Oct 122020
 


Edward Hopper The barber shop 1931

 

 

How their beloved neighbors see America, a comment by Automatic Earth commenter ByronBishop. I don’t think I need to add much. Took the title from a comment on the comment.

 

 

ByronBishop: I live in rural Canada and I do not have television, so my information on the American presidential election comes from newspapers and some online blogs. But what impresses me the most in this cycle is what good theatre it is!

It is my view that the choice for American voters is simply this: which collection of billionaires will run the country? The Democrats or Republicans? At root, their policies are not very different; their principal goal is to maintain and extend their privilege, and to continue to develop the legal and fiscal framework that supports their activities. This framework consists of, among other things, the following policies, and most crucially, broad public acceptance of the righteousness of these policies:

• To maintain very low taxes on income and capital gains, favourable treatment of dividend and interest income, and no inheritance tax

• In the financial manipulation field, improve public and regulatory acceptance of the attitude usefully articulated by JH Kuntsler as “nothing matters and anything goes”. This allows (among many other things) private equity firms to buy up useful and productive enterprises, strip out all the assets in fees and special dividends and through the sale of high-yield (and chancy) bonds, and to then release the debt-ridden hulk back into the marketplace to sink (mostly) or swim (rarely). Also supports share buybacks, collateralised debt instruments, relocation of factories to low-wage states and countries.

• Keep the American military actively working around the world, preferably using expensive armaments. Where possible avoid stationing troops in warzones as casualties provoke bad publicity. Promote demand for novel and very expensive war materiel. (Smart bombs and drones sell to government on a cost-plus basis.)

• Support the National Rifle Association, which is in fact an association of arms manufacturers and merchants with a noisy public relations arm consisting of private members defending their Second Amendment rights. Until forty years ago the Second Amendment right was the right to join a well-regulated militia, but now it is the right to have many expensive weapons in your house.

• Everyone must recognise that public healthcare is un-American. It is a moral issue: if you cannot afford healthcare you do not deserve it. Some of the highest paid executive teams in the US are in the healthcare field, while executive teams in Canadian and European countries are mostly paid on a civil service scale. Shareholders in American healthcare companies become very rich. Were healthcare to become nationalised like in Canada and most European nations, most of the private profit would be lost

• Large corporations must be permitted to manipulate share prices through buybacks and curious business practices (Boeing, the airlines), but must then be protected by bailouts if their business falters.

• The financialisation of the economy must be regulated as lightly as possible so that fees can continue to flow.

• Regulatory capture must be celebrated (under a different name). The two-way flow of personnel from regulated industries to regulatory government departments ensures that little impedes business development.

• To ensure that the courts at all levels are staffed with conservative, business-friendly judges.

• To ensure that environmental protection regulations do not unduly interfere with business operations

I do not for a moment think that the billionaires and multi-millionaires conspire to run the American system. They are not a cabal; they do not meet. Rather, theirs is an emergent system: many individuals working towards their own goals will thus help others pursuing their own goals. It is like a flock of shorebirds wheeling and swooping in perfect unison; they are not directed, but they are simply responding to the actions of their neighbouring birds.

The billionaires achieve this through owning mainstream media companies, funding think tanks and policy research institutes, and supporting lobbyist groups and public relations shills. And they have been astonished , I am sure, to discover how cheaply they can buy the support of members of Congress. Chump-change donations to campaign funding pays off in spades. Lobbyists have language ready to drop in to any bill, to achieve corporate aims. That’s how emergency support of American workers became bailouts for cruise companies, who are based offshore and pay few American taxes.

And then members of Congress have to be made part of the investing class. For example, a fabulous oil & gas play is spun off into a Special Purpose Vehicle whose success is assured, and select politicians are invited to invest in it. If they cannot afford to purchase shares a private loan is arranged and documented and subsequently repaid, all above board. The company is spectacularly successful and the “investors” score big-time and repay any loans. Didn’t George W Bush succeed in an investment in professional sports in Texas, in a similar way? And by the way, how did Senate Majority Leader McConnell amass a self-declared net worth of $10 million after a lifetime of working as a civil servant at $200k per year?

All of the rest is theatre. In this election cycle the hot-button issues are access to abortion (again), racism and social justice (again), overseas wars, China as an economic threat, Russia! Russia! Russia!, voting systems and practices, and the age and personalities of the presidential candidates. All theatre. The billionaires don’t care about any of these things, as almost none of these things personally affect them. Safe and discreet abortion is always available somewhere in the world where private jets fly. Billionaires do not ever see people of different colour or status or class unless they choose to, and then only in circumstances they control. Russia and China are opportunities, not threats. And the presidential candidates can be influenced very cheaply. A Nevada casino magnate had the American embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for only $25 million in campaign donations to a notoriously cheap candidate.

The one thing that most amazes me is how the billionaires can continue to convince people to vote against their own best interests, whether economic interest, social interest or even national interest. At one time they used “race” quite openly, appealing to feelings of racial superiority or to fears of being electorally overwhelmed by “those people”, whether black or brown or oriental or poor. When openly racist campaigning became no longer acceptable, some genius concluded that “abortion” would make an excellent substitute, as it can combine all of the race and class issues and can bring in all of the family values baggage as well. Few other issues can motivate such a wide cross-section of the American public, and it can motivate people on either side of the issue. With so much focus on abortion who has time to worry about the domination of government by corporate interests?

Many commentators focus on the gross inequality of incomes and wealth in the USA, and a recent report by the Rand Corporation brings this in to clear focus. They analysed the growth in incomes across the entire working population of the USA for the period from the end of World War II to the present, and they found that up until 1975 or so the increase in general prosperity in the nation was shared equally across all income groups. Starting in the mid-1970’s however, most of the increase in prosperity was arrogated by the top income earners, so that the rich got richer and no-one else shared in the good times. The astonishing figure that the Rand researchers came up with was that the top 1% has actually taken all of the $50 trillion dollars in new wealth from everyone else in the 45 year period to 2020. There is a reason why so many people feel that the American Dream has passed them by – it’s because it actually has.

The usual remedy for this sort of gross inequality of power and wealth in society is revolution. The French Revolution comes to mind, but also the Russian Revolution. I wonder what was the root cause of the great social and political upheavals in Europe in 1848? (I can’t remember.) A less frequent remedy is the rise of a genuine populist movement, one that can actually re-distribute power (and thus wealth and opportunity). As Gwnne Dyer usefully says: populism is not an ideology, it is a technique. In America, I suspect that a true populist leader could only arise at the state level, and then from outside the two main parties.

If the current polarisation in American politics continues, the states may become the primary protector of social values (progressive or conservative) and the regulations that flow from them (access to abortion, gun rights and restrictions, access to health care, role of religion in public life, etc), and it may be that a true populist, charismatic leader can emerge and accrue the political power and authenticity to restrict the ability of the elites to organise state society. And that might spread, state by state. We outsiders can only hope that our fellow citizens in the USA can get their sh!t together at some point. Watching civil unrest unfold is no fun – I have cousins in America.

 

 

 

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Jul 052020
 
 July 5, 2020  Posted by at 10:19 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  14 Responses »


Nickolay Lamm Jefferson Memorial under 25 feet of water

 

On America’s Birthday, Celebrating The Corporate-Sponsored Revolution (Taibbi)
Protesters Pull Down Columbus Statue In Baltimore, Dump In Harbor (ZH)
COVID19 Close To Losing Epidemic Status In The US – CDC (JTN)
Hydroxychloroquine Knocked Again: WHO Shuts Down Trials (F.)
Early Treatment with Zinc, Low Dose HCQ and Azithromycin (Zelenko et al)
Financial Muscle Of Big Pharma Distorting Science During The Pandemic (RT)
More Than 200 Scientists Dispute WHO Theory On COVID19 Transmission (BT)
BP and Shell Write-Off Billions in Assets (ICN)
Flynn’s Prosecution: The More We Learn, The Worse It Seems (Hill)
False Allegations Of Affair With Flynn Used As Pretext For FBI Probe (JTN)
Sex Will Be Removed From Dutch ID-Cards (BT)

 

 

And there goes Columbus. Who and what’s next? Does anyone give any thought anymore to the fact that when all is said and done, Americans will still have to live in their country, together?

The Conservative half of the nation increasingly gets the picture, rightly or wrongly, through their media or their own thoughts, that the other half doesn’t just want to change their country, they want to take it away from them.

Sit down and talk before it’s too late.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Taibbi doesn’t hit every single button here, but this is certainly a valiant effort.

On America’s Birthday, Celebrating The Corporate-Sponsored Revolution (Taibbi)

It’s the Fourth of July, and revolution is in the air. Only in America would it look like this: an elite-sponsored Maoist revolt, couched as a Black liberation movement whose canonical texts are a corporate consultant’s white guilt self-help manual, and a New York Times series rewriting history to explain an election they called wrong. Much of America has watched in quizzical silence in recent weeks as crowds declared war on an increasingly incoherent succession of historical symbols.

Maybe you nodded as Confederate general Albert Pike was toppled or even when Christopher Columbus was beheaded, but it got a little weird when George Washington was emblazoned with “Fuck Cops” and set on fire, or when they went after Ulysses S. Grant, abolitionist Colonel Hans Christian Heg, “Forward,” (a seven-foot-tall female figure meant to symbolize progress), the Portland, Oregon “Elk statue,” or my personal favorite, the former slave Miguel de Cervantes, whose cheerful creations Don Quixote and Sancho Panza were apparently mistaken for reals and had their eyes lashed red in San Francisco.

Was a What the Fuck? too much to ask? It was! In the space of a few weeks the level of discourse in the news media dropped so low, the fear of being shamed as a deviationist so high, that most of the weirder incidents went uncovered. Leading press organs engaged in real-time Soviet-style airbrushing. Here’s how the Washington Post described a movement that targeted Spanish missionary Junipero Serra, Abraham Lincoln (a “single-handed symbol of white supremacy,” according to UW-Madison students), an apple cider press sculpture, abolitionist Mathias Baldwin, and the first all-Black volunteer regiment in the Civil War, among others: “Across the country, protesters have toppled statues of figures from America’s sordid past — including Confederate generals — as part of demonstrations against racism and police violence.”

The New York Times, once the dictionary definition of “unprovocative,” suddenly reads like Pol Pot’s Sayings of Angkar. Heading into the Fourth of July weekend, the morning read for upscale white Manhattanites was denouncing Mount Rushmore, urging Black America to arm itself, and re-positioning America alongside more deserving historical parallels in a feature about caste systems: “Throughout human history, three caste systems have stood out. The lingering, millenniums-long caste system of India. The tragically accelerated, chilling and officially vanquished caste system of Nazi Germany. And the shape-shifting, unspoken, race-based caste pyramid in the United States.”

It’s tragic that this even needs saying, but the sudden reinvention in the press of modern America as a Nazi apartheid state is as phony as the thousands of patriotic campaigns that occupied the news media previously. We’re witnessing an obscene malfunction of the elite messaging system. The people who run this country have run out of workable myths with which to distract the public, and in a moment of extreme crisis have chosen to stoke civil war and defame the rest of us – black and white – rather than admit to a generation of corruption, betrayal, and mismanagement.

Read more …

One down, two to go. When that’s done, rename DC. At least be consistent.

Protesters Pull Down Columbus Statue In Baltimore, Dump In Harbor (ZH)

A group of protesters in Baltimore spent their 4th of July using ropes to pull down a statue of Christopher Columbus in the city’s Little Italy neighborhood – tossing it into the Inner Harbor. The statue, dedicated in 1984, is the latest monument to be destroyed in what President Trump dubbed the “left-wing cultural revolution” by “angry mobs.” According to the Baltimore Sun, the Columbus statue has been the site of a wreath-laying ceremony right before the annual Columbus Day parade, which, in 2019 was replaced with the Italian Heritage Festival.


“Republican state delegates and Italian-American activists held a press conference at the statue last month to ask Gov. Larry Hogan and Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young to preserve and protect the memorials, following activists’ comments about pulling down the monuments themselves and the introduction of a City Council bill this week to rename one of them in honor of victims of police violence. The downed statue is one of three monuments to Columbus in Baltimore.“ -Baltimore Sun

Read more …

Certain to be misunderstood.

COVID19 Close To Losing Epidemic Status In The US – CDC (JTN)

Coronavirus deaths in the country have nearly reached a level where the virus will cease to qualify as an epidemic under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rules, the federal agency reported on Friday. The CDC qualifies a disease outbreak as an “epidemic” if the number of deaths attributable to the disease exceeds a certain percentage of total deaths per week. That threshold for pneumonia, influenza and COVID-19 fluctuates slightly depending on the time of year, ranging from around 7% at the height of flu season to around 5% during less virulent months. CDC data indicate that deaths from those ailments began skyrocketing in the country around the second week of March, hitting a peak around early May and then plummeting quickly after that.


The latest data show that the percentage of deaths in the country attributable to those factors had as of the last week in June reached its lowest point since the end of last year, becoming “equal to the [current] epidemic threshold of 5.9%,” the CDC said. The agency notes that the official tally of deaths “will likely change as more death certificates are processed, particularly for recent weeks.” Yet the number of deaths attributable to COVID-19, pneumonia and influenza have been declining for 10 straight weeks, the agency said on its website, suggesting COVID-19 may cease to qualify as an epidemic in the next few weeks. The welcome news comes as fear over a “second wave” of the virus has gripped the U.S., with some states experiencing fresh surges of COVID-19 along with increased hospitalizations.

Read more …

It is almost funny. One day after a study is published that says HCQ does work, the WHO strikes back again.

Hydroxychloroquine Knocked Again: WHO Shuts Down Trials (F.)

The World Health Organization announced Saturday it would suspend trials for the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and HIV treatment lopinavir/ritonavir for Covid-19 patients, casting further doubt on the drugs as potential coronavirus treatments. The two drugs “produced little or no reduction” in mortality rates for Covid-19 patients, the WHO’s statement read, and that the trial’s international steering committee recommended it discontinue the trials for the drugs. The call only applies to this specific trial and will not affect any other studies of how the treatments can be used as a pre- or post-exposure drug or by patients not in hospital, the WHO wrote.


According to Reuters, the WHO is also leading a trial into whether remdesivir, Gilead’s antiviral treatment, can be used for Covid-19 infections. Last month, the FDA announced it was withdrawing an emergency use authorization it issued in March for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as Covid-19 treatments because the potential side effects—namely heart problems—outweighed possible benefits, although according to the FDA website the organization is still investigating risks of the two drugs.

Read more …

The Zelenko research is finally available.

Early Treatment with Zinc, Low Dose HCQ and Azithromycin (Zelenko et al)

Objective: To describe outcomes of patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the outpatient setting after early treatment with zinc, low dose hydroxychloroquine, and azithromycin (the triple therapy) dependent on risk stratification. Design: Retrospective case series study. Setting: General practice. Participants: 141 COVID-19 patients with laboratory confirmed severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections in the year 2020. Main Outcome Measures: Risk-stratified treatment decision, rate of hospitalization and all-cause death. Results: Of 335 positively PCR-tested COVID-19 patients, 127 were treated with the triple therapy. 104 of 127 met the defined risk stratification criteria and were included in the analysis.


In addition, 37 treated and eligible patients who were confirmed by IgG tests were included in the treatment group (total N=141). 208 of the 335 patients did not meet the risk stratification criteria and were not treated. After 4 days (median, IQR 3-6, available for N=66/141) of onset of symptoms, 141 patients (median age 58 years, IQR 40-60; 73% male) got a prescription for the triple therapy for 5 days. Independent public reference data from 377 confirmed COVID-19 patients of the same community were used as untreated control. 4 of 141 treated patients (2.8%) were hospitalized, which was significantly less (p<0.001) compared with 58 of 377 untreated patients (15.4%) (odds ratio 0.16, 95% CI 0.06-0.5).

