Jan 162020
 
 January 16, 2020  Posted by at 11:02 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  20 Responses »


G. G. Bain Asbury Park, Jersey Shore 1914 (just 35 years before Springsteen was born)

 

House Delivers Articles Of Impeachment To Senate (ZH)
Warren Told Sanders He Called Her A Liar On National TV (R.)
CNN’s Debate Performance Was Villainous and Shameful (Matt Taibbi)
Sen. Rand Paul Says GOP Will Shaft Trump (GP)
Americans Beware! Russia Can Hack Your Brain (Bridge)
What Is Russia’s Putin Up To? (BBC)
Bloomberg Is Wasting His Money Attacking Teflon Don (DC)
Over 40% Of Listed US Companies Don’t Make Money (ZH)
US Freight Shipments Plunge at Fastest Rate since 2009, Hit 2011 Level (WS)
“It’s Unthinkable” Australia Sells Arms To Countries Accused Of War Crimes (G.)
Virgin Islands Alleges Epstein Used Private Island To Abuse And Traffic Girls (G.)
Julian Assange at the Westminster Magistrates Court (OffG)

 

 

I was amazed and profoundly Bizarro puzzled watching this attempt at a solemn procession, designed to make it look like this was some time-honored tradition on the Hill (no such thing). I read somewhere they were going to present the articles in a wooden box, but I guess they couldn’t find any. Topped off with Pelosi having dozens of pens printed for the occasion. Entertainment for the echo chamber.

House Delivers Articles Of Impeachment To Senate (ZH)

Update (1745ET): House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signed two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump on Wednesday shortly before they were delivered to the Senate, where the US president faces trial on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. “So sad, so tragic for our country, that the actions taken by the president to undermine our national security, to violate his oath of office and to jeopardize the security of our elections, has taken us to this place,” Pelosi said shortly before using several ceremonial pens to sign the articles. The articles were ceremonially walked through the US Capitol to the US Senate.

Trump’s impeachment trial will begin Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the chamber’s floor. On Thursday, the House managers will present the impeachment articles to the full Senate at noon, and Chief Justice John Roberts will swear in the senators at 2 p.m., McConnell said. Then the Senate will notify the White House of the pending trial and summon Trump to answer the impeachment articles and send his lawyers, he said. “So the trial will commence in earnest on Tuesday,” McConnell said. The next step in the process will be a formal reading of the impeachment charges against Trump on the Senate floor by the seven House prosecutors Thursday morning.


Update: As expected, the House of Representatives officially voted Wednesday to send the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate and approved the House’s impeachment managers. The vote to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate and approve the impeachment managers was 228-193. Democratic Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson was the only Democrat to vote nay, breaking with the rest of his party. House Republicans all voted together. [..] After waiting four weeks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House will finally transmit the two articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate, and that they have chosen seven impeachment managers to prosecute the case during the upcoming trial.


Nancy Pelosi’s souvenir pens served up on silver platters to sign the articles of impeachment…

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“Anderson Cooper says CNN “obtained” the audio recorded by CNN microphones on the CNN debate stage..”

Warren Told Sanders He Called Her A Liar On National TV (R.)

The mystery of what presidential rivals Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders said to each other in a heated exchange after Tuesday night’s Democratic debate has been solved, with debate host CNN revealing that Warren accused Sanders of calling her a liar on national television. In an exchange caught on camera after the debate but unable to be heard by the television audience, Sanders responded to Warren that it was she who had called him a liar. Moments earlier Warren had refused to shake Sanders’ hand. The two U.S. senators and liberal standard bearers in the Democrats’ nominating contest to pick a candidate to take on Republican President Donald Trump in November had been locked in a dispute before and during the debate over an allegation by Warren that Sanders had told her in a private 2018 meeting that a woman could not be elected president.


Sanders disputed that claim before and during the debate but Warren insists it’s true. CNN said on Wednesday that its microphones had caught the post-debate exchange and released its contents. After failing to shake Sanders’ hands, Warren said: “I think you called me a liar on national TV.” “What?” Sanders replied. “I think you called me a liar on national TV,” Warren repeated. Sanders replied: “You know, let’s not do it right now. If you want to have that discussion, we’ll have that discussion.” Warren said: “Anytime.” Sanders said: “You called me a liar. You told me – all right, let’s not do it now.” Another Democratic candidate, billionaire Tom Steyer, who was standing behind the two, said: “I don’t want to get in the middle. I just want to say ‘hi’ to Bernie.”

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Matt is much too kind to CNN: “Over a 24-hour period before, during, and after the debate, CNN bid farewell to what remained of its reputation as a nonpolitical actor via a remarkable stretch of factually dubious reporting, bent commentary, and heavy-handed messaging.”

CNN’s Debate Performance Was Villainous and Shameful (Matt Taibbi)

CNN debate moderator Abby Phillip asked Bernie Sanders in the Tuesday debate in Des Moines: “CNN reported yesterday — and Senator Sanders, Senator Warren confirmed in a statement — that, in 2018, you told her you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?” Not “did you say that,” but “why did you say that?” Sanders denied it, then listed the many reasons the story makes no sense: He urged Warren herself to run in 2016, campaigned for a female candidate who won the popular vote by 3 million votes, and has been saying the opposite in public for decades. “There’s a video of me 30 years ago talking about how a woman could become president of the United States,” he said. Phillip asked him to clarify: He never said it? “That is correct,” Sanders said.

Phillip turned to Warren and deadpanned: “Senator Warren, what did you think when Senator Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?” That “when” was as transparent a media “fuck you” as we’ve seen in a presidential debate. It evoked memories of another infamous CNN ambush, when Bernard Shaw in 1988 crotch-kicked Mike Dukakis with a question about whether he’d favor the death penalty for someone who raped and murdered his wife, Kitty. This time, the whole network tossed the mud. Over a 24-hour period before, during, and after the debate, CNN bid farewell to what remained of its reputation as a nonpolitical actor via a remarkable stretch of factually dubious reporting, bent commentary, and heavy-handed messaging.

The cycle began with a “bombshell” exposé by CNN reporter MJ Lee. Released on the eve of the debate, Lee reported Warren’s claim that Sanders told her a woman couldn’t win in a December 2018 meeting. Lee treated the story as fact, using constructions such as, “Sanders responded that he did not think a woman could win,” and “the revelation that Sanders expressed skepticism that Warren could win.” Lee said “the conversation” opened a window into “the role of sexism and gender inequality in politics”: The conversation also illustrates the skepticism among not only American voters but also senior Democratic officials that the country is ready to elect a woman as president … Although Lee said she based the story on “the accounts of four people,” they were “two people Warren spoke with directly soon after the encounter,” and “two people familiar with the meeting.” There were only two people in the room, Sanders and Warren. Lee’s “four people” actually relied on just one source, Warren.

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Cold feet? If the Dems get their witnesses and Trump does not, the 21st century equivalent of pitchforks can’t be far.

Sen. Rand Paul Says GOP Will Shaft Trump (GP)

Senator Rand Paul warned his colleagues who plan to let the Democrats choose witnesses that they will lose their reelections. Senator Paul, who has seemingly been leading the charge to defend the president during this process, also explained that he would vote for Rep. Adam Schiff and Speaker Nancy Pelosi to have to testify, especially since Schiff has a staff member who is friends with the whistleblower — potentially making him a material witness. Additionally, Sen. Paul stated that he wants the impeachment process to be over as soon as possible, but that if the Democrats are allowed to call witnesses, President Trump must be afforded the same right.

When asked if any other Republicans have been supportive of Sen. Paul’s assertion that he wants to call in the whistleblower and Hunter Biden to testify, he asserted that there are a lot of people who do, but that they have been quiet. “There’s a lot of people who are quiet, so I’ve been kind of loud,” Sen. Paul said. “My goal in this is to be done with the impeachment as soon as possible, and probably the best way to do that is actually no witnesses — but, if we’re going to have witnesses we should have witnesses from both sides. In our interview, Sen. Paul warned that his Republican colleagues may be in trouble when they go up for re-election if they defy the president and allow Democrats to run amok, like they did in the House.

“What I keep trying to convince my colleagues, particularly the ones that might vote to allow the witnesses that the Democrats want to call, is that if they do that and they don’t vote to allow the president to bring his witnesses in, I think the Republican base and Trump supporters are going to be very very unhappy with them. I think it will have electoral consequences — which is sort of my way of saying that maybe they should reconsider having any witnesses at all,” Sen. Paul said. “My hope is some will reconsider and we will just be done with one vote.” [..] Sen. Paul explained that if there does end up being a vote for each individual witness, which could potentially be dozens, he believes that only the ones who are antagonistic to the president will get through.

This means that “Hunter Biden, Joe Biden and the whistleblower may not pass a majority vote.” He said that if this is how witnesses are decided, the senate will end up with a situation like the House did — a lopsided witness list that would be mostly people hostile to the president. When asked if he had any other specific witnesses in mind that he was looking to hear, besides Hunter Biden and the whistleblower, Sen. Paul said that “if they end up approving witnesses like Bolton, who I think are harmful, I will insist on a motion that says the president should get to call all witnesses that he or his team deem to be necessary to his defense.” “I don’t want to limit it, I’m not his lawyer, I don’t want to tell him who he has to call — I’m just going to say anyone. ‘Anyone’ includes people he has mentioned, like Hunter Biden and Joe Biden,” Sen. Paul said.

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The meme is still not dead.

Americans Beware! Russia Can Hack Your Brain (Bridge)

I suppose it is necessary, considering the bleak and humorless times we live in, to immediately start by acknowledging that the headline is meant as satire, what Webster defines as a form of “ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.” In other words, nyet, the Kremlin does not have a hotline to the American brain that can trigger card-carrying Democrats to enter a catatonic trance on Election Day and vote against Joe Biden, or any of the other flawless Democratic gems for that matter. By this time, especially following the release of the Mueller Report, you would think that conspiracy theories involving Russia and American democracy would have subsided; instead they’ve only escalated as the U.S. enters the hot end of the 2020 presidential election campaign.

Courtesy of Bloomberg: “U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials are assessing whether Russia is trying to undermine Joe Biden in its ongoing disinformation efforts with the former vice president still the front-runner in the race to challenge President Donald Trump, according to two officials familiar with the matter… Part of the inquiry is to determine whether Russia is trying to weaken Biden by promoting controversy over his past involvement in U.S. policy toward Ukraine while his son worked for an energy company there.” So how exactly does Russia, in a scene straight out of A Clockwork Orange, tap into the frontal lobe section of the U.S. electorate and cause them to lose all confidence in their political favorites?

“A signature trait of Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘is his ability to convince people of outright falsehoods,’ William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said in a statement. ‘In America, [the Russians are] using social media and many other tools to inflame social divisions, promote conspiracy theories and sow distrust in our democracy and elections.’” Yes, somehow those dastardly Russians have outsmarted the brightest and best-paid political strategists in Washington, D.C. by brandishing what amounts to some really persuasive memes over social media, and for just rubles on the dollar. The techies at Wired went so far as to call this epic assault on the fragile American cranium, “meme warfare to divide America.”

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Putin is not power hungry. He would love to be able to step back. But he fears for Russia, he fears the US neocons will take it as soon as he leaves.

What Is Russia’s Putin Up To? (BBC)

It came out of nowhere. Even ministers in the Russian government apparently did not see their departure coming. Was it a case of a new working year in Moscow – out with the old and in with the new? But it was clear Vladimir Putin, 67, had change in mind. With four years to go before he leaves office, and 20 years already served, it was clear he was planning ahead. A new government, led by Mikhail Mishustin, a technocrat who turned Russia’s hated tax service into an efficient operation, and the end of a man who has worked hand in glove with Mr Putin since he became president. Dmitry Medvedev even filled in as president for four years, because under the constitution Mr Putin could not.

Mr Medvedev, the unpopular head of the United Russia party, is not going away, but his new role as deputy head of Russia’s security council is far more behind the scenes. “It’s a golden parachute. It means he is in reserve, as the security council is Putin’s closest inner circle – his own mini-government,” says Alexander Baunov of the Carnegie Moscow Center. Mr Putin is coming to the same point he reached after his second term, when Dmitry Medvedev deputised for him. But this time the president will not take a false backseat as prime minister. It now appears that Mr Putin’s fourth term as president will be his last. On the face of it, it means more powers for parliament – selecting the prime minister and approving the cabinet, for a start. But that won’t happen yet. Mr Putin has chosen Mr Medvedev’s successor and parliament will have to ratify him.

[..] One of the standout proposals is making the State Council a formal government agency enshrined in the constitution. At the moment it is an advisory body packed with 85 regional governors and other officials including political party leaders. It is so large that when it meets it fills a hall in the Kremlin. But Mr Putin clearly has designs on its future. One theory is that he could become a new, powerful leader of the State Council. “The very fact he’s started a discussion on the State Council is that he’s maybe trying to create another place where power resides, where he can step above the presidential post,” Mr Baunov suggests.

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From the right.

Bloomberg Is Wasting His Money Attacking Teflon Don (DC)

They say money can’t buy you love, but billionaire Michael Bloomberg is living proof that it can’t buy you common sense, either. Bloomberg has now spent $200 million on his campaign to defeat President Donald Trump — but that hasn’t put him on track to earn a single delegate. The long-shot Democratic presidential candidate announced that he is also shelling out roughly $10 million for a 60-second ad during the Super Bowl. His campaign previously announced that it would spend $100 million on an online ad campaign going after the president. But does anyone understand what Bloomberg plans to do for America? Has all that money passed on a clear political message?

Bloomberg remains fifth in the crowded Democratic field with only eight weeks to go until Super Tuesday. Internal data from one of his rivals suggested he is not polling above 10 percent in any of the four early voting states or the 15 that follow in March. The massive campaign spending coming from the former mayor is unheard of politically. No one is setting up a field operation that is even close to what Bloomberg is spending to influence American politics. “Mike Bloomberg is either going to be the nominee or the most important person supporting the Democratic nominee for president,” Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg’s campaign manager, recently told NBC News. “He is dedicated to getting Trump out of the White House.”

Since his late entrance into the race in November, he has hired more than 800 staff members and is opening a dozen offices in Ohio, nine in Michigan, and 17 in Florida. His campaign has repeatedly said that their mission is to make sure Trump loses in 2020, whether Bloomberg wins the nomination or not. Apparently, like other Democrats and media bigwigs, Bloomberg hasn’t been paying attention for the past few years.

Ever since Donald Trump walked down the escalator in Trump Tower and announced he was running for president, he has been the target of a relentless attack by the media. A recent study found that 90 percent of all coverage he received in 2018 was negative. From the “Access Hollywood” tape to voting to impeach him, opponents of Trump have thrown everything they can at him to change public opinion, but nothing sticks. A Media Research Center analysis found that 93 percent of the coverage of the impeachment on ABC, CBS and NBC was negative. Evening news viewers of these networks heard 72 positive statements vs. 981 negative statements about the president since September 24.

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The other day we saw how the US builds giant monopolies. This is why: they’re the only ones making money. That this is due to share buybacks, who cares as long as the press don’t ask questions?

Over 40% Of Listed US Companies Don’t Make Money (ZH)

It’s absolutely stunning how the Fed/ECB/BoJ injected upwards of $1.1 trillion into global markets in the last quarter and cut rates 80 times in the past 12 months, which allowed money-losing companies to survive another day. The leader of all this insanity is Telsa, the biggest money-losing company on Wall Street, has soared 120% since the Fed launched ‘Not QE.’ Tesla investors are convinced that fundamentals are driving the stock higher, but that might not be the case, as central bank liquidity has been pouring into anything with a CUSIP. The company has lost money over the last 12 months, and to be fair, Elon Musk reported one quarter that turned a profit, but overall – Tesla is a blackhole. Its market capitalization is larger than Ford and General Motors put together. When you listen to Tesla investors, near-term profitability isn’t important because if it were, the stock would be much lower.

The Wall Street Journal notes that in the past 12 months, 40% of all US-listed companies were losing money, the highest level since the late 1990s – or a period also referred to as the Dot Com bubble. Jay Ritter, a finance professor at the University of Florida, provided The Journal with a chart that shows the percentage of money-losing IPOs hit 81% in 2018, the same level that was also seen in 2000. The Journal notes that 42% of health-care companies lost money, mostly because of speculative biotech. About 17% of technology companies also fail to turn a profit.


A more traditional company that has been losing money is GE. Its shares have plunged 60% in the last 42 months as a slowing economy, and insurmountable debts have forced a balance sheet recession that has doomed the company. Data from S&P Global Market Intelligence shows for small companies, losing money is part of the job. About 33% of the 100 biggest companies reported losses over the last 12 months.

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Less transport. Good for the climate.

US Freight Shipments Plunge at Fastest Rate since 2009, Hit 2011 Level (WS)

Shipment volume in the US by truck, rail, air, and barge plunged 7.9% in December 2019 compared to a year earlier, according to the Cass Freight Index for Shipments. It was the 13th month in a row of year-over-year declines, and the steepest year-over-year decline since November 2009, during the Financial Crisis. The Cass Freight Index tracks shipment volume of consumer goods and industrial products and supplies by all modes of transportation, but it does not track bulk commodities, such as grains. As always when things get ugly, the calendar gets blamed – Christmas fell on a Wednesday, as it does regularly.

More realistically, December was also the month when Celadon Group, with about 3,000 drivers and about 2,700 tractors, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and ceased operations — the largest truckload carrier ever to file for bankruptcy in US history. It rounded off a large wave of bankruptcies and shutdowns of trucking companies in 2019, most of them smaller ones, but also some regional carriers, and on December 9, Celadon. Rail traffic in December capped off a miserable year, with carloads down 9.2% year-over-year in December, and container and trailer loads (intermodal) down 9.6%, according to the Association of American Railroads. For the 52-week period, traffic of carloads and intermodal units fell 5%. The 7.9% year-over-year drop of the Cass Freight Index pushed it below a slew of prior Decembers, including December 2011. The top black line represents 2018, the fat red line 2019:

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Will Australians ever wake up to their political reality?

“It’s Unthinkable” Australia Sells Arms To Countries Accused Of War Crimes (G.)

Human rights groups say it is “unthinkable” that Australia has been secretly exporting arms to the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo and other countries whose militaries have been consistently accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Guardian revealed on Tuesday that the Australian government had approved the export of weapons to the Democratic Republic of Congo four times in 2018-19. It has also issued more than 80 weapons export permits to Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The DRC has been gripped by successive waves of violence, rebellions, protests and political turmoil for decades. As recently as Friday, the United Nations warned ethnic killings and rape occurring in the DRC represented crimes against humanity.

Save the Children estimates more than five million people have been forced to flee their homes in the DRC alone, and says millions of children are “desperately in need of humanitarian assistance”. The chief executive of Save the Children Australia, Paul Ronalds, said the public would be shocked to learn their government was approving weapons sales in such an environment. “The fact we weren’t previously aware that Australia was exporting weapons to the DRC says it all really,” Ronalds told the Guardian. “It is unthinkable that Australian arms could potentially be fuelling these conflicts, and it’s kept a secret from the public.

“The public has a right to know where Australian-made arms are going, especially when taxpayers’ money is being used to market the industry to the world.” [..] Over the 2018-19 financial year, Australia issued 45 weapons export permits to the United Arab Emirates, 23 to Saudi Arabia, 14 to Sri Lanka and four to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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“Some as young as 11″. But of course that’s no reason to go talk to Ghislaine.

Virgin Islands Alleges Epstein Used Private Island To Abuse And Traffic Girls (G.)

Disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein continued to sexually abuse and traffic young women and girls to his private island as recently as 2018, with potentially hundreds of previously unknown victims, a new lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit, filed by the attorney general of the Virgin Islands, cites new evidence that Epstein used a computerized database to track women and girls – some as young as 11 – to Little Saint James island, a private estate Epstein purchased in 2016. According to the lawsuit, one girl attempted an escape by swimming, but was later found and had her passport confiscated. According to Wednesday’s complaint, Epstein and his alleged accomplices “trafficked, raped, sexually assaulted and held captive underage girls and young women” at his Virgin Islands properties.


In July last year, Epstein faced federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges for allegedly exploiting dozens of women and girls in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005. He had previously pleaded guilty in 2008 to a Florida state prostitution charge and completed a 13-month jail sentence. Epstein pleaded not guilty to the fresh charges. He died by suicide in a New York jail cell in August. According to Denise N George, attorney general for the US Virgin Islands, the suit aims to recoup damages from Epstein’s estate, estimated to be worth $577.7m. This suit marks the first against Epstein’s estate by the American territory or any government entity. George enlisted her office’s independent investigators and court documents from other cases to allege that Little Saint James was the epicenter of a decades-long sex trafficking scheme.

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“Peirce is aiming to finalise the exhibits for submission to the prosecution by January 18. The government deadline for responding to those documents will be February 7.”

Julian Assange at the Westminster Magistrates Court (OffG)

Another slot of judicial history, another notch to be added to the woeful record of legal proceedings being undertaken against Julian Assange. The ailing WikiLeaks founder was coping as well as he could, showing the resourcefulness of the desperate at his Monday hearing. At the Westminster Magistrates Court, Assange faced a 12-minute process, an ordinary affair in which he was asked to confirm his name, an ongoing ludicrous state of affairs, and seek clarification about an aspect of the proceedings. Of immediate concern to the lawyers, specifically seasoned human rights advocate Gareth Peirce, was the issue that prison officers at Belmarsh have been obstructing and preventing the legal team from spending sufficient time with their client, despite the availability of empty rooms.

“We have pushed Belmarsh in every way – it is a breach of a defendant’s rights.” Three substantial sets of documents and evidence required signing off by Assange before being submitted to the prosecution, a state of affairs distinctly impossible given the time constraints. A compounding problem was also cited by Peirce: the shift from moving the hearing a day forward resulted in a loss of time. “This slippage in the timetable is extremely worrying.” Whether this shows indifference to protocol or malice on the part of prosecuting authorities is hard to say, but either way, justice is being given a good flaying. The argument carried sufficient weight with District Judge Vanessa Baraitser to result in an adjournment till 2 pm in the afternoon, but this had more to do with logistics than any broader principle of conviction.

