Mar 062019
 


Pablo Picasso Bathers with ball 1 1928

 

Amazon To Release Mueller Report in Full Print on March 26 (Taer)
Roger Stone’s Book May Violate Gag Order (R.)
Sharply Lower Prices Help Sell New US Houses, But it’s Not Enough (WS)
Democrats In Search Of A Crime To Punish Trump And His Voters (Sara Carter)
Trump Slams Democrats Over Probe He Calls Harassment (MW)
House Dems’ Rebuke of Rep. Ilhan Omar is a Fraud For Many Reasons (Greenwald)
Will Congress Repair The Safety Net For Older Americans? (NA)
US Trucking Boom U-Turns (WS)
Division! Brexit Stretches Arcane British Parliament To Breaking Point (R.)
UK Cash System ‘On The Verge Of Collapse’ (G.)
BOE and ECB Activate Emergency Currency Swap Line (Ind.)
Toyota, BMW Warn No-Deal Brexit Could Hit UK Investment, Production (BBC)
What Do The People Of The World Die From? (BBC)
Arctic Animals Shift Feeding Habits (AFP)

 

 

Nice find.

Amazon To Release Mueller Report in Full Print on March 26 (Taer)

If you are a journalist looking for a copy of The Mueller Report, Amazon got news for you. They claim that the report will be out on March 26. It’s not clear if Attorney General William Barr has cleared the released of the full Mueller report. But Amazon announced today the pre-order of “The Mueller Report”, with an introduction by constitutional scholar Alan Dershowitz.

As CNN has previously reported, Barr has been closely consulting with top Justice Department officials on the outlines of plans to handle the highly anticipated report, including to what extent it should be shared with Congress, and by extension the public. Could this be a trick from Dershowitz to sell a book about the report or would it be the full report, this we will have to wait and see. Amazon also list Robert Mueller III as author of the book. The book will be offered in both e-book and paperback editions. This is a developing story that will be updated.

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A book that first came out in 2017. That can’t be it. It was re-published under another name and critized Mueller in its introduction. Oh, that’s it. Wait: it was published before the gag order was issued. No, so that can’t be it either.

Roger Stone’s Book May Violate Gag Order (R.)

A federal judge said Tuesday that the publication of a book last month by President Donald Trump’s former political adviser Roger Stone which criticized Special Counsel Robert Mueller may violate a media gag order – a transgression that could land the self-proclaimed “dirty trickster” behind bars. Judge Amy Berman Jackson for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered Stone and his lawyers to provide her with a report by Monday explaining how he plans to comply with the order, and also demanded that he turn over certain records detailing everything he knew about the book’s release.

“There is no question that the order prohibited and continues to prohibit the defendant from making any public statements, using any medium, concerning the investigation,” Jackson wrote. “It does not matter when the defendant may have first formulated the opinions expressed, or when he first put them into words: he may no longer share his views on these particular subjects with the world.” Shortly after Stone was charged, Jackson gave him wide latitude to discuss the case against him as long as it was not in the vicinity of the federal courthouse. But just days later, she tightened the reins with a sweeping gag order after Stone posted a photo of her on his Instagram account next to an image resembling the crosshairs of a gun and a message critical of both her and Mueller.

In issuing her gag order on Feb. 21, Jackson warned Stone he would not have a second chance if he violated it. She also said his apologies about the posting, which was later removed, rang hollow. After the gag order, Jackson learned that a 2017 book by Stone originally titled “The Making of the President 2016” had been re-published under the name “The Myth of Russian Collusion” and that it criticized Mueller in its introduction. In addition, Stone also in March posted an item on Instagram that said “Who framed Roger Stone.” It was later removed. Stone’s lawyers have said the book does not violate the gag order because it came out on Feb. 19, before the order was issued.

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Did you notice the similarities between the US and China?

Sharply Lower Prices Help Sell New US Houses, But it’s Not Enough (WS)

Here is the good news: Lower prices stir sales. Clearly, homebuilders are motivated to move their inventory, and they’re making deals at lower prices. The median price of new single-family houses whose sales closed in December fell 7.2% from a year earlier, to $318,000, according to the Commerce Department this morning. December’s 7.2% drop and November’s blistering 11.6% drop were the sharpest year-over-year declines since Housing Bust 1:

The new-house sales data, produced jointly by the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is very volatile. It is revised in the following months, often quite drastically. But despite the ups-and-downs in the monthly data, trends emerge. The steep year-over-year price increases in prior years formed a multi-year boom in prices that has now outrun what the market can bear. The median price of new houses ballooned by about 55% from the range in 2011 and 2012 to the peak in November and December 2017 ($343,300), which exceeded by 31% the crazy bubble peak in March 2007, before it all came apart:

Sales of new houses, in terms of the seasonally adjusted annual rate, had plunged late last year. The year-over-year decline exceeded 15% in November. So in December, this seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales finally responded to lower prices and declined a little, instead of plunging. The year-over-year drop of 2.4%, to an annual rate of sales of 621,000, was the fourth month in a row of year-over-year declines – but a heck of a lot less bad than the double-digit plunges in the prior two months:

That the price declines have not moved the needle enough also shows up in the inventory of new houses for sale that just keeps on rising. In December, the supply surged 17% year-over-year to 344,000 houses, for a supply of 6.6 months at December’s rate of sales (up from 5.5 months a year earlier):

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Trump has this one down: “Basically they’ve started the campaign..”

Democrats In Search Of A Crime To Punish Trump And His Voters (Sara Carter)

The House Judiciary Committee’s Democratic Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler is a man in search of a crime. Nadler and his colleague House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff have moved the conversation from Russian collusion and are now promising to investigate virtually everything connected to President Donald Trump. Mind you, we the tax payers will be paying for these investigations and it will drag America and the administration into another two years of endless witch hunts. Yes, a witch-hunt. Can you imagine if someone despised you so much that all they did day in and day out was search for something, anything, that would get those around you to doubt your intentions. Imagine having to fight every single day of your life against never ending accusations.

Even when those accusations are later proven false it won’t matter because the original lie has already been thoroughly disseminated far and wide among the population. Why are Nadler, D-NY, and Schiff, D-CA, promising these investigations? Because they want to impeach Trump. It’s just that simple. They also want to send a message to the American people: your vote really didn’t matter because in the end it’s Congress that holds the power. Think about that. There was never any evidence of crime that called for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to establish a special counsel. Yet, he did. In fact, he wrote the letter authorizing Trump to fire former FBI Director James Comey. Comey would’ve been fired the first day had Hillary Clinton been president. However, obstruction charges are at the top of the Nadler’s list of investigations.

He also promises to investigate all of Trump’s financial dealings and past business associations. Why? The pair realize that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report will not do the damage they were hoping it would. Both Democratic leaders, supported by their party, realize that Mueller has found no evidence of a conspiracy with the Russians. It has left believers like Schiff, Nadler and many former Obama Administration officials who’ve worked diligently over the past several years to destroy Trump, seething. They do not want to go on the defensive. Nadler and Schiff don’t want to explain that their narrative has been debunked. They do not want Americans to look too close because in the end what will be discovered is that the crimes they are accusing others of committing are the ones they themselves have committed.

So what do they do? They fish for a crime, use the media to propagate their lies and spread malicious rumors. Those crimes can be anything from obstruction of justice, process crimes or financial crimes. The lawmakers will use the power of America’s purse. They will investigate Trump’s children, those who support him and those who work closely with him at the White House. nHowever, remember this: It is the American people, liberty and the principals endowed in our Constitution that will pay the heaviest burden. Nadler announced his probe on Monday into potential “obstruction of justice.” He will lob accusation, after accusation, against the Trump administration and his family. He will seek documents and communications from over 60 individuals connected with the White House. He will look for that needle in a haystack for as long as it takes.

Nadler and Schiff will conduct what they describe as thorough investigations. They will keep these lengthy investigations going to buy time on the clock until they get close to the Democratic National Convention. Nadler will do so at the cost of our nation. Don’t be fooled. He doesn’t care about the American people or justice. In the end, this all about ‘getting back’ for the Democrats.

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You won’t find anyone saying: “but he’s the president, the people voted for him” anymore. What will that mean for subsequent presidents?

Trump Slams Democrats Over Probe He Calls Harassment (MW)

President Donald Trump on Tuesday escalated attacks on Democrats investigating him and his associates, as he signed an executive order establishing a task force addressing veteran suicide. Trump blasted Democrats who have launched an investigation into his White House and allies, saying on Twitter that lawmakers including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler are looking to “harass” the 81 individuals and entities they’re seeking documents from. Those individuals include Trump’s sons Eric and Donald Jr., as well as David Pecker, chairman and CEO of American Media, which publishes the National Enquirer.

Calling Nadler and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff “stone cold CRAZY,” Trump said letters were “sent to innocent people to harass them.” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said late Monday the investigation was “disgraceful and abusive.” Nadler said his committee is beginning a probe into possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power. Trump later said Democrats’ probe was a “disgrace” and said they wanted to “play games” instead of work on infrastructure or health care. “Basically they’ve started the campaign,” he said.

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They’ve started the campaign. But they actually believe they can get rid of Ocasio and Omar whenever they want. And that’s not true. The old guard is done.

House Dems’ Rebuke of Rep. Ilhan Omar is a Fraud For Many Reasons (Greenwald)

GOP Congressman Steve King has served in the U.S. House of Representatives for sixteen years, yet Democrats – who controlled the House for four of those years and now control it again – never formally rebuked or condemned him until last month (they did so at the same time that Republicans removed him from his Committee assignments due to a long history of white supremacist remarks). By extremely stark contrast, Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar – the first black Muslim woman ever elected to the Congress – has served in the House for a little more than two months, and House Democratic leaders have already formally condemned her once and are preparing to so again, this time even more harshly and officially, on Wednesday.

On February 11, the House Democratic leadership, responding to statements made by Omar about large donors and AIPAC driving pro-Israel policies, issued a joint statement condemning Omar for what they called her “use of anti-Semitic tropes,” adding that her “prejudicial accusations about Israel’s defenders” are “deeply offensive.” They then demanded: “We condemn these remarks and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments.” Omar then issued a statement of her own in which she “unequivocally apologized” for unintentionally invoking “anti-Semitic tropes,” but made crystal clear that “the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics” – whether it be AIPAC, as well as the NRA or the fossil fuel industry – was one she would continue to aggressively address and combat.

The Congresswoman quickly made good on her promise to continue speaking out about AIPAC’s toxic influence, the destructive and immoral support given to Israel by the U.S., and the subordination of Americans’ Constitutional rights and the country’s national interests to that foreign nation. Speaking last Wednesday in Washington at a town hall meeting with several other progressive House members, Congresswoman Omar was asked about the use of the “anti-semitism” label to shut down debate over Israel. In reply, she said: “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” That remark created a new outburst of anti-Semitism accusations against Omar, initially provoked by New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait, whose column carried the most sensationalistic and misleading headline possible: “Ilhan Omar Accuses Israel Hawks of ‘Allegiance to a Foreign Country.’”

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Small detail: older Americans own lots of firearms.

Will Congress Repair The Safety Net For Older Americans? (NA)

The first two federal safety net programs, Social Security and Unemployment Insurance, will turn 65 next year. This historic milestone is being preceded by a new focus from the new Congress on how the government’s safety net programs are performing and what changes might be needed to improve them. Safety net programs have evolved over time, from Head Start in 1964 to Supplemental Security Income in 1972 to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010, with its expansion of Medicaid to approximately 15 million people. And social safety net programs have done a lot of good over time. For example, Social Security has lifted an estimated 27 million people out of poverty. However, against this backdrop are some more disturbing realities.

First, many eligible Americans, especially older adults, are not receiving safety net benefits to which they are entitled. For example, the National Council on Aging estimates that almost 60% of older Americans eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP; formerly known as food stamps) aren’t enrolled. Access to federal benefits is especially challenging for older women, who represent nearly two-thirds of all people 65 and older living in poverty. Certain safety net programs have shown a bias against women regarding benefits and coverage by considering work history and salary history; historically, women have been more likely to be unpaid caregivers and to have lower salaries than men. Fixing this type of bias is a prime example of potential safety net reform.

Second, safety net program benefits are not keeping up with the need. For example, Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI), a program for low-income older adults and people with disabilities, has only seen minimal benefit increases since it was created nearly 50 years ago. Third, the government’s measurement of what constitutes poverty for safety net programs, especially poverty of older adults, is grossly outdated. This results in many more older Americans living in poverty than the federal guidelines show. Finally, out-of-pocket health care costs are not sustainable for some poorer, older adults in the Medicare program, leaving many with hard choices between paying for food or rent.

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But cyclical.

US Trucking Boom U-Turns (WS)

Orders for Class-8 trucks – made by Daimler (Freightliner, Western Star), Paccar (Peterbuilt, Kenworth), Navistar International, and Volvo Group (Mack Trucks, Volvo Trucks) – plunged 58% in February compared to February last year, to 16,700 orders, according to FTR Transportation Intelligence after they’d already plunged 58% year-over-year in January and 43% in December. The orders in January and February were back in the range of the “transportation recession” that had hit the industry in 2015 and 2016. At the time, truck and engine manufacturers reacted with layoffs. But for now, they’re sitting on a massive backlog from the boom in orders last year (data via FTR):

The business is infamously cyclical, with regular booms that lead to over-ordering and then overcapacity, followed by busts that then sort it all out again. The industry is also seasonal, so we can use year-over-year comparisons to eliminate most of the effects of seasonality. The chart below shows the percent change of Class-8 truck orders for each month compared to the same month a year earlier. The year-over-year plunges over the past three months are of the same magnitude as the plunges during the last transportation recession (data via FTR):

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Brexit according to Henry VIII.

Division! Brexit Stretches Arcane British Parliament To Breaking Point (R.)

Britain’s 800-year-old parliament has a big decision to make, and little time to make it. After months of drama and delay, the country’s fate could be decided next week in a series of Brexit votes in which lawmakers must choose one of two wood-panelled corridors to shuffle down inside the neo-gothic Westminster palace. Each vote, known as a division, takes about 15 minutes. If it takes too long, the Serjeant-at-Arms, dressed in shiny black shoes, knee-high socks and a long woollen suit, will be sent bearing a ceremonial sword to investigate. Rich in pageantry and theater, Westminster’s parliamentary format has been adapted, modernized and exported to more than two dozen countries across the globe.

[..] On March 12, May is expected to try once more to get her deal approved, though much will rest on whether she can secure extra assurances from Brussels about the thorny issue of Northern Ireland’s border. If that vote fails, May will ask parliament a day later whether it wants to leave the European Union without any kind of exit deal – a potentially disruptive divorce with damaging consequences for the world’s fifth largest economy. If parliament rejects that outcome as well, lawmakers will then decide on March 14 if they want to try to delay Brexit, potentially opening the door to a wholesale renegotiation with the EU – or even a second referendum at home. If the process does go to a third ballot, when Speaker John Bercow bellows “Division!” and bells ring across parliament and beyond to alert lawmakers to the vote, Britain could be 15 minutes from taking its first step towards reversing Brexit.

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“17% of the UK population – over 8 million adults – would struggle to cope in a cashless society”. And nobody cares.

UK Cash System ‘On The Verge Of Collapse’ (G.)

More than 8 million UK adults would struggle to cope in a cashless society, according to a major report which claims that the country’s “cash infrastructure” is in danger of collapsing. With Britons increasingly turning to digital payments, and bank branches and ATMs closing, the Access to Cash Review said companies and organisations providing “essential” services should be required to ensure that consumers can continue to pay by cash. The review is funded by cash machine network Link, but is independent from it, and is chaired by the former head of the Financial Ombudsman Service Natalie Ceeney, with other members including Richard Lloyd, the former executive director of consumer group Which?.

Ceeney said that “17% of the UK population – over 8 million adults – would struggle to cope in a cashless society”. Debit cards last year officially overtook notes and coins as the most popular form of payment in the UK for the first time, and the review’s report predicted that cash could fall to just 10% of all payments within the next 15 years. It also called on the government, regulators and banks to “act now or risk leaving millions behind”. A spokesman for the review claimed the UK’s cash system was “on the verge of collapse”. The bill for running the UK’s cash infrastructure – from ATMs to cash-sorting centres – was about £5bn a year, paid for predominantly by banks (and, ultimately, consumers), said the report. But while the costs were largely fixed, income was declining quickly. As a result, it said, “we have a cash infrastructure which is fast becoming unsustainable”.

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EU banks hold 15 percent of UK bank debt and 10 percent of UK government bonds.

BOE and ECB Activate Emergency Currency Swap Line (Ind.)

The Bank of England and the European Central Bank (ECB) have agreed an emergency currency swap line to ensure banks have access to cash in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The agreement means the Bank of England will offer to lend euros to UK banks on a weekly basis while the ECB will receive pound sterling from the BoE in exchange for euros. It means that even if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal, the country will still remain reliant on Frankfurt to help safeguard the financial system. “Activation marks a prudent and precautionary step by the Bank of England… supporting the functioning of markets that serve households and businesses,” the ECB said on Tuesday.

Since 2013, Britain has had similar swap lines with four other central banks: the US, Canada, Japan and Switzerland. The UK needs free access to supplies of foreign currencies to facilitate trade and much of the financial services industry. During a crisis, banks can find it hard to access the volume of foreign currency they need. It is at this point that central banks will be available to provide cash through so-called swap lines. There had been some speculation that the ECB would not support a euro swap line if no Brexit deal is agreed with the UK. But the ECB and BoE confirmed on Tuesday that the facility will be available. The ECB said it will continue to work closely with the Bank of England to monitor market conditions carefully.

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Good. Let them ride bicycles.

Toyota, BMW Warn No-Deal Brexit Could Hit UK Investment, Production (BBC)

Car giants Toyota and BMW have both warned a no-deal Brexit threatens the production of their cars in the UK. BMW told Sky News it could consider moving production of its Mini from the UK in a no-deal scenario. Separately, the head of Toyota’s European operations said a negative outcome could put future investment at its UK factory near Derby at risk. Johan van Zyl told the BBC that if the Brexit “hurdles” are too high it would undermine Toyota’s competitiveness. Speaking to Sky News, BMW board member Peter Schwarzenbauer said if a “worst case” no-deal scenario happened, “we would need to consider what it exactly means for us in the long run”. “For Mini, this is really a danger,” he added.

Asked if BMW could move Mini production out of Cowley near Oxford, he said: “We at least have to consider it.” Earlier, BMW chief executive Harold Krueger told the BBC that the carmaker was preparing “for a lot of scenarios” and was “very flexible” in its approach to production. He said the company had “reserved some air flight capacity for the transportation of bigger materials” and had prepared its suppliers. “The logistics network is very flexible to adjust to changes,” he said. The warnings come after Japanese rivals Nissan and Honda both recently dealt major blows to the UK motor industry. Last month, Nissan reversed a decision to build a new car in the UK , and Honda said it was closing its Swindon plant , although both cited non-Brexit reasons.

