Mar 132020
 


Earl Theisen Walt Disney oiling scale model locomotive at home in LA 1951

 

Coronavirus Can Survive in the Air For Up To 3 Hours (GR)
Clinical Course, Risk Factors For Mortality Of Adults In Wuhan (Lancet)
Coronavirus May End By June If Countries Take Action – China Adviser (RT)
Policymakers Ramp Up Support As Coronavirus Shreds Markets (R.)
Ohio Health Official Estimates 100,000 People In State Have Coronavirus (Hill)
Many More Families Are Going To Lose Loved Ones Before Their Time (Ind.)
I’d Rather Be in Italy Than US for the Coronavirus Pandemic (IC)
Fed Rolls Out Fastest Money Printer Ever, up to $4.5 Trillion in 4 Weeks (WS)
Fed To Pump In More Than $1 Trillion Into Markets In Dramatic Move (CNBC)
Market Turmoil Sparked By Coronavirus Fears Worse Than 2008 – Bianco (CNBC)
Apple Reopens All Its Branded Stores In China (R.)
US Excludes Some Chinese Medical Products From Tariffs (R.)
Iran Asks IMF For $5 Billion Emergency Funding To Fight Coronavirus (R.)
Greening Our Way to Infection (CJ)
Two Angry Old Men Yelling at Each Other in Arizona (FPM)
Monsanto’s Secret Funding For Weedkiller Studies (G.)
Migrants On Greek Islands To Be Offered €2,000 To Go Home (G.)
Judge Orders Immediate Release Of Chelsea Manning (Ind.)

 

 

Over 9,000 new cases in a single day. It’s been a while, if it ever happened. New deaths are also crawling up. And in most places, we’re just getting started. Things like travel, public gatherings will soon be halted all over. There is no other choice. This virus can survive airborne for 3 hours, and patients can remain contagious for up to 37 days.

Get some extra vit.C, vit.D3 while you can, boost your health, wash more often. And prepare to hunker down for as much as 2 months. It’ll be a different world for a while. Get used to that while you can, while it’s voluntary.

And as you’re settling in, also prepare for a godalmighty financial crash. The Fed yesterday paid a nice round trillion for a 10% fall in stocks. Well, at least Chelsea Manning is free, albeit still in hospital.

 

Cases 135,809 (+ 9,165 from yesterday’s 126,644)

Deaths 4,990 (+ 351 from yesterday’s 4,639)

 

Apart from China, there are just 2 other countries left in this list that have less than 100 new cases.

From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)

 

 

From SCMP: (Note: the SCMP graph was useful when China was the focal point; they are falling behind now)

 

 

From Worldometer (NOTE: mortality rate is back up to 7%!)

 

 

From COVID2019.app: (This site is playing with its formats while expanding, now over 200 global contributors)

 

 

 

 

“We found that viable virus could be detected in aerosols up to 3 hours post aerosolization, up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel. HCoV-19 and SARS-CoV-1 exhibited similar half-lives in aerosols, with median estimates around 2.7 hours. ”

Coronavirus Can Survive in the Air For Up To 3 Hours (GR)

Scientists at Princeton University, the University of California-Los Angeles and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have released a study on Wednesday according to which the novel form of coronavirus can survive in the air for several hours. Federally funded tests conducted by the scientists indicated that the COVID-19 virus could remain viable in the air “up to 3 hours post aerosolization,” while remaining alive on plastic and other surfaces for up to three days. “Our results indicate that aerosol and fomite transmission of HCoV-19 is plausible, as the virus can remain viable in aerosols for 42 multiple hours and on surfaces up to days,” reads the study’s abstract.


The test results suggest that humans could be infected by the disease simply carried through the air or on a solid surface, even if direct contact with an infected person does not occur. That finding, if accepted, would come in stark contrast to previous media reports that suggested the virus was not easily transmittable outside of direct human contact.

Read more …

I couldn’t find the 37-day figure this Twitter comment mentions, in the report (didn’t copy the writer). That doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

Study in the Lancet finds that #COVID19 viral shedding can be UP TO 37 DAYS, with an average of 20 DAYS. *Patients may still be contagious during that time* VERY BIG DEAL because current guidelines recommend only a 14 day (2 week) isolation time. This means patients may remain contagious well after they’re no longer symptomatic. And it means current guidelines (14 day isolation) may lead to additional propagation post quarantine.

Check the graph for hospital beds per 1,000 people in your country.

Clinical Course, Risk Factors For Mortality Of Adults In Wuhan (Lancet)

The level and duration of infectious virus replication are important factors in assessing the risk of transmission and guiding decisions regarding isolation of patients. Because coronavirus RNA detection is more sensitive than virus isolation, most studies have used qualitative or quantitative viral RNA tests as a potential marker for infectious coronavirus. For SARS-CoV, viral RNA was detected in respiratory specimens from about a third of patients as long as 4 weeks after disease onset. Similarly, the duration of MERS-CoV RNA detection in lower respiratory specimans persisted for at least 3 weeks, whereas the duration of SARS-CoV-2 RNA detection has not been well characterised.


In the current study, we found that the detectable SARS-CoV-2 RNA persisted for a median of 20 days in survivors and that it was sustained until death in non-survivors. This has important implications for both patient isolation decision making and guidance around the length of antiviral treatment. In severe influenza virus infection, prolonged viral shedding was associated with fatal outcome and delayed antiviral treatment was an independent risk factor for prolonged virus detection. Similarly, effective antiviral treatment might improve outcomes in COVID-19, although we did not observe shortening of viral shedding duration after lopinavir/ritonavir treatment in the current study.


Click for larger version in new tab

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When Zhong Nanshan said in late January that the China epidemic would be over in max 10 days, I said he sounded like a Beijing propagandist. He’s still at it.

Coronavirus May End By June If Countries Take Action – China Adviser (RT)

The deadly outbreak may be over by the start of summer, provided that all countries mobilize themselves against the pandemic, said Chinese government adviser in charge of tackling the coronavirus. Zhong Nanshan, Chinese coronavirus adviser and the epidemiologist who discovered Severe Acute respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, made the prediction while speaking to journalists on Thursday. He noted, however, that the breakthrough is heavily dependent on how World Health Organization’s (WHO) members are dealing with the crisis. Some countries still don’t take the situation very seriously and fail to aggressively contain the Covid-19, Zhong said. In this case, the epidemic might be prolonged even despite the summer heat that makes viral stains relatively inactive, the doctor warned.


His remarks come shortly after China’s National Health Commission (NHC) reported a decline in new Covid-19 cases across the mainland. “Broadly speaking, the peak of the epidemic has passed for China,” said Mi Feng, a spokesman for the National Health Commission. “The increase of new cases is falling.” As of Wednesday, the NHC recorded 15 new cases, about half as many as Tuesday’s figure. China has been leading a swift response to the disease, locking down whole provinces, canceling public events and even postponing key sessions of parliament. To contain Covid-19, Beijing dispatched around 42,000 medics who flocked to Hubei province – the epicenter of the epidemic – from all across the country. Academics, leading infectionists, and intensive-care specialists were all called in.

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“According to a survey of epidemiologists the coronavirus outbreak probably won’t peak before May, meaning it will be getting worse and worse and worse over the next two months, and for much of that time, presumably, exponentially worse.”

Policymakers Ramp Up Support As Coronavirus Shreds Markets (R.)

Governments and central banks readied more emergency measures to tackle the economic impacts of the coronavirus on Friday as Asian markets suffered their worst weekly crashes since the 2008 financial crisis. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife Sophie was among several thousand people newly diagnosed with the COVID-19 respiratory disease that has now infected almost 135,000 and killed more than 4,900 worldwide. Experts warn that due to a lack of testing and unreported cases, many more people may be affected by the outbreak that emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. Major sporting events were canceled or postponed, large public gatherings restricted or banned and schools closed. “There is a sense of fear and panic,” said James Tao, an analyst at stockbroker Commsec in Sydney, where phones at the high-value client desk rang non-stop.


“It’s one of those situations where there is so much uncertainty that no-one quite knows how to respond … if it’s fight or flight, many people are choosing flight at the moment.” Japan’s Nikkei was in freefall, dropping 10% on Friday, after Wall Street stocks slumped around 10% in their worst day since the 1987 “Black Monday” crash. Travelers in Europe rushed to board flights to the United States after U.S. President Donald Trump imposed sweeping restrictions on travel from the continent, a decision that angered European leaders and frightened investors. Trump also suggested that the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo could be delayed by a year. “Maybe they postpone it for a year … if that’s possible,” Trump told reporters. “I like that better than I like having empty stadiums all over the place.”

Read more …

Simple math: “..at the very least, 1 percent of our population is carrying this virus in Ohio today,” Acton said. “We have 11.7 million people. So the math is over 100,000.”

Ohio Health Official Estimates 100,000 People In State Have Coronavirus (Hill)

A top health official in Ohio estimated on Thursday that more than 100,000 people in the state have coronavirus, a shockingly high number that underscores the limited testing so far. Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton said at a press conference alongside Gov. Mike DeWine (R) that given that the virus is spreading in the community in Ohio, she estimates at least 1 percent of the population in the state has the virus. “We know now, just the fact of community spread, says that at least 1 percent, at the very least, 1 percent of our population is carrying this virus in Ohio today,” Acton said. “We have 11.7 million people. So the math is over 100,000. So that just gives you a sense of how this virus spreads and is spreading quickly.”


She added that the slow rollout of testing means the state does not have good verified numbers to know for sure. “Our delay in being able to test has delayed our understanding of the spread of this,” Acton said. The Trump administration has come under intense criticism for the slow rollout of tests. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top National Institutes of Health official, acknowledged earlier Thursday it is “a failing” that people cannot easily get tested for coronavirus in the United States. Not everyone with the virus has symptoms, and about 80 percent of people with the virus do not end up needing hospitalization, experts say.

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Boris Johnson doesn’t understand the simple math that Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton, above, does. But he still gets vilified for saying that not 500,000 (at the very least!), but just 10,000 are infected.

Maybe it just takes time to sink in?!

Boris also gets vilified for not closing schools, just like Dutch PM Rutte. Which is indeed a little odd: you ban gatherings of more than 100-200 people, but 1500-2000-pupil schools remain open. On the other hand, where would all those children go?

Here’s a thought: Will their phone addictions now save their lives? Kids these days are perfect isolationists. All they need is a screen.

