being reinfected but not noticing, so that first infections are far more likely to be diagnosed and reported,” says Graham Medley, professor of infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Read more …

“When people figure out that they were told by their government to take a shot that was way more likely to kill them than to save them, people are going to be livid..”

CV19 Vax Lies Destroyed Trust Everywhere on the Planet – Steve Kirsch (USAW)

Kirsch says, “Whenever I have an audience, I ask people, ‘How many people in your household died from Covid?’ There will be one hand or two hands. Then I ask, ‘How many people do you know died from the Covid vaccine?’ The last time I asked that question, it was a 7 to 1 ratio. 7 times more people reported a death from the vaccines. If they are wrong even by a factor of 10 . . . it is still a disaster beyond proportion. . . . I saw a tweet from a doctor saying how much longer are we going to pretend that these (vax death) incidents are just bad luck? He is basically saying we know the vaccine is causing this, but we can’t speak out because we will be fired and have our hospital privileges revoked. We will have our licenses to practice medicine revoked. This is why you are not seeing doctors who realize this speaking out. They all have to remain silent.” Kirsch goes on to say, “This is the biggest catastrophe in American history. Even a member of the EU parliament recently said this. She said these vaccines are the biggest disaster ever.”


The massive amount of victims of this vaccine fraud are waking up to the fact they have been poisoned and murdered. Kirsch says, “They are not going to be happy. I don’t want to predict what they are going to do, but a lot of people are going to be extremely upset. I think at minimum, they will not trust anything from the CDC, FDA and NIH ever again. That’s at a minimum, and they won’t trust the mainstream media either. They won’t trust representations from Congress because most of the people in Congress are saying get your vaccine. This will destroy trust in the mainstream media, Congress, in the mainstream medical community, in government agencies and medical science in general. It will be the greatest trust destroyer in human history, these Covid vaccines. This is not just in the U.S., this is worldwide. When people figure out that they were told by their government to take a shot that was way more likely to kill them than to save them, people are going to be livid. It won’t just be a few people that will be livid, it will be a lot of people.”

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

May 032015
 


Harris&Ewing Hancock’s, the Old Curiosity Shop, 1234 Pennsylvania Avenue 1914

Gundlach’s Bet-Against-German-Debt Plan Has One Very Big Problem (Bloomberg)
Canada has the Most Overvalued Housing Market in the World (VC)
No New Bailout Needed If Greek Debt Restructured, Says Varoufakis (AFP)
Markets Waver As Greece Teeters On Edge Of Financial Tragedy (AFR)
Use Your Credit Card To Fight Tax Evasion, Greece Urges Visitors (Observer)
Greek Exit ‘Would Leave Western Alliance In Chaos’ (Telegraph)
Greece Braced For Weekend Of Unrest As Cash Crunch Nears (Telegraph)
German President Says Berlin Should Be Open To Greek War Reparations (Reuters)
What Does Putin Want? (Rostislav Ishchenko)
Insanity Grips The Western World (Paul Craig Roberts)
China Teaches Top Cadres Western Ideas Despite Backlash (AP)
Italy Rescues More Than 3,400 Europe-Bound Migrants At Sea (AFP)
Greece To Ask EU For Extra Funding For Migrant Influx (Kathimerini)
Many Displaced African Migrants Had No Plan to Land in Italy (NY Times)
Italian Army Growing Cannabis To Slash End User Prices (RT)
From Ukraine To Australia, Tributes Pour Out For Odessa Massacre Victims (RT)
Wildlife Decline To Lead To ‘Empty Landscape’ (BBC)

Europe’s bond markets are so distorted everything carries out-of-whack risks.

Gundlach’s Bet-Against-German-Debt Plan Has One Very Big Problem (Bloomberg)

So it turns out that Jeffrey Gundlach was really thinking out loud when he said he was looking to short negative-yielding German debt. Yes, it’s true he’d really like to. But, as he would subsequently acknowledge, it’s a very difficult trade to execute in today’s European markets. “The mechanics are challenging,” Gundlach wrote in an e-mail on April 29. Earlier this week, the chief executive officer of DoubleLine Capital said in an interview on Bloomberg TV that he’s thinking of amplifying a wager against 2-year German notes using leverage. “It seems to me there’s almost no way to lose,” he said in that interview. “I wonder why people don’t leverage up negative bonds.” There are legitimate reasons why everyone isn’t. For one, there appear to be no negative-yielding derivatives contracts tied to this debt.

And Europe closely regulates short-selling of government bonds. Then, even if you could do it, you may have to park cash at some point in European bank accounts, which make you pay to hold your money because the region’s deposit rates are negative. “You can actually lose money being short negative yielding debt,” said Ashish Shah at AllianceBernstein. “People charge you even more in the short term to hold cash.” Of course, this is an opportunity that seems too good to pass up, and traders are almost certainly trying to figure out the best way to make it happen.

The trade should be – again, in theory – very lucrative. While bonds are normally cushioned from losses due to their regular interest payments, it’s the opposite in this bizarro world of negative-yielding debt. Traders betting against bonds wouldn’t lose money if prices stayed about where they were, because there’s essentially no coupon payment. Yes, prices on this upside-down-inside-out debt could keep rising and yields could get even more negative, leading to some losses. But the chances of that happening appear to be getting smaller as economic data shows inflation and growth starting to pick up in the euro zone.

Read more …

Auckland wants that title.

Canada has the Most Overvalued Housing Market in the World (VC)

In every inflating bubble, there’s usually two camps. The first group points out various metrics suggesting something is inherently unsustainable, while the second reiterates that this time, it is different. After all, if everyone always agreed on these things, then no one would do the buying to perpetuate the bubble’s expansion. The Canadian housing bubble has been no exception to this, and the war of words is starting to heat up. On one side of the ring, we have The Economist, that came out last week saying Canada has the most overvalued housing market in the world. After crunching the data in housing markets in 26 nations, The Economist has determined that Canada’s property market is the most overvalued in terms of rent prices (+89%), and the third most overvalued in terms of incomes (+35%).

They have mentioned in the past that the market has looked bubbly for some time, but finally Canada is officially at the top of their list. Of course, The Economist is not the only fighter on this side of the ring. Just over a month ago, the IMF sounded a fresh alarm on Canada’s housing market by saying that household debt is well above that of other countries. Meanwhile, seven in ten mortgage lenders in Canada have expressed “concerns” that the real estate sector is in a bubble that could burst at any time. Deutsch Bank estimates the market is 67% overvalued and readily offers seven reasons why Canada is in trouble. Even hedge funds are starting to find ways to short the market in anticipation of an upcoming collapse. Canada’s housing situation could give rise to the world’s next Steve Eisman, Eugene Xu, or Greg Lippmann.

On the opposing side of the ring, who will contend that the Canadian housing market is just different this time? Hint: look to the banks and government. Stephen Harper, Canada’s Prime Minister, has tried to dispel fears. He recently told a business audience in New York that he didn’t anticipate any housing crisis in Canada. Just this week, the Bank of Canada also tried its best to deflate housing bubble fears. “We don’t believe we’re in a bubble,” says Stephen Poloz, the Bank’s Governor. “Our housing construction has stayed very much in line with our estimates of demographic demand.” Poloz suggested that housing costs do not necessarily have to contract to match the incomes of Canadians. Instead, he expects growth in the economy to raise wages and make housing more affordable.

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

Read more …

“..one thing to say we shouldn’t have joined the euro and it is another to say that we have to leave..”

No New Bailout Needed If Greek Debt Restructured, Says Varoufakis (AFP)

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis insisted Saturday that Greece would not require a new bailout from its international creditors if they would simply restructure its debt. Athens last week resumed talks with its creditors in a bid to unblock €7.2 billion from its EU-IMF bailout before state coffers run dry. But analysts believe that even if it manages to secure the last tranche of aid, Athens may have to obtain a new rescue package to stay afloat. Varoufakis said however that Greece could do without a new bailout. “One of the conditions for this to happen though, is an important restructuring of the debt,” he told the Efimerida ton Sindakton daily in an interview published Saturday.

The radical-left SYRIZA government came into power in January on a campaign promise that it would seek to get part of its debt written off. However, its creditors have reiterated that that is impossible. Varoufakis, whose negotiating style has grated his EU counterparts, also took a swipe at the eurozone in the interview, warning that if it “doesn’t change it will die.” He added that “no country, not only Greece, should have joined such a shaky common monetary system.” Nevertheless, Varoufakis said it was “one thing to say we shouldn’t have joined the euro and it is another to say that we have to leave” because backtracking now would lead to “an unforeseen negative situation.” Asked about reported insults from fellow Eurogroup finance ministers during a tense meeting in Riga on April 24, Varoufakis was also dismissive.