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Our food is killing us.

What Do The People Of The World Die From? (BBC)

Around the world, people are living longer. In 1950, global average life expectancy at birth was only 46. By 2015, it had shot up to over 71. In some countries, progress has not always been smooth. Disease, epidemics and unexpected events are a reminder that ever-longer lives are not a given. Meanwhile, the deaths that may preoccupy us – from terrorism, war and natural disasters – make up less than 0.5% of all deaths combined. But across the world, many are still dying too young and from preventable causes. The story of when people die is really a story of how they die, and how this has changed over time.

About 56 million people in the world died in 2017. This is 10 million more than in 1990, as the global population has increased and people live longer on average. More than 70% die from non-communicable, chronic diseases. These are not passed from person to person and typically progress slowly. The biggest single killer is cardiovascular disease, which affects the heart and arteries and is responsible for every third death. This is twice the rate of cancers – the second leading cause – which account for about one in six of all deaths. Other non-contagious diseases such as diabetes, certain respiratory diseases and dementia are also near the top of the list.

In the past, infectious diseases played a bigger part than they do today. In 1990, one in three deaths resulted from communicable and infectious diseases; by 2017 this had fallen to one in five. Children are particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases. As recently as the 19th Century, every third child in the world died before the age of five. Child mortality rates have fallen significantly since then thanks to vaccines and improvements in hygiene, nutrition, healthcare and clean water access. Child deaths in rich countries are now relatively rare, while the poorest regions today have child mortality rates similar to the UK and Sweden in the first half of the 20th Century, and are continuing to catch up.

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Impossible choices.

Arctic Animals Shift Feeding Habits (AFP)

Seals and whales in the Arctic are shifting their feeding patterns as climate change alters their habitats, and the way they do so may determine whether they survive, a new study has found. Researchers harnessed datasets spanning two decades to examine how two species of Arctic wildlife – beluga whales, also known as white whales, and ringed seals – are adapting to their changing homes. Both species traditionally hunt for food in areas with sea ice and particularly at so-called tidal glacier fronts, where glaciers meet the ocean. But with climate change melting sea ice and prompting glaciers to retreat, researchers in Norway decided to look at whether and how animals in the affected areas were adapting.

“The Arctic is the bellwether of climate change,” the researchers wrote. “With the rapid pace of change rendering genetic adaptation unfeasible,” they reasoned that behavioural and dietary changes “will likely be the first observable responses within ecosystems”. [..] For the seals, they compared tracker data from 28 individuals between 1996-2003 and then 2010-2016, and for the whales they looked at data from 18 animals between 1995-2001 and 16 animals from 2013-2016. The data showed that two decades ago, both species spent around half their time foraging at glacier fronts and eating a diet dominated by polar cod. But ringed seals now spend “significantly higher proportions of time near tidal glacier fronts” while the white whales had the opposite response and had moved elsewhere to look for food.

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Mar 042019
 
 March 4, 2019  Posted by at 10:21 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Robert Frank London 1951-52

 

US, China Said To Appear Close To Deal To Roll Back Tariffs (R.)
Beijing To Encourage ‘Shadow’ Lending To Boost Growth – China Economist (CNBC)
Beijing Locked Down For China’s Greatest Political Spectacle (G.)
Huawei: Meng Wanzhou Sues Canadian Government Over Arrest (AP)
May Accused Of £1.6bn Brexit ‘Bribe’ Over New Fund For Deprived Towns (Ind.)
Russia Tells US It Is Ready For Bilateral Talks On Venezuela (R.)
Roger Stone Suggests In Instagram Post Robert Mueller ‘Framed’ Him (CNBC)
Donald Trump Facing Major New Investigation Into ‘Abuse Of Power’ (Ind.)
America’s Trust In Mainstream Media Hits Rock Bottom (SCF)
Trump Blames Timing Of Cohen Testimony For Collapse Of Kim Jong-Un Summit (G.)
US Voters Overwhelmingly Reject “Socialists” And Candidates “Over 75” (ZH)
Carpocalypse Now: We’re In The Endgame For Cars (BI)
Toxic Agrochemicals And Regulators’ Collusion With Industry (OffG)
Endangered Fruit Bats ‘Being Driven To Extinction’ In Mauritius (Ind.)

 

 

Can’t wait to see the details

US, China Said To Appear Close To Deal To Roll Back Tariffs (R.)

The United States and China appear close to a deal that would roll back U.S. tariffs on at least $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, as Beijing makes pledges on structural economic changes and eliminates retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods, a source briefed on negotiations said on Sunday. U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping could seal a formal trade deal at a summit around March 27 given progress in talks between the two countries, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday. In an eight-month trade war, the United States has imposed punitive tariffs on $250 billion worth of imports from China, while Beijing has hit back with tariffs on $110 billion worth of U.S. goods, including soybeans and other commodities.

The actions have roiled financial markets, disrupted manufacturing supply chains and reduced U.S. farm exports. Trump administration officials have said they expect the two presidents to “close” a deal at a summit in coming weeks at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. The source briefed on the talks said that no dates for a summit had been determined, but that Beijing had reserved a 10-day window from around March 20 for a possible summit. Many details still needed to be worked out, including the terms of an enforcement mechanism to ensure that Beijing follows through on pledges to make changes to policies to better protect U.S. intellectual property, end forced technology transfers and curb industrial subsidies.

Another source familiar with the talks said that Washington and Beijing were close to agreement on non-enforcement issues, including China’s pledges to increase purchases of farm, energy and manufactured products, as well as six agreements on structural policy changes.

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Xiang Songzuo is the same economist who is December said Chinese GDP growth was just 1.67%. But openly saying that Xi is selling his soul to the shadows is quite the statement again. How’s that linked to the tariffs deal?

Beijing To Encourage ‘Shadow’ Lending To Boost Growth – China Economist (CNBC)

After tamping down on shadow banking in the last few years, China will now likely encourage such lending to boost economic growth, a Chinese economist told CNBC on Monday ahead of the country’s annual parliamentary session. “The top agenda of (the) NPC this year is to design policies to prevent further decline (of growth rate),” said Xiang Songzuo, professor at Renmin University in Beijing, referring to the National People’s Congress, which kicks off on Tuesday. “I think this year, regulators will encourage more shadow banking financing, particularly to the private sector,” said Xiang, who was previously a deputy director at the People’s Bank of China and chief economist at the Agricultural Bank of China.

Shadow banking refers to activities performed by financial firms outside the formal banking sector, and therefore subject to lower levels of regulatory oversight and higher risks. According to Xiang, Chinese officials have moved from talking about cutting debt to stabilizing the economy. China’s GDP target last year was around 6.5%. Sources have told Reuters that Beijing will likely set a growth target of between 6.0 to 6.5% in 2019. Shadow banking is “coming back,” Xiang said. In addition to spending more on infrastructure, Beijing will also need to stimulate the economy through lending, particularly to the private sector, he added. [..] Beijing will need to tread a tightrope as it faces the dilemma of what increased shadow lending could bring, said Xiang. “On the one hand, they need shadow banking to finance investment; but on the other hand, they (need to) try to control the potential risks,” he added.

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Orwell lives!

Beijing Locked Down For China’s Greatest Political Spectacle (G.)

China’s largest political event of the year, a meeting of legislative delegates and political advisers known as the “two sessions”, gets under way this week and comes at a time when Chinese leader Xi Jinping faces one of the most challenging periods since coming to power. Thousands of delegates will descend on the Great Hall of the People in Beijing while authorities go into overdrive to prevent any semblance of dissent during the two weeks of meetings of the 3,000-strong National People’s Congress (NPC) , and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), an advisory body. Xi faces public scrutiny against the backdrop of a slowing Chinese economy, a bruising trade war with the US, heightened international concern over Chinese tech firm Huawei, and growing global criticism over Chinese policies in Xinjiang.

[..] Debate among delegates, scholars, and political observers will be even more constrained this year. Notices ahead of the meeting instruct party members on the “right way to build the party” banning over-the-top praise of the party as well as criticism. “People can’t talk normally, and now even this kind of expression is forbidden. It shows this is a very sensitive period,” said Zhang Lifan, a historian based in Beijing who follows elite Chinese politics. “I’m afraid party committees have taken many preventive measures, to prevent any sensitive speech that can lead to a chaos during the meeting.” He believes discussion of economic issues and the trade war are inevitable. “I think there will still be some ways of talking about the political system, not in direct ways, but using the economy,” he said.

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This will hurt Canada much more than the US.

Huawei: Meng Wanzhou Sues Canadian Government Over Arrest (AP)

Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese technology company Huawei, is suing the Canadian government, its border agency and the national police force over her high-profile detention. Meng claims they detained, searched and interrogated her before telling her she was under arrest. Lawyers for Meng said on Sunday they had filed a notice of civil claim in the British Columbia supreme court. Canada arrested Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, at the request of the US on 1 December at Vancouver airport. US prosecutors will accuse her of misleading banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran. Meng’s lawsuit alleges that instead of immediately arresting her, authorities interrogated her “under the guise of a routine customs” examination and used the opportunity to “compel her to provide evidence and information”.

The suit also claims Canada Border Service Agency agents seized her electronic devices, obtained passwords and unlawfully viewed the contents and intentionally failed to adviser her of the true reasons for her detention. The suit said only after three hours was she told she was under arrest and had right to counsel. “This case concerns a deliberate and pre-meditated effort on the part of the defendant officers to obtain evidence and information from the plaintiff in a manner which they knew constituted serious violations of the plaintiff’s rights,” the claim says. Meng has been released on bail and is living in Vancouver awaiting extradition proceedings.

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25 days. Desperation creeps in. May is bribing Labour MPs.

May Accused Of £1.6bn Brexit ‘Bribe’ Over New Fund For Deprived Towns (Ind.)

The government has been accused of “bribing” MPs to back Theresa May‘s Brexit deal after announcing a new £1.6bn fund to help deprived towns. The “Stronger Towns Fund“ will offer investment to places that have not benefited from economic growth as much as other parts of the country, ministers said. The government said the money would be used to create jobs, train local people and boost investment, but critics said it was an attempt to convince Labour MPs in Leave-voting areas to back Ms May’s withdrawal agreement, and was not enough to offset the impact of Brexit. £1bn of the funding will be allocated to areas across the country, with more than half going to towns in the north of England. The other £600m will be available for local authorities to bid for.

Of the money being directly allocated by the government, the north west will receive the most, with £281m, followed by the west Midlands (£212m) and Yorkshire and the Humber (£197m). Announcing the fund, Ms May said: ”For too long in our country prosperity has been unfairly spread. Our economy has worked well for some places but we want it to work for all communities. “Communities across the country voted for Brexit as an expression of their desire to see change – that must be a change for the better, with more opportunity and greater control. “These towns have a glorious heritage, huge potential and, with the right help, a bright future ahead of them.”

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Doubt that Bolton is interested.

Russia Tells US It Is Ready For Bilateral Talks On Venezuela (R.)

Russia is ready to take part in bilateral talks with the United States over the issue of Venezuela, Russia’s foreign minister told his U.S. counterpart late on Saturday. The situation in Venezuela was the main topic in a phone call between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that took place on March 2, Russia’s foreign ministry said on its website. “In connection with Washington’s proposal to hold bilateral consultations on the Venezuelan topic, it was stated that Russia is ready to participate in this,” the ministry said in a statement.

It was “vital to be strictly guided by the principles of the UN Charter since only the Venezuelan people have the right to determine their future,” the statement said. Russia and the United States have been at loggerheads over a U.S.-led campaign for international recognition of Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan opposition leader who declared himself the interim head of state, over President Nicholas Maduro. In the phone call, initiated by the United States, Lavrov condemned the threats that Washington made towards “the country’s lawful leadership,” the ministry said, referring to Maduro.

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You can’t put Stone under quasi house arrest and expect him to be quiet. He’ll end up doing crazy stuff.

Roger Stone Suggests In Instagram Post Robert Mueller ‘Framed’ Him (CNBC)

Roger Stone on Sunday suggested he has been “framed” by special counsel Robert Mueller in an Instagram post that appeared to run afoul of a judge’s barely week-old gag order barring President Donald Trump’s longtime friend from criticizing the prosecutors in the criminal case against him. Stone deleted the only image in that multi-image post that included “Who framed Roger Stone” language shortly after CNBC emailed his lawyer to ask about it. Stone’s post was put online less than 48 hours after the judge, Amy Berman Jackson, ordered lawyers for the admitted Republican “dirty trickster” to explain why they did not tell her earlier about the planned publication of a book by Stone that could violate her gag order on him.

Stone announced on Instagram in January that he was coming out with the book, “The Myth of Russian Collusion: The Inside Story of How Trump Really Won.” In her gag order in U.S District Court in Washington, D.C., Jackson barred Stone from “making statements to the media or in public settings about the Special Counsel’s investigation or this case or any of the participants in the investigation or the case.” The gag extends to “posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other form of social media.” If Stone violates the order, Jackson could order him jailed without bail until his trial.

Stone’s new post is comprised of a rotating series of images that ask for money to support Stone’s defense to charges that he lied to Congress and tampered with a witness. One says, “I am committed to proving my innocence. But I need your help.” Another photo, which shows a young Stone standing behind Trump years ago, says, “I’ve always had Trump’s back. Will you have mine?” Two other images tout a “Roger Stone Did Nothing Wrong” t-shirt and “Stone Cold Truth” sweatshirt.

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Nadler, Schiff, Mark Warner, they’re on a publicity tour to keep collusion alive just as it’s dying.

Donald Trump Facing Major New Investigation Into ‘Abuse Of Power’ (Ind.)

The US House Judiciary Committee will launch a probe into possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power by Donald Trump. Jerry Nadler, who chairs the committee, told ABC that the panel wanted to obtain documents from more than 60 people and entities as part of the investigation. Documents from Donald Trump Jr, the president’s son and Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, are among those wanted by the panel. “We are going to initiate investigations into abuses of power, into corruption … and into obstruction of justice,” Mr Nadler said. “It’s our job to protect the rule of law.” “It’s very clear that the president obstructed justice,” he said. But the congressman added that it was too soon to consider the possibility of impeachment.

“Before you impeach somebody, you have to persuade the American public that it ought to happen,” he said. The politician said the committee would release the full list of people and organisations it would be seeking information from on Monday. He said that the president’s firing of James Comey, who at the time was leading an investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 US election, was evidence of Mr Trump’s obstruction. The congressman also cited what he described as Mr Trump’s attempts to intimidate witnesses involved in the probe. “I am an innocent man being persecuted by some very bad, conflicted & corrupt people in a Witch Hunt that is illegal & should never have been allowed to start,” Donald Trump said on Twitter, in response to the announcement. “Despite this, great success!”

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Gee, how can it be?

America’s Trust In Mainstream Media Hits Rock Bottom (SCF)

Things are going from bad to worse for the US legacy media as its trust credentials have reached an all-time new low, as if that were possible. It has even achieved a lower trust rating than lawyers and members of Congress. The introduction to the CJR poll provided the following ominous opening: “For decades, we’ve known that Americans don’t trust the press. What we haven’t known is how people view the makings of journalism, from the use of fact checkers and anonymous sources to the question of whether money skews journalistic decision-making. This new national poll for CJR answers those questions, and points to how big the trust gap remains.” Indeed, the cynicism on the street should have every mainstream media purveyor in a state of absolute panic.

In one particular finding, it was revealed that many news consumers believe that reporters, seemingly in an effort to push forward with a political agenda, are too quick to run with a story before knowing all of the facts. This has never been more true before than in the Trump era where anything goes, so long as it trashes conservatives. We have just witnessed ample proof of that media tendency in several high-profile cases. This week, attorneys for Nick Sandmann, a student from Covington Catholic High School, filed a lawsuit against the Washington Post, seeking $250 million in damages for negligence. Sandmann and his fellow students became the target of false accusations of racism during a trip to Washington, D.C.

The mainstream media, as well as many politicians and celebrities, pushed the story that the young student, a Trump supporter, had taunted an elderly Native American Indian near the Lincoln Memorial. The story quickly fell apart, however, after video of the encounter and eyewitness accounts destroyed the media version of events. Attorneys for the boy claim that the Bezos-owned newspaper “wrongfully targeted and bullied Nicholas because he was the white, Catholic student wearing a red ‘Make America Great Again’ souvenir cap on a school field trip to the January 18 March for Life in Washington, D.C.” Todd McMurtry, one of the attorneys for the Catholic student, called the Washington Post “a weaponized news outlet that used its power and strength to destroy Nick Sandmann’s reputation.”

[..] When asked how much confidence they had in the media, almost 70 percent of Republican respondents answered “hardly any confidence at all,” while just 25 percent of Democrats held a similar opinion.

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Well, not entirely; he merely named it as a factor.

Trump Blames Timing Of Cohen Testimony For Collapse Of Kim Jong-Un Summit (G.)

US president Donald Trump has blamed that the Democrats’ decision to interview his longtime fixer, lawyer Michael Cohen, on the same day as a meeting with Kim Jong-un for the fact that the North Korea summit ended with no deal. “For the Democrats to interview in open hearings a convicted liar & fraudster, at the same time as the very important Nuclear Summit with North Korea, is perhaps a new low in American politics and may have contributed to the ‘walk.’” Trump said on Twitter, referring to his decision to walk away from what he previously said was a bad deal with Kim. “Never done when a president is overseas. Shame!” Last week in Hanoi, Trump and Kim met for the second time to try to negotiate a deal that would surrender some of North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal in return for sanctions relief. After talks fell apart over the issue of sanctions, Trump told a media conference “sometimes you have to walk”.

At the same time in Washington, Trump’s former aide Cohen was testifying before the US House of Representatives’ oversight committee, accusing Trump of ordering his personal attorney to make threats for him about 500 times over the past 10 years. He also called the president a liar, racist and conman. When asked about Cohen’s testimony at a press conference on Thursday in Hanoi after Trump had abruptly decided to end the summit with Kim early, the president called the allegations “incorrect” and criticised the decision to have the hearing while he was away. “I tried to watch as much as I could,” Trump said. “I wasn’t able to watch too much because I’ve been a little bit busy, but I think having a fake hearing like that and having it in the middle of this very important summit is really a terrible thing.”

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It doesn’t get more obvious.

US Voters Overwhelmingly Reject “Socialists” And Candidates “Over 75” (ZH)

[..] in the latest indication that the odds in the general election would be heavily stacked against Bernie, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll revealed that only 25% of respondents ranked “socialist” as a desirable trait for a candidate. And only 37% said “someone over 75” would be a desirable candidate, according to Bloomberg. Meanwhile, more voters said they would accept a candidate who was gay or a lesbian, or an Independent under the age of 40. Critically, the survey showed that 41% of voters would definitely or likely vote for Trump in 2020, while 48% said they would probably vote for the Democratic candidate. But, in a possible silver lining for Sanders and his “political revolution”, 55% of voters said they would support a candidate who would implement major changes (as Trump did), vs. 42% who said they wouldn’t.