Many More Families Are Going To Lose Loved Ones Before Their Time (Ind.)

Up to 10,000 people in the UK probably have coronavirus, officials have said, as they announced they were stepping up Britain’s response to the outbreak with new actions designed to delay its spread. Anyone showing cold or flu-like symptoms is being told to isolate themselves for seven days from Friday onwards – a measure brought forward by at least a week. They should then stay at least two metres, or “about three steps”, away from anyone else, sleep alone and ask for help “to get the things you need”. “Stay away from vulnerable individuals such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions as much as possible,” the new advice reads.

Schools have been ordered to cancel all foreign trips, and elderly people or those with underlying health conditions are advised not to go on cruise ships. However, ministers have stepped back from immediate closures and sporting events will still go ahead, with fans allowed into stadiums. Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said the true number of infections was “likely” to be between 5,000 and 10,000 – many times higher than the current figure of 590. “We are in a period when we have got some, but it hasn’t yet taken off,” he told a press conference. The warning came as Boris Johnson sought to prepare the public for tougher times to come, saying: “This is the worst public health crisis for a generation.”


He dismissed comparisons to seasonal flu: “Because of the lack of immunity, this disease is more dangerous and it’s going to spread further. “Many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.” Explaining the decision not to move to more draconian restrictions now, unlike almost all neighbouring countries, Mr Johnson said: “The most dangerous period is not now but some weeks away, depending on how fast it spreads. He hinted at a likely shift to banning fans from sporting events, saying: “We are not saying ‘No’ to that sort of measure, of course not – we are keeping it up our sleeve.”

Read more …

“I just can’t shake the terror that the United States, my adopted country, is fundamentally unequipped to handle what lies ahead.”

I’d Rather Be in Italy Than US for the Coronavirus Pandemic (IC)

I have spent the last week looking for flights from New York to Italy — not because of coronavirus-inspired flash sales, but because I would rather go home to a country that’s currently in the grip of one of the worst outbreaks in the world than stay in the United States, where life is about to get infinitely worse. More than 15,000 people have tested positive for the new coronavirus in Italy, more than 1,000 have died, and hospitals are at a breaking point. Hundreds of medical staff have been infected, and overwhelmed doctors are reporting having to choose which patients to treat. They are begging the rest of the world to take this virus more seriously. The entire country — 60.5 million people — has been on lockdown for almost a week.

In the U.S., meanwhile, where some are just starting to realize the enormity of the crisis and far too many remain in denial, confusion reigns, largely aided by our top officials’ inept response. Last night, after President Donald Trump abruptly announced he was blocking travel from Europe to the U.S. — though officials later retracted and clarified much of that statement — people in Europe raced to airports, reportedly paying as much as $20,000 to try to catch flights out. And still I am trying to figure out how to make the opposite trip. Even as the death toll back home continues to climb and the lockdown gets stricter by the day, I would much rather weather this pandemic in Italy than here. I just can’t shake the terror that the United States, my adopted country, is fundamentally unequipped to handle what lies ahead.


[..] It is a tragic irony that a public health emergency unlike anything we have seen in generations would come as Americans are constantly told that the idea of health care as a fundamental right is entitled, radical, crazy talk. What is crazy, to anyone outside the United States, is that it’s even a question. Back in Italy, people are worried they’ll get themselves or their loved ones sick, they are angry at directives that came late, they are even scared that hospitals won’t be able to keep up. But there are more hospital beds and doctors per capita in Italy than there are in the U.S. The Italian government’s harsh restrictions are in part an effort to stop the virus from spreading to the south, where the health care system is weaker. But for all their fears, Italians don’t have to worry that tests won’t be available, or that they’ll have to pay for those tests, or for any of their care. They don’t have to fear that if they seek help now, they’ll get a surprise bill later or that medical costs will bankrupt them.

Read more …

Could we fix health care with that? How much is that per American?

Fed Rolls Out Fastest Money Printer Ever, up to $4.5 Trillion in 4 Weeks (WS)

Thursday early afternoon, during the chaos when the S&P 500 was down nearly 9%, what would turn into the worst single-day stock market sell-off since the 1987 crash, the Fed rolled out its fastest mega money-printer yet, after its smaller money-printers malfunctioned. It’s not going to be a long-drawn-out QE – though there is a component that is just that – but it’s going to be trillions of dollars, essentially all at once, front-loaded, starting today, though today fizzled already. This is the Fed’s latest effort to bail out Wall Street, the cherished asset holders that are so essential to the Fed’s “wealth effect,” all repo market participants, the banks, and the Treasury market that suddenly has gone haywire. Lots of things have gone haywire as the Everything Bubble unwinds messily.


Last week, the 10-year Treasury yield had plunged toward zero during the stock market sell-off, which was crazy but in line with the logic that investors were all piling into safe assets, and early Monday morning it fell to an unthinkable all-time low of 0.38%. But then, the 10-year yield more than doubled from 0.38% at the low on Monday to 0.88% at the highpoint on Thursday. That the 10-year yield spikes during a stock market crash is somewhat of a scary thought. It means that both stocks and long-dated Treasury securities are selling off at the same time. And that probably made the Fed very nervous. For stocks, Thursday was the 16th trading day since the S&P 500 peak, and in those 15 trading days, the index has crashed nearly 27%.

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Inject a trillion, see markets lose 10%. Never a better moment to end the Fed.

Fed To Pump In More Than $1 Trillion Into Markets In Dramatic Move (CNBC)

The Federal Reserve stepped into financial markets Thursday for the second day in a row and the third time this week, this time dramatically ramping up asset purchases amid the turmoil created by the coronavirus. “These changes are being made to address highly unusual disruptions in Treasury financing markets associated with the coronavirus outbreak,” the New York Fed said in an early afternoon announcement amid a washout on Wall Street that was heading toward the worst day since 1987. Stocks were off their lows following the announcement though some of the gains were pared as the market digested the moves.

One part of the announcement saw the Fed widen the scale for its $60 billion worth of money the Treasury purchases, which to now had been confined to short-term T-bills. Under the new regime, the Fed will extend its purchases “across a range of maturities” to include bills, notes, Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities and other instruments. The central bank will begin purchasing coupon-bearing securities, something market participants have been clamoring for since late 2019. The purchases start Thursday and will continue through April 13.


The second part of the new operations will see the New York Fed desk offer $500 billion in a three-month repo operation and a one-month operation. The offerings will happen on a weekly basis through the remainder of the program. In addition, the Fed will continue to offer at least $175 billion in overnight repos and $45 billion in two-week operations. Repos are short-term operations in which financial institutions provide high-quality collateral in exchange for cash reserves they use to operate.

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“This is their tool. They’ve used it. It should be working”…

Market Turmoil Sparked By Coronavirus Fears Worse Than 2008 – Bianco (CNBC)

Market researcher James Bianco calls the Federal Reserve’s move to pump $1.5 trillion into the market the “nuclear option” to calm investors gripped by coronavirus fears. Only, it didn’t work Thursday. Instead, stocks saw their worst day since the 1987 Black Monday market crash. “Financial markets are not recovering. It’s incredible to think that a trillion dollars can’t get these markets moving,” the Bianco Research president told CNBC’s “Trading Nation.” “We’re at a critical time — unlike anything I’ve seen in my career even counting 2008.” On Thursday, the Fed attempted to stabilize the markets by massively boosting asset purchases in the market. It came five days before its policy meeting on interest rates.

“What the Fed did was they restarted QE, and they essentially announced that in the next two days they’re going to do more QE than they did in the last five years combined,” added Bianco. “The reason they’re doing it is because the financial markets have stopped functioning properly. There’s no liquidity. There’s hardly any trading.” Stocks initially rebounded, but failed to hold on to gains. The Dow sank 2,352 points or 10% to 21,200 while the S&P 500 fell 261 points or 9.5% to 2,480. The Dow and S&P are deep in bear market territory, off 28% and 27%, respectively, from their all-time highs. “This is their tool. They’ve used it. It should be working”, said Bianco.


According to Bianco, Wall Street may still be in shock due to the magnitude of the Fed’ s move. Plus, he suggests there may be logistical issues. [New York] Governor [Andrew] Cuomo just announced that any gathering of over 500 people in New York State is banned. So, these big dealer desks are now going to have to figure it out from home, he said. “If financial markets don’t start moving, and if a trillion dollars cannot get them off the lows of the day of $500 billion today, $500 billion tomorrow, then we’re going to have to start worrying that a panic is going to set in… and we’re going to see a lot more losses as we go forward,” Bianco said.

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I love you long time.

Apple Reopens All Its Branded Stores In China (R.)

Apple has reopened all 42 of its branded stores in China, more than a month after they were shut due to fears over the coronavirus outbreak, the iPhone maker’s Chinese website showed on Friday. Apple’s China website has listed the opening time for all stores, which vary from 10:00 am to 11:00 am local time. The website had previously carried an advisory saying not all stores were open. China placed curbs on travel and asked residents to avoid public places in late January, just ahead of the Lunar New Year festival, a major gift-giving holiday. Those restrictions stayed largely in place through most of February. The company sold fewer than half a million iPhones in China in February, government data showed on Monday, as the outbreak halved demand for smartphones. Apple had announced the shuttering of its branded stores in early February.

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Something tells me prices may have just gone up.

US Excludes Some Chinese Medical Products From Tariffs (R.)

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office said it granted on Thursday exclusions from import tariffs for some medical products imported from China, including face masks, stethoscope covers and blood pressure cuff sleeves. The exclusions were granted as the United States grapples with a coronavirus outbreak that threatens to strain its healthcare system. Earlier this month, USTR granted exclusions for other Chinese medical products, including hand sanitizing wipes and examination gloves.


The products were included in a fourth round of tariffs on Chinese goods imposed by President Donald Trump on Sept. 1, 2019, amid heated U.S.-China trade negotiations. The tariff rate on the medical products was initially set at 15%, but was lowered to 7.5% on Feb. 15 as part of the Phase 1 U.S.-China trade agreement. The deal leaves in place tariffs on about $370 billion worth of imports from China, including 25% duties on goods valued at around $250 billion.

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IMF meets sanctions x world health.

Iran Asks IMF For $5 Billion Emergency Funding To Fight Coronavirus (R.)

