Dec 082019
 
 December 8, 2019  Posted by at 9:04 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Saul Leiter 463 1956

 

Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev first met in Geneva in 1985, in a summit specifically designed to allow them to discuss diplomatic relations and the -nuclear- arms race. At the time, the Soviet Union had started to crumble, but it was still very much the Soviet Union. They met again in 1986 in Reykjavik, in a summit set up to continue these talks. There, they came close to an agreement to dismantle both countries’ nuclear arsenals.

They met once again in Washington in 1987. That was the year Reagan made his famous “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” speech about the Berlin wall. Then they held a next summit in 1988 in Moscow, where they finalized the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) after the US Senate’s ratification of the treaty in May 1988.

Reagan’s successor George H.W. Bush met with Gorbachev first in December 1989 in Malta, and then the two met three times in 1990, among others in Washington where the Chemical Weapons Accord was signed, and in Paris where they signed the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. They met three more times in 1991, with one of their meetings, in Moscow, resulting in the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I).

One of the most interesting things agreed on during the Bush-Gorbachev meetings was that Russia would allow Germany to re-unite after the wall came down, in exchange for the promise that NATO would not try to expand eastward.

 

I’ve been re-researching this a bit because it feels like it’s high time that people should realize what US foreign policy was like not that long ago. Even as it involved Reagan and Bush sr., not exactly the peace-mongers of their times. The one thing that was clear to all parties involved is that it was crucial to keep meeting and talking. And talk they did. But look at us now. When was the last summit of a US president with Vladimir Putin?

This came to mind again when I read Elizabeth Warren’s piece in the Guardian today, which made me wonder if she’s for real, if she is really as ignorant as she appears to be when it comes to foreign policy, to Russia, to Trump and to NATO. It would seem that she is, and that makes her a hazard. Not that I see her as a serious candidate, mind you, but then again, I do not see any other one either.

In her article, which reads more than anything like some nostalgic longing for the good old times when she was young, just watch her get all warm and fuzzy over the success of NATO:

 

Donald Trump Has Destroyed American Leadership – I’ll Restore It

For seven decades, America’s strength, security and prosperity have been underpinned by our unmatched network of treaty alliances, cemented in shared democratic values and a recognition of our common security. But after three years of Donald Trump’s insults and antics, our alliances are under enormous strain. The damage done by the president’s hostility toward our closest partners was on full display at this week’s gathering of NATO leaders in London, which should have been an unequivocal celebration of the 70th anniversary of the most successful alliance in history.

The success of NATO was not inevitable, easy or obvious. It is a remarkable and hard-won accomplishment, and one based on a recognition that the United States does not become stronger by weakening our allies. But that is just what Trump has done, repeatedly and deliberately. He treats our partners as burdens while embracing autocrats from Moscow to Pyongyang. He has cast doubt on the US commitment to NATO at a moment when a resurgent Russia threatens our institutions and freedoms. He has blindsided our partners on the ground in Syria by ordering a precipitate and uncoordinated withdrawal.

[..] he has wrecked US credibility by unilaterally tearing up our international agreements on arms control, non-proliferation and climate change. This reckless disregard for the benefits of our alliances comes at a perilous moment, when we face common threats from powerful adversaries probing the weaknesses of our institutions and resolve. Longstanding allies in Asia are doubting our reliability and hedging their bets. Russia’s land grab in Ukraine has upended the post-1989 vision of a Europe “whole, free, and at peace”. The chaotic Brexit process has consumed our closest partners, while sluggish growth and rising xenophobia fuel extremist politics and threaten to fracture the European Union.

 

To start with that last point, no. That “post-1989 vision of a Europe “whole, free, and at peace” was destroyed by NATO’s eastward expansion, executed in spite of US, EU and NATO promises that it wouldn’t. Moreover, you can talk about a resurgent Russia, but the country has hardly recovered economically from the 1980’s and 90’s today, and it has no designs on countries to its west.

Just look at the military budgets of the respective countries, where Russia has maybe 10% of the expenditure of the US, let alone the rest of NATO, and you get the picture. Is Russia getting more bang for its buck, because it doesn’t have to maintain a long running Pentagon-Boeing/Raytheon link? Yes, it does. But a 10 to 1 difference is still way out there. It’s not as if they spend half of what the US does, they spend just 10%.

This is because not only Russia doesn’t have to satisfy the desires and needs of Pentagon-Boeing/Raytheon, it’s also because they have no desire to conquer any territory that is not at present Russian.

Russia “annexed” Crimea through fair elections, and it knew that “we” knew that it would never let go of its only warm water port, Sevastopol. When “We” tried to take it away regardless, it did the only thing it could do. And it did it very intelligently. As for Eastern Ukraine, everyone there is Russian, whether by blood or by passport. And there are a lot of strong ties between them and Russians in Russia proper.

If Putin would have volunteered to let these Donbass Russians be shot to bits by the Ukraine neo-nazis that helped the US and EU in the Maidan coup, he would have had either a civil war in Russia, or an all-out war in the Donbass, with perhaps millions of casualties. Putin did what he could to prevent both. Back to Warren:

 

A mounting list of global challenges demand US leadership and collective action. As president, I will recommit to our alliances – diplomatically, militarily and economically. I will take immediate action to rebuild our partnerships and renew American strategic and moral leadership, including by rejoining the Paris climate accord, the United Nations compact on migration, and reaffirming our rock-solid commitment to NATO’s Article 5 provisions.


But we must do more than repair what Trump has broken. Instead we need to update our alliances and our international efforts to tackle the great challenges of our age, from climate change and resurgent authoritarianism to dark money flows, a weakening international arms control regime and the worst human displacement crisis in modern history.

 

Wait, what exactly has Trump broken in the foreign policy field? There have been dozens at the very least who have called for NATO to be disbanded, Ron Paul et al, because its sole purpose was to counter the Soviet Union, which no longer exists. In fact, when Emmanuel Macron labeled NATO “brain-dead” last week, it was Trump who defended the alliance.

And sorry, Elizabeth, but to hold Trump responsible for “the worst human displacement crisis in modern history” is just not right. That started way before he arrived at the scene. Obama and Hillary carry the burden and blame for that, along with Bush jr. and Dick Cheney. They shot the crap out of Iraq, Lybia etc. Trump only dumped a few bombs in a desert. He didn’t invade any country, he didn’t go “We Came, We Saw, He Died”. That was not Trump.

And before we forget, the military aid for Ukraine Trump allegedly held back for a few weeks had been refused by Obama for years. I’ve been wondering for ages now why the Democrats are so eager to make things up while ignoring simple facts, but I think at least it’s time to start pointing out these issues.

This is not to make Trump look better in any sense, but to try and make people understand that he did not start this thing. Though yeah, I know, it’s like talking to a wall by now. The political divide has turned into such a broad and yawning one, you can’t not wonder how it could ever be broached.

But, you know, it might help if people like Elizabeth Warren don’t ONLY talk about Trump like he’s the antichrist, or a Putin tool, if they engage with him in conversation. But sadly, it feels like we’re past that point. Like if she would even try, and I don’t know if she would want to, her party would spit her out just for trying to build a single bridge. Like Tulsi Gabbard seems to have tried; and look at how the DNC treats her.

 

This means revitalizing our state department and charging our diplomats to develop creative solutions for ever more urgent challenges. It means working with like-minded partners to promote our shared interest in sustained, inclusive global economic growth and an international trade system that protects workers and the environment, not just corporate profits. And it means reducing wasteful defense spending and refocusing on the areas most critical to our security in years to come.

 

Well, apart from the fact that we’ve seen some of those diplomats in the Schiff hearings, and they seemed like the least likely people to develop anything “creative” -other than their opinions-, and the boondoggle of “sustained, inclusive global economic growth”, it’s probably best to forget about that entire paragraph. It’s nicer to Warren too.

 

Alliances are not charities, and it’s fair to ask our partners to do their share. I will build on what President Obama started by insisting on increased contributions to NATO operations and common investments in collective military capabilities. But I will also recognize the varied and significant ways that European states contribute to global security – deploying troops to shared missions, receiving refugees, and providing development assistance at some of the highest per capita rates in the world.

 

The problem appears to be that the partners don’t increase their contributions. Just this March, Germany refused to do just that. And if Berlin refuses, why would other countries spend more?

 

The next president must tackle our common problems using the lessons of common defense. Together, we can counter terrorism and proliferation. We can make common cause in constructing new norms and rules to govern cyberspace. We can dismantle the corruption, monopolies and inequality that limit opportunity around the world and take on the increasingly grave threats to our environment. We can and will protect ourselves and each other – our countries, our citizens and our democracies.

 

Now we’re getting into entirely nonsensical territory, with words and sentences designed only to make people feel good about things that have no substance whatsoever. Anyone can go there, anyone can do that.

In the meantime, the neverending investigations into Trump, Russia, Ukraine, taxes, have had one major effect: he hasn’t had a chance to have a summit with Putin. And that, to go back to how I started out this essay, is the worst idea out there. If Reagan and Bush sr. did those summits all the time, then why do we now think such summits are the work of the devil?

And yeah, we get it, we got it again last week from alleged law expert Pamela Karlan in the House, who let ‘er rip on the dangers Putin poses to all of humanity, and of course she would never trust Trump to hold any such summit because he’s Putin’s puppet.

What Pamela, and all the MSM, and the Dems, and the FBI/CIA, appear to refuse to see, though, is that Trump was democratically elected by the American people to be the only one who can have any such conversation. Karlan again talked about how Russia would attempt to attack American soil unless “we” keep them from doing that.

Now I can say that is absolute bollocks, and it is, but how many -potential- Democratic voters will recognize that at this point? They’ve been trained to believe it. That Russia wants one US presidential candidate over another, or one UK one, or fill in your country, and therefore they want to invade the US, UK, etc. In reality, Russia has plenty problems of its own, and it’s slowly trying to solve them.

The two countries need to start talking to each other again, and the sooner the better. That it will happen under Elizabeth Warren, however, is very unlikely. First because she has her mind made up about Russia, and second because the likelihood of her becoming president is very low. What do you think, is that a good thing?

If for some reason -who can tell- she would end up winning 11 months from now, do you think she’s likely to establish a peace treaty with Russia? You know, given what she wrote here? And if not, why would you vote for her? Don’t you want peace? Do you think antagonizing Putin forever is a good idea? While Russia continues to outperform America in arms development, and in just about any field? While Russia only wants peace?

Good questions, ain’t they, as we move into 2020?!

 

 

 

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Nov 182019
 
 November 18, 2019  Posted by at 9:54 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  28 Responses »


Salvador Dali Cubist self portrait 1926

 

Leaked Report Concludes Russia May Have Influenced Brexit Vote (AP)
Hong Kong Police Storm Into University After Violent Standoff (ZH)
Another Chapter in the Democrats’ 2020 Clown Car Disaster (Taibbi)
Morrison Told Schiff Panel: Nothing Improper During Trump-Zelensky Call (ZH)
In Trump-Nixon Impeachment Comparison, Pelosi Raises Specter Of Resignation (R.)
Pelosi: Trump’s Conduct Is ‘So Much Worse’ Than Nixon’s (NBC)
About Trump (Sylvain Laforest )
Fed Fears Next Crash Fatal – John Rubino (USAW)
China Quietly Bails Out Another Bank (ZH)
Airbus Exec: Boeing’s 737 MAX Grounding Benefits No One (CNBC)
Pictures of Prince Andrew Partying and Sweating (DM)
Against Economics (David Graeber)

 

 

Britain’s RussiaRussia craze continues. This concerns a bunch of Russian oligarchs with British citizenship who have donated to the Tories, and they are conveniently labeled “Russia”. For all we know they may be sworn enemies of Putin. And even if they’re not, they’re also not “Russia”. When the Brits show us Skripal, we can talk.

Leaked Report Concludes Russia May Have Influenced Brexit Vote (AP)

Questions about the British government’s failure to release a report on Russia’s interference in the country’s politics have continued to dog Prime Minister Boris Johnson as critics said leaks from the document raised concerns about the security of next month’s election. The report from Parliament’s intelligence committee concludes that Russian interference may have affected the 2016 referendum on Britain’s departure from the European Union, though the impact is “unquantifiable,” the Sunday Times reported. The committee said British intelligence services failed to devote enough resources to counter the threat and highlighted the impact of articles posted by Russian new sites that were widely disseminated on social media, the newspaper reported.

Emily Thornberry, the opposition Labour Party’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, said the leaks raise questions that deserve answers ahead of the December 12 poll. “Boris Johnson therefore needs to clear up the confusion, spin and speculation around this [intelligence committee] report by publishing it in full at the earliest opportunity,” she told the Times. “If not, people will rightly continue to ask: what is he trying to hide from the British public and why?” Johnson’s government has said it needs more time to review the security implications of the report. It says it will release the report after the election.

Critics have alleged the report is being withheld because it shows Russians have made large donations to the Conservative Party, which is seeking to win a majority that would allow Johnson to push his Brexit deal through Parliament. Security Minister Brandon Lewis dismissed the criticism. Asked about Russian donors to the campaign, Lewis told Sky television on Sunday that all contributions are reported to the proper authorities and the donors in question all have British citizenship.

Read more …

Developing story with some seemingly contradictory “facts”.

Guardian: 800 protesters “trapped”. “Teargas stops protesters escaping despite president of Polytechnic University assuring them of safe passage.”

Hong Kong Police Storm Into University After Violent Standoff (ZH)

Update 3: As the AP reports, local police charged demonstrators at Hong Kong Polytechnic University early Monday in a bid to end a lengthy standoff with protesters who had occupied the campus for a week, even though the local police later denied they had, in fact, raided the campus. As the WSJ adds, pro-democracy activists who had spent the night at barricades outside retreated inside the university, while those already inside campus buildings hurled Molotov cocktails and bricks at elite and riot police, who stormed the campus through the main entrance.

“Several protesters had been perched on higher floors and used a large slingshot to launch Molotov cocktails. The entryway and areas around the university’s perimeter were quickly engulfed in flames. One protester shown on live-streamed video from the site fired an arrow at the officers. Police appeared to arrest a small number of demonstrators as they advanced, but it was unclear how many students remained inside.”

Update 2: Sky News in a breaking report says officers have been given the ‘green light’ to use lethal force if needed against ‘rioters’ deploying lethal weapons at student protester-occupied Polytechnic University. According to the report: “Hong Kong protestors have fired arrows and hurled petrol bombs at police, as they seek to keep control of a barricaded university. Warning they were authorized to use “lethal force”, officers threatened to use live bullets if rioters continued. The territory continues to suffer some of its worst unrest in six months of demonstrations.” Throughout the weekend and into Monday the campus is resembling a war zone. And as protester tactics escalate, including shooting at police with bows and arrows, and launching petrol bombs via sling shots off buildings, HK police gloves are now coming off.

The battle over student protester-occupied Polytechnic University grew more violent over the weekend and grabbed headlines Sunday after a police officer was wounded by an arrow and a riot control vehicle attempting to disperse what HK authorities have labelled ‘rioters’ was set aflame by dozens of Molotov cocktails. Chinese state media has now labeled the student protesters “terrorists” and has urged police to deploy live fire given the students themselves are in possession of deadly weapons.

Read more …

Deval Patrick is candidate no. 28.

Another Chapter in the Democrats’ 2020 Clown Car Disaster (Taibbi)

People like Bloomberg and Patrick seem to believe in the existence of a massive electoral “middle” that wants 15-point plans and meritocratic slogans instead of action. As befits brilliant political strategists, they also seem hyper-concerned about the feelings of the country’s least numerous demographic, the extremely rich. A consistent theme is fear (often described in papers like the Times as “concern”) that the rhetoric of Warren and Sanders might unduly upset wealthy folk. “I don’t think that wealth is the problem. I think greed is the problem,” Patrick told CBS This Morning. He added that “taxes should go up on the most prosperous and the most fortunate,” but “not as a penalty.”


What does that mean? Should we impose higher taxes on the rich but include a note from the IRS saying, “It’s not because we don’t love you”? Along with an alarmingly high number of press figures, politicians like Patrick seem to be trapped in an “electability” concept that hasn’t made sense since the Reagan-Bush years. Outside of a few spots on the Upper East Side and in Georgetown and L.A., the “center” has been gone a long time. From Donald Trump to Sanders to Warren, the politicians attracting the biggest and most enthusiastic responses in recent years have run on furious, throw-the-bums-out themes, for the logical reason that bums by now clearly need throwing out.

Read more …

He said this last month. Schiff didn’t exactly quote him on it. Help me here: who was the guy Schiff told to reconsider his statement weeks ago? Anyone remember?

Morrison Told Schiff Panel: Nothing Improper During Trump-Zelensky Call (ZH)

A former top national security adviser to President Trump told a secret impeachment panel that he believed nothing improper occurred during a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodomyr Zelensky, according to a transcript released over the weekend. NSC official Tim Morrison, who was on that phone call, expressed this narrative-killing opinion to the Democratic-led House Intelligence Committee last month – which would have undermined recent public testimony by several US officials who said that President Trump abused his office when he asked Zelensky to investigate former VP Joe Biden and matters related to the 2016 US election. That said, Morrison also testified that US Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, was involved in an effort to encourage Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden – though he could not say whether Trump was involved in those efforts.

