Jan 022020
 


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

 

 

 

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

 

Dec 152019
 


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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Glenn Greenwald has dug deep.

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

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

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

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

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

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Tulsi to the rescue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Dismantling the OPCW is the only possible way forward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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“December 20 is an important day..”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Aug 152019
 


Henri Matisse The terrace, St. Tropez 1904

 

US Yield Curve Inversion Highlights Recession Fears, Fed Dilemma (R.)
China: Paper Tiger (Jim Rickards)
Trade Wars and the Over-Valued Dollar (Hill)
Trump Ties China Trade Deal To ‘Humane’ Hong Kong Resolution (R.)
Autopsy Finds Jeffrey Epstein Had Several Broken Neck Bones (NYPost)
Jeffrey Epstein’s Body Claimed By Unidentified ‘Associate’ (NBC)
CEO Scott Borgerson Denies He’s Dating Epstein Pal Ghislaine Maxwell (NYPost)
UK Labour Vows To Bring Down PM Johnson And Delay Brexit (R.)
No Chance Of US-UK Deal If Northern Ireland Peace At Risk – Pelosi (G.)
Half of UK Farms Could Fail After No-Deal Brexit – Report (G.)
Gibraltar To Release Iranian Oil Tanker On Thursday (R.)
Scientists Find Micro Plastics Deep in Arctic Ice (R.)

 

 

It takes on average 18 months from a US yield-curve inversion to a recession.

US Yield Curve Inversion Highlights Recession Fears, Fed Dilemma (R.)

When the U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates last month for the first time in more than a decade, it signaled that further reductions in borrowing costs might not be needed. Bond markets vehemently disagree. Sliding bond yields and the inversion of a key part of the U.S. yield curve on Wednesday for the first time in 12 years show that bond investors have a far gloomier outlook for the U.S. and global economies than the U.S. central bank. “The rates market rarely lies and globally it looks like it’s expecting a day of reckoning,” said Tom di Galoma, a managing director at Seaport Global Holdings in New York.

Fears are also rising the Fed may not only be behind the curve in cutting rates, but that central banks may be running out of ammunition to stimulate growth as countries offset each other’s attempts to boost growth with looser fiscal policy. Worsening economic data, weak inflationary pressures, the escalating U.S.-China trade war and intensifying tensions between protesters in Hong Kong and the Chinese government have boosted demand for safe-haven debt, sending many European government bond yields deeper into negative territory while the longest-dated U.S. Treasury yields have fallen to record lows. The inversion of key parts of the Treasury yield curve, in which investors in short-term holdings get paid more than those in long-term ones, has historically been a reliable indicator of a coming recession.

On Wednesday, the yield on the U.S. 10-year Treasury note tipped 2.1 basis points below 2-year Treasury yields, the first time this spread has been negative since 2007, according to Refinitiv data. The inversion rattled investors already worried that a U.S.-China trade war might trigger a global recession and kill off a decade-long bull market on Wall Street. Major U.S. stock indexes were down about 2%.

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“The new “Cold War” is here. Get used to it.”

China: Paper Tiger (Jim Rickards)

[..] at $11,000 per capita GDP, China is stuck squarely in the “middle income trap” as defined by development economists. The path from low income (about $5,000 per capita) to middle-income (about $10,000 per capita) is fairly straightforward and mostly involves reduced corruption, direct foreign investment and migration from the countryside to cities to purse assembly-style jobs. The path from middle-income to high-income (about $20,000 per capita) is much more difficult and involves creation and deployment of high-technology and manufacture of high-value-added goods. Among developing economies (excluding oil producers), only Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea have successfully made this transition since World War II.


All other developing economies in Latin America, Africa, South Asia and the Middle East including giants such as Brazil and Turkey remain stuck in the middle-income ranks. China remains reliant on assembly-style jobs and has shown no promise of breaking into the high-income ranks. In short, and despite enormous annual growth in the past twenty years, China remains fundamentally a poor country with limited ability to improve the well-being of its citizens much beyond what has already been achieved. [..] Trade wars with the U.S. are escalating, not diminishing as I warned from the start in early 2018.

Trump’s recent imposition of 10% tariffs on the remaining $300 billion of Chinese imports not currently tariffed (in addition to existing tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports) will slow the Chinese economy even further. China retaliated with a shock devaluation of the yuan below 7.00 to one dollar, a level that had previously been defended by the People’s Bank of China. Resorting to a currency war weapon to fight a trade war shows just how badly China is losing the trade war. But, this currency war counterattack will not be successful because it will incite more capital outflows from China.


The Chinese lost $1 trillion of hard currency reserves during the last round of capital flight (2014-2016) and will lose more now, despite tighter capital controls. The spike of bitcoin to $11,000 following the China devaluation is a symptom of Chinese people using bitcoin to avoid capital controls and get their money out of China. [..] lurking behind all of this is the coming debt crisis in China. About 25% of China’s reported growth the past ten years has come from wasted infrastructure investment (think “ghost cities”) funded with unpayable debt. China’s economy is a Ponzi scheme like the Madoff Plan and that debt pyramid is set to collapse.

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From last week, but a good reminder that different rules apply to the reserve currency.

Trade Wars and the Over-Valued Dollar (Hill)

President Trump and China are at it again—and both just upped the ante. Currency manipulation and an overvalued U.S. dollar have taken center stage in the news, thanks to Beijing devaluing its currency [last] Monday. Trump’s Treasury Department has countered by naming China a “currency manipulator.” But boiling the problem down to currency manipulation means the administration is fighting a previous war. And that highlights why the president lacks the strategic vision needed to keep up with newer global challenges. America’s trade problems have grown far more broad in recent years. Chronic global trade imbalances threaten the stability of the world economy. And that holds true whether these disruptions are caused by currency manipulation, trade barriers or global capital flows.

Designating China as a “currency manipulator” is long overdue. But it’s hardly a cure-all. It merely initiates consultations with the IMF. And it doesn’t necessarily provide leverage to solve core trade issues. What’s needed is an approach that addresses the fundamental causes of current trade imbalances. The problem does start with China, however, since Beijing just weakened its currency, the yuan, to its lowest level since 2008. This will likely neutralize the impact of new tariffs that the president announced in a tweet last week. China allowed its currency to fall by 2 percent in a mere 24 hours. That’s a significant drop, following an overall 11.4 percent decline since March of 2018.

Weakening the value of the yuan lowers the cost of Chinese goods in the U.S. market. And so, even though the president is attempting to raise the cost of imports through his new tariffs, their sticker price could still shrink. In the wider picture, Trump’s condo-selling mindset – in which he simply imposes more tariffs until Beijing agrees to a “deal” – is a poor means to address global trade imbalances. It’s not China’s intransigence that is overwhelming U.S. manufacturers; it’s an overvalued U.S dollar. There’s no doubt that China has long used predatory trade practices, such as dumping and illegal subsidies, to undercut U.S. manufacturers.

And Beijing has repeatedly intervened in currency markets to suppress the value of its currency—all to continue its job-killing trade surpluses with the United States. But China isn’t the only country that has played the currency game. Over the past two decades, Japan, South Korea and nearly 20 other countries in Asia and Europe have also bid up the price of the U.S. dollar to subsidize their own exports. And that has made U.S. goods increasingly uncompetitive in global markets—with the United States shedding five million manufacturing jobs and nearly 90,000 domestic factories in that time.

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Can the US sit still in case China invades Hong Kong? And what would such an invasion mean for the city’s status as a trade hub?

Trump Ties China Trade Deal To ‘Humane’ Hong Kong Resolution (R.)

President Donald Trump on Wednesday tied a U.S. trade deal with China to humane resolution of the weeks of protests wracking Hong Kong, hours after the State Department said it was “deeply concerned” about reports of movement of Chinese paramilitary forces along the Hong Kong border. The State Department warned that continued erosion of the territory’s autonomy put at risk the preferential status it enjoys under U.S. law. Trump, in his remarks on Twitter, appeared to suggest a personal meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping to help resolve the crisis. “Of course China wants to make a deal. Let them work humanely with Hong Kong first!” Trump said on Twitter. “I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?”


Trump, who has been seeking a major deal to correct trade imbalances with China ahead of his 2020 reelection bid, has faced mounting criticism from Congress and elsewhere for not taking a stronger public line on Hong Kong and for his characterization of the protests earlier this month as “riots” that were a matter for China to deal with. In his tweets on Wednesday, Trump also said that his delay in 10% tariffs on more than $150 billion in Chinese imports to Dec. 15 from Sept. 1 “will be reciprocated” by China and the “much good will come from the short deferral to December.” His comment appeared to contradict senior officials in his administration, who said earlier that no concessions were made by Beijing in response to the delay announced on Tuesday.

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“..more common in strangulation murders than suicidal hangings..”

Autopsy Finds Jeffrey Epstein Had Several Broken Neck Bones (NYPost)

Jeffrey Epstein’s autopsy determined the convicted pedophile suffered multiple broken neck bones, according to a report. One of Epstein’s breaks was to the hyoid bone, an injury that experts told the Washington Post is more common in homicide victims. The discoveries were disclosed to the paper by two people familiar with the findings of the autopsy, which was completed on Sunday, but warranted more information by the Medical Examiner’s Office before they make a final cause of death ruling. “Today, a medical examiner performed the autopsy of Jeffrey Epstein,” said Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson in a statement Sunday night.

“The ME’s determination is pending further information at this time. At the request of those representing the decedent, and with the awareness of the federal prosecutor, I allowed a private pathologist (Dr. Michael Baden) to observe the autopsy examination. This is routine practice.” Epstein was found dead of an apparent suicide in his cell at the Manhattan Correctional Center early Saturday. He was being held there without bail since his July arrest on sex trafficking charges. The Washington Post spoke to Jonathan Arden, president of the National Association of Medical Examiners, who said a broken hyoid bone — which is near the Adam’s apple — is more common in strangulation murders than suicidal hangings.

“If, hypothetically, the hyoid bone is broken, that would generally raise questions about strangulation, but it is not definitive and does not exclude suicidal hanging,” said Arden, who is not involved with the Epstein autopsy. Numerous studies were also cited by the paper that found hyoid bone breaks were found in the minority of suicidal hangings. One such study conducted from 2010 to 2013 that looked at suicidal hangings in India found that hyoid damage was present in just 16 of 264 cases.

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Bill Barr better get a grip on this. It’s turning into an absurdity.

Jeffrey Epstein’s Body Claimed By Unidentified ‘Associate’ (NBC)

Jeffrey Epstein’s body has been claimed from the New York City medical examiner’s office, a source close to the investigation told NBC News on Wednesday. Epstein, 66, was found dead by apparent suicide Saturday morning in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. The center’s warden has been temporarily reassigned, and the two guards assigned to watch Epstein have been placed on leave. Epstein wasn’t on suicide watch at the time of his death, multiple people familiar with the investigation have told NBC News. Attorney General William Barr has said that he was “appalled” by the development and that he has consulted with the Justice Department’s inspector general, who is also investigating. The person who claimed Epstein’s body was described only as an “Epstein associate.”

After Epstein was arrested last month on charges of sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors, his attorneys asked U.S. District Judge Richard Berman to allow Epstein to post bond secured by a mortgage on his home in Manhattan. According to court documents, they said the bond would have been co-secured by his brother, Mark Epstein, and a friend identified as David Mitchell. Berman denied bond on July 18. About a week later, Epstein was found injured and in a fetal position in his cell, raising questions at the time of whether he had tried to kill himself. On Monday, Berman complained in a letter to the warden, Lamine N’Diaye, that the federal Bureau of Prisons still hasn’t explained what he called the July “incident.”

In a response later Monday, N’Diaye said that an internal investigation was completed on July 23 but that she couldn’t reveal any information because of the investigations into Epstein’s death on Saturday. On Tuesday, Justice Department officials confirmed that N’Diaye had been reassigned.


Painting said to be hanging in Epstein townhouse

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“..a property manager of an adjacent parcel of land said that Maxwell was living at Borgerson’s residence as recently as two weeks ago…”

CEO Scott Borgerson Denies He’s Dating Epstein Pal Ghislaine Maxwell (NYPost)

The man rumored to be dating Jeffrey Epstein’s former lover and alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell has completely denied any romance between the pair. Maxwell has been reportedly living with tech CEO Scott Borgerson at his Manchester, Massachusetts home, according to the Daily Mail. But Borgerson called The Post Wednesday to insist he had been busy working abroad – and nobody has been at his home. He arrived back in the US late Wednesday, only to be met by a police escort, and said: “It’s pretty crazy, all of this just exploded. People keep asking me, but I am not dating Ghislaine, I’m home alone with my cat.” When asked about the status of his friendship with Maxwell now, Borgerson replied: “I don’t want to comment on that – would you want to talk about your friends?”


“I landed after a long flight and my phone went crazy, the first thing I did was call the local police to check my house.” Asked if he knew where Maxwell now is, Borgerson, a divorced dad, replied: “She’s not here, I have no idea where she is. “Nobody wants to be close to this radioactive situation.[..] The Post has been told that friends of Maxwell last saw her over the past month walking down a London street, but she has gone to ground. Borgerson refused to say whether Maxwell had ever stayed at his home. Despite this, NBC News reported on Wednesday that a property manager of an adjacent parcel of land said that Maxwell was living at Borgerson’s residence as recently as two weeks ago.

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Corbyn wants to be PM. But not a lot of MPs like him.

UK Labour Vows To Bring Down PM Johnson And Delay Brexit (R.)

The Labour Party has urged rebel MPs in the ruling Conservatives to help block a no-deal Brexit by bringing down Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s administration and allowing its leader Jeremy Corbyn to form a caretaker government. Johnson has promised to take Britain out of the European Union by Oct. 31, with or without a deal, setting the scene for a showdown in parliament where MPs are opposed to a divorce without a transition agreement. In a letter to opposition party leaders and several senior Conservatives opposed to a disorderly exit, Corbyn said his “strictly time-limited temporary government” would delay Brexit and hold a general election.


He said Labour would campaign in the election to hold a second referendum on the Brexit terms, including an option as to whether the country should remain in the bloc three years after it voted to leave. “This government has no mandate for No Deal, and the 2016 EU referendum provided no mandate for No Deal,” Corbyn said. “I therefore intend to table a vote of no confidence at the earliest opportunity when we can be confident of success.” A spokeswoman for Johnson’s Downing Street office said the choice was clear: “This government believes the people are the masters and votes should be respected, Jeremy Corbyn believes that the people are the servants and politicians can cancel public votes they don’t like.”

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Why is it Bolton who’s talking trade deals?

No Chance Of US-UK Deal If Northern Ireland Peace At Risk – Pelosi (G.)

There is no chance of Congress approving a US-UK trade agreement if Brexit undermines the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has said. Pelosi was restating the entrenched position of congressional Democrats and many Republicans in the wake of remarks made by Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, during a visit to London this week. Bolton had said that Britain and the US could sign interim, partial free trade deals, one sector at a time, which would go through the a fast track legislative process, to help the UK cope economically if there is a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.

In a statement on Wednesday, the House speaker, who commands a Democratic majority, warned that the Trump administration would not be able to sidestep congressional approval. “Whatever form it takes, Brexit cannot be allowed to imperil the Good Friday agreement, including the seamless border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, especially now, as the first generation born into the hope of Good Friday 21 years ago comes into adulthood.” Pelosi said. “We cannot go back.” Bolton said the sectoral deals, focusing on industries such as car manufacturing, could be negotiated quickly, and insisted they would receive overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress.

“The ultimate end result is a comprehensive trade agreement covering all trading goods and services,” he said after meeting Boris Johnson and senior British officials on Monday. “But to get to that you could do it sector by sector, and you can do it in a modular fashion. In other words, you can carve out some areas where it might be possible to reach a bilateral agreement very quickly, very straightforwardly.”

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Most heavily subsidized.

Half of UK Farms Could Fail After No-Deal Brexit – Report (G.)

Campaigners for a second referendum are herding a flock of sheep down Whitehall to protest against the impact a no-deal Brexit could have on the farming community. According to a new report commissioned by the supporters of second poll, more than half of UK farms could go out of business if Britain crashes out of the EU on 31 October. Backed by the People’s Vote campaign and written by Dr Séan Rickard, former chief economist of the National Farmers’ Union, the report warns that 50% of farms could go under as the government would prioritise keeping down food prices for consumers ahead of protecting agricultural producers. To coincide with the report and launch of the Farmers for a People’s Vote group, campaigners are taking a small flock of sheep past the Cabinet Office where no-deal planning is taking place.

The report says the EU and all the countries with whom it has free-trade agreements would immediately apply tariffs and non-tariff barriers on food imports from the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit. At the same time, UK tariffs on imports would be slashed or reduced to nothing. It argues: “The combination of the removal of support payments – only a proportion will be made up by enhanced environmental payments – and an adverse trading environment will render the majority of farm businesses unviable. By the mid-2020s a large proportion of farm businesses – 50% or more is not an unreasonable estimate – recognising that they face an unprofitable future will decide to cease trading.”

[..] In the event of a no deal Brexit, Rickard argued that many industries would suffer but agriculture would feel the most serious economic shock. “It is impossible to project the exact number of farmers who will go out of business”, he said. “What we do know is that over 40% of them will have no net income if the basic payment is removed. If at the same time the government removes all tariffs and so depresses prices, these two factors combined will render over 50% of farms in this country unviable. “The possibility of any compensation from the government going anywhere near offsetting this is remote because so many promises have been made to so many other sectors and not all can be fulfilled.”

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Bolton gone wrong.

Gibraltar To Release Iranian Oil Tanker On Thursday (R.)

The British territory of Gibraltar will on Thursday release an Iranian oil tanker seized by Royal Marines in the Mediterranean in July, the Sun newspaper reported, citing sources close to Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo. Picardo would not apply to renew an order to detain Grace 1, the report said, adding that he is now satisfied that the oil tanker is no longer heading to Syria. Britain had said the vessel was violating European sanctions by taking oil to Syria, a charge Iran denies. “There is no reason to keep Grace 1 in Gibraltar a moment longer if we no longer believe it is in breach of sanctions against the Syrian regime,” the newspaper quoted a source close to Picardo as saying.

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Everywhere. Literally. If it’s deep in Arctic ice, it’s deep inside you too.

Scientists Find Micro Plastics Deep In Arctic Ice (R.)

Tiny pieces of plastic have been found in ice cores drilled in the Arctic by a U.S.-led team of scientists, underscoring the threat the growing form of pollution poses to marine life in even the remotest waters on the planet. The researchers used a helicopter to land on ice floes and retrieve the samples during an 18-day icebreaker expedition through the Northwest Passage, the hazardous route linking the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. “We had spent weeks looking out at what looks so much like pristine white sea ice floating out on the ocean,” said Jacob Strock, a graduate student researcher at the University of Rhode Island, who conducted an initial onboard analysis of the cores.


Microplastic found in ice core samples taken from the Northwest Passage. Northwest Passage Project/Camera: Duncan Clark via REUTERS

“When we look at it up close and we see that it’s all very, very visibly contaminated when you look at it with the right tools — it felt a little bit like a punch in the gut,” Strock told Reuters by telephone on Wednesday. Strock and his colleagues found the material trapped in ice taken from Lancaster Sound, an isolated stretch of water in the Canadian Arctic, which they had assumed might be relatively sheltered from drifting plastic pollution. The team drew 18 ice cores of up to 2 meters (6.5 feet) long from four locations and saw visible plastic beads and filaments of various shapes and sizes. “The plastic just jumped out in both its abundance and its scale,” said Brice Loose, an oceanographer at the University of Rhode Island and chief scientist of the expedition, known as the Northwest Passage Project.

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Jun 062019
 
 June 6, 2019  Posted by at 9:54 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  17 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Guitar 1925

 

The China Battle Has Just Started (Vague)
Beijing Warns US Farmers May Lose China Market For Good (SCMP)
Millennial Net Wealth Collapses (ZH)
Aftermath: Interview with James Rickards (Whalen)
Google, Facebook Have Tight Grip On Growing US Online Ad Market (R.)
For MMT (Mitchell/Fazi)
The Great Bilderberg Secret Of 2019 (Escobar)
Welsh Government Officially Switches To Campaign For Remain (TNE)
Fitch Downgrades Mexico And Moody’s Lowers Outlook (R.)
Fiat Chrysler Withdraws Merger Offer For Renault, Blames French Politics (R.)
Lavrov Says D-Day Memorials Are Part Of A ‘False’ History Of WWII (BI)
Russia to West: D-Day Wasn’t Decisive In Ending World War Two (R.)
People Eat At Least 50,000 Plastic Particles A Year (G.)

 

 

“It’s about wealth and power, not political systems or ideology.”

