Aug 182020
 


Bettmann/Getty Minimum Wage 1963

 

Coronavirus Clusters Erupt At US Universities As Semester Begins (AP)
Sixty Seconds to Self-Sabotage (Cut)
They’re Angry, Not Stupid: Why Trump is Likely to Win Again (Greene)
Sanders: ‘The Future Of Our Planet Is At Stake’ In 2020 Election (JTN)
Democrats Seem All Too Willing to Surrender on Health Care Reform (Jac.)
Michelle Obama Speech Recorded Before Joe Biden Selected Kamala Harris (NYP)
Trump vs. Dems On Mail-in Voting (Chaffetz)
Trump Teases Upcoming Pardon For ‘Very Important’ Person (RT)
China’s Anti-Trump Election Meddling Raises New Alarm (Fox)
Kamala Harris Reportedly Owes $1M In Bills From Failed Presidential Run (NYP)
Twelve US Billionaires Have a Combined $1 Trillion (Ineq.org)
US States Seek $2.2 Trillion From OxyContin Maker Purdue Pharma (R.)
The Need for Debt-for-Climate Swaps (PS)
The Mathematical Model of Modern Monetary Theory (Steve Keen)
And in the End (Rolling Stone)

 

 

No, I didn’t watch the Dem convention. Never perform invasive surgery on myself either, for pretty much the same reason. But I did pick up a few tidbits. It all leaves a very elitist impression. Deplorables.

 

 

New global cases below 200,000, new deaths at 4,297. Not bad. Or is that just because it was Monday?

Several European countries are spiking in what is perhaps a second wave. Pretty lousy controls, which will lead to all kinds of renewed lockdowns. Unnecessary.

 

 

New cases only just above 40,000 in the US, it was 70,000 not long ago, with new deaths at “only” 589.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This sounds just plain dumb.

Coronavirus Clusters Erupt At US Universities As Semester Begins (AP)

From the dorms at North Carolina to the halls of Notre Dame, officials at universities around the US scrambled on Monday to deal with new Covid-19 clusters at the start of the fall semester, some of them linked to off-campus parties and packed clubs. North Carolina’s flagship university cancelled in-person classes for undergraduates just a week into the fall semester Monday. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said it will switch to remote learning on Wednesday and make arrangements for students who want to leave campus housing. “We have emphasised that if we were faced with the need to change plans – take an off-ramp – we would not hesitate to do so, but we have not taken this decision lightly,” it said in a statement after reporting 130 confirmed infections among students and five among employees over the past week.


UNC said the clusters were discovered in dorms, a fraternity house and other student housing. Before the decision came down, the student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, ran an editorial headlined “UNC has a clusterf*** on its hands”. The paper said that the parties that took place over the weekend were no surprise and that administrators should have begun the semester with online-only instruction at the university, which has 19,000 undergraduates. “We all saw this coming,” the editorial said. Outbreaks earlier this summer at fraternities in Washington state, California and Mississippi provided a glimpse of the challenges school officials face in keeping the virus from spreading on campuses where young people eat, live, study – and party – in close quarters.

Read more …

The DNC pushed Bernie aside until he complied with the Biden “plan”. They do the same with AOC et al, without whom they may never have had control of the House. Instead, they have Republicans and billionaires speaking, along with has-beens like the Obamas and Clintons….

Sixty Seconds to Self-Sabotage (Cut)

When the Democratic National Committee released its schedule for its big socially distanced convention this week, we learned that New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, inarguably among the party’s most dynamic figures, would have just sixty seconds to address the nation. [..] the relegation of Ocasio-Cortez, who electrifies multiple parts of a Democratic base, to one meager minute, a segment that—unlike speeches by some other presenters—will be pre-recorded, isn’t just a snub. The failure of a major political party to showcase one of its most talented politicians, a young person whose communicative reach and facility positions her to be among its leaders deep into our future, is self-sabotage.

[..] Why will this convention not show off more of the historic number of women who enabled their party to retake the House in 2018? Most of them won’t be prominently featured, but former Ohio Republican governor John Kasich, who ran for governor as a Tea Partier and signed eleven laws (comprising 21 restrictions) on abortion, including a 20 week ban and the prohibition of rape crisis centers advising survivors about the option of abortion, will be. He also worked to rob Ohio’s public workers of the right to bargain collectively (voters later overturned this measure). Not only is Kasich getting a plum spot on Monday, he’s used his time in the Democratic sun to diss Ocasio-Cortez, telling Buzzfeed that just because she “gets outsized publicity doesn’t mean she represents the Democratic Party. She’s just a part, just some member of it.”

So John Kasich, Republican, feels that Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat, gets outsized attention, even as he–along with his fellow Republicans Susan Molinari (Remember her? No? Weird) and former Hewlett-Packard and eBay CEO Meg Whitman–will get more featured airtime than she at her party’s convention. But this convention seems driven to thumb its nose not only at individual politicians, but at the social movements that have transformed civic participation and changed public opinion across the nation during the course of the Trump administration. Remember those women who retook the House in 2018? A bunch of them were first time candidates who were open about how their entrance into politics was grounded in their fury about the ubiquity and pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault in the wake of Donald Trump’s election and the #metoo movement.

But the party that profited from their electoral success has offered prime speaking spots to two multiply-accused harassers: former president Bill Clinton and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. That Bloomberg’s presidential campaign met its lethal end at the hands of Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, who in a February primary debate detailed his history of workplace harassment, red lining, and support of stop-and-frisk policing, all in her allotted sixty seconds (she only had a minute; an eternity was in it) makes his featured presence an insult to Warren, and the many Democrats who were far more inspired by her campaign than by his. And listen, I get it, and assume everyone else does too: Bloomberg is speaking to the Democratic convention because the Democrats need his money (he shifted $18 million from his campaign to the Democratic National Committee in March).

But if organizers had been paying attention these past two years, they might have learned that that’s actually part of the structural thing about harassment and those who get away with it: too often, you need their money.


Matt Taibbi’s drinking game bingo card for the DNC

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…and that attitude of trampling over the left leads to this… If you think BLM, Antifa, #MeToo are the only angry ones, you are mistaken.

They’re Angry, Not Stupid: Why Trump is Likely to Win Again (Greene)

The candidate Barack Obama spoke to blue-collar America. He campaigned on change that would rejuvenate careers and restore dignity. Working Americans in the swing states doubted that Hillary Clinton even knew they existed. They saw Obama as a last hope and supported him enthusiastically in the 2008 primaries and later in the general election, but he soon proved to be a disappointment. He, too, fell in love with Silicon Valley and Wall Street and neglected the people who needed him most. And they punished him: he won fewer states in 2012 than he had in 2008. People like the alternate me felt cheated by a guy who rocked a Brooks Brothers suit and talked a great game, then gave the Tech and Finance sectors everything they wanted and more.

Educated people from the best schools trusted Big Tech outfits because educated people from the best schools ran them. Elites imagine each other to be virtuous because they imagine themselves that way. Technology giants were understood not as hardy sprouts but would be treated instead with princess-and-the-pea levels of delicacy, thanks to a superstitious fear that it might all be brought to grief by, say, forcing companies with hundreds of billions in share value to tolerate an employees’ union, offer a minimum wage adequate for a decent life, or pay tax proportional to their reliance on public goods.

No one bears greater responsibility for the lack of empathy toward Old-Economy workers that led to Donald Trump’s victory than big-name Tech darlings and the New Democrats who coddled them, then openly ridiculed their own voter base: the people Hillary foolishly nicknamed “Deplorables;” that is, the millions of disappointed Obama voters who would happily have voted blue if they’d had confidence that the party would respect them, welcome them, and acknowledge their needs. But the New Economy is a gated community, shut firmly to them, whose most strenuous boosters have been the Clinton, Bush, and Obama Administrations. Old-school, working-class Democrats are unwelcome in the party they built. No one wants them tracking mud through the salon.

Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the swing states the same way Barack Obama had: by characterizing her as disdainful toward blue-collar Americans. It was a potent message among those who once had seen decent wages in return for honest work, lately reduced to Walmart greeters and Uber drivers. Humiliated by a labor market in which they had nothing to trade, the former working class understood that they also had nothing to lose. Liberal democracy and its supporting institutions shed their veneer of sanctity when dead-end employees can aspire only to dead-end management gigs. Call them “associates” and “technicians” all you want; they know who they’ve become and what others think of them. They are why Trump won in the swing states; he was propelled to victory by disillusioned Obama voters.

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I would have expected so much more from Bernie. Folds for the DNC twice in a row, and doesn’t volunteer to return any donations.

Can someone check how many times he said the same in 2016?! “Sanders called the 2020 election the most important in the modern history of the U.S.”

Sanders: ‘The Future Of Our Planet Is At Stake’ In 2020 Election (JTN)

Former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders urged his supporters Monday to vote for nominee Joe Biden, imploring that the “future of our planet is at stake” and that the “price of failure” for not electing Biden would be “just too great to imagine.” “The future of our democracy is at stake. The future of our economy is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake,” Sanders said on opening night of the Democratic National Convention. “We must come together, defeat Donald Trump and elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our next president and vice president. My friends, the price of failure is just too great to imagine.” Sanders called the 2020 election the most important in the modern history of the U.S.

“We need an unprecedented response, a movement, like never before of people who are prepared to stand up and fight for democracy and decency,” said Sanders, a democratic-socialist who finished second in the 2016 and 2020 Democratic presidential primaries. “Our campaign ended several months ago but our movement continues and is getting stronger every day. Many of the ideas we fought for, that just a few years ago were considered radical are now mainstream but let us be clear, if Donald Trump is re-elected, all the progress we have made will be in jeopardy,” he also [said].

Sanders named areas where Biden has moved the progressive agenda forward, such as raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, making it easier for workers to join unions,” creating 12 weeks of paid family leave and funding universal pre-K for 3 and 4-year olds. “Joe will rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and fight the threat of climate change by transitioning us to 100 percent clean electricity over the next 15 years. These initiatives will create millions of good paying jobs all across the country,” Sanders said. “We are the only industrialized nation not to guarantee health care for all people. While Joe and I disagree on the best path to get to universal coverage, he has a plan that will greatly expand health care and cut the cost of prescription drugs. Further, he will lower the eligibility age of Medicare from 65 to 60,” added Sanders, who worked with Biden on his final campaign platform.

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Bernie campaigner David Sirota has at least a little backbone.

Democrats Seem All Too Willing to Surrender on Health Care Reform (Jac.)

On the eve of a Democratic National Convention taking place as millions lose health care coverage, the health care industry is launching a new ad campaign pressing Democrats to back off from the party’s already compromised health care promises. That pressure seems to be having its intended effect on Capitol Hill, as congressional aides say the party will not push the initiative if Joe Biden wins the presidency. The signs of retreat come as health care industry profits are skyrocketing and the industry’s campaign cash has flooded into Democratic coffers. The Partnership for America’s Health Care Future (PAHCF) — a front group created by health insurance, pharmaceutical, and hospital lobbying groups to oppose “Medicare for All” — announced on Friday that it is launching a new national ad campaign to persuade Democrats to abandon their plans to create a public health insurance plan.

The group said it will run ads during the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week. PAHCF is led by a former Hillary Clinton aide and run out of the offices of a DC lobbying firm led by former top Democratic congressional aides. A substantial “public option” plan — which polls show is wildly popular — was the centerpiece of recent policy negotiations between supporters of former vice president Joe Biden and progressive Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who had been pushing for a more expansive Medicare for All program. A draft of the party platform, approved by DNC members late last month, includes a pledge to pass a public option, or a government-run health insurance plan that would compete with private insurers.

Within twenty-four hours of the launch of the industry’s new ads, however, anonymous Democratic congressional sources were telling the Hill that Democrats likely won’t bother with the public option fight next year if Biden wins the election. Instead, they said, the party will work to tweak its 2010 health care law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has done little to limit insurance or hospital costs and has failed to ensure universal coverage. To justify the preemptive retreat, Democratic congressional aides told the newspaper that the party’s moderate crop of 2020 Senate challenger candidates could make it harder to pass a public option. That assertion comes even though every single one of those candidates is currently campaigning in support of a public option, according to a TMI review of campaign statements.

The situation echoes the Democratic promises and subsequent surrender on a public option that marked the debate over health care more than a decade ago — only this time around, the health care crisis is an even more acute emergency. While most developed countries have managed to contain COVID-19, the pandemic is spiraling out of control in the United States, and an estimated 27 million people have lost their employer-based health insurance plans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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And also recorded before Trump lost his brother?! Or wouldn’t she have cared? She did remember last night that she said it, right? Class? Grace? Where? We go low?

.. by contrast, “Joe knows the anguish of sitting at a table with an empty chair …

Michelle Obama Speech Recorded Before Joe Biden Selected Kamala Harris (NYP)

There was one glaring omission from Michelle Obama’s 20-minute Democratic National Convention speech Monday night — Kamala Harris. That’s because the former first lady recorded her rousing speech before Joe Biden selected Sen. Harris of California as his running mate. The speech was delivered remotely like all others at the DNC because of the coronavirus pandemic, and The Associated Press reports it was filmed before Harris was named last week as Biden’s VP candidate, indicating the choice was so close to the vest and down to the wire that even the Obamas were not in the loop. In her speech, Michelle Obama eloquently praised Biden and emotionally denounced Trump’s policies.

“Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us,” she said. “It is what it is,” Obama added, quoting Trump’s recent remark on coronavirus deaths. “Right now, kids in this country are seeing what happens when we stop requiring empathy of one another,” Obama said. “They watch in horror as children are torn from their families and thrown into cages, and pepper spray and rubber bullets are used on peaceful protesters for a photo-op.”

She said that by contrast, “Joe knows the anguish of sitting at a table with an empty chair, which is why he gives his time so freely to grieving parents. Joe knows what it’s like to struggle, which is why he gives his personal phone number to kids overcoming a stutter of their own. His life is a testament to getting back up, and he is going to channel that same grit and passion to pick us all up, to help us heal and guide us forward.”

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The issue is not nearly as simple as some people would let you believe.

Trump vs. Dems On Mail-in Voting (Chaffetz)

With less than three months until the 2020 election and no end in sight for the coronavirus pandemic, a new debate over mail-in voting has begun. Swirling and sudden concerns about the United States Postal Service (USPS) have arisen from Democrats who are wildly accusing President Trump of cheating and manipulating the Postal Service in his favor. Conveniently they forget to mention the president is more than an arms-length away from how we vote, and the Postal Service is not under the thumb of his control. Senate Democrats joined Republicans to unanimously install postal leadership — of which, one is an Obama appointee.

No doubt President Trump has expressed deep concerns about the validity of the ballots, and rightfully so. Sending out millions of ballots without authenticating the inbound ballots is ripe for massive fraud. Democrats have desperately been seeking to legalize “ballot harvesting” (the collection and submission of ballots by someone other than the voter and without authentication) and other nefarious activities. It must be noted elections in the United States are administered by counties and certified by states. In other words, per the United States Constitution, elections are run locally and not by the executive branch of the federal government. The president has simply sought fair elections.

Ironically, it is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s H.R. 1 that seeks to federalize elections and give the president power he doesn’t currently have now. Her solution would create the problem she inaccurately blames Trump for today. [..] The president of the United States does not control the operations of the Postal Service nor does he select or appoint the Postmaster General. The Board of Governors does both of these things. The Postal Regulatory Commission sets rates, service levels and decides on postal closings, not the president. The governors are appointed by a president and confirmed by the United States Senate. No more than five of the nine governors may be from the same political party.

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Clickbait fodder.

Trump Teases Upcoming Pardon For ‘Very Important’ Person (RT)

US President Donald Trump said he would soon hand out a pardon to a “very important” person. While the details were left shrouded in mystery, he ruled out both his former advisor Michael Flynn and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. “Doing a pardon tomorrow on someone who is very, very important,” Trump told reporters on board Air Force One on Monday, offering little elaboration other than to say it would not be Flynn – his first National Security Advisor – nor the famed whistleblower. Despite repeatedly calling Snowden a “traitor” over the years, Trump has hinted at giving the whistleblower a reprieve on more than one occasion in the last week, saying he may have been treated “unfairly” and that he would “look at” allowing him to return home.


With the president explicitly ruling him out for Tuesday’s pardon, however, it appears Snowden will have to remain in Moscow for some time longer, where he was given asylum after leaking a massive cache of purloined documents from the National Security Agency in 2013, revealing Washington’s sweeping domestic and global spying apparatus.

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They’re starting a new competition.

China’s Anti-Trump Election Meddling Raises New Alarm (Fox)

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe told Fox News that China poses “a greater national security threat” to the United States “than any other nation,” detailing a web of threats that includes “election influence and interference.” Intelligence officials say they are increasingly concerned about interference in the U.S. election by China, adding to existing concerns about meddling by Russia that have been around since 2016, as well as the threat of meddling from Iran. “China poses a greater national security threat to the U.S. than any other nation – economically, militarily and technologically. That includes threats of election influence and interference,” Ratcliffe told Fox News in a statement.

