May 182020
 


Jack Delano Myrtle Beach, S.C. Air Service Command Technical Sergeant Choken 1943

 

Ardern Becomes New Zealand’s Most Popular PM In A Century (R.)
116 Countries Back Australia’s Push For Independent Corona Inquiry (SBS.au)
Start ‘Travel Bubbles’ For Low-Risk Countries, Heathrow Urges UK Govt (R.)
Profiting from Coronavirus (Craig Murray)
US Mulls Paying Companies, Tax Breaks To Pull Supply Chains From China (R.)
Cuomo Says No One Should Be Prosecuted For Coronavirus Deaths In New York (CBS)
Pelosi Sees Negotiations On New $3 Trillion Coronavirus Legislation (R.)
Senator Rubio Calls For Fast Action To Extend US Payroll Protection Program (R.)
Los Angeles Tells Everyone To Wear Face Masks At All Times While Outdoors (JTN)
EU’s Vestager: Discrepancy In Coronavirus State Aid Distorts Single Market (R.)
Australia Bankers Hope They’ll Avoid A Bad Debt Tsunami (AFR)

 

 

• US records 857 new #coronavirus deaths in 24 hours. Yesterday: 1,277
• The latest toll, marked at 8:30 pm (0030 GMT Monday), is the lowest since 776 daily deaths were recorded May 10, but the count ranged as high as 1,894 in subsequent days

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cases 4,820,347 (+ 77,166 from yesterday’s 4,743,181)

Deaths 316,967 (+ 3,264 from yesterday’s 313,703)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Say your child sees the Lord of the Rings films and wants to visit New Zealand. What do you think are the odds they’ll be allowed entry any time soon?

Ardern Becomes New Zealand’s Most Popular PM In A Century (R.)


Jacinda Ardern became New Zealand’s most popular prime minister in a century, a Newshub-Reid Research poll showed on Monday, thanks to her COVID-19 response that made the country among the most successful in curbing the spread of the disease. The first public poll since the coronavirus crisis took hold showed popularity for Ardern’s Labour jumped 14 points to 56.5% – the highest for any party ever. Conversely, the biggest party in parliament – the Nationals, slumped to 30.6%, after sliding by 12.7 points. The poll was conducted between May 8 and May 16, with half of the responses taken after the federal budget on Thursday. As preferred PM, Ardern was at 59.5%, up 20.8 points on the last poll and the highest score for any leader in the Reid Research poll’s history.


The poll took into account public sentiment in the final days of the country’s strict level three lockdown, which also got massive support with almost 92% respondents saying it was the right call. The Pacific nation was locked down for more than a month under “level 4” restrictions that were eased by a notch in late April. It has continued to enforce strict social measures on many of its citizens and businesses, helping prevent widespread community spread of the virus. Businesses in the country including malls, cinemas, cafes and gyms reopened last Thursday. (May 14) Ardern’s stratospheric rise to become the country’s youngest prime minister and third woman to hold the office resulted in New Zealanders coining the phrase “Jacinda-mania.” The rate of new cases have slowed dramatically in New Zealand in recent weeks. The virus has so far infected 1,499 people in New Zealand and killed 21.

Read more …

China says it’s premature to start now because the pandemic is not over. What?

116 Countries Back Australia’s Push For Independent Corona Inquiry (SBS.au)

110 countries have backed Australia’s push for an independent coronavirus inquiry which has caused a damaging rift with China. The African Group’s 54 member states will co-sponsor the motion, joining 62 other countries including Russia, Indonesia, India, Japan, Britain and Canada. The European Union’s 27 members are all on board, along with Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, Turkey and New Zealand. Foreign Minister Marise Payne on Monday said it was encouraging to see so many countries backing the inquiry. “I think what it illustrates is a broad view that given the experience of COVID-19 – over 300,000 deaths, millions of people around the world losing their jobs, the impact on economies from one corner of the globe to the other – that there is a strong view that it is appropriate to engage in a review of what has happened.


“I don’t want to preempt speculate about the outcome, those discussions will be under way later this evening. I think it’s a win for the international community.” The draft resolution calls for impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of the international response to the pandemic. It doesn’t mention China, but Australia’s push for the inquiry has angered Beijing, which has threatened a huge tariff on barley and blocked some beef imports. Health Minister Greg Hunt will represent Australia at the virtual World Health Assembly meeting on Monday night. A vote is expected in the early hours of Tuesday.

Read more …

One little problem: the UK itself is not a low risk country.

Start ‘Travel Bubbles’ For Low-Risk Countries, Heathrow Urges UK Govt (R.)

Britain should set up “travel bubbles” with low-risk countries to allow the movement of people, instead of bringing in new coronavirus quarantine rules when flights restart, according to Heathrow Airport. British government ministers have said they plan a 14-day quarantine for most people arriving in the country in the coming weeks to try to prevent a second peak of the pandemic. Airlines have warned the policy will throttle hopes for a travel recovery. Heathrow Airport, which before the novel coronavirus grounded planes was the busiest in Europe, said that it had been working with the UK government’s Department for Transport on proposals to allow some unrestricted travel.