Read more …

“The New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet are the two most influential, most highly resourced medical journals in the world. If they no longer have the ability to detect what is essentially fraudulent research, then… Then what?”

Financial Muscle Of Big Pharma Distorting Science During The Pandemic (RT)

This idea was further reinforced by the knowledge that it has some effects on reducing the so-called ‘cytokine storm’ that is considered deadly with Covid-19. It’s prescribed in rheumatoid arthritis to reduce the immune attack on joints. The other reason for recommending hydroxychloroquine is that it’s extremely safe. It is, for example, the most widely prescribed drug in India. Billions upon billions of doses have been prescribed. It is available over the counter in most countries. So, I felt pretty comfortable in recommending that it could be tried. At worst, no harm would be done. Then hydroxychloroquine became the center of a worldwide storm. On one side, wearing the white hats, were the researchers who’d used it early on, where it seemed to show some significant benefits.

For example, Professor Didier Raoult, of the Institut Hospitalo-universitaire Méditerranée Infection, in France: “A renowned research professor in France has reported successful results from a new treatment for Covid-19, with early tests suggesting it can stop the virus from being contagious in just six days.” Then came this research from a Moroccan scientist at the University of Lille: “Jaouad Zemmouri … believes that 78 percent of Europe’s Covid-19 deaths could have been prevented if Europe had used hydroxychloroquine… Morocco, with a population of 36 million [roughly one tenth that of the US], has only 10,079 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and only 214 deaths. “Professor Zemmouri believes that Morocco’s use of hydroxychloroquine has resulted in an 82.5 percent recovery rate from Covid-19 and only a 2.1 percent fatality rate, in those admitted to hospital.”

Just prior to this, on May 22, a study was published in The Lancet, stating that hydroxychloroquine actually increased deaths. It then turned out that the data used could not be verified and was most likely made up. The authors had major conflicts of interest with pharmaceutical companies making anti-viral drugs. In early June, the entire article was retracted by Horton. Then a UK study came out suggesting that hydroxychloroquine did not work at all. Discussing the results, Professor Martin Landray, an Oxford University professor who is co-leading the Randomised Evaluation of Covid-19 Therapy (RECOVERY) trial, stated: “This is not a treatment for Covid-19. It doesn’t work. This result should change medical practice worldwide. We can now stop using a drug that is useless.”

The study has since been heavily criticized by other researchers, who state that the dose of hydroxychloroquine used was potentially toxic. It was also given far too late to have any positive effect. Many of the patients were already on ventilators. This week, I was sent a pre-proof copy of an article about a study that will be published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases. Its author has found that hydroxychloroquine “significantly” decreased the death rate of patients involved in the analysis. The study analyzed 2,541 patients hospitalized in six hospitals between March 10 and May 2 2020, and found 13 percent of those treated with hydroxychloroquine died and 26 percent of those who did not receive the drug died.

Read more …

Smaller droplets.

More Than 200 Scientists Dispute WHO Theory On COVID19 Transmission (BT)

More than 230 scientists from 32 different countries have signed an open letter to the World Health Organisation (WHO) disputing the official view on how the coronavirus Covid-19 can be spread by aerosol. The official view of Covid-19 transmission supports two methods: droplets of saliva from an infected person produced during coughing or sneezing, which are then inhaled by someone else in the vicinity; and particles picked up from surfaces contaminated by such droplets, and then introduced to eyes, nose or mouth by someone else. However the open letter, due to be published next week in a scientific journal, argues that there is a third method.

In normal circumstances people produce aerosol droplets when singing or even speaking, which are much smaller than those produced in coughing and sneezing, and which because of their size, hang longer in the air and are also more likely to be carried on currents of air. The case for aerosol transmission came to light when 53 members of a 61-member choir in the US became infected in March despite observing sanitary measures. Two of those infected died. Scientists suggested that group singing was the source of the infection: a large group of people in a confined space breathing more or less in time with each other, and breathing in and out more forcefully than usual while singing.

That case was supported when news emerged of a restaurant in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, and an outbreak that took place there that affected ten people from three families dining at separate tables. One person from one of the families had recently returned from Wuhan, where the pandemic started, but was without symptoms.

Read more …

And will announce again they go green.

BP and Shell Write-Off Billions in Assets (ICN)

Two of the world’s largest energy companies have sent their strongest signals yet that the coronavirus pandemic may accelerate a global transition away from oil, and that billions of dollars invested in fossil fuel assets could go to waste. This week, Royal Dutch Shell said it would slash the value of its oil and gas assets by up to $22 billion amid a crash in oil prices. The announcement came two weeks after a similar declaration by BP, saying it would reduce the value of its assets by up to $17.5 billion. Both companies said the accounting moves were a response not only to the coronavirus-driven recession, but also to global efforts to tackle climate change. Some analysts say the global oil and gas industry is undergoing a fundamental transformation and is finally being forced to reckon with a future of dwindling demand for its products.


“I think we may look back on this as the turning point, the moment the industry finally started to say that real assets with real dollar figures associated with them are likely to be ‘stranded'”—or left undeveloped—”in a decarbonizing world,” said Andrew Logan, senior director of oil and gas at Ceres, a sustainable business advocacy group that has represented major investors in their engagement with oil companies. “This is a huge turnaround from the industry’s previous stance, which had been that no existing assets were likely to be stranded, that there may be risks in the future, but not in the here and now. That acknowledgment, that the risk is real and it’s here in the present, is a really big deal.”

Read more …

Ain’t that the truth.

Flynn’s Prosecution: The More We Learn, The Worse It Seems (Hill)

Flynn’s attorney, Sidney Powell, petitioned the court to order Sullivan to dismiss the appeals court case. Since both the prosecution and defense agree that the case should be dismissed, it had been in judicial limbo while the judge was deciding if he wanted to dismiss it or move forward with sentencing. This is the second federal court in less than a year to rebuke the FBI, with Judge Neomi Rao’s opinion noting the agency’s handling of cases related to the failed Russia collusion narrative. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court also did so in December.

The second, and perhaps more significant, news was the revelation that additional evidence in the FBI’s possession was not previously turned over to Flynn or his attorneys. In a landmark case that is rapidly becoming known to many Americans, the Supreme Court held in Brady v. Maryland in 1963 that prosecutors must disclose the existence of exculpatory evidence to a defendant, regardless of how they obtained it or if it relates to their theory of prosecution. And therein lies a two-part problem with the recent disclosure of a handwritten note by fired deputy assistant FBI director Peter Strzok.

The first problem is that such nondisclosure would even occur — especially in the courtroom of Judge Sullivan, who was burned by prosecutors’ violations of the Brady rule, including the 2008 prosecution of former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). Sullivan starts his trials with a strict admonition about Brady and stresses the continuing obligation on the part of the government. The second concern is that Strzok’s notes appear to document that then-President Obama and then-Vice President Joe Biden were driving a criminal investigation of a senior official of an incoming administration from the Oval Office.

Read more …

Halper’s role is ugly on multiple fronts.

False Allegations Of Affair With Flynn Used As Pretext For FBI Probe (JTN)

Svetlana Lokhova’s life flipped upside down when she became ensnared in what she describes as a completely false narrative that she had recruited Michael Flynn to work with the Russian government. Lokhova, an immigrant from Russia to Britain who worked as an academic at the world-renowned Cambridge University, found herself facing allegations that she had been involved in an affair with Flynn. A new mother at the time, Lokhova described herself as “absolutely gobsmacked” by the allegations. She explained during an interview on the “John Solomon Reports” podcast that she met Flynn once in 2014 when he visited Cambridge while he was serving as the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

She was seated across the table and one seat down from Flynn at a 2014 dinner that was held after Flynn had delivered a presentation, she said. During the dinner, Lokhova spoke about a postcard written by a young Joseph Stalin in 1912 that she had discovered in the Soviet archives. Flynn viewed the document on her iPad and requested that Lokhova email him a copy. She obliged, emailing it to Flynn and copying Flynn’s assistant. When Flynn left the event, Lokhova said, she remained and spoke with others about “how successful the dinner was.” During the podcast, Lokhova recalled an incident when an American man at Cambridge named Stefan Halper fell asleep and snored during a presentation that she gave.

But despite his apparent lack of interest in her, Halper in 2016 wanted to have dinner with her. Halper requested “through my professor to have a private dinner with me at my professor’s house,” Lokhova said. She declined to attend, and said that this occurred shortly after Flynn was announced as a Trump campaign adviser. Lokhova said that an FBI memo revealed that Halper told the FBI that he witnessed Lokhova departing the Cambridge dinner in a cab with Flynn and boarding a train along with him. She said Halper also claimed she was affiliated with Russian intelligence. Lokhova said all of those allegations are false and that Halper did not even attend the dinner. “But based on this completely false statement that I somehow seduced General Flynn, they start investigating General Flynn for espionage,” she said.

Read more …

Fine by me, fine by me. But a Dutch guy had me laugh when he wrote: “I don’t know about yours, but my ID card only has a photo of my head on it”.

Sex Will Be Removed From Dutch ID-Cards (BT)

Identity cards in the Netherlands will no longer state whether the holder is male or female, from 2024 or 2025. With this decision, the government wants to meet people who, for example, do not feel entirely male or female. The sex indication will not be removed until about four years from now, as the production of identity cards would be reviewed then anyway, making the costs and consequences of the change “limited,” according to Dutch Minister for Emancipation Ingrid van Engelshoven. However, the law and the instructions for the police still have to be amended. Interest groups COC Nederland (lesbians, gay men, bisexual, transgender and intersexual people), NNID (sex diversity) and TNN (transgender people) have been arguing for this for some time.


They are happy with the plans and call it “great news for people who have problems with that indication of sex on their identity documents day in, day out,” reports Het Laatste Nieuws. According to the organisations, the removal offers a solution to people who keep getting unnecessary and indiscreet questions at counters, on the train or at the border. For the time being, international passports will retain a sex indication. The Cabinet wants to wait and see if other countries want to get rid of gender registration, reports NOS. Germany, for example, has had an identity card without the designation ‘man’ or ‘woman’ for some time now, and an increasing number of countries are offering the same possibility.

Read more …

 

 

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Apr 162020
 


Dorothea Lange Richmond, California 1942

 

Coronavirus Testing Hits Dramatic Slowdown In US (Pol.)
Antibody Tests For Coronavirus Can Miss The Mark (NPR)
The Coronavirus Is Particularly Unkind To Those Who Are Obese (LAT)
New York Taps Mckinsey To Develop ‘Trump-Proof’ Economic Reopening Plan (R.)
New Zealand PM: Many Restrictions To Be Kept In Place When Lockdown Ends (R.)
Investors Are Underestimating The Economic Shock The World Is Facing (AEP)
Trump Threatens To Adjourn Congress Over ‘Scam’ Preventing Appointments (R.)
US Coronavirus Small-Business Program Funding Nearly Spent (LAT)
Real Time US Labor Market Estimates During 2020 Coronavirus Outbreak (Bick)
Overcapacity/Oversupply Everywhere: Massive Deflation Ahead (CHS)
US Opposition Seen Stalling Major IMF Liquidity Boost (R.)
We Scientists Said Lock Down. But UK Politicians Refused To Listen (G.)
Inception (Ben Hunt)
The Golden Rule (Ben Hunt)
Major Blow To Keystone XL Pipeline As Judge Revokes Key Permit (G.)
FBI Repeatedly Warned Steele Dossier Fed By Russian Misinformation (Solomon)

 

 

We are facing prolonged discussions and chaos about testing. Everyone wants to reopen their economies, but that is not feasible if there is no testing. Nobody wants to go to a bar or an office or factory floor if they can catch a deadly virus there. Very few people will volunteer to sit on, or work on, a plane or train under such conditions, and few countries would welcome travelers anyway.

But from what I gather, testing facilities and capacities are few and far between, other than perhaps in Wuhan or maybe maybe Seoul. Testing 1% of people doesn’t get you anywhere, not with 15-50% of people being asymptomatic carriers infecting others around them.

Many countries claim they don’t need to do more testing, and most do that only because they can’t. And then you get into antibodies testing, and you find the mess and uncertainties are even bigger there. The entire situation screams for one thing: lockdown, minimize contact, but that’s what they all want to get away from.

 

• US records nearly 2,600 #coronavirus deaths in 24 hours – a new record and the heaviest daily toll of any country, Johns Hopkins University reports.

• The total number of US deaths is now 28,326 — higher than any other nation

 

 

Cases 2,094,884 (+ 80,884 from yesterday’s 2,014,000)

Deaths 135,569 (+ 7,977 from yesterday’s 127,592)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close- (Note: Brazil and Russia are climbing fast)

 

 

From Worldometer – NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases remains at 21% –

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

How accurate is it anyway?

Coronavirus Testing Hits Dramatic Slowdown In US (Pol.)

The number of coronavirus tests analyzed each day by commercial labs in the U.S. plummeted by more than 30 percent over the past week, even though new infections are still surging in many states and officials are desperately trying to ramp up testing so the country can reopen. One reason for the drop-off may be the narrow testing criteria that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last revised in March. The agency’s guidelines prioritize hospitalized patients, health care workers and those thought to be especially vulnerable to the disease, such as the elderly. Health providers have been turning away others in part due to shortages of the swabs used to collect samples.

It’s not clear whether demand has peaked among the groups on the CDC’s priority list. But after being overwhelmed for weeks, commercial labs say they are now sitting with unused testing capacity waiting for samples to arrive. The continued glitches in the U.S. testing system are threatening to impede attempts to reopen the economy and return to normal life. Expanding testing as much as possible is essential so officials have enough data to determine when it’s safe to lift social distancing measures and allow people to go back to work. Continued testing beyond that point will help officials detect — and stamp out — sparks that could set off new outbreaks. FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn told POLITICO on Tuesday the White House Coronavirus Task Force is continuing to discuss whether changes to the testing criteria are warranted.

“This is part of an ongoing discussion that we’re having,” he said. “People are working overtime on that one.” Hahn’s comments came as the American Clinical Laboratory Association reported that the number of samples commercial labs handle each day fell from 108,000 on April 5 to 75,000 by April 12. The group’s members, including commercial giants Quest and LabCorp, analyze about two-thirds of all coronavirus tests in the U.S. “ACLA members have now eliminated testing backlogs, and have considerable capacity that is not being used,” ACLA President Julie Khani told POLITICO. “We stand ready to perform more testing and are in close communication with public health partners about ways we can support additional needs.”

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You couldn’t create a bigger mess if you tried with all your might.

Antibody Tests For Coronavirus Can Miss The Mark (NPR)

Dozens of blood tests are rapidly coming on the market to identify people who have been exposed to the coronavirus by checking for antibodies against it. The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t set standards for these kinds of tests, but even those that meet the government’s informal standard may produce many false answers and provide false assurances. The imperfect results could be a big disappointment to people who are looking toward these tests to help them return to something resembling a normal life. First of all, it’s not clear whether someone who has antibodies to the coronavirus in their blood is actually immune. Your body produces these antibodies within about a week of infection.

In many other diseases, people do have a period of immunity after they have been exposed to a microbe and recover from illness. But that has not been demonstrated yet with the coronavirus. Another problem is that test results are wrong much more frequently than you might expect. While tests may truthfully say they are more than 90% accurate, in practical use they can often perform far below that level. [..] Dr. Jeremy Gabrysch runs a mobile medical service in Austin, Texas. He got a supply of antibody tests made by a major Chinese manufacturer and says he has tested several hundred people in the last few days. “We offer the test for people who may have suspected they might have had coronavirus back in February or March when testing with the nasal swab [and PCR diagnostic test] was very limited,” he says. The charge: $49 a test.

Gabrysch says he only tests people when he has other evidence they might have been exposed. “If they had an illness that sounds like it could have been coronavirus and they had a positive antibody test, then it’s very likely that this is a true positive, that they indeed had COVID-19,” he says. The test he’s using, produced by Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech in China, boasts a specificity of 99%, which means it only falsely says a blood sample contains antibodies against the coronavirus 1% of the time. But despite that impressive statistic, a test like that is not 99% correct, and in fact in some circumstances could be much worse.

