Sep 052019
 
 September 5, 2019  Posted by at 8:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  14 Responses »


Henri Matisse Bathers by a river 1909-16

 

UK Government Gives Up Trying To Stop Brexit Delay Bill In Parliament (R.)
Bill Designed To Stop No-Deal Brexit ‘Will Clear Lords’ (BBC)
Fed’s Rate-Cut Debate Focuses On ‘Robust’ US Consumer (R.)
Why Millions Of Millennials Are Not Homeowners (CNBC)
Inequality and Taxes (Flassbeck)
Chinese Paper Says Hong Kong Demonstrators Now Have No Excuse For Violence (R.)
John Doe Begs Judge Not To Name Names In Epstein Gal Pal Case (NYP)
‘Hundreds Of Other People Could Be Implicated’ In Epstein, Maxwell Case (CNBC)
Erdogan Says It’s Unacceptable That Turkey Can’t Have Nuclear Weapons (R.)
US Offered Millions In Cash To Captain Of Iranian Tanker (AFP)
400 Million Facebook Users’ Phone Numbers Exposed In Privacy Lapse (AFP)
Plastic Pollution Has Entered The Fossil Record (G.)

 

 

Good lines: “There was a realization by those on the other side that this was more than usually stupid, and they were looking stupid, and we needed to find a way forward .. ”

UK Government Gives Up Trying To Stop Brexit Delay Bill In Parliament (R.)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government abandoned attempts in the upper house of parliament to block a law aimed at stopping the country from leaving the European Union without a deal. The move paved the way for Johnson being required to ask the EU for a three-month extension to the Brexit deadline, if he fails to reach a renegotiated transition deal with the bloc by the middle of October. Johnson has said he is opposed to an extension and that he is prepared to take Britain out of the EU without a deal if necessary. Conservative Party members of the upper house of parliament had tabled a series of amendments in an attempt to run down the clock on the delay bill and prevent it being passed before parliament is suspended on Monday.


But in the early hours of Thursday, the government in the upper house, known as the House of Lords, announced it was dropping its opposition to the legislation. Richard Newby, an opposition member of the Lords, who had taken his duvet to parliament in preparation to spend the night discussing the law, said the government dropped its opposition after suffering heavy defeats on some of the proposed amendments. “There was a realization by those on the other side that this was more than usually stupid, and they were looking stupid, and we needed to find a way forward,” he told BBC Radio.

Read more …

OK, what’s next? Friday is the last day Parliament is in session until mid-October.

Bill Designed To Stop No-Deal Brexit ‘Will Clear Lords’ (BBC)

The government has said a bill to stop a no-deal Brexit will complete its passage through the Lords on Friday. The proposed legislation was passed by MPs on Wednesday, inflicting a defeat on Prime Minister Boris Johnson. There were claims pro-Brexit peers could deliberately hold up the bill so it could not get royal assent before Parliament is prorogued next week. But the Conservative chief whip in the Lords announced a breakthrough in the early hours after talks with Labour.


The peers sat until 01:30 BST, holding a series of amendment votes that appeared to support predictions a marathon filibuster session – designed to derail the bill – was under way. But then Lord Ashton of Hyde announced that all stages of the bill would be completed in the Lords by 17:00 BST on Friday. He added that the Commons chief whip had also given a commitment that MPs will consider any Lords amendments on Monday and that the government intends that the “bill will be ready” to be presented for royal assent.

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End the Fed.

Fed’s Rate-Cut Debate Focuses On ‘Robust’ US Consumer (R.)

Slowing global economies, the escalating trade war between Washington and Beijing and a warning sign of recession flashing in the U.S. Treasury market have all fed expectations the Federal Reserve is poised to lower rates at the close of its Sept. 17-18 meeting. But sentiment is much less well-defined within the Fed over whether to reduce borrowing costs for the second time this year, and if so by how much. In remarks this week, their last chance to speak publicly before their next rate-setting meeting, U.S. central bankers broadly agreed that trade policy uncertainty is hurting U.S. businesses. Whether they believe a rate cut is in order appears to hinge largely on their view of the consumer.

John Williams, president of the hugely influential New York Federal Reserve, said on Wednesday consumer spending is “robust” and one reason the U.S. economy is in a “favorable” place.” Still, after his prepared remarks he told reporters: “I don’t see consumer spending really continuing to grow faster into the future like it has been.” Household spending accounts for about 70% of the U.S. economy and surged last quarter despite a drop in business investment. The Fed, he said, is ready to “act as appropriate” to help America avoid an economic downturn, echoing closely language used by Fed Chair Jerome Powell used last month which fed expectations of another quarter-point interest-rate cut in September.

But Williams also told reporters he expects the economy to grow at an above-trend pace of 2.0%-2.5% in 2019. “Doesn’t sound like someone ready to ease 50 basis points. Or at all,” quipped Northern Trust economist Carl Tannenbaum on Twitter. Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, who in July opposed the first Fed rate cut since 2008, said on Tuesday there is no reason to cut rates as long as the economy keeps growing at around 2%.

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Because the Fed has blown a gigantic housing bubble and made millenials poorer in the process. That’s why.

Why Millions Of Millennials Are Not Homeowners (CNBC)

Homeownership eludes millions of millennials. There is a whole host of reasons, including personal preferences and economic disadvantages, that explain why the homeownership rate for the largest generation in U.S. history is lower than that of their parents and grandparents. “In my generation — I’m a baby boomer — you bought a home as quickly as you could,” said Laurie Goodman of the Urban Institute. “You didn’t take a vacation for years to save for the down payment on your first home.” Millennials are in less of a rush to get their hands on house keys, Goodman said. Delayed marriage has one of the biggest impacts on their low homeownership rate, the Urban Institute found. Marriage increases one’s likelihood of owning a home by 18 percentage points.

Yet millennials are wedding later — and less. In 1960, the average age at which women and men first married was in their early 20s. Today, the median age for a first marriage is closer to 30. And millennials are three times as likely to have never married as members of the silent generation — those in their 70s and 80s — when they were young. “Homeownership represents a stable place to live for the rest of my life,” Goodman said. “And a lot of single people think this isn’t the rest of my life — I’m going to find a mate and we’re going to put roots down together.” To be sure, even without saying, “I do,” many young people still want to become homeowners. Unmarried couples accounted for 16% of first-time homebuyers in 2017, the highest share on record, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Single men and women accounted for a quarter of first-time homebuyers. Today, just 57% of first-time homebuyers are married, compared with 75% in 1985. Young people are also in no rush to have kids. The share of married households with children, aged 18 to 34, dropped to 25% in 2015, from 37% in 1990. And having a child increases a person’s chance of owning a house by 6 percentage points, the researchers at the Urban Institute calculated. Millennials are also a far more diverse generation than previous ones, and homeownership rates are lower among Hispanic, black and Asian Americans compared with white Americans. While almost 39% of white millennials, aged 18 to 34, own a house, just 14.5% of those black Americans do, according to the Urban Institute.

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Germany has much less of a housing bubble, but they’re not doing much better. The inequality discussion will have to be had. America’s most prosperous era, the baby boomer boom, took place against a backdrop of 70-80% income taxes for the rich.

Inequality and Taxes (Flassbeck)

A modest proposal by a small party to reintroduce a wealth tax is rejected by conservatives quietly foaming at the mouth. This shows us a little of what is really going on in Germany. Germany at the end of summer 2019 is a country lacking any perspective. It doesn’t know how to deal with climate change; it lacks any notion of what to do about the obvious recession in its own country; it has no way of tackling the serious shortcomings in its infrastructure; it has no idea how to tame its disrupted agriculture and prevent traffic congestion; it debates this and that, but largely without any sense and without any intellectual or political direction.

What is particularly remarkable is how the plans of a small party to (re)introduce a very small and modest wealth tax have been answered by fuming attacks across almost all media and conservative political parties. Remember, this tax was once disposed of politically simply by doing nothing after a limp ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court. It is also worth remembering that inequality in income and wealth has since reached completely new dimensions. Don’t forget that the conservative parties constantly make the average voter believe that they are there for him. The media and political reaction to this modest proposal, which currently has no chance of being implemented, gives an idea of what power-relations in the country really are like and what would happen if one seriously tried to do something about inequality.

The paid scribblers in the dominant media know exactly what they have to do when the interests of those in power in the big media houses are threatened. The fact that a newspaper like Handelsblatt comes up with the headline “Robbery of the rich” on the subject of a wealth tax shows that all reason has been abandoned and all standards set aside when it comes to issues of wealth distribution. The Süddeutsche Zeitung shamelessly characterises the SPD’s initiative as an attempt “to make the discrediting of performance and success socially acceptable”. The newspaper, which still has a liberal image, accuses the SPD of betraying its own goal of “advancement” and “mobilising against high performers” (although, to be fair, the SZ also wrote a commentary in favour of a wealth tax, which I should not conceal from you).

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Christopher Balding on Twitter: “No, she hasn’t formally withdrawn the bill. The video with the subtitles say she hasn’t withdrawn the bill. She will PROPOSE withdrawing the bill in a month when the legislature reconvenes.”

Chinese Paper Says Hong Kong Demonstrators Now Have No Excuse For Violence (R.)

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill that had sparked widespread protests was an olive branch that leaves demonstrators with no excuse to continue violence, the official China Daily said on Thursday. The withdrawal of the bill on Wednesday came after weeks of protests that had sometimes turned into pitched battles across the former British colony of more than 7 million people. More than 1,000 protesters have been arrested. The bill would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, where courts are controlled by the Communist Party. Its withdrawal was one of the five key demands of the protesters.


The state-run China Daily said the decision was “a sincere and earnest response to the voice of the community … (that) could be interpreted as an olive branch extended to those who have opposed the bill over the past few months”. The protests began in March but snowballed in June and have evolved into a push for greater democracy for the city, which returned to China in 1997 as a Special Administrative Region (SAR). It was not clear if pulling the bill – which had been suspended since June – would help end the unrest. The headline of the China Daily’s editorial said “protesters now have no excuse to continue violence”

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Who do we protect, the victims or some John Doe?

John Doe Begs Judge Not To Name Names In Epstein Gal Pal Case (NYP)

An anonymous man terrified he’s about to be named in court papers related to Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell’s alleged child sex trafficking ring is begging a judge not to release his name and identities of others accused — because it could tarnish their reputations, according to a surprise motion filed Tuesday. Lawyers for the John Doe filed the letter Tuesday — just a day before Epstein’s self-proclaimed “sex slave” Virginia Roberts Giuffre is expected to join her lawyers in court as they continue efforts to unseal thousands of pages of documents related to her civil lawsuit against the dead pedophile’s alleged procuress.

“As a non-party to these proceedings, Doe lacks specific knowledge about the contents of the Sealed Materials,” his lawyers wrote to Manhattan federal court judge Loretta Preska. “But it is clear that these materials implicate the privacy and reputational interests of many persons other than the two primary parties to this action, Giuffre and Maxwell.” The letter goes on to say a prior judge overseeing the case summarized the still-secret documents as containing a “range of allegations of sexual acts involving Plaintiff and non-parties to this litigation, some famous, some not; the identities of non-parties who either allegedly engaged in sexual acts with Plaintiff or who allegedly facilitated such acts.”

Doe’s lawyers do not say in the papers if he is famous, or what accusations he expects to face in the court papers. Meanwhile, Giuffre’s lawyer David Boies told The Post he expects Wednesday’s hearing to determine a roadmap for how to deal with the remaining mountain-range of material. “It’s a whole new set of documents, five to 10 times larger in volume than what has been released so far,” the lawyer said, referring to nearly 2,000 pages of case documents that were made public on Aug. 9 — just a day before Epstein’s death by suicide at a lower Manhattan jail. Boies said the still-sealed tranche contains depositions from never-before-heard witnesses, but declined to provide any names. And he said that while his client is planning to attend, he doubts her legal adversary will appear.

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Why we need Julian Assange. He helped Australian police track down pedophiles, he can do it again in the US.

‘Hundreds Of Other People Could Be Implicated’ In Epstein, Maxwell Case (CNBC)

Still-secret court filings related to sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein and his alleged procurer Ghislaine Maxwell could implicate “hundreds of other people,” Maxwell’s lawyer said Wednesday during a hearing. But finding out who they are will take some time. Maxwell’s lawyer and an attorney for women who claim Epstein, a financier, sexually abused them told U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska they have not agreed how the documents should be unsealed. Preska was clearly irritated with their lack of progress on the documents, which are part of a defamation lawsuit that one of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Giuffre, filed several years ago against Maxwell, a British socialite.

The case files are known to contain claims by Giuffre that she was sexually abused by “numerous prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well-known Prime Minister and other world leaders.” “Did you people not talk about this?” Preska asked the lawyers in federal court in Manhattan when she was told there was no plan in place for reviewing the documents. Preska ended the hearing with a tentative plan to have the attorneys take the next two weeks to hash out a process for categorizing the thousands of pages of sealed documents. After that, the lawyers would have a week to designate which group of documents should be unsealed first, with a rolling week-to-week process thereafter to evaluate the material and argue over how much or how little should be disclosed publicly.

There could be up to 10 categories for the documents. Jeffrey Pagliuca, a lawyer for Maxwell, said the sealed documents include “literally hundreds of pages of investigative reports that mention hundreds of people.” “There are hundreds of other people who could be implicated” in the documents, Pagliuca said.

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Patriotism on steroids.

Erdogan Says It’s Unacceptable That Turkey Can’t Have Nuclear Weapons (R.)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday it was unacceptable for nuclear-armed states to forbid Ankara from obtaining its own nuclear weapons, but did not say whether Turkey had plans to obtain them. “Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads, not one or two. But (they tell us) we can’t have them. This, I cannot accept,” he told his ruling AK Party members in the eastern city of Sivas. “There is no developed nation in the world that doesn’t have them,” Erdogan said. In fact, many developed countries do not have nuclear weapons. Turkey signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1980, and has also signed the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear detonations for any purpose.

Read more …

“Having failed at piracy, the US resorts to outright blackmail..”

US Offered Millions In Cash To Captain Of Iranian Tanker (AFP)

A senior US official personally offered several million dollars to the Indian captain of an Iranian oil tanker suspected of heading to Syria, the State Department confirmed Wednesday. The Financial Times reported that Brian Hook, the State Department pointman on Iran, sent emails to captain Akhilesh Kumar in which he offered “good news” of millions in US cash to live comfortably if he steered the Adrian Darya 1 to a country where it could be seized. “We have seen the Financial Times article and can confirm that the details are accurate,” a State Department spokeswoman said. “We have conducted extensive outreach to several ship captains as well as shipping companies warning them of the consequences of providing support to a foreign terrorist organization,” she said, referring to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.


The Adrian Darya 1 was held for six weeks by the British overseas territory of Gibraltar on suspicion that it was set to deliver oil from Iran to its main Arab ally Syria — a violation of European Union sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad’s iron-fisted regime. Gibraltar released the ship, formerly called the Grace 1, on August 18 over US protests after receiving written assurances that the vessel would not head to countries sanctioned by the European Union. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif mocked Hook’s initiative as he pointed to the Financial Times story. “Having failed at piracy, the US resorts to outright blackmail — deliver us Iran’s oil and receive several million dollars or be sanctioned yourself,” Zarif tweeted.

Read more …

Facebook does not rhyme with privacy.

400 Million Facebook Users’ Phone Numbers Exposed In Privacy Lapse (AFP)

Phone numbers linked to more than 400 million Facebook accounts were listed online in the latest privacy lapse for the social media giant, US media reported Wednesday. An exposed server stored 419 million records on users across several databases — including 133 million US accounts, more than 50 million in Vietnam, and 18 million in Britain, according to technology news site TechCruch. The databases listed Facebook user IDs — unique digits attached to each account — the profiles’ phone numbers, as well as the gender listed by some accounts and their geographical locations, technology website TechCrunch reported.


The server was not password protected, meaning anyone could access the databases, and remained online until late Wednesday when TechCrunch contacted the site’s host. Facebook confirmed parts of the report but downplayed the extent of the exposure, saying that the number of accounts so far confirmed was around half of the reported 419 million. It added that many of the entries were duplicates and that the data was old. “The dataset has been taken down and we have seen no evidence that Facebook accounts were compromised,” a Facebook spokesperson told AFP.

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We can not stop ourselves.

Plastic Pollution Has Entered The Fossil Record (G.)

Plastic pollution is being deposited into the fossil record, research has found, with contamination increasing exponentially since 1945. Scientists suggest the plastic layers could be used to mark the start of the Anthropocene, the proposed geological epoch in which human activities have come to dominate the planet. They say after the bronze and iron ages, the current period may become known as the plastic age. The study, the first detailed analysis of the rise in plastic pollution in sediments, examined annual layers off the coast of California back to 1834. They discovered the plastic in the layers mirrors precisely the exponential rise in plastic production over the past 70 years.

Most of the plastic particles were fibres from synthetic fabrics used in clothes, indicating that plastics are flowing freely into the ocean through waste water. “Our love of plastic is being left behind in our fossil record,” said Jennifer Brandon, at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, who led the study. “It is bad for the animals that live at the bottom of the ocean: coral reefs, mussels, oysters and so on. But the fact that it is getting into our fossil record is more of an existential question. “We all learn in school about the stone age, the bronze age and iron age – is this going to be known as the plastic age?” she said. “It is a scary thing that this is what our generations will be remembered for.”

Many millions of tonnes of plastic are discarded into the environment every year and are broken down into small particles and fibres that do not biodegrade. Microplastics have been found everywhere from the deepest oceans to high mountains and even the Arctic air, showing pervasive pollution of the planet. Research is limited but eating plastic is known to harm marine creatures. Humans are believed to consume at least 50,000 microplastic particles a year through food and water. The health impact is unknown but microplastics can release toxic substances and may penetrate tissues.

Read more …

 

The Hong Kong government runs ads in the international press:

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 222019
 
 August 22, 2019  Posted by at 9:07 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Marc Chagall Blue lovers 1914

 

Trump’s Idiotic, Immoral Rhetorical Attack On Denmark (WE)
WHO Claims Microplastics In Water Not Harmful To Humans (G.)
Negative-Yielding Debt Poses Major Risk To Investors (CNBC)
The Dog Whistle Heard Around The World (RIA)
China’s Economy Slows To 4.6% In June (ZH)
White House Preps GOP Elite For “Mild Recession” Before Election Day (ZH)
Johnson Accepts Merkel Challenge To Replace Irish Backstop In 30 Days (Ind.)
France Dampens Brexit Deal Hopes As Johnson Visits (BBC)
UK Health Leaders Issue New No-Deal Brexit Warning (BBC)
Greece Says It Won’t Aid Iranian Tanker (K.)
MIT Professor Quits In Protest Over Lab Links To Epstein (AFP)

 

 

A prime example of idiotic writing, this one from the Washington Examiner. And these people do not understand that this is why Trump won. Half the nation is addicted to its daily dose of Trump is stupid, and so the ‘media’ provide that. Article after article after article. Been doing it for three years straight now.