“We’re getting early signals from Democratic primary voters that they are looking for bigger change and someone who agrees with them on policy,” said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who worked on the survey. Republicans in the White House, Congress and in the media have made “socialism” a significant point of attack as the election draws closer, ripping proposals for expanded access to Medicare, the so-called Green New Deal, and other Democratic priorities. And though only 41% of respondents said they would support Trump in 2020, a majority said they had a favorable view of the Trump economy, and few expect a recession in the coming year. “As long as these economic numbers look like this, that always keeps an incumbent president in the race,” McInturff said.

[..] only 38% of respondents said they would support a third-party candidate in 2020. Meanwhile, Trump’s approval rating ticked higher in January from 43% to 46%. [..] Trump’s approval rating ticked up to 46 percent from 43 percent in January. He had the support of 88 percent of Republicans. Thirty-seven percent of GOP primary voters said they’d like to see another Republican challenge Trump in 2020, while 59 percent said they were opposed to that.

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I’m all for ending teh scourge that cars have become. But why do we need a bunch of US investors for that? And do these people realize that we won’t pay for the upkeep of the roads once we ditch our cars? It’s going to be public transport, not Lyft cars.

Carpocalypse Now: We’re In The Endgame For Cars (BI)

The founders of the ride-sharing app Lyft filed their IPO papers last week, and their vision for the company is dramatic. Lyft (which works a bit like Uber) is not just about getting you from A to B, they say. Rather, founders Logan Green and John Zimmer believe that car ownership is in permanent decline and they want to help it die, they write in their S-1 filing. “We believe that the world is at the beginning of a shift away from car ownership to Transportation-as-a-Service, or TaaS. Lyft is at the forefront of this massive societal change,” they told investors.

“Car ownership has … economically burdened consumers. US households spend more on transportation than on any expenditure other than housing. … On a per household basis, the average annual spend on transportation is over $9,500, with the substantial majority spent on car ownership and operation.” Cars create “inequality,” they argue. “The average cost of a new vehicle in the United States has increased to over $33,000, which most American households cannot afford,” the IPO says. “We estimate over 300,000 Lyft riders have given up their personal cars because of Lyft.”

• Car sales in Britain declined 18.2% in January. It was the eighth successive month of decline. • Sales in Turkey declined 60%. •Europe-wide, sales are down around 6%. • In the US, total car registrations have declined by about 10% • Tire sales – a proxy for vehicle production – are down in China, too.

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The power of Bayer and Monsanto will make us commit collective suicide.

Toxic Agrochemicals And Regulators’ Collusion With Industry (OffG)

Dr Mason had been writing to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the EU Commission for an 18-month period, challenging them about ECHA’s positive assessment of glyphosate. Many people around the world had struggled to understand how and why the US EPA and the EFSA concluded that glyphosate is not genotoxic (damaging to DNA) or carcinogenic, whereas the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency, the IARC, came to the opposite conclusion. The IARC stated that the evidence for glyphosate’s genotoxic potential is “strong” and that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. While IARC referenced only peer-reviewed studies and reports available in the public literature, the EPA relied heavily on unpublished regulatory studies commissioned by pesticide manufacturers.

In fact, 95 of the 151 genotoxicity assays cited in the EPA’s evaluation were from industry studies (63%), while IARC cited 100% public literature sources. Another important difference is that the EPA focused its analysis on glyphosate in its pure chemical form, or ‘glyphosate technical’. The problem with that is that almost no one is exposed to glyphosate alone. Applicators and the public are exposed to complete herbicide formulations consisting of glyphosate plus added ingredients (adjuvants). The formulations have repeatedly been shown to be more toxic than glyphosate in isolation. The European Ombudsman has now rejected Rosemary Mason’s complaint who has in turn written a 25-page response documenting the wide-ranging impacts of glyphosate-based Roundup and other agrochemicals on human health and the environment.

She also outlines the various levels of duplicity that have allowed many of these chemicals to remain on the commercial market. Mason is led to conclude that, due to the rejection of her complaint (as with others lodged by her to the Ombudsman), the European Ombudsman Office is also part of the problem and is essentially colluding with European pesticide regulatory authorities. Mason has addressed this concern directly to Emily O’Reilly, who currently holds the post of European Ombudsman: “In your rejection of all my complaints over the last few years, it is clear that The Ombudsman’s Office is protecting the European pesticides regulatory authorities, who are in turn being controlled by the European Glyphosate Task Force…. You have turned a blind eye to the authorisation of many of the toxic pesticides that are on the market today because industry is being allowed to self-regulate.”

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The things that must be turned around. We’ve gone much too far.

“The bats – also known as flying foxes – are resorting to eating in orchards to survive because only 5 per cent of Mauritius’s native forests remain..”

Endangered Fruit Bats ‘Being Driven To Extinction’ In Mauritius (Ind.)

Scientists are suing the Mauritian government for “driving endangered fruit bats towards extinction”, after mass culls killed at least half their population. More than 50,000 of the animals are thought to have been killed in three culls since 2015, in an attempt to protect fruit in orchards. The bats – also known as flying foxes – are resorting to eating in orchards to survive because only 5 per cent of Mauritius’s native forests remain, animal experts warned. Fruit bats are vital for biodiversity as they pollinate flowers and scatter seeds, enabling trees and plants to grow and spread, according to conservationists. But populations of the flying foxes have fallen by more than 50 per cent in four years, said Vincent Florens, an ecologist at the University of Mauritius. Some believe fewer than 30,000 now remain.

Tigga Kingston, a biologist and bat specialist for the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said the fewer animals remain, the more vulnerable they will be to natural disasters, disease and habitat loss, leading to extinction. Britain’s Bat Conservation Trust has pleaded for the culls to end, citing research that found they accounted for only 10 per cent of fruit plant damage. The first cull, in 2015, killed 30,000, and in a second cull, the following year, 7,380 were targeted. The IUCN then raised the bats’ status from vulnerable to endangered. But the latest cull involved 13,000. Prof Florens said he believed the number killed is much higher than the 50,300 government figure. “The culls took place late in the year, when many mothers were pregnant or had babies,” he told National Geographic. “You shoot one bat and basically kill two.” Others were likely to have been injured and died later, he said.


At least 50,000 fruit bats have been culled in Mauritius since they have been forced to survive on orchard fruits because of deforestation (iStock )

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Feb 282019
 


Leonardo da Vinci Ginevra de’ Benci 1474-78

 

Perhaps against better judgment, I just can’t keep silent about the Michael Cohen’s in da House show performed on February 27. I was watching it and increasingly fearing for the future of America. We had all been able to read his prepared statement before he opened the party with it, and therefore we all knew there was nothing there. So why did this thing take place, and why were all the cameras and reporters there? Do we live in split realities these days?

Both before and after the gruelling -for the viewer- session, words like ‘explosive’ and bombshell’ were all over, so I thought I’d watch, since I might have missed something, but no, there was nothing, there wasn’t even a there there. Apparently, US House members are by now immune to being revealed as nutcases frantically phishing for evidence of accusations they formerly made but could never prove.

A phishing expedition with a willing whale in the center who sort of volunteered to be harpooned, and still came up with absolutely nothing but blubber. And then like 4 hours of that. There’s never been a more convincing picture of what US politics and media have become. But they’re all entirely impervious to it. They’re discussing nothing for hours on end with millions watching, and they see it as normal.

Now, I’ve been following the decay of the American press ever since Trump entered politics stage right, and I’ve written a hundred thousand words about it, but it really hit home during the Cohen session. Tellingly, the Republican House members were exclusively focusing on Cohen credibility, since he had been caught lying to Congress before, and the Supreme Court just days ago disbarred him.

But this was not about the man’s credibility, and sure, I felt sorry for him too, it was about the fact that he had nothing at all to say, but Republicans had nothing on that. They instead joined the Dems in questioning him about nothing, pretending it was big and explosive and stuff. If anything has ever resembled the Emperor’s new clothes, it was that charade there yesterday.

 

If you insist, we can walk through a few of the topics. A nice example that was not in the prepared statement was that Cohen claimed he had never wanted a White House job, but even the CNN pundits were saying he had wanted one for a long time, and was very insulted when he didn’t get it. Poof! went the last shred of his credibility. Well, not for the House members, they have shorter memories even than CNN talking heads.

Second, the issue of a Trump Tower in Moscow, about which Cohen allegedly lied earlier on, in that the plans were shelved later than he had claimed. But the only thing that really interests the House, because even they understand that wanting to build a hotel in the city is not some criminal thing, is Russiagate, invented out of thin air but still popular stateside.

The one thing related to this that collusion ‘experts’ emphasize time and again, and it came up again in the Cohen thing, is that Trump supposedly planned to gift a penthouse apartment in a potential Trump hotel on Red Square to Vladimir Putin. Conveniently, not a single American appears to have wondered whether Putin would be interested in such a gift.

And I can assure you he wouldn’t. Putin can get -just about- any piece of real estate he wants on Red Square, besides he already has the Kremlin, and he can get anything built there which he might desire. Accepting a free dwelling from a US builder makes no sense. Why should he? Still, this is one of the main items Russiagaters keep coming up with. It makes no sense, and that’s fitting, because neither do they.

Second, pornstar pay-offs. Male politicians worldwide and through the ages have had affairs, and in modern times (re: JFK) there’s been an understanding that the media leave these things alone. On the one hand, it’s proof of virility, something voters like in their candidates, and on the other it shows infidelity, something they don’t. A battle no-one can win, hence the understanding.

In France, this all plays out a bit more openly, though never in the open, but in the US you can break the pact if you want. And since the initial story was that campaign funds had been used to pay Stormy Daniels, there was a potential criminal angle. But we now know that that angle was fake, so no there there either. Trump paid so it (true or not) didn’t become a big campaign story, and that he did so just before an election is irrelevant, because the whole topic is irrelevant. Unless you want to exhume JFK.

 

Third and what pisses me off more than anything, is that Cohen both volunteered, and was coaxed into, talking about Roger Stone’s alleged contacts with Julian Assange. Cohen talked about a conversation between Stone and Trump on July 18-19 2016, in which Stone allegedly said he had talked to Assange who told him WikiLeaks was going to release a big batch of Hillary-related mails.

The DNC convention was July 25-28, the WikiLeaks release July 22. Looks like a slam-dunk collusion story, right? Except that Assange had said 5 weeks earlier, on June 12 2016, that such a batch would be released. So even if Stone had talked to him, there was no news there. Moreover, both Assange and WikiLeaks have repeatedly denied the conversation ever took place. And of course Assange can’t defend himself against anything anyone says anymore.

And we can keep going: the assertion that the DNC mails were hacked has been refuted many times, and if they were stolen it was by someone inside the DNC. No story, no collusion, no there there. Only hour after tedious hour of Michael Cohen House testimony about nothing at all.

It felt a lot like a new low point in US political history, but you need to be careful with such classifications these days, since competition’s stiff and still picking up. I liked the following lines from an article in the Guardian this morning to appropriately describe the goings-on:

Trump’s former fixer cautioned that he could not prove the “collusion” with Moscow that the president vehemently denies. Still there was, Cohen said, “something odd” about the affectionate back-and-forth Trump had with Vladimir Putin in public remarks over the years.

Here’s the best thing Cohen could do in the entire time wasted on the topic:

“There are just so many dots that seem to lead in the same direction,” he said.”

How does that not make you want to scream? No collusion, only “something odd”, and “so many dots”. A thorough analysis out of the mouth of an at least questionable character who worked closely with Trump for a decade. That’s all the US House of Representatives had to show for the show it put on. And that’s a really big problem, but there’s no-one in sight to address, let alone rectify, it.

There are a thousand things wrong with Donald Trump, but even though that would not necessarily disqualify him for the presidency, the Democrats and the mainstream press have opted to go all-in on the Russia collusion theme, which even two years and change of Mueller hasn’t been able to prove.

Whether this will be the winning ticket for the Democrats in a next election is very doubtful, and what the press hope to get other than a few more readers and viewers addicted to scandals is anyone’s guess. But more importantly: why do they do it? Why focus on all the made-up stories instead of going out and finding the real ones?

Even if the Cohen show not constitute a new low, it was certainly scraping the gutter of American political reality, and someone better do something, or entirely new and thus far unimaginable lows will be attained. Not a single national political system can survive on entirely trumped-up accusations for long, let alone that of the globe’s most powerful nation. Does anyone ever wonder what the Dems will do if Trump wins again in 2020? Where can they flee to?

I’ll leave you with a few Twitter voices who also see no there there. Note: the first one is dated July 7 2016, some two weeks before Stone -unverifiably- said he talked to Assange (who always denied it, but it wouldn’t matter even if he had) :

 

 

 

 

Feb 162019
 
 February 16, 2019  Posted by at 11:46 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Marcel Duchamp The king and queen surrounded by swift nudes 1912

 

Over 60% Of All New Debt Created Globally In Past Decade Was In China (NYFed)
Worms Turning (Jim Kunstler)
FBI Created, Covered Up “Chart” Of Potential Hillary Clinton Crimes (ZH)
Mueller Discloses Evidence Roger Stone Communicated With Wikileaks (G.)
Are Russian Trolls Saving Measles From Extinction? (RFE)
Democrats’ Coveted 2020 Prize? An Endorsement From Ocasio-Cortez (G.)
The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State (CP)
Corbyn To Hold Brexit Talks With EU’s Barnier And Verhofstadt (G.)
When The Swabian Hausfrau Saves (Steve Keen)
9/11 Fund Running Out Of Money For Those With Illnesses (AP)
Subsidies to Amazon Are Uneconomical, Un-American, and Unconstitutional (PM)

 

 

As Trump flunks his emergency, Xi flunks his economy. I’ll wait for the shouting match over the first to settle over the weekend.

This is from the New York Fed’s Liberty Street Economics. The second graph is not from their piece, but very much to the point. After all that new debt, China’s transition to a consumer economy is faltering. So people are clamoring for rate cuts and more stimulus. But do they realize how much stimulus China has already neede to get where it is today?

Over 60% Of All New Debt Created Globally In Past Decade Was In China (NYFed)

Although there has been a notable deceleration in the pace of credit growth recently, the run-up in debt in China has been eye-popping, accounting for more than 60 percent of all new credit created globally over the past ten years. Rising nonfinancial sector debt was driven initially by an increase in corporate borrowing, which surged in 2009 in response to the global financial crisis. The most recent leg of China’s credit boom has been due to an important shift toward household lending. To better understand the rise in household debt in China and its implications for financial stability and China’s economic performance, it is important to examine the expansion in household credit, how the rise in debt compares to international experience, and the associated risks.

The growth of China’s household debt reflects a natural evolution in financial sector deepening and has grown in two waves. The first occurred during the late-1990s following major financial reforms and the privatization of China’s housing stock. The second wave began in the wake of the global financial crisis and has witnessed much more rapid growth, with debt increasing by nearly $5.7 trillion, or nearly 30 percent of China’s GDP. In fact, household lending overtook corporate borrowing in early 2018 to become the largest driver of aggregate loan growth in China. New household lending now accounts for roughly half of new loans.

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Glad someone’s keeping count.

Worms Turning (Jim Kunstler)

[..] late this week, William Barr was confirmed as a new Attorney General, meaning the extreme case of bureaucratic constipation in that department may be resolving in a shitstorm of counter-revelations and prosecutions in what amounted to an attempted coup d’etat. A lot of the evidence for that is already public and overwhelming. It includes:

• Using FBI counter-intelligence assets improperly and illegally.
• Using fabricated “opposition research” provided by Mrs. Clinton to obtain warrants to spy on her election opponent, and failing to verify it as evidence (according to strict “Woods” procedures) submitted to FISA court judges.
• Recruiting Britain’s MI6 to spy on US citizens as a work-around from US laws prohibiting US Intel from spying on Americans.
• Setting up the notorious Trump Tower meeting to entrap Donald Trump Jr., using a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, in the employ of Fusion GPS, Mrs. Clintons oppo research contractor.
• Orchestrating leaks of secret FBI proceedings to the news media to feed a Russia collusion hysteria.
• Malicious prosecutions by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and egregious political conflicts-of-interest among Mr. Mueller’s team of prosecutors.
• Coverup of the Uranium One scheme facilitated by Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
• A scheme to surreptitiously and illegally record conversations with Mr. Trump once he became president.
• Conspiring to bury multiple inquires into illegal conduct of Mrs. Clinton, her employees and associates by failing to obtain evidence and allowing it to be destroyed.
• Misconduct in office by former CIA chief John Brennan, former National Security Director James Clapper, former AG Loretta Lynch, and members of President Obama’s White House inner circle.

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Tie in this one with Jim Kunstler’s list above.

FBI Created, Covered Up “Chart” Of Potential Hillary Clinton Crimes (ZH)

The top brass of the Obama FBI went to great lengths to justify their decision not to recommend charges against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified information, according to Judicial Watch, which obtained evidence that the agency created a ‘chart’ of Clinton’s offenses. The newly obtained emails came in response to a court ordered Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that the DOJ had previously ignored. Via Judicial Watch: “Three days after then-FBI Director James Comey’s press conference announcing that he would not recommend a prosecution of Mrs. Clinton, a July 8, 2016 email chain shows that, the Special Counsel to the FBI’s executive assistant director in charge of the National Security Branch, whose name is redacted, wrote to Strzok and others that he was producing a “chart of the statutory violations considered during the investigation [of Clinton’s server], and the reasons for the recommendation not to prosecute…”

[..] On May 15, 2016, James Rybicki, former chief of staff to Comey, sends FBI General Counsel James Baker; Bill Priestap, former assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division; McCabe; Page; and others an email with the subject line “Request from the Director.” Rybicki writes: By NLT [no later than] next Monday, the Director would like to see a list of all cases charged in the last 20 years where the gravamen of the charge was mishandling classified information. It should be in chart form with: (1) case name, (2) a short summary for content (3) charges brought, and (4) charge of conviction. If need be, we can get it from NSD [National Security Division] and let them know that the Director asked for this personally. Please let me know who can take the lead on this. Thanks! Jim

Page forwards to Strzok: FYSA [For your situational awareness] Strzok replies to Page: I’ll take the lead, of course – sounds like an espionage section question… Or do you think OGC [Office of the General Counsel] should? And the more reason for us to get feedback to Rybicki, as we all identified this as an issue/question over a week ago. Page replies: I was going to reply to Jim [Rybicki] and tell him I can talked [sic] to you about this already. Do you want me to?

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Mueller gets nuttier, and the Guardian gladly collaborates. On nothing new. We already knew WikiLeaks told Stone to take a hike. Most importantly, Mueller continues his cowardice vs Assange, because without his empty accusations of Assange, he really has nothing left on collusion. And if Assange could talk, he’d have even less left. And people tell me he’s not a coward.

Under US law, people have the right to defend themselves. Under Robert Mueller’s law, Julian Assange does not. Is that stating it clear enough?

As for Stone, Aaron Maté tweeted about this article: “LOL. The “communications of Roger Stone with Wikileaks” were revealed a year ago. They show WL urging Stone to stop making “false claims of association” between them.”