“I’m still not completely certain that this was coming from the President,” Morrison testified to House Democrats. “I’m only getting this from Ambassador Sondland.” During a closed-door deposition as part of the House impeachment inquiry, Morrison was asked, “In your view, there was nothing improper that occurred during the call?” “Correct,” he answered as he was testifying under oath.” -Epoch Times. Morrison replaced former NSC official Fiona Hill, who resigned from her position on July 19, days before the infamous Trump-Zelensky call. He says that the word “Burisma” never came up during that call, referring to the Ukrainian natural gas company which employed Hunter Biden on its board [..]

Trump asked Zelensky to investigate this, as well as allegations that Ukraine was involved with the hacked DNC server as well as the only firm allowed to look at it, Crowdstrike. Morrison also testified that the Trump administration withheld foreign aid from Ukraine due to Trump’s general skepticism toward foreign aid, and a “concern that Ukrainians were not paying their fair share, as well as concerns [that] our aid would be misused because of the view that Ukraine has a significant corruption problem.”

Read more …

I’m getting the impression this is Pelosi’s PR team speaking. That switch to “bribery” gave it away. Is “resignation” another term they checked with a focus group?!

In Trump-Nixon Impeachment Comparison, Pelosi Raises Specter Of Resignation (R.)

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is amplifying her unfavorable comparison of President Donald Trump to fellow Republican Richard Nixon, saying that disgraced president at least cared enough about the country to leave office before his impeachment. The top Democrat in Congress told reporters last week that Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate one of his potential opponents in the 2020 election “makes what Nixon did look almost small.” In a CBS interview broadcast on Sunday, she alluded to Nixon’s resignation after the Watergate scandal involving a break-in at Democratic Party headquarters and the subsequent cover-up.


“I mean, what the president did was so much worse than even what Richard Nixon did, that at some point Richard Nixon cared about the country enough to recognize that this could not continue,” Pelosi said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” [..] Pelosi for months resisted calls from her more liberal Democratic lawmakers to initiate impeachment proceedings, but said Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy compelled her to open the inquiry against the president.

Read more …

They’re starting to intimidate witnesses.

Pelosi: Trump’s Conduct Is ‘So Much Worse’ Than Nixon’s (NBC)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Sunday that President Donald Trump’s conduct is “so much worse” than that of former President Richard Nixon, adding that Trump is insecure about being an “imposter.” Pelosi spoke with CBS’s “Face the Nation” days after House impeachment investigators conducted their first public hearings. Three more days of public hearings are scheduled for this week. “I will make sure he does not intimidate the whistleblower,” Pelosi said of the CIA employee whose complaint about Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine led to the impeachment inquiry. “The president can come before the committee and speak all the truth that he wants … He has every opportunity to make his case.”

“But it’s really a sad thing,” Pelosi continued. “What the president did was so much worse than even what Richard Nixon did. At some point, Richard Nixon cared about the country enough to recognize that this could not continue.” Since the House launched its impeachment inquiry in September, multiple Trump administration officials have alleged that Trump tied U.S. aid to Ukraine to an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Republicans have defended the president by pointing out that the aid was eventually released and Ukraine never announced an investigation into the Bidens. But Pelosi and other Democrats have said that, by conditioning aid on the investigations, Trump was attempting to commit bribery.

“The whistle was blown, the whistle was blown, and that was blown long before we heard about it,” Pelosi said. “Don’t forget that in-between all of that came the inspector general. An inspector general appointed by President Trump. And the inspector general said this was of urgent concern. That is what intervened.” Speaking with “Fox News Sunday,” Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., said Republicans have offered up “a whole bunch of defenses that don’t make sense.” “Lots of crimes can be committed … by the boss hinting and giving direction,” Himes said. “Corrupt people don’t always say, ‘Hey, here’s the signed contract.’ What has already developed from second-hand witnesses is that this aid was withheld as a condition.”

Even more Trump administration officials are set to testify publicly in the impeachment probe this week, including E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who Himes said is a first-hand witness to Trump’s conduct, having been tasked with carrying out his wishes. While Sondland’s initial October testimony largely absolved him from any wrongdoing, he submitted additional testimony in November acknowledge that he did deliver a quid pro quo message to Ukraine. Acknowledging that Sondland’s credibility is in question, Himes said it “was not lost on Ambassador Sondland what happened to” Trump associates Roger Stone and Michael Cohen “for lying to Congress.” “My guess is Gordon Sondland is going to do his level best to tell the truth because otherwise, he may have a very unpleasant legal future in front of him,” Himes, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said.

Read more …

Nice find by Tyler, an article by Sylvain Laforest. Not saying I agree with it, but he tickles some pre-conceived “virtues”. Anyone who calls Trump the ultimate anti-narcissist knows he’s in for tons of derision. Laforest is okay with that.

“Donald simply doesn’t care if you like him or not, which makes him the ultimate anti-narcissist, by its psychological definition.”

About Trump (Sylvain Laforest )

Let’s make one thing clear: to the establishment, Trump isn’t mentally challenged, but he’s definitely seen as a possible nemesis of their world. Ever since he moved in the White House, Trump has been depicted as a narcissist, a racist, a sexist and a climate-skeptic, loaded with shady past stories and mental issues. Even though an approximate 60% of the American people don’t trust medias anymore, many have bought the story that Trump might be slightly crazy or unfit to rule, and the statistic climbs even higher when you get out of the USA. Of course, Donald isn’t doing anything special to change the deeply negative perception that so many journalists and people alike have about him.

He’s openly outrageous and provocative on Twitter, he sounds impulsive and dumb most of the time, acts irrationally, lies on a daily basis, and throws out sanctions and threats as if they were candy canes out of an elf’s side bag in a mall in December. Right away, we can destroy one persistent media myth: the image Trump is projecting is self-destructive and it’s the exact opposite of how pathological narcissists act, since they thrive to be loved and admired by everyone. Donald simply doesn’t care if you like him or not, which makes him the ultimate anti-narcissist, by its psychological definition. And that’s not even up for opinion, it’s a quite simple and undeniable fact.

His general plan exhales from one of his favorite motto: «We will give power back to the people», because the United States and its imperialist web woven over the world have been in the hands of a few globalist bankers, military industrials and multinationals for more than a century. To achieve his plan, he has to end wars abroad, bring back the kids, dismantle the NATO and CIA, get control over the Federal Reserve, cut every link with foreign allies, abolish the Swift financial system, demolish the propaganda power of the medias, drain the swamp of the deep state that’s running the spying agencies and disable the shadow government that’s lurking in the Council on foreign relations and Trilateral Commission’s offices. In short, he has to destroy the New World Order and its globalist ideology. The task is huge and dangerous to say the least. Thankfully, he’s not alone.

Read more …

John Rubino is one of the first, and most loyal, fans of the Automatic Earth. Seeing this video makes me think I should really start talking more about finance again. If only because after all, that’s where we come from. But having watched how the Fed et al have distorted and erased what are still called markets, I started to look elsewhere -as well- for what was interesting.

Fed Fears Next Crash Fatal – John Rubino (USAW)

Rubino explains, “Every sector of the U.S. economy is so over indebted I don’t see how we go on much longer. The Fed is desperately trying to prolong this thing. We are running trillion dollar deficits now, and what that is for is to keep the system from falling apart. We are 11 years into an expansion, a record. This is the longest bull market in history, and this is the longest economic expansion in history. . . . These guys don’t know exactly what’s going to happen in the next recession, but they are afraid that the system is so highly leveraged that even a garden variety three quarters of a percent of negative growth and a garden variety of 20% drop in stock prices might be fatal. The system might not be able to handle that because it would cause so much damage and there are so many different places that can blow up that the system would spin out of control. We would get 2008-2009 again but on steroids because the numbers are so much bigger this time around. So, they want to avoid that at all costs.”


Rubino points out, “Fear is the enemy in a fiat currency system. Everything is based on our assumption that the guys in charge know what they are doing and that the confidence in them is good. You take that away, and they let us see them sweat, and it’s over. There is no real bottom for the dollar, euro or the yen. Their intrinsic value is zero. When the economic players out there in the global financial system realize that the central banks of the world are out of ammo, and nothing these guys do is going to fix our problem, then all hell breaks loose. . . . What worries me about today’s world is that everything falls apart all at once, and there is no way to fix what went wrong. . . .We have a lot of examples of governments doing crazy things when everything falls apart.”

Read more …

Harbin’s biggest problem: it trades on Hong Kong’s stock exchange. You know, HK dollars.

China Quietly Bails Out Another Bank (ZH)

Harbin Bank, which is one of the biggest banks in China’s northeast with 622 billion yuan in assets as of June 30, 2019, and trades on Hong Kong’s stock exchange, becomes the fifth bank – after Baoshang Bank , Bank of Jinzhou, Heng Feng Bank, and Henan Yichuan Rural Commercial Bank – to be bailed out by the state, and will be 48%-controlled by two government entities after six private shareholders shed their stakes, according to a bank statement issued late on Friday. Total consideration for the shares involved came to almost 15 billion yuan, or around $2.1 billion, the bank said, though it described the transactions as transfers rather than stock sales, which is to be expected if the bank was being bailed out instead of actually selling a viable stake.

As has been the customary case, the bank didn’t provide any reason for the transactions in the statement, and Chinese bank regulators made no comment on the action. And, as was the case with at least one previous bank “rescue”, Harbin Bank was connected to a former oligarch who disappeared not that long ago amid allegations of massive fraud. Indeed, as the WSJ reports, the bank is among a handful of financial businesses in China linked to once-powerful tycoon named Xiao Jianhua who in early 2017 disappeared amid a wave of prosecutions of big private investors. Businesses owned by some of those people, including Wu Xiaohui’s Anbang Insurance Group Co., have also since become government-owned.

[..] So why did Harbin Bank fail? In its financial report for H1 2019, Harbin Bank cited deteriorating asset quality – read surging bad loans – as well as intensified competition for deposits and higher borrowing costs in money markets as China’s economy slows. Yet, paradoxically, the near-insolvent lender also said it recorded a profit of 2.18 billion yuan, or about $311.1 million, though that was off about 16% because of, drumroll, more-aggressive write-offs of bad debts. Which goes to show that corporate earnings reports in China are as “credible” as all other Chinese economic “data.”

Read more …

He said it straight-faced, I’m sure.

Airbus Exec: Boeing’s 737 MAX Grounding Benefits No One (CNBC)

Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer forcefully rejected the notion that his company is benefiting from the grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max fleet while speaking to CNBC during the Dubai Air Show. “I really need to correct that cultural belief. This does not benefit anyone in this industry, the least of which would be Airbus,” Scherer told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble on Sunday. “It’s a tragedy, it is an issue for Boeing to resolve, but it is not good for competitors to see problems on any one particular airplane type.” The 737 Max [..] grounding has forced airlines to cancel thousands of flights, driven up costs and dented airlines’ profits. To make up for the expected loss in services, Boeing in the second quarter took a $4.9 billion after-tax charge to compensate airlines but final amounts are unknown because regulators haven’t yet lifted the grounding.


Boeing and Airbus, often described as holding a duopoly over the large commercial airline industry since the 1990s, each own approximately half of that market. Orders for each company’s airliners, however, are expected to be smaller this year as the industry faces headwinds including a slowing global economy, climate change and safety concerns. Airbus, Europe’s largest aerospace group, cut its delivery expectations for 2019 as it grapples with manufacturing delays at its recently expanded plant in Hamburg, Germany. It now plans to deliver “around 860” planes this year, down from an original target of between 880 and 890. It recorded an adjusted operating income of 1.6 billion euros ($1.78 billion) for the third quarter of 2019.

Read more …

Andrew said in the Saturday interview that he didn’t party, didn’t show personal displays of affection, couldn’t sweat and only went out wearing a suit and tie. Well, now he’s got the Daily Mail on his trail. They have a lot of pictures of him doing exactly that.

Pictures of Prince Andrew Partying and Sweating (DM)

Prince Andrew is facing an extraordinary backlash over his interview, which Prince Charles’ former PR chief Dickie Arbiter described as: ‘Not so much a car crash but an articulated lorry crash’. Mr Arbiter said he must ‘take a break’ from royal duties, adding: ‘What charity wants a VIP guest with this hanging over him?’ Viewers described watching Andrew’s grilling from behind the sofa and through their fingers as he denied having sex with Virginia Roberts because he was in Pizza Express in Woking and suggested that the world-famous picture of them together could be faked. Miss Roberts’ evidence that he sweated ‘profusely’ during sex were explained away by claiming a rush of adrenaline while being shot at during the Falklands conflict in 1982 made it impossible for him.

A royal source claimed last night he has told his mother the Queen that his appearance on the BBC Two Newsnight special was largely a ‘great success’ – but a friend told the Mail he ‘regretted’ not expressing sympathy for Jeffrey Epstein’s victims in his disastrous TV interview. Today former royal protection officer said it went so badly for Prince Andrew it should spark a police investigation. In another infamous set of pictures taken on the French Riviera in July 2007, the Prince looks wild-eyed as he parties with American socialite Chris Von Aspen. The blonde interior designer can be seen licking Andrew as the pair cavorted together.

More clips from 2008 show him wandering around a party thrown by wine tycoon Claude Ott, heading to the dance floor with two women as techno music plays out. The Prince appears to look worse for wear as he enjoys the party, hair dishevelled and shirt untucked.

Read more …

Graeber is always an interesting read. But not one I can do justice in this format, if only because of the length of the essay.

Against Economics (David Graeber)

There is a growing feeling, among those who have the responsibility of managing large economies, that the discipline of economics is no longer fit for purpose. It is beginning to look like a science designed to solve problems that no longer exist. A good example is the obsession with inflation. Economists still teach their students that the primary economic role of government—many would insist, its only really proper economic role—is to guarantee price stability. We must be constantly vigilant over the dangers of inflation. For governments to simply print money is therefore inherently sinful. If, however, inflation is kept at bay through the coordinated action of government and central bankers, the market should find its “natural rate of unemployment,” and investors, taking advantage of clear price signals, should be able to ensure healthy growth.


These assumptions came with the monetarism of the 1980s, the idea that government should restrict itself to managing the money supply, and by the 1990s had come to be accepted as such elementary common sense that pretty much all political debate had to set out from a ritual acknowledgment of the perils of government spending. This continues to be the case, despite the fact that, since the 2008 recession, central banks have been printing money frantically in an attempt to create inflation and compel the rich to do something useful with their money, and have been largely unsuccessful in both endeavors. We now live in a different economic universe than we did before the crash. Falling unemployment no longer drives up wages. Printing money does not cause inflation. Yet the language of public debate, and the wisdom conveyed in economic textbooks, remain almost entirely unchanged.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Nov 132019
 
 November 13, 2019  Posted by at 8:56 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  15 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Pitcher of flowers on a table 1942

 

DC Bars To Open Early For Impeachment Mania (Hill)
Adam Schiff’s ‘Ham Sandwich’: Not An Inquiry, Just A Show (Hill)
The Trump Impeachment Inquiry Is Already In Big Trouble (Fox)
Trump Fumes As Dems Get Ready For ‘Sober And Rigorous’ Public Hearings (G.)
Bolton: Some Of Trump Foreign Policy Guided By Personal Interest (NBC)
Trump On Fed: Others Have Negative Rates: ‘Give Me Some Of That Money’ (CNBC)
Prince Andrew Accuser Target Of Suit Questioning Her Forced Sex Claims (USAT)
Ousted Bolivian President Evo Morales Thanks Mexico For Saving His Life (RT)
Morales Endures Twists And Turns During Flight To Political Asylum In Mexico (RT)
Opposition Senator Declares Herself ‘Interim President’ Of Bolivia (RT)
Alexander Downer Says Assange Should Not Expect Australian Intervention (SMH)
Wisconsin’s Dairy Crisis: “We Are Losing Two Farms A Day!” (SHTF)
Russians Interfere In New Zealand ‘Bird Of The Year’ Contest (RT)

 

 

“Subpoena Colada”.

DC Bars To Open Early For Impeachment Mania (Hill)

Restaurant and bar owners in Washington are aiming to cash in on impeachment in a decidedly #thistown way, opening their doors early so the city’s politically minded revelers can imbibe as they take in the House’s first televised hearings. The House impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine is poised to enter a new phase on Wednesday, with public hearings scheduled in the Intelligence Committee, with more set for Friday. Duffy’s Irish Pub, in the District’s H Street NE neighborhood, will feature what it’s dubbing “happy hearing hours,” with $5 rail drinks and $2 off all drafts and wine during all impeachment hearings. The watering hole — which boasts eight large, flat-screen TVs with a “stadium sound” system — says it’s also whipping up a pair of impeachment beverages to mark the occasion.


