Pablo Picasso Maison 1931
It’ll be so much fun to see America divide further.
The final report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation on Thursday could leave much of the public unsatisfied because it could be heavily redacted, stripped of significant evidence and testimony that the investigators gathered. Attorney General Bill Barr made clear he will edit out large parts of Mueller’s 400-page final report on his investigation of President Donald Trump and Russian election meddling. Removed elements will include information from US intelligence used in the probe, information on ongoing investigations, and information on targets of Mueller’s team that never gelled and, if made public, could unfairly hurt them.
Crucially, Barr says the law prevents him from revealing materials from the two grand juries that the special counsel convened for his investigation. Redaction – blacking out words and blocks of text with real or digital ink, or leaving pages completely blank – is the way bureaucrats and courts prevent the public from learning about classified information and secret testimony or evidence, or just embarrassing information. Many court filings in the Mueller probe came with pages heavily blacked out, with prosecutors not wanting to tip their hands on ongoing parts of the sprawling Russia probe or expose sources. But some worry Barr’s redactions could have political aims.
Haspel showed Trump pics of sick kids and dead ducks. But neither existed.
Elements of the official narrative also bizarrely and frequently vanish without warning or explanation — a key example being the Skripals giving bread to three local boys to feed to ducks in Salisbury’s Avon Playground at approximately 1:45pm on 4th March. The incident was initially widely reported in the media, with The Daily Mail claiming the children — one of whom apparently ate some of the bread given to them by the Skripals — had been “rushed to hospital for blood tests amid fears they’d been poisoned”, although the children were entirely unharmed, and discharged from hospital having been given “the all-clear”. “To try to kill Skripal is one thing, but now it seems children may have been caught up in it. It shows whoever did this didn’t care who they killed or maimed,” a spokesperson for Public Health England told the Sunday Mirror.
Strikingly, this episode would soon completely disappear from media coverage of the Salisbury incident, while never appearing in any officially sanctioned narrative — although it’s easy to understand why. According to the Metropolitan Police’s timeline, after leaving the Avon Playground the Skripals went on to the Bishops Mill Pub in Salisbury town centre, before arriving at Zizzi restaurant at around 14:20pm. They left at around 15:35pm, and emergency services received the first report they’d been found unconscious at around 16:15pm. British authorities determine Sergei and Yulia were poisoned by Novichok spread around their home — in particular the front door handle — at some point before 13:30pm, when Sergei’s car was seen on Devizes Road heading towards the town centre.
The pair were apparently so infected by the nerve agent, and the substance so dangerous, Zizzi was forced to close for eight months due to high levels of contamination, and the table the pair dined at had to be destroyed. The Mill pub, which they headed to immediately after their exploits in Avon Playground was likewise subject to extensive decontamination and only declared safe for reopening in August, although it remains shut even today. The bench the Skripals were found lying on was also destroyed. In spite of this, the children given bread by the Skripals and the ducks they fed were completely unharmed by novichok.
John Helmer is the longest serving foreign correspondent covering Russia. His analysis is detailed. There are more voices who sound cautiously optimistic. But looking at the Skripal story, don’t let’s forget how the UK operates. We’re going to find out if there still is a functioning justice system.
The case for and against Julian Assange will keep him in the UK for at least eighteen months, probably two years, possibly three, according to leading London lawyers. The UK will have a new government by then; the US too. In the interval, Assange’s lawyers are preparing to prove the US indictment for conspiracy to commit computer hacking will be superseded by espionage charges. That, they will argue, requires the Westminster Magistrates’ Court to throw the US extradition application out. In addition, their evidence for American political motivation in the prosecution of Assange, and of US violations of the UK and European standards for a fair trial in an independent and impartial court, will be presented. The Chief Magistrate, Emma Arbuthnot, is likely to preside. The hearing is unlikely to start before December of this year.