Mueller Discloses Evidence Roger Stone Communicated With Wikileaks (G.)

The US Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, disclosed for the first time on Friday that his office has evidence of communications between Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to President Donald Trump, and WikiLeaks related to the release of hacked Democratic party emails. In a court filing on Friday, Mueller’s office said it had gathered that evidence in a separate probe into Russian intelligence officers who were charged by Mueller with hacking the emails during the 2016 US presidential campaign and staging their release. In an email criticising media coverage of Mueller’s filing on Friday, Stone said the evidence was “innocuous Twitter direct messages” that have already been disclosed to the House Intelligence Committee and “prove absolutely nothing”.

Also on Friday, a federal judge placed some limits on what Stone and his lawyers can say publicly about his criminal case brought by the special counsel in the Russia investigation. But the US district judge, Amy Berman Jackson, stopped short of imposing a broad ban on public comments by the outspoken political operative, issuing a limited gag order she said was necessary to ensure Stone’s right to a fair trial and “to maintain the dignity and seriousness of the courthouse and these proceedings”. Stone was indicted last month for lying to Congress about his communications with others about the hacked emails. Mueller did not say at the time that he had evidence of communications with WikiLeaks. Stone, an ally of Trump for 40 years, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Stone has previously acknowledged brief exchanges with both WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 but maintains he never had advance knowledge about the release of hacked emails. But Friday marked the first time Mueller indicated he had obtained related evidence, although it remained unclear if the evidence is more substantial than what is publicly known. “The government obtained and executed dozens of search warrants on various accounts used to facilitate the transfer of stolen documents for release, as well as to discuss the timing and promotion of their release,” Mueller’s team wrote in a filing to the US district court in Washington DC. “Several of those search warrants were executed on accounts that contained Stone’s communications with Guccifer 2.0 and with Organization 1.”

[..] WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 each published emails and other documents from the Democratic party in 2016 in an operation that Mueller alleges was part of a Kremlin-backed effort to tip the election in favour of then Republican nominee, Donald Trump.

Read more …

Radio Free Europe presents Russiaphobia on steroids.

Let’s ask Mueller what he thinks.

Are Russian Trolls Saving Measles From Extinction? (RFE)

Scientific researchers say Russian social-media trolls who spread discord before the 2016 U.S. presidential election may also have played an unintended role in a developing global health crisis. They say the trolls may have contributed to the 2018 outbreak of measles in Europe that killed 72 people and infected more than 82,000 — mostly in Eastern and Southeastern European countries known to have been targeted by Russia-based disinformation campaigns. Experts in the United States and Europe are now working on ways to gauge the impact that Russian troll and bot campaigns have had on the spread of the disease by distributing medical misinformation and raising public doubts about vaccinations.

Studies have already documented how cybercampaigns by the Internet Research Agency – a St. Petersburg “troll farm” that has been accused of meddling in the U.S. 2016 presidential election – artificially bolstered debate on social media about vaccines since 2014 in a way that eroded public trust in vaccinations. Now, the World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that “vaccination hesitancy” has become one of the top threats to global health. It notes a 30 percent rise in measles globally and a resurgence of measles in countries that had once been close to eradicating the disease.

Read more …

You heard it here first in The Great Discontent.

A communications director says: “She’s built a profile with a savvy way beyond her years..”, but it’s the other way around. Anyone older can not build a profile the way she has because she’s 29 and grew up with social media; it’s not an acquired taste for her.

Democrats’ Coveted 2020 Prize? An Endorsement From Ocasio-Cortez (G.)

Welcome to the AOC primary. At 29 years old, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – already known as “AOC” for short – is too young to be eligible to run for US president. But her phenomenal impact on American politics means that she could play an outsized role in deciding who does. As her fellow Democrats jostle for position ahead of the 2020 primary elections, an endorsement from Ocasio-Cortez is likely to be a widely coveted prize, a guaranteed shot of adrenaline sure to energise her army of millennial voters. But it could also come with perils in the later presidential contest, especially for so-called “centrist” candidates hoping to draw independents and moderate Republicans away from Donald Trump.

In little more than a month, Ocasio-Cortez, whose New York district includes parts of the Bronx and Queens, has taken Washington by storm, overshadowing career politicians who have spent years labouring in the 435-member House of Representatives. Her proposals – among them a Green New Deal to combat climate change and a 70% tax rate on earnings over $10m to tackle economic inequality – have reset terms of debate in the early stages of the Democratic contest. “This is a race to the left,” said Dave Handy, a New York-based political consultant and organiser. “Even if people don’t like her or her policies, they will be racing to get her endorsement because it’s a progressive check mark. She embodies the general direction the party is going in.”

[..] Ocasio-Cortez is also a social media sensation. She has in excess of 3 million followers on Twitter with more engagement than Donald Trump, Barack Obama or Vermont senator Bernie Sanders. Last week a video clip in which she quizzed ethics experts about government corruption became the most watched political video ever posted on Twitter with 37.5m views. It was another demonstration of astonishing clout. Neil Sroka, communications director of the progressive group Democracy for America, said: “She’s built a profile with a savvy way beyond her years, but she also has an agenda that feels right for the moment. AOC does not exist without the bold, inclusive, populist agenda she’s pushing. The vitriol she has inspired speaks to how afraid everyone is; Republicans see her as representing a country they don’t even know how to speak to.”

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“The American plan is to burn the oil. All of it.”

The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State (CP)

Unbeknownst to most Americans, the nation’s forests were clear-cut from coast to coast in the mid-late nineteenth century. Photographs from the era show denuded landscapes— no trees, no animals, and streams still poisoned from the runoff in the present, for as far as the eye can see. The scars from nineteenth and twentieth century strip mining in Pennsylvania draw direct geographical and historical lines to the mountaintop removal that is taking place in West Virginia today. These natural resources produced the bounty of American capitalism every bit as much as the manufacturing prowess of the Second Industrial Revolution. In turn, this combination of low-cost resources, manufacturing prowess and natural borders (the oceans) produced the military might that defines America in the present.

The logic of weapons and weaponry pervades American capitalism. Death and destruction, domination and control, are what America does. The thought that these resources were ever ‘free’ illustrates the power of ideology. With a body count of at least one-hundred million human beings— including genocide against the indigenous population, murdered slaves, coal miners in Appalachia who died from black lung disease, mill workers in Massachusetts and North and South Carolina who died from inhaling cotton fibers, and those killed in American wars for resources, the human toll of American capitalism is staggering.

[..] In the present, the introduction of a Green New Deal as a nonbinding resolution, rather than the creation of a select congressional committee, clarifies the political form of official resistance to environmental resolution. The public pronouncement itself is a call to arms, implying both that the need for environmental resolution is urgent and that it won’t be led from above. Its authors were right to take their case to the people, from whom something akin to a revolutionary movement is required. Complaints over its limited scope miss that until there is such a movement, little progress toward environmental resolution will be made. Current bipartisan American machinations toward Venezuela illustrate the conundrum. Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world. The U.S. is using state power to ‘liberate’ this oil for the benefit of nominally private multinational oil corporations. The American plan is to burn the oil. All of it.

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And why not? It must get messier still.

Corbyn To Hold Brexit Talks With EU’s Barnier And Verhofstadt (G.)

Jeremy Corbyn will hold talks in Brussels next week with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, as he seeks to break the Brexit impasse and persuade Theresa May to sign up to a customs union. The visit is likely to be highly unwelcome in Downing Street, and risks accusations that Labour is pursuing its own shadow negotiations, undermining the prime minister’s hopes of fresh EU concessions. May will be in Brussels in the same week to meet the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker. The UK attorney-general, Geoffrey Cox, is expected to travel with her. During a whistle-stop tour of the central figures in the Brexit talks on Thursday, Corbyn is also due to meet the European parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt.

He will also hold talks with senior figures in the socialist group in the European parliament, including Labour MEPs. EU sources said Corbyn was expected to provide further details on his recent conditional offer of support for the prime minister’s deal along with an update on the cross-party talks. Earlier this month, the Labour leader said his party would back the withdrawal agreement, containing the Irish backstop, if May renegotiated the accompanying political declaration on the future relationship. Labour is seeking a permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union, a close alignment with the single market and protection for standards and workers’ rights.

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Steve wants to abolish the word ‘savings’ with regards to a government. It makes no sense at all.

When The Swabian Hausfrau Saves (Steve Keen)

Savings is promoted as a private virtue that should be practiced at a national and international level as well. What happens to the economy when it is implemented? Keen explains one of the great economic fallacies: that a government needs to manage its finances like a household, and if the government consistently spends more than it receives in income, the nation’s debt will ultimately become unsustainable, and the nation will go broke. Furthermore he will address why the predominant Neoclassical economic model of banking is dangerously misleading as a guide to how a capitalist economy actually works and was thus incapable of predicting the Great Financial Crisis of 2007.

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Hoe much more American does it get?

9/11 Fund Running Out Of Money For Those With Illnesses (AP)

The compensation fund for victims of 9/11 is running out of money and will cut future payments by 50 to 70 percent, officials announced Friday. September 11th Victim Compensation Fund special master Rupa Bhattacharyya said she was “painfully aware of the inequity of the situation” but stressed that awarding some funds for every valid claim would be preferable to sending some legitimate claimants away empty-handed. “I could not abide a plan that would at the end of the day leave some claimants uncompensated,” Bhattacharyya said.

Nearly 40,000 people have applied to the federal fund for people with illnesses potentially related to being at the World Trade Center site, the Pentagon or Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after the 2001 terror attacks there, and about 19,000 of those claims are pending. Nearly $5 billion in benefits have been awarded out of the $7.3 billion fund. Bhattacharyya said fund officials estimate it would take another $5 billion to pay pending claims and the claims that officials anticipate will be submitted before the fund’s December 2020 deadline. Absent that funding, officials determined that pending claims submitted by Feb. 1 would be paid at 50 percent of their prior value. Valid claims received after that date will be paid at just 30 percent.

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Idea is good, argumentation less so. You can’t expect to be taken too seriously when you write lines like this one: A recent paper shows that companies are more likely to receive subsidies when they make financial contributions to political candidates in the state.

Subsidies to Amazon Are Uneconomical, Un-American, and Unconstitutional (PM)

Corporate subsidies are a negative-sum game. They foster crony capitalism, hurt productivity growth and inflict great harm on product market competition.

As soon as Amazon announced the location of its new headquarters, an intense media battle started on the rationality of the fiscal subsidies offered by the two chosen states to attract the new headquarters. Was it a good idea for New York and Virginia to offer $1.5 billion and $573 million respectively to stir Amazon’s decision? In each of the two chosen locations Amazon was to invest billions in infrastructure, employ as many as 25,000 people directly (and many more indirectly), and bring billions in new tax revenues. Even the generous fiscal benefits offered by the two locations seem small vis-à-vis the additional fiscal revenues the winning states will enjoy. After all, had Amazon chosen New Jersey over New York, the Empire State would have lost up to $14 billion in new tax revenues over the next 25 years.

Why shouldn’t a state pay a fraction of these enormous benefits to secure Amazon’s headquarters? While appealing, this argument is flawed and—as it turns out—self-defeating. When companies compete for customers, they have to offer better products or lower prices. They are forced to innovate and improve efficiency in production. In economist lingo, product market competition is not a zero-sum game (my gains are equal to your losses), but a positive-sum game (my gains exceed your losses). By contrast, corporate competition for state subsidies is a zero-sum game. Amazon is not going to be more productive in New York than in New Jersey –it will only pay fewer taxes. If companies are successful in pitting one state against another, they will end up paying no state taxes.

As a result, the economy will not be one iota more efficient, and the rest of us will end up paying more taxes to make up for the revenue shortfall. Competition for subsidies also fosters crony capitalism and hurts productivity growth. It fosters crony capitalism because it favors companies that are well-connected, rather than companies that are more efficient.

Read more …

Feb 042019
 
 February 4, 2019  Posted by at 4:25 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Rembrandt van Rijn Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer 1653

 

That statement is going to make me real popular, right? Any criticism of Robert Mueller for many people equals support for President Trump. But it doesn’t, and Mueller really is a coward and a liar, and it’s not hard to make that case, it’s even easier than how he makes his cases, because we can actually prove ours. We also don’t have to pervert the law, but he does.

Robert Mueller is a coward because he again, in his indictment of Roger Stone last week, makes claims against people who can’t defend themselves, and who moreover have in at least one case, that of Julian Assange, previously and repeatedly denied those claims. And Robert Mueller’s a liar because many of his claims are evidently not true; but though he will never be able to prove them, and he knows it, he still makes his ‘case’ based on them.

It’s also public knowledge that Mueller has lied since at least the WMD facade. On February 11 2003, then FBI director Mueller testified before Congress: “..as Director Tenet has pointed out, Secretary Powell presented evidence last week that Baghdad has failed to disarm its weapons of mass destruction, willfully attempting to evade and deceive the international community. Our particular concern is that Saddam Hussein may supply terrorists with biological, chemical, or radiological material.”

We know today he was lying, as was Colin Powell (and the entire Bush administration). Which is also interesting because a number of Mueller’s accusations against various ‘suspects’ are basically just that: someone has lied to Congress and must be punished for it. This is again the case in Roger Stone’s indictment, which would ring awfully hollow without it. And we don’t have to know how true that accusation is to realize that it’s being brought by someone who himself lied to Congress, but was never indicted for it. That is curious no matter how you look at it.

So what would happen if Mueller takes any of his present indictments into a courtroom? Note: as long as he treats those he indicts the same way he treated Paul Manafort and others, he’ll probably never have to present anything in a court; every ‘suspect’ will sign a plea deal because he threatens to destroy them, their freedom, their finances, their families. But what IF he did, purely hypothetically? What proof -not allegations- could he present to a judge about Russians hacking US-based servers or computers?

And what evidence of Julian Assange working with Russians, or with the Trump campaign? He has none. All there is is US intelligence agencies making claims without providing evidence. And they are a party to the whole story, they are not mere observers, so no judge worth his/her salt can accept their word on anything just because it’s them saying it. Even the FBI has to present evidence. In court, that is.

In the meantime, in the absence of a courtroom, Robert Mueller has been free to accuse people for 20 months now, without proof. And what those 20 months have shown us culminates in the Roger Stone indictment, which makes clear -once more- that there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

 

Given his legal status, Mueller should be invested with the power to demand he gets the opportunity to talk to Assange. And in the unlikely event that he’s not provided with that opportunity by his superiors, at the very least he must stop talking about Assange. Can’t talk TO him, then stop talking ABOUT him. Sure, he never mentions his name, but that’s just more cowardice. We all know who Organization 1 is in Mueller’s indictments. And we all know who spoke for Organization 1 before he was muzzled.

Mueller could for instance travel to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, after negotiating, both with the man himself and with ‘authorities’ from Ecuador, UK and US, to have a meeting with Assange. Considering his importance as head of an investigation into collusion that might topple a president and start a new cold war with Russia, that should be easy to do. But Mueller hasn’t talked to Assange. Nor has he indicated that he tried.

Mueller accusing Assange without talking to him should raise suspicions that he is not interested in finding the truth, but has other goals. And that shines a dark light on his entire investigation. Because of the fact itself, but also because Assange is a pivotal person in the entire Russia collusion narrative. Mueller can’t make his case without accusing, defaming Assange.

Assange is crucial in the Mueller indictment of 12 Russians issued conveniently three days before the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki, he’s crucial in the case made against Paul Manafort, and he’s again crucial in the indictment of Roger Stone. Without Assange, Mueller’s hands are empty. Julian is presented as the conduit between Trump and Russia. No conduit, no connection. And Assange has always denied the entire thing, all of it.

 

People who have been accused of, let alone indicted in, a crime, must be given their day in court, says American law, to be able to defend themselves against their accusers. But Assange is not, which means Robert Mueller is no less than a grave threat to the entire American justice system. Not Mueller alone, for sure, but he, along with the Attorney General and Deputy AG (and believe it or not, the President), are immediately responsible for the way the justice system is being perverted. That is very serious business.

As I said above, Mueller first, supposedly accidentally, dragged Assange into his investigation three days before the July 16 2018 Trump/Putin meeting in Helsinki, when he indicted 12 Russians and ‘Organization 1’. That indictment is here. It was arguably the first tangible thing that came out of the investigation, and while it was heralded as gospel by everyone who wants Trump to hang, it was shot so full of holes by others in no time that the term ‘tangible’ perhaps needs to be replaced.

That first indictment was not based on facts, it was based on faith (in US intelligence). 12 Russians who can’t defend themselves were grouped together as Guccifer 2, whose Russian lineage was also shot to smithereens within hours, and then there was Assange. Last week’s indictment, that of Roger Stone, perhaps -we can’t even be sure- alludes to Stone colluding with either Russians or Assange, but it carries no evidence of any collusion.

As WikiLeaks tweeted: “The indictment doesn’t have any reference to Stone talking to Assange, or Assange talking to Stone, or anyone at WikiLeaks telling him anything, whatsoever. It’s literally old men reading the news and wishing for things.

 

The job of a Special Counsel, his/her mandate, is to gather evidence of those crimes (s)he has been tasked with investigating. That mandate can be wide, but certainly not unlimited. The job at hand is not to suggest that things MIGHT have happened. It is not to blindly follow everything US intelligence may or may not claim is true, because all accusations will eventually have to be proven in a courtroom.

And it is not to point fingers at people for things the Special Counsel can’t prove they’ve done, or to accuse people who cannot defend themselves against whatever it is he or she might say (because then (s)he might say anything).

Mueller has never charged Assange with anything, despite the fact that Julian is all over all of his indictments. Mueller also refuses to talk to Assange, ostensibly because that way he can continue to accuse him of all manner of unproven ‘crimes’, and if he doesn’t have to prove what he accuses Assange of, he can accuse anyone of being in touch with Assange and conspiring to enact all sorts of collusion.

 

It’s a pity that America is so divided into a pro-Trump and anti-Trump side, and never the twain shall meet, because the perversion of the justice system exemplified by the Mueller investigation is very real; it’s rotting from the inside. This has not about Trump, if anything it’s about the justice system granting someone the right to defend themselves, which is being violated by Robert Mueller on a daily basis.

In early 2017, the DOJ attempted to set up meetings with Assange, who in the process offered evidence that there was no Russian involvement in the files WikiLeaks published in 2016. Those attempts, when near completion, were halted by Mueller’s very good friend James Comey and Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.).

Warner last week in his capacity as Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman said about the Stone indictment: “It is clear from this indictment that those contacts [between Stone and WikiLeaks] happened at least with the full knowledge of, and appear to have been encouraged by, the highest levels of the Trump campaign..” No, Mr. Warner, that is sort of the exact point here. It is not clear. Nor is it true. And you know that, sir.

A year and a half later, in July 2018, Senator Rand Paul said that if Assange would agree to testify in the US, “I think that he should be given immunity from prosecution in exchange for coming to the United States and testifying” Nothing came from that either. Where was Mueller?