Iran has asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for emergency funding to help it fight the coronavirus outbreak that has hit the Islamic Republic hard, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Thursday. The escalating outbreak in Iran – the worst-affected country in the Middle East – has killed 429 people and infected 10,075. The outbreak has damaged Iranian businesses and is bound to hit its non-oil exports after many neighboring countries and trade partners shut their borders. The IMF managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, “has stated that countries affected by #COVID19 (coronavirus) will be supported via Rapid Financial Instrument. Our Central Bank requested access to this facility immediately”, Zarif said in a tweet.


Iranian Central Bank chief Abdolnaser Hemmati wrote on his Instagram page that “in a letter addressed to the head of IMF, I have requested five billion U.S. dollars from the RFI emergency fund to help our fight against the coronavirus”. Iran’s economy was already battered by U.S. sanctions that curb oil and gas exports crucial for government revenues. A slowdown in economic activity caused by the virus outbreak and a sustained closure of its borders are expected to lead to a contraction this year, analysts have said. As Iran’s clerical rulers struggle to contain the coronavirus outbreak, Tehran has blamed the United States and its “maximum pressure” policy for restricting Iran’s ability to respond effectively to the virus.

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Bit right wing for me, but interesting.

Greening Our Way to Infection (CJ)

The COVID-19 outbreak is giving new meaning to those “sustainable” shopping bags that politicians and environmentalists have been so eager to impose on the public. These reusable tote bags can sustain the COVID-19 and flu viruses—and spread the viruses throughout the store. Researchers have been warning for years about the risks of these bags spreading deadly viral and bacterial diseases, but public officials have ignored their concerns, determined to eliminate single-use bags and other plastic products despite their obvious advantages in reducing the spread of pathogens. In New York State, a new law took effect this month banning single-use plastic bags in most retail businesses, and this week Democratic state legislators advanced a bill that would force coffee shops to accept consumers’ reusable cups—a practice that Starbucks and other chains have wisely suspended to avoid spreading the COVID-19 virus.

John Flanagan, the Republican leader of the New York State Senate, has criticized the new legislation and called for a suspension of the law banning plastic bags. “Senate Democrats’ desperate need to be green is unclean during the coronavirus outbreak,” he said Tuesday, but so far he’s been a lonely voice among public officials. The COVID-19 virus is just one of many pathogens that shoppers can spread unless they wash the bags regularly, which few people bother to do. Viruses and bacteria can survive in the tote bags up to nine days, according to one study of coronaviruses. The risk of spreading viruses was clearly demonstrated in a 2018 study published in the Journal of Environmental Health.


The researchers, led by Ryan Sinclair of the Loma Linda University School of Public Health, sent shoppers into three California grocery stores carrying polypropylene plastic tote bags that had been sprayed with a harmless surrogate of a virus. After the shoppers bought groceries and checked out, the researchers found sufficiently high traces of the surrogate to risk transmission on the hands of the shoppers and checkout clerks, as well as on many surfaces touched by the shoppers, including packaged food, unpackaged produce, shopping carts, checkout counters, and the touch screens used to pay for groceries. The researchers said that the results warranted the adaptation of “in-store hand hygiene” and “surface disinfection” by merchants, and they also recommended educating shoppers to wash their bags.

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I admit, included for the headline.

Two Angry Old Men Yelling at Each Other in Arizona (FPM)

Bernie’s got a problem. He’s struggling in the delegate count and Florida and New York are unlikely to help. He’s got one way to reverse the tide, and that’s destroy Biden in a debate. Destroying Biden is not so hard. He’s a confused and shambling wreck. Even Kamala Harris was temporarily able to pick up some of his voters that way. The trouble is Bernie is nearly as much of a mess. If his people weren’t complete psychos, they might have been able to build an alliance with Elizabeth Warren. Instead, all the bridges were burned, and Sanders benefited little from her dropping out. But Warren, staying in, could have served as Bernie’s hatchet woman. So might Tulsi Gabbard, though she last served as Biden’s hatchet woman.


But considering that she’s polling at nothing, there’s no pretext that could get her into the debate. And Bernie is a poor debater. Not as much as Biden, but close enough. All he can do is respond to every question with an angry rant about corporations and medical care. That’s not going to win anything. After Biden’s victory speech, it’s clear that the current brains behind his campaign have been able to get him to memorize his own speeches and deliver them in an angry tone that passes for energy. That’s Bernie’s shtick. And it’s probably not a coincidence. So the Arizona debate will consist of two old men angrily yelling at each other with stump speeches. Sounds like a winner.

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Upside down world: “..the loss of glyphosate would cause very severe impacts on UK agriculture and the environment..”

Monsanto’s Secret Funding For Weedkiller Studies (G.)

Monsanto secretly funded academic studies indicating “very severe impacts” on farming and the environment if its controversial glyphosate weedkiller were banned, an investigation has found. The research was used by the National Farmers’ Union and others to successfully lobby against a European ban in 2017. As a result of the revelations, the NFU has now amended its glyphosate information to declare the source of the research. Monsanto was bought by the agri-chemical multinational Bayer in 2018 and Bayer said the studies’ failure to disclose their funding broke its principles. However, the authors of the studies said the funding did not influence their work and the editor of the journal in which they were published said the papers would not be retracted or amended. Glyphosate is sold by Bayer as Roundup and is the world’s most widely used weedkiller.


The World Health Organization’s cancer agency, the IARC, declared that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans” in 2015 but several international agencies, including the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), subsequently came to opposite conclusions. Last year courts in the US ordered Monsanto to pay damages of up to $2bn to individuals with cancer and faces many more lawsuits. Bayer said it “stands fully behind its glyphosate-based products”. The new revelations centre on studies published in 2010 and 2014 by researchers at ADAS, an agricultural and environmental consultancy in the UK. The analyses concluded “the loss of glyphosate would cause very severe impacts on UK agriculture and the environment”. They suggested a 20% fall in wheat and rapeseed production.

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You blow up their home and then you toss them a handout to go back to that home.

Migrants On Greek Islands To Be Offered €2,000 To Go Home (G.)

Migrants on the Greek islands are to be offered €2,000 (£1,764) per person to go home under a voluntary scheme launched by the European Union in an attempt to ease desperate conditions in camps. The amount is more than five times the usual sum offered to migrants to help them rebuild their lives in their country of origin, under voluntary returns programmes run by the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM). The offer will last one month, as the commission fears an open-ended scheme would attract more migrants to Europe. It will not apply to refugees who have no homes to return to, but is intended to incentivise migrants seeking better living standards to leave the islands.

The EU’s home affairs commissioner, Ylva Johansson, said the scheme was “a window of opportunity for a targeted group”, adding that the IOM would run the scheme with the EU border agency Frontex. “Refugees will not return, of course, they can’t return, but economic migrants that maybe know they will not get a positive asylum decision could be interested in doing that,” she told a small group of reporters. The scheme, she said, could be a quick way to relieve the pressure on camps on the Greek islands, where conditions are “totally unacceptable”. The commission said it hoped 5,000 people will take up the offer, although it acknowledged it lacked statistics on how many people on the Greek islands were “economic migrants”, rather than refugees.


Migrants on the Greek mainland were likely to be offered extra money to leave – much less than €2,000, but higher than the usual resettlement sum of €370. Since 2016, 18,151 people have chosen to return home from Greece under a voluntary returns programme funded by the EU and run by the IOM. Only about one-fifth of them (3,927) were on the islands. [..] More than 20,000 people are living at the Moria camp on Lesbos, up from 5,000 last July. About 85% of last year’s arrivals were refugees, with most coming from Afghanistan and Syria, but also from Iraq, Palestine, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere. More than 18,300 Moria residents were living in a facility designed for 2,200, while others were living in nearby olive groves.

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” Judge Anthony Trenga did not waive the $256k in penalties levied against her.”

Judge Orders Immediate Release Of Chelsea Manning (Ind.)

A US judge has ordered the immediate release of Chelsea Manning, the former American army officer who was remanded to prison after refusing to testify against WikiLeaks. The ruling states that it is no longer necessary for her to testify and follows her attorneys’ announcement that she had recently tried to kill herself while imprisoned. She is reportedly recovering in hospital. Ms Manning spent seven years in a military prison after leaking thousands of classified government documents to WikiLeaks before Barack Obama commuted her sentence in 2017. Last year, she was held in contempt of court after refusing to testify before a federal grand jury as part of an investigation into Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. She has been jailed since May.


In his ruling on Thursday, Judge Anthony Trenga did not waive the $256k in penalties levied against her. The ruling says that enforcement of the “accrued, conditional fines would not be punitive but rather necessary to the coercive purpose” of the court’s contempt order. She was scheduled to appear at a hearing in a Virginia federal court today. That appearance has been cancelled.

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Mar 042020
 


DPC North approach, Pedro Miguel Lock, Panama Canal 1915

 

 

 

WHO Raises Global Mortality Rate For COVID-19 Up To 3.4% (CNBC)
Maybe Jay Powell’s Not Cut Out For This Fed Chair Thing (Shazar)
Airlines Rush To Boost Demand As Coronavirus Shreds Crisis Playbooks (R.)
Market Mayhem Exposes Fears About Oil Companies (CNN)
China’s Funding Breakdown Emphasises Economic Imbalances (SCMP)
CIA Has Been Attacking Multiple Chinese Bodies For 11 Years (PDaily)
Court: Clinton Must Testify On Email Scandal (Turley)
Napolitano: Hillary Clinton Faces A Catch-22 Over Private Email Server (Fox)
The Establishment Struggles With The “Nightmare” Of Authenticity (Turley)
Russia Says Turkey Does Not Meet Terms Of Pact In Syria’s Idlib (R.)
Russia Says Turkey Trying To Push 130,000 Refugees From Syria Into Greece (R.)
EU Pledges €700 Million To Help Greece Fight Migrant Influx From Turkey (F24)
Planet Plastic (Rolling Stone)

The virus has been reported in 81 countries and counting (+ Diamond Princess).

First cases in last 48 hours:

– Chile
– Argentina
– Liechtenstein
– Ukraine
– Gibraltar
– Morocco
– Senegal
– Tunisia
– Latvia
– Jordan
– Andorra
– Portugal
– Indonesia
– Saudi Arabia

This is from Worldometer (I include them daily, see below), yesterday afternoon. They change to a “new day” at a for me odd time, which would make the numbers unclear. Check the huge increases in cases in Iran, Italy and South Korea -which added aother 435 cases today-. Also, WA state is a cluster. 9 deaths in no time. US cases up to 128 now. Virus may indeed, as has been suggested, have been around for 6 weeks.

