Jan 212020
 


Alfred Palmer U.S. Marine Corps glider detachment training camp, Parris Island, SC 1943

 

Davos Man Is Richer Than Ever (BBG)
Markets Tumble As Human-to-Human Transmission Coronavirus Confirmed (ZH)
Flynn’s Lawyer: FBI Agents Wrote Flynn Didn’t Lie, We Have Eyewitness (ET)
McConnell Proposes Compressed Schedule For Impeachment Trial (Hill)
How The Senate Trial’s First Day May Proceed (Fox)
White House Appoints GOP House Members To Advise Trump’s Impeachment Team (Hill)
Chief Justice Roberts Under Pressure From Both Sides In Witness Fight (Hill)
Boeing Scrambles to Borrow $10 Bn After $43 Bn in Share-Buybacks (WS)
Putin Sends His Constitutional Proposals to Parliament (ET)
Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition (Eric Mann)
Ukraine, China Knew Hunter Biden Was Chronic Drug Addict, Hired Him Anyway (GP)
Former OPCW Specialist Ian Henderson Speaks At UN (YT)

 

 

I said all I have to say about this in yesterday’s Go Home Greta.

Davos Man Is Richer Than Ever (BBG)

Davos Man is richer than ever. A decade after the financial crisis poured flat champagne on the World Economic Forum, gold-collar executives set to gather there this week have bounced back, and then some. David Rubenstein has doubled his fortune since 2009. Jamie Dimon has more than tripled his net worth. And Stephen Schwarzman has increased his wealth six-fold.It’s a remarkable showing given the economic and political tumult of the past decade, from Lehman Brothers to Brexit to Donald Trump. The fortunes of a dozen 2009 Davos attendees have soared by a combined US$175 billion, even as median U.S. household wealth has stagnated, a Bloomberg analysis found.

The data illustrate the ever-widening gap between the true haves—those in the 0.1 percent—and the have-nots of a global economy. Data from UBS and PwC Billionaires Insights reports show that global billionaire wealth has grown from $3.4 trillion in 2009 to $8.9 trillion in 2017.Central bank actions to fight the financial crisis—record low interest rates and bond-buying programs—have underpinned this ballooning wealth by driving up the prices of stocks and other assets.“Ten years ago, ironically at the lows of the market, what you wanted to own was capital and if you did own capital you did incredibly well,” said Michael Hartnett, Bank of America Corp.’s chief investment strategist. It means Davos Man—the conference remains overwhelmingly male—exerts more authority and visibility than ever.

Dimon is returning to the WEF with JPMorgan Chase & Co. larger and more profitable than ever. Schwarzman—recognizable in his tan winter coat over suit—has built Blackstone Group LP into the world’s largest alternative asset manager with $457 billion of assets as of Sept. 30, 2018, up from $95 billion at the end of 2008. And Davos remains as popular as ever. The forum—titled Globalization 4.0—is expected to host 3,000 people. This year, George Soros is hosting a dinner at which he will speak and Dimon’s JPMorgan is throwing a drinks party. Bill Gates will be present again as will billionaire Carlyle Group co-founder Rubenstein, who hosts a show on Bloomberg Television and whose fortune has doubled over the past decade.

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“There are now sufficient cases that it’s not going to die out by chance..”

Markets Tumble As Human-to-Human Transmission Coronavirus Confirmed (ZH)

Dow futures are down over 100 points, AsiaPac equity markets are down harder, and Treasuries are well bid along with gold after a Chinese officials confirmed the coronavirus can be spread by human-to-human contact, and the deadly disease is spreading to other asian nations. “Now we can say it is certain that it is a human-to-human transmission phenomenon,” Zhong Nanshan, a scientist who is leading a government-appointed expert panel on the outbreak, said in an interview on state-run television on Monday. As The New York Times reports, cases have been reported outside China.

“The authorities in Thailand detected the new coronavirus last week in two Chinese women who had flown from Wuhan to Bangkok on separate trips. The government said the women, aged 74 and 61, were in good condition. In Japan, a Chinese man who returned from Wuhan on Jan. 6 was also confirmed to have the disease. He was discharged after five days in a hospital. South Korea confirmed its first case of the coronavirus on Monday in a 35-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan who arrived on Sunday at Incheon International Airport, which serves Seoul. The woman was found with a fever, muscle pain and other symptoms while going through customs and was immediately quarantined for tests, said Jung Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The woman was traveling with five other people intending to spend the Lunar New Year holidays in South Korea and Japan, Ms. Jung said. South Korean officials were running tests on anyone believed to have come in contact with the woman in the plane, she said.” And fear of a SARS 2.0 outbreak have sparked risk-off trades in early Asia trading. “There are now sufficient cases that it’s not going to die out by chance,” said Neil Ferguson, a public health expert at Imperial College London who has studied the new virus.

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Michael Flynn’s destiny was turned on its head in June 2019 when he hired Sidney Powell. Good on him. Still wondering how he got from near bankruptcy to hiring an A-list lawyer.

Flynn’s Lawyer: FBI Agents Wrote Flynn Didn’t Lie, We Have Eyewitness (ET)

Sidney Powell, lawyer of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, said the FBI excluded crucial information from a report on their interview of her client. The report, an FBI 302 form, was used to charge Flynn with lying to the FBI, but the original draft of the 302 stated that Flynn was honest with the FBI, according to a witness who saw the draft, Powell said. Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and former national security adviser to President Donald Trump, pleaded guilty on Dec. 1, 2017, to one count of lying to FBI agents during a Jan. 24, 2017, interview. A 302 report summarizing the interview was supposed to be filed within five days. But the earliest draft Flynn’s lawyers were provided was from Feb. 10, 2017—more than two weeks after the interview.

Powell, who took over Flynn’s defense in June 2019, has for months asserted that an earlier 302 must exist. Prosecutors have said they don’t have it, stopping short of saying it doesn’t exist. In an Oct. 24, 2019, court filing, Powell rejected the suggestion that the 302 draft was “missing,” saying neither the bureau nor its digital document system “loses the most important of its reports that is supposed to support the federal felony of the President’s National Security Adviser.” On Jan. 16, Powell disclosed that she has a witness who could attest to what was in the original draft. “I’ve now found a witness who says the original 302 did in fact say that Flynn was honest with the agents and did not lie,” she told Larry O’Connor on his WMAL radio show. “So for somebody to delete that from the 302 is just beyond outrageous.”

She didn’t elaborate much further when asked by The Epoch Times. “Can’t say more about witness but yes, person saw it,” she said via email. [..] In June 2019, after Flynn fired his original lawyers and hired a new legal team led by Powell, prosecutors asked Flynn to testify that he signed [his now-defunct consultancy, Flynn Intel Group (FIG)]’s lobbying forms knowing there were lies in them. He refused, saying he only learned there was something wrong with the registration in retrospect. That angered the lead prosecutor, Brandon Van Grack, notes from a June 27, 2019, conference call indicate. Powell said that ever since then, the prosecutors’ behavior has been “retaliatory, vindictive, and in bad faith” because Flynn refused to lie.

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Every comma must now be vehemently protested.

McConnell Proposes Compressed Schedule For Impeachment Trial (Hill)

House impeachment managers will have 24 hours over two days to make their opening arguments when they begin to present their case against President Trump to the Senate Wednesday, according to a resolution circulated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). President Trump’s team similarly will have two days to present their arguments and then senators will have a chance to ask questions and consider subpoenas of witnesses. The resolution, as expected, does not require additional witnesses to be subpoenaed and does not allow House prosecutors to admit evidence into the Senate trial record until after the opening arguments are heard.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) quickly pushed back and vowed to force votes on amendments. “Sen. McConnell’s resolution is nothing short of a national disgrace,” Schumer said in a statement Monday afternoon. Both sides will have 24 hours to make their first round of arguments — the same amount of time House impeachment managers and Bill Clinton’s lawyers received in 1999, but on a more compressed time schedule than required more than 20 years ago.

The resolution includes language favored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and other GOP moderates requiring a debate and vote on subpoenaing new witnesses and documents. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who worked with McConnell and Collins to modify the resolution, said it “guarantees a vote on whether we need additional evidence at the appropriate time.” A Senate GOP leadership aide noted that prosecutors in the Clinton trial didn’t use all of their allotted time and finished their opening arguments within three days. Schumer argues that forcing House managers to cram their opening arguments into a two-day window will force them to present on the Senate floor well into the evening and possibly past midnight.

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A handy guide.

How The Senate Trial’s First Day May Proceed (Fox)

Here is how things are expected go down Tuesday in the Senate for President Trump’s impeachment trial. By rule, the trial session begins at 1 p.m. ET. Expect to see Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger reprising his role from last week, bringing order to the Senate. Stenger may appear at other points along the way, too. The first order of business for the Senate will be to swear-in Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. Inhofe wasn’t present last week when all other senators were sworn in. He was attending to a family emergency. Then, there will be some short, administrative activity for documents, et al. Viewers are likely to see two women on the dais, whispering to Chief Justice John Roberts, giving advice and passing messages.

They are Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough and Assistant Parliamentarian Leigh Hildebrand. Once the Senate gets through the basics, it’s time for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to offer his resolution dictating the parameters of the trial. McConnell’s proposal is formally known as a “motion” in Senate parlance. And, by rule, the Senate then has two hours per side to debate the McConnell plan. The Senate will have to eat up all of that two hours, unless there is unanimous consent – meaning all 100 senators agree — to cut things short. The seven House managers and members of Trump’s defense team – not any senators – would debate the proposal. So, barring anything strange, this probably gets us close to 3:30 p.m. ET.

Then, it’s up to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to offer his counter-proposal. The Senate has something known as “the amendment tree.” One could think of the McConnell proposal as the “trunk” of the tree. Schumer’s proposal is a “branch” of the tree. Schumer’s proposal, or proposals – so, sprigs growing off of the Schumer branch of the tree – all would represent possible amendments on which the Senate likely will have to debate and conduct a roll call vote on Tuesday evening. What will Schumer propose? Different time allocations for the trial? Different times when they start or stop the arguments? Proposals on witnesses and documents? By rule, Schumer’s proposal gets two hours of debate as well, with no senators participating in the debate — just the impeachment managers and the president’s counsel.

Timing: If they do this by the book, we probably get 5:30 or 6 p.m. ET, if not later. However, a potential wild card is afoot. Fox News is told to expect a closed Senate session after these two debates, meaning lawmakers essentially would kick everyone out of the chamber: the public, the media, the president’s legal team and the impeachment managers. The only people left: senators, Roberts and essential floor staff. Fox News has no idea how long this could go, but it would happen in the Senate chamber itself, not the Old Senate Chamber.

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“..provided guidance to the White House team, which was prohibited from participating in the proceedings concocted by Democrats in the House of Representatives”

White House Appoints GOP House Members To Advise Trump’s Impeachment Team (Hill)

The White House announced Monday that President Trump appointed several prominent Republican House members to advise his impeachment defense team ahead of the Senate trial set to begin this week. GOP Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), John Ratcliffe Texas), Mike Johnson (La.), Mark Meadows (N.C.), Debbie Lesko (Ariz.), Lee Zeldin (N.Y.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) and Doug Collins are set to play leading roles. A statement from the White House said the lawmakers “have provided guidance to the White House team, which was prohibited from participating in the proceedings concocted by Democrats in the House of Representatives” throughout the House proceedings and would continue to do so in the Senate.

The lawmakers served as some of the president’s strongest allies during the House’s impeachment proceedings, adamantly defending the president’s dealings with Ukraine. Jordan, a firebrand conservative who serves as the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee and a leading member of the House Freedom Caucus, has garnered a reputation for being one of Trump’s most aggressive attack dogs on impeachment.

Ratcliffe, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee and served as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas before being elected to Congress, was previously tapped by the president last year to become the director of national intelligence before he withdrew from consideration. His line of questioning during the public hearings was widely praised by his GOP colleagues in the House. Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee and confidant to the president, played a key role in pushing back against Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) during the final hearings. And Johnson, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee who also sits on the House Judiciary Committee, practiced constitutional law.

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Roberts may regret this job.

Chief Justice Roberts Under Pressure From Both Sides In Witness Fight (Hill)

Senate Democrats are pressing Chief Justice John Roberts to rule in favor of calling witnesses at President Trump’s impeachment trial, while Republicans argue it could force his recusal from potential Supreme Court cases. Democrats say it’s simple: A trial can’t be a fair one without witnesses. Republicans counter that if Roberts rules on witnesses, he will have to recuse himself from any Supreme Court case on Trump’s claims of executive privilege over potential witnesses like former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. “I don’t know how you have a serious trial unless you hear from witnesses who know in fact what the facts are, what happened,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

“I think it would be appropriate for the chief justice to do what I think should be done, and that is to allow witnesses to testify,” he added. While Roberts is expected to refer major disputes over trial procedures to the entire Senate for a vote, some Democrats hope he will make his own rulings on what they say are basic questions of fair jurisprudence. Democrats argue that holding a trial but blocking the consideration of relevant witness testimony and document review would fall well short of what’s considered a fair trial in any court of law.

“We’ve been working to get an agreement with Republicans about the relevant witnesses for the trial and relevant documents and we’re continuing that effort,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). “Those types of questions will have to be considered as the trial proceeds.” Senators who want Roberts to intervene have pointed to the precedent set by then-Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase in the 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson. Chase broke two ties on procedural deadlocks, including a vote on whether he could break ties.

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All you need to know: “..its total liabilities ($136 billion) exceed its total assets ($132 billion)..”

Boeing Scrambles to Borrow $10 Bn After $43 Bn in Share-Buybacks (WS)

The first thing to know about Boeing’s mad scramble to line up “$10 billion or more” in new funding via a loan from a consortium of banks, on top of the $9.5 billion credit-line it obtained in October last year – efforts to somehow get through its cash-flow nightmare caused by the 737 MAX fiasco – is that the company blew, wasted, and incinerated $43.4 billion to buy back its own shares since June 2013, having become a master of financial engineering instead of aircraft engineering. If Boeing had focused on its business – such as designing a new plane instead of doctoring an ancient design to save money and time – and if it hadn’t blown $43 billion on share-buybacks but had invested this money in a new design, those two crashes wouldn’t have occurred, and it wouldn’t have to beg for cash now.


The chart below shows the cumulative share-buybacks in billions of dollars since Q1 2009. In Q2 2019, it belatedly halted the share buybacks. As is always the case with share buybacks, the idea is to buy high in order to drive shares even higher. This is what you learn on the first day of Financial Engineering 101. So Boeing stopped buying back its shares in Q1 2009 when its shares had plunged into the $35-range, at which point they were a good deal, and then recommenced share-buybacks in Q2 2013 when its shares had already risen to the $100-range.

The second thing to know about Boeing’s mad scramble to borrow another $10 billion is that it already has a huge amount of debt and other liabilities, and that its total liabilities ($136 billion) exceed its total assets ($132 billion) by about $4 billion as of September 2019, meaning that it has negative net equity, that the share buybacks have destroyed its equity, which is what share buybacks do to the balance sheet. It also means that every dime in “cash” and “cash equivalent” listed on the balance sheet is borrowed. And this is about to get a whole lot worse. In October 2019, Boeing had already obtained a new credit line of $9.5 billion, which about doubled the size of its existing credit line. Credit lines serve as liquidity backup. And now Boeing is scrambling to pile “$10 billion or more” in new loans on top of it.

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Note: Putin will be President until 2024.

Putin Sends His Constitutional Proposals to Parliament (ET)

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday submitted to parliament a package of constitutional amendments widely seen as an attempt to secure his grip on power well after his current term ends in 2024. Putin first presented the proposed changes in his state-of-the-nation address Wednesday, arguing they are intended to bolster the role of parliament and strengthen democracy. Kremlin critics have argued that they are intended to allow his rule for life. The Kremlin-controlled lower house, the State Duma, received a draft bill on constitutional proposals from the Kremlin and quickly scheduled the first of three required readings for Thursday.


Putin, 67, has been in power for more than 20 years, longer than any other Russian or Soviet leader since Josef Stalin, who led from 1924 until his death in 1953. Under the law now in force, Putin must step down as president when his current term ends. Putin proposed that the constitution must specify the authority of the State Council, an advisory body that consists of regional governors and top federal officials. The Kremlin’s constitutional bill submitted to parliament empowers the Council to “determine the main directions of home and foreign policy,” its specific authority yet to be spelled in a separate law. Observers say that the proposed changes could allow Putin to stay in charge by shifting into the position of the Council’s head.

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Mann: “..in 1964 I was a field secretary with the Congress of Racial Equality”. Long piece.

Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition (Eric Mann)

Every year, until The Revolution comes again, the counter-revolution manipulates the historic birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, that so many people fought for, as their symbol of Black “integration” into imperialism and “non-violent” acquiescence to, at best, Barack Obama’s cynical negation of his dream. As Donald Trump has just assassinated Iranian General Quassem Soleimani—with Democratic Party token opposition at best and acquiescence at worse, Dr. King reminds us that “the United States, my government, is the greatest purveyor violence in the world.”

As Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren squabble for position and too often, reduce the meaning of life to a barren economic populism, Dr. King reminds us that U.S. society is a moral disgrace and we need a revolutionary movement to challenge its “racism, militarism, poverty, and materialism.” His thoughts offer Democrats and the Movement a challenge. There is an urgent need for a revolutionary worldview to challenge the racism and reaction of Donald Trump’s Make America Great fascist appeal. Meanwhile, on the ground, Black and Latino communities and the world are suffering the worst political, economic, and ecological catastrophe with little help in sight. In this context the most engaged and introspective study of Dr. King’s theory and practice is an urgent corrective than can offer hope and inspiration.

“Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

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To blackmail Joe?!

Ukraine, China Knew Hunter Biden Was Chronic Drug Addict, Hired Him Anyway (GP)

Hunter Biden’s first arrest may have been when he was 18. Hunter was arrested on Jersey Shore related to drug charges in 1988 and had his record expunged. Many years later and after several stops into drug treatment facilities Hunter joined his father the Vice President on a trip to China in 2013 where Hunter — inexperienced and out of place — was able to secure a $1.5 billion from China for private equity fund which he was forming at the time. A year later in early 2014 Hunter was discharged from the Navy for testing positive for cocaine. Then in April 2014, just a couple months later, Hunter Biden Hunter joined the Board of Burisma Holdings in the Ukraine. Hunter served on the Board until early 2019. Hunter was paid approximately $50,000 a month in his position.

The largest oil and gas company in the Ukraine hired a chronic drug addict only a few months after the addict was removed from the US Navy for doing cocaine. In 2016 Hunter Biden returned a rental car with a crack pipe with cocaine residue and a small amount of a white, powdery substance. Hunter was never charged with a crime. In 2018 the IRS placed a tax lien on Hunter Biden seeking $112,805 in unpaid taxes from 2015. And according to Page Six, Hunter Biden allegedly spent time at Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club in New York City in 2018. Hunter allegedly ordered pricey booze, was joined by several strippers in a private room while he did drugs and had strippers run to find him a dildo. These are just a few of the allegations against Hunter Biden. After years of drug abuse there are likely many more episodes not yet public.

Any foreign intelligence service worth their salt would have known Hunter Biden was a chronic drug addict. China and the Ukraine, and likely others, hired Hunter Biden anyway. [..] How many times was Joe Biden warned of his dangerous actions related to his drug addicted son? Will the liberal media ever investigate this? Do Americans really believe that this man and his son should be President? Joe and Hunter Biden would destroy the American dream if Joe was elected President. They would blow it away!

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The text here is a Twitter thread from Philip Watson.

Former OPCW Specialist Ian Henderson Speaks At UN (YT)

The damning words of Ian Henderson at tonight’s OPCW United Nations Security Council Arria-Formula Meeting called for by the #Russia-n Federation into the #Douma affair. All words that follow are direct quotes from Mr Henderson.

“I need to point out from the outset, I am not a whistleblower. I don’t like that term. I am a former OPCW specialist who has concerns in many areas and I consider this a legitimate and appropriate forum to explain again these concerns.” “Secondly, I must point out that I hold the OPCW in the highest regard. As well as the professionalism of the staff members who work there. ” “However the concern I have does relate to some specific management practices in certain sensitive missions. The concern, of course, relates to the FFM investigation into the alleged chemical attack on the 7th April in Douma in Syria.”

“My concern, which is shared by a number of other inspectors, relates to the subsequent management lock-down and the practices in the later analysis and compilation of the final report. ” “There were 2 teams deployed, 1 team which I joined shortly after the start of field deployments was to #Douma in Syria, the other team deployed to Country X. ” The main concern relates to the announcement in July/18, of a new concept, the so-called FFM Core Team which essentially resulted in the dismissal of all the inspectors who’d been on the team deployed to locations in Douma and had been following up with their findings & analysis. “The findings of the final FFM report were contradictory, were a complete turn-around, with what the team had understood collectively. ”

“During and after the Douma deployments and by the time of release of the interim report in July 2018 our understanding was that we had serious misgivings that a chemical attack had occurred. ” “What the final FFM report does not make clear and thus does not reflect the views of the team members who deployed to Douma. (In which case I can really only speak for myself at this stage)” “The report did not make clear what new findings, facts, information, data or analysis in the fields of witness testimony, toxicology studies, chemical analysis, engineering and or ballistics studies…” “..had resulted in a complete turn-around in the situation from what was understood by the majority of the team and the entire Douma team in July 2018.”

“In my case I had followed with a further 6 months of engineering and ballistics studies into the cylinders. The results of which had provided further support for the view there had not been a chemical attack.” “This needs to be properly resolved, we believe (Douma FFM Team), through the rigours of science and engineering. In my situation it is not a political debate. I’m very aware that there is a political debate surrounding this.” “Perhaps a closing comment from my side, is that I was also the inspection team leader who developed and launched the inspections, the highly intrusive inspections, of the Barzah SSRC facility outside of Damascus.” “And I did the inspections and wrote the reports for the 2 inspections prior to and the inspection after the chemical facility, or the laboratory complex at Barzah SSRC, had been destroyed by the missile strike. That however is another story altogether.”

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Dec 302019
 
 December 30, 2019  Posted by at 10:15 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Dorothea Lange Salvation Army, San Francisco, California. Unemployed young men 1939

 

Firms Must Justify Investment In Fossil Fuels, Warns Mark Carney (G.)
Bank of England Chief Mark Carney Issues Climate Change Warning (BBC)
Security Experts Rip Into OPCW’s ‘Douma Chemical Attack’ Probe (RT)
Pension Funds With $680 Billion Finally Find Their Missing Link (BBG)
Bank of America: Trend For 2020s Will be the “End of Globalization” (PJW)
Britons Paying 40% More For Energy Than In 2015 (G.)
Spain Pulled Into Diplomatic Spat Between Bolivia, Mexico (AP)
Schiff Goes for Total Coup, Now Targeting Pence (WJ)
Russiagate Investigation Now Endangers Obama (Zuesse)
Vladimir Putin Thanks Donald Trump For Tip That Foiled Terror Plot (G.)
After US Strike On Iraqi Forces Its Troops Will -Again- Have To Leave (MoA)

 

 

I must have missed that Carney was named UN special envoy for climate change and finance. Hilarious. Just over 3 years ago, I wrote about his delusional ideas in Heal the Planet for Profit , after Mark Carney and Michael Bloomberg published How To Make A Profit From Defeating Climate Change.

Billionaires and their lackeys will not solve climate change. Which is why Carney should not have a UN role, just like Great Thunberg should never have gone to Davos, or get involved with COP25. It’s simply not where things happen. By falling into these traps, she’s failing her own ideals, and those of her followers.

Firms Must Justify Investment In Fossil Fuels, Warns Mark Carney (G.)

The outgoing governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has said all companies and financial institutions must justify their continued investment in fossil fuels, and warned that assets in the sector could end up “worthless”. In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme being broadcast on Monday, Carney said that although the financial sector was starting to cut back on investment in oil and gas companies, the process was not moving quickly enough. Carney, who will focus on his new role as UN special envoy for climate change and finance after he steps down from the governorship in the new year, agreed to appear on the programme for an edition edited by the climate crisis campaigner Greta Thunberg, one of several guest editors on Today over the holiday period.

Carney has been one of the most vocal central bank governors on the need for the financial sector to do more to transition towards a zero-carbon economy. He told the programme that the climate crisis was a “tragedy on the horizon” and that more extreme weather events were inevitable. “By the time that the extreme events become so prevalent and so obvious, it will be too late to do anything about it,” he said. Political leaders had to “start addressing future problems today” On the issue of whether investors should be divesting from companies in the fossil fuel sector, Carney said fund managers would “have to make the judgment and justify to the people whose money it ultimately is”.