Trump’s Idiotic, Immoral Rhetorical Attack On Denmark (WE)

Denmark’s frustration is understandable, and Trump’s disrespect to Denmark is both idiotic and immoral. Idiotic, because Denmark is a committed and capable ally. The Danish military is well-trained and supported by increasingly advanced capabilities. Danish maneuver infantry, air strike, cyber, and anti-ship forces are especially impressive. They attest to a nation that intends to fight alongside keystone NATO forces if Russia ever attacks the alliance. The same cannot be said of many other European powers, including Belgium, Germany, and perhaps soon, Italy. But Trump’s words will only spark Danish public anger and empower left-wing politicians who want to weaken our alliance.


The stakes here are potentially great. What, for example, if Denmark now chucks the U.S. military out of Greenland? That would greatly reduce our ability to detect and defend against Chinese and Russian nuclear attacks. Trump’s words are also immoral. Unlike many U.S. allies, Denmark has fought alongside us in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Seven Danes gave their lives in Iraq. In Afghanistan, 43 Danes died, and hundreds more were wounded. There, Denmark chose to operate in the restive Helmand Province, taking the fight to the enemy. We should thank Danes for giving their sons’ and daughters’ lives for our common cause.

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And this is equally idiotic. Let’s have more plastics! If ever science need to stick to the precautionary principle, this must be it.

WHO Claims Microplastics In Water Not Harmful To Humans (G.)

Microplastics are increasingly found in drinking water, but there is no evidence so far that this poses a risk to humans, according to a new assessment by the World Health Organization. However, the United Nations body warned against complacency because more research is needed to fully understand how plastic spreads into the environment and works its way through human bodies. There is no universally agreed definition of microplastics but they are generally considered to be smaller than half a millimetre across. Plastic production has grown exponentially in recent decades and is predicted to double again by 2025, said the report, which means more beads and threads are breaking down into minute particles and winding up in water supplies, pipes, cups, throats and bellies.

Studies suggest bottled drinking water even contains minuscule elements of the polymers used in the container and cap. This has prompted concerns that humans might be contaminated by the chemicals used in plastics or the pathogens that ride on the particles. More alarming still are suggestions that vital systems could be overwhelmed by the alien matter, conjuring up images of seabirds, fish and other wild animals with their innards choked with plastic waste. These fears are not grounded in science, according to the WHO report, which summarises peer-reviewed research on the subject.

Counterintuitively, the report said larger microplastics (those bigger than 150 micrometres – about the diameter of a hair) are of least concern because they pass straight through the human body. Smaller particles could potentially pass through the walls of digestive tracts and get stuck, but researchers believe they are unlikely to accumulate in harmful quantities. Not enough is known about the tiniest nanoplastics (those less than 1 micrometre) to be sure of their impact. “Based on the limited evidence available, chemicals and microbial pathogens associated with microplastics in drinking water pose a low concern for human health. Although there is insufficient information to draw firm conclusions on the toxicity of nanoparticles, no reliable information suggests it is a concern,” the conclusion stated.

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Investors in the casino?!

Negative-Yielding Debt Poses Major Risk To Investors (CNBC)

Government bonds aren’t the only instruments producing negative yields these days, with corporate debt recently passing the $1 trillion mark in a continuing sign of global financial displacement. Investors these days are facing huge amounts of fixed income instruments that carry no yield. Various estimates of sovereign debt in that category put the total in excess of $15 trillion, a number that has been escalating over the past several years while central banks drive interest rates to zero and below. Negative-yielding corporate debt, though, is a relatively new thing, rising from just $20 billion in January to pass the $1 trillion mark recently, according to Jim Bianco, founder of Bianco Research.

The trend poses a potentially dangerous threat, especially if market winds shift and bond holders looking for price gains rather than yield get stuck holding too much risk. “The interest rate risk that these bonds carry is huge,” Bianco said in a recent interview. “The financial system doesn’t work with negative rates. If the economy recovers, the losses that investors would take are unlike anything they’ve ever seen.” Negative yields have been confined to places outside the U.S., though some Federal Reserve officials have toyed with the idea at least in a hypothetical sense. Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan recently jolted some investors when he said there was nothing actually standing in the way of negative U.S. rates.

Most of the negative-yielding corporate debt is in Switzerland, while some also is in Japan, Bianco said. Investors don’t actually pay to borrow money, but the negative yield is symbolic of how much above par investors are willing to pay for these bonds. That’s because those who buy negative-yielding bonds are essentially making a bet that rates will stay low and prices will rise, which is the traditional relationship when it comes to fixed income. Should rates start to rise even a little, that will start to eat into the capital appreciation that bond holders have been enjoying. For instance, Bianco said, if yields on Swiss bonds go up just 2 percentage points, it would amount to a 50% loss for holders. While some individual investors might be able to absorb such losses, they would be catastrophic for institutions.

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Perception trumps facts. Stating the obvious.

The Dog Whistle Heard Around The World (RIA)

On August 15, 2019 the Washington Post led with a story entitled Markets sink on recession signal. The recession signal the Post refers to is the U.S. Treasury yield curve which had just inverted for the first time in over ten years. We have been highlighting the flattening yield curve for the past six months. As we have discussed, every time the ten-year Treasury yield has fallen below the two-year Treasury yield, thus inverting the yield curve, a recession has eventually developed.


Blaming the yield curve for market losses because it inverted by a couple of basis points is a nonsensical narrative for talking heads on business television. This article is about a different concern, a second-order effect caused by headlines like the one shown below. The story in the Post and similar ones in many major publications have awoken the public to the real possibility that a recession may be coming. It is a dog whistle that may cause the public to alter their behavior, and even slight changes in consumption habits can produce outsized effects on economic activity.

The 2s/10s yield curve stood at 265 basis points on January 1, 2014, meaning the ten-year yield was 2.65% higher than the two-year yield. From that date forward, as shown below, it has steadily declined. Like the changing of the seasons, as the days passed, that spread steadily fell. Unlike the seasons, investors are somehow now suddenly shocked to learn that economic winter follows fall. Since the beginning of 2019, the curve has been as steep as 25 basis points but has flirted with inversion on numerous occasions.

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“..reflects a strategic decision by China to rebalance the economy…?”

China’s Economy Slows To 4.6% In June (ZH)

According to Fathom Consulting, a global independent macro research consultancy, its proprietary China Momentum Indicator 2.0 has slowed to 4.6% in June, the lowest reading since Aug. 2016. There is also a growing gap between the China Momentum Indicator 2.0 at 4.6% and official GDP data at 6.2%. Might suggest China’s economy hasn’t yet bottomed, could continue to decline through 2H19 into 1H20. Gary Cohn, the former chief economic advisor to Donald Trump, has said the slowdown predates the trade war and reflects a strategic decision by China to rebalance the economy. Fathom notes that China’s economy was even slowing before the rebalancing.


The global macro research firm said, “with the consumer share of total import demand on a downward trend since 2016, we also find little evidence to suggest that China is successfully rebalancing.” To combat dangerous crosscurrents of the trade war disrupting global supply chains in and out of China, Chinese policymakers resorted to the same playbook as before, pump the economy with record amounts of the stimulus earlier in the year. Currency depreciation came into the picture when President Trump escalated the trade war by raising tariffs to 25% from 10% on $200 billion of Chinese goods in May. Then a massive devaluation of the renminbi followed in early August, when the president slapped 10% tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods, effective Sept. 1.

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Not just the elite.

White House Preps GOP Elite For “Mild Recession” Before Election Day (ZH)

President Trump’s polls show that the issue that voters most trust him on is the economy. But on Wednesday, Politico reported that Trump and his team have been quietly prepping donors, other key Republican power brokers and members of the GOP elite for a mild downturn between now and the election, something that economists believe to be increasingly likely. According to Politico, Trump and his aides are aware that his biggest selling point heading into 2020 is the economy. But now that he’s gotten drawn in to this trade war with Beijing, Trump needs to find a way to prepare people for a mild or moderate recession as a matter of course, to ensure that his reputation as a businessman and as a populist who puts the economy first isn’t tarnished.

But without control of the House, the administration is examining its limited options to shore up the economy or assuage voters’ concerns if a recession arrives soon than economists expect. President Trump’s attacks on the Fed have worked so far, but whether the central bank delivers the 2-3 more cuts that markets are pricing in remains to be seen. And those reports about a payroll tax cut and shaving another few points off the corporate rate represent serious policy considerations. Trump famously said he’s been behind payroll tax cuts “for a long time.”

Then, there’s the trade war. The administration is also urging the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates sharply, a move Trump has long sought in his public attacks on the central bank, and it is pursuing a trade deal with China amid various tariffs that some businesses say are posing substantial economic risks. “The only thing they have in their control is China and putting out regulatory rules,” said one former senior administration official. “Beyond that, there is very little that they can do – but that does not mean people are not brainstorming options.”

[..] Trump spent Tuesday stridently defending his administration’s trade standoff with China, which many economic experts and Republicans pinpoint as the main driver of any U.S. economic troubles. “You should be happy that I’m fighting this battle, because somebody has to do it. We couldn’t let this go. I don’t even think it’s sustainable to let go on what was happening,” Trump told reporters as he detailed the way China steals U.S. intellectual property and argued none of his presidential predecessors were willing to confront China as he has. “My life would be a lot easier if I didn’t take China on. But I like doing it because I have to do it. And we’re getting great help. China’s had the worst year they’ve had in 27 years, and a lot of people saying the worst year they’ve had in 54 years,” he added.

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A headline similar to that in many UK papers today. Except it’s largely nonsense; there’s no such challenge. Merkel said it could take two years or 30 days, but until there is a solid plan she will not let go of the backstop. Maybe she shouldn’t have said 30 Days at all, but it’s mostly moot.

Johnson Accepts Merkel Challenge To Replace Irish Backstop In 30 Days (Ind.)

Boris Johnson has pledged to come up with a plan to replace the Irish backstop within 30 days, after Angela Merkel warned that time was running out to prevent a no-deal Brexit. The prime minister agreed that the “onus” was on his government to set out a solution, telling a joint press conference with the German chancellor: “You have set a very blistering timetable of 30 days – if I understood you correctly, I am more than happy with that.” Ms Merkel said her side was “prepared” for a no deal but struck a conciliatory tone during the trip, which is Mr Johnson’s first to a foreign country as prime minister. He will travel to Paris on Thursday for similar talks with Emmanuel Macron, the French president.

The prime minister claimed there were “abundant solutions” to the border problem in Ireland and that they had only not come to the fore because the British government had not pushed them hard enough in talks. He reiterated that the backstop needed to be removed from the withdrawal agreement and “plainly has to go”, and rejected even accepting a time-limited version of the policy. Ms Merkel, along with all other EU leaders, has said the withdrawal agreement cannot be reopened and that any solution has to be found in the future relationship. “The backstop has always been a fall-back option until this issue is solved and one knows how one wants to do that,” Ms Merkel said.

“It was said we will probably find a solution in two years. But we could also find one in the next 30 days, why not?” British and EU officials tried in vain to find alternative solutions to the withdrawal agreement backstop, but have so far drawn a blank. Technological solutions mooted by some Brexiteers are not thought to currently exist.

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“It was said we will probably find a solution in two years,” she said. “But we could also find one in the next 30 days, why not?”

France Dampens Brexit Deal Hopes As Johnson Visits (BBC)

Boris Johnson is to meet Emmanuel Macron later, hours after the French president seemed to downplay hopes of solving the Irish backstop problem. On Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested a solution to the backstop – a key Brexit sticking point – might be achievable within 30 days. The PM said he was “more than happy” with that “blistering timetable”. But later on Wednesday, Mr Macron insisted reopening negotiations on the issue was “not an option”. Mr Johnson has said that the backstop – which aims to prevent a hard Irish border after Brexit – must be ditched if a no-deal exit from the EU is to be avoided. The EU has repeatedly said the withdrawal deal negotiated by former PM Theresa May, which includes the backstop, cannot be renegotiated.


But at a news conference in Berlin with Mr Johnson on Wednesday, Mrs Merkel indicated that an alternative might be possible, stressing that the onus was on the UK to find a workable plan. “It was said we will probably find a solution in two years,” she said. “But we could also find one in the next 30 days, why not?” A Downing Street spokesman described the meeting of the two leaders as “constructive”. However, hours later, Mr Macron appeared to downplay the prospects of a breakthrough, telling reporters in Paris: “Renegotiation of the terms currently proposed by the British is not an option that exists, and that has always been made clear by [EU] President Tusk.”

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“More than two-thirds of the UK’s pharmaceutical imports come from the EU.”

UK Health Leaders Issue New No-Deal Brexit Warning (BBC)

Health leaders have written to Boris Johnson issuing new warnings on the impact of a no-deal Brexit. In a letter to the prime minister, the heads of 17 royal colleges and health charities across the UK say clinicians are “unable to reassure patients” their health and care will not be affected. They go on to say they have “significant concerns about shortages of medical supplies”. Government said it was working with the health sector on “robust preparations”. The letter, co-ordinated by the Royal College of Physicians, is signed by the heads of organisations including the British Dental Association, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Kidney Care UK and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.

It calls for the Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock to be put on the EU exit strategy committee chaired by Michael Gove, who is in charge of no-deal planning. The signatories argue that – given the scale of the NHS – without sufficient planning, even the smallest of problems could have “huge consequences on the lives of millions of people”. And they say: “The public rightly expects candour from us, and we are simply unable to reassure patients that their health and care won’t be negatively impacted by the UK’s exit from the EU.” There are also, despite ongoing conversations with the Department of Health and Social Care, “significant concerns about shortages of medical supplies”, the letter adds.

“Delays at the border could exacerbate current supply issues and create the very real possibility that life-saving medication is delayed from making it across the Channel.” There have been concerns there will be tailbacks of lorries at Dover and Calais with longer customs checks, if there is a no-deal Brexit. The government has said it is drawing up contingency plans to create more ferry capacity for medicines and other vital supplies on other routes. More than two-thirds of the UK’s pharmaceutical imports come from the EU.

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Like Gibraltar, Greece must stick to EU rules, not US ones. But yes, in Gibraltar it took a judge to point that out, politics was silent.

Greece Says It Won’t Aid Iranian Tanker (K.)

As an Iranian oil tanker which Washington wants seized heads toward Greece, officials Wednesday indicated that Athens would not help the ship reach Syria while seeking to play down the prospects of such a development. In comments to ANT1 TV Wednesday, Alternate Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis said Greece has “sent out a clear message, that there is no way we want to facilitate the transfer of oil to Syria.” “We don’t want to facilitate the course of that ship toward Syria,” he said. He added that the vessel, the Adrian Darya 1, was too big to dock at any Greek port. If it were to enter Greek territorial waters, Greek authorities would respond accordingly, he said, without elaborating. “There is no way that Greece wants to affect its relationship with the US, with which it has a close cooperation,” he added.


Varvitsiotis said the US had been in contact with authorities in Athens, pressing them not to aid the vessel. He added that the Iranian government had not sent any request for the vessel to dock in Greece, noting that the port of Kalamata has been mentioned only in shipping tracking data. Late on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US will take every action it can to prevent the tanker from delivering oil to Syria in contravention of US sanctions. “We have made clear that anyone who touches it, anyone who supports it, anyone who allows a ship to dock is at risk of receiving sanctions from the United States,” Pompeo said. He added that if the tanker’s oil was sold, the revenue would be used by elite units of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, which the US has designated a terrorist organization.

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Pecunia non olet.

MIT Professor Quits In Protest Over Lab Links To Epstein (AFP)

The head of a research center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has said he will quit in protest after the revelation of financial ties between the institution and disgraced hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein. Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media at the MIT Media Lab, said he would leave at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year after finding out that lab director Joi Ito took money from Epstein, who committed suicide in prison on August 10 as he awaited trial on sex trafficking charges. “My logic was simple: the work my group does focuses on social justice and on the inclusion of marginalized individuals and points of view,” Zuckerman wrote in a message posted on the Medium forum Tuesday and added to Wednesday.


“It’s hard to do that work with a straight face in a place that violated its own values so clearly in working with Epstein and in disguising that relationship.” Zuckerman said he had apologized to the three recipients of the Media Lab’s 2018 “Disobedience Prize” who were recognized for their fight against sexual harassment in the science world. “For me, the deep involvement of Epstein in the life of the Media Lab is something that makes my work impossible to carry forward there,” Zuckerman said.

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The Amazon is burning.

 

 

 

 

 

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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Aug 132019
 


Pablo Picasso Girl with a boat (Maya Picasso) 1938

 

Argentine Stocks Plunge Over 50% In One Day (AFP)
Hong Kong’s Leader Warns City Faces ‘Path Of No Return’ (AFP)
China Media Says Hong Kong Protesters ‘Asking For Self-Destruction’ (CNBC)
Boris Johnson Expects EU To Cave In To Save Ireland From No-Deal Brexit (R.)
Mortgage Rate Cuts Aren’t Boosting Housing (DDMB) span>
Have Prosecutors Lost Track Of Ghislaine Maxwell? (VF)
One Of People Watching Epstein Not A Proper Prison Guard (Ind.)
300 Brits Named In FBI dossier On Jeffrey Epstein (M.)
Fergie Feels Heat For Hubby Andrew Meeting Epstein (M.)
New FAA Head To Assess Agency Performance In Wake Of 737 MAX Crashes
Plastic Falls From The Sky In Rocky Mountains (G.)
Farm Rot is Eating America Alive (CP)

 

 

Argentina’s stock market plunged 48% in USD today, marking ‘the second-biggest one-day rout on any of the 94 stock exchanges tracked by Bloomberg going back to 1950.’

Argentine Stocks Plunge Over 50% In One Day (AFP)

Pro-business President Mauricio Macri predicted worse would follow after Argentina’s peso and the Buenos Aires stock exchange plummeted Monday following his crushing defeat by populist candidate Alberto Fernandez in a party primary election. Markets panicked as the peso closed at 57.30 to the dollar, a drop of 18.76 percent from its Friday closing figure, while the Merval index crashed 38 percent by close. On the New York stock exchange, Argentine bonds lost around 20 percent and shares in companies from the recession-hit South American country hemorrhaged more than 50 percent.


