Sep 142020
 


Edvard Munch Love and pain 1895

 

“A Harris Administration Together With Joe Biden” (AZC)
America’s Color Revolution (Paul Craig Roberts)
Biden Says Stay in Mideast, Increase Military Spending (Antiwar)
Wiped Phones Obstruction Of Justice, Worst Sort Destruction Of Evidence (RCP)
Trump Signs New, Expanded Executive Order To Lower US Drug Prices (R.)
State Dept Reported Burisma Paid Bribe While Hunter Biden Served On Board (JTN)
The Fed’s New Framework: This Time Is Different (Zentner)
Oracle Emerges As Likely US Partner For TikTok (JTN)
Beijing’s Mass Surveillance Of Australia And The World (ABC.au)
The Rise of Ultra-Processed Foods (Conv.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taleb: Retrospective bigotteering

 

 

What a most curious thing to say. Where does that come from? Is it equal to “A Pence Administration Together With Donald Trump”?

“A Harris Administration Together With Joe Biden” (AZC)

Pointing to Arizona’s high coronavirus losses, Kamala Harris urged the state’s residents to register and vote for an administration committed to its health and business needs. In a five-minute virtual speech Saturday cast as a conversation with Latina small business owners, the senator from California said she and her running mate, Joe Biden, will create manufacturing incentives, roll back tax cuts that went to the wealthy and preserve health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act. “For everyone on this call, Joe and I understand that your business is the heartbeat of your community,” Harris said. “As part of our Build Back Better agenda, we will need to make sure you have a president in the White House who actually sees you, who understands your needs, who understands the dignity of your work and who has your back.”


Harris’ speech is a reminder of the key role Hispanic voters are expected to play in helping win Arizona, a battleground for the White House. The Biden-Harris ticket is expected to win most Hispanic votes, but polling suggests they are doing so in numbers smaller than Democrat Hillary Clinton did in her losing 2016 campaign. Harris said a Democratic administration, which she called “a Harris administration together with Joe Biden,” would provide $100 billion in low-interest loans and investments for minority-owned businesses, a $15,000 tax credit for first-time home-buyers and allow government-run health insurance to compete with private insurers.

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“Trump, isolated in his own government, will be cut off from Twitter, Facebook and from the print and TV media.”

America’s Color Revolution (Paul Craig Roberts)

Russiagate was a coup that failed, followed by the failed Impeachgate coup. Faced with Trump’s reelection and the realization that upon reelection Trump will be able to deal with the treason against him, the Deep State has decided to take him out with a color revolution. The evidence of a color revolution in the works is abundantly supplied by CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, NPR, Washington Post and numerous Internet sites funded by the CIA and the foundations and corporations through which it operates, all of which are committed to Trump’s ejection from the Oval Office. The American public does not realize the extent to which the institutions of a free society have been penetrated and turned against freedom. All of these media organizations are establishing the story in the mind of Americans that Trump will not leave office when he loses or steals the election and must be driven out.

Emails are arriving from readers in the UK and Europe reporting that the British and European media are at work preparing the acceptability of the CIA’s color revolution against President Trump. It is taken for granted by both media and politicians in Europe and the UK that Trump cannot win reelection because he (1) is a Putin agent, (2) abuses the power of his office, (3) represents racist “Trump Deplorables,” (4) is a womanizer—“grab them by the pussy,” (5) is responsible for America leading the world in Covid-19 cases and deaths, (6) doesn’t support NATO (a sinecure for many Europeans), (7) is an outsider and not a member of The Establishment and “is not like us,” (8) “has orange hair” (orange is considered a low class color). You can add your own to the list.

The scenarios for what the American, British, and European media assume to be a necessary color revolution to drive Trump from office are: • Trump loses the election, refuses to leave office and must be dislodged or democracy is lost. • Trump wins the election by fraud and must be dislodged or democracy is lost. The scenarios do not accommodate Trump actually winning the election by the vote of the people. That outcome is outside the possibilities. According to the media, Trump can only lose or steal the election. With Antifa and Black Lives Matter now experienced in violent protests, they will be unleashed anew on American cities when there is news of a Trump election victory. The media will explain the violence as necessary to free us from a tyrant and egg on the violence, as will the Democrat Party. The CIA will be certain that the violence is well funded.

Trump, isolated in his own government, which has failed to bring charges against the Obama regime officials who tried to frame the President of the United States and drive him from office—Barr and Durham represent The Establishment, not the President or law—will be cut off from Twitter, Facebook and from the print and TV media. All Americans and the world will hear is that Trump lost and must go or Trump won by vote fraud and must go. It will be impossible for Trump or anyone to refute the charges.

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“The priorities, as are so often the case for the US, are fighting Russia, who Biden identified as a “near-peer” power. The US spends more than ten times the amount on its military annually that Russia does, and it is unclear in what way they are a “near-peer.”