Bartenders will be serving a “Subpoena Colada” and a drink called “James and the Giant Impeachment.” The eatery isn’t the only place prepping for all the impeachment action in the House. Union Pub says it will be open for business at 9:50 a.m. on Wednesday, just 10 minutes before the hearing is scheduled to begin. The Capitol Hill tavern will be showing everything impeachment on all its TVs and will be featuring a surplus of specials. For $7, customers can pick up a variety of peachy cocktails, including its “Impeachment Please”, made with peach-flavored Jim Beam, simply syrup and orange bitters, or “I Got 99 Problems But Impeachment Ain’t One,” a Sobieski peach vodka, peach Schnapps, orange juice, Sprite and lemon libation.

Read more …

“As a matter of due process, Schiff’s made-for-TV spectacle is a bad joke.”

Adam Schiff’s ‘Ham Sandwich’: Not An Inquiry, Just A Show (Hill)

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and his House Intelligence Committee are taking the show public this week. The inquiry he’s been running is, he claims, analogous to a grand jury investigation: It’s a preliminary investigative stage before the inquiry’s transfer to the Judiciary Committee for the formal consideration of articles of impeachment. Grand juries, however, never go public. And that is precisely because they are intentionally one-sided. They are kept secret by law to avoid prejudicing the suspect. Prejudice is exactly what Schiff is aiming for, however. The point is not impeachment; it is to wound President Trump politically. To be clear, Schiff’s grand jury analogy is bogus. Congress is not a grand jury.

Grand juries are designed to be at least somewhat objective — a body of impartial citizens who, by constitutional mandate, must be satisfied there is probable cause that a crime has been committed before the state is permitted to indict and try a citizen presumed to be innocent. In theory, the grand jury is there to protect the suspect from an overbearing prosecutor. Here, House Democrats are the overbearing prosecutor, not the protective grand jurors. What is happening in the House is a political exercise. Schiff is a hyper-partisan. With the anti-Trump media leaving his absurd grand jury analogy unchallenged, he exploits it when it is useful, namely, when telling Republicans they will not be permitted to call their witnesses, and he puts the analogy aside when it is not useful, namely, in convening one-sided public hearings.

As a matter of due process, Schiff’s made-for-TV spectacle is a bad joke. That was underscored this past weekend when (a) Democrats gave Republicans a ridiculously short deadline to propose their own witnesses, whom Chairman Schiff reserved the right to veto; (b) Republicans duly proposed witnesses on the issues of Democrats’ collusion with Ukraine in the 2016 election campaign and in possible corruption; and (c) Schiff, as predictably as sunrise, ruled the GOP’s witnesses irrelevant. In point of fact, the witnesses that Republicans seek to call are entirely relevant to what would be at issue in an impeachment trial, to wit: Is any misconduct by the president alleged in an article of impeachment sufficiently egregious that he should be removed from power? But, see, a grand jury is not a trial.

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Views of the proceedings vary wildly. Here’s Greg Jarrett…

The Trump Impeachment Inquiry Is Already In Big Trouble (Fox)

The clown show known as an “impeachment inquiry” is getting more comical and hapless by the day. Consider the latest remark from the circus master himself, California Rep. Adam Schiff, (think Bozo, not Pennywise). The Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee says he doesn’t want Republicans turning the impeachment proceedings into a “sham.” The hilarious irony is lost on no one. Schiff has already managed to accomplish it all on his own. At first, Schiff wanted the faux “whistleblower” who triggered the impeachment farce to testify. Then, suddenly, he didn’t. What changed? In the interim, evidence emerged that Schiff and/or his staff colluded with the “whistleblower” before the complaint was ever filed and then lied about it, earning Schiff “Four Pinocchios” from The Washington Post.

The chairman now wants to conceal his own role in engineering the pretext for impeachment and his subsequent deceit. This is why he has insisted that the “whistleblower” remain anonymous, despite no such right, guarantee, privilege, or entitlement written in the law, as I explained in an earlier column. Even though the undercover informant (reportedly working for the CIA) does not qualify for whistleblower status under the law as determined by the Department of Justice, any effort by Republicans to call him as a witness will be blocked by Schiff. But Schiff’s machinations are more malevolent than masking the key witness. Those he will call to testify are already on record dishing up prodigious plates of multiple hearsay and rank speculation.

It is obvious from the released transcripts of the heretofore “super top-secret” inquisition that none of them have any firsthand knowledge of a “quid pro quo” allegedly demanded by President Trump. For example, Bill Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine who will testify on Wednesday, told Schiff’s committee that it was his “understanding” there was a link between U.S. security assistance and an investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden. How did Taylor arrive at his opinion? He heard it through discussions with other diplomats, although there is no indication that any of these individuals had direct knowledge of anything. The chain of hearsay went something like this: the European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland told National Security Council official Tim Morrison who, in turn, told Taylor that there was a purported “quid pro quo.”

Read more …

… and this is the Guardian:

Trump Fumes As Dems Get Ready For ‘Sober And Rigorous’ Public Hearings (G.)

Only three times in the history of the American republic has Congress initiated public testimony that could result in the removal of the president by impeachment. The tally will rise to four on Wednesday. On the eve of public hearings, television crews moved into the halls of the Capitol in Washington, the parties distributed strategy memos and the House intelligence committee prepared to cross-examine its first two witnesses. Democrats allege that Donald Trump engaged the power of his office in an attempt to extort from Ukraine an announcement about investigations of Joe Biden, a domestic political rival, and 2016 election tampering.

Trump’s defenders argue that Trump is the victim of an attack by “unelected and anonymous bureaucrats” who disagreed with unorthodox foreign policy decisions. At the center, of course, is Trump, who has demanded Republicans defend his conduct as unimpeachable not only in the constitutional sense but as unimpeachable, period. As the first public testimony approached, Trump grew increasingly tetchy on Twitter: “A total Impeachment Scam by the Do Nothing Democrats!” Corey Brettschneider, a professor of constitutional law at Brown University, called it “maybe one of the most important moments in American history”. “This is only the fourth time that we’ve gotten this far, with a formal process happening,” Brettschneider said. “And I’d say in some ways, it’s among the most serious of alleged offenses.”

On Tuesday, both parties scrambled to coordinate strategy, pre-empt arguments by the other side and control the stagecraft. As the majority in the House, the Democrats have basic control of proceedings, including the witness list. The first two witnesses scheduled to testify on Wednesday are William Taylor, the acting ambassador in Kyiv who told investigators in closed-door hearings Trump “was adamant” about the need for a public announcement of investigations by the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy; and state department deputy assistant secretary George Kent, who said Trump “wanted nothing less than President Zelenskiy to go to a microphone and say ‘investigations’, ‘Biden’, and ‘Clinton’”.

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No I swear I kid you not. This is from John Bolton talking to “a gathering of Morgan Stanley’s largest hedge fund clients”. Who are all wondering what will happen to their Boeing shares. No 737 MAX sales, so how about some more bombs on Yemen, John? And here’s that check for your $100,000 speech fee.

Bolton: Some Of Trump Foreign Policy Guided By Personal Interest (NBC)

Bolton served as Trump’s national security adviser for 17 months. The Ukraine scandal began to unfold about a week after his contentious departure. Trump said he’d fired him, though Bolton said he had resigned. Multiple people who attended Bolton’s private speech in Miami did not recall him mentioning Ukraine but said he told attendees that he had kept a resignation letter in his desk for three months. Bolton declined to comment for this article. Bolton is a potential linchpin witness in the inquiry into Trump’s efforts to elicit help from the Ukrainian government to investigate the family of former Vice President Joe Biden, given his central role in the White House during that time. The impeachment inquiry moves to public testimony this week.

Current and former administration officials have testified about Bolton’s strong opposition to the Ukraine pressure effort, which was led by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and allegedly involved withholding military aid and a presidential meeting until the Ukrainian government publicly committed to investigations, including into 2016 U.S. election interference and a business associated with Biden’s son Hunter. Bolton’s lawyer teased his client’s value last week in a letter to House Democrats that noted that the former national security adviser had been present for “many relevant meetings and conversations” on Ukraine, including some that have yet to be disclosed to investigators.

His lawyer, Charles Cooper, said Bolton is willing to testify if a federal court approves it and issues a ruling that essentially says he can defy the White House’s position that he can’t speak to Congress. Bolton, a long-time foreign policy hawk who also served in the administration of President George W. Bush, expressed support in his private remarks for Trump’s stance against China on trade, people present said. But Trump and Bolton had a litany of policy differences — on Iran, North Korea, Syria and, apparently, Ukraine.

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The S&P 500 has become a religious shrine.

Trump On Fed: Others Have Negative Rates: ‘Give Me Some Of That Money’ (CNBC)

President Donald Trump used his pulpit before the Economic Club of New York on Tuesday to bash the Federal Reserve, a marked diversion from what many on Wall Street hoped would be a positive speech on the progress of trade relations between the U.S. and China. Instead of highlighting warmer relations with Beijing, Trump criticized the central bank for what he sees as its hesitation to lower interest rates and blamed the central bank for capping gains in the U.S. economy and stock market. The president noted that since his election, the S&P 500 is up over 45%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up over 50% and the Nasdaq Composite is up 60%. But those numbers could be way higher, Trump claimed, if it weren’t for the reluctance of the Fed.


“And if we had a Federal Reserve that worked with us, you could have added another 25% to each of those numbers, I guarantee you that,” Trump said. “But we all make mistakes, don’t we?” the president added. “Not too often. We do make them on occasion.” It wasn’t immediately clear which “mistake” Trump was referencing: His choice to nominate Fed Chair Jerome Powell to lead the central bank or Powell’s preferred course of monetary policy. “We are actively competing with nations who openly cut interest rates so that now many are actually getting paid when they pay off their loan, known as negative interest,” he said. “Who ever heard of such a thing?” “Give me some of that,” he said. “Give me some of that money. I want some of that money.”

Read more …

Why call her a Prince Andrew accuser, USA Today? She’s an accuser and victim of Epstein, first and foremost. And Ghislaine Maxwell, whom the various intelligence services have still not been able to locate. Right! And then after that, of Andrew and Dershowitz.

Dershowitz claiming that HE is the victim here, not her, is despicable. He was one of Epstein’s best buddies for many years, and there’s no way he didn’t know what went on.

Prince Andrew Accuser Target Of Suit Questioning Her Forced Sex Claims (USAT)

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz filed a defamation claim Thursday against a woman who says she was a Jeffrey Epstein “teen sex slave” forced to have sex with powerful men, including Dershowitz and Britain’s Prince Andrew. It’s the latest development in a long-running legal struggle between former Epstein lawyer Dershowitz, 81, and Virginia Roberts Giuffre, 35, an American living in Australia, who’s claimed since 2011 that convicted sex offender Epstein and his associates groomed her as a sex slave when she was a young Florida teen. She says they trafficked her to powerful men who were Epstein’s friends, with whom she said she was compelled to have sex in planes, hotels, mansions and on private islands.

But Dershowitz’s lawsuit raises multiple questions about Giuffre’s credibility regarding him and others. She and her legal team have made it clear she’s not going to stop accusing Andrew of dark deeds, insisting he “should go to jail” and should submit to questioning by the FBI. But so far she has not gone after him in court. [..] Giuffre’s lawyer, Charles Cooper, dismissed Dershowitz’ counterclaim as just another attack on Giuffre. “Recycling the same false claims from his increasingly stale playbook, Alan Dershowitz has once again launched an attack on Virginia Giuffre and her lawyers,” he said in a statement to USA TODAY. “Let’s call his counterclaim what it is: a failed attempt to make something old and tired look new.”

In April this year, Giuffre filed a defamation suit against Dershowitz in federal court in New York, for calling her a liar; that suit is pending. [..] Giuffre’s lawyer, Charles Cooper, dismissed Dershowitz’ counterclaim as just another attack on Giuffre. “Recycling the same false claims from his increasingly stale playbook, Alan Dershowitz has once again launched an attack on Virginia Giuffre and her lawyers,” he said in a statement to USA TODAY. “Let’s call his counterclaim what it is: a failed attempt to make something old and tired look new.” In April this year, Giuffre filed a defamation suit against Dershowitz in federal court in New York, for calling her a liar; that suit is pending.

[..] [Dershowitz] says he has travel records, credit card statements and phone records proving he was never in places when Giuffre claims to have had sex with him. Her “false claims” have led him to suffer severe emotional distress, including “cardiac conditions,” the filing says.

Read more …

“If I have committed a crime; it’s being Indigenous. If the Vice President has committed a crime; it’s implementing social programs for the humble & poorest sectors seeking social justice.”

Ousted Bolivian President Evo Morales Thanks Mexico For Saving His Life (RT)

Bolivia’s ousted socialist president, Evo Morales, has credited Mexico with saving his life, after the country offered him political asylum following his resignation from government. “I am very grateful to the president and the Mexican people, because he saved my life,” Morales said on Tuesday, after he arrived in Mexico City to claim political asylum. Unaccounted for in recent days, Morales decried the “coup” against him, and recounted how a member of his once-loyal military was offered $50,000 to turn him in to the opposition on Sunday. Morales was re-elected to the presidency in October, in an election result that opposition leaders called fraudulent.


Though he offered to hold fresh elections, protests continued and Morales stepped down on Sunday following a police and military mutiny. Nevertheless, the socialist leader – who presided over Bolivia through a period of relative stability and economic growth – vowed to remain politically active in exile. “As long as I have life, we continue in politics, the struggle continues, and we are sure that the people have every right to free themselves,” he told reporters in Mexico. Prior to his departure, Morales promised his supporters that he would “return with more strength and energy.”

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A continent being set on fire.

Morales Endures Twists And Turns During Flight To Political Asylum In Mexico (RT)

Former Bolivian President Evo Morales has landed safely in Mexico, but his journey to political asylum had twists and turns as neighboring states reacted to the ongoing turmoil back home. After landing in the North American country Morales said that Mexico saved his life and vowed to continue in politics as long as he is alive. He also told reporters that his home in Bolivia has been ransacked along with his sister’s house. The Mexican Air Force aircraft ferrying Morales to safety made a stop in Paraguay to refuel on Tuesday, after reportedly being denied permission to land in Peru. The plane had been allowed to refuel in Peru on its way to fetch Morales, suggesting that the Peruvian government had a change of heart due to the aircraft’s political cargo.

Initial reports claimed that Chile and Brazil had refused to allow Morales’ aircraft to pass over their airspace, but flight tracking enthusiasts noted that the plane was allowed to fly across Brazil on its way to Mexico. Also, Mexico’s foreign minister said that another country which denied permission for the plane to land and refuel, and also fly over its airspace was Ecuador. Despite the setbacks, Morales appears to be upbeat. One photograph shows him holding up a Mexican flag on board the plane delivering him to political asylum, while another photo is of Morales waving to the camera as he prepares to leave Paraguay for his final destination. Mexico’s foreign ministry said it had decided to take in Morales for humanitarian reasons.

According to Foreign Minister Marcelko Ebrard, Morales’ “life and physical integrity” were at risk in his home country. Bolivian opposition leaders had claimed that police and the military were looking to capture the former president – but the country’s police chief later dismissed these reports. It’s believed that several Bolivian officials, including former Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera and Senate President Adriana Salvatierra, may also have traveled with Morales – but the Mexican government has declined to comment on these reports.

Read more …

Guiado 2.0

Opposition Senator Declares Herself ‘Interim President’ Of Bolivia (RT)

Opposition politician Jeanine Añez has declared herself “interim president” of Bolivia without a vote, but the party of ousted President Evo Morales said that the Senate had no quorum and the legislature’s session was not legal. Añez’s actions echo those of Juan Guaido in Venezuela, who declared himself “interim president” in January with the backing of Washington and the Organization of American States (OAS). While Guaido has repeatedly failed to oust President Nicolas Maduro, however, the opposition in Bolivia – also backed by the US and OAS – has been able to force the resignation of Morales after the military defected to their side. While opposition activists claimed that Añez’s declaration was in line with the Bolivian constitution, lawmakers from the ousted president’s Movement for Socialism called the assembly session illegal. They have refused to attend the proceedings, saying that armed groups loyal to the opposition controlled the roads and could not guarantee their safety.

Read more …

Downer’s a nasty piece of work.

Alexander Downer Says Assange Should Not Expect Australian Intervention (SMH)

Former foreign minister Alexander Downer has dismissed the idea of Australian intervention to save WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from potential extradition to the US amid a political storm over leaks designed to influence the last presidential election. Mr Downer said the fate of Mr Assange, who is fighting his extradition from London to the US to face espionage charges relating to WikiLeaks’ release of classified files on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, rested with a British court. Mr Downer also ducked questions over his role in the controversial events that led to an FBI investigation into political interference in the 2016 US election campaign, saying he was assisting a US inquiry and did not want to add to a “toxic” debate.

