May 302019
 


 

WikiLeaks Expresses ‘Grave Concerns’ for Assange’s Health (CN)
Press Freedom is Under Threat in the Land of its Birth (CP)
Putin Has A Mueller Pee Tape (RT)
The Limits of American Destructiveness (Dmitry Orlov)
China Accuses US Of ‘Naked Economic Terrorism’ (AFP)
Why Tesla At $10 Is Not Far-Fetched (Colombo)
UK Car Production Plunged By Nearly Half In April (G.)
Boris Johnson To Face Court Over Brexit Claims (R.)
Boeing 737 MAX Won’t Fly Again Before August – IATA (G.)
The Day Einstein Became A Global Star (Dunn)
Good News: Elephant Slaughter Down. Bad News: They Still Face Total Doom (AFP)

 

 

“Assange’s health has deteriorated too much to appear via video link for today’s extradition hearing in central London. It may now take place at Belmarsh prison.”

WikiLeaks Expresses ‘Grave Concerns’ for Assange’s Health (CN)

WikiLeaks has condemned Britain for its treatment of Julian Assange, expressing “grave concerns” for the health of its publisher who has been transferred to the health ward of Belmarsh prison in London. In a statement released on Twitter on Wednesday, the publication also condemned Ecuador for having created conditions “incompatible with basic human rights” for Assange, who had been granted asylum in its London embassy and remained there for seven years. He was cutoff the last year from the internet with only minimal visits permitted. [..] Britain had twice ignored rulings by the United Nations working group on arbitrary detention that the UK should let Assange free and pay him compensation.


“The UK’s refusal to abide by UN rulings, and its subsequent treatment of Mr. Assange since his arrest, presents serious questions about the UK’s standing as a human rights-abiding nation,” WikiLeaks said in its statement. Assange has been kept in isolation for 23 hours a day at Belmarsh, and has been allowed only a handful of visits from his lawyers. The UN’s special rapporteur for torture visited him with a doctor, who examined Assange, earlier this month. The rapporteur’s report has not yet been released. “During the seven weeks in Belmarsh his health has continued to deteriorate and he has dramatically lost weight,” WikiLeaks said.

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“.. the tradition of press freedom was actually established way back in 1735..”

Press Freedom is Under Threat in the Land of its Birth (CP)

Assange had always claimed that he had skipped bail on a scheduled court hearing over a Swedish government extradition request that it was all a trumped up affair designed to get him to Sweden where he could then more easily be deported to the US to face espionage charges. That claim was scoffed at by British prosecutors, Swedish prosecutors and by most of the US media, including publications like the NY Times and the Washington Post. Those two publications had been all too happy to publish Wikileaks documents, but both have subsequently derisively mocked Assange’s claim to be a fellow publisher and journalist entitled to First Amendment protection from US prosecution for Wikileaks’ releasing of classified government documents obtained from whistleblowers like Snowden and Army private Chelsea Manning.

These smug supposed models of journalistic professionalism and integrity have been happy to have Assange’s Wikileaks do the dirty drudge work of gaining the trust of whistleblowers, receiving their leaked classified materials documenting criminal and corrupt behavior by the US and other governments, and disseminating those documents to the world’s media while protecting their sources — the very job that the reporters at publications like the Times and Post should be doing — but then turn around and claim that Assange is not a real journalist and Wikileaks is not a real publication because it supposedly doesn’t have a fine, professional editorial staff vetting its documents to protect privacy and of course “national security.” It’s a joke really, when one considers the error-filled and propaganda-peddling articles both publications regularly put into print despite or perhaps with the endorsement of those “professional” editors. (Besides which Wikileaks does review and where necessary, properly censors the material it releases.)

This pinched view of what constitutes the “press” when it comes to First Amendment protection ignores the reality that the tradition of press freedom was actually established way back in 1735, well before the founding of the United States or the passage of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. That’s when John Peter Zenger, the owner of a printing press in the colony of New York on which he published a small newspaper, the New York Weekly Journal, won acquittal in a criminal libel suit brought against him by the governor of the colony of New York. Was Zenger, an immigrant from Germany who’s English skills are described as “poor,” a “real” journalist with an editor overseeing his work for accuracy when he won that groundbreaking case? No. And how about that journalistic pioneer Ben Franklin? Did he have an editor checking his work for accuracy, respect for privacy, etc. in 1729 when he and partner Hugh Meredith began publishing their Pennsylvania Gazette? Of course not!

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How upside down is this?

Muellker: “If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”

Putin Has A Mueller Pee Tape (RT)

After Special Counsel Robert Mueller delivered a public statement standing by the findings of his final report, liberal commentators began reading between the lines. How long before Putin is accused of getting to Mueller?
Mueller delivered his public statement on Wednesday, and offered very few surprises. His final report, which cleared President Donald Trump of colluding with Russia in 2016 and found insufficient evidence to bring obstruction charges against the president, “speaks for itself,” Mueller said. The Special Counsel also stated that Attorney General William Barr has already “made the report on our investigation largely public,” and that he would not testify on anything beyond the publicly available information.

So a bland statement of Justice Department policy? On the surface, yes. But that didn’t stop Democrats from clamoring for further investigations, or viewing Mueller’s declination to prosecute as a dog-whistle for impeachment. Journalist Mark Ames joked that “Putin has a Mueller pee tape,” a reference to one particularly lurid tale presented in the ‘Steele Dossier.’ Ironically, the Steele Dossier –though completely uncorroborated– was used by the FBI to justify surveilling the Trump campaign and played a central role in kick-starting the investigation that Mueller eventually took over. Ames added: “If Maddow doesn’t air a segment tonight claiming Putin has a Mueller pee tape, it can only mean one thing–Putin has a Maddow pee tape.”

Are Robert Mueller and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow guilty by urination? Well, no, but the idea that Maddow would air such a segment on Mueller is not a far-fetched one. In the two years since Mueller took over the ‘Russiagate’ investigation, Maddow has flung dung-heaps of conspiratorial Russian nonsense at viewers every night. There was her warning that the Kremlin could “flip the off switch” on the US power grid and freeze Americans to death last winter, the suggestion that Trump personally paid for the services of “Russian hackers,” and the insistence that Vladimir Putin would use the (then debunked) ‘Pee Tape’ to force Trump to withdraw US troops from Eastern Europe (the exact opposite happened).

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“You can’t tell anything by looking at [Pompeo’s] smirking fat mug, but I am sure that he was crying on the inside.”

The Limits of American Destructiveness (Dmitry Orlov)

When Saddam Hussein decided to start selling oil for euros, the CIA organized a provocation that caused him to invade Kuweit as punishment for stealing Iraqi oil. This allowed the US to organize a gigantic expeditionary force with divisions from a large number of countries, including Syria and Egypt and pretty much all of NATO. After a decade of Hussein festering in place, a somewhat smaller coalition dealt him the coup de grâce, destroying Iraq in the process. The victims of the American invasion and occupation outnumber Saddam Hussein’s victims by orders of magnitude. Later, the same thing was done to Muammar Qaddafi, for similar reasons, and Libya is likely to remain as a ruin. There, some sort of minor coalition was cobbled together.