The China Battle Has Just Started (Vague)

Long-term, intense economic competition between China and the United States is inevitable. It’s simply a result of China’s new economic size. It’s about wealth and power, not political systems or ideology. Forget these two countries per se. Take any country that has been an uncontested economic leader for decades, add a rapidly rising country that is becoming an economic threat, and watch the battle for markets, trade, and intellectual property unfold. The current trade negotiations could get uglier and derail. But even if they don’t, both sides will likely feel they did not get what they needed, and future rounds could get worse. There’s almost never a situation where the two leaders in a market don’t get locked in a protracted, high-stakes struggle.

[..] It’s also worth noting the history of free trade. The United States was one of the most protectionist nations in history during most of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the very period in which it rose to economic supremacy, with tariffs routinely as high as 50 percent. More politicians than not backed tariffs because they protected American industry. And supporters liked tariffs because they kept wages high. In addition, in the era before the income tax, tariffs were our chief source of revenue, and Washington relished the fact that they created a government surplus (and many a congressional debate of that era was about how to spend that surplus). The subject dominated the halls of Congress.

[..] Now that the United States has woken up, my best guess is that it is not going to sit idly and let China’s encroachment continue. Trump’s approach may be poorly conceived and ham-handed, but some kind of more assertive response was overdue. China’s raison d’être is its own wealth and preeminence, and it is not likely it will permanently stand down, even if it does so strategically from time to time. In fact, in discussing this trade negotiation, Xi is now invoking China’s almost mythic tale of heroic perseverance, the Long March. Absent a China implosion—a la Japan in the late 1990s—even occasional rapprochement won’t abate the ferocity of this competition. The only question is how polite or impolite, or even bellicose, it will be.

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Let China grow its own food. Nothing wrong with that.

Beijing Warns US Farmers May Lose China Market For Good (SCMP)

Farmers in the United States cannot afford to lose the Chinese market, but farmers in China will be able to withstand the impact of American tariffs, according to a top agriculture official in Beijing. Han Jun, vice-minister of agriculture and rural affairs, said China’s retaliatory tariffs on American products – the latest of which took effect on Saturday – now covered “virtually all US agricultural product exports to China”, warning that US farmers could lose the Chinese market for good. “If the US doesn’t lift all additional tariffs [levied on Chinese products], bilateral agricultural product trade between China and the US, including soybean trade, will never go back to normal,” Han told the official Xinhua news agency.

“If the US loses China’s market, it will be very difficult for the US to regain it.” Han, who is also a top policymaker as deputy head of the Office of the Central Leading Group for Rural Affairs, said the two rounds of aid offered by US President Donald Trump to American farmers would not be enough to cover their potential losses if they lost the Chinese market. But he said Chinese farmers would be able to weather the impact of American tariffs. In terms of the soybean trade, while China’s imports from the United States had plunged, it could find ways to diversify its sources, including encouraging Chinese farmers to grow more of the crop and buying more from other countries, Han said.

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Everybody gets poorer while the Fed pours trillions into the economy.

Millennial Net Wealth Collapses (ZH)

The net worth of millennials (18- to 35-year-old) has collapsed 34% since 1996, according to a new, shocking report from Deloitte. Millennials are financially worse off than any other generation before them. With student loans, auto and credit card debts, rising rents, and out of control, health-care costs have pushed their average net worth below $8,000. Deloitte told The Washington Post that their findings reveal that millennials are delaying home-buying and marriage because of massive debt loads and rising costs are making big ticketed items virtually unaffordable. “The narrative out there is that millennials are ruining everything, from breakfast cereal to weddings, but what matters to consumers today isn’t much different than it was 50 years ago,” chief retail officer Kasey Lobaugh told the Post.

“Generally speaking, there have not been dramatic changes in how consumers spend their money.” Lobaugh described the soaring wealth inequality gap as another reason why young adults have little or no net wealth. In a separate report, we highlighted in April that 60% of millennials don’t have $500 in savings. The Post said education expenses had climbed 65% in the past decade. Food prices have increased by 26%, health care costs are up 21%, housing jumped 16%, and transportation costs rose 11%. The study showed millennials had delayed the American dream of a house, family, and automobile because of their insurmountable debts. Since 2005, retail spending has increased by about 13%, to roughly $3 trillion per year, but Deloitte said much of that growth is due to population increase, not a robust consumer base.


In the past decade, the income growth of the top 10% of Americans jumped 1,305% more than the bottom 90% of Americans – which means millennials stuck in the gig-economy with multiple jobs and high debt loads will be trapped in a life of financial misery.

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“..the Fed has failed to distinguish between credit driven bubbles and mania driven bubbles..”

Aftermath: Interview with James Rickards (Whalen)

In the beginning of your book, you use the metaphor of The Odyssey to describe the choices facing the Federal Reserve Board going back to Alan Greenspan, who we knew as “Uncle Alan” in Washington years ago. You talk about how the Fed went from deflating bubbles before Greenspan, as with the “taking away the punch bowl” image, then to trying to maintain bubbles, and now overtly using monetary policy to stoke inflation and huge asset bubbles. Where does that leave us today?

Rickards: In the book I talk about how Greenspan defeated deflation in 2005 before he left office, but, this was a Pyrrhic victory. Low rates gave rise to the housing bubble and subprime debt crisis. Since 2008, we’ve had more of the same but a more extreme version of Greenspan’s anti-deflation medicine. If Greenspan’s three-year experiment with sub 2% rates gave rise to the Global Financial Crisis, what was the world to make of the Bernanke-Yellen policy of 0% for seven years? Bernanke’s Federal Reserve also engaged in a completely unprecedented money printing binge called quantitative easing.

[..] the Fed has failed to distinguish between credit driven bubbles and mania driven bubbles. The former are dangerous because they are connected with the credit system, the latter less so because people loose money but the crisis is not systemic. The 2000 dot.com bubble was speculative, but not credit driven so it did not turn into a systemic crisis when it popped. Of course 2008 was credit driven and it did metastasize throughout the system right up to the top of the food chain with large banks and the housing GSEs failing. When you are kicking around the idea of should I or should I not pop the bubble, this is a key distinction and the threshold question for policy.

[..] It’s one thing when loose monetary policy results in private credit extremes. The Fed can reign that in. But, what happens when public credit from the Fed is the source of the problem? The Bernanke choice of stoking asset price inflation via zero rates and QE is not something that can be reversed without a great deal of pain. Once you make that trade-off between promoting inflation and future market instability, you have no way out. You’re much better off taking the pain and accepting a lower level of economic growth in the short-run rather than deferring the pain but creating far larger asset bubbles down the road. There is no way out of the Bernanke policy choice without bigger bubbles and much larger market crash that results.

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Why they must be broken up.

Google, Facebook Have Tight Grip On Growing US Online Ad Market (R.)

The U.S. internet advertising industry is projected to hit $160 billion by 2023 from $107 billion last year, led by fast-growing categories like mobile video with Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc firmly controlling the market, consultancy PwC said on Wednesday. The two tech giants together commanded nearly 60% of the U.S. internet advertising market in 2018, according to the report, up 3% from the previous year. Google’s YouTube dominates online video, while Facebook has been expanding its video product called Watch and adding advertising options. Google and Facebook are both currently under watch by U.S. regulators for possible antitrust concerns, as well as tech giants Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc.


U.S. wireless carrier AT&T Inc despite spending $85 billion for media company Time Warner to transform into a media and advertising firm, has only managed to eke out single digit market share, according to PwC. Gaining market share is difficult because platforms must have features that are new and specific as well as some degree of emerging technology, said C.J. Bangah, a principal at PwC. An advantage the telecommunications companies like AT&T have over Google and Facebook is they will benefit from 5G, the next generation wireless network that is expected to bring technology like autonomous cars to reality.

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A discussion we will be having. Because what we have now has failed us.

For MMT (Mitchell/Fazi)

MMT is not a regime that you ‘apply’ or ‘switch to’ or ‘introduce’. Rather, it is a lens which allows us to see how our fiat monetary systems already work. How you decide to use that understanding depends on the value system or ideology you apply to it. It thus makes little sense to talk of ‘MMT-type prescription’ or an ‘MMT solution’. Indeed, governments already operate according to the framework offered by MMT, regardless of what they may claim in public (and the accounting smokescreens they may employ). Citizens are constantly told that the government cannot afford to invest more in education, healthcare, infrastructure, welfare and other public services.


Yet, there is never a lack of money when it comes tax cuts for the rich, bank bailouts, military activities and other programmes that benefit our political and economic elites. As of March 2006, approximately £4.5 billion had been spent by the UK in Iraq, enough to pay for the building of around 44 new hospitals and to fund the recruitment and retention of over 10,300 new teachers for ten years. Yet, there was never any debate about how the UK would ‘fund’ the war. Unfortunately, the mainstream macroeconomic narrative continues to plague large swathes of the left, particularly in Europe. Meadway’s article is representative. It concentrates ‘on the practical and political implications [of MMT], why they are wrong–and why Labour’s own economic programme makes more sense’. In that sense, he is really talking about a conception of the application of MMT according to a certain value set, rather than MMT itself.

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Pepe doesn’t convince me.

The Great Bilderberg Secret Of 2019 (Escobar)

The great Bilderberg secret of 2019 had to do with why, suddenly, the Trump administration has decided that it wants to talk to Iran “with no preconditions”. It all has to do with the Strait of Hormuz. Blocking the Strait could cut off oil and gas from Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Iran – 20% of the world’s oil. There has been some debate on whether this could occur – whether the US Fifth Fleet, which is stationed nearby, could stop Tehran doing this and if Iran, which has anti-ship missiles on its territory along the northern border of the Persian Gulf, would go that far. An American source said a series of studies hit President Trump’s desk and caused panic in Washington.

These showed that in the case of the Strait of Hormuz being shut down, whatever the reason, Iran has the power to hammer the world financial system, by causing global trade in derivatives to be blown apart. The Bank for International Settlements said last year that the “notional amount outstanding for derivatives contracts” was $542 trillion, although the gross market value was put at just $12.7 trillion. Others suggest it is $1.2 quadrillion or more. Tehran has not voiced this “nuclear option” openly. And yet General Qasem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force and a Pentagon bête noire, evoked it in internal Iranian discussions. The information was duly circulated to France, Britain and Germany, the EU-3 members of the Iran nuclear deal (or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), also causing a panic.

Oil derivative specialists know well that if the flow of energy in the Gulf is blocked it could lead to the price of oil reaching $200 a barrel, or much higher over an extended period. Crashing the derivatives market would create an unprecedented global depression. Trump’s former Goldman Sachs Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin should know as much. And Trump himself seems to have given the game away. He’s now on the record essentially saying that Iran has no strategic value to the US. According to the American source: “He really wants a face-saving way to get out of the problem his advisers Bolton and Pompeo got him into. Washington now needs a face-saving way out. Iran is not asking for meetings. The US is.”

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Quicksand. The entire country.

Welsh Government Officially Switches To Campaign For Remain (TNE)

Brexit minister Jeremy Miles said that efforts towards an acceptable Brexit had reached “the end of the road”. He said any Brexit deal must now be subject to a public vote, with remaining in the EU on the ballot paper. The Labour-led government, along with Plaid Cymru, had previously followed a 2017 policy outlined in the White Paper ‘Securing Wales’ Future’, that aimed to find “the least damaging kind of Brexit”, as Miles put it. But the government in Westminster have made this impossible, he said. “We as a government must recognise these realities and change course,” said Miles. “Parliament should now show the courage to admit it is deadlocked.” Although Wales voted to leave by 52%, public opinion has shifted towards Remain, said Miles.

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Strongarming?!

Fitch Downgrades Mexico And Moody’s Lowers Outlook (R.)

In a double blow for Mexico, credit ratings agency Fitch downgraded the nation’s sovereign debt rating on Wednesday, citing risks posed by heavily indebted oil company Pemex and trade tensions, while Moody’s lowered its outlook to negative. The Mexican peso weakened as much as 1.3% on the news. Cutting Mexico’s rating to BBB, nearing junk status, Fitch said the financial woes of state oil company Pemex were taking a toll on the nation’s prospects. Fitch said mounting trade tensions influenced its view, according to a statement issued shortly after the end of a meeting in the White House in which Mexican officials tried to stave off tariffs U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to impose next week.


Following a surge in mostly Central American migrants arriving at the U.S. border, Trump threatened blanket tariffs on Mexican imports if it did not do more to stem the flow. “Growth continues to underperform, and downside risks are magnified by threats by U.S. President Trump,” Fitch said. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office in December with ambitious plans to build a $8 billion refinery, a decision ratings agencies and investors warned would divert funds from its more profitable production and exploration business. Lopez Obrador has said the ratings agencies were punishing Mexico for the “neo-liberal” policies of previous administrations. A Reuters analysis of Pemex accounts from the past decade shows debt increased by 75% during the term of Lopez Obrador’s predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto, amid a landmark energy reform.

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The same governments that talk about going green own carmakers.

Fiat Chrysler Withdraws Merger Offer For Renault, Blames French Politics (R.)

Fiat Chrysler said it has abandoned its $35 billion merger offer for Renault, blaming French politics for scuttling what would have been a landmark deal to create the world’s third-biggest automaker. A source close to the French carmaker’s board said Fiat Chrysler made the move after France sought to delay a decision on the deal in order to win the support of Nissan Motor Co, Renault’s Japanese alliance partner. French government officials had pushed for Nissan to support the merger. Nissan had said it would abstain. The French government, which owns a 15% stake in Renault, had also pushed Fiat Chrysler for guarantees that France would not lose jobs, and for a dividend to be paid to Renault shareholders, including the government, people familiar with the talks said.


Fiat Chrysler’s original proposal offered no special dividend to Renault shareholders. “It has become clear that the political conditions in France do not currently exist for such a combination to proceed successfully,” Fiat Chrysler said in a statement issued early Thursday from London. Renault, in a separate statement, said its board was “unable to take a decision due to the request expressed by the representatives of the French state to postpone the vote to a later meeting.”

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Russia lost an entire generation of young men.

Lavrov Says D-Day Memorials Are Part Of A ‘False’ History Of WWII (BI)

Ahead of the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of France, Russia’s foreign minister has written an article arguing that the commemorations of the event are part of a “false” history that belittles the contributions of the Soviet Union toward defeating Nazi Germany. Sergey Lavrov chastised Western powers in an article published in Russia’s International Affairs magazine on Tuesday, ahead of events in Europe to mark the D-Day landings on the Nazi-occupied Normandy coast. “False interpretations of history are being introduced into the Western education system with mystifications and pseudo-historical theories designed to belittle the feat of our ancestors,” Lavrov wrote.


“Young people are being told that the main credit in victory over Nazism and liberation of Europe goes not to the Soviet troops, but to the West due to the landing in Normandy, which took place less than a year before Nazism was defeated.” He added: “It was the peoples of the Soviet Union who broke the backbone of the Third Reich. That is a fact.” [..] Historians agree that the Soviets sustained the heaviest losses of all powers involved in World War II, placing the death toll for the Red Army at between 9 million and 11 million troops, part of an estimated 26 million Soviet citizens who died. Lavrov also wrote Russia had been falsely labeled as an aggressor in World War II. “Our detractors seek to diminish the role of the Soviet Union in World War II and portray it if not as the main culprit of the war, then at least as an aggressor, along with Nazi Germany,” he wrote.

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Quite the claim: “There was a wish to wait for the maximum weakening of Germany’s military power from its enormous losses in the east, while reducing losses in the west..”

Russia to West: D-Day Wasn’t Decisive In Ending World War Two (R.)

Russia told the West on Wednesday the Normandy landings on D-Day in 1944 did not play a decisive role in ending World War Two and that the Allied war effort should not be exaggerated. Moscow’s comments might irk war veterans in Britain where the 75th anniversary on Wednesday of the largest seaborne invasion in history was marked at a ceremony in Portsmouth attended by Queen Elizabeth and world leaders including Donald Trump and Angela Merkel. Speaking at a weekly news conference in Moscow, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova offered a tribute to those who died on the western front of World War Two and said Moscow appreciated the Allied war effort.

“It should of course not be exaggerated. And especially not at the same time as diminishing the Soviet Union’s titanic efforts, without which this victory simply would not have happened,” she said. The Soviet Union lost over 25 million lives in what it calls the Great Patriotic War, and Moscow under President Vladimir Putin has taken to marking victory in the war with a massive annual military parade on Red Square. “As historians note, the Normandy landing did not have a decisive impact on the outcome of World War Two and the Great Patriotic War. It had already been pre-determined as a result of the Red Army’s victories, mainly at Stalingrad (in late 1942) and Kursk (in mid-1943),” Zakharova told reporters.

More than 150,000 allied troops launched an air, sea and land attack on Normandy on June 6, 1944 that ultimately led to the liberation of western Europe from Nazi Germany. Moscow, which had been fighting German forces in the east for almost three years by the time of D-Day, and gradually pushing them back from early 1943, had been urging Britain’s Winston Churchill to open a second front as far back as August 1942. “There was a wish to wait for the maximum weakening of Germany’s military power from its enormous losses in the east, while reducing losses in the west,” she said.

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And we just keep making the stuff. And keep proclaiming we love our children.

People Eat At Least 50,000 Plastic Particles A Year (G.)

The average person eats at least 50,000 particles of microplastic a year and breathes in a similar quantity, according to the first study to estimate human ingestion of plastic pollution. The true number is likely to be many times higher, as only a small number of foods and drinks have been analysed for plastic contamination. The scientists reported that drinking a lot of bottled water drastically increased the particles consumed. The health impacts of ingesting microplastic are unknown, but they could release toxic substances. Some pieces are small enough to penetrate human tissues, where they could trigger immune reactions.

Microplastic pollution is mostly created by the disintegration of plastic litter and appears to be ubiquitous across the planet. Researchers find microplastics everywhere they look; in the air, soil, rivers and the deepest oceans around the world. [..] Most food and drink types have not been tested, however, meaning the study only assessed 15% of calorie intake. “We don’t know a huge amount. There are some major data gaps that need to get filled,” said Kieran Cox, at the University of Victoria in Canada, who led the research.

Other foods, such as bread, processed products, meat, dairy and vegetables, may well contain just as much plastic, he said. “It is really highly likely there is going to be large amounts of plastic particles in these. You could be heading into the hundreds of thousands.” Some of the best available data is on water, with bottled water containing 22 times more microplastic than tap water on average. A person who only drank bottled water would consume 130,000 particles per year from that source alone, the researchers said, compared with 4,000 from tap water.

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May 112019
 


Pierre-Auguste Renoir Riding in the Bois de Boulogne (Madame Henriette Darras or The Ride) 1873

 

Labour Without Energy Is A Corpse; Capital Without Energy Is A Sculpture (Keen)
Traditional Economics Has Absolutely Screwed Us (Tyee)
House Dems To Bundle Numerous Contempt Citations For Trump Advisers (R.)
House Democrat Subpoenas Six Years Of Trump Tax Returns (AP)
FISA Applications Were Illegally Obtained – DiGenova (PJ)
William Barr vs. Eric Holder: A Tale of Two Attorneys General (McConnell)
Fugees Founder, Banker Charged In 1MDB, Obama Campaign Scandal (RT)
Crisis? What Crisis? (Jim Kunstler)
Manning Could Delay US Superseding Indictment Against Assange (Sp.)
Dutch Court Blocks Extradition Of Man To ‘Inhumane’ UK Prisons (G.)
Varoufakis On Eurozone: ‘We Created A Monster’ (Exp.)
70 Migrants Dead After Boat Capsizes Trying To Reach Europe From Libya (G.)
Nearly All Countries Agree To Stem Flow Of Plastic Waste Into Poor Nations (G.)

 

 

First saw this a few days ago, and it slipped from my radar. Now, Steve Keen announced that he got a grant for his work with Tim Garrett and Matheus Grasselli on “developing models of production in which energy plays [a role] in production (and, necessarily, in climate degradation)”. Yes, you read that right: in 2019, economists need to begin the study the role of energy in an economic system, because it’s always been ignored. What a crazy field that is.

Labour Without Energy Is A Corpse; Capital Without Energy Is A Sculpture (Keen)

With the simple insight that “labour without energy is a corpse, and capital without energy is a sculpture”, I realised why economists have failed to properly incorporate the role of energy in production for so long. All previous attempts had treated energy as a third “factor of production”, on an equal footing with Labour and Capital. But that treatment is simply unrealistic. Adding energy on its own to a production process is like letting off a bomb in a factory: it will produce mayhem, not output. Equally, both Labour and Capital are “sterile”, to use the old Physiocratic term: without energy, they can’t produce anything.


Figure 1: The incorrect way to show energy as a factor of production

The correct way to incorporate energy into economic models of production, therefore, is to see energy as an input to both Labour and Capital (in vastly different forms, of course), which enable them to perform useful work. By the Second Law of Thermodynamics, this useful work necessarily results in disorder (waste energy, mainly in the form of waste matter, including CO2). Also by the Second Law, entropy increases globally, even though it can be reduced locally by the application of energy; so the increase in disorder in the waste from production necessarily exceeds the reduction in disorder manifest in output itself (raw materials turned into finished products).