The former Australian high commissioner to the UK mocked the idea of Prime Minister Scott Morrison acting on calls from Mr Assange’s supporters to do all it could to bring him home from the UK, where he has been held since his April 11 arrest at the Ecuadorian embassy, where he had lived in asylum for almost seven years. While he made no comment on the role WikiLeaks played in the US election when it released a trove of emails from the Democrat campaign, he said Mr Assange had to face British courts in response to the US extradition request relating to the separate espionage charges.

“All people are equal before the law. Julian Assange doesn’t get some dispensation from the law of the land, in this case of the UK, because you happen to agree with him or think he did the right thing,” Mr Downer said. “If the United States wants to extradite him, and extradition proceedings are underway, Australia can’t [intervene] even if it wanted to. That is the thing about these emotional narratives – they don’t even make sense.” [..] Mr Downer met Trump aide George Papadopoulos in a London bar in May 2016 where the aide told him the Russians were willing to release dirt on Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton ahead of the November election. Mr Downer reported that meeting to Australian intelligence services, who later shared it with the FBI.

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Big Ag rules.

Wisconsin’s Dairy Crisis: “We Are Losing Two Farms A Day!” (SHTF)

Wisconsin’s dairy crisis has only just begun as the state is losing two farms each day, according to Patty Edelburg, vice president of the National Farmers Union. As farm bankruptcies soar, it is possible that nearly 10% of Wisconsin dairy farmers may go out of business in 2019. “You look at the weather, you look at the crops you can’t get off the field, you look at the bills you can’t pay,” Edelburg, told Yahoo Finance. “Bankruptcies are up. Wisconsin is attributed as the number one bankruptcy in the nation right now when it comes to dairy farmers. That number is up, I think, 24% from last year already. We’re losing two farms a day.” Between 2016 and 2018, Wisconsin lost almost 1,200 dairy farms. The USDA saw a 6.8% decrease in farms across the entire country in 2018.


Wisconsin’s suicide rates have spiked over the last few years and according to the Wisconsin State Journal, experts are attributing many of those deaths to farmers facing economic challenges. “Farming is such a stressful occupation by itself,” Edelburg said. “When you start adding financial stress on top of it, it’s just going to add more stress. Farmers can’t pay their bills, they have no extra money, they have people honing down their neck looking to pay bills. They’re going to banks and they can’t get loans. They’re literally being denied loans.” She explained that the USDA farm agency trains its farm loan officers on how to look for warning signs as part of suicide prevention. “The bankers are the first and the forefront to see a lot of these things,” Edelburg said. “They’re delivering the bad news, and these farmers are dealing with it on that level.”

Read more …

Stop laughing! We can hear you all the way from here. Russians interfering in New Zealand popular bird contests is a very serious thing. Stop laughing!

Russians Interfere In New Zealand ‘Bird Of The Year’ Contest (RT)

New Zealand is home to over 200 bird species and most of them are unique to the north and south islands where they have lived for millions of years. But while the Dodo might be dead, modern day drama and meddling certainly isn’t. With many of New Zealand’s native birds in crisis, leading independent conservation organization Forest & Bird started up a yearly ‘Bird of the Year’ competition in order to raise awareness of native bird life. But instead of an increase in bird-watching or perhaps more money towards conservation – political turmoil unraveled. The reason? Suspicious votes from abroad, and a fair few from that sinister country RUSSIA!

Megan Hubscher, a spokesperson for Forest & Bird, is concerned: “People are coming up with all kinds of theories about Russian involvement in New Zealand elections. But we can assure everyone that everything seems above board this time around.” But this seemingly innocent competition attracts controversy. Over the past 14 years, various voting scandals have caused a flap. Last year, a large black-and-white cormorant bird gained hundreds of suspicious votes – perhaps because of its common name: ‘the shag’! (Yes you laughed) In 2017, vote-fixing claims came flooding in after 112 new email accounts had been set up to cast votes for a certain bird, and two years previously, two teenagers were caught setting up fake accounts to vote for the delightful kokako. Whoever thought political bird-fighting was such a thing?

Fast forward to 2019, and Forest & Bird is responding with Pentagon-level protection in response to hacking and fake voting. Results this week saw ballots from almost 100 countries, with hundreds of votes from nearby Australia (684), America (563), the UK (682) and, of course… Russia (with 335 votes, obviously from Kremlin spies. Thank you very much, and spasibo).

Read more …

 

JFK to James Tobin: “Is there any economic limit to the size of the debt in relation to national income? There isn’t, is there? … That’s right, isn’t it? The deficit can be any size, the debt can be any size, provided they don’t cause inflation. Everything else is just talk”

 

 

 

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Nov 032019
 
 November 3, 2019  Posted by at 9:22 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  20 Responses »


Salvador Dali Nymphs in a romantic garden 1921

 

UK Spy Agencies Found No Evidence Of Russian Brexit Interference (BF)
Pelosi Warns 2020 Candidates They’re On The Wrong Track (ZH)
Assad Calls Trump “Best US President” Ever For “Transparency” (ZH)
Britain Ignores Assange Medical Appeal: UN (AAP)
Saudi Arabia Kick-Starts Aramco IPO (R.)
Global Shipping Container Rates Plunge (ZH)
Labour Plans To Make 27 Million Homes Energy Efficient (G.)
Don’t Drive Electric Cars, Ignore Paper Bags & Forget About Organic Food (RT)
Captain Siya Kolisi Wants To ‘Inspire Every Kid’ In South Africa (BBC)

 

 

How nutritious are those nothingburgers? At some point you get concerned for these peoples’ metabolism.

“Two sources told BuzzFeed that British intelligence found no evidence of Russian meddling in either the 2016 referendum vote or the 2017 general election.”

Russophobia is even stronger in Britain than in the US, so they’ll find a way to twist this, don’t worry.

UK Spy Agencies Found No Evidence Of Russian Brexit Interference (BF)

The UK’s intelligence agencies have found no evidence that the Russian state interfered in the outcome of the Brexit referendum and the 2017 general election, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the findings in an as-yet-unpublished report from Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee. One of the sources told BuzzFeed News the finding was categorical. The report, titled simply “Russia”, is at the centre of a row between some MPs and Downing Street after the committee’s chair, former attorney general Dominic Grieve, urged Boris Johnson to release the report ahead of the Dec. 12 general election, arguing that it was “really unacceptable for the prime minister to sit on it”.


The committee sent the report to Johnson’s office on Oct. 17. It will not be released before the election unless it is cleared for publication by the beginning of next week before Parliament is dissolved for the campaign. Raising a point of order in the House of Commons on Thursday, Grieve expressed regret that the report had not already been cleared for publication by the prime minister. He continued: “We thus have a committee of Parliament waiting to lay before the House a report that comments directly on what has been perceived as a threat to our democratic processes. Parliament and the public ought to and must have access to this report in the light of the forthcoming election, and it is unacceptable for the prime minister to sit on it and deny them that information.”

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Nancy finds herself stuck in her impeachment call. She’s smart enough to see how bad a call that was. And she’s old enough that she should never have been in her present role. But you know, power calls. She should be handing over the baton to a younger crowd, but she has no idea what they are thinking, and those are her own words.

Thing is, by her and her ilk not being grandmas and grandpas as they should, they force the young ‘uns into more radical positions just to have any voice at all. And by insisting on staying, she creates the space for self-imploding devices like Adam Schiff to move themselves forward into the limelight they so desperately crave. Spend more time with the family, Nancy, you’re making it too easy for Trump.

Pelosi Warns 2020 Candidates They’re On The Wrong Track (ZH)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi thinks Democrats running for president in 2020 might strike out against Trump with ultra-liberal policies that fire up the party’s progressive base, yet might not go over so well with swing voters in flyover states. Proposals pushed by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders like Medicare for All and a wealth tax play well in liberal enclaves like her own district in San Francisco but won’t sell in the Midwestern states that sent Trump to the White House in 2016, she said. -Bloomberg “What works in San Francisco does not necessarily work in Michigan,”Pelosi said in a wide-ranging interview with Bloomberg. “What works in Michigan works in San Francisco — talking about workers’ rights and sharing prosperity.” “Remember November,” she added. “You must win the Electoral College.”

And while she didn’t back any particular candidate running for office, Pelosi said Democrats should be focusing on “lower costs of prescription drugs, bigger paychecks by building infrastructure, and cleaner government.” She also worries that candidates like Warren and Sanders are going down the wrong track by trying to ‘out-left’ each other to court fellow progressives while abandoning moderate voters that the party needs to win back from Trump. “As a left-wing San Francisco liberal I can say to these people: What are you thinking?” Pelosi said. “You can ask the left — they’re unhappy with me for not being a socialist.” Pelosi also expressed concerns that voters don’t care about the Green New Deal promoted by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, which calls for rapid, radical reductions in carbon emissions.

“There’s very strong opposition on the labor side to the Green New Deal because it’s like 10 years, no more fossil fuel. Really?” said Pelosi. “The speaker’s concerns reflect those of many Democratic leaders and donors who believe that left-wing policies will alienate swing voters and lead to defeat. Warren and Sanders are betting on a different theory — that voters who float between parties are less ideological and can be inspired to vote for candidates who represent bold new change in Washington. Pelosi said Democrats should seek to build on President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act instead of pushing ahead with the more sweeping Medicare for All plan favored by Warren and Sanders that would create a government-run health care system and abolish private insurance.” -Bloomberg

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“All American presidents commit crimes and end up taking the Nobel Prize..”

Assad Calls Trump “Best US President” Ever For “Transparency” (ZH)

Arguably some of the most significant events since the eight-year long war’s start have played out in Syria with rapid pace over just the last month alone, including Turkey’s military incursion in the north, the US pullback from the border and into Syria’s oil fields, the Kurdish-led SDF’s deal making with Damascus, and the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. All of this is why a televised interview with President Bashar Assad was highly anticipated at the end of this week. Assad’s commentary on the latest White House policy to “secure the oil” in Syria, for which US troops have already been redeployed to some of the largest oil fields in the Deir Ezzor region, was the biggest pressing question.


The Syrian president’s response was unexpected and is now driving headlines, given what he said directly about Trump, calling him the “best American president” ever – because he’s the “most transparent.” “When it comes to Trump you may ask me a question and I’ll give you an answer which might seem strange. I tell you he’s the best American president,” Assad said, according to a translation provided by NBC. “Why? Not because his policies are good, but because he is the most transparent president,” Assad continued. “All American presidents commit crimes and end up taking the Nobel Prize and appear as a defender of human rights and the ‘unique’ and ‘brilliant’ American or Western principles. But all they are is a group of criminals who only represent the interests of the American lobbies of large corporations in weapons, oil and others,” he added.

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Laws broken all around and all the time.

Britain Ignores Assange Medical Appeal: UN (AAP)

The British government has ignored an urgent medical appeal for imprisoned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a UN expert says. UN rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer says Britain has taken no action since he and medical experts visited Assange at a London prison in May. They found Assange displaying “all the symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture”. “However, what we have seen from the UK government is outright contempt for Mr Assange’s rights and integrity,” Melzer said in a statement on Friday. “Despite the medical urgency of my appeal, and the seriousness of the alleged violations, the UK has not undertaken any measures of investigation, prevention and redress required under international law.” Melzer urged Britain on Friday to block the extradition and release Assange.

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As long as there’s no IPO, any valuation can be used. But on moral grounds too, this should be boycotted.

Saudi Arabia Kick-Starts Aramco IPO (R.)

Saudi Arabia kick-started Aramco’s initial public offering (IPO) on Sunday as its market regulator approved the oil giant’s application to list on the domestic bourse and create the world’s most valuable listed firm. A statement from the Capital Market Authority (CMA) did not give a time frame or say how much Aramco would sell, but sources have told Reuters the oil company could offer 1% to 2% of its shares on the local bourse, raising as much $20 billion to $40 billion. Confirmation of the share sale in Saudi Arabian Oil Co., or Aramco, as the oil giant is usually known, comes about seven weeks after crippling attacks on its oil facilities, underlining Saudi Arabia’s determination to push on with the listing regardless.


The IPO of the world’s most profitable company is designed to turbo charge Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s economic reform agenda by raising billions to diversify the kingdom, whose dependency on oil was highlighted by the production impact of the Sept. 14 attacks. [..] Prince Mohammed gave the green light on Friday for the IPO to go ahead, Reuters reported, citing sources. Although he put a $2 trillion valuation on the company in early 2016, bankers and company insiders say Aramco’s value is closer to $1.5 trillion.

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Tyler: “..Trump’s non-stop fake trade news tweeting..”

Global Shipping Container Rates Plunge (ZH)

President Trump’s non-stop fake trade news tweeting has indeed decoupled the market from focusing on worsening macro and fundamentals. Teddy Vallee, CIO of Pervalle Global, has spotted an alarming downtrend in the Freightos 40 ft. Global Shipping Container Rate. Vallee has likely found an accurate barometer of global economic activity, now plunging in the last two months. “The move in container shipping rates is consistent with the continued deterioration in raw industrial commodities, China’s official PMI, China’s steel PMI, as well as market internals such as industrials relative to the S&P500,” Vallee said.


Freightos 40 ft. Global Shipping Container Rate started to trough in 1H19. The narrative back then was the global/US economy would rebound in 4Q19 and soar in 2020. But with 61 days left in 4Q, macroeconomic headwinds continue to mount across the world as global container rates plunge to new lows on the year, suggesting a global/US economic revival is nowhere to be found. With no signs of a global recovery, market participants will once again be jawboned back to reality, or as some have called it: a ‘macro matters’ event — the only question is finding the trigger that brings everybody out of the fake trade news daze spurred by the Trump administration.

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Too many questions about this. What are the building standards they aim to use? And retrofitting 27 million homes will result in only 450,000 jobs, over a decade?

But most of all, when someone says things like “..we face the threat of a hostile and dying planet. But Labour will turn that threat into an opportunity..”, tell them to get lost. We can’t heal the planet for profit. That’s just empty PR.

Labour Plans To Make 27 Million Homes Energy Efficient (G.)

Labour is claiming to have drawn up plans for the biggest overhaul of housing since the second world war, with a plan to instal loft insulation, double glazing and renewable technologies in almost all of the UK’s 27 million homes. The party says that the Warm Homes for All scheme will create 450,000 jobs over the next decade. Under the plans, low-income households would be able to apply for a grant, paying no upfront costs. They would keep most of the savings on their bills, though part would be used to pay for a proportion of the work. Wealthier households would be able to claim interest-free loans for the work, with the loans claimed back through their bills.

Labour said that, through the scheme, 6.34 million homes would have heat pumps and 5.3 million homes would have solar thermal systems by 2030. The party said the UK’s housing stock was among the worst insulated in Europe, with building electricity and heat use the biggest source of emissions in Britain. The party said the waste was costing households billions of pounds and pushing 3.5 million of them into fuel poverty. However, there are significant costs implied by the scheme. Labour calculates that delivering essential upgrades to the UK’s entire housing stock will cost about £250bn, or an average of £9,300 per house. [..]

Jeremy Corbyn said: “If we don’t radically change course we face the threat of a hostile and dying planet. But Labour will turn that threat into an opportunity. We will tackle the climate crisis by putting wealth in the hands of the many not the few, with lower bills and more good jobs. “By investing on a massive scale, we will usher in a green industrial revolution with good, clean jobs that will transform towns, cities and communities that have been held back and neglected for decades.

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Not a terribly strong article at RT, but we must remind people that Green has become a major marketing ploy. Beware.

Don’t Drive Electric Cars, Ignore Paper Bags & Forget About Organic Food (RT)

Renewable energy, hailed as the answer to the world’s petrochemical dependency, is not the cure-all it is depicted as. Solar power, for example, creates no carbon emissions once the solar panels are up and running, but their manufacture is a toxic mess. Produced with the carcinogenic, mutagenic heavy metal cadmium and requiring billions of liters of water to manufacture and cool, solar cells have their own dark side seldom examined in discussions of the impending shift to renewable energy. Electric cars have become a symbol of environmental progress, with companies that produce them receiving government subsidies in many countries. But more energy is consumed in the production of an electric car than a gas-powered vehicle, and a 2011 study found the carbon footprints of both vehicles to be about the same.


Electric cars may not produce emissions while driving, but they’re only as green as the electricity used to charge them. Worse, the batteries they use are loaded with toxic metals like lithium, copper, and cobalt. Mining these substances devastates the environment, and improper disposal of used batteries can cause them to leak back into nature. Biomass and biofuels certainly sound environmentally friendly – how can you go wrong with “bio” in the name – but it actually generates more carbon emissions than fossil fuels to create the same amount of energy. Substances burnable under the aegis of “biomass” can include anything from timber waste to garbage, meaning it can burn clean or litter the atmosphere with pollutants. And even burning ‘clean’ wood means cutting down trees – hardly environmentally friendly.

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South Africa won the rugby World Cup on Saturday. I’m not a rugby fan, but I did see the British crowds in a sports bar from across the street. The story behind it is far more interesting though. 30 years after Mandela, very little has improved.

“It’s easy to talk about going through hard times and struggling to get opportunities, but it’s tough to tell people that there were days when I didn’t have food or shoes to wear..”