The more UK and US Government officials take sides in public against Assange and support the allegations in the indictment, the stronger his case will be in court. The announcement by public letter to the Home Secretary last week that seventy-one members of the British parliament oppose Assange’s extradition to the US cuts even more of the ground from under UK prosecutors and the lawyers who will appear in court for the US. Reversing their campaign to block the Swedish extradition warrant between 2010 and 2012, Assange’s lawyers are also mobilizing to have the Swedish prosecutors return to London with a new warrant, so that this can stretch out the legal wrangling in London for long enough to reach a new British election. If won by Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party forms a new government, Assange may benefit from a decision to move Assange’s prosecution to the UK courts, and then to release him.
“The anger for and against this man is extraordinary”, explains a leading London lawyer on extradition cases. “You need very technical lawyering now, and Assange will have to pay for it. But in parallel there will be the PR campaign amplifying the political issue, principally for the Labour Party. The Assange case will stand for every British voter’s idea of what [President Donald] Trump and the Americans are doing to the world. [Chief Magistrate Emma] Arbuthnot is not afraid to make decisions that would be unpopular. But as independent as she is, the pressure on her will be huge not to rule against the US.”
That is one ominous graph. 6.4% growth, with electricity use down by 1%.
Last, but not least, was the latest energy consumption data, which while not highlighted in yesterday’s report, was certainly a concern because in a quarter in which industrial production reportedly soared higher, we also saw the first contraction in total energy consumption, which shrank by 1%. That this took place when China’s economy allegedly grew by 6.4% certainly puts the veracity of China’s data under the microscope yet again. So whether China’s data was real or not, and there is enough historical precedent to lean toward the latter, the question is what this means for Beijing’s future policy. Here, as SocGen notes, “together with a stronger fiscal impulse and more positive economic data – whether they last or not, it is only logical for the PBoC to pause headline easing for now.”
Additionally, the sharp upward trend in credit growth also does suggests that the economy may not need as much liquidity easing in the future, which in turn will likely cause the rebound in China’s credit impulse to fizzle in the coming months. Echoing this take, Deutsche Bank’s Jim Reid wrote that “the downside to the numbers will be a more hawkish PBOC” and indeed, on Wednsday the PBOC injected much less liquidity into the market than was expected. In short: while China has clearly benefited from the trillions in new credit injected into the system, the question is how long will this impulse last, how sustainable is the resultant reflationary ripple, and what happens when the “sugar high” from China’s stimulus once again fizzles, especially if a US-China trade deal is still to be finalized.
Half of England is owned by less than 1% of its population, according to new data shared with the Guardian that seeks to penetrate the secrecy that has traditionally surrounded land ownership. The findings, described as “astonishingly unequal”, suggest that about 25,000 landowners – typically members of the aristocracy and corporations – have control of half of the country. The figures show that if the land were distributed evenly across the entire population, each person would have almost an acre – an area roughly the size of Parliament Square in central London. Major owners include the Duke of Buccleuch, the Queen, several large grouse moor estates, and the entrepreneur James Dyson.
While land has long been concentrated in the hands of a small number of owners, precise information about property ownership has been notoriously hard to access. But a combination of the development of digital maps and data as well as pressure from campaigners has made it possible to assemble the shocking statistics. Jon Trickett, Labour MP and shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, hailed the significance of the findings and called for a full debate on the issue, adding: “The dramatic concentration of land ownership is an inescapable reminder that ours is a country for the few and not the many. “It’s simply not right that aristocrats, whose families have owned the same areas of land for centuries, and large corporations exercise more influence over local neighbourhoods – in both urban and rural areas – than the people who live there.
Definition of note verbale : a diplomatic note that is more formal than an aide-mémoire and less formal than a note, is drafted in the third person, and is never signed.
Greece will soon send a so-called note verbale to Germany, repeating a long-held demand for war reparations for the crimes committed by Nazi Germany in World War II, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told parliament on Wednesday, during a debate on a relevant report presented by a House committee. “The Greek government intends to address a note verbale to the Federal Republic of Germany, in which it will repeat its inalienable claims arising from the Nazi invasion and occupation, as well as the war crimes of Nazi Germany,” he told lawmakers and asked them to back the move.
