Aug 252019
 


Man Ray Departure of summer 1914

 

Boris Johnson Seeks Legal Advice On 5-Week Parliament Closure Pre-Brexit (O.)
Trump Says Boris Johnson Is ‘Right Man’ To Deliver Brexit (G.)
Boris Johnson Warns Trump US Must Compromise To Get UK Trade Deal (BBC)
Boris Johnson: UK Won’t Owe EU £39 Billion Under No Deal (Sky)
Boris Johnson: Macron Uses Amazon Fires To Halt Free Trade Negotiations (Ind.)
Tusk Says ‘Hard To Imagine’ EU-Mercosur Trade Deal While Amazon Burns (AFP)
Brazilian Farmers Believe They Have the Right to Burn the Amazon (RS)
Hundreds Of New Fires In Brazil As Amazon Outrage Grows (AFP)
Brazil Fines For Environment Crimes Plummet (BBC)
DNC Bans 2020 Candidates From Participating In Climate Change Debate (CNN)
Gabbard Campaign Voices Concerns Over DNC Debate-Qualifying Criteria (RT)

 

 

But if you close Parliament right ahead of the biggest political decision in ages, what reason could there be to re-open it again?

Boris Johnson Seeks Legal Advice On 5-Week Parliament Closure Pre-Brexit (O.)

Boris Johnson has asked the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, whether parliament can be shut down for five weeks from 9 September in what appears to be a concerted plan to stop MPs forcing a further extension to Brexit, according to leaked government correspondence. An email from senior government advisers to an adviser in No 10 – written within the last 10 days and seen by the Observer – makes clear that the prime minister has recently requested guidance on the legality of such a move, known as prorogation. The initial legal guidance given in the email is that shutting parliament may well be possible, unless action being taken in the courts to block such a move by anti-Brexit campaigners succeeds in the meantime.


On Saturday Labour and pro-Remain Tory MPs reacted furiously, saying that the closure of parliament, as a method for stopping MPs preventing a potentially disastrous no-deal Brexit, would be an affront to democracy and deeply irresponsible, particularly given the government’s own acceptance of the economic turmoil no-deal could cause. Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said: “Any plan to suspend parliament at this stage would be outrageous. MPs must take the earliest opportunity to thwart this plan and to stop a no-deal Brexit.” The prominent Tory remainer and former attorney general Dominic Grieve added: “This memo, if correct, shows Boris Johnson’s contempt for the House of Commons. It may be possible to circumvent the clear intention of the House of Commons in this way but it shows total bad faith. Excluding the house from a national crisis that threatens the future of our country is entirely wrong.”

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They don’t agree as much as they say here.

Trump Says Boris Johnson Is ‘Right Man’ To Deliver Brexit (G.)

Donald Trump has described Boris Johnson as “the right man” to deliver Brexit, as the pair met for a breakfast meeting at the G7 summit in Biarritz. Asked what his advice was for Brexit, the US president said: “He [Johnson] needs no advice, he is the right man for the job.” Johnson said Trump was “on message there”. Trump also talked up the prospects for a US-UK trade agreement after Brexit, saying it would be a “very big trade deal, bigger than we’ve ever had”. The pair were speaking to reporters after a working breakfast, accompanied by advisers and officials. Johnson confirmed he had reiterated his opposition to the NHS being opened up to US firms as part of any trade deal – and to the UK lowering animal welfare standards to US levels to get a deal.


“Not only have I made clear of that, the president has made that very, very clear. There is complete unanimity on that point,” he said. He suggested there would be “tough talks ahead”. Before their meeting, Johnson had said he would raise with Trump the issue of the increasingly bitter trade spat between the US and China; and press him to throw open the US market to British goods after Brexit. When Trump was asked by reporters if allies were pressuring him to give up his trade war with China he said: “Not at all.” He said his predecessors had allowed Beijing “to get away with taking hundreds of billions of dollars out every year, putting it into China”. Asked if he had second thoughts on escalating the dispute he said: “Sure … why not.” But then he added: “I have second thoughts about everything.”


Boris and Donald in Biarritz

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Not much there to gain.

Boris Johnson Warns Trump US Must Compromise To Get UK Trade Deal (BBC)

The US must lift restrictions on UK businesses if it wants a trade deal with the UK, Boris Johnson has said. Travelling to the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, the PM said there were “very considerable barriers in the US to British businesses”. Mr Johnson said he had already spoken to President Donald Trump about his concerns, adding he would do so again when they meet on Sunday morning. The prime minister will also hold talks with EU Council President Donald Tusk. “There are massive opportunities for UK companies to open up, to prise open the American market,” Mr Johnson said.


“We intend to seize those opportunities but they are going to require our American friends to compromise and to open up their approach, because currently there are too many restrictions.” Offering an example of a restriction, Mr Johnson said: “Melton Mowbray pork pies, which are sold in Thailand and in Iceland, are currently unable to enter the US market because of, I don’t know, some sort of food and drug administration restriction.” He continued: “UK bell peppers cannot get into the US market at all. “Wine shipments are heavily restricted. If you want to export wine made in England to the US you have to go through a US distributor. “There is a tax on British micro-breweries in the US that doesn’t apply to US micro-breweries in the UK.”

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“When Boris says the EU isn’t going to get the £30Bn the UK owes them he’s talking about:
Pensions for British civil servants
Subsidies for British farms
Funds for British regional development

Most of that “EU money” is spent in the UK.”

Boris Johnson: UK Won’t Owe EU £39 Billion Under No Deal (Sky)

Boris Johnson is expected to tell EU boss Donald Tusk that Britain will only pay a quarter of its so-called Brexit divorce bill if the country leaves without a deal on 31 October. The prime minister is due to meet the European Council president at the G7 summit in France later today. It is understood he will tell Mr Tusk that under no deal, the UK would only owe about £9bn of the £39bn liability agreed by former prime minister Theresa May. The approach is likely to stoke tension with other EU leaders at the meeting in Biarritz. In June, a source close to French President Emmanuel Macron, who is hosting the G7 summit, said refusing to pay was the “equivalent to a sovereign debt default”.


Others argue the UK is legally bound to pay the £39bn sum and warn that reneging on the obligation will prevent a future trade deal being struck and could even lead to the EU pursuing the funds through the courts. It follows a war of words between Mr Johnson and Mr Tusk on Saturday over who would be to blame if the UK left the EU without an agreement. The government has also ramped up its preparations for Brexit, announcing that an online “60-second checker” will be brought in so businesses and the public can “work out what, if anything, they need to do before 31 October”. Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said the government would shortly begin an “engagement campaign to get the country and business ready for Brexit”.

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Someone will veto it.

Boris Johnson: Macron Uses Amazon Fires To Halt Free Trade Negotiations (Ind.)

Boris Johnson has issued a slapdown to Emmanuel Macron over the French president’s threat to veto a EU trade deal with South American states including Brazil, claiming that concern over the Amazon fires was being used as an “excuse” to interfere with free trade. Mr Macron has warned that he will block the EU-Mercosur deal – on the brink of completion after 20 years of talks – unless Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro shows he is taking seriously his duty to protect his country’s environment as part of the global fight against climate change. Arriving at the G7 summit hosted by Mr Macron in the French coastal resort town of Biarritz, Mr Johnson restated his horror at the thousands of wildfires currently wreaking devastation across swathes of the Brazilian Amazon.


But he stopped well short of supporting the president’s proposal, also backed by Irish Taioseach Leo Varadkar, to withhold final EU approval for the free trade agreement until Mr Bolsonaro meets environmental commitments. The Mercosur deal, also covering Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, is opposed by many in France because it would expose the country’s farmers to competition from large quantities of cheap beef from South America. Mr Johnson said that he would do “everything we possibly can” to help Brazil tackle the “tragedy” of rainforest destruction But asked whether he would join other leaders in refusing to ratify the Mercosur deal, he said: “People will take any excuse at all to interfere with free trade and to frustrate trade deals, and I don’t want to see that.

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Merkel wants that deal.

Tusk Says ‘Hard To Imagine’ EU-Mercosur Trade Deal While Amazon Burns (AFP)

EU Council president Donald Tusk said it was hard to imagine the bloc ratifying its trade pact with South America’s Mercosur grouping as long as Brazil fails to curb the fires ravaging the Amazon rainforest. The European Union “stands by the EU-Mercosur agreement”, Tusk told reporters at a G7 meeting in Biarritz in southern France on Saturday. “It is hard to imagine a harmonious process of ratification by the European countries as long as the Brazilian government allows for the destruction of the green lungs of planet earth,” he said. French President Emmanuel Macron has said the G7 should hold emergency talks on the Amazon fires, taking the lead in piling pressure on Brazil’s far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro.


He and Irish leader Leo Varadkar have both pledged to block a new trade deal between the EU and Latin American trading bloc Mercosur, which includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. But Spain, which has close ties to South America, does not support the moves to block the massive trade, the government in Madrid said Saturday. Spain “does not share the position of blocking the deal,” and “has been at the forefront of the last effort to sign the EU-Mercosur agreement that will open huge opportunities for the two regional blocs,” Madrid said in an online message to media. On Friday Germany said that opposing the trade pact was “not the right response” to tackling the Amazon fires in Brazil.

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Corporatism rules.

Brazilian Farmers Believe They Have the Right to Burn the Amazon (RS)

From the time he campaigned for president, Bolsonaro vowed to open the Amazon to development, finishing hydroelectric dams and paving roads that cut through the forest. I traveled to the region in June for Rolling Stone on a grant from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting to witness firsthand the battle over the forest’s future. Emboldened by the election of Bolsonaro, farmers were already burning forest to clear more land for soy farms and cattle ranches. Bolsonaro owes his election largely to a relatively new coalition in Brazil known as the Beef, Bible and Bullets caucus, which pressured his predecessor, Michel Temer, to open the Amazon for development to stave off a scandal that threatened to engulf his presidency.

According to documents leaked earlier this week, Bolsonaro has been implementing a strategy to “occupy” the Amazon with development projects — including the Trombetas River hydroelectric plant and the Obidos bridge over the Amazon River — and to prevent conservation. FUNAI, the government agency charged with protecting indigenous land, has had its budget cut in half, and IBAMA, the agency that cracks down on those destroying the forest, has had dozens of its bases shut down. Bolsonaro installed a climate-change denier as environmental minister and tried to put FUNAI under the agriculture department, which would have opened indigenous land to development had it not been blocked by congress.

The tragedy of all of this is that for over a decade, Brazil was the world’s leader in stopping deforestation. Under the leftist Worker’s Party, deforestation in Brazil dropped by 85 percent between 2004 and 2015 due to a series of aggressive reforms and the demarcation of national forest, conservation units, and indigenous reserves. IBAMA functioned as a sort of elite environmental commando unit, choppering into cleared land where, by law, they were empowered to seize tractors and bulldozers, or torch them so they couldn’t be used again.

Now, the agencies are stripped of power and resources and barely able to function in some places. “Our operations have nearly ground to a halt,” an IBAMA agent tells me. “There’s a sense of impunity that nothing will happen if the forest is cleared. It’s open season.”

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“..1,663 new fires were ignited between Thursday and Friday..”

Hundreds Of New Fires In Brazil As Amazon Outrage Grows (AFP)

Hundreds of new fires are raging in the Amazon rainforest in northern Brazil, official data showed Saturday, amid growing international pressure on President Jair Bolsonaro to put out the worst blazes in years. The fires in the world’s largest rainforest have triggered a global outcry and are dominating the G7 meeting in Biarritz in southern France. Official figures show 78,383 forest fires were recorded in Brazil so far this year, the highest number of any year since 2013, and experts say the clearing of land during the months-long dry season to make way for crops or grazing has accelerated the deforestation. More than half of the fires are in the Amazon, and some 1,663 new fires were ignited between Thursday and Friday, according to the National Institute for Space Research (INPE).


The new data came a day after Bolsonaro authorized the deployment of the military to fight the fires and crack down on criminal activities in the region. The blazes have stirred outrage globally, with thousands protesting in Brazil and Europe on Friday. Earlier this week, Bolsonaro blamed the fires on non-government organizations, suggesting they deliberately started them after their funding was cut. The growing crisis threatens to torpedo a blockbuster trade deal between the European Union and South American countries, including Brazil, that took 20 years to negotiate.

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Where it all started.

Brazil Fines For Environment Crimes Plummet (BBC)

The record number of fires in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest has coincided with a sharp drop in fines for environmental violations, BBC analysis has found. Official data from Brazil’s environment agency shows fines from January to 23 August dropped almost a third compared with the same period last year. At the same time, the number of fires burning in Brazil has increased by 84%. It is not known how many of these fires have been set deliberately, but critics have accused President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration of “green lighting” the destruction of the rainforest through a culture of impunity. Mr Bolsonaro has sent in the military to help put out the fires after coming under pressure from the international community, saying he wanted to “help protect” the Amazon.


[..] Analysis by BBC Brasil shows the number of fines handed out by the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) for environmental violations has dropped significantly since Mr Bolsonaro took office on 1 January. This year saw the lowest number of fines handed out by the agency in a decade (in the period between January and August). Between 1 January and 23 August 2019, the total number of fines handed out was 6,895. Ibama handed out 9,771 fines during the same period in 2018: a drop of 29.4%. The total number of fines relating to “flora” – which includes deforestation and burning – dropped from 4,138 to 2,535 over the same period. And in the nine states that make up the Brazilian Amazon, the drop in fines relating to flora dropped from 2,817 to 1,627.

[..] During last year’s presidential race, Mr Bolsonaro vowed to open up the Amazon for commercial activity. When he was sworn in, he stayed true to his word. Many of his critics say that Mr Bolsonaro operates a double standard when it comes to addressing environmental crimes, most of which remain unpunished. After all, the president promised a tough stance on criminal activity. Now, in face of national and international pressure, Mr Bolsonaro appears to have changed his tone and finally adopted measures to battle the fires. But he still hasn’t acknowledged the link between the fires and the increase in deforestation in Brazil this year. And in a televised address on Friday he reinforced his plans to bring “economic dynamism” to the Amazon.


Satellite data published by the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) has shown an increase of 85% this year in fires across Brazil, most of them in the Amazon region.

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Only speak when we tell you to.