Biden Says Stay in Mideast, Increase Military Spending (Antiwar)

Former Vice President Joe Biden gave some of his first foreign policy-related positions in an interview with Stars and Stripes on Thursday, saying the “forever wars have to end” while seemingly ruling out any full-fledged withdrawals, arguing the US still has to worry about terrorism and ISIS. Biden said the ongoing US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria are so complicated he can’t promise a withdrawal. He also suggested he may increase military spending even beyond its current record levels as he shifts focus to what he believes should be the military’s priorities. The priorities, as are so often the case for the US, are fighting Russia, who Biden identified as a “near-peer” power.


The US spends more than ten times the amount on its military annually that Russia does, and it is unclear in what way they are a “near-peer.” Either way, Biden intends to shift the focus toward unmanned drones and cyber-warfare, and suggests that is likely to boil down to not just a shift in where money is spent, but likely an increase in spending as well. “First thing I’m going to have to do, and I’m not joking: if elected I’m going to have to get on the phone with the heads of state and say America’s back,” Biden said, saying NATO has been “worried as hell about our failure to confront Russia.”

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Sidney Powell.

Wiped Phones Obstruction Of Justice, Worst Sort Destruction Of Evidence (RCP)

Sidney Powell, the attorney for Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, appeared on FOX Business and denounced the Mueller team for having their phones wiped before the DOJ inspector general could view their contents. “I wrote about it in an article in 2018 complaining that Rosenstein and Mueller allowed the Strzok/Page cell phones from the special counsel operation to be destroyed, and I demanded that the IG seize the other phones then and collect all the evidence off of them,” Powell said Thursday. “And then the IG lets this happen. All of those phones should have been seized while at the end of the special counsel operation while they were still doing it, and they should have nailed every one of them.”


Powell on Strzok: “Peter Strzok is a liar. Peter Strzok is the one who altered the 302 multiple times in conjunction with Lisa Page until he added statements that were not reflected in the notes of the two agents that interviewed General Flynn.” “And both agent Strzok and agent Pientka who interviewed him knew at the time he was telling them the truth. That’s why Flynn was never re-interviewed. They didn’t even warn him about a 1001 statement, and they didn’t let him look at the transcript like they do with every other witness.” “They treated him differently than anyone else they ever interviewed for anything. They schemed and planned to interview him in such a way he did not even know he was the subject of the interview or investigation and they did that deliberately, violating all the rules in the process.”

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Got to love this from Big Pharma:

“a reckless attack on the very companies working around the clock to beat COVID19.”

Trump Signs New, Expanded Executive Order To Lower US Drug Prices (R.)

President Donald Trump signed a new executive order on Sunday aimed at lowering drug prices in the United States by linking them to those of other nations and expanding the scope of a July action. “My Most Favored Nation order will ensure that our Country gets the same low price Big Pharma gives to other countries. The days of global freeriding at America’s expense are over,” Trump said in a Twitter post. The latest step, coming less than two months before the Nov. 3 presidential election, would replace a July 24 Trump executive order. It extends the mandate to prescription drugs available at a pharmacy, which are covered under Medicare Part D. The July version focused on drugs typically administered in doctors’ offices and health clinics, covered by Medicare Part B.


Specifically, it would pay a price for a drug that matches the lowest price paid among wealthy foreign governments. Medicare, the government healthcare program for seniors, is currently prohibited from negotiating prices it pays to drugmakers. It also requires issuing new federal rules, a complex process that might not be done by Election Day. Determining prices paid by other countries could be challenging as negotiations between governments and drugmakers often are kept confidential. The industry’s largest trade group – the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA – denounced Trump’s move as “a reckless attack on the very companies working around the clock to beat COVID-19.”

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Will this go away?

State Dept Reported Burisma Paid Bribe While Hunter Biden Served On Board (JTN)

Just eight months after Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter joined the board of Burisma Holdings, U.S. officials in Kiev developed evidence that the Ukrainian gas company may have paid a $7 million bribe to the local prosecutors investigating the firm for corruption, according to interviews and State Department memos. State officials believed the alleged bribe was paid between May and December 2014 and got confirmation from one prosecutor. They argued the bribe amounted to a “gross miscarriage of justice that undermined months of US assistance” to fight corruption in Ukraine, contemporaneous memos show. The concerns were eventually reported to the FBI, although it is not clear whether the allegations were ever investigated more fully, according to current and former U.S. and Ukrainian government officials.

The anecdote, buried in five-year-old diplomatic files, provides a fresh illustration of the awkward, uncomfortable conflict of interest State officials perceived as they tried to fight pervasive corruption in Ukraine under Joe Biden’s leadership while the vice president’s son collected large payments as a board member for an energy firm widely viewed as corrupt. The concerns first came to a head in January 2015, the memos show, about eight months after Hunter Biden was named to Burisma’s board and after two major corruption investigations — one in Ukraine and the other in Britain — were opened against the gas firm.