 

 

• Germany reports 46 new cases
• Iran: 300,000 “volunteers” and soldiers, 54,000 prisoners out on bail
• Oregon officials warn up to 500 cases may be in state already
• Italy mulls cancelling all sporting events for a month

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer (Note: mortality rate at 6%):

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

And of course there’s Joe Biden’s huge win. CNN and the Dems act as if they own the world and he’s about to beat Trump. Last night, CNN switched to one of their people in one of the Super Tuesday states, and he started off saying: “The Republicans are getting vey nervous…”

Why on earth would they, though? I’ve always maintained the Hunter affair makes him unfit, but there’s more. He’s a desperate choice by those who’ve held the reins in the party for decades. We’ll see stuff like this repeated 1000 times:

 

 

As we already saw yesterday, the mortality rate is very diffrent from one location to another. Much higher in the US and Italy than in South Korea?! Same virus?

WHO Raises Global Mortality Rate For COVID-19 Up To 3.4% (CNBC)

World health officials said Tuesday the mortality rate for COVID-19 is 3.4% globally, higher than previous estimates of about 2%. “Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press briefing at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva. In comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected, he said. The World Health Organization had said last week that the mortality rate of COVID-19 can differ, ranging from 0.7% to up to 4%, depending on the quality of the health-care system where it’s treated. Early in the outbreak, scientists had concluded the death rate was around 2.3%.

During a press briefing Monday, WHO officials said they don’t know how COVID-19 behaves, saying it’s not like influenza. They added that while much is known about the seasonal flu, such as how it’s transmitted and what treatments work to suppress the disease, that same information is still in question when it comes to the coronavirus. “This is a unique virus, with unique features. This virus is not influenza,” Tedros said Monday. “We are in uncharted territory.” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, said Monday that the coronavirus isn’t transmitting the same exact way as the flu and health officials have been given a “glimmer, a chink of light” that the virus could be contained.


“Here we have a disease for which we have no vaccine, no treatment, we don’t fully understand transmission, we don’t fully understand case mortality, but what we have been genuinely heartened by is that unlike influenza, where countries have fought back, where they’ve put in place strong measures, we’ve remarkably seen that the virus is suppressed,” Ryan said.

 

Read more …

Unless you think his job is to transfer money to Fed member bannks.

Maybe Jay Powell’s Not Cut Out For This Fed Chair Thing (Shazar)

For 10 days, while the markets were cratering as if they themselves had contracted a very serious case of coronavirus, Fed officials made all of their Fed-y reassuring mouth sounds: We’re keeping an eye on things, we’ll do something if it’s warranted, but it’s not yet, so just calm down. And then the markets did, soaring yesterday and continuing that rise today. At least until, after watching everyone else—including the White House, which although it wants to make clear thinks this whole China-virus or whatever things is totally overblown and invented like climate change to hurt the Dear Leader, did think that Jay Powell & co. were doing their typically horrible job containing a thing that Larry Kudlow said was already contained and oh yea doesn’t exist anyway—overreact for a week and a half, the Fed decided it would like to go a little nuts itself.

“The Federal Reserve cut its benchmark rate by a half percentage point on Tuesday morning, delivering a booster shot to stem potential economic disruptions from the spreading coronavirus epidemic with its first between-meeting move since the financial crisis…. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell at a press conference following the rate cut said the central bank “judged that the risks to the U.S. outlook have changed materially” and that the Fed “can and will do our part, however, to keep the U.S. economy strong as we meet this challenge.” Well, if Powell’s goal was to get the panic-selling on Wall Street to resume, he did his usual heckuva job.

“Stocks initially shot higher, propelling the Dow Jones Industrial Average up more than 300 points. But within 15 minutes, stocks’ initial gains gave way to jerky up-and-down trading action—with the blue-chip average and Treasury yields falling to session lows after Fed Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged the limits of the central bank’s actions in a press conference…. The Dow fell 510 points, or 1.9%, to 26194, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite were down 1.7% and 1.6%, respectively. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note, a benchmark for everything from mortgage rates to student loans, slipped to 1.036%.”

Read more …

Much of that industry is set to go under.

Airlines Rush To Boost Demand As Coronavirus Shreds Crisis Playbooks (R.)

The rapid spread of coronavirus cases worldwide is complicating a standard strategy used by airlines when disease, disaster or conflict hit travel destinations: lower fares and redirect flights to trouble-free areas. For now, some airlines have resorted to suspending change fees for new ticket reservations in the hope of winning over hesitant travelers until it becomes clearer where coronavirus outbreaks are localized and which routes could benefit from price drops. While lower fares have proven effective in the past in reviving demand, aviation consultant Samuel Engel said, “The pocketbook only works so far against emotion.” The coronavirus, which emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, has spread around the world, with more new cases now appearing outside China than inside.

JetBlue Airways Corp, which does not fly to Asia, was the first airline to launch free rebooking options last week, as it became clear that cases were not isolated to China. JetBlue pulled together and announced its plan in a matter of hours, President Joanna Geraghty told Reuters. “We tried to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers and think about what we would want if we were, for example, booking a spring-break trip right now,” Geraghty said. U.S. majors have since followed suit with varying waivers on change fees for new reservations to many destinations, a switch from a previous policy that covered only pre-booked flights to areas hardest-hit by the coronavirus.

[..] with none of the offers so far guaranteeing money-back refunds, travelers say the policies are not enough. “I understand that there are a lot of question marks right now for the industry on how this will unfold, but I don’t feel like there’s a truly customer-friendly policy out here,” said Amanda Elman-Kolb of Chicago, who has put on hold plans for a family trip to Europe in August. Declining demand to fly abroad is not limited to U.S. travelers. International travel to the United States will fall 6% over the next three months amid coronavirus concerns, the largest decline since the 2007-2008 financial crisis, the U.S. Travel Association forecast on Tuesday.

Read more …

And then came cratering demand due to the virus… Putin’s said he’s fine with $40 oil. Few others are.

Market Mayhem Exposes Fears About Oil Companies (CNN)

Oil prices have plunged into yet another bear market in response to demand destruction caused by flight cancellations, factory shutdowns and slowdowns in passenger traffic. Natural gas is sitting near a four-year low. The commodities crash will intensify the financial stress facing oil and gas companies that have piled on debt to capitalize on the shale boom. Energy stocks, already the biggest losers of last decade, are getting crushed. ExxonMobil and Chevron, two giants built to withstand weak oil, have plunged more than 20% apiece this year. “It’s making an already bad situation worse,” said Spencer Cutter, credit analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. The pain is more acute among independent exploration and production companies, some of which are highly leveraged.

Marathon Oil, Devon Energy and Noble Energy have all seen a third of their market values vanish this year. The turmoil has formed deep cracks in the junk bond market. Alarmingly, the gap between high-yield energy debt and ultra-safe government bonds has blown out to levels unseen since 2016, when oil prices crashed to $26 a barrel. The junk ratings for these energy companies aren’t new — only concerns about their financial health are. Cutter found that about one-third of the junk bonds in the Bloomberg/Barclays high-yield energy index are trading at distressed levels (roughly 10 percentage points above benchmark Treasuries, compared with just one percentage point for companies with strong credit ratings). That includes the bonds of companies including Chesapeake Energy, Whiting Petroleum, California Resources and Range Resources.

At those levels, highly leveraged oil and gas producers have effectively been locked out of the junk bond market. To raise cash, they will have to slash costs, sell assets, accept harsh borrowing terms from a hedge fund or seek a financial lifeline through a merger. Some debt-riddled oil companies won’t survive at all. “You could see a wave of bankruptcies,” said Cutter, the Bloomberg Intelligence analyst. The bill is coming due on a mountain of debt in the coming years. North American exploration and production companies have roughly $86 billion of debt maturing by 2024, according Moody’s Investors Services. More than half of those maturities, 62%, are in junk bonds.

Read more …

“After decades of pursuing balanced development nationwide, China now aims to concentrate resources on the best-performing provincial and municipal economies rather than pumping money into poor areas to help them catch up..”

China’s Funding Breakdown Emphasises Economic Imbalances (SCMP)

Cash from China’s financial system flowed mainly to the affluent Pearl River and Yangtze River Deltas in 2019, while funding for hard hit rust-belt provinces dried up, according to new figures published by its central bank. The figures offered fresh evidence of an increasing unequal financial landscape in the world’s second biggest economy. Rich areas continue to absorb more funds and talent to become richer, while poor areas lag behind. This imbalance presents a significant challenge for Beijing, as it attempts to navigate the wider issues that come with slowing economic growth.

Guangdong, the economic powerhouse adjoining Hong Kong, topped the list of provincial funding compiled by the People’s Bank of China, receiving 2.92 trillion yuan (US$417 billion) in the form of bank loans, bond issuance, and trust investments. This was 11.4 per cent of the national total. Guangdong accounts for 8.1 per cent of China’s population and 10.9 per cent of economic output. In second place was Jiangsu, China’s second largest provincial economy, which received 2.41 trillion yuan, followed by Zhejiang, another economic heavyweight, on 2.22 trillion. China’s capital of Beijing was the only northern region to feature high up in the rankings, absorbing 1.46 trillion yuan in financial flows. Hubei, meanwhile, the epicentre of the coronavirus, was in 10th position, with funding of 873.4 billion yuan (US$125 billion) last year.

Funding from China’s banking system, the bond market and even the shadow banking network is often key to regional economic growth. China’s southwesterly Yunnan province, for example, registered a nationwide high 8.1 per cent in gross domestic product growth. Over the same period, its fundraising rose by 43.5 per cent year-on-year to 492.6 billion yuan. [..] The disparity is also a product of a shift in policy by the Politburo, the 25-member decision-making body headed by President Xi Jinping, taken last summer. After decades of pursuing balanced development nationwide, China now aims to concentrate resources on the best-performing provincial and municipal economies rather than pumping money into poor areas to help them catch up.

Read more …

Is this a veiled attack on WikiLeaks?