As Baraitser reasoned, 47 people were currently in custody at court; a mere eight rooms were available for interviewing, leaving an additional hour to the day. In her view, if Assange was sinned against, so was everybody else, given that others in custody should not be prevented from access to counsel. (This judge has a nose for justice, albeit using it selectively.) As things stand, Peirce is aiming to finalise the exhibits for submission to the prosecution by January 18. The government deadline for responding to those documents will be February 7. The case proceeding itself was adjourned till January 23, and Assange will have the choice, limited as it is, of having the hearing at the Westminster Magistrates Court or Belmarsh.

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The Taleb approach to forest fires. Antifragility.

 

 

 

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

 

Jan 112020
 
 January 11, 2020  Posted by at 10:50 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Milton Greene “Actress Marilyn Monroe in bed” 1955

 

US Rejects Iraq Request To Discuss Troop Withdrawal (R.)
US, Iran Used An Encrypted Swiss Fax Machine To Defuse Crisis (ZH)
Iran Admits It Shot Down Ukrainian Plane (AlJ)
The Cost of Debt-Financed War (Peltier)
Trump Impeachment Charges May Go To Senate As Early As Next Week (R.)
How’s This Working Nancy? (Kunstler)
Central Bankers Are Quietly Freaking Out About How To Fight The Next Recession (F.)
Boeing’s Ousted CEO Departs With $62 Million, Even Without Severance Pay (R.)
FAA Seeks To Fine Boeing $5.4 Million For Defective Parts On 737 MAX (R.)
Key Boeing 737 MAX Supplier Spirit Aerosystems To Cut 2,800 Jobs (CNBC)
Joe Biden Gets $Millions In TV Ads In Iowa From Undisclosed Donors (IC)

 

 

Cue mass demonstrations. Here’s where the US empire is drawing to a close. See the video for those who resist that close.

US Rejects Iraq Request To Discuss Troop Withdrawal (R.)

The United States rebuffed an Iraqi request on Friday to prepare to pull out its troops, amid heightened US-Iranian tensions following the US killing of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani. Seeking to tighten pressure on its rival, the US, meanwhile, imposed more sanctions on Iran, responding to an attack on US troops in Iraq launched by Tehran in retaliation for the assassination of Soleimani. Iraq looks set to bear the brunt of any further violence between neighbouring Iran and the US. Its leaders are caught in a bind as Washington and Tehran are also the Iraqi government’s main allies and vie for influence there.

Iraq’s caretaker prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, made his request in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo late on Thursday in line with a vote by Iraq’s parliament last week, his office said in a statement. Abdul Mahdi asked Pompeo to “send delegates to put in place the tools to carry out the Parliament’s decision,” it said, adding without elaborating, that the forces used in the killing had entered Iraq or used its airspace without permission. However, the US State Department said any US delegation would not discuss the withdrawal of US troops as their presence in Iraq was “appropriate”. “There does, however, need to be a conversation between the US and Iraqi governments not just regarding security, but about our financial, economic, and diplomatic partnership,” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

The latest flare-up in the long shadow-war between Iran and the US started with the killing of Soleimani in a US drone attack on January 3. Iran responded on Wednesday by firing missiles at US forces in Iraq. In the aftermath, both sides backed off from intensifying the conflict but the region remains tense, with Iranian commanders threatening more attacks. [..] Iraq’s top Shia leader on Friday condemned the US-Iranian confrontation taking place on Iraqi soil, saying it risked plunging an already war-ravaged country and the wider Middle East into deeper conflict. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said it was Iraqis who stood to suffer most from the US-Iranian conflict.

In a message delivered through a representative at Friday prayers in the holy city of Karbala, al-Sistani said no foreign powers should be allowed to decide Iraq’s fate. “The latest dangerous aggressive acts, which are repeated violations of Iraqi sovereignty, are a part of the deteriorating situation” in the region, al-Sistani said. Al-Sistani, who wields huge influence over public opinion in Iraq, only weighs in on politics during times of crisis and is seen as a voice of moderation. “The people have suffered enough from wars … Iraq must govern itself and there must be no role for outsiders in its decision-making,” Sistani said.

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As Russiagate showed with great clarity, presidents must be able to talk to each other. Safety requires it.

US, Iran Used An Encrypted Swiss Fax Machine To Defuse Crisis (ZH)

Even as Trump was rage-tweeting on Jan 4, two days after the killing of Iran’s top military leader Qassem Soleimani, that he would hit 52 targets including Iranian heritage sites for potential retaliation if America suffered losses following an Iranian attack, warning that “those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD”, the US president was busy, secretly using an encrypted back-channel to bring the world back from the brink of war. As the WSJ reports, just hours after the U.S. strike which killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the Trump administration sent an urgent back channel message to Tehran: “Don’t escalate.”

The encrypted fax message was sent via the Swiss Embassy in Iran, one of the few means of direct, confidential communication between the two sides, U.S. officials told the WSJ. Then, in frantic attempts to de-escalate even as top US and Iranian leaders were stirring patriotic sentiment and nationalistic fervor, the White House and Iranian leaders exchanged further messages in the days that followed, which officials in both countries described as far more measured than the fiery rhetoric traded publicly by politicians.

It worked: a week later, and after a retaliatory, if highly theatrical, Iranian missile attack on two military bases hosting American troops that purposefully inflicted no casualties, Washington and Tehran have stepped back from the brink of open hostilities (for now). “We don’t communicate with the Iranians that much, but when we do the Swiss have played a critical role to convey messages and avoid miscalculation,” a senior U.S. official said. While a spokesman at Iran’s mission to the United Nations declined to comment on the exchanges, he said “we appreciate [the Swiss] for any efforts they make to provide an efficient channel to exchange letters when and if necessary.” Another Iranian official said the back channel provided a welcome bridge, when all others had been burned: “In the desert, even a drop of water matters.”

[..] The first American fax was sent immediately after Washington confirmed the death of Soleimani, the most important figure in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the U.S. officials said. It arrived on a special encrypted fax machine in a sealed room of the Swiss mission – the most enduring, and secret, method since the 1979 Islamic Revolution – for the White House to exchange messages with Iran’s top leadership, especially when the two nations are concurrently parading in public media in their bellicose propaganda to earn political brownie points. The equipment operates on a secure Swiss government network linking its Tehran embassy to the Foreign Ministry in Bern and its embassy in Washington, say Swiss diplomats. Only the most senior officials have the key cards needed to use the equipment.

Former Swiss ambassadors say the diplomatic channel is effective because the U.S. and Iran can trust a message will remain confidential, be delivered quickly, and will reach only its intended recipients.

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Allegedly, Khameini personally intervened. There are too many voices speaking for Tehran.

Iran Admits It Shot Down Ukrainian Plane (AlJ)

Iran has announced that its military “unintentionally” shot down a Ukrainian jetliner, killing all 176 on board. The statement on Saturday morning blames “human error” for the incident, adding that the military mistook Flight 752 for a “hostile target”. Press TV also quoted Iran’s General Staff of the Armed Forces as saying that the plane had flown close to a “sensitive military site”. The military said it was at its “highest level of readiness” amid the heightened tensions with the United States. “In such a condition, because of human error and in a unintentional way, the flight was hit,” the military said. It apologised and said it would upgrade its systems to prevent future tragedies.

In a statement posted on social media, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wrote that the country “deeply regrets this disastrous mistake”. “My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences,” he said, adding that “investigations continue to identify and prosecute this great tragedy and unforgivable mistake”. Iran had denied for several days that a missile downed the aircraft. But then the US and Canada, citing intelligence, said they believe Iran shot down the aircraft. On Friday, Ali Abedzadeh, head of Iran’s civil aviation authority, said it was impossible due to close coordination between Iran’s air defence and the civil aviation department. “What is obvious for us, and what we can say with certainty, is that no missile hit the plane,” Abedzadeh told reporters in Tehran.

[..] Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig, reporting from Tehran, said questions were now being raised as to why Iranian authorities kept the country’s air space open during a military operation. “There’s a lot of explaining to do by Iranian authorities. People want to know why and how it happened.” In a social media post, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that “human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to the disaster”. “Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims and to other affected nations.”

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PDF file from Brown University. The changes in US war financing, from war bonds and direct taxation until the Korean War, to limitless borrowing – and interest payments- ever since.

The Cost of Debt-Financed War (Peltier)

Throughout the 18 years the U.S. has been engaged in the “Global War on Terror,” mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan, the government has financed this war by borrowing funds rather than through alternative means such as raising taxes or issuing war bonds. Thus, the costs of the post-9/11 wars include not only the expenses incurred for operations, equipment, and personnel, but also the interest costs on this debt. Since 2001 these interest payments have been growing, resulting in more and more taxpayer dollars being wasted on interest payments rather than being channeled to more productive uses. This paper calculates that the debt incurred for $2 trillion in direct war-related spending by the Department of Defense and State Department has already resulted in cumulative interest payments of $925 billion.

Even if military interventions ceased immediately, interest payments would continue to rise, and will grow further as the U.S. continues its current military operations. War is expensive — in terms of lives lost, physical damage to people and property, mental trauma to soldiers and war-zone inhabitants, and in terms of money. The expense of war is not restricted to the annual budgetary costs of the war spending itself, but also depends upon the way in which war is financed. When war is financed through debt, the costs are much greater than when it is financed through taxation or other revenues, since interest payments must be made as long as the debt is outstanding. In fact, interest payments can sometimes grow to beyond the level of the debt itself, as will likely be the case with the post-9/11 wars.

If war spending ceased immediately, interest payments on the $2 trillion of existing war debt would rise to over $2 trillion by 2030 and to $6.5 trillion by 2050. These interest payments will grow larger as the U.S. continues its post-9/11 military interventions and continues amassing debt to pay for the costs of war. This level of borrowing to pay for the post-9/11 wars has been unique. Since the country’s founding, U.S. wars have been funded at least partly through revenues raised specifically for that purpose, including war bonds and direct taxes levied for war. As noted by Boston University political scientist Rosella Cappella-Zielinski, “Taxation as a percent of war finance was significant during the World Wars, meeting 30 percent of the cost of World War I and almost 50 percent of the cost of World War II, and peaked as a method of war finance during the Korean War, which was fully financed by taxes. Starting with the Civil War and ending with the Korean War, the government made a systematic effort to pay for its wars via direct taxation

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Looks like Pelosi was losing her own people.

Trump Impeachment Charges May Go To Senate As Early As Next Week (R.)

The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives will send formal impeachment charges against President Donald Trump to the Senate as early as next week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday, setting the stage for his long-awaited trial. Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, has been engaged in a three-week cat-and-mouse game with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over the rules for Trump’s trial in the Republican-controlled Senate. Democrats have demanded it include new witness testimony and evidence about the Republican president’s pressuring of Ukraine to probe former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democrat running for the right to face Trump in the November election.


McConnell slammed the door on that idea this week, saying he had enough Republican votes to start the trial without a commitment to hear from additional witnesses, including former Trump national security adviser John Bolton. Democrats are trying to convince a few moderate Republican senators to allow witnesses. One moderate, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, told reporters in her home state that she and a “fairly small group” of her fellow Republican senators are working to ensure witnesses can be called. The Senate is expected to acquit Trump before the 2020 presidential election campaign heats up, as no Republicans have voiced support for ousting him, a step that would require a two-thirds majority.

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Whose side is the Trojan horse on?

Also, if Pelosi makes Adam Schiff a “manager”, can the GOP still call him to testify?

How’s This Working Nancy? (Kunstler)

The case for House members to get access to all that backstage Mueller material could go up to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, Impeachment’s second act is about to get underway whether Mrs. Pelosi likes the terms or not. It’s the Senate’s prerogative to decide. These terms appear to be exactly the same as the ones used by the Senate for Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial — which means that each side chooses a team of “managers” to present its case, and then the managers are subject to grilling by senators. The House Democrats are insisting on calling witnesses solely to maintain their court claim for testimony from the White House counsel, with which the aforesaid Mueller material is associated in the case.

If the rules eschew witnesses, that case is moot, and the Democrats lose access to a trove of political oppo research obtained for them under false pretenses by their own operatives in the Department of Justice. Secondarily, the impeachment was designed to get senators in swing states on the record voting to acquit the president in the hopes that it will somehow taint their re-election prospects and possibly flip control of the Senate to the Democrats. That outcome would above all insure that Mr. Trump could not get another Supreme Court nominee confirmed in his second term, nor continue the wholesale appointment of lesser federal district judges. Plus, of course, it would obstruct any other legislative initiative his party brought for four years.

Personally, I would miss the chance to hear from the so-called “whistleblower” who instigated the impeachment phase of the long-running coup against Mr. Trump. Contrary to the disinformation put out by The New York Times and other coup co-conspirators, the “whistleblower” enjoys no right to anonymity. It would also be satisfying to hear how his enabler, Intel Community IG Michael Atkinson, might account for the process that steered the “whistleblower” to Rep. Adam Schiff and his staff — for instance, back-dating the official documents that green-lighted the “whistleblower’s” case. Mr. Atkinson is deeply implicated himself as a player in the earlier 2017 RussiaGate FISA court mischief, since his previous job was agency counsel to DOJ National Security chief John Carlin, who signed off on fraudulent FISA warrants. Mr. Atkinson must have counseled Mr. Carlin to do that.

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Where the main economic damage continues to emanate from.

Central Bankers Are Quietly Freaking Out About How To Fight The Next Recession (F.)

The world’s top central bank officials are rightly concerned that politicians in rich economies missed one key lesson of the last recession: Interest rate cuts can help to moderate a downturn, but aggressive fiscal policy is key to a healthy recovery. It was a pro-austerity stance both in the United States, and even more saliently in the euro zone, that arguably prolonged the period of high unemployment and low wage growth that plagued most of the decade-long recovery from the 2007-2009 U.S. Great Recession. Outgoing Bank of England Governor Mark Carney told the Financial Times this week that central banks are running low on fuel. “If there were to be a deeper downturn, [that requires] more stimulus than a conventional recession, then it’s not clear that monetary policy would have sufficient space,” he said.


“It’s generally true that there’s much less ammunition for all the major central banks than they previously had and I’m of the opinion that this situation will persist for some time.” That echoed the sentiment of Christine Lagarde, who recently took over the ECB. She’s telling budget-shy European politicians (especially in Germany) to get to work. Now, a new paper from Fed board economist Michael Kiley points to similar alarm among U.S. central bankers about their ability to fight future slumps. Drawing up two basic assumptions of what a downturn might look like, Kiley finds that “a recession may result in near-zero interest rates at long maturities, bringing U.S. experience closer to that seen in Europe and Japan.” This, says Kiley, “could imply limits on the ability of monetary policy to support a recovery.”

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“This is corruption, plain and simple,” U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren said on Twitter.”

No, Elizabeth, this is legal. Corruption is not. Look it up.

Boeing’s Ousted CEO Departs With $62 Million, Even Without Severance Pay (R.)

Boeing Co’s ousted chief executive officer, Dennis Muilenburg, is leaving the company with $62 million in compensation and pension benefits but will receive no severance pay in the wake of the 737 MAX crisis. Muilenburg was fired from the job in December as Boeing failed to contain the fallout from a pair of fatal crashes that halted output of the company’s bestselling 737 MAX jetliner and tarnished its reputation with airlines and regulators. The compensation figures were disclosed in a regulatory filing late on Friday during a difficult week for Boeing when it also released hundreds of internal messages — two major issues hanging over the company before new CEO David Calhoun starts on Monday.


The messages contained harshly critical comments about the development of the 737 MAX, including one that said the plane was “designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys.” The 737 MAX has been grounded since March following the second of two crashes that together killed 346 people within a span of five months. “It is incredibly heart wrenching to see the man at the heart of our loss walk away with a reward,” said Zipporah Kuria, whose 55-year-old father from Kenya died in the second crash. Lawmakers also blasted Boeing. “346 people died. And yet, Dennis Muilenburg pressured regulators and put profits ahead of the safety of passengers, pilots, and flight attendants. He’ll walk away with an additional $62.2 million. This is corruption, plain and simple,” U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren said on Twitter.

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As CEO, Muilenburg was responsible for the installation of defective parts on 737 MAX. His golden handshake is worth about 12 times the FAA’s fine for that. And he doesn’t even have to pay it.

FAA Seeks To Fine Boeing $5.4 Million For Defective Parts On 737 MAX (R.)

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Friday it was seeking to fine Boeing $5.4 million, alleging it failed to prevent the installation of defective parts on 737 MAX airplanes. The FAA alleged Boeing “failed to adequately oversee its suppliers to ensure they complied with the company’s quality assurance system, … Boeing knowingly submitted aircraft for final FAA airworthiness certification after determining that the parts could not be used due to a failed strength test.” The FAA proposed a $3.9 million civil penalty against Boeing for the same issue in December involving 133 737 NG airplanes, which is the prior generation of the 737.


The 737 MAX has been grounded since March after two fatal crashes killed 346 people. Boeing’s safety record on a number of issues have come under scrutiny from lawmakers and the FAA. The parts issue is completely unrelated to the crashes, Boeing said. The FAA disclosed in June that about 300 NG and 737 MAX airplanes could contain improperly manufactured parts and said it would require these parts to be quickly replaced. The parts at issue are tracks on the leading edge of the wings used to guide the movement of slats that provide additional lift during takeoff and landing, the FAA said. The issue could result in a slat striking an airplane, potentially resulting in injury to passengers or preventing a safe landing.

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More Muilenburg fallout.

Key Boeing 737 MAX Supplier Spirit Aerosystems To Cut 2,800 Jobs (CNBC)

A key Boeing 737 Max supplier said Friday that it is planning to cut about 2,800 jobs as the planes remain grounded far longer than expected and the financial impact ripples through the aerospace company’s supply chain. Wichita, Kansas-based Spirit Aerosystems, which produces fuselages for the beleaguered planes, said it made the decision due to uncertainty around the Max’s return to service. The company’s shares fell after its announcement, trading down 2.7%. Boeing was off nearly 1.5%. The 737 Max accounts for half of Spirit’s revenue. The planes have been grounded since mid-March [..] Regulators haven’t said when they would allow the planes to fly again.


“This is not the news I wanted to share, and I know it’s not the news you wanted to hear,” CEO Tom Gentile told employees on Friday. “But the continued grounding of the Max fleet and the suspension of production has created a challenging situation for us.” In addition to fuselages, Spirit makes thrust reversers, engine pylons and wing parts. Spirit, which issued what’s known as a WARN notice that requires companies to give employees 60 days notice of mass layoffs, said more job cuts are possible, a sign of how Boeing’s 737 Max crisis continues to hurt suppliers and the communities where they’re based. The laid-off employees, while they will have to depart in the coming weeks, will be paid for the entire 60-day notice period, Spirit said.

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Going through all the amounts spent, how can you not despair? What is fair about this sytem?

Joe Biden Gets $Millions In TV Ads In Iowa From Undisclosed Donors (IC)

Heading into the Iowa caucus, a Super PAC backing Joe Biden is spending big on TV ads in the state, giving him a boost over his fellow Democratic presidential frontrunners. Unite the Country PAC, which was launched in October by longtime advisers to the former vice president and allies of former President Barack Obama, has spent $2.3 million on TV ads in support of Biden in Iowa, according to recent disclosures. In recent years, political campaigns have devoted more of their resources to digital advertising and email distribution, but they continue to spend big on TV ads. For candidates like Biden, whose campaign had been struggling with fundraising in the fall, Super PACs can play a key role in helping reach people on the airwaves.

Biden had disavowed the support of Super PACs early in his campaign, but walked that position back just before Unite the Country launched in October. The timing of the launch comes with an additional benefit: The PAC will be able to keep its donors under wraps until just three days before the February 3 Iowa caucus. Under Federal Election Commission rules, the Super PAC’s first disclosure is due on January 31. The schedule gives Biden more of a chance to escape scrutiny of who exactly is bundling for the PAC — a list likely to include more major industry players, far and away from the working-class voters for whom Biden has cast himself as a hero. Asked about the date the group was required to file its next disclosure, a spokesperson for the PAC said it followed the FEC’s reporting schedule.

As Sen. Cory Booker’s campaign continues to flounder, his Super PAC, United We Win, has spent $250,000 on TV advertising on his behalf. Other campaigns have made massive investments in TV ads in Iowa. Both Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg have spent around $3.9 million on TV ads in the state so far. Andrew Yang has spent $2.5 million, Biden has spent $1.8 million, and Elizabeth Warren has spent $1.6 million. Billionaire Tom Steyer has spent $9 million in Iowa and $116.5 million overall, and it’s paying off: According to a Fox News poll released this week, Steyer is polling ahead of Sanders, Warren, and Buttigieg in South Carolina, where he’s spent $8.3 million on TV ads, and ahead of Warren in Nevada, where he’s spent $8.7 million. Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who is self-funding his campaign, has spent $153.1 million on TV ads so far.

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This aged remarkably well.

 

 

 

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

 

Jan 092020
 
 January 9, 2020  Posted by at 9:50 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


John Vachon Five o’clock crowds, Chicago 1941

 

Pelosi Seeks To Limit Trump’s War Powers (USAT)
Pelosi Loses Senate Democrats On Trump Impeachment Delay (BBC)
McConnell Won’t Haggle With House Over Impeachment Trial Plan (R.)
Can You Locate Iran On A Map? Few Americans Can. (MC)
World Bank Trims 2020 Growth Forecast (R.)
Ghosn: Seeds of Renault-Nissan Crisis Were Sown By Macron (R.)
Carlos Ghosn And The Dark Corners Of Japanese Justice (G.)
Come Home, America: Stop Policing the Globe (Whitehead)
Juan Guaidó’s Surreal Regime Change Reality Show (GZ)
Hunter Biden ‘Biological And Legal Father’ Of Stripper’s Child – Judge (Fox)

 

 

“…citing ‘urgent’ concerns on Iran strategy…”

This of course cannot be about Trump alone. It has to concern an assessment of all past and future presidents too. Plus, you may be forced to change the Constitution. So future potential Democrat presidents will see their hands tied by Pelosi in 2020, and we’ll need an in-depth discussion about Obama and Hillary’s actions in Syria, Libya etc., because, again, it can’t be just about Trump. Is taking out Soleimani so much worse than raping Ghadaffi to death with a bayonet?

This is going to take a lot of time. More than the 10 months until the next election. In which Pelosi should ostensibly run if she wants to usurp the president’s powers.

