May 152022
 


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

 

US-led War On Russia Escalates (WSWS)
US Senate GOP Delegation Meets With Zelensky In Kiev (CNN)
Guy Mettan: Ukraine is the First Battle of the Third World War (G&E)
Ten More European Gas Buyers Open Ruble Accounts For Payments (BBG)
The Real Reason Behind the EU’s Drive to Embargo Russian Oil
NY Times Op-ed Warns Of ‘Fantasies Of Regime Change’ (Fox)
India Bans Wheat Exports, Irks G7 (AFP)
India Reverses Prior Position and Will Now Block Further Wheat Exports (CTH)
Survey Shows Over 500,000 Killed By The Covid Vaccines So Far (Kirsch)
Egypt Considers Issuing Bonds In China’s Yuan (Al-M)
Karine Jean-Pierre Has History Of Accusing Things Of Being Racist (NYP)
Biden Phrase “Ultra MAGA” Came from Six Month Study (CTH)

 

 

 

 

Why Did Lloyd Austin Call Sergei Shoigu?

 

 

 

 

Russia, China at UN on biolabs

 

 

 

 

Dr. Cole about Vanden Bossche’s theory

Urso about Vanden Bossche’s theory

Malone about Vanden Bossche’s theory

 

 

Playing war games on Russia’s border.

US-led War On Russia Escalates (WSWS)

A day after Finland pledged to join NATO “without delay,” Sweden’s ruling social democrats accepted a parliamentary report also calling to join the US-led alliance. NATO is threatening to turn Scandinavia and the entire Baltic Sea into a second front in the war on Russia it has waged since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Finnish and Swedish troops are joining US and Ukrainian forces in NATO “Hedgehog” war games next week in Estonia, whose border with Russia is just 150 kilometers from Saint Petersburg. The exercise, involving 15,000 troops, will simulate war between NATO and Russia in Estonia. This underscores that Finland’s vast,1,300-km border with Russia is becoming a potential war zone.

Asked on Thursday about Finland joining NATO, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov said: “Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to stop the threats to its national security that arise in this regard.” Russian officials have said that if Sweden and Finland join NATO, they will try to maintain a regional balance of power by stationing nuclear missiles in Russia’s Baltic port enclave at Kaliningrad. This week, former Russian President Dmitri Medvedev admitted that Europe is rapidly moving towards all-out war. “NATO countries pumping weapons into Ukraine, training troops to use Western equipment, sending in mercenaries and the exercises of Alliance countries near our borders increase the likelihood of a direct and open conflict between NATO and Russia,” he said. “Such a conflict always has the risk of turning into a full-fledged nuclear war.”

Nonetheless, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson is to schedule a debate on joining NATO tomorrow. With staggering recklessness, the Swedish social democrats are scrapping a two-century policy of non-alignment in foreign wars that Sweden has observed since the Napoleonic wars ended in 1814, as the Finns scrapped the neutrality they observed since World War II. At a press conference last night, Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist admitted that Sweden’s announcement could provoke war with Russia, but dismissed the danger: “If Sweden chooses to seek NATO membership, there is a risk of a reaction from Russia. … Let me state that, in such a case, we are prepared to deal with any counter-response.”

The Swedish government’s case for joining NATO is a mixture of political lies and self-delusion. By joining NATO, Sweden is not, as Linde argues, deterring Russia from attacking it by making clear Moscow would potentially run the risk of a military clash with NATO. Rather, Sweden is signing up to a NATO war drive against Russia already being led by Washington, London and Berlin. Hultqvist’s statement that the Swedish government is prepared for “any counter-response” from Russia is astonishing. It appears Sweden’s defense minister has forgotten that Russia has over 6,000 nuclear warheads: In case of a major escalation of the NATO-Russia war, Russia’s “counter-response” could obliterate Sweden.

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So brave to travel into a war zone.

US Senate GOP Delegation Meets With Zelensky In Kiev (CNN)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with a congressional delegation led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kyiv Saturday, and called for Russia to officially be recognized as a “terrorist state,” he said Saturday in his nightly address. McConnell said in a statement Saturday evening the delegation “just left” Ukraine and called it an “honor” to meet with Zelensky and his senior advisers. McConnell was joined on the unannounced trip by Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John Barrasso of Wyoming and John Cornyn of Texas. McConnell and the other senators became the latest US officials to visit Ukraine since Russia invaded the eastern European nation in late February.

The Kentucky Republican said in the statement the delegation “reaffirmed” to Zelensky “that the United States stands squarely behind Ukraine and will sustain our support until Ukraine wins this war. It is also essential that America not stand alone. He continued: “It is squarely in our national interest to help Ukraine achieve victory in this war and to help Ukraine and other countries deter other wars of aggression before they start.” In his nightly address Saturday, Zelensky said he discussed US support for Ukraine and tightening sanctions on Russia with the delegation. “I believe that this visit once again demonstrates the strength of bipartisan support for our state, the strength of ties between the Ukrainian and American nations,” Zelensky said.

CNN previously reported Zelensky has asked President Joe Biden to designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. The Ukrainian president added that he “expressed gratitude for the historic decision to renew the Lend Lease program” during the GOP delegation’s visit. Biden earlier this week signed into law the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act. The new law, which eases some of the requirements for the US to lend or lease military equipment to Ukraine, passed with a bipartisan majority in the US House and Senate. Its sponsors said the legislation gives Biden much broader authority to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia and addresses how the US can get weapons to Ukraine faster.

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Apologies for sound quality.

Guy Mettan: Ukraine is the First Battle of the Third World War (G&E)

Guy Mettan discusses the deep thousand year history of Russophobia which informs the current Ukraine crisis. Europe had divided in two parts along religious lines which can still be seen in Ukraine today. He traces Russophobia from medieval Germany to France to Britain and back again to Germany and today the U.S. and EU. Brzezinski outlined the importance of conquering Ukraine because it’s the pivotal power of Europe. Ukraine is the first battle of the Third World War. It won’t be a total war, it will be a global unlimited war, unlimited in space and time where everybody will be affected. He agrees that there is a neo-totalitarian trend in the West and that democracy is a false flag. He’s pessimistic regarding the future development of our world as the U.S. and EU develop into a totalitarian new empire. But he’s optimistic that the light of the truth can’t be extinguished.

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The EU finds ways to circumvent its own sanctions.

Ten More European Gas Buyers Open Ruble Accounts For Payments (BBG)

Ten more European gas buyers have opened accounts in Gazprombank JSC, doubling the total number of clients preparing to pay in rubles for Russian gas as President Vladimir Putin demanded. A total of twenty European companies have opened accounts, with another 14 clients asking for the paperwork needed to set them up, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential matters. He declined to identify the companies. European buyers have been struggling for weeks to figure out how they can meet Putin’s order to pay for Russian gas in rubles starting April 1 and not fall afoul of European Union sanctions imposed over Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Under the new mechanism, clients have to open two accounts: one in foreign currency and one in rubles in Gazprombank. After Poland and Bulgaria rejected these terms, Gazprom PJSC halted gas flows to them in late April. As deadlines for payment for April supplies loom later this month for major West European buyers, Russia has moved to address EU concerns that the payment mechanism may violate sanctions. The person close to Gazprom said the current terms mean that the transaction is effectively completed once the buyer pays foreign currency to Gazprombank, since the subsequent conversion to rubles is automatic and doesn’t involve Russia’s central bank, which is subject to EU sanctions.

The bloc so far hasn’t said whether the Russian changes allay its concerns, but Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Wednesday companies will be able to pay for gas in rubles without breaching the restrictions. “Most of the gas importers have already opened their account in rubles with Gazprom,” he told a press conference. He said that Germany’s top gas importer had already paid in rubles. Like Italy, Germany is a massive consumer of Russian gas. The person close to Gazprom said the number of customers who’ve paid in rubles remains at four, the same as late last month. Payments from other buyers are due later this month, he said.

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“The war by the West against Russia has long been in the planning stages.”

The Real Reason Behind the EU’s Drive to Embargo Russian Oil

The idea that Europe fears a Russian invasion of Poland or even Germany, which necessitates NATO’s expansion to its border in the Donbas, is ludicrous. Russia’s military is not built along these lines nor is its performance in Ukraine evidence it is capable of such an operation. What is unfolding now is a script that was written a long time ago. The war by the West against Russia has long been in the planning stages. The Russians understand this better than many are willing to accept. Their leadership, Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, have articulated this very clearly at every stage of the war to date. They are under no illusions about where the West and Davos are willing to take this conflict, which is why they have made serious threats about striking out at the real “decision centers” who give the Ukrainian Armed Forces their marching orders.

These are warnings not to our politicians, but to us. This is where things lead. They have asked for a parting of the ways, peaceably, between East and West, but that is not part of the agenda. Like classic narcissists with the burning need to control everything, Russia and the rest of Asia will not be allowed to walk away from Davos and their Eurocrat quislings, because they are the righteous saviors of humanity. And we are just, at best, “the help” and at worst an inconvenience. The bigger Davos plan of destroying the old global order to Build it Back Better, where they own everything and you will own nothing and like it or else, is the script.

They are now committed to this plan. It does not matter now whether it will work or not. This is what we have to realize in all of our analyses. Do the Russians and their friends in Asia and across the Global South have the means and the tools to come out on top? Possibly. But the bigger question is whether or not this conflict escalates to the point where winning is an irrelevant concept. When you see a bloc as powerful as the European Union willing to commit acts of domestic vandalism this big—and blaming the victim of their unbridled aggression—it tells you we are far past the point of rational settlement.

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“..the United States and its allies have greatly increased the danger of an even larger conflict..”

NY Times Op-ed Warns Of ‘Fantasies Of Regime Change’ (Fox)

On Wednesday, The New York Times published an op-ed warning that the United States risks war with Russia if it continues to pursue an expansive strategy in Ukraine. “Nuclear weapons are discussed in easy tones, not least on Russian television. The risk of cities being reduced to corium remains low without NATO deployment in Ukraine, but accident and miscalculation cannot be discounted,” wrote Tom Stevenson. The op-ed, titled “America and Its Allies Want to Bleed Russia. They Really Shouldn’t,” cautions that while America’s initial actions to provide support to Ukraine, American leaders’ willingness to speak in increasingly bold terms about regime change in Russia and “draining” the country poses a risk to American security.

“By expanding support to Ukraine across the board and shelving any diplomatic effort to stop the fighting, the United States and its allies have greatly increased the danger of an even larger conflict,” Stevenson wrote. “They are taking a risk far out of step with any realistic strategic gain,” he added. “The early U.S. response to the invasion was simple: Supply the defenders and apply America’s unique financial weaponry to the Russian economy. The new strategy — call it bleed Russia — is quite different. The underlying idea is that the United States and its allies should seek to recover more from the rubble of Kharkiv and Kramatorsk than the survival of Ukraine as a polity or even a symbolic frustration of Russian aggression.” Stevenson notes that Russia discusses nuclear tensions “in easy tones” and warned that “accident and miscalculation cannot be discounted”.

“It is unclear what more there is to gain by weakening Russia, beyond fantasies of regime change,” he said. “The war was dangerous and destructive enough in its initial form. The combination of expanded strategic aims and scotched negotiations has made it more dangerous still. At present, the only message to Russia is: There is no way out.”

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Much less wheat from Ukraine, Russia and now India, the world’s second-largest wheat producer. It adds up.

India Bans Wheat Exports, Irks G7 (AFP)

India banned wheat exports without government approval Saturday after its hottest March on record hit production, in a blow to countries reeling from supply shortages and soaring prices since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The announcement drew sharp criticism from the Group of Seven industrialized nations’ agriculture ministers meeting in Germany, who said that such measures “would worsen the crisis” of rising commodity prices. “If everyone starts to impose export restrictions or to close markets, that would worsen the crisis,” German Agriculture Minister Cem Ozdemir said at a press conference in Stuttgart. Global wheat prices have soared on supply fears following Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine, which previously accounted for 12% of global exports.

The spike in prices, exacerbated by fertilizer shortages and poor harvests, has fueled inflation globally and raised fears of famine and social unrest in poorer countries. It has also led to concerns about growing protectionism following Indonesia’s halting of palm oil exports and India putting the brakes on exports of wheat. India, the world’s second-largest wheat producer, said that factors including lower production and sharply higher global prices meant it worried about the food security of its own 1.4 billion people. Export deals agreed to before the directive issued Friday could still be honored, but future shipments need government approval, it said. But exports could also take place if New Delhi approved requests from other governments “to meet their food security needs”.

“We don’t want wheat to go in an unregulated manner where it may either get hoarded and is not used for the purpose which we are hoping it will be used for –- which is serving the food requirements of vulnerable nations and vulnerable people,” said BVR Subrahmanyam, India’s commerce secretary. On Thursday New Delhi said it was sending delegations to Morocco, Tunisia, Thailand, Vietnam, Turkey, Algeria and Lebanon “for exploring possibilities of boosting wheat exports from India”. [..] India said that it planned to increase wheat exports this financial year, starting April 1, to 10 million tons from seven million tons the year before. While this is a tiny proportion of worldwide production, the assurances provided some support to global prices and soothed fears of major shortages.

Egypt and Turkey recently approved wheat imports from India. But India endured its hottest March on record – blamed on climate change – and has been wilting in a heatwave in recent weeks, with temperatures upwards of 45 degrees Celsius. This has hit farmers hard, and this month the government said that wheat production was expected to fall at least five percent this year from 110 million tons in 2021 — the first fall in six years.

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About the India export ban. Food, energy and politics.

India Reverses Prior Position and Will Now Block Further Wheat Exports (CTH)

In April India said it was hoping to expand its wheat exports from 7 million tons to 10 million. However, as precarious winter wheat harvests reflect lower outputs, they are reversing position and will now block any wheat exports in order to ensure their own supply. INDIA – “[…] The announcement drew sharp criticism from the Group of Seven industrialized nations’ agriculture ministers meeting in Germany, who said that such measures “would worsen the crisis” of rising commodity prices. [..] India, the world’s second-largest wheat producer, said that factors including lower production and sharply higher global prices meant it worried about the food security of its own 1.4 billion people. Export deals agreed to before the directive issued Friday could still be honored, but future shipments need government approval, it said.”

Don’t look now, but there’s an ideological alignment in the background of these decisions. Turkey and Egypt will be receiving wheat export from India, both nations are aligned against the western position toward Russian sanctions. Turkey said a few days ago they would not approve of Finland joining NATO (the irony of Turkey in NATO not withstanding). We need to watch carefully, but there are indications in the geopolitical decision making of nationalist-minded countries, that seem to align with the previously discussed energy alliance cleaving. The food alliance per se’, is lining up in similar fashion to the energy sector oil alliance. If this geopolitical and ideological alignment of food imports/exports continues, what we will see is Europe become even more dependent on the U.S. for food exports. That type of reality has the potential to play well for Biden’s pressure and blackmail campaign forcing NATO to stay committed to the war in Ukraine.

Due to sanctions, Western European allies have already become more dependent on the U.S. for energy products including heavy oil, and liquified natural gas (LNG) which is being exported from the U.S. at the highest rate in history; unfortunately, driving up the prices we pay. Now we can overlay food exports as another angle for Biden to keep blackmailing NATO to support his proxy war in Ukraine. Americans are already paying more for energy because we are subsidizing Europe. Now Americans will pay more for food products because we are subsidizing Europe. That, my friends, is a hot mess. This sanctions map starts to take on a new dimension beyond energy. The western team in yellow trading energy and foodstuffs between themselves based on common ideology and outlook. The team in grey trading energy and foodstuff based on common ideology and outlook.

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Time to broaden the survey.

Survey Shows Over 500,000 Killed By The Covid Vaccines So Far (Kirsch)

A simple survey of my readers provided some extremely compelling evidence that 1) the US government has killed over 500,000 previously healthy Americans and 2) that the vaccine actually caused the deaths. It took me around 30 minutes to create the survey and 11 hours to wait for highly statistically significant results. I was able to accomplish something in less than 12 hours that the CDC has been unable to accomplish in 18 months: prove causality. We see both dose dependency and enormous changes in ACM deaths pre- vs. post-vaccine. We satisfy all five Bradford-Hill criteria applicable to vaccines. We used 400 independent observers. I should note that all follow my Substack so they are correlated: all have excellent judgment, high intelligence, and immunity from mass formation effects. So they have the ability to see what is truly going on.

The survey compared the all-cause mortality (ACM) death rates just PRIOR to a vaccine dose to the ACM death rates immediately AFTER the dose. I predicted they would be dramatically higher after the dose and the effect would be dose dependent. It appears I was right. In fact, the survey projects far more deaths than I thought possible. The number of deaths computed from the reports could be as high as 2M Americans, but the 500,000 number seems more credible, so I’m discounting the result by 4X to account for biases and confounders. I don’t think there is any way anyone is going to be able to “explain away” these results once we redo the survey with a better set of controls (the next step). And these results are ONLY counting the all-cause mortality increase for just the one month after each shot. We know you can die a year later from these vaccines.

We found Dose #4 caused only a 1.27X increase compared with 5.5X to 8.3X for doses 1 and 2 respectively and 2.3X for Dose #3. If this were a highly biased population, Dose 4 would have caused a larger discrepancy, but it’s approaching 1:1 as we’d expect. The decreasing ACM increase with later shots makes sense… The vaccine eliminates anyone whose immune system is susceptible to auto-immune attacks on the spike protein. If it hasn’t killed you after 3 shots, it’s less likely to kill you on shot #4. You’re immune due to both survivor bias and the fact that your immune system has recognized the vaccine as an invader and clears it from the system quicker than on shots 1 and 2. This of course says nothing about it’s impact on effectiveness against the virus which is likely pretty minimal at this point which is a story for another day.

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Question is: who will buy them? China?

Egypt Considers Issuing Bonds In China’s Yuan (Al-M)

Egypt may soon sell bonds that are priced in China’s currency the yuan. Minister of Finance Mohamed Maait made the announcement yesterday alongside the People’s Republic’s Ambassador in Cairo Liao Liqiang. The move would help diversify Egypt’s financial resources and target China’s large bond market, the state-owned Al-Ahram reported. Bonds are a type of financial security that represent the holder’s obligation to repay the buyer. Governments issue bonds to help finance their expenses. Egypt has pursued several new bond strategies recently. The country is currently preparing to sell Islamic bonds. An Islamic bond, or sukuk, complies with Islamic law’s prohibition on usury.


In February, Egypt named six banks to manage the future sukuk sale. Last year, Egypt issued bonds in Japan’s currency the yen. The move could threaten the position of the US dollar as the world’s dominant currency. Many countries around the region sell bonds in dollars or their own currency. Doing business in yuan is becoming more appealing to some countries. Saudi Arabia is reportedly considering accepting yuan as payment for oil sales to China Egypt recently secured foreign investment from its Gulf allies to mitigate the economic fallout from the war in Ukraine. The war has wreaked havoc on Egypt’s wheat supply, for example.

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Where does Biden find these women?

Karine Jean-Pierre Has History Of Accusing Things Of Being Racist (NYP)

Newly installed White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has a long history of accusing policies and political enemies of “racism,” a review of her social media and TV news appearances show. The Post looked at Jean-Pierre’s tweets between 2015 and 2020 and found a staggering 57 instances where she accused people, policies, ideas, or words of being “racist.” And Jean-Pierre accused people and ideas she was opposed to as “racist” at least 43 times in TV appearances too, according to video clipping service Grabien, whose available analysis spanned just the first two years of President Trump’s term in office. Her target on both social media and TV was overwhelmingly Trump.

“If it walks like a racist, talks like a racist, acts like a racist, it is a racist and we have a racist president in the White House who really pushes his racism like a peacock,” she told a smirking panel on the MSNBC show “AM Joy” in 2018. “Donald Trump is a RACIST!” she railed in a tweet from Jan 2018, echoing what became a common refrain from her during his presidency. “Donald Trump is the most outwardly racist President that we have seen in generations and African Americans voters aren’t blind to that. He uses his megaphone to divide people, spew racism, and give cover to white supremacists,” she tweeted in 2020. Her new boss, President Biden, got in on the act in during the 2020 presidential campaign, claiming Trump was “one of the most racist presidents’ we’ve ever had.”

Trump was far not alone as an object of her derision — Jean-Pierre also ripped the former president’s staff and confidants as racists too. “Steve Bannon is a white Supremacist. Steve Bannon is a white Nationalist. Steve Bannon is a racist,” she thundered in September 2018, of the president’s former White House counselor. She levied the same accusation on Sebastian Gorka, another Trump White House advisor. Jean-Pierre also blasted former Attorney General Jeff Sessions as “a bigot & a racist,” who “views brown and black people as less than, not even human,” according to a tweet from June 2018. She also called racists Texas Sen. John Cornyn in 2020, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio in 2018, and Former Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie in 2017.

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“..a few days ago White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said the terminology “ultra-MAGA” was an “organic utterance” from Joe Biden. Whoops.”

Biden Phrase “Ultra MAGA” Came from Six Month Study (CTH)

The Washington Post is reporting the shift from the White House to disparage their political opposition with the terms “MAGA”, “Ultra-MAGA” and President Trump as the “Great MAGA King,” came from a six-month poll study led by Anita Dunn, the latest senior advisor in the White House. Keep in mind, a few days ago White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said the terminology “ultra-MAGA” was an “organic utterance” from Joe Biden. Whoops. WASHINGTON DC – […] Biden’s attempt to appropriate the “MAGA” brand as a political attack was hardly accidental. It arose from a six-month research project to find the best way to target Republicans, helmed by Biden adviser Anita Dunn and by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a liberal group.

The polling and focus group research by Hart Research and the Global Strategy Group found that “MAGA” was already viewed negatively by voters — more negatively than other phrases like “Trump Republicans.” In battleground areas, more than twice as many voters said they would be less likely to vote for someone called a “MAGA Republican” than would be more likely. The research also found that the description tapped into the broad agreement among voters that the Republican Party had become more extreme and power-hungry in recent years.” On May 5th the White House announced Anita Dunn would return to the JoeBama administration as senior advisor.

Dunn’s specific expertise is using pressure, blackmail and political leverage to control information distribution by media organizations. Apparently “ultra-MAGA” was Dunn’s first branding effort for the White House. The reappearance of Anita Dunn aligns with the expressed intent of the DHS ‘disinformation’ board. Dunn’s professional political skillset surrounds being a paid media fixer. She has done this for multiple democrat politicians including Obama. It was Anita Dunn who used her position in the Biden campaign to demand that media stop allowing Rudy Guiliani to explain the Biden family ‘pay to play’ financial system of selling influence. Anita Dunn also advised Harvey Weinstein how to remove media stories of his Hollywood rape issues. Dunn reappearing makes sense, as the U.S. government objective to control information is now in full swing.

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Tesla

 

 

 

 

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Apr 102022
 


Inge Morath Window washers 1958

 

The Military Situation In Ukraine (Jacques Baud)
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan Ousted By Parliament (PD)
The Total War to Cancel Russia (Escobar)
“Europe Has Chosen Its Fate” (Escobar)
BRICS Ministers of Finance Hold a Meeting
Russia Urges BRICS Nations To Create Own ‘SWIFT’ System (ZH)
Support Grows Among Republicans For Hunter Biden Special Counsel (JTN)
$54M in Chinese Gifts Donated To UPenn, Home of Biden Center (NYP)
Hunter Biden Sought Oligarchs’ Cash In 1st Russian War On Ukraine (JTN)
Durham Evidence: Relentless Democrat Effort To Sell Russia Collusion Hoax (JTN)
Bill Maher Cheers On Elon Musk Joining Twitter (Fox)

 

 

Probably nothing…

 

 

You were told to
https://twitter.com/i/status/1512323263011119105

 

 

It’s not about health, it’s about a treaty we signed…

 

 

Michael Burry was censored over this Tweet.

 

 

Google Translate. Not to be missed.
Jacques Baud is a Former Colonel of the General Staff, former member of Swiss strategic intelligence, specialist in Eastern European countries.

The Military Situation In Ukraine (Jacques Baud)

We have to go back to March 24, 2021. On that day, Volodymyr Zelensky issued a decree for the reconquest of Crimea and began to deploy his forces towards the south of the country. Simultaneously, several NATO exercises were conductedbetween the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea, accompanied by a significant increase in reconnaissance flights along the Russian border. Russia then conducts a few exercises to test the operational readiness of its troops and show that it is following the evolution of the situation. Things calm down until October-November with the end of the ZAPAD 21 exercises, whose troop movements are interpreted as a reinforcement for an offensive against Ukraine. However, even the Ukrainian authorities refute the idea of Russian preparations for a war and Oleksiy Reznikov, Ukrainian Minister of Defense declares that there has been no change on its border since the spring.

In violation of the Minsk Accords, Ukraine is conducting aerial operations in Donbass using drones, including at least one strike against a fuel depot in Donetsk in October 2021 . The American press points this out, but not the Europeans and no one condemns these violations. In February 2022, events rush. On February 7, during his visit to Moscow, Emmanuel Macron reaffirms to Vladimir Putin his attachment to the Minsk Accords , a commitment he will repeat after his interview with Volodymyr Zelensky the next day. But on February 11, in Berlin, after 9 hours of work, the meeting of the political advisers of the leaders of the ” Normandy format ” ends, without concrete result: the Ukrainians still and always refuse to apply the Accordsof Minsk, apparently under pressure from the United States. Vladimir Putin then notes that Macron has made empty promises to him and that the West is not ready to enforce the Accords, as they have been doing for eight years.

Ukrainian preparations in the contact zone continue. The Russian Parliament is alarmed and on February 15 asks Vladimir Putin to recognize the independence of the Republics, which he refuses. On February 17, President Joe Biden announces that Russia will attack Ukraine in the coming days. How does he know? Mystery& But since the 16th, the artillery shelling of the populations of Donbass has increased dramatically, as shown by the daily reports of OSCE observers. Naturally, neither the media, nor the European Union, nor NATO, nor any Western government reacts and intervenes. We will say later that this is Russian disinformation. In fact, it seems that the European Union and some countries purposely glossed over the massacre of the people of Donbass, knowing that it would provoke Russian intervention.

At the same time, there are reports of acts of sabotage in the Donbass. On January 18, Donbass fighters intercept saboteurs equipped with Western equipment and speaking Polish seeking to create chemical incidents in Gorlivka . They could be CIA mercenaries , led or “advised” by Americans and made up of Ukrainian or European fighters, to carry out sabotage actions in the Donbass Republics.

[..] The Russian offensive proceeds in a very “classic” manner. At first – as the Israelis had done in 1967 – with the destruction on the ground of the air forces in the very first hours. Then, we witness a simultaneous progression on several axes according to the principle of “flowing water”: we advance wherever resistance is weak and we leave the cities (very voracious in troops) for later. To the north, the Chernobyl plant is occupied immediately to prevent acts of sabotage. The images of Ukrainian and Russian soldiers jointly guarding the plant are naturally not shown… The idea that Russia is trying to take over Kiev, the capital, to eliminate Zelensky, typically comes from the West: this is what they did in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and what they wanted to do in Syria with the help of the Islamic State .

But Vladimir Putin never intended to take down or overthrow Zelensky. On the contrary, Russia seeks to keep him in power by pushing him to negotiate by encircling kyiv. He had refused to do so far to apply the Minsk Accords, but now the Russians want to obtain Ukraine’s neutrality. Many Western commentators marveled that the Russians continued to seek a negotiated solution while conducting military operations. The explanation is in the Russian strategic conception, since Soviet times. For Westerners, war begins when politics ceases. However, the Russian approach follows a Clausewitzian inspiration: war is the continuity of politics and one can pass fluidly from one to the other, even during combat. This creates pressure on the opponent and pushes him to negotiate.