Captain Siya Kolisi Wants To ‘Inspire Every Kid’ In South Africa (BBC)

Kolisi, who grew up up in a poor township of Zwide, just outside Port Elizabeth on the Eastern Cape, flew his father abroad for the first time to watch him represent his country in Japan. He added: “You can never forget where you come from or the people who have helped you get here so I just wanted to celebrate with him [his father]. “Growing up, I never dreamed of a day like this at all. When I was a kid all I was thinking about was getting my next meal.” The skipper said coach Rassie Erasmus told the players they were not just playing for themselves, but for all of South Africa. The country is suffering an economic crisis with unemployment at 29% and Kolisi said he has “never seen south Africa like this”.

Springbok try scorers Makazole Mapimpi, who also comes from a poor township like Kolisi, and Cheslin Kolbe are both black and the skipper said his side’s performance shows how “different races can come together”. An emotional Mapimpi, who scored the Springbok’s first try in their third World Cup final, was also in reflective mood after the full-time whistle, saying he had come a “long way”. “I’m blessed,” he said. “I’m from the rural areas. “I didn’t make the South Africa schools [team]. It means a lot for me, but also for the boys who didn’t go to private schools. “A lot of things happen in South Africa that affect us and we fight to push those things away. South Africa coach Erasmus echoed his captain’s comments, saying rugby is “privilege” after leading his country to glory in his first World Cup as coach.

“In South Africa pressure is not having a job, pressure is one of your friends being murdered,” he said. “Rugby shouldn’t be something that creates pressure on you, it brings hope. “Hope is when you play well and people watch you on Saturday, have a nice barbecue and watch the game and feel good after.” “It’s easy to talk about going through hard times and struggling to get opportunities, but it’s tough to tell people that there were days when I didn’t have food or shoes to wear,” he said. “And when you sit down and think about it clearly, and think there was a stage when Siya went through stuff like that, then he sits here as captain holding this trophy. “That should sum up what Siya is.”

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Oct 172019
 


Salvador Dali Sick Boy (Self-portrait in Cadaqués) 1923

 

Pelosi, Trump Exchange ‘Meltdown’ Barbs Over Meeting On US Policy In Syria (R.)
The Russian Masterpiece in Syria: Everyone Wins (Pieraccini)
Everybody Betraying Everybody in Syria (Fuller)
Schiff Pushed Volker To Say Ukraine Felt Pressure From Trump (WE)
One Person Is Missing In The Dems’ Impeachment Inquiry: The Whistleblower (R.)
Wait for It (Kunstler)
Michael Flynn Lawyer Seeks Data From Joseph Mifsud Phones (Ross)
Tulsi Gabbard Was A Dove On The Warpath (Tracey)
DUP Says It Cannot Support Boris Johnson’s Brexit Deal (G.)
Australia’s Housing Downturn A Larger-Than-Expected Drag On Economy (R.)
China Bans Exports Of Black Clothing To Hong Kong (SCMP)
Assange Subjected To Torture & Violations Of Due Process Rights – UN Envoy (RT)

 

 

I like this one: “White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham called Pelosi’s decision to walk out “baffling but not surprising.”

And as long as the only things Dems have to say about Trump are exclusively negative, what do they expect? Goes to credibility, your honor.

This was a meeting about Syria, and some people have started calling the situation there “..one of the greatest diplomatic masterpieces ever conceived..”

Still, the House condemns it….

As for Pelosi’s comments to Trump: Russia’s always a had a foothold in the Middle East. But it’s convenient to ‘forget’ that, as well as the Mueller report. Goes to credibility, your honor.

 

Pelosi, Trump Exchange ‘Meltdown’ Barbs Over Meeting On US Policy In Syria (R.)

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democratic leaders cut short a meeting with Republican President Donald Trump after he had a “meltdown” over a House of Representatives vote condemning his Syria withdrawal and showed no signs of having a plan to deal with a crisis there. Trump called Pelosi a “third-rate politician” and the meeting in the White House deteriorated into a diatribe, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters. Later, in remarks to reporters on Capitol Hill, Pelosi said that Trump actually called her a “third-grade” politician. “What we witnessed on the part of the president was a meltdown. Sad to say,” Pelosi had said upon leaving.

Trump posted on Twitter on Wednesday night – “Nervous Nancy’s unhinged meltdown!” with a photo of Pelosi standing up and pointing at him during the meeting. The Democrats exited the meeting complaining that they were expecting to hear Trump provide details on a plan for dealing with an unfolding “crisis” in Syria but instead were subjected to “derogatory” language from him about congressional Democrats and Democratic former President Barack Obama. White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham, in a statement, called Pelosi’s decision to walk out “baffling but not surprising.” She added that after Democratic leaders “chose to storm out,” remaining Republican leaders held a productive meeting.


Pelosi directly to Trump: Russia has always wanted a “foothold in the Middle East” and now it has one. “All roads with you lead to Putin.”

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“..one of the greatest diplomatic masterpieces ever conceived..”

The Russian Masterpiece in Syria: Everyone Wins (Pieraccini)

The agreement between the Kurds (SDF) and Damascus is the only natural conclusion to events that are heavily orchestrated by Moscow. The deployment of Syrian and Russian troops on the border with Turkey is the prelude to the reconquest of the entirety of Syrian territory — the outcome the Kremlin was wishing for at the beginning of this diplomatic masterpiece. Washington and Ankara have never had any opportunities to prevent Damascus from reunifying the country. It was assumed by Moscow that Washington and Ankara would sooner or later seek the correct exit strategy, even as they proclaimed victory to their respective bases in the face of defeat in Syria. This is exactly what Putin and Lavrov came up with over the last few weeks, offering Trump and Erdogan the solution to their Syrian problems.

Trump will state that he has little interest in countries 7,000 miles from the homeland; and Erdogan (with some reluctance) will affirm that the border between Turkey and Syria, when held by the Syrian Arab Army, guarantees security against the Kurds. Putin has no doubt advised Assad and the Kurds to begin a dialogue in the common interests of Syria. He would have no doubt also convinced Erdogan and Trump of the need to accept these plans. An agreement that rewards Damascus and Moscow saves the Kurds while leaving Erdogan and Trump with a semblance of dignity in a situation that is difficult to explain to a domestic or international audience.

Moscow has started joint patrols with the Syrian Arab Army on the borders with Turkey for the purposes of preventing any military clashes between Ankara and Damascus. If Ankara halts its military operation in the coming days, Damascus will regain control of the oil fields. The world will then have witnessed one of the greatest diplomatic masterpieces ever conceived, responsible for bringing closer the end of the seven-year-long Syrian conflict.

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Former senior CIA official Graham Fuller has a slightly different take.

Everybody Betraying Everybody in Syria (Fuller)

Just what have we witnessed in the recent events in Syria? It’s hard to know, given the avalanche of superficial and over-the-top headlines in most US media: betrayal of the Kurds, handing Syria over to Russia, caving to Turkey’s Erdogan, bestowing a gift upon Iran, allowing ISIS to once again run wild, end of US leadership. Yet the bottom line of the story is that after some eight years of civil conflict, the situation in Syria is basically reverting to the pre-conflict norm. The Syrian government is now close to re-establishing its sovereign control again over the entire country. Indeed, Syria’s sovereign control over its own country had been vigorously contested, in fact blocked, by many external interventions—mainly on the part of the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and a few European hangers-on—all hoping to exploit the early uprising against the Asad regime and overthrow it. In favor of what was never clear.


Much of this picture has a long history. The US has been trying to covertly overthrow the Syrian regime off and on for some fifty years, periodically joined on occasion by Israel or Saudi Arabia or Iraq, orTurkey or the UK. Most people assumed that when the Arab Spring broke out in Syria in 2011 that civil uprisings there too would lead to the early overthrow of another authoritarian regime. But it did not. This was in part due to Asad’s brutal put-down of rebel forces, in part because of the strong support he received from Russia, Iran and Hizballah, and in part because large numbers of Syrian elites feared that whoever might take Asad’s place—most likely one or another Jihadi group—would be far worse, more radical and chaotic than Asad’s strict but stable secular domestic rule.

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The secrets get spilled.

Schiff Pushed Volker To Say Ukraine Felt Pressure From Trump (WE)

In a secret interview, Rep. Adam Schiff, leader of the House Democratic effort to impeach President Trump, pressed former United States special representative to Ukraine Kurt Volker to testify that Ukrainian officials felt pressured to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter as a result of Trump withholding U.S. military aid to Ukraine. Volker denied that was the case, noting that Ukrainian leaders did not even know the aid was being withheld and that they believed their relationship with the U.S. was moving along satisfactorily, without them having done anything Trump mentioned in his notorious July 25 phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

When Volker repeatedly declined to agree to Schiff’s characterization of events, Schiff said, “Ambassador, you’re making this much more complicated than it has to be.” The interview took place Oct. 3 in a secure room in the U.S. Capitol. While the session covered several topics, the issue of an alleged quid pro quo — U.S. military aid in exchange for a Ukrainian investigation of the Bidens and a public announcement that such an investigation was underway — was a significant part of the discussion. “[The Ukrainians] didn’t want to be drawn into investigating a Democratic candidate for president, which would mean only peril for Ukraine, is that fair to say?” Schiff asked Volker.

“That may be true,” Volker said. “That may be true. They didn’t express that to me, and, of course, I didn’t know that was the context at the time.” (Volker has said he did not know that Trump had mentioned the Bidens on the July 25 call with Zelensky until the rough transcript of the call was released on Sept. 25.)

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A heavily distorted process. They should watch out with that.

One Person Is Missing In The Dems’ Impeachment Inquiry: The Whistleblower (R.)

Democratic lawmakers leading an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump have heard days of testimony from a parade of senior government officials. But they have yet to hear from the whistleblower who sparked the probe – and may never do. In the end, it may not matter, some Democratic lawmakers said, because the other officials who have testified, Trump’s own statements, a trove of texts between top U.S. diplomats, and other White House documents have largely substantiated the whistleblower’s complaint that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden. Talks between lawyers for the whistleblower and representatives of the House of Representatives and Senate committees that want to question the intelligence official have all but deadlocked, three sources familiar with the negotiations told Reuters.

Lawyers for the official have voiced concern about the person’s safety and that testifying in person to congressional aides could expose the person’s identity. They have attributed some of that concern to statements by Trump, who calls the inquiry a sham and has suggested the whistleblower committed treason. U.S. officials told Reuters last week that the government was providing security for the whistleblower. At first, the negotiations focused on proposals that would allow the whistleblower to testify but away from Capitol Hill and with face and voice obscured, two of the sources said. But the whistleblower’s lawyers remained concerned that those precautions might not be enough to protect their client’s anonymity.

A proposal was made for the whistleblower to answer questions in writing, the two sources said, and House aides accepted it in principle. Republican and Democratic sources both say, however, that members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are insistent that they be allowed to interview the whistleblower, ideally face to face, although possibly under conditions that would still shield the person’s identity.

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“..a phantom confabulation of gossip threads..”

Wait for It (Kunstler)

An eerie silence cloaked the political landscape this lovely fall weekend as the soldiers in this (so far) administrative civil war scrambled for position in the next round of skirmishes. Rep. Adam Schiff fell back on the preposterous idea that he might not produce his “whistleblower” witness at all in the (so far) hypothetical impeachment proceeding. He put that one out after running a similarly absurd idea up the flagpole: that his “whistleblower” might just testify by answering written questions. I was waiting for him to offer up testimony by Morse code, carrier pigeon, or smoke signals.

Of course, the effort to “protect” the “whistleblower” has been a juke all along. For one thing, he-she-it is not a “whistleblower” at all; was only labeled that via legalistic legerdemain to avoid revealing the origin of this affair as a CIA cover-your-ass operation. Did Mr. Schiff actually think he could conceal this figure’s identity in a senate impeachment trial, when it came to that — for what else is impeachment aimed at? Anonymous sources are not admissible under American due process of law. Mr. Schiff must have missed that class in law school. All of this hocus-pocus suggests to me that there is no “whistleblower,” that it is a phantom confabulation of gossip threads that unraveled the moment Mr. Trump released the transcript of his phone call to Ukraine’s president Zelensky, aborting Mr. Schiff’s game plan.

The ensuing weeks of congressional Keystone Kops buffoonery since then appears to conceal a futile effort by Mr. Schiff and his confederates to find some fall guy willing to pretend that he-she-it is the “whistleblower.” He might as well ask for a volunteer to gargle with Gillette Blue Blades on NBC’s Meet the Press. One marvels at Rep. Schiff’s tactical idiocy. But just imagine the panicked consternation it must be triggering among his Democratic colleagues. Notice that Mrs. Pelosi has been hiding out during this latest phase of the action. She may sense that there is nothing left to do but allow Mr. Schiff to twist slowly slowly in the wind, as he has hung himself out to dry. She should have known better since every previous declaration of conclusive evidence by Mr. Schiff over the past three years has proved to be false, knowingly and mendaciously so.

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Flynn thanks the lord that he hired Sidney Powell. Buit still, more secrecy: why is the FBI sitting on those phones?

Michael Flynn Lawyer Seeks Data From Joseph Mifsud Phones (Ross)

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s attorney made a surprising request in a court filing Tuesday for two phones that she says belonged to Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor whose contacts with former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos are at the heart of the Trump-Russia probe. Sidney Powell, a Flynn lawyer, asked the judge presiding over Flynn’s case to order prosecutors “to produce evidence that has only recently come into its possession.” She listed two Blackberry phones she asserts Mifsud used and requested data and metadata from the devices. Powell did not explain in the filing how the Mifsud phones might be relevant to Flynn’s case, but she wrote that “this information is material, exculpatory, and relevant to the defense of Mr. Flynn.”


Flynn, who served as President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, has been awaiting sentencing on a charge that he made false statements to the FBI on Jan. 24, 2017 regarding his conversations in December 2016 with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn pleaded guilty to the charge on Dec. 1, 2017 and has been awaiting sentencing for nearly 10 months. Powell has said that Flynn is not planning to try to withdraw his guilty plea. Instead, she has argued that the case should be dismissed against the retired lieutenant general altogether. Prosecutors have rejected some of Powell’s previous requests for a variety of documents from the special counsel’s probe, arguing that they are immaterial to the false statements charge to which Flynn pleaded guilty.

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“Tulsi threatened to boycott the debate because of the despicable tactics of the NYT, CNN, and the rest of the corporate media who hate her so intensely. But rather than boycotting, she went and called them despicable to their faces”

Tulsi Gabbard Was A Dove On The Warpath (Tracey)

It was never especially plausible that Tulsi Gabbard would follow through on her threat to boycott last night’s presidential debate. Too much campaign energy and resources have flowed into ensuring that she secured a spot on the corporate TV stage, which is a sordid but unavoidable aspect of the modern primary process. But in her first comments, she spelled out the reasons why such a boycott would in theory have been absolutely warranted. The two media co-sponsors, CNN and the New York Times, had just spent the past several days attacking her with a level of brazenness that was shocking even to those well-accustomed to the regularity with which she is smeared by journalistic antagonists.

The NYT released a bottom-of-the-barrel hit-job on Saturday, regurgitating the entire litany of bogus talking points marshaled against her over the course of the campaign — Russian apologist, Assad apologist, friend to white nationalists, naive isolationist, cult member — with the obligatory David Duke reference thrown in for good measure. This has all been aired before, but it was packaged together by the NYT in the cheapest, sleaziest form imaginable. The unsubtle subtext is always that Tulsi has some nefarious hidden motive, and couldn’t possibly be running on an earnest commitment to the principles she espouses. Her campaign refused to comply with the NYT’s requests for the article, and rightly so.

[..] CNN is generally of the same disposition toward Tulsi (undisguised contempt) and that reached a new peak Tuesday, the day of the debate, when Democratic operative and ‘analyst’ Bakari Sellers proclaimed with total self-satisfied certitude that she is a ‘puppet for the Russian government’. His esteemed co-panelists had neither the knowledge or interest to meaningfully interrogate the charge, which of course is grotesque nonsense. As such, that’s the context in which Tulsi’s threat to boycott the debate was perfectly valid — but it’s better to be there than not.

So she took the opportunity to point out how despicable the CNN/NYT attacks were and segue into a broader indictment of the entire political/media class for the ongoing debacle in Syria, in which they have been collectively complicit for years. They might prefer to pin sole blame for recent developments on Trump — Tulsi was also unsparing in maligning him for his role — but Tulsi correctly widened the indictment to include the entire bipartisan war-marking apparatus and its loyal media cheerleaders. They pushed one narrative of the conflict — the US was funding and arming ‘good guys’ in the form of ‘moderate rebels’ seeking to overthrow Assad — that turned out to be spectacularly wrong, seeing as those same ‘rebels’ are now being denounced by US officials for taking part in the massacre of Kurds.

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Never ending.

DUP Says It Cannot Support Boris Johnson’s Brexit Deal (G.)