“This is just a taste of what’s going to happen” if the Peronist Fernandez, whose running mate is corruption-tainted former president Cristina Kirchner, comes to office, Macri warned. “This is about the past, there’s a ton of people who don’t keep their money in this country, who are leaving this country. It’s incredible what could happen.” Ever since taking office, Macri has blamed Argentina’s economic woes on the polices enacted by three successive Kirchner governments — Cristina Kirchner’s 2007-15 time in office was preceded by a single term for her late husband Nestor. “We cannot go back to the past because the world sees this as the end of Argentina,” said Macri.

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But the protesters are back at the airport.

Hong Kong’s Leader Warns City Faces ‘Path Of No Return’ (AFP)

Violent protests are driving Hong Kong down a “path of no return”, the city’s leader warned Tuesday as its airport struggled to recover from an unprecedented shutdown triggered by a rally and authorities in Beijing sent more ominous signals that the unrest must end. The airport, one of the busiest in the world, re-opened on Tuesday morning but hundreds of flights remained cancelled and protesters called for a new rally there later in the day. The abrupt closure came 10 weeks into a crisis that has seen millions of people take to Hong Kong’s streets in the biggest challenge to Chinese rule of the semi-autonomous city since its 1997 handover from Britain.


Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam warned Tuesday of the dangerous consequences facing the city, one of Asia’s most important financial hubs, if escalating violence at the rallies was not curbed. “Violence, no matter if it’s using violence or condoning violence, will push Hong Kong down a path of no return, will plunge Hong Kong society into a very worrying and dangerous situation,” Lam said. “The situation in Hong Kong in the past week has made me very worried that we have reached this dangerous situation.” Lam, who faced fierce questioning from local reporters and at one point appeared to be on the verge of tears, appealed for calm. “Take a minute to think, look at our city, our home, do you all really want to see it pushed into an abyss,” Lam said, although she again refused to make any concessions to the protesters.

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How much of it is bluff?

China Media Says Hong Kong Protesters ‘Asking For Self-Destruction’ (CNBC)

The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s Communist Party, posted on Chinese social media a statement saying the People’s Armed Police are in Shenzhen prepared to handle “riots, disturbance, major violence and crime and terrorism-related social security issues.” In a Tuesday social media post from the Global Times‘ Chinese edition, the outlet said “if Hong Kong rioters cannot read the signal of having armed police gathering in Shenzhen, then they are asking for self-destruction,” according to a CNBC translation. China is “implying they might send in the People’s Liberation Army or issue direct intervention but they don’t want to,” according to Ben Bland, a director at Sydney-based policy think tank Lowy Institute.


”(Beijing) hopes that the signals will scare protesters to back down,” but if and when Beijing decides to deploy troops they will not “advertise it,” he told CNBC. This is all part of a “delicate dance between China and Hong Kong” that’s reached a critical point because there is almost no common ground or overlapping interests between the protesters and Beijing, Bland added. Although China’s leaders do not want to deploy the PLA, they are “willing to do it if they have to,” the Asia politics expert said. Hong Kong’s former governor, Chris Patten, said on Tuesday that if China intervened in the city, it would be a “catastrophe” and that Chinese President Xi Jinping should see the wisdom of trying to bring people together. Patten called on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to garner support from its allies to ensure Beijing does not intervene.

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That’s quite the gamble.

Boris Johnson Expects EU To Cave In To Save Ireland From No-Deal Brexit (R.)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson believes the European Union will cave in at the last minute and do a Brexit deal with him to “save Ireland”, the Sun newspaper reported on Monday, citing a source. A no-deal Brexit would hurt Ireland the most and Johnson is convinced European leaders will budge over the key issue of the so-called Irish backstop, the Sun said. The EU has said it is not prepared to reopen the divorce deal it agreed with Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May which includes the backstop – an insurance policy to prevent the return to a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland.

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Here’s a string to push on.

Mortgage Rate Cuts Aren’t Boosting Housing (DDMB) span>

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is facing a housing conundrum. The market is in the midst of a 15-month slump, with home price gains and sales having slowed dramatically and permits to build new dwellings slumping by 6.6% to the lowest level in more than two years. This despite a big drop in market interest rates thanks to the Fed’s dovish pivot earlier this year. Of course, a recession would pull down prices and solve the affordability problem (a National Association of Realtors index shows housing is less affordable now than any time since before the financial crisis). But a recession is exactly what Powell hopes to avoid by lowering benchmark interest rates that are already near historic lows.

The thing is, though, 30-year mortgage rates are already at a very low 3.75%, down from almost 5% in November, and housing hasn’t responded. Applications to purchase a home have declined for four weeks running according to the latest Mortgage Bankers Association data. It’s not clear that even lower rates will help. Meanwhile, plans to buy a home within six months are at multi-year lows and look to have turned for the cycle. The value of residential construction is 7.8% lower than the first six months of 2018, accelerating a trend that’s seen a persistent contraction for six quarters, the longest stretch since the last recession. mThere is, however, some appetite to purchase a new home, albeit off a very low base. And while off the lows from last year’s spike in mortgage rates, buyer traffic in those model homes has been negative for nine consecutive months.

There can be benefits to a true housing recession. If the Fed can manage to contain itself and hold the line on negative interest rates, even a small contraction should be enough to flush the proliferation of speculators out of the market. Stories abound of homes swept up at auction that might have otherwise been razed, as in eradicated from the housing stock altogether. Think of these dwellings as the equivalent to the “zombie” companies that have hung on thanks to artificially low rates that spurred a boom in the market for junk bonds and loans. The divergent trend between residential and nonresidential investment is striking, reflecting malls across America being bulldozed and the build out of a warehouse nation.

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“There were rumors on Monday afternoon that indictments of five people were imminent.”

Have Prosecutors Lost Track Of Ghislaine Maxwell? (VF)

Is it possible prosecutors have lost track of Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged co-conspirator in his pedophile ring? For the past few weeks, rumors have circulated that she’s 400 pounds and living in Florida, or that she’s living the high life in London or the Continent, but according to the Washington Post, authorities are having a hard time locating her. Those who know her say that it’s possible she is as much of a Houdini as Epstein. Both of them liked having secrets, and the way those secrets kept people off balance. “Jeffrey always wanted to give the impression that he was an international man of mystery—‘I control everyone and everything, I collect people, I own people, I can damage people,’” says an ex-girlfriend.

As part of Epstein’s original plea deal, negotiated with Alexander Acosta, the others implicated were also given immunity from prosecution, which is partly why victims like Virginia Roberts Giuffre pursued her and others in civil courts. But Epstein’s death has not stopped the current investigation. “We remain committed to standing for you,” Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, wrote in a statement after Epstein’s death, “and our investigation of the conduct charged in the Indictment—which included a conspiracy count—remains ongoing.” There were rumors on Monday afternoon that indictments of five people were imminent.

The nature of the relationship between Epstein and Maxwell, the favorite daughter of embezzling press baron Robert Maxwell, who died when he fell or was pushed from his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine, is not well known. Multiple victims claim she was both part of the sex trafficking ring, often bringing girls to Epstein, and a sexual participant. But Epstein told of-age women he courted that Maxwell was a former girlfriend fallen on hard times, and that he had taken it upon himself to maintain her position in society. “Ghislaine floated in and out of the house with the keys, and even though Jeffrey told me they didn’t have a sexual relationship, she’d drop under her breath that she was sleeping in his bed from time to time,” says an ex-girlfriend.

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The conspiracy gods are giving us the finger.

One Of People Watching Epstein Not A Proper Prison Guard (Ind.)

One of the two people monitoring Jeffrey Epstein in the hours before his death was not a properly trained prison guard, it has been reported. As attorney general William Barr condemned “serious irregularities” at the jail where he was being held on bail, and the world waited news of details of an autopsy amid huge speculation and frenzied conspiracy theories, it emerged the 66-year-old disgraced financier had not been checked for several hours before he was found dead in his cell. Epstein, who was last month arrested and accused of orchestrating a sex trafficking network involving girls as young as 14, had not been on suicide watch at the time of his death.


Regulations did call for him to be checked every 30 minutes, however. These rules were put into place after the man who was once a friend of multiple powerful men and celebrities, was was last month found unconscious on the floor of his cell with marks on his neck, an episode officials were investigating as possible suicide attempt or assault. The New York Times said only one of the two people who were monitoring Epstein at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in New York City, was a “fully-fledged correctional officer”.

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Looks like this is the file that was unsealed on Friday (2,000 pages). That was for Virginia Giuffre’s case vs Ghislaine Maxwell, but I didn’t see it referred to as an FBI dossier before.

300 Brits Named In FBI dossier On Jeffrey Epstein (M.)

The FBI’s 2,000-page dossier on Prince Andrew’s paedophile friend Jeffrey Epstein includes details of 301 British associates from the pervert’s address book. FBI agents raided Epstein’s private US Virgin Island, dubbed “paedophile island”, yesterday as the sex-trafficking probe continued, despite his apparent suicide, aged 66, on Saturday. US officials have also vowed to carry on probing Epstein’s ties to the UK amid fears about his offending overseas. And MPs are calling for an investigation into the Duke of York s relationship with Epstein. Virginia Giuffre claims she was a victim of sex trafficking by Epstein and “loaned” to Prince Andrew for sex three times, which he vehemently denies.

[..] US investigators who looked at Epstein’s “little black book” found almost half of it read like a who’s who of British society. His 301 British contacts had more than 1,000 numbers and dozens of email addresses between them. There is no suggestion the presence of their names in the book means any are accused of any wrongdoing or even met Epstein in person. The contacts included celebrities such as Mick Jagger, Simon Le Bon, the late Sir David Frost, Richard Branson, Naomi Campbell, Tamara Beckwith, Jonathan Dimbleby, Loyd Grossman and numerous lords and ladies. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair is recorded once, while his former cabinet minister Lord Peter Mandelson has 10 numbers, including one marked “direct line” one for “home” and another for “country home”.

There are 16 numbers for Prince Andrew, including a mobile number, one marked “Palace ex-directory”, one for Balmoral, the Queen’s Scottish residence, where the Prince invited Epstein, and one marked “Sand”, for Sandringham, another royal retreat where he spent time. Epstein also recorded 18 numbers for Prince Andrew’s former wife Sarah Ferguson, who took £15,000 off the paedophile to help pay off her debts.

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Andrew’s under fire. He invited Epstein into several royal palaces.

Fergie Feels Heat For Hubby Andrew Meeting Epstein (M.)

Sarah and Andrew have been “rekindling” their romance back at Balmoral on holiday with the Queen. Until Sunday’s headlines about another wealthy American saw Fergie fleeing the royal fold in panic. Because paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, the pal who helped clear her debts, had killed himself – leaving secrets that could draw Andrew deeper into a sordid sex scandal involving teenage girls. And while the royals are standing by Andrew, who categorically denies any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors, Fergie fears she will take more flack over Andrew’s friendship with the disgraced financier. For it was Sarah who first introduced Andrew to “Good Time Ghislaine” Maxwell in the 1990s, before she introduced them to her lover Epstein.


Ghislaine became Andrew’s social fixer, his conduit into millionaire trans-Atlantic society. They were spotted dining on lobster salad, drinking champagne cocktails at a stylish Madison Avenue restaurant in New York in 2000. This was just a brief glimpse of Andrew’s new US life in the fast lane, all private jets, racy nightclubs and first-class treatment. When the Yorks divorced, Fergie’s profligate spending saw her rack up £5million in debts. In 2011, three years after Epstein was convicted of soliciting underage girls for prostitution, Sarah revealed he’d paid £15,000 to a personal assistant she owed.

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“..the Boeing 737 MAX “will not fly in commercial service until I am completely satisfied that it is safe to do so..”

New FAA Head To Assess Agency Performance In Wake Of 737 MAX Crashes

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said on Monday she has asked the new head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to assess the agency’s performance in the wake of two fatal crashes of Boeing Co’s 737 MAX planes since October. Chao, who administered the oath of office to new FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson, a former Delta Air Lines executive, at an event in Washington, said Dickson’s arrival “is an important opportunity to take stock of how well the FAA is doing in carrying out its critical safety functions.”


She added that she has asked Dickson “to assess the performance of the agency and the results of the ongoing investigations to make recommendations about any needed reforms.” Dickson reiterated the position of his predecessor, Dan Elwell, who has been the acting FAA chief since January 2018, that the Boeing 737 MAX “will not fly in commercial service until I am completely satisfied that it is safe to do so. FAA is following no timeline in returning the aircraft to service. Rather we are going to where the facts lead us.”

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We’re experimenting on our children.

Plastic Falls From The Sky In Rocky Mountains (G.)

Plastic was the furthest thing from Gregory Weatherbee’s mind when he began analyzing rainwater samples collected from the Rocky Mountains.“I guess I expected to see mostly soil and mineral particles,” said the US Geologic Survey researcher. Instead, he found multicolored microscopic plastic fibers. The discovery, published in a recent study titled “It is raining plastic”, is raising new questions about the amount of plastic waste permeating the air, water, and soil virtually everywhere on Earth. “I think the most important result that we can share with the American public is that there’s more plastic out there than meets the eye,” said Weatherbee. “It’s in the rain, it’s in the snow. It’s a part of our environment now.”


Rainwater samples collected across Colorado and analyzed under a microscope contained a rainbow of plastic fibers, as well as beads and shards. The findings shocked Weatherbee, who had been collecting the samples in order to study nitrogen pollution. “My results are purely accidental,” he said, though they are consistent with another recent study that found microplastics in France’s Pyrenees Mountains, suggesting that plastic particles could travel with the wind for hundreds, if not thousands, of kilometers. Other studies have turned up microplastics in the deepest reaches of the ocean, in UK lakes and rivers and in US groundwater.

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Farm Rot is Eating America Alive (CP)

The environment is the immense natural world that nourishes life and keep us alive. But instead of protecting and loving it, our corrupt Trump government signals to the business and billionaire classes the environment is theirs to exploit and destroy. The same confused mentality has been keeping the politicians mumbling about social problems, all but neglecting environmental policies that undermine the very ground under their feet. A look at that ground demolishes the bible of agribusiness: that our food is the safest in the world: that our agriculture is science-based. In the place of this fiction, farm rot is eating the country alive.

It’s a repeat of the early twentieth century when Upton Sinclair wrote about the mafia-like culture of food and agriculture: the complete absence of government regulation, the loathsome slaughterhouses of Chicago, the adulteration and poisoning of food. Scientists often publish dense articles about farming that, reading between the lines, you grasp the dreadful effects of our irresponsible decisions of allowing farmers to do as they please. These farmers have been addicted to huge petroleum-fueled machines, mountains of petroleum-based fertilizers, and rivers of petrochemical poisons. These “inputs” undermine the fertility and life of the land. Petrochemicals fight nature, primarily by killing beneficial microorganisms in the soil and poisoning beneficial insects and other wildlife.

The vision of the petrochemical farmers is not diversity in crops, much less diversity in the natural world where they are producing food. No, their nightmare of “scientific” agriculture takes flesh in the cultivation of one crop at a time, covering a vast acreage. In this futile struggle against nature, farmers keep adding more of old sprays, and often replace old chemicals with newer more acutely deleterious materials. Petrochemical companies, and the land grant universities that have been inventing many of the toxic weapons of the farmers, keep the farmers hooked on ever newer hazardous substances.

This farm chemical warfare has been going on for several decades. Farmers, academic and business experts and environmentalists know about it, though rarely any one of them calls farm sprays chemical warfare agents. They hope against hope this process can last forever. But it won’t. It annot. Nature does not work that way. It does not hide its secrets like men do. Employ reason and science and the truth and beauty of nature is all over you. But pretend you are the king and knows best, that you have the right to dominate the natural world, and you face the abyss of destruction.

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Jun 232019
 


Rembrandt van Rijn Saskia en profil in expensive attire 1640-45

 

Mapping the World’s Financial Weak Spots (IMF)
US Launched Cyber Attack On Iranian Rockets And Missiles (AP)
US To Hit Iran With ‘Major’ New Sanctions Monday: Trump (AFP)
Kushner’s Economic Plan For Mideast Peace Faces Broad Arab Rejection (R.)
Three Year Prison Sentence For Damaging EU Flag, German State Proposes (Exp.)
Johnson & Johnson Faces Multibillion Opioids Lawsuit (G.)
Istanbul Votes In Mayoral Re-Run, In Test For Turkish Democracy, Erdogan (R.)
EU Warns Turkey Of Sanctions For Cyprus Drilling (BBC)
Why Is UK Life Expectancy Faltering? (O.)
Great Pacific Garbage Patch: Giant Plastic Trap Put To Sea Again (AP)

 

 

But what does it tell us really?

Mapping the World’s Financial Weak Spots (IMF)

Where will the next financial crisis come from? The short answer is: We don’t know. We can, however, look for vulnerabilities in the system that, if left untreated, can develop into problems. What do we mean by a vulnerability? It is an area of weakness that can amplify and spread an unexpected economic shock, increasing the level of risk to the financial system. Imagine the impact of an earthquake on a house built on sand, as opposed to bedrock. In the financial world, cracks in the bedrock can arise from high levels of debt and mismatches of institutions’ risk factors such as currencies or the maturities of their exposures.


One such weak spot is the debt level in US corporations and the risks investors in their securities take. Lending to heavily indebted companies with weak credit ratings is on the rise and may be a widening crack in the system. This and other vulnerabilities are reflected in the Chart of the Week on a five-point scale ranging from lowest (dark green) to highest (red) for six sectors and five country groups. The chart shows the distribution of vulnerabilities across six sectors in five regions. It was constructed using dozens of indicators going back up to two decades.

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When I see “CrowdStrike” I stop believing anything.

US Launched Cyber Attack On Iranian Rockets And Missiles (AP)

The US military launched a cyber-attack on Iranian weapons systems on Thursday, according to sources, as President Donald Trump backed away from plans for a more conventional strike in response to Iran’s downing of a US surveillance drone. The hack disabled Iranian computer systems that controlled its rocket and missile launchers, two officials told the Associated Press, and were conducted with approval from Trump. A third official confirmed the broad outlines of the strike. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly about the operation.

Two of the officials said the attacks, which specifically targeted computer systems of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), had been provided as options after two oil tankers were bombed. The IRGC has been designated a foreign terrorist group by the Trump administration. Over the past year US officials have focused on persistently engaging with adversaries in cyberspace and undertaking more offensive operations. Tensions with Iran have escalated since the US withdrew last year from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and began a policy of “maximum pressure”. Iran has since been hit by multiple rounds of sanctions.[..]