Figure 2: The correct way: Energy as an input to labour and capital, output as necessarily generating waste

This useful work is what we call GDP, though we currently erroneously measure this as the inflation-adjusted sum of all monetary output—which means we add the cost of traffic accidents to GDP. Instead, the true measure of GDP is the sum of all the useful things we produce and consume: in transportation, that is moving a mass from one location to another in a given time, and traffic accidents (and congestion) subtract from it.

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Palm oil or orangutans? For economists, an easy choice.

Traditional Economics Has Absolutely Screwed Us (Tyee)

Capitalism is killing the planet. That is the gist of an exhaustive United Nations report on the bleak state of the world’s biodiversity. One million species face extinction in what has been aptly called a global murder-suicide, driven by a race to commodify ecosystems and externalize the costs of their destruction. If you were looking for a perky read to start your week, this report was not it. However, the collective efforts of 350 leading experts from 51 countries have resulted in the definitive wake-up call for those still doubting the dire consequences of business-as-usual on our one and only planet. A Noah’s ark of iconic species seems bound for oblivion due to our growing collective consumption and population.

Will your children be able to enjoy a world with wild elephants, orcas, or blue whales? Sixty per cent of primate species are threatened with extinction. The taste of a tuna sandwich may soon be consigned to lore. All of this has been happening in plain view but only recently has this become economically relevant by cutting into the bottom line. Up to $577 billion in global crop production is at risk due to collapsing populations of pollinating insects. One-third of commercial fish stocks are in steep decline with another 60 per cent being fully exploited, leaving only seven per cent of the world’s fisheries under safe management. This is exacerbated by regulatory failure where landings may be 50 per cent higher than reported, and illegal fishing accounts for up to one-third of the global catch.

Expanding agriculture is one of the main drivers of exploding extinction rates. Between 1980 and 2000, about 100 million hectares of tropical forests — roughly the area of France and Germany combined — were converted for grazing, monoculture plantations like palm oil, or short-term subsistence farming. Desperate humans and multinational companies both encroach on remaining rainforests, seeing only as far as the next growing season or financial quarter. Why does economics prioritize palm oil over orangutans? Because palm plantations are profitable, producing almost five times the oil yield per hectare of sunflowers, coconut or soybeans. Consumers too unintentionally contribute to this destruction, driving a market for a ubiquitous ingredient found in everything from lipstick to ice cream.

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McGahn, Barr, Mueller, Mnuchin, are these all the same?

House Dems To Bundle Numerous Contempt Citations For Trump Advisers (R.)

U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said lawmakers may bundle numerous contempt citations from different committees into a single resolution that the full House of Representatives could then vote on. “There obviously are going to have to be, perhaps from our committee and certainly from other committees, other contempt citations to enforce subpoenas,” Nadler told reporters. Asked about bundling citations together, the New York Democrat replied: “It’s a great idea. In fact, I suggested it … It just makes sense, to spend as little floor time as possible, to group them together.”


A consolidated contempt vote is among options Democrats are considering in response to Trump’s stonewalling of congressional investigations into his presidency and business investments. Another option is reviving Congress’s “inherent” contempt authority. Some Democrats say that would allow lawmakers to fine uncooperative officials up to $25,000 per day. Some Democrats are also calling for impeachment proceedings against recalcitrant Trump Cabinet members. Nadler said Congress faces “the unprecedented situation in which the administration is essentially stonewalling all subpoenas – we’ve never had this before in American history, so far as I know.”

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They lost two years on the Russia collusion story. Doesn’t look so smart now, does it?

House Democrat Subpoenas Six Years Of Trump Tax Returns (AP)

A top House Democrat on Friday issued subpoenas for six years of Donald Trump’s tax returns, giving the treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, and the IRS commissioner, Charles Rettig, a deadline of next Friday to deliver them. Richard Neal, the chairman of the House ways and means committee, issued the subpoenas days after Mnuchin refused to comply with demands to turn over Trump’s returns. Mnuchin told the panel he wouldn’t provide Trump’s tax records because the panel’s request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose”, as supreme court precedent requires.

Neal reminded the two Trump appointees in a Friday letter that federal law states that the IRS “shall furnish” the tax returns of any individual upon the request of the chairmen of Congress’s tax-writing committees, and that ways and means “has never been denied” a request. The White House and the Democratic-controlled House are waging a multi-front battle over investigations into Trump, with the administration refusing to comply with subpoenas for the unredacted Mueller report and documents related to testimony by the former White House counsel Donald McGahn. If Mnuchin and Rettig refuse to comply with the subpoenas, Neal is likely to file a lawsuit in federal court.

He indicated earlier this week that he was leaning toward filing a court case immediately but changed course after meeting with lawyers for the House. Neal originally demanded access to Trump’s tax returns in early April. He maintains that the committee is looking into the effectiveness of mandatory IRS audits of tax returns of all sitting presidents, a way to justify his claim that the panel has a potential legislative purpose. Democrats are confident in their legal justification and say Trump is stalling in an attempt to punt the issue past the 2020 election. In rejecting Neal’s request earlier this week, Mnuchin said he relied on the advice of the justice department. He concluded that the treasury department was “not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information”. Mnuchin has also said that Neal’s request would potentially weaponize private tax returns for political purposes.

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I don’t think John Solomon is done yet.

As for the Papadopoulos $10,000 story, how is that an “explosive revelation”? Have known that for a long time.

FISA Applications Were Illegally Obtained – DiGenova (PJ)

Washington attorney Joe diGenova claimed in an interview last night that the Department of Justice inspector general has determined that “the final three FISA extensions were illegally obtained,” and the first one is still being investigated. For the past year, DOJ IG Michael Horowitz has been investigating the FBI’s 2016 surveillance activities and his report is expected later this month or in early June. Washington power couple Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing appeared on Lou Dobbs’ Fox Business Network show Thursday night to talk about the latest turns in the “SpyGate” saga. “The only question now is whether or not the first FISA was illegally obtained,” diGenova said.

He told Dobbs that the latest revelations in investigative reporter John Solomon’s piece at The Hill, have prompted further investigation from Horowitz’s team. On Thursday, Solomon reported that newly unearthed memos show that a high-ranking government official from the Obama State Department met with former British spy Christopher Steele in October of 2016, and figured out pretty quickly that his dossier was a political hit job intended to slime Donald Trump on behalf of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. [..] DiGenova said the inspector general was unaware of the memos, which were obtained last week through open-records litigation by the conservative group Citizens United. “The Bureau hid those memos from Horowitz. As a result of that, they are doing some additional work on the first FISA,” diGenova explained, adding: “It may be that all four FISAs will have been obtained illegally.”

[..] DiGenova and Toensing shared another explosive revelation on Sebastian Gorka’s Salem Radio talk show “America First” on Thursday. According to Toensing, the FBI tried to frame former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos by having an informant give him $10,000 in cash during a trip to Israel in the summer of 2017. An individual allegedly talked the then-29-year-old into traveling to Israel to make a deal, and invited him to his hotel room. “And there on the bed is $10,000 in cash in a suitcase,” she continued. Papadopoulos took the money and gave it to his lawyer, who has it still. Toensing said when Papadopoulos returned to the United States, he was greeted by FBI agents at Dulles Airport and they started searching through everything that he had “the second he landed.”

She added, “in fact, they already had his baggage from the plane. He couldn’t believe they had his baggage.” “It was a set up!” exclaimed Gorka. “It was a complete set up,” agreed Toensing. DiGenova explained that the Feds already knew that he hadn’t declared that he had $10,000 and were expecting to find the undeclared cash so they could arrest him and “put the thumbscrews on and make him squeal,” as Gorka put it. Worst of all, according to Toensing, “one of the FBI agents said to him, ‘this is what happens when you work for Donald Trump.’”

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Good read. To a large extent, the Democrats made their own bed. Very far from a black and white story.

William Barr vs. Eric Holder: A Tale of Two Attorneys General (McConnell)

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has declared it a “constitutional crisis” that Attorney General William Barr refuses to divulge the small parts of the Mueller report that contain grand-jury material. By a straight party-line vote, the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Barr in contempt of Congress. What did Pelosi think when Barr’s predecessor, Eric Holder, refused to divulge documents to a congressional committee and was held in contempt? “Ridiculous!” she said. What did Holder and Obama say? That the House subpoena was a violation of “separation of powers.” To partisans, the difference between the cases is obvious. Barr is defending Trump; Holder was Obama’s self-proclaimed “wing man.”

That is enough for many journalists and most politicians. The rest of us might want to know: What is the legal or constitutional difference between Holder’s refusal to provide documents and Barr’s? Here is the background of the Holder contempt. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE), a unit of Holder’s Department of Justice (DOJ), conducted an operation called “Fast & Furious,” intended to track illegal gun sales. In fact it put hundreds of weapons in the hands of Mexican criminal gangs, leading to the death of an American officer. On February 2, 2011, after news of the operation emerged, Holder’s assistant attorney general sent a letter to Congress declaring that the Obama administration had no knowledge of the operation. This letter was false, as Holder later admitted.

A congressional committee wanted to know why it had been misled. BATFE employees leaked to Congress that the department was still suppressing the truth about the operation and retaliating against whistleblowers. The committee wanted to dig into that. It demanded DOJ documents “relating to actions the Department took to silence or retaliate against Fast and Furious whistleblowers,” so that it could determine “what the Department knew about Fast and Furious, including when and how it discovered its February 4 letter was false, and the Department’s efforts to conceal that information from Congress and the public.”

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“..funnelled [over $21 million] personally and through straw donors to President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, then lied about it to the Federal Elections Commission in 2015.”

Fugees Founder, Banker Charged In 1MDB, Obama Campaign Scandal (RT)

A founding member of the Fugees is accused of conspiracy to funnel illegal campaign contributions to Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign and lying about it, in a spinoff of the 1MDB corruption scandal. The indictment against Prakazrel “Pras” Michel, 46, was unsealed on Friday, the government says he received over $21 million from Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho (also known as “Jho Low”) and funnelled it personally and through straw donors to President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, then lied about it to the Federal Elections Commission in 2015. Michel was charged with conspiracy to defraud US government, falsifying records, and making a false statement. He appeared before a federal judge in Washington, DC on Friday and pleaded not guilty.


Mr. Michel is extremely disappointed that so many years after the fact the government would bring charges related to 2012 campaign contributions,” said his attorney Barry Pollack. “Mr. Michel is innocent of these charges and looks forward to having the case heard by a jury.” Michel is best known as one of the founding members of the Fugees, an award-winning group that set music charts on fire with ‘Killing me softly’ in 1996 and launched the solo careers of Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill. Low, 37, was also charged in the case, adding to the existing indictments against the Malaysian businessman already wanted for conspiring to launder billions of dollars and violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

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“..he rode on the back of that fraud for two years, as if touring a political landfill on a donkey, leaving the public to stew in anxious hallucinations.”

Crisis? What Crisis? (Jim Kunstler)

Information emerged over the weeks since the Mueller Report’s release that Mr. Mueller and his team knew unequivocally that the Special Counsel’s mission and the FBI operations that preceded it were based on concocted political bullshit supplied by Mrs. Clinton and her network of flunkies and fixers, ranging throughout the permanent DC bureacuracy (a.k.a. the Swamp), to outposts in foreign intel services and the political kitty-litter box known as Ukraine. Mr. Mueller must have suspected this from the outset, but knew for sure by the summer of 2017, and omitted to advise the American public that he had uncovered a fraud. Rather, he rode on the back of that fraud for two years, as if touring a political landfill on a donkey, leaving the public to stew in anxious hallucinations.


What else did Mr. Mueller do, or omit to do? He never engaged US government forensic computer analysts to examine the DNC servers at the heart of RussiaGate story. Rather, he allowed the conclusions to stand of a company called CrowdStrike, hired by the DNC itself to supposedly investigate the theft of emails, especially those of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Mr. Mueller never bothered to interview the one person who might have known exactly who supplied the purloined emails to Wikileaks, namely Julian Assange. Mr. Mueller also did not bother to interview several dozen retired Intel Community computer experts, led by William Binney, former Technical Director of the NSA, who determined that the hack was accomplished by direct download by an insider onto a flash drive.

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This is about what the US wants to add to the Assange charge once he’s been extradited.

Manning Could Delay US Superseding Indictment Against Assange (Sp.)

According to Manning’s legal team, her release was triggered by the expiration of the term of the grand jury that had demanded her testimony. She will be back in court on May 16, trying to convince a new grand jury of what she failed to prove to the last one: that she cannot be forced to cooperate, as she fundamentally disagrees with the concept of a grand jury, which she says use activists’ testimonies against them. “This will go on until they get what they want or she continues to stay in jail,” Joe Lauria, editor-in-chief of Consortium News, told Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear Friday. “She’s in a position where she could delay or slow down what the Justice Department wants to do in terms of a superseding indictment against Assange.

Nobody believes that they are going to want to just put him in jail for five years… this initial indictment is a placeholder, and they have a deadline of June 12 to give to British court the charges; the decision has to be made in the UK,” Lauria said. However, there is a way around that, Lauria told hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou, called the Doctrine of Specialty, which, according to reference website USLegal.com, is “a principle of international law that is included in most extradition treaties, whereby a person who is extradited to a country to stand trial for certain criminal offenses may be tried only for those offenses and not for any other pre-extradition offenses.” “Once the asylum state extradites an individual to the requesting state under the terms of an extradition treaty, that person can be prosecuted only for crimes specified in the extradition request,” the website notes.

“This doctrine allows a nation to require the requesting nation to limit prosecution to declared offenses.” “In other words, Assange could come to the US based on this very silly charge that he tried to help Chelsea Manning hack into a computer — when she had top secret clearance and total access anyway — clearly he was trying to just help her hide her identity. But, he could come to the US and they could start adding charges there. I suspect that might happen if she doesn’t testify — which she will not do, obviously; she’s made that abundantly clear.” “They clearly need something from her, or they wouldn’t be throwing her back in jail, effectively, because she refuses to testify,” Lauria said. “But she’s not going to say a damn thing; she’s not going to cooperate, at incredible personal expense to herself, and that just goes to show what a person of principle she is.”

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Curious but still..

Dutch Court Blocks Extradition Of Man To ‘Inhumane’ UK Prisons (G.)

Judges in the Netherlands have refused to send a suspected drug smuggler back to the UK because of concerns that conditions in British jails are inhumane. An initial application to extradite the unnamed man, who had been on the run for two years, was refused this week due to the reported state of HMP Liverpool where he would probably be sent.The court of Amsterdam heard how inspectors had found “some of the most disturbing prison conditions we have ever seen” and “conditions which have no place in an advanced nation in the 21st century”, in reference to report on the state of prisons in the UK published last July.


A surprise inspection of HMP Liverpool in September 2017 found it was infested with rats and that inmates lived in squalid conditions, afraid of being attacked because of increasing violence. Similar conditions were found in HMP Birmingham and HMP Bedford. The Dutch judges said on Wednesday they were concerned the man, who was wanted in relation to cocaine and heroin smuggling on Merseyside, was at “real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment” if returned. The man had been made the subject of a European arrest warrant at Liverpool magistrates court in July 2017. His lawyer argued that the extradition should be refused based on the prison inspectors’ reports.

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“.. If you start with a monetary union, you make sure there will not be a democratic political union.”

Varoufakis On Eurozone: ‘We Created A Monster’ (Exp.)

Former Greek financial minister Yanis Varoufakis branded the eurozone “a monster” for allegedly taking away financial oversight from European Union member states. Mr Varoufakis, an outspoken opponent of the European monetary union, claimed the creation of the common currency led to an “undemocratic political union”. Recounting his first meeting with other eurozone Finance Ministers in 2015, Mr Varoufakis said: “When I was in the Eurogroup, Wolfgang Schauble was very clear. The first time he spoke, in my presence, he said –spectacularly and very honestly – ’democracy cannot be allowed to change economic policies.’


Mr Varoufakis continued: “We’ve created a monster. We’ve created a monetary union that has a central bank without a state behind it because the European Central Bank (ECB) doesn’t have a corresponding state. Before the euro, you had the Treasury, the ministry of finance and you had the central banks – correspondence. “The ECB is a gigantic central bank with no state behind it and you’ve got 19 states without a central bank. This is not the way to create a monetary union which is consistent with the political union.” He added: “The fallacy in 1992 with Helmut Kohl and Francois Mitterrand, is that they believed you start with a monetary union and then you move towards a democratic political union. “No. If you start with a monetary union, you make sure there will not be a democratic political union.”

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Not sure the biggest EU monster is a finance one.

70 Migrants Dead After Boat Capsizes Trying To Reach Europe From Libya (G.)

As many as 70 people trying to reach Europe from Libya have drowned after their vessel capsized in the deadliest such incident in the Mediterranean since January. According to survivors, at least 16 of whom were rescued, the boat left Zuwara in Libya, where renewed warfare between rival factions has gripped the capital, Tripoli, in the past five weeks. The vessel capsized 40 miles off the coast of Sfax, south of Tunis, as it headed towards Italy. The survivors reported that a Tunisian fishing boat came to their rescue and transferred them to a Tunisian coastguard vessel.


The incident came as overall number of people reaching Europe has decreased, whilethe journey has become increasingly dangerous. So far this year, 17,000 migrants and refugees have entered Europe via the sea, about 30% fewer than in the same period last year, according to the International Organization for Migration. The IOM said 443 people have reportedly died on Mediterranean crossings since 1 January, compared with 620 in the same period in 2018. The Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) thinktank said that one person died for every eight people who left Libya from January to April, based on analysis of figures from the Italian interior ministry.

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There’ll always be a dictator somewhere who invites a few million dollars. There’s only one solution: stop producing the stuff. 2 trillion drinks containers were sold in 2018. Cut it out.

Nearly All Countries Agree To Stem Flow Of Plastic Waste Into Poor Nations (G.)

Almost all the world’s countries have agreed on a deal aimed at restricting shipments of hard-to-recycle plastic waste to poorer countries, the United Nations announced on Friday. Exporting countries – including the US – now will have to obtain consent from countries receiving contaminated, mixed or unrecyclable plastic waste. Currently, the US and other countries can send lower-quality plastic waste to private entities in developing countries without getting approval from their governments. Since China stopped accepting recycling from the US, activists say they have observed plastic waste piling up in developing countries. The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (Gaia), a backer of the deal, says it found villages in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia that had “turned into dumpsites over the course of a year”.


“We were finding that there was waste from the US that was just piled up in villages throughout these countries that had once been primarily agricultural communities,” said Claire Arkin, a spokeswoman for Gaia. The legally binding framework emerged at the end of a two-week meeting of UN-backed conventions on plastic waste and toxic, hazardous chemicals that threaten the planet’s seas and creatures. The pact comes in an amendment to the Basel convention. The US is not a party to that convention so it did not have a vote, but attendees at the meeting said the country argued against the change, saying officials didn’t understand the repercussions it would have on the plastic waste trade.

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Apr 172019
 


Jacques-Louis David Coronation of Napoleon in 1804 in Nôtre-Dame Cathedral 1805-7 (10 metres wide, 6 metres tall)

 

World Trade Suffers Biggest Collapse Since Financial Crisis (ZH)
Iran Parliament Declares US Central Command A ‘Terrorist Organization’ (RT)
CIA Director Used Fake Skripal Incident Photos To Manipulate Trump (MoA)
Affidavit Tries To Put WikiLeaks In Cahoots With The Taliban (ZH)
Suzie Dawson on Julian Assange’s Mistreatment (Unity4J)
Jesus Christ, Julian Assange: When Dissidents Become Enemies Of The State (JW)
First They Came For Assange (Varoufakis)
Macron Commits To Rebuilding Notre Dame Within Five Years (Ind.)
May Has ‘No Chance’ Of Avoiding EU Elections (Ind.)
Tory Deregulation Agenda Is Stalling Brexit Talks – Corbyn (G.)
Not In It To Win It: The Dirty Little Secret Of The Democrats’ 2020 Battle (G.)
Six-Decade Plankton Study Charts Rise Of Ocean Plastic Waste (G.)
Mark Carney Tells Global Banks They Cannot Ignore Climate Change (G.)
The Kids Aren’t Nearly Angry Enough (Spiegel)

 

 

The financial crisis is 11-12 years old. But the deception is brilliant: everybody thinks it’s over.

World Trade Suffers Biggest Collapse Since Financial Crisis (ZH)

The recent collapse in world trade volume is the worst since the financial crisis and as dangerous as during the dot-com bubble of the early 2000s, according to The Telegraph. Data from the CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis revealed that world trade volume dropped 1.8% in the three months to January compared to the preceding three months as a synchronized global downturn gained momentum. “An industrial slump has been triggered by a perfect storm of factors, including China’s slowdown, the car industry downturn, Brexit paralysis and Donald Trump’s attempt to upend the international trade system with tariffs on European and Chinese goods,” explained The Telegraph.