The Democratic Unionist party is threatening to scupper the Brexit deal that Boris Johnson is on the brink of agreeing with the EU. On the morning of a crucial EU summit in Brussels, a joint statement from the DUP’s leader, Arlene Foster, and her deputy, Nigel Dodds, explicitly says the party cannot support the deal that is close to being finalised. The pound fell 0.5% against the dollar and the euro within minutes of the announcement. The DUP statement said: “As things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues, and there is a lack of clarity on VAT.” The statement will come as blow to the prime minister, who hopes to bring back a deal from the Brussels meeting and then secure the backing of parliament in a rare Commons vote pencilled in for Saturday.

The backing of the 10 DUP MPs is crucial for the success of that vote because many Conservative Brexiters have indicated they will not back a deal that is opposed by unionists. Steve Baker, the chair of the hard Brexit European Research Group, said he was optimistic the group would back a deal. But he also suggested the ERG could not support it if Johnson failed to secure the backing of the DUP. The DUP statement added: “We will continue to work with the government to try and get a sensible deal that works for Northern Ireland and protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.”

Johnson has met Foster and Dodds three times in the last three days as he tried to shore up their support before Saturday’s deadline to prevent a delay to Brexit. Housing minister Robert Jenrick said on BBC Breakfast: “We know there are clearly concerns on the part of the DUP and we want to try and work through these productively in the hours to come. “All sides in this do want to secure an orderly exit from the EU, and I think one is in sight, although there is clearly very significant issues to be hammered out. Let’s wait and see.”

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The zombies were never cleared for the 28 years of boom.

Australia’s Housing Downturn A Larger-Than-Expected Drag On Economy (R.)

Australia’s property downturn is hitting household consumption and is a big drag on economic growth and inflation that will likely last at least another year, despite three interest rate cuts, a senior central bank official said on Thursday. However, an uptick in home prices in recent months, steady population growth and all-time low interest rates were expected to revive housing construction by 2021, Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) Deputy Governor Guy Debelle said in a speech. Housing is a significant part of Australia’s A$1.95 trillion ($1.3 trillion) economy, with residential construction accounting for around 2% of total employment and 6% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).


“Much of the downturn in construction activity is still ahead,” Debelle said in Sydney in a speech titled “Housing and the Economy.” Home prices and construction activity in Australia peaked nearly two years ago with approvals to build new homes around 40% lower than their late-2017 highs. “We are forecasting a further 7% decline in dwelling investment over the next year, and there is some risk the decline could be even larger,” Debelle added. “This will directly subtract around 1 percentage point from GDP growth from peak to trough…” Housing also impacts consumption. The RBA’s standard estimate of the wealth effect is that a 10% fall in housing prices leads to a 1.5% fall in household consumption over time.

Read more …

Best thing perhaps is the South China Morning Post filed this in the lifestyle/fashion-beauty section.

China Bans Exports Of Black Clothing To Hong Kong (SCMP)

The Chinese government is cracking down on exports of black clothing to Hong Kong from mainland China. The protesters who have taken to the streets of Hong Kong for the last four months, initially to oppose a now-withdrawn extradition bill, have adopted as their uniform black T-shirts, black jeans and black sneakers, often paired with a black face mask. According to a notice issued by Guangdong courier company PHXBUY on July 11, mainland Chinese customs required courier companies to halt delivery of a list of products. “They include yellow helmets, yellow umbrellas, flags, flagpoles, poster banners, gloves, masks, black T-shirts, metal rods, fluorescent tubes, bludgeon clubs. We cannot take delivery of the above products … Thank you for supporting us,” the notice said.


A subsequent notice posted on September 26 by Guangdong-based EXPRESS contains an even longer list of banned items: foodstuffs, liquid, powder, gases, counterfeit brand products, big machines, helmets, umbrellas, wrist bands, towels, safety vests, speakers, amplifiers, trestles, walkie-talkies, drones, black shirts and other clothing, goggles, metal beads, metal balls, horticulture scissors, metal chains, torches, binoculars, remote-controlled toys. “Customers mailing products have to use their real names. For mismatch between proclaimed names of goods to be mailed and actual goods, they will be left in the warehouse … for any discovery of the aforementioned goods [for mailing to Hong Kong], a thorough investigation will be launched.”

Read more …

Everyone completely ignores the UN, and international law.

Assange Subjected To Torture & Violations Of Due Process Rights – UN Envoy (RT)

WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange has been subjected to “psychological torture” and his due process rights have been “systematically violated” by all the states involved, according to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer. Two medical experts accompanied Melzer when he visited Assange at Belmarsh prison in the UK, he said on Tuesday. “We came to the conclusion that he had been exposed to psychological torture for a prolonged period of time. That’s a medical assessment.” Melzer’s message fell largely on deaf ears, as only a handful of reporters attended Tuesday’s press conference at the UN headquarters in New York.


It was not the first time that Melzer has tried to bring attention to Assange’s plight. He wrote an opinion piece about it in June, only to find it ignored or rejected by mainstream media outlets, and ended up publishing open letters to the US, British, Ecuadorian, and Swedish governments in July. We asked for all the involved states to investigate this case and to alleviate the pressure that has been done on him, and especially to respect his due process rights, which in my view have been systematically violated in all these jurisdictions,” Melzer said on Tuesday. No country has agreed to do so, he added, even though this was their obligation under the Convention on Torture.

Read more …

 

Slogen of the year:

If it’s a Boeing… I’m not going!

 

 

 

 

Oct 042019
 


Salvador Dali Crepuscular old man 1918

 

It took just 4 months after the deplorably failed Mueller probe of alleged Trump links to Russia, for the Democrats to raise the next -faded- red flag, Ukraine. And they do so in a manner that reminds me, personally, a lot of what happens in the UK. That is, the process has now moved on to what is legal or not and who decides what is or not.

Nancy Pelosi apparently has been told by her legal advice that it’s okay for her to move ahead with an inquiry, that she can even label an Impeachment Inquiry, without following established Capitol Hill procedure. Needless to say, them slopes are mighty slippery. Because if true, it would mean she can call the ‘other side’ offside for as long as she wishes.

She would, in effect, prorogate the US House the same way Boris Johnson tried to do Parliament in Britain. And not by shutting it down from the outside (Boris as PM) but from the inside (using her powers as Speaker). It would appear it’s time for every American to pay attention, because this could have grave consequences far into the future.

Pelosi’s plan is to not have a House vote on initiating the inquiry, but to just go ahead and have one, and stealing the name Impeachment Inquiry for it. Why? Because she thinks that way she can have only Democrats ask questions, issue subpoenas etc., while House Republicans could only sit and watch the spectacle (not what they were elected for).

 

I am not a lawyer, let alone a constitutional scholar, but when I read these things there are a million red hot five-alarms going off in my head. Because this is not about enacting the law, it’s about circumventing it. Just because you have a House majority cannot mean you can simply ignore the minority, or procedure. That would turn democracy into a proxy dictatorship. You don’t want to go there, not even if you’re a desperate Democrat.

But she seems to have made up her mind. So now we face Trump not being allowed to investigate what Joe Biden was up to in the run-up to the 2016 election though Joe’s party could turn that same run-up into a 3-year Special Counsel probe, which turned up less than .. well, you fill it in. It is something to behold.

At the same time, though, there is no Impeachment Inquiry, even if Pelosi calls it that. The White House today will send a letter to a judge contesting exactly that. A House Impeachment Inquiry has a procedure, and if she doesn’t follow that, the White House will deny it’s actually happening, and not respond.

Now, if you follow the headlines this week, you wouldn’t know this. Because they all talk of an impeachment inquiry going on. But you can’t get impeachment without following the official procedure, and Pelosi doesn’t follow it. And the media just go along for the ride without caring about procedure.

 

And obviously you can’t watch this theater and not think that Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff et al have not thought about stretching out this whole tragedy for another year, right on the eve of the 2020 election, or even beyond. That they think allegations about Russia, Ukraine and China will help them win.

Because it’s clear that flouting procedure the way they try to do in the House will inevitably have to lead to court decisions, and eventually to the Supreme Court. They’re counting on the damage they can do to Trump while the courts decide. But it won’t just be damage to Trump, however it turns out, it will be damage to the entire country.

And you would think both sides of the aisle recognize that (after all, we do), but there are very few if any signs of that. Everyone’s gearing up for a very big fight because everyone else in their echo chamber is. The problem is, whatever happens, and whoever becomes president, the dividing lines will only become deeper and darker.

AG Bill Barr, along with the State Department and DOJ, and whoever else is involved, will release multiple reports from investigations conducted by US Attorney John Durham, DOJ IG Michael Horowitz and potentially others. The Dems and MSM viewpoint appears to be that is was fine to appoint a Special Counsel to investigate Trump’s links to Russia, but not Democrats’ links to, well, anyone at all.

And that is just not okay. I saw this very short clip of John Brennan saying: “I think I suspected there was more than there actually was.” And that’s supposed to atone for 3 years of incessant smearing? It’s ridiculous. Brennan is ridiculous.

And yeah, I know that’s Fox, and I know I’ve on occasion had to turn to right wing media for news because the MSM have closed ranks and ‘report’ only on one side of the story. Sue me for wanting actual news.

None of this negates the fact that we’re in for ever bitter fights, up to and including at the US Supreme Court, ever more, to decide who rules the country. Just like in Britain.

I don’t think this is what the Founding Fathers had in mind. At least, unlike Britain, they cared enough to write a Constitution. A lot of good that did.

 

 

 

 

Sep 082019
 
 September 8, 2019  Posted by at 9:40 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Horses and person 1939

 

 

To everyone used to receiving Automatic Earth posts in their email, I’m sorry but since yesterday they’re suddenly bouncing again en masse. This makes me very tired by now, but I’ll look for a solution. I suspect there may be a connection between this and Google accusing me of violating their rules, without telling me what rules I’m supposed to have violated.

 

 

Boris Johnson Will Challenge Law Stopping No-Deal Exit In Court (Ind.)
UK Minister Amber Rudd Resigns, Says Unclear Who Is Running Country (Ind.)
Churchill’s Grandson Blasts ‘Unreliable’ Boris And ‘Fraud’ Rees-Mogg (Mirror)
How Bad Is Boris Johnson? We Can’t Even Find The Words (G&M)
Trump Abruptly Cancels Afghan Peace Deal, Camp David Meeting With Taliban (BBC)
Ukraine And Russia Exchange Prisoners In Landmark Deal (BBC)
China’s August Exports Unexpectedly Shrink, Imports Remain Weak (R.)
China: A Paper Tiger In A Fragile Economy (LN)
Robert Mueller Helped Saudi Arabia Cover Up Its Role In 9/11 Attacks (NYP)
On the Road to Interview Lula, Into a Brazilian Black Hole (Pepe Escobar)

 

 

I’ll keep saying they should have gone to the courts much sooner. But it’s unclear what the courts can do.

Boris Johnson Will Challenge Law Stopping No-Deal Exit In Court (Ind.)

Boris Johnson will go to court to challenge the order from parliament to delay Brexit, the foreign secretary has revealed. Dominic Raab insisted the government would not break the law – after MPs passed legislation requiring him to seek an Article 50 extension – but said it would not comply either. Vowing to “test to the limit” what the new law demands, Mr Raab said: “We will look very carefully, legally at what it requires and what it doesn’t require.” And, pointing to the failed legal actions to stop parliament being suspended, he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge programme: “We had two legal challenges last week and we won both of those.”


The comments suggest the controversy is heading for the Supreme Court in late October, with Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s key aide, believed to be convinced there is a legal way out. Mr Raab also dismissed a warning by a former director of public prosecutions that the prime minister is heading for jail if he flouts the law as “ridiculous”. Shami Chakrabarti, Labour’s shadow attorney general, condemned the comments, saying: “Is that what we say to our kids? Is that what we say to vulnerable kids? It’s irresponsible and elitist.”

Read more …

Boris has claimed progress in talks with the EU, but the EU has said there’s no such thing.

UK Minister Amber Rudd Resigns, Says Unclear Who Is Running Country (Ind.)

Amber Rudd has claimed it is unclear who is running the country following her shock resignation from the government. The former work and pensions secretary said she did not think the cabinet was having “proper discussions about policy”. When asked who was running the country, if not the cabinet, she told The Andrew Marr Show: “If I knew that I would have perhaps had further conversations with the prime minister or them.” Ms Rudd, who announced her resignation from the cabinet on Saturday, said she quit because she had not seen enough evidence of planning for a no-deal Brexit.


She claimed she was shown a “one-page summary” when she asked for evidence of the government’s work in negotiating a deal with the European Union. “It’s 80 to 90 per cent of government time going into preparing for no deal,” she said. “It’s disproportionate.” She added: “There is no evidence of the deal. There is no formal negotiation taking place. “I think we should be doing so much more to get the deal.”

Read more …

Outspoken.

Churchill’s Grandson Blasts ‘Unreliable’ Boris And ‘Fraud’ Rees-Mogg (Mirror)

Sacked Tory rebel MP Sir Nicholas Soames says Boris Johnson is “nothing like” his grandfather Sir Winston Churchill – and called Jacob Rees-Mogg an “absolute fraud”. Sir Nicholas, 71, tore into the Prime Minister and his right-hand man in a scathing interview as “unreliable” Mr Johnson’s Brexit strategy lay in tatters. The MP for 37 years said of the PM: “Boris Johnson is nothing like Winston Churchill. “I don’t think anyone has called Boris a diplomat or statesman.


“We all know the pluses and minuses, everyone he has worked for says the same thing: he writes beautifully [but he’s] deeply unreliable.” And of Mr Rees-Mogg, he was even more unforgiving, telling the Times: “He is in serious danger of believing his own shtick. “He is an absolute fraud, he is a living example of what a moderately cut double-breasted suit and a decent tie can do with an ultra-posh voice and a bit of ginger stuck up his arse.” Sir Nicholas blasted Mr Rees-Mogg after the Leader of the House was pictured slouching on the front bench like a sunbed as the Prime Minister suffered one of several humiliating defeats this week.

Read more …

View from Canada. Whose head of state still is Elizabeth. “British politics today is what results from the collision of an unstoppable force, an immovable object and a clown car.

How Bad Is Boris Johnson? We Can’t Even Find The Words (Globe & Mail)

We begin this editorial with an apology to you, our faithful readers. In March, we described the Brexit situation, then careening through its third year and nowhere close to resolution, as an “omnishambles.” An omnishambles is a state of utter chaos, total disorder and perfect mismanagement – which brings us to our apology. If you’ve been paying any attention to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, you know that, in declaring United Kingdom politics to have reached peak shambolic six months ago, we spoke too soon. Oh, did we ever. Because if the Conservative government was making an omnishambles of Brexit back in the spring – a happy era now remembered as a halcyon age of a merely half-hearted appetite for national self-destruction – then what words can adequately describe the scale of Mr. Johnson’s achievements?

Megashambles? Summa cum laude shambles? Tyrannosaurus shambles? The-Chernobyl-reactor-just-exploded-and-the-dosimeter-reads-15,000-roentgen shambles? Mr. Johnson is the author of 11 books, some admittedly banged out in the careless haste that is his style. But this week, without breaking a sweat, the PM penned the Odyssey and the Iliad of shambles. He faced his first votes in Parliament and lost them; lost his minority government’s governing majority; sacked 21 of his own MPs, including his party’s longest-serving member and Winston Churchill’s grandson; provoked his own brother into resigning from cabinet, citing a conflict between “family loyalty and the national interest”; and lost control of the House of Commons while remaining so offside the chamber’s confidence that it will not yet allow him to resolve the matter by calling an election.

Mr. Johnson did all that, and more, in the space of two days. What will tomorrow bring? British politics today is what results from the collision of an unstoppable force, an immovable object and a clown car.

Read more …

Leaving should still be the priority.

Trump Abruptly Cancels Afghan Peace Deal, Camp David Meeting With Taliban (BBC)

US President Donald Trump says he has called off peace negotiations with the Taliban that sought to end America’s 18-year war in Afghanistan. Mr Trump tweeted he had been set to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and senior Taliban leaders on Sunday. But he cancelled the secret meeting at his Camp David retreat after the militants admitted they were behind a recent attack that killed a US soldier. The US invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban in 2001. The militants had provided a safe haven for the al-Qaeda network to plan the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US. A source from the Taliban’s political office in Doha told the BBC that the group was set to hold an “urgent internal meeting” to discuss Mr Trump’s decision.


A meeting with the Taliban at Camp David, just ahead of the 18th anniversary of 9/11, would have been an extraordinary diplomatic move by the US president. The top US negotiator had announced a peace deal “in principle” on Monday. It was the result of nine rounds of talks between the US and Taliban representatives, held in Doha, the capital of the Gulf state of Qatar. Mr Trump’s tweets on Saturday evening appeared to put an end to nearly a year of painstaking negotiations which had excluded the Afghan government in Kabul, dismissed by the Taliban as American puppets. “Unfortunately, in order to build false leverage, [the Taliban] admitted to an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great great soldiers,” the president tweeted.