The cyberattacks are the latest chapter in the US and Iran’s ongoing hacking of each other. In recent weeks hackers believed to be working for the Iranian government have targeted US government agencies, as well as sectors of the economy including finance, oil and gas, sending waves of spear-phishing emails, according to representatives of cybersecurity companies CrowdStrike and FireEye, which track such activity. This new campaign appears to have started shortly after the Trump administration imposed sanctions on the Iranian petrochemical sector this month.

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Inevitably hastening the demise of the reserve currency.

US To Hit Iran With ‘Major’ New Sanctions Monday: Trump (AFP)

President Donald Trump said Saturday that the United States would impose “major” new sanctions on Iran in two days — a move sure to exacerbate tensions with the Islamic republic inflamed by the downing of a US spy plane. Trump tamped down the threat of military action on Friday, when he called off retaliatory strikes at the last minute because the response was not “proportionate” to the drone’s destruction over the Strait of Hormuz. But he had said military action is still an option and brandished the threat of sanctions ever since. Now, he has set a timetable for fresh punitive economic measures to heap more pressure on an Iranian economy already reeling from the sanctions in place since Trump withdrew from an international nuclear deal with Tehran.


“We are putting major additional Sanctions on Iran on Monday,” Trump tweeted. “I look forward to the day that Sanctions come off Iran, and they become a productive and prosperous nation again – The sooner the better!” Earlier, before heading to Camp David for meetings with his advisors on the situation, Trump said he would be Iran’s “best friend” and that the Islamic republic could be a “wealthy” country if it renounced nuclear weapons. “We’re not going to have Iran have a nuclear weapon,” Trump told reporters outside the White House. “When they agree to that, they’re going to have a wealthy country. They’re going to be so happy, and I’m going to be their best friend. I hope that happens.”

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In complete denial of what is at stake: “Homelands cannot be sold”.

Kushner’s Economic Plan For Mideast Peace Faces Broad Arab Rejection (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump’s economic vision as part of the wider plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was met with contempt, repudiation and exasperation in the Arab world, even as some in the Gulf called for it to be given a chance. The $50 billion “peace to prosperity” plan, set to be presented by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner at a conference in Bahrain next week, envisions a global investment fund to lift the Palestinian and neighboring Arab state economies. But the lack of a political solution, which Washington has said would be unveiled later, prompted rejection not only from Palestinians but also in Arab countries that Israel would seek normal relations with.

From Sudan to Kuwait, prominent commentators and ordinary citizens denounced Kushner’s proposals in strikingly similar terms: “colossal waste of time,” “non-starter,” “dead on arrival.” “Homelands cannot be sold, even for all the money in the world,” Egyptian analyst Gamal Fahmy said. “This plan is the brainchild of real estate brokers, not politicians. Even Arab states that are described as moderate are not able to openly express support for it.” Commentator Sarkis Naoum at Lebanon’s An-Nahar newspaper said, “This economic plan, like others, won’t succeed because it has no political foundation.”

While the precise outline of the political plan has been shrouded with secrecy, officials briefed on it say Kushner has jettisoned the two-state solution – the long-standing worldwide formula that envisages an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. The PLO has dismissed Kushner’s plans as “all abstract promises,” insisting that only a political solution will solve the problem. It said they were an attempt to bribe the Palestinians into accepting Israeli occupation.

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Huh?

Three Year Prison Sentence For Damaging EU Flag, German State Proposes (Exp.)

Anyone who attacks the blue and gold starred cloth displayed in public, rendering it “removed, destroyed, damaged, unusable or unrecognisable” could be slapped with a lengthy jail term or hefty fine. The proposed law will also protect the European anthem, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, according to a report in Saarbrucken Zeitung, a daily newspaper in West Germany. The Saxon bill seeks to bring the status of the union’s flag into line with that of other foreign flags and national symbols. The new bill says attacks “on the reputation of the symbols of the European Union” are unacceptable, according to Saarbrucken Zeitung.


It states that it is “a commandment of self-respect and self-assertion” that the state protects the EU “against malicious contempt”. Paragraph 104 of Germany’s criminal code states that anyone who damages the flag or symbol of a foreign nation will be imprisoned or fined. A precondition is that Germany maintains diplomatic relations with the state. Saxony, home to four million people, sits in eastern Germany, where far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) emerged as the strongest group in last month’s European elections.

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Will we see as many jail terms as for the financial crisis?

Johnson & Johnson Faces Multibillion Opioids Lawsuit (G.)

Day after day, the memos flashing across screens in an Oklahoma courtroom have jarred with the family-friendly public image of Johnson & Johnson, the pharmaceutical giant best known for baby powder and Band-Aid. In one missive, a sales representative dismissed a doctor’s fears that patients might become addicted to the company’s opioid painkillers by telling him those who didn’t die probably wouldn’t get hooked. Another proposes targeting sales of the powerfully addictive drugs at those most at risk: men under 40.

As the state of Oklahoma’s multibillion-dollar lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson has unfolded over the past month, the company has struggled to explain marketing strategies its accusers say dangerously misrepresented the risk of opioid addiction to doctors, manipulated medical research, and helped drive an epidemic that has claimed 400,000 lives over the past two decades. Johnson & Johnson profited further as demand for opioids surged by buying poppy growing companies in Australia to supply the raw narcotic for its own medicines and other American drug makers. One expert witness at the forefront of combatting the epidemic, Dr Andrew Kolodny, told the court he had little idea about Johnson & Johnson’s role until he saw the evidence in the case. “I think it’s fair to characterize Johnson & Johnson as a kingpin in our opioid crisis,” he said.

Oklahoma’s attorney general, Mike Hunter, is suing Johnson & Johnson for billions of dollars for its alleged part in driving addiction and overdoses in his state in the first full trial of a drug maker over the opioid epidemic. But Hunter’s lawsuit has put the wider industry in the dock, too, by laying out how opioid manufacturers worked together to drive up sales by using their huge resources to influence medical policy and doctor prescribing. Hunter said the strategy was motivated by the industry’s “greed” as profits surged. [..] Purdue Pharma kickstarted the epidemic with its high-strength, long-lasting opioid, OxyContin, in the mid-1990s. The court heard how Johnson & Johnson quickly realized the potential and set about competing.

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Erdogan wobbles.

Istanbul Votes In Mayoral Re-Run, In Test For Turkish Democracy, Erdogan (R.)

Millions of Istanbul residents voted on Sunday in a re-run of a mayoral election that has become a referendum on President Tayyip Erdogan’s policies and a test of Turkey’s ailing democracy. In the initial March 31 vote, the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate secured a narrow victory over Erdogan’s AK Party (AKP) in Turkey’s largest city, a rare electoral defeat for the president. But after weeks of AKP appeals, Turkey’s High Election Board in May annulled the vote citing irregularities. The opposition called the decision a “coup” against democracy, which has raised the stakes for round two.

“It is really ridiculous that the election is being re-run. It was an election won fair and square,” said Asim Solak, 50, who said he was voting for the opposition candidate in the CHP stronghold of Tesvikiye. “It is clear who canceled the election. We hope this election re-run will be a big lesson for them,” he said. Erdogan has repeated his line that “whoever wins Istanbul wins Turkey.” A second loss in the city, where in the 1990s he served as mayor, would be embarrassing for Erdogan and could weaken what until recently seemed to be his iron grip on power.

Turkey’s economy is in recession and the United States, its NATO ally, has threatened sanctions if Erdogan goes ahead with plans to install Russian missile defenses. A second AKP loss could also shed further light into what CHP mayoral candidate Ekrem Imamoglu said was the misspending of billions of lira at the Istanbul municipality, which has a budget of around $4 billion. “If Imamoglu wins again, there’s going to be a chain of serious changes in Turkish politics,” journalist and writer Murat Yetkin said. “It will be interpreted as the beginning of a decline for AKP and for Erdogan as well,” he said, noting that the president himself had called the local elections “a matter of survival”.

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NATO and US need Turkey. It’s as central as Iran.

EU Warns Turkey Of Sanctions For Cyprus Drilling (BBC)

The EU has threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey if it continues “illegal drilling” in waters near Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean. The warning came at an EU summit in Brussels. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called Turkey’s actions “totally unacceptable”. Turkey launched a second drilling ship – the Yavuz – on Thursday for natural gas and oil prospecting off Cyprus. The Republic of Cyprus is in the EU, but the breakaway north is pro-Turkey. The European Council – the EU government leaders – called on Turkey to “show restraint, respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus and refrain from any such actions”.


“The European Council endorses the invitation to the [EU] Commission and the EEAS [EU foreign affairs service] to submit options for appropriate measures without delay, including targeted measures,” the statement said. The self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognised only by Turkey, and is internationally isolated. Turkey said it was drilling inside its continental shelf, complying with international law. Reuters news agency reported that a Turkish drilling ship, the Fatih, had been anchored west of Cyprus since early May and had begun drilling. [..] Turkey – a key Nato partner for the West – has extensive trade ties with the EU and has not yet been hit with EU sanctions, unlike Russia. The US has threatened Turkey with sanctions if Mr Erdogan goes ahead with a deal to buy S-400 air defence missiles from Russia.

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Given the attacks on the NHS, this should not be surprising. Same as in US.

Why Is UK Life Expectancy Faltering? (O.)

In a few days, a team of researchers, statisticians and geographers will gather at University College London to tackle an issue of increasing concern for doctors and health experts. They will investigate why many UK citizens are now living shorter, less healthy lives compared with the recent past. The emergence of faltering life expectancy in Britain has caused particular alarm because it reverses a trend that has continued, almost unbroken, for close to 100 years. Over this period, lives have lengthened continuously, blessing more and more British people with the gift of old age. But now that increase has come to a halt, statisticians have discovered. Indeed, among many sections of the UK population, declines have set in.

Hence the meeting, organised by the British Society for Population Studies, which has been organised so delegates can use data – to be released this week by the Office for National Statistics – to update their life expectancy projections. “It is a perfect storm,” says Danny Dorling, professor of social geography at Oxford University, who has organised the London meeting. “Our faltering life expectancy rates show we have now got the worst trend in health anywhere in western Europe since the second world war. To achieve that, we must have made a lot of bad decisions,” he said. Statisticians first noticed in 2013 that rises in life expectancy in the UK had begun to slow down. Gradually, the graph – which been rising for decades – flattened out until, a few years ago, it started to decline for increasing numbers of people.

The elderly, the poor and the newborn were worst affected. For example, life expectancies for those over 65 have dropped by more than six months. The trend now causes considerable concern among doctors who view life expectancy figures as barometers of the health of Britain. From this perspective, the nation is sickening – and a host of different factors have been put forward as explanations. One frequently made claim is that humans have simply reached the peak of longevity. “Life expectancy cannot be expected to increase forever,” Robert Courts, a Tory MP, told the Commons recently. Many statisticians point out, however, that life expectancy has continued to rise – well above UK levels – in many other places, including Hong Kong, mainland China, Japan and Scandinavia. Other factors must be involved, they state.

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If breaks again will it ever sail again?

Great Pacific Garbage Patch: Giant Plastic Trap Put To Sea Again (AP)

A floating device designed to catch plastic waste has been redeployed in a second attempt to clean up a huge island of garbage swirling in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii. Boyan Slat, creator of the Ocean Cleanup project, announced on Twitter that a 600-metre (2,000-foot) long floating boom that broke apart late last year was sent back to the Great Pacific garbage patch this week after four months of repair. A ship towed the U-shaped barrier from San Francisco to the patch in September to trap the plastic. But during the four months at sea, the boom broke apart under constant waves and wind and the boom wasn’t retaining the plastic it caught.

“Hopefully nature doesn’t have too many surprises in store for us this time,” Slat tweeted. “Either way, we’re set to learn a lot from this campaign.” Fitted with solar-powered lights, cameras, sensors and satellite antennas, the device intends to communicate its position at all times, allowing a support vessel to fish out the collected plastic every few months and transport it to dry land. The plastic barrier with a tapered 3-metre deep (10-foot deep) screen is intended to act like a coastline, trapping some of the 1.8tn pieces of plastic that scientists estimate are swirling in the patch while allowing marine life to safely swim beneath it.

During its first run, the organisation said marine biologists on board the support vessel did not observe any environmental impact. Slat has said he hopes one day to deploy 60 of the devices to skim plastic debris off the surface of the ocean.

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Jun 222019
 


Pablo Picasso Composition (Minotaur And Woman) 1 1936

 

The Dow Is On Pace For Its Best June Return In 80 Years (MW)
US Banks Clear First Hurdle Of Federal Reserve’s Annual Stress Test (R.)
Carney Rejects Boris Johnson’s No-Deal Brexit Trade Claim (G.)
Just One Week Left To Save British Steel (G.)
Crude Steel Production: China Knocks the Socks off Rest of the World (WS)
China State Media Urges US To Drop Win-At-All-Costs Trade Stance (R.)
Crazyland (Kunstler)
Hong Kong Protesters ‘Besiege’ Police HQ (AFP)
Bernie Sanders Faces Mounting Opposition From Moderate Democrats (G.)
UN Rights Chief Says Venezuela Should Release Jailed Opponents (AFP)
Lethal Plastic Trash Now Common In Greece’s Whales (AP)

 

 

As three quarters of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. The Dow is virtual reality.

The Dow Is On Pace For Its Best June Return In 80 Years (MW)

U.S. stock benchmarks enjoyed a nearly unfettered run-up toward records on the week — with the rally pausing briefly Friday — on the back of the Federal Reserve’s easier monetary-policy stance. Recent gains have put the Dow Jones Industrial Average in position to ring up its best June gain of 7.7% since 1938 when the blue-chip benchmark surged an eye-popping 24.3% on the month, according to Dow Jones Market Data. The S&P 500 index is on track for its best June return, with a gain of about 7.2%, since 1955 when the broad-market benchmark rose 8.2%, while the Nasdaq Composite Index was on track for a 7.8% return in June, which would represent its best June since a 16.6% gain back in 2000.


The S&P 500 notched its first record close since April 30 on Friday, while the Dow is off less than 1% short of its Oct. 3 all-time closing peak. The rally for equities has been partly supported by the Fed, which concluded its Wednesday rate-setting meeting by signaling a willingness too trim rates as soon as the end of the July 30-31 gathering to curb the effects of tariff clashes between the U.S. and international trade partners, notably China, that have roiled global economies and threaten to disrupt global supply chains.

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US banks, too, are virtual reality.

US Banks Clear First Hurdle Of Federal Reserve’s Annual Stress Test (R.)

The 18 largest banks operating in the United States took the first step toward doling out capital on dividends, share buybacks and other investments on Friday, after clearing the first stage of their yearly health checks with the U.S. Federal Reserve that assess their ability to weather a major economic downturn. The central bank said lenders, including JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America Corp, would face losses of $410 billion under its most severe recession scenario ever, but levels of high-quality capital would still be well above regulatory minimums. “The nation’s largest banks are significantly stronger than before the crisis and would be well-positioned to support the economy even after a severe shock,” Fed Vice Chairman Randal Quarles said in a statement.


The Fed said hypothetical losses were broadly comparable to results from prior years, with the most significant loan losses seen in credit cards, followed by commercial and industrial loans. Friday’s results, the first of the two-part annual “stress test,” showed the country’s biggest lenders could meet minimum Fed standards based on information they submitted to the regulator. But banks could still stumble next Thursday, when the Fed announces whether it will permit banks to dish out dividends and buy back shares. That second test is more rigorous, assessing whether it is safe for banks to implement their capital plans. It also reviews operational controls and risk management. All eyes are on Deutsche Bank, which is bracing for potentially its fourth flunking in five years amid ongoing turmoil in its U.S. operations. Last year, the Fed failed the bank, citing “material weaknesses” in its data capabilities and capital planning.

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He’s saying Boris is lying.

Carney Rejects Boris Johnson’s No-Deal Brexit Trade Claim (G.)

The Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, has said that the UK would be hit automatically by tariffs on exports to the EU in a no-deal Brexit, rejecting a claim made by Boris Johnson that this could be avoided. Tory leadership candidate Johnson said this week that tariffs would not necessarily have to be paid if the UK left the EU without a deal because the UK could rely on article 24 of the general agreement on tariffs and trade (Gatt). Some Brexit supporters have claimed that the Gatt, a treaty under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO), would allow a “standstill” in which tariffs are avoided, even in the absence of any agreement on trade.


Many trade experts say this is not the case without agreement from both sides. Carney cited the head of the WTO and Liam Fox, the minister for international trade who backed the Vote Leave campaign in 2016, to contradict Johnson. Talking to the BBC, Carney said: “Gatt 24 applies if you have an agreement, not if you’ve decided not to have an agreement or have been unable to come to an agreement. “Not having an agreement with the EU means that there are tariffs automatically because the Europeans have to apply the same rules to us as they apply to everyone else. If they were to decide not to put in place tariffs they also have to lower their tariffs with the United States, with the rest of the world. And the same would hold for us.”

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Should a government spend hundreds of millions to save its steel industry?

Just One Week Left To Save British Steel (G.)

A frontrunner to buy British Steel has been deterred by the government’s refusal to provide backing for investment in the Scunthorpe steelworks, amid concern there is just a week left to save the company. The government’s Insolvency Service, which is funding British Steel’s operations while seeking a buyer, has given bidders until 30 June to make an offer for the company, whose financial failure last month put 4,500 jobs at risk. About a dozen firms are thought to have made tentative approaches and the deadline could be extended if any ask for more time to draft a takeover plan. But the Guardian understands that Liberty House, previously considered among the most likely to buy British Steel, has cooled its interest after failing to secure government support, including loan guarantees to fund investment.


Liberty wants to convert Scunthorpe’s blast furnaces, which make steel from scratch, into more cost-effective electric arc furnaces that can use recycled steel to make similar products. But the plan would require a major outlay, which according to a person with knowledge of the situation would be in the “low hundreds of millions”. The source said there was a “lack of enthusiasm” in government for the steps that would be required to convert the steelworks. Government officials are understood to be unwilling to provide loan guarantees or help retrain staff who might lose their jobs, although such measures are thought to fall within state aid rules.

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Depending solely on China for steel may not be the way to go either.

Crude Steel Production: China Knocks the Socks off Rest of the World (WS)

In the year 2018, China alone produced 928 Mt of crude steel, up 6.6% up from 2017. This represented 51.3% of annual global production. In the first four months of 2019, China’s crude steel production jumped 10.3% year-over-year to 315 million metric tonnes, bringing its share to 52.5% of global production. For April alone, China’s production soared 12.8% year-over-year to 85 Mt, and its share of global production reached 54.2%. That’s the new record. The US, by comparison, the fourth largest crude steel producer, maintained its minuscule 4.7% share of global production over the 12-month period.