When pressed on whether pension funds should divest from oil and gas companies even if the returns were attractive, he replied: “Well that hasn’t been the case but they could make that argument. They need to make the argument, to be clear about why is that going to be the case if a substantial proportion of those assets are going to be worthless.” He warned: “If we were to burn all those oil and gases, there’s no way we would meet carbon budgets. Up to 80% of coal assets will be stranded, [and] up to half of developed oil reserves. A question for every company, every financial institution, every asset manager, pension fund or insurer: what’s your plan?

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Carney’s next move will be a $50 trillion fund paid for by taxpayers that will buy turbines and solar from trillion-dollar multinationals.

Bank of England Chief Mark Carney Issues Climate Change Warning (BBC)

The world will face irreversible heating unless firms shift their priorities soon, the outgoing head of the Bank of England has told the BBC. Mark Carney said the financial sector had begun to curb investment in fossil fuels – but far too slowly. He said leading pension fund analysis “is that if you add up the policies of all of companies out there, they are consistent with warming of 3.7-3.8C”. Mr Carney made the comments in a pre-recorded BBC Radio 4 Today interview. He added that the rise of almost 4C was “far above the 1.5 degrees that the people say they want and governments are demanding”. Scientists say the risks associated with an increase of 4C include a nine metre rise in sea levels – affecting up to 760 million people – searing heatwaves and droughts, and serious food supply problems.

Mr Carney, who will next year start his new role as United Nations special envoy for climate action and finance, continued: “The concern is whether we will spend another decade doing worthy things but not enough… and we will blow through the 1.5C mark very quickly. As a consequence, the climate will stabilise at the much higher level.” Speaking to the Today programme, he re-iterated his warning that unless firms woke up to what he called the climate crisis, many of their assets would become worthless. “If we were to burn all those oil and gas [reserves], there’s no way we would meet carbon budget,” he said. “Up to 80% of coal assets will be stranded, [and] up to half of developed oil reserves.

[..] Climate campaigners Extinction Rebellion question whether the capitalist system can halt climate change. Mr Carney said capitalism had a vital role in raising funding for clean technologies. But he added that it had to be tempered by government-imposed incentives, rules and prohibitions of the most damaging activities. Climate change was what he called a “tragedy of the horizon”, because the decision-making time horizon of investment managers is between two and 10 years. “In those horizons there will be more extreme weather events, but by the time that the extreme events become so prevalent and so obvious it’s too late to do anything about it,” he said.

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How far we’ve fallen: OPCW, White Helmets and Bellingcat have all been fully discredited by now (Douma, Skripal, MH17), but the former “all the news that’s fit to print” media completely ignore this. And so we’ll keep hearing more from them.

Security Experts Rip Into OPCW’s ‘Douma Chemical Attack’ Probe (RT)

Documents published by WikiLeaks that suggest a cover-up of inconvenient facts about the Douma, Syria chemical attack investigation raise serious questions about the OPCW, security experts, scholars and diplomats tell RT. The US, UK and France launched missile strikes against Syria in April 2018, after ‘White Helmets’ and jihadist rebels accused the government of a chemical attack in the town of Douma. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons eventually published a report saying its investigators may have found traces of chlorine, which was trumpeted as proof of the accusations in mainstream Western media. Emails published by WikiLeaks on Friday, however, show that a senior OPCW official ordered to “remove all traces” of the engineering assessment questioning the report’s conclusions.

Moreover, the observations by toxicologists who ruled out exposure to chlorine or any other chemical weapon could have caused the symptoms shown on White Helmets videos were likewise buried. “It’s difficult to look at that email exchange without thinking at least there’s a whiff of a coverup,” security analyst Charles Shoebridge told RT, adding that the documents show the OPCW has been “subverted and led astray.” While the experts seem to have done their job honorably and properly, it looks like the OPCW officials twisted and manipulated their work to fit the pre-ordained narrative, on behalf of the countries that carried out the strikes, and have been backing the militants in Syria against the government in Damascus.

The OPCW “right now looks awful,” Max Abrahms, a scholar at the Quincy Institute, told RT. “They have a lot of explaining to do.” US officials seem to have pressured the OPCW to find the Syrian military responsible for the alleged chemical attack “regardless of what the actual scientists on the ground discovered,” according to Abrahms. It is notable that the US, UK and France launched their missile strikes before the OPCW investigators even reached Douma. The final report, published in March 2019, provided an after-the-fact rationalization for the attack. The bigger problem, Machon points out, is that the OPCW suppressing evidence means that the chemical weapons watchdog is no longer credible. If they can’t be trusted about Douma, why should they be trusted about, say, the use of “novichok” in Salisbury just weeks before that incident?

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Oh sure, pension funds will be rescued by a 30-year bond. Everybody rich!

Pension Funds With $680 Billion Finally Find Their Missing Link (BBG)

In Denmark, where institutional investors have been living with negative interest rates longer than anyone else, the authorities just took a big step. Danish pension funds, the world’s best managed along with their Dutch peers, will finally get a 30-year government bond. When it starts trading next year, funds managing a total of $680 billion in assets will get the missing link they’ve long needed: a long-term, AAA-rated asset at a positive yield. That’s quite a novelty these days. The new bond will give the industry a “crucial point on the curve,” said Christian Lage, chief executive officer of PFA Asset Management, which is a unit inside Denmark’s biggest commercial pension fund in Copenhagen. “We’re following it closely,” he said in an interview.

“Not only with regards to what extent we want to invest in it, but also how it’s being priced. It has an impact on a lot of different things when we price long-term exposures.” Denmark’s central bank first cut its benchmark rate below zero in mid-2012. Almost eight years later, the county has had negative rates longer than any other place on Earth. The distortions wrought by a policy intended to keep the krone fixed to the euro are particularly pronounced in the pension industry. The art of generating long-term, stable returns so Danes can retire comfortably has become increasingly difficult. Pretty much everything safe generates a negative yield. Assets that generate positive yields tend to come with a good deal more risk.

The Danish debt office, which is a unit inside the central bank, hasn’t issued a 30-year bond since 2008. That’s forced pension funds to extrapolate a key anchor point in the interest rate curve that helps them determine the value of both assets and liabilities. Not having a real number at the 30-year point was problematic. The calculations used could muddy price-setting, particularly given the uncertainty of how and when central banks might extricate themselves from negative rates. Lage says that “what is a bit hard for the industry is that, if the interest rate curve – the govvie curve – ends at a 20-year point, what is the fair price for a 30-year asset?”

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There’s a lot more profit in selling arms to dozens of different countries than there is in selling them to alliances.

Bank of America: Trend For 2020s Will be the “End of Globalization” (PJW)

Bank of America says that one of the dominant trends for the 2020s will be the “end of globalization” as countries increasingly realize that the phenomenon has brought unsustainable “social disruption.” In a report mapping out what to expect over the next decade, BofA analysts said that largely unchecked globalization, which ran roughly from 1981-2016, “is coming to an end.” This change will take place due to “the widespread recognition that while globalization has meant lower consumer prices, it has also meant slower growth, precarious employment and social disruption.” This massive shift will make commodities like precious metals and real estate safer investment because governments will move to impose protectionist economic policies.


“Countries will develop explicit national industrial policies and boost spending on R&D to foster local innovation, protect nascent industries, and shield national champions from hostile foreign takeovers,” the analysts said. The transhumanist pursuit of “immortality” will also come to the fore in the next decade, as will a new tech arms race between the U.S. and China, dubbed the “Splinternet.” China will eventually win the race, allowing Beijing “to reach national superiority in technology over the long term vis-a-vis Quantum Computing, Big Data, 5G, Artificial Intelligence, Electric Vehicles, Robotics, and Cybersecurity.” “Ubiquitous connectivity” will also change the fabric of society, according to the report, with the ‘Internet of things’ embedded into virtually every new physical product, a development that critics argue will create an omnipresent Minority Report-style mass surveillance grid.

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And then voted for the people who made it possible.

Britons Paying 40% More For Energy Than In 2015 (G.)

Energy bills have risen by 40% in five years, taking average UK household costs up to a record of £2,707 a year, research has revealed. Comparethemarket’s study examined the costs of energy, home and motor insurance since 2015, and found that gas and electricity price increases were largely responsible for this year’s changes. The analysis says financial pressures have worsened despite the energy price cap introduced at the beginning of 2019. Dual fuel bills now cost an average of £1,813 a year, a 40% hike from £1,289 in 2015. The cap has led to many providers, particularly the big six – British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON UK, npower, Scottish Power and SSE – raising their prices.


The annual report did not examine the costs of broadband, mobile or TV services, which also involve heavy outlays. Simon McCulloch of comparethemarket.com said: “A lot of attention during the general election was devoted to financial difficulties that many people face around the UK. “These statistics are a stark reminder of not only the high cost of essential services, but of the huge increases that have been seen in the past few years. The average cost of energy, motor and home insurance is now £675 higher than 2015 – far above the rate of inflation.”

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Bolivia shares quite a few similarities with Ukraine.

Spain Pulled Into Diplomatic Spat Between Bolivia, Mexico (AP)

A tense diplomatic feud between Bolivia’s conservative interim government and Mexico expanded to include Spain on Friday when a confrontation broke out as Spanish diplomats visited the Mexican ambassador’s residence in La Paz, where members of the ousted leftist government have taken refuge. Bolivian Foreign Minister Karen Longaric complained that Spanish diplomats were accompanied by masked and armed men on a visit to the residence, calling that an abuse of Bolivia’s sovereignty. She said a protest would be lodged with the EU, UN and Organization of American States. Television stations broadcast images of a masked person getting out of a Spanish diplomatic vehicle and exchanging words with local police.

Civilians then approached and began attacking the car, shouting that there could be an attempt to free nine officials sheltered inside. The interim government already has been feuding with Mexico, which not only gave refuge to the nine, but also sheltered ousted leader Evo Morales when he resigned the presidency on Nov. 10 after losing the support of the military and police following days of turbulent protests over alleged fraud in his reelection bid. Bolivian officials accuse several of those inside the embassy of electoral fraud as well as sedition and terrorism for their alleged role in protests that followed Morales’ ouster.

Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department said the incident came as police intercepted Spanish embassy vehicles that were returning to the Mexican mission to pick up the ranking Spanish diplomat, who had made a “courtesy visit” to the Mexican ambassador. It said a Mexican diplomat in the car was also briefly detained but was allowed to pass after showing identification. Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said later it would investigate the incident. Spanish diplomats in their own country are sometime accompanied by bodyguards wearing masks to protect their identities as a security measure, though it wasn’t immediately clear if that was the case here.

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They guy’s a broken record: “..overwhelming and damning evidence..”

Schiff Goes for Total Coup, Now Targeting Pence (WJ)

It’s beginning to look like Rep. Adam Schiff isn’t content with simply ousting the president, instead hinting that he’s going for a total sweep of the White House by involving the vice president as well. The move would seemingly put his ally and fellow California Democrat, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in charge of the United States. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee hinted at the bombshell turn in a Dec. 18 talk with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. Maddow asked Schiff about his continuing role in the impeachment of President Donald Trump. “You seem to still be pulling on some threads here, including some potentially provocative and consequential ones,” she said. “I’m thinking specifically about a letter that you sent to the vice president’s office this week in which you raise questions as to what the vice president knew about the president’s behavior, the president’s scheme in Ukraine, and thereby essentially his potential involvement in any coverup of that behavior by the president.


“Are you actively looking at Vice President Mike Pence and his role in this scandal, and should we expect further revelations either related to the vice president or related to the other core parts of these allegations that have resulted in this impeachment tonight?” Schiff, in his usual habit of claiming to have overwhelming and damning evidence against his political enemies, said he now has something on Vice President Mike Pence. “We have acquired a piece of evidence,” he said, “a classified submission by [Pence aide] Jennifer Williams, something that she alluded to in her open testimony that, in going back and looking through her records, she found other information that was pertinent to that phone call that we had asked her about and made that submission. … “That submission does shed light on the vice president’s knowledge.”

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A DNC investigation would seem timely.

Russiagate Investigation Now Endangers Obama (Zuesse)

Comey would be expected to have been highly motivated to oppose Mr. Trump, because Trump publicly questioned whether NATO (the main international selling-arm for America’s ‘defense’-contractors) should continue to exist, and also because Comey’s entire career had been in the service of America’s Military-Industrial Complex, which is the reason why Comey’s main lifetime income has been the tens of millions of dollars he has received via the revolving door between his serving the federal Government and his serving firms such as Lockheed Martin. For these people, restoring, and intensifying, and keeping up, the Cold War, is a very profitable business. It’s called by some “the Military-Industrial Complex,” and by others “the Deep State,” but by any name it is simply agents of the billionaires who own and control US-based international corporations, such as General Dynamics and Chevron.

As a governmental official, making decisions that are in the long-term interests of those investors is the likeliest way to become wealthy. Consequently, Comey would have been benefitting himself, and other high officials of the Obama Administration, by sabotaging Trump’s campaign, and by weakening Trump’s Presidency in the event that he would become elected. Plus, of course, Comey would have been benefitting Obama himself. Not only was Trump constantly condemning Obama, but Obama had appointed to lead the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 Presidential primaries, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who as early as 20 February 2007 had endorsed Hillary Clinton for President in the Democratic Party primaries, so that Shultz was one of the earliest supporters of Clinton against even Obama himself.

In other words, Obama had appointed Shultz in order to increase the odds that Clinton — not Sanders— would become the nominee in 2016 to continue on and protect his own Presidential legacy. Furthermore, on 28 July 2016, Schultz became forced to resign from her leadership of the DNC after WikiLeaks released emails indicating that Schultz and other members of the DNC staff had exercised bias against Bernie Sanders and in favor of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Democratic primaries — which favoritism had been the reason why Obama had appointed Shultz to that post to begin with.

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Five Alarm! He’s talking to his puppet master! Also, what are the odds the CIA has supported these planned terror attacks?

Vladimir Putin Thanks Donald Trump For Tip That Foiled Terror Plot (G.)

Russia said it had thwarted terror attacks reportedly planned in St Petersburg as the result of a tip from Washington, as President Vladimir Putin personally thanked his US counterpart Donald Trump. Russian news agencies cited the Federal Security Service (FSB) as saying that as a result of the information, two Russians had been detained on 27 December on suspicion of plotting attacks during new year festivities in St Petersburg. The Kremlin said Putin passed on his gratitude to Trump for the tip from US special services during a phone call on Sunday. It gave no further details.


Diplomatic ties between Washington and Moscow are fraught over disagreements concerning Ukraine and Syria and allegations of Russian meddling in the US presidential election, but Trump and Putin have kept personal lines of communication open. Two years ago, the Russian leader phoned Trump to thank him for a tip that Russia said had helped prevent a bomb attack on a cathedral in St Petersburg. Russia has repeatedly been the target of attacks by militant groups including Isis. The Kremlin said in a statement that Putin and Trump had agreed to continue bilateral cooperation to tackle terrorism.

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How Washington celebrates New Year’s.

After US Strike On Iraqi Forces Its Troops Will -Again- Have To Leave (MoA)

Within Syria @WithinSyriaBlog – 17:43 UTC · Dec 29, 2019: “Trump just made the mistake of his presidency.” That may be true or may be not true. Here is what happened. On Friday a volley of some 30 107mm Katyusha rockets hit the K1 base which houses Iraqi and U.S. troops near Kirkuk, Iraq. One U.S. mercenary/contractor died, two Iraqi and four U.S. soldiers were wounded. Instead of finding the real culprits – ISIS remnants, disgruntled locals, Kurds who want to regain control over Kirkuk – the U.S. decided that Kata’ib Hizbullah was the group guilty of the attack.

Kata’ib Hizbullah is a mostly Shia group with some relations to Iran. It is part of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) which were founded and trained by Iran to stop and defeat the Islamic State (ISIS) when it occupied nearly a third of Iraq and Syria. KH is like all PMU units now under command and control of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. To take revenge for the death of one of its mercenaries the U.S. air force attacked five camps where Kata’ib Hizbullah and other Iraqi forces were stationed:

“In response to repeated Kata’ib Hizbollah (KH) attacks on Iraqi bases that host Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) coalition forces, U.S. forces have conducted precision defensive strikes against five KH facilities in Iraq and Syria that will degrade KH’s ability to conduct future attacks against OIR coalition forces. The five targets include three KH locations in Iraq and two in Syria. These locations included weapon storage facilities and command and control locations that KH uses to plan and execute attacks on OIR coalition forces.” All of the KH positions that were hit were in the western Anbar desert on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border where KH is engaged in fighting the still active ISIS. The results of the air strikes were devastating:

Elijah J. Magnier @ejmalrai – 6:20 UTC · Dec 30, 2019: “32 killed and 45 wounded the count of #US violent aggression on #Iraq security forces brigades 45 and 46 last night on a military position established to counter-attack and raid #ISIS remnant at al-Qaem, the borders between Iraq and Syria.” The al-Qaem border station is the only open one between Iraq and Syria which is not under U.S. control. The U.S. was furious when the Iraqi prime minister Adil Abdul Mahdi allowed it to be established. It was previously attacked by Israel which had launched its assault from a U.S. air force base in east Syria.

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Branch manager and assistant branch manager

 

 

 

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Dec 282019
 
 December 28, 2019  Posted by at 10:41 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  18 Responses »


Alfred Palmer Conversion. Beverage containers to aviation oxygen cylinders 1942

 

OPCW Official Ordered ‘All Traces’ Of Dissenting Report On Douma Deleted (RT)
Interminable Impeachment (J.T. Young)
Democrats Brace For ‘Bloody’ Primary Season (Hill)
Bernie Sanders Warns ‘My God … Trump Will Eat Biden’s Lunch” (CD)
Biden Says He Won’t Comply With Senate Subpoena In Impeachment Trial (DMR)
Elizabeth Warren’s Presidential Campaign Issues Urgent Fundraising Plea (R.)
Rachel Maddow’s Defense In OAN Lawsuit Is That Her Words Are Not Fact (CTT)
FBI Investigates Ghislaine Maxwell, Others For Epstein Links (R.)
Evidence of Absence (Kunstler)
Guardian Corrects Article About Assange Embassy ‘Escape Plot’ To Russia (RT)
Russia Deploys First Hypersonic Missiles (G.)

 

 

WikiLeaks’ new leak. We now have OPCW, White Helmets, Bellingcat exposed as lying through their teeth about this. Much of their funding follows s similar trail: US government, Atlantic Council etc. The basis of US foreign policy.

OPCW Official Ordered ‘All Traces’ Of Dissenting Report On Douma Deleted (RT)

The leadership of the chemical weapons watchdog took efforts to remove the paper trail of a dissenting report from Douma, Syria which pointed to a possible false flag operation there, leaked documents indicate. In an internal email published by the transparency website WikiLeaks on Friday, a senior official from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) ordered that the document be removed from the organization’s Documents Registry Archive and to “remove all traces, if any, of its delivery/storage/whatever.” The document in question is a technical assessment written by inspector Ian Henderson after a fact-finding mission to Douma, a suburb of Damascus, in the wake of an alleged chlorine gas attack.

Western politicians and media said at the time that the government forces had dropped two gas cylinders as part of an offensive against jihadist forces, killing scores of civilians. The OPCW inspector said evidence on the ground contradicted the airdropping scenario and that the cylinders could have been placed by hand. Considering that the area was under the control of anti-government forces, the memo lands credence to the theory that the jihadists had staged the scene to prompt Western nations to attack their opponents. The final report of the watchdog all but confirmed that Damascus was behind the incident, but in the past months an increasing amount of leaked documents and whistleblower testimonies have emerged, pointing to a possible fabrication.


The OPCW leadership stands accused of withholding opinions contravening the West-favored narrative and using misleading language to report what the inspectors found on the ground. The alleged email was written by Sebastien Braha, Chief of Cabinet at the OPCW. Its authenticity is yet to be confirmed, but the organization never said any of the previously leaked documents were not real. Another document published on Friday outlines a meeting with several toxicology experts and their opinions on whether symptoms shown and reported in alleged victims of the attack were consistent with a chlorine gas poisoning. “The experts were conclusive in their statements that there was no correlation between symptoms and chlorine exposure,” the document said, adding that the chief expert suggested that the event could have been “a propaganda exercise.”

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J.T. Young served under President George W. Bush as the director of communications in the Office of Management and Budget and as deputy assistant secretary in legislative affairs for tax and budget at the Treasury Department. He served as a congressional staffer from 1987 through 2000.

Interminable Impeachment (J.T. Young)

President Trump’s acquittal in the U.S. Senate is a foregone conclusion. But it will not be impeachment’s conclusion for Democrats. Democrats’ decision not to send House impeachment articles to the Senate clearly signals their strategy: Delegitimize any action short of removal. They will not let impeachment go, now or ever, because they must counter their sagging – and President Trump’s strengthening – political position. Democrats have been calling for President Trump’s removal forever, pursuing de facto impeachment since taking the House this year, and pursuing it in fact since September. This marathon became a sprint: One week in the House Judiciary Committee and one day on the House floor.

Now, it has abruptly halted at what should be its climax. House leaders say they are not sending the impeachment articles to the Senate in order to leverage a fair trial there. How this gives them leverage, or how a trial there could be less fair than the House’s proceedings, is unclear. What is clear is that Democrats intend to maintain impeachment as an issue beyond its constitutional course. To rephrase Yogi Berra: “It ain’t over, even after the fat lady sings.” To understand why, it is necessary to understand the myriad reasons behind Democrats’ singular obsession with impeachment. First, they have a weak case. This was evidenced by the bipartisan opposition to impeachment and the Democrats’ inability to convince even one Republican to support it.


Democrats therefore must blame someone else, and they are laying the foundation for claiming that someone else – additional witnesses – could have provided it. Second, the left is pushing Democrats hard on impeachment, and Democrats are dependent on their left. The left forced impeachment on Democrats. The further left, the harder the push. Simply recall who Democrats’ impeachment leaders were and who stayed most assiduously away — even if ultimately voting for it. Democrats are as dependent on the left as the left is insistent on impeachment. The left is credited with the party’s 2018 success. In the Democrats’ 2020 presidential field, liberals dominate collectively, even if they have not yet coalesced around one candidate. The so-called moderates are running left, and the liberals are staying put.

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Sis weeks to Iowa. Time for the candidates to turn on each other. Time for Trump to laugh.

Democrats Brace For ‘Bloody’ Primary Season (Hill)

Democrats are bracing for a long, drawn-out primary season. With just six weeks until the Iowa caucuses, some Democrats say they don’t expect a likely nominee to emerge anytime soon after early-voting states hold their contests. Instead, they’re preparing for a bruising four-way match-up that could drag on for months as candidates compete for the chance to challenge President Trump. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have consistently topped nationwide polls, but Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg remain key contenders who show no signs of slowing down. “It’s going to be uglier than ugly,” one Democratic strategist said, pointing to surveys showing there is no clear winner across the first four states in the nominating process.

“It’s going to be a bloody slugfest. And the thing a lot of us fear is that Trump will benefit from all of it.” Democrats have focused their efforts on electability, making the case for rallying behind the kind of candidate who can topple Trump. Some Democrats say that while a progressive candidate can energize the party’s base and win in the primary, it would be much more difficult for that same White House hopeful to win the general election against Trump. Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, argued that because the top candidates each have strong pockets of support, the primary may even lead to a brokered convention in July. “Although people always say that, this time it could be true,” Zelizer said.

“Democrats are so desperate to defeat Trump they have very different visions of how to do this and won’t concede easily.” The party’s top four candidates — two progressive candidates and two moderate candidates — are indicative of where the Democratic Party is right now, said Democratic strategist Michael Trujillo. “It shouldn’t be a surprise you are seeing two progressives and two moderates vying for the top spot,” he said, adding that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is also a wild card in the primary race. “What is the most interesting factor here is that voters are somewhat interchangeable between Biden and Sanders as they are between mayor Pete and Sen. Warren.”

[..] The Democratic strategist who predicted the primary would be a “bloody slugfest” said this election cycle is reminiscent of 2016, when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sanders were locked in a bitter battle for the Democratic nomination. Clinton emerged the winner, but “she was damaged from the primary,” the strategist said. “And anyone who says Sanders didn’t hurt her has their head in the clouds,” the strategist said. This time around, a brokered convention “could only add further division at a time when we need it most. It’s a bit of a nightmare situation.”

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There you go. “Joe Biden is a personal friend of mine, but..”

Bernie Sanders Warns ‘My God … Trump Will Eat Biden’s Lunch” (CD)

Warning that President Donald Trump cannot be defeated by an establishment Democrat running a “same old, same old type of campaign,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times editorial board published Thursday that Trump would have a field day with former Vice President Joe Biden’s record of support for the Iraq War, job-killing trade deals, and other destructive policies. “Joe Biden is a personal friend of mine, so I’m not here to, you know, to attack him,” Sanders said. “But my God, if you are, if you’re a Donald Trump and you got Biden having voted for the war in Iraq, Biden having voted for these terrible, in my view, trade agreements, Biden having voted for the bankruptcy bill. Trump will eat his lunch.”