 

Pelosi Seeks To Limit Trump’s War Powers (USAT)

The House will vote Thursday on a measure that would limit President Donald Trump’s ability to wage war with Iran, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced. The Democratic House speaker said Trump’s action last week – authorizing a drone strike that killed top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani – was “provocative and disproportionate” and done without consulting Congress. Thursday’s debate will shine a spotlight on the Soleimani killing and the possibility of further escalation between the U.S. and Iran. It will also air constitutional questions about the president’s ability to order military action without congressional authorization.

“Members of Congress have serious, urgent concerns about the administration’s decision to engage in hostilities against Iran and about its lack of strategy moving forward,” Pelosi said. “To honor our duty to keep the American people safe, the House will move forward with a War Powers Resolution to limit the President’s military actions regarding Iran.” But even if the measure passes the House, which is controlled by Democrats, it will face hurdles in the GOP-controlled Senate. And Trump can veto the measure, as he did last year when Congress tried to end the American military role in Yemen.

Pelosi’s decision to move forward with the war powers measure came after Iran retaliated on Tuesday for Soleiman’s killing by launching ballistic missiles at two Iraqi airbases that house U.S. and coalition forces. Trump said that incident did not cause any American casualties and resulted in only minimal damage, as he sought to lower tensions with Iran in an address to the nation Wednesday. But Pelosi and other Democrats said they remained alarmed at the possibility of further military confrontation. “The consequences of this strike already … have been cataclysmic,” said Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He and others said the situation could still easily spiral out of control.

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They get worried over their seats.

Pelosi Loses Senate Democrats On Trump Impeachment Delay (BBC)

The US Congress’ most powerful Democrat is losing support among Senate allies as she holds up President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has delayed sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate in a tussle over rules with Republicans. Senator Dianne Feinstein called on Mrs Pelosi, her fellow California Democrat and ex-neighbour, to “send it over”. The Senate’s Republican leader vowed there would be “no haggling”. Mitch McConnell said he can muster the majority of 51 votes needed among his fellow Republicans in the Senate to codify the proceedings without Democratic support. Senate Democrats said prolonging the standoff would be pointless.


“The longer it goes on the less urgent it becomes,” Senator Feinstein said on Wednesday, Bloomberg News reported. “So if it’s serious and urgent, send them over. If it isn’t, don’t send it over.” The political trial of Mr Trump cannot begin until the Democratic-controlled House sends its articles of impeachment, the charges against the president, to the Senate. Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, told Politico: “I respect the fact that [Pelosi] is concerned about the fact about whether or not there will be a fair trial, but I do think it is time to get on with it.” Senator Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, said: “I don’t know what leverage we have. It looks like the cake is already baked.” Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, also said he believed it was time to start the Senate trial.

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“If Pelosi sought leverage over the Senate, McConnell said, “no such leverage exists … it will never exist.”

McConnell Won’t Haggle With House Over Impeachment Trial Plan (R.)

U.S. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday the Senate would not haggle with the House of Representatives over procedures for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, adding that the Senate would make a decision on calling witnesses for the trial at the appropriate time. Speaking on the Senate floor, the Republican senator expressed exasperation that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a letter to her fellow Democrats on Tuesday night, had indicated she would continue holding back the House-passed articles of impeachment from the Senate until she knows more about Senate plans for the impeachment trial.

McConnell did not specifically answer Pelosi’s demand, but lambasted her actions as “game-playing” and said she could not dictate the Senate’s trial proceedings. “There will be no haggling with the House over Senate procedure. We will not cede our authority to try this impeachment,” McConnell said. If Pelosi sought leverage over the Senate, McConnell said, “no such leverage exists … it will never exist.” He accused Pelosi of wanting to keep Trump “in limbo” over the trial indefinitely. The House in December charged Trump with abusing his power for personal gain by asking Ukraine to announce a corruption investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in November’s presidential election.

It also charged the president with obstructing Congress by directing administration officials and agencies not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. Under the U.S. Constitution, the House brings impeachment charges, while impeachment trials are held by the Senate. But McConnell has said that Senate rules prevent the Senate from starting the trial until the House sends it the articles of impeachment, and the House has not done so.

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I like the ones who locate Iran inside the USA.

Can You Locate Iran On A Map? Few Americans Can. (MC)

As tensions between the United States and Iran rise in the aftermath of the American drone strike that killed the country’s most powerful commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a new Morning Consult/Politico survey finds fewer than 3 in 10 registered voters can identify the Islamic republic on an unlabeled map.

Twenty-eight percent of registered voters were able to accurately label Iran on a map of the Middle East region, according to new Morning Consult/Politico polling conducted Jan. 4-5, before the Iranian military fired missiles at two bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops. Twenty-three percent could identify the country on a larger, also unlabeled, global map. Eight percent of voters thought Iran was Iraq on the smaller map.


The polling experiment sheds light on voters’ geographical unfamiliarity with foreign countries, even those with which the United States has been engaged in sustained conflict. Some respondents fared better than others, however.

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When will the first people stand up and say we can’t afford to grow any longer?

World Bank Trims 2020 Growth Forecast (R.)

The World Bank on Wednesday trimmed its global growth forecasts slightly for 2019 and 2020 due to a slower-than-expected recovery in trade and investment despite cooler trade tensions between the United States and China. The multilateral development bank said 2019 marked the weakest economic expansion since the global financial crisis a decade ago, and 2020, while a slight improvement, remained vulnerable to uncertainties over trade and geopolitical tensions. In its latest Global Economic Prospects report, the World Bank shaved 0.2 percentage point off of growth for both years, with the 2019 global economic growth forecast at 2.4% and 2020 at 2.5%.

“This modest increase in global growth marks the end of the slowdown that started in 2018 and took a heavy toll on global activity, trade and investment, especially last year,” said Ayhan Kose, the World Bank’s lead economic forecaster. “We do expect an improvement, but overall, we also see a weaker growth outlook.”

The latest World Bank forecasts take into account the so-called Phase 1 trade deal announced by the United States and China, which suspended new U.S. tariffs on Chinese consumer goods scheduled for Dec. 15 and reduced the tariff rate on some other goods. While the tariff rate reduction will have a “rather small” effect on trade, the deal is expected to boost business confidence and investment prospects, contributing to a pickup in trade growth, Kose said. Global trade growth is expected to improve modestly in 2020 to 1.9% from 1.4% in 2019, which was the lowest since the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the World Bank said. This remains well below the 5% average annual trade growth rate since 2010, according to World Bank data.

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Ghosn also has a French passport.

Ghosn: Seeds of Renault-Nissan Crisis Were Sown By Macron (R.)

Ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn said on Wednesday that a surprise corporate move, orchestrated five years ago by French President Emmanuel Macron who was then economy minister, soured relations between Renault and Nissan and contributed to his ouster. Ghosn, the former head of the car alliance, said Nissan executives and Japanese officials were shocked by a 2015 decision by the French government to increase its voting rights at Renault. “This left a big bitterness. Not only with the management of Nissan, but also the government of Japan,” Ghosn told reporters, although he did not name Macron. “And this is where the problem started.”


In April 2015, as a 37-year-old minister with then-unknown presidential ambitions, Macron ordered a rise in the state’s stake in Renault here designed to secure double voting rights. The overnight move gave the French state a blocking minority in Renault, which in turn controlled Nissan via its 43.4 percent stake in the Japanese firm. According to French and Japanese sources, that rattled the Japanese side of the Renault-Nissan alliance, which feared a national champion was falling under the control of the French government.

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Ghosn was citing a 99.4% conviction rate in Japanese cases. Why have a lawyer?

Carlos Ghosn And The Dark Corners Of Japanese Justice (G.)

Given his brash demeanour and immense wealth, Ghosn is not a sympathetic character. Indeed, he may well be guilty of financial misconduct. But he is right to shine a light into the dark corners of Japan’s justice system. Anyone familiar with the Japanese justice system would know that Ghosn’s allegations are not far-fetched. In Japan, laws are used as weapons against targeted people and not applied equally. One example of this is the “hostage justice” (hitojichi-shiho) system. Hostage justice boils down to the accused remaining in custody until they incriminate themselves by signing a confession. Often this is drawn up by prosecutors who browbeat the accused without defence counsel.

Knowing that the playing field is tilted in favour of the prosecutors and that they could spend a very long time in jail even before going to court, many innocent defendants confess. Ghosn spent more than 120 days in detention. In the late 1980s, a once high-flying company president called Hiromasa Ezoe was accused of bribery. Despite extreme pressure to confess, Ezoe defied prosecuting authorities by pleading not guilty. Over a decade of judicial purgatory later, he was effectively exonerated by receiving a suspended three-year sentence in 2003. In 2010 he published a book, Where is the Justice?, a savage indictment of a system in which the presumption of innocence is abandoned and defendants are railroaded. Ghosn may well have wanted to avoid this fate.

In Japan, the accused can be held for 23 days without charge – this is almost indefinitely renewable as judges normally give prosecutors the benefit of the doubt. In April 2019, more than 1,000 lawyers and scholars submitted a petition to the justice ministry demanding an end to this antediluvian system. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations has also long lobbied against it. The 2019 petition doesn’t mince its words, asserting that the “long-term detention in the Carlos Ghosn case has triggered surprise and criticism overseas, leading to doubts about Japan’s integrity as a democratic nation that guarantees human rights”.

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“Worldwide, the military runs more than 170 golf courses.”

Come Home, America: Stop Policing the Globe (Whitehead)

It’s time to bring our troops home. Bring them home from Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Bring them home from Germany, South Korea and Japan. Bring them home from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Oman. Bring them home from Niger, Chad and Mali. Bring them home from Turkey, the Philippines, and northern Australia. That’s not what’s going to happen, of course. The U.S. military reportedly has more than 1.3 million men and women on active duty, with more than 200,000 of them stationed overseas in nearly every country in the world. Those numbers are likely significantly higher in keeping with the Pentagon’s policy of not fully disclosing where and how many troops are deployed for the sake of “operational security and denying the enemy any advantage.”

As investigative journalist David Vine explains, “Although few Americans realize it, the United States likely has more bases in foreign lands than any other people, nation, or empire in history.” Don’t fall for the propaganda, though: America’s military forces aren’t being deployed abroad to protect our freedoms here at home. Rather, they’re being used to guard oil fields, build foreign infrastructure and protect the financial interests of the corporate elite. In fact, the United States military spends about $81 billion a year just to protect oil supplies around the world. The reach of America’s military empire includes close to 800 bases in as many as 160 countries, operated at a cost of more than $156 billion annually.

As Vine reports, “Even US military resorts and recreation areas in places like the Bavarian Alps and Seoul, South Korea, are bases of a kind. Worldwide, the military runs more than 170 golf courses.” This is how a military empire occupies the globe. Already, American military servicepeople are being deployed to far-flung places in the Middle East and elsewhere in anticipation of the war drums being sounded over Iran. This Iran crisis, salivated over by the neocons since prior to the Iraq War and manufactured by war hawks who want to jumpstart the next world war, has been a long time coming. Donald Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton: they all have done their part to ensure that the military industrial complex can continue to get rich at taxpayer expense.

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The opposition will get rid of Guaidó, Maduro doesn’t have to do much.

Juan Guaidó’s Surreal Regime Change Reality Show (GZ)

Fistfights and screaming matches broke out at Venezuela’s National Assembly on January 5, when the legislative body was scheduled to elect its leader. But the melee was not what the corporate US media has portrayed it as. The fights weren’t between the Chavistas who support the Bolivarian Revolution and President Nicolás Maduro on one side and opposition members on the other, but rather between competing members of the opposition itself. The opposition imploded because Juan Guaidó, the former president of the National Assembly and self-declared “interim president” of the country, lost his campaign to be reelected as head of the legislature.

The Venezuelan opposition is in a state of disaster — as it has been since former President Hugo Chávez’s first election in 1998. It’s a loose and ever-changing coalition of around a dozen political parties, with differing ideologies, strategies, and constituencies. The far right, which is comprised mainly of the Voluntad Popular and Primero Justicia parties, is filled with people who have been receiving financial and logistical support from the United States for the past 20 years. In the 2002 coup against then President Chávez, the far right briefly took over, and excluded the more moderate opposition from positions of power. The moderates learned the wrong lesson: instead of challenging the US-backed right, it caved to them, acceding to their plans of regime change and undemocratic maneuvers.

But an important split occurred between the moderates and the extremists during the presidential elections in May 2018. The moderates ignored the far right’s calls for a boycott and won 3 million votes in the presidential elections, out of a voting electorate of around 15 million people (with approximately 20 million eligible voters). In September 2019, these moderate opposition figures sat down with the Maduro administration and came to a wide-ranging agreement that included a bipartisan rejection of US sanctions and the appointment of new members of the National Electoral Council.

Between them, the moderates and Chavistas now represent more than 9 million votes, accounting for a full 60 percent of likely voters and 45 percent of eligible voters. This dialogue between two important sectors of Venezuela electoral politics helps explain why September, October, and November were easily the most stable three months for Venezuela in the past year. The dialogue led directly to the events of January 5 in Caracas.

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Get out of the race, Joe, you’re muddying the field.

Hunter Biden ‘Biological And Legal Father’ Of Stripper’s Child – Judge (Fox)

Hunter Biden, the son of presidential candidate Joe Biden, is the “biological and legal father” of a child he fathered with an ex-stripper, an Arkansas judge ruled Tuesday, contradicting the younger Biden’s previous denials that he had any role in the pregnancy. In an order establishing paternity, Independence County, Ark., Circuit Judge Holly Meyer noted that the results of DNA tests indicated Biden was the father “with near scientific certainty,” and instructed the Arkansas Department of Health to issue a birth certificate listing Biden as the father of 29-year-old Lunden Alexis Roberts’ child.

Roberts, who The New York Post reported was a stripper at a Washington, D.C., club that Biden patronized, received “primary physical and legal custody” of the child. In previous filings, Roberts told the court that Hunter Biden “had no involvement in the child’s life since the child’s birth, never interacted with the child, never parented the child,” and “could not identify the child out of a photo lineup.”

Biden “shall have visitation with the child as agreed between the parties,” Judge Meyer ruled. The next hearing in the case is now set for Jan. 29 at 9:30 a.m. ET, to address “temporary child support for the minor child and other matters,” the judge wrote, adding that the parties have until Jan. 16 to comply with all “pending discovery” which is currently “past due.” Another hearing is set for the morning of March 13 to handle any remaining discovery issues, with a final hearing on May 13 to set “permanent child support for the minor child.”

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VIncent van Gogh Weeping woman seated on a basket 1883

 

Military Moves In To Help Mass Evacuation From Australian Bushfires (R.)
House Democrats Would Have Impeached Lincoln (Blagojevich)
Obama’s NSC Holdovers Finally Booted After Three Years Of Non-Stop Leaks (ZH)
Trump Calls Pelosi The ‘Most Overrated Person I Know’ (Hill)
The Syrian Conflict Is Awash With Chemical Warfare Propaganda (Fisk)
Epstein ‘Madam’ Ghislaine Maxwell ‘Is A Foreign Spy Hiding In Israel’ (DM)
Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell Are Still Chums And Still Talk (MN)
EU Nationals Face Humiliation Of Applying To Stay In The UK Post-Brexit (NBC)
Airbus Deliveries Soar To Record High As Boeing’s Crash (ZH)
UN Special Rapporteur Melzer Accuses US Of Torturing Chelsea Manning (G.)
Why Can’t We Find The Vast Majority Of Ocean Plastic? (G.)

 

 

I wondered here the other day where the military was. If this were the US the National Guard would have been sent in weeks ago. So this was a hopeful headline. Was, because it’s actually just about a few boats and helicopters. That’s not “the military”.

What I read these days about the fires is always about the same things: PM Scott Morrison is a fool. But Australia has a political class made up entirely of fools, far as I can see, so nothing special there. Blaming him means evading the real problems.

The second issue is everyone blames climate change. That is also evasive. The earth is such a complex system that we should be careful with claiming that A automatically means B; it takes years of intensive study to link the two.

Moreover, it’s not just a temperature change. Australia’s landscape has been drastically changed since Europeans arrived and forced it to look like England, with rolling lawns etc., something Australia was never made for.

The Aboriginees lived in harmoney with the land for 10s of 1000s of years. It’s the white man who made the land prone to large scale disaster.

Military Moves In To Help Mass Evacuation From Australian Bushfires (R.)

Tens of thousands of holiday makers raced to evacuate popular seaside towns on Australia’s east coast on Wednesday, fleeing ahead of advancing bushfires, as military ships and helicopters planned missions to rescue thousands more trapped by the blazes. Long queues formed outside supermarkets and petrol stations near high-danger areas as both residents and tourists sought supplies to either bunker down or escape, but many shops and fuel stations had already run out of supplies. Major roads were closed due to fire risks, leaving motorists only a handful of escape routes causing lengthy traffic jams.

More than 50,000 people were without power and some towns had no access to drinking water, after catastrophic fires ripped through the region on Dec. 31 sending the sky blood red and destroying towns. Authorities have urged a mass exodus from several towns on Australia’s southeast coast, an area that is hugely popular in the current summer peak holiday season, warning that extreme heat forecast for the weekend will further stoke raging fires. “It is vital, critical,” NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance said on Australian Broadcasting Corp television. “We need everybody to leave. We are going to face a worse day on Saturday than what we have been through.”

[..] Five military helicopters and two naval ships were en-route to the south coast to back up firefighters, bring in supplies like water and diesel and to evacuate people, the Australian Defense Force said. One ship was headed for the coastal town of Mallacoota in Victoria, where around 4,000 people have been stranded on the beach front since New Year’s Eve when they watched much of the town burn down. The navy rescue team will include 1.6 tonnes of water and paramedics, officials said. The only road in and out of Mallacoota was expected to remain blocked for several weeks.

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Rod Blagojevic was the the 40th governor of Illinois. He has time to think in prison. Nice angle.

House Democrats Would Have Impeached Lincoln (Blagojevich)

I, like most people from my home state of Illinois, am a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln. Recently I’ve wondered what would have happened had Nancy Pelosi been the Speaker of the House when Abraham Lincoln was president. Would Speaker Pelosi’s House Democrats use the same flimsy impeachment standard they are currently using to impeach Honest Abe, one of the greatest presidents in the history of our country? In 1998 I was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives during the Clinton impeachment, and in 2009, as the 40th governor of Illinois, I had the unhappy experience of being impeached and removed from office. Nevertheless, I offer this interesting and unique perspective about impeachment as I sit here in prison.

Consider the possibilities. First, today’s Democrats would have impeached Lincoln for obstruction of Congress and abuse of power when he unilaterally issued his Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln didn’t ask Congress for permission when he declared an end to nearly 250 years of slavery and offered freedom to millions of slaves in the American South. He neither consulted Congress nor sought its consent before he acted. In fact, at the time Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, the Democrats of that day opposed it. And then there’s the matter of the job offer to Robert E. Lee. Shortly after the firing on Fort Sumter by secessionists in South Carolina, and one day after Virginia seceded from the Union, President Lincoln sent an emissary to Robert E. Lee to offer him command of the Northern armies.

General Lee declined the offer. When his native state of Virginia left the Union, General Lee left with it, eventually going on to become the commanding general of the Army of Northern Virginia and the greatest military leader of the Civil War. Can’t you see how a Speaker Pelosi and many of today’s House Democrats would call for the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate Lincoln for “Confederate Collusion” and bring impeachment charges for abuse of power for offering the top military command to a guy who would go on to become the top military commander of the other side? And surely, articles of impeachment would be brought against Lincoln by today’s House Democrats for suspending the writ of habeas corpus across the Union as it related to traitors, spies, prisoners of war and Union soldiers.

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I’ll never understand why it took so long.

Obama’s NSC Holdovers Finally Booted After Three Years Of Non-Stop Leaks (ZH)

The White House National Security Council is sharply downsizing ‘in a bid to improve efficiency’ by consolidating positions and cutting staff, according to the Washington Times – which adds that a secondary, unspoken objective (i.e. the entire reason) for the cuts is to address nonstop leaks that have plagued the Trump administration for nearly three years. “Leaks of President Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders and other damaging disclosures likely originated with anti-Trump officials in the White House who stayed over from the Obama administration, according to several current and former White House officials.” -Washington Times The reform is being led by National Security Adviser Robert C. O’Brien, who told the Times that 40-45 NSC staff officials had been sent back to their home-agencies, and more are likely to be moved out.

“We remain on track to meeting the right-sizing goal Ambassador O’Brien outlined in October, and in fact may exceed that target by drawing down even more positions,” said NSC spokesman John Ullyot. Under Obama, the NSC ballooned to as many as 450 people – and officials wielded ‘enormous power’ according to the report, directly telephoning commanders in Afghanistan and other locations in the Middle East to give them direct orders in violation of the military’s strict chain of command. Meanwhile, the so-called second-hand ‘whistleblower’ at the heart of President Trump’s impeachment was widely reported to be a NSC staffer on detail from the CIA, Eric Ciaramella, who took umbrage with Trump asking Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky to investigate former VP Joe Biden – who Ciaramella worked with.

After O’Brien is done, less than 120 policy officials will remain after the next several months. The downsizing will be carried out by consolidating positions and returning officials to agencies and departments such as the CIA, the State and Defense departments and the military. “Mr. O’Brien noted that the NSC had a policymaking staff of 12 in 1962 when President Kennedy faced down the Soviet Union during the Cuban missile crisis. During the 2000s and the George W. Bush administration, the number of NSC staff members increased sharply to support the three-front conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on terrorism. However, it was during the Obama administration that the NSC was transformed into a major policymaking agency seeking to duplicate the functions of the State and Defense departments within the White House.” -Washington Times

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‘T is the season to be jolly.

Trump Calls Pelosi The ‘Most Overrated Person I Know’ (Hill)

President Trump on Tuesday ripped Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as the “most overrated person I know” as he fumed over the uncertainty surrounding his impeachment trial in the Senate. Trump has spent a chunk of his December vacation at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida complaining about Pelosi’s decision to withhold the two articles of impeachment from the Senate until after lawmakers return from recess. “They produced no case so now she doesn’t want to go to the Senate. She’s all lies. Most overrated person I know!” Trump tweeted Tuesday.


“Remember when Pelosi was screaming that President Trump is a danger to our nation and we must move quickly. They didn’t get one Republican House vote, and lost 3 Dems. They produced no case so now she doesn’t want to go to the Senate. She’s all lies. Most overrated person I know!” [..] The Speaker’s decision to hold onto the articles has proven to be a sticking point for Trump, who has tweeted more than a dozen times about Pelosi since arriving at his West Palm Beach property. Trump tweeted Tuesday morning that Democrats “will do anything to avoid a trial in the Senate” in an effort to protect former Vice President Joe Biden. The president has called for Biden, his son Hunter Biden and the anonymous whistleblower who triggered the impeachment inquiry to testify.