Read more …

I like.

Ukraine And Russia Exchange Prisoners In Landmark Deal (BBC)

Russia and Ukraine have completed a long-awaited exchange of prisoners. Those freed include 24 Ukrainian sailors and – controversially – a “person of interest” over the downing of flight MH17 which killed 298 people. The swap is hoped to ease tensions between the two neighbours. Greeting the Ukrainians at the airport, President Volodymyr Zelensky said: “We have to do all the steps to finish this horrible war.” Russia said it was glad its citizens had returned home. Relations between the two countries deteriorated dramatically in 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and Russian-backed rebels began an insurgency in two regions of eastern Ukraine.

Read more …

The trade war can only be part of it.

China’s August Exports Unexpectedly Shrink, Imports Remain Weak (R.)

China’s exports unexpectedly fell in August while imports shrank for a fourth month, pointing to further weakness in the world’s second-largest economy and underlining a pressing need for more stimulus as the Sino-U.S. trade war escalates. Beijing is widely expected to announce more support measures in coming weeks to avert the risk of a sharper economic slowdown as the United States ratchets up trade pressure, including the first cuts in some key lending rates in four years. On Friday, the central bank cut banks’ reserve requirements for the seventh time since early 2018 to free up more funds for lending, days after a cabinet meeting signaled that more policy loosening may be imminent.


August exports fell 1% from a year earlier, the biggest fall since June, when it fell 1.3%, customs data showed on Sunday. Analysts had expected a 2.0% rise in a Reuters poll after July’s 3.3% gain. That’s despite analyst expectations that looming tariffs may have prompted some Chinese exporters to bring forward or “front-load” U.S.-bound shipments into August, a trend seen earlier in the trade dispute. Many analysts expect export growth to slow further in coming months, as evidenced by worsening export orders in both official and private factory surveys. More U.S. tariff measures will take effect on Oct. 1 and Dec. 15. Sunday’s data also showed China’s imports shrank for the fourth consecutive month since April. Imports dropped 5.6% on-year in August, slightly less than an expected 6.0% fall and unchanged from July’s 5.6% decline.

Read more …

Pon Zi.

China: A Paper Tiger In A Fragile Economy (LN)

We typically imagine the Chinese entrepreneur crunching numbers, working around the clock to boost the economy, and repeating Communist propaganda about the West being the supreme devil. But we might have it wrong. Considering that the major source of funding for tens of thousands of companies in China originates from the central bank’s printing press, the reality could be businessmen and employees getting plastered on baijiuand beating each other to death with Pokémon cards during office hours. Think of it as the Eastern version of The Wolf of Wall Street.

[..] Even prior to the trade war, the Chinese government had employed a series of measures to reverse the slump. Thanks to the dispute with the Americans, Beijing’s growth prospects are bearish, projected to fall to a 30-year low of 6.2% in the second quarter of 2019. Because of this, analysts anticipate the PBOC will impose another 50-basis-point RRR decrease. In addition, observers prognosticate that the central bank could cut at least one of its key policy interest rates later this month. This would be the first time since 2015. The routine intervention and stimulus have ostensibly metastasized the economy into an addict, reliant on its next fix. So, can the Chinese economy survive without the state?

In the last five years, China’s M2 money supply – a measurement of the money supply that includes cash, checking deposits, and liquid assets – has ballooned 120%. Since the country is being paralyzed by the trade spat and other negative trends that threaten its foundation, China is not showing any signs that it is ready to hit the pause button on money-printing. In fact, judging by previous remarks by PBOC heads, Beijing might rev it up even more, especially if the downturn intensifies. But can China print to infinity? It may have to because seemingly every area of the economy counts on being propped up by the Communists through cash injections, stimulus projects, and bailouts.

Read more …

“He was the master when it came to covering up the kingdom’s role in 9/11..”

Robert Mueller Helped Saudi Arabia Cover Up Its Role In 9/11 Attacks (NYP)

After a lengthy investigation, special counsel Robert Mueller charged Russia made “multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election” and said the incursion “deserves the attention of every American.” But former FBI investigators say their old boss didn’t feel the same concern when they uncovered multiple, systemic efforts by the Saudi government to assist the hijackers in the lead-up to the 9/11 attacks — a far more consequential, to say nothing of deadly, foreign influence operation on America. As the head of the FBI at the time, they say Mueller was not nearly as interested in investigating that espionage conspiracy, which also involved foreign intelligence officers. Far from it, the record shows he covered up evidence pointing back to the Saudi Embassy and Riyadh — and may have even misled Congress about what he knew.


9/11 victims agree. “He was the master when it came to covering up the kingdom’s role in 9/11,” said survivor Sharon Premoli, who was pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center 18 years ago. “In October of 2001, Mueller shut down the government’s investigation after only three weeks, and then took part in the Bush [administration’s] campaign to block, obfuscate and generally stop anything about Saudi Arabia from being released,” added Premoli, now a plaintiff in the 9/11 lawsuit against Saudi Arabia. In fact, Mueller threw up roadblocks in the path of his own investigators working the 9/11 case, while making it easier for Saudi suspects to escape questioning, multiple case agents told me. Then he deep-sixed what evidence his agents did manage to uncover, according to the 9/11 lawsuit against the Saudis.

Read more …

Pepe with Lula and Dilma Rousseff, astonished at the changes in the country.

On the Road to Interview Lula, Into a Brazilian Black Hole (Pepe Escobar)

We were just beginning to hit cruising speed in our wide-ranging, 2 hour and 10 minute world exclusive interview with former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva in his prison at the Federal Police building in Curitiba, in southern Brazil. And then it hit us hard when he told us: “The US was very much afraid when I discussed a new currency and Obama called me, telling me, ‘Are you trying to create a new currency, a new euro?’ I said, ‘No, I’m just trying to get rid of the U.S. dollar. I’m just trying not to be dependent.’”


It was the foundation stone of what would build into a complex, rolling Hybrid War coup, from NSA spying on the Brazilian government and leading national companies, to the Car Wash corruption investigation (now demolished as a monster racket) to the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, the imprisonment of Lula, and the emergence of the Purveyor of Chaos, Jair Bolsonaro. My journey started in Cambodia. I had spent hours wandering around Beng Mealea, the jungle squeezing the stony repose of the Angkorian ruins, meditating on the rise and fall of empires. The message popped up on my phone in the dead of night: the request for an interview with Lula, placed five months ago, had been approved. How soon could I get to Sao Paulo?

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 052019
 


Odilon Redon Peyrelebade landscape 1880

 

It’s never easy to gauge what exactly is happening in China, or why the CCP Politburo takes the decisions it does. Today, or overnight, is no exception to that. However, one thing that appears certain, but which I don’t see reflected in all the analyses, is that Beijing pushing the value of the renminbi (yuan) down below 7 to the USD in one fell swoop, is a major setback for Xi Jinping and his government.

Yes, China may have given up hope of reaching positive conclusions in its trade talks with the US. And yes, some may think, even in China itself, that devaluing the currency is a tool that can be useful in a potential currency war. But there’s another side to this coin. It’s not even about the value itself, or the change in it, it’s the heavy-handed way it’s executed.

 

China wants, and desperately needs too, for the yuan to be a force in global financial markets. In very simple terms this is true because if it then wants to buy something, it can simply print the money for it. But only about 1% of global trade today is executed in yuan. That is not nearly enough. It means China needs dollars and euros, all the time. And devaluing the yuan means the country needs even more of those.

You’d almost think: why would you want to do that? What are the long-term prospects for a move like this? You’re telling forex markets that the value of the yuan is not trustworthy, because if Xi or the PBOC decides in the next five minutes that it should go up or down by 10% or 20%, they can do it. The Fed and ECB also have tools to manipulate their currencies (re: interest rates), but none of that magnitude.

 

The crux of the dilemma probably lies in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which I’ve been saying for years is just China’s way to sell its overcapacity and overproduction abroad. Sure, there may be loftier goals, and surely in the glitzy brochures, but the fact remains that China has tried to be an economic miracle, doing in 10 years what took the US a century, and it never slowed down its growth, at least not voluntarily, even if that might have been a wise move.

Already lately, purchases by Chinese citizens and companies of real estate and businesses abroad have been curtailed, and not a little bit, by Beijing. There’s no better way to convince Chinese people of the miracle’s success than to let them travel the world and spend there, but that, too, may well soon be cut. It kills foreign reserves.

If Beijing could charge participating countries in the Belt and Road Initiative in yuan, and they could pay for the overcapacity’s steel and cement and what not in yuan, that could be a game-changing program for the entire planet. But these countries have no reason to hold yuan, other than the BRI itself. And they, too, were watching the overnight move above 7 and must have thought: let’s be careful now.

And to top it all off, China right now needs for these countries to pay in dollars instead of yuan, because its foreign reserves are shrinking so fast. It’s Catch-22 all the way down. China’s need for dollars goes against everything BRI stands for.

 

Could the move hurt the US as well? Absolutely. But the long-term view behind the tariffs, and the talks China appears to have lost faith in, is to move the US away from its near all-encompassing addiction to Chinese production, and to move at least some of that production back home. Problem of course is, that is precisely what China’s miracle growth has been built on.

If the US starts bringing production home, who is Beijing going to sell its (over-)production to? Yes, I hear you, to the BRI countries. But there it runs into the currency problems mentioned before. To Europe? The top of that trade route is also behind us. Europe will have to follow the US to an extent, and also bring factories back to the continent (and not just to Germany either).

China could perhaps sell more than it does today to Russia. But that country still does produce a lot of things, and has been forced to be much more self-sufficient due to US and EU sanctions. It’s also a mighty small market compared to 350 million North Americans and 500 million Europeans, who are on average much richer than your average Russian to boot.

 

There is a way for China to make the yuan more important in global trade (but devaluation is definitely not that way): Beijing could let go of its central and total control over the value of its currency, and let forex markets figure it out. That would give traders -and everyone else- faith in the value. Problem with that is, this is not how central control communist governments think.

Beijing wants both: central total control AND a prominent place in world trade. And it may take them a long time to figure out that is not going to happen, unless of course they first conquer the entire world militarily. That is not an option, at least not for the foreseeable future. Come see me next century.

 

It wouldn’t be the first time for me to say I can see China retreat into itself, into its own borders and culture and market (1.3 billion people!). If the Communist Party wants to remain in power, and there’s no doubt it does, this may be only possible choice going forward. If growth has indeed left the miracle -as many observers think-, it can implode in very rapid succession. And even if growth hasn’t yet evaporated, it may well very soon. Without the growth, there is no miracle anymore.

And if China can no longer grow its exports, its domestic growth will also become a thing of the past. Domestic consumption can only grow as long as exports do too. Seen from that angle, the problems with trade and the currency look downright ominous. If you need dollars that badly, and you notice that you’re already getting fewer of them, not more, you’re in trouble.

Devaluing your currency may afford you some temporary respite, but it can’t possibly solve your troubles. It can make them much worse though.

I think China has wanted too much too fast, got carried away and forgot to take care of a few potential barriers to its growth, in particular the standing its currency had and still has in the world, and the grinding need for dollars that stems from it. And the Communists have no answer to this problem.

 

 

 

 

Jul 042019
 


Odilon Redon The Birth of Venus II c.1910

 

How do you define terror? Perhaps, because of the way the term has evolved in the English language, one wouldn’t call the west ‘terrorists’ per se, but ‘we’ are certainly spreading terror and terrorizing very large groups of people. Yeah, bring on the tanks and parade them around town. Add a marching band that plays some war tunes.

The ‘official’ storyline : at the request of the US, Gibraltar police and UK marines have seized an oil tanker in Gibraltar. The super-tanker, 1000 feet (330 meters) long, carrying 2 million barrels, had stopped there after sailing all around the Cape of Good Hope instead of taking the Suez canal on its way, ostensibly, from Iran to Syria.

And, according to the storyline as presented to and in the western press, because the EU still has sanctions on Iran, the British seized the ship. Another little detail I really appreciate is that Spain’s acting foreign minister, Josep Borrell, said Madrid was looking into the seizure and how it may affect Spanish sovereignty since Spain does not recognize the waters around Gibraltar as British.

That Borrell guy is the newly picked EU foreign policy czar, and according to some sources he’s supportive of Iran and critical of Israel. Them’s the webs we weave. He’s certainly in favor of Palestinian statehood. But we’re wandering…

Why did the tanker take that giant detour along the African coastline? Because potential problems were anticipated in the Suez canal. But also: why dock in Gibraltar? Because no problems were anticipated there. However, the US had been following the ship all along, and set this up.

A trap, a set-up, give it a name. I would think this is about Iran, not about sanctions on Syria; that’s just a convenient excuse. Moreover, as people have been pointing out, there have been countless arms deliveries to Syrian rebels in the past years (yes, that’s illegal) which were not seized.

 

The sanctions on Syria were always aimed at one goal: getting rid of Assad. That purpose failed either miserably or spectacularly, depending on your point of view. It did achieve one thing though, and if I were you I wouldn’t be too sure this was not the goal all along.

That is, out of a pre-war population of 22 million, the United Nations in 2016 identified 13.5 million Syrians requiring humanitarian assistance; over 6 million are internally displaced within Syria, and around 5 million are refugees outside of Syria. About half a million are estimated to have died, the same number as in Iraq.

And Assad is still there and probably stronger than ever. But it doesn’t even matter whether the US/UK/EU regime change efforts are successful or not, and I have no doubt they’ve always known this. Their aim is to create chaos as a war tactic, and kill as many people as they can. How do you define terror, terrorism? However you define it, ‘we’ are spreading it.

That grossly failed attempt to depose Assad has left Europe with a refugee problem it may never be able to control. And the only reason there is such a problem is that Europe, in particular Britain and France, along with the US, tried to bomb these people’s homelands out of existence. Because their leaders didn’t want to conform to “our standards”, i.e. have our oil companies seize and control their supplies.

 

But while you weren’t looking some things changed, irreversibly so. The US and Europe are no longer the undisputed and overwhelming global military power they once were. Russia has become a target they cannot even consider attacking anymore, because their armies, assembled in NATO, wouldn’t stand a chance.

China is not yet at the ‘might’ level of Russia, but US and NATO are in no position to attack a country of 1.4 billion people either. Their military prominence ended around the turn of the century/millennium, and they’re not going to get it back. Better make peace fast.

So what we’ve seen for a few decades now is proxy wars. In which Russia in particular has been reluctant to engage but decisive when it does. Moscow didn’t want to let Assad go, and so they made sure he stayed. Syria is Russia’s one single stronghold in the Middle East, and deemed indispensable.

Meanwhile, as over half of Syrians, some 11 million people, have been forced to flee their homes, with millions of them traumatized by war, ‘we’ elect to seize a tanker allegedly headed for a refinery in the country, so we can make sure all those people have no oil or less oil for a while longer.

So the refugees that do have the courage and will to return will find it that much harder to rebuild their homes and towns, and will tell those still abroad not to join them. At the same time Assad is doing fine, he may be the target of the sanctions but he doesn’t suffer from them, his people do.

 

Yes, let’s parade some tanks around town. And let’s praise the heroic UK marines who seized an utterly defenseless oil tanker manned by a bunch of dirt-poor Philippinos. Yay! There is probably some profound irony that explains why Trump and Bolton and Pompeo want a military parade at the very moment the US military must concede defeat in all theaters but the propaganda one.

Still there it is. The only people the US, the west, can still credibly threaten, are defenseless civilians, women, children. The leaders of nations are out of reach. Maduro, Assad, let alone Putin or Xi.

Happy 4th of July. Not sure how independent you yourself are, but I can see a few people who did achieve independence from western terror. Just not the poor, the ones that count. But don’t look at the tanks, look at the wind instead. The winds are shifting.

 

 

 

 

Jun 302019
 


 

Trump Invites Kim Jong-Un to the White House (BI)
China Warns Of Long Road Ahead For Deal With US After Ice-Breaking Talks (R.)
Russia and Saudi Arabia Agree To Extend OPEC Oil Output Cuts Into 2020 (MW)
Johnson And Hunt Don’t Understand What It’s Like When A Wall Falls (G.)
The Extradition Cases of Pinochet & Assange (Vos)
UN Torture Rapporteur About Op-Ed On Assange Rejected By MSM (RT)
Boeing Outsourced Its 737 MAX Software To $9-Per-Hour Engineers (ZH)
Deutsche Bank’s Medieval Medicine (Coppola)
Declaration of Digital Independence (Sanger)
Italian Police Arrest Migrant-Rescue Ship Captain After Docking (R.)
Spike In Autism Linked To Preservative In Processed Foods (F.)

 

 

Big moment no matter what. The situation at the DMZ has changed a lot in the past year. It’s like the DMZ has been dimilitarized. Far fewer weapons, guards don’t even wear helmets anymore.