George Kent, then a State Department official newly sent to the U.S. embassy in Kiev to lead anti-corruption efforts, was concerned the bribery allegations surrounding Prosecutor General Vitaly Yarema were credible enough that he sought a meeting with one of Yarema’s deputies to demand action, according to State Department memos. His concern was triggered when Yarema took action over the Christmas 2014 holidays to undercut both the British and Ukraine investigations of Burisma and its founder Mykola Zlochevsky, and the U.S. embassy received word a $7 million bribe had changed hands, State memos show. The Feb. 3, 2015 meeting involved Kent, one of Yarema’s top deputies, Anatoliy Danylenko, as well as the DOJ’s liaison in Ukraine, Jeffrey Cole, memos show. It was arranged by Andrii Telizhenko, an English-speaking mid-level Ukrainian government official long trusted by the Obama administration in Kiev and Washington to facilitate contacts between the two countries.

“No problem, works for us. I’ll get you the names soonest. Likely George and Jeff Cole. Will confirm later,” U.S. embassy official Gregory W. Pfleger wrote Telizhenko in a lengthy Jan. 31, 2015 email chain that arranged the location, date and attendees for the meeting for three days later. Pfleger had forwarded Kent’s resume to the Ukrainians since he was new to the embassy, and Telizhenko reciprocated by forwarding a biography for Danylenko, the memos show. U.S. officials familiar with the meeting, as well as one eyewitness, told Just the News that Kent strongly confronted Danylenko, insisting the U.S. had strong reason to believe that Burisma officials made a multimillion dollar bribe to Yarema’s office between May 2014 when Hunter Biden joined the board and December 2014.

[..] A few days after the meeting, Yarema abruptly stepped down Feb. 10, 2015 as the chief prosecutor of Ukraine after just a few months in the job.

Strzok believes

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From Morgan Stanley’s chief economist Ellen Zentner. I must assume these people believe in their own gibberish, as well as the Fed’s.

The Fed’s New Framework: This Time Is Different (Zentner)

On August 27, Chair Powell and the Federal Open Market Committee made history, rolling out a new inflation-targeting framework. I believe that the central bank is now more likely to achieve its desired inflation target in the current cycle. If it does, this new framework may well be Chair Powell’s legacy. The Fed replaced its old symmetric 2% inflation target with a flexible average inflation-targeting framework. It emphasizes that the Fed will target an inflation overshoot in recoveries following inflation shortfalls during downturns. This has important implications for economic and policy outcomes over the medium term. Most specifically, under Powell’s leadership the Fed has now solidified a more dovish path than in previous recoveries.

Under the new outcome-based approach, the Fed needs evidence of inflation before raising rates, rather than simply forecasting that it will rise. Had this policy framework been in place in the last cycle, with inflation and unemployment evolving exactly as they did, the Fed might have delayed lift-off to as late as 2018, with its overall policy stance more accommodative for longer. It’s not just policy outcomes that are likely to differ. A change in monetary policy dynamics is likely to feed through to inflation expectations, which are relevant to price- and wage-setting. This would make it more likely that the Fed can achieve its inflation targets over the current cycle and that average 2% inflation outcomes are attainable over time.

To be sure, the change in the Fed’s framework makes us even more confident that inflation will be structurally higher over this cycle and beyond. How quickly the output and employment gaps close in this cycle will play a major role in determining when the first rate hike comes. Moreover, we believe that to demonstrate their commitment to the new strategy, policy-makers won’t rush to raise rates at the first sign of success. The longer-term simulations we laid out in Life After Covid suggest that the kind of labor market and inflation conditions the Fed would want to see sustained could be in place for the Fed to consider raising rates by the first half of 2024, sooner should the V-shaped recovery continue to run ahead of expectations.

Long before the first rate hike, the Fed should see the necessary conditions to start taking its foot off the gas. Working backwards, we think the Fed will want to end its asset purchases around a year before the first rate hike. This suggests that asset purchases would stop in early 2023, but tapering is likely to come in mid-2022. Chair Powell has time and again displayed an affinity for long-dated forewarning of Fed action to market participants, so starting to slow the pace of asset purchases around mid-2022 means we should get guidance that tapering is on the horizon by the December 2021 FOMC meeting.

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I thought they weren’t going to sell at all?!