Vietnam, which in April moved up to 15th place, from 17th place for the year 2018, booked a huge jump of 42% in crude steel production in the first four months this year compared to 2018. For now, it’s still only a small producer with a share of less than 1% of global production. In the rest of the world without China, production over the first four months in 2019 declined by 0.6% year-over-year. The chart shows the monthly production of China (red) and the rest of the world (black), including the US in 2018 and 2019; in addition as a memo entry, just to see where we are, I added US production (green):

China’s steel production began surging out of near-nowhere in the late 1990s to end up outproducing the entire rest of the world, according to the data by the World Steel Association.

China’s mostly state-owned steel giants just kept on producing during the Financial Crisis, whether there was demand or not, causing prices to dive. Its market share jumped from 38% in 2008 to 47% in 2009. And its share has continued to grow. The chart below shows the global share of production in China and in North American (US, Canada, and Mexico):

No country comes even close to China’s crude steel production. For example, its production is 11 times the amount produced in the US. But second and third place are just a hair apart. In 2017 India was in third place. In 2018, it moved into second place with 106.5 Mt., having outproduced Japan (104.3 Mt). The US is in fourth place (86.6 Mt). Canada is in 18th place:

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Preparing for a meeting the Chinese way.

China State Media Urges US To Drop Win-At-All-Costs Trade Stance (R.)

Instead of waging a trade war with China, the United States should drop its win-at-all-costs mentality and consider the interests of its own people as well as the global community, the official People’s Daily said an editorial on Saturday. The Chinese Communist Party’s newspaper urged the United States to cancel all tariffs on Chinese goods, saying the only way to resolve trade issues was through “equal dialogue”. Hopes that the two sides can rekindle negotiations were raised in the run-up to a meeting next week between President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Donald Trump in Japan, where they will both attend a Group of 20 summit.


The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is holding seven days of hearings from manufacturers and other businesses likely to be affected by a new round of tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese imports proposed by U.S. President Donald Trump. The People’s Daily said all previous hearings had shown “overwhelming” opposition to tariff increases from all walks of life, but it had made no difference. “It seems that some people in the United States are waving the tariff stick in order to strengthen their so-called ‘industrial competitive advantage’,” it said. “They do not consider public opinion, do not consider national conditions, and do not take the international economic order into account. They just want the renown as ‘winners’ but cannot understand the fact that they basically cannot win.”

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Tucker Carlson now appears to be Trump’s main foreign adviser. And he’s ripping into Bolton.

Crazyland (Kunstler)

Surfing the cable channels the evening before my Friday a.m. blog duties, I came upon Sean Hannity at Fox News completely losing his shit in a colloquy with Geraldo Rivera about the Iran drone incident. “Bomb the crap out of them!” Mr. Hannity ranted, several times, the veins in his neck throbbing visibly on the high-def screen. I thought I was having an acid flashback to Doctor Strangelove. Geraldo himself seemed a bit nonplussed and embarrassed by Mr. Hannity’s tantrum, but his attempts to calm down the raving anchorman only ramped up the hysteria. One wondered: are there any adult producers off-screen on that network?


Perhaps the Golden Golem of Greatness, our president, who is also known to follow the Cable TV news, witnessed the cringeworthy incident and realized that every other head-of-state on this nervous planet would also see it, and might infer he was doing the bidding of a crazed boob-tube performer if he actually went forward with an air strike. Earlier, he’d told reporters, “You’ll soon find out,” what the USA’s response to the drone shoot-down would be. He should have just kept his mouth shut. Planes and ships were on their way to the bottleneck in the Persian Gulf known as the Straits of Hormuz. Before they could deliver any payloads, Mr. Trump called the whole thing off suggesting that maybe some “loose and stupid” Colonel Borat type on Iran’s side had gone rogue in the incident.

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Doesn’t look as if they will go away before getting what they demand.

Hong Kong Protesters ‘Besiege’ Police HQ (AFP)

Hong Kong police on Saturday slammed anti-government protesters for besieging their headquarters, calling the demonstration “illegal and irrational” as they vowed to pursue the ringleaders. “Police have shown the greatest tolerance of protesters who assembled outside PHQ (police headquarters) but their means of expressing views has become illegal, irrational and unreasonable,” the city’s police said in a statement. “Police will stringently follow up on these illegal activities.” Thousands of protesters blockaded the police headquarters throughout Friday and into the small hours of Saturday morning, the latest manifestation of angry demonstrations sweeping the city.


The international finance hub has been rocked by the worst political unrest since its 1997 handover to China. Millions have marched this month to oppose a proposed law that would have allowed extraditions to the Chinese mainland. Officers had used tear gas and rubber bullets last week to clear protesters during a massive demonstration outside the city’s parliament, sparking widespread anger against the police force. [..] During Friday’s demonstrations outside their headquarters, large crowds of protesters blockaded entrances, taped over CCTV cameras and shouted at police. Many chanted “release the righteous” and “shame on police thugs” — references to those detained during violence last week between demonstrators and the police. Officers remained inside their fortified building throughout.

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“The corporate wing of the Democratic party is publicly ‘anybody but Bernie’.”

Bernie Sanders Faces Mounting Opposition From Moderate Democrats (G.)

Moderate Democrats have stepped up their opposition to Bernie Sanders as part of a concerted effort to isolate him from the sprawling field of otherwise “mainstream” and “electable” presidential candidates running for their party’s nomination in 2020. Last week, Sanders delivered a searing defense of democratic socialism that set himself apart from the rest of the Democratic party, whose opposition he said he not only anticipated but welcomed. Days later, at a gathering of nearly 250 political moderates convened by the centrist thinktank Third Way in South Carolina, some of the party’s most prominent center-left voices took the bait.

“I believe a gay midwestern mayor can beat [Donald] Trump. I believe an African American senator can beat Trump. I believe a western governor, a female senator, a member of Congress, a Latino Texan or a former vice-president can beat Trump,” said Jon Cowan, president of Third Way, hours before Donald Trump formally launched his re-election campaign with a rally in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday. “But I don’t believe a self-described democratic socialist can win.” In speeches and on panels over the course of two sticky days in Charleston earlier this week, moderate lawmakers, strategists and donors inveighed against the Vermont senator’s populist economic vision.

The approach elevated a conversation that has largely taken place behind closed doors about how to thwart Sanders, who moderates believe would alienate crucial voting blocs in a general election. “He has made it his mission to either get the nomination or to remake the party in his image as a democratic socialist,” Cowan told the Guardian. “That is an existential threat to the future of the Democratic party for the next generation.” [..] “The cat is out of the bag,” Sanders tweeted on Wednesday, sharing a Politico story about how mainstream Democrats are warming to Elizabeth Warren, his closest ideological ally. “The corporate wing of the Democratic party is publicly ‘anybody but Bernie’.”

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Free the coup plotters so they can do it again?!

UN Rights Chief Says Venezuela Should Release Jailed Opponents (AFP)

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called on Venezuela to release jailed dissidents Friday and said the crisis-wracked country faced a “serious” humanitarian situation. Her comments came at the end of a three-day visit to the country on the invitation of embattled President Nicolas Maduro, who has faced allegations of cracking down on political opponents amid rampant hyperinflation and shortages of basic goods. “I call on the authorities to release all those who are detained or deprived of their liberty for exercising their civil rights in a peaceful manner,” said Bachelet, referring to the hundreds of Maduro government opponents who are currently incarcerated.

The UN rights chief met relatives of these detainees, many of whom are accused of “conspiracy” to overthrow the government. She also spoke with relatives of people who died during the anti-Maduro protests of 2017. Rights groups had pushed Bachelet to raise the issue of 715 people they say have been jailed for political reasons, a claim Maduro’s government rejects. [..] Bachelet has previously criticized the government’s response to the crisis and called for Caracas to respect “everyone’s fundamental right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.”

Yet it was the Maduro government who invited her to Venezuela, saying the visit would be an opportunity to show its adherence to human rights and the “negative repercussions” of sanctions that prevent it from selling its oil to the United States. Bachelet has also been critical of US sanctions against Maduro imposed by President Donald Trump, raising concerns that restrictions on trade with Venezuela could have negative repercussions for the general population in a country where 96 percent of the budget is based on oil. During her visit, Bachelet also met with opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized as Venezuela’s interim president by some 50 countries, including the United States.

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“..an 8-meter (26-foot) pregnant sperm whale was found dead off Sardinia in March with 22 kilograms (48.5 pounds) of plastic in its stomach..”

Lethal Plastic Trash Now Common In Greece’s Whales (AP)

A study of whales and dolphins that have washed up dead in Greece over a 20-year period has found alarmingly high levels of plastic trash — mostly bags — in the animals’ stomachs, which can condemn them to a slow and painful death. In the worst case, a researcher said Friday, a 5.3-meter (17-foot) young sperm whale beached on the Aegean island of Mykonos had swallowed 135 plastic items weighing a total of 3.2 kilograms (7 pounds). This blocked its stomach, grossly distending it, while the animal itself was emaciated and had starved to death. Sperm whales are an endangered species already at high risk in the Mediterranean from deadly collisions with ships, entanglement in drift fishing nets and noise pollution from oil and gas exploration.


The study published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin, which organizers say was the first on such a scale in the Mediterranean, found that sperm whales were also the species worst affected by plastic ingestion. Six out of ten specimens were found to have consumed plastics according to Alexandros Frantzis, scientific director of the Athens-based Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute that conducted the research. “The amount of (debris) we found is very high, and should set off an alarm,” he told The Associated Press. “It is now something common. … It’s not just that some random animal swallowed plastic.” Frantzis is a prominent whale and dolphin expert known for first linking fatal whale beachings to the use of military sonar by warships. In a separate incident outside the scope of the Greek study, an 8-meter (26-foot) pregnant sperm whale was found dead off Sardinia in March with 22 kilograms (48.5 pounds) of plastic in its stomach.


Researchers Alexandros Frantzis and Voula Alexiadou lie on a tennis court next to the plastic that was in the stomach of a dead sperm whale found on the Aegean Sea island of Mykonos. The collection includes a Greek souvlaki restaurant bag, Turkish trash bags and biscuit packaging. (Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute via AP)

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Jun 132019
 


Caravaggio The Denial of St. Peter 1610

 

UK Government Signs Julian Assange’s Extradition Papers (SBS)
ABC Raids A Wake-Up Call To Journalists Who Left Assange Swinging (SMH)
The Thought Police Are Coming (Chris Hedges)
A Recession Shock Could Wipe 30% Off US Stocks – Oxford Economics (MW)
The Fed Can’t Save Us –John Rubino (USAW)
1/3 of Americans Need A “Side Hustle” To Make Ends Meet (SHTF)
Trump Says Foreign ‘Dirt’ Not Election Interference (ZH)
John Bolton’s Long Goodbye (Kiriakou)
UK Labour Loses Vote To Prevent Future Tory PM Forcing Through No Deal (Ind.)
Leaked Cabinet Note: UK Not Ready For No-Deal Brexit On October 31 (Ind.)
Macron Wants EU Ties With Moscow Independent of NATO & US (RT)
Australia Approves Vast Coal Mine Near Great Barrier Reef (AFP)
You May Be Eating A Credit Card’s Worth Of Plastic Each Week (R.)
Troubling Levels Of Glyphosate In Foods Marketed To Children (RT)

 

 

Does the UK still operate under the rule of law? Does any western nation?

UK Government Signs Julian Assange’s Extradition Papers (SBS)

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today that he has signed Julian Assange’s extradition order. “The final decision is now with the courts,” Mr Javid said. It is unclear whether the WikiLeaks founder will be sent to Sweden or the US. It was earlier reported that the US had formally submitted an extradition request to the UK for the WikiLeaks founder. Mr Assange faces an 18-count indictment that accuses him of soliciting and publishing classified information and of conspiring with former Army private Chelsea Manning to crack a Defense Department computer password. That indictment, which includes Espionage Act charges, was issued by the Justice Department last month and is pending in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.


The extradition request had been expected ever since US authorities first announced a criminal case against Mr Assange. [..] The United States will detail all the charges against Mr Assange when it seeks his extradition in a London court on Friday, the editor of the whistleblowers’ website said on Tuesday. “The American authorities, the Department of Justice, will present the evidence in support of their extradition demand,” Kristinn Hrafnsson told reporters. The US Justice Department confirmed on Tuesday that it had submitted a formal extradition request. The 47-year-old Australian is not expected to attend Friday’s hearing but could take part from prison via video link, although it will be largely procedural. The “first real confrontation of arguments” in court will not be for several weeks or months, Mr Hrafnsson said.

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“Assange, the outsider, did much more than that, he laid the path for the future of journalism, where journalists would be expected to produce primary source documents, wherever possible, and horror of all horrors, share them with the public.”

ABC Raids A Wake-Up Call To Journalists Who Left Assange Swinging (SMH)

The federal police raid on the ABC last week produced an unexpected benefit. Journalists are being forced to decide: whose side are they on. And where do they stand on fundamental issues of disclosure and the public’s right to know? When the executive producer of Australia’s most highly regarded current affairs program Four Corners retweeted that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was “Putin’s bitch” – a tweet she later removed – it said much about the state of journalism in Australia. The re-post, echoing a view held by many Australian journalists, followed a Four Corners interview with Hillary Clinton in which she was given full rein to attack Assange. Clinton was angry that WikiLeaks had revealed through a series of leaked Democratic Party emails that the party executive had given her help to defeat her main rival Senator Bernie Sanders for the party’s nomination – and helped the campaign of Donald Trump.

While the former presidential candidate was challenged on emails relating to her controversial involvement with the Clinton Foundation, never once was it pointed out that the Democratic Party emails revealed how she had been an active beneficiary of deeply unethical behaviour inside the party. What state have we reached where Assange, a journalist, facing his next extradition hearing in London on Friday, should be so reviled? It is dangerous territory for journalism. The insults thrown by Trump that journalists were the enemy of the American people might have been self-serving, but clearly the old notion that journalists mainly represent ordinary people against the powerful is in many cases something of the past. Just as the political parties have shifted to the right, so too have many journalists.

What so enrages the journalists’ “club” is the challenge from those who question their power, journalists like Assange. His revelations threatened them. But Assange, the outsider, did much more than that, he laid the path for the future of journalism, where journalists would be expected to produce primary source documents, wherever possible, and horror of all horrors, share them with the public. The internet made this possible, but for those who were holding out against the inevitable rise of this new form of communications, it posed a huge threat to the old order. Assange was not interested in off-the-record briefings from government insiders. He wanted to show the original documents to practise what he called Scientific Journalism.

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Very strong from Chris Hedges. A talk Tuesday, June 11, at an event held in London in support of Julian Assange.

The Thought Police Are Coming (Chris Hedges)

Ask the Iraqi parents of Sabiha Hamed Salih, aged 15, and Ashwaq Hamed Salih, aged 16, who were killed by shrapnel in Baghdad on July 31, 2004, what they think of Julian Assange. Ask the man and his two young daughters who saw their wife and mother shot to death and were themselves wounded in a car fired upon by U.S. Marines in Fallujah on July 22, 2005, what they think of Julian Assange. Ask the parents of Huda Haleem, an 18-year-old girl, and Raghad Muhamad Haleem, a 5-year-old boy, shot dead by U.S. soldiers on June 2, 2006, in Iraq’s Diyala province what they think of Julian Assange. Ask the parents of the 15-year-old boy choked with a wire and then shot to death by U.S. Marines in Ramadi on Aug. 10, 2006, what they think of Julian Assange.

Ask the relatives of Ahmed Salam Mohammad, who was shot dead on Nov. 27, 2006, when U.S. troops attacked a wedding party near Mosul, an attack that also left four wounded, what they think of Julian Assange. Ask the families of the over one dozen people shot to death with .50-caliber machine guns by bantering U.S. Apache helicopter crews in east Baghdad in July 2007—the crew members can be heard laughing at the “dead bastards” and saying “light ’em up” and “keep shooting, keep shooting”—a massacre that included two journalists for Reuters—Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh—what they think of Julian Assange. Ask the then 10-year-old Sajad Mutashar and his 5-year-old sister, Doaha, both wounded, whose 43-year-old father, Saleh, was shot to death from the air as he attempted to assist one of the wounded men in the Baghdad street what they think of Julian Assange.

There is nothing like the boot of the oppressor on your neck to give you moral clarity. None of these war crimes, and hundreds more reported to the U.S. military but never investigated, would have been made public without Julian, Chelsea Manning and WikiLeaks. That is the role of journalists—to give a voice to those who without us would have no voice, to hold the powerful to account, to give the forgotten and the demonized justice, to speak the truth. We have watched over the last decade as freedom of the press and legal protection for those who expose government abuses and lies have been obliterated by wholesale government surveillance and the criminalizing of the leaking and, with Julian’s persecution, publication of these secrets. The press has been largely emasculated in the United States. The repeated use of the Espionage Act, especially under the Obama administration, to charge and sentence whistleblowers has shut down our ability to shine a light into the inner workings of power and empire.

Governmental officials with a conscience, knowing all of their communications are monitored, captured and stored by intelligence agencies, are too frightened to reach out to reporters. The last line of defense lies with those with the skills that allow them to burrow into the records of the security and surveillance state and with the courage to make them public, such as Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Jeremy Hammond, now serving a 10-year prison term in the United States for hacking into the Texas-based private security firm Strategic Forecasting Inc., or Stratfor. The price of resistance is high not only for them, but for those such as Julian willing to publish this information. As Sarah Harrison has pointed out: “This is our data, our information, our history. We must fight to own it.”

Even if Julian were odious, which he is not, even if he carried out a sexual offense, which he did not, even if he was a poor houseguest—a bizarre term for a man trapped in a small room for nearly seven years under house arrest—which he was not, it would make no difference. Julian is not being persecuted for his vices. He is being persecuted for his virtues.

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Make it an even 60%.

A Recession Shock Could Wipe 30% Off US Stocks – Oxford Economics (MW)

[..] they’ve got a couple of grim worst-case scenarios. One envisages the U.S. economy slowing sharply from the third quarter of this year, then falling into recession as corporate profits, hitting business and investor sentiment. The fallout from this could trigger a 30% drop in the S&P 500 in the third quarter. Within a year the U.S. would be in recession, with the Fed cutting interest rates aggressively to “stave off the worst of the shock,” says the economic forecasters. The other downbeat scenario pictures bleak fallout from a trade-war escalation.