While Russia was widely seen as favoring now-President Trump and generally seeking to sow chaos in America during the 2016 election, the difference with China is it is seen to be seeking a Trump loss in November. Yet congressional Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who ever since 2016 have issued dire warnings about Russian meddling, have not been quite so vocal about China’s potential to interfere in the 2020 election. Pelosi, D-Calif., last week said the threats of interference from Russia and China are “not equivalent,” while urging the intelligence community to put out more information about Russian efforts, saying Moscow is “actively 24/7 interfering in our election.”

Ratcliffe said the threat from China is actually significant, and he is “committing the IC resources needed to fully understand the threat posed by China and provide U.S. policymakers with the best intelligence to counter China’s broad and deep malign activities.” “China is concerned that President Trump’s reelection would lead to a continuation of policies that they perceive to be ‘anti-China,’” Ratcliffe explained, noting that the intelligence community has briefed “hundreds of members of Congress” to raise their concerns about China “and its increased efforts to impact the U.S. policy climate in its favor.” “Fair and free elections are a bedrock of American democracy, and the IC remains vigilant against the various activities by China, as well as other threat countries and actors, which seek to affect our electoral process,” Ratcliffe said.

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Great fundraiser, they said.

Kamala Harris Reportedly Owes $1M In Bills From Failed Presidential Run (NYP)

Kamala Harris, named Tuesday to be Joe Biden’s running mate, still has more than $1 million in unpaid bills left over from her failed 2020 presidential bid, according to a report. The California senator raised about $39 million for her White House bid in 2019 and spent about $40 million, leaving her campaign with just $116,380 in the bank at the end of June, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday, citing Federal Election Commission filings. Harris ended her campaign last December amid falling poll numbers and a lack of fundraising.


International law firm Perkins Coie LLP was still owed $523,883 at the end of June, while TorchStone Global LLC, a corporate and private security company, was owed $160,702, the report said. California political consulting firm SCRB Strategies had $92,4087 in outstanding invoices. Donors have contributed slightly more than $48,000 to her campaign this year. The report noted that the campaign can’t be shuttered until all debts are paid under federal law. And while Biden raised $26 million in a day after announcing her selection, his campaign can do little to retire Harris’ campaign debt. It can donate $2,000 and the Democratic National Committee can contribute $5,000. But Biden can ask his donors to send funds to Harris’ campaign.

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Feel free to call this a failed society.

Twelve US Billionaires Have a Combined $1 Trillion (Ineq.org)

For the first time in US history, the top twelve U.S. billionaires surpassed a combined wealth of $1 trillion. On Thursday August 13th, these 12 had a combined $1.015 trillion. This is a disturbing milestone in the US history of concentrated wealth and power. This is simply too much economic and political power in the hands of twelve people. From the point of view of a democratic self-governing society, this represents an Oligarchic Twelve or a Despotic Dozen. The Oligarchic Dozen are Jeff Bezos ($189.4b), Bill Gates ($114b), Mark Zuckerberg ($95.5b), Warren Buffett ($80b), Elon Musk ($73b), Steve Ballmer ($71b), Larry Ellison ($70.9b), Larry Page ($67.4b), Sergey Brin ($65.6b), Alice Walton ($62.5b), Jim Walton ($62.3b) and Rob Walton ($62b).

Since March 18th, the beginning of the pandemic, this Oligarchic Dozen have seen their combined wealth increase $283 billion, an increase of almost 40 percent. Elon Musk has been the biggest pandemic profiteer, seeing his wealth triple from $24.6 billion on March 18th to $73 billion on August 13, an increase of $48.5 billion or 197 percent. Amazon co-founder Jeff Bezos was worth $189.4 billion on August 13, up $76 billion or 68 percent since March 18th. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was worth $95.5 billion on August 13, up $40.8 billion or 75 percent since March 18th.

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The Sacklers took out many billions, then declared bankruptcy. Now they’re “willing” to contribute more to a settlement than the entire company is worth. Sick.

US States Seek $2.2 Trillion From OxyContin Maker Purdue Pharma (R.)

U.S. states claimed they are owed $2.2 trillion to address harm from OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP’s alleged role in America’s opioid epidemic, accusing the drugmaker in new filings of pushing prescription painkillers on doctors and patients while playing down the risks of abuse and overdose. In filings made as part of Purdue’s bankruptcy proceedings that were disclosed on Monday, the states said Purdue, backed by the wealthy Sackler family, contributed to a public health crisis that has claimed the lives of roughly 450,000 people since 1999 and caused strains on healthcare and criminal justice systems. The filings cited more than 200,000 deaths in the U.S. tied directly to prescription opioids between 1999 and 2016.

In large states such as California and New York, claims alone totaled more than $192 billion and $165 billion, respectively. Forty-nine U.S. states, Washington, D.C. and various territories are making the claims. Oklahoma settled litigation with Purdue last year. Purdue filed for bankruptcy in 2019 under pressure from more than 2,600 lawsuits brought by cities, counties, states, Native American tribes, hospitals and others. The lawsuits said the company, and in some cases the Sacklers, used deceptive marketing and took other improper steps to flood communities with prescription opioids. The company and family have denied the allegations and pledged to help combat the opioid epidemic, including by providing addiction treatment drugs and overdose reversal medications under development.

[..] Purdue is only worth a bit more than $2 billion if liquidated. The company values a proposal to settle litigation, which includes providing addiction treatment and overdose-reversing drugs, at more than $10 billion. The Sacklers would contribute $3 billion and cede control of Purdue, with the company becoming a trust run on behalf of plaintiffs.

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These well-meaning people are mightily confused about growth:

“In the absence of new forms of liquidity support and major debt relief, the world economy cannot possibly return to pre-pandemic levels of growth..”

I think that means to want to return there.

“..the dramatic decline in the cost of renewable energy represents an opportunity for a big investment push in zero-carbon energy infrastructure, which itself would help to redress energy poverty and unsustainable growth.”

More growth? Isn’t growth itself the problem then? Never mind, anyone who talks about sustainable growth is not a serious person in my book.

The Need for Debt-for-Climate Swaps (PS)

In the absence of new forms of liquidity support and major debt relief, the world economy cannot possibly return to pre-pandemic levels of growth without risking severe climate distress and social unrest.Climate scientists tell us that in order to meet the targets outlined in the Paris climate accord, global net carbon-dioxide emissions must fall by about 45% by 2030, and by 100% by 2050. Given that the effects of climate change are already being felt around the world, countries urgently need to scale up their investments in climate adaptation and mitigation. But that will not be possible if governments are bogged down in a debt crisis. If anything, debt-service requirements will push countries to pursue export revenues at any cost, including by cutting corners on climate-resilient infrastructure and stepping up their own fossil-fuel use and extraction of resources.

This course of events would further depress commodity prices, creating a doom loop for producer countries. In light of these concerns, the G20 has called on the IMF “to explore additional tools that could serve its members’ needs as the crisis evolves, drawing on relevant experiences from previous crises.” One such tool that should be considered is a “debt-for-climate swap” facility. In the 1980s and 1990s, developing countries and their creditors engaged in “debt-for-nature swaps,” whereby debt relief was linked to investments in reforestation, biodiversity, and protections for indigenous people. This concept should now be expanded to include people-centered investments that address both climate change and inequality.

Developing countries will need additional resources if they are to have any chance of leaving fossil fuels in the ground, investing sufficiently in climate adaptation, and creating opportunities for twenty-first-century jobs. One source for such resources is debt relief conditioned on such investments. A policy tool of this type would not only put us on the path to recovery, but also could help to prevent future debt-sustainability problems that might emerge as more fossil-fuel holdings and non-resilient infrastructure become “stranded assets.” Moreover, the dramatic decline in the cost of renewable energy represents an opportunity for a big investment push in zero-carbon energy infrastructure, which itself would help to redress energy poverty and unsustainable growth.

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I should read Stephanie Kelton’s book, right?!

The Mathematical Model of Modern Monetary Theory (Steve Keen)

One Mathematical Model of Modern Monetary Operations

I confess immediately that I chose the title and subtitle for this post because their acronyms are palindromes. The subtitle is more accurate than the title, because this model considers only the monetary aspects of MMT: the Job Guarantee and inflation management components are not yet incorporated. But the monetary assertions of MMT remain in dispute in economic and political circles, so it is worth putting these into a mathematical model where their veracity can be tested. The primary stimulus for developing the model was the publication of Stephanie Kelton’s The Deficit Myth. Stephanie has written the book for non-technical readers, and she’s done a very good job: it’s a very easy read that explains why many conventional wisdoms about government spending are wrong.

But MMT is facing heavy resistance in political and economic circles, with my favourite to date being a motion before the US Congress, posted by Representative Kevin Hern, to resolve: “That the House of Representatives (1) realizes that deficits are unsustainable, irresponsible, and dangerous; and (2) recognizes— (A) that the implementation of Modern Monetary Theory would lead to higher deficits and higher inflation; and (B) the duty of the House of Representatives to condemn Modern Monetary Theory.”

The objective of this series of posts is to allow the assessment of the first part of this motion—the assertion that “deficits are unsustainable, irresponsible, and dangerous”. The models in this post are built in the Open Source system dynamics program Minsky, whose unique feature is the capacity to build models of financial flows using what are called Godley Tables (in honour of Wynne Godley, the pioneer of stock-flow-consistent-modelling). These tables enforce the “law of accounting” that (see Figure 1, A blank Godley Table).

Once an account is flagged as an “Asset” for one entity, Minsky knows that it has to also be shown as a “Liability” for another entity. This makes it possible to take an integrated look at the financial system, which allows us to assess Hern’s motion from the perspective of the entire monetary system, and not just the Government’s view of it.

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50 years later: ‘They broke up because Yoko sat on an amp!’

And in the End (Rolling Stone)

It’s a miserable Monday morning in January 1969, and the Beatles are trying to get back to where they once belonged. The Get Back project sounded like a perfect idea: just the four lads and their instruments, ready to hit the studio, return to their roots, conjure up some great songs out of thin air. Just like they used to. John, Paul, George, and Ringo have booked a TV concert special for January 18th — their first live show in years. They’ll rehearse for a couple of weeks, eyeball to eyeball, summon up genius on the spur of the moment. They’ve done it many times before. They’ve never not done it. The good news: Paul showed up today, and so did Ringo. So did the camera crew — these sessions are being filmed, so the Beatles can show a half-hour clip of rehearsal footage before their TV performance.

So here they are on Monday morning, ready to dazzle the world with a blast of spontaneous Beatles brilliance. Or at least Paul and Ringo are. Hey, has anyone heard from John and Yoko? Or George? With George, there’s a slight complication: He quit the band. On Friday, with the cameras rolling, he was trying to teach them a new song, “All Things Must Pass.” John, strung out on his new heroin habit, sneered at George with open contempt. George finally stormed out, muttering, “See you around the clubs.” John doesn’t take this seriously. “I think if George doesn’t come back by Monday or Tuesday, we ask Eric Clapton to play in it,” he says. “The point is, if George leaves, do we want to carry on the Beatles? I do. We should just get other members and carry on.” But now it’s Monday and still no George. No John and Yoko. (No Clapton, for that matter.) Paul and Ringo kill time jamming on a current radio hit, “Build Me Up Buttercup.”

But everyone gathers to discuss the crisis, complaining bitterly about Yoko’s constant presence. Surprisingly, the one who sticks up for her is Paul. He’s a sucker for a love story — he’s Paul McCartney, for God’s sake. But he also knows how much this romance means to his oldest, closest mate, his most troubled and cruel and impossible friend. “It’s not that bad,” he insists. “They want to stay together, those two. So it’s all right. Let the young lovers be together.” Paul has to chuckle, thinking about how future generations will look back at this — the Beatles, the greatest of all rock & roll bands, the world’s most legendary creative team, falling apart over such a trivial spat. Even on a winter morning as gloomy as this one, Paul breaks into a laugh. “It’s gonna be such an incredible sort of comical thing, like in 50 years’ time, you know. ‘They broke up because Yoko sat on an amp!'”

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Jul 302020
 


Elliot Erwitt New York 1955

 

Russian COVID-19 Vaccine Approval Imminent (R.)
3/4 of Recovered Coronavirus Patients Have Heart Damage Months Later (People)
Brazil Hits Record Daily Coronavirus Cases, Fatalities (R.)
Fauci Recommends Eye Protection To Prevent Contracting Coronavirus (Axios)
Political Talks Stall In US On Next Round Of Coronavirus Spending (AlJ)
A $10 Trillion Corporate Debt Bomb Is Waiting to Explode the US Economy (NW)
China Needs ‘Explosive’ Buying To Meet US Farm Import Target (R.)
Russia and China Speed Up De-Dollarization Process (RT)
Private Feds Cash In on Unusual Contempt Case (CN)
The New Fight to Hold Purdue, the Sacklers Accountable for Opioid Crisis (IC)
Court Revives Ashley Judd’s Sexual Harassment Case vs Harvey Weinstein (R.)
House Dems Say Barr Was Sexist, Hostile at Hearing (WFB)
Flynn Attorney’s Twitter Account Partially Suspended Over HCQ Tweet (WE)
Assange Indictment: Old Wine in Older Bottles (OffG)

 

 

One of those days where we can see how much is wrong with the so-called US justice system. Ashley Judd has her case vs Weinstein narrowly re-installed, a judge has a private law firm take over the role of the state in the case of a lawyer who helped Ecuadorians vs Chevron, Purdue’s owners declare bankruptcy -after siphoning off billions- to escape scrutiny for 450,000 opioid deaths, it’s all in a day’s work. And that’s before we even look at the travesty that is the case vs Assange.

 

 

Afraid the world set a new all-time high. US didn’t, but deaths keep rising. Brazil set records in both categories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brad Setser

 

 

“..prompted some Western media to question whether Moscow is putting national prestige before solid science and safety ..

As opposed to profit, you mean?

Russian COVID-19 Vaccine Approval Imminent (R.)

Russia’s first potential COVID-19 vaccine will win local regulatory approval in the first half of August and be administered to frontline health workers soon afterwards, a development source close to the matter told Reuters. A state research facility in Moscow – the Gamaleya Institute – completed early human trials of the adenovirus-based vaccine this month and expects to begin large-scale trials in August. The vaccine will win regulatory approval from authorities in Russia while that large-scale trial continues, the source said, highlighting Moscow’s determination to be the first country in the world to approve a vaccine.


The speed at which Russia is moving to roll out the vaccine has prompted some Western media to question whether Moscow is putting national prestige before solid science and safety. “(Regulatory) approval will be in the first two weeks of August,” the development source said. “August 10 is the expected date, but it will definitely be before August 15. All (trial) results so far are highly positive.” The source added that Russian health workers treating COVID-19 patients will be offered the chance of volunteering to be vaccinated soon after the vaccine receives the regulatory approval.

Read more …

Not the same studies as the other day. I don’t recall seeing “viral replication” mentioned before.

3/4 of Recovered Coronavirus Patients Have Heart Damage Months Later (People)

Well over half a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, experts are learning more about the virus that was initially believed to be only a respiratory illness. Over time, it’s become clear that COVID-19 attacks far more than just the lungs, and new research indicates that it can leave lasting heart damage, even in formerly healthy people who have recovered from the initial symptoms. Two new studies, both from Germany, examined the effects of COVID-19 on the heart, with one focusing on recovered patients and the other on older victims of the virus. The first study, published Monday in JAMA Cardiology, found that three-quarters of recovered COVID-19 patients were left with structural changes to their hearts, even two months later.

The researchers examined cardiac MRIs from 100 recovered COVID-19 patients between the ages of 45 to 53, and compared them to MRIs of similar people who did not contract the virus. Most of the COVID-19 patients had recovered at home, while 33 had to be hospitalized at some point in their illness. Of the 100 COVID-19 patients, 78 had structural changes to their hearts. Within that group, 76 had a biomarker that is typically found in patients who had a heart attack, and 60 had heart inflammation, called myocarditis. The patients were all “mostly healthy … prior to their illness,” the researchers said. “The patients and ourselves were both surprised by the intensity and prevalence of these findings, and that they were still very pronounced even though the original illness had been by then already a few weeks away,” study co-author Dr. Valentina Puntmann, a consultant physician, cardiologist and clinical pharmacologist at University Hospital Frankfurt in Germany, told UPI.

The second study, also published in JAMA Cardiology, looked at autopsy reports from 39 COVID-19 victims between 78 and 89 years old who died at the start of the pandemic. The researchers found that the virus had infected the heart in 41 percent of the patients. “We see signs of viral replication in those that are heavily infected,” study co-author Dirk Westermann, a cardiologist at the University Heart and Vascular Centre in Hamburg, told Stat. “We don’t know the long-term consequences of the changes in gene expression yet. I know from other diseases that it’s obviously not good to have that increased level of inflammation.” On Sunday, Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez confirmed that he won’t yet start the new MLB season because he is dealing with myocarditis, the heart inflammation found in the first study, in the months after he contracted COVID-19. Rodriguez is currently waiting on further MRI results to see if he can play.

Read more …

Great moment to annnounce foreigners are welcome again – if they have health insurance.

Brazil Hits Record Daily Coronavirus Cases, Fatalities (R.)