But now the US finds that it urgently needs to knock out Iran because otherwise it will be too late. It is time to form a new coalition and Mike Pompeo has started racing around Eurasia. First off, he offended the Germans by canceling his state visit with Angela Merkel on a moment’s notice and without offering a reason. Instead, he flew to Baghdad—a perfect location for launching an attack on Iran, except that the Iraqi response was a message of solidarity with Iran, willingness to mediate the US-Iranian dispute, and consideration of a ban on US troops on Iraqi soil.

And so Mike flew to Sochi, where he met with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and, briefly, with Putin. Most likely, Putin told him where he can stuff his war plans, and so Mike canceled his planned trip to Moscow, to avoid having Sergei Lavrov wipe his feet on him again. And so Mike flew on to Europe, where he got a quick “no” on Iran from EU foreign policy head Federica Mogherini and an outright refusal to meet from the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Great Britain. And so Mike flew back to Washington. You can’t tell anything by looking at his smirking fat mug, but I am sure that he was crying on the inside.

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Thinking about that term. Is it the opposite of all-dressed economic terrorism?

China Accuses US Of ‘Naked Economic Terrorism’ (AFP)

China accused the United States of “naked economic terrorism” on Thursday as Beijing ramps up the rhetoric in their trade war. The world’s top two economies are at loggerheads as trade talks have apparently stalled, with US President Donald Trump hiking tariffs on Chinese goods earlier this month and blacklisting telecom giant Huawei. “We are against the trade war, but we are not afraid of it,” vice foreign minister Zhang Hanhui said at a press briefing to preview President Xi Jinping’s trip to Russia next week. “This premeditated instigation of a trade conflict is naked economic terrorism, economic chauvinism, and economic bullying,” Zhang said, stressing that China opposes the systematic use of sanctions, tariffs and protectionism. “There is no winner in a trade war,” he warned.


China has hit back with its own tariff increase that will take effect June 1, while state media has suggested that Beijing could stop exports of rare earths to the United States, depriving Washington of a key resource used to make hi-tech products. Meanwhile, state media and officials have stepped up the rhetoric, tapping patriotic fervour as the Communist Party digs in for what could be a long fight with the United States. An anchor for the English-language state broadcaster China Global Television Network (CGTN) even held a rare debate on Thursday with a presenter from Fox Business Network to discuss the trade war after jousting on social media. The debate between CGTN’s Liu Xin and Fox Business’s Trish Regan was civil, with the American journalist saying “I appreciate you being here” and the Chinese anchor inviting her to come to China, adding “I will take you around”.

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No bubble, no Tesla.

Why Tesla At $10 Is Not Far-Fetched (Colombo)

Last week, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas shocked the investing world by cutting his worst-case forecast for Tesla stock from $97 to just $10 per share (it was trading at approximately $200 per share at the time of the announcement). Jonas cited the company’s heavy debt load and exposure to China as the main reasons for his downgraded outlook – “The reduction in our bear case to $10 is driven primarily by our concerns around Chinese demand for Tesla products.” “Our revised bear case assumes Tesla misses our current Chinese volume forecast by roughly half to account for the highly volatile trade situation in the region, particularly around areas of technology, which we believe run a high and increasing risk of government/regulatory attention.” Tesla’s stock price has plunged by over 50% or $200 since its peak in December:

While most analysts and financial journalists completely laughed off Adam Jonas’ $10 worst-case forecast for Tesla stock, what immediately came to my mind was that it was not far-fetched at all. While Jonas’ basis for that price was the company’s heavy debt load and exposure to China, which are both valid risks in their own right, I have been warning about a much larger macro risk that virtually nobody else is discussing: Tesla’s exposure to the U.S. household wealth bubble. To summarize my argument, U.S. household wealth has been experiencing a bubble in recent years because the Fed has artificially inflated stock and bond prices. This household wealth bubble has created a wealth effect that has helped to temporarily boost consumer spending, including sales of Tesla automobiles.


Tesla is a luxury car company that sells expensive cars to affluent people, and the U.S. is responsible for approximately half of Tesla’s sales. As much as Tesla has been struggling (Tesla lost nearly $1 billion in 2018 and $2 billion in 2017), those struggles are occurring during the largest wealth bubble that has ever occurred in America’s history. If Tesla can’t make it in this frothy environment, they’re not going to make it period. Unfortunately, like all bubbles, today’s household wealth bubble will violently burst, just like it did in the early-2000s and in 2008 and 2009. When that happens, Tesla will bleed red ink like never before and $10 per share may become a reality.

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And I think that’s a good thing.

UK Car Production Plunged By Nearly Half In April (G.)

Car production plunged by nearly half in April as factories shut down to prepare for a Brexit date that never came, prompting renewed anguish from the UK motor industry at the “untold damage” done by prolonged uncertainty. In a slump that the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) described as “extraordinary”, 70,971 vehicles rolled off the production lines in April, down 44.5% from 127,970 in the same month of last year. Labour said the figures showed that the government’s “mishandling” of Brexit was already hurting carmakers, warning of further pain if the next Tory leader backs leaving the EU without a deal.

The majority of the decline in production was down to large automotive firms such as Jaguar Land Rover, BMW and Peugeot bringing forward annual maintenance stoppages that usually take place in the summer. By moving the date of the planned shutdowns, they hoped to ensure that any disruption to their supply lines around 29 March – the original date of Brexit – took place while production lines were already idling, minimising the impact. However, the postponement of the UK’s exit from the EU means that the stoppages, which the SMMT called “costly”, proved to be needless. The shutdowns cannot be repeated over the new Brexit date of 31 October, meaning car firms will have to bear any slowdown to their vital “just-in-time” manufacturing processes during a period of full-scale output.

[..] April’s fall in vehicle production is the 11th straight monthly decline, with previous falls put down to sluggish demand in international markets including the EU, US and China. However, the 44.5% slump in April was much steeper than the 15% seen in February and the 13% reported in March, with the SMMT blaming Brexit contingency plans.

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“..he lied about Brexit by stating Britain would be 350 million pounds a week better off outside the EU..”

Boris Johnson To Face Court Over Brexit Claims (R.)

Boris Johnson, the favourite to replace Theresa May as British prime minister, must appear in court over allegations he lied about Brexit by stating Britain would be 350 million pounds a week better off outside the EU, a judge ruled on Wednesday. The figure, famously emblazoned on a campaign bus, was a central and controversial part of the Leave campaign’s successful “take back control” message ahead of the 2016 Brexit referendum. Opponents argued that it was deliberately misleading and it became symbolic of the divisions caused by the referendum, which saw Britons vote by 52%-48% to leave the European Union.


District Judge Margot Coleman ruled that Johnson, a former British foreign secretary and ex-mayor of London, must answer a private summons alleging he had committed three criminal offences of misconduct in a public office. In her written ruling at London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Coleman said the accusations were not proven. But she added: “Having considered all the relevant factors I am satisfied that this is a proper case to issue the summons as requested for the three offences as drafted. “This means the proposed defendant will be required to attend this court for a preliminary hearing, and the case will then be sent to the Crown Court for trial,” she said.

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The pressure mounts.

Boeing 737 MAX Won’t Fly Again Before August – IATA (G.)