“The proposal would create ‘travel corridors’ or ‘travel bubbles’ allowing free movement between countries or cities that are very low-risk, but potentially blocking flights from high-risk markets to safeguard public health,” the airport said in a statement. Such a set-up would be much less damaging to the economy than the quarantine policy, said Heathrow. The boss of Ryanair, Europe’s biggest airline by passenger numbers, said on Monday that the 14-day policy was unimplementable and unpoliceable and would be ignored by people wanting to travel. The government is yet to provide further details of the quarantine policy. Culture minister Oliver Dowden said earlier on Monday that Britain was still in talks with France over whether to exempt travellers from across the Channel.

Read more …

You can’t go through years of Russiagate and Syria bombings and expect countries to work together. And western Pharma sees huge profits anyway; that’s society’s model after all.

Profiting from Coronavirus (Craig Murray)

On 5 May, the British security services released to their pet media the claim that Russia, China and Iran were attempting to hack into British research institutes conducting coronavirus research. The BBC reported it. Britain’s shameful copy and paste media all, without exception, just copy and pasted the government press release. The Guardian gave the quote: “Any attack against efforts to combat the coronavirus crisis is utterly reprehensible. We have seen an increased proportion of cyber-attacks related to coronavirus and our experts work around the clock to help organisations targeted”.

If Britain had one single mainstream media journalist willing to think, rather than just regurgitate government propaganda, they might have realised that there is a massive story here if you look at it the other way round. The quote from the Guardian deliberately attempted to give the impression that Russia, China and Iran were trying to disable, destroy or hamper coronavirus research: “Any attack against efforts to combat the coronavirus”. But if you read carefully through those articles, you find that the allegation is merely that they are attempting hack in to gain access to the research. Because the UK and the US are attempting to hide their vaccine and treatment research results from the rest of the world to make money out of them.

Much has been written about the possibility for a new and better kind of world to emerge after coronavirus. Yet our governments cannot conceive of any model for fighting this threat to the whole world, other than the capitalist, money-making model. The much-touted “race to develop a vaccine” is not a race to save lives. It is a race to make billions. The United States and the United Kingdom are working in all international fora to head off efforts to pool global research and to make any vaccine or medicine a good for the world. Governments can reward those working on the vaccine, and the companies for providing the facilities, using economic models other than the patent and the potential for massive profit.

It may come as a shock to you to realise that at the moment all those lovely vaccine and medicine researchers you see being interviewed on TV about their efforts to compress trials and approvals and get the product to the marketplace, are not sharing their results with fellow researchers around the world. They are rather jealously guarding them and each working in a bubble hoping to be the first in order to cash in. It is certainly true that many of the researchers themselves do not like this, but are controlled by their bosses.

For me, the failure to set up a worldwide shared scientific database on all coronavirus vaccine and medicine research, and the failure to set up a prior agreement on free manufacture worldwide of effective resulting vaccines and treatments, is the most revealing fact about the entire coronavirus episode. The fact that the British government is putting massive resources into ensuring the Chinese or Russians cannot “steal” our research – and doubtless the Chinese and Russians are doing the same, all states are hypocrites in these matters – should sicken everybody.

Read more …

More incentive for collective action on vaccines.

US Mulls Paying Companies, Tax Breaks To Pull Supply Chains From China (R.)

U.S. lawmakers and officials are crafting proposals to push American companies to move operations or key suppliers out of China that include tax breaks, new rules, and carefully structured subsidies. Interviews with a dozen current and former government officials, industry executives and members of Congress show widespread discussions underway – including the idea of a “reshoring fund” originally stocked with $25 billion – to encourage U.S. companies to drastically revamp their relationship with China. President Donald Trump has long pledged to bring manufacturing back from overseas, but the recent spread of the coronavirus and related concerns about U.S. medical and food supply chains dependency on China are “turbocharging” new enthusiasm for the idea in the White House.


On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order (here) that gave a U.S. overseas investment agency new powers to help manufacturers in the United States. The goal, Trump said, is to “produce everything America needs for ourselves and then export to the world, and that includes medicines.” But the Trump administration itself remains divided over how best to proceed, and the issue is unlikely to be addressed in the next fiscal stimulus to offset the coronavirus downturn. Congress has begun work on another fiscal stimulus package but it remains unclear when it might pass. The push takes on special resonance in an election year. While anti-China, pro-American job proposals could play well with voters, giving taxpayer money or tax breaks to companies that moved supply chains to China at a time when small business is flailing may not.

Read more …

Now Cuomo starts arguing that “all those old people would have died anyway”. Afraid he’ll be blamed?

Cuomo Says No One Should Be Prosecuted For Coronavirus Deaths In New York (CBS)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Sunday addressed the state’s early response to the coronavirus outbreak and said “nobody” should be prosecuted for the those who died, noting that “older people” were most vulnerable. The governor has been criticized for a decision in March, which has since been reversed, to send patients back to nursing homes after they tested positive for COVID-19. More than 4,800 people died from COVID-19 in nursing homes in the state between March 1 and May 1, according to a tally released by the Cuomo administration on May 1. Cuomo has called nursing homes a “feeding frenzy” for the coronavirus. “Despite whatever you do, because with all our progress as a society, we can’t keep everyone alive,” Cuomo said.