Brazil set daily records on Wednesday for new COVID-19 cases and related fatalities, as the world’s second-worst outbreak hurtles toward the milestone of 100,000 dead amid easing lockdowns. Brazil is the country worst hit by COVID-19 outside of the United States in both its death toll and case count. The 69,074 new confirmed cases and 1,595 additional deaths reported by the Health Ministry pushed the country past 2.5 million infections and 90,000 killed. President Jair Bolsonaro has fought against restrictions on economic activity, and the disease has advanced as governors and mayors have yielded to the pressure. In some cases, Brazilians have packed into bars and crowded public squares without masks, often in defiance of local rules.


Last week, Brazil recorded 7,677 deaths from COVID-19, the most fatalities in any week since the pandemic began, defying repeated predictions that the outbreak had peaked. “Brazil is experiencing the worst phase of the pandemic,” said Alexandre Naime, head of the department of infectious diseases at Sao Paulo State University. “Paradoxically, public policy and personal behavior are going in the opposite direction, as if we are not living through a daily tragedy,” he added. Bolsonaro’s government announced Wednesday that it will lift a ban on foreign travelers flying into the country that has been in place since March, so long as they have health insurance coverage for their trip.

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Piece of advice: you can put him out by the curb now. He’s done. You won’t find even enough stupid Americans to buy into this stuff. 7 months after saying facemasks were not needed, then walking that back, now you need to shield your eyes? Half the nation will just flip him the bird.

Fauci Recommends Eye Protection To Prevent Contracting Coronavirus (Axios)

NIAID director Anthony Fauci told ABC News in an Instagram live discussing the coronavirus pandemic Wednesday evening, “If you have goggles or an eye shield, you should use it.” Eye protection is not currently included in formal guidance on COVID-19. The CDC only advises that health care workers use eye protection “in areas with moderate to substantial community transmission.” After ABC’s Jennifer Ashton asked Fauci if he could envision the point where eye protection would be recommended, he replied: “It might, if you really want perfect protection of the mucosal surfaces.” Fauci noted that eye protection was “not universally recommended, but if you really want to be complete, you should probably use it if you can.” He explained that the coronavirus infects mucosal surfaces, like the nose and mouth, along with the eyes. “Theoretically, you should protect all the mucosal surfaces,” Fauci added.

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Can someone explain what is wrong with a temp extension of unemployment benefits and the eviction ban, given that the sides are miles apart?

Political Talks Stall In US On Next Round Of Coronavirus Spending (AlJ)

Talks between United States congressional leaders and the White House on a next round of coronavirus spending stalled on Wednesday. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested a short-term extension of federal unemployment benefits and a ban on evictions, but Democrats rejected the idea and blamed Republicans for failing rise to the dire moment confronting the nation. “As of now, we’re very far apart,” Mnuchin told reporters at the White House on Wednesday. “And because of that, the president and we have discussed a short-term extension to UI [unemployment insurance] and the evictions so that we have some period to negotiate before this runs out.”

Unemployment insurance benefits of $600 a week and a federal ban on evictions passed by Congress in March and April are expiring at the end of July. Millions of Americans – as much as half the US working population – have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus. Republicans in the US Senate and Democrats in the House of Representatives have proposed between $1 trillion and $3 trillion in new spending to keep the US economy going, but they differ sharply on how to spend the money and on best approaches to the coronavirus pandemic. “We’re looking at a deadline, obviously, of this Friday,” Mnuchin said. “If we can’t reach an agreement by then, the president wants to look at giving us more time to negotiate this.”

The federal government and many state and local governments have imposed temporary bans on evictions, the legal removal of people from their homes when they cannot pay rent or mortgages. The federal eviction ban is expiring, as are many state and local prohibitions on court action to force evictions. “We want to work on the evictions so that people don’t get evicted. We’ll work on the payments for the people. And the rest of it, we’re so far apart, we don’t care. We really don’t care,” Trump said. On Capitol Hill, Democratic leaders rejected the idea of a short-term extension of unemployment benefits and the renewal of the eviction ban and blamed Republicans for failing to put forward adequate proposals to meet the crisis.

“We are not accepting that,” the top Democrat in Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said. “We don’t know why the Republicans come around here with a skinny bill that does nothing to address what’s happening with the virus,” Pelosi told reporters at the US Capitol after meeting with Republicans.

Read more …

Far from over.

A $10 Trillion Corporate Debt Bomb Is Waiting to Explode the US Economy (NW)

Even before the pandemic reached its height, the IMF was warning in January that the world’s largest economies like the U.S. were unprepared for a slowdown. Fast forward half a year, with millions of lost jobs and thousands of businesses gone bankrupt in the U.S. because of the novel coronavirus, the word slowdown is inadequate to describe the scale and speed of the economic collapse. And the pandemic could yet throw another grenade at the economy: A massive corporate debt explosion. The American economy has lived on debt for a long time. The ratio of the total debt of the government, businesses, and consumers relative to GDP has more than doubled since the 1980s. Record-low interest rates following the 2008 financial crisis further swelled the debt significantly.

U.S. companies owe more than $10 trillion, which is nearly half of the country’s 2019 GDP of $21.5 trillion. Taking other forms of business debt into consideration, including partnerships and small businesses, that figure stands at an eye-watering $17 trillion, the Financial Times reported earlier this month. “This increase in debt has contributed to increased economic volatility, and has left the country in a weakened position to deal with shocks such as the current virus,” Robert Goldberg, associate professor of finance and economics at Adelphi University in New York, told Newsweek. In the last few months, this mountain of corporate debt has been compounded by a once-in-a-century event.

Following the lockdown of state and local economies in March, the corporate debt market froze and there was a slump in the issuance of new bonds, in particular for non-investment grade debt. To get bonds flowing again, the Federal Reserve announced a program to support the corporate debt market, which improved liquidity. The Fed’s move to buy $750 billion in corporate debt, and the Main Street lending program making $600 billion in loans to small and mid-sized companies, helped indebted firms avoid bankruptcy. But it also added to the debt pile. Aimed mostly at the investment-grade debt market, the issuance of non-investment grade debt “has skyrocketed” in the last few months, said David Gulley, professor of economics at Bentley University, Massachusetts. “Long term, however, it’s not clear whether the now highly indebted companies will be able to survive, especially in industries like travel and leisure,” he told Newsweek.

This week, the U.S.Travel Association wrote a letter signed by 14 industry leaders asking President Donald Trump and Congress to expand coronavirus testing to revive the struggling travel sector. The association warned the travel sector may produce $1.2 trillion less for the U.S. economy by the end of 2020 than the previous year. Many other sectors are suffering and businesses will be looking for lifelines. “If the defaults become widespread, credit spreads will increase, making it more expensive for companies to raise money to fund operations,” Gulley said. “Additional business shutdowns and layoffs would occur, potentially on a large scale. The longer the economic problems continue, the more likely it is the defaults will begin to pick up, especially in the non-investment grade sector of the debt market.”

Read more …

Co-dependency, a well-known condition in addiction psychology.

China Needs ‘Explosive’ Buying To Meet US Farm Import Target (R.)

With nearly seven months gone, an ambitious $36.5 billion target for Chinese imports of U.S. farm goods this year may not be quite out of reach, but it’s looking like a big, big stretch. By end-May, imports were running behind 2017 levels – rather than 50% ahead as needed – and while orders for China’s main farm import, soybeans, have started to pick up, scorching levels of buying would be needed to hit the mark. Add in a rapid deterioration in U.S.-China relations, an upcoming U.S. election, a global pandemic and questions over just how much soybeans China actually needs, and farmers and analysts say it may be a stretch too far. “It just doesn’t seem likely to me,” said John Payne, senior futures & options broker with Daniels Trading in Chicago.

“If the global economy was more normal then maybe, but you have this whole COVID problem.” Beijing and Washington sealed their Phase 1 trade deal in January after two years of acrimony and a steep slump in imports by one of the biggest buyers of U.S. agricultural goods. Analysts at the time expressed reservations about the farm goods target, which is a quarter above 2013’s all-time high of $29 billion. Still, Chinese buyers stepped up purchases this year of a range of farm imports, sealing record deals in corn and meat imports, prompting some optimism. “If I were to grade them today, we went from a C- to a B, and if it continues maybe we can start to see higher levels. But it needs to be a continual, ongoing affair,” said Dan Basse, president of AgResource Co in Chicago.

The chances of meeting the target will be clear in the next few months. Soybeans typically account for about half of China’s U.S. farm imports and the vast bulk of buying comes in the last three months of the year when supplies from top grower Brazil dry up. After a slow start, Chinese importers booked more than $2.5 billion in U.S. soy purchases in just the past eight weeks. “We may be on the verge of really beginning to ramp up sales to China. I think you’re going to start seeing these chunks of soybean sales happening pretty soon because Brazil’s getting close to sold out,” said John Baize, president of consultancy John C. Baize & Associates.

Read more …

Just things they were already doing. Of course they’re not going to use the USD if they can help it. Where it gets interesting is where they can’t help it.

Russia and China Speed Up De-Dollarization Process (RT)

After years of talking about abandoning the US dollar, Russia and China are doing it for real. In the first quarter of 2020, the share of the dollar in trade between the countries fell below 50 percent for the first time. To give an indication of the scale of the adjustment, just four years ago the greenback accounted for over 90 percent of their currency settlements. According to Moscow daily Izvestia, the share has dropped to 46 percent, tumbling from 75 percent in 2018. The 54 percent of non-dollar trade is made up of Chinese yuan (17 percent), the euro (30 percent), and the Russian ruble (7 percent). The dollar’s reduced role in international trade can mainly be blamed on the ongoing trade war between the US and China.


Relations between the two countries have deteriorated even further in 2020, after US politicians accused Beijing of hiding the severity of Covid-19 and President Donald Trump called disease the “China Virus” and “Kung Flu.” In January, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov explained that Moscow is continuing “its policy aimed at gradual de-dollarization” and is looking to make deals in local currencies, where possible. Lavrov called the rejection of the greenback “an objective response to the unpredictability of US economic policy and the outright abuse by Washington of the dollar’s status as a world reserve currency.”

Read more …

All in the name of Chevron, the judge appoints a private law firm to take the place of the state. Which then pays the firm $250,000 and counting to harass someone accused of a mere misdemeanor, who’s been under house arrest for a year. Only in America. Well, and the UK perhaps.

Private Feds Cash In on Unusual Contempt Case (CN)

With trial still months away, taxpayers have paid more than a quarter-million dollars to a private law firm deputized by a federal judge to convict an environmental attorney of misdemeanors. That is only one of the many oddities of United States v. Steven Donziger, a criminal contempt case against a lawyer defending a more than $9 billion verdict that he helped Ecuadorean villagers obtain against Chevron for oil contamination in the Amazon rainforest in 2011. “So — the punchline is: The government has spent $254,930 to date prosecuting a misdemeanor,” Donziger’s attorney Zoe Littlepage summarized in an email to her co-counsel and her client. “There has been 1,001 hours of work done.”

Obtained exclusively by Courthouse News, billing records from Donziger’s unusual criminal prosecution show how much the white-shoe law firm Seward & Kissel has collected since being appointed as the “government” roughly a year ago in lieu of the Department of Justice. Those bills, for professional services rendered from August 2019 through the end of May this year, have not come with traditional government rates. The firm already has billed nearly 75 times more than the maximum a court-appointed private criminal defense attorney can collect for defending indigent clients facing misdemeanor allegations, and the private prosecution’s billable hours show no signs of abating.

“DOES ANYONE ELSE FIND THIS UNBELIEVABLE,” Littlepage exclaimed in the email dated Monday. Spanning nearly three decades and continents, the legal saga over Ecuadorean pollution has been filled with surprises. Donziger helped rainforest residents and indigenous groups stun much of the world nearly a decade ago with the defeat of Chevron in Ecuador, and the oil giant’s relentless counterattack took unexpected turns in a quest to discredit that verdict as a product of fraud and racketeering. U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who ruled for Chevron in 2014, presided over what began as a civil dispute before personally demanding the creation of a criminal one. The Clinton appointee drafted the charge sheet and handpicked the prosecutors. In this next stage, however, it is U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska, the former chief of the Southern District, who reigns.

Read more …

Go bankrupt and all claims disappear.

The New Fight to Hold Purdue, the Sacklers Accountable for Opioid Crisis (IC)

When news first broke last September that Purdue Pharma was filing for bankruptcy, many victims of the deadly opioid crisis, for which the company holds immense responsibility, believed there was reason to celebrate. The demise of the privately owned pharmaceutical corporation, the creator of OxyContin, had been the goal of activists, victims, and their families for well over a decade. For those familiar with the vagaries of bankruptcy law, however, it was immediately clear that the Chapter 11 filing was just the latest move by Purdue executives and its owners, members of the Sackler family, to evade justice and dodge accountability.

In filing for voluntary bankruptcy, Purdue was able to shield itself from the 2,600 federal and state lawsuits it was facing for its role flooding the U.S. with prescription opioids, contributing to the deaths of over 450,000 people since 1999. Purdue executives and members of the Sackler family were accused, in case after case, of misleading doctors and patients about the addictive nature of OxyContin, while amassing a multibillion-dollar fortune. The bankruptcy filing invoked an automatic stay of civil litigation against the company. And while the billionaire Sacklers are by no means facing personal bankruptcy, they too have been granted a stay of litigation. If they get their way in court, as they are likely to do, the bankruptcy settlement could shield the Sackler family from all future claims — and influence whether they are subject to criminal liability, too.

The full extent of Purdue’s — and the various Sacklers’ — malfeasance in knowingly creating a mass market in addiction could remain hidden in sealed documents. The move to bury what should be a mass public reckoning in the opaque crevices of bankruptcy court typifies underhanded Sackler marketing practices. In response, those fighting for accountability have been forced to navigate a complex legal terrain in efforts to access even a shred of justice. Individuals who have suffered from opioid addiction or lost loved ones to the Sackler-produced crisis have until the end of July to file claims of wrongful death and “personal injury” — a gross legalistic euphemism — as creditors in the bankruptcy settlement. They should be entitled to resources far greater than the payout will offer.

For numerous survivors, however, the primary demand in their claims is the very thing Purdue’s bankruptcy aims to avoid: transparency. “For many of us who have been in this fight for so long, the money means less,” said Barbara Van Rooyan, who has campaigned against OxyContin’s proliferation since her son’s death from taking a single pill in 2004. “The biggest asset they have is the truth.”

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How can a judge ever have thrown this out?

Court Revives Ashley Judd’s Sexual Harassment Case Vs Harvey Weinstein (R.)

A federal appeals court revived actress Ashley Judd’s sexual harassment lawsuit against disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, saying she could sue under California law over his alleged attempt to help her career in return for sexual favors. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco found on Wednesday that Weinstein had considerable power over Judd’s career in 1997, when they held a business meeting at his hotel and the alleged harassment occurred. “By virtue of his professional position and influence as a top producer in Hollywood, Weinstein was uniquely situated to exercise coercive power or leverage over Judd, who was a young actor at the beginning of her career,” the opinion said. The appeals court sent the case back to the lower court for further proceedings.


“This is an important victory not only for Ms. Judd but for all victims of sexual harassment in professional relationships,” said Judd’s lawyer Theodore Boutrous. Weinstein has maintained he never sexually harassed Judd. Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison by a New York state court in March after his conviction for sexual assault and rape, a case that fueled the #MeToo movement. The actress, who was not part of the New York case, sued Weinstein in April 2018 for sexual harassment under a California law barring such conduct in a “business, service or professional relationship.” Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Philip Gutierrez dismissed that claim, finding Judd’s relationship with Weinstein was not covered by the California law. The appeals court found this was a misinterpretation.

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First, it’s obvious that the “reclaiming my time” line came out of a strategy meeting, they didn’t all independently from each other think of it. But that line is reserved for witnesses that try just to fill up time (filibuster), not for interrupting them 5 seconds after you ask them to answer a question. “Jayapal allowed Barr to speak for less than 60 seconds during their six-minute exchange, and he never spoke longer than 10 seconds..”

This was a made for TV show, as were the impeachment hearings. The only way to avoid more of the same would seem to be to not allow cameras in.

House Dems Say Barr Was Sexist, Hostile at Hearing (WFB)

House Democrats Madeleine Dean (Penn.) and Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) accused Attorney General William Barr of being sexist and hostile during his contentious Judiciary Committee testimony on Tuesday. Democrats repeatedly interrupted Barr at the hearing and condemned him as corrupt, racist, and dangerous, but Dean said Wednesday that Barr was “disrespectful” and particularly mistreated women. “We have to hold him accountable to the American people,” Dean said on MSNBC. “You saw his affect yesterday. He was disrespectful, spoke over top of every one of us. In particular, he spoke over women. He was flanked by at least 10 staffers, not a person of color among them…. It was so disrespectful, the way he approached Congress, the way he approached our committee.”

The Washington Free Beacon compiled a montage of Democrats repeatedly saying they were “reclaiming my time” during their testy interactions with Barr on Tuesday. On several occasions, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee gave Barr time during their questioning periods to respond to Democratic charges. Jayapal allowed Barr to speak for less than 60 seconds during their six-minute exchange, and he never spoke longer than 10 seconds without being interrupted by her. Yet she told CNN that she had to control her time, because otherwise Barr might testify too much. “Every witness knows that the way to get away from answering questions is to just be very slow in your answers, to thank the Congress members for that excellent question, to not answer, to obfuscate, because you only have five minutes,” she said.