The Boeing 737 Max aircraft will not return to the skies before August, according to the head of aviation’s main trade body.The 737 Max was grounded by regulators in the wake of two crashes, and although manufacturer Boeing has been working on a fix to allay safety concerns, it is likely to remain out of service for another 10 to 12 weeks, into peak season for many airlines. Alexandre de Juniac, the chief executive of the International Air Transport Association, said the timing would depend on regulators, but he hoped to see a unified global timetable for the model’s reintroduction. [..] Speaking in Seoul ahead of the association’s annual meeting, De Juniac said airlines were not expecting a return to service within the next 10 to 12 weeks: “But it is not our hands. That is in the hands of regulators.”

Iata is planning a summit meeting between airlines, regulators and Boeing in July to discuss a coordinated timeline to restore the 737 Max to commercial flying, De Juniac said. “We hope that [the regulators] will align their timeframe,” he said. The 737 Max disasters have ignited tensions between regulators on either side of the Atlantic, amid concerns over the FAA’s relationship with Boeing, including the degree of self-certification. Ethiopia chose to send the data recorders from the crash to safety investigators in Paris, and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency has indicated it would carry out its own assessment of the 737 fix, rather than rely on the FAA. According to Reuters, sources at ICAO, the UN aviation agency, believe the FAA will approve the 737 Max again as soon as late June.

US operators United Airlines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, early customers of the model sold as a more fuel-efficient iteration of the 737 shorthaul workhorse, have removed the planes from their flight schedules until early to mid-August. De Juniac said prolonged grounding was “taking its toll” on airlines. Although Iata expects its 290 airline members to be recording a 10th consecutive year of aggregate profit, he said the 737 was adding to headwinds including “rising costs, trade wars and other uncertainties [that] are likely to have an impact on the bottom line”.

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May 29 1919.

The Day Einstein Became A Global Star (Dunn)

One hundred years ago, two teams of British astronomers travelled thousands of miles to photograph the solar eclipse of 29 May 1919. But they weren’t just there for the spectacle – they intended to prove Albert Einstein’s relativity theory. Much like today, few people understood Einstein’s work in the 1910s. Those who could get their head round it, however, knew that if his ideas were correct, a massive body like the Sun would bend any light passing near it. A way to test this would be to photograph the stars around the Sun during an eclipse and then photograph them again when the Sun was further away from them. Comparing the images would allow you to measure any displacement in the stars’ apparent positions.

According to Einstein’s theories, the change should be 1.75 arcseconds, twice the value predicted by Newtonian physics. To put that figure in context, it’s like trying to measure the width of a penny from a mile away. But that was exactly what two teams of British astronomers hoped to do in 1919. To add to the challenge, they had to transport their equipment to Sobral in northern Brazil, and the island of Príncipe, off the west coast of Africa. One of the architects of the plan was Arthur Stanley Eddington, professor of astronomy at Cambridge and an active promoter of Einstein’s theories (he was one of the few people who understood them). As a Quaker and pacifist, he also welcomed the opportunity to promote international cooperation after global war.

Eddington went to Príncipe with clockmaker Edwin Cottingham, while Charles Davidson and Andrew Crommelin of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, went to Brazil. Each team took a large telescope, used to capture the image fed into it from a coelostat, a clockwork-driven mirror that counteracted Earth’s rotation during long exposures of up to half a minute. The Sobral team also took a second, smaller telescope as backup. [..] It was only in November 1919 that the results were announced at a meeting in London. When they were, it was the photographs from the smaller telescope at Sobral that proved decisive and were then distributed to astronomers worldwide.

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Death penalty. Nothing else works.

Good News: Elephant Slaughter Down. Bad News: They Still Face Total Doom (AFP)

The illegal slaughter of African elephants to feed Asia’s demand for ivory has decreased by more than half in eight years, but the majestic mammals are still threatened with extinction, researchers warned. In 2011, poachers killed some 40,000 tuskers – about 10 per cent of the continent’s population, according to figures from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), based in Geneva. Last year the kill rate was about four per cent, or 15,000 animals, according to new research published in Nature Communications. “We are seeing a downturn in poaching, but it is still above what we think is sustainable,” co-author Colin Beale, a conservation biologist at the University of York, said.


On current trends, the African elephant is in danger of being “virtually wiped out”, surviving only in small, heavily protected pockets, he said. A century ago up to 12 million of the world’s heaviest land animal roamed the continent. Today, they number about 500,000, if forest elephants – a subspecies – are included. Despite a 1990 ban on international trade in ivory, demand in Southeast Asia and especially China has overwhelmed the capacity of local and global authorities to curb the carnage. “Currently, poaching is worst in west and central Africa,” said Beale. “I worry most for the future of forest elephants.” Smaller, more solitary than their cousins on the savannah, forest tuskers in the Congo Basin are estimated to have declined by 65 per cent over the last 15 years alone.

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May 032019
 


Paul Klee In angel’s care (In Engelshut) 1931

 

Day of the Long Knives (Kassam)
Is The Media Driving America Insane? (LN)
How The News Took Over Reality (G.)
Assange or Khashoggi: Whither Journalistic Standards? (Aziz)
Democrats Rage At Empty Chair As Barr Misses Mueller Hearing (ZH)
How President Trump’s Legal Team Outfoxed Mueller (Chamberlain)
Ukrainian Embassy Confirms DNC Contractor Solicited Trump Dirt In 2016 (Hill)
April US Auto Sales Crash 6.1%, Worst Slide In 8 Years (ZH)
Global Foreign Direct Investment Flows Collapse (DQ)
Hippie-Punching MMT (Edward Harrison)

 

 

“If all these peoples’ ideas were not relevant, or popular, they would not need to be banned.”

It’s World Press Freedom Day today. Painfully ironic. We can’t let Facebook police our world. Or, rather, be police, judge and henchman all in one. We need laws for this and we need to apply them.

I don’t do Facebook anymore since they froze our account, what is it, 3 years ago?! I see Paul Joseph Watson every now and then on Twitter and though I don’t see myself becoming his best friend, he is an intelligent and articulate guy who has never violated Facebook’s regulations. Other than he has a link to Alex Jones. It’s easy to say Good Riddance, but you are next.

Day of the Long Knives (Kassam)

Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, Laura Loomer and Milo Yiannopoulos have been unpersonned by the digital tech giant Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram. They’re coming for you, next. Or more likely, for us. Human Events stands shoulder-to-shoulder with those being routinely targeted by the would-be ‘Masters of the Universe’, no matter if we agree with them or not. Also banned was Louis Farrakhan, the anti-Semitic leader of the repugnant Nation of Islam group. But Farrakhan, like the others, should not have his fate decided by some little nerd in Silicon Valley who has decided his or her feelings are hurt. His fate should be decided in the court of public opinion, with sunlight acting as the greatest disinfectant.

Unfortunately, recent precedent has informed Big Tech that its methods to some extent work. The removal of people like Laura Loomer, Milo, and Tommy Robinson has directly impacted their livelihoods, their work, and their fundamental freedoms. And while Farrakhan is far from someone we would be seen dead around, it is only intellectually consistent if the rules apply both ways. For the psychopaths of Silicon Valley however, intellectual considerations come a distinct last to power, profit, and pandering. The likelihood is Farrakhan’s inclusion on the list is simply a sop to make the decision seem less of a one way street. If I were him, I’d be especially pissed off at being the fall guy in this regard.