Every single American should be alarmed by this perversion of justice. Nothing to do with what you think of Trump, or of Assange. The very principles of the system are being perverted, including, but certainly not limited to, its deepest core, that of every individual’s right to defend themselves.

Just so Robert Mueller can continue his already failed investigation into collusion that has shown no such thing, and which wouldn’t have been started 20 months ago if we knew then what we know now.

Get off your Trump collusion hobby-horse, that quest has already died regardless, and start defending the legal system and the Constitution. Because if you don’t, what’s to keep the next Robert Mueller from going after you, or someone you like or love? It’s in everyone’s interest to demand that these proceedings – like all legal proceedings- are conducted according to the law, but in Mueller’s hands, they are not.

And that should be a much bigger worry than whether or not you like or dislike a former game-show host.

 

 

Feb 022019
 
 February 2, 2019  Posted by at 10:53 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso The bathers 1918

 

Russia Suspends INF Treaty In ‘Mirror Response’ To US – Putin (RT)
US Payrolls Surge By 304,000, Smashing Estimates Despite Shutdown (CNBC)
Big Trouble in Little China (Schmid)
How Fast Housing Markets in Sydney & Melbourne Are Coming Unglued (WS)
Venezuela To Sell Gold Reserves To UAE Without Russia’s Help (RT)
Italy Rejects Guaido, Says Venezuela is a Sovereign State (Telesur)
Whitehall Begins ‘Serious Work’ On Customs Union With EU (Ind.)
Judge Considers Gag Order On Roger Stone And Prosecution (BBC)
America’s Kurdish Allies Risk Being Wiped Out – By NATO (Graeber)
Rigging the Science of GMO Ecotoxicity (Latham)

 

 

US arms producers eye their ultimate bid for trillions in development fees. But Russia is not fazed at all.

“Let’s wait until our partners mature sufficiently to hold a level, meaningful conversation on this topic..”

Russia Suspends INF Treaty In ‘Mirror Response’ To US – Putin (RT)

President Vladimir Putin says Moscow is halting its participation in the Cold War-era INF nuclear agreement after Washington’s decision to suspend it. Russia will develop missiles previously forbidden under its terms. “Ours will be a mirror response. Our US partners say that they are ceasing their participation in the treaty, and we are doing the same,” the Russian president said in Moscow on Saturday in reference to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). “They say that they are doing research and testing [on new weapons] and we will do the same thing,” Putin said during a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.

The Russian leader emphasized that while Moscow’s offers on modernizing the 1987 treaty and making it more transparent “are still on the table,” no more talks should be initiated with the Americans to try and save it. “Let’s wait until our partners mature sufficiently to hold a level, meaningful conversation on this topic, which is extremely important for us, them, and the entire world,” Putin said. In December, the Trump administration threatened to quit the agreement, which limits nuclear and conventional land-launched missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500km within 60 days, unless Russia stopped allegedly violating it with its 9M729 missile, which Washington claims exceeds the permitted range.

Moscow denied that it had broken the treaty, and offered additional mutual inspections during failed talks in Geneva last month. On February 1, Washington officially confirmed that the bilateral agreement signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan will be suspended for 180 days. Washington also signaled intentions to entirely withdraw from it afterwards. During the meeting in front on the cameras on Saturday, Lavrov insisted that Moscow “attempted to do everything we could to rescue the treaty.” This included “unprecedented steps going far beyond our obligations,” he said, accusing Washington of systematically undermining the INF Treaty at least since the late 1990s.

Read more …

“December’s big initially reported gain of 312,000 was knocked all the way down to 222,000..”

US Payrolls Surge By 304,000, Smashing Estimates Despite Shutdown (CNBC)

Job growth in January shattered expectations, with nonfarm payrolls surging by 304,000 despite a partial government shutdown that was the longest in history, the Labor Department reported Friday. The unemployment rate ticked higher to 4 percent, a level where it had last been in June, a likely effect of the shutdown, according to the department. However, officials said federal workers generally were counted as employed during the period because they received pay during the survey week of Jan. 12. On balance, federal government employment actually rose by 1,000. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had expected payrolls to rise by 170,000 and the unemployment rate to hold steady at 3.9 percent.

In all, it was a powerful performance at a time when economists increasingly have said they expect growth to slow in 2019. January marked 100 months in a row of positive job creation, by far the longest streak on record. Stock futures and Treasury yields jumped in response to the better-than-expected report. The news was not all good, though, as data revisions pushed previous numbers lower. December’s big initially reported gain of 312,000 was knocked all the way down to 222,000, while November’s rose from 176,000 to 196,000. On net, that took the two months down by 70,000, bringing the three-month average to 241,000. That’s still well above the trend that would be common this far into an economic expansion dating back 9 1/2 years.

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“Real GDP fell by 1.7 percent and 0.6 percent in Q3 and Q4 respectively compared with the official figures showing growth of 6.4 percent and 6 percent..”

Big Trouble in Little China (Schmid)

There are those who think “China will take over the world” with its technocratic central planning. Then there are those who say its debt bubble is so gigantic, the economy will crash and burn. The truth, probably, lies somewhere in the middle. And it looks like we are getting closer to know the truth. Official GDP growth, is of course on track at 6.6 percent for the year 2018, stellar among industrial and even emerging economies. But nobody believes these figures, even though they are the worst since 1990. “Real GDP fell by 1.7 percent and 0.6 percent in Q3 and Q4 respectively compared with the official figures showing growth of 6.4 percent and 6 percent,” Enodo Economics chief economist Diana Choyleva wrote in a note to clients about the annualized growth during the past two quarters of 2018. According to Choyleva, China is experiencing an unofficial recession.

While this doesn’t mean the crash and burn scenario is unavoidable, the flurry of official and unofficial economic indicators flashing red make the “take over the world” scenario quite unbelievable for the intermediate future. No matter which official indicator you look at, the Chinese economy is in decline. Retail sales growth is barely above 5 percent, the lowest level since 2003 with automobile sales crashing 13 percent. Total imports in U.S. dollar terms are down 7.6 percent in December of 2018 as compared to the year before.

The main problem of the Chinese economy is debt and overcapacity. Debt has blown up to 300 percent of GDP through the state-controlled banking system. The financing went into building trains, roads, airports, apartments, shipyards, anything that can be built. And while some of the stuff is undoubtedly useful, a lot of it is not. If it’s not useful or sustainable, it won’t generate the returns necessary to service said debt. This problem could have been nipped in the bud, but Chinese central planners wanted ever more steel mills and high speed trains and push back the day of reckoning when most of the unprofitable companies would go bankrupt. So in order to keep the gravy train running, more debt had to be issued to build more stuff.

Read more …

TEXT

How Fast Housing Markets in Sydney & Melbourne Are Coming Unglued (WS)

“Can we still describe this as an orderly slowdown in housing conditions?” mused CoreLogic Asia Pacific’s head of research Tim Lawless about the Australian housing market today. Over the last three months, the index for Sydney dropped 4.5%, and the index for Melbourne 4.0%, the “largest rolling quarterly fall since at least the 80’s.” Across the metro area of Sydney, prices of all types of homes combined, according to CoreLogic’s Daily Home Value Index, fell 1.35% in January from December, the third month in a row with a monthly decline of over 1%. The 4.5% decline over the past three months pencils out to an annual rate of decline of 17%. The index is now down about 12% from its peak in July 2017. Note the accelerating decline over the past three months:

The 12% drop from the peak in July 2017 pushed the index back where it been in July 2016 – which shows how crazy and unsustainable the price boom had been on the way up. Now it is getting unwound at a slightly slower pace on the way down. Over the 12-month period through January, the index fell 9.7%, with house prices down 10.9% and condo prices down 6.9%. At the same time, the number of homes of all types listed for sale in the Sydney metro jumped by 24%. [..] In the Melbourne metro, the second largest market in Australia, the housing bust is also taking on momentum, instead of slowing down, but started about four months behind Sydney’s. According to the CoreLogic Daily Home Value Index, since the peak in November 2017, prices of all types of homes fell about 9%, which pushed prices back to January 2017 levels. Note the acceleration over the past three months:

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US sanctions deprive Maduro of food and medicine. Seen as a way to create a revolt.

Venezuela To Sell Gold Reserves To UAE Without Russia’s Help (RT)

Caracas plans to sell 29 tons of gold to the United Arab Emirates in return for euro in cash, Reuters cites a senior government official as saying. The money is needed to provide liquidity for imports of basic goods.
According to the official, the sale of the nation’s gold began with the shipment of 3 tons on January 26, following the export last year of $900 million in unrefined gold to Turkey. The source denied Moscow’s involvement in the operation after rumors circulated this week that mysterious Russian-operated airplanes arrived in the country and planned to leave with Venezuelan gold on board. That is incorrect, according to the official. Caracas reportedly needs cash for imports of basic products that it sells to the population at subsidized prices.

A possible explanation for the payment for the gold in euros is US sanctions, which restrict Venezuela’s use of the dollar. Venezuela’s central bank reportedly began to sell gold reserves to allied countries after supplies of unrefined gold from small mines began to run low. The bank held 150 tons of gold in January 2018. By the end of November holdings had fallen to 132 tons between the central bank’s vaults and the Bank of England, according to central bank data. The Bank of England has refused to return an estimated 31 tons of Venezuelan gold worth $1.2 billion. Bankers in Britain are allegedly concerned that Venezuelan officials would sell state-owned gold “for personal gain.”

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“..this same mistake was made in Libya, and everyone today recognizes it. We must prevent the same thing happening in Venezuela.”

Italy Rejects Guaido, Says Venezuela is a Sovereign State (Telesur)

On Thursday the Italian Government withdrew from the position assumed by the European Parliament and informed that it does not recognize Juan Guaido as “president in charge” of Venezuela. “Italy does not recognize the self-proclaimed President Juan Guaido,” Italy’s Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs, Manlio Di Stefano, said. The senior official explained that Italy is “totally against” that a country or a group of countries “can determine the internal policies” of a sovereign State. “This is called the principle of non-intervention and is enshrined by the United Nations,” Di Stefano said. He also expressed the Italian Government’s concern to prevent a warlike confrontation in the South American nation and stressed that “this same mistake was made in Libya, and everyone today recognizes it. We must prevent the same thing happening in Venezuela.”

Last Wednesday the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, warned the international community that it is not “prudent” to support one of the opposing parties in Venezuela, since “an invasive attitude would generate more division in the world.” “We do not consider it opportune to rush to recognize investitures that have not gone through an electoral process,” said Conte. Nevertheless, violating international law, and adding to the U.S.-driven coup d’état, the European Parliament approved a resolution Thursday that recognizes Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s “interim president.”

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With just 56 days left, great moment to start.

Whitehall Begins ‘Serious Work’ On Customs Union With EU (Ind.)

Whitehall officials have begun “serious work” on the UK staying in a permanent EU customs union as a route to rescuing the Brexit deal, despite Theresa May ruling out the move, The Independent can reveal. Preparations are underway at a high level, amid a belief the beleaguered prime minister will be forced to offer the potentially crucial compromise to Labour. Ms May has repeatedly rejected a customs union – fearing a further revolt by anti-EU Tories – but some cabinet ministers are pushing her to accept that the red line will have to be dropped if her deal is to be rescued. They believe it could tempt scores of Labour MPs to back the deal when it returns to the Commons, even if Jeremy Corbyn himself still refuses to drop his opposition.

Now a well-placed Whitehall source has told The Independent: “There is serious work going on about a customs union. We need to be prepared, so we are ready if the politics moves in that direction.” Although the prime minister has not yet been won over, she will come under fierce pressure if, as expected, the EU rejects her plea to replace the backstop – before fresh Commons votes in just 12 days’ time. The concession of a customs union is unlikely to be enough to persuade Mr Corbyn to throw his weight what he is determined to brand “a Tory Brexit”, but many Labour MPs are expected to switch sides. Furthermore, despite inevitable Tory outrage, some Conservative MPs could be persuaded that a customs union would make it less likely the Irish backstop they oppose – designed to guarantee an open border – will ever be needed.

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“To storm my house with greater force than was used to take down (Osama) bin Laden or El Chapo or Pablo Escobar, to terrorise my wife and my dogs, is unconscionable..”

Judge Considers Gag Order On Roger Stone And Prosecution (BBC)

The judge overseeing the criminal case against ex-Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone says she is considering a gagging order on both him and the prosecution. Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the case was “a criminal proceeding and not a public relations campaign”. Mr Stone has been charged on seven counts by special counsel Robert Mueller, including witness tampering and lying to Congress. He denies any wrongdoing and has made frequent jibes against Mr Mueller. Mr Stone, 66, a longstanding ally of the president, has previously vowed to resist any gagging order, saying on Tuesday: “I will fight and the deep state is in panic mode.”

Mr Mueller is overseeing an investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and whether Donald Trump’s campaign conspired with Moscow. President Trump denies collusion, calling the investigation “a witch hunt”, and the Kremlin denies any meddling. At a court hearing in Washington on Friday, Judge Jackson cited a number of “extrajudicial statements by the defendant”. She said that if a gagging order was imposed, Mr Stone would still be able to talk to the media about issues not connected to the case. She asked both sides to respond to the possible order by 8 February. The charges against Mr Stone are linked to an alleged Russian-led hack into the emails of Democratic Party officials. The information contained in the emails was released by Wikileaks during the 2016 campaign.

Since his arrest, Mr Stone has given a string of media interviews. He has been highly critical of his arrest, describing it as political theatrics. “To storm my house with greater force than was used to take down (Osama) bin Laden or El Chapo or Pablo Escobar, to terrorise my wife and my dogs, is unconscionable,” he told reporters. He has accused Mr Mueller of running a politically motivated “inquisition”. In an interview with Reuters, Mr Stone dismissed the charges as “process crimes” with no intentional lies. He said any failure to disclose emails or texts had been an “honest mistake”. In a phone interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on his radio programme Infowars, Mr Stone said he intended to “fight for my life”.

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“This not only means they are supplied with state-of-the-art weaponry; it also means those weapons are being maintained by other Nato members. ”

America’s Kurdish Allies Risk Being Wiped Out – By NATO (Graeber)

Remember those plucky Kurdish forces who so heroically defended the Syrian city of Kobane from Isis? They risk being wiped out by Nato. The autonomous Kurdish region of Rojava in Northeast Syria, which includes Kobane, faces invasion. A Nato army is amassing on the border, marshaling all the overwhelming firepower and high-tech equipment that only the most advanced military forces can deploy. The commander in chief of those forces says he wants to return Rojava to its “rightful owners” who, he believes, are Arabs, not Kurds. Last spring, this leader made similar declarations about the westernmost Syrian Kurdish district of Afrin. Following that, the very same Nato army, using German tanks and British helicopter gunships, and backed by thousands of hardcore Islamist auxiliaries, overran the district.

According to Kurdish news agencies, the invasion led to over a 100,000 Kurdish civilians being driven out of Afrin entirely. They reportedly employed rape, torture and murder as systematic means of terror. That reign of terror continues to this day. And the commander and chief of this Nato army has suggested that he intends to do to the rest of North Syria what he did to Afrin. I am speaking, of course, of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is, increasingly, Turkey’s effective dictator. But it’s crucial to emphasize that these are Nato forces. This not only means they are supplied with state-of-the-art weaponry; it also means those weapons are being maintained by other Nato members. Fighter jets, helicopter gunships, even Turkey’s German-supplied Panzer forces – they all degrade extremely quickly under combat conditions.

The people who continually inspect, maintain, repair, replace, and provide them with spare parts tend to be contractors working for American, British, German or Italian firms. Their presence is critical because the Turkish military advantage over Northern Syria’s “People’s Defense Forces” (YPG) and “Women’s Defense Forces” (YPJ), those defenders of Kobane that Turkey has pledged to destroy, is entirely dependent on them. That’s because, aside from its technological advantage, the Turkish army is a mess. Most of its best officers and even pilots have been in prison since the failed coup attempt in 2016, and it’s now being run by commanders chosen by political loyalty instead of competence. Rojava’s defenders, in contrast, are seasoned veterans. In a fair fight, they would have no more problem fending off a Turkish incursion than they had driving back Turkish-backed Jihadis in the past.

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Precautionary principle. The only response.

Rigging the Science of GMO Ecotoxicity (Latham)

Researchers who work on GMO crops are developing special “artificial diet systems”. The stated purpose of these new diets is to standardise the testing of the Cry toxins, often used in GMO crops, for their effects on non-target species. But a paper published last month in the journal Toxins implies a very different interpretation of their purpose. The new diets contain hidden ingredients that can mask Cry toxicity and allow them to pass undetected through toxicity tests on beneficial species like lacewings (Hilbeck et al., 2018). Thus the new diets will benefit GMO crop developers by letting new ones come to market quicker and more reliably. Tests conducted with the new diets are even being used to cast doubt on previous findings of ecotoxicological harm.

The resulting crops are usually called Bt crops. Cry toxins kill insects that eat the GMO crop because the toxin punches a hole in the membranes of the insect gut when it is ingested, causing the insect to immediately stop feeding and eventually die of septicaemia. Cry toxins are controversial. Although the biotech industry claims they have narrow specificity, and are therefore safe for all organisms except so-called ‘target’ organisms, plenty of researchers disagree. They suspect that Cry toxins may affect many non-target species, even including mammals and humans (e.g. Dolezel et al., 2011; Latham et al., 2017; Zdziarski, et al., 2018).

The Cry toxin mode of action, we and others have noted, does not necessarily discriminate between species. Any organism with a membrane-lined gut is, in principle, vulnerable if it consumes the GMO Bt crop. In these Bt crops the leaves, straw, roots, nectar, and pollen, all typically contain Cry toxins. Therefore, most organisms in agricultural landscapes will at some point in their life-cycle be exposed to GMO plant material. As pollinator declines and a more generalised insect apocalypse have revealed, the question of the effects of such crops on biodiversity is far from trivial.

—————

GMO Cry toxins
Cry toxins are a family of highly active protein toxins originally isolated from the gut pathogenic bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Latham et al., 2017). They confer insect-resistance and up to six distinct ones are added to GMO corn, cotton, and other crops (Hilbeck and Otto, 2015).

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Jan 292019
 


Giuseppe Arcimboldo Four elements – Earth 1566

 

 

Over Two Thirds Of UK Public Don’t Feel Represented By Political Parties (Ind.)
Risk Of Accidental No-Deal Brexit ‘Very High’ – Key EU Negotiator (G.)
Will UK MPs Take Control Of Brexit? (RT)
Theresa May In Fresh Crisis After Anti-EU Tories Reject ‘Plan B’ (Ind.)
Bank Of England Urged To Give Juan Guaidó Venezuela’s Gold (G.)
US Announces Sanctions Against Venezuela State Oil Company (G.)
Why Did John Bolton’s Notepad Say “5,000 Troops To Colombia”? (ZH)
Stone Cold (Kunstler)
Mueller Investigation Close To Being Completed – Acting AG Whitaker (CNBC)
Sarah Huckabee Sanders To Media: You’re No Better Than WikiLeaks (VF)
Facebook To Create ‘War Room’ To Fight Fake News (G.)
Supermassive Black Holes Reveal Universe Expands Faster Than Thought (Ind.)
British Museum Chief: Taking The Parthenon Marbles Was ‘Creative’ (G.)