DNC Bans 2020 Candidates From Participating In Climate Change Debate (CNN)

Democratic National Committee members on Saturday voted down a resolution that would have resulted in single-issue debates among candidates — including on the issue of the climate crisis. The language that was rejected — inserted at the behest of climate change activists during a contentious Resolutions Committee meeting on Thursday — said the DNC, “will continue to encourage candidates to participate in multi-candidate issue-specific forums with the candidates appearing on the same stage, engaging one another in discussion.” Democratic presidential candidates are barred from appearing together on stage outside of DNC-sanctioned debates.


The committee’s approved language from Thursday “essentially lifted the ban on candidates being unable to appear together on a stage at a forum or a candidate gathering,” Washington State Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski, a leader in the effort, told CNN. DNC members defeated the move to lift such a ban Saturday in a 222-137 vote. There were multiple observers from both sides who monitored the vote count. Prior to the voting, DNC Chairman Tom Perez set up a system for members on both sides to speak about their reasoning. The text approved in committee also conflicted with the resolution itself because it stated, “the DNC concluded that it should not hold debates devoted to one specific topics, nor can it agree to requests for such debates by individual presidential candidates.”

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Tulsi’s on active duty in Indonesia. When she gets back she will be out.

Gabbard Campaign Voices Concerns Over DNC Debate-Qualifying Criteria (RT)

Tulsi Gabbard’s presidential campaign has called on the DNC to ensure fairness by updating its approved debate-qualifying polls, raising concerns about a lack of transparency and the consistency of the required criteria. In order to qualify for the next round of Democratic presidential debates in September, the Democratic National Committee’s rules require all candidates to have 130,000 unique donors and to have reached 2 percent in four approved polls. Representative Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has surpassed 2 percent in 26 national and state polls – including two polls by the biggest newspapers in the early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina – but only two of these are DNC-certified.

Strangely, the DNC has not released the criteria it used to select the sixteen polling organizations they have certified. “Without these exclusions, Gabbard would have already qualified,” her campaign says. Gabbard’s team also point out that there have only been four certified polls released since the second round of Democratic debates, whereas there were 14 released after the first debate. Gabbard was the most googled candidate after her second debate and had a standout moment when she confronted Kamala Harris’s record of incarcerating people for marijuana use when she was attorney general. She was also the most googled candidate during the first debate.

The DNC had said that it would “continually assess” the race and make adjustments when necessary, given the fluid nature of the race, when it released a memo explaining its process in 2018, and the Gabbard campaign is calling on it to do so now to ensure fairness before the August 28 cut-off date. “Crucial decisions on debate qualifications that impact the right of the American people to have the opportunity to participate fully in the Democratic process should not be made in secret by party bosses,” the Gabbard campaign cautioned.

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May 042019
 


Pablo Picasso Girl with a Mandolin (Fanny Tellier) 1910

 

UN Calls For Julian Assange’s Release From UK High-Security Jail
Barr Launches Wide-Ranging Probe Into 2016 FBI Spying (ZH)
Deeper Into the Dark (Jim Kunstler)
Mueller’s Own Mysteries (Stephen F. Cohen)
Obama On “Scripted, Soulless” Clinton Campaign, “Cartoon Character” Trump (ZH)
UK Tories Lose More Than 1,300 Councillors (BBC)
New Poll Finds 61% Would Back Remain In A Second Brexit Referendum (TNE)
Two Medicare-For-All Bills; One Is a Lot Better Than the Other (NC)
French Minister Rows Back On Claim May Day Protesters ‘Attacked’ Hospital (EN)
Africa’s Forests Are Disappearing At An Unprecedented Rate (M&G)
Biodiversity Crisis Is About To Put Humanity At Risk – UN (G.) >
Lost World: Nature At Death’s Door (AFP)

 

 

UK doesn’t care one bit about the UN. So throw them out. Tell them they can come back once they have a functioning legal system. “Independent judges” my posterior.

UN Calls For Julian Assange’s Release From UK High-Security Jail

UN experts have called for Julian Assange to be released from prison and criticised the British government for breaching his human rights. The WikiLeaks publisher was jailed for 50 weeks on Wednesday for breaking bail conditions imposed seven years earlier by seeking asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The UN working group on arbitrary detention (WGAD) said it was deeply concerned by the “disproportionate sentence” imposed on Assange for violating the terms of his bail, which it described as a “minor violation”. The group has twice previously called for Assange to be freed, after it judged his confinement to the Ecuadorian embassy by the threat of arrest should he leave amounted to arbitrary detention.

“The working group regrets that the government has not complied with its opinion and has now furthered the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Mr Assange,” it said in a statement on Friday. “It is worth recalling that the detention and the subsequent bail of Mr Assange in the UK were connected to preliminary investigations initiated in 2010 by a prosecutor in Sweden. It is equally worth noting that that prosecutor did not press any charges against Mr Assange and that in 2017, after interviewing him in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, she discontinued investigations and brought an end to the case. “The working group is further concerned that Mr Assange has been detained since 11 April 2019 in Belmarsh prison, a high-security prison, as if he were convicted for a serious criminal offence. This treatment appears to contravene the principles of necessity and proportionality envisaged by the human rights standards.

“The WGAD reiterates its recommendation to the government of the United Kingdom, as expressed in its opinion 54/2015, and its 21 December 2018 statement, that the right of Mr Assange to personal liberty should be restored.” A government spokesperson said: “The UK has a close working relationship with UN bodies and is committed to upholding the rule of law. Sentencing is a matter for our independent judges, who take into account the full facts of each case, and the law provides those convicted with a right of appeal.” Assange appeared in court on Thursday via video link from Belmarsh as he began a legal fight against extradition to the US, where he is wanted on charges relating to the publication of secret US files leaked by Chelsea Manning, a US intelligence analyst who was subsequently jailed.

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Plenty people with plenty reasons to try and get Barr impeached. But on what grounds?

Barr Launches Wide-Ranging Probe Into 2016 FBI Spying (ZH)

Attorney General William Barr told the Senate Judiciary Panel this week that he has assembled a team at the Justice Department to probe whether the spying conducted by the FBI against the Trump campaign in 2016 was improper, reports Bloomberg. Barr suggested that he would focus on former senior leaders at the FBI and Justice Department. “To the extent there was overreach, what we have to be concerned about is a few people at the top getting it into their heads that they know better than the American people,” said Barr. Barr will also review whether the infamous Steele dossier – a collection of salacious and unverified claims against Donald Trump, assembled by a former British spy and paid for by the Clinton campaign – was fabricated by the Russian government to trick the FBI and other US agencies.

(Will Barr investigate whether Steele made the whole thing up for his client, Fusion GPS?) “We now know that he was being falsely accused,” Barr said of Trump. “We have to stop using the criminal justice process as a political weapon.” Mueller’s report didn’t say there were false accusations against Trump. It said the evidence of cooperation between the campaign and Russia “was not sufficient to support criminal charges.” Investigators were unable to get a complete picture of the activities of some relevant people, the special counsel found.

Although Barr’s review has only begun, it’s helping to fuel a narrative long embraced by Trump and some of his Republican supporters: that the Russia investigation was politically motivated and concocted from false allegations in order to spy on Trump’s campaign and ultimately undermine his presidency. -Bloomberg. As Bloomberg notes, Barr’s review could receive a boost by a Thursday New York Times article acknowledging that the FBI sent a ‘honeypot’ spy to London in 2016 to pose as a research assistant and gather intelligence from Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos over possible Trump campaign links to Russia.

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“..beyond even the wicked Hillary Clinton to the sainted former president Obama..” “..Mr. Obama’s CIA chief, John Brennan, his NSA Director James Clapper, a baker’s dozen of former Obama top FBI and DOJ officials, including former AG Loretta Lynch, and sundry additional players..”

Deeper Into the Dark (Jim Kunstler)

Mr. Barr’s stolid demeanor during the Wednesday session was a refreshing reminder of what it means to be not insane in the long-running lunatic degeneration of national politics. Of course, the reason for the continued hysteria among Democrats is that the two-year solemn inquiry by the august former FBI Director, Mr. Mueller, is being revealed daily as a mendacious fraud with criminal overtones running clear through Democratic ranks beyond even the wicked Hillary Clinton to the sainted former president Obama, who may have supervised his party’s collusion with foreign officials to interfere in the 2016 election. Mr. Barr’s hints that he intends to tip this dumpster of political subterfuge, to find out what was at the bottom of it, is being taken as a death threat to the Democratic Party, as well it should be.


A lot of familiar names and faces will be rolling out of that dumpster into the grand juries and federal courtrooms just as the big pack of White House aspirants jets around the primary states as though 2020 might be anything like a normal election. In short and in effect, the Democratic Party itself is headed to trial on a vector that takes it straight into November next year. How do you imagine it will look to voters when Mr. Obama’s CIA chief, John Brennan, his NSA Director James Clapper, a baker’s dozen of former Obama top FBI and DOJ officials, including former AG Loretta Lynch, and sundry additional players in the great game of RussiaGate Gotcha end up ‘splainin’ their guts out to a whole different cast of federal prosecutors?

It’s hardly out of the question that Barack Obama himself and Mrs. Clinton may face charges in all this mischief and depravity. It’s surely true that the public is sick of the RussiaGate spectacle. (I know readers of this blog complain about it.) But it’s no exaggeration to say that this is the worst and most tangled scandal that the US government has ever seen, and that failing to resolve it successfully really is an existential threat to the project of being a republic. I was a young newspaper reporter during Watergate and that was like a game of animal lotto compared to this garbage barge of malfeasance.


[..] It seems more than merely possible that the entire Mueller Investigation was a ruse from the start to conceal all this nefarious activity. It is even more astounding to see exactly what a lame document the Mueller Report turned out to be. It was such a dud that even the Democratic senators and congresspersons who are complaining the loudest have not bothered to visit the special parlor set up at the Department of Justice for their convenience to read a much more lightly redacted edition of the report.

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“Mueller even brands American pro-détente views—as Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan held in the 20th century—as “pro-Russia foreign policy positions..”

Mueller’s Own Mysteries (Stephen F. Cohen)

• It has occasionally been suggested that Russiagate was originated by high-level US officials who disliked candidate Trump’s pledge to “cooperate with Russia.” This suspicion remains unproven, but throughout, Mueller repeatedly attributes to Trump campaign members and Russians who interacted in 2016, potentially in sinister or even criminal ways, a desire for “improved U.S.-Russian relations,” for “bringing the end of the new Cold War,” for a “new beginning with Russia.” Even Russian President Vladimir Putin is reported to have wanted “reconciliation between the United States and Russia.”

The result is, of course, to discredit America’s once-mainstream advocacy of détente. Mueller even brands American pro-détente views—as Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan held in the 20th century—as “pro-Russia foreign policy positions”. Does this mean that Americans who hold pro-détente views today, as I and quite a few others do, are to be investigated for their “contacts” with Russians in pursuit of better relations? Mueller seems to say nothing to offset this implication, which has already adversely affected a few Americans mentioned and not mentioned in his report.

• Nor does Mueller consider alternative scenarios and explanations, as any good historical or judicial investigation must do. For example, he accepts uncritically the Clinton/Democratic National Committee allegation that Russian agents hacked and disseminated their emails in 2016. Again, maybe so, but why did he not do his own forensic examination or even mention the alternative finding by VIPS that they were stolen and leaked by an insider? Why did he not question Julian Assange, who claimed to know how and through whom the emails reached WikiLeaks? And how to explain Mueller’s minimal interest in the shadowy professor Joseph Mifsud, who helped entrap George Papadopoulos in London? Mueller reports that Mifsud “had connections to Russia” (p. 5), although a simple Google search suggests that Mifsud was indeed an “agent” but not a Russian one, as widely alleged in media accounts.

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Obama’s all about Obama.

Obama On “Scripted, Soulless” Clinton Campaign, “Cartoon Character” Trump (ZH)

[..] as Obama saw it, the “real blame” for Clinton’s loss “lay squarely with Clinton” – despite her many well-documented attempts to make every conceivable excuse, from blaming Bernie Sanders and his misogynistic “Bernie Bros” to misogynistic Trump supporters. But as Obama vented, nobody forced Clinton to take money from Goldman Sachs, or set up an illicit private email server at her house in Chappaqua. In a stinging passage Baker writes: ‘To Obama and his team, however, the real blame lay squarely with Clinton. ‘She was the one who could not translate his strong record and healthy economy into a winning message. ‘Never mind that Trump essentially ran the same playbook against Clinton that Obama did eight years earlier, portraying her as a corrupt exemplar of the status quo.

‘She brought many of her troubles on herself. No one forced her to underestimate the danger in the Midwest states of Wisconsin and Michigan. ‘No one forced her to set up a private email server that would come back to haunt her. ‘No one forced her to take hundreds of thousands of dollars from Goldman Sachs and other pillars of Wall Street for speeches. ‘No one forced her to run a scripted, soulless campaign that tested eighty-five slogans before coming up with ‘Stronger Together’. Obama tried to keep his cool in the weeks afterwards and texted his speechwriter Ben Rhodes: ‘There are more stars in the sky than sand on the earth’. But soon he was unable to contain his rage which escalated after he met Trump in the Oval Office.

Baker writes that despite being cordial in public he afterwards summoned Rhodes who told him that Trump ‘peddles in b*******’ Rhodes said: ‘That character has always been part of the American story. You can see it right back to some of the characters in Huckleberry Finn’. Obama replied: ‘Maybe that’s the best we can hope for’.

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Tories lose 1,334 councillors (about 28%), Labour loses 82. Guardian says “heavy lossses for Labour Party”.

LibDems were dead, and nobody likes them today. They win 703 seats only because they’re the only strong anti-Brexit vote.

Comment on Twitter: ”The Guardian headlines talk about “heavy lossses for Labour Party” (-4%) Meanwhile even the Tory #BBC is leading with “Tories lose 1300 councillors” Hhhhhhmmmm … the Guardian really, REALLY does hate #Corbyn !!”

Meanwhile, May doesn’t resign after such a loss, she says: voters want us to finish what we’ve been doing.

She must have turned to the bottle.

UK Tories Lose More Than 1,300 Councillors (BBC)

The Conservatives have lost 1,334 councillors, with Theresa May saying voters wanted the main parties to “get on” with Brexit. Labour also lost 82 seats in the English local elections, in which it had been expected to make gains. But the strongly pro-EU Lib Dems gained 703 seats, with leader Sir Vince Cable calling every vote received “a vote for stopping Brexit”. The Greens and independents also made gains, as UKIP lost seats. All 248 English councils holding elections have now announced their full results.