A further escalation of the trade war between the U.S. and China could spark a world trade recession. Already, Washington has imposed steep tariffs on Chinese imports worth $250bn in a tit-for-tat battle with industrial centers in Asia and Germany experiencing sharp drops in trade in recent months. The Telegraph describes the sudden loss in trade momentum is equivalent to the months after the dot com bubble imploded in 2001 when trade volumes sank as much as 2.2%. Today’s current move is the biggest fall since the financial crisis of 2007–2008 when global trade plummeted, diving as much as 12.7%. The IMF warned last week that this is a “delicate moment” for the global economy as many countries are in the midst of a severe slowdown.

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“We” are losing to Iran all over again.

Iran Parliament Declares US Central Command A ‘Terrorist Organization’ (RT)

The US Central Command (CENTCOM) has been designated as a “terrorist organization” by the Iranian parliament, in a mirror response to Washington’s blacklisting of Tehran’s Revolutionary Guard. All organizations, institutions and forces under CENTCOM command were acknowledged to be “terrorists” by the overwhelming majority of the Iranian MPs, who approved the contents of the bill, which also condemns the US move to blacklist the IRGC, an official military branch of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Armed Forces. “The Islamic Republic of Iran’s government and Armed Forces are required to adopt preventive actions and preemptive defensive measures whenever necessary, to deter any hostile US forces’ use of any possibilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran’s interests,” the bill states, according to Fars news.


Anyone offering military, intelligence, financial, or any other support to CENTCOM and its affiliate forces will be considered supporters of terrorism. The 13-article legislation also mandates the general staff to begin gathering intelligence about CENTCOM activities so that the material can be used in Iranian courts to prosecute specific individuals. The bill, however, does not mention the exact mechanisms through which Americans are expected to be brought to justice under Iranian laws. Last week the US, for the first time ever, designated an official foreign military institution –the IRGC– as a terrorist organization, as tensions between the states were pushed to the limit following President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iranian Nuclear deal (JCPOA) and the reintroduction of sanctions that followed.

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Ducks and babies. We kid you not.

CIA Director Used Fake Skripal Incident Photos To Manipulate Trump (MoA)

An ass kissing portrait of Gina Haspel, torture queen and director of the CIA, reveals that she lied to Trump to push for more aggression against Russia. In March 2018 the British government asserted, without providing any evidence, that the alleged ‘Novichok’ poisoning of Sergej and Yulia Skripal was the fault of Russia. It urged its allies to expel Russian officials from their countries. The U.S. alone expelled 60 Russian officials. Trump was furious when he learned that EU countries expelled less than 60 in total. The expulsion marked a turn in the Trump administration’s relation with Russia: “The incident reflects a tension at the core of the Trump administration s increasingly hard-nosed stance on Russia: The president instinctually opposes many of the punitive measures pushed by his Cabinet that have crippled his ability to forge a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “

Today the New York Times portraits Gina Haspel’s relation with Trump. The writers seem sympathetic to her and the CIA’s position. They include an anecdote of the Skripal expulsion decision that is supposed to let her shine in a good light. But it only proves that the CIA manipulated the president for its own purpose: “Last March, top national security officials gathered inside the White House to discuss with Mr. Trump how to respond to the nerve agent attack in Britain on Sergei V. Skripal, the former Russian intelligence agent. London was pushing for the White House to expel dozens of suspected Russian operatives, but Mr. Trump was skeptical. …

[..] During the discussion, Ms. Haspel, then deputy C.I.A. director, turned toward Mr. Trump. She outlined possible responses in a quiet but firm voice, then leaned forward and told the president that the strong option was to expel 60 diplomats. Ms. Haspel showed pictures the British government had supplied her of young children hospitalized after being sickened by the Novichok nerve agent that poisoned the Skripals. She then showed a photograph of ducks that British officials said were inadvertently killed by the sloppy work of the Russian operatives. Ms Haspel was not the first to use emotional images to appeal to the president, but pairing it with her hard-nosed realism proved effective: Mr. Trump fixated on the pictures of the sickened children and the dead ducks. At the end of the briefing, he embraced the strong option.

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Can we throw in Pol Pot next? I’ll see your Bin Laden and raise you a Stalin.

Affidavit Tries To Put WikiLeaks In Cahoots With The Taliban (ZH)

The document uses maximal and hyped language to describe “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States,” yet struggles to ascertain whether “illegal agreement that Assange and Manning reached” specifically led to the release of the document trove (obviously crucial for charges against Assange to hold up). Concerning a potential extradition to the US, “probable cause” is cited to be the hundreds of messages sent between Manning and Assange on the Jabber platform. The argument is that Assange and Manning understood that it “would cause injury to the United States,” especially with US forces active on the ground in Afghanistan.

But on this point of whether the leaks did actual harm and damage to US efforts, the document is left reaching, trying to spin and insinuate a narrative that puts WikiLeaks and terrorist groups like the Taliban and al-Qaeda in cahoots. It starts by claiming that “after the release of the Afghanistan War Reports, a member of the Taliban contacted the New York Times.” The supposed Taliban member said, “We are studying the report… If they are US spies, then we will know how to punish them.” This strange and somewhat comical example is meant to support the notion that Assange ultimately aided America’s enemies with the leaks. [..] Worse, the affidavit makes Osama bin Laden — killed in a 2011 raid by US Navy Seals while living comfortably in an Abbottabad, Pakistan compound — out to be a WikiLeaks fan, given letters had been found instructing an al-Qaeda member to “gather” the publicly available material leaked by Manning.

Somehow this is meant to imply WikiLeaks in a round-about way assisted al-Qaeda’s mission. The FBI is perhaps left grasping with this “bin Laden benefited” theory given the relative flimsiness of evidence to support the original “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion” aspect on which the case originated.

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Brilliant argument: “The question is not whether Julian is a journalist, the question is whether THEY are journalists.”

Suzie Dawson on Julian Assange’s Mistreatment (Unity4J)

Suzie Dawson powerfully expresses her feelings of righteous indignation on witnessing Julian Assange being dragged from the Ecuadorean Embassy, and reflects on his mistreatment by the establishment and their propaganda arm, the complicit corporate media.

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So let that Pope of yours stand up for Julian. Do something useful with the $600 million already donated for the Notre Dame. THAT is what your Jesus would have done.

Jesus Christ, Julian Assange: When Dissidents Become Enemies Of The State (JW)

And then there was Jesus Christ, an itinerant preacher and revolutionary activist, who not only died challenging the police state of his day—namely, the Roman Empire—but provided a blueprint for civil disobedience that would be followed by those, religious and otherwise, who came after him. Indeed, it is fitting that we remember that Jesus Christ—the religious figure worshipped by Christians for his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection—paid the ultimate price for speaking out against the police state of his day. A radical nonconformist who challenged authority at every turn, Jesus was a far cry from the watered-down, corporatized, simplified, gentrified, sissified vision of a meek creature holding a lamb that most modern churches peddle.


In fact, he spent his adult life speaking truth to power, challenging the status quo of his day, and pushing back against the abuses of the Roman Empire. Much like the American Empire today, the Roman Empire of Jesus’ day had all of the characteristics of a police state: secrecy, surveillance, a widespread police presence, a citizenry treated like suspects with little recourse against the police state, perpetual wars, a military empire, martial law, and political retribution against those who dared to challenge the power of the state. For all the accolades poured out upon Jesus, little is said about the harsh realities of the police state in which he lived and its similarities to modern-day America, and yet they are striking.

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Yanis has this completely upside down, like so many other well-meaning people:

“Let’s join forces to block #Assange’s extradition from any European country to the #US so that he can travel to Stockholm & give his accusers an opportunity to be heard”.

The accusers, if they are real, which is by no means clear, have been silenced by the Swedish government for a reason. And to say now that you can’t speak on the allegations because you too are a man, only reinforces that reason.

Assange has offered for years to talk, and for his accusers to be heard. That never needed to take place in Stockholm, and it does not now. It wouldn’t help anyone.

First They Came For Assange (Varoufakis)

My meetings with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange all took place in the same small room. As the intelligence services of a variety of countries know, I visited Assange in Ecuador’s London embassy many times between the fall of 2015 and December 2018. What these snoops do not know is the relief I felt every time I left. I wanted to meet Assange because of my deep appreciation of the original WikiLeaks concept. As a teenager reading George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, I, too, was troubled by the prospect of a high-tech surveillance state and its likely effect on human relations. Assange’s early writings – particularly his idea of using states’ own technology to create a huge digital mirror that could show everyone what they were up to – filled me with hope that we might collectively defeat Big Brother.

By the time I met Assange, that early hope had faded. Surrounded by bookcases featuring Ecuadorian literature and government publications, we would sit and chat late into the night. A device on top of a bookshelf emitted mind-numbing white noise to counter listening devices. As time passed, the claustrophobic living room, the badly hidden ceiling-mounted camera pointing at me, the white noise, and the stale air made me want to run out into the street. Assange’s detractors have been saying for years that his confinement was self-inflicted: he hid in Ecuador’s embassy because he jumped bail in the United Kingdom to avoid answering sexual assault allegations in Sweden. As a man, I feel I have no right to express an opinion regarding those allegations. Women must be heard when reporting assault.

Only the violence that men have inflicted upon women for millennia is viler than the disrespect and denigration to which women are subjected when they speak up. I recall saying to Julian that, had it been me, I would want to confront my accusers, and listen to them carefully and respectfully, regardless of whether official charges had been brought. He replied that he, too, wanted that. “But, Yanis,” he said, “if I were to go to Stockholm, they would throw me in solitary and, before I got a chance to answer any allegations, I would be bundled into a plane heading for a US supermax prison.” To drive the point home, he showed me his lawyers’ offer to Swedish authorities to go to Stockholm if they guaranteed that he would not be extradited to the United States on espionage charges. Sweden never considered the proposal.

During Assange’s years in Ecuador’s embassy, in circumstances that the United Nations deemed “arbitrary detention,” many friends and colleagues mocked his fear – and lambasted me for believing him. Last September, the historian and feminist intellectual Germaine Greer summed up that belief on Australian public radio: “He won’t be extradited to the United States,” she said derisively, blaming Julian’s lawyers for misleading him into fearing such an extradition while collecting his book’s royalties.

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Make that 50. Jesus himself would have to help. Alternatively, we can see this as a sign that Macron doesn’t expect to last as president for 5 years.

Macron Commits To Rebuilding Notre Dame Within Five Years (Ind.)

French president Emmanuel Macron promised that Notre Dame will be renovated within five years and will be “even better than before” after the devastating fire that ravaged much of the building. Investigators have already begun assessing the damage and questioning people to try to establish what started the blaze that consumed the roof and spire of the 850-year-old Gothic masterpiece. More then €600m has already been raised for rebuilding and restoration and the UK has said it stands ready to help. Firefighters battled for 14 hours to extinguish the flames, as onlookers feared the entire structure would be wrecked. But Parisians breathed a sigh of relief when it became clear the twin medieval bell towers had been spared and later when fire investigators revealed that “most precious” treasures have been saved.


They included the Crown of Thorns, a relic venerated by Christians and believed to have been worn by Jesus Christ, as well as the cathedral’s 18th-century organ and a number of artworks. European Council president Donald Tusk called on the European Union’s member countries to help, saying the site in central Paris is a symbol of what binds Europe together. The fire, which began on Monday evening, is thought to have been caused by an accident rather than arson, the Paris public prosecutor said. Architects warned repairs could take decades but in a televised address to the nation Mr Macron said: “We will rebuild Notre Dame even more beautifully, and I want it to be completed in five years, we can do it.”

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“..experts have concluded..”

May Has ‘No Chance’ Of Avoiding EU Elections (Ind.)

Theresa May has “no chance” of passing her Brexit deal in time to pull the UK out of the European parliament elections and avoid a likely devastating defeat, experts have concluded. Time has already effectively run out on attempts to ratify the agreement by 22 May, they say – despite the prime minister insisting talks with Labour can still deliver a compromise before the deadline. The verdict puts the Conservatives on course to lose most of their MEPs, polls suggest, as Leave voters protest at the failure to deliver Brexit, a disastrous result that would trigger huge pressure on Ms May to resign. The staging of the elections will also be a personal humiliation for the prime minister, who repeatedly told MPs they should not take place, three years after the Brexit referendum.


More talks with Labour are planned, as No 10 claims the complex (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – required to ratify EU withdrawal – can clear parliament before voters go to the polls on 23 May. But two respected think tanks have told The Independent the timetable is a fantasy, with one suggesting it will take “several months” to approve the legislation, which could involve up to 100 votes. Unlike the simple meaningful vote, the full legislation will trigger lengthy and gruelling parliamentary trench warfare, with echoes of the bitter battles over the Maastricht and Lisbon treaties. Approval of Maastricht took 41 days in 1993, while Lisbon required 25 days in 2008 – but there are only 17 sitting days planned before 22 May.

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There is no way they could ever agree.

Tory Deregulation Agenda Is Stalling Brexit Talks – Corbyn (G.)

Jeremy Corbyn has said Brexit talks with the government are stalling because of a Tory desire for post-withdrawal deregulation, including as part of a US trade deal. Corbyn said Labour had been putting forward a robust case for a customs union during the talks over the past week but suggested he feared the two sides would not find common ground. “There has to be access to European markets and above all there has to be a dynamic relationship to protect the conditions and rights that we’ve got for environment and consumer workplace rights,” he said. “We’ve put those cases very robustly to the government and there’s no agreement as yet.”


Meetings are scheduled this week between ministers and shadow ministers on environmental protections, security and workers’ rights, which Corbyn described as “quite interesting, quite long technical discussions, particularly on environment regulations”. However, there will be no discussion before Easter on the big issues of a customs union or a confirmatory referendum. Corbyn underlined again that an agreement could only be reached if Theresa May was prepared to accept Labour’s central demand for a common external tariff policy with the EU. “The government doesn’t appear to be shifting the red lines because they’ve got a big pressure in the Tory party that actually wants to turn this country into a deregulated, low-tax society which will do a deal with Trump. I don’t want to do that,” he said.

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The Delusional Party.

Not In It To Win It: The Dirty Little Secret Of The Democrats’ 2020 Battle (G.)

Political scientists are quick to point out two reasons why a record number of candidates is running for president on the Democratic side in 2020. One: the Republican president, Donald Trump, is vulnerable with a low-40s approval rating, so the Democratic nominee has a good shot at winning the White House. Two: there’s no bigfoot candidate this time around – no incumbent, no Hillary Clinton – to dissuade other potential candidates from running. Those conditions have lured 15 major candidates so far into the race for the Democratic nomination, with as many as half a dozen more potentially getting in, including former vice-president Joe Biden, who has yet to officially declare. The previous record for major candidates in a presidential primary field was 17, on the Republican side in 2016.


But analysts also nod to a third factor inflating the gigantic 2020 Democratic field, a not-quite-dirty little secret about presidential politics. The fact is, not all of the people running for president are actually running for president. “There is almost always at least a few candidates in these kinds of fields that are either there to push an issue agenda, or these are candidates who are interested in building their name recognition, building their stature and status within the party,” said John Sides, professor of political science at George Washington University and editor-in-chief of The Monkey Cage politics analysis site.

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How much plastic is inside of you?

Six-Decade Plankton Study Charts Rise Of Ocean Plastic Waste (G.)

A trove of data showing when the Atlantic began choking with plastic has been uncovered in the handwritten logbooks of a little-known but doggedly persistent plankton study dating back to the middle of the last century. From fishing twine found in the ocean in the 50s, then a first carrier bag in 1965, it reflects how the marine refuse problem grew from small, largely ignored incidents to become a matter of global concern. The unique dataset, published in Nature Communications, is based on records from the continuous plankton recorder, a torpedo-shaped marine sampling device that has been towed across more than 6.5m nautical miles of ocean over the past 60 years.


Bryozoans, nudibranchs, crabs, and barnacles live on a clear plastic bottle in the ocean. Photograph: Justin Hofman/Greenpeace/PA

Based firstly in Hull, then Edinburgh and Plymouth, the long-running programme was initially designed to collect pelagic plankton, which are an indicator of water quality and also a source of food for whales and other marine life. But the operators have also kept a chart-and-counter track of entanglements that disrupted their work: what snared the equipment, where it happened and when. This has proved a valuable source of data on plastic waste, according to contemporary researchers. “This consistent time series provides some of the earliest records of plastic entanglement, and is the first to confirm a significant increase in open ocean plastics in recent decades,” the paper notes.

The start of the problem was so slow it was barely noticed. The log shows strands of fishing twine found off the east coast of Iceland in 1957, then a carrier bag in waters to the north-west of Ireland eight years later. The paper states this was a couple of years before the first reports of turtles and seabirds becoming ensnared in plastic. Over the following decades the problem grew steadily. In the 50s, 60s and 70s, fewer than 1% of tows were disrupted by entanglements with synthetic materials. By the 90s it was almost 2%, and in the first decade of this century the increase “was of an order of magnitude”, according to the paper. The figure is now hovering somewhere between 3% and 4%.

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Note: if you find yourself agreeing with Carney, and you fail to see the absurdity in this, seek treatment. Carney is a full-time douche. He’s saying going green is a profit opportunity.

Mark Carney Tells Global Banks They Cannot Ignore Climate Change (G.)

The global financial system faces an existential threat from climate change and must take urgent steps to reform, the governors of the Bank of England and France’s central bank have warned, writing in the Guardian. In an article published in the Guardian on Wednesday aimed at the international financial community, Mark Carney, the Bank’s governor, and Villeroy de Galhau, the governor of the Banque de France, said financial regulators, banks and insurers around the world had to “raise the bar” to avoid catastrophe. They said: “As financial policymakers and prudential supervisors we cannot ignore the obvious physical risks before our eyes. Climate change is a global problem, which requires global solutions, in which the whole financial sector has a central role to play.”


The warning comes as concern over the impact of climate change and the lack of urgent action is increasing, reflected in the Extinction Rebellion protests and schoolchildren’s strikes across the world. The heads of two of the world’s most influential central banks urged other financial regulators around the world to carry out climate change stress tests to spot any risks in the system, while also calling for more collaboration between nations on the issue. They warned that a “massive reallocation of capital” was necessary to prevent global warming above the 2°C maximum target set by the Paris climate agreement, with the banking system required to play a pivotal role. “If some companies and industries fail to adjust to this new world, they will fail to exist,” Carney and De Galhau said.

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Apr 162019
 
 April 16, 2019  Posted by at 8:56 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Charles Negre ‘The Vampire’, Henri Le Secq stands next to Stryge grotesque, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris 1853

 

Notre Dame ‘Saved From Total Destruction’ (CNBC)
The Notre Dame Fire And The Future Of History (Wired)
Notre Dame Was Built To Last Until The End Of The World (Mason)
Salma Hayek’s Husband Pledges €100 Million For Notre Dame Rebuild (Fox)
Redacted Mueller Report To Be Released To Congress & Public On Thursday (ZH)
Uncle Tom’s Empire (Hopkins)
Why Isn’t Assange Charged With ‘Collusion With Russia’? (Andrew McCarthy)
Assange Suffered Severe Psychological And Physical Harm – Doctors (IC)
Useful Idiots on Parade (Kunstler)
Respecting the Other (Dmitry Orlov)
Fed’s Rosengren Says Central Bank Should Target An Inflation Range (R.)
Free Our Marbles From British Museum’s ‘Murky Prison’ – Greek President (R.)
Winds Carry Microplastics Even On To Remote Mountaintops (G.)

 

 

The Notre Dame is first and foremost a work of art designed to make one marvel at what people can build with their hands.

Notre Dame ‘Saved From Total Destruction’ (CNBC)

Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral has been saved from “total destruction,” according to a French fire official, after a massive fire ripped through the structure on Monday and caused the roof and main spire to collapse. The blaze burned for eight hours, but has now been largely extinguished, according to firefighters. One official was quoted as saying the two iconic rectangular towers have been saved, which will come a relief after one of the towers caught fire earlier in the evening. Earlier, a French Interior Ministry official had said that firefighters might not be able to save the cathedral. “The worst has been avoided, but the battle isn’t fully won yet,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement outside of the cathedral.


He also expressed his sympathies to Catholics around the world, the people of Paris and the people of France. The fire broke out just days before Easter. “We will rebuild the cathedral together,” Macron said, adding that France will start an international fundraising campaign to raise money for the renovations. President Macron is treating the fire as a national emergency. Residents living close to the cathedral were evacuated in case the building collapsed, said Paris Mayor Anne Hildago. The area surrounding the cathedral, Paris’ Ile de la Cite, was also evacuated, according to Reuters.

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Our Lady in the cloud.

The Notre Dame Fire And The Future Of History (Wired)

Some of the wood that burned in the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris on Monday was put in place in the year 1160. The beams and exterior of the roof over the nave, the long main section of the building, date from between 1220 and 1240. Nearly a millennium ago it was forest; today, after a catastrophe that cuts to the heart of French culture and human history, it’s ash. “It was one of the oldest—until today—surviving roofs of that kind,” says Robert Bork, an architectural historian at the University of Iowa. “It’s incomparable.” [..] By Monday night, the art and treasured objects kept in the cathedral had been saved, it seemed. But architectural historians around the world were emailing each other frantically: If the lower three-quarters of the building resist, if the stone walls stand, it’ll be possible to imagine restoring Notre Dame.