According to the committee report, which has estimated the cost of occupation at up to 300 billion euros, the claims will include: war reparations for the material destruction and the dismantling of the country’s productive capabilities, compensation for victims and the relatives of the victims of war crimes, the repayment of the occupation loan and the return of stolen archaeological treasures. “The demand for German war reparations is a historical and moral debt for us. It will help us build a better future in our relations with Germany. Today, therefore, we have a duty to give our two peoples the opportunity to close this chapter,” Tsipras said.
“..on the trail of a similar demand by the US for $11 billion in compensation for EU subsidies towards Airbus..”
The EU on Wednesday unveiled a wide-ranging list of US-made goods, from beeswax to car parts, subject to tariffs in retaliation for subsidies to Boeing as a transatlantic trade war risked re-erupting. “European companies must be able to compete on fair and equal terms… We must continue to defend a level-playing field for our industry,” said EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom in a statement. Europe’s $12 billion claim against Boeing comes on the trail of a similar demand by the US for $11 billion in compensation for EU subsidies towards Airbus. The ultimate amount to be won by both sides will be determined by the World Trade Organization, with the finals sums likely to be far below the tit-for-tat demands by the EU and US.
The Boeing-Airbus trade row has rumbled on for 14 years with the EU and US mutually accusing each other at the WTO of doling out illegal state aid since the 1990s to their respective aeronautical champions. Malmstrom insisted that the EU wanted to close the tit-for-tat battle amicably. “While we need to be ready with countermeasures in case there is no other way out, I still believe that dialogue is what should prevail between important partners such as the EU and the US,” she said.
“Jet Airways presently has 217 aircraft of various models on order from Boeing..”
Today, another major airline collapsed. Jet Airways, India’s largest private airline, announced “with immediate effect” that it was “compelled to cancel all its international and domestic flights.” It suspended operations on a “temporary” basis. It said: “Since no emergency funding from the lenders or any other source is forthcoming, the airline will not be able to pay for fuel or other critical services to keep the operations going.” Last year, Jet Airways “suddenly” discovered serious financial issues, which led to a highly dramatic rescue effort by the main creditors (chiefly state-owned State Bank of India and private-sector ICICI Bank) and minority shareholder Etihad under the new Sashakt legislation introduced by the Indian government to deal with the chronic “sudden liquidity problems” of the giant Indian economy.
Etihad injected $35 million into the ailing Indian airline, and the State Bank of India and ICICI Bank provided $218 million emergency line of credit to meet immediate liquidity needs, such as paying salaries and keep alarmed lessors from immediately repossessing aircraft. Apparently Jet Airways burned these fresh funds in no time, as the company’s financial situation was spinning out of control. Cabin crews, pilots and office staff went on strike over unpaid salaries. Suppliers of goods and services started cutting off deliveries “until debts are repaid at least in part.” Dutch authorities seized a Jet Airways Boeing 777-300ER at Schiphol Airport on April 12 following a court ruling over unpaid handling fees.
Unpaid lessors scrambled to get their aircraft back: According to India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in the April 8-14 week alone, 22 of the company’s leased 737-800’s were deregistered and handed back to lessors. Between leased aircraft being repossessed and others being grounded for financial issues, Jet Airways’ operational fleet has gone from 124 planes in February to just 14. This presented a major problem, as the DGCA requires a bare minimum of 20 aircraft for an airline to operate internationally. This led to a wave of flight cancellations while Jet Airways tried to work out a “temporary” agreement with the DGCA over international licensing. In short, the company was falling apart.
Jet Airways presently has 217 aircraft of various models on order from Boeing. How many are going to be paid for and will be delivered remains an interesting question and raises even more questions about the feasibility of the maxi-orders placed by many other Asian airlines with vulnerable financials.
A state bank may be a nice idea, but as long as you need the Fed’s permission, what are the odds?
[..] when now-Sen. Hueso filed SB 528 earlier this year, he went straight for setting up a state bank. The details could be worked out during the two to three years it would take to get a master account from the Federal Reserve, by a commission drawn from in-house staff that had access to the data and understood the issues. [..] Banks now create most of our money supply and need to be made public utilities, following the stellar precedent of the Bank of North Dakota, which makes below-market loans for local communities and businesses while turning a profit for the state. The Bank of North Dakota was founded in 1919 in response to a farmers’ revolt against out-of-state banks that were foreclosing unfairly on their farms.