The Los Angeles Times interview was not the first time Sanders has distinguished his own record from Biden’s by highlighting the former vice president’s support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. During a Democratic primary debate in September, Sanders noted that, unlike Biden, he “never believed what Cheney and Bush said about Iraq.” “I voted against the war in Iraq, and helped lead the opposition,” the Vermont senator said. Sanders told the Times that defeating Trump in 2020 will require a candidate who embraces “ideas that are going to excite and energize millions of people who right now are not particularly active in politics, and who may not vote at all”—and the Vermont senator argued he is the Democratic contender best positioned to deliver such a campaign.


“The reason I believe that I am the strongest candidate, and the reason I believe our approach is right is if you want a large voter turnout, if we understand that there are tens of millions of people in this country who don’t vote, who’ve kind of given up on the political process… I think I am by far the strongest candidate to reach out to those people,” Sanders said. “I think I’m the strongest candidate to bring together a multiracial coalition of African Americans, of Latinos, of Asians.”

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Joe Biden’s biggest problem appears to be that he can’t identify his biggest problem. Either that or he knows there’s no escaping it.

Biden Says He Won’t Comply With Senate Subpoena In Impeachment Trial (DMR)

Former Vice President Joe Biden confirmed Friday he would not comply with a subpoena to testify in a Senate trial of President Donald Trump. The Democratically controlled U.S. House of Representatives impeached Trump earlier this month alleging Trump abused his presidential power by tying foreign aid approved by Congress to a politically motivated investigation into a company on which Biden’s son Hunter Biden served on the board. Leaders in the House and Republican leaders in the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate are trying to come to terms for an impeachment trial. Biden said in early December he wouldn’t comply with a subpoena by the Senate, and confirmed that statement Friday in an interview with the Des Moines Register’s editorial board.

He has not been subpoenaed, but Trump’s allies have floated the idea. Testifying before the Senate on the matter would take attention away from Trump and the allegations against him, Biden said. Not even “that thug” Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney and former New York City mayor, has accused Biden of doing anything but his job, the former vice president said. Biden also said any attempt to subpoena him would be on “specious” grounds, and he predicted it wouldn’t come to that. Biden said even if he volunteered to testify in an attempt to clear the air, it would create a media narrative that would let Trump off the hook.

“What are you going to cover?” Biden said to Register Executive Editor Carol Hunter in response to a question. “You guys are going to cover for three weeks anything that I said. And (Trump’s) going to get away. You guys buy into it all the time. Not a joke … Think what it’s about. It’s all about what he does all the time, his entire career. Take the focus off. This guy violated the Constitution. He said it in the driveway of the White House. He acknowledged he asked for help.” Shortly after the House voted to impeach Trump, Biden was campaigning in Iowa, where he called impeachment “a sad moment for our country.” It underscored the need for a president who can unify the country, he said.

“No one’s taken as much heat and as many lies thrown at them as I have, but again, this is not about me. It’s not about my family. It’s about the nation. And we have to reach out and unify this country,” Biden said in Ottumwa on Saturday. A centerpiece to Biden’s campaign is his ability to beat Trump in a general election. It was a sentiment most likely Democratic caucusgoers shared in a mid-November Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll. He was the only candidate whom a majority of respondents said they were either almost certain or fairly confident would defeat Trump, according to the poll.

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Warren and Bernie rely on the same donors. She may be gone in six weeks’ time.

Elizabeth Warren’s Presidential Campaign Issues Urgent Fundraising Plea (R.)

Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign told supporters on Friday its fundraising haul stands at just over $17 million and made a plea for more donations with just days left in the fourth quarter. The figure was a sharp drop from the previous quarter and accompanied the progressive Democrats’ slight slide in opinion polls in recent weeks in the Democratic contest to face Republican Donald Trump in the November 2020 election. “We’re only days away from the biggest fundraising deadline of the year, and we’re at risk of missing our $20 million goal,” Warren’s campaign said on its website. In an email to supporters, the campaign said its haul of a little over $17 million this quarter was “a good chunk behind where we were at this time last quarter.”


In the third quarter of 2019, Warren’s campaign reported raising $24.6 million, slightly behind the $25.3 million raised by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, the only other 2020 Democratic candidate to swear off big-money fundraisers. Warren, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, has for months been polling in the top three of the crowded Democratic field, along with Sanders and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. Support for her White House bid has slid since she announced in November how she would finance her $20.5 trillion Medicare for All plan with new taxes on the wealthy and corporations but without raising middle-class taxes. The plan drew criticism from rivals who say it is unrealistic and from some voters concerned that it was too extreme.

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3 years of daily RussiaRussia rants transferred to the field of entertainment. Get real. Here’s hoping OAN does Maddow, MSNBC and Comcast real damage.

Rachel Maddow’s Defense In OAN Lawsuit Is That Her Words Are Not Fact (CTT)

One America News (OAN) is in court against MSNBC‘s Rachel Maddow in a $10 million lawsuit after Maddow said her conservative competitor “really, literally is paid Russian propaganda.” Now, Maddow is arguing in court that her words should not be taken as fact. Her actual legal defense, put out in a motion by her lawyer Theodore Boutrous Jr., reads: “…the liberal host was clearly offering up her ‘own unique expression’ of her views to capture what she saw as the ‘ridiculous’ nature of the undisputed facts. Her comment, therefore, is a quintessential statement ‘of rhetorical hyperbole, incapable of being proved true or false.’”

During one of her MSNBC segments, Maddow claimed, “In this case, the most obsequiously pro-Trump right wing news outlet in America is really literally is paid Russian propaganda,” and added, “Their on-air politics reporter (Kristian Rouz) is paid by the Russian government to produce propaganda for that government.” Leaving aside that Maddow now says her words should not be believed as fact, a linguistics professor’s testimony is leading observers to believe Maddow is also now lying in court. UC Santa Barbara linguistics professor Stefan Thomas Gries said, “it is very unlikely that an average or reasonable/ordinary viewer would consider the sentence in question to be a statement of opinion.”


[..] OAN host Jack Posobiec tweeted at Maddow after she made her defamatory remarks, writing “Do you understand how defamation laws work? Please feel free to respond to our lawyers.” OAN’s lawsuit also named MSNBC, Comcast, and NBC Universal Media as defendants, and accuses Comcast, MSNBC’s parent company, of “anti-competitive censorship” because the network refuses to carry OAN as part of its cable package.

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Who cares after all this time? Let’s see some action.

FBI Investigates Ghislaine Maxwell, Others For Epstein Links (R.)

The FBI is investigating British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell and several other people linked to U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, according to two law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation. They said a principal focus of the FBI’s investigation is Maxwell, a longtime associate of Epstein, and other “people who facilitated” Epstein’s allegedly illegal behavior. Maxwell has not been accused of criminal wrongdoing. Her lawyers did not respond to a request for comment. The FBI also is following up on many leads received from women who contacted a hotline the agency set up at its New York field office in the wake of Epstein’s arrest in July, the sources said.

One of the sources said the probe remains at an early stage. The sources declined to give further details or identify the people they are looking at apart from Maxwell. However, they said the FBI has no current plans to interview Britain’s Prince Andrew, a friend of Epstein’s who stepped down from his public duties in November because of what he called his “ill-judged” association with the well-connected money manager. A representative for the British royal family said that whether the agency interviewed Andrew was “a matter for the FBI.” Following Epstein’s arrest, the FBI urged anyone who had been victimized by Epstein or had additional information to call the agency’s hotline.


U.S. Attorney General William Barr vowed to carry on the case against anyone who was complicit with the financier. “Any co-conspirators should not rest easy,” he said in August. The two law enforcement sources said the FBI’s principal focus is on people who facilitated Epstein and that Andrew does not fit into that category. They did not rule out the possibility that the FBI would seek to interview Andrew at a later date.

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“..an anxious nausea creeps over the land that Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham are dawdling toward a goal of deflecting justice from the sick institutions behind the three-year coup..”

Evidence of Absence (Kunstler)

What is most perilous for our country now, would be to journey through a second epic crisis of authority in recent times without anybody facing the consequences of crimes they might have committed. The result will be a people turned utterly cynical, with no faith in their institutions or the rule of law, and no way to imagine a restoration of their lost faith within the bounds of law. It will be a deadly divorce between truth and reality. It will be an invitation to civil violence, a broken social contract, and the end of the framework for American life that was set up in 1788.

The first crisis of the era was the Great Financial Crash of 2008 based on widespread malfeasance in the banking world, an unprecedented suspension of rules, norms, and laws. GFC poster-boy Angelo Mozilo, CEO and chairman of Countrywide Financial, a sub-prime mortgage racketeering outfit, sucked at least half a billion dollars out of his operation before it blew up, and finally was nicked for $67 million in fines by the SEC — partly paid by Countrywide’s indemnity insurer — with criminal charges of securities fraud eventually dropped in the janky “settlement.” In other words, the cost of doing business. Scores of other fraudsters and swindlers in that orgy of banking malfeasance were never marched into a courtroom, never had to answer for their depredations, and remained at their desks in the C-suites collecting extravagant bonuses. The problems they caused were papered over with trillions of dollars that all of us are still on-the-hook for. And, contrary to appearances, the banking system never actually recovered. It is permanently demoralized.

How it was that Barack Obama came on-duty in January of 2009 and got away with doing absolutely nothing about all that for eight years remains one of the abiding mysteries of life on earth. Perhaps getting the first black president into the White House was such an intoxicating triumph of righteousness that nothing else seemed to matter anymore. Perhaps Mr. Obama was just a cat’s paw for banksterdom. (Sure kinda seems like it, when your first two hires are Robert Rubin and Larry Summers.) The failure to assign penalties for massive bad behavior has set up the nation for another financial fiasco, surely of greater magnitude than the blow-up of 2008, considering the current debt landscape. Not a few astute observers say they feel the hot breath of that monster on the back of their necks lately, with all the strange action in the RePo market — $500 billion “liquidity” injections in six weeks.

But now we are a year into Attorney General Bill Barr coming on the scene — the crime scene of RussiaGate and all its deceitful spin-offs. The Mueller investigation revealed itself as not just a thumping failure, but part of a broader exercise in bad faith and sedition to first prevent Mr. Trump from winning the 2016 election and then to harass, obstruct, disable, and eject him from office. And six months after Mr. Mueller’s face-plant, out comes the Horowitz Report tracing in spectacular detail further and deeper criminal irregularities in the US Justice agencies. What’s more, tremendous amounts of evidence for all this already sits on-the-record in public documents. The timelines are well understood. And so, an anxious nausea creeps over the land that Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham are dawdling toward a goal of deflecting justice from the sick institutions behind the three-year coup — that our polity is so saturated in corruption nothing will be allowed to clean it up.

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But not really.

Guardian Corrects Article About Assange Embassy ‘Escape Plot’ To Russia (RT)

The Guardian has corrected an article describing a “plot” to “smuggle” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange out of London, more than a year after publication. Russia called the article “disinformation and fake news” from the outset. Assange is currently languishing in London’s Belmarsh Prison, awaiting a hearing on his extradition to the US where he is facing espionage charges. However, in the runup to Christmas 2017 he was still safe inside the city’s Ecuadorian embassy. At the time, Assange had become a thorn in the side of Ecuador’s new president, Lenin Moreno, and Moreno was reportedly mulling a plan to offer him a diplomatic post in Russia, shifting him out of the UK and away from the threat of extradition.

When The Guardian reported on the story in 2018, it turned up the drama. Citing anonymous sources, the newspaper described a “plot” to “smuggle” Assange out of London on Christmas Eve, speeding the fugitive publisher away in a diplomatic vehicle and onwards to refuge in Russia. Ultimately, the report claims, the plan was deemed “too risky” and called off. Though the report painted a picture of a Kremlin-instigated cloak-and-dagger operation, Ecuador would have been well within its rights to grant Assange diplomatic status, had the UK Foreign Office signed off on it. However, plots and plans sell better than backroom diplomatic wrangling, and the paper went with the spy-movie version of events.

It even shoehorned in a paragraph on Assange’s “ties to the Kremlin,” and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ investigation, for good measure. The Russian embassy in London called the article a clear example of “disinformation and fake news by British media.” On Sunday, the Guardian itself issued a correction. “Our report should have avoided the words ‘smuggle’ and ‘plot’ since they implied that diplomatic immunity in itself was illicit,” read a statement from the paper. The correction was made after a complaint from Fidel Narvaez, who served as Ecuador’s London consul at the time of the alleged “plot.” The paper described Narvaez as a middleman between Assange and the Kremlin. Narvaez outright denied any discussions with Moscow.

Though The Guardian corrected its choice of words, the bulk of its story remains as is. The identity of the anonymous sources cited remain a mystery, as does the level of awareness the Russian government had about the plan at any stage in its formation. As events transpired, Assange was bundled out of the embassy by Metropolitan Police in April, after Ecuador revoked his asylum.

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Nothing more fitting mere days before 2020. Russia’s hypersonics travel at 27x the speed of sound. China’s testing 5x. The US? Nothing so far.

Russia Deploys First Hypersonic Missiles (G.)

Russia has deployed its first hypersonic nuclear-capable missiles, with Vladimir Putin boasting that it puts his country in a class of its own. The president described the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, which can fly at 27 times the speed of sound, as a technological breakthrough comparable to the 1957 Soviet launch of the first satellite. Putin has said Russia’s new generation of nuclear weapons can hit almost any point in the world and evade a US-built missile shield, though some western experts have questioned how advanced some of the weapons programmes are. The Avangard is launched on top of an intercontinental ballistic missile, but, unlike a regular missile warhead, which follows a predictable path after separation, it can make sharp manoeuvres en route to its target, making it harder to intercept.

The defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, told Putin the first missile unit equipped with the Avangard had entered combat duty. “I congratulate you on this landmark event for the military and the entire nation,” Shoigu said later during a conference call with top military leaders. The strategic missile forces chief, Gen Sergei Karakaev, said during the call that the Avangard had been put on duty with a unit in the Orenburg region in the southern Ural mountains. Putin unveiled the Avangard and other prospective weapons systems in his state-of-the-nation address in March 2018, saying its ability to make sharp manoeuvres on its way to a target would render missile defense useless. “It heads to target like a meteorite, like a fireball,” he said at the time.


China has tested its own hypersonic glide vehicle, believed to be capable of travelling at least five times the speed of sound. It displayed the weapon called Dong Feng 17, or DF-17, at a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese state. US officials have talked about putting a layer of sensors in space to more quickly detect enemy missiles, particularly the hypersonic weapons. The administration also plans to study the idea of basing interceptors in space, so the US can strike incoming missiles during the first minutes of flight when the booster engines are still burning.

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Dec 152019
 


Theodor Horydczak U.S. Supreme Court interiors, Washington DC 1931

 

 

China Suspends Planned Tariffs Scheduled For Dec. 15 On Some US Goods (R.)
Unpacking The No Deal Not a Trade War Trade War Deal (Balding)
Giant China SEO Announces Largest Dollar Bond Default In Two Decades (ZH)
IG Report Reveals Scandal of Historic Magnitude for the FBI and US Media (GG)
The Bloated Pentagon Budget Should Be Spent on Human Needs (Nation)
The Art of Doublespeak: Bellingcat and Mind Control (Curtin)
WikiLeaks: 20 OPCW Inspectors Dissent From Syria Chemical Attack Narrative (ZH)
Hunter Biden Drugs Charge Kept Under Wraps As Joe Led Drug War From Senate (WE)
One-Third Of Credit Card Debt Is Caused By Medical Expenses (CNBC)
Edward Snowden Speaks Out for Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning (RPI)
Assange Lawyer Discloses Conditions For British Justice TO RETHINK His Extradition (RT)
A Million Times More Microplastic In The Oceans Than We Thought (Wef)

 

 

There is one issue underlying all the talks at this point: China is running out of dollars.

China Suspends Planned Tariffs Scheduled For Dec. 15 On Some US Goods (R.)

China has suspended additional tariffs on some U.S. goods that were meant to be implemented on Dec. 15, the State Council’s customs tariff commission said on Sunday, after the world’s two largest economies agreed a “phase one” trade deal on Friday. The deal, rumors and leaks over which have gyrated world markets for months, reduces some U.S. tariffs in exchange for what U.S. officials said would be a big jump in Chinese purchases of American farm products and other goods. China’s retaliatory tariffs, which were due to take effect on Dec. 15, were meant to target goods ranging from corn and wheat to U.S. made vehicles and auto parts.


Other Chinese tariffs that had already been implemented on U.S. goods would be left in place, the commission said in a statement issued on the websites of government departments including China’s finance ministry. “China hopes, on the basis of equality and mutual respect, to work with the United States, to properly resolve each other’s core concerns and promote the stable development of U.S.-China economic and trade relations,” it added. Beijing has agreed to import at least $200 billion in additional U.S. goods and services over the next two years on top of the amount it purchased in 2017, the top U.S. trade negotiator said Friday.

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Christopher Balding taught in China for a long time; he knows the country. This is his lenghty analysis of the trade deal.

Unpacking The No Deal Not a Trade War Trade War Deal (Balding)

Having been subjected to such a barrage of horrendous trade war analysis that seems more like literary therapy for the politically frustrated than actual deal analysis, I have opted to write my own analysis of the deal. I will as studiously as possible try to avoid or limit any political opinionating, and stick strictly to the analyzing the deal points within the USTR Fact Sheet and providing what are the likely trade offs, risks, and perspective about each points. Let’s get started.

This deal is about a lot more than agriculture.I’m leading with this one only because it is arguably the most common myth and repeated like the 10 Ten Commandments and divine truth even though it is clearly false on numerous levels. The USTR specifically lists IP protection, tech transfer, agriculture, financial services, currency, expanding trade, and dispute resolution as the major areas. One report in the news quoted a source as saying there were 9 chapters which would come close to matching these general areas. Even within the broader trade purchase aspect, agriculture is not even the main area. Let us please kill once and for all, this deal is just about agriculture.

Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer The two paragraphs on IP and tech transfer in the USTR statement provide scant detail but use relatively ambitious language with regards to Chinese commitments. In IP, China will “address long standing concerns”. In tech transfer, the language is even more ambitious saying China “agreed to end its long-standing practice of forcing or pressuring foreign companies to transfer their technology to Chinese companies as a condition for obtaining market access, administrative approvals, or receiving advantages from the government” and “commits to provide transparency, fairness, and due process in administrative proceedings and to have technology transfer and licensing take place on market terms” and “commits to refrain from directing or supporting outbound investments aimed at acquiring foreign technology pursuant to industrial plans that create distortion.”

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Borrowed in dollars, can’t pay back in dollars.

Giant China SEO Announces Largest Dollar Bond Default In Two Decades (ZH)

Two weeks ago we previewed what we said would soon be a D-Day for China’s bond market, as a massive commodities trader and Global 500 state-owned enterprise was set for an “unprecedented” bond default. As of last week, this historic default is now in the history books after Tewoo, the closely watched Chinese commodities trader, became the biggest dollar bond defaulter among the nation’s state-owned companies in two decades, in what Bloomberg called a “moment of reckoning” for Beijing as China struggles to contain credit risk in a weakening economy, as bond defaults hit an all time high and are set to keep rising in the coming years.

Last Wednesday, Tewoo Group announced results of its “unprecedented” debt restructuring, which saw a majority of its investors accepting heavy losses, and which according to rating agencies qualifies as an event of default. As a result of the default, until recently seen as virtually impossible for a state-owned company, investors’ perceptions are undergoing a dramatic U-turn about government-owned borrowers whose state-ownership had for years offered an ironclad sense of security. No more: The fact that a state-owned enterprise such as Tewoo has now defaulted on repaying its dollar bonds in full, confirms that Beijing will no longer bail out troubled SOEs, let alone private firms, perhaps due to the strains imposed by the economy which while growing at just below 6%, is slowing the most in three decades.

It also raises concerns over the Chinese province of Tianjin, where Tewoo is based, following a series of rating downgrades and financing difficulties suffered by some of the city’s state-run firms. The metropolis near Beijing also has the highest ratio of local government financing vehicle bonds to GDP in China. As a reminder, Tewoo ranked 132 in 2018’s Fortune Global 500 list, higher than many other conglomerates including service carrier China Telecommunications Corp. and financial titan Citic Group Corp. It had an annual revenue of $66.6 billion, profits of about $122 million, assets worth $38.3 billion, and more than 17,000 employees as of 2017, according to Fortune’s website.

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Glenn Greenwald has dug deep.

IG Report Reveals Scandal of Historic Magnitude for the FBI and US Media (GG)

Just as was true when the Mueller investigation closed without a single American being charged with criminally conspiring with Russia over the 2016 election, Wednesday’s issuance of the long-waited report from the Department of Justice’s Inspector General reveals that years of major claims and narratives from the U.S. media were utter frauds. Before evaluating the media component of this scandal, the FBI’s gross abuse of its power – its serial deceit – is so grave and manifest that it requires little effort to demonstrate it. In sum, the IG Report documents multiple instances in which the FBI – in order to convince a FISA court to allow it spy on former Trump campaign operative Carter Page during the 2016 election – manipulated documents, concealed crucial exonerating evidence, and touted what it knew were unreliable if not outright false claims.

If you don’t consider FBI lying, concealment of evidence, and manipulation of documents in order to spy on a U.S. citizen in the middle of a presidential campaign to be a major scandal, what is? [..] They are out-of-control, virtually unlimited police state factions that lie, abuse their spying and law enforcement powers, and subvert democracy and civic and political freedoms as a matter of course. In this case, no rational person should allow standard partisan bickering to distort or hide this severe FBI corruption. The IG Report leaves no doubt about it.

[..] It’s long been the case that CIA, FBI and NSA operatives tried to infiltrate and shape domestic news, but they at least had the decency to do it clandestinely. In 2008, the New York Times’ David Barstow won the Pulitzer Prize for exposing a secret Pentagon program in which retired Generals and other security state agents would get hired as commentators and analysts and then – unbeknownst to their networks – coordinate their messaging to ensure that domestic news was being shaped by the propaganda of the military and intelligence communities.

But now it’s all out in the open. It’s virtually impossible to turn on MSNBC or CNN without being bombarded with former Generals, CIA operatives, FBI agents and NSA officials who now work for those networks as commentators and, increasingly, as reporters. [..] The past three years of “Russiagate” reporting – for which U.S. journalists have lavished themselves with Pulitzers and other prizes despite a multitude of embarrassing and dangerous errors about the Grave Russian Threat – has relied almost exclusively on anonymous, uncorroborated claims from Deep State operatives (and yes, that’s a term that fully applies to the U.S.). The few exceptions are when these networks feature former high-level security state operatives on camera to spread their false propaganda,

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Tulsi to the rescue.

The Bloated Pentagon Budget Should Be Spent on Human Needs (Nation)

Even as our nation fails to allocate adequate resources to feed the hungry, house the homeless, care for the sick and protect our planet, the coffers of war profiteers continue to grow. This is why we joined with 102 faith leaders and groups to call upon those who are vying to become our next president to embrace significant reallocations away from the bloated Pentagon budget toward major reinvestments in the needs of our communities. The Pentagon is on track to receive $738 billion next year, despite its inability to account for the money it already has. This includes taxpayer dollars that are redirected to corporate war profiteers, such as a staggering $34 billion contract announced in October for Lockheed Martin’s costly and fault-plagued F-35 fighter jet.

Congress has increased the Pentagon’s budget by $20 billion compared to last year. To put this in perspective, that’s double the amount of the Environmental Protection Agency’s entire budget and one-third of all the money spent on international diplomacy and development. It’s a stark and appalling contrast to the lived reality in our communities. As just a few examples, there are 140 million poor and low-income people living in the United States; about 40 million people in this country face food insecurity; salaries for our nation’s teachers plummeted by more than 4.5 percent over the last decade; we are losing veterans to suicide and drug overdose at alarming rates; and our national infrastructure is crumbling beneath our feet.

Why, then, would our elected officials agree to pump more money into weapon systems that don’t work, endless wars that don’t make us safe, and a refurbishment of our nuclear weapons arsenal that, if employed, can only end in apocalyptic destruction? It’s not just bad policy. We find it immoral. President Eisenhower said more than half a century ago: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

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Note: Bellingcat is a crucial provider of “evidence” in the MH17 trial that starts in February. It has no credibility left.