“If the fire burns out while the stone vaults are intact, then the repair is a repair,” Bork says. “If the vaults start to crack and fall down, then the building is going to be lost. We’d be talking about rebuilding, not a repair.” Parisian fire brigades held the line. They kept the fire from spreading into the towers of the western face of the cathedral. The wood—itself an architectural treasure—was lost. “Cathedrals like Chartres had all burned off,” Bork says. “This was quite special, and it was from the time that they were really developing roof techniques.” But the rest of the building seems to have been spared. [..] because it survived largely intact into the digital era, Notre Dame lives on in the virtual world, too—and that may make its restoration all the more complete.

For the last half-decade or so, an architectural historian named Andrew Tallon worked with laser scanners to capture the entirety of the cathedral’s interior and exterior in meticulous 3D point clouds. His billion points of light revealed a living structure; the magnificent flying buttresses had indeed held the walls true, but the Gallery of Kings, statues on the western facade, were a foot out of plumb, Tallon told National Geographic in 2015. Just as it had in Victor Hugo’s day, the entire building had in fact fallen into disrepair by then. In 2017, the problems became too serious to ignore. The New York Times reported on stacks of masonry, fallen or removed, in the gardens. Gargoyles had given way to plastic pipes to drain away rainwater. A remodel was imperative, though as Time reported, it wasn’t clear who would pay for it.

This is the renovation project that was underway when the fire started, and architects now hope that Tallon’s scans may provide a map for keeping on track whatever rebuilding will have to take place. Tallon died late last year, and his mentor, a pioneer in using modern engineering forensics in historic architecture named Robert Mark, died in early 2019. “Both of them loved this building,” Bork says. “I’m just glad they didn’t have to see this.”

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“By the time it is rebuilt, as a partial replica, most people alive today will already be dead.”

Notre Dame Was Built To Last Until The End Of The World (Mason)

I’m writing this because I have to. The first time I saw Notre Dame was in 1980. Summertime, early morning, before the bakeries were open. The slanted light made the reliefs on the doors stand out. The second time I saw it, a year later, somebody (I have now been reminded it was Bill Ford) read out to me a complete analysis of the three doors of the façade. Deliberately assymetrical, each one contains a moral universe. As I write it will be lucky if they survive. The spire is gone, the stained glass is gone, the wood of the roof timber is gone. By the time it is rebuilt, as a partial replica, most people alive today will already be dead. Notre Dame was -and will be- a monument to civilisation. In an age when there were no information storage devices other than handwritten books, giant stone buildings were society’s hard drives.

This is like losing the hard drive of medieval Paris. Every inch had meaning – not just the meaning imbued by the carpenter and the stonemason, but the meaning imbued by the student, the monk, the penitent -and then by the emergent French bourgeois society. I know almost nothing about architecture, but I do understand music. And the music composed in Notre Dame during the high period of feudalism is some of the most complex, beautiful and emotionally expressive you will ever hear. Understanding the music helped me understand the building. Andrieu’s requiem dirge for Guillaume de Machaut, O Fleur des Fleurs, seems to be on loop inside my head. The challenge was to make it as complicated as possible but as directly expressive.

The one time I did the full tour of the inside was in 1986, before mass global tourism took off. I didn’t understand its vastness even then. If you have ever seen it, you have to hold those memories close now, because you will probably never in your lifetime see the whole thing rebuilt. Last year I went to Tito’s birthplace in Croatia. A small village of wood huts. A tank could have destroyed it in half an hour. It was a reminder that, until the mid 20thcentury, most of the world was built of wood, thatch and fragile bricks. Notre Dame was built to last until the end of the world, out of stone, glass and vast forests of thick timber frames.


Picked up on Twitter: Brooke Windsor – I took this photo as we were leaving #NotreDame about an hour before it caught on fire. I almost went up to the dad and asked if he wanted it. Now I wish I had. Twitter if you have any magic, help him find this

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Let’s do some gossip.

Salma Hayek’s Husband Pledges €100 Million For Notre Dame Rebuild (Fox)

Salma Hayek’s husband, the French billionaire François-Henri Pinault, pledged almost $113 million to rebuild Paris’ historic Notre Dame Cathedral after Monday’s devastating fire. Pinault announced Tuesday that he will draw almost $113 million in funds from his family’s investment firm, Artemis, “to participate in the effort that will be necessary for the complete reconstruction of Notre-Dame,” the French newspaper Le Figaro reported. Pinault, 56, who is the chairman and CEO of Kering, a Paris-based luxury group behind brands including Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, married the Mexican and American actress Salma Hayek in Paris in 2009, Yahoo News reported.


The couple owns a residence nearby the destroyed 12th-century medieval Catholic cathedral. “As many others I’m in deep shock and sadness to witness the beauty of Notre-Dame turn into smoke. I love you Paris,” Hayek said on Instagram, sharing an image of the cathedral ablaze. Pinault’s father, the 82-year-old Francois Pinault, is worth $37.3 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index. The family’s contribution is the first major donation to reconstruction efforts after the fire engulfed the historic structure, leading to the collapse of the structure’s main spire.

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Get ready for more of the same Russiagate. Just look at that cartoon.

Redacted Mueller Report To Be Released To Congress & Public On Thursday (ZH)

Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec announced this morning Attorney General William Barr is expected to send Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report to Congress and make it public on Thursday (ahead of the long weekend’s news cycle). Those following Mueller’s investigation will pore over the report’s almost 400 pages for any new disclosures of contacts between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian operatives who interfered in the 2016 election, as well as evidence that the president sought to obstruct justice by interfering in the probe.


But, as Bloomberg reports, readers also will puzzle over sections that Barr has said he’ll blank out. He’s said the redacted material will be color-coded to indicate whether it involves classified material, grand jury information or damage to the reputation of a private citizen “peripheral” to the investigation. One key question the report may answer is why Mueller decided not to make a recommendation one way or the other on whether to charge Trump with obstructing justice.

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Brilliant absolute must read.

Uncle Tom’s Empire (Hopkins)

I don’t normally do this kind of thing, but, given the arrest of Julian Assange last week, and the awkward and cowardly responses thereto, I felt it necessary to abandon my customary literary standards and spew out a spineless, hypocritical “hot take” professing my concern about the dangerous precedent the U.S. government may be setting by extraditing and prosecuting a publisher for exposing American war crimes and such, while at the same time making it abundantly clear how much I personally loathe Assange, and consider him an enemy of America, and freedom, and want the authorities to crush him like a cockroach.

Now I want to be absolutely clear. I totally defend Assange and Wikileaks, and the principle of freedom of the press, and whatever. And I am all for exposing American war crimes (as long as it doesn’t endanger the lives of the Americans who committed those war crimes, or inconvenience them in any way). At the same time, while I totally support all that, I feel compelled to express my support together with my personal loathing of Assange, who, if all those important principles weren’t involved, I would want to see taken out and shot, or at least locked up in Super-Max solitary … not for any crime in particular, but just because I personally loathe him so much.

I’m not quite sure why I loathe Assange. I’ve never actually met the man. I just have this weird, amorphous feeling that he’s a horrible, disgusting, extremist person who is working for the Russians and is probably a Nazi. It feels kind of like that feeling I had, back in the Winter of 2003, that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons, which he was going to give to those Al Qaeda terrorists who were bayonetting little babies in their incubators, or the feeling I still have, despite all evidence to the contrary, that Trump is a Russian intelligence asset who peed on Barack Obama’s bed, and who is going to set fire to the Capitol building, declare himself American Hitler, and start rounding up and murdering the Jews.

I don’t know where these feelings come from. If you challenged me, I probably couldn’t really support them with any, like, actual facts or anything, at least not in any kind of rational way. Being an introspective sort of person, I do sometimes wonder if maybe my feelings are the result of all the propaganda and relentless psychological and emotional conditioning that the ruling classes and the corporate media have subjected me to since the day I was born, and that influential people in my social circle have repeated, over and over again, in such a manner as to make it clear that contradicting their views would be extremely unwelcome, and might negatively impact my social status, and my prospects for professional advancement.

Take my loathing of Assange, for example. I feel like I can’t even write a column condemning his arrest and extradition without gratuitously mocking or insulting the man. When I try to, I feel this sudden fear of being denounced as a “Trump-loving Putin-Nazi,” and a “Kremlin-sponsored rape apologist,” and unfriended by all my Facebook friends. Worse, I get this sickening feeling that unless I qualify my unqualified support for freedom of press, and transparency, and so on, with some sort of vicious, vindictive remark about the state of Assange’s body odor, and how he’s probably got cooties, or has pooped his pants, or some other childish and sadistic taunt, I can kiss any chance I might have had of getting published in a respectable publication goodbye.

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Because then they would have to prove it.

Why Isn’t Assange Charged With ‘Collusion With Russia’? (Andrew McCarthy)

So . . . I have a few questions. First, why was there no Sanders-Russia probe? Why, when President Obama directed John Brennan, his hyper-political CIA director, to rush out a report on Russia’s influence operations, did we not hear about the WikiLeaks-Russia objective of helping Sanders win the Democratic nomination? Brennan & Co. couldn’t tell us enough about our intelligence-agency mind readers’ confidence that Putin was rootin’ for Trump. Why nothing about the conspirators’ Feelin’ the Bern? Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think there is any basis for a criminal investigation of Senator Sanders.

But there appears to have been no criminal predicate for a “collusion” investigation of Donald Trump, either — not a shred of public evidence that he conspired in the Putin regime’s hacking, other than that presented in the Clinton-campaign-sponsored Steele dossier (if you can call that “evidence” — though even Christopher Steele admits it’s not). Yet, Trump was subjected to an investigation for more than two years — on the gossamer-light theory that Trump stood to benefit from Moscow’s perfidy. Yes, of course, this cui bono claim was amplified by what were said to be Trump’s intriguing, if noncriminal, ties to Russia.

To my knowledge, however, the mythical pee tape of Steele lore has never been located; it is unlikely, then, that there are any Trump photos that compare, intrigue-wise, to a shirtless Bernie boozing it up in the Soviet Union. Surely that should have been worth a FISA warrant or four. A more serious question: Why hasn’t Assange been indicted for criminal collusion with the Kremlin — the same hacking conspiracy for which Mueller indicted the Russian operatives with whom Mueller says Assange collaborated? The same conspiracy for which the president of the United States, though not guilty, was under the FBI’s microscope for nearly three years?

The most striking thing about the Assange indictment that the Justice Department did file is how thin it is, and how tenuous. Leaping years backwards, ignoring “collusion with Russia,” prosecutors allege a single cyber-theft count: a conspiracy between Assange and then–Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning to steal U.S. defense secrets. This lone charge is punishable by as little as no jail time and a maximum sentence of just five years’ imprisonment (considerably less than the seven years Assange spent holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid prosecution).

This is very peculiar. Manning, Assange’s co-conspirator, has already been convicted of multiple felony violations of the espionage act — serious crimes that the Assange indictment says WikiLeaks helped Manning commit . . . but which the Justice Department has not charged against Assange. Why? Probably because espionage charges are time-barred. Which brings us to the possibility — perhaps even the likelihood — that Assange will never see the inside of an American courtroom.

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Who’s going to sue the politicians responsible?

Assange Suffered Severe Psychological And Physical Harm – Doctors (IC)

In an April 8 letter sent to both U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and Dunja Mijatovic, the commissioner for human rights for the Council of Europe, Crosby added that during her February visit to the embassy, the conditions of Assange’s confinement had significantly worsened since her first visit in 2017. Her letter noted the severe psychological toll Assange suffered in his prolonged and indefinite confinement. “Mr. Assange’s situation [inside the embassy] differs from a typical prisoner in a conventional prison,” she wrote in her letter. “In fact, his position is worse than a conventional prison in many respects. His confinement is indefinite and uncertain, which increases chronic stress and its myriad of chronic physical and serious psychological risks, including suicide.”

During seven years of confinement, Assange had suffered “a number of serious deleterious effects of sunlight deprivation,” she wrote, including “neuropsychological impairment, weakened bones, decreased immune function, and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer.” He also displayed physical and psychological symptoms as a result of “prolonged social isolation and sensory deprivation.” “I believe the psychological, physical, and social [aftereffects] will be long-lasting and severe,” Crosby wrote.Assange was expelled from the Ecuadorian Embassy and arrested by British authorities on April 11, three days after her letter was sent to the U.N. and the Council of Europe. [..] Crosby wrote in her letter to the U.N. and the Council of Europe that Assange suffered from “multiple medical conditions” that had become “more complex and urgent” over the two years she had evaluated him.

“He has no ability to access necessary medical care, and he does not have access to the outdoors and sunlight. Even minimum standards for prisoners dictate at least one hour of sunlight daily and access to natural light.” While the British government and Assange’s many critics say that it was his choice to stay in the embassy, Crosby argues that Assange was denied the fundamental right to health care that should have been afforded to him as a refugee.In her April 8 letter, Crosby wrote that the “highest priority” for Assange’s medical care was his “critical need for an oral surgery procedure,” adding that “the severe daily pain” from his dental condition is “inhumane.” She had consulted with a dentist who had examined Assange, she wrote, and learned that the dental surgery could not be performed in the embassy. In her letter, Crosby says that the British government had repeatedly rejected requests to give Assange safe passage to a hospital for treatment.

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Jim illustrates the demise of Slate.

Useful Idiots on Parade (Kunstler)

There is probably a good reason that US government authorities did not essay to make Mr. Assange a witness on-the-record: because his testimony would have prevented Mr. Mueller from bringing his bullshit charges against the Russian internet trolls he indicted — who will never have to come to trial in the USA in any case, and thus never refute The Narrative so earnestly promoted by the Mueller team — until it all fell apart on March 24. But these are not terms that the Slate Political Gabfest chose to follow in their analysis of Julian Assange and his activities. Rather we got the following, transcribed verbatim:


Bazelon: “Assange is so detestable it’s really tempting to get as far away from him as possible. One look at him and I feel that way about him.” Plotz: “Do you think Joe Biden would get a little handsy with him?” Bazelon: “He’s far creepier.” Dickerson: “You don’t find that Dickensian beard alluring?” Bazelon: “It’s awful. But I always thought he was clean-shaven yucky.” Such are the Deep Thoughts of America’s leading Wokester political analysts. One also might ask why Mr. Assange has not been charged by the US with espionage, if that’s what their beef with him really is. In the meantime, behold the disgraceful episode of American journalists pimping for the leviathan state’s privilege to suppress the free flow of news and their own freedom of the press. Imagine them subjecting Daniel Ellsberg to such a hazing.

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I miss Dmitry.

Respecting the Other (Dmitry Orlov)

One of my old friends’ father was at one time something of a Cold Warrior: he did something or other for the US defense establishment—nuclear submarine-related, if I recall correctly. This work activity apparently led him to develop a particularly virulent form of Russophobia; not so much a phobia as a pronounced loathing of all things Russian. According to my friend, her father would compulsively talk about Russia in overly negative terms. He would also sneeze a lot (allergies, perhaps), and she said that it was often difficult for her to distinguish his sneezes from his use of the word “Russia” as an expletive. But perhaps she was trying to draw a distinction without a difference: her father was allergic to Russia, his allergy caused him to sneeze a lot and also to develop a touch of Tourette’s, thus his sneezes came out sounding like “Russia!”

What had caused him to develop such a jaundiced view of Russia? The reason is easy to guess: his work activity on behalf of the government forced him to focus closely on what his superiors labeled as “the Russian threat.” Unfolded a bit, it would no doubt turn out that what Russia threatened was Americans’ self-generated fiction of overwhelming military superiority. Unlike the United States, which had developed any number of plans to destroy the Soviet Union (of which nothing ever came due to said lack of overwhelming military superiority) the Soviet Union had never developed any such plans. And this was utterly infuriating to certain people in the US. Was this truly necessary, or was this an accident?

We could take into account geopolitical, military or economic considerations, consider the (no longer relevant) clash of socialist vs. capitalist ideologies or any number of other irrelevancies. Or we could find hints of what’s really behind this syndrome from certain efforts to combat it. Consider this lyrics from Sting’s 1985 debut solo album “The Dream of Blue Turtles.” Sting sang soulfully: “I hope the Russians love their children too.” From what mystical source sprang Sting’s forlorn hope? That the Russians may be a race of soulless automatons hell-bent on wanton destruction of all life on Earth, but that perhaps there is just a tiny streak of humanity running through their character—they love their children too—and that it will hold them back? Sting’s Russia is almost pure evil, but not quite, and a tiny speck of goodness is what keeps the world balanced on the edge of destruction.

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The Fed should do no such thing; it should close its doors before there’s no economy left.

Fed’s Rosengren Says Central Bank Should Target An Inflation Range (R.)

The U.S. Federal Reserve should shore up its ability to fight economic downturns by committing to let inflation run above 2% “in good times,” a top policymaker said on Monday. The comments by Eric Rosengren, president of the Boston Fed, echoed remarks made earlier in the day by another Fed policymaker who cited the U.S. economy’s falling a bit short on the central bank’s inflation target as a problem. The Fed’s preferred inflation measure, the core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, is currently at 1.8%. Rosengren said he supports an approach that would see the Fed, which is “forced to accept” inflation below its 2% target during recessions, commit to achieve above-2% inflation “in good times.” Policymakers, for instance, could target a range of 1.5-2.5%.


“My own preference would be an inflation range,” because hitting the current target will only get harder with rates as low as they are, Rosengren said at Davidson College in North Carolina. “Even though we’re only missing by a little bit it actually does matter if you miss by a little bit on a regular basis.” The remarks come ahead of a broad policy review being conducted by the Fed this year. How the Fed meets its inflation target is one of the key topics. The president of the Chicago Fed, Charles Evans, said earlier on Monday that the U.S. central bank should embrace inflation above its target half the time and consider cutting rates if prices do not rise as fast as expected.

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What I always like most about this is the Brits’ defence is they bought them legally from an occupying force.

Free Our Marbles From British Museum’s ‘Murky Prison’ – Greek President (R.)

Greece’s president called on Monday for Britain to free the Parthenon marbles from the “murky prison” of its national museum, upping the rhetoric in a near 200-year-old campaign for the sculptures’ return. President Prokopis Pavlopoulos spoke at Athens’ own glass-fronted Acropolis Museum, which campaigners hope will one day house the classical reliefs and figures taken by a British diplomat in the early nineteenth century. “Let the British Museum come here and make the comparison between this (Acropolis) museum of light and the murky, if I may say, prison of the British Museum where the Parthenon Marbles are held as trophies,” Pavlopoulos said. There was no immediate response from the British Museum.


Britain’s Lord Elgin removed the 2,500-year-old sculptures from the Acropolis temple in Athens during a period when Greece was under Ottoman rule. They have been placed in a gallery inside the British Museum in London, lit by a long skylight. Greece has repeatedly requested their return since its independence in 1832, and stepped up its campaign in 2009 when it opened its new museum at the foot of the Acropolis hill. That building holds the sculptures that Elgin left behind alongside plaster casts of the missing pieces, lit by the sun coming through a glass wall looking over the original site. “This museum can host the Marbles,” Pavlopoulos said. “We are fighting a holy battle for a monument which is unique.” The British Museum has refused to return the sculptures, saying they were acquired by Elgin under a legal contract with the Ottoman empire.

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How much plastic is there inside of you?

Winds Carry Microplastics Even On To Remote Mountaintops (G.)

Microplastic is raining down on even remote mountaintops, a new study has revealed, with winds having the capacity to carry the pollution “anywhere and everywhere”. The scientists were astounded by the quantities of microplastic falling from the sky in a supposedly pristine place such as the French stretch of the Pyrenees mountains. Researchers are now finding microplastics everywhere they look; in rivers, the deepest oceans and soils around the world. Other recent studies have found microplastics in farmland soils near Shanghai, China, in the Galápagos Islands, a Unesco world heritage site, and in rivers in the Czech Republic.

Humans and other animals are known to consume the tiny plastic particles via food and water, but the potential health effects on people and ecosystems are as yet unknown. However the ubiquity of the pollution means it needs to be taken very seriously, said Steve Allen, at the EcoLab research institute near Toulouse and who led the new work in the Pyrenees: “If it is going to be a problem, it is going to be a very big problem. I don’t think there is an organism on Earth that is immune to this.” About 335m tonnes of plastic is produced each year – while it degrades extremely slowly, it can be broken into smaller and smaller pieces.

Microplastic pollution in rivers and oceans is now well known but just two previous studies have looked at its presence in the air, one in Paris, France, and another in Dongguan, China. Both found a steady fall of particles. The new study, published in Nature Communications, is the first to show microplastic is raining down just as hard in remote environments and that it can travel across significant distances through wind. The team collected samples from high altitudes in the Pyrenees that were far from sources of plastic waste – the nearest village was 6km away, the nearest town 25km, and the nearest city 120km.