But Jones, Loomer, Milo, and Watson have a claim to massive anger too, given they are being lumped in with a man who has said “white people deserve to die”, and who has said to Jewish people, “…don’t you forget, when it’s God who puts you in the ovens, it’s forever!” Tommy now struggles to gain traction – albeit with a smile on his face – and a plan to drive a bus around the country with a big screen on it, to highlight the censorship he faces. Milo – and he will probably hate me for saying this – faces total financial ruin. Alex Jones has had a massive business ripped out from under him. And Laura Loomer has been relegated to staging protests on the front lawns of those who needlessly aggress her.

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If they can make a buck from it, they certainly will.

Is The Media Driving America Insane? (LN)

Now that more of us are consuming news media more often than ever, a higher number of Americans are being fed a steady mental diet of outrage, fear, and hostility wrapped in clickbait headlines designed to make us even more contemptuous of those whose political beliefs clash with our own. Many media outlets have transformed emotionally charged, but ultimately irrelevant, stories into their bread and butter, manipulating their audiences into giving them their precious clicks in exchange for a dose of anger and panic. Otherwise unimportant stories are catapulted into the mainstream simply because the press knows Americans will tune in and boost their ratings.


The Covington kids fiasco is a prime example. What should have been a local matter was morphed into an issue of national importance by a left-wing media apparatus that wanted to further their “MAGA Hat-wearing white people are the spawn of Satan” narrative. In the end, what is accomplished? For the press, it is higher ratings and more clicks. But for the American public, it is a heightened sense of fear, hatred, and stress – a toxic brew rending the social fabric. It is no wonder that many are predicting another civil war. It would be easy to dismiss such claims as pure alarmism, but given how the Fourth Estate wields their influence, this reality is not hard to imagine. Is it possible to reverse course? Sure, but it won’t be easy. The media is in this game for two reasons: To earn a profit, and to achieve their political objectives. They have no incentive to inform rather than persuade. If the trend persists, things are sure to get uglier before they get better.

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Such a piece coming from the Guardian is pretty priceless. Even if it makes some valid points, it’s publications like that which seek to alter reality. Don’t report the news, but manufacture it.

How The News Took Over Reality (G.)

In recent years, there has been enormous concern about the time we spend on our web-connected devices and what that might be doing to our brains. But a related psychological shift has gone largely unremarked: the way that, for a certain segment of the population, the news has come to fill up more and more time – and, more subtly, to occupy centre stage in our subjective sense of reality, so that the world of national politics and international crises can feel more important, even more truly real, than the concrete immediacy of our families, neighbourhoods and workplaces. It’s not simply that we spend too many hours glued to screens. It’s that for some of us, at least, they have altered our way of being in the world such that the news is no longer one aspect of the backdrop to our lives, but the main drama. The way that journalists and television producers have always experienced the news is now the way millions of others experience it, too.


From a British or American standpoint, the overwhelmingly dominant features of this changed mental landscape are Brexit and the presidency of Donald Trump. But the sheer outrageousness of them both risks blinding us to how strange and recent a phenomenon it is for the news – any news – to assume such a central position in people’s daily lives. In a now familiar refrain, the New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof bemoans his social circle’s “addiction to Trump” – “at cocktail parties, on cable television, at the dinner table, at the water cooler, all we talk about these days is Trump.” But Trump’s eclipse of all other news is not the only precondition for this addiction. The other is the eclipse of the rest of life by the dramas of the news.

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Excellent point. But there’s more: how does Assange’s freedom relate to that of the people who got banned from Facebook yesterday? Most of us will initially react to that question with something about what and who we like, but that’s not good enough.

Assange or Khashoggi: Whither Journalistic Standards? (Aziz)

Did international media and free press advocates who once celebrated Assange, utilized his revelations and heaped awards on Wikileaks, collectively agreed to abandon their erstwhile hero? And why the turnaround? (It’s not easy to explain although one observer suggests former associates actually conspired to depose him.) Increased silence from within Assange’s refuge presaged his recent ‘capture’. Then, when he suddenly appeared, subdued by dozens of guards, how shamelessly international media rushed to cheer his arrest. They seemed to delight in highlighting scant, salacious details of his condition at the time of his arrest. Reprehensible. Dismaying. Will those gloating journalists care what his captors do to Assange in detention?


This for the man whose political analyses and Wikileaks revelations had been daily headlines not long ago. This for a journalist and publisher who introduced a profound strategy to expose a government’s sinister diplomatic schemes, excesses and crimes documented by their own internal reports. This for an organization gathering evidence of government wrongdoing at a critical time, starting in 2006 when U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were being reevaluated by a sobering public. Rumors of military crimes, cover-ups, torture, black-site prisons, etc. had gradually, although belatedly, gained credibility and, following the Abu Graib Prison revelations, Wikileaks provided irrefutable evidence of how U.S.A. and its allies conducted their wars.

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From the WSJ Editorial Board yesterday: “Mr. Barr has since released the full Mueller report with minor redactions, as he promised, and with the “context” intact. Keep in mind Mr. Barr was under no legal obligation to release anything at all. Mr. Mueller reports only to Mr. Barr, not to the country or Congress.

Mr. Barr has also made nearly all of the redactions in the report available to senior Members of Congress to inspect at Justice. Yet as of this writing, only three Members have bothered—Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and ranking House Republican on Judiciary Doug Collins. Not one Democrat howling about Mr. Barr’s lack of transparency has examined the outrages they claim are hidden.”

Doug Collins’ tirade is a good listen. No need to agree with him.

Democrats Rage At Empty Chair As Barr Misses Mueller Hearing (ZH)

Refusing to allow the fact that AG Barr chose not to attend today’s Mueller Report hearing, angry Democrats took full advantage of the photo-op to conjure images of a terrified attorney general cowering from the truth and protecting a clearly guilty-of-something president. Despite Barr’s decision last night not to attend, because he objected to Democratic demands that their staff counsel be able to question him, Democrats went forward with the theater of the hearing anyway, setting up an empty chair for the absent attorney general. As The Hill reports, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) brought a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken to the morning event, and accused Barr of being a coward after it ended. House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) tore into Barr, accusing him of failing to check President Trump’s “worst instincts” and misrepresenting Mueller’s findings.

“He has failed the men and women of the Department by placing the needs of the President over the fair administration of justice,” Nadler said. “He has even failed to show up today.” Republicans did not take it lying down with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) noted vociferously that “Judiciary Democrats say AG Barr is “terrified.” Yesterday he testified for over five hours in an open hearing. Today, they cut off my microphone.” And, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) accused Nadler of staging a “circus political stunt” and said the Democratic chairman wanted the hearing to look like an impeachment hearing. “That is the reason. The reason Bill Barr is not here today is because the Democrats decided they didn’t want him here today. That’s the reason he’s not here,” Collins said. “Not hearing from him is a travesty to this committee today.”

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Excellent read. Mueller wanted to make Trump’s firing of Comey to be obstruction. But that would have taken some hoops to jump through.