From an operational point of view, the Russian offensive was an example of its kind: in six days, the Russians seized a territory as vast as the United Kingdom, with a speed of advance greater than what the Wehrmacht made in 1940. The bulk of the Ukrainian army was deployed in the south of the country for a major operation against Donbass. This is why the Russian forces were able to encircle it from the beginning of March in the “cauldron” between Slavyansk, Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk, by a thrust coming from the east via Kharkov and another coming from the south from the Crimea. The troops of the Republics of Donetsk (DPR) and Lugansk (RPL) complete the action of the Russian forces with a push from the East.

At this stage, the Russian forces are slowly tightening the noose, but are no longer under time pressure. Their objective of demilitarization is practically achieved and the residual Ukrainian forces no longer have an operational and strategic command structure. The “slowdown” that our “experts” attribute to poor logistics is only the consequence of having achieved the objectives set. Russia does not seem to want to engage in an occupation of the whole Ukrainian territory. In fact, it seems rather that Russia is trying to limit its advance to the country’s linguistic border.

Jacques Baud is a former Colonel of the General Staff, former member of Swiss strategic intelligence, specialist in Eastern European countries. He was trained in the American and British intelligence services. He was the head of doctrine for United Nations peace operations. A United Nations expert for the rule of law and security institutions, he designed and led the first multidimensional United Nations intelligence service in Sudan. He worked for the African Union and was responsible for the fight against the proliferation of small arms at NATO for 5 years. He was engaged in talks with top Russian military and intelligence officials right after the fall of the USSR. Within NATO, he followed the Ukrainian crisis of 2014, then participated in programs of assistance to Ukraine. He is the author of several books on intelligence, war and terrorism, and in particular Le Détournement published by SIGEST, Govern by fake news, The Navalny affair, and Poutine, master of the game? published by Max Milo.

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Pushing regime change in a country of 220 million people. Which is a nuclear power.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan Ousted By Parliament (PD)

Pakistan’s parliament passed a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan in the early hours of Sunday April 10. Sunday’s vote took place one week after Khan had dissolved parliament in order to avoid the no-confidence motion, citing foreign interference. The Supreme on Thursday April 7 ruled that the move was illegal and that the parliament must be restored. The vote against Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party on April 10 was promoted by legislators from the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and other parties) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and received 174 votes in favor, two more than the necessary 172 to be passed. The session was chaired by Ayaz Sadiq of PML-N after the National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser resigned from his post.

Qaiser stated that he could not take part in a foreign conspiracy to oust the prime minister, “In line with our laws and the need to stand for our country, I have decided that I can’t remain on the position of speaker and thereby resign.” When the no-confidence measure was first raised Khan had warned that it was product of an international conspiracy and alleged US involvement. While US officials denied any involvement, many have raised suspicion that the move gained strength just as Pakistan began to distance itself from Washington’s diktats. Since the Taliban take over the government of Afghanistan in August and the complete isolation of the country by the US and its allies, Pakistan has been one of the only countries engaging in economic and political relations with the government as the country faces a humanitarian crisis.

Further, it has not fallen into line with the US regarding Russia and has continued to conduct lifesaving trade and has refused to economically and politically marginalize the superpower. Khan denounced a joint letter issued by 22 European countries urging Pakistan to support a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly condemning Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. He declared at a public rally: “Are we slaves and do whatever you tell us… We are neutral in this conflict and will support those who want to end the war in Ukraine.” With the success of the no-confidence measure, Khan will be forced to step down. No democratically elected government has completed a full term since the creation of Pakistan in 1947. Khan’s removal comes amid a growing economic crisis due to global inflation. Prices of essential items such as cooking oil, grains, wheat, and sugar have all increased. Khan’s government turned to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for support and had entered a stalemate with the institution which was demanding strict conditions and austerity policies.

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Two parts from one article by Pepe Escobar.

The Total War to Cancel Russia (Escobar)

By now it’s abundantly clear that the neo-Orwellian “Two Minute Hate” Russophobic campaign launched by the Empire of Lies after the start of Operation Z is actually “24/7 Hate”. Vast swathes of NATOstan have been corralled into behaving like a Russophobic lynch mob. No dissent is tolerated. The full psyops has de facto upgraded the Empire of Lies to the status of Empire of Hate in a Total War – hybrid and otherwise – to cancel Russia. Hate, after all, packs way more punch than mere lies, which are now veering into abject ridiculousness, as in U.S. “intelligence” resorting to – what else – lies to fight the info war against Russia. If the propaganda overdrive has been lethally effective amidst the zombified Western masses – call it a “win” in the P.R. war – in the front where it really matters, inside Russia, it’s a major fail.

Public opinion support for both Operation Z and President Putin is unprecedented. After videos of torture of Russian POWs that caused widespread revulsion, Russian civil society is even bracing for a “Long War” lasting months, not weeks, as long as the targets of the Russian High Command – actually a military secret – are met. The stated aims are “demilitarization” and “denazification” of a future neutral Ukraine – but geopolitically reach way beyond: the aim is to turn the post-1945 European collective security arrangement upside down, forcing NATO to understand and come to terms with the concept of “indivisible security”. This is an extremely complex process that will reach the next decade.

The NATOstan sphere simply cannot admit in public a series of facts that a military analyst of the caliber of Andrei Martyanov has been explaining for years. And that adds to their collective pain. Russia can take on NATO and smash it to bits in 48 hours. It may employ advanced strategic deterrence systems unmatched across the West. Its southern axis – from the Caucasus and West Asia to Central Asia – is fully stabilized. And if the going gets really tough, Mr. Zircon can deliver his hypersonic nuclear business card with the other side not even knowing what hit it. It may be enlightening to see how these complex processes are interpreted by Russians – whose points of view are now completely blocked across NATOstan.

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“What you are seeing now is the death of Europe. Even if it does not come to nuclear strikes on industrial centers, Europe is doomed..”

“Europe Has Chosen Its Fate” (Escobar)

It may be enlightening to see how these complex processes are interpreted by Russians – whose points of view are now completely blocked across NATOstan. Let’s take two examples. The first is Lieutenant General L.P. Reshetnikov, in an analytical note examining facts of the ground war. Some key takeaways: – “Over Romania and Poland there are airborne early warning aircraft of NATO with experienced crews, there are U.S. intelligence satellites in the sky all the time. I remind you that just in terms of budgets for our Roscosmos we allocated $2.5 billion a year, the civil budget of NASA is $25 billion, the civil budget of SpaceX alone is equal to Roscosmos – and that is not counting the tens of billions of dollars annually for the entire U.S. feverishly unfolding the control system of the entire planet.” – The war is unfolding according to “NATO’s eyes and brains. The Ukronazis are nothing but free controlled zombies. And the Ukrainian army is a remotely controlled zombie organism.”

– “The tactics and strategy of this war will be the subject of textbooks for military academies around the world. Once again: the Russian army is smashing a Nazi zombie organism, fully integrated with the eyes and brain of NATO.” Now let’s switch to Oleg Makarenko, who focuses on the Big Picture. – “The West considers itself ‘the whole world’ only because it has not yet received a sufficiently sensitive punch on the nose. It just so happened that Russia is now giving him this click: with the rear support of Asia, Africa and Latin America. And the West can do absolutely nothing with us, since it also lags behind us in terms of the number of nuclear warheads.” – “Europe has chosen its fate. And chose fate for Russia. What you are seeing now is the death of Europe. Even if it does not come to nuclear strikes on industrial centers, Europe is doomed.

In a situation where European industry is left without cheap Russian energy sources and raw materials – and China will begin to receive these same energy carriers and raw materials at a discount, there can be no talk of any real competition with China from Europe. As a result, literally everything will collapse there – after industry, agriculture will collapse, welfare and social security will collapse, hunger, banditry and chaos will begin.” It’s fair to consider Reshetnikov and Makarenko as faithfully representing the overall Russian sentiment, which interprets the crude Bucha false flag as a cover to obscure the Ukrainian army torture of Russian POWs.

And, deeper still, Bucha allowed the disappearance of Pentagon bioweapon labs from the Western mediasphere, complete with its ramifications: evidence of a concerted American drive to ultimately deploy real weapons of mass destruction against Russia. The multi-level Bucha hoax had to include the Brit presidency of the UN Security Council actually blocking a serious discussion, a day before the Russian Ministry of Defense struggled to present to the UN – predictably minus the U.S. and the UK – all the bioweapon facts they have unearthed in Ukraine. The Chinese were horrified by the findings.

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That’s most of the world. And its resources.

BRICS Ministers of Finance Hold a Meeting (CTH)

This is not some grand conspiracy, ‘out there‘ deep geopolitical possibility, or foreboding likelihood as an outcome of short-sighted western emotion. No, this is just a predictable outcome from western created events that pushed specific countries to a natural conclusion based on their best interests. You can debate the motives of the western leaders who structured the sanctions against Russia, and whether they knew the outcome would happen as a consequence of their effort, but the outcome was never really in doubt. Personally, I believe this outcome is what the west intended. The people inside the World Economic Forum are not stupid – ideological, yes, but not stupid. They knew this would happen.

The finance ministers of the BRICS alliance (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) have decided to create their own financial mechanisms to continue trade between nations of similar disposition. Once the internal issues inside the BRICS alliance are resolved, and once the mechanisms are created, then other nations will be able to decide to join or not. The great global cleaving will commence. [..] The bottom line is – the 2022 punitive economic and financial sanctions by the western nations’ alliance against Russia was exactly the reason why BRICS assembled in the first place. The multinational corporate control of government is exactly what the BRICS assembly foresaw when they first assembled during the Obama administration. When multinational corporations run the policy of western government, there is going to be a problem.

In the bigger picture, the BRICS assembly are essentially leaders who do not want corporations and multinational banks running their government. BRICS leaders want their government running their government; and yes, that means whatever form of government that exists in their nation, even if it is communist. BRICS leaders are aligned as anti-corporatist. That doesn’t necessarily make those government leaders better stewards, it simply means they want to make the decisions, and they do not want corporations to become more powerful than they are. As a result, if you really boil it down to the common denominator, what you find is the BRICS group are the opposing element to the World Economic Forum assembly. The countries run by multinational corporations are in Yellow, the countries who have not yet chosen a side are in GREY:

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“It will be clear to everyone that the supposed effectiveness of sanctions is an absolute lie.”

Russia Urges BRICS Nations To Create Own ‘SWIFT’ System (ZH)

The dollar reserve system is facing its greatest threat yet. Russian Finance Minister Anatoly Siluanov said on Saturday that the five BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – could mitigate the backlash of Western sanctions against Russia on their economies by pooling their efforts and using a range of financial instruments at their disposal. “The current crisis is man-made and BRICS countries have all the instruments necessary to mitigate its consequences for the national and global economies,” Siluanov was cited as saying by the Russian Finance Ministry. The minister blamed economic sanctions on Russia for “destroying the foundation of the existing international monetary and financial system based on the US dollar” and urged BRICS to rely more on their national currencies in foreign trade, integrate payment systems and create an alternative to the SWIFT payment messaging platform.

Siluanov on Friday told a ministerial meeting with BRICS that the global economic situation had worsened substantially due to the sanctions, a statement from his ministry said on Friday. “This pushes us to the need to speed up work in the following areas: the use of national currencies for export-import operations, the integration of payment systems and cards, our own financial messaging system and the creation of an independent BRICS rating agency,” Siluanov said. As The Statesman reports, central banks of the BRICS countries have already agreed to conduct the fifth test of a banking mechanism that will allow them to jointly pool “alternative currency” reserves to shield their economies from outside shocks, the ministry said.

Siluanov’s comments echoed Dmitry Medvedev’s comments on Telegram. The Deputy Head of Russia’s Security Council warned of the geopolitical consequences of Western sanctions and the weaponization of the US dollar reserve system: “Their result will be a destroyed international order and extremely difficult consequences for the world economy and the life of individual countries,” adding that: “It will be clear to everyone that the supposed effectiveness of sanctions is an absolute lie.”

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“I won’t have any faith in him,” [Ron] Johnson said of a special counsel.”

Support Grows Among Republicans For Hunter Biden Special Counsel (JTN)

Nearly 100 House Republicans are urging Attorney General Merrick Garland to appoint a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden’s foreign business deals, saying they had the hallmarks of an influence peddling scandal. The letter led by Reps. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) and Jim Banks (R-Ind.), the chair of the House GOP Study Committee, comes as the U.S. attorney in Delaware enters his third year investigating Hunter Biden’s taxes, foreign lobbying and money movements. In all, 95 House GOP members signed the letter. “It is increasingly clear that Hunter Biden took advantage of his father’s position as Vice President to develop business relationships with clients in Ukraine, China, and Kazakhstan,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Hunter Biden likely facilitated lobbying for foreign entities through third-party channels without registering for the Foreign Agents Registration Act. “It appears that Hunter Biden used his position as son of then-Vice President Biden to gain wealth and influence in foreign countries, using questionably sourced money to pay tax liabilities, and lobbying on behalf of foreign entities without proceeding through the proper channels.” The House Republicans said they were concerned DOJ “has an actual conflict of interest and certainly has the appearance of a conflict of interest that could prevent a fair and impartial investigation of his activities.” “We believe that in the case of Hunter Biden a special counsel must be appointed to preserve the integrity of this investigation and any subsequent prosecution.

A special counsel would also ensure there is no bias in the investigation or undue influence from the White House,” the lawmakers added. [..] While support for a special counsel has been growing, some Republicans like Sen. Ron Johnson argue it isn’t necessary and would only further delay an already slow moving investigation. “I won’t have any faith in him,” Johnson said of a special counsel.

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No investigation of Hunter can be complete without investigating Joe.

$54M in Chinese Gifts Donated To UPenn, Home of Biden Center (NYP)

A government watchdog is demanding the US Attorney probing Hunter Biden in Delaware investigate tens of millions in anonymous donations from China to the University of Pennsylvania, where an academic center is named for his father, President Biden. The Ivy League college raked in a total of $54.6 million from 2014 through June 2019 in donations from China, including $23.1 million in anonymous gifts starting in 2016, according to public records. Most of the anonymous donations came after the university announced in February 2017 that it would create the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. Joe Biden, whose term as vice president had just ended, was to lead the center and was also named a professor at the university. The center, which is located in Washington, DC., opened its doors in February 2018.

Antony Blinken, whom Biden named as Secretary of State, briefly served as its managing director. The Ivy League university received $15.8 million in anonymous Chinese gifts that year, including one eye-popping $14.5 million donation in May 2018, records show. The flurry of donations may be related to Hunter Biden’s business interests in China, the National Legal and Policy Center, a Virginia-based watchdog, alleged in complaints sent in May and October 2020 to the Departments of Education and Justice. Last week, the group asked US Attorney David Weiss to step in and investigate the Chinese largesse to the school as part of his federal tax probe of Hunter Biden. “We’ve asked … Weiss to pursue the larger network of individuals and institutions who benefited from millions doled out by foreign interests connected to Hunter Biden’s work in China and Ukraine,” said Tom Anderson, director of the NLPC’s Government Integrity Project.

In its 12-page complaint, the watchdog cited a 2017 text found on Hunter Biden’s infamous laptop that CEFC China Energy Co, one of the firms that Hunter Biden had a financial stake in, wanted to lobby politicians in the US but did not want to register under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), required for all foreign lobbyists. “We don’t want to have to register as foreign agents under the FCPA [sic] which … is much more expansive than people who should know choose not to know,” reads the May 1, 2017, text sent from Hunter Biden to his former business partner Tony Bobulinski.

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“..Moscow’s military annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean region in 2014 was a wild card that could scuttle the success of their business pursuits..”

Oh, and definition counts: There was a 1st war on Ukraine? Was that when Ukraine invaded the Donbass?

Hunter Biden Sought Oligarchs’ Cash In 1st Russian War On Ukraine (JTN)

In the shadows of Russia’s first invasion of Ukraine in 2014, Hunter Biden and his business partners embarked on an aggressive campaign to score millions of dollars in “life changing” business with oligarchs in both countries who had an interest in his father’s policymaking business, according to emails and court records obtained by Just the News. President Joe Biden’s son and his associates targeted Russian oligarch Yelena Baturina — who eventually was sanctioned by the U.S. a few years later in 2018 — for as much as $200 million after helping her get a bank account set up in America, the emails show. Hunter Biden and his associates even arranged for Baturina and her husband, an ex-Moscow mayor, to meet with then-Vice President Joe Biden at an intimate dinner in Washington in 2015.

At the same time he and his team courted Baturina, Hunter Biden was securing lucrative board positions and consulting deals with Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky, a man whose company, Burisma Holdings, the United States and Great Britain wanted investigated for corruption. The delicate balancing act of cashing in on both the Russian and Ukrainian sides of the conflict left the younger Biden and his partners acutely aware that Moscow’s military annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean region in 2014 was a wild card that could scuttle the success of their business pursuits, the memos show.

“Just spent two hours on the phone with Kiev. I am confident at this point that this is a good if not life changing deal if the Uk [Ukraine] doesn’t collapse in the meantime,” now-convicted Biden business partner Devon Archer wrote Hunter Biden in one particularly candid assessment of their strategy in mid-April 2014. Eventually, another of Hunter Biden’s convicted business associates, John Galanis, would declare in a sworn affidavit to a federal court that he and his son Jason became aware of a strategy by Hunter Biden-related companies of promising oligarchs “quid pro quo” access to Washington in return for their dollars. “Jason Galanis gave his interest in Burnham/Wealth Assurance to Archer on the prospect that Archer and Hunter Biden would continue to attract foreign oligarchs on the promise of high level political contacts,” John Galanis swore in a January 2020 affidavit that unequivocally referred to the scheme as “political influence peddling.”

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Sussmann will be fun.

Durham Evidence: Relentless Democrat Effort To Sell Russia Collusion Hoax (JTN)

As the trial for former Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann draws closer, Special Counsel John Durham is painting a picture of a relentless effort by Democrat operatives to sell the Russia collusion narrative across the U.S. government from the FBI to the State Department. Essentially, Hillary Clinton operatives flooded the zone in the summer and fall of 2016, hoping multiple Trump collusion allegations circulating inside the government agencies might prompt an investigation and media interest. For the first time this week, Durham called it a “joint venture” and a conspiracy to shop unproven Trump dirt.

In the case of Sussmann, Durham alleges that effort involved deceit by lying to the FBI that he did not have a client when he presented (since-discredited) evidence to the FBI that Donald Trump had a secret computer back channel at the Alfa Bank in Moscow to talk with the Kremlin. In fact, Sussmann was working on behalf of the Clinton campaign and a tech executive named Rodney Jaffe who was aligned with the campaign when he approached the FBI in September 2016 and made the anti-Trump allegations, Durham’s team alleges. A few months later, prosecutors say, Sussmann was still representing the tech executive when he approached the CIA in February 2017 to get the spy agency involved and again claimed he wasn’t representing a client’s interest.

On Monday, Durham showed the strength of his evidence of Sussmann’s alleged lie: He offered the handwritten notes of two senior FBI officials who recorded that the Clinton lawyer had said he was not acting on behalf of a client when he reported the Trump dirt. “Said not doing this for any client,” then-Assistant FBI Director for Counterintelligence Bill Priestap wrote in his notes, recording what Sussmann had told him. A deputy general counsel wrote a similar notation.

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“..it’s living in a space that’s not exactly a publication, but it’s not exactly a private company either… That’s why it’s so tricky.”

Bill Maher Cheers On Elon Musk Joining Twitter (Fox)

“Real Time” host Bill Maher offered enthusiastic support for Tesla CEO Elon Musk as he joins Twitter. Musk shocked the world this week when it was revealed he purchased 9.2% stake in Twitter, Inc., making him the largest shareholder in the social media giant. He made even more headlines when it was announced that he was joining Twitter’s board of directors, suggesting he could have influence over Twitter’s policies in favor of free speech principles. During Friday’s “Overtime” segment on YouTube, a viewer submitted a question asking, “What’s the panel’s thoughts on Elon Musk becoming Twitter’s single-largest shareholder. “I’m for it!” Maher exclaimed while pounding the table. New York Times writer David Leonhardt said his reaction to the Elon Musk news was, “Are we gonna have to read Donald Trump’s tweets again soon.”


“Which is a tough one,” Maher reacted. “Because once they took Trump off Twitter, things did get better but it’s… bad for free speech. And then they’re gonna go somewhere. And then the resentment and then the idea, ‘Well, you know, the people who are ganging up against us- the media and Big Tech and Big Government. I mean, that’s the convoy. You know, those convoys in Canada and all over the world.” Liberal author Nancy MacLean pushed back against Maher, arguing that Twitter’s censorship of Trump is not in violation of the Constitution since the First Amendment only applies to the government suppressing free speech, not private companies. “We live in a different age where Twitter is the public square now. If you deny someone’s right to speak on Twitter, you’re basically saying you don’t have free speech rights,” Maher said. “We’re not living in 1980 anymore. This is a different world we live in where social media controls this. So social media is sort of a… it’s living in a space that’s not exactly a publication, but it’s not exactly a private company either… That’s why it’s so tricky.”

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Makary

 

 

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Mar 312022
 


Pablo Picasso Visage 1928

 

US Dollar Hegemony Ended Abruptly Last Wednesday – Michael Huddson (PR)
Mariupol Will Become A Key Hub Of Eurasian Integration (Escobar)
Lavrov: Russia, China Moving Towards Multipolar ‘Fair World Order’ (ZH)
Ukrainian Forces Want to Surrender, Azov Forces Shoot At Them (DE)
“Regime Change” Doesn’t Work, You Morons (Taibbi)
FEC Fines DNC and Clinton For Trump Dossier Hoax (WE)
Hunter Biden’s Role In Ukrainian Biolabs Raises Serious Questions (Blaze)
WaPo, Like New York Times, Finally Admits Hunter Biden Laptop Is Real (NYP)
New York Times – a Bastion of Censorship and Corruption (CHD)
Trudeau Gives Himself A Raise The Same Day As Carbon Tax Hike (Bexte)
Media Freedom Report Shakes Greece’s Conservative Government (EurActiv)
Triple Vaccinated Down To The Last 20% Of Their Immune Systems (DE)

 

 

The tweet that got Nick Hudson banned. The narrative still can’t tolerate dissent. It’s too feeble.

 

 

Maajid Nawaz CBDC

 

 

 

 

The very moment Russia’s reserves were stolen.

US Dollar Hegemony Ended Abruptly Last Wednesday – Michael Huddson (PR)

Well, what happened was that, as I’ve described in Super Imperialism, when the United States went off gold, foreign central banks didn’t have anything to buy with their dollars that were flowing into their countries – again, mainly from the US military deficit but also from the investment takeovers. And they found that these dollars came in, the only thing they could do would be to recycle them to the United States. And what do central banks hold? They don’t buy property, usually, back then they didn’t. They buy Treasury bonds. And so, the United States would be spending dollars abroad and foreign central banks didn’t really have anything to do but send it right back to buy treasury bonds to finance not only the balance of payments deficit, but also the budget deficit that was largely military in character. So, dollar hegemony was the system where foreign central banks keep their monetary and international savings reserves in dollars and the dollars are used to finance the military bases around the world, almost eight hundred military bases surrounding them. So, basically central banks have to keep their savings by weaponizing them, by militarizing them, by lending them to the United States, to keep spending abroad.

This gave America a free ride. Imagine if you went to the grocery store and you just paid by giving them an IOU. And then the next week you want to buy more groceries and you give them another IOU. And they say, wait a minute, you have an IOU before and you say, well just use the IOU to pay the milk company that delivers, or the farmers that deliver. You can use this as your money and just you’ll as a customer, keep writing IOU’s and you never have to pay anything because your IOU is other people’s money. Well, that’s what dollar hegemony was, and it was a free ride. And it all ended last Wednesday when the United States grabbed Russia’s reserves having grabbed Afghanistan’s foreign reserves and Venezuela’s foreign reserves and those of other countries.

And all of a sudden, this means that other countries can no longer safely hold their reserves by sending their money back, depositing them in US banks or buying US Treasury Securities, or having other US investments because they could simply be grabbed as happened to Russia. So, all of a sudden this last week, you’re seeing the world economy fracture into two parts, a dollarized part and other countries that do not follow the neoliberal policies that the United States insists that its allies follow. We’re seeing the birth of a new dual World economy. MF: Wow, there’s a lot to unpack there. So, are we seeing then other countries starting to disinvest in US dollars? You’ve written about how the treasury bonds that these central banks buy up have been basically funding our domestic economy. Are they starting to shed those bonds or what’s happening?

MH: No, they haven’t been funding our domestic economy because the Federal Reserve can create its own money to fund the domestic economy. We don’t need to borrow from foreign countries to fund our economy. We can print it ourselves. What the dollar hegemony does is fund the balance of payments deficit. It funds our spending in other economies, our spending abroad. It doesn’t help our economy, but it does help us get a free ride from other countries. The more dollars we spend in making a military base, all these military expenditures get turned over to the local Central Bank that turns and sends them back to the Federal Reserve or deposits them in US bank accounts. So, it’s the international free ride we get, not a domestic free ride.

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Even in the hands of Ukraine oligarchs? Hard to imagine by now.

Mariupol Will Become A Key Hub Of Eurasian Integration (Escobar)

Mariupol, the strategic Sea of Azov port, remains in the eye of the storm in Ukraine. The NATO narrative is that Azovstal – one of Europe’s biggest iron and steel works – was nearly destroyed by the Russian Army and its allied Donetsk forces who “lay siege” to Mariupol. The true story is that the neo-Nazi Azov batallion took scores of Mariupol civilians as human shields since the start of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, and retreated to Azovstal as a last stand. After an ultimatum delivered last week, they are now being completely exterminated by the Russian and Donetsk forces and Chechen Spetsnaz. Azovstal, part of the Metinvest group controlled by Ukraine’s wealthiest oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov, is indeed one of the biggest metallurgic plants in Europe, self-described as a “high-performance integrated metallurgical enterprise that produces coke and sinter, steel as well as high-quality rolled products, bars and shapes.”

Amidst a flurry of testimonials detailing the horrors inflicted by the Azov neo-Nazis on Mariupol’s civilian population, a way more auspicious, invisible story bodes well for the immediate future. Russia is the world’s fifth largest steel producer, apart from holding huge iron and coal deposits. Mariupol – a steel Mecca – used to source coal from Donbass, but under de facto neo-Nazi rule since the 2014 Maidan events, was turned into an importer. Iron, for instance, started to be supplied from Krivbas in Ukraine, over 200 kilometers away. After Donetsk solidifies itself as an independent republic or, via referendum, chooses to become part of the Russian Federation, this situation is bound to change.

Azovstal is invested in a broad product line of very useful stuff: structural steel, rail for railroads, hardened steel for chains, mining equipment, rolled steel used in factory apparatus, trucks and railroad cars. Parts of the factory complex are quite modern while some, decades old, are badly in need of upgrading, which Russian industry can certainly provide. Strategically, this is a huge complex, right at the Sea of Azov, which is now, for all practical purposes, incorporated into the Donetsk People’s Republic, and close to the Black Sea. That implies a short trip to the Eastern Mediterranean, including many potential customers in West Asia. And crossing Suez and reaching the Indian Ocean, are customers all across South and Southeast Asia.