Media reports said he had been branded a “gambler,” an “amateur” and an “adventurist” by his peers. “Those would have surely been heavy offenses if they had been expressed. But they were not,” said Varoufakis. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had reshuffled the team handling negotiations with its creditors after relations between Varoufakis and the EU hit a new low during a stormy Eurogroup meeting in Riga last week. Athens is struggling to pay salaries and pensions without the promised loans. Almost a billion euros in debt and interest is also due for repayment to the IMF by May 12. Unless an agreement is reached to unlock the remaining EU-IMF bailout money, the debt-ridden country faces default and a possible exit from the euro. Technical experts from the Eurogroup and the Greek delegation are due to be in contact all weekend, trying to resolve differences concerning sweeping reforms required by Brussels and the IMF to secure the package.

Read more …

Who cares if markets waver?

Markets Waver As Greece Teeters On Edge Of Financial Tragedy (AFR)

In an attempt to address its liquidity crunch, Athens has directed 1500 state entities – including local authorities, hospitals and universities – to hand over surplus cash reserves to the central bank. But some entities are resisting this directed, fearing that their funds may not be returned. Meanwhile, the lack of progress in negotiations with Greece’s creditors is unnerving Greece’s households and businesses, who withdrew a further €2 billion from the country’s banks in March, according to the Bank of Greece. This follows withdrawals of more than €7.5 billion in February, just under €13 billion in January, and around €4 billion last December. As a result, household and business deposits fell to €138.55 billion in March, their lowest level in 10 years. Even more worrying, early figures for April suggest that deposit outflows are again accelerating.

To compensate for their dwindling deposit base, Greek banks have stepped up their use of emergency funding provided by the country’s central bank. Last week the ECB, which now reviews the amount which Greek banks can borrow on a weekly basis, raised the ceiling on emergency liquidity assistance by a further €1.4 billion, bringing it to €76.9 billion. This emergency liquidity is playing a crucial role in keeping the country’s banking system afloat. But financial markets – along with top officials in Paris, Berlin and Brussels – are all to well aware that Athens is moving ever closer to a position where it is no longer able to pay its debts, and is forced to “default”, potentially triggering an uncontrollable bank run and a collapse of the Greek banking system.

At that point, either European politicians resolutely adopt special emergency measures to rescue the country, or the situation spirals out of control, leaving Greece with no option but to introduce capital controls and quit the euro zone. Although some European politicians are in favour of allowing Greece to default, Paris and Berlin are fearful that “Grexit” risks destabilising the euro zone and encouraging speculators to target vulnerable countries such as Italy, Portugal or Belgium. For his part, Tsipras is betting that worries about the potential disruption from a “Grexit” will eventually cause the Europeans to back away from their demands for further reforms. Still, it’s a dangerous strategy, because in Greece’s precarious position, a financial accident could occur at any time.

Read more …

The benefits of plastic.

Use Your Credit Card To Fight Tax Evasion, Greece Urges Visitors (Observer)

Greece’s tourism chief has appealed to the millions of Britons planning to visit the crisis-hit country this year to use credit cards as much as possible. The move comes as the government in Athens has signalled that it plans to raise VAT rates on some holiday islands. Andreas Andreadis made the plea to what are expected to be record numbers of holidaymakers, saying plastic could play a key role in hindering tax evasion, a perennial drain on the Greek economy. “What we are saying is that on cash transactions above a certain level please use your credit cards,” he told the Observer. “That way it forces services and shops to declare it on the cash register and issue receipts.”

Greece is bracing itself for around 25 million foreign arrivals – more than twice its population – with the vast majority heading for resorts where tax collection is notoriously lax. An estimated 2.4 million Britons will be among them. “In a country where the tax collection system is so inefficient, credit cards are the easiest way of clamping down on evasion,” said Andreadis, who heads the Confederation of Greek Tourism (Sete). “We calculate that around 40% of receipts are not issued in tourist areas to avoid VAT.” The confederation, which represents more than 50,000 enterprises in the sector, was pressing for consumers to be given incentives to use cards. Greece is in a race against the clock to clinch a cash-for-reform deal with international creditors to keep bankruptcy at bay.

Fraught negotiations with the EU and International Monetary Fund have brought the nation close to insolvency with Athens’ radical left Syriza government, voted in on a pledge to end austerity, struggling last week to pay pensions. With Greece shut out of international markets and unable to issue short-term debt, a desperate lack of liquidity has exacerbated the problem. Over the next 10 days, the country must pay two loan instalments to the IMF – including €780m on 12 May – or face the spectre of potentially devastating default. The appeal came days after prime minister Alexis Tsipras suggested credit card use being made mandatory for transactions of more than €70. In his first wide-ranging interview since assuming power in January, he said payment cards made eminently more sense than the proposal of Yanis Varoufakis, his finance minister, to use tourists as undercover tax agents.

“It’s simpler than that other idea involving people with [hidden] cameras, etc,” he told Star TV on Monday. Greece loses up to €20bn in tax evasion every year, according to finance ministry officials. The new government has made cracking down on it a top priority. Taxpayers owe in excess of €70bn to the state – nearly a quarter of its debt. Under pressure to provide reforms to unlock an intermediate €7.2bn in bailout funds held up since August, the government has also signalled it will increase VAT on popular Aegean islands. Isles such as Mykonos and Santorini would see a surcharge on hotel rooms, services and goods. The measure would bring in an estimated €350m. But it has been strongly opposed by the tourist industry, which provides one in five jobs and is by far Greece’s biggest foreign earner.

Read more …

“..there’s a whole range of political ramifications in terms of market expectations if the euro proves to be reversible. The natural question is: who will be next?”

Greek Exit ‘Would Leave Western Alliance In Chaos’ (Telegraph)

A Greek exit from the eurozone would throw the bloc into chaos and put the “whole cohesion of the western alliance in doubt”, a key figure in the country’s private sector debt restructuring has warned. While banks had reduced their exposure to Greece, which represents less than 2pc of eurozone GDP, investors are being too complacent about the implications of a Greek exit, which could have far-reaching political ramifications and amplify the polarisation between the eurozone’s core and periphery, Hung Tran, executive managing director of the Institute of International Finance (IIF), said. Mr Tran, who helped represent private sector bondholders during Greece’s debt haircut in 2012, said he remained optimistic that there was “room for compromise” and that Greece would reach a “last minute deal” to remain in the 19 nation bloc.

However, he stressed that if the country was forced out of the euro, the consequences would be complex and were “not fully understood”. “In the short term, it probably is the case that financial contagion in terms of spreading to borrowing costs of peripheral countries like Spain and Portugal would be more limited this time compared with 2010 or 2012,” he said. “However, there’s a whole range of political ramifications in terms of market expectations if the euro proves to be reversible. The natural question is: who will be next? “If Greece exiting the euro area severely strains its relationship with the EU and the West, questions will arise about the alignment of Greece in terms of foreign policy, security policy and so on, and the whole cohesion of the western alliance would be put in doubt.”

Mr Tran said the European Central Bank’s €60bn a month quantitative easing programme had helped to create a false sense of security by “overwhelming” any sense of potential spillover from the Greek crisis and pushing down borrowing costs across Europe. However, he said a Greek exit would only serve to amplify the polarisation that we have already seen in Europe. “There has been a sharp polarisation both on the right and left of the mainstream arguing that the current austerity driven approach of economic policy hasn’t worked … so the failure of reaching an agreement in Greece leading to a exit from the eurozone would make this debate and this polarisation sharper and more problematic.”

Read more …

Telegraph wishful thinking?

Greece Braced For Weekend Of Unrest As Cash Crunch Nears (Telegraph)

Greece was braced for the biggest weekend of civil unrest since its radical Left government assumed power, as tensions over the country’s future in the eurozone are set to reach breaking point in May. Athens was gripped by a throng of anti-austerity protests on Friday, to mark the Labour Day holiday across the continent. Several members of the ruling Syriza party, including embattled finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, took part in rallies, repeating they would not forsake their people and cower to the demands of creditors. In a veiled barb aimed at his paymasters, a defiant Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras tweeted: “We will prevail in our struggles to bolster and protect our rights, our democracy and our dignity”.