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Apr 052019
 


Jack Delano Diner along U.S. Highway No. 1 near Berwyn, Maryland 1940

 

WikiLeaks Says Assange to Be Expelled Within ‘Hours to Days’ (TeleSur)
Barr Defends His Summary Of Mueller Report, And The Delay (AP)
Boeing Admits ANOTHER Glitch In 737 MAX Software (RT)
WTO Rules Against US And Boeing In Mammoth Trade Row With EU (DW)
Rising Risk Of US And China Housing Slump Causing Recession – IMF (G.)
Theresa May To Make Written Brexit Offer To Jeremy Corbyn (G.)
EU’s Donald Tusk ‘Suggests Flexible Brexit Delay’ (BBC)
Angela Merkel Promises To Back Ireland In Avoiding Hard Border (G.)
Currency-Trading Algos “Flummoxed” by Rapid-Fire Brexit Headlines (WS)
Marine Plastic Pollution Costs The World Up To $2.5 Billion A Year (G.)
Great Barrier Reef Suffers 89% Collapse In New Coral (G.)
Bavaria To Pass ‘Save The Bees’ Petition Into Law In Landmark Move (G.)
Attenborough’s First Act As An Eco-Warrior (G.)

 

 

Sad sad day. Time to pray.

WikiLeaks Says Assange to Be Expelled Within ‘Hours to Days’ (TeleSur)

Julian Assange will be expelled from the Ecuadorean embassy in London, England within “hours to days,” high-ranking Ecuadorean state officials told WikiLeaks. Acording to reports, an agreement between the United Kingdom and the South American nation has been reached regarding Assange’s imminent arrest. The Ina Papers offshore scandal will be used as a pretext, WikiLeaks says.Earlier this week, Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno argued that WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, has “repeatedly violated” the terms of his asylum in the embassy and that he will “make a decision in the short term.”

Ecuador’s head of state, interviewed by the local Radio Broadcasters’ Association, said Assange does not have the right to “hack private accounts or phones” and cannot intervene in the politics of other countries, especially those that have friendly relations with Ecuador. The Wikileaks founder accepted political asylum in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sex crimes, which have been dropped. However, in the last two years, ever since Moreno took office, a new set of draconian measures have reduced his fundamental rights, in regards to freedom of speech, visits and movement inside the diplomatic mission.

Assange, who was granted Ecuadoran citizenship in December 2017, legally cannot be extradited as Article 25 of Ecuador’s 2008 constitution forbids extradition of nationals. Yet he has denounced attempts, influenced by U.S. pressure, to strip him of this right. A United Nations Special Rapporteur on Privacy is due to visit Assange on Wednesday to investigate Ecuador’s spying on the activist. Ecuador filed a complaint with the rapporteur Monday denouncing WikiLeaks and others for reporting on the INA Papers offshore scandal engulfing its president.

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Just because the losers are sore, he has to defend himself?

Barr Defends His Summary Of Mueller Report, And The Delay (AP)

Attorney General William Barr on Thursday defended his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation, saying the confidential document contains sensitive grand jury material that prevented it from being immediately released to the public. The statement came as Barr confronts concerns that his four-page letter summarizing Mueller’s conclusions unduly sanitized the full report in President Donald Trump’s favor, including on the key question of whether the president obstructed justice. House Democrats on Wednesday approved subpoenas for Mueller’s entire report and any exhibits and other underlying evidence that the Justice Department might withhold.

The disparity in length between Barr’s letter and Mueller’s full report, which totals nearly 400 pages, raises the likelihood of additional significant information that was put forward by the special counsel’s office but not immediately shared by the attorney general. In Thursday’s statement, Barr defended the decision to release a brief summary letter two days after receiving the report on March 22. He has previously said he did not believe it would be in the public’s interest to release the full document in piecemeal or gradual fashion, and that he did not intend for his letter summarizing Mueller’s “principal conclusions” to be an “exhaustive recounting” of the special counsel’s investigation.

Barr is now expected to release the entire report, with redactions, by mid-April. “Given the extraordinary public interest in the matter, the Attorney General decided to release the report’s bottom-line findings and his conclusions immediately — without attempting to summarize the report — with the understanding that the report itself would be released after the redaction process,” the Justice Department statement said. The statement also said that every page of Mueller’s report was marked that it may contain grand jury material “and therefore could not immediately be released.”

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Boeing wants you to believe it’s about software. The media helps. “It’s just a little coding error, and we’re real sorry for it, but we’ll fix it in no time.” It’s a narrative, carefully constructed.

Boeing Admits ANOTHER Glitch In 737 MAX Software (RT)

After a report on the fatal crash of Ethiopian Airlines blamed a 737 MAX software error, Boeing reportedly revealed a second glitch. The “relatively minor” but still critical problem will delay 737s returning to service. In a report on last month’s crash that killed all 157 on board of the ill-fated airliner, Ethiopia blamed Boeing’s MCAS software that caused the jet to nosedive. On Thursday, Boeing confirmed to the Washington Post that it had found another software problem. The problem affects flaps and other flight stabilization hardware, according to two unnamed Federal Aviation Administration officials cited by the Post. The FAA has classified it as critical to flight safety and ordered a fix.


It will take weeks for the problem to be patched, meaning that the 737 Max fleet will remain grounded for the foreseeable future. Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 plunged into a field shortly after takeoff in early March. Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610 nosedived into the sea last October, killing all 189 passengers and crew. Investigators noted “clear similarities” between both accidents. On Thursday, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg offered condolences for “lives lost” and said the company was “relentlessly focused on safety to ensure tragedies like this never happen again.” The Ethiopian government report said the crew of Flight 302 “had performed all the procedures, repeatedly, provided by [Boeing], but was not able to control the aircraft.”

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“.. the EU was also failing to stop its own illegal subsidies for Europe’s Airbus..”

WTO Rules Against US And Boeing In Mammoth Trade Row With EU (DW)

US aerospace giant Boeing has received unfair tax breaks in the US state of Washington, an appellate panel in the WTO ruled on Thursday. The tax break of some $100 million annually harmed the sales of Boeing’s European rival Airbus, according to the WTO officials. The decision, which is not subject to appeal, opens the way for the EU to claim billions in damages. The damages are estimated based on the negative impact of the subsidies and not the subsidy itself. EU trade officials described the ruling as a “final victory” in the 15-year-long dispute. “The Appellate Body has now settled this case definitively, confirming our view the US has continued to subsidise Boeing despite WTO rulings to the contrary,” European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in a statement.


However, a 2018 ruling by the WTO already found that the EU was also failing to stop its own illegal subsidies for Europe’s Airbus. Washington has since claimed an unspecified amount in damages and a WTO mediator is still examining this claim. The EU and the US have traded accusations on illegally subsidizing their respective aircraft manufacturers since 2004. The alleged subsidies vary from tax breaks and government research and development funding, to state issued loans, as both sides seek to give their companies a leg up in the global rivalry. In 2011, the WTO found that Boeing received $5.3 billion in illegal subsidies between 1989 and 2006. The verdict was confirmed in 2012. In late 2016, the WTO found some US subsidies have continued despite the global body declaring them illegal, and the Thursday verdict confirmed this decision.

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A China housing slump. Now that’s dangerous.

Rising Risk Of US And China Housing Slump Causing Recession – IMF (G.)

A growing number of homes in the US and China are teetering on the brink of a price slump that would drag their economies into a recession, the International Monetary Fund has warned. Using the latest evidence from global housing markets, the Washington-based organisation said there was a clear increase in the risk of a housing price collapse in both countries after years of ultra-low interest rates and loose lending by financial institutions. Ahead of its annual meeting next week, the IMF’s research showed a strong connection between falling house prices and declines in activity across the economy between 1990 and 2017, illustrating the power of housing markets to trigger wider slumps in GDP growth.


It follows similar concerns from US economists that the global recovery has been running out of steam since 2008 and slowdowns in the US and Chinese economies are likely to undermine worldwide growth. Recent falls in housing activity and relatively high long-term borrowing rates have also been seen as signals of a recession, possibly as soon as next year, in the US. Blackrock, the world’s largest fund manager, told investors that traders were becoming increasingly worried about the potential for a recession in the US. Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, said this week that rising trade tensions, concerns about Brexit and tougher financial conditions as central banks raised interest rates had “increasingly unsettled” the global economy over recent months.

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Yada yada.

Theresa May To Make Written Brexit Offer To Jeremy Corbyn (G.)

Theresa May is expected to write to Jeremy Corbyn to set out the government’s offer on Brexit, with negotiations due to resume in Downing Street on Friday. With just five days to go before the prime minister must travel to Brussels to request a further Brexit delay from EU leaders, little progress appears to have been made on finding a compromise deal both Labour and the Conservatives can back. But after the government delegation reported back to May on Thursday, officials began drafting a letter setting out a way forward. One government source suggested that, in accordance with Labour’s demands, it would include the proposal that a confirmatory referendum on any Brexit deal be offered to MPs as an option in any vote next week.


After Thursday’s discussions in Downing Street, Corbyn sent a note to Labour MPs, saying: “Agenda items were customs arrangements, single market alignment including rights and protections, agencies and programmes, internal security, legal underpinning to any agreements and confirmatory vote.” Technical talks lasted four and a half hours, but both sides emerged cautious about how much progress had been made. [..] A deal including a customs union would be explosive in the Conservative party as the majority of Tory MPs oppose such a move. Hardline Eurosceptic MPs are still furious, with many plotting moves against the prime minister, despite there being no formal Conservative party mechanism to move a motion of no confidence in her until December.

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They’re going to be in the European elections.

EU’s Donald Tusk ‘Suggests Flexible Brexit Delay’ (BBC)

European Council President Donald Tusk is proposing to offer the UK a 12-month “flexible” extension to its Brexit date, according to a senior EU source. His plan would allow the UK to leave sooner if Parliament ratifies a deal, but it would need to be agreed by EU leaders at a summit next week. The UK’s Conservatives and Labour Party are set to continue Brexit talks later. Attorney General Geoffrey Cox has told the BBC that if they fail, the delay is “likely to be a long one”. The UK is due to leave the EU on 12 April and, as yet, no withdrawal deal has been approved by MPs. Downing Street said “technical” talks between Labour and the Conservatives on Thursday had been “productive” and would continue on Friday.


Prime Minister Theresa May has said a further postponement to the Brexit date is needed if the UK is to avoid leaving the EU without a deal, a scenario both EU leaders and many British MPs believe would create problems for businesses and cause difficulties at ports. However, the PM wants to keep any delay as short as possible. To do that, she and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would need to agree a proposal for MPs to vote on before 10 April, when EU leaders are expected to consider any extension request at an emergency summit. If they cannot, Mrs May has said a number of options would be put to MPs “to determine which course to pursue”.

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The de facto European president hasn’t said much for a long time.

Angela Merkel Promises To Back Ireland In Avoiding Hard Border (G.)

Angela Merkel has pledged the European Union’s support for averting a hard border on the island of Ireland despite concern this could undermine the single market in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The German chancellor expressed solidarity with the Irish government in a visit to Dublin on Thursday and urged the UK to present a viable plan to avert crashing out of the EU next week. Asked if averting a border was compatible with protecting the single market, Merkel told a press conference: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way … we simply have to do this, we simply have to be successful.” The chancellor was speaking after meeting the Irish taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and a group of people from Northern Ireland and the border area who told of lives and livelihoods lost during the Troubles.


Merkel said the stories moved her. “I lived behind the Iron Curtain, so I know only too well what it means once borders vanish … what I have heard here will encourage me to explore ways and means to continue the peaceful co-existence.” Speaking at a joint press conference with Varadkar, the chancellor said Germany and the EU would consider an extension request to help the UK avoid a no-deal departure. “We need to be patient and understanding of the predicament that they are in. But of course, any further extension must require and must have a credible and realistic way forward.” She said she hoped Theresa May would be able to table a proposal by next Wednesday at a special European Council meeting. “We want to stand together as 27. Until the very last hour – I can say this from the German side – we will do everything in order to prevent a no-deal Brexit.”

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Brexit: Just like Waiting for Godot, but still faster than robots.

Currency-Trading Algos “Flummoxed” by Rapid-Fire Brexit Headlines (WS)

The drama of Brexit with all its arcane details of UK parliamentary procedures and rarely noted characters that suddenly appear prominently on the global stage and utter market-moving words has turned into a complicated mess that is generating too many rapid-fire headlines per day, often in a whiplash manner, and news-reading currency-trading algos haven’t been programmed for this and are overwhelmed. Bloomberg has published more than 1,000 Brexit headlines a day “on some days,” and Reuters “up to 400” Brexit headlines a day, according to a Reuters report. Other news outlets and wire services together also publish hundreds of headlines a day.


News-reading FX algos are programmed to react to all that instantly, but they don’t know what the next 10 Brexit stories over the next few moments are going to be, and that might put the trade on the wrong side of the next headline. Artificial Intelligence isn’t quite ready yet to sort all this out. Reuters describes it this way: As a divided government battles a divided parliament over a way forward, the chorus of characters who can now influence events has grown, flummoxing news-reading algorithms, or ‘algos’, which are designed to parse phrases from recognized speakers before executing a trade. “The model signals are more quantitative driven and rely on historical data feeds,” said Neil Jones, head of hedge fund currency sales at Mizuho in London. “Brexit headlines have thrown a spanner in their works for the sheer number of characters moving the currency on a daily basis.”

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Sounds like a nonsense number to me. Try a hundred times that for starters.

Marine Plastic Pollution Costs The World Up To $2.5 Billion A Year (G.)

Plastic pollution in the world’s oceans costs society billions of dollars every year in damaged and lost resources, research has found. Fisheries, aquaculture, recreational activities and global wellbeing are all negatively affected by plastic pollution, with an estimated 1-5% decline in the benefit humans derive from oceans. The resulting cost in such benefits, known as marine ecosystem value, is up to $2.5bn a year, according to a study published this week in Marine Pollution Bulletin. Plastic waste is also believed to cost up to $33,000 per ton in reduced environmental value, the study found. An estimated 8m tons of plastic pollution enter the world’s oceans every year.

Dr Nicola Beaumont, an environmental economist at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, who led the study, said the investigation was the first of its kind to explore the social and economic impact of plastics in the sea. “Our calculations are a first stab at ‘putting a price on plastic’. We know we have to do more research to refine, but we are convinced that already they are an underestimate of the real costs to global human society,” said Beaumont. The estimates do not take into account the direct and indirect impacts on the tourism, transport and fisheries industries, or on human health, the authors warned.

Plastic waste can be found all over the world – from the most populated coastlines to the most remote – and its impact on zooplankton, invertebrates, fish, turtles, birds and mammals is all negative, the study found. But authors discovered that plastics – which can remain buoyant for decades or longer, travelling distances of more than 3,000km from origin – create new habitats for bacteria and algae. These “colonies” increase the biogeographical range of bacteria and algae, thereby risking the spread of invasive species and disease, the research found.


A crab stuck in plastic in Verde Island Passage, Batangas City, Philippines. Photograph: Noel Guevara/Greenpeace/EPA

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No coral babies. Komodo island was closed to tourists, do the same for the Great Barrier.

Great Barrier Reef Suffers 89% Collapse In New Coral (G.)

The number of new corals on the Great Barrier Reef crashed by 89% after the climate change-induced mass bleaching of 2016 and 2017. Scientists have measured how many adult corals survived along the length of the world’s largest reef system and how many new corals they produced in 2018 in the aftermath of severe heat stress and coral mortality.The results, published in Nature, show not only a dramatic reduction in new coral recruitment compared with historic levels, but also a change in the types of coral species produced.


The paper’s lead author, coral scientist Terry Hughes from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, said the results paint an uncertain picture for the reef in years to come if further bleaching events occur before corals have time to sufficiently recover – which typically takes a decade. “We’ve told the story of coral dying, we’ve told the story of some being winners and losers. Now we’ve got the next phase where species have a chance to recover,” Hughes said. “But what we’re seeing is that it’s happening a lot slower because we only have 10% of the babies.”

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Germans like their nature.

Bavaria To Pass ‘Save The Bees’ Petition Into Law In Landmark Move (G.)

Bavaria has announced that it will pass into law a popular “save the bees” petition that promises drastic changes in farming practices – without putting it to a referendum first. The landmark move comes amid increasingly alarming warnings from scientists that nearly half of all insect species are in rapid decline – a third of the crucial pollinators threatened with extinction. The petition launched in February to seek better protection of plant and animal species had become the most successful in the southern German region’s history, garnering 1.75m signatures. The proposal set a target for 20% of agricultural land to meet organic farming standards by 2025, before reaching 30% by 2030. 10% of green spaces in Bavaria would have to be turned into flowering meadows, and rivers and streams better protected from pesticides and fertilisers.


Rather than putting the petition to a referendum, Bavaria’s state premier, Markus Söder, announced it would simply be written into law, passing through parliament. “We are taking the text of the referendum word for word,” said Söder, leader of the conservative CSU party which governs the state in a coalition majority. The farming industry, which had sometimes felt marginalised in the environmental debate, would have to be given support to carry out the transformation, he added. Scientists in Germany and worldwide have sounded the alarm about massive insect losses in terms of species diversity and total biomass, with dire consequences for the animals that feed on them and for plants that require them for pollination.

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“..the herd we are watching is 70% smaller than it was 20 years ago.”

Attenborough’s First Act As An Eco-Warrior (G.)

It looks as spectacular as you would expect. Vast aerial sweeps across the Peruvian coast as millions of cormorants and boobies gather to feast on anchovies and breed, or across frozen tundra to watch herds of wildebeest head for the shelter of the forest in temperatures 40 degrees below freezing take your breath away. Then it catches in your throat, as you watch an orchid bee, in search of perfume to attract a mate, fall into a flower’s buckety petal and squeeze out of a tiny tunnel that deposits two sacks of pollen on its back; just as God, or a million years of evolutionary adjustments, intended. On every scale, it is amazing. You can only boggle at the endless precision of the natural world, and of the people who devote themselves to capturing its wonders.


This is Netflix’s first foray into nature programming – Our Planet, an eight-part, multimillion-dollar series, filmed by more than 600 crew members over four years in 50 countries and narrated by our very own David Attenborough. Produced largely by the team behind the BBC’s Planet Earth and Blue Planet, it looks very much like what they might have done next for Auntie if the Natural History Unit had given them their druthers (and Netflix’s budget). As with Planet Earth, it takes a different landscape every episode and fills the screen with incredible scenes. Lesser flamingos building mud mounds for their eggs and hatching thousands of chicks in unison. Eagles in combat in the air. Three of the 60 species of manakin birds doing their mating dances, each more jaw-droppingly complex than the last.


Just as God, or a million years of evolutionary adjustments, intended … an orchid bee. Photograph: Warwick Sloss/Silverback/Netflix

The routine from the blue manakin – which involves four birds who practise beforehand, with a juvenile male standing in for the prospective lady – will have you revising your own sexual decision-making. You’ll not be charmed by a pint and a compliment again, I assure you. Where it differs from BBC shows is in no longer ignoring or minimising the threats facing all the environments and animals on display. Hamstrung by the idea that any mention of eco-problems would make audiences switch off, and the broadcasters’ preferred strategy of hoping that sharing incredible sights around the world would inspire people to save them, nature programming has been taken to task for avoiding the issue, and not using their power to raise awareness of the dangers facing us all. Contextless stories don’t inspire us to change, after all; they just allow us to continue in our comfortable, fatal state of denial.


[..] Netflix has stolen their thunder by procuring his first outing as an in-yer-face eco-warrior. Our Planet places clearer emphasis on the fragility and interconnectedness of all the species and eco-systems on display, and on the huge impact humanity has had on them in so short a time. “In one human lifetime,” says Attenborough in the opening minutes, “wildlife populations have fallen by an average of 60%. The stability of nature can no longer be taken for granted.” Towards the end of the wildebeest scenes, he cuts the ground from under us by noting that the herd we are watching is 70% smaller than it was 20 years ago.


TV that may leave you jackknifing in pain … the wildebeest migration in Tanzania. Photograph: Sophie Lanfear/Silverback/Netflix

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Mar 182019
 


Albert Gleizes The football players 1912-13

 

How Boeing, FAA Certified The Suspect 737 MAX Flight Control System (ST)
Boeing’s Doomed 737 Max’s (Margolis)
The EU Has Never Had More Power Over Britain (G.)
Dutch PM Compares Theresa May To Monty Python Limbless Knight (G.)
100,000 Children in UK ‘Could Become Undocumented’ Overnight After Brexit (G.)
‘Pupil Poverty’ Pressure On School Cash (BBC)
With Brexit Approaching UK’s Voice In Brussels Grows Quiet (G.)
Smartphone Shipments In China Collapse To Six Year Low (ZH)
Apartment Values Tipped To Plunge As Much As 50% In Some Sydney Areas (DM)
Ultra Low Wage Growth The Intended Outcome Of Government Policies (Quiggin)
Deutsche Bank And Commerzbank Go Public On Merger Talks (R.)
Saudi Crown Prince Allegedly Stripped Of Some Authority (G.)
Dead Whale Washed Up In Philippines Had 40kg Of Plastic Bags In Stomach (G.)