“You have to take control of your time, because if you don’t, the witness will do it.” She added Barr was a “hostile witness.” Jayapal used much of her time to criticize Barr over the federal dispersal of protesters in Lafayette Park outside the White House on June 1. She accused him of a double standard by not similarly dispersing right-wing protesters at the Michigan State Capitol in May during demonstrations against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D.) and her coronavirus lockdown orders. Barr noted the White House is a federal building while Michigan’s capitol falls under the state’s jurisdiction, but Jayapal interrupted to charge him with prioritizing Trump’s “agenda.”

Read more …

Talking about HCQ, am I the only one who noticed that the push against it started with “it can kill you”, but now it’s all about “it’s ineffective”? Not deadly anymore then?

Flynn Attorney’s Twitter Account Partially Suspended Over HCQ Tweet (WE)

The Twitter account of Michael Flynn’s lead attorney was partially suspended for promoting the controversial antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment. Sidney Powell, a former federal prosecutor who is representing President Trump’s former national security adviser in the government’s case against him, tweeted on Monday that the drug should be “available over the counter” and that it would “prevent and stop it for next to nothing.” Her account became “temporarily limited” shortly after because the platform said that the tweet violated the company’s rules on “spreading misleading and potentially harmful misinformation” related to the coronavirus.


A Twitter spokesperson said that the account was not suspended, which is how Jenna Ellis, a lawyer for Trump’s reelection campaign, broke the news, but that “some” account features would be limited for 12 hours because of the rule violation. Powell confirmed on Tuesday that her account was partially suspended. “Needless to say, that is an outrage,” she told the Washington Examiner. “Twitter should not be deciding what information is allowed. My tweet was based on information from numerous doctors. Congress must revoke the protections afforded these tech titans who must be required to allow free speech. CNN and others are pushing pure propaganda against hydroxychloroquine. It’s really astonishing to see such censorship against the president and others in what is supposed to be a free society.”

Read more …

No one had any reason to be there, it was all about the new superseding indictment, and the judge didn’t have it. At least not from the prosecution. It was all for show.

Assange Indictment: Old Wine in Older Bottles (OffG)

The topic of discussion during this administrative hearing was what was announced by the US Department of Justice on June 24, namely the second superseding indictment. That document proved to be a naked exercise of political overreach, adding no further charges to the already heavy complement of eighteen, seventeen of which centre on the US Espionage Act. The scope of interest, however, was widened, notably on the issue of “hacking” and conferencing. Assange is painted as devilish recruiter and saboteur of the international secret order, a man of the conference circuit keen to open up clandestine governments and make various reasons for doing so. According to the charging document, Assange and others at WikiLeaks recruited and agreed with hackers to commit computer intrusions to benefit WikiLeaks.”

Edward Fitzgerald QC, in representing Assange, fulfilled his norm, submitting that the recently revised document did little to inspire confidence in the nature of clarified justice. We are concerned about a fresh request being made at this stage with the potential consequences of derailing proceedings and that the US attorney-general is doing this for political reasons.” Fitzgerald reminded the court that US President Donald Trump had “described the defence case as a plot by the Democrats.” This should have been obvious, but Baraitser’s court would have none of it. To admit at this point that Assange is wanted for political reasons would make it that much harder to extradite him to the United States, given that bar noted in the US-UK Extradition Treaty.

Whilst it was good of Fitzgerald to make this point, he should know by now that his audience is resolutely constipated and indifferent to such prodding. Assange is to be given the sharpest, rather than the most balanced, of hearings. Accordingly, Baraitser insisted that Fitzgerald “reserve his comments” – she, in the true tradition of such processes, had not been supplied, as yet, with the US indictment. This made the entire presence of all the parties at the Westminster Magistrates’ not merely meaningless but decidedly absurd.

Read more …

 

 

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Jul 082020
 


Unknown Strictly no elephants 1939

 

Serious Brain Disorders In People With Mild Coronavirus Symptoms (G.)
Scientists Warn Of Potential Wave Of COVID-Linked Brain Damage (R.)
Dozens Of Florida Hospitals Out Of Available ICU Beds (R.)
Majority Testing Positive Have No Symptoms (BBC)
Stanford’ Ioannidis Says Greece Needs More Aggressive COVID Testing (GR)
Is Strzok Memo the Rosetta Stone of Obamagate? (RCP)
US Judge Says “Tentatively Inclined” To Reject Bayer’s Monsanto Settlement (ZH)
Purdue Pharma Made Political Contributions After Going Bankrupt (IC)
Apple Suddenly Catches TikTok Secretly Spying On Millions Of iPhone Users (F.)
Madness of Political Correctness (Pelerin)
Ghislaine Maxwell Arraignment Scheduled For July 14 (R.)
Ghislaine Maxwell ‘Has Secret Stash Of Epstein Sex Tapes’ (DM)

 

 

Not much good news on the COVID front. But the reported severe nerve- and brain damage is a new low. We still know very little about COVID19, though many people claim otherwise. Can’t be careful enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inflammation of nerves and brains. Psychosis, paralysis.

Serious Brain Disorders In People With Mild Coronavirus Symptoms (G.)

Doctors may be missing signs of serious and potentially fatal brain disorders triggered by coronavirus, as they emerge in mildly affected or recovering patients, scientists have warned. Neurologists are on Wednesday publishing details of more than 40 UK Covid-19 patients whose complications ranged from brain inflammation and delirium to nerve damage and stroke. In some cases, the neurological problem was the patient’s first and main symptom. The cases, published in the journal Brain, revealed a rise in a life-threatening condition called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (Adem), as the first wave of infections swept through Britain. At UCL’s Institute of Neurology, Adem cases rose from one a month before the pandemic to two or three per week in April and May. One woman, who was 59, died of the complication.

A dozen patients had inflammation of the central nervous system, 10 had brain disease with delirium or psychosis, eight had strokes and a further eight had peripheral nerve problems, mostly diagnosed as Guillain-Barré syndrome, an immune reaction that attacks the nerves and causes paralysis. It is fatal in 5% of cases. “We’re seeing things in the way Covid-19 affects the brain that we haven’t seen before with other viruses,” said Michael Zandi, a senior author on the study and a consultant at the institute and University College London Hospitals NHS foundation trust. “What we’ve seen with some of these Adem patients, and in other patients, is you can have severe neurology, you can be quite sick, but actually have trivial lung disease,” he added.

“Biologically, Adem has some similarities with multiple sclerosis, but it is more severe and usually happens as a one-off. Some patients are left with long-term disability, others can make a good recovery.” The cases add to concerns over the long-term health effects of Covid-19, which have left some patients breathless and fatigued long after they have cleared the virus, and others with numbness, weakness and memory problems. One coronavirus patient described in the paper, a 55-year-old woman with no history of psychiatric illness, began to behave oddly the day after she was discharged from hospital. She repeatedly put her coat on and took it off again and began to hallucinate, reporting that she saw monkeys and lions in her house. She was readmitted to hospital and gradually improved on antipsychotic medication.

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Same topic, different take.

Scientists Warn Of Potential Wave Of COVID-Linked Brain Damage (R.)

Scientists warned on Wednesday of a potential wave of coronavirus-related brain damage as new evidence suggested COVID-19 can lead to severe neurological complications, including inflammation, psychosis and delirium. A study by researchers at University College London (UCL) described 43 cases of patients with COVID-19 who suffered either temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage or other serious brain effects. The research adds to recent studies which also found the disease can damage the brain. “Whether we will see an epidemic on a large scale of brain damage linked to the pandemic – perhaps similar to the encephalitis lethargica outbreak in the 1920s and 1930s after the 1918 influenza pandemic – remains to be seen,” said Michael Zandi, from UCL’s Institute of Neurology, who co-led the study.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, is largely a respiratory illness that affects the lungs, but neuroscientists and specialist brain doctors say emerging evidence of its impact on the brain is concerning. “My worry is that we have millions of people with COVID-19 now. And if in a year’s time we have 10 million recovered people, and those people have cognitive deficits … then that’s going to affect their ability to work and their ability to go about activities of daily living,” Adrian Owen, a neuroscientist at Western University in Canada, told Reuters in an interview.

In the UCL study, published in the journal Brain, nine patients who had brain inflammation were diagnosed with a rare condition called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) which is more usually seen in children and can be triggered by viral infections. The team said it would normally see about one adult patient with ADEM per month at their specialist London clinic, but this had risen to at least one a week during the study period, something they described as “a concerning increase”. “Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause,” said Ross Paterson, who co-led the study. “Doctors need to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes.”

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10,000 new cases per day is a lot for one state.

Dozens Of Florida Hospitals Out Of Available ICU Beds (R.)

More than four dozen hospitals in Florida reported that their intensive care units (ICUs) have reached full capacity on Tuesday as COVID-19 cases surge in the state and throughout the country. Hospital ICUs were full at 54 hospitals across 25 of Florida’s 67 counties, according to data published on Tuesday morning by the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration. More than 300 hospitals were included in the report, but not all had adult ICUs. Thirty hospitals reported that their ICUs were more than 90% full. Statewide, only 17% of the total 6,010 adult ICU beds were available on Tuesday, down from 20% three days ago, according to the agency’s website.


Florida’s coronavirus cases have soared in the last month, with the state’s daily count topping 10,000 three times in the last week. The death rate from COVID-19 rose nearly 19% in the last week from the week prior, bringing the state’s death toll to more than 3,800. All ICU beds are filled at the three hospitals in Clay County, where the population is around 220,000. Florida Governor Ron Desantis on Monday encouraged state residents to seek care at hospitals if needed, citing concerns that people with life-threatening conditions other than COVID-19 had avoided hospitals earlier in the pandemic to the detriment of their health.

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Different takes on asymptomatic cases emerging.

Majority Testing Positive Have No Symptoms (BBC)

Only 22% of people testing positive for coronavirus reported having symptoms on the day of their test, according to the Office for National Statistics. This hammers home the role of people who aren’t aware they’re carrying the virus in spreading it onwards. Health and social care staff appeared to be more likely to test positive. This comes as deaths from all causes in the UK fell to below the average for the second week in a row. Between the end of March and June, there were 59,000 more deaths than the five-year average. Meanwhile, the UK government’s daily figures released on Tuesday showed another 155 people have died after testing positive for the virus. This takes the total number of deaths to 44,391.


It comes after 16 new deaths were reported on Monday, but there are often reporting lags over the weekend. While the ONS survey includes relatively small numbers of positive swab tests (120 infections in all) making it hard to make any strong conclusions about who is most likely to be infected, there are some patterns coming through in the data: • Those in people-facing health or social care roles, and working outside their homes in general, were more likely to have a positive test. • People from ethnic minority backgrounds were more likely to have a positive antibody test, suggesting a past infection. • White people were the least likely proportionally to test positive for antibodies. • There was also some evidence that people living in larger households were more likely to test positive than those in smaller households.

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Looks like Greece may very soon have to choose between closing its borders or locking down its own people again.

Stanford’ Ioannidis Says Greece Needs More Aggressive COVID Testing (GR)

After Greece’s opening up to travelers from much of the rest of the world on July 1, the nation has seen a troubling trend in the increasing numbers of coronavirus infections. Currently, as of today, 27 new COVID cases were diagnosed in Greece in the past 24 hours — and 14 of these are tourists. Speaking to Greek Reporter, the noted medical professor Dr. John Ioannidis of Stanford University, an expert in the field of epidemiology, questions the somewhat lax attitude Greece has taken, with its use of an algorithm arrived at by answers on a questionnaire and random testing of arrivals.

“I think it would be useful to require more aggressive (perhaps universal) testing for tourists coming from countries that have low testing rates. Most of these countries make small contributions to the Greek tourism budget anyhow, so one is risking the emergence of an epidemic wave without much tangible financial benefit.” The epidemiologist states “I understand that Greece desperately needs tourism funds, since tourism is responsible for about 20% of the GDP. The Greek and the European COVID task forces include capable scientists and I trust they have put a lot of thought on how to reopen the country to tourism. It is not an easy situation.

“Determining which country is eligible for allowing tourists from is difficult and our knowledge base is incomplete. I just want to caution that it is potentially misleading to base this decision on the number of cases that continue being detected in each country. Countries that deal seriously with coronavirus do more testing and come up with more detected cases. Conversely, countries that do little testing will find few cases, but this does not mean that coronavirus does not exist there.”

“Serbia is one example worth discussing, since 20 of the 36 tourist cases today were from there. In that country, the number of cases looked pretty low, but this was simply because relatively little testing was done. With only 11,000 cases detected in Serbia until the end of May, it is likely that the true number exceeded 200,000. Moreover, apparently there were substantial residual foci of epidemic activity. However, I think this is a problem that may be pertinent to Balkan countries in general. Testing in other Balkan countries is even less frequent than Serbia on a population basis.

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Keep your focus on Sidney Powell and Obama.

Is Strzok Memo the Rosetta Stone of Obamagate? (RCP)

It doesn’t seem to matter to the mainstream media that evidence has mounted into the stratosphere that Trump has been right all along about his campaign being illegally surveilled by the Obama administration. It doesn’t matter that Trump survived a two-plus year investigation by a special counsel and was cleared of any kind of collusion with the Russians. The Democrats and their agents in the Deep State know that whatever they do to harass Trump will be treated as noble and patriotic by the corrupt media, and that whenever evidence surfaces of their criminal behavior it will be promptly buried again.

Which brings us to the infamous handwritten notes by disgraced FBI agent Peter Strzok about a White House meeting that surfaced in a recent filing in the Flynn case. Strzok had already earned a prominent place in the “Wish I Hadn’t Done That” Hall of Fame for his serial confession via text message of not just marital infidelity but also constitutional perfidy. But the half-page of notes released by Flynn’s defense team rises to the level of a history-altering “Oops!” Indeed, it could well be the Rosetta stone that allows us to penetrate the secrets of the anti-Trump conspiracy that stretched from the FBI to the CIA, the Justice Department and the White House.

What we know about the provenance of the notes comes from Flynn’s attorney Sidney Powell, who said they were written by Strzok about a meeting that took place on Jan. 4, 2017. The only problem is that the cast of characters in the memo duplicates those who were in attendance at the White House on Jan. 5, 2017, to discuss how the Obama administration should proceed in its dealings with Flynn, who was accused of playing footsie with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak prior to assuming his official role as national security adviser. Attorney General William Barr has gone on the record (on the “Verdict With Ted Cruz” podcast) that the notes actually describe the Jan. 5 meeting.

If so, the notes strongly contradict Susan Rice’s CYA “memo to self” where the Obama national security adviser recounts the Jan. 5 meeting and stresses three times that President Obama and his team were handling the Flynn investigation “by the book.” Methinks the lady doth protest too much, especially now that we have Strzok’s contemporaneous notes to contradict her memo, which suspiciously was written in the final minutes of the Obama administration as Donald Trump was being sworn in at the Capitol.

From what we can tell, Strzok (unlike Rice) was not writing his memo to protect anyone. He seems to have merely jotted down some notes about what various participants in the meeting said, including President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Rice, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and Strzok’s boss — FBI Director James Comey. Chances are, at this point Strzok had no idea his dirty laundry was going to be aired or that his role as a master of the universe was going to be toppled.

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That settlement makes me think of the one Epstein got, one of those “everything included” deals that make you wonder how legal they can be.

US Judge Says “Tentatively Inclined” To Reject Bayer’s Monsanto Settlement (ZH)

As the EU’s antitrust regulator announces another round of sweeping antitrust investigations into the big US tech behemoths. an American judge is apparently making noises about throwing out a major settlement involving German multinational pharma conglomerate Bayer. According to the settlement, which we reported on a few weeks ago when it was first announced, Bayer had agreed to pay $10 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits brought against it over its purchase of Monsanto, the American agrichemical giant that’s best known for producing Roundup weed killer. The lawsuits stemmed from evidence that glyphosate, one of the primary ingredients of Monsanto’s Roundup, is actually carcinogenic.

Which means that by marketing Roundup into ubiquity, even pairing it with genetically modified crop seeds allowing farmers to spray the stuff then simply forget about it since it wouldn’t harm the crops. A landmark California Court ruling handed down in 2017 found Bayer liable for the plaintiffs’ cancers, since it now owned Monsanto. The mountain of litigation has weighed on Bayer’s share price ever since, making the Monsanto acquisition one of the biggest blunders in the history of the storied German firm. The two sides have been in negotiations virtually ever since, until two weeks ago, when a majority of the plaintiffs agreed to a $10 billion settlement.