The U.S. slaps a 25% tariff on China and Mexico imports, and a 10% blanket tariff on Europe goods, and 25% on non-North American cars. Based on those assumptions, U.S. stocks could be 15% lower by late 2019, the firm says. But let’s leave things on a happy note. Under yet one more scenario they predict further stimulus from China, de-escalation in trade tensions supportive policy from central banks and much improved investor sentiment across the globe. All that good news could mean a boost in the high single digit percentage ballpark by the first quarter of 2020.

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The Fed is not trying to save “us”.

The Fed Can’t Save Us –John Rubino (USAW)

“The next recession is overdue because this is the longest expansion on record. . . . We loaded up car buyers with sub-prime loans. Students now have $1.5 trillion of student debt. Credit card debt is at record levels. Government debt is at record levels. Corporate debt is at record levels. . . . All of these guys have borrowed more money than they ever have in history. So, the idea we are going to convince people to borrow a lot more money by lowering interest rates is at best problematic and at worst insane. We are headed that way because they have no other tools. So, when things slow down, they are going to start cutting again and printing money and buying up assets with that money. We’ll see if it works again. It shouldn’t have worked the last time. . . . We are in a range of unexplored numbers. . . . How much further can this go? Is there a limit out there? We are going to find out in the next recession.”


Rubino is not impressed with the Federal Reserve’s latest promise to slash interest rates and print money to save a teetering economy. Rubino contends, “The markets ought to be terrified by this, but in the U.S. because the rates are not yet zero, the market is not yet terrified. We are not far from 0%. . . . The Fed can’t save us. We’re at the point now where we would be at a 1930’s style depression or a Weimar Germany hyperinflation or something new and equally bad. We have taken on insane amounts of debt, more than any society in history has ever tried to take on. So, we just don’t know what is going to happen. If the central banks cannot stop the next recession, we will find out what happens when this much debt goes bad. . . . The Fed’s biggest fear is that things will spin out of control, and they won’t have the tools to stop it.”

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Is all income tax “theft”?

1/3 of Americans Need A “Side Hustle” To Make Ends Meet (SHTF)

Imagine a world in which you could keep every single penny that the fruits of your own labor produced. That would be a world without income taxation making it much easier for the average American to get by. Instead, we live in a world where nothing goes untaxed. About 1/3 of Americans say that their expenses are so high that after the theft of the federal government from their paychecks, they need a “side hustle” to make ends meet. According to Bankrate, side hustlers make $1,122 per month on average from their part-time work — up from $686 last year. But if Americans were given the right to no longer be stolen from, and got to keep their own money, most wouldn’t need a side hustle or part-time work to get by.


Nearly half, 45%, of U.S. workers earn additional income outside of their primary career, a recent Bankrate survey found. This includes 48% of millennials. The percentage of Gen Xers and baby boomers with a side hustle is slightly lower, coming in at 39% and 28%, respectively. “A lot of people are working side hustles because even though the economy is strong, wages are stagnant,” Amanda Dixon, an analyst at Bankrate, told MarketWatch. “For a lot of Americans, expenses are rising, but there are no raises at work.” And heaven forbid the government stops raiding our income. That won’t be a suggestion the lapdog media will toss around either. However, if humans own themselves, they have the right to the fruits of their labor regardless of the edicts of the political elitists.

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Not Tyler’s best headline. Why use the word ‘dirt’? ‘Info’ will do.

Trump Says Foreign ‘Dirt’ Not Election Interference (ZH)

President Trump told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos in an Oval Office interview that he might not call the FBI if foreign governments offered damaging information against his rivals in the upcoming 2020 election. While initially suggesting it would be absurd to call the FBI instead of taking the information, Trump said “I think maybe you do both,” adding “I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening.” “If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent’ — oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”

Trump also pushed back on the notion that opposition research provided by a foreign government would be considered election interference – saying “It’s not an interference, they have information — I think I’d take it,” adding “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI — if I thought there was something wrong.” President Trump lamented the attention on his son, Donald Trump Jr., for his role in the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016. Stephanopoulos asked whether Trump Jr. should have taken the Russians’ offer for “dirt” on then-candidate Hillary Clinton to the FBI. “Somebody comes up and says, ‘hey, I have information on your opponent,’ do you call the FBI?” Trump responded.

“I’ll tell you what, I’ve seen a lot of things over my life. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life. You don’t call the FBI. You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you do,” Trump continued. “Oh, give me a break – life doesn’t work that way.” -ABC News When Stephanopoulos pointed out that FBI Director Christopher Wray said that a candidate should call the FBI in regards to foreign-sourced oppo-research, Trump said: “The FBI director is wrong, because frankly it doesn’t happen like that in life,” adding “Now maybe it will start happening, maybe today you’d think differently.” Trump then claimed that “if you go talk honestly to Congressmen, they all do it, they always have,” adding “That’s the way it is, it’s called oppo-research.”

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“My people think there could have been a violation. I view it differently.”

John Bolton’s Long Goodbye (Kiriakou)

[Bolton] said in a Wall Street Journal podcast that he believes five countries are spreading “lies about dysfunction in the Trump administration.” Those countries are North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Russia, and China. That’s laughable. What Bolton is saying is that there is a vast and incredibly well-coordinated international conspiracy that includes some of the most important countries in the world, the main purpose of which is to embarrass him. That sounds perfectly rational, right? Of course, a more rational person might conclude that Bolton has done a terrible job, that the people around him have done a terrible job, that he has aired his disagreements with Trump in the media, and that the President is angry about it. That’s the more likely scenario.

Here’s what my friends are saying. Trump is concerned, like any president is near the end of his term, about his legacy. He said during the campaign that he wanted to be the president who pulled the country out of its two longest wars. He wanted to declare victory and bring the troops back from Afghanistan and Iraq. He hasn’t done that, largely at the insistence of Bolton. Here we are three years later and we’re still stuck in both of those countries. Second, my friends say that Trump wants to end U.S. involvement in the Yemen war, but that Bolton has been insistent that the only way to guarantee the closeness of the U.S. relationships with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is to keep providing those countries with weapons, aerial refueling planes, and intelligence support.

Third, the mainstream media has accused Bolton of being the reason behind the failure of Trump’s second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Bolton towed a hard line, so much so that the North Korean media called him a “war monger” and a “human defect” once the summit ended. This week Trump told reporters gathered on the White House south lawn that Kim had “kept his word” on nuclear and missile testing. This was a direct contradiction of Bolton, who had said just hours earlier that the North Koreans had reneged on their commitments to the U.S. Trump said simply, “My people think there could have been a violation. I view it differently.”

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All it takes is 11 votes. Out of 607.

UK Labour Loses Vote To Prevent Future Tory PM Forcing Through No Deal (Ind.)

Opposition MPs have lost a critical vote on a bid to prevent a future Conservative prime minister from forcing through a no-deal Brexit. Labour introduced a motion paving the way for parliament to block a chaotic Brexit by seizing control of the Commons timetable on 25 June. But MPs rejected the cross-party effort by 309 votes to 298, in a blow to hopes of preventing a Brexiteer prime minister from taking the UK out of the EU without a deal in October. Eight Labour MPs voted against the cross-party motion and a further 13 did not vote. Ten Conservative backbenchers rebelled to back the motion. Jeremy Corbyn could be heard admonishing Tory MPs when the result was called, saying: “You won’t be cheering in September.”


The move came after several Tory leadership hopefuls refused to rule out suspending parliament to prevent MPs from blocking a no-deal Brexit in September. Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary, and Esther McVey, the ex-work and pensions secretary, have both said parliament could be prorogued to ensure the UK leaves by the 31 October deadline. Sir Keir Starmer, shadow Brexit secretary, said: “This is a disappointing, narrow defeat. “But this is just the start, not the end of our efforts to block no deal. Labour stands ready to use whatever mechanism it can to protect jobs, the economy and communities from the disastrous consequences of a no-deal Brexit.

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All they did was bicker for 3 years. Of course they’re not ready.

Leaked Cabinet Note: UK Not Ready For No-Deal Brexit On October 31 (Ind.)

It will take “six to eight months” to build up supplies of medicines for a no-deal Brexit, a leaked cabinet note says – undermining Boris Johnson’s threat to crash out of the EU on 31 October. The warning says the pharmaceutical industry needs that period of help from the government “to ensure adequate arrangements are in place to build stockpiles of medicines”. It also says that it would take “at least 4-5 months” to make traders ready for the new border checks that might be required, including incentives to register for fresh schemes. The note was revealed by The Financial Times as Mr Johnson – the overwhelming favourite to succeed Theresa May – launched his campaign on a pledge to leave the EU on 31 October “deal or no deal”.


It states that, while government departments had delivered around 85 per cent of their “core no-deal plans”, many of those provided only “a minimum viable level of capability”. Prepared for a cabinet discussion on 21 May, it was never circulated because Ms May was concentrating at the time on her doomed attempt to force through her withdrawal agreement. After that attempt collapsed, the prime minister announced her plans to resign – throwing the country into the uncertainty of the Tory leadership race. Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, seized on the note, saying: “This lays bare the utter cynicism of Boris Johnson and his ilk. “They are prepared to talk up crashing out of the EU to further their chances in the Tory leadership contest, despite government documents showing this would lead to shortages of medicines and chaos at our borders.”

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Europe must distance itself from NATO. A tall order. Trump just sent another 1,000 US troops to Poland from Germany.

Macron Wants EU Ties With Moscow Independent of NATO & US (RT)

Europe should think outside NATO dictates and restore relations with Russia, French President Emmanuel Macron stressed, calling for a “strategic debate” with Moscow over mutual areas of concern. “Europe… must build new rules of trust and security with Russia, and should not only agree with NATO,” Macron said in an interview with the Swiss television channel RTS. “It needs to build [relations] only between Europe and Russia.” While noting that disagreements between Moscow and Brussels do exist, in particular over Ukraine, Macron insisted that Russia’s role in world affairs cannot be underestimated.


Europe, the French president stressed, needs Moscow to solve major security issues, as Russia’s highly successful anti-terrorist campaign in Syria has shown. “We need to have a strategic debate, so this week I will have another, long and intense conversation with Vladimir Putin, as the president of France and the G7,” Macron stressed. “There is disagreement among us, but we work together.” “It would not be good to leave Russia to China,” he added, reminding that Europe should “never forget the price [the Soviet Union] paid” in World War II to free the continent from Nazi Germany.

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A lost people. A lost country. Nothing there.

Australia Approves Vast Coal Mine Near Great Barrier Reef (AFP)

Australia approved Thursday the construction of a controversial coal mine near the Great Barrier Reef, paving the way for a dramatic and unfashionable increase in coal exports. Queensland’s government said it had accepted a groundwater management plan for the Indian-owned Adani Carmichael mine — the last major legal hurdle before construction can begin. The project, fiercely debated for almost a decade, comes as investors and even energy companies are moving away from fossil fuels amid concern about the climate. Opponents warn it will create a new generation of coal exports — which will be burned in India and China — contributing to further degrade the planet.


The vast open cut mine is slated to produce up to 60 million tonnes of coal a year, boosting Australia’s already vast exports by around 20 percent. Coupled with the construction of a railway link, it could open up a swathe of Queensland to further exploitation and new mining projects. “If all the coal in the Galilee Basin is burnt it would produce 705 million tonnes of climate pollution each year, which is more than 1.3 times Australia’s annual pollution from all sources, including cars, industry, energy and agriculture,” said the Australian Conservation Foundation.


The Adani coal mine has been under fierce debate – and protest – for almost a decade (AFP Photo/PETER PARKS)

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“In the United States, 94.4 percent of tap water samples contained plastic fibers..” And bottled water is 20x worse.

You May Be Eating A Credit Card’s Worth Of Plastic Each Week (R.)

Plastic pollution is so widespread in the environment that you may be ingesting five grams a week, the equivalent of eating a credit card, a study commissioned by the environmental charity WWF International said on Wednesday. The study by Australia’s University of Newcastle said the largest source of plastic ingestion was drinking water, but another major source was shellfish, which tended to be eaten whole so the plastic in their digestive system was consumed too. “Since 2000, the world has produced as much plastic as all the preceding years combined, a third of which is leaked into nature,” the report said.


The average person could be consuming 1,769 particles of plastic every week from water alone, it said. The amount of plastic pollution varies by location, but nowhere is untouched, said the report, which was based on the conclusions of 52 other studies. In the United States, 94.4 percent of tap water samples contained plastic fibers, with an average of 9.6 fibers per liter. European water was less polluted, with fibers showing up in only 72.2 percent of water samples, and only 3.8 fibers per liter.

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We don’t give a damn about what happened to our kids. That’s just a pose.

Troubling Levels Of Glyphosate In Foods Marketed To Children (RT)

The Environmental Working Group has released findings of research showing “troubling levels of glyphosate, the cancer-causing ingredient in the herbicide Roundup” in food products including children’s breakfast cereals. The Washington, DC-based advocacy group said in a statement released June 12 that the chemical, was detected “in all 21 oat-based cereal and snack products sampled in a new round of testing.” Furthermore, all of the products but four were found to contain levels higher than EWG’s safety threshold for child consumption, which is 160 parts per billion (ppb). The products “Cheerios” and “Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch” were found with the highest glyphosate levels with 729 ppb and 833 ppb respectively.


The findings follow two previous research studies conducted with independent labs conducted last year. Monsanto, the maker of Roundup, was acquired by the German agro-chemical giant Bayer in 2018. “The glyphosate levels in this report are far below the strict limits established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect human health,” a Bayer spokesman told RT when contacted for comment. “Even at the highest level reported by the EWG (833 ppb), an adult would have to eat 158 pounds of the oat-based food every day for the rest of their life to reach the strict limits set by the EPA.”

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Jun 072019
 
 June 7, 2019  Posted by at 9:44 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


René Magritte L’empire des lumières 1949

 

Assange Persecution Very Similar To Historic Witch-Hunts – Melzer (Can.)
Belmarsh Prison Inmate Provides Photos of Julian Assange (Cassandra)
Police Raids Raise Fears Of Australian Media Crackdown (G.)
The Fed Can’t Help Housing or Autos at This Point (DDMB)
Fed Signals It Will Use QE Aggressively To Fight Next Recession (MW)
That America Is Gone (PCR)
Key Figure Mueller Linked To Russia Was State Department Intel Source (Hill)
Putin Says Russia Prepared To Drop START Nuclear Arms Treaty (AFP)
Russia Must Change Behavior For Better Relations: UK PM May’s Spokeswoman (R.)
Next Tory PM Will Not Be Able To Suspend Parliament – Bercow (G.)
‘Surveillance Capitalism’: Toronto Urged To Abandon Smart City Project (G.)
Microplastics Have Invaded The Deep Ocean – And The Food Chain (NPR)

 

 

Excerpts from an interview the Canary had with UN torture expert Nils Melzer

Assange Persecution Very Similar To Historic Witch-Hunts – Melzer (Can.)

In today’s information age, the media have an extraordinary power to shape public opinion, and no one is exempt from their influence. The media are a veritable ‘fourth power’ in the state next to the traditional branches of government, controlling not only what is said and shown, but also what is not disseminated and, therefore, is withheld from the public. This enormous power comes with an equally enormous ethical responsibility. Many media outlets and individual journalists have shown a remarkable lack of critical independence and have contributed significantly to spreading abusive and deliberately distorted narratives about Mr Assange.

When the media find it more appropriate to spread humiliating jokes about Mr Assange’s cat, his skateboard and his faeces, than to challenge governments consistently refusing to hold their officials accountable for wars of aggression, corruption and serious international crimes, they demonstrate a deplorable lack of responsibility, decency and respect not only towards Mr Assange, but also towards their own readers, hearers and viewers, whom they are supposed to inform and empower. It is a bit like being served poisoned junk food at a restaurant – a betrayal of trust with potentially serious consequences.

[..] By making Mr Assange ‘unlikeable’ and ridiculous in public opinion, an environment was created in which no one would feel empathy with him, very similar to the historic witch-hunts, or to modern situations of mobbing at the workplace or in school. Once totally isolated, it would be easy to violate Mr Assange’s most fundamental rights without provoking public outrage. If the involved states get away with persecuting Mr Assange without ever prosecuting the crimes exposed by him, they will have established a dangerous precedent of impunity threatening freedom of press and opinion worldwide, and they will also have seriously undermined the accountability of government officials for crime and corruption under the rule of law. So there is much at stake here for every single one of us, and everyone should use the democratic means at their disposal to inform themselves, make their voice heard and hold their government accountable.

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• Note: the photos are from before Assange fell gravely ill.

• New charges vs Assange, to be filed on June 14, are to be based on testimony from a convicted pedophile, Sigi Thordarson, who stole $50,000 from WikiLeaks, then fled to the FBI when caught.

• Next hearing, planned for 12 June has now also been moved to 14 June. The hearing will be in Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court.

• Kim Dotcom on Twitter: “The US Department of Justice has nothing to do with Justice. Here’s just another example. After everything I’ve seen so far I can say with confidence that there will be no extradition of Julian Assange. The charges are ludicrous and the evidence is non-existent. Typical DOJ.”

Belmarsh Prison Inmate Provides Photos of Julian Assange (Cassandra)

The Gateway Pundit has obtained exclusive testimony, as well as photos, from a fellow inmate of imprisoned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange inside London’s highest security prison. The inmate, who wishes to remain anonymous, sent multiple photos of Assange from inside Belmarsh maximum security prison and spoke to The Gateway Pundit about the WikiLeaks founder’s situation using a contraband phone he has inside. Along with the photos from inside the prison, the inmate pushed a fundraiser — causing supporters to worry that he was attempting to extort WikiLeaks or harm Assange by violating his privacy. The Gateway Pundit reached out to him to get his side of the story.

This reporter spoke to the inmate through a series of online messages and a phone call for multiple hours on Wednesday evening. At the beginning of the conversation I asked him if he was a prisoner or someone who works there — and if his motive was to extort money from the organization. “I’m in prison right now,” he said, sending a photo from inside his cell. “Extort him for what reason? He exposed the biggest scandals in the world. Whose side do you think someone in prison would be on? The government who have us locked up in here or a fellow prisoner who actually doesn’t deserve to be here?” The photos feature Assange prior to his illness and being moved to the prison’s hospital wing last month. We have not been able to verify if Assange is aware of the existence of the photographs.

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Does Australia have any laws at all?

Police Raids Raise Fears Of Australian Media Crackdown (G.)