Oracle Emerges As Likely US Partner For TikTok (JTN)

Oracle emerged Sunday evening as the likely U.S. partner for the popular social video app TikTok after Microsoft Corp. announced its bid had been rejected by the Chinese app’s owner. “ByteDance let us know today they would not be selling TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft,” the U.S. software maker announced in a blog post. “We are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok’s users, while protecting national security interests. To do this, we would have made significant changes to ensure the service met the highest standards for security, privacy, online safety, and combatting disinformation, and we made these principles clear in our August statement. Microsoft’s rejection left Oracle as the lone remaining U.S. suitor. The Washington Post, quoting an anonymous source, reported Sunday night that ByteDance had chosen Oracle as TikTok’s U.S. technology partner.

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China emulates the CIA?!

Beijing’s Mass Surveillance Of Australia And The World (ABC.au)

A Chinese company with links to Beijing’s military and intelligence networks has been amassing a vast database of detailed personal information on thousands of Australians, including prominent and influential figures. A database of 2.4 million people, including more than 35,000 Australians, has been leaked from the Shenzhen company Zhenhua Data which is believed to be used by China’s intelligence service, the Ministry of State Security. Zhenhua has the People’s Liberation Army and the Chinese Communist Party among its main clients. Information collected includes dates of birth, addresses, marital status, along with photographs, political associations, relatives and social media IDs.

It collates Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and even TikTok accounts, as well as news stories, criminal records and corporate misdemeanours. While much of the information has been “scraped” from open-source material, some profiles have information which appears to have been sourced from confidential bank records, job applications and psychological profiles. The company is believed to have sourced some of its information from the so-called “dark web”. One intelligence analyst said the database was “Cambridge Analytica on steroids”, referring to the trove of personal information sourced from Facebook profiles in the lead up to the 2016 US election campaign.

[..] The database was leaked to a US academic based in Vietnam, Professor Chris Balding, who until 2018 had worked at the elite Peking University before leaving China citing fears for his physical safety. “China is absolutely building out a massive surveillance state both domestically and internationally,” Professor Balding told the ABC. “They’re using a wide variety of tools — this one is taken primarily from public sources, there is non-public data in here, but it is taken primarily from public sources. “I think it speaks to the broader threat of what China is doing and how they are surveilling, monitoring and seeking to influence… not just their own citizens, but citizens around the world.” Professor Balding has returned to the United States, leaving Vietnam after being advised it was no longer safe for him to be there.

It was also a grave risk taken by the person who leaked the database to him, who contacted him as he started publishing articles about Chinese tech giant Huawei. “We’ve worked very hard to make sure that there are no links between me and that person, once I realised what had been given to me,” he said. “They are still in China. But hopefully I think they will be safe.” Professor Balding gave the database to Canberra cyber security company Internet 2.0 which was able to restore 10 per cent of the 2.4 million records for individuals. Internet 2.0’s chief executive Robert Potter said Zhenhua had built the capacity to track naval vessels and defence assets, to assess the careers of military officers and catalogue the intellectual property of China’s competitors. “This mass collection of data is taking place in China’s private sector, in the same way Beijing outsources its cyber attack capability to private subcontractors,” Mr Potter told the ABC.

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Awfully simplistic, but a good reminder that this stuff makes your body, and your immune system, much weaker. The last thing you want with a virus like this going around is chronic inflammation.

The Rise of Ultra-Processed Foods (Conv.)

Humans (and our ancestors) have been processing food for at least 1.8 million years. Roasting, drying, grinding and other techniques made food more nutritious, durable and tasty. This helped our ancestors to colonise diverse habitats, and then develop settlements and civilisations. Many traditional foods used in cooking today are processed in some way, such as grains, cheeses, dried fish and fermented vegetables. Processing itself is not the problem. Only much more recently has a different type of food processing emerged: one that is more extensive, and uses new chemical and physical techniques. This is called ultra-processing, and the resulting products ultra-processed foods.

To make these foods, cheap ingredients such as starches, vegetable oils and sugars, are combined with cosmetic additives like colours, flavours and emulsifiers. Think sugary drinks, confectionery, mass-produced breads, snack foods, sweetened dairy products and frozen desserts. Unfortunately, these foods are terrible for our health. And we’re eating more of them than ever before, partially because of aggressive marketing and lobbying by “Big Food”. [..] We found that more ultra-processed foods in the diet associates with higher risks of obesity, heart disease and stroke, type-2 diabetes, cancer, frailty, depression and death. These harms can be caused by the foods’ poor nutritional profile, as many are high in added sugars, salt and trans-fats.


Also, if you tend to eat more ultra-processed foods, it means you probably eat fewer fresh and less-processed foods. Industrial processing itself can also be harmful. For example, certain food additives can disrupt our gut bacteria and trigger inflammation, while plasticisers in packaging can interfere with our hormonal system. Certain features of ultra-processed foods also promote over-consumption. Product flavours, aromas and mouthfeel are designed to make these foods ultra-tasty, and perhaps even addictive.