That’s because of this counterintuitive fact: The validity of a test depends not only on the technology, but how common the disease is in the population you’re sampling. “It is kind of a strange thing,” admits Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, a scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston who studies issues surrounding tests and screening. “An antibody test is much more likely to be wrong in a population with very little COVID exposure.” This is a result of statistics, rather than the technology of any given test.

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But not those above 65. A very curious finding.

The Coronavirus Is Particularly Unkind To Those Who Are Obese (LAT)

America’s obesity epidemic appears to be making the coronavirus outbreak more dangerous — and potentially more deadly — in the United States, new research suggests. For younger and middle-aged adults in particular, carrying excess weight may significantly boost the likelihood of becoming severely ill with COVID-19. The evidence for this comes from thousands of COVID-19 patients who sought treatment in emergency departments in New York, and it’s prompting alarm among doctors and other health experts. In the U.S., 42.4% of adults have obesity, which means their body-mass index, or BMI, is 30 or more.

In one of two new studies released this week, COVID-19 patients who were younger than 60 and had a BMI between 30 and 34 were twice as likely as their non-obese peers to be admitted to the hospital for acute care instead of being sent home from the ER. They were also 1.8 times more likely to require critical care in a hospital’s intensive care unit. More severe obesity posed an even greater risk to COVID-19 patients in this under-60 age group. When these patients had a BMI of 35 or higher, they were 2.2 times more likely than their non-obese peers to need standard hospital care and 3.6 times more likely to end up in the ICU. “Obesity appears to be a previously unrecognized risk factor for hospital admission and need for critical care,” wrote the authors of the study published this month in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

But that only applies to relatively younger patients; among those ages 65 and older, there was no link between obesity status and hospital care. The authors, from New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, suggested that the country’s high prevalence of obesity might be nudging rates of severe illness and death higher in the U.S. than in South Korea, China and Italy, where obesity rates are lower. The results also give doctors a new way to predict which COVID-19 patients who are not yet senior citizens run a higher risk of hospitalization and critical illness. “Unfortunately, obesity in people <60 years is a newly identified epidemiologic risk factor,” wrote the researchers, who included 3,615 patients in their study.

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We need more Wall Street.

New York Taps Mckinsey To Develop ‘Trump-Proof’ Economic Reopening Plan (R.)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has hired high-powered consultants to develop a science-based plan for the safe economic reopening of the region that can thwart expected pressure from President Donald Trump to move more rapidly, state government sources told Reuters on Wednesday. Cuomo, along with many other U.S. governors, shut his state economy to limit the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus and has warned that he is are prepared to keep businesses shut – perhaps for several months more – unless he can assure public safety. Governors from seven East Coast states formed a coalition on Monday, led by New York, to develop a joint reopening plan. Three governors from the West Coast formed a similar plan. The 10 states, mostly led by Democrats, together make up 38% of the U.S. economy.


As part of Cuomo’s effort, McKinsey & Company is producing models on testing, infections and other key data points that will underpin decisions on how and when to reopen the region’s economy, the sources said. Cuomo has also recalled three former top aides: Bill Mulrow, a senior adviser at Blackstone Group; Steven Cohen, an executive vice president and CEO of MacAndrews & Forbes Inc; and Larry Schwartz, a deputy Westchester County executive. Deloitte is also involved in developing the regional plan, a source said. The goal is to “Trump-proof” the plan, said an adviser to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. “We think Trump ultimately will blink on this, but if not, we need to push back, and we are reaching out to top experts and other professionals to come up with a bullet-proof plan,” to open on the state’s terms, said a Cuomo adviser.

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Please don’t claim you’re about to eliminate the virus. Ramp up testing as of your life depended on it.

New Zealand PM: Many Restrictions To Be Kept In Place When Lockdown Ends (R.)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday that significant restrictions would be kept in place even if the country eases the nationwide one-month lockdown enforced to beat the spread of the coronavirus. New Zealand introduced its highest, level 4 lockdown measures in March, under which offices, schools and all non-essential services like bars, restaurants, cafes and playgrounds were shut down. A decision on whether to lift the lockdown would be made on April 20. The measures were tougher than most other countries, including neighbouring Australia, where some businesses were allowed to operate.


Ardern said if New Zealand moves to the lower level 3 of restriction, it would permit aspects of the economy to reopen in a safe way but there will be no “rush to normality”. “We have an opportunity to do something no other country has achieved, eliminating the virus,” Ardern said at a news conference. New Zealand reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, taking the total to 1,401 in a nation of about 5 million people. There have been nine deaths. Ardern said under level 3, some people could return to work and businesses reopen if they are able to provide contactless engagement with customers. Shops, malls, hardware stores and restaurants will remain shut but can permit online or phone purchases.

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It’s been a while since I saw a piece by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. Very much stuck in business-only mode.

Investors Are Underestimating The Economic Shock The World Is Facing (AEP)

Investors are repeating the mistake they made all through February and early March. They are again underestimating the immense economic shock of COVID-19. Can there be any parallel in market history to the surreal clash of narratives we saw this week? Global bourses soared even as the International Monetary Fund painted a series of scenarios ranging from dire – the most violent slump since the Great Depression – to catastrophic, with all the potential chain-reactions spelt out in its Global Financial Stability Report. Yet Goldman Sachs tells us that COVID-19 is under control and the worst is over. “The number of new active cases looks to be peaking globally, projections of cumulative fatalities and peak healthcare usage are coming down,” it says.

From this breathtaking premise, Wall Street’s fashion leader argues that we should “look through” the Great Lockdown to sunlit uplands ahead, anticipating a further 8% rise in the S&P 500 index by the end of the year. We can disregard normal bear market rules. This time we will avoid the textbook sequence of events in recessions: a swift crash followed by a torrid buy-the-dip rebound, and then a slow downward grind over months as reality hits home, ending only in capitulation at far lower levels. Authorities have spared us such a fate by rescuing everything immediately. “The Fed and Congress have precluded the prospect of a complete economic collapse,” it says.

I agree that $5 trillion of central bank QE, vast fiscal packages (10% of GDP in the US), and blanket guarantees, have averted disaster. They have – in a disjointed way – bought time and given us a chance of emerging from this global sudden stop without irreparable damage to the productive system. What is surely wrong is to imagine that this pandemic is a one-off shock lasting three months or so, followed by an early release from lockdowns and a swift return to near normality. The first glimpses of antibody data – such as Denmark’s test on blood donors – show that we are nowhere near the safe threshold of herd immunity.

They confirm fears that the mortality rate is at least 1% of infections and that therefore no democracies can let the virus run its course without overwhelming their health services and destroying their political legitimacy. The supposed trade-off between lives and the economy is an illusion. The most certain way to turn this crisis into a depression is to give up too soon, as Spain is already doing, and Donald Trump is itching to do. We would end up in the worst of all worlds, with multiple waves, and another forced closure of the economy to avert a winter tsunami, requiring trillions more in fiscal relief. [..] “We need a vaccine. Until we get one, the stock markets are in cloud-cuckoo land,” says professor Anthony Costello from University College London.

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That wouldn’t be wise.

Trump Threatens To Adjourn Congress Over ‘Scam’ Preventing Appointments (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump threatened on Wednesday to shut down Congress so he could fill vacancies in his administration without Senate confirmation, saying he was frustrated lawmakers were not in Washington to vote on his nominees for federal judgeships and other government positions. “The current practice of leaving town, while conducting phony pro forma sessions, is a dereliction of duty that the American people cannot afford during this crisis,” an angry Trump told reporters at his daily White House briefing on the coronavirus crisis. “It is a scam that they do. It’s a scam and everyone knows it, and it’s been that way for a long time,” Trump said. No U.S. president has ever used the authority, included in the Constitution, to adjourn both chambers of Congress if they cannot agree on a date to adjourn.


It was not immediately clear if Congress’ current absence from Washington because of the global pandemic could be classified as being due to a failure to agree on an adjournment date. The Senate and House of Representatives have both announced plans to return to Washington on May 4, and had been scheduled to be out of Washington for two weeks in April for their annual Easter break even before the coronavirus crisis. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell discussed nominations with Trump on Wednesday and promised to find ways to confirm those “considered mission-critical” to the pandemic, a McConnell spokesman said. “However, under Senate rules, that would take consent from Democratic leader Chuck Schumer,” the spokesman said.

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It was obvious before it started that it would be a mess.

US Coronavirus Small-Business Program Funding Nearly Spent (LAT)

Democrats and the Trump administration were at a stalemate Wednesday over how to resupply the popular Paycheck Protection Program, which helps small businesses cope during the coronavirus pandemic and is due to run out of money as soon as Wednesday night. The standoff came as Senate Democrats pushed the administration to lay the groundwork for how the nation may reemerge from social distancing and stay-at-home orders. Republicans and Democrats agree they need to provide more funding to the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers forgivable loans to help small businesses maintain their payrolls amid the deep economic fallout from the coronavirus. But the GOP balked at additional Democratic demands, such as tagging some of the funding for businesses that don’t have an existing relationship with a bank that supply the loans.

Participating banks have largely given preference to their current customers. As of 9 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday, the Small Business Administration had approved 1.5 million applications totaling more than $324 billion of the $349 billion that Congress authorized in last month’s $2.2-trillion coronavirus relief package, according to the agency. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), chairman of the Senate committee with jurisdiction over small business, said that the program is expected to “grind to a halt” Wednesday evening as it hits its spending limit. “Now 700,000 small business applications are in limbo & no new loans will be made until the game of chicken in Congress ends,” Rubio said on Twitter. “Inexcusable.”

[..] The standoff over the funding program comes as Democrats on Wednesday released a national coronavirus testing strategy, arguing that they’re filling a void left by the Trump administration, which hasn’t released a plan to scale up COVID-19 testing to allow Americans to return to work and school. “The U.S. lags the world in testing and we lead the world in COVID-19 cases,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). “We are raising the alarm bells.” [..] Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), chairmen of two Senate committees responsible for health policy and spending, have said they want to make COVID-19 antibody testing free to all Americans. They acknowledged the need for widespread testing before people will feel comfortable resuming normal activities outside their homes. But Alexander said the money Congress has already authorized should be used to ramp up testing — not new funding.

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It takes weeks for jobs numbers to come out. That is too long in virustime. These guys try to fill the gap.

Real Time US Labor Market Estimates During 2020 Coronavirus Outbreak (Bick)

Labor market statistics for the United States are collected once a month and published with a three week delay. In normal times, this procedure results in timely and useful statistics. But these are not normal times. Currently, the most recent statistics refer to the week of March 8- 14; new statistics will not be available until May 8. In the meantime, the Coronavirus outbreak has shut down a substantial portion of the U.S. economy. More timely and frequent data on the impact on the labor force would surely be useful for both policy makers and the broader public. Our core survey closely follows the CPS, which allows us to construct estimates consistent with theirs. The first wave of our survey covers the week of March 29-April 4. Our findings reveal unprecedented changes in the US labor market since the most recent CPS data were collected:

1. The employment rate decreased from 72.7% to 60.7%, implying 24 million jobs lost.
2. The unemployment rate increased from 4.5% to 20.2%.
3. Hours worked per working age adult declined 25% from the second week of March. Half of this decline is due to lower hours per employed as opposed to lower employment.
4. Over 60% of work hours were from home, compared with roughly 10% in 2017-2018.
5. Those who still have their jobs are working fewer hours; 21% report a decline in earnings.
6. Declines were most pronounced for workers who were female, older, and less educated.

Effective policies require timely and accurate data on the scale of the downturn, yet traditional data sources are only made available at a significant lag. For example, the March 2020 Employment Situation report by the the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) only reflected labor market outcomes from the week ending Friday March 13, which precedes most major developments related to the outbreak. The April 2020 Employment Situation report will reflect labor market outcomes from the third week of April, but is not scheduled for release until May 8. The gap between the data needs of policymakers and the time lag of traditional data sources has left policymakers “flying blind” to a significant degree. The goal of this project is to help fill that void. [..]

Our major findings for the last week of March are as follows.
1. Dramatic reductions in employment. (a) We find an employment rate of 60.7% during the first week of April, compared with 72.7% in the second week of March, implying 24 million fewer workers. (b) We find an unemployment rate of 20.2% during the first week of April, compared with 4.5% in the second week of March. One positive note is that over half of the unemployed reported being temporarily laid off, suggesting that many could return to work quickly if conditions improve.

2. Even larger declines in aggregate labor supply than implied by employment alone. (a) Hours worked per working age adult declined 25% from March. In the first week of April, individuals worked 20.4 hours on average, compared with 27.5 weekly hours in the second week of March. (b) Hours worked per employed declined 12% from March. Even those who are still employed are working 4.5 fewer hours per week, a reduction of over half a day of work. This implies that just under half of the decline in hours per working age adult were due to reductions in hours worked per employed, and are therefore not reflected in changes to the employment rate.

3. Unprecedented increase of the share of hours worked from home. (a) We find that 63.8% of work hours were from home during the first week of April, compared with roughly 10% in the Spring of 2017 and 2018.

4. Lower earnings even for individuals still working the same job as in February. (a) We find that 21.9% of workers still working the same job as in February experienced a reduction in their earnings last week compared to February. About half of these reported that their reduction in earnings was 50% or larger. (b) At the same time, 11% of workers with the same job as in February report higher weekly earnings last week compared with February. 5. Disparities in labor market outcomes by sex, age, education, race, and hourly status. (a) Although negative effects are widespread, they are more pronounced among workers who are female, older, and less educated.

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Charles is right. Restart the whole circus now and there will be no buyers.

Overcapacity/Oversupply Everywhere: Massive Deflation Ahead (CHS)

Oil is the poster child of the forces driving massive deflation: overcapacity / oversupply and a collapse in demand. Overcapacity / oversupply and a collapse in demand are not limited to the crude oil market; rather, they are the dominant realities in the global economy. Yes, there are shortages in a few high-demand areas such as PPE (personal protective equipment), but across the entire spectrum of global supply and demand, there is nothing but a vast sea of overcapacity / oversupply and a systemic decline in demand as far as the eye can see. Here’s a partial list of commodities that are in Overcapacity / oversupply:

1. Overvalued assets 2. Overpriced income streams (as income craters, so will the asset generating the income) 3. Labor: low-skill everywhere, high-skill in sectors experiencing systemic collapse in demand 4. AirBnB and other vacation rental properties 5. Overpriced flats, condos and houses 6. Overpriced rental apartments 7. Overpriced commercial office space 8. Overpriced retail space 9. Overpriced used vehicles 10. Overpriced collectibles

I think you get the idea. Should China restart its export factories, then almost everything being manufactured will immediately be in oversupply, as the global export sector was plagued with mass overcapacity long before the Covid-19 pandemic crushed demand. Incomes will crater as revenues and profits crash, small businesses close their doors, never to re-open, local governments tighten spending, and whatever competition still exists will relentlessly push the price of labor, goods and services lower. Globalization has generated hyper-specialization in local and regional economies, stripping them of resilience. Fully exposed to the demand flows of a globalized class of consumers with surplus discretionary income, regions specialized in tourism, manufacturing, commodity mining, etc.

All these regions are now facing a structural collapse of global demand, and they have no diversified local economy to cushion the blow to jobs, incomes, profits and tax revenues. Thousands of small business that could barely squeak through a 20% decline in revenues are facing a 50% or more decline as far as the eye can see. With costs such as rent, labor, fees, taxes and healthcare at nosebleed levels, an enormously consequential number of small businesses globally cannot survive more than a modest, brief drop in revenues, as their costs remain high even as their sales plummet: costs are sticky, profits slide quickly to zero and beyond.

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No, I don’t like Soros being involved, and no, I don’t like the US squeezing Iran in virustime.