 

 

This is true all over the western world. But finding alternatives is daunting. And that’s how you get to pitchforks.

Over Two Thirds Of UK Public Don’t Feel Represented By Political Parties (Ind.)

More than two thirds of the British public feel they are not represented by the main political parties, according to a new report on the divisions caused by Brexit. Research by campaign group Hope Not Hate found that the disconnect had increased from 60% to 67% over the last six months as Theresa May negotiated the EU withdrawal agreement. The poll of nearly 33,000 people and results from focus groups also revealed that many felt they were being left in the dark or were “overwhelmingly bored” by the process. It has also seen an increase in the proportion of the public feeling pessimistic about the future – with very few believing that Brexit will address the frustrations and inequalities that lay behind the vote to leave the EU in 2016.

More people also believe that Brexit is feeding prejudice and division and taking the UK “backwards”, up from 57% in July 2018 to 62% last month. Just 20% of people said they could trust the government to deliver a “good Brexit”. Almost as many Leavers (66%) as Remainers (75%) said they do not trust the government to deliver a Brexit that works for them. None of the options being considered by parliament have consensus support across the UK, according to the report, and 42% of people think that it would be sensible to delay leaving the EU by a few months so we can agree a better deal with the EU or hold a Final Say vote.

Hope Not Hate suggested the deadlock could be broken by holding “citizens’ assemblies”, which have been used successfully in Ireland and Iceland. They are made up of a randomly chosen representative group of up to 1,500 people and hear evidence and argument on a subject before making recommendations to their political representatives. Citizens’ assemblies are “a less polarising choice” the report states, with 39% of people, including both Leave and Remain supporters, saying they would back this process given the political deadlock.

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“..we need to have a stable majority to ensure the ratification. That’s quite a big challenge. There’s no negotiation between the UK and EU – that’s finished.”

Risk Of Accidental No-Deal Brexit ‘Very High’ – Key EU Negotiator (G.)

The risk of accidentally crashing out of the EU without a deal has been described as “very high” by a key EU architect of the Brexit deal, with parliamentary backing for changes to the backstop likely to be met with a brick wall in Brussels. Senior Conservative MPs are seeking to form a majority in a Commons vote on Tuesday calling for Theresa May to demand an alternative plan to the Irish backstop for avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland. But on Monday, EU officials and diplomats said the amendment tabled by the Tory MP Graham Brady, and backed by Downing Street, failed to offer any clue as to what alternative arrangement parliament could support.

With the votes on Tuesday unlikely to offer any clarity on what MPs can unite behind, the EU’s deputy chief negotiator, Sabine Weyand, offered a sober analysis of the chances of a deal being ratified in Westminster. She said: “We need to have a majority that doesn’t just get agreement over hurdle of a meaningful vote by a narrow majority but we need to have a stable majority to ensure the ratification. That’s quite a big challenge. There’s no negotiation between the UK and EU – that’s finished.

“There’s no point beating about the bush – the agreement was defeated with a two-thirds majority in the House of Commons. That’s a crushing defeat by any standards. It’s quite a challenge to see how you can construct out of the diversity of opposition a positive majority for a deal.” Weyand said of the two years of talks due to end on 29 March: “There’s a very high risk of a crash out not by design, but by accident. Perhaps by the design of article 50, but not by policymakers.” “We think we can handle it,” Weyand said. “I’m less sure about UK side. For us it’s about EU-UK trade relationship and disruption to supply chains. For the UK a no deal would mean that a part of the regulatory and supervisory structure of economy breaks away – a much bigger challenge.”

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British people must be so sick of this. More ‘key’ votes today, and no end in sight.

Will UK MPs Take Control Of Brexit? (RT)

Later on Tuesday, backbench MPs will try to seize control of Brexit as they vote on a set of amendments to alter – or even stop – the UK’s exit from the bloc after PM Theresa May failed to get her deal through parliament.
Speaker John Bercow reportedly received 14 amendments to May’s Brexit deal, with half a dozen of them expected to be put to a vote in order to achieve Brexit Plan B. Voting is scheduled to start at 7pm and may go on until around 8.30pm. By that time, it’ll likely become clear whether Brexit will be paused, possibly indefinitely, or whether the embattled prime minister will be sent back to Brussels for more talks with the EU.

Proposals to prevent a NO-DEAL Brexit One of the most important amendments comes from Labour’s Yvette Cooper, which requires May to delay Brexit and extend Article 50 if she’s unable get parliamentary support for her deal by February 26. Another notable one is much softer and non-binding in nature. Tory MP Caroline Spelman and her Labour counterpart, Jack Dromey, are pushing for the “no-deal” concept to be rejected in principle.

Anti-backstop amendments The two key proposals here are from Tory backbenchers, Andrew Murrison and Graham Brady, chair of the influential 1922 Committee, responsible for hiring and firing Conservative leaders. They call for the contentious Irish backstop to expire by December 2021 or be removed from the Brexit deal altogether. The backstop is a safety net to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland if there’s no Brexit trade deal.

Indicative vote amendments These are focused on ensuring that MPs get more parliamentary time to discuss the kind of Brexit they want to see agreed. Labour MP Hilary Benn has one amendment explicitly demanding indicative votes on Brexit options, including Norway Plus, a Second referendum, a “managed” no-deal, or a Labour Brexit. Prominent Tory Remainer, Dominic Grieve, is also calling for six days in February and March to be set aside for debates on motions not selected by the government. May’s spokesman said on Monday that talks on changing the deal to make it satisfactory for the MPs were ongoing. The PM was also willing to give the parliament another opportunity to vote for the Brexit deal as soon as possible. He didn’t name the exact date, buy the Sky News sources claim it may happen on February 13.

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The people’s interest?!

Theresa May In Fresh Crisis After Anti-EU Tories Reject ‘Plan B’ (Ind.)

Theresa May has been plunged into a fresh Brexit crisis after anti-EU Tories rejected her ‘plan B’ attempt to rescue her deal and threatened to inflict another Commons defeat on Tuesday. The prime minister took the extraordinary step of urging her MPs to back an amendment that “requires the Northern Ireland backstop to be replaced” – even though it effectively rips up her own agreement with the EU. However, just 30 minutes earlier – in a dramatic underlining of her weakness – the hardline 60-strong European Research Group (ERG) rejected the wording as too vague. Without ERG support, the amendment, tabled by Tory backbenchers’ leader Graham Brady, appeared doomed to fail – wrecking No 10 hopes that it would persuade the EU to give way.

Even before the setback, Brussels made clear it would, in any case, never accept a UK demand to replace the backstop, insisting the EU was “not going to reopen the agreement”. Heidi Allen, a leading pro-EU Tory, said the prime minister was “dreaming” if she believed her strategy could succeed, telling The Independent: “She is doing nothing other than pandering to the ERG again.” Despite the continuing stalemate, Ms May told the emergency meeting of Tory MPs that she wanted to stage a second “meaningful vote” on her deal by 13 February. No 10 saw it as a mechanism of sending a clear message about the concessions the EU needed to make if the thumping 230-vote defeat on the divorce deal, a fortnight ago, is to be overturned.

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The UK government, who obviously have nothing better to do, wants to confiscate Venezuela’s gold. Time for every country to repatriate their gold. Or it can and will be used against you.

Bank Of England Urged To Give Juan Guaidó Venezuela’s Gold (G.)

A UK foreign office minister has suggested that the Bank of England grant access to £1.2bn in Venezuelan gold reserves to the self-proclaimed interim leader Juan Guaidó rather than Nicolás Maduro. In a statement to British MPs, Sir Alan Duncan said the decision was a matter for the Bank and its governor, Mark Carney, and not the government. But he added: “It is they who have to make a decision on this, but no doubt when they do so they will take into account there are now a large number of countries across the world questioning the legitimacy of Nicolás Maduro and recognising that of Juan Guaidó.” Guaidó has already written to Theresa May asking for the funds to be sent to him.

The former chair of the foreign affairs select committee Crispin Blunt said the current Venezuelan central bank president was not legitimate, since he had not been appointed by the country’s national assembly. Blunt has sent letters to the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and to the chancellor, Philip Hammond, urging a decision. Duncan said Hunt would be discussing the next steps in the European Union’s efforts to support Guaidó in Bucharest on Thursday. Key EU states including France, Germany, Spain and the UK on Saturday urged Maduro to call free and fair elections within eight days or else see Guaidó recognised as interim president by the international community. The EU stance was backed by the SNP and the Liberal Democrats in the Commons.

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Bolton: “Now is the time to stand for democracy and prosperity in Venezuela..” Straight faced.

US Announces Sanctions Against Venezuela State Oil Company (G.)

The Trump administration has tightened the screws on Venezuela’s embattled president, Nicolás Maduro, announcing sanctions against the country’s state-owned oil giant PDVSA in what the US national security adviser admitted was partly an attempt to counter strategic threats from Cuba and Iran. At a briefing in the White House, the US treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, told reporters the sanctions would help punish “those responsible for Venezuela’s tragic decline” and boost Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader who last week declared himself Venezuela’s rightful interim president and was recognized by the United States. “It is a complete tragedy to have a humanitarian crisis in a country that has very rich resources,” Mnuchin said.

The sanctions – which represent the US’s toughest economic move against Maduro to date – come five days after Guaidó’s dramatic declaration sparked Venezuela’s latest political crisis. The national security adviser, John Bolton, said $7bn of PDVSA assets would be immediately blocked as a result of the sanctions while the company would also lose an estimated $11bn in export proceeds over the coming year. Bolton said the sanctions were an attempt to alleviate “the poverty and the starvation and the humanitarian crisis” currently gripping the South American nation and stop “Maduro and his cronies” looting the assets of the Venezuelan people. “Now is the time to stand for democracy and prosperity in Venezuela,” he said, calling on “all responsible nations” to back Guaidó.

However, he also conceded US strategic interests were in play, including concerns about the presence and activities of US foes in the region. “We think stability and democracy in Venezuela are in the direct national interests of the United States right now,” Bolton told reporters. “The authoritarian regime of Chávez and Maduro has allowed the penetration by adversaries of the United States, not least of which is Cuba.” He added: “Some call the country ‘Cubazuela’, reflecting the grip that Cuba’s military and security forces have on the Maduro regime. We think that is a strategic significant threat to the United States and there are others as well, including Iran’s interest in Venezuela’s uranium deposits.”

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Wonder what Putin and Xi are thinking. And doing.

Why Did John Bolton’s Notepad Say “5,000 Troops To Colombia”? (ZH)

During a Monday White House press briefing national security adviser John Bolton was photographed carrying a notepad — presumably as he was fresh out of a national security meeting — and one of the things which appears to be handwritten on the pad is “5,000 troops to Colombia”. The contents of the notepad were spotted almost immediately by multiple journalists online after an NBC news release featuring the AP photo was published. More precisely the full contents appear to read: “Afghanistan -> Welcome the Talks. 5,000 troops to Colombia.” And a closer look, per one of the first journalists to examine the photograph and writing, who noted that “if confirmed this would be a pretty terrible OPSEC [operations security] breach”.

Bolton during the White House presser revealed that President Trump is “leaving open the possibility of a U.S. military intervention to protect opposition leader Juan Guaidó, members of the nation’s assembly and American diplomatic personnel,” according to NBC. “The president has made it clear that all options are on the table,” Bolton told reporters while holding the yellow notepad. “We also today call on the Venezuelan military and security forces to accept the peaceful, democratic and constitutional transfer of power,” Bolton said. But could, as the notepad suggests, this involve plans to send 5,000 American troops to neighboring Colombia, a close US ally in Latin America?

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“.. in reopening it for three weeks, does this allow for the confirmation of William Barr as Attorney General?”

Stone Cold (Kunstler)

As I often point out here, history is a trickster, too. Things fly out of left field from it all the time. Pink elephants, black swans, honeybadgers, World Wars, flash crashes, and Roger Stone. I have a theory that Mr. Stone, in his twisted way, will turn out to be a sort of unlikely hero in this subplot of the Mueller inquisition. How might that work? Despite the attempt to squeeze him on charges that will bankrupt him and send him off to die in the federal cooler, Mr. Stone will do what he said on the courthouse steps: he won’t bear false witness against Mr. Trump. What that really means is something else: he is willing to step into a court-of-law and face down Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors.

Mr. Mueller does not want this case to be tried in court, I assure you. In the event, an awful lot of dark evidence will emerge from the defense side of the room about the criminal malfeasance among the Mueller Team, and their reliance on the Clinton network of fixers, grifters, and rogues who cooked up the years-long Russian Meddling-and-Collusion flimflam in the FBI going way back to the spring of 2016. Mr. Stone’s case is not unlike the case against General Mike Flynn, who was sent to the doghouse for three months in December by Federal Judge Emmet Sullivan to reconsider his guilty plea. Judge Sullivan may know that the charges against Gen. Flynn amount to prosecutorial misconduct by Mueller, and Sullivan is interested in trying the case to see what might come out. It will be March before anyone knows whether Gen Flynn got his mind right in the matter.

[..]I’m wondering about something else. Of course, Mr. Trump eventually caught hell on the government shutdown. But in reopening it for three weeks, does this allow for the confirmation of William Barr as Attorney General? And when that happens, might it change the flow of events in the RussiaGate show?

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If Stone’s indictment is any clue, there will be zero collusion reported. Well, at least not with any sort of proof.

Mueller Investigation Close To Being Completed – Acting AG Whitaker (CNBC)

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is “close to being completed,” acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said Monday. “I hope that we can get the report from Director Mueller as soon as possible,” Whitaker said during a Department of Justice news conference announcing indictments against Huawei officials. While there were reports that the special counsel probe was wrapping up, Whitaker’s remark is the first indication from a Justice Department official suggesting that Mueller could deliver his report soon. Mueller’s team of investigators is examining Russian interference in the 2016 election. The special counsel is also probing for possible collusion by Donald Trump’s campaign and whether or not the president obstructed justice.

The acting attorney general’s comment comes after Roger Stone, a longtime political advisor to President Donald Trump, was arrested in Florida on Friday. Stone faces seven counts, including allegations of witness tampering, obstruction of justice and making false statements to Congress. Whitaker’s appointment as acting attorney general sparked concern that he might try to stifle Mueller’s investigation. Before joining the Justice Department, Whitaker was critical of the special counsel probe. In a 2017 op-ed, Whitaker argued that if Mueller examined the Trump family finances “without a broadened scope in his appointment, then this would raise serious concerns that the special counsel’s investigation was a mere witch hunt.”

Whitaker addressed his critics during the Monday news conference, saying he has now been “fully briefed” on the investigation and is looking forward to Mueller’s report. “I really am not going to talk about an open and ongoing investigation otherwise, but you know, sort of the statements that I made were as a private citizen only with publicly available information,” Whitaker said.

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“When asked whether working with WikiLeaks should be considered a crime..”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders To Media: You’re No Better Than WikiLeaks (VF)

Last week, Roger Stone, one of Donald Trump’s longest and most loyal advisers, was indicted on several counts of lying to investigators regarding his interactions with WikiLeaks, the quasi-journalistic organization accused by U.S. intelligence of being in cahoots with the Russian government. Perhaps most dangerous for the president, the indictment against Stone alleged that a senior campaign official “was directed” by an unknown someone to ask Stone about “additional releases” from WikiLeaks, which had already dumped stolen D.N.C. e-mails all over the Internet. After Stone was arrested by the F.B.I., White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was quick out of the gate with the standard statement: “This has nothing to do with the president, and certainly nothing to do with the White House,” she said.

“This is something that has to do solely with that individual, not something that affects us in this building.” But on Monday, as she presided over the first official White House press briefing in 41 days, she was pressed to provide a more detailed response. She denied that the White House and Trump had any contact with WikiLeaks, and brushed off the possibility that Trump would issue Stone a pardon. When asked whether working with WikiLeaks should be considered a crime, however, she went a step further. “I think every single outlet that you all represent looked for and searched for information that WikiLeaks was providing,” she said. “Most of you reported on that information. I think you’re just as accountable as anybody else in that process.” In other words, if seeking information from WikiLeaks is a crime, the media is full of criminals.

In fact, by the end of 2016, certain media outlets engaged in some earnest hand-wringing over whether the extent of their reporting on the leaked WikiLeaks documents, including the e-mails of Democratic officials like John Podesta and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, had thrown the election in Trump’s (and Russia’s) favor. Stone’s connections to the Julian Assange-run organization, however, are of a different nature entirely. Stone, a one-man political goon squad, had long publicly flaunted his connections with WikiLeaks, selling himself to the Trump campaign as someone with inside knowledge of the organization.

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This is your future. A bunch of call-center type ops in cheap labor nations will decide, using handbooks, what you are allowed to see.

Facebook To Create ‘War Room’ To Fight Fake News (G.)

Facebook will tackle political misinformation in the run-up to the EU elections this May with a new “war room” based in Dublin, the company’s incoming communications chief, Nick Clegg, has announced. In his first speech as Facebook’s top public face, Clegg said the company would be setting up an “operations centre focused on elections integrity, based in Dublin, this spring”. The centre will build on the company’s previous experience running an “elections war room” in its US office, where it coordinated efforts to police the platform during the US midterm and Brazilian presidential elections. “This approach will help boost our rapid response efforts to fight misinformation, bringing together dozens of experts from across the company – including from our threat intelligence, data science, engineering, research, community operations and legal teams,” Clegg said.

“They will work closely with the lawmakers, election commissions, other tech companies, academics and civil society groups to continue the fight against fake news, prevent the spread of voter suppression efforts and further integrate the large number of teams working on these important issues across Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.” In his speech, made to an audience of European policymakers in Brussels and livestreamed on Facebook, Clegg accepted that the company had erred in the past, but said it was on a path of improvement. “What I have seen in my short time at Facebook is a young company – only 15 years old next month – which has grown at a startling pace, has undoubtedly made mistakes and is now entering a new phase of reform, responsibility and change.”

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Why? “Dark energy is evolving – with a density that increases as time passes.”

Supermassive Black Holes Reveal Universe Expands Faster Than Thought (Ind.)

Supermassive black holes in the depths of space have been used for the first time to measure the universe growing, yielding intriguing results. Astronomers found the universe appears to be expanding faster than previously thought, a discovery that suggests a whole new set of rules is required to understand the cosmos. The rate of universe expansion is known as the Hubble constant, named after the American astronomer who also gave his name to the famous space telescope. It has proved a tricky value to pin down, because while the cosmos has been getting bigger since the Big Bang, the rate seems to vary depending on where astronomers look and how they measure it.