So the Donetsk People’s Republic, possibly part of the future Novorossiya, and even part of Russia, will be in control of a lot of steel-making capacity for southern Europe, West Asia, and beyond. One of the inevitable consequences is that it will be able to supply a real freight railroad construction boom in Russia, China and the Central Asian ‘stans.’ Railroad construction happens to be the privileged connectivity mode for Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). And, crucially, of the increasingly turbo-charged International North South Transportation Corridor (INSTC). So, mid-term, Mariupol should expect to become one of the key hubs of a boom in north-south routes – INSTC across Russia and linking with the ‘stans’ – as well as major BRI upgrades east-west and sub-BRI corridors.

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“..shortly before the meetings – which Lavrov will attend – to discuss ways to help Afghanistan. Both the US and the Taliban are expected to be in attendance..”

Lavrov: Russia, China Moving Towards Multipolar ‘Fair World Order’ (ZH)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with his Chinese counterpart on Wednesday, where he said the two are carving a path towards a ‘fairer world order.’ The meeting between Lavrov and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, marks the first visit to a key ally since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, according to The Economic Times. The two countries will work to achieve “a multipolar, fair, and democratic world order,” Lavrov said, speaking from the Chinese city of Tunxi located in the eastern inland Anhui Province. In a video released by the Russian foreign ministry ahead of a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Lavrov said the world was “living through a very serious stage in the history of international relations”.


At the end of this reshaping of global relations “we, together with you, and with our sympathisers will move towards a multipolar, just, democratic world order”, Lavrov said. -Economic Times” Lavrov and Yi were seen on Chinese state TV in face masks bumping elbows in front of their national flags shortly before the meetings – which Lavrov will attend – to discuss ways to help Afghanistan. Both the US and the Taliban are expected to be in attendance. US officials have grown frustrated with Beijing’s refusal to condemn the invasion of Ukraine, and have accused China of signalling a “willingness” to provide both economic and military aid to Russia. According to Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency, Wang said that despite “new challenges” to relations between China and Russia, “the will of both sides to develop bilateral relations has become even stronger.” Earlier this month Wang said that China’s relationship with Russia is “one of the most crucial bilateral relationships in the world,” and is “ironclad.”

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“..Because the Ukrainian forces kind of wanted to give up, SMS messages come that say that ‘you can give up and nothing will happen to you’. So, they want to surrender, and Azov starts shooting at them..”

Ukrainian Forces Want to Surrender, Azov Forces Shoot At Them (DE)

US Navy veteran and independent journalist, Patrick Lancaster, has been making regular reports from Ukraine since the beginning of the crisis. His reports reveal that what is happening on the ground is not what Western corporate media would have you believe. “Over the 8 years of the Ukraine War I made more video reports in anti-Ukraine Government (Donetsk People’s Republic) controlled territory than any other western journalist,” he says. In his report on Friday, Lancaster interviewed residents of the ethnic Greek village of Sartana, one of the villages surrounding Mariupol, Ukraine. “This is right on, what you could say is the frontline now. Nobody knows exactly where the frontline starts and ends at this point there’s just so much information and [ ] minute by minute the lines are changing,” Lancaster said.

Eight years ago, a referendum was held and “mostly people asked for Russian language. But they decided to Ukrainise us, so that everybody speaks Ukrainian … It was forbidden to speak Russian in the store. There was some tension. Employees paid fines for not saying ‘Good afternoon’ in Ukrainian in stores,” one resident explained. “Today I’m trying to find guys from Mariupol to find out how things are there. My parents stayed there. But they say that everything is very sad. Today I heard another story that the Ukrainian armed forces started shootings with Azov. Because the Ukrainian forces kind of wanted to give up, SMS messages come that say that ‘you can give up and nothing will happen to you’. So, they want to surrender, and Azov starts shooting at them. And they [Ukrainian forces and Azov] are at war with each other.” another resident said.


Earlier this month members of the Azov Battalion, a self-declared neo-Nazi former paramilitary group that is now a unit of the National Guard of Ukraine, bombed the village most likely aiming for a church. Village residents also believe it was Azov who bombed the school. “Ukrainians say it’s only Russia who shoots now. – They always say so. It’s their policy. A dirty policy,” the second resident said. Other interviewees explained that Ukrainians bombed Mariupol to create a panic: “So that people leave, and they use them as a human shield. And now all people are there. And they’re holding them at gunpoint, don’t let them go. Literally shoot them if they run away,” they said.

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Hmmm. Feels a bit like Matt lost his grip on the material.

“Regime Change” Doesn’t Work, You Morons (Taibbi)

Not long ago, candidate Joe Biden’s most troubling behavioral tendency was the surprise outburst of belligerence. Campaigning, he’d challenge questioners to push-up contests, jam fingers in the sternums even of supporters, and plunge into rambling monologues about leg hairs and chain-fights. Now, the president’s face is often a mask of terror, like a man unsure of how he came to be standing in the middle of an intersection. Mental cars racing past, he met the press Monday, to clarify a statement made last week about Vladimir Putin: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.” Many interpreted this as a call for regime change. Not at all, Biden said, reading from a large-print cheat sheet — this reportedly happened — that reminded him to say he was merely expressing “moral outrage,” and “not articulating a change in policy.”

When he ran out of pre-prepared remarks, he drifted back to danger, saying: “It’s more an aspiration than anything. He shouldn’t be in power.” The AP writeup offered help: “He said he was expressing an ‘aspiration’ rather than a goal of American foreign policy.” (I’m sure nuclear-armed Putin appreciated the semantic difference). When Biden moved more toward candor, saying he made “no apologies” for his remarks, another reporter quickly tried to guide him back to a safe harbor: Q: Your personal feelings, sir? Your personal feelings? THE PRESIDENT: Personal. My personal feelings. Biden even offered his Princess Bride/Vizzini-esque analysis that “the last thing I want to do is engage in a land war… with Russia”:

Although administration mouthpieces Tony Blinken and Jen Psaki scrambled to reassure a nervous world that the U.S. is not intent on “doing regime change” in Russia, officials everywhere have been telling reporters the opposite on background. This cat was out of the bag weeks ago. As Joe Lauria at Consortium points out, Biden was asked on February 24th, at the start of the invasion, what sanctions would accomplish if they hadn’t prevented war. His answer: No one expected the sanctions to prevent anything from happening. That has to sh- — this is going to take time. And we have to show resolve, so he knows what’s coming and so the people of Russia know what he’s brought on them. That’s what this is all about. Biden said virtually the same thing in Brussels last week:

“Sanctions never deter… The maintenance of sanctions, the increasing the pain … we will sustain what we’re doing not just next month, the following month, but for the remainder of this entire year. That’s what will stop him.” We heard this more explicitly from Boris Johnson on March 1st, “The measures we are introducing, that large parts of the world are introducing, are to bring down the Putin regime,” Johnson said. Lauria points out this was two days after British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey wrote in the Telegraph that “His failure must be complete… the Russian people empowered to see how little he cares for them. In showing them that, Putin’s days as President will surely be numbered… He’ll lose power and he won’t get to choose his successor.”

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The price?

“..it fined Clinton’s treasurer $8,000 and the DNC’s treasurer $105,000..”

FEC Fines DNC and Clinton For Trump Dossier Hoax (WE)

The Federal Election Commission has fined the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign for lying about the funding of the infamous, and discredited, Russian “dossier” used in a smear attempt against Donald Trump weeks before he shocked the world with his 2016 presidential victory. The election agency said that Clinton and the DNC violated strict rules on describing expenditures of payments funneled to the opposition research firm Fusion GPS through their law firm. A combined $1,024,407.97 was paid by the treasurers of the DNC and Clinton campaign to law firm Perkins Coie for Fusion GPS’s information, and the party and campaign hid the reason, claiming it was for legal services, not opposition research.

Instead, the DNC’s $849,407.97 and the Clinton campaign’s $175,000 covered Fusion GPS’s opposition research on the dossier, a basis for the so-called “Russia hoax” that dogged Trump’s first term. The memo said that the Clinton campaign and DNC argued that they were correct in describing their payment as for “legal advice and services” because it was Perkins Coie that hired Fusion GPS. But the agency said the law is clear and was violated. It added that neither the campaign nor the party conceded to lying but won’t contest the finding. “Solely for the purpose of settling this matter expeditiously and to avoid further legal costs, respondent[s] does not concede, but will not further contest the commission’s finding of probable cause to proceed” with the probe, said the FEC.

The FEC, in a memo to the Coolidge Reagan Foundation, which filed its complaint over three years ago, said it fined Clinton’s treasurer $8,000 and the DNC’s treasurer $105,000. The memo, shared with Secrets, is to be made public in a month. Dan Backer, who brought the complaint on behalf of the foundation, which focuses on free speech and the First Amendment, told Secrets, “This may well be the first time that Hillary Clinton — one of the most evidently corrupt politicians in American history — has actually been held legally accountable, and I’m proud to have forced the FEC to do their job for once. The Coolidge Reagan Foundation proved that with pluck and grit, Americans who stand with integrity can stand up to the Clinton machine and other corrupt political elites.”

[..] Backer, with Washington’s Chalmers & Adams law firm, held out hope for further action against the former first lady. He said, “Hillary Clinton and her cronies willfully engaged in the greatest political fraud in history — destroying our nation’s faith in the electoral process, and it’s high time they were held accountable. I hope this is only the beginning.”

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Hunter and Fauci and Peter Daszak. Fine friends.

Hunter Biden’s Role In Ukrainian Biolabs Raises Serious Questions (Blaze)

Recent emails unearthed by the U.K. Daily Mail and the National Pulse reveal that during the last decade, Hunter Biden seemed to have a keen interest in pathogen research in Ukraine and using it as a tool for geopolitical affairs in that country. It just so happens to be that a pathogen connected to gain-of-function research destroyed the world, and then the next “big current thing” on the geopolitical stage was none other than Ukraine. Shouldn’t the American people get some answers as to why our government was so heavily involved – via the vice president’s son – in both pathogen research and Ukraine and to make sure Ukraine is not Wuhan 2.0?

Earlier this month, I detailed the known connections between biotech firm Metabiota Inc., responsible for the pathogen research in Ukraine, the DOD, and EcoHealth Alliance, along with the Wuhan lab most likely responsible for the leak of SARS-CoV-2. I also noted that Rosemont Seneca Technology Partners (RSTP), a subsidiary of the Hunter Biden and Christopher Heinz-founded Rosemont Capital, gave Metabiota, a company accused of dangerous lab protocols during the African Ebola pandemic, its first infusion of cash a decade ago. Now, new emails from Hunter’s laptop demonstrate that his involvement in Metabiota and pathogen research in Ukraine was much deeper than just an initial investment.

[..] After receiving 18.4 million from the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) between February 2014 and November 2016, with $307,091 earmarked for “Ukraine research projects,” “Metabiota has worked in Ukraine for Black & Veatch, a US defense contractor with deep ties to military intelligence agencies, which built secure labs in Ukraine that analyzed killer diseases and bioweapons,” according to the Daily Mail. “It raises the question, what is the real purpose of this venture? It’s very odd,” said former senior CIA officer Sam Faddis in an interview with the Daily Mail. “His father was the Vice President of the United States and in charge of relations with Ukraine. So why was Hunter not only on the board of a suspect Ukrainian gas firm, but also hooked them up with a company working on bioweapons research?”

Biden was so involved in Metabiota that one email written that same month in 2014 reveals that he and his business partner Eric Schwerin discussed subletting their office space to the San-Francisco-based biotech firm. So, what exactly were they working on? Last week, the National Pulse reported that a feature in the Science and Technology Center in Ukraine’s 2016 Annual Report recounts an October 2016 meeting involving U.S. military officials and their Ukrainian counterparts together with Black & Veatch and Metabiota staff to discuss the lab work. The discussion centered around “existing frameworks, regulatory coordination, and ongoing cooperative projects in research, surveillance and diagnostics of a number of dangerous zoonotic diseases, such as avian influenza, leptospirosis, Crimea Congo hemorrhagic fever, and brucellosis.”

Gaetz and Nadler?!

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WaPo and NYT will still be considered serious media. Wanna bet? They have nothing to lose.

WaPo, Like New York Times, Finally Admits Hunter Biden Laptop Is Real (NYP)

The Washington Post on Wednesday became the second major news outlet to reverse course and admit that emails from the infamous Hunter Biden laptop are authentic — nine months after it obtained them and a year and a half after the New York Post first reported on them. The paper said two security experts used cryptographic signatures from Google and other technology companies to validate nearly 22,000 emails from 2009 to 2019, including messages related to Hunter Biden’s controversial overseas business dealings. Some verified emails involved a deal President Biden’s son pursued with the CEFC China Energy conglomerate for which he was paid nearly $5 million, according to the Washington Post. Other verified emails related to his work for the Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings, for which Hunter Biden was paid as much as $83,333 or a month, or $1 million a year.

In October 2020, the New York Post exclusively revealed the existence of Hunter Biden’s emails after being given a copy of the hard drive from a damaged MacBook Pro laptop that the owner of a repair shop in the Biden family’s hometown of Wilmington, Del., said was dropped off in April 2019 and never retrieved. Following the expose, the Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” feature said the paper “has not been able to verify or authenticate these emails” and said there were “fears that the emails could be part of a broader disinformation campaign” by Russia. Washington Post op-eds also called the emails “unverified” and said they “have never been authenticated,” and a news analysis dismissed the New York Post’s reporting as “sketchy.”

On Wednesday, the Washington Post said it was given a copy of the hard drive in June by Republican activist Jack Maxey, who previously worked as a researcher for the “War Room” podcast run by Steve Bannon, a former adviser to ex-President Donald Trump. The paper said it spent months reviewing the data and making two copies of the hard drive so they could be analyzed by Matt Green, a Johns Hopkins University security researcher, and Jake Williams, a forensics expert and former National Security Agency operative. Both experts concluded that the verified emails carried cryptographic signatures that would be hard to fake, even for the best computer hackers. Earlier this month, the New York Times said it had obtained emails that appeared to have come from the laptop and which were authenticated by people familiar with them and the federal tax probe of Hunter Biden that he publicly acknowledged in December 2020.


The Times buried its verification of the emails in the 24th paragraph of a 38-paragraph story that said Hunter Biden had paid off a significant tax debt to the IRS, potentially making it harder for prosecutors to win a conviction or a long sentence against him for tax fraud. US Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) — who, with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), has been investigating Hunter Biden’s overseas business deals — responded by accusing the Gray Lady of “finally, quietly, covering its tracks.” “I am just amazed that the New York Times just now came to the conclusion that the Hunter Biden laptop was genuine,” Johnson told WABC 770 AM’s “The Cats Roundtable” last week.

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Yes, this.

New York Times – a Bastion of Censorship and Corruption (CHD)

In a bold, but clearly disingenuous, statement from its famed editorial board, “a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate, and certain longstanding values,” The New York Times issued a cautionary statement: “For all the tolerance and enlightenment that modern society claims, Americans are losing hold of a fundamental right as citizens of a free country: the right to speak their minds and voice their opinions in public without fear of being shamed or shunned.” The editorial board pounded the point home: “People should be able to put forward viewpoints, ask questions and make mistakes, and take unpopular but good-faith positions on issues that society is still working through — all without fearing cancellation …. Freedom of speech requires not just a commitment to openness and tolerance in the abstract. It demands conscientiousness…

“We believe it isn’t enough for Americans to just believe in the rights of others to speak freely; they should also find ways to actively support and protect those rights.” Of course, The New York Times should be leading by example. In fact, it has not supported free speech, protected the First Amendment, or allowed honest debate. It has not allowed competing perspectives about the most important issues of the day. Instead, it has been a mouthpiece for greedy corporations and corrupt government officials. In support of the newspaper’s interests, and at the expense of the interests of American citizens, The New York Times censored Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s latest book, “The Real Anthony Fauci,” in every conceivable way.

It ranked the book No. 7 on its non-fiction bestseller list even though the book outsold any other book in America that week by thousands of copies. Then it refused to allow Skyhorse Publishing to place an advertisement for the book because its censorship division, ironically called “Standards Management,” decided the book itself constituted misinformation — despite the paper’s stated policy that “Standards” only looks into whether an ad itself is “non-defamatory and accurate.” The New York Times followed up with a scathing hit piece targeting Kennedy as “a leading voice in the campaign to discredit coronavirus vaccines and other measures being advanced by the Biden White House to battle a pandemic that was … killing close to 1,900 people a day.”

The Times accused Kennedy of circulating “false information” — without indicating what that information was or explaining why it was false — and of comparing the government pandemic response to the Holocaust, even though he didn’t do that. Finally, The New York Times refused to review “The Real Anthony Fauci” or so much as comment on its historic grassroots success, even though it’s become a cult classic, selling more than 1 million copies in just four months, and launching a worldwide movement against government corruption and corporate greed. “Despite all the lying, or maybe in reaction to it,” Tucker Carlson told me, “Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is becoming a legitimate folk hero.”

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Not much left of that country.

Trudeau Gives Himself A Raise The Same Day As Carbon Tax Hike (Bexte)

PM Justin Trudeau is giving himself and every MP a raise on April 1 — the same day he’s set to hike the carbon tax, leaving gas even less affordable. As of April 1, Trudeau’s estimated salary will be $379,404, a $21,604 pay increase. Simultaneously, Ministers will see their salaries rise by an additional $15,865, while backbenchers and senators will be receiving a $10,802 pay hike — more than enough to keep politicians comfortable as inflation skyrockets. Of course, the vast majority of Canadians are totally against this — but it will happen anyway. According to a Canadian Taxpayers Federation Leger poll, 79 per cent of Canadians (nearly 8-in-10) are opposed to MPs receiving a third pay raise since the pandemic started.


“It’s wrong for politicians to pocket bigger paycheques while the people they represent suffer through a pandemic, pay cuts, job and business losses,” said Federal Director of the CTF Franco Terrazzano. “It shouldn’t be rocket science for MPs to do the right thing and stop taking bigger salaries during the pandemic.” He further calls the pay raise a “slap in the face” to all the Canadians who’ve struggled throughout the pandemic. Of course, politicians aren’t the only government employees to receive raises throughout the pandemic. As the Western Standard reported in January, 528, 347 federal and provincial government employees received raises since the pandemic began, all while restrictions were decimating small businesses. “We’ve seen a tale of two pandemics: one full of private sector pain and the other full of financial gain for bureaucrats and politicians,” Terrazzano said at the time.

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But where in Europe is there media freedom?

Media Freedom Report Shakes Greece’s Conservative Government (EurActiv)

Six international organisations for the freedom of the press have published a report accusing Greece’s ruling New Democracy party (EPP) of trying to control media. While the report raises the alarm over a “systemic press freedom crisis”, the government replies that people are still free to opt on what media to follow. In an interview with EURACTIV last week, Pavol Szalai, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Head of EU/Balkans Desk, said, “The situation of press freedom in Greece is becoming comparable to the one in Hungary”. “We can see a deliberate political will to reduce press freedom. And at the same time, there are other dangerous situations linked to organised crime, which is probably behind the murder of Georges Karaivaz, who is one of the two EU journalists murdered last year”, he added.

The report was drafted following a December 2021 visit to the country. The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) report noted that the systemic crisis affecting press freedom in Greece has been exacerbated by the New Democracy government’s attempts to “control the message” and minimise critical and dissenting voices. “Newspapers and individual journalists that are ideologically on the side of the opposition or take a neutral stance are singled out by the government for unequal treatment that undermines their journalistic activities. This has been further compounded by a lack of transparency around the allocation of state advertising and its distribution based on established partisan lines,” the report added. The report also says journalists covering migration issues such as pushbacks is becoming “increasingly difficult”.


“The press freedom violations faced by journalists doing so are linked to the government’s restrictive migration policy and an unwillingness to accept public scrutiny of it leading to obstructions to reporting such as arbitrary arrest and detention, restriction of access, surveillance and harassment”. Without replying to any element of the report, New Democracy issued a statement saying the freedom of the press in Greece is institutionally guaranteed. “Every citizen can be freely informed, at any time, through the media of his choice”, the conservative party said. “The report highlights how Greece is becoming a problematic country on issues of press freedom and democracy,” main opposition leader and former PM Alexis Tsipras tweeted.

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When will this be the front page headline everywhere?

Triple Vaccinated Down To The Last 20% Of Their Immune Systems (DE)

According to the latest UK Government figures, most triple vaccinated people in England have now lost 80% of their immune system capability compared to the natural immune system capability of unvaccinated people, meaning they are now down to the last 20% of their immune system for fighting viruses, bacteria, disease and cancer. But this disaster isn’t only occurring in the UK. Official Government of Canada data shows that on average, triple vaccinated Canadians have now lost 75% of their immune system capability compared to the natural immune system capability of unvaccinated Canadians. Meaning they are now down to the last 25% of their immune system for fighting viruses, bacteria, disease and cancer.

And the picture is also the same in New Zealand, with official Government data showing that on average, fully vaccinated people in New Zealand have lost 74% of their immune system capability. In short, because authorities in the UK, Canada and New Zealand have done such a good job at collating and publishing data on Covid-19 by vaccination status, they have exposed the fact that the triple vaccinated population are rapidly developing some new form of Covid-19 vaccine induced Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). The body’s immune system primarily defends one’s body against infections like bacteria, viruses and parasites. There are two broad categories of immune deficiency: those that one is born with, and those that are acquired after birth .


Immune deficiency syndrome refers to a broad range of medical disorders that prevent your body from protecting itself from illnesses such as viruses and bacteria. There are a number of different types of congenital and acquired immune deficiency syndromes that can impact the body in a variety of ways. Secondary (acquired) immune problems can result from many causes, including viral infections, malnutrition, metabolic disorders (like kidney disease), and cancer treatments or other medications. Unfortunately, official data from around the world now strongly suggests the Covid-19 vaccines should be added to the list of causes of acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

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Alec Antic: Three Minutes of Truth Bombs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime with Paypal, Bitcoin and Patreon.

 

 

 

Mar 272022
 


Jean-Francois Millet Harvesters Resting1850-53

 

All Hell Will Break Loose For Humanity (Von Greyerz)
President Biden Chillingly Declares a New World Order (Maajid Nawaz)
Suggesting Kremlin Regime Change, Biden Says Putin ‘Cannot Remain in Power’ (CD)
On NATO Membership And ‘Core Principles,’ The US Treads On Thin Ice (Snider)
Biden Tells US Troops They’ll Be In Ukraine In War Gaffe (NYP)
Sean Penn Calls For Oscars Boycott If Zelensky Not Given Chance To Speak (NYP)
Naming Names (Kunstler)
Fauci Finally Admits Natural Immunity Is Superior (NP)
Covid Vaccines Killed At Least 61,000 Americans Aged 25 – 44 In 2021 – CDC (DE)
Farmers on the Brink (Doomberg)
The Marriage of Julian Assange (Chris Hedges)
Free, Enduring Love (Craig Murray)

 

 

 

 

India anchor

 

 

COVID cases in the UK:

22 March 2021 – 5,342
22 March 2022 – 94,524

 

 

“Over 50 years later that gold window is still temporarily closed with fatal consequences for the US and the world.”

All Hell Will Break Loose For Humanity (Von Greyerz)

We are now at the end of an era of economic and moral decadence in a debt infested world built on false values, fake money and abysmal leadership. All hell will break loose. The consequences will be fatal for the world. There are eras in history which have produced great leaders and thinkers. But sadly, the current era has produced nothing of that kind. The end of an economic cycle produces no great leadership or statesmanship but only incompetent leaders. Looking at the Western world, the only notable statesman in the last few decades in my view is Margaret Thatcher, prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990. But political leaders are of course instruments of their time. Sadly times as the current don’t produce Superior Men.

As Confucius said: “The Superior Man thinks always of virtue, the common man thinks of comfort.” It is the buildup of a massive debt mountain which has given the Western world a false comfort based on false values. As I have pointed out many times, the US has increased its debt every year since 1930, with a couple of minor exceptions in the 1950s and 1960s. The Clinton surpluses in the late 1990s were fake and in fact deficits. In history, when there is undue economic pressure, starting wars is popular and often felt necessary. It is convenient to blame the war for the increasing debts. The Gold Standard was an excellent method for preventing governments to spend money they didn’t have. Since money couldn’t be printed at will, deficits then had to be financed by settling debts in physical gold.

As Nixon in the late 1960s had to meet the US debts to France in gold, he decided in 1971 to close the gold window temporarily. He clearly didn’t want to hand all the US gold to de Gaulle. Over 50 years later that gold window is still temporarily closed with fatal consequences for the US and the world.

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“Due to greed, corruption and unaccountability leading to the cover up of global mass-embezzlement, our current financial system is in its death-throws.”

President Biden Chillingly Declares a New World Order (Maajid Nawaz)

That’s it. The president has confirmed something that, up until now, was laughed at as the paranoid delusions of the “weak” minded, those whose perennial curse is that they see a kaleidoscope where others only see isolated dots. This week, President Biden confirmed to business leaders that we are at an inflection point, and there will be a New World Order. For some reason, he felt the need to couple this announcement with the number of people that he believes usually die when such historic turnings occur: 60 million. It’s not rocket science. World Orders are built around the financial system. Historically, this would usually only change through war. By way of example, the end of World War II heralded the creation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), agreed at Bretton Woods.

This established the modern financial system by linking global currencies to the US dollar and – at least until 1971 – the US dollar to gold. “The countries that joined the IMF between 1945 and 1971 agreed to keep their exchange rates (the value of their currencies in terms of the U.S. dollar and, in the case of the United States, the value of the dollar in terms of gold) pegged at rates that could be adjusted only to correct a “fundamental disequilibrium” in the balance of payments, and only with the IMF’s agreement. This par value system—also known as the Bretton Woods system—prevailed until 1971, when the U.S. government suspended the convertibility of the dollar (and dollar reserves held by other governments) into gold.”

After 1971, and due to Nixon’s alterations, global currencies remained linked to the US dollar, but the US dollar was pegged to absolutely nothing. This is how – right up until now – the US Federal Reserve had a monopoly on global monetary policy. Due to greed, corruption and unaccountability leading to the cover up of global mass-embezzlement, our current financial system is in its death-throws. This was largely caused by boom-bust cycles, and our policy responses to them, such as ‘quantitative easing’ or money printing. But unlike after WWII, this time an alternative exists in the form of decentralised crypto currencies.

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“..whenever the United States tried regime change, it didn’t turn out very well, and has never been tried with a nuclear power..”

Suggesting Kremlin Regime Change, Biden Says Putin ‘Cannot Remain in Power’ (CD)

Bucking those who warn that a push for regime change in Moscow could prolong the war in Ukraine and intensify the suffering of its people, U.S. President Joe Biden appeared to openly call for the overthrow of Russian Vladimir Putin on Saturday during a speech in Warsaw, Poland. While applauding the international unity that has mobilized to condemn and push back against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a war now entering its second month, Biden suggested it has now become intolerable for Putin to remain. Near the very end of his speech, Biden declared, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”

The remarks were the most explicit yet from the U.S. president that he sees no future for Putin as Russia’s head of state, but the comment also raised immediate alarm bells among those who recognized that such rhetoric could make it harder to a negotiated peace settlement to take hold or for the diplomatic strategy known as the “Golden Bridge” which would allow for a dignified exit from hostilities. In a Democracy Now! interview that aired Friday, former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis explained why Putin must be given a viable exit strategy—not because he isn’t a contemptible war criminal, which Varoufakis readily admitted—but because it would be the fastest way to end the invasion and mass slaughter of innocent Ukrainian civilians.