How President Trump’s Legal Team Outfoxed Mueller (Chamberlain)

When the Mueller Report was released on April 18th, most commentators focused on the “explosive” factual allegations. But other than the shocking revelation that the President once used an expletive in private, very few of those facts were novel; most were leaked long ago. At the end of Volume II of the Mueller Report, however, there were 20 pages of genuinely new material. There, the former FBI director turned Special Counsel Robert Mueller defended his “Application of Obstruction-Of-Justice Statutes To The President.” These overlooked 20 pages were dedicated to defending Mueller’s interpretation of a single subsection of a single obstruction-of-justice statute: 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2).

That’s quite strange, but you know what’s stranger still? In June 2018, Bill Barr, then in private practice at Kirkland & Ellis, wrote a detailed legal memorandum to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. This memo came to light in December, when Barr was nominated for Attorney General. The subject was Mueller’s interpretation of the aforementioned 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2). [..] Reading Barr’s June 2018 memo alongside the last twenty pages of the Mueller Report is a curious experience. Together, they read like dueling legal briefs on the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2); the type of material one would expect to see from adversarial appellate litigators.

So-why did Robert Mueller dedicate 20 pages of his report to a seemingly obscure question of statutory interpretation? Why did Bill Barr write a detailed legal memorandum to Rod Rosenstein about that very same statute? And how, exactly, did Bill Barr know that that § 1512(c)(2) was central to Mueller’s obstruction theory – in June 2018, when he was still in private practice at Kirkland? [..] why, exactly, was the interpretation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2) so contested? Let’s start by looking the statute, excerpted here: (c) Whoever corruptly— (1) alters, destroys, mutilates, or conceals a record, document, or other object, or attempts to do so, with the intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding; or (2) otherwise obstructs, influences or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so [is guilty of the crime of obstruction].

Why was this so important to Mueller? Because most of the obstruction statutes couldn’t possibly apply to President Trump’s behavior, as they require that a defendant obstruct a “pending proceeding” before an agency or tribunal. It is settled law that an FBI investigation does not constitute such a proceeding. But § 1512(c) applies to acts of obstruction done with the intent of impairing evidence for a future, potential proceeding. That made it potentially usable against the President.

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Ukraine is central. Even without Biden.

Ukrainian Embassy Confirms DNC Contractor Solicited Trump Dirt In 2016 (Hill)

The boomerang from the Democratic Party’s failed attempt to connect Donald Trump to Russia’s 2016 election meddling is picking up speed, and its flight path crosses right through Moscow’s pesky neighbor, Ukraine. That is where there is growing evidence a foreign power was asked, and in some cases tried, to help Hillary Clinton. In its most detailed account yet, Ukraine’s embassy in Washington says a Democratic National Committee insider during the 2016 election solicited dirt on Donald Trump’s campaign chairman and even tried to enlist the country’s president to help.


In written answers to questions, Ambassador Valeriy Chaly’s office says DNC contractor Alexandra Chalupa sought information from the Ukrainian government on Paul Manafort’s dealings inside the country, in hopes of forcing the issue before Congress. Chalupa later tried to arrange for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to comment on Manafort’s Russian ties on a U.S. visit during the 2016 campaign, the ambassador said. Chaly says that, at the time of the contacts in 2016, the embassy knew Chalupa primarily as a Ukrainian-American activist, and learned only later of her ties to the DNC. He says the embassy considered her requests an inappropriate solicitation of interference in the U.S. election.

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Am I still the only one who thinks this is good news?

April US Auto Sales Crash 6.1%, Worst Slide In 8 Years (ZH)

It was yet another dismal month for US auto sales in April, continuing a recessionary trend that has been in place not only in the US, but globally, for the better part of the last 12 months and certainly since the beginning of 2019. The nonsense-excuse-du jour for this month’s disappointing numbers is being placed on the weather on seasonality on rising car prices, which easily pushed away an overextended, broke and debt-laden U.S. consumer. In a nutshell, US auto sales in April tumbled by 6.1% – the biggest monthly drop since May 2011 – to just 16.4 million units, the lowest since October 2014.

Aside for an incentive-boost driven rebound in March, every month of 2019 has seen a decline in the number of annualized auto sales. Furthermore, as David Rosenberg notes, the -4.3% Y/Y trend is the weakest it has been for the past 8 years. Adding “fuel to the fire”, the average price of a new car in April came in at $36,720, the highest ASP so far this year, according to The Detroit News. It comes at a time where interest rates remain above 6% on average, further pressuring sales.

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Mostly US funds flowing back home.

Global Foreign Direct Investment Flows Collapse (DQ)

Global foreign direct investment flows plunged by another 27% in 2018 — after having already plunged 16% in 2017 — to just $1.1 trillion, the equivalent of 1.3% of global GDP, the lowest ratio since 1999, according to new data released by the OECD. It was the third consecutive annual plunge in global FDI flows, as more and more companies either choose not to invest in businesses or assets in other countries or are prevented from doing so. At the peak in 2015, before the trade wars began, before the Brexit vote happened, and before China began cracking down on the capital outflows that had fueled big-ticket purchases of strategic companies across the globe as well as surging asset prices in multiple jurisdictions, global FDI flows totaled $1.92 trillion and represented around 2.5% of global GDP. FDI has since collapsed by 43%.

The OECD apportions much of the blame for the latest fall in FDI flows on the US tax reform in 2017, which prompted many US companies to repatriate large amounts of earnings held with foreign affiliates in countries such as Ireland and Switzerland, which both suffered a massive reduction in inward foreign investment last year. The U.S. is traditionally the world’s biggest source of FDI, but last year it recorded negative outflows for the first time since 2005, as the movement of funds from U.S. investors into global businesses and assets reversed and flowed back toward the U.S., at least on paper. The total sum of outflows last year was -$48 billion, compared to $316 billion in 2017.

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Time to reserve some space for MMT. Harrison has some valid views.

Hippie-Punching MMT (Edward Harrison)

A lot of people like to argue that the central bank and the central government are independent and autonomous powers. And the argument goes that because of this autonomy, central governments like the US aren’t really all-powerful because the central bank can simply refuse to create more IOUs. I think this is a ridiculous argument, though. The central bank is the central government’s agent. And it exists only as a vehicle for executing banking and monetary policies in the government’s interest. The independence it enjoys is entirely at the central government’s discretion – mostly to create the appearance of non-politically motivated policy which would create inflation and debase the currency. If push came to shove, the central government would do whatever it took to issue IOUs to promise to pay the bearer of its money the required sum of fiat currency.

Notice, though, that Euro Zone governments don’t have the same power because they cannot create euros. Sure, they can enforce tax in euros with the coercive power of the penalty of prison as an incentive. But, when their euro taxes fall short, they can’t create euros to make up the shortfall. The euro is not their IOU. They are just like any other debtor in the eurozone. And the MMT crowd were onto this right from the start. In fact, one of the MMT forefathers, Wynne Godley, predicted the European Sovereign Debt Crisis when the euro was first conceived in 1992. On the other hand, most mainstream economists were caught flat-footed by the crisis. They were operating under the assumption that the bond vigilantes had the same power over all debtors including sovereigns.