Trump Invites Kim Jong-Un to the White House (BI)

Donald Trump has invited Kim Jong Un to the White House, after he became the first serving American President to step over the North Korean border and shake hands with a North Korean leader. Trump crossed over from the demilitarized zone to shake hands with Kim Jong Un, after earlier offering the meeting on Twitter. “When I put out the social media notification, if he didn’t show up he would have made me look very bad,” Trump told reporters. Kim Jong Un responded that “I was very surprised to hear about your offer on the tweet and only late in the afternoon I was able to confirm your invitation.”

The US president described his relationship with the North Korean leader as a “great friendship.” “This was a special moment, a historic moment,” Trump told reporters. “Stepping across that line was a great honour. A lot of progress has been made and a lot of friendships have been made and this in particular is a great friendship.” Following their handshake, the two men took part in a press conference during which the US president confirmed that he was extending an invite to Kim Jong Un to the White House. Trump thanked Kim Jong Un for meeting him. “I want to thank the chairman. You’ve got to hear that powerful voice.”

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But at least talks are back on.

China Warns Of Long Road Ahead For Deal With US After Ice-Breaking Talks (R.)

China and the United States will face a long road before they can reach a deal to end their bitter trade war, with more fights ahead likely, Chinese state media said after the two countries’ presidents held ice-breaking talks in Japan. The world’s two largest economies are in the midst of a bitter trade war, which has seen them level increasingly severe tariffs on each other’s imports. In a sign of significant progress in relations on Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, agreed to a ceasefire and a return to talks.


However, the official China Daily, an English-language daily often used by Beijing to put its message out to the rest of the world, warned while there was now a greater likelihood of reaching an agreement, there’s no guarantee there would be one. “Even though Washington agreed to postpone levying additional tariffs on Chinese goods to make way for negotiations, and Trump even hinted at putting off decisions on Huawei until the end of negotiations, things are still very much up in the air,” it said in an editorial late Saturday. “Agreement on 90 percent of the issues has proved not to be enough, and with the remaining 10 percent where their fundamental differences reside, it is not going to be easy to reach a 100-percent consensus, since at this point, they remain widely apart even on the conceptual level.”

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What else could they do?

Russia and Saudi Arabia Agree To Extend OPEC Oil Output Cuts Into 2020 (MW)

Russia and Saudi Arabia have agreed to extend the OPEC oil production cuts deal by another six to nine months, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the G-20 leaders summit in Japan on Saturday. The OPEC+ group — the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, plus Russia and other producers — meet on July 1-2 to renegotiate the pact which expires June 30. In 2016, Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed to try to jointly manage global oil output to support prices in what became known as the OPEC+ coalition and the current deal called for production cuts of 1.2 million barrels a day. “We will support the extension, both Russia and Saudi Arabia,” Putin said at a news conference in Osaka, Reuters reported.


“As far as the length of the extension is concerned, we have yet to decide whether it will be six or nine months. Maybe it will be nine months,” said Putin said, who met the crown prince on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan. “In any event we will support the continuation of agreements, both Russia and Saudi Arabia, in the volumes previously agreed.” The announcement marks the first time a leader from the OPEC+ group has indicated the curbs could be needed into 2020. That reflects a gloomy outlook for oil demand next year due to a combination of slowing global economic growth and rising U.S. shale oil output.

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“For 34 years I lived behind the Iron Curtain so I know only too well what it means once borders vanish, once walls fall.”

Johnson And Hunt Don’t Understand What It’s Like When A Wall Falls (G.)

Perhaps it is a problem of language. The dictionary lacks a necessary word: UKish. Northern Ireland is not in Britain but it is in the UK. The porous boundary that divides it from the rest of Ireland is not, strictly speaking, a British frontier. So it is called “the Irish border”, making it, for the Brexiters, someone else’s problem. The terrain where a post-Brexit UK meets the remaining 27-member EU bloc is, as the miserable Tory leadership debate shows yet again, somewhere over there. For Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, its troubles are, as Neville Chamberlain might put it, “a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing”. They might have to know more about it if only we could call it what it is: the UKish border.

Hunt and Johnson both agree that a no-deal Brexit must be kept alive as a serious proposition. Both also agree that once in Downing Street they will reopen negotiations with the EU with the primary aim of ditching from the withdrawal agreement the so-called Irish backstop, which is also, of course, the UKish backstop. Hunt puts this in more emollient terms than Johnson, but makes up for this weakness by promising to include on his negotiating team representatives of the famously emollient Democratic Unionist party, which does not represent most voters in Northern Ireland. All of this is so drearily familiar (this hobbyhorse comes round and round on the non-stop Brexit carousel) that it is hard to remember how surreal it is.

It is weird not just because the backstop was designed around British demands; not just because Hunt and Johnson were in the cabinet when it was negotiated; not just because they both voted for it in parliament; and not just because the EU has repeated, over and over, that, in the words of the European council in January: “The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement and the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation.” That should be enough to be going on with, but there is an even deeper absurdity. On 4 April last, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, flew to Dublin [..] she said: “For 34 years I lived behind the Iron Curtain so I know only too well what it means once borders vanish, once walls fall.”

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Crazy enough that these two people are mentioned in the same sentence.

The Extradition Cases of Pinochet & Assange (Vos)

In October 1998, Pinochet, whose regime became a byword for political killings, “disappearances” and torture, was arrested in London while there for medical treatment. A judge in Madrid, Baltasar Garzón, sought his extradition in connection with the deaths of Spanish citizens in Chile. Citing the aging Pinochet’s inability to stand trial, the United Kingdom in 2000 ultimately prevented him from being extradited to Spain where he would have faced prosecution for human rights abuses. At an early point in the proceedings, Pinochet’s lawyer, Clare Montgomery, made an argument in his defense that had nothing to do with age or poor health.

“States and the organs of state, including heads of state and former heads of state, are entitled to absolute immunity from criminal proceedings in the national courts of other countries,” the Guardian quoted Montgomery as saying. She argued that crimes against humanity should be narrowly defined within the context of international warfare, as the BBC reported. Montgomery’s immunity argument was overturned by the House of Lords. But the extradition court ruled that the poor health of Pinochet, a friend of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, would prevent him from being sent to Spain. Though the cases of Pinochet and Assange are separated by more than two decades, two of the participants are the same, this time playing very different roles.

Montgomery reappeared in the Assange case to argue on behalf of a Swedish prosecutor’s right to seek a European arrest warrant for Assange. Her argument ultimately failed. A Swedish court recently denied the European arrest warrant. But as in the Pinochet case, Montgomery helped buy time, this time allowing Swedish sexual allegations to persist and muddy Assange’s reputation. Garzón, the Spanish judge, who had requested Pinochet’s extradition, also reappears in Assange’s case. He is a well-known defender of human rights, “viewed by many as Spain’s most courageous legal watchdog and the scourge of bent politicians and drug warlords the world over,” as the The Independent described him a few years ago. He now leads Assange’s legal team.

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Melzer is not planning to let go. Now where’s his support?

“When you start exposing an isolated individual who can’t defend himself to a sustained campaign of humiliation, of shame, of ridicule, even death threats, then it can cause severe psychological trauma.”

UN Torture Rapporteur About Op-Ed On Assange Rejected By MSM (RT)

The UN rapporteur on torture told RT about the fanciful excuses Western media used to avoid publishing his damning op-ed on the extreme pressure Julian Assange was exposed to – despite covering every wild allegation against him. A host of reputed Western media outlets turned a deaf ear to Nils Melzer and his op-ed in which he said Julian Assange was exposed to enormous psychological trauma and isolation while in the Ecuadorian Embassy, and afterwards in the UK high-security prison. “Some of them said it wasn’t high enough on their news agenda, some of them said it wasn’t within their core area of interest.”

“The explanations seem awkward given that the same newspapers – the Guardian, the Times, the Washington Post, the Telegraph, and others – have been running news stories about Assange “when it was about his cat and his skateboard and… allegations that he smeared excrement on the walls.” “But when you have a serious piece that actually tries to de-mask this public narrative and to actually show the facts below it, then they’re not interested.”

In his piece, which was eventually published on blogging website Medium, Melzer admitted he “had been blinded by propaganda” and didn’t believe Assange was being dehumanized through isolation, ridicule, and shame. He even asked himself how could “life in an Embassy with a cat and a skateboard ever amount to torture.” “I didn’t know Assange, so I took with me experienced medical experts, a psychiatrist and a forensic expert that have worked for decades in examining torture victims,” he told RT. These experts, he said, found that Assange showed “all the symptoms that are typical for a person who has been exposed to prolonged psychological torture.”

He has been exposed to public mobbing. Now, that’s the slippery slope… When you start exposing an isolated individual who can’t defend himself to a sustained campaign of humiliation, of shame, of ridicule, even death threats, then it can cause severe psychological trauma.

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Criminal investigation next.

Boeing Outsourced Its 737 MAX Software To $9-Per-Hour Engineers (ZH)

The software at the heart of the Boeing 737 MAX crisis was developed at a time when the company was laying off experienced engineers and replacing them with temporary workers making as little as $9 per hour, according to Bloomberg. In an effort to cut costs, Boeing was relying on subcontractors making paltry wages to develop and test its software. Often times, these subcontractors would be from countries lacking a deep background in aerospace, like India. Boeing had recent college graduates working for Indian software developer HCL Technologies Ltd. in a building across from Seattle’s Boeing Field, in flight test groups supporting the MAX. The coders from HCL designed to specifications set by Boeing but, according to Mark Rabin, a former Boeing software engineer, “it was controversial because it was far less efficient than Boeing engineers just writing the code.”


Rabin said: “…it took many rounds going back and forth because the code was not done correctly.” In addition to cutting costs, the hiring of Indian companies may have landed Boeing orders for the Indian military and commercial aircraft, like a $22 billion order received in January 2017. That order included 100 737 MAX 8 jets and was Boeing’s largest order ever from an Indian airline. India traditionally orders from Airbus. HCL engineers helped develop and test the 737 MAX’s flight display software while employees from another Indian company, Cyient Ltd, handled the software for flight test equipment. In 2011, Boeing named Cyient, then known as Infotech, to a list of its “suppliers of the year”. One HCL employee posted online: “Provided quick workaround to resolve production issue which resulted in not delaying flight test of 737-Max (delay in each flight test will cost very big amount for Boeing).”

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Does Merkel really want to risk things getting worse?

Deutsche Bank’s Medieval Medicine (Coppola)

If there is one thing that Deutsche Bank executives agree on, it is the efficacy of medieval medicine. Bloodletting, to be precise. Successive Chief Executives have bled the patient, but it hasn’t recovered: profits remain disappointing, and the share price has continued to decline. So the latest incumbent is going to bleed it again – on a much larger scale. On Friday, June 28, the Wall Street Journal revealed plans to slash up to 20,000 jobs worldwide. This would reduce full-time headcount to just over 70,000, the lowest since the financial crisis. The WSJ says the staff cuts will fall “across all divisions and business lines.” But the largest cuts are expected to fall on the investment bank and the troubled U.S. arm. Deutsche Bank has been trying – and largely failing – to reduce its staff costs for years.

It may surprise people to learn that despite repeated cuts, Deutsche Bank’s headcount is significantly higher than it was in 2008. This is mainly due to the acquisition of PostBank in 2010, which added 18,000 employees. Back in 2016, Deutsche Bank announced plans to cut its headcount to 77,000, largely through disposing of PostBank. But when the PostBank disposal evaporated, so too did the headcount reductions. The bank now intends to integrate PostBank with its own retail bank, and says this will achieve “synergies” (i.e. cost savings). Presumably that will mean headcount reductions, though it is not clear whether these are included in the plans leaked to the WSJ.

But there has also been a gradual increase in headcount in other divisions, notably the investment bank. Frankly, given the bank’s awful performance in recent years, it is hard to see what benefit this has brought. It looks suspiciously like empire-building to me. Or perhaps gambling. “Recruit some star performers, they’ll soon turn this business round….” [..] Deutsche Bank’s high cost-income ratio isn’t caused by clerks in retail branches. No, it is due to the insanely high salaries and bonuses Deutsche Bank pays to traders and analysts in its investment bank. And above all, it is due to executive management’s head-in-the-sand attitude to business lines in terminal decline. In 2016, despite glaringly poor performance in its equities division, Deutsche Bank recruited more equities analysts. Now, it appears to be intending to sack them all.

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Larry Sanger is a co-founder of Wikipedia. This is a very detailed declaration.

Declaration of Digital Independence (Sanger)

Humanity has been contemptuously used by vast digital empires. Thus it is now necessary to replace these empires with decentralized networks of independent individuals, as in the first decades of the Internet. As our participation has been voluntary, no one doubts our right to take this step. But if we are to persuade as many people as possible to join together and make reformed networks possible, we should declare our reasons for wanting to replace the old. We declare that we have unalienable digital rights, rights that define how information that we individually own may or may not be treated by others, and that among these rights are free speech, privacy, and security.


Since the proprietary, centralized architecture of the Internet at present has induced most of us to abandon these rights, however reluctantly or cynically, we ought to demand a new system that respects them properly. The difficulty and divisiveness of wholesale reform means that this task is not to be undertaken lightly. For years we have approved of and even celebrated enterprise as it has profited from our communication and labor without compensation to us. But it has become abundantly clear more recently that a callous, secretive, controlling, and exploitative animus guides the centralized networks of the Internet and the corporations behind them. The long train of abuses we have suffered makes it our right, even our duty, to replace the old networks. To show what train of abuses we have suffered at the hands of these giant corporations, let these facts be submitted to a candid world.

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The international Law of the Sea makes it obligatory to rescue people in peril. Salvini is breaking that law.

Italian Police Arrest Migrant-Rescue Ship Captain After Docking (R.)

Italian police arrested on Saturday the German captain of a migrant-rescue ship at the center of a standoff with the Italian government, after she docked at the island port of Lampedusa. The Dutch-flagged Sea-Watch 3, operated by German charity Sea-Watch, has been at sea for more than two weeks with rescued Africans on board. After waiting in international waters for an invitation from Italy or an EU state to accept the ship, German captain Carola Rackete decided this week to sail for the southern Italian island of Lampedusa but was blocked by Italian government vessels. The ship eventually entered the port in the early hours of Saturday morning amid a heavy police presence.


Live television video showed the 31-year-old Rackete being taken off Sea-Watch 3 by tax police and driven away amid applause and barracking from bystanders gathered at the port. She has been arrested for “resisting a war ship”, a charge which, according to media reports, carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. After Rackete was taken away, 40 Africans on board the ship were allowed to disembark and were taken to a reception center on the island. Italy’s right-wing interior minister, Matteo Salvini, who is taking a tough line against migrant rescue ships, previously said he would only allow Rackete to dock when other European Union states agree to immediately take the migrants. “Outlaw arrested. Pirate ship seized. Big fine on foreign NGO. Migrants all redistributed in other European countries. Mission completed,” Salvini said in a tweet on Saturday.

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Suicide. Or murder, since it’s about babies.

Spike In Autism Linked To Preservative In Processed Foods (F.)

Researchers from the University of Central Florida (UCF) just announced intriguing findings which describe cellular changes that develop when neuronal stem cells are exposed to elevated levels of a chemical typically found in processed foods. The study serves as an example of the importance of the food pregnant women eat, and how it may potentially affect development of the fetal brain. The study describes how elevated levels of the preservative, propionic acid (PPA)–used to extend shelf life and reduce mold in packaged foods, breads and cheeses—can adversely affect the development and differentiation of neurons in fetal brains in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

From clinical experience, healthcare providers have observed for many decades how children with ASD are often afflicted with gastrointestinal ailments, including chronic constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The mechanism behind this association is unclear, but ongoing research suggests that the gut microbiome plays an important role in brain development. One of the key questions is how the gut microbiome–the bacteria that live in our intestines–may be unique in those with ASD compared to those without the condition. Previous studies have demonstrated increased levels of PPA, a short chain fatty acid (SCFA), in the feces of children with ASD; we also know that the gut microbiome in these children is also quite distinct in terms of the type of bacteria that inhabit their intestines.

Clostridia, Bacteriodetes, and Desulfovibrio bacteria are unique to patients with ASD. What’s interesting is that these bacteria are also known to be fermenters of carbohydrates that produce PPA, and other SCFAs as well. Ironically, while PPA is the most common compound produced by bacteria in ASD patients, it is also widely used in the food industry as a preservative due to its ability to inhibit growth of fungi (mold). In the current study, Saleh Naser, PhD and her team at UCF found that when neural stem cells were exposed to high levels of PPA, the neurons incurred multiple changes resulting in cellular damage and inflammation.

One of the major effects of PPA they noted was the overproduction of glial cells , the protective outer cells making up the sheath covering neurons, with a corresponding reduction in the number of neurons themselves. An excess of glial cells may disrupt the connectivity between the neurons and induce inflammation, a common finding in the brains of children with ASD. While prior studies have suggested the role of genetic factors and environmental influence in ASD, this study, according to the authors, is the first to note a molecular link from elevated levels of PPA, overproduction of glial cells, disruption of neural connections and autism.

Read more …

 

Wednesday is Julian’s birthday.