The number of deaths in New York state dropped again Saturday to 139 people. When asked about the nursing home deaths, Cuomo noted the 139 people who died on Saturday and asked who is accountable for everyone who died. “How do we get justice for those families of those 139 deaths?” Cuomo said. “Who can we prosecute for those 139 deaths? Nobody. Mother Nature, God, where did this virus come from? People are going to die by this virus, that is the truth.” When pressed further about how some people thought their loved ones would be safe because of Matilda’s Law, Cuomo continued to stress the point that older and more vulnerable people were “always going to die from this virus.”

He said when talking who is accountable for deaths, the most important thing was to make sure “you can have a situation where everyone did the right thing and everyone tried their best.” Cuomo said his top priority was making sure the medical system did not get overwhelmed, calling that a “accountable, avoidable situation.” “That’s what we protected against and we did it successfully,” Cuomo said. Cuomo pushed for all New Yorkers who have symptoms of COVID-19 to get tested. He said New York is now conducting 40,000 tests per day at 700 testing sites. “If you think you have symptoms, get a test. It’s up to you,” he said. “We just don’t have enough New Yorkers coming to be tested.”

Read more …

The GOP will negotiate to make sure its sponsors get a “fair” chunk of the loot. And that’ll be all she wrote.

Pelosi Sees Negotiations On New $3 Trillion Coronavirus Legislation (R.)

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Sunday there will be negotiations on the new $3 trillion coronavirus relief legislation passed by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and that Democrats have “no red lines.” Asked if there has been a Republican response or counteroffer to begin negotiations on the bill passed late on Friday, Pelosi said, “No bill that is proffered will become law without negotiations, so, yeah.” The Democrats’ measure, passed late on Friday, was likely to trigger new talks with congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump’s administration, who have been talking about the need for new business liability protections in the age of coronavirus, or additional tax cuts.


Democrats oppose both of those ideas. Pelosi, however, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that Democrats had “no red lines.” Republican leaders have dismissed the bill, which Trump said he would veto, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling it “dead on arrival.” Some Republicans have said a new relief package could wait until the effects of funding in previous bills are felt, but Pelosi urged a quick resolution to help jobless Americans. More than 36 million people – or more than one in five workers – in the United States have filed for unemployment since the crisis began. “Time is of the essence,” Pelosi said. “In the past bills, they’ve put forth their proposal and then we worked in a bipartisan way. That’s what we all anticipate.”

Read more …

Just as misguided as Pelosi.

Senator Rubio Calls For Fast Action To Extend US Payroll Protection Program (R.)

The United States needs to quickly revise its coronavirus aid program for small businesses to extend the eight-week period in which the law currently requires companies to spend the money, a key U.S. senator said on Sunday. The Paycheck Protection Program established by Congress in late March was aimed at helping businesses keep making payroll for eight weeks, despite orders to shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic. The eight-week period may be applied to any time frame from mid-February up to June 30. But with many businesses that received loans under the $660 billion PPP program moving toward the end of their eight-week period, Senator Marco Rubio, the Republican chairman of the Senate’s small business committee, said lawmakers need to move fast to extend it.


“The legislative fix needed to #PPP is extending beyond 8 weeks the time period a #SmallBusiness has to spend the funds on payroll. We are hoping to move quickly on this before the first wave of #PPP loan recipients reach the 8 week point,” Rubio wrote on Twitter. While most states have begun to reopen their economies at least in part, some 36 million Americans — one in five in the workforce — have lost their jobs since the pandemic began. Rubio’s Republican party has the majority in the Senate. But the top Democrat on the small business committee, Senator Ben Cardin, has also expressed support for re-examining the eight-week period in the small business program. “I strongly support extending it,” another Senate Democrat, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, a member of the banking committee, said in a phone interview Sunday. “There’s a real mismatch between that date and the real world situation that many small businesses are facing.

Read more …

How about only when around people?

Los Angeles Tells Everyone To Wear Face Masks At All Times While Outdoors (JTN)

Los Angeles is requiring essentially everybody in the city wear a face covering at all times whenever outdoors, a policy Mayor Eric Garcetti says will help the local economy reopen faster. Garcetti announced the order on Wednesday evening, telling city residents: “Bring your mask with you whenever you leave your home.” Children under 2, as well as a limited number of individuals with disabilities, are exempt from the order, the mayor’s office said in a press release. “Face coverings help stop the spread of the virus,” Garcetti, a Democrat, said in the release. “Wearing them whenever we’re away from home will create a meaningful layer of protection for people we might come into contact with, and that makes sense at this stage of our response to the crisis.”


The order came shortly after Garcetti said that the city will “never be completely open” until scientists discover a cure for coronavirus. The mayor at the time was partially walking back comments made earlier in the day by Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, who said Tuesday that the city’s stay-at-home order would be extended “with all certainty” for the next three months.

Read more …

Complete nonsense: “Ensuring a competitive level playing field within its cherished single market of some 450 million people is a central EU tenet”..

Self-contradicting: “..concern about the “huge differences” in coronavirus state aid among member states, saying they were starting to distort the bloc’s single market.”

vs

“..Germany’s extensive bailouts of coronavirus-hit companies could have a ripple effect across the bloc and work as a locomotive for Europe..”