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– Henry David Thoreau

 

 

 

 

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May 152018
 


Henri Matisse Odalisque couchée aux magnolias 1923

 

Making Money In The Stock Market Just Got A Lot More Difficult (MW)
America’s Worst Long-Term Challenges: #1- Debt. (Black)
Fifteen Thoughts About Israel (Caitlin Johnstone)
Australia Probes Claim Google Harvests Data, Makes Consumers Pay (R.)
Warning Sounded Over China’s ‘Debtbook Diplomacy’ (G.)
China Really Is To Blame For Millions Of Lost US Manufacturing Jobs (MW)
No Progress Made On Any Key Area Of Brexit For Months – EU (Ind.)
Russian Company Charged In Mueller Probe Seeks Grand Jury Materials (R.)
Bridge From Mainland Russia To Crimea Hours Away From Opening (RT)
Industrial Trans Fats Must Be Removed From Food Supply –
Bank of England Should Print Money To Prevent Climate Change (Ind.)
Wildlife Poachers In Kenya ‘To Face Death Penalty’ (Ind.)

 

 

Bonds yield more than stocks.

Making Money In The Stock Market Just Got A Lot More Difficult (MW)

For almost a decade, it’s been extremely difficult to lose money in the U.S. stock market. Over the next decade, it could be hard to do anything but, according to analysts at Morgan Stanley. The outlook for market returns has precipitously worsened in recent months, with analysts and investors growing increasingly confident that the lengthy bull market that began in the wake of the financial crisis could be, if not coming to a close, petering out. More market participants view the economy as being in the late stage of its cycle, and a recession is widely expected in the next few years. All of that could result in an equity-market environment that’s a mirror image of recent years, where gains were pretty much uninterrupted, and volatility was subdued.

“2018 is seeing multiple tailwinds of the last nine years abate,” Morgan Stanley analysts wrote in a report to clients that was entitled “The End of Easy,” in reference to the investing environment. “Decelerating growth, rising inflation and tightening policy leave us with below-consensus 12-month return forecasts for most risk assets. After nine years of markets outperforming the real economy, we think the opposite now applies as policy tightens.” As part of its call, Morgan Stanley reduced its view on global equities to equal weight, saying they were “in a range-trading regime with limited 12-month upside.” It raised its exposure to cash, following Goldman Sachs, which last week upgraded its view on the asset class on a short-term basis.

U.S. GDP grew at an annualized 2.3% in the first quarter, below the 3% average of the previous three quarters, as consumer spending hit its weakest level in five years. While slowing growth isn’t the same as a contraction, the data added to concerns that a period of synchronized global growth was coming to a close. According to a BofA Merrill Lynch Global survey of fund managers in April, just 5% of respondents expect faster global growth over the coming 12 months, compared with the roughly 40% that did at the start of the year.

[..] Howard Wang, the co-founder of Convoy Investments, called the Fed’s ballooning balance sheet “the fundamental driver of asset prices over the last decade.” He provided the chart below, which compares the growth in the U.S. money supply against the long-term return of all assets, including global equities, bond categories, real estate, and gold. “I believe the trend of shrinking money supply in the system will continue for some time to come,” Wang wrote. “This adjustment is a painful but necessary process for healthier markets and economies.”

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$52,000 per second.

America’s Worst Long-Term Challenges: #1- Debt. (Black)

On October 22, 1981, the national debt in the United States crossed the $1 trillion threshold for the first time in history. It took nearly two centuries to reach that unfortunate milestone. And over that time the country had been through a revolution, civil war, two world wars, the Great Depression, the nuclear arms race… plus dozens of other wars, financial panics, and economic crises. Today, the national debt stands at more than $21 trillion– a milestone hit roughly two months ago. This means that the government added $20 trillion to the national debt in the 37 years between October 22, 1981 and March 15, 2018.

That’s an average of nearly $1.5 BILLION added to the national debt every single day… $62 million per hour… $1 million per minute… and more than $17,000 per SECOND. But the problem for the US government is that this trend has grown worse over the years. It took only 214 days for the government to go from $20 trillion in debt to $21 trillion in debt– less than eight months to add a trillion dollars to the national debt. That’s an average of almost $52,000 per second. Think about that: on average, the US national debt increases by more in a split second than the typical American worker earns in an entire year. And there is no end in sight.

At 105% of GDP, America’s national debt is already larger than the size of the entire US economy. (By comparison the national debt was just 31% of GDP in 1981.) Plus, the government’s own projections show a steep increase to the debt in the coming years and decades. The Treasury Department has already estimated that it will borrow $1 trillion this fiscal year, $1 trillion next year, and another trillion dollars the year after that. They’re also forecasting the national debt to exceed $30 trillion by 2025.

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I’ll let Caitlin do the talking. The damage done to America yesterday will be felt for a long time.