Labour market reforms have emerged as one of the main stumbling blocks in Greece’s three-month bail-out impasse, as European powers have pushed the Leftist regime to reverse its promises to raise the minimum wage. But Greece’s Labour minister Panos Skourletis said the policy would go ahead, calling it a “deep and immovable red line” for the government. In a taste of the domestic turmoil that could ensue should the state withold funds from its citizens, hundreds of pensioners in Athens were forced to queue outside banks on Thursday, as pensions payments were temporarily delayed. The government is scrambling to find the funds it needs to avoid defaulting on the IMF on May 6, when it is due to repay a €200m loan. Panic over the pensions payment “suggests that this comparably small IMF payment will be a headache to scrape together and underlines that Greece might well struggle to stay financially afloat much beyond May,” said Robert Kuenzel of Daiwa Capital Markets.

Read more …

What do you say to that, Schäuble?

German President Says Berlin Should Be Open To Greek War Reparations (Reuters)

German President Joachim Gauck expressed support on Friday for Athens’ demands for reparations for the Nazi occupation of Greece in World War Two, even though the government in Berlin has repeatedly rejected the claims. Gauck, who has little real power in Germany but a penchant for defying convention, said in an interview to be published in Saturday’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that Germany should consider its historical responsibility to Greece. “We are not only people who are living in this day and age but we’re also the descendants of those who left behind a trail of destruction in Europe during World War Two – in Greece, among other places, where we shamefully knew little about it for so long,” Gauck said.

“It’s the right thing to do for a history-conscious country like ours to consider what possibilities there might be for reparations.” Greece’s demand for €278.7 billion in reparations for the brutal Nazi occupation have mostly fallen on deaf ears, but some legal experts say it may have a case. Many in Greece blame Germany, their biggest creditor, for the tough austerity measures and record unemployment that have followed from two international bailouts totaling €240 billion. Last month, economy minister and vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel called the demand “stupid”.

Gabriel said Greece wanted to squeeze some leeway out of its euro zone partners as they set conditions for further financial aid to help Greece avoid bankruptcy. “And this leeway has absolutely nothing to do with World War Two or reparation payments,” he said. German officials have previously argued that Germany has already honored its obligations, not least with a 115 million deutsche mark payment to Greece in 1960. Gauck, a former East German pastor, recently caused a stir by condemning the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces a century ago as “genocide”, a term that the Berlin government had long rejected. Turkey denies the charge.

Read more …

Good analysis of US-EU-Russia relations.

What Does Putin Want? (Rostislav Ishchenko)

To understand how, when and on what conditions military activity can end, we need to know what the politicians want and how they see the conditions of the postwar compromise. Then it will become clear why military action turned into a low-intensity civil war with occasional truces, not only in the Ukraine but also in Syria. Obviously, the views of Kiev politicians are of no interest to us because they don’t decide anything. The fact that outsiders govern the Ukraine is no longer concealed. It doesn’t matter whether the cabinet ministers are Estonian or Georgian; they are Americans just the same. It would also be a big mistake to take an interest in how the leaders of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Lugansk People’s Republic (LNR) see the future.

The republics exist only with Russian support, and as long as Russia supports them, Russia’s interests have to be protected, even from independent decisions and initiatives. There is too much at stake to allow [Alexander] Zakharchenko or [Igor] Plotnitzky, or anyone else for that matter, to make independent decisions. Nor are we interested in the European Union’s position. Much depended on the EU until the summer of last year, when the war could have been prevented or stopped at the outset. A tough, principled antiwar stance by the EU was needed. It could have blocked U.S. initiatives to start the war and would have turned the EU into a significant independent geopolitical player. The EU passed on that opportunity and instead behaved like a faithful vassal of the United States. As a result, Europe stands on the brink of frightful internal upheaval.

In the coming years, it has every chance of suffering the same fate as the Ukraine, only with a great roar, great bloodshed and less chance that in the near future things will settle down – in other words, that someone will show up and put things in order. In fact, today the EU can choose whether to remain a tool of the United States or to move closer to Russia. Depending on its choice, Europe can get off with a slight scare, such as a breakup of parts of its periphery and possible fragmentation of some countries, or it could collapse completely. Judging by the European elites’ reluctance to break openly with the United States, collapse is almost inevitable. What should interest us is the opinions of the two main players that determine the configuration of the geopolitical front and in fact are fighting for victory in the new generation of war – the network-centric Third World War. These players are the United States and Russia.

The U.S. position is clear and transparent. In the second half of the 1990s, Washington missed its only opportunity to reform the Cold War economy without any obstacles and thereby avoid the looming crisis in a system whose development is limited by the finite nature of planet Earth and its resources, including human ones, which conflicts with the need to endlessly print dollars. After that, the United States could prolong the death throes of the system only by plundering the rest of the world. At first, it went after Third World countries. Then it went for potential competitors. Then for allies and even close friends. Such plundering could continue only as long as the United States remained the world’s undisputed hegemon. Thus when Russia asserted its right to make independent political decisions – decisions of not global but regional import –, a clash with the United States became inevitable. This clash cannot end in a compromise peace.

Read more …

“Clearly, the European Parliament is a great danger to life on the planet.”

Insanity Grips The Western World (Paul Craig Roberts)

The White Media claims, and has claimed since February 2014, that there are Russian tanks and troops in Ukraine. Putin has pointed out that if this indeed was the case, Kiev and Western Ukraine would have fallen to the Russian invasion early last year. Kiev has been unable to defeat the small breakaway republics in eastern and southern Ukraine and would stand no chance against the Russian military. Recently a brave news organization made fun of the White Media’s claim that Russian tanks have been pouring into Ukraine for 14 months. The parody pictured Ukraine at a standstill. All traffic on all roads and residential streets is blocked by Russian tanks. All parking places, including sidewalks and people’s front and rear gardens have tanks piled upon tanks. The entire country is immobilized in gridlock.

Although a few have fun making fun of the gullible people who believe the White Media, the situation is nevertheless serious as it concerns life on planet Earth. There is little sign that Washington and its vassals care about life on Earth. Recently, the largest political group in the European Parliament–the European People’s Party–expressed a cavalier opinion about life on Earth. We know this, because, if we can trust Euractiv, an online EU news source, the majority EU party believes that declaring the EU’s readiness for nuclear war is one of the best steps to deter Russia from further aggression. The aggression to be stopped by Europe’s declaration of its readiness for armageddon is the alleged Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the “further aggression” is Putin’s alleged intention of reestablishing the Soviet Empire.

It must be disappointing to the Russian government to see that leaders of the European Union prefer to endorse nuclear war than to challenge Washington’s propaganda. When I read that the governing party in the European Parliament thought non-existent aggression had to be stopped by a declaration of readiness for nuclear war, I realized that money could buy any and every thing, even the life of the planet. The European People’s Party was speaking in behalf of Washington’s propaganda, not in behalf of Europe. Europe’s nuclear war with Russia would end instantly with the destruction of every European capital. The crazed vice-president of the European People’s Party, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski revealed who the real aggressor is when he declared: “Time of talk and persuasion with Russia is over. Now it’s time for a tough policy.” Clearly, the European Parliament is a great danger to life on the planet.

Read more …

Breeding Chinese Goldmanites.

China Teaches Top Cadres Western Ideas Despite Backlash (AP)

In the still, early hours, cadres make their way down tree-lined paths. They walk through a polished lobby, down dim hallways and settle themselves in rows in plain, wood-paneled classrooms. Here, they sit at the vanguard of the Communist Party of China. These rising Communist Party members from across the country have come to the China Executive Leadership Academy Pudong (CELAP) in Shanghai as part of the party’s decade-long effort to introduce its own elite to foreign ideas. Outside these walls, President Xi Jinping’s government is campaigning to scrub Western influence from classrooms, but here some 10,000 party loyalists each year hear from top Western scholars and executives about management techniques, media relations, urban development and innovation.

“It does no harm for top leaders to get to know different ideas in the world,” said Zhang Xuezhong, who was barred from teaching at East China University of Political Science and Law in 2013, after publishing an article critical of the government. “The Communist Party expects the people it rules to be ignorant, but they would not expect themselves to be like this.” As China seeks to play a more decisive role on the global stage, such exposure is becoming more important — at least for those at the forefront of transforming China’s economy and international role. For everyone else, education has become an ideological battleground, where destabilizing Western values must be vanquished lest they weaken the party’s grip on power.

“Young teachers and students are key targets of infiltration by enemy forces,” Education Minister Yuan Guiren wrote in a January essay. Around the same time, he told university officials to bar “teaching materials that disseminate Western values,” state-run news agency Xinhua reported. His remarks came shortly after Beijing issued new guidelines ordering universities to promote loyalty to the party, core socialist values, and the teachings of Xi himself. Meanwhile, Westerners continue to march through CELAP, bringing with them an uncontrollable parade of ideas. [..] “It’s a very unusual institution in China,” said Oxford University’s Nicholas Morris, who has taught at CELAP for a decade. “This institution’s job is to help Chinese leaders understand Western practice.”