But most of all, all countries should think twice before letting the IMF have anything to do with their money supply. It doesn’t come free.

US Opposition Seen Stalling Major IMF Liquidity Boost (R.)

U.S. opposition is expected to prevent the International Monetary Fund this week from deploying one of its most powerful tools to help countries fight the coronavirus: creating a new allocation of Special Drawing Rights. The move, akin to a central bank “printing” new money, has been advocated by economists, finance ministers and non-profit groups to provide as much as $500 billion in urgently-needed liquidity for the IMF’s 189 member countries. SDRs, based on dollars, euro, yen, sterling and yuan, are the IMF’s official unit of exchange. Member countries hold them at the Fund in proportion to their shareholdings. The IMF last approved a $250-billion new allocation of SDRs in 2009, during the last financial crisis, boosting liquidity for cash-strapped countries. Doing so again now could provide more flexibility to the 100 countries that have already sought IMF emergency loans and grants, and allow new lending to countries with “unsustainable” debt burdens, such as Argentina.


An SDR expansion has attracted some celebrity advocates, such as investor George Soros and U2 lead singer Bono’s ONE anti-poverty organization, along with trade unions and faith-based groups. Finance officials will debate the issue during this week’s virtual IMF and World Bank Spring Meetings, but multiple sources familiar with the Fund’s deliberations say the United States, the IMF’s dominant shareholder, actively opposes such a move. The Trump administration opposes providing countries such as Iran and China with billions of dollars in new resources with no conditions, two of the sources said. [..] The U.S. Treasury Department would prefer to see the IMF focus on using its $1 trillion in existing resources, including $100 billion in emergency loans and grants, to aid countries’ health responses to the crisis, the sources said.

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You would think this should wake up Britain. But what are the odds?

We Scientists Said Lock Down. But UK Politicians Refused To Listen (G.)

In mid-February a colleague mentioned that for the first time in his life he was more concerned than his mother, who had been relatively blase about the risks of Covid-19. It felt odd for him to be telling her to take care. We are both professors in a department of infectious disease epidemiology, and we were worried. Two months on, that anxiety has not gone, although it’s also been joined by a sense of sadness. It’s now clear that so many people have died, and so many more are desperately ill, simply because our politicians refused to listen to and act on advice. Scientists like us said lock down earlier; we said test, trace, isolate. But they decided they knew better.

Am I being unfair? The government assures us that its decisions and timing are based on science, as if it is a neutral, value-free process resulting in a specific set of instructions. In reality, the science around coronavirus is in its infancy and developing daily, with researchers across the world trying to understand how the virus spreads, how the body responds – and how to treat it and control it. The speed at which our knowledge has increased is impressive, from the sequencing of the virus in January through to having candidate vaccines in early February.

Mathematical models are being refined to predict the extent and speed of spread and estimate the impact of control methods. My own group is studying the response of communities, showing how the epidemic is amplifying existing social inequalities. People with the lowest household income are far less likely, but no less willing, to be able to work from home or to self-isolate. But while scientists carry out observations and experiments, testing, iterating and discovering new knowledge, it is the role of policymakers to act on the best available evidence. In the context of a rapidly growing threat, that means listening to experts with experience of responding to previous epidemics.

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Ben Hunt is angry enough to start a revolution. While he’s also running a program delivering masks and other PPE to medical workers.

Inception (Ben Hunt)

The past few months are not a litany of errors and honest mistakes by the institutions we have charged with protecting us from disease and ruin. They are a litany of betrayals, and their Answers – their False Stories – have been revealed as lies. First we’re going to vaccinate ourselves to their Answers, to their False Stories, so that we think for ourselves again. Without this, we will inevitably fall back into the patterns of crony capitalism and obscene financialization that got us here in the first place. It’s a vaccine that we don’t administer anymore … an intentional decision by the high-functioning sociopaths and political entrepreneurs who rule us, of course.

Like all effective vaccines, it mimics the virus itself in its ability to trigger a physiological response in us. They want to nudge you into allegiance to a policy or a vote or a party. We want to un-nudge you into independence of spirit and thought. They want to infect you with an Answer. We want to innoculate you with a Process. The Process is one of the Old Stories. It is, in fact, the Oldest Story of what makes for a good and just human society. It is a narrative that has directly motivated hundreds of millions of people to organize themselves in hundreds of thousands of beneficial social forms, large and small, for thousands of years. We’re going to use that incepted Process to burn down these systems of iniquity from within and below.

We’re going use that incepted Process to build something better together, as brothers and sisters exercising our birthright – our autonomy of mind. I’m going to tell you exactly how we’re going to develop millions and millions of doses of the Old Story vaccine, and I’m going to tell you exactly how we’re going to administer them and exactly how we are going to change the world from below and from within. And you won’t believe me.

I mean, this happens all the time. I will sit down with someone and walk them through the entire plan … how we’re developing the science of what Isaac Asimov called “psychohistory”, how that gives us the ability to not only measure the narratives of social control that oligarchic institutions broadcast but also to design effective jamming narratives of our own, how we create a decentralized epistemic community of distributed trust and mutual support that we call the Pack, how we burn down these oligarchic institutions from below by jamming their Answers and from within by replacing the current sociopathic leadership with members of the Pack … and it is literally as if a switch goes off in their head and their eyes go dim. But then I’ll say “yada-yada-Trump” or “yada-yada-Biden” or “yada-yada-the-Fed” or “yada-yada-Bitcoin” and they’ll perk right up again!

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I’m cheating a bit. This is part of the article above, Inception. But the article is long and this is a very good bit.

“What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Now go and learn it.”

The Golden Rule (Ben Hunt)

It’s the Golden Rule. It’s the Oldest Story of fundamental human ethics. You can find it in ancient Egyptian stories, preserved in papyri from the Middle Kingdom. You can find it in the ancient Sanskrit epic “Mahabarata”, as the way in which dharma manifests itself in human affairs. You can find it in the ancient Greek writings of Thales and Pythagoras. You can find it in the ancient Persian texts of Zoroaster. But here’s my favorite: A gentile came before two teachers, Shammai the strict and Hillel the tolerant, and to each in turn said, “I will convert to Judaism if you can teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.” Shammai chased him away. But Hillel said to the gentile, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Now go and learn it.” The rest is commentary.


The Golden Rule is all you need to know to organize a good and just society. Everything else, all of the rules and principles and books and words and laws that engulf us … ALL of it … is just commentary. The Golden Rule is the vaccine. The Golden Rule is the simplest and most powerful form of the idea of reciprocity, ready and primed for inception in every human dreamer. The Golden Rule is the formal description of empathy. The Golden Rule is the only law of the Pack. The Golden Rule IS the full hearts of Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose. The Golden Rule is the meme that we’re going to inject in a mass-customized way straight into everyone’s veins with the Narrative Machine. And then YOU are going to burn down the current system of oligarchic iniquity from below and within. And then YOU are going to change the world. All on your own. With no centralized organization and no Answer imposed from above.

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Note that this takes place as the world is fast running out of space to store oil reserves in. I’m waiting for numbers of fully loaded tankers floating off ports for weeks or months.

Major Blow To Keystone XL Pipeline As Judge Revokes Key Permit (G.)

The controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has been dealt a major setback, after a judge revoked a key permit issued by the US Army Corps of Engineers without properly assessing the impact on endangered species. In a legal challenge brought by a coalition of environmental groups, a federal judge in Montana ordered the Army Corps to suspend all filling and dredging activities until it conducts formal consultations compliant with the Endangered Species Act. The ruling revokes the water-crossing permit needed to complete construction of the pipeline, and is expected to cause major delays to the divisive project. Keystone XL is a 1,179-mile pipeline which would transport around 830,000 barrels of oil a day from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada to Nebraska, eventually heading to refineries on the Gulf Coast.


Campaigners welcomed Wednesday’s ruling as a victory for tribal rights and environmental protection. “The court has rightfully ruled against the Trump administration’s efforts to fast track this nasty pipeline at any cost. We won’t allow fossil fuel corporations and backdoor politicians to violate the laws that protect people and the planet,” said Tamara Toles O’Laughlin of environmental group 350.org Judith LeBlanc, director of the Native Organizer Alliance, said: “The revoking of the permit is a victory for treaty rights and democracy. Tribal nations have a renewed opportunity to exercise our legal and inherent rights to protect the water of the Missouri river bioregion for all who live, farm and work on the land.”

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Prepare to hear much more about this from Horowitz. Someone will do a major write-up.

FBI Repeatedly Warned Steele Dossier Fed By Russian Misinformation (Solomon)

The FBI received repeated warnings dating to 2015 that Christopher Steele, the ex-British spy it used to build a case against President Trump, had concerning contacts with Russian oligarchs and intelligence figures that might call into question the credibility of his intelligence reporting, newly declassified documents showed Monday. The suspect sources included a person described as a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and a Russian intelligence figure under separate counterintelligence investigation by the FBI, the memos show. And the red flags included a warning that Russian intelligence appeared to be aware as early as July 2016 that Steele was working on a U.S. election-related investigation, making him susceptible to misinformation.

The revelations are found in newly declassified footnotes from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s December, 2019 report about failures in the Russia probe that included using false evidence to secure a FISA warrant against Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in October 2016. Some of those red flags were raised prior to the bureau’s decision to rely on Steele’s dossier as key evidence in seeking the FISA warrant targeting the Trump campaign in the final days of the 2016 election, and nearly all were raised before Special Counsel Robert Mueller opened his probe in spring 2017.

For instance, FBI officials urged in 2015 that Steele undergo a re-evaluation as an informant (a “validation review,” in spy parlance) after the bureau’s transnational organized crime office learned that he had received contact from five Russian oligarchs, all of whom wanted to have contact with the bureau. “The report noted that Steele’s contact with 5 Russian oligarchs in a short period of time was unusual and recommended that a validation review be completed on Steele because of this activity,” one footnote stated.

Read more …

 

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Dec 022019
 
 December 2, 2019  Posted by at 9:42 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  23 Responses »


Russell Lee Migrant family in trailer home near Edinburg, Texas Feb 1939

 

White House Says It Will Not Participate In Wednesday Impeachment Hearing (R.)
Political Affiliation Bias: We’re Embracing It Fervently (RT)
Could America Survive a Truth Commission? (CHS)
Why a Second American Revolution Is Necessary for the Entire World (Zuesse)
US Digs Deeper Into Deutsche Role In Danske Money Laundering Scandal (R.)
Albert Edwards Is Watching To Decide When The US Becomes “Japanified” (ZH)
Prince Andrew ‘Has Kept In Constant Touch With Ghislaine Maxwell (DM)
Serbia, Slovakia Join Sudden Eastern European Gold Repatriation Push
Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? (Marçal)
What Is COP25 And Can It Save The World? (G.)

 

 

“We may consider participating in future Judiciary Committee proceedings if you afford the administration the ability to do so meaningfully..”

White House Says It Will Not Participate In Wednesday Impeachment Hearing (R.)

The White House told Democratic lawmakers on Sunday that U.S. President Donald Trump and his lawyers would not participate in a congressional impeachment hearing this week, citing a lack of “fundamental fairness.” Trump’s aides responded defiantly to the first of two crucial deadlines he faces in Congress this week as Democrats prepare to shift the focus of their impeachment inquiry from fact-finding to the consideration of possible charges of misconduct over his dealings with Ukraine. The Democratic-led House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, tasked with considering charges known as articles of impeachment, had given Trump until 6 p.m. on Sunday to say whether he would dispatch a lawyer to take part in the judiciary panel’s proceedings on Wednesday.

“We cannot fairly be expected to participate in a hearing while the witnesses are yet to be named and while it remains unclear whether the Judiciary Committee will afford the President a fair process through additional hearings,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, according to a copy of a letter seen by Reuters. Cipollone – while citing a “complete lack of due process and fundamental fairness afforded the president” in the impeachment process – did not rule out participation in further proceedings. But he signaled that Democrats would first have to make major procedural concessions.


[..] “We may consider participating in future Judiciary Committee proceedings if you afford the administration the ability to do so meaningfully,” Cipollone wrote, laying out a list of demands, including allowing Trump’s Republicans to call additional witnesses. Cipollone also complained that Democrats had scheduled Wednesday’s hearing – “no doubt purposely” – to overlap with Trump’s absence from the United States to attend a NATO summit in London.

Read more …

Next year: can Republicans still marry Democrats?

Political Affiliation Bias: We’re Embracing It Fervently (RT)

In an ultra-PC society where even the suggestion of racial, ethnic or gender bias can get a person fired or ostracized, another type of discrimination – a political affiliation-based one – is thriving, according to a new study. Discrimination may have become taboo in US society, but it hasn’t gone away. A new study shows discriminatory behavior thrives in the one area where it remains socially acceptable to judge people based on shared attributes: political affiliation. Politics remains one of the few personal characteristics not protected by equal opportunity hiring laws, and if this study is any indication, lawmakers will want to get on top of that quickly.

Shared political ideology outweighs seemingly more important factors like professional qualifications in hiring decisions, researchers from Clemson University and the University of Kansas confirmed in a study published this month in the Journal of Applied Psychology. Unchecked, this kind of discrimination is liable to produce powerful echo chambers, in which groupthink eventually becomes a prerequisite for employment. Study participants readily picked a job candidate with whom they shared a political affiliation over a more qualified candidate without that affiliation when presented with Facebook profiles containing clear indicators of the prospective hire’s political alignment. These might include statements about leading a campus Democrat or Republican group, or party symbols like the Democratic donkey or GOP elephant.


The closer the participant, acting as a recruiter, identified with a party, the higher ratings they gave to candidates who touted their membership in that party – qualifications were nigh on irrelevant. The effect held true even when candidate profiles didn’t include explicit statements of political loyalty. Recruiter participants still picked candidates who agreed with them based on profiles sporting either a pro-choice or pro-life statement; pro-Second Amendment or pro-gun control material; or support of Black Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter, a second experiment revealed.

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Maybe we should ask: Can Americans still recognize the truth?

Could America Survive a Truth Commission? (CHS)

You’ve probably heard of the Truth Commissions held in disastrously corrupt and oppressive regimes after the sociopath/kleptocrat Oligarchs are deposed. The goal is not revenge, as well-deserved as that might be; the goal is national reconciliation via the only possible path to healing: name names and tell the plain, unadorned truth, stripped of self-serving artifice, spin, propaganda and PR. Is such a stripped-of-spin truthful account of names and events even possible in the U.S.? Sadly, there is precious little evidence that a Truth Commission in the U.S. would be anything more than a travesty of a mockery of a sham, a parade of half-truths, misdirections, falsehoods and fabrications, all aimed at one goal: protecting the powerful from the consequences of their decisions and actions.

Sadly, we’ve lost the capacity to simply tell the truth: everything, and I mean everything, is crafted to protect the guilty, polish the putrid decay of legalized looting, defraud the unwary, ease the most venal, power-mad sociopaths into positions of unparalleled power, sell low-quality goods and services nobody needs or would even want if the marketing weren’t so Orwellian, persuade debt-serfs to borrow more and bamboozle voters into further enriching the few at the expense of the many. The truth is no match for greed is good and don’t be evil, unless it’s incredibly profitable, in which case, go for it but cover your tracks (here’s looking at you, Big Tech). Outrage is reserved for whistleblowers who name names and reveal the sordid truths that the status quo has expended the nation’s treasure to protect from the light of day.


This is the pathetic state of America: our outrage is reserved for those telling the truth, not for the legions who lie, cheat, steal and prevaricate to conceal the truth at all costs.

Read more …

“All of these invasions and coups are based on nothing but lies, and the media are a necessary part of that.”

Why a Second American Revolution Is Necessary for the Entire World (Zuesse)

On November 11th, the very disturbing but clearly true “Lessons To Learn From The Coup In Bolivia” was posted to the Web. That anonymous author (a German intelligence analyst) documented the evilness of the overthrow of Evo Morales in Bolivia, and the threat now clearly posed to the world by the US regime — a spreading cancer of expansionist fascism, led from Washington. But, even more than this, he indicated that unless the individuals who are responsible for the advancing fascism are executed, there won’t be any real hope for democracy anywhere in the world.