BBG News: “U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria wrote in a court filing Monday that a proposed system for dealing with future lawsuits over the herbicide is problematic. Shares of Bayer, which inherited the weedkiller through its purchase of Monsanto, fell as much as 6.9% in Frankfurt, the most intraday since March 23. The judge’s misgivings center on a plan to create a class of future claims as part of the nearly $11 billion settlement. Any change to that portion of the proposal wouldn’t necessarily affect the rest of the deal, in which the company agreed to resolve about 125,000 existing lawsuits. About 30,000 claims, contending that Roundup caused non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, are not yet subject to deals between plaintiffs and Bayer. Some U.S. plaintiffs’ lawyers are vowing to file another wave of new suits that could add tens of thousands to that total.“

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America at its ugliest.

Purdue Pharma Made Political Contributions After Going Bankrupt (IC)

Last september, Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy after several cities sued the company for its role in creating the opioid crisis. By going bankrupt, it was able to get all litigation stayed; family members of the over 500,000 victims of the opioid crisis are now just creditors in the bankruptcy. The Sackler family — including Jonathan Sackler, a co-owner of Purdue who died Monday — made off with over $10 billion in company funds. Meanwhile, in December, the Democratic Attorneys General Association accepted $25,000 in donations from the company, according to data collected by Political MoneyLine. Several members of the Association are leading the litigation against Purdue.

In January, the Democratic Governors Association, headed by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, accepted $50,000 from Purdue Pharma, as did the Republican Governors Association, headed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Those donations come as states, including New Jersey, California, Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Tennessee, and Vermont, are considering excise taxes on prescription opioids — which would be approved and implemented by governors. While Purdue is not publicly traded and as a result does not have to disclose risk factors to investors, close allies of Purdue, including the Healthcare Distribution Alliance and the lobbying group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, have vocally opposed the taxes.

Fellow pharmaceutical companies Mallinckrodt and Endo International have raised concerns that the taxes could materially affect their bottom line in SEC disclosures. To date just five states — New York, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Maine, and Delaware — have implemented an opioid tax or fee. Adam Levitin, a bankruptcy law professor at Georgetown University, called the donations “astonishing.” “Given the politics of the case, there’s something incredibly brazen about this, such that I’m shocked that Purdue didn’t seek court approval,” Levitin said of the DAGA donation. “That they would give to the Dem AGs, but not the GOP AGs is really problematic given that the most aggressive AGs have been Dems.”

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Simple solution: don’t use TikTok.

Apple Suddenly Catches TikTok Secretly Spying On Millions Of iPhone Users (F.)

As I reported on June 23, Apple has fixed a serious problem in iOS 14, due in the fall, where apps can secretly access the clipboard on users’ devices. Once the new OS is released, users will be warned whenever an app reads the last thing copied to the clipboard. As I warned earlier this year, this is more than a theoretical risk for users, with countless apps already caught abusing their privacy in this way. Worryingly, one of the apps caught snooping by security researchers Talal Haj Bakry and Tommy Mysk was China’s TikTok. Given other security concerns raised about the app, as well as broader worries given its Chinese origins, this became a headline issue. At the time, TikTok owner Bytedance told me the problem related to the use of an outdated Google advertising SDK that was being replaced.


Well, maybe not. With the release of the new clipboard warning in the beta version of iOS 14, now with developers, TikTok seems to have been caught abusing the clipboard in a quite extraordinary way. So it seems that TikTok didn’t stop this invasive practice back in April as promised after all. According to TikTok, the issue is now “triggered by a feature designed to identify repetitive, spammy behavior,” and has told me that it has “already submitted an updated version of the app to the App Store removing the anti-spam feature to eliminate any potential confusion.” In other words: We’ve been caught doing something we shouldn’t, we’ve rushed out a fix. TikTok also told me that the platform “is committed to protecting users’ privacy and being transparent about how our app works.” No comment on that one. TikTok added that it “looks forward to welcoming outside experts to our Transparency Center later this year.”

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All US sports teams need to be renamed.

Madness of Political Correctness (Pelerin)

The madness of political correctness is mocked in this e-mail sent to Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune after an article he published concerning a name change for the Washington Redskins. The author is unknown but perceptive, clever and sarcastic:. Dear Mr. Page: I agree with our Native American population. I am highly jilted by the racially charged name of the Washington Redskins. One might argue that to name a professional football team after Native Americans would exalt them as fine warriors, but nay, nay. We must be careful not to offend, and in the spirit of political correctness and courtesy, we must move forward. Let’s ditch the Kansas City Chiefs, the Atlanta Braves and the Cleveland Indians. If your shorts are in a wad because of the reference the name Redskins makes to skin color, then we need to get rid of the Cleveland Browns. The Carolina Panthers obviously were named to keep the memory of militant Blacks from the 60’s alive. Gone. It’s offensive to us white folk.


The New York Yankees offend the Southern population. Do you see a team named for the Confederacy? No! There is no room for any reference to that tragic war that cost this country so many young men’s lives. I am also offended by the blatant references to the Catholic religion among our sports team names. Totally inappropriate to have the New Orleans Saints, the Los Angeles Angels or the San Diego Padres. Then there are the team names that glorify criminals who raped and pillaged. We are talking about the horrible Oakland Raiders, the Minnesota Vikings, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Pittsburgh Pirates! Now, let us address those teams that clearly send the wrong message to our children. The San Diego Chargers promote irresponsible fighting or even spending habits. Wrong message to our children.

The New York Giants and the San Francisco Giants promote obesity, a growing childhood epidemic. Wrong message to our children. The Cincinnati Reds promote downers/barbiturates. Wrong message to our children. The Milwaukee Brewers. Well that goes without saying. Wrong message to our children. So, there you go. We need to support any legislation that comes out to rectify this travesty, because the government will likely become involved with this issue, as they should. Just the kind of thing the do-nothing Congress loves. As a die-hard Oregon State fan, my wife and I, with all of this in mind, suggest it might also make some sense to change the name of the Oregon State women’s athletic teams to something other than “the Beavers” (especially when they play Southern California). Do we really want the Trojans sticking it to the Beavers? I always love your articles and I generally agree with them. As for the Redskins name, I would suggest they change the name to the “Foreskins” to better represent their community, paying tribute to the dick heads in Washington DC.

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Apparently the prison in Brooklyn is a horror.

Ghislaine Maxwell Arraignment Scheduled For July 14 (R.)

Ghislaine Maxwell, the former associate of Jeffrey Epstein, will be arraigned on July 14 on charges of luring underage girls so that the financier, now dead, could abuse them, according to a court order issued Tuesday evening. Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan federal court said a bail hearing would be held at 1 pm EST that day via video conference. Maxwell, 58, arrived at the federal Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn on Monday. She was arrested on July 2 at a mansion in New Hampshire, where investigators said she had been lying low. Prosecutors said Maxwell groomed girls so Epstein abuse them at lavish homes in Palm Beach, Florida; New Mexico and Manhattan.


Epstein was awaiting trial on federal charges of trafficking minors between 2002 and 2005 when he was found hanged in a federal facility in Manhattan in August. Medical examiners concluded his death was a suicide. Nathan said on Tuesday that to optimize video quality, only the judge, Maxwell, her lawyer and a prosecutor would appear on video at the hearing. The judge said others could access audio of the hearing by telephone. Maxwell faces up to 35 years in prison.

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It was always about blackmail. But how useful is that to her at this point?

Ghislaine Maxwell ‘Has Secret Stash Of Epstein Sex Tapes’ (DM)

Ghislaine Maxwell has a secret stash of Jeffrey Epstein’s twisted sex tapes and will use the footage as an insurance policy to save herself, a former friend exclusively revealed to DailyMail.com. Maxwell, 58, was arrested at her hideout in Bradford, New Hampshire last Thursday. She was charged with six federal crimes, including enticement of minors, sex trafficking and perjury. The British socialite was arguably Epstein’s closest friend and she is alleged to have acted as his madam, accused of securing underage girls for the multi-millionaire, who reportedly kept evidence of his perverted sex acts against the minors. When officials raided Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse after his arrest last July, they found thousands of graphic photos that included images of underage girls and a safe filled with compact discs labeled ‘nude girls’, according to authorities.

Maxwell’s former friend explained: ‘Ghislaine has always been as cunning as they come. She wasn’t going to be with Epstein all those years and not have some insurance. ‘The secret stash of sex tapes I believe Ghislaine has squirreled away could end up being her get out of jail card if the authorities are willing to trade. She has copies of everything Epstein had. They could implicate some twisted movers and shakers.’ They added: ‘If Ghislaine goes down, she’s going to take the whole damn lot of them with her.’ The former friend continued: ‘Not only did Epstein like to capture himself with underage girls on camera – he wanted to make sure he had something to hold over the rich and powerful men who took advantage of his sick largesse.’

‘I’ll bet anything that once it comes out that Ghislaine has those tapes these men will be quaking in their Italian leather boots. ‘Ghislaine made sure that she socked away thumb drives of it all. She knows where all the bodies are buried and she’ll use whatever she had to save her own a**.’ The day after Epstein’s suicide last August, the New York Times published an account by journalist James B. Stewart who had interviewed Epstein in August 2018. In the course of their conversation, Epstein told Stewart he had filed away dirt on his famous house guests, ‘some of it potentially damaging or embarrassing, including details about their supposed sexual proclivities and recreational drug use’. Maxwell’s next court appearance is on Friday in New York. She is currently being held without bail.

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Dec 172019
 


Dorothea Lange “Men on ‘Skid Row’, Modesto, California” 1937

 

Boeing Crisis Escalates As Planemaker Halts 737 Production (R.)
Judge Denies Flynn’s Requests for Exculpatory Information, Case Dismissal (ET)
What Everyone is Missing About the Afghanistan Papers (TMU)
Chinese Crypto Scammers Helped Inspire Recent Bitcoin Market Carnage (ZH)
College Enrollment Skids 8th Year in a Row, But Student Loans Skyrocket (WS)
Erdogan Threatens To Recognise Killings Of Native Americans As Genocide (Ind.)
Kudlow: US-China Deal ‘Absolutely’ Done, US Exports To China Will Double (R.)
Sacklers Took $11 Billion Out Of Purdue Pharma As Opioid Crisis Worsened (AP)
Assange Extradition Fight Could Turn On Reports He Was Spied On For CIA (G.)
Doctors Ask Government To Evacuate Assange To An Australian Hospital (SMH)

 

 

Almost no Russia/Ukrainegate today! Just a little Michael Flynn.

We’ll havt to do with Boeing, which suspended its production of … what exactly. Below is a Reuters article which I picked up late yesterday. Ita talks about 737 production being suspended, not just 737 MAX. At that same URL, a different headline and article today, which says:

Boeing’s 737 Crisis Deepens As Production Stops For First Time In Two Decades
Boeing Co said on Monday it would suspend production of its best-selling 737 MAX jetliner in January, its biggest assembly-line halt in more than 20 years, as fallout from two fatal crashes of the now-grounded aircraft drags into 2020.

Not sure what this means. Did they cut only MAX, or all models? Or was MAX the only model they were still producing? There is one other model: “Boeing said it will continue P8 production of the military version of the 737.”

Boeing Crisis Escalates As Planemaker Halts 737 Production (R.)

Boeing Co is temporarily halting 737 production in January for the first time in more than 20 years as the grounding of the planemaker’s best-selling MAX after two fatal crashes looks set to last well into 2020. Boeing, which builds the 737 south of Seattle, said it will not lay off any employees during the production freeze, though the move could have repercussions across its global supply chain and the U.S. economy. The decision, made by Boeing’s board after a two-day meeting in Chicago, follows news last week that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would not approve the plane’s return to service before 2020.


[..] Until now Boeing has continued to produce 737 MAX jets at a rate of 42 per month and purchase parts from suppliers at a rate of up to 52 units per month, even though deliveries are frozen until regulators approve the aircraft to fly commercially again. Halting production will ease a severe squeeze on cash tied up in roughly 375 undelivered planes, but only at the risk of causing industrial problems when Boeing tries to return to normal, industry sources said. Supply chains are already under strain due to record demand and abrupt changes in factory speed can cause snags. In 1997, Boeing announced a hit of $2.6 billion including hundreds of millions to deal with factory inefficiencies after it was forced to suspend output of its 737 and 747 lines due to supply chain problems. Boeing said it will continue P8 production of the military version of the 737.

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A judge refusing access to evidence for the lawyer of an accused is always suspicious. And will be overruled by a next court. Flynn said he didn’t discuss -or didn’t recall it because he talked with so many people at the time- Obama’s expulsion of Russian diplomats in late December 2016, with Kislyak. He did tell him Russia should lay low until Trump became president. It was his job at the time to talk to people. The judge says the FBI had “sufficient and appropriate basis” to interview Flynn because the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign. But that is the same basis that Horowitz has called into serious question.

Judge Denies Flynn’s Requests for Exculpatory Information, Case Dismissal (ET)

A federal judge has denied requests by Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to prompt the government to give him information he deems exculpatory and to dismiss the case against him. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan sided with the government in arguing that Flynn was already given all the information to which he was entitled. The judge also dismissed Flynn’s allegations of government misconduct, noting that Flynn already pleaded guilty to his crime and failed to raise his objections earlier when some of the issues he now complains about were brought to his attention. “The sworn statements of Mr. Flynn and his former counsel belie his new claims of innocence and his new assertions that he was pressured into pleading guilty,” Sullivan said in his Dec. 16 opinion.

Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, pleaded guilty on Nov. 30, 2017, to one count of lying to the FBI. He’s been expected to receive a light sentence, including no prison time, after extensively cooperating with the government on multiple investigations. In June, he fired his lawyers and hired former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell, who has since accused the government of misconduct, particularly of withholding exculpatory information or providing it late. Powell has argued that Flynn’s previous lawyers had a conflict of interest because they testified in a related case against Flynn’s former business partner. Flynn had previously told the court he would keep the lawyers despite the conflict, but Powell said prosecutors should have asked the judge to dismiss the lawyers anyway.

Sullivan disagreed, saying Flynn failed to show a precedent that the prosecutors had that obligation. Powell also said the government had no proper reason to investigate Flynn in the first place and that it had set up an “ambush interview” with the intention of making Flynn say something it could allege was false. Sullivan disagreed again and said that previously, with the advice of his former lawyers, Flynn never “challenged the conditions of his FBI interview.”

The prosecutors argued that the FBI had a “sufficient and appropriate basis” for the interview because Flynn days earlier told members of the Trump campaign, including soon-to-be Vice President Mike Pence, that he didn’t discuss with the Russian ambassador the expulsion of Russian diplomats in late December 2016 by then-President Barack Obama. Flynn later admitted in his statement of offense that he asked, via Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak, for Russia to only respond to the sanctions in a reciprocal manner and not escalate the situation. The FBI was at the time investigating whether Trump campaign aides coordinated with Russian 2016 election meddling.

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Where is the outrage? h/t Tyler

What Everyone is Missing About the Afghanistan Papers (TMU)

If you need more proof that lawmakers in the U.S. couldn’t care less about America’s woeful commitment to human rights abroad—or even care about the public who vote them into office—look no further than the recent Afghanistan papers and the reaction to the publications from Congress. According to the Washington Post, the outlet had obtained 2,000 pages of notes from interviews with more than 400 generals, diplomats, and other officials directly involved in the war. The documents showed that U.S. officials were lying about the progress being made in Afghanistan, lacked a basic understanding of Afghanistan, were hiding unmistakable evidence that the war had become unwinnable, and wasted close to $1 trillion in the process.

Barely a few hours following the Post’s publication, Congress rewarded the Pentagon for its stellar efforts with a $22 billion budget increase. How can we as a society justify this? One stand-out statistic—among the many concerning ones—is the fact that before the U.S. invasion the Taliban had almost completely put to bed Afghanistan’s illicit opium trade. Since the U.S. invasion, combined with $9 billion in U.S. funding for anti-opium programs, the Taliban is not only stronger than it ever was but sits cemented in a country that now supplies 80 percent of the world’s opium. I can’t help but think this was done on purpose.

Still, it would be worth re-thinking our outrage over the Afghanistan papers and determining what exactly it is we are outraged about. Are we simply angry because top U.S. officials lied to us about the fact they weren’t winning the war, making it a less worthwhile venture? If the U.S. were winning the war, spending $1 trillion in the process, killing record numbers of civilians, ramping up night raids to terrorize local populations, committing war crimes left right and center, would that suddenly make it all okay? As long as the war is being won, right? The truth is, like most wars the U.S. finds itself prosecuting; this was yet another war based entirely on lies and misconceptions—right from the outset.

As Marjorie Cohn, professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and president of the National Lawyers Guild famously said: “The UN Charter is a treaty ratified by the United States and thus part of U.S. law. Under the charter, a country can use armed force against another country only in self-defense or when the Security Council approves. Neither of those conditions was met before the United States invaded Afghanistan. The Taliban did not attack us on 9/11. Nineteen men—15 from Saudi Arabia—did, and there was no imminent threat that Afghanistan would attack the U.S. or another UN member country. The council did not authorize the United States or any other country to use military force against Afghanistan. The U.S. war in Afghanistan is illegal.” If that was the case in 2001, how this war has continued for close to another two decades begins to beggar belief.

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Below $7,000.