In a new study published in the journal Nature Astronomy, scientists used black holes sitting at the core of distant galaxies as reference points by which to measure the speed of growth. These bodies constantly spew out radiation, placing them among the brightest points in the universe. “Black holes are the most luminous persistent sources of the universe and allow us to measure its expansion rate at very early times,” explained Dr Elisabeta Lusso from Durham University. Using data collected from 1,600 supermassive black holes as the universe expands and they move away from each other, the scientists were able to record the rate of this expansion.

Previous efforts had used the light produced by exploding supernovae to measure the growth of the universe, but such measurements could only go back so far in time. The luminous black holes allowed Dr Lusso and her colleague Dr Guido Risaliti to peer back further, providing a clearer picture of early universe expansion. The discrepancy they recorded matched the contradictory results previously obtained by the European Space Agency and Nasa. These results suggest the early expansion of the universe is different from that predicted by the standard model of cosmology, which describes the age, history and contents of the universe. [..] Dr Risaliti, of the Università degli Studi di Firenze, said if this dark energy is evolving – with a density that increases as time passes – this could provide an explanation for their results.

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A land of ordinary thieves.

Dull is the eye that will not weep to see
Thy walls defac’d, thy mouldering shrines remov’d
By British hands
– Lord Byron

British Museum Chief: Taking The Parthenon Marbles Was ‘Creative’ (G.)

The director of the British Museum has provoked anger by suggesting the removal of the Parthenon marbles from Greece in the 19th century could be seen as “a creative act”. Hartwig Fischer gave an interview to the Greek newspaper Ta Nea in which he ruled out returning the 2,500-year-old sculptures, which many people in Greece and elsewhere regard as stolen. Greece desperately wants the sculptures, popularly known as the Elgin marbles, back but has been rebuffed repeatedly by the British Museum. Asked about the argument that it should be seen more as a rejoining of the sculptures than a return, Fischer said the British Museum offered a different way of interacting with the marbles, “posing different questions because the objects are placed in a new context”.

He added: “We should appreciate this opportunity. You could, of course, be saddened by the fact that the original environment has disappeared. When you move a cultural heritage to a museum, you move it outside. However, this shifting is also a creative act.” The same could be said for the Acropolis Museum created in Athens, said Fischer. “Nothing that we admire at the Acropolis Museum was created for the Acropolis Museum. They are close to the original environment, but they have again moved away from it and have been transformed through this act.”

There are many who will not see the early 19th-century removal from Greece of the marbles by agents of the 7th Earl of Elgin as “creative”. Lord Byron likened it to vandalism, lamenting in verse in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage: “Dull is the eye that will not weep to see / Thy walls defac’d, thy mouldering shrines remov’d / By British hands.” George Vardas, the secretary of the International Association for Reunification of Parthenon Sculptures, tweeted: “Seriously. What was so creative in the destruction of the temple and looting and pillage of a nation’s keys to its ancient history?” He called it “astonishing historical revisionism and arrogance”, and added: “The imperial condescension of the British Museum knows no bounds.”


Photograph: Matthew Fearn/PA

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Jan 272019
 


René Magritte L’éternité 1935

 

Mueller Hunt For Russia Collusion Turns Into Circus Show With Stone (Turley)
Disgraced Wasserman-Schultz Now ‘Fixing’ Democracy In Venezuela (RT)
Non-Yellow-Vest Protests Are Good? Macron Hails Venezuela Coup Attempt (RT)
Ireland Dismisses Suggestion It Should Quit EU And Join UK (G.)
Only Two Votes Really Matter Now On Brexit (Ind.)
Juncker Warns May: Permanent Customs Union Is Price For Revisiting Backstop (G.)
UK Firms Plan Mass Exodus If May Allows No-Deal Brexit (O.)
Airbnb Contributes To Poor Housing Markets (Ind.)
British Museum ‘Rules Out’ Returning Parthenon Marbles To Greece (Ind.)
Late-Night With The Democrats (G.)

 

 

“.. if a deer could run over itself, then Stone is the ultimate roadkill defendant.”

Mueller Hunt For Russia Collusion Turns Into Circus Show With Stone (Turley)

This is not the big game that Robert Mueller was hunting when he began his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Despite the breathless news coverage, the indictment is underwhelming and far from what many predicted. As for the media, it seems to be only counting heads of Trump associates indicted, as opposed to what they were actually charged with. The media has long described Stone as the possible Trump campaign conduit to WikiLeaks and the Russians, citing his presumed communications with Julian Assange and his advance knowledge of the Democratic Party and Clinton campaign email hacks.

Yet, none of that was confirmed or even suggested in the indictment. There was no charge of collusion. No hint of meetings or arrangements with Assange. Not even a charge as an unregistered foreign agent of the Russians. Just collateral crimes with nary a mention of collusion and a defendant who alternatively presents himself as the tragically comic and the comically tragic figure mired in the special counsel investigation.

Indeed, if a deer could run over itself, then Stone is the ultimate roadkill defendant. Mueller has relentlessly pursued him for almost two years, and Stone has equally relentlessly taunted him and his team. Various grand jury witnesses recounted being questioned about Stone and theories of collusion for months. Mueller worked every evident angle before bringing down this indictment in what could be the final charging stage of his investigation. It was only last month that Mueller asked for the transcript of the testimony of Stone before Congress. Largely based on alleged false statements, the entirety of the indictment comes out of that transcript.

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The Democrats have dozens if not hundreds of people they must urgently get rid of, or they’ll never win another election. Wasserman-Schultz was thrown out for treachery vs Bernie. And now she’s back?

Disgraced Wasserman-Schultz Now ‘Fixing’ Democracy In Venezuela (RT)

Regime change and foreign interventions are things that the two US ruling parties agree on regardless of how much they exchange blows at home. Venezuela is the latest place where Republicans and Democrats have found common ground. If you watch the US media, you know what is happening in Venezuela: Dictator Nicolas Maduro is brutally suppressing the people he has been robbing for years, and now they have revolted and elected a true representative of their interest, the one true legitimate acting president Juan Guaido. And now it’s up to America to ‘fix’ democracy by whatever means necessary.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has even offered a simple explanation on how a ‘dream team’ of Democrats have prepared a package of laws, which will ensure Venezuela’s transition into a better future. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell will be bringing humanitarian aid, Donna Shalala will stop the arming of Maduro’s thugs with batons and tear gas, while Debbie Wasserman Schultz gets arguably the hardest task of them all – taking on Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. You know, the one who – according to the current dogma of the American left establishment – already denied the Democrats the presidency in 2016 and whose puppet Donald Trump is currently trying to topple the Venezuelan government for some reason that only a 5-dimensional-chess master can understand.

Wasserman Schultz may hold a personal grudge against Putin. She had to resign as the Chair of the Democratic National Committee after leaked documents revealed how it was playing on the side of Hillary Clinton and against Bernie Sanders in 2016. The leak is widely attributed to Russia by American politicians and media. The irony of Wasserman Schultz now being on the frontline of bringing democracy to Venezuela didn’t go unnoticed by Jill Stein, the head of the Green Party. But who cares? Americans were told already that Stein is just a Putin tool stealing votes from Clinton and working for RT. Those were smears, but ‘alternative facts’ are not an invention of the Trump administration. Opposing Washington’s regime change is a dangerous cause. Say a word of doubt, and you’ll find yourself in a virtual concentration camp for Putin puppets, Assad apologists and Maduro mouthpieces.

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Coverage of the Gilets Jaunes’ Acte XI is sparse. Given the extreme level of police violence, that is a bit weird. There are tons of videos, like of people losing eyes to police rubber bullets. Macron is damning his own presidency.

Non-Yellow-Vest Protests Are Good? Macron Hails Venezuela Coup Attempt (RT)

Emmanuel Macron has praised the “courage” of Venezuelan protesters but fell short of recognizing self-declared “acting president” Juan Guaido. His desire to exert influence on Latin America could back him into a corner in Paris. “After the illegal election of Nicolas Maduro in 2018, Europe supports the restoration of democracy. I salute the courage of the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans marching for their freedom,” Emmanuel Macron tweeted in French on his official account. The French leader went beyond the official statement from the EU, which has called for “an immediate political process leading to free and credible elections, in conformity with the constitutional order” although President Maduro’s second term officially runs to 2024.

Macron might be backing himself into a corner with his desire to exert influence on the situation in Venezuela and elevate his status on the international arena against a backdrop of a quite precarious situation at home, Chris Reynolds, an Associate Professor in Contemporary French and European Studies at the Nottingham Trent University, believes. “We can see a direct contradiction here between the domestic situation and Macron’s [statement] on this emerging situation in Venezuela,” Reynolds told RT, adding that the president’s response to the domestic Yellow Vests protests was “quite strong.” France has been gripped by massive weekly protests since November. United under the umbrella movement known as the Yellow Vests, the demonstrators, who first turned to the streets to protest fuel price hikes, are now expressing their discontent over Macron’s broader reform agenda.

Protests have often been marred by violence and were met with heavy police response as well as condemned by the president. With his sudden support for the Venezuelan street protests, Macron “opens himself up to criticism,” the professor said. “Those people, who would seek to criticize Macron will see a contradiction between his ambiguous support for the Venezuelan street protests [and his reaction to domestic protests] and therefore will have material to criticize him.” The fact that Macron stopped short of backing Guiado directly, and opted for a more vague statement instead, shows that he is well aware of this contradiction. “Macron finds himself in a situation, in which he cannot overtly express support to the Venezuelan opposition political leader, who has been brought to the fore on the back of the street protests,” Reynolds said.

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But you’re our colony!

Ireland Dismisses Suggestion It Should Quit EU And Join UK (G.)

Ireland has dismissed the suggestion that the best solution to the Brexit impasse might be for the country to quit the EU and join the UK. Questioned about the possibility by the BBC Today presenter John Humphrys, Ireland’s Europe minister, Helen McEntee, said it was not contemplating quitting the EU, that polls showed 92% of the population wanted to remain in the bloc, and “Irexit” was not plausible. She told the Radio 4 programme on Saturday that, in the event of no deal, Ireland was “not planning for the reintroduction of a border”, and urged the UK to honour its commitment to ensure the border remained invisible, as it had since the Good Friday peace deal was signed nearly 21 years ago.

Humphrys said: “There has to be an argument, doesn’t there, that says instead of Dublin telling this country that we have to stay in the single market etc within the customs union, why doesn’t Dublin, why doesn’t the Republic of Ireland, leave the EU and throw in their lot with this country?” McEntee replied: “To suggest that we should leave? Ninety-two per cent of Irish people last year said they wanted Ireland to remain part of the European Union and in fact since Brexit that figure has gotten only bigger.” The interview came hours before hundreds of people gathered on the border to protest against Brexit.

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Big one coming up on Tuesday. Could take May’s powers away. But you’re right: they have far too many votes.

Only Two Votes Really Matter Now On Brexit (Ind.)

Tuesday will be a big day in the Brexit story. We have had historic votes and critical moments before, but this is up another notch. The vote on the amendment jointly proposed by Yvette Cooper, Labour MP, and Nick Boles, Conservative MP, will be both historic and critical. It will be historic because it is the first time since the 17th century that the House of Commons has tried to take control of the nation’s affairs from the government. And it will be critical because no one knows which way the vote will go. The Cooper-Boles plan is to take no-deal Brexit “off the table” by requiring Theresa May to seek to postpone our departure from the EU if a deal has not been approved in time. The vote will be no mere expression of opinion.

If the amendment is passed, it will change the rules of the Commons to allow a bill drafted by Cooper and Boles to be rushed into law on 5 February. There is some talk of this bill being blocked by Eurosceptic peers in the House of Lords, which would have to whizz it through on the same day. Unlike the Commons, the Lords doesn’t have rules for timetabling debates, which means a small group of peers could keep talking to prevent votes. But Labour and Liberal Democrat peers insist that the huge majority opposed to a no-deal Brexit in the House of Lords would invent new rules, if needed, to get the bill through.

[..] Most attention is focused on an amendment which supports the withdrawal agreement, but only if the Ireland backstop is “replaced with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border”. This wouldn’t be binding, and won’t pass unless the government or the official opposition support it, but its significance will be as a show of strength on the Tory back benches. Clever people think that if this amendment attracts a lot of votes it will strengthen the prime minister’s hand in going back to Brussels to ask for changes. Olly Robbins, May’s chief negotiator, is said to have drafted nine options for trying to make the backstop more palatable to Tory MPs who find it so objectionable they would rather leave without a deal.

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Trying to be funny?!

“Critics of May’s deal believe that the backstop [..] could trap the UK in an indefinite customs union.”

And then Juncker says renegotiating the backstop does just that. That logic says whatever you do, you’re stuck with the customs union.

Juncker Warns May: Permanent Customs Union Is Price For Revisiting Backstop (G.)

Jean-Claude Juncker has told Theresa May in a private phone call that shifting her red lines in favour of a permanent customs union is the price she will need to pay for the EU revising the Irish backstop. Without a major shift in the prime minister’s position, the European commission president told May that the current terms of the withdrawal agreement were non-negotiable. Details of the call, contained in a leaked diplomatic note, emerged as Juncker’s deputy, Frans Timmermans, said there had been no weakening of the resolve in Brussels in support of Ireland, and accused the Tory Brexiters of a “cavalier” approach to peace. “Let me be extremely clear: there is no way I could live in a situation where we throw Ireland under the bus,” Timmermans said.

“As far as the European commission is concerned, the backstop is an essential element for showing to Ireland and to the rest of Europe that we are in this together.” On Tuesday, the Commons will vote on a series of amendments that might variously force the prime minister to delay Brexit or go back to Brussels to demand the ditching of the Irish backstop or a time limit on its enforcement. Critics of May’s deal believe that the backstop, an “all-weather” solution for avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland, could trap the UK in an indefinite customs union, limiting the country’s ability to pursue an independent trade policy. May’s deal was rejected this month by a historic 230 votes.

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It’s a surprise any would want to stay.

UK Firms Plan Mass Exodus If May Allows No-Deal Brexit (O.)

Thousands of British companies have already triggered emergency plans to cope with a no-deal Brexit, with many gearing up to move operations abroad if the UK crashes out of the EU, according to the British Chambers of Commerce. Before a crucial week in parliament, in which MPs will try to wrest control from Theresa May’s government in order to delay Brexit and avoid a no-deal outcome, the BCC said it believed companies that had already gone ahead with their plans represented the “tip of the iceberg” and that many of its 75,000 members were already spending vital funds to prepare for a disorderly exit. It said that in recent days alone, it had been told that 35 firms had activated plans to move operations out of the UK, or were stockpiling goods to combat the worst effects of Brexit.

Matt Griffith, director of policy at the BCC’s west of England branch, said that many more companies had acted to protect themselves since May’s Brexit deal was decisively rejected by MPs in the Commons earlier this month. He said: “Since the defeat for the prime minister’s deal, we have seen a sharp increase in companies taking actions to try and protect themselves from the worst effects of a no-deal Brexit. No deal has gone from being one of several possible scenarios to a firm date in the diary.” Labour MP Yvette Cooper has revealed to the Observer that two major employers in her West Yorkshire constituency – luxury goods manufacturer Burberry and confectioner Haribo – had both written to her, warning of the damaging effects of no deal on their UK operations.

[..] Last week some of the UK’s largest employers – including Airbus, Europe’s largest aerospace manufacturer, which employs 14,000 people in the UK and supports another 110,000 through supply chains – warned of potentially disastrous effects of no deal on its UK activities. Tom Enders, the boss of Airbus, said: “Please don’t listen to the Brexiters’ madness, which asserts that because we have huge plants here we will not move and we will always be here. They are wrong.”

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Houses are places where people live. Any other use is detrimental.

Airbnb Contributes To Poor Housing Markets (Ind.)

A recent report by a Toronto public interest group, Fairbnb, has added a local voice to the growing international chorus of concern about the impact of Airbnb on housing. It is now clear that a single American company has upended local markets, pushed rental prices skyward and could be contributing to poverty, especially in cities popular with tourists. Toronto City Council was slow to recognize the dangers posed by Airbnb, not only to unionized hotel workers but also to the million-plus tenants who need stable and affordable accommodation. Late in 2017, regulations were put in place making it difficult for deep-pocketed investors to buy multiple condos for the purpose of listing them on Airbnb.

But Airbnb hosts appealed against the legislation to Ontario’s Local Planning Appeal Tribunal. Six commercial operators added their voice. The hearings on the new bylaw are set for August 2019. In the meantime, there are no rules. Limiting Airbnb to some version of its initial ideal of “home sharing” is crucial. In 2018, 16 per cent of Toronto Airbnb hosts controlled 38 per cent of the listings, and the problem is worsening, with some downtown condos having hundreds of units listed on Airbnb, according to the Fairbnb report. The study concludes that Airbnb is responsible for countless illegal “ghost hotels”. What’s more, the report notes that if Toronto’s new rules were to come into force, more than 8,200 listings would have to be removed, and up to 6,500 whole homes would be available to boost the supply of long-term family rental housing.

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Imperial powers still rule. So stand up to them. Tell the Brits they’re not welcome until they give back what they stole. Not a single one of them. Let them fix their issues at home first.

British Museum ‘Rules Out’ Returning Parthenon Marbles To Greece (Ind.)

The director of the British Museum has appeared to rule out returning the Elgin Marbles to Greece after its government demanded Britain open negotiations over their return last year. The 2,500-year-old marble sculptures were removed from the Parthenon Temple on the Acropolis in Athens by the Ottoman ambassador Lord Elgin in the early 1800s. Lord Elgin sold the marbles to the British government, who passed them on to the British Museum in 1817 where they remain one of its most prized exhibits. Debate over where the sculptures should be located has raged for more than 200 years, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pledging to return them to Greece if he becomes prime minister.

In August, Greek culture minister Lydia Koniordou invited UK officials to meetings in Greece to discuss the statues’ return in the midst of Brexit talks as Britain sought allies around Europe. In an interview with Ta Nea, Greece’s daily newspaper, British Museum director Hartwig Fischer said: “The Trustees of the British Museum feel the obligation to preserve the collection in its entirety, so that things that are part of this collection remain part of this collection.” Asked if he thinks the Greek people are right to want the Parthenon sculptures back, he told the newspaper: “I can certainly understand that the Greeks have a special and passionate relationship with this part of their cultural heritage. “Yes, I understand that there is a desire to see all of the Parthenon Sculptures in Athens.”

The other half of the Parthenon Sculptures are currently in the Acropolis Museum in Greece. For several decades, Greece has called for the reunification of the statues and has sent several formal requests, threatened legal action and proposed solutions such as mediation by Unesco. Supporters of the Greek position say although Lord Elgin said he had the permission of officials of the ruling Ottoman Empire to take the sculptures, the empire was a foreign force and had no right to let the artefacts go. When Mr Fischer was asked about Mr Corbyn’s pledge to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece if he became prime minister, he said: “I think that this is Mr Corbyn’s personal view on the question, that you take note of. “Obviously, that is not the stance and the view of the Trustees of the Museum.”

Asked by Ta Nea if he would accept that Greece is the legal owner of the Parthenon Sculptures, he replied: “No, I would not. The objects that are part of the collection of the British Museum are in the fiduciary ownership of the Trustees of the Museum.”