Either this impunity will stop, or else the spread of the US international dictatorship — not only by CIA coups such as this, but by illegal international invasions such as of Iraq 2003, Libya 2011, Syria 2012-, and Yemen 2015-, — will continue and will engulf in misery ultimately the entire world. He makes clear the complicity of US ‘news’-media in the lies that ‘justify’ this coup (and ‘justified’ those invasions). It’s, by now, clearly the way the US regime functions. Of course, none of those media will publish any such truth; they all cover-up constantly for the regime, because they actually are an essential part of it. (All of these invasions and coups are based on nothing but lies, and the media are a necessary part of that.) Censorship in America is thus actually extreme, and constant.


For example: how many US-and-allied media have even reported that fascists took over in Bolivia? Instead, we’ve got newspaper editorials such as the New York Times blaming the extraordinarily successful and popular democratically elected President of Bolivia for the coup which overthrew him and replaced him by fascists (and never using the word “coup,” except once derisively, by saying that “British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, cried ‘coup’” — as if it weren’t a coup — and making no mention whatsoever that it had been done by committed fascists).

Read more …

It’s been 5 years since the first whistleblower stepped forward. Who’s in jail?

US Digs Deeper Into Deutsche Role In Danske Money Laundering Scandal (R.)

The U.S. Department of Justice has in recent weeks stepped up its investigation into Deutsche Bank’s role in the 200 billion euro ($220 billion) Danske Bank money laundering scandal, four people familiar with the inquiry told Reuters. One source said the DoJ’s new line of inquiry is whether Deutsche helped move tainted money from Danske, Denmark’s largest lender, into the United States. If proven, that could lead to steep financial penalties. Officials from the DoJ, who have been working closely with Estonian prosecutors for around a year, have also begun cooperating with Frankfurt state prosecutors, the sources said. The Frankfurt prosecutors have been exploring Deutsche’s role in processing payments for the Danish bank.


The DoJ’s focus on Germany’s largest bank and its work with Frankfurt prosecutors have not previously been reported. A Danske spokesman said it continued to cooperate with the authorities in Estonia, Denmark, France and the United States. [..] Although the Justice Department requested information from Deutsche last year relating to Danske transactions, at the time its executives believed that the investigation was focused onDanske and that the German bank itself was not a target. However, Deutsche officials were made aware in recent months that the scope of the DoJ probe had broadened to the bank’s role in facilitating the Danske trades and its possible failure to report suspicious transactions quickly enough, one of the people said.

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No inflation.

Albert Edwards Is Watching To Decide When The US Becomes “Japanified” (ZH)

There is another reason why Edwards dismisses any incipient signs of inflation in the US: his latest piece is titled “Japanification of the US beckons”, in which he writes that despite the Fed’s recent announcement of a halt to further rate cuts, “GDP growth looks fragile and there is good evidence to suggest that core CPI inflation is set to collapse towards zero. In fact, a resumption of Fed easing on the back of recessionary data and sliding inflation is likely to accelerate the convergence of US yields towards negative eurozone and Japanese yields.” Hence, the Japanification of the US, and as he further notes, if the US economy slides into recession, it is clear that “inflation will likely fall ever closer toward Japanese-style deflation.

But a rapid decline in key inflation measures, like core CPI, may be beginning to unfold already, irrespective of whether a recession is about to start or not.” To make his point, Edwards points out the October CPI data which “shocked” him, but not for the surprisingly high 0.4% headline rise M/M, but because of a specific data set that he will now be watching very closely to determine if US inflation is indeed converging with that of Japan: shelter CPI. it was this key component of the CPI basket that last month collapsed to almost zero. And since shelter has a very heavy 33% weighting in the overall CPI and an overwhelmingly dominant 42% weighting in the closely watched core CPI (ie ex food and energy), it’s only a matter of time before the decline in shelter hits the broader inflation basket.

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Not what he said in the interview.

Prince Andrew ‘Has Kept In Constant Touch With Ghislaine Maxwell (DM)

Prince Andrew has kept in constant contact with billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell, it has been claimed today. The Duke of York, 59, invited Maxwell, 57, to Buckingham Palace in June, just a month before Epstein was arrested on sex trafficking charges. But a source has now claimed the pair have been in touch by phone and email throughout the scandal over the prince’s links to the convicted sex offender. They claim there is an ‘unswerving loyalty’ between the pair, who both deny any wrongdoing despite their close relationships with Epstein. The source told the Sun: ‘They have remained constantly in touch by phone and email. The Duke has an unswerving loyalty to Ghislaine and she is also very loyal to him.


‘Ghislaine will do anything to protect the Duke and the feeling is mutual. They both share the same view they have done nothing wrong.’ There is no indication of how the source knows about Andrew and Maxwell’s communications. In his car crash Newsnight interview Andrew claimed he had not spoken about Epstein when he was last in contact with Maxwell because he ‘wasn’t in the news’. [..] Ms Guiffre Roberts will give a tell-all interview to BBC Panorama tomorrow night in a programme that will also probe Maxwell’s involvement in Epstein’s criminal activity.

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They don’t have very much, do they? But yeah, why keep your gold stored abroad?

Serbia, Slovakia Join Sudden Eastern European Gold Repatriation Push

Just a few short days after Poland’s government touted its economic might after completing the repatriation of 100 tons of the barbarous relic; and with Hungary’s anti-immigrant Prime Minister Viktor Orban also ramping up holdings of the safe-haven asset to boost the security of his reserves, more Eastern European nationalist leaders are demanding their country’s gold back on home soil. As Bloomberg reports, former Slovak Premier Robert Fico, whose odds of returning to power are rising quickly, urged parliament to compel the central bank into repatriating the nation’s gold stocks, which are currently stored in the U.K.. Perhaps most vocally reflecting what many other nations also believe – sometimes your international partners can betray you.

Citing a 1938 pact by France, Britain, Italy and Germany allowing Adolf Hitler to annex a chunk what was then Czechoslovakia, Fico told reporters: “You can hardly trust even the closest allies after the Munich Agreement. I guarantee that if something happens, we won’t see a single gram of this gold. Let’s do it as quickly as possible.” Additionally, Serbia’s strongman leader Aleksandar Vucic took note, ordering the central bank to boost reserves and prompting the purchase of nine tons in October. Vucic said last week that more should be bought because “we see in which direction the crisis in the world is moving.”


The various leaders have a recent example to prove their fears right as the Bank of England refused to return Venezuela’s gold stock over political differences. “Gold is a symbol,” said Vuk Vukovic, a political economist in Zagreb. “When states purchase it, people everywhere see it as a sign of economic sovereignty.” The gold rush mirrors steps by Russia and China to diversify reserves exceeding $3 trillion away from the dollar amid flaring geopolitical tensions with the U.S.

Read more …

Interesting topic, and women need more say, but still, in many societies, women do a lot of things besides cooking and cleaning. That’s more of a western thing, and not even a modern one.

Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? (Marçal)

Men have always been allowed to act out of self-interest – as in economics, so in sex. For women, this freedom has been taboo. If not flat-out forbidden. Woman has been assigned the task of caring for others, not of maximizing her own gain. Society has told her that she cannot be rational because childbirth and menstruation tie her to the body, and the body has been identified as the opposite of reason. In women, lust and greed has always been criticized more harshly than it has in men. It has been viewed as something threatening, destructive, dangerous and unnatural. ‘People call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute,’ wrote Rebecca West. Women have never been allowed to be as selfish as men.

And if economics is the science of self-interest, how does woman fit in? The answer is that man has been allowed to stand for self- interest and woman has stood for the fragile love that must be conserved. By being excluded. Even though the word ‘economy’ comes from the Greek oikos, which means home, economists have long been uninterested in what exactly happens at home. Woman’s self-sacrificing nature was said to tie her to the private sphere, and thus she was not economically relevant. Activities like raising children, cleaning, washing or ironing for her family – these don’t create tangible goods that can be bought, traded or sold. So they also didn’t contribute to prosperity, thought economists in the 1800s.


Prosperity was everything that could be transported, that had a limited supply, and that either directly or indirectly gave pleasure or prevented pain. This definition meant that everything that women were expected to dedicate themselves to went unseen. The fruits of male labour could be stacked in piles and measured in money. The results of women’s work were intangible. Dust that is swept away collects again. Mouths that have been fed grow hungry. Children who sleep, wake. And after lunch it’s time to do the dishes. After the dishes comes dinner. And more dirty dishes.

Read more …

In December 2015, when COP21 was held in Paris, I wrote in CON 21:

“COP21 is not a major event, that’s only what politicians and media make of it. In reality, it’s a mere showcase in which the protesters have been co-opted. They’re not in the director’s chair, they’re not even actors, they’re just extras.”

4 years later, nothing has changed. It’s still just theater.

What Is COP25 And Can It Save The World? (G.)

[..] There are far bigger issues hanging over COP, but they will not be decided this year, just hinted at. The biggest alarm is that the aspiration set in Paris to constrain temperature rises will require unprecedented efforts to achieve. But individual country commitments to steer the world towards that best-case scenario were not part of the binding Paris deal, but contained in a non-binding addition. So emissions are increasing again, temperatures are higher than ever, countries are not mandated by law to act – and time is running out: the IPCC concluded that on current rates we have little over a decade to halt emissions growth and bring down carbon rapidly to keep warming within the 1.5C threshold.


Current commitments made by national governments under the Paris agreement fall far short of what is required – taken together, they would still condemn the world to an estimated temperature rise of more than 3C by the end of the century. According to the UN’s latest “emissions gap” report, published a few days before the start of this year’s talks, countries must reduce their greenhouse gases by about 7.6% a year for the next 10 years, to stay within the 1.5C limit. Closing that gap will be COP26’s biggest task.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Jul 042018
 


Edward Hopper People in the sun 1963

 

The Velocity of Money… and Revolution (Brin)
Ecology: The Keystone Science (Hawes)
Facebook Flags, Removes Declaration of Independence Text as Hate Speech (Rea.)
Theresa May To Pitch ‘Softest Possible Brexit’ Plan (R.)
UK Government ‘Will Miss Fuel Poverty Target By More Than Six Decades’ (G.)
‘Unknown Substance’ Leaves Pair Critically Ill In Salisbury Hospital (G.)
As The State Is Dismantled, Who Will Save Britain’s Wildlife? (Monbiot)
City Properties Should Be Homes For People First – Not Investments (G.)
Ecuador Wants Ex-President Correa Extradited (DW)
Most Of Europe’s Rivers And Lakes Fail Water Quality Tests (G.)
More Than 200 Migrants Drown In Mediterranean In Three Days (G.)
Albatross

 

 

Lowest since 1949.

The Velocity of Money… and Revolution (Brin)

A recent Mauldin missive correctly cites the most disturbing symptom of trouble in the U.S. economy: a plummet in Money Velocity (MV). To quote John: “You may be asking, what exactly is the velocity of money? Essentially, it’s the frequency with which the same dollar changes hands because the holders of the dollar use it to buy something. Higher velocity means more economic activity, which usually means higher growth. So it is somewhat disturbing to see velocity now at its lowest point since 1949, and at levels associated with the Great Depression.” Somewhat… disturbing? That’s at-best an understatement, since no other economic indicator is as telling. MV is about a bridge repair worker buying furniture, that lets a furniture maker get dentures, so a dentist can pay her cleaning lady, who buys groceries….

There are rare occasions when MV can be too high, as during the 1970s hyper-inflation, when Jimmy Carter told Paul Volcker “Cure this, and to hell with my re-election.” But those times are rare. Generally, for all our lives, Money Velocity has been declining into dangerous sluggishness, falling hard since the 80s, rising a little in the 90s, then plummeting. Alas, while fellows like Hunt and Mauldin are at last pointing at this worrisome symptom, they remain in frantic denial over the cause. Absolutely, it is wealth disparity that destroys money velocity. Bridge repair workers and dentists would spend money – if they had any. We have known – ever since Adam Smith gazed across the last 4000 years – that a feudal oligarchy does not invest in productive capacity.

Nor does it spend much on goods or services that have large multiplier effects (that give middle class wage earners a chance to keep money moving). Instead, aristocrats have always tended to put their extra wealth into rentier (or passive rent-seeking) property, or else parasitic-crony-vampiric cheating through abuse of state power. Do not let so-called “tea party” confederate lackeys divert you. The U.S. Revolution was against a King and Parliament and royal cronies who commanded all American commerce to pass through their ports and docks and stores, who demanded that consumer goods like tea be sold through monopolies and even paper be stamped to ensure it came from a royal pal. Try actually reading the Declaration of Independence. “Taxation without representation” was about how an oligarchy controlled Parliament through jiggered districts and cheating, and used that power to funnel wealth upward.

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“The gravy train is running out of steam..”

Ecology: The Keystone Science (Hawes)

A missing piece from most critiques of modern capitalism revolves around the misunderstanding of ecology. To put it bluntly, there will be no squaring the circle of mass industrial civilization and an inhabitable Earth. There is no way for energy and resource use, along with all the strife, warfare, and poverty that comes along with it, to continue under the business as usual model that contemporary Western nations operate under. There is also the problem of constructing millions of solar panels and gigantic wind farms to attempt to bring the entire world’s population to a middle class existence based on a North American, or even European levels of energy use.

All of the hypothetical robots and artificial intelligence to be constructed for such a mega-endeavor needed to enact such a project would at least initially rely on fossil fuels and metals plundered from the planet, and only lead to more rapacious destruction of the world. The dominant technological model is utterly delusional. Here I would urge each of us to consider our “human nature” (a problematic term, no doubt) and the costs and the manner of the work involved: if each of us had to kill a cow for food, would we? If each of us had to mine or blast a mountain for coal or iron, or even for a wind turbine, would we do it? If each of us had to drill an oil well or bulldoze land for a gigantic solar array next to many endangered species or a threatened coral reef, would we?

My guess would be no, for the vast majority of the population. Instead, we employ corporations and specialists to carry out the dirty work in the fossil fuel industries and animal slaughtering, to name just a few. Most of us in the West have reaped the benefits of such atrocities for the past few centuries of the industrial revolution. That era is coming to a close, and there’s no turning back. The gravy train is running out of steam, and our age of comfort and the enslavement of a global proletariat to produce and gift-wrap our extravagances will hopefully be ending shortly, too. Some may romanticize loggers, factory workers, oil drillers, coal miners, or steel foundries but the chance is less than a needle through a camel’s eye that those jobs are coming back in a significant way.

Overpopulation in much of the world continues to put strain upon habitat and farmlands to provide for the Earth’s 7.5 billion and growing humans. Tragically, many with the most influence on the Left today, such as Sanders, Corbyn, and Melenchon want to preserve industrial civilization. Theirs is an over-sentimental outlook which warps their thinking to want to prop up a dying model in order to redistribute wealth to the poor and working classes. Empathy for the less fortunate is no doubt a good thing, but the fact remains that the real wealth lies in our planet’s natural resources, not an artificial economy, and its ability to regenerate and provide the fertile ground upon which we all rely. If we follow their narrow path, we are doomed.

Read more …

Happy 4th of July, Zuck.

Facebook Flags, Removes Declaration of Independence Text as Hate Speech (Rea.)

America’s founding document might be too politically incorrect for Facebook, which flagged and removed a post consisting almost entirely of text from the Declaration of Independence. The excerpt, posted by a small community newspaper in Texas, apparently violated the social media site’s policies against hate speech. Since June 24, the Liberty County Vindicator of Liberty County, Texas, has been sharing daily excerpts from the declaration in the run up to July Fourth. The idea was to encourage historical literacy among the Vindicator’s readers. The first nine such posts of the project went up without incident.