The Art of Doublespeak: Bellingcat and Mind Control (Curtin)

In the 1920s, the influential American intellectual Walter Lippman argued that the average person was incapable of seeing or understanding the world clearly and needed to be guided by experts behind the social curtain. In a number of books he laid out the theoretical foundations for the practical work of Edward Bernays, who developed “public relations” (aka propaganda) to carry out this task for the ruling elites. Bernays had honed his skills while working as a propagandist for the United States during World War I, and after the war he set himself up as a public relations counselor in New York City. There is a fascinating exchange at the beginning of Adam Curtis’s documentary, The Century of Self (above), where Bernays, then nearly 100 years old but still very sharp, reveals his manipulative mindset and that of so many of those who have followed in his wake.

He says the reason he couldn’t call his new business “propaganda” was because the Germans had given propaganda a “bad name,” and so he came up with the euphemism “public relations.” He then adds that “if you could use it [i.e. propaganda] for war, you certainly could use it for peace.” Of course, he never used PR for peace but just to manipulate public opinion (he helped engineer the CIA coup against the democratically elected Arbenz government in Guatemala in 1954 with fake news broadcasts). He says “the Germans gave propaganda a bad name,” not Bernays and the United States with their vast campaign of lies, mainly aimed at the American people to get their support for going to a war they opposed (think weapons of mass destruction).

He sounds proud of his war propaganda work that resounded to his credit since it led to support for the “war to end all wars” and subsequently to a hit movie about WWI, Yankee Doodle Dandy, made in 1942 to promote another war, since the first one somehow didn’t achieve its lofty goal. As Bernays has said, “The American motion picture is the greatest unconscious carrier of propaganda in the world today.”

 

[..] There is a notorious propaganda outfit called Bellingcat, started by an unemployed Englishman named Eliot Higgins, that is funded by The Atlantic Council (a think-tank with deep ties to the U.S. government, NATO, war manufacturers, and their allies), and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) (another infamous U.S. front organization heavily involved in so-called color revolution regime change operations all around the world), that has just won the International Emmy Award for best documentary. The film with the Orwellian title, Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World, received its Emmy at a recent ceremony in New York City.

Bellingcat is an alleged group of amateur on-line researchers who have spent years shilling for the U.S. instigated war against the Syrian government, blaming the Douma chemical attack and others on the Assad government, and for the anti-Russian propaganda connected to, among other things, the Skripal poisoning case in England, and the downing of flight MH17 plane in Ukraine. It has been lauded by the corporate mainstream media in the west. Its support for the equally fraudulent White Helmets (also funded by the US and the UK) in Syria has also been praised by the western corporate media while being dissected as propaganda by many excellent independent journalists such as Eva Bartlett, Vanessa Beeley, Catte Black, among others.

It’s had its work skewered by the likes of Seymour Hersh and MIT professor Theodore Postol, and its US government connections pointed out by many others, including Ben Norton and Max Blumenthal at The Gray Zone. And now we have the mainstream media’s wall of silence on the leaks from the OPCW concerning the Douma chemical attack and the doctoring of their report that led to the illegal US bombing of Syria in the spring of 2018. Bellingcat was at the forefront of providing justification for such bombing, and now the journalists Peter Hitchens, Tareq Harrad (who recently resigned from Newsweek after accusing the publication of suppressing his revelations about the OPCW scandal) and others are fighting an uphill battle to get the truth out.

Yet Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World won the Emmy, fulfilling Bernays’ point about films being the greatest unconscious carriers of propaganda in the world today. Who presented the Emmy Award to the filmmakers, but none other than the rebel journalist Chris Hedges.

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Dismantling the OPCW is the only possible way forward.

WikiLeaks: 20 OPCW Inspectors Dissent From Syria Chemical Attack Narrative (ZH)

Late Saturday WikiLeaks released more documents which contradict the US narrative on Assad’s use of chemical weapons, specifically related to the April 7, 2018 Douma incident, which resulted in a major US and allied tomahawk missile and air strike campaign on dozens of targets in Damascus.

The leaked documents, including internal emails of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) — which investigated the Douma site — reveal mass dissent within the UN-authorized chemical weapons watchdog organization’s ranks over conclusions previously reached by the international body which pointed to Syrian government culpability. It’s part of a growing avalanche of dissent memos and documents casting the West’s push for war in Syria in doubt (which had resulted in two major US and allied attacks on Syria). This newly released batch, WikiLeaks reports, includes a memo stating 20 inspectors feel that the officially released version of the OPCW’s report on Douma “did not reflect the views of the team members that deployed to [Syria]”.

This comes amid widespread allegations US officials brought immense pressure to bear on the organization. The Daily Mail’s Peter Hitchens, who saw the leaked documents just prior to WikiLeaks going public with them had this to say: Sources stress that the scientists involved are ‘non-political, utterly uninterested in any strategic implications of what they reveal’. They just ‘feel that the OPCW has a duty to be true to its own science, and not to be influenced by political considerations as they fear it has been’. An internal memo seen by The Mail on Sunday suggests that as many 20 OPCW staff have expressed private doubts about the suppression of information or the manipulation of evidence.

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This is about 1988. 25 years later, in 2013, Hunter was discharged from the U.S. Navy after testing positive for cocaine. One year after, he landed his job with Burisma. Two years after that, a 2016 police report said that Hunter Biden returned a rental car in Arizona that contained a cocaine pipe and “a small ziplock bag with a white powdery substance inside all sitting on the passenger seat.”

Hunter Biden Drugs Charge Kept Under Wraps As Joe Led Drug War From Senate (WE)

Joe Biden’s son Hunter was arrested on Jersey Shore drug charges in 1988 and had his record expunged at a time when his father was pushing for the incarceration of drug offenders drawn disproportionately from minority groups. Congressional records reveal that Hunter Biden, now 49, was arrested in Stone Harbor, New Jersey, where the Biden family has often holidayed over the years, in June 1988. Hunter Biden, then 18, had just graduated from the prestigious Archmere Academy prep school, which his father had also attended. The former vice president and his wife Jill have often been spotted on trips to Stone Harbor.

The arrest has not previously been reported. Republicans have recently highlighted Hunter Biden’s drug abuse, questioning why it was not taken into account when the lobbyist was appointed to a $50,000-a-month post on the board of the Ukraine oil company Burisma in 2014, when his father, as vice president, was the Obama administration’s lead official on Ukraine. A year after the arrest, Joe Biden gave a speech in which he said the federal government needed to “hold every drug user accountable” because, “If there were no drug users, there would be no appetite for drugs, there would be no market for them.” He neglected to mention the drug use in his own family.

[..] Five months after his son escaped a sentence and had his possession charge kept secret, Biden voted for the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, which made crack cocaine, often used by poor, black offenders, the only drug with a mandatory minimum penalty for a first offense of simple possession. But while many minorities were imprisoned for minor drug offenses, the wealthy, white Hunter Biden was allowed to participate in a state diversionary program called pretrial intervention. The program allowed first offenders to “avoid a trial and having the stigma accompanying a guilty verdict,” according to the Rubinstein Law Firm in New Jersey.

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Advice on how to deal with it, not a statement about how ridiculous this is.

One-Third Of Credit Card Debt Is Caused By Medical Expenses (CNBC)

For millions of Americans, unexpected bills can be summed up in two words: medical debt. Surprise health-care costs have affected about 137.1 million adults in the past year, according to recent research. And many Americans are turning to credit cards to help manage those debt burdens, according to CompareCards.com. The website found that 33% of cardholders are in debt because of medical bills. And nearly 60% said they used a card because they had no other way to pay. If you’re saddled with this debt, you need to take action.


First, start by making sure that you’re getting the best interest rates for your balances. If you have debt sitting on a high-interest card, consider transferring the balance to a 0% credit card. You may also use a medical credit card for out-of-pocket expenses not covered by your insurance. These cards, which are offered by companies like CareCredit, have special financing you may not get on other cards. They’re interest-free for a few months as long as you make your monthly payments on time. After that period, though, be sure to pay the balance off in full to avoid deferred interest that will charged from the original date of purchase.

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Obama revived the Espionage Act. But he didn’t have the guts to use it against journalists.

Edward Snowden Speaks Out for Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning (RPI)

Last week, Edward Snowden, a whistleblower who has since 2013 escaped similar silencing via retaining sanctuary in Russia, spoke up in strong advocacy for Assange and Manning’s freedom. He did so in an interview with Democracy Now host Amy Goodman. Snowden points out in the interview that the US cases against Assange, Manning, and himself all derive from the Espionage Act, the same Espionage Act that he notes was used against Daniel Ellsberg in the 1970s after Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to media. Pointing as an example to Ellsberg being prevented from even telling a jury at trial why he leaked the Pentagon Papers that revealed the hidden truth about US actions in the Vietnam War, Snowden emphasizes that the Espionage Act “is a special law that absolutely rules out any kind of fair trial.”

Continuing, Snowden discusses in the interview Manning’s revelations of “torture and war crimes, indefinite detention on the part of the United States government in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba” and Snowden’s own “involvement in the revelation of global mass surveillance” as being part of activities by a “new generation” of whistleblowers. Like Ellsberg, Snowden relates that he and Manning were confronted with the Espionage Act “that forbids the jury to consider” if the leaking activity at issue “was something that did more good for the public to know than it did harm to the government in terms of inconvenience or theoretical risks of investigative journalism in a free society.” And Snowden makes sure to emphasizes that the victims of this type of persecution over the last few years extend beyond Manning and himself.

Indeed, the charging of Julian Assange under the Espionage Act Snowden sees as particularly threatening. States Snowden: “We moved from an individual and exceptional case that was not repeated for decades and decades in the Ellsberg instance to something that under the Obama administration he charged more sources of journalism using this special law than all other presidents in the history of the United States combined. And now, under the Trump administration, we have taken one more step. We have gone from the United States government’s war on whistleblowers to, now, a war on journalism with the indictment of Julian Assange for what even the government itself admits was work related to journalism. And this I think is a dangerous, dangerous thing — not just for us, not just for Julian Assange, but for the world and the future.”

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“December 20 is an important day..”

Assange Lawyer Discloses Conditions For British Justice TO RETHINK His Extradition (RT)

A Spanish judge will question Julian Assange on a Spain-based security firm thought to have spied on him in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. His lawyer hopes it may help thwart the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition to the US. Set for next week, the questioning is part of a criminal inquiry the Spanish High Court is carrying out into UC Global, a private security company suspected of gathering surveillance on Assange and passing it further to US intelligence services. “December 20 is an important day,” Aitor Martinez, a lawyer in charge of defending Assange in Spain, told Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency. The Spanish judge will go to Westminster Magistrates Court “to receive a video conference testimony from Mr Assange as a victim of the alleged spy plot,” he revealed.

The firm’s name surfaced this summer when El Pais newspaper reported that it was eavesdropping on Assange during his exile at the Ecuadorian diplomatic mission in London. Citing recordings it has had access to, the paper alleged that the firm – tasked to guard the embassy – specifically focused on Assange’s legal matters discussions. Now, Assange’s input is invaluable as it can pave the way to shooting down US efforts to try the publisher on their soil, Martinez explained. “Obviously, once Spanish justice receives such testimonies from Mr. Assange … the British justice should rethink the usefulness of his extradition [to the US],” he argued. As the inquiry progressed, the Spanish High Court arrested the company’s owner David Morales, a former member of the Spanish military, believed to have liaised with the US side.

He was released on bail, but his company’s premises were searched and his bank accounts frozen. As the story unfolded, it emerged that UC Global operatives also monitored Russian and American visitors to Assange, handing their profiles to US intelligence. Morales himself didn’t try to hide his ties to the “American friends.” According to Germany’s NDR broadcaster, which filed a complaint against UC Global for having targeted one of its journalists who visited Assange, Morales allegedly told one of his employees: “From now on, we play in the first league… We are now working for the dark side.” He is said to have traveled up to twice a month to the US to deliver intelligence taken from the Ecuadorian Embassy.

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And in our own bodies too, if not now then soon.

A Million Times More Microplastic In The Oceans Than We Thought (Wef)

There could be a million times more microplastics floating around our oceans than previously thought, according to new research suggesting existing studies could have seriously underestimated the problem. Some microplastics – defined as fragments measuring less than 5 mm – are too small to be caught in the nets traditionally used to collect samples, making them go unnoticed. But researchers say a new technique has enabled more accurate measurements, capturing pieces smaller than the width of a human hair. The study, led by biological oceanographer Jennifer Brandon of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, published in the science journal Limnology and Oceanography Letters, found the concentration of tiny plastic pieces could be five to seven orders of magnitude greater than previously thought.

These fragments make their way into the world’s waterways and end up in our oceans. More than one-third of microplastics in the ocean come from synthetic fabrics, such as polyester or nylon. Car tyres are the second-leading source, releasing plastic particles as they erode. To more accurately record the level of microplastic pollution in ocean waters, the researchers analysed seawater salps, which are tiny, barrel-shaped filter feeders. These invertebrates inhabit ocean waters to depths of around 2 kilometres. Salps pump salt water through their bodies as they perform a pulsing movement both to feed and to move through the ocean. Filter-feeding in the ocean depths makes them a likely place to find microplastics, the researchers say.

All of the salp samples taken from three different ocean zones had mini-microplastic particles in their stomachs. Since food passes through the creature’s digestive system in two to seven hours, it was an alarming find. “The thing that truly surprised me the most was that every salp, regardless of year collected, species, life stage, or part of the ocean collected, had plastic in its stomach,” Brandon explained to Earther. “A species having 100% ingestion rates is quite extraordinary, and devastating for the food web that eats salps.”

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Dec 012019
 


Arthur Rothstein Family leaving South Dakota drought for Oregon Jul 1936

 

Fastest-Growing Debt Category In US Not Student Loans Or Credit Cards (CNBC)
Automakers Offer Record Incentives As Trillion Dollar Auto Bubble Bursts (ZH)
The Fed’s Answer to the Ghastly Monster of its Creation (EP)
Germany Closes All Nuclear Plants, Must Bury Waste For 1 Million Years (CNN)
Spanish Judge To Question Assange Over Ecuador Embassy Spying Claims (El Pais)
‘We’re Working For The Dark Side’: Firm Accused Of Spying On Assange (RT)
Tulsi Gabbard: Wake Up And Smell Our $6.4 Trillion Wars (AC)
OPCW Manipulation Of Douma Report Requires Fresh Look At Skripal Case (MoA)
Prince Andrew Meeting With US Authorities Would Be A ‘Catch-22’ (G.)
Will The Epstein Story Ever be Fully Told? (Rice)
Scott Adams Has Some Ideas for a Calmer Internet (Wired)

 

 

Here, have some money.

Fastest-Growing Debt Category In US Not Student Loans Or Credit Cards (CNBC)

It’s the fastest-growing debt category in the country, but if you are thinking student loans or credit cards, you’re wrong. Personal loan balances now exceed $300 billion, as of the second quarter of this year, according to Experian, a whopping 11% yearly increase. For good reason, too, as personal loans can help to consolidate credit card debt, or make funds available for major projects, such as a home remodeling effort. For many of us, the allure is hard to ignore, but personal loans do differ in some key ways from other types of credit you might use, such as credit cards. It’s important to understand the key differences before signing on the dotted line.


As compared to credit cards, personal loan interest rates can vary much more dramatically, according to research by ValuePenguin. In fact, some borrowers with excellent credit may qualify for loans with interest rates as low as 5% or 6% with some lenders. On the other hand, borrowers with poor credit may encounter rates higher than the average credit card, sometimes exceeding 30%. This wide range of interest rates make personal loans more affordable for those with better credit, and may make the most sense for borrowers with excellent credit who can pay off the loan in a timely manner. On the other hand, borrowers with poor or fair credit may face interest rates higher than what they’d otherwise qualify for with a credit card.

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Can we recognize an industry that is dying? Or do we simply refuse?

Automakers Offer Record Incentives As Trillion Dollar Auto Bubble Bursts (ZH)

Early last month, we outlined how automobile sales deteriorated in late summer and prophesized how “this would set the stage for increased incentive spending by carmakers, who will be desperate to clear inventory heading into the end of the year.” It seems that we were right. Automakers are now offering the most discounts on record to entice deadbeat consumers in November, according to a new report from JD Power. The average incentive spending per vehicle is $4,538, an increase of 12% YoY. The previous high for the industry was $4,378 in 4Q17. Inventories for older model-year vehicles have soared in 2H19, forcing automakers to boost incentive spending to clear excess inventory. With the average APR to finance a vehicle around 5.3% for the month, the average transaction price remained above $34,000, down from $179 from last month but up $622 over the year.

As a result of low rates and record-high incentives, consumers spent $40.3 billion on new vehicles in November. This figure is up $2.7 billion from 2018. Thomas King, Senior Vice President of the Data and Analytics Division at JD Power, said, manufacturers will offer even greater incentives through December, and the trend could continue into early 2020. “Incentive spending typically rises by 3-4% in December, which would continue to drive overall spending to unprecedented territory,” King said. King warned: “This [incentive trend] is concerning for the health of the industry when combined with rising sub-prime sales, which are growing at the highest rate since August 2018.”

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“..the bull market in stocks is not a function of a booming economy. Rather, it’s a function of Fed madness. And its existence becomes ever more perilous with each passing day.”

The Fed’s Answer to the Ghastly Monster of its Creation (EP)

The launch angle of the U.S. stock market over the past decade has been steep and relentless. The S&P 500, after bottoming out at 666 on March 6, 2009, has rocketed up over 370 percent. New highs continue to be reached practically every day. Over this stretch, many investors have been conditioned to believe the stock market only goes up. That blindly pumping money into an S&P 500 ETF is the key to investment riches. In good time, this conditioning will be recalibrated with a rude awakening. You can count on it. In the interim, the bull market may continue a bit longer…or it may not. But, to be clear, after a 370 percent run-up, buying the S&P 500 represents a speculation on price. A gamble that the launch angle furthers its steep trajectory. Here’s why…

Over the past decade, the U.S. economy, as measured by nominal GDP, has increased about 50%. This plots a GDP launch angle that is underwhelming when compared to the S&P 500. Corporate earnings have fallen far short of share prices. Hence, the bull market in stocks is not a function of a booming economy. Rather, it’s a function of Fed madness. And its existence becomes ever more perilous with each passing day. Central planners at the Fed – like other major central banks – have taken monetary policy to a state of madness. Zero interest rate policy, negative interest rate policy, quantitative easing, operation twist, quantitative tightening, reserve management, repo market intervention, not-QE, mass-asset purchases, and more.

These schemes have fostered massive growth in public and private debt with nothing but lackluster economic growth to show. What’s more, these schemes have produced massive asset bubbles that have skyrocketed wealth inequality and inflamed countless variants of new populism. Yet the clever fellows at the Fed are blind to the fact that they’re most responsible for fabricating this monster. And now they want to rectify the ghastly deformities of their creation… Earlier this week, for example, Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari remarked that: “Monetary policy can play the kind of redistributing role once thought to be the preserve of elected officials.”

How exactly Mickey Mousing with credit markets could attain this objective is unclear. But, like yield curve control (YCC), Kashkari wants to give it a go. These sorts of amorphous meddling operations is how he answers his higher calling. You see, Kashkari’s a man with crazy eyes. But he’s also a man with even crazier ideas. He’s an extreme economic interventionist – and a crackpot. Though he wears his burdens on his sleeve. If you recall, as federal bailout chief, Kashkari functioned as the highly visible hand of the market. When the sky was falling in early-2009, he awoke each morning, put on his pants one leg at a time, drank his coffee, and rapidly funneled Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s $700 billion of TARP funds to the government’s preferred financial institutions.

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No human being can guarantee anything for a million years. It’s a mad mad claim.

Germany Closes All Nuclear Plants, Must Bury Waste For 1 Million Years (CNN)

When it comes to the big questions plaguing the world’s scientists, they don’t get much larger than this. Where do you safely bury more than 28,000 cubic meters – roughly six Big Ben clock towers – of deadly radioactive waste for the next million years? This is the “wicked problem” facing Germany as it closes all of its nuclear power plants in the coming years, according to Professor Miranda Schreurs, part of the team searching for a storage site. Experts are now hunting for somewhere to bury almost 2,000 containers of high-level radioactive waste. The site must be beyond rock-solid, with no groundwater or earthquakes that could cause a leakage. The technological challenges – of transporting the lethal waste, finding a material to encase it, and even communicating its existence to future humans – are huge.


Germany decided to phase out all its nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in 2011, amid increasing safety concerns. The seven power stations still in operation today are due to close by 2022. With their closure comes a new challenge — finding a permanent nuclear graveyard by the government’s 2031 deadline. Germany’s Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy says it aims to find a final repository for highly radioactive waste “which offers the best possible safety and security for a period of a million years.” The country was a “blank map” of potential sites, it added.

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Took 3 months. Normally, a matter of days.

Spanish Judge To Question Assange Over Ecuador Embassy Spying Claims (El Pais)

The British justice system has finally agreed to let a Spanish judge question WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as a witness in a case involving allegations that a Spanish security firm spied on him while he was living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Judge José de la Mata of Spain’s High Court, the Audiencia Nacional, will interview the cyber-activist via video link on December 20, said judicial sources. Assange will be transferred from Belmarsh prison in southeast London to Westminster Magistrates Court to answer questions from De la Mata, who is investigating alleged violations of client-attorney privilege between the cyber-activist and his lawyers, and allegations that these conversations were passed on to the CIA.


British civil servants visited Assange in prison last week, asked him whether he agreed to be questioned by De la Mata, and delivered a document listing the events under investigation by the judge, who had issued a European Investigation Order (EIO) in September requesting assistance from British authorities. It has not been easy to secure the UK’s permission to question the Australian cyber-activist. The Spanish judge sent London the EIO on September 25, requesting authorization to interview Assange as part of an investigation into Morales and his company for breach of privacy, violation of client-attorney privilege and illegal arms possession.

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Has the guy been arrested yet?

‘We’re Working For The Dark Side’: Firm Accused Of Spying On Assange (RT)

A private security firm that allegedly spied on Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London bragged about its nefarious activities and ties to US intelligence, according to German public broadcaster NDR. The troubling revelations are part of a criminal complaint filed by NDR against Undercover Global, a Spanish security company contracted by the Ecuadorian government to film and review guests at their embassy in London. The firm is accused of using the commission to carry out a vast spying operation targeting the WikiLeaks co-founder, who sought political asylum in the embassy for seven years before his hosts handed him over to British authorities. The German broadcaster claims to have a huge cache of documents detailing the illegal surveillance operation – which also targeted NDR journalists who visited Assange.


Former employees of Undercover Global said that the company’s CEO, David Morales, didn’t try to hide his ties to the US government. Upon returning from a trip to the United States, Morales allegedly told one of his employees: “From now on, we play in the first league… We are now working for the dark side.” He is said to have traveled up to twice a month to the States to deliver materials taken from the Ecuadorian Embassy. When asked by colleagues who his “American friends” were, Morales reportedly replied: “the US Secret Service.” Incredibly, a lawyer from Undercover Global acknowledged to NDR that the company works with US intelligence agencies – but denied any wrongdoing at the Ecuadorian Embassy.

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“..our wars have killed 801,000 directly and resulted in a multiple of that number dead indirectly..”

Tulsi Gabbard: Wake Up And Smell Our $6.4 Trillion Wars (AC)

The Democratic establishment is increasingly irritated. Representative Tulsi Gabbard, long-shot candidate for president, is attacking her own party for promoting the “deeply destructive” policy of “regime change wars.” Gabbard has even called Hillary Clinton “the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party.” [..] Gabbard recognizes that George W. Bush is not the only simpleton warmonger who’s plunged the nation into conflict, causing enormous harm. In the last Democratic presidential debate, she explained that the issue was “personal to me” since she’d “served in a medical unit where every single day, I saw the terribly high, human costs of war.”

Compare her perspective to that of the ivory tower warriors of Right and Left, ever ready to send others off to fight not so grand crusades. The best estimate of the costs of the post-9/11 wars comes from the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University. The Institute says that $6.4 trillion will be spent through 2020. They estimate that our wars have killed 801,000 directly and resulted in a multiple of that number dead indirectly. More than 335,000 civilians have died—and that’s an extremely conservative guess. Some 21 million people have been forced from their homes. Yet the terrorism risk has only grown, with the U.S. military involved in counter-terrorism in 80 nations. Obviously, without American involvement there would still be conflicts.

Some counter-terrorism activities would be necessary even if the U.S. was not constantly swatting geopolitical wasps’ nests. Nevertheless, it was Washington that started or joined these unnecessary wars (e.g., Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen) and expanded necessary wars well beyond their legitimate purposes (Afghanistan). As a result, American policymakers bear responsibility for much of the carnage. The Department of Defense is responsible for close to half of the estimated expenditures. About $1.4 trillion goes to care for veterans. Homeland security and interest on security expenditures take roughly $1 trillion each. And $131 million goes to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, which have overspent on projects that have delivered little.