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Robert Fisk has a better understanding than most, but can’t refrain from blaming, among others, Russia while he’s at it. That really drags him down. Pity. The story here is Bellingcat,OPCW, White Helmets as propaganda channels for US intelligence and western media. Not unsubstantiated accusations.

The Syrian Conflict Is Awash With Chemical Warfare Propaganda (Fisk)

The most recent information – published on WikiLeaks, in a report from Hitchens again and from Jonathan Steele, a former senior foreign correspondent for The Guardian – suggests that the OPCW suppressed or failed to publish, or simply preferred to ignore, the conclusions of up to 20 other members of its staff who became so upset at what they regarded as the misleading conclusions of the final report that they officially sought to have it changed in order to represent the truth. (The OPCW has said in a number of statements that it stands by its final report.) At first, senior OPCW officials contented themselves by merely acknowledging the Henderson report’s existence a few days after it appeared without making any comment on its contents.

When the far more damaging later reports emerged in early November, Fernando Arias, the OPCW’s director general, said that it was in “the nature of any thorough enquiry for individuals in a team to express subjective views. While some of the views continue to circulate in some public discussion forums, I would like to reiterate that I stand by the independent, professional conclusion [of the investigation].” The OPCW declined to respond to questions from Hitchens or Steele. But the new details suggest that other evidence could have been left unpublished by the OPCW. These were not just from leaked emails, but given by an OPCW inspector – a colleague of Henderson – who was one of a team of eight to visit Douma and who appeared at a briefing in Brussels last month to explain his original findings to a group of disarmament, legal, medical and intelligence personnel.

[..] This weekend, for example, WikiLeaks sent to The Independent an apparent account of a meeting held by OPCW toxicologists and pharmacists “all specialists in CW (Chemical Warfare)”, according to the document. The meeting is dated 6 June 2018 and says that “the experts were conclusive in their statements that there is no correlation between symptoms [of the victims] and chlorine exposure.” In particular, they stated that “the onset of excessive frothing, as a result of pulmonary edema observed in photos and reported by witnesses would not occur in the short time period between the reported occurrence of the alleged incident and the time the videos were recorded”.

[..] The deep concerns among some of the OPCW staff and the deletion of their evidence does not mean that gas has not been used in Syria by the government or even by the Russians or by Isis and its fellow Islamists. All stand guilty of war crimes in the Syrian conflict. The OPCW’s response to the evidence should not let war criminals off the hook. But it certainly helps them.

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Daily Mail, so perhaps a few pounds of salt.

Epstein ‘Madam’ Ghislaine Maxwell ‘Is A Foreign Spy Hiding In Israel’ (DM)

An explosive new report has asserted that deceased sex criminal Jeffery Epstein and his alleged ‘madame’ Ghislaine Maxwell were foreign intelligence ‘assets’, and that she is currently hiding in a safehouse in Israel. ‘Ghislaine is protected. She and Jeffrey were assets of sorts for multiple foreign governments. They would trade information about the powerful people caught in his net — caught at Epstein’s house,’ a unnamed source told Page Six. Maxwell, 58, has been accused in lawsuits of procuring underage girls for Epstein to sexually traffick among his wealthy and powerful friends, and is reportedly the subject of an ongoing FBI probe.m She has always denied any wrongdoing.

After Epstein’s re-arrest last year and death behind bars in August, Maxwell has remained out of sight and her whereabouts unknown. Now the Page Six source claims she is being protected by powerful foreign interests. ‘She is not in the US, she moves around. She is sometimes in the UK, but most often in other countries, such as Israel, where her powerful contacts have provided her with safe houses and protection,’ the source said. Maxwell is being ‘protected because of the information she has on the world’s most powerful people,’ the source said. The source also claimed that Prince Andrew begged Maxwell to come forward and clear his name, after Virginia Roberts Giuffre claimed Epstein forced her to have sex with the royal when she was 17.

Prince Andrew, 59, strenuously denies having sex with Roberts and claims he can’t remember meeting her despite a photograph of him with his arm around her. ‘Andrew pleaded with Ghislaine to publicly defend him. She carefully considered it, but decided no good would come of it (if she came forward). It isn’t in her best interests,’ the source told Page Six.

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MI6 can accommodate Andrew.

Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell Are Still Chums And Still Talk (MN)

For Prince Andrew, it appears that some old habits die hard — even if those habits led to his international downfall and ejection from his official role in the British royal family. The Duke of York’s habit of being friends and staying in contact with Ghislaine Maxwell reportedly continues, even though the one-time U.K. socialite is under FBI investigation for her alleged role in Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking operation. Laura Goldman, a longtime friend of Maxwell’s, revealed to The Sun that the socialite, while in hiding and protected by “wealthy connections,” continues to text and call her friends.

Maxwell, 57, also is confident that she has enough “dirt” on enough powerful people that she’ll be able to evade prosecution and eventually clear her family name and return to her high-society life, Goldman said. As for Andrew, Maxwell still “adores” him, Goldman said. After all, Maxwell credits the 59-year-old duke with helping her to return to high-society after the controversial 1991 death of her father, publishing magnate Robert Maxwell. Maxwell also reportedly introduced Andrew to Epstein, whom she dated for several years in the 1990s.

However, Goldman said that Maxwell is not about to come out of hiding right now and offer up any information that could clear Andrew’s name, which has been tarnished by allegations that he had sex with Virginia Roberts Giuffre, one of Epstein’s alleged underaged “sex slaves.” Goldman said: “(Maxwell) adores Prince Andrew, they’re still in touch now, but she won’t come out of hiding, even for him. “She’d only reveal herself if it was in her best interest, which it isn’t yet,” Goldman continued. “So she’ll be staying out of the limelight for now and leaving him to fend for himself, despite her huge affection for him and the fact that she could have taken some of the heat off him recently.”

[..] The Sun reported in early December that Andrew had a secret meeting with Maxwell at Buckingham Palace in June and has kept in constant contact with her by phone and email — even as the scandal escalated. “They talk regularly.” a source told The Sun. “If he wasn’t in the spotlight at the moment he would have found a way to meet up with her.”

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The EU will have to respond in kind.

EU Nationals Face Humiliation Of Applying To Stay In The UK Post-Brexit (NBC)

Over the course of years and in some cases decades, millions of Europeans have built their careers and families in the U.K. – a place they call home. But with Britain set to leave the European Union at the end of January, European citizens living in the U.K. have been forced to apply for permission to stay in the country after it pulls out of the 28 nation bloc. Some 2.6 million of the more than 3 million E.U. citizens who live in the U.K. have already applied to remain as part of a settlement scheme introduced by the British government this year. For some, having to apply to stay in the country they call home has been a humiliating experience.

Richard Bertinet, a baker, has lived in the U.K. for 31 years after moving from France. He was granted the right to remain, but getting it wasn’t easy. To his surprise, he initially qualified only for “pre-settled status,” intended for people who have lived in the U.K. for less than five years and one step before the full “settled status.” “I spent more of my life in the U.K. than in France,” Bertinet, 53, told NBC News, as he took a break from teaching a baking class at his cooking school in the picturesque city of Bath in southwest England where he lives with his British wife and three children. “To have to prove 31 years of your life here? It’s a joke,” he said. “They can go to my Wikipedia page and see who I am.”

Frustrated, he shared his ordeal on Instagram, where it went viral. Bertinet appealed the decision and can now stay in the U.K. indefinitely. But he said he was worried about more vulnerable people — the elderly, those with fewer resources, insufficient language skills or simply confused about the application process. “If this happened to me, it will happen to other people,” Bertinet said. [..] “I really can’t get over the fact that I am made to apply to stay in my own home,” said Corinne Byron, 47. Born in Belgium and raised in Switzerland, Byron moved to the U.K. in 2004 after marrying a British soldier. “I was a rather proud army wife, as I even sang with the military wives choirs,” she said. “I guess you could say that I was the proudest non-British British person you could imagine.”

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And CEO Muilenburg, the man responsible for it all, walks away with $100 million or so. If that’s not crazy, I must be.

Airbus Deliveries Soar To Record High As Boeing’s Crash (ZH)

A new report from Reuters specifies how Airbus locked in a record number of aircraft deliveries in Dec. to exceed full-year delivery targets while outshining troubled Boeing in becoming the world’s top planemaker. By midnight on New Year’s Eve, Airbus delivered 863 aircraft for the year, up 7.9% from 800 in 2018, sources told Reuters. The sources said the numbers aren’t official and must be audited before officially published. Shown in The Seattle Times chart below (updated on Dec. 29), the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max and now suspension of its production had more than halved deliveries from 806 in 2018 to 370 in 2019. With Max sales stalled, deliveries tanking, and production halted, Airbus is now soaring ahead as Boeing is facing its biggest crisis in 100 years with no word on a timeline of an ungrounding.

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Happy 2020 for Chelsea too, as for Julian. Stop this.

UN Special Rapporteur Melzer Accuses US Of Torturing Chelsea Manning (G.)

A top United Nations official has accused the US government of using torture against Chelsea Manning, the former army intelligence analyst currently jailed in the US over her refusal to testify against WikiLeaks. Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture, made the charge in a letter sent in November but only released on Tuesday. In the missive, Melzer says Manning is being subjected to “an open-ended, progressively severe measure of coercion fulfilling all the constitutive elements of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. Manning, who was detained on 16 May after refusing to testify before a grand jury, is currently being held at the Alexandria detention center in Virginia until she agrees to give evidence or until the grand jury’s term expires in November next year.

She also faces fines currently running at $1,000 a day. In the letter, Melzer writes: “The practise of coercive deprivation of liberty for civil contempt … involves the intentional infliction of progressively severe mental and emotional suffering for the purposes of coercion and intimidation at the order of judicial authorities.” Warning that “victims of prolonged coercive confinement have demonstrated post-traumatic symptoms and other severe and persistent mental and physical health consequences”, Melzer said Manning’s detention “is not a lawful sanction but an open-ended, progressively severe coercive measure amounting to torture & should be discontinued & abolished without delay”.

Mannings’ lawyers have argued that her detention is “for refusing to comply with a grand jury is pointless, punitive, and cruel” and warned that she is not likely to change her mind. In a letter released in March when Manning was first sent back to jail, her lawyers warned: “Chelsea has clearly stated her moral objection to the secretive and oppressive grand jury process. We are Chelsea’s friends and fellow organizers, and we know her as a person who is fully committed to her principles. They warned US authorities that if they “believe that subjecting Chelsea to more punishment will change her mind, they are gravely mistaken”.

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Lemme guess: because it sinks?!

Why Can’t We Find The Vast Majority Of Ocean Plastic? (G.)

Every year, 8m tons of plastic enters the ocean. Images of common household waste swirling in vast garbage patches in the open sea, or tangled up with whales and seabirds, have turned plastic pollution into one of the most popular environmental issues in the world. But for at least a decade, the biggest question among scientists who study marine plastic hasn’t been why plastic in the ocean is so abundant, but why it isn’t. What scientists can see and measure, in the garbage patches and on beaches, accounts for only a tiny fraction of the total plastic entering the water. So where is the other 99% of ocean plastic? Unsettling answers have recently begun to emerge. What we commonly see accumulating at the sea surface is “less than the tip of the iceberg, maybe a half of 1% of the total,” says Erik Van Sebille, an oceanographer at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.


“I often joke that being an ocean plastic scientist should be an easy job, because you can always find a bit wherever you look,” says Van Sebille. But, he adds, the reality is that our maps of the ocean essentially end at the surface, and solid numbers on how much plastic is in any one location are lacking. It is becoming apparent that plastic ends up in huge quantities in the deepest parts of the ocean, buried in sediment on the seafloor, and caught like clouds of dust deep in the water column. Perhaps most frighteningly, says Helge Niemann, a biogeochemist at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, it could fragment into such small pieces that it can barely be detected. At this point it becomes, Niemann says, “more like a chemical dissolved in the water than floating in it”.

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Ghislaine Maxwell in 1999 photoshoot for Sotheby’s

 

 

 

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Dec 312019
 
 December 31, 2019  Posted by at 10:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  15 Responses »


Peter Beard Francis Bacon on his Roof at 80 Narrow Street, London 1972

 

The Decade of Debt (R.)
I, Who Vowed to Never Short Stocks Again, Just Shorted the Entire Market (WS)
Pelosi’s Half Right Constitutional Claim Leaves The House All Wrong (Turley)
Strzok Claims FBI, DOJ Violated His Free Speech, Privacy Rights (Hill)
Tulsi: Impeachment Greatly Increased Likelihood Of Trump Reelection (Hill)
Forecast 2020 — Whirlin’ and Swirlin’ (Kunstler)
States Are Already Paying For Unfunded Pensions (Platt)
Ex-Nissan Boss Ghosn Says Is In Lebanon, Fleeing Japan’s ‘Rigged’ Justice (R.)
How Fentanyl Spread Across the US (Kolitz)
UK MoD Proposed Russian Membership Of NATO In 1995 (G.)
Images Of ‘Mayhem’ And ‘Armageddon’ As Bushfires Rage (G.)

 

 

Leave it to Reuters to turn this into a bland story. Oh, and just you watch the next decade.

The Decade of Debt (R.)

Whatever nickname ultimately gets attached to the now-ending Twenty-tens, on Wall Street and across Corporate America it arguably should be tagged as the “Decade of Debt.” With interest rates locked in at rock-bottom levels courtesy of the Federal Reserve’s easy-money policy after the financial crisis, companies found it cheaper than ever to tap the corporate bond market to load up on cash. Bond issuance by American companies topped $1 trillion in each year of the decade that began on Jan. 1, 2010, and ends on Tuesday at midnight, an unmatched run, according to SIFMA, the securities industry trade group. In all, corporate bond debt outstanding rocketed more than 50% and will soon top $10 trillion, versus about $6 trillion at the end of the previous decade.


The largest U.S. companies – those in the S&P 500 Index – account for roughly 70% of that, nearly $7 trillion. What did they do with all that money? It’s a truism in corporate finance that cash needs to be either “earning or returning” – that is, being put to use growing the business or getting sent back to shareholders. As it happens, American companies did a lot more returning than earning with their cash during the ‘Tens. In the first year of the decade, companies spent roughly $60 billion more on dividends and buying back their own shares than on new facilities, equipment and technology. By last year that gap had mushroomed to more than $600 billion, and the gap in 2019 could be just as large, especially given the constraint on capital spending from the trade war.

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Just too juicy.

I, Who Vowed to Never Short Stocks Again, Just Shorted the Entire Market (WS)

In my decades of looking at the stock market, there has never been a better setup. Exuberance is pandemic and sky-high. And even after today’s dip, the S&P 500 is up nearly 29% for the year, and the Nasdaq 35%, despite lackluster growth in the global economy, where many of the S&P 500 companies are getting the majority of their revenues. Mega-weight in the indices, Apple, is a good example: shares soared 84% in the year, though its revenues ticked up only 2%. This is not a growth story. This is an exuberance story where nothing that happens in reality – such as lacking revenue growth – matters, as we’re now told by enthusiastic crowds everywhere.

Until just a couple of months ago, the touts were out there touting negative interest rates soon to come to the US and thus making stocks the only place to be. Those touts have now been run over by the reality. Now they’re touting QE4 by the Fed, or whatever. And people were looking for any reason to buy. The unanimity of it all was astounding. I’ve seen this before, but not in this magnitude. And there is this: As stocks were surging over the past few months, investors with large gains who wanted to sell didn’t sell before year-end in order to defer that income for tax considerations. So there was reduced selling pressure from that group that would have liked to sell, and that will sell after the new year starts.

So I shorted the stock market today, December 30 – me who is on record of saying repeatedly that I would never ever short anything ever again, after the debacle of November 1999 when I shorted the most obviously ridiculous Nasdaq high-fliers a few months too early. They collapsed to near-zero, but not before ripping off my face.

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Turley’s on a roll.

Pelosi’s Half Right Constitutional Claim Leaves The House All Wrong (Turley)

Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe has penned an editorial column in support of the refusal of Speaker Nancy Pelosi to submit House articles of impeachment to the Senate for trial. Tribe declares this strategy is not just constitutional but also commendable. That view may be half right on the Constitution. However, it leaves Pelosi all wrong on her unprecedented gaming of the system. The withholding of the articles is not only facially inappropriate. It shatters the fragile rationale for the rush to impeach. Tribe focuses on a point on which I agree entirely. We both have criticized the position of Harvard law professor Noah Feldman, who testified with me in the House Judiciary Committee hearings, that President Trump has not really been impeached.

Feldman insists that impeachment occurs only when the articles and a slate of House trial managers are submitted to the Senate for trial. However, there is no support for that interpretation in the text or history of the Constitution. Indeed, English impeachments by the House of Commons often were not taken up for trial in the House of Lords, yet all those individuals still were referenced as impeached. Now for our point of disagreement. The Constitution does not state that the House must submit the articles of impeachment to the Senate at any time, let alone in a specific period of time. Tribe insists this means that the “House rules unmistakably leave to the House itself” when to submit an impeachment for trial. There are, in fact, two equal houses of Congress.

Faced with a House manipulating the system, the Senate can change its rules and simply give the House a date for trial then declare a default or summary acquittal if House managers do not come. It is the list of House trial managers that is necessary for Senate proceedings to commence. The “standing rules of procedure and practice in the Senate when sitting on impeachment trials” are triggered when the House gives notice that “managers are appointed.” The Senate is given notice of the impeachment in the congressional record shared by both houses. The articles are later “exhibited” by the managers at the trial. Waiting for the roster of managers is a courtesy shown by the Senate to the House in preparing its team of managers for the trial.

We have never experienced this type of bicameral discourtesy where the House uses articles of impeachment to barter over the details of the trial. Just as the Senate cannot dictate the handling of impeachment investigations, the House cannot dictate the trial rules.

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Feels weak overall, given the contents of his mails to Lisa Page.

Strzok Claims FBI, DOJ Violated His Free Speech, Privacy Rights (Hill)

Former FBI agent Peter Strzok, a onetime member of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, is claiming the FBI and Justice Department violated his rights of free speech and privacy when firing him for uncovered texts that criticized President Trump. Strzok and his legal team made the claims in a court document filed Monday that pushes back on the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) motion to dismiss the lawsuit he filed in August over his ouster a year earlier. DOJ alleged in its motion to dismiss that Strzok’s role in high-profile investigations meant he was held to a higher standard when it came to speech.

But Strzok’s legal team disputed this in Monday’s filing, saying that the approximately 8,000 other employees in similar positions retain their privacy even when using government-issued devices. “The government’s argument would leave thousands of career federal government employees without protections from discipline over the content of their political speech,” the filing said. “Nearly every aspect of a modern workplace, and for that matter nearly every non-workplace aspect of employees’ lives, can be monitored,” it added. “The fact that a workplace conversation can be discovered does not render it unprotected.”

Strzok’s team also accuses the bureau and DOJ of only punishing those who condemn Trump, as “there is no evidence of an attempt to punish” those who verbally backed the president ahead of the 2016 election. The FBI declined to comment, saying the bureau does not comment on pending litigation. “It doesn’t matter who you are — someone, like Pete, who has devoted his whole life to protecting this country, or a Gold Star family, or a Purple Heart winner, or a lifelong Republican who spent 5 years as a POW in North Vietnam. If you dare to raise your voice against President Trump, he and his allies will try to destroy you,” Strzok attorney Aitan Goelman said in a statement to The Hill.

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Trying to please the DNC. Not.

Tulsi: Impeachment Greatly Increased Likelihood Of Trump Reelection (Hill)

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) predicted Monday that it would be more difficult for House Democrats to remain in control of the House following passage of articles of impeachment against President Trump. In a video tweeted Monday evening, the 2020 candidate for president wrote that Trump’s chances of winning reelection had been “greatly increased” because of the House’s vote. “Unfortunately, the House impeachment of the president has greatly increased the likelihood Trump will remain the president for the next 5 years,” Gabbard says in the video. “We all know that Trump is not going to be found guilty by the U.S. Senate,” she added. The remarks are not the first Gabbard has made warning against Trump’s impeachment. She made similar comments just days ago in New Hampshire, arguing that Trump’s supporters would be emboldened by the House’s move heading in to 2020.

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“..the Golden Golem of Greatness himself, rises in his pajamas and tweets that, at long, long last, he has finally got “woke,” changed his name to Donatella..”

Forecast 2020 — Whirlin’ and Swirlin’ (Kunstler)

[..] a venerable institution such as The New York Times can turn from its mission of strictly pursuing news and be enlisted as the public relations service for rogue government agencies seeking to overthrow a president under false pretenses. The overall effect is of a march into a new totalitarianism, garnished with epic mendacity and malevolence. Since when in the USA was it okay for political “radicals” to team up with government surveillance jocks to persecute their political enemies? This naturally leads to the question: what drove the American thinking class insane?

I maintain that it comes from the massive anxiety generated by the long emergency we’ve entered — the free-floating fear that we’ve run out the clock on our current way of life, that the systems we depend on for our high standard of living have entered the failure zone; specifically, the fears over our energy supply, dwindling natural resources, broken resource supply lines, runaway debt, population overshoot, the collapsing middle-class, the closing of horizons and prospects for young people, the stolen autonomy of people crushed by out-of-scale organizations (government, WalMart, ConAgra), the corrosion of relations between men and women (and of family life especially), the frequent mass murders in schools, churches, and public places, the destruction of ecosystems and species, the uncertainty about climate change, and the pervasive, entropic ugliness of the suburban human habitat that drives so much social dysfunction.

You get it? There’s a lot to worry about, much of it quite existential. The more strenuously we fail to confront and engage with these problems, the crazier we get. Much of the “social justice” discontent arises from the obvious and grotesque income inequality of our time accompanied by the loss of meaningful work and the social roles that go with that. But quite a bit of extra tension comes from the shame and disappointment over the failure of the long civil rights campaign to correct the racial inequalities in American life — everything from attempts at school integration to affirmative action (by any name) to “multiculturalism” to the latest innovations in “diversity and inclusion.”