According to Varoufakis, and others who share his concerns, the idea of a western-imposed regime change strategy aimed at the Kremlin could “be catastrophic for the people of Ukraine.” “What is exactly the aim?” asks Varoufakis during the exchange. “Is it regime change in Russia? Well, whenever the United States tried regime change, it didn’t turn out very well, and has never been tried with a nuclear power. This is like playing with fire, or nuclear fire, I should say. If it’s not regime change, what exactly is it?” In his assessment, Varoufakis said that if Biden and his NATO allies are “not leaving any room for a compromise” with Putin, then they are “effectively jeopardizing the interests of Ukrainians, because a quagmire in—an Afghanistan-like quagmire in the Ukr

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“Even Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he has “understood that NATO is not prepared to accept Ukraine.”

On NATO Membership And ‘Core Principles,’ The US Treads On Thin Ice (Snider)

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is illegal and needs to be condemned. But the United States should also be condemned for asking Ukraine to keep its aspiration to join NATO alive while at the same time spurning that aspiration. Indeed, the United States doesn’t want Ukraine to reach a settlement with Russia that sacrifices the principle that nations have a right to determine their own alliances, a principle that the United States is not nor ever has itself recognized. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said this week that “President Zelenskyy has also made it very clear that he is open to a diplomatic solution that does not compromise the core principles at the heart of the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine.”

According to Price, those core principles at the center of this conflict are “that each and every country has a sovereign right to determine its own foreign policy, has a sovereign right to determine for itself with whom it will choose to associate in terms of its alliances, its partnerships, and what orientation it wishes to direct its gaze.” So the stated U.S. policy is that Ukraine can make a sovereign decision to join NATO and no country can close the door. But that is exactly what the United States has done. It has created the illusion of an open door for its international audience while closing it firmly shut. President Biden has said that “the likelihood that Ukraine is going to join NATO in the near term is not very likely.” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said that “the question of [Ukrainian] membership in alliances is practically not on the agenda.” He emphasized the point by adding that “is not even on the agenda.” Even Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he has “understood that NATO is not prepared to accept Ukraine.”

So on the one hand, Price says Ukraine is free to join whatever alliances it wants, but President Biden and other NATO countries say joining the alliance isn’t going to happen. Zelensky himself has expressed his frustration with this hypocrisy. “I requested them personally to say directly that we are going to accept you into NATO in a year or two or five, just say it directly and clearly, or just say no,” he said on March 20. “And the response was very clear, you’re not going to be a NATO member, but publicly, the doors will remain open.” It is not true that any country has the right to join NATO if it chooses, nor is NATO obliged to accept anyone who wishes to join. Membership has to be at the invitation of NATO, and NATO members have to agree unanimously: any one country can say no. And NATO is under no obligation to extend an invitation to a solicitous country. The NATO treaty says only that it “may then be invited to join,” and that there is no guarantee.

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One too many gaffes?

Biden Tells US Troops They’ll Be In Ukraine In War Gaffe (NYP)

President Biden told US troops in Poland Friday that they will witness the bravery of Ukrainians fighting off Russia’s invasion “when you’re there” — making a significant gaffe after he previously said the US must stay out of the European conflict to avoid triggering “World War III.” Biden made the remark while addressing members of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division after lunching on pizza and posing for selfies with dozens of paratroopers at a mess hall in Rzeszow, southeastern Poland. “You’re going to see when you’re there, and some of you have been there, you’re gonna see — you’re gonna see women, young people standing in the middle in front of a damned tank just saying, ‘I’m not leaving, I’m holding my ground,’” Biden said.


JoeBiden “Digs In” to that PIZZA PIE like an ANIMAL before the Soldiers got any. In the military, the senior officer always eats LAST!

A White House official quickly clarified that Biden wasn’t changing his stance on deploying the military into Ukraine. “The president has been clear we are not sending US troops to Ukraine and there is no change in that position,” a Biden spokesman told The Post. Biden also said during his remarks that the US was working to “keep the massacre from continuing” after more than 3.7 million Ukrainians fled their country during the month-old war. The Biden administration has supplied arms to Ukraine’s beleaguered military, but the president personally nixed a Polish proposal to transfer 28 Soviet-designed fighter jets to Ukraine with US help. Biden said that US facilitation of the transaction could trigger a new world war. Although Biden spoke as if US troops were heading into Ukraine, he repeatedly ruled out that possibility in prior public remarks.

US troops in Ukraine

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Is this what mass psychosis looks like?

“..Penn, 61, has won two Oscars and vowed to “smelt mine in public” if Zelensky is snubbed by the Academy..”

Sean Penn Calls For Oscars Boycott If Zelensky Not Given Chance To Speak (NYP)

Sean Penn is calling on Hollywood to boycott the Academy Awards if Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is denied a chance to speak at the red-carpet event. “I would encourage everyone involved to know, though it may be their moment, and I understand that, to celebrate their films, it is so much more their moment to shine and to protest and to boycott that Academy Awards,” the controversial actor said in an appearance on CNN Saturday afternoon. Penn, 61, has won two Oscars and vowed to “smelt mine in public” if Zelensky is snubbed by the Academy. The Ukrainian leader has been in talks with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to make a video appearance during Sunday’s broadcast of the Oscars ceremony.


Penn met with Zelensky while in Ukraine in February, when he was filming a documentary about the nation’s tensions and now war with Russia. Oscars ceremony co-host Amy Schumer floated the idea of having Zelensky speak at the event last week, People reported. “It is my understanding that a decision has been made not to do it” Penn said of having Zelensky speak. “If the Academy has elected not to do it, if presenters have elected not to pursue the leadership in Ukraine, who are taking bullets and bombs for us, along with the Ukrainian children they are trying to protect, then I think every single one of those people and every bit of that decision will have been the most obscene moment in all of Hollywood history.”

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The list is long.

Naming Names (Kunstler)

With the Russian operation in Ukraine alarming the populace, you might have forgotten the late Covid-19 epidemic that provoked so much public hysteria and government policy overreach. Stuff happened during those two-plus years of Covid-19, and, even with Ukraine blaring from the cable news channels, Covid-19 stuff is still happening. Vaccine mandates are still in force, in New York City, for instance — except for performers and ballplayers, who are exempted now, as announced this week by Mayor Eric Adams. If you detect any specious reasoning behind that diktat, at least you know who made it happen.

But so many other things just happened with Covid-19, rather serious things, and no one has had to answer for them, certainly not Dr. Anthony Fauci, who just days ago talked up another booster shot of his obviously defective mRNA “vaccines.” Dr. Fauci proposed that despite a raft of emerging statistics from the life insurance realm that indicate a shockingly high number of mysterious all-causes deaths for people in the prime of life. Several conditions appear to be killing them: 1) blood clotting in the capillaries of various organs, apparently caused by the “vaccine’s” main active ingredient, spike proteins; 2) heart inflammation (pericarditis and myocarditis); 3) a mystifying array of neurological afflictions; and 4) switched-off immune system toggles, including the cellular mechanism for preventing the growth of cancers.

This developing picture of a public health catastrophe, growing more robustly detailed by the week, has somehow not alerted the general public, not least because the entire public health officialdom does not want them to know about it. In fact, as averred to above, they are all still busy promoting the “vaccines” which are responsible. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the CDC, is rather well-known — though her duties appear limited to the public impersonation of a “concerned mom” — but whoever heard of Rebecca Bunnell, PhD, Director of the CDC’s Office of Science? Does Science play any part in the emerging disaster of sharply rising all-causes deaths? It would be good to know, don’t you think? Anyone heard from Daniel Jernigan, MD, Deputy CDC Director for Public Health Science and Surveillance (DDPHSS)? You’d think he would be out there surveilling things.

How about Brian C. Moyer, PhD, Director of the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. He would be in charge, presumably, of the VAERS system, which tabulates adverse vaccine events. That system evidently under-reports adverse events by a shocking amount — some say only 1 percent are ever recorded. Why is that? Because it is a website that is so notoriously ill-designed and hard to use that the CDC pledged to fix it more than ten years ago and never got around to it. Why is that, Dr. Moyer? Has anyone asked him? I don’t think so.

Kunstler

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“This is how humankind evolved to live in the presence of pathogens.”

Fauci Finally Admits Natural Immunity Is Superior (NP)

Dr. Anthony Fauci has finally admitted that natural immunity against COVID is actually far superior than any experimental jab will ever be. In an interview on March 23, 2022, Fauci finally let the following slip: “When you look at the cases they do not appear to be any more severe [than Omicron] and they do not appear to evade immune responses either from vaccine or prior infection.” Infowars.com reports: What’s critical here is not his debatable claim about vaccines but rather his offhand remark about prior infection. It was tossed off as if: “Everyone knows this.” If so, it is no thanks to him, the CDC, or WHO.

To be sure, everything we’ve known since two years ago – if not 2.5 thousand years – is that immunity from prior Covid infection is real. Vaccines have traditionally been a substitute version of exactly that. Brownstone has assembled fully 150 studies that demonstrate that immunity through infection is effective, broad, and lasting. Had that messaging been around during lockdowns, the attitude toward the virus would have been very different. We would have clearly seen the present reality from the beginning, namely that endemicity generally arrives in the case of a new virus of this sort due to exposure-induced population immunity. This is how humankind evolved to live in the presence of pathogens.

If we had widespread public awareness of this, the public-health priority would not have been locking down people who can manage exposure but rather alerting those who cannot to be careful until herd immunity in one’s own circle of contacts has been realized via meeting the virus and recovering. To those who say that is dangerous, consider that mass exposure is precisely what happened in any case, stretched out over two years rather than occurring in a single season. This delaying of the inevitable might be what allowed for variants to emerge and take hold in successive rounds, each new one hitting naive immune systems in ways that were difficult to predict. Flatten the curve amounted to “prolonging the pain,” exactly as Knut Wittkowski predicted in March 2020.

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“There’s more and more evidence coming to the front that this is part of some sort of bigger grand plan.”

Covid Vaccines Killed At Least 61,000 Americans Aged 25 – 44 In 2021 – CDC (DE)

An analysis of figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) database has revealed that 61,000 people, supposedly in the prime of their life, aged 25-44, died of vaccine-related causes in the U.S. in the fall and winter of 2021. Edward Dowd, a former BlackRock portfolio manager, made the appalling revelation during the March 10 episode of “The Alex Jones Show.” According to Dowd, an investment adviser on Wall Street, an insurance industry expert who is part of his team stumbled upon the buried truth when, looking for something else, he broke down the CDC figures by age and created his own baseline death rates from there. Showing charts the actuarian plotted from the figures, Dowd pointed at chart four as the punch line.

“Basically, you see that millennials experienced 84 percent excess death in the fall and winter of 2021. So excess deaths accelerated when mandates and boosters hit,” Dowd told Jones. “And this age group is important because they’re healthy. And you can’t say that they, you know, miss their cancer screenings. This is ages 25 to 44. So this is just devastating evidence that the vaccines are causing this age group to die at an accelerating rate. “I know I showed percentages in that chart, but the actual bodies are 61,000. That’s the Vietnam War event that just occurred to the millennial generation – 58,000 died in the Vietnam War.” Dowd said he’s certain the vaccines are the culprits because the acceleration started in the summer when the mandates started hitting in August and September last year.


“And then [President Joe] Biden came out [announcing the mandates]. And boosters were also authorized and started happening. So let’s call this what it is. This is death by government mandate or democide, death by government. That’s what’s going on here.” The insurance companies have pointed at the alarming spike in vaccine-related deaths before, but the government refused to heed the warning and proceeded with the mass injections. Dowd could only speculate on why the “pyschos” in government did this. “Well, there’s two ways to look at this. Just good old-fashioned power and greed, or there was a plan hatched by some very evil people. I’m going with power and greed for now. But you know, as we roll through this very active fraud, it’s being exposed. There’s more and more evidence coming to the front that this is part of some sort of bigger grand plan.”

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“Key sources of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous – important inputs into soil fertility, crop yield, and plant maintenance – have all gone vertical.”

Farmers on the Brink (Doomberg)

While the concept of a perfect storm is often too casually assigned in popular culture, it is difficult to find a more apt description of what has been unfolding in the global agriculture markets over these past several months. The tempest caused by the European energy disaster has merged with the hurricane of consequences flowing from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, forming the genesis of a generational crisis in food that will leave few unaffected. While we’ve been warning about just such a scenario for some time, after spending the past two weeks traveling across the US Midwest and conferring with our contacts in the agricultural sector, even we are a little spooked by what we’ve learned. In a financial crash, the correlation between all asset classes converges to one.

The coming crash in global food supply will be driven by a similar phenomenon across virtually every input into farming – they are all spiking to historic highs simultaneously, supply availability is diminishing across the spectrum, and the time to reverse the worst of the upcoming consequences is rapidly running short. Other than that, things are great. We begin with the price of fertilizer, which has been soaring to record highs across the globe. Key sources of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous – important inputs into soil fertility, crop yield, and plant maintenance – have all gone vertical. Ammonia is derived directly from natural gas, and the price of natural gas outside of the US has gone vertical. It’s no surprise that the price of ammonia has tripled over the past twelve months.

Belarus is the third-largest supplier of potash in the world and its state-owned miner, Belaruskali, declared force majeure after sanctions were imposed by the US and Europe. The number two supplier of potash globally? Russia. Perhaps front-running the Russian move on Ukraine, China halted phosphate exports last fall in an effort to ensure adequate domestic supply.

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“It’s a part of the ongoing mental torture that even on his happiest day they will at the last moment strike off guests on his guest list just to mess him about..”

The Marriage of Julian Assange (Chris Hedges)

I am standing at the gates of HM Prison Belmarsh, a high security penitentiary in southeast London, with Craig Murray, who was the British Ambassador to Uzbekistan until he was fired for exposing the CIA black sites and torture centers in that country. Inside the prison, Julian Assange and Stella Moris are being married. Craig and I were on the list of the six guests invited to the wedding, but the prison authorities, in an example of the institutional sadism that characterizes all prisons, denied us entry. Craig, who was to have been one of two witnesses, was informed that he could not enter because he would “endanger the security of the prison.”

Craig came down from Edinburgh by train. I flew over from New York. We would at least be at the entrance of the prison with the some 150 Assange supporters. Craig, dressed in full Scottish regalia —and a kilt he admitted he had to have expanded every few years to accommodate his broadening girth — made a fashion statement and perhaps a point about Scottish independence. He was outdone by Stella, who wore a flowing ice lilac A-line bridal gown, corset with plastic stays so she could pass through the four metal detectors, and veil designed and donated by fashion designers Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler.

“It’s a part of the ongoing mental torture that even on his happiest day they will at the last moment strike off guests on his guest list just to mess him about, just to try and make things as unpleasant as they can possibly make them,” Craig laments. “We shouldn’t be surprised. It’s a piece of the unnecessary cruelty with which he has been kept from the start. Why on earth is he even in a maximum security prison built to house terrorists? I’m quite amused by the explanation that I endanger the security of the prison. I feel quite flattered by this. I couldn’t understand it all until today when, of course, it occurred to me that I look incredibly sexy in my kilt and they thought a prison riot might ensue.”

The day is bittersweet. Julian may never be able to live with his wife and family. Yet it is an affirmation of love and commitment and hope carried out in a small side room with folding chairs and a laminate table. The prison authorities denied Julian and Stella the use of the chapel. The ceremony was witnessed by six family members, including Julian and Stella’s two young sons, one of whom fell asleep and the other of whom was preoccupied with a paper plane and tried to turn on one of the alarms. Two guards were stationed in the room. There was no reception. There was no cake. The prison denied Julian and Stella’s request for a photographer. A guard took a few pictures, but prison authorities told Julian and Stella they could not be posted on social media or shared with the public.

They were allowed to kiss. This prompted the older boy, Gabriel, to say, the family told me, “Oh, that’s a sloppy one.” Afterwards, the Catholic chaplain, who had the foresight to bring a white tablecloth and candles, gave them his blessing. Julian and Stella were given half an hour together in a crowded visitors hall. And then Julian, prisoner A 9379AY, was escorted back to his cell to the applause of the prisoners on his tier.

Hedges

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The guards have much more humanity than their “superiors”.

“The guards who conducted Stella through the jail did so as though they were the escort of a Queen.”

Free, Enduring Love (Craig Murray)

By Stella’s side stood Julian Assange, whom she described to me as “simply the love of my life”, resplendent in a kilt, shirt, tie, and waistcoat, again specially designed by Vivienne Westwood in a purple based tartan, and featuring hand embroidery, lacing and cloisonne buttons. Unlike Stella’s dress, which she later showed us in detail, I have not seen the kilt but am told the design is relatively traditional. There was a two minute delay at the start of the ceremony as Julian had no sporran, and his brother Gabriel, resplendent in full highland dress for the first time, removed his own sporran and put it on Julian. Both Julian and Gabriel are proud of their Scottish heritage, in each case through their respective mothers. The British authorities had done everything they could firstly to prevent, and then to mess up, this wedding.


Permission to marry had first been formally requested of the prison service in 2020, and in the end was only granted by involving lawyers and threatening legal action. There followed a whole list of antagonisms on which I shall not dwell, one minor example of which was banning me from the wedding and then lying about it. But now, on the wedding day, the ordinary, working staff of the prison were delighted to be hosting such a happy event. The searches of the bride were distinctly token and friendly. At the security checks, Julian and Stella’s three year old son Max managed to tangle himself so comprehensively around the legs of one guard that he fell over, and the large guard and small boy then had a hilarious mock wrestle on the floor. The guards who conducted Stella through the jail did so as though they were the escort of a Queen.

Gates and steel doors opened before the procession and were locked again behind them, until deep in the bowels of this maximum security prison they arrived in a banal room, oppressive and completely windowless, with plain magnolia emulsioned walls. It was about twenty feet by fifteen feet, and is used as a store room for the adjoining Chaplaincy. At the back of the room were piles of Muslim prayer mats, boxes of red-jacketed Christian hymnals, stacks of cheap chairs and folded trestles. From which that one cheap trestle had been set up, and a single row of eight chairs in front of it. Present were Julian and Stella, and their permitted limit of six invited guests. These were Stella’s mother Teresa and brother Adrian, Julian’s father John, brother Gabriel, and Julian and Stella’s two children, Gabriel (4) and Max (3).


One of the torments had been that the UK Ministry of Justice insisted that the two tots counted against the six person limit, contrary to the prison’s original advice. Also in the room were the registrar who conducted the civil wedding, the Catholic chaplain and two prison guards, one for each door. Julian was able to hug and hold each of his family as they arrived, even though that was very much against the rules. That kind of physical comfort is something he will have been craving for years, and all eyes were full of tears. Julian’s father John was alarmed by his appearance. Julian was a stooped figure, and worryingly thin, even though obviously very happy in the moment.

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Scott Ritter

 

 

Boop

 

 

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Mar 012022
 


Rembrandt van Rijn Diana Bathing with her Nymphs with Actaeon and Callisto 1634

 

The Consequences of Humiliating Russia (Brenner)
Putin Slams West’s ‘Empire Of Lies’ (RT)
Bulgarian Defense Minister Fired Over Ukraine Comments (RT)
Zelensky’s Saakashvili Moment (Daniel McAdams)
London Takes Back ‘Putin Regime Change’ Claim (RT)
Putin The Apostate (Matt Taibbi)
Freeland Caught Holding Pro-Nazi Banner At Ukraine Protest (TNC)
Hunter Biden Business Associate Sentenced To Prison For Fraud Scheme (JTN)
Pfizer mRNA Does Indeed Integrate Into Our DNA (RioTimes)
Back to Reality: We are All Children of Oil (Ugo Bardi)

 

 

 

 

Ukraine army shelling its own people
https://twitter.com/i/status/1498224087822487556

 

 

No invasion

 

 

US expat

 

 

System pigs
https://twitter.com/i/status/1498280206766854144

 

 

Michael Brenner is a professor of international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh.

The Consequences of Humiliating Russia (Brenner)

The Mafia is not known for its creative use of language beyond terms like “hitman,” “go to the mattresses,” “living with the fishes” and suchlike. There are, though, a few pithy sayings that carry enduring wisdom. One concerns honor and revenge: “If you are going to humiliate someone publicly in a really crass manner, make sure that he doesn’t survive to take his inevitable revenge.” Violate it at your peril. That enduring truth has been demonstrated by Russia’s actions in the Ukraine which, to a great extent, are the culmination of the numerous humiliations that the West, under American instigation, has inflicted on Russia’s rulers and the country as a whole over the past 30 years.

[..] The West nostalgically celebrates the Yeltsin years as the Golden Age of Russian Democracy – an age when life expectancy dropped sharply, when alcoholism rose and mental health declined, when the tanking economy threw millions into poverty, when the oligarchs strutted their stuff, when the presidential chauffeur was the most influential man in the country, and when everyone was free to shoot his mouth off since nobody else heard him in the din of their own voices. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs – to coin a phrase. Vladimir Putin, of course, was made of sterner stuff. He put an end to the buffoonery, successfully took on the Herculean task of reconstituting Russia as a viable state, and presented himself as ruler of an equal sovereign in cultivating relations with his neighbors. In addition, he insisted that the civil rights and culture of Russians stranded in the Near Abroad be respected.

Still, he gave no sign by word or deed that he contemplated using coercive means to restore the integration of Russian and Ukraine that had existed for more than 300 years. True, he opposed Western attempts to sever the ties between the two by incorporating Ukraine into their collective institutions – most notably the NATO declaration of 2008 stating that Ukraine (along with Georgia) were in the alliance’s antechamber being readied for entrance. Putin’s restraint contrasted with the audacity of Washington and its European subordinates who instigated the Maidan coup toppling the democratically elected president and promoting an American puppet in his place. In effect, the United States has been Ukraine’s overseer ever since – a sort of absentee landlord.

Putin’s views about the preferred principles of organization and conduct that should govern inter-state relations have been elaborated in a series of speeches and articles over the years. The picture it draws is far different from the cartoonish distortion created and disseminated in the West. It clearly delineates ways and means to constrain and limit the element of conflict, above all military conflict, the requirement for rules-of-the-road that should serve as the systems software, the necessity of recognizing that the future will be more multipolar – yet more multilateral – than it has been since 1991. At the same time, he stresses that every state has its legitimate national interests and the right to promote them as a sovereign entity so long as it does not endanger world peace and stability.

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“All [the US] satellites not only dutifully agree, sing along to its music, but also copy its behavior, and enthusiastically accept the rules they are offered.”

Putin Slams West’s ‘Empire Of Lies’ (RT)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the West an “empire of lies,” responding to a new wave of sanctions that hit the country over its special military operation in neighboring Ukraine. Speaking to top government officials on Monday, he said: “I invited you to discuss economic and financial issues … bearing in mind the sanctions that the so-called Western community — an empire of lies, as I called it in my address — is trying to implement against our country.” The “empire of lies” term was coined by Russia’s president last Thursday, when he announced the launch of the offensive in Ukraine. Since the US is a “system-forming power,” the whole collective West has become such an “empire,” he said then. “By the way, American politicians, political scientists, and journalists themselves write and say that, in recent years, an actual ‘empire of lies’ has been created inside the United States. It’s hard to disagree with that, as it’s true,” Putin stated.


All [the US] satellites not only dutifully agree, sing along to its music, but also copy its behavior, and enthusiastically accept the rules they are offered. Therefore, with good reason, we can confidently say that the entire so-called Western bloc, formed by the United States in its own image and likeness, all of it is an ‘empire of lies.’ Russia’s operation in Ukraine has become the only option left to prevent further bloodshed in the country and stop Kiev from trying to launch an all-out assault on the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in the country’s east, the Kremlin has explained. Ahead of the offensive, Moscow formally recognized the People’s Republics there as independent states.

Peter Hitchens

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“Our suffering motherland does not deserve to be sacrificed in the game of the great powers.”

Bulgarian Defense Minister Fired Over Ukraine Comments (RT)

Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov has fired defense chief Stefan Yanev over his word choices in describing the Russia-Ukraine conflict, calling the situation a “military intervention” or an “operation” rather than a “war.” “My defense minister cannot use the word operation instead of the word war,” Petkov told reporters on Monday. “You cannot call it an operation when thousands of soldiers from the one and the other side are already killed.” The prime minister added that “the Bulgarian interest is not in bending our heads down.” Rather, “When we see something we do not agree with, something so obvious, we cannot keep quiet.” All four parties in Bulgaria’s ruling coalition agreed to call for Yanev’s resignation, Petkov noted. A new defense minister – reportedly Todor Tagarev, who held the position in 2013 – will be appointed in an extraordinary session of Parliament that will be held on Tuesday.


The firing came in reaction to a Facebook post by Yanev. Commenting on the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the defense minister warned against using the word “war.” He said there was no need for Bulgaria to side with Russia, the US, or European allies in the conflict, adding, “Our suffering motherland does not deserve to be sacrificed in the game of the great powers.” Petkov chided him for the post, saying, “No minister can attempt to do foreign policymaking on his own, especially on Facebook.” Yanev argued that he was being targeted for removal so the government could install a defense minister who will be more willing to serve foreign interests, in some cases at the expense of Bulgaria’s security.

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“Then later in the day, perhaps around cocktail hour, he demanded that President Biden enforce a “no-fly” zone over much of Ukraine..”

Zelensky’s Saakashvili Moment (Daniel McAdams)

Perhaps Putin is the apotheosis of evil after all, and everyone who dares challenge this modern-day golem is destined for madness. Or maybe not. Whatever the case, Zelensky is sounding a bit unhinged of late. No one will dispute that he’s a man of many talents… However, when the chips are down, as they are, he seems to be a tie-muncher at the end of the day. Take his frenetic activities yesterday, starting with his signing a formal application to join the European Union – about as likely as my being chosen “Miss Sweden.” Then later in the day, perhaps around cocktail hour, he demanded that President Biden enforce a “no-fly” zone over much of Ukraine, assuring Biden that Ukraine “can beat the aggressor if the Western allies do their part.”

At that point even hawkishly-unhinged Senator Marco Rubio had to descend from the ether of Washington’s war machine. Poor Biden drunk-walked across the White House lawn as reporters asked him legitimate questions about the threat of nuclear war. But the fact is quite plain: for the US to (attempt to) impose a “no-fly” zone over Ukraine would require that the United States military annihilate every single S-400 and S-500 air defense system located inside Russian territory. In other words, were Washington to abide the fake frontline warrior Zelensky’s request it would require the initiation of a civilization-destroying World War III. How many American sheeple who have subbed out their “Wear the damn mask!” Facebook profile pictures for “Save Ukraine” or “Pray for Ukraine” are willing to see the end of life on earth as we know it to “save” a country that nearly seven in ten Americans literally cannot locate on a map of the globe?

It’s all fun and games until the world blows up. Soon it will become obvious that the comedian-president who has openly welcomed child soldiers, is forcing men from 18-60 to fight, has released hardened criminals from prison to fight on the front lines, and has called for foreign mercenaries to come fight for Ukraine is not currently scoring an overwhelming victory against the Russian military, as the Pravda-esque US mainstream media continues to report. America: you get the heroes you deserve. How do you like your tie?

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The first person I saw tweet about regime change in Russia was Carl Bildt, former Swedish PM and Co-Chair European Council on Foreign Relations.