More than 7,000 American military personnel and nearly 8,000 American contractors have died. About 1,500 Western allied troops and 11,000 Syrians fighting ISIS have been killed. The Watson Institute figures that as many as 336,000 civilians have died, but that uses the very conservative numbers provided by the Iraq Body Count. The IBC counts 207,000 documented civilian deaths but admits that doubling the estimate would probably yield a more accurate figure. Two other respected surveys put the number of deaths in Iraq alone at nearly 700,000 and more than a million, though those figures have been contested. More than a thousand aid workers and journalists have died, as well as up to 260,000 opposition fighters. Iraq is the costliest conflict overall, with as many as 308,000 dead (or 515,000 from doubling the IBC count). Syria cost 180,000 lives, Afghanistan 157,000, Yemen 90,000, and Pakistan 66,000.

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“..a psycho agent 25 times stronger than LSD..”

OPCW Manipulation Of Douma Report Requires Fresh Look At Skripal Case (MoA)

The OPCW had send blood samples from the Skripals to the Spiez laboratory in Switzerland which found BZ, a psycho agent 25 times stronger than LSD. The OPCW hid this fact in its reports. An attack with BZ on the Skripals would be consistent with the observed symptoms that bystanders had described. The Skripals were indeed hallucinating and behaved very strangly with Sergei Skipal lifting his arms up to the sky while sitting on a bench. Exposure to BZ would also explain the Skripals’ survival. The OPCW explained the BZ find by claiming that it had mixed BZ into the probe to test the laboratory. Something which it said it regularly does. At that time I still believed in the OPCW and found that explanation reasonable:

“The OPCW responded to Russian question about the BZ and high rate of A-234 in the Spiez Laboratory probe and report. OPCW said today that it was a control probe to test the laboratory. Such probes are regularly slipped under the real probes to make sure that the laboratories the OPCW uses are able to do their job and do not manipulate their results. That explanation is reasonable. I guess we can close the BZ theories and go back to food poisoning as the most likely cause of the Skripals’ illness.” In light of the OPCW management manipulation or suppression of the reports of its own specialists for the purpose of attributing the Douma incident to the Syrian government I have to change my opinion. I hereby retract my earlier acceptance of the OPCW’s explanation in the Skripal case.

As we now know that the OPCW management manipulates reports at will we can no longer accept the ‘control probe’ excuse without further explanations or evidence. Here is what seems to have happened. The OPCW did not send a control sample to Spiez to test the laboratory. It sent the original samples from the Skripals. Spiez found BZ and reported that back to the OPCW. The OPCW suppressed the Spiez results in its own reports. Somehow Russia got wind of the Spiez results and exposed the manipulation. Acceptance that the Skripals had been ‘buzzed’, not ‘novi-shocked’ is central to the Skripal case. It makes the whole Skripal case as a British operation to prevent the repatriation of Sergei Skripal to Russia much more plausible.

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They can’t even serve him with a subpoena because his staff would shield him. Time for the Queen to do the right thing. Or abdicate.

Prince Andrew Meeting With US Authorities Would Be A ‘Catch-22’ (G.)

Prince Andrew is not charged with wrongdoing but with the BBC airing an interview with Giuffre on 2 December the controversy is only likely to ramp up. [..] If Prince Andrew were lawfully served with a subpoena – be it for a grand jury, or a trial or deposition – generally speaking, he will need to comply. However, it is far more difficult to serve him outside the US. “Due to the heightened measures of security that surround the royal family, it certainly is far more difficult to walk up to a member of the royal family and serve them a subpoena as you would a private citizen,” Weinstein said. While there are rules about how to serve subpoenas on a foreign national on US soil, such as surprising them at points of entry, diplomatic immunity and his being a high-profile royal could further complicate the issue.

Rebecca Roiphe, a New York Law School professor and former assistant district attorney in Manhattan, said there could be legal risks in Prince Andrew cooperating depending on his potential involvement with Epstein’s activities. “If he was peripherally involved in that, if he has information about others, I would say absolutely any attorney would take him in to cooperate,” Roiphe said. “The problem is, if he faces serious exposure and he’s a target of that information, most attorneys would not have him explain everything he knows – it really depends.” Mary Ellen O’Toole, who was formerly an FBI profiler deeply involved in finding the Unabomber killer, said that if Prince Andrew could provide information that would further the investigation and clear him at the same time, it “probably would be very helpful to him” to come forward.

O’Toole said the utility in cooperating with authorities largely depends on how he would handle the situation and that the pitfalls of such an interview were real as being untruthful with authorities can flout laws against making false statements, leading to further legal problems stemming from the interviews themselves. “I think it would be considered an adversarial situation – I don’t know how prepared he would be,” said O’Toole, who now directs the forensic science department at George Mason University in Virginia. “Sometimes people come in and say things that get them jammed up. “It is a catch-22 situation for him,” O’Toole said.

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Hell no.

Will The Epstein Story Ever be Fully Told? (Rice)

Every person named in court documents or press reports as allegedly or possibly having sex with an underaged girl or young woman at Epstein’s bequest has denied the allegations. Which begs the question: Who’s telling the truth and who’s lying? To form an opinion on this central question, authorities would presumably need to interview anyone with possible knowledge of alleged sexual or criminal acts. Investigators could then seek information that either corroborates or impeaches each person’s account. However, evidence is growing that the protocol in a typical “he-said, she-said” investigation is not being followed in the Epstein case. Instead, authorities may have simply accepted as truth the statements of denial issued by powerful public figures.

True or not, many Americans believe the Department of “Justice” will not prosecute (perhaps even question) scores of individuals who may have broken U.S. laws and who may have been victims of a disturbing blackmail operation. Perhaps authorities have concluded it’s better to not know. Perhaps they realize if they interview one suspected “John,” they’ll have to interview every potential “John.” if this number ends up being massive, and includes a Who’s Who of our society, important illusions about society’s leaders and our system of justice could be shattered. At its core, the Epstein case will reveal whether government prosecutors and investigators possess the courage and integrity to expose sordid truths about some of the wealthiest, most-connected, powerful people in the world, and perhaps reveal embarrassing truths about our government.

Americans might soon learn what objective is more important to Justice Department officials: Protecting the rich and powerful from the consequences of their behavior, or confirming that a system of justice grounded in trust can still be trusted. Sadly, many Americans are convinced authorities will not do the right thing. However, in proving skeptics wrong, authorities would accomplish at least four objectives, all noble. They would punish the guilty. They would provide justice to victims too long ignored. They would deter future Epsteins and future “Johns,” especially those unaccustomed to being held accountable for their actions. And, perhaps most importantly, they would allow a ray of sunshine to pierce the shadow of cynicism that’s spread across our country.

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“..the “48-hour rule,” states that everyone should be given a grace period of a couple of days to retract any controversial statement they’ve made..”

“..the “20-year rule,” which states that everyone should be automatically forgiven for any mistakes they made more than two decades ago—with the exception of certain serious crimes..”

Scott Adams Has Some Ideas for a Calmer Internet (Wired)

After expressing support for Donald Trump in 2016, Dilbert creator Scott Adams estimates that he lost about 30 percent of his income and 75 percent of his friends. He says that that level of political polarization has created a climate of genuine fear. “People will come up, and they’ll usually whisper—or they’ll lower their voice, because they don’t want to be heard—and they’ll say, ‘I really like what you’re doing on your Periscope, and the stuff you’re saying about Trump,’” Adams says in Episode 389 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “They’re actually afraid to say it out loud. They literally whisper it to me in public places.” Adams blames the current climate on social media and a clickbait business model that rewards sensationalism over fact-based reporting.

Since the technology is here to stay, he says we’re going to need new societal norms to help foster a calmer, more constructive political discourse. “When society changes, every now and then you need a new rule of manners,” he says. “So for example, when cell phones were invented, you needed a new set of rules about where can you use them and can you do it in a restaurant, etc. And social media has gotten so hot, I thought maybe we need a few new rules.” He lays out two such rules in his new book, Loserthink. His first proposal, which he calls the “48-hour rule,” states that everyone should be given a grace period of a couple of days to retract any controversial statement they’ve made, no questions asked. “We live in a better world if we accept people’s clarifications and we accept their apologies, no matter whether we think—internally—it’s insincere,” he says.

His other idea is the “20-year rule,” which states that everyone should be automatically forgiven for any mistakes they made more than two decades ago—with the exception of certain serious crimes. It used to be the case that people’s thoughtless remarks and embarrassing gaffes would naturally fade into obscurity, but social media has created a situation where it’s easy to endlessly dredge up a person’s worst moments. “We’re not the same people that we were 20 years ago,” Adams says. “We’ve learned a bunch, our context has changed. If you’re doing all the right stuff, you’re getting smarter and kinder and wiser as you’re getting older. So being blamed for something you did 20 years ago is effectively being blamed for something a stranger did, because you’re just not that person anymore.”

Read more …

 

 

 

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Nov 242019
 
 November 24, 2019  Posted by at 9:51 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  21 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Portrait de femme (Dora Maar) 1943

 

Does Trump Have Bunch Of ‘Losers’ To Thank For Growing Economy? (Charlie Hall)
Phase 2 of the Great American Shale Oil & Gas Bust (WS)
Britain’s Carmakers Fear The Wheels Are Coming Off (G.)
Brick & Mortar Melts Down as Ecommerce Jumps by Most Ever (WS)
Ukraine, Trump, & Biden – The Real Story Behind “Ukrainegate” (Zuesse)
Yes, Ukraine Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election (Levine)
Internal OPCW E-Mail (WikiLeaks)
New Sexed-Up Dossier Furore: The Leaked Email In Full (DM)
How The Firm Lost Its Grip (O.)
Met Faces New Questions Over ‘Trafficked’ Teen In Epstein Case (G.)
Pilger Blasts ‘Cruel’ Media Coverage Of Julian Assange (RT)

 

 

Good friend Charlie Hall on America’s reality. Shale losses keep on coming.

Does Trump Have Bunch Of ‘Losers’ To Thank For Growing Economy? (Charlie Hall)

U.S. oil production originally peaked in 1970, and gas in 1973, but declined through 2007, when production was revitalized by the process of lateral drilling and “fracking.” This technological miracle allowed us to exploit deposits formerly considered low-grade. Now the United States produces more oil than it ever has, and is, with Saudi Arabia and Russia, one of the top three oil producers in the world. Fracking has also reversed the long decline of U.S. natural gas production, allowing the substitution of gas for coal and a proliferation of cheap plastics. But, curiously, this renaissance of petroleum in the United States has not led to a resurgence of profits in the oil and gas industry.

Quite the opposite, because almost none of the companies that have invested in fracking are turning a profit. Investors in this industry are losing a lot of money, some $83 billion since 2008, according to oil analyst Arthur Berman. This situation means that relatively cheap oil and gas are keeping the U.S. economy strong. But this cheap oil and gas is being partially subsidized by investors who are either losing money or receiving a poor return on investment. In this respect, President Trump has these financial “losers” to thank for a large part of the current health of the U.S. economy. This relation among oil supplies, prices and the political winds is not new and works both ways.

Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter were in office during the economically disastrous increase in the price of oil from less than $4 a barrel in 1972 to more than $35 in 1979. Both lost in their reelection bids. In 1980 and 1984, Ronald Reagan ran on a platform of “Let’s make America Great again” and “It’s morning again in America,” which coincided with the decline in oil prices during the 1980s. In the U.K., Margaret Thatcher was floundering in popularity in 1980, but then received most of the credit for the remarkable recovery of the U.K. economy. Was it her conservative management style, or the development of the North Sea oil, which occurred on her watch? Now that the North Sea oil boom is over, the U.K. economy is struggling again.

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And there’s more. Chesapeake is but one example.

Phase 2 of the Great American Shale Oil & Gas Bust (WS)

In 2019 through third quarter, 32 oil and gas drillers have filed for bankruptcy, according to Haynes and Boone. Since the end of September, a gaggle of other oil and gas drillers have filed for bankruptcy, including last Monday, natural gas producer Approach Resources. This pushed the total number of bankruptcy filings of oil and gas drillers since the beginning of 2015 to over 200. Other drillers, such as Chesapeake Energy, are jostling for position at the filing counter. Chesapeake has been burning cash ever since it started fracking. To feed its cash-burn machine, it has borrowed large amounts and has been buckling under its debt for years, selling assets to raise cash and keep drilling for another day.

But its debt is still nearly $10 billion. Its shares [CHK] closed on Friday at 59 cents. On November 5, in an SEC filing, it warned of its own demise unless oil and gas prices surge into the sky asap: “If continued depressed prices persist, combined with the scheduled reductions in the leverage ratio covenant, our ability to comply with the leverage ratio covenant during the next 12 months will be adversely affected which raises substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern.” In early 2016, during Phase 1 of the oil bust — which had started in mid-2014 — Chesapeake had already used the threat of bankruptcy to push its creditors into accepting a debt restructuring. At the time, it was the second largest natural gas producer in the US.

The debt restructuring reduced its debt burden somewhat and pushed maturities out, which then allowed it to borrow new money from new investors with a series of bond sales. This coincided with the Wall Street floodgates reopening to the oil and gas sector, when PE firms, hedge funds, and distressed-debt funds piled billions of dollars into the sector, and many of the oil and gas drillers were able to raise more cash to burn. Chesapeake’s series of bond sales that it then undertook included, in January 2018, $1.25 billion of senior unsecured convertible notes with a coupon of 5.5%, due in September 2026. It issued those bonds at a discount, but by July 2018, a few months before Phase 2 of the oil bust set in, the bonds were trading at 103 cents on the dollar. On Friday, the last trade was at 45 cents on the dollar, giving these bonds a yield of over 21%:

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But still fascinated with Musk. Why?

Britain’s Carmakers Fear The Wheels Are Coming Off (G.)

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders is due to release numbers this week on car, commercial vehicle and engine manufacturing – figures that so far this year have been in reverse. At its last outing, the SMMT said that UK car production had fallen by a “bitterly disappointing” 3.8% during September, adding to a turbulent year-to-date in which political and economic turmoil, softness in key markets and operational changes have been blamed for a 15.6% slump. Unsurprisingly, the SMMT’s boss, Mike Hawes, warned that the industry was most worried about “the continued threat of a no-deal Brexit”, which is said to have caused “international investment to stall” and cost hundreds of millions of pounds, “money that would have better been spent in meeting the technological challenges facing the global industry”.

Hawes’s comments dovetail with a different announcement from earlier this month, when Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, said that the electric carmaker would be building its first major European factory on the outskirts of Berlin. “Brexit made it too risky to put a Gigafactory in the UK,” the entrepreneur said, to the delight of Remain campaigners. “[Boris] Johnson’s super-hard Brexit plan would see new trade barriers with our European partners,” wrote Lib Dem deputy leader Ed Davey in the Financial Times. “This will drive down already stagnant business investment … We must take seriously Mr Musk’s announcement.”

If he could be persuaded to comment on Tesla, Johnson would surely say the uncertainty will disappear as soon as we Get Brexit Done™. But Musk’s decision still seems like a missed opportunity, as he’s previously expressed an admiration for UK manufacturing – and F1 nous in particular. “We have a lot of respect for the British automotive engineering talent,” the billionaire told the Daily Telegraph in 2016. “Just look at Formula One – it amazes me how much British talent there is in that. We are likely to establish a Tesla engineering group in Britain at some point in the future.”

Read more …

So where will the kids meet now? Online only?

Brick & Mortar Melts Down as Ecommerce Jumps by Most Ever (WS)

Ecommerce sales in the third quarter 2019 spiked 17.3% from a year ago to $145.7 billion, not seasonally adjusted, according to the Commerce Department. On a seasonally adjusted basis, sales hit $154.5 billion. Ecommerce sales will exceed $600 billion in 2019, double the amount five years ago. In dollar terms, ecommerce sales jumped by $20.4 billion in Q3 compared to a year ago, the biggest dollar-jump in the history of ecommerce:

[..] Ecommerce is wiping out department stores one by one. The long-cherished destination for American shoppers is doomed. Sears is just the latest example of a long list of examples. Others will follow. Sales at brick-and-mortar department stores in Q3 fell 5.7% year-over-year to a new multi-decade low of $33.8 billion (seasonally adjusted). They’ve collapsed by 41% from the peak in Q4 2000 and by 20% from the beginning of the data series in 1992. People who still think that this trend is somehow going to turn around are fooling themselves. This is the brick-and-mortar business Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Sears are in:

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An enormous effort by Eric Zuesse. This is just a small sample. Impossible to choose from all the material.

Ukraine, Trump, & Biden – The Real Story Behind “Ukrainegate” (Zuesse)

Donald Trump has surrounded himself with neoconservatives. There’s not much distance between his policies toward Ukraine versus Barack Obama’s and Joe Biden’s. However, after Trump becomes impeached in the House (if that happens) and the impeachment trial starts in the Republican U.S. Senate, there will then be a perfect opportunity for Trump to embarrass the Democratic Party profoundly by exposing not only Joe Biden but Biden’s boss Obama as having caused the war in Ukraine. In order for him to do that, however, he’d also need to expose the rot of neoconservatism. Nobody in Washington does that, except, perhaps the rebelling Democrat, Tulsi Gabbard, and she’s rejected in the national polls now by the public within her own Party.

Neoconservatism is the uniform foreign-policy ideology of America’s billionaires, both Republican and Democratic, and this is why Washington is virtually 100% neocon. In America, wealth certainly doesn’t trickle down, but ideology apparently does — and that’s not merely neoliberalism but also its international-affairs extension: neoconservatism. Nonetheless, if a Trump re-election ticket were Trump for President, and Gabbard for Vice President, it might be able to beat anything that the Democrats could put up against it, because Trump would then head a ticket which would remain attractive to Republicans and yet draw many independents and even the perhaps 5% of Democrats who like her.

Only Sanders, if he becomes the Democratic nominee (and who is the least-neoconservative member of the U.S. Senate), would attract some of Gabbard’s supporters, but he wouldn’t be getting any money from the 607 people who mainly fund American politics. The 2020 U.S. Presidential contest could just go hog-wild. However, America’s billionaires probably won’t let that happen. Though there are only 607 of therm, they have enormous powers over the Government, far more than do all other Americans put together. The U.S. Supreme Court made it this way, such as by the 1976 Buckley decision, and the 2010 Citizens United decision.

Read more …

“Back in 2016, no one thought that Trump would win the presidency. So why bother hiding it?”

Yes, Ukraine Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election (Levine)

Let’s start with a fact: Meddling in the 2016 election by Ukrainian politicians and government agencies happened. The above is true and no amount of denial is going to change that. What’s more: Ukrainian nationals didn’t just meddle on their own, they also worked with Americans — including Ukrainian-American political operatives on the payroll of the Democratic Party. Not only did all this happen, it was written up as fact by establishment papers and outlets as varied as Yahoo, Politico, and the Financial Times in 2016 on the eve of the election. The involvement of Ukrainian pols and officials in all of this has never been secret. It was acknowledged at the time. The principle actors openly talked and bragged about their exploits in the press. And why not? Back in 2016, no one thought that Trump would win the presidency. So why bother hiding it?

One of the best examples of this is the plot to take down Paul Manafort — the sleazy Republican political consultant who had long worked in Ukraine and who headed Donald’s Trump campaign. In 2016, Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian member of parliament and an anti-corruption activist (who got embroiled in his own corruption scandal), coordinated the release of a handwritten ledger. The document purported to show off-the-book payments made to Manafort from the Party of the Regions — the political arm of the Viktor Yanukovich, the Ukrainian President who had been overthrown in a coup-type revolt by a much more western-friendly political faction. The ledger itself was released by NABU, a Ukrainian government anti-corruption organization set up as result of prodding by the Obama Administration and which was run with the backing and financial support of the FBI.


(As an aside: NABU — which also got embroiled into its own political corruption scandal — also happens to be at the heart of an internal Ukrainian political fight that sucked in ex-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. But that’s a different and complicated story. And then there’s the weird angle of the FBI being so closely involved with NABU at a time when this Ukrainian anti-corruption agency decided to involve itself in an American election.) Anyway, Leshchenko — a foreign politician — made clear that his objective at the time was to kill off Trump’s candidacy. That’s a direct admission of meddling. As Oleksiy Kuzmenko has documented so well, Leshchenko repeated this statement in various ways in both English and Ukrainian over and over again.

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We’ve known this for a while. The OPCW is a cesspool.

Internal OPCW E-Mail (WikiLeaks)

Wikileaks today publishes an e-mail, sent by a member of an OPCW fact-finding mission to Syria to his superiors, in which he expresses his gravest concern over intentional bias introduced to a redacted version of the report he co-authored. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons sent a team of experts to investigate allegations that a chemical attack took place in the Syrian city of Douma on the 7th of April 2018. The author of the e-mail was a member of that team and claims the redacted preliminary version of the report, misrepresents the facts he and his colleagues discovered on the ground. The e-mail is dated 22nd of June. It is addressed to Robert Fairweather, Chief of Cabinet, and forwarded to his deputy Aamir Shouket and members of the fact-finding mission to Douma.

He says this misrepresentation was achieved by selective omission, introducing a bias which undermines the credibility of the report. Further it is claimed that crucial facts, that have remained in the redacted version: “…have morphed into something quite different to what was originally drafted.” This is said to have been done at the behest of the Office of the Director General (a post that was held by Turkish diplomat Ahmet Üzümcü at the time, he has since been replaced by Spaniard Fernando Arias). The attack in question was widely attributed to the Syrian Army, based on reports by rebel forces that were present in Douma at the time, and this assertion was backed up by the United States, British and French governments. These three countries carried out air strikes against Syrian government targets in response, on the 14th of April 2018.

This was before the fact-finding team had gained access to the site in Douma, the mission there was delayed for nearly two weeks by entrenched rebel fighters and subsequent clashes between the rebels and government forces that moved into the area. Upon arrival the team found much of the physical evidence, including the bodies of the deceased, was no longer available. It was alleged that 49 had died and up to 650 had been seriously affected by a weaponized chemical gas released in a specific area of rebel-held Douma on that day in April. Rebels claimed the gas came from cylinders dropped from aircraft, clearly implicating Syrian government forces who had complete air superiority.

Read more …

The actual email, part of a long article by Peter Hitchens for the Daily Mail of all places.

New Sexed-Up Dossier Furore: The Leaked Email In Full (DM)

Dear ******,

I wish to express, as a member of the FFM (Fact Finding Mission) team that conducted the investigation into the alleged chemical attack in Douma on 7 April, my gravest concern at the redacted version of the FFM report, which I understand was at the behest of the ODG. (Office of the Director General). After reading this modified report, which incidentally no other team member who deployed into Douma has had the opportunity to do, I was struck by how much it misrepresents the facts. Many of the facts and observations outlined in the full version are inextricably interconnected and, by selectively omitting certain ones, an unintended bias has been introduced into the report, undermining its credibility. In other cases, some crucial facts that have remained in the redacted version have morphed into something quite different to what was initially drafted. If I may, I will outline some specific aspects to the redacted report that are particularly worrisome.

The statement in paragraph 8.3 of the final conclusions ‘The team has sufficient evidence at this time to determine that chlorine, or another reactive chlorine-containing chemical, was likely released from cylinders’, is highly misleading and not supported by the facts. The only evidence available at this moment is that some samples collected at Locations 2 and 4 were in contact with one or more chemicals that contain a reactive chlorine atom. Such chemicals could include molecular chlorine, phosgene, cyanogen chloride, hydrochloric acid, hydrogen chloride or sodium hypochlorite (the major ingredient of household chlorine-based bleach). Purposely singling out chlorine gas as one of the possibilities is disingenuous. It is also worth noting that the term ‘reactive chlorine-containing chemical’ used in the redacted report is, in fact, inaccurate. It actually describes a reactive chemical that contains chlorine which itself (the chlorine) is not necessarily reactive e.g. chlorophenol. The original report uses the more accurate term ‘a chemical containing reactive chlorine’.

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Pedophilia will do that. Time to get rid of the lot.

How The Firm Lost Its Grip (O.)

Future historians may conclude that Prince Andrew’s defining achievement was to gift the nation a new verb. Following a tumultuous week when his car-crash interview shook the House of Windsor so vigorously it seemed its palaces were in danger of losing their crenellations, the Duke of York now finds himself banished from duties. His fate is the 21st-century equivalent of that which befell the difficult minor royals of previous eras who were locked up in asylums, away from the public gaze. “Prince Andrew has been de-royaled, if there is such a word,” said the historian and biographer Robert Lacey, an adviser to the acclaimed Netflix series The Crown.