Annika Smethurst, the political editor of Australia’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper, was preparing to leave her Canberra home shortly before 9am on Tuesday morning. When she heard a knock at the front door, she assumed it was her cleaner. Instead there were five federal police officers on the doorstep, pursuing evidence relating to a story she had written more than 12 months earlier. The police presented their warrants. The journalist told them she wanted a lawyer. Two legal representatives arrived at her house shortly afterwards. The search started in Smethurst’s bedroom. While that was under way, another two officers arrived with electronic equipment to go through her phone and computers. The police wanted access to all her electronic equipment.

They asked for her passwords, downloaded the contents of her phone on to their computer and used keyword searches to check the stored data. While the electronic dump was under way, police looked under Smethurst’s bed, through her clothes, handbags and sewing basket, through the spare room, through her cookbooks and stored Christmas decorations. They picked up 20 USBs in the house and checked them. The search spanned seven hours, with the group leaving about 4.30pm. “I felt shocked,” Smethurst told the Guardian. “I was very cooperative, and to be fair, they were too. They had a warrant. There was very little I could do apart from sitting down and watching them go through the search.

“But it’s a very confronting thing, watching somebody go through the house you’ve lived in for five years. It was uncomfortable. “I was very stressed when they were on my phone. Obviously as a journalist, my business model relies on people being able to ring me and talk to me anonymously, with that information not being seen by anyone else, then all of a sudden, police had access to it, and it was an incredible invasion of privacy.” Tuesday’s raid in Canberra, which came without any warning, was connected to a scoop revealing a plan by one of Australia’s surveillance agencies, the Australian Signals Directorate, to broaden its powers to spy on citizens without their knowledge. It was published in April 2018, and referred immediately for police investigation.

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Maxumum bubble has been reached.

The Fed Can’t Help Housing or Autos at This Point (DDMB)

Hopes are running high that potential interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve will support the auto and housing sectors, two parts of the economy that are sensitive to borrowing costs. The risk, though, is rising that any relief won’t come until after these critical leaders of the current economic cycle have already fallen into contraction. Headed into the promotion-heavy Memorial Day weekend, analysts spoke of automakers finally succumbing to the need to spur car sales with deep discounts. What’s remarkable is the line manufacturers have been able to hold off on incentives, which fell for 11 straight months, according to TrueCar Inc.’s ALG data and analytics unit. While shareholders have applauded the safeguarding of profit margins as inventories piled up, the pressure to match supply and demand has given way to three months – and counting – of production cuts.

The rapid rate at which auto layoffs are rising suggest a spillover into the broader economy. Challenger, Gray and Christmas notes that the almost 20,000 announced layoffs in the first four months of the year were up 207% over the same period of 2018. “Job cuts in this sector are likely to continue, especially with the implementation of additional tariffs on Chinese goods,” Andrew Challenger, the firm’s vice president, wrote in a report. “Automakers and suppliers will feel the pressure, which may lead to more cuts.” It’s one thing to have a continuation of losses in the beleaguered retail sector, but the loss of high-paying jobs in both autos and industrials threaten to further hobble the housing market.

Connecting autos to housing isn’t a stretch. Fed officials have maintained that the recent slowdown in inflation would be “transitory” in nature. History, however, reminds us that one form of inflation is anything but passing once in nature. Home prices largely held their gains after recovering in the wake of the last recession. Recently, though, there’s been a downtick in the rate of those gains. Home price appreciation fell to an 11-month low in April, based on a three-month moving average of purchases using Federal Housing Finance Agency data.

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Just bonkers.

Fed Signals It Will Use QE Aggressively To Fight Next Recession (MW)

The Federal Reserve’s two-day Chicago strategy conference laid the groundwork for the aggressive use of asset purchases, known as quantitative easing, to counter the next recession, experts who attended the forum said. With short-term interest rates in a range of 2.25%-2.5%, the Fed does not have a lot of ammunition to fight the next downturn. In the past, the Fed was able to slash rates by 5 percentage points to stimulate the economy as needed. So the Fed is going to use “pretty aggressive, desperate, measures,” to stem the next recession, said Adam Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “If you thought you saw QE before, this is going to be QE squared,” Posen said. The Fed bought almost $4 trillion in assets during the Great Recession some 10 years ago to bring down long-term interest rates and stimulate the economy.


Posen and former Fed governor Randy Krozner said the Fed used the conference to prepare the public, lawmakers and the markets to the likely implementation again of this unconventional policy tool. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and his top deputy, Vice Chairman Richard Clarida, want to short-circuit any political opposition and bottlenecks that greeted former Fed chief Ben Bernanke’s first use of asset purchases during the Great Recession. “The next time policy rates hit the effective lower bound [i.e. zero] — and there will be a next time — it will not be a surprise. We are now well aware of the challenges the ELB presents, and we have the painful experience of the global financial crisis and its aftermath to guide us,” Powell said in a speech opening the conference.

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“Corporate boards and executives achieved “performance” by reducing labor costs by moving jobs offshore and by using profits and borrowing in order to buy back the company’s shares..”

That America Is Gone (PCR)

As the Federal Reserve’s low interest rate policy has not served ordinary Americans or spurred investment in new plant and equipment, who has it served? The answer is corporate executives and shareholders. As the liquidity supplied by the Federal Reserve has gone mainly into the prices of financial assets, it is the owners of these assets who have benefited from the Federal Reserve’s policy. Years ago Congress in its unwisdom capped the amount of executive pay that could be deducted as a business expense at one million dollars unless performance related. What “performance related” means is a rise in profits and share price.

Corporate boards and executives achieved “performance” by reducing labor costs by moving jobs offshore and by using profits and borrowing in order to buy back the company’s shares, thus driving up the price. In other words, corporate leaders and owners benefited by harming the US economy, the careers and livelihoods of the American work force, and their own companies. This is the reason for the extraordinary worsening of the income and wealth distribution in the United States that is polarizing the US into a handful of mega-rich and a multitude of have-nots.

The America I grew up in was an opportunity society. There were ladders of upward mobility that could be climbed on merit alone without requiring family status or social and political connections. Instate college tuition was low. Most families could manage it, and the students of those families that could not afford the cost worked their way through university with part time jobs. Student loans were unknown. That America is gone. The few economists capable of thought wonder about the high price/earnings ratios of US stocks and the 26,000 Dow Jones when stock buy-backs indicate that US corporations see no investment opportunities. How can stock prices be so high when corporations see no growth in US consumer income that would justify investment in the US?

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It’s on. And don’t worry, you don’t have to choose a side.

Key Figure Mueller Linked To Russia Was State Department Intel Source (Hill)

In a key finding of the Mueller report, Ukrainian businessman Konstantin Kilimnik, who worked for Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is tied to Russian intelligence. But hundreds of pages of government documents — which special counsel Robert Mueller possessed since 2018 — describe Kilimnik as a “sensitive” intelligence source for the U.S. State Department who informed on Ukrainian and Russian matters. Why Mueller’s team omitted that part of the Kilimnik narrative from its report and related court filings is not known. But the revelation of it comes as the accuracy of Mueller’s Russia conclusions face increased scrutiny.

The incomplete portrayal of Kilimnik is so important to Mueller’s overall narrative that it is raised in the opening of his report. “The FBI assesses” Kilimnik “to have ties to Russian intelligence,” Mueller’s team wrote on page 6, putting a sinister light on every contact Kilimnik had with Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman. What it doesn’t state is that Kilimnik was a “sensitive” intelligence source for State going back to at least 2013 while he was still working for Manafort, according to FBI and State Department memos I reviewed. Kilimnik was not just any run-of-the-mill source, either. He interacted with the chief political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, sometimes meeting several times a week to provide information on the Ukraine government.

He relayed messages back to Ukraine’s leaders and delivered written reports to U.S. officials via emails that stretched on for thousands of words, the memos show. The FBI knew all of this, well before the Mueller investigation concluded. Alan Purcell, the chief political officer at the Kiev embassy from 2014 to 2017, told FBI agents that State officials, including senior embassy officials Alexander Kasanof and Eric Schultz, deemed Kilimnik to be such a valuable asset that they kept his name out of cables for fear he would be compromised by leaks to WikiLeaks.

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Worst idea ever.

Putin Says Russia Prepared To Drop START Nuclear Arms Treaty (AFP)

President Vladimir Putin said Thursday Russia was prepared to drop a nuclear weapons treaty with the US and warned of “global catastrophe” if Washington keeps dismantling an international arms control regime. Speaking to heads of international news agencies at an economic forum in the city of Saint Petersburg, Putin said Washington showed no genuine interest in conducting talks on extending the New START treaty which caps the number of nuclear warheads well below Cold War limits. “If no-one feels like extending the agreement — New START — well, we won’t do it then,” Putin said.


“We have said a hundred times that we are ready (to extend it),” Putin said. “There is no formal negotiating process.” The treaty was signed by US President Barack Obama and Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in Prague in 2010. It expires in 2021. Together with another agreement known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, New START is considered a centrepiece of superpower arms control. Moscow suspended participation in the INF treaty in March after President Donald Trump’s White House announced it would ditch the key agreement for alleged Russian violations of the terms.

Putin said he was puzzled by the absence of a global discussion. “Will anyone think about it, speak up, show some concern?” the Russian leader said. “No — total silence.” Putin said he discussed the issue with Trump during their phone talks in early May. “Donald told me that he is also concerned,” Putin said, adding that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo whom he hosted the same month also spoke “in a similar vein.” “If they think like this, then it is necessary to take practical steps towards joint work,” the Kremlin chief said. Putin said all nuclear powers — both officially recognised as possessing nuclear weapons and not — should take part in future talks. “We have to create a broad platform for discussions and decision-making,” Putin said. “That could be the light at the end of the tunnel.”

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Ha ha. Full of emptiness.

Russia Must Change Behavior For Better Relations: UK PM May’s Spokeswoman (R.)

Britain’s relationship with Russia can only change when Moscow changes its behavior, Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokeswoman said on Thursday, after President Vladimir Putin said he hoped for better relations under her successor. Putin said he hoped a new British prime minister would work toward improving bilateral relations, badly soured last year by the poisoning of a former Russian double agent in England that London blamed on Moscow. The spokeswoman told reporters: “We have been clear that Russia’s pattern of aggression and destabilizing behavior undermines its claims to be a responsible international partner. “We will continue to engage with Russia on matters of international security as this is in the UK’s national interest … however the PM has made clear on numerous occasions we can only have a different relationship if Russia changes its behavior.”

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Don’t like parliament? No problem.

Next Tory PM Will Not Be Able To Suspend Parliament – Bercow (G.)

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, has said it is “blindingly obvious” that the new Conservative prime minister will not be able to suspend parliament to push through a no-deal Brexit. The Speaker said it would not be an option after outrage across the political spectrum when the leadership hopeful Dominic Raab suggested he might try to take that path. “That is simply not going to happen. It is just so blindingly obvious that it almost doesn’t need to be stated, but apparently, it does and therefore I have done,” he told MPs. Matt Hancock, another Tory leadership contender, called for all his rivals to rule out the possibility of ending the parliamentary session to stop MPs from voting on whether there should be a no-deal Brexit. He said it undermined parliamentary democracy and risked a general election.


Rory Stewart, another contender, called the suggestion “unconstitutional” and “undemocratic”, adding: “It wouldn’t work.” Andrea Leadsom and Boris Johnson are also among those who have said they would not pursue such an option in order to take the UK out of the EU without a deal on 31 October. Amid suggestions it could even be unconstitutional, Valerie Vaz, the shadow leader of the Commons, asked the government for clarity on whether prorogation to avoid a decision from parliament would be allowed. In response, Mel Stride, the leader of the Commons, said prorogation was “ultimately in the gift of the Queen”, adding: “What I would say is, that I do think Her Majesty should be kept out of the politics of our parliament.

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I guess it’s just that “smart city” sounds kinds good. Better than “surveillance city”.

‘Surveillance Capitalism’: Toronto Urged To Abandon Smart City Project (G.)

A “smart city” project in Canada has hit yet another snag, as mounting delays and privacy concerns threaten the controversial development along the Toronto’s eastern waterfront. The 12-acre Quayside project, a partnership between Google’s Sidewalk Labs and the city of Toronto, has come under increasing scrutiny amid concerns over privacy and data harvesting. This week, the US venture capitalist Roger McNamee warned that technology companies such as Google cannot be trusted to safely manage the data they collect on residents. “The smart city project on the Toronto waterfront is the most highly evolved version to date of … surveillance capitalism”, he wrote to the city council, suggesting Google will use “algorithms to nudge human behavior” in ways to “favor its business”.


McNamee, an early investor in Facebook and Google, is co-founder of Silver Lake Partners, one of the world’s largest technology investors. But in recent years, he has soured on many of the technology giants and their handling of data and privacy concerns. “No matter what Google is offering, the value to Toronto cannot possibly approach the value your city is giving up,” he wrote, pleading with officials to abandon the project. “It is a dystopian vision that has no place in a democratic society.”

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Literally everywhere.

Microplastics Have Invaded The Deep Ocean – And The Food Chain (NPR)

The largest habitat for life on Earth is the deep ocean. It’s home to everything from jellyfish to giant bluefin tuna. But the deep ocean is being invaded by tiny pieces of plastic — plastic that people thought was mostly floating at the surface, and in amounts they never imagined. Very few people have looked for microplastic concentrations at mid- to deep-ocean depths. But there’s a place along the California coast where it’s relatively easy: The edge of the continent takes a steep dive into the deep ocean at Monterey Bay. Whales and white sharks swim these depths just a few miles offshore. [..] “The deep ocean is the largest ecosystem on the planet,” says Van Houtan, “and we don’t know anything about the plastic in the deep ocean.”


Scientists do know about plastic floating on the surface, and have tried to measure how much there is. The Great Pacific garbage patch is just one of many giant eddies in the oceans where enormous amounts of plastic waste collects. But beneath the surface? Not much. So Ventana made several dives to collect water samples at different depths. Technicians filtered the water, looking for microplastic, the tiny fragments and fibers you can barely see. “What we found was actually pretty surprising,” Van Houtan says. “We found that most of the plastic is below the surface.” More, he says, than in the giant floating patches. And also to their surprise, they found that submerged microplastics are widely distributed, from the surface to thousands of feet deep.


The deep ocean is filled with sea creatures like giant larvaceans. They’re actually the size of tadpoles, but they’re surrounded by a yard-wide bubble of mucus that collects food — and plastic. Courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

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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 162019
 


AFP Photo/TIMOTHY A. CLARY Jeff Koons – Stainless steel casting of inflatable rabbit (41″) sold for $91.1 million

 

Tulsi Gabbard Would Drop Julian Assange Charges, Pardon Edward Snowden (NW)
2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates Can’t Win Against Trump – Cuban (SC)
Russiagate’s Monstrous Offspring (Lazare)
The REAL Story Behind The Russian Hoax (Graham Noble)
The Disinformationists (Hopkins)
No “Do-Over” On Russia Probe: White House Tells Nadler To Pound Sand (ZH)
Barr’s Investigator John Durham Once Probed Mueller in a Shocking Case (S. Noble)
Trump Declares National Emergency Over IT Threats (BBC)
US Blacklists Huawei (R.)
UK Labour To Renationalize Energy Network End Consumer ‘Rip-Off’ (G.)
Majority Of Europeans Expect End Of EU Within 20 Years (G.)
Pilots ‘Raised Boeing Safety Fears’ Months Before Ethiopia Crash (BBC)
Single-Use Plastics A Serious Climate Change Hazard (G.)
Zimbabwe Sells 100 Elephants To China, Dubai (AFP)

 

 

Her own party will make sure that never happens.

Tulsi Gabbard Would Drop Julian Assange Charges, Pardon Edward Snowden (NW)

(start video 1.40.00 in)

Representative Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic presidential candidate, said the U.S. should drop criminal charges against Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. The military veteran said during a lengthy interview on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast this week that WikiLeaks founder Assange and national security whistleblower Snowden should not be prosecuted for disclosing information. “What would you do about Julian Assange, what would you do about Edward Snowden?” Rogan asked. Gabbard said, if elected, she would drop the Assange charges and pardon Snowden. “We have got to address why [Snowden] did things the way that he did them,” she said.

“You hear the same thing from Chelsea Manning, how there is not an actual channel for whistleblowers like them to bring forward information that exposes egregious abuses of our constitutional rights and liberties, period. There was not a channel for that to happen in a real way, and that’s why they ended up taking the path that they did, and suffering the consequences.” In June 2013, Snowden handed over to journalists a trove of National Security Agency documents detailing a sprawling surveillance apparatus used by global intelligence agencies. The leak showed how the systems could be used to spy on U.S. citizens through their phone calls, text messages and internet use.

After fleeing the country to Hong Kong, a warrant was issued for Snowden’s arrest. Snowden was left stranded in Russia, where he was provided asylum. Gabbard told the podcast host that she could still remember the day she first read the details about mass surveillance in the American press. “I was shocked,” she said. “That was something that Snowden uncovered and released, something that I don’t know that even as members of Congress we would have been aware of,” Gabbard continued. “So now that we are aware of it, we can take action to close those loopholes, to change those policies, to protect our civil liberties… Was the NSA going to disclose that information voluntarily? Absolutely not.”

Assange, whose organization helped facilitate Snowden’s escape, was dramatically arrested last month and has been charged with conspiracy to commit computer hacking for “agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer,” the Justice Department said. On Monday, Sweden reopened its investigation into a rape allegation against Assange, who is now serving 50 weeks in a high-security U.K. prison relating to a 2010 bail violation. As a result, the WikiLeaks founder, who denies the assault allegation, is now facing two extradition charges.

“What happened with his arrest and all this stuff that just went down I think poses a great threat to our freedom of the press and to our freedom of speech,” Gabbard said. “The fact that the Trump administration has chosen to ignore how important it is that we uphold our freedoms…and go after him, it has a very chilling effect on both journalists and publishers…and also on every one of us as Americans. It was a warning call…saying ‘look what happened to this guy.’ It could happen to you. It could happen to any one of us.”

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I think he’s right.

2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates Can’t Win Against Trump – Cuban (SC)

Mark Cuban was interviewed by Scott Wapner on CNBC on Tuesday. When asked about 2020 race and whether he’d consider running, he left open the possibility saying: “We’ll see.” “We’ll see what happens. It would take the perfect storm for me to do it,” the owner of Dallas Mavericks said. “There’s some things that could open the door, but I’m not projecting or predicting it right now.” “I still think there’s a real opportunity for somebody who is in the middle but has some charisma, has the ability to relate to both sides but is not a politician. The reality is people don’t trust politicians,” Cuban said. When asked who on the Democratic side has the best chance of winning, Cuban said “nobody right now.” “If you look at why people voted for Donald Trump, in my opinion, first and foremost it was because he wasn’t a politician…Politicians are the least trusted of every profession,” said Cuban.