CIA Has Been Attacking Multiple Chinese Bodies For 11 Years (PDaily)

A hacking group affiliated with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been attacking multiple Chinese bodies for 11 years, a new report found. According to the report by Chinese tech giant 360 Security Technology released on Tuesday, the attack by the group, coded by 360 Security as APT-C-39, has conducted a series of attacks against China’s aviation industry, scientific research institutions, petroleum industry, large-scale internet companies, and government bodies for more than a decade. The report analyzed “Vault7,” a trove of documents on cyber weapons disclosed by WikiLeaks in 2017. The report said that the group started launching advanced persistent threat (APT) attacks against China as early as September 2008 and they mainly targeted provincial regions like Beijing, Guangdong, and Zhejiang.


The Chinese tech giant was able to make the link thanks to Joshua Adam Schulte, a former CIA employee who played a core role in developing many of the CIA’s hacking tools and cyberspace weapons and participated in the development of Vault 7. Schulte provided evidence to 360 Security Technology and the trove of documents, the authenticity of which was confirmed by US prosecutors, became key to confirming that APT-C-39 was affiliated with the CIA, the Global Times reported, It has been proven repeatedly that the United States has been conducting large-scale, organized, and indiscriminate cyber theft and surveillance activities against foreign governments, businesses, and individuals, China’s defense ministry spokesperson said at a press conference on Friday.

Read more …

“..she will not be able claim the privilege against self-incrimination on the original alleged offenses since the statute of limitations has passed.”

Court: Clinton Must Testify On Email Scandal (Turley)

In a remarkable turnaround, Hillary Clinton will have to testify after all on the email scandal. Clinton has never been subject to true examination on the issue under oath. Instead, she was allowed to meet with investigators shortly before being cleared during the Obama Administration. D.C. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth ruled that her prior answers were insufficient and cursory. One interesting twist is that she will not be able claim the privilege against self-incrimination on the original alleged offenses since the statute of limitations has passed. While she would have been unlikely to do so, she would have evoked on a crime that could be prosecuted.

Ironically, it will be the Trump Administration that will have to defend her in opposing such demands since they are handling the litigation as it relates to her prior public service as Secretary of State. This surprising order follows the disclosure by watchdog group Judicial Watch last December that the FBI released “approximately thirty previously undisclosed Clinton emails.” Judicial Watch has argued that the State Department “failed to fully explain” where they came from. Lamberth decided that Clinton has not answered the troubling questions related to her email system:

“As extensive as the existing record is, it does not sufficiently explain Secretary Clinton’s state of mind when she decided it would be an acceptable practice to set up and use a private server to conduct State Department business. The court believes those responses were either incomplete, unhelpful, or cursory at best. Simply put, her responses left many more questions than answers.” While I expect that Clinton will have a lot of “I do not recall” answers given the passage of time, such examinations come at a risk of false statements under oath. Moreover, Judicial Watch can refresh her money with documents.

Read more …

“..Hillary Clinton could potentially fight a ruling that she must sit for a sworn deposition before a federal judge, but she would have to ask Attorney General William Barr for help..”

Napolitano: Hillary Clinton Faces A Catch-22 Over Private Email Server (Fox)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could potentially fight a ruling that she must sit for a sworn deposition before a federal judge, but she would have to ask Attorney General William Barr for help, Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explained Tuesday. In an interview on “Fox & Friends,” Napolitano said that the former presidential candidate would have to ask Barr to file an appeal on her behalf because the Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers would be representing her in the matter. [..] “Judicial Watch has been trying to get copies of these documents [under The Freedom of Information Act]. When they looked at the documents, some of which have been prepared by Mrs. Clinton, you heard what the judge said: the answers were deceptive, misleading, and generated more questions than they answered.


Therefore, he ordered her to be deposed.” “She has never been deposed under oath on this,” he continued. “She was interrogated, but not under oath, in a secret interrogation by the FBI three days before they exonerated her.” Additionally, he noted, this deposition will also be videotaped. “She can’t plead the fifth, right?” asked host Ainsley Earhardt. “She can’t plead the fifth because the statute of limitations to prosecute her for failure to safeguard state secrets has come and gone. She can’t be prosecuted for that,” he replied. “She could be prosecuted if she lies under oath in this deposition. She is represented in the deposition by lawyers form the Justice Department.” “The same Justice Department that would prosecute her if she lies under oath,” he added.

Read more …

Very true. No authenticity left in the DNC.

The Establishment Struggles With The “Nightmare” Of Authenticity (Turley)

Heading into Super Tuesday, the media appears at its collective wit’s end. After the victory of Joe Biden in South Carolina, many attempted to portray a new day until the they faced polls in the morning showing Bernie Sanders again surging in states from California to Texas to even Massachusetts (where Elizabeth Warren is struggling to win her own state). Described as the “nightmare scenario,” the media and political establishment in Washington is back to clutching its pearls and speaking of a convention strategy to block Sanders, including Warren whose campaign calls such a move the “final play.”

The continuing support win for Bernie Sanders has sent the D.C. political and media establishment into vapors. On the eve of Super Tuesday, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke all lined up to endorse Joe Biden to try to stop the momentum for Sanders. Others are growing more and more shrill. Democratic strategist James Carville proclaimed the winner to be Valdimir Putin. His point was that both Sanders and Trump continue surging despite unrelenting attacks in the media. The fact is that many in Washington still cannot compute why so many voters will not listen to them about Sanders and Trump. The reason is that they are valued for the one thing that the establishment cannot offer: authenticity.

[..] Authenticity is a word rarely applied to Trump, but it remains his greatest selling point outside Washington. While rarely acknowledged, Trump has fulfilled many of his campaign promises with his push on immigration, the wall, taxes, Jerusalem, renegotiating NAFTA, dropping the Iran deal, rolling back regulations, opening areas like the artic to drilling, finishing the Keystone pipeline, gutting Obamacare and other promises. More importantly, he does not try to pretend what he is not: honest or moral. He openly talks about delivering wealth and having people vote their pocketbooks. He is the ultimate car salesman who you don’t trust but still want to get a good deal from.

Bernie Sanders is genuinely authentic. Indeed, Sanders seems immune from changes from clothing or political styles. There was never a popular time to be socialist but Sanders never budged. To the contrary, he praised Castro and spent his birthday in the Soviet Union during the cold war. He changes his positions at the speed of tectonic plate shifts. That is why you can hate socialism but love Sanders because you know (like Trump) exactly what you are getting. Elizabeth Warren in comparison was known as a pro-corporate, anti-consumer academic for much of her career before being a champion of the downtrodden.

Read more …

Russia comments from the sidelines for now. Why would it help Europe when the MH17 “trial” is to start next week?

Russia Says Turkey Does Not Meet Terms Of Pact In Syria’s Idlib (R.)

Russia accused Turkey on Wednesday of failing to meet its obligations under a pact to create a demilitarised zone in Syria’s Idlib province and of helping militants instead. The RIA news agency quoted a Russian defense ministry spokesman as saying “terrorist” fortifications had merged with Turkish outposts in Idlib, resulting in daily attacks on Russia’s Hmeimim air base in Syria. Turkey had amassed troop numbers in Idlib equal to a mechanised division, violating international law, the Russian spokesman said. The Russian accusation came on the eve of a Thursday meeting in Moscow between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. They are expected to try to de-escalate tensions that have brought Turkey and Russia dangerously close to direct military confrontation.

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No link to Idlib. Just human pawns.

Russia Says Turkey Trying To Push 130,000 Refugees From Syria Into Greece (R.)

Russia on Tuesday said that Turkey was trying to push 130,000 refugees from Syria into Greece, the Interfax news agency cited the Defense Ministry as saying. The two thirds of these refugees – that Turkey is pushing from temporary camps in Syria – are Afghans, Iraqis and Africans, not Syrians, it added.

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In case you didn’t get yet that in Brussels it’s all exclusively about money.

EU Pledges €700 Million To Help Greece Fight Migrant Influx From Turkey (F24)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would provide Greece with “all the support needed” as it struggles with an influx of migrants allowed to cross from neighbouring Turkey after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that “millions” of migrants would soon head for Europe. EU chiefs on Tuesday pledged millions of euros of financial assistance to Greece to help tackle the migration surge from neighbouring Turkey, warning against those wishing to “test Europe’s unity”. Flying by helicopter over the Greek-Turkish border, where thousands of desperate asylum-seekers have tried to break through for days, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc would provide Greece “all the support needed”.

“Those who seek to test Europe’s unity will be disappointed,” von der Leyen said, standing alongside Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the chiefs of the European Council and European Parliament. “We will hold the line and our unity will prevail.” The European Commission president said the bloc would provide 700 million euros ($777 million), half of it immediately, to help manage the migrant situation. In addition, the EU border agency Frontex will deploy a rapid intervention team including an additional 100 guards backed by coastal patrol vessels, helicopters and vehicles, she said. “Our first priority is making sure that order is maintained at the Greek external border, which is also the European border,” von der Leyen told journalists.

“I am fully committed to mobilising all the necessary operational support to the Greek authorities,” she said, adding that Greece was acting as a “shield” for Europe.

Read more …

Hopeless?!

Planet Plastic (Rolling Stone)

More than half the plastic now on Earth has been created since 2002, and plastic pollution is on pace to double by 2030. At its root, the global plastics crisis is a product of our addiction to fossil fuels. The private profit and public harm of the oil industry is well understood: Oil is refined and distributed to consumers, who benefit from gasoline’s short, useful lifespan in a combustion engine, leaving behind atmospheric pollution for generations. But this same pattern — and this same tragedy of the commons — is playing out with another gift of the oil-and-gas giants, whose drilling draws up the petroleum precursors for plastics. These are refined in industrial complexes and manufactured into bottles, bags, containers, textiles, and toys for consumers who benefit from their transient use — before throwing them away.

“Plastics are just a way of making things out of fossil fuels,” says Jim Puckett, executive director of the Basel Action Network. BAN is devoted to enforcement of the Basel Convention, an international treaty that blocks the developed world from dumping hazardous wastes on the developing world, and was recently expanded, effective next year, to include plastics. For Americans who religiously sort their recycling, it’s upsetting to hear about plastic being lumped in with toxic waste. But the poisonous parallel is apt. When it comes to plastic, recycling is a misnomer. “They really sold people on the idea that plastics can be recycled because there’s a fraction of them that are,” says Puckett. “It’s fraudulent. When you drill down into plastics recycling, you realize it’s a myth.”