Photograph: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

“At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I really would compare it to 1936 and the abdication of Edward VIII. What we are talking about is effectively the removal of a member of the royal family as a result of public opinion.” The duke can take some comfort from the knowledge that if he had been around a few hundred years ago, things could have been worse. “One can even compare it to 1649, when Charles I was executed,” Lacey said. “This is a reminder that what was an institution of absolute power now depends ultimately on the consent and approval of the communities it seeks to represent, and Prince Andrew failed in this respect.”


Princess Diana’s bombshell Panorama confession did huge damage to the royal family. Prince Charles’s decision to admit to adultery via a television interview greatly reduced his standing in the eyes of the public. “Andrew is a bit of a plonker, everybody knows that,” said one source close to the palace. “There’s no way he should have been allowed to do that interview. They should have just sent him off to Australia. That would have been a bloody good idea. Out of sight, out of mind.”

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They knew about Andrew and kept quiet. Time to get rid of the lot.

Met Faces New Questions Over ‘Trafficked’ Teen In Epstein Case (G.)

The Victims’ Commissioner is demanding that the Metropolitan Police explain its decision not to pursue a full investigation into claims a teenager was trafficked to the UK to have sex with Prince Andrew. The Observer understands that Dame Vera Baird QC, a former solicitor general and chair of the Board of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, has taken a close interest in the allegations, first examined by Scotland Yard in 2015. Baird, who has focused on protecting victims of sexual and domestic abuse throughout her career, is currently observing election purdah and cannot speak to the media. However, prior to the election she made her views known to a victims’ rights campaigner, telling him that she would be requesting a meeting with the Met once purdah was over.


“Before the election was called I spoke at length with the Victims’ Commissioner and we both find it extraordinary that this matter was not proceeded with,” Harry Fletcher said. The Met has said that its investigators reviewed all “available evidence” after receiving a complaint relating to claims that were made in court documents. It was alleged that in 2001 a 17-year-old, now known to be Virginia Roberts, was “forced to have sex with Prince Andrew”, purportedly at the London home of socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, the one-time girlfriend of the late disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. His victims are now bringing claims for damages against his estate. It is understood that lawyers for Roberts also independently contacted the force in 2016. But the Met chose not to pursue a full investigation.

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“..the right to suck up to power..”

Pilger Blasts ‘Cruel’ Media Coverage Of Julian Assange (RT)

In a wide-ranging dismantling of mainstream media reporting on Julian Assange, award-winning journalist John Pilger has blasted the Guardian for its coverage of the WikiLeaks founder. Pilger took aim at a Guardian editorial published this week, which made the case for not extraditing the Australian to the US, where he could face 175 years behind bars for possession and dissemination of classified information. The BAFTA award-winning documentary filmmaker has offered his interpretation of what the editorial actually meant “What the Guardian was really saying was this: ‘We are the fourth estate, the bearers of true liberal principles, the guardians of sacred rights. Such as the right to suck up to power. The right to invade countries and the right to smear those who expose our double standards and, if necessary, the right to destroy them,’” he said.


If Julian were to succumb to the cruelty he has endured, week after week, month after month, newspapers like the Guardian would share the responsibility. Pilger is one of the contributors to a new book titled ‘In Defense of Julian Assange,’ and he made the comments at the book’s launch in London on Saturday. Writer and activist Tariq Ali, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, actress Pamela Anderson, and former diplomat Craig Murray are among the other high-profile names who contributed to the book, which is an essay compilation on the prosecution of Assange and freedom of speech.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Oct 252019
 
 October 25, 2019  Posted by at 9:37 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  20 Responses »


Ivan Shishkin The wilds 1881

 

Justice Dept. To Launch Criminal Investigation Into Its Own Russia Probe (Hill)
Trump Cancels All Admins’ NYT, WaPo Subscriptions (ZH)
EU Set To Put Brexit Delay On Hold After Johnson’s Ultimatum (G.)
Russian Gun Activist Maria Butina To Touch Down In Moscow Saturday (RT)
Despite Ultra-Low Mortgage Rates, New House Prices At Multi-Year Low (WS)
Vladimir Putin, Syria’s Pacifier-in-Chief (Escobar)
WikiLeaks Releases New Docs Questioning Syria Chemical Attack Narrative (ZH)
Indonesia’s Report On Lion Air 737 MAX Crash Faults Design, Certification (R.)
South Korea Grounds Nine Boeing 737 NG Planes With Cracks (R.)
Can The US Beat China In A “Trade War”? (Vltchek)
Johannesburg Shuts Down Computers City-Wide After Bitcoin Ransomware Attack (CCN)

 

 

It’s a probe of the Mueller probe. The MSM will do what they can to ridicule it, saying it’s for political reasosns only. But the Mueller probe wasn’t? At least they haven’t dared attack Durham yet, or his reputation.

Justice Dept. To Launch Criminal Investigation Into Its Own Russia Probe (Hill)

The Justice Department has reportedly opened a criminal investigation into its own Russia probe The New York Times reports. The newspaper reports that after former special counsel Robert Mueller closed the official investigation months ago, a new criminal inquiry will proceed to find out how the investigation of Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election and Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia “all began.” Attorney General William Barr has closely reviewed how the department handled the Russia investigation.

But shifting the administrative review to a criminal inquiry would allow the prosecutor presiding over the inquiry, John H. Durham, to subpoena for witness testimony and documents, people familiar with the matter told the Times. It would also enable Durham, a U.S. attorney appointed by Barr to lead the inquiry, to put together a grand jury and to file charges. When defined as an administrative review, Durham could only voluntarily interview witnesses and investigate government documents, according to the Times.

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Yes, this made me laugh.

Trump Cancels All Admins’ NYT, WaPo Subscriptions (ZH)

In what we are sure will be “hair-on-fire” screamed about as ‘tyrannical-book-burning’, President Trump has reportedly planning to instruct federal agencies to not renew their subscriptions to the New York Times and the Washington Post. As The Wall Street Journal reports, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in an email Thursday: “Not renewing subscriptions across all federal agencies will be a significant cost saving – hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars will be saved.” The decision comes days after the president cancelled the White House’s print subscriptions to the Post and the Times after expressing frustration with their coverage.


“We don’t even want it in the White House anymore,” Mr. Trump said of the Times during an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity that aired Monday night. “We’re going to probably terminate that and the Washington Post. They’re fake.” Additionally, The Journal reports that a White House official confirmed that print editions of the Times and the Post weren’t among the newspapers delivered to the White House on Thursday. And while liberals use “fact checkers” to force advertisers to boycott “right wing” websites/newspapers, President Trump’s response is even cleaner: “your subscription has been terminated.”

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Corbyn insists Boris must take No-Deal off the table.

EU Set To Put Brexit Delay On Hold After Johnson’s Ultimatum (G.)

The EU’s plan to offer the UK an extension until 31 January on Friday is expected to be put on hold after Boris Johnson threatened to pull the Brexit deal if Jeremy Corbyn rejects a general election. Sources said the dramatic developments in Westminster needed to be fully understood and the choreography in Brussels could change. Donald Tusk, the European council chairman, had been expected to announce on Friday morning, following a meeting with ambassadors, that the EU27 had accepted the delay requested in a letter reluctantly sent by Johnson last Saturday. But senior EU sources said the developments in London had left the situation in flux. An announcement is expected on Monday or Tuesday.

Suggestions that the Labour leader could reject Johnson’s demand for a general election on 12 December provoking the prime minister to pull his deal set alarm bells ringing. Sources said the French government wanted to see the outcome of the vote on a general election before making a decision, but that the other 26 member states were ready to grant the three-month extension. The final offer could differ from the extension requested in the Benn act by specifying that the UK could leave on 15 November if the deal was ratified in the UK and European parliament. Before Johnson’s ultimatum to the Labour leader, the EU looked set to offer a three-month extension, which could be cut short at the point at which the Brexit deal was ratified.

It remains the most likely outcome. “We don’t want to be dragged into British politics and this is what was requested,” said one senior EU diplomat. “They can leave earlier if they ratify the deal. To echo your prime minister, we just want Brexit done.”

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Bless her. Casualty of Russophobia.

Russian Gun Activist Maria Butina To Touch Down In Moscow Saturday (RT)

Maria Butina is finally coming back home, after spending over a year behind bars in a bizarre case of anti-Russian hysteria that saw the gun rights activist libeled in the media and locked up as “unregistered foreign agent.” She is expected to leave a federal prison in Tallahassee, Florida and would be transferred from to a migrant center in Miami on Friday, Russian ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov confirmed, saying The same day Butina would board the plane to Moscow and is set to touch down in the Russian capital on Saturday morning.


Butina was sentenced by a US federal judge for 18 months in April after pleading guilty to conspiring to act as a foreign agent without registration, Antonov said that he hopes Butina’s belated homecoming would “put an end to the most difficult period in her life,” and wished the 30-year-old reunite with her family and loved ones as soon as possible after her ordeal is over.

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A broken market. The Fed broke it.

Despite Ultra-Low Mortgage Rates, New House Prices At Multi-Year Low (WS)

The median price of new single-family houses in September fell 8.8% from a year ago to $299,400 – down 12.8% from the peak in November and December 2017 and back where the median price had first been in November 2014, according to the Commerce Department this morning: “Median price” means half of the houses sold for more, and half sold for less. The decline in the median price does not include incentives that are thrown in by homebuilders to close deals, such as free granite counter tops.

This median-price data – produced jointly by the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development – is “volatile” on a month-to-month basis. To show the longer-term trend, I added the 12-month moving average, which eliminates the monthly ups and downs. The September data point, being the average of the past 12 months, lags months behind of today’s market, but it allows for longer-term trends to become clearer. The lag of the 12-month moving average (red line) shows up in how, on the way up, median prices were mostly above the red line, and now on the way down, median prices are mostly below it:

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Let’s see what develops. Bit early to draw grand conclusions.

Vladimir Putin, Syria’s Pacifier-in-Chief (Escobar)

Russia-Turkey deal establishes ‘safe zone’ along Turkish border and there will be joint Russia-Turkey military patrols The negotiations in Sochi were long – over six hours – tense and tough. Two leaders in a room with their interpreters and several senior Turkish ministers close by if advice was needed. The stakes were immense: a road map to pacify northeast Syria, finally. The press conference afterwards was somewhat awkward – riffing on generalities. But there’s no question that in the end Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan managed the near impossible.

The Russia-Turkey deal establishes a safe zone along the Syrian-Turkish border – something Erdogan had been gunning for since 2014. There will be joint Russia-Turkey military patrols. The Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units), part of the rebranded, US-aligned Syrian Democratic Forces, will need to retreat and even disband, especially in the stretch between Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn, and they will have to abandon their much-cherished urban areas such as Kobane and Manbij. The Syrian Arab Army will be back in the whole northeast. And Syrian territorial integrity – a Putin imperative – will be preserved.

This is a Syria-Russia-Turkey win-win-win – and, inevitably, the end of a separatist-controlled Syrian Kurdistan. Significantly, Erdogan’s spokesman Fahrettin Altun stressed Syria’s “territorial integrity” and “political unity.” That kind of rhetoric from Ankara was unheard of until quite recently. Putin immediately called Syrian President Bashar al Assad to detail the key points of the memorandum of understanding. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov once again stressed Putin’s main goal – Syrian territorial integrity – and the very hard work ahead to form a Syrian Constitutional Committee for the legal path towards a still-elusive political settlement.

[..] For all the cliffhangers in Sochi, there was not a peep about an absolutely key element: who’s in control of Syria’s oilfields, especially after President Trump’s now-notorious tweet stating, “the US has secured the oil.” No one knows which oil. If he meant Syrian oil, that would be against international law. Not to mention Washington has no mandate – from the UN or anyone else – to occupy Syrian territory.

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Just as the US donates millions more to the White Helmets. OPCW should be dismantled.

WikiLeaks Releases New Docs Questioning Syria Chemical Attack Narrative (ZH)

A whistleblower with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), responsible for conducting an independent investigation into the alleged chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma on April 7, 2018, has presented WikiLeaks with a body of evidence suggesting the chemical weapons watchdog agency manipulated and suppressed evidence. A prior official OPCW report of the investigation issued last March found “reasonable grounds” for believing a toxic chemical was used against civilians, likely chlorine. Long prior to any independent investigators reaching the site, however, Washington had launched major tomahawk airstrikes against Damascus in retribution for “Assad gassing his own people”.

]WikiLeaks published documents based on evidence presented by the internal OPCW whistleblower to an expert review panel on Wednesday. “The panel was presented with evidence that casts doubt on the integrity of the OPCW,” WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnsson wrote. An official WikiLeaks press release said as follows: “Kristinn Hrafnsson took part in the panel to review the testimony and documents from the OPCW whistleblower. He says: “The panel was presented with evidence that casts doubt on the integrity of the OPCW. Although the whistleblower was not ready to step forward and/or present documents to the public, WikiLeaks believes it is now of utmost interest for the public to see everything that was collected by the Fact Finding Mission on Douma and all scientific reports written in relation to the investigation.”

“Based on the whistleblower’s extensive presentation, including internal emails, text exchanges and suppressed draft reports, we are unanimous in expressing our alarm over unacceptable practices in the investigation of the alleged chemical attack in Douma,” the experts pointed out.

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An aditional report comes out today from a US transportation board. Boeing’s reply: we’re updating the software…

Indonesia’s Report On Lion Air 737 MAX Crash Faults Design, Certification (R.)

Indonesia has called for better Boeing cockpit systems and oversight by US regulators after design flaws helped bring down a Lion Air 737 MAX jet – a crash that was compounded by errors from ground staff and crew. In its final report into the crash of the jet on Oct 29, 2018 that killed all 189 people on board, Indonesia made recommendations to Boeing, Lion Air, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other agencies. A copy was seen by Reuters and it is due to be released publicly later on Friday.


Less than five months after the Lion Air accident, an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX crashed, leading to a global grounding of the model and a growing crisis for the world’s biggest planemaker, which has just ousted the top executive of its commercial airplanes division. In the report, Indonesian regulators criticised the design of the anti-stall system known as MCAS, which automatically pushed the plane’s nose down, leaving pilots fighting for control. During the flight, the control column was in such disarray that it required 103 pounds of strength to counter the automated system. “The design and certification of the MCAS did not adequately consider the likelihood of loss of control of the aircraft,” the report said.

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It’s company wide.

South Korea Grounds Nine Boeing 737 NG Planes With Cracks (R.)

South Korea’s transport ministry on Friday said nine Boeing 737 NG planes in the country had been grounded after checks found structural cracks requiring repairs. The suspension follows an order from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration earlier this month for aircraft operators to inspect older Boeing 737 NGs for structural cracks. Boeing on Oct. 11 said inspections of 810 of the planes globally had led to 38 requiring repair. South Korea said it found nine planes with cracks among 42 planes examined. Among the nine grounded planes are five operated by Korean Air Lines, according to the transport ministry.

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It is possible to sing the praises of China too much.

Can The US Beat China In A “Trade War”? (Vltchek)

There are now many new systems, in numerous corners of the world. These systems, some Communist, others socialist or even populist, are ready to defend their citizens, and to use the natural resources to feed the people, and to educate, house and cure them. No matter how popular these systems are at home, the West finds ways to demonize them, using its well-established propaganda machinery. First, to smear them and then, if they resist, to directly liquidate them. As before, during the colonial era, no competition has been permitted. Disobedience is punishable by death.

Naturally, the Western system has not been built on excellence, hard work and creativity, only. It was constructed on fear, oppression and brutal force. For centuries, it has clearly been a monopoly. Only the toughest countries, like Russia, China, Iran, North Korea or Cuba, have managed to survive, defending they own cultures, and advancing their philosophies. To the West, China has proved to be an extremely tough adversary. With its political, economic, and social system, it has managed to construct a forward-looking, optimistic and extraordinarily productive society. Its scientific research is now second to none. Its culture is thriving. Together with its closest ally, Russia, China excels in many essential fields.

That is precisely what irks, even horrifies the West. For decades and centuries, Europe and the United States have not been ready to tolerate any major country, which would set up its own set of rules and goals. China refuses to accept the diktat from abroad. It now appears to be self-sufficient, ideologically, politically, economically and intellectually. Where it is not fully self-sufficient, it can rely on its friends and allies. Those allies are, increasingly, located outside the Western sphere.

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“The group is demanding 4 Bitcoin..”

Johannesburg Shuts Down Computers City-Wide After Bitcoin Ransomware Attack (CCN)

Hackers have breached the computer network of South Africa’s commercial capital Johannesburg in an attempt to ransom the city for Bitcoin. Consequently, the city has shut down its website and suspended all e-services as a ‘precautionary measure’. At the time of writing the city’s website was still inaccessible. Per The Times, the group behind the cyber-attack is an outfit known as Shadow Kill Hackers. The group is demanding 4 Bitcoin – nearly $30,000 at the current Bitcoin price – by the close of business on October 28. In their ransom note received by several employees of the city, Shadow Kill Hackers claimed to have obtained valuable and confidential data from the city:


“All your servers and data have been hacked. We have dozens of back doors inside your city. We have control of everything in your city. We also compromised all passwords and sensitive data such as finance and personal population information.” Failure to pay the Bitcoin ransom, the hackers have warned, will see the sensitive data released publicly. Some of the e-services that will be affected by the shutdown include online billing services. Internet-based customer care services have also been suspended. An investigation into the Bitcoin ransomware attack has already been launched and is expected to take 24 hours.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 112019
 
 July 11, 2019  Posted by at 8:53 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Guernica 1937

 

Dollar Slips After Powell Bolsters Rate Cut Bets (R.)
AOC Is Making Monetary Policy Cool (and Political) Again (NYM)
Trump Tasks Aides To Find A Way To Weaken The US Dollar (CNBC)
Lock Him Up (Pinkerton)
Schumer Got Thousands In Donations From Jeffrey Epstein (NYP)
Democrat Rep. Stacey Plaskett To Donate Epstein Campaign Contributions (CNBC)
US Probing Deutsche Bank’s Dealings With Malaysia’s 1MDB (ZH)
Obama the Conservative vs Trump the Revolutionary (EH)
Former UK PM Major Vows To Block Brexit Parliament Suspension (R.)
OPCW’s New Chemical Weapons Team To Launch First Syria Investigations (R.)
UK, US Claim Iranian Boats Attempt To Seize Tanker In Strait Of Hormuz (ZH)

 

 

I’m getting so sick of this. Powelll wants to cut rates but it makes no sense if he’s to uphold Trump’s claim of a great US economy. So what does his spin team come up with? Cut rates because other countries are not doing so well. Cut the crap.

Dollar Slips After Powell Bolsters Rate Cut Bets (R.)

The dollar eased on Thursday after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell set the stage for a rate cut later this month, vowing to “act as appropriate” to ensure the world’s biggest economy will be able to sustain a decade-long expansion. In testimony to Congress, Powell pointed to “broad” global weakness that was clouding the U.S. economic outlook amid uncertainty about the fallout from the Trump administration’s trade conflict with China and other nations. “Chairman Powell sounded dovish on most dimensions. This is slightly surprising given benign trade developments following last month’s G20 meeting and the recent rebound in nonfarm payrolls,” said Michael Swell, co-head of global fixed income portfolio management at Goldman Sachs Asset Management.


“Overall, his comments around slowing growth against a backdrop of muted inflation and elevated uncertainties is consistent with ‘insurance rate cuts’ this year.” Adding to a generally dovish tone in his testimony, the minutes from the Fed’s previous policy meeting showed many policymakers thought more stimulus would be needed soon, reviving speculation of an aggressive rate cut.

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And AOC also wants low interest rates. Everyone wants the same thing, and nobody says: Wait a minute?!

AOC Is Making Monetary Policy Cool (and Political) Again (NYM)

Ocasio-Cortez : In early 2014, the Federal Reserve believed that the long run unemployment rate was around 5.4 percent. In early 2018, it as estimated that this was now lower, around 4.5 percent. Now, the estimate is around 4.2 percent. What is the current unemployment rate today?
Powell : 3.7 percent.

Ocasio: 3.7 percent…Unemployment has fallen about three full points since 2014 but inflation is no higher today than it was five years ago. Given these facts, do you think it’s possible that the Fed’s estimates of the lowest sustainable unemployment rate may have been too high?
Powell : Absolutely.

This exchange may sound dull and technical. But the congresswoman’s point has real human stakes. America’s central bank has a dual mandate: to promote full employment and price stability. How the Fed chooses to balance those two objectives has redistributive implications. The wealthy have far more to lose from inflation than they do from modest levels of unemployment. In fact, many business owners may actually prefer for the U.S. economy not to achieve full employment, since workers tend to be less demanding when jobs are scarce. By contrast, the most vulnerable workers in the U.S. — such as those with criminal records or little experience — will struggle to get a foothold in the labor market unless policy makers err on the side of letting unemployment fall “too low.”

And this is what AOC’s questions are implicitly about. If the Federal Reserve believes that the U.S. economy cannot sustain unemployment below 5 percent without suffering high inflation, then it will raise interest rates to cool off investment, thereby preventing too many workers from getting jobs. Ocasio-Cortez’s implication is that, by raising interest rates out of a fear of illusory inflation, the Fed may have needlessly hurt American workers. Powell’s concession on that point is significant, and suggests that the central bank will be less inclined to err on the side of hurting the vulnerable in the future.

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We’re all of us in the gutter… (but apparently there’s no-one left looking at the stars).

Trump Tasks Aides To Find A Way To Weaken The US Dollar (CNBC)

President Donald Trump has reportedly tasked aides to find a way to weaken the U.S. dollar in an effort to boost the economy ahead of the 2020 presidential election. The president also asked about the greenback while interviewing Federal Reserve board nominees Judy Shelton and Christopher Waller, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News. Those individuals also told Bloomberg that Trump’s chief economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin disapprove of the idea of government tampering to weaken the dollar. Traditionally, past administrations have always maintained publicly they were for a strong dollar because dollar assets like Treasurys are so widely held around the globe.


Trump has often bemoaned the relative strength of the U.S. dollar in foreign exchange markets, blaming foreign nations for devaluing their currencies and thereby inflating the American trade deficit. Last week, the president said in a tweet that the U.S. should match China and Europe’s “currency manipulation game.” “China and Europe playing big currency manipulation game and pumping money into their system in order to compete with USA,” Trump said on Twitter. “We should MATCH, or continue being the dummies who sit back and politely watch as other countries continue to play their games – as they have for many years!”

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About Epstein, but with a historical twist.

Lock Him Up (Pinkerton)

One landmark of American reform was the White-Slave Traffic Act, signed into law in 1910 (“white slavery,” we might note, is known today as “sex trafficking”). That law, aimed at preventing not only prostitution but also “debauchery,” is known as the Mann Act in honor of its principal author, Representative James R. Mann, Republican of Illinois, who served in Congress from 1897 to 1922. Mann’s career mostly coincided with the presidential tenures of two great reformers, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. And it’s hard to overstate just how central to progressive thinking was the combatting of “vice.” After all, if the goal was to create a just society, it also had to be a wholesome society; otherwise no justice could be sustainable.

Thus when Roosevelt served as police commissioner of New York City in the mid-1890s, he focused on fighting vice, rackets, and corruption. Of course, Mann, Roosevelt, and Wilson had much more on their minds than just cleaning up depravity. They saw themselves as reformers across the board; that is, they were eager to improve economic conditions as well as social ones. So it was that Mann also co-authored the Mann-Elkins Act, further regulating the railroads; he also spearheaded the Pure Food and Drug Act, creating the FDA. It’s interesting that when Mann died in 1922, The New York Times ran an entirely admiring obituary, recalling him as “a dominating figure in the House…[a] leader in dozens of parliamentary battles.” In other words, back then, the Times was fully onboard with full-spectrum cleanup, on the Right as well as the Left.

To be sure, the Mann Act hardly eradicated the problem of sex-trafficking, just as Mann’s other legislative efforts did not put an end to abuses in transportation and in foods and drugs. However, we can say that Mann made things better. Of course, the Mann Act has long been controversial. Back in 1913, the African-American boxer Jack Johnson was convicted according to its provisions. (Intriguingly, in 2018, Johnson was posthumously pardoned by President Trump.) In 1944, film legend Charlie Chaplin, too, found himself busted on a Mann Act rap. Chaplin was accused of transporting a young “actress” across state lines; he was acquitted after a sensational trial, but not before it was learned that he had financed his lover’s two abortions. Chaplin’s career in Hollywood was effectively over.

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Schumer telling others what to do, but doing dick all himself. How much did the Clinton Foundation get?