Read more …

In one day. Where was Europe?

Italy Rescues More Than 3,400 Europe-Bound Migrants At Sea (AFP)

More than 3,400 migrants were rescued at sea Saturday, mainly off Libya, as Europe seeks ways to deal with the flood of people trying to reach its shores following a series of deadly shipwrecks. A total of 3,427 people were picked up during the operation coordinated by the Italian coast guard. While they said it was a “very busy day”, it was not a record for the coast guard, which coordinated the rescue of 3,791 migrants on April 12 and another 2,850 the following day. French patrol boat Commandant Birot, which was sent to boost EU patrols to deal with the influx of migrant boats in the Mediterranean, picked up 217 people off the coast of Libya.

The migrants – all men – had been on board three boats, the authorities said, adding that two suspected people smugglers were also caught and would be handed over to Italian police. In Italy, the coast guard announced late at night that 16 vessels had rescued a total of 3,427 people on Saturday alone in an operation coordinated from their headquarters in Rome.

In addition to the French patrol boat, the rescue operation mobilised four Italian coast guard ships, two Italian navy vessels, two cargo ships, two Italian customs ships and two tugs. Most notably, the navy said on Twitter that the frigate Bersagliere had rescued 778 migrants while the patrol boat Vega had picked up another 675. Some of the rescued migrants were expected to arrive overnight on the Italian island of Lampedusa, the closest to the African coast, while most of the others are expected to arrive in Sicily or southern Italy on Sunday night. According to the Italian coast guard, the French patrol vessel should land its migrants at a port in Calabria.

Read more …

Should have been taken care of a long time ago.

Greece To Ask EU For Extra Funding For Migrant Influx (Kathimerini)

Greece is to ask the European Union for €30 million of emergency funds to deal with the growing number of undocumented migrants arriving in the country, sources have told Kathimerini. The EU is already due to give Greece €470 million by 2020 for immigration-related matters, such as covering the cost of an asylum service and reception centers. However, this money covers existing operations and cannot be used to tackle problems caused by the spike in migrants reaching Greece over the last few months.

One of the things the government wants to use the emergency funds for is to hire a ferry to transport migrants from islands to reception centers or other facilities on the mainland. The coalition submitted an amendment to Parliament last week allowing authorities to bypass until the end of the year the tender process for immigration-related projects. The government says this will speed up the implementation of schemes aimed at helping migrants.

Read more …

Oooh, in-depth reporting from the NYT…

Many Displaced African Migrants Had No Plan to Land in Italy (NY Times)

By now, the unceasing tides of migrants arriving at the ports of Sicily fall into loose national categories. The Syrians usually arrive with money, bearing broken lives in canvas bags, and are able to slip out of Italy, bound for affluent northern Europe. The Eritreans may be far less wealthy but they too are well organized, with networks that move them north as well. Then there are men like Agyemin Boateng and Prince Adawiah, who were scooped out of the Mediterranean this month by an Italian rescue ship. Both are from Ghana, and neither has a plan for a new life in Europe — nor, they say, did either of them ever plan to come to Italy. They were working as laborers in Libya, until life there became untenable and returning to Ghana became unfeasible.

“There are guns and bombs,” said Mr. Adawiah, 25, who worked in Tripoli for nearly three years. “Every day, there is shooting. I’m afraid. That is why I traveled to Italy.” Europe’s migration crisis escalated sharply in April, with the coming of warmer weather to the Mediterranean. Many more smugglers’ boats took to the sea, and a record number of migrants died attempting the crossing — more than 1,700 people so far in 2015, by some estimates. Conflicts in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia have shaped and reshaped Europe’s migrant flows in recent years, with none more transformative to the Mediterranean smuggling trade than the civil war in Syria. And the tumult in Libya is changing the migration equation once again.

Libyan lawlessness has allowed a haven for smugglers to operate along the country’s coastline, but it has also unmoored many African laborers who were working there as migrants. Many of these men now languish in Italian detention centers without contacts or plans for the future, and their growing numbers are frustrating some Italian mayors and other officials. “We don’t know anything,” said one migrant, Shamsudeen Sawud, 18, who arrived in Italy more than a week ago. “No one is telling us anything.”

Read more …

Yes, this is funny.

Italian Army Growing Cannabis To Slash End User Prices (RT)

Italy’s first medical marijuana crop – grown by the country’s military – is “coming along nicely,” according to officials at a government-funded greenhouse outside Florence. “The aim of the operation is to provide users with a product that is not always easily available on the market, at a more competitive price,” Colonel Antonio Medica, the director of the facility, told Italian daily Corriere della Sera. Medical marijuana has been legal in the country since 2013 as pain relief for conditions such as multiple sclerosis and cancer, and as treatment for others, such as glaucoma. However, as there have been no licensed producers, and the state would not pay for the treatment, those with prescriptions have had to purchase it abroad, from the Netherlands and Germany, at prices that reach up to €40 per gram.

This means many patients have simply been buying their drugs off the street, financing drug dealers, who do not pay taxes, and may be engaged in other illegal activities. By producing 100 kg of its own weed, the government hopes to undercut the street dealers. “We’re aiming to lower the price to under €15 euros ($17), maybe even around €5 euros per gram,’ said Medica, who noted that this would be similar to the black market price of the drug. The government chose a military lab, due to existing security and surveillance arrangements. While the innovations will help medicinal users, they are unlikely to undermine the illegal marijuana market in a country where one in five admitted to being smokers of the drug in a survey conducted in 2012.

Read more …

And not a word on an investigation.

From Ukraine To Australia, Tributes Pour Out For Odessa Massacre Victims (RT)

Thousands of people in Ukraine, Russia and around the world took to the streets to mark the first anniversary of the Odessa massacre. Last year, 48 activists were killed and over 200 injured as radicals set the local trade unions house on fire. The commemoration ceremonies for those who died in the fire on May 2, 2014 proceeded without serious incident in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa. A huge crowd, including the relatives of the victims, gathered in front of the Trade Unions building and released black balloons and doves in air. According to local media, the rally in Odessa was attended by around 5,000 people. The people held banners reading “fascism won’t pass” and “no to political repressions,” with some carrying photos of journalist Oles Buzina and politician Oleg Kalashnikov, who were assassinated in Kiev last month.

In the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, some 2,000 people marched to honor the victims of the tragedy in an action entitled ‘Kiev Remembers Odessa.’ The people were carrying photos of those who died in the fire, as well as pictures of Buzina and Kalashnikov. Several arrests were made during the demonstration, with the Kiev police saying that they “invited the men to a local police station”. They were later released. March to honor the victims of the Odessa massacre in Ukrainian capital Kiev on May 2, 2015.March to honor the victims of the Odessa massacre in Ukrainian capital Kiev on May 2, 2015. Earlier, reports emerged on social media that it was the organizers of the rally, who had been detained by the security officials. “The organizers of a peaceful rally have been arrested in Kiev! What for? Show me a single slogan, for which you can be arrested in a democratic ‘European’ country?” Yuri Kot, Ukrainian public figure and journalist, wrote on Facebook.

In Moscow, around 1,000 people gathered in front of the Ukrainian Embassy to Russia to commemorate the Odessa massacre victims. An outdoor photo exhibition, showcasing pictures of the burning Odessa Trade Union House, was organized together with the rally. “It was very hard to not to cry. I didn’t expect so many people to care and feel for the sorrow,” an eastern Ukrainian resident, who attended the event, told RIA-Novosti. At the end, the bell tolled 48 times to commemorate each victim of the last year’s tragedy. Remembrance events were also held in Australia, Poland, the Republic of Ireland, Switzerland, Morocco and other countries. In Italy, a monument to the Odessa tragedy was opened in the northern town of Ceriano Laghetto.

Ukraine authorities deployed over 3,000 law enforcers in Odessa ahead of the anniversary of mass killings on May 2. Odessa’s Kulikovo Field, the square where the bloodiest scenes in the last year’s confrontation unfolded, was cordoned off on Friday. People wishing to lay flowers in front of the Trade Unions building, where dozens of activists met their deaths, have had to pass through metal detectors. The streets are being patrolled by some 2,600 police officers, while 600 special service fighters are on alert, the Interior Ministry reported. Unarmed volunteer activists were also called to Odessa. “There cannot be too much police presence. It’s a demonstration of our presence and strength to those who want to shake the situation in Odessa. There will be a policeman in every square meter,” Ivan Katerhinchuk, the chief of Odessa region’s police force, told the media.