Since 1950, the world has created 6.3 trillion kilograms of plastic waste — and 91 percent has never been recycled even once, according to a landmark 2017 study published in the journal Science Advances. Unlike aluminum, which can be recycled again and again, plastic degrades in reprocessing, and is almost never recycled more than once. A plastic soda bottle, for example, might get downcycled into a carpet. Modern technology has hardly improved things: Of the 78 billion kilograms of plastic packaging materials produced in 2013, only 14 percent were even collected for recycling, and just two percent were effectively recycled to compete with virgin plastic. “Recycling delays, rather than avoids, final disposal,” the Science authors write. And most plastics persist for centuries.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Jan 222020
 


Jack Delano Repair and overhauling in Chicago & North Western Railroad locomotive shops, Chicago 1942

 

New Coronavirus Has Unusually High Ability To Bind To A Human Protein (SCMP)
Life After Putin (Dmitry Orlov)
Senate Votes Down Democrats’ Subpoena Proposals (G.)
Adam Schiff Caught ‘Fabricating’ Evidence (US24)
Hillary Clinton Kicks Off ‘Stop Sanders’ Movement. Will Obama Follow? (Y!)
Why Congress Must Keep Investigating Trump After the Impeachment Trial (Pol.)
Ukrainian Prosecutor Biden Pushed To Oust Heavily Investigated Burisma (RT)
Joe Biden’s ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Memo To Media Doesn’t Match The Facts (Solomon)
Brazil Charges Glenn Greenwald With Cybercrimes (ZH)
Boeing Has Officially Stopped Making 737 MAX Airplanes (CNN)
You Won’t Be Flying On A 737 MAX Anytime Soon (CNN)
General Strike Planned On Greek Aegean Islands Today Over Migration (K.)
US Drinking Water Widely Contaminated With ‘Forever Chemicals’ (R.)
People Still Want Plastic Bottles, Says Coca-Cola (BBC)

 

 

A pretty good description. of the virus. There are 11 million people living in Wuhan. Officials now suggest no-one should leave or enter the city. Cases in Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, US.

New Coronavirus Has Unusually High Ability To Bind To A Human Protein (SCMP)

The coronavirus discovered in Wuhan may share the same bat-related ancestor as Sars, according to the latest study by Chinese scientists, which said the strain was weaker than the devastating 2002-03 Sars outbreak but was still “highly infectious”. The new virus shares a common ancestor with severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), in HKU9-1, a virus found in fruit bats, they found. The connection with wild animals was confirmed on Wednesday by Gao Fu, director general of China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. According to Gao, the coronavirus, which has sickened more than 400 people across the country and led to nine deaths, originated from wild animals sold at a seafood market in Wuhan.

Gao warned that a major challenge was that the new strain was adapting and mutating. The scientists’ findings, published on Tuesday, suggested that the danger posed by the pneumonia-like virus may have been underestimated by the research community, and came a day after the Chinese government’s announcement of emergency measures to contain its spread. A joint research team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the People’s Liberation Army and Institut Pasteur of Shanghai estimated how the viral strain would interact with cells in the human respiratory system using computer simulation based on released data. “The Wuhan coronavirus’ natural host could be bats … but between bats and humans there may be an unknown intermediate,” the researchers said in a statement released with the paper.

Previously, most scientists believed the new virus could not cause an epidemic as serious as that of Sars because its genes were quite different. According to their calculations, the binding-free energy between the virus and the protein would be minus 50.6 kcal per mol, five times what was “usually considered significant”. “Although comparably weaker [than Sars], the Wuhan CoV S-protein is regarded to have strong binding affinity to human ACE2,” they wrote in a paper published on China Science Bulletin. What surprised the scientists most, however, was that the virus could maintain the strong binding ability despite its significant structural differences from Sars. Of the virus’ five amino acids that play important roles in the binding process, four are different from those of Sars.

Further examination of the virus’ structure showed that overall its binding protein had a high resemblance to that of Sars. The researchers also traced the evolution of the new virus in a government coronavirus database. On the evolutionary tree, the new virus belonged to Betacoronavirus, on a close but different branch to Sars. The two shared about 70 to 80 per cent of genes, less than the similarity between pigs and humans. Meanwhile, a senior researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which was not involved in the new study, told the South China Morning Post on Wednesday that the new strain was an RNA virus, meaning that its mutation speed was 100 times faster than that of a DNA virus such as smallpox. RNA (ribonucleic acid) molecules are simpler than DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) molecules.

Read more …

Always happy to see my view of Putin shared by others, and certainly when it’s Dmitry. Any major country on the planet could only wish they had Putin to lead it, and serve the best interests of its citizens. Of course we can’t get any real picture of this in the western press, who treat him as the bogey man, along with their governments.

Can you even imagine where the US would be if Putin had been its leader for the past 20 years? Try this stateside: “Proposed changes will insure that incomes and pensions are such that everybody has decent living conditions

Life After Putin (Dmitry Orlov)

[..] we need to draw a distinction between Putin the man and the system of governance he has built over the past 20 years. There is always plenty to complain about, but overall it has been quite effective. During Putin’s period in power, Russia has solved the problems of separatism and domestic terrorism, reigned in the predatory oligarchy, paid off virtually all of its foreign debts including ones it inherited from the USSR, grew its economy by a factor of six (vs. China’s five and USA’s one), regained Crimea (which had been part of Russia since 1783), rebuilt its armed forces to a point where international security is no longer a major concern, and achieved an overall level of societal well-being that is unparalleled in all of Russian history.

The system of governance he has built has worked well with him as the head of government, but it will require some adjustments in order to work well under future presidents, who may not be equally gifted. Recognizing this fact, on Wednesday Putin has launched a limited overhaul of the Russian Constitution. In addition to an entire raft of minor tweaks that will limit the powers of the President and give more powers to the Parliament, to provide for better checks and balances and a more democratically responsive system, there are a few proposed changes that stand out.

[..] Proposed changes will insure that incomes and pensions are such that everybody has decent living conditions. There are also proposed legislative changes to what’s called “maternal capital” to make having more than two children financially attractive. The demographic situation in Russia is not as dire as it was in the 1990s, and certainly a lot less dire than in Western Europe whose native populations are rapidly going extinct, but the fact remains that to achieve its stated goals Russia is going to need a lot more Russians. The Russian government has the money to spend on these initiatives, and getting the job done is largely a matter of lighting a fire under the federal and regional bureaucracies.

Spelling out the social guarantees right in the Constitution is a good way to make that happen. Putin proposed that the constitutional changes be voted for in a referendum. Beyond the procedural nicety and the legitimizing effect of this exercise, it is sure to stimulate a lot more public interest and civic participation, making it more likely that the ever foot-dragging Russian bureaucrats (in the more remote regions especially) will be prevailed upon to act swiftly to enact the changes.

Read more …

And this is just the beginning. God help us. More Adam Schiff show.

Senate Votes Down Democrats’ Subpoena Proposals (G.)

Democratic hopes that a moderate bloc of Senate Republicans would join their demand for witnesses and testimony at Donald Trump’s impeachment trial were temporarily disappointed, if not dashed, as arguments on the first proper day of the trial extended past midnight into Wednesday morning. In seven consecutive votes split precisely along party lines, the Senate voted down Democratic proposals to subpoena testimony from four potential witnesses and documents from multiple government agencies. An eighth vote defeated a proposal to prevent the selective admission of evidence. “I know it’s late, but it doesn’t have to be late,” Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment “manager”, or prosecutor in the case, said as the proceedings entered their 12th hour. “We don’t control the schedule. There is a reason why we are still here at five minutes till midnight, and that’s because they don’t want the American people to see what’s going on here.”


Democrats fruitlessly called for testimony and documents from the former national security adviser John Bolton; the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney; Mulvaney’s aide Robert Blair; the budget official Michael Duffey; the White House; the state department; the defense department; and the budget office relevant to an alleged scheme by Trump to twist the powers of the presidency to extract personal political favors from Ukraine. Each of the proposed subpoenas was defeated by a 53-47 vote. Democrats accused Republicans of failing to commit to a fair impeachment trial and of engaging in a “cover-up” of misconduct by the president. “The president is engaged in this cover-up because he is guilty, and he knows it,” said Representative Val Demings of Florida, one of the impeachment managers .

https://twitter.com/i/status/1219661000556847107

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A bit sensational, but still you want to ask: Why?

Adam Schiff Caught ‘Fabricating’ Evidence (US24)

A bombshell new report is derailing the Democrats’ momentum against President Trump on Day One of the Senate impeachment trial. The article — in the left-leaning Politico of all places — on Tuesday night alleges that House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff appears to have “mischaracterized” evidence that was used in House Democrats’ impeachment investigation. But Republicans are ridiculing the report as an attempt to “soft-pedal” his actions, insisting that Schiff “fabricated evidence” in a naked attempt to “frame” Trump. Either way, the shocking late-night report has thrown the Democrats’ Senate plan into complete chaos.

The stunning report focuses on a letter that Schiff sent to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) last week that summarizes “a trove of evidence from Lev Parnas, an indicted former associate of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani,” Politico reported. “In one section of the letter, Schiff claims that Parnas ‘continued to try to arrange a meeting with President Zelensky,’ citing a specific text message exchange where Parnas tells Giuliani: ‘trying to get us mr Z.’ The remainder of the exchange — which was attached to Schiff’s letter — was redacted.”

Politico added, “But an unredacted version of the exchange shows that several days later, Parnas sent Giuliani a word document that appears to show notes from an interview with Mykola Zlochevsky, the founder of Burisma, followed by a text message to Giuliani that states: ‘mr Z answers my brother.’ That suggests Parnas was referring to Zlochevsky not Zelensky.” Democrat officials did not dispute the suggestion that Schiff’s claim was false. [..] one senior GOP aide told Politico: “[..] given the selective redactions and contextual clues, it seems as though Chairman Schiff sought to deliberately portray an innocuous meeting with Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky as an insidious one with the President of Ukraine simply because both of their surnames start with the letter Z.”

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As I said yesterday: “This week, Bernie is sexist. Stay tuned for next week, when we’ll find he’s racist too. If his numbers still don’t plummet then, he’ll be an anti-semitic Jew.”

Hillary Clinton Kicks Off ‘Stop Sanders’ Movement. Will Obama Follow? (Y!)