EU’s Vestager: Discrepancy In Coronavirus State Aid Distorts Single Market (R.)

The European Union’s competition chief Margrethe Vestager has expressed concern about the “huge differences” in coronavirus state aid among member states, saying they were starting to distort the bloc’s single market. Germany accounts for more than half of the emergency coronavirus state aid approved by the EU executive, prompting concerns that countries with the deepest pockets might be getting an unfair advantage in the bloc’s single market. In an interview with German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Vestager said there was a risk that the different levels of state aid among member states would distort competition and slow the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

“And this has already happened to a certain extent”, Vestager said, according to a pre-released extract of the interview that the newspaper will publish in its Monday edition. Ensuring a competitive level playing field within its cherished single market of some 450 million people is a central EU tenet and has long been a key condition for opening up to foreign players from China to, more recently, Brexit Britain. But the executive European Commission suspended the normally-strict state aid restrictions in mid-March, allowing the 27 EU states to pump cash into their economies and companies battered by coronavirus, with more than 1.9 trillion euros worth of national schemes approved so far.

Earlier this month, Vestager said that Germany’s extensive bailouts of coronavirus-hit companies could have a ripple effect across the bloc and work as a locomotive for Europe. Asked about an EU recovery plan expected to be announced on May 27, Vestager said there were no guarantees that it would be sufficient but said officials were trying to do their best.

Read more …

It’s not the virus, it’s the housing bubble that’ll decide this.

Australia Bankers Hope They’ll Avoid A Bad Debt Tsunami (AFR)

On the face of it, the stats look abysmal. There are 7.7 million Australian workers on some form of government welfare. Repayments have been frozen on 10 per cent of mortgages and 15 per cent of SME loans. Bankers have been left with about $220 billion in loans that aren’t being serviced. Little wonder then that some analysts are querying whether the $5 billion that the big four banks have set aside to cover the losses they’ll sustain from the economic collapse triggered by the pandemic will be sufficient. Now, bankers continue to emphasise that they won’t know the extent of their problem loans for another month, when they start contacting the home owners and small business owners who opted to defer their loan repayments.


But at this stage, bankers appear quietly optimistic that the rise in their soured loans this time around are unlikely to be anywhere near as serious as the hit they took from the 1990s recession, or even the losses they sustained during the global financial crisis. There are two reasons for this confidence. In the first place, the latest downturn has been very uneven across the economy. Workers in the services sector – particularly hospitality, accommodation, food services and retail trade – have suffered far more than, say, those employed in the finance or government sectors. But because the jobs in these sectors tend to be lower paid, with a higher proportion of younger employees working casual hours, those working in these sectors tend not to meet the income requirements for a home loan borrower.

Read more …

We try to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. Since their revenue has collapsed, ads no longer pay for all you read, and your support is now an integral part of the process.

Thank you.

 

 

Note: Navarro says in this clip that remdesivir has been saving many lives. But we know it has no such effect. It shortens hospital stays at best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Mar 122019
 


Robert Rauschenberg Buffalo II 1964

 

Theresa May Claims ‘Legally Binding’ Changes To Brexit Deal (Ind.)
Legal Uncertainty Hangs Over Brexit Vote (EUO)
May Tries To Claim Victory – But The EU Has Conceded Next To Nothing (G.)
Britain Must Leave EU By May 23 Or Hold Own EU Vote (R.)
Former Australian PM Calls Brexit Trade Plan ‘Utter Bollocks’ (G.)
Mueller Probe Already Financed Through September: Officials (R.)
Marco Rubio Accuses CNN Of ‘Russian Collusion’ (RT)
Manafort To Jail – Not About Justice; Not About Russia (Ron Paul)
News Corp’s Australian Arm Calls For Google Breakup (R.)
Facebook Removes Warren Ads Calling For Facebook Breakup (Pol.)
Facebook Bans Zero Hedge (ZH)
Biden on the Relaunch Pad: He’s Worse Than You Thought (CP)
Ides and Tides (Jim Kunstler)
Synthetic Chemicals Use Doubled In 20 Years, Will Double Again In Next 10 (G.)

 

 

Trying to patch together an idea of what was decided. It all appears vacuous. May assures Britain that the EU can’t make the backstop permanent, but 1) it can, and 2) it never wanted to, provided Ireland is taken care of properly. I can’t get rid of the notion that the UK can’t get rid of the notion that Ireland is a second-class country.

Biggest ‘gain’ for May: the UK can unilaterally declare that it believes it can unilaterally halt the backstop.

Today will be all lawyers trying to translate the hollow terms into legalese, but I haven’t found anything that could convince anyone anything has changed since two days ago. Maybe she’ll swing a handful votes, but she lost by 203 last time around.

 

WSJ: “The EU offered a new legal instrument that would allow the U.K. to seek independent arbitration if it believed the EU was not negotiating a new trade agreement in good faith. If the U.K. claim were upheld and the EU continued to drag its feet, the U.K. could be freed from the customs arrangement. The EU also offered a legally binding pledge to work quickly on a future trade agreement to ensure that the backstop is temporary. The two sides also agreed that the U.K. would set out its own interpretation of the deal, which would state that the U.K. believes it has the option to bring the customs union arrangement to an end.”