Since then it has evolved into a $7.4 billion bank that is reported to be even more profitable than JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, although its mandate is not actually to make a profit but simply to serve the interests of local North Dakota communities. Along with hundreds of public banks worldwide, it has demonstrated what can be done by cutting out private shareholders and middlemen and mobilizing public revenues to serve the public interest. The time is right politically to adopt that model. The newly elected California governor, Gavin Newsom, has expressed strong interest both in a state-owned bank and in the IBank approach. In Los Angeles, the City Council brought a measure for a city-owned bank that won 44% of the vote in November, and City Council President Herb Wesson has stated that the measure will be brought again. Where there is the political will, policymakers generally find a way.
Monsanto fighting back. The EU needs to listen to its people.
Current EU regulations forbid human exposure to pesticides that are classified as mutagenic, carcinogenic, reprotoxic (toxic for reproduction), persistent or capable of disrupting endocrine systems. By virtue of these and other protective measures EU regulations are considered the gold standard in public protection. However, experts who are closely linked to industry (or are part of anti-regulation pressure groups) have taken control of the EU’s new Science Advice Mechanism (SAM). These experts have contributed to a report commissioned to reevaluate the EU’s authorisation of pesticides. The report, called “EU authorisation processes of Plant Protection Products”, and published in late 2018, recommends dramatically weakening the EU regulatory system.
Especially notable is the adoption of many ideas previously proposed by the chemical industry. For example, the EU currently deems the acceptable level of public exposure to mutagenic pesticides (those that damage DNA) to be zero. The new report recommends scrapping this standard of protection. The history of the new SAM report is that it was requested by EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis. Its purpose was to determine how to act in cases of so-called ‘diverging views’; that is, when media and public interest groups get involved. The request follows a series of major controversies over EU regulatory decision-making. One such controversy was over the herbicide Glyphosate.
A “European Citizens Initiative” delivered more than a million signatures to the EU Commission asking for a ban on Glyphosate. Several cities banned Glyphosate. Even a dairy company banned the use of Glyphosate by their farmers. With this pressure from all over Europe, the EU Commission had difficulty reaching a decision since many EU member states (Bulgaria, Denmark, Czech Republic, Estonia, Ireland, Spain, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Finland and the U.K) opposed a ban. Ultimately, a very unusual 5-years extension for glyphosate was agreed but soon the discussion will start again.
“New Zealand is now considered one of the most invaded countries in the world..” , “New Zealand is losing species and ecosystems faster than nearly any other country..”
A report on the state of New Zealand’s environment has painted a bleak picture of catastrophic biodiversity loss, polluted waterways and the destructive rise of the dairy industry and urban sprawl. Environment Aotearoa is the first major environmental report in four years, and was compiled using data from Statistics New Zealand and the environment ministry. It presents a sobering summary of a country that is starkly different from the pristine landscape promoted in the “Pure New Zealand” marketing campaign that lures millions of tourists every year. It found New Zealand is now considered one of the most invaded countries in the world, with 75 animal and plant species having gone extinct since human settlement.
The once-vibrant bird life has fared particularly badly, with 90% of seabirds and 80% of shorebirds threatened with or at risk of extinction. Almost two-thirds of New Zealand’s rare ecosystems are under threat of collapse, and over the last 15 years the extinction risk worsened for 86 species, compared with the conservation status of just 26 species improving in the past 10 years. The scale of what is being lost is impossible to accurately gauge, as only about 20% of New Zealand’s species have been identified and recorded. Kevin Hague from the conservation group Forest and Bird said the report was chilling reading and captured the devastating affects of “decades of procrastination and denial”.
“New Zealand is losing species and ecosystems faster than nearly any other country,” he said. “Four thousand of our native species are in trouble … from rampant dairy conversions to destructive seabed trawling – [we] are irreversibly harming our natural world.”