Nothing the Clintons do is accidental. And so when the news broke less than two weeks before the Iowa caucuses that in a forthcoming Hulu documentary, Hillary Clinton badmouths her 2016 rival Bernie Sanders as a “career politician” whom “nobody likes,” it didn’t just call attention to the ill feeling still lingering from that year’s bitter primary campaign. It also signaled that Clinton has thrown her weight behind the nascent “Stop Sanders” movement gaining steam among Democratic power brokers. The question now is whether Democratic voters will follow her lead — and whether Barack Obama himself might come out of semiretirement to join the cause. Asked by the Hollywood Reporter whether she would endorse and campaign for Sanders if he were to win the nomination, Clinton refused to commit. “I’m not going to go there yet,” she said.

Clinton immediately added, however, that her beef is “not only” with Sanders but with “the culture around him” — a culture she considers sexist. “It’s his leadership team,” Clinton said. “It’s his prominent supporters. It’s his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women. And I really hope people are paying attention to that because it should be worrisome that he has permitted this culture — not only permitted, [he] seems to really be very much supporting it. And I don’t think we want to go down that road again where you campaign by insult and attack and maybe you try to get some distance from it, but you either don’t know what your campaign and supporters are doing or you’re just giving them a wink and you want them to go after Kamala [Harris] or after Elizabeth [Warren].”

Then Clinton twisted the knife: “I think that that’s a pattern that people should take into account when they make their decisions.” Clinton’s timing is conspicuous. Since the start of the 2016 primary, pundits and mainstream Democrats have refused to consider Sanders a serious threat for the nomination. That’s changed in recent weeks as Sanders has surged to the top of the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, cementing his status as the nearest competitor to frontrunner Joe Biden while also out-fundraising the entire field. Meanwhile, the headlines about Clinton’s remarks come on the heels of Sanders’s clash with Warren over the same subject: his (and his campaign’s) alleged sexism. In other words, this isn’t coming out of nowhere: Clinton is piggybacking on a fresh controversy at a pivotal moment.

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But of course. It must be perennial.

Why Congress Must Keep Investigating Trump After the Impeachment Trial (Pol.)

Unlike a typical trial, the upcoming impeachment trial of President Donald Trump won’t establish facts or put an end to investigations about the Ukraine scheme at the heart of this case. Given that new allegations and evidence continue to emerge, a new investigation will be necessary. Although we still don’t know exactly what the trial will look like, public statements by senators suggest that we won’t hear from many witnesses—and could hear from none at all. That’s exactly what Trump’s legal team is asking for, which comes as no surprise because lawyers rarely want to prolong trials if they think they’ve already got the jury on their side. As it stands now, there is little doubt that Republicans are prepared to vote against removing Trump from office—which is why Democrats want to shake things up with witnesses they haven’t had the opportunity to interview, like former National Security Advisor John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

But the fact that months of Congressional inquiry into Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine is almost certain to end in acquittal does not mean that Congress’s work is done. So much of the story of the Ukraine scheme at the heart of Trump’s impeachment still is not public that Congress is obligated to resume its inquiry regardless of the outcome in the Senate. There can be no serious question that Trump held up military aid in order to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations that would help him politically, but many details of the scheme are still not known. How little we know about the Ukraine scheme headlined by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was underscored by public interviews given last week by Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, who currently faces a federal indictment in the Southern District of New York.

Parnas made sweeping claims, such as his assertion that Trump was “aware of all of my movements” and that Attorney General Bill Barr was “basically on the team.” These are provocative and damning assertions. But how exactly does Parnas claim to know all of this? [..] Parnas presented evidence that former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was under surveillance. The American people—and Yovanovitch—deserve to know whether that allegation is true and exactly why Trump’s associates were surveilling our own ambassador. After all, it is possible this scheme constituted a federal crime, such as a conspiracy to threaten or assault a federal official.

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We knew that already. But Biden is sending around a memo denying it.

Ukrainian Prosecutor Biden Pushed To Oust Heavily Investigated Burisma (RT)

The Ukrainian prosecutor who Joe Biden pushed to oust had six cases against Burisma but they fizzled out after he left, a new documentary shows challenging the narrative by the former vice president that the media failed to check. When Joe Biden lobbied Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to replace Viktor Shokin with Yuriy Lutsenko in 2015, his entourage claimed that Shokin had failed to thoroughly investigate corruption, and by pushing for his replacement “saint” Biden even acted against his family’s interests. But the second episode of the documentary series ‘UkraineGate: Inconvenient facts’ produced by French investigative journalist Olivier Berruyer, founder of popular anti-corruption and economics blog Les Crises, shows information that undermines this narrative.

The American media reported that Shokin’s case against Ukrainian energy company Burisma had gone “dormant,” and that by pressing for Lutsenko’s appointment, Biden was quashing corruption, even if that meant subjecting his own son to investigation in the process. Hunter Biden was on the company’s board from 2014 till 2019. However, documents collected by Berruyer show that Shokin’s Burisma probe was far from “dormant.” Shokin himself even told ABC News that his office had six investigations into Burisma open at the time of his resignation. Lutsenko, he said, “stopped all those cases.”

ABC didn’t air this part of the interview, and the American media – including the Washington Post and the New York Times – continue to label Shokin’s investigation “dormant,” despite a number of publicly available documents showing otherwise and presented in the documentary.

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John Solomon is back.

Joe Biden’s ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Memo To Media Doesn’t Match The Facts (Solomon)

Former vice president Joe Biden’s extraordinary campaign memo this week imploring U.S. news media to reject the allegations surrounding his son Hunter’s work for a Ukrainian natural gas company makes several bold declarations. The memo by Biden campaign aides Kate Bedingfield and Tony Blinken specifically warned reporters covering the impeachment trial they would be acting as “enablers of misinformation” if they repeated allegations that the former vice president forced the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor, who was investigating Burisma Holdings, where Hunter Biden worked as a highly compensated board member.

Biden’s memo argues there is no evidence that the former vice president’s or Hunter Biden’s conduct raised any concern, and that Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin’s investigation was “dormant” when the vice president forced the prosecutor to be fired in Ukraine. The memo calls the allegation a “conspiracy theory” (and, in full disclosure, blames my reporting for the allegations surfacing last year.) But the memo omits critical impeachment testimony and other evidence that paint a far different portrait than Biden’s there’s-nothing-to-talk-about-here rebuttal. Here are the facts, with links to public evidence, so you can decide for yourself.

Fact: Joe Biden admitted to forcing Shokin’s firing in March 2016.

Fact: Shokin’s prosecutors were actively investigating Burisma when he was fired.

Fact: Burisma’s lawyers in 2016 were pressing U.S. and Ukrainian authorities to end the corruption investigations.

Fact: There is substantial evidence Joe Biden and his office knew about the Burisma probe and his son’s role as a board member.

Fact: Federal Ethics rules requires government officials to avoid taking policy actions affecting close relatives.

Fact: Multiple State Department officials testified the Bidens’ dealings in Ukraine created the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Fact: Hunter Biden acknowleged he may have gotten his Burisma job solely because of his last name.

Fact: Ukraine law enforcement reopened the Burisma investigation in early 2019, well before President Trump mentioned the matter to Ukraine’s new president Vlodymyr Zelensky.

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Accused of “..hacking the cellphones of Brazilian prosecutors and public officials..”

Brazil Charges Glenn Greenwald With Cybercrimes (ZH)

Prosecutors in Brazil charged American journalist Glenn Greenwald with cybercrimes on Tuesday for his role in spreading embarrassing text messages that exposed corruption within the Brazilian judicial system, according to the New York Times. In a 91-page criminal complaint made public on Tuesday, Greenwald is accused of participating in a “criminal organization” that spread text messages which called into question the “integrity, professionalism and motives of key members of Brazil’s justice system — particularly of figures directly involved in the investigation of a vast corruption scheme that resulted in the imprisonment of powerful business and political figures.” Greenwald – who moved to Brazil in 2005 with his husband David Miranda – now a congressman, went beyond simply receiving the texts and publishing newsworthy information according to prosecutors.

“Citing intercepted messages between Mr. Greenwald and the hackers, prosecutors say the journalist played a “clear role in facilitating the commission of a crime.” For instance, prosecutors contend that Mr. Greenwald encouraged the hackers to delete archives that had already been shared with The Intercept Brasil, in order to cover their tracks. Prosecutors also say that Mr. Greenwald was communicating with the hackers while they were actively monitoring private chats on Telegram, a messaging app”. -New York Times. Greenwald – an attorney, rose to international prominence in 2013 for his role in the release of classified documents revealing America’s extensive NSA surveillance apparatus, after National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked documents to Greenwald, who worked for The Guardian at the time.

In 2016, Greenwald launched The Intercept Brasil, which began publishing articles based on the leaked text exchanges last June. “The articles raised questions about the integrity, professionalism and motives of key members of Brazil’s justice system — particularly of figures directly involved in the investigation of a vast corruption scheme that resulted in the imprisonment of powerful business and political figures. Among the revelations in the articles, for instance, were chats in which Sérgio Moro, a former federal judge who handled the prosecution of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2017, provided strategic guidance to prosecutors, in violation of legal and ethical norms. Mr. Moro is now Brazil’s justice minister. -New York Times.

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Someone lend them the $10 billion.

Boeing Has Officially Stopped Making 737 MAX Airplanes (CNN)

The Boeing 737 Max is officially on hold. The assembly line in Renton, Washington, has stopped building Boeing’s bestselling plane, the company confirmed late Monday. Boeing announced plans to temporarily halt production for an undetermined period in December, but it had not previously announced a precise day for the shutdown. Boeing will not furlough or lay off workers because of the shutdown, but pain will ripple through its supply chain and could hurt America’s economic growth. The shutdown will make restarting production and recovering from the crisis more difficult for Boeing once it finally gets permission for the plane to fly again. The 737 Max has been grounded since March..

Although Boeing couldn’t deliver the 737 Max planes to customers, the company continued to build the jets, albeit at a slightly reduced pace of 42 a month. It now has about 400 completed jets parked in Washington and Texas, waiting to be delivered to airlines around the world. But Boeing doesn’t get most of its money from the sale of the jets until they are delivered, and it could not indefinitely continue to incur the costs of building them without being able to deliver them. The company hoped that the plane would fly again before the end of 2019. But in December Stephen Dickson, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, announced approval would not come until some time in 2020. Shutdown plans were announced a week later.