Chinese Crypto Scammers Helped Inspire Recent Bitcoin Market Carnage (ZH)

If you’re hoping to make money shorting bitcoin this holiday season, you might be in luck: Analysts say the price of a bitcoin is set to fall even further as the perpetrators of a massive Chinese crypto scheme dump their ill-gotten gains. Several of the participants in the $2 billion PlusToken scheme are dumping crypto from anonymous accounts. The sales are believed to be the reason fro bitcoin’s 50% drop since its peak in late June, which was around the time that some of the perpetrators of PlusToken were arrested in China. Unfortunately, Chinese authorities didn’t manage to nab them all, and a team of analysts at the blockchain consultancy Chainalysis are warning that the fallout isn’t over yet, according to Bloomberg.

“The largest cryptocurrency is likely to remain under pressure as perpetrators of the estimated more than $2 billion PlusToken scandal dump coins to cash out, the New York-based firm said Monday in the wake of a five-month investigation that continues to track the tokens as they filter through various blockchain ledgers. Bitcoin has tumbled almost 50% from its 2019 peak in late June, when Chinese authorities arrested multiple suspects in the pyramid scheme that promised returns as high as 600% and guaranteed that investors would be rewarded for inviting new members. Since that time, market observers have often pointed to possible sales tied to PlusToken suspects not in custody as one of many reasons for price declines.”

According to Chainalysis, PlusToken conspirators have already sold 25,000 bitcoins, and it’s believed another 20,000 (worth nearly $142 million at current prices). The coins are spread across some 8,700 anonymous bitcoin wallets.

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Fewer students, more debt. Number of male students plummets much faster than female. Does this look healthy to you?

College Enrollment Skids 8th Year in a Row, But Student Loans Skyrocket (WS)

With college costs blowing through the roof, with “luxury student housing” and not so luxury “student housing” having become asset classes – including, of course, CMBS, now in rough waters – for global investors, with textbook publishers gouging students to the nth degree, and with the monetary value of higher education questioned in more and more corners, the inevitable happened once again: College enrollment dropped for the eighth year in a row. The post-secondary student headcount – undergraduate and graduate students combined – in the fall semester of 2019 fell 1.3% from the fall semester last year, or by over 231,000 students to 17.97 million students, according to the Student Clearing House today. In the fall of 2011, the peak year, 20.14 million students had been enrolled. Since then, enrollment has dropped by 10.8%, or by 2.17 million students:

This is based on enrollment data submitted to the Student Clearing House by the schools. It does not include international students, which account for just under 5% of total student enrollment in the US. Duplicate headcounts – one student enrolled in two institutions – are removed from the data to eliminate double-counting. The 10.8% decline in enrollment since 2011 comes even as student loan balances have surged 74% over the same period, from $940 billion to $1.64 trillion:

[..] Women by far outnumbered men in total enrollment in the fall semester of 2019 with 10.63 million women enrolled and just 7.61 million men, meaning that overall there are now 40% more women in college than men: • At public four-year schools, there were 30% more women (4.51 million) than men (3.48 million) • At private non-profit four-year schools, there were 50% more women (2.32 million) than men (1.54 million) • At private for-profit four-year schools, there were more than twice as many woman (508,000) than men (241,000). • At public two-year schools, there were 38% more women (3.11 million) than men (2.26 million). Over the past three years, enrollment has declined for both men and women, but faster for men (-5.2%) than for women (-1.4%). Since 2011, enrollment has declined by 13% for men and by 9.4% for women.

Read more …

Estimates vary, but it appears that Europe’s total population in 1500 was some 60 million. North America’s was 50 million.

Erdogan Threatens To Recognise Killings Of Native Americans As Genocide (Ind.)

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to recognise the killing of Native Americans at the hand of European settlers in a tit-for-tat attack on Washington’s decision to rebuke Ankara for the Armenian genocide. The US Senate voted in favour of recognising the genocide last week, a move initially stalled by Republicans at the urging of Donald Trump – who had been due to meet with the Turkish leader at the time. However, with the bill now passed, Mr Erdogan has threatened to respond by recognising US killings of Native Americans – saying the deaths of millions of indigenous people at the hands of European settlers should also be viewed as a genocide.

Speaking on the pro-government A Haber news channel, he said: “We should oppose [the US] by reciprocating such decisions in parliament. And that is what we will do. “Can we speak about America without mentioning [Native Americans]? It is a shameful moment in US history” Around 1.5 million ethnic Armenians were killed by modern-day Turkey’s predecessor, the Ottoman Empire, in the early 20th century. But Turkey denies the killings amounted to genocide, instead marking up the deaths of Armenians and Turks as the consequences of the ongoing war. It claims a lower death toll of hundreds of thousands. While the ramifications of the US legislation are largely symbolic, its timing and the targeting of a sore spot for the Turkish state have been seen by many as a direct challenge to the Middle Eastern country’s foreign policy.

A University College London team estimates that 55 million indigenous people died following the conquest of the Americas that began at the end of the 15th century. The majority of these deaths are believed to have been caused by disease – with indigenous people unable to build immunities to diseases that had never previously crossed over the Atlantic to the Americas. War, slavery and displacement also contributed to the decline of indigenous populations.

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Yes, Larry. Of course, Larry.

Kudlow: US-China Deal ‘Absolutely’ Done, US Exports To China Will Double (R.)

The so-called Phase One trade deal between Washington and Beijing has been “absolutely completed,” a top White House adviser said on Monday, adding that U.S. exports to China will double under the agreement. “They’re … going to double our exports to China,” National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told Fox News Channel. Under the trade agreement announced last week, Washington will reduce some tariffs on Chinese imports in exchange for Chinese purchases of agricultural, manufactured and energy products increasing by about $200 billion over the next two years.


While U.S. officials have touted the deal, Chinese officials have been more cautious, emphasizing that the trade dispute has not been completely settled. “Make no mistake about it: the deal is done, the deal is completed,” Kudlow later told reporters at the White House. “The deal is absolutely completed.” Asked if officials still planned to sign the deal the first week of January, Kudlow said: “That’s the hope.” Translations were still being worked out but he did not expect any changes to the final Phase One agreement, he added.

Read more …

“The Sacklers pocketed billions of dollars from Purdue while thousands of people died from their addictive drugs. This is the very definition of ill-gotten gains..”

“The company says the family may back out if lawsuits against family members are allowed to proceed.”

Put them in jail pending trial.

Sacklers Took $11 Billion Out Of Purdue Pharma As Opioid Crisis Worsened (AP)

The wealthy owners of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma started taking far more money out of the company after it was fined for misleading marketing of the powerful prescription painkiller. A court filing made by the company Monday evening shows Purdue made payments totaling $10.7 billion from 2008 through 2017 for the benefit of members of the Sackler family who own the company. That includes taxes and other payments. Family members received $4.1 billion in cash over that period. By contrast, distributions for the benefit of family members from 1995 through 2007 totaled $1.3 billion. The total amount family members received from the company was made public in an October filing, but the new report offers new details on when the money was distributed.

“Today’s report confirms what we revealed in our lawsuit: The Sacklers pocketed billions of dollars from Purdue while thousands of people died from their addictive drugs. This is the very definition of ill-gotten gains,” Massachusetts’ Maura Healey, the first attorney general to sue Sackler family members, said in a statement. The Sacklers’ wealth has received intense scrutiny from Healey and 23 other states’ attorneys general, who are objecting to a plan to settle about 2,700 lawsuits against Purdue over the toll of opioids, including those filed by nearly every state.

The objecting attorneys general say that the settlement does not do enough to hold the family accountable for an opioid crisis linked to more than 400,000 deaths in the U.S. since 2000. The settlement calls for the family to contribute at least $3 billion in cash over time and give up control of the company. In all, the plan could be worth up to $12 billion over time. But the offer comes with a major catch: The company says the family may back out if lawsuits against family members are allowed to proceed. They are all on hold for now as the company’s settlement efforts play out in bankruptcy court.

Read more …

The Guardian reporting on Assange. Forever tainted.

Assange Extradition Fight Could Turn On Reports He Was Spied On For CIA (G.)

Julian Assange’s fight against extradition to the US could last years, and his argument could hinge on reports he has been illegally spied upon and his sensitive information given to the CIA. Meanwhile, more than 100 doctors from across the world have written to the Australian government, urging it to act and “protect the life of its citizen”, in a letter to be delivered to the foreign affairs minister on Tuesday, amid warnings Assange’s health continues to deteriorate. A judicial investigation by the Audiencia Nacional in Spain, the country’s national court, is acting on allegations that while Assange held asylum inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, the Wikileaks founder was spied on, listened to and had his computer data scraped and that this information was sold to US intelligence agencies.

Speaking to the International Law Association in Sydney, Guy Goodwin-Gill, a professor of law at the University of New South Wales who has provided advice on asylum issues to the Assange legal team, said Assange’s fight against extradition would be a long contest and that allegations he was being spied on would likely form part of legal arguments he could not receive a fair trial in the US. Assange is currently being held in London’s Belmarsh prison, ahead of an extradition hearing that will begin in February. A US grand jury has indicted him on 18 charges – 17 of which fall under the Espionage Act – around conspiracy to receive, obtaining and disclosing classified diplomatic and military documents.

[..] medical doctors have banded together to urge authorities to halt any extradition plans, as well as urgently release him for medical care outside of the prison. “That we, as doctors, feel ethically compelled to hold governments to account on medical grounds speaks volumes about the gravity of the medical, ethical and human rights travesties that are taking place,” their letter, seen by the Guardian, states. “It is an extremely serious matter for an Australian citizen’s survival to be endangered by a foreign government obstructing his human right to health. It is an even more serious matter for that citizen’s own government to refuse to intervene, against historical precedent and numerous converging lines of medical advice.”

A group of Australian MPs from across party lines have gathered to discuss what can be done for Assange, with hopes of meeting with him in Belmarsh ahead of his extradition hearing.

Read more …

You’ve had many years to do this. Where were you?

Doctors Ask Government To Evacuate Assange To An Australian Hospital (SMH)

A group of doctors has asked Foreign Minister Marise Payne to evacuate Julian Assange to an Australian hospital amid claims the WikiLeaks founder’s health is rapidly deteriorating and that he “might die” in a London prison. Detailing allegations of “psychological torture” inflicted on Assange during efforts to extradite the 48-year-old to the United States, 100 medical doctors have urged Senator Payne and Prime Minister Scott Morrison to intervene. “It is an extremely serious matter for an Australian citizen’s survival to be endangered by a foreign government obstructing his human right to health,” the doctors say in a letter.

“It is an even more serious matter for that citizen’s own government to refuse to intervene, against historical precedent and numerous converging lines of medical advice. “Should Mr Assange die in a British prison, people will want to know what you, minister, did to prevent his death.” While the Australian government is highly unlikely to ask the UK government for permission to bring Assange home, there are concerns within some members of the Coalition about the asserted deterioration of his health in the months since he has been imprisoned in Belmarsh Prison on the outskirts of London. Doctors have said Assange is suffering from depression, dental issues and a serious shoulder ailment.

[..] “The term psychological torture is not a synonym for mere hardship, suffering or distress,” they said. “Psychological torture involves extreme mental, emotional and physical harm, which over time causes severe damage and disintegration of a number of critical psychological functions, involving emotions, cognitions, identity and interpersonal functioning.” They warned the physical effects of psychological torture caused susceptibility to a range of illnesses and diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. “The potentially fatal medical consequences of prolonged psychological torture are inherently unpredictable, and could strike at any time. Accordingly, no doctor, no matter how senior, can offer any legitimate assurances regarding Julian Assange’s survival or medical stability while he continues to be held in Belmarsh Prison.”

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Oct 062019
 
 October 6, 2019  Posted by at 10:14 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  15 Responses »


Paul Gauguin Cow on the seashore 1886

 

Powell: Fed’s Job To Keep Economy In A ‘Good Place As Long As Possible’ (CNBC)
Auto Imports From Mexico Surge As US Sales Decline (WS)
The Ukraine Affair Is Damning, All Right – Just Not In The Way You Think (RT)
Trump Told Theresa May He Doubted Russia Was Behind Skripal Poisoning (G.)
US Media Now Filled With Former Intelligence Agents (Rania Khalek)
Hong Kong Democrats To Challenge Mask Ban In Court (HKFP)
Hong Kong Mask Ban Spurs New Mass Protest On Sunday (BBC)
Epstein Victim Says Leslie Wexner “Responsible For What Happened To Me” (Hill)
24 State Attorneys General Launch Legal Challenge Against Purdue Pharma (Hill)

 

 

This is so incredibly stupid and nobody calls him out over it.

Powell: Fed’s Job To Keep Economy In A ‘Good Place As Long As Possible’ (CNBC)

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell described the U.S. economy on Friday as being solid, noting the central bank must do what it can to keep it there. “While not everyone fully shares economic opportunities and the economy faces some risks, overall it is— as I like to say— in a good place,” Powell said in prepared remarks delivered at a “Fed Listens” event in Washington. The event is part of a monetary policy communication review by the Fed. “Our job is to keep it there as long as possible.” Powell’s comments came after a raft of disappointing data releases this week. On Tuesday, the Institute for Supply Management said U.S. manufacturing contracted to its weakest level in a decade.


The ISM also said Thursday that the U.S. services sector grew at its slowest pace since August 2016. The Labor Department, meanwhile, reported weaker-than-expected jobs growth for September. This batch of weaker-than-forecast economic numbers led traders to ratchet up their bets on easier monetary policy from the Fed. Market expectations for a rate cut later this month are around 80%, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch tool. “While we believe our strategy and tools have been and remain effective, the U.S. economy, like other advanced economies around the world, is facing some longer-term challenges—from low growth, low inflation, and low interest rates,” Powell said, adding the Fed is “examining strategies” that will help it achieve its inflation goal of 2%.

Read more …

Something ain’t happening.

Auto Imports From Mexico Surge As US Sales Decline (WS)

Automakers continue to shift their production base from the U.S. to Mexico, where labor costs pale in comparison with those in the U.S., despite growing opposition from U.S. auto workers and their unions. U.S. imports of new vehicles from Mexico surged by 8% in the first three quarters of 2019, according to the auto manufacturers association AIMA, released by Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI). This surge has occurred even as total deliveries of vehicles to end-users in the US fell by 1.6%. Between January and September 2019, 2.03 million new vehicles were dispatched from assembly plants in Mexico to the U.S. market, 158,000 more than during the first three quarters of 2018.


In the last eight years, auto imports from Mexico have almost doubled, from 1.3 million in 2011 to 2.57 million last year, at annual growth rates of between 6.3% and 13.9%. Barring any major supply chain hiccups, the U.S. is on track to import over 2.7 million new vehicles from Mexico this year. The latest figures cement Mexico’s position as number one exporter of automobiles to the US, ahead of Canada in second place. According to AIMA, 16% of the 12.7 million cars and other light vehicles delivered in the U.S. in the first three quarters of 2019 were assembled in Mexico.

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Nebojsa Malic, senior writer at RT: “It’s curious how the same treatment was not given a few months ago to the anti-Trump text messages of FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page..”

The Ukraine Affair Is Damning, All Right – Just Not In The Way You Think (RT)

Democrats say texts and transcripts involving US officials dealing with Ukraine prove President Donald Trump should be impeached. What they actually confirm, however, is the extent to which the US treats Ukraine as a vassal. At the heart of the latest media firestorm are the text messages between US diplomats and Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. House Democrats seeking to impeach Trump have already sent a subpoena to the White House seeking more documents, and their allies in the media have proclaimed the texts to be “damning.” Much of the brouhaha centers on messages from Bill Taylor, charge d’affaires at the US Embassy in Kiev, who is the only one to suggest the military aid to Ukraine and President Volodymyr Zelensky’s meeting with Trump are being “conditioned” on investigations of Hunter Biden and Ukraine’s role in 2016 meddling in the US election.

In one of the exchanges with US ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, dated September 9, Taylor spells out what would become the Democrats’ argument for impeachment: “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” Sondland’s admonishment of Taylor – “I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo’s of any kind.” – is somehow being held up as an admission of wrongdoing, along with his request for a phone call instead of continued texts. Just like that, all of a sudden, the controversy about the so-called “whistleblower” who may have colluded with House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff (D-California) before filing his complaint – based on hearsay – is declared “irrelevant” and the texts are held up as the Holy Grail of impeachment proceedings.

It’s curious how the same treatment was not given a few months ago to the anti-Trump text messages of FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, when the entire media establishment twisted itself into pretzels to explain that when Strzok said “we’ll stop” Trump from becoming president what he really meant, you see, was something totally innocuous and not sinister at all. House Republicans have blasted the diplomatic texts as “cherry-picked” by the other party, and argued that the closed-doors testimony of Kurt Volker, former US special envoy to Ukraine who participated in the exchanges, painted a completely different picture. Reading the transcript of Volker’s opening statement, obtained and published Friday by investigative reporter John Solomon and the Federalist, seems to back that claim.

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Sacrilege. BTW, where is Skripal? Hiding out with Wexner and Maxwell?

Trump Told Theresa May He Doubted Russia Was Behind Skripal Poisoning (G.)

Donald Trump disputed that Russia was behind the attempted murder of a former Russian spy in a tense call with Theresa May, it has emerged. Despite the widespread conclusion that Vladimir Putin’s regime was behind the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia last year, the US president is said to have spent 10 minutes expressing his doubts about Russian involvement. According to the Washington Post, Trump “harangued” May about Britain’s contribution to Nato in a phone call with Britain’s then prime minister in the summer of last year, before disputing Russian involvement in the Skripal case.