Fifteen Thoughts About Israel (Caitlin Johnstone)

1. I hate writing about Israel. The accusations of anti-semitism which necessarily go along with literally any criticism of that nation are gross enough, but even worse are the assholes who take my criticisms of the Israeli government as an invitation to actually be anti-semitic. They really do hate Jews, they really do think that every problem in the world is because of Jews and they post Jewish caricature memes and calls for genocide in the comments section on social media and it’s incredibly gross and I hate it. It feels exactly as intrusive, jarring and violating as receiving an unsolicited dick pic. But the Israeli government keeps committing war provocations and massacring Palestinians, so it’s something I’ve got to talk about.

2. Anti-semitism (or whatever word you prefer to use for the pernicious mind virus which makes people think it’s okay to promote hatred against Jewish people) is a very real thing that does exist, and I denounce it to the furthest possible extent. Anti-semitism is also a label that is used to bully the world into accepting war crimes, apartheid, oppression, and mass murder. Both of those things are true.

3. There were dozens of Palestinians killed and well above a thousand injured in the Gaza protests over the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem yesterday. I haven’t found any report of so much as a single Israeli injury. The only way to spin this as the fault of the Palestinians is to dehumanize them, to attribute behaviors and motives to them that we all know are contrary to human nature. To paint them as subhuman orc-like creatures who are so crazy and evil that they will keep throwing themselves at a hail of bullets risking life and limb just to have some extremely remote chance of harming a Jewish person for no reason. This is clearly absurd. A little clear thinking and empathy goes a long way.

6. Any position on Israel that is determined by words made up by dead men thousands of years ago is intrinsically invalid. Saying the Jewish people are more entitled to Israel than those who were living there seven decades ago because of some superstitious voodoo written in obsolete religious texts is not an argument. Religious freedom is important, and it’s important to be able to believe whatever you like, but your beliefs do not legitimize your actions upon other people. If you murder someone in the name of Allah, you have murdered someone. If you kill 58 people because you feel some ancient scripture entitles you to a particular section of dirt, you have killed 58 people. Your internal beliefs do not give you a free pass for your egregious actions upon others.

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Betcha it’s true. Making people pay to be spied upon.

Australia Probes Claim Google Harvests Data, Makes Consumers Pay For It (R.)

Google is under investigation in Australia following claims that it collects data from millions of Android smartphones users, who unwittingly pay their telecom service providers for gigabytes consumed during the harvesting, regulators said on Tuesday. Responding to the latest privacy concerns surrounding Google, a spokesman for the U.S. based search engine operator said the company has users’ permission to collect data. The Australian investigations stem from allegations made by Oracle Corp in a report provided as part of an Australian review into the impact that Google, owned by Alphabet Inc, and Facebook have on the advertising market. Both the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the country’s Privacy Commissioner said they were reviewing the report’s findings.

“The ACCC met with Oracle and is considering information it has provided about Google services,” said Geesche Jacobsen, a spokeswoman for the competition regulator. “We are exploring how much consumers know about the use of location data and are working closely with the Privacy Commissioner.” Oracle, according to The Australian newspaper, said Alphabet receives detailed information about people’s internet searches and user locations if they have a phone that carries Android – the mobile operating system developed by Google. Transferring that information to Google means using up gigabytes of data that consumers have paid for under data packages purchased from local telecom service providers, according to the Oracle report.

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As I’ve said for a long time, this is the Belt and Road scheme.

Warning Sounded Over China’s ‘Debtbook Diplomacy’ (G.)

China’s “debtbook diplomacy” uses strategic debts to gain political leverage with economically vulnerable countries across the Asia-Pacific region, the US state department has been warned in an independent report. The academic report, from graduate students of the Harvard Kennedy school of policy analysis, was independently prepared for the state department to view and assessed the impact of China’s strategy on the influence of the US in the region. The paper identifies 16 “targets” of China’s tactic of extending hundreds of billions of dollars in loans to countries that can’t afford to pay them, and then strategically leveraging the debt.

It said while Chinese infrastructure investment in developing countries wasn’t “inherently” against US or global interests, it became problematic when China’s use of its leverage ran counter to US interests, or if the US had strategic interests in a country which had its domestic stability undermined by unsustainable debt. The academics identified the most concerning countries, naming Pakistan and Sri Lanka as states where the process was “advanced”, with deepening debt and where the government had already ceded a key port or military base, as well places including Papua New Guinea and Thailand, where China had not yet used its amassed debt leverage.

Papua New Guinea, which “has historically been in Australia’s orbit”, was also accepting unaffordable Chinese loans. While this wasn’t a significant concern yet, the report said, the country offered a “strategic location” for China, as well as large resource deposits. While there was a lack of “individual diplomatic clout” in Cambodia, Laos and the Philippines, Chinese debt could give China a “proxy veto” in Asean, the academics said.