Jeremy Corbyn on Twitter: “The Prime Minister’s negotiations have failed. Last night’s agreement with the European Commission does not contain anything approaching the changes Theresa May promised Parliament, and whipped her MPs to vote for.”

Green Party’s Molly Scott Cato on Twitter: “I’ve never before seen a prime minister deliberately try to mislead her own Parliament. There have been no legally binding changes to the withdrawal agreement. This is action worthy of an autocratic leader from a banana republic not the leader of a democratic country.”

Theresa May Claims ‘Legally Binding’ Changes To Brexit Deal (Ind.)

Theresa May claims to have secured significant changes to her Brexit deal in a last-minute dash to Europe just hours before she must put her plan to a critical vote in parliament. In a late night statement on Monday in Strasbourg she argued the new-look deal meant Britain could not be trapped in the “Irish backstop” so hated by Eurosceptic Tories and her DUP allies, but major doubts remain over whether it is enough to win their backing on Tuesday. The prime minister’s deputy David Lidington warned that if her deal is rejected for a second time by MPs it will “plunge the country into a political crisis”. European leaders warned there would be no “third chance”, but Conservative Brexiteers insisted there are still “very worrying features” to the agreement, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said “MPs must reject this deal tomorrow”.

The announcement came after another dramatic day in Westminster on Monday, which began with talk of Ms May potentially delaying Tuesday’s vote on her deal after a seemingly fruitless weekend of talks. But speaking an hour before midnight, she said: “MPs were clear that legal changes were needed to the backstop. Today we have secured legal changes. “Now is the time to come together, to back this improved Brexit deal, and to deliver on the instruction of the British people.” The backstop is an arrangement in the existing withdrawal agreement that comes into play if the EU and UK fail to agree future trading arrangements by the end of 2020, thus keeping the Irish border open, but also locking the UK into a customs union with the EU on a potentially indefinite basis.

[..] In a commons statement Mr Lidington revealed that the UK had secured two new documents, a “joint legally binding instrument on the withdrawal agreement” and a “joint statement to supplement the political declaration” on future relations. There is also a third element – a unilateral declaration from the UK setting out what actions it would take if it felt the backstop is being abused by the EU. Mr Lidington said the new legal “instrument” confirmed that the EU could not try to trap the UK in the backstop indefinitely, because commitments they had made to not do so were now legally binding.

Read more …

It often takes going through several articles to get a rounded picture.

Legal Uncertainty Hangs Over Brexit Vote (EUO)

Uncertainty continued to hang over Tuesday night’s (12 March) big vote on Brexit in the UK parliament, as British MPs tried to make sense of last-minute tweaks to the exit deal. The opposition Labour party indicated it would vote against the accord. “This evening’s agreement with the European Commission does not contain anything approaching the changes [British prime minister] Theresa May promised parliament and whipped her MPs to vote for,” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Monday. “It sounds again that nothing has changed,” his shadow Brexit minister, Keir Starmer said. Two MPs from May’s ruling Conservative party said the same. “Seems UK is still permanently locked into the EU, but can ‘argue’ it can leave. The catch? EU decides if we can leave,” Adam Afriyie said.

“We’re being played,” Sam Gyimah, a former Tory minister said. Nigel Farage, the EU-phobic British MEP for the UK Independence Party, was the most outspoken. “Nothing has changed. Reject. Reject. Reject,” he said. Meanwhile, the so-called Independent Group of ex-Labour and ex-Tory MPs said Brexit ought to be delayed in order to hold a second referendum. Dominic Grieve, Britain’s former attorney general, echoed their position. “The proper thing to do is to put it back to the public in a people’s vote, in a second referendum,” he said on Monday. Afriyie’s comment on being “locked into the EU” referred to the so-called ‘backstop’ – the previous deal that the UK would remain in the EU customs union until it found a mutually acceptable way to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The backstop prompted a historic majority of 230 MPs to reject the withdrawal deal in January, raising the prospect of a no-deal Brexit on 29 March. But EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and British prime minister Theresa May agreed three new documents at a meeting in Strasbourg, France, late on Monday designed to assuage those fears. The first one said the UK could start a dispute in an arbitration court to quit the backstop if the EU did not want to let it out. The second one said the EU and UK would try to find alternative arrangements to the backstop by the end of 2020. The third one was a unilateral British declaration in which the UK said it could quit the backstop if the talks on alternative arrangements broke down.

Both May and Juncker were emphatic in saying that the tweaks gave the UK the “legally binding” guarantees it needed to avoid being locked in to EU customs rules. “It [the backstop] would never be a trap, if either side were to act in bad faith, there is a legal way for either side to exit,” Juncker said.

Read more …

Jonathan Freedland is a bit of a douche, I avoid him mostly. But he makes some points here.

May Tries To Claim Victory – But The EU Has Conceded Next To Nothing (G.)