Schumer Got Thousands In Donations From Jeffrey Epstein (NYP)

Sen. Chuck Schumer — who called on Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to resign and said President Trump should “answer” for his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein — accepted thousands of dollars in donations from the alleged pedophile throughout the 1990s, The Post has learned. Federal Election Commission records show that Schumer received seven $1,000 donations from Epstein between 1992 and 1997, first as a U.S. congressman from New York and then when he was vying to be the state’s senator in 1998, an election he won. Epstein — who was arrested Saturday and charged with sex trafficking and a related conspiracy count for allegedly sexually abusing a vast network of underage girls — also gave $10,000 to “Victory in New York,” a joint fundraising committee established by Schumer and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Epstein gave an additional $5,000 to “Win New York,” a Schumer-associated joint committee that benefited the Liberal Party of New York State. Both of Epstein’s donations to the committees came in October 1998 — and look to have primarily benefited the DSCC and the Liberal Party of New York, as Epstein would have already met the $2,000 limit of donating individually to Schumer. At the time, donors could give $1,000 to a candidate per election — once in the primary and again in the general. That means Schumer and Schumer-linked entities received a combined $22,000.

On the Senate floor Tuesday, Schumer made three Epstein-related demands. He first called on Acosta to resign. [..] “Instead of prosecuting a predator and serial sex trafficker of children, Acosta chose to let him off easy,” Schumer said on the floor. “This is not acceptable. We cannot have, as one of the leading appointed officials in America, someone who has done this.” Schumer also asked that the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility make public its review of Acosta’s handling of the case. Finally, Schumer said that Trump should paint a fuller picture of what he meant when he called Epstein a “terrific guy” in a 2002 article for New York Magazine.

An April 2011 court filing shows that Trump eventually barred Epstein from Mar-a-Lago “because Epstein sexually assaulted a girl at the club,” the documents allege. Trump didn’t officially launch a political career until June 2015. No FEC records show that Epstein was ever a Trump donor.

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So when will Schumer follow suit? And the rest of them?

Democrat Rep. Stacey Plaskett To Donate Epstein Campaign Contributions (CNBC)

Democratic congresswoman Stacey Plaskett has decided to reverse course and will give away the contributions she has received from Jeffrey Epstein, who is accused of child sex trafficking. The move comes a day after her team told CNBC that she was unlikely to return the campaign donations after Epstein’s arrest. “In light of new information and allegations that have been made against Jeffrey Epstein I have decided to make contributions to Virgin Islands organizations that work with women and children in the amount of his previous contributions,” Plaskett said in a statement Tuesday.

“My litmus test for accepting campaign contributions has been based on whether the donor’s money was made legally or by ill-gotten means and that the contributor will not ask of me or my Congressional office for any special favors. All my contributions have passed that test. In this case however, I am uncomfortable having received money from someone who has been accused of these egregious actions multiple times,” said Plaskett, who represents the U.S. Virgin Islands in the House as a delegate. Her spokesman Mike McQueery later noted the Epstein donations will be given to The Women’s Coalition and The Family Resource Center.

Her initial announcement led to an outcry on social media, with prominent Democratic strategists such as Adam Parkhomenko calling on Plaskett to give the money over to a nonprofit organization such as the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Since Epstein pleaded not guilty Monday, Plaskett is the first politician to say she is giving away donations from Epstein.

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Deutsche severed ties with Epstein just months ago.

US Probing Deutsche Bank’s Dealings With Malaysia’s 1MDB (ZH)

When it rains inside the halls of Deutsche Bank, the flood is biblical. Just when it seemed that the biggest (if not for long) German bank, already reeling from the biggest mass layoffs since Lehman, couldn’t possibly bear any more bad news, along comes the US government with yet another potentially criminal investigation, this time over Deutsche Bank’s involvement with the sprawling, multibillion-dollar Malaysian development fraud scandal that toppled a prime minister, crippled Goldman Sachs stock and stretched from Hollywood to Wall Street. According to the WSJ, the DOJ is investigating whether the German bank violated foreign corruption or anti-money-laundering laws in its work for the 1Malaysia Development Bhd. fund, or 1MDB, which included helping the fund raise $1.2 billion in 2014 as concerns about the fund’s management and financials had begun to circulate.

So how did Deutsche Bank get thrown into yet another scandal? It turns out that DB was snitched out by former Goldman banker, Tim Leissner, the man who was ground zero in the original 1MDB scandal, and who ended up costing Goldman billions in dollar in market cap as its stock tumbled last year as its role in the biggest Malaysian corruption scandal got exposed, and according to some, cost Lloyd Blankfein his job. As it turns out, Leissner is now cooperating with authorities, and among his “good Samaritan” duties decided to throw the one bank that has more dirt on it than Goldman: Deutsche Bank. As we have reported extensively in the past, prosecutors have been investigating similar issues at Goldman, where Leissner, a former managing director, pleaded guilty last year and admitted to earlier helping siphon off billions of dollars from the fund.

[..] But wait, there’s more! Because roughly at the same time as DB’s potential role in the 1MDB scandal was exposed by the WSJ, both the NYT and Bloomberg reported that the German bank had extended relations with yet another, even more scandalous figure: Jeffrey Epstein. According to NYT, Epstein “appears to have been doing business and trading currencies through Deutsche Bank until just a few months ago.” But as the possibility of federal charges loomed, the bank ended its client relationship with Epstein. It is not clear what the value of those accounts were at the time they were closed. Bloomberg confirms, reporting that “Deutsche Bank severed business ties with Jeffrey Epstein earlier this year, just as federal authorities were preparing to charge the financier with operating a sex-trafficking ring of underage girls [..] “

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Nice take by Ed Harrison. I’m no big fan of these alleged sharp divisions between generations, though.

Obama the Conservative vs Trump the Revolutionary (EH)

I would argue that [Obama] ran for President in 2008 on a slogan – Change You Can Believe In – which very much fits his generation, late baby boom reaching across to the early Gen X’ers. “Change you can believe in” is a moniker designed to evoke a sense of technocratic tweaking, of taking a good system and making it more efficient and more fair for all citizens. It is not a call for revolution. What Obama was saying was essentially, “I am going to take the system we have – the best that man has created – and make it better.” He was not saying, “the system is rigged. The system is broken. And I’m going to burn it down and build up something better.”

Obama’s message was a conservative message. It was a message that was steeped in the status quo, with the change coming only at the margin. It meant continuity in policy and a bevy of tried and trusted policymakers to get us to the next destination. Even Obamacare is a tweak of the existing policy. It is not a fundamentally different healthcare system controlled by different healthcare providers. [..] Donald Trump doesn’t think that way. Norms only matter to him to the degree they move his personal agenda forward. He’s a pretty simple guy in this sense. If a policy choice or a norm helps Donald Trump, then he’s for it. If it hurts him, he’s against it. It’s as simple as that. But, that’s not conservative …at all. Trump may message “Make America Great Again”. But, his process is more about bending and breaking rules, damn the consequences.

None of this is to say that Millennials would support Trump over Obama because they want change. It’s more that Obama’s ‘change you can believe in’ approach was a very incremental, status quo-oriented conservative approach that has disappointed Millennials. They want still more change – not a bend and break the rule kind – but a fundamental systemic change. What does that mean about the next economic downturn? Personally, I think it means that — when people living in precarious at-will employment, with insufficient healthcare coverage, saddled by student debt, unable to purchase homes to build wealth feel the full bore of an economic downturn — they will be willing to burn the system down. They will have no allegiance to the status quo and will vote accordingly.

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Oh, c’mon, wouldn’t it be highly fitting if the Queen were to hammer the final nail into British democracy?

Former UK PM Major Vows To Block Brexit Parliament Suspension (R.)

Former British prime minister John Major vowed on Wednesday to go to court to block his party colleague Boris Johnson from suspending parliament and dragging the queen into a constitutional crisis to deliver a no-deal Brexit. Johnson, the favourite to win a Conservative leadership election and so become the next prime minister, has refused to rule out suspending, or proroguing, parliament to ensure Britain leaves the European Union on Oct. 31 — with or without a deal. That could provoke a constitutional crisis in one of the world’s oldest and most stable democracies because parliament is opposed to a disorderly exit, lacking a transition deal to ease the economic dislocation of leaving the bloc.

While it is essentially up to the prime minister to make the decision, Major, an opponent of Brexit who has not shied away for criticising his party on the issue, said it would require the queen’s blessing. “In order to close down parliament, the prime minister would have to go to Her Majesty the Queen and ask for her permission to prorogue,” he told BBC Radio. “If her first minister asks for that permission, it is almost inconceivable that the queen will do anything other than grant it. “She is then in the midst of a constitutional controversy that no serious politician should put the queen in the middle of. If that were to happen, there would be a queue of people who would seek judicial review. I for one would be prepared to go and seek judicial review.”

Major accused Johnson of hypocrisy for backing Brexit to secure more power for Britain’s parliament, only to propose to sideline lawmakers when it suited him. He said parliament had not been suspended since King Charles I did so during the English Civil War. Charles was eventually executed, in 1649.

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The OPCW killed its own credibility, thoroughly. Disband it.

OPCW’s New Chemical Weapons Team To Launch First Syria Investigations (R.)

A new team established by the global chemical weapons watchdog to attribute blame for the use of banned munitions in Syria will investigate nine alleged attacks during the country’s civil war, including in the town of Douma, sources briefed on the matter told Reuters. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was created in 1997 as a technical body to enforce a global non-proliferation treaty. Until now it had been authorised only to say whether chemical attacks occurred, not who perpetrated them. Last June, the Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) was established by the OPCW’s member states during a special session, a move that has brought deeper political division to the U.N. -backed agency.


Now it has identified the locations of its first investigations to be conducted in the coming three years. A document circulated to OPCW member states, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, said the team “has identified a non-exhaustive provisional list of incidents on which it intends to focus its investigative work” between 2014 and 2018. The British-led proposal creating the 10-member team was supported by the United States and European Union, but opposed by Russia, Iran, Syria and their allies. Syria has refused to issue visas to the team’s members or to provide it with documentation, OPCW chief Fernando Arias said in comments to member states published last month.

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Where’s the credibility in this case?

UK, US Claim Iranian Boats Attempt To Seize Tanker In Strait Of Hormuz (ZH)

With the Persian Gulf uncharacteristically quiet in recent days, without any material provocation either real or staged, late on Wednesday CNN reported that five armed Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard boats unsuccessfully tried to seize a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf. There was no independent verification of the report, but instead it was once again sourced to those who stands to gain the most from a way with Iran, namely “two US officials with direct knowledge of the incident.” According to the report, the British Heritage tanker was sailing out of the Persian Gulf and was crossing into the Strait of Hormuz area when it was approached by the Iranian boats.


The Iranians ordered the tanker to change course and stop in nearby Iranian territorial waters, according to the officials. A US aircraft was overhead and recorded video of the incident, although so far a video has not been released. In addition to the US aircraft escort, the UK’s Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose had been escorting the tanker, and during the confrontation, it trained its deck guns on the Iranians and gave them a verbal warning to back away, which they did. Montrose is equipped on the deck with 30 mm guns specifically designed to drive off small boats. The frigate was in the region performing a “maritime security role” according to a prior notification from UK officials.

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Seen at the inane Defend Media Freedom conference in the UK.

 

 

 

‘Man goes to a psychiatrist. He says, “I keep thinking I’m a dog.” Psychiatrist says, “OK, let’s get you on the couch.” Man says, “I’m not allowed on the couch.”‘

 

 

 

 

May 182019
 


Edouard Manet Gypsy with a cigarette 1862

 

Half Of Americans Are Just One Paycheck Away From ‘Financial Disaster’ (MW)
Record-Setting Art Sales Confirm Global Liquidity Bubble (Colombo)
A Greek Canary in a Global Goldmine (Varoufakis)
US Media No Longer Reports Facts, But Appeals To Emotions (SHTF)
OPCW Expert Contradicts Official Douma Attack Analysis (CJ)
Free For All (Jim Kunstler)
May And Corbyn Blame Each Other As Brexit Talks Collapse (G.)
Tory Brexiteers Tell May: You Must Quit Now (Ind.)
A Brief History Of Doom: The New Kindleberger And Mackay (Steve Keen)
Cristiano Ronaldo Donates $1.5 million to Palestine for Ramadan (21Wire)
Air Pollution May Be Damaging ‘Every Organ In The Body’ (G.)

 

 

Many such surveys these days.

Half Of Americans Are Just One Paycheck Away From ‘Financial Disaster’ (MW)

Missing more than one paycheck is a one-way ticket to financial hardship for nearly half of the country’s workforce. A new study from NORC at the University of Chicago, an independent social research institution, found that 51% of working adults in the United States would need to access savings to cover necessities if they missed more than one paycheck. [Research from the Federal Reserve found that 4 in 10 Americans couldn’t afford a $400 emergency, and 22% say they expect to forgo payments on some of their bills.]


Certain communities were more prone to economic hardship in the event of missing a paycheck. Roughly two-thirds of households earning less than $30,000 annually and Hispanic households would be unable to cover basic living expenses after missing more than one paycheck, the researchers found. “Even so, notable differences remain across race, ethnicity, education groups, and locations and many individuals still struggle to repay college loans, handle small emergency expenses, and manage retirement savings,” it added. The findings were based on a survey of more than 1,000 adults. The researchers interviewed a nationally representative panel designed to be indicative of the U.S. population.

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Record numbers of dirt poor Americans while the rich don’t know what to do with their money. Not a recipe for anything long lasting.

Record-Setting Art Sales Confirm Global Liquidity Bubble (Colombo)

Art and collectibles prices have exploded in the past decade as a result of the extremely frothy conditions created by central banks. Hardly a week goes by without news headlines being made about ugly, tacky, or just plain bizarre works of art fetching tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of dollars at auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s (often sold to rich buyers in China or Hong Kong). Make no mistake: we’re currently experiencing a massive art bubble of the likes not seen since the Japan-driven art bubble of the late-1980s that ended disastrously. Two art market records were made in the past week: the $91.1 million “Rabbit” sculpture by Jeff Koons, which set the record for the highest amount paid for a piece of art by a living artist, and the sale of Monet’s ‘Meules’ painting for $110.7 million, which set a record for an Impressionist work.


[..] In order to understand today’s art bubble, it is helpful to learn about the art bubble of the late-1980s that ultimately crashed and burned. Throughout the 1980s, Japan had a bubble economy that was driven by debt and bubbles in property and stocks. Japan’s economy was seemingly unstoppable – almost everyone in the West was terrified that Japan’s economy and corporations would trounce ours while destroying our standard of living in the process. Of course, few people knew how unsustainable Japan’s economy was at that time.

As a result of hubris and the enormous amount of liquidity that was flowing throughout Japan’s economy in the late-1980s, Japanese businesspeople and corporations started to speculate in art, often bidding previously unheard of sums that Western art collectors would never have dreamed of paying. For example, Yasuda Fire and Marine Insurance paid a record $39.9 million for Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” at a London auction in 1987. Ryoei “wild fellow” Saito, Chairman of the Daishowa Paper Manufacturing empire, paid $160 million for the world’s two most expensive paintings – a Van Gogh and a Renoir. At the peak of the art market in 1990, Japan imported more than $4 billion worth of art, including nearly half of all Impressionist art that was on the market. Of course, the art market plunged along with Japan’s bubble economy in the early-1990s.

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“When vultures grow fat on a corpse, they do not revive it.”

A Greek Canary in a Global Goldmine (Varoufakis)

The eurozone country that has become synonymous with insolvency is today proving to be a treasure-trove for some. Traders who bought Greek assets a few years ago have good reason to celebrate, having banked returns that no other market could have provided. But, as is often the case, an opportunity that seems too good to be true probably is. And this one could portend the next phase of our global crisis. An investor who bought German government bonds in 2013 has, by now, gained a 7% return, whereas a buyer of a Greek government bond issued at the height of the country’s debt crisis in 2012 would have earned a colossal 231% return. Two months ago, the price of the first ten-year bond issued since Greece’s bailout in 2010 surged for seven consecutive days, rising by 2.8% in a week – a better performance than any other government bond issue worldwide.

That bond rally created a psychological slipstream, which, in recent months, pulled the Athens Stock Exchange 26% higher, against the background of a European asset market inexorably bleeding capital. On the strength of these impressive numbers, it is as tempting as it would be false to herald the end of Greece’s crisis. The Greek bond and equity rally is obscuring a growing chasm between a gloomy economic reality and an unsustainably buoyant financial climate. Rather than reflecting Greece’s recovery, the traders’ high profit margins mirror continued deflationary pressures and fragmentation in Europe within a global environment of decreasing debt sustainability. The numbers from Greece, so exciting to investors far and wide, may well prove a harbinger of fresh troubles for Europe’s economy, and perhaps for the world.

Given the gaping gap between Greece’s nominal national income and its public debt, how is it possible that Greek bonds are soaring? Why is the Athens Stock Exchange rising while business remains hampered by punitive taxation, banks labor under a mountain of non-performing loans, declining unemployment reflects only emigration and some precarious jobs, net public investment is negative, and private investment in production of high value-added tradable goods is absent?

One reason is the proverbial dead-cat-bounce. Given how thin Greece’s equity market is – total capitalization is €52 billion ($58 billion) – the modest influx of capital that came in the wake of the bond rally was enough to drive the 26% rise in its index. But, despite this surge, the Greek market remains 81% below its 2009 level. As for the bond rally itself, the paradox quickly disappears once we recall how the first two bailouts shifted Greek public debt from the private sector to the shoulders of Europe’s taxpayers.

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I’m very happy I’m not the only one having signaled this for 2+ years. It’s almost worth being called a Trump supporter for. Though that is still an utterly ridiculous allegation in my case. But this is the most dangerous tendency in American society today, not Trump.

US Media No Longer Reports Facts, But Appeals To Emotions (SHTF)

The mainstream media in the United States has made a shift in the past few decades. Now, they appeal to emotions as opposed to reporting the facts. This “cultural schizophrenia” is tearing the U.S. apart at the seams. Based on the conclusions to a RAND Corporation study, the mainstream media is actively sowing discord in American society, award-winning journalist Chris Hedges tells RT. The media is focusing on making two sides hate each other instead of reporting on the facts, and the majority of the public is unaware and doesn’t care that their minds are being manipulated by their own emotional responses.

The study, which was released by RAND earlier this week, states that between 1987 and 2017, news content has shifted from event- and context-based reporting to coverage that is “more subjective, relies more heavily on argumentation and advocacy, and includes more emotional appeals.” According to RT, prime-time cable news shows and online journalism lead the way in this shift to emotional and hate-based rhetoric. It has been noticed in print journalism as well, the government-funded think tank concluded. This is contributing to what RAND termed “Truth Decay.” This is described as a shift away from facts and analysis in public discourse.

Hedges claims that the deterioration of the mainstream media is “far worse” than the RAND report suggests. And he isn’t alone in that assessment. [American journalist Matt]Taibbi says that the result of this journalistic decay and emotional fear mongering is a public addicted to hating each other. Americans have become addicted to the news that agrees with their bias, and it was set up that way on purpose. The only thing anyone will hear when they turn on the news are stories specifically crafted to manufacture outrage, make you hate the other side, and fuel the addiction to anger. –SHTFPlan

[..] It is becoming difficult to tell apart facts and opinion now, and people believe whatever they want to believe, Hedges explained. “We spent years watching CNN and MSNBC promoting this conspiracy theory that Trump was a Kremlin agent… It was all garbage but it attracted viewers,” Hedges added as an example. And, if you don’t mind your IQ dropping, turn on MSNBC for just a few minutes. It’s likely you’ll still hear something about Russiagate to keep the public pissed off beyond comprehension.

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OPCW gone. White Helmets gone. Skripal narrative gone. This is why Assange is so needed. Because we wouldn’t know these things if not for leaks. Assange built the infrastructure for them.

Note: some publications say this concerns an OPCW article. It is not, they tried to hide it.

OPCW Expert Contradicts Official Douma Attack Analysis (CJ)

[..] a few days ago the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (WGSPM) published a document signed by a man named Ian Henderson, whose name is seen listed in expert leadership positions on OPCW documents from as far back as 1998 and as recently as 2018. It’s unknown who leaked the document and what other media organizations they may have tried to send it to. The report picks apart the extremely shaky physics and narratives of the official OPCW analysis on the gas cylinders allegedly dropped from Syrian government aircraft in the Douma attack, and concludes that “The dimensions, characteristics and appearance of the cylinders, and the surrounding scene of the incidents, were inconsistent with what would have been expected in the case of either cylinder being delivered from an aircraft,” saying instead that manual placement of the cylinders in the locations investigators found them in is “the only plausible explanation for observations at the scene.”

[..] the kindest possible interpretation of these revelations is that an expert who has worked with the OPCW for decades gave an engineering assessment which directly contradicted the official findings of the OPCW on Douma, but OPCW officials didn’t find his assessment convincing for whatever reason and hid every trace of it from public view. That’s the least sinister possibility: that a sharp dissent from a distinguished expert within the OPCW’s own investigation was completely hidden from the public because the people calling the shots at the OPCW didn’t want to confuse us with a perspective they didn’t find credible.

This most charitable interpretation possible is damningly unacceptable by itself, because the public should obviously be kept informed of any possible evidence which may contradict the reasons they were fed to justify an act of war by powerful governments. And there are many far less charitable interpretations. It is not in the slightest bit unreasonable to speculate that the ostensibly independent OPCW in fact serves the interests of the US-centralized power alliance, and that it suppressed the Henderson report because it pokes holes in the narratives that are used to demonize a longtime target for imperialist regime change. That is a perfectly reasonable possibility for us to wonder about, and the onus is now on the OPCW to prove to us that it is not the case.

Either way, the fact that the OPCW kept Henderson’s findings from receiving not a whisper of attention severely undermines the organization’s credibility, not just with regard to Douma but with regard to everything, including the establishment Syria narrative as a whole and the Skripal case in the UK. Everything the OPCW has ever concluded about alleged chemical usage around the world is now subject to very legitimate skepticism. “The leaked OPCW engineers’ assessment is confirmed as genuine, which means the final report actively concealed evidence that the Douma chemical attack was staged by jihadists and the White Helmets,” tweeted British journalist Jonathan Cook. “The OPCW’s other Syria reports must now be treated as worthless too.”

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“Both countries have borrowed themselves into a Twilight Zone of unpayable debt. Both countries are sunk in untenable economic and banking rackets to cover up their insolvency.”

Free For All (Jim Kunstler)

Here’s what will actually happen. These House majority committee chiefs are going to quit their blustering over the next week or so as they discover there is no political value — and plenty of political hazard — in extending the RussiaGate circus. In the meantime, a titanic juridical machine, already a’grinding, will discredit the whole sordid affair and send a number of hapless participants to the federal ping-pong academies. And by then, the long-suffering citizenry will barely give a shit because we will have entered the climactic phase of the Fourth Turning (or Long Emergency, take your pick), in which the operations of everyday business and governance in this country seriously crumble. The Golden Golem of Greatness will be blamed for most of that.


The internal contradictions of Globalism were already blowing up trade and financial relations between the US and China. The Trump tariffs just amount to a clumsy recognition of the fatal imbalances long at work there. As a 25 percent tax on countless Chinese products, the tariffs will punish American shoppers as much as the Chinese manufacturers. Trade wars have a way of escalating into more kinetic conflicts. The sad truth is that both China and the US are beset by dangerous fragilities. Both countries have borrowed themselves into a Twilight Zone of unpayable debt. Both countries are sunk in untenable economic and banking rackets to cover up their insolvency. China’s fate hangs on distant energy supply lines that run through bottlenecks like the Straits of Hormuz and the Straits of Molucca.

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They just wasted another 6 weeks, that’s all there is to say.

May And Corbyn Blame Each Other As Brexit Talks Collapse (G.)

The government and Labour have sought to blame each other after cross-party talks to find a compromise Brexit plan collapsed, leaving any remaining hopes of an imminent solution to the impasse in tatters. While both sides insisted the discussions had taken place in good faith, Theresa May said a sticking point had been Labour splits over a second referendum. Labour in turn said the government had been unwilling to compromise and that May’s imminent departure from Downing Street meant there was no guarantee any promises would be kept by a successor such as Boris Johnson. Nick Boles, the former Conservative MP who helped spearhead efforts to prevent a no-deal Brexit in March, said he now feared such a departure was almost inevitable when the EU27’s latest deadline of 31 October is reached.


“It’s game over,” he said. “We only won by one, and it’s very unclear that we would have the same level of Tory support, and for that matter Labour support. We are absolutely convinced that parliament will not find a way to stop no-deal Brexit.” The conclusion to six weeks of intermittent talks, which had angered many Conservative and Labour MPs who feared the nature of the compromise that might result, came with the release of a letter from Jeremy Corbyn to May on Friday. Despite praising the talks as constructive, the Labour leader wrote: “It has become clear that, while there are some areas where compromise has been possible, we have been unable to bridge important policy gaps between us. “Even more crucially, the increasing weakness and instability of your government means there cannot be confidence in securing whatever might be agreed between us.”