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“The idea that America may in anyway be responsible for its own fate is of course unthinkable.”

Russiagate’s Monstrous Offspring (Lazare)

Assange is guiltier than ever. If Washington gets its hands on him, he’ll no doubt be hauled before some sort of Star Chamber and then clapped in a dungeon somewhere until he confesses that Russian intelligence made him do it, even though a careful reading of the Mueller report strongly suggests the opposite. Assange languishing behind bars, war breaking out in Latin America or the Persian Gulf, Trump in the Oval Office for four years more – it’s the worst of all possible worlds, and the Democratic Party’s bizarre fixation with Vladimir Putin is what’s pushing it.


Ultimately, Russia-gate is yet a variation on the tired old theme of American innocence. If something goes wrong, it can’t be the fault of decent Americans who, as we all know, are too good for our deeply flawed world. Rather, it must be the fault of dastardly foreigners trying to hack our democracy. It’s a deep-rooted form of xenophobia that has fueled everything from the criminalization of marijuana (smuggled in by evil Mexicans) to the 1950s Red Scare (a reaction to Communism smuggled in by evil Russians), and the war on terrorism (the work of evil Muslims). The idea that America may in anyway be responsible for its own fate is of course unthinkable.

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What will be the reactions when Brennan, Clapper, Comey are indicted?

The REAL Story Behind The Russian Hoax (Graham Noble)

If there is any issue that cries out for a special counsel investigation, it is the evolution of the Trump-Russia collusion theory. Attorney General William Barr may well have decided that the nation does not need to go through such an ordeal again, but he did the next best thing by tapping John H. Durham to investigate what could well be the most nefarious political conspiracy in American history. Durham is Connecticut’s top federal prosecutor, an attorney with a reputation for toughness and a resume that includes investigations into high-level government corruption cases. Reports suggest that he has been on the job for some weeks already, and that is an indication of how seriously the matter is being taken by the attorney general.


[..] If Barr did not anticipate the possibility of criminal indictments or the need to subpoena former government officials – people like former FBI Director James Comey – he could have handed off the probe to Michael Horowitz, the DOJ’s inspector general. Horowitz, who is currently looking into the FBI’s application for a FISA warrant in 2016 and three subsequent extensions of that warrant, does not have the scope of authority to investigate the affair conclusively. Essentially, inspectors general could be described more as auditors than investigators. The Justice Department’s IG is expected to deliver his report sometime in June, and Durham may well use Horowitz’s findings in his own investigation. Unlike Horowitz, Durham can subpoena private citizens – including former government officials – as well as utilize the full range of prosecutorial tools.

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2 years wasted on fiction. And still not over.

The Disinformationists (Hopkins)

So, the election-meddling Putin-Nazi disinformationists are at it again! Oh yes, while Americans have been distracted by Russiagate, Obstructiongate, Redactiongate, or whatever it’s being called at this point, here in Europe, we are purportedly being bombarded with Russian “disinformation” aimed at fomenting confusion and chaos in advance of the upcoming EU elections, which are due to take place in less than two weeks. The New York Times reports that an entire “constellation” of social media accounts “linked to Russia and far-right groups” is disseminating extremist “disinformation,” “encouraging discord,” and “amplifying distrust in the centrist parties that have governed for decades.”

These accounts share some of the same “digital fingerprints,” and are engaging in “tactics” similar to the “tactics used in previous Russian attacks,” notably the Kremlin’s notorious mass-brainwashing of millions of defenseless African Americans with those deceptive anti-masturbation memes during the 2016 elections. Now, this is not just a bunch of nonsense dressed up with authoritative-sounding lingo. No, The Times spoke to “analysts” and “advocacy groups,” which informed them that certain websites in Italy “share the same signatures” as certain other websites sharing certain “pro-Kremlin views.” Moreover, two “political groups” in Germany used the same Internet service providers as those “Russian hackers” who attacked our democracy by stealing those Democratic Party emails that transformed Americans overnight into a nation of Trump-loving white supremacists!


That hasn’t happened here in Europe yet, but I’m not sure how much longer we can hold out against this relentless onslaught. According to an “analysis” concocted by some cloud-based cybersecurity firm and authoritatively cited by Politico, at this point, “more than half of Europeans might have seen some form of disinformation” spread by “Russians” on social media. They might have been exposed to “extremist views” and “amplified content” possibly produced by the far-right Alternative for Germany party, and even (God help them!) supporters of Brexit.

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Step by step we’re finding out just how enormously the Democrats have failed.

No “Do-Over” On Russia Probe: White House Tells Nadler To Pound Sand (ZH)

White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in a Wednesday letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) that Congress doesn’t get a “do over” of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and others conducted by the Justice Department. Nadler has led recent efforts in the Democratic-controlled House to continue, which are set to include hearings with Mueller himself, along with key witnesses in his investigation. “Congressional investigations are intended to obtain information to aid in evaluating potential legislation, not to harass political opponents or to pursue an unauthorized ‘do-over’ of exhaustive law enforcement investigations conducted by the Department of Justice,” reads the 12-page letter laying out a legal argument for why Nadler is overstepping his bounds.


The letter goes on to say “As presently framed, the Committee’s inquiries transparently amount to little more than an attempt to duplicate – and supplant – law enforcement inquiries, and apparently to do so simply because the actual law enforcement investigations conducted by the Department of Justice did not reach a conclusion favored by some members of the Committee.” “This is not a proper legislative purpose,” writes Cipollone. “While the letter does not invoke executive privilege over any of the documents requested — and leaves the door open to a more narrow request from House Democrats — White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said last week that President Trump “has no other option than to make a protective assertion of executive privilege” over the full, unredacted Mueller report itself.”-Axios

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Oh, we’re going to find out who Robert Swan Mueller III is. I got a lot of flack for calling him a coward and a liar, but in reality he’s much worse than that. “Mueller kept four innocent people in jail for years to protect the informant status of Whitey Bulger..”

Barr’s Investigator John Durham Once Probed Mueller in a Shocking Case (S. Noble)

Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham was appointed to investigate the origins of the Russia-Trump probe. Apparently, he has been on the job for weeks. Durham is the perfect investigator for the job by all accounts and he had experience with Robert Mueller in the Whitey Bulger case. He did not side with Mueller and Mueller’s agents suffered the consequences of Mueller’s, some would say, corrupt leadership. Back in the late 1990s, there were “allegations that FBI informants James ‘Whitey’ Bulger and Stephen ‘The Rifleman’ Flemmi had corrupted their handlers. So, in 1999, Janet Reno appointed John Durham as Special Prosecutor and charged him with investigating FBI corruption in Boston.

As it turned out, FBI agents aided mass murderer, Whitey Bulger and hid his crimes. Bulger was a protected informant. Durham sent one agent involved to prison for 10 years. Then-US Attorney, Robert Mueller is probably the one who should have landed in the pen. He allowed four innocent men to be sent to prison for a murder he knew they didn’t commit. He did it to protect Bulger. One of the four men was in Florida at the time of the murder and could not have committed the murder. When Durham went through the documents. He found that the four men had actually been framed. Four people who were innocent were kept in jail for years in order to protect the status of Whitey Bulger as an FBI informant.

The Boston Globe wrote: “[Mike] Albano [former Parole Board Member who was threatened by two F.B.I. agents for considering parole for the men imprisoned for a crime they did not commit] was appalled that, later that same year, Mueller was appointed FBI director, because it was Mueller, first as an assistant US attorney then as the acting U.S. attorney in Boston, who wrote letters to the parole and pardons board throughout the 1980s opposing clemency for the four men framed by FBI lies. Of course, Mueller was also in that position while Whitey Bulger was helping the FBI cart off his criminal competitors even as he buried bodies in shallow graves along the Neponset…”

[..] Robert Mueller was knee-deep in this scandal, along with Andrew Weissman and the agent sent to prison, but because Reno gave him very limited authority, Durham was not able to prosecute Mueller, who was not in the FBI at the time. Mueller kept four innocent people in jail for years to protect the informant status of Whitey Bulger, a mass-murdering Boston mobster who ended up dying in California, and it ended up costing the government $100 million plus in civil judgments.

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Two separate issues: the emergency, and naming Huawei an “entity”, meaning it can’t buy US tech without government approval.

Trump Declares National Emergency Over IT Threats (BBC)

President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency to protect US computer networks from “foreign adversaries”. He signed an executive order which effectively bars US companies from using foreign telecoms believed to pose national security risks. The order does not name any company, but is believed to target Huawei. The Chinese tech giant said restricting its business in the US would only hurt American consumers and companies. Several countries, led by the US, have raised concerns in recent months that Huawei products could be used by China for surveillance, allegations the company has vehemently denied.

The US has been pressuring allies to shun Huawei in their next generation 5G mobile networks. In a separate development, the US commerce department added Huawei to its “entity list”, a move that bans the company from acquiring technology from US firms without government approval. The moves are likely to worsen tensions between the US and China, which had already escalated this week with tariff hikes in a trade war. Huawei has been at the epicentre of the US-China power struggle that has dominated global politics over the past year.


[..] Huawei consistently says that if the US bans Huawei from its networks, they are the ones to lose out, not Huawei. That is true. Even without the US market, Huawei is likely to control 40-60% of the networks around the world, industry analysts say. But what may hurt Huawei more is the US decision to put them on the “entity list” – effectively banning American suppliers from selling to the firm. Huawei may not need the US market, but it certainly needs the key components that it gets from the US.

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But Europe doesn’t.

US Blacklists Huawei (R.)

The Trump administration hit Chinese telecoms giant Huawei with severe sanctions on Wednesday, adding another incendiary element to the U.S.-China trade dispute just as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he would visit China soon for more talks. The Commerce Department said it was adding Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and 70 affiliates to its “Entity List” – a move that bans the company from acquiring components and technology from U.S. firms without government approval.


Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement that President Donald Trump backed the decision to “prevent American technology from being used by foreign owned entities in ways that potentially undermine U.S. national security or foreign policy interests.” Trump earlier in the day signed an executive order barring U.S. companies from using telecommunications equipment made by firms deemed to pose a national security risk. While the order did not specifically name any country or company, U.S. officials have previously labeled Huawei a “threat” and lobbied allies not to use Huawei network equipment in next-generation 5G networks.

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Privatization gone wild.

UK Labour To Renationalize Energy Network End Consumer ‘Rip-Off’ (G.)

Labour will announce plans on Thursday to seize back control of Britain’s energy network from private shareholders in an effort to fight climate change and end fuel poverty. Jeremy Corbyn and the shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, are expected to say that heat and electricity should be a human right for all and nationalisation of the network is key to decarbonising the economy. Under Labour’s plan, companies that control the UK’s £62bn energy infrastructure – the pipes and cables that supply homes and businesses with gas and electricity – would be taken back into state control soon after a Labour election win. This would include National Grid, and the network arms of Scottish Power and SSE, with the existing investors in those companies to be reimbursed with government bonds at a price determined by parliament.


Nationalisation of the energy networks forms a central part of Labour’s plans to address climate change, with the party arguing that the profits generated from the infrastructure should be invested in the green economy rather than given to shareholders in the form of dividends. Long-Bailey will say energy customers have been “ripped off” by the privatisation of the UK’s energy grid, with shareholders paid £13bn in dividends over the past five years. “It’s an insult and an injustice to our people and our planet for companies operating the grid to rip customers off, line the pockets of the rich and not invest properly in renewable energy,” she will say.

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Well well.

Majority Of Europeans Expect End Of EU Within 20 Years (G.)

More than half of Europeans believe the EU is likely to collapse within a generation, despite support for the bloc hitting heights not recorded in more than a quarter of a century. In France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Slovakia, Romania, Greece, the Czech Republic and Poland, a majority of people surveyed thought EU disintegration was a “realistic possibility” in the next 10 to 20 years. The figures are particularly stark in France, where President Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche party is trailing behind Marine Le Pen’s Brussels-bashing Rassemblement National (RN) in the polls for next week’s European elections.


According to the survey, commissioned by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) thinktank, 58% of people in France believe the EU is very likely or fairly likely to fall apart within 20 years, second only to Slovakia (66%). Of the 14 countries polled by YouGov – constituting 80% of the seats of the European parliament – it was only in Sweden (44%), Denmark (41%) and Spain (40%) that the proportion predicting implosion dipped below a majority. Nearly seven decades after the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, bringing together France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg in a pact designed to stave off further war, three in 10 people polled said conflict among countries within the EU was a realistic possibility. As many as a third of voters in France and Poland said they believed a war could be possible.

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Probably the worst thing I’ve read on the 727 MAX disasters.

If no Boeing executive goes to jail for this, you know something’s terribly wrong. And the media, in this case the BBC, helps them, but how do you “inadvertently” make an alarm feature “optional”?

Pilots ‘Raised Boeing Safety Fears’ Months Before Ethiopia Crash (BBC)

American Airlines pilots confronted Boeing about potential safety issues in its 737 Max planes in a meeting last November, US media are reporting. They urged swift action after the first deadly 737 Max crash off Indonesia in October, according to audio obtained by CBS and the New York Times. Boeing reportedly resisted their calls but promised a software fix. But this had not been rolled out when an Ethiopian Airlines’ 737 Max crashed four months later, killing 157 people. Currently 737 Max planes are grounded worldwide amid concerns that an anti-stall system may have contributed to both crashes. Boeing is in the process of updating the system, known as MCAS, but denies it was solely to blame for the disasters.

In a closed door meeting with Boeing executives last November, which was secretly recorded, American Airlines’ pilots can be heard expressing concerns about the safety of MCAS. Boeing vice-president Mike Sinnett told the pilots: “No one has yet to conclude that the sole cause of this was this function on the airplane.” Later in the meeting, he added: “The worst thing that can ever happen is a tragedy like this, and the even worse thing would be another one.” The pilots also complained they had not been told about MCAS, which was new to the 737 Max, until after the Lion Air crash off Indonesia, which killed 189. “These guys didn’t even know the damn system was on the airplane, nor did anybody else,” said Mike Michaelis, head of safety for the pilots’ union.


Earlier this month Boeing admitted that it knew about another problem with its 737 Max jets a year before the fatal accidents, but took no action. The firm said it had inadvertently made an alarm feature optional instead of standard, but insisted that this did not jeopardise flight safety. The feature – an Angle of Attack (AOA) Disagree alert – was designed to let pilots know when two different sensors were reporting conflicting data. The US Federal Aviation Administration said the issue was “low risk”, but said Boeing could have helped to “eliminate possible confusion” by letting it know earlier.

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I don’t think we’re going to help anyone by trying to turn everything into a climate change issue. Plastics are bad, period. Ban them in all but absolutely necessary cases. The carbon footprint of plastic is 0.5 Gt-CO2 per year, or about 1/80th (1.25%) of total emissions. Electricity is 25%, food is 24%.

I do like the link to US shale boosting plastics production, though, that helps people understand.

Single-Use Plastics A Serious Climate Change Hazard (G.)

The proliferation of single-use plastic around the world is accelerating climate change and should be urgently halted, a report warns. Plastic production is expanding worldwide, fuelled in part by the fracking boom in the US. The report says plastic contributes to greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of its lifecycle, from its production to its refining and the way it is managed as a waste product. This plastic binge threatens attempts to meet the Paris climate agreement. It means that by 2050 plastic will be responsible for up to 13% of the total “carbon budget” – equivalent to 615 coal-fired power plants – says the research published on Thursday.

The contribution of plastic production and disposal to climate change has been largely hidden, say the authors of the report by the Center for International Environmental Law, which estimates the greenhouse gas footprint of plastic from the cradle to the grave for the first time. While plastic pollution in the oceans has become a high-profile concern, the effect on climate change of the ubiquitous use of plastic has not been a focus. “After the extraction of fossil fuels to produce plastic, the carbon footprint of a material which has become ubiquitous across the globe continues through the refining process, and on well past its useful life as a drinks bottle or plastic bag, through the way it is disposed of and the plastic afterlife,” the report says. The authors say disposable plastic found in packaging and fast-moving consumer goods forms the largest and fastest-growing segment of the plastic economy.


Forty per cent of plastic packaging waste is disposed of at sanitary landfills, 14% goes to incineration facilities and 14% is collected for recycling. Incineration creates the most CO2 emissions among the plastic waste management methods. Nearly all plastic – 99% – is made from fossil fuels. Refining the material is the most greenhouse gas intensive part of the plastic lifecycle, and major expansions in the US and elsewhere will accelerate climate change, the report says. A Shell ethane cracker being constructed in Pennsylvania could emit up to 2.25m tonnes of CO2 each year and a new ethylene plant at ExxonMobil’s refinery in Baytown, Texas, could release up to 1.4m tonnes. The annual emissions from just these two new facilities would be equal to adding almost 800,000 cars to the road, the report says.

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Too many elephants, or too much land taken away from them? We should be paying Africans (not their governments) to take care of the wildlife. Stop dragging them around the world. This is not the 19th century.

Zimbabwe Sells 100 Elephants To China, Dubai (AFP)

Zimbabwe has sold nearly 100 elephants to China and Dubai for a total price of $2.7 million over six years, the country’s wildlife agency said Wednesday, citing overpopulation. Parks and Wildlife Management Authority spokesman Tinashe Farawo told AFP Zimbabwe’s elephants were overcrowding national parks, encroaching into human settlements, destroying crops and posing a risk to human life. “We have 84,000 elephants against a carrying capacity of 50,000,” he said, justifying the sales. “We believe in sustainable use of resources, so we sell a few elephants to take care of the rest. Farawo said 200 people have died in “human-and-animal conflict” in the past five years, “and at least 7,000 hectares of crop have been destroyed by elephants”.


The animals’ natural habitat has been depleted by climate change, he added, while recurrent droughts have added to strain on the overburdened national parks, forcing the pachyderms to seek food and water further afield. Farawo said money from the legal sales was allocated to anti-poaching projects, conservation work, research and welfare. According to the Zimbabwe Chronicle newspaper, 93 elephants were safely airlifted to parks in China and four to Dubai between 2012 and 2018, They were sold in a price range of between $13,500 and $41,500 each. Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe have called for a global ban on elephant ivory trade to be relaxed due to the growing number of elephants in some regions. But over the past decade, the population of elephants across Africa has fallen by about 111,000 to 415,000, largely due to poaching for ivory, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

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