Think of what the ERG and the Democratic Unionists object to about the key stumbling block: the Northern Irish backstop, the insurance policy designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. They don’t like the fact that it has no time limit, that it could, theoretically, go on forever. And yet the best that May’s new motion laid before parliament could say is that the new legally binding joint instrument “reduces the risk that the UK could be held in the Northern Ireland backstop indefinitely”. “Reduces the risk” is not the same as “eliminates the risk” – and it’s that that many of those Brexiters wanted to hear. (Put aside the fact that it was always an unrealistic demand: you could say the same about the entire case for Brexit.)

A second demand of the Brexiters, one bizarrely endorsed in January by May herself and a majority of the Commons, was that the backstop be replaced by “alternative arrangements.” Gamely, May tried to pretend that she’d won an EU concession on that too, and that those alternative arrangements will be in place by December 2020. As indeed they will – if they exist by then. But for now, the technological wizardry so great that it would render the backstop redundant does not exist. And so this was another hollow victory.

Finally, the Brexit crowd wanted the UK to have the unilateral right to exit the backstop whenever it liked. May did indeed get something unilateral – the right to issue her own unilateral declaration, in which she could freely state that “it is the position of the United Kingdom that there would be nothing to prevent the UK instigating measures that would ultimately dis-apply the backstop.” This is rather like my son winning the right to declare that it is his position that he should get more pocket money. It doesn’t mean I’ve agreed to give him more pocket money. The clue is in the word “unilateral.” The EU is not bound by this UK declaration and has, in fact, conceded nothing.

Read more …

Anyone checked what the bookmakers say on the date? UK elections for the EU Parliament would be hilarious.

Britain Must Leave EU By May 23 Or Hold Own EU Vote (R.)

Britain must leave the European Union by the time EU voters elect a new European Parliament on May 23-26 or will have to elect its own EU lawmakers, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Monday. Writing to EU summit chair Donald Tusk after agreeing a deal to break Brexit deadlock with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Juncker wrote: “The United Kingdom’s withdrawal should be complete before the European elections that will take place between May 23-26 this year.” “If the United Kingdom has not left the European Union by then, it will be legally required to hold these elections.”

Read more …

Seems obvious.

Former Australian PM Calls Brexit Trade Plan ‘Utter Bollocks’ (G.)

The claims that British trade with the Commonwealth can make up for leaving the EU is “the nuttiest of the many nutty arguments” advanced by Brexit supporters and “utter bollocks”, the former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd has said. In a lacerating piece for the Guardian, Rudd dismissed the claims by some Brexit supporters that the UK could strike deals with his country, New Zealand, Canada and India to soften the blow and said the UK risked undermining western values by leaving the EU in a weaker position when it left.

“I’m struck, as the British parliament moves towards the endgame on Brexit, with the number of times Australia, Canada, New Zealand and India have been advanced by the Brexiteers in the public debate as magical alternatives to Britain’s current trade and investment relationship with the European Union,” he wrote. “This is the nuttiest of the many nutty arguments that have emerged from the Land of Hope and Glory set now masquerading as the authentic standard-bearers of British patriotism. It’s utter bollocks.” Of the prospect of a free trade deal with Delhi, he writes: “As for India, good luck!”

[..] he cast serious doubt on suggestions the UK could quickly come to a free trade agreement (FTA) with India, pointing out that talks he began with the nation on behalf of Australia a decade ago are still going on. “A substantive India-UK FTA is the ultimate mirage constructed by the Brexiteers. It’s as credible as the ad they plastered on the side of that big red bus about the £350m Britain was allegedly paying to Brussels each week. Not.”

Read more …

Have a nice summer.

Mueller Probe Already Financed Through September: Officials (R.)

Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the team he assembled to investigate U.S. President Donald Trump and his associates have been funded through the end of September 2019, three U.S. officials said on Monday, an indication that the probe has funding to keep it going for months if need be. The operations and funding of Mueller’s office were not addressed in the budget requests for the next government fiscal year issued by the White House and Justice Department on Monday because Mueller’s office is financed by the U.S. Treasury under special regulations issued by the Justice Department, the officials said. “The Special Counsel is funded by the Independent Counsel appropriation, a permanent indefinite appropriation established in the Department’s 1988 Appropriations Act,” a Justice Department spokesman said.

There has been increased speculation in recent weeks that Mueller’s team is close to winding up its work and is likely to deliver a report summarizing its findings to Attorney General William Barr any day or week now. Mueller’s office has not commented on the news reports suggesting an imminent release. Representatives of key congressional committees involved in Trump-related investigations say they have received no guidance from Mueller’s office regarding his investigation’s progress or future plans. The probe, which began in May 2017, is examining whether there were any links or coordination between the Russian government led by Vladimir Putin and the 2016 presidential campaign of Trump, according to an order signed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

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Little Marco lost so bigly in 2016, why’s he still around? Court jester? Or is he going for McCain’s place as warmonger in chief?

Marco Rubio Accuses CNN Of ‘Russian Collusion’ (RT)

Senator Marco Rubio, the most outspoken cheerleader of US regime change in Venezuela, lashed out at several major outlets for not using his preferred terminology, going so far as to accuse CNN of ‘Russian collusion.’ “In order to undermine the constitutional basis for [Juan Guaido’s] interim Presidency [sic], Putin’s Russia repeatedly describes him as the ‘self-proclaimed’ president of Venezuela. And so does CNN,” Rubio (R-Florida) tweeted on Wednesday, adding, “Russian collusion?” It was the latest in a string of tweets by the senator whom President Donald Trump is, for some unknown reason, allowing to drive US foreign policy on Latin America.