They said the bond vigilantes just gave sovereigns more leeway. And that’s still their position today despite all evidence to the contrary. How do you trade that? For me, I trade that by saying Germany is the de facto ‘sovereign’ in the euro zone because of its size and fiscal rectitude. The euro would have to cease to exist before German sovereign debt came under attack from bond vigilantes. Now, if Deutsche Bank went bankrupt and Germany bailed it out at great cost and went on a deficit binge to boot and government debt to GDP ended up ballooning to 120% of GDP, things would be different.

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Apr 292019
 


Pablo Picasso Head and guitar 1927

 

Ron Chernow At Annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner (G.)
Aaron Maté Shreds Rachel Maddow (RT)
Why Did Mueller Let Trump Off the Hook? (Mike Whitney)
Did the Russians Really Interfere in Our Elections? (Unz)
Warren Buffett Thinks Most Newspapers Are “Toast” (ZH)
Iran Appeals Directly To Trump: Your Advisers Drag You Into War (ZH)
IMF Warns Of Slowing Growth, Rising Unrest Across Middle East (CNBC)
UK Tories To Lose 800-1000 Seats In This Week’s Local Elections (G.)
Spanish Socialists Win Most Seats, Far Right Resurgent (G.)
Yellow Vests Mutilated By ‘Sublethal’ Police Weapons Unite (RT)
Conservative Bavaria Forces Bold Action on Protecting Nature (Yale)
Up To A Million Species Face Extinction, Many Within Decades – UN (AFP)

 

 

An“erudite defence of the freedom of the press” in front of almost all Washington reporters. And it doesn’t mention Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning even once.

To me, there is nothing more upsetting in our world today. These people care about themselves only, about their petty little freedom. The truth be damned. But they have no freedom if Assange doesn’t, it’s all or nothing. Or one could say they have the freedom to lie. And that’s the one thing Assange never did.

Ron Chernow At Annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner (G.)

In Washington, Chernow, biographer of founding father Alexander Hamilton and former president Ulysses S Grant, delivered an eloquent and erudite defence of the freedom of the press with some subtle barbs, winning a standing ovation from an audience that quickly forgot any disappointment over the lack of a comedian this year. “We now have to fight hard for basic truths that we once took for granted,” said Chernow, who mentioned Trump by name only once in an address that framed the current presidency as just one chapter in America’s epic novel. He told how the first president, George Washington, often felt maligned and misunderstood by the press but never generalised that into a vendetta. “Relations between presidents and the press are inevitably tough, almost always adversarial, but they don’t need to be steeped in venom.”


The second president, John Adams, used laws to crack down on the media and lost his re-election campaign in 1800, Chernow continued. “Campaigns against the press don’t get your face carved into the rocks of Mount Rushmore, for when you chip away at the press, you chip away at our democracy. The tribunal of history does not deal leniently with presidents who punish the free press.” Chernow insisted that, while America has taken some wrong turns throughout history, democracy has endured. He told how, towards the end of the civil war, a chastened but hopeful Abraham Lincoln, sitting at a campfire with Grant, quoted his secretary of state William Seward as saying: “There was always just enough virtue in this republic to save it; sometimes none to spare, but still enough to meet the emergency.”

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Cute, nice, see the Twitter thread at the link, but I must wonder: why bother? You’re just giving her more to talk about.

Question should be: how can this nutcase still have a TV show? And why do people watch it? Is this what ‘freedom of the press’ has come to mean? The freedom to lie?!

Aaron Maté Shreds Rachel Maddow (RT)

Journalist Aaron Mate has eviscerated MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow for peddling “Trump-Russia conspiracy theories, falsehoods & innuendo,” after Maddow threw a tantrum when YouTube dared to recommend an RT video. Mate, a longtime skeptic of the mainstream media’s beloved ‘Russiagate’ narrative, was the subject of a recent interview with RT. When MSNBC’s Russiagater-in-chief Rachel Maddow found out that YouTube’s algorithm had actually suggested the interview to viewers, she saw more Russian meddling and proclaimed the recommendation “death by algorithm.” Mate unloaded on Maddow on Sunday, systematically destroying the MSNBC host for her two years as “the leading purveyor of now debunked Trump-Russia conspiracy theories, falsehoods & innuendo.”

Buckle up. “Just recently you were caught in real-time lying to your audience,” he began. “You claimed Barr was handling the redactions by himself. But the chyron — on screen right below — told viewers the truth, that Mueller was in fact ‘assisting’ w/ the redactions.” With Maddow seemingly content to lie on live television, it fell upon her show’s producers to flash the truth on viewers’ screens. Mate then recalled the time Maddow suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin would use the ‘pee tape’ (the most far-fetched allegation in the Democrat-commissioned, internet-sourced Steele dossier) to force Trump into withdrawing US troops stationed near Russia. Of course, this never happened, and Trump recently announced plans to ramp up deployments to Poland. A swing and a miss for Maddow.

[..]Despite peddling baseless conspiracies and flagrant Russophobia every night, Maddow remains one of the US’ most popular news anchors, and one of the best paid. The MSNBC host regularly vies with Fox News’ Sean Hannity for the top spot on the cable news ratings, and earns a cool $7 million per year for her work. Although Maddow has been perhaps the most fervent promoter of Russiagate hysteria on television, her ratings have clumped after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report put most of her theories to bed last month. Maddow’s show slipped from its number one position after the report dropped, and lost half a million viewers in the space of a week. Mate, although reporting to a far smaller audience, has received an Izzy Award for his “meticulous reporting” that “challenged the way the public was being informed about the Mueller investigation.”

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Whitney back in conspiracy mode.

Why Did Mueller Let Trump Off the Hook? (Mike Whitney)

[Mueller’s] assignment was undermine Trump’s moral authority by brandishing the cudgel of criminal indictment over his head. This is how a D.O.J. appointee, who had never held public office in his life, became the most powerful man in Washington. My question is simply this: Why did Mueller give up all that power when he did? I think I can answer that, but first, we need a little more background. Check out this quote from candidate Trump in 2016: “We will pursue a new foreign policy that finally learns from the mistakes of the past…We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments…. Our goal is stability not chaos, because we want to rebuild our country [the United States]… We will partner with any nation that is willing to join us in the effort to defeat ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism …In our dealings with other countries, we will seek shared interests wherever possible and pursue a new era of peace, understanding, and good will.”

Imagine how terrified the foreign policy establishment must have been when they heard Trump utter these words. No more regime change wars? Are you kidding me? That’s what we do: Regime-Change-Is-Us., and now this upstart, New York real estate tycoon is promising to do a complete 180 and move in another direction altogether. No more destabilizing coups, no more bloody military interventions, instead, we’re going to work collaboratively with countries like Russia and China to see if we can settle regional disputes and fight terrorism together? Really? At the same time Trump was promising this new era of “peace, understanding, and good will,” Hillary Clinton was issuing her war whoop at every opportunity. Here’s candidate Hillary trying to drum up support for taking on the Russians in Syria:

“The situation in Syria is catastrophic. And every day that goes by, we see the results of the Assad regime in partnership with the Iranians on the ground, and the Russians in the air…When I was Secretary of State, I advocated and I advocate today a no-fly zone and safe zones.” Interesting, isn’t it? Here’s Hillary, the “liberal” Democrat, pushing for a no-fly zone in Syria even though the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, stated clearly that “Right now… for us to control all of the airspace in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia.”