While the scale of the Conservative election losses is larger than expected, Labour had predicted it would gain seats, having suffered losses the last time these council seats were contested, in 2015. The Green Party has added 194 councillors, while the number of independent councillors has risen by 612. UKIP, which enjoyed large gains in 2015, lost 145 seats. Results from Northern Ireland’s 11 councils are also being announced. No local elections are taking place in Scotland and Wales.

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Far from over. Even if Labour signs up for a May deal, what is their legitimacy at this point?

New Poll Finds 61% Would Back Remain In A Second Brexit Referendum (TNE)

New polling has found that 61% of those who would vote in a second referendum would vote to Remain in the European Union. The YouGov survey for KIS Finance found that between the choice of Theresa May’s Brexit deal or remaining in the EU, 61% of those who confirmed they would vote stated they wanted the UK to stay in the European Union. When a no-deal scenario is added into the mix, 53% of people would vote to Remain, while 34% would vote for no-deal, and just 12% would vote for Theresa May’s deal.


The research also uncovered that 1 in 10 have put off important financial decisions, such as buying their first home, moving house, spending money on home improvements, investing and making major purchases such as a car, until the future of Brexit is clear. In London this figures rises to 1 in 5 who have delayed key financial decisions as a direct result of Brexit. In Wales, 1 in 6 have been affected and in Scotland 1 in 7 have postponed major financial decisions. The polling was carried out days ahead of the local elections, 23rd – 24th April 2019. Further information can be found on the KIS FInance website.

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Bernie needs a rethink.

Two Medicare-For-All Bills; One Is a Lot Better Than the Other (NC)

Two bills that are called “Medicare for all” bills by their supporters have just been introduced in Congress. On February 27, Representative Pramila Jayapal introduced the Medicare For All Act of 2019, HR 1384 , in the House of Representatives. On April 10, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a bill bearing the same name in the Senate, S 1129. The cost-containment section in Representative Jayapal’s bill will cut health care costs substantially without slashing the incomes of doctors and hospitals. Senator Sanders’ bill cannot do that. In this article, I explain the differences in the cost containment sections of the two bills and call upon Senator Sanders to correct two defects in his bill that minimize its ability to reduce costs.

Defect number one: S 1129 authorizes a new form of insurance company called the “accountable care organization” (ACO). Defect number two: S 1129 fails to authorize budgets for hospitals. Representative Jayapal’s bill, on the other hand, explicitly repeals the federal law authorizing ACOs, and it authorizes budgets for individual hospitals. I write this essay as both a long-time organizer, writer and speaker for a single-payer (the older name for “Medicare for all” system) and a strong supporter of Senator Sanders. Bernie’s enthusiastic support for a “single payer” solution to the American health care crisis has added millions of new supporters to the single-payer movement.

But precisely because he is now the most recognizable face of the single-payer movement, it is extremely important that all of us, whether we’re already in the single-payer movement or we just long for a sane and humane health care system, encourage Bernie to fix the defects in his bill. To explain the two defects in S 1129, I must first explain why a single-payer bill like Representative Jayapal’s will be effective at cutting the high cost of American health care. I begin by explaining the origin and meaning of the “single payer” label. I will then describe the two defects in S 1129 in more detail.

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As soon as you read that Yellow Vests attacked a hospital, you know this is a hoax. Or I hope you do. But I bet the probe that will now follow will stop at looking at evidence of an attack, not at why the government has spread false rumors.

French Minister Rows Back On Claim May Day Protesters ‘Attacked’ Hospital (EN)

Paris’ prosecutor has begun a probe after May Day protesters allegedly entered a famed Paris hospital and tried to force the door to its intensive care unit. But supporters of the “gilets jaunes” (“yellow vests”), who were among demonstrators during a fiery march in the French capital on Wednesday, said they were just seeking refuge from tear gas fired by police. Thirty-two people were in police custody under charges of “gathering to commit degradations or violence,” the prosecutor’s office told Euronews. They were released on Thursday evening as investigations continue, the prosecutor’s office said. France’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner initially said the hospital was ‘attacked’ by dozens of anti-capitalist militants and black blocks, but by Friday morning he had changed his position.

“I shouldn’t have used the word ‘attack’. The term ‘violent intrusion’ used by the hospital director seems to be more accurate giving the videos on it shared ever since,” admitted Castaner during a press conference. [..] But supporters of the “yellow vest” movement, whose protests have shaken the government of President Emmanuel Macron over the past half year, insisted the demonstrators were merely seeking refuge from tear gas fired by police. The incident came during a hugely tense May Day which saw police clash with hardline protesters on the sidelines of the annual labour union march. The hospital is close to the Place d’Italie where the march ended. Salome Fournet-Fayas, a 26-year-old set designer who was demonstrating on May Day, was at the hospital with other protesters.

She told Euronews that she and other demonstrators were following the official itinerary for the rally when police fired tear gas at them in such quantity that she almost vomited. Fournet-Fayas said that as demonstrators were fleeing tear gas and possible flash ball shots, they noticed that the hospital gates were open. So they entered and quietly waited for things to calm down on the grass, in the hospital courtyard, without going inside the building. Asked whether some violent protesters might have tried to attack the hospital, she replied that “everyone was very calm.” She said she felt “revolted” by the government’s account of the events. “No one tried to attack to attack this hospital,” she assured. “We were just there waiting.”

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Nothing holds more CO2 than rainforests.

Africa’s Forests Are Disappearing At An Unprecedented Rate (M&G)

This week, Liberian activist Alfred Brownell won the prestigious Goldman Environmental prize for his efforts to protect Liberia’s rainforest from the depredations of a multinational palm oil producer. But new research, showing that deforestation in Africa is increasing at an unprecedented rate, suggests the continent needs plenty more Alfred Brownells if it is to have a hope of protecting its trees — and, ultimately, the planet itself. “We are in a war for this planet,” said Brownell from Northeastern University in Boston. He was forced into exile after he formed a public interest law group that used legal means to prevent the exploitation of Liberian rainforests by a Singapore-based palm oil producer.

“It’s not just a struggle to protect remote towns and villages, or just to protect their sacred sites, or just to protect their land and their crops, their way of life, their culture, their religion. It’s also about protecting these important forests in West Africa which are producing oxygen and absorbing carbon and, in essence, making an enormous contribution in the mitigation of climate change,” he said. [..] Because of their age,primary forests contain more carbon than other forests, making them invaluable in the climate-change fight. Losing them is a double blow: not only is all this carbon released into the atmosphere, but the land where the forests used to be no longer sucks carbon from the atmosphere.

The main problem areas are Brazil and Indonesia’s rainforests, which together account for 46%of primary rainforest loss in 2018. But this year researchers discovered a new disturbing development: trees in Africa are disappearing at an unprecedented rate. Three regions in Africa are of particular concern: The first is Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, which both experienced dramatic losses in primary forest cover between 2017 and 2018 (60% and 26% respectively). Although it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what drove the loss, illegal mining is likely to have played a major role, as are expanding cocoa plantations.

The second is the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is behind only Brazil in terms of the total area of primary forest lost.“In the … Congo, primary forest loss was 38% higher in 2018 than it was from 2011-2017. Madagascar is the third area of concern. It lost 2% of its primary forests in 2018. That is a higher proportion than any other tropical country. GFW attributes this mostly to small-scale forest clearing for agriculture and fuel.

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“..world leaders will agree rescue plans for nature ..” And they will be grossly insufficient and turn into terrible failures.

Biodiversity Crisis Is About To Put Humanity At Risk – UN (G.)

Like its predecessor, the report is a compilation of reams of academic studies, in this case on subjects ranging from ocean plankton and subterranean bacteria to honey bees and Amazonian botany. Following previous findings on the decimation of wildlife, the overview of the state of the world’s nature is expected to provide evidence that the world is facing a sixth wave of extinction. Unlike the past five, this one is human-driven. Mike Barrett, WWF’s executive director of conservation and science, said: “All of our ecosystems are in trouble. This is the most comprehensive report on the state of the environment. It irrefutably confirms that nature is in steep decline.”

Barrett said this posed an environmental emergency for humanity, which is threatened by a triple challenge of climate, nature and food production. “There is no time to despair,” he said. “We should be hopeful that we have a window of opportunity to do something about it over these two years.” The report will sketch out possible future scenarios that will vary depending on the decisions taken by governments, businesses and individuals. The next year and a half is likely to be crucial because world leaders will agree rescue plans for nature and the climate at two big conferences at the end of 2020.

That is when China will host the UN framework convention on biodiversity gathering in Kunming, which will establish new 20-year targets to replace those agreed in Aichi, Japan, in 2010. Soon after, the UN framework convention on climate change will revise Paris agreement commitments at a meeting in either the UK, Italy, Belgium or Turkey.

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Degradation continues to increase.

Lost World: Nature At Death’s Door (AFP)

Earth’s population has doubled in 50 years. Not only are we living longer than ever before, we are also consuming more. Today, humans extract around 60 billion tonnes of resources from Nature each year — a rise of 80 percent in just a few decades. And we are leaving our mark in other ways. Since 1980, manmade greenhouse gas emissions have doubled, adding at least 0.7C to global temperatures. We dump up to 400 million tonnes of heavy metals, toxic sludge and other waste into oceans and rivers each year. The report, compiled from more than 15,000 academic papers and research publications, estimates that 75 percent of land, 40 percent of oceans and 50 percent of rivers “manifest severe impacts of degradation” from human activity.

The document, the first of its kind in 15 years, paints a picture of rife inequality, with richer nations consuming vastly more per capita than poorer ones battling to retain their natural resources. Indeed, per capita demand for materials is four times more in high- than in low-income economies. In Europe and North America, humans now consume several times the recommended intake of meat, sugar and fat for optimal health, while 40 percent of the world’s people lack access even to clean drinking water. The inequality gap is huge and widening: GDP per head is already 50 times larger in wealthy nations than in poor ones. Industrial fishing is destroying our oceans, according to the report. It found that 70,000 industrial fishing vessels operate in at least 55 percent of the world’s high seas.

Nearly three quarters of major marine fish stocks are depleted or exploited to the limit of sustainability, despite efforts from the fishing community to implement quotas and drive down overfishing. On land, the situation looks even bleaker. A third of all land is now given over to agriculture and 75 percent of freshwater resources is dedicated to food production. In all, at least a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions come from land clearing, crop production and fertilisation, the vast majority of which comes from animal-based food production.


New York Zoo, 1963 “You are looking at the most dangerous animal in the world. It alone of all the animals that ever lived can exterminate (and has) entire species of animals. Now it has the power to wipe out all life on earth.”

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You know I always liked my walking shoes
but you can get a little too fond of the blues
You walk too far, you walk away
Hello sunshine won’t you stay

You know I always loved a lonely town
Those empty streets, no one around

You know I always liked that empty road
No place to be and miles to go
But miles to go is miles away
Hello sunshine won’t you stay

 

 

 

Apr 252019
 


Giovanni Bellini Pietà 1505

 

There Will Be No Soft Brexit Now. It’s No Deal, Revoke Or Another Vote (G.)
More British Families Than Ever Depend On Food Banks (Ind.)
Curbing Pensioner Benefits Could Help The Young (G.)
Deutsche Bank Handing Over Trump Loan Documents To NY Officials (AFP)
Former AG Mukasey Shreds CNN For Misleading Russia Conspiracy Theories (RT)
She Wrote The Patriot Act. Her Next Job Is With Facebook (ZH)
Iceland Court Orders Valitor (Formerly VISA) to Pay WikiLeaks $10 Million (GP)
Global Grounding Of 737 Max Will Cost Boeing More Than $1 Billion (G.)
Tesla Reports Another Doozie (WS)
Belt and Road Forum: China’s ‘Project Of The Century’ Hits Tough Times (G.)
Past Role and Current Risks from China – Anne-Stevenson Yang (HF)
Declare Capitalism Dead – Before It Takes Us All Down With It (Monbiot)
‘Death By A Thousand Cuts’: Vast Expanse Of Rainforest Lost In 2018 (G.)

 

 

There’s sweet poetic justice in the European elections playing a decisive role in what Brexit means.

There Will Be No Soft Brexit Now. It’s No Deal, Revoke Or Another Vote (G.)

Until recently, my view could have been summarised as follows: Brexit remains a lamentable event I will always oppose; but, in the absence of public permission to overturn it, a softer version would be less bad than a hard one, and could provide the fragile basis for an eventual form of reintegration with Europe down the line. At times in the past five months, ever since the UK and the EU struck the withdrawal agreement, a pragmatic compromise of this kind has seemed tantalisingly viable. Desperately though they tried through the winter, the hard Brexiteers failed to harden the original deal or take down May in the way they wanted. That left a space in the political centre.

So, when May finally made an opening to Labour in early April, there was a possibility that a Brexit compromise was on the cards – even at the eleventh hour and in spite of the immense party political difficulties it might entail for both. But it hasn’t happened. The talks between the government and Labour continue. But they are not going anywhere. This week both May and Jeremy Corbyn accused the other of dragging their feet. That could be a cunning joint deception, preparing their respective parties for a surprise deal. But it isn’t the case – believe me. There is an increasing air of unreality about the whole thing. On both sides of the table, the participants are looking over their shoulders at their own colleagues, not negotiating in earnest.

There are three big issues on the table in these talks. But there is no agreement on any of them. The first is over the terms of a future customs union and on single market alignment. The second, on which the two sides have had the biggest arguments, is on “future-proofing” any agreement against the next Conservative leader. The third is over the role, if any, of a confirmatory second vote. On each of these, May is unwilling to make concessions – or even to put options on the table – that would further divide the Tories, while Corbyn remains deeply reluctant to become co-owner of a joint agreement that might end in the overturning of Brexit.

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Parliament’s too busy with Brexit.

More British Families Than Ever Depend On Food Banks (Ind.)

Food bank use has soared to record levels, with the number of emergency supplies distributed across the UK having risen by nearly a fifth in one year, new figures show. Campaigners said it was “shameful” that a growing number of Britons were unable to feed themselves after data published by the Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest food bank provider, revealed 1,583,668 three-day emergency food supplies were distributed in the year to March 2019 – a 19 per cent rise on the previous year. More than half a million of these (577,618) went to children, fuelling concerns about rising child poverty, after government figures last month revealed that the number of youngsters living in absolute poverty had increased by 200,000 in a year – to a total of 3.7 million.