On Tuesday, Rubio targeted the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal for their coverage of Guaido, this time objecting to their use of the term “opposition leader.” Rubio’s badgering of the media came shortly after State Department spokesman Robert Palladino tried to do the same thing with diplomatic correspondents in Foggy Bottom. Referring to Guaido as anything other than “interim president” was feeding “the narrative of a dictator who has usurped the position of the presidency and led Venezuela into the humanitarian, political, and economic crisis that exists today,” Palladino argued.

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CNN and Manafort, both. And neither.

Manafort To Jail – Not About Justice; Not About Russia (Ron Paul)

Former Trump campaign official Paul Manafort has been sentenced to nearly four years in prison for acting as an unregistered agent for Ukraine. But looking at the media coverage of the case one would never know that “taking down” Manafort was not all about Russia collusion. Reporting…or propaganda?

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Have they asked the CIA? Has Elizabeth Warren?

News Corp’s Australian Arm Calls For Google Breakup (R.)

The Australian arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp called for an enforced break-up of Alphabet Inc’s Google, acknowledging the measure would involve global coordination but calling it necessary to preserve advertising and the news media. The demand, published on Tuesday as part of a government inquiry, goes beyond the recommendations of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) which crossed swords with Google by requesting a new regulatory body to oversee global tech operators. In an 80-page submission largely centered on Google, News Corp Australia said the U.S. company had created an “ecosystem” where it could control the results of people’s internet searches and then charge advertisers based on how many people viewed their advertisements.

Efforts to curtail Google’s market dominance around the world had failed because of the search engine operator’s record of “avoiding and undermining regulatory initiatives and ignoring private contractual arrangements”. When Google had agreed to change its methods in response to investigation or new regulations in other countries, it often soon replaced the conduct with new methods which had the same effect: directing traffic and sales to its own sites and hurting competition. Calling Google’s behavior “anti-competitive”, News Corp accused the Mountain View, California-based internet company of damaging publishers’ ability to generate revenue and ultimately the sustainability of the news industry.

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And restores them again. But what nincompoop did that? Does (s)he still have a job today?

Facebook Removes Warren Ads Calling For Facebook Breakup (Pol.)

Facebook removed several ads placed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign that called for the breakup of Facebook and other tech giants. But the social network later reversed course after POLITICO reported on the takedown, with the company saying it wanted to allow for “robust debate.” The ads, which had identical images and text, touted Warren’s recently announced plan to unwind “anti-competitive” tech mergers, including Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram. “Three companies have vast power over our economy and our democracy. Facebook, Amazon, and Google,” read the ads, which Warren’s campaign had placed Friday. “We all use them. But in their rise to power, they’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field in their favor.”

A message on the three ads said: “This ad was taken down because it goes against Facebook’s advertising policies.” A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the ads had been taken down but said the company is in the process of restoring them. “We removed the ads because they violated our policies against use of our corporate logo,” the spokesperson said. “In the interest of allowing robust debate, we are restoring the ads.” Warren swiped at Facebook over the removal, citing it as evidence the company has grown too powerful. “Curious why I think FB has too much power? Let’s start with their ability to shut down a debate over whether FB has too much power,” she tweeted. “Thanks for restoring my posts. But I want a social media marketplace that isn’t dominated by a single censor.”

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How long’s it been, 3-4 years?!, that Facebook blocked the Automatic Earth account? Still waiting for an explanation.

Facebook Bans Zero Hedge (ZH)

Over the weekend, we were surprised to learn that some readers were prevented by Facebook when attempting to share Zero Hedge articles. Subsequently it emerged that virtually every attempt to share or merely mention an article, including in private messages, would be actively blocked by the world’s largest social network, with the explanation that “the link you tried to visit goes against our community standards.” We were especially surprised by this action as neither prior to this seemingly arbitrary act of censorship, nor since, were we contacted by Facebook with an explanation of what “community standard” had been violated or what particular filter or article had triggered the blanket rejection of all Zero Hedge content.

To be sure, as a for-profit enterprise with its own unique set of corporate “ethics”, Facebook has every right to impose whatever filters it desires on the media shared on its platform. It is entirely possible that one or more posts was flagged by Facebook’s “triggered” readers who merely alerted a censorship algo which blocked all content. Alternatively, it is just as possible that Facebook simply decided to no longer allow its users to share our content in retaliation for our extensive coverage of what some have dubbed the platform’s “many problems”, including chronic privacy violations, mass abandonment by younger users, its gross and ongoing misrepresentation of fake users, ironically – in retrospect – its systematic censorship and back door government cooperation (those are just links from the past few weeks).

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The Democrats are killing their chances if they go with the old crowd. But then, they are controlled by that crowd.