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We’re going to have Boris Johnson next. That will not end well.

Tory Brexiteers Tell May: You Must Quit Now (Ind.)

Theresa May is facing growing clamour from within her own party to quit immediately as prime minister, after the collapse of Brexit talks with Labour sounded the death knell for her EU withdrawal plans. With Tories trailing in fifth place on a humiliating 9 per cent in one poll for next week’s European parliament elections, furious backbenchers predicted certain defeat when the Withdrawal Agreement Bill comes before the Commons in June. Brexiteers said there was no prospect of Ms May averting a “significant” rebellion by tacking towards them on totemic issues like the Irish backstop and free trade. “There’s nothing she can say,” said one former minister. “No one trusts her any more.”


[..] senior Leave-supporting backbenchers said she should scrap the legislation and hand over immediately to a new leader.Nigel Evans urged her to announce she was not waiting three weeks to discuss the timetable for her departure, as agreed with the chair of the influential 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady, but would go “forthwith”. Asked if the declaration should come within days, the committee’s joint secretary replied: “I would like her to do it now … It’s only right that the new leadership has the opportunity to become established and form a new cabinet prior to us going into the summer recess.” Former minister David Jones said the PM should recognise that “now is the time that she should stand down”. “On the Conservative benches, most people now want the PM to step down as quickly as possible,” he told The Independent. “Prolonging this is just wasting time at a time when we don’t have much time to waste.”

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A must read, I gather.

A Brief History Of Doom: The New Kindleberger And Mackay (Steve Keen)

“If readers take one lesson from this book, I hope it is this: when it comes to financial crises, we’re not in the grip of unseen and hopelessly complex forces. Such crises are neither inevitable nor unpredictable. Runaway private debt and the resulting overcapacity does a better job than any other variable in explaining and predicting financial crises. It is our job to heed those danger signs.” (Vague 2019, p. ix)


This brief book (196 pages, excluding endnotes) on the history and causes of financial crises usurps Kindleberger’s Manias, Panics, and Crashes (Kindleberger 1978) and Mackay’s Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (Mackay 1852) as the definitive work on this vital topic. It surpasses both these works for several reasons, not the least of which is the career and experience of the author. Mackay was a journalist and gifted writer; Kindleberger, an economist with an impressive record in both public service and academia. Both of them observed financial manias and crashes from their respective professional perches, outside the financial system itself.

Vague is an ex-banker, whose fortune was carved in the financial crisis emanating from the bursting of the 1979 oil shock bubble, whose hands-on management established two of America’s biggest consumer credit card companies (First USA, which he sold Bank One in 1997, and Juniper Financial, which he sold to Barclays PLC in 2004), and whose professional access to the voluminous data he saw on the explosion in mortgage debt – from $6 trillion in 2002 to $9 trillion in 2005 – led him to anticipate the Subprime Crisis and exit banking altogether. Vague has seen financial crises from the inside – and not merely survived but prospered.


In the hands of most Americans, this experience would lead to a “How to Get Rich” book. Vague’s ambition with this book is very different: to make society richer by understanding what causes financial crises, and thereby preventing them in the first place. Vague’s banker’s perspective gives him an incomparable advantage over not only MacKay and Kindleberger, but over me as well: having seen the booms and busts of banking from the inside, he knew where to look, and what to look for. For example, I dismissed the possibility of a real-estate bubble as a catalyst to the Great Depression, because Robert Shiller’s data (Figure 1) seemed to show that house prices were flat during the 1920s, and if anything, declining. That was as far as my investigations went.

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He must be on some hit lists.

Cristiano Ronaldo Donates $1.5 million to Palestine for Ramadan (21Wire)

Portuguese footballer and Juventus striker , Cristiano Ronaldo, has donated US $1.5 million to people of Palestine during the holy month of Ramadan. Regarded as one of the world’s greatest-ever professional football players, Ronaldo is said to have made his generous donation in solidarity with the Palestinian people suffering en mass, and in particular the millions who are currently suffering under the brutal punitive ‘air, land and sea’ economic and humanitarian blockade in Gaza – where Israeli forces have been conducting regular bombing raids which have killed thousands of innocent civilians in recent years. Although sports media rarely highlights this facet of the soccer star, Ronaldo has always been close to the Palestinian cause, publicly rejecting the illegal and genocidal incursions of the Israeli regime on several occasions.


In November 2012, while Gaza was being blanketed with bombs by Israel in their Operation Pillar of Defense, Ronaldo auctioned off his Golden Boot, the prestigious award given to the best European strikers of the season, to raise funds that were later donated to the Palestinian children. The following year, in March 2013, at the end of the match between Portugal and Israel for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, he refused to exchange his shirt with an Israeli player. Although he shook hands, he excused himself by explaining that he could not wear a shirt with that country’s flag, as reported in the press.

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Keep driving.

Air Pollution May Be Damaging ‘Every Organ In The Body’ (G.)

Air pollution may be damaging every organ and virtually every cell in the human body, according to a comprehensive new global review. The research shows head-to-toe harm, from heart and lung disease to diabetes and dementia, and from liver problems and bladder cancer to brittle bones and damaged skin. Fertility, foetuses and children are also affected by toxic air, the review found. The systemic damage is the result of pollutants causing inflammation that then floods through the body and ultrafine particles being carried around the body by the bloodstream. Air pollution is a “public health emergency”, according to the World Health Organization, with more than 90% of the global population enduring toxic outdoor air. New analysis indicates 8.8m early deaths each year – double earlier estimates – making air pollution a bigger killer than tobacco smoking.


But the impact of different pollutants on many ailments remains to be established, suggesting well-known heart and lung damage is only “the tip of the iceberg”. “Air pollution can harm acutely, as well as chronically, potentially affecting every organ in the body,” conclude the scientists from the Forum of International Respiratory Societies in the two review papers, published in the journal Chest. “Ultrafine particles pass through the [lungs], are readily picked up by cells, and carried via the bloodstream to expose virtually all cells in the body.” Prof Dean Schraufnagel, at the University of Illinois at Chicago and who led the reviews, said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if almost every organ was affected. If something is missing [from the review] it is probably because there was no research yet.”

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Australia has elections this weekend

https://twitter.com/i/status/1129530852000403457

 

 

 

 

May 052018
 


Edgar Degas Landscape with Path Leading to a Copse of Trees 1890-92

 

40% Unemployment Ain’t Awesome (Stockman)
The Next Recession Is Closer Than You Think (Cook)
US Lays Down A List Of Trade Demands To China (CNBC)
Theresa May Under Pressure To Ditch New Immigration Clampdown (Ind.)
150,000 UK ‘Mortgage Prisoners’ Need Help To Escape Expensive Deals (Ind.)
Argentina Hikes Interest Rates To 40% Amid Inflation Crisis (Ind.)
Judge In Manafort Case Rebukes Mueller For Exceeding Authority (G.)
The Horsefly Cometh (Jim Kunstler)
Chemical Weapons Watchdog Backtracks On ‘100g Of Novichok’ Claim (Ind. )
Greek Unpaid Taxes Build Up Again As Taxpayers Are Unable To Pay (K.)
Monsanto Appeals To India Supreme Court Over GMO Cotton Patents (R.)
Congo To Drill For Oil In Parks Home To Endangered Mountain Gorilla (Ind.)

 

 

“..at some point it gets pretty hard to hide 16.6 million missing workers..”

40% Unemployment Ain’t Awesome (Stockman)

[..] the Awesome Economy narrative gets more threadbare by the month. As Jeff Snider astutely observed in his commentary on today’s report—at some point it gets pretty hard to hide 16.6 million missing workers. What he means is that if the labor force participation rate had not plunged from more than 67.0% to the 62.8% level reported again for April, there would be 16.6 million more persons employed in the US economy today at the ostensible 3.9% unemployment rate.

“Here in the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) sends us another farce. These payroll Friday’s were always a little overwrought, but in the past four years they have become ridiculous spectacles. It’s not the fault of the BLS (apart from questions about their estimates for 2014), mainly it is the same issue as in Japan. What should be obvious is misinterpreted sometimes intentionally. According to the latest figures, the unemployment rate in the US is now down to 3.9%. The reason it crossed the 4% line in April was perfect. Not in the manner of what a 3.9% unemployment should indicate, rather it was all the wrong things that expose the unemployment rate for what it is – meaningless. The primary reason for its drop was another monthly subtraction from the labor force. Down for a second month in a row, in April by 236k, the HH Survey managed to increase by all of 3k. The result: a perfectly representative decline to 3.9%.”

The Keynesian gummers reject Snider’s point entirely, of course, on the vague theory that retirements and the aging demographics of the US explain away much of the change in the participation rate. As a matter of fact, they don’t. And, besides, the whole BLS employment/unemployment reporting framework and model is essentially a pile of garbage that might have been relevant during the days of your grandfather’s economy, if even then. That is, it is built on the flawed notion that labor inputs can be accurately measured by a unit called a “job” and that an economic trend in motion tends to stay in motion.

To the contrary, in today’s world labor is procured by the hour and by the gig—meaning that the “job” units counted in both the establishment and household surveys are a case of apples, oranges and cumquats. The household survey, for example, would count as equally “employed” a person holding: • a 10-hour per week gig with no benefits; • a worker holding three part-time jobs adding to less than 36 hours per week with some benefits; and • a 50-hour per week manufacturing job (with overtime) providing a cadillac style benefit package.

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How about Kondratieff?

The Next Recession Is Closer Than You Think (Cook)

Business cycles run for periods of years, not days, weeks, or months. So business cycle analysis is different from the common definition of market-timing because it is concerned with a much longer time horizon. It is difficult for anyone other than politicians to deny the existence of a business cycle, which includes both an expansion and a recession phase because they are a fact of economic life. A recent Goldman Sachs research piece not only acknowledges the existence of cycles but divides them into four phases and produces recommended asset allocations for each phase, as shown below.

Goldman’s investment recommendation for 2018 is based on the belief that 2018 lies within Phase 3, in which the economy is operating above capacity and growing. More broadly, Goldman’s chart and table show that identifying the Phases is a crucial determinant of investment success. For example, if 2018 truly lies within Phase 4, cash and bonds would outperform commodities and equities. \The Fed appears to agree with Goldman’s analysis of Phase 3, based on its simultaneous campaigns to lift the Fed Funds rate and to reduce the size of its bond holdings that were acquired during its QE experiment. In another admission that business cycles exist, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch (BAML) produces a monthly Fund Manager Survey, in which it asks the largest institutional investment managers a simple question; where are we in the business cycle?

[..] The BAML survey extends further back than 2008, so we can get a better idea of investors’ beliefs leading to the recession of 2008-09, as shown below. During these years, investors were given two other choices to describe the economy; early-cycle or recession. A majority of investors believed the economy was late-cycle beginning in 2005, with a peak in that belief occurring in late 2007 (thin black line), which coincided with a continuous decline in the percentage believing the economy was mid-cycle. During the period 2005-2007, almost no investors believed that the economy was in either in its early-cycle or recession.

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China is negotiating.

US Lays Down A List Of Trade Demands To China (CNBC)

The U.S. stands ready to impose further trade tariffs on Chinese products if Beijing walks away from agreed-upon commitments, according to a reporter at the Wall Street Journal. Trade representatives from the U.S. and China entered a second day of trade discussions on Friday, as the world’s two largest economies sought to find a way to stave off global concerns of a full-blown trade war. The discussions, led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, are expected to cover a wide range of U.S. complaints about alleged unfair trade practices in Beijing. A major breakthrough deal to fundamentally change China’s economic stance was widely viewed as highly unlikely.

In a tweet posted Friday, Lingling Wei, a China economics correspondent at the Wall Street Journal, said the U.S asked China to reduce its trade surplus by at least $200 billion by year-end 2020, citing a document issued to the Chinese before the talks. President Donald Trump has often called on China to reduce its bilateral trade deficit by $100 billion a year. The U.S. trade envoy also wanted China not to target U.S. farmers and agricultural products and sought assurances from the Asian giant that it would not retaliate over restrictions on investments from Beijing, Wei said.

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The entire British press seems set on ignoring Labour’s win. Which, true enough, isn’t big enough.

Theresa May Under Pressure To Ditch New Immigration Clampdown (Ind.)

Theresa May is under mounting pressure to ditch a fresh immigration clampdown dubbed “the next Windrush”, ahead of a crucial Commons vote next week. Thirty-four organisations have joined forces to urge the prime minister not to repeat the blunders that sparked the scandal by preventing other immigrants from proving their right to be in the UK. Under planned new data laws, people will be denied access to the personal information the government holds about them if releasing it would “undermine immigration control”. Leading lawyers have warned that withholding potentially vital proof would lead to people being wrongly deported, detained or denied health treatment – in a mirror image of the treatment of the Windrush generation.

On Wednesday, Labour and the Liberal Democrats will join forces to try to throw out the exemption, arguing it is the “first test” of Ms May’s promise to learn the lessons of the Windrush debacle. Now, the joint letter – seen by The Independent – brings together human rights campaigners, trade unions, migrant support groups and law firms to warn it will “foster fear within minority communities”. Unless halted, the plan will make it “near-impossible” to prevent the “disposing of information that could help people prove their right to reside in the UK – as it did with the Windrush landing cards”, they say. People would also avoid using essential public services “for fear that their medical or school records will be secretly passed to the Home Office”.

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The lenders don’t own the loans anymore, they’ve been packaged and sold.

150,000 UK ‘Mortgage Prisoners’ Need Help To Escape Expensive Deals (Ind.)

Tens of thousands of people are “mortgage prisoners”, trapped on expensive deals and not allowed to switch, the financial regulator has said. The Financial Conduct Authority urged for more innovation to help around 150,000 people who signed up for deals before interest rates plummeted after the financial crisis. They have since been switched to more expensive “reversion rates” once their previous deal expired and are unable to switch because they do not meet stricter affordability rules which have been brought in. Christopher Woolard, director of strategy and competition at the FCA, said: “For many, the market is working well, with high levels of consumer engagement. “However, we believe that things could work better with more innovative tools to help consumers.

“There are also a number of long-standing borrowers that have kept up-to-date with their mortgage repayments but are unable to get a new mortgage deal; we want to explore ways that we, and the industry, can help them.” The FCA said it will consider seeking an industry-wide agreement to approve applications from those who are affected and are up-to-date with payments. However, this will only help 30,000 people who are with authorised mortgage lenders. The remaining 120,000 are with firms who are not authorised to lend, often because the lender has sold on a batch of mortgages. These firms are outside the FCA’s remit, which is set by parliament, meaning new legislation would be required to enable the regulator take action.

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“..large twin budget and current account deficits, a heavy dollar debt burden, entrenched high inflation and an overvalued currency..”

Argentina Hikes Interest Rates To 40% Amid Inflation Crisis (Ind.)

Argentina has jacked up its interest rates to 40 per cent in a drastic attempt to keep a lid on domestic inflation and stabilise its currency. The Latin American country’s central bank announced the hike on Friday, the third in seven days, saying it would keep using the tools at its disposal to get inflation back down to it 15 per cent target. Inflation in the country is currently running at 25.4 per cent, despite the investor-friendly economic reforms of President Mauricio Macri. Argentina is one of several emerging market economies that have suffered from currency pressure in recent weeks as the US dollar has strengthened and foreign capital has been withdrawn.

“Investors are moving out of [emerging markets], frontier [economies], and other risky assets and so countries like Argentina remain at heightened risk,” said Win Thin of Brown Brothers Harriman. The value of the Argentinian peso has declined from 18.6 against the greenback in January to 23 this week. President Macri succeeded the Peronist Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in 2015 and has been seeking to reverse her policies of protectionism and high government spending. “This crisis looks set to continue unless the government steps in to reassure investors that it will take more aggressive steps to fix Argentina’s economic vulnerabilities,” said Edward Glossop of Capital Economics.

“Risks to the peso have been brewing for a while – large twin budget and current account deficits, a heavy dollar debt burden, entrenched high inflation and an overvalued currency. The real surprise is how quickly and suddenly things seem to be escalating.”

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“It’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me the special prosecutor has power to do anything he or she wants. ..”

Judge In Manafort Case Rebukes Mueller For Exceeding Authority (G.)

A federal judge has rebuked the special counsel investigating alleged collusion between Trump aides and Russia, for overstepping his bounds in a criminal case against the president’s former campaign manager. Robert Mueller last year brought tax and bank fraud charges against Paul Manafort, the first indictment in the Russia investigation. Manafort maintains his innocence. On Friday TS Ellis, a judge in the eastern district of Virginia, suggested that Mueller’s real motivation for pursuing Manafort was to compel him to “sing” against Trump. “You don’t really care about Mr Manafort’s bank fraud,” the judge, reportedly losing his temper, challenged lawyers from the office of special counsel.

“You really care about getting information Mr Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment.” The comments, at a tense court hearing in Alexandria, were a boost for Manafort’s lawyers who contend that the charges against him are outside Mueller’s mandate to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election. Ellis added: “I don’t see what relationship this indictment has with anything the special counsel is authorised to investigate. “We don’t want anyone in this country with unfettered power. It’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me the special prosecutor has power to do anything he or she wants. The American people feel pretty strongly that no one has unfettered power.”

[..] Ellis withheld ruling on dismissal of the indictment. He asked the special counsel’s office to share privately with him a copy of deputy attorney general Rod Rosentein’s August 2017 memo elaborating on the scope of Mueller’s Russia investigation. The current version has been heavily redacted, he said. Leaving the White House on his way to Texas on Friday, Trump claimed he would welcome an interview with Mueller. “So I would love to speak,” he told reporters. “I would love to go. Nothing I want to do more, because we did nothing wrong. We ran a great campaign. We won easily.” But he added: “I have to find that we’re going to be treated fairly, because everybody sees it now, and it is a pure witch-hunt. Right now, it’s a pure witch-hunt.”

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The FBI is far from squeaky clean.

The Horsefly Cometh (Jim Kunstler)

You can see where this Mueller thing is going: to the moment when the Golden Golem of Greatness finally swats down the political horsefly that has orbited his glittering brainpan for a whole year, and says, “There! It’s done.”

It suggests that Civil War Two will end up looking a whole lot more like the French Revolution than Civil War One. The latter unfurled as a solemn tragedy; the former as a Coen Brothers style opéra bouffe bloodbath. Having executed the presidential swat to said orbiting horsefly, Trump will try to turn his attention to the affairs of the nation, only to find that it is insolvent and teetering on the most destructive workout of bad debt the world has ever seen. And then his enemies will really go to work. In the process, they’ll probably wreck the institutional infrastructure needed to run a republic in constitutional democracy mode.

They got a good start in politicizing the upper ranks of the FBI, a fatal miscalculation based on the certainty of a Hillary win, which would have enabled the various schemers in the J. Edgar Hoover building to just fade back into the procedural woodwork of the agency and get on with life. Instead, their shenanigans were exposed and so far one key player, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, was hung out to dry by a committee of his fellow agency execs for lying about his official conduct. Long about now, you kind of wonder: is that where it ends for him? Seems like everybody else (and his uncle) is getting indicted for lying to the FBI. How about Mr. McCabe, since that is exactly why his colleagues at the FBI fired him?

Perhaps further resolution of this murky situation awaits Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s forthcoming report, which the media seems to have forgotten about lately. An awful lot of the mischief at the FBI and its parent agency, the Department of Justice, is already on the public record, for instance the conflicting statements of Andrew McCabe and his former boss James Comey concerning who illegally leaked what to the press. On the face of it, it looks pretty bad when at least one of these Big Fish at the top of a supposedly incorruptible agency is lying. There are at least a dozen other Big Fish in there who still have some serious ‘splainin’ to do, and why not in the grand jury setting?

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There goes the OPCWs credibility.

Chemical Weapons Watchdog Backtracks On ‘100g Of Novichok’ Claim (Ind. )

The international chemical weapons watchdog has backtracked on a suggestion that as much as 100 grams of nerve agent may have been used in the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Ahmet Uzumcu, director general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), had said the relatively large quantities of novichok used suggested it had been created as a weapon rather than for research purposes. But a new OPCW statement said the organisation was not able to “estimate or determine the amount of the nerve agent that was used” in the incident. Mr Uzumcu had said samples collected suggested the nerve agent used to poison the Skripals was of “high purity”.

He said: “For research activities or protection you would need, for instance, five to 10 grams or so, but even in Salisbury it looks like they may have used more than that. “Without knowing the exact quantity, I am told it may be 50, 100 grams or so, which goes beyond research activities for protection. “It’s not affected by weather conditions. That explains, actually, that they were able to identify it after a considerable time lapse.” It came as Czech President Milos Zeman said his country had produced small quantities of novichok. Britain has argued the use of Novichok – which was developed by the former Soviet Union in the 1980s – meant there was no “plausible alternative” explanation other than the Russian state was behind the attack.

However Mr Zeman’s comments were seized on by President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who said they were a “clear illustration of the groundless stance the British authorities have taken”.

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And they want you to believe the economy is growing.

Greek Unpaid Taxes Build Up Again As Taxpayers Are Unable To Pay (K.)

Concerns are growing in the Finance Ministry as expired debts to the tax authorities grew at an unexpectedly high rate in March – a month with no major obligations. Unpaid taxes came to 776 million euros in March, taking total new arrears to the state in the first quarter of the year to 3.55 billion euros. According to figures released on Friday by the tax administration, the sum of old and new debts to the state amounted to 101.6 billion euros at end-March. Out of the 3.55 billion created in Q1, 3.3 billion euros was in the form of unpaid taxes. Ministry officials argue that the increase in tax debts is due to the fact that many taxpayers missed the deadlines for them to pay installments as part of debt settlement programs concerning the revelation of previously undeclared incomes.

Other reasons cited are that taxpayers have failed to pay fines, as well as many individuals and enterprises having exhausted all means for paying taxes. If this situation continues in the following months, the hole in budget revenues will grow considerably, given that the submission process for income tax statements has just begun and the first tranche is payable by end-July. The state’s response to this phenomenon is confiscations, which in March alone numbered 21,275. This takes the sum of taxpayers who have suffered confiscations to 1,109,971, while the total number of Greeks owing to the state has risen to 3,907,847.

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“..agricultural products, including seeds, cannot be patented in India..”

Monsanto Appeals To India Supreme Court Over GMO Cotton Patents (R.)

Monsanto has appealed to the Supreme Court against a ruling by the Delhi High Court which decreed last month that the world’s biggest seed maker cannot claim patents on its genetically modified or GM cotton seeds, a company spokesman said on Friday. The Delhi High Court on April concurred with Indian seed company Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd (NSL), which argued that the Patent Act does not allow Monsanto any patent cover for its genetically modified cotton seeds. Monsanto has appealed to the Supreme Court, said a Monsanto India spokesman. “In the Supreme Court, we’ll maintain our stand that agricultural products, including seeds, cannot be patented in India,” said Narne Murali Krishna, a company secretary for NSL.

“The judgement of the Delhi High Court has already vindicated our stand.” New Delhi approved Monsanto’s GM cotton seed trait, the only lab-altered crop allowed in India, in 2003 and an upgraded variety in 2006, helping transform the country into the world’s top producer and second-largest exporter of the fibre. Monsanto’s GM cotton seed technology went on to dominate 90 percent of India’s cotton acreage. But for the past few years Monsanto has been at loggerheads with NSL, drawing in the Indian and US governments, Reuters revealed last year.

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Gorilla’s, bonobos, dwarf chimpanzees, Congo peacocks and forest elephants…

Congo To Drill For Oil In Parks Home To Endangered Mountain Gorilla (Ind.)

The Democratic Republic of Congo is planning to reclassify two protected national parks to allow oil exploration. Documents seen by The Independent show the government wants to redraw the boundaries of the Salonga and Virunga national parks, which are home to critically endangered species such as mountain gorillas, to remove protected status from certain areas. Both parks are UNESCO World Heritage sites, a status which in theory should protect them from oil exploration and other extractive activities. In a letter, Congo’s oil minister Aime Ngoi Muken invited the environment minister and the minister for scientific research to a special commission meeting to discuss the plans on 27 April.

Minutes and notes of the meeting give more details about the areas in which the Congolese government wants to allow exploration. In another series of letters seen by NGO Global Witness, Congo’s oil minister Ngoi Muken argued for the need to open up the protected sites for oil exploration and set out the legal procedures to do so. Global Witness said the plans would be a violation of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention to which the Democratic Republic of Congo is a signatory. The Virunga park is one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet and is home to about a quarter of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. According to UNESCO, the Salonga park is Africa’s largest tropical rainforest, home to many endangered species such as bonobos, dwarf chimpanzees, Congo peacocks and forest elephants.

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