Earlier on Friday, police troops brought in from other regions and their local colleagues gathered in front of the building. CCTV footage showed dozens of trucks and patrol cars parked in rows and columns of security forces marching in the streets.

Read more …

“It’s no use having habitat if there’s nothing left to eat in it.”

Wildlife Decline May Lead To ‘Empty Landscape’ (BBC)

Populations of some of the world’s largest wild animals are dwindling, raising the threat of an “empty landscape”, say scientists. About 60% of giant herbivores – plant-eaters – including rhinos, elephants and gorillas, are at risk of extinction, according to research. Analysis of 74 herbivore species, published in Science Advances, blamed poaching and habitat loss. A previous study of large carnivores showed similar declines. Prof William Ripple, of Oregon State University, led the research looking at herbivores weighing over 100kg, from the reindeer up to the African elephant. “This is the first time anyone has analysed all of these species as a whole,” he said. “The process of declining animals is causing an empty landscape in the forest, savannah, grasslands and desert.”

Prof David Macdonald, of Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, was among the team of 15 international scientists. “The big carnivores, like the charismatic big cats or wolves, face horrendous problems from direct persecution, over-hunting and habitat loss, but our new study adds another nail to their coffin – the empty larder,” he said. “It’s no use having habitat if there’s nothing left to eat in it.” According to the research, the decline is being driven by a number of factors including habitat loss, hunting for meat or body parts, and competition for food and resources with livestock. With rhinoceros horn worth more than gold, diamonds or cocaine on illegal markets, rhinos could be extinct in the wild within 20 years in Africa, said the researchers.

The consequences of large wild herbivore decline include: • Loss of habitat: for example, elephants maintain forest clearings by trampling vegetation. • Effects on the food chain: large predators such as lions, leopards, and hyena rely on large herbivores for food. • Seed dispersal: large herbivores eat seeds which are carried over long distances. • Impact on humans: an estimated one billion people rely on wild meat for subsistence while the loss of iconic herbivores will have a negative impact on tourism. The biggest losses are in South East Asia, India and Africa. Europe and North America have already lost most of their large herbivores in a previous wave of extinctions.

Read more …

May 022015
 
 May 2, 2015  Posted by at 10:36 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


NPC National Service Co. front, 1610 14th Street N.W., Washington DC 1920

Grantham Says Fed “Bound And Determined” To Engineer “Full-Fledged Bubble” (ZH)
Our Banking System is a Giant House of Cards (Lynn Parramore)
For China To Start All Over, The Dinosaurs Will Have To Change (Satyajit Das)
Your No. 1 End-Of-The-World Investing Strategy (Paul B. Farrell)
How Ben Bernanke Let Down America (MarketWatch)
Quick Breakthrough At Brussels Group Looks Unlikely (Kathimerini)
The Coming Defaults Of Greece (Vox.eu)
FastTrack TPP: The Death of Sovereignty, Separation of Powers and Democracy (JF)
Iceland Pirate Party Popularity Rivals Government Coalition (RT)
Angela Merkel’s NSA Nightmare Just Got A Lot Worse (Don Quijones)
Rioters In Milan Smash Shopfronts, Throw Smoke Bombs As Expo Opens (CNBC)
Russia Preparing Offensive In Ukraine, NATO General Imagines (Zero Hedge)
Kiev Is Making No ‘Tangible Steps’ To Investigate Year-Old Odessa Massacre (RT)
Kim Dotcom Awarded Millions For Legal Bills And Living Expenses (TF)

I think people should stop calling this a ‘market’.

Grantham Says Fed “Bound And Determined” To Engineer “Full-Fledged Bubble” (ZH)

Back in November, we highlighted the accuracy of Jeremy Grantham’s predictions about the trajectory of the central bank liquidity-fueled equity rally. In terms of how far the market can run before reality and gravity finally reassert themselves, bursting the centrally planned bubble and prompting a 2008-style “correction”, Grantham defined a “full-fledged” bubble as S&P 2250 and warned that a retracement of some 50% was possible depending on how assertive the Fed’s response to its real favorite economic indicator (stocks) turns out to be.

In GMO’s latest quarterly letter, Grantham is out reiterating his view that although US stocks may not have reached their peak in what he accurately calls a “strange, manipulated world” (we prefer “new paranormal”), he’s sticking with the idea that “bubble territory” is likely just around the corner as the Yellen Fed is “bound and determined” to facilitate an inexorable rise in asset prices. He also notes that the Yellen seems no more inclined than her predecessor to take Jeremy Stein’s advice on being careful not to adopt an “implicit policy of inaction” when it comes to bubbles. Here’s more:

The key point here is that in our strange, manipulated world, as long as the Fed is on the side of a strong market there is considerable hope for the bulls. In the Greenspan/Bernanke/Yellen Era, the Fed historically did not stop its asset price pushing until fully- fledged bubbles had occurred, as they did in U.S. growth stocks in 2000 and in U.S. housing in 2006. Both of these were in fact stunning three-sigma events, by far the biggest equity bubble and housing bubble in U.S. history.

Yellen, like both of her predecessors, has bragged about the Fed’s role in pushing up asset prices in order to get a wealth effect. Thus far, she seems to also share their view on feeling no responsibility to interfere with any asset bubble that may form. For me, recognizing the power of the Fed to move assets (although desperately limited power to boost the economy), it seems logical to assume that absent a major international economic accident, the current Fed is bound and determined to continue stimulating asset prices until we once again have a fully-fledged bubble. And we are not there yet.

Read more …

“We are failing to take simple steps and at the same time undertaking extremely costly steps with doubtful benefits.”

Our Banking System is a Giant House of Cards (Lynn Parramore)

Anat Admati teaches finance and economics at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and is co-author of The Bankers’ New Clothes, a classic account of the problem of Too Big to Fail banks. Admati warns that we are not doing nearly enough to confront a bloated, inefficient, and dangerous financial system. The system can’t fix itself. Here’s what you need to know.

Lynn Parramore: How would you describe the problem of Too Big to Fail banks. Whey does it matter to an ordinary person?

Anat Admati: Too Big to Fail is a license for recklessness. These institutions defy notions of fairness, accountability, and responsibility. They are the largest, most complex, and most indebted corporations in the entire economy. We all have to be really alarmed by the fact that not only do we still have such institutions, but many of them are ever-larger and more complex and at least as dangerous, if not more so, than they were before the financial crisis. They are too big to manage and control. They take enormous risks that endanger everybody. They benefit from the upside and expose the rest of us to the downside of their decisions. These banks are too powerful politically as well. As they seek profits, they can make wasteful and inefficient loans that harm ordinary people, and at the same time they might refuse to make certain business loans that can help the economy.

They can even break the laws and regulations without the people responsible being held accountable. Effectively we’re hostages because their failure would be so harmful. They’re likely to be bailed out if their risks don’t turn out well. Ordinary people continue to suffer from a recession that was greatly exacerbated or even caused by recklessness in the financial system and failed regulation. But the largest institutions, especially their leaders — even in the failed ones — have suffered the least. They’re thriving again and arguably benefitting the most from efforts to stimulate the economy. So there’s something wrong with this picture. And there’s also increasing recognition that bloated banks and a bloated financial system – these huge institutions—are a drag on the economy.

LP: Have we made any progress in dealing with the problem?

AA: The progress has been totally unfocused and insufficient. Dodd-Frank claims to have solved the problem and it gives plenty of tools to regulators to do what needs to be done (many of these tools they actually already had before). But this law is really complex and the implementation of it is very messy. The lobbying by the financial industry is a large part of the reason that the law has been implemented so poorly and inefficiently with so much difficulty. We are failing to take simple steps and at the same time undertaking extremely costly steps with doubtful benefits. So we’ve had far from enough progress. We are told things are better but they are nowhere near what we should expect and demand. Much more can be done right now.

LP: Banks, compared to other businesses, finance an enormous portion of their assets with borrowed money, or debt – as much as 95%. Yet bankers often claim that this is perfectly fine, and if we make them depend less on debt they will be forced to lend less. What is your view? Would asking banks to rely more on unborrowed money, or equity, somehow hurt the economy?

AA: Sometimes when I don’t have time to unpack everything I use a quote from a book called Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins by Jeff Connaughton. He relates something Paul Volcker once said to Senator Ted Kaufman: “You know, just about whatever anyone proposes, no matter what it is, the banks will come out and claim that it will restrict credit and harm the economy…It’s all bullshit.” Here’s one obvious reason such claims are, in Volcker’s vocabulary, bullshit: Lending suffered most when banks didn’t have enough equity to absorb their losses in the crisis — and then we had to bail them out. The loss they suffered on the subprime fiasco was relatively small by comparison to losses to investors when the Internet bubble burst, but there was so much debt throughout the system, and indeed in the housing markets, and so much interconnection that the entire financial system almost collapsed. That’s when lending suffered. So lending and growth suffers when the banks have too little equity, not too much.