London Takes Back ‘Putin Regime Change’ Claim (RT)

Toppling Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is the goal of the new wave of international sanctions introduced in response to Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine, a spokesman for Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters on Monday. Downing Street later clarified that the spokesperson had “misspoken”. “The measures we are introducing, that large parts of the world are introducing, are to bring down the Putin regime,” the unnamed official said. The restrictions, centered around Russia’s financial sector, are aimed to “inflict financial pain on Putin”, the spokesman went on. The sanctions are also meant to “stymie the Russian war machine as it attempts to subjugate a democratic European country,” he added, referring to the Ukraine conflict.

Further enquiry on the “regime” change remark, however, prompted the spokesman to somewhat quickly backtrack, insisting that London has not actually been actively seeking to do so. “We are not seeking anything in terms of regime change, what we are talking about here clearly is how we stop Russia seeking to subjugate a democratic country,” the spokesman said, warning “that businesses should think very carefully if they are still continuing to do anything that props up the Putin regime.” Downing Street then later said the PM’s spokesman “misspoke” when he claimed that the sanctions aimed “to bring down the Putin regime.”

The new wave of Western restrictions, that included personal sanctions against Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and against President Putin, come amid Moscow’s special military operation in neighboring Ukraine launched last week. The operation’s stated goal is to protect the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk from an allegedly imminent all-out offensive by the Kiev forces, Moscow has claimed. Days before the launch of the operation, Russia formally recognized the republics as independent states.

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And the president of the Council of Foreign Relations does it too:

Putin The Apostate (Matt Taibbi)

The president of the Council of Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, made an extraordinary statement over the weekend. “Just days ago much of the world was focused on the unwanted prospect of regime change in Ukraine,” he tweeted. “Now the conversation has shifted to include the possibility of desired regime change in Russia.” Senior Brookings Institute fellow Benjamin Wittes was even more explicit:

For anyone expecting me to be outraged about this — I am, after all, almost daily denounced as a Putin-lover and apologist, so surely I must want the Great Leader to stay in power forever — I have to disappoint. If Vladimir Putin were captured tomorrow and fired into space, I wouldn’t bat an eye. I would like to point out that we already tried regime change in Russia. I remember, because I was there. And, thanks to a lot of lurid history that’s being scrubbed now with furious intensity, it ended with Vladimir Putin in power. Not as an accident, or as the face of a populist revolt against Western influence — that came later — but precisely because we made a long series of intentional decisions to help put him there.

Once, Putin’s KGB past, far from being seen as a negative, was viewed with relief by the American diplomatic community, which had been exhausted by the organizational incompetence of our vodka-soaked first partner, Boris Yeltsin. Putin by contrast was “a man we can do business with,” a “liberal, humane, and decent European” of “alert, controlled poise” and “well-briefed acuity,” who was open to anything, even Russia joining NATO. “I don’t see why not,” Putin said. “I would not rule out such a possibility.” The New York Times Magazine, noting that the KGB of the seventies that Putin joined was no longer really a murder factory but just another “thinking corporation,” even compared him once to Russia’s first true Western-looking leader:

In him, Russia has found a humane version of Peter the Great, a ruler who will open the country to the influence of a world at once gentler and more dynamic than Russia has ever been. I’ve been bitter in commentary about Putin in recent years because I never forgot the way the West smoothed his rise, and pretends now that it didn’t. It’s infuriating also that many of us who were critical of him from the start are denounced now as Putin apologists, I think in part because we have inconvenient memories about who said what at the start of his story. The effort to wipe that history clean is reaching a fever pitch this week. Before they finish the job, it seemed worth getting it all down.

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She’s Ukrainian. She knows exactly what the banner is. In a 2nd photoshopped version the banner is gone.

Freeland Caught Holding Pro-Nazi Banner At Ukraine Protest (TNC)

Deputy Prime Minister and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland was photographed on Sunday with a scarf promoting a far-right Ukrainian Nationalist movement linked to Neo-Nazis and extremism. Remarkably, Freeland (or more likely, a member of her staff) posted the photo to her own official social media accounts, apparently ignorant of the radical far-right movement the scarf represents. Freeland posted the photo, which also shows Toronto Mayor John Tory, to her Twitter and Instagram accounts on Monday morning. These posts were deleted, without any comment or acknowledgement of why they were taken down. She reposted the same message on Twitter by mid-morning on Monday, but with a new photo where the scarf had been removed.

The red and black flag has historically represented the Bandera movement in Ukraine. Stepan Bandera was a Nationalist Ukrainian politician during the Second World War who is accused of war crimes and leading atrocities against Jewish and Polish people. He is an incredibly polarizing political figure in Ukraine, as some view him a national hero who fought for Ukrainian independence. Bandera helped create the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (UPA), an organization that legacy media reports have described as being “far-right” and “extremist” and who have been characterized as “Neo-Nazis.” In April 2021, Euro News described Bandera and the UPA as Nazi-collaborators and war criminals.


“Bandera, Shukhevych, and the UPA are controversial for several reasons. Critics point to the mass killings of up to 100,000 Jews and Poles and the fact that UPA cooperated with Nazi Germany at the beginning of WW2 until it became clear that Nazi Germany wouldn’t recognize Ukrainian independence.” Chrystia Freeland describes herself as a Ukrainian-Canadian and has recently begun speaking and sharing posts in Ukrainian. She presents herself as a politically savvy international player who is incredibly well-versed in Ukrainian politics and culture. It begs the question of why she would be willing to be in a photo, and then personally post it, with a flag representing a militant insurgency group and the Ukrainian Neo-Nazi-linked far-right.

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Small world.

“Five days later, Vice President Biden visited Ukraine..”

Hunter Biden Business Associate Sentenced To Prison For Fraud Scheme (JTN)

Devon Archer, a former business partner of President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, was sentenced on Monday to just over a year in prison for defrauding a Native American tribe of $60 million in bonds. Manhattan Judge Ronnie Abrams, an Obama appointee, sentenced Archer to one year and one day in federal prison for “defrauding a Native American tribal entity and various investment advisory clients” of more than $60 million. From March 2014 to April 2016, Archer worked with others on the scheme that caused the Wakpamni Lake Community Corporation, a tribal entity, to issue a series of tribal bonds through “lies and misrepresentations,” the Department of Justice press release states.

Archer, who has maintained his innocence, was ordered to forfeit more than $15 million and pay over $43 million in restitution. He will also have one year of supervised release after prison. “There’s no dispute about the harm caused to real people,” Abrams said, the New York Post reports. She also noted that the fraud was “too serious” to let him out without prison time and that the victims are part of one of the poorest tribes in the nation, the Oglala Sioux. [..] Before being arrested, Archer served with Hunter Biden on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings. Biden has not been connected to the tribal fraud scheme that Archer was sentenced for. A 2020 report from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Senate Committee and the Senate Finance Committee shows Archer’s close ties to the Biden family.

Archer is mentioned in the second paragraph of the report, 42 times total. “On April 16, 2014, Vice President Biden met with his son’s business partner, Devon Archer, at the White House. Five days later, Vice President Biden visited Ukraine,” the report states, adding that within a month both Archer and Hunter Biden were appointed to the Burisma board. “Over the course of the next several years, Hunter Biden and Devon Archer were paid millions of dollars from a corrupt Ukrainian oligarch for their participation on the board,” the 87-page report alleges.

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Stop vaccinating. Start testing. See you in 5 years.

Maybe people will understand now just how experimental the mRNA vaccines are.

Pfizer mRNA Does Indeed Integrate Into Our DNA (RioTimes)

Swedish lab studies show that mRNA from the ‘vaccines’ does integrate itself into human cellular DNA. This means that a shot of the Pfizer vaccine, taken even once, permanently changes the DNA of affected cells. For over a year, we’ve been told that mRNA vaccines, including Pfizer and Moderna, don’t integrate with human cell DNA. What the article shows is that in vitro, using a human liver cell line, the Pfizer mRNA vaccine uses a natural reverse transcriptase enzyme called LINE-1, and the genetic code of the vaccine is reverse transcribed into the DNA. It also explains that vaccine mRNA actually does travel to the liver as one of the preferred sites (the other sites, as we heard, are ovaries and more).

Pfizer 12% effective

What does it mean? Normally, our cells do the reverse: the cell nucleus, where the DNA is, expresses certain DNA code based on conditions of the cell and produces natural, human messenger RNA. That messenger RNA travels out of the nucleus, where it is expressed into proteins needed for cell building. This is how growing organisms express different genetic programs to grow muscle cells or brain cells, etc. This process is called “transcription”. For many years, Central Dogma of Molecular Biology stated that the “reverse transcription” — moving genetic code from RNA back into the sacred cellular nuclear and recoding the DNA — was impossible. Eventually, scientists realized that it is possible under various conditions. For example, the HIV RNA virus is able to do so and it reprograms our DNA to produce copies of it. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

To effect reverse transcription, enzymes called “reverse transcriptases” are needed. One of them is called LINE-1. Apparently, the Pfizer mRNA vaccine causes cells to produce that LINE-1 enzyme, says the study. After seeing LINE-1 reverse transcriptase rise, they tested for alterations to the DNA, making sure they are not picking up the RNA instead. Considering that Sars-Cov-2 “spike protein” has a cancer code from Moderna 2017’ patent 9,587,003, it is imperative to find out the implications of this reverse transcription, and whether the vaccinated now have any undesirable genetic code embedded into their DNA. Of particular interest is whether this mRNA-induced reverse transcription affects the “germ line”, such as eggs and sperm cells, and whether it also affects the fetus of pregnant mothers.

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“..when you deal with Nature, everything is up for negotiations. And Nature always wins the game..”

Back to Reality: We are All Children of Oil (Ugo Bardi)

In the early 2000s, Colin Campbell proposed that the peak of “conventional” oil production would come around 2012. It probably did, but the peak was masked by the production of non-conventional resources. “Shale oil” bought us another decade of growth, although at a modest rate and at a high cost. So, we had more than 20 years to prepare from when, in 1998, Colin Campbell and Jean Lahérrere had first flagged the problem with an article published on “Scientific American.” But, as we should have expected, nothing serious was done. On the contrary, the entity called “humanity” showed the maturity and wisdom of someone in the grip of convulsions, possessed by demonic forces. We have seen 20 years of a roller coaster in the desperate search for an enemy to destroy and turn the clock back, to when things were good.

The enemy has been singled out as Osama, Saddam, Assad, Qaddafi, and many others, destroyed only to be replaced by the new monster of the year. For two years, then, the monster was not a human being, but a microscopic peduncled creature that nicely played its role of bugaboo, until it was officially vaporized by the microscopic equivalent of carpet bombing. Now, it is over, and a new, more conventional monster is advancing: the soulless Vladimir Putin. Chances are that he will not be the last monster in the demonization chain. Every time we seemed to have destroyed our arch-enemy, it came back in another form, bigger and uglier than before. And each time, in the fight against the monster on duty, we lost something of our wisdom, our freedom, our humanity.

We never realized that what we were fighting was not a monster, but a reflection of ourselves in the desperate search for a way to continue a way of life that some of our leaders defined as “not up for negotiations.” But when you deal with Nature, everything is up for negotiations. And Nature always wins the game. Peak oil never reached the level of the official monster of the day, but it was also demonized. It could not be bombed, there was no vaccine against it. But we marginalized it, ridiculed it, and made it disappear from view as if we had bombed it to smithereens. Yet, it is returning, even though not mentioned, during the current crisis. We are 8 billion on this planet, and everyone is a child of crude oil. Without crude oil and other fossil fuels, most of us simply wouldn’t exist. And without crude oil, we cannot continue to exist. As a monster, peak oil is much scarier than any of the bugaboos that the mainstream media have been proposing to us.

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Controlling what people think is our job

 

 

 

 

A New Global Treaty

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime with Paypal, Bitcoin and Patreon.

 

Jan 312019
 


René Magritte The key to the fields 1936

 

Dovish Fed Sparks Stock-Market Rally And Tanks The US Dollar (MW)
Will The EU To Cave On May’s Brexit At The Very Last Minute? (ZH)
China Manufacturing Contracted For The Second-Straight Month In January (CNBC)
Macron Has Declared War On The French People – Yellow Vest Activist (RT)
UK Consumer Borrowing Slowed Sharply In December, Says Bank of England (Ind.)
British Car Production Slumps To Five-Year Low (G.)
US Refiner CITGO Caught In Venezuela Political Upheaval (R.)
Russia Vows To Defend Its Venezuelan Oil Assets (RT)
US Regime Change Laboratory Created Venezuela’s Coup Leader
Facebook Reports Record Profit, Stock Surges 12% After Earnings (MW)
Mueller: Evidence Against Russian Firm Used In Disinformation Campaign (CNBC)
Mueller Claims Evidence Shared Leaked To ‘Discredit Investigation’ (RT)
Mueller Says Russians Are Altering Evidence From Investigation (Ind.)
Acropolis Museum Director: British Museum Not Owner Of Parthenon Marbles (K.)

 

 

Powel’s Fed started off promising, but now concedes that it doesn’t want functioning markets. Too risky for the rich.

Dovish Fed Sparks Stock-Market Rally And Tanks The US Dollar (MW)

The Federal Reserve and its chairman, Jerome Powell, changed their tune Wednesday, striking a surprisingly dovish tone that sparked a stock-market rally, tanked the U.S. dollar and roiled other financial markets. The Fed hinted that it may be at the end of its rate-hike cycle and further surprised investors by issuing a separate statement regarding its balance sheet, indicating that its efforts to reduce the $4 trillion asset portfolio could end sooner than expected. The tone was seen as an about-face from the Fed’s hawkishly received December meeting when it delivered its fourth rate increase of 2018. “This is one of the most dovish turnarounds by a Fed chair that I have ever seen in my 30-year career,” said Tom di Galoma, managing director at Seaport Global Holdings.

And the initial reaction across markets appeared in keeping with the perceived shift. The message delivered by the Fed “just couldn’t be much better for both bonds and equities and for the credit markets that track Treasurys,” said Mark Grant, chief global strategist at B. Riley FBR, in a note. [..] Not everyone was popping the champagne. Some economists feared the Fed had eroded its credibility, caving in to market pressure. “Talk about a Fed put,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, in a note, referring to the idea that central bank policy makers have grown increasingly sensitive over the years to stock-market declines and stand ready to intervene in an effort to provide calm.

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Someone in Britain appears to be spreading rumors about Brussels willing to give in. Is that just so May will still be PM at the end of March? Are the Brits going to risk that based on rumors alone?

Will The EU To Cave On May’s Brexit At The Very Last Minute? (ZH)

After a series of embarrassing Parliamentary defeats (and still more embarrassing triumphs over a series of no-confidence votes), Theresa May is we imagine reveling in what was a rare win for on Tuesday: MPs backed an amendment that calls for removing the backstop from her Withdrawal agreement and replacing it with a commitment to find something better after the prime minister vowed to ask the EU to reopen negotiations (something she has reportedly been trying to persuade the block to do behind the scenes for weeks now with little apparent success).

Now that she’s won what her cabinet believes is enough support for a modified version of the deal, having finally corralled a majority for something resembling her current deal, the hard work truly begins: Convincing the EU to reopen negotiations on the withdrawal agreement, something officials have publicly insisted will not happen (though there have been whispers that they have been slowly coming around to the idea). In a speech on Wednesday, European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker blasted the vote as irresponsible and once again insisted that removing the backstop from the agreement is out of the question. “This is not a game,” he said, according to Bloomberg.

If there’s anything new to take away from the developments of the past two days, it can be found in a Bloomberg report published Wednesday afternoon that effectively confirmed what many have long suspected: That there won’t be any movement on the deal – either from the EU or, likely, the UK, until the last possible minute. According to BBG, EU diplomats have pointed to a last-minute summit set for March 21 and March 22 – just a week before Brexit Day – as the likely time when a deal may finally be struck.

“The European Union is prepared to take Brexit down to a last-minute, high-stakes summit rather than cave into U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s demands over the next few weeks, diplomats said. Although May is getting ready to head back to Brussels to reopen the Brexit deal that she negotiated over the past 18 months, the EU isn’t planning to give her any concessions before she returns for a vote in the British Parliament on Feb. 14, according to the diplomats. Behind closed doors, European officials are sticking to their well-coordinated public line that they won’t rework the deal.”

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And that’s official numbers.

China Manufacturing Contracted For The Second-Straight Month In January (CNBC)

China said on Thursday its manufacturing activity contracted for the second-straight month in January — another sign that the world’s second-largest economy is slowing down amid domestic headwinds and the ongoing trade dispute with the U.S. The official manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for January was 49.5, according to the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics. That’s higher than the 49.3 expected by analysts in a Reuters poll, and the 49.4 reported in the previous month when China’s manufacturing PMI fell into contraction territory for the first time since July 2016. The PMI — a widely-watched indicator — is a survey of businesses in a specific industry about the operating environment.

A reading above 50 signals expansion in the sector from the previous month, while one below 50 represents contraction. Meanwhile, China’s services PMI for January came in at 54.7 — better than the 53.8 reported in the previous month, according to official data. The services sector accounts for more than half of the Chinese economy and has helped cushion the impact of a slowing manufacturing industry. Despite the better-than-expected PMI numbers, some economists said the statistics — particularly the manufacturing data — still point to a weakening Chinese economy.

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See my article last night: Flash-Balls, Pitchforks And A Backstop

Macron Has Declared War On The French People – Yellow Vest Activist (RT)

The French government won’t stop the Yellow Vests by force, but only by doing what the people demand, according to prominent protester Jerome Rodrigues, who may remain blind in one eye after being injured by the police. “The president [Emmanuel Macron] declared war on us and our injuries are battle wounds. The traumatic weapons are equipped with collimators [optical sights] – such equipment is used on the battlefield, at war,” Rodrigues told RT. “I never thought that such a thing could happen in France,” he added, describing what the country has been going through in recent months as “dark times.” The activist, who calls himself “a hyper pacifist,” was broadcasting live on Facebook from a rally in Paris last weekend when a police officer fired at him from an LBD 40 non-lethal gun.

A projectile hit him in the eye, leading to hospitalization and a medically induced coma. The man said “there are no guarantees that the injured eye will be able to see again.” Now we understand that by going to a rally we put ourselves at risk of becoming victims of the government. It happened to me, but could’ve well happened to anyone,” Rodrigues said. The French authorities are employing violence to scare the people off the streets, but “we won’t retreat,” he said. Rodrigues promised to resume protesting after he gets better, saying that his family fully supported him in this decision.

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The hurt is only starting.

UK Consumer Borrowing Slowed Sharply In December, Says Bank of England (Ind.)

UK consumer borrowing slowed sharply in December, adding to the impression of weakening confidence among households ahead of Brexit. The Bank of England reported that the annual growth of unsecured lending in the month fell to 6.6 per cent, down from 7.2 per cent in November. This was the weakest figure since December 2014. Credit card lending growth slowed to 7.1 per cent, down from 7.9 per cent the previous month. Surveys have shown consumer confidence to be at a 5 year low due, in part, to concerns over Brexit.

The Bank of England’s credit conditions survey showed last week showed that demand over the next three months for such unsecured lending is expected by lenders to be the weakest since the survey began in 2007. Household spending accounts for around 60 per cent of the UK economy, and any weakening of the appetite for consumers to spend will be negative for overall GDP growth. The UK economy grew by 0.6 per cent in the third quarter of 2018 but GDP growth is likely to have fallen sharply in the final three months of the year as business investment and household spending fell.

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Good! Fewer cars!

British Car Production Slumps To Five-Year Low (G.)

British car production dropped to a five-year low in 2018, as manufacturers warned that fears of a no-deal Brexit have prompted a slump in new investment. UK car factories produced 1.52m vehicles last year, 9.1% fewer than 2017, according to figures published on Thursday by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the UK auto industry lobby group. Production for the British market fell by 16.3%. Investment into British car manufacturing almost halved during the year to £588.6m, a fall which the SMMT blamed on Brexit uncertainty.

Publicly announced investments were lower than in any year since 2012, the first year comparable data was collected. “Investment is effectively stalled,” said Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive. “Industry is waiting to see what happens. Business is sitting on its hands in terms of investment.” The global automotive industry is already struggling with multiple challenges. Car sales in China fell in 2018 for the first time since the 1990s, while demand for diesel vehicles in Europe has been rocked by the regulatory backlash to Volkswagen’s emissions-cheating scandal.

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CITGO is a Venezuelan refiner.

US Refiner CITGO Caught In Venezuela Political Upheaval (R.)

Citgo Petroleum Corp, the eighth largest U.S. refiner and Venezuela’s top foreign asset, is in the middle of a tug-of-war as the Trump administration tries to use the company as leverage to topple Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Following the U.S. decision to impose sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry this week, both sides have engaged in aggressive moves for control of Citgo, which has roots in the United States dating back 100 years, but has been owned by Venezuela’s state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela, or PVDSA, for three decades.

[..] As Guaido this week worked with Washington to wrest control of the company, Venezuela responded by ordering dozens of Citgo’s expatriate staff in the United States to return to Caracas by the end of February, people familiar with the matter said. Earlier in the week, Citgo sent a team of executives to Washington amid efforts by Guaido and the U.S. government to appoint a new board of directors for Citgo, the people said. PDVSA also has said it would pursue legal efforts to block a Citgo takeover. White House national security adviser John Bolton on Wednesday tweeted photos confirming the meeting with Citgo executives. “The United States is continuing to work to make sure that the economic benefits of Venezuela’s resources are not pilfered by Maduro and his cronies,” he wrote.

[..] The Houston-based company has accumulated cash and credit lines in recent months as dividends payments to Caracas have been blocked by U.S. sanctions imposed in 2017. [..] Citgo has been struggling to refinance a revolving line of credit, a task that must be completed by July

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Putin: So far, so soft.

Russia Vows To Defend Its Venezuelan Oil Assets (RT)

Russia will defend its interests in Venezuela within the international law using “all mechanisms available to us,” Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, told Russian media on Tuesday. Russia has kept close ties with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and has extended loans to Venezuela, including oil firm Rosneft lending money to Venezuela’s state-held firm PDVSA. Rosneft has extended $6 billion of loans to PDVSA, which needs to be fully redeemed in crude oil supplies by the end of this year. According to S&P Global Platts, as of November 2018, Venezuela had $3.1 billion outstanding loan to repay to Rosneft. The Russian company also has five joint upstream projects with PDVSA in Venezuela.

However, the US Treasury slapped another round of sweeping sanctions against PDVSA on Monday, in order to “help prevent further diverting of Venezuela’s assets by Maduro and preserve these assets for the people of Venezuela.” The US backed last week Juan Guaido, the chairman of the National Assembly, as the legitimate president of Venezuela, after Guaido declared himself interim president. “The path to sanctions relief for PdVSA is through the expeditious transfer of control to the Interim President or a subsequent, democratically elected government,” Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin said. The Kremlin considers the sanctions against PDVSA as “illegal”, a sign of “unfair competition” and an attempt to interfere with Venezuela’s internal affairs, Peskov said on Tuesday. Russia is assessing the potential consequences of the sanctions on PDVSA for Moscow, Peskov added.

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Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal paint the picture.

US Regime Change Laboratory Created Venezuela’s Coup Leader

Before the fateful day of January 22, fewer than one in five Venezuelans had heard of Juan Guaidó. Only a few months ago, the 35-year-old was an obscure character in a politically marginal far-right group closely associated with gruesome acts of street violence. Even in his own party, Guaidó had been a mid-level figure in the opposition-dominated National Assembly, which is now held under contempt according to Venezuela’s constitution. But after a single phone call from from US Vice President Mike Pence, Guaidó proclaimed himself president of Venezuela. Anointed as the leader of his country by Washington, a previously unknown political bottom-dweller was vaulted onto the international stage as the US-selected leader of the nation with the world’s largest oil reserves.

Echoing the Washington consensus, the New York Times editorial board hailed Guaidó as a “credible rival” to Maduro with a “refreshing style and vision of taking the country forward.” The Bloomberg News editorial board applauded him for seeking “restoration of democracy” and the Wall Street Journal declared him “a new democratic leader.” Meanwhile, Canada, numerous European nations, Israel, and the bloc of right-wing Latin American governments known as the Lima Group recognized Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. While Guaidó seemed to have materialized out of nowhere, he was, in fact, the product of more than a decade of assiduous grooming by the US government’s elite regime change factories.

Alongside a cadre of right-wing student activists, Guaidó was cultivated to undermine Venezuela’s socialist-oriented government, destabilize the country, and one day seize power. Though he has been a minor figure in Venezuelan politics, he had spent years quietly demonstrating his worthiness in Washington’s halls of power.

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Amid reports that at least 50% of its accounts are fake.

Facebook Reports Record Profit, Stock Surges 12% After Earnings (MW)

After weeks of controversy, Facebook Inc. reported record profits — about $1 billion more than any previous quarter — as the company beat Wall Street expectations for fourth-quarter earnings and revenue late Wednesday, sending shares soaring. Record profits, a growing user base and healthy top line suggest that Facebook’s base of advertisers is continuing to pour dollars into the social networking giant’s swath of apps and services that now attract 2.7 billion people a month around the world. The strong results cap weeks of negative news cycles that has evidently left Facebook relatively unscathed.“Facebook has had so much bad news — even this week,” Forrester analyst Brigitte Majewski said over the phone, referring to another scandal that surfaced this week.

“But you can’t deny the numbers. They’ve had an increase in daily active users, and growth in all regions.” The company reported $6.88 billion in net income for the fourth quarter, which amounts to $2.38 a share, up from $1.44 a share in the year-ago period. Analysts’ average estimates for fourth-quarter profits called for $2.18 a share, according to FactSet. Overall, Facebook logged sales of $16.91 billion, up from $12.97 billion in the year-ago period, beating Wall Street expectations for sales of $16.39 billion, according to FactSet. Facebook’s main source of revenue is ads, which brought in 93% of revenue, up from 89% in the year-earlier period.

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A few versions of the same thing, first CNBC and RT, different for obvious reasons, then Independent, who report what most others completely missed (NY Post is an exception), which is that Mueller claims the evidence was altered.

Mueller: Evidence Against Russian Firm Used In Disinformation Campaign (CNBC)

Special counsel Robert Mueller claimed Wednesday that evidence in one of his criminal cases related to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign was recently used in an online disinformation campaign, apparently to discredit Mueller’s investigations. Mueller made that allegation in a court filing in his criminal case pending against Concord Management and Consulting, a Russian company owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the oligarch who is known as “Putin’s chef.” The special counsel charged Concord Management last year with funding a multimillion-dollar social media disinformation campaign to bolster the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

Mueller’s filing Wednesday objects to Concord’s request that the special counsel be compelled to disclose documents he has deemed “sensitive” to the defendant and its employees as it prepares for trial.Concord wants to be able to send that information to Russia for review by company officers and employees. But Mueller said in his filing that doing so “unreasonably risks the national security interests of the United States.” The special counsel said that Concord should not be given such sensitive material because of alleged misuse in October by an unknown party of “non-sensitive” materials already in Concord’s possession as a result of the normal discovery process that litigants use to share information during a court case.

Mueller said that “sensitive” materials identifies individuals and entities that have not been criminally charged, but whom “the government believes are continuing to engage in operations that interfere with lawful U.S. government functions like those activities charged in the indictment.” [..] The special counsel said that, “On October 22, 2018, the newly created Twitter account @HackingRedstone published the following tweet: ‘We’ve got access to the Special Counsel Mueller’s probe database as we hacked Russian server with info from the Russian troll case Concord LLC v. Mueller. You can view all the files Mueller had about the IRA and Russian collusion. Enjoy the reading!'”

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What Mueller really wants is to stop Concord from fighting his probe. He never expected them to come to court. He thought they were just more anonymous Russians he could accuse of anything he wanted without being called on it.