Boeing would not release a headcount for people who had been working on the plane. The company said the employees will be reassigned to other duties during the shutdown, and there are a number of reasons for that. First, under federal labor law, Boeing would have to pay them for 60 days following a layoff notice. Since Boeing is still hoping to resume work on the plane soon, it probably would have limited cost savings to go through the process of laying off the workers. And with unemployment in the Seattle metropolitan area at 2.9% – lower than the national unemployment rate that’s at a 50-year low – Boeing can’t risk losing the workers it needs once production resumes.

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All pilots in the US must now do simulator training. The exact issue that made Boeing screw around with the plane to make it appear like it was the same as with the much smaller engine, so no training was needed. Very dumb. When this thing started, there were lerss than a handful simulators available. Have they built a lot more since? I’d like to know. These things don’t come cheap.

You Won’t Be Flying On A 737 MAX Anytime Soon (CNN)

No one knows when the Boeing 737 Max will return to service. But it won’t be any time soon. Boeing eagerly awaits the US FAA’s approval to allow the grounded plane to fly again. But the FAA refuses to provide a specific timeframe, saying only that it will make a decision sometime this year. “We continue to work with other international aviation safety regulators to review the proposed changes to the aircraft,” said the FAA’s most recent statement on the plane, issued on January 9. “Our first priority is safety, and we have set no timeframe for when the work will be completed.” The plane has been grounded since March. Boeing had initially hoped a fix for the safety system, known as MCAS, could be approved in a matter of weeks after the second crash.

But it has missed target date after target date for completion of the process. Aerospace analysts believe regulatory approval could come in the spring. Cai von Rumohr of Cowen now forecasts March. Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group says he’s thinking April or perhaps May. But they both say that is only their best guess at this point. [..] It’s also unclear whether aviation regulators around the world will follow the FAA’s lead and approve the plane to fly when it is cleared to fly in the United States. More than 80% of the planes are in foreign countries. One of the reasons the FAA has emphasized its work with other regulators is the agency hopes they will quickly follow its lead. But the process of getting that consensus is also causing delays, according to industry experts.

After the 737 Max is approved to return to service, it will be at least weeks, if not months, before any of them are carrying paying passengers once again. Boeing and the FAA have agreed that as part of the return to service 737 Max pilots will first complete simulator training. Pilots were previously permitted to fly the 737 Max without learning the specifics of the aircraft on a simulator. The new trainings won’t start until the certification process is complete. That will slow the time it will take to have the teams of pilots necessary to handle the flights. [..] Southwest and American Airlines have both announced they have canceled flights until early June, at the start of the summer travel season.

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The EU has done it. It’s turned the Greeks against immigrants.

General Strike Planned On Greek Aegean Islands Today Over Migration (K.)

The Greek government is under growing strain over immigration amid ongoing protests against plans to create at least 10 closed pre-departure centers across the country coupled with a delay in the disbursement of European Union funds for that purpose. Meanwhile tension at existing hotspots is brewing. A 17-year-old Afghan girl was hospitalized in serious condition on Monday after being stabbed by a 20-year-old fellow Afghan at Lesvos’ Moria camp. The attacker was arrested. On Sunday, newly installed Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarakis was heckled by locals during visits to Lesvos and Samos.

During his trip, Mitarakis stressed that reducing immigration flows is a top priority of the government. However, a general strike is planned on the Aegean islands on Wednesday in response to its perceived failure to do so. Meanwhile, a survey by the diaNEOsis nonprofit think tank shows that most Greeks believe migrants and refugees have a negative impact on the country. The survey found that 85.2 percent of respondents said that the number of immigrants in Greece is “very or too high.” Just 12.1 percent said that the number is “normal.” At the same time, 79 percent disagreed with the statement that migrants are a solution to the country’s demographic problem.

Meanwhile, 56 percent said they believe that migrants have a negative impact on the economy, while 58 percent said that their presence is a “threat to our national identity.” However, 30 percent recognized the cultural enrichment brought by migrants. Asked about crime, 53 percent said they believe that migrants are responsible for soaring crime rates while 44 percent said that Greeks and non-Greeks were as likely to engage in criminal behavior.

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Oh well, overpopulation and things…

US Drinking Water Widely Contaminated With ‘Forever Chemicals’ (R.)

The contamination of U.S. drinking water with man-made “forever chemicals” is far worse than previously estimated with some of the highest levels found in Miami, Philadelphia and New Orleans, said a report on Wednesday by an environmental watchdog group. The chemicals, resistant to breaking down in the environment, are known as perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. Some have been linked to cancers, liver damage, low birth weight and other health problems. The findings here by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) show the group’s previous estimate in 2018, based on unpublished U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data, that 110 million Americans may be contaminated with PFAS, could be far too low.

“It’s nearly impossible to avoid contaminated drinking water from these chemicals,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG and co-author of the report. The chemicals were used in products like Teflon and Scotchguard and in firefighting foam. Some are used in a variety of other products and industrial processes, and their replacements also pose risks. Of tap water samples taken by EWG from 44 sites in 31 states and Washington D.C., only one location, Meridian, Mississippi, which relies on 700 foot (215 m) deep wells, had no detectable PFAS. Only Seattle and Tuscaloosa, Alabama had levels below 1 part per trillion (PPT), the limit EWG recommends.

In addition, EWG found that on average six to seven PFAS compounds were found at the tested sites, and the effects on health of the mixtures are little understood. “Everyone’s really exposed to a toxic soup of these PFAS chemicals,” Andrews said. In 34 places where EWG’s tests found PFAS, contamination had not been publicly reported by the EPA or state environmental agencies. The EPA has known since at least 2001 about the problem of PFAS in drinking water but has so far failed to set an enforceable, nationwide legal limit. The EPA said early last year it would begin the process to set limits on two of the chemicals, PFOA and PFOS.

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Stop drinking the poison.

People Still Want Plastic Bottles, Says Coca-Cola (BBC)

Coca-Cola will not ditch single-use plastic bottles because consumers still want them, the firm’s head of sustainability has told the BBC. Customers like them because they reseal and are lightweight, said Bea Perez. The firm, which is one of the biggest producers of plastic waste, has pledged to recycle as many plastic bottles as it uses by 2030. But environmental campaigners argue many Coke bottles would still go uncollected and end up in landfill. The drinks giant produces about three million tonnes of plastic packaging a year – equivalent to 200,000 bottles a minute. In 2019, it was found to be the most polluting brand in a global audit of plastic waste by the charity Break Free from Plastic.


But speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ms Perez said the firm recognised it now had to be “part of the solution”. Coke has pledged to use at least 50% recycled material in its packaging by 2030. It is also partnering with NGOs around the world to help improve collection. However, Ms Perez said the firm could not ditch plastic outright, as some campaigners wanted, saying this could alienate customers and hit sales. She also said using only aluminium and glass packaging could push up the firm’s carbon footprint. “Business won’t be in business if we don’t accommodate consumers,” she said. “So as we change our bottling infrastructure, move into recycling and innovate, we also have to show the consumer what the opportunities are. They will change with us.”

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I know, it’s corny

 

 

 

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

 

Jan 022020
 


VIncent van Gogh Weeping woman seated on a basket 1883

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House Democrats Would Have Impeached Lincoln (Blagojevich)

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

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

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

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I’ll never understand why it took so long.

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

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

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

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

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‘T is the season to be jolly.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Daily Mail, so perhaps a few pounds of salt.

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

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

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

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

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MI6 can accommodate Andrew.

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

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

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

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

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

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The EU will have to respond in kind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lemme guess: because it sinks?!

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

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


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

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Ghislaine Maxwell in 1999 photoshoot for Sotheby’s

 

 

 

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

 

Dec 152019
 


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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Glenn Greenwald has dug deep.

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

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

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

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

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

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Tulsi to the rescue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Dismantling the OPCW is the only possible way forward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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“December 20 is an important day..”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Aug 152019
 


Henri Matisse The terrace, St. Tropez 1904

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

China: Paper Tiger (Jim Rickards)

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


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

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


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

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

Trade Wars and the Over-Valued Dollar (Hill)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Painting said to be hanging in Epstein townhouse

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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Why is it Bolton who’s talking trade deals?

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

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

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

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

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Most heavily subsidized.

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

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

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

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

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Bolton gone wrong.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Pablo Picasso Guitar 1925

 

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

 

 

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

The China Battle Has Just Started (Vague)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Millennial Net Wealth Collapses (ZH)

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

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


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

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

Aftermath: Interview with James Rickards (Whalen)

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

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

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

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

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Why they must be broken up.

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

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


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

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

For MMT (Mitchell/Fazi)

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


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

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Pepe doesn’t convince me.

The Great Bilderberg Secret Of 2019 (Escobar)

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

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

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

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Quicksand. The entire country.

Welsh Government Officially Switches To Campaign For Remain (TNE)

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

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Strongarming?!

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

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


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

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The same governments that talk about going green own carmakers.

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

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


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

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Russia lost an entire generation of young men.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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May 112019
 


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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Traditional Economics Has Absolutely Screwed Us (Tyee)

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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I don’t think John Solomon is done yet.

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

FISA Applications Were Illegally Obtained – DiGenova (PJ)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Crisis? What Crisis? (Jim Kunstler)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Curious but still..

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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Not sure the biggest EU monster is a finance one.

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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Apr 172019
 


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

 

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

 

 

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

World Trade Suffers Biggest Collapse Since Financial Crisis (ZH)

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

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

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“We” are losing to Iran all over again.

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

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


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

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Ducks and babies. We kid you not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suzie Dawson on Julian Assange’s Mistreatment (Unity4J)

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

First They Came For Assange (Varoufakis)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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“..experts have concluded..”

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

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


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

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There is no way they could ever agree.

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

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


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

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The Delusional Party.

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

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


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

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How much plastic is inside of you?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

 

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

 

 

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

Notre Dame ‘Saved From Total Destruction’ (CNBC)

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


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

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Our Lady in the cloud.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Let’s do some gossip.

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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Brilliant absolute must read.

Uncle Tom’s Empire (Hopkins)

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

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

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

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

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

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Because then they would have to prove it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Who’s going to sue the politicians responsible?

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

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

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

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

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Jim illustrates the demise of Slate.

Useful Idiots on Parade (Kunstler)

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


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

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I miss Dmitry.

Respecting the Other (Dmitry Orlov)

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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How much plastic is there inside of you?

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

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

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

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

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