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I’m guessing this divides America in two along a very sharp dividing line. What I see of it (not much) is Trevor Noah being an embarrassment to Jon Stewart, and Colbert having completely lost his mojo after he shed his right-wing persona. They do what the media do: play safe, keep feeding your followers what you know they want. Anti-Trumpism.

But if there’s one thing humor needs to thrive, it’s surprise. And none of this pretend humor has any of that. It’s all just devolved into a painfully predictabe word-play game. Letterman wouldn’t have gone there, Jon Stewart wouldn’t. Humor can’t just confirm people’s fixed opinions, there’s nothing funny about that.

Late-Night With The Democrats (G.)

Diners and town halls. Iowa and New Hampshire. The Rachel Maddow Show and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. While some campaign stops for Democrats running for president are very familiar, others reflect how the rise of liberal media hosts, late night comedians and “going viral” online could make all the difference in a tight race. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has appeared twice in three months on Colbert’s programme on the CBS TV network, first to promote her book, then for the big reveal about 2020. Colbert asked: “Do you have anything you would like to announce?” She replied: “I’m filing an exploratory committee for president of the United States, tonight!”

Other guests on The Late Show, filmed before an audience at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York and broadcast at 11.35pm, have included Eric Holder, Cory Booker, John Kerry, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Julián Castro (who appeared with twin brother Joaquin) and Kamala Harris, all of whom have declared their candidacy or are said to be considering it. A recent CNN article was headlined: “Welcome to the Stephen Colbert primary.” Colbert, 54, who cut his teeth in improvisational comedy, has earned it. Future historians could do worse than watch the bitingly satirical take-downs of Donald Trump in his opening monologues. His edgy political wit has catapulted him past Jimmy Fallon in the late night ratings and drawn interviewees including Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nancy Pelosi.

“Any Democratic candidate who thinks they can ignore Stephen Colbert might as well not run for president,” said Stephen Farnsworth, director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. “Colbert once joked that the road to the White House runs through his show but it’s no joke; it is exactly so.”

[..] Maddow scooped the first interview with Warren after the Massachusetts senator announced she was formally exploring a run for the White House. She asked Gillibrand pointed questions about her shifting policy positions. Last week she questioned Harris and Ohio senator Sherrod Brown, another possible candidate. All seemingly regard Maddow’s show as a hotline to the anti-Trump resistance. Bob Shrum, a Democratic strategist who was an adviser to the Al Gore and John Kerry presidential campaigns, said: “I think she’s terrific. She’s incisive, she’s smart, she has her own views on things and, by the way, she doesn’t disguise them: they’re right out in the open.”

Robert Lichter, professor of communication at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, said: “With the Democratic party moving to the left, she’s positioned to become a kingmaker. She’s a highly respected liberal and can make or break a candidacy early on by exposing someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Candidates will try to aim through Colbert’s jokes and Maddow’s seriousness.”

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Jan 262019
 
 January 26, 2019  Posted by at 11:07 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Giuseppe Arcimboldo Four elements – Water 1566

 

Roger Stone’s Indictment Proves No Contacts With Assange – WikiLeaks (RT)
Roger Stone Indictment Packed With Details That May Make Trump Sweat (G.)
Congress Clears Stopgap Bill To End Shutdown, Trump Sends Warning (ZH)
Elliott Abrams, Prominent DC Neocon, Named Special Envoy For Venezuela (Pol.)
In the Deep Mid-Winter (Kunstler)
EU Elections In May Could Oust Those ‘Who Really Believe In Europe’ (CNBC)
Protests in France and Venezuela – Spot the Difference (Clark)
China Can No Longer Rely On Real Estate For Growth, Infrastructure Next (CNBC)
China’s Slowing Economy Makes It Harder For Companies To Pay Debts (CNBC)
UK Justice System In ‘Crisis’ As Only 8% Of Crimes Prosecuted (Ind.)

 

 

Glenn Greenwald says the FBI didn’t tell CNN about the raid, they figured it out due to intense grand jury activity. Be that as it may, Stone was never a flight risk that warranted a very early morning raid by dozens of heavily armed agents. Certainly not if he was going to walk free within hours regardless.

What strikes me is that it’s all still based on Mueller’s indictment of anonymous Russians, and of Assange, none of whom can defend themselves; he can say what he wants and will never be taken to task. Key person in this is Guccifer 2, portrayed as a Russian asset, something that’s been discredited as much as the Russians and Assange indictment was by Aaron Maté and Adam Carter.

And there is zero proof of Stone’s contacts with WikiLeaks, that is all just wishful thinking. Also on his part, true, but how many times does WikiLeaks have to deny unproven accusations?

Roger Stone’s Indictment Proves No Contacts With Assange – WikiLeaks (RT)

The indictment of Roger Stone, former adviser to Donald Trump, who was arrested by the FBI, has revealed more evidence that Trump’s campaign had no “back channel” with WikiLeaks, the whistleblower organization said. Stone was arrested early on Friday at his home during a massive FBI raid in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. While the arrest came as a part of US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged collusion between Donald Trump and Russia, Stone stands accused of a bunch of process crimes. He faces one count of obstruction of proceedings, one count of witness tampering, and five counts of false statements. Stone has pleaded not guilty and was released on $250,000 bail later on Friday.

The indictment has shed more light on the lack of any link between WikiLeaks and Trump’s associates, the whistleblower website said in a tweet, dismissing the earlier claims as “braggadocio.” WikiLeaks, and Julian Assange himself, have repeatedly denied having any connection to Stone. During Trump’s elections campaign, Stone repeatedly boasted about having links to WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange, yet later backtracked on such statements. He claimed instead that it was actually a sort of “back channel,” facilitated by New York radio host and comedian Randy Credico (named “Person 2” in the indictment). Credico has firmly denied the claim.

The indictment shows a text message from Credico, dating back to December 2017, where he urges Stone to be “honest” with the FBI, stating that “there was no back channel.” Stone, in his turn, replied “I’m not talking to the FBI and if your smart you won’t either.” Stone apparently lived by his own advice and refused to testify about WikiLeaks and the whole ‘Russiagate’ affair, invoking the Fifth Amendment constitutional protection against self-incrimination last December.

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A view from the other side.

Roger Stone Indictment Packed With Details That May Make Trump Sweat (G.)

The criminal indictment of Roger Stone is packed with the kind of colourful details one might expect from the flamboyant rogue, who has been dealing in dirty tricks for more than 40 years. Between threatening an associate’s therapy dog and quoting his political hero Richard Nixon, the indictment also described Stone urging a witness to “do a Frank Pentangeli” – the mobster who lied to Congress in The Godfather Part II. But it is the dry prose of Robert Mueller’s 12th paragraph that is most likely to have Donald Trump sweating on Friday, after his government’s FBI agents arrested his longtime friend and adviser in a dramatic pre-dawn raid in Florida with guns drawn.

It states that after WikiLeaks had begun releasing hacked Democratic emails, “a senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information [WikiLeaks] had regarding the Clinton campaign”. This direction was given to the senior Trump campaign official after 22 July 2016 – more than a month after it was reported that it was Russian government hackers who had broken into the Democratic National Committee’s computer systems. Several questions naturally follow: who was the senior campaign official? Who gave the order? And could it have been candidate Trump himself?

Mueller’s primary task as special counsel was to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” on the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election campaign. Since then, Trump has repeatedly said there was “no collusion”. His loyalists have worked to raise the bar in the public’s mind, so that anything short of Mueller finding a secret deal with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, will clear Trump of wrongdoing. But running through Mueller’s indictment of Stone and his charges against Russian hackers last July is the makings of a case that there was, in fact, coordination.

In short, Mueller said on Friday, Trump, or his most senior aides, ordered a trusted associate to bring them into the loop on the fruits of what they knew to be a Russian government hack of American victims – and on the schedule for its publication. Trump’s team could then shape their campaign tactics around this calendar. And last July, Mueller hinted at evidence of coordination in the other direction. His indictment of the Russian hackers said they attempted “for the first time” to break into email accounts used by Clinton’s personal office “after hours” on 27 July 2016. That day, at an event in Florida, Trump urged Russia to search for the approximately 30,000 emails that Clinton was found to have deleted from her private server on the grounds that they were not related to government work.

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Everyone on CNN drools.

Congress Clears Stopgap Bill To End Shutdown, Trump Sends Warning (ZH)

Update 7 (1942ET): As expected Congress easily advanced the three-week funding bill, and is is now headed to Trump’s desk where he is expected to sign it later Friday. However, President Trump had the last word before he signs the bill, lashing out at those who claim he folded:

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Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Iran-Contra, 2002 Venezuela coup, hands dripping with blood, this guys is worse than Bolton. Founding member of the Project for a New American Century.

Elliott Abrams, Prominent DC Neocon, Named Special Envoy For Venezuela (Pol.)

Elliott Abrams, a controversial neoconservative figure who was entangled in the Iran-Contra affair, has been named as a Trump administration special envoy overseeing policy toward Venezuela, which has been rocked by a leadership crisis. Abrams’ appointment, announced Friday by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is something of a surprise — President Donald Trump nixed his 2017 bid to be deputy secretary of State after learning that Abrams had criticized him. [..] Abrams, who served in the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, is a well-known and somewhat controversial figure in U.S. foreign policy circles.

He has often expressed hawkish views and is fiercely pro-Israel, but he also has written and spoken eloquently about the need to support human rights around the world. Abrams was deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration and was instrumental in Middle East policy at the time, including supporting the U.S. invasion of Iraq. There were also allegations that he supported a military coup attempt in Venezuela in 2002, damaging the U.S. relationship with the government there after the plot ultimately failed. Abrams held multiple positions at the State Department under President Ronald Reagan, including assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

He was one of the Reagan administration’s fiercest advocates of armed support for Nicaraguan rebels and thus becae caught up in the Iran-Contra scandal. In 1991, he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress about secret efforts to aid the rebels. President George H.W. Bush pardoned him the next year. Abrams is one of very few people who were critical of Trump during the 2016 campaign and yet have been allowed to join the Republican administration. Another, James Jeffrey, is a special envoy dealing with Syria policy. Pompeo on Friday spoke warmly of Abrams, saying he “will be a true asset to our mission to help the Venezuelan people fully restore democracy and prosperity to their country.”

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“The fight over the new order struggling to be born will be even harsher and deadlier. But we may not be as confused about what’s at stake.”

In the Deep Mid-Winter (Kunstler)

The Democratic Party should have been tossed into the rubber room two years ago, but it’s still out there shrieking in its straight-jacket of bad faith. Kamala, Liz, and Kirsten will mud-wrestle for dominance, but so far, the only cards they can show are the race-and-gender jokers in the deck. Meanwhile, the government shutdown standoff may not be the “winner” move that Nancy Pelosi thought it would be. Why do you suppose she thought that the voters would only blame the Golden Golem of Greatness? She could be gone as Speaker when we’re back in shirtsleeve weather.

Also in the background: the likely shocking reversal of the long, dreary, RussiaGate affair as about twenty-odd former officials of the FBI, Department of Justice, CIA, State Department, and other dark corners of the Deep State answer charges of sedition in federal court. Many of them are connected, one way or another, to Hillary Clinton, who may be targeted herself. Robert Mueller is also liable to be smacked with a malicious prosecution charge in the matter of General Michael Flynn when he withdraws his guilty plea in March. A significant moment will be when Dean Baquet is fired as editor of The New York Times, after years of running the “newspaper of record” as an exercise in nonstop PMS.

Financial crack-up and RussiaGate reversal will leave both major parties gasping in the mud as the tide goes out. And just in time for the Yellow Vest movement to cross the ocean and bring out the street mobs to slug it out on the National Mall in lovely weather. Finally, a protest you can believe in! By June, it will be clear that the old order is being swept away. The fight over the new order struggling to be born will be even harsher and deadlier. But we may not be as confused about what’s at stake.

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As I said two weeks ago in Europe is Burning.

EU Elections In May Could Oust Those ‘Who Really Believe In Europe’ (CNBC)

There are concerns at the heart of Brussels that upcoming elections could radically change the make-up of the EU. Amid a wave of anti-EU sentiment across many of the 28 member states, it’s expected that the upcoming elections in May — which elects representatives to the European Parliament — will see support for parties that have railed against the institution. “We might be the last (European) Commission that really is made up of people, who really believe in Europe,” Cecilia Malmstrom, the European commissioner for trade, said at a panel at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Thursday. “Yes, I am very worried,” Malmstrom added. The European Parliament, once formed, has a say on who will be the next president of the Commission and what their team will look like. Thus, the next Commission will be a reflection of what happens in the election.

[..] Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who is also the leader of the anti-immigration party Lega, has been looking for support to form a Euroskeptic alliance. Salvini traveled to Poland earlier this month to speak with the Polish prime minister about joining forces ahead of the vote. In October, Salvini met French far-right leader, Marine Le Pen, saying the EU elections would signal “a common sense of revolution” across the member states. “For the very first time we are going to see real political elections … For the first time it is not just a repeat of the political balances in Europe,” Enzo Milanesi, Italy’s foreign affairs minister, said at the same panel in Davos. Milanesi, who declares himself as an independent, added that the election “could change the face of things.”

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As Varoufakis said, Macron is a spent force.

Protests in France and Venezuela – Spot the Difference (Clark)

The ‘Yellow Vest’ anti-government protests in France have received limited coverage in Western media and what coverage there has been has been quite hostile to the protestors. In Venezuela though it’s a very different story. Here the street demonstrations are a major news event, despite the country being thousands of miles away. Furthermore, the coverage is very sympathetic to the protestors and extremely hostile to the government. Why are angry street protestors in France bad, but in Venezuela very good? The answer has to do with the stances and international alliances of the respective governments. It’s inaccurate to call President Emmanuel Macron of France the President of the rich. He is, as his predecessor Francois Hollande admitted on French television, the President of the very rich.

Macron is an unashamed globalist, committed to carrying out neoliberal reforms at home, and following a ‘liberal interventionist’ ie imperalist foreign policy abroad, which means keeping French forces —illegally- in Syria. No wonder the elites are mad about the boy. The toppling of Macron, in a French Revolution 2.0, would be a huge blow to the most powerful people in the world. It cannot be allowed to happen. The French authorities have responded to the street protests with force; one activist was even sentenced to prison for six months — but this has largely been ignored by Western ‘liberals’ who would be so quick to denounce similar actions in other countries, whose government they don’t approve of. Instead, the message is ‘law and order must be maintained’.

[..] It’s a crowded field, but the prize for the biggest hypocrite of all goes to Emmanuel Macron. The man who has been clamping down on legitimate street protests at home, and whose approval rating slumped to just 21% earlier this month, published a tweet in which he praised ‘ the courage of the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who are marching for their liberty”. For the Yellow Vests protestors, and indeed for anyone else who genuinely supports liberty, that really is one sick joke.

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Does Beijing have the space for a new Deal?

China Can No Longer Rely On Real Estate For Growth, Infrastructure Next (CNBC)

Chinese authorities face an ever-growing list of challenges — be it an ongoing trade fight with the U.S. or headwinds in domestic demand — and it appears they don’t have many tools left to spur the economy amid a slowdown. The real estate market in China has traditionally played a major role in it’s economic development, household wealth and public sentiment and was used by Beijing to stimulate growth during previous downturns, including one just three years ago. But along with a Chinese penchant for investing in houses, persistent expectations of government support sent prices and the household debt burden soaring. That’s created a delicate situation, one which analysts expect Beijing will not touch this time around, except to keep prices steady.


Moody’s

Junheng Li, founder of China-focused equity research firm JL Warren Capital, estimates 61 percent of Chinese urban households live in homes less than 10 years old. She also notes there are many older units that are still in good condition. “(Some) simple math shows that continuously building new homes to stimulate investments and meanwhile create the false impression of wealth effect coming with home price appreciation is about to hit the wall,” she said in a January report. “Chinese policy makers are fully aware and highly alert not to send the wrong signal to the home buyers that home prices will continue to hike.” As Beijing tries to shift its economy to one that’s driven by consumption, the worry is that consumers will not have the means, or the enthusiasm, to spend. Already, retail sales growth has slowed significantly amid uncertainty about U.S.-China trade tensions and the impact on economic growth.

Economists at Moody’s Analytics pointed out in December that Chinese disposable income has grown at an average annual rate of 10 percent for the last six years, while household debt — of which the majority is tied to housing — has grown at an average rate of 20 percent a year. In the past year, the average rate of household debt growth climbed to 26 percent, the report said.

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Don’t forget local governments and their debts to shadow banks.

China’s Slowing Economy Makes It Harder For Companies To Pay Debts (CNBC)

Even as Beijing pushes out new measures to stimulate its economy, China’s growth slowdown will make it harder for the country’s companies to pay their debts this year, ratings agencies say. The Chinese government on Monday announced official GDP figures for last year that showed the world’s second-largest economy expanded at its slowest pace in nearly three decades. And while an annual growth rate of 6.6 percent is a figure most countries could only dream of, it marked a continued slide for Asia’s largest economy. Slower growth can mean weaker profitability for indebted companies and increased risk for those holding their bonds.

“The economic chill in China is spreading, threatening to weaken profitability across nearly all sectors in corporate China,” S&P Global Ratings said in a report Monday. S&P added that it “believes debt-servicing capabilities will decline as demand cools and profit margins contract,” while Beijing’s ongoing efforts to reduce debt levels in the country may pause — or even reverse. “While policymakers have intentionally steered the country toward a lower and more sustainable growth path, the broadness of the decline in recent months is raising concerns,” the report said, adding that S&P expects corporate default rates to “rise modestly” this year.

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Austerity Theresa May style. Who do you think rules that country if crime is not prosecuted?

UK Justice System In ‘Crisis’ As Only 8% Of Crimes Prosecuted (Ind.)

Tens of thousands more crimes are not being prosecuted amid warnings of a worsening “crisis” in Britain’s criminal justice system. Almost 92 per cent of offences do not result in perpetrators being charged or summonsed in England and Wales, with the number of offences taken to court dropping by almost 30,000 in a year. Lawyers, police officers and victim support workers interviewed by The Independent blamed a perfect storm of police cuts, rising crime, rows over disclosure, falling confidence and the backlash to a series of collapsed rape cases. Figures published by the Home Office show in the year ending September 2018 only 8.2 per cent of 5 million recorded crimes were prosecuted, down from 9.5 per cent the previous year.

The proportion of offences charged fell across all categories – from violence to drugs, robbery, weapons possession and theft. The lowest figures were for sexual offences (4 per cent), with only 1.9 per cent of recorded rapes prosecuted – down from 2.4 per cent the previous year. Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s shadow solicitor general, said the statistics made “very worrying reading”. “This is, sadly, no surprise given the swingeing government cuts to both police and Crown Prosecution Service budgets,” he added. “The government has to step up to the plate and provide the resources needed to properly support victims and ensure that no stone is left unturned in bringing people to justice.”

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