“But part 10,” writes Vindicator managing editor Casey Stinnett, “did not appear. Instead, The Vindicator received a notice from Facebook saying that the post ‘goes against our standards on hate speech.'” The post in question contained paragraphs 27 through 31 of the Declaration of Independence, the grievance section of the document wherein the put-upon colonists detail all the irreconcilable differences they have with King George III. Stinnett says that he cannot be sure which exact grievance ran afoul of Facebook’s policy, but he assumes that it’s paragraph 31, which excoriates the King for inciting “domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages.”

The removal of the post was an automated action, and Stinnett sent a “feedback message” to Facebook with the hopes of reaching a human being who could then exempt the Declaration of Independence from its hate speech restrictions. Fearful that sharing more of the text might trigger the deletion of its Facebook page, The Vindicator has suspended its serialization of the declaration. In his article, Stinnett is remarkably sanguine about this censorship. While unhappy about the decision, he reminds readers “that Facebook is a business corporation, not the government, and as such it is allowed to restrict use of its services as long as those restrictions do not violate any laws. Plus, The Vindicator is using Facebook for free, so the newspaper has little grounds for complaint other than the silliness of it.”

Read more …

Time to place a bet that Brexit will not happen.

Theresa May To Pitch ‘Softest Possible Brexit’ Plan (R.)

British Prime Minister Theresa May will present to her team a new proposal for trade with the European Union that in effect comprises the “softest possible Brexit”, ITV’s political editor reported on Tuesday, citing sources. Britain’s exit from the bloc next year will mark its biggest trading and foreign policy shift in almost 50 years. But May has struggled to unite pro- and anti-Brexit camps in her cabinet and party around a plan for future trade with the EU. So far, May’s advisers have come up with two options, neither of which have the full support of her party. Both have already been dismissed in principle by EU officials.

With the clock ticking toward a March departure date and passions running high, May is holding a meeting of senior ministers on Friday at which she will pitch a compromise third option, ITV political editor Robert Peston said. She will ask her cabinet to back a plan that would see Britain collect duties on imports at the rate of the EU’s common customs tariff, in effect making Britain the EU’s tax collector, according to Peston. May and her officials believe this would avoid the need for border checks between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, Peston wrote in a Facebook post.

Opposition lawmaker Hilary Benn, who chairs parliament’s Brexit committee, said he thought it was “unlikely that the EU will agree to outsource the collection of its own tax revenues to a third country”. Peston also said May’s proposal would include IT and camera technology to help reduce bureaucracy around the border, as well as British alignment with EU standards for goods and agricultural products. On services, which make up the bulk of Britain’s economy, Peston said May wants to offer the EU preferential rights for its citizens who want to live and work in Britain, in exchange for better access to the EU’s services market.

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Thatcher on steroids.

UK Government ‘Will Miss Fuel Poverty Target By More Than Six Decades’ (G.)

The government will miss a key fuel poverty target by more than half a century at the current rate homes are being insulated and upgraded, a leading thinktank has warned. Ministers are drastically off course on ensuring as many fuel-poor homes – those which people cannot afford to keep adequately heated – as possible are upgraded to energy efficiency band C by 2030 in England, according to the IPPR. The target will not be met by 2091 at the earliest, a report by the thinktank found. England has about 2.5m fuel-poor households, and the hardship they face paying energy bills is set to rise this year because of price hikes.

“At its current rate of delivery, hundreds of thousands of fuel-poor households will be left out in the cold until the end of the century,” said Luke Murphy, associate director for energy, climate, housing and infrastructure at IPPR. The thinktank said the main scheme for tackling the problem – the energy companies obligation (ECO) – was not working, and called on the government to reform it. It is estimated only 11% fuel-poor homes had reached band C by 2017, up from 8% in 2015. The IPPR looked at the rate that energy efficiency measures were installed under the ECO between April 2017, when the scheme was rebooted, and February 2018.

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Give me a break.

‘Unknown Substance’ Leaves Pair Critically Ill In Salisbury Hospital (G.)

A major incident has been declared in Wiltshire after it was suspected two people might have been exposed to an unknown substance in Amesbury. The man and woman, both in their 40s, were in a critical condition at Salisbury district hospital, Wiltshire police said. A number of scenes in the Amesbury and Salisbury area were cordoned off as a precaution, although the force said it was not yet clear if they were the victims of a crime. One of the sites cordoned off and guarded by three officers was the town’s baptist church, a modern red brick building, a few minutes’ drive away from the address where the man and woman were found.

Local radio station Spire FM reported that Queen Elizabeth Gardens in the centre of Salisbury had also been sealed off as part of the investigation. Public Health England (PHE) advised that it did not believe there to be a “significant health risk” to the wider public, although its advice was being continually assessed. The incident comes exactly four months after the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were left poisoned on 4 March by a suspected military nerve agent in Salisbury, around eight miles from Amesbury. Police said the man and woman were found unconscious at an address in Muggleton Road on Saturday evening and it was initially believed that they had taken illegal drugs, however further tests were being carried out.

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Absolutely nobody.

As The State Is Dismantled, Who Will Save Britain’s Wildlife? (Monbiot)

It feels like the collapse of the administrative state – and this is before Brexit. One government agency after another is losing its budget, its power and its expertise. The result, for corporations and the very rich, is freedom from the restraint of law, freedom from the decencies they owe to other people, freedom from democracy. The public protections that constrain their behaviour are being dismantled. An example is the cascading decline in the protection of wildlife and environmental quality. The bodies charged with defending the living world have been so enfeebled that they now scarcely exist as independent entities. Natural England, for example, has been reduced to a nodding dog in the government’s rear window.

Its collapse as an autonomous agency is illuminated by the case that will be heard next week in the high court, where two ecologists, Tom Langton and Dominic Woodfield, are challenging its facilitation of the badger cull. That the cull is a senseless waste of life and money is well established, but this is only one of the issues being tested. Another is that Natural England, which is supposed to assess whether the shooting of badgers causes wider environmental harm, appears incapable of discharging its duties.

As badger killing spreads across England, it intrudes upon ever more wildlife sites, some of which protect animals that are highly sensitive to disturbance. Natural England is supposed to determine whether allowing hunters to move through these places at night and fire their guns has a detrimental effect on other wildlife, and what the impact of removing badgers from these ecosystems might be. The claimants allege that it has approved the shooting without meaningful assessments.

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Sadiq Khan and Ada Colau, mayors of London and Barcelona. Don’t understand that social housing doesn’t solve the problem.

City Properties Should Be Homes For People First – Not Investments (G.)

For a number of years, cities around the world have been facing increasingly global and aggressive speculation in their property markets – from speculators who see housing in our cities as an asset from which to profit, rather than homes for the people we represent. In many cases, speculators take decisions from thousands of miles away. Yet for us their impact on the life and soul of our cities is very close to home. Our city centres risk being hollowed out as vibrant communities are displaced, local shops are closed, and the cost of housing rises exorbitantly. Our community groups and local government, as the part of civic life closest to local people and the most sensitive to their everyday problems, have often been the first to warn of the risks that these practices bring with them regarding the very survival of our cities.

For city leaders to be able to tackle this problem, they urgently need greater resources and powers both to increase their stocks of social-rented and other genuinely affordable housing and to strengthen tenants’ rights. Cities are not simply a collection of buildings, streets and squares. They are also the sum of their people. They are the ones who help create social ties, build communities and evolve into the places where we are so proud to live.

That is why we are determined to change the way that housing works in the cities we represent. We are building more social-rented and other genuinely affordable homes, doing all we can to strengthen the rights of tenants, and clamping down on bad practices of developers and landlords wherever we are able to. But we face a complex problem and one that operates at a global level. We still lack the powers and resources that would allow us properly to regulate the housing market, to protect tenants’ rights to remain in their homes, and to make homelessness and rough sleeping things of the past.

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Punished for supporting Assange?!

Ecuador Wants Ex-President Correa Extradited (DW)

Ecuador requested an Interpol red notice for ex-President Rafael Correa on Tuesday, hoping to have him extradited from Belgium. Correa claims the decision to request his detention and extradition from Belgium are part of an attempt by his former ally, the current president Lenin Moreno, to humiliate him and make him suffer. Correa had been ordered by Ecuadorean Judge Daniella Camacho to present himself before an Ecuadorean court every two weeks as part of the proceedings into the attempted kidnapping in Colombia of former opposition lawmaker Fernando Balda in 2012.

The former premier, whose wife is Belgian, has been living in Belgium since July last year, and has reported to the consulate in Brussels every 15 days starting June 2. On Tuesday, the judge claimed her orders for Correa to present himself to a court had been violated. According to a statement on Twitter, the public prosecutor requested the pre-trial detention of Correa for non-compliance. He called for Interpol to be notified through a red alert for Correa’s capture and extradition.

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Our waters are for dumping garbage.

Most Of Europe’s Rivers And Lakes Fail Water Quality Tests (G.)

The vast majority of Europe’s rivers, lakes and estuaries have failed to meet minimum ecological standards for habitat degradation and pollution, according to a damning new report. Only 40% of surface water bodies surveyed by the European Environmental Agency (EEA) were found to be in a good ecological state, despite EU laws and biodiversity protocols. England was one of the poorer performers to emerge from the State of Our Waters report, which studied 130,000 waterways. The EU’s environment commissioner, Karmenu Vella, said there had been a slight improvement in freshwater quality since 2010. “But much more needs to be done before all lakes, rivers, coastal waters and groundwater bodies are in good status,” he added. “Tackling pollution from agriculture, industry and households requires joint efforts from all water users throughout Europe.”

Scotland dramatically outperformed England in the clean water stocktake which covers the 2010-15 period, with water standards similar to much of Scandinavia. Precise comparisons are difficult as reporting methodologies vary across Europe but water quality in England was in the bottom half of the European table, and had deteriorated since the last stocktake in 2010. Peter Kristensen, the report’s lead author told the Guardian that higher population densities, more intensive agricultural practices, and better monitoring of waterways had all contributed to the result. “England is comparable to countries in central Europe with a high proportion of water bodies failing to reach good status,” he said. “The situation is much better in Scotland, where only around 45% of sites failed [to meet minimum standards].”

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It’s actually getting worse.

More Than 200 Migrants Drown In Mediterranean In Three Days (G.)

More than 200 migrants have drowned at sea in the Mediterranean in the past three days, taking the death toll for the year to more than 1,000 and prompting fears that human traffickers are taking greater risks because of a crackdown imposed by the Italian government and the Libyan coastguard. The UN refugee agency in Tripoli reported on Monday that 276 refugees and migrants were disembarked in the Libyan capital on Monday, including 16 survivors of a boat carrying 130 people, of whom 114 were still missing at sea. Further shipwrecks were found at the weekend. On Tuesday the Libyan coastguard reported a further seven deaths and a further 123 migrants rescued.

The 1,000 deaths landmark was reached on 1 July. It is the fourth year in succession that more than 1,000 migrants have died trying to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea. Othman Belbeisi, the chief of mission in Libya at the International Organization for Migration (IOM), claimed the “alarming increase” in deaths at sea was out of the ordinary. “Smugglers are exploiting the desperation of migrants to leave before there are further crackdowns on Mediterranean crossings by Europe,” he said. Overall the number of migrants reaching Italy by sea is down on last year’s figures, but the proportion of those trying to reach Italy that are drowning is rising, prompting claims that the stricter Italian government policy is to blame.

Figures prepared by Matteo Villa, a research fellow at the Italian thinktank ISPI, show that so far in 2018 only half of those leaving Libya have made it to Europe, down from 86% last year. The data shows 44% have been brought back by the Libyan coastguard, compared with 12% last year. A total of 4.5% died or had gone missing, compared with 2.3% last year. But in June, almost one in 10 died or went missing upon departure from the Libyan coast – the highest proportion ever.

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I can’t watch this.

Albatross

In the heart of the great Pacific, a story is taking place that may change the way you see everything. ALBATROSS is offered as a free public artwork. Watch the 3-minute trailer now:

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May 112018
 


Pablo Picasso La lecture 1932

 

‘Everything’ in Argentina is 20% to 30% Overvalued – Lacalle (BI)
About That FBI ‘Source’ (Strassel)
The Art of Breaking a Deal (Escobar)
China Walks A Fine Line In Iran (Dorsey)
Capitalism Is Collectivist (CA)
Karl Marx Sacrificed Logic On The Altar Of His Desire For Revolution (Keen)
Theresa May Turns Brexit Into Role-Reversal Game (G.)
Third of British Homeowners Priced Out Of Their Own Property (Ind.)
Greece Sees Spike In Waivers Of Inheritance (K.)
The Answer To Life, The Universe And Everything Might Be 73. Or 67 (G.)
Palm Oil Producers Are Wiping Out Orangutans (G.)

 

 

“Obviously the economy will shrink, but it shrinks to reality..”

‘Everything’ in Argentina is 20% to 30% Overvalued – Lacalle (BI)

“Everything” in Argentina is 20% to 30% overvalued, making a financial crisis inevitable, Daniel Lacalle, an economist and fund manager, told Business Insider. A financial crisis has been building in Argentina for years but was hidden by an inflationary bubble which politicians refused to address because they wanted to “avoid the pain,” said Lacalle, chief economist at Tressis SV and a fund manager at Adriza International Opportunities. “Argentina was an accident waiting to happen… Right now GDP [in Argentina] is a fabrication… a complete invention. Obviously the economy will shrink, but it shrinks to reality. It needs to face reality,” he said.

The Argentine peso has been struggling against an increasingly strong dollar. Two interest rate hikes in 24 hours failed to prevent the fall of the currency’s value and the country is seeking billions from the International Monetary Fund, according to reports. The news shocked Argentines who are still traumatized by the last IMF loan which coincided with austerity and the financial crisis in 2001 that caused social and economic chaos. The next crisis could already be underway. “The crisis is already happening. You have seen prices go through the roof, discontent, the economy is not growing as it was supposed to grow,” said Lacalle.

He added that the problems have been building for years but were disguised by a “massive bubble” which came from an “extreme inflow of cheap dollars” during the end of QE and helpful “tailwind” conditions. The tailwind has now reversed thanks to an increasingly strong dollar and the prospect of an interest rate rise from the US Federal Reserve. The result is a crisis which interest rate rises have failed to stave off. It was disguised by politicians who wanted to “avoid the pain of facing the problems, so they tried to indebt their way out of it,” Lacalle said.

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Planting a spy in a political campaign may cause a problem or two.

About That FBI ‘Source’ (Strassel)

Did the bureau engage in outright spying against the 2016 Trump campaign? The Department of Justice lost its latest battle with Congress Thursday when it allowed House Intelligence Committee members to view classified documents about a top-secret intelligence source that was part of the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign. Even without official confirmation of that source’s name, the news so far holds some stunning implications. Among them is that the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation outright hid critical information from a congressional investigation. In a Thursday press conference, Speaker Paul Ryan bluntly noted that Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes’s request for details on this secret source was “wholly appropriate,” “completely within the scope” of the committee’s long-running FBI investigation, and “something that probably should have been answered a while ago.”

Translation: The department knew full well it should have turned this material over to congressional investigators last year, but instead deliberately concealed it. House investigators nonetheless sniffed out a name, and Mr. Nunes in recent weeks issued a letter and a subpoena demanding more details. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s response was to double down—accusing the House of “extortion” and delivering a speech in which he claimed that “declining to open the FBI’s files to review” is a constitutional “duty.” Justice asked the White House to back its stonewall. And it even began spinning that daddy of all superspook arguments—that revealing any detail about this particular asset could result in “loss of human lives.” This is desperation, and it strongly suggests that whatever is in these files is going to prove very uncomfortable to the FBI.

The bureau already has some explaining to do. Thanks to the Washington Post’s unnamed law-enforcement leakers, we know Mr. Nunes’s request deals with a “top secret intelligence source” of the FBI and CIA, who is a U.S. citizen and who was involved in the Russia collusion probe. When government agencies refer to sources, they mean people who appear to be average citizens but use their profession or contacts to spy for the agency. Ergo, we might take this to mean that the FBI secretly had a person on the payroll who used his or her non-FBI credentials to interact in some capacity with the Trump campaign. This would amount to spying, and it is hugely disconcerting.