The figures have also prompted renewed criticism of the government’s flagship welfare reform, universal credit, as the Trussell Trust said issues with moving onto the new system were a “key driver” of increasing need, primarily due people having to wait five weeks for payment under the new system. Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood branded the sharp rise “shocking” and said the “need for emergency food parcels in one of the richest countries of the world” was “shameful”. “Nobody in our society should be forced to turn to food banks to survive. Despite ministers’ attempts to explain away food bank use, the Trussell Trust is very clear that cuts to social security and the five-week wait for universal credit payments are key reasons for the rise,” she added.

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Free TV licenses? What century is this? But seriously, this is why I think a UBI is inevitable. Taking from the old to give to the young is not an answer.

Curbing Pensioner Benefits Could Help The Young (G.)

Free TV licences for over-75s should be scrapped, the age threshold for free bus passes raised and the triple-lock on pensions abolished to close the widening gap between young and old in Britain, according to a Lords report. The House of Lords committee on intergenerational fairness and provision said it was time to rebalance government policy in favour of the young, to remove the risk of the social bonds between generations fraying further. For reasons of fairness and because many pensioner households across the UK have become better off on average than many working-age families, it called on ministers to curb several benefits targeted at older Britons.


The report said the triple-lock – which raises state pension payments in line with the highest of consumer price inflation, average earnings growth, or 2.5% – should be removed. The increase in annual pension payments should instead track average earnings, it said. Free TV licences based on age should be phased out but could be offered based on household income instead. The age when older people can apply for a free bus pass and receive winter fuel payments should also rise to at least five years after a person becomes eligible for the state pension, said the report. It added that this could be phased in to coincide with the state pension age rising to 67 from 2026.

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And there we go again.

NB: Deutsche just announced the death of the merger with Commerzbank.

Deutsche Bank Handing Over Trump Loan Documents To NY Officials (AFP)

Deutsche Bank has begun to provide documents on financing for some of President Donald Trump’s projects to New York State authorities, a source familiar with the matter told AFP on Wednesday. In mid-March, New York Attorney General Letitia James subpoenaed the German bank, demanding records related to loans and lines of credit granted to the Trump Organization. The money was intended to finance projects such as Trump hotels in Washington, DC, Miami and Chicago, another source told AFP last month on the condition of anonymity. It was unclear whether Deutsche Bank had provided all the documents requested.


“We remain committed to cooperating with authorized investigations,” a bank spokesman told AFP, while declining to comment on a CNN report that the company was handing over the documents. James’ office also declined to comment on the status of the documents regarding financing for the Trump Organization, the holding company that has been run by Trump’s sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr since he entered the White House. New York authorities also wanted records related to the Trump Organization’s failed attempt in 2014 to buy the Buffalo Bills football team, the source said on condition of anonymity.

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On CNN, no less: “In essence, panels of people sitting around a table inhaling their own exhaust, and getting high on it.”

Former AG Mukasey Shreds CNN For Misleading Russia Conspiracy Theories (RT)

Retired US Attorney General Michael Mukasey slammed CNN on its own network for what he said was flawed coverage of the special counsel investigation into US President Donald Trump. Appearing for a one-on-one interview on Cuomo Prime Time on Tuesday, Mukasey said CNN was “misleading a lot of people” in its coverage of the investigation, which sought to determine whether then-candidate Trump conspired with Moscow to win the 2016 presidential election. “You have a big audience – getting smaller by the minute now,” he said to host Chris Cuomo, who laughed nervously. Mukasey served as attorney general from 2007 to 2009 under the George W. Bush administration.


While the special counsel’s final report did not find evidence of a criminal conspiracy with Russia, the report was for weeks the subject of intense speculation in the media. Mukasey was not impressed with CNN’s performance in the lead-up to the report’s publication, as the network insisted on the collusion narrative. “Your network was devoting days of people sitting around and talking about a report whose contents they didn’t know – that they hadn’t seen,” Mukasey said. “In essence, panels of people sitting around a table inhaling their own exhaust, and getting high on it.” He added that CNN helped to whip the country into “a state of absolute hysteria” over the investigation. “Consider this,” he said, “[Trump is] being investigated for a crime that didn’t happen, and that he certainly didn’t commit.”

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Facebook = CIA.

She Wrote The Patriot Act. Her Next Job Is With Facebook (ZH)

Facebook announced Monday that Jennifer Newstead, a Trump appointee who served in the Department of Justice (DoJ) under President Bush, will join the social media company as General Counsel, supervising its global legal functions. Newstead replaces Colin Stretch, who announced in 3Q18 that he will exit. Stretch will remain with Facebook through the transition phase, expected to be completed in the coming months. “Jennifer is a seasoned leader whose global perspective and experience will help us fulfill our mission,” said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer. “We are also truly grateful to Colin for his dedicated leadership and wise counsel over the past nine years. He has played a crucial role in some of our most important projects and has created a strong foundation for Jennifer to build upon.”

Newstead brings a terrifying history of lobbying and legislating for an Orwellian style of mass electronic surveillance of Americans. The Hill explains she was credited with writing the controversial 2001 Patriot Act, a piece of legislation that stripped Americans of their First and Fourth Amendments in the name of fighting the War on Terror. In a 2002 statement, Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh described Newstead’s role in drafting the Patriot Act: “Her enhanced leadership duties and her excellent service on a range of issues — including helping craft the new U.S.A. Patriot Act to protect the United States against terror — have earned her this important distinction. She is first among equals.”


Congress enacted the Patriot Act in the wake of September 11, 2001 attacks, the Act expanded the scope of the government’s surveillance powers to investigate terrorism, organized crime, and drug trafficking. It allowed government investigators to use roving wiretaps and the ability to collect telephone records from US carriers.

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That means Assange defense.

Iceland Court Orders Valitor (Formerly VISA) to Pay WikiLeaks $10 Million (GP)

The Icelandic court has ordered Valitor, formerly VISA Iceland, to pay WikiLeaks $10 million in damages over the 2011 banking blockade. Valitor had been ordered to process card payments for WikiLeaks in 2013 by the same court, and was told they would face daily penalties if they refused to comply. By not reinstating services, the company was fined $204,900 per month or $2,494,604 per year for continuing the blockade. On Wednesday, Icelandic media reported that the company has now been ordered to pay up. Valitor has stated that they are likely to appeal, according to WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks had launched a case against Valitor in Reykjavik back in June of 2012 over the unlawful suspension of financial services against Wikileaks.


Ten days after WikiLeaks published Cablegate, they were blockaded by Bank of America, VISA, MasterCard, PayPal and Western Union. The political effort to defund the organization lead to a wave of hacks and cyber attacks against the companies by transparency activists. “The blockade is outside of any accountable, public process. It is without democratic oversight or transparency. The US government itself found that there were no lawful grounds to add WikiLeaks to a US financial blockade. But the blockade of WikiLeaks by politicized US finance companies continues regardless,” WikiLeaks said in a statement at the time.

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Appears to be a real low amount. They lose a billion a month from not building 52 but 42 planes.

Global Grounding Of 737 Max Will Cost Boeing More Than $1 Billion (G.)

The global grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max jets will cost the company more than $1bn, the company said on Wednesday. In its first quarterly earnings report since the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines disasters, Boeing announced it had abandoned its 2019 financial outlook and halted share buy-backs in mid-March as it deals with the crisis. Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing’s chairman and chief executive officer, said: “We have great sorrow for the families affected. This weighs heavily on us.” He said the company’s first priority was to get the 737 Max back in the air and that the company was working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other regulators to end the aircraft grounding.


The announcement was a sharp reversal from Boeing’s last earnings report in January, when executives unveiled plans to deliver more than 900 jetliners this year alongside higher sales and profits. The world’s largest plane-maker reported first-quarter revenue and cashflow below sharply lowered Wall Street estimates, largely due to stopping deliveries of the 737 Max jets, which were grounded in March after the two crashes. [..] Boeing cut production of the jets following the crashes to 42 aircraft per month, down from 52, and its operating cash flow in the first quarter was about $350m lower than a year earlier.

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Musk’s business models are all based on subsidies.

Tesla Reports Another Doozie (WS)

It would be a joke for a small niche automaker, specialized in luxury cars, with a global market share of less than 1% to get this kind of global attention. But Tesla is unique because of its extraordinarily ludicrous stock price. Though that price has come down by about 32% from its peak in June 2017, it’s still ludicrously high. More on that in a moment. We’re going to skip over all the glossy stuff and go straight to the financial statement, more specifically to the bottom line of the income statement, where Tesla reported a zinger of a net loss of $702 million, its third-worst quarterly net loss ever. We note here that part of Tesla’s business model is to sell taxpayer-funded pollution credits to other companies, but they’re not fully disclosed until Tesla files its 10-Q at a later date:

These pollution credits are pure profit. For Q1, Tesla disclosed only $15 million of these credits. For the full disclosure we have to wait until Tesla files its 10-Q report for Q1 at a later date, when no one pays attention. For example, in the miraculous third quarter last year, Tesla reported a profit of $311 million on October 24, and all the world was left speculating and digging into how it accomplished this. At the time, it disclosed $52 million in “regulatory credits,” as it calls them. But then on November 2, Tesla filed its 10-Q for that quarter, disclosing that $189.5 million of its $311 million in profits had come from the sale of those “regulatory credits,” a much larger amount than typical.


[..] at the price of $258.66 a share at the close today, Tesla has a market capitalization of $44.7 billion. By comparison, GM – and I’m no fan of GM at this price – which made $48 billion in net income over the past four years and whose revenues of $147 billion in 2018 were seven times the size of Tesla’s, has a market cap of $56.6 billion. And at peak Tesla nuttiness, there were long periods when the market cap of Tesla exceeded that of GM. So to have some fun, I created this chart to show the difference in market cap (GM minus Tesla) in billion dollars.

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“debt trap diplomacy”

Belt and Road Forum: China’s ‘Project Of The Century’ Hits Tough Times (G.)

As China fetes its Belt and Road initiative at a summit this week, Chinese officials will be working hard to defend the flagship project from growing international criticism. The three-day forum starting on Thursday is meant to promote Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s “project of the century”, a foreign policy initiative launched in 2013 to revive ancient trading routes between Asia and Europe, as well as build new links in the Middle East, Africa, and South America. But in contrast to its first summit two years ago, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) takes place in a much less welcoming environment. Critics say the initiative is an effort to cement Chinese influence around the world by financially binding countries to Beijing by way of “debt trap diplomacy”.


“The ‘Belt and Road initiative’ (BRI) is not a geopolitical tool but a platform for cooperation,” Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said last week, ahead of the forum “We welcome all parties to take part in it.” This week’s event is especially important for Beijing, which uses the forum as a way to convince the international community, as well as its own citizens, of the success of the project. Beijing is likely to laud the memoranda of understanding signed at the event, which will conclude with a joint communique. [..] The event is to be attended by 37 leaders, including Russian president Vladimir Putin, Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte, UK chancellor Philip Hammond, Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan and the heads of state of the 10 Asean (Association of South-east Asian Nation) states.

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“In this week’s episode of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with China expert Anne Stevenson-Yang about the imminent dangers facing global financial markets in the event of a break in the renminbi-dollar peg.”

“I really have never seen a listed company in China that did not have material and significant fraud.” – Anne Stevenson-Yang”

Past Role and Current Risks from China – Anne-Stevenson Yang (HF)

The problem is that China generated a tremendous amount of money and credit since the GFC, in particular, and therefore risks a major devaluation in the value of the RMB should the country no longer be able to get the foreign exchange reserves it needs through a sustainable current account surplus. They are, at the moment, running a negative current account, a negative fiscal balance (of roughly 9% of GDP), their foreign exchange reserves are declining for the first time ever, while the country’s external debt has doubled in the last five years, increasing by an average of $70 billion per quarter since the beginning of 2017. More than half of this debt is short-term, which means it needs to be constantly rolled over.


Up until the Fed paused it’s tightening cycle, the rising interest rates coupled with new tariffs on Chinese goods were creating a pincer-like effect on China’s economy and on its ability to maintain its peg, forcing it to fund more of its dollar needs through borrowing at ever higher interest rates. China cannot maintain a credible peg between the RMB and the USD when its money supply is growing, by some calculations at more than 10x that of the United States over the last 10 years. This is a fundamental problem of accounting. If China were completely self-sufficient – if it had access to sufficient energy, food, base metals, etc. within its own borders – then its inability to obtain dollars would not be an issue. The problem is that it is desperately short these commodities as inputs for its manufacturing and domestic consumption.

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Not a Monbiot fan, but surely a discussion point. Unlike him, do come with an alternative.

Thunberg: ‘That future was sold so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money. It was stolen from us every time you said that the sky was the limit, and that you only live once.’

Declare Capitalism Dead – Before It Takes Us All Down With It (Monbiot)

Capitalism’s failures arise from two of its defining elements. The first is perpetual growth. Economic growth is the aggregate effect of the quest to accumulate capital and extract profit. Capitalism collapses without growth, yet perpetual growth on a finite planet leads inexorably to environmental calamity. Those who defend capitalism argue that, as consumption switches from goods to services, economic growth can be decoupled from the use of material resources. Last week a paper in the journal New Political Economy, by Jason Hickel and Giorgos Kallis, examined this premise. They found that while some relative decoupling took place in the 20th century (material resource consumption grew, but not as quickly as economic growth), in the 21st century there has been a recoupling: rising resource consumption has so far matched or exceeded the rate of economic growth.

The absolute decoupling needed to avert environmental catastrophe (a reduction in material resource use) has never been achieved, and appears impossible while economic growth continues. Green growth is an illusion. A system based on perpetual growth cannot function without peripheries and externalities. There must always be an extraction zone – from which materials are taken without full payment – and a disposal zone, where costs are dumped in the form of waste and pollution. As the scale of economic activity increases until capitalism affects everything, from the atmosphere to the deep ocean floor, the entire planet becomes a sacrifice zone: we all inhabit the periphery of the profit-making machine.

[..] The second defining element is the bizarre assumption that a person is entitled to as great a share of the world’s natural wealth as their money can buy. This seizure of common goods causes three further dislocations. First, the scramble for exclusive control of non-reproducible assets, which implies either violence or legislative truncations of other people’s rights. Second, the immiseration of other people by an economy based on looting across both space and time. Third, the translation of economic power into political power, as control over essential resources leads to control over the social relations that surround them.

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The only thing we’re acutally good at is destruction.

‘Death By A Thousand Cuts’: Vast Expanse Of Rainforest Lost In 2018 (G.)