 

 

As I said on March 15: “If I were New Zealand’s government, and Australia’s, I’d say this is not the time for the countries’ white populations to speak. Let the Maori do the talking instead. It’s their land.”

 

 

Maybe not the kind of thing we should want to be swept under the carpet. But don’t underestimate Boeing’s political power. A series of tweets from a pilot and software engineer sheds a lot of light on what happened with the 737-MAX: one corner cut led automatically to the next one being cut. Until there were no more corners left. Dominoes. Zero Hedge has that series here.

Mike -Mish- Shedlock adds this: “If the above analysis by Trevor Sumner is correct, the planes were too complicated to fly because Boeing cut corners to save money, then did not even have the decency to deliver them with needed warning lights and operation instructions. There may be grounds for a criminal investigation here, not just civil. Regardless, Boeing’s decision to appeal to Trump to not ground the planes is morally reprehensible at best. Trump made the right call on this one, grounding the planes, albeit under international pressure. [..] By the way, if the timelines presented are correct, the FAA got in bed with Boeing, under Obama.”

How Boeing, FAA Certified The Suspect 737 MAX Flight Control System (ST)

As Boeing hustled in 2015 to catch up to Airbus and certify its new 737 MAX, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) managers pushed the agency’s safety engineers to delegate safety assessments to Boeing itself, and to speedily approve the resulting analysis. But the original safety analysis that Boeing delivered to the FAA for a new flight control system on the MAX — a report used to certify the plane as safe to fly — had several crucial flaws. That flight control system, called MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), is now under scrutiny after two crashes of the jet in less than five months resulted in Wednesday’s FAA order to ground the plane.

Current and former engineers directly involved with the evaluations or familiar with the document shared details of Boeing’s “System Safety Analysis” of MCAS, which The Seattle Times confirmed. The safety analysis: • Understated the power of the new flight control system, which was designed to swivel the horizontal tail to push the nose of the plane down to avert a stall. When the planes later entered service, MCAS was capable of moving the tail more than four times farther than was stated in the initial safety analysis document. • Failed to account for how the system could reset itself each time a pilot responded, thereby missing the potential impact of the system repeatedly pushing the airplane’s nose downward. •Assessed a failure of the system as one level below “catastrophic.” But even that “hazardous” danger level should have precluded activation of the system based on input from a single sensor — and yet that’s how it was designed.

The people who spoke to The Seattle Times and shared details of the safety analysis all spoke on condition of anonymity to protect their jobs at the FAA and other aviation organizations. Both Boeing and the FAA were informed of the specifics of this story and were asked for responses 11 days ago, before the second crash of a 737 MAX last Sunday. Late Friday, the FAA said it followed its standard certification process on the MAX. Citing a busy week, a spokesman said the agency was “unable to delve into any detailed inquiries.” Boeing responded Saturday with a statement that “the FAA considered the final configuration and operating parameters of MCAS during MAX certification, and concluded that it met all certification and regulatory requirements.”

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Nice story, but he seeks to blame Trump instead of the FAA, and that doesn’t go anywhere.

Boeing’s Doomed 737 Max’s (Margolis)

I don’t like flying. I consider it unnatural, unhealthy and fraught with peril. But I do it all the time. For me, it’s either fly or take an ox cart. In fact, I’ve been flying since I was six years old – from New York to Paris on a lumbering Boeing Stratocruiser, a converted, double-decker WWII B-29 heavy bomber. I even had a sleeping berth. So much for progress. Lots can go wrong in the air. Modern aircraft have thousands of obscure parts. If any one of them malfunctions, the aircraft can be crippled or crash. Add pilot error, dangerous weather, air traffic control mistakes, mountains where they are not supposed to be, air to air collisions, sabotage and hijacking.

I vividly recall flying over the snow-capped Alps in the late 1940’s aboard an old Italian three-motor airliner with its port engine burning, and the Italian crew panicking and crossing themselves. Some years ago, I was on my way to Egypt when we were hijacked by a demented Ethiopian. A three day ordeal ensued that included a return flight to New York City from Germany, with the gunman threatening to crash the A-310 jumbo jet into Wall Street – a grim precursor of 9/11. My father, Henry Margolis, got off a British Comet airliner just before it blew up due to faulty windows.

Which brings me to the current Boeing crisis. After a brand new Boeing 737 Max crashed in Indonesia it seemed highly likely that there was a major problem in its new, invisible autopilot system, known as MCAS. All 737 Max’s flying around the world should have been grounded as a precaution. But America’s aviation authority, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), allowed the Max to keep flying. The FAA is half regulator and half aviation business promoter, a clear conflict of interest. The crash of a new Ethiopian 737 Max outside Addis Ababa under very similar circumstances to the Lion Air accident set off alarm bells around the globe.

Scores of airlines rightly grounded their new Max’s. But the US and Canada did not. The FAA continued to insist the aircraft was sound. The problem, it was hinted between the lines, was incompetent third world pilots. It now appears that America’s would-be emperor, Pilot-in–Chief Donald Trump, may have pressed the FAA to keep the 737 Max’s in the air. Canada, always shy when it comes to disagreeing with Washington, kept the 737 Max’s flying until there was a lot of evidence linking the Indonesia and Ethiopian crashes. Trump finally ordered the suspect aircraft grounded. But doing so was not his business. That’s the job of the FAA. But Trump, as usual, wanted to hog the limelight. By now, the 737 Max ban is just about universal.

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Mess. 11 days left.

The EU Has Never Had More Power Over Britain (G.)

It is easy to assign all the blame to Mrs May, the control freak who lost control. The charge list against her is certainly a lengthy one. She triggered article 50 before her government had an agreed strategy for withdrawal and her senior team then wasted months squabbling with itself rather than advancing the negotiations with the EU. Ignoring advice to the contrary and without advance discussion with her cabinet, she made a prison for herself by laying down red lines that made the negotiations more difficult and set her up for a string of ignominious subsequent reversals. When she threw away her majority at an election she didn’t have to call, she carried on as if nothing had changed rather than trying to reach out to other parties to forge a broad consensus about a way forward.

That made her the hostage of the Democratic Unionist party and the Brexit ultras on the right of her party. Mrs May has one quality that is of value in a political crisis. She has resilience. She lacks all the other ones, such as imagination, advocacy and agility. True, all true, and yet not the whole truth. Any account of this nightmare that holds Mrs May solely culpable is not a complete explanation for how we got here. In a dark corner of what remains of its political brain, the Tory party knows that it is collectively guilty of driving the country it professes to love into this shaming mess. With a few prescient exceptions, the Conservatives all backed David Cameron when he promised a referendum on the cynical basis that he might not have to deliver it and with the arrogant assumption that, if he did have to, he would easily win it.

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“She reminds me occasionally of that character from Monty Python where all the arms and legs are cut off but he then tells the opponent: ‘Let’s call it a draw.’

Dutch PM Compares Theresa May To Monty Python Limbless Knight (G.)

Theresa May is like the knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who loses his arms and legs in a duel and calls it a draw, the Dutch prime minister has said. Mark Rutte, who appeared visibly irritated last week at the failure of MPs to pass the Brexit deal, admitted feeling “angry” at the impasse in Westminster. He said his frustration was focused on the posturing of those seeking to make party political points during a major national crisis but praised May’s “incredible” resilience in the face of repeated knock-backs in the House of Commons. “Look, I have every respect for Theresa May,” Rutte said in an interview with the Dutch broadcaster WNL on Sunday.

“She reminds me occasionally of that character from Monty Python where all the arms and legs are cut off but he then tells the opponent: ‘Let’s call it a draw.’ She’s incredible. She goes on and on. At the same time, I do not blame her, but British politics.” The black knight sketch in the 1975 Monty Python film had John Cleese playing the role of the deluded swordsman who could not admit defeat, even as Graham Chapman’s King Arthur cut off all his limbs. Rutte said of the prime minister’s predicament: “You can see what happens when a country puts everything on the roulette wheel and takes a risk, and the whole thing collapses. That is what is happening. Economic, financial, politically, England is in a very bad position right now.”

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After 40 years of EU membership, the UK stands to plunge into chaos when 1000s of laws and regulations evaporate. Very predictable, but mostly ignored.

100,000 Children in UK ‘Could Become Undocumented’ Overnight After Brexit (G.)

Thousands of children of EU nationals risk becoming a new “Windrush generation”, a children’s legal charity has said. They are concerned that vulnerable children could become undocumented in the same way as the Caribbean children who came to the UK decades ago only to suffer at the hands of the Home Office’s hostile environment decades later. An estimated 900,000 EU national children are in the UK with about 285,000 born in the country. Coram Children’s Legal Centre fears that children in foster care, in care homes, and others from vulnerable families could slip through the net of the new Home Office registration scheme for EU nationals after Brexit.

The Home Office estimates that between 10% and 20% of all applicants will be vulnerable, unable to provide documentary evidence of their time in the UK. “If just 15% of the current population of EU national children fail to ‘regularise’ their status before the cut-off point, 100,000 children would be added to the UK’s undocumented child population overnight, nearly doubling it [the numbers of existing undocumented children],” said Kamena Dorling, group head of policy and public affairs at Coram. About 5,000 children of EU nationals are separated from their parents and are in care and Coram is calling on the government to force local authorities to identify them now in order to get their settled status before the cut-off point in 2020 or 2021.

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Dumb headline from BBC for a very real issue: schools care for poor pupils, and then see their funding cut.

‘Pupil Poverty’ Pressure On School Cash (BBC)

Schools in England are having to “pick up the pieces” for families in poverty, including giving food and clothes to children, head teachers warn. But, they say, that is unsustainable when schools are facing “funding cuts”. Heads will raise their concerns at the Association of School and College Leaders’ (ASCL) annual conference. Education Secretary Damian Hinds will tell the conference he is setting up an expert advisory group to help teachers with “the pressures of the job”. The advisory group, including the mental health charity Mind and teachers’ representatives, will look at ways to improve wellbeing among teachers and to tackle stress. [..]

Edward Conway, head of St Michael’s Catholic High School in Watford, says: “Pupil poverty has increased significantly over the past eight years, with us providing food, clothing, equipment and securing funds from charitable organisations to provide essential items such as beds and fridges.” The head teachers’ union has canvassed the views of school leaders, whose comments include: “When schools have to buy shoes for children to wear to school on a regular basis, we must have a problem.” Another head said: “In 24 years of education, I have not seen the extent of poverty like this. “Children are coming to school hungry, dirty and without the basics to set them up for life. “The gap between those that have and those that do not is rising and is stark.”

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Where Britain is: “sitting in the EU departure lounge.”

With Brexit Approaching UK’s Voice In Brussels Grows Quiet (G.)

For years a British foreign minister has shuttled once a month to Brussels or Luxembourg to meet their European counterparts. The crises of the world have crowded the agenda: from the Arab spring to the annexation of Crimea, coups, stolen elections and intractable wars. Monday, in theory, could be the last time the United Kingdom name plate is on the table. While a Brexit extension is a near-certainty, the official departure date is still 29 March. Uncertainty over exit day requires careful diplomacy. On Monday the British minister will have the chance to weigh in on the EU’s China strategy, ahead of a summit with Beijing on 9 April.

While British officials remain involved in discussions, the UK will hang back on strategic questions about how the EU should approach China. Nobody wants to be seen as lecturing European allies, while sitting in the EU departure lounge. A government spokesperson said: “The UK will continue to take a full part in discussions at the [Foreign Affairs Council], focusing on those issues that matter most to the UK and EU.” Other day-to-day EU business provides a jarring contrast with the government’s Brexit strategy: one of Theresa May’s last acts as an EU leader will be to sign a routine communique on strengthening the single market – the one she insists Britain must leave.

Meanwhile, the UK’s 73 MEPs do not know if they will be out of a job in a fortnight, or in three months. “It is really unsettling, but we are the least people to worry about,” said the Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder, speaking just outside the chamber in Strasbourg under the strident ring of a voting bell. The uncertainty facing MEPs is nothing, she adds, compared with the unknowns confronting business. “A politician’s life is always uncertain, you never know if you are going to come back for the next mandate.”

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Radiation.

Smartphone Shipments In China Collapse To Six Year Low (ZH)

Months after Apple stunned the market by announcing it would no longer be reporting quarterly iPhone unit sales, we have some insight as to the reason. February saw smartphone shipments in China collapse to their lowest levels in six years, indicating that the super-saturated industry has failed to turn around amidst a global economy that is grinding slower. Shipments to China came in at 14.5 million units for February, down 19.9% from last year, according to Reuters, who cited the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology. It’s the lowest total since February 2013.

February is traditionally a tough month for Chinese consumer purchases, as the Chinese spend a majority of the month celebrating the new year. However, this year’s drop was more concentrated than past years, as a result of both a slowing economy and the ongoing U.S./China trade war. When Apple recently cut sales forecasts this year, it blamed China for weighing on its results. To try and stimulate demand, the company paired with China-based Ant Financial to offer interest-free iPhone financing. Other retailers in China have tried similar promos to try and spur demand. This has some manufacturers, like Huawei, looking to corner the higher margin end of the market instead. Huawei saw its market share of China’s $500 to $800 device segment rise to 26.6% from 8.8% in 2018, according to data from Counterpoint Research. Apple, on the other hand, saw its share fall to 54.6% from 81.2%.

As an added bonus, we recently reported on Chinese smartphones also emitting the most radiation of any smartphones worldwide. The current smartphone creating the highest level of radiation is the Mi A1 from Chinese vendor Xiaomi. Another Chinese phone is in second place – the OnePlus 5T. In fact, the two companies are represented heavily in a list of “Phones Emitting the Most Radiation” that was recently released by Statista. 8 of the top 16 handsets being made by one of these two companies. Premium Apple phones, such as the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 8 are also here to be seen, as are the latest Pixel handsets from Google.

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But there’s no bubble.

Apartment Values Tipped To Plunge As Much As 50% In Some Sydney Areas (DM)

Apartment values in Australia’s big cities are set to plunge, with prices in one suburb to plummet as much as 50 per cent according to one industry observer, as Chinese buyers abandon off-the-plan residential tower projects. Ryde, in Sydney’s north, is Australia’s second-worst performing property market with dwelling values diving by 14.8 per cent during the past year, CoreLogic data showed. Digital Finance Analytics founder Martin North, an economist, feared apartment values there could be sliced in half during the next three years before stagnating for a decade. ‘We’ve got massive oversupply in those areas but you’ve just got no demand,’ he told Daily Mail Australia on Friday.

‘Some of the central high-rise apartments in the inner urban areas, like Ryde, 40 per cent now is certainly feasible. ‘In the worst case, you could see unit prices nearly halve.’ Starr Partners chief executive Doug Driscoll, who specialises in the Sydney real estate market, said Mr North’s forecasts were far fetched. He did, however, blame councils for approving too many developments. ‘We had an influx of foreign investment. We had an environment of record low interest rates, money was easily available – these things don’t last forever,’ he told Daily Mail Australia. ‘In some suburbs, in some pockets, we have seen an oversupply.’

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From Australia, but applicable worldwide.

Ultra Low Wage Growth The Intended Outcome Of Government Policies (Quiggin)

The long debate over the causes of wage stagnation took an unexpected turn last week, when Finance Minister Matthias Cormann described (downward) flexibility in the rate of wage growth as “a deliberate design feature of our economic architecture”. It was a position that was endorsed in a flurry of confusion 16 seconds after it had been rejected by Defence Industry Minister Linda Reynolds. Cormann had said policies aimed at pushing wages up could cause “massive spikes in unemployment”. The ease with which Reynolds was trapped into at first rejecting and then accepting what her ministerial colleague had said flowed from the fact that Cormann had broken one of the standing conventions of politics in Australia, and for that matter, the English-speaking world.

For more than forty years, both the architecture of labour market regulation and the discretionary choices of governments have been designed with the precise objective of holding wages down. These policies have been quite successful, as can be seen from the graph. However, at least until recently, there has been bipartisan agreement on at least one aspect of them – that no one should mention their role in holding back wages. Instead, the decline in the wage share of national income has been variously blamed on • technology • immigration • imports from China and, more recently, • the end of the mining boom. None of these explanations stand up to scrutiny.

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The lame and the blind. Reports should look at the size of Deutsche relative to the German economy, and the nerves that touches in Berlin.

Deutsche Bank And Commerzbank Go Public On Merger Talks (R.)

Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank confirmed on Sunday they were in talks about a merger, prompting labor union concerns about possible job losses and questions from analysts about the merits of a combination. Germany’s two largest banks issued short statements following separate meetings of their management boards, a person with knowledge of the matter said, indicating a quickening of pace in the merger process, although both also warned that a deal was far from certain. “In light of arising opportunities, the management board of Deutsche Bank has decided to review strategic options,” Deutsche said in its statement.

Christian Sewing, Deutsche Bank’s chief executive, told employees that Deutsche still aimed “to remain a global bank with a strong capital markets business… with a global network.”A merged bank would likely be the third largest in Europe after HSBC and BNP Paribas, with roughly 1.8 trillion euros ($2.04 trillion) in assets, such as loans and investments, and a market value of about 25 billion euros. [..] However, skeptics questioned the wisdom of a merger. “We do not see a national champion here, but a shaky zombie bank that could lead to another billion-euro grave for the German state. Why should we take this risk?” said Gerhard Schick, finance activist and ex-member of the German parliament.

While the banks had not publicly commented on merger talks until Sunday, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz last Monday confirmed that there were negotiations. On Sunday, the ministry acknowledged the announcement and said it remained in regular contact with all parties. However, there were signs of political opposition. Hans Michelbach, a lawmaker from the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), urged the government to sell its 15 percent stake in Commerzbank before a deal. “There may not be an ownership by the federal government in a merged big bank indirectly through an old stake. We do not need a German State Bank AG,” he told Reuters.

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Hearsay report.

Saudi Crown Prince Allegedly Stripped Of Some Authority (G.)

The heir to the Saudi throne has not attended a series of high-profile ministerial and diplomatic meetings in Saudi Arabia over the last fortnight and is alleged to have been stripped of some of his financial and economic authority, the Guardian has been told. The move to restrict, if only temporarily, the responsibilities of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is understood to have been revealed to a group of senior ministers earlier last week by his father, King Salman. The king is said to have asked Bin Salman to be at this cabinet meeting, but he failed to attend.

While the move has not been declared publicly, the Guardian has been told that one of the king’s trusted advisers, Musaed al-Aiban, who was educated at Harvard and recently named as national security adviser, will informally oversee investment decisions on the king’s behalf. The Saudi embassy in Washington has declined multiple requests for comment since the Guardian approached it on Tuesday. The relationship between the king and his son has been under scrutiny since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which was alleged to have been ordered by Prince Mohammed and provoked international condemnation of the crown prince. This has been denied by the Saudi government.

Experts on the Middle East are divided over whether the murder, and concern over the kingdom’s role in the conflict in Yemen, have led to tension at the heart of the notoriously secretive royal court. But while most observers expect Prince Mohammed to accede to the thrown, there are some signs that the king is seeking to rein in his controversial son at a time when Saudi Arabia is under the spotlight. The Guardian has been told Prince Mohammed did not attend two of the most recent weekly meetings of cabinet ministers, which are headed by the king. The crown prince has also not attended other high-profile talks with visiting dignitaries, including one last week with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.

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And this is just what we see, what washes up on beaches. “16 rice sacks. 4 banana plantation style bags and multiple shopping bags” in the whale’s stomach..”

Dead Whale Washed Up In Philippines Had 40kg Of Plastic Bags In Stomach (G.)

A young whale that washed up in the Philippines died from “gastric shock” after ingesting 40kg of plastic bags. Marine biologists and volunteers from the D’Bone Collector Museum in Davao City, in the Philippine island of Mindanao, were shocked to discover the brutal cause of death for the young curvier beaked whale, which washed ashore on Saturday. In a damning statement on their Facebook page, the museum said they uncovered “40 kilos of plastic bags, including 16 rice sacks. 4 banana plantation style bags and multiple shopping bags” in the whale’s stomach after conducting an autopsy. Images from the autopsy showed endless piles of rubbish being extracted from the inside of the animal, which was said to have died from “gastric shock” after ingesting all the plastic.

[..] The use of single-use plastic is rampant in south-east Asia. A 2017 report by Ocean Conservancy stated that China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam have been dumping more plastic into the ocean than the rest of the world combined. Marine biologist Darrell Blatchley, who also owns the D’Bone Collector Museum, said that in the 10 years they have examined dead whales and dolphins, 57 of them were found to have died due to accumulated rubbish and plastic in their stomachs.