Now, banks naturally have some debt, like deposits. But they don’t feel indebted even when they rely on 95% debt to finance their assets. No other healthy company lives like that, and nobody, even banks, needs to live like that — that’s the key. Normally, the market would not allow this to go on; those who are as heavily indebted feel the burden in many ways. The terms of the debt become too burdensome for corporations, and reflect the inefficient investment decisions made by heavily indebted companies. But banks have much nicer creditors, like depositors, and with many explicit and implicit guarantees, banks don’t face trouble or harsh terms. They only have to convince the regulators to let them get away with it. And they do. So the abnormality of this incredible indebtedness is that they get away with it. There’s nothing good about it for society. If they had more equity then they could do everything that they do better —more consistently, more reliably, in a less distorted fashion.

Read more …

This will not happen, because the leaders themselves are the biggest dinosaurs. And they’re not about to give up their grip on power.

For China To Start All Over, The Dinosaurs Will Have To Change (Satyajit Das)

Central to China’s agenda of driving growth through economic reform is a shift from debt-driven investment to consumption. Since the 1980s, investment has risen from 35% of GDP to 45 to 50%. China’s annual infrastructure spend is far greater than that of the US and Europe but also of other emerging markets. It is double that of India and around four times that of Latin America. The country’s investment levels are also running at 10 to 15% of GDP – higher than in comparable countries such as Japan and South Korea at the equivalent stages of their development. In recent years, Beijing has sought to rebalance the share of GDP contributed by consumption and investment, but the task is difficult.

First, as the analyst Michael Pettis has repeatedly stated, the level of consumption growth needed to rebalance China is formidable. That rate has not been static, running at around 8% a year over the past decade. But growth in consumer spending has been slower than that in the overall economy and the increase in gross fixed investment – an average annual growth of more than 13%, which resulted in the share of private consumption in GDP falling to 35% from 45 to 50%. If China grows at 8% a year, consumption needs to expand by around 11% (3% above growth) to increase the share of consumption from 35% to 36% of GDP in a year. Assuming a growth rate of 8% and consumption increases of 11%, it would take about five years to increase consumption to 40% of GDP. If growth slows, the difficulty of the task increases.

Second, legacy issues of rapid expansion and excessive investment will need to be managed. Many projects have dubious economics and will not generate sufficient revenues to repay the borrowings used to finance them, resulting in potential losses to lenders.

Third, boosting consumption will reduce savings, affecting the deposit base and cost of funding at Chinese banks, which will reduce their flexibility in managing rising losses on bad loans. It will also require a significant boost in household income, and this will affect the profitability of Chinese companies, which already operate on thin margins.

Fourth, the rebalancing will result in slower growth, at least during the period of transition. A move away from investment-driven growth also requires reform of China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs). China has around 150,000 SOEs, which control around 50% of industrial assets and employ around 20% of the workforce.

Read more …

Farrell misses out on the no. 1: people and communities.

Your No. 1 End-Of-The-World Investing Strategy (Paul B. Farrell)

Quarterly reports are hot news today. Listen: “While the end-of-the-world scenario will be rife with unimaginable horrors,” predicts the CEO of a major Wall Street bank at a shareholders meeting, “we believe that the pre-end period will be filled with unprecedented opportunities for profit.” That message comes from one of Robert Mankoff’s popular New Yorker cartoons, and it accurately captures the winning strategy used by most successful Wall Street bankers. But the real successful strategists have both, balancing the two: short-term opportunities for profit plus a vision of the future, the long-term megatrends that impact returns today as well as tomorrow. Here’s an example of this strategy, hedging long risks while playing a winning short game.

Here’s one strategy based on the 12 megatrends in Jared Diamond’s book “Collapse: How Societies Chose to Fail Or Succeed.” So you’d be building a portfolio that balances short-term opportunities within Diamond’s megatrends structure, picking stocks that fit near-term the best investment parameters for success in a society that’s risking a collapse:

1. Water
Diamond warns: “Most of the world’s freshwater in rivers and lakes is already being used for irrigation, domestic and industrial water,” transportation, dams, fisheries and recreation. Water problems destroyed many earlier civilizations: “Today over a billion people lack access to reliable safe drinking water.” By 2015 two-thirds of the world will live in water-stressed countries. Water will trade like oil futures today. More and more wars will be fought over water and other basic resources concluded a 2003 Pentagon report predicting that “warfare will define human life by 2020.

2. Food
The United Nations says the global food crisis is a “silent tsunami.” Two billion people, mostly poor, depend on fish and other wild foods for protein. Their supplies have “collapsed or are in steep decline,” forcing use of costly animal proteins. The rise in food prices is making it worse for billions living below poverty levels. In “The End of Plenty,” National Geographic warns “synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation, supercharged by genetically engineered seeds” is failing. A joint World Bank/UN study “concluded that the immense production increases brought about by science and technology the past 30 years have failed to improve food access for many of the world’s poor.” Time warns that our “addiction to meat” has led to farming that’s “destructive of the soil, the environment and us.”

3. Farmland
Crop soils are “being carried away by water and wind erosion at rates between 10 to 40 times the rates of soil formation.” With forests, the soil-erosion rate is “between 500 and 10,000 times” the replacement rate, a trend accelerated by today’s new age of the 100,000-acre megafires. Ceres and Chess are hedge funds that own many small farms.

4. Forests
We are destroying natural habitats and rain forests at an accelerating rate. Half the world’s original forests have been converted to urban developments. A quarter of what remains will be converted in the next 50 years.

Read more …

How America lets down Americans.

How Ben Bernanke Let Down America (MarketWatch)

Don’t say Ben Bernanke didn’t do anything for unemployment. After all, the former Federal Reserve chairman now has three jobs. On Wednesday, Pacific Investment Management Co., or Pimco, announced — via Twitter, of course — that Bernanke had signed on as a senior adviser to the fund company known for its bond investing. Pimco joins the hedge fund Citadel and the Brookings Institution as Bernanke’s post-Fed effort to put food on the table. While Bernanke has sought to underplay or, more accurately, not disclose how much he’s being paid by these firms, it’s highly unlikely he will have to ask for public assistance. Speaking of which, just how good is that unemployment office near the Fed and Treasury Department?

We’re just teasing, of course. Bernanke, like any other public servant, has a right to work after he leaves government. And since the Fed is a quasi-governmental institution and has been accused of serving Wall Street’s interests, is this as much of a radical transition as it may appear at first glance? On the other hand, isn’t this endless pattern, known as the “revolving door” where senior regulators leave to join the firms they regulated only a few months or weeks ago, getting a little tired? Timothy Geithner, a regulator cozy with Wall Street, goes to head the Treasury Department where he’s criticized for bailing out Wall Street and almost no one else, and then leaves public service for a private equity firm, Warburg Pincus, with deep ties to banks.

Read more …

Get out, you Greeks!

Quick Breakthrough At Brussels Group Looks Unlikely (Kathimerini)

Greece’s hopes of an emergency Eurogroup being called as early as Monday to confirm the progress in Brussels Group talks, and thereby possibly prompting the European Central Bank to allow Athens to issue more treasury bills to relieve its liquidity problem, appear to be misplaced. Several European Union officials have told Kathimerini that it is unlikely eurozone finance ministers will be in a position to discuss the state of negotiations at the beginning of the week. Greece’s lenders insist that there must be a staff-level agreement on the range of measures being demanded in return for €7.2 billion in bailout funding before the matter can be referred to the Eurogroup.

Athens, though, hopes that there can be an initial agreement on a bare minimum of reforms that would prompt the ECB to increase its €15 billion ceiling on the level of Greek T-bills that can be issued and allow local banks to increase their exposure to this form of debt. The first two days of the Brussels Group deliberations, which began on Thursday, confirmed that there is a substantial distance separating Greece and its lenders. For instance, they differ on macroeconomic projections. Athens still believes growth this year can reach 1.2 to 1.4% and that this would lead to a primary surplus of 1.2%. Creditors see these projections as extremely optimistic.