“Trump totally bought into the idea there was credible doubt about the poisoning,” said a figure briefed on the call. “A solid 10 minutes of the conversation is spent with May saying it’s highly likely and him saying he’s not sure.” The Skripals were left fighting for their lives after the novichok attack in Salisbury, while a policeman was also left seriously ill. A second policeman was recently discovered to have been injured in the attack. Two Russian agents, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, were identified as the likely culprits. However, they later appeared on Russia’s state-funded TV station RT, claiming they visited the “wonderful” English city as tourists to see its cathedral.

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Any day now, CNN can start a spook soccer team.

US Media Now Filled With Former Intelligence Agents (Rania Khalek)

After years in the shadows overseeing espionage, kill programs, warrantless wiretapping, entrapment, psyops and other covert operations, national security establishment retirees are are turning to a new line of work where they can carry out their imperial duties. That is, propagandizing the public on cable news. Reborn as cable news pundits, these people are cashing in. So many years working in the dark, only to emerge in the studio lights of the same networks that rail all day everyday against state TV from countries that America hates. I’m talking about people like… Below is but a partial list of prominent former spooks turned mainstream media pundits and analysts, to say nothing of the even greater numbers of retired generals the network continuously rely on.

• Former CIA Director John Brennan who is now an NBC News senior national security and intelligence analyst.
• Fran Townsend, former homeland security advisor to George W. Bush. She’s now a CBS News senior national security analyst.

But CNN takes the cake — it’s the biggest spook show of all.
• Jim Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence, now a CNN national security analyst.
• Retired General Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and the NSA, now a CNN national security analyst.
• Asha Rangappa, former FBI special agent, now CNN legal analyst.
• James Gagliano, a retired FBI supervisory special agent, now a CNN law enforcement analyst.
• Tony Bliken, former deputy secretary of state and former deputy national security advisor, and now CNN global affairs analyst.
• Mike Rogers, former chair of the House Intelligence Committee, now CNN national security commentator.
• Samantha Vinograd senior advisor to the national security advisor under President Obama, now CNN national security analyst.
• Steven Hall, retired CIA chief of Russia operations, now a CNN national security analyst.
• Philip Mudd, former CIA counter-terrorism official, now CNN counter-terrorism analyst.

…Welcome to the spook show!

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Kyle Bass on Twitter: “Bank runs all over Hong Kong now. ATM machines running out of cash but there is something more important…failed leader carrie lam(b) can now officially confiscate bank accounts and assets without recourse. The HK legal system is essentially gone.”

Challenge was already thrown out by the High Court in the meantime.

Hong Kong Democrats To Challenge Mask Ban In Court (HKFP)

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy lawmakers will challenge the newly imposed mask ban in court, arguing that Chief Executive Carrie Lam broke the law when she bypassed the legislature. Filed jointly by all 24 democrats, the lawsuit targeted the Emergency Regulations Ordinance (ERO) – the colonial-era law that grants the city’s leader and her council of advisors wide-ranging powers to “make regulations on occasions of emergency or public danger.” Democrats called for the mask ban to be suspended, before a proper judicial review hearing can be held. The court will hear their first round of arguments at Sunday 10am.


The lawmakers said that Lam “circumvented” the constitutional framework of One Country, Two Systems when she invoked the ERO to ban facial coverings at legal and unauthorised protests from Saturday. “Since the Handover, there has never been an occasion when the chief executive enacted legislation without going through LegCo,” said Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok. On Friday, the High Court dismissed a bid by activists Lester Shum and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung to suspend the law, saying that their case was not strong enough to outweigh the government’s rationale. Kwok said that the democrats’ lawsuit was different, as they had special standing as lawmakers to make constitutional arguments.

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Lam: “We cannot allow rioters any more to destroy our treasured Hong Kong.”

That is HER treasured HK, not THEIRS?

Hong Kong Mask Ban Spurs New Mass Protest On Sunday (BBC)

Thousands of anti-government protesters have turned out for marches in Hong Kong despite pouring rain, spurred into action by a government ban on masks. Many defiantly covered their faces as they set off from several points in a co-ordinated response to the ban, which the High Court upheld on Sunday. Metro services, which were attacked by rioters on Friday, have resumed in some parts of the Chinese city. The masks have become the latest focus in months of pro-democracy protests. Police use of live bullets against protesters this week, leaving two people injured, has also fuelled the unrest. Chief executive Carrie Lam introduced the ban by invoking powers dating back to colonial rule by the British.

Demonstrators fear that democratic rights are being eroded in the semi-autonomous territory under Chinese rule. Many more people have turned out than on Saturday, when a small march was held in the aftermath of Friday’s rioting. Two groups set off at the same time from the Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui districts, the South China Morning Post reports. Shops could be seen closing early while luxury and chain stores were closed in Causeway Bay. On Friday, both businesses and railway stations were attacked by rioters. Hosun Lee, a protester in Causeway Bay, told AFP news agency he feared more emergency laws were on the way. “The anti-face mask law is the first step,” he said.

Ms Lam vowed on Saturday to prevent further violence, saying: “We cannot allow rioters any more to destroy our treasured Hong Kong.” She justified the law against masks as a response to the demonstrators’ “extreme violence” which was, she said, endangering Hong Kong’s public safety. A second legal challenge to the mask ban, which was brought by opposition legislators, was rejected by the High Court. The legislators had argued that the prohibition was unconstitutional because it denied the rights of free expression and free assembly.

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Wexner is walking around free, as is Ghislaine. Not sure about Skripal.

Epstein Victim Says Leslie Wexner “Responsible For What Happened To Me” (Hill)

A woman allegedly attacked by Jeffrey Epstein said she holds Victoria’s Secret billionaire Leslie Wexner “responsible for what happened to me” because she was staying on a property monitored by Wexner and his wife and guarded by his security team, the Washington Post reported. Maria Farmer stayed in a home that was a half-mile away from Wexner’s home in New Albany, Ohio during the summer of 1996 while she was creating two paintings for the film “As Good as it Gets.” Farmer was employed by Jeffrey Epstein at the time, and while she was staying in the house in Ohio, she alleges that Epstein and his associate Ghislaine Maxwell sexually assaulted her.


When she tried to leave the home after the alleged assault, Farmer said a security guard employed by Wexner told her “You aren’t leaving,” and “You’re not going anywhere.” She said another security guard later took her by the arm, and as she fought against him, he grabbed her so hard she bruised. Farmer said she also tried to call local police and the Franklin County Sheriff’s office. But Wexner had contracted with the office, and a person told her “we work for Wexner,” when she tried to report the crime, Farmer told the Washington Post. She also alleged that she was discouraged from leaving the house without the permission of Abigail Wexler, Leslie Wexler’s wife. She was later picked up by her father at the Washington home.

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“..Purdue gave up to $13 billion in company profits to the Sackler family.”

24 State Attorneys General Launch Legal Challenge Against Purdue Pharma (Hill)

US Attorneys General from 24 states and Washington, D.C. launched a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma this week in an attempt to block the OxyContin maker from avoiding thousands of lawsuits after filing for bankruptcy, Reuters reported. The state officials objected to Purdue Pharma’s request that a U.S. bankruptcy judge block the more than 2,600 lawsuits seeking billions in damages, according to court filings, Reuters reported. The lawsuits argue that the company, along with the Sackler family, were a catalyst in the opioid crisis across the country by not disclosing the addictive risks of opioids. “The Sacklers are billionaires, they are not bankrupt,” the Massachusetts attorney general, Maura Healey, told Reuters.


“They should not be allowed to use the filing to shield their assets.” Purdue filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy last month, after reaching a settlement between $10 billion and $12 billion for the thousands of plaintiffs involved in the lawsuits. The committee of attorneys who negotiated the settlement said the filing will not stop the company from finalizing the settlement. But Purdue sought the injunction to stop the lawsuits against the company because the Sackler family did not file for bankruptcy, Reuters reported. The Sacklers have offered to give control of Purdue to the plaintiffs and give at least $3 billion towards the settlement. The case filed this week by the state attorneys general also said Purdue gave up to $13 billion in company profits to the Sackler family.

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Feb 112018
 
 February 11, 2018  Posted by at 11:23 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh Peach trees in blossom 1888

 

What Crushed Stocks? (WS)
Test Of Nerve For Markets As 10 Years Of Cheap Money Come To An End (G.)
Market Tests Millennial Traders Who’ve Never Seen A Crash (BBG)
Bond-Stock Clash Has Just Begun as Inflation Looms (BBG)
IMF Chief Lagarde Says Market Swings Aren’t Worrying (R.)
UK Labour Vows Renationalisation Of Water, Energy And Rail (G.)
Australia’s Big Banks Focus On Job Cuts As Inquiry Looms (R.)
Treating Mental Illness Could Save Global Economy Billions (CNBC)
Pain Pill Giant Purdue to Stop Promotion of Opioids to Doctors (BBG)
Asylum Seekers In UK Living In ‘Disgraceful, Unsafe’ Housing (G.)
Russia Might Sell S-400 Systems To US If Americans Feel Insecure (RT)
Oxfam Staff Partied With Prostitutes In Chad, Haiti, (G.)
Maclean’s Is Asking Men To Pay 26% More For Latest Issue (Maclean’s)
US Professor Fired After Telling Student ‘Australia Isn’t A Country’ (RT)

 

 

Bond markets are 10x stock markets?!

What Crushed Stocks? (WS)

On Friday at around 1:40 p.m., during whiplash-inducing market moves, the S&P 500 index was down 1.9%, bringing the total loss for the week to 8.3%, which would have been the biggest weekly loss since November 2008, after the Lehman bankruptcy. But dip-buyers jumped in courageously and saved the day. The S&P 500 ended up 1.5%, bringing to the total loss for the week to 5.2%, the worst week since, well, the selloff in January 2016. Everyone has their own reasons why stocks plunged last week. Some blamed algorithmic trading. Others blamed the short-volatility financial complex that blew up.

More specifically, Jim Cramer blamed “a group of complete morons” who traded in this space. Others blamed the stratospheric valuations of stocks that had been rallying for eight years with only a few dimples in between, and it’s simply time to unwind some of those gains. Whatever the factors might have been, rising bond yields certainly had something to do with it. They tend to hit stocks, eventually. Last week, prices of short-dated Treasuries edged down and prices of long-dated Treasuries edged down, and their yields edged up, but there was some turmoil in the middle, with some interesting consequences.The three-month Treasury yield rose to 1.55% on Friday, the highest since September 11, 2008. Investors are beginning to price in a rate hike in March:

But the two-year yield, after having surged to 2.16% on February 1, got very nervous, dropping and bouncing during the week, and fell sharply on Friday, ending the week at 2.05%:

The 10-year yield closed on Friday at 2.83% and in late trading went on to 2.85%. The interesting thing about this is the difference (the “spread”) between the two-year yield and the 10-year yield. It surged. This spread is one of the indications of the slope of the yield curve and was one of the most watched bond-data points during the scare last year over an “inverted” yield curve. This is a phenomenon where the two-year yield would be higher than the 10-year yield. The last time this happened was before the Financial Crisis. By early January, the spread between the two-year yield and the 10-year yield had dropped as low as 50 basis points (0.5 percentage points), the lowest since October 2007. As the two-year yield kept spiking, the 10-year yield had started rising, but not fast enough. All this has changed, and the 10-year yield has been rising faster than the two-year yield and the spread has widened to 78 basis points on Friday:

The 30-year yield rose to 3.14% on Friday. For the first time, it is now back where it had been on December 14, 2016, when the Fed stopped flip-flopping and started getting serious about raising its target range for the federal funds rate. The market responded to each rate hike with increases in short-term yields but defied the Fed on longer-term yields, which fell until September 2017. So what happened last week was that the two-year yield fell, while the yields of most longer maturities stayed put or rose, steepening the yield curve from the two-year yield on up.

The chart below shows the “yield curves” as they occurred on these four dates: • Yields on Friday, February 9, 2018 (red line) • Yields on December 29, 2017 (black line) • Yields on August 29, 2017 (green line) two weeks before the QE unwind was detailed. • Yields on December 14, 2016 (blue line) when the Fed stopped flip-flopping, raised its rates, and became a clockwork. Note how the spread has widened at the longer-dated ends between the black line (December 29, 2017) and the red line (Friday), and how the slope of the red line has steepened, with the 30-year yield surging 40 basis points over those six weeks. That’s a big move:

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The cheap money has BEEN the entire market.

Test Of Nerve For Markets As 10 Years Of Cheap Money Come To An End (G.)

Stock markets are heading for a wild ride this year as central bankers strap on their bullet-proof vests and test investors’ willingness to accept higher interest rates. Last week’s share price crashes, which in two days wiped $4 trillion off the value of markets around the world, was just a foretaste of the battle to come. In the days following Monday’s crash, share values have recovered strongly only to dive again as competing theories about the path of interest rates and the likely impact on economic growth fight for attention. Most investors want the era of cheap borrowing to continue and many are willing to sell their shareholdings if it looks like coming to an end. Without low interest rates, they cannot borrow and invest cheaply, especially in the assets that for the past decade have gone up every year by much more than their salary – property and shares.

Countless businesses have also come to rely on low borrowing costs to keep going, and investors fear they might go bust should their bank raise loan rates. Weaning companies and investors off their addiction was never going to be easy, even 10 years after central banks first put their stimulus packages in place, and despite warnings that these measures need to end. For some time, the US Federal Reserve has taken on the role of the advance guard, forging a path towards higher rates for others to follow. But its campaign got off to a faltering start. Back in 2013 it was forced to retreat when it signalled in the mildest terms that it would begin withdrawing its quantitative easing programme. The main effect of QE was to drive down long-term interest rates, allowing investors to borrow cheaply not just over one or five years, but for 30 years.

And so its withdrawal was as much of a blow for some fund managers as an immediate rate rise. Wall Street and markets in Europe and Asia, where heavy selling turned into a rout, forced Fed officials to retreat. The Fed adopted a more incremental approach. It gave markets more warning and spaced out the policy decisions. As it entered 2017, US interest rates had trebled, but only from 0.25% to 0.75%. Yet the economy was booming more than ever. The Fed appeared ready to get tougher, and with justification, according to Karen Ward at JP Morgan Asset Management. After the heavy lifting needed to get the industrialised world back from bankruptcy, she said, “economies are now rested”. Ward, who until recently was an adviser to the chancellor, Philip Hammond, said: “Households and businesses are feeling better about the future. They do not need a boost in quite the same way. Central banks can ease off the accelerator without troubling either growth or markets.”

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The problem is not that they’ve never seen a crash, the problem is they’ve never seen a functioning market.

Market Tests Millennial Traders Who’ve Never Seen A Crash (BBG)

In his career in finance—all seven years of it—Ben Kumar has seen some tough days. There was 2013, when traders worried about the Federal Reserve, and 2016, with the Brexit vote. But, at 29, Kumar and many millennials like him on Wall Street and the City of London have never endured a full-blown crash. For them, markets have always bounced back—fast—and gone on to heights. Now, with world stocks sinking and central banks withdrawing stimulus that’s supported markets for years, elders worry Kumar’s generation isn’t ready for its trial. Kumar is chill. “Find me someone who worked in the era of 15% inflation and I’ll talk to them about Bitcoin and the Internet,” said the 29-year-old, a fund manager at Seven Investment Management in London .

After $3 trillion was erased from global stocks in a week, he’s weighing whether to buy on the dip now—or wait a bit longer. “I don’t even think that this move is a wake-up call,” he said on Tuesday. Many bankers older than 40 shudder at the thought of what will happen if – or when – some unforeseen trigger sparks a crash that drags down not just stocks, but also bonds and currencies together. Etched in their memories is the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008. In its wake, stock market valuations alone were cut in half. By contrast, most millennial investors have only worked in an era where central banks printed trillions of dollars to prop up their economies and markets. Since starting their careers, average interest rates in the developed world have barely nudged above 1%, inflation all but vanished, the S&P 500 Index more than doubled and bonds rallied so high that more than $7 trillion of debt is negative yielding.

“You have to have had that stage where you’re looking at the screen through your fingers to really appreciate risk-reward in this industry,” said Paul McNamara at GAM in London. “Not just seeing things go wrong, but going so much more wrong than you imagined was possible.”

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Why own stocks when bond yields rise? Still, inflation is a ludicrous fear.

Bond-Stock Clash Has Just Begun as Inflation Looms (BBG)

The tug-of-war between stocks and bonds is at the heart of the shakeout roiling financial markets. This week’s U.S. inflation report could hold the key to the next phase. Seemingly every time 10-year Treasury yields approached a four-year high last week, equities investors panicked, fearing the specter of higher inflation and a more aggressive pace of Federal Reserve rate hikes. Whether you want to say Treasuries are in a bear market or not, the surge in yields to start 2018 has left investors reassessing the value of equities and corporate bonds. Profits were easy when the 10-year yield traded in its narrowest range in a half-century, inflation stayed subdued and volatility across financial markets plumbed record lows. Gains are harder when low rates, a linchpin of the post-crisis recovery, start to disappear.