Millions of hectares of pristine tropical rainforest were destroyed in 2018, according to satellite analysis, with beef, chocolate and palm oil among the main causes. The forests store huge amounts of carbon and are teeming with wildlife, making their protection critical to stopping runaway climate change and halting a sixth mass extinction. But deforestation is still on an upward trend, the researchers said. Although 2018 losses were lower than in 2016 and 2017, when dry conditions led to large fires, last year was the next worst since 2002, when such records began. Clearcutting of primary forest by loggers and cattle ranchers in Brazil dominated the destruction, including invasions into indigenous lands where uncontacted tribes live.

Losses were also high in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Indonesia. Indonesia is the only major country where government protections appear to be significantly reducing the losses. Ghana and Ivory Coast recorded the biggest percentage rises in rainforest destruction, driven by gold mining and cocoa farming. “We are nowhere near winning this battle,” said Frances Seymour from the World Resources Institute, part of the Global Forest Watch (GFW) network, which produced the analysis. “It is really tempting to celebrate a second year of decline since peak tree cover loss in 2016 but, if you look back over the last 18 years, it is clear that the overall trend is still upwards.”

“The world’s forests are now in the emergency room – it is death by a thousand cuts,” she said. “Band-Aid responses are not enough. For every hectare lost, we are one step closer to the scary scenario of runaway climate change.” There are many government and corporate efforts to combat deforestation, but they are not proving to be enough, Seymour said.

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Jan 042019
 


Yasuhiro Ishimoto Untitled, Chicago 1950

 

Congratulations! Apple Loses Record $463 Billion in Market Cap in Three Months (Mish)
Apple Just Lost A Facebook (CNBC)
Apple Suffers Its Biggest Single-Day Loss In 6 Years (CNBC)
Why This Time Is Different (MooTrades)
Democrats Introduce Impeachment Articles On 1st Day In The House (RT)
Canada Says 13 Citizens Detained In China Since Huawei CFO’s Arrest (R.)
UBS Chairman Pours Cold Water On Deutsche Bank Merger Talk (R.)
Google Shifted $23 Billion To Tax Haven Bermuda In 2017 (R.)
Over Half Of Tory Members Consider Quitting Party Over May’s Brexit Deal (BI)
US Judge Limits Evidence In Trial Over Roundup Cancer Claims (R.)
New Brazil President Bolsonaro Launches Assault On Amazon Rainforest (G.)

 

 

Losing half a trillion in 3 months should be no surprise now central banks have killed the negative feedback from a functioning market. It’ll be runaway wild swings till it is restored.

Congratulations! Apple Loses Record $463 Billion in Market Cap in Three Months (Mish)

Apple set a record that will take a long time to beat. The first $ trillion company lost nearly half that in 3 months. On, August 2, Apple became the World’s First Trillion-Dollar Company at $207.05 per share. Hooray! On October 3, Apple had a peak market cap of about $1.138 trillion. Today, Apple’s market cap is about $675 billion. That’s a record market cap loss of $463 billion in three short months. Expect more stories similar to this, but this may be hard to top. Amazon has a chance but it needs a big disaster soon.

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• more than double the size of Wells Fargo • more than three times the size of McDonald’s • more than five times the size of Costco • more than 10 times the size of Raytheon.

Apple Just Lost A Facebook (CNBC)

In only three months, Apple has lost $452 billion in market capitalization, including tens of billions on Thursday as the tech giant’s stock sank further. Apple shares have fallen by 39.1 percent since Oct. 3, when the stock hit a 52-week high of $233.47 a share. With its market cap down to about $674 billion, those losses are larger than individual value of 496 members of the S&P 500 — including Facebook and J.P. Morgan. Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet and Berkshire Hathaway are the only S&P 500 members with larger market caps than Apple’s loss since its recent high.

To put the Apple market value plunge in context, $446 billion is: • more than double the size of Wells Fargo • more than three times the size of McDonald’s • more than five times the size of Costco • more than 10 times the size of Raytheon. Apple gave a sudden warning to investors on Wednesday afternoon, lowering its fiscal first-quarter revenue guidance. Wall Street reacted, with one analyst saying this will represent Apple’s “biggest miss in years” and another saying the company’s announcement “raises more questions than answers.” Apple CEO Tim Cook’s letter to investors blamed a variety of factors for the guidance cut, including declining iPhone revenue and China’s weakening economy.

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Only 6 years? That makes it sound cookie cutter.

Apple Suffers Its Biggest Single-Day Loss In 6 Years (CNBC)

Apple stock cratered almost 10 percent Thursday, a day after slashing revenue guidance in a rare acknowledgement of waning sales. The stock ended trading at $142.19, its lowest price level since July 2017. The plunge makes for Apple’s worst day of trading since January 2013, and it extends a painful year-end trend for Apple into 2019. The stock, which once traded above $230 per share, shed 30 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018. Thursday’s losses push Apple’s market valuation below $700 billion and behind the market cap of Alphabet to become the fourth most valuable publicly traded U.S. company — down from the top spot just two months ago. The company has lost $450 billion in market value since its peak of about $1.1 trillion last year.

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Hard not to think that people working in finance still can’t believe the industry doesn’t function. They keep trying to explain what happens, from inside their faulty models.

Why This Time Is Different (MooTrades)

We have seen the last three bull markets catalyzed largely by loosening liquidity conditions during the bear markets that preceded them by central banks — in more and more of a globally coordinated fashion. This has led me to believe that the expansion of liquidity is the primary driver for consistent risk asset upward price revisions (aka bull markets). More than economic developments, earnings or political discourse. As a result it is crucial to realize that the ‘punch bowl’ of quantitative easing, the veritable liquidity spigot that juiced markets higher over the last 9.5 years, is not only running dry, but going in reverse (taking liquidity from markets). The impact of this reversal cannot overstated. It will be the primary catalyst that drives this bear market in equities lower. Only a reversal of tightening liquidity conditions will drive risk assets higher again.

Macro: • $1 of US GDP growth now costs $4 of debt, and is only growing as we push on the string of debt to borrow forward demand to today. • US now has $200 trillion of unfunded liabilities over the next 10 year period. • Debt monetization isn’t just important, it will become a necessity. Otherwise rates normalize and the party ends in a very bad way (insolvency and/or extreme austerity measures).

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Everybody is getting ready for a fight. Just not one that would benefit their voters.

Democrats Introduce Impeachment Articles On 1st Day In The House (RT)

Democrats are flexing their muscles as the incoming majority in the US House of Representatives, introducing articles of impeachment and even quixotic constitutional amendments even though they have no hope of passing. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) introduced articles of impeachment on the first day of the 2019 Congress, starting with a resolution demanding President Donald Trump be impeached for “threatening, and then terminating” then-FBI Director James Comey in 2017. Reserving the option to introduce more articles later, Sherman told CNN he wanted to be able to “force the conversation on impeachment” when (if?) the Mueller report is released, “challenging” his Democratic colleagues who haven’t yet chosen to support Trump’s impeachment.

Sherman filed the exact same impeachment resolution in 2017 but could only muster one supporter, Rep. Al Green (D-TX), who later filed his own articles of impeachment. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) didn’t even wait until she was seated as a congresswoman to go after the president’s job, publishing an op-ed on Thursday entitled “Now is the time to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump.” “We already have overwhelming evidence that the president has committed impeachable offenses,” she wrote, accusing Trump of “abuse of power and abuse of the public trust” along with a laundry list of crimes. In person, she was even more direct, reportedly telling a MoveOn.org reception, “We’re gonna impeach that mother**ker.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has been noticeably reticent on impeachment, telling NBC on Thursday that Democrats should wait for the Mueller report before making any moves. “We shouldn’t be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn’t avoid impeachment for a political reason,” she said. Many rank-and-file Democrats ran on pro-impeachment platforms, but with polls indicating only a third of Americans support the idea and a two-thirds majority in the Republican-controlled Senate required to remove the president, they are unlikely to make any sudden moves.

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“..there are almost 900 Canadians in a similar situation in the United States..”

Canada Says 13 Citizens Detained In China Since Huawei CFO’s Arrest (R.)

Canada has said 13 of its citizens have been detained in China since the Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in December in Vancouver at the request of the US. “At least” eight of those 13 have since been released, a Canadian government statement said, without disclosing what charges if any had been laid. Prior to Thursday’s statement, detention of only three Canadian citizens had been publicly disclosed. Diplomatic tensions between Canada and China have escalated since Meng’s arrest on 1 December. The Canadian government has said several times it sees no explicit link between the arrest of Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, and the detentions of Canadian citizens. But Beijing-based western diplomats and former Canadian diplomats have said they believe the detentions were a “tit-for-tat” reprisal by China.

Meng was released on a C$10m ($7.4m) bail on 11 December and is living in one of her two Vancouver homes as she fights extradition to the US. The 46-year-old executive must wear an ankle monitor and stay at home from 11pm to 6am. The 13 Canadians detained included Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor and Sarah McIver, a Canadian government official said on Thursday. McIver, a teacher, has been released and returned to Canada. Kovrig and Spavor remain in custody. Canadian consular officials saw them once each in mid-December. Overall there are about 200 Canadians who have been detained in China for a variety of alleged infractions and continue to face on-going legal proceedings. “This number has remained relatively stable,” the official said. In comparison there are almost 900 Canadians in a similar situation in the United States, the official said.

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Who’s going to save Deutsche? It’s far too big not to be saved. But it would drag down any other bank with it. Let the German government do it.

UBS Chairman Pours Cold Water On Deutsche Bank Merger Talk (R.)

Swiss bank UBS is not looking to merge with any other bank, Chairman Axel Weber told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper, dismissing speculation that UBS could join forces with Deutsche Bank. “There is a lot of talk in Europe and the United States about mergers but nothing happens. These are all simulation games,” he said in an interview published on Thursday. Asked specifically about whether UBS, the world’s largest wealth manager, was running simulations about Germany’s biggest lender, Weber said: “Every company has to think things over, but it makes little sense to consider mergers at group level now. These paralyze companies for years.

“UBS is much stronger today than before the financial crisis, but combining with another bank — no matter which — would be premature at this moment. We want to grow primarily organically and we surely have to be able to walk before we want to run.” Weber, a former Bundesbank chief who joined UBS in 2012, said he could imagine remaining in his post until 2022. Asked how long Chief Executive Sergio Ermotti might stay, he said UBS wanted an orderly leadership transition and was under no pressure to act while it ensured the right talent was in place.

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The Dutch finance minister published a list of tax havens a few days ago. Holland wasn’t on it. These people don’t give a sh*t about their credibility.

Google Shifted $23 Billion To Tax Haven Bermuda In 2017 (R.)

Google moved 19.9 billion euros ($22.7 billion) through a Dutch shell company to Bermuda in 2017, as part of an arrangement that allows it to reduce its foreign tax bill, according to documents filed at the Dutch Chamber of Commerce. The amount channeled through Google Netherlands Holdings BV was around 4 billion euros more than in 2016, the documents, filed on Dec. 21, showed. “We pay all of the taxes due and comply with the tax laws in every country we operate in around the world,” Google said in a statement. “Google, like other multinational companies, pays the vast majority of its corporate income tax in its home country, and we have paid a global effective tax rate of 26 percent over the last ten years.”

For more than a decade the arrangement has allowed Google owner Alphabet to enjoy an effective tax rate in the single digits on its non-U.S. profits, around a quarter the average tax rate in its overseas markets. The subsidiary in the Netherlands is used to shift revenue from royalties earned outside the United States to Google Ireland Holdings, an affiliate based in Bermuda, where companies pay no income tax. The tax strategy, known as the “Double Irish, Dutch Sandwich”, is legal and allows Google to avoid triggering U.S. income taxes or European withholding taxes on the funds, which represent the bulk of its overseas profits.

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“76% of Tory members said that warnings about no deal Brexit — like those on food & medicine — are “exaggerated or invented, and in reality leaving without a deal would not cause serious disruption.”

Over Half Of Tory Members Consider Quitting Party Over May’s Brexit Deal (BI)

Conservative party members overwhelmingly want MPs to vote down Theresa May’s Brexit deal, with more than half saying they have even considered ripping up their membership over it, according to a new poll. A survey of 1,215 Tory party members published on Friday found that 59% of Conservative party members oppose the Withdrawal Agreement May has negotiated with the European Union, while just 38% support it. Among all Conservative party members, more than half (56%) said they had considered quitting the party over May’s deal, according to YouGov polling for leading academics at the ESRC-funded Party Members Project.

The findings will spook figures in Downing Street who had hoped that Conservative MPs would return from their constituencies over Christmas having been urged by party members to get behind May and her deal. The prime minister was forced to postpone a parliamentary vote on her deal after more than 100 of her MPs announced that they planned to oppose it. [..] The Tory party membership is particularly supportive of leaving the EU without a deal, despite the myriad warnings from ministers about the disruption it would cause across multiple aspects of life in the UK, including food and medicine. A whopping 76% of Tory members said that warnings about a no deal Brexit are “exaggerated or invented, and in reality leaving without a deal would not cause serious disruption.” Just 18% said the warnings were realistic.

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The -legal- power of Monsanto should never be underestimated.

US Judge Limits Evidence In Trial Over Roundup Cancer Claims (R.)

A federal judge overseeing lawsuits alleging Bayer’s glyphosate-based weed killer causes cancer has issued a ruling that could severely restrict evidence that the plaintiffs consider crucial to their cases. U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco in an order on Thursday granted Bayer unit Monsanto’s request to split an upcoming trial into two phases. The order initially bars lawyers for plaintiff Edwin Hardeman from introducing evidence that the company allegedly attempted to influence regulators and manipulate public opinion.

Thursday’s order applies to Hardeman’s case, which is scheduled to go to trial on Feb. 25, and two other so-called bellwether trials which will help determine the range of damages and define settlement options for the rest of the 620 Roundup cases before Chhabria. But Hardeman’s lawyers contended that such evidence, including internal Monsanto documents, showed the company’s misconduct and were critical to California state court jury’s August 2018 decision to award $289 million in a similar case. The verdict sent Bayer shares tumbling though the award was later reduced to $78 million and is under appeal. Under Chhabria’s order, evidence of Monsanto’s alleged misconduct would be allowed only if glyphosate was found to have caused Hardeman’s cancer and the trial proceeded to a second phase to determine Bayer’s liability.

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Time to cut all ties with Brazil.

New Brazil President Bolsonaro Launches Assault On Amazon Rainforest (G.)