Also, Athens is willing to go ahead with some but not all of the privatizations planned for this year, bringing in projected revenues of €1.5 billion, which the institutions also see as being overestimated. The target for revenues from sell-offs this year had been €2.2 billion The government looks set to keep the single property tax (ENFIA) this year despite its election pledge to scrap the highly unpopular levy, but there is still a disagreement over the value-added tax increase being demanded by creditors. The institutions believe that between €2 and €3 billion of new fiscal measures will be needed this year for Greece to hit its targets.

Read more …

“In the longer run, however, a much-depreciated drachma could lift the Greek economy and, of course, the country might appreciate monetary independence..”

The Coming Defaults Of Greece (Vox.eu)

When thinking about Greece’s dilemma, two facts from Reinhart and Rogoff (2009) research are highly relevant:
• Defaults on public debts are pretty mundane events; and
• Greece is historically the world’s leading serious defaulter.

What makes the coming event interesting is that it will be the first time that a default occurs within a monetary union. The crucial observation is that there is no automatic link between a default and monetary-union membership. As we know from previous experiments of government default within the dollar monetary union – the defaults of Orange County in California and Detroit in Michigan – a sub-central government can default and keep the currency. The unique characteristics of such events are that: 1) an exchange-rate depreciation cannot help shift expenditure to the defaulting region’s production; and 2) there is no local central bank to provide liquidity to both the government and commercial banks during the hard phase of the default. The Greek government might be tempted to recover its own currency but the short-run costs are likely to far exceed the short-run benefits.

An idea of what would await Greece is provided by Levy Yeyati (2011) in his description of how Argentina gave up its currency board link to the US dollar, an easier case given that the national currency was already in place. The Argentinian example should warn the Greek authorities of the political turmoil that could follow a default. In the longer run, however, a much-depreciated drachma could lift the Greek economy and, of course, the country might appreciate monetary independence following its wrenching experience inside the Eurozone. Basically, the trade-off is a major shock and one more year of misery versus the removal of Eurozone membership shackles forever. The balance of benefits is difficult to evaluate since it depends very much on institutional issues that are not clear now.

The key questions are:
• Will Greece be able to finally establish on its own fiscal discipline and will its central bank deliver high-quality monetary policy?
• Will the Eurozone draw all the lessons from a Grexit and amend its policies and governance?

In the short run, after a first default, even a partial one, the Greek government will have to balance its books because no one will lend anything any more. ‘Balancing the books’ can mean different things, however.

• One option is to run an overall balanced budget, thus continuing to service the debt after the initial wave of defaults.

The latest European Commission forecasts for 2015 are for a surplus of 1.1% of GDP, after a deficit of 2.5% last year. This might be optimistic as tax receipts seem to have slowed down. Another option is to balance the primary budget, which means no servicing of the debt.

Read more …

“..the death of National Sovereignty, State Sovereignty, Separation of Powers, and Democracy..”

FastTrack TPP: The Death of Sovereignty, Separation of Powers and Democracy (JF)

Ellen Brown has called the TPP “the death of the Republic.” It certainly is that. But, I think I’ve shown that it is the death of National Sovereignty, State Sovereignty, Separation of Powers, and Democracy, as well. These impacts on governance and politics are even more important, I believe, than its economic ones, since it from these that our benefits, both economic and non-economic flow. The elevation of the principle of “expectation of profits” above all other principles including the principles of “public purpose,” “consent of the governed,” “the general welfare,” and “separation of powers,” is tantamount to the overthrow of democracy, preserving its form in national level elections, but emptying its elections of meaningful content in mandating change and in conferring legitimacy on national authorities.

I’ve said previously that the rule of the TPP, even if passed over the mushrooming opposition from all segments of American society except the uncritical globalists, will never be viewed as legitimate in the United States and will also always be viewed as tyranny for as long as we live under it. This problem will become increasingly severe the larger, more frequent, and more outrageous ISDS awards defending the “expectations of profits” of multinational become. That makes those who want to pass the TPP guilty of conspiracy to create tyrannical rule of the international few over the people of the United States and other TPP member nations. Eventually, I believe that a vote for the TPP will be viewed as vote to betray the Constitution and a violation of the oath of office of any who vote that way.

How can there be any other outcome when an action taken in office destroys National Sovereignty, State Sovereignty, Separation of Powers, and Democracy with a single vote.

Read more …

A sudden surge.

Iceland Pirate Party Popularity Rivals Government Coalition (RT)

The Pirate Party of Iceland, which has the smallest faction in the national parliament after the 2013 election, is now almost as popular as the two ruling coalition parties combined, the latest opinion poll showed. The party would score 30.1% of votes in Iceland if a general election was held now, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service (RUV) reports citing a Gallup poll. Iceland’s two ruling parties – the Independent Party and the Progressive Party – have 22.9% and 10.1% support respectively, scoring less than 3% points ahead of the Pirates. The Pirate Party experienced an astounding surge of popularity in Iceland. In 2013, polls indicated it would barely score 5% of votes needed to win parliamentary seats. The party’s approval rating in January was roughly the same.

An early March Gallup poll showed its popularity had grown to over 15%, beating the Bright Future party. In less than two months the Pirate Party doubled its rating. “People are starting to realize that the whole system is corrupt, not just a few politicians,” Helgi Hrafn Gunnarsson, Pirate Party’s chair and one of its three MPs told Vísir news website in March. “They don‘t trust it at all. I think they appreciate it when someone points this out.” Responding to the latest poll, Gunnarsson said he was glad to see such a result but expected it to rebound somewhat in the weeks to come. He added there is still some time to go to the next election in Iceland, which is scheduled for 2017. The same opinion poll showed a 32% approval of the government by Icelanders, compared to 37% in March. Among the latest big decisions of the government is the March withdrawal of its bid to join the European Union.

Read more …

“The phrase “shameless hypocrisy” comes to mind.”

Angela Merkel’s NSA Nightmare Just Got A Lot Worse (Don Quijones)


Angela Merkel, Germany’s most successful and popular politician, could be in serious trouble, after revelations that Germany’s national intelligence agency, the BND, has been spying on key European assets on behalf of US intelligence. Those “assets” include top French officials, the EU’s headquarters, the European defense corporation EADS, the helicopter manufacturer Eurocopter and even German companies. To wit, from Der Spiegel:

In 2008, at the latest, it became apparent that NSA selectors were not only limited to terrorist and weapons smugglers… But it was only after the revelations made by whistleblower Edward Snowden that the BND decided to investigate the issue. In October 2013, an investigation came to the conclusion that at least 2,000 of these selectors were aimed at Western European or even German interests.

Today, the German foreign intelligence agency is accused of processing over 40,000 spy requests from the NSA, many of which represent a clear violation of the Memorandum of Agreement that the US and Germany signed in 2002. Washington and Berlin agreed at the time that neither Germans nor Americans — neither people nor companies or organizations — would be among the surveillance targets. The scandal could be particularly damaging for the Minister of Interior Thomas de Maiziere, whose ministry is accused of misleading parliament after claiming, as recently as April 14, to have no knowledge of alleged US economic spying in Europe, and of Germany’s alleged involvement.

For Merkel, it is a dizzying reversal of roles and fortunes. In 2013 she was arguably the most high-profile victim of NSA surveillance when it was revealed that the NSA had targeted her cellphone. When confronted with Edward Snowden’s allegations of US National Security Agency mass surveillance of European citizens, Merkel famously said that “spying on friends is just not on.” According to official accounts, she even placed a “strongly worded phone call” to US President Barack Obama. At the time the scandal was a political boon for Merkel, with 62% of Germans approving of her “harsh reaction”, according to a survey by polling institute YouGov. Now the tables have turned. If Merkel’s government is found to have had prior knowledge of the BND’s spying on the French government, citizens, and companies, its behavior in the wake of the phone-tapping revelations will be cast in a starkly different light. The phrase “shameless hypocrisy” comes to mind.

While the BNS is taking most of the flak, with some pundits even questioning whose interests it serves, questions are being raised about just how much Merkel’s government knew about the surveillance program. “At least since the Snowden revelations in 2013, all those involved at all levels, including the Chancellery, should have been suspicious of the cooperation with the NSA,” Konstantin von Notz, the senior Green Party member on the NSA investigative committee, told Der Spiegel.

Read more …

Italy hates the Milan Expo. For good reason.

Rioters In Milan Smash Shopfronts, Throw Smoke Bombs As Expo Opens (CNBC)

Milan has been waiting since 2008 for this day and now it has finally come—but takeoff for the World Expo 2015 looks to be overshadowed by violent protests. The turnstiles and doors officially opened on Friday in Italy’s commercial and fashion capital. But opening day excitement for the six-month-long commercial event wasn’t necessarily present among the crowds on Friday. The wet weather may have dampened the number of visitors to the event on its first day—with noticeably empty entrances and security checkpoints. Meanwhile, thousands of protesters marched through the streets of Milan behind a banner reading “No Expo, Eat the Rich,” according to Reuters. The No-Expo movement has been critical of the amount of money the government has poured into the event, when there are fears of austerity and cuts to public services.