“What’s happening now is just price discovery between bonds and equities – how far can the bond market push yields up before the equity market cracks?” said Stephen Bartolini, portfolio manager at T. Rowe Price, which manages more than $10 billion in inflation-protected strategies. “The big fear in risk markets is that we get a big CPI print and it validates the narrative that inflation is coming back and the Fed is going to have to move faster.” The focus on inflation is nothing new, but it became even more critical after a Feb. 2 report showed average hourly earnings jumped in January at the fastest pace since 2009. That contributed to the dive in stocks. (It also led President Donald Trump to tweet about the “old days” when stocks would go up on good economic news.)

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Should be filed under Famous Last Words, but won’t be.

IMF Chief Lagarde Says Market Swings Aren’t Worrying (R.)

Sharp swings in global financial markets in the past few days are not worrying since economic growth is strong but reforms are still needed to avert future crises, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund said on Sunday. Christine Lagarde, speaking at a conference on global business and social trends in Dubai, said economies were also supported by plenty of financing available. “I‘m reasonably optimistic because of the landscape we have at the moment. But we cannot sit back and wait for growth to continue as normal,” she said in her first public comments on market movements since the latest round of turmoil at the end of last week.

“I‘m ringing not the alarm signal, but the strong encouragement and warning signal.” Global stock markets were hit by wild fluctuations, with the U.S. benchmark S&P 500 tumbling 5.2% last week, its biggest weekly percentage drop since January 2016. The volatility was fuelled by investor worries about rising interest rates and potential inflation. Lagarde repeated an IMF forecast, originally issued last month, that the global economy would growth 3.9% this year and at the same pace in 2019, which she said was a good backdrop for needed reforms.

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No society should ever relinquish control over its essentials.

UK Labour Vows Renationalisation Of Water, Energy And Rail (G.)

Labour launched a full-frontal attack on the privatised water industry last night, accusing companies of paying out the “scandalous” sum of £13.5bn in dividends to shareholders since 2010, while claiming huge tax breaks and forcing up prices for millions of customers. The assault by shadow chancellor John McDonnell came as he pledged total, “permanent” and cost-free renationalisation of water, energy and rail if Labour won power at the next election. The three privatisations in the 1980s and 1990s became hallmarks of the Tory governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major. The dramatic intervention – which stunned the companies involved – was the strongest denunciation yet by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour of the privatisation programme that has become part of the British political landscape of the last 40 years.

The Conservative party and the Confederation of British Industry both condemned McDonnell’s comments. The CBI said Labour’s renationalisation agenda would “wind the clock back on our economy” while chief secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss warned that placing politicians in charge of public utilities “didn’t work last time and won’t work this time”. McDonnell told the Observer that water companies could not even claim to offer choice to customers but instead operated regional monopolies, and were therefore able to increase prices without the risk of losing out to competitors, as well as “load up debt” while paying out huge dividends to shareholders. “It is a national scandal that since 2010 these companies have paid billions to their shareholders, almost all their profits, whilst receiving more in tax credits than they paid in tax,” he said.

“These companies operate regional monopolies which have profited at the expense of consumers who have no choice in who supplies their water. “The next Labour government will call an end to the privatisation of our public sector, and call time on the water companies, who have a stranglehold over working households. Instead, Labour will replace this dysfunctional system with a network of regional, publicly owned water companies.” Citing figures from the National Audit Office, the shadow chancellor said water bills had risen by 40% in real terms since privatisation of the industry in 1989. In 2016-17, the forecast average for water bills was £389 per household. McDonnell claimed that in 2017, privatised water companies paid out a total £1.6bn to their shareholders. Since 2010, the total was £13.5bn.

[..] Corbyn said that Labour would back a “great wave of change across the world in favour of public, democratic ownership and control of our services and utilities. “We can put Britain at the forefront of the wave of change across the world in favour of public, democratic ownership and control of our services and utilities,” he said. “From India to Canada, countries across the world are waking up to the fact that privatisation has failed, and taking back control of their public services,” he added.

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Banks and governments are accomplices in blowing this bubble.

Australia’s Big Banks Focus On Job Cuts As Inquiry Looms (R.)

Australia’s big banks are responding to a revenue crunch by cutting jobs and other costs, prompting fears on the eve of an inquiry into their businesses that the industry’s tarnished reputation is about to take another hit. Regulators’ demands that banks hold more capital and their scrutiny into internal operations have made cost-cuts the in-vogue metric at the so-called Big Four banks, Australia and New Zealand Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac, to boost profits. But the strategic change will come at a cost for the banks. “If you can be the most successful at bringing your staff numbers down the quickest, that’s going to give you the quickest cost advantage,” said one senior bank insider with direct knowledge of the cost-cutting strategy.

But, added the insider, as jobs cuts mount, “society and the community will push back, won’t accept it.” Cost cuts are not limited to jobs, with banks preparing to make use of improved technology to reengineer back office functions, and reduce the number and physical size of their branches. But the insider said he expected the Big Four to shed up to 40,000 jobs over five years as part of that overhaul, making a reduced wages bill the primary saving. The focus on costs coincides with the start of a royal commission looking into misconduct in the financial sector starting Monday. Scandals that have shaken public confidence include allegations of interest rate rigging, claims of a toxic trading room culture within some banks, and accusations that some institutions withheld legitimate health insurance payouts and gave misleading financial advice.

The inquiry, expected to last a year and which can recommend criminal charges and legislative changes, could potentially result in restrictions that affect bank profits, similar to a government-imposed bank tax levied last year. According to the government, Australia’s big four are still among the most profitable banks in the world, earning net profit margins of 36.4% in the June quarter of 2017. Years of economic growth and a booming property market had encouraged executives to focus on lifting sales rather than trimming operations. “Top line revenue growth is going to be a struggle, so they need to look closely at their cost lines really seriously,” said Brad Potter, head of Australian equities at Nikko Asset Management, which owns shares in the major banks.

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It’s the economy that causes much of the illness. Putting dollar numbers on it is not the way to go.

Treating Mental Illness Could Save Global Economy Billions (CNBC)

Reducing mental illness is one of the key ways to increase happiness worldwide, according to a study by the Global Happiness Council (GHC). The report, published Saturday, said that while mental illness was one of the main causes of unhappiness in the world, the net cost of treating it was actually negative. “This is because people who are mentally ill become seriously unproductive. So when they are successfully treated, there are substantial gains in output. And these gains exceed the cost of therapy and medication,” GHC researchers said. The most common conditions associated with mental illness are depression and anxiety disorders, the study said. And at least a quarter of the global population were thought to experience these conditions over the course of their lifetime.

Researchers at the GHC also said that mental illness was a “major block” on the global economy as it was found to be the main illness among people of a working age. Therefore, treating the conditions, it said, would save national income per head by 5% — that equates to billions worldwide. The study estimated that for every $1 spent on treating depression, production would be restored by the equivalent of $2.5. And while physical healthcare costs were thought to balance out, the GHC claimed net savings when treating anxiety disorders was greatest of all — with production restored by the equivalent of $3 for every $1 spent. In the U.K., the National Health Service (NHS) estimates that around 10 to 15% of people are considered to have had a mental illness at some stage of their lives. There are many types of mental illness but most conditions fit into either a neurotic or psychotic category, according to the NHS.

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Any individuals will escape persecution.

Pain Pill Giant Purdue to Stop Promotion of Opioids to Doctors (BBG)

Pain-pill giant Purdue Pharma will stop promoting its opioid drugs to doctors, a retreat after years of criticism that the company’s aggressive sales efforts helped lay the foundation of the U.S. addiction crisis. The company told employees this week that it would cut its sales force by more than half, to 200 workers. It plans to send a letter Monday to doctors saying that its salespeople will no longer come to their clinics to talk about the company’s pain products. “We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers,” the company said in a statement. Instead, any questions doctors have will be directed to the company’s medical affairs department. OxyContin, approved in 1995, is the closely held company’s biggest-selling drug, though sales of the pain pill have declined in recent years amid competition from generics.

It generated $1.8 billion in 2017, down from $2.8 billion five years earlier, according to data compiled by Symphony Health Solutions. It also sells the painkiller Hysingla. Purdue is credited with helping develop many modern tactics of aggressive pharmaceutical promotion. Its efforts to push OxyContin included OxyContin music, fishing hats and stuffed plush toys. More recently, it has positioned itself as an advocate for fighting the opioid addiction crisis, as overdoses from prescription drugs claim thousands of American lives each year. Purdue and other opioid makers and distributors face dozens of lawsuits in which they’re accused of creating a public-health crisis through their marketing of the painkillers. Purdue officials confirmed in November that they are in settlement talks with a group of state attorneys general and trying to come up with a global resolution of the government opioid claims.

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At least there are still some truly pan-European values left.

Asylum Seekers In UK Living In ‘Disgraceful, Unsafe’ Housing (G.)

Asylum seekers are being placed in appalling housing conditions where they are at risk from abuse and violence, according to a survey published on Sunday documenting the lives of new arrivals. A year after the home affairs select committee found asylum seekers were being held in “disgraceful” conditions and called for a major overhaul of the system, new research suggests the situation remains poor. In-depth interviews with 33 individuals inside a north London Home Office asylum accommodation centre found that 82% had found mice in their rooms. The survey, by the human rights charity Refugee Rights Europe, also found that two-thirds of asylum seekers interviewed felt “unsafe” or “very unsafe”.

Others, some of whom have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after fleeing violence and persecution from war zones, described how non-residents would enter the building and threaten residents, or simply use the kitchens and hallways to sleep. Of those interviewed, 30% alleged they had experienced verbal abuse in the accommodation from fellow residents or from staff, with 21% claiming they had experienced physical violence. “A number of respondents were under the impression that the cleaning staff may hold racist views. Sometimes this was expressed through abusive or hostile language in English, and, at other times, the respondents were shouted at in a foreign European language which they couldn’t understand,” said the study.

Marta Welander, head of Refugee Rights Europe, said: “An entire year has passed since the home affairs select committee released its alarming report on asylum accommodation in the UK, yet it seems as though little to nothing has changed. Our research revealed terrible hygiene standards and widespread problems with vermin. “Many of the [interviewees] said they felt unsafe in their accommodation, in particular the younger ones or those diagnosed with PTSD. Others explained they’re experiencing health problems, which they attributed to the unsanitary conditions in their bedrooms and communal areas.”

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C’mon, it’s funny.

Russia Might Sell S-400 Systems To US If Americans Feel Insecure (RT)

The head of Russia’s strategic defense industry corporation Rostec says Moscow is ready to sell S-400 air defense systems to any nation that feels insecure and wants to seal its airspace, including the US if it wants to. Just before the end of the year, Moscow agreed to supply S-400 surface-to-air missile batteries to Ankara, making Turkey the first NATO member state that will integrate Russian technology into the North Atlantic defense structure once the $2.5 billion order is delivered. On Wednesday, Sergey Chemezov, head of the Russian state conglomerate Rostec, extended the offer to purchase S-400 Triumf, or the SA-21 Growler as it is known by NATO, to the Pentagon. “The S-400 is not an offensive system; it is a defensive system. We can sell it to Americans if they want to,” Chemizov told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) when asked about the strategic reasoning behind the S-400 sale to Turkey.

The S-400, developed by Russia’s Almaz Central Design Bureau, has been in service with the Russian Armed Forces since 2007. The mobile surface-to-air missile system which uses four projectiles can strike down targets 40-400 km away. The deployment of S-400 batteries to Syria served as one of the pillars to the successful Russian anti-Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) campaign. While the Almaz Bureau is currently developing S-500 systems, foreign orders to purchase the S-400 have skyrocketed. Besides China and Turkey, who are awaiting order deliveries, India, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are currently negotiating to purchase the Russian military hardware. The growing demand can be attributed to the high reliability and long history of the S missile defense system family. The S-200, designed by Almaz in the 1960s, still serves many nations today. On Saturday, a Syrian S-200 Vega medium-to-high altitude surface-to-air missile was allegedly used to intercept an Israeli F-16.

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The humanitarian industrial complex in all its glory.

Oxfam Staff Partied With Prostitutes In Chad, Haiti, (G.)

Oxfam was hit with new allegations of staff involvement with prostitution on Saturday, after claims that employees at a second country mission had used sex workers while living at the organisation’s premises. Former staff who worked for the charity in Chad alleged that women believed to be prostitutes were repeatedly invited to the Oxfam team house there, with one adding that a senior member of staff had been fired for his behaviour in 2006. Roland van Hauwermeiren, who has since been embroiled in a sexual misconduct scandal in Haiti, was head of Oxfam in Chad at the time. Van Hauwermeiren resigned from Oxfam in 2011, after admitting that prostitutes had visited his villa in Haiti. One former Chad aid worker said on Saturday: “They would invite the women for parties. We knew they weren’t just friends but something else. “I have so much respect for Oxfam. They do great work, but this is a sector-wide problem,” the former staffer told the Observer.

[..] Oxfam said it could not confirm whether it had any records about a Chad staff member dismissed in 2006. Its staff in Chad at the time lived under a strict curfew due to security concerns: employees could not walk around freely and were confined to the guest house from early evening. Some employees had raised the issue of prostitutes with Van Hauwermeiren. Oxfam’s beleaguered chief executive, Mark Goldring, denied suggestions the charity had covered up revelations that staff had hired prostitutes in Haiti during a 2011 relief effort on the earthquake-hit island. His defence of Oxfam’s handling of the scandal came as Britain’s charity regulator said Oxfam had failed to mention allegations of abuse of aid beneficiaries in Haiti and potential sexual crimes involving minors in a report to it in 2011. It took no further action at the time.

[..] The scandal broke on Friday when the Times revealed that senior Oxfam staff had paid earthquake survivors for sex and that a confidential Oxfam report had referred to a “culture of impunity” among aid workers in Haiti. The Times on Saturday said Oxfam did not tell other aid agencies about the behaviour of staff involved after they had left to work elsewhere. Goldring told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday: “With hindsight, I would much prefer that we had talked about sexual misconduct, but I don’t think it was in anyone’s best interest to be describing the details of the behaviour in a way that was actually going to draw extreme attention to it.”

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And what about next week?

Maclean’s Is Asking Men To Pay 26% More For Latest Issue (Maclean’s)

This month, Maclean’s has created two covers with two different prices—one at $8.81, the other at our regular price of $6.99—to reflect the 26% gap between full-time wages paid to men and women in Canada.It’s a cheeky way to draw attention to a gap that has barely budged in decades, but we’re not the first to do this. In 2016, a group of students at the University of Queensland in Australia put on a bake sale. They called it the Gender Pay Gap Bake Sale, and they priced their cupcakes higher for men than women to illustrate Australia’s pay equity gap. The fierce social media backlash (“Kill all women” and “Females are f–king scum, they should be put down as babies” and “I want to rape these feminist c–ts with their f–king baked goods”) was so horrific it made international headlines.

When we discussed the story during our Maclean’s news meeting at the time, we wondered what would happen if we tried it here in Canada. So let’s see, shall we? After years of stasis, pay equity is having its moment as the next beat in the cadence of the #MeToo movement. Our hope is that these dual covers stir the kind of urgent conversation here that is already happening elsewhere around the world. In England, Carrie Gracie, the BBC’s China editor, resigned earlier this year when her pay was revealed to be at least 50 per cent less than her two male counterparts, saying, “My managers had yet again judged that women’s work was worth much less than men’s.” #istandwithcarrie trended on Twitter. In Iceland, after women walked out of work at precisely 2:38 p.m.—a full workday minus 30%, to illustrate the pay gap there—the country enacted a new law that makes it mandatory for companies with 25 or more employees to show they provide equal pay.

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Surprised? Me neither.

US Professor Fired After Telling Student ‘Australia Isn’t A Country’ (RT)

Southern New Hampshire University has fired a lecturer who insisted that Australia was a continent – but not a country – and took some time to conduct “independent research” into the issue before reviewing a student’s paper. Ashley Arnold, 27, who is studying toward an online sociology degree at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), was “shocked” to learn she had failed an assignment, part of which required students to compare social norms between the United States and any other country – in her case Australia. Arnold was downgraded because her professor believed “Australia is a continent; not a country.” At first I thought it was a joke; this can’t be real. Then as I continued to read I realized she was for real,” she told BuzzFeed News. “With her education levels, her expertise, who wouldn’t know Australia is a country? If she’s hesitating or questioning that, why wouldn’t she just Google that herself?”

To address the professor’s apparent ignorance, Arnold sent a series of emails containing references from the school’s library which clearly stated Australia is both a continent and a country. Arnold even referred her to a section of the Australian government’s webpage called “About Australia” that said “Australia is an island continent and the world’s sixth largest country (7,682,300 sq km).” The female professor with PhD in philosophy, whose name is being kept private, was still not convinced, however, and said she needed to conduct “some independent research on the continent/country issue.” After reviewing Arnold’s paper the professor gave her a new grade of a B+, but never apologized, merely acknowledging that she had a “misunderstanding about the difference between Australia as a country and a continent.”

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