Hours after taking office, Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has launched an assault on environmental and Amazon protections with an executive order transferring the regulation and creation of new indigenous reserves to the agriculture ministry – which is controlled by the powerful agribusiness lobby. The move sparked outcry from indigenous leaders, who said it threatened their reserves, which make up about 13% of Brazilian territory, and marked a symbolic concession to farming interests at a time when deforestation is rising again. “There will be an increase in deforestation and violence against indigenous people,” said Dinaman Tuxá, the executive coordinator of the Articulation of Indigenous People of Brazil (Apib).

“Indigenous people are defenders and protectors of the environment.” Sonia Guajajara, an indigenous leader who stood as vice-presidential candidate for the Socialism and Freedom party (PSOL) tweeted her opposition. “The dismantling has already begun,” she posted on Tuesday. Previously, demarcation of indigenous reserves was controlled by the indigenous agency Funai, which has been moved from the justice ministry to a new ministry of women, family and human rights controlled by an evangelical pastor. The decision was included in an executive order which also gave Bolsonaro’s government secretary potentially far-reaching powers over non-governmental organizations working in Brazil.

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May 092018
 


Edgar Degas Two laundresses 1876

 

Fed Chair Powell To Emerging Markets: You Are On Your Own (ZH)
Argentina Seeks IMF Aid ‘To Avoid Crisis’ (BBC)
Europe On Collision Course With US Over Iran Deal (AFP)
Mnuchin: Revoking Boeing, Airbus Licenses To Sell Jets To Iran (R.)
Pompeo, In North Korea, To Return With Detained Americans (R.)
Central Banks Rigged The Cost Of Money And The State Of The Markets (Prins)
US Student Debt Just Hit $1.5 Trillion (MW)
The State of the American Debt Slaves, Q1 2018 (WS)
UK PM May Suffers Upper House Defeat Over Plans To Leave EU Single Market (R.)
UK Retailers Suffer Sharpest Sales Drop For 22 Years In April (G.)
Sharp Drop In UK Retail Job Vacancies As High Street Crisis Deepens (Ind.)
Cynthia Nixon: Marijuana Industry Could Be ‘A Form Of Reparations’ (Hill)
Record Drop In Greek Savings Last Year (K.)
Debt Repayment Feasible if Greece ‘Implements Reforms’ – Regling (AMNA)
British Diplomats: Saving The Rainforest Could Hurt Fighter Jet Sales (UE)

 

 

As the dollar keeps rising.

Fed Chair Powell To Emerging Markets: You Are On Your Own (ZH)

Over the weekend, when commenting on the ongoing rout in emerging markets, Bloomberg published an article titled “Rattled Emerging Markets Say: It’s Over to You, Central Bankers.” Well, overnight the most important central banker of all, Fed Chair Jay Powell responded to these pleas to “do something”, and it wasn’t what EMs – or those used to being bailed out by the Fed – wanted to hear. As Powell explained, speaking at a conference sponsored by the IMF and Swiss National Bank in Zurich, the Fed’s gradual push towards higher interest rates shouldn’t be blamed for any roiling of emerging market economies – which are well placed to navigate the tightening of U.S. monetary policy. In other words, with the Fed’s monetary policy painfully transparent, Powell’s message to EM’s was simple: “you’re on your own.”

Arguing that the Fed’s decision-making isn’t the major determinant of flows of capital into developing economies (which, of course, it is especially as the Fed gradually reverses the biggest monetary experiment in history) Powell said the influence of the Fed on global financial conditions should not be overstated, despite Bernanke taking the blame five years ago for the so-called taper tantrum. “There is good reason to think that the normalization of monetary policy in advanced economies should continue to prove manageable for EMEs,” Powell said, adding that “markets should not be surprised by our actions if the economy evolves in line with expectations.”

[..] Meanwhile, as the Fed refuses to change course, other policy makers have been forced to step in to counter the sharp, sudden capital outflows, with Argentina’s central bank abruptly raising rates three times, to 40% to halt a sell-off in the peso. Russia has also put the brakes on further monetary easing. Turkey, which is a unique basket case in that Erdogan is expressly prohibiting the central bank from doing the one thing it should to ease the ongoing panic, i.e., raise rates, is seeking to bring down its current account deficit. Overnight, we learned that Indonesia was burning reserves to prop up its currency.

Meanwhile, also overnight, JPM CEO Jamie Dimon said it’s possible U.S. growth and inflation prove fast enough to prompt the Fed to raise interest rates more than many anticipate, and it would be wise to prepare for benchmark yields to climb to 4%. Such a scenario would be a disaster for EMs: “A sustained move higher would pressure local currencies and lure away foreign investors. The IMF warned last month that risks to global financial stability have increased over the past six months.” “Central banks may have to respond with interest rate hikes if the sell-off intensifies,” said Chua Hak Bin, a senior economist at Maybank Kim Eng Research in Singapore. Those most vulnerable include Ukraine, China, Argentina, South Africa and Turkey according to the Institute for International Finance.

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IMF demand: austerity. Back to the hoovervilles.

Argentina Seeks IMF Aid ‘To Avoid Crisis’ (BBC)

Argentina is to start talks about a financing deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Wednesday amid reports it is seeking $30bn (£22bn). Finance minister Nicolas Dujovne is due to fly to the IMF’s Washington offices. After recent turmoil that saw interest rates hit 40%, President Mauricio Macri said IMF aid would “strengthen growth” and help avoid crises of the past. The talks come 17 years after Argentina defaulted on its debts and 12 years since it severed ties with IMF. Mr Macri said in an address to the nation on Tuesday: “Just a few minutes ago I spoke with (IMF) director Christine Lagarde, and she confirmed we would start working on an agreement.”

“This will allow us to strengthen our program of growth and development, giving us greater support to face this new global scenario and avoid crises like the ones we have had in our history,” he said. Local media and Bloomberg reported that Argentina was seeking $30bn, although the government declined to comment. The peso has lost a quarter of its value in the past year amid President Macri’s pro-market reforms. Last week the central bank raised interest rates from 33.25% to 40%. Many people still blame IMF austerity requirements for policies that led to a financial and economic meltdown in 2001 to 2002 that left millions of middle class Argentines in poverty. Argentina eventually defaulted on its debts. And although its last IMF loan was paid down in 2006, the country severed ties with the Washington-based body.

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“US sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran’s economy. German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately,” tweeted the US ambassador in Berlin, Richard Grenell.

Europe On Collision Course With US Over Iran Deal (AFP)

Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the landmark 2015 deal curbing Iran’s nuclear programme is a bitter pill to swallow for European leaders and risks a creating a major transatlantic rift. French President Emmanuel Macron, who has spent the past year cultivating the closest ties with Trump among EU leaders, made saving the Iran deal one of his priorities during his state visit to Washington last month. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had also travelled to the US in late April and she worked closely with Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May right up to the last minute.

In a joint statement issued shortly after Trump walked away from 2015 accord, they said they noted the decision with “regret and concern” but they said they would continue to uphold their commitments. “Our governments remain committed to ensuring the agreement is upheld, and will work with all the remaining parties to the deal to ensure this remains the case,” they said. They noted that this included the “economic benefits to the Iranian people that are linked to the agreement,” which means European firms would in theory continue to invest and operate there. This would appear to set the three countries, all signatories along with Russia, China and the EU, on a direct collision course with Washington.

European leaders have clashed with the White House already on issues ranging from climate change to trade and Trump’s decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Trump’s hawkish National Security Advisor John Bolton said that European firms would have a “wind down” period to cancel any investments made in Iran under the terms of the accord. “US sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran’s economy. German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately,” tweeted the US ambassador in Berlin, Richard Grenell. Under the 2015 deal, Iran was meant to benefit from increased trade and contracts with foreign firms in exchange for accepting curbs on its nuclear activity and stringent monitoring.

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Airbus? But it’s European. Oh: “All the deals are dependent on U.S. licenses because of the heavy use of American parts in commercial planes.”

Mnuchin: Revoking Boeing, Airbus Licenses To Sell Jets To Iran (R.)

Licenses for Boeing Co and Airbus to sell passenger jets to Iran will be revoked, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Tuesday after President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement. Trump said he would reimpose U.S. economic sanctions on Iran, which were lifted under the agreement he had harshly criticized. The pact, worked out by the United States, five other world powers and Iran, lifted sanctions in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear program. It was designed to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb. IranAir had ordered 200 passenger aircraft – 100 from Airbus SE, 80 from Boeing and 20 from Franco-Italian turboprop maker ATR.

All the deals are dependent on U.S. licenses because of the heavy use of American parts in commercial planes. Boeing agreed in December 2016 to sell 80 aircraft, worth $17 billion at list prices, to IranAir under an agreement between Tehran and major world powers to reopen trade in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear activities. The U.S. Treasury Department, which controls licensing of exports, said the United States would no longer allow the export of commercial passenger aircraft, parts and services to Iran after a 90-day period. “The Boeing and (Airbus) licenses will be revoked,” Mnuchin told reporters at the Treasury. “Under the original deal, there were waivers for commercial aircraft, parts and services and the existing licenses will be revoked.”

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Are they going to say they were well treated?

Pompeo, In North Korea, To Return With Detained Americans (R.)

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to return from North Korea with three American detainees, as well as details of an upcoming summit between leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump, a South Korean official said on Wednesday. Pompeo arrived in Pyongyang on Wednesday from Japan and headed to the Koryo Hotel in the North Korean capital for meetings, a U.S. media pool report said. Trump earlier broke the news of Pompeo’s second visit to North Korea in less than six weeks and said the two countries had agreed on a date and location for the summit, although he stopped short of providing details. An official at South Korea’s presidential Blue House said Pompeo was expected to finalize the date of the summit and secure the release of the three American detainees.

While Trump said it would be a “great thing” if the American detainees were freed, Pompeo told reporters en route to Pyongyang he had not received such a commitment but hoped North Korea would “do the right thing”. “We’ll talk about it again today,” he said. “I think it’d be a great gesture if they would choose to do so.” The pending U.S.-North Korea summit has sparked a flurry of diplomacy, with Japan, South Korea and China holding a high-level meeting on Wednesday. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said concerned parties should seize the opportunity to promote denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

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More Nomi.

Central Banks Rigged The Cost Of Money And The State Of The Markets (Prins)

Nomi Prins: The word “collusion” has come to be associated with Russia, Trump and the US election. My book is about something entirely different, much more global: the collusion (or coordination) that the US central bank (the Federal Reserve) forged with other major countries to fabricate an abundance of money in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to support the US financial system at first, and banks and select companies and markets worldwide, as well, since. The Fed conjured up this money to provide liquidity for Wall Street banks. The policy was then exported to the major central banks who acted as a lender and supplier of last resort to the world.

Some of the most notable central banks include the European Central Bank (ECB), the Bank of Japan and the Bank of England. Collusion is about these powerful institutions’ relationships with each other. The book dives into how central banks rigged the cost of money and the state of the markets, and ultimately created more inequality and instability as a result. They did all of this in order to subsidize private banks at the expense of people everywhere. The book reveals the people in charge of these strategies, their elite gatherings and public and private communications. It uncovers how their policies rerouted economies, geopolitics, trade wars and elections.

How do central banks relate to the world’s markets? Central banks have several functions from an official standpoint. The first is to regulate the smooth and orderly operation of private banks or public banks within a particular country or region (the ECB is responsible for many countries in Europe). The other function they are tasked with is setting interest rates (the cost of borrowing money) so that there’s adequate economic balance between full employment and a select inflation rate. The idea is that if the cost of money is cheap enough, private banks will lend to the general population and businesses. The ultimate goal is that the money can be used to expand enterprise, hire people and develop a strong economic posture.

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What cannot be repaid will not be.

US Student Debt Just Hit $1.5 Trillion (MW)

America’s student loan problem just surpassed a depressing milestone. Outstanding student debt reached $1.521 trillion in the first quarter of 2018, according to the Federal Reserve, hitting $1.5 trillion for the first time. Though the marker is somewhat arbitrary, it offers a reminder of how quickly student debt has grown—jumping from about $600 billion 10 years ago to more than $1.5 trillion today—and that the factors fueling the increase aren’t likely to disappear any time soon. “People pay attention to milestones,” said Mark Kantrowitz, a financial aid expert. When student debt surpassed $1 trillion in 2012, “it definitely caused a shift in coverage of student loans in the news media,” he said.

In theory, that helps raise awareness of the issue for student advocates, lawmakers and, in particular, borrowers when considering what college to attend. But Kantrowitz added, “What’s more important is the impact on individual borrowers.” And they are feeling it. College graduates leave school with about $37,000 in debt on average, according to Kantrowitz’s data, a sum that can be bearable for many, given that the average starting salary for a new college graduate last year hovered around $50,000. But a large share—as many as one in six college graduates, Kantrowitz estimates—will leave school with debt that exceeds their income. That will make it challenging for those borrowers to pay off their loans on a standard 10-year repayment plan, he said.

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Now let’s throw in some rate hikes, see what happens.

The State of the American Debt Slaves, Q1 2018 (WS)

Total consumer credit rose 5.1% in the first quarter, compared to a year earlier, or by $184 billion, to $3.824 trillion (not seasonally adjusted), according to the Federal Reserve. This includes credit-card debt, auto loans, and student loans, but not mortgage-related debt. That 5.1% year-over-year increase isn’t setting any records – in 2011, year-over-year increases ran over 11%. But it does show that Americans are dealing with the economy and their joys and woes the American way: by piling on debt faster than the overall economy is growing. The chart below shows the progression of consumer debt since 2006. In line with seasonal patterns for first quarters, consumer credit (not seasonally adjusted) edged down from Q4, as the spending binge of the holiday shopping season turned into hangover, an annual American ritual:

Note how the dip after the Financial Crisis – when consumers deleveraged mostly by defaulting on those debts – didn’t last long. Over the 10 years since Q1 2008, consumer debt has now surged 47%. Over the same period, the consumer price index has increased 16.9%: Auto loans and leases for new and used vehicles rose by 3.8% from a year ago, or by $41 billion, to $1.118 trillion. It was one of the smaller increases since the Great Recession: The peak year-over-year jumps occurred at the peak of the new vehicle sales boom in the US in Q3 2015 ($87 billion or 9%). However, the still standing records were set in Q1 and Q2 2001 near the end of the recession, with each quarter adding around $93 billion, or 16%, year-over-year.

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It really makes no difference; the EU will say no anyway to all plans acceptable to the UK.

UK PM May Suffers Upper House Defeat Over Plans To Leave EU Single Market (R.)