[..] China’s methods were “remarkably consistent”, the report said, beginning with infrastructure investments under its $1tn belt and road initiative, and offering longer term loans with extended grace periods, which was appealing to countries with weaker economies and governance. Construction projects, which the report said had a reputation for running over budget and yielding underwhelming returns, make debt repayments for the host nations more difficult. “The final phase is debt collection,” it said. “When countries prove unable to pay back their debts, China has already and is likely to continue to offer debt-forgiveness in exchange for both political influence and strategic equities.”

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That’s been obvious for many years.

China Really Is To Blame For Millions Of Lost US Manufacturing Jobs (MW)

Millions of Americans who lost manufacturing jobs during the 2000s have long ”known” China was to blame, not robots. And many helped elect Donald Trump as president because of his insistence that China was at fault. Evidently many academics who’ve studied the issue are finally drawing the same conclusion. For years economists have viewed the increased role of automation in the computer age as the chief culprit for some 6 million lost jobs from 1999 to 2010 — one-third of all U.S. manufacturing employment. Firms adopted new technologies to boost production, the thinking goes, and put workers out of the job in the process. Plants could make more stuff with fewer people.

In the past several years fresh thinking by economists such as David Autor of MIT has challenged that view. The latest research to poke holes in the theory of automation-is-to-blame is from Susan Houseman of the Upjohn Institute. Academic research tends to be dry and complicated, but Houseman’s findings boil down to this: The government for decades has vastly overestimated the growth of productivity in the American manufacturing sector. It’s been growing no faster, really, than the rest of the economy. What that means is, the adoption of technology is not the chief reason why millions of working-class Americans lost their jobs in a vast region stretching from the mouth of the Mississippi river to the shores of the Great Lakes. Nor was it inevitable.

Autor and now Houseman contend the introduction of China into the global trading system is root cause of the job losses. Put another way, President Bill Clinton and political leaders who succeeded him accepted the risk that the U.S. would suffer short-term economic harm from opening the U.S. to Chinese exports in hopes of long-run gains of a more stable China. No longer needing to worry about U.S. tariffs, the Chinese took full advantage. Low Chinese wages and a cheap Chinese currency — at a time when the dollar was strong — gave China several huge advantages. Companies shuttered operations in the U.S., moved to China and eventually set up research hubs overseas in another blow to the America’s economic leadership. The cost to the U.S. is still being tallied up.

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Gee, what a surprise.

No Progress Made On Any Key Area Of Brexit For Months – EU (Ind.)

EU27 ministers met on Monday with the bloc’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels to discuss the state of talks so far. “Mr Barnier informed us that since 23 March no significant progress has been made on the three pillars that we work on: withdrawal, future framework, and Ireland,” Ekaterina Zakharieva, the Bulgarian foreign minister chairing the council, told journalists at an official press conference following the meeting. The renewed deadlock in Brussels comes as Theresa May’s cabinet repeatedly fails to agree with itself on what customs arrangement it wants with the EU after Brexit, despite publishing two options in August of last year. Both those options were dismissed as “magical thinking” by the EU at the time.

Speaking at a separate event in Brussels on Monday evening, Mr Barnier himself said that full talks on the future relationship had not even started in earnest despite getting the green light at a summit in March. “There is still a lot of uncertainty. Negotiations on the future with the UK have not started yet. We have had first exploratory discussions,” he said. Ms Zakharieva said the EU27 countries wanted more “intensive engagement by the UK government in the coming weeks”, warning that the October deadline was “only five months from now”. Ms May will next meet EU leaders in Brussels at the end of June for a meeting of the European Council.

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If you can’t see the material used to accuse you, what rights do you have?

Russian Company Charged In Mueller Probe Seeks Grand Jury Materials (R.)

A Russian company accused by Special Counsel Robert Mueller of funding a propaganda operation to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is asking a federal judge for access to secret information reviewed by a grand jury before it indicted the firm. In a court filing on Monday, lawyers for Concord Management and Consulting LLC said Mueller had wrongfully accused the company of a “make-believe crime,” in a political effort by the special counsel to “justify his own existence” by indicting “a Russian-any Russian.” They asked the judge for approval to review the instructions provided to the grand jury, saying they believed the case was deficient because Mueller lacked requisite evidence to show the company knowingly and “willfully” violated American laws.

Concord is one of three entities and 13 Russian individuals charged earlier this year by Mueller’s office, in an alleged criminal and espionage conspiracy to meddle in the U.S. race, boost then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and disparage his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. The indictment said Concord was controlled by Russian businessman Evgeny Prigozhin, who U.S. officials have said has extensive ties to Russia’s military and political establishment. Prigozhin, also personally charged by Mueller, has been dubbed “Putin’s cook” by Russian media because his catering business has organized banquets for Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior political figures. He has been hit with sanctions by the U.S. government. Concord is facing charges of conspiring to defraud the United States, and is accused of controlling funding, recommending personnel and overseeing the activities of the propaganda campaign.