Mueller Claims Evidence Shared Leaked To ‘Discredit Investigation’ (RT)

In an apparent bid to shield his case against alleged Russian trolls from legal challenge, special counsel Robert Mueller claimed some evidence previously provided was hacked and published to discredit his probe. On Wednesday, Mueller filed a motion to oppose discovery in case against Concord Management and Consulting LLC, which he indicted last February on charges of running the Internet Research Agency, also known as the “St. Petersburg troll factory.” “Sensitive” evidence in the case cannot be turned over to Concord’s lawyers, because that would make it accessible to their clients in Russia – and back in October, Mueller claimed, someone claimed to have hacked Concord’s computers and posted evidence previously handed over online “as part of a disinformation campaign aimed (apparently) at discrediting ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the US political system.”

It was that claim that got the attention of the media and the ‘Russiagate’ crowd. What Mueller actually alleges is less headline-worthy and far more tenuous. Namely, on October 22 last year, a Twitter account @HackingRedstone claimed to have gained “access to the Special Counsel Mueller’s probe database as we hacked Russian server with info from the Russian troll case Concord LLC v. Mueller,” offering “all the files Mueller had about the IRA and Russian collusion.” According to a footnote in the filing, Mueller’s team was informed of this by an unnamed reporter. However, the Twitter account referenced comes up as suspended, and aside from that notice there are no entries for it in the Internet Archive, making Mueller’s claim impossible to independently verify.

The webpage allegedly linked in the tweet is said to have contained “file folders with names and folder structures that are unique to the names and structures of materials… produced by the government in discovery.” Of the 300,000 files on the site, “over 1,000” matched the hashtag values of documents provided by Mueller to Concord, the filing said. Mueller argued these must have been obtained from Concord, because the FBI “found no evidence” that US government servers fell victim to any hack involving the files. Somewhat confusingly, the filing argued that many other file names used a reference to the Relativity database, which the US government “has not used” to store materials related to this case. Concord’s lawyers have informed the court that the company’s computers have not been hacked, but Mueller’s filing accused them of lying, saying that the webpage contained “actual discovery materials from this case.”

[..] To wit, Mueller is making an assertion based on a tweet and a webpage – that currently do not exist – to argue that it should not disclose further “sensitive” evidence to defendants in a Russiagate case.

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How did the majority of news outlets miss that Mueller claims the info was altered? They didn’t read it?

Mueller Says Russians Are Altering Evidence From Investigation (Ind.)

Russians have obtained evidence from special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into Moscow’s interference in US politics and altered it in a bid to discredit the probe, federal prosecutors have claimed. The files were shared with attorneys working for Concord Management and Consulting, a Russian company that allegedly funded hacking operations by Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA), they said in a court filing. The sharing evidence and documents between prosecutors and defence lawyer as part of routine discovery is common legal practice. But the files shared by Mr Mueller’s investigation were later uploaded and disseminated on Twitter in October.

However, the files shared online, “appear to have been altered and disseminated as part of a disinformation campaign aimed (apparently) at discrediting ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the US political system,” the court filing states. A team had reviewed files to determine that roughly 1,000 files linked to by that account out of 300,000 available matched non-public evidence provided. “The fact that the file folder names and folder structure on the webpage significantly match the non-public names and file structure of the materials produced in discovery, and the fact that over 1,000 files on the webpage match those produced in discovery, establish that the person(s) who created the webpage had access to at least some of the non-sensitive discovery produced by the government in this case,“ the filing states.

Concord Management was among 13 Russian entities or people to be charged in connection with Mr Mueller’s investigation last February. Mr Mueller’s team has charged dozens of Russian individuals or entities for attempting to influence the 2016 presidential election, primarily through hacking Democratic Party email systems. The most recent filing argued that attorneys for Concord should not be given access to “sensitive” evidence gathered for the case. It said: “The person who created the webpage used their knowledge of the non-sensitive discovery to make it appear as though the irrelevant files contained on the webpage were the sum total evidence of ‘IRA and Russian collusion’ gathered by law enforcement in this matter in an apparent effort to discredit the investigation.”

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Amal Clooney told Greece in 2015 to take Britain to an international court. They didn’t.

The marbles stem from 2,500 years ago. Their splendor is unmatched, at least until the Romans, and the Middle Ages. They were stolen by Britain when the Ottomans had invaded Greece.

Acropolis Museum Director: British Museum Not Owner Of Parthenon Marbles (K.)

The British Museum is not the legal owner of the Parthenon Marbles and therefore the long-running dispute with Greece over their fate could only be resolved with their unconditional repatriation and not with a lending plan, the director of the Acropolis Museum, Dimitrios Pandermalis, reportedly told German public radio on Wednesday. “The full return of the Parthenon Marbles is the only solution. Everything that is inextricably linked to the monument must be reunited,” he was quoted as telling Deutschlandfunk, adding that the sculptures exhibited in London form an integral part of the monument. He also said his museum would gladly offer something to the British Museum in exchange for the marbles’ return, without going into details.

Pantermalis was responding to Hartwig Fischer, the director of the British Museum, who dismissed the possibility of returning them to Greece, arguing that their exhibition in London is in “a context of world cultures.” “The Trustees of the British Museum feel the obligation to preserve the collection in its entirety, so that things that are part of this collection remain part of this collection,” he was quoted as telling Greek daily Ta Nea in an interview published on January 26. Asked if that is the reason why the Museum will not permanently return the Sculptures, he replied: “Yes”. In another part of the same interview he said they are “in the fiduciary ownership of the Trustees of the Museum.”

Fischer also said that the removal of the marbles from Greece in the 19th century could be seen as “a creative act.” The sculptures are the work of great Athenian sculptor Phidias who added them to the Parthenon in the fifth century BC. In the early 19th century, men working for the 7th Earl of Elgin dismantled a large part of the frieze and shipped the sculptures back to London.

Read more …

Jan 242019
 


René Magritte The black flag 1937

 

One thing I am not is an expert on Venezuela. What I know is the country has the world’s largest oil reserves, mainly in the Orinoco Belt, but they come in a form of tar sands that while they are not as hard to exploit as Canada’s (viscosity), they’re far from easy, and buried deep. And I know Venezuela had Hugo Chávez as its president, who, for a socialist, was quite successful at what he did (depending who you ask).

And I know of course that the US yesterday recognized an opposition leader, Juan Guaido, as the ‘real’ president of Venezuela, instead of the elected Nicolas Maduro, whom Chávez picked as his successor. Soon as I read that, I thought: CIA. If Chávez, and Maduro, are hated in one place in the world, look no further than Langley, Virginia.

So I looked up a few articles I though would be interesting to read. The first comes from a site called Venezuela Analysis, an entity recommended for Venezuela news. They had the article below, but also this enlightening picture:

Note: in 2002, coincident with the attempted coup against Chávez, half the employees at state oil company PDVSA went on strike. They must have felt like clowns, too, 48 hours later.

The article explains what happened in terms you can find everywhere (but are perhaps good to note), except for the last bit:

 

Venezuelan Opposition Leader Guaido Declares Himself President, Recognized by US and Allies

Opposition leader Juan Guaido swore himself in as “interim president” of Venezuela on Wednesday, a move which was immediately recognized by the United States and regional allies. “As president of the National Assembly, before God and Venezuela, I swear to formally assume the competencies of the national executive as interim president of Venezuela,” he declared before an opposition rally in eastern Caracas.

Guaido had already proclaimed on several occasions that he was “ready” to assume the responsibilities of the executive branch, as the US was reportedly considering recognizing him as “interim president.” US authorities reacted swiftly, with President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Senator Marco Rubio immediately voicing their recognition of Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president.

“I will continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy,” Trump said in a statement. Washington’s regional allies, including Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and other members of the so-called Lima Group, were quick to follow suit, giving their backing to the 35-year-old opposition politician.

The Lima Group had set the tone in early January with a statement refusing to recognize Maduro’s second term. Meanwhile, Cuba and Bolivia expressed their support for Maduro, while Uruguay and the new Lopez Obrador government in Mexico refused to recognize Guaido as president and called for dialogue to “avoid an escalation of violence.” Russia and Turkey likewise indicated that their relations with Maduro administration were unchanged.

This last paragraph may be the most important and revealing bit of news we see today:

[..] Torino Capital Chief Economist Francisco Rodriguez, who advised defeated opposition presidential candidate Henri Falcon last year, wrote on Twitter that the recognition from the Trump administration makes it possible for Guaido, or a presumed transition government, to take charge of Venezuelan assets on US soil, such as state oil company PDVSA’s largest subsidiary, CITGO. It could also prevent the Venezuelan government from invoicing payments for oil shipments.

Without CITGO life becomes hard for Maduro, very hard. The company has extensive refining and chemicals capacity in the Houston area, but the US hasn’t been able to touch it until now. If they get enough allies to recognize their CIA puppet as president, they can close it down, sell it off to Exxon, anything they want. But we’re not there yet.

Russia has been very outspoken in its opinions about what’s going on. Its Rosneft oil company has large assets in Venezuela. Just like China has huge loans outstanding in the country. And though it’s hard to gauge how strong the people’s support is for Maduro (don’t believe everything you read), there’s no doubt where the army stands. The whole top brass was on TV today pledging loyalty to the government.

Turkey also came out strong in favor of Maduro. A Turkish site named Yeni Safak talks about social media as an intelligence tool:

 

CIA Launches Media Campaign To Ignite Protests Against Venezuela’s Maduro

The CIA is backing Washington’s decision to recognize Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido as president by manipulating the public opinion against democratically-elected President Nicolas Maduro and the legitimate government over social media platforms. [..] Millions of posts designed to instigate Venezuelans against the country’s legitimate president, Nicolas Maduro, were shared in a very short time to kindle a social unrest against Maduro.

Assoc. Prof. Dr Levent Eraslan unveiled the striking details of the U.S’s perception and deception strategies [..] Stressing the U.S. national intelligence’s strategy report in 2019 that consists Pentagon’s intervention in Venezuelan politics, Eraslan said, “The role of ‘machine learning’ and providing data to decision makers by determining political instabilities through social media were emphasized in the report.”

Noting that thousands of tweets that have been shared from different accounts in the last two days, “People are being called to take streets to overthrow the elected president. The efforts to trigger rebellion and push this process into a bloody situation through social media networks such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook can be observed,” he concluded.

This is from Volkan at DutchTurks; nothing is new (except Facebook as a regime change instrument):

 

 

Hugo Chávez was president of Venezuela from 1999 to his death of cancer in 2013. Whatever you may think of the man, and you don’t have to think hard to know what the CIA thought of him, have you ever wondered why the rampant runaway inflation the country has suffered lately, and which has been blamed by many on ‘socialism’, was not happening while socialist Chávez was alive? This from a site named War Is Boring provides at least some ideas as to why.

 

To Understand Venezuela’s Crisis, Look to the Past … and the CIA

Chavez died of cancer in 2013, and now five years later it seems that his socialist dream, like Allende’s, has failed. Under his successor Pres. Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela has descended into economic and political chaos. Hyperinflation has beset the country, with prices rising at an annualized rate of 1,000,000 percent.

Shortages of basic necessities such as toilet paper and bread have caused mass unrest, culminating in violent protests. Now there is open talk about the need to overthrow Maduro or remove him from power, perhaps through U.S. military intervention.

[..] In Venezuela the figure of Chavez precluded an overthrow of the government there. We know this for a fact because a coup against him in 2002 lasted a matter of hours before mass uprisings and a lack of support from the military forced the plotters to surrender. Chavez was a controversial figure, hated by significant elements of Venezuelan society, but beloved by a majority of the largely poor country and respected by the military.

Chavez announced the return of his cancer in the fall of 2012 and died in March 2013. The current economic crisis kicked into high gear in the late summer of 2012, with inflation — typically high, but manageable — suddenly growing at an exponential rate. The cause typically cited by Western media — a precipitous fall in oil prices — occurred a full two years after the crisis began.

 

[..] Since 2012 Venezuela has faced a twin plague of shortages and rampant inflation. Venezuelan economist Pasqualina Curcio makes the case in her 2016 book The Visible Hand of the Market: Economic Warfare in Venezuela that both phenomena cannot be explained through normal economics, but rather by political causes.

Shortages have been a feature of Venezuelan life since Chavez came to power in 1999, with their magnitude growing over time. Yet over the course of years when Venezuela saw steadily and then sharply increasing shortages both imports and domestic production were also rising. If more products are being brought into the country, and more are being produced, but consumers are experiencing shortages, it begs the question of where the stuff went.

[..] As for inflation, the factors typically involved with currency devaluation–a shortage of foreign reserves or increased liquidity–have not coincided with inflation spikes. Nor has the state hoarded foreign currency as many claim. Curcio shows that 94 percent of foreign reserves were distributed to the private sector, and these distributions have grown over time.

It appears that manipulation of currency black markets — a phenomenon that happened in Chile under Allende as well — and then adoption of this inflated exchange rate by importers to spike the costs of necessary goods, services, and industrial inputs neatly produces the sort of induced inflation plaguing Venezuela today.

Russian foreign minister Lavrov put it nice and succinctly:

The US, which is paranoid about somebody interfering in their elections, even though they have no proof of that, themselves are trying to rule the fates of other peoples. What they actually do is interfere in their internal affairs. There is no need for [US special counsel Robert] Mueller to determine that.

American regime change in other countries is something that perhaps the rest of the world is getting tired of. America instigating chaos in its own southern backyard, like it has for years in the Middle East and North Africa, is getting old in the eyes of many. And the CIA can get Trump to support their puppet, but Trump knows nothing about Venezuela, other than that there’s lots of oil there, and that makes him a CIA puppet too.

Not a good idea.

A lot of what has led up to the present coup has been the US flexing its financial muscle. But the American economy isn’t doing all that great, so it’s not just flexing that muscle, it’s also stretching it. And yeah, there’s an old set of Venezuelan domestic interests that has been faithful, just like there was one in Cuba, but that’s all in the past. That was way back when the US could get away with bullying the whole neighborhood.

And it shouldn’t want to do that anymore. Neither the bullying nor the living in the past.

Not good ideas either.

 

 

Aug 122018
 


Salvador Dali Elephants 1948

 

Rand Paul Against the World (AC)
Saudi Arabia’s PIF and SoftBank Not Interested in Tesla Buyout (WS)
China Scrambles to Cool Overheated Real Estate Market (ET)
Beijing Struggles To Defuse Anger Over China’s P2P Lending Crisis (R.)
DNC Serves WikiLeaks With Lawsuit Via Twitter (CBS)
More Than 100 Constituencies That Backed Brexit Now Want To Stay In EU (G.)
Russia Defense Minister Warns Germany Against ‘Strength & Unity’ Strategy (RT)
New Zealand To Ban Foreigners From Buying Homes (SMH)
Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World (Varoufakis)
Gene-Editing Startups Ignite The Next ‘Frankenfood’ Fight (R.)
UK Outlets Review Sale Of Monsanto’s Roundup After US Cancer Verdict (G.)
The Oceans’ Last Chance (G.)

 

 

’Rand Paul has persuaded the president that we are not for regime change in Iran..’

Rand Paul Against the World (AC)

President Trump has been known to be hawkish on Iran. Politico observed Wednesday: “Trump has drawn praise from the right-wing establishment for hammering the mullahs in Tehran, junking the Iran nuclear deal and responding to the regime’s saber rattling with aggressive rhetoric of his own….” There are also powerful factions in Congress and Washington with inroads to the president that have been itching for regime change for years. “The policy of the United States should be regime change in Iran,” says Senator Tom Cotton, once rumored to be Trump’s pick to head the CIA. So what, or who, is stopping the hawks?

Politico revealed Wednesday some interesting aspects of the relationship between Senator Rand Paul and the president, particularly on foreign policy: “While Trump tolerates his hawkish advisers, the [Trump] aide added, he shares a real bond with Paul: ‘He actually at gut level has the same instincts as Rand Paul…’.” On Iran, Politico notes, “Trump has stopped short of calling for regime change even though Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and Bolton support it, aligning with Paul instead, according to a GOP foreign policy expert in frequent contact with the White House.”

But this part of the story was the most revelatory: “’Rand Paul has persuaded the president that we are not for regime change in Iran,’ this person said, because adopting that position would instigate another war in the Middle East.” This is significant, not because Trump couldn’t have arrived at the same position without Paul’s counsel, but because it’s easy to imagine him embracing regime change, what with virtually every major foreign policy advisor in his cabinet supporting something close to war with Iran. “Personnel is policy” is more than a cliché.

Read more …

Musk will have to clarify his ‘Funding Secured’, either to his board or the SEC. Preferably both.

Saudi Arabia’s PIF and SoftBank Not Interested in Tesla Buyout (WS)

The whole scheme kicked off when Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted during trading hours that he was “considering” taking Tesla private, “Funding secured,” which caused the already ludicrously overvalued shares to spike. Later he added, “Investor support is confirmed.” But no details, no names, no tidbits, not even a tease. Two days earlier, he’d tweeted that “even Hitler was shorting Tesla stock.” We can brush off the Hitler tweet as just one more Musk idiocy gone awry, but “Funding secured” and “Investor support is confirmed” are big-ass phrases for a public-company CEO discussing a buyout that would be valued at $72 billion. Now some folks, including those at the SEC’s San Francisco office, are wanting to know where exactly this money is going to come from – and if funding was even remotely “secured.”

The Tesla true believers instantly figured that a deal had already been worked out, either with SoftBank or with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), or with both, or whatever. Turns out, it’s not going to be SoftBank, and it’s not going to be the Saudis, either. They’re not interested in creating the magic to pull this off. Reuters reported today that a source “familiar with PIF’s strategy,” said that the fund was not, as Reuters put it, “currently getting involved in any funding process for Tesla’s take-private deal.” PIF had made headlines recently when it came out that it had acquired a stake in Tesla of just below 5% by buying its shares (TSLA) in the market. None of this money went to Tesla. It went to Tesla shareholders that wanted to get out.

Read more …

They don’t seem to be getting it done.

China Scrambles to Cool Overheated Real Estate Market (ET)

The Chinese government went all out during the first half of 2018 to cool an overheated real estate market. Major cities in China have issued regulations for their local real estate markets more than 260 times through July of this year, according to data from Centaline Property Agency, one of the largest property agencies in Hong Kong. That’s an all-time high and marks an 80 percent increase in frequency compared to the same period in 2017. In July alone, more than 60 cities announced more than 70 revised sets of real estate regulatory policies. Chinese cities have sought to keep housing prices from skyrocketing by limiting the number of properties one can purchase and sell, raising the minimum down-payment ratio for homebuyers, and boosting the time period between a purchase and when a unit can be then listed on the market for resale.

The Chinese Communist Party has made it a political priority to “resolutely contain the rise of housing prices,” as discussed during a meeting of the Party’s powerful 25-member Politburo on July 31, according to state-run media Xinhua. While prices in the real estate markets of some first- and second-tier cities appear to have leveled off, prices in most third- and fourth-tier cities continue to soar. In June, among China’s designated 70 large and medium-sized cities, 63 experienced a price increase for newly built commodity housing units, or privately developed housing on leased land, compared with last year, according to official data released by China’s National Bureau of Statistics. Prices for new commodity housing and “second-hand housing”—units previously owned that are now on the market for sale—in 31 second-tier cities also increased, by 6.3 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively, in June.

Read more …

Shadow banks and P2P -there’s overlap- have been instrumental in China’s runaway growth.

Beijing Struggles To Defuse Anger Over China’s P2P Lending Crisis (R.)

Peter Wang was asleep at his home in Beijing last Monday when police officers arrived before dawn to detain him, saying he had helped organize a protest planned for later that day. Across the city, others who had lost money investing in China’s online peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platforms – including some who had traveled from as far away as Shandong and Shanxi provinces – got similar visits from police. By the time they were released, the demonstration they had planned using social media chat groups had fizzled amid a massive security response around the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) headquarters in the heart of Beijing’s financial district.

[..] The size of China’s P2P industry is far bigger than in the rest of the world combined, with outstanding loans of 1.49 trillion yuan ($217.96 billion), according to data tracker p2p001.com, run by the Shenzhen Qiancheng Internet Finance Research Institute. P2P, in which platforms gather funds from retail investors and loan the money to small corporate and individual borrowers, promising high returns, started flourishing nearly unregulated in China in 2011. At its peak in 2015, there were about 3,500 such businesses. But after Beijing began a campaign to defuse debt bubbles and reduce risks in the economy, including the country’s enormous non-bank lending sector, cracks began to appear as investors pulled their funds.

Since June, 243 online lending platforms have gone bust, according to wdzj.com, another P2P industry data provider. In that period, the industry saw its first monthly net fund outflows since at least 2014, the data provider said. The latest burst of anger, which led to the planned protests, flared up ahead of a June 30 deadline for companies to comply with new business practice standards, which are still being finalised but could include bank custodianship of investor funds and tougher disclosure requirements. Many of them shut down rather than do so, Zane Wang, chief executive of online micro-loan provider China Rapid Finance, told Reuters. That caused panic in the broader market. Investors tried to pull funds from P2P companies, causing liquidity problems for many smaller operators, Wang said, although larger ones are faring better.

Read more …

But who exactly has been served? Assange can’t read Twitter.

DNC Serves WikiLeaks With Lawsuit Via Twitter (CBS)

The Democratic National Committee on Friday officially served its lawsuit to WikiLeaks via Twitter, employing a rare method to serve its suit to the elusive group that has thus far been unresponsive. As CBS News first reported last month, the DNC filed a motion with a federal court in Manhattan requesting permission to serve its complaint to WikiLeaks on Twitter, a platform the DNC argued the website uses regularly. The DNC filed a lawsuit in April against the Trump campaign, Russian government and WikiLeaks, alleging a massive conspiracy to tilt the 2016 election in Donald Trump’s favor. All of the DNC’s attempts to serve the lawsuit via email failed, the DNC said in last month’s motion to the judge, which was ultimately approved.

The lawsuit was served through a tweet from a Twitter account established Friday by Cohen Milstein, the law firm representing the DNC in the suit, with the intent of serving the lawsuit. The DNC argued the unusual method of serving a lawsuit over Twitter was feasible because WikiLeaks, founded by Julian Assange, frequently uses Twitter and had even suggested it had read the DNC’s lawsuit. On April 21, the WikiLeaks Twitter account tweeted, “Democrats have gone all Scientology against @WikiLeaks. We read the DNC lawsuit. Its primary claim against @WikiLeaks is that we published their ‘trade secrets.’ Scientology infamously tried this trick when we published their secret bibles. Didn’t work out well for them.'”

The DNC also noted last month that there is some legal precedent for serving the lawsuit on Twitter. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the DNC notes, decided service by Twitter was a reasonable way to alert the defendant, who had an active Twitter account. “WikiLeaks seems to tweet daily,” the DNC said in the motion made to the judge last month.

Read more …

Cats in a sack.

More Than 100 Constituencies That Backed Brexit Now Want To Stay In EU (G.)

More than 100 Westminster constituencies that voted to leave the EU have now switched their support to Remain, according to a stark new analysis seen by the Observer. In findings that could have a significant impact on the parliamentary battle of Brexit later this year, the study concludes that most seats in Britain now contain a majority of voters who want to stay in the EU. The analysis, one of the most comprehensive assessments of Brexit sentiment since the referendum, suggests the shift has been driven by doubts among Labour voters who backed Leave. As a result, the trend is starkest in the north of England and Wales – Labour heartlands in which Brexit sentiment appears to be changing.

The development will heap further pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to soften the party’s opposition to reconsidering Britain’s EU departure. Researchers at the Focaldata consumer analytics company compiled the breakdown by modelling two YouGov polls of more than 15,000 people in total, conducted before and after Theresa May published her proposed Brexit deal on 6 July. It combined the polling with detailed census information and data from the Office for National Statistics. The study was jointly commissioned by Best for Britain, which is campaigning against Brexit, and the anti-racist Hope Not Hate group. The 632 seats in England, Scotland and Wales were examined for the study. It found that 112 had switched from Leave to Remain. The new analysis suggests there are now 341 seats with majority Remain support, up from 229 seats at the referendum.

Read more …

Russia remembers Germany 70 years ago.

Russia Defense Minister Warns Germany Against ‘Strength & Unity’ Strategy (RT)

The Russian defense minister has reminded his German counterpart that approaching Moscow from a “position of unity and strength” is not the wisest idea, citing the bitter history of WWII that should’ve made Berlin more prudent. “We are open for dialogue. We are ready for a normal cooperation, but not at all from a position of strength,” Sergey Shoigu told Rossiya 24 TV station. “I certainly hope that the time when we could be talked to, as someone once said, as a second- or third-class country has now irretrievably passed.”

Referring to the original question from the host, Yevgeniy Popov, who noted the recent call by the German Defense Minister, Ursula von der Leyen, to engage in dialogue with Moscow only from a “position of unity and strength,” Shoigu reminded his counterpart that, while Russia seeks peace, it will not tolerate being coerced. “After everything Germany has done to our country, I think, they should not talk on the issue for another two hundred years,” Shoigu said. “Ask your grandparents about their experience of talking to Russia from the position of strength. They will probably be able to tell you.” Shoigu explained that NATO, including Germany, cannot come to grips with the reality of seeing Russia return to the world stage as an independent actor with a strong and powerful military force.

“We are not going to threaten anyone. We’re not going to start a war with anyone,” Shoigu said, noting, however, that Russian President Vladimir Putin is taking unprecedented measures to make sure the military is fully ready for any untoward surprises. “We’re doing a massive job to restore our army. Yes, the time has passed when we had no funds or time for the army.” “We now have a totally different army. And if that frightens someone, do come visit to see how we live,” he added, in an interview recorded after the wrap-up of the Army Games in Russia, extending an invitation to the NATO militaries so far missing out on the biggest annual international military competition.

Read more …

But there are exceptions.

New Zealand To Ban Foreigners From Buying Homes (SMH)

Foreigners face a ban on buying homes in New Zealand after a spending splurge by millionaires seeking doomsday bolt-holes crowded out local buyers and pushed up property prices. Home purchases by tycoons such as tech billionaire Peter Thiel, the PayPal founder, and Matt Lauer, the former NBC host who lost his job after allegations of sexual misconduct, have led the New Zealand government to crack down on the trend. The country’s allure for the mega-rich planning a safe space to ride out the apocalypse has become almost a cliché in recent years. Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn co-founder, told The New Yorker last year: “Saying you’re buying a house in New Zealand is kind of a wink, wink, say no more”.

But the country’s centre-Left government, led by prime minister Jacinda Ardern, is blaming the apocalypse preppers for a major housing crisis, with rates of homelessness among the highest in the developed world. Ms Ardern’s Labour Party is adamant that a law change banning foreigners from buying most types of homes in the country – due to pass through parliament next week – will help damp down property prices. It also plans to build 100,000 affordable properties in a decade, resolve New Zealand’s zoning and infrastructure woes, and bolster its ailing construction industry. The bill will still allow foreigners to buy new apartments in large developments and multi-storey blocks. Existing homes remain off limits to non-residents, but people from Australia and Singapore will be exempt from the ban, due to free-trade rules.

Read more …

Yanis reviews a book by Adam Tooze.

Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World (Varoufakis)

Every so often, humanity manages genuinely to surprise itself. Events to which we had previously assigned zero probability push us into what the ancient Greeks referred to as aporia: intense bafflement urgently demanding a new model of the world we live in. The financial crash of 2008 was such a moment. Suddenly the world ceased to make sense in terms of what, a few weeks before, passed as conventional wisdom – even McDonald’s, for goodness sake, could not secure an overdraft from Bank of America!