Biden on the Relaunch Pad: He’s Worse Than You Thought (CP)

When the New York Times front-paged its latest anti-left polemic masquerading as a news article, the March 9 piece declared: “Should former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. enter the race, as his top advisers vow he soon will, he would have the best immediate shot at the moderate mantle.” On the verge of relaunching, Joe Biden is poised to come to the rescue of the corporate political establishment — at a time when, in the words of the Times, “the sharp left turn in the Democratic Party and the rise of progressive presidential candidates are unnerving moderate Democrats.” After 36 years in the Senate and eight as vice president, Biden is by far the most seasoned servant of corporate power with a prayer of becoming the next president.

When Biden read this paragraph in a recent Politico article, his ears must have been burning: “Early support from deep-pocketed financial executives could give Democrats seeking to break out of the pack an important fundraising boost. But any association with bankers also opens presidential hopefuls to sharp attacks from an ascendant left.” The direct prey of Biden’s five-decade “association with bankers” include millions of current and former college students now struggling under avalanches of debt; they can thank Biden for his prodigious services to the lending industry. Andrew Cockburn identifies an array of victims in his devastating profile of Biden in the March issue of Harper’s magazine. For instance:

• “Biden was long a willing foot soldier in the campaign to emasculate laws allowing debtors relief from loans they cannot repay. As far back as 1978, he helped negotiate a deal rolling back bankruptcy protections for graduates with federal student loans, and in 1984 worked to do the same for borrowers with loans for vocational schools.” • “Even when the ostensible objective lay elsewhere, such as drug-related crime, Biden did not forget his banker friends. Thus the 1990 Crime Control Act, with Biden as chief sponsor, further limited debtors’ ability to take advantage of bankruptcy protections.” • Biden worked diligently to strengthen the hand of credit-card firms against consumers. At the same time, “the credit card giant MBNA was Biden’s largest contributor for much of his Senate career, while also employing his son Hunter as an executive and, later, as a well-remunerated consultant.”

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“..you miserable, morbidly obese, tattooed gorks watching this out on the Midwestern buzzard flats should have thought twice before dropping out of community college to drive a forklift in the Sysco frozen food warehouse..”

Ides and Tides (Jim Kunstler)

What you really had to love was Mr. Powell’s explanation for the record number of car owners in default on their monthly payments: “…not everybody is sharing in this widespread prosperity we have.” Errrgghh Errrgghh Errrgghh. Sound of klaxon wailing. What he meant to say was, hedge-funders, private equity hustlers, and C-suite personnel are making out just fine as the asset-stripping of flyover America proceeds, and you miserable, morbidly obese, tattooed gorks watching this out on the Midwestern buzzard flats should have thought twice before dropping out of community college to drive a forklift in the Sysco frozen food warehouse (where, by the way, you are probably stealing half the oven-ready chicken nuggets in inventory).

Interlocutor Scott Pelley asked the oracle about “those half-a-million people who have given up looking for jobs.” Did he pull that number out of his shorts? The total number out of the workforce is more like 95 million, and when you subtract retirees, people still in school, and the disabled, the figure is more like 7.5 million. There was some blather over the “opioid epidemic,” the upshot of which was learn to code, young man. Personally, I was about as impressed as I was ten years ago when past oracle Ben Bernanke confidently explained to congress that the disturbances in Mortgage-land were “contained.”

David Leonhardt of The New York Times had a real howler in his Monday column on the state of the economy: “Americans are saving more and spending less partly because the rich now take home so much of the economy’s income — and the rich don’t spend as large a share of their income as the poor and middle class.” Suggestion to Mr. Leonhardt: Learn to code.

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Our chances of survival drop by the minute.

It’s Daly-Townsend’s take on the 2nd law of Thermodynamics: “No organism can survive in a medium of its own waste. “

The reason is that an organism’s waste is toxic to that organism.

If they don’t teach that in schools, why bother to attend?

Synthetic Chemicals Use Doubled In 20 Years, Will Double Again In Next 10 (G.)

Sales of synthetic chemicals will double over the next 12 years with alarming implications for health and the environment, according to a global study that highlights government failures to rein in the industry behind plastics, pesticides and cosmetics. The second Global Chemicals Outlook, which was released in Nairobi on Monday, said the world will not meet international commitments to reduce chemical hazards and halt pollution by 2020. In fact, the study by the United Nations Environment Programme found that the industry has never been more dominant nor has humanity’s dependence on chemicals ever been as great.

“When you consider existing pollution, plus the projected growth of the industry, the trends are a cause for significant concern,” said Achim Halpaap, who led the 400 scientists involved in the study. He said the fastest growth was in construction materials, electronics, textiles and lead batteries. More and more additives are also being used to make plastics smoother or more durable. Depending on the chemical and degree of exposure, the risks can include cancer, chronic kidney disease and congenital anomalies. The World Health Organization estimated that the burden of disease was 1.6 million lives in 2016. Halpaap said this was likely to be an underestimate.

In addition to the human health dangers, he said chemicals also affect pollinators and coral reefs. Global chemical production has almost doubled since 2000 and is now – if the pharmaceutical business is taken into account – the world’s second largest industry, the report noted. This is expected to continue for at least the next decade owing to massive increases in the expanding economies of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. By 2030, the industry is projected to almost double again from 2017 levels to hit $6.6tn (£5tn) in sales; China is forecast to account for 49.9% of the world market.

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