A large anti-expo march through the center of Milan was overtaken by anarchists groups that smashed shopfronts and clashed with police. There were several banks with smashed-in doors and windows and the streets were strewed with detritus. Teargas was used by riot police to try and disperse parts of the crowd. Although most of the march was peaceful, around 200 demonstrators threw rocks, in addition to setting off flare and smoke bombs. A large six-story building was torched, as well as the ground floor of a two-story building. At least six cars were burnt and fire crews were deployed at multiple spots across the city. AP television footage appeared to show police using water cannons on protesters.

Friday is Labor Day, also known as May Day, and is a traditional occasion for anti-capitalist protests. The Expo is bringing together 145 countries from around the world with the theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” The organizers are expecting up to 20 million visitors during the length of the Expo and as many as 250,000 on a particularly busy day. However, estimates for attendee numbers on Friday were only in the tens of thousands. Italy is hoping for a big economic boost because of the Expo, which is held every five years in different world location and is designed to showcase innovation. Some say the Milan Expo could generate up to $10 billion. But the event has come under criticism, particularly for skyrocketing costs and a number of corruption scandals.

Read more …

“Note that Breedlove has managed to pull off what we thought was a linguistic impossibility: his statement is contradictory, vague, and definitive all at once.”

Russia Preparing Offensive In Ukraine, NATO General Imagines (Zero Hedge)

Just a day after the US Navy said it was prepared to escort US-flagged cargo ships through the Strait of Hormuz as a precautionary measure after Iran supposedly fired on and subsequently seized a ship flying the Marshall Islands flag, we get still more sabre rattling in what has become a global staring match between the US on one side and Russia, Iran, and China on the other, with points of contention ranging from territorial sovereignty in Eastern Europe, to man-made islands in the South China Sea, to nuclear energy, to cyber warfare. This time it’s U.S. Air Force General and NATO supreme allied commander Philip Breedlove ratcheting up the rhetoric (and perhaps suggesting that the Kremlin is correct in its assessment of US foreign policy) by suggesting to the Senate that Russia is planning to shatter what remains of the fragile ceasefire in Ukraine by launching an imminent offensive. Via Reuters:

Russia’s military may be taking advantage of a recent lull in fighting in eastern Ukraine to lay the groundwork for a new military offensive, NATO’s top commander told the U.S. Congress on Thursday. U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, the NATO supreme allied commander, said Russian forces had been seeking to “reset and reposition” while protecting battlefield gains, despite a fragile ceasefire agreed in February.

And while the general had trouble explaining exactly how he came to this conclusion based on the evidence he had observed, he did come prepared with plenty of vague soundbites which, although largely devoid of any real meaning, sounded scary enough to get the attention of the media and will probably play well with the 348 members of the House who not long ago voted to provide lethal aid to Kiev. Here are some excerpts from the DoD press release:

“Many [Russian] actions are consistent with preparations for another offensive,” he added. Russia is aggressive in all elements of national power – diplomatic, informational, economic, and its military, the general said. “It would not make sense to unnecessarily take any of our own tools off the table,” he said about the U.S. possibility of supplying defensive weapons to Ukraine. Russia’s aggression also is destabilizing neighboring states and the region, and its illegal actions are pushing instability closer to NATO’s boundaries, Breedlove told the senators. “We cannot be fully certain what Russia will do next, and we cannot fully grasp [Putin‘s] intent,” Breedlove he said. “What we can do is learn from his actions, and what we see suggests growing Russian capabilities, significant military modernization and an ambitious strategic intent.”

Got it. So summarizing, we cannot be certain about Putin’s intent, but based on his actions, we can be certain that his intent is both ambitious and strategic. Note that Breedlove has managed to pull off what we thought was a linguistic impossibility: his statement is contradictory, vague, and definitive all at once.

Read more …

Kiev and the west are determined that no-one ever finds out what happened in Odessa, on Maidan Square, with MH-17 etc etc.

Kiev Is Making No ‘Tangible Steps’ To Investigate Year-Old Odessa Massacre (RT)

Moscow has called on the international community to put pressure on Ukrainian authorities, which are not making any ‘tangible steps’ towards an independent and impartial investigation of last year’s Odessa massacre, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said. “With a deep concern we have to state that one year [since the tragedy], the Ukrainian justice system did not take any tangible steps toward an objective, independent and impartial investigation of this horrific crime in order to bring the perpetrators to justice,” the statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry said, as cited by Sputnik news agency. On May 2 last year, the Ukrainian radicals set fire to the Trade Union House in Odessa, killing 48 and injuring over 200 anti-Kiev activists inside.

“As a result of these barbaric acts of intimidation, several dozen people, whose only fault was that they openly expressed their civic stance against the anti-constitutional coup in February 2014 and outburst of radical ultranationalists, were killed,” the Foreign Ministry’s statement reads. Moscow urged the international community, including human rights NGOs, to “decisively and honestly” demand Kiev stage a fair investigation into the Odessa massacre and correct the “glaring flaws” in Ukrainian judicial system. The ministry stressed that Kiev’s “carelessness” and passiveness in investigating the May 2 events is backed by the stance of its Western backers and some major global media outlets.

The little attention given to the Odessa massacre in European and American news is “yet another manifestation of information warfare and manipulation of the media,” the statement said. Meanwhile, the US also addressed Kiev with an appeal not to delay the investigation of deadly fire. “We reiterate the need for a thorough and transparent investigation so those responsible can ultimately be held accountable. We continue to urge the Ukrainian government to investigate and bring charges against those culpable for the events in Odessa and to do so as quickly as possible,” Marie Harf, US State Department spokeswoman, said on Thursday.

Read more …

Little bit crazy perhaps? My guess is if this comes out, he’s going to lose a lot of sympathy. Kiwi’s are sort of done with him anyway.

Kim Dotcom Awarded Millions For Legal Bills And Living Expenses (TF)

Kim Dotcom has succeeded in getting more of his seized funds released by the courts in New Zealand. In addition to millions for legal expenses, the entrepreneur will receive $128K per month including $60K to pay mansion rent, $25,600 to cover staff and security, plus $11,300 for grocery and other expenses.

How much does it cost to enjoy a reasonable standard of living in the modern world? A couple of thousand dollars a month? Three thousand? Four? For Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, none of these amounts scratch the surface, a problematic situation considering all of his assets were previously seized by the U.S. and New Zealand governments. In February a “broke” and “destitute” Dotcom appeared before Justice Patricia Courtney, asking for living expenses and a massive cash injection to pay historical and current legal fees. Dotcom was previously granted around US$15,000 per month to live on but high costs had left him “penniless”. Following the hearing Justice Courtney’s ruling is largely good news for Dotcom, with the Judge taking into consideration claims by authorities that the entrepreneur has funds in a trust that could help pay his expenses.

“The trust’s major asset is its shareholding in Mega Ltd, said to be worth more than $30m (US$22.6m). In evidence Mr Dotcom said that there were difficulties in selling Mega shares because they were blocked from being sold until the planned listing of Mega, which is now scheduled for late May 2015 (though it is possible that this date will be pushed back). There was no evidence to the contrary,” the Judge’s ruling reads. “I have concluded that Mr Dotcom does not have the ability to meet his legal and reasonable living expenses from trust assets because, on the evidence, those assets are not sufficiently liquid.” Noting that he still owes former lawyers around US$1.5m, the Judge said that Dotcom’s estimate for financing his legal battle against extradition is between US$1.5m and US$3m.

This amount will be released from currently restrained government bonds. Next up was the Dotcom family’s accommodation costs. Rent on the now-famous mansion amounts to US$754,000 per annum under a lease Dotcom signed in February 2013 and which expires in the same month 2016. The Judge decided that terminating that lease would result in additional costs. “If [Dotcom] were to terminate the lease in order to find a more modest home, he would immediately be exposed to a significant contractual liability for the existing rental in addition to the costs of any new accommodation,” the Judge writes.

“Little would be saved by requiring Mr Dotcom to move into more modest accommodation pending the expiry of the lease; it is more likely that the total amount required to house Mr Dotcom and his children and meet his lease commitment would actually prove greater than simply remaining where he is. “I therefore accept that, in the particular circumstances of this case, a figure of $80,000 (US$60,300) per month is reasonable for accommodation.”

Read more …