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If they did we have no evidence of it. We have the word of CIA and FBI for it, but that has no value.

Did the Russians Really Interfere in Our Elections? (Unz)

The one issue that both Democrats and most Republicans seem to agree on, the issue which both say is “proven conclusively” by Mueller is that the Russians “attempted to interfere and did interfere” in our 2016 election. Interesting, is it not, that the Republicans who zealously defend the president and attack the obviously political nature of the Mueller Report would accept, as if on faith and without question, the accusations of Russian interference, also contained in the report? Turn on Fox and watch, say, Martha MacCallum (e.g., “The Story,” April 24, 2019) declare “we all know now without doubt that the Russians tried to interfere” in our elections, or listen to most any GOP congressman repeat that same narrative with unquestioning certitude.

But that assertion—is it truly backed up factually? Where is the evidence, other than largely questionable information sourced from our largely discredited intelligence agencies which, as we know, had a determined goal of overthrowing the president by any means possible? Almost three years have passed from the first fake news that appeared in the media on the subject of “Russian collusion,” a concerted effort launched to discredit at first the Donald Trump candidacy and then sabotage his presidency, including his efforts to stabilize Russian-American relations. As proof of Russian actions, the Mueller Report cites the indictments against twenty-five Russian citizens who were indicted for attempted “interference” (those Russians are, let us add, quite conveniently out of the country and thus not prosecutable).

When those indictments were issued, Russia pointed out the flimsy, unsupported and transparently made-up nature of the charges, and demanded that American authorities provide conclusive proof. Such requests were rebuffed. In order to evaluate the evidence, the Russian government proposed reestablishing the bilateral expert group on information security that the Obama Administration had terminated, which could have served as a platform for conversation on these matters. The American side was also invited to send Justice Department officials to Russia to attend the proposed public questioning of the Russian citizens named by Mueller. Additionally, Russia offered to publicize the exchanges between the two countries following the publication of the accusations of cyberattacks, exchanges which were conducted through existing channels between October 2016 and January 2017.

Our government refused every offer.

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“Not all papers are doomed, though. The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal will survive, he said.”

Did Buffet really completely miss the change in business model from reporting to manufacturing the news? Maybe at his age that’s to be expected?

Warren Buffett Thinks Most Newspapers Are “Toast” (ZH)

Buffett, who through his Berkshire Hathaway BH Media subsidiary owns a veritable print-media empire, said during an interview with Yahoo Finance (which will carry the live stream of Berkshire’s annual shareholder meeting on May 4) released on Tuesday that the newspaper industry is “toast”, and that most print papers (including, presumably, the 30 daily newspapers and 47 weeklies owned by BH) will soon cease to exist as they lose more vital advertising revenue to Internet powerhouses like Google and Facebook. Fortunately for Berkshire, the decline of the industry won’t have much of an impact on its bottom line because BH bought its newspapers at a “reasonable” price, Buffett said.


As Buffett sees it, the problem with trying to shift to a subscription-based model is two-fold: Consumers once sought out print newspapers not just for the news content, but for the ads. The classifieds included vital information about job opportunities and housing, while supermarkets ran fliers about what products were on special that week. That functionality has largely been subsumed by Craigslist. “It upsets the people in the newsroom to talk that way, but the ads were the most important editorial content from the standpoint of the reader,” Buffett said. Between 2006 and 2016, the newspaper industry’s advertising revenue had fallen to nearly a third of what it once was, with newspapers bringing in $18 billion in ad revenue, compared with $49 billion ten years prior.

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History is a lousy teacher.

Iran Appeals Directly To Trump: Your Advisers Drag You Into War (ZH)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Chris Walls on Fox News Sunday that he believes President Trump’s own advisers as well as Middle East allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel are “dragging the United States into a conflict” with Iran. It comes just days after Zarif made similar statements about the possibility of US and Iranian ships clashing in the Persian Gulf, warning that a false flag “accident” scenario could “lure” Trump into war — something which he thinks Trump himself doesn’t want to see happen. It appears Tehran’s new strategy as it reels from the sanctions squeeze on oil and Trump ending the crude export waiver program is to try and delicately peel Trump away from the American ‘deep state’.


Zarif specifically named National Security Advisor John Bolton, Israel, Saudi Arabia, along with close Saudi ally the United Arab Emirates, all as seeking to escalate tensions leading toward a regime change war on Iran. Wallace asked if they’re “all trying to exercise regime change?” according to Fox, and Zarif responded, “at least, at least.” Iran’s top diplomat explained: “They have all shown an interest in dragging the United States into a conflict. I do not believe that President Trump wants to do that, I believe President Trump ran on a campaign promise of not bringing the United States into another war. But I believe President Trump’s intention to put pressure, the policy of maximum pressure on Iran in order to bring Iran to its knees so that we would succumb to pressure, is doomed to failure.”

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Saudi Barbaria has the solutions.

IMF Warns Of Slowing Growth, Rising Unrest Across Middle East (CNBC)

Slowing global growth and elevated tensions in trade and geopolitics are posing economic challenges for countries in the Middle East, according to the IMF’s latest report. “Global developments are affecting the outlook for this year, namely the slowdown in growth especially on trade, the volatility in the oil price, as well as also the global financing conditions, in additional to a certain number of country specific issues,” Jihad Azour, the IMF’s director of the Middle East and Central Asia, told CNBC on Sunday. The Regional Economic Outlook report — published each spring by the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia Department — also highlighted how volatile oil prices are negatively affecting some countries, while others are grappling with rising public debt.

“For oil-importing countries where debt is high, it’s very important to tackle it and to reduce the level of deficit. That will allow those countries to reduce their debt burden over GDP,” Azour added. Growth for oil exporters is projected to dip slightly in 2019 to 0.4 percent, from 0.6 percent the previous year, driven by an economic contraction in Iran following the renewal of sanctions. For oil-importing countries in the region, growth is expected to slow, declining from 4.2 percent in 2018 to a projected 3.6 percent this year. However, that figure is expected to rebound to 4.2 percent from 2020 to 2023. “Despite the current increase in prices, the medium-term price projections of oil remain in the corridor of the mid-$60s,” Azour said.

“Therefore it’s very important for countries to pursue and accelerate their diversification strategies and at the same time, maintain their pace of fiscal adjustment that will allow them to reduce their dependence, in terms of revenues on oil,” he added. [..] In the past 18 months, the IMF’s Reported Social Unrest Index — which calculates the share of articles in major news sources that include key terms relating to protests, demonstrations, and other forms of social unrest — has hit multi-year highs in some countries in the Middle East region. “Clearly, the inability of governments and countries to address the unemployment issue has led to the feelings, especially among the youth, of social unease and tension,” Azour said.

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Boris Johnson’s fortunes are rising. Imagine that.

UK Tories To Lose 800-1000 Seats In This Week’s Local Elections (G.)

The Conservatives can expect to lose 800 or more seats at the local elections this week, as voters punish Theresa May’s administration for failing to pass a Brexit deal, a leading Conservative analyst has said. In his latest projection for Thursday’s polls, in which more than 8,000 council seats in England are being contested, the Tory peer Robert Hayward suggested his party could lose about 500 to the Liberal Democrats, and 300 to Labour. He blamed his party’s failure to assemble a majority for the prime minister’s withdrawal agreement for his gloomy forecast, and predicted turnout would be unusually low because of “disenchantment” with all the major parties.