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“..more than half a year ahead of schedule..” Try that at home.

Bridge From Mainland Russia To Crimea Hours Away From Opening (RT)

The bridge across the Kerch Strait, which will connect the Crimean Peninsula and Krasnodar Region is set to open on Tuesday. Construction of the bridge, the longest in Russia with a span of 19 kilometers, has been carried out since February 2016, and it is opening for cars more than half a year ahead of schedule. The bridge capacity is 40,000 cars and 47 pairs of trains per day, 14 million passengers and 13 million tons of cargo per year. The railway section is scheduled to open in early 2019, the bridge will be opened for trucks starting from October of this year.

The link became vital after Crimea voted to rejoin Russia in 2014, as the peninsula’s only land border is with Ukraine. Before the opening, regular passenger and cargo deliveries were organized by direct flights and ferries from ports in southern Russia. Each pillar of the bridge needs about 400 tons of metal structures, which means that all pillars need as much iron as 32 Eiffel towers. The bridge’s piles are installed at least 90 meters under water.

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It’s very easy to just ban the stuff. That your governments haven’t simply done that says a lot.

Industrial Trans Fats Must Be Removed From Food Supply – WHO (G.)

Trans fats used in snack foods, baked foods and fried foods are responsible for half a million deaths worldwide each year and must be eliminated from the global food supply, the World Health Organization says today. Most of western Europe has already acted to reduce industrially made trans fats from factory-made foods. Denmark, like New York, which followed its lead, has an outright ban. Big food companies elsewhere have been under intense pressure to use substitutes. In the UK, the latest national diet and nutrition survey shows average intake of trans fats is well below the recommended upper limit of 2% of food energy, at 0.5-0.7%. Although companies manufacturing processed food in the UK do not use trans fats any more, the fats are in some cheap foods imported from other countries.

The WHO is calling on all governments to take action, including passing laws or regulations to rid their food supply of industrial trans fats. Director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said eliminating trans fats would “represent a major victory in the global fight against cardiovascular disease”. The WHO is targeting industrially made trans fats, but trans fats are also contained in milk, butter and cheese derived from ruminants, mainly cows and sheep. Dr Francesco Branca, director of the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development at the WHO, said the amounts we eat in dairy products are unlikely to breach the health guidelines. “We are saying that trans fats contained in those products have the same effect as industrial trans fats – we are not able to tell the difference,” he said. “But the amount contained in dairy products is much less.”

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How about money NOT to build roads?

Bank of England Should Print Money To Prevent Climate Change (Ind.)

The Bank of England should print money for the government to invest in the low-carbon economy to combat climate change, according to a new report. The BoE must also offload fossil fuel assets and use its existing powers more effectively to promote green projects, the campaign and research group Positive Money says. The report argues that the bank’s mandate to secure financial stability “looks incoherent over time unless it considers the long-term viability of the economy”. That viability will be undermined unless the threat of climate change is tackled soon, the researchers say. “The nature of climate change is such that either physical damage from weather or radical changes in technology and policy will occur in some combination, so action is needed now,” the report says.

It challenges the bank’s record on climate change and says its programme of, in effect, printing billions of pounds to prop up the economy has disproportionately helped carbon-intensive companies that are choking the planet. Under quantitative easing (QE), the bank has bought billions of pounds of debt from companies and the government. This is supposed to increase demand for debt, which in turn lowers interest rates. Cheaper borrowing means more borrowing which is supposed to be used to fund economic activity. But the researchers argue that QE has been actively harmful to efforts to combat climate change because the bank’s own criteria have been skewed towards buying debt from high-carbon sectors like manufacturing and utilities.

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The only solution left.

Wildlife Poachers In Kenya ‘To Face Death Penalty’ (Ind.)

Wildlife poachers in Kenya will face the death penalty, the country’s tourism and wildlife minister has reportedly announced. Najib Balala warned the tough new measure would be fast-tracked into law. Existing deterrents against killing wild animals in the east African nation are insufficient, Mr Balala said, according to China’s Xinhua news agency. So in an effort to conserve Kenya’s wildlife populations, poachers will reportedly face capital punishment once the new law is passed. Kenya is home to a wide variety of treasured species in national parks and reserves, including lions, black rhinos, ostriches, hippos, buffalos, giraffe and zebra.

Last year in the country 69 elephants – out of a population of 34,000 – and nine rhinos – from a population of under 1,000 – were killed. “We have in place the Wildlife Conservation Act that was enacted in 2013 and which fetches offenders a life sentence or a fine of US$200,000,” Mr Balala reportedly said. “However, this has not been deterrence enough to curb poaching, hence the proposed stiffer sentence.”

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