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“Trump has reshuffled the Grand Chessboard. Persians, though, happen to know a thing or two about chess.”

The Art of Breaking a Deal (Escobar)

To cut to the chase, the US decision to leave the JCPOA will not open the path to an Iranian nuclear weapon. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who has the last word, repeatedly stressed these are un-Islamic. It will not open the path toward regime change. On the contrary, Iran hardliners, clerical and otherwise, are already capitalizing on their interpretation from the beginning – Washington cannot be trusted. And it will not open the path toward all-out war. It’s no secret every Pentagon war-gaming exercise against Iran turned out nightmarish. This included the fact that the Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC, could be put out of the oil business within hours, with dire consequences for the global economy.

President Hassan Rouhani, in his cool, calm, collected response, emphasized Iran will remain committed to the JCPOA. Immediately before the announcement, he had already said: “It is possible that we will face some problems for two or three months, but we will pass through this.” Responding to Trump, Rouhani stressed: “From now on, this is an agreement between Iran and five countries … from now on the P5+1 has lost its 1… we have to wait and see how the others react. “If we come to the conclusion that with cooperation with the five countries we can keep what we wanted despite Israeli and American efforts, Barjam [the Iranian description of the JCPOA] can survive.”

Clearly, a titanic internal struggle is already underway, revolving around whether the Rouhani administration – which is actively working to diversify the economy – will be able to face the onslaught by the hard-liners. They have always characterized the JCPOA as a betrayal of Iran’s national interest. [..] So, Trump has reshuffled the Grand Chessboard. Persians, though, happen to know a thing or two about chess.

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China will not turn its back on Iran. Neither will Russia.

China Walks A Fine Line In Iran (Dorsey)

Chinese businessman Sheng Kuan Li didn’t worry about sanctions when he decided in 2010 to invest $200 million in a steel mill in Iran that started producing ingots and billet within months of the lifting of punitive measures against the Islamic republic as part of 2015 international nuclear agreement with Iran. With no operations in the United States, Mr. Li was not concerned about being targeted by the US Treasury. Mr. Li, moreover, circumvented financial restrictions on Iran by funding his investment through what he called a “private transfer,” a money swap that was based on trust and avoided regular banking channels. In doing so, Mr. Li was following standard Chinese practice of evading the sanctions regime by using alternative routes or establishing alternative institutions that were in effect immune.

To be able to continue to purchase Iranian oil while sanctions were in place, China, for example, established the Bank of Kunlun to handle Chinese payments. The Chinese experience in circumventing the earlier sanctions will come in handy with Beijing rejecting US President Donald J. Trump’s renewed effort to isolate Iran and force it to make further concessions on its nuclear and ballistic missiles programs as well as the Islamic republic’s regional role in the Middle East by walking away from the 2015 agreement and reintroducing punitive economic measures. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in response to Mr. Trump’s announcement that the People’s Republic was committed to the deal and would “maintain communication with all parties and continue to protect and execute the agreement fully.”

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How can you maintain individualism rules when you see how people interact with social media?

Capitalism Is Collectivist (CA)

One of the central tenets of late-20th century consumer capitalism is the sanctity of the individual. Margaret Thatcher declared that “There’s no such thing as society, there are individual men and women.” Ayn Rand’s philosophy glamorized anti-social übermenschen who stand against everyone else. Friedrich von Hayek thought mild social welfare policy could be compared to Nazi fascism because they are both “collectivist.” Libertarians promote “individual freedom” with a level of brand discipline that would make Apple proud.

It’s easy to swallow this idea at face value, agreeing that market fundamentalists really do value the inviolability of the individual, while the left believes instead in the collective and the community. After all, market zealots don’t merely try to dismantle policies that benefit the common good. They attack the idea that there can be a common good to begin with. Because leftists talk about social welfare, and supporters of markets put the Individual at the center of their framework, one can forgive those who are seduced by this rhetoric. But it is only rhetoric. In fact, today’s economy is a collectivist enterprise, insofar as collectivism elevates the good of the aggregate and the organization over that of individual human beings.

Get past the well-crafted agitprop, and we see that corporate capitalism is all about subsuming the particular will of an individual to that of the institution. The institutions vary: a monopolistic corporation, a nonprofit charity, an arm of government, the police. But in each, the individual is actually helpless and powerless, with the needs, wants, and will of the larger entity taking priority. Amazon workers work for Amazon: They don’t set the rules of their own workplace, that’s done from above. They don’t own the company, they don’t get to say what it does. And Amazon in particular is a pioneer in sacrificing the sanctity (and dignity) of the individual to the company. The employees serve the corporation, rather than the other way around.

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Steve on Marx’s crucial mistake.

Karl Marx Sacrificed Logic On The Altar Of His Desire For Revolution (Keen)

With both use-value and exchange-value quantitative, there will be a difference between these two “intrinsically incommensurable magnitudes” (Capital I. Ch. 19) that is the source of surplus. Marx’s best statement of this in relation to labor was in Capital I itself: “The daily cost of maintaining it [Labour], and its daily expenditure in work, are two totally different things. The former determines the exchange-value of the labour power, the latter is its use-value. The fact that half a [working] day’s labour is necessary to keep the labourer alive during 24 hours, does not in any way prevent him from working a whole day… The seller of labour power, like the seller of any other commodity, realises its exchange value, and parts with its use-value.”

He thus had a far more satisfying, positive proof as to why Labour was a source of surplus. But was it the only source? What about machinery as well? In the Grundrisse, when he was still enthralled by his new methodology, he applied it correctly to machinery: “It also has to be postulated (which was not done above) that the use-value of the machine [is] significantly greater than its value; i.e. that its devaluation in the service of production is not proportional to its increasing effect on production.” But Gadzooks! This means that machinery can be a source of surplus as well. And if so, then an increasing “organic composition of capital” has no implications for the levels of surplus and profit: they could go up just as well as go down when production became less labour-intensive.

The “Tendency for the Rate of Profit to Fall” disappears. Socialism is no longer inevitable. Marx’s reaction to this shock discovery was to employ verbal gymnastics until such a time that he could fool himself that he had reconciled the two approaches. He then set about fooling everyone else, and finally declared emphatically—and falsely—that: “However useful a given kind of raw material, or a machine, or other means of production may be, though it may cost £150… yet it cannot, under any circumstances, add to the value of the product more than £150”. With this false statement swallowed by Marx’s followers, the belief in the inevitability of socialism continued. Accidents of history led to his Russia’s Bolshevik followers attempting to impose socialism on feudal Russia, and the rest is a very unfortunate history.

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What despair looks like.

Theresa May Turns Brexit Into Role-Reversal Game (G.)

Theresa May has ordered Brexiters to study her “customs partnership” model, and remainers to go over the leavers’ “maximum facilitation” proposal, in a bid to thrash out a compromise between the two sides. Boris Johnson and Philip Hammond – apparently regarded as the “ultras” of leave and remain, respectively – have been sitting out of the cabinet working groups. May’s “customs partnership” will be examined by Brexiters Liam Fox and Michael Gove, teamed with remainer and Cabinet Office minister David Lidington. “Max-fac” will be workshopped by remainers Greg Clark, the business secretary, and Karen Bradley, the Northern Ireland secretary, along with Brexit secretary David Davis, a leaver.

The ministers have until Tuesday to examine their options, but entrenched positions mean a breakthrough is not expected. One cabinet minister told the Guardian it is partly about May wanting to “kick any decisions down the road for as long as she can”. It certainly looks that way, after Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the Commons, announced government business for the next fortnight – minus the EU withdrawal bill, which needs to come back from the Lords but is peppered with amendments that have enraged Brexiters. Labour accused the government of “subverting democracy” with the delay.

Sir John Major, meanwhile, has hit out at Brexiters’ failure to grasp that leaving the customs union would mean a hard border in Ireland and damaging consequences for peace there. The Conservative former PM, speaking at the Irish embassy in London, said without a customs union, border checks would be required by law, especially for food, animals and animal feed. “If so, a physical border seems unavoidable,” he said.

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How bubbles implode. Slowly at first.

Third of British Homeowners Priced Out Of Their Own Property (Ind.)

More than one in three UK homeowners wouldn’t be able to afford their home if it were listed on the property market at today’s value says new research, as the latest data confirms prices stutter upwards. The Halifax House Price Index, a leading measure of the state of the property market, this week released figures showing prices in the last three months were 2.2% higher than in the same period last year, with the average property now coming in at £220,962. The figures support separate findings that suggest that a significant proportion of those who have owned their own home even for a few years would already be priced out of the market if they were to attempt the purchase again, despite historically low mortgage interest rates.

More than one in three of the 3,000 property owners surveyed by MyJobQuote said their home’s value had increased to the point that they would be unable to afford it at the current value – an average of £50,000 more than their original purchase price – or that changes to their financial circumstances would now make it impossible. However, the Halifax data suggests that a downward price trend that had been contained in geographical pockets until recently is becoming more widespread. While the annual figures still show a reasonable increase, month by month, prices are currently dropping nationally by an average of more than 3%. At a time when the property market traditionally enters a stronger summer buying season, the latest data, which follows a 1.6% increase in average prices in March, suggests a rocky state of affairs.

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Properties become unused and useless. There is no reason for this to happen. Scorched Earth.

Greece Sees Spike In Waivers Of Inheritance (K.)

The exhaustion of Greeks’ taxpaying capacity and the difficulties in meeting day-to-day expenses are leading to more and more citizens waiving inheritances, especially when they concern real estate assets. Legal sources say that the phenomenon no longer only concerns people waiving inheritances due to the debts of the deceased (which they would have to pay), but has spread to those wishing to avoid the payment of the inheritance tax and the Single Property Tax (ENFIA), as well as expenses related to property maintenance. According to the latest data available, in 2017 such waivers amounted to 130,000, while the definitive data will be issued soon, according to Justice Ministry sources.

That figure is quite impressive, given that it is almost three times the number of inheritance waivers in 2016 (54,422), and is up by 333 percent on the 2013 figure. This means that the state takes ownership of properties that cannot be utilized, as the fate of those assets remains unknown given that the state’s auction programs are fairly limited. For instance, in the first half of this month, the state will auction just three properties, after 15 assets went under the hammer over the previous fortnight but without any success. It also remains unknown how many assets have come under state ownership as a result of confiscations and property concessions.

What is certain is that all these properties are assets that will drop in value, which will make it even more difficult to find buyers for them in the future. Every beneficiary has the right to waive an inheritance, except for the state. The deadline for waiving an inheritance is four months after the day a will is published. If there is no will, the four-month period starts on the day the person dies. However, if the deceased lived abroad or the heir has their main residence in another country, then the deadline for waiving an inheritance extends to 12 months. The acceptance or waiver has to concern the entire inheritance, not parts of it.

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“..the universe is getting bigger quicker than it should be..”

The Answer To Life, The Universe And Everything Might Be 73. Or 67 (G.)

A crisis of cosmic proportions is brewing: the universe is expanding 9% faster than it ought to be and scientists are not sure why. The latest, most precise, estimate of the universe’s current rate of expansion – a value known as the Hubble constant – comes from , which is conducting the most detailed ever three-dimensional survey of the Milky Way. The data has allowed the rate of expansion to be pinned down to a supposed accuracy of a couple of percent. However, this newest estimate stands in stark contradiction with an independent measure of the Hubble constant based on observations of ancient light that was released shortly after the Big Bang. In short, the universe is getting bigger quicker than it should be.

The mismatch is significant and problematic because the Hubble constant is widely regarded as the most fundamental number in cosmology. “The fact the universe is expanding is really one of the most powerful ways we have to determine the composition of the universe, the age of the universe and the fate of the universe,” said Professor Adam Riess, at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, who led the latest analysis. “The Hubble constant quantifies all that into one number.” In an expanding universe, the further away a star or galaxy is, the quicker it is receding. Hubble’s constant – proposed by Edwin Hubble in the 1920s – reveals by how much.

So one approach to measuring it is by observing the redshifts of bright supernovae, whose light is stretched as the very space it is travelling through expands. A challenge, though, is pinpointing the exact distance of these stars. [..] The new data puts the Hubble constant at 73, which translates to galaxies moving away from us 73km per second faster for each additional megaparsec of distance between us and them (a megaparsec is about 3.3m light-years). However, a separate estimate of Hubble comes from observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background, relic radiation that allows scientists to calculate how quickly the universe was expanding 300,000 years after the big bang.

“The cosmic microwave background is the light that is the furthest away from us that we can see,” said Riess. “It’s been travelling for 13.7bn years… and it’s telling us how fast the universe was expanding when the universe was a baby.” Scientists then use the cosmic equivalent of a child growth chart (a computational model that roughly describes the age and contents of the universe and the laws of physics) to predict how fast the universe should be expanding today. This gives a Hubble value of 67.

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Mass extinction and mass insanity.

Palm Oil Producers Are Wiping Out Orangutans (G.)

These extraordinary creatures are our closest relatives, sharing 97% of our DNA. Their similarity to us is astonishing. They are intelligent, inquisitive, smile and show empathy. They even laugh when tickled, like us, when most other animals have evolved to be ticklish only in an itchy, irritating sort of way as a protective reflex. Encountering orangutans in the wild is like nothing else I’ve experienced. They once thrived in Indonesia’s lush, green rainforests but over the last 50 years they have been forced from their home and killed. In the last 16 years alone, 100,000 Bornean orangutans have been lost. All three species – Bornean, Sumatran and the Tapanuli, a species discovered only last year – are now on the critically endangered list.

The reason? It started in the 1960s as forests were logged for timber, but now it’s palm oil. Global demand for palm oil has increased six-fold since 1990. It’s in half of all packaged products on supermarket shelves and to avoid it completely would be incredibly tricky. Although palm oil in food can no longer be described simply as vegetable oil and must be clearly labelled (thanks to an EU directive in 2014), there is no such law for products such as soap, shampoo and other cosmetics. The supermarket Iceland’s decision to ditch palm oil from all of its own-brand products was, it says, a response to the palm oil industry’s catastrophic failure to halt deforestation and deal with the problem.

Even the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) – the industry body charged with ensuring registered companies trade only in oil that has not come from deforestation – is failing spectacularly. Just over a week ago, Greenpeace exposed massive rainforest destruction in Papua allegedly caused by palm oil companies that are subsidiaries of a current RSPO member. Buying from them were big multinationals including Unilever, Nestlé, Pepsico and Mars. The companies concerned have responded by saying they are taking Greenpeace’s claims seriously and taking appropriate action. But if Greenpeace’s assertions are correct, no company can claim the palm oil it uses is 100% “sustainable”.

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Nov 092016
 
 November 9, 2016  Posted by at 10:29 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Javier Juén 2016

Donald Trump Wins White House in Astonishing Victory (AP)
Global Markets Roiled as Trump Election Win Upends Forecasts (BBG)
Putin Congratulates Trump, Hopes To Work On International Issues (RT)
World Leaders Brace Themselves For Trump Presidency (G.)
Canada Immigration Website Crashes As Trump’s US Election Lead Grows (G.)
Donald Trump’s Victory Is Nothing Short Of A Revolution (G.)
Toronto Million-Dollar Homes Pushing Demand to Nearby Cities (BBG)
India Abolishes Larger Banknotes In Fight Against Graft, ‘Black Money’ (CNBC)
Spanish Philosopher Marina: ‘We Have Lost The Idea Of Europe’ (EurActiv)
The True Scandal Of 2016 Was The Torture Of Chelsea Manning (Scahill)
Geoffrey Pyatt: Greece An Island Of Stability, Owes Its Success To EU (Kath.)

 

 

 

The media are not yet ready to cover something they opinionated so frantically against.