Britain’s upper house of parliament on Tuesday inflicted another embarrassing defeat on Prime Minister Theresa May’s government on Tuesday, challenging her plan to leave the European Union’s single market after Brexit. May, who has struggled to unite the government behind her vision of Brexit, has said Britain will also leave the European Union’s single market and customs union after it quits the bloc next March. That stance has widened divisions not only within her own Conservative Party but also across both houses of parliament, which like Britons at large, remain deeply split over the best way to leave the EU after more than four decades of membership.

By a vote of 245 to 218, the unelected upper chamber, the House of Lords, supported an amendment to her Brexit blueprint, the EU withdrawal bill, requiring ministers to negotiate continued membership of the European Economic Area, meaning that it would remain in the single market. “The time has come over Brexit, really, for economic reality and common sense to prevail over political dogma and wishful thinking,” said Peter Mandelson, a member of the House of Lords from the main opposition Labour Party, who backed the amendment.

His comments drew criticism from pro-Brexit peers, including Conservative member Michael Forsyth who described the amendment as part of an attempt by “a number of people in this house who wish to reverse the decision of the British people”. Those proposing the amendment deny the charge. This is the 13th time in recent weeks that the government has been defeated in the House of Lords on the draft legislation that will formally terminate Britain’s EU membership.

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Must have been the weather.

UK Retailers Suffer Sharpest Sales Drop For 22 Years In April (G.)

Britain’s retailers suffered the sharpest drop in business in more than two decades last month as bad weather, the squeeze on household budgets and the timing of Easter led to a hefty cut in consumer spending. In the latest evidence of the slowdown in the economy since the turn of the year, the latest health check from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG found that sales were down by 3.1% in April, the biggest decline since the survey was launched in 1995. Spending on non-food items has been particularly hard hit over the last three months, and retailers are braced for tough trading conditions to continue for the rest of the year even though wages have now started to rise more quickly than prices.

Retailers have been hit hard by a combination of problems on top of the squeeze on spending, including higher labour costs as a result of increases in the minimum wage, the shift to online shopping and rapidly changing spending patterns. Toys R Us and the electricals retailer Maplin collapsed in February and a number of retailers, including House of Fraser, New Look, Carpetright and Poundworld, are all pursuing agreements with their landlords to cut their rents and close stores. The industry had been expecting that year-on-year comparisons would look poor for April, but the BRC’s chief executive, Helen Dickinson, said the problem ran deeper.

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Pickers and packers.

Sharp Drop In UK Retail Job Vacancies As High Street Crisis Deepens (Ind.)

Wages rose in April amid strong demand for candidates, but the number of retail vacancies dropped sharply as the crisis on the high street worsened, a recruitment industry survey has found. Growth of overall job vacancies picked up to a three-month high in April, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation said. Demand for permanent staff increased in the “vast majority” of job categories during the month, with the notable exception of retail, the REC said. The study of 400 recruitment consultancies found that engineering and IT saw the steepest increases in vacancies. REC director of policy Tom Hadley said the high-profile struggles of many retailers indicated it was a good time for staff to consider how they could transfer their skills into other roles, such as in the technology sector or as pickers and packers in distribution centres. “Helping people make career transitions will become increasingly important in this fast-changing business and employment landscape,” he said.

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Smart.

“..In New York in 2017, 86% of fifth-degree marijuana arrests were of people of color, while only 9% of those arrested were white..”

Cynthia Nixon: Marijuana Industry Could Be ‘A Form Of Reparations’ (Hill)

New York gubernatorial candidate and actress Cynthia Nixon on Saturday expanded on her calls for marijuana legalization, saying that the industry could provide a form of “reparations” for communities of color. Nixon, who expressed her support for legalizing marijuana earlier this year, told Forbes that she views marijuana as a racial justice issue. “We’re incarcerating people of color in such staggering numbers,” she said. She expressed support for what is known as an “equity” program, which would prioritize giving marijuana business licenses to people who have received marijuana convictions in the past. “Now that cannabis is exploding as an industry, we have to make sure that those communities that have been harmed and devastated by marijuana arrests get the first shot at this industry,” she told Forbes.

“We [must] prioritize them in terms of licenses. It’s a form of reparations.” In New York in 2017, 86% of fifth-degree marijuana arrests were of people of color, while only 9% of those arrested were white, despite data showing that black and white people are about equally likely to use marijuana. “Arresting people — particularly people of color — for cannabis is the crown jewel in the racist war on drugs and we must pluck it down,” she said. “We must expunge people’s records; we must get people out of prison.” “The use of marijuana has been effectively legal for white people for a really long time,” she told Forbes. “It’s time that we legalize it for everybody else.”

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Everything keeps going down. It’s guaranteed.

Record Drop In Greek Savings Last Year (K.)

Household savings shrank by 32.5 billion euros in total in the period from 2011 to 2017, as families increasingly resorted to dipping into their deposits after finding that disposable incomes are no longer enough to cover their outgoings. Last year the drop in savings reached an historic high of 8.3 billion euros in current prices, according to an analysis by Eurobank. In addition, households have resorted to liquidating assets such as properties, deposits, shares and bonds, among other investments. Notably consumption shrank by almost a quarter from 2008 to 2017, falling from 163.3 billion euros to 123.3 billion last year, which was the sixth in a row with negative savings for Greek households; this means that disposable income was less than consumption.

Eurobank data showed that the wealth of the country’s households has been in constant decline since 2011, falling at an average rate of 6.6 billion euros per year, which is transformed from various forms of savings into consumption. The report by Eurobank’s analysis department highlighted that the economic recession, the stagnation in investments and the major fiscal adjustment Greece experienced from 2009 to 2017 have compressed households’ saving capacity, both in terms of incomes and their obligations to the state through taxes and social security contributions.

The figures reveal that Greek households’ net annual savings amounted to 11.4 billion euros in 2009, or 7% of their gross disposable income, while last year the balance was negative by 8.3 billion, or 6.7% of households’ gross disposable income. Shrinking private consumption has had a direct impact on investments: In 2009 investments had amounted to 18.3% of GDP and were 31.8% funded by domestic consumption and the rest from borrowing. In 2017 the investment rate slipped to 11.6% of GDP, with domestic consumption accounting for 91.1%.

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Delusional or lying to our faces?

Debt Repayment Feasible if Greece ‘Implements Reforms’ – Regling (AMNA)

“If the government in Athens implements all the remaining reforms decisively, Greece can successfully emerge from the ESM program in August 2018,” Klaus Regling, president of the European Stability Mechanism, has said. The ESM chief spoke at en event held in Aachen, Germany on the occasion of the awarding of the 60th International Charlemagne Prize to French President Emmanuel Macron. Regling expressed confidence that Greece could repay its loans, provided the maturity times are sufficiently extended and the obligations do not exceed 15-20% of the country’s economic performance. The ESM chief said that if the latest report on Greece’s bailout program is positive, there will be a final disbursement from the ESM, and then decisions will be made on possible further debt relief.

He argued that there was absolutely no alternative to the establishment of the rescue mechanism, without which, as he said, Greece, Portugal and Ireland would have probably come out of Economic and Monetary Union under “chaotic conditions,” while at the same time other countries such as Germany, would have problems. Regling also stressed that ESM interest rates are clearly below the level that countries would have to pay in the markets, and that is why they save a lot of money. In the case of Greece, “we estimate that ESM loans lead to savings of almost €10 billion [$11.8 billion] each year for the Greek budget”, he said and stressed that this is happening costing nothing to the European taxpayer.

“These savings are an expression of the solidarity shown by the member states of the euro zone,” he said, and referred to “great efforts” that Greece is making to fulfill the strict reform conditions. “Overall, Greece now has impressive adaptation efforts behind it. The budget deficit at the start of the 2009 crisis was above 15% of GDP. For two years, the country has been generating a budget surplus. Such a success is only possible with profound reforms,” Regling noted and said that if Greece implements all reforms, eurozone finance ministers would give Greece further debt relief, namely longer repayment times.

Finally, explaining the reasons why Greece remains in a program while the other countries have completed their own, referred to the country as a “special case” for three reasons: “Firstly, the Greek economy has had problems that are deeper rooted than for other countries in a program. Secondly, the country suffered from a much weaker public administration than the other eurozone member states. “And thirdly, the Greek government in the first half of 2015 went in the wrong direction with then finance minister (Yanis Varoufakis): major reforms were revoked and an effort was made to stop the agreed reform program. “As a result, the Greek economy had fallen into a recession. Grexit suddenly became a realistic scenario. The Bank of Greece estimates that this wrong move cost Greece €86 billion.”

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How we think.

British Diplomats: Saving The Rainforest Could Hurt Fighter Jet Sales (UE)

British government officials warned a proposed EU ban on palm oil in biofuels could harm UK defence sales to Malaysia, specifically Typhoon fighter jets, according to government emails obtained by Unearthed. The correspondence reveals that the British high commission in Kuala Lumpur even expected Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to lobby Theresa May personally on the issue at last month’s Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. In the event, Razak did not attend the meeting in London, a Number 10 spokeswoman told Unearthed. Correspondence between the Ministry of Defence, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the British high commission reveals British officials were concerned that EU moves to ban palm oil in biofuels could result in Malaysian trade reprisals against the UK.

MEPs voted in January to phase out the use of palm oil in biofuels, citing environmental concerns. The move sparked a furious response from the governments of Indonesia and Malaysia, which produce most of the world’s palm oil. The debate over palm oil is playing a significant role in the run-up to Malaysia’s general election, which will be held tomorrow. On the morning of 5 February, an official at the British high commission in Malaysia sent an email warning that the EU decision was “a big issue for Malaysia and, if not handled correctly, has the potential to impact on bilateral trade, particularly defence sales (Typhoon)”.

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Apr 062018
 


Edgar Degas Leaving the paddock 1866
Stolen from Gardner Museum March 18 1990, the single largest art theft in the world. Never recovered

 

US Willing To Talk Trade With China, No Session Set Yet (R.)
Trump Considers New $100 Billion Tariffs On Chinese Goods (G.)
Trade Is a Matter of Survival for China (Rickards)
Facebook Explored Data Sharing Agreement With Hospitals (CNBC)
Uber To Suspend Service In Greece After New Legislation (R.)
HSBC Whistleblower Released By Judge After Swiss Extradition Request (Ind.)
German Court Says Carles Puigdemont Can Be Released On Bail (G.)
Young People In Britain Have Never Been Unhappier (G.)
Elderly People Grow As Many New Brain Cells As Young (Ind.)
Surgeon General Urges More Americans To Carry Opioid Antidote (CNN)
Social Media Looks Like the New Opiate of the Masses (BBG)
Lifting Sugarcane Farming Ban ‘Last Straw’ For Amazon Rainforest (Ind.)
Bolivia’s Jaguars Under Threat Of Chinese Fang Craze (AFP)

 

 

Get around a table alright.

US Willing To Talk Trade With China, No Session Set Yet (R.)

The United States is willing to negotiate with China on trade, but only if talks are serious, as previous attempts produced little progress, a senior U.S. official told Reuters late on Thursday as trade tensions between the two nations escalated. No formal negotiating sessions have been set, the official said. “There is ongoing communications with the Chinese on trade,” said the official, who requested anonymity to discuss the Trump administration’s trade strategy. The official said Republican President Donald Trump, who has already sought $50 billion in new tariffs on China, will insist on “verifiable, enforceable and measurable deliverables” from China in any trade negotiations.

The comments came as Trump said late on Thursday he had instructed U.S. trade officials to consider $100 billion in additional tariffs on China “in light of China’s unfair retaliation” against earlier U.S. trade actions. In a statement, Trump said the U.S. Trade Representative had determined that China “has repeatedly engaged in practices to unfairly obtain America’s intellectual property.” The senior official said: “We’ve had a type of negotiation in different forums where China has made lots of different commitments that they haven’t followed through on. “We don’t want to go down that path. But the president has been clear, the administration has been clear, we’re not trying to start a trade war. We’re simply trying to get fair and reciprocal treatments so we’re open to those conversations.”

The official said China had committed seven times to stopping forced technology transfers, a practice in which China allegedly seeks to obtain U.S. intellectual property (IP) through joint venture requirements, something that China denies. “This president is not going to tolerate hollow commitments or refusal to change bad practices. And if the way that we effectuate that is through negotiations, that’s great,” the official said.

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All still just proposals. Waiting for Chinese replies that are not threats.

Trump Considers New $100 Billion Tariffs On Chinese Goods (G.)

Donald Trump has instructed the US trade representative to consider slapping $100bn in additional tariffs on Chinese goods in an escalating standoff over trade. Trump said in a statement on Thursday that the further tariffs were being considered “in light of China’s unfair retaliation” against earlier US trade actions. He added that the US trade representative had determined that China “has repeatedly engaged in practices to unfairly obtain America’s intellectual property”. The White House said Trump had instructed the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the agency responsible for developing and recommending trade policy, to consider whether the additional tariffs would be appropriate under section 301 and, if so, to identify which products they should apply to.

He’s also instructed his secretary of agriculture “to implement a plan to protect our farmers and agricultural interests”. “Rather than remedy its misconduct, China has chosen to harm our farmers and manufacturers”, Trump said. Trump argues China’s trade practices have led to the closure of American factories and the loss of millions of American jobs. On Friday China’s commerce ministry said Beijing would fight the US ‘at any cost’. China’s state-run tabloid Global Times called Trump’s latest threat “ridiculous” in an editorial on Thursday, noting that it “reflects the deep arrogance of some American elites in their attitude towards China.”

Trump’s move comes one day after China issued a $50bn list of US goods including soybeans and small aircraft for possible tariff hikes. That itself was 11 hours after the White House announced a list of 1,333 Chinese imports, also worth about $50bn, for punitive tariffs of 25%.

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Jim Rickards with a good history of US Presidential powers, but also of what China is afraid of: the homefront.

Trade Is a Matter of Survival for China (Rickards)

President Trump may now use IEEPA to block a variety of Chinese deals in the U.S. in retaliation for Chinese theft of U.S. intellectual property. With the U.S. using its nuclear option in financial warfare, investors should hope that the Chinese don’t respond in kind. President Trump may not appreciate the extent to which China will go to protect its interests. Trade negotiations are not the art of the deal, as far as China is concerned. Their goal is national survival. China’s economy is not just about providing jobs, goods and services that people want and need. It is about regime survival for a Chinese Communist Party that faces an existential crisis if it fails to deliver. The overriding imperative of the Chinese leadership is to avoid societal unrest.