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Mar 142019
 


Pablo Picasso Studio with plaster head 1925

 

Zugzwang Brexit : How the UK Can Escape The Checkmate/Stalemate (English)
May Issues Final Warning To Tory Rebels: Back Me Or Lose Brexit (G.)
EU On No-Deal Brexit Motion: ‘Like Titanic Voting For Iceberg To Move’ (G.)
‘No Delay From EU – Or We Elect 73 Nigel Farages Into European Parliament’ (RT)
US Grounds Boeing 737 Max Planes, Citing Links Between 2 Fatal Crashes (CNBC)
Battle Brews over Who Should Analyze Black Boxes from 737 Crash (Fort.)
US Lawmakers Emerge From Whitaker Meeting With Conflicting Accounts (R.)
Mueller’s Forensics-Free Findings (VIPS)
Paul Manafort Sentenced To 43 Additional Months (ZH)
Greek Financial Crisis Still Evokes Pain, Fear On The Streets Of Athens (CNBC)
Sharp Rise In Arctic Temperatures Now Inevitable – UN (G.)
Coca-Cola Produces 200,000 Plastic Bottles A Minute (G.)

 

 

Nice different view of things: in chess, you can be forced to make a move (Zugzwang), even if your position gets worse. Buit there is a way out: forfeit the game, stop playing.

Zugzwang Brexit : How the UK Can Escape The Checkmate/Stalemate (English)

The EU referendum has plunged the United Kingdom into a chaos so unprecedented, that only a fool would bet on the final outcome. What is clear is that each move to try to break the political deadlock has merely shoved the nation into further bedlam. With just two weeks to go before the March 29th deadline – the country is like that coach in the final scene of 1969 crime caper The Italian Job. Any move in any direction risks sending the whole thing tumbling down a cliff, while staying put is likewise not an option. In short, all attempts to resolve the crisis simply make matters worse. The Germans have a word for this. “Zugzwang” is a term used by chess masters to describe the situation where a participant is compelled to play, even when it is clearly not in their interests to do so.

“Zugzwang Brexit” is where we are now at. Consider May’s potential moves. The EU rightly insists it is up to the UK to find a solution – but with her deal voted down, no viable alternative on the table and the EU leaders unwilling to debate the matter further what alternatives does the PM have? It is far from certain that the EU 27 would grant the UK extra time. Even if they did, an extension of Article 50 would merely kick the can further down the road. A second referendum could go either way. If ‘Leave’ were to win again we would be back at square one. If Remain won but not by a considerable margin then the issue would not be satisfactorily resolved. A No Deal Brexit would heap ruin on the country and only serve as an ‘I told you so’ for Remainers as we disappeared down the plughole of global relevance.

If the polls are to be believed a General Election would be unlikely to deliver a result very different to that of 2017 and further uncertainty – possibly lasting years would ensue. Labour’s leadership anyway remain committed to Brexit. So What Can be Done? Well there is a way out of ‘Zugzwang Brexit’ – but it is the political equivalent of forfeiting the game. The UK could revoke Article 50 and simply accept that the country has failed to reach political accord. May has twice failed to get her deal through the House of Commons and it seems likely that any further version, negotiated by any of her successors would meet a similar fate.

By revoking the mechanism by which a member state leaves the EU – dignity and sanity could momentarily be restored and the country could dampen the fuse of the ticking time bomb which Theresa May so recklessly and foolishly lit. That would be in the public’s interest, in the nations’ interest, in the interest of jobs and industry and the UK economy. As such – it’s unlikely to happen.

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“Seething Brexiteer Tory MPs lining up on ERG’s WhatsApp group in their dozens to vote against Govt A50 motion tonight, and John McDonnell confirms to #r4Today Labour will amend it – leaving it no hope of passing. Then what?”

May Issues Final Warning To Tory Rebels: Back Me Or Lose Brexit (G.)

Theresa May will attempt one final desperate roll of the dice on her Brexit deal, issuing a stark warning to mutinous Brexiters that they must approve her offer by next week or face a long article 50 extension. The prime minister was humiliated yet again amid chaotic scenes on Wednesday night in parliament, as her cabinet ruptured three ways and MPs inflicted two more defeats on the government to demand no deal should be taken off the table permanently. In an unprecedented night of Tory splits, four cabinet ministers, Amber Rudd, David Mundell, David Gauke and Greg Clark, defied their party’s last-minute whip and refused to vote against the government’s own motion, after it was amended to rule out any prospect of no-deal Brexit.

Six other cabinet ministers also splintered to back a separate proposal for a “managed no deal”, despite the prime minister’s warning that the plan was doomed. After her defeat, May signalled she would gamble one last time on forcing through her Brexit deal, bringing forward a motion on Thursday on delaying Brexit which would “set out the fundamental choice facing this house”.= If MPs agreed a deal, she said, the government would request a “short, technical extension” to article 50, a hint that May plans a third meaningful vote next week. Without an agreed deal, she said, there would be a “much longer extension” that would require the UK to take part in European parliament elections. “I do not think that would be the right outcome,” May said.

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“..the EU’s deputy Brexit negotiator, Sabine Weyand, told EU ambassadors that she feared the Commons was “divorced from reality”..”

EU On No-Deal Brexit Motion: ‘Like Titanic Voting For Iceberg To Move’ (G.)

Brussels has said a vote by UK MPs to block a no-deal Brexit in any circumstances is a meaningless move, with one senior EU negotiator describing it as “the Titanic voting for the iceberg to get out of the way”. A European commission spokesman offered a withering assessment of the decision by MPs to ignore Theresa May’s assertion that no deal was the default position unless there was a deal in place by the time of the UK’s departure. “We take note of the votes in the House of Commons this evening,” the spokesman said. “There are only two ways to leave the EU: with or without a deal. The EU is prepared for both. To take no deal off the table, it is not enough to vote against no deal – you have to agree to a deal. We have agreed a deal with the prime minister, and the EU is ready to sign it.”

MPs voted by 312 to 308 to support a backbench amendment ruling out a no-deal Brexit and striking out a phrase in a government-backed motion noting that no deal remained the default position in UK and EU law if an agreement was not ratified. They then voted on the amended motion, which won by a majority of 43. On Thursday, MPs will vote on whether to request an extension of the article 50 negotiating period beyond 29 March until 30 June. But the commission is pushing member states to take an uncompromising position. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, speaking to the European parliament in Strasbourg earlier on Wednesday, questioned whether the EU should offer extra time for talks, leading officials to prepare for all options to be on the table at a leaders’ summit next week.

“Why would we extend these discussions?” Barnier asked. “The discussion on article 50 is done and dusted. We have the withdrawal agreement. It is there.” During a private meeting before his public comments, Barnier advised senior MEPs that at present there was no consensus among the EU’s member states over an extension, let alone on the conditions that would be attached. At the same time, the EU’s deputy Brexit negotiator, Sabine Weyand, told EU ambassadors that she feared the Commons was “divorced from reality”. Quoting private remarks by the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, Weyand concurred with his description of the decision to vote for no deal as “like the Titanic voting for the iceberg to get out of the way”.

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What powers would UK MEPs have in case a temporary extension comes into play? Interesting question.

‘No Delay From EU – Or We Elect 73 Nigel Farages Into European Parliament’ (RT)

The UK Parliament is set to seek postponement of Brexit, but Brussels may be reluctant to grant it. One argument against may be a potential poison pill in the form of Eurosceptic MEPs, voted in by offended Britons in May. The dramatic week of Brexit votes in the UK Parliament draws to a conclusion on Thursday. Earlier, MPs rejected both the deal negotiated with the EU by Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet, and the option to leave the EU with no deal at all, which the government asked to leave on the table to keep pressure on Brussels. MPs are now set to vote on whether London should ask for a delay in exiting the union.

While a disorderly Brexit would hurt the EU, several top European officials warned that no delay would be granted unless Britain comes up with a clear and substantial plan, which it would try to achieve if given more time. But European bureaucrats may have more reasons not to tolerate Britain dragging its feet, MEP from Scotland David Coburn told RT. If we end up staying beyond a certain period, we have to take part in the European elections. Then what you are going to see is 73 Nigel Farages returned to the European Parliament. It would make the government of the EU impossible. They would probably want to throw us out, I should think.

The next European election is scheduled for the end of May. The UK’s share of the seats would be 73 if it remained part of the EU – with both Britain and the EU making contingencies for this scenario. Nigel Farage, the former leader of the UK Independence Party, is still technically an independent MEP, as is David Coburn, even though they belong to the newly-formed Eurosceptic Brexit Party. [..] “People are becoming more and more angry about the European Union. And more and more people, who previously voted for ‘Remain’, are now supporting ‘Leave’,” he said. “I think people do not like the way that Britain has been treated by the EU.”

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Bopeing will be sued like nuts by airlines. They pay $121 million for the brand new thing and then can’t fly it. Orders are over 5000.

US Grounds Boeing 737 Max Planes, Citing Links Between 2 Fatal Crashes (CNBC)

The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday grounded all Boeing 737 Max jets in the U.S., citing new evidence that showed similarities between two fatal crashes of the popular planes that have killed 346 people in less than five months. The move marks a stunning turnaround for the U.S., which has stood by the American-made aircraft as dozens of countries around the world grounded the planes. The crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on Sunday came less than five months after a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 — the same type of plane — plunged into the Java Sea minutes into the flight from Jakarta, Indonesia, killing all 189 people on board. Both planes were new, delivered from Boeing just months before their doomed flights.

The FAA said the grounding will remain in effect while it investigates the crash. “An FAA team is in Ethiopia assisting the NTSB as parties to the investigation of the Flight 302 accident,” it said in a statement. New satellite data shows the plane’s movement was similar to the October crash, the FAA’s acting administrator Daniel Elwell told reporters on a call Wednesday. The agency also took physical evidence into account, but Elwell declined to elaborate. “It became clear the track was very close and behaved similarly to the Lion Air flight,” Elwell told reporters on a call Wednesday. “My hope is the FAA, the carriers, the manufacturers and all parties will work very hard to make this grounding as short as possible so that these airplanes can get back up in the sky.”

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US standing in the world.

Battle Brews over Who Should Analyze Black Boxes from 737 Crash (Fort.)

Ethiopia’s aviation authority is unable to read the black box recorders from the Boeing 737 Max plane that crashed Sunday, but a row is brewing over just where the flight recorders will be sent for analysis. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is pushing to have its experts analyze the data and voice recorders, which were partly damaged, the Wall Street Journal reports, but Ethiopian authorities would prefer to work with the U.K.’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch to ensure that U.S. experts won’t have undue influence in the probe of the American-made plane. Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam told WSJ that the U.K., France and Germany were being considered as destinations for the black boxes, as was the European Union Aviation Safety Agency based in Cologne.

He added that a decision would be made Wednesday. Aviation authorities worldwide are anxiously awaiting the data from the black box recorders, hoping it will give answers as to why Boeing’s (BA, +0.55%) best-selling model has been involved in two major crashes in the past six months. Ethiopian Airlines’ recently acquired Boeing 737 Max 8 was flying from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya, when it crashed six minutes into its flight, killing all 157 people on board. The Lion Air plane that crashed 12 minutes into its flight in Indonesia in October, killing 189 people, was the same model.

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Wow. 180º different accounts of one and the same meeting. A good journalist should be able to get a good story out of this.

US Lawmakers Emerge From Whitaker Meeting With Conflicting Accounts (R.)

U.S. lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee emerged from a closed-door meeting with former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker on Wednesday with conflicting accounts of their conversation with the controversial Trump ally. Whitaker was called to Capitol Hill to clarify his testimony at a combative Feb. 8 committee hearing, during which he denied speaking with President Donald Trump about a federal case involving Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, who met for two hours with Whitaker and the panel’s top Republican, Representative Doug Collins, said Whitaker no longer denied speaking to Trump about Cohen or about the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York.

“Unlike in the hearing room, Mr. Whitaker did not deny that the president called him to discuss the Michael Cohen case and personnel decisions in the Southern District,” the New York Democrat told reporters. Nadler also said Whitaker told the lawmakers that he was involved in conversations about U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman’s recusal from the Cohen investigation in the Southern District of New York and about whether its campaign finance case involving hush money payments to two women who claim they had affairs with Trump had gone too far. Nadler’s committee is seeking evidence that Trump may have urged Whitaker to put the investigations under the supervision of Berman, a Trump donor and former law partner of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani who is recused.

But Collins, a Georgia Republican, contradicted much of Nadler’s account. “He (Whitaker) said that he had not talked with the president about Mr. Cohen at all,” Collins told reporters. Collins described Whitaker’s conversations about Berman and the campaign finance case as questions for his personal staff. “(Whitaker) had no conversations with the Southern District of New York,” he said. Collins also dismissed a Nadler statement that Whitaker was involved in conversations about firing one or more U.S. attorneys as “normal personnel issues.”

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US intelligence continues to ignore its own veterans. There’s a long list of them. But their message doesn’t rhyme with official standpoints. I’ve said it before, Mueller’s account relies on hacking Russians and Assange. And he’s a coward and a liar for doing that.

Mueller’s Forensics-Free Findings (VIPS)

MEMORANDUM FOR: The Attorney General Media reports are predicting that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is about to give you the findings of his probe into any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump. If Mueller gives you his “completed” report anytime soon, it should be graded “incomplete.” Major deficiencies include depending on a DNC-hired cybersecurity company for forensics and failure to consult with those who have done original forensic work, including us and the independent forensic investigators with whom we have examined the data. We stand ready to help.

We veteran intelligence professionals (VIPS) have done enough detailed forensic work to prove the speciousness of the prevailing story that the DNC emails published by WikiLeaks came from Russian hacking. Given the paucity of evidence to support that story, we believe Mueller may choose to finesse this key issue and leave everyone hanging. That would help sustain the widespread belief that Trump owes his victory to President Vladimir Putin, and strengthen the hand of those who pay little heed to the unpredictable consequences of an increase in tensions with nuclear-armed Russia. There is an overabundance of “assessments” but a lack of hard evidence to support that prevailing narrative.

We believe that there are enough people of integrity in the Department of Justice to prevent the outright manufacture or distortion of “evidence,” particularly if they become aware that experienced scientists have completed independent forensic study that yield very different conclusions. We know only too well — and did our best to expose — how our former colleagues in the intelligence community manufactured fraudulent “evidence” of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

We can prove that the conventional-wisdom story about Russian-hacking-DNC-emails-for-WikiLeaks is false. Drawing largely on the unique expertise of two VIPS scientists who worked for a combined total of 70 years at the National Security Agency and became Technical Directors there, we have regularly published our findings. But we have been deprived of a hearing in mainstream media — an experience painfully reminiscent of what we had to endure when we exposed the corruption of intelligence before the attack on Iraq 16 years ago.

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No love lost for Manafort. But sending him away for years while people like the Podestas walk free, doesn’t sound fair.

Paul Manafort Sentenced To 43 Additional Months (ZH)

Lobbyist and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was sentenced to more than six years in prison by a federal judge in the District of Columbia on two conspiracy counts. Manafort pleaded guilty last fall to the two charges which encompass a host of crimes – including money laundering and obstruction of justice. Manafort was sentenced to 60 months on count one, with 30 months of that overlapping a 47 month sentence handed down last week in a separate trial in Virginia – and 13 months on count two. In total, he will serve 90 months in prison, or 7.5 years.

Manafort asked Judge Amy Berman Jackson for leniency during Wednesday’s hearing, saying that the criminal charges against him have “taken everything from me already,” and asking that Berman Jackson not impose any additional prison time beyond the sentence handed down last week. Jackson agreed with Manafort that the original 19-24 year sentencing guideline “overstates the seriousness of this offense.” “I am sorry for what I have done and all the activities that have gotten us here today,” said Manafort in a calm and steady voice as he read from a prepared statement. “While I cannot undo the past, I will ensure that the future will be very different.”

[..] Before reading her decision, Berman Jackson reamed Manafort – saying that there was no good explanation for granting the leniency Manafort had requested.”What you were doing was lying to Congress and the American public,” said Berman Jackson, adding that Manafort had “contempt for” and “believed he had the right to manipulate these proceedings.” “Saying I’m sorry I got caught is not an inspiring plea for leniency,” the judge said, adding that Manafort’s defense that there was “no collusion” with Russia is not related to the case.

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A few days ago the IMF talked about how great Greece is doing. BS. 2% growth from nothing is still nothing.

Greek Financial Crisis Still Evokes Pain, Fear On The Streets Of Athens (CNBC)

Greece’s financial crisis is still hurting the hopes and dreams of the people that live in the Mediterranean nation. The country has been in economic turmoil for most of the last decade. Years of financial mismanagement alongside a culture of clientelistic politics, where goods and services were exchanged for political support, culminated in a long-term recession.= “I still think the crisis exists. It’s more than in one field now, (it’s) not only (a) financial crisis, but it’s a crisis of our values … I don’t think it’s better now … it is really a stressful period for Greece,” Stavros Dimopoulos, a 23-year-old university student told CNBC in Athens.

Different governments in Greece borrowed above the country’s capacity and its public debt pile became so high that in 2010 investors were no longer willing to keep on financing the Greek government. The end result: George Papandreou, the prime minister at the time, saw no other way out but to ask for a bailout — without even consulting with other European leaders. Since August, the Greek government has tried to show that austerity is over, by providing additional funds to the lower and middle classes. But ordinary Greeks told CNBC they haven’t seen a massive difference in their lives. “We love our city, we love our weather, we love the Greek people, but we are scared and afraid in a way, because the situation is not that good,” Dimopoulos said about him and his friends.

“We have to try harder and harder to make our own money … Sometimes we are talking (about going) abroad: If it is going to be better for us to leave Greece or if it is going to be better to stay in Greece and try harder. It is in our minds.” [..] 2019 is expected to be the country’s third consecutive year of growth, at a pace of about 2.2 percent. Still, this growth doesn’t seem to be making ordinary Greeks happy about the economy. Nikolas complained there hasn’t been a significant improvement for people and there’s still way too many taxes. “Some people have good jobs if they are in the civil service, but the others are suffering, they are paying like 85 percent taxes, which is very hard to get by. You risk losing your house if you don’t have enough money to pay the taxes,” he said. “(the) long term is hard, we just have to smile, pretend.”

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Maybe it’s an idea to rethink the way the data are made public. It’s a litany of ever more of the same now.

Sharp Rise In Arctic Temperatures Now Inevitable – UN (G.)

Sharp and potentially devastating temperature rises of 3C to 5C in the Arctic are now inevitable even if the world succeeds in cutting greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris agreement, research has found. Winter temperatures at the north pole are likely to rise by at least 3C above pre-industrial levels by mid-century, and there could be further rises to between 5C and 9C above the recent average for the region, according to the UN. Such changes would result in rapidly melting ice and permafrost, leading to sea level rises and potentially to even more destructive levels of warming. Scientists fear Arctic heating could trigger a climate “tipping point” as melting permafrost releases the powerful greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere, which in turn could create a runaway warming effect.

“What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic,” said Joyce Msuya, the acting executive director of UN Environment. “We have the science. Now more urgent climate action is needed to steer away from tipping points that could be even worse for our planet than we first thought.” The findings, presented at the UN Environment assembly in Nairobi on Wednesday, give a stark picture of one of the planet’s most sensitive regions and one that is key to the fate of the world’s climate. Last year’s stark warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, setting out the dramatic impacts of 1.5C of global warming, did not include the impacts of potential tipping points such as melting permafrost.

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Coca-Cola produces 3 million tonnes of plastic packaging a year.

Coca-Cola Produces 200,000 Plastic Bottles A Minute (G.)

Coca-Cola has revealed for the first time it produces 3m tonnes of plastic packaging a year – equivalent to 200,000 bottles a minute – as a report calls on other global companies to end the secrecy over their plastic footprint. The data from the soft drinks manufacturer was provided to the campaigner Ellen MacArthur, who is pushing for major companies and governments to do more to tackle plastic pollution. The figures – which the company has refused in the past to disclose – reveal the amount of plastic packaging Coca-Cola produced in 2017. The company did not reveal the scale of its bottle production but when its packaging footprint is translated into 500ml PET plastic bottles, it amounts to about 108bn bottles a year, more than a fifth of the world’s PET bottle output of about 500bn bottles a year.

Coca-Cola is one of 31 companies – including Mars, Nestlé and Danone – that have revealed how much plastic packaging they create as part of a drive for transparency by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Combined, they produce 8m tonnes of plastic packaging a year. But the majority of the 150 companies who have signed up to MacArthur’s global commitment to reduce plastic pollution are still refusing to publicly disclose figures on their own plastic packaging production. These include Pepsi Co, H&M, L’Oréal, Walmart, Marks & Spencer and Burberry – which was heavily criticised last year when it was revealed that the company burned £28m of stock in a year to prevent counterfeiting.


Photograph: Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images

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