Moments of aporia produce collective efforts to respond to our bewilderment. In the late 18th century, the pains of the Industrial Revolution begat free-market economics. The crisis of 1848 brought us the Marxist tradition. The great depression produced both Keynes’s General Theory and Friedman’s monetarism. Over the past decade, the 2008 crash has given rise to a cottage industry of books, articles, documentaries, even films but not, so far, an overarching theory. Now, a compelling new book has arrived which deserves to be at the top of the reading list of anyone interested in the events of 2008 and eager to make sense of the aftermath .

Written by Adam Tooze, an English economic historian at Columbia University (and, in the interest of full disclosure, a colleague), Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crisis Changed the World combines simple explanations of complex financial concepts with a majestic narrative tracing the prehistory and destructive path of the crisis across the planet (including long, apt and erudite chapters on Russia, the former Soviet satellites, China and south-east Asia). It also offers original insights into the nature of the wounded beast (financialised capitalism). Of the myriad unacknowledged truths that Tooze illuminates, some examples follow.

Read more …

Nowhere is mankind’s insanity more on display than here. If you can’t oversee the consequences of your actions, the precautionary principle applies. Not the profit principle.

Gene-Editing Startups Ignite The Next ‘Frankenfood’ Fight (R.)

In a suburban Minneapolis laboratory, a tiny company that has never turned a profit is poised to beat the world’s biggest agriculture firms to market with the next potential breakthrough in genetic engineering – a crop with “edited” DNA. Calyxt Inc, an eight-year-old firm co-founded by a genetics professor, altered the genes of a soybean plant to produce healthier oil using the cutting-edge editing technique rather than conventional genetic modification. Seventy-eight farmers planted those soybeans this spring across 17,000 acres in South Dakota and Minnesota, a crop expected to be the first gene-edited crop to sell commercially, beating out Fortune 500 companies.

Seed development giants such as Monsanto, Syngenta and DowDuPont have dominated genetically modified crop technology that emerged in the 1990s. But they face a wider field of competition from start-ups and other smaller competitors because gene-edited crops have drastically lower development costs and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has decided not to regulate them. Relatively unknown firms including Calyxt, Cibus, and Benson Hill Biosystems are already advancing their own gene-edited projects in a race against Big Ag for dominance of the potentially transformational technology. “It’s a very exciting time for such a young company,” said Calyxt CEO Federico Tripodi, who oversees 45 people. “The fact a company so small and nimble can accomplish those things has picked up interest in the industry.”

Gene-editing technology involves targeting specific genes in a single organism and disrupting those linked to undesirable characteristics or altering them to make a positive change. Traditional genetic modification, by contrast, involves transferring a gene from one kind of organism to another, a process that still does not have full consumer acceptance. Gene-editing could mean bigger harvests of crops with a wide array of desirable traits – better-tasting tomatoes, low-gluten wheat, apples that don’t turn brown, drought-resistant soybeans or potatoes better suited for cold storage. The advances could also double the $15 billion global biotechnology seed market within a decade, said analyst Nick Anderson of investment bank Berenberg.

[..] Biotech firms hope the technology can avoid the “Frankenfood” label that critics have pinned on traditional genetically modified crops. But acceptance by regulators and the public globally remains uncertain. The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on July 25 that gene-editing techniques are subject to regulations governing genetically modified crops. The ruling will limit gene-editing in Europe to research and make it illegal to grow commercial crops. The German chemical industry association called the decision “hostile to progress.”

Read more …

Afraid they’ll be sued too?

UK Outlets Review Sale Of Monsanto’s Roundup After US Cancer Verdict (G.)

One of the UK’s largest DIY retailers is reviewing the sale of Roundup weedkiller products amid mounting concerns about their use, after a US jury found that the herbicide had caused a terminally ill man’s cancer. The manufacturer of the weedkiller, Monsanto, has insisted that British consumers are safe to continue using Roundup products, which are widely sold at DIY stores and used by British farmers. But a spokesperson for Homebase said it would be reviewing its product range after the ruling in California. A spokesperson for B&Q said it had already been undertaking a broader review of all garden products in an attempt to manage the range responsibly.

[..] Monsanto’s vice-president, Scott Partridge, said on Friday that hundreds of studies had shown that glyphosate, one of the world’s most widely used herbicides and a key ingredient of Roundup, does not cause cancer. Monsanto would be appealing against the jury’s verdict, he added. “It is completely and totally safe, and the public should not be concerned about this verdict. It is one that we will work through the legal process to see if we can get the right result. The science is crystal-clear,” he said. “The jury made a decision, but the decision that a jury or a judge makes has to be based on the weight of the evidence, and the overwhelming weight of the evidence that went in the trial was that science demonstrates glyphosate is safe; there’s no credible evidence to the contrary.”

[..] The scientific world, however, has raised doubts about glyphosate. A ruling in 2015 by the World Health Organization’s international agency for research on cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”. Campaigners are now calling for a review of pesticide regulations in the UK after the case, saying that glyphosate poses a risk to public health, soils and the environment. More than 2m hectares (5m acres) of farmland across Britain are treated with glyphosate annually, according to a study of government data by Oxford Economics. Emma Hockridge, head of policy at the Soil Association, described the ruling as a “dramatic blow” to the pesticide industry. “This is a landmark case, which highlights not only the problems caused by glyphosate, but also the whole system of pesticide use. We need to urgently change our systems of weed control to stop relying on herbicides,” she said.

Read more …

“It has taken years of negotiations to set up this conference. If we miss this opportunity, we will probably not get another opportunity to save the high seas for another 40 years. By then, there will probably not be much left that is worth protecting.”

The Oceans’ Last Chance (G.)

The leatherback turtle is one of our planet’s most distinctive creatures. It can live for decades and grow to weigh up to two tonnes. It is the largest living reptile on Earth and its evolutionary roots reach back more than 100 million years. “Leatherbacks are living fossils,” says oceanographer Professor Callum Roberts, of York University. “But they are not flourishing. In fact, they are being wiped out at an extraordinary rate, particularly in the Pacific Ocean, where their numbers have declined by 97% over the past three decades. They are now critically endangered there.” Leatherbacks are suffering for several reasons. They have been hunted for their meat for centuries and the spread of tourist resorts disrupts turtles when they come ashore to lay their eggs on sandy beaches.

But the cause of the most recent, most massive decline in numbers of Dermochelys coriacea has a far more pernicious cause: long-line fishing in the high seas. Some trawlers now drag fishing lines that are more than 75 miles long, each bristling with hooks. Tens of thousands of sea turtles get snagged on these and drown every year. “It is tragic,” says Roberts. And this carnage goes unchecked – for the simple reason that there is no protection at all for species, endangered or otherwise, on seas outside national waters. The list includes fish and seabirds, plus fragile ecosystems such as deep-sea corals. “Outside national waters, in the high seas, it is essentially a no man’s land when it comes to protecting sensitive environments and their inhabitants,” says Paul Snelgrove, a deep-sea biologist at Memorial University in St John’s, Canada. “It is a highly unsatisfactory state of affairs.”

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Jul 082018
 
 July 8, 2018  Posted by at 8:06 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  15 Responses »


Utagawa Hiroshige Sudden Evening Shower on the Great Bridge near Atake 1857

 

US Debt Explosion & Weimar II (von Greyerz)
China Threatened By “Vicious Circle Of Panic Selling” (ZH)
The Demise of Toys ‘R’ Us Is a Warning (Atlantic)
Why It’s Not Too Late To Step Back From The Brexit Brink (G.)
British MPs Should Be Ashamed Of Supporting Regime Change In Tehran (Oborne)
OPEC’s Dilemma (Lacalle)
Turkey Sacks Another 18,500 State Employees In New Decree (AFP)
Trump, the Dragonbear, and the Bipolar World Order 2.0 (M.)
Trump’s Existential Threat To The Empire (Stockman)
Are All Societies Destined To Destroy Themselves? (Wef)
Inventing the Weekend (Jacobin)

 

 

“Prosperity built on debt is short lived..”

US Debt Explosion & Weimar II (von Greyerz)

[..] change starts in the periphery where very few are looking. Look at China where the Shanghai composite is down 23% since January. And look at Brazil where the Bovespa is off 17% so far this year and Turkey which has lost 20%. What is important to understand is that most major markets are now looking extremely vulnerable, be it Japan, Germany or the US. Fundamentally most markets are overvalued with the help of central bank liquidity. Also, technically we are not far from crashes in most markets. Whilst there is always a possibility of a last hurrah, it looks like all markets have topped, including the US, and that later in 2018 we will see major falls. Once the bear markets start, they are likely to turn into secular trends that last many years and result in falls of 75% to 95%.

Difficult to believe for most investors today, but nobody in 1929 believed that the Dow would fall 90% in the ensuing years and take 25 years to recover. The investment world has been lulled into a permanent state of security and euphoria. Hard to deny that central banks and governments have been extremely skilful in telling the world constant lies. And why would anyone protest, as the rich are getting incredibly rich and many normal people in the West have a higher standard of living than ever. Very few of the “normal people” understand that their prosperity is built on personal debt and their government borrowing more than ever. Nor do they understand that they are responsible for this debt that they of course can never repay.

Even less do they understand that they will be on their own when debt implodes and they lose their jobs. Because the state will at that point have run out of money and there will be no social security or unemployment benefits. Nor will there be any pension for retirees as pension funds will go from extremely underfunded to totally unfunded.

When Trump was elected in November 2016, I forecast that US debt would continue to double every 8 years on average, as it has done since Reagan become president. That would lead to $28 trillion debt by 2021 and $40 trillion by 2025. Well, it seemed quite unrealistic back in 2016 that the US would average over $2.5 trillion deficit in the ensuing 8 years to 2025. Judging by current forecasts, it looks like debt will “only” be $25 trillion in 2021. But as tax revenues decline and spending increases, I would not be surprised to see $28 trillion debt in 2021. That would put the US on course for a $40 trillion debt in 2025.That would mean a doubling of the debt from 2017 which is in line with the historical trend of a 100% increase every 8 years.

A $40 trillion debt in 2025 would be bad enough but things are likely to get worse. With debt exploding, the Fed will lose control of interest rates as foreign investors dump US bonds. A rate of 10% at that point would not be unrealistic. That would lead to an interest bill of $4 trillion per year (10% on $40T). This would mean that just interest costs are likely to be higher than total tax revenue.

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“$1 trillion worth of stocks are being pledged as collateral for loans..”

China Threatened By “Vicious Circle Of Panic Selling” (ZH)

Small caps aside, the marketwide numbers are staggering: about $1 trillion worth of stocks listed in China’s two main markets, Shanghai or Shenzhen, are being pledged as collateral for loans, according to data from the China Securities Depository and ChinaClear. More ominously, this trends has exploded in the past three years, and according to Bank of America, some 23% of all market positions were leveraged in some way by the end of last year in China, double from the start of 2015.


Source: WSJ

As a result of the recent market rout which sent the Shanghai Composite into bear market territory, in June UBS warned that it sees a growing risk in China’s stock pledges; the bank calculated that the market cap of pledged stocks that have fallen below levels triggering liquidation amounts to 440 billion yuan with some 500 billion yuan below warning line, which translates to ~1% and 1.1% of China’s entire market value of $6.8 trillion. A separate analysis by TF Securities, as of Jun 19th, stock prices of 619 companies were close to levels where margin calls will be triggered. Since then, that number has increased.

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When Toys R Us went bankrupt, they got permission to give the executives that drove the company into bankruptcy $32 million in bonuses. Store employees, regular working people, got nothing.

The Demise of Toys ‘R’ Us Is a Warning (Atlantic)

Ann marie reinhart was one of the first people to learn that Toys “R” Us was shuttering her store. She was supervising the closing shift at the Babies “R” Us in Durham, North Carolina, when her manager gave her the news. “I was almost speechless,” she told me recently. Twenty-nine years ago, Reinhart was a new mother buying diapers in a Toys “R” Us when she saw a now hiring sign. She applied and was offered a job on the spot. She eventually became a human-resources manager and then a store supervisor. She stayed because the company treated her well, accommodating her schedule. She got good benefits: health insurance, a 401(k). But she noticed a difference after the private-equity firms Bain Capital and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, along with the real-estate firm Vornado Realty Trust, took over Toys “R” Us in 2005.

“It changed the dynamic of how the store ran,” she said. The company eliminated positions, loading responsibilities onto other workers. Schedules became unpredictable. Employees had to pay more for fewer benefits, Reinhart recalled. Reinhart’s store closed for good on April 3. She was granted no severance—like the more than 30,000 other employees who are losing their job with the company. In March, Toys “R” Us announced that it was liquidating all of its U.S. stores as part of its bankruptcy process, which began last September. Observers pointed to the company’s struggle to fight off new competition. In its court filing, the company laid the blame at the feet of Amazon, Walmart, and Target, saying it “could not compete” when they priced toys so low.

Less attention was paid to the albatross that Bain, KKR, and Vornado had placed around the company’s neck. Toys “R” Us had a debt load of $1.86 billion before it was bought out. Immediately after the deal, it shouldered more than $5 billion in debt. And though sales had slumped before the deal, they held relatively steady after it, even when the Great Recession hit. The company generated $11.2 billion in sales in the 12 months before the deal; in the 12 months before November 2017, it generated $11.1 billion.

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The legal position.

Why It’s Not Too Late To Step Back From The Brexit Brink (G.)

Last week, in response to a petition seeking a referendum on the final deal, the government not only refused to allow “the people” to decide on the terms of Brexit, it categorically stated that parliament will not be allowed to do so either. Parliament will instead be given what it calls “a meaningful vote … either [to] accept the final agreement or leave the EU with no agreement”. This is the opposite of “meaningful”; the government intends to refuse parliament the chance to reject both options – it must accept what is offered or take nothing at all. And this is the government’s position, irrespective of the dire consequences for our country or “the will of its people” to avoid them. Even though the UK could before March 2019 change its mind, the government says that it will on no account let that happen.

The reason given for this is said to be the government’s “firm policy” that “there must be no attempts to [reverse the referendum and] remain inside the European Union”; the government does not deny that reversal is legally possible. Its position accords with advice, which I am told from two good sources the prime minister has received, namely that the article 50 notification can be withdrawn by the UK at any time before 29 March 2019, resulting in the UK remaining in the EU on its current favourable terms. Such advice would also accord with the view of Lord Kerr, who was involved in drafting article 50, of Jean-Claude Piris, former director general of the Council of the EU’s legal service and of Martin Selmayr, a lawyer and head of cabinet to the president of the European commission.

As a lawyer, I agree with them. Article 50 provides for the notification – not of withdrawal but of an “intention” to withdraw. In law, an “intention” is not a binding commitment; it can be changed or withdrawn. Article 50(5) is, moreover, clear that it is only after a member state has left that it has to reapply to join. Had the drafters intended that once a notification had taken place, a member state would have to request readmission (or seek the consent of the other member states to stay), then article 50(5) would have referred not just to the position following withdrawal, but also following notification. Such an interpretation is in line with the object and purpose of article 50.

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Britain’s empire days are over. Hard to accept?!

British MPs Should Be Ashamed Of Supporting Regime Change In Tehran (Oborne)

Britain’s prime minister has been fighting a valiant, losing battle to rescue British relations with Iran in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s reckless attempts to wreck them. But last week Theresa May was dealt a devastating blow to her authority after several Tory MPs defied her by going to Paris for a meeting designed to promote regime change inside Iran. This event is the latest sign that the prime minister and her foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, are facing a mutiny over Iran. Former cabinet minister Theresa Villiers was among senior Tories who travelled to Paris last week to hear Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York and Trump’s highly influential lawyer, call for the downfall of the Iranian government.

This meeting was a direct defiance of British government policy, which aims to save the Iran nuclear deal intact, and is against engineering a change of government in Iran. Indeed, Johnson assured Parliament in May that “I do not believe that regime change in Tehran is the objective that we should be seeking.” The overwhelming majority of Conservative MPs favoured Trump’s policy of dismantling the JCPOA – and condemned May’s policy of keeping it Three Tory MPs – along with one Labour MP – travelled to the event, organised by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a front organisation for Mojahedin-e-Khalq Organisation (MEK), once listed by the US as a terror organisation. There is no question that these reflect a powerful and vocal body of sentiment inside the Conservative Party.

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Sanctions on Iran conflict with lower oil prices.

OPEC’s Dilemma (Lacalle)

The fundamental problem of the last OPEC meeting is the evidence of the division between two groups. One, led by Iran, which wants higher prices and deeper cuts, and the two largest producers, Saudi Arabia and Russia, who support a more diplomatic position. Iran wants to continue increasing its own production yet wants OPEC to maintain the group cuts. Iran also faces the backlash of sanctions on exports. Today, the US exports more oil than Iran. Saudi Arabia and Russia have the lowest production costs and stand as the ones to gain more from a moderate production increase. Oil prices will not collapse and they will sell more oil.

The agreed increase in production is a good political move from Saudi Arabia because it shows that it does not aim to harm the world economy or its customers, only to return to a stabilized oil market. With this, Saudi Arabia cements its position as the Central Bank of oil. The winners from this carefully designed agreement are Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the Gulf countries. Those who enjoy lower costs and can generate higher revenues from improved exports. The agreement sets production higher but no individual quotas, so improvement in output is left to the countries with the highest excess capacity. Iran, Venezuela, Ecuador and other countries that have production and geopolitical problems suffer the most. The commitment is likely to add 600,000-650,000 barrels per day to the market.

A figure of 32 million barrels per day is agreed, but the real increase will not be the optical one million barrels per day, but rather the aforementioned 650,000 one. This figure, at a time when oil inventories are in line with the average of the past five years, relieves inflationary pressures and eliminates the risk that the US Administration will take political measures against the OPEC countries. Trump had already alerted OPEC that it could not keep inflating prices artificially. In addition to showing the tension between these two sides, the OPEC summit also reveals that the cartel has much less market control than they would like to have. The fact that the price has only reached 80 dollars a barrel (compared to 100-130 dollars a few years ago) indicates that their ability to manipulate prices to 100 dollars per barrel is very low.

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How does that country still function?

Turkey Sacks Another 18,500 State Employees In New Decree (AFP)

Turkish authorities ordered the dismissal of more than 18,500 state employees including police officers, soldiers and academics, in a decree published on Sunday. The Official Gazette said 18,632 people had been sacked including 8,998 police officers in the emergency decree over suspected links to terror organisations and groups that “act against national security”. Some 3,077 army soldiers were also dismissed as well as 1,949 air force personnel and 1,126 from the naval forces. Another 1,052 civil servants from the justice ministry and linked institutions have been fired as well as 649 from the gendarmerie and 192 from the coast guard. Authorities also sacked 199 academics, according to the new decree, while 148 state employees from the military and ministries were reinstated.

Turkey has been under a state of emergency since the July 2016 attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkish media dubbed the decree as the “last” with officials indicating the state of emergency could end as early as Monday. The emergency has been renewed seven times and the latest period is officially due to end on July 19. Over 110,000 public sector employees have been removed previously from their jobs via emergency decrees since July 2016 while tens of thousands more have been suspended in a crackdown criticised by Ankara’s Western allies. [..] Sunday’s decree shut down 12 associations across the country as well as three newspapers and a television channel.

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Recommended by Jim Rickards. The changing shapes of world order.

Trump, the Dragonbear, and the Bipolar World Order 2.0 (M.)

Just a few days ago, in an unexpected move, Ray Dalio, the founder of world’s largest hedge fund -Bridgewater Associates- announced on Social Media: “Today is the first day of the war with China.” And a day earlier, Trump made a statement about the upcoming summit in Helsinki, claiming that: “Putin’s fine. He’s fine.” One might wonder what the former message has to do with the latter, and how all these contradictory statements fit together. In fact, they make sense if seen through the prism of an emerging bipolar World Order 2.0, which is about the systemic rivalry between the USA and China, and the unique position of Russia in between.

It has become apparent that most of the decision-makers, experts and scholars mistook the end of the US-led unipolarity for the beginning of multipolarity and thus overlooked the emergence of the Global System bipolarity as well as the creation of the Dragonbear (an unique systemic bond between China and Russia as opposed to the USA). Furthermore, the Global System has become too unsustainable regarding its main (man-made) socio-economic components of global finance, monetary, economy, trade, and energy networks, and, as a consequence, is now being shaped by the unprecedented systemic rivalry between the USA and China, with Russia, the EU and India being the free riders, which leads to unexpected new alliances like the Dragonbear or the one between the USA and India, and might also result in the breakup of the NATO and the EU in the long term.

Back in 1975, the West and the Soviet Union bloc met in Helsinki to negotiate and sign a final act with ten principles that have been guiding their relations until now, among which the principle of sovereign equality, the refraining from the threat or use of force, inviolability of frontiers, the territorial integrity of states, and the non-intervention in internal affairs. Indeed, these principles were constantly deteriorated by the actions of single states or organisations over the last decades but were at least recognised by all actors of the global affairs.

However, Trump and Putin might declare new rules of the game, which will reflect the growing great powers competition and the flux of the global affairs. The meeting between Trump and Putin tête-à-tête will most likely address the broader picture of the geopolitical and geoeconomic interests of the two actors in the Middle East and beyond, particularly avoiding sensitive issues such as Ukraine, Syria (except for the sake of coordination efforts) or energy sanctions, and will specifically focus on North Korea, Iran and nuclear non-proliferation.

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The old world order no longer works.

Trump’s Existential Threat To The Empire (Stockman)

[..] the NATO subservient think tanks and establishment policy apparatchiks are harrumphing up a storm, but for crying out loud most of Europe’s elected politicians are in on the joke. They are fiscally swamped paying for their Welfare States and are not about to squeeze their budgets or taxpayers to fund military muscle against a nonexistent threat. As Justin Raimondo aptly notes, “Finally an American president has woken up to the fact that World War II, not to mention the cold war, is over: there’s no need for US troops to occupy Germany. Vladimir Putin isn’t going to march into Berlin in a reenactment of the Red Army taking the Fuehrer-bunker – but even if he were so inclined, why won’t Germany defend itself?”

Exactly. If their history proves anything, Germans are not a nation of pacifists, meekly willing to bend-over in the face of real aggressors. Yet they spent the paltry sum of $43 billion on defense during 2017, or barely 1.1% of Germany’s $3.8 trillion GDP, which happens to be roughly three times bigger than Russia’s. In short, the policy action of the German government tells you they don’t think Putin is about to invade the Rhineland or retake the Brandenburg Gate. And this live action testimonial also trumps, as it were, all of the risible alarms emanating from the beltway think tanks and the 4,000 NATO bureaucrats talking book in behalf of their own plush Brussels sinecures. But now comes the piece de resistance. The Donald is going to Helsinki to make peace with Vlad Putin, and just in the nick of time.

Hopefully, in one-fell swoop they can reach an agreement to get the US military out of Syria; normalize the return of Crimea and Moscow’s historic naval base at Sevastopol to the Russian motherland; stop the civil war in Ukraine via a mutually agreed de facto partition; stand-down from the incipient military clashes from the Baltic to the Black Sea; and pave the way for lifting of the absurd sanctions on Russian businessmen and citizens. Needless to say, time is of the essence. Every hour that the Donald wastes tweeting, bloviating about his beloved Mexican wall, sabotaging American exports and jobs and watching Fox & Friends reruns is just more opportunity for the vast apparatus of the Deep State (and most of his own top officials) to deep-six the Donald’s emerging and thoroughly welcome rendition of America First.

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It’s about energy.

Are All Societies Destined To Destroy Themselves? (Wef)

In order to illustrate how civilization-planet systems co-evolve, Frank and his collaborators developed a mathematical model to show ways in which a technologically advanced population and its planet might develop together. By thinking of civilizations and planets—even alien ones—as a whole, researchers can better predict what might be required for the human project of civilization to survive. “The point is to recognize that driving climate change may be something generic,” Frank says. “The laws of physics demand that any young population, building an energy-intensive civilization like ours, is going to have feedback on its planet. Seeing climate change in this cosmic context may give us better insight into what’s happening to us now and how to deal with it.” Using their mathematical model, the researchers found four potential scenarios that might occur in a civilization-planet system:

Die-off: The population and the planet’s state (indicated by something like its average temperature) rise very quickly. Eventually, the population peaks and then declines rapidly as the rising planetary temperature makes conditions harder to survive. A steady population level is achieved, but it’s only a fraction of the peak population. “Imagine if 7 out of 10 people you knew died quickly,” Frank says. “It’s not clear a complex technological civilization could survive that kind of change.” Sustainability: The population and the temperature rise but eventually both come to steady values without any catastrophic effects. This scenario occurs in the models when the population recognizes it is having a negative effect on the planet and switches from using high-impact resources, such as oil, to low-impact resources, such as solar energy.

Collapse without resource change: The population and temperature both rise rapidly until the population reaches a peak and drops precipitously. In these models civilization collapses, though it is not clear if the species itself completely dies outs. Collapse with resource change: The population and the temperature rise, but the population recognizes it is causing a problem and switches from high-impact resources to low-impact resources. Things appear to level off for a while, but the response turns out to have come too late, and the population collapses anyway. “The last scenario is the most frightening,” Frank says. “Even if you did the right thing, if you waited too long, you could still have your population collapse.”

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Lovely treatise on how capitalism shaped leisure time.

Inventing the Weekend (Jacobin)

Although “commemoration of the Resurrection” was the official reason early Christians began observing the day of rest on Sunday instead of Saturday, they were also eager to differentiate themselves from Jews, and by the fourth century this eagerness translated into the codification of the Sunday Sabbath in ecclesiastical and civil legislation. A millennium and a half later, the Sabbatarian movement pointed to this antisemitism, along with the undue influence of pagan sun worship among early Christians, as reason to reestablish Saturday as the Christian Sabbath day. Temporal, political concerns should not have affected the observance of the true day of rest, so their argument went.

There’s another reason Saturday was re-sanctified in the nineteenth century, which has to do with the “illegitimacy” not of Sunday but of Monday. In preindustrial England, according to a poem of George Davis’s, “people of all ranks, at times, obey[ed] / the festive orgies of this jocund day.” Not just skilled laborers but all classes of workers observed “Saint Monday” as a holiday from work, much to the chagrin of emergent entrepreneurs. While it’s true that many workers spent Saint Monday in the alehouse and at cock or dog fights, it was also a day of relaxation and sociability, a day when the public gardens would be “literally swarming with a well-dressed, happy and decorous body of the working classes.”

The fact that Monday was often taken as a day of rest was a consequence of the typical rhythm of preindustrial work, in which workers would assemble to complete a certain set of tasks, work intensely for a few days until those tasks were completed, and then be at play half the week. In E. P. Thompson’s portrayal, “the work pattern was one of alternate bouts of intense labour and of idleness, wherever men were in control of their own working lives.” The idea that work was to be done during a set amount of regularly apportioned time, time that was well demarcated from another time of “leisure,” was still rather foreign. In 1806, a committee appointed by the House of Commons to assess the state of woolen manufacture in England found an “utmost distaste on the part of the men, to any regular hours or regular habits.” Work was a set of tasks, and when those tasks were completed, play began.