[..] given China’s current economic problem, Beijing’s challenge is becoming more difficult every day. Consider what’s happening in China right now… Growth in GDP is conventionally defined as the sum of consumer spending, investment, government spending (excluding transfer payments) and net exports. Most large economies other than oil-producing nations get most of their growth from consumption, followed by investment, with relatively small contributions from government spending and net exports. A typical composition would show a 65% contribution from consumption plus a 15% contribution from investment. China is nearly the opposite, with about 35% from consumption and 45% from investment.

That might be fine in a fast-growing emerging-market economy like China if the investment component were carefully designed to produce growth in the future as well as short-term jobs and inputs. But that’s not the case. Up to half of China’s investment is a complete waste. It does produce jobs and utilize inputs like cement, steel, copper and glass. But the finished product, whether a city, train station or sports arena, is often a white elephant that will remain unused.

What’s worse is that these white elephants are being financed with debt that can never be repaid. And no allowance has been made for the maintenance that will be needed to keep these white elephants in usable form if demand does rise in the future, which is doubtful. Chinese growth has been reported in recent years as 6.5–10% but is actually closer to 5% or lower once an adjustment is made for the waste. The Chinese landscape is littered with “ghost cities” that have resulted from China’s wasted investment and flawed development model. This wasted infrastructure spending is the beginning of the debt disaster that is coming soon. China is on the horns of a dilemma with no good way out.

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It gets harder to act innocent. Why do this in secret if it is to benefit people?

Facebook Explored Data Sharing Agreement With Hospitals (CNBC)

Facebook has asked several major U.S. hospitals to share anonymized data about their patients, such as illnesses and prescription info, for a proposed research project. Facebook was intending to match it up with user data it had collected, and help the hospitals figure out which patients might need special care or treatment. The proposal never went past the planning phases and has been put on pause after the Cambridge Analytica data leak scandal raised public concerns over how Facebook and others collect and use detailed information about Facebook users. “This work has not progressed past the planning phase, and we have not received, shared, or analyzed anyone’s data,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNBC.

But as recently as last month, the company was talking to several health organizations, including Stanford Medical School and American College of Cardiology, about signing the data-sharing agreement. While the data shared would obscure personally identifiable information, such as the patient’s name, Facebook proposed using a common computer science technique called “hashing” to match individuals who existed in both sets. Facebook says the data would have been used only for research conducted by the medical community.

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Just make it local. And use the revenues to support your own cities.

Uber To Suspend Service In Greece After New Legislation (R.)

Ride-hailing service Uber said on Thursday it would suspend its licensed service in Greece after the approval of local legislation which imposes stricter regulation on the sector. Uber, which operates a licensed service in the Greek capital, has faced opposition from local taxi drivers who accuse it of taking their business. “New local regulations were voted on recently with provisions that impact ride-sharing services,” Uber said in a blog post. “We have to assess if and how we can operate within this new framework and so will be suspending uberX in Athens from next Tuesday until we can find an appropriate solution.” Uber operates two services in Athens: UberX, which uses professional licensed drivers, and UberTAXI, which uses taxi drivers.

The new regulations require each trip to start and end in the fleet partner’s designated headquarters or parking area, something Uber does not do. A digital registry of all ride-sharing platforms and their passengers will also be created. The company launched in Europe in 2011, angering some local authorities and taxi drivers who said it did not abide by the same rules on insurance, licensing and safety. Following widespread protests, court battles and bans, Uber has taken a more emollient stance under its new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, suspending operations in various cities in order to comply with local regulations. UberX launched in Athens in 2015 and more than 450,000 people have used its smartphone app to book a ride.

News of the new regulation last year angered some Athenians and tens of thousands signed a petition launched by Beat – a local ride-sharing service – in favor of ride-hailing services. UberX drivers have to be employed by fleet partners such as car rental companies or tourist agencies and their cars could not be more than seven years old. The data registry and return-to-garage requirement will only apply to ride-hailing services like Uber and Beat, while taxi drivers will be able to use cars that are up to 22 years old.

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Too much backlash?!

HSBC Whistleblower Released By Judge After Swiss Extradition Request (Ind.)

An HSBC whistleblower who leaked data that led to a tax evasion scandal has been released by a Spanish judge after being arrested on an extradition request from Switzerland. Hervé Falciani, a former IT worker at HSBC’s secretive Swiss bank, faces a five-year prison sentence in Switzerland after being convicted in absentia for industrial sabotage in 2015. Police arrested Mr Falciani in Madrid on Wednesday on his way to speak at a conference on whistleblowing. Swiss authorities had requested that he be remanded in custody but he was released without bail on Thursday and ordered to surrender his passport while Spanish authorities consider whether to extradite him.

In 2008, Mr Falciani fled Switzerland, having stolen data on 130,000 HSBC clients, many of whom he suspected of tax evasion. The information uncovered large-scale wrongdoing at the bank that led to investigations in several countries, including the UK. HSBC chief executive Stuart Gulliver later apologised to MPs for “unacceptable” practices at the bank’s Swiss subsidiary which he said had caused “damage to trust and confidence” in the company. Sven Giegold, an MEP and spokesperson for the German Greens on transparency and integrity said on Thursday that Mr Falciani should be awarded a medal for his actions. “Falciani deserves a European Order instead of imprisonment in Switzerland,” Mr Geigold said.

“He was one of the first whistleblowers to pioneer the fight against global tax fraud, followed by many disclosures in Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and other tax havens,” “We should be grateful to him. Europe’s governments should call on the Spanish government not to extradite Falciani. His extradition would be shamefully ungrateful after having profited from his data financially and politically.”

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Misuse of public funds. Not what Spain wanted. Just let him go. Germany can’t extradite someone on that.

German Court Says Carles Puigdemont Can Be Released On Bail (G.)

A court in northern Germany has ruled that the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont can be released on bail while extradition proceedings continue. The district court in Schleswig set bail for the 55-year-old at €75,000 (£66,000). Puigdemont was arrested on a Spanish-issued warrant upon entering Germany on 25 March as he attempted to drive from Finland to Belgium, where he currently resides. Spain accuses the Catalan separatist of rebellion and corruption after he organised an unsanctioned independence referendum. The Schleswig court said that it considered a charge of misuse of public funds sufficient grounds for an extradition, but that a charge of “rebellion” was not, because the comparable German charge of treason specifies violence.

Proceedings to decide whether to extradite him on corruption charges could continue, it said. “There is a risk of flight,” the court said in its explanation of its decision to grant bail. “But since extradition on rebellion charges is impermissible, the risk of flight is substantially lessened.” Puigdemont has written an open letter from prison, urging Catalonia’s parliament to make another attempt to elect jailed separatist activist Jordi Sànchez as the region’s president. Puigdemont had proposed Sànchez as his number two in the Together for Catalonia party last month, but Spain’s supreme court refused to free him to attend a parliamentary session. Sànchez said in a letter from a Madrid jail published on Thursday that he was ready to try again to be elected.

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In that society, no wonder.

Young People In Britain Have Never Been Unhappier (G.)

Young people’s happiness across every single area of their lives has never been lower, research by the Prince’s Trust has found. The charity, set up by the Prince of Wales, said the results of its annual UK Youth Index, which gauges young people’s happiness and confidence across a range of areas, from working life to mental and physical health, should “ring alarm bells”. The national survey shows young people’s wellbeing has fallen over the last 12 months and is at its lowest level since the study was first commissioned in 2009. The research, based on a survey of 2,194 respondents aged 16 to 25, revealed that three out of five young people regularly feel stressed amid concerns over jobs and money, while one in four felt “hopeless”, and half had experienced a mental health problem.

Almost half said they did not feel they could cope well with setbacks in life, but despite this more than one quarter said they would not ask for help if they were feeling overwhelmed. The index shows that young people are particularly disillusioned with the job market and are concerned about money and future prospects. One in ten said they had lost a job through redundancy or having a contract terminated or not renewed, or being fired, while 54% said they were worried about their finances. The report highlights significant differences between the views held by young men and women, particularly when it comes to how they feel about their future prospects. Young women are more likely to think a lack of self-confidence holds them back and 57% of young women worry about “not being good enough in general”, compared to 41% of men.

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Or do they? Is the secret in the synopses?

Elderly People Grow As Many New Brain Cells As Young (Ind.)

Elderly people grow as many new brain cells as teenagers, according to a new study which counters previous theories that neurons stop developing after adolescence. Healthy men and women continue to produce new neurons throughout life, suggesting older people remain more cognitively and emotionally intact than previously believed, researchers found. For decades it was thought that adult brains were hard-wired and unable to form new cells. But a Columbia University study found older people continued to produce neurons in the hippocampus – a part of the brain important for memory, emotion and cognition – at a similar rate to young people. Researchers examined the brains of 28 previously healthy people who died suddenly between the age of 14 and 79.

“We found that older people have similar ability to make thousands of hippocampal new neurons from progenitor cells as younger people do,” said the study’s lead author Maura Boldrini, associate professor of neurobiology. “We also found equivalent volumes of the hippocampus across ages.” The ability to generate new hippocampal cells, a process known as neurogenesis, declines with age in rodents and primates. Declining production of neurons and shrinkage of parts of the brain which help form of new episodic memories were believed to occur in ageing humans as well, explaining why younger people find it easier to learn skills and languages. But the Columbia University study found similar numbers of newly formed cells in old and young brains.

However, the researchers also noted fewer blood vessels and connections between cells in the older brains, which Ms Boldrini said “may be linked to compromised cognitive-emotional resilience” in the elderly. The findings, published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, are likely to be hotly debated. They come just a month after a University of California study suggested adults do not develop new neurons.

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That’s how bad it’s gotten.

Surgeon General Urges More Americans To Carry Opioid Antidote (CNN)

The US surgeon general issued an advisory Thursday recommending that more Americans carry the opioid overdose-reversing drug, naloxone. The drug, sold under the brand name Narcan (among others), can very quickly restore normal breathing in someone suspected of overdosing on opioids, including heroin and prescription pain medications. Dr. Jerome Adams emphasized that “knowing how to use naloxone and keeping it within reach can save a life.” To make his point, Adams relied on a rarely used tool: the surgeon general’s advisory. The last such advisory was issued more than a decade ago and focused on drinking during pregnancy.

Adams noted that the number of overdose deaths from prescription and illicit opioids doubled in recent years: from 21,089 deaths across the nation in 2010 to 42,249 in 2016. America’s top doctor attributed this “steep increase” to several contributing factors, including “the rapid proliferation of illicitly made fentanyl and other highly potent synthetic opioids” and “an increasing number of individuals receiving higher doses of prescription opioids for long-term management of chronic pain.”

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The right discussion, but launched very weakly. On purpose?

Social Media Looks Like the New Opiate of the Masses (BBG)

[..] many of us who lived through the shift from Internet 1.0 to the new age of social media can’t help but feel a nagging worry. In addition to concerns about privacy, electoral influence and online abuse, social media seems like it has many of the qualities of an addictive drug. Research isn’t conclusive on whether social-media addiction is real. But it certainly has some negative side effects that loosely resemble the downsides of recreational drugs. In 2011, psychologists Daria Kuss and Mark Griffiths wrote a paper that found: “Negative correlates of [social media] usage include the decrease in real life social community participation and academic achievement, as well as relationship problems, each of which may be indicative of potential addiction.”

Meanwhile, a number of more recent studies find similarities between social-media use and addictive behavior. And experiments found that smartphone deprivation induced anxiety among young people, a phenomenon that certainly has parallels to drug withdrawal. That certainly doesn’t mean that everyone who uses social media is a junkie. Evidence shows that moderate usage is not harmful. That fits with my own experience – I find that I derive great enjoyment from Facebook, which I use in moderation, but am often made anxious and irritable by Twitter, which I use much more. It’s the heaviest users who may be in the most danger — a recent survey found that a quarter of Americans are online “almost constantly.” And social-media use is going up relentlessly worldwide:

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“..there is no need for more land to grow sugarcane..”

Lifting Sugarcane Farming Ban ‘Last Straw’ For Amazon Rainforest (Ind.)

Environmentalists in Brazil have urged the government not to proceed with a change in the law described as the “last straw” for the Amazon rainforest. The Brazilian senate is set to vote on a bill that could see the eight-year-old ban on farming sugarcane for biofuel production in the Amazon lifted. In an open letter, 60 NGOs including Greenpeace and WWF have warned of the implications this decision would have, both for the rainforest itself and the reputation of the biofuels industry. They have been joined in their condemnation of the bill by several former Brazilian environment ministers.

The letter states: “If passed, the bill will be a tragedy for forests and for the biofuel industry in Brazil – the image of which will be damaged to the brink of no return, at a time critical to its success”. There is also concern that Brazil’s Paris climate agreement targets will be compromised if its ethanol production is not sustainable. Supporters of the new bill say it will benefit the economy and help contribute to the national supply of biofuels. However, environmentalists, scientists and even representatives from the biofuels industry say there is no need for more land to grow sugarcane, and the expansion of the industry will further drive deforestation of the rainforest.

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Reminds us of that park in India where more poachers than rhinos are killed. Beijing needs to stop this, all of it.

Bolivia’s Jaguars Under Threat Of Chinese Fang Craze (AFP)

Bolivia’s once-thriving jaguar population is loping into the cross-hairs of a growing threat from poachers responding to growing Chinese demand for the animal’s teeth and skull. Researchers believe there are around 7,000 of the speckled big cats in Bolivia, out of a global population of some 64,000, stretching from North America to Argentina. But such is the appetite in China’s huge underground market that “if controls are not put in place, it can lead to a serious problem” for their survival, warned Fabiola Suarez of the Environment Ministry. Considered vulnerable by conservationists, the jaguar’s future in the South American country is in the hands of anti-trafficking police only now coming to grips with the potential scale of the problem.

Local authorities began getting reports in 2014 of trade in the animal in the northeastern area of Beni, according to Rodrigo Herrera, an advisor to Bolivia’s directorate of Biodiversity at the Environment Ministry. He says the increased presence of Chinese nationals in the South American country has stimulated demand. President Evo Morales’ leftist government has awarded seven billion dollars’ worth of public works contracts to Chinese groups, sparking an influx of workers from the Asian giant. Herrera said each of the cat’s teeth, which measure between eight and 10 centimeters, can fetch up to $100 for poachers, but that figure can reach $5,000 on the Chinese market. The feline’s skull is also prized by traffickers, at rates of up to $1,000. Traffickers also sell the skin, and even the testicles, which along with the ground-down teeth, are prized by some Chinese as an aphrodisiac.

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