“I have heard of no canvasser of any party who has received a detailed dissertation re Brexit. It is therefore likely that had Mrs May’s deal, or anything like it, been approved the Tories would have fared markedly better than they are likely to,” he said, adding: “The elections might even have been about local issues.” A poor showing will be a fresh blow to May’s shattered authority, and increase the pressure on her to set out a timetable for her departure – and signal how she plans to break the impasse at Westminster. Cross-party talks are expected to resume on Monday, but Downing Street has been forced to delay a high-risk plan to table its key piece of Brexit legislation.

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Apparently, in Spain, too, democracy is a system for the not-too-smart. You know that if this is how your PM addresses you after winning, “We want a country that looks forwards and advances.”. As opposed to?

Spanish Socialists Win Most Seats, Far Right Resurgent (G.)

Spain’s ruling socialists won the most votes but fell short of a majority in Sunday’s snap general election, a contest marked by the breakthrough of the far-right Vox party and a disastrous performance by the country’s traditional conservative party. Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist Workers’ party (PSOE) won 123 seats, the conservative People’s party (PP) 66, the centre-right Citizens party 57, the anti-austerity Unidas Podemos and its allies 42, and Vox 24. Despite it being the country’s third general election in under four years, turnout was 75.8% – well up on the 66.5% two years ago. Sánchez hailed the result and the high turnout as proof of Spain’s desire to move forward and reject the reactionary policies of some of his rightwing opponents.


“We made it happen,” he told supporters in Madrid, echoing the PSOE’s campaign slogan. “We’ve sent out the message that we don’t want to regress or reverse. We want a country that looks forwards and advances.” However, the PSOE will still need to seek the support of other parties to reach the 176 seats necessary to form a government in Spain’s 350-seat congress of deputies. Even with the support of Unidas Podemos and related groups, it would still be 11 seats short of a majority and would need the help of smaller regional and nationalist parties. Podemos’s leader, Pablo Iglesias, has already shown enthusiasm for a deal with the PSOE. He said that while his party would have liked a better result – it dropped 29 seats on the last election – “it’s been enough to stop the right wing and build a leftwing coalition government”.

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“..at least 154 people have been seriously injured by police use of non-lethal weapons during protests. Of that number, 22 people have lost the use of an eye due to flash balls. A further five have had their hand torn off by gas canisters..”

Yellow Vests Mutilated By ‘Sublethal’ Police Weapons Unite (RT)

Yellow Vest protesters who have suffered life-changing injuries at the hands of French police have launched their own association, promising fresh actions against police brutality. Called “the Mutilated for the edification of others,” the collective aims to accurately calculate the number of people who have been injured nationally by police during Yellow Vest protests. It also called for an end to the use of the non-lethal weapons deployed by French police — namely tear gas canisters and flashballs — and a large national demonstration is scheduled in Paris on May 26. Among those attending was Jerome Rodrigues, a prominent Yellow Vest leader who was hit in the eye with a gas canister during a demonstration in January.


“You have 19 people in front of you and you have only 26 eyes that look back,” he told the press conference. “Count, there is a small problem,” he added. We demand the truth, justice and the ban on so-called sublethal weapons,” said Robin Pagès, another activist. He accused French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner of “lying” when the minister suggested that only “10 people have been hit in the head by LBD [flashball] shots.” According to statistics gathered by the activist group Desarmons-les (“Disarm Them”), at least 154 people have been seriously injured by police use of non-lethal weapons during protests. Of that number, 22 people have lost the use of an eye due to flash balls. A further five have had their hand torn off by gas canisters.

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“Voters were surprisingly moved by a landmark study showing steep declines in flying insects in Germany.”

Conservative Bavaria Forces Bold Action on Protecting Nature (Yale)

Bavaria is known around the world for its Munich Octoberfest, beautiful alpine panoramas, old castles, and cars from the Bavarian Motor Works (BMW). But within Germany, Bavaria is known for something else: It is by far the most conservative of the country’s 16 federal states. Bavaria’s staunchly traditionalist governing party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), has been in power continuously since 1946, pursuing a conservative agenda relating to family, bioethics, immigration — and the environment. Over the years, it has restricted the construction of wind farms, thwarted new environmental regulations for farmers, and blocked imposing a speed limit for cars on autobahns.

In recent months, however, Bavaria has taken a surprising detour from its traditional path. Responding to a grassroots citizens campaign and overwhelming support for a state referendum, the Bavarian government agreed earlier this month to implement one of Europe’s most progressive laws on protecting nature and restoring biodiversity, primarily through changing industrial farming practices. The about-face began in earnest in February when Bavarian citizens — increasingly concerned about the loss of natural areas, destructive farming techniques, and widely publicized reports that the populations of flying insects in Germany had plummeted — overwhelmingly supported a “referendum for biodiversity” that called for the state government to implement fundamental changes in nature conservation.

State law required that 10 percent of Bavaria’s 9 million registered voters support the referendum for it to become the basis for negotiations on a new nature conservation law. In fact, nearly double the required number of voters — 1.75 million Bavarians — showed up at their town halls to support what had become known as the “save the bees” initiative. [..] Now, Bavaria plans to implement a sweeping set of conservation measures, including setting aside 13 percent of the state in special ecological zones, committing to establishing organic agriculture on nearly a third of all Bavarian farmland, and taking steps to protect wetlands, waterways, and threatened insect populations. On May 8, the state parliament in Munich is slated to pass what Bavarian Prime Minister and CSU leader Markus Söder calls “the most sweeping nature protection law in the whole of Europe.”

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It’s not about nature anymore, it’s about our own survival. As if that will stop us.

Up To A Million Species Face Extinction, Many Within Decades – UN (AFP)

Diplomats from 130 nations gather in Paris from Monday to validate a grim UN assessment of the state of Nature and lay the groundwork for an 11th-hour rescue plan for life on Earth. A 44-page, draft “Summary for Policy Makers” obtained by AFP catalogues the 1001 ways in which our species has plundered the planet and damaged its capacity to renew the resources upon which we depend, starting with breathable air, drinkable water and productive soil. The impact of humanity’s expanding footprint and appetites has been devastating. Up to a million species face extinction, many within decades, according to the report, and three-quarters of Earth’s land surface has been “severely altered”.


A third of ocean fish stocks are in decline, and the rest, barring a few, are harvested at the very edge of sustainability. A dramatic die-off of pollinating insects, especially bees, threatens essential crops valued at half-a-trillion dollars annually. Twenty 10-year targets adopted in 2010 under the United Nation’s biodiversity treaty – to expand protected areas, slow species and forest loss, and reduce pollution – will, with one or two exceptions, fail badly. Based on an underlying report that draws from 400 experts and weighs in at 1,800 pages, the executive summary has to be vetted line-by-line by diplomats, with scientists at their elbow.

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“I hate the indifferents. Living means taking sides…Some whimper piously, others curse obscenely, but nobody, or very few ask themselves: If I had tried to impose my will, would this have happened?”
– Antonio Gramsci