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Feb 202017
 
 February 20, 2017  Posted by at 10:13 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  1 Response »


Henri Cartier Bresson Moscow Metro 1954

 

Seven Years of Demanding The Impossible in Greece (MP)
Cost Of Greece, Troika Impasse Over Numbers Is Adding Up (K.)
Pre-Departure Migrant Camps Planned For Greek Islands (K.)
Democrats Suggest Invoking The 25th Amendment Unless Trump “Gets A Grip” (ZH)
Greenspan Blames Productivity Decline For Political, Economic Crises (BI)
S&P 500 Earnings Stuck at 2011 Levels, Stocks up 87% Since (WS)
The Nasty Little Secret About Housing Affordability (ABC.au)
The Unthinkable Just Happened in Spain (DQ)
Kim Dotcom Loses New Zealand Extradition Case But Claims Major Victory (NZH)
UK Vegetable Shortage A Sign Of Things To Come (G.)
Fukushima Aborts Latest Robot Mission Radiation At “Unimaginable” Levels (ZH)
Tulsi Gabbard vs. ‘Regime Change’ Wars (Wright)
UN Envoy Questions US Engagement On Syria (AFP)
Kaziranga: The Park That Shoots People To Protect Rhinos (BBC)

 

 

A glimpse of the madness bestowed upon Greece. You might think this settles it, that the IMF is going to back off. You would be wrong.

Seven Years of Demanding The Impossible in Greece (MP)

In a recent presentation of his book, Laid Low, which examines the IMF’s role in the eurozone crisis, author and journalist Paul Blustein disclosed a memo dated May 4, 2010, from the IMF’s then head of research Olivier Blanchard, to Poul Thomsen, who headed the Greek mission at the time. In his missive, Blanchard warned that the cumulative fiscal adjustment of 16 %age points being demanded of Greece in such a short period of time and with such a high level of frontloading had never been achieved before. According to Blanchard, not only was the task unprecedented, but Greece was being asked to achieve the impossible in unfavourable external circumstances, when everyone was barely recovering from the 2008 global financial crisis and without any other policy levers (low interest rates or exchange rate adjustment).

Blanchard foresaw what became a reality only about a year later: Even with “perfect policy implementation” the programme will be thrown off track rather quickly and the recession will be deeper and longer than expected, he warned. Blanchard’s scepticism and warnings were ignored. Instead, political limitations took hold of the decision-making process and domestic-focussed calculations pushed Greece into trying to achieve the impossible. This week, the former IMF chief economist admitted on Twitter that although he was not the one that leaked the memo he was not unhappy that the truth has been revealed because “it is seven years and still there is no clear/realistic plan” for Greece.

Athens is currently under pressure to adopt another 2% of GDP in new fiscal measures, which relate to the tax-free threshold and pension spending. Since 2010, Greece has adopted revenue-raising measures and spending cuts that are equivalent to more than a third of its economy and more than double what Blanchard had described as unprecedented almost seven years ago.

The Greek economy has been burdened with €35.6 billion in all sorts of taxes on income, consumption, duties, stamps, corporate taxation and increases in social security contributions. When totting all this up, it is remarkable that the economy still manages to function. During the same period, the state has also found savings of €37.4 billion from cutting salaries, pensions, benefits and operational expenses. Discretionary spending is now so lean that even the IMF argues that in certain areas it needs to increase if Greece is to meet the minimum requirements in the provision of public services. When this misery started, Greece had to correct a primary deficit of €24 billion. But the painful fiscal adjustment Greeks have had to endure had turned out to be three times as much. The IMF’s Thomsen, now the director of its European Department, recently argued that Greece doesn’t need any more austerity but brave policy implementation. Somehow, though, the discussion has ended up being about finding another €3.5 billion in taxes and cuts to pension spending. Bravery is nowhere to be seen.

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The cuts have hit Greek consumer spending so severely that a recovery is no longer possible. And without a recovery, the Troika demands will get more severe, rinse and repeat.

Cost Of Greece, Troika Impasse Over Numbers Is Adding Up (K.)

Another week of back-and-forth between Greece and its lenders seems to have brought us no closer to an agreement between all the parties involved in the country’s bailout. Monday’s Eurogroup meeting may produce some progress, but the complexity of the situation facing Athens, the eurozone and the IMF means it is likely that any forward movement will involve inching, rather than hurtling, towards an agreement. One of the key areas of disagreement is Greece’s fiscal performance. The government insists that the primary surplus for 2016 provides all the evidence needed that there should be no concerns about Greece meeting its fiscal targets in the coming years. Finance Ministry estimates put the primary surplus for 2016 at 2% of gross domestic product, against a target of 0.5%.

In an interview with Germany’s Bild newspaper last week, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos suggested that last year’s primary surplus is actually 1.7 %age points above the target, ie 2.2% of GDP in total. On Friday, reports indicated that government officials believe the final figure, which is not due to be announced until April, will be around 3% of GDP. There is skepticism on the creditors’ side. Even before we get to debating how large last year’s primary surplus was, some of those who are lending Greece money are not convinced that enough of the overperformance is structural and that much of it may be driven by one-off occurrences. It will require further scrutiny of the final data to come up with a definitive answer to this question. The director of the IMF’s European Department, Poul Thomsen, told another German newspaper, Handelsblatt, last week that the Fund may revise its fiscal forecasts for Greece once it has last year’s statistics at its disposal.

This is crucial because the volume of measures being demanded of Greece by the institutions has been set at 3.6 billion euros largely due to the fact that the IMF believes Greece will fall short of the 3.5% of GDP primary surplus target it has been set for an, as yet, unspecified period after 2018. Athens hopes that if the IMF rethinks its figures, this may lead to a lower volume of measures being demanded and the first step in the grand bargain between the government and the institutions being taken. However, there are several added layers of complexity that have to be addressed. For example, the IMF does not only have doubts about the structural nature of Greece’s primary surplus, it also has lingering reservations about the reliability of the fiscal data coming out of Athens.

“Lack of fiscal transparency was clearly one of the factors that led to Greece finding itself in a difficult spot in 2010,” IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said in response to a question when she spoke at the Atlantic Council on February 8. “A lot has been improved but I’m not sure that the job is entirely completed. We are still seeing frequent revisions of some of those numbers. Everybody revises, let’s face it… but it’s a fact that Greece revises quite often and with significant variations.”

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People or cattle?

Pre-Departure Migrant Camps Planned For Greek Islands (K.)

Greek authorities are planning the creation of pre-departure detention facilities on the eastern Aegean islands, where thousands of migrants and refugees remain stranded, so as to accelerate returns to Turkey. According to officials from the Citizens’ Protection Ministry, the biggest%age of new arrivals over the past few months are from countries without a refugee profile: Pakistan, Morocco, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Significant numbers also arrived from Egypt, the Dominican Republic, Tunisia, Nigeria and Libya. Officials say that the creation of closed-structure facilities, each with a capacity of 150-200 people, is key to taking some of the pressure off the islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros, which have borne the brunt of the influx.

The mayors of these five islands are expected to travel to Brussels in early March to meet with Europe’s Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos to voice their concerns. During a tour of these islands last week, the EU’s special envoy on migration, Maarten Verwey, said that the aim was to cut current numbers by half by the end of April. According to official figures, some 14,600 migrants and refugees are currently accommodated at official facilities on the islands. In comments made during the visit, Verwey, who is also the coordinator for the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement to stem migrant flows, repeated that these detention facilities would be “temporary.”

Sources suggest that authorities have almost finalized plans for facilities on Samos, Lesvos and Kos, while looking for spaces on Leros and Chios. The plans have met with resistance from locals. Since the beginning of 2017, authorities have reportedly deported 160 individuals from Pakistan, 150 from Iraq, 70 from Algeria, 30 from Afghanistan, 25 from Morocco and 20 from Bangladesh. Police said 60 Syrians had left Greece voluntarily.

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Regime change. Who’s crazy now?

Democrats Suggest Invoking The 25th Amendment Unless Trump “Gets A Grip” (ZH)

After questioning President Trump’s sanity earlier in the week, it appears Democrats have found another narrative to cling to – invoke the 25th Amendment unless Trump “gets a grip.” With a growing number of Democrats openly questioning President Trump’s mental health. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) in a floor speech this week called for a review of the Constitution’s procedures for removing a president. He warned the 25th Amendment of the Constitution falls short when it comes to mental or emotional fitness for office. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) during a weekend interview with CNN’s “State of the Union” said that “a few” Republican colleagues have expressed concern to him about Trump’s mental health. And Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) plans to introduce legislation that would require the presence of a psychiatrist or psychologist in the White House.

[..] So, what’s Article 4 to the 25th Amendment? In the abstract, the amendment itself is about presidential succession, and includes language about the power of the office when a president is incapacitated. But Digby recently highlighted the specific text of growing relevance: “Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

What does that mean exactly? Well, it means Congress isn’t the only institution that can remove a president from office between elections. Under the 25th Amendment, a sitting vice president and a majority of the executive branch’s cabinet could, on their own, agree to transfer power out of the hands of a sitting president. At that point, those officials would notify Congress, and the vice president would assume the office as the acting president. And what if the challenged president wasn’t on board with the plan to remove him/her from the office? According to a recent explainer, “If the president wants to dispute this move, he can, but then it would be up to Congress to settle the matter with a vote. A two-thirds majority in both houses would be necessary to keep the vice president in charge. If that threshold isn’t reached, the president would regain his powers.”

All of this comes up in fiction from time to time, and in all likelihood, Americans will probably never see this political crisis play out in real life. And that’s probably a good thing: by all appearances, the intended purpose of the constitutional provision was to address a president with a serious ailment – say, a stroke, for example – in which he or she is alive, but unable to fulfill the duties of the office. In other words, for the first time, the concept of a “soft palace coup” has been officially brought up on public media; we expect such speculation will only get louder. The ball is now in Trump’s court.

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“Populism is not a philosophy or a concept, like socialism or capitalism, for example. Rather it is a cry of pain, where people are saying: Do something. Help!”

Greenspan Blames Productivity Decline For Political, Economic Crises (BI)

Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the US Federal Reserve whose low-interest policies (some say) helped inflate the dot-com and mortgage bubbles of 2000 and 2008, did a fascinating interview with Gold Investor recently. In it, Greenspan produced an incredibly cogent explanation of the role that reduced long-term productivity has had in fuelling populism, Brexit and Trump. Before we deliver Greenspan’s quote, some background: “Productivity” is one of the least-sexy areas of macroeconomics, even though right now it is one of the biggest issues bedevilling it. Here’s a chart from the Resolution Foundation showing the phenomena:

The “productivity puzzle” is this: The amount investors get in return, in aggregate, for investing in new workers is in long-term decline. Productivity growth is in decline globally and heading toward zero. This is counterintuitive because new technology ought to make workers more productive and more efficient. A single employee with a laptop can do more today than a roomful of secretaries, mathematicians, and writers could in the 1960s. We ought to be getting more bang for our bucks. Fix productivity, and you fix everything, economists believe – including GDP growth, workers’ pay, investment returns, and so on. But instead we’ve got stagnating incomes, low growth, and low productivity for money invested. The productivity decline isn’t a complete mystery, of course. We know it is a mixture of deflationary forces, an aging population, excessive debt, and increased inequality. But putting that all together in a simple, elegant way is tough. That’s why this answer from Greenspan is so good. He was asked whether he was concerned about Stagflation.

“We have been through a protracted period of stagnant productivity growth, particularly in the developed world, driven largely by the aging of the ‘baby boom’ generation. Social benefits (entitlements in the US) are crowding out gross domestic savings, the primary source for funding investment, dollar for dollar. The decline in gross domestic savings as a share of GDP has suppressed gross non-residential capital investment. It is the lessened investment that has suppressed the growth in output per hour globally. Output per hour has been growing at approximately 0.5% annually in the US and other developed countries over the past five years, compared with an earlier growth rate closer to 2%.

That is a huge difference, which is reflected proportionately in GDP and in people’s standard of living. As productivity growth slows down, the whole economic system slows down. That has provoked despair and a consequent rise in economic populism from Brexit to Trump. Populism is not a philosophy or a concept, like socialism or capitalism, for example. Rather it is a cry of pain, where people are saying: Do something. Help!”

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Seek shelter.

S&P 500 Earnings Stuck at 2011 Levels, Stocks up 87% Since (WS)

The S&P 500 stock index edged up to an all-time high of 2,351 on Friday. Total market capitalization of the companies in the index exceeds $20 trillion. That’s 106% of US GDP, for just 500 companies! At the end of 2011, the S&P 500 index was at 1,257. Over the five-plus years since then, it has ballooned by 87%! These are superlative numbers, and you’d expect superlative earnings performance from these companies. Turns out, reality is not that cooperative. Instead, net income of the S&P 500 companies is now back where it first had been at the end of 2011. Hype, financial engineering, and central banks hell-bent on inflating asset prices make a powerful fuel for stock prices. And there has been plenty of all of it, including financial engineering.

Share buybacks, often funded with borrowed money, have soared in recent years. But even that is now on the decline. Share buybacks by the S&P 500 companies plunged 28% year-over-year to $115.6 billion in the three-month period from August through October, according to the Buyback Quarterly that FactSet just released. It was the second three-month period in a row of sharp year-over-year declines. And it was the smallest buyback total since Q1 2013. Apple with $7.2 billion in buybacks in the quarter, GE with $4.3 billion, and Microsoft with $3.6 billion topped the list again. Still, despite the plunge in buybacks, 119 companies spent more on buybacks than they’d earned in the quarter. On a trailing 12-month basis, 66% of net income was blown on buybacks.

Alas, net income has been a problem. By now, with 82% of the S&P 500 companies having reported their results for Q4 2016, earnings rose 4.6% year-over-year, according to FactSet. It’s the second quarter in a row of year-over-year earnings growth, after six quarters in a row of earnings declines. For the entire year 2016, earnings edged up 0.4% from 2015. And revenue inched up 2.4% – in a year when inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, rose 2.8%.

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“..Australians are in hock to the tune of more than $1.4 trillion on housing. That’s a hell of a lot of debt just to keep the wind and rain out.”

The Nasty Little Secret About Housing Affordability (ABC.au)

There’s a nasty little secret about housing affordability. For all the furrowed brows, the sombre looks and the public handwringing from policy makers, no-one is actually serious about fixing the problem because they all fear the potential fallout. The Government is running in circles on the issue while the Reserve Bank is praying the mess will slowly evaporate over time. It’s become a regular event; a politician conjures up an outlandish idea to again make housing affordable to the masses. If it’s not a cash splash to first home buyers, it’s a harebrained scheme to allow younger Australians to dip into their superannuation. Last week, it was a plan to force banks to lower lending standards. In each case, the net effect would be to lift demand and raise the cost of housing. Unfortunately, at this point in the economic cycle, there are only two mechanisms that could solve the social and political issue of our time.

The first is for housing prices to experience a dramatic fall. And the second is for wages to rise substantially. The first comes with a nasty side-effect: it would create economic chaos and send many of our banks to the wall. Achieving, or at least promising, the second might get you elected but ultimately would prove disastrous with spiralling inflation and, you guessed it, a probable spike in housing prices. Both are unthinkable. A crash could be catastrophic because our banks essentially have morphed into glorified building societies, with the bulk of their earnings geared towards residential mortgages. The two biggest lenders, Commonwealth and Westpac, have around 60% of their loan books devoted to housing.

Real estate is baked into the Australian psyche. We talk about it ad nauseam, owners obsess over upgrades and renovations and those outside the owners’ club fret about how to enter. All up, Australians are in hock to the tune of more than $1.4 trillion on housing. That’s a hell of a lot of debt just to keep the wind and rain out. Of that, more than half a trillion is on loan to property investors.

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Bankers going to court.

The Unthinkable Just Happened in Spain (DQ)

Untouchable. Inviolable. Immunity. Impunity. These are the sort of words and expressions that are often associated with senior central bankers, who are, by law, able to operate more or less above the law of the jurisdictions in which they operate. Rarely heard in association with senior central bankers are words or expressions like “accused”, “charged” or “under investigation.” But in Spain this week a court broke with that tradition, in emphatic style. As part of the epic, multi-year criminal investigation into the doomed IPO of Spain’s frankenbank Bankia – which had been assembled from the festering corpses of seven already defunct saving banks – Spain’s national court called to testify six current and former directors of the Bank of Spain, including its former governor, Miguel Ángel Fernández Ordóñez, and its former deputy governor (and current head of the Bank of International Settlements’ Financial Stability Institute), Fernando Restoy.

It also summoned for questioning Julio Segura, the former president of Spain’s financial markets regulator, the CNMV (the Spanish equivalent of the SEC in the US). The six central bankers and one financial regulator stand accused of authorizing the public launch of Bankia in 2011 despite repeated warnings from the Bank of Spain’s own team of inspectors that the banking group was “unviable.” Though they have so far only been called to testify, the evidence against the seven former public “servants” looks pretty conclusive. Testifying against them are two of Banco de España’s own inspectors who have spent the last two years investigating Bankia’s collapse on behalf of the trial’s presiding judge, Fernando Andreu.

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“We have won. We have won the major legal argument. This is the last five years of my life and it’s an embarrassment for New Zealand.”

Kim Dotcom Loses New Zealand Extradition Case But Claims Major Victory (NZH)

The evidence of the case has not been argued in New Zealand courts with the legal debate here being one of trying to match the crimes Dotcom and others are charged with to the crimes listed in the Extradition Act. In an interview with the Herald, Dotcom said the ruling was a “major victory” because it ruled that there was no New Zealand equivalent to the US criminal charges of copyright violation. “The major part of this litigation has been won by this judgment – that copyright is not extraditable. “They destroyed my family, destroyed my business, spied on me and raided my home and they did all of this on a civil copyright case. “We have won. We have won the major legal argument. This is the last five years of my life and it’s an embarrassment for New Zealand.”

He said it was effectively a statement from the court that neither he, his co-accused or Megaupload had broken any New Zealand laws. “Now they’re trying through the back door to say this was a fraud case. I’m confident going with this judgment to the Court of Appeal. The ruling today has created an unusual bureaucratic contradiction – the warrant which was served on Dotcom when he was arrested on January 20, 2012, stated he was being charged with “copyright” offences. Likewise, the charges Dotcom will face in the US are founded in an alleged act of criminal copyright violation. Dotcom said there were plans to take a separate court action over the arrest warrant, given it showed he had been arrested for a crime which effectively did not exist in New Zealand. “My arrest warrant, the document that kicked everything off in New Zealand, is not for fraud. In my arrest warrant, there is nothing about fraud.”

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Recognize this? “The shelves looked wonderful, perfect, almost clinical, as though invented in a lab in my absence; but there was no smell.”

UK Vegetable Shortage A Sign Of Things To Come (G.)

The UK’s clock has been set to Permanent Global Summer Time once more after a temporary blip. Courgettes, spinach and iceberg lettuce are back on the shelves, and the panic over the lack of imported fruit and vegetables has been contained. “As you were, everyone,” appears to be the message. But why would supermarkets – which are said to have lost sales worth as much as £8m in January thanks to record-breaking, crop-wrecking snow and rainfall in the usually mild winter regions of Spain and Italy – be so keen to fly in substitutes from the US at exorbitant cost? Why would they sell at a loss rather than let us go without, or put up prices to reflect the changing market? Why indeed would anyone air-freight watery lettuce across the whole of the American continent and the Atlantic when it takes 127 calories of fuel energy to fly just 1 food calorie of that lettuce to the UK from California?

The answer is that, in the past 40 years, a whole supermarket system has been built on the seductive illusion of this Permanent Global Summer Time. As a result, a cornucopia of perpetual harvest is one of the key selling points that big stores have over rival retailers. If the enticing fresh produce section placed near the front of each store to draw you in starts looking a bit empty, we might not bother to shop there at all. But when you take into account climate change, the shortages of early 2017 look more like a taste of things to come than just a blip, and that is almost impossible for supermarkets to admit. Add the impact of this winter’s weather on Mediterranean production, the inflationary pressures from a post-Brexit fall in the value of sterling against the euro, and the threat of tariffs as we exit the single market, and suddenly the model begins to look extraordinarily vulnerable.

I can remember the precise moment I first understood that we had been taken into this fantastical, nature-defying system without most of us really noticing. It was 1990 and I had been living and working with Afghan refugees in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier province for a long period. The bazaars where we bought our food were seasonal, and stocked from the immediate region. Back home on leave in the UK, I had that sense of dislocation that enables you to see your own culture as if from the outside. It was winter, but the supermarkets were full of fresh fruits and vegetables from around the world. The shelves looked wonderful, perfect, almost clinical, as though invented in a lab in my absence; but there was no smell. It was vaguely troubling in a way I couldn’t identify at the time.

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Excellent overview of the very scary latest on Fukushima from multiple sources at Zero Hedge.

Fukushima Aborts Latest Robot Mission Radiation At “Unimaginable” Levels (ZH)

Two years after sacrificing one robot, TEPCO officials have aborted their latest robot mission inside the Fukushima reactor after the ‘scorpion’ became unresponsive as it investigated the previously discovered hole where the core is believed to have melted. A “scorpion” robot sent into a Japanese nuclear reactor to learn about the damage suffered in a tsunami-induced meltdown had its mission aborted after the probe ran into trouble, Tokyo Electric Power company said Thursday. As Phys.org reports, TEPCO, the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant, sent the remote-controlled device into the No. 2 reactor where radiation levels have recently hit record highs.

The “scorpion” robot, so-called because it can lift up its camera-mounted tail to achieve better viewing angles, is also designed to crawl over rubble inside the damaged facility. But it could not reach its target destination beneath a pressure vessel through which nuclear fuel is believed to have melted because the robot had difficulty moving, a company spokeswoman said. “It’s not immediately clear if that’s because of radiation or obstacles,” she said, adding that TEPCO is checking what data the robot was able to obtain, including images.

[..] The robot, 60 centimetres (24 inches) long, is made by Toshiba and equipped with two cameras and sensors to gauge radiation levels and temperatures. Scorpion’s mission is to take images of the situation and collect data inside the containment vessel,” TEPCO spokesman Shinichi Nakakuki said earlier. “Challenges include enduring high levels of radiation and moving on the rough surface,” he said. Radiation levels inside the reactor were estimated last week at 650 sieverts per hour at one spot, which can effectively shut down robots in hours.

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Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and retired as a colonel. She also was a U.S. diplomat for 16 years and served in U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. She resigned in March 2003 in opposition to the war in Iraq. She has lived in Honolulu since 2003.

Tulsi Gabbard vs. ‘Regime Change’ Wars (Wright)

I support Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, going to Syria and meeting with President Bashar al-Assad because the congresswoman is a brave person willing to take criticism for challenging U.S. policies that she believes are wrong. It is important that we have representatives in our government who will go to countries where the United States is either killing citizens directly by U.S. intervention or indirectly by support of militia groups or by sanctions. We need representatives to sift through what the U.S. government says and what the media reports to find out for themselves the truth, the shades of truth and the untruths. We need representatives willing to take the heat from both their fellow members of Congress and from the media pundits who will not go to those areas and talk with those directly affected by U.S. actions.

We need representatives who will be our eyes and ears to go to places where most citizens cannot go. Tulsi Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran who has seen first-hand the chaos that can come from misguided “regime change” projects, is not the first international observer to come back with an assessment about the tragic effects of U.S. support for lethal “regime change” in Syria. Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire began traveling to Syria three years ago and now having made three trips to Syria. She has come back hearing many of the same comments from Syrians that Rep. Gabbard heard — that U.S. support for “regime change” against the secular government of Syria is contributing to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Syrians and – if the “regime change” succeeded – might result in the takeover by armed religious-driven fanatics who would slaughter many more Syrians and cause a mass migration of millions fleeing the carnage.

[..] During the Obama administration, Rep. Gabbard spoke critically of the U.S. propensity to attempt “regime change” in countries and thus provoking chaos and loss of civilian life. On Dec. 8, 2016, she introduced a bill entitled the “Stop Arming Terrorists Act” which would prohibit the U.S. government from using U.S. funds to provide funding, weapons, training, and intelligence support to extremists groups, such as the ones fighting in Syria – or to countries that are providing direct or indirect support to those groups. In the first days of the Trump administration, Rep. Gabbard traveled to Syria to see the effects of the attempted “regime change” and to offer a solution to reduce the deaths of civilians and the end of the war in Syria. A national organization Veterans For Peace, to which I belong, has endorsed her trip as a step toward resolution to the Syrian conflict.

Not surprisingly, back in Washington, Rep. Gabbard came under attack for the trip and for her meeting with President Assad, similar to criticism that I have faced because of visits that I have made to countries where the U.S. government did not want me to go — to Cuba, Iran, Gaza, Yemen, Pakistan, North Korea, Russia and back to Afghanistan, where I was assigned as a U.S. diplomat.

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“How you square this circle, that I understand is what they are discussing in Washington..”

UN Envoy Questions US Engagement On Syria (AFP)

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura on Sunday questioned US President Donald Trump’s engagement in solving the Syrian war, just days ahead of a new round of peace talks in Geneva. “Where is the US in all this? I can’t tell you because I don’t know,” he said, adding that the new administration was still trying to work out its priorities on the conflict. The top three US priorities include fighting Islamic State jihadists, “how to limit the influence of some major regional players and how to not to damage one of their major allies in the region,” de Mistura told the Munich Security Conference. “How you square this circle, that I understand is what they are discussing in Washington,” he said. He did not say who the regional player or major ally were but the first reference appeared to be to Iran, with the second likely to be either Turkey or Saudi Arabia.

Mistura stressed that what was ultimately key was an inclusive political solution to end the six-year conflict. “Even a ceasefire with two guarantors can’t hold too long if there is no political horizon,” he said, referring to a fragile truce brokered by Russia and Turkey in December. Any political solution has to be inclusive to be credible, he said, stressing that peace talks in Astana last week organised by Russia, Turkey and Iran, and the ceasefire deal provided an opening that should be explored. The US envoy for the anti-IS coalition, Brett McGurk, acknowledged that Trump’s administration is “re-looking at everything, which is a very healthy process from top to bottom.” “We will be very selfish about protecting and advancing our interests,” he told the same forum.

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This will always remain controversial. But it’s the only way.

Kaziranga: The Park That Shoots People To Protect Rhinos (BBC)

Kaziranga National Park is an incredible story of conservation success. There were just a handful of Indian one-horned rhinoceros left when the park was set up a century ago in Assam, in India’s far east. Now there are more than 2,400 – two-thirds of the entire world population. This is where David Attenborough’s team came to film for Planet Earth II. William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, came here last year. But the way the park protects the animals is controversial. Its rangers have been given the kind of powers to shoot and kill normally only conferred on armed forces policing civil unrest. At one stage the park rangers were killing an average of two people every month – more than 20 people a year. Indeed, in 2015 more people were shot dead by park guards than rhinos were killed by poachers. Innocent villagers, mostly tribal people, have been caught up in the conflict.

Rhinos need protection. Rhino horn can fetch very high prices in Vietnam and China where it is sold as a miracle cure for everything from cancer to erectile dysfunction. Street vendors charge as much as $6,000 for 100g – making it considerably more expensive than gold. Indian rhinos have smaller horns than those of African rhinos, but reportedly they are marketed as being far more potent. But how far should we go to protect these endangered animals? I ask two guards what they were told to do if they encountered poachers in the park. “The instruction is whenever you see the poachers or hunters, we should start our guns and hunt them,” Avdesh explains without hesitation. “You shoot them?” I ask. “Yah, yah. Fully ordered to shoot them. Whenever you see the poachers or any people during night-time we are ordered to shoot them.” Avdesh says he has shot at people twice in the four years he has been a guard, but has never killed anybody. He knows, however, there are unlikely to be any consequences for him if he did.

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