“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 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.
“.. the tradition of press freedom was actually established way back in 1735..”
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!
How upside down is this?
Muellker: “If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”
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).
“You can’t tell anything by looking at [Pompeo’s] smirking fat mug, but I am sure that he was crying on the inside.”
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.
Thinking about that term. Is it the opposite of all-dressed economic terrorism?
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”.
No bubble, no Tesla.
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.
And I think that’s a good thing.
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.
“..he lied about Brexit by stating Britain would be 350 million pounds a week better off outside the EU..”
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.
The pressure mounts.
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”.
May 29 1919.
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.
Death penalty. Nothing else works.
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.