[..] By 2020 Wokesterism has shot its wad and the Wokesters are banished to a windowless room in the sub-basement of America’s soul where they can shout at the walls, point their fingers, grimace spittlingly, and issue anathemas that no one will listen to. And when they’re out of gas, they can kick back and read the only book in the room: Mercy, by Andrea Dworkin. And then, one fine spring morning, after everyone else has given up on it, Donald Trump, social media troll-of-trolls, the Golden Golem of Greatness himself, rises in his pajamas and tweets that, at long, long last, he has finally got “woke,” changed his name to Donatella, and declared his personal pronoun to be “you’all.”

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“When a company defaults, there is a clear legal framework for who gets paid back first. This isn’t the case for states, however, as there is no such legal structure, nor much precedent.”

States Are Already Paying For Unfunded Pensions (Platt)

Kicking pension problems into the future is popular with politicians, enabling them to make promises and let voters worry later about borrowing costs. But large, unfunded state pension liabilities are a costly problem—and the cost is already reflected in current bond prices, research by Chicago Booth PhD candidate Chuck Boyer suggests. “The public pension funding crisis is not merely about future insolvency,” he writes. “Future obligations are having an effect on debt spreads right now.” To many Americans, it may seem unimaginable that states would fail to fully pay pensions promised to teachers, firefighters, and other public-service workers.

It has been almost 90 years since the last state default: during the Great Depression, Arkansas owed over $160 million to debt payments, which was nearly half of the state’s annual revenue (and equivalent to roughly $3 billion in 2019 dollars). The debt was restructured and “debtholders were eventually made whole,” Boyer writes in recounting this history. However, pension obligations are mounting in many states, and officials are struggling to cut costs and raise taxes to pay what is owed. And he argues that the effects can be seen in the $3.8 trillion capital market for US municipal bonds, which includes bonds issued by 50,000 state and local governments. When a company defaults, there is a clear legal framework for who gets paid back first.

This isn’t the case for states, however, as there is no such legal structure, nor much precedent. The markets’ expectations, then, are built into bond prices. Bondholders, wary of how a default could play out, demand a premium. Using annual fiscal reports released by state governments, Boyer looked at the ratio of unfunded pension liabilities to GDP from 2002 to 2016 and estimates that every 1-standard-deviation increase is associated with a 27–32 basis-point increase in bond spreads over the Treasury rate, up to a fifth of the average total spread. Unfunded pensions cost US states more than $2 billion in lost bond-issuance proceeds in 2016, he calculates, adding that he considers that a conservative estimate.

But the penalty that a state would essentially pay in the form of higher spreads varies from state to state, providing some indication of how the market thinks a default could play out. States where pensioners have more legal protections and their unions have more bargaining power (and maybe higher public support) are paying higher borrowing costs. In these areas, debtholders see a higher risk of default—perhaps assuming states would take care of pensioners before bondholders, who are mostly high-net-worth and retail investors.

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Walking away from a $9 million bond.

Ex-Nissan Boss Ghosn Says Is In Lebanon, Fleeing Japan’s ‘Rigged’ Justice (R.)

Ousted Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn confirmed he fled to Lebanon, saying he wouldn’t be “held hostage” by a “rigged” justice system and raising questions about how one of the world’s most-recognized executives escaped Japan months before his trial. Ghosn’s abrupt departure marks the latest dramatic twist in a year-old saga that has shaken the global auto industry, jeopardized the alliance of Nissan Motor Co Ltd and top shareholder Renault SA and cast a harsh light on Japan’s judicial system. “I am now in Lebanon and will no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied,” Ghosn, 65, said in a brief statement on Tuesday.

“I have not fled justice – I have escaped injustice and political persecution. I can now finally communicate freely with the media, and look forward to starting next week.” Most immediately, it was unclear how Ghosn, who holds French, Brazilian and Lebanese citizenship, was able to orchestrate his departure from Japan, given that he had been under strict surveillance by authorities while out on bail and had surrendered his passports. Japanese immigration authorities had no record of Ghosn leaving the country, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said. A person resembling Ghosn entered Beirut international airport under a different name after flying in aboard a private jet, NHK reported, citing an unidentified Lebanese security official.

His lawyers were still in possession of his three passports, one of his lawyers, Junichiro Hironaka, told reporters in comments broadcast live by NHK. Hironaka said the first he had heard of Ghosn’s departure was on the news this morning and that he was surprised. He also said it was “inexcusable behavior”. [..] Ghosn was arrested at a Tokyo airport shortly after his private jet touched down on Nov. 19, 2018. He faces four charges – which he denies – including hiding income and enriching himself through payments to dealerships in the Middle East. Nissan sacked him as chairman saying internal investigations revealed misconduct ranging from understating his salary while he was its chief executive, and transferring $5 million of Nissan funds to an account in which he had an interest.

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Words fail. It’s not just bankers that don’t go to jail.

How Fentanyl Spread Across the US (Kolitz)

Often lost in the early news reports was the fact that fentanyl alone wasn’t killing people; many different kinds of fentanyl were. Since its invention in 1959 by the Belgian chemist and doctor Paul Janssen, fentanyl has seen more than 1,400 analogues: twists on the original formula whose origins and effects vary widely. Carfentanil, for instance—100 times stronger than fentanyl—was until 2018 FDA-approved for use as an elephant tranquilizer. It is here that the opioid crisis intersects with (and amplifies) a newer scourge: NPS, or new psychoactive substances, molecularly tweaked stand-ins for traditional street drugs. The best-known of these is probably K2, or Spice, the ostensible marijuana substitute whose high bears little resemblance to the real thing and whose side effects include blood-clotting, kidney failure, and instant death.

But there are hundreds more, and likely thousands in development. Mini-pandemics have erupted across the country, as when, in the course of a single week last year, over 100 people in New Haven overdosed on what was later determined to be AB-FUBINACA, yet another synthetic cannabinoid. Ben Westhoff, in “Fentanyl, Inc.: How Rogue Chemists Are Creating the Deadliest Wave of the Opioid Epidemic”, charts this progression in harrowing detail. We are now dealing, he writes, with “the harshest drug challenge in our history.” His book is one of the first to address what the Centers for Disease Control has called the “third wave” of the opioid crisis: first OxyContin, then heroin, and now fentanyl and its analogues.

Earlier accounts of this crisis – Sam Quinones’s “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic” or Beth Macy’s “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America” – had in Purdue Pharma the benefit, structural and dramatic, of a villain. More or less everyone can agree that pharmaceutical companies should refrain from wantonly pursuing profit at the expense of public health. Dopesick is rarely a pleasant read, but Macy’s account of Purdue’s first major court battle – which culminated in criminal convictions for three executives and $600 million in fines—provided at least some measure of catharsis.

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I still wonder what made Yeltsin turn to Putin. Guilt, a rare moment of lucidity?

UK MoD Proposed Russian Membership Of Nato In 1995 (G.)

Russia could have become an “associate member” of Nato 25 years ago if a Ministry of Defence proposal had gained support, according to confidential Downing Street files which also expose Boris Yeltsin’s drinking habits. The suggestion, aimed at reversing a century of east-west antagonism, is revealed in documents released on Tuesday by the National Archives at Kew. Presented by Malcolm Rifkind, then defence secretary, to a Chequers strategy summit, the plan was to dispel Kremlin suspicions of the alliance’s eastwards expansion. In 1995, Yeltsin was president and the cold war over. Relations were in flux as a Russia tried to come to terms with shrunken international borders.

Yeltsin was proving an unpredictable ally. Files show that he urged western leaders at a summit in Halifax, Canada to delay Nato enlargement until after Russia’s elections because “public discussion could provoke trouble”. But poor health and heavy drinking jeopardised his authority. The previous year he had notoriously failed to disembark from a plane during a stopover in Ireland amid rumours of alcoholism and a heart attack. In July 1995, the Moscow embassy cabled about Yeltsin going into hospital due to his “longstanding heart condition”. At Hyde Park, the Roosevelt home in New York, according to US diplomats, Yeltsin subsequently appeared “rolling, puffy and red”. He consumed “wine and beer greedily … and regretted the absence of cognac. One of his aides took a glass of champagne from him when the aide felt enough was enough and he was alcoholically cheerful at his press conference with Clinton.”

[..] In a 10-page submission, Rifkind argued that: “A possible solution would be to create a new category of associate member of Nato. Such a status could not involve article V guarantees [which declares an attack on one state is an attack on all members], membership of the IMS [Nato’s International Military Staff] or Russian vetoes and would not therefore change the essence of Nato. “It would, however, give Russia a formal status within Nato, allow it to attend, as of right, ministerial and other meetings and encourage a gradual convergence and harmonisation of policy, doctrine and practice.”

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The photos have now all turned red. NOTE: the army still hasn’t been sent in, apparently. The people dying are volunteer firemen.

Images Of ‘Mayhem’ And ‘Armageddon’ As Bushfires Rage (G.)

Thousands of people fled to the lake and ocean in Mallacoota, as bushfires hit the Gippsland town on Tuesday. The out-of-control fire reached the town in the morning and about 4,000 people fled to the coastline, with Country Fire Authority members working to protect them. The town had not been told to evacuate on Sunday when the rest of East Gippsland was, and authorities decided it was too dangerous to move them on Monday. People reported hearing gas bottles explode as the fire front reached the town, and the sound of sirens telling people to get in the water. By 1.30pm the fire had reached the water’s edge. A local man, Graham, told ABC Gippsland he could see fire in the centre of the town, and 20m high flames on the outskirts where he believed homes were alight.

“We saw a big burst of very big flames in Shady Gully,” he said. “As I speak to you I’m looking across Coull’s Inlet and there are big flames … and they would be impacting houses. That’s not good at all.” People in Mallacoota posted in community social media groups estimates of about 20 houses lost, with the school, bowling club and golf club also hit. Hundreds more evacuees sheltered in the community centre. “There are a lot of people at the waterfront jetty, in the lake, on the sand spit between the lake and the ocean, and there are people on a sandbar, and some on boats,” Charles Livingstone told Guardian Australia from the community centre. He said there were at least 350 people in the community centre, many with children and pets. He, his wife and their 18-month-old baby were at the jetty on Monday night but moved to the community centre to avoid the heavy smoke.

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Dec 242019
 
 December 24, 2019  Posted by at 10:45 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  19 Responses »


George N. Barnard Federal picket post near Atlanta, Georgia 1864

 

Impeachment Foot-Dragging Is Proof Dems Have Nothing On Trump (McCaughey)
‘Stop Playing Games’: Graham Warns Pelosi Senate May ‘Strike Back’ (ZH)
Hunter Biden Allegedly Linked To Multiple Criminal Probes (NYP)
US Govt Blew $3 Trillion On Afghanistan, Congress Adds Another Trillion (OP)
Christmas in Flyover Land (Kunstler)
Medical Opinion, Torture and Julian Assange (AIM)
Russia Ready To Share All Info Required By MH17 Crash Investigators (RT)
New Russia-Crimea Rail Link Condemned By EU (BBC)
World ‘Faces 80% Calorie Increase By End Of Century’ (BBC)
For Her Head Cold, Insurer Coughed Up $25,865 (NPR)
‘Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself’ Goodies Hottest Holiday Merch This Xmas (NYP)

 

 

Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York.

She has some intriguing arguments: “they are trying to strong-arm McConnell into calling witnesses. Yet they are forgetting that McConnell can’t negotiate away executive privilege. It’s not his to surrender.”

The discussion is far from over.

Impeachment Foot-Dragging Is Proof Dems Have Nothing On Trump (McCaughey)

McConnell is proposing that House Dems and then White House lawyers make their arguments to the senators. The trial could be wrapped up in a couple of weeks, unless senators ≠decide after hearing the arguments that they need to hear witnesses. But Schumer wants more witnesses guaranteed upfront. After 17 witnesses, 8,000 pages of testimony and legal arguments, 106 House staff members working full-time, six high-paid outside lawyers and millions of dollars spent to produce a party-line vote in the House to impeach, Senate Democrats are hankering for another long, drawn-out spectacle. They aren’t outsmarting anyone except themselves. The witnesses they are seeking are unlikely to show up, no matter what political tricks the Democrats try.

Meanwhile, national support for impeachment is steadily falling, and every day Democrats spend on impeachment lessens their chances of unseating Trump in November. Schumer wants four White House officials, including Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and ex-National Security Adviser John Bolton, to testify. But Democrats lost their chance to bring in these witnesses by voting to impeach. Close advisers to any president are protected by executive privilege. That isn’t a Trump invention. Presidents, including George Washington, have said “no” when Congress demanded access to evidence of White House decision-making. President Barack Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, was especially aggressive about asserting privilege.

The Constitution creates three equal branches of government, and the president has a duty to protect his branch from congressional overreach. When these two branches clash, the federal courts are the referee. That’s true generally, but House Dems took a shortcut. When Trump refused to provide certain witnesses, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff balked at “a lengthy game of rope-a-dope with the courts.” It was a short-sighted move. Once House Dems voted to impeach, they lost any chance to have the federal courts order Trump’s advisers to appear. The Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that judges cannot interfere in impeachment trials, because the Senate has “the sole power” over them.

In fact, minutes after the vote, federal appeals judges asked Congress to show why its case to compel the testimony of former White House lawyer Don McGahn isn’t abruptly ended because “the articles of impeachment render the case moot.” With the courthouse doors slammed shut on impeachers, they are trying to strong-arm McConnell into calling witnesses. Yet they are forgetting that McConnell can’t negotiate away executive privilege. It’s not his to surrender.

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The only thing left for Pelosi appears to try and draw it out.

‘Stop Playing Games’: Graham Warns Pelosi Senate May ‘Strike Back’ (ZH)

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on Monday that the “Constitutional outrage” by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) “needs to end,” and that if it continues into 2020, “the Senate needs to strike back.” “The Senate will decide how we dispose of this sham created by the house,” Graham tweeted, referring to the impasse created by Pelosi – who is refusing to transmit two articles of impeachment against President Trump until the Senate agrees to her terms. President Trump also had words for Pelosi on Monday after the Speaker called for “fairness” in a Senate trial.

“Pelosi gives us the most unfair trial in the history of the U.S. Congress, and now she is crying for fairness in the Senate, and breaking all rules while doing so,” Trump tweeted, adding “She lost Congress once, she will do it again!” Pelosi says she will only transmit the impeachment articles to the Senate after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announces the process they will use for Trump’s trial. McConnell has advocated for a similar process to Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment, which included an initial agreement to first hear the case, followed by a vote on whether to call witnesses.

Speaking with “Fox and Friends” on Monday, McConnell said “we’re at an impasse” and “we can’t do anything until the speaker sends the papers over, so everybody enjoy the holidays.” McConnell blasted Pelosi for trying to “tell us how to run the trial.” “Look, what we need to do is to listen to the arguments, have a written questioning period, and then decide whether we need witnesses or not,” McConnell said, adding that some Republican senators “have said, ‘I am thinking of myself as a juror,'” while others believe “the case against President Trump is very thin.” -NBC News

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Either Joe drops Hunter or the Dems will drop Joe.

Hunter Biden Allegedly Linked To Multiple Criminal Probes (NYP)

Hunter Biden is the subject of multiple criminal investigations related to “fraud, money laundering and a counterfeiting scheme,” it’s claimed in court documents filed Monday in his Arkansas paternity case. The claims were put forward by a Florida-based private-eye firm, D&A Investigations, in Biden’s ongoing case against alleged baby mama Lunden Alexis Roberts, a former Washington, DC, stripper who went by “Dallas.” Soon after the claims were filed, a judge struck the allegations down because they were filed by an “intervener,” according to court papers. Biden filed a motion to strike down the claims, arguing “the notice is filed by a non-party simply to make scandalous allegations in the pending suit to gain some media attention.”

Biden, 49, “is the subject of more than one criminal investigation involving fraud, money laundering and a counterfeiting scheme,” the filing alleges. One of those purported investigations relates to Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian energy company with which Biden held a lucrative board post while his father, Joe, was vice president — drawing allegations of impropriety from Republicans including President Trump. Biden and a group of business associates “established bank and financial accounts with Morgan Stanley … for Burisma Holdings Limited … for the money laundering scheme,” D&A claims, further alleging that the accounts showed an average account value of nearly $6.8 million between March 2014 and December 2015.

Biden and the others — including Devon Archer, John Galanis and Bevan Cooney — allegedly “utilized a counterfeiting scheme to conceal the Morgan Stanley et al Average Account Value,” D&A claims in the papers filed at the Circuit Court of Independence County, Arkansas. The filing additionally alleges that Biden had a hand in a plot including Galanis, Cooney and Archer to rip off Sioux Native Americans to the tune of $60 million through the shady sale of tribal bonds. Galanis, Archer and Cooney were found guilty for their roles in June 2018, following a lengthy trial in Manhattan federal court. In November, Archer’s conviction was overturned by a Manhattan federal judge.

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In case you were wondering who really rules the USA.

US Govt Blew $3 Trillion On Afghanistan, Congress Adds Another Trillion (OP)

It’s rare that I read something on the Washington Post that I don’t find highly biased, even repugnant. But with their recent article on the Afghanistan Papers, they truly knocked the ball out of the park. The facts they shared should have every American protesting in the streets. Trillions of dollars have been spent on a war that the Pentagon knew was unwinnable all along. More than 2300 American soldiers died there and more than 20,000 have been injured. More than 150,000 Afghanis were killed, many of them civilians, including women and children. And they lied to us constantly. Congress just proved that the truth doesn’t matter, though. A mere 22 hours after the release of this document, the new National Defense Authorization Act that breezed through the House and Senate was signed by the President.

That bill authorized $738 billion in military spending for 2020, actually increasing the budget by $22 billion over previous years. So, how is your representation in Washington, DC working out for you? [..] I know, I know – WaPo. But believe me when I tell you this is something all Americans need to see. This was an article that took three years of legal battles to bring to light. WaPo acquired the documents using the Freedom of Information Act and got more than 2000 pages of insider interviews with “people who played a direct role in the war, from generals and diplomats to aid workers and Afghan officials.” These documents were originally part of a federal investigation into the “root failures” of the longest conflict in US history – more than 18 years now.

Three presidents, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump, have been involved in this ongoing war. It turns out that officials knew the entire time this war was “unwinnable” yet they kept throwing American lives and American money at it.

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“Pottersville is way more appealing than 99 percent of America’s small towns today, dead as they are.”

Christmas in Flyover Land (Kunstler)

When you get down to it, the sickness at the heart of our nation these days is the result of countless bad choices, large and small, that we’ve made collectively over decades, including the ones made by our elected officialdom. The good news is that we could potentially move in the opposite direction and start making better choices. However deficient and unappetizing you think Mr. Trump is, and how crudely unorthodox his behavior, that equation is what got enough people to vote for him. The strenuous efforts to antagonize him, disable him, and get rid of him by any means necessary — including police-state tactics, bad faith inquisitions, and outright sedition — have prevented the nation as a whole from entertaining a realistic new consensus for making better choices. In fact, it has achieved just the opposite: a near civil war, edition 2.0.

All the people of America, including the flyovers, are responsible for the sad situation we’re in: this failure to reestablish a common culture of values most people can subscribe to and use it to rebuild our towns into places worth caring about. Main Street, as it has come to be, is the physical manifestation of that failure. The businesses that used to occupy the storefronts are gone, except for second-hand stores. Nobody in 1952 would have believed this could happen. And yet, there it is: the desolation is stark and heartbreaking. Even George Bailey’s “nightmare” scene in It’s a Wonderful Life depicts the supposedly evil Pottersville as a very lively place, only programmed for old-fashioned wickedness: gin mills and streetwalkers.

Watch the movie and see for yourself. Pottersville is way more appealing than 99 percent of America’s small towns today, dead as they are. The dynamics that led to this are not hard to understand. The concentration of retail commerce in a very few gigantic corporations was a swindle that the public fell for. Enthralled like little children by the dazzle and gigantism of the big boxes, and the free parking, we allowed ourselves to be played. The excuse was “bargain shopping,” which actually meant we have sent the factories to distant lands and eliminated your jobs, and all the meaning and purpose in your lives — and cheap stuff from Asia is your consolation prize. Enjoy…

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After Doctors For Assange, it’s high time for Lawyers For Assange. Take the governments involved to court in their own countries.

Medical Opinion, Torture and Julian Assange (AIM)

The medical degrading of Assange has assumed ever greater importance, suggesting unwavering state complicity. On November 22, over 65 notable medical doctors sent the UK Home Secretary a note based on Melzer’s November 1 findings and Assange’s state at the October 21 case management hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court. “It is our opinion that Mr Assange requires urgent expert medical assessment of both his physical and psychological state of health. Any medical treatment indicated should be administered in a properly equipped and expertly staffed university teaching hospital (tertiary care).”

In a second open letter to the UK Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice dated December 4, the Doctors for Assange collective warned that the UK’s “refusal to take the required measures to protect Mr Assange’s rights, health and dignity appears [to] be reckless at best and deliberate at worst and, in both cases, unlawfully and unnecessarily exposes Mr Assange to potentially irreversible risks.” The same grounds were reiterated in a December 16 letter to Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, with a curt reminder that she had “an undeniable legal obligation to protect your citizen against the abuse of his fundamental rights, stemming from US efforts to extradite Mr Assange for journalism and publishing that exposed US war crimes.” In the event that Payne took no action on the matter, “people would want to know what you […] did to prevent his death.”

In the addendum to the open letter, further to reiterating the precarious state of Assange’s health and medical status as a torture victim, the doctors elaborate on the circular cruelty facing the publisher. An individual deemed “a victim of psychological torture cannot be adequately medically treated while continuing to be held under the very conditions constituting psychological torture, as is currently the case for Julian Assange.” Appropriate medical treatment was hardly possible through a prison hospital ward. A lesson in understanding mental torture is also proffered. “Contrary to popular misconception, the injuries caused by psychological torture are real and extremely serious. The term psychological torture is not a synonym for mere hardship, suffering or distress.”

At Assange’s case management hearing on December 19, restrictions on medical opinion were again implemented; psychiatrist Marco Chiesa and psychologist David Morgan were prevented from attending. Both had been signatories to the spray of open letters. According to Morgan, he had hoped to “provide some observations about Julian Assange’s health, psychologically, and with my colleagues, physically.” Instead, it transpired that access was denied, according to psychologist Lissa Johnson, “despite members of the public offering to give up seats for them.”

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They have been for 5.5 years. But they have already been found guilty before any trial. The “investigators” went with Ukraine and Bellingcat instead, and are now so deeply invested they can’t get out anymore.