Donald Trump Wins White House in Astonishing Victory

Donald Trump has been elected the next president of the United States — a remarkable showing by the celebrity businessman and political novice who upended American politics with his bombastic rhetoric. Trump rode an astonishing wave of support from voters seeking sweeping change, capitalizing on voters’ economic anxieties, taking advantage of racial tensions and overcoming a string of sexual assault allegations on his way to the White House. His triumph over Hillary Clinton will end eight years of Democratic dominance of the White House and threatens to undo major achievements of President Barack Obama. He’s pledged to act quickly to repeal Obama’s landmark health-care law, revoke the nuclear agreement with Iran and rewrite important trade deals with other countries, particularly Mexico and Canada.

The Republican blasted through Democrats’ longstanding firewall, carrying Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, states that hadn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since the 1980s. He needed to win nearly all of the competitive battleground states, and he did just that, claiming Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and others. Global stock markets and U.S. stock futures plunged deeply, reflecting investor alarm over what a Trump presidency might mean for the economy and trade. Trump will take office with Congress expected to be fully under Republican control. Republican Senate candidates fended off Democratic challengers in key states and appeared poised to maintain the majority. Republicans also maintained their grip on the House. Senate control means Trump will have great leeway in appointing Supreme Court justices, which could mean a major change to the right that could last for decades.

Trump upended years of political convention on his way to the White House, levelling harshly personal insults on his rivals, deeming Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers, and vowing to temporarily suspend Muslim immigration to the U.S. He never released his tax returns, breaking with decades of campaign tradition, and eschewed the kind of robust data and field efforts that helped Obama win two terms in the White House, relying instead on his large, free-wheeling rallies to energize supporters. His campaign was frequently in chaos, and he cycled through three campaign managers this year. His final campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, touted the team’s accomplishments as the final results rolled in, writing on Twitter that “rally crowds matter” and “we expanded the map.”

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Shocks are wearing off already.

Global Markets Roiled as Trump Election Win Upends Forecasts (BBG)

Global markets were thrown into disarray as Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election, shocking traders after recent polls indicated that Hillary Clinton would be the victor. Futures on the S&P 500 Index plunged by a 5% limit that triggers trading curbs and European equities sank the most since the aftermath of Britain’s shock vote to leave the European Union. Gold advanced with haven assets including the yen and sovereign bonds. Mexico’s peso tumbled the most since 2008 amid concern U.S. trade policies will become more protectionist under Trump. The dollar pared losses and Treasuries trimmed gains after Trump appeared before supporters.

Trump was projected to be the winner early Wednesday by the AP and television networks after Wisconsin pushed him over the 270 Electoral College vote threshold needed to become president-elect. The Republicans also retained control of Congress. A Trump victory had been portrayed by analysts as having the potential to unhinge markets that were banking on a continuation of policies that coincided with the second-longest bull market in S&P 500 history. Brexit was the last major political shock and led to the U.S. equity gauge sliding 5.3% in two days. “A Trump win is expected to damage trade,” said James Butterfill, head of research and investment strategy at ETF Securities in London. “Traders are already expressing their worries through a depreciating dollar, which is bad news for European companies.”

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I’m sure you’d rather have seen war with Russia.

Putin Congratulates Trump, Hopes To Work On International Issues (RT)

In a message to Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed confidence that the dialogue between Moscow and Washington, in keeping with each other’s views, meets the interests of both Russia and the US. Putin also expressed hope over the joint efforts on bringing Russian-American relations out of their current crisis. The Russian leader noted in the message that he hopes to address some “burning issues that are currently on the international agenda, and search for effective responses to the challenges of the global security,” RIA Novosti reported. On top of it, Putin has expressed confidence that “building a constructive dialogue between Moscow and Washington, based on principles of equality, mutual respect and each other’s positions, meets the interests of the peoples of our countries and of the entire international community.”

According to many observers, US-Russia relations are now at their lowest point since the Cold War. Putin has repeatedly noted that the worsening of Russia’s relations with the US “was not our choice,” however. For things to improve between Moscow and Washington, the US should first and foremost start acting like an equal partner and respect Russia’s interests rather than try to dictate terms, Putin said last month. “We are concerned with the deterioration of Russian-American relations, but that was not our choice, we never wanted that. On the contrary, we want to have friendly relations with the US, a great country and a leading economy,” Putin said at an economic forum in Moscow. The US will have to negotiate with Russia on finding solutions to international issues as no state is now able to act alone, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said last week, adding that problems in bilateral relations began to mount long before the Ukrainian crisis broke out in 2014.

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Brussels is full of puppets who won’t feel all that easy today, having ridiculed and vilified Trump for a long time.

World Leaders Brace Themselves For Trump Presidency (G.)

At midnight in Washington, as Donald Trump’s victory became inevitable, the French ambassador to the US sent out a tweet. “It is the end of an era,” he declared, “that of neoliberalism.” “It remains to be seen what will succeed it,” Gérard Araud added. “After Brexit and this election, everything is now possible. A world is collapsing before our eyes.” Those sweeping observations were later deleted, but the underlying sentiment will be widely shared in western capitals. Overnight, the world entered uncharted territory. President-elect Trump spent the campaign threatening to upend what has been called the existing order, the network of treaties and multilateral institutions that govern much of global relations.

He has said he would tear up and renegotiate trade treaties, and he has even called into question America’s commitment to the Nato alliance. With a completely different kind of leader preparing to enter the Oval Office, it is already looking like a world turned upside down. There is a caveat to the direst predictions. Trump will have to work with Congress, including establishment foreign policy Republicans. And he will have to find people to staff the top positions in his administration. It is possible that he will simply enjoy his victory and his new home in the White House and delegate foreign policy to Republican insiders such as Stephen Hadley, George W Bush’s national security adviser who is rumoured to be interested in reprising his role. That Bush administration seemed radical at the time, but no longer in relation to Trump’s stated agenda.

On balance, it seems more likely that he means what he has said all along about US relations with the rest of the world, and intends to turn his ideas into policy under his personal leadership. Long-negotiated multilateral trade deals, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with Europe, will be the first to be halted. Opposition to those deals were a cornerstone of the Trump campaign. In their place, Trump has said he will negotiate bilateral deals that would be more favourable for US manufacturing. But he would face hostile trading partners, irritated at the dumping of major agreements. A constant theme of his campaign was to denigrate Chinese trading practices and to promise to claw back American advantage. China will not make concessions easily. Trump’s America could easily face a trade backlash.

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Time for Trump to get deeper into Canadian real estate.

Canada Immigration Website Crashes As Trump’s US Election Lead Grows (G.)

Canada’s main immigration website appeared to suffer repeated outages on Tuesday night as Trump took the lead in several major states and his prospects for winning the US presidency turned markedly higher. Some users in the United States, Canada and Asia saw an internal server error message when trying to access the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website. When the Guardian clicked on the page it would not load and a “this page isn’t working” error message came up. Officials for the ministry could not immediately be reached for comment, but the website’s problems were noted by many on Twitter.

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There’ll be a lot of opinions like this one: “boy, were we wrong, but really, we’re so right we just gotta wear shades.”

Donald Trump’s Victory Is Nothing Short Of A Revolution (G.)

We may as well call this what it is: a revolution. Because nothing else comes close to capturing the political revolt – and the chaos that surely follows – from Donald Trump’s stunning victory in 2016. We were all wrong. So badly wrong. The polls, the pundits, the press. The elites, the allies, the business leaders. Trump’s victory makes the upset of Brexit look like a quaint tiff over a round of golf. America and its relationship to the world has fundamentally changed overnight. An era that stretches back to Franklin D Roosevelt just came to an abrupt and ugly end. Instead of being an expansive, outward-looking, globalist power, the United States has definitively turned inward, shutting its borders to Mexicans, Muslims and any number of other perceived enemies of Trump’s demagogic imagination.

At the same time, America itself has been redefined. The bond between its president and its constitution will be strained, if Trump pursues a fraction of what he so clearly promised through this extraordinary election. His political enemies – notably Hillary Clinton – can expect prosecution led by an FBI that previously found no grounds for legal action over her private email server. The Trump Department of Justice will seek prison time for Clinton, and the only barrier to this punishment is the third and independent branch of government: the judiciary. Trump promised a deportation force to round up hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of undocumented immigrants starting on his inauguration day in January. His transition to government will surely be dominated by plans to rip through the Latino communities of America’s largest cities.

There will be no judicial restraint in these immigration cases. Amid the political upheaval, we can expect massive economic dislocation. The financial markets will now be calculating the price of uncertainty in global trade flows as they contemplate Trump’s promises to impose huge tariffs on China, restrict international investment by US companies, and force an epic diplomatic breach with Mexico over his beloved wall. Taken together, Trump’s victory ushers in the most tumultuous period of American history since the Great Depression and the start of world war two. It will challenge the core concepts of American identity and global security as we have known them for generations.

Overnight, Russia has moved from perennial rival to trusted friend, while Nato’s future is in peril. Allies can now expect to pay for their security umbrella, as the US military effectively turns into a mercenary force. Many countries may find cheaper options and break with the US entirely.

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Vancouver stifled this; TO should too.

Toronto Million-Dollar Homes Pushing Demand to Nearby Cities (BBG)

Toronto’s hot housing market is driving residents to seek more affordable options outside Canada’s largest city, pushing demand for new properties to new highs in these outlying towns. Residential permits in Hamilton, a city of about 500,000 people an hour’s drive from Toronto, more than doubled to a record C$204 million ($153 million) in September, according to Statistics Canada. That’s the largest jump in more than six years for the area reliant on manufacturing and steel production. The value of permits in St. Catharines, in the wine-growing Niagara region, jumped to the second highest on record to C$66 million in the month. The surge in new housing demand in outlying regions of Toronto comes amid escalating prices and all-time-high sales in Canada’s financial capital.

The average price of a detached house in downtown Toronto jumped 22% in October from the prior year to C$1.3 million amid a record number of sales, according to the city’s real estate board. The more affordable condominiums are also facing growing demand and escalating costs, with sales up 20% and the average price up 13%, nearing half-a-million dollars. Hamilton-Burlington is already feeling the effects of the pent-up housing demand. Sales of all housing types rose to a record high for the month of October as listings dropped 3.2% and properties were snapped up within a month of listing. The average price of a freehold home increased 15% to C$540,250, still less than half the cost of a Toronto property.

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In a society of over a billion people who trade mostly in cash.

India Abolishes Larger Banknotes In Fight Against Graft, ‘Black Money’ (CNBC)

Consumers in the world’s biggest democracy just got a big surprise. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced that 500 and 1,000 rupee banknotes would be withdrawn from circulation at midnight, saying it was part of a crackdown on rampant corruption and counterfeit currency. India is hampered by so-called black money that is undeclared, untaxed or under the table, said Sasha Riser-Kositsky at research firm Eurasia Group. The unexpected step appears designed to bring billions of dollars worth of cash in unaccounted wealth into the mainstream economy, as well as hit the finances of Islamist militants who target India and are suspected of using fake 500 rupee notes to fund operations. “The move to restrict the circulation of large-denomination currency notes represents a major step in the government’s fight against black money,” Riser-Kositsky said.

Speaking in an address to the nation, Modi said that black money “and corruption are the biggest obstacles in eradicating poverty.” New 500 and 2,000 rupee denomination notes will be issued at a later date, he added. Those notes are worth roughly $7.53 and $30.14, respectively, but they represent very large-denomination bills in the country. The average daily income in India was 272.19 rupees in 2014, or about $4.09 at today’s conversion rate, according to the country’s Labor Bureau. “It shows resolve on the part of the government to do something about black money, which I like a lot,” a hedge fund investor who is active in India but requested anonymity told CNBC. The investor added, however, that “I do think there’s going to be a backlash. A lot of the economy is still cash-driven, and this will inconvenience a lot of people and transactions.”

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Yeah. Many years ago.

Spanish Philosopher Marina: ‘We Have Lost The Idea Of Europe’ (EurA)

Philosopher José Antonio Marina told EurActiv Spain that the idea of Europe has been lost and called on the EU to undertake a period of “quiet” reflection in order to relaunch a project imbued with “intellectual, political and economic vigour”. “The idea that we have about Europe has a direct impact,” which means that the European Union “needs to enter a much more reflective period in order to find solutions to problems that were unimaginable before”, warned philosopher José Antonio Marina. As an example, the Spaniard cited Brexit, and the issue of activating Article 50, which for an exclusive club only accustomed to enlargement has come as a shock. The EU’s doors are still open to new members of course.

Marina added that one of the EU’s major problems is that it has not spent enough time delving into one particular issue: sovereignty. The British, who “are very practical” and “have a clear idea of England, but not of Europe”, preferred to “regain their sovereignty, even if it makes them poorer”, insisted the Toledo-born thinker. “Sovereignty has always been a complicated issue,” he continued. “In Europe, this debate has been diluted, it has become tired and has not been carried out well,” Marina claimed, adding that this whole concept, as well as the concept of the nation, has to be rethought. However, he warned that regulatory system reforms have to be done carefully, because “they are tools that contain a lot of wisdom”.

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I agree with Scahill’s main topic, but cringe at seeing him fall for the “Trump’s bizarre and consistent lauding of Vladimir Putin” narrative.

The True Scandal Of 2016 Was The Torture Of Chelsea Manning (Scahill)

A few days ago, we learned that Private Chelsea Manning attempted to take her own life last month for the second time since being sentenced to 35 years at the U.S. military prison in Leavenworth, Kansas. The whistleblower, who provided the collateral murder video, the Iraq and Afghan war logs, and the hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. State Department cables to Wikileaks, was convicted of espionage. As I waited to vote today, I found myself thinking of her languishing in misery in isolation and incarceration. This election — particularly in its closing stages — has been dominated by controversies over emails, classified documents, and Wikileaks.

We’ve heard endlessly about Hillary Clinton’s private basement server, her 33,000 deleted emails, the phishing and leaking of John Podesta’s emails, including parts of Clinton’s much discussed private speeches to Goldman Sachs. Trump, for his part, suddenly discovered a great love for Julian Assange, though he does have trouble correctly spelling Wikileaks in his tweets of praise. Taken together with Trump’s bizarre and consistent lauding of Vladimir Putin and leaks from the U.S. intelligence community, the country has been treated to an odd flashback of Cold War propaganda, including a fair dose of red-baiting from the Democrats. In the matter of Anthony Weiner’s computer, his wife Huma Abedin’s communications and the potential implications for Clinton, the FBI, whose overreach had not previously been of much concern to Democrats, suddenly became a deviant manipulator of the electoral process, while Trump and his supporters alternately praised the agency’s professionalism and denounced it as part of the rigged system.

The U.S. public is now getting a taste of the way hacking, phishing, and an overwhelming dependence on fallible machines and networks can impact politics. But let’s be clear: None of the disclosures in this campaign — not one thing in any of the hacked emails or those declassified and released from Clinton’s private server — has brought to light anything of greater importance than the documents Chelsea Manning provided to Wikileaks. She revealed war crimes, including murder and torture, dirty and duplicitous dealings of the U.S. and its allies, exposed liars, documented a secret history of America’s longest running war, and forced a much needed debate about the U.S. role in the world. And for that, she is being tortured.

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Talk about a Trojan horse. More like a Trojan assclown. Maybe Trump can get rid of him.

Geoffrey Pyatt: Greece An Island Of Stability, Owes Its Success To EU (Kath.)

A week before a scheduled visit to Athens by US President Barack Obama, American Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt on Tuesday emphasized that Greece is an island of stability in a volatile region and that the country’s success is linked to the success of the European Union. Pyatt made his comments during a meeting with Parliament Speaker Nikos Voutsis. The two men’s talks focused on the political situation in their respective countries, the state of Greece’s economy and the refugee crisis. Pyatt also met with Deputy Prime Minister Yiannis Dragasakis for talks that focused on the meetings Obama is to have in Athens next week.

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