Russia Ready To Share All Info Required By MH17 Crash Investigators (RT)

Moscow is poised to give assistance in the investigation of the crash of flight MH17 in 2014, as it always has been, a Russian EU envoy has assured stakeholders, responding to a call for cooperation by the Dutch foreign minister. “We are ready to cooperate in clarifying all the circumstances of the incident,” Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s envoy to the European Union, told media on Monday. In fact, Moscow has always been poised to do so, but its proposals were brushed aside, the diplomat recalled. Moscow is also prepared to hand over “the data we have” to its Dutch counterparts, ahead of a court trial that will look at the evidence collected by the Netherlands-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in March next year, Chizhov said.

The envoy spoke shortly after Stef Blok, the foreign minister of the Netherlands, said Russia’s contribution is needed to find some missing facts about the crash, which killed 298 passengers and crew. The Hague had “asked the Russian Federation to cooperate in a factual investigation into the closing of airspace above and around Ukraine,” Blok wrote to Dutch lawmakers on Sunday. Blok’s letter comes two months after Chris van Dam, spokesman for the MH17 probe, announced the inquiry will focus on why Ukraine’s airspace “was not closed” over Donetsk at the time of intense hostilities between the government military and rebel forces in the breakaway Donbass region.

Back in 2015, a report released by the Dutch Safety Board confirmed that, while it was hard to find out who was behind downing of flight MH17, the airspace over Ukraine should have been closed. Meanwhile, lawyers representing some victims of the crash maintain that it was Ukraine’s responsibility to ensure the safety of civilian air traffic during the fighting. [..] Moscow has consistently said that, despite not being included in the investigation team, it is still open to cooperation. Russia has already provided radar records, declassified military data on a missile thought to have downed the plane, and files proving that the projectile which downed the plane had been in Ukraine since the 1980s – but the data was persistently rejected as the probe proceeded.

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St Petersburg to Sevastopol: a 43-hour train ride.

New Russia-Crimea Rail Link Condemned By EU (BBC)

President Vladimir Putin has heralded the opening of a railway bridge to the Russian-annexed Crimea peninsula by posing in the driver’s cab and praising construction workers. But opening of the railway was immediately condemned by the European Union as “another violation” by Russia of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territory. Russia’s 19km (12-mile) bridge to Crimea first opened in May last year. President Putin marked that occasion by driving a lorry over it. On Monday he asserted that millions of cars had already crossed the bridge and said the rail link “was a big deal as well”, with plans to carry 14 million passengers and 13 million tonnes of freight in 2020. Until the bridge was built, Russia had to rely on sea and air to supply the peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in February 2014 before annexing it through a referendum rejected by the United Nations as invalid.


The $3.6bn (£2.8bn; €3.2bn) bridge was built by a close friend of the president, Arkady Rotenberg. Mr Rotenberg and several of his companies had EU and US sanctions imposed on them. Russia’s president said the Kerch Strait bridge, with its new rail link, would have an impact on Russia’s economy as a whole. In a tweet, the presidency declared the bridge open to railway traffic. Mr Putin boarded a three-carriage train in the Crimean city of Kerch, stood in the cab beside the driver and sounded the horn, before sitting with Mr Rotenberg as well as Russian and local officials as they travelled across the strait to Taman in southern Russia. Mr Putin told construction workers that there had only been three times in 145 years that the rail route from St Petersburg to Sevastopol in Crimea had been broken: during the Russian revolution, during World War Two and in 2014.

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Some things simply won’t happen because they can’t.

World ‘Faces 80% Calorie Increase By End Of Century’ (BBC)

The amount of food needed to feed the world’s population by the end of the century could increase by almost 80%, a study has suggested. Researchers from Germany said a trend of increasing Body Mass Index (BMI) is resulting in individuals requiring more calories. The authors warn that failure to meet the need for more calories could lead to greater global inequality. The findings have been published in the journal Plos One. The study, carried out by a team from the University of Gottingen, calculated that 60% of the calorie increase would be a result of the growing number of people in the world.


According to the UN World Population Prospects, the global population was estimated to increase from almost seven billion in 2010 to almost 11 billion in 2100. Yet, more that 18% of the increase in the calories from 2010 levels would come from a projected increase in height and weight figures in the global population. “The increase in the average daily required energy rises by 253 kcal per person between 2010 and 2100 in our estimations, assuming a rising BMI and height,” explained co-author Lutz Depenbusch from the World Vegetable Center. He told BBC News: “On a global scale, we calculate that the effect of the BMI and height increases in our model would lead to additional calorie requirements that match the 2010 requirements of India and Nigeria combined.”

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The system many people claim would be too expensive to repair or replace. Sounds like pretty straightforward fraud to me.

For Her Head Cold, Insurer Coughed Up $25,865 (NPR)

Alexa Kasdan had a cold and a sore throat. The 40-year-old public policy consultant from Brooklyn, N.Y., didn’t want her upcoming vacation trip ruined by strep throat. So after it had lingered for more than a week, she decided to get it checked out. Kasdan visited her primary care physician, Roya Fathollahi, at Manhattan Specialty Care, just off Park Avenue South and not far from tony Gramercy Park. The visit was quick. Kasdan got her throat swabbed, gave a tube of blood and was sent out the door with a prescription for antibiotics. She soon felt better, and the trip went off without a hitch. Then the bill came. The news was that her insurance company was mailing her family a check — for more than $25,000 — to cover some out-of-network lab tests.

The actual bill was $28,395.50, but the doctor’s office said it would waive her portion of the bill: $2,530.26. “I thought it was a mistake,” she says. “I thought maybe they meant $250. I couldn’t fathom in what universe I would go to a doctor for a strep throat culture and some antibiotics and I would end up with a $25,000 bill.” The doctor’s office kept assuring Kasdan by phone and by email that the tests and charges were perfectly normal. The office sent a courier to her house to pick up the check. How could a throat swab possibly cost that much? Let us count three reasons. First, the doctor sent Kasdan’s throat swab for a sophisticated smorgasbord of DNA tests looking for viruses and bacteria that might explain Kasdan’s cold symptoms.

Dr. Ranit Mishori, professor of family medicine at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, says such scrutiny was unnecessary. “In my 20 years of being a doctor, I’ve never ordered any of these tests, let alone seen any of my colleagues, students and other physicians order anything like that in the outpatient setting,” she says. “I have no idea why they were ordered.” The tests might conceivably make sense for a patient in the intensive care unit or with a difficult case of pneumonia, Mishori says. The ones for influenza are potentially useful, since there are medicines that can help, but there’s a cheap rapid test that could have been used instead.

The second reason behind the high price is that the doctor sent the throat swab to an out-of-network lab for analysis. In-network labs settle on contract rates with insurers. But out-of-network labs can set their own prices for tests, and in this case the lab settled on list prices that are 20 times higher than average for other labs in the same ZIP code. In this case, if the doctor had sent the throat swab off to LabCorp -Kasdan’s in-network provider- it would have billed her insurance company about $653 for “all the ordered tests, or an equivalent,” LabCorp told NPR. The third reason for the high bill may be the connection between the lab and Kasdan’s doctor. Kasdan’s bill shows that the lab service was provided by Manhattan Gastroenterology, which has the same phone number and locations as her doctor’s office.

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A fitting end to the year.

‘Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself’ Goodies Hottest Holiday Merch This Xmas (NYP)

It’s the most controversial time of the year. Following the August death of convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, a rash of sweaters, Christmas tree ornaments and other holiday goods have appeared on retail sites like Amazon and Etsy touting conspiracies that the 66-year-old was murdered. “Christmas lights are a lot like Epstein — they don’t hang themselves,” reads one $19.80 sweater on Amazon featuring the 66-year-old in a Santa hat. Plenty of ornaments also include the allegation, including this one, which also features a noose.

“During Christmas, an elf may sit on a shelf, but Epstein didn’t kill himself,” says another Amazon sweater, available starting at $29.99 in eight different colors.“Dasher & dancer & prancer & Epstein & didn’t & kill himself & Donner & Blitzen,” reads one $18.99 T-shirt. An almost-classic gingerbread-themed ornament has a naughty box, a nice box — and an “Epstein didn’t kill himself” box, which is checked. “Merry Christmas!” reads the cover of a $6.99 notebook, “Epstein didn’t kill himself.” A ransom-style note sweater with “Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself,” is available in designs featuring Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Kim Jong-un.

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Mathew Brady Three captured Confederate soldiers, Gettysburg, PA 1863

 

ECB’s Knot Says Low Rate Policy Risks Becoming Counterproductive (R.)
Doomsday Debt Machine: Impeach Congress, Too! (Stockman)
Nancy Pelosi: The Woman Who Stood Up To Trump (G.)
Adam Schiff Has ‘No Sympathy’ For FBI Victim Carter Page (ZH)
SmoCo Sneaks Home Amid The Ashes Of His Government (MB)
Why Public College Should Be Free (Covert)
London Will Never Give Independence – We Must Take It (Craig Murray)
West Africa Renames CFA Franc But Keeps It Pegged To Euro (R.)
Erdogan Says Turkey Can’t Handle New Migrant Wave From Syria, Warns Europe (R.)

 

 

Central banker who makes an excellent case against central bank interference in interest rates. But he doesn’t even get it himself, so how can a petty journalist? The idea that somehow magically conditions will (re-)appear that favor raising rates is as faulty as it is dumb. There is no way back. They’ve entered a black hole, they’ve crossed the event horizon.

ECB’s Knot Says Low Rate Policy Risks Becoming Counterproductive (R.)

Interest rates in the euro zone could remain historically low for years, but the European Central Bank’s (ECB) ultra-loose monetary policy risks becoming counterproductive, ECB governing council member Klaas Knot said in an interview published on Monday. “I do not have a crystal ball, but I cannot rule out that the current low interest rate environment could last another five years”, Knot told Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant. “This worries me, because temporarily low interest rates are something quite different from persistently low interest rates.” The Dutch central bank president said the current low rates lead to excessive risk taking among investors, while younger generations on the other hand might feel forced to keep increasing their savings.


“From a macro-economic perspective that would be undesirable,” Knot said. “And it is also an example of how our low interest rate policy may eventually shoot itself in the foot. If people start saving more in response to the low interest rates, this will add further downward pressure on inflation.” Knot is a frequent critic of the ECB’s ultra-easy monetary policy, and slammed the bank’s new stimulus measures earlier this year as disproportionate. The Dutchman has repeatedly said he is looking forward to the strategic review of ECB policy, promised by its new President Christine Lagarde, and has called for the bank to adopt a more flexible inflation target. “The balance between positive and negative effects of the low interest rates is shifting in the wrong direction”, he told the paper.

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High crimes.

Doomsday Debt Machine: Impeach Congress, Too! (Stockman)

If bringing one’s country to fiscal ruin were an impeachable offense, you’d have to impeach the entire city of Washington. On December 16 the gross Federal debt breached a new level to $23.1 trillion, while the net debt after $401 billion of cash weighed in at $22.71 trillion. The latter monstrous figure is notable because on June 30, 2019 it stood at $21.76 trillion. So what has happened in the last 167 days is a $948 billion increase in the Uncle Sam’s net debt, which amounts to a gain of $5.7 billion per day – including, as we like to say, weekends, holidays and snow days.

Worse still, not a single dollar of that gain got absorbed in government trust funds. The Treasury float held by the public actually rose by $953 billion. So why in the world do the knuckleheads on bubblevision not understand where the spiking rates and ructions in the repo market came from? The law of supply and demand is still operative, and the US Treasury is literally flooding the bond pits with new supply. Even at the bottom of the Great Recession, Uncle Sam did not drain $5.7 billion per day from the bond market.


But nary a soul down in the Imperial City has noticed this borrowing eruption at the tippy-top of the business cycle, which now teeters on borrowed time at a record 127 months of age. Instead, this very day the Congress is busily engaged in what is a fair approximation of abolishing the election process at the heart of American democracy. We will address today’s hideous impeachment Gong Show below. But here we note that every talking head showing up on the screen today is claiming that the market can keep on bubbling higher because the pending impeachment of the nation’s 45th president is a great big nothingburger. Au contraire!

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It’s not easy to even imagine, but there are people who see Pelosi as a hero. That they need to quote Leon Panetta to make that case should say enough. Still, after, Russiagate, Mueller, Ukrainegate, Pelosi refusing to send article to the Senate, this is just deaf, dumb and blind.

Nancy Pelosi: The Woman Who Stood Up To Trump (G.)

In December 2018, weeks after the Democrats’ conquest of the House, the soon-to-be speaker arrived for a White House meeting with Donald Trump. The subject was a government shutdown but the subtext was a showdown between the most powerful woman in American politics and the president of the United States. In the extraordinary, televised exchange that followed, Trump sought to undermine Nancy Pelosi, whom he repeatedly addressed as “Nancy”, by reminding his audience in the Oval Office – and those watching at home – that she had yet to secure the 218 votes needed to reclaim the speakership and was “in a situation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now”. Her response was sharp and sure. “Mr President, please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting.”

It was the first test of a new power dynamic in Washington and when it ended, there was little disagreement over who had won. Pelosi emerged from the White House wearing a now-famous burnt-orange coat, sunglasses and the triumphant smile of a woman who has never forgotten the advice imparted to her by the late Louisiana congresswoman Lindy Boggs: “Darlin’, know thy power and use it.” That 15-minute Oval Office meeting marked the beginning of a struggle between Pelosi and Trump that culminated last week in the president’s impeachment by the House of Representatives for “high crimes and misdemeanors”. Pelosi, dressed in funeral black, banged down her speaker’s gavel to finalize the vote, binding together their legacies for all time.

It was not how Pelosi, who once said Trump was “not worth” impeaching, had hoped to end a year that began with her historic, second ascension to the speakership. Pelosi, the first – and only – woman ever to serve as Speaker of the House, would rather be remembered for legislative accomplishments – the Affordable Care Act above all – than for impeachment. But Trump, Pelosi said, left her “no choice”. She quoted Thomas Paine: “The times have found us.” In the wake of Trump’s impeachment, however, Democrats believe there was perhaps no leader better suited to the times. “She is, thank God, the exact right person in the right place at the right time,” said Leon Panetta, a former defense secretary and CIA director and a California native who’s known Pelosi for decades.

“I’m not sure anybody else would have had the experience or capability to be able to do what she has done.” “Donald Trump really has met his match with Nancy,” Panetta added. Her grace under fire as speaker has earned comparisons to Sam Rayburn, the country’s longest-serving speaker, who died in 1961. One Democrat called her an “as good or better” legislative leader than Lyndon Johnson, who was a Senate majority leader before he was president. And when the question is asked whether a female presidential candidate can beat Trump in 2020, the Democrats point to Pelosi, who “does it every single day”.

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It’s OK for the FBI to break the law 6 ways from Sunday because Schiff doesn’t like the guy they spied on. And it’s not even 2020 yet.

Adam Schiff Has ‘No Sympathy’ For FBI Victim Carter Page (ZH)

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) says it’s hard to feel sympathetic for former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, despite the fact that he was spied on by the FBI after the agency fabricated evidence to obtain a surveillance warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. After the FISA court denied their request, FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith fabricated evidence to exclude the fact that Page was a CIA source, with “positive assessment,” despite the fact that the CIA informed Clinesmith of Page’s prior work for the agency. Schiff, however, has no love for Page despite DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz finding 16 significant ‘errors’ in the FBI’s FISA applications used to surveil Page.


“I have to say, you know, Carter Page came before our Committee and for hours of his testimony, denied things that we knew were true, later had to admit them during his testimony,” Schiff told PBS News’ Margaret Hoover. “It’s hard to be sympathetic to someone who isn’t honest with you when he comes and testifies under oath. It’s also hard to be sympathetic when you have someone who has admitted to being an adviser to the Kremlin.” Hoover countered, noting “But then was also informing the CIA,” to which Schiff replies “Yes, yes.” “Which we didn’t know about,” replied Hoover. “Who was both targeted by the KGB but also talking to the United States and its agencies and that should have been included, made clear, and it wasn’t, according to the inspector general,” Schiff responded.

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When is the last time Australia had an actual politician? How is the entire country not a province for US and UK bankers to loot?

SmoCo Sneaks Home Amid The Ashes Of His Government (MB)

There are moments in politics when everything that has come before is crystalised in a moment. Malcolm Turnbull branded himself a phony when he leapt into bed with the Coalition’s right wing. Tony Abbott captured himself when he recommended Prince Phillip be offered an Australian knighthood. Before him, John Howard made himself a political legend when he threw children overboard. Julia Gillard did it in her act of backstabbing. Kevin Rudd did it when he dumped climate change mitigation for Big Australia. Paul Keating branded himself forever with the “recession we had to have”. So on and so forth. These are moments when the truth about a leader’s character is revealed for all to see and branded that way forever more.

For Keating it was arrogance. For Howard it was opportunism. For Rudd it was narcissism. For Gillard it was illegitimacy. For Abbott it was archaic ineptitute. For Turnbull it was hollowness. That moment arrived last week for Scott Morrison. He will henceforth be remembered as SmoCo, the guy that fled to Hawaii – sand, sun and Mai Tais – as his nation burned to the ground. No doubt his minders will kid themselves that he can spin his way out of it. That the marketing guru will find a new angle to shift the blame elsewhere. They are wrong. The Morrsion Government is now covered in ash and forever will be. Over Christmas tables across the nation for the next week, SmoCo will be a combined laughing stock and object of incredulous anger.

SmoCo of the “quiet Australians” has become instead the incredible vanishing PM. In truth, it’s not all SmoCo’s fault. His party is really to blame. It has made destructive climate politics the centre of its value system for thirty years. It has unilaterally blockaded global action. It has embraced and defended carbon interests. It has ruined the debate with pseudo-science. It has trashed energy policy and twisted mitigation policy to such an extent that Australia now faces combined environmental and energy calamity. From day one, it has divided and conquered instead of uniting and acting.

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Another one of those discussions that cannot be avoided or ignored. Still, Sanders and Warren haven’t found the solution yet.

Why Public College Should Be Free (Covert)

Nearly all of the Democratic presidential candidates have plans to reduce the exorbitant cost of college. But there’s an emerging rift: On one side, candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have proposed making public college free for all; on the other, candidates like Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar want to make it free for only a slice of the population. The latter worry that by providing free college to everyone who wants it—including, in Buttigieg’s words, “the children of millionaires and billionaires”—too many resources will be squandered on the rich. In reality, we already subsidize college for kids from wealthy families, and those further down the income scale would benefit the most if public institutions were free.

In 2017, the most recent year for which we have data, all of the tuition and fees charged by public colleges came to $75.8 billion. That’s less than what the federal government spends to subsidize the cost of college. In the same year, the government disbursed about $160 billion in the form of student loans, grants, and tax breaks to help make higher education less of a burden on American families. Certainly the students who take advantage of those federal funds use them to go to a variety of higher education institutions, not just public colleges. But it would be more efficient to simply eliminate public college tuition than to spend all that money propping up institutions through a maze of grants and tax breaks.

Right now, the government’s money flows largely to well-off students. After student loans, the biggest chunk of student aid is delivered through the tax code; excluding loans, it makes up more than half of all aid. In 2012 the federal government gave $34 billion in tax breaks, a billion more than it spent on Pell Grants for those in financial need. And most of that money is going to the wealthiest families. In 2013, for example, families that made $100,000 or more a year captured more than half of the tuition and fees deduction as well as the exemption for dependent students.

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Murray is a proud Scot.

London Will Never Give Independence – We Must Take It (Craig Murray)

Yesterday the Scottish Government published “Scotland’s Right to Choose“, its long heralded paper on the path to a new Independence referendum. It is a document riven by a basic intellectual flaw. It sets out in detail, and with helpful annexes, that Scotland is a historic nation with the absolute and inalienable right of self-determination, and that sovereignty lies not in the Westminster parliament but with the Scottish people. It then contradicts all of this truth by affirming, at length, in detail, and entirely without reservation, that Scotland can only hold a legitimate Independence referendum if the Westminster Parliament devolves the power to do so under Section 30. Both propositions cannot be true. Scotland cannot be a nation with the right of self-determination, and at the same time require the permission of somebody else to exercise that self-determination.


I was trying to find the right words to discuss the document. One possibility was “schizophrenic”. The first half appears to be written by somebody with a fundamental belief in Scottish Independence, and contains this passage: “The United Kingdom is best understood as a voluntary association of nations, in keeping with the principles of democracy and self determination. For the place of Scotland in the United Kingdom to be based on the people of Scotland’s consent, Scotland must be able to choose whether and when it should make a decision about its future. The decision whether the time is right for the people who live in Scotland again to make a choice about their constitutional future is for the Scottish Parliament, as the democratic voice of Scotland, to make.”

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Colonialism takes many forms.

West Africa Renames CFA Franc But Keeps It Pegged To Euro (R.)

West Africa’s monetary union has agreed with France to rename its CFA franc the Eco and cut some of the financial links with Paris that have underpinned the region’s common currency since its creation soon World War Two. Under the deal, the Eco will remain pegged to the euro but the African countries in the bloc won’t have to keep 50% of their reserves in the French Treasury and there will no longer be a French representative on the currency union’s board. Critics of the CFA have long seen it as a relic from colonial times while proponents of the currency say it has provided financial stability in a sometimes turbulent region.

“This is a historic day for West Africa,” Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara said during a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in the country’s main city Abidjan. In 2017, Macron highlighted the stabilizing benefits of the CFA but said it was up to African governments to determine the future of the currency. “Yes, it’s the end of certain relics of the past. Yes it’s progress … I do not want influence through guardianship, I do not want influence through intrusion. That’s not the century that’s being built today,” said Macron. The CFA is used in 14 African countries with a combined population of about 150 million and $235 billion of gross domestic product.

However, the changes will only affect the West African form of the currency used by Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo – all former French colonies except Guinea Bissau. The six countries using the Central African CFA are Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, – all former French colonies with the exception of Equatorial Guinea. The CFA’s value relative to the French franc remained unchanged from 1948 through to 1994 when it was devalued by 50% to boost exports from the region.

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Another attack on Assad, under a different guise. We eagerly await comment from Bellingcat and the White Helmets. And what’s that smell?

Erdogan Says Turkey Can’t Handle New Refugee Wave From Syria, Warns Europe (R.)

Turkey cannot handle a fresh wave of migrants from Syria, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday, warning that European countries will feel the impact of such an influx if violence in Syria’s northwest is not stopped. Turkey currently hosts some 3.7 million Syrian refugees, the largest refugee population in the world, and fears another wave from the Idlib region, where up to 3 million Syrians live in the last significant rebel-held swathe of territory. Syrian and Russian forces have intensified their bombardment of targets in Idlib, which Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has vowed to recapture, prompting a wave of refugees toward Turkey.

Speaking at an awards ceremony in Istanbul on Sunday night, Erdogan said more than 80,000 people were currently on the move from Idlib to Turkey. “If the violence toward the people of Idlib does not stop, this number will increase even more. In that case, Turkey will not carry such a migrant burden on its own,” Erdogan said. “The negative impact of the pressure we will be subjected to will be something that all European nations, especially Greece, will also feel,” he said, adding that a repeat of the 2015 migrant crisis would become inevitable. He also said Turkey was doing everything possible to stop Russian bombardments in Idlib, adding that a Turkish delegation would go to Moscow to discuss Syria on Monday.

[..] Turkey is seeking international support for plans to settle 1 million Syrians in part of northeast Syria that its forces and their Syrian rebel allies seized from the Kurdish YPG militia in a cross-border incursion in October. Ankara has received little public backing for the proposal and has repeatedly slammed its allies for not supporting its plans. Turkey’s offensive was also met with condemnation from allies, including the United States and European countries. “We call on European countries to use their energy to stop the massacre in Idlib, rather than trying to corner Turkey for the legitimate steps it took in Syria,” Erdogan said on Sunday, referring to the three military operations Turkey has carried out in Syria.

After a global refugee forum in Geneva last week, the United Nations refugee agency said states pledged more than $3 billion to support refugees and around 50,000 resettlement places. But, Erdogan, who attended the forum, said on Sunday that sum was not enough. U.N agencies say hundreds of people have been killed in Idlib this year after attacks on residential areas. Russia and the Syrian army, which is loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, both deny allegations of indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas and say they are fighting al Qaeda-inspired Islamist militants.

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 December 21, 2019  Posted by at 10:42 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Unknown Butler’s dredge-boat, sunk by Confederate shell, James River, VA 1864

 

Assange Testifies In Trial Of Company That Spied On Him Inside Embassy (RT)
Former Intelligence Chiefs Fit Perfectly Into Media Advocacy Culture (Hanson)
Reindeer Games (Jim Kunstler)
It’s Time for J.J. Abrams To Be Impeached From Star Wars (Reason)
Americans Are Not ‘Free To Choose’ Anymore (Mauldin)
China’s $13 Trillion Problem Is Becoming Everyone’s (Pesek)
How Murder, Kidnappings And Miscalculation Set Off Hong Kong’s Revolt (R.)
Ryanair Will Not Refund Passengers Who Refuse To Fly On Boeing 737 Max (Ind.)
Boeing 737 MAX Production Shutdown Impacts Suppliers, Workers, Customers (F.)
Colombia Orders Uber To Cease Ride-Hailing (R.)
Now Fake Facebook Accounts Are Using Fake Faces (CNN)
How Ancient Mexican Metropolis Dodged Inequality Trap (R.)

 

 

The only coverage of Julian’s court appearance yesterday that I could find is from RT. ¿Perqué?

Assange Testifies In Trial Of Company That Spied On Him Inside Embassy (RT)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange briefly stepped out of maximum security prison in the UK to testify via video-link in a Spanish case against a company that spied on him inside the Ecuadorian embassy, allegedly on the US’ behalf. Assange, who is being held at Belmarsh prison in southern London pending his hearing on extradition to the US, was driven over to the Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Friday, where a video-link was set up for him to speak with a judge in Madrid. The proceedings were closed to the press on the grounds of “national security.” The High Court in Madrid is hearing Assange’s case against Undercover Global Ltd, a Spanish security company that allegedly bugged him during his stay at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.


Undercover Global was contracted to provide embassy security between 2015 and 2018, and in that capacity secretly recorded Assange’s every move via hidden cameras, microphones and electronic surveillance, the lawsuit says. Assange told the court “he was absolutely unaware that the cameras recorded audio, that hidden microphones had been introduced” into the fire extinguisher mounts inside the embassy, his attorney Aitor Martinez told reporters in Madrid after the testimony. Assange was “an absolutely passive subject of an illegitimate interference that would have been eventually coordinated by the United States,” Martinez added. If the illegal surveillance targeted Assange’s legal team and violated his attorney-client privilege, that has ramifications on the proceedings against him in both the UK and the US, his lawyers have argued.

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Rand Paul: “In the advocacy culture of our new media, ex-government officials such as Brennan, Clapper and McCabe can be paid to appear on news programs to analyze (or vindicate) their own unethical behavior.”

Former Intelligence Chiefs Fit Perfectly Into Media Advocacy Culture (Hanson)

Former FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper have lots of things in common. One, they ran the nation’s key intelligence and investigatory agencies under former President Barack Obama. They were deeply involved in the “Russian collusion” hoax. And they participated in the surveillance of the Trump campaign and transition. Comey and McCabe both signed applications for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrants requesting surveillance on Trump campaign aide Carter Page. A report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz criticized Comey and McCabe’s FBI for falsehoods and misrepresentations during its investigation of the Donald Trump campaign.

Clapper, Brennan and the FBI helped to disseminate the fallacious Steele dossier to the press and among government agencies. Two, Comey, McCabe, Brennan and Clapper have all lied either under oath or in the public sphere. Horowitz has said that he referred Comey for criminal prosecution for leaking classified memos he wrote about his confidential conversations with the president, but the Justice Department did not pursue charges. Comey signed FISA warrant applications that the inspector general has determined were misleading at best and at worst simply flat-out wrong. In testimony before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees, there were 245 occasions on which Comey claimed he couldn’t remember details or couldn’t answer questions. Comey did not tell the truth when he said the Steele dossier was not the prime evidence that he submitted to the FISA court.

He also lied about when he was briefed on the dossier. McCabe was given a criminal referral for lying to federal investigators. His story about conspiring to catch Trump on tape in an effort to remove him under the 25th Amendment cannot be reconciled with the version of the account told by his apparent partner in that gambit, former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Brennan has on two occasions lied under oath to Congress, first about collateral deaths caused by drone strikes abroad, then about CIA spying on Senate staffers’ computers. Clapper got caught lying about the surveillance of U.S. citizens and claimed he gave the “least untruthful” answer. Both have given accounts of their knowledge of the Steele dossier that are contradicted by a number of sources. Clapper falsely claimed of the dossier that “more and more of it has been corroborated.”

Three, all four of these former intelligence chiefs detest the president of the United States. Comey has compared Trump to a Mafia don and stated that he is morally unfit to be president. McCabe, who was likewise fired from the FBI, has called Trump’s behavior “disgusting.” Clapper said that Trump may be working with Putin as a Russian “asset.” Brennan called Trump a “disgraced demagogue” as well as venal, corrupt and amoral.

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“..when does this faction finally lose its appetite for self-degradation and dishonor?”

Reindeer Games (Jim Kunstler)

Mr. Trump appears eager and avid to go to trial, where his side could call witnesses to his heart’s delight while denying the opposition any witnesses, just as the Dems did in the house. His managers could call in the Bidens, Joe and Hunter, to explain their 2014 adventures in Ukraine, and the impressive payments tendered to them — for what? The defense could compel the testimony of the rogue CIA agent, Eric Ciaramella, to explain his pretensions of whistleblowing, and also his enabler, Intel IG Michael Atkinson, who left a procedural slime-trail in his handling of the “whistleblower” ruse. They could call in the fact-witness to all that, Rep. Adam Schiff, who would excite the wonder and loathing of the nation in being forced to reveal his part in that charade and to recount the myriad falsehoods he has spawned in three years of RussiaGate chicanery — which, in a truly just world, would prompt his expulsion from the house.

They could haul in Messrs Obama, Brennan, Clapper, Comey, Mueller, Weissman, Rosenstein, McCabe, Ohr, Lynch, Strzok, Ms. Page, Ms. Yates, Mrs. Lynch, Mr. Halper — though I suspect that bunch would be better left to the ministrations of John Durham, just as the Democratic primaries roll out. A trial like that would be a rich spectacle for sure after subjecting the nation to three years of malicious, perfidious sedition. But other gusts of rumor intimate that senators on the Republican side would prefer to not open any cans of Ukrainian worms in a trial, since money laundered through the Ukrainian oligarch mills may have found its way into their pockets as well. Who knows…?

The simplest explanation for this hot mess is that Mrs. Pelosi’s team wanted desperately to just distract the country’s attention from the Horowitz report — which it pretty much failed to do — and now that she’s shot her wad with that gambit, she’s left holding a bag of meritless impeachment bullshit that will disappoint and embarrass the Resistance just as much as the Mueller investigation managed to do. Which leads to the question: when does this faction finally lose its appetite for self-degradation and dishonor?

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There you go. Put Schiff in charge.

It’s Time for J.J. Abrams To Be Impeached From Star Wars (Reason)

For the last four years, we have been living a collective nightmare. Our shared values have been undermined. Our cherished culture has come under attack. At its least harmful, this nightmare has taken the form of empty nostalgia, in which the leaders who have been entrusted with ushering us into the next era have instead looked into the past, distracting us with symbolic gestures that serve no purpose except to cover up a lack of vision. At its worst, a combination of incompetence, erraticness, and sometimes sheer malice has squandered decades of progress. The ensuing conversation has been fruitless and ugly, and the experience has left many of us polarized, angry, and exhausted.


This week, it finally started to look as if that nightmare might end—but only in the weakest and most slapdash manner. This resolution, which is not really a resolution, is not only a disaster: It’s a disappointment, a pointless, abysmal letdown that is virtually certain to fully satisfy almost no one. The result is a rushed and poorly executed product of bad management, empty thinking, and shallow wish-fulfillment that will only further the public’s loss of faith in the entire enterprise. I speak, of course, of the Star Wars franchise, which in late 2015 returned to movie theaters under the managerial oversight of Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy, with a strong creative influence from Hollywood’s reigning prince of blockbuster mediocrity, J.J. Abrams.

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Close to what I recently wrote on capitalism and free markets, but from a professional investor point of view. Problem is, what does John Mauldin mean when he says “socialism”? Everyone means something different. That also makes polls on socialism suspect.

Americans Are Not ‘Free To Choose’ Anymore (Mauldin)

When you write for a wide audience, no matter what you say, or how carefully you say it, some people will misunderstand. Sometimes it’s amusing. Reading through my feedback (and I do read all of it), I get called both heartless capitalist and bleeding-heart socialist in reaction to the same article. In fact, I’m neither. I am a capitalist, and proudly so. I believe free markets are the best way to bring maximum prosperity and peace for everyone. But I’m not heartless, nor do I think markets are perfect. Even the best medicines can have serious side effects. That is doubly so when you aren’t taking the medicine correctly. I also don’t think the word capitalism means what we think it means, at least those of us of a certain age.

Take a look at the data from an interview Charles Payne did with David Bahnsen on Fox Business a few weeks ago. Asked if they favor capitalism or socialism, 49% of Millennials favored socialism. But if you ask if they favor big business or “free enterprise,” the numbers change significantly. In the future, I intend to substitute “free market” for capitalism where possible. Capitalism, at least the free market version, can’t work without competition. It motivates producers to offer the best products at the lowest prices, and lets consumers choose whatever best fits their needs. Yet instead of encouraging and protecting competition, the US government increasingly suppresses it. Last February I wrote about a then-new book, The Myth of Capitalism, by old friend Jonathan Tepper and Denise Hearn. They aren’t leftists at all. They respect classical capitalism and want it to work better than it is.

Here’s a quick snippet from the book. “Free to Choose” sounds great. Yet Americans are not free to choose. In industry after industry, they can only purchase from local monopolies or oligopolies that can tacitly collude. The US now has many industries with only three or four competitors controlling entire markets. Since the early 1980s, market concentration has increased severely. We’ve already described the airline industry. Here are other examples: • Two corporations control 90 percent of the beer Americans drink. • Five banks control about half of the nation’s banking assets. ª Many states have health insurance markets where the top two insurers have an 80 percent to 90 percent market share. For example, in Alabama one company, Blue Cross Blue Shield, has an 84% market share and in Hawaii it has 65% market share.


Getty

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Just like America’s.

China’s $13 Trillion Problem Is Becoming Everyone’s (Pesek)

China’s Xi Jinping probably tops any list of people who can’t wait to see the back of 2019. These last 12 months produced the slowest mainland growth since the early 1990s, the biggest pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong’s history and mounting criticism of Beijing’s human rights record. By taking such an authoritarian stance, Taiwan has slipped further away from Beijing’s grip, while some political wags questioned whether Communist Party members were losing faith in President Xi’s governing style. But Xi has an even bigger challenge on his hands, and not just Donald Trump’s trade war antics. Make that 13 trillion challenges.

This figure refers to the size, in U.S. dollar terms, of China’s onshore bond market. And generally, its growth and development have long been touted as a vital rite of passage for the second-biggest economic power. The trouble with debt markets, though, is they tend to expose cracks in financial systems. Herein lies Xi’s biggest problem. Keeping growth north of 6% is reasonably easy for a command economy. Even amid the trade war, Xi’s party can order up giant infrastructure projects, slash taxes and cajole local governments to ramp up fiscal stimulus. It has its own ATM—the People’s Bank of China.

Trouble is, the more you borrow, the more investors can push back and the more even the most authoritarian of governments can lose control as punters vote with their feet. That risk is increasing along with a recent jump in private-sector debt defaults to a record high. According to Fitch, 4.9% of private companies missed bond payments from January to November, up from 4.2% for all of 2018. When you combine state and private companies, China Inc.’s onshore defaults risks are growing apace—from none a few years back to at least $18 billion so far this year. There’s an obvious caveat here. We can only discuss the default risks we know about—the ones regulators in Beijing cop to, not those that are being papered over with public assistance.

Signs of stress are also emerging in the offshore debt market. So are this year, there have been at least $75 billion defaults. With well over $200 billion of debt maturing over the next 24 months, Standard and Poor’s warns of increasing missed payments episodes. This trajectory collides with U.S. President Trump’s trade war. Ignore all that excitement over Trump’s “phase one” deal with Xi. It’s a polite ceasefire than won’t hold. With Trump getting zero from Xi in terms of re-ordering U.S.-China trade dynamics and facing the risk of removal from office, the odds of him lashing out anew at Asia are growing, not waning. It means that Xi’s annus horribilis won’t end even as calendars switch to 2020. The year ahead may very well be the one in which China’s debt troubles supersede all else.

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Very long, certainly for Reuters. But useful background.

How Murder, Kidnappings And Miscalculation Set Off Hong Kong’s Revolt (R.)

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says the plan that ignited the revolt in her city was born of a straightforward quest for justice. While on a trip to Taiwan, a Hong Kong man strangled his Hong Kong girlfriend, then returned home and confessed. The city lacked an extradition pact with Taiwan, and Lam argued the only way to send him back for trial was new laws that also would enable sending criminal suspects to mainland China. She dismissed fears about the proposal – which would mean Hong Kong residents could face trial in China’s Communist Party-controlled courts – and pushed ahead. As protests raged this summer, even in private Lam kept to her story that she, not Beijing, was the prime mover, driven by “compassion” for the young victim’s devastated parents.

“This is not something instructed, coerced by the central government,” she told a room of Hong Kong businesspeople at a talk in August. A Reuters examination has found a far more complicated story. Officials in Beijing first began pushing for an extradition law two decades ago. This pressure to extend the arm of Chinese law into Hong Kong’s independent British-style legal system intensified in 2017, a year before the slaying and two years before Lam’s administration announced its extradition bill. The impetus came from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the Communist Party’s powerful internal anti-corruption body, which has been spearheading Chinese President Xi Jinping’s mass anti-graft campaign.

Xi’s crackdown spilled over dramatically into the streets of Hong Kong in the early hours of January 27, 2017. Among the targets of CCDI investigators at the time, two mainland Chinese officials with knowledge of the probe told Reuters, was a Chinese billionaire living in the city named Xiao Jianhua. A businessman with close ties to China’s political elite, Xiao was abducted that morning from his serviced apartment at the luxury Four Seasons Hotel. Unidentified captors whisked him out the entrance in a wheelchair with his head covered, a witness told Reuters.

The sensational kidnapping, widely reported at the time, was assumed by most people in this city of 7.5 million to have been the work of Chinese agents; Beijing has never commented publicly on the matter. Frustrated at the lack of legal means to get their hands on Xiao, the two Chinese officials told Reuters, the CCDI that same year began pressing mainland officials in charge of Hong Kong affairs about the urgent need for an extradition arrangement. The CCDI wanted a less politically damaging method than kidnapping for snaring fugitive mainlanders in Hong Kong, the officials said. The two sides failed to strike a deal, but the killing in Taiwan would provide a new opening.

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People book Ryanair 6-8 weeks before the flight, but planes are assigned less than 24 hours before.

Ryanair Will Not Refund Passengers Who Refuse To Fly On Boeing 737 Max (Ind.)

As Boeing winds down production of the 737 Max aircraft, the Ryanair boss has said passengers will “love them” when the planes are finally flying again. Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Europe’s biggest budget airline, has ordered 210 of a special version of the Max, seating eight extra passengers. None has so far been delivered, as the Boeing jet is grounded worldwide. The no-fly stipulation was declared worldwide after a second crash involving the Boeing 737 Max. [..] Boeing had initially predicted that software fixes would enable the 737 Max to be flying by the end of 2019. But as that hope faded, airlines have gradually removed it from the schedules in early 2020.


Michael O’Leary told The Independent: “As every day passes, it keeps moving backwards. “We originally hoped we’d get 30 aircraft for the summer, then it was 20, now it’s only 10. “If there really is more, another one month’s delay, it looks much more likely we will get zero aircraft in advance of the June-July-August summer peak.” But when the Boeing 737 Max is flying for Ryanair, anxious passengers who do not wish to travel on it will have no advance warning. “You won’t know, because on average you book seats on Ryanair six to eight weeks in advance of travel,” said Mr O’Leary. “We only do the aircraft allocations the night before, because we don’t know which aircraft is where. “During the first year, you’ll have a 10 per cent chance you’ll be on a Max aircraft. “Will anyone know or care? Frankly, I don’t think they will.”

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The airlines will demand compensation. But what about the crews, who work far fewer hours and lose wages?

Boeing 737 MAX Production Shutdown Impacts Suppliers, Workers, Customers (F.)

The effluence of Boeing’s long-avoided decision, announced Monday, to halt production of 737 MAX aircraft until the plane is recertified for service has begun rolling downhill, causing the biggest third-party supplier to the program to suspend production of MAX fuselages. Spirit AeroSystems, a former division of Boeing based in Wichita, Kansas, said today it will stop making MAX fuselages – effectively the body of the plane, excluding its small nose cone and large tail section – effective Jan. 1. That’s the same day Boeing will stop building MAX planes, about 400 of which currently are finished but undeliverable and parked on ramps, unused taxiways and even employees’ parking lots at Boeing facilities.

Meanwhile, United Airlines, which had to park 14 MAX planes and stop taking delivery of others nine months ago when the Federal Aviation Administration took away the MAX’s certification, said today that it has pushed back plans to bring the MAX back into its schedule all the way to June 4. Most recently it had been targeting an April restart of MAX flying. But continued delays in getting the plane recertified by the FAA (and ultimately by the aviation safety regulators of other nations) has made it very difficult for airlines to predict when they’ll be able to fly MAX planes once again. United has the smallest batch of MAX planes in its fleet of the three U.S. carriers that have bought the newest, and significantly re-designed version of the venerable 50-year-old 737 line.

Southwest had 34 copies of the MAX when the grounding took place, while American had 24. All three carriers also have large orders for more MAX planes and have been unable to add them to their fleets since March, reducing their ability to retire older planes or to grow their fleet size. That reduced growth opportunity has affected the airlines’ abilities to grow their revenue and profits as planned, and has increased their costs somewhat by forcing them to underuse the pilots, flight attendants and other employees who were expected to staff the now-grounded MAX planes.

[..] leaders of the Transport Worker Union unit that represents Southwest’s 17,00 flight attendants today released a letter they sent this week to Southwest president Gary Kelly and vice president of inflight operations Sonya Lacore. The union leaders asked for additional help in addressing the “financial toal” on flight attendants whose pay has been reduced significantly while the MAX planes have been idled. The MAX groundings have left Southwest with more flight attendants on the payroll that it need. But rather than lay off hundreds of them and incur huge costs for retraining and re-scheduling attendants who’d be displaced by the resulting wave of seniority displacements, Southwest has retained all those extra attendants. But that means many attendants now are being assigned fewer flight hours, which diminishes their earnings.

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Are Colombia’s laws that much different from other countries?

Colombia Orders Uber To Cease Ride-Hailing (R.)

Colombia on Friday ordered Uber to cease its ride-hailing operations in the Andean country, effective immediately, after a judge ruled the company violated competition rules. Following a lawsuit filed against Uber by COTECH SA, the Superintendency of Industry and Commerce (SIC) said the U.S. company had breached market rules. Uber has more than 2.3 million active users in Colombia and around 88,000 driver partners. The app, however, has existed in a regulatory no-man’s land in Colombia. The Technology Ministry deems ride-hailing apps legal while transport authorities say they are against the law.


In a statement the SIC said Uber generated “a significant advantage in the market” by rendering transport services for individuals via its application. The SIC said that following analysis, it ordered Uber’s ride-hailing services “through the use of the Uber application to cease immediately.” The order applies to Uber, Uber X and Uber VAN. Uber said in a statement that it rejects the ruling and immediately appealed it. “This decision reflects an act of censorship and infringes on the Inter American Convention on Human Rights, which has already condemned attempts to block Uber for violating the neutrality of the web, liberty of expression and freedom of internet,” Uber said in a statement.

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Interesting, but since this is CNN, they blame Russia China, not America. A deepfake group that spends $10 million on Facebook ads sounds like a professional campaign.

Now Fake Facebook Accounts Are Using Fake Faces (CNN)

Artificially-generated faces of people who don’t exist are being used to front fake Facebook (FB) accounts in an attempt to trick users and game the company’s systems, the social media network said Friday. Experts who reviewed the accounts say it is the first time they have seen fake images like this being used at scale as part of a single social media campaign. The accounts, which were removed by Facebook on Friday, were part of a network that generally posted in support of President Trump and against the Chinese government, experts who reviewed the accounts said. Many of the accounts promoted links to a Facebook page and website called “The BL.” Facebook said the accounts were tied to the US-based Epoch Media Group, which owns The Epoch Times newspaper, a paper tied to the Falun Gong movement that is similarly pro-Trump.

The publisher of the Epoch Times denied that Epoch and The BL were linked in emails to the fact-checking organization Snopes earlier this year. The dystopian revelation of the use of artificially-generated images in this way points to an increasingly complicated online information landscape as America enters a presidential election year. Silicon Valley and the US intelligence community are still struggling with the fallout from widespread online interference in the 2016 presidential election. The Facebook accounts used profile pictures that appeared to show real people smiling and looking directly into a camera. But the people do not and have never existed, according to Facebook and other researchers. The images were created using artificial intelligence technology.

The same basic methods are used to produce deepfake videos — fake videos that the US intelligence community has warned could be used as part of a foreign disinformation campaign targeting Americans. [..] In all, Facebook said Friday, it had removed a network of 610 Facebook accounts, 89 pages, 90 groups, and 72 Instagram accounts. About 55 million accounts followed one or more of the pages, and the vast majority of followers were outside the United States, Facebook said. Facebook did not say if all of all these followers were real — some of them may themselves have been fake accounts. The network of pages removed on Friday had spent almost $10 million on Facebook ads, according to Facebook.

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It’s a question of organization.

How Ancient Mexican Metropolis Dodged Inequality Trap (R.)

Fragments of pre-Aztec murals recently unearthed on the outskirts of what was once the largest city of the Americas are adding to mounting evidence that even commoners there enjoyed the finer things in life. Each year, millions of tourists visit the towering pyramids and temples of the sprawling metropolis of Teotihuacan, far from the latest discoveries on the city’s southern edge. “We’re now finding that life on the periphery was pretty good,” said Boston University archeologist David Carballo, who discovered brightly-colored paintings over fine stucco on three buildings he began excavating there in July.

Decorated with flowers and birds that appear to be singing, the murals evoking a paradise found nearly three kilometers (2 miles) from Teotihuacan’s core came as a complete surprise, he said. Carballo and his team have also found other signs of wealth nearby, including jade, a finely carved stone mask, and shells from Mexico’s Pacific and Gulf coasts. The unpublished mural discoveries point to the radically different path charted by Teotihuacan, which thrived from about 100 B.C. to 550 A.D., compared to other ancient civilizations. At a time when daily life in the biggest contemporary Mayan cities, or ancient Rome and Egypt, was marked by a tiny elite lording over impoverished or enslaved masses, most of Teotihuacan’s estimated 100,000 inhabitants fared far better.

[..] In the city’s La Ventilla district, another aspect of Teotihuacan’s egalitarian character comes into view: stone, multi-family apartment compounds where over 90% of Teotihuacanos lived. Off limits to tourists despite extremely rare glyphs painted on a plaza, the narrow streets of La Ventilla’s residential compounds suggest a densely-packed urban existence. The compounds boast white lime-plaster floors, built-in drainage systems, open-air courtyards and murals. Lying 48 km northeast of Mexico City, Teotihuacan has more than 2,000 such compounds, thanks to a century-long building boom that ended around 350 A.D.

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Dec 192019
 


Saul Leiter Harlem 1960

 

Lots of news outlets labeled yesterday’s House vote to impeach President Trump “historic”. It was. But what was historic about it was not that Donald Trump became the third president to be impeached. What was historic was the way it was done. That was a first.

Because it was not the House that impeached President Donald Trump, it was the Democratic Party. Which just happened to have the majority in the House. They appear to think that this is all that’s needed, which is a big mistake and an even bigger gamble. A gamble on the value and future of the US Constitution and the entire political system.

In an exercise in sanctimonious rhetoric, Nancy Pelosi and several other Democratic House members claim they are the only ones upholding the Constitution, and they’re the only ones who know what America’s Founding Fathers had in mind while writing the Constitution, and what they wrote about impeachment. Maybe someone should point out -again- that the Constitution is a document written by slaveholders. See how that flies with their black constituency.

Then again, none of this is really much different from what their witnesses in the past weeks had to say about Trump’s phone call with Ukraine president Zelensky, the one and only issue that impeachment eventually came to rely on, after years of trying to find something “impeachable”. That is, it’s not about facts, it’s about opinion and interpretation.

Trump asked Zelensky to look into a number of issues. But never said he wanted him to do that in order to elevate his chances in an election which was at that point a year and a half away, and in which Joe Biden’s role was not then, nor is it now, anywhere near assured. While there are many lingering questions surrounding the roles of both Joe and Hunter Biden.

For most of the witnesses called by the Democrats, including 3 “legal experts”, it was for some reason clear what Trump meant even though he never said it. That is a mighty slippery slope. That all three were donors to various Democrats is just icing on the slippery cake. But what remains most important is these were opinions, and they were not based on facts.

 

And we should at least be able to agree that facts are undoubtedly what the Founders meant for impeachment to be based on. They were wary enough of the instrument to set it up the way they did, with the role of the House and the separate role of the Senate, where a 2/3 vote is required. They did not want it based on hearsay and personal bias.

What they did not foresee was what has happened now, they trusted both the system and future politicians to safeguard themselves against using impeachment as a partisan political tool. They were wrong.

Well into this year, 2019, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi still emphasized the need for impeachment proceedings to be bipartisan. In March she said: “Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path..”

And on June 16, a full two months after the Mueller report came out: “I don’t think there’s anything more divisive we can do than to impeach a president of the United States, and so you have to handle it with great care..”

By September 24, however, again two full months after the Trump-Zelensky call, she abandoned that principle, and it’s not fully clear why, other than “unverified claims of an anonymous whistleblower”. She insisted it was because of the Zelensky call, but we’ve all been able to read there was not enough in that call for either her change of mind or, for that matter, impeachment itself.

 

Nancy Pelosi now hints she will delay sending articles of impeachment to the Senate because she wants to make sure the process is bipartisan. But does anyone want to claim that what happened in the House was bipartisan? If so, pray tell how we can tell it was.

Adam Schiff, like Nancy, questions if there will be a fair trial in the Senate. Does he mean like the one he presided over in the House, with behind closed doors testimony, no witnesses for the other side, and a committee chairman who constantly interrupts representatives from the other side? He may well get exactly that, just from a very different angle.

Schiff and his Democrats have been after Trump since before the 2016 elections, and the number of times they have uttered terms like “overwhelming” and “uncontested evidence” are impossible to count. But the “evidence” never was uncontested. And it isn’t to this day.

Something I don’t quite understand is that everybody knows Trump knew the call was recorded, and many people were listening in on it while it took place, so the entire interpretation of contents of the call as impeachable -he didn’t say it but he meant to- must be based on the idea that Trump is incredibly dumb – or evil?! Even if he would have wanted dirt on Joe Biden because of 2020, he could have gone about it in less “evident” ways than a semi-public phone call.

 

A house divided cannot stand. Yet the Democrats use their majority in the House to de facto say they ARE the House and thereby divide it. Unfortunately for them, this House too, cannot stand divided. It will crumble.

If one values the Constitution, the House, the Senate and the Office of President of the United States, one must treat all of these with the utmost care and respect. Which means you cannot get rid of a president just because you don’t like him or her, because if you do, you open the floodgates and you might as well throw everything America’s politics is based upon, out the window.

You can’t impeach a president based on hearsay, opinions, conjecture or personal interpretations of words s/he said. But that’s all I’ve seen and read and heard.

The Democrats are confident they can come out of this in one piece, and many even think as winners. Donald Trump doesn’t feel much of a threat, and why should he, but it’s been three years of great nuisance that now culminate in Pelosi not even having the courage to go to the Senate with her cherished impeachment articles.

Meanwhile though, the divisions in America have grown so deep it feels like Moses himself created them. And that is the real damage done. You can’t attack the political system, and the presidency, with anything but solid evidence, without doing real damage. Well, it has been done.

If Trump gets re-elected, and I would wager he will be after all the circus, the Dems can only start the wheel again. If a miracle Democrat gets the nod, the Republicans will initiate the same treatment Trump has received during his entire presidency. And so on and so forth until death do us part.

 

PS I stole the title from Michael Goodwin, who used it as his closing line.

PS2 I know there are not really two political parties in the US, but the growing gaping divide between the people is very real

 

 

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Dec 192019
 
 December 19, 2019  Posted by at 10:50 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  16 Responses »


Jack Delano Residents of Miss Disher’s rooming house for rail workers, Clinton, Iowa 1943

 

Pelosi Threatens To Delay Senate Impeachment Trial (Pol.)
Mueller Report Was Based On CIA-Fabricated “Evidence” (Bill Binney)
Manafort’s Fraud Case In New York Dismissed (R.)
Democratic Debate: Seven Candidates To Face Off A Day After Impeachment (G.)
US Concedes Defeat On Russia’s Nord Stream 2 Pipeline (ZH)
US Is Bent On ‘Absolute Military Supremacy’ – Mikhail Gorbachev (NW)
Afghanistan War – The Crime of the Century (Ron Paul)
The Final Act (Dmitry Orlov)

 

 

The Democrats have unleashed powers yesterday (and the previous 3-4 years) that they cannot control.

Not long ago Pelosi said “We must hurry and impeach Donald Trump because he is a risk to National Security.” Not a priority anymore?

Paul Sperry: “The longer Democrats drag out the impeachment process, the longer Durham has to bring indictments, declassify documents, expose new evidence Trump was justified asking Ukraine to help investigate how Obama/Biden/Clinton sabotaged his 2016 campaign..”

Pelosi Threatens To Delay Senate Impeachment Trial (Pol.)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to commit Wednesday to delivering articles of impeachment to the Senate, citing concerns about an unfair trial on removing President Donald Trump from office. Senior Democratic aides said the House was “very unlikely” to take the steps necessary to send the articles to the Senate until at least early January, a delay of at least two weeks and perhaps longer. “So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us,” Pelosi told reporters at a news conference just moments after the House charged Trump with abuse of power and obstructing congressional investigations. “That would’ve been our intention, but we’ll see what happens over there.”

Pelosi’s comments, which echo suggestions raised by other Democrats throughout the day, inject new uncertainty into the impeachment timetable and send the House and Senate lurching toward a potential institutional crisis. Though the House adopted two articles of impeachment charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of congressional investigations, it must pass a second resolution formally naming impeachment managers to present the case in the Senate. That second vehicle triggers the official transmission of articles to the Senate. By delaying passage of that resolution, Pelosi and top Democrats retain control of the articles and hope to put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to adopt trial procedures they consider bipartisan.

McConnell has boasted that he has closely coordinated the planning of the trial with the White House and has repeatedly predicted Trump would be acquitted. He’s also suggested Democrats shouldn’t be allowed to call new witnesses as they attempt to present their case. The White House lashed out at the move. “House Democrats have run a fatally flawed process with fake facts, and now they want to deny the President his day in court with another procedural maneuver that proves anew they have no case,” said Eric Ueland, Trump’s top congressional liaison to Congress.

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Can we say the same about impeachment?

Mueller Report Was Based On CIA-Fabricated “Evidence” (Bill Binney)

[..] In other words, it looked like the CIA did this, and that it was a matter of the CIA making it look like the Russians were doing the hack. So, when you look at that and also look at the DNC emails that were published by Wikileaks that have this FAT-file format in them, all 35,813 of these emails have rounded off times to the nearest even second. That’s a FAT-file format property; that argues that those files were, in fact, downloaded to a thumb drive or CD-rom and physically transported before Wikileaks posted them. Which again argues that it wasn’t a hack. So, all of the evidence we’re finding is clearly evidence that the Russians were not in fact hacking; it was probably our own people.

It’s very hard for us to get this kind of information out. The mainstream media won’t cover it; none of them will. It’s very hard. We get some bloggers to do that and some radio shows. Also, I put all of this into a sworn affidavit in the Roger Stone case. I did that because all of the attack on him was predicated on him being connected with this Russian hack which was false to being with. All the evidence we’re accumulating clearly says and implies, the US government — namely the FBI, CIA, the DOJ, and of course State Department — all these people involved in this hack, bought a dossier and all of the information going forward to the FISA court. All of them knew that this was a fake from the very beginning, because this Guccifer 2.0 character was fabricating it.

They were using him plus the Internet Research Agency [IRA] as “supposed trolls of the Russian government”. Well, when they sent their lawyers over to challenge that in a court of law, the government failed to prove they had any connection with the Russian government. They basically were chastised by the judge for fabricating a charge against this company. So, if you take the IRA and the trolls away from that argument, and Guccifer 2.0, then the entire Mueller report is a provable fabrication; because it’s based on Guccifer 2.0 and the IRA. Then the entire Rosenstein indictment is also a fabrication and a fake and a fraud for the same reasons. The judges seem to be involved in trying to keep this information out of the public domain.

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Double jeopardy.

Manafort’s Fraud Case In New York Dismissed (R.)

Paul Manafort, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, on Wednesday won the dismissal of New York state fraud charges, in a defeat for the Manhattan district attorney’s efforts to hold him accountable even if pardoned by Trump. Justice Maxwell Wiley of the state Supreme Court in Manhattan said at a hearing that letting the district attorney, Cyrus Vance, prosecute Manafort would violate Manafort’s protection against double jeopardy, or being prosecuted twice for the same conduct. “We will appeal today’s decision and will continue working to ensure that Mr. Manafort is held accountable for the criminal conduct against the People of New York that is alleged in the indictment,” Vance’s spokesman Danny Frost said in a statement.


Vance, a Democrat, announced the indictment of Manafort on 16 felony counts including residential mortgage fraud on March 13, less than an hour after Manafort was ordered to spend 7-1/2 years in prison on various federal charges. Those charges stemmed from former U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and resulted in Manafort’s August 2018 conviction on tax evasion and bank fraud. Manafort, 70, has been serving his sentence at a federal prison in Pennsylvania, but was hospitalized last week for what his lawyer called a cardiac incident. He did not attend Wednesday’s hearing but his lawyer, Todd Blanche, said “obviously, we are very happy” with the dismissal. Manafort had pleaded not guilty. “This indictment should never have been brought, and today’s decision is a stark reminder that the law and justice should always prevail over politically motivated actions,” Blanche said..

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Leave it to the Guardian to say: “Looming over the high-stakes debate are those who won’t be in attendance”, and then not mention Tulsi Gabbard.

Democratic Debate: Seven Candidates To Face Off A Day After Impeachment (G.)

The final Democratic presidential debate of the year is bringing seven 2020 candidates to the stage in California one day after the House voted to impeach Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction. Facing off in Los Angeles on Thursday are the former vice president Joe Biden and senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren; the South Bend, Indiana mayor, Pete Buttigieg; Senator Amy Klobuchar, the entrepreneur Andrew Yang and the billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer. Looming over the high-stakes debate are those who won’t be in attendance. The Democratic National Committee said candidates had to hit at least 4% in four national polls or at least 6% in two early-state polls in the weeks leading up to the event in order to qualify.


The candidates also had to attract at least 200,000 donors. That leaves no black or Latino candidates among the nearly all-white lineup of Democratic frontrunners. Senator Cory Booker and the former housing secretary Julián Castro both failed to qualify for the debate, and Senator Kamala Harris recently ended her campaign amid polling showing her far behind in California, her home state. Also absent from the event will be Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and billionaire who made a late entrance into the race last month and has poured an estimated $13.5m into TV ads in California. Steyer, the other billionaire in the race, has spent roughly $1.6m on ads in the state.

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A Merkel win.

US Concedes Defeat On Russia’s Nord Stream 2 Pipeline (ZH)

A new Bloomberg headline reads “U.S. Concedes Defeat on Gas Pipeline It Sees as Russian Threat” just following new sanctions included in the House and Senate passed 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week. But two administration officials tell Bloomberg it’s too little too late, despite Trump’s heightened rhetoric of calling Germany “a captive to Russia” and charging Berlin with essentially giving “billions” of dollars to Russia: Senior U.S. administration officials, who asked not to be identified discussing the administration’s take on the project, said sanctions that passed Congress on Tuesday as part of a defense bill are too late to have any effect. The U.S. instead will try to impose costs on other Russian energy projects, one of the officials added.

The Bloomberg report sees this as a rare admission of defeat: “The admission is a rare concession on what had been a top foreign-policy priority for the Trump administration and highlights how European allies such as Germany have been impervious to American pressure to abandon the pipeline. It also shows how the U.S. has struggled to deter Russia from flexing its muscles on issues ranging from energy to Ukraine to election interference.” The resolution contained in the defense spending bill, expected to be immediately signed into law by Trump, are measures which specifically target companies assembling the pipeline — a last ditch US effort to block the controversial 760-mile, $10.2BN project that would allow Russia to export natural gas directly to Germany, depriving Ukraine of badly needed gas transit fees along the current route for Russian supplies.

Washington’s position has long been that it weakens European energy security, while Merkel’s Germany has rejected Trump’s “meddling” in European energy affairs, which the Europeans have lately sought to diversify. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a February visit to Poland said Nord Stream 2 ultimately “funnels money to Russians in ways that undermine European national security.”

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‘Their obsession with weapons is crazy’

US Is Bent On ‘Absolute Military Supremacy’ – Mikhail Gorbachev (NW)

Former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev has urged President Donald Trump’s administration to re-engage with Russia on landmark arms control treaties, warning that the collapse of Cold War-era nuclear weapon limits threatens global catastrophe. Speaking with Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun, Gorbachev lamented America’s withdrawal from two key arms control treaties signed during the Cold War—the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABMT) during President Geroge W. Bush’s tenure, and the more recent withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Russia has also since suspended participation in the INF Treaty, prompting concerns of a new arms race. The infographic below, provided by Statista, shows the estimated global nuclear weapons arsenals as of December 2017. Gorbachev is a prominent advocate of nuclear disarmament. He told the Asahi he is “still praying for” the destruction of all nuclear weapons, noting that the number of warheads in Russia and the U.S. has reduced by more than 80 percent since the peak years of the Cold War. But he warned that this “peace dividend” is now at risk with the collapse of the ABMT and INF Treaty. It is also unclear whether New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty)—the successor to START I that Gorbachev helped craft—will be renewed when it expires in 2021.

The Trump administration said last year that it would ditch the 1987 INF Treaty, which banned ground-launched nuclear and conventional missiles with ranges from 310 miles 3,417 miles. The White House accused Russia of violating the deal by developing the SSC-8 missile. But Gorbachev blamed Washington for the development. “The decision by the United States to withdraw from the INF threatens to unleash a sequence of events that would move to undo” the post-Cold War peace dividend, he said. “Out of the three principal pillars of global strategic stability—the ABMT, INF and START—only one is left,” he added, noting that the future of New START is far from certain.

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“.. the mainstream media has shown literally no interest in what should be the story of the century.”

Afghanistan War – The Crime of the Century (Ron Paul)

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan. We didn’t know what we were doing.” So said Gen. Douglas Lute, who oversaw the US war on Afghanistan under Presidents Bush and Obama. Eighteen years into the longest war in US history, we are finally finding out, thanks to thousands of pages of classified interviews on the war published by the Washington Post last week, that General Lute’s cluelessness was shared by virtually everyone involved in the war. What we learned in what is rightly being called the “Pentagon Papers” of our time, is that hundreds of US Administration officials – including three US Presidents – knowingly lied to the American people about the Afghanistan war for years. This wasn’t just a matter of omitting some unflattering facts. This was about bald-faced lying about a war they knew was a disaster from almost day one.

Remember President Bush’s Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld? Remember how supremely confident he was at those press conferences, acting like the master of the universe? Here’s what he told the Pentagon’s special inspector general who compiled these thousands of interviews on Afghanistan: “I have no visibility into who the bad guys are.” It is not only members of the Bush, Obama, and Trump Administrations who are guilty of this massive fraud. Falsely selling the Afghanistan war as a great success was a bipartisan activity on Capitol Hill. In the dozens of hearings I attended in the House International Relations Committee, I do not recall a single “expert” witness called who told us the truth. Instead, both Republican and Democrat-controlled Congresses called a steady stream of neocon war cheerleaders to lie to us about how wonderfully the war was going.

Victory was just around the corner, they all promised. Just a few more massive appropriations and we’d be celebrating the end of the war. Congress and especially Congressional leadership of both parties are all as guilty as the three lying Administrations. They were part of the big lie, falsely presenting to the American people as “expert” witnesses only those bought-and-paid-for Beltway neocon think tankers. What is even more shocking than the release of this “smoking gun” evidence that the US government wasted two trillion dollars and killed more than three thousand Americans and more than 150,000 Afghans while lying through its teeth about the war is that you could hear a pin drop in the mainstream media about it. Aside from the initial publication in the Washington Post, which has itself been a major cheerleader for the war in Afghanistan, the mainstream media has shown literally no interest in what should be the story of the century.

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The dollar?!

The Final Act (Dmitry Orlov)

Another net benefit for Trump is the never-ending impeachment saga. It has kept him in the media limelight and has allowed him to pretend that he is prevailing heroically against great odds while making his opposition look ridiculous in the eyes of his supporters. After the “Russian meddling” fable unraveled, an even more preposterous rationale for impeachment has taken its place. An attempt to impeach Trump for refusing to cooperate with a congressional investigation is in the process of failing, since anyone with more intelligence than a bucket of California penis fish should know that it is up to the courts, not up to the legislature, to resolve disputes between the legislature and the executive.

All that remains now is an alleged abuse of power by Trump. Apparently, it is a no-no for a US president to ask a foreign leader to investigate a US presidential candidate for a variety of crimes such as corruption, bribery and money-laundering. This may all seem quite ridiculous, but it serves a purpose: it allows Trump to clean up on free publicity and to continue fiddling (tweeting, in his case) as Rome burns. But what has set fire under Rome is not the decrepitating state of US society, or the permanent and permanently worsening trade imbalance with China, or the never-ending impeachment farce. It is the incipient failure of the US dollar.

For those who have been paying careful attention, the surreal nature of the procedings, and the fact that results no longer matter—only appearances do—have become perfectly obvious, but they are a tiny minority. What has allowed the politicians and the media to exploit the general public’s innate normalcy bias and to keep the media replay loop going without too many people catching on to what’s really happening was (note the past tense!) the ability of the US government (with the assistance of the Federal Reserve, which is a government-linked but essentially private entity) to paper over the gaping chasm in the nation’s finances by issuing debt